Phemy went seldom to the castle, but the young laird and she met pretty often: there was solitude enough in that country for an army of lovers. Once or twice Gordon, at Phemy's entreaty, went and took tea with her at her father's, and was cordially received by the schoolmaster, who had no sense of impropriety in their strolling out together afterward, leaving him well content with the company of his books. Before this had happened twice, all the town was talking about it, and predicting evil. Phemy heard nothing and feared nothing; but if feeling had been weather and talk tempest, she would have been glad enough to keep within. So rapidly, however, did the whirlwind of tongues extend its gyration that within half a week it reached Kirsty, and cast her into great trouble: her poor silly defenceless Phemy, the child of her friend, was in danger from the son of her father's friend! Her father could do nothing, for Francis would not listen to him, therefore she herself, must do something! She could not sit still and look on at the devil's work! Having always been on terms of sacred intimacy with her mother, she knew more of the dangers of the world, while she was far safer from them, than such girls as their natural guardians watch instead of fortifying, and 119 understood perfectly that an unwise man is not to be trusted with a foolish girl. She felt, therefore, that inaction on her part would be faithlessness to the teaching of her mother, as well as treachery to her father, whose friend's son was in peril of doing a fearful wrong to one to whom he owed almost a brother's protection for his schoolmaster's sake. She did not believe that Francis meant Phemy any harm, but she was certain he thought too much of himself ever to marry her, and were the poor child's feelings to go for nothing? She had no hope that Phemy would listen to expostulation from her, but she must in fairness, before she did anything, have some speech with her!

She made repeated efforts, therefore, to see her, but without success. She tried one time of the day after another, but, now by accident and now by clever contrivance, Phemy was not to be come at. She had of late grown tricky. One of the windows of the schoolmaster's house commanded the street in both directions, and Phemy commanded the window. When she saw Kirsty coming, she would run into the garden and take refuge in the summer-house, telling the servant on her way that she was going out, and did not know what time she would be in. On more occasions than one Kirsty said she would wait, when Phemy, learning she was not gone, went out in earnest, and took care she had enough of waiting. Such shifts of cunning no doubt served laughter to the lovers when next they met, but they showed that Phemy was in some degree afraid of Kirsty.

Had Kirsty known the schoolmaster no better than his sister-in-law knew him, she would, like her, have 120 gone to him; but she was perfectly certain that it would be almost impossible to rouse him, and that, once convinced that his confidence had been abused, he would be utterly furious, and probably bear himself in such fashion as to make Phemy desperate: perhaps make her hate him. As it was, he turned a deaf ear and indignant heart to every one of the reports that reached him. To listen to it would be to doubt his child! Why should not the young laird fall in love with her? What more natural? Was she not worth as much honor as any man, be he who he might, could confer upon her? He cursed the gossips of the town, and returned to his book.

Convinced at length that Phemy declined an interview, Kirsty resolved to take her own way. And her way was a somewhat masterful one.

About a mile from Castle Weelset, in the direction of Tiltowie, the road was, for a few hundred yards, close-flanked by steep heathery braes. Now Kirsty had heard of Phemy's being several times seen on this road of late; and near the part of it I have just described, she resolved to waylay her. From the brae on the side next Corbyknowe, she could see the road for some distance in either direction.

For a week she watched in vain. She saw the two pass together more than once, and she saw Francis pass alone, but she had never seen Phemy alone.

One morning, just as she arrived at her usual outlook, she saw Mrs. Bremner in the road below, coming from the castle, and ran down to speak to her. In the course of their conversation she learned that Francis was to start for London the next morning. 121 When they parted, the old woman resuming her walk to Tiltowie, Kirsty climbed the brae and sat down in the heather. She was more anxious than ever. She had done her best, but it had come to nothing, and now she had but one chance more! That Francis Gordon was going away so soon was good news, but what might not happen even yet before he went! At the same time she could think of nothing better than keep watch as hitherto, firm as to her course if she saw Phemy alone, but now determined to speak to both if Francis was with her, and all but determined to speak to Francis alone, if an opportunity of doing so should be given her.

All the morning and afternoon she watched in vain, eating nothing but a piece of bread that Steenie brought her. At last, in the evening — it was an evening in September, cold and clear, the sun down, and a melancholy glory hanging over the place of his vanishing — she spied the solitary form of Phemy hastening along the road in the direction of the castle. Although she had been on the outlook for her all day, she was at the moment so taken up with the sunset, that Phemy was almost under where she stood before she saw her. She ran at full speed a hundred yards, then slid down a part of the brae too steep to climb, and leaped into the road a few feet in front of Phemy — so suddenly, that the girl started with a cry, and stopped. The moment she saw who it was, however, she drew herself up, and would have passed with a stiff greeting. But Kirsty stood in front of her, and would not permit her.

