Part 3 out of 3
seriously. Sit ye down, please, there where you were. Please!" he
The revulsion of feeling in Christina's heart was violent. To have
longed and waited these weary hours for him, rehearsing her endearments
- to have seen him at last come - to have been ready there, breathless,
wholly passive, his to do what he would with - and suddenly to have
found herself confronted with a grey-faced, harsh schoolmaster - it was
too rude a shock. She could have wept, but pride withheld her. She sat
down on the stone, from which she had arisen, part with the instinct of
obedience, part as though she had been thrust there. What was this?
Why was she rejected? Had she ceased to please? She stood here
offering her wares, and he would none of them! And yet they were all
his! His to take and keep, not his to refuse though! In her quick
petulant nature, a moment ago on fire with hope, thwarted love and
wounded vanity wrought. The schoolmaster that there is in all men, to
the despair of all girls and most women, was now completely in
possession of Archie. He had passed a night of sermons, a day of
reflection; he had come wound up to do his duty; and the set mouth,
which in him only betrayed the effort of his will, to her seemed the
expression of an averted heart. It was the same with his constrained
voice and embarrassed utterance; and if so - if it was all over - the
pang of the thought took away from her the power of thinking.
He stood before her some way off. "Kirstie, there's been too much of
this. We've seen too much of each other." She looked up quickly and
her eyes contracted. "There's no good ever comes of these secret
meetings. They're not frank, not honest truly, and I ought to have seen
it. People have begun to talk; and it's not right of me. Do you see?"
"I see somebody will have been talking to ye," she said sullenly.
"They have, more than one of them," replied Archie.
"And whae were they?" she cried. "And what kind o' love do ye ca' that,
that's ready to gang round like a whirligig at folk talking? Do ye
think they havena talked to me?"
"Have they indeed?" said Archie, with a quick breath. "That is what I
feared. Who were they? Who has dared - ?"
Archie was on the point of losing his temper.
As a matter of fact, not any one had talked to Christina on the matter;
and she strenuously repeated her own first question in a panic of self-
"Ah, well! what does it matter?" he said. "They were good folk that
wished well to us, and the great affair is that there are people
talking. My dear girl, we have to be wise. We must not wreck our lives
at the outset. They may be long and happy yet, and we must see to it,
Kirstie, like God's rational creatures and not like fool children.
There is one thing we must see to before all. You're worth waiting for,
Kirstie! worth waiting for a generation; it would be enough reward." -
And here he remembered the schoolmaster again, and very unwisely took to
following wisdom. "The first thing that we must see to, is that there
shall be no scandal about for my father's sake. That would ruin all; do
ye no see that?"
Kirstie was a little pleased, there had been some show of warmth of
sentiment in what Archie had said last. But the dull irritation still
persisted in her bosom; with the aboriginal instinct, having suffered
herself, she wished to make Archie suffer.
And besides, there had come out the word she had always feared to hear
from his lips, the name of his father. It is not to be supposed that,
during so many days with a love avowed between them, some reference had
not been made to their conjoint future. It had in fact been often
touched upon, and from the first had been the sore point. Kirstie had
wilfully closed the eye of thought; she would not argue even with
herself; gallant, desperate little heart, she had accepted the command
of that supreme attraction like the call of fate and marched blindfold
on her doom. But Archie, with his masculine sense of responsibility,
must reason; he must dwell on some future good, when the present good
was all in all to Kirstie; he must talk - and talk lamely, as necessity
drove him - of what was to be. Again and again he had touched on
marriage; again and again been driven back into indistinctness by a
memory of Lord Hermiston. And Kirstie had been swift to understand and
quick to choke down and smother the understanding; swift to leap up in
flame at a mention of that hope, which spoke volumes to her vanity and
her love, that she might one day be Mrs. Weir of Hermiston; swift, also,
to recognise in his stumbling or throttled utterance the death-knell of
these expectations, and constant, poor girl! in her large-minded
madness, to go on and to reck nothing of the future. But these
unfinished references, these blinks in which his heart spoke, and his
memory and reason rose up to silence it before the words were well
uttered, gave her unqualifiable agony. She was raised up and dashed
down again bleeding. The recurrence of the subject forced her, for
however short a time, to open her eyes on what she did not wish to see;
and it had invariably ended in another disappointment. So now again, at
the mere wind of its coming, at the mere mention of his father's name -
who might seem indeed to have accompanied them in their whole moorland
courtship, an awful figure in a wig with an ironical and bitter smile,
present to guilty consciousness - she fled from it head down.
