Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Al Haines
WEE MACGREEGOR ENLISTS
J. J. BELL
I ARMS AND THE MAID
II BREAKING IT GENTLY
III FIRST BLOOD
IV THE RING
V IN UNIFORM
VI MRS. McOSTRICH ENTERTAINS
VII WILLIE STANDS UP
IX THE FAT GIRL
X THE ALARM
XI AN INVITATION
XII A TEA-PARTY
XIII MISS TOD RETURNS
XIV AUNT PURDIE INTERVENES
XV THE FAT GIRL AGAIN
XVI CONSCIENCE AND A COCOA-NUT
XVII 'FONDEST LOVE FROM MAGGIE'
XVIII PITY THE POOR PARENTS!
XIX A SERIOUS REVERSE
XX THE REAL THING AT LAST
XXI 'HULLO, GLESCA HIELANDERS!
XXII NO HERO, YET HAPPY
ARMS AND THE MAID
Through the gateway flanked by tall recruiting posters came rather
hurriedly a youth of no great stature, but of sturdy build and
comely enough countenance, including bright brown eyes and fresh
complexion. Though the dull morning was coldish, perspiration
might have been detected on his forehead. Crossing the street,
without glance to right or left, he increased his pace; also, he
squared his shoulders and threw up his head with an air that might
have been defiance at the fact of his being more than an hour late
for his day's work. His face, however, betrayed a certain
spiritual emotion not suggestive of anticipated trouble with
employer or foreman. As a matter of fact, the familiar everyday
duty had ceased to exist for him, and if his new exaltation wavered
a little as he neared the warehouse, fifteen minutes later, it was
only because he would have to explain things to the uncle who
employed him, and to other people; and he was ever shy of speaking
So he hurried through the warehouse without replying to the
chaffing inquiries of his mates, and ran upstairs to his uncle's
office. He was not afraid of his uncle; on the other hand, he had
never received or expected special favour on account of the
Mr. Purdie was now a big man in the grocery trade. He had a cosy
private room with a handsome desk, a rather gorgeous carpet and an
easy-chair. He no longer attended at the counter or tied up
parcels--except when, alone on the premises late in the evening, he
would sometimes furtively serve imaginary customers, just for auld
lang syne, as he excused to himself his absurd proceeding.
'But what kep' ye late, Macgreegor?' he inquired, with a futile
effort to make his good-humoured, whiskered visage assume a stern
expression. 'Come, come, oot wi' it! An 'unce o' guid reasons is
worth a pun' o' fair apologies.'
'The recruitin' office,' said Macgregor, blushing, 'wasna open till
'The recruitin' office! What--what--guidsake, laddie! dinna tell
me ye've been thinkin' o' enlistin'!'
Mr. Purdie fell back in his chair.
'The 9th H.L.I.,' said Macgregor, and, as if to improve matters if
possible, added, 'Glesca Hielanders--Kilts.'
The successful grocer sat up, pulled down his waistcoat and made a
grimace which he imagined to be a frown. 'Neither breeks nor
kilts,' he declared heavily, 'can cover deceit. Ye're under age,
Macgreegor. Ye're but eichteen!'
'Nineteen, Uncle Purdie.'
'Eh? An' when was ye nineteen?'
Mr. Purdie's hand went to his mouth in time to stop a guffaw.
Presently he soberly inquired what his nephew's parents had said on
'I ha'ena tell't them yet.' 'Ah, that's bad. What--what made ye
Macgregor knew, but could not have put it in words.
'Gettin' tired o' yer job here?'
'Na, Uncle Purdie.'
'H'm!' Mr. Purdie fondled his left whisker. 'An' when--a--ha'e ye
got to--a--jine yer regiment?'
'The morn's mornin'. I believe we're gaun into camp immediately.'
'Oho! So ye'll be wantin' to be quit o' yer job here at once.
Weel, weel, if ye feel it's yer duty to gang, lad, I suppose it's
mines to let ye gang as cheery as I can. But--I maun tell yer
aunt.' Mr. Purdie rose.
Macgregor, smiled dubiously. '_She'll_ no' be pleased onyway.'
'Aw, ye never can tell what'll please yer aunt. At least, that's
been ma experience for quarter o' a century. But it'll be best to
tell her--through the 'phone, of course. A handy invention the
'phone. Bide here till I come back.'
In a few minutes he returned suppressing a smile.
'I couldna ha'e presumed frae her voice that she was delighted,' he
reported; 'but she commanded me to gi'e ye five pound for
accidental expenses, as she calls them, an' yer place here is to be
preserved for ye, an' yer wages paid, even supposin' the war gangs
on for fifty year.'
With these words Mr. Purdie placed five notes in his astonished
nephew's hand and bade him begone.
'Ye maun tell yer mither instanter. I canna understan' what way ye
didna tell her first.'
'I--I was feart I wud maybe be ower wee for the Glesca Hielanders,'
'Ye seem to me to be a heid taller since yesterday. Weel, weel.
God bless ye an' so forth. Come back an' see me in the efternune.'
Macgregor went out with a full heart as well as a well-filled
pocket. It is hardly likely that the very first 'accidental
expense' which occurred to him could have been foreseen by Aunt
Purdie--yet who shall discover the secrets of that august lady's
On his way home he paused at sundry shop windows--all jewellers'.
And he entered one shop, not a jeweller's, but the little
stationery and fancy goods shop owned by Miss M. Tod, and managed,
with perhaps more conscience than physical toil, by the girl he had
been courting for two years without having reached anything that
could be termed a definite understanding, though their relations
were of the most friendly and confidential nature.
'Mercy!' exclaimed Christina, at his entrance at so unusual an
hour; 'is the clock aff its onion, or ha'e ye received the sack?'
He was not quick at answering, and she continued: 'Ye're ower
early, Mac. Yer birthday present'll no be ready till the evenin'.
Still, here's wishin' ye many happies, an' may ye keep on
He smiled in a fashion that struck her as unfamiliar.
'What's up, Mac?' she asked, kindly. 'Surely ye ha'ena cast oot
wi' yer uncle?'
'I've enlisted,' he softly exploded.
She stared, and the colour rose in her pretty face, but her voice
was calm. 'Lucky you!' said she.
He was disappointed. Involuntarily he exclaimed: 'Ye're no a bit
He told her, and she informed him that he wouldn't look so bad in
the kilt. He announced that he was to report himself on the
morrow, and she merely commented, 'Quick work.'
'But, Christina, ye couldna ha'e guessed I was for enlistin',' he
said, after a pause.
'I was afraid--I mean for to say, I fancied ye were the sort to dae
it. If I had kent for sure, I wud ha'e been knittin' ye socks
instead o' a silly tie for yer birthday.'
'Ha'e ye been knittin' a tie for me?'
'Uh-ha--strictly platonic, of course.'
She had used the word more than once in the past, and he had not
derived much comfort from looking it up in the dictionary. But now
he was going--he told himself--to be put off no longer. Seating
himself at the counter, he briefly recounted his uncle's kindness
and his aunt's munificence. Then he attempted to secure her hand.
She evaded his touch, asking how his parents had taken his
enlistment. On his answering----
'Dear, dear!' she cried, with more horror than she may have felt,
'an here ye are, wastin' the precious time in triflin' conversation
'It's you that's daein' the triflin',' he retorted, with sudden
spirit; 'an' it's your fau't I'm here noo instead o' at hame.'
