seven o'clock, sweeping the moss with his field-glass from his own back
door, Bruce Rymer beheld Mr. Bowman flying across it like a man pursued, his
long legs taking gigantic strides, his coat-tails flapping behind him, and
his eyes persistently bent on the ground. Somewhat amused though not greatly
surprised at the sight, which was not indeed unusual, Bruce locked up his
house, called the alert Birse, and went out to meet him. But by the time he
got round to the moss road the minister had cut across in a slanting
direction, and was making for the WHins. A trifle disappointed, Bruce
whistled to his dog, and sauntered east the Beild without any definite
object in view. Presently his heart began to beat more quickly and the
colour to press to his cheek as he saw in the distance, coming towards him,
the figure of Jeanie
Morison. She wore
a summer gown of some soft pink material, and a white hat with roses
wreathed about it—a fitting garb for one so young and bonnie, and one 8«
which enhanced all her winsome beauty. Birse ran barking to her joyfully,
and she stooped down to pat his rough head, and to speak a kindly word to
him, as she was wont to do to all who came near her.
one of those sweet natures that shed a natural sunshine about them as they
go ; and in all the Beild, with its lying and its much evil speech, there
had never been an ill word or a harsh one spoken of Jeanie Morison. It would
not have been suffered in the place. She met Bruce frankly, and with a warm
sisterly clasp of hand. She loved him dearly, as the playmate of her youth,
and was very proud of him too, believing him capable of great achievements.
it a fine nicht, Bruce ? I'm gaun west to the Whins to see Nanse Wricht.
Where's the minister ? "
It was a
natural question, it being known in the Beild that their Sundays were
usually spent together.
" He had
to go to Strathairn," replied Bruce, and he took his eyes discontentedly
from Jeanie's sweet face, which was more dear to him than she knew, and it
was an intolerable thought to him that she had bestowed her love unworthily
on Erskine Nicoll, who appeared, if all stories were true, to prize it but
" Oh, I
hope Mrs. Dempster isna bad again," said Jeanie. " I missed them frae the
kirk this mornin'. I say, Bruce, wasn't Mr. Bowman grand this mornin', but
he vera near made me greet. We are weel aff in the Beild to hae sic a
impossible to set down here the sweet quaintness with which the Scotch, her
mother tongue, fell from Jeanie's lips. There are such as call our dear
Scotch vulgar, and truly in some mouths it might sound so, but not from the
lips of Jeanie Morison.
" Can I
walk west wi' ye, Jeanie ? " asked Bruce. " I think the minister's in
" Oh, if
ye like," replied Jeanie, with her bright smile; and they turned together, a
fine, well-matched pair, as more than one remarked, watching them saunter up
the inspection, Bruce ? " asked Jeanie, with her usual friendly interest in
his concerns. " Is the day fixed ? "
the twenty-eighth, and the holidays will be in July this year, as the
harvest's earlier. There'll be a new teacher in the Beild next winter,
" A new
turned her pink cheek to him, and lifted her sweet eyes to his in wonder.
are you gaun, Bruce ? "
" To the
college in Edinburgh."
" To be a
minister, Bruce ? " she asked ; and something of the brightness passed from
her face, as if a sadder thought were suggested by the words.
" No me.
I wadna be a minister for no man, Jeanie. I'll tell you what I think—
there's few fit. Just look round on a' the parishes in the neighbourhood,
Jeanie— Strathairn, Drum, Pitandrew, Cairndrum— an' is there one fit to hold
a candle to our Mr. Bowman ? Not one. I think a man should be better than
the lave or he stands up to tell his fellows how to live. What do you think
you, Bruce. Ay, there's few like Mr. Bowman."
just to get a genteel living with the most of them," said Bruce savagely,
having Erskine in his mind. " And the young ones are the worstJ'
what are you gaun to be, Bruce ? " inquired Jeanie gently; for the theme of
ministers was not one on which she desired to enlarge, her heart having its
secret sorrow concerning them.
doctor. I've dreamed on nothing else since I was a bairn, Jeanie; but I owe
everything to Mr. Bowman," he said, with a full eye and a tender voice, for
which Jeanie loved him. Ingratitude seemed in her eyes aye one of the
blackest of sins.
