Now as luck would have it—whether good luck or otherwise, you must not judge too hastily,—my darling had taken it into her head, only a day or two before, that I was far too valuable to be trusted with her necklace. Now that she had some idea of its price and quality, she had begun to fear that some one, perhaps even Squire Faggus (in whom her faith was illiberal), might form designs against my health, to win the bauble from me. So, with many pretty coaxings, she had led me to give it up; which, except for her own sake, I was glad enough to do, misliking a charge of such importance.

Therefore Annie found it sparkling in the little secret hole, near the head of Lorna’s bed, which she herself had recommended for its safer custody; and without a word to any one she brought it down, and danced it in the air before the Counsellor, for him to admire its lustre.

‘Oh, that old thing!’ said the gentleman, in a tone of some contempt; ‘I remember that old thing well enough. However, for want of a better, no doubt it will answer our purpose. Three times three, I pass it over. Crinkleum, crankum, grass and clover! What are you feared of, you silly child?’

‘Good sir, it is perfect witchcraft! I am sure of that, because it rhymes. Oh, what would mother say to me? Shall I ever go to heaven again? Oh, I see the cream already!’

‘To be sure you do; but you must not look, or the whole charm will be broken, and the devil will fly away with the pan, and drown every cow you have got in it.’

‘Oh, sir, it is too horrible. How could you lead me to such a sin? Away with thee, witch of Endor!’

For the door began to creak, and a broom appeared suddenly in the opening, with our Betty, no doubt, behind it. But Annie, in the greatest terror, slammed the door, and bolted it, and then turned again to the Counsellor; yet looking at his face, had not the courage to reproach him. For his eyes rolled like two blazing barrels, and his white shagged brows were knit across them, and his forehead scowled in black furrows, so that Annie said that if she ever saw the devil, she saw him then, and no mistake. Whether the old man wished to scare her, or whether he was trying not to laugh, is more than I can tell you.

‘Now,’ he said, in a deep stern whisper; ‘not a word of this to a living soul; neither must you, nor any other enter this place for three hours at least. By that time the charm will have done its work: the pan will be cream to the bottom; and you will bless me for a secret which will make your fortune. Put the bauble under this pannikin; which none must lift for a day and a night. Have no fear, my simple wench; not a breath of harm shall come to you, if you obey my orders’

‘Oh, that I will, sir, that I will: if you will only tell me what to do.’

‘Go to your room, without so much as a single word to any one. Bolt yourself in, and for three hours now, read the Lord’s Prayer backwards.’

Poor Annie was only too glad to escape, upon these conditions; and the Counsellor kissed her upon the forehead and told her not to make her eyes red, because they were much too sweet and pretty. She dropped them at this, with a sob and a curtsey, and ran away to her bedroom; but as for reading the Lord’s Prayer backwards, that was much beyond her; and she had not done three words quite right, before the three hours expired.

Meanwhile the Counsellor was gone. He bade our mother adieu, with so much dignity of bearing, and such warmth of gratitude, and the high-bred courtesy of the old school (now fast disappearing), that when he was gone, dear mother fell back on the chair which he had used last night, as if it would teach her the graces. And for more than an hour she made believe not to know what there was for dinner.

‘Oh, the wickedness of the world! Oh, the lies that are told of people—or rather I mean the falsehoods—because a man is better born, and has better manners! Why, Lorna, how is it that you never speak about your charming uncle? Did you notice, Lizzie, how his silver hair was waving upon his velvet collar,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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