'Well, I never!' she cried. 'I believe I gave ye permission to
escort me from these premises at 8 p.m.,' she proceeded in her best
English, which he hated, 'but I have not the slightest recollection
of inviting ye to call at 10 a.m. However, the 8 p.m. appointment
is hereby cancelled.'
'Cancel yer Auntie Kate!' he rejoined, indignant. 'Hoo can ye
speak like that when dear knows when I'll see ye again?'
'Oh, ye'll no be at the Front for a week or so yet, an' we'll hope
for the best. Still, I'll forgive ye, seein' it's yer nineteenth
birthday. Only, I'm thinkin' yer parents 'll be wantin' ye to keep
the hoose the nicht.'
Macgregor's collar seemed to be getting tight, for he tugged at it
as he said: 'I'll tell them I'm gaun oot to see _you_.'
'That'll but double the trouble,' she said, lightly.
Their eyes met, and for the first time in their acquaintance,
perhaps, hers were first to give way.
'Christina,' he said, abruptly, 'I want to burst that five pound.'
'Ye extravagant monkey!'
'On a--a ring.'
'A ring! Ha'e ye enlisted as a colonel?' But her levity lacked
As for Macgregor, he had dreamed of this moment for ages. 'Ye'll
tak' it, Christina?' he whispered. 'Gi'e me yer size--a hole in a
bit pasteboard. . . .' Speech failed him.
'Me?' she murmured--and shook her head. 'Ye're ower young, Mac,'
she said, gently.
'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
'Christina! . . . Yer third finger is aboot the same as ma wee
'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.
BREAKING IT GENTLY
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
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,
'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:
'I burst the twa pound on a ring.'
'Oho!' said John, gaily; then solemnly, 'What kin' o' a ring,
'An engagement yin,' the ruddy youth replied.
Mr. Robinson laughed, but not very heartily. 'Sae lang as it's no
a waddin' ring. . . . Weel, weel, this is the day for news.' He
touched his son's arm. 'It'll be the young lass in the stationery
shop--her that ye whiles see at yer Uncle Purdie's hoose--eh?'
'Hoo did ye ken?'
'Oh, jist guessed. It's her?'
'Maybe. . . . She hasna ta'en the ring yet.'
'But ye think she will, or ye wudna ha'e tell't me. Weel, I'm sure
I wish ye luck, Macgreegor. She's a bonny bit lass, rael clever, I
wud say, an'--an' gey stylish.'
'She's no that stylish--onyway, no stylish like Aunt Purdie.'
'Ah, but ye maunna cry doon yer Aunt Purdie----'
'I didna mean that. But ye ken what I mean, fayther.'
'Oh, fine, fine,' Mr. Robinson replied, thankful that he had not
been asked to explain precisely what _he_ had meant. 'She bides wi'
her uncle an' aunt, does she no?' he continued, thoughtfully. 'I'm
wonderin' what they'll say aboot this. I doobt they'll say ye're
faur ower young to be thinkin' o' a wife.'
It was on Macgregor's tongue to retort that he had never thought of
any such thing, when his father went on----
'An' as for yer mither, it'll be a terrible surprise to her. I
suppose ye'U be tellin', her as sune's ye get back ?'
'Ay. . . . Are ye no pleased about it?'
'Me?' Mr. Robinson scratched his head. 'Takin' it for granted
that ye're serious aboot the thing, I was never pleaseder. Ye can
tell yer mither that, if ye like.'
Macgregor was used to the paternal helping word at awkward moments,
but he had never valued it so much as now. As a matter of fact, he
dreaded his mother's frown less than her smile. Yet he need not
have dreaded either on this occasion.
He found her in the kitchen, busy over a heap of more or less
woolly garments belonging to himself. Jimsie was at afternoon
school; Jeannie sat in the little parlour knitting as though life
He sat down in his father's chair by the hearth and lit a cigarette
with fingers not quite under control.
'I'll ha'e to send a lot o' things efter ye,' Lizzie remarked.
'This semmit's had its day.'
'I'll be gettin' a bit leave afore we gang to the Front,' said
Macgregor, as though the months of training were already nearing an
'If ye dinna get leave sune, I'll be up at the barracks to ha'e a
word wi' the general.'
'It'll likely be a camp, mither.'
'Aweel, camp or barracks, see an' keep yer feet cosy, an' dinna
smoke ower mony ceegarettes.' She fell to with her needle.
At the end of a long minute, Macgregor observed to the kettle: 'I
tell't fayther what I done wi' the twa pound.'
'Ay. He--he was awfu' pleased.'
Macgregor took a puff at his cold cigarette, and tried again. 'He
said I was to tell ye he was pleased.'
'Oh, did he?'
'Never pleaseder in his life.'
'That was nice,' commented Lizzie, twirling the thread round the
stitching of a button.
He got up, went to the window, looked out, possibly for
inspiration, and came back with a little box in his hand.
'That's what I done,' he said, dropped it on her sewing, and
strolled to the window again.
After a long time, as it seemed, he felt her gaze and heard her
'Macgreegor, are ye in earnest?'
'Sure.' He turned to face her, but now she was looking down at the
'It'll be Mistress Baldwin's niece,' she said, at last.
'Hoo did ye ken?'
'A nice lass, but ower young like yersel'. An' yet'--she lifted
her eyes to his--'ye're auld enough to be a sojer. Does she ken
He nodded, looking away. There was something in his mother's
eyes. . .
'Aweel,' she said, as if to herself, 'this war'll pit auld heids on
some young shouthers.' She got up, laid her seam deliberately on
the table, and went to him. She put her arm round him. 'Wi' yer
King an' yer Country an' yer Christina,' she said, with a sort of
laugh, 'there winna be a great deal o' ye left for yer mither. But
she's pleased if you're pleased--this time, at ony rate.' She
released him. 'I maun tell Jeannie.' she said, leaving the kitchen.
Jeannie came, and for once that sensible little person talked
nonsense. In her eyes, by his engagement, her big brother had
simply out-heroed himself.
'Aw, clay up, Jeannie,' he cried at last, in his embarrassment.
'Come on oot wi' me, an' I'll stan' ye a dizzen sliders.'
Macgregor, his countenance shining with lover's anticipation and
Lever's soap, was more surprised than gratified to find Willie
Thomson awaiting him at the close-mouth. For Willie, his oldest,
if not his choicest friend, had recently jeered at his intention of
becoming a soldier, and they had parted on indifferent terms,
though Willie had succeeded in adding to a long list of borrowings
a fresh item of twopence.
Willie and prosperity were still as far apart as ever, and even
Willie could hardly have blamed prosperity for that. He had no
deadly vices, but he could not stick to any job for more than a
month. He was out of work at present. Having developed into a
rather weedy, seedy-looking young man, he was not too proud to
sponge on the melancholy maiden aunt who had brought him up, and
whose efforts at stern discipline during his earlier years had
seemingly proved fruitless. Macgregor was the only human being he
could call friend.
'Ye're in a hurry,' he now observed, and put the usual question:
'Ha'e ye a fag on ye?'
Macgregor obliged, saying as kindly as he could, 'I'll maybe see ye
'Thon girl again, I suppose.'
'So long,' said Macgregor, shortly.
'Haud on a meenute. I want to speak to ye. Ha'e ye done it?'