"What do you want, Kirsty Barclay?" demanded Phemy, who had within the last week or two 122 advanced considerably in confidence of manner; "I am in a hurry!"

"Ye're in a waur hurry nor ye ken, for yer hurry sud be the ither gait!" answered Kirsty; "and I'm gaein to turn ye, or at least, no gaein to lat ye gang, ohn heard a bit o' the trowth frae a woman aulder nor yersel! Lassie, ye seem to think naebody worth hearkenin til a word frae 'cep ae man, but I mean ye to hearken to me! Ye dinna ken what ye're aboot! I ken Francie Gordon a heap better nor you, and though I ken nae ill o him, I ken as little guid: he never did naething yet but to please himsel, and there never came salvation or comfort to man, woman, or bairn frae ony puir cratur like him!"

"How dare you speak such lies of a gentleman behind his back!" cried Phemy, her eyes flashing. "He is a friend of mine, and I will not hear him maligned!"

"There's sma' hairm can come to ony man frae the trowth, Phemy!" answered Kirsty. "Set the man afore me, and I'll say word for word intil his face what I'm say in to you ahint his back."

"Miss Barclay," rejoined Phemy, with a rather pitiable attempt at dignity, "I can permit no one to call me by my Christian name who speaks ill of the man to whom I am engaged!"

"That s' be as ye please. Miss Craig. But I wud lat you ca' me a' the ill names in the dictionar to get ye to heark to me! I'm tellin ye naething but what's true as death."

"I call no one names. I am always civil to my neighbors whoever they may be! I will not listen to you."


"Eh, lassie, there's but feow o' yer neebors ceevil to yer name, whatever they be to yersel! There's hardly ane has a guid word for ye, Phemy! — Miss Craig — I beg yer pardon!"

"Their lying tongues are nothing to me! I know what I am about! I will not stay a moment longer with you! I have an important engagement."

Once more, as several times already, she would have passed her, but Kirsty stepped yet again in front of her.

"I can weel tak yer word," replied Kirsty, "'at ye hae an engagement; but ye said a minute ago 'at ye was engaged til him: tell me in ae word — has Francie Gordon promised to merry ye?"

"He has as good as asked me," answered Phemy, who had fits of apprehensive recoil from a downright lie.

"Noo there I cud 'maist believe ye! Ay, that wud be ill eneuch for Francie! He never was a doonricht leear, sae lang's I kenned him — ony mair nor yersel! But, for God's sake, Phemy, dinna imagine he'll ever merry ye, for that he wull not."

"This is really insufferable! " cried Phemy, in a voice that began to tremble from the approach of angry tears." Pray, have you a claim upon him?"

"Nane, no a shedow o' ane," returned Kirsty. "But my father and his father war like brithers, and we hae a' to du what we can for his father's son. I wud fain baud him ohn gotten into trouble wi' you or ony lass."

"Get him into trouble! Really, Miss Barclay, I do not know how to understand you!"

"I see I maun be plain wi' ye: I wudna hae ye get 124 him into trouble by lattin him get you into trouble! — and that's plain speykin!"

"You insult me!" said Phemy.

"Ye drive me to speyk plain!" answered Kirsty. "That lad, Francie Gordon,"

"Speak with respect of your superiors," interrupted Phemy.

"I'll speyk wi respec o' onybody I hae respec for!" answered Kirsty.

"Let me pass, you rude young woman!" cried Phemy, who had of late been cultivating in her imagination such speech as she thought would befit Mrs. Gordon of Castle Weelset.

"I winna lat ye pass," answered Kirsty;" — that is, no till ye hear what I hae to say to ye."

"Then you must take the consequences!" rejoined Phemy, and, in the hope that her lover would prove within earshot, began a piercing scream.

It roused something in Kirsty which she could not afterward identify: she was sure it had nothing to do with anger. She felt, she said, as if she had to deal with a child who insisted on playing with fire beside a barrel of gunpowder. At the same time she did nothing but what she had beforehand, in case of the repulse she expected, resolved upon. She caught up the little would-be lady, as if she had been that same naughty child, and the suddenness of the action so astonished her that for a moment or two she neither moved nor uttered a sound. The next, however, she began to shriek and struggle wildly, as if in the hug of a bear or the coils of an anaconda, whereupon Kirsty closed her mouth with one hand while she held her last with the other. It was a violent proceeding, 125 doubtless, but Kirsty chose to be thus far an offender, and yet farther.

