They held a long consultation that night as to what they must do. Plainly the first and most important thing was to rid Francis of the delusion that he had disgraced himself in the eyes of his fellow-officers. This would at once wake him as from a bad dream to the reality of his condition: convinced of the unreality of the idea that possessed him, he would at once, they believed, resume his place in the march of his generation through life. To find means, then, for the attainment of this end, they set their wits to work: and it was almost at once clear to David that the readiest way would be to enter into communication with any they could reach of the officers under whom he had served. His regiment having by this time, however, with the rest of the Company's soldiers, passed into the service of the Queen, a change doubtless involving many other changes concerning which Francis, even were he fit to be questioned, could give no information: David resolved to apply to Sir Haco Macintosh, who had succeeded Archibald Gordon in the command, for assistance in finding those who could bear the testimony he desired to possess.

"Divna ye think, father," said Kirsty, "it wud be 235 the surest and speediest w'y for me to gang mysel to Sir Haco?"

" 'Deed it wud be that, Kirsty!" answered David. "There's naething like the bodily presence o' the leevin sowl to gar things gang!"

To this Marion, although at first not a little appalled at the thought of Kirsty alone in such a huge city as Edinburgh, could not help assenting, and the next morning Kirsty started, bearing a letter from her father to his old officer, in which he begged for her the favor of a few minutes' conference on business concerning her father and the son of the late colonel Gordon.

Sir Haco had retired from the service some years before the mutiny, and was living in one of the serenely gloomy squares of the Scots capital. Kirsty left her letter at the door, and calling the next day, was shown into the library, where Lady Macintosh as well as Sir Haco awaited, with curious and kindly interest, the daughter of the man they had known so well, and respected so much.

When Kirsty entered the room, dressed very simply in a gown of dark cloth and a plain straw bonnet, the impression she at once made was more than favorable, and they received her with a kindness and courtesy that made her feel herself welcome. They were indeed of her own kind.

Sir Haco was one of the few men who, regarding constantly the reality, not the show of things, keep throughout their life, however long, great part of their youth, and all their childhood. Deeper far in his heart than any of the honors he had received, all unsought but none undeserved, lay the memory of a 236 happy and reverential boyhood. Sprung from a peasant stock, his father was a man of "high-erected thought seated in a heart of courtesy."

He was well matched with his wife, who, though born to a far higher social position in which simplicity is rarer was, like him, true and humble and strong. They had one daughter, who grew up only to die: the moment they saw Kirsty, their hearts went out to her.

For there was in Kirsty that unassumed, unconscious dignity, that simple propriety, that naturalness of a carriage neither trammelled nor warped by thought of self, which at once awakes confidence and regard; while her sweet, unaffected "book English" in which appeared no attempt at speaking like a fine lady, no disastrous endeavor to avoid her country's utterance, revealed at once her genuine cultivation. Sir Haco said afterward that when she spoke Scotch it was good and thorough, and when she spoke English it was Wordsworthian.

Listening to her first words, and reminded of the solemn sententious way in which Sergeant Barclay used to express himself, his face rose clear in his mind's eye, he saw it as it were reflected in his daughter's, and broke out with —

"Eh, lassie, but ye're like yer father!"

"Ye min' upon him, sir?" rejoined Kirsty, with her perfect smile.

"Min' upon him! Naebody worth his min'in upo' could ever forget him! Sit ye doon, and tell 's a' about him!"

Kirsty did as she was told. She began at the beginning, and explained first, what doubtless Sir Haco 237 knew at least something of before, the relation between her father and Colonel Gordon, whence his family as well as himelf had always felt it their business to look after the young laird. Then she told, how, after a long interval, during which they could do nothing, a sad opportunity had at length been given them of at least attempting to serve him; and it was for aid in this attempt that she now sought Sir Haco, who could direct her toward the procuring of certain information.

"And what sort of information do you think I can give or get for you, Miss Barclay?" asked sir Haco.

"I'll explain the thing to ye, sir, in as feow words as I can," answered Kirsty, dropping her English. "The young laird has taen't intil his heid that he didna carry himsel like a man i' the siege, and it's grown to be in him what they ca' a fixt idea. He was left, ye see, sir, a' himlane i' the beleaguert toon, and I fancy the suddent waukin and the discovery that he was there his lee lane, jist pat him beside himsel."

Here she told the whole story, as they had gathered it from Francis, mingling it with some elucidatory suggestions of her own, and having ended her narration, went on thus:

"Ye see, sir, and my leddy, he was little better nor a laddie, and fowk 'at sair needs company, like Francie, misses company ower sair. Men's no able — some men, my leddy — to tak coonsel wi' their ain herts, as women whiles leaips to du. Sae, whan he cam oot o' the fricht, he was ower sair upon himsel for bein i' the fricht. For it seems to me there's no 238 shame in bein frichtit, sae lang as ye dinna serve and obey the fricht, but trust in him 'at sees, and du what ye hae to du. Naebody 'at kenned Francie as I did, cud ever believe he faun' mair fear in's hert nor was lawfu' and rizzonable — sae lang, that is, as he was in his richt min'; ayont that nanebut his makar can jeedge him. I dinna mean Francie was a pettem, but, sir, he was no cooard — and that I ken, for I'm no cooard mysel, please God to keep me as He's made me. The laddie — the man, I suld say — he's no to be persuaudit oot o' the fancy o' his ain cooardice; and I dinna believe he'll ever win oot o' 't wantin the testimony o' his fellowofficers, wha o' them may be left to grant the same. And I canna but think, gien ye'll excuse me, sir, that, for his father's sake, it wud be a gracious ac' to tak him intil the queen's service, and lat him baud on fechtin for's country, whaurever it may please her mejesty to want him. — Oot whaur he was afore, micht be best for him — I dinna ken. It wad be to put his country's seal upo' their word."

