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for that far and wide; they winna leave the value of a rotten ratlin; and what's waur, there isna ane o' them has mense or sense eneugh to give thanks for the mercies when they have gotten them. There is the auld Ranzelman, Neil Ronaldson, that canna walk a mile to hear the minister, but he will hirple ten if he hears of a ship embayed.”
Norna, however, seemed to possess over him so complete an ascendancy, that he no longer hesitated to take the man, who now gave strong symptoms of reviving existence, upon his shoulders; and, assisted by Mordaunt, trudged along the sea-beach with his burden, without farther remonstrance. Ere he was borne off, the stranger pointed to the chest, and attempted to mutter something, to which Norna replied, “ Enough. It shall be secured.”
Advancing towards the passage called Erick's steps, by which they were to ascend the cliffs, they met the people from Jarlshof, hastening in the opposite direction. Man and woman, as they passed, reverently made room for Norna, and saluted her - not without an expression of fear upon some of their faces. She passed them,
a few paces, and then turning back called aloud to the Ranzelman, who (though the practice was more common than legal) was attending the rest of the hamlet upon this plundering expedition. “Neil Ronaldson," she said, “mark my words. There stands yonder a chest, from which the lid has been just prized off. Look it be brought down to your own house at Jarlshof, just as it now is. Beware of moving or touching the slightest article. He were better in his
grave, that so much as looks at the contents. I speak not for nought, nor in aught will I be disobeyed.”
“ Your pleasure shall be done, mother,” said Ronaldson. “I warrant we will not break bulk, since sic is your bidding.”
Far behind the rest of the villagers, followed an old woman, talking to herself, and cursing her own decrepitude, which kept her the last of the party, yet pressing forward with all her might to get her share of the spoil.
When they met her, Mordaunt was astonished to recognize his father's old housekeeper. “ How now," he said, “ Swertha, what make you so far from home?”
"Just e'en daikering out to look after my auld master and your honour,” replied Swertha, who felt like a criminal caught in the manner; for on' more occasions than one, Mr Mertoun had intimated his high disapprobation of such excursions as she was at present engaged in.
But Mordaunt was too much engaged with his own thoughts to take much notice of her delinquency. “ Have you seen my father?" he said.
“ And that I have,” replied Swertha —“The gude gentleman was ganging to hirsel himsell doun Erick's steps, whilk would have been the ending of him, that is in no way a crag's-man. Sae I e'en gat him wiled away hame - and I was just seeking you that you may gang after him to the hall-house, for, to my thought, he is far frae weel.”
My father unwell ?” said Mordaunt, remembering the faintness he had exhibited at the commencement of that morning's walk.
“ Far frae weel — far frae weel,” groaned out Swertha, with a piteous shake of the head “white'o' the gills--white o' the gills--and him to think of coming down the riva!"
« Return home, Mordaunt," said Norna, who was listening to what had passed. “I will see all that is necessary done for this man's relief, and you will find him at the Ranzelman's, when you list to inquire. You cannot help him more than you already have done."
Mordaunt felt this was true, and, commanding Swertha to follow him home instantly, betook himself to the path homeward.
Swertha hobbled reluctantly after her young master in the same direction, until she lost sight of him on his entering the cleft of the rock, then instantly turned about, muttering to herself, “ Haste home in good sooth ?-haste home, and lose the best chance of getting a new rokelay and owrelay that I have had these ten years ? by my certie, na-Its seldom sic rich Godsends come on our coast no since the Jenny and James came ashore in King Charlie's time.”
So saying, she mended her pace as well as she could, and a willing mind making amends for frail limbs, posted on with wonderful dispatch to put in for her share of the spoil. She soon reached the beach where the Ranzelman, stuffing his own pouches all the while, was exhorting the rest to part things fair, and be neighbourly, and to give to the auld and helpless a share of what was going, which he charitably remarked, would bring a blessing on the shore, and send them “ mair wrecks ere winter."