'Ay, this mornin'. . . . An' I'm gey busy.'
'Ye should leave the weemen alane, an' then ye wud ha'e time to
'What ha'e ye got to speak aboot?' Macgregor impatiently demanded,
though he was in good time for his appointment.
'I was thinkin' o' enlistin',' said Willie.
'Oh!' cried his friend, interested. 'Ye've changed yer mind,
'I've been conseederin' it for a while back. Ye needna think _you_
had onything to dae wi' it,' said Willie.
'Ye've been drinkin' beer,' his friend remarked, not accusingly,
but merely by way of stating a fact.
'So wud you, if ye had ma aunt.'
'Maybe I wud,' Macgregor sympathetically admitted.
'But ye couldna droon her in twa hauf pints. Ach, I'm fed up wi'
her. She startit yatterin' at me the nicht because I askit her for
saxpence; so at last I tell't her I wud suner jine Kitchener's nor
see her ugly face for anither week.'
'What did she say?'
'Said it was the first guid notion ever I had.'
'Weel,' said Macgregor eagerly, after a slight pause, 'since ye're
for enlistin', ye'd best dae it the nicht, Wullie.'
'I suppose I micht as weel jine your lot,' said Willie, carelessly.
Macgregor drew himself up. 'The 9th H.L.I, doesna accep' onything
'I'm as guid as you--an' I'm bigger nor you.'
'Ye're bigger, but ye're peely-wally. Still, Wullie, I wud like
fine to see ye in ma company.'
'Ye've a neck on ye! _Your_ company! . . . Aweel, come on an' see
me dae it.'
In the dusk Macgregor peered at his watch. It told him that the
thing could not be done, not if he ran both ways. 'I canna manage
it, Wullie,' he said, with honest regret.
'Then it's off,' the contrary William declared.
'I've changed ma mind. I'm no for the sojerin'.'
At this Macgregor bristled, so to speak. He could stand being
'codded,' but already the Army was sacred to him.
'See here, Wullie, will ye gang an' enlist noo or tak' a hammerin'?'
'Wha'll gi'e me the hammerin'?'
'Come an' see,' was the curt reply. Macgregor turned back into the
close and led the way to a small yard comprising some sooty earth,
several blades of grass and a couple of poles for the support of
clothes lines. A little light came from windows above. Here he
removed his jacket, hung it carefully on a pole; and began to roll
up his sleeves.
'It's ower dark here,' Willie complained. 'I canna see.'
'Ye can feel. Tak' aff yer coat.' Willie knew that despite his
inches he was a poor match for the other, yet he was a stubborn
chap. 'What business is it o' yours whether I enlist or no?' he
'Will ye enlist?'
'I'll see ye damp first!'
'Come on, then!' Macgregor spat lightly On his palms. 'I've nae
time to waste.'
Willie cast his jacket on the ground. 'I'll wrastle ye,' he said,
with a gleam of hope.
'Thenk ye; but I'm no for dirtyin' ma guid claes. Come on!'
To Willie's credit, let it be recorded, he did come on, and so
promptly that Macgregor, scarcely prepared, had to take a light tap
on the chin. A brief display of thoroughly unscientific boxing
ensued, and then Macgregor got home between the eyes. Willie,
tripping over his own jacket, dropped to earth.
'I wasna ready that time,' he grumbled, sitting up.
Macgregor seized his hand and dragged him to his feet, with the
encouraging remark, 'Ye'll be readier next time.'
In the course of the second round Willie achieved a smart clip on
his opponent's ear, but next moment he received, as it seemed, an
express train on the point of his nose, and straightway sat down in
'Is't bled, Wullie?' Macgregor presently inquired with compunction
as well as satisfaction.
'It's near broke, ye----!' groaned the sufferer, adding, 'I kent
fine ye wud bate me.'
'What for did ye fecht then?'
'Nane o' your business.'
'Weel, get up. Yer breeks'll get soakit sittin' there.' The
victor donned his jacket.
'Ma breeks is nane o' your business, neither.'
'Ach, Wullie, dinna be a wean. Get up an' shake han's. I've got
'Gang then! Awa' an' boast to yer girl that ye hut a man on his
nose behind his back----'
'Havers, man! What's wrang wi' ye?'
'I'll tell ye what's wrang wi' you, Macgreegor Robi'son!' Willie
cleared his throat noisily. 'Listen! Ye're ower weel aff. Ye've
got a dacent fayther an' mither an' brither an' sister; ye've got a
dacent uncle; ye've got a dacent girl. . . . An' what the hell
ha'e I got? A rotten aunt!' Maybe she canna help bein' rotten, but
she is--damp rotten! She wud be gled, though she wud greet, if I
got a bullet the morn. There ye are! That's me!'
'Wullie!' Macgregor exclaimed, holding out his hand, which the
'I'm rotten, tae,' he went on, bitterly. 'Fine I ken it. But I
never had an equal chance wi' you. I'm no blamin' ye. Ye've aye
shared me what ye had. I treated ye ill aboot the enlistin'. But
I wasna gaun to enlist to please you, nor ma aunt, neither.' He
rose slowly and picked up his shabby jacket. 'But, by ----, I'll
enlist to please masel'!' He held out his hand. 'There it is, if
ye want it, Macgreegor. . . . Ha'e ye a match? Weel, show a
licht. Is ma nose queer-like?'
'Ay,' Macgregor unwillingly replied, and, with inspiration, added
consolingly, 'But it was aye that, Wullie.'
'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
'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,
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
'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
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
'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!'
But he had none. . . .
'Are we engaged or no?' he whispered at last.
'Let me get ma breath.'
She laughed, though her eyes were wet. 'Oh, dear,' she murmured,
'I never thought I wud get engaged wi'oot a--a . . .'
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
There happened to be a little delay in providing the later batches
of recruits with the garb proper to their battalion, and it was the
Monday of their third week in training when Privates
Robinson--otherwise Macgregor--and Thomson saw themselves for the
first time in the glory of the kilt. Their dismay would doubtless
have been overwhelming had they been alone in that glory; even with
numerous comrades in similar distress they displayed much
awkwardness and self-consciousness. During drill Willie received
several cautions against standing in a semi-sitting attitude, and
Macgregor, in his anxiety to avoid his friend's error, made himself
ridiculous by standing on his toes, with outstretched neck and
fixed, unhappy stare.
As if to intensify the situation, the leave for which they had
applied a few days previously was unexpectedly granted for that
evening. Before he realized what he was saying, Macgregor had
inquired whether he might go without his kilt. Perhaps he was not
the first recruit to put it that way. Anyway, the reply was a curt
'I don't think.'
'I believe ye're ashamed o' the uniform,' said Willie, disagreeable
under his own disappointment at the verdict.
'Say it again!' snapped Macgregor.
Willie ignored the invitation, and swore by the great god Jings
that he would assuredly wear breeks unless something happened. The
only thing that may be said to have happened was that he did not
As a matter of fact, Macgregor, with his sturdy figure, carried his
kilt rather well. The lanky William, however, gave the impression
that he was growing out of it perceptibly, yet inevitably.
