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The farmer raised his hands in the gesture of a whose admiration almost stifled words. "A clipper!" he exclaimed with fervour. "Such a carriage! and such style!"

"Just that!" Mr Birrell broke in impatiently. "If ye get off on that key there's no stopping ye. Premise, Mr Divvert, that one was a most extraordinar' fine young lass, the other in mind and body no way to compare wi' her. In the ordinar' course the laird should have called on the Jardynes, but the customary bee was in his lordship's bonnetthis time about the folly of social calls and suchlike ceremony, and he left the duty to his aunt Amelia. She came back loudly singing the praise of the bonny sister. As her swans are apt to be geese in the long-run, Sir Andrew was no way impressed by her account of what he missed by refusing to go to Whitfarland, and was only to be set right on that point the very day before the Jardynes left for India. It was the Sabbath: he had been to the kirk, in one of his droll relapses into an interest in the faith of his fathers, and he saw the lassie worshipping. I think, mysel'," said the lawyer in a pawkier key, stroking his rosy face, "that a woman never looks better than under these particular circumstances, if one is young enough to have an interest of the kind and it's not too devout an hour for the observer. What do you think yoursel', Clashgour? You're winkin', eh? At any

rate, the lady took the Captain's eye, and I daresay he was not the only one that day for whom she spoiled Dr Cleghorn's sermon. The Captain dragged his aunt forward for an introduction when the kirk had skailed, and, well, that's the reason why we're here at the Mort-cloth Ball."

Jamie Birrell was, in his way, an artist; he liked in debate, or speech, or story to keep his hearers balanced for a little on the brink of climax, and the eager interest of the dominie's eye was ample ministry to his vanity.

"Awfu' unfortunate! Might hae happened to ony man!" said Clashgour, spilling the surplus snuff from a tiny ivory spoon on the terraced front of his waistcoat as he fed a capacious nose, and, lest the narrative should be spoiled by clumsy interpolation, the lawyer hurried to its close.

He

"Sir Andrew walked and talked for five-and-twenty minutes with the sisters; found the one a tonic to his wit and a joy to his carnal eye, and the other but her feeble echo. went home, I'll warrant, with his head bizzing, and it looked like the end of it, for the Jardynes sailed in the morn's morning.

But the ship they sailed in met with stormy weather, was wrecked near Madras under circumstances that filled the newspapers, and Colonel Jardyne was drowned. Full of compassion for the orphan girls-particularly the tall one-Sir Andrew sent Miss Jardyne the condolence of his Aunt Amelia and himself, and

it was the start of a correspondence.

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"I understand! I see! I see!" cried the schoolmaster, and the company watched his face with zest, and still nid-nodded like mandarins.

"Miss Jean Davinia Jardyne could be a most clever hand at a letter, it would seem; it was not many months till Sir Andrew and she were plying an ardent correspondence wherein every thought she revealed was born companion to his own convictions. He proposed, ramstam, by telegraph; was accepted, and the lady came home in the care of a relative that he might marry her. If it was not at the kirk door he met her first, it was gey near it, and he saw his Aunt Amelia's blunder-he had brought home the wrong lass!"

"Bless my soul, you don't tell me he married her!" cried the dominie, and the company nodded on like mandarins.

"In faith he did! You would not doubt it for a minute if you knew him. You see the fault had not been hers, save in the one dubious particular that she had got the inspiration for her letters to the Captain from her younger sister, who, in correspondence with another lover, and one she was to marry some months later, had put a vast amount of genuine feeling into her sister's pen. The Captain, always kind, said never a word of his disappointment, but put a plausible face on his reception of his unexpected bride, and married her there and then without letting her

know he had so cruelly been deceived."

"It beats all! What a quixotic creature!" oried the excited schoolmaster, taking another sip of toddy, -with a properer enthusiasm for the manifold and fantastic quirks of human nature he might, as we sometimes thought in Schawfield, have been as good as his neighbours at the bottle, and lived as long as they did. "And yet, do you know, there's a likeable side to a folly of that kind. I could not do it myself, but I admire the man who's fit for it. It shows, do you know, a noble abnegation." He aired the sentiment-guileless Mr Divvert!-as if it were a new philosophic truth now for the first time discovered, and the mandarins looked each other in the eye, uneasy to find the Forfar body was so shallow, shallow!

