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Title: Morag - A Tale of the Highlands of Scotland
Author: Rae, Janet Milne, 1844-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MORAG:

A Tale of the Highlands of Scotland.



New York:
Robert Carter and Brothers, 530 Broadway.
1875.



CONTENTS.


                                                       PAGE

  I.

  _The First Morning in the Glen_                          5

  II.

  _Blanche Clifford_                                       19

  III.

  _Morag's Home_                                           37

  IV.

  _The Fir-wood_                                           52

  V.

  _A Discovery_                                            75

  VI.

  _Kirsty Macpherson_                                     104

  VII.

  _Morag's Visit to Kirsty, and How It Came About_        140

  VIII.

  _The Gypsies At Last_                                   157

  IX.

  _Vanity Fair_                                           205

  X.

  _The Kirk in the Village_                               219

  XI.

  _The Loch_                                              244

  XII.

  _The Empty Hut_                                         274

  XIII.

  _Back in London_                                        288

  XIV.

  _Visit to the Fairy_                                    306

  XV.

  _A Ride in the Park_                                    318

  XVI.

  _The Borders of the Far-off Land_                       331

  XVII.

  _Morag's Journey into the World Beyond the Mountains_   348



MORAG


I.

_THE FIRST MORNING IN THE GLEN._


DO you know the joyous feeling of opening your eyes on the first morning
after your arrival among new scenes, and of seeing the landscape, which
has been shrouded by darkness on the previous evening, lying clear and
calm in the bright morning sunlight?

This was Blanche Clifford's experience as she stood at an eastward
window, with an eager face, straining her eye across miles of moorland,
which undulated far away, like purple seas lying in the golden light.
Away, and up and on stretched the heather, till it seemed to rear itself
into great waves of rock, which stood out clear and distinct, with the
sunlight glinting into the gray, waterworn fissures, lighting them up
like a smile on a wrinkled face. And beyond, in the dim distance, hills
on hills are huddled, rearing themselves in dark lowering masses against
the blue sky, like the shoulders of mighty monsters in a struggle for
the nearest place to the clouds. For many weeks Blanche had been
dreaming dreams and seeing visions of this scene, as she sat in her
London schoolroom. "And this is Glen Eagle!" she murmured, with a
satisfied sigh, when at last she turned her eyes from the more distant
landscape, and climbing into the embrasured window of the quaint old
room in which she awoke that morning, leant out to try and discover what
sort of a building this new home might be. A perpendicular, gaunt wall,
so lichen-spotted that it seemed as if the stones had taken to growing,
was all that she could see; and under it there stretched a smooth grassy
slope, belted by a grove of ancient ash-trees. A pleasant breeze,
wafting a delicious scent of heather, came in at the open window, and
played among Blanche's curls, reminding her how delightful it would be
to go out under the blue sky; so she ran off in search of her papa, that
she might begin her explorations at once.

Mr. Clifford, Blanche's father, was very fond of sport, and generally
spent the autumn months on the moors, either in Ireland or Scotland.
Hitherto his little motherless daughter had not accompanied him on any
of his journeys, but had been left to wander among trim English lanes,
or to patrol the parade of fashionable watering-places, under the
guardianship of her governess, Miss Prosser. This year, however, Blanche
had been so earnest in her entreaties to be taken among the hills, that
her father had at last yielded, and it was arranged that she should
accompany him to Glen Eagle, where he had taken shootings. Miss Prosser
looked on the projected journey to the Highlands of Scotland as rather a
wild scheme for herself and her little charge, having no special
partiality for mountain scenery, and a dislike to change the old
routine. But to Blanche, the prospect was full of the most delicious
possibilities; the unknown mountain country was to her imagination an
enchanted land of peril and adventure, where she could herself become
the heroine of a new tale of romance. The "History of Scotland" suddenly
became the most interesting of books, and the records of its heroic days
were studied with an interest which they had never before excited. In
the daily walks in Kensington Park, on hot July afternoons, Blanche
Clifford wove many a fancy concerning these autumn days to be; but in
the midst of all her imaginings, as she peopled the hills and valleys of
Stratheagle with followers of the Wallace and the Bruce lurking among
the heather, with waving tartans and glancing claymores, she did not
guess what a lowly object of human interest was to be the centre of all
her thoughts.

On the evening of the 9th of August Blanche stood with her governess on
the platform of the Euston Station, ready to start by the crowded Scotch
mail. Mr. Clifford having seen to the travelling welfare of his dogs,
proceeded to arrange his little party for the night. The shrill whistle
sounded at last, and they were soon whirling through the darkness on
their northern way. The long railway journey was broken by a night's
rest at a hotel, which Blanche thought very uninteresting indeed, and
begged to be allowed to go on with her papa, who left her there. After
the region of railways was left behind, there was a journey in an old
mail-coach, which seemed to Blanche to be at last a beginning of the
heroic adventures, as she spied a little girl of her own size scaling a
ladder to take her place in one of the outside seats, to all appearance
delightfully suspended in mid-air. She was about to follow in great
glee, when she was pulled back by Miss Prosser, and condemned to a dark
corner inside of the coach, where a stout old gentleman entirely
obstructed her view. Neither was Blanche a pleasant companion; she felt
very restless and rebellious at her unhappy fate, and every time the
coach stopped and she was allowed to put her head out of the window for
a few precious minutes, she cast envious glances at the happy family
whose legs dangled above.

The coach stopped at last to change horses at a low white inn, and
Blanche's delight was great to recognise her father's open carriage
waiting to take them to Glen Eagle, which was still many miles distant.
The change was delicious, Blanche thought as they were driven swiftly
along the white, winding road, round the base of hills higher than she
had ever seen, through dark pine forests, which cast solemn shadows
across the road, along sea-like expanses of moor, stretching out on
either side. Blanche was lost in wonder and delight at those first
glimpses of the mountain-land of her dreams. Her geographical inquiries
were most searching, and her governess had to acknowledge ignorance when
her pupil wished to identify each hill with the mountain-ranges depicted
on a map-drawing, which Blanche had made in view of the journey. They
were still several miles from their destination, when a heavy white
cloud of mist came coiling round the hills, creeping along the lower
ridges of rock as if it started to reach the top, like some thinking
creature possessed with an evil purpose. At first the mist seemed only
to add an additional charm to the wild landscape in Blanche's eyes.

"O Miss Prosser!" she exclaimed, in great glee, "isn't it so pretty? It
seems as if the fleecy clouds that live in the sky had come to pay a
visit to the moors, and were going to take possession of everything."

"Why, Blanche, how fanciful you are! It is nothing more nor less than
that wretched wetting Scotch mist one hears of. Come, child, and get
into your furs. How thoughtful of Ellis to have brought them. Commend me
to Devonshire and muslins at this season of the year," said Miss
Prosser, as she drew the rug more closely around her, and shrugged her
shoulders.

The mist was creeping silently over the valley, and coming nearer and
nearer, till at last there seemed hardly enough space for the horses to
make their way through, and Blanche thought matters looked very
threatening indeed. Seating herself by Miss Prosser's side with a
shiver, she said, in a frightened tone, "I do wish papa were here.
These clouds look as if they meant to carry us right up with them. Don't
you begin to feel rather frightened, Miss Prosser?"

When her governess suggested that the carriage should be closed, Blanche
felt rather relieved on the whole, and becoming very quiet and
meditative, finally fell fast asleep, curled up on one of the seats,
from whence she was carried by her father, when the carriage reached its
destination. She never thoroughly awoke till the bright morning sun came
streaming in at the curtainless, deep mullioned window of the old
Highland keep where she found herself.

Attached to the shootings of Glen Eagle was a half-ruinous castle, which
Mr. Clifford had put into a sort of repair, fitting up a part of the
building for the use of his household, though there was still many an
unused room, dim with the dust of years, among the winding passages and
cork-screw stairs. In old times it had been a fortified place, and
Scottish chieftains had reigned there, and from its grey towers kept
watch and ward over the strath, where were scattered the dwellings of
the clansmen. It stood in the heart of the glen, rearing itself grim and
gaunt and grey, surrounded by a massive wall, which had once been for
defence, but was ruinous now, and pleasant turf sloped down from the
castle, and flourished along its cope.

Though so long untenanted, there were still some remains of its ancient
furnishings, which the Highland lord on whose land it stood left
unmolested, in honor of the home of his ancestors. In the large
dimly-lighted entrance-hall, there hung many relics of the olden time.
Dirks and claymores that had done deadly work long ago, were beautifully
arranged in various patterns, on the dark panelled walls; numberless
trophies from the glen were ranged round--stately stags' heads with
branching horns, and outspread wings of mountain birds; and a fox too,
whose glass eyes seemed to leer as cunningly as the original orbs when
they cast longing glances at the feathered inhabitants of the farm-yard.

Blanche had descended the broad staircase, and now gazed timidly round
at these strange ornaments of the ancient hall. She felt as if she could
not endure the leer of the fox one minute longer, and catching a glimpse
of the pleasant greensward through the great door, which stood open, she
darted out. The mountain breeze had a reassuring effect, and Blanche
felt safe and happy again, as she stood gazing on the fair scene, in
which the bleak and the beautiful strangely blended.

To the left of the castle, on banks which sloped towards the river, were
masses of feathery birk-trees, with their white crooked stems gleaming
in the sun, and through the net-work of green Blanche could catch
glimpses of the river as it took its winding way through the glen. On a
sunny, upland slope, rising from the other side of the river, there were
some corn-fields waving, which were only now yellowing for the late
harvest.

To the right there stretched a great pine forest, with the dark green
spires of fir fringing the horizon; and down in the valley there gleamed
a sheet of water, lying like a looking-glass framed among the heather.
The mist of the previous evening had all cleared away, and the golden
sunlight streamed on hill and glen, showing the tracks of the little
winding brooks, making the white stones gleam, and the water that
rippled through them sparkle like diamonds, lighting up the bright green
patches on the hills, which seemed so alluring in their sun-lighted
hues, that Blanche did not guess how treacherous they might sometimes
prove for unwary feet, and longed to reach them. Here and there a little
cottage seemed to grow out of the heather, scarcely distinguishable but
for the white lime under the brown thatch, and the blue smoke which
curled from its tiny chimney.

The little English maiden gazed in ecstacy on this scene, so new and
strange to her. A delicious feeling of adventure and freedom kept
singing at her heart, as she scampered off round the grey old keep in
search of her papa, for without a companion her happiness was
incomplete. She knew well what she meant to do. Into each of these tiny
cottages she should like to peep, all the bright green places she wanted
to explore, and those gleaming sheep-roads in the heather seemed to have
been made expressly for her. Wherever little English feet could tread,
her father had promised that she might go, and she felt very sure
that her feet would be quite able for anything so pleasant. Her
castle-in-the-air was quite outrivalling in proportions the one that
towered above her, when she heard a voice which brought her quickly back
to real life, with its rules, its proprieties, and its lessons.

"Miss Clifford, this cannot be permitted. Ellis tells me that you have
dressed without her assistance, escaped from your room, and nowhere to
be seen; and after hunting through endless stairs and passages, I find
you here, without your outdoor things, and with boots that were meant
for civilized life. I knew what would happen; no kind of discipline can
be kept up in this wild, lawless place."

Blanche was too exuberantly happy at the moment to be damped by any
rebuke.

"O dear Miss Prosser! I'm so sorry you've had to look for me. I really
couldn't rest in bed. I'm sure it must be quite late, besides; I felt so
wide awake. Has papa had breakfast yet, I wonder? I'm in search of him
now. He promised to take me to the hills, and I want to begin at once."

"My dear child, what are you talking about? Your papa has been gone for
hours. This is the famous 'Twelfth,' you know. He started at sunrise, I
believe, with several gentlemen who arrived yesterday. The barking of
the dogs awoke me, and as I was unable to close an eye afterwards, I got
up, and have been busy helping Ellis to make a schoolroom pleasant and
habitable for us."

"Papa gone!--papa not to be back till evening! How could Ellis be so
cruel as to let me sleep! I wish I had heard the barking of the dogs,"
burst forth Blanche, in grief and dismay.

All of a sudden the glen grew dim to her eyes, and the hot tears came
raining down. Miss Prosser began to act the part of a comforter, and to
make suggestions of breakfast and a pleasant walk in the afternoon when
lessons were over. But Blanche would not be comforted; the proposal of a
walk seemed a mockery to her, when she remembered the adventurous
rambles which she had been planning. She followed her governess with
reluctant steps, casting wistful glances at the moorland as she passed
into the dark hall, where the old fox seemed to leer more cunningly than
ever, as if he were enjoying her disappointment.

"Now, Blanche, dear, haven't I contrived to make our new abode look
wonderfully homelike? Ellis and I have had quite a hard morning's work,
unpacking and arranging, I assure you."

A knot rose in poor Blanche's throat as she looked blankly round. There,
sure enough, she could see, through her tear-dimmed eyes, an exact
reproduction of the London school-room, which she hoped she had left far
behind. On the wall hung the familiar maps and black-board, and the
table was covered with the well-known physiognomies of the school-books
of which she had taken farewell for many a day. Every trace of the glen
was effectually excluded; a low window looked out on the green slope,
and a rising knoll of grass almost shut out the sky.

"I had such difficulty in selecting a room," said Miss Prosser, with a
satisfied glance round her; "but I think I have made a happy choice.
Ellis found one at the other side of the castle, which seemed habitable
enough, but it looked out on that dreary moorland, so I avoided it."

"How can you call it dreary, Miss Prosser? It is the most glorious,
beautiful land I ever saw. Do take a window that looks on it. But I'm
sure papa never meant me to have lessons--I shan't; I can't really stay
indoors; I shall go out and seek papa;" and Blanche finished with a wild
burst of tears, while Miss Prosser sighed over her naughty pupil.

It is very plain to see that Blanche was by no means a perfect little
girl; and as we follow her, we shall be obliged to acknowledge that she
was wilful and wayward often enough. But we are not going to make a
catalogue of Blanche's faults; they will peep out at intervals, and
stare out occasionally, as little girls' faults are apt to do, and not
theirs only; so that we must quite shut our eyes, if we are not to see
them. We need not do that, but with open eyes--though true and kind as
well as open--we shall follow Blanche through these autumn days, and see
what they brought to her.



II.

_BLANCHE CLIFFORD._


IN one of the southern counties there stood a stately English home, with
silent halls and closed gates, awaiting the time when Blanche Clifford
should be of age. It had been her birthplace, though she never
remembered having seen it. Her young and beautiful mother had died there
on the Christmas Eve when Blanche was born, and her father had not cared
to revisit it since. Even his baby-daughter had been only a painful
reminder of his loss, and he had left her in his great dreary London
house, with a retinue of servants to wait upon her, and had gone away
for years of travel in many lands.

During Blanche's helpless infant years, she had been carefully nursed by
a faithful old soul, who had been her mother's nurse when she was young.
Mrs. Paterson, or Patty, as Blanche always called her, was guardian,
nurse, friend, and playmate all in one. She romped with her little
charge till her old legs ached again; sang songs and ballads to her
with unwearied fervor in her old quivering voice, which, though thin,
was still true, and Blanche thought it the sweetest voice in all the
world.

The old nursery which they inhabited underwent wonderful and various
transformations during those early days. Now it was the sea where she
bathed, or her dolls sailed, in stately ships of varied manufacture,
into their haven on the rug; sometimes it was the Zoological Gardens,
and Patty became the bear, receiving Good Friday buns, and every
available cupboard contained a ravening animal. And when Blanche got
wearied with her romps, she would coil herself on Patty's knee, and the
hours till bedtime would pass all too quickly, as she listened to
delightful stories, which never grew old, of the time when mamma was a
little girl.

But these pleasant old nursery days had passed away as a tale that is
told, long before the time when our story begins. Dear old Patty was
struck down by painful illness, and had to leave her little lamb in
strangers' hands; and now Miss Prosser reigned in her stead. Then
lessons had begun. Blanche's governess, being a skilled instructress of
youth, was disturbed to find her little pupil sadly backward in all
branches of education; for of actual lessons she had none while under
Patty's care. Her acquirements consisted in being able to read her
favorite story-books, and to repeat and sing an unlimited number of
songs and ballads, for many of which she had found notes to suit on the
grand piano that stood in the deserted white-draped drawing-room, where
she and Patty used to resort for their walk on wet afternoons.

We shall not linger over the years that elapsed between Miss Prosser's
coming and our introduction to her and her pupil. We should only have to
tell of long days of school-room routine, when Blanche at last got
fairly into educational harness, and came to know many things which it
was right and proper that she should know. She could tell a great deal
of the geography of several countries, was quite at home among the
Plantagenets and various other dynasties, could repeat an unlimited
number of French irregular verbs, and knew something of the elements of
more than one science.

When Mr. Clifford, after years of absence, at last ventured to return to
his deserted home, it was something of the nature of a surprise to find
an eager, loving little woman's heart awaiting him, and he rejoiced
over his child as over a new-found treasure. And though Blanche never
remembered having seen her father, yet he had always been her cherished
ideal. Constantly she had dreamt of him by night, and talked of him by
day; and her favorite occupation was to write a letter to papa ever
since she had been in the pot-hook stage of that acquirement. His return
home was the greatest event of her life, and brought a brightness into
it that was unknown before. It is true that she did not see much of him,
even when he was at home; for the hope of an hour's play and prattle
with him, in the precious after-dinner hour, was often disappointed by
the presence of gentlemen friends, who would talk politics, and discuss
other dark and uninteresting subjects, till Blanche at last glided away
in a disconsolate frame of mind, and went to bed with a disappointed
heart. Occasionally, however, she had her papa all to herself, and these
were precious, never-to-be-forgotten hours. Sometimes a half-holiday was
granted, and she went for a ride in the Park on her pretty little white
pony, Neige, and these were always memorable happy occasions. But every
light has its shadow. After having known the pleasure of being with her
father, Blanche pined for him when he was absent, and looked forward
longingly to the time when she should be quite grown-up, and able to be
his companion always.

These autumn days in the Highlands, Blanche had hoped to spend entirely
with her father. She did not guess how engrossed he would be in sport,
nor that her governess thought it wise and well to provide the means for
a few hours of lessons, daily. She took her place among her schoolbooks
with a smouldering sense of wrong and grief in her little breast, which
did not get extinguished by an hour's bending over an open "History of
England." Indeed, the prospect of committing the Wars of the Roses to
memory, seemed to promise to turn out as lingering a process as the
triumph of the White Rose, recorded in English annals. Blanche looked
wistfully round, in the hope of finding some pleasant distraction, some
trace of the mountain-land which she could not forget that she had
actually reached at last, though certainly her present surroundings did
not suggest it.

A pleasant breeze that swept in at the open window was the only mountain
element that could not be excluded from this school-room, which had
suddenly followed Blanche to the Highlands, and held her captive. The
window was on a level with the ground, and a grassy knoll intercepted
the view beyond; there was nothing really to do or see anywhere, so at
last Blanche gave herself languidly up to her lesson, thinking she was
the most ill-used little girl in all the world. She was gazing absently
at a map of England opposite, in a lazy search after Tewkesbury, when
she noticed a shadow flit across the sunlighted wall, but before she had
time to turn her head, it had vanished, and Blanche again betook herself
to the battle of Tewkesbury, with a strong effort of attention.
Suddenly, as she happened to look up from her book, to fix a fact in her
memory, by repeating it aloud, she saw standing at the window, not a
shadow this time, but a real flesh and blood little girl, gazing
intently at her. A brown little face peeped out from among a mass of
tangled, raven-black, elf-like locks, and a pair of keen dark eyes
rested on Blanche, with admiration and wonder in their gaze. The little
figure was arrayed in a tartan dress of the briefest dimensions, which
hung in fringes, and displayed brown bare arms and legs, well-knit and
nimble-looking. After Blanche's first gasp of astonishment at so
strange and unexpected an apparition, it occurred to her that the image
could probably give some account of itself, and she was wondering what
would be the most suitable mode of address, when, as if divining her
idea, off the creature darted, round the grassy knoll, and out of sight.
Blanche sprung to the window, and looked excitedly round to see if she
could possibly follow. The window was close to the ground, and her foot
was on the sill, ready to start off in pursuit, when just at that moment
in walked Miss Prosser.

"Why, Blanche, what are you about? You look quite excited, child!"

Blanche's first impulse was to confide to her the cause of her
excitement, but, on second thoughts, she resolved not to reveal it. To
her, the sudden apparition of the little elfish-looking maiden was quite
a romantic adventure; but she felt doubtful if it would appear in the
same light to her governess, who frequently objected to Blanche's
friendly advances to the little London flower-girls, and her delicate
attentions to crossing-sweepers. Moreover, Blanche had a vague terror
lest a pursuit of the little unknown might be set on foot, not of such a
friendly character as her's was meant to be, so she resolved to keep
her own counsel. Still the vision of the weird-looking little maiden,
whom she had caught devouring her with great soft eyes, like a gentle
timid animal of the forest, kept haunting her. What did she want? where
did she live? she wondered. Perhaps she might not have any home. She
looked very ragged, certainly, and very poor she must be, for she wore
neither shoes nor stockings, were the reflections that actively coursed
through Blanche's brain, as she narrated the Battle of Tewkesbury to her
governess, who had just reason to complain of a very absent-minded
pupil.

When the hour for the afternoon walk arrived, it did not seem quite so
tame and unattractive as it had done to Blanche in the midst of her more
ambitious morning plans. She was by no means the broken-hearted,
ill-used person which she fancied herself a few hours before, as she
tripped gaily down the broad, flat, grass-grown steps of the old
court-yard, and stood again on the soft turf, waiting for Miss Prosser.
Presently she spied a familiar friend coming towards her, in the shape
of a great black retriever. He came wagging a vigorous welcome to his
little mistress, whom he was quite overjoyed to see after his long and
depressing journey, in company with the pointers and setters. He had
indulged in the most unfriendly feelings towards the whole pack, but
being muzzled, he was not able to give them a bit of his mind, as he
would fain have done.

"Well, old fellow, and how are you? I believe you've been all over Glen
Eagle already, and know every bit. I wish I were you, Chance. You may be
glad enough you can't speak, old dog--though you sometimes look as if
you would very much like to; for if you could, you would be sure to have
lessons, and, instead of scampering about the hills, you would have had
to tell Miss Prosser all about the Battle of Tewkesbury," said Blanche,
laughingly, as she returned his warm welcome.

Chance was a great friend of Blanche's, and had been presented to her as
a compensation for her banished dolls. His upbringing had, however,
caused her much more anxiety than that of her flaxen darlings. He had
been a terribly troublesome baby, and developed a frightful bump of
destructiveness. He took so very long to cut his teeth, and was always
helping on the process by using various appliances in the shape of
boots, gloves, and muffs. But at length his partiality for these, as
articles of consumption, somewhat abated, and he developed instead the
useful faculty of carrying them, and restoring them to their owners,
generally with much reluctance, but withal in a sound condition. He
possessed various other accomplishments, which Blanche had taken pains
to teach him, but they were of a more striking than graceful character,
it must be allowed. He could shut a door, which feat he performed with
his two great paws, with a terrific bang, to the utter detriment of the
paint and polish, not to speak of the nerves of the household. His
manners were still, even at mature age, sadly wanting in repose, and
when he was in society, Blanche never felt quite comfortable as to what
he might do next, so very gushing was he to his friends, and quite
alarmingly demonstrative in another direction towards strangers. As he
stood on the castle steps with his little mistress, he spied a kilted
native, at some distance off, and was preparing to pounce upon him, when
he was collared by Blanche. Then it occurred to her that she might be
able to get some information from this Highlander about the subject
which was still uppermost in her mind--the mystery of the little
window-visitor; but Miss Prosser just at that moment emerged with
finished toilette, all ready for the promised walk.

On returning from the walk, Blanche wandered in among the old
ash-trees, and seating herself on a lichen-spotted stone, she resolved
to wait there, in order to catch the first glimpse of her father on his
way from the moors. The walk along the dusty high road, by Miss
Prosser's side, had by no means suited Blanche's adventurous plans for
the day. But to-morrow it would be different, she thought, resolving
that she should awake very early in the morning, and as soon as the dogs
began to bark, she would go out and join her papa, and he would be sure
to allow her to go with him.

Presently she heard her father's voice, and saw him coming sauntering
along the avenue of birch-trees which led to the castle. Running forward
to meet him, she said eagerly, "O papa! you will take me to-morrow, will
you not? I do want so very much to get upon those glorious hills."

Blanche stopped suddenly, for, behind her father, she caught sight of a
man, staring intently at her, whom she felt sure she had never seen
before. He was a dark, keen-looking man, with iron-grey hair, a smooth
face, and heavy eyebrows, which met on the straight ridge of his nose.
He was tall and spare and agile-looking, dressed in shepherd-tartan, and
across his shoulder one or two game-pouches were slung. He seemed
rather taken by surprise when Blanche suddenly emerged from among the
ash-trees, and now he stood seemingly absorbed in examining the trophies
of the day's sport, with which a pony by his side was laden; but he was
really surveying the little girl by a series of keen glances.

"Why what an enterprising little puss it is, to be sure!" replied Mr.
Clifford, laughingly. "You shall certainly go to the hills, but we must
first try to find a pony, seeing Neige is not within reach. Look what a
grand day's sport we have had, Blanchie," and taking her hand, Mr.
Clifford, led her to where the pony stood, laden with the game.

Blanche gazed horror-struck. The only dead creature she had ever seen
was a pet canary, on which a stray cat had designed to sup, when the
delicate morsel was taken from between the feline teeth, and had
received a burial worthy of the historical Cock Robin. But here were
more birds than she could count, as beautiful, and perhaps as lovable,
as the canary of pathetic memory, killed, not by stray cats for their
suppers, but by her own kind papa and his friends. There they hung in
masses, with their bronze feathers shining in the sun, the speckled
wings that flapped so merrily in the morning, hanging limp and listless
now, the little heads downward, and the tiny beaks and eyes half open,
just as they had been fixed in their death agony.

"This is my little daughter, Dingwall," said Mr. Clifford, turning to
the man standing alongside, whom Blanche had noticed. "She would give me
no rest till I brought her to see your Glen, and now she actually wants
to go to shoot with us."

"Oh no, papa! indeed I don't--not now," broke in Blanche, in a tone of
distress, and, glancing at the gamekeeper, she saw him still looking at
her with a queer smile on his thin lips. Whether it was from his
connection with the dead spoil, or from something in his face which
repelled her, Blanche made up her mind that she did not like the keeper.

Presently he untied one of the brace of grouse, and lifting a wing under
which the cruel death-wound was visible, he held it up, saying, "Maybe
the leddy would be likin' to hae a wing for her hat: I've heard o' the
gentlefolk wearin' sic things; but 'deed it's but few o' them we hae
seen this mony a day."

"Oh no! please not. I should not like to have a wing at all," said
Blanche, clasping her hands in a beseeching attitude.

"Why, pussy, what is the matter? Am I not to be forgiven for starting
before you were up this morning? Never mind; we shall beg Miss Prosser
for a holiday to-morrow, and you shall go to the moors, mounted on a
little Shetlander."

"It is not that, papa. I'm afraid I shan't want to go to the moors any
more now. I think it must be very dreadful. These poor killed birds! how
can you stand and see them all die, papa?"

"Well, I can't say I should like to make a microscopic inspection of
their dying moments. After the aim is taken and the shot fired, the fun
is over."

"But, papa, how can you shoot those happy birds flying in the air, and
not doing any harm?"

"Why, goosey, for the same reason as you knock down your nine-pins--for
the sake of sport, to be sure," replied Mr. Clifford laughing at the
distressed face of his little daughter.

"Come and shut up this little philosopher, Major," he continued, turning
to one of his guests, a kindly-looking old gentleman, who had come
sauntering up and joined them. "She is quite shocked at the monstrous
cruelty we have been guilty of to-day. I begin to feel quite like the
Roman Emperor you were telling me of the other day, Blanche; only flies
were his special partiality, were they not?"

"Ah! depend upon it, Blanche has been having a course of Wordsworth,"
said the Major, as he shook hands. "Is it not he who says--

    'Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
    With sorrow to the meanest thing that lives?'

But I shouldn't have thought you had arrived at the Wordsworthian stage
yet--eh! Miss Blanchie?" said the kindly old gentleman, as he looked
smilingly at the distressed little damsel.

But Blanche was in no mood for joking just then; she glided away towards
the castle, and, finding her way to her room, she sat down at the window
from which she had got her first glimpse of the glen.

The bright morning light had all vanished now, and the hills looked grey
and solemn in the gathering twilight. A great silence seemed to have
fallen on the moors. Blanche could hear no bleating of sheep, no cry of
the moor-fowl, no merry whirring of wings; and, to her fanciful little
brain, it seemed as if the valley were mourning for its dead, for the
little birds that would never sleep on the heather again, or mount to
the sky with the returning sun.

And as Blanche sat thinking in the gathering darkness, she got among
those crooked things that cannot be made straight by any theories of
ours, those mysteries which we must be content to leave to the wise love
of Him who has told us that not a sparrow falls to the ground without
the knowledge of that heavenly Father who had watched over this little
girl always, counting her of more value than many sparrows.

Blanche was not sorry to have her reveries interrupted by her maid Ellis
coming into the room, bringing lights with her. And as she laid out the
pretty white frock and blue sash, in which Blanche was to be dressed for
the evening, she said, "Well, missie, and how have you enjoyed your
first day in the 'Ighlands of Scotland?--more than I've done, I hope?
There's cook raging, fit to make one's life a burden about all those
birds to pluck. She says it will just be game, game, right on now, till
one feels ashamed to meet a bird."

"Oh! hush, Ellis. Please don't speak to me about those birds. I cannot
get them out of my head. It does seem so very sad."

"Why, Miss Blanche, you're as bad as cook. For my part, I think they're
uncommon good eating."

"It isn't that, Ellis; but only think how happy they all were this
morning among those hills, and now--I wonder how papa could do it! It
does seem so cruel."

"Come now, missie, that's what I won't stand to hear noways--the master
called cruel! A more kinder 'arted gentleman don't step. He wouldn't
hurt a fly--that he wouldn't. You'll be a callin' my old father a
murderer next, because he's a butcher, I suppose, missie?"

"Oh! that's quite different, Ellis," said Blanche, apologetically. "But,
to be sure, what lots of killing there is! It does seem very dreadful,
when one thinks of it."

"Well, missie, you don't think it dreadful to eat a mutton-chop when you
are hungry, I'll warrant." And this retort seemed quite unanswerable at
the moment; so Ellis had the last word, as the last curl was adjusted,
and her little mistress descended to join her father and his guests in
the drawing-room.

Blanche watched wistfully for an opportunity of a quiet talk with her
papa; she had so many things that she wanted to say to him. There was
still a secret hankering in the bottom of her heart to go to the moors,
for she could not bear to think of another day without him. But the
time came to say 'Good-night' before any opportunity for a private talk
offered itself, and Blanche went to sleep after her first day in the
Highlands with a disappointed heart.



III.

_MORAG'S HOME._


ON the rocky ledge of a hill overlooking the Glen, there was perched a
little hut, which seemed as if it had huddled itself against the rugged,
grey crags for protection, and stood on its morsel of grassy turf
trembling at the wild scene around. The mountains, which from the valley
looked serene and blue, reared themselves above the tiny white shieling
in dark towering masses, and the river seemed like a silver thread as it
took its winding way through the strath.

On the same Christmas Eve as Blanche Clifford was born in her sheltered
English home, another little girl had come into the world in that rocky
eyrie among the mountains; and Morag Dingwall, too, was left motherless
from the hour of her birth. Her father was gamekeeper at Glen Eagle; the
hut had been built by his grandfather, who, in his day, ruled over the
realms of deer and grouse in the glen; and it had once been a
better-cared-for home than it was in these later days. Careful fingers
had striven to repair the ravages of the wind and rain, for the little
shieling was mercilessly exposed to both; the shelter the great gray
rocks offered being a treacherous one, and its foundation damp. There
had once been an attempt made to delve a _kailyard_ out of the
unfruitful soil, and the turf in front of the cottage was kept smooth
and trim. But the present possessor of the hut did not seem to care to
make the most of his barren, rocky home; he merely grumbled about it
from time to time to the land-agent, the only representative whom he
ever saw of the Highland lord who owned the Glen. But the factor thought
that such a great strong fellow as Dingwall might mend his own roof,
while the keeper thought that such a great rich fellow as the laird
might give him a new roof, and a new house too; so year after year the
rain had come drip, drip, through the porous roof on the earthen floor,
ever since Morag could remember, till she had got quite used to it, and
to a great many things besides.

The keeper was a strange man, and had led a strange life in his early
days, the people of the Glen said. When a lad he had suddenly left Glen
Eagle one winter, and he appeared only to have returned to take his
father's place, when the old man was laid in the little grave-yard on
the hillside. And a better gamekeeper could not have been found. He knew
every foot of the Glen by heart. He was the best angler in the country
side. There was no keener eye and no steadier hand in all Stratheagle;
he could spy the game at incredible distances, and knew every winding
path, each short cut, all deceptive bogs. People said that the little
Morag was the only human being whom Alaster Dingwall ever really loved.
He had reared his baby-daughter with his own hands, the kennels had been
her nursery, the dogs her playmates. As soon as she was able to toddle,
he had taken her to the moors, often strapped on his back, fast asleep.
Before Morag was seven years old she had become almost as hardy a
mountaineer as her father, going with him to the hills, carrying his
game-bag, trotting by his side, with her little bare feet among the
heather. She could handle an oar and cast a rod as well as most people;
it was her little deft fingers that _busked_ the hooks for the loch, and
did a great many useful things besides. Long ago the keeper had
entrusted the cares of housekeeping, such as they were, to Morag. It was
she who cooked, washed, mended, and kept things going in a kind of way.
Occasionally the father and daughter would start on an expedition to the
village, which was miles away, to make purchases at the merchant's shop,
and lay in a store of provisions before the period of snowing-up came
round. These were always red-letter days in little Morag's calendar.
Sometimes, though very rarely, there was an attempt made to replace the
little tattered tartan frock by a new garment, bought at the general
store. If you had happened to look into the hut on a winter evening, you
might have seen the father and daughter bending in perplexity over a
wooden table, on which were strewn the rough materials for Morag's new
frock. Great and many seemed the difficulties in the way, but at last
Dingwall would boldly put in the scissors, a big and rusty weapon used
for general purposes, and then the various stages of dress-making would
be gone through, clumsily enough to be sure; but in process of time,
Morag would stand in her finished garment, a more proud and happy little
girl than Blanche Clifford, in the latest novelty of her London
_modiste_.

They were a very silent pair, this father and daughter. Often they would
wander whole days among the heather together without exchanging words,
or sit in the _ingle neuk_ by the fire of peat and pine in dumb silence,
while they cleaned guns or busked hooks, during the long winter
evenings. But notwithstanding his grim silence, and whatever he might
appear to the outer world, to his little daughter Dingwall he was always
kind, and she loved him with all the intensity of her still, Celtic
nature, and thought that he was the very best father in all the world.
During her short, solitary life she had never known anybody else, and
had hardly exchanged words with a living soul, old or young. Poor little
Morag had grown up utterly untaught. Like the pointers, her playmates,
she had grown very clever in some things--in mountain knowledge, in
dexterity of fingers and agility of limb. But there were wants in her
nature utterly unsupplied, chambers in her heart and soul into which
light had never penetrated. Made in the image of God, she had never
heard His name; redeemed by Jesus Christ, she knew not that such a One
had lived and died for men. Though she had grown in the midst of God's
glorious works, she did not guess that He who made the "high hills as a
refuge for the wild goats," who "sent the springs into the valleys which
flow among the hills," was the loving, pitying Father who had watched
her lonely wanderings, and would bring this blind child by a way that
she knew not, and make "darkness light before her!"

Most of the children of Scotland learn at least to read and write at the
parish school, so Morag Dingwall's case was therefore an exceptional
one, and arose partly from her peculiar circumstances. She was an hourly
necessity to her father, who, besides, held in scorn other training than
that which loch and mountain afforded. The few books which the hut
contained led quite a fossil existence; they were stowed away by the
careful little Morag in the bottom of a great wooden box, her mother's
_kist_, in the depths of which all the valuables were buried to save
them from the inroads of the weather, when the pelting rain beat through
the broken roof, as it often did. Still, these buried musty books had a
great fascination for Morag; often she would peer curiously into them,
and long to know what they contained. She often wondered whether her
father understood their contents; she thought not; but so great was her
under-current of shyness that she had never ventured to ask him. Often
on a quiet afternoon, when her work was done, she would slip one of the
old books from its hiding-place, and lying down on the soft turf, would
ponder over its unknown characters, with an intense longing to
understand them. She felt sure that those closely-printed pages must
contain much that it would be delightful to know; but they were not for
her. With a sigh she would close the book, and gaze up at the fathomless
blue sky and the everlasting hills around her; and sitting at the feet
of the great, wonderful mother Nature, she learnt from her many things
that books could not have taught her.

Morag had a true eye for beauty. It is sometimes said that mountaineers
do not appreciate the scenery amid which their lot is cast; and perhaps
it is so far true, that when the stern hard necessities of life
multiply, they may dull the sense of the wonder and glory of nature in
minds which were originally sensitive to it. With our little Morag,
however, this deadening process had not begun. She revelled in all the
beauties of her mountain home; with a poet's love she gave voices to the
brooks and woods, and peopled in her imagination the solemn pine forest,
the gloomy ravine, and the breezy mountain top.

The Glen was many miles from the nearest parish, with its church and
school. There were dwellers in Glen Eagle who went to both, but the
keeper Dingwall was not one of them; and so it happened, strange as it
may seem, that little Morag had never been within a church, never heard
a sweet psalm sung, nor joined in a prayer to God.

On the still Sunday mornings she would sometimes watch the straggling
dwellers in the valley wending their way along the white hilly road to
meet in the little village kirk. Morag often glanced wistfully towards
it, when she went with her father to make their purchases at the
merchant's shop, but then it was always closed and silent. How much she
wished that she could see it on the day when the people all gathered
there! She had a vague idea that the little company went to worship a
God who lived far, far away in the blue sky, where her mother had gone,
somebody told her once, long ago; and since then she had not cared quite
so much to go to the grave under the shadow of the hill, but loved more
than ever to gaze into the blue sky, and to watch the sunset glories
before the amber clouds closed upon the many-colored brightness of the
evening sky.

Somehow Morag always felt more lonely on Sunday than on any other day.
In the long still afternoon, when her father went for a walk with the
dogs, she would wander down from the rocky shieling into the pine
forest, which was a great haunt of hers--the _fir-wood_, she always
called it. Sometimes she took one of the old books with her, and lying
down among the brown fir-needles, she would gaze longingly at the
unknown characters. She noticed that most of the church-goers carried
books with them, which she discovered to be identical with one of the
musty collection in the old _kist_: so a halo of mystery grew up round
this book, which seemed to belong to everybody; and Morag longed that
she could find the key to it as she looked up from the yellow pages of
her mother's Bible, and gazed dreamily through the dark aisles of pine
at the blue sky.

Happy are we that this Book of Life is an open page to us! But if it is,
though an open, a dull listless page, if our hearts do not burn within
us as we read its words, then more unhappy are we than this lonely
untaught maiden, this seeker after God; for of such He has said, "They
that seek me early shall find me!"

Morag had her code of right and wrong, which she held to with much more
firmness than some who have the knowledge of a living, present Helper,
along with the voice of conscience. She did many things every day that
were not always pleasant, because something within said, "I ought," and
avoided some things because that same voice whispered, "I ought not."

In the cold, dark winter mornings, the "I ought" said, "Get up, Morag,
and light the fire, and make breakfast ready for the kennels; if you lie
in bed longer, you won't have time to do it before making ready your
father's breakfast, and you know that the dogs depend on you;" and the
little girl would jump out of bed, with her first footsteps on the
half-frozen rain that often lay on the earthen floor, and set cheerily
about her morning's work.

The shooting season was generally the dullest time of the year for
Morag; her father being absent at the moors with the sportsmen all day
long, the little shieling was more than usually solitary during those
long autumn days. The shooting-party generally lived in the village inn,
so it was a great piece of news for the keeper and his daughter when
they heard that the new folks were to live in the castle of Glen Eagle.
It had been uninhabited ever since Morag could remember; she delighted
to wander round its grey walls, and to peep in at the narrow windows,
and had spun many a fancy in her little brain concerning its ancient
uses, and former inhabitants. She watched from afar, with great
interest, the preparations for the arrival of the new shooting-party;
and on the morning of the "Twelfth" she stood looking wistfully after
her father, as he set out for the castle, with the hired keepers and a
host of dogs, to meet the gentlemen on their start for the moors.

The shieling seemed very lonely that day to Morag, when her work was
done, and she sat watching the shooting-party on the distant hill, where
her keen eye could still distinguish them, like dark, moving specks
among the heather. At last it occurred to her that she might go to the
old castle, and see what transformations the newcomers had wrought. She
felt quite safe from the fear of seeing anybody, while the gentlemen
were absent: it never struck her that they would not leave their home,
as she left her hut, silent and tenantless: so she sauntered down the
hill, and wandered among the feathery birch-trees which skirted the road
to the castle. She felt rather disappointed to find that everything
looked exactly the same, to all appearance, as it used to do; for it
would have been difficult to change the exterior of such a grim old
keep.

After she had made an exploring tour round, she sat down on a grassy
knoll to rest, and then she noticed that the window opposite was opened
up, and the sash raised. A feeling of curiosity took possession of her,
and she thought surely there could be no harm of peeping in, when all
the people were so far away on the hills. She approached cautiously, and
looking in, she saw the loveliest little damsel that her eyes had ever
beheld, seated amid, what appeared to Morag, a perfect fairyland of
delight. Was there not a beautiful table covered with books in bright
gay bindings?--and this happy creature was bending over one of them,
with her golden curls falling around. For we know that Blanche Clifford
was at that moment in the thick of the Battle of Tewkesbury, in a very
disconsolate frame of mind. Morag saw that she had been unobserved, and
lingered about the grassy knoll, thinking that she might venture to take
another glimpse of this wonderful interior; but this time the golden
head had been suddenly raised, and a pair of blue, dreamy eyes surveyed
her with astonishment. Morag gave a terrified glance round her, and then
turned and fled, with a beating heart, never slackening her pace till
she got beyond the castle grounds.

By the time she had reached the shieling, Morag began to doubt her own
eyes, when the vision of the fair English maiden, with her wondering,
blue eyes, rose before her. She waited impatiently for her father's
return from the moors, in the hope that he might throw some light on the
matter; though when he did come she was much too shy to make any
inquiries. Supper was over, and Dingwall had taken his seat at the
_ingle neuk_ to smoke his pipe, while Morag sat cleaning a gun with her
tiny, but strong little fingers, as she silently pondered over the
castle scene, and at last came to the conclusion that the bonnie wee
leddy must have been one of the ghosts which were said to haunt the old
keep. Her father at last broke the silence by saying, between one of the
whiffs of his pipe--

"I'm thinkin' we've gotten the richt kin' o' folk this year, Morag. The
master's the best-like gentleman I've seen i' the Glen this mony a day.
It would be tellin' you and me, lass, gin he were the laird himsel';"
and Dingwall glanced grimly at one of the many standing grievances, the
porous roof of the hut. Morag's heart went pit-a-pat, for surely it
could not be a dream, and what she wanted might be coming soon; but
whiff, whiff went the pipe, and silence reigned for another quarter of
an hour, as Dingwall speculated whether Mr. Clifford might not even
bring his many suits before "the laird himsel'," and get redress for
some of his grievances.

At last he said, as he laid down his pipe, "Eh, Morag! but I havena been
tellin' ye aboot the winsome bit leddy he's brocht wi' him. She cam
runnin' up til him, and he brocht her to tak' a look o' the birds, and
said, 'This is my daughter, Dingwall. She would give me no rest till I
brought her to Glen Eagle,'" narrated the keeper, repeating Mr.
Clifford's introduction, which had evidently gratified him. "She had
been wantin' to go til the moors," he continued, "but the sicht o' the
deid birds seemed no to her likin', and she ran off some frichtened
like. Ye're no sae saft, lass, I'm thinkin';" and Dingwall smiled his
grim smile, and relapsed into silence again.

But Morag had heard all that she wanted. It was no vision, then, after
all, but a real, live, lovely maiden, of whom possibly she might catch
another glimpse if she had only the courage to approach the castle
again. She did not venture to tell her father that she, too, had seen
the winsome little leddy. Her extreme shyness and reserve always made it
an effort to tell anything that required many words, and she put all
her thoughts and reveries into the steel of Mr. Clifford's
double-barrelled gun.



IV.

_THE FIR-WOOD._


"WHAT a glorious day it is, Ellis! How I wish I could spend the whole of
it out of doors!" exclaimed Blanche, as she lazily stretched herself,
before making the supreme effort of getting out of bed. "You've no idea
how dreadful it is to be shut up for a whole morning in that horrid
schoolroom, with the 'History of England,' and that wearisome geography
book. I have got the boundaries of China, and ever so much, for my
lesson to-day. I'm sure I don't care to know how China is bounded. I
shall certainly never go there, on any account. Do you know, Ellis, the
Chinese are so cruel? They shut up women, and pinch their toes, and all
kinds of things."

"La! missie; you don't say so?" exclaimed Ellis, getting interested, for
she delighted in the sensational.

"Oh, yes; indeed they do. They are such horrid creatures! So ugly, too.
I've seen pictures of them. Do you know, Ellis, they actually wear
tails?" continued Blanche, gratified to see that her maid was interested
in her information.

