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« He was a lovely youth, I guess :
Was not so fair as he.
The light foot of Mordaunt Mertoun was not long of bearing him to Jarlshof. He entered the house hastily, for what he himself had observed that morning, corresponded in some degree with the ideas which Swertha's tale was calculated to excite. He found his father, however, in the inner apartment, reposing himself after his fatigue; and his first question satisfied him that the good dame had practised a little imposition to get rid of them both.
“ Where is this dying man whom you have so wisely ventured your own neck to relieve ?” said the elder Mertoun to the
“Norna, sir,” replied Mordaunt,“ has taken him under her charge; she understands such matters.”
“ And is quack as well as witch ?” said the elder Mertoun. " With all
heart - it is a trouble saved. But I hasted home on Swertha's hint, to look out for lint and bandages, for her speech was of broken bones."
Mordaunt kept silence, well knowing his father would not persevere in his enquiries upon such a matter, and not willing either to prejudice the old gouvernante, or to excite his father to one of those excesses of passion into which he was apt to burst, when, contrary to his wont, he thought proper to correct the conduct of his domestic.
It was late in the day ere old Swertba returned from her expedition, heartily fatigued, and bearing with her a bundle of some bulk, containing, it would seem, her share of the spoil. Mordaunt instantly sought her out, to charge her with the deceits she had practised on both his father and himself; but the accused matron lacked not her reply.
* By her troth,” she said, “ she thought it was time to bid Mr Mertoun gang hame and get bandages, when she had seen, with her ain twa een, Mordaunt ganging down the cliff like a wild cat -- it was to be thought broken bones would be the end, and lucky if bandages wad do any good — and, by her troth, she might weel tell Mordaunt his father was puirly, and him looking sae white in the gills, (whilk, she wad die upon it, was the very word she used,) and it was a thing that couldna be denied by man at this
moment.” “ But, Swertha,” said Mordaunt, as soon as her clamorous defence gave him time to speak in reply,“ how came you, that should have been busy with your housewifery and your spinning, to be out this morning at Erick's steps, in order to take all this unnecessary care of my father and me? And what is in that bundle, Swertha? for I fear, Swertha, you have been transgressing the law, and have been out upon the wrecking system.”
“ Fair fa’ your sonsy face, and the blessing of St. Ronald upon you,” said Swertha, in a tone betwixt coaxing and jesting; would
you keep a puir body from mending hersell, and sae muckle gear lying on the loose sand for the lifting ?-Hout, Master Mordaunt, a ship ashore is a sight to wile the minister out of his very pu’pit in the middle of his preaching, muckle mair a puir auld ignorant wife frae her rock and her tow. And little did I get for my day's wark - just some rags o' cambric things, and a bit or twa of coarse claith, and sic like the strong and the hearty get a' thing in this warld."
“ Yes, Swertha,” replied Mertoun, “ and that is rather hard, as you must have your share of punishment in this world and the next, for robbing the
poor mariners.” Hout, callant, wha wad punish an auld wife like me for a wheen duds?-Folk speak muckle black ill of Earl Patrick, but he was a friend to the shore, and made wise laws against any body helping vessels that were like to gang on the breakers.*--And the mariners, I have heard Bryce Jagger say, lose their right frae the time keel touches sand; and, moreover, they are dead
* This was literally true.
and gane, poor souls-dead and gane, and care little about warld's wealth now.--Nay, nae mair than the great Jarls and Sea-kings, in the Norse days, did about the treasures that they buried in the tombs and sepulchres auld langsyne. Did I ever tell you the sang, Master Mordaunt, how Olaf Tryguarson gard hide five gold crouns in the same grave with him?"
“ No, Swertha," said Mordaunt, who took pleasure in tormenting the cunning old plunderer “ You never told me that; but I tell
that the stranger, whom Norna has taken down to the town, will be well enough to-morrow, to ask where
have hidden the goods that you have stolen from the wreck."
« But wha will tell him a word about it, hinnie?” said Swertha, looking slily up in her young master's face—“The mair by token, since I maun tell ye, that I have a bonnie remnant of silk amang the lave, that will make a dainty waistcoat to yoursell, the first merry-making
ye gang to.”
Mordaunt could no longer forbear laughing at the cunning with which the old dame pro