" But I
thought it took an awfu' money, Bruce—mair even than being a minister," she
" So it
does, but I'll attend the university in winter and work in summer," said
Bruce, finding it sweet to tell Jeanie all the secret ambitions of his soul.
you, Bruce ? At teaching, I suppose ? "
Anything I can get to do. I'll take the harvest in the Beild afore I'm beat,
an' there's plenty wad. gie me a job for old times' sake. I thought on
waiting till I had a bit more saved, but Mr. Bowmaru jWon't let me. He says
it's time I was at it, for it's a hard study, and the older one is the
stiffer is it to give the mind to new things.
maybe take me a lot o' years, Jeanie, but I'll win in the end."
sure am I of that, Bruce," said Jeanie, with a pleased, proud smile. " My,
how proud the Beild folks will be of Doctor Bruce Rymer 1"
smiled a trifle bitterly, not daring to say that for one smile of hers he
would barter the good opinion of the Beild from one end to the other.
coming close by the school now, and suddenly Bruce put a plain, blunt
question to her, though he often wondered after where he got the courage.
" I say,
Jeanie, will you tell me what is there between you and Erskine Nicoll? Are
you to be man and wife ? "
colour faded out of the girl's face, and her eyes became heavy with a mist
Bruce, speir me onything but that 1 I dinna ken 1 I dinna ken 1" she said
" But he
did ask ye, Jeanie ?" pursued Bruce mercilessly, for at the bottom of this
matter he must be.
that's long ago, an' I wadna haud him to it, Bruce, if he wanted to be free.
I'm but a plain Beild lassie, an' he's very clever, and maybe could wale
where he likes. Besides," she added, with a little upward movement of the
head which showed another side of her character, " I'm no like some, that
would keep a man to an unwillin' troth."
hound!" said Bruce, under his breath. " If I but had him in my grip, I'd
shake the cowardly conceit out of him."
Wheesht, Bruce; it is a thing with which you hae but little to do," she
said, with a great, quiet dignity which secretly amazed him. "An' you hae
forced me to say what I ought not, which is neither kind nor friendly, an' I
dinna ken what ye mean by it."
ken then, Jeanie, that I wad gie ten years o' my life to hae ye plight your
troth to me," cried poor Bruce, unable any longer to conceal his secret.
"An' if I live I'll be even wi' Erskine Nicoll yet, an' I'll win you, Jeanie
Morison, if man can do it."
smiled, but sadly, and her tears now fell upon her delicate pink gown,
making it wet as with the drops of a summer shower.
Bruce, Bruce Rymer, ye cudna hae vexed me waur than ye hae, an' I'm glad
ye're gaun to Edinburgh, where ye'll soon forget me, just as Erskine has
done; but for that I wad hae been wae to lose ye frae the Beild. Ye'd better
leave me now, Bruce, because I canna speak ony mair. I'll just tak' a turn
across the moss afore I gang in to Nanse, an' guid-enin' to you."
away from him; and much as he longed to follow her, he did not dare. So the
second love story was revealed that Sunday night.
looked in at Nanse's; but finding Marget Broon alone there, only remained
for a neighbourly word with Nanse, and then crossed to the Binns, where they
said the minister had gone. Bruce was welcome in most Beild houses, and he
had no hesitation in walking into the Binns kitchen, which was quite empty,
Beaton's Annie being at the byre, and Jock Christie, the foreman, who was
her lad, waiting at the byre door till she would be through, and ready to go
for a stravaig with him over the moss. The sound of voices guided Bruce to
the parlour, where he beheld Binns and the mistress with the minister in
guid-e'en, Bruce; come in," said Mrs. Nicoll; while Binns, a small shilpit
body, not much to look at, but very ill to live with, gave him a friendly
nod. Though thus neighbourly enough welcomed, Bruce felt that he had
interrupted a conversation which was not resumed. After a short space,
however, Mistress Nicoll recurred to the subject.
speakin' aboot Erskine, Bruce," said she, with that peculiar shrill
uplifting of her voice characteristic of her when she alluded to her idol. "
He'll be hame neist week, an' Mr. Booman's for him till preach in the
A kind of
dry smile crossed Bruce's face, and he glanced a trifle sharply at the
minister, wondering at what he heard. And it struck him that he looked very
suppose he'll have to preach his trials somewhere, Mistress Nicoll ?" Bruce
observed, seeing something was expected of him. " But were I Erskine, I'd
not be in a hurry to preach afore Beild folk. You ken them as weel as I."
what I say ! " said Binns himself, bringing down his fist with its striped
wristband on the table. " Lat him mak' a fule o' himsel' some ither gate
afore he comes here."
wonder to hear you, Dauvit Nicoll; an' I wad like to ken what for Erskine
wad make a fule o' himsel'—he hasna dune't yet."