"Come now, missie, you'll be makin' them out to be regular animals, and
that I won't believe, noways," retorted Ellis, as she vigorously brushed
Blanche's long curls.

"But, indeed, the Chinese do have tails. It's just the way they do their
back hair, you know, Ellis," replied Blanche in an explanatory tone, as
she turned to look out at the window. "Oh! what a glorious hill that is,
with its blue peak right away in the clouds! I wonder what is the name
of it? How nice it would be to know all the boundaries of Glen Eagle,
now--to be able to tell the names of every mountain, and to know which
was really the highest; for yesterday that dark hill looked much higher
than it does to-day. Don't you remember those soldiers we saw in
Devonshire, last year, Ellis? They were making a military survey, Miss
Prosser told me. How I should like to make a military survey! It would
be real work, you know, and I should go out in the morning and come in
at night;" and inspired by the grandeur of the idea, Blanche pirouetted
round the room, greatly to the disarranging of Ellis's careful
toilette, and finally she ran away down-stairs to join Miss Prosser.

After breakfast, Blanche was moving away, in a disconsolate frame of
mind, towards the schoolroom. She looked longingly through the open
door, as she crossed the hall, but at length sat down to her books with
a resigned sigh. Miss Prosser had followed her, and stood at the table
smiling rather mysteriously, as she listened to her pupil's sigh.

"You need not sit down to your lessons this morning, Blanche, dear,
unless indeed you are especially anxious to study. Your papa has
expressed a wish that you should have no lessons for a short time. I
must say I rather regret it, my dear Blanche; you are so behind; there
is so much ground to be gone over."

With the last remark Blanche heartily agreed; but it was moorland, not
mental ground, which she was thinking of. She began to put away her
schoolbooks in an ecstasy of delight, while Miss Prosser continued--

"I have a slight headache this morning, and shall not be able to go out
to walk with you; but I have given Ellis orders to accompany you, as I
really cannot expose myself to the sun."

"Oh, please, do let me go out all by myself, only this once? Indeed, I
shall not do anything foolish," pleaded Blanche.

Miss Prosser seemed disposed to be yielding, and at length Blanche
started, accompanied by her dog Chance. She got strict injunctions not
to get into danger of any kind, and on no account to go beyond the
castle grounds; but this boundary line being quite undefined in
Blanche's mind, it gave ample scope for extensive rambling.

Blanche felt quite in a perplexity of happiness when she found herself
under the blue sky, left entirely to the freedom of her will. It was the
first time in her life that she had been so trusted, and she thought it
felt like what people call "beginning life." She had crossed the bridge
that spanned the river below the castle, and now she stood between two
divergent roads, each threading their white winding way through
different parts of the Glen. So much did Blanche feel the extreme
importance of the occasion, that she had difficulty in making up her
mind which path to choose, and stood hesitating, till Chance, with a wag
of his tail, set out to walk along one of them, looking back at his
little mistress, as if he meant to say, "Come along; anything is better
than indecision: we're sure to find something pleasant in this
direction."

The remembrance of the little window visitor was still uppermost in
Blanche's mind; but she had heard her father say that nobody except
their own servants lived within miles of the castle; so she concluded
the little girl's home must be very far away, and that there was little
chance of meeting with her in her rambles of to-day. Then she had seemed
so frightened, and ran away so quickly, that it was not likely she would
repeat her visit to the schoolroom window; indeed it was to be hoped
not, Blanche thought, since Miss Prosser would be the sole occupant that
morning. The little damsel, with her elf-locks, had already begun to
take her place in Blanche's imagination among the fairies and heroines
of her story-books--a pleasant mystery round which to weave a day dream,
when there was nothing more attractive within reach. But on this morning
were not Chance and she beginning life together, with all kinds of
delicious possibilities before them along this white winding road? At
every turn she came upon new wonders and treasures, and her frock was
being rapidly filled with a miscellaneous collection of wild-flowers,
curious mosses, and stray feathers of mountain birds.

The road lay between stretches of moorland, which not many years before
had been covered by trees, but now only a gnarled stump, scattered here
and there, told of the departed forest. After Blanche had wandered a
long way, following the abrupt turnings of the hilly path, she noticed
that a shadow fell across the road, and looked up to see great trees all
round, thronging as far as her eye could reach, till in the depths of
the forest it seemed as dark as night; while in some parts the sunlight
struggled through, and shone, like flames of fire, on the old red trunks
of the fir-trees. Blanche, before she knew it, had already penetrated
into the forest, and stood awe-struck gazing down the great aisles made
by the pillars of pine rearing themselves high and stately with their
arching green boughs against the sky. The remembrance of a grand old
minster, where her father had taken her to church one Sunday in spring,
rose to Blanche's recollection; those wonderful trees seemed strangely
like the fretted columns among which she had stood that day. She had
heard her father say that there was no church within miles of Glen
Eagle, and she wondered why they could not come here to service on
Sundays. The choristers' voices would sound so beautiful, and the great
floor, covered with brown fir-needles, and the lichen-spotted stones
studded over it, would be much nicer than a pew.

Blanche, as was her custom when she felt happy, sang snatches of songs
as she wandered on through the forest, stooping every now and then to
gather treasures from among the fir-needles. At last she sat down and
began to pick up some attractive-looking green cones, which had fallen
the last time the storm had swung the great fir-trees. And as she sat
there, absorbed in gathering cones, her voice went up clear and musical
through the arched boughs, as she sang, almost unconsciously, some
verses of a hymn which she once learnt--

    "There is a green hill far away,
      Without a city wall,
    Where the dear Lord was crucified,
      Who died to save us all.

    "We may not know, we cannot tell,
      What pains He had to bear;
    But we believe it was for us
      He hung and suffered there."

The unwonted sound echoed through the silent forest, startling a roe
that had strayed from its covert, and making some little birds lurking
among the boughs set their tiny heads to one side to listen to the new
song in their sanctuary. There was another listener to Blanche's hymn,
who felt as startled by the sound as the timid roe; but who had,
nevertheless, stood listening eagerly. When Blanche looked up from the
fir-needles, wearied with her search for the cones, it was to see the
little maiden, whom she had just been consigning to dreamland, leaning
against a tree. There she stood, more real than ever, with her little
bare feet planted among the soft moss, and her eyes fixed wonderingly on
the stooping little girl. Blanche sprang forward, dropping, as she went,
her lapful of gatherings.

"Oh, please, little girl, do not run away this time. I was so
disappointed that you would not wait when I saw you at the window
yesterday. Only, perhaps, it was just as well, for Miss Prosser walked
in the minute after," added Blanche, who always took it for granted that
there must be a previous acquaintance with those who made up her small
world.

The little native did not seem disposed for immediate flight on this
occasion, however; she awaited Blanche calmly, as if the fir-wood were
her special sanctuary. Blanche was standing near, when Chance, who had
been doing some hunting on his own account, finding the search after
cones not exciting enough, came running up to see what his young
mistress was about. Blanche sprang forward to meet him; knowing well
that he was the sworn enemy of all bare-legged personages, she dreaded
the result of a hasty interview with her new acquaintance. He bounded
past her, however, and running up to the little girl, he began to wag
his tail in quite a friendly manner, and received caresses in return.

"Why, you and Chance seem quite friends," exclaimed Blanche, with a
feeling of relief, not unmingled with astonishment. "He is generally so
very naughty to strangers; he surely must have seen you before?"

"No, leddy, I didna see him afore; but I'm thinkin' he kens fine, Morag
likes a' dogs," said the little girl, in a low, timid voice, as she
smiled and patted Chance.

"Morag! is that your name? What a nice, funny name! But you must not
call me, lady. I'm only a girl about your own age, you see. My name is
Blanche--that means white in French, you know, and it suits me nicely,
they say, because I'm fair. But that isn't the reason I'm called
Blanche. It was my mamma's name," explained the little lady
communicatively, while Morag listened eagerly, as if she were drinking
in every word.

"Do tell me where you live, Morag? Is it in one of the pretty little
houses on the moorland, that you can see from the castle? I'm so glad
I've found you again;" and the little fluttering hand was kindly laid on
the sunburnt arm. A light came into Morag's still face; she suddenly
lifted the white hand and kissed it reverentially. Blanche felt rather
embarrassed at so unexpected a movement, though it stirred her little
heart; and after a moment's pause, she said impulsively--

"I love you, Morag. I wish you would come and play with me. I'm so dull
all alone. What were you playing at, all by yourself here? Aren't you a
little afraid to stay in this dark forest all alone?"

"I wasna playin' mysel'. I was only jist buskin' at the hooks, for the
loch," replied Morag, glancing towards a flat, lichen-spotted rock,
where the materials for her work were lying scattered about. And then,
as if reminded that she must be busy, she went and sat down to work.
Blanche followed, unwilling to leave her new-found friend, and curious
to see what kind of work a little girl, no bigger than herself, could
do. There, on the grey stone which served as Morag's work-table, lay, in
all stages of manufacture, wonderful imitations of variegated flies, to
entrap unwary fishes. Blanche thought them marvels of art, and glanced
with respect and admiration at the skilful little fingers which had even
now another in process of creation.

"You must be very clever to make such pretty things, Morag. May I sit
and watch you at work, for a little? I have got a holiday to-day, you
see. Aren't holidays nice?" said Blanche, glowingly; then she remembered
that perhaps this little girl might never have any, and she felt sorry
she had said that, when no response came from her companion, so she
changed the subject immediately.

"Who taught you to make those wonderful hooks, Morag? It must be so
difficult," continued Blanche, as she watched the little fingers busy at
work.

"Father teached me when I was a wee bit girlie. It's no that difficult
to busk the hooks; maybe you would be liken' to try. It hurts the
fingers some whiles, though," she added, glancing at Blanche's slender
fingers.

"Oh! thank you very much, Morag. I should like so much to try, if you
will teach me. My papa is going to fish in the loch one day soon, and it
would be so nice if I could really make a hook for him."

Chance, who had been comfortably ensconced at Morag's feet, started as
if he heard footsteps, and Blanche looked up to see Ellis hurrying
towards them.

"O missie! how could you ever wander so far into this wilderness, and
have me searchin' for you like this?" panted the breathless maid, with a
look of relief on her face at having found her strayed charge.

"Oh, my! what have we got here, Miss Blanche? You don't mean to say
you've ben a sittin' all the morning with that creature?" burst forth
the flurried Ellis, as she caught a glimpse of Morag seated on the grey
rock.

"A regular tramp, I declare! Miss Prosser would take a fit if she saw
you, missie. Come along, this instant," shrieked the excited maid.

Blanche was by her side in a moment, whispering, with a face of
distress--

"Hush, Ellis! don't speak so loud. She will hear, and you'll hurt her
feelings. Besides, I'm sure she isn't a tramp--if that's anything bad.
She's such a dear nice little girl, and so clever. I'll tell you all
about her presently," added Blanche, nodding confidentially.

"Well, you've got to come home this instant, missie. There's somebody
awaitin' for you," said Ellis, mysteriously.

"Oh! then, it isn't Miss Prosser who thinks I've stayed too long," said
Blanche in a relieved tone. "Go on, Ellis, and I'll come after you in a
minute. I must first say good-bye to Morag."

Ellis, thus commanded, good-naturedly obeyed, while Blanche went to
rejoin her new acquaintance, whom she found still seated silently at
work.

"I'm so sorry I must go now, Morag, but I'll come back again to-morrow.
I shall find you here, shan't I? Good-bye, Morag; I must really run now,
or Ellis will be cross."

She waited for some reply, but none came, only the soft eyes looked up
wistfully into her face for a moment, and the little girl went quietly
on with her work again.

Blanche was soon at Ellis's side prattling about her morning
experiences, and trying to convince her maid of the irreproachable
respectability of her new acquaintance. But the smart Ellis shook her
head skeptically; she shared Miss Kilmansegg's opinion (of golden-leg
fame), that "them as has naught is naughty," and she would continue to
insist, in spite of Blanche's eloquent expostulations, that the little
bare-legged tattered native must necessarily be a dangerous tramp, the
off-shoot from a whole gang lurking near; and Ellis looked fearfully
around, as if out of every bracken might spring a gypsy, and felt sure
that had it not been for her opportune appearance on the scene, her
little mistress would certainly have been kidnapped.

As soon as the strangers were gone a little distance, Morag laid down
her work, and gliding up to the old fir-tree where she had stood to
listen to Blanche's hymn, she leant against it, and shading her eyes
with her hand she gazed wistfully after them as they disappeared among
the pillars of pine. "The bonnie wee leddy, she's awa'. They'll no be
lettin' her speak wi' the like o' me anither time," soliloquised Morag,
who, like most solitary people, had the habit of speaking her thoughts
aloud when alone. "That gran' like woman thocht I was a tramp. I'm
thinkin' I'll look some like ane," she murmured, looking down with a new
feeling of discomfort on her tattered little garment. "I'll men' it up
some the nicht, though, and mak' it look a wee bit better afore the
morn. She said she would be back again. Who will the Lord be she was
singin' aboot, that died upo' the green hill? I never heard tell o'
Him. It surely canna hae been on oor ain hills here aboot," continued
Morag, as she gathered up the scattered materials for her hook-making,
and wandered slowly away towards her home among the crags.

In the meantime Blanche had reached the castle, and discovered the
mysterious "somebody" who awaited her, of whom she could not persuade
Ellis to divulge anything. In the cool shadow of the grey tower there
stood, awaiting her inspection, a lovely little Shetland pony, one of
the blackest, roundest, daintiest of his breed. Blanche sprang forward
with a cry of delight.

"Oh, what a little darling! You don't mean to say he is for me?" The
little fellow turned his bright black eyes on her, and shook his shaggy
mane, as if to say, "So you are my little mistress! Let's have a look at
you. I hope you are inclined to be pleasant!"

Blanche returned his gaze by throwing her arms round his neck and
hugging him heartily, greatly to the amusement of the Highlander who had
brought him, and was standing by.

"What lovely eyes he has got, hasn't he, Ellis? Do you know, they remind
me of"--Morag's she was going to say; but she remembered that was a
forbidden name. Presently she ran to find Miss Prosser, that she might
come and admire the new favorite.

"He looks so perfectly good and quiet, quite like a dog. I'm sure I may
sometimes ride him alone, mayn't I, Miss Prosser?"

"I shall never sanction such a step, and I cannot think that your papa
will consider it either wise or proper for you to ride alone," replied
her governess, shocked by the suggestion.

"What's his name?" asked Blanche, turning to the owner of the pony,
anxious to change a subject which she saw had not met with approval.

"Anything my little leddy pleases; she be not got any name to hersel
yet;" and turning to Miss Prosser, he said, evidently anxious to
establish the character of his late possession, "She's as quiet's a
lamb, leddy, and there isna a foot o' the Glen she doesna know as weel's
mysel'."

But Miss Prosser shook her head incredulously under her sunshade, as she
moved away.

"Nonsense, Blanche, you silly child! Don't you know that horse-dealers
are proverbial cheats? The animal is probably the greatest vixen under
the sun. Those small ponies are most dangerous and tricky always."

But Blanche, nothing daunted by the alleged bad character of her new
favorite, set her little brain to work to find a name for him. As Miss
Prosser disapproved of any lady's name being bestowed on one of the
lower animals, the selection became more limited. After searching
through several volumes of history, ancient and modern, and various
volumes of lighter literature, with an assiduity worthy of a better
cause, her governess remarked, Blanche decided that, after all, no name
seemed to suit the little fellow so well as the one which had at first
suggested itself, but was set aside as being too commonplace, that of
Shag. So off she trotted to inform the little Shetlander that he was no
longer nameless, and to see what he was thinking of his new quarters.

The next day, to Blanche's great delight, her papa announced that he was
not going to the moors, and meant to take his little daughter out for a
ride. The horses had been ordered round at twelve o'clock, and Blanche
spent the morning in aimless wanderings round the castle, wishing that
the hour for starting would arrive; a ride with her papa was such a rare
piece of happiness, that the prospect quite sufficed for her morning's
entertainment, without setting anything else on foot.

At last a practical difficulty presented itself, which she had not
thought of before, and she ran off to find her maid to remind her that
her riding-habit had been left at home, for she remembered hearing Miss
Prosser say that there was no need of including it in the Highland
wardrobe, since the little Neige was to be left behind in his London
stables.

"Well now, missie, did you never think of that till this time of day? A
pretty job it would have been for you if everybody else had been so
forgetful," said the maid, smiling, as she took from a drawer a pretty
new tartan riding-habit, all ready to wear.

"There now, Miss Blanche, that's what has kept me so busy for the last
two days. I've just this minute finished runnin' it up. It's a queer
color for a habit, I must say, but it's the best thing to be found at
the village shop."

"Oh! you dear good Ellis, how kind of you to make it in such a hurry! It
is such a beauty, much prettier than my dark blue at home. Don't you
think I might put it on now, just to see how it looks?"

So the riding-habit was rather prematurely donned, and Chance with his
mistress were waiting in the hall some time before the little Shag and
his stately bay companion appeared in the court-yard. Blanche was
already mounted when Mr. Clifford emerged from the library with his
budget of letters ready for the post-bag.

"What a regular Highland lassie it is, to be sure!" said he, glancing at
Blanche's gay-colored habit as he mounted his horse.

"It is certainly most unsuitable," apologized Miss Prosser, who had come
out to see them start. "But it was really the only material procurable
in these uncivilized regions."

"It's a first-rate attire--quite in keeping, I assure you, Miss Prosser.
Come along, Blanchie; you will quite charm the deer and the moor-fowl by
having got yourself up in their native tartan."

On the riders went, soon leaving the shady birch-avenue far behind, and
getting among breezy moors. It was a perfect autumn day, the sky was
serene and bright, and a pleasant heathery perfume filled the air.
Blanche's long fair curls floated in the breeze, and her face glowed
with pleasure as she swept on alongside her father, the little
Shetlander cantering as fast as it could lay its short legs to the
ground, trying to keep pace with the swinging trot of the long-limbed
hunter.

"Shag, as you call him, is quite a success, Blanchie," said Mr.
Clifford, as he reined his horse in at last. "I'm afraid he will prove
even a rival to Neige."

"Oh no, papa; there's no fear of that; my heart is big enough to love a
dozen ponies. Shag is a perfect darling, though. He seems so good and
quiet, too; don't you think I might ride him alone, papa?"

"Ride quite alone? I am not so sure about that, pussy. Don't you think
you'd feel like the damsel all forlorn. I think you must be satisfied
with Lucas when I can't come. Poor old fellow! he prefers his
carriage-box to his saddle nowadays, he is getting so asthmatic; but I
don't think I can trust you with anybody else."

"O papa! please don't send Lucas with me; he's so old and stupid, and
wheezes so dreadfully; and he always says so solemnly, 'Take care
missie,' when we begin to go fast. I'd much rather wait till you can
come, if I mayn't go alone."

As Blanche cantered on by her father's side, she suddenly remembered her
promise to meet Morag in the fir-wood, which she had forgotten in the
excitement of the morning. She was hesitating whether she should tell
her papa about her new acquaintance, and wondering if he would call her
a dangerous gypsy as Ellis did, when her thoughts were diverted by
coming within sight of a human habitation of some kind; the first they
had seen since leaving the castle, so Blanche viewed it with some
curiosity. She wondered whether all the cottages that studded the valley
looked as neat and pretty as this one, which stood in its little
fenced-in garden, growing out of the bleak moorland, where flourished
gooseberry and currant bushes, besides drills of cabbage and potatoes.
The late summer flowers were still gay and sweet, and creeping
rose-bushes grew on the white wall under the brown thatch, which looked
thick and trim, all studded over with thick, green moss as soft as
velvet. The little windows were bright and shining, and the tiny muslin
curtains looped up behind them looked spotless and dainty.

"O papa! what a lovely little cottage; it looks quite like a doll's
house!" exclaimed Blanche.

"It is certainly a wonderful abode to find in such a wild spot," said
Mr. Clifford, glancing at the well-kept garden. "The occupants, whoever
they are, have certainly contrived to make the wilderness blossom."

Behind the cottage, and evidently belonging to it, was a little patch
of cornfield, that lay yellow and shining in the sun, quite ripe for
harvest; indeed it was partly cut down, though there appeared to be only
one reaper in the field. Blanche slackened her pony's rein to look at
the old woman who was bending over a sheaf which she had been binding,
with no other help than her frail trembling fingers. Attracted by the
unusual sound of passers-by, she looked up from her work, and caught a
glimpse of the little girl's face, who had lingered behind her papa, and
was looking pityingly across the old grey dyke on the lonely reaper at
her toilsome afternoon's work. "They'll be the new folk that's come til
the castle, I'm thinkin'. She's a richt bonnie bit leddy that, though,"
soliloquised the old woman, as she shaded her quiet gray eyes with her
long thin fingers, and gazed after the riders. "May the Lord himsel'
keep her bonnie in His ain e'en, as she's fair til see;" and stooping
down, she lifted her hook, and went on with her work again.

Blanche and her father soon left the pretty cottage far behind, as they
cantered on in the delicious breeze, which wafted all manner of pleasant
odors and thoughts to the little girl, who rode gaily on in the
sunshine; but it did not waft to her ears the prayer which had gone up
to God for her, that afternoon, from one of His true servants, the lowly
bent woman on whom the blue eyes of the little maiden had been so
pityingly cast.



V.

_A DISCOVERY._


THE day after Blanche's ride was very stormy. The peaceful Glen seemed
suddenly thrown into a wild tumult. Now and then a long low rattle of
thunder sounded along the mountains, and the great fir-trees creaked and
swung, making all manner of weird choruses among the aisles of pine. The
rain had fallen in torrents during the night, and there seemed still an
inexhaustible supply in the gray sheets of mist that hovered over the
nearer hills. The little mountain rills hurried white and foaming to the
river, which moaned and raged along the valley, carrying with it on its
wild way to the sea more than one wooden bridge which had been wrenched
from its frail moorings by the _spate_. It was a true Highland storm,
the first Blanche had ever seen, and she stood watching it with mingled
feelings of interest and disappointment. She knew well what she meant to
do with this holiday, if only the sun had kept its golden promises of
last night. But this storm had upset all her plans, and she was filled
with remorse at the thought of the neglected tryst in the fir-wood, and
felt out of sorts with herself and all the world. Her last hope of any
fun that afternoon departed as she stood in the old hall, and watched
her father and his guests get into their waterproofs and prepare to
start on an expedition to see the swollen river. She would gladly have
accepted an invitation, laughingly given by the old Major, that she
should join the party, but Miss Prosser had been quite shocked by the
suggestion. "It was improper at any time for a young lady to go out in
rain, and in a deluge like the present, quite out of the question," she
replied, from the side of the school-room fire, where she sat shivering.
Nothing was to be seen from the window, except the rain, which came
plash, plash on the soaking turf in a dreary monotone of dulness, and
Blanche contrived to make her escape while Miss Prosser had fallen into
brief, though sound slumbers. She took refuge in Ellis's society, whom
she found sewing busily in her room. But here things did not go to her
mind any more than in the school-room, for Ellis had taken the
opportunity of warning her little mistress that if she were ever found
'addressin' of that tramp' again, she would feel in duty bound to
inform Miss Prosser, nor could any coaxing of Blanche's persuade her to
promise silence.

"No, missie; I'll not hold my tongue for nobody. My very heart came to
my mouth when I saw you talkin' to that creature, just as friendly and
unsuspectin' as if she'd been your very sister, and all alone in that
dismal wood, too. Depend upon't there's a whole gang o' them lurkin'
yonder. Have you never heard of them as kidnaps children, missie? Why,
they'd take you for the sake of your pretty curls, if for nothing else.
A nice endin' that would be for you, Miss Clifford!" and Ellis stitched
away in high indignation, as she dwelt on the alarming picture that she
had conjured up, while Blanche called to mind some of the stories which
she had read of gypsies who had run off with children. It seemed to her,
however, that any excitement would be preferable to a time of dulness
like the present; and she came to the conclusion that the kidnapped
children must have, on the whole, rather a nice time of it in the
greenwood, and feel sorry when they are recaptured by their anxious
relatives, and sent back to their school-rooms.

Ellis went on stitching in dumb silence, feeling displeased that her
warnings seemed to be treated so lightly, and Blanche, finding these
circumstances far from lively, glided away. After roaming through the
winding passages and turret stairs, in the hope of finding some variety,
she lighted at last on a quaint, little room, which had evidently been
unmolested by charwoman or housemaid for many a day. Its dusty
desolation, however, quite suited Blanche's present disconsolate frame
of mind. She managed to undo the rusty fastenings of the narrow window,
and coiling herself into the deep stone embrasure, she looked dreamily
out on the moorland. The storm seemed at last to have almost spent
itself. Blanche could catch glimpses of the river, which still lashed
itself into wild white foam as it hurried along; but the sunlight was
shimmering upon it now. The wind had fallen, the great pine-trees
creaked and swung no longer, and the gray sheets of mist, which seemed
so stagnant a few hours before, were now slowly creeping from the hills,
and making way for the clear shining after rain.

Blanche sat watching the changing landscape from her dusty nook, with
the pale sunlight glinting in upon her; and as she gazed, all the
discontented, restless thoughts seemed to vanish from her heart,
disappearing like the gloomy mists which had been shrouding the
pleasant hillsides. At last, after she had sat perched in her
watch-tower for several hours, she fancied she heard her father's voice
in the court-yard below, and she ran to meet him. Mr. Clifford was
standing with all his wet wrappings when she reached the hall. "O papa!
how very funny you do look! You are just as wet as Chance when he comes
out of the water."

"Well, I'm wet enough, to be sure. But you should see what a wonderful
little specimen of the aborigines I've fished up, Blanchie. Come along,
and I'll tell you the tale while I warm myself."

Blanche followed into the library with some curiosity. She had rather
hazy ideas of what the "aborigines" might mean, but she concluded that
it must be some sort of trout taken from the river during the storm.

The Major had returned home some time ago, and was comfortably seated in
his arm-chair by the library fire, so Blanche had to wait, with as much
patience as she could muster, till Mr. Clifford explained what had
detained him. The other gentlemen had gone on to see the _Linn_, he
said, but as he wanted to have some fishing next day, he thought it
would be well to see the keeper, and arrange the matter before returning
home.

"I had been to the kennels once before," continued Mr. Clifford, "and
knew that the keeper lived not far from them. But I had no end of bother
in finding the place, though there it was suspended above me all the
while. I set out to go down the hill again, giving up the search in
despair, when I noticed that smoke came from a wretched shell of a hut,
perched on the corner of a crag. And this turned out to be Dingwall's
abode. I really wonder his Grace doesn't house his tenants better."

"But what about the creature you fished up, papa?" asked Blanche,
fearing that the conversation was going take too abstract a turn. "You
promised to tell me, you know."

"Ah! Blanche, I see you're all eyes and ears. Well, I'm just coming to
that now. I knocked at the door of this miserable erection, but no
answer came; and, as it was pouring rain, I did not feel inclined to
wait long, so I lifted the latch and looked in. Dingwall evidently was
not at home. Indeed, I should say he was quite as comfortable among the
heather as at his own fireside, in the circumstances. The rain was
dropping in from the roof in all directions, and it was evidently its
habit to do so, for it seemed to have excavated reservoirs for itself
along the earthen floor. The only soul in the hut was a wretched atom of
a girl, who, nothing daunted by this damp state of matters, was
splashing contentedly through the wet floor with her little bare feet,
trying to spoon away the water in the pools. Such a funny little thing
it was. You should have seen her, Blanchie, as she stood looking at me,
with her great eyes that peeped out from a tangled mass of black locks.
But I daresay I looked rather an alarming apparition in my waterproof
and umbrella, which I had the prudence to keep over my head. She looked
terrified for a moment, but she did not forget to make her rags touch
the soaking floor in a low curtsey, and offered in the sweetest voice to
run for her father, who was 'watchin' the _spate_,' she said. You should
have seen her, Blanchie; it would have quite suited your love for the
sensational."

The portrait was photographic; Blanche's heart began to beat, for she
felt certain that she had seen her.

"O papa! do tell me, did she really go away to the river to look for her
father? Do tell me, please," said Blanche, in eager tones.

"Well, seeing that she didn't seem to mind the weather, and wasn't
likely to catch cold, I thought I might as well bring her here for a
little, since her father was not at home, and put her under old Worthy's
care, to be warmed and fed and generally comforted. I couldn't get her
to open her mouth again, but she followed me down the hill on my
invitation."

"O papa! you don't mean to say that she is with Mrs. Worthy now?" and
without waiting for a reply, off Blanche bounded in search of the
housekeeper's room. And there, in front of a bright fire, seated in a
comfortable arm-chair, looking serenely happy in the midst of such
unwonted comforts, sat Morag.

"It is really you! Of course I knew it was," exclaimed Blanche, rather
incoherently, as she sprang forward with a cry of delight.

Morag rose with an eager bewildered look on her face, but she did not
speak, while the impulsive little Blanche threw her arms round the
tangled locks, and kissed the brown cheek.

"O Morag! I'm so very glad to see you again. I've been so sorry all day
that I did not go to meet you in the pine forest yesterday. So, you are
the keeper's daughter," and a shadow of vexation stole across Blanche's
sunny face, for the remembrance of the dark, sinister-looking man whom
she had disliked rose before her, and she felt a pang of regret that he
should be connected with Morag.

"I'm so glad papa brought you here, Morag. What a horrid house you must
have to live in! Papa says that it's a great shame of somebody--I forget
who. I do wish that the sun might always shine, and then you could sit
among those delicious pine-trees, instead of in-doors," and Blanche went
on in a silvery torrent of words, while Morag gazed at her, eagerly
listening in glad silence.

Mrs. Worthy, who was seated opposite in her arm-chair, reading the
newspaper, viewed this scene through her spectacles with unfeigned
astonishment.

"Bless my soul, Miss Clifford, you seem quite intimate like already! The
like of you for 'aving a warm 'art to all critters, I never did see,"
said that worthy personage rubbing her spectacles, as if her old eyes
had deceived her. She was a kindly woman, and had been delighted to show
all hospitality to the poor little drenched vagrant; but to see Miss
Clifford on terms of seemingly old and intimate friendship was more than
she could comprehend.

"Oh! it's all right, Mrs. Worthy. I know Morag quite well; we met in
the pine forest. But where is Ellis? has she been here?" And Blanche
bounded off in triumph to tell her maid that the dangerous little gypsy
of the greenwood was seated in the housekeeper's own private sanctum,
having tea and buttered toast, by her papa's special invitation too.
Ellis did not seem so much impressed by this wonderful piece of news as
Blanche expected, and loudly disapproved of the proposal which followed,
namely, that one of Blanche's dresses should be given to the little
damsel to replace the tattered tartan.

"'Deed, missie, I'll not listen to such a thing for nobody. Your frocks
are all much too good for the likes of her, what I've brought here. If
you'd told me you were agoin' to clothe all the poor of the parish, I
might have brought something from your boxes of old clothes at home."

"I'm sure you might find something, if you only wanted," pleaded
Blanche.

At that moment Miss Prosser's voice was heard calling Ellis, and Blanche
overheard her governess say to the maid presently, "Oh, by the by,
Ellis, the master wants you to find a frock of Miss Clifford's for a
little urchin who has been picked up in the Glen somewhere, and appears
to be in a very destitute condition, from all accounts. You had better
select something suitable. I believe she is in the housekeeper's room
now; so you can go and see what she looks like. Have you anything that
will suit the creature, I wonder?"

"Yes, ma'am. There's the crimson dress, that will do. Missie will never
wear it again."

"Well, I dare say not, though certainly it does seem much too good for a
child of the description. Where is Miss Clifford? Have you seen her?
I've been looking for her for the last half hour, but I can't find her
anywhere."

"She's just going to get dressed for the evening, ma'am," replied Ellis,
evasively, not indicating that she was within call, nor hinting at her
little mistress' previous knowledge of Mr. Clifford's protegée; and
finally Miss Prosser retreated to perform her own toilette. Blanche was
hovering about in a great glee, having heard the result of the
conversation.

"Oh! you dear good Ellis! So you are going to find a dress for Morag
after all? I knew you would. Do let me take it to her."

The crimson garment was at length forthcoming, in the midst of many
grumblings on Ellis's part; and Blanche, accompanied by her maid, set
out in procession towards the housekeeper's room. They found Morag
alone; she had risen from her seat in the big arm-chair, and was now
standing at a small table on which the housekeeper's books lay. An
illustrated edition of the "Pilgrim's Progress" was lying open, and when
Blanche walked in, Morag was looking intently at one of the pictures.
She started and closed the book with an almost guilty look, and when she
caught a glimpse of Ellis, her little brown cheek flushed all over, for
she had not forgotten her loud-spoken suspicions regarding her. Gliding
up to Blanche, she said softly--

"I'll need to be goin' hame, noo, leddy. Father will be back, and his
supper maun be ready; and there's a heap to do forby."

"But you don't really mean to say, Morag, that you get supper ready, and
do everything? Why! where's your mother, or the servant?"

Morag's eyes twinkled, and she laughed her rare merry laugh at Blanche's
look of astonishment.

"We havena got no servant. I'm thinkin' they're no but for gentry. My
mother deid lang syne. I never min' upo' seein' her. There's no jist
terrible muckle work, except whiles, when the weet comes in, like the
nicht."

"I should like so to go and see you, Morag. Do you think I may some
time?" asked Blanche, filled with admiration at the thought of the
usefulness of a little girl smaller than herself.

"The floor is some weet the nicht, I'm thinkin'," replied Morag,
glancing doubtfully at Ellis.

"Oh! but I didn't mean to-night. Perhaps one day soon, when the sun
shines, and your father is at the moors with papa," added Blanche, for
she had not forgotten the dark-looking keeper; and she did not think
that she should like to find him at home.

Meanwhile, Ellis had been standing with the dress in her hand, listening
to the conversation. Her closer inspection of Morag rather softened her
towards the little native, with regard to whom she had been harboring
such dark suspicions. She began to make sundry signs, to the effect that
her little mistress should now proceed to present the dress. But
somehow, at this juncture Blanche seemed suddenly seized with a fit of
shyness. Morag certainly appeared to stand greatly in need of a new
garment, but still Blanche felt in doubt whether she would care to
receive one. She was so unlike any poor person she had ever seen--so
useful, so brave, so complete in herself. At last Ellis got tired of
waiting for Blanche, and unfolding the dress, she held it up with a
flourish and a toss of her head, saying--

"Now, little girl, Miss Clifford is kind enough to give you this
beautiful frock. See you say 'Thank you' for it, and take good care of
it too. I declare it looks as good as the day it was bought!" added
Ellis, casting regretful glances on the garment, as she laid it on the
table beside Morag. The little girl stood looking at the gift with
extreme astonishment for several minutes, and then, glancing at Blanche,
she went slowly up to her, and said in a low tone--

"Thank you kindly, leddy. But I would jist be spoilin' a braw goon like
that. It's no for the like o' me."

"Oh! but indeed, Morag, dear, you must wear it. I don't think it a bit
too good for you to wear on week-days; but if you like you can keep it
for Sunday, you know. It used to be my church-frock, wasn't it, Ellis?"

"Ay, maybe. But it's no for the like o' me. I dinna never gang to the
kirk forby,' added Morag, in a low, melancholy tone, as Ellis left the
room to discuss with Mrs. Worthy the strange little native who did not
seem to care for the grand frock, although she was in such rags.

"I would like richt weel to ken what this bit bonnie picter is," said
Morag, as she turned towards the little table, on which the open
"Pilgrim's Progress" was still lying, and pointed to one of the
illustrations towards the end of the first part. Blanche had not read
the "Pilgrim's Progress," and she did not know what the picture meant at
the first glance. There was an expanse of dark rippling water, and
struggling through it were two men. One of them looked on the point of
sinking, while the other seemed to be trying to hold him up, and pointed
to a shining city, which was lying far away in the sun. Seeing how eager
Morag was to know what it all meant, Blanche began to feel interested;
after turning some pages, she said--"Oh! I see now. That town in the
light, far off, is heaven, and those men must be trying to get there, I
suppose. But I'll ask Mrs. Worthy to lend me this book, and shall try
and find out all about it before I come to the pine-forest next time,
Morag."

"Ye'll be able to read a' books, I'm thinkin', leddy," said Morag,
looking wistfully at Blanche, as she glanced at the pages.

"Oh, yes, of course, I can read any book that I care to read. But,
indeed, Morag, I'm not very fond of reading," added Blanche, in a
confidential whisper, as if the fact were a very shocking revelation.
"To be sure, I do like a few story-books very much, indeed; but then
Miss Prosser does not allow me to read many. I've got some delicious
story-books at home, in London. I wish I had them here, and I should
lend them to you, if you are fond of reading. I don't think I have
anything except those lesson-books here. The 'History of England' is
rather interesting sometimes, by the by. Perhaps you might like it.
There are lots of nice stories here and there. Miss Prosser says I like
to read them because they are stories, and not for the sake of the facts
and the dates, and I suppose that is very wrong," sighed Blanche,
penitently.

Morag stood listening in silent wonder. The conversation had gone far
beyond her depth, poor little woman! and she was about to explain that
it was so, when Blanche continued--

"What books do you like best, Morag? I like fairy-stories much
best--something about dragons, and giants, and all that kind of thing,
you know."

Morag's cheek flushed crimson as she replied--

"A' books look richt bonnie to me, leddy, but I'm no fit to read none o'
them."

Blanche felt considerable astonishment at this disclosure. But, noticing
her companion's embarrassment, she tried to receive it unmoved, and
said, rather patronizingly--

"Ah! well, Morag, but you can do so many useful things besides."

Morag smiled. Her quick perceptions detected Blanche's kindly attempt to
cover her embarrassment with a compliment. For now that the critical
eyes of the smart maid were withdrawn, she began to feel more at ease,
and at last ventured to ask a question, to which she had been very
anxious to get an answer since that morning when she stood listening to
Blanche's warblings among the pines.

"Yon was a richt bonnie sang ye were singin' i' the fir-wood, leddy.
Will the Lord that died on the hill be ane o' the chieftains that used
to bide lang syne i' the castle?"

"I'm sure I quite forget what song I was singing, I know so many. But I
don't think I do know one about a chieftain, though," said Blanche,
shaking her curls in perplexity.

"It tellt aboot a good Lord that deed upo' a green hill, and suffered
terrible, I'm thinkin'. I heard a' the words ye were singin' richt plain
like among the firs."

"Oh! I know now! Why, that isn't a song, Morag--it's a hymn. It was
Jesus Christ, of course, 'who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, dead, and buried,' the Creed says, you know."

This statement did not seem in any degree to diminish Morag's
perplexity, and presently she said--

"Maybe ye would jist say ower the bonnie words til me?" Blanche repeated
the hymn in her clear, silvery tones, and after she had finished, Morag
gave a little sigh as she said--"It's richt bonnie. I like weel to hear
ye tell't ower. Is't a real true story, leddy?"

"Of course it's true, Morag. Jesus Christ died on the cross, you know.
But it's a very long time ago, in the Holy Land. You can find all about
it in the Bible. Ah! but I quite forgot," said Blanche, flushing in her
turn; and then, after a minute, she continued--

"Morag, I have thought of something. Would you like Miss Prosser to
teach you to read? I think I'll ask her. But she _is_ rather particular
about some things," added Blanche, sighing despondently, as if she
began to doubt the pleasantness of that arrangement; and presently she
exclaimed eagerly--"O Morag! I wonder if I could teach you to read? It
would be such fun! I would bring all my lesson-books to the pine forest,
and we would spread them on the flat grey rock, and I would teach you
everything that I know. Wouldn't it be nice?" and Blanche clapped her
hands with delight at the thought.

Morag's face glowed with brightness as she listened to this proposal,
and she was about to make some reply when Ellis entered the room. She
came to say that Miss Prosser was already in the drawing-room, and that
she wondered very much what had become of Miss Blanche, and Ellis
insisted that she should come and get dressed without a moment's further
delay. Mrs. Worthy entered at that moment with a trayful of good things
for Morag; and Blanche, after giving strict injunctions to her little
friend not to go home till she had seen her again, followed Ellis to get
arrayed for the evening.

The storm had quite vanished now, and the evening was bright and calm.
All the weird noises were silent, and a delicious breeze came stealing
across the moorland balmy with the breath of pine and birch, and all
manner of delightful, thymy fragrance.

Mr. Clifford and his guests were sauntering up and down the birch-walk
near the castle, talking and smoking their cigars, when Blanche joined
them.

"Well, pussy, so I hear you had already made the acquaintance of my
protegée? Mrs. Worthy tells me that you gave her quite a gushing
reception. How in the world did you foregather? Till this afternoon, I
certainly was not well enough versed in Dingwall's family history to
know that he had a daughter," said Mr. Clifford.

"Yes, Blanche, dear, where did you meet the creature?" chimed in Miss
Prosser, coming, but not to the rescue. "It can only have been on that
morning when I allowed you to go out alone. And you know you promised
not to get into mischief of any kind. I wonder when you will gain the
desirable self-respect which will save you from making friends of the
most unsuitable persons, Blanche, dear!" added the governess, looking
rather severely at the little girl, who stood pondering whether she
should reveal the circumstances of her acquaintance with Morag, but she
had a vague fear lest the window-scene might compromise the
respectability of her little friend, in some minds, so she resolved to
hold her peace. Her father noticed her distressed face, and stroking her
curls, said, laughingly--

"Don't be ashamed of your new acquaintance, Blanchie. I assure you, Miss
Prosser, she is a most exemplary little savage. You should have seen her
at work in her hut to-day! I wonder if she is still in old worthy's
keeping. You might run and see, Blanche, and bring her here if she is. I
should like you to have a look of the odd little atom, Miss Prosser."

"Is that the urchin you found sticking in the mud-floor, Clifford?"
asked one of the gentlemen, joining them. "She must be quite a natural
curiosity--a sort of fungus, I should imagine. Do let's have a look at
her."

So Blanche was dispatched, rather unwillingly, to fetch Morag. She was
very glad to be allowed to go back to her again, but she could not help
feeling that it was rather a doubtful mission on which she had been
sent, and she wondered whether it was quite kind to bring the shy little
mountain maiden into the presence of so many strangers.

Mr. Clifford and his party were standing together looking at a gorgeous
rainbow which had suddenly spanned the Glen when the children appeared
in sight. They came slowly along, through the feathery birk-trees, which
were all flooded by the delicate rainbow tints. A pretty picture they
made, Mr. Clifford thought, as he went forward to meet them among the
white stems. The fair, high-born child in her white shimmering dress,
with her graceful movements, her delicate, finely-cut features, her calm
white brow, and deep dreamy, blue eyes, and at her side the little dark,
keen Celt, with her black matted locks, her bright dark eyes, and her
short firmly-knit limbs. Blanche's arm was thrown lovingly around Morag,
and one of her long fair curls rested on the little brown neck of the
mountain maiden, who timidly surveyed the formidable group in front.
Blanche ran to her papa to whisper that Morag wanted to go home very
much now, to make supper ready for her father, so that she must not be
kept much longer, and might she ask her to come back to-morrow! Deprived
of her bonnie wee leddy's protecting arm, Morag felt very forlorn. The
whole party were now in view, and a very terrible array they seemed to
the little mountaineer.

There stood Miss Prosser in gay flowing attire; and there were the
gentlemen whom she had watched from afar on their way to the moors; but
they seemed doubly formidable now in evening dress, as they stood
talking and laughing together. Even the bonnie wee leddy, since she has
glided to her papa's side, appeared again to have taken her place in an
exalted fairy region, and poor Morag felt alone, without prop or stay.
She seemed seized by a sudden panic, and, casting a bewildered glance
round about her, she turned and darted away at full speed through the
gleaming birch stems, and in a moment she was out of sight.

"Bless my soul, what a droll little monkey!" exclaimed the old Major,
dropping his eyeglass. "I expect to see her climb a tree directly and
take to cracking nuts--eh! Blanche?"

"Poor little Morag! she is so shy and frightened: that's just how she
did before. I'll tell you all about it afterwards, papa," whispered
Blanche, as she was about to dart off in vain pursuit of her scared
friend.

"No, Blanchie, you must not follow her," said Mr. Clifford, calling her
back. "She did look very frightened, poor little atom! It's best to let
her go home. Take counsel from your sage nursery-rhyme, 'Leave her alone
and she'll come back, and bring her tails behind her.' Little Bo-peep
must have patience, you know. Besides, it's quite time for you to go
indoors, child," he added, as Blanche shivered. "Good night, darling!
Don't distress yourself about your little elfish friend; she will
doubtless turn up to-morrow."

Morag did not halt in her sudden flight till she had got beyond the
castle grounds, and found herself once more on her solitary familiar
heath. Then she began to slacken her pace a little; and now that she had
time to ponder the matter over, she thought that perhaps, after all, it
was very foolish to run away as she had done. These grand ladies and
gentlemen did not mean to do her any harm; and surely she might have
trusted the bonnie leddy who had been so kind. Perhaps she might be
angry now, and would never come to the fir-wood, as she had promised to
do, thought Morag, ruefully. Still, she resolved that she would go every
morning after her work at the hut was done, and watch by the
lichen-spotted rock in the fir-wood, and perhaps one day she might see
her coming through the trees again; and though it seemed too good to be
true, perhaps she might be carrying some of those beautiful books, of
which Morag had caught a glimpse through the school-room window of the
old castle.

Blanche's promise that she would teach her to read was the greatest
event of that eventful day, and the thought of it had kept singing at
Morag's heart; for a long time it had been the dearest wish of her heart
that she might understand the hitherto mysterious contents of the musty
old collection of books which lay buried in the depths of her mother's
big _kist_, and now at last there seemed a chance of that hope being
realized if she had not thrown it away by her foolish flight; and the
little girl sighed as she thought of the sad possibility.

