Things were going from bad to worse at Castle Weelset. Whether Mrs. Gordon had disgusted her friends or got tired of them, I do not know, but she remained at home, seldom had a visitor, and never a guest. Rumor, busy in country as in town, said she was more and more manifesting herself a slave to strong drink. She was so tired of herself, that, to escape her double, she made it increasingly a bore to her. She never read a book, never had a newspaper sent her, never inquired how things were going on about the place or in any part of the world, did nothing for herself or others, only ate, drank, slept, and raged at those around her.

One morning David Barclay, having occasion to see the factor, went to the castle, and finding he was at home ill, thought he would make an attempt to see Mrs. Gordon, and offer what service he could render: she might not have forgotten that in old days he had been a good deal about the estate. She received him at once, but behaved in such extraordinary fashion that he could not have any doubt she was at least half-drunk: there was no sense, David said, either to be got out of her, or put into her.

At Corbyknowe they heard nothing of the young laird. The papers said a good deal about the state 214 of things in India, but Francis Gordon was not mentioned.

In the autumn of the year 1858, when the days were growing short, and the nights cold in the high region about the Horn, the son of a neighboring farmer, who had long desired to know Kirsty better, called at Corbyknowe with his sister, ostensibly on business with David. They were shown into the parlor, and all were sitting together in the early gloamin, the young woman bent on persuading Kirsty to pay them a visit and see the improvements they had made in house and garden, and the two farmers lamenting the affairs of the property on which they were tenants.

"But I hear there's new grief like to come to the auld lairdship;" said William Lammie, as he sat with an elbow on the tea-table whence Kirsty was removing the crumbs.

"And what may the wisdom o' the country-side be puttin furth the noo?" asked David, in a tone of good-humored irony.

"Weel, as I hear, Mistress Comrie's been to Embro' for a week or twa, and's come hame wi' a gey queer story concernin the young laird — awa oot there whaur there's been sic a rumpus wi' the h'athen so'diers. There's word come, she says, 'at he'sfa'en intil the verra glaur o' disgrace, funkin at something they set him til: na, he wudna! They hed him afore a coort-mairtial as they ca' 't, and broucht it in, she says, bare cooardice, and jist broke him. He'll hae ill shawin the face o' 'm again i' 's ain calf-country!"

"It's a lee," said Kirsty. "I s' tak my aith o' that, whaever took the tellin o' 't. There never was 215 mark o'cooard upo Francie Gordon. He hed his fauts, but no ane o' them luikit that gait. He was a kin' o' saft-like whiles, and unco easy come ower, but, haein little fear mysel, I ken a cooard whan I see him. Something may hae set up his pride — he has eneuch o' that for twa deevils — but Francie was never nae cooard!"

"Dinna lay the lee at my door, I beg o' ye, Miss Barclay. I was but tellin ye what fowk was saying."

"Fowk's aye sayin, and seldom sayin true. The warst o' 't is 'at honest fowk's aye ready to believe leears! They dinna lee themsel's and sae it's no easy to them to think anither wad. Thereby the fause word has free coorse and is glorifeed! They're no a' leears 'at spreads the lee; but for them 'at maks the lee, the Lord silence them!"

"Hoots, Kirsty," said her mother, "it disna become ye to curse naebody! It's no richt o' ye."

"It's a guid Bible curse, mother! It's but a w'y o' sayin "His wull be dune!"

"Ye needna be sae fell aboot the laird, Miss Barclay! He was nae partic'lar frien o' yours gien a' tales be true!" remarked her admirer.

"I'm tellin ye tales is maistly lees. I hae kenned the laird sin' he was a wee laddie — and afore that; and I'm no gaein to hear him leed upo' and haud my tongue! A lee's a lee whether the leear be a leear or no! — I hae dune."

She did not speak another word to him save to bid him good-night.

In the beginning of the year, a rumor went about the country that the laird had been seen at the castle, but it died away.


David pondered, but asked no questions, and Mrs. Bremmer volunteered no information.

Kirsty of course heard the rumor, but she never took much interest in the goings on at the castle. Mrs. Gordon's doings were not such as the angels desire to look into; and Kirsty, not distantly related to them, and inheriting a good many of their peculiarities, minded her own business.

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