Upon neighboring stones, earth-fast, like two islands of an archipelago, in an ocean of heather, sat a boy and a girl, the girl knitting, or, as she would have called it, weaving a stocking, and the boy, his eyes fixed on her face, talking with an animation that amounted almost to excitement. He had great fluency, and could have talked just as fast in good English as in the dialect in which he was now pouring out his ambitions—the broad Saxon of Aberdeen.

He was giving the girl to understand that he meant to be a soldier like his father, and quite as good a one as he. But so little did he know himself or the world, that, with small genuine impulse to action, and moved chiefly by the anticipated results of it, he saw success already his, and a grateful country at his feet. His inspiration was so purely ambition, that, even if, his mood unchanged, he were to achieve much for his country, she could hardly owe him gratitude.

"I'll no hae the warl' lichtly (make light of) me!" he said.


"Mebbe the warl' winna tribble itsel aboot ye sae muckle as e'en to lichtly ye!" returned his companion quietly.

"Ye do naething ither!" retorted the boy, rising and looking down on her in displeasure. "What for are ye aye girdin at me? A body canna lat his thouchts gang, but ye're doon upo them, like doos upo corn!"

"I wadna be girdin at ye, Francie, but that I care ower muckle aboot ye to lat ye think I haud the same opingon o' ye 'at ye hae o' yersel," answered the girl, who went on with her knitting as she spoke.

"Ye'll never believe a body!" he rejoined, and turned half away. "I canna think what gars me keep comin to see ye! Ye haena ae guid word to gie a body!"

"It's nane ye s' get frae me, the gait ye're gaein, Francie! Ye think a heap ower muckle o' yersel. What ye expec, may some day a' come true, but ye hae gien nobody a richt to expec it alang wi' ye, and I canna think, gien ye war fair to yersel, ye wad coont yersel ane it was to be expeckit o'!"

"I tauld ye sae, Kirsty! Ye never lay ony weicht upo what a body says!"

"That depen's upo the body. Did ye never hear Maister Craig pint oot the differ atween believin a body and believin in a body, Francie?"

"No—and I dinna care."

"I wudna like ye to gang awa thinkin I misdoobtit yer word, Francie! I believe onything ye tell me, as far as I think ye ken, but maybe no sae far as ye think ye ken. I believe ye, but I confess I dinna believe in ye—yet." What hae ye ever done to 3 gie a body ony richt to believe in ye? Ye're a guid rider, and a guid shot for a laddie, and ye rin middlin fest—I canna say like a deer, for I reckon I could lick ye mysel at rinnin! But, efter and a',—"

"Wha's braggin noo, Kirsty?" cried the boy, with a touch of not ill-humored triumph.

"Me," answered Kirsty; "—and I'll do what I brag o'!" she added, throwing her stocking on the patch of green sward about the stone, and starting to her feet with a laugh. "Is't to be up hill or alang?"

They were near the foot of a hill to whose top went the heather, but along whose base, between the heather and the bogland below, lay an irregular belt of moss and grass, pretty clear of stones. The boy did not seem eager to accept the challenge.

"There's nae guid in lickin a lassie!" he said with a shrug.

"There mith be guid in try in to do't though—especially gien ye war lickit at it!" returned the girl.

"What guid can there be in a body bein lickit at onything?"

"The guid o' haein a body's pride ta'en doon a wee."

"I'm no sae sure o' the guid o' that! It wud only baud ye ohn tried (from trying) again."

"Jist there's what yer pride does to ye, Francie! Ye maun aye be first, or ye'll no try! Ye'll never do naething for fear o' no bein able to gang on believin ye cud do't better nor ony ither body! Ye dinna want to fin' oot' at ye're naebody in particlar. It's a sair pity ye wunna hae yer pride ta'en doon. 4 Ye wud be a hantle better wantin aboot three pairts o' 't. —Come, I'm ready for ye! Never min' 'at I'm a lassie: naebody 'ill ken!"

"Ye hae nae sheen (shoes)!" objected the boy.

"Ye can put aff yer ain!"

"My feet's no sae hard as yours!"

"Weel, I'll put on mine. They're here, sic as they are. Ye see I want them gangin throuw the heather wi Steenie; that's some sair upo the feet. Straucht up hill throuw the heather, and I'll put my sheen on!"

"I'm no sae guid uphill."

"See there noo, Francie! Ye tak yersel for unco courteous, and honorable, and generous, and k-nichtly, and a' that — oh, I ken a' aboot it, and it's a' verra weel sae far as it gangs; but what the better are ye for't, whan, a' the time ye' re despisin a body 'cause she's but a quean, ye maun hae ilka advantage o' her, or ye winna gie her a chance o' lickin ye! —Here! I'll put on my sheen, and rin ye alang the laich grun'! My sheen's twice the waucht o' yours, and they dinna fit me!"

