The Banquet

`Heaviness may endure for a night: but joy cometh in the morning.' The next day found me quite another being. Even the memories of my lost friend and companion were sunny as the genial weather that smiled around me. I did not venture to trouble Lady Muriel, or her father, with another call so soon: but took a walk into the country, and only turned homewards when the low sunbeams warned me that day would soon be over.

On my way home, I passed the cottage where the old man lived, whose face always recalled to me the day when I first met Lady Muriel; and I glanced in as I passed, half-curious to see if he were still living there.

Yes: the old man was still alive. He was sitting out in the porch, looking just as he did when I first saw him at Fayfield Junction--it seemed only a few days ago!

`Good evening!' I said, pausing.

`Good evening, Maister!' he cheerfully responded. `Wo'n't ee step in?'

I stepped in, and took a seat on the bench in the porch. `I'm glad to see you looking so hearty,' I began. `Last time, I remember, I chanced to pass just as Lady Muriel was coming away from the house. Does she still come to see you?'

`Ees,' he answered slowly. `She has na forgotten me. I don't lose her bonny face for many days together. Well I mind the very first time she come, after we'd met at Railway Station. She told me as she come to mak' amends. Dear child! Only think o' that! To mak' amends!'

`To make amends for what?' I enquired. `What could she have done to need it?'

`Well, it were loike this, you see? We were both on us a-waiting fur t' train at t' Junction. And I had setten mysen down upat t' bench. And Station-Maister, he comes and he orders me off--fur t' mak' room for her Ladyship, you understand?'

`I remember it all,' I said. `I was there myself, that day.'

`Was you, now? Well, an' she axes my pardon fur 't. Think o' that, now! My pardon! An owd ne'er-do- weel like me! Ah! She's been here many a time, sin' then. Why, she were in here only yestere'en, as it were, a-sittin', as it might be, where you're a-sitting now, an' lookin' sweeter and kinder nor an angel! An' she says "You've not got your Minnie, now," she says, "to fettle for ye." Minnie was my grand-daughter, Sir, as lived wi' me. She died, a matter of two months ago--or it may be three. She was a bonny lass-- and a good lass, too. Eh, but life has been rare an' lonely without her!'

He covered his face in his hands: and I waited a minute or two, in silence, for him to recover himself.

`So she says, "Just tak' me fur your Minnie!" she says. "Didna Minnie mak' your tea fur you?" says she. "Ay," says I. An' she mak's the tea. "An' didna Minnie light your pipe?" says she. "Ay," says I. An' she lights the pipe for me. "An' didna Minnie set out your tea in t' porch?" An' I says "My dear," I says, "I'm thinking you're Minnie hersen!" An' she cries a bit. We both on us cries a bit--'

Again I kept silence for a while.

`An' while I smokes my pipe, she sits an' talks to me--as loving an' as pleasant! I'll be bound I thowt it were Minnie come again! An' when she gets up to go, I says "Winnot ye shak' hands wi' me?" says I. An' she says "Na," she says: "a cannot shak' hands wi' thee!" she says.'

`I'm sorry she said that,' I put in, thinking it was the only instance I had ever known of pride of rank showing itself in Lady Muriel.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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