Morag had been sauntering on, lost in her own meditations, since she
felt herself at a safe distance from the castle. She had climbed halfway
up the steep hill which led to her home among the crags, when she turned
to see if she could discover any trace of her father on his homeward
way.

The sky was cold and grey in the direction of the hut where Morag's
steps had been bent, but as she turned westward all was bright and
glowing, and Morag wondered that she had not thought of looking before,
for she loved cloud-land scenes, and had watched many a sunset and
sunrise from her home among the crags. It was one of those intensely
golden sunsets that come after storms. The clouds were clustering
gorgeous in their coloring, and changeful in their hues, and at every
moment they seemed to open vistas with brighter colors and intenser
lights within. And as Morag sat and watched the sky, she remembered the
picture which she had seen in the beautiful book at the castle. The
bright expanse round which the gold and crimson clouds were clustering
reminded her of the city lying in the light, in the picture. She thought
of the dark rippling water, and the two men who were struggling through
it, and looked as if they would be drowned. They must have been trying
to reach the shining city surely, and Morag hoped they got there all
safe, for the water looked dark and cold.

At last the amber clouds slowly closed on the inner sunset glories, like
ponderous gates shutting out the dark night from a bright scene, Morag
thought, as she rose from the bank, and began to take her solitary way
to her rocky home. Presently she heard her father's whistle, and turning
round, she saw him climbing the hill behind her. She ran back to meet
him, and began eagerly to narrate her chronicle of this eventful
afternoon.

The keeper had never heard his daughter so eloquent before, and he
listened with his most well-pleased smile to all that she had to tell
about her visit to the castle. How the gentleman had come to the hut,
and had taken her away; and how he carried a beautiful umbrella, and
held a bit of it over her head--the first time in her life she had been
under a canopy of the kind. And then the beautiful room she sat in was
duly described, and how the bonnie wee leddy had come to her, and been
so kind. When she came to that part of her story, in which truth
compelled her to tell that she had finished those delightful proceedings
by running away when she was brought before the dazzling company, she
was relieved to find that her father was not angry, as she feared he
would be. He only smiled, and said, "Ye needna hae been sae feert,
Morag, my lass. They wouldna be meanin' to tak' a bite o' ye; but maybe
they'll no think the waur o' ye for the like o' that;" and glancing
round, as they entered the dreary soaking dwelling, the keeper said,
smiling grimly, "Ye didna speir if he would tak' a seat, I'm thinkin',
lass? What said he aboot the hoose, Morag?" But Morag could not remember
that Mr. Clifford had made any remark on that sore subject; and
presently father and daughter relapsed into their usual state of dumb
silence, as they went about their evening occupations.

At last Morag crept away to bed, and fell asleep, wondering whether she
should really see the wee leddy coming to meet her next morning at the
grey rock in the fir-wood, where she resolved she would daily keep her
tryst. During the night she kept dreaming that she was with the bonnie
wee leddy in dark, cold water somewhere, and that her arm was around
her, and the beautiful curls were all drenched with wet. She looked for
the golden city lying in the sun, but she could not see it anywhere, and
she began to feel very frightened in the dark, rippling water, when she
awoke to find the bright morning light streaming in at the little
blindless window of the hut, lighting up everything, and sending its
kind, warm rays on the damp earthen floor.

Morag sprang out of bed, and was soon at her morning's work with a will.
She smoothed her tangled locks as well as the well-nigh toothless comb
would make them, and after mending a few of the rents in her tattered
garment, she looked anxiously down, in the hope that she did not look
like a tramp any more. Her father had told her that she was a foolish
lassie to have refused the "gran' goon" that had been offered to her;
but Morag did not think so, and felt perfectly satisfied with her own
garment, if only the critical eyes of the smart maid would not stare at
her so minutely again.

The keeper had gone to the moors for the day, and Morag's morning duties
being over, she began to think of starting to keep her tryst in the
fir-wood, when she saw her father hurrying up the hill again.

"Eh, Morag, lass! but I hae a gran' bit o' news for ye. The maister
wants ye to go outby wi' the wee leddy this afternoon; and whiles, to
tak' her by canny roads when she's ridin' on her sheltie. I'm thinkin'
you'll like that job, my lass. Ye may awa' til the castle as fast's ye
can rin; he said 'The sooner the better; my daughter is an impatient
little person.'" And, after this quotation from Mr. Clifford, Dingwall
hurried down the hill again, surrounded by the scrambling pointers and
setters, leaving Morag dumb with astonishment and delight.



VI.

_KIRSTY MACPHERSON._


MORAG was at length fairly installed as Blanche's companion in her
rides, and many a pleasant ramble they had together in the long bright
autumn afternoons. The little mountaineer was still very silent and
reserved; but her propensity for running away had quite vanished now,
and she could laugh at the shy follies of those first days of her
acquaintance with the little châtelaine. It must be allowed, however,
that the daily intercourse in no degree diminished the deep reverence
and admiration with which she regarded the bonnie wee leddy, who had
seemed such a fairy princess when she saw her first; rather indeed these
early feelings were deepening into that intense, undying devotion which
is one of the characteristics of her race, and one which has often made
them faithful to death towards unworthy, thankless heroes. Occasionally
the little pony Shag was left behind in his stable, while Blanche, with
her big retriever Chance, sallied forth to meet Morag, at the
trysting-place in the fir-wood. These afternoons were golden-letter days
in little Morag's calendar, for then the books were brought, and as she
lay among the soft moss, surrounded by the thronging pillars of pine,
with their roof of green, arched boughs, this child of the mountains
made her first entrance to that tower of learning, which, after all, is
only one of the many gateways to the great temple of knowledge.

Blanche proved a wonderfully patient, though eager teacher, and never
was there a more earnest student than Morag. Still, on the whole, these
lessons, as yet, only brought disappointment. Her progress in the art of
reading was necessarily slow, and could not keep pace in any degree with
her desire to know. Her intercourse with the little English girl had
quite roused her from her torpid state, and the fragments of ideas which
began to dawn, set her mind to work in many wistful questionings.

Blanche would often shake her curls in perplexity at her friend's
strange thoughts and queries; sometimes remarking afterwards to
Ellis--with whom Morag had now a recognized existence--"She is such a
queer little girl, Morag! She has such deep, long thoughts about
everything, and it seems to make her quite grave and sad when she can't
understand things we read. I'm sure I am always glad enough to skip the
difficult things, and hurry over to the nice, easy, pleasant bits of a
book."

To our little Blanche, the world seemed as yet like a happy garden,
without any enclosure line, where she might enjoy herself as a butterfly
would, fluttering from flower to flower. It would be perfect happiness,
she thought, if she might wander from day to day without restraint,
hearing pleasant words, saying pleasant things, getting all the
enjoyment possible, while avoiding everything which seemed hard or
disagreeable. And the years to come, when she would be a grown-up lady,
having the freedom that she so longed for, lay in the dim distance like
the expected hours of a pleasant summer-holiday, with all kinds of
delicious possibilities folded in each. The world with all its wonders
seemed like a playroom to her, and the marvels of nature interested her,
just as playthings had done in the old nursery days. To her, nature had
never spoken in faint mysterious whispers of a beauty and glory higher
than its own, as it had sometimes done to the lonely little maiden in
her wild mountain home. Nor did Blanche understand, any more than Morag,
that the God whose voice is in the storm, who shapes the grass and
blanches the snow, is the same God who came to dwell upon earth; not
that He might rejoice and revel in the fair world which He made, but to
be its Saviour from the curse and the stain with which sin had defiled
it.

Sometimes Blanche would recount with dimmed eye and flushing cheek to
her mountain friend stories of noble deeds or patient sufferings of
which she had read or heard; but there was one story with which Blanche
had been familiar from her babyhood, though it had never stirred her
heart nor had any interest for her at all, and she felt much surprised
and somewhat disappointed when Morag begged that the New Testament
should be her lesson-book. She seemed to look on Blanche's smartly-bound
volumes with great interest and reverence, but always brought with her
to the fir-wood the big old Bible with its musty yellow leaves, and its
smell of peat-smoke. After the lesson was over, which as yet consisted
in a recognition of the letters of the alphabet, or efforts to spell out
the easy words, Morag would beg Blanche to read a little to her; and as
the silvery voice flowed pleasantly on, she would listen with an eager
interest which surprised the reader, and in which she did not share.

On Sunday afternoons it was Blanche's task to read a chapter of the
Bible with Miss Prosser; and rather a wearisome one she always thought
it. The verses seemed to her like a collection of puzzling phrases
strung together, and she was glad when the hour was past, and the book
restored to its shelf for another week. At church, too, she always
looked upon the Lessons as the most wearisome part of the service, and
rejoiced to hear the organ peal again, and the choristers' voices ring
through the aisles. But Blanche was really anxious to be helpful to
Morag, and it vexed her that there were so many things which she could
not explain to her little friend, who was so eager to learn and know
everything.

One afternoon, when matters were in this state, the girls started with
Chance and Shag to have a long ride. Morag never seemed footsore or
tired, however far she walked, and nothing would persuade her ever to
mount the pony. Blanche renewed her entreaties each day that she would
ride for a little sometimes; but Morag would shake her head in a decided
manner, as she was wont to do, saying, quietly, "I'll no leave the
heather, leddy; my feet's ower weel acquaint wi't to be gettin' tired."
Sometimes she would recount in her low tones, as she trotted by Shag's
side, holding a tuft of his mane, walking exploits which seemed
marvellous to Blanche, as she gazed at the heathery heights so near the
sky, which the little brown feet had scaled, and she began to feel
ambitious to be able to perform similiar feats. "It would be such fun to
climb one of those hills to the very tip-top, quite alone by ourselves,"
she would sometimes say. "I shouldn't tell Miss Prosser, you know,
because she would be sure to say it was out of the question. I should
coax Mrs. Worthy to give us a lot of sandwiches, and we would take a
bottle of milk with us, and that would be having a flask like papa. Oh!
it would be so nice, Morag; I really think we must set out the first
chance we can find."

But Morag was scrupulously faithful to her post as guardian and guide,
and always loyally disapproved of any proposal that might meet with
disapprobation; and she had, moreover, a quiet power over the impulsive
little Blanche, which generally prevailed.

The cavalcade had started this afternoon on the same road which Blanche
and her father took on the first day when they rode together in Glen
Eagle. The ground was not so quickly gone over on this occasion. There
were many objects of interest which Blanche wanted to examine, now that
Shag had not to be kept up to the swinging trot of her father's hunter.
Occasionally the little Shetlander got rather tired of such a loitering
pace, and would shake his mane, and give his tail a whisk, as if to say,
"Come on, my little mistress! This slow state of affairs is excessively
tiresome; let's have something lively;" and off they would start on a
sharp trot, leaving Morag far behind, but presently returning to her.

Shag and his mistress had now started in one of these frisky fits, and
Morag seated herself at the roadside to wait till they should reappear
again. Left to her own meditations, she began to think of something
which Blanche had been reading to her yesterday in the fir-wood. She
would fain have heard more, but the little lady had closed the book with
a yawn, and stretching herself on the soft turf, said, impatiently, "O
Morag! I do wish I had my 'Illustrated Fairy Stories' here; I should be
so glad to read them to you, and I'm sure you would like them--they are
so nice;" and then she began, in glowing words, to tell one of them, and
Morag thought it very delightful, indeed; but still her thoughts would
wander back to a wonderful story which she had heard for the first time
that afternoon. Blanche had happened to read in the end of St. John's
Gospel, where we hear about Mary Magdalene finding the rocky grave of
the Lord empty, to her great wonder and grief, till she recognized the
dear familiar voice of the Master, who had risen again from the dead,
and drew near to comfort her.

Morag had been able to gather from Blanche's reading a little about our
Lord's life on earth, and all the wonderful things which He went about
doing; and she knew that at last He had been killed by wicked men, and
laid in the grave still and dead; but from this story it would seem that
He was alive again; and Morag could not understand it at all. Often she
wandered into the little graveyard in the Glen, and among the worn mossy
headstones peeping from the long rank grass, which told the names of the
quiet sleepers below. Sometimes, too, she watched a little company of
mourners, with their sorrowful burden, wending their way along the white
hilly road; and when she went to see her mother's grave next time, she
would notice a fresh green sod somewhere near, and she knew that another
dweller in the Glen was laid there, in his long home, never to be seen
among them more.

But this good Lord, who died on the green hill, and was laid in His
rocky grave, seemed to have come back to the world again to speak loving
words to everybody, as He had done before He was crucified. Could He,
then, be alive in the world now? Morag's heart gave a great throb when
she thought of it. Perhaps one day He might come to the hut and speak
kind words to her, as Mr. Clifford had done on that rainy afternoon when
she was so wet and miserable. Perhaps He might offer to get the roof of
the hut put right too, since the laird wouldn't do it, and even to give
her father a new house, which he wanted so much. But Morag thought, that
to hear His voice speaking beautiful kind words, as He used to do to the
people long ago, would be better than anything else; and as she thought
of it, her hope grew stronger every minute, that one day He might come
to the Glen, and she might see Him and hear His voice.

Blanche came galloping back at last, her face all aglow with happiness,
and her long curls floating about her.

"O Morag!" she cried, excitedly, "I want you to come and see the
prettiest little cottage I ever saw in my life, with delicious lumps of
green moss growing out of the brown roof, and pretty roses climbing up
the wall. Papa and I passed it before, when we rode this way, and we saw
such a nice old woman in the cornfield behind the house. She was tall
and stooping, and looked so very tired all alone at work among the
sheaves of corn. She looked up with such kind beautiful eyes when Shag
and I passed. I should like so much to see her again; but I've been
looking into the field, and she isn't there, and it's all bare now."
Blanche had been prattling on, not noticing Morag's flushed cheek and
perfect silence. "Did you ever see the cottage, Morag?" she continued.
"Do you know if the old woman really lives there, or anything about her?
Do you hear, Morag?"

"Ay! I'll be whiles seein' her when I'll be passin' this road. It's
Kirsty Macpherson's hoose," replied Morag, in low, reluctant tones, as
if she were unwilling to volunteer any information on the point. Blanche
noticed that there was something wrong, and they went slowly on without
speaking, till they came to another winding of the road, and the cottage
in question came in sight. Blanche looked longingly across the old grey
dyke from the dusty road into the pleasant little garden, with its
sweet-smelling, old-fashioned flowers and herbs growing side by side
with the gooseberry and currant bushes shaded by one or two ancient
rowan-trees. Morag was evidently trying very hard to avert her eyes, and
kept steadily gazing into Shag's glossy mane, when Blanche exclaimed, as
if inspired by a new and pleasant idea--

"Look here, Morag! suppose we knock at the door, and ask the old woman
to give us some water to drink? that would be a good way to see her
again, you know; and, besides, I'm really thirsty, after my gallop. Do
let's go at once; it will be such fun."

"Ye'll need to ask it yersel, then, leddy. I'll no darken the door,"
replied Morag, with flushing face, and an expression about her mouth
which suddenly reminded Blanche that she was the daughter of the
sinister-looking keeper, under whose glance she had felt so strangely
uncomfortable on the evening of the first day in the Glen. She felt
puzzled and annoyed at Morag's reply; but she was a wilful little person
and loved to have her way at any cost. So she pulled up Shag, and
prepared to dismount, saying, rather impatiently, "Well, Morag, if you
don't wish to go, you needn't; though I really can't think why you
shouldn't want to see such a nice old woman But there isn't any harm in
my going to the door surely? and besides I'm really thirsty. You won't
come then?" added Blanche, who had now dismounted, and was gathering up
her habit as she moved towards the little rustic garden-gate. But Morag
made no reply; and taking hold of Shag's bridle, she went slowly on
along the road with a dogged expression on her face.

The cottage door was ajar, and Blanche could see into the room at one
end, and there, seated at the low fireside in a high-elbowed chair,
quietly reading, she recognized the old woman whom she had seen in the
field binding the sheaf. The little girl knocked gently, but the moment
she had done so, she began to wish that she had not come, especially
when Morag seemed to be so opposed to her going. It was too late to
repent now, however. The old woman had heard her knock, and laying down
the spectacles on her open book, she rose to go to the door. She looked
at the little girl with the same placid face and kindly look in her gray
eyes as she had done across the dyke in the cornfield, and waited
quietly to hear what she wanted. Blanche stood silent for a few seconds,
feeling rather foolish, and forgetting in the confusion of the moment
the mode of address which she had previously arranged, but at last she
managed to gasp out nervously, "Oh! please, I was only passing this way
with Morag and Shag, and I felt rather thirsty, and thought perhaps you
would be so very kind as to give me some water to drink?"

"That will I, my bonnie bairn. Jist ye step ben here," said the old
woman, smiling kindly. Blanche followed her, looking round this new
interior with considerable curiosity. There were only two rooms in the
cottage, the _but-end_ and the _ben-end_, as they are called in
Scotland. Within, as without the cottage, everything was beautifully
trim and neat. The floor of the room was earthen, but it was smooth and
dry, and looked quite comfortable. The tables and chairs were all of
clean white wood, and on the shelf above the table were ranged rows of
white and blue and yellow shining delf. The fire was on the earthen
floor, kept together by two blocks of stone; and on either side, in what
is called the _ingle-neuk_, there stood one or two little stools, and
near the big arm-chair, where the solitary inmate had been seated.

Blanche had time to note all these surroundings while the old woman took
a pitcher and went to fetch some water. It was rather an exertion for
her now to go down the steep steps to the well, and indeed she had a
supply of water in the house which was meant to serve for the day; but
Kirsty always liked to give the best she had, and she went gladly to
fetch a draught of cool, clear water from the mountain spring for the
thirsty little maiden. Presently she returned, and setting the pitcher
on the earthen floor, she took a shining delf jug from the shelf, and
filling it she gently offered it to Blanche, saying, with a smile--

"Here noo, my bonnie lambie, is a drap o' cauld watter to ye. Ye're
welcome tilt. May ye get a lang draught o' the watter that He gies,
afore ye try a' the broken cisterns o' this warl.'"

Kirsty's dialect was more difficult for Blanche to understand than even
Morag's. She came originally from that part of Scotland where a rough,
harsh dialect is spoken, almost as difficult for English people to
understand as a foreign language would be. Blanche, however, understood
sufficiently to make her reply eagerly--

"Oh! that is the water we read about in the Bible, is it not? I suppose
you are very fond of reading the Bible, and know all about Jesus Christ?
I do wish Morag had been here; you might have told her some of the
things she is so anxious to know. She's so fond of the New
Testament,--so much more than I am. She's such a nice little girl,
Morag. I'm sure you would like her if you knew her," added Blanche,
eagerly, on peace-making thoughts intent. "She is the keeper's daughter,
you know, and often goes out with Shag and me."

The old woman, in her turn, had difficulty in understanding the little
English girl's rapid, silvery flow, and Blanche had again to explain
that the keeper Dingwall's daughter was waiting outside.

"Alaster Dingwall's bairn, say ye? I hae heard tell she wasna an ill
bairnie, puir thing. She's ootby there, is she? I wad like richt weel to
tak' a look o' her. It's mony a lang day sin' I hae lookit intil her
faither's face. Weel div I min' upon the last time, though," continued
the old woman, with a sad look in her calm gray eyes.

"She's at the gate with Shag; do come and see her," said the impulsive
little Blanche, forgetting how unwilling Morag had been to make any
advances to Kirsty.

"Do you live quite alone in this cottage? Aren't you very lonely
sometimes?" asked Blanche, as she watched the old woman moving about
her solitary habitation. "I'll come back and see you again soon, if you
would like; and perhaps Morag may come in with me, next time," added
Blanche, in an encouraging tone.

"'Deed, an' I'll be richt glad to see ye, my bairn, gin yer folk kens
ye're here, and doesna' objec. I'm thinkin' ye're fond o' a bit flouer,
like mysel," said the old woman, smiling, as she pulled a pretty yellow
rose from the wall beside the cottage door, where it had been carefully
fastened, to preserve it as long as possible, and gave it to the little
girl, who had stopped to admire it.

Meanwhile, Morag and Shag were waiting on a shady bit of the road, a few
yards off. Blanche ran eagerly forward to meet them, whispering in an
excited tone to Morag--

"O Morag! you'll like her so much. She is such a nice, kind old woman;
and besides," she added, in a lower tone, "I think she knows all about
Jesus Christ--just what you are so anxious about. She's coming now to
talk to you; she knew your father once, she says, and wants to see you."

The old woman came slowly along the road towards them, but Morag's face
wore a more dogged expression than ever, and she turned away from
Blanche, and began to plait Shag's mane in dumb silence.

"So ye're Alaster Dingwall's dochter, my bairn," said the old woman,
slowly, as she looked at the little hot-cheeked girl. "Ye maybe dinna
ken auld Kirsty, but yer faither will min' o' her, fine. Will ye tell
Alaster Dingwall that Kirsty Macpherson is willin' to forgie him, though
he brocht sair trouble upo' her ance. But it's lang syne,--and we maun
forgie, as we hope to be forgien," and the old woman held out her long,
thin hand to Morag.

The little girl glanced at her with a mixture of curiosity and surprise,
and her face worked nervously; but she gave no hand in return, and
preserved a dogged silence.

Blanche wondered greatly how the good little Morag could ever have grown
so naughty all of a sudden, and there followed an awkward silence, only
broken by some manifestations of restlessness on Shag's part, as if he
thought it was more than time to start for home. At last Blanche thought
there was no use of waiting longer for any rift in the cloud, and going
up to the old woman she laid her little fluttering hand in the thin
fingers, saying, "Good-bye, Kirsty, and thank you very much for the
nice drink of water, and for this pretty rose. I'll make Ellis fix it
in my curls when I'm dressed for the evening. I shall come back to see
you again, at any rate," she added, with an emphasis on the personal
pronoun, as she mounted Shag, and turned to go, while Morag followed
silently, with downcast eye and lingering step.

The old woman shaded her eyes with her long thin fingers, and stood
watching them till they were out of sight, and then she returned with
slow steps to the cottage. She sighed as she glanced round the room,
which a few minutes ago had been filled by the child's bright presence.
It seemed more solitary than usual now, Kirsty thought, as she looked
wearily round. "She said she thocht I maun be some lonesome. Sic a
bonnie bit blink o' a lassie! I wad like richt weel to see her agin. I
liket the look o' Alaster Dingwall's bairnie. Surely he couldna hae
pitten her agin me? She lookit some dour like, and wouldna speak ava'."

Like persons who live much alone, Kirsty had the habit of thinking
aloud; and, indeed, her thoughts were so often with a living, listening
Friend, that the practice seemed quite a natural one. As she pulled out
her rough blue stocking, which she was knitting, and seated herself on
the doorstep, in the yellow afternoon sunlight, she continued--"If I
didna mistak that wee leddy wi her sweet tongue, she said that the bairn
was wantin' to ken aboot the Lord Jesus. Eh! Lord, but Thy thochts are
wonderfu' and Thy ways past findin' oor. Puir lambie! may the gude
Shepherd lead her til Himsel. It's a pity gin her faither has pitten her
agin me. I wad like to see the lassie, whiles. There's been nae bairn i'
the house sin he gaed away. My puir, lost laddie! fat's come o' him? O
Lord! I wad fain ken aboot the wanderin' sheep afore I gang hame mysel,"
and the old woman covered her face with her withered hands, and rocked
to and fro in silent grief, at the memory of a life-long sorrow which
was ever present with her.

In the meantime Blanche and Morag had been going on their homeward way.
The afternoon was beautiful as before, and the soft cool breeze made the
road through the heather very pleasant indeed; still neither of the
girls felt so happy or light-hearted as they had done when they started.

    "The little rift within the lute,
    That soon must make all music mute,"

had this afternoon shown itself for the first time since they became
friends. With Blanche, however, it was only a momentary feeling of
unpleasantness and perplexity as to how Morag, the wise and good, should
on this occasion have behaved so badly. It was not her habit to keep her
thoughts to herself, so she presently exclaimed, "Well, Morag, I really
can't understand what makes you dislike such a nice old woman. You were
really quite sulky and rude when she held out her hand."

A host of bitter feelings were surging in poor little Morag's breast,
and she made no reply to Blanche's remark. She had tried so hard to do
what was right, much against her own inclination, and now everything
seemed wrong. Her bonnie wee leddy, whom she loved so well, and wanted
so much to please, had called her rude; and very rude, certainly, must
Kirsty have thought her.

Little did Blanche know what a familiar, enchanted spot this cottage was
to Morag. How often she had glanced wistfully into the little garden
with its sweet-scented flowers--the nicest she ever saw in her life, and
how she had longed to speak to the old stooping woman moving about among
them. On one eventful occasion, as she happened to pass along the dusty
road, Kirsty stood knitting at the gate, and, looking at the little
girl with her kindly smile, she had said, "It's a richt bonnie day, my
bairn." That was all; but poor little Morag went home feeling as if a
great event had happened, and resolving that she would pass that way
again, in the hope of such another salutation. She recounted the
circumstance glowingly to her father, but as he listened, his face wore
its darkest frown, and he said sternly, "Ye're no to be passin' that way
agin, I tell ye, gettin' Kirsty Macpherson's clavers. Depend on't, she
didna know your name was Dingwall, or she wouldna hae spoken til ye.
Ye'll no be darkenin' her door agin. D'ye hear, Morag?" and the little
girl had replied meekly, for she noticed that her father was in one of
his darkest moods.

Morag had often pondered the matter, and wondered why her father
disliked Kirsty so very much. Always when they chanced to pass by the
road, Dingwall would glance uneasily at the cottage and its garden to
see if the old woman was about, and presently he would make some bitter
remark, and repeat his injunction that Morag should have nothing to do
with the "like o' her," till the little girl had come to think that
though Kirsty looked so delightful, she must surely be a very wicked
woman. Still, she had a curious fascination for the little girl; she
longed to see the interior of the pretty cottage, and felt a great
interest in all the ongoings of its inmate which it was possible to
observe from afar. She had always conscientiously avoided an encounter,
however, and on this afternoon she had in loyalty to her father shaped
her conduct, which Blanche characterized as rude. But now Morag began to
doubt whether Kirsty could really be a bad woman after all; she looked
so gentle, and had spoken such kind words,--and that strange message to
her father, too, what could it mean? The little girl could not
understand it, and she walked by Shag's side in silent perplexity and
distress.

Blanche began to feel rather uncomfortable in having Morag walking by
her side so sadly and quietly. She could not be long silent under any
circumstances, and finally took refuge in a lively conversation with
Chance, who had been keeping beside her with rather a depressed aspect,
as if he guessed that something was wrong. At last, when he bounded off
in pursuit of a rabbit which had crossed the road, Blanche felt glad of
the excuse to follow, and trotted off, leaving poor little Morag
companionless. More heartsore than footsore, she wearily seated herself
on the heather to await their return. Her tears were not in the habit of
flowing readily, indeed she hardly remembered having a fit of crying
since she was a little girl; but as she sat on the bank, the bright sky
and the purple heath seemed suddenly to become dim to her eyes, and hot
tears rolled down the brown cheeks, and trickled through the little
hands, which would fain have hid them from the day. It was so hard, she
thought, to have tried to be good and obedient, and yet to feel so much
in the wrong as she did now, and to be so bitterly disgraced. If the wee
leddy could only know how much she would like to have gone to the
cottage-door with her, and what a struggle it had been to refuse when
the opportunity, so longed for, had presented itself. How nice it would
have been to see what was inside those pretty curtained windows, and to
watch the old woman moving about the cottage! And the wee leddy had said
something about Kirsty knowing the Lord Jesus; so she would be sure to
be able to tell her all the things which she wanted so much to know.

Morag laid her head among the heather, and wept bitterly at the thought
of all she had missed that afternoon. And as she lay sobbing there, the
remembrance of the story which she had heard the day before for the
first time flitted across her little troubled heart like a gleam of
light. The Lord Jesus seemed always so very willing to help and comfort
everybody in trouble before the wicked men crucified Him on the green
hill. And had He not even come back again after He was laid in His
grave, and spoken such kind words to the woman who stood weeping there,
and might He not be able to help her now?

Hardly knowing that she spoke aloud, Morag buried her face among the
bracken, and cried in her distress, "O Lord Jesus! gin ye be a frien' o'
Kirsty Macpherson's, dinna let her think ill o' me for no speakin' til
her; and mak' me happy again wi' the wee leddy."

When she had finished speaking, she glanced around with an expectant
gaze, as if she might see a listener standing by her side. But there
stretched the solitary moors on all sides, with the yellow afternoon sun
shining calm and bright on everything, and sending his kind rays upon
the sorrowful little girl.

Meanwhile, Blanche had been trying to enjoy her canter. She went further
on her homeward way than she intended; and Shag remonstrated not a
little when his bridle-rein intimated that he must retrace his steps.
"What! Shag, do you really mean to say that you've the heart to go home,
and leave Morag all alone?" expostulated Blanche; and at last the wilful
little Shetlander was brought to a better mind.

And now Blanche began to think of the troubles which she would have to
face again; for she was a little person who could not be happy unless
she was the best of friends with everybody round her, winning and
bestowing smiles on all sides; and she felt that it was a very
uncomfortable state of matters to have Morag walking beside her, so sad
and silent. It did not occur to her that her friend's broken-hearted
aspect was more than half her doing; for Blanche had yet to learn how
much "evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of heart." But
when she felt herself in the wrong it was a much easier matter for her,
than it is for some people, to seek forgiveness eagerly and graciously.
All at once it dawned upon her that it was not quite kind to have
brought Kirsty to talk to Morag, who seemed so anxious not to see the
old woman. Perhaps, indeed, it might have been better not to have gone
into the cottage at all; and certainly it had quite spoilt a pleasant
afternoon. Thoroughly penitent, Blanche resolved that peace must be
instantly proclaimed between her mountain friend and herself. She
quickened Shag's pace, and swept suddenly round upon poor Morag, whom
she found starting up from the heather with a tear-stained face. Blanche
was at her side in a moment.

"O Morag, dear, I'm so sorry! It's all my fault. I've just been thinking
I shouldn't have brought Kirsty to speak to you when you didn't want to
see her. Miss Prosser says I'm so thoughtless, and, you see, it's quite
true. Do say you forgive me, and don't cry any more, or I shall begin
directly." And Blanche's eyes filled with tears as she threw her arm
round the little brown neck, and looked into Morag's sorrowful face.

"It's no that I didna want to see Kirsty, but father bid me no speak til
her,--niver, and I couldna' anger him. I would hae liket weel to gang
inby, though," she added, in a mournful tone. Then Morag went on to
tell, with much unconscious pathos in the narrative, of the romance
which had grown up round Kirsty Macpherson and her pretty dwelling, of
how long she had watched her from afar, often passing by that way, in
order to catch a glimpse of the old woman among her flowers, till her
father's injunction had made it an act of disobedience; and since then
she had tried very hard always to look the other way. Blanche could not
help thinking, as she listened, how much more good and obedient this
little untaught maiden had proved than she was likely to be in similar
circumstances.

"But, Morag, I really can't think why your father should forbid you to
talk to Kirsty. I'm sure she can't possibly be a bad old woman;" and
Blanche gave a glowing description of her visit to the cottage, to which
Morag listened with eager interest.

Shag was taking advantage of the pause to snap some delicious blades of
grass on the roadside, as well as his mouthful of steel would permit,
while Chance had drawn near to investigate the reason of this
objectionable halt, and was captured by Blanche, who began to twine a
wreath of deer-horn moss round his reluctant neck, as she talked.

"I'll tell you what you must do, Morag," she said presently, jumping to
her feet with energy, as if inspired by a new idea. "Tell your father
all about our stopping at Kirsty's cottage,--how I would go to ask for
some water to drink, and how kind and nice she was to me; and wanted to
speak to you so much, if you only might have spoken to her. And, by the
by, she sent a message to your father--something about forgiving him,
wasn't it? I couldn't understand her very well. Now, Morag, if you only
tell your father the whole story, and coax him a little, you know, he
will be sure to allow you to speak to her next time. I do want so much
to go and see her another afternoon; but I shouldn't care to, if you
didn't come with me."

Morag shook her head; she had not the same belief in her own coaxing
powers as she had in the bonnie wee leddy's.

"I'll maybe try, but I'm thinkin' he'll no bear the soun' o' Kirsty's
name," said Morag, in a desponding tone, as she rose to recapture the
straying Shag. Then she reminded Blanche that they had still a long way
to go, and pointed to the sun, which was fast westering; so the
cavalcade moved on, and both the little hearts felt happier than they
had before the halt.

Blanche felt certain that Morag's story would melt her father's
prejudice, whatever it might arise from; and Morag, though less
sanguine, began to be more hopeful, and listened with delighted smile to
the castles in the air which her companion was building concerning a
visit to the cottage; how they would tie Shag to a paling where he
could find some nice grass, and deciding that Chance must really be left
at home, being much too outrageous for a small room like Kirsty's.
Besides, as Blanche thoughtfully suggested, she might very likely have a
cat, in which case, Chance would be a most unwelcome guest, for his
sentiments regarding cats were only too well known to his anxious
mistress.

Morag was still very shy and timid, and it was only on rare occasions
that even the little English maiden's pleasant prattle could put her at
her ease. It was quite an effort for her still to make a remark or to
ask a question; and now, as she nervously took hold of Shag's mane,
Blanche felt sure that she wanted very much to say something which would
come out presently. At last she asked, in quiet, eager tones, "Will ye
be so kind as to tell me, leddy, what she would be sayin' about the good
Lord? Is she weel acquaint wi' Him?"

"Oh! let me see. I forget exactly what she said. I think I said that I
thought she must be very lonely, living there all by herself, and she
said she would be if it were not for the Lord Jesus Christ--or something
like that," replied Blanche, unable to give a sufficiently
circumstantial account of that part of the interview to satisfy Morag,
who remarked meditatively--

"I dinna' min' o' seein' nobody goin' intil the hoose, excep' auld
Elspet Bruce. Will He be goin' to see her, whiles, when she's her lone,
think ye, leddy?"

"Who do you mean? I never said anybody went to see her; she did not tell
me so, you funny Morag," replied Blanche, looking puzzled.

"I jist thocht maybe He will be goin' inby, whiles, when she was
terrible lonesome--the Lord Jesus, ye ken," stammered Morag.

"Why, Morag, what queer, odd ideas you do have! Nobody ever saw the Lord
Jesus--at least not since He died and went to heaven,--and that's ever
so far away beyond the sun, you know, so He couldn't possibly come back.
I forget how far the nearest planet is from the earth. I had it in my
astronomy lesson the other day only."

Morag relapsed into puzzled silence. She had not the remotest idea what
astronomy was, and wondered if she should know about that too when she
was able to read the Bible. After a little pause, she hazarded one
remark more--

"But do ye no min', leddy, how we read yestreen about the good Lord no
restin' intil His grave, like other folk, and when the woman was cryin'
there, how He came inby, and was terrible kind like?"

"Oh yes," said Blanche, interrupting her; "of course 'He rose again the
third day,'--the creed says so, you know. But indeed, Morag, He never
comes and sees anybody now. I never heard of such a thing in my life. If
I were to ask Miss Prosser, she would be sure to say, 'My dear, I'm
shocked at your ignorance,' as she generally does when I ask questions."
And Blanche sighed at the thought of her ignorance, which appeared so
shocking to her governess in many instances.

They were coming near home now, and had reached the shady birk walk
which led to the castle, when they heard through the trees Mr.
Clifford's pleasant ringing tones, which Morag loved to listen to.
"Well, pussy, what mischief have you been about this afternoon?" he
said, smilingly, as he lifted his little daughter from her pony.

"O papa! I've so much to tell you. I have actually been inside Kirsty's
cottage, and it looks quite as pretty inside as outside, and she's such
a nice old woman," said Blanche, rapturously, forgetting that she had
not introduced her new acquaintance.

"I fear I must confess shameful ignorance, Blanchie," replied her
father, smiling. "Who is this Kirsty? and where does she abide--a friend
of Morag's?"

And then Blanche remembered that was a question which might prove
embarrassing, so she adroitly changed the subject.

"Oh, here comes Lucas for Shag. I know Morag wants to get home to make
ready her father's supper," she continued, being quite at home now in
all the domestic arrangements of the hut among the crags.

Morag seemed nothing loath to make her escape. She quickly resigned
Shag's bridle to the old coachman and was turning to go, when Mr.
Clifford, opening the luncheon basket, took a beautiful bunch of grapes,
and handed them to her, saying, "Here, little black-eyes, take this to
eat on the way home."

Morag lifted the dark fringes, and looked timidly up for a moment, then
a pair of brown hands were held out to receive the purple cluster. The
tartan skirt touched the ground in a low curtsey, and after a timid
glance at her bonnie wee leddy, she walked slowly off, carefully
balancing the gift in both hands.

"I hope she will eat them on the way home, and not keep them for her
father," said Blanche, sighing, as she looked fondly after her little
friend.

"Why, Blanche! you ungracious little person; do you really object to my
gamekeeper having a share of all the good things going?" said Mr.
Clifford.

"Yes indeed, I do, papa. I don't think the keeper can be a nice man at
all. Only fancy, he has quarrelled with that nice old Kirsty, and has
forbidden Morag to speak to her even; and she is such a good girl she
will not do it, though she wanted to know Kirsty for ages."

"And so you are going to be a sort of damsel-errant, riding forth on
Shag to redress all the wrongs and quarrels of the Glen," laughed Mr.
Clifford, as he looked at Blanche's glowing face. "Depend upon it my
keeper has some very good reason at his finger-ends for having
quarrelled with this same Kirsty. Perhaps he found her poaching; who
knows, Blanchie?"

"What's that, papa? But if it's anything wicked, I'm quite sure Kirsty
would not do it. Is poaching wicked, papa; and what is it?"

"Just you ask the Major, pussy! Blanche has got a knotty question for
you to solve, Seton," said Mr. Clifford, turning to one of his guests.
"She wants to know if poaching is wicked!"

"But I want first to know what poaching is, because papa says that nice
old woman Kirsty may have been poaching, and that is the reason why the
keeper dislikes her so much," said Blanche eagerly, as she joined Major
Seton.

"Ah! I see. You want to know what poaching is, and you reserve the right
of deciding whether it is right or not. Very proper," said the old
gentleman, as he looked kindly at the little eager face. "I'll tell you
what game preservers call poaching; but, perhaps, if you were to ask
your friend of the uncouth name, she might not give you exactly the same
description of the word. You might find her sitting down to sup on a
hare, which she caught in the act of dining off her nice trim row of
cabbages--some of which she meant for her own dinner, probably, if the
hare hadn't thought them good to eat. Perhaps she might invite you to
join in her savory supper, and you might be sitting smacking your lips
over it. But, suddenly, an official-looking individual might pop his
head in at the door with a knowing look, and tapping your friend on the
shoulder, say, in a stern voice, 'My good woman, you must come with me;
you've been poaching.' And if, in defence, you attempted to explain that
the hare was treading down the trim garden, and eating the cabbages
when Kirsty caught it, 'Just so, little girl,' the individual would
reply; 'I see you're in possession of the facts. This woman is a
poacher, and must be committed for trial. My prisoner,' he would say,"
and the Major finished with a little tap on Blanche's shoulder, which
made her start as if the said official were at her elbow.

"So that's what you call poaching?" she said, with a long-drawn breath.
"But, Major Seton, how can anybody call it wicked to kill a beast that
is destroying one's garden when gentlemen shoot them only for fun on the
hills?"

"So it may appear to our philosophical minds, Blanchie; but I doubt
whether your papa and his gamekeeper will take quite the same view of
the matter. Clifford, your daughter is dead set against the game-laws. I
haven't succeeded in making her view poaching in a criminal light. She's
a born Radical, I fear. You must take her in hand, and teach her young
idea how to shoot in a proper Conservative direction," said the pleasant
old gentleman as he rolled away, but his love for truth brought his
portly figure rolling back again the next minute. "I say, Blanchie,
dear, I'm afraid my parable was decidedly one-sided. Remember that
poachers are often no better than common thieves--stealing a gentleman's
game as they might steal his watch or his umbrella, if they had the
chance. So don't go romancing in your tender heart over the wrongs of
poachers, little woman. They are often great rascals, I assure you."

"Well, I only hope papa won't ever put a nice old woman into prison for
catching a creature that was spoiling her pretty garden. But do you
know, Major Seton," added Blanche, in a confidential tone, "I don't like
Dingwall. I think he could be very cruel and unkind. He has got such
cruel eyes--not a bit like Morag's. I don't like him at all."

"Why, what a prejudiced little puss it is, to be sure. What ails you at
the keeper? Is it a case of the unfortunate typical Doctor Fell, I
wonder?" But just then Blanche was summoned to tea, and the reason, if
she had one, of her dislike to the keen-eyed keeper was not forthcoming.



VII.

_MORAG'S VISIT TO KIRSTY, AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT._


IT was the Sabbath-day. Glen Eagle was, if possible, stiller than its
wont--no shepherd shouted upon the mountains; no reapers stood among the
upland, half-shorn fields; the moor-fowl had peace that day among the
heather, unmolested by dog or gun. The white, motionless clouds on the
deep blue sky, as well as the lower landscape, seemed pervaded by that
peculiar stillness which Morag always noticed belonged to this day,
though it brought to her no sound of church bells, inviting her to
mingle her worship with the congregation. Sunday was always a very
lonely day in the little eyrie among the mountains, and during these
past weeks they had seemed specially empty and solitary to the little
Morag. For then there were no rambles with the bonnie wee leddy--indeed
she seldom saw her on these days, except she chanced to catch a glimpse
of her from afar, as she was driven past in an open carriage, embedded
in furs and dazzling with bright colors. But the little gloved hand
would always emerge from the furs in friendly salute if Morag was in
view, and the blue eyes look kindly, and often longingly, down on the
little mountain maiden, who would stand watching the shining carriage as
it swept swiftly along the winding road, and listening to Blanche's
silvery laugh as it echoed among the silent hills.

But on this Sunday morning Morag did not wander down the hill, as usual,
when her work was done, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the people
from the castle. She sat very disconsolately on the turf in front of the
hut, watching her father as he went down the hill toward the kennels.

The keeper had gone to loose the dogs, to take them for a long walk,
which he always did on Sunday. He was not a frequenter of the little
kirk in the village, and somewhat disliked the cessation from his
ordinary work which the day of rest imposed. This morning he had gone
off in one of his darkest moods. Morag was used to his periods of grim
silence; but, of this one, she thought that she could trace the cause,
and she pondered ruefully over the utter failure of the wee leddy's
sanguine plan for softening the keeper's heart towards Kirsty. The story
of the visit to the cottage, and her share in it, had been narrated on
the previous evening to her father without any other result than a
bitter sneer, as he said, "Ye did weel, Morag, my lass, no to darken
Kirsty Macpherson's door; and gin ye be yer ain frien', ye'll jist
better keep that chatterin' bit leddy outby."

Morag felt as if she had received a blow, but there still remained one
other arrow in her quiver, and she drew it at a venture. "But, father,
though I didna speak wi' Kirsty, I couldna shut my ears when she was
speakin', ye see. I hae a bit o' a message for ye frae her--I'm thinkin'
I min' upon ilka word that she said--this was it: 'Will ye tell Alaster
Dingwall that auld Kirsty is willin' to forgie him?' There was some more
I'm thinkin', but I didna hear right," she added in low, troubled tones,
lowering her eyelashes, and not daring to look into her father's face.

He was smoking his pipe at the time, and he sat gazing gloomily into the
red embers on the hearth till he had finished. Morag knew that he had
come in for the night, so she was not a little surprised to see him
refill his pipe again and prepare to go out; but he gave no explanation,
so she did not venture to ask any questions. It was a fine moonlight
night; Morag came to the door of the hut, and stood watching him as he
sauntered slowly down the hill, and went in the direction of a larch
plantation, some distance off, which looked pale and shadowy in the
clear shimmering light, with its background of dark fir-trees that
stretched beyond.

These larches were young seventeen years ago, when Dingwall had known
the place well; and a crowd of strange memories, conjured up by Morag's
random shot, drew him towards it to-night. The little girl had sat
watching and waiting by the whitening peat embers till she grew very
sleepy; and before her father returned from his night walk, she crept
away to bed.

So this bright Sunday morning opened very gloomily for the inmates of
the hut among the crags. Morag had taken the old Bible from the depths
of the _kist_, and it lay open before her on the turf, but somehow
to-day she felt disinclined for the slow spelling of the words, and
rather disheartened with her progress generally. She began to fear that
her eye would never be able to go swiftly down the pages, understanding
every word like her little teacher, or as Blanche had said, Kirsty was
able to do; and then her thoughts went back to the events of yesterday.
How sorry the wee leddy would be to hear of the plan for melting the
keeper's prejudice, and perhaps she might be angry and call her rude
again the next time she refused to go into the cottage. It all seemed
very hard, Morag thought; and, as she sat gazing up into the calm sky
with its motionless clouds, she could not help thinking how very far
away it seemed from her and her troubled ways. Presently these sad
meditations were interrupted by the reappearance of her father, who, to
her great surprise, seemed to be coming up the hill again, with the dogs
all scrambling round him. He had only been gone a few minutes, and it
was his custom to take a long walk, so Morag wondered what could have
brought him back, but she did not venture to ask any questions. He
seated himself on the turf beside her, and after playing with the dogs
for a little, he glanced at her with a half smile, and said, hurriedly--

"Weel, Morag, lass, is yer heid as sair turned as iver aboot that auld
Kirsty Macpherson?"