Four o'clock saw them started on their way, and with every step
from the camp, which now seemed a lost refuge, their kilts felt
shorter, their legs longer, their knees larger, their person
smaller. Conversation soon dried up. Willie whistled tunelessly
through his teeth; Macgregor kept his jaw set and occasionally and
inadvertently kicked a loose stone. Down on the main road an
electric car bound for Glasgow hove in sight. Simultaneously they
started to run. After a few paces they pulled up, as though
suddenly conscious of unseemliness, and resumed their sober
pace--and lost the car.
They boarded the next, having sacrificed twelve precious minutes of
their leave. Of course, they would never have dreamed of
travelling 'inside'--and yet . . . They ascended as gingerly as
a pretty girl aware of ungainly ankles surmounts a stile. Arrived
safely on the roof, they sat down and puffed each a long breath
suggestive of grave peril overcome. They covered their knees as
far as they could and as surreptitiously as possible.
Presently, with the help of cigarettes, which they smoked
industriously, they began to revive. Their lips were unsealed,
though conversation could not be said to gush. They did their best
to look like veterans. An old woman smiled rather sadly, but very
kindly, in their direction, and Macgregor reddened, while Willie
spat in defiance of the displayed regulation.
As the journey proceeded, their talk dwindled. It was after a long
pause that Willie said:
'Ye'll be for hame as sune as we get to Glesca--eh?'
'Ay. . . . An' you'll be for yer aunt's--eh?'
'Ay,' Willie sighed, and lowering his voice, said: 'What'll ye dae
if they laugh at ye?'
'They'll no laugh,' Macgregor replied, some indignation in his
'H'm! . . . Maybe _she'll_ laugh at ye.'
'Nae fears!' But the confident tone was overdone. Macgregor,
after all, was not quite sure about Christina. She laughed at so
many things. He was to meet her at seven, and of late he had lost
sleep wondering how she would receive his first appearance in the
kilt. He dreaded her chaff more than any horrors of war that lay
'Aw, she'll laugh, sure enough,' croaked Willie. 'I wud ha'e
naething to dae wi' the weemen if I was you. Ye canna trust them,'
added this misogynist of twenty summers.
Macgregor took hold of himself. 'What'll ye dae if yer aunt
laughs?' he quietly demanded.
'Her? Gor! I never heard her laugh yet--excep' in her sleep efter
eatin' a crab. But by Jings, if she laughs at me, I--I'll gang oot
an' ha'e a beer!'
'But ye've ta'en the pledge.'
'To ----! I forgot aboot that. Weel, I--I'll wait an' see what
she's got in for the tea first. . . . But she _canna_ laugh. I'll
bet ye a packet o' fags she greets.'
'I'll tak' ye on!'
It may be said at once that the wager was never decided, for the
simple reason that when the time came Willie refused all
information--including the fact that his aunt had kissed him.
Which is not, alas, to say that his future references to her were
to be more respectful than formerly.
* * * * *
At three minutes before seven Macgregor stood outside Miss Tod's
little shop, waiting for the departure of a customer. It would be
absurd to say that his knees shook, but it is a fact that his
spirit trembled. Suspended from a finger of his left hand was a
small package of Christina's favourite sweets, which unconsciously
he kept spinning all the time. His right hand was chiefly occupied
in feeling for a pocket which no longer existed, and then trying to
look as if it had been doing something entirely different. He
wished the customer would 'hurry up'; yet when she emerged at last,
he was not ready. He was miserably, desperately afraid of
Christina's smile, and just as miserably, desperately desirous to
see it again.
Solemnly seven began to toll from a church tower. He pulled
himself up. After all, why should she laugh? And if she
did--well. . . .
Bracing himself, he strode forward, grasped the rattling handle and
pushed. The little signal bell above the door went off with a
monstrous 'ding' that rang through his spine, and in a condition of
feverish moistness he entered, and, halting a pace within, saw in
blurred fashion, and seemingly at a great distance, the loveliest
thing he knew.
Christina did smile, but it was upon, not at, him. And she said
lightly, and by no means unkindly:
'Hullo, Mac! . . . Ye've had yer hair cut.'
From sheer relief after the long strain, something was bound to
give way. The string on his finger snapped and the package,
reaching the floor, gaily exploded.
MRS. McOSTRICH ENTERTAINS
'I'm fed up wi' pairties,' was Macgregor's ungracious response when
informed at home of the latest invitation. 'I dinna ask for leave
jist for to gang to a rotten pairty.'
'Ay, ye've mair to dae wi' yer leave,' his father was beginning,
with a wink, when his mother, with something of her old asperity,
'Macgreegor, that's no the way to speak o' pairties that folk gi'e
in yer honour. An' you, John, should think shame o' yersel'. Ye
should baith be sayin' it's terrible kind o' Mistress McOstrich to
ask ye what nicht wud suit yer convenience.'
Macgregor regarded his mother almost as in the days when he
addressed her as 'Maw'--yet not quite. There was a twinkle in his
eye. Evidently she had clean forgotten he had grown up! Possibly
she detected the twinkle and perceived her relapse, for she went on
'Though dear knows hoo Mistress McOstrich can afford to gi'e a
pairty wi' her man's trade in its present condeetion.'
'She's been daft for gi'ein' pah-ties since ever I can mind,' Mr.
Robinson put in, 'an' the Kaiser hissel' couldna stop her, Still,
Macgreegor, she's an auld frien', an' it wud be a peety to offend
her. Ye'll be mair at hame there nor ye was at yer Aunt Purdie's
swell affair. Dod, Lizzie, thon was a gorgeous banquet! I never
tasted as much nor ett as little; I never heard sich high-class
conversation nor felt liker a nap; I never sat on safter chairs nor
looked liker a martyr on tin tacks.'
Macgregor joined in his father's guffaw, but stopped short, loyalty
revolting. Aunt Purdie had meant it kindly.
'Tits, John!' said Lizzie, 'ye got on fine excep' when ye let yer
wine jeelly drap on the carpet.'
'Oho, so there was wine in 't! I fancied it was inebriated-like.
But the mistak' I made was in tryin' to kep it when it was
descendin'. A duke wud jist ha'e let it gang as if a wine jeelly
was naething to him. But, d'ye ken, wife, I was unco uneasy when I
discovered the bulk o' it on ma shoe efter we had withdrew to the
'Haud yer tongue, man! Macgreegor, what nicht 'll suit ye?'
'If ye say a nicht, I'll try for it; but I canna be sure o' gettin'
a late pass.' He was less uncertain when making appointments with
And Mr. Robinson once more blundered and caused his son to blush by
saying: 'He wud rayther spend the evenin' wi' his intended--eh,
'But she's to be invited!' Lizzie cried triumphantly. 'So there ye
'Ah, but that's no the same,' John persisted, 'as meetin' her
quiet-like. When I was courtin' you, Lizzie, did ye no prefer----'
Lizzie ignored her man--the only way. 'What aboot Friday, next
'If we're no in Flanders afore then,' reluctantly replied the
soldier of seven weeks' standing.
* * * * *
Happily for Mrs. McOstrich's sake Macgregor was able to keep the
engagement, and credit may be given him for facing the wasted
evening with a fairly cheerful countenance. Perhaps Christina,
with whom he arrived a little late, did something to mitigate his
grudge against his hostess.
Mrs. McOstrich was painfully fluttered by having a real live kiltie
in her little parlour, which was adorned as heretofore with
ornaments borrowed from the abodes of her guests. Though Macgregor
was acquainted with all the guests, she insisted upon solemnly
introducing him, along with his betrothed to each individual with
the formula: 'This is Private Robi'son an' his intended.'
