What had been a high wind during the day, now became a gale, and the solitary figure wrapped her cloak closer about her and pushed resolutely on, never pausing, yet at times looking hastily over her shoulder as if fearful of a possible pursuer. As she passed a deserted farm house, a sudden gust of wind blew one of its dilapidated blinds against the window, shattering the glass with a resounding crash. With a scream the girl sprang forward, then, half wild with fright she ran with a headlong pace up the road.
The promise of the leaden sky was now fulfilled, the falling sleet cutting the girl’s white cheeks, and serving to make the night more cheerless.
Again she tried to draw the folds of her cloak about her, but the wind snatched it from her fingers and blew it back and she was obliged to stop and, for a moment, turn her back to the gale until she could securely fasten the clasps which held it. Her hands shook with cold and fear, and when she turned about and tried once more to run she found that her limbs were weak with terror and that her progress must be slow. The great branches of the trees groaned in the wind, as if crying out against such rough handling, and the snow fell faster as the girl dragged herself along the lonely road.
* * * * *
“The cauld increases,” said Sandy. “I’ll stir the fire an’ throw on anither log.”
“It’s snawin’,” announced Janie, as she emerged from behind the window shade and ran to the fireplace, where she seated herself beside Sir Walter, her arm about his neck.
“Ain’t ye glad ye’re na scurryin’ after the sheep at hame, ye big auld dear?” asked Janie.
The collie laid his head lovingly against her shoulder, as if agreeing, and Tam, seeing the caress, looked as if he thought Janie’s taste in her choice of pets deteriorating.
“Ah, Tam, Tam,” she cried with a laugh, “are ye sae selfish ye want a’ my love? I love ye baith, an’ I wad ye loved each ither.”
“Hark, Sandy! Did some one knock?” asked Mrs. McLeod, as she looked toward the door.
“Nae ane’s aboot this night—Ay, Margaret, ye’re right as usual, there’s a faint sound, an’ I’ll be seein’,—”
“Oh, Mr. McLeod, let me come in,” said a girl’s voice.
“That I will, ye puir waif,—by all the saints, it’s Phoebe Small! Here Margaret! Janie! the lass is faintin’.”
“Oh, no I’m not,” Phoebe answered, but her white face was not reassuring and Sandy and Margaret were obliged to lead her to the great chair by the fire.
Janie loosened her boots which were covered with snow, and removing them, set them to dry in a corner of the fireplace. Then she brought a cricket and, handy little maid, lifted Phoebe’s feet upon it, that the heat from the fire might warm them.
Soon Margaret McLeod had made a cup of tea, and it seemed to Phoebe that nothing had ever tasted so delicious. Sandy stood beside her, offering the lunch which Margaret had prepared, insisting gently that she must eat heartily before going out into the night.