Joe Corrie

THE WANDERER'S RETURN

MAN, I dinna ken what made me think o wee Leezie Morrison this mornin but she's been on my mind the hale day. She's been deid a lang time noo, an what I'm gaun to tell ye happened mony a year ago.

There wisna much o her, as licht as a feather, an when she was a young lass I wadna say she was much o a beauty. She haed freckles a' ower her face, an her hair was as straucht as a poker, yet she was shapely eneuch, tae, an ye could hae spanned her middle wi your twa hands-I ken that for a fact for she yince let me dae it, for fun. But she was as sherp as a whutterick, an wrocht mony a stronger yin aff their feet in the fields. Where she got the strength I dinna ken, but folk wha hae strang will-po'er hae that extraordinary capacity for dain' mair than ye expect o them.

Leezie's mither was deid then, an she leuked efter her faither, Geordie Morrison, wha was a stane napper. They leived in a wee thatched hoose this side o Palnure. Leezie wisna yin for the men, an they a' kent that an didna bother her much ; altho she was as fond o a dance as ony o the lasses, an was never blate to gie us a sang, an, man, she could lilt like a lintle.

Then Davie Smith teuk a notion o her, an, to oor surprise she teuk a notion o Davie. Davie was a big strang lad wha went aboot wi the big mill. He haed nae relations that we kent o, an used to sleep in the van. But gaun aboot frae ferm to ferm, an never gettin' oot o the rut, didna please Davie. He was a lad o ambition an wanted to get on in the warld.

Sae Davie teuk the notion to gae to Australia, to mak his fortune. But he wanted Leezie to agree to that, which she did. Whenever he got settled doon he was gaun to send for her, an they could get mairried ower there. Leezie's faither, a richt daecent men, agreed wi this, tae, for he wadna see onything standin in the road o Leezie's happiness.

Sae Davie went awa. I was at the station that mornin loadin' coal, an Leezie was the only yin there to see him aff, altho I did gae to Davie to shake his hand an wish him a' that was guid in his new life. But I didna intervene. Weel, I saw Davie tak her in his airms as the train cam in, an kiss her. An when the train went awa I saw Leezie dryin' the tears frae her e'en. But she haed the hert to gie me a he'rty wave as she made her wey back hame.

I used to ask Leezie hoo Davie was gettin' on, an she said fine, an was leukin forrit to joinin' him before very lang. But, man, the years went by, an Leezie was still aboot Palnure. An ony time I asked aboot David she juist said he was gettin' on as weel as could be expected. But I met her faither in the toon yin Setterday nicht an he whispered to me that Davie haedna written for a lang, lang time.

Alex. Petrie heard aboot this, tae, an wanted to mairy Leezie, but she said, "No, Alex. I promised mysel to Davie, an I canna gae back on my wird." "But he hasne been writin noo for twa years an mair, Leezie," said Alex. "He'll write some day, Alex. It's very kind o ye, but dinna ask me again." Sae naebody did.

The years went on Leezie's faither dee'd an she bided in the wee hoose hersel, workin' awa, to the fermers, or at the peelin', an leukin efter folk that were badly, an even bringin' bairns into the warld, for she was handy at onything. Whiles she haed a gey struggle, for life in thae days wisna as saft as it is noo. But never a grumble, never a complaint, an aye the helpin' hand for ony puir sowel that was in distress. Man, we dinna breed them like Leezie nooadays, we dae not !

Weel, years an years passed. Then yin nicht when Leezie got hame frae a heavy day at the hervest there was a strange man Sittin on her doorstep ; a queer-leukin man, no weel dressed ava, an wi a white face that was lang, an pinched, an dark e'en starin' in his heid. Leezie, wi her hert in her mooth could only stare at him. Then she cam oot wi a gasp, "Davie! Is it you ?"

An it was, nane ither than Davie Smith, but wha wad hae kent him ? The puir sowel was sae weak that he cauldna speak to Leezie; juist tried to smile a wee to keep the tears frae burstin' frae his e'en. "Oh, puir sowel," said Leezie, "you're no weel, but come in, come in, come in!" She opened the door but haed to help him into the hoose. She got him into a chair, an wisna mony meenits before she haed the peat lowin on the fire an a cup o tea on the table for him.

What happened atween the twa o them that first hauf 'oor I dinna ken, an even if I did it wadna be fair o me to tell it. An the first I kent o Davie bein back was when I was walkin alang the road, no far frae her hoose, when she met me, runnin' to get a doctor. She telt me what haed happened, an wad I gang in an keep David company till she got back!

Sae I stepped into her wee hoose, an there was Davie, lyin in her bed, juist leukin up at the ceilin'. An I kent frae my very first leuk at him that he was a deein man. Sae I telt him wha I was, an we got startin' to talk ; it was a struggle for him, but he was keen to tell me what haed happened to him. Frae he haed stepped on the train at Newton Stewart things haed gane wrang wi him. Australia wisna what he thocht it was, an it was a case o wanderin' frae yin job to anither, an each yin gettin' worse an his health no standin up to it, yet aye thinkin he'd land on his feet somebit, but it wisna to be. An he wadna have been hame ava if he haedna met a Newton Stewart man (I haed mind o him fine) wha haed peyed his passage hame. But there he was in Leezie's, broken in health, wi a' his belangin's in a wee canvas bag, an no a single penny in his pooch. Man, it was a rale tragedy.

I bided wi him till Maggie an the doctor cam, sae I went oot to keep an ee on the doctor's pownie. When he cam oot I asked him hoo David was keepin. He sheuk his heid an said he didna hae much hope, altho he micht linger lang eneuch wi proper care an attention.

Weel, Leezie worked like a wee slave, an the neebors were awfu guid in keepin an ee on David when she was oot at her work, makkin a bite for him, an seein that the fire was kept on. An at the end o her day in the fields Leezie juist ran hame. Weel, she kent that

David haed a sair battle to haud on to his life, but she gae him every encouragement. An by the Spring o the year she haed him on his feet, she haed that, an sittin oot in the sunshine. An I hae seen her greetin wi sheer joy, thinkin that she was winnin the battle. She used to sit beside him ootside knittin' an chattin' awa to him, as happy as a lark.

Ah, but Davie's trouble was ower deep-seated. An by the middle o the summer he haed to tak to his bed again. Leezie saw the end comin for she said to me, "I havena haed him very lang, Tam, but we hae been happy thigither, an I suppose we can thank the Lord for that,"

O course I was at the funeral, as maist o the men aboot the place were, an when we haed got Devie into the hearse I teuk haud o Leezie's hand. But she didna greet, na, juist a wee smile. She stuid at the door, like a wee statue, never a move in her, an when I leuked back at the bend o the brae she was wavin' her hand as much as to say, "Fareweel, Davie, but we'll meet again an be happier still."

An that's the pictur I still hae in my mind o Leezie Morrison, the bravest, an the best wee wumman I hae ever kent in a' my life.