While Macgregor grinned miserably, Christina, the stranger, smiled
sweetly, if a little disconcertingly.
Then the party settled down again to its sober pleasures.
Macgregor possessed a fairly clear memory of the same company in a
similar situation a dozen years ago, but the only change which now
impressed itself upon him was that Mr. Pumpherston had become much
greyer, stouter, shorter of breath, and was no longer funny. And,
as in the past, the prodigious snores of Mr. McOstrich, who still
followed his trade of baker, sounded at intervals through the wall
without causing the company the slightest concern, and were
likewise no longer funny.
After supper, which consisted largely of lemonade and pastries, the
hostess requested her guests, several being well-nigh torpid, to
attend to a song by Mr. Pumpherston. No one (excepting his wife)
wanted to hear it, but the Pumpherston song had become traditional
with the McOstrich entertainments. One could not have the latter
without the former.
'He's got a new sang,' Mrs. Pumpherston intimated, with a
stimulating glance round the company, 'an' he's got a tunin' fork,
forbye, that saves him wrastlin' for the richt key, as it were.
Tune up, Geordie!'
Mr. Pumpherston deliberately produced the fork, struck it on his
knee, winced, muttered 'dammit,' and gazed upwards. Not so many
years ago Macgregor would have exploded; to-night he was occupied
in trying to find Christina's hand under the table.
'Doh, me, soh, doh, soh, me, doh,' hummed the vocalist.
Christina, who had been looking desperately serious, let out a
small squeak and hurriedly blew her nose. Macgregor regarded her
in astonishment, and she withdrew the little finger she had
permitted him to capture.
'It's a patriotic sang in honour,' Mrs. Pumpherston started to
'Ach, woman!' cried her spouse, 'ye've made me loss ma key.' He
re-struck the fork irritably, and proceeded to inform the
company--'It's no exac'ly a new sang, but----'
'Ye'll be lossin' yer key again, Geordie.'
With a sulky grunt, Mr. Pumpherston once more struck his fork, but
this time discreetly on the leg of his chair, and in his own good
time made a feeble attack on 'Rule, Britannia.'
'This is fair rotten,' Macgregor muttered at the third verse,
resentful that his love should be apparently enjoying it.
'Remember ye're a sojer,' she whispered back, 'an' thole.' But she
let him find her hand again.
The drear performance came to an end amid applause sufficient to
satisfy Mrs. Pumpherston.
'Excep' when ye cracked on "arose," ye managed fine,' she said to
her perspiring mate, and to the hostess, 'What think ye o' that for
a patriotic sang, Mistress McOstrich?'
'Oh, splendid--splendid!' replied Mrs. McOstrich with a nervous
start. For the last five minutes she had been lost in furtive
contemplation of her two youthful guests, her withered countenance
more melancholy even than usual.
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
'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
'Nae man,' he declared, as if addressing an audience, 'calls me
'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
'Ye're henny,' said Willie.
Macgregor was more puzzled than angry. Here was Willie positively
asking for a punching in public!
'What's wrang wi' ye, Wullie?' he asked in a lowered voice. 'Wait
till we get oor next leave. The chaps here'll jist laugh at ye.'
'It'll maybe be you they'll laugh at. Come on, ye cooard!'
By this time the other fellows had become interested, and one of
them, commonly called Jake, the oldest in the billet, came forward.
'What's up, Grocer?' he inquired of Macgregor, who had early earned
his nickname thanks to Uncle Purdie's frequent consignments of
dainties, which were greatly appreciated by all in the billet.
'He's aff his onion,' said Macgregor, disgustedly.
'He says I'm a leear,' said Willie, sullenly. Jake's humorous
mouth went straight, not without apparent effort.
'Weel,' he said slowly, judicially, 'it's maybe a peety to fecht
aboot a trifle like that, an' we canna permit kickin', clawin' an'
bitin' in this genteel estayblishment; but seein' it's a dull
evenin', an' jist for to help for to pass the time, I'll len' ye ma
auld boxin' gloves, an' ye can bash awa' till ye're wearit. Sam!'
he called over his shoulder, 'fetch the gloves, an' I'll see fair
play. . . . I suppose. Grocer, ye dinna want to apologeeze.'
Macgregor's reply was to loosen his tunic. He was annoyed with
himself and irritated by Willie, but above all he resented the
publicity of the affair.
With mock solemnity Jake turned to Willie. 'In case o' yer
decease, wud ye no like to leave a lovin' message for the aunt
we've heard ye blessin' noo an' then?'
'To pot wi' her!' muttered Willie.
A high falsetto voice from the gathering' audience cried: 'Oh, ye
bad boy, come here till I skelp ye!'--and there was a general
laugh, in which the hapless object did not join.
'Ach, dinna torment him,' Macgregor said impulsively.
While willing hands fixed the gloves on the combatants the
necessary floor space was cleared. There were numerous offers of
the services of seconds, but the self-constituted master of
ceremonies, Jake, vetoed all formalities.
'Let them dae battle in their ain fashion,' said he. 'It'll be
mair fun for us. But it's understood that first blood ends it.
Are ye ready, lads? Then get to wark. Nae hittin' ablow the belt.'
By this time Macgregor was beginning to feel amused. The sight of
Willie and himself in the big gloves tickled him.
'Come on, Wullie,' he called cheerfully.
'Am I a leear?' Willie demanded.
'Ye are!--but ye canna help it.'
'I can if I like!' yelled Willie, losing his head. 'Tak' that!'
A tremendous buffet with the right intended for Macgregor's nose
caught his forehead with a sounding whack.
Thus began an extraordinary battle in which there was little
attempt at dodging, less at guarding and none at feinting. Each
man confined his attentions to his opponent's face and endeavoured
to reached the bull's eye, as it were, of the target, though that
point was not often attained, and never with spectacular effect.
Ere long, however, Macgregor developed a puffiness around his left
eye while Willie exhibited a swelling lip. Both soon were pouring
out sweat. They fought with frantic enthusiasm and notable waste
The audience laughed itself into helplessness, gasping advice and
encouragement to each with a fine lack of favouritism.
'Wire in, wee yin! Try again, pipeshanks! Weel hit, Grocer! That
had him, Wullie!--ye'll be a corporal afore yer auntie! Haw, Mac,
that was a knock-oot, if it had struck! Cheer up, Private Thomson;
gi'e him the kidney punch on his whuskers! Guid stroke.
Grocer!--fair on his goods' entrance! We'll be payin' for to see
ye in pictur' hooses yet--the Brithers Basher! Gor, this is better
nor a funeral! Keep it up, lads!' And so forth.
But it was far too fast to last. A few minutes, and both were
utterly pumped. As though with mutual agreement, they paused
panting. Neither had gained any visible advantage.
'Nae blood yet,' remarked some one in tones of regret mingled with
'Never heed,' interposed Jake, humanely Tak' aff their gloves.
They've done enough. We'll ca' it a draw--or to be conteenued in
oor next dull evenin'--whichever they like. I hope you twa lads
'll never learn scienteefic boxin'. There's ower little fun in the
Neither offered any resistance to the removal of the gloves.
'Shake han's, lads,' said Jake.
To Macgregor's surprise, Willie's hand was out before his own.