" Has he
no ? He's made a fule o' you, my 'ooman, mony a day syne; an' if he comes to
the Beild a stickit minister, ye'll be cheap o'd."
which showed that Binns had no ambition for his offspring, such as his wife
had, anyhow—indeed, it was a real grievance to him that Erskine did not
drive a pair at the Binns; but Shoosan being stronger-willed, and as
persistent as the deil, had got her own way with the boy, which she was yet
to rue. Matrimonial bickerings of this acid sort were as common in the Beild
as bachelor men; therefore neither the minister nor Bruce were in the least
put about by this passage between Mr. and Mrs. Nicoll.
" I want
to go away for a few days, Brucq," said the minister presently; " and as
Erskine will be here next Sunday, I thought he might as well take duty for
me. I'll write to him then to-night. I suppose you are willing, Mistress
Nicoll ? "
am I, an' never heed Binns; when he canna thraw, there'll be something mair
the maitter wi' him nor a sair wame."
cheerfully, and with an amount of quiet satisfaction which indicated that
the vision of Erskine in the Beild pulpit was a pleasant one. Her pride in
her boy after all was something good to see; and the minister, thinking on
the lad's silly talk when he had met him in the street in Edinburgh, hoped
he would yet win sense and do credit to his mother, the apple of whose eye
he undoubtedly was.
" I hear
the examination's fixed, Bruce," said the mistress presently, regarding
Bruce with an air of condescension which hugely diverted him. " Are the
bairns weel forrit, think ye ? an' do they read wi less sing-sang? Erskine
noticed it vera muckle when he was last here, an' said it was a peety ye
couldna improve their accent."
faintly reddened. He was by no means even-tempered, and could hardly hold
his tongue. Mistress Nicoll did not know that one day at the Fast holidays,
when Erskine had gone into the school and begun to meddle with Bruce and his
methods of work, the schoolmaster had shoved him out by the door, in front
of all the bairns. The minister perceived that the mistress was getting on a
bad tack for peace' sake, and so got up to his feet.
right, Mistress Nicoll, I'll write Erskine to-morrow morning. Don't look so
glum, Laird," he added to Binns. " Think on the honour and glory of hearing
your own son preach an eloquent discourse in the Beild pulpit 1"
" Fegs 1
I'll no hear him, I'll sweer," said Binns, pulling his black forelock. " His
mither'll be swelled eneuch wi' pride to need her ain seat an' mine too."
impossible to help laughing at this, but the mistress only regarded her
plain spouse with mild pity, as one who would not open his eyes to his
better be going, Bruce. I suppose you came seeking me, didn't you ?" said
nodded. They bade their neighbours good-night, and went away.
you take it in your head to go away, Mr. Bowman ?" asked Bruce, directly
they were without the gates. " You are going to Pithorn, I suppose ? "
" No, I'm
not—at least, I may go down first. I suppose I must go sooner or later. I
must get clean away from the Beild for a bit, Bruce. I can't stand it any
though secretly amazed, forbore to ask any questions, nor did it occur to
him to connect this hasty decision with the afternoon visit to Strathairn.
" I'm not
going to ask you in to-night, Bruce," said the minister, after they had
walked in silence the little distance between the Binns and the Manse. " I'm
not fit company for anybody ; but you'll excuse me, won't you ? "
" Can't I
be of any use, or do anything for you ? " asked Bruce, his soul yearning
over his loved friend.
Nothing, lad, but leave me alone. Stay, you can pray for me if you like, for
I'm in that mind that I can't pray for myself."
let it weigh you down like that, sir," said Bruce pleadingly, thinking only
on the trouble at
Pithorn. "They're not
worth it—not a soul of them."
isn't that. I'll maybe tell you some day, Bruce, but not yet. Good-night, my
his hand fervently, and walked through the Manse gate without looking back.
Bruce, sorely troubled in his mind, went into his own house, broke up his
peat fire, and set on his porridge-pot abstractedly. In a while he went out
again, down to the foot of the garden, and looked over the low boundary
wall, from which he could quite well see the front windows of the Manse.
There was a white blind in the study window, and when Bruce saw the shadow
on it his heart leaped to his mouth. For he saw plainly that Mr. Bowman sat
at the table, with his arms folded and his head bent low on them. It was
almost more than he could bear; but having been dismissed, he dared not
intrude. But that night Bruce Rymer never closed an eye.