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"We have a' oor troubles, Sam'l," said Sanders soothingly, "an' every man maun bear his ain burdens. Johnny Davie's wife's dead, an' he's no repinin'."
"Ay," said Sam'l, "but a death's no a mairitch. We hae haen deaths in our family too."
"It may a' be for the best," added Sanders, "an' there wid be a michty talk i' the hale country-side gin ye didna ging to the minister like a man."
"I maum hae langer to think o't," said Sam'l.
"Bell's mairitch is the morn," said Sanders decisively.
Sam'l glanced up with a wild look in his eyes.
"Sanders!" he cried.
"Ye hae been a guid friend to me, Sanders, in this sair affliction."
"Nothing ava," said Sanders; "dount mention'd."
"But, Sanders, ye canna deny but what your rinnin oot o' the kirk that awfu' day was at the bottom o'd a'."
"It was so," said Sanders bravely.
"An' ye used to be fond o' Bell, Sanders."
"I dinna deny't."
"Sanders, laddie," said Sam'l, bending forward and speaking in a wheedling voice, "I aye thocht it was you she likit."
"I had some sic idea mysel," said Sanders.
"Sanders, I canna think to pairt twa fowk sae weel suited to ane anither as you an' Bell."
"Canna ye, Sam'l?"
"She wid mak ye a guid wife, Sanders, I hae studied her weel, and she's a thrifty, douce, clever la.s.sie. Sanders, there's no the like o' her.
Mony a time, Sanders, I hae said to mysel, 'There's a la.s.s ony man micht be prood to tak.' A'body says the same, Sanders, There's nae risk ava, man: nane to speak o'. Tak her, laddie, tak her, Sanders; it's a grand chance, Sanders. She's yours for the spierin'. I'll gie her up, Sanders."
"Will ye, though?" said Sanders.
"What d'ye think?" asked Sam'l.
"If ye wid rayther," said Sanders politely.
"There's my han' on't," said Sam'l. "Bless ye, Sanders; ye've been a true frien' to me."
Then they shook hands for the first time in their lives; and soon afterward Sanders struck up the brae to T'nowhead,
Next morning Sanders Els.h.i.+oner, who had been very busy the night before, put on his Sabbath clothes and strolled up to the manse.
"But--but where is Sam'l?" asked the minister; "I must see himself."
"It's a new arrangement," said Sanders.
"What do you mean, Sanders?"
"Bell's to marry me," explained Sanders.
"But--but what does Sam'l say?"
"He's willin'," said Sanders.
"She's willin', too. She prefers't."
"It is unusual," said the minister.
"It's a' richt," said Sanders.
"Well, you know best," said the minister.
"You see the hoose was taen, at ony rate," continued Sanders. "An' I'll juist ging in til't instead o' Sam'l."
"An' I cudna think to disappoint the la.s.sie."
"Your sentiments do you credit, Sanders," said the minister; "but I hope you do not enter upon the blessed state of matrimony without full consideration of its responsibilities. It is a serious business, marriage."
"It's a' that," said Sanders, "but I'm willin' to stan' the risk."
So, as soon as it could be done, Sanders Els.h.i.+oner took to wife T'nowhead's Bell, and I remember seeing Sam'l d.i.c.kie trying to dance at the penny wedding.
Years afterward it was said in Thrums that Sam'l had treated Bell badly, but he was never sure about it himself.
"It was a near thing--a michty near thing," he admitted in the square.
"They say," some other weaver would remark, "'at it was you Bell liked best."
"I d'na kin," Sam'l would reply, "but there's nae doot the la.s.sie was fell fond o' me. Ou, a mere pa.s.sin' fancy's ye micht say."