'I'm a leear if ye like,' said Willie, still panting, 'but I can
stan' up to ye noo!'
'So ye can,' Macgregor admitted--a little reluctantly perhaps, for
he had long been used to being the winner.
'If I wasna teetotal,' Willie added in a burst of generosity, 'I
wud stan' ye a drink.'
_Macgregor to Christina_
MY DEAR CHRISTINA,--
I was looking for your letter the whole of yesterday, but it did
not come till this morning at 8.35 a.m., and I am sorry to say it
is not near as nice as I expected. Some parts is niceish, but
others is rotten. What for do you ask me if I have spotted many
pretty girls here, when you know I would not be for taking the
troubble of spoting any girl in the world but you, and besides they
are all terrible ugly here. Yesterday I seen 2 that made me feel
sick. Willie said they was on for being picked up, and he give a
wink at one of them, and she put out her tongue at him, but no more
happened. They was quite young girls, though hiddeous, but Willie
did not seem to mind their faces ['mugs' scored out].
Willie is greatly changed since the last few weeks. You would
scarcely know him, he is that fond of exercises. He is near as
strong as me. They are telling him he will be a corporal before
his aunt, and he gets huffy. He spoke too much about his aunt at
the beginning, cursing and swearing like, and now he can't get away
from it, poor sole. It is a pity she does not send him some small
presents now and then. He is awful jealous of the chaps that get
things from home; you can tell it by his face and the bad language
he uses about the billet and the Zeppelins for 2 hours after. So
just for fun, when I was writing to Uncle Purdie, I said please
send the next parcel addressed to Pte. Wm. Thomson. Willie got it
last night. He never let on he was pleased, but he was. He was
freer nor I expected him to be with the groceries, but he eat a tin
of salmon all by his lone, and in the middle of the night, at 3.15
a.m., he was took horrid bad, and 7 of the chaps made him take
their private meddicines, and he could not turn out for physical
exercise in the morning, but is now much better, and has made a
good tea, and is eating 1 lb. cokernut lozenges at this very
I have no more news. But, dear Christina, I am not well pleased
with your letter at all. I am quite disconsoled about it. It
makes me feel like wet cold feet that has no hopes of ever getting
dry and cosy again. When I seen yourself last Friday night I was
not feared for anything, for you was that kind and soft-hearted,
and you laughed that gentle and pretty, and your words did sound
sweet even when they was chaffing-like. But now I am fearing
something has gone wrong. Are you offended? I did not mean to do
so. Have you got tired of me? I would think _yes_ at once, if you
was the common sort of girl, but you are the honest sort that would
tell me straight, and not with hints in a letter. So if you are
not offended, I think you must have catched a cold in your head, or
got something wrong with your inside. Colds in the head is very
permanent [? prevalent] in the billet for the present, and the
chaps with them are ready to bite your nose off if you say a word
Dear, dear Christina, please tell me what is the matter. I will
not sleep well till I hear from you. The stew for dinner to-day
was better than the stew yesterday, but I could not take my usual.
I am fed up with anxiousness. Kindly write by return. Why do you
never put any X X X in your letters? Do you want me to stop
putting them in mine?
Your aff. intended,
P.S.--It is not to be the Dardanelles, but we are likely going to
Flanders next week. Excuse writing and spelling as usual. X X X
Please write at once.
_Christina to Macgregor_
Your esteemed favour duly to hand and contents noted. I deeply
regret that my last communication did not meet with your
unmitigated approval, but oh, dear wee Mac, I could not write a
lovey-dovey letter to save my only neck. In my youth, when penny
novels were my sole mental support, I used to see myself pouring
forth screeds of beauteous remarks to an adoring swine 6 1/2 ft.
high x 2 3/4 ft. broad. But now it can't be done. Still, I am
sorry if my letter hurt you. It was never meant to do that, lad.
You must learn to take my chaff and other folks' unseriously.
Honest, if I had been really thinking of you along with other
girls, I would not have mentioned it. I'm not that sort of girl,
and I'm not the sort that gets cold in the head, either, thanking
you all the same for kind enquiries. But I'm by no means
faultless. I get what the novelists call flippant when I am
feeling most solemn. I was a bit down-hearted when I wrote last,
for your letter had said 'Dardanelles.' Now you say 'Flanders,'
which is no better, but I am not going to cry this time. Surely
they won't send you away so soon, dear.
Glad to hear Willie is greatly changed, and I hope he will keep on
changing, though I could never admire a man that ate a whole tin of
salmon in once. I'm sure the two girls were not so dreadfully
plain as you report. Had they got their hair up? Girls don't
usually put out their tongues at young men after their hair is up,
so I presume they were _very_ young. It was like you to ask your
uncle to send Willie the parcel.
Miss Tod is not so brisk just now. The doctor says she must either
drink less tea or become a chronic dyspeptomaniac. She prefers the
latter. Poor old thing, her joys are few and simple! Trade is not
so bad. A new line in poetical patriotical postcards is going
well. The poetry is the worst yet.
I am sending you some cigarettes with my uncle's best wishes and a
pair of socks with mine. Perhaps you have enough socks from home
already. If so, give them to W. T., and ask him from me to
practise blushing. He can begin by winking at himself in a mirror
When are you going to get leave again? Miss Tod says I can get
away at 6, any night I want to. No; I don't want you to stop
putting those marks in your letters. If you can find one in this
letter, you may take it, and I hope it will make you half as happy
as I want you to be. Good-night.
THE FAT GIRL
Never a day passed without its camp rumour. If Macgregor was
disposed to be over-credulous, his friend Willie was sceptical
enough for two.
'I hear we're for the Dardanelles next week,' the former observed
Willie snorted. 'What the ---- wud they send us yins to the
Dardanelles afore we ken hoo to fire a rifle?'
'I heard it for a fac',' Macgregor returned imperturbably. 'They
want us yins for begnet wark, no for snipin'.'
'Begnet wark! I'll bet ye fifty fags I get a dizzen Turks on ma
begnet afore ye get twa on yours!'
Macgregor let the boastful irrelevance pass. 'I wonder,' he said,
thoughtfully, 'if we'll get extra leave afore we gang.'
'Plenty o' leave! Keep yer mind easy, Macgreegor. It's a million
in gold to a rotten banana we never get a bash at onybody. It's
fair putrid to think o' a' the terrible hard wark we're daein' here
to nae purpose. I wisht I was deid! Can ye len' 'us a bob?'
'I ha'ena got it, Wullie; honest.' Willie sadly shook his head.
'That moll o' yours,' said he, 'is awfu' expensive. Ye've nae
notion o' managin' weemen. Listen, an' I'll tell ye something. Ye
mind last Monday? Weel, I had a late pass that nicht, an' I thocht
I wud miss seein' ma aunt's ugly for wance--though it meant missin'
a guid meal forbye. So when I got to Glesca I picked up thon fat
girl we used to fling rubbish at when we was young. An', by Jings,
she was pleased an' prood! She stood me ma tea, includin' twa hot
pies, an' she gi'ed me a packet o' fags--guid quality, mind
ye!--an' she peyed for first-class sates in a pictur' hoose!
That's hoo to dae it, ma lad!' he concluded complacently.
'An' what did you gi'e her?' Macgregor inquired, after a pause.
