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The White People Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter VIII

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"And Wee Brown Elspeth, who was fought for and killed," I added, slowly.

Angus nodded his head with a sad face. "It was the only way for a father," he said. "A hound of hell was Ian. Such men were savage beasts in those days, not human."

I touched the manuscript with my hand questioningly. "Did this fall at the back there by accident," I asked, "or did you hide it?"

"I did," he answered. "It was no tale for a young thing to read. I have hidden many from you. You were always poking about in corners, Ysobel."

Then I sat and thought over past memories for a while and the shadows in the room deepened.

"Why," I said, laggingly, after the silence-- "why did I call the child who used to play with me `Wee Brown Elspeth'?"

"It was your own fancy," was his reply. "I used to wonder myself; but I made up my mind that you had heard some of the maids talking and the name had caught your ear. That would be a child's way."

I put my forehead in my hands and thought again. So many years had passed! I had been little more than a baby; the whole thing seemed like a half-forgotten dream when I tried to recall it--but I seemed to dimly remember strange things.

"Who were the wild men who brought her to me first--that day on the moor?" I said. "I do remember they had pale, savage, exultant faces. And torn, stained clothes. And broken dirks and swords. But they were glad of something. Who were they?"

"I did not see them. The mist was too thick," he answered. "They were some wild hunters, perhaps."

"It gives me such a strange feeling to try to remember, Angus," I said, lifting my forehead from my hands.

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"Don't try," he said. "Give me the manuscript and get down from the step-ladder. Come and look at the list of books I have made for Mr. MacNairn."

I did as he told me, but I felt as if I were walking in a dream. My mind seemed to have left my body and gone back to the day when I sat a little child on the moor and heard the dull sound of horses' feet and the jingling metal and the creak of leather coming nearer in the thick mist.

I felt as if Angus were in a queer, half-awake mood, too--as if two sets of thoughts were working at the same time in his mind: one his thoughts about Hector MacNairn and the books, the other some queer thoughts which went on in spite of him.

When I was going to leave the library and go up-stairs to dress for dinner he said a strange thing to me, and he said it slowly and in a heavy voice.

"There is a thing Jean and I have often talked of telling you," he said. "We have not known what it was best to do. Times we have been troubled because we could not make up our minds. This Mr. Hector MacNairn is no common man. He is one who is great and wise enough to decide things plain people could not be sure of. Jean and I are glad indeed that he and his mother are coming. Jean can talk to her and I can talk to him, being a man body. They will tell us whether we have been right or wrong and what we must do."

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The White People
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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