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" A pretty song that would be to keep the corn from shaking in ha’rst,” whispered the agriculturist to his sister ; " we must speak her fair, Baby-she will may be part with the secret for a hundred pund Scots.”
“ An hundred fules' heads,” replied Baby“ bid her five merks of ready siller. I never knew a witch in
life but she was as poor as Job.”
Norna turned towards them as if she had guessed their thoughts; it may be that she did
She passed them with a look of the most sovereign contempt, and walking to the table on which the preparations for Mrs Barbara's frugal meal were already disposed, she filled a small wooden quaigh from an earthen pitcher which contained bland, a subacid liquor made out of the serous part of the milk. She broke a single morsel from a barley-cake, and having eaten and drunk, returned towards the churlish hosts. “I give you no thanks,” she said, " for my refreshment, for you bid me not welcome to it; and thanks bestowed on a churl are like the dew of heaven on the cliffs of Foulah, where it finds nought that can be refreshed by its influences. I give you no thanks,” she said again, but drawing from her pocket a leathern purse that seemed large and heavy, she added, “ I pay you with what
will value more than the gratitude of the whole inhabitants of Hialtland. Say not that Norna of Fitful-head hath eaten of your bread and drank of your cup, and left you sorrowing for the charge to which she hath put your house." So saying, she laid on the table a small piece of antique coin, bearing the rude and half-defaced effigies of some ancient northern king.
Triptolemus and his sister exclaimed against this liberality with vehemence; the first protesting that he kept no public, and the other exelaiming, “ Is the carline mad? Heard ye ever of ony of the gentle house of Clinkscale that gave meat for siller?”
“ Or for love either," muttered her brother; “ haud to that, tittie.”
“ What are ye whittie whattieing about, ye gowk," said his gentle sister, who suspected the tenor of his murmurs ;
gie the ladie back her bonie die there, and be blithe to be sae rid on'tit will be a sclate-stane the morn, if not something worse.”
The honest factor lifted the money to return it, yet could not help being struck when he saw the impression, and his hand trembled as he handed it to his sister.
“ Yes,” said the Pythoness again, as if she read the thoughts of the astonished pair, “ you have seen that coin before beware how you use it! It thrives not with the sordid or the mean-souled it was won with honourable danger, and must be expended with honourable liberality. The treasure which lies under a cold hearth will one day, like the hidden talent, bear witness against its avaricious possessors.”
This last obscure intimation seemed to raise the alarm and the wonder of Mrs Baby and her brother to the uttermost. The latter tried to stammer out something like an invitation to Norna to tarry with them all night, or at least to take share of the “ dinner,” so he at first called it; but looking at the company, and remembering the limited contents of the pot, he corrected the phrase, and hoped she would
také some part of the “ snack, which would be on the table ere a man could loose a pleugh.”
“ I eat not here—I sleep not here," replied Norna" nay, I relieve you not only of my own presence, but I will dismiss your unwelcome guests.-Mordaunt,” she added, addressing young Mertoun,“ the dark fit is past, and your father looks for you this evening."
“ Do you return in that direction ?” said Mordaunt. “ I will but eat a morsel and give you my aid, good mother, on the road. The brooks must be out, and the journey perilous.”
“ Our ways lie different,” answered the Sybil, " and Norna needs not mortal arm to aid her the
way. I am summoned far to the east, by those who know well how to smooth my passage. For thee, Bryce Snailsfoot," she continued, speaking to the pedlar,“ speed thee on to Sumburgh-the roost will afford thee a gallant harvest, and worthy the gathering in. Much goodly ware will ere now be seeking a new owner, and the careful skipper will sleep still enough in the deep haaf, and cares not that bale 'and kist are dashing against the shores.”
Na, na, goodmother,” answered Snailsfoot, “ I desire no 'man's life for my private advantage, and am just grateful for the blessing of Providence on my sma’trade. But doubtless one man's loss is another's gain; and as these storms destroy a'thing on land, it is but fair they suld send us something by sea. Sae, taking the freedom, like yoursell, mother, to borrow a lump of barley bread, and a draught of bland, I will bid good day, and thank you, to this good gentleman and lady, and e'en go on my way to Jarlshof, as you advise.”
Ay," replied the Pythoness, “ where the slaughter is, the eagles will be gathered ; and where the wreck is on the shore, the jagger is as busy to purchase spoil as the shark to gorge
upon the dead.”
This rebuke, if it was intended for such, seemed above the comprehension of the travelling merchant, who, bent upon gain, assumed the knapsack and ellwand, and asked Mordaunt, with the familiarity permitted in a wild country, whether he would not take company along with him.
“ I wait to eat some dinner with Mr Yellow