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Title: Up in Ardmuirland
Author: Barrett, Michael, 1848-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Up in Ardmuirland" ***




New York Cincinnati Chicago
Benziger Brothers
Publishers of Benziger's Magazine
Copyright, 1912, by Benziger Brothers







  Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean
  Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine.
          (_Longfellow--"Miles Standish"_)

Val and I, being twins, have always been looked upon as inseparables.
True, we have been often forced apart during life's course; yet,
somehow, we have always managed to drift back again into the old
companionship which Nature seems to have intended in bringing us into
the world together.

Boyhood and youth, as long as school life lasted, slipped by with never
a parting.  The crux came when we were old enough to choose our
respective paths in life.  It appeared that Val, although he had never
before breathed a word to me--whatever he may have done to Dad--had
thoroughly determined to be a priest if he could.  I had never felt the
ghost of a vocation in that direction, so here came the parting of the
ways.  Val went to college, and I was left inconsolable.

But I was not allowed to nurse my griefs; plans had been made in my
regard also, it appeared.

"Ted," said Dad quite abruptly one day, "you'll have to go to Bonn.
That'll be the best place for you, since Oxford is out of the question.
You've got to take my place some day, and you mustn't grow up an
absolute dunce.  Atfield" (an old school-chum of his) "is well pleased
with the place for his boy, Bill, so you may get ready to travel back
with him next week, when the vacation finishes."

In those days (how long ago I almost blush to record) Catholics were
not allowed access to our own universities as they now are, and we
Flemings were Catholics to the core, and of old staunch Jacobites, as
befitted our Scottish race and name.

So Bill Atfield took me under his wing, and to Bonn I went the very
next week.  There I remained until the end of my course, returning home
for vacations, as a rule, but ending up with a week or two, in company
with Dad, in Paris, whither Val had gone for his philosophy.  But such
rare meetings became rarer still when Val went off to Rome, and I had
to take up a profession; and our separation was apparently destined to
last indefinitely when Val had been ordained, and I went out to India
after a civil service appointment.

And yet so kindly at times is Fate that, quite beyond my most ardent
hopes, I have been thrown together with Val, in daily companionship, as
long as life permits.

For, as it fell out, I was invalided home at quite an early stage of my
public career, and, contrary to all family traditions, disgraced my kin
by contracting lung disease--at least, so the doctors have declared,
though I have experienced very little inconvenience thereby, except
that of being condemned to act the invalid for the rest of my life.
For years I was forced by arbitrary decrees to winter in clement
climes, as the only means of surviving till the spring; but now that I
am fifty I have emancipated myself from such slavery, and insist on
spending winter as well as summer in "bonnie Scotland."  So far I have
found no difference in health and strength.  Thus it came about that a
long visit to Val lengthened out indefinitely, and is not likely to
terminate until one or other of us is removed hence.

The _ego_ appears rather prominently in these introductory paragraphs,
it is true, but it was almost unavoidable; for my presence had to be
accounted for in Ardmuirland before I could give reminiscences of this
delightful spot.  Now, however, I am free to speak of other folks; and
first of dear old Val.

It was a long and arduous apprenticeship (if it is not irreverent so to
style it) which Val had to pass in order to fit himself for priestly
work; he was curate for I know not how many years in a large and
extremely poor mission in one of our big towns.  He worked well and
thoroughly, as any one who knows Val will be ready to affirm; but his
health would not stand the hard work and close confinement of a town,
and he was forced against his will to relinquish his post.  His
attraction had always been toward a studious life, so it came about
that he was sent up here, where he has time to study to his heart's
content, since his flock will never be anything but small.  Moreover,
his share of poor old Dad's worldly substance enables him to live, for
the emoluments here would scarcely support a canary-bird.

Yet it must not be supposed that Val is rolling in riches.  In the
first place, poor Dad had to sell a good deal of property to make good
his losses from unfortunate investments, and he had not overmuch to
leave us.  His worldly wisdom, too, taught him to be sparing with Val.

"He would spend his half in a month, Ted," said the old Pater shrewdly,
when he came to settle his worldly affairs.  "I shall therefore leave
the bulk of everything to you, and trust to you to provide liberally
for the dear boy."

Dad's remark is the best possible clue to Val's character.  Had he
nothing else to give, Val would strip the very coat off his own back,
when it was a question of relieving distress.  So it is a part of my
duty to see that he is clothed and fed as he ought to be, and a
difficult job it is at times.

I suppose I ought to give some idea of Val's appearance, if this is to
be a proper literary turn-out.  When we both were younger, it was
commonly said by aunts, uncles, and such like, that one was the image
of the other.  That would be scarcely a fair description now.  I am
thin; Val is inclined to become chubby.  I have a beard and he is
necessarily shaven; he needs glasses always, and I only for reading.
With these preliminary observations I may say that Val is about five
feet six in his shoes, of dark complexion, and with hair inclining to
gray.  He is quiet in manner, yet withal a charming companion when
called upon to talk.  The people worship him; that is the best
testimonial of a country priest, and all that I need say about his
interior man.

If I did not know for certain that Longfellow never set eyes on
Ardmuirland, I should maintain that the lines at the head of this
chapter were meant for a description of it.  For "the steel-blue rim of
the ocean" is but three miles distant from this heather-clad,
wind-swept height, which rises some seven hundred feet above it.
Moreover, as one gazes down, the eye meets many a miniature forest of
pine