Mr. Ogilvy, the schoolmaster of Glen Quharity, had not seen Margaret Dishart for eighteen years until the day when he stood in the crowd that had gathered to welcome Gavin Dishart, the new minister of Auld Licht parish in Thrums. When the dominie saw Margaret again, he knew that all of her happiness lay in her son Gavin. The schoolmaster did not allow Margaret to see him, as he never would even in the disturbed days to come. He knew that he was best out of her life and that he could bring her only unhappiness. When he heard Gavin deliver his first sermon at Auld Licht, the dominie knew that the little minister, who was just twenty-one years old, was a servant of the Lord.
Lord Rintoul’s castle stood in the Spittal on the hill above Glen Quharity. It was rumored that he had a young girl in his household whom he expected to marry soon, but no one had seen the girl except the sheriff of Thrums, who stopped at the castle to tell Lord Rintoul that a detachment of militia was coming to Thrums to arrest some insurgent weavers. Dressed as a gypsy, the young bride-to-be ran to the village to warn the people that soldiers were on their way.
Gavin Dishart met her that night as he was walking through Windyghoul toward Caddam. She ran dancing and singing and laughed at him as she darted past him toward Thrums. When Gavin caught up with her, they became rivals as Gavin attempted to calm the workers whom the gypsy had aroused against the soldiers. Her activities on the night the militia came were a topic of discussion in Thrums for days afterward—this mysterious gypsy whose origin no one could guess. Even Gavin spent more hours than was proper pondering over the girl who had brazenly claimed, when the soldiers had tried to arrest her, that she was his wife.
Gavin’s next meeting with the gypsy was in the cottage of old Nanny Webster, a parish charge. The schoolmaster heard a story through village gossip that reached the dominie only in rumor: Gavin had gone with Dr. McQueen to take old Nanny to the poorhouse; the gypsy girl, Babbie, interrupted the proceedings by offering to provide Nanny with an income for the old woman’s support. Most of the villagers believed that the little minister had done the good work, and few knew about the gypsy’s part in the story.
Gavin had to meet the gypsy to collect the money for Nanny’s support. He met her in the woods so that no one would know from where the money actually came. Babbie was unlike the people of Thrums. She horrified old Nanny with her impertinence to the little minister of Auld Licht. She embarrassed Gavin by teasing him about his height, a fact that had caused him great distress all of his life. Rob Dow was always on the lookout for the pair; he skulked among the pines of Windyghoul, spying on his beloved minister and the witch who had cast a spell on Gavin. Rob, a drunkard whom Gavin had converted, feared for his minister after he had seen the gypsy nearly succeed in her attempt to make the minister kiss her. Rob jealously guarded his secret, for he was no gossip. To his death, Rob protected the little minister who had saved him from drink.
While the dominie feared that Margaret might be hurt by this woodland courtship, Gavin was troubled by his love for the brazen gypsy. As she gradually became aware of his devotion, the gypsy girl began to love him in turn. No one had ever loved her before. Lord Rintoul only played at watching her beauty. When Gavin hinted that he would marry her, Babbie protested that he would be banished from Thrums and so would break his mother’s heart.
One night, the lovers walked together through Windyghoul. Unknown to anyone, the dominie, Mr. Ogilvy, often strolled through the same wood so he could gaze at the manse where Margaret lived....
(The entire section is 1545 words.)