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'Tis Even that we're at Odds.
The festal day approached, and still no invitation arrived for that guest, without whom, but a little space since, no feast could have been held in the island; while, on the other hand, such reports as reached them on every side spoke highly of the favour which Captain Cleveland enjoyed in the family of the old Udaller of Burgh-Westra. Swertha and the old Ranzelar shook their heads at these mutations, and reminded Mordaunt, by many a half-hint and inuendo, that he had incurred this eclipse by being so imprudently active to secure the safety of the stranger when he lay at the mercy of the next wave beneath the cliffs of Sumburgh-head. “It is best to let saut water take its gait,” said Swertha ; " luck never came of crossing it."
“In troth,” said the Ranzelar, “they are wise folks that let wave and withy haud their ain luck never came of a half drowned man, or a half-hanged ane either. Who was't shot Will Paterson off the Noss? - the Dutchman that he saved from sinking, I trow. To fling a drowning man a plank or a tow, may be the part of a Christian; but I say keep hands aff him, if ye wad live and thrive free frae his danger.”
“Ye are a wise man, Ranzelar, and a worthy," echoed Swertha, with a groan, “and ken how and whan to help a neighbour, as weel as ony man that ever drew a net."
“ In troth, I have seen length of days,” answered the Ranzelar, " and I have heard what the auld folk said to each other anent sic matters; and nae man in Zetland shall go farther than I will in any Christian service to a man on firm land ; but if he cry help out of the saut wayes, that's another story.”
“And yet, to think of this lad Cleveland standing in our Master Mordaunt's light,” said
Swertha, “and with Magnus Troil, that thought him the flower of the island but on Whitsunday last, and Magnus, too, that's both held (when he's fresh, honest man) the wisest and wealthiest of Zetland.”
“ He canna win by it,” said the Ranzelman, with a look of the deepest sagacity.
There's whiles, Swertha, that the wisest of us (as I am sure I humbly confess mysel) may be little better than gulls, and can no more win by doing deeds of folly than I can step over Sumburgh-head. It has been my own case once or twice in my life. But we will see soon what ill is to come of all this, for good there cannot come.”
And Swertha answered, with the same tone of prophetic wisdom,“ Na, na, gude can never come on it, and that is ower truly said." ;?..
These doleful predictions, repeated from time to time, had some effect upon Mordaunt. He did not indeed suppose, that the charitable action of relieving a drowning man had subjected him, as a necessary and fatal consequence, to the unpleasant circumstances in which he was placed ; yet he felt as if a sort of spell were drawn around him, of which he neither under
stood the nature or the extent; --that some power, in short, beyond his own controul, was acting upon his destiny, and, as it seemed, with no friendly influence. His curiosity, as well as his anxiety, was highly excited, and he continued determined, at all events, to make his personal appearance at the approaching festival, when he was impressed with the belief that something uncommon was necessarily to take place, which should determine his future views and prospects in life.
As the elder Mertoun was at this time in his ordinary state of health, it became necessary that his son should intimate to him his intended visit to Burgh-Westra. He did so; and his father desired to know the especial reason of his going thither at this particular time.
“ It is a time of merry-making,” replied the youth; “all the country are assembled.”
“ And you are doubtless impatient to add another fool to the number.--Go-but beware how you walk in the path which you are about to tread - a fall from the cliffs of Foula were not more fatal.”
May I ask the reason of your caution, sir ?”
replied Mordaunt, breaking through the reserve which ordinarily subsisted betwixt him and his singular parent.
“ Magnus Troil,” said the elder Mertoun, " has two daughters --you are of the age when men look upon such gawds with eyes of affection, that they may afterwards learn to curse the day that first opened their eyes upon heaven. I bid
beware of them; for, as sure as that death and sin came into the world by woman, so sure are their soft words, and softer looks, the utter destruction and ruin of all who put faith in them."
Mordaunt had sometimes observed his father's marked dislike to the female sex, but had never before heard him give vent to it in terms so determined and precise. He replied, that the daughters of Magnus Troil were no more to him than any other females in the islands; “ they were even of less importance," he said, “ for they had broken off their friendship with him, without assigning any cause."
“ And you go to seek the renewal of it,” answered his father. “ Silly moth, that hast once