Francie's anger had died down a good deal by the time he reached home. He was, as his father's friend had just said, by no means a bad sort of fellow, only he was full of himself, and therefore of little use to anybody. His mother and he, when not actually at strife, were constantly on the edge of a quarrel. The two must have their own way, each of them. Francie's way was sometimes good, his mother's sometimes not bad, but both were usually selfish. The boy had fits of generosity, the woman never, except toward her son. If she thought of something to please him, good and well! if he wanted anything of her, it would never do! The idea must be her own, or meet with no favor. If she imagined her son desired a thing, she felt it one she never could grant, and told him so: thereafter Francis would not rest until he had compassed the thing. Sudden division and high words would follow, with speechlessness on the mother's part in the rear, which might last for days. Becoming all at once tired of it, she would one morning appear at breakfast looking as if nothing had ever come between them, and they would be the best of friends for a few days, or perhaps a week, seldom longer. Some fresh discord, nowise different in character from the preceding, would arise between 55 them, and the same weary round be tramped again, each always in the right, and the other in the wrong. Every time they made it up, their relation seemed unimpaired, but it was hardly possible things should go on thus and not at length quite estrange their hearts.

In matters of display, to which Francis had much tendency, his mother's own vanity led her to indulge and spoil him, for, being hers, she was always pleased he should look his best. On his real self she neither had nor sought any influence. Insubordination or arrogance in him, her dignity unslighted, actually pleased her; she liked him to show his spirit: was it not a mark of his breeding?

She was a tall and rather stout woman, with a pretty, small-featured, regular face, and a thin nose with the nostrils pinched.

Castle Weelset was not much of a castle: to an ancient round tower, discomfortably habitable, had been added in the last century a rather large, defensible house. It stood on the edge of a gorge, crowning one of its stony hills of no great height. With scarce a tree to shelter it, the situation was very cold in winter, and it required a hardy breeding to live there in comfort. There was little of a garden, and the stables were somewhat ruinous. For the former fact the climate almost sufficiently accounted, and for the latter a long period of comparative poverty.

The young laird did not like farming, and had no love for books: in this interval between school and college, he found very little to occupy him, and not much to amuse him. Had Kirsty been as encouraging as he had expected, he would on his return have made use of his new pony almost only to ride to 56 Corbyknowe in the morning and back to the castle at night.

His mother knew old Barclay, as she called him, well enough — that is, not at all, and had never shown him any cordiality, anything indeed better than condescension. To treat him like a gentleman, even when he sat at her own table, she would have counted absurd. He had never been to the castle since the day after her husband's funeral, when she treated him with such emphasized superiority that he felt he could not go again without running the risk either of having his influence with the boy ruined, or giving occasion to a nature not without generosity to take part against his mother. Thenceforward, therefore, he was content with giving him an invariable welcome to his farm, and doing what he could to make his visits pleasant. Chiefly, on such not infrequent occasions, the boy delighted in drawing from his father's friend what tales about his father, and adventures of their campaigns together, he had to tell; and in this way David's wife and children heard many things about himself which would not otherwise have reached them. Naturally Kirsty and Francie grew to be good friends; and after they went to the parish school, there were few days indeed on which they did not walk as far homeward together as the midway divergence of their roads would permit. It is not wonderful, therefore, that at length Francie should be, or should fancy himself in love with Kirsty. I believe all the time he thought of marrying her as a heroic deed, in raising the girl his mother despised to share the lofty position he and his foolish mother imagined him to occupy. The anticipation of 57 opposition from his mother naturally strengthened his determination; of opposition on the part of Kirsty he had not dreamed. He took it as of course that, the moment he stated his intention, Kirsty would be charmed, her mother more than pleased, and the stern old soldier overwhelmed with the honor of alliance with the son of his colonel. I do not doubt, however, that he had an affection for Kirsty far deeper and better than his notion of their relations to each other would indicate. Although it was mainly his pride that suffered in his humiliating dismissal, he had, I am sure, a genuine heartache as he galloped home. When he reached the castle, he left his pony to go where he would, and rushed to his room. There, locking the door that his mother might not enter, he threw himself on his bed in the luxurious consciousness of a much-wronged lover. An uneducated country girl, for so he regarded her, had cast from her, not without insult, his splendidly generous offer of himself!

Poor King Cophetua did not, however, shed many tears for the loss of his recusant beggar-maid. By and by he forgot everything, found he had gone to sleep, and, endeavoring to weep again, did not succeed.

He grew hungry soon, and went down to see what was to be had. It was long past the usual hour for dinner, but Mrs. Gordon had not seen him return, and had had it put back; and here was an opportunity of quarrel not to be neglected by a conscientious mother! She lost it, however.

"Gracious, you've been crying!" she exclaimed, the moment she saw him.


Now certainly Francis had not cried much; his eyes were, notwithstanding, a little red.

He had not yet learned to lie, but he might then have made his first essay had he had a fib at his tongue's end; as he had not, he gloomed deeper, and made no answer.

"You've been fighting!" said his mother.

"I haena," he returned with rude indignation. "Gien I had been, div ye think I wud hae grutten?"

"You forget yourself, laird!" remarked Mrs. Gordon, more annoyed with his Scotch than the tone of it. "I would have you remember I am mistress of the house!"

"Till I marry, mother!" rejoined her son.

"Oblige me in the mean time," she rejoined, "by leaving vulgar language outside the walls of it."

Francis was silent; and his mother, content with her victory, and in her own untruthfulness of nature believing he had indeed been fighting and had had the worst of it, said no more, but began to pity and pet him. A pot of his favorite jam presently consoled the love-wounded hero — in the acceptance of which consolation he showed himself far less unworthy than many a grown man similarly circumstanced in the choice of his.

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