'Jennet,' says he.
'Keep me,' cries Janet, springing up. 'O, it's you, Maister Francie! Save us, what a fricht ye gied me.'
'Ay, it's me,' said Francie. 'I've been thinking, Jennet; I saw you and the curate a while back--'
'Brat!' cried Janet, and coloured up crimson; and the one moment made as if she would have stricken him with a ragged stick she had to chase her bestial with, and the next was begging and praying that he would mention it to none. It was 'naebody's business, whatever,' she said; 'it would just start a clash in the country'; and there would be nothing left for her but to drown herself in Dule Water.
'Why?' says Francie.
The girl looked at him and grew scarlet again.
'And it isna that, anyway,' continued Francie. 'It was just that he seemed so good to ye--like our Father in heaven, I thought; and I thought that mebbe, perhaps, we had all been wrong about him from the first. But I'll have to tell Mr. M'Brair; I'm under a kind of a bargain to him to tell him all.'
'Tell it to the divil if ye like for me!' cried the lass. 'I've naething to be ashamed of. Tell M'Brair to mind his ain affairs,' she cried again: 'they'll be hot eneugh for him, if Haddie likes!' And so strode off, shoving her beasts before her, and ever and again looking back and crying angry words to the boy, where he stood mystified.
By the time he had got home his mind was made up that he would say nothing to his mother. My Lady Montroymont was in the keeping- room, reading a godly book; she was a wonderful frail little wife to make so much noise in the world and be able to steer about that patient sheep her husband; her eyes were like sloes, the fingers of her hands were like tobacco-pipe shanks, her mouth shut tight like a trap; and even when she was the most serious, and still more when she was angry, there hung about her face the terrifying semblance of a smile.
'Have ye gotten the billet, Francie said she; and when he had handed it over, and she had read and burned it, 'Did you see anybody?' she asked.
'I saw the laird,' said Francie.
'He didna see you, though?' asked his mother.
'Deil a fear,' from Francie.
'Francie!' she cried. 'What's that I hear? an aith? The Lord forgive me, have I broughten forth a brand for the burning, a fagot for hell-fire?'
'I'm very sorry, ma'am,' said Francie. 'I humbly beg the Lord's pardon, and yours, for my wickedness.'
'H'm,' grunted the lady. 'Did ye see nobody else?'
'No, ma'am,' said Francie, with the face of an angel, 'except Jock Crozer, that gied me the billet.'
'Jock Crozer!' cried the lady. 'I'll Crozer them! Crozers indeed! What next? Are we to repose the lives of a suffering remnant in Crozers? The whole clan of them wants hanging, and if I had my way of it, they wouldna want it long. Are you aware, sir, that these Crozers killed your forebear at the kirk-door?'
'You see, he was bigger 'n me,' said Francie.
'Jock Crozer!' continued the lady. 'That'll be Clement's son, the biggest thief and reiver in the country-side. To trust a note to him! But I'll give the benefit of my opinions to Lady Whitecross when we two forgather. Let her look to herself! I have no patience with half-hearted carlines, that complies on the Lord's day morning with the kirk, and comes taigling the same night to the conventicle. The one or the other! is what I say: hell or heaven- -Haddie's abominations or the pure word of God dreeping from the lips of Mr. Arnot,
'"Like honey from the honeycomb That dreepeth, sweeter far."'
My lady was now fairly launched, and that upon two congenial subjects: the deficiencies of the Lady Whitecross and the turpitudes of the whole Crozer race--which, indeed, had never been conspicuous for respectability. She pursued the pair of them for twenty minutes on the clock with wonderful animation and detail, something of the pulpit manner, and the spirit of one possessed. 'O hellish compliance!' she exclaimed. 'I would not suffer a complier to break bread with Christian folk.