"She looks a real nice old woman, father. I canna think why ye'll no
let me speak wi' the like o' her. She surely canna be an ill woman, as
ye think," returned Morag, emboldened by the smile on her father's face.

"Wha ever said she was an ill woman?" said the keeper, looking dark
again, and ignoring all the bitter things which Morag had often heard
him say concerning Kirsty. "We did ance quarrel, but I'll no say I wasna
maist to blame. Gin Kirsty Macpherson speaks a ceevil word to ye agin,
ye needna jist athegither haud yer tongue, lass. D'ye understand,
Morag?" asked the keeper, getting up from the turf as if he had said
what was on his mind.

Morag could hardly believe her ears. She sat watching her father go down
the hill again, as if she were in a dream. Presently an idea seemed to
seize her, and she bounded off after him, and all trembling with
eagerness, she said--

"Father, I'm feert Kirsty will be thinkin' me terrible rude for no
speakin' yestreen. Would it anger ye if I jist ran past the cottage to
see if she was outby? I needna speak gin she doesna, ye ken."

"Oh ay; ye can gang if ye like, lass. I'm thinkin' that Kirsty is atween
ye and yer wits, Morag," he added, smiling at the earnest face. "Jist
tak a brace or twa o' the grouse hangin' there wi' ye. The auld wife
will think mair o' them than us."

Morag was bounding back to the hut in wild delight, when her father
called again, "Bide a wee, lass. Ye mustna tak' the birds. I dinna think
she would athegither like sic a present frae me."

Morag stood rather discomfited. The idea of a peace-offering had been
very pleasant, and it was disappointing to be obliged to abandon it. She
suddenly remembered the purple cluster of grapes which Mr. Clifford gave
to her the day before. She had hidden it away as a delightful surprise
for her father, during some period of to-day, and she said, doubtfully--

"I was keepin' some bonnie berries for ye that the maister gied me
yestreen; but maybe ye wouldna min' if I gied them to Kirsty?"

"That'll do fine, my lass," cried Dingwall, in his most good-humored
tone, as he disappeared down the hill, surrounded by the scrambling
pointers and setters.

In a very short time after, Morag might have been seen hovering near the
little gate of Kirsty's cottage, with her peace-offering carefully
balanced in her little brown hands. A few of the precious moments
previous to setting out had been spent in performing a most careful
toilette, and the opinion of a broken corner of the looking-glass was
that the black locks had never looked so smooth and sleek before. Having
scampered down the hill in a state of breathless excitement, she did not
at first contemplate the bold step of entering the sacred precincts and
knocking at Kirsty's door, as the wee leddy had done. She quite counted
on seeing her "outby" somewhere, and she hung about on the roadside in
that hope, but no Kirsty appeared. Then Morag remembered that it was
Sunday, and she began to fear that the old woman might have gone to the
kirk. The little girl felt bitterly disappointed; for she felt sure that
this must be the case, since Kirsty was not visible anywhere, and no
smoke came from the tiny chimney of the cottage. If she lost this
opportunity, she might never have such another. What if her father
changed his mind again? she thought. Indeed it seemed hardly possible to
believe that she was here with his permission when she remembered his
stern command on the previous evenings that she was never to darken
Kirsty's door. At last, with exhausted patience, she resolved to take
the bold step of entering the little gate and tapping at the door, for
had she not a peace-offering?--and it was just possible that Kirsty
might not have gone to the kirk after all.

Many a time in after years Morag Dingwall remembered that first knocking
at Kirsty's door on the still Sunday morning, and smiled a quiet,
thankful smile as the vision of the eager, breathless little girl,
standing on the threshold of Life, rose before her in the shadowy
distance of the Past.

The outer door stood open, but nobody answered the knock, though Morag
fancied that she heard some movement within. The doors of both _but_ and
_ben_ were closed, but she ventured to knock again, and this time a
voice, which seemed to sound feebler than the old woman's did on the
previous day, called "Come ben."

Morag obeyed the call, and at last stood inside the pretty cottage which
she had so longed to see. The room looked as pretty as the wee leddy had
described it, but the arm-chair at the ingle-neuk was empty, and there
was not the faintest glow among the white peat embers on the hearth. The
little girl looked round in dumb surprise, but presently a voice came
from the bed in the dark-panelled wall, "Eh, lassie, but is this you?
Ye're the keeper Dingwall's bairn 'at I saw yestreen--arna ye?" and
Kirsty raised herself in bed, and holding out her hand, smiled kindly on
the little Morag.

"Are ye no weel, Kirsty?" she asked, in low, sympathizing tones, as she
drew near the bed.

"I'm nae jist verra weel the day. I had a bit blastie i' the nicht.
'Deed, bairn, I some thocht He was ga'en to tak' me hame til Himsel. An'
fat's brocht ye here the day, my lassie?" said Kirsty, turning kindly to
the shy little Morag, as she held her hand in her long thin fingers.

"I brought ye some bonnie berries the castle folk gied me yestreen.
Maybe ye'll tak' some," said the little girl, as she lifted the grapes
from the table where she had laid them, and put them on the bed.

"Eh, bairn! but that was terrible mindfu' o' ye. They're richt bonnie
graps, and will cool my mou'. 'Deed, they'll be the first thing I hae
tasted the day." Morag felt immensely gratified when Kirsty plucked a
grape from the purple cluster and put it into her parched mouth. She was
now seated at Kirsty's bedside, by her invitation, and began, already,
to feel quite happy and at home in this enchanted interior of her
dreams.

"I'm richt glaid to see ye, Morag," said the old woman, smiling kindly
on her. "The sicht o' a blythe young face does a body guid--and it's a
rare ane to me, sin' mony a lang year," she said, sadly; and then,
brightening, she added, "But we canna say we're unca lonesome, when we
can hae a sicht o' His ain face, gin we lat Him in. Eh, bairn; but He's
aye keepit His word wi' me. 'I'll no leave ye comfortless, I will come
to ye,'" said Kirsty, as she closed her eyes and laid her head on her
pillow again.

"Ye'll be meanin' the Lord Jesus, arna ye, Kirsty?" asked Morag, her
face all quivering with eagerness. "Then He does come, efter a'?" she
added, triumphantly. "The wee leddy o' the castle said how it wasna
possible. I would like richt weel to see Him, mysel. He maun aye come i'
the nicht, surely, for I'll whiles be passin' o' this road, and I never
saw Him goin' inby."

Kirsty looked at the eager, young face, with a shade of perplexity in
her calm, gray eyes. Morag noticed it, and felt a chill, but she would
not give it up yet. "It will be the Lord Jesus who comes cheerin' ye
when ye're feelin' some lonesome like, isna it, Kirsty?"

"Ay is't, my bairn. And He's willin' to come til ye, just the same.
It's ane o' His ain sweetest words, 'Suffer the children to come.'"

"But Miss Blanche says naebody iver saw Him, and that He doesna go aboot
healin' and comfortin' folk, as He did lang syne. I dinna understan' it
richt; for just the ither day she read til me i' the fir-wood that He
cam' oot o' His grave efter wicked folk killed Him deid on the green
hill, and was speakin' real kind to the woman that was cryin' inby
there. I would like weel to see Him, Kirsty. I dinna think I would be
feert."

"Eh, my bairn, but I see fat ye would be at, noo. But ye're jist for a'
the earth like the onbelievin' Thamas, that wouldna rest satisfeid till
he pit his fingers intil His maister's verra side. We mauna forget that
He says Himsel, 'Blessed are they who dinna see, and yet believe.'"

Kirsty's Biblical illustration was too much advanced to suit the little
untaught maiden, but she gathered enough from it to begin to fear that
the wee leddy must be right after all, and presently she said, in a
mournful tone--

"Then, Kirsty, it's true that we canna see His face nor hear Him
speakin' no more at all?"

"No wi' the eye o' sense, my bairn. 'The warl seeth me nae mair; but ye
see me,' He says Himsel', and He aye keeps His word. Jist ye get a sight
o' Him wi' the eye o' faith, bairn, and it will mak' ye rejoice and be
glaid a' yer days;" and the old woman turned with a radiant smile to the
little girl, who sat gazing wistfully, with folded hands.

It was evident that this good Lord was a real present person to Kirsty,
however shadowy might be the conception which Morag could at present
form of Him. But to understand in any degree that He was a real, present
friend, though unseen, was more than Morag could know, just then.

The yellow autumn sun came streaming in at the little window, and shone
on Kirsty's face, showing how wan and wearied it was after her sleepless
night. Morag was full of motherly, ministering instincts, and it made
her little heart ache to see the kind old woman look so ill and feeble.
Glancing at the cold hearth, she remembered, wondering how she could
have been so long of thinking about it, that Kirsty could not have had
any breakfast yet, and must be cold and faint for want of it.

"Wouldna ye be better wi' a cup o' tea, Kirsty? I'll jist licht a bit
fire, and be puttin' the kettle on," said Morag, as she rose and began
to break some dead branches which Kirsty's careful fingers had gathered
in the gloaming on the evening before.

"'Deed, bairn, I would tak' it richt kin' o' ye," replied Kirsty, who
had always the good grace to receive a favor simply.

The branches soon began to crackle merrily, the peats caught the glow,
and the kettle commenced to sing in the midst of the cheerful blaze.
Morag moved quietly about, filled with contentment that she was able to
be of use to Kirsty. She had shut her eyes, and was lying quietly, so
Morag did not trouble her with questions, but seemed to know by instinct
where all the component parts of a cup of tea were to be gathered. When
Kirsty opened her eyes again, it was to see the little maiden standing
by her bedside with the restoring beverage all ready, and a bit of
beautiful toasted bread into the bargain.

"Eh, but it's unca kin' to be comin' ministerin' til an auld body like
me," said the old woman, as she sat up in bed. "But winna yer faither be
wonderin' what's come ower ye? ye mauna anger him, ye ken."

"Wha wad hae thocht that Alaster Dingwall's bairn would be makin' a cup
o' tay til auld Kirsty?" continued the old woman in a soliloquy, as
Morag washed the cup and plate when she had finished her breakfast, and
replaced them among the rows of shining delf. How very clean and pretty
they looked, Morag thought; and she resolved that she would immediately
arrange the slender stock of unbroken dishes belonging to the hut after
the same fashion, and make them look bright and shining too. Then she
proceeded to build up the fire with skilful fingers, and surveyed the
room, with a thoughtful air, to see what the possible wants for the day
might be. The pitcher which held the supply of water was almost empty,
so Morag ran quickly down to the spring under the tree, and brought it
back refilled, and then she poured some into a cup and set it by
Kirsty's bed. "Thank ye kindly, bairn. The Lord reward ye for yer
helpin' o' an auld frail craeter. Afore ye gang, wad ye jist rax me that
Bible, an' maybe ye wad read a bittie til me; my eyes are some dim the
day?"

"I would be richt glaid to read to ye, Kirsty, but I canna read ony,"
replied Morag, sadly, with an ashamed look; and then she added, "the wee
leddy's been tryin' to learn me, though, and maybe I'll be fit to read
to ye some day, but it'll no be for a lang time yet, I'm thinkin'."

"Eh, my puir bairn, I never thocht but ye could read. 'Deed it was ill
dune o' the keeper nae to sen' ye til the schule," remarked Kirsty, in a
more severe tone than she generally used.

"How could he sen' me til the schule, and it such a lang road frae
this,--and him aye needin' me forby," replied Morag, kindling up in her
absent parent's defence.

"Weel, weel, bairn; maybe I shouldna hae been judgin'. We're a' ready
eneuf at that. But gin ye'll come to see me, whiles, when I'm a bit
stronger like, I'll gie ye a' the help wi' the reading 'at I can. I've a
gey curran buiks there."

"I'll be real glaid to come back and see ye, and I'm thinkin' father
will no hinder me, noo. I maun be goin' hame, but I'll try and get back
the morn, to speir how ye're keepin'. I'm real sorry to leave ye yer
lone, Kirsty," said Morag, pityingly, as she glanced at the lonely,
frail old woman. Then she remembered what Kirsty said about not being
lonesome when the Lord Jesus was with her, and she added, "I'm thinkin'
when I'm awa, ye'll jist be speakin' til Him--the good Lord, ye ken."

"Aye, that will I my bairn; an' I houp ye'll learn to speak wi' Him
yersel. It's His ain blessed Word, that them that hungers efter Him will
be filled. 'Deed but I'm richt glad ye're ta'en up aboot Him, Morag.
There's whiles He stands at the door o' bairns' hairts and knocks, and
they winna lat Him in; but tak' their ain foolish, sorrowfu' gait. Keep
on seekin' Him, and ye'll surely get a sicht o' His face or lang. It's
jist as plain as gin ye saw Himsel' i' the body, like the woman at His
grave. Now, bairn, ye mauna bide a minute langer. Yer faither will be
wonderin' what's come ower ye," said Kirsty, looking uneasily at Morag,
who had seated herself again, and seemed inclined to linger. "Tak' this
bonnie word wi' ye oot o' His ain Beuk," she added, smiling on the
little, grave, perplexed face that looked into hers. "'Them 'at seek me
early shall fin' me.' Good-day, Morag, and haste ye back."

Morag was soon crossing the breezy heather road on her way home, with a
very happy heart, only disturbed by a slight feeling of anxiety lest her
father should have relapsed into his old state of feeling towards
Kirsty, and she should be hindered from another visit to the cottage.



VIII.

_THE GYPSIES AT LAST._


ONE pleasant day, when the woods and hills of Glen Eagle were lying in
the yellow afternoon sunshine, Morag and Blanche wandered into their old
trysting-place, the fir-wood, which they had rather deserted of late.

The precious holiday afternoons had most frequently been spent in the
_ben-end_ of Kirsty's cottage, and a staunch friendship had sprung up
between the old woman and the little girls. These visits had become a
great and daily happiness to Morag. Kirsty's illness lasted for some
time, and Morag often thought that but for it she should never have felt
so much at home in the cottage, which she had so long watched from afar
with a mingled feeling of curiosity and dislike; and now she knew every
stone and cupboard of it by heart. For had she not helped Kirsty on her
recovery to make a thorough cleaning of both _but_ and _ben_, for which
the old woman's active fingers had longed, as soon as she was "to the
fore" again. Already, the little untaught maiden had learnt from her old
friend many useful household arts and wise maxims, and the keeper's home
began to bear traces of Kirsty's thrifty ways and cleanly habits. Every
morning during the old woman's illness, Morag had started for the
cottage after her own work was done, taking the short cut through the
heather, and gathering, as she went, a little bundle of sticks for the
fire-lighting. Then, after Kirsty's morning wants were supplied--and she
was not an exacting invalid--Morag would take her seat on a little low
wooden stool which Kirsty named "Thrummy," from its being covered with
shreds of cloth fastened to the wood. It was made by her long ago for a
vanished child, who once had been the light of that now lonely home.
Morag often sat on it in these days, listening with eager, upturned face
to Kirsty's solemn reading of the book she loved. Her rough northern
tongue sounded very different from the silvery flow of the little
English lady; but Morag felt that the words which she heard in the
cottage were no mere tale to Kirsty, "no vain thing, but her life."

Slowly, the words of Jesus began to sink into the little girl's heart,
and gradually she came to understand, after the first chill of
disappointment was past, that though the earthly voice of the Son of Man
was heard no longer, nor His ministering touch felt among the people, as
it used to be in those early days of which the Gospels told, yet He was
still the loving, listening Helper of all who came to Him. Kirsty's
belief that He was not dead, nor very far away, but a very present
Friend to be listened to and spoken to at all times with a certainty
that He would both hear and help, had in some degree penetrated Morag's
soul; and she, too, ventured to bring her little cares and troubles to
this new-found Friend, and had already a spiritual record of help given
and difficulties met in the name and strength of Jesus.

And so it happened that Kirsty's cottage became quite a rival to the
fir-wood, which seemed to Morag like a dearly-loved, but neglected
friend, as she trod among the soft moss and brown fir-needles on this
afternoon. After visiting a few of the historical spots sacred to the
memory of the first days of their acquaintance, Blanche proposed that
they should make an exploring tour to a part of the forest which she had
never visited; and the little girls made their way through the fir-trees
to where the Shadows were darkest, and the arching green boughs almost
shut out the day. Blanche was gay and talkative as usual, dancing hither
and thither, singing snatches of songs, and making the great aisles of
pine re-echo with her laughter and fun. She kept stopping as usual to
gather various treasures from the great floor of the forest--"specimens,"
she called them; but it is to be feared that they never reached a calm
state of museum classification. Blanche meant that these "specimens"
should travel to London with her--and stowed them away in corners of her
room with that intention, though her design was frustrated in most
cases, however, by their being deposited in the dust-bin by Ellis, while
she remarked to cook that she "never did see the like of missy for
fillin' her room with rubbage of all kinds."

Chance had chosen to remain at home on this afternoon, notwithstanding
Blanche's pressing invitation that he should accompany them. He had
replied to it by shaking his head, knowingly, as if to say, "No, no, my
little mistress, I'm not going to be taken in. Shag is not going, I see;
so you are only going to loiter about in an aimless manner, and I should
certainly be bored. Much nicer here," he thought, as he stretched
himself lazily on the warm stones of the old court-yard, where the sun
was striking, and snapped at a fly,--pretending to look the other way
when Blanche made her final appeal to his honor and conscience. Perhaps
he felt a few twinges of remorse at having so determinately chosen to
neglect his duty, for he rose presently and stood looking after the
girls as they disappeared among the birk-trees; but he did not repent,
evidently, for he went and lay down again, deciding that there was no
use of a fellow putting himself about for two silly little girls on a
hot afternoon like this.

Morag and Blanche wandered into the forest till they reached the old
road skirted by a low, lichen-spotted wall, which was the entrance to
the glen, and divided the forest. And now Morag's clock--the afternoon
sun--told her that it was more than time for them to be turning their
steps in a homeward direction,--especially since, that very afternoon,
before they started, she had received strict injunctions from Miss
Prosser to see that her charge was not again late for tea, since the
flight of time seemed to pass quite unnoticed by Miss Clifford. It was
by no means an easy matter to be time-keeper to such an inconsequent
young lady as Blanche, who never realized the unpleasantness of being
late till she was brought face to face with Miss Prosser. She was now
wandering about in all directions, adding to her lapful of gatherings,
and talking pleasant nonsense, while Morag's rare laugh was sometimes
heard joining in her merriment.

At last they started on their homeward way, and Morag was congratulating
herself that she would be able to present her erratic wee leddy in time
for tea, when Blanche noticed a plantation of larches, which looked so
pretty and feathery through the dark firs that she thought she should
like to inspect them more closely, and coaxed Morag to come on with her.

An old grey dyke separated the fir forest from the larches. The girls
followed its windings for a little, and presently Blanche climbed across
the loose stones, and went a little way into the larch plantation to
explore. Morag felt impatient to proceed, and walked on to try and
discover which would be the most direct route home through the firs.
Presently she heard a sound, which her accustomed ear detected as an
unusual one in that silent sanctuary of hers. She hastily turned a sharp
corner to see what the next winding of the dyke would disclose, and, in
doing so, she almost ran up again a sort of tent. It was a very rude
erection, and consisted of a few large branches which had been driven
loosely into the ground, and partly rested against the old wall for
support. A tarpaulin was thrown over them, but it was evidently too
small to cover the abode, and was supplemented by a tartan plaid, which
hung across the front stakes, so that no entrance was visible. This was
not Nature's doing, evidently, and Morag was seized with a great panic
when she saw the unexpected human habitation. She had heard wild stories
of terrible deeds done on lonely moors and in lonely woods, and felt
more frightened than she had ever done in her life when she thought how
far they were from home, and that the precious wee leddy was
unprotected, save by her. However, she saw no terrific personage as yet,
and she began to hope that the inmates of the tent might be from home.
But there was that sound again, and this time it seemed like the moaning
of a voice in pain. Morag felt that safety lay in immediate flight, and
she quietly turned to meet Blanche, and to make a sign of silence. But,
before she had time to do so, the wee leddy's voice rang out in gleeful
tones, concerning the varied delights of the larch plantation, which
the dwellers under the tartan could not fail to hear. Whenever Blanche
caught a glimpse of Morag's startled face, she knew that there must be
something very far wrong, and she stood looking at her in questioning
silence. Presently, a rustling sound made them both turn, and Blanche's
eye caught sight of the rude tent. For a moment she stood riveted gazing
at it, while Ellis's stories and prophecies concerning the gypsies
chased each other through her mind, and she thought with terror that
they had all come true at last.

Presently there was a fluttering of the tartan awning, and a hand
appeared among its fringes, as if to make a passage out.

Blanche's face grew white with fear, and she clutched Morag's arm with a
scream of terror. The little mountain maiden kept quite silent, though
her face looked as terror-stricken as that of her companion. Seizing
Blanche's arm, she began to pull her along, running as nearly as
possible in a homeward direction. On they galloped, breathless and
speechless; but the fir needles were slippery, and the trees were in the
way.

At last Morag felt that the wee leddy's steps were beginning to flag;
and, worse than all, she fancied that she heard footsteps behind. It was
a terrible effort, but the suspense began to be insupportable, and
without slackening her pace she turned to look. There, sure enough, was
a man behind them, gaining ground upon them very fast, too. Poor Blanche
kept up bravely in the race for a while, but now she began to fail.
First, her hat fell off, and even Morag did not venture to turn to pick
it up; then her lapful of gatherings dropped one by one, tripping her as
they fell; finally she stumbled, and the golden crown was down, down
among the fir-needles, and the tears were falling fast. No entreaties of
Morag's could persuade her to move, and the footsteps of the pursuer
sounded nearer every minute. The little mountaineer could have outrun
almost anybody, but she never dreamt of leaving Blanche; and now she
seated herself quietly beside her bonnie wee leddy, determined to
protect her to the death. In her distress she cried to the unseen,
listening Friend, whom in these last days she had been learning to know:
"O Lord Jesus, dinna let the gypsies get hand o' us; and may no ill come
ower the bonnie wee leddy here," she added as she seized her hand, and
made a last effort to rouse her to run again. She knew that the pursuer,
whoever he might be, must be close at hand now, but she did not dare to
look back. Blanche at last raised her head, and now, for the first
time, she heard the sound of the footsteps behind. With a shriek of
terror she rose to run again; Morag followed, but this time she did not
feel quite so frightened, somehow, as she had done before, and, at last,
a sudden impulse caused her to turn round to face her pursuer, and await
her fate.

Hurrying through the fir trees, she saw, not a terrific-looking gypsy,
but a pale, slender boy, with a gentle-looking face, considerably taller
than herself. He was signing to her, and called something when he saw
her turn round at last. Morag's terror began to abate in some degree,
and the boy presently joined her, breathless after his chase, and rather
frightened-looking also. He was holding Blanche's hat in his hand, which
he shyly restored to Morag. "She dropt it," he said, pointing to
Blanche, who still continued to run at full speed without turning to
look. The restoration of the dropped hat looked promising; Morag began
to feel reassured, and at the same time rather ashamed of herself.

"Will you be so kind as tell me where I can find some water?" asked the
boy in a quiet tone; "we are strangers, and mother is very sick;" and
his voice faltered.

Morag's little motherly heart was melted in an instant. "I'm real sorry
yer mother's no weel," she replied in sympathizing tones. "I'll maybe
find a drop o' water for ye, but it's some far frae here. The wee leddy
and me were terribly frightened, and we couldna jist help runnin'," she
added apologetically.

Blanche had halted in her flight, not hearing Morag's step behind, and
her astonishment was as great as her terror had been the previous moment
when she turned and saw Morag calmly engaged in conversation with the
object of their fear. She did not venture to join them; but a feeling of
curiosity, which is a great dispeller of fear, took possession of her,
and she stood waiting breathlessly to see what was going to happen next.

Presently Morag came running to her to explain and consult. The lad
slowly followed, looking rather more abashed than before, when he saw
Blanche. He turned to Morag again and said, eagerly, "Will you not come
and see my mother? I think it might cheer her to see you. We have come a
long way, and the water is done, and she is so tired and thirsty. I'm
afraid she is very ill--she says she's dying." It was a fine manly face;
but the gray eyes filled with tears as he looked imploringly, first at
one and then at the other of the little girls.

"Oh yes, certainly; we shall be glad to go and see your mother. I do
hope she is not so very ill. And, of course, we must find some water,
though we have to go right home for it, Morag," said the impulsive
little Blanche, every trace of her former fear having vanished in a
moment. "You must have thought it very queer of Morag and me to run away
as we did. But, indeed, we were dreadfully frightened, and quite thought
you were dangerous gypsies, you know."

The boy's face flushed, but he made no reply. Meanwhile, Morag was
silently planning what would be the best thing to do. It was now more
than time that Blanche should have returned to the castle, and yet here
was an appeal which it would require a harder heart than Morag's to
resist.

"Of course we must help him, Morag," whispered Blanche, noticing her
hesitation. "Don't you see how sad he is about his sick mother? I really
don't think there could be any harm in going to see her. He seems so
very anxious. Come, let's go for one minute."

And so they turned to retrace their steps along the path over which
they had hurried in such terror a few minutes before, with their dreaded
pursuer walking calmly and inoffensively by their side.

When they reached the tent, Morag recognized the moaning voice which had
at first roused her alarm. The boy drew aside the tartan folds and
stepped in before them, and presently they heard a feeble voice say,
"Kenneth! Kenneth! you've been long away. Don't leave me, my boy--it
won't be long now you'll have to stay. I would like to have lived to see
her, though. We must surely be near the place now. The last milestone
said three miles from the kirk town of Glen Eagle, didn't it? The
Highlander said she was still alive, you know. You'll seek her out when
I'm gone--she's good and kind, he always said. Bring her here, and
she'll help you with everything there will be to do--after I'm gone. I
would fain have seen her once before I died, though; but you'll tell her
I have gone to meet her long lost Kenneth, who is safe in the happy home
of God. You will follow Jesus, and He will lead you safe home, my boy."

Morag had been listening intently to the feeble, broken sentences, and
now she could hear that Kenneth gave a great sob, as he said, "O
mother! don't speak like that! I'm sure you'll feel better again, when
we find grandmother. You've often been nearly as ill before. There's a
nice little girl I met in the wood, going to try to get some water, and
maybe you'll be better after you get a drink."

"A girl did you say, Kenny? where is she?" asked the sick woman, turning
restlessly about.

Kenneth drew aside the tartan screen, and beckoned to Morag, who stepped
in softly, followed by Blanche.

In a corner of the tent, on some loose straw, lay the dying woman, with
her head resting on one of the lichen-spotted stones of the old dyke.
She turned her large, bright, restless eyes on the little girls as they
entered the tent. Raising herself a little, so that she might see the
strangers, she said, in a feeble, though excited tone, "I'm very ill,
you see. I've come a long, long way to die in this lonely forest. I
didn't think once that I should end my days like this." A fit of
coughing came on, and after it was over she lay back exhausted.

Blanche had never seen anybody very ill before, and she felt rather
afraid of the bright, hollow eyes and the strange sound of the short,
gasping breath, and was much relieved when Morag stepped forward and
put her little brown hand into the white, wasted fingers. The little
girl could not think of anything to say, but she stood, with a pitying
look, holding the hand of the sick woman, who seemed pleased, and smiled
kindly on her. Suddenly she seemed to recollect something, and starting
up, she asked Morag, in an eager tone, "Can you tell me where Glen Eagle
is? it surely can't be far from here;" and before Morag had time to
reply, she added, "Did you ever hear of a Mrs. Macpherson who lives near
there, in a little cottage all alone?"

Morag pondered for a moment, and then, turning to Blanche, she said,
"Will that no be Kirsty?"

"Yes, yes; it is Kirsty! Christian was her name. He used to say they
called her Kirsty," exclaimed the sick woman, eagerly.

Kenneth had been mending a fire which he had kindled between two of the
loose stones. As he got up from his knees to listen, a ray of hope
flitted across his pale, anxious face.

"Oh, we know Kirsty perfectly well!" burst in Blanche, glad to be able
to say something pleasant. "Morag and I go to see her almost every day.
She is such a nice old woman, and lives in such a pretty cottage!"

"Do you think you could bring her here to see me?" said the sick woman,
entreatingly. "I do so want to see her once before I die."

Morag glanced doubtfully at Blanche. "It's no jist terrible far frae
here til Kirsty's cottage; but she hasna been weel, and it's a lang road
for her to come, I'm thinkin'. But I wouldna be long o' runnin' to see."

"God be thanked. He has granted me the desire of my heart," said the
dying woman, clasping her hands. "The Lord reward you, child. Tell
Christian Macpherson that her Kenneth's wife is lying dying here, and
wants to see her--to come soon--soon," and she sank back, exhausted with
the effort of speaking.

"We had better start at once, Morag," whispered Blanche, eagerly. "I do
hope Kirsty will be able to come. It is certainly very far for her to
walk. Never mind me, Morag," she added, seeing her friend look perplexed
as to the best course of action. "Of course I shall be hopelessly late;
but I'll tell papa all about it, and I'm sure he won't be angry. He will
have come from the moors, I daresay, by the time we get home."

"I'm so thirsty; do you think you could find me some water? It might
keep me up till she comes," said the woman, turning wearily to Morag.

And then a new difficulty arose; for the nearest spring was quite
half-way to Kirsty's cottage, and Morag foresaw that there could not
possibly be time before dark to fetch the supply of water, and bring
Kirsty too; and Kenneth could not go, for the poor woman was evidently
too ill to be left alone.

"I'll tell you what we must do," said Blanche, quickly perceiving the
difficulty. "I can't go to Kirsty's, because I shouldn't know the way
through the wood, you see! But I can stay with your mother," continued
Blanche, turning to Kenneth, and trying hard to look as if she were
making an ordinary arrangement, she added; "and you can go with Morag
and fetch the water, while she goes on to the cottage."

It was certainly a great effort for Blanche to make this proposal, but
she was very anxious to be brave and helpful in the midst of this sad
scene, and she insisted on its being carried out, though Morag felt very
doubtful as to the propriety of leaving her bonnie wee leddy all alone
there. Still there seemed no help for it, so she consented at last, and
was soon hurrying towards the spring with Kenneth. They walked along
the narrow path through the forest for a long time without breaking the
silence. At last Kenneth said in a stammering tone, "You've been very
kind to us, strangers; I'll never forget it, and I'm sure mother won't.
I think she'll be all right again when she has seen grandmother. She has
been fretting so about finding her."

"Is Kirsty Macpherson your grandmother?" said Morag in a surprised tone,
raising her downcast eyes, and looking at Kenneth. "She never telt me
about ye," she added, musingly.

They had now reached the spring, and Kenneth having quickly filled his
pitcher, and looking gratefully at Morag, turned to retrace his steps in
the direction of the tent.

The little girl ran on eagerly, more anxious than ever to fulfil her
mission. Emerging from the forest at last, she crossed a small hillock,
and came down at the back of Kirsty's cottage. She found the old woman
seated at the door, knitting busily, as she watched the sunset. The
amber clouds were beginning to gather round the dying sun, and Kirsty
sat watching the cloudland scene with a far-away look in her tranquil
gray eyes.

"Na! but is this you, my dawtie? I'm richt glad to see ye. I some
thocht ye might be the nicht; but how cam' ye roun' by the back o' the
hoose?" asked Kirsty, smiling as she welcomed her little friend, when
she appeared round the gable of the cottage.

Instead of answering her question, Morag asked, hurriedly, "Kirsty, will
ye be fit for a good bit o' a walk the nicht, think ye?"

"Weel, bairn, I wouldna min' a bittie, in this bonnie gloamin'; but I'll
no say I'll gang sae fast or sae far as I ance could hae done," replied
the old woman, smiling at Morag's breathless eagerness.

"D'ye think ye could gang as far as the other end o' the fir-wood,
Kirsty?"

"Na, bairn; but I'm thinkin' ye're makin' a fule o' me the nicht. Ye ken
brawly I hinna gaen that length this mony a day," said Kirsty, looking
up with a shade of irritation in her calm face at the thoughtlessness of
her usually considerate little friend.

"Weel, Kirsty, I'm thinkin' ye'll need to try it the nicht. There's
somebody lyin' there that's terrible anxious to see ye." Morag's voice
trembled, as she continued, "I've a message for ye, Kirsty. Your ain
lost Kenneth's wife is lyin' i' the firwood, and wants to see ye afore
she dees!"

For a moment Kirsty looked bewildered; but there was no mistaking the
slowly spoken words of the message. Presently she held out her hand to
Morag to help her from her low seat, with a sigh; and, leaning against
the door, she stood thinking. Her usually calm eyes looked hungrily at
the little messenger, and her voice sounded faint and hollow as she
asked, "Is he there himsel?" And then she added, shaking her head,
mournfully, "Na, it couldna be; he would hae come til his mither
surely."

"There is a Kenneth, but I'm thinkin' he's no yer ain, Kirsty," replied
Morag, with a pitying glance at the poor mother's yearning face.

"Tak' me til her, Morag. Kenneth's wife!--she's dyin' i' the fir-wood!
The Lord grant me the strength to gang." And the old woman laid her
trembling hand on the little girl's shoulder as she moved to go.

Very soon they were toiling across the hillock together, and not till
they were far into the forest was the silence broken.

Meanwhile, Blanche had seated herself on the grey dyke, and was keeping
watch beside the sick woman. It was a strange vigil to keep, alone in
the darkening fir-wood, beside this tossing, wild-eyed, dying woman;
but, somehow, Blanche did not feel frightened in the least degree. Since
she had taken her post, it began to seem the most natural thing in the
world that she should be there. The sick woman took no notice of the
little girl for some time, and, indeed, seemed hardly aware of her
presence, till, turning round suddenly, she saw her seated there, her
fair curls gleaming in the half darkness. She looked at her restlessly
for a little, and said presently, "How came you here, my pretty dear.
You're surely far from home. Will your mamma not be getting anxious
about you? It seems so dark in that wood."

"I haven't got a mamma," replied Blanche, vivaciously. "Miss Prosser
will be cross, I daresay; but I don't think she'll mind when I explain.
I'm sure Morag won't be longer than she can help in bringing in Kirsty,"
added Blanche in a comforting tone, for she noticed that the weary eyes
wandered restlessly toward the entrance of the tent.

Presently a terrible fit of a breathlessness came on, and the poor woman
sank back exhausted on her hard stone pillow when it was over. Blanche
gazed pityingly at the sufferer, and longed for the morrow, when she
meant to return with various needful comforts. She had made up her mind
to enlist Mrs. Worthy's sympathy, believing her to be more amiable than
Ellis.

Meanwhile, she took off her soft jacket, and folding it, she slipped it
under the poor restless head on the hard stone. The sick woman noticed
the pleasant change, and smiled gratefully. And as Blanche looked at
her, she thought how pretty she must once have been, before the cheeks
had got so hollow, and the eyes so sunken.

It was beginning to get very dark within the tent, and Blanche was not
sorry to see Kenneth make his appearance with his pitcher filled with
clear water from the spring. The sick woman seemed greatly refreshed by
the draught, which she drank eagerly. But presently, she began to get
very restless, and kept moaning, "Kenny! Kenny! are they not within
sight yet? It's so long since that little girl went away."

At last, after Kenneth had drawn aside the tartan folds several times,
he brought back the news that the little girl and an old bent woman were
coming through the trees.

"Oh, it's all right!--Kirsty and Morag--here they come!" cried Blanche,
joyfully, as she sprung out to meet them, saying eagerly to Kirsty, "Do
come quickly; she's so very anxious to see you, Kirsty!"

The old woman made no reply, but walked silently towards the tent,
looking intently at Kenneth, who stood in front of it. "My ain Kenneth's
bairn," she murmured, as she laid her trembling hand on his head. Morag
heard him say, "Grandmother, we've found you at last! Mother will be so
glad!" and he led her to where the dying woman lay, and the tartan folds
shut them out from sight.

In the meantime, two figures might be seen wandering through the forest,
searching hither and thither in all directions. They were Ellis and the
keeper, who had started in company to look for the missing girls.
Blanche's maid was in a state of high nervous agitation concerning her
little mistress. She had been consigning her to various imaginary
harrowing fates since she left the castle in search of her, but the
keeper had smiled his grim smile, and assured her that girls were like
kittens, and had nine lives. Nevertheless, he too began to feel rather
anxious about them, after he had reluctantly led the way to Kirsty's
cottage, where he expected to find them safely housed; but, to his
surprise, they found it quite tenantless. Ellis began to wring her
hands in despair when she detected a shade of anxiety on the keeper's
face, after the neighborhood of the cottage had been searched without
any result. Then Dingwall decided that the fir-wood must be thoroughly
explored, for he knew that it was one of Morag's favorite haunts. They
wandered on, searching everywhere, till at last the keeper's keen eye
discovered, through the fir-trees, the dark tent resting against the old
dyke, with its back-ground of pale larches. He began to feel rather
uneasy, and to wish that he had brought some defensive weapon with him,
for there was no trace of the girls, and it was more than likely they
had been picked up by the gypsies, and sharp measures might be necessary
for their recovery. He did not, however, confide his fears to Ellis, but
went forward to take a nearer inspection of the encampment.

Meanwhile, the little girls were hovering about the tent, wondering what
would happen next. Morag had quite made up her mind that the wee leddy
must instantly be conducted homewards, and was relieved to find that she
was not unwilling to go--the reason being that Blanche was full of
hospitable ideas concerning the dwellers under the tartan, and she felt
impatient to get home again to enlist all the sympathy possible in
their favor.

Morag, before starting for the castle, had gone to reconnoitre a little
round the tent, to try to find an opportunity of whispering to Kirsty
that she would return presently, provided her father would allow her.
Just at that moment, Blanche spied Ellis and the keeper hovering about
among the trees, and ran forward to meet them.

Ellis's anxiety immediately changed to indignation when she perceived
that her little mistress was safe and sound, and she was about to break
forth in angry words of remonstrance when Blanche held up a warning
finger and pointed to the tent, which the little fire within was making
more visible in the darkness.

"Gypsies, I declare!" shrieked Ellis. "You've been kidnapped. We're just
in time to save her!" she added, wringing her hands, and turning to the
keeper, who in his turn began to feel a shade of anxiety regarding his
Morag, as she was nowhere visible.

"Hush, Ellis; they aren't gypsies a bit. There is a very sick woman
lying there--dying, she says, but I hope she isn't quite that. They are
strangers, and have come a long way."

"Didn't I tell you? They always come from the hends of the earth.
Gypsies, as sure's my name's Ellis. Are you kidnapped, missie--tell me
now?" But Blanche appeared still in possession of a wonderful amount of
freedom, and glanced with an amused smile at the keeper as she listened
to her maid's suggestions. So Ellis continued, in an angry tone--

"What have you ever been about so long, missie? Miss Prosser's well-nigh
into a fit about you, and Mrs. Worthy says she can't sit two minutes in
one place for anxiety. And there's cook, as declares she has miscooked
master's dinner for the first time in her life--all on account of her
hagitation concernin' you." And Ellis went on to give a chronicle of the
various distracted feelings of each separate member of the household.

"Has papa come home, then? and what did he say about my being so late?"
interposed Blanche at last.

"Oh, well, you see the master is a quiet gentleman, and never does make
much ado," replied Ellis, rather crestfallen that she had nothing
sensational to narrate from that quarter. "But he said we would be sure
to find you at that old woman what's-her-name's cottage, where you're so
fond of going to; and you see we didn't. Really, missie, it's too bad!
I'm near wore off my feet between the fear and the draggin' after you.
I only hope you won't be let go out at the door again without Miss
Prosser--that's all I've got to say."

Blanche hoped it was, but she feared not. She had a painful
consciousness that she was jacketless, and felt certain that, sooner or
later, that fact would be discovered and inquired into.

Meanwhile, Morag joined them, not having been able to get a word with
Kirsty, though she could hear her voice mingle soothingly with the
eager, gasping tones of the dying woman, who appeared to have a great
deal to say to this long-sought friend. Morag seemed to feel more relief
than alarm at the sight of Ellis in possession of her little charge. But
when she discovered her father's tall form leaning against one of her
pillars of fir, she started, and looked nervously towards the tent. The
keeper accosted her rather sternly, saying, "I wonder at ye, Morag. I
thocht ye had mair wit--takin' up wi' a set o' tinkers, and bidin' oot
so lang, forby."

Morag did not venture to explain the cause of their delay, nor did she
mention that Kirsty Macpherson was so near at hand. She observed that,
though her father seemed quite willing now that she should go to see
the old woman, yet he evidently wished to avoid meeting her; and Morag
felt sure that to disclose the fact that Kirsty was one of the alleged
tinkers within the tartan folds, would not help to smooth matters.

"Missie! wherever is your jacket?--well, I never!" screamed the maid,
with uplifted hands, when, for the first time, she observed the absence
of that garment.

"My jacket? Oh, never mind, Ellis; it isn't cold," replied Blanche,
looking rather uneasy, but attempting to assume a careless tone.

"Never mind! Did I ever know the like? Where's your jacket, missie? I
insist on knowing!" screeched the excited Ellis. "Stolen by them
vagrants you've been a-takin' up with, I'll be bound," and the maid
looked at the keeper, as if she thought he ought to take immediate steps
towards the recovery of the stolen property.

Morag glanced anxiously at Blanche. She did not know what had become of
the missing jacket, and she began to wonder whether it could have been
dropped in their flight from the supposed dangerous gypsy. She was about
to suggest that she might go to look for it, when the indignant Ellis
continued--

"Well, keeper, what _is_ to be done? You see Miss Blanche doesn't even
deny that they've stolen her jacket--her beautiful ermine one, too. I
gave it her on because she sneezed this morning. Pity there isn't a
policeman to set at them," snorted Ellis, in great wrath, as she glanced
at the keeper, who stood stolid and immovable, looking at Blanche.

The little lady began to feel at bay, and, being again challenged by her
maid to tell what had become of the missing garment, she planted herself
against a fir-tree, and flinging back her curls, she folded her arms,
saying in a dramatic tone--

"Now, Ellis, listen! I'd rather suffer all the tortures we read of
yesterday at Kirsty's, in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, than tell you where
that jacket is!"

Morag had been about to expostulate with the wee leddy; but now she felt
much too awed to utter a word. As she stood gazing at her, the fir-tree
was immediately transformed in her imagination to a stake, and visions
of lighted faggots and rising flames coursed through her brain. Ellis,
too, seemed rather impressed, and Blanche took advantage of her position
to remark in her most imperious tone, as she quitted her dramatic pose,
"Now, Ellis, if you say another word about that jacket, I shan't go
home with you a step. Perhaps to-morrow I may tell you what has become
of it," she added, bending her head graciously, as she volunteered to
start for home under these conditions.

At this juncture, Kirsty suddenly emerged from the tartan folds. She had
been reminded that the little girls still waited by hearing the sound of
voices, and she came now to urge them to return home at once.

The moon was now giving a clear, plentiful light. It shone on Kirsty's
placid face, and showed her another face which she had not looked on for
many a year, and it seemed strange that she should see it to-night. The
keeper looked as much startled as if he had seen a ghost, when the old
woman moved slowly towards him, and holding out her hand, said,
solemnly, "Alaster Dingwall, is that you?" and still holding his hand,
she added, "Weel do I min' the nicht I saw ye last. But come ben, and
hear o' the goodness o' the Lord frae this dyin' woman. Eh! but He's
slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. The soul o' my lang-lost Kenneth
is safe wi' Himsel'. He has granted me the desire o' my hert. Com ben,
and see Kenneth's wife!"

Dingwall's usually inflexible face showed traces of strong emotion as
he listened to Kirsty. He made no reply, but was about to follow her
into the tent, when Ellis, more mystified than ever by these strange
dealings with these disreputable gypsies, who had already given her so
much trouble that afternoon, shouted in angry tones, "Well, keeper, if
you're going to stay in this wood longer, I'm not. Come along, missie,
we must find our own way as best we can." And without waiting for a
reply, the indignant maid hurried off with her reluctant charge.

Morag stood watching her father, as he followed Kirsty, bending his tall
figure to creep into the low tent, and then she sat down on the old grey
dyke outside, to await the next scene of this strange evening. She could
not help feeling very glad that her father and Kirsty were going to be
friends at last, though it was such a sorrowful occasion which seemed to
have brought the reconciliation about. Presently she saw Kenneth slip
out of the tent, looking very grave and sad. He came and leant silently
against one of the fir-trees, and stood gazing into the pale larch
plantation, with its long dark grass shimmering in the white moonlight.
Morag knew that he was looking so sorrowful because his mother was going
to leave him, and she felt very sorry too, and longed to be able to do
something to comfort him; but she thought that perhaps it was best to
keep quite quiet there, and let him think his own thoughts. She wondered
whether Kenneth knew and loved his grandmother's Friend, and was able
now to tell Him all his trouble.

When the keeper entered the tent, the dying woman fixed her great
restless eyes upon him, and looked questioningly at Kirsty. The old
woman stooped down, and said, "It's Alaster Dingwall--him, ye ken, that
was Kenneth's"--friend, she was going to say; and then she glanced sadly
at the keeper, and did not finish her sentence. But presently she added,
"Eh! but He's been good and forgien us muckle, and we maun be willin' to
forgie," and taking the thin, white fingers, she laid them in the
keeper's broad, brown palm.

"Yes, yes," gasped the woman; "I remember the name. My husband said
something about him when he was dying, too; but I can't recollect now."
Her memories of the troubled past were growing dim in the haze of death.

"My boy, where is he?" she asked, presently, turning to Kirsty. "I've
brought him to you--you'll love him for your own Kenneth's sake, won't
you? He's a good boy; it's hard to leave him in this wicked world
alone; but you will look to him, won't you?" and she looked beseechingly
at Kirsty. "We've travelled many a weary mile to reach you--he'll tell
you all about it after. But it's all over now--all past, and the rest is
coming," she murmured, and then she lay quite still for a few minutes,
and her lips moved as if in prayer.

