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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHeather And Snow - Chapter 13. A Visit From Francis Gordon
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Heather And Snow - Chapter 13. A Visit From Francis Gordon Post by :afterburners Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3285

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Heather And Snow - Chapter 13. A Visit From Francis Gordon

CHAPTER XIII. A VISIT FROM FRANCIS GORDON

The summer following Gordon's first session at college, castle Weelset and Corbyknowe saw nothing of him. No one missed him much, and but for his father's sake no one would have thought much about him. Kirsty, as one who had told him the truth concerning himself, thought of him oftener than anyone except her father.

The summer after, he paid a short visit to castle Weelset, and went one day to Corbyknowe, where he left a favourable impression upon all, which impression Kirsty had been the readier to receive because of the respect she felt for him as a student. The old imperiousness which made him so unlike his father had retired into the background; his smile, though not so sweet, came oftener; and his carriage was full of courtesy. But something was gone which his old friends would gladly have seen still. His behaviour in the old time was not so pleasant, but he had been as one of the family. Often disagreeable, he was yet loving. Now, he laid himself out to make himself acceptable as a superior. Freed so long from his mother's lowering influences, what was of his father in him might by this time have come more to the surface but for certain ladies in Edinburgh, connections of the family, who, influenced by his good looks and pleasant manners, and possibly by his position in the Gordon country, sought his favour by deeds of flattery, and succeeded in spoiling him not a little.

Steenie happening to be about the house when he came, Francis behaved to him so kindly that the gentle creature, overcome with grateful delight, begged him to go and see a house he and Kirsty were building.

In some families the games of the children mainly consist in the construction of dwellings, of this kind or that--castle, or ship, or cave, or nest in the treetop--according to the material attainable. It is an outcome of the aboriginal necessity for shelter, this instinct of burrowing: Welbeck Abbey is the development of a _weem or _Picts' house_. Steenie had very early shown it, probably from a vague consciousness of weakness, and Kirsty came heartily to his aid in following it, with the reaction of waking in herself a luxurious idea of sheltered safety. Northern children cherish in their imaginations the sense of protection more, I fancy, than others. This is partly owing to the severity of their climate, the snow and wind, the rain and sleet, the hail and darkness they encounter. I doubt whether an English child can ever have such a sense of protection as a Scots bairn in bed on a winter night, his mother in the nursery, and the wind howling like a pack of wolves about the house.

Francis consented to go with Steenie to see his house, and Kirsty naturally accompanied them. By this time she had gathered the little that was known, and there is very little known yet, concerning _Picts' houses_, and as they went it occurred to her that it would be pleasant to the laird to be shown a thing on his own property of which he had never heard, and which, in the eyes of some, would add to its value. She took the way, therefore, that led past the weem.

She had so well cleared out its entrance, that it was now comparatively easy of access, else I doubt if the young laird would have risked the spoiling of his admirably fitting clothes to satisfy the mild curiosity he felt regarding Kirsty's discovery. As it was, he pulled off his coat before entering, despite her assurance that he 'needna fear blaudin onything.'

She went in before him to light her candle and he followed. As she showed him the curious place, she gave him the results of her reading about such constructions, telling him who had written concerning them, and what they had written. 'There's mair o' them, I gether,' she said, 'and mair remarkable anes, in oor ain coonty nor in ony ither in Scotlan'. I hae mysel seen nane but this.' Then she told him how Steenie had led the way to its discovery. By the time she ended, Gordon was really interested--chiefly, no doubt, in finding himself possessor of a thing which many men, learned and unlearned, would think worth coming to see.

'Did you find this in it?' he asked, seating himself on her little throne of turf.

'Na; I put that there mysel,' answered Kirsty. 'There was naething intil the place, jist naething ava! There was naething ye cud hae pickit aff o' the flure. Gien it hadna been oot o' the gait o' the win', ye wud hae thoucht it had sweepit it clean. Ye cud hae tellt by naething intil't what ever it was meant for, hoose or byre or barn, kirk or kirkyard. It had been jist a hidy-hole in troubled times, whan the cuintry wud be swarmin wi' stravaguin marauders!'

'What made ye the seat for, Kirsty?' asked Gordon, calling her by her name for the first time, and falling into the mother tongue with a flash of his old manner.

'I come here whiles,' she answered, 'to be my lane and read a bit. It's sae quaiet. Eternity seems itsel to come and hide in 't whiles. I'm tempit whiles to bide a' nicht.'

'Isna 't awfu' cauld?'

'Na, no aften that. It's fine and warm i' the winter. And I can licht a fire whan I like.--But ye hae na yer coat on, Francie! I oucht na to hae latten ye bide sae lang!'

He shivered, rose, and made his way out. Steenie stood in the sunlight waiting for them.

'Why, Steenie,' said Gordon, 'you brought me to see your house: why didn't you come in with me?'

'Na, na! I'm feart for my feet: this is no _my hoose!' answered Steenie. 'I'm biggin ane. Kirsty's helpin me: I cudna big a hoose wantin Kirsty! That's what I wud hae ye see, no this ane. This is Kirsty's hoose. It was Kirsty wantit ye to see this ane.--Na, it's no mine,' he added reflectively. 'I ken I maun come til 't some day, but I s' bide oot o' 't as lang's I can. I like the hill a heap better.'

'What _does he mean?' asked Francis, turning to Kirsty.

'Ow, he has a heap o' notions o' 's ain!' answered Kirsty, who did not care, especially in his presence, to talk about her brother save to those who loved him.

When Francis turned again, he saw Steenie a good way up the hill.

'Where does he want to take me, Kirsty? Is it far?' he asked.

'Ay, it's a gey bitty; it's nearhan' at the tap o' the Horn, a wee ayont it.'

'Then I think I shall not go,' returned Francis. 'I will come another day.'

'Steenie! Steenie!' cried Kirsty, 'he'll no gang the day. He maun gang hame. He says he'll come anither time. Haud ye awa on to yer hoose; I s' be wi' ye by and by.'

Steenie went up the hill, and Kirsty and Francis walked toward Corbyknowe.

'Has no young man appeared yet to put Steenie's nose out of joint, Kirsty?' asked Gordon.

Kirsty thought the question rude, but answered, with quiet dignity, 'No ane. I never had muckle opinion o' _yoong men, and dinna care aboot their company.--But what are ye thinkin o' duin yersel--I mean, whan ye're throu wi' the college?' she continued. 'Ye'll surely be comin hame to tak things intil yer ain han'? My father says whiles he's some feart they're no bein made the maist o'.'

'The property must look after itself, Kirsty. I will be a soldier like my father. If it could do without him when he was in India, it may just as well do without me. As long as my mother lives, she shall do what she likes with it.'

Thus talking, and growing more friendly as they went, they walked slowly back to the house. There Francis mounted his horse and rode away, and for more than two years they saw nothing of him.

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