Bearing her as she best could in one arm, she ran with her toward Tiltowie until she reached a place where the road was bordered by a more practicable slope; here she took to the moorland, and made for Corbyknowe. Her resolve had been from the first, if Phemy would not listen, to carry her, like the unmanageable child she was, home to the mother whose voice had always been to herself the oracle of God.

It was in a loving embrace, though hardly a comfortable one, and to a heart full of pity, that she pressed the poor little runaway lamb: her mother was God's vicar for all in trouble: she would bring the child to reason! Her heart beating mightily with love and labor, she waded through the heather, hurrying along the moor.

It was a strange abduction; but Kirsty was divinely simple, and that way strange. Not until they were out of sight of the road did she set her down.

"Noo, Phemy," she said, panting as she spoke, haud yer tongue like a guid lassie, and come awa upo' yer ain feet."

Phemy took at once to her heels and her throat, and ran shrieking back toward the road, with Kirsty after her like a greyhound. Phemy had for some time given up struggling and trying to shriek, and was therefore in better breath than Kirsty whose lungs were pumping hard, but she had not a chance with her, for there was more muscle in one of Kirsty's legs than in Phemy's whole body. In a moment she had her in her arms again, and so fast that she could not even kick. She gave way and burst into tears.


Kirsty relaxed her hold.

"What are you gaein to du wi' me?" sobbed Phemy.

"I'm takin ye to the best place I ken — hame to my mother," answered Kirsty, striding on for homeheaven as straight as she could go.

"I winna gang!" cried Phemy, whose Scotch had returned with her tears.

"Ye are gaein," returned Kirsty dryly; " — at least I'm takin ye, and that's neist best."

"What for? I never did ye an ill turn 'at I ken o' ! " said Phemy, and burst afresh into tears of selfpity and sense of wrong.

"Na, my bonny doo," answered Kirsty, "ye never did me ony ill turn! It wasna in ye. But that's the less rizzon 'at I sudna du you a guid ane. And yer father has been like the Bountiful himsel to me! It's no muckle I can for you or for him, but there's ae thing I'm set upo', and that's haudin ye frae Francie Gordon the nicht. He'll be awa the morn!"

"Wha tellt ye that?" returned Phemy with a start.

"Jist yer ain aunt, honest woman!" answered Kirsty, "and sair she grat as she telled me, but it wasna at his gaein!"

"She micht hae held the tongue o' her till he was gane! What was there to greit aboot!"

"Maybe she thocht o' her sister's bairn in a tribble 'at silence wadna hide! " answered Kirsty. " Ye haena a notion, lassie, what ye're duin wi' yersel! But my mither 'll lat ye ken, sae that ye gangna blinlins intil the tod's hole."

"You dinna ken Frank, or ye wudna speyk o' 'im that gait!"


"I ken him ower weel to trust you til him."

"It's naething but ye're eenvious o' me, Kirsty, 'cause ye canna get him yersel! He wud never luik at a lass like you!"

"It's weel a'body seesna wi' the same een, Phemy ! Gien I had yer Francie i' the parritch-pat, I wudna pike him oot, but fling f rae me pat and parritch. For a' that, I hae a haill side o' my hert saft til him: my father and his lo'ed like brithers."

"That canna be Kirsty — and it's no like ye to blaw! Your father was a common so'dier and his was cornel o' the regiment!"

"Allooin!" was all Kirsty 's answer. Phemy betook herself to entreaty.

"Lat me gang, Kirsty! Please! I'll gang doon o' my knees til ye! I canna bide him to think I've played him fause."

"He'll play you fause, my lamb, whatever ye du or he think ! It maks my hert sair to ken 'at no guid will your hert get o' his. — He s'no see ye the nicht, ony gait!"

Phemy uttered a childish howl, but immediately choked it with a proud sob.

"Ye're hurtin me, Kirsty," she said, after a minute or so of silence. "Lat me doon, and I'll gang straucht hame to my father. I promise ye."

"I'll set ye doon," answered Kirsty, "but ye maun come hame to my mither."

"What'll my father think?"

"I' s'no forget yer father," said Kirsty.

She sent out a strange, piercing cry, set Phemy down, took her hand in hers, and went on, Phemy making no resistance. In about three minutes there 128 was a noise in the heather, and Snootie came rushing to Kirsty. A few moments more and Steenie lifted his bonnet to Phemy, and stood waiting his sister's commands.

"Steenie," she said, "tak the dog wi' ye, and rin doon to the toon, and tell Mr. Craig 'at Phemy here's comin hame wi' me, to bide the nicht. Ye winna be langer nor ye canna help, and ye 'll come to the hoose afore ye gang to the hill?"