Presently she seemed to remember something, and, putting her hand into
her breast, she drew out a little bag with one or two gold pieces in it.
Handing it to Kirsty, she said, "It's all there is left--he's very
ragged I'm afraid, and I'll be to bury. But you are good and kind, he
always said, and you'll be kind to my boy, for Christ's sake, and for
your own Kenneth's, grandmother, won't you? I haven't remembered all his
messages, I'm so tired to-night. He wanted your forgiveness so much--but
you'll see him again--we'll both be waiting you and Kenny!"

"Eh! my bairn; but ye mauna forget that a sicht o' Christ's ain face
will be better than a' the lave," said the old woman earnestly, as she
wiped the cold damps of death from the white forehead.

"It's so cold, and gets so very dark," she moaned restlessly. "There
was a candle left in the basket, I think; why doesn't Kenny light it?
Where is he? why does he go away?"

The candle was already burning near its socket, and Kirsty saw that the
haze of death was fast dimming the eyes that would see no more till they
awoke in that city "where they need no candle, neither light of the sun,
for the glory of God doth lighten it; and there shall be no night
there."

The old woman went to call Kenneth, who was still leaning silently
against the fir-tree. "Come ben to yer mither, my laddie! Ye winna hae
lang to bide wi' her noo, I'm thinkin'." And the boy came and knelt
beside his mother. The keeper had been standing with folded arms,
looking silently on, but now he crept away, and sitting down in a corner
of the tent, he covered his face with his hands. The sins of his youth
came crowding to his memory; one dark spot stood out in terrible relief,
and made him cower with shame and remorse in the presence of this boy,
and his mother on her lowly dying bed.

Meanwhile, Kirsty went out to look for Morag, whom she had not
forgotten. Seeing her seated on the old dyke, she beckoned to her,
saying, "Come awa, dawtie, dinna bide there yer lane! Puir thing, she
winna be lang here, noo. It's a sair sicht for a young hert, but come
ben, Morag. 'Deed they're best aff that's nearest their journey's end,"
murmured the old woman, as she stepped under the tartan folds again.

Morag followed, and stood gazing sorrowfully at the dying woman. She had
been lying quietly for several minutes, but presently she looked wildly
round, and, stretching out her arms, she cried, "Kenny, Kenny, lift me
up!"

Kirsty stepped forward, and raised the weary head on her arm, saying, in
her low, firm tones, "Dinna be feert, my bairn. The valley is dark
eneuch, but there's licht on the tither side. Jist ye haud His han'
siccar, and ye'll see His face gin lang." For a few moments she lay
peacefully, with her hand resting on Kirsty's breast, but presently a
great spasm of agony crossed the wasted face, some lingering breaths
were drawn, and the poor, quivering frame lay at rest.

Neither of the children knew that it was death. After a long silence
Kenneth rose from his knees, and whispered to Kirsty--"She's gone to
sleep; we must not wake her for a while--it's so long since she slept
before."

"Ay, ay, my laddie," replied Kirsty, shaking her head, mournfully;
"she's gane to sleep, til her lang, lang sleep. Nae soun' o' ours will
waken her noo; it will be His ain blessed voice i' the Day that's
comin'."

Poor Kenneth understood now. With a low cry of agony, he knelt beside
the body, which Kirsty had laid tenderly on its lowly bed among the
brown fir-needles again. And as she did so, Morag caught a glimpse of
the wee leddy's missing jacket; she understood now why she was so
vehemently unwilling that it should be searched for.

The keeper had been a silent spectator of the sad scene. At last he
turned to Kirsty, and brushing a tear from his eye, he said, in a husky
voice--"Kirsty, woman, I've whiles afore rued yon dark nicht's work sore
eneuch, and all that came o't, but I niver rued it sae muckle as I do
the nicht."

"Dinna say nae mair, Alaster Dingwall," replied Kirsty, holding out her
hand. "I'll no say that it wasna sair upo' me for mony a day, but I see
it a' the nicht. Ye were jist the instrument in His hands for sendin'
the puir prodigal safe hame til the Father's hoose. Will you no come
intilt yersel', man? The far countrie o' sin is an unca lonesome place,
Alaster Dingwall," and Kirsty laid her hand on his arm, and looked
earnestly into his face.

"It's no easy wark for an auld sinner like me, Kirsty; but, I'll try,"
Dingwall replied, as he glanced kindly and pityingly at the orphan boy,
and lifted him from his dead mother's side.

"Noo, keeper, ye and Morag mauna bide a minute longer. The puir lassie
maun be deid tired," said Kirsty, rousing herself to think what must be
done next. "I'se watch aside the corp; and maybe, when the morn's come,
ye'll hae the kindness to speir gin the wricht i' the village will come
ootby here, and we'll lay her in her lang hame, and the puir laddie will
come hame and bide wi' me."

The keeper would not hear of leaving her, and Morag seated herself on
the dyke, saying quietly, "I canna be goin' home and leavin' Kirsty,
father."

The poor boy seemed so faint from grief and fasting, that Dingwall at
last decided to take him away from the sorrowful scene, and to leave
Morag, who determinately clung to her old friend.

Kenneth stood gazing mournfully at the silent form, murmuring, "Mother,
mother!" in a low monotone of agony. He would not be persuaded to quit
the spot till Kirsty unfastened the tartan plaid from the stakes, and
laying it reverently on the body, she covered the dead face out of
sight. And as she unwound the plaid from its fastenings, she remembered
with a sharp pang of sorrow the morning on which she had last seen that
old plaid. While the keeper and Kenneth are wandering through the
fir-wood on their way to the shieling among the crags, and the old
woman, with Morag by her side, keeps her strange, lonely watch beside
the dead, we shall explain why it was so terrible for the keeper to
remember, and so difficult for Kirsty to forget, the events of a certain
night long years ago, which had driven the older Kenneth from the Glen
an outlawed man, and left his mother a desolate, childless woman.

Kirsty's husband had been the village smith. He was a much-liked and
respected inhabitant of the little hamlet. He was suddenly cut off by
fever at a comparatively early age, leaving his wife one son, who was
henceforth to be her sole earthly hope and care. The smith had been a
sober and diligent man, and Kirsty was a frugal housewife, so a little
money was saved, and the widow had been able to move to the pretty
cottage in the Glen, which had been her home ever since.

Kirsty had one earthly ambition, and one which she shared in common
with many a Scotch peasant--namely, that her son should become a
scholar. This desire seemed, however, to meet with no response from the
boy himself. He hated books, and loved, above all things, to roam about
the Glen, finding his pleasure there, frequently, when he should have
been at school in the village. Thither every quarter-day his mother duly
went, full of anxiety to hear about his progress, and with the school
fees wrapt in a corner of her pocket-handkerchief, while a small
offering for the schoolmaster's wife, from the garden or barn-yard, was
never forgotten. But she always returned from these visits crestfallen
and grieved. "He does not take to his books, Mrs. Macpherson; I fear
we'll never be able to make a scholar of him," the parish schoolmaster
would say, shaking his head, and adding, as he noticed the mother's
disappointed face, "He's a fine, manly, truthful boy, though; you'll
find he will be good for something yet."

But Kirsty was not satisfied, and went on praying that God would give
her son a hearing ear and an understanding heart in things intellectual
and spiritual. And so the years of boyhood passed, and Kenneth grew up
a great anxiety to his widowed mother. Sometimes he would leave home for
whole nights and days of rambling among the hills with other lads. He
was an immense favorite among his companions, and their chosen leader in
every wild exploit. Bold and frank and fearless he certainly was, and
possessed much of seeming unselfishness, but it was a quality of a very
different kind from that which his mother practised at home. Nobody
could wile so many trouts from the river as Kenneth; and nobody so
generously shared his basketful among his comrades. He knew every foot
of the Glen by heart, every lonely pass, each deceptive bog. He had set
his heart on being a gamekeeper, but his mother looked upon it as an
idle trade, and always hoped that he might yet show some leaning towards
another employment.

Alaster Dingwall was many years older than Kenneth, though a great
friendship sprang up between the two. Dingwall had been under-gamekeeper
at some distance from the Glen, but he had lost his situation, and
returned to lounge about the village, on the outlook for work. He
admired the bold, reckless young Kenneth, and the boy was greatly
attracted by his older companion, and felt flattered by his
appreciation. Kirsty noticed that the companionship only served to
foster Kenneth's idle habits, and she did all she could to discourage
it, but in vain.

One Sunday evening Kenneth had been induced to stay quietly indoors, and
sat reading to his mother, who was feeling intensely happy in having him
with her. But presently she heard a whistle outside, which she had
learned to know and dread, for she knew that it was a summons for her
boy to join his idle companions.

"That's Dingwall's whustle; I ken it fine. Dinna gang out til him,
Kenny--bide wi' me the nicht, my laddie. He'll no want ye for ony guid."

But the warning, "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not,"
fell unheeded on the foolish Kenneth's ear, and a sorrowful reaping-time
for all after-life was the result of this brief sowing-time of folly.

"It's only for a bit o' a walk, mother. There's no ill," pleaded
Kenneth, as he hurriedly shut the book; and taking his bonnet, he
prepared to go out. "I'll no be long, mother," he added, as he went out
whistling, and Kirsty could hear through the clear frosty air his merry
laugh re-echoing among his companions, and stood listening to it at the
door of the cottage till the sound died away in the distance. Then the
mother went back to the empty room, and prayed for her son till the grey
morning broke, and still he did not return.

At last she crept away to bed, and in the morning she was awakened from
her troubled slumbers by a loud knocking. On opening the door, she saw
Kenneth standing, pale and haggard, with blood-besmeared clothes,
between two strange men. One of them stepped forward, and said to the
bewildered Kirsty--

"Sorry for it, missus; but this chap must go with me. Found a snare set
in the larch plantation yonder--all but caught him at it, in fact. It's
not the first offence, I'm thinking. There's been a deal of poaching
lately in the neighborhood; but we've caught the thief at last."

"Mother, I didna do it! I never set the snare! I didna even ken that it
was amang the grass!" gasped Kenneth, looking pleadingly at his mother,
as if he cared more that she should not think him guilty of the deed
than for the serious consequences which seemed to threaten him, whether
he was guilty or not. And his mother looked into his eyes and knew that
he was innocent, as indeed he was. He had been simply used as a tool by
his false friend.

Since he had been out of employment, Dingwall had gained his livelihood
by poaching. But, having reason to suspect at last that he was being
watched, he resolved to shift the suspicions on Kenneth by enlisting him
in the service, and offering him a share of the gains. He thought, too,
that if the offence were discovered, it was more likely to be lightly
treated if the offender were a mere boy, like Kenneth, so he resolved on
that evening to divulge the plan to his boy-friend, who, as yet, was
entirely ignorant of the way in which Dingwall gained a livelihood, and
little guessed on what mission he was being led into the larch
plantation.

Kenneth had seated himself on the lichen-spotted dyke to smoke, while
the more cautious, because guilty, Dingwall stood darkly by, having
slipped his pipe into his pocket long before they reached the wood. He
was pondering how he should best confide his secret to Kenneth, and was
about to propose that he would show him the snare which he had set,
when his keen eye detected traces of danger and discovery. He
immediately crept away in base silence to hide himself, and presently
his innocent boy-friend was seized by the emissaries of the law. Then
Kenneth understood that he had been betrayed; but he would not betray in
return. He simply asserted that he had not set the snare, and knew
nothing whatever about it.

"Come, come, now; that's all very fine--didn't do it, forsooth. Strange
place for a walk on a winter night--the larch plantation," said the man,
smiling sneeringly to his companion, as he listened to Kenneth assuring
his mother that he was innocent, while they stood at the cottage door.

"Come along with us. In the meantime," he continued, as he laid his hand
on Kenneth's arm to drag him away, "if you're able to prove that you
didn't do it, all the better for you, my boy, I can tell you."

Kenneth turned with a look of anguish to his mother, who stood gazing at
him with a face of marble. She asked no questions; it was no time for
reproaches then, and, somehow, Kenneth felt that she understood how it
had all happened, she looked so pitiful and so loving. When she saw that
the men were really going to take him away, she went and prepared him
some breakfast; but Kenneth said he could not eat, and turning to the
men, volunteered to accompany them at once. He looked cold and faint in
that chilly November morning: and just as he was starting, his mother
brought his father's plaid, and wrapped it tenderly round him, but she
did not utter a word.

"Come now, there must be no more coddling of this bird, old lady! Time's
valuable, and there isn't a minute to spare!" said the man roughly, as
he led the boy away.

When Kenneth had got beyond the garden gate, and was being hurried along
the highway by his jailer, he turned and looked with unutterable agony
and remorse toward his mother, who stood, stricken and desolate, at the
door of his home, which was to be blighted during so many years for his
sake.

A few weeks afterwards he was tried, and sentenced to a short term of
imprisonment. He had pleaded not guilty; but could not explain how he
came to be in the larch plantation at such an hour, and declined to give
any information concerning the real offender.

Kirsty knew him to be none other than Alaster Dingwall. In her anguish
she went to him, and implored that he would not sacrifice the innocent,
speaking burning words from the depths of her broken mother's heart; but
she only met with the sneering rejoinder that she would find some
difficulty in proving that he had anything to do with the matter.

And then the news came that the wretched boy had escaped from prison;
and from that day forward Kirsty heard nothing of her son. Seventeen
long years she sat at her lonely fireside, waiting, and hoping, and
praying! For a long time she left the door nightly open, in the hope
that he might at least come and visit her in the dark. But he never
came; and long ago Kirsty's deferred hope had changed itself into a
prayer, that wherever he might be roaming throughout the wide world,
they might meet in the home of God at last.

Sometimes, after a long night of prayer for her lost son, the mother
felt as if she heard a voice, saying, "I have seen his ways, and I will
heal him;" and she would begin the lonely day with lightened heart. And
now, at last, she had the joy of knowing from the lips of his dying wife
that the wanderer, who feared to come again to the Glen, and had sought
refuge for his blighted life in distant lands, had, at last, been led
unto the fold above, and had learnt to know the Shepherd's voice, and to
follow it in the midst of many earthly trials and hard experiences
through which he had to pass.

So this sorrowful night was mingled with great joy to Kirsty, as she
kept watch in the fir-wood. Morag felt sure that she must have much to
say to her unseen Friend, as she sat resting her head on her long thin
hand, and gazing into the red embers among the stones. The little girl
crouched silently by her side, often glancing at the tartan folds that
covered the weary sleeper below, and pondering over the events of this
strange afternoon.

And as she sat keeping vigil, there came to her memory the story of a
very sorrowful night, of which she had been reading with Kirsty only the
day before. It was the scene in the old garden of Gethsemane, where the
Lord Jesus Christ spent those terrible hours, "exceeding sorrowful even
unto death."

It was the first time that Morag had heard of it, and the hot tears of
pity stole down her face as she listened. Kirsty had looked up, and said
gently, as she laid her hand on her head, "Bairn, I dinna wonder though
ye greet. It was a sair dark nicht i' the history o' the warl'. But jist
ye read a bittie farther on, aboot how they garred Him tak' His ain
cross up the brae; the women grat for verra pity, and syne He turned
Himsel', and spak' til them, sayin', 'Daughters o' Jerooslem, weep no
for me, but for yersels and for yer children.'" And Morag thought that
she understood why Jesus was called the "Lamb of God, who taketh away
the sin of the world."

At last the chill grey morning light came stealing through the dark
green boughs and among the tall fir-trees. Presently the lonely watch
was broken by the arrival of messengers from the castle, bringing with
them every comfort which could be stowed away in a huge hamper.

"'Deed it's richt mindfu' o' the wee leddy o' the castle to sen' sic a
hantle o' things," said Kirsty, rising slowly to receive the servants.
"An' I'm thinkin' she left her bonnie white coatie yestreen to mak' a
safter heid for the puir lamb. Ye'll jist tak' it wi ye noo, gin it
please ye, sirs--and a' the ither things, forby. We dinna need them
here. Tell ye the wee leddy that the puir weary craeter she saw lyin'
sae low yestreen i' the fir-wood is awa this mornin' among the green
pasters and the still waters o' the Father's hoose, where there's nae
mair hunger, nor sorrow, nor cryin', for the auld things hae passed
awa."



IX.

_VANITY FAIR._


IT was nearly the end of September now, the air of Glen Eagle began to
feel chilly, and the purple bloom was fading from the hills, but the
interior of Kirsty's cottage looked as warm and bright as ever, when one
afternoon Blanche Clifford came bounding in with glowing cheeks, after a
race across the heather, followed by Morag, to pay a visit to their old
friend.

Kenneth had just been piling one or two sturdy birk logs on the
peat-fire, in preparation for their arrival. His grandmother's cottage
was his home now; the cheery fire which he had just made was quite a
fitting emblem of the brightness which he had brought into the lonely
dwelling. His mother had been laid in the quiet grave-yard on the
hillside, and the boy often stole out in the gloaming to hover round the
fresh-laid turf. He seldom, however, spoke of the past, and already
began to lose his careworn expression, which had so touched the hearts
of the little girls in the fir-wood. Indeed he appeared daily to gain
strength and manliness; while Kirsty watched the change with mingled
feelings, remembering a Kenneth of other days, whose strength had once
been her pride.

"How nice and cosy you do always look here!" exclaimed Blanche, glancing
round the room, as she seated herself on Thrummy at Kirsty's feet. "When
I'm an old woman, I mean to have a room exactly like this. I couldn't
endure to live in a house with so many rooms as papa's, or as Aunt
Matilda's. One never knows in which room they may be sitting, and can
never picture them to one's self if you are away, and want to think of
them. Now, Kirsty, when I go back to London, I shall always be able to
think of you just as you are now," said the little girl, as she laid her
hands on the lap of her old peasant friend. Kirsty was seated in the
ingleneuk in her high-elbowed chair, knitting placidly. Her fingers
moved rapidly round the rough blue stocking which she had in progress,
but her eyes rested kindly on Blanche, and she smiled as she listened to
her pleasant prattle. She, too, as well as Morag, had learnt to love
this little English maiden, with her pretty, gracious ways, who had
made herself so happy in the Highland glen, and showed such warm
friendship for them all. Since the weather became colder, the scene of
the reading lessons had been transferred from the fir-wood to the _ben
end_ of the cottage, and the old woman was always an interested
listener, often unravelling knotty points by her shrewd remarks and wise
decisions.

Sometimes, too, Blanche would entertain her Highland friends with
descriptions of the world beyond the mountains, and expatiate on the
many marvels of the great city she lived in. Morag's eye would dilate
with wonder and awe as she described the grand old Abbey, filled with
the dust of kings and statesmen, soldiers and poets, or dwelt on the
varied delights of a day at the Crystal Palace or the Kensington Museum.

After Morag's fingers had laboriously travelled over a few pages of the
"Pilgrim's Progress," she begged that Blanche would read a little. The
little mountain maiden's reading capacities did not at all keep pace
with her desire to know; and now she sat, coiled up at Kirsty's feet,
listening with eager interest, as the wee leddy's clear voice flowed
pathetically on, concerning the cruel treatment which the Pilgrims
received from the people of Vanity Fair.

"Vanity Fair!--how funny!" exclaimed Blanche, as she tossed back her
curls and looked up. "Do you know, Kirsty, there is a place in London,
called Hyde Park, where I sometimes go to drive and ride with papa,
though not nearly so often as I should like. Well, Kirsty, I remember
one afternoon when we were there, papa met an old, very old
gentleman--rather queer looking--whom he hadn't seen for ever so long.
He held out his hand to papa, and I remember he said, 'Well, Arthur, you
didn't expect to meet me in Vanity Fair, I daresay?' and then he
laughed; and I wanted to ask papa afterwards what he meant, but I
suppose I forgot. But, Kirsty, it surely can't be the same place where
they were so unkind to the poor pilgrims, and called them names, could
it?"

"'Deed, bairn, but I'm nae sae sure o' that noo. The Apostle Paul says
that the carnal hert is enmity agin' God. And dinna ye min' how the
Maister says Himsel', 'Marvel not though the warl' hate ye. Ye know that
it hated me afore it hated you.' But forbid that I should say He hasna a
remnant o' His ain intilt, bairn," said Kirsty, as she noticed Blanche's
troubled face. "It's His ain prayer til His Father, ye ken, no to tak'
them oot o' the warl', but to keep them frae the evil," she added
solemnly.

"Oh! but indeed, Kirsty, I am sure that none of the people in the Park
could possibly be cruel to the poor pilgrims," replied Blanche, rather
on the defensive. "There are such pretty ladies and gentlemen, riding
and driving about; I'm sure they wouldn't hurt anybody. I like so much
to go to the Park! and papa says, when I'm grown up and have quite
finished lessons, that I may go there to ride or drive every day, if I
like. I'm sure I wish the time were come!" and the prospect seemed so
inspiring that Blanche jumped up, upsetting Thrummy in her progress
round the earthen floor in a gleeful waltz.

Morag's eyes followed her bonnie wee leddy wistfully. Somehow her heart
sank at the vista which seemed to stretch out, so fair and pleasant, in
Blanche's eyes. They were play-fellows now, but how would it be in these
days to come, when her little friend merged into one of these grand
ladies whom she had been describing?

Presently Blanche picked up her stool, and came to seat herself at
Kirsty's feet again.

"Eh, my bonny lambie!" murmured the old woman, as she stroked the
little girl's golden crown. "May the Guid Shepherd Himsel' gather ye in
His ain arms, and carry ye intil His bosom a' thro' the slippy places,
and keep ye a bonnie white lambie, til he tak's ye safe hame til the
fauld!"

Morag did not say "Amen" audibly, for she had not yet learnt that
conventional ending to a petition. But none the less did she join Kirsty
in fervent asking, that the Lord Jesus Christ would preserve their
bonnie wee leddy amid all the dangers of this terrible Vanity Fair,
which had proved so full of perils for the pilgrims in the story.

A shade of seriousness stole across Blanche's face as Kirsty's long thin
fingers played among her hair, while she uttered this blessing-prayer;
but the shadow did not linger long there. The little girl had never
thought of life as being difficult and dangerous, and did not feel the
need of a friend and guide. Moreover, she did not like anything that
made her feel serious, so she quickly closed the book, and, restoring it
to its place on the shelf, ran away to the cottage door, warbling a gay
song, as she plucked some berries from one of the old rowan trees to
make a wreath for Morag, and crown her queen of gypsies.

Presently the old woman came and seated herself on the door-step. Her
knitting was in her hand, but it lay idly on her lap, and she sat
watching the little girl with tear-dimmed eyes. She trembled for the
many snares and dangers which the days to come would be sure to bring to
the beautiful high-born child. But Kirsty forgot that there were
shorter, safer, smoother paths to the golden city than through the many
windings of Vanity Fair.

"I have just been to old Neil's, grandmother," said Kenneth, as he
walked in at the little gate on his return from a message to the carrier
of the Glen. "He says he'll be happy to oblige you with the cart on
Sunday for the kirk. He'll not be able to go himself, because of his
rheumatism; but he is to lend the cart if I'll yoke the horse."

"I'm richt glaid to hear't, laddie," replied Kirsty. "It's mony a
Sawbbath day sin' I ha' been i' the kirk. 'Deed I thocht never to sit at
His table upon the earth anither time."

"Morag, hae ye speird gin yer father be gaein' to lat ye gang wi' me til
the kirk?"

"Ay, Kirsty, I've been askin' him, but he hasna said yet. I'm no
thinkin' he'll do't, though. But he said he would see yersel' afore
that time. Maybe he'll be up the nicht."

"Oh, Kirsty, are you really going to that pretty little church in the
village on Sunday? Do let me go with you; I want so to see the inside of
it," chimed in Blanche, eagerly. "It will be so much nicer than reading
prayers with Miss Prosser in that dreadful school-room."

"Weel, I'se be richt glaid to tak' ye wi' me, bairn, gin yer folk doesna
objec'; but I'm no thinkin' they would lat ye gang ava. It's a lang
road, and, ye see, we'll jist hae Neil's cartie, wi' a puckle strae
intilt, and that'll maybe no be fit for the like o' you."

"Oh, yes, of course it would--perfectly delicious," cried Blanche,
clapping her hands. "I must really go with you, Kirsty. I shall ask papa
to-night, if I have a chance; it would be such fun, wouldn't it, Morag?"

"Sawbbath'll be a gran' day. It's the Sacrament wi' us, ye ken," said
Kirsty looking up from her knitting. "But I'm thinkin' it wad be ower
langsome like for you bairns,--though I'se houp there's a day comin'
when ye'll be sittin' doon til the table yersels, and meetin' wi'
Himsel' there," continued the old woman, as she gazed kindly at the
little group.

"Oh, is it really the Holy Communion; and may we children stay? I should
like above all things to see it; shouldn't you, Morag? Miss Prosser
always sends me home with Ellis when she stays to Communion. But then it
doesn't last very long at all. For by the time that I've spoken to
Chance and my birds, she has always come home again. But, perhaps, it is
something quite different here, is it not, Kirsty?"

"Weel, I'm thinkin' there will be some differ from what I hae heerd
tell. But eh, bairn, I mak' nae doobt that He feeds His ain folk the
richt gait, in ilka part o' His warl'."

"Here's yer father comin' inby, Morag!" said Kirsty, as she rose to
welcome the keeper, whom she saw leaning against the garden gate,
looking at the group round the cottage door.

The keeper had become a frequent visitor at Kirsty's cottage since that
eventful evening in the fir-wood. Often, when the work of the day was
done, he might be seen wandering across the moor in the gloaming, in the
direction of the abode which he had viewed for so many years with
mingled feelings of dislike and fear.

Many a pleasant talk the old woman and he seemed to have together, and
the keeper appeared more at ease and happy in Kirsty's society than he
had been with any mortal for many a day. His face already began to lose
the sinister expression which had made Blanche distrust him on that
first day when she saw him. He did not say the bitter things which he
used to do about his neighbors in the Glen, and no longer prided himself
in looking dark and mysterious and self-contained, but seemed more happy
with himself, and, consequently, with the rest of the world.

Morag felt, with a daily, hourly, silent gladness, that a change for the
better had come to her father. To her he had never been positively
unkind, but now he was more gentle and genial than she had ever known
him. Already the little shieling among the crags began to show traces of
the brighter days which were dawning. The evenings were no longer dreary
and monotonous as they used to be. For the company of books had been
summoned from the old _kist_, where they had been buried so long, and
they proved very pleasant companions to both father and daughter.
Dingwall would occasionally read aloud to Morag as she worked; and thus
finally proved that his former dislike to reading had not arisen from an
ignorance of the art, as Morag had sometimes suspected.

Occasionally, a bundle of old newspapers from the castle found their
way to the hut, and were eagerly scanned by the keeper as he smoked his
pipe; and his remarks to his little daughter showed her that he knew
more about the world beyond the mountains than she ever guessed.

And now he seemed to notice favorably Morag's efforts after domestic
reform, which he had sneered at, or completely ignored before. He
commended her on her attempts to improve the interior of the hut, and
occasionally teased her laughingly about her imitation of Kirsty's
domestic arrangements, which was everywhere visible.

It seemed suddenly to occur to him that since the laird would not have
the hut mended, he possibly might make some effort towards its
restoration himself, and he began to make plans for the repairing of the
porous roof, after the shooting party should have taken their departure.

Morag could date this happy change in her life from that eventful
evening in the fir-wood, and she often thought that, whatever the old
quarrel had been, the healing of it had proved a very blessed thing for
all of them.

Sometimes Morag overheard Kirsty talking to her father in low, earnest
tones, as he stood beside her, listening quietly, and more than once she
caught the name of Kirsty's Lord and Master mingling with their talk;
and then the little girl's heart was filled with gladness. She never yet
had the courage to tell her father about that new Life which she had
been finding during these autumn days; but she often longed to do so,
and was only prevented by her extreme shyness and reserve. She felt very
anxious that her father should come to know and love that unseen, but
real Friend, who had been the light of Kirsty's lonely home for so many
years, and whom she was now learning to know and love.

Occasionally, when her father and Kirsty were engaged in these
conversations, Morag would start with Kenneth on an expedition to some
of their moorland haunts, to introduce them to the stranger lad. They
often wandered into the little graveyard on the hillside, and stood
silently beside the fresh-laid turf, while Morag tried to recall the
face of the quiet sleeper below; and Kenneth's thoughts went slipping
back to the time when he played at his mother's knee, a merry little
boy.

It was rather a grief of mind to Kirsty that she never could induce her
grandson to talk of the past, nor to give any chronicle of his former
life, which she fain would have heard; but she was both wise and kind,
and did not seek to elicit confidences which were not freely bestowed,
hoping that the time would come when they might be voluntarily given.

But, sometimes, on the way home from these visits to the little
graveyard, Kenneth would talk to the quiet Morag as he never had done to
Kirsty. And as he told of his past chequered life, the eyes of the
little maiden were filled with wonder and pity at the strange
experiences through which her boy-friend had passed in the world beyond
the mountains.

Kenneth was daily gaining in vigor and manliness. The bracing mountain
air seemed to put new life and strength into him; and in Kirsty's
comfortable dwelling he had parted with those wearing anxieties which
had so long darkened his young life,--though with a darkening that had
not been evil.

Kirsty was very anxious that her grandson should at once choose a trade
and begin to work. She dreaded idleness for him, above all things, and
was somewhat dismayed to find his love for mountain roamings, and to
notice his intense enjoyment in a day with the keeper at the moors. The
boy little knew what pain it gave to his grandmother when one day that
they were talking about his future work in life he frankly acknowledged
that he should like nothing half so well as to be a gamekeeper like
Dingwall.

But seventeen years of growing trust in the wise love and gracious
leading of her Heavenly Father enabled her to commit the boy to His
care, and to bid him go and prosper in the path of life which he had
chosen.



X.

_THE KIRK IN THE VILLAGE._


"HAVE you heard your pupil's latest request, Miss Prosser?" asked Mr.
Clifford, laughingly, as he turned from Blanche, who had been pleading
her suit in low, coaxing tones. "She actually wants to go to the kirk in
the village for some high festival occasion next Sunday--and in company
with that wonderful Kirsty, too, whom we hear so much about just now.
She refuses with disdain my kind offer of the carriage for herself and
party--wants to go in a wheel-barrow, or something of that
description--is it not, Blanche?"

"Oh no, papa! how can you think such absurd things? We are going in
Neil's cart, of course. It will be such fun! Kirsty says there will be
lots of straw for seats, and Kenneth is to drive. You know you have more
than half promised to let me go, papa," added Blanche, beseechingly
clinging to her father in the hope of an immediate decision in her
favor, for her governess had raised her voice in strong disapproval of
such an irregular proceeding.

Mr. Clifford had noticed with pleasure how much his little daughter
seemed to be enjoying these autumn days in the Highlands, which he
feared might prove duller than she expected. It was evident, too, that
her enjoyment of them consisted chiefly in the companionship she had
made with those peasant friends in the Glen.

Blanche's glowing description of Kirsty, and her repetition of several
of the old woman's shrewd sayings, gave Mr. Clifford a favorable
impression of Kirsty. And for the little Morag he had always entertained
a special liking since the stormy day on which he had found her, all
alone, at work on the soaking earthen floor of the hut, and he
congratulated himself on having secured her as an appendage to the
little Shetlander. He frequently assured the doubting Miss Prosser that
the child would get no harm from her intercourse with these dwellers in
the Glen; and, in the present instance, he did not object that she
should see a new phase of life, in company with her Highland friends.

Before Blanche went to bed, she had gained her father's consent to the
Sunday project. She lay awake for a long time, thinking how very
delightful it would be to go to church with Kirsty and Morag--and in a
cart, too; and to be obliged to stay so long away that she should not be
at home either for early dinner or afternoon lessons with her governess,
so that the latter would have to be dispensed with altogether. Blanche
thought it would be the most delightfully out-of-the-way Sunday which
she had ever known; and she fell asleep at last, to dream that she and
Morag, with Kirsty and Kenneth, had come rumbling in Neil's cart into
Westminster Abbey while service was going on.

Morag, too, on that same evening, after a more brief and tremulous suit
than her wee leddy's, had gained her father's permission to go to the
kirk, for the first time in her life.

To the little English girl the prospect was merely a pleasant ploy; but
to Morag Dingwall it was the fulfilling of a dream of years. How often
she had watched, and how much she had longed to join, the little
straggling companies wending their way along the white hilly roads from
all parts of the Glen to meet in that little kirk in the village, which
she had never seen but closed and silent. Kirsty often told her that the
Lord Jesus Christ loved to have His people gather to worship Him. Only a
few days ago she had been reading to the little girl the story of how
He had once come, after He rose from the dead, into the midst of a
little company which had met to worship, and of how He had stretched
forth His hands, saying, "Peace be unto you."

Morag had remarked, in a mournful tone, "He never does the like noo,
Kirsty; would ye no like to see Him, jist ance?"

"An' have I no seen Him?" answered Kirsty, triumphantly. "'Deed, bairn,
I've whiles felt as near 'til Him as gin His fingers were wavin' aboun'
my heid, wi' the verra words i' His mou', an' 'Peace be wi' ye.' I aye
gaed oot o' His hoose wi' a blither hert an' o lichter fit than I gaed
tilt."

The old woman had never been strong enough to go to the kirk since
Morag's acquaintance with her, and she mourned over it as a great
privation. Neil's cart was a rare luxury, only procurable indeed on
Communion Sabbaths, which were held once a year in the Glen, when the
scattered inhabitants came from its remotest parts,--many of them across
miles of pathless hills, to share in the services of the day.

Never did Jewish peasant go up to the Holy City on the great day of the
Feast with more joy and hope than did Kirsty Macpherson to the yearly
communion at the village kirk. And, to the present occasion, she looked
forward with special gladness; for had she not to give thanks for a dear
one whom she knew, at last, to be safe in the home of God--the homeless
wanderer, whose name had often been borne by her in agony from that
communion-table to the ear of Him who came to seek and save the lost?

Morag was waiting in the castle court-yard on Sunday morning, long
before the little _châtelaine_ had completed her toilette to her maid's
satisfaction. At last the door was swung open, and the wee leddy came
running out to meet her friend, looking fresh and dainty in her spotless
white dress and pretty blue hat, with which Ellis had adorned her--not
without many regrets that such elegant garments should descend to such
degraded uses as a seat in a cart; but, since she was going to church,
her maid concluded that, of a necessity, she must wear her best attire.

"How bonnie ye look!" exclaimed Morag, gazing at her wee leddy with
unfeigned admiration. "Ye're jist like the sky itsel', a' blue-and-white
like."

"So I am! how funny! But oh, Morag, is not this a glorious morning?
Won't Kirsty be pleased? I really think it's the finest day we've had
since I came to Glen Eagle. I'm so happy," and Blanche danced gleefully
on the soft turf. "Now, Chance, you needn't be wagging your tail. You
are not to be invited to come with us to-day, my dear dog. It's Sunday,
you know, and we are going to church with Kirsty and Kenneth; and dogs
never do go to church you know, Chance."

"Ay do they, whiles!" interrupted Morag, patting the pleading Chance
sympathizingly; "they gang to the kirk onyway. For I've often thought I
wad jist like to be auld Neil's collie, when I've seen him passin' wi'
Neil on a Sabbath mornin', and I was feelin' terrible lonesome at hame.
Kirsty says, 'The dogs are mony a time quaieter than the bairns at the
kirk, and that attentive-like.'" But Morag agreed that since Chance was
not a dog of church-going habits, it would be wiser to leave him at
home.

Neil's cart already stood on the road at the cottage gate when the
little girls reached it. Kenneth was waiting at the horse's head, and
Kirsty came forth in all the glory of a spotless white _mutch_ (a high
cap of muslin, worn by the old peasant women of Scotland). She wore also
a pretty scarlet cloak, which had been her best attire for the last
fifty years. In her hand she held her big, worn Bible, carefully wrapped
in her ample white pocket-handkerchief, and from it there projected some
stalks of thyme, and mint, and southernwood, as a preventive against
possible drowsiness, during the long services of the day.

"Welcome til ye, my bairns," said she, greeting the little girls kindly,
as she closed the little gate behind her. "Havna we gotten a bonnie
Sawbbath-day? It's jist an oncommon fine mornin' for this time o' the
year. May the Sun o' Richtyousness arise wi' healin' intil His wings the
day, lichtin' up a' the dark herts,--jist as the bonnie sun this mornin'
garred the drumlie licht weir aff the glen," added Kirsty, with a glad
light in her calm gray eyes.

Blanche had already mounted into the cart, and was jumping about among
the straw, greatly to the destruction of Ellis's careful morning
toilette.

"O Kenneth! isn't this so very jolly? It will be such fun going to
church like this. I'm sure I shall never forget it all my life. I do
wish papa could see us start. Do you know I almost think he wanted to?
Doesn't Kirsty look beautiful? I wish she'd always wear that red cloak;
don't you, Kenneth?"

The old woman came leaning on Morag's shoulder, and stepped into the
cart, followed by the little girl. Kenneth cracked the whip with an air
of business, and the little company started.

It was certainly a perfect autumn day, and Glen Eagle was looking its
loveliest. Kirsty's face wore a look of holy peace, as she sat silently
with folded hands, and gazed upon the calm, still scene around. "I hae
jist been minin' o' that glaidsome word o' David's," she said presently,
turning to Morag, who was seated by her side. "'The Lord is good til a',
an' His tender mercies are ower a' His warks.' I'm thinkin' it maun jist
hae been on some bonnie quaiet day like this, when he was awa' frae the
din an' the steer of Jerooslem, 'at he thocht on makin' that bonnie
psalm."

Morag had never heard the psalm, but she resolved she would try to find
it that evening, and perhaps her father might help her. She said the
verse over to herself, and thought Kirsty must be right in imagining
that the poet-king would think his beautiful thoughts on such a day as
this.

But Kenneth, who had been listening quietly, as he walked by the side of
the cart, presently looked up, and said, "I'm not so sure of that,
granny. Don't you think King David would just be as likely to say that
after a long day's fighting at the head of his soldiers, or after a busy
day in his palace, as among sunny green fields when he had nothing to do
but enjoy himself? Do you no think, granny, that folk maybe need to
believe in the tender mercies of the Lord most in the din and the fret
of big towns, when, besides perhaps being lonely, and in want one's
self, you see so many people still more sad and worse off? D'ye no
think, granny, that it would be more comfort to think of the tender
mercies of the Lord, living in such dreary streets, than in such a
bonnie glen as this?" said Kenneth, smiling sadly as he remembered how
much he and his mother had needed, and how often they had found, these
tender mercies in such places.

"'Deed, laddie, I'm thinkin' ye hae the richt o't efter a'; I'm glaid ye
thocht o' that," said Kirsty, looking down at her grandson with her most
pleased smile.

As Morag sat silently listening to the conversation, she thought how
good it was that these "tender mercies" seemed to be over all,--among
the busy, crowded haunts of men, as well as with the lonely dwellers
among the mountains. And as the cart rumbled slowly along the winding
road, the little girl repeated the verse to herself till she knew it
well.

Many a time in after days that verse came back to her memory, sometimes
as a prayer, but more often as a thanksgiving. Across the waste of
years, with graves between and many a sorrow, she would look back and
remember this still Sabbath morning when she went for the first time to
the little village kirk, and the vanished faces that were round her
then; and she would sum up the tender mercies of the Lord.

The sound of the old church bell now began to be heard across the still
moorland. The little straggling companies quickened their pace at its
sound, and the nearer roads began to stir with assembling worshippers.

Blanche looked with eager interest at the gathering groups, occasionally
asking whispered information from Morag concerning them. Among them were
old bent men and young children, who had come many a mile through the
pathless hills that morning. There were shepherds in their plaids and
broad bonnets, with their collie dogs following, just as Morag had said,
Blanche noticed; and she resolved to keep an eye on their behavior in
church, and perhaps give Chance a similar privilege another time if her
impression of the conduct of the collies was favorable.

The kirk stood in the centre of the village green, and when Kirsty and
her young party came in sight, there were already many groups gathered
round it. The old minister was threading his way among them, and there
was many a broad bonnet raised and many a curtsy dropped, as with
kindly, gracious, though silent greeting he passed into the church.

The old bell was still pealing, sweet and musical, just as it used to do
centuries ago in the convent chapel down in the hollow, from whence it
had been taken when the ancient chapel became a roofless ruin; and now
it called the dwellers in the Glen to the kirk with the same soothing
chime as it used to summon the nuns to matins and vespers, and remind
the scattered peasants that the hour of prayer had come.

Suddenly it ceased to chime, and the thronging groups on the greensward
moved quietly in at the open doors of the kirk.

Many eyes were turned on Kirsty and her young friends as they passed
slowly up the aisle. Some recognized the bonnie wee leddy of the castle;
and not a few knew the nut-brown Morag by sight, and smiled kindly on
her. The story of the poor woman, who had come to the Glen to die on
such a lowly bed, was known to many, and they looked with interest on
Kirsty's grandson.

The kirk was almost filled when they entered. Two long, narrow tables,
covered with white, stretched from the pulpit the whole length of the
church, at which the communicants were to sit. Before taking her place
there, Kirsty led the children to seats at the side of the church; and
then she moved away slowly to take her solitary post at the long white
table.

Morag did not venture to raise her eyes for some time. The scene was so
new and strange to her that for a moment she felt something of the
terror-stricken feeling which possessed her on the evening when she was
brought before the party at the castle. But when, at last, she ventured
to look up, she caught a glimpse of Kirsty's calm, worshipping face, and
she began to feel more reassured. Meanwhile, Blanche kept gazing about
in a vivacious manner, taking notes of everything. On the whole, she
felt much disappointment with the interior of the little kirk. It looked
so bare and stern, she thought, as she searched in vain for the altar,
or the organ, which she expected to peal forth every minute.

At last the silence was broken, not by the organ, but by the grave,
deep voice of the minister, who reared his gray head from the pulpit,
and began to read a grand old psalm, which the congregation joined in
singing. Then followed a prayer, and all the people rose, the men
covering their faces with their broad bonnets.

Morag stood listening with closed eyes and moveless posture. Blanche
tried very hard to do so also, but she could not help opening her eyes
occasionally to see what the dogs were about, and presently she began to
wish that the prayer was done and they would begin to sing again. She
occasionally made exploring tours with her eyes over the church, and at
last she caught sight of Kirsty's red cloak and familiar face, and by
her side she saw a figure which she thought she recognized. To
facilitate observations, she raised herself on tiptoe; and at last she
was satisfied that the stalwart form at the long white table, beside
Kirsty, was none other than the keeper Dingwall. She could hardly
restrain an exclamation of surprise at this discovery. The keeper, she
knew, was not in the habit of going to church; and, certainly, Morag
would have told her if she had expected him there to-day. Very
impatiently did she listen to the concluding petitions, for she could
not get Morag to open her eyes till the prayer was done. At last, while
the congregation were engaged in turning the leaves of their Bibles, in
search of the chapter about to be read, Blanche contrived by a variety
of signs to make Morag's eyes alight on the spot where her father stood.
If Blanche's astonishment had been great, Morag's was still greater,
when she caught sight of her father's tall form rearing itself beside
Kirsty's bent head. This, then, was the reason why he had smiled so
strangely that morning when she laid her hand on his arm, and said, with
a great effort to break through her reserve, "O father! I would like
richt weel gin ye were comin' til the kirk wi' us. I ken fine the Lord
Jesus Christ would be glaid to see ye. Kirsty says He's aye weel pleased
to see folk intil His ain hoose."

And now he was seated beside Kirsty at the communion-table, where, as
the old woman had told Morag, none but those who loved the Lord might
come. The little girl felt a thrill of delight, greater than she ever
did in her life. She felt sure that her father must have begun to know
and love the Lord Jesus Christ, or he never would have come there. So
happy and thankful was she, that she could not wait till the minister
prayed again, but said, low in her heart, words of deep thanksgiving.

There were many besides Blanche who noticed with astonishment the tall
form of the keeper in his unwonted place at the communion-table; and
many along with Morag gave thanks to Him who "turneth men's hearts as
rivers of water whither He will," and who had brought this proud,
rebellious spirit to the foot of His cross.

Dingwall had been welcomed to the place he occupied to-day by the old
minister some evenings before in the manse. He disclosed the picture of
his past life, with its darkest shadows unrelieved; and had told of his
late repentance. The pastor recognized it as genuine, and there was a
light in his eye to-day as he read his Master's message, "This is a
faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came
into the world to save sinners."

After the usual service was over, Blanche's interest, which had been
flagging, began to revive, and she felt glad that her maid was not in
attendance to take her home, as she felt curious to know what was coming
next.

Presently a hymn was sung to a sad wailing tune, which suited the words.
It told of that night on which the Son of Man endured the "eager rage
of every foe;" and Blanche felt a knot rise in her throat as she
listened to it and tried to join. Never before, she thought, had she
felt so sorry for the Lord Jesus Christ, who was "crucified, dead, and
buried," though she had heard all about it so many times. And then she
suddenly remembered Morag's anxiety to know all about the "good Lord who
died on the green hill," and how many questions she used to ask about
Him during the first days of their acquaintance; but she never mentioned
the subject now, so Blanche concluded that she could not care so much as
she did before.

The words of the hymn had brought tears to Morag's eyes, too. But then
she quickly remembered the joyful side of the sorrowful story, and
thought of Him "who liveth, and was dead, and is alive for evermore."

While the hymn was being sung, four old men, the _elders_ of the kirk,
walked slowly in, carrying the plates of bread and cups of wine, which
they placed reverently on a white-covered table, where the minister now
sat, and which Blanche supposed must be the altar she had been in search
of.

