‘Yes, I will stop,’ said Annie, panting; ‘you are very hard on me, John; but I know you mean it for the best. If somebody else—I am sure I don’t know who, and have no right to know, no doubt, but she must be a wicked thing—if somebody else had been taken so with a pain all round the heart, John, and no power of telling it, perhaps you would have coaxed, and kissed her, and come a little nearer, and made opportunity to be very loving.’

Now this was so exactly what I had tried to do to Lorna, that my breath was almost taken away at Annie’s so describing it. For a while I could not say a word, but wondered if she were a witch, which had never been in our family: and then, all of a sudden, I saw the way to beat her, with the devil at my elbow.

‘From your knowledge of these things, Annie, you must have had them done to you. I demand to know this very moment who has taken such liberties.’

‘Then, John, you shall never know, if you ask in that manner. Besides, it was no liberty in the least at all, Cousins have a right to do things—and when they are one’s godfather—’ Here Annie stopped quite suddenly having so betrayed herself; but met me in the full moonlight, being resolved to face it out, with a good face put upon it.

‘Alas, I feared it would come to this,’ I answered very sadly; ‘I know he has been here many a time, without showing himself to me. There is nothing meaner than for a man to sneak, and steal a young maid’s heart, without her people knowing it.’

‘You are not doing anything of that sort yourself then, dear John, are you?’

‘Only a common highwayman!’ I answered, without heeding her; ‘a man without an acre of his own, and liable to hang upon any common, and no other right of common over it—’

‘John,’ said my sister, ‘are the Doones privileged not to be hanged upon common land?’

At this I was so thunderstruck, that I leaped in the air like a shot rabbit, and rushed as hard as I could through the gate and across the yard, and back into the kitchen; and there I asked Farmer Nicholas Snowe to give me some tobacco, and to lend me a spare pipe.

This he did with a grateful manner, being now some five-fourths gone; and so I smoked the very first pipe that ever had entered my lips till then; and beyond a doubt it did me good, and spread my heart at leisure.

Meanwhile the reapers were mostly gone, to be up betimes in the morning; and some were led by their wives; and some had to lead their wives themselves, according to the capacity of man and wife respectively. But Betty was as lively as ever, bustling about with every one, and looking out for the chance of groats, which the better off might be free with. And over the kneading-pan next day, she dropped three and sixpence out of her pocket; and Lizzie could not tell for her life how much more might have been in it.

Now by this time I had almost finished smoking that pipe of tobacco, and wondering at myself for having so despised it hitherto, and making up my mind to have another trial to-morrow night, it began to occur to me that although dear Annie had behaved so very badly and rudely, and almost taken my breath away with the suddenness of her allusion, yet it was not kind of me to leave her out there at that time of night, all alone, and in such distress. Any of the reapers going home might be gotten so far beyond fear of ghosts as to venture into the churchyard; and although they would know a great deal better than to insult a sister of mine when sober, there was no telling what they might do in their present state of rejoicing. Moreover, it was only right that I should learn, for Lorna’s sake, how far Annie, or any one else, had penetrated our secret.

Therefore, I went forth at once, bearing my pipe in a skilful manner, as I had seen Farmer Nicholas do; and marking, with a new kind of pleasure, how the rings and wreaths of smoke hovered and fluttered

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