‘Hush!’ A shout came down the valley, and all my heart was trembling, like water after sunset, and Lorna’s face was altered from pleasant play to terror. She shrank to me, and looked up at me, with such a power of weakness, that I at once made up my mind to save her or to die with her. A tingle went through all my bones, and I only longed for my carbine. The little girl took courage from me, and put her cheek quite close to mine.

‘Come with me down the waterfall. I can carry you easily; and mother will take care of you.’

‘No, no,’ she cried, as I took her up: ‘I will tell you what to do. They are only looking for me. You see that hole, that hole there?’

She pointed to a little niche in the rock which verged the meadow, about fifty yards away from us. In the fading of the twilight I could just descry it.

‘Yes, I see it; but they will see me crossing the grass to get there.’

‘Look! look!’ She could hardly speak. ‘There is a way out from the top of it; they would kill me if I told it. Oh, here they come, I can see them.’

The little maid turned as white as the snow which hung on the rocks above her, and she looked at the water and then at me, and she cried, ‘Oh dear! oh dear!’ And then she began to sob aloud, being so young and unready. But I drew her behind the withy-bushes, and close down to the water, where it was quiet and shelving deep, ere it came to the lip of the chasm. Here they could not see either of us from the upper valley, and might have sought a long time for us, even when they came quite near, if the trees had been clad with their summer clothes. Luckily I had picked up my fish and taken my three-pronged fork away.

Crouching in that hollow nest, as children get together in ever so little compass, I saw a dozen fierce men come down, on the other side of the water, not bearing any fire-arms, but looking lax and jovial, as if they were come from riding and a dinner taken hungrily. ‘Queen, queen!’ they were shouting, here and there, and now and then: ‘where the pest is our little queen gone?’

‘They always call me “queen,” and I am to be queen by-and-by,’ Lorna whispered to me, with her soft cheek on my rough one, and her little heart beating against me: ‘oh, they are crossing by the timber there, and then they are sure to see us.’

‘Stop,’ said I; ‘now I see what to do. I must get into the water, and you must go to sleep.’

‘To be sure, yes, away in the meadow there. But how bitter cold it will be for you!’

She saw in a moment the way to do it, sooner than I could tell her; and there was no time to lose.

‘Now mind you never come again,’ she whispered over her shoulder, as she crept away with a childish twist hiding her white front from me; ‘only I shall come sometimes—oh, here they are, Madonna!’

Daring scarce to peep, I crept into the water, and lay down bodily in it, with my head between two blocks of stone, and some flood-drift combing over me. The dusk was deepening between the hills, and a white mist lay on the river; but I, being in the channel of it, could see every ripple, and twig, and rush, and glazing of twilight above it, as bright as in a picture; so that to my ignorance there seemed no chance at all but what the men must find me. For all this time they were shouting and swearing, and keeping such a hullabaloo, that the rocks all round the valley rang, and my heart quaked, so (what with this and the cold) that the water began to gurgle round me, and to lap upon the pebbles.

Neither in truth did I try to stop it, being now so desperate, between the fear and the wretchedness; till I caught a glimpse of the little maid, whose beauty and whose kindliness had made me yearn to be with her. And then I knew that for her sake I was bound to be brave and hide myself. She was lying beneath

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