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Where's the use now? Lots o'time.” “ Ye're a queer fella, Eydmundie.” With which reflection Fernies relapsed into silence.
They duly reached Fordeveran Edmund never saw that station without thinking of the blow which had there fallen on his bright young life; and to-day he felt particularly unwilling to linger on the platform.
“There's ten minutes,” he said to his brother, “I'll go round and call for Mrs. Raitt, I think.”
The station-master and his wife were old friends of the Fernies' family; and old acquaintances of Edmund-especially since he had acted as agent at Fordeveran five years ago, when Jeanie was a mere slip of a twelve-year-old lassie, minding a baby nearly as big as herself.
Jeanie was the first person whom he saw as he turned in at the little garden-gate ; and she coloured up like
a rose when she saw her braw partner of last night. Poor little Jeanie ! she was only seventeen : those two dances had been her first taste of gaiety, but they had been full of wonder and delight to her. It is more than probable that the presence and the attention of bonnie Mr. Edmund had a good deal to do with their delightfulness.
“Well, Jeanie, how are ye the day? Ony worse of the reel o' Tulloch ?”
And then he went in, and shook hands with kind Mrs. Raitt, and sat down and talked to them in his cheerful way. Mrs. Raitt of course asked what Mr. Edmund would take.
“ I ken it's nae use offering your brother and you speerits,” she added.
“ 'Deed, Mrs. Raitt, I winna objec' for once, just to keep out the cold.”
Then he charmed Mrs. Raitt and Jeanie by the polite manner in which he drank their healths. “I doubt ye'll have no dances kept for me when I come back, Jeanieunless I engage ye now, eh? I'll no get a chance, will I ?"
Mrs. Raitt laughed. “Jeanie's had dancin'eneuch for a whilie yet, Mr. Allardyce. I tell her she be to be gey busy, and mind her shewin'-after twa such treats
as she's gotten."
Then Mr. Allardyce stood up to go. “Well, there'll be no more dancin' for me, ony wye, for a long time, Jeanie. I'm goin' home, to stick to my work, ye ken; and I dinna know when I'll be this wye again. But," and he laughed knowingly and spoke low in the girl's ear, “ maybe ye'll hear fro' me-about the 14th of neist month-eh ?”
And Jeanie's blushing smile showed that she understood the witticism.
“ Ye'se keep a good look out for the mails, ye kenthey're sure to be delayed aboot that time. But syne the very bonniest eenie that's in Postie's bag ye may mak' sure's fro' mysel'."
And then-thinking no more of it than if she had been one of his little nieces at Fernytofts—he kissed the child's rosy cheek lightly, and ran back to the platform, meeting his brother who had been talking to old Raitt in his office.
"Fat's that ye're sayin' to Jeanie?” demanded Fernies, abruptly.
“What's that to you, Jemmie ?”
“ I'm nae for the child bothered. She's but a child, ye ken, but she's ower a’ld for triflin' wi'—and she thinks ye a'thing already, I can see."
“ Tchut ! I was only talking trash- and she kens it as weel's I do, the sa'cy wifie! But just ye tell Maggie that I'm makin’ love, as fast 's I'm able, to Raitt's lassie, and set's a' by the ears—and ye’se do me the best turn ye ever did in yer life, Jemmie !" he added with the strangest laugh Fernies had ever heard him give.
And then he jumped into an empty carriage, as the whistle sounded.
“Good-bye, old chap ; thanks for your hospitality.” “Good-bye to ye, Eydie. Hist ye back again.”
And as the train deliberately moved off, old Fernies turned back towards the town.
“Odd, but I dinna oonderstand Eydie ava'. He seems to be gaan clean aff's heid, aboot this mairriage !"
IN WHICH MR. MAITLAND CALLS ON MR. FARQUHAR.
to his work so far as that his friends in the country did not see him again for a month. They did not hear very often from him either. He had asked Maggie to write to him; and she did so, regularly, sending him very charming letters, which he ought to have been delighted to receive. But I do not think the reception of them gave him any very keen sense of delight. And his answers—when he found that he had time to sit down and answer them—were of a short, matter-of-fact, business-like description, written in his most commercial hand.
One morning about the middle of February, Mr. Maitland, dressed in his most unexceptionable suit of broadcloth, might have been seen wending his way along the streets of the town, in the direction of the house occupied by the incumbent of S. Magnus.
