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HOME > Science Fiction > Witch of the Glens 峡谷女巫 > 7. The Return of Mina and Bogle
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7. The Return of Mina and Bogle
 Summer was upon the Highlands. The serene curves of the hills glowed with a hundred shades of green and tawny and rose, all with a faintly unreal, spirit-of-opal quality, so that the distances looked no more solid than a rainbow.
Kelpie breathed the salt wind as she climbed higher above the glen, and stared hungrily at the distant hills. For she was beginning to feel restless. A wee glen was not space enough, and there were too many people, too much routine, and she must away to the hills to be alone. Here were only the mild shaggy cattle peering mournfully from behind long fringes of hair, and the hares and red deer, the hill larks and whaups and gulls, and an eagle—high and alone in the free air.
Her acute senses had been lulled by the months of security at Glenfern, and she was startled to see the bent, wiry figure of Mina rise unexpectedly from behind a clump of juniper.
They looked at each other, and Kelpie’s expression could not possibly have been mistaken for delight. Mina took one good look at it, swung back her strong, scrawny arm, and aimed it at Kelpie.
It seemed that Kelpie’s reactions as well as her senses had become rusty. She didn’t duck in time. And, since Mina had fully expected her to, the resounding smack startled and pained them both.
Mina shook her stinging hand and glared at Kelpie as if the girl had done it on purpose. Kelpie, her head ringing, glared back. And Black Bogle, who had appeared as silently as his eerie namesake, shook with malicious laughter.
“Amadain!” grumbled Mina sourly. “Forgotten everything you ever knew! Fine-lady clothes and clean face, and hands that will have lost all their cunning—such as it was. Blind and deaf and slow as a sleeping snail. Amadain!”
“Sssss!” remarked Kelpie, looking and sounding like a wrathful snake. She had forgotten how ugly and mean and dirty Mina was. Och, how she hated her!
Mina looked pleased. She enjoyed Kelpie’s impotent hatred. And Kelpie, knowing this, controlled her feelings
 and hooded her eyes and made her sharp-jawed small mouth curl upward. She had been a fool to show her feelings at all at all!
“Come away, then,” ordered Mina, suddenly becoming brisk. “You have kept us waiting long enough! Why weren’t you coming as soon as you got my message?”
“What message?” asked Kelpie blankly. Mina’s eyes blazed with fury and humiliation. Bogle laughed aloud, and Kelpie knew that Mina had tried to send her a message by magic—and it hadn’t worked. Och, but she must say something quickly, or no telling what Mina might do!
“It would be yon red-haired serpent down there,” she said improvising hastily. “He was no doubt setting up a spell to prevent your message from reaching me. Teach me to say spells, Mina,” she wheedled, “so that I may set one on him.”
It worked. Mina’s pride was saved, and her wrath turned from Kelpie to Alex. “I will be cursing him myself,” she growled. “He is the same one who would not pay me enough when you were hurt, and who would not let you steal? Very well so! He will pay, and the others as well. We will go now and demand your wages before you leave.”
Leave? Kelpie’s heart sank. Back to the old life of fear, hatred, beatings? Away from Wee Mairi and Ian and the companionship and teasing? She backed up a step and braced herself.
“What for should I want to leave?” She stuck out her jaw rebelliously, and Mina slapped it.
“Because I am saying so!” she snarled. “And because I will put an evil curse on you if you do not obey.”
Kelpie prudently pulled in her smarting jaw and considered this. On one hand, Mina was not as powerful as Kelpie had thought, for she almost certainly could not read the crystal alone, and her magic message had failed to get through. But that was not to say she could not curse. Kelpie still had great faith in the power of Mina’s evil spells. And Mina’s curse would be even more disagreeable than her company. Kelpie brooded darkly over the unpleasant alternatives before her, almost inclined to risk the curse.
“Why would you not want to come?” demanded Mina, and her cursing changed to wheedling. “And here I have been to the trouble of arranging for you to learn witchcraft at last, ungrateful wretch that you are, then! What, would you stay to be a slave to arrogant fools such as these? Stupid sheep, spending their lives shut in a wee glen?”
