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as light and rapid as a savage-he passage or stair to note the dark was as a feather's weight. She figure gliding back to the room went away with him unnoticed, which no one had cared to notice wrapping her poor shawl round him since she entered it. It was dark, to keep him from the rain, through but she required no light. The the muddy roads, in the storm and other child, he who remained, her dusky twilight. Merran Miller, only one, lay still as she had left him. the smith's wife, shutting her door She put down her face upon his in the darkening, when the rain be- warm flushed cheek; she lifted gan to blow in, saw the dark figure him tenderly on her lap, and put pass, and said to herself that Jean on his little boot, and soothed him Macfarlane had sent the beggar- when he woke and cried in the wife away; and oh! what a night it dark, and clung to her. “Mother's was to travel, even for the like of here !-mother's here!” she murher! “But what's come o' the mured, crooning to him, poor bairns?” she asked herself; then shut wretched hopeless soul! with the the door, and went in, and stirred voice of a dove in her nest. Then her fire, and put on her kettle. she took him too in her arms, and The beggar - wife and her bairns going down-stairs stopped the dirty were no concern of hers.
maid who was Jean Macfarlane's “ The beggar-wife" went swiftly whole staff of service, and paid for up by the dark Eskside beneath the poor refreshment she had had. the trees, that waved overhead like “You're no going on sic a night?" spirits in pain. She was blinded said the girl; "and whaur's the with the rain, not with tears, for other wee laddie ?" "He has gone her eyes were dry and refused to on before," said the mother. “We shed more. Her limbs trembled are going to meet the coach at under her, but her wild heart and Loanhead.” “Then you'll have to purpose did not fail. After a time be awfu' quick," cried the girl, comshe came back again alone, without passionate. “Poor wee man! what her burden. The dark branches a night to be out in ! Here's a piece still tossed against the pale sky, to give them when you're in the and kept on their passionate strug- coach ; but oh, woman, tak' pity on gle against the elements; but the the bairns, and bide till the morn. forlorn human creature who tottered It's enough to give them their along underneath, swift but un- death.” steady, beaten about by the wind, “I cannot stay-good night," drenched by the rain, too miserable cried the stranger, passing out. The to feel either, had lost all sense of good-natured lass, though she was struggle. The lassitude of soul dirty, looked after her, shaking an which comes after a great act unkempt head, and twisting up as accomplished was in her. She she did so an elf-lock which had went like a ghost across the bridge, fallen out of the poor hold of her dewhere no one now was visible, ficient hair-pins. “Eh, thae tramps, so much had the storm increased, what an awfu' life !" Jess said to herand up the further end of the self, comparing her own position village street. Jean Macfarlane with that of the wanderer, with a was sitting with her guests in the thrill of superior comfort and welllittle room down-stairs, drinking being. She paused to fasten up the with them, and filling the air with refractory lock before she followed her loud excited voice and torrent to the door to look out after the deof words. There was no one in the parting guest; but by that time the darkness had swallowed her up, and justice kept her safe. Notwithnothing was visible except the wild standing the hue and cry that was sweeping rain, which came down in raised after her, she went on her way a sheet, visible across the blackness as secure as any woman could be, of the night, like the warp of a sable and got back to England with her web. “Lord save us ! sic a night to boy, and disappeared among the be out in ! and oh thae puir weans !" mysterious fastnesses of her class, cried Jess, with a grimy tear in the not to reappear or be heard of for corner of her eye.
years. Poor soul ! she had left no The stranger and her child got traces behind her by which she into the coach at Loanhead, but could be recognised. Even in Jean they did not reach Edinburgh in Marfarlane's house the instinct of that respectable conveyance. Some caste was roused to cover her rewhere in the outskirts of the town treat. "A woman with a wean? they managed to drop out of the Am I to remark a' the women with coach, leaving the money for their weans that come and gang afore my fare on the damp seat, which their door-there's ower mony o' them, wet clothes had soaked. “A queer far ower mony! I've something customer yon, but an awfu' honest better to do than to glowr at women," woman!" the coachman said, with cried the mistress of the place. mingled wonder and admiration. It “ There was but ane here—a real was still scarcely night, though so decent person, with twa bairns. much had happened since it began She took them baith away with her, to grow dark. The vagrant found safe and sound, and got the coach her way to some haunt of vagrants at Loanhead," said Jess. “ What such as I do not know, and have no like was she? How am I to tell chance of being able to describe, and that never saw her but in her there passed the night safe from all bannet? A' that I can tell you was search or possibility of pursuit, en- that she sighed sair, mair like a moan compassed by securities and pre- than a sigh. She was a real decent cautions which can only be made woman," cried goodhearted Jess. perfect by a class at war with society. And this was all her history and She herself had done no crime so description-all by which she could far as any one knew; but the in- be identified among others. The stinctive suspicion of a race accus- prolonged investigations that were tomed to shelter from the eye of made disclosed nothing more.