The children watched with mingled curiosity and awe while the symbols
were passed to all who sat at the long white tables, after the minister
had given thanks and read to the congregation the Master's words which
He spoke in the upper room at Jerusalem when He commanded that this
Feast should be kept by His disciples till He should come again.

Perfect stillness reigned throughout the church; almost every head was
bowed, and many a heart went up in silent adoring gratitude to Him who
had loved them and given Himself for them.

When the elders had again reverently placed the symbols on the table in
front of the pulpit, the stillness was broken by the deep, grave voice
of the pastor, speaking words of exhortation to his flock, that they
should be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God." A sweet psalm of
thanksgiving was sung, and then, with uplifted hands, the minister
prayed that the peace of God might rest on the little company; and, at
last, the peasants moved away from the long white tables to scatter to
their distant homes in the Glen; some of them never to meet again till
they gather to the Feast above.

The children sat and watched them as they passed slowly out of the kirk,
and then they, too, rose to go. Morag sought her father immediately.
She gazed eagerly into his face, as if she expected him to say
something; but he only pressed her hand, and turning to Kirsty, he said
'Good-bye,' and then walked away.

"Lat him gang hame his lane, bairn," whispered Kirsty, as she noticed
Morag's disappointed look, and her movement to follow, when her father
started to go home alone. "I'm thinkin' he'll hae better company wi' him
than ony o' us wad mak' Morag, lass."

And then surveying her little flock, Kirsty said, smiling kindly, "Noo,
bairns, I'se warrant ye're hun'ry eneuch. Jist ye come doun til a quaiet
burnside 'at I ken fine, and we'll hae a bit o' a rest--and ye'll eat a
piece I hae brocht for ye a'."

So the old woman led the way to a quiet nook behind the village, where
the yellowing birk-trees drooped round a pleasant bit of greensward,
hiding it from the dusty highway, while the splashings of a little burn,
rolling merrily among the white stones, kept the turf smooth and green
all the year through.

Here Kirsty seated herself, with her merry little party round her. From
underneath her red cloak she then produced a basket containing some
delicious cream-cakes, which she had baked on the previous evening for
this occasion, and of which she now invited the children to partake.

Never did lunch taste so nice; and never was there such a pleasant
Sunday, Blanche thought, as she sat at Kirsty's feet, eating her piece
of oat-cake, and talking to her old friend.

Morag was perched on a stone, with her sunburnt feet paddling in the
brown water, and Kenneth stood watching the fate of twigs, meant to
personate his friends, which he occasionally tossed into the water,
where presently they got among the tiny rapids of the burn, some of them
being finally entangled there, while others were able to extricate
themselves from their difficulties, and were borne onwards to the river.

Blanche prattled away merrily, as usual, upon a variety of topics;
sometimes asking questions about the services of the day, and comparing
notes with the arrangements of the church where she went in London.
Morag listened with wondering eyes as the wee leddy glowingly described
the beautiful, many-colored picture-windows, the pretty gilded altar,
and the great organ, with its surpliced choir. The little mountain
maiden had looked upon the interior of the village kirk as very
beautiful; but this church, described by Blanche, must be much more so:
and Morag began to think that perhaps the Lord Jesus Christ liked best
to be worshipped in a fine church like that, since He was so high and
holy. But, with the thought, there came a pang of disappointment, and,
whenever she had an opportunity, she confided her trouble to Kirsty.

After pondering a little, the old woman slowly replied, "Weel, bairn,
I'll no say but that the Maister likes a' thing that's bonnie and fair
to see. A fine bigget hoose o' worship, wi' the best wark that the
fingers o' man can mak', canna be onacceptable til Him. But I'm
thinkin', efter a', the thing that'll please Him maist is to see ilka
hert worshippin' Him in speerit and in trowth,--nae maitter whither it
be intil a gran' bigget kirk, or amang the bracken upo' the hillside, as
oor folk ance did, lang syne, Morag, lass."

"Oh yes, Kirsty, I know. You mean in the time of the Covenanters, don't
you?" said Blanche as she broke off a branch from the bog-myrtle, and
threw it into the burn, in imitation of Kenneth's amusement. "I know all
about the Covenanters. By the by, I've got a book in London with some
rather nice stories about them. I wish I had it here, Morag; I think you
would like it. The soldiers certainly were very cruel and rough to the
people they found making a church among the heather. I'm sure I could
never see why," continued the little English maiden, as she went to
extricate her twig from among the rapids with her umbrella; because that
twig was Morag she said, and she must give her a little poke on.

"Ay, ay!" said the old woman meditatively. "They were the dark days o'
oor kirk, but wha kens 'at they warna the brichtest days, efter a', i'
the eyes o' Him 'at walks amang the seven golden cawnal-sticks we read
o' i' the Revelations. He aye telt His kirk nae to be feared at onything
it had to suffer."

"Weel, Morag, lass! so ye're thinkin' yet ye wad like to worship i' the
gran' hoose in Lon'on, 'at the wee leddy tells o', better nor in oor wee
kirkie?" said Kirsty, turning smilingly to the crestfallen little Morag,
as she divined her thoughts. "D'ye min' far the Laist Supper was
keepit--i' the upper room in Jerooslem? Weel, I'm no thinkin' there
could hae been onything very braw intilt; and yet the Maister thocht it
guid eneuch for sic a Feast as the warl' niver saw."

Blanche did not remember about it, so Kirsty handed her the old Bible,
and she read St. Luke's account of the Last Supper, finishing with the
words--"And when they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of
Olives."

"Why, Kirsty, how funny! That's just something like what we've done
to-day. And I'm sure the Mount of Olives couldn't be half so nice as
this burn-side; could it, Morag? I shall be sure to remember this Sunday
when I go to Holy Communion, Kirsty. But that will be ever so long yet.
I've got to be confirmed first, you know. Miss Prosser says it's proper
to go to Holy Communion when one is about seventeen; but, oh dear! it's
a long time till then. I do wish I were grown up," said Blanche, with a
sigh over the slow progress of Time.

"Eh, but my dear lambie, ye maun let Him intil yer hert lang afore that
time comes roun'. Will ye no listen til the Guid Shepherd's voice
callin' ye the day? There's a hantle o' rough slippy bits o' life afore
ye, my bonnie bairn, I'm thinkin'. Will ye no lat Him tak' ye intil His
arms, and carry ye safe through them a'?" said Kirsty, as she looked
fondly at the little girl.

Blanche did not reply, but sat nervously plucking blades of grass.
Presently she jumped up, and ran to join Kenneth, who had gone to catch
the old cart-horse grazing by the waterside, to yoke him in the cart
again, and prepare for the homeward journey.

Then Morag gave Kirsty a shoulder to help her from her low seat on the
greensward; and as she stooped to pick up the basket, she said in a low,
eager tone, "Kirsty, werna ye richt glad to see father i' the kirk the
day? I never thocht he was comin' tilt."

"Ay was I,--glaider than ye can ken' o', bairn," replied Kirsty, her
gray eyes beaming with joy. "'Deed I'm thinkin' there maun hae been joy
amang the angels themsels, the day when they saw yer father sitting at
the table o' the Lord--a bran' plucked frae the burnin'. Eh, bairn, ye
that's ain o' His ain lambs yersel', arna ye glaid to think that yer
puir father's nae latten bide oot i' the cauld."

Morag's face flushed with joy to hear Kirsty call her a Christian, and
she was going to make some reply when they heard Blanche's clear,
silvery tones calling them to come--that the cart was all ready to
start.

"There's that bonnie wee leddy, wi' her sweet tongue," said Kirsty, as
she moved to go. "Dear lamb! may the Guid Shepherd mak' goodness and
mercy to follow her a' the days o' her life. She's a winsome bit thing
as I ever set eyes on. I wad like richt weel to ken that she gied her
young hert to the Lord, Morag. There's a heap o' snares and dangers o'
the great warl' for the like o' her. They tell me she's fat they ca' an
heiress, and has heaps o' hooses and lan' in Englan' belongin' til
hersel'. It wad be a richt sair maitter gin she were like the young
man--him ye ken that we read o' i' the Scripter, wha turned awa frae the
Lord sorrowfu'-like, because his hert was set upon his gran'
possessions. She has sic a hantle o' bonnie ways aboot her, and as sweet
a like natur' as ever God made. Ye maun be earnest wi' the Lord for yer
wee leddy, Morag, my lass."

This was a subject about which Morag longed greatly to talk to Kirsty,
though she had never yet been able to break through her shyness and
reserve. She looked up eagerly in the old woman's face, and was about to
reply, when Blanche pushed aside the fringing birk-trees in search of
them, and they left the quiet green nook, and turned into the dusty
highway.

Many a time in after years, when these autumn days lay far away in the
dim haze of distance, Morag Dingwall would leave the beaten path, if
she chanced to pass that way, and wander in among the whispering
birk-trees and the scented bog-myrtle, to stand and gaze at this little
spot of mossy-turf. Time having brought many changes for her, she would
stand pensively and gaze at this still unchanged spot, where the little
singing burn flowed on in its sparkling glee, heedless of the vanished
voices which had once mingled in its sport. And as she stood there her
thoughts would go slipping back--

    "By the green bye-ways forgotten, to a stiller circle of time,
    Where violets faded for ever, seemed blooming as once in their
      prime,"

till her bonnie wee leddy's voice seemed again to ring out clear and
silvery, and she could hear Kirsty's low, earnest tones, as she spoke of
the Master she loved so well.



XI.

_THE LOCH._


A COLD north wind that smelled of winter had been sweeping through the
glen for several days, making the great fir-forests creak and swing, and
the ash and birk-trees down in the hollow shiver and drop their leaves
at each gust. The nights had begun to draw in visibly, and the mornings
felt chilly, and looked sad and grey. Everything seemed to proclaim that
the pleasant autumn days at Glen Eagle were nearly done. The purple
bloom had quite faded from the heather, and the hills began to look
stern and bleak in the cheerless afternoon.

    "Red o'er the forest peers the setting sun,
      The line of yellow light dies fast away
    That crown'd the eastern copse; and chill and dun
      Falls on the moor the brief October day."

To two young hearts that wintry wind and its accompaniments sounded
dirge-like and sad, for it told of happy days that had passed all too
soon. Blanche sighed as she remembered the dull London school-room, and
the measured promenade in Kensington Park; and Morag's lip grew
tremulous as she trotted by Shag's side along the familiar roads, and
sighed to think how desolate they would seem without his little
mistress.

The shooting party at the old castle had already begun to break up; and
the day for general dispersion to warmer latitudes was fixed, when, one
afternoon, Blanche and Morag stood together in the old court-yard,
trying to decide what would be the very pleasantest way of spending it.
They had promised to spend the last afternoon with Kirsty; and now the
last but one had come, and the hours seemed so very precious that they
feared to "squander one wavelet" of them.

Shag had returned to his winter quarters that morning, not without a
tearful parting on the little girl's side. The little Shetlander
manifested no emotion on the occasion; indeed Blanche fancied that she
could detect a merry twinkle of satisfaction in his bright eye when he
recognized his master, and heard his native Gaelic, and he certainly
moved off with him in his readiest trot. Chance, too, had been sent
southward along with the first detachment of servants, so the little
girls were able to make their plans irrespective of their quadruped
friends.

It seemed this afternoon as if the setting in of bad weather was likely
to prove a false alarm after all. The bleak wind that had been sweeping
through the strath ceased to blow to-day, and the bright sunshine was
once again lighting up the desolate ravines, and sending its glory upon
the autumnal tints down among the hollows. Never had the Glen looked
more lovely, Blanche thought, as her eye wandered over the now familiar
landscape. The loch lay shining in the sunlight, like a looking-glass
framed in the heather; and as she looked across to it, Blanche suddenly
remembered that she had promised to go there before she left to find a
water lily, as a model for one of a group of wax flowers which Miss
Prosser had been making during these holiday afternoons, while her pupil
was rambling among the hills.

It was a satisfaction to be able to find an object for the walk, and the
girls set out briskly along the winding path which led from the castle
grounds to the moorland road. The drooping birk boughs were quite golden
now, and the rowan berries a coral red. Blanche kept plucking them as
she went cheerily along, warbling in the sunshine. Feeling very happy
for the present, she did not allow the shadow of the coming separation
to throw its gloom over her, as it seemed to do with the grave little
Morag, who walked silently by her side. Everything looked bright and
smiling, and her wee leddy appeared in one of her most joyous moods; and
Morag wondered why she should feel so sad, that the surrounding
brightness seemed to jar upon her, rather than chase away her sorrowful
mood. And as she listened to the little birds, who took up the refrain
of Blanche's warblings, and merrily chirruped odes of welcome to the
returned sun, Morag was reminded of a sentiment expressed in one of
Kirsty's songs. She had never understood the reason of its saying--

    "Why will ye chant, ye little birds,
      And I sae weary, fu' o' care?"

and had once remarked to her old friend that "even though a body was
feelin' some sad like, it wad surely do their hearts guid to hear the
birdies sing sic bonnie."

But Kirsty had smiled and said, "'Deed, bairn, but ye're wrang there,
I'm thinkin'. No a' the birdies' bonnic sangs, nor a' the sweet warks o'
God, can pit glaidness intil broken, sorrowfu' herts. Naething can do
that, I'm thinkin', excep' a sicht o' His ain face, and a soun' o' His
ain voice. I've whiles thocht 'at the poet-chiel' wha made the bit sang
maun hae kent fine what it was to hae a richt sorrowfu' sair hert mony a
day;" and Morag thought that she was able, from to-day's experience, to
catch a glimpse of the poet's meaning.

Presently Blanche caught the infectious sadness of her friend, and
became quiet and meditative also. Flinging away her bunches of rowan
berries, she came and put her arms round Morag's sunburnt neck, saying,
gently, "You won't quite forget me, Morag, dear, when I'm far away, will
you?"

A great glow of love rose in Morag's heart as she felt the soft curls
about her neck and Blanche's lips on her cheek. She felt as if she could
have died for her bonnie wee leddy then and there, but she only answered
quietly, "I'm no thinkin' we'll forget ye that ready. Kirsty and me will
be min'in' on ye ilka day. But I'm some feared whiles that ye'll no be
min'in' o' the Glen when ye gang back to the gran' muckle toun ye bide
in."

There was something else which Morag longed to say to Blanche that
afternoon, and many times before, but she had never been able to summon
up courage to speak about it. She wished to tell her of the new feeling
that had been taking possession of her heart, and which she longed to
share with Blanche.

Since those first days of wonder and perplexity--which hearing the hymn
in the fir-wood caused--Morag had never talked to the little English
girl of those things which had been slowly sinking into her heart.
Kirsty had been her Evangelist, Morag sometimes thought, as she read the
"Pilgrim's Progress." It was she who had pointed out the way to the
Wicket Gate when the little girl was groping blindly; and to her alone
could she speak freely as yet. But now that she had come to understand
what a real, living, listening Friend the Lord Jesus Christ is, though
unseen by earthly eyes, she longed intensely to share this new faith and
hope with her wee leddy, whom she loved so well. And since Kirsty had
hinted at the many dangers which the world beyond the mountains might
have in store for her now guileless friend, she longed the more to ask
her to take this unseen Friend for her Saviour and Guide. But somehow
the opportunity passed, and they had reached the loch before Morag could
find words to say what she wanted.

Blanche did not like the sombre mood which appeared to have fallen on
them both; and seemed bent on talking herself and her friend into a
gayer mood by castle-building. She began to prattle about all that she
meant to do next summer, of the many ambitious feats in the way of
climbing which she meant to perform, and of the familiar places--written
over with memories of those pleasant autumn days which they would have
to revisit.

The yellow afternoon sun was shining on the rippling water of the loch,
and the blue sky, with numberless white fleecy clouds, lay like heaps of
snow reflected on its clear depths. On the soft mossy banks, sloping
down to the loch, there grew masses of scented bog myrtle, and alder
bushes, while yellow flags and rushes fringed the edge of the water. The
broad dark leaves of the water-lilies rocked about in tangled masses on
the loch; but Blanche looked in vain for a lily to take to Miss Prosser.
At last she gave up the search, and throwing herself lazily on the sunny
bank, she lay watching the circles made by the trouts in pursuit of
flies hovering upon the surface of the water.

Morag meanwhile spied a wild rose-bush at some distance off, on the
bank, and she clambered up to gather the brilliant scarlet berries; and
Blanche presently started off again on a fresh search after the
water-lily; for she was unwilling to return from her last expedition
without the flower which she had promised to find. At last she was
rewarded by discovering a beautiful lily lying hidden away among the
dark leaves. It seemed to be at a convenient stretching distance, so she
knelt down on the moss, and put out her hand to grasp it, which she did
with difficulty, for it was further off than she had thought. She was
about to spring back in triumph at having captured the prize, when she
felt the ground suddenly give way, and in spite of her efforts to save
herself, she went slipping into the water--down, down among the roots of
the floating lilies.

In her terror she gave a plunge to try to grasp some reeds growing near
and to regain her footing, but she only landed herself further from the
bank than before. All happened in the twinkling of an eye--so quickly
that Blanche raised no cry. But now that all footing was gone, and she
felt herself being fast submerged in the deep water, she shrieked with
terror, and threw up her arms in wild dismay.

Morag was at the water's brink in a moment; but she only came in time to
see the ripples closing over Blanche's golden crown. She stretched out
her hands towards her, but saw in a moment that she had been carried
too far out for any such help. Morag looked round in silent despair,
for she could not swim, and she had presence of mind to realise that it
would be impossible otherwise to save her; but she could not let her
bonnie wee leddy die all alone there, and, in an instant two little
girls, instead of one, were struggling for life among the rocking
lily-leaves. Morag's wild plunge brought her alongside Blanche, who,
with her remaining consciousness roused, clutched her arm, but very soon
both the girls were sinking, sinking, and the cruel water closing over
them!

Once again Blanche's hands were thrown up, and her closing eyes looked
on the calm afternoon scene--the sun-lighted grass, with the scarlet
berries scattered over it, dropped by Morag in her wild plunge towards
the bank--once again, and then--

But what is that rustling among the alder bushes, and these sounds of
heavy breathing after a hard race?

Kenneth Macpherson stands on the grassy bank just as the long, floating
curls went under the rippling water, and Blanche Clifford's last
struggle for life seemed over. She had loosened her hold on Morag's arm,
who now began to make convulsive efforts to find her again, as she was
drifted away. In a moment, Kenneth's arm was round Blanche, and with a
few vigorous strokes he laid her on the bank--or all that remained of
her, for his hasty glance gave him little hope that life was there.

Morag's consciousness partially returned as soon as he grasped her, and
very soon she, too, was laid on the grass by the panting Kenneth. But
the most difficult part of his work was yet to come, he thought, as he
glanced at the motionless figures on the turf. Kneeling down, he began
to chafe Blanche's cold hands, and vainly tried to detect some sign of
life. Presently Morag got up from the turf, and stood shivering, gazing
blankly round, as if she were at a loss to know what had happened. The
sight of the water recalled everything with terrible vividness; she
looked wildly round in search of Blanche, and saw her lying pale and
motionless on the bank, her fair curls all drenched and tangled. With a
cry of agony, Morag sprang to her side.

"I don't think she's dead, Morag!" whispered Kenneth, who still knelt
beside her. "Do you think you are able to stay here while I go to the
castle to get help? But I'm afraid you must be very wet and tired,
yourself, poor Morag!"

"Oh, rin! rin to the castle! I'll easy bide wi' her! My bonnie wee
leddy, speak but ae word til me!" And Morag bent eagerly over her; but
the lips were silent and bloodless, and the eyes gave no sign of life.
It was terrible to be so helpless to do anything, Morag thought, as she
kept chafing the cold fingers, while, in a low monotone of agony, she
prayed that her wee leddy might come back to life again.

Meanwhile, Kenneth flew like lightning to the castle. On the way, he met
the wearied remnant of the shooting party sauntering homewards, after
their last day at the moors, all unconscious of what had been going on
at the loch. Their pace was quickly changed as they hurried towards the
water, while servants followed with a supply of blankets and all other
necessaries. Mr. Clifford hardly listened to Kenneth's incoherent words,
when, flinging down his gun, he hurried towards the bank where his child
lay still unconscious.

"Blanche, darling, speak to me!" he cried, lifting her in his arms. But
the head fell back, and the motionless frame gave no sign of life. The
dearly won trophy, the water-lily, dropped at last from the unclasping
fingers, and the white arm hung listlessly down.

All restoratives were eagerly tried, and at length the anxious group on
the greensward fancied they could detect a slight quiver through the
frame, and Blanche slowly returned from the borders of the far-off Land,
as the last rays of the evening sun were gleaming upon the loch. The
blue eyes opened wearily, and she glanced shiveringly round, evidently
unconscious of where she was.

"Morag, Morag! don't let me go!" she cried, with a look of terror. "The
river is so dark and cold! Do you not see the Golden City yet, Morag?"

"Hush, Blanche, darling! You must not think of the river any more. You
are safe in papa's arms now!"

Gradually Blanche returned to consciousness, and remembered what had
happened. After a bewildered glance at the group on the turf, and Miss
Prosser seated at her side, she began to understand what had brought
them all there. Presently she sat up among the blankets in which she was
imbedded, and began to look eagerly round for one familiar face which
she did not see. "Morag!" she whispered, looking inquiringly at her
papa, and then she glanced towards the rippling water, all tinged with
the gorgeous sunset hues, and there she saw floating the wreath of
rowan berries which she had twined among Morag's black locks that
afternoon. "Morag! where is she? Oh, surely not _there_? She jumped into
the loch! I remember seeing her! I remember it all now!" and Blanche
clasped her hands, and looked wildly into her father's face.

Morag was, meanwhile, seated farther up on the bank, where she could
catch a glimpse of her friend, though she could not be seen by her. With
her usual shyness, she had fled when the castle party surrounded
Blanche; and hiding behind some alder bushes, she watched with intense
anxiety the movements within the circle. But when, at last, she heard
her own name called by Blanche, her heart gave a great throb of joy, and
in an instant she was at her wee leddy's side.

"Morag, darling! it's all right then? I never felt so happy in my life,"
said Blanche, clasping the little brown hands in her trembling fingers.
"Oh, I was so frightened when I woke up. I couldn't see you anywhere,
and felt almost afraid to ask, when I saw the rowan-wreath floating
about. Oh! it was too terrible. But do tell me, how did it all happen?
how did we ever get out of the water?"

"We were droonin', ye ken, leddy; but Kenneth cam' runnin' doun the
bank frae the peat-moss, and took's baith oot o' the water."

"Oh yes; by the way, where has the brave fellow gone?" asked Mr.
Clifford, getting up from the turf, where he had been kneeling by his
daughter's side, and looking about for Kenneth.

"But Kenneth--I don't understand," said Blanche, looking perplexed. "He
wasn't with us, Morag. How did he ever come here?"

It was, indeed, a strange coincidence that Kenneth Macpherson should
have been within sight and hearing of the loch this afternoon. It was
the first time he had been so near it since he came to Glen Eagle. He
had come to a peat-moss in the vicinity to lay in Kirsty's winter supply
of peats, having borrowed Neil's cart for the occasion. Early in the
afternoon he noticed the little girls pass on their way to the loch, as
he conjectured. He stopped his work for a moment to watch them, and
wished he had been a little nearer, so that they might have spoken to
him, as he heard Blanche's ringing silvery tones through the keen air.
And not long afterwards, when he heard the wild shriek from the loch, he
thought he recognized the voice, and leaving cart and peats, bounded
off in the direction from which it came, reaching the spot, as we know,
just in time to rescue the little girls. After his return from the
castle he had hovered near the watching group till he satisfied himself
that Blanche had recovered, and then he went again to work at the
peat-moss.

Morag had watched him slip quietly back to his work, unheeding of thanks
or praise; and from that hour he became enshrined as a hero in her
little woman's heart. She longed to see the joy and pride which would be
reflected in Kirsty's gray eyes when she heard of her grandson's share
in the doings of this afternoon; and she felt a glow of pride when Mr.
Clifford called him a brave fellow.

As soon as Blanche had recovered sufficiently, they prepared to carry
her away from the scene of the catastrophe. She was looking as pale as
the water-lily lying on the turf beside her. Catching a glimpse of it,
she picked it up, and handed it to Miss Prosser, saying, "You see I have
got it for you. Isn't it a beauty? It was the very last one I could
find; I remember holding it so tight when I was in the deep water. I
suppose Kenneth fished it up with me," she added, smiling, as Miss
Prosser took the dearly-won trophy from the trembling fingers, and
kissed her little pupil with more tenderness than she was wont to do.

Poor little Morag watched her bonnie wee leddy being borne away to the
castle with the desolate feeling of being left out in the cold. The
reaction had come after the intense experiences of these past hours. She
stood watching the glad procession set out with wistful eyes, and then
she moved away in the direction of her solitary home, for she felt cold
and weary enough now. Her father had gone to the kennels before the
shooting party heard of the accident, and he now sat at home in the hut,
wondering what had become of his little daughter.

"Papa, I remember it all now!" exclaimed Blanche, who had been lying
pale and meditative in her father's arms, as he carried her home. "I
slipped into the water just as I got hold of the lily. Morag wasn't in
sight, I remember, and I got very frightened when I felt the dark water
coming all round, and carrying me quite away from the bank. I recollect
hearing myself scream quite well, and then, in a minute, Morag stood on
the bank, stretching out her hand; but I couldn't reach it, and only got
further away than before. And just as the water was going right over me,
I saw Morag jump in, and then I don't remember anything more. Dear,
brave Morag! it was just like her, wasn't it, papa? I'm sure I should
have been much too frightened to jump into the water. But she must be as
cold and tired as I was, papa! Where are you, Morag?" asked Blanche,
looking round.

"Yes, to be sure, pussy; we should have thought of that before. You have
been absorbing all our attention in a such troublesome manner, you see.
Where are you, little black-eyes? I saw her flitting about quite briskly
a little while ago, as if the ducking in her native waters had not
affected her unpleasantly. I declare, if she hasn't redeveloped her
propensity for scudding, Blanchie! She's nowhere to be seen," said Mr.
Clifford, glancing round the group.

Blanche was so distressed at the disappearance of her friend, that one
of the servants was despatched in quest of her, and the little girl
being presently recaptured, she was, in spite of her entreaties, carried
off to the castle, and put under the old housekeeper's care.

She was made quite a lion of in the servants' hall that evening, though
she was somewhat at a loss to understand why. She recounted, quite
eloquently for her, how Kirsty's grandson had saved them both, and
seemed much surprised when somebody commended her for her efforts to
save their little mistress; for it never occurred to her that any other
course would have been possible than to die with her bonnie wee leddy.

Ellis had never taken the little native to her heart, in spite of her
little mistress' frequent triumphant reminders that the ragged maiden of
the fir-wood had proved no dangerous gypsy after all; but to-night she
was most gracious, patting the trembling little Morag condescendingly on
the head, as she led the way to Blanche's room, where Morag was summoned
in the course of the evening.

The little bare, weather-beaten feet trod much more uneasily on the soft
carpet than among the bracken; and the friendship which had sprung up
and flourished among the woods and braes did not seem likely to thrive
in the atmosphere of a luxuriantly-furnished apartment. Blanche was
lying on the sofa, wrapped in a blue flannel dressing-gown, looking very
feeble and subdued, when Morag entered the room. She looked wistfully at
her little mountain friend, but did not speak, and Miss Prosser, who was
seated at her pupil's side, noted the mutual shyness, and considerately
withdrew.

Beckoning to Morag to come and sit beside her, she took the little
brown hand into her fluttering fingers, and said, nervously, "Morag,
dear, I want so much to speak to you. Do you know, though it was only
such a moment of time, I thought so much when I felt going down, down
among the dark moving water all alone. And you left the pleasant, sunny
turf, and came to drown with me in that dreadful water. How could you
venture, Morag? It was too brave and kind!" and Blanche's lip quivered.

Morag was going to interrupt her, but she went on. "Do you remember that
chapter of the Bible we were reading to Kirsty yesterday, Morag? I'm
afraid I didn't care much for it at the time, and only read it to please
her; but since I've been lying here, I seem to hear one verse of it
always. Wasn't it Jesus Christ who said that it was the greatest love to
lay down one's life for a friend? Morag, that's what you did for me. I
saw you do it. Oh, Morag, when I awoke and saw the rowan-wreath floating
about in the water, and you not anywhere to be seen!" and Blanche
covered her face and sobbed.

All Morag's shyness seemed to vanish when she had to take the part of a
comforter. The little brown arm was quietly slipped round the bent
head, and she whispered gently, "Ye mustna think nothing o' my slippin'
in efter ye til the water. I couldna hae bidden ahin' for onything. But
ye see if it hadna been for Kenneth, none o' us would hae been gotten
oot o' the loch." And after a pause she continued, "I'm no thinkin' that
word frae the Bible would even mean the like o' Kenneth, though. Will it
no be meanin' the Lord Jesus Christ, that died o' the green hill,--as
ye're bonnie hymn speaks o'? I weel min' the day I heard it;" and then
she added, with an evident effort, "and I've aye been wantin' to tell ye
that I love Him richt weel mysel' noo, sin' yon day i' the fir-wood."

"And is it because you love the Lord Jesus so much that you were so
brave at the loch to-day, Morag?" said Blanche, looking questioningly at
her.

"I'm no thinkin' that exactly," replied Morag, slowly, as if she were
pondering her motives; "I'm thinkin' it was because I looed you, little
leddy, and forby, life wouldna hae seemed muckle worth gin ye had been
awa."

"D'ye min' the bonnie picter oot o' the 'Pilgrim's Progress?' I was jist
thinkin' to mysel', on my road hame the nicht, that gin Kenneth hadna
come, we would hae gotten thegither to the bonnie toon lyin' i' the
sun,--like the droonin' folk i' the picter," and Morag looked at
Blanche, and smiled brightly.

The little girl shook her head sadly. "You would have gone to the Golden
City, Morag; but I'm afraid I shouldn't. You see I never really thought
I should like to go to heaven. It seemed to me that it would be so much
nicer to stay always here, in this beautiful world we know and love,
than to be sent away to an unknown land. Do you know, Morag, I thought
of all that to-day, as I looked at the pleasant sunny banks of the loch,
just before the cruel, creeping water covered me all up. It made me feel
so terrified."

There was silence for a few minutes. At last, Morag said, quietly--

"But I'm no thinkin' heaven isna a kin' o' land we dinna ken, when Jesus
is there Himsel', waitin' for us. He made ilka body so happy-like when
he was i' the warl'; and though we canna see Him, I'm thinkin' He's jist
the same yet. When we get til the golden gates o' the City we read aboot
i' the hinner en' o' the Bible, he wad jist be puttin' His han's on us,
and sayin' something kin' like, and we wad be feelin' at hame. He speaks
that plain like til folk here, tho' we canna see Him. I dinna think I
would be feared to gang til get a sicht o' Him."

There was a light in Morag's eye that made Blanche feel she was speaking
of what she knew.

"He never speaks to me like that, Morag. I don't think He can love me at
all. I'm sure He doesn't. I'm so dreadfully wicked. Besides, I'm afraid
I never cared to know about Him at all; indeed, I never felt as if He
were a real person."

"I thocht that ance, till Kirsty telt me different," said Morag,
interrupting her. "I'm weel sure He looes you richt weel, leddy. I'm
thinking He's no far frae us, jist this minute. Will ye no speak til Him
yersel' in yer ain bonnie words, leddy? I'm thinkin' He would like weel
to be listening til the like o' you," whispered Morag, eagerly, as she
knelt by Blanche's side.

"O Morag! do you mean that I should pray in my very own words? I
couldn't, indeed. Of course I say my prayers every night--one of the
Collects generally."

"I dinna ken what a Collec' is," replied Morag, looking perplexed.

"Oh, well, it's a written prayer we use in church. If you'll bring that
case of books to me, I'll show it to you."

Blanche turned the leaves of her daintily-bound Church Service, and read
some of its strong, thrilling words of prayer, which rang like the music
of a psalm in Morag's ear.

"That's jist terrible bonnie--a hantle bonnier than onything a body
would make up themsels. I like richt weel to hear't. Would ye jist read
a bit more, gin ye please?" and the little girl's face glowed with
pleasure as she sat listening.

After looking meditatively into the fire for some minutes when Blanche
had finished reading, she said, slowly--

"Ay, that is richt bonnie; and I'm thinkin' sic sweet words maun please
Him weel. But there's jist something mak's me think He wad like a body's
verra ain words best o' a'. Now, d'ye no think, gin ye was wantin'
onything frae yer father, it wouldna be sic nateral like to read it oot
o' a bonnie buik as jist to pit your arms roun' his neck, and plead wi'
him a bittie, as I've seen you do, whiles,--and ye ken fine ye aye get
the thing ye're wantin'," she added, smiling archly; and then she
continued--"Weel, I'm thinkin' that maun be what He would hae us to do,
frae what He says Himsel'. D'ye no think that yersel', leddy?" asked
Morag, looking earnestly into Blanche's troubled face.

"I think I understand what you mean, Morag; but I never thought of
speaking to Jesus Christ like that. Why did you not ever tell me that
you did till to-night, Morag?" asked Blanche, reproachfully. "You
remember you wanted so very much to know all about Him when I knew you
first. Dear me, Morag, you must have found out a great deal about these
things since then," added Blanche, regretfully.

"Ay have I," replied Morag, smiling brightly. "But it was frae yersel' I
first heard His name. D'ye mind on't, leddy? I'm thinkin' I'll min'
upon't as lang as I live--and maybe efter-hin. Kirsty was jist sayin'
yestreen, she's richt sure folk dosna forget the travellin' days when
they win safe hame til the Golden City."

"Oh! I remember. You mean that morning when I was gathering cones in the
fir-wood, and began singing a hymn. I had been singing for a long time
before I looked up and saw you. I was so astonished to see you leaning
against the tree, and so glad that I had found you again," and Blanche
laughed merrily at the recollection of the scene. Presently she became
grave again, and taking Morag's hand in hers, she added, in a low
tone--"But, Morag, you must not think I was singing about Jesus Christ
because I loved Him, or cared for the words of the hymn. I think I chose
them because they seemed to suit the air I wanted to sing. I think I do
care now, though. O Morag! you might speak to Jesus Christ yourself just
now, and I'll try, too. Perhaps he will listen to us both. Do ask Him to
teach me to be good when I go back to London. I used to be so naughty
often--you've no idea. Do, please," added Blanche beseechingly, for she
knew Morag's extreme shyness, and feared that her request might not be
complied with.

The little mountain maiden seemed quite lifted out of her reserve. At
once the dark tangled locks went down among the bright chintz cushions,
and Morag spoke in low, reverent tones to the listening friend she had
come to know and love during these autumn days.

Morag was still kneeling when Ellis came bustling into the room to say
that the keeper had come to fetch his little daughter. Blanche looked
much disappointed. The time had passed so quickly, and there was still
much she wanted to talk about, but she had to content herself with
arranging a meeting at Kirsty's cottage on the following afternoon.

"We shall have so much to tell her, shan't we? And only fancy, Morag,
papa is coming, too! He says he will drive me there--that he wants to
see Kenneth to thank him. Is it not funny to think that papa has never
seen Kirsty? He says he is quite anxious to be introduced to her. Won't
it be fun to see them together? I have been telling him all the things I
want him to look at, and what chair it will be best to sit on--it would
be a pity if he took Kirsty's chair, you know. I'm only afraid he may be
too tall to get in at the door. I've been telling him he'll have to
stoop ever so much." And Blanche laughed merrily at the idea, as Ellis
hurried Morag away, saying that her father would be impatient.

The next day was cold, and wet, and scowling. Blanche seemed very tired
and feverish, and was not allowed to leave her bed, to which, indeed,
she made no resistance--the loch adventure seemed so completely to have
exhausted her. She dozed comfortably till evening, when her papa came to
sit beside her, and she became quite lively as she listened to his
account of his visit to Kirsty's cottage, which he had paid that
afternoon.

"Now, Blanchie, is there anything more you can possibly think of asking
concerning this visit?" said Mr. Clifford, laughingly, as he replied to
Blanche's eager questioning. "I couldn't have endured a greater fire of
cross-questioning if I had come from one of Her Majesty's drawing-rooms,
and you wanted a description of each toilette. Did I see a stool called
'Thrummy?' Well, I was almost precipitated into the fire-place, just as
I was going to make my bow to Kirsty, by stumbling over a bundle of rags
which answers to your description, so I suppose I did see the historical
'Thrummy.'" Smiling, he continued: "Then I sat down--I hope on the right
chair--but you may be sure I was dreadfully afraid of making a _faux
pas_ after all your instructions, Blanchie. I ended by having quite a
long talk with your friend Kirsty, though I had considerable difficulty
in understanding her dialect. She is really a very fine specimen of a
peasant woman. I quite admire your taste, pussy. There is a wonderful
amount of sense and pathos in her way of viewing things in general,
notwithstanding that atrocious northern dialect."

"Oh, papa! don't say it's atrocious! I like to listen to it so much
now. I'm sure I could never like an old woman half so well if she did
not speak like Kirsty. She is the first I have ever known,--and I love
her so much," added Blanche with a sigh, when she thought how soon she
would be far away from the _ben-end_ of Kirsty's cottage, where she had
spent some of the pleasantest hours of her life.

"Yes; she is a first-rate old woman, I allow; but she has put me in the
embarrassing position of absolutely refusing to accept any reward for
her grandson's brave conduct yesterday. Unfortunately, one is not much
accustomed to such delicacy of feeling, so perhaps I did not manage the
matter rightly. I began to see what kind of stuff she was made of, and I
did try to approach the subject as carefully as possible. But she shook
her fine old head resolutely, and would not hear of anything more
substantial than thanks."

"Ah! that was so like Kirsty! I don't really think she would care a bit
for anything you might give her; only I do think she will be well
pleased that you went to see her, and said nice things about Kenneth.
She does always look so glad to see Morag and me," added Blanche,
smiling at the recollection of the warm reception which they never
failed to receive at the little cottage.

"But did you not see Kenneth himself, papa?"

"Yes, I did. The bright idea occurred to me that the grandson might be
more amenable, and before the old woman went to fetch him, I took the
precaution of asking her not to lay any commands on the boy, at all
events. She replied, in that wonderful voice of hers, 'Na, na; I'se houp
the laddie winna need nae comman's o' mine anent sic a maitter.' So
Kenneth was produced, and I thanked the brave fellow, in your name and
mine. His face quite glowed with pleasure, I saw; but when I added,
'Now, Kenneth, my little daughter wants to give you something more than
thanks for saving her life and her little friend's, though we know money
can't pay for a brave deed like that,'--or something to that effect, his
countenance fell directly, and he was quite as inexorable on that point
as his old grandmother. So we must set our wits to work to manage the
matter. I'll speak to Dingwall about it."

"I'm so glad Kenneth didn't want to take anything," exclaimed Blanche.
"I'm sure Kirsty will be glad. She is so very anxious he should grow up
a really good man. Don't her gray eyes look so pretty when she smiles,
papa?"

"Now, pussy, I'm not going to join in any more raptures concerning
Kirsty's eyes, or her other perfections. Good-night, darling. You are
looking quite feverish again. We shall have plenty of time to talk about
Kirsty when we get back to London, you know," added Mr. Clifford, as he
saw that Blanche looked disappointed to close the conversation.

At last Blanche went to sleep, thinking how very nice it was to have her
papa all to herself, for a whole evening; and that, after all, though it
was very sad to leave Glen Eagle, it could not be dull in London when
her papa was to be there, as he evidently meant to be, when he spoke of
having talks about Kirsty.



XII.

_THE EMPTY HUT._


IT had been arranged that the journey southward should be postponed for
a few days on account of the loch accident; but the next morning was so
bright and pleasant, and Blanche looked so fresh and well, that there
seemed no reason for departing from the original plan, and it was
hastily decided that she and her governess should start for London,
travelling by easy stages.

Great was Blanche's dismay when she heard of this arrangement. She had
been rejoicing over another pleasant day in the Glen, and began to think
that the loch adventure had some advantages after all, seeing it was
going to secure a few more days in the Highlands.

"It can't possibly be true, Ellis. You had better not go on with that
packing till you get further orders," said the little girl, in a tone
more imperious than she almost ever used, as she found her maid in a
state of pleasurable bustle and excitement over boxes that were being
quickly filled.

"Yes, missie; it's quite true, I assure you," replied her maid, without
looking up from the box over which she was stooping. "Miss Prosser says
it's a hexcellent arrangement, and, for my part, I agree with her
'eartily. It quite sets one up to think of gettin' back to civilized
existence. There's cook quite a henvyin' of me, because I'm going three
days sooner."

"I wish I were cook, I'm sure," burst in Blanche. "But, Ellis, I'm sure
papa can't mean me to go to-day. He can't, indeed! I shall go and ask
him this minute. You'd better stop putting in those things, Ellis," she
added, impatiently.

But Ellis smiled confidently, and went on with her work, while Blanche
ran away down the great staircase, feeling rather faint-hearted,
however, as she thought of the possibility of Ellis's tidings being
true. Below, she found everybody in a state of the most unpleasant
pre-occupation. Miss Prosser was in the midst of elaborate packings, and
smilingly assured her little pupil that they were really going. The
carriage was to be at the door exactly at twelve o'clock, so she must
make haste to be ready in time; and was it not pleasant they were going
to have such a fine day to leave Glen Eagle?--and should they not be
thankful that she was well enough to travel so soon after so serious an
accident?

Blanche fled from Miss Prosser, along the winding passages towards the
library, in the hope of finding her papa. There was still one last
resource; she would beg him to allow her to remain, even one day,
longer. There he was, seated in the library, to be sure; but surrounded
by such piles of letters and papers, and with his most business-like
expression on his face. Several people were waiting to speak to him and
there seemed no hope of Blanche gaining an audience, unless she went
boldly up to him, and made her petition before them all. She lingered
about for a little time, trying to summon up courage, but at last glided
away without uttering a word.

Then she wandered into the entrance-hall, and stood leaning on the old
stuffed fox, watching the pile of boxes and portmanteaus in the
court-yard, which increased in size every minute. The servants were
hurrying to and fro in a state of bustle and excitement. Evidently, to
Blanche alone these signs of departure brought a pang of regret. The
thought of those pleasant vanished afternoons was too much to be borne.
She had known that she must leave the Highland glen before long: but she
did not dream it would be such a cruel tearing away as this.

After wandering aimlessly about for some time, she remembered that she
must see Morag before the dreaded hour arrived. She could not surely
have heard that they were really going to-day, or else she would have
come, and there was no sign of her anywhere. Blanche wandered round the
castle, among the grove of ash-trees, and into the old garden, but she
did not find her friend at any of the usual trysting-places.

At last she made up her mind what she would do. Hurrying swiftly along
the birk-walk, where the drooping boughs were quite golden now, she
clambered up the steep ascent which led to the little shieling among the
crags.

Blanche's spirits began to rise again. It would be so pleasant to give
Morag a surprise. Probably she would find her at work inside the
cottage. Perhaps she would be paring potatoes, as she had been on a
previous occasion, which Blanche remembered well--for had she not sat
down on a little stool beside her, and, being provided with a knife, had
pared away delightedly. She thought it the most charming of amusements;
but when she was dressing for the drawing-room that evening, Ellis had
looked suspiciously at the stained fingers, which resisted ordinary
ablutions, and Blanche, having been obliged to divulge to what culinary
uses they had been devoted that day, had been forbidden by her governess
to visit Morag again. It was therefore many weeks since she had been
within the hut; but she felt sure that Miss Prosser could not be angry
at her going on a farewell visit like this.

The door stood open, and Blanche walked in on tiptoe, smiling to think
how astonished her little friend would be to see her. She glanced
eagerly round the room, but no Morag was to be seen anywhere. The peat
fire was burning brightly, and the potatoes lay among water in a nice
wooden dish, all ready pared. But these traces of the absent inmate only
made the disappointment keener. Blanche stood looking round, with a very
dreary feeling. It was so hard not to find Morag, and she had evidently
not been gone for long; if she had only thought of coming earlier, it
would have been all right. The dreaded hour fixed for leaving the castle
must be very near now, and what if she could not be found before then?
Blanche's heart sank as she contemplated the possibility. Before she
turned to go, she cast a lingering glance round the empty dwelling, and
she could not help remarking how much nicer it looked than when she saw
it first.

The roof was still far from being rainproof certainly, and the earthen
floor was more undulating than was quite pleasant to walk upon; but the
most had been made of everything that was capable of improvement. There
was a sort of imitation of Kirsty's household arrangements which was
very observable to Blanche, and she smiled through her tears as she
noted it. On the shelf was ranged quite an imposing row of shining delf,
where there used only to stand a stray broken dish or two. Everything
was spotlessly clean and neat; and, in the little window, there
flourished some of the old woman's favorite flowers, of which she had
given slips to Morag. All this, and more, Blanche's quick eye took in at
a glance; and the thought of its being the work of a pair of little,
eager hands she knew well, brought quite a glow of pleasure, in the
midst of her disappointment.

Blanche stood gazing at Morag's home till it was photographed in her
memory. And as she turned away to go down the hill, she thought that
surely Morag must have sought and found help from her unseen Friend for
all those home duties, which it must be so difficult for a little girl
no bigger than herself to have to do; and she longed to hear more about
that friendship, from the little mountain maiden.