"That is an idea that whiles occurred to ourselves," remarked Jamie Birrell slyly. "You'll find few in Schawfield, Mr Divvert, who would call Sir Andrew anything but the perfect gentleman."

"See him on a horse!" suggested Peter Wyse.

"Or sailin' a boat, or swimmin'," said the banker in tones even more admiring.

"Hear him laugh!" said Clashgour, "it's smittal-his laugh; and he can get on better terms wi' a stranger in ten minutes than maist o' us could get in a fortnight, even across a bottle.”

"And you're only on his surface even then," remarked the lawyer, shutting a mouth

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like a letter-box. "The rarest qualities of the laird are only gotten at on close acquaintance; he has a thousand hare-brained notions I daren't air myself, or my business would go to stramash, but sometimes-only sometimes, mind ye-they find a curious pleasant agreement in my mind, and look like convictions a body would die for, if one was young enough, and living wasn't so much more comfortable, being a thing one's used to."

Watty Fraser's fiddle jinked drowsily over the measures of "The Haymakers," slurring whole bars, content to give only the accent to the dancers. "It's near the end, I can hear," said Clashgour regretfully, thinking of six miles on horseback that must be covered before he got home to bed.

"He's young,-he'll likely marry again," remarked the schoolmaster, already affected by the Schawfield interest in Sir Andrew's future. An hour ago he had been itching to be home; now he would bide till broad daylight if he could gossip about the baronet.

"I wouldn't wonder," said the lawyer, yawning. "Wha's for hame? If I was him, and o' the marryin' kind, I would tak' Norah!"

The company, all but the Forfar alien, looked at him with some surprise; he seemed to realise, himself, in a second, he had been too free, and shut the letter-box mouth with a snap of some ferocity.

They all streamed out into the lobby among the retiring dancers, and out into the street.

Clashgour sorugged down his cap upon his forehead, threw a reluctant leg across the saddle, audibly commended himself to God, and, glucking horribly with ale as he posted to an easy trot, disappeared up the lamp-lit lane that led to the dark surrounding country full of brooks, declivities, and other hazards. "There gangs a d-n good horse!" said the banker, buttoning his topcoat, listening to the clatter of the hoofs on the broken causeway. "It'll take him hame some day deid; Clashgour should be teetotal." And himself meandered home with a sappy sense of wellbeing, apparently possessor of himself, as he could not wholly be in other hours, having for the nonce a poet's exaltation, thinking the world magnificent! magnificent! Young folk, wrapped against the morning chill, walked off from the door of the inn with the rhythm of the fiddler still in their feet; their chatter and laughter sounded down the street, and sank to whispers in the closes. Watty Fraser, with his violin. wrapped in baize, an Orpheus half-asleep, and a portion of art's reward- -a knuckle of ham in his coat-tail pocket,-sought his attic. The solemn little town took on for a space a revel spirit, as the woods wake up and twitter sometimes just before the dawn. Quick, one by one, the windows darkened in the inn, as Mrs Nish, the canny woman, hurried about the house like a virgin anxious of her oil; and the last of the merry-makers, having drawn a final glass before the bar, were

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left outside a banging door. respectfully; and, whether or High on the steeple olanged not, it was an unpardonable the hour of five, and echoed liberty. Mr Divvert," he among the hills, and Divvert, patted the teacher with an counting the strokes inoredu- impressive finger on the chest, lously, realised that every peal smote him inside the skull with a pang of headache.

"Dash it!" he said to the Writer, "I'm little used to hours like these, nor to all this toddy. I was wiser sleeping among my books," and Mr Birrell chuckled. He listened to the dying rumour of revelry down the street, and looked at the sky, where an old moon sliced her way through welter of night and cloud. "Books!" said he. "With less devotion to the books, Mr Divvert, you would have had a better head for toddy. This is Life-Life! the thing that all you sober cloistered gentlemen most deplorably miss the fun and splendour o'. On such a night did Dido did Dido how is it, now, the Captain puts it? Never mind; the main thing is, we're livin', and there's mony a body deid, puir souls, includin' the Captain's lady."

