Poor little Phemy was in bed, and had cried herself asleep. Kirsty was more tired than she had ever been before. She went to bed at once, but, for a long time, not to sleep.

She had no doubt her parents approved of the chastisement she had given Gordon, and she herself nowise repented of it; yet the instant she lay down, back came the same sudden something that set her weeping on the hill-side. As then, all unsent-for, the face of Francie Gordon, such as he was in their childhood, rose before her, but marred by her hand with stripes of disgrace from his father's whip; and with the vision came again the torrent of her tears, for, if his father had then struck him so, she would have been bold in his defence. She pressed her face into the pillow lest her sobs should be heard. She was by no means a young woman ready to weep, but the thought of the boy-face with her blows upon it got within her guard, and ran her through the heart. It seemed as if nevermore would she escape the imagined sight. It is a sore thing when a woman, born a protector, has for protection to become an avenger, and severe was the revulsion in Kirsty from an act of violence foreign to the whole habit, though nowise inconsistent with the character, of the calm, 142 thoughtful woman. She had never struck even the one-horned cow that would, for very cursedness, kick over the milk-pail! Hers was the wrath of the mother, whose very presence in a calm soul is its justification — for how could it be there but by the original energy? The wrath was gone, and the mother soul turned against itself — not in judgment at all, but in irrepressible feeling. She did not for one moment think, I repeat, that she ought not to have done it, and she was glad in her heart to know that what he had said and she had done must keep Phemy and him apart; but there was the blow on the face of the boy she had loved, and there was the reflex wound in her own soul! Surely she loved him yet with her motherlove, else how could she have been angry enough with him to strike him! For weeks the pain lasted keen, and it was ever after ready to return. It was a human type of the divine suffering in the discipline of the sinner, which with some of the old prophets takes the shape of God's repenting of the evils he has brought on his people; and was the only trouble she ever kept from her mother: she feared to wake her own pain in the dearer heart. She could have told her father; for, although he was, she knew, just as loving as her mother, he was not so soft-hearted, and would not, she thought, distress himself too much about an ache more or less in a heart that had done its duty; but as she could not tell her mother, she would not tell her father. But her father and mother saw that a change had passed upon her, and partially, if not quite, understood the nature of it. They perceived that she left behind her on that night a measure of her gayety, that thereafter she was yet 143 gentler to her parents, and if possible yet tenderer to her brother.

For all the superiority constantly manifesed by her in her relations with Francis, the feeling was never absent from her that he was of a race above her own; and now the visage of the young officer in her father's old regiment never, any more than that of her playfellow, rose in her mind's eye uncrossed by the livid mark of her whip from the temple down the cheek! Whether she had actually seen it so, she did not certainly remember, but so it always came to her, and the face of the man never cost her a tear; it was only that of the boy that made her weep.

Another thing distressed her even more: the instant ere she struck the first, the worst blow, she saw on his face an expression so meanly selfish that she felt as if she hated him. That expression had vanished from her visual memory, her whip had wiped it away, but she knew that for a moment she had all but hated him — if it was indeed all but!

All the house was careful the next morning that Phemy should not be disturbed; and when at length the poor child appeared, looking as if her color was not "ingrain," and so had been washed out by her tears, Kirsty made haste to get her a nice breakfast, and would answer none of her questions until she had made a proper meal.

"Noo, Kirsty," said Phemy at last, "ye maun tell me what he said whan ye loot him ken 'at I cudna win til him 'cause ye wudna lat me!"

"He saidna muckle to that. I dinna think he had been sair missin ye."

"I see ye're no gaein to tell me the trowth, 144 Kirsty! I ken by mysel he maun hae been missin me dreidfu'!"

"Ye can jeedge nae man by yersel, Phemy. Men's no like hiz lass-fowk!"

Phemy laughed superior.

"What ken ye aboot men, Kirsty? There never cam a man near ye, i' the w'y o' makin up til ye!"

"I'm no preten'in to ony exparience," returned Kirsty; "I wad only hae ye tak coonsel wi' common sense. Is't Hkly, Phemy, that a man wi' gran' relations, and gran' notions, a man wi' a fouth o' grit leddies in's acquantance to mak a fule o' him and themsel's thegither, special noo 'at he's an offisher i' the Company's service — is't onygait likly, I say, that he sud be as muckle te'en up wi' a wee bit cuintry lassie as she cudna but be wi' him?"

"Noo, Kirsty, ye jist needna gang aboot to gar me mistrust ane wha's the verra mirror o' a' knichtly coortesy," rejoined Phemy, speaking out of the highflown, thin atmosphere she thought the region of poetry, "for ye canna! Naething ever onybody said cud gar me think different o' him I."

"Nor naething ever he said himsel?" asked Kirsty.

"Naething," answered Phemy, with strength and decision.

"No gien it was 'at naething wud ever gar him merry ye?"

"That he micht weel say, for he winna need garrin! — But he never said it, and ye needna try to threpe it upo' me!" she added, in a tone that showed the very idea too painful.