Gazing wistfully in the direction of the fir-wood, she wondered if she
would have time to go to see whether Morag was to be found at their old
trysting-place, the flat grey rock; but she dreaded that she would not,
so she hurried tearfully towards the castle, and only reached home as
the carriage drove to the door. She found Ellis setting out to look for
her in a state of great indignation and perplexity, having, in the midst
of the bustle, only that minute missed her charge. Some luncheon had to
be swallowed in great haste; and then, while Miss Prosser was seating
herself in the carriage, Blanche took the opportunity of darting off on
a farewell journey round the grey old keep, where she had spent so many
happy days. Only at the last minute did her papa emerge from the library
to say good-bye to his little daughter. He meant to go south by a
different route, and would not rejoin her in London for several weeks.

Blanche felt as if all the waves and billows of trouble had gone over
her head when she accidentally heard this piece of news, as she was at
last compelled to seat herself in the carriage by Miss Prosser's side.
She could not make any response to her father's cheerful waving to her
as they were driven swiftly away. She felt the knot in her throat
getting bigger every minute as they were whirled past the pleasant
birk-walk and along the winding avenue, getting occasional glimpses
through the boughs of the spruce fir-trees of the old grey turrets, or
the moorland beyond.

At last they got upon the high road, and drove swiftly on between the
sharply outlined mountains that reared themselves high and solemn all
round--like sentinels keeping eternal watch over the Glen, amid all the
changes that went on below.

Miss Prosser was busied with the index to "Bradshaw," so that,
fortunately, or the reverse, Blanche was left to her own reflections.
She kept an eager watch, as they drove swiftly on in the forlorn hope of
catching a glimpse of Morag. But the familiar spots were quickly being
left behind, and there was no trace of her anywhere; and Blanche's hope
died quite away when they got into the wider range of the strath,--away
in the direction of her southern home.

If only Blanche had not buried her face for a moment among the furs as
she was passing the larch plantation, which at a certain point skirted
the high road, her quick eye might have discovered the person she so
longed to see.

Morag stood among the larch trees, bending under a heavy bundle of
faggots, which she had been gathering, and which she had just managed to
strap on her back. Hearing the sound of wheels on the road, she turned
to look, but was only in time to catch a glimpse of the carriage, as it
passed swiftly along by the old winding dyke. Some traces of luggage
were visible, and Ellis was seated on the box. Morag's heart sank. Was
it possible they were leaving the Glen, to-day, after all? And she had
been going cheerily on with her work that morning, in the hope of
another afternoon with Blanche. For had not Ellis told her, when she
went to inquire at the castle the day before, that the southward journey
had been postponed for several days. Only a short time ago she had been
smiling as she gathered her fire-wood, thinking how pleased Kirsty would
look when the wee leddy walked into the cottage that afternoon. But
now, the more she thought of it, the more sure she felt that those
cruel, swift wheels were carrying her away beyond their reach, to a land
that seemed terrible and unknown indeed to the little mountain maiden.

She ran to the edge of the wood, and climbing on the lichen-spotted
dyke, she gazed wistfully along the winding road, where the shining
carriage was rolling swiftly along. And after she had watched it till it
could be seen no longer, the little girl sat down and wept bitterly. Her
bonnie wee leddy had gone without one parting word. Surely she must have
utterly forgotten her, or else she could not have acted thus. Gladly
would she have walked miles across pathless hills to touch her wee
leddy's hand, and now she had gone without ever sending to ask her to
come. And, as she sat weeping on the old grey dyke, the friendship of
these autumn days seemed to grow dreamlike all of a sudden. Had she ever
really walked by Shag's side with the little lady of the castle among
the moors, or sat with her in the _ben-end_ of Kirsty Macpherson's
cottage?--or, had she been in fairyland all these weeks? The past seemed
to grow so shadowy; and the bundle of dead sticks was so real and heavy,
as she wearily rose, at last, to take her solitary way to the hut among
the crags.

She had only gone a few steps in the direction of home, when she saw
coming towards her through the larch trees Kenneth Macpherson.

"Who would have thought of meeting you here, Morag?" he cheerily
accosted her. "And with such a heavy bundle of sticks, too. Let me carry
it for you--do! Why it's bigger than yourself!" he added, with a
pleasant smile, as he unfastened it and threw it across his own broad
shoulders.

"You're going home, I suppose, Morag; ar'nt you?" he asked as he walked
by her side. "I didn't know you ever came here. I often do. I can hardly
ever pass the place without crossing the dyke. You mind the tartan
folds, Morag?" said the boy, smiling sadly, as he glanced at the lonely
spot from whence his mother's soul had gone home to God.

"Ay do I! I mind upon't weel," replied Morag, with quivering lip. The
remembrance brought such a rush of mingled recollections that she could
not say more just then.

"Oh, by the by, Morag, I wish I had known a few minutes ago that you
were to be found here. I saw somebody who was very anxious to get a
sight of you. Who do you think? The bonnie wee leddy, as you call her,
on her way back to London!"

Morag stood still to listen, and as she looked earnestly into Kenneth's
face, he noticed that she had been crying. "I never kent she was awa
till I got a blink o' the cairage no lang syne. She never telt me she
was goin' the day," and the little girl struggled vainly to keep back
the tears.

"But I'm sure it wasn't her fault that you did not know she was leaving
the Glen to-day, Morag. She seemed very sorry-like herself, and sent a
message to you. When she noticed me on the road she jumped up from among
a lot of furs, and stopped the carriage. The lady beside her was reading
a book, and she looked up some angry like, and said something sharp. I
think the wee leddy wanted to get out of the carriage to come and speak
to me, but she wouldn't let her. Then she stretched her hand down and
smiled very pleasantly, though I think she had been crying, too," added
the kind-hearted Kenneth rather pathetically, as he glanced at Morag.
"Then she began to thank me for what I did at the loch. I'm sure it
wasn't anything to thank a body so much for. Such a pretty voice she
has. It just sounded like the chimes of silver bells, Morag. And after
she had thanked me, she stooped down quite low, and whispered as if she
were afraid that the lady would hear, 'Oh, Kenneth, do you think you
could find Morag anywhere? I'm sure she can't know I've gone, or else
she would surely have come to see me.' But just then the lady rose very
angry like, and said, sharply, 'Come now, Blanche, I cannot permit this.
Drive on, Lucas!' she called out to the coachman; and then she sat down
to her book again. The wee lady seemed very vexed, and when the horses
started, she stretched down once again, and her curls came falling about
her face and she cried, 'Give Morag my dearest love!'"

When Kenneth had finished his narration, Morag began to sob again, and
he felt greatly at a loss to know how to comfort her. But they were
tears of joy now. The feeling of bitterness was all gone. Her bonnie wee
leddy had not forgotten her, and the friendship of those autumn days was
no bit of fairyland after all.

Kenneth did not leave her till the bundle of firewood was deposited in
the hut, and Morag had promised to come and pay them a visit at the
cottage that afternoon.

And as he went sauntering down the hill with his hands in his pockets,
whistling a tune, he thought what a very nice girl Morag was; and how
glad he felt that it was not she who had gone away from the Glen. And he
further decided that such a great bundle of sticks was much too heavy
for a girl to carry, and resolved that, in future, he should always be
in attendance to carry home the firewood.

As Morag re-entered the cottage, and glanced round the empty room, she
saw something lying on the earthen floor which she had not dropped
there; and stooping down, she picked up a little, half-worn glove, which
told a tale. She looked eagerly round, as if some lingering presence of
its owner must still pervade. Her bonnie wee leddy was leal and true
after all, and she felt remorseful that she had doubted her for a
moment. Kissing the token reverently, she opened the old _kist_, and
slipped it between the folds of her most precious book, where it
remained a sacred relic of that morning's visitor for many a long year.



XIII.

_BACK IN LONDON._


IT was a foggy November afternoon; the color of the surrounding
atmosphere was almost as yellow as the gorgeous damask hangings which
draped Mr. Clifford's handsome drawing-room. Our friend Blanche was
wandering listlessly up and down the room, in one of her most restless
moods, her governess remarked, as she looked up from a piece of
elaborate lace-work which was growing rapidly under her diligent
fingers.

It was the usual hour for walking, but the unpleasant weather had kept
them indoors. Blanche seemed to find this play-hour extremely dull, and
appeared to have failed in all her efforts to amuse herself. On one of
the couches there lay open a beautiful drawing-room book of engravings,
which she had been looking at, but she knew all the pictures by heart
already, so she soon tired of turning the leaves. Then she went to the
piano to try over some old chorales of her mamma's copying, which she
had found among her music; but Miss Prosser presently remarked that she
might play something more lively on such a dismal day as this, so
Blanche, at last, glided away among the curtains, and stood looking out
on the dense fog. The amber gloom enveloped even the nearest objects, so
there was really nothing to see from the window, though Blanche stood
gazing out intently. But there was a far-away look in her eyes which
seemed to betoken that it was a mental picture which absorbed her.

Miss Prosser again glanced uneasily at her little charge; but this time
she did not speak. Her pupil had been rather a puzzle to her of late,
and she would gladly have shared her thoughts as she stood there. It was
not her habit, however, to elicit confidences of any kind from her
pupils; and, indeed, till quite lately, it had not been necessary in
Blanche Clifford's case. Her nature was so frank and gay that her
thoughts were generally shared by those nearest to her, whether they
were sympathetic listeners or not. But, of late, a change had been
stealing over the little girl. She had grown more quiet and
self-contained than she used to be. Less wayward and troublesome she
certainly was, but her governess sometimes thought, as she looked at
her thoughtful face, that she would gladly welcome back some of the old
boisterous ways which she used to characterize so severely.

Presently Blanche emerged from among the yellow draperies, and, seating
herself on a low stool, looked meditatively into the fire.

"Miss Prosser, I am afraid you will think it a very silly question I'm
going to ask," she said presently, as she threw herself at her
governess' feet, laying her hands on her knees. "Do you think I begin to
get any better at all? I have been trying so hard to be good ever since
I came from Glen Eagle; but it is so difficult," added Blanche, with a
deep sigh. "There now, I tried ever so hard to write that French letter
correctly last night, and yet I had several mistakes to-day, you know."

"My dear child, you are getting morbid. This unpleasant fog has a most
depressing effect, I know. You are a very good child, my dear. There is
no reason to reproach yourself as you do, I assure you. Only this
morning, in my report to your father, I stated that I was pleased with
your progress, and Signor Lesbini was expressing his satisfaction with
you, also," added Miss Prosser, who, however, felt rather disconcerted
by the new _rôle_ she had to play in taking her pupil's part against
herself. It was so unlike the bright, careless Blanche of a few months
ago; and as she glanced at the wistful, upturned face, she noticed that
the outline of the cheek was sharper than of old, and the delicate
tracery of veins on the forehead more visible. Still the child was well
enough, to all appearance, and Miss Prosser began to think that she,
too, must be growing fanciful.

"But you don't see my heart, Miss Prosser, or you would not say I was
good," replied Blanche, looking into her governess' face with a
perplexed gaze. "You have no idea how naughty I felt to-day, when you
decided that we should not go out to walk. I think I feel oftener cross
than I used to do; and yet I try so very hard to be good," sighed
Blanche, despondingly. "Will you tell me, Miss Prosser, if you thought
much about the Lord Jesus Christ, and tried to please Him, when you were
about my age? I wonder whether my mamma did!" continued the little girl,
as she looked musingly into the fire.

"My dear Blanche, of course it is proper that we should lead Christian
lives. You know our parents and sponsors undertook that for us, in
baptism. And one day you will be confirmed, I hope. I should like you to
go up at the same time as your cousin, Lady Matilda. By the way,
Blanche, I think I shall write and ask her mamma if she may come and
spend a day with you. You have hardly seen her since you came home. And
you shall have a whole holiday, and do whatever you like. You quite
deserve it, for you have been a most diligent child lately. We have
really been getting over a great deal of ground. And these harp-lessons,
which your papa is so anxious for you to have, do take up so much time.
Yes, I think I shall write this afternoon and ask the little Lady
Matilda to come on Friday."

Blanche sighed, and continued her meditations among the glowing coals.
She was thinking of another friend whom she would much rather have to
spend the day. One afternoon's ramble in the fir-wood with Morag
Dingwall, she thought, would be worth half-a-dozen walks in the Park
with any Lady Matilda in the world.

These autumn days already began to gather round them that halo which
seems always to surround past periods. The very names and places
connected with those days thrilled Blanche like the music of a song.
But, unlike her usual frank disposition, she never had these names on
her lips, but kept them like a stolen casket of precious gems, only to
be taken out and looked at when alone. So noticeable, indeed, was her
silence concerning Glen Eagle, that Miss Prosser concluded the Highland
experiences were quite out of mind; and she was not sorry, on the whole,
to think that the bond had been so quickly loosened between her pupil
and the little mountaineer.

The maid Ellis was absent on a visit to her friends, or probably her
many garrulous memories of Stratheagle might have broken through
Blanche's reserve; but, as it was, she dwelt silently among her mental
pictures of the Highland glen.

When Signor Lesbini, her music master, was announced, Blanche's thoughts
were far away in the _ben-end_ of Kirsty's cottage. Starting up from her
seat by the fire, she ran to find her music, while the servant placed
her harp in its usual position, and Miss Prosser and the music master
were exchanging stately salutes.

Mr. Clifford was anxious that Blanche's taste for music should be
cultivated in every direction; and these lessons were inserted in the
educational programme by his special desire. Blanche was very anxious
that she should be able to make some pleasant sounds on the harp before
her father came home; and she was succeeding in doing so, to judge from
her master's frequent, soft, "bene,--benissimo, Signorina!"

Miss Prosser, meanwhile retired to a distant corner of the room to write
various small scented notes to her friends. Among others, an invitation
was duly despatched to the small Lady Matilda, asking her to spend a day
with her cousin, and to go to the pantomime in the evening. The latter
part of the programme Miss Prosser kept as a reserve treat for Blanche,
who had never been to a pantomime, and wished very much to see one.

The invitation was duly accepted on behalf of the little Lady Matilda.
She appeared on the day appointed, alighting from her smart pony
carriage, escorted by her maid and footman. She was a lean, dark, sallow
child, very different in coloring and expression from her cousin
Blanche. She always appeared in the most sleek, unruffled state of
tidiness and propriety; she looked, in fact, as if she had come into the
world precisely as she stood--at the same stage of growth, and in the
same faultless toilette. At least such was the reflection which
sometimes rose to Ellis's mind as she surveyed her with half envious,
half contemptuous eyes, side by side with her careless and often
dishevelled little mistress, whose shoulders would somehow get out of
her frocks; and one of whose shoes had been actually known to go
amissing during dinner, being afterwards brought to her, on a silver
tray, by her aunt's solemn butler. Of this terrible _faux pas_, the Lady
Matilda's maid occasionally reminded Ellis when they quarrelled over the
respective merits of their little ladies.

Notwithstanding Miss Prosser's well-meaning efforts to create a
friendship between the cousins, they did not appear to draw to each
other in the least. The earlier hours of the day passed in uneventful
dulness--at least so thought Blanche, who shocked her governess by
yawning twice in her visitor's face, and exhibiting various other tokens
of her want of appreciation of her society. Finally, she disappeared for
a period, and returned with the cook's white kitten rolled in her smart
blue velvet dress--a trophy from among the pots and pans, and showing
too many traces of its former playground to deserve its name of Snow.

The calm little Lady Matilda surveyed her companion's restless movements
with a look of mild surprise, glancing up, now and then, from a piece of
lace-work, on which she was bestowing great thought and care. Miss
Prosser had been admiring it greatly; and commended her diligence in a
way which reflected somewhat on her own pupil's want of that quality,
particularly as regarded needlework.

"But what's the use of it? What do you mean to do with it, Matty?" asked
Blanche, unrolling the elaborate piece of work in question.

"My dear Blanche, you are not always so practical, I am sure," said Miss
Prosser, coming to the rescue. "Do you not know that it is a part of
every young lady's education to be able to sew fancy work? And, besides,
the habit of diligence is so good, my dear Blanche; you ought to
remember that."

"Well; but it seems to me that there is no use of some people being
diligent--about sewing, at all events. Don't you remember these slippers
I sewed for papa, Miss Prosser? He certainly seemed very much pleased
when I gave them to him; and I felt as if I had been really useful in
having made a pair of shoes; and thought it would be so nice to see papa
going about in shoes of my making. But, not long afterwards, I heard him
say to somebody that he detested sewed slippers, and never wore them. I
suppose he had forgotten all about the pair I made for him then,
because I'm sure he would not have wanted to hurt my feelings," added
Blanche pathetically.

The conversation was here interrupted by the servant coming to ask at
what hour the carriage would be required; and then the delightful secret
came out at last. Blanche was in an ecstacy of delight at the prospect
of seeing a pantomime. Some time ago her governess would have checked
her glee as an unbecoming outburst, but now she hailed it as a proof
that her little charge was regaining that elasticity of spirit which she
had somewhat lost of late, and she congratulated herself on the success
of her efforts for her amusement.

The pantomime that evening was "The Babes in the Wood," though it
certainly contained marvellous variations not suggested by the old
English ballad which it was meant to illustrate. In fact the Babes
themselves were hardly distinguishable, so surrounded were they by
moving troops of wee green folk, peeping out in all directions, and
marvellously suspended from the boughs of trees. Indeed, it is doubtful
whether the original robins could have found a branch throughout the
forest to hop on--so covered were they by dazzling fairies performing
all manner of wonderful evolutions in mid-air.

Lady Matilda surveyed the marvellous scene with considerably more repose
of manner than her cousin. She was quite an old frequenter of such
exhibitions, so she was able to compare it with yet more gorgeous
performances, and to feel pretty sure what was coming next.

But to Blanche, the pantomime had all the charm of novelty. She stood
entranced, gazing at the stage with eager, upturned face. More than one
frequenter of the theatre observed with amusement the eager little girl,
who was not content to view the scene from her comfortable chair in the
box, but kept leaning forward, in a bewilderment of happiness,
notwithstanding her cousin's mild suggestions that she would be very
tired before the end of the play if she did not sit down.

Every scene was more charming and wonderful than the one which went
before. The fun among the wee green folks was getting more fast and
furious every minute. Blanche thought they looked like dragon-flies in
the sunshine, as they went flitting about. It had not occurred to her
that they were real flesh and blood creatures like herself, till,
suddenly, one dazzling little elf fell from a giddy height, on to the
stage. For a moment, Blanche fancied that the descent of the fairy was
all part of the fun; but presently a shrill cry of human pain, and a few
compassionate voices from the crowd below, caused her to realize that
underneath the mass of gauze and gilt there was a poor body in pain.

In an instant the poor crushed fairy was borne away from the bright
scene, and the fun went on again in mad hurly-burly. But, somehow,
Blanche's eyes had grown dim, and she shrank back on her seat with a
shudder.

"Why, what's the matter, cousin Blanche?" whispered the imperturbable
little Lady Matilda, as she surveyed her cousin's movement with mild
surprise.

"Oh, didn't you see, Matty? I'm afraid it must be awfully hurt. It fell
from such a height--the fairy, I mean. Didn't you hear it cry? it
sounded so dreadful when we were al' so happy. I never dreamt they could
feel."

Lady Matilda showed a row of pearly teeth as she replied, "Why, yes, of
course. How odd you are, Blanche. Didn't you know they are poor
children, who do all this for money? I should think they must be quite
used to falling by this time."

Blanche was horror-struck. She tried to avert her eyes from the stage,
but, in spite of herself, she felt her glance riveted on the hovering
fairies, not in delight now, but in terror, lest another of them should
fall.

"Little girls who do it for bread," Blanche repeated to herself, as she
leant back on her seat, and covered her face with her hands. And as she
sat thus, her thoughts went slipping back to the Highland glen. She
remembered the elfish-looking little form that gazed in upon her at the
window of the old castle, on that autumn morning; and she shuddered to
think how, under other circumstances, her friend Morag might have been
such a victim. Then she began to think of the poor fairy; she wondered
whether she was dreadfully hurt, and resolved that she should beg Miss
Prosser to make inquiries before they left the theatre.

It was with a feeling of relief that she saw the curtain drop at last,
and the people begin to move away. Then she made an eager appeal that
they should go and ask after the child. The request seemed utterly
outrageous when first presented to Miss Prosser's mind; but Blanche was
so urgent that, at last, she consented to dispatch the maid to make
inquiries behind the scenes. Then Blanche began to plead to be allowed
to go, too. She was so very eager that her governess, at last, after
many injunctions to the maid, gave a reluctant consent, arranging that
she should wait in the box with the little Lady Matilda, who seemed to
view her impetuous cousin's movements with unfeigned astonishment, not
unmixed with annoyance.

Blanche was all trembling with excitement when the maid took her hand,
and they began to thread their way through the corridors, which were
getting emptied now. Presently they met a man who was putting out the
lights, and the maid stopped to ask where they could go to inquire after
the hurt fairy. Having got directions how to proceed, they went on
through narrower and less luxurious passages--so dark and dingy-looking
that Blanche began to feel afraid, and grasped her maid's hand more
tightly. They came at last to a room, the door of which stood half open.
They were hesitating whether this was the room to which they had been
directed, when they heard a thin, feeble voice within, moaning, as if in
pain.

"That's the fairy, I'm sure, Grant," whispered Blanche, eagerly. "Do
just peep in and see."

The maid pushed open the door and walked a few steps forward. On the
floor stood a paraffine lamp which shed a dim light throughout the
room, showing a heap of matting in the corner, where a poor, emaciated
child lay. Gleaming through the half darkness, Blanche could distinguish
a pale, sharp, unchildlike face, that rested on a thin shrivelled hand.
A wretched mud-colored rag seemed to be her sole garment; and, at her
side, there stood a pair of big boots, or what served for them, but they
seemed almost detached pieces of leather now; besides being of a
considerably larger size than the wearer would require. Lying on a
table, in another corner of the room, was the gauzy fairy gear, at which
Blanche glanced sadly, thinking it contrasted strangely with the
wretched rags for which it had been exchanged.

On hearing the sound of footsteps, the child started up, and looked
wildly round, as she exclaimed, "O mother! you'll not beat me this time!
I'm so bad--it's my leg! Tim said he never saw nothing like the fall I
got! Oh, my! it hurts awful!" and the child began to writhe in pain.

"It is not your mother--poor thing! But I daresay your mother will be
here before long," said the maid, in a compassionate tone, as she
stooped down to look at the child.

In a moment, Blanche was kneeling beside the heap of matting, her
pretty blue opera cloak falling on the grimy floor as she took the
child's little black fingers in her hands, saying, eagerly, "O poor,
poor fairy!--little girl, I mean," she added, for she could not yet
divest herself of the idea of the gauzy wings and woven spangles,--"what
a dreadful fall you had. I'm afraid you must be very much hurt!"

The child drew her hand away, and looked sharply at Blanche. Presently
she nodded, saying, "I know; you're the pretty little girl what looked
so pleased at the pantomime. We noticed you--Tim and me. Tim's the boy
what hangs the lamps, you know. He's gone to fetch mother; but she
aren't a-comin' yet. Drinkin' again, most likely--she's always at it."

Just then a loud-voiced, boisterous woman came staggering into the room.

"Well, young 'un, so you've been and gone and done it again! Didn't I
tell you to mind your feet, you little idiot!" and the woman, stooping
down, seized the child and shook her roughly.

"Oh, mother, mother, don't! I couldn't help it, noways--my head got so
giddy. Oh, I'm so bad!" the weak voice wailed out; and presently the
little face got more pale and pinched than before, and the poor fairy
fainted away.

"You've killed her, you have--you cruel, cruel woman! How dare you speak
so?" said Blanche, quivering with indignation, as she sprang to her feet
from beside the matting where she had been kneeling, and almost sprang
at the half-tipsy woman.

"Ho, ho! pretty bird; and who may you be? and what's your business, I'd
like to know, a-comin' between me and my brat!" shouted the woman,
folding her arms, and glaring at the little girl.

The maid stepped forward immediately, and said, in a quiet, firm tone,
"Come, Miss Clifford, we must go at once." And then turning to the
woman, she added, "We merely came to make inquiries after the poor
child. We saw her get a dreadful fall a short time ago. I fear she is
very much hurt. I really think you will do well to look after your
child," added Grant, as she took Blanche's hand, and prepared to go. She
glanced at the poor fairy, who was still lying unconscious, and
discovering a jug of water standing near, the maid sprinkled some on the
child's face and hands, and presently she began to show signs of
returning consciousness.

"Now, Miss Clifford, we must really go at once," whispered the maid to
the reluctant Blanche. "We've stayed much too long already. I don't know
what Miss Prosser will think."

The woman still stood with folded arms gazing, open-mouthed, at the
group. Grant again pointed to the poor little creature, reminding her
that she should look after her child. And, at last, after a lingering,
pitying glance at the poor little cowering fairy in her rags, Blanche
suffered herself to be led away.

They found Miss Prosser in a state of great anxiety and considerable
indignation at their delay. The maid explained the matter in a few
prompt words, while Blanche stood by the little Lady Matilda graphically
describing the sad, disenchanting scene which had followed her first
visit to the gorgeous fairy pantomime.

And thus it happened that Miss Prosser's well-meant effort for the
amusement of her little pupil, ended in Blanche Clifford getting a
sorrowful glimpse behind the tinsel and the glitter, which only served
to deepen the thoughtful shadow that had, of late, been stealing across
her sunny, childish brow.



XIV.

_VISIT TO THE FAIRY._


BLANCHE'S temporary maid was a very silent woman, and was therefore
regarded by her little mistress as an extremely dull, uninteresting
attendant. She longed for Ellis's return to her post; forgetting all the
passages-at-arms which had taken place between them during her reign.
And especially since the evening at the pantomime, she wanted to have
somebody to talk to about the poor fairy. Grant merely replied to her
remarks in the briefest possible way; and Blanche decided that she was
hard-hearted as well as uninteresting, for, if she were not, she could
not fail to express her sympathy for the poor little girl who seemed in
such pain, and had such a dreadful mother. The remembrance of the little
pinched face quite haunted her. She went over the scene again and again
in her mind; and wondered where her home was, and what would become of
her. Miss Prosser assured her that she would certainly be taken to the
hospital, and very well cared for; but still Blanche was not satisfied.
Whenever she went out to walk, she looked eagerly, among the faces in
the crowd, for the face of the terrible mother, and she resolved that
however dreadful she looked, she would go to her and inquire about her
little girl.

She sometimes wondered, too, whether the poor fairy knew anything about
that unseen Friend whom, in these last days, she had been learning to
know and love. It would be such a comfort to speak to Him when her
mother was so wicked and so cruel, Blanche thought, and she did not
forget to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to make the poor, bruised fairy well
again, and to soften her mother's hard heart.

One day, in particular, she had been thinking a great deal about the
fairy; and, in the evening, after she was comfortably tucked into bed,
her maid still lingered with the candle in her hand, as if she had
something that she wanted to say.

"I've been to see a little girl, to-day, who has not such a comfortable
bed as you have, Miss Clifford, though her poor little bones need it
sore enough."

"Ah! have you, Grant?" replied Blanche, sitting up in bed, in a
listening attitude. "Do tell me about her. Who is she, and how did you
come to know her? Is she as poor and pinched-looking as the fairy, do
you think?"

"She is the fairy, Miss Blanche--the poor little thing we saw at the
pantomime."

"O Grant, you don't mean to say so! Have you really found her out? I'm
so very, very glad. It's what I've been longing to do. Where does she
live, and was she very much hurt? You must take me to see her; indeed
you must, Grant. Do tell me all about it before you go."

The maid then narrated how, the day before, she chanced to meet the
terrible mother, in company with another woman, somewhat less tipsy than
she, and able to give Grant the information she required concerning the
poor child, who, from her account, was still very ill and very
destitute. Grant went immediately, in the mother's absence, and saw the
little girl in her wretched home. Her leg appeared to have been very
badly hurt; the doctor, whom a kind neighbor had once brought to see
her, said that she would always be lame, and the child's chief regret
seemed to be that she would never be able to act at the pantomime any
more.

Blanche listened eagerly to all the information Grant had to give, and
before she went to sleep that night was plotting and planning how she
could accomplish a visit to the fairy's home.

Next day, when Miss Prosser announced that she would dine out in the
evening, and had made arrangements for Grant to sit in the schoolroom
with her pupil, Blanche looked upon the circumstance as the most
delightful opportunity for carrying out her plan. Her governess very
rarely made engagements for the evening, or left her pupil to her own
devices; so it seemed to Blanche the rarest piece of good luck that she
should be going out to-night. She knew very well that Miss Prosser would
not give her sanction to a visit to the wretched little girl; and though
Blanche felt doubtful whether she was doing right in thus taking
advantage of her governess' absence, she was so bent upon seeing the
fairy again, that she tried only to look at her own side of the
question.

She did not divulge her plan to Grant till Miss Prosser was fairly gone,
and then she brought all her coaxing artillery to bear on the maid, who
at last reluctantly yielded to her self-willed little mistress.

It was quite a new experience for Blanche to find herself out walking
after dark. As she linked her arm into her maid's, and they began to
thread their way along the lamp-lit streets, Blanche felt somewhat of
the feeling of adventure which she had on that autumn morning at Glen
Eagle, when she found herself alone in the fir-forest. And there was a
strange resemblance between the occasions in another way, though Blanche
did not know it. On that morning she went, unconscious of it though she
was, to bring life and love and hope into the heart of the lonely little
maiden who leant against one of the old fir-trees. And, to-night, she
was going on a similar mission--not along the pleasant roads of
Stratheagle in a sunshiny morning, but through a dreary November drizzle
to a wretched haunt of misery, where a poor little desolate heart sorely
needed some ministry of love.

Strange to say, the wretched cellar in the narrow court was not so far
distant from Mr. Clifford's stately mansion as might have been expected,
so Blanche and her guide were not long in reaching the fairy's home.

After going down a flight of steps, Grant led the way to a dreary room.
Opening the door quietly, Blanche peeped cautiously in. The poor child
lay on a heap of straw. When the door opened, she raised her head and
eagerly scanned the visitors. Evidently recognizing Blanche, she fixed
her sharp, unchildlike eyes on her, saying, in her shrill voice, "Have
you been to it again? Aren't it a pretty pantomime? You seemed much
'appier than that t'other 'un. _We_ noticed you. I wish I was there,--I
do. It's wery dull a-lyin' here. Tim's never looked near, neither."
Then, turning to the maid, she said, in her sharp, querulous tone,
"Well, s'pose you've brought me a bit of somethink to eat. You said you
would, mind!"

[Illustration: Morag.]

Blanche felt rather repulsed, but she hastened to uncover a dish of
fruit which Grant had placed upon a stool near her, and handed some to
the little girl, who seized it eagerly, saying, "I haven't tasted
nothink since last night--seen nobody--she's been at it again, drinkin'
dreadful. And what made a pretty, fine lady like you come to see me?"
she asked, turning to survey Blanche more closely when her hunger was
somewhat appeased. "'Ave you got anythink else for 'un?"

"O poor fairy! I'm so sorry for you, I came to see you because I was. I
have thought so much about you since that evening at the pantomime, and
I was so very glad when Grant told me she had found your home," said
Blanche, kneeling down beside the child and taking the little thin
fingers into her hand. The little girl glanced rather suspiciously at
Blanche, who, while Grant went to unfold a warm blanket she had brought,
came closer and whispered in a low, nervous tone, "And I came to see you
besides, fairy, because I wanted so very much to tell you about a good
Lord Jesus, who, I'm sure, loves you, and will be very kind to you.
Indeed it's only quite lately I've come really to know Him, myself. But
I'm sure He loves you very much even now, and would be such a kind
Friend for you to have."

"Don't b'lieve it," replied the fairy, as she drew her hand away, which
Blanche had been stroking. "We see lots on 'em--Tim and me--at the
pantomime. Most likely seed this 'un. They never give us a fardin,
though we sometimes beg for somethink when they're a-comin' out of the
play. But we're forbid to, you know," she added, nodding and winking as
she glanced at Blanche's earnest face.

"Oh! but indeed, fairy, you are quite mistaken. You couldn't possibly
see him at the pantomime. He is not to be seen anywhere at all in the
world now. But though we can't see Him, He lives still, and hears us
when we speak to Him and loves us so much,--indeed He does."

"Don't b'lieve it. Tim says them kind hates poor folks, and that he'd
choke 'em if he could--and 'opes he'll have the chance some day."

"Oh! but, indeed, fairy, the Lord Jesus Christ does not hate anybody,"
gasped Blanche. "I know He loves everybody, and just died on the cross a
very cruel, dreadful death because He loved people so much. And, indeed,
I think He cares especially for poor, sick, sad people, who want a
friend."

A look of interest seemed to come into the little pinched face, and
Blanche felt encouraged, and continued, in a pleading tone--"And do you
know, fairy, if you were to ask Him for anything, He will really hear
you, though you cannot see him standing there listening. I know an old
woman, and a little girl not much older than you, and they both love the
Lord Jesus Christ so much, and speak to Him a great deal. And I do, too;
but I've only begun a little while ago. But I'm quite sure He does hear
us and help us too," said Blanche earnestly. Her faith in the Saviour
seeming to grow stronger every moment as she gazed on this lost child
whom He had come to seek and to save.

"He'd give a body somethink, you say," said the fairy presently, looking
sharply at Blanche with her cunning eyes, after she had thought over her
words for a little.

"Well now, lady, I say it's a shabby trick of the likes of you, as has
lots of nice things, to be goin' beggin'. Look 'ere, if He be as good as
you say, just you tell Him I'm a-lyin' here wery bad--and all about it,
you know. And ask somethink--a trifle, you know, to begin with," added
the child, winking knowingly, as she stuck her tongue into the corner of
her mouth, and looked into Blanche's face to see what impression this
practical proposal made. "Look 'ere, now; you see how wery bad I want a
dress--and there's my boots won't stick to my feet no ways."

Blanche felt sorely discouraged. She saw that she had evidently not been
able to impart to this dark soul a glimmering of what the Lord Jesus
Christ came to do. She did want so very much to make the little girl
understand what a real helper and friend He was; but she felt as if she
had only brought confusion into the poor child's mind, and failed to
represent the Saviour as anything more than a bountiful alms-giver. It
must be her fault that she could not make it plainer, Blanche thought;
and in her perplexity, she lifted up her heart to Him who turneth men's
hearts as rivers of waters, whither He will, and asked that His life and
light and love might penetrate the poor fairy's darkened soul.

Blanche Clifford rose from her knees from beside the straw pallet with a
very despondent feeling; but though she did not know it, her prayer of
faith was of better service to the little girl than her clearest
teaching or most eloquently spoken words.

"We must really go now, Miss Blanche," whispered the maid. "I'm afraid
of your standing in this damp place any longer. And it's getting very
late, besides. Do come now, Miss Clifford."

Blanche made a gesture of impatience; but she quickly remembered that
she had promised Grant she would leave whenever she was asked, and so
she prepared to go without further remonstrance.

"Good-bye, fairy. I'm so sorry I have to go now. But I'll try to come to
see you again, one day very soon. And I shall not forget to ask the Lord
Jesus Christ to come to you, and to love you and teach you Himself, and
give you everything that you need."

"Will you, though?" replied the child, looking keenly at Blanche's
earnest, guileless face. "Don't want no teachin' much--dreadful bad for
the dress and boots, though;" and then she added, with a softer
expression on her face than Blanche observed before, "You're a nice,
pretty little thing. I likes you." Then after a pause she continued, in
a reckless tone, "Don't b'lieve you'll come again, nor send Him neither,
though. Nobody never keeps no promises. Tim hasn't; he's never looked
near."

"Well, fairy, I know one Person who does keep promises, at any rate,"
said Blanche, smiling.

"I don't," nodded the child, decisively. "P'rhaps you keeps your
promises. You do look a nice little thing," she added, putting out her
thin fingers, and taking hold of Blanche's dress in a caressing way.

"No, fairy; I'm sure I don't always keep my promises. It's the Lord
Jesus Christ I mean. I've just been trying to remember one of His
promises to tell you, and I've found one--it's this, 'I will give you a
new heart.' Will you try to remember to ask Him for that?--do, dear
fairy."

"A new 'art. Well, did I ever--as if I wasn't needin' a new dress a
great sight more;" and the child threw herself back among the straw, and
laughed shrilly.

Grant had gone to the door to try and open it in the absence of a
handle, which had been wrenched off, and Blanche took the opportunity to
whisper, "I know you need a new dress very much, poor fairy; and perhaps
He'll give you that, too. But will you ask Him--quite low, if you
like--just when you are lying here all by yourself--to give you a new
heart? That means to make you good and happy always, you know. He does
really hear, though you cannot see Him. Will you not try, fairy?"

"Don't mind though I do. Nothink else to do lyin' here. I'm to ask a new
'art, you say,--just as if I was a-beggin' from a gintle-man on the
street, I s'pose? I know," said the child, with a nod. "Look, she's
waitin' for you--got the door open. Now, see you ax Him for the dress
and boots."



XV.

_A RIDE IN THE PARK._


ONE result of Blanche Clifford's visit to the pantomime-fairy's home was
a bad cold, which showed itself next morning. The maid immediately
explained its probable cause to Miss Prosser, taking the sole blame on
herself for having allowed the visit. But Blanche presently gave her
account of the matter, which represented herself as the sole culprit; so
the governess felt doubtful who she should blame, and finally ended by
scolding nobody. She listened with interest to the sequel of the
pantomime scene, as Blanche gave some passages from her visit to the
poor child, pleading that Grant might be sent with some needful comforts
to the wretched home. Miss Prosser readily consented; she also set about
making arrangements to have the child taken to the Sick Children's
Hospital, and commissioned Grant to try to find the mother, and gain her
consent to having her removed.

Blanche felt rather reproached when she remembered how quickly she had
concluded that her governess would not sympathize with her interest in
the lame fairy, after she found how heartily she entered into all her
plans for helping her.

Throughout the day she was kept a prisoner in her room because of her
cold--a state of matters which she generally resented greatly; but
to-day she felt quite happy and busy, as she helped to fill a box which
was to be taken by Grant to the fairy's home. Blanche did not forget the
special request which the fairy begged to have made for her, though
neither dress nor boots were sent in the box that morning. And before
she went to bed that night, Blanche smiled as she drew out her own
private purse to see how much pocket-money was left, for she thought she
knew what she would like to do with it.

"How much does it cost to buy cloth for a dress, Grant--not a silk
dress, you know, or anything of that kind, but some nice warm cloth?"
asked Blanche, nervously handling the two gold pieces which were left in
her purse.

"Well, that depends, Miss Clifford. Of course it takes more for a
grown-up person than for a child," replied the maid, who stood brushing
Blanche's long curls.

"I wish I hadn't bought those love-birds, Grant. I shall get no more
money till Christmas, you see; and I do so want to buy a nice warm dress
for the poor fairy."

"But I daresay Miss Prosser will allow you to give her one of your own
old dresses, Miss Blanche. I am sure there are plenty of them folded
away up-stairs that you will never wear again."

"Oh yes, I daresay; and perhaps, afterwards, she may get some of them.
But this once I should like to get her quite a new dress--bought and
made all for herself, you know. You would shape it, would you not,
Grant? And, do you know, I want to sew it all myself--every bit of it,"
added Blanche, in a confidential tone. "I daresay I might have it
finished before the poor fairy is able to be out again, if I were only
to work very hard. Don't you think so, Grant?"

Next day Miss Prosser was consulted and gave her consent, though she
thought it seemed rather an odd idea; and laughingly remarked to the
maid that she might quite count upon having to finish the garment, as
Miss Clifford had never been known to hem half a pocket-handkerchief in
her life. But it might amuse her while her cold lasted; so Grant was
commissioned to get a selection of suitable patterns of cloth, from
which Blanche selected a warm blue woollen serge. Then she was all
impatience till the initiatory stages of shaping should be gone through,
and she should begin to sew.

Such a diligent little woman she looked, as she sat stitching away, her
fingers all stained with the blue dye, and, all the while, planning a
similar garment for Morag, as a Christmas present. She was still
confined to her room because of her cold; and there she sat, hour after
hour, with her head bent over her work, sewing so unweariedly that Miss
Prosser felt obliged at length to remonstrate, suggesting that she
should betake herself to some amusement now, while commending her for
her diligence. Knowing well Blanche's dislike to sewing of any kind, her
governess was surprised to see such devotion to a piece of needle-work
which did not seem very necessary, and looked most unattractive; for
Blanche had not explained why she was so anxious that the fairy should
receive quite a new dress, made all for herself.

But as Miss Prosser looked at the flushed, eager little face, bending
over the rough piece of work with such diligence and interest, it gave
her a key to her pupil which had been missing before; and she recognized
a motive power which might prove a better thing than a love for fancy
work, and could transform the impulsive, pleasure-loving Blanche into a
brave, ministering woman.

The next day Blanche received the delightful and unexpected tidings that
her father would return home on the following evening. She had not seen
him since that eventful morning on which she left Glen Eagle, and he had
stood waving a cheerful farewell in the old court-yard of the castle
when she was so very sorrowful.

Mr. Clifford intended to have followed his daughter shortly afterwards,
but changing his plans, he went on a tour abroad with some friends. He
had not meant to return to London till spring, so his coming was a
delightful surprise for Blanche.

Her father so rarely lived for any length of time at home, that she had
become so far accustomed to his absence; but to have him for a little
while was an intense pleasure--to be made the most of while the visit
lasted; and Blanche built many castles in the air about the pleasant
Christmas time there could not fail to be when her papa was to be with
her. But instead of flitting about in a state of absolute idleness,
which Miss Prosser described as her usual practice, when there was any
pleasant event in prospect, Blanche stitched her happy thoughts into the
fairy's half finished garment, which grew rapidly under her diligent
fingers; only laying it aside in time to prepare to welcome her father.

"Why, pussy, how brilliant you look; not even the breezes of Stratheagle
gave you peonies like these," said Mr. Clifford, as he looked fondly at
his little daughter, who clung to his arm with a radiant face, as they
mounted the broad staircase to the drawing-room together, after he had
divested himself of his travelling wraps.

"How do you do, Miss Prosser? I must really congratulate you on your
pupil's appearance," said the master of the house, as he walked into the
drawing-room, and shook hands with the governess.

Blanche presently darted off to inform Grant that her papa was really
come, and was at this moment talking to Miss Prosser in the
drawing-room, where it might be possible to have a peep at him through
the open door. She looked upon it as a great privation for Grant never
to have seen her papa, and took for granted that her maid would be full
of impatience to do so.

"Why, Blanche, how you've grown, my child!" exclaimed Mr. Clifford,
surveying her as she re-entered the room, while he stood warming himself
by the fire. "I declare you will soon arrive at the blissful long-dress
period that has been your ambition for so long. Now come and tell me
what mischief you have been about since I saw you last, pussy! Let me
see, where was that? Ah yes, I remember--not since that morning you and
Miss Prosser left Glen Eagle. And have you quite forgotten that little
wild woman of the woods--what's her name, eh, Blanchie?"

Mr. Clifford noticed that the peony cheek flushed even a deeper red as
Blanche replied, "No, papa; I shall never forget Morag as long as I
live. I don't see how I ever could. We shall go back again to Glen Eagle
next autumn, shan't we, papa?"

"Oh yes; of course. I have taken the shooting for three years. It's a
first-rate place. And so you would actually like to go back to Glen
Eagle, Blanchie? Did you not find it very dull sometimes away among the
hills--confess now?"

"Oh no, papa; indeed I didn't find it dull--not near so dull as here. I
don't see how I could ever feel dull at Glen Eagle," said Blanche,
decidedly; and then she added, "Well, perhaps if Kirsty and Morag were
both away from the Glen, and Shag could not be found to ride about on,
then it might be rather sad; because, you see, the fir-wood and all the
other places would remind me of them. It would be too sad to see the hut
without Morag living there," said Blanche, dreamily, as she thought of
the empty room which she saw on the morning she left the Glen, and of
how eagerly she had searched for her missing friend. "And how Kirsty's
cottage would look without her, I cannot imagine. But do you know, papa,
I actually dreamt last night that I went to see her, and she was not to
be found, and her old arm-chair was empty,--and the nice, cheery fire
cold and black. It was so nice to wake and find it was only a dream,
after all!" added Blanche, with a sigh of relief.

"Well, I don't think either of your friends have migratory habits; so
you are likely to find them among their native heather next year. By the
way, Blanchie, you must send a Christmas box of presents to your friends
there. You may fill it with whatever you like best; but only do keep a
corner for me. I want to send some present to the boy who fished you
out of the loch--Kenneth--isn't that his name? Do you remember that
adventure, and how you frightened us all, you troublesome young person?
By the way, I arranged before I left Glen Eagle that Dingwall is to
train the boy for a gamekeeper,--seeing that appears to be what he has
set his heart on."

Before many minutes had elapsed, Blanche's lively imagination had filled
a box of such probable dimensions that her father laughingly assured her
it would be much too heavy to be carried up the hill to the little
shieling among the crags.

Presently the little girl fell into one of her meditative moods, saying
at last, with a sigh, "Well, papa, I daresay Morag and Kirsty will be
very pleased to get the box of things, and think it very kind--and all
that; but though Kirsty and Morag are so poor, I really do not think
they ever seem to be anxious for anything they have not got. I was just
remembering how Kirsty one day said to me, in that nice, queer accent of
hers, 'Bairn,'--she often called me that--'a man's life consisteth not
in the abundance of the things he has.' I can't remember exactly what we
were talking about at the time."

"Upon my word she must be quite a philosopher, this wonderful Kirsty!"
said Mr. Clifford, laughingly, as he stroked Blanche's curls.

"No, papa; I don't fancy she is learned enough for that; but I am sure
she is a Christian,--and is that not better, papa?"

