Francis lay for some time, thinking Kirsty sure to come back to him, but half-wishing she would not. He rose at length to see whether she was on the way; but no one was in sight. At once the place was aghast with loneliness, as it must indeed have looked to any one not at peace with solitude. Having sent several ringing shouts, but in vain, after Kirsty, he turned, and, in the descending light of an autumn afternoon, set out on the rather long walk to his home, which was the wearier that he had nothing pleasant at hand to think about.

Passing the farm where Kirsty lived, about three miles brought him to an ancient, turreted house on the top of a low hill, where his mother sat expecting him, ready to tyrannize over him as usual, and none the less ready that he was going to leave her within a week.

"Where have you been all day, Frank?" she said.

"I have been a long walk," he answered.

"You've been to Corbyknowe!" she returned. "I know it by your eyes! I know by the very color of them you're going to deceive me! — Now don't tell me you haven't been there; I shall not believe you!"

"I haven't been near the place, mother," said Francis; but as he said it his face glowed with a heat 10 that did not come from the fire. He was not naturally an untruthful boy, and what he said was correct, for he had passed the house half a mile away; but his words gave, and were intended to give the impression that he had not been that day with any of the people of Corbyknowe. His mother objected to his visiting the farmer, but he knew instinctively she would have objected yet more to his spending half the day with Kirsty whom she never mentioned, and of whom she scarcely recognized the existence. Little as she loved her son, Mrs. Gordon would have scorned to suspect him of preferring the society of such a girl to her own. In truth, however, there were very few of his acquaintance whose company Francis would not have chosen rather than his mother's — except indeed when he was ill, when she was generally very good to him.

"Well, this once I shall believe you," she answered, "and I am glad to be able. It is a painful thought to me, Frank, that a son of mine should feel the smallest attraction to low company. I have told you twenty times that the man was nothing but a private in your father's regiment."

"He was my father's friend!" answered the boy.

"He tells you so, I do not doubt," returned his mother. "He was not likely to leave that mouldy old stone unturned!"

The mother sat, and the son stood before her, in a drawing-room whose furniture of a hundred years old must once have looked very modern and newfangled under windows so narrow and high up, and within walls so thick: without a fire it was always cold. The carpet was very dingy, and the mirrors 11 were much spotted; but the poverty of the room was the respectable poverty of age: old furniture had become fashionable just in time to save it from being metamorphosed by its mistress into a show of gay meanness and costly ugliness. A good fire of mingled peat and coal burned bright in the barrel-fronted steel grate, and shone red in the brass fender. The face too of the boy looked very red in the glow, but its color came more from within than from without; he cherished the memory of his father, and did not love his mother more than a little.

"He has told me a great deal more about my father than ever you did, mother!" he answered.

"Well he may have!" she returned. "Your father was not a young man when I married him, and they had been together through I don't know how many campaigns."

"And you say he was not my father's friend!"

"Not his friend Frank; his servant — what do they call them? — his orderly, I dare say! certainly not his friend."

"Any man may be another man's friend!"

"Not in the way you mean; not that his son should go and see him every other day! A dog may be a man's good friend, and so was sergeant Barclay your father's — a very good friend that way, I don't doubt!"

"You said a moment ago he was but a private, and now you call him sergeant Barclay!"

"Well, where's the difference?"

"To be made sergeant shows that he was not a common man. If he had been, he would not have been set over others!"

"Of course he was then, and is now, a very


respectable man. If he were not I should never have let you go and see him at all. But you must learn to behave like the gentleman you are, and that you never will while you frequent the company of your inferiors. Your manners are already almost ruined — fit for nothing but a farm-house! There you are, standing on the side of your foot again! — Old Barclay, I dare say, tells you no end of stories about your mother!"

"He always asks after you, mother, and then never mentions you more."

She knew perfectly that the boy spoke the truth.

"Don't let me hear of your being there again before you go to school!" she said definitively. "By the time you come home next year I trust your tastes will have improved. Go and make yourself tidy for dinner. A soldier's son must before everything attend to his dress."

Francis went to his room, feeling it absolutely impossible to have told his mother that he had been with Kirsty Barclay, that he had run a race with her, and that she had left him alone at the foot of the Horn. That he could not be open with his mother, no one that knew her unreasoning and stormy temper, would have wondered; but the pitiful boy, who did not like lying, actually congratulated himself that he had got through without telling a downright falsehood! It would not have bettered matters in the least had he disclosed to her the good advice Kirsty gave him: she would only have been furious at the impudence of the hussy in talking so to her son.

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