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THE DOINGS AT WEST INCH.
I can remember that moment so well. I have heard from others that a great, sudden blow has dulled their senses. It was not so with me. On the contrary, I saw and heard and thought more clearly than I had ever done before. I can remember that my eyes caught a little knob of marble as broad as my palm, which was imbedded in one of the grey stones of the rockery, and I found time to admire its delicate mottling. And yet the look upon my face must have been strange, for Cousin Edie screamed, and leaving me she ran off to the house. I followed her and tapped at the window of her room, for I could see that she was there.
"Go away, Jock, go away!" she cried. "You are going to scold me! I won't be scolded! I won't open the window! Go away!"
But I continued to tap.
"I must have a word with you!"
"What is it, then?" she cried, raising the sash about three inches. "The moment you begin to scold I shall close it."
"Are you really married, Edie?"
"Yes, I am married."
"Who married you?"
"Father Brennan, at the Roman Catholic Chapel at Berwick."
"And you a Presbyterian?"
"He wished it to be in a Catholic Church."
"When was it?"
"On Wednesday week."
I remembered then that on that day she had driven over to Berwick, while de Lapp had been away on a long walk, as he said, among the hills.
"What about Jim?" I asked.
"Oh, Jim will forgive me!"
"You will break his heart and ruin his life."
"No, no; he will forgive me."
"He will murder de Lapp! Oh, Edie, how could you bring such disgrace and misery upon us?"
"Ah, now you are scolding!" she cried, and down came the window.
I waited some little time, and tapped, for I had much still to ask her; but she would return no answer, and I thought that I could hear her sobbing. At last I gave it up; and I was about to go into the house, for it was nearly dark now, when I heard the click of the garden gate. It was de Lapp himself.
But as he came up the path he seemed to me to be either mad or drunk. He danced as he walked, cracked his fingers in the air, and his eyes blazed like two will-o'-the-wisps. "_Voltigeurs!_" he shouted; "_Voltigeurs de la Garde!_" just as he had done when he was off his head; and then suddenly, "_En avant! en avant!_" and up he came, waving his walking-cane over his head. He stopped short when he saw me looking at him, and I daresay he felt a bit ashamed of himself.
"Hola, Jock!" he cried. "I didn't thought anybody was there. I am in what you call the high spirits to-night."
"So it seems!" said I, in my blunt fashion. "You may not feel so merry when my friend Jim Horscroft comes back to-morrow."
"Ah! he comes back to-morrow, does he? And why should I not feel merry?
"Because, if I know the man, he will kill you."
"Ta, ta, ta!" cried de Lapp. "I see that you know of our marriage. Edie has told you. Jim may do what he likes."
"You have given us a nice return for having taken you in."
"My good fellow," said he, "I have, as you say, given you a very nice return. I have taken Edie from a life which is unworthy of her, and I have connected you by marriage with a noble family. However, I have some letters which I must write to-night, and the rest we can talk over to-morrow, when your friend Jim is here to help us."
He stepped towards the door.
"And this was whom you were awaiting at the peel tower!" I cried, seeing light suddenly.
"Why, Jock, you are becoming quite sharp," said he, in a mocking tone; and an instant later I heard the door of his room close and the key turn in the lock.
I thought that I should see him no more that night; but a few minutes later he came into the kitchen, where I was sitting with the old folk.
"Madame," said he, bowing down with his hand over his heart, in his own queer fashion, "I have met with much kindness in your hands, and it shall always be in my heart. I didn't thought I could have been so happy in the quiet country as you have made me. You will accept this small souvenir; and you also, sir, you will take this little gift, which I have the honour to make to you."
He put two little paper packets down upon the table at their elbows, and then, with three more bows to my mother, he walked from the room.
Her present was a brooch, with a green stone set in the middle and a dozen little shining white ones all round it. We had never seen such things before, and did not know how to set a name to them; but they told us afterwards at Berwick that the big one was an emerald and the others were diamonds, and that they were worth much more than all the lambs we had that spring. My dear old mother has been gone now this many a year, but that bonny brooch sparkles at the neck of my eldest daughter when she goes out into company; and I never look at it that I do not see the keen eyes and the long thin nose and the cat's whiskers of our lodger at West Inch. As to my father, he had a fine gold watch with a double case; and a proud man was he as he sat with it in the palm of his hand, his ear stooping to hearken to the tick. I do not know which was best pleased, and they would talk of nothing but what de Lapp had given them.
"He's given you something more," said I at last.
"What then, Jock?" asked father.
"A husband for Cousin Edie," said I.
They thought I was daffing when I said that; but when they came to understand that it was the real truth, they were as proud and as pleased as if I had told them that she had married the laird. Indeed, poor Jim, with his hard drinking and his fighting, had not a very bright name on the country-side, and my mother had often said that no good could come of such a match. Now, de Lapp was, for all we knew, steady and quiet and well-to-do. And as to the secrecy of it, secret marriages were very common in Scotland at that time, when only a few words were needed to make man and wife, so nobody thought much of that. The old folk were as pleased, then, as if their rent had been lowered; but I was still sore at heart, for it seemed to me that my friend had been cruelly dealt with, and I knew well that he was not a man who would easily put up with it.
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