The hall at Rosscraig was large and had been crowdinground some unseen long: there was a great fireplace in object in the corner dispersed hastily it, from which came a feeble gleam as Lady Eskside was seen descendof firelight. A large lamp, swing- ing the stair, but only to hang about ing from the raftered roof, threw behind-backs waiting the interprebut a moderate light into its great tation of the mystery. One person height and space; but upon a side- only, an old and confidential sertable a candle was flaring, its long vant, kept her place near the door, waving flame blown about by the round which there was a wide stain movement in the air, which had not of wet made by the rain, which had yet subsided after the opening of burst in when it was opened. Lady the door. A group of servants who Eskside went forward bewildered, not perceiving what it was she had -- quite safe — and nobody will been called to see ; and it was not harm you. Who are you, and who till a sick disappointment had be- brought you here? ” gun to creep over her that the old The child made a pause—he was lady found out the central object on struggling proudly against his inwhich all eyes were turned. On clination to cry; and there was the great skin mat which lay be- breathless silence in the hall as tween the door and the wall stood if some great revelation had been something so small and dark as to about to be made. Then a small be almost undistinguishable, till the whimpering voice, with tears in it, light caught a glimmer and sparkle made itself audible, “I am— Val,” it from a pair of eyes low down, gleam- said. ing out of a little pale and scared face. Lady Eskside rose up as if by Lady Eskside went slowly forward, some force which she could not rebracing herself for something, she sist. She turned upon Mary Perknew not what. When she caught cival, and the group of servants bethe gleam of those eyes, she stood yond, with uplifted hands, calling still and uttered a sudden cry. their attention imperatively, though
A child stood there, with its feet for the moment she could not speak. buried in the long skin of the mat, Then her voice broke forth, choked backing closely into the corner for and hoarse, “ Val! Mary, you hear, support, half frightened, half defi- you hear! Did not I know it? ant. Tears were standing in those Val! Oh, at last, at last!” great eyes, and hanging on the pale Then all at once she grew quiet, little cheek—the lip was ready to and knelt down trembling upon the quiver at a moment's notice; but mat. “My bonnie little man!" still he confronted the novel world she said, half weeping, “tell me in which he found himself with a again. Val—Val what? And, oh, certain defiance. The old lady, who who brought you here?” felt all her dreams and hopes sud- “Nobody don't call me nothing denly realised at the first glance, but Val," said the child. “Mammy went nearer to him, with tremulous brought me. Not for no harm. excitement, and stooped down over She's gone back for Dick.” the child. Her whole frame was “Ah!" Lady Eskside's breath trembling — a mist obscured her seemed to stop. She put out one eyes. “Who are you who are hand behind her, and plucked you?" she cried. “Oh, who are blindly at Mary Percival's dress. you ?" then stopping short as the “ Your mammy has gone back-for frightened look got the mastery on -Dick ?” the child's face, and his lip began “He's down at the village,” said to quiver, she changed her tone the child, keeping his eyes fixed upon with a wonderful effort, and drop- her with the watchfulness of terror. ped down upon her knees on the “He's asleep. I've got to wait for mat to bring herself on a level with mammy. She put me in out of the him. Lady Eskside saw in the rain. I'll be good till mammy little face more than any one else comes. Oh, don't let him touch could see, and knew him, as she me! I ain't come for no harm." said afterwards, at once. “My Harding the butler had approached bonnie man!” she cried, “ my poor nearer, anxious to bring his superior little man, nobody will hurt you. cleverness to his mistress's aid ; and What is your name, and who it was this movement which made brought you here? You are safe the little fellow back further into
VOL, CXV.-NO, DCXCIX.
his corner, holding up one small fast, and with the other she covered arm before his face as if to ward off her face. Some low sounds, but a blow. A precocious knowledge of they were not audible words, came danger and a precocious desperation from her as she knelt—sounds which of baby courage glimmered in his no one around knew, yet all underfrightened but excited eyes. “I stood by the strange sentiment of won't touch nobody if you'll let me mingled anguish and rapture there alone,” he cried.
was in them. Then she rose up, “Stand back, Harding,"cried Ladyshaken and agitated, yet all her Eskside; and then she laid her soft vigorous self. old hand upon the child's raised “Harding," she said, " you'll stay arm, which yielded to her touch. here and watch-till-she comes “Nobody will harm you here, my back. For God's sake take care poor little bonnie man. Oh, look what you do. You must not scare at him ! look at him, Mary! Is it her, or send her away; or go out my old een that deceive me? Is it yourself down the avenue, and let from having always one idea in my your wife stay here. It's a matter head? But you are not half-crazy of life and death. Marg’ret, you like me. Mary, try to forget the hear all I say.” This was to name and everything else. Look at the housekeeper, Harding's wife. his face !”