"Surely, Miss Barclay, you wouldn't set the poor lad in the forefront of danger again!" said Lady Macintosh.

"I wud that, my Lady! I canna but think the airmy, savin for this misadventur — gien there be ony sic thing as misadventur — hed a fair chance o' makin a man o' Francie; and whiles I canna help doobtin gien onything less 'ill ever restore him til himsel but restorin him til's former position. It wud onygait gie him the best chance o' shawin til himsel 'at there wasna a hair o' the cooard upon him."

"But," said Sir Haco, "would her majesty be 239 justified in taking the risk involved? Would it not be to peril many for a doubtful good to one?"

Kirsty was silent for one moment, with downcast eyes.

"I'm answert, sir — as to that p'int," she said, looking up.

"For my part," said Lady Macintosh, "I can't help thinking that the love of a good woman like yourself must do more for the poor fellow than the approval of all the soldiers in the world. — Pardon me, Haco."

"Indeed, my Lady, you're perfectly right!" returned her husband with a smile.

Lady Macintosh hardly heard him, so startled, almost so frightened was she at the indignation instantly on Kirsty's countenance.

"Putna things intil ony heid, my Leddy, 'at the hert wud never put there. It wad be an ill fulfillin o' my father's duty til his auld colonel, no to say his auld frien, to coontenance sic a notion!"

"I beg your pardon, Miss Barclay; I was wrong to venture the remark. May I say in excuse, that it is not unnatural to imagine a young woman, doing so much for a young man, just a little bit in love with him?"

"I wud fain hae yer Leddyship un'erstan'," returned Kirsty, "that my father, my mother, and mysel, we're jist ane and nae mair. No ane o' 's hes a wuss that disna belang to a' three. The langest I can min', it's been my ae ambition to help my father and mother to du what they wantit. I never desirit merriage, my Leddy, and gien I did, it wudna be wi sic as Francie Gordon, weel as I lo'e him, for we war bairnies, and laddie and lassie thegither: I 240 wudna hae a man 'it was for me to fin' faut wi'! 'Deed, mem, what fowk ca's love, hes neither airt nor pairt i this metter!"

Not to believe the honest glow in Kirsty's face, and the clear confident assertion of her eyes, would have shown a poor creature in whom the faculty of belief was undeveloped.

Sir Haco and Lady Macintosh insisted on Kirsty's taking up her abode with them while she was in Edinburgh; and Kirsty, partly in the hope of expediting the object of her mission thereby, and partly because her heart was drawn to her new friends, gladly consented. Before a week was over, like understanding like, her hostess felt as if she were a daughter until now long waiting for her somewhere in the infinite.

The self-same morning, Sir Haco sat down to his study-table, and began writing to every officer alive who had served with Francis Gordon, requesting to know his feeling, and that of the regiment about him. Within three days he received the first of the answers which kept dropping in for the next six months. They all described Gordon as rather a scatterbrain, as not the less a favorite with officers and men, and as always showing the courage of a man, or rather of a boy, seeing he not unfrequently acted with a reprehensible recklessness that smacked a little of display.

"That's Francie himsel!" cried Kirsty, with the tears in her eyes, when her host read, to this effect, the first result of his inquiry.

Within a fortnight he received also, from one high in office, the assurance that, if Mr. Gordon, on his 241 recovery, wished to enter her majesty's service, he should have his commission.

While her husband was thus kindly occupied, Lady Macintosh was showing Kirsty every loving attention she could think of, and, in taking her about Edinburgh and its neighborhood, found that the country girl knew far more of the history of Scotland than she did herself.

She would gladly have made her acquainted with some of her friends, but Kirsty shrank from the proposal: she could never forget how her hostess had herself misinterpreted the interest she took in Francie Gordon. As soon as she felt that she could do so without seeming ungrateful, she bade her new friends farewell, and hastened home, carrying with her copies of the answers which Sir Haco had up to that time received.

When she arrived it was with such a glad heart that, at sight of Francis in her father's Sunday clothes, she laughed so merrily that her mother said "The lassie maun be fey!" Haggard as he looked, the old twinkle awoke in his eye responsive to her joyous amusement; and David, coming in the next moment from putting up the gray mare with which he had met the coach to bring Kirsty home, saw them all three laughing in such an abandonment of mirth as, though unaware of the immediate motive, he could not help joining.

The same evening Kirsty went to the castle, and Mrs. Bremner needed no persuasion to find the suit which the young laird had left in his room, and give it to her to carry to its owner; so that, when he woke the next morning, Francis saw the gray 242 garments lying by his bed-side in place of David's black, and felt the better for the sight.

The letters Kirsty had brought, working along with returning health, and the surrounding love and sympathy most potent of all, speedily dispelled his yet lingering delusion. It had occasionally returned in force while Kirsty was away, but now it left him altogether.

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