"Ye havena told me yet," she said, "who was it spoke?"
"Your aunt for one," said Archie.
"Auntie Kirstie?" she cried. "And what do I care for my Auntie
"She cares a great deal for her niece," replied Archie, in kind reproof.
"Troth, and it's the first I've heard of it," retorted the girl.
"The question here is not who it is, but what they say, what they have
noticed," pursued the lucid schoolmaster. "That is what we have to
think of in self-defence."
"Auntie Kirstie, indeed! A bitter, thrawn auld maid that's fomented
trouble in the country before I was born, and will be doing it still, I
daur say, when I'm deid! It's in her nature; it's as natural for her as
it's for a sheep to eat."
"Pardon me, Kirstie, she was not the only one," interposed Archie. "I
had two warnings, two sermons, last night, both most kind and
considerate. Had you been there, I promise you you would have grat, my
dear! And they opened my eyes. I saw we were going a wrong way."
"Who was the other one?" Kirstie demanded.
By this time Archie was in the condition of a hunted beast. He had
come, braced and resolute; he was to trace out a line of conduct for the
pair of them in a few cold, convincing sentences; he had now been there
some time, and he was still staggering round the outworks and undergoing
what he felt to be a savage cross-examination.
"Mr. Frank!" she cried. "What nex', I would like to ken?"
"He spoke most kindly and truly."
"What like did he say?"
"I am not going to tell you; you have nothing to do with that," cried
Archie, startled to find he had admitted so much.
"O, I have naething to do with it!" she repeated, springing to her feet.
"A'body at Hermiston's free to pass their opinions upon me, but I have
naething to do wi' it! Was this at prayers like? Did ye ca' the grieve
into the consultation? Little wonder if a'body's talking, when ye make
a'body yer confidants! But as you say, Mr. Weir, - most kindly, most
considerately, most truly, I'm sure, - I have naething to do with it.
And I think I'll better be going. I'll be wishing you good evening, Mr.
Weir." And she made him a stately curtsey, shaking as she did so from
head to foot, with the barren ecstasy of temper.
Poor Archie stood dumbfounded. She had moved some steps away from him
before he recovered the gift of articulate speech.
"Kirstie!" he cried. "O, Kirstie woman!"
There was in his voice a ring of appeal, a clang of mere astonishment
that showed the schoolmaster was vanquished.
She turned round on him. "What do ye Kirstie me for?" she retorted.
"What have ye to do wi' me! Gang to your ain freends and deave them!"
He could only repeat the appealing "Kirstie!"
"Kirstie, indeed!" cried the girl, her eyes blazing in her white face.
"My name is Miss Christina Elliott, I would have ye to ken, and I daur
ye to ca' me out of it. If I canna get love, I'll have respect, Mr.
Weir. I'm come of decent people, and I'll have respect. What have I
done that ye should lightly me? What have I done? What have I done?
O, what have I done?" and her voice rose upon the third repetition. "I
thocht - I thocht - I thocht I was sae happy!" and the first sob broke
from her like the paroxysm of some mortal sickness.
Archie ran to her. He took the poor child in his arms, and she nestled
to his breast as to a mother's, and clasped him in hands that were
strong like vices. He felt her whole body shaken by the throes of
distress, and had pity upon her beyond speech. Pity, and at the same
time a bewildered fear of this explosive engine in his arms, whose works
he did not understand, and yet had been tampering with. There arose
from before him the curtains of boyhood, and he saw for the first time
the ambiguous face of woman as she is. In vain he looked back over the
interview; he saw not where he had offended. It seemed unprovoked, a
wilful convulsion of brute nature. . . .
