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an' she'll be spierin', an’ wunnerin', gif there's nae wey o' mendin' this maitter...,
“Mending it? Mending it?' cried the Dapper Mannie, wi' a kind o' a smile on his prood lips that waukened the verra Deevil i ma banes, ‘Ye see, Mr MacGregor, this is one of those accidents that will happen ; and Bell must just come through the whins like others. Her position and mine make it impossible to think of mending matters by marriage—if that is what you mean?'
“« Then,' I roared, wi' a voice like Barlouth Burn in spate an' tumblin'ower Pierie Linn, 'i' the name o' the Muckle Black Deevil an' a' his Angels, hoo daured ye tae lay a finger on the Lassie?'
“ Thereon, Maister Bland sterted frae his seat at the dask, an' cried
“ " Hush ! hush! You mustn't roar like that, and insult me in the hearing of all my Clerks.' ...
"Insult ye?' quo' I, 'Insult ye?' – and ma voice noo had the thunner o' a storm on the Beacon—'An' wha' first insulted me, by treatin' ma Bairn like dirt on the street ? It's me should ken whaur the insult has come frae.' ...
"By this time, I was makin' for the door, wantin' nae mair o' his gab, an' fleyt that I could na stan' the impudent phiz o' 'im, muckle langer; when the sclype poored oil on a' the flames smoolderin' within me, by turnin' the handle on a kind o' Iron Press in the Wa', openin'a drawer, pooin' oot a nievefu' o' Pund Notes, an' sayin' in his saftest, smuggest, an' maist selfsatisfeed tones :
“Don't think me unmindful of my responsibilities, Mr MacGregor. I have made up my mind to pay handsomely for all. And here is a first instalment of £20.
“Pey for a’! Pey for a’!' I roared, wi' a' the wund o'Glesca fillin' ma lungs,—By the sowl oma auld Mither, pit up yer bit nievefu' o' Pund Notes, or ye'll get a swash oʻthis Heezel Rung that'll teach ye mense, if no morals ! ...“ Pey for a'! Pey for a’!” Pey for heart an' sowl, bartered awa’-pey for hame an' name, for peace an' character-pey for a Mither's blisterin' tears an'a Faither's tearless granes
-Gae wa'wi'ye, gae wa'wi'ye,-an' beware o'taxin' me ower sair!'
“But the Craytur was nowther to be taucht by words nor warned by luiks. Sae, after fleechin' 'im again an' again to pit back his bits o' Notes, he still stude shilin' at me, wi' that bundle in his haun’; an', just than, the thocht o' Bell an' o' her Mither cam' ower me wi' a rush, like the Barlouth Burn in flude, an' I drew ma Heezel Rung an' laid it yae wallop across his shouthers, sayin'
““Pey fort a'! pey for't a'!'.
“That brocht the Craytur tae his knees wi' a yelloch, an' stertlit a' the Loonies i' the Offis. Sae, swuftly an' stourly, I laid ma Heezel Rung, a second swash, athwart the safter pairts, weel adapted for the poonishment o' fules, an' that wi' a richt gude wull, kennin' it wad brack nae banes. Losh, man Laird, the Craytur fell flat on his wame, like ony flounder, a' his Pund Notes fleein' roon the Offis, an' himsel sprawlin' like a puddock, unco wauf aboot the spine! An', man, afore I kennt whaur I was staunin', or had time to say “Wheesht!' half a dizzen Chappies surrounded me, an' half a dizzen mair were liftin' the Boddy frae the Aure. Yin cried, ‘Polis! Polis !' An' anither made tae grup me by the cuff o' the neck; but I drew ma Rung, an' daured ony loon o' the hale Collie-Shangie tae lay sae muckle as yae finger on me, declarin' that I was quite prepared tae answer afore ma God an' ma Betters for a' I had dune!