“They do not, then,” muttered Kelpie mutinously. “Ian and Alex have been to school in England in a place called Oxford, and have seen the King and Montrose and know more than we about affairs. And they do not beat me, nor make me steal for them and then set the crowd on me. And I do not believe you plan to teach me witchcraft,
 whatever, for you are always promising it and never do it.”
Mina’s face darkened, and she raised a scrawny, strong arm again, but Bogle loomed over her and drew her aside to speak for a moment in a voice like distant thunder. Kelpie watched apprehensively. When Bogle intervened, it was never for motives of kindness and charity.
“Hah!” Mina cackled presently and turned back to Kelpie. “And what of the wee bittie lass we were seeing you playing with so tenderly this morning? Shall I put a curse on her, too? Aye, on all the glen I shall put the Evil Eye, so that they will all wither up and die horrible deaths!”
Kelpie’s defiance collapsed like a deflated bagpipe. Not Wee Mairi! She could not bear to risk harm for her bonnie bairn. But she must not let Mina know how vulnerable she was on this point, or she would be in slavery and Wee Mairi in danger forever more! Carefully keeping her face impassive, she shrugged indifferently. “Och, well, just do not be putting it on me,” she murmured, and noted that both Mina and Bogle looked disappointed. “And will you truly be teaching me witchcraft if I come?” she demanded, as if this were her only interest.
“Have I not said so?” Mina growled. “Was it trying to drive a hard bargain you were, then? I should beat you for it! Come away down, now, for we have wasted too much time already.” And she led the way down the hill.
It was the twins who first spotted the assorted trio approaching, and they began to shout excitedly.
“Kelpie, is yon your Grannie Witchie? Father, Ian, come and see!” they yelled in full voice. And then, short kilts swinging, they raced up the slope to stare at Mina and Bogle with frank, fearless curiosity.
“Are you truly a witch?” demanded Ronald, and, in spite of her gloom, Kelpie stifled a grin at the look on Mina’s face.
The old woman drew herself up and glared at them. “Best not be asking that!” she warned in an ominous croak that should have completely cowed them, but didn’t.
“Why not?” asked Ronald with great interest. “What will happen if we do? Do you not think, Donald, that she looks like a witch?”
“Ou, aye,” declared Donald judiciously. “But we have not seen her casting any spells yet. Can you cast spells, Grannie Witchie?”
Kelpie’s amusement changed to apprehension as the infuriated Mina spluttered speechlessly. It was probably only her speechlessness and the timely arrival of Glenfern that saved the twins from an awful fate. Mina gave them one last baleful glare—Kelpie fervently hoped it wasn’t the Evil Eye—and turned to the tall chieftain. Kelpie glanced at him, and at Ian, Eithne, and Alex, who arrived just then from down by the loch, and then stared sullenly at the ground. She dared not look straight at them, for if
 they were to read her eyes and guess how she felt, then they would refuse to let her go, and so Mina’s curse would be upon them. And now Kelpie found that her old misgivings were justified. She had recklessly given her affection and left herself vulnerable, so now she must suffer the consequences. Angrily she promised herself never to be so weak again.
“Well, then,” said Glenfern pleasantly at last. “And are you leaving us, Kelpie?” She jerked her head, not looking at him. “I am sorry to hear it,” he said gently, “for I think you were happy here, and we have come to like you well.”
“Oh, Kelpie!” Eithne protested, shrinking a little from Mina and Bogle. “Can you not stay?”
“Och, you cannot go!” clamored the twins in outrage. “Who will be telling us stories now?”
Kelpie scowled, chewed her lip, and wished herself a thousand miles away. And worse was to come, for a brief glance upward showed her that all of them, from Mina to the twins, were on the verge of guessing her true feelings. She tossed her head and gave a hard little laugh. “Och, I’m away,” she said airily, “for I’ve bided too long in one place.”
Glenfern was looking at her keenly. “You are welcome to stay, you know,” he told her.
“Aye, to slave for you without pay!” whined Mina in her most put-upon voice. If she had been slow to the
 attack, she made up for it now. “We have come to have her wages.”
From under her lashes Kelpie saw the hurt on Eithne’s face, and something like pity on Ian’s. Only Alex wore a look of acid amusement that set Kelpie’s teeth on edge. And Glenfern was giving Mina the same stern look he used when the twins had been naughty.
“I think you must be joking,” he said quietly. “We have treated th............
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