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Homespun
Chapter XVIII. Good-bye


IF a man wants to cultivate the virtue of patience, let him go in for litigation; ' but let him first consult the condition of his purse. The case of Dempster v. Dempster was lengthened and postponed to such an extent that Sir Ludovic became quite infuriated, only dourer than ever—more determined that the thing should be fought out. It was not settled till the spring, but the result was worth the waiting for. Sir Ludo's side won, and Gavin Dempster had to retire to his farm at Magus Muir to chew the cud of disappointed greed. So Miss Dempster, though not a great heiress, would come very well dowered to the Beild Manse.

Mr. Bowman was not in Edinburgh when the case was decided, but Sir Ludo obligingly telegraphed the result to him, and bade him be over at Wester Cairn by a certain time the same night to receive them. The minister was full of thought as he walked over in the clear, sharp March evening, being in truth not particularly elated over the result. What had he to offer her for all she would bring to him ? Nothing, as he had said, but himself and his love. He was not therefore able to enter fully into the exuberance and jubilation of Sir Ludo, who was as proud as a peacock over the whole business, especially his own share in it. Miss Dempster was of course quietly pleased also, though rather compassionate towards her cousin, who had cut a sorry figure that morning under the judge's contemptuous summing-up.

Lady Leslie, kindly and thoughtful for the two, gave them a few minutes together before dinner, and it was then that Miss Dempster noticed more especially the minister's quiet, rather depressed air.

" You are not so pleased as I think you ought to be, Hugh," she said. "Tell me what it is that is in your mind. Maybe I could guess, were I to try, but you can just as well tell me."

" My thoughts are not difficult to understand or to follow, Euphame," he said. " I was but wondering anew at my own presumption. You are a rich woman now; what have I to give you ? Perhaps I ought in honour to withdraw."

" Perhaps you ought," she replied, with a touch of girlish coquetry which did not sit ill upon her. " If you do, there might be another case before the Session—a breach of promise. Would that do the Beild minister much good, think you, or increase his usefulness ? "

Had she not been so sure of him, trusted him so implicitly, she could not have spoken so lightly. He smiled slightly, and, being near her, bent his head and kissed her hand.

" But consider, dearest, my poverty. I am ashamed, not of it, but of my own presumption in offering it to you. It is a curious position for a man, especially if he be a trifle proud. They will call me a fortune-hunter, Euphame."

" I thought we discussed all this before, Hugh," she said, a trifle hurt, " and that we had dismissed it. I am the same woman I was before this law-suit was spoken of. Take me or leave me as you will."

Her proud humility, which only a woman who truly loves can wear with such a matchless grace, conquered him; and he took her to his heart.

" I will never leave you ; only let us be married soon, Euphame—otherwise I shall never feel sure. I will be selfish for once, and think of nothing but what is going to make me happy."

" I am ready to marry you to-morrow, if you like, Hugh," she made answer, and he took her, if not exactly at her word, very soon after. They were cried in the Airn kirk three weeks from that date, and married from Wester Cairn on the following Thursday, Bruce Rymer tearing himself away for two days from his beloved studies to attend his still more dearly beloved friend. There never had been such a tremendous upheaval in the Beild; everything else paled before the excitement of the minister's wedding.

They went away for a month's honeymoon on the continent, and as the time drew near for their return great were the speculations as to Where the minister would take up his abode. If Easy knew anything, she did not let on; but the general idea was that Mr. Bowman was practically lost to the Beild. A grand fallacy that turned out to be, for at the end of the month the couple came home, and stepped quietly into the Beild Manse, which was just as it had been in the minister's bachelor days. It was his wife's express desire.

" Because you see, Hugh," she said, when it had been talked over, " I want to live just as you have lived, so that I can understand all those Beild years ; and I want to learn to know the folk as your wife, and if we begin to make ever so many changes, they'll stand off from me, so I shall never be the helpmeet to you I wish and hope to be."

I shall not tell you his answer; maybe it was a foolish one for a middle-aged man and a minister, but the most of us suffer from that sort of foolishness at some period of our lives, and ought to thank God for it. So everything remained unchanged, even Easy, who had been sorely troubled in her mind, having grown to the Manse, as it were, and loving it as she could never love any other place; only she got a smart young woman to help her and to wait upon Mrs. Bowman when she required waiting on, which, considering her upbringing, was but seldom. We hear and read of homes which are like little heavens below, and sometimes smile thereat; but if such a thing is possible in this world of care and sorrow, it was to be found in the Beild Manse after Euphame Dempster went to it. I shall not attempt to tell you what she was and is to Beild folk, because they can tell you a great deal better than I. But she made a great difference in the place after being a year or two in it.

For all this happened a good while ago, and if you go to the Beild—that is, supposing you know where it is—you'll find a good many things I have not told you about, though I might some day, if you care to hear more of that old-world parish.

To begin at the west end, which still reckons itself the best end, you'd find Binns and his wife getting some frail, Shoosan a good deal humbler-spoken than of yore. And you might see there too a big, good-looking, old-young man, if you know what that is, who is sometimes pointed at on the sly by the irreverent as " the stickit minister." So have Erskine Nicoll's castles in the air toppled to the ground.

Nanse no longer sits at her little window, keeping her soul green and her eyes tender with glimpses of the moss, and the sky which is the veil of heaven, because she has passed within it now, to the land she aye longed for, "where there shall be no more pain." Andra, sore hauden down with rheumatism, and more lonely than is known to any save himself and God, and the spirit of Nanse which sometimes abides to comfort him, waits "till the day break and the shadows flee away."

The solemn-faced married man is still in the schoolhouse, and has a big sma' family; but he doesn't like the Beild any better than the day he came. You see, he will never get over the fact that he is not Beild-born.

Tarn Pitbladdo still carries the letters, acts as minister's man, and keeps the shop, weighing as jimply as of yore. And he is just the same to look at as the day he carried up the Book to Erskine Nicoll, after having threepit with him in the vestry to wear the old gown. The Morisons, Big and Wee, flourish still; but Jeanie has gone away from the east end, leaving "an unco hole," as her mother says—a hole that'll never be filled. But she is filling, right nobly too, her place by her young husband's side in the great city where he carries on the practice of the profession which he loves, next to Jeanie, above everything on earth. The world is waiting to hear of Bruce, and it will. He is biding his time. He is a wise man who does not utter the name of Bruce Rymer before Erskine Nicoll, or within the gates of the Binns. It's a sore, sore subject there; for the " puirs-hoose laddie " has vindicated his right to rise, and shown that there are few obstacles which a noble soul, rightly directing its gifts, cannot overcome.

One thing you will not find in the Beild— that is a kent face in the Manse. For the day came when another and a richer parish cast covetous eyes on the Beild minister, and after much persuasion bore him away.

Not so far, however, but that he can still drive—and always with the face at his side which has been to him a veritable glimpse of the love and goodness of God—to the old place to see the old friends.

There is none like the old, after all. What we have known earliest and longest we cling to, and go back to in love even in our dreams.

Always in my quiet times, when all is still, and I think of heaven, it is of a place where all those early aspirations, early loves, early hopes, will have their grand fulfilment. To Nanse, heaven was a place without pain. To me it is a place without disappointment, where we shall rise to our full height, and be the men and women of our earliest and our holiest dreams.

THE END.


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