"I'll du that, Kirsty. Come, doggie."

Steenie never went to the town of his own accord, and Kirsty never liked him to go, for the boys were rude, but to-night it would be dark before he reached it.

"Ye're no surely gaun to gar me bide a' nicht!" said Phemy, beginning again to cry.

"I am that — the nicht, and maybe the morn's nicht, and ony nummer o' nichts till we're sure he's awa!" answered Kirsty, resuming her walk.

Phemy wept aloud, but did not try to escape.

"And him gaein to promise this verra nicht 'at he would merry me!" she cried — but through her tears and sobs her words were indistinct.

Kirsty stopped, and faced round on her.

"He promised to merry ye?" she said.

"I didna say that; I said he was gaein to promise the nicht. And noo he'll be gane, and never a word said!"

"He promised, did he, 'at he would promise the nicht? — Eh, Francie! Francie! ye're no yer father's son! — He promised to promise to merry ye! Eh, ye puir gowk o' a bonny lassie!"

"Gien I met him the nicht — ay, it cam to that."


All Kirsty's inborn motherhood awoke. She turned to her, and, clasping the silly thing in her arms, cried out —

"Puir wee dauty! Gien he hae a hert ony bigger nor Tod Lowrie's (the fox's) ain, he'll come to ye to the Knowe, and say what he has to say!"

"He winna ken whaur I am!" answered Phemy, with an agonized burst of dry sobbing.

"Will he no? I s' see to that — and this verra nicht" exclaimed Kirsty. "I'll gie him ilka chance o' doin the richt thing!"

"But he'll be angert at me!"

"What for? Did he tell ye no to tell?"

"Ay did he."

"Waur and waur!" cried Kirsty indignantly. "He wad hae ye a' in his grup! He tellt ye, nae doobt, 'at ye was the bonniest lassie 'at ever was seen, and bepraised ye 'at yer ain minnie wouldna hae kenned ye! Jist tell me, Phemy, dinna ye think a hantle mair o' yersel sin' he took ye in han'?"

She would have Phemy see that she had gathered from him no figs or grapes, only thorns and thistles.

Phemy made no reply: had she not every right to think well of herself? He had never said anything to her on that subject which she was not quite ready to believe.

Kirsty seemed to divine what was passing in her thought.

"A man," she said, "'at disna tell ye the trowth aboot imsel's no likely to tell ye the trowth aboot yoursel! Did he tell ye hoo mony lassies he had said the same thing til afore ever he cam to you? It 130 maitered little sae lang as they war lasses as hertless and toom-heidit as himsel, and ower weel used to sic havers; but a lassie like you, 'at never afore hearkent to siclike, she taks them a' for trowth, and the leein sough o' him gars her trow there was never on earth sic a won'erfu cratur as her! What pleesur there can be in leein 's mair nor I can faddom! Ye're jist a gey bonny lassie, siclike as mony anither; but gien ye war a' glorious within, like the queen o' Sheba, or whaever she may happen to hae been, there wad be naething to be proud o' i' that, seein ye didna contrive yersel. No ae stane, to bigg yersel, hae ye putten upo the tap o' anither!"

Phemy was nowise capable of understanding such statement and deduction. If she was lovely, as Frank told her, and as she saw in the glass, why should she not be pleased with herself? If Kirsty had been made like her, she would have been just as vain as she!

All her life the doll never saw the beauty of the woman. Beside Phemy, Kirsty walked like an Olympian goddess beside the naiad of a brook. And Kirsty was a goddess, for she was what she had to be, and never thought about it.

Phemy sank down in the heather, declaring she could go no farther, and looked so white and so pitiful that Kirsty's heart filled afresh with compassion. Like the mother she was, she took the poor girl yet again in her arms, and, carrying her quite easily now that she did not struggle, walked with her straight into her mother's kitchen.

Mrs. Barclay sat darning the stocking which would have been Kirsty's affair had she not been stalking 131 Phemy. She took it out of her mother's hands, and laid the girl in her lap.

"There's a new bairnie til ye, mother! Ye maun daut her a wee, she's unco tired!" she said, and seating herself on a stool, went on with the darning of the stocking.

Mistress Barclay looked down on Phemy with such a face of loving benignity that the poor miserable girl threw her arms round her neck, and laid her head on her bosom. Instinctively the mother began to hush and soothe her, and in a moment more was singing a lullaby to her. Phemy fell fast asleep. Then Kirsty told what she had done, and while she spoke, the mother sat silent, brooding, and hushing, and thinking.

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