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interlocutor was some member of that staff of officials who possessed and exercised the right of entering any house, from the nobleman's mansion to the cottar's hut, if any stigma of disaffection or resetting of disaffected persons had fallen upon its unlucky inmates. It is to be observed, however, that such investigations (extremely common during those years of civil war and universal plotting) were invariably conducted with more of legal form and ceremony than the visit of a single individual, and that their frequency and severity had very much abated since the subversion of Jacobite rule, and the advent to power of that party to whose suppression these despotic measures were chiefly directed. It was not likely, however, that Mistress Morison, in her trepidation, would consider these pros and cons; in fact, she had witnessed so many invasions of a similar kind that her fears were quite excusable.
“ Ou, dearie me! what's comin' to us a'?” she sighed, fully prepared to see the insignia of a macer of council emerge from the pitchy darkness, or to be exposed to the insults of three or four rough soldiers empowered by warrant to seize, bind, and drag away into captivity the unfortunate object of their mission. Who that might be she could not guess, unless it were Norman Scott, whose connections and doctrines were pretty well known to her, and whom she remembered to have met mounting to his sister's apartments late that evening
Lord Dundee stepped into the corridor as the chain
was unhooked, and, taking the door from the woman's hand, shut it himself.
" Now show me to some room where I can be private, and tell Mistress Alice that a visitor entreats her to grant him some conversation nothing, except that I wish to see her.”
“What can ye hae to say to the lassie? What harm can she ha' dune, puir lamb?” asked Mrs. Morison, who thought it her bounden duty to stand on the defensive to the last gasp, especially since she had learnt that Alice was the party concerned in this ominous invasion of their tranquillity.
“ The devil, woman!” exclaimed Lord Dundee, exasperated at the querulous fretfulness with which she vented these not unreasonable remonstrances,“ do you think I am going to murder her? or that if I were I should be put off my purpose by your foolery? I have not come hither to chaffer question and answer with a whining gossip, but on business which would make every hair of your head stand on end-and it will be as well for you to trouble your wits no further anent my
concerns than is needful to do my bidding. Do you understand ?"
“ Ay, sir-ay, sir," responded Mrs. Morison submissively, for during this sharp rebuke, curiously indicative of the speaker's unwonted irascibility, she had come to the decision that it was best for her not to try conclusions with a man of rank more exalted than the petty myrmidons of military or civil tyranny with whom she had expected to find herself confronted.
His dress was entirely hidden—the skirt of his cloak, thrown in a broad fold over the left shoulder, covered the lower half of his face, and slightly smothered his voice, while the deep brim of his large sombrero almost met it from above; but the small portion exposed to view was smooth and fair — the hand which held his cloak together was long, slight, and white-the lace at the wrist was rich and fine-the jewel on his finger flashed and shone as it moved and the luxuriant masses of curled hair, although soaked with rain, matted, and disordered, were yet at that day too exclusive signs of wealth and station to be misread by any one.
Much overawed, the woman introduced him into the little sanctum of Janet Rutherford, which opened close by. She placed her small iron cresset lamp upon the table, and asked him to wait there, promising to send Alice as quickly as possible.
“I am here, who asks for me?” said a voice behind him, very low and sweet, but cold and toneless as despair; and Alice stood in the room.
Roused by the loud and untimely summons below, not from sleep, which had deserted her eyelids—which she had not even sought—but from her unceasing and distracted prayers,
she had obeyed the first intimation of her frightened neighbour, and, deaf to all explanation of the impossibility of excluding the supposed official visitor, had glided down the stairs and into the room so swiftly and lightly that she had entered before he had even had time to consider in what language or with what precautions to soften the double disclo
sure he held suspended over her. She had stopped just within the door, her black dress barely distinguishable from the gloom around, her arms drooping, her hands folded before her, her eyes cast down, her rich shining ringlets pushed back from the snowy brow, as if to free it from their weight and warmth, and clustering behind the delicate ears and madonna face like a shadowy aureole---more beautiful than he had ever seen her, more mournful and careworn than he could well bear to see, knowing on what an errand he had come.
Yet strange! she did not advance nor look up-for whom could she take him?
“ Alice! what is this? have you forgotten me?”
He held out his hand to her, throwing at the same time upon the table the hat he had forgotten to re
She had been waiting as a criminal waits for the fall of the axe to be told that he had perished, and oh, marvel of marvels! ecstasy beyond words ! he was safe, he was there, living, unhurt! She flew to him, gazed full into his eyes, as if the evidence of one sense alone were too weak to render such bliss credible her sweet face transfigured by a glory of love and happiness—then resting both hands upon his arm she hid it upon them and wept-wept like a child, profusely, unrestrainedly—all reserve, all respect forgotten-shaking like an aspen leaf as the delicious tears burst forth.
He made no attempt to check them, but drew her closer to his side, and let her shed them there, for the first and last time; gazing down with a pity which shook his resolve upon the frail, girlish form
so ill-fitted to bear such rude trials; and in sad anticipation of the change which in so few minutes would transform those tender streams of womanly relief into tears of blood, drawn from a strong heart by the knowledge of her brother's crime—and, alas ! it was but too clear! her own hopeless and hapless love.
Gradually Alice grew more composed, and, in confusion at the want of respect into which her feelings had led her, drew herself gently away, but still kept her eyes fixed upon him-those lucid, tender, modest eyes, all suffused still with joyous tears, but which spoke more plainly than they had ever dared to do, what he was to her, and how intense her sufferings had been. " Alice, dear child, do not waste such emotion on
I do not need it, and am come to thank you." “What thanks can be due from my benefactor to me?” murmured Alice, with a smile which shone through the tokens of her grief as a rainbow gilds a cloud. “As for these silly tears, they are only shed for sorrow that the life I owe to Lord Dundee cannot be spent for him."
Lord Dundee dropped the hand which lay so willingly in his, while the close pressure of the lips and the sudden heaviness and darkening of the eye told a tale of inward strife. He feared—the expression is not an exaggerated one-he had an unreasoning, unconquerable, unmanly shrinking from the task of casting away the affection of this gentle, beautiful creature-he had so few to love, so few who loved