"This Norah!" said the schoolmaster, pressing his brow. "Who might Norah be?"

"Norah," repeated the notary, cooking his head to the side with a forensic glitter in his eyes. "Did I, by any chance, make reference to a Norah?"

"In the room, you know. You said if you were him you would marry her."

"Did I? Faith!" said the Writer, "I trust I put it more grammatically, not to say more

VOL. CLXXXVII.-NO. MCXXXI.

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"the lady's Norah only to her admiring friends, and among the most reverent o' them's one James Birrell, M.A., Edinburgh. To all else she is Miss Grant, the Captain's ward and second cousin, and to be named with due discretion."

"Man! you might be in love wi' her yoursel', you're so particular," said Divvert, turning up his collar, and the Writer looked at him sternly in the rays from the fanlight over the door of the Schawfield Arms.

"Mr Divvert," said he portentously, "you have something yet to learn of delicacy and the general situation. Understand!

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the general situation. I have at my age nothing at all to do with love, nor love with me. I am Sir Andrew's man o' business, and you will kindly delete from your remembrance anything I may have said in there among my personal and discreet friends. The party I named is a lady,-so was the dear departed, and we must consider feelings.' He put his hand upon the teacher's shoulder, and, with his mouth close to his ear "Let all I said in there be quite delete," he whispered with profound impressiveness. "You are not yet in the local atmosphere; you cannot understand general situation. By-and-by, with the favour of God, you'll realise that here in Schawfield we are all one family, from the

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laird himself to Watty Fraser, diplomatic atmosphere he could and we must be loyal. What- not comprehend, went round ever we are, let us be Scottish the back of the church to his lodgings.

gentlemen.'

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So saying, the little lawyer shook the teacher ceremoniously by the hand, and entered his house a few doors from the inn; and Mr Divvert, with a head confused by toddy and a

"They're very sly!" said he to himself as he went to bed. "What harm could it have done had Mr Birrell been a trifle more explicit. Oh mighty! but they're sly, sly!"

CHAPTER III

The Mort-cloth Ball was ancient history, as all hilarious joys appear when a season or two has gone, and the wedded life of Sir Andrew Schaw seemed infinitely more remote to the village folk, for whom the Lady Jean had always been an alien. Norah sat one day with her cousin by an open window that looked out from Fancy Farm upon a landscape she had learned to love in every changing aspect of it; she had been arguing with him, playfully, upon a topic almost stale between them, and at last, impatient of his perverse views, had stamped her foot and, quite forgetful of the dozen years of difference in their ages and the fact that a month ago she had been, in the eyes of the law, an infant in his care, had bluntly called him silly.

He watched her flounce across the room, with admiration. "You make me think, lass, of a cat," said he. "There is something feline in the way you put up your back and show your claws upon occasion."

"A cat!" she exclaimed. "Tut! tut!" he said, "don't scratch; you know how fond I

am of cats. A cat is the only creature that can enter a room with absolutely unconscious dignity, be fierce without awkwardness, and idle without becoming fat-not that there seems any danger of your becoming fat or idle either."

The lady smiled; the flash of temper that had momentarily lit her eyes and flushed her brow died out, and she sank into a chair with & gracious easy irrestraint of every limb that really justified her cousin's hint at the feline.

"You're not so happy in your compliments as Mr Maurice," she exclaimed.

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Well, you know I have neither his privileges nor his practice," said Sir Andrew. "How, if I may ask, does the bard of passion and of mirth in his appreciative moment designate your charms?"

"Is it fair to tell?" she reflected audibly, looking out of deep green eyes that seemed sometimes black.

"I am persuaded that Dulcinea's eyes must be green emeralds," said Sir Andrew irrelevantly, quoting the Knight of the Rueful Countenance.

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