“Keep the house quiet; no noise, Mary Percival stood close behind, no excitement; but watch and be as much moved in her way, though ready. Let one of the women prewith feelings very different from pare the green rooms, and light those of her old friend. Instead of fires ; and Joseph can bring me the love and yearning in Lady Esk- wine and some milk for the chilside's heart, there was something dren. Oh, thank God that I can say which felt like half-hatred—a re- such a word! You'll show - her pugnance for which she detested every respect. Marg’ret, Margherself—in the intense interest with 'ret, you know what I mean— which she had watched every look “Oh, yes, my lady—yes! I see and movement of the little alien it a'," cried the housekeeper;“ but it creature. Her voice was low and will be too much for you." choked as she replied, as if the "Joy's never hard to bear," said words were extracted from her, “I Lady Eskside, with a smile. “My am looking at him. He is dark- bonnie boy! come with me—you not fair-like-his father. He has are not afraid of me?" different eyes. Oh, Lady Eskside, The child looked at her with his what can I say? Everything else great eyes, which fright and novelty is Richard — everything ; and I and the paleness of his little face don't wish to think so like you." made twice their usual size. “Rich
I do not believe that Lady Esk- ard never had eyes like these," side heard these last words, which Miss Percival said to herself; but it were foreign to the passionate ten- would have been cruel, indeed, to derness and joy in her own mind. have said this aloud. He paused a She heard only so much as chimed moment irresolute, and then gave a in with her own thoughts. “Mary wild glance at the door, as if the imsees it too!” she said, with a low pulse of flight was the strongest ; outcry of such emotion as cannot be then he put his little cold hand, halfput into words. She was still on reluctantly, into the soft white hand her knees in the attitude of prayer. held out for it. The old lady looked With one hand she held the child round upon them all with a glow of triumph indescribable; how her night,—they call you Vall and hand closed upon those little tremu- your brother is Dick-oh, may God lous fingers! She marched to the keep my heart that I may not die door of the dining-room, which was of joy !” nearest, her whole figure expanding The child sat on her knee with like some Roman woman in a vic- all the gravity of his age, and heard tor's procession. What battle had everything, but made no response. she won? what enemy had she I think the weariness and the conquered ? Mary, full of strange unusual comfort began alike to tell agitation, followed her, wondering, upon him; the cheerful light daztremulous, excited, but always with zled his eyes, the warmth crept into a certain repugnance, into the warm his baby limbs, and even the exroom, all ruddy and cheerful with citement and strange novelty of his light from the fire.
position were not enough at seven And then a sudden change, years old to counteract these substrange to be seen, came upon this duing influences. By-and-by his old Volumnia, this heroic matron little eyes began to wink as he gazed in her triumph. She sat down by into the fire and felt the drowsy the fire, in the great chair where spell of the genial warmth. When her old lord had been sitting over Joseph brought the tray, he took his wine half an hour before, and the piece of cake which was put gathered up the child into her lap, into his hand, and ate it slowly, and turned at once as by the touch gazing and winking at the fire. of a wand into the old mother, the Then his head began to droop mere woman, all whose instincts against Lady Eskside's breast. With culminated in simple maternity. an effort he opened his eyes at in. Perhaps her delicate old hands had tervals, fixing them severely as if never touched anything so muddy they could never close again, upon and rough before ; but she was the fire, then gradually subdued by totally unconscious of this as she the warmth shut them altogether, set the shivering wet little figure and half turning towards her, nestled upon her satin lap, and began to his head upon the old lady's shoulunlace and draw off his wet boots. der. As his curls fell finally into this Lady Eskside was a proud woman, resting place, Lady Eskside turned fastidious in everything she ap- to Mary with an unspeakable look : proached or handled; but she undid “He knows them that belong to the muddy leather laces, and pulled him," she said in a whisper. Her off the dirty little boots, and stained arms encircled him with that delight her worn and fine old hands, so of protecting maternity which goes delicately white and dainty, without through all the levels of creation. hesitation, even without a thought. It was but the hen gathering her She held the child close to her, mur- chickens under her wing—yet God muring over him unconscious sounds himself can find no tenderer simile. of endearment, like a dove in her All expression, save that lastsupreme nest. “My little man ! my bonnie beatitude which borders upon vacuilittle man !- Put out your poor wee ty, went out of her face. She forgot feetie to the fire-how cold they everything around her — the past, are, the poor wee pilgrim feet-and the future, her duties of the present. how far they've wandered! but this is Everything in the world had become home, my darling, this is home ! suddenly concentrated to her in this And so they call you Val !-Oh, action, which was no more elevated my bonnie boy, to be out in such a than that of a bird in her nest, this