"By this time, Maister Bland was gatherin' himsel thegither on his seat, booin' his heid on his desk as if the sittin' apparawtus was gey an' sair. He whispered, withoot lookin' up, tae a kind o' elderly Chiel amang them-'Let the Man go in peace! I'm to blame, not he.' Whereon, a' the Clerkie Lads cleared oot; an' I made ma wey straucht thro', haudin' ma heid heich as Criffel, an' gruppin' ma Heezel Rung wi' the defiant air o'wee Jock Elliot an' his - Wha daur meddle wi' me?'
“A’the wey to the Station, I was think-thinkin' -Had I made a fule omasel'?' But a Something tellt me I was justifeed afore God and Man. Had the Dapper Boddy luikit vext-like, an' been laith an' bashfu', or shown ony anxiety to screen puir Bell, man Laird, I wad hae taen 'im tae ma hert, an' mibbe learnt to think nae sae muckle the waur o' 'im, i' the lang run, for the best o' Men's but a Man at the best! But his talk o' peyin' for a', an' his glib tongue, an' his hertless, impudent, an' selfsatisfeed luik, drave me stark mad. I saw there was naething for 't but tae wallop the hide o' 'im tae get at his feelins', -no tae say his conscience, for o'that he had nane! That kind o' Brute kens the
meanin' o'ten angry fingers, but cares na for the Ten Commands.
"Puir Bell, whan I cam' back tae the Station, an' she spiered, wi' a white-luikin' face, ‘Daidy, what has vexed ye?'—I tauld her naething, no a single word o't a'! But, that nicht, afore we fell asleep, I tellt her Mither a' the story; an', losh me, Laird, gif Bell the Wife did na lauch, an' lauch, an' better lauch, till the verra bed sheuk aneath us. Then, for the first time, I kennt I had dune richt, or Bell MacGregor wadna hae lauched like that!”
With eyes flashing approval, I slapped him, and cried—“Bravo, Jock! The lash for the fule's back. It was a maist releegious an' maist Scriptural application o’yer Heezel Rung! A little mair o' that Gospel, vigorously practeesed, an' fewer wad be sinned against, an' fewer wad be sinnin'."
“Thank ye, Laird, thank ye, for kindly words!”— responded Jock; and then, after a pause, continued“Noo that's a' buried an' dune wi'. You an' me maun never on this Yirth refer till’t mair. Yince in a lifetime's eneuch!...
" It took five years an' mair, tho', tae teach me the meanin' o' Angell James's prayer aboot pain an' shame bringin' us a' Hame; but that pairt o' the story remains for ever untauld by me ;-excep'to say, that it was only what I heard, month after month, ahint the Haw Thorn Bush, frae oor white-haired Pilgrim at the Style, his bonnie words, his winsome prayers, his croonin' ower sacred Sangs and sweet Psaulms, an', aboon a', his faitherly petitions 'for Bell MacGregor, an' Heather Jock, an' the Lassock mair sinned against than sinnin','—it was that, Laird, that alane, that keppit me mony a time on the doonward rush tae Hell! It was that, Laird, that alane, that held me up, till God sent tae me, - after the death o' Bell the Wife, for she dwawmed awa' neist Winter an' forsook us i' the Spring, -an' after the death, four years later, o' Bell the Dochter, for she never gat back her glee, an’ she dee'd i' the Autumn, ten years agane,-till God sent tae me a new pain, a new joy, a new life; an' that was to leeve only for Wee Bell, an' tae mak' her, as near as I can, everything that the ither Twa wad hae likit her tae be!....
“Man Laird, I ken little aboot a God or a Heeven orony kind o Hereaifter; an', truith tae tell, I dinna muckle care. But I somehoo jaloose that I'll meet Bell the Wife, wi' oor Dochter, yae place or anither, yae time or anither ; an', man, I wad sair like just tae see their faces beamin' on me, whan I lead up the Bairn, the verra best I can mak' o' her, richt in front o' the Twa, and say—“This is Wee Bell !'”
With the last word, which was scarcely audible, struggling through torrents of suppressed emotion, Heather Jock instantly wheeled away, and struck off on a sheep-track that was the nearest cut for Peesweep Nests. The sudden and silent parting needed no explanation. I felt all its meaning, and walked homewards, deeply pondering.
Another book had been opened.