Janet Gordon had hitherto spoken no word. She had sat rigidly upright on one of the old chairs under Margaret Gordon’s insistent picture, with her knotted, toil-worn hands grasping the carved arms tightly, and her eyes fastened on Eric’s face. At first their expression had been guarded and hostile, but as the conversation proceeded they lost this gradually and became almost kindly. Now, when her brother appealed to her, she leaned forward and said eagerly,
“Do you know that there is a stain on Kilmeny’s birth, Master?”
“I know that her mother was the innocent victim of a very sad mistake, Miss Gordon. I admit no real stain where there was no conscious wrong doing. Though, for that matter, even if there were, it would be no fault of Kilmeny’s and would make no difference to me as far as she is concerned.”
A sudden change swept over Janet Gordon’s face, quite marvelous in the transformation it wrought. Her grim mouth softened and a flood of repressed tenderness glorified her cold gray eyes.
“Well, then.” she said almost triumphantly, “since neither that nor her dumbness seems to be any drawback in your eyes I don’t see why you should not have the chance you want. Perhaps your world will say she is not good enough for you, but she is—she is”—this half defiantly. “She is a sweet and innocent and true-hearted lassie. She is bright and clever and she is not ill looking. Thomas, I say let the young man have his will.”
Thomas Gordon stood up, as if he considered the responsibility off his shoulders and the interview at an end.
“Very well, Janet, woman, since you think it is wise. And may God deal with him as he deals with her. Good evening, Master. I’ll see you again, and you are free to come and go as suits you. But I must go to my work now. I left my horses standing in the field.”
“I will go up and send Kilmeny down,” said Janet quietly.
She lighted the lamp on the table and left the room. A few minutes later Kilmeny came down. Eric rose and went to meet her eagerly, but she only put out her right hand with a pretty dignity and, while she looked into his face, she did not look into his eyes.
“You see I was right after all, Kilmeny,” he said, smiling. “Your uncle and aunt haven’t driven me away. On the contrary they have been very kind to me, and they say I may see you whenever and wherever I like.”
She smiled, and went over to the table to write on her slate.
“But they were very angry last night, and said dreadful things to me. I felt very frightened and unhappy. They seemed to think I had done something terribly wrong. Uncle Thomas said he would never trust me out of his sight again. I could hardly believe it when Aunt Janet came up and told me you were here and that I might come down. She looked at me very strangely as she spoke, but I could see that all the anger had gone out of her face. She seemed pleased and yet sad. But I am glad they have forgiven us.”