'Ma comp'ny, likewise some nice fresh air fried in naething, for I
took her for a short walk. I could manage wi' ninepence.'
'Ach, I didna think ye was as mean as that, Wullie! Was--was she
'I didna notice her face a great deal; but she's a beezer for
stootness. I'm gaun to meet her again on ma next leave. If I tell
her we've orders for the Dardanelles, there's nae guessin' what
she'll dae for me.'
'She maun be unco saft,' Macgregor commented pityingly.
'Maybe the kilt had something to dae wi' it,' Willie modestly
allowed. 'They a' adore the kilt. Can ye no spare saxpence . . .
'I could spare ye a bat on the ear, but I'll tell ye what I'll dae.
I've got some money comin' the morn, an' I'll present ye wi' twa
bob, if ye'll tak' yer oath to spend them baith on gi'ein' the fat
yin a treat.'
Willie gasped. 'D'ye think I'm completely mad?'
There's something wrang wi' ye when ye can sponge aft a girl, even
supposin' she's fat. So ye can tak' ma offer or a dashed guid
hammerin' when the first chance comes.'
'Dinna be sae free wi' yer hammerin's, ma lord! Remember, it was a
draw the last time.'
'I wasna angry, an' I had gloves on.' Willie considered for a
moment and decided to compromise.
'I'll burst a bob on her to please ye.'
'Twa--or a hammerin'.'
'But what ---- guid is the siller gaun to dae me, if I squander it
a' on her? Ye micht as weel fling it in the Clyde. She's no
wantin' that sort o' kindness frae me. She prefers a bit cuddle.'
'Did ye cuddle her?' Macgregor asked with an interest indifferently
'Some o' her. But she's earnin' guid money at the ----'
'I dinna suppose she wud ha'e treated ye excep' she had mair money
'She wud pairt wi' her last farden for ma sake!'
'Ach, awa' an' eat grass! It's weel seen that men are scarce the
'Mind wha ye're insultin'!'
'I'm gaun up to the billet.' Macgregor said, shortly, and walked
Presently, Willie, a new idea in his busy brain, overtook him.
'Macgreegor, if ye len' me thruppence the noo, I'll ca' it a
bargain aboot the twa bob.'
He got the pennies then, and on the following day a florin, upon
which he took a solemn oath. But as he fingered the silver later
he smiled secretly and almost serenely. If the fat girl had stood
him a substantial meal, cigarettes and a picture entertainment for
nothing, what might not he expect as a return for the squandering
of two shillings?
As for Macgregor, his motives were probably not unmixed: the
pleasure which he foresaw for the poor, fat girl was contingent on
the agony of Willie while spending good money on a person other
However, Willie was not long in securing a late pass, and went upon
his jaunt in an apparently chastened state of mind, though in the
best possible humour.
He returned in the worst possible.
'Twa bob clean wasted,' he grunted, squatting down by Macgregor's
bed. 'I wish to ---- I had flung it in the Clyde when we was
crossin' the brig.'
'What gaed wrang?' inquired Macgregor, rubbing his eyes. 'Did she
no like yer treat?'
'I'll warrant she did!'
'What did ye buy her wi' the twa bob?'
Willie sniffed at his recollections. 'Like a ---- goat,' said he,
'I askit her what she wud like best for twa bob, me thinkin'
naterally she wud say a feed to stairt wi'. I was ready for a feed
masel'. But she squeezed ma airm an' shoved her big face intil
mines, an' said she wud like a sooveneer best. To blazes wi'
sooveneers! An' she dragged me awa' to a shop, an' I had to buy
her a silly-like wee tie that cost me eichteen-pence-ha'penny; an'
then she wanted a lang ride on the caur, an' that burst fivepence;
an' she nabbed the remainin' bawbee for a keepsake.' The reciter
paused as if from exhaustion.
'Hurry up!' said Macgregor encouragingly. 'What did she gi'e you?'
'A ---- kiss up a ---- close! To pot wi' kissin'! An' then she
said she was afraid her mither wud be waitin' the ham an' egg
supper for her, so she wud need to run, an' she was vexed she
couldna meet me again because she had been hearin' I was a terrible
bad character. An' then, takin' advantage o' ma surprise, she done
a bunk. . . . An' if ever I ha'e ony mair truck wi' weemen, may I
'She wasna as saft as I fancied she was,' remarked Macgregor in an
uncertain voice. 'So ye wud jist gang to yer aunt's for yer
supper, efter a'?'
'Ay! An' the auld cat was oot at a prayer-meetin'. I ha'ena had a
bite in ma mooth since denner-time. Ha'e ye onything o' yer
'I can gi'e ye a wee tin o' corned beef, Wullie. Ye ken whaur to
'Least ye can dae,' Willie growled. 'Thenk Goad it was your money!'
'I'm thinkin' I've got guid value.'
'Guid nicht!' And stuffing some blanket into his mouth, Macgregor
rolled over and quaked with imprisoned mirth.
It came, as Christina would have expressed it in her early days,
like a 'blot from the blue.' On a certain fine morning, while
battalion drill was in progress, a mounted officer dashed upon the
scene and was forthwith engaged in earnest conversation with the
colonel. The news was evidently urgent, and it was received with
an obvious gravity. A thrill ran through the ranks; you would have
fancied you heard breaths of anticipation.
A minute later the companies were making for camp at the double.
Arrived there they were instructed to repair to billets and, with
all speed, pack up. And presently ammunition was being served out,
a hundred rounds to each man; and, later, 'iron' rations.
'We're awa' noo!' gasped Macgregor, recovering forcibly from
Willie's greedy clutch a pair of socks knitted by Christina.
'Ay, we're awa'; an' I'll bet ye we're for Flanders,' said Willie,
no less excited.
'Dardanelles!' shouted Macgregor, above the din that filled the
'Flanders!' yelled Willie, wildly, and started to
dance--unfortunately upon a thin piece of soap.
'Dardanelles!' Macgregor repeated as he gave his friend a hand up.
'Oh ----!' groaned Willie, rubbing the back of his head. 'But
what'll ye bet?'
'What ha'e ye got?'
'I'll bet ye thruppence--the thruppence ye lent me the day afore
'Done! If ye win, we'll be quits; if ye loss----'
'Na, na! If I win, ye'll ha'e to pay me----'
'Ach, I've nae time to listen to ye. I've twa letters to write.'
'Letters! What aboot the bet?'
'Awa' an' chase yersel'! Are ye no gaun to drap a line to yer aunt?'
'No dashed likely! She's never sent the postal order I asked her
for. If I had got it, I wud ha'e payed what I'm owin' ye,
Macgreegor. By heavens, I wud! I'll tak' ma oath I----'
'Aweel, never heed aboot that,' Macgregor said, soothingly. 'Send
her a post caird an' let me get peace for three meenutes.'
'Ye canna get peace in this,' said Willie, with a glance round the
'I can--if ye haud yer silly tongue.' Macgregor thereupon got his
pad and envelopes (a gift from Miss Tod), squatted on his bed, and
proceeded to gnaw his pencil. The voice of the sergeant was heard
ordering the men to hurry up.
'I'll tell ye what I'll dae,' said Willie, sitting down at his
friend's elbow. 'I'll bet ye a' I owe ye to a bob it's Flanders.
Ye see, I'll maybe get shot, an' I dinna want to dee in debt. An'
I'll send the auld cat a caird wi' something nice on it, to please
ye . . . . Eh?'