"Ah, I'm afraid we are getting beyond our depth now, pussy. Come, little
kittens should not look grave," he added, for Blanche had a dreamy look
in her eyes which he did not care to see.

She was thinking of the poor fairy who was so greedy as well as so
needy; and presently she began to tell her papa a little about her, and
how she had gone to see her in her wretched home. She told him, too,
that she was making a dress for her--really of her own sewing; and,
taking for granted that her papa would be much interested in the
garment, she brought it for his inspection. But she did not tell him why
she was so very anxious to make it for her, nor that it was meant to be,
perhaps, the first token recognized by the poor fairy's dark soul of
that Love which "passeth knowledge."

The father and daughter spent some very happy hours together on this
first evening of their reunion. And as Mr. Clifford walked up and down
the drawing-room, after Blanche had left for the night, his thoughts
dwelt with a new joy and hope on the only child of his house, whose
birth had left his home so desolate. He remembered with what a sad heart
he took for the first time the motherless babe into his arms, and what a
sorrowful welcome he could only give to her. And now he thought with
pride of what a sweet child-woman she had grown, how much she seemed to
have deepened lately, and what a beautiful woman she promised to be! Mr.
Clifford smiled to think of the time when her school-room days would be
at an end, and she would make her entrance into society to be his
companion; and he felt as if life were opening pleasanter vistas before
his eyes than it had done for many a day.

The next morning was bright and pleasant for December; and, to Blanche's
great delight, Mr. Clifford proposed that she should have a holiday in
honor of his return, and go somewhere with him. After some deliberation,
Blanche decided that the most pleasant way to spend the morning would be
to go for a ride in the Park with her papa.

The stately bay stood at the door at the hour appointed, but instead of
the little brown Shag, the pretty white pony Neige awaited his mistress.
Blanche had not felt so happy since she left the Highland strath as she
did when she found herself riding by her father's side. The yellow fogs
had quite withdrawn themselves; the air was keen and bracing now, and
the sun shone brightly on the winter landscape. The "Row" was gay with
riders and the drive with carriages, taking advantage of this rare
December day, and the horses' hoofs rattled pleasantly along the crisp,
frosty ground.

More than one passer-by glanced at the pleasant-looking pair of riders
as they cantered along in the sunshine--Blanche prattling to her papa
with gay, upturned face, her long fair curls floating about, and her
pretty blue habit forming a contrast to Neige's snowy back, while her
father glanced down at her with fondness and pride reflected on his
handsome face.

On they rode, fast and far; for the day was bright and their spirits
were high. At last Mr. Clifford reined his horse, and suggested that
they should turn homewards.

"Now, pussy, you do purr so delightfully, and we have had such a
pleasant ride, that I think we shall beg Miss Prosser for a holiday
every bright day. Wouldn't that be a delightful arrangement, Blanchie?"

"It would be very nice, papa. But, perhaps, there may be no more bright
days as long as winter lasts," said Blanche, taking a more desponding
view of things than she generally was apt to do.

They had now reached home. Mr. Clifford dismounted, and lifted his
little daughter from her saddle.

"You are looking tired, Blanche, darling. I am afraid we have rather
overdone it to-day. I quite forgot that it was so long since you had
ridden before. How pale you are, child! what is the matter?" said Mr.
Clifford in a startled tone, as he looked at Blanche.

"I do feel rather queer, papa," replied Blanche, faintly, as she
staggered and leaned against her father for support.

Lifting her in his arms, Mr. Clifford carried her up the broad stone
steps to the hall door, and hurrying into the library, laid her gently
down on one of the couches.

Hardly had he laid her there when she became deathly pale, and presently
a sudden crimson flow came from her white lips, staining her blanched
cheek and fair clustering curls, and Blanche Clifford fainted away!



XVI.

_THE BORDERS OF THE FAR-OFF LAND._


MR. CLIFFORD again walked up and down his empty drawing-room where only
the evening before he had been weaving such a bright future for himself
in the companionship of his child; and now the doctors had just left him
with the terrible decision ringing in his ears--that she was dying! It
might be weeks, and even months; but the fragile frame could not long
resist the disease that had been stealthily doing its deadly work for
many weeks.

Blanche, the pride of his heart, the heir to his fortune, was passing
away from him! Covering his face with his hands, the poor father seated
himself on the couch where only a few hours before the bright face had
been gazing into his, and the merry laugh re-echoing through the now
silent, deserted room.

Blanche lay pale and feeble in her darkened chamber, while servants
flitted about, whispering and ministering, and Miss Prosser sat
tearfully by the bedside.

At length the closed drawing-room door opened, and the poor,
grief-stricken father stood beside his child. They might leave him--he
would stay and watch to-night, he said huskily, as he seated himself
beside the bed. Blanche had hardly spoken since she had been taken ill;
but the sound of her father's voice seemed to rouse her, and, opening
her eyes, she welcomed him with her old sunny smile.

"O papa, dear, is that you? It seems such an age since I saw you. I must
have been sleeping all day long. I was so tired. I think we did go too
far, to-day; but it was so nice, and I did not feel at all tired at the
time. But I shall be all right to-morrow, I'm sure."

"I hope so, my darling!" said her father, as he kissed the uplifted
face, and stroked the curls sadly.

"This is good-night, I suppose, papa? I have been sleeping so much that
I have actually no idea what o'clock it is," said Blanche, smiling.

Mr. Clifford told her it was quite bed-time now; and when she turned to
sleep again, he took his seat quietly beside the chintz-curtained little
bed, promising to relinquish it towards morning to Miss Prosser, who,
tearful and anxious, begged to have a share of the watching.

When all was silent in the room except the flickering fire, and Mr.
Clifford sat sad and anxious at his unwonted duty, Blanche seemed to get
wakeful again, and presently low tones reached his ear, meant only for
the unseen Friend whom his little girl had in these last days been
learning to know and love.

Feebly and tremulously she whispered, as she sat up in bed, reverently
covering her face with her hands--"O Lord Jesus Christ, I am so tired
to-night, I can't remember all I want to say. But, long ago, upon earth
you used to know what people needed before they ever asked, and I am
sure you do still. Do teach the poor sick fairy all about Thyself. I
didn't seem to be able to make her understand about you; and she needs a
Friend so very much. Bless my own dear papa. Make him so happy here in
London that he will never think of going away again. I am sure you must
love him, and he must love Thee; but, O Lord Jesus Christ, I would like
him to speak about Thee, sometimes, as Kirsty used to do.

"Help me to be good, to do everything that pleases Thee, so that Thou
may never turn away sorrowfully from me, as you used to do long ago
when people would not follow Thee;" and as she prayed, Blanche fell
asleep again, and all was silent.

Mr. Clifford had been listening to his child's words with bowed head and
shamed heart. He felt that he was one of those from whom the Saviour
must have turned away sorrowfully many a time. Through many lands and in
many ways he had sought rest and solace, forgetting that the heart which
God has made for Himself can only find rest in Him. And his little
daughter seemed to have sought and found this satisfying portion which
he had been seeking vainly. When her earthly father and mother had
forsaken her, then the Lord had taken her up; and now He was, perhaps,
going to take her to Himself, though she did not know it.

Kneeling beside her bed, Mr. Clifford prayed that God would pardon the
wasted, sinful past, and would give him back his child, so that,
together, they might tread the heavenward path!

When Miss Prosser appeared to claim her share of the vigil, Blanche was
sleeping so soundly that any watching seemed almost unnecessary. And in
the morning she looked so bright, though pale and fragile, that the
anxious faces round her caught the infectious brightness, and the
gloomy forebodings of the previous day seemed already to belong to the
past.

As the days went by, Blanche appeared really to gain strength; and
although there was still much cause for anxiety regarding her health,
there seemed some reason to hope that the fatal issue might yet be
warded off.

Mr. Clifford spent much of his time in his daughter's sick-room. And
during these December days, as he sat by his daughter's couch, he
listened with mingled feelings to many a childish tale of joy and grief
that had marked the years in which he had borne no part.

And so it happened that these days of illness became days of intense
enjoyment to Blanche. Ellis had returned to her post, and Blanche
confided to her that it was really quite worth while being ill, and
having to take all those nasty medicines, to have her papa all to
herself for so many days.

The poor fairy was now comfortably housed in the Hospital for Sick
Children, and Blanche looked forward to being able to pay her a visit
there, one day before long. The half-finished dress was again taken from
the drawer, where it had been sorrowfully laid by Grant on the day
Blanche was taken ill; and now the little fingers were busy at work
again, though they looked pale and feeble enough, Mr. Clifford thought,
as he watched them, all stained with blue dye, putting the finishing
stitches into the fairy's promised garment.

Blanche pleaded very hard that morning to be allowed to sew; and
notwithstanding Miss Prosser's remonstrances, and her papa's joke about
the ponderous piece of work which she had undertaken, she worked on,
till at last, with a wearied smile, she held out the finished dress for
her papa's inspection.

"Look now, papa--it is finished! I have really put in the last stitch. I
am so very glad I have been able. I felt as if I could do it to-day,
somehow, and that was what made me so anxious to try, though Miss
Prosser was so unwilling I should; but I don't think it has hurt me at
all."

"Why, Blanchie, it is the most wonderful work of art imaginable. I must
really put in my claim for a greatcoat next. The doctor says you may
have a drive to-morrow, if it is fine, and we will go to the Hospital;
and you shall introduce me to the fairy, and present the dress."

"I hope I shall be able to go, papa. But it will be sent whether I am
or not, won't it? I think the fairy will understand why I wanted so much
to send it. I am so glad it is finished," she added, with a wearied
sigh, as she laid the dress on a chair, and went to lie on the sofa,
which she rarely did of her own accord.

Mr. Clifford made no remark, but, as he glanced at her anxiously from
under his newspaper, he could not help noticing, as she lay quietly
there, that the little face looked worn and the outline of the cheek
sharper than hitherto. She lay with her eyes shut for some time, and
presently she said, in a low, firm tone, as she looked up--

"Papa, dear, come to me, I want to speak to you."

Mr. Clifford was not a nervous man, but his hand shook as he laid down
his newspaper and went to his daughter's side, for there was a
foreboding of trouble in his heart.

Her arm was round his neck, but she did not see his face as she said,
softly--

"Do you know, papa, it makes me very sad, as well as glad, to look at
that finished piece of work. Shall I tell you why? It seems to me it is
the very first useful thing I have ever done in my life; and papa, dear,
do you know it will be the last?" and the blue-stained fingers played
nervously with her father's hand as she spoke.

Mr Clifford was going to interrupt her, but Blanche went on--

"Yes, papa; I know. I have known it for two days now. I'll tell you how
I came to know. I overheard Ellis telling somebody that the doctor said
I was--dying. Dear, kind Ellis; I'm sure she would be sorry if she knew
I heard that; but she must not be told. I am so glad that I do know just
a little before, though it did make me feel very sad at first. Indeed, I
cried the whole night in the dark, papa; but now I feel as if it were
all right. And I don't think I'm afraid to die now, as I should have
been when I fell into the loch," she added, in a faltering tone.

"My darling, you must not talk so. And, besides, Ellis was not correct.
You have been very ill, but the doctor thinks you are much better now;
and when spring days come, my little Blanche will blossom again with the
flowers."

"No, papa dear; I don't really think I am better. I shall never get well
again, I know. But, as I lay here, I was thinking how sad it seemed to
go away from the world without having been of any use to anybody. And
just lately, too, I have seemed to understand better what life was meant
for, and to be interested in things I used not to care about. Do you
know why I was so anxious to make the dress for the poor lame fairy,
papa? I think I should like to tell you," and some of her old brightness
returned as she told the story of her visit to the poor child in the
comfortless abode. "She was so sad and poor that I felt sure she would
be glad to hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Wouldn't you have thought
so, papa? But she did not seem to care, nor to believe that He loved her
at all. At last she said that if He were to send her a new dress and
boots, she might believe He was good and kind. But I am afraid I was not
able to make her understand about the Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder how I
can best tell her about Him, papa? if I am able to go to see her again
before"--and Blanche's voice faltered.

"My own darling! you must not speak so! You must try to get well, for my
sake, Blanchie. What should papa do without his little girl? And I am
afraid I do not know the Lord Jesus Christ really any more than the poor
pantomime fairy! You must stay with me, my child, and we will seek Him
together!"

"Dearest papa, He does teach people so wonderfully; I am sure He will
teach you to know and love Him. But I thought you must surely have loved
the Lord Jesus Christ ever so long ago," said Blanche, musingly, and
then she lay silent for several minutes.

Presently she turned to her father, with a face full of love and pity,
and laying her thin fluttering fingers on his arms, she said, "Papa,
dear, you will take Him for your friend now, will you not?--and He will
come and be very near you when I am far away. Kirsty says He was such a
friend to her when she was left sad and lonely in her cottage"--and with
the mention of Kirsty's name there came a rush of memories that made
Blanche's eyes fill with tears.

Her father noticed it, and a pang of jealousy shot through his heart.
She had spoken such sad words, calm and tearless; and it seemed hard
that the thought of those peasant friends, whom she might see no more on
earth, should be a sharper sorrow to the child's heart than the parting
from himself.

And so far he judged truly. Blanche loved her father dearly, but she did
not guess how great was his love for her, nor how shadowed his life
would be if she were gone.

As she gazed at the bowed head beside her, Blanche realized for the
first time how great and terrible the coming sorrow was to her father,
and she began to understand how true it is that in the partings of life
"theirs is the bitterness who stay behind."

The exertion of talking seemed to have been too much for the fragile
frame. Presently a violent fit of coughing came on, and again that
terrible crimson flow streamed from the white lips and on the deathly
face!

       *       *       *       *       *

The winter storm had now set in, and the weather was cold and dark and
cheerless; but the interior of Blanche's room looked warm and bright as
Mr. Clifford walked into it, on his return from his lonely ride.

On the floor there lay strewed the Christmas gifts for Glen Eagle, and
from her sofa Blanche was having an inspection of them before they were
sent away. Ellis was doing duty as show-woman; and Blanche's old gleeful
laugh, which had become a rare sound now, was heard occasionally as she
listened to her maid's remarks concerning the various beautiful
presents, as she held them up for inspection.

Welcoming her papa with the old bright smile, Blanche beckoned him to
come and see the nice fur footstool which Miss Prosser had that morning
bought for Kirsty's cottage.

Mr. Clifford looked very sad as he came forward and took his place by
his daughter's couch. He could not help contrasting the pale fragile
form lying there, with the ringing childish laugh, which caused him
almost to forget, for the moment, the sad reality which these weeks had
brought.

Blanche's quick eye always detected her father's sadness, and she used
to try to chase it away by all the loving wiles which she could devise.
To the others round her she often talked of dying; but, since the time
that she saw her father's distress when the subject was approached, she
never had the courage to introduce it again, though there were many
things she wanted to say to him.

She kept watching Ellis with wistful eyes as she gathered and carried
away from her room the scattered gifts for the peasant friends she loved
so well.

After they were all cleared away, she lay quietly back on the sofa, and
there was a far-away look in her eyes that made her father unwilling to
ask where her thoughts were. Presently she turned to him, and said in a
low, nervous tone, "Papa, I want to ask you something. May I do exactly
as I like with all my own things?"

"Certainly, darling. What treasure do you wish to send to the little
Morag? But I thought Ellis was doubtful if she could stow all the things
you have already sent,--eh, Blanchie?"

"Oh, I did not mean in the box, papa! But you know it cannot be very
long now before I have to leave you--and everything," and Blanche's
fluttering fingers, so wan and wasted now, played nervously with her
father's hand as she spoke.

"Of course you will keep everything you want--and Miss Prosser and Ellis
will, too. But I should like Morag to have some of my things when I am
gone. She has so few pretty things in the hut; and besides, I really do
think she would like to have them, just because they are mine, and they
will remind her of me when I'm far away;" and Blanche glanced round the
room at the pretty statuettes and pictures, and the rows of nicely-bound
books, of which she used to tell Morag, as they rambled among the woods
and braes of Glen Eagle.

"Yes, my darling; Morag shall have whatever you like," replied Mr.
Clifford with an effort, as soon as he was able to speak; and presently
he continued: "My child, perhaps I should tell you that you have a great
deal more to give away than your books and pictures. You are what people
call an heiress, Blanchie. Your mother left you a large fortune, and,
besides, you will have all that belongs to me. Ah, my child! will you
not live?--I cannot let you go! There is such a bright future in store
for you--so many hopes bound up in this dear life!"

"Yes, papa, dear; the future _is_ bright," replied Blanche, smiling. "I
was reading about it only this morning--'an inheritance, incorruptible,
undefiled, and that fadeth not away.' I learnt the words. It was strange
I never remember hearing them till to-day. But I suppose God just speaks
His own words to us when we need them and will listen to them. It's all
right, papa, dear," she continued as she put her arm round her father's
neck, as he sat with his head resting on his hand, absorbed in his own
sad thoughts. "I know the Lord Jesus Christ will comfort you when I am
gone. And then, you know, papa dear, you will not be so very long in
coming, and I shall be waiting for you, oh! so eagerly, and we shall be
so happy together in the home of God!"

"Is it not rather difficult for rich people to be good, papa?" asked
Blanche, after she had laid pondering a short time. "If I had lived,
perhaps I might have grown into a grand lady--like some of Ellis's
mistresses that she tells me about--and got selfish and bad when I grew
old. But now, papa, dear, I shall always be your own foolish little
Blanchie," and she nestled in her father's arm, as he stroked the long
fair curls--the last symbol of health that remained.

After she had again laid musing for some time, Blanche sat up, and with
some of her old eagerness she said--

"Papa, I've just been thinking that Morag is so gentle, and so clever,
and so fond of books, that I'm sure she would grow up very learned if
she were educated. I know she would like lessons a great deal more than
I used to do, and be much more diligent. Have I enough money to educate
Morag, papa?"

"Yes, darling, quite enough; and if you wish it, it shall be done,"
replied Mr. Clifford huskily, for this conversation was almost too
painful for him to continue.

"But after all, papa, very clever people, who know everything, are not
always very happy or good--are they? And, besides, I really do not see
how her father and Kirsty could get on without Morag. And then she is so
faithful and loving--perhaps she could never be persuaded to leave them,
to be made a lady of in the world beyond her mountains," said Blanche,
smiling, as the image of her shy little mountain friend rose before her.

"No, papa, dear," she said presently, after thinking quietly for a
little; "I really think we must give up that idea after all. I do
believe the Lord Jesus Christ would like best that Morag should stay in
the Glen and make her father and Kirsty comfortable and happy as they
get older. But I'll tell you what we might do, papa, dear. Would there
be enough money to build a nice new house for Morag and her father? That
hut among the crags must tumble to pieces one day before long, I should
think, though certainly Morag does make it look as nice as possible,"
added Blanche, pathetically, for she remembered well the morning on
which she saw it last.

Her father listened with a sad interest as Blanche told the story of
that day's troubles, and how sorry she had been to leave Glen Eagle
without taking farewell of her mountain friend. And as she told how she
had hurried up the hill to the little shieling among the crags, only to
find it empty, and glowingly described the pleasant interior into which
her friend had transformed the once wretched hut, the scene seemed to
come vividly to her memory, and to bring with it an intense desire for
life, as she lay on the borders of the far-off land!

Some hot tears stole down her cheeks, and with quivering lip and clasped
hands she gazed wistfully into her father's face as she said--

"O papa! if I could only walk one afternoon with Morag in the fir-wood,
I almost think I should feel well again!"



XVII.

_MORAG'S JOURNEY INTO THE WORLD BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS._


IT was a wild night at Stratheagle. An eddying wind had been blowing the
deep snow into wreaths, and fresh falling flakes were whirling about in
all directions through the darkness.

All trace of the road through the mountain pass had disappeared; and it
would have fared ill with the Honorable Mr. Clifford's slim English
footman, with his elegant calves, as he made his way towards the
keeper's shieling among the crags, if he had not taken the precaution of
securing a guide from the village below.

The steep ascent to the hut was almost impassable, and more than once
the man seemed disposed to give it up and beat a retreat to his quarters
at the village without fulfilling his mission. But his more stalwart
companion cheered him on, assuring him at intervals that it was only a
"mile and a bittock," and pointed to the light in the window of the hut
long before it shed any encouraging ray on the exhausted flunkey, who
went stumbling and grumbling up the hill through the blinding drift,
feeling himself the most ill-used of persons to have been sent to such
regions in such weather.

The light from the window of the hut was at last really visible,
shimmering through the darkness, and soon the benighted travellers stood
under the snowy crags which towered above the little shieling.

Our old friend Morag was, meanwhile, comfortably seated in the
ingle-neuk, reading laboriously from one of her ancient yellow-leaved
volumes, little dreaming what was in store for her to-night. Her father
sat near her smoking his evening pipe, but he was not staring into the
fire in idleness and grim silence as of old. He seemed at the present
moment quite absorbed in a newspaper, the date of which was uncertain,
seeing it had been torn off when it was used for lining a packing-case
of game during autumn. But though it was not a "day's paper," it seemed
to satisfy the keeper's literary cravings, and he had carefully perused
it from beginning to end by the light of the fire of peat and pine,
which blazed brightly on the hearth.

The snow made a warm covering round the wall, and a secure white thatch
on the porous roof, so it happened that to-night the hut was really a
more comfortable abode than it had often proved during autumn-days.

Morag jumped to her feet when she heard the sound of voices and the loud
knocking; and now she stood gazing at her father with a look of startled
surprise.

Laying down his pipe, the keeper prepared to open the door, but before
he had time to do so, the injured footman stood in the middle of the
floor, stamping the snow from his feet, and inspecting his precious
person generally, as he muttered expressions of indignation concerning
this unpleasant piece of service which had fallen to his lot.

Morag recognized the visitor at once, and forgetting her shyness, she
sprang forward, saying, in low, eager tones, "Will ye no be frae the wee
leddy o' the castle? I'm thinkin' there maun be something wrang. Is she
no weel?"

"Miss Clifford, I presume you mean, little girl. Well, you are right, so
far. I come from her father--my master, the Honorable Mr. Clifford. I
think I've got a letter for you; but 'pon my word it's been at the risk
of my life bringin' it here. S'pose I'd better read it myself?" said he,
looking round patronizingly at the keeper.

And without waiting for a reply, he tore open the closed envelope, amid
the smouldering indignation of the keeper, to whom it was evidently
addressed, and began to read as follows:--

    "Will Morag come to London immediately to see her little friend
    Blanche, who is very ill and wants to see her? The Keeper may safely
    trust his daughter to the servant, who has got all directions how to
    proceed.

      ARTHUR CLIFFORD."

"Quite safe with me, depend upon it; the master is quite right there!"
said the servant, smiling blandly at the confidence reposed in him.

"Well, little girl, what do you say to it? You will come, I suppose? The
master has set his 'art on it, sure enough--or he would not have been
sendin' me to the hends of the earth on such a night as this. I have a
trap hired at the village, all ready to start in the morning. What do
you say to it, keeper?--rather sudden, for such quiet folks as you,
ain't it?" continued the man, smilingly glancing at the silent, offended
keeper.

Morag sat thinking in dumb silence for a little, but presently she
sprang up, and taking hold of her father's arm, she said in her low,
eager tone, "O father! ye mustna hinner me; the bonnie wee leddy is ill,
and wantin' me--and I maun gang!"

Then turning to the messenger, Morag asked imploringly, "She's no jist
sae verra ill, is she?"

"Bad enough, I guess. 'Tis a pity--such a pretty little miss she was
getting to be. Master so bound up in her, too!"

"Well, keeper, how is it to be?--for I've got to go down that shockin'
precipice again--and it's getting late. I'll take good care of the young
'un, you may be sure. And, depend upon it, you won't be the loser,
noways, by fallin' in with master's views," added the servant, with a
nod of meaning which made the proud keeper resolve instantly that his
daughter should not obey the summons.

But never before had Morag been so wildly wilful on any matter. Her
father felt quite taken by storm as he listened to her pleadings, though
he could not yet be persuaded to give his consent.

The servant stood waiting with evident impatience, and at last a
compromise was arranged, to the effect that if Morag was to accompany
him, she would be brought to the village inn by her father next morning,
before the hour of starting.

It was almost midnight when Dingwall might be seen toiling across the
moorland, through the snow, in the direction of Kirsty's cottage. The
old woman and he were fast friends now, and he wanted to ask her advice
on the startling proposal concerning the little girl who was so precious
to them both.

He found Kirsty sitting quietly reading her Bible beside the dying peat
embers. Taking off her spectacles, she listened placidly to the story,
and presently she replied in low, emphatic tones, "Dinna hinner the
bairn, keeper. Lat her gang, by a' means. 'Deed, I'm near awears o' gaen
mysel'. The bonnie lambie--an' sae He's til tak' her hame til Himsel?
Weel, weel, I thocht as muckle, whiles, when she was comin' aboot us wi'
a' her winsome ways. May she hae been early seekin' the face she will
maybe see gin lang!"

So Morag gained her point. Her travelling preparations were not long in
being made; and, though she had not many hours of sleep that night, she
was all ready to go down the hill with her father in the morning.

Just before she started, Kenneth came running up to the shieling in
breathless haste. He carried with him the old tartan plaid which had
done such sad duty in the fir-wood. Wrapping it carefully round Morag,
he stood watching her wistfully, as she started in the grey dawn of a
December morning on this first journey into the world beyond the
mountains!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Christmas Eve. A fresh fall of snow lay spotless and shining on
the ground. The moon was giving a clear, plentiful light, and as it
shimmered on the snow-covered streets and squares, it seemed suddenly to
transform them into groups of stately marble palaces.

A pleasant crimson glow came from the close-curtained windows of Mr.
Clifford's London mansion, shedding a warm, rosy light on the white
crisp pavement in front, where stood a group of German lads singing a
fine rolling Christmas carol.

Little did they guess how dreary and tenantless those rooms were
to-night, which seemed to them to enclose such a paradise of delights as
they kept gazing up to the windows, in the hope of an appreciative
audience from within the crimson glow.

They did not know that the sorrowful interest of the household was
centred in one darkened room, where the only child of the house lay,
with life ebbing slowly away; nor that the largess which seemed so
munificent came from a little hand that was soon to take farewell of all
earthly treasures.

They were still singing, by way of gracious acknowledgment of so
handsome a gift, when a cab drove up to the door of the house, and out
of it stepped our little friend, Morag. The tall footman, her escort,
ran up the broad steps, while the little mountaineer stood on the
pavement gazing round, bewildered in the midst of a scene so new and
strange.

And this was her bonnie wee leddy's home. Did people always stand there
and sing beautifully, she wondered, as she glanced at the German
band--and then at the many bright-curtained windows of Blanche
Clifford's London home.

At length the great hall door was opened, and a blaze of light fell on
the snowy steps. Within were vistas of gilded pillars and corridors, and
glimpses of bright soft hangings. To Morag's dazzled eyes, it seemed
like the entrance to an enchanted palace. She tremblingly followed her
guide, and the door was closed behind her, as the singing boys were
watching with interest the little girl who looked so eagerly at
everything; and somehow seemed to remind them of their sisters and their
homes in the Black Forest.

Another tall footman, the fac-simile of Morag's guide, had opened the
door, and now he stood gazing, more curiously than kindly, at the
stranger.

"Law, Thomas! what 'ave we got here? Well, I never. Where did you catch
that 'un," he said, with a rude laugh as he stood staring at the little
girl.

Poor Morag certainly presented a grotesque enough appearance as she
stood there in the brightly-lighted hall, wrapped in the great tartan
plaid, which was fastened behind, while the ends fell on the ground. And
on her head she wore a little scarlet hood, a relic of her infancy,
which she had taken from the depths of the old _kist_--feeling certain
that Ellis would look on her more favorably if she wore a bonnet. But,
unfortunately, the hood was of such small dimensions that it had a
constant tendency towards the back of her neck, leaving her black
elf-like locks streaming around.

"Come now, Sparks, none of your cheek. She's the nicest little shaver
possible--an uncommon decent little thing; wasn't no trouble on the
way, neither; always turned up all right when a fellow wanted to go and
smoke a pipe, or get a drop of somethink. My word, I'd go back with her
to-morrow, I would."

"Where's Ellis?--ring for her, will you? I must get this little girl off
my hands now. How is missie, by the way?"

"Better again, to-day, they say. Master is looking brisker, too.
Dreadful dull Christmas-time for a fellow, though. There's Ellis
wouldn't laugh for a sovereign."

Meanwhile, Morag stood looking eagerly round. She felt sure that she
would see her bonnie wee leddy emerge from some of those vistas of
brightness; but when she did not come, the little girl began to feel
very forlorn as she stood there in the hall. She could not understand
what the servants were saying, and she began to wonder what was going to
happen next, and longed for a sight of her gracious little friend, who
never had failed her before.

Morag had no idea how seriously ill Blanche was, and she had been hoping
during her journey that perhaps her bonnie wee leddy might be quite well
again by the time she arrived. She had got so quickly well after the
loch adventure; and Morag could not conceive of her looking more
fragile that she did on that evening when she saw her last, in the old
castle of Glen Eagle, lying on the sofa, wrapped in her blue flannel
dressing-gown.

At length Ellis came bustling along; and even she was a welcome sight to
poor Morag in her forlornness.

"Well, little girl; how d'ye do. Very glad to see you--never thought I
should feel so glad to see you. I thought you would come to see missie.
Miss Prosser told me the master had sent for you. Miss Clifford does
know not yet. She's so weak, you see; any hagitation is bad, but I
daresay you will see her in the morning. It's a good step from the
'ighlands--ain't it? I expect you are tired--poor thing," said Ellis,
glancing rather pityingly at Morag's wistful face.

"I'm no that tired. But she's no jist verra ill, is she? I thocht maybe
she would hae been weel gin noo," said Morag, ruefully returning to the
subject that lay nearest her heart, as Ellis led her along what seemed
to her a maze of brightly-lighted passages.

"It wasna fallin' intil the loch that hurtit her, think ye?" she asked
presently.

"Well, now, I shouldn't wonder though that chill had something to do
with it," replied Ellis, as if she had received a new idea. "Poor dear
missie, she is so sweet--almost too good to live, as the sayin' is.
She's much better to-day. I daresay she'll be able to have a look at you
to-morrow."

Morag's heart sank. The thought of seeing her bonnie wee leddy at the
end of her journey had kept her brave through its fears and discomforts;
but now she heard that another night must elapse before they could meet,
and she would be left alone among all those strangers. It seemed so
cruel and hard; and Morag felt sure that if her wee leddy knew she was
here, she would not ask her to wait till to-morrow.

Meanwhile, Ellis led the way to the housekeeper's room, leaving Morag to
be warmed and fed and generally comforted by Mrs. Worthy. The old
housekeeper welcomed the forlorn little maiden kindly, and after
divesting her of the tartan plaid, and providing a comfortable supper,
she made her sit down in a big arm-chair by the fire,--and, taking a
similar one for herself, she began to recall reminiscences of Glen
Eagle, and to make inquiries about the dwellers in the Glen whose
aquaintance she had made during these autumn months.

Presently, Blanche's illness became the topic of conversation, and
Morag listened eagerly to all Mrs. Worthy had to say about it. Her heart
sank when she heard how very ill her bonnie wee leddy had been. After
looking meditatively into the fire for some time, she looked up and said
eagerly, "I'm thinkin', Mistress Worthy, gin they wad jist bring her til
the auld castle o' Glen Eagle to bide, and lat her rin aboot wi' Shag
and Chance and me, when the snaw gaes awa, and the bit flooers begin to
creep up, she wad get braw and strong again."

"Well, there's no sayin', little girl. I likes to see young folks take a
cheerin' view of things. 'While there's life, there's 'ope,' I always
say. There's my Sarah Jane was once a-spittin' up--and there ain't a
stronger woman to be found nowhere, now; and there's"--

Here Mrs. Worthy's family chronicle of illnesses was interrupted by a
bell ringing violently within the room. It sounded so startling, that
Morag jumped to her feet, and even Mrs. Worthy looked somewhat alarmed
as she rose to answer it.

"Bless me, it ain't often that bell is a ringin'--so shockin' loud, too!
What's the hurry, I wonder?" and the old woman bustled away, leaving her
companion alone.

Morag thought she could guess why the bell had just rung; and hoped
that it might prove a summons for her to go to the bonnie wee leddy. She
sat listening eagerly for the sound of returning footsteps, but no
messenger appeared; so Morag's hope died away at last, and she began to
feel very forlorn indeed.

As she sat, looking dreamily into the flickering fire, she remembered
another evening when she found herself seated in Mrs. Worthy's
arm-chair, in the midst of unwonted comforts, and how very frightened
and uncomfortable she was till the wee leddy had suddenly appeared and
made her feel so safe and happy.

And as she gazed among the glowing coals, she realized, as she never had
before, what an eventful evening that had been, and how much had
happened during these never-to-be-forgotten autumn days. All at once,
her lonely child-life seemed to be filled with love and brightness, and
the very hills and glens of her mountain home to be glorified, as she
strayed among them with her bonnie wee leddy. And then the friendship
with Kirsty Macpherson had grown out of these days too, and what happy
changes it had brought to the little shieling among the crags! Her
father's brow was cleared of its perpetual gloom; he never said bitter
things about his neighbors in the Glen now, and when Morag and he went
together to the kirk, so many people seemed glad to see him there.

And as Morag Dingwall's thoughts went slipping back to these golden
autumn days, that had been so full of blessing for her, she lifted up
her heart in thankfulness to God for the best thing among all the many
good things which they had brought to her--the knowledge of the Lord
Jesus Christ, her Saviour. Had the wee leddy learnt to love Him too, she
wondered, as she remembered the last talk in Glen Eagle; and then she
thought, joyfully, how much there would be to hear and tell to-morrow,
when Ellis had promised she should see her friend.

As she sat gazing into the fire, Morag fell asleep in the big arm-chair;
and in her dreams she thought she was again with Blanche, struggling
through the rippling water, like the Pilgrims in the picture. But
neither of them appeared to feel frightened, as they had when they were
almost drowned in the loch. At first the water seemed smooth and
shining, and Morag could hear the bonnie wee leddy's silvery voice
calling to her to come away, for she saw the Golden City quite clearly
now--and that the gates were really wide open still, though it was so
late at night. Then Morag, all at once, began to feel afraid, for she
could see no city lying in the sun; but only a great leaden-looking
wave, which came creeping towards her, throwing its gray shadow on the
shining water; then she lost sight of her bonnie wee leddy, and could
only hear her voice calling her to come. But Morag thought she could not
cross the dark wave, and the silvery voice began to sound very far away;
and at last she awoke, trembling,--feeling so glad to think that after
all it was only a dream.

The fire, which had been so bright and warm when she fell asleep, was
now cold and black. The candles, too, were almost burnt to their
sockets; and Morag saw that she must have slept for a long time. She
began to wonder where Mrs. Worthy was, and whether they meant to leave
her there, till they came to take her to see the bonnie wee leddy in the
morning.

She would not have treated her so, thought Morag, with quivering lip, as
she looked blankly round the solitary room, where everything seemed so
gray and cheerless, and she shivered as she remembered the leaden wave
of her dream, and began to feel very frightened and homesick, besides
being cold and wearied.

Presently she heard the sound of footsteps re-echoing along the silent
corridor, and Mrs. Worthy walked slowly into the room with her nightcap
on. In her hand she carried a candle, which she almost dropped in her
astonishment at seeing Morag seated there.

"Bless my soul, child! are you here still? I was just on my way to bed.
I declare I had quite forgotten all about you. Dear, dear, my 'ead's
quite confused--and no wonder! Poor dear, you must be sadly tired. Too
bad of Ellis not to have taken you to bed. She promised to see after you
when she was sent along to you. I've just only now come from missie's
room--dear angel: she does look so sweet. You'll see her to-morrow, my
poor dear!"

And then, noticing Morag's wistful look as she murmured, "No the nicht,"
the old woman pondered for a while, and taking the candle again, she
said, "Well, well, there can't be no 'arm: they are all cleared away
now! Come, I'll take you, poor dear. You haven't been well treated
noways among us all, and I heard the master tell Ellis that she was to
look to you, and he would see you himself to-morrow."

Morag's heart leapt for joy. If she could only see her bonnie wee leddy
even for a minute, and feel her protecting touch again, she would
forget all her past troubles and be quite safe and happy in this strange
land.

She followed Mrs. Worthy with joyful steps as she led her along the
passages, which were cold and dark now. She smiled as she thought how
astonished the wee leddy would be to see her mountain friend, for she
remembered Ellis had said that she was not to be told of her arrival
till next morning; but it was so good and kind of Mrs. Worthy to take
her now. And then she tried to picture to herself how Blanche would be
looking. Would she find her lying on a sofa, dressed in her pretty blue
dressing-gown, which she wore on the evening she saw her last at the old
castle of Glen Eagle? And would she seem much paler than she did then?
Morag feared she might, when she remembered what a long time she had
laid in bed; but summer days would soon come again, and the sunshine,
which the bonnie leddy loved so well, would be sure to make her strong
again.

Indeed, in her secret heart, Morag cherished the hope that her own
presence might act as a talisman, and she smiled to think of the
pleasant voice that would soon bid her welcome; for, since the dark hour
in the fir-wood, when she thought Blanche had left the Glen without
remembering to say farewell, Morag had never doubted the love and
friendship of her gracious little friend.

At last Mrs. Worthy stopped at a closed door, and as she lowered the
candle which she held in her hand, Morag caught sight of a familiar
friend lying on the mat.

Chance was waiting there in a listening posture, with his nose against
the door. Morag stooped down and patted him, but, instead of jumping up
at her in outrageous welcome, as he used to do, he merely gave a faint
wag of his tail, and looking wistfully into her face, raised a low,
whining cry, and put his nose close to the door again.

"I'm thinkin' Chance will be wantin' in--to get a sicht o' her too,"
said Morag, smiling.

"Yes, poor brute; hanimals has a deal of feelin'. He's been in a
dreadful way; indeed I thought they locked him up for the night, but he
seems to have got loose again," replied Mrs. Worthy, as she opened the
door and stepped softly in, followed by Morag and Chance.

The little girl looked eagerly round among the mirrors and pictures and
pretty statuettes for the face which had never failed before to smile a
sunny welcome upon her, but her bonnie wee leddy was nowhere to be
seen, and a terrible stillness seemed to pervade the room.

Drawing aside the rose-colored curtains of a little bed, which Morag had
not noticed in her eager glance round the room, Mrs. Worthy beckoned for
the little girl to come near, and Morag looked at last on the face of
her bonnie wee leddy. She seemed sleeping peacefully; the golden curls
lay in rich masses on the pillow, and the fluttering fingers were at
rest on the white coverlet. The room was dimly lighted, and a shadow
fell from the curtain on her face; so Morag drew closer that she might
see her more clearly--feeling a pang of disappointment that she was
asleep. But had not Ellis said that to-morrow morning she would speak to
her? and she could wait.

"She's sleepin' richt soun' the noo, I'm thinkin'," she whispered softly
to Mrs. Worthy, who was holding back the curtain.

"Sleeping! yes, my little dear, you are right. Children does put things
nice at times. Dear angel--not dead, but sleeping: a long, long sleep,
till the resurrection morn!"

With a long, low cry of anguish, Morag knelt beside the dead body of her
bonnie wee leddy, and kissed her cold, dead hand!

She understood it all now. Blanche Clifford had passed away on this
Christmas Eve from our lower world--with all its lights and shadows, all
its wealth and all its woe--to that other, where the pure in heart are
perfectly blessed, for they see God!

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps here we should take farewell of our mountain maiden; for, with
the passing away from earth of her bonnie wee leddy, ended the childhood
of Morag Dingwall, never again to visit her, save in dreams of the night
and memories of the past!

We shall but cast a glance across the vista of years, when these autumn
days lay far away in the calm, clear distance, and seem like a tale that
is told;--when Kirsty has laid down her frail body to sleep in the
little graveyard on the hillside, to await the coming of the Lord she
loved so well;--when the keen eyes of the keeper Dingwall no longer scan
the hills and moors of Glen Eagle, nor his steady hand takes unerring
aim; for his stalwart form lies mouldering in the shadow of the hills he
has so often trod!

The keeper's earthly life had closed in the midst of less vivid hopes,
perhaps, and shadowed by more bitter memories, than Kirsty's blameless
years had wrought. But he, too, had learnt to live in the faith and hope
of the words which welcomed him to the table of the Lord below, and to
know it to be a "faithful saying, that 'Jesus Christ came into the world
to save sinners.'"

The shieling among the crags, which had been his home so long, was a
roofless ruin now. And long dank grass and nettles grew on the earthen
floor, which had proved, of old, such a sea of trouble to the little
Morag.

Kenneth Macpherson, Kirsty's grandson, reigned over the realms of deer
and moor-fowl in the Glen now; and the keeper's daughter had become the
keeper's wife.

Their home was the loveliest spot in all the strath--a pleasant, light,
airy, well-built cottage, placed at a sunny angle of the pine forest,
which protected it from the cold north winds when they swept along the
Glen.

Firwood Neuk, for so it had been called by its owners, possessed every
pretty and useful accessory, within and without, which peasant life
could require. It was quite a model homestead, with its wealthy
barn-yard and farmstead, and its pretty productive garden--the last
earthly gift of a little vanished hand, which had dropped its earthly
treasures as she used to do her wild flowers in these woods long ago,
when anything more precious came in sight.

Mr. Clifford never came to shoot in Glen Eagle again; but, nevertheless,
he was more than faithful to the wishes of his child, and Blanche's
friends lacked for nothing which money could supply--humbly and
gratefully accepted by these proud Highland spirits as the benefaction
of the gracious child who had loved them all so well.

Often, indeed, Mr. Clifford had been tempted, during the earlier years,
to go beyond his daughter's wishes when he noticed Morag's insatiable
thirst for knowledge: to take her from her quiet haunts, and bring art
and culture to aid in her training. But he called to mind Blanche's wise
decision, and left the child of the mountains to her "lowlier, more
unlettered fate."

Still, Morag's intellectual cravings were not unprovided for. In one of
the rooms of her pleasant home there stood a pretty book-case filled
with rows of shining books--another memorial of Blanche's love. And,
among the handsome bindings, there were interspersed certain old, worn
books, which were very dear to Morag's heart, for had they not been
taken from the depths of the old _kist?_--and stood there, among the
newer volumes, like ancient historical monuments surrounded by pretty
modern villas.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the twelfth of August, and the keeper's wife stood waiting in the
gloaming for her husband, who had not yet returned from the moors.

The work of the day was done, and the children safely folded for the
night,--for there were young voices again re-echoing through the forest,
and little feet toddling among the brown fir-needles.

Her husband was not yet in sight, so presently Morag wandered into the
fir-wood, where the great aisles of pine reared themselves calm and
stately as of old.

Leaning against one of the old red firs, which seemed written over with
many memories to her, she called to mind one August day long ago. And as
she stood gazing dreamily there, she seemed to see again the lovely,
singing child, coming like a happy fate towards the desolate little
maiden who leant there on that bright morning, to hear again the "glad
tidings of great joy" borne unconsciously by the silvery voice to a
listening ear and waiting soul, and to feel the soft, sisterly touch of
the little fluttering hand that sent glow and warmth to a heart which,
but for that touch of human sympathy, might have turned to stone.

Morag had seen many gentle ladies, old and young, since these autumn
days long ago. The solitary Glen had got into guide-books now, and every
year brought many strangers to roam among its woods and hills; but never
could any other dwell in her memory as Blanche Clifford did--never, she
thought, could she see "her like again!"

Many a year had come and gone since that memorable twelfth of August,
when the southern guests came to seek their pleasure among the moors of
Glen Eagle. Silver lines were visible on Morag's once raven black locks,
and her step was slower than it used to be, as she sauntered through the
old red fir-trees, which were all aglow in the sunset.

With a sigh of weariness she at last seated herself on a gray,
lichen-spotted dyke which skirted the forest.

"Ay! and she'll aye be young, though I'm growin' auld," she murmured,
for she still retained her ancient habit of speaking her thoughts aloud,
acquired in her solitary childhood.

Leaning her head upon her hand, she sat watching the sun as it sank
behind the old castle of Glen Eagle.

       *       *       *       *       *

The amber clouds were hovering round the dying sun, like ponderous gates
ready to close on the inner vistas of gold and crimson. Morag sat gazing
with glistening eyes at the cloud-land scene; she well knew that
"richest tenderest glow" which lingers round the autumnal sun, and
always loved to watch it.

    "But there sight fails; no heart may know
      _The bliss when life is done._"

"It's growin' cauld and mirk, and I maun be goin' home," murmured Morag,
as she rose to go down the hill, when all had faded into grey twilight.
Then she added, softly: "She liket weel to see the sun gae doun amang
oor hills; an' it aye min's me upo' her. Bonnie wee leddy! 'Thy sun
shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw its shining, for
the Lord is thine everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.'"


Stereotyped by MCCREA & Co., Newburgh, N. Y.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Variable or unusal spelling and hyphenation have been retained apart
from minor punctuation inconsistencies, which have been silently
corrected. The changes made are shown below. The first line indicates
the original, the second the correction.

  p. 29:
  He was tall and spare and agile-look-looking
  He was tall and spare and agile-looking

  p. 163:
  A tarpauling was thrown over them
  A tarpaulin was thrown over them

  p. 213:
  in the direc- of
  in the direction of

  p. 269:
  the things I want him too look at
  the things I want him to look at

  p. 230:
  Kirsty's calm, wopshipping face
  Kirsty's calm, worshipping face

  p 309:
  as the most delightful optunity
  as the most delightful opportunity

  p. 372:
  acquired n her solitary childhood
  acquired in her solitary childhood





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