‘“I have in truth that honour, madam,” he answered, with a sweeping bow; “unless I err in taking you for Mistress Lorna Doone.”

‘“You have not mistaken me. My name is Lorna Doone.”

‘He looked at me, with gravity, and was inclined to make some claim to closer consideration upon the score of kinship; but I shrunk back, and only said, “Yes, my name is Lorna Doone.”

‘“Then I am your faithful guardian, Alan Brandir of Loch Awe; called Lord Alan Brandir, son of a worthy peer of Scotland. Now will you confide in me?”

‘“I confide in you!” I cried, looking at him with amazement; “why, you are not older than I am!”

‘“Yes I am, three years at least. You, my ward, are not sixteen. I, your worshipful guardian, am almost nineteen years of age.”

‘Upon hearing this I looked at him, for that seemed then a venerable age; but the more I looked the more I doubted, although he was dressed quite like a man. He led me in a courtly manner, stepping at his tallest to an open place beside the water; where the light came as in channel, and was made the most of by glancing waves and fair white stones.

‘“Now am I to your liking, cousin?” he asked, when I had gazed at him, until I was almost ashamed, except at such a stripling.” Does my Cousin Lorna judge kindly of her guardian, and her nearest kinsman? In a word, is our admiration mutual?”

‘“Truly I know not,” I said; “but you seem good-natured, and to have no harm in you. Do they trust you with a sword?”

‘For in my usage among men of stature and strong presence, this pretty youth, so tricked and slender, seemed nothing but a doll to me. Although he scared me in the wood, now that I saw him in good twilight, lo! he was but little greater than my little self; and so tasselled and so ruffled with a mint of bravery, and a green coat barred with red, and a slim sword hanging under him, it was the utmost I could do to look at him half-gravely.

‘“I fear that my presence hath scarce enough of ferocity about it” (he gave a jerk to his sword as he spoke, and clanked it on the brook-stones); “yet do I assure you, cousin, that I am not without some prowess; and many a master of defence hath this good sword of mine disarmed. Now if the boldest and biggest robber in all this charming valley durst so much as breathe the scent of that flower coronal, which doth not adorn but is adorned”—here he talked some nonsense—“I would cleave him from head to foot, ere ever he could fly or cry.”

‘“Hush!” I said; “talk not so loudly, or thou mayst have to do both thyself, and do them both in vain.”

‘For he was quite forgetting now, in his bravery before me, where he stood, and with whom he spoke, and how the summer lightning shone above the hills and down the hollow. And as I gazed on this slight fair youth, clearly one of high birth and breeding (albeit over-boastful), a chill of fear crept over me; because he had no strength or substance, and would be no more than a pin-cushion before the great swords of the Doones.

‘“I pray you be not vexed with me,” he answered, in a softer voice; “for I have travelled far and sorely, for the sake of seeing you. I know right well among whom I am, and that their hospitality is more of the knife than the salt-stand. Nevertheless I am safe enough, for my foot is the fleetest in Scotland, and what are these hills to me? Tush! I have seen some border forays among wilder spirits and craftier men than these be. Once I mind some years agone, when I was quite a stripling lad—”

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