THE next day he could find him nowhere, and in the evening went to see the Comins. It was pretty dark, but the moon would be up by and by.
When he reached the cobbler's house, he found him working as usual, only in-doors now that the weather was colder, and the light sooner gone. He looked innocent, bright, and contented as usual. |If God be at peace,| he would say to himself, |why should not I?| Once he said this aloud, almost unconsciously, and was overheard: it strengthened the regard with which worldly church-goers regarded him: he was to them an irreverent yea, blasphemous man! They did not know God enough to understand the cobbler's words, and all the interpretation they could give them was after their kind. Their long Sunday faces indicated their reward; the cobbler's cheery, expectant look indicated his.
The two were just wondering a little when he entered, that young Eppy had not made her appearance; but then, as her grandmother said, she had often, especially during the last few weeks, been later still! As she spoke, however, they heard her light, hurried foot on the stair.
|Here she comes at last!| said her grandmother, and she entered.
She said she could not get away so easily now. Donal feared she had begun to lie. After sitting a quarter of an hour, she rose suddenly, and said she must go, for she was wanted at home. Donal rose also and said, as the night was dark, and the moon not yet up, it would be better to go together. Her face flushed: she had to go into the town first, she said, to get something she wanted! Donal replied he was in no hurry, and would go with her. She cast an inquiring, almost suspicious look on her grandparents, but made no further objection, and they went out together.
They walked to the High Street, and to the shop where Donal had encountered the parson. He waited in the street till she came out. Then they walked back the way they had come, little thinking, either of them, that their every step was dogged. Kennedy, the fisherman, firm in his promise not to go near the castle, could not therefore remain quietly at home: he knew it was Eppy's day for visiting her folk, went to the town, and had been lingering about in the hope of seeing her. Not naturally suspicious, justifiable jealousy had rendered him such; and when he saw the two together he began to ask whether Donal's anxiety to keep him from encountering lord Forgue might not be due to other grounds than those given or implied. So he followed, careful they should not see him.
They came to a baker's shop, and, stopping at the door, Eppy, in a voice that in vain sought to be steady, asked Donal if he would be so good as wait for her a moment, while she went in to speak to the baker's daughter. Donal made no difficulty, and she entered, leaving the door open as she found it.
Lowrie Leper's shop was lighted with only one dip, too dim almost to show the sugar biscuits and peppermint drops in the window, that drew all day the hungry eyes of the children. A pleasant smell of bread came from it, and did what it could to entertain him in the all but deserted street. While he stood no one entered or issued.
|She's having a long talk!| he said to himself, but for a long time was not impatient. He began at length, however, to fear she must have been taken ill, or have found something wrong in the house. When more than half an hour was gone, he thought it time to make inquiry.
He entered therefore, shutting the door and opening it again, to ring the spring-bell, then mechanically closing it behind him. Straightway Mrs. Leper appeared from somewhere to answer the squall of the shrill-tongued summoner. Donal asked if Eppy was ready to go. The woman stared at him a moment in silence.
|Eppy wha, said ye?| she asked at length.
|Eppy Comin,| he answered.
|I ken naething aboot her. -- Lucy!|
A good-looking girl, with a stocking she was darning drawn over one hand and arm, followed her mother into the shop.
|Whaur's Eppy Comin, gien ye please?| asked Donal.
|I ken naething aboot her. I haena seen her sin' this day week,| answered the girl in a very straight-forward manner.
Donal saw he had been tricked, but judging it better to seek no elucidation, turned with apology to go.
As he opened the door, there came through the house from behind a blast of cold wind: there was an open outer door in that direction! The girl must have slipped through the house, and out by that door, leaving her squire to cool himself, vainly expectant, in the street! If she had found another admirer, as probably she imagined, his polite attentions were at the moment inconvenient!
But she had tried the trick too often, for she had once served her fisherman in like fashion. Seeing her go into the baker's, Kennedy had conjectured her purpose, and hurrying toward the issue from the other exit, saw her come out of the court, and was again following her.
Donal hastened homeward. The moon rose. It was a lovely night. Dull-gleaming glimpses of the river came through the light fog that hovered over it in the rising moon like a spirit-river continually ascending from the earthly one and resting upon it, but flowing in heavenly places. The white webs shone very white in the moon, and the green grass looked gray. A few minutes more, and the whole country was covered with a low-lying fog, on whose upper surface the moon shone, making it appear to Donal's wondering eyes a wide-spread inundation, from which rose half-submerged houses and stacks and trees. One who had never seen the thing before, and who did not know the country, would not have doubted he looked on a veritable expanse of water. Absorbed in the beauty of the sight he trudged on.
Suddenly he stopped: were those the sounds of a scuffle he heard on the road before him? He ran. At the next turn, in the loneliest part of the way, he saw something dark, like the form of a man, lying in the middle of the road. He hastened to it. The moon gleamed on a pool beside it. A death-like face looked heavenward: it was that of lord Forgue -- without breath or motion. There was a cut in his head: from that the pool had flowed. He examined it as well as he could with anxious eyes. It had almost stopped bleeding. What was he to do? What could be done? There was but one thing! He drew the helpless form to the side of the way, and leaning it up against the earth-dyke, sat down on the road before it, and so managed to get it upon his back, and rise with it. If he could but get him home unseen, much scandal might be forestalled!
On the level road he did very well; but, strong as he was, he did not find it an easy task to climb with such a burden the steep approach to the castle. He had little breath left when at last he reached the platform from which rose the towering bulk.
He carried him straight to the housekeeper's room. It was not yet more than half-past ten; and though the servants were mostly in bed, mistress Brookes was still moving about. He laid his burden on her sofa, and hastened to find her.
Like a sensible woman she kept her horror and dismay to herself. She got some brandy, and between them they managed to make him swallow a little. He began to recover. They bathed his wound, and did for it what they could with scissors and plaster, then carried him to his own room, and got him to bed. Donal sat down by him, and staid. His patient was restless and wandering all the night, but towards morning fell into a sound sleep, and was still asleep when the housekeeper came to relieve him.
As soon as Mrs. Brookes left Donal with lord Forgue, she went to Eppy's room, and found her in bed, pretending to be asleep. She left her undisturbed, thinking to come easier at the truth if she took her unprepared to lie. It came out afterwards that she was not so heartless as she seemed. She found lord Forgue waiting her upon the road, and almost immediately Kennedy came up to them. Forgue told her to run home at once: he would soon settle matters with the fellow. She went off like a hare, and till she was out of sight the men stood looking at each other. Kennedy was a powerful man, and Forgue but a stripling; the latter trusted, however, to his skill, and did not fear his adversary. He did not know what he was.
He seemed now in no danger, and his attendants agreed to be silent till he recovered. It was given out that he was keeping his room for a few days, but that nothing very serious was the matter with him.
In the afternoon, Donal went to find Kennedy, loitered a while about the village, and made several inquiries after him; but no one had seen him.
Forgue recovered as rapidly as could have been expected. Davie was troubled that he might not go and see him, but he would have been full of question, remark, and speculation! For what he had himself to do in the matter, Donal was but waiting till he should be strong enough to be taken to task.