"He did say 't, Phemy."

"Wha tellt ye? It's lees! Somebody's leein!"


"He said it til me himsel. Never a lee has onybody had a chance o' puttin intil the tale!"

"He never said it, Kirsty!" cried Phemy, her cheeks now glowing, now pale as death. "He daurna!"

"He daured;and he daured to me! He said, 'I wudna merry her gien baith o' ye gaed doon upon yer knees to me!'"

"Ye maun hae sair angert him, Kirsty, or he wudna hae said it! Of coorse he wasna to be guidit by you! He cudna hae meaned what he said! He wad never hae said it to me! I wuss wi' a' my hert I hadna latten ye til im! Ye hae ruined a'!"

"Ye never loot me gang, Phemy! It was my business to gang."

"I see what's intil't!" cried Phemy, bursting into tears. "Ye tellt him hoo little ye thoucht o' me, and that gart him change his min'!"

"Wud he be worth greitin aboot gien that war the case, Phemy? But ye ken it wasna that! Ye ken 'at I jist cudna du onything o' the sort! — I'm jist ashamed to deny't!"

"Hoo am I to ken? There's nae a wuman born but wad fain hae him til hersel!"

Kirsty held her peace for pity, thinking what she could say to convince her of Gordon's faithlessness.

"He didna say he hadna promised?" resumed Phemy through her sobs.

"We camna upo that."

"That's what I'm thinkin!"

"I kenna what ye're thinking, Phemy!"

"What did ye gie him, Kirsty, whan he tauld ye — 146 no 'at I believe a word o' 't — 'at he wud nanc o' me?"

Kirsty laughed with a scorn none the less clear that it was quiet.

"Jist a guid lickin," she answered.

"Ha, ha!" laughed Phemy hysterically. "I tellt ye ye was leein! Ye hae been naething but leein — a' for fun, of coorse, I ken that — to mak a fule o' me for being fleyt!"

Despair, for a moment, seemed to overwhelm Kirsty. Was it for this she had so wounded her own soul! How was she to make the poor child understand? She lifted up her heart in silence. At last she said, —

"Ye winna see mair o' him this year or twa onygait, I'm thinkin! Gien ever ye get a scart o' 's pen, it'll surprise me. But gien ever ye hae the chance, which may God forbid, tell him I said I had gien him his licks, and daured him to come and deny't to my face. He winna du that, Phemy! He kens ower weel I wad jist gie him them again!"

"He wud kill ye, Kirsty! You gie him his licks!"

"He micht kill me, but he'd hae a pairt o' his licks first! — And noo gien ye dinna believe me I winna answer a single question mair ye put to me. I hae been tellin ye — no God's trowth, it's true, but the deevil's — and it's no use, for ye winna believe a word o' 't!"

Phemy rose up a pygmy Fury.

"And ye laid han' to cheek o' that king o' men, Kirsty Barclay? Lord, baud me ohn killt her! Little bauds me frae rivin ye to bits wi' my twa ban's!"

"I laidna ban' to cheek o' Francie Gordon, Phemy; 147 I jist throosh him wi' his father's ain ridin-whup 'at my hert's like to brak to think o' 't. I doobt he'll carry the marks til's grave!"

Kirsty broke into a convulsion of silent sobs and tears.

"Kirsty Barclay, ye're a deevil!" cried Phemy in a hoarse whisper: she was spent with passion.

The little creature stood before Kirsty, her hands clenched and shaking with rage, blue flashes darting about in her eyes. Kirsty, at once controlling the passion of her own heart, sat still as a statue, regarding her with a sad pity. A sparrow stood chattering at a big white brooding dove; and the dove sorrowed for the sparrow, but did not know how to help the fluttering thing.

"Lord!" cried Phemy, "I'll be cursin a' the warl and God himsel, gien I gang on this gait! — Eh, ye fause wuman!"

Kirsty sprang upon her at one bound from her seat, threw her arms round her so that she could not move hers, and sitting down with her on her lap, said —

"Phemy, gien I was yer mither, I wad gie ye yer licks for sayin what ye didna i' yer hert believe! A' the time ye was keepin company wi' Francie Gordon, ye ken i' yer ain sowl ye was never richt sure o' him! And noo I tell ye plainly that, although I strack him times and times wi' my whup— and saired him weel! — I div not believe him sae ill-contrived as ye wad gar me think him. Him and me was bairns thegither, and I ken the natur o' him, and tak his pairt again ye, for, oot o' pride and ambition, ye're an enemy til him: I div not believe ever he promised to marry 148 ye! He's behaved ill eneuch wantin that — lattin a gowk o' a lassie like you believe what ye likit, and him only carryin on wi' ye for the ploy o' 't, haein naething to du, and sick o' his ain toom heid and still toomer hert; but a man's word's his word, and Francie's no sae ill as your tale wud mak him! There, Phemy, I hae said my say!"

She loosened her arms. But Phemy lay still, and putting her arms round Kirsty's neck, wept in a bitter silence.

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