In a minute or so, the door opened, and Steenie coming one step into the kitchen, stood and stared with such a face of concern that Kirsty was obliged to speak. I do not believe he had ever before seen a woman weeping. He shivered visibly.

"Phemy's no that weel," she said. "Her hert's sae sair it gars her greit. She canna help greitin, puir dauty!"

Phemy lifted her face from Kirsty's bosom, where, like a miserable child, she had been pressing it hard, and, seeming to have lost in the depth of her grief all its natural shyness, looked at Steenie with the most pitiful look ever countenance wore: her rage had turned to self-commiseration. The cloud of mingled emotion and distress on the visage of Steenie wavered, shifted, changed, and settled into the divinest look of pity and protection. Kirsty said she never saw anything so unmistakably Godlike upon human countenance. Involuntarily she murmured, "Eh, the bonny man!" He turned away from them, and, his head bent upon his breast, stood for a time utterly motionless. Even Phemy, overpowered and stilled by that last look he cast upon her, gazed at him with involuntary reverence. But only Kirsty knew that the half-witted had sought and 150 found audience with the Eternal, and was now in His Presence.

He remained in this position, Kirsty thought about three minutes. Then he lifted his head, and walked straight from the house, nor turned nor spoke. Kirsty did not go after him: she feared to tread on holy ground uninvited. Nor would she leave Phemy until her mother came.

She got up, set the poor girl on the chair, and began to get ready the mid-day meal, hoping Phemy would help her, and gain some comfort from activity. Nor was she disappointed. With a childish air of abstraction, Phemy rose and began, as of old in the house, to busy herself, and Kirsty felt much relieved.

"But, oh," she said to herself, "the sairness o' that wee herty i' the inside o' her!"

Phemy never spoke, and went about her work mechanically. When at length Mrs. Barclay came into the kitchen, Kirsty thought it better to leave them together, and went to find Steenie. She spent the rest of the day with him. Neither said a word about Phemy, but Steenie's countenance shone all the afternoon, and she left him at night in his house on the Horn, still in the after-glow of the mediation which had irradiated him in the morning.

When she came home, Kirsty found that her mother had put Phemy to bed. The poor child had scarcely spoken all day, and seemed to have no life in her. In the evening an attack of shivering, with other symptoms, showed she was physically ill. Mrs. Barclay had sent for her father, but the girl was asleep when he came. Aware that he would not hear a word casting doubt on his daughter's 151 discretion, and fearing therefore that, if she told him how she came to be there, he would take her home at any risk, where she would not be so well cared for as at the Knowe, she had told him nothing of what had taken place; and he, thinking her ailment would prove but a bad cold, had gone back to his books without seeing her. At Mrs. Barclay's entreaty he had promised to send the doctor, but never thought of it again.

Kirsty found her very feverish, breathing with difficulty, and in considerable pain. She sat by her through the night. She had seen nothing of illness, but sympathetic insight is the first essential endowment of a good nurse.

All the night long — and Kirsty knew he was near — Steenie was roving within sight of the window where the light was burning. He did not know that Phemy was ill; pity for her heart-ache drew him thither. As soon as he thought his sister would be up, he went in: the door was never locked. She heard him, and came to him. The moment he learned Phemy's condition, he said he would go for the doctor. Kirsty in vain begged him to have some breakfast first: he took a piece of oatcake in his hand and went.

The doctor returned with him, and pronounced the attack pleurisy. Phemy did not seem to care what became of her. She was ill a long time, and for a fortnight the doctor came every day.

There was now so much to be done that Kirsty could seldom go with Steenie to the hill. Nor did Steenie himself care to go for any time, and was never a night from the house. When all were in bed, 152 he would generally coil himself on a bench by the kitchen-fire, at any moment ready to answer the lightest call of Kirsty, who took pains to make him feel himself useful, as indeed he was. Although now he slept considerably better at night and less in the day, he would start to his feet at the slightest sound, like the dog he had almost ceased to imagine himself except in his dreams. In carrying messages, or in following directions, he had always shown himself perfectly trustworthy.

Slowly, very slowly, Phemy recovered. But long before she was well, his family saw that the change for the better which had been evident in Steenie's mental condition for some time before Phemy 's illness, was now manifesting itself plainly in his person. The intense compassion which, that memorable morning, roused his spirit even to the glorifying of his visage, seemed now settling in his looks and clarifying them. His eyes appeared to shine less from his brain, and more from his mind; he stood more erect; and, as encouraging a symptom, perhaps, as any, he had grown more naturally conscious of his body and its requirements. Kirsty, coming upon him one morning as he somewhat ruefully regarded his trousers, suggested a new suit, and was delighted to see his face shine up, and hear him declare himself ready to go with her and be measured for it. She found also soon after, to her joy, that he had for some time been enlarging with hammer and chisel a certain cavity in one of the rocks inside his house on the Horn, that he might use it for a bath.