He was only slightly acquainted with Mr. Farquhar : knowing him as most of the clergy of one diocese know each other. To say the truth, there was no very great sympathy between them; for they represented each a very different school of thought in the Church : as different as the dapper young country clergyman, hardly distinguishable by his dress from the “minister” of any of the Presbyterian bodies, was from the middle-aged, ascetic-looking priest in the worn cassock, who received him in his study—with the fast silvering hair, and the deep lines which the manifold anxieties of his heavy charge (and not a few family cares and sorrows) had traced on his intellectual countenance.
Mr. Farquhar received his visitor very courteously, but Mr. Maitland appeared a little ill at ease. After a few preliminary nothings had passed, however, he went at once to the object of his visit, saying: “I am sorry to intrude upon your time, but I called-in fact I wished to speak to you about a member of your congregation-Mr. Edmund Allardyce—I believe you know him
“What, Allardyce, my choirmaster? You are not going to run away with him, I hope ?”
"No," said Mr. Maitland, with an uneasy little smile ; “I only wished to ask you to tell me a little about himabout his character, in fact," and he cleared his throat, and stopped.
" His character? I'm sure I shall be very happy to say anything in his favour-although I do not think he requires any recommendation from me. I call him my third churchwarden : I have two firstrate ones, but if either were resigning I should make Allardyce one immediately. He is one of my most useful assistants, in many ways.".
“ Indeed. I understood he took interest in Church music -in fact he seems a great hand at music generally. I suppose then you know him to be steady, and regular as to his mode of life? These musical fellows are apt to be-ahem -a little”
“My dear sir, I never heard of him as anything remarkable in the musical line. He knows a little—a very little I believe it is, though I am no musician myself—of Church music, enough to train my choir ; which he has been kind enough to undertake voluntarily, in the meantime, since we lost our musical schoolmaster. Oh, ah, and he plays a little, by himself, in his own lodging. He's a bachelor, you know : lives in two little rooms in Tower Street. I always wonder he is not married ; but I believe there was something-he met with some disappointment early in life, which he has never got over. Wood, of Inverranna, mentioned something of the kind. Wood knows all about him—thinks most highly of him.”
Again Mr. Maitland smiled, deprecatingly. “Since you have mentioned this, I may say, as an excuse for troubling you so much on the subject, that, although we have not announced the engagement beyond the circle of our nearest friends, he is engaged to my only sister. Of course, this being the case, I feel anxious, not knowing him very intimately myself, to make every inquiry regarding his personal character, from those who are so well qualified to judge."
“Of course, of course. Well, I think I may congratulate you and Miss Maitland also. I do not know any young man that I respect more highly than Allardyce."
“I am most delighted to hear it, Mr. Farquhar. But, if you will forgive my troubling you—in a matter so nearly affecting my sister's happiness for life, I feel that I ought not to hesitate in approaching the subject-may I ask, if you are confident that he is a perfectly sober man ?"
“I never doubted it. Wood told me once that he made it a rule never to touch spirits : I think his whole appearance is that of a man of temperate habits. Have you any reason for doubting it, may I ask ?”
One doesn't like to say such things. Of course what I say to you is strictly private : but I was told the other day by a person who I believe knows him well, that he was, to quote his very words, 'gey fond of a dram.'»
“Well, I can scarcely believe your informant knew what he was speaking of. Of course I can only speak from my own knowledge and on what I have heard from Mr. Wood; and I never saw the slightest appearance about Allardyce to justify such a report." Mr. Maitland looked only half convinced.
But he rose, took his hat, and shook hands with Mr. Farquhar, saying, “Well, sir, I am very glad to have your opinion. It is a great relief of course—in a matter so closely connected with my sister's good. I am her sole near relative, and of course I feel bound to exercise every precaution in securing her welfare. I am much obliged to you for your information, and regret the trouble I have given."
“Not at all, not at all, Mr. Maitland! I shall never feel it a trouble if I can be of any use to Edmund Allardyce, for I have a great esteem for him, I assure you. And though of course I shall say nothing until the engagement is formally announced by you or himself, I rejoice to hear of his happy prospects.”
And so the two clergymen parted, and Mr. Maitland went his way; rather displeased with himself at feeling still inclined to believe his first informant rather than Mr. Farquhar. He was so anxious, poor man, about his sister ! and with all his respect for the Fernytofts family he could not help feeling as if this member of it, handsome, attractive, and well-to-do as he undoubtedly was, differed in some respects from the rest.
Edmund had not forgotten his promise to Jeanie Raitt.