At the first utterance, however, the little man's hand dropped; he leant back in his chair and gave a soul-bursting sigh of relief.
No woman had crossed that threshold since his wife died; and, for a moment, when first the girl had entered silent-footed, aroused from dreaming of the long ago, he had thought this shawl-clad figure with the pale face and peeping hair no earthly visitor; the spirit, rather, of one he had loved long since and lost, come to reproach him with a broken troth.
"Speak up, I canna hear," he said, in tones mild compared with those last wild words.
"I--I'm Maggie Moore," the girl quavered.
"Moore! Maggie Moore, d'ye say?" he cried, half rising from his chair, a flush of color sweeping across his face, "the dochter o' James Moore?" He paused for an answer, glowering at her; and she shrank, trembling, against the door.
The little man leant back in his chair. Gradually a grim smile crept across his countenance.
"Weel, Maggie Moore," he said, halfamused, "ony gate ye're a good plucked tin." And his wizened countenance looked at her almost kindly from beneath its dirty crown of bandages.
At that the girl's courage returned with a rush. After all this little man was not so very terrible. Perhaps he would be kind. And in the relief of the moment, the blood swept back into her face.