In all these things she saw evident signs of a new 153 start in the growth of his spiritual nature; and if she spied danger ahead, she knew that the God whose presence in him was making him grow, was ahead with the danger also.

Steenie not only now went attired as befitted David Barclay's son, but to an ordinary glance would have appeared nowise remarkable. Kirsty ceased to look upon him with the pity hitherto coloring all her devotion; pride had taken its place, which she buttressed with a massive hope, for Kirsty was a splendid hoper. People in the town, where now he was oftener seen, would remark on the wonderful change in him. — " What's come to fule Steenie?" said one of a group he had just passed. "Haith he's luikin 'maist like ither fowk!" — "I'm think in the deevil maun hae gang oot o' him!" said another, and several joined in with their remarks. — "Nae muckle o' a deevil was there to gang oot! He was aye an unco hairmless cratur!" — "And that saft-hertit til a' leevin thing!" — "He was that! I saw him ance face a score o' laddies to proteck a poddick they war puttin to torment, whan, the Lord kens, he had need o' a' his wits to tak care o' himsel!" — "Aye, jist like him!" — "Weel, the Lord taks care o' him, for he's ane o' his ain innocents!"

Kirsty, before long, began to teach him to sit on a horse, and, after but a few weeks of her training, he could ride pretty well.

It was many weeks before Phemy was fit to go home. Her father came to see her now and then, but not very often: he had his duties to attend to, and his books consoled him.

As soon as Phemy was able to leave her room, 154 Steenie constituted himself her slave, and was ever within her call. He seemed always to know when she would prefer having him in sight, and when she would rather be alone. He would sit for an hour at the other end of the room, and watch her like a dog without moving. He could have sat so all day, but, as soon as she was able to move about, nothing could keep Phemy in one place more than an hour at the utmost. By this time Steenie could read a little, and his reading was by no means as fruitless as it was slow: he would sit reading, nor at all lose his labor that, every other moment when within sight of her, he would look up to see if she wanted anything. To this mute attendance of love the girl became so accustomed that she regarded it as her right, nor had ever the spoiled little creature occasion to imagine that it was not yielded her; and if at a rare moment she threw him glance or small smile — a crumb from her table to her dog — Steenie would for one joyous instant see into the seventh heaven, and all the day after dwell in the fifth or sixth. On fine clear noontides she would walk a little way with him and Snootie, and then he would talk to her as he had never done except to Kirsty, telling her wonderful things about the dog and the sheep, the stars and the night, the clouds and the moon; but he never spoke to her of the bonny man. When, on their return, she would say they had had a pleasant walk together, his delight would be unutterable; but all the time Steenie had not once ventured a word belonging to any of the deeper thoughts in which his heart was most at home. Was it that in his own eyes he was 155 but a worm glorified with the boon of serving an angel? Was it that he felt as if she knew everything of that kind, and he had nothing to tell her but the things that entered at his eyes and ears? Or was it that a sacred instinct of her incapacity for holy things kept him silent concerning such? At times he would look terribly sad, and the mood would last for hours.

Not once since she began to get better, had Phemy alluded to her faithless lover. In its departure her illness seemed to have carried with it her unwholesome love for him; and certainly, as if overjoyed at her deliverance, she had become much more of a child. Kirsty was glad for her sake, and gladder still that Francie Gordon had done her no irreparable injury — seemed not even to have left his simulacrum in her memory and imagination. As her strength returned, she regained the childish merriment which had always drawn Kirsty, and the more strongly that she was not herself light-hearted. Kirsty's rare laugh was indeed a merry one, but when happiest of all she hardly smiled. Perhaps she never would laugh her own laugh until she opened her eyes in heaven! But how can any one laugh his real best before that! Until then he does not even know his name!

Phemy seemed more pleased to see her father every time he came; and Kirsty began to hope she would tell him the trouble she had gone through. But then Kirsty had a perfect faith in her father, and a girl like Phemy never has! Her father, besides, had never been father enough to her. He had been invariably kind and trusting, but his books had 156 been more to his hourly life than his daughter. He had never drawn her to him, never given her opportunity of coming really near him. No story, however, ends in this world. The first volume may have been very dull, and yet the next be full of delight.

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