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0105_001E The White People Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter IX

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"Better than anything else!" he said. "Yes, let us go in the morning."

"Wee Brown Elspeth seems very near me this evening," I said. "I feel as if--" I broke off and began again. "I have a puzzled feeling about her. This afternoon I found some manuscript pushed behind a book on a high shelf in the library. Angus said he had hidden it there because it was a savage story he did not wish me to read. It was the history of the feud between Ian Red Hand and Dark Malcolm of the Glen. Dark Malcolm's child was called Wee Brown Elspeth hundreds of years ago-- five hundred, I think. It makes me feel so bewildered when I remember the one I played with."

"It was a bloody story," he said. "I heard it only a few days before we met at Sir Ian's house in London."

That made me recall something.

"Was that why you started when I told you about Elspeth?" I asked.

"Yes. Perhaps the one you played with was a little descendant who had inherited her name," he answered, a trifle hurriedly. "I confess I was startled for a moment."

I put my hand up to my forehead and rubbed it unconsciously. I could not help seeing a woesome picture.

"Poor little soul, with the blood pouring from her heart and her brown hair spread over her dead father's breast!" I stopped, because a faint memory came back to me. "Mine," I stammered--"mine--how strange!--had a great stain on the embroideries of her dress. She looked at it--and looked. She looked as if she didn't like it--as if she didn't understand how it came there. She covered it with ferns and bluebells."

I felt as if I were being drawn away into a dream. I made a sudden effort to come back. I ceased rubbing my forehead and dropped my hand, sitting upright.

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"I must ask Angus and Jean to tell me about her," I said. "Of course, they must have known. I wonder why I never thought of asking questions before."

It was a strange look I met when I involuntarily turned toward him--such an absorbed, strange, tender look!

I knew he sat quite late in the library that night, talking to Angus after his mother and I went to our rooms. Just as I was falling asleep I remember there floated through my mind a vague recollection of what Angus had said to me of asking his advice about something; and I wondered if he would reach the subject in their talk, or if they would spend all their time in poring over manuscripts and books together.

The moor wore its most mysterious look when I got up in the early morning. It had hidden itself in its softest snows of white, swathing mist. Only here and there dark fir-trees showed themselves above it, and now and then the whiteness thinned or broke and drifted. It was as I had wanted him to see it--just as I had wanted to walk through it with him.

We had met in the hall as we had planned, and, wrapped in our plaids because the early morning air was cold, we tramped away together. No one but myself could ever realize what it was like. I had never known that there could be such a feeling of companionship in the world. It would not have been necessary for us to talk at all if we had felt silent. We should have been saying things to each other without words. But we did talk as we walked--in quiet voices which seemed made quieter by the mist, and of quiet things which such voices seemed to belong to.

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The White People
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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