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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPortent - Chapter 18. Old Friends
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Portent - Chapter 18. Old Friends Post by :ianb4info Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :2952

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Portent - Chapter 18. Old Friends


I made the journey by easy stages, chiefly on the back of a favourite black horse, which had carried me well in several fights, and had come out of them scarred, like his master, but sound in wind and limb. It was night when I reached the village lying nearest to my birth place.

When I woke in the morning, I found the whole region filled with a white mist, hiding the mountains around. Now and then a peak looked through, and again retired into the cloudy folds. In the wide, straggling street, below the window at which I had made them place my breakfast-table, a periodical fair was being held; and I sat looking down on the gathering crowd, trying to discover some face known to my childhood, and still to be recognized through the veil which years must have woven across the features. When I had finished my breakfast, I went down and wandered about among the people. Groups of elderly men were talking earnestly; and young men and maidens who had come to be _fee'd_, were joking and laughing. They stared at the Sassenach gentleman, and, little thinking that he understood every word they uttered, made their remarks upon him in no very subdued tones. I approached a stall where a brown old woman was selling gingerbread and apples. She was talking to a man with long, white locks. Near them was a group of young people. One of them must have said something about me; for the old woman, who had been taking stolen glances at me, turned rather sharply towards them, and rebuked them for rudeness.

"The gentleman is no Sassenach," she said. "He understands everything you are saying."

This was spoken in Gaelic, of course. I turned and looked at her with more observance. She made me a courtesy, and said, in the same language:

"Your honour will be a Campbell, I'm thinking."

"I am a Campbell," I answered, and waited.

"Your honour's Christian name wouldn't be Duncan, sir?"

"It is Duncan," I answered; "but there are many Duncan Campbells."

"Only one to me, your honour; and that's yourself. But you will not remember me?"

I did not remember her. Before long, however, urged by her anxiety to associate her Present with my Past, she enabled me to recall in her time-worn features those of a servant in my father's house when I was a child.

"But how could you recollect me?" I said.

"I have often seen you since I left your father's, sir. But it was really, I believe, that I hear more about you than anything else, every day of my life."

"I do not understand you."

"From old Margaret, I mean."

"Dear old Margaret! Is she alive?"

"Alive and hearty, though quite bedridden. Why, sir, she must be within near sight of a hundred."

"Where does she live?"

"In the old cottage, sir. Nothing will make her leave it. The new laird wanted to turn her out; but Margaret muttered something at which he grew as white as his shirt, and he has never ventured across her threshold again."

"How do you see so much of her, though?"

"I never leave her, sir. She can't wait on herself, poor old lady. And she's like a mother to me. Bless her! But your honour will come and see her?"

"Of course I will. Tell her so when you go home."

"Will you honour me by sleeping at my house, sir?" said the old man to whom she had been talking. "My farm is just over the brow of the hill, you know."

I had by this time recognised him, and I accepted his offer at once.

"When may we look for you, sir?" he asked.

"When shall you be home?" I rejoined.

"This afternoon, sir. I have done my business already."

"Then I shall be with you in the evening, for I have nothing to keep me here."

"Will you take a seat in my gig?"

"No, thank you. I have my own horse with me. You can take him in too, I dare say?"

"With pleasure, sir."

We parted for the meantime. I rambled about the neighbourhood till it was time for an early dinner.

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