One morning, Kirsty sitting beside him, Francis started to his elbow as if to get up, then seeing her, lay down again with his eyes fixed upon her. She glanced at him now and then, but would not seem to notice him much. He gazed for two or three minutes, and then said, in a low, doubtful, almost timid voice,


"Ay; what is't, Francie?" returned Kirsty.

"Is't yersel, Kirsty?" he said.

"Ay, wha ither, Francie!"

"Are ye angry at me, Kirsty?"

"No a grain. What gars ye speir sic a queston?"

"Eh, but ye gae me sic a ane wi' yer whup — jist here upo the haffit! Luik."

He turned the side of his head toward her, and stroked the place, like a small, self-pitying child. Kirsty went to him, and kissed it like a mother. She had plainly perceived that such a scar could not be from her blow, but it added grievously to her pain at the remembrance of it that the poor head which she had struck, had in the very same place been torn by a splinter — for so the doctor said. If her whip left any mark, the splinter had obliterated it.

"And syne," he resumed, "ye ca'd me a cooard!"


"Did I du that, ill wuman 'at I was!" She returned, with tenderest maternal soothing.

He laid his arms round her neck, drew her feebly toward him, hid his head on her bosom, and wept.

Kirsty put her arm round him, held him closer, and stroked his head with her other hand, murmuring words of much meaning though little sense. He drew back his head, looked at her beseechingly, and said,

"Div ye think me a cooard, Kirsty?"

"No wi' men," Answered the truthful girl, who would not lie even in ministration to a mind diseased.

"Maybe ye think I oucht to hae strucken ye back whan ye strack me? I wull be a cooard than, lat ye say what ye like. I never did, and I never will hit a lassie, lat her kill me! "

"It wasna that, Francie. Gien I ca'd ye a cooard,, it was 'at ye behaved sae ill to Phemy."

"Eh, the bonny little Phemy! I had 'maist forgotten her! Hoo is she, Kirsty?"

"She's weel — and verra weel," answered Kirsty; "she's deid."

"Deid!" echoed Gordon with a cry, again raising himself on his elbow. "Surely it wasna — it wasna 'at the puir wee thing cudna forget me! The thing's no possible! I wasna worth it!"

"Na, na; it wasna ae grain that! Her deein had naething to du wi that — nor wi you in ony w'y. I dinna believe she was a hair waur for ony nonsense ye said til her — shame o' ye as it was! She dee'd upo' the Horn, ae awfu' tempest o' a nicht. She cudna hae suffert lang, puir thing! She hadna the stren'th to suffer muckle. Sae awa she gaed! — and 231 Steenie efter her!" added Kirsty in a lower tone, but Francis did not seem to hear, and said no more for a while.

"But I maun tell ye the trowth, Kirsty," he resumed: "forby yersel, there's them 'at says I'm a cooard!"

"I h'ard ae man say't, only ane, and him only ance."

"And ye said til 'im, 'Ay, I hae lang kenned that!'"

"I tellt him whaever said it was a leear!"

"But ye believt it yersel, Kirsty!"

"Wad ye hae me leear and hypocrite forby, to ca' fowk ill names for sayin what I believt mysel!"

"But I am a cooard, Kirsty!"

"Ye are not, Francie. I wunna believe't though yersel say 't! It's naething but a dist o' styte and nonsense 'at's won in throu the cracks ye got i' yer heid, fechtin. Ye was aye a daft kin' o' a cratur, Francie! Gien onybody ever said it, mak ye speed and get yer health again, and syne ye can shaw him plain 'at he's a leear."

"I tell ye, Kirsty, I ran awa!"

"I fancy ye wud hae been naething but a muckle idiot gien ye hadna! — Ye didna ley onybody in trouble! — did ye noo?"

"No a sowl 'at I ken o'. Na, I didna do that. The fac was — but nae blame to them — they a' gaed awa and left me my lane, sleepin. I maun hae been terrible tired!"

"I telled ye sae!" cried Kirsty. "Jist gang ower the story to me, Francie, and I s' tell ye whether ye're a cooard or no. I dinna believe a stime o' 't! Ye never was, and never was likely to be a 232 cooard. I s' be at the boddom o' 't wi' whaever daur threpe me sic a lee!"

Francis showed such signs of excitement as well as exhaustion, that Kirsty saw she must not let him talk longer.

"I'll tell ye what!" she added; "— ye'll tell father and mother and me the haill tale, this verra nicht, or maybe the morn's mornin. Ye maun hae an egg noo, and a drappy o' milk — creamy milk, Francie! Ye aye likit that!"

She went and prepared the little meal, and after taking it he went to sleep.

In the evening with the help of their questioning, he told them everything he could recall from the moment he woke to find the place abandoned, not omitting his terrors on the way, until he overtook the rear of the garrison.

"I dinna won'er ye war fleyt, Francie," said Kirsty. "I wud hae been fleyt mysel, wantin my swoord, and kennin nae God to trust til! Ye maun learn to ken him, Francie, and syne ye'll be feart at naething!"

After that, his memory was only of utterly confused shapes, many of which must have been fancies. The only things he could report were the conviction pervading them all that he had disgraced himself, and the consciousness that every one treated him as a deserter, and gave him the cold shoulder.

His next recollection was of coming home to, or rather finding himself with his mother, who, the moment she saw him, flew into a rage, struck him in the face, and called him coward. She must have taken him he thought, to some place where there were 233 people about him who would not let him alone, but he could remember nothing more until he found himself creeping into a hole which he seemed to know, thinking he was a fox with the hounds after him.

"What 's my claes like, Kirsty?" he asked at this point.

"They war no that gran'," answered Kirsty, her eyes smarting with the coming tears; "but ye'll ne'er see a stick (stitch) o' them again: I pat them awa."

"What w'y 'ill I win up, wantin' them?" he rejoined, with a tremor of anxiety in his voice.

"We'll see aboot that, time eneuch," answered Kirsty.

"My mither may be efter me! I wud fain be up! There's no sayin what she michtna be up til! She canna bide me!"

"Dreid ye naething, Francie. Ye're no a match for my leddy, but I s' be atween ye and her. She's no sae fearsome as she thinks! Onygait, she disna fleg me."

"I left some guid eneuch claes there whan I gaed awa, and I daur say they're i' my room yet — gien I only kenned hoo to win at them!"

"I s' gang and get them til ye — the verra day ye're fit to rise. But ye mauna speyk a word mair the nicht"

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