'Aw, onything ye like, but for ony sake clay up! Shift!' cried the
'Weel gi'e's a fag . . . . an' a match,' said Willie.
He received them in his face, but merely grinned as he languidly
The two scrawls so hastily and under such difficulties produced by
Macgregor are sacred. He would never write anything more boyish
and loving, nor yet more manly and brave, than those 'few lines' to
his mother and sweetheart. There was no time left for posting them
when the order came to fall in, but he anticipated an opportunity
at one of the stations on the journey south.
Out in the sunshine stood the hundreds of lads whose training had
been so brief that some carried ammunition for the first time.
There were few grave faces, though possibly some of the many grins
were more reflected than original. Yet there was a fine general
air of eagerness, and at the word 'attention' the varied
expressions gave place to one of determination.
Boom! boom! boom! . . . Boom! boom! boom! Dirl and skirl; skirl
and dirl! So to the heart-lifting, hell-raising music of pipes and
drums they marched down to the railway.
At the station it seemed as though they had been expected to break
all records in military entraining. There was terrific haste and
occasional confusion, the latter at the loading of the vans. The
enthusiasm was equalled only by the perspiration. But at last
everything and nearly everybody was aboard, and the rumour went
along that they had actually broken such and such a battalion's
Private William Thomson, however, had already started his
inevitable grumbling. There were eight in the compartment, and he
had stupidly omitted to secure a corner seat.
'I'll bet ye I'm a corp afore we get to Dover,' he bleated.
'That's as near as ever ye'll be to bein' a corporal,' remarked the
cheerful Jake. 'But hoo d'ye ken it'll be Dover?'
'I'll bet ye ---- Na! I'll no tak' on ony mair wagers. I've a
tremenjous bet on wi' this yin'--indicating Macgregor--'every
dashed penny I possess--that we're boun' for Flanders. He says the
All excepting Macgregor fell to debating the question. He had just
remembered something he had forgotten to say to Christina; also, he
was going away without the ring she was to have given him. He was
not sorry he was going, but he felt sad. . . .
The debate waxed furious.
'I tell ye,' bawled Willie, 'we're for Flanders! The Ninth's been
there since the----'
A sudden silence! What the ---- was that? Surely not--ay, it
was!--an order to detrain!
And soon the whisper went round that they were not bound for
anywhere--unless the ---- old camp. The morning's alarm and all
that followed had been merely by way of practice.
At such a time different men have different feelings, or, at least,
different ways of expressing them. Jake laughed philosophically
and appeared to dismiss the whole affair. Willie swore with a
curious and seemingly unnecessary bitterness, at frequent
intervals, for the next hour or so. Macgregor remained in a
semi-stunned condition of mind until the opportunity came for
making a little private bonfire of the two letters; after which
melancholy operation he straightway recovered his usual good
'Never heed, Wullie,' he said, later; 'we'll get oor chance yet.'
Willie exploded. 'What for did ye get me to mak' sic a ---- cod o'
'Cod o' yersel'? Me?'
'Ay, you!--gettin' me to send a caird to ma ---- aunt! What for
did ye dae it?'
Macgregor stared. 'But ye didna post it,' he began.
'Ay, but I did. I gi'ed it to a man at the station.'
'Oh! . . . Weel, ye'll just ha'e to send her anither.'
'That'll no mak' me less o' a cod.'
'What way? What did ye write on the caird?'
Willie hesitated, muttered a few curses, and said slowly yet
'"Off to Flanders, wi'--wi' kind love"--_oh, dammit_!'
After considering the matter at intervals for about thirty years,
Miss Tod, Christina's employer, decided to take a short change of
air by accepting the long-standing invitation of an old and aged
friend who dwelt in the country. The hour of departure arriving,
she shed tears, expressed the fear that she was going to her death,
embraced the girl, handed her the keys of the premises, and
requested her to make any use she pleased of the rather stuffy
living-room behind the shop.
Christina had no notion of accepting the offer until, an hour or
two later, the idea struck her that it would be fun to give a
little tea party for Macgregor and Willie Thomson. She knew Willie
but slightly, but though her respect was no greater than her
knowledge, she had kept a softish corner for him since the day, two
years ago, when he had gone out of his way to inform her,
impudently enough, that his friend Macgregor was not courting a
certain rather bold and attractive damsel called Jessie Mary.
So she wrote forthwith to Macgregor and enclosed the following
invitation, in her neatest writing, for his friend:--
Miss Christina Baldwin requests
the unspeakable pleasure of
Pte. William Thomson's company
to T. T. Tea
on the first evening possible
(Sunday excepted) at 5.30
precisely till 7 prompt.
Sandwiches, Sausage Rolls,
Hot Cookies, Cream Dittos,
Currant Cakes, Jam Puffs,
Imperial (_nee_ German) Biscuits,
God Save the King!
P.S.--Miss C. B. will expect
Pte. W. T. to Ask a Blessing.
It took time and patience on Macgregor's part to persuade his
friend that the missive was not a 'cod'; but once convinced of its
genuineness, Willie took the business seriously. He swore,
however, to have nothing to do with the matter of the P.S.
Nevertheless, in moments of solitude, his lips might have been
observed to move diligently, and it is possible that he was
mentally rehearsing 'For what we are about to receive, etc.' His
written acceptance was a model in its way.
'Coming with thanks,--Yours truly, W. THOMSON.'
By the same post he wrote to his aunt--for cash; but her reply
consisting of a tract headed with a picture of a young man in the
remnants of a bath towel dining in a pig-sty, he was compelled once
more to appeal to Macgregor, who fortunately happened to be fairly
flush. He expended the borrowed shilling on a cane and a packet of
Breath Perfumers for himself, and for Christina a box of toffee
which, being anhungered while on sentry duty the same night, he
speedily devoured with more relish than regret.
Unless we reckon evenings spent in Macgregor's home in the small
boy period, and a funeral or two, Willie's experience of tea
parties was nil. Despite his frequently expressed contempt for
such 'footerin' affairs,' he was secretly flattered by Christina's
invitation. At the same time, he suffered considerable anguish of
mind on account of his ignorance of the 'fancy behaviour' which he
deemed indispensable in the presence of a hostess whom he
considered 'awfu' genteel.' With reluctance, but in sheer
desperation, he applied to his seldom-failing friend.
'What the blazes,' he began with affected unconcern, 'dae ye dae at
a tea pairty?'
'Eat an' jaw,' came the succinct reply.
'But what dae ye jaw aboot?'
'Onything ye like--as long as ye leave oot the bad language.'
'I doobt I'll no ha'e muckle to say,' sighed Willie.
'She'll want to hear aboot the camp an' so on,' Macgregor said, by
way of encouragement.
'But that'll be piper's news to her. You've tell't her----'
'I've never had the time.'
Willie gasped. 'What the ---- dae you an' her jaw aboot?'
'Nane o' your business!'
'Haw, haw!' laughed Willie, mirthlessly. 'My! but ye're a spoony
deevil!--nae offence intendit.' The apology was made hastily owing
to a sudden change in Macgregor's expression and colour.
Macgregor lit a cigarette and returned his well-stocked aluminium
case to his pocket.
The silence was broken by Willie.
'It's a dashed bad habit, Macgreegor. Dinna let it grow on ye. If