It was again midsummer, and just a year since they parted on the Horn, when Francis appeared at Corbyknowe, and found Kirsty in the kitchen. She received him as if nothing had ever come between them, but at once noting he was in trouble, proposed they should go out together. It was a long way to be silent, but they had reached the spot, whence they started for the race recorded in my first chapter, ere either of them said a word.

"Will ye no sit, Kirsty?" said Francis at length.

For answer she dropped on the same stone where she was sitting when she challenged him to it, and Francis took his seat on its neighbor.

"I hae had a some sair time o' 't sin' I shawed ye plain hoo little I was worth yer notice, Kirsty!" he began.

"Ay," returned Kirsty, "but ilka hoor o' 't hes shawn what the rael Francie was!"

"I kenna, Kirsty. A' I can say is — 'at I dinna think nearhan sae muckle o' mysel as I did than."

"And I think a heap mair o' ye," answered Kirsty. "I canna but think ye upo' the richt ro'd noo, Francie!"

"I houp I am, but I'm aye fin'in oot something 'at 'ill never du."

"And ye'll keep fin'in oot that sae lang's there's onything left but what's like himsel."


"I un'erstan ye, Kirsty. But I cam to ye the day, no to say onything aboot mysel, but jist 'cause I cudna du wantin yer help. I wudna hae presumed but that I thoucht, although I dinna deserve' t, for auld kin'ness ye wud say what ye wud advise."

"I'll du that, Francie — no for auld kin'ness, but for kin'ness never auld. What's wrang wi' ye?"

"Kirsty, wuman, she's brocken oot again!"

"I dinna won'er. I hae h'ard o' sic things."

"It's jist taen the pith oot o' me! What am I to du?"

"Ye cannadu better nor weel; jist begin again."

"I had coft her a bonny cairriage, wi as fine a pair as ever ye saw, Kirsty, as I daursay yer father has telled ye. And they warna lost upon her, for she had aye a gleg ee for a horse. Ye min' yon powny? — And up til yesterday, a' gaed weel, till I was thinkin I cud trust her onygait. But i' the efternune, as she was oot for an airin, ane o' the horses cuist a shue, and thinkin naething o' the risk til a human sowl, but only o' the risk til the puir horse, the fule fallow stoppit at a smithy nae farrer nor the neist door frae a public, and tuik the horse intil the smithy, lea'in the smith's lad at the heid o' the ither horse. Sae what suld my leddy but oot upo' the side frae the smithy, and awa roon the back o' the cairriage to the public, and in! Whether she took onything there I dinna ken, but she maun hae broucht a bottle hame wi her, for this mornin she was fou — fou as e'er ye saw man in market!"

He broke down and wept like a child.

"And what did ye du?" asked Kirsty.

"I said naething. I jist gaed to the coachman and 264 gart him put his horses tu, and tak his denner wi' him, and m'unt the box, and drive straucht awa til Aberdeen, and lea' the carriage whaur I boucht it, and du siclike wi the horses, and come hame by the co'ch."

As he ended the sad tale, he glanced up at Kirsty, and saw her regarding him with a look such as he had never seen, imagined, or dreamed of before. It lasted but a moment; her eyes dropped, and she went on with the knitting, which, as in the old days, she had brought with her.

"Noo, Kirsty, what am I to du neist?" he said.

"Hae ye naething i' yer ain min'?" she asked.

"Naething. "

"Weel, we'll awa hame!" she returned, rising. "Maybe, as we gang, we'll get licht!"

They walked in silence. Now and then Francis would look up in Kirsty 's face, to see if anything was coming, but saw only that she was sunk in thought: he would not hurry her, and said not a word. He knew she would speak the moment she had what she thought worth saying.

Kirsty, recalling what her father had repeatedly said of Mrs. Gordon's management of a horse in her young days, had fallen a wondering how one who so well understood the equine nature, could be so incapable of understanding the human; for certainly she had little known either Archibald Gordon or David Barclay, and quite as little her own son. Having come to the conclusion that the incapacity was caused by overpowering affection for the one human creature she ought not to love Kirsty found her thoughts return to the sole faculty her father yielded 265 Mrs. Gordon — that of riding a horse as he ought to be ridden. Thereupon came to her mind a conclusion she had lately read somewhere — namely, that a man ought to regard his neighbor as specially characterized by the possession of this or that virtue or capacity, whatever it might be, that distinguished him; for that was as the door-plate indicating the proper entrance to his inner house. A moment more and Kirsty thought she saw a way in which Francis might gain a firmer hold on his mother, as well as provide her with a pleasure that might work toward her redemption.

"Francie," she said, "I hae thoucht o' something. My father has aye said, and ye ken he kens, 'at yer mother was a by ord'nar guid rider in her young days, and this is what I wud hae ye du: gang strauch awa, whaurever ye think best, and buy for her the best luikin, best tempered, handiest, and easiest gaein leddy's-horse ye can lay yer han's upo. Ye hae a gey fair beast o' yer ain, my father says, and ye maun jist ride wi' her whaurever she gangs."

"I'll du't, Kirsty. I canna gang straucht awa, I doobt, though; I fear she has whusky left, and there's ilb sayin what she micht du afore I wan back. I maun gang hame first."

"I'm no clear upo' that. Ye canna weel gang and rype (search) a' the kists and aumries i' the hoose she ca's her ain! That wud anger her terrible. Nor can ye weel lay ban's upon her, and tak frae her by force. A wuman micht du that, but a man, and special a wuman's ain ae son, canna weel du't — that is, gien there's ony ither coorse 'at can be followt. It seems to me ye maun tak the risk o' her 266 bottle. It may be no ill thing 'at she sud disgrace hersel oot and oot. Onygait wi' bein awa, and comin back wi' the horse i' yer han' ye'll come afore her like bringin wi' ye a fresh beginnin, a new order o' things like, and that w'y av'ide words wi' her, and words maun aye be av'idit."

Francis remained in thoughtful silence.

"I hae little fear," pursued Kirsty, "but we'll get her frae the drink a'thegither, and the houp is we may get something better putten intil her. Bein fou whiles, isna the main difficulty. But I beg yer pardon, Francie! I maunna forgot 'at she's your mother!"

"Gien ye wud but tak her and me thegither, Kirsty, it wud be a gran' thing for baith o' 's! Wi' yu to tak the half o' 't, I micht stan' up un'er the weicht o' my responsibility!"

"I'm takin my share o' that, onygait, daurin to advise ye, Francie ! — Noo gang, laddie; gang straucht awa and buy the horse."

"I maun rin hame first to put siller i' my pooch! I s' haud ooto' her gait."

"Gang til my faither for't. I haena a penny, but he has aye plenty!"

"I maun hae my horse; there's nae co'ch till the morn's mornin."

"Gangna near the place. My father 'ill gie ye the gray mear — no an ill ane ava! She'll tak ye there in four or five hoors, as amp gt; ride. Only min' and gie her a pickle corn ance, and meal and watter twise upo' the ro'd. Gicn ye seena the animal ye're sure 'ill please her, gang further, and comena hame wantin't."

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