The boy did not dare go on refusing: he feared what Kirsty would say next. But he relished nothing at all in the challenge. It was not fit for a man to run races with a girl: there were no laurels, nothing but laughter to be won by victory over her! and in his heart he was not at all sure of beating Kirsty: she had always beaten him when they were children. Since then they had been at the parish school together, but there public opinion kept the boys and girls to their own special sports. Now Kirsty had left school, and Francis was going to the grammar-school at the county-town. They were both about 5 fifteen. All the sense was on the side of the girl, and she had been doing her best to make the boy practical like herself — hitherto without much success although he was by no means a bad sort of fellow. He had not yet passed the stage — some appear never to pass it in this world — in which an admirer feels himself in the same category with his hero. Many are content with themselves because they side with those whose ways they do not endeavor to follow. Such are most who call themselves Christians. If men admired themselves only for what they did, their conceit would be greatly moderated.

Kirsty put on her heavy-tacketed (hob-nailed) shoes — much too large for her, having been made for her brother — stood up erect, and putting her elbows back, said,

"I'll gie ye the start o' me up to yon stane wi' the heather growin oot o' the tap o' 't."

"Na, na; I'll hae nane o' that!" answered Francis. "Fair play to a'!"

"Ye'd better tak it!"

"Aff wi' ye, or I winna rin at a'!" cried the boy,- and away they went.

Kirsty contrived that he should yet have a little the start of her — how much from generosity, and how much from determination that there should be nothing doubtful in the result, I cannot say — and for a good many yards he kept it. But if the boy, who ran well, had looked back, he might have seen that the girl was not doing her best — that she was in fact restraining her speed. Presently she quickened her pace, and was rapidly lessening the distance between them, when, becoming aware of her approach, 6 the boy quickened his, and for a time there was no change in their relative position. Then again she quickened her pace — with an ease which made her seem capable of going on to accelerate it indefinitely — and was rapidly overtaking him. But as she drew near, she saw he panted, not a little distressed; whereupon she assumed a greater speed still, and passed him swiftly — nor once looked round or slackened her pace until, having left him far behind, she put a shoulder of the hill between them.

The moment she passed him, the boy flung himself on the ground and lay. The girl had felt certain he would do so, and fancied she heard him flop among the heather, but could not be sure, for, although not even yet at her speed, her blood was making tunes in her head, and the wind was blowing in and out of her ears with a pleasant but deafening accompaniment. When she knew he could see her no longer, she stopped likewise and threw herself down for a few minutes, thinking whether she should leave him, or walk back at her leisure, and let him see how little she felt the run. She came to the conclusion that it would be kinder to allow him to get over his discomfiture in private. She rose, therefore, and went straight up the hill.

About half-way to the summit, she climbed a rock as if she were a goat, and looked all round her. Then she uttered a shrill, peculiar cry, and listened. No answer came. Getting down as easily as she had got up, she walked along the side of the hill, making her way nearly parallel with their late race-course, so passing considerably above the spot where her defeated rival yet lay, and descending at length a little 7 hollow not far from where she and Francis had been sitting.

In this hollow, which was covered with short, sweet grass, stood a very small hut, built of turf from the peat-moss below, and roofed with sods on which the heather still stuck, if indeed some of it was not still growing. So much was it, therefore, of the color of the ground about it, that it scarcely caught the eye. Its walls and its roof were so thick that, small as it looked, it was smaller inside, while outside it could not have measured more than ten feet in length, eight in width, and seven in height. Kirsty and her brother Steenie, not without help from Francis Gordon, had built it for themselves two years before. Their father knew nothing of the scheme until one day, proud of their success, Steenie would have him see their handiwork; when he was so much pleased with it that he made them a door, on which he put a lock:-

"For though this be na the kin' o' place to draw crook-fingered gentry," he said, "some gangrel body micht creep in and mak his bed intil't, and that lock 'ill be eneuch to haud him oot, I'm thinkin!"

He also cut for them a hole through the wall, and fitted it with a window that opened and shut, which was more than could be said of every window at the farmhouse.

Into this nest Kirsty went, and in it remained quiet until it began to grow dark. She had hoped to find her brother waiting for her, and, although disappointed, chose to continue there until Francis Gordon should be well on his way to the castle, when she crept out, and ran to recover her stocking.


When she got home, she found Steenie engrossed in a young horse their father had just bought. She would fain have mounted him at once, for she would ride any kind of animal able to carry her; but as he had never yet been backed, her father would not permit her.

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