Antinomian, one of a sect which holds that under the gospel dispensation
the moral law is not obligatory.
Auld Hornie, the Devil.
Bauchles, brogues, old shoes.
Bees in their bonnet, eccentricities.
Bonnet-laird, small landed proprietor, yeoman.
Brae, rising ground.
Buff, play buff on, to make a fool of, to deceive.
Butt end, end of a cottage.
Canny, careful, shrewd.
Carline, old woman.
Clavers, idle talk.
Cock-laird. See Bonnet-laird.
Crack, to converse.
Cutty, jade, also used playfully = brat.
Daft, mad, frolicsome.
Dander, to saunter.
Daurna, dare not.
Deave, to deafen.
Disjaskit, worn out, disreputable-looking.
Doer, law agent.
Dwaibly, infirm, rickety.
Dule-tree, the tree of lamentation, the hanging-tree.
Feck, quantity, portion.
Feckless, feeble, powerless.
Fell, strong and fiery.
Fey, unlike yourself, strange, as if urged on by fate, or as persons are
observed to be in the hour of approaching death or disaster.
Flit, to depart.
Flyped, turned up, turned in-side out.
Forbye, in addition to.
Forgather, to fall in with.
Fushionless, pithless, weak.
Fyle, to soil, to defile.
Fylement, obloquy, defilement.
Gang, to go.
Gey an', very.
Gigot, leg of mutton.
Girzie, lit. diminutive of Grizel, here a playful nickname.
Glint, glance, sparkle.
Glower, to scowl.
Gobbets, small lumps.
Guddle, to catch fish with the hands by groping under the stones or
Gumption, common sense, judgment.
Gurley, stormy, surly.
Gyte, beside itself.
Hae, have, take.
Heels-ower-hurdie, heels over head.
Hirstle, to bustle.
Hypothec, lit. in Scots law the furnishings of a house, and formerly the
produce and stock of a farm hypothecated by law to the landlord as
security for rent; colloquially "the whole structure," "the whole
Infeftment, a term in Scots law originally synonymous with investiture.
Jeely-piece, a slice of bread and jelly.
Justifeed, executed, made the victim of justice.
Ken, to know.
Kilted, tucked up.
Laird, landed proprietor.
Lave, rest, remainder.
Lown, lonely, still.
Lyon King of Arms, the chief of the Court of Heraldry in Scotland.
Macers, offiers of the supreme court. [Cf. Guy Mannering, last
Menseful, of good manners.
Misbegowk, deception, disappointment.
Mools, mould, earth.
Muckle, much, great, big.
My lane, by myself.
Nowt, black cattle.
Palmering, walking infirmly.
Panel, in Scots law, the accused person in a criminal action, the
Peel, fortified watch-tower.
Policy, ornamental grounds of a country mansion.
Rair, to roar.
Rout, rowt, to roar, to rant.
Rudas, haggard old woman.
Runt, an old cow past breeding; opprobriously, an old woman.
Sasine, in Scots law, the act of giving legal possession of feudal
property, or, colloquially, the deed by which that possession is proved.
Sclamber, to scramble.
Sculduddery, impropriety, grossness.
Session, the Court of Session, the supreme court of Scotland.
Shauchling, shuffling, slipshod.
Shoo, to chase gently.
Sinsyne, since then.
Sooth, to hum.
Sough, sound, murmur.
Spec, The Speculative Society, a debating Society connected with
Speir, to ask.
Splairge, to splash.
Spunk, spirit, fire.
Steik, to shut.
Stockfish, hard, savourless.
Syne, since, then.
Tawpie, a slow foolish slut, also used playfully = monkey.
Telling you, a good thing for you.
Two-names, local soubriquets in addition to patronymic.
Unco, strange, extraordinary, very.
Vennel, alley, lane. The Vennel, a narrow lane in Edingburgh, running
out of the Grassmarket.
Wae, sad, unhappy.
Whammle, to upset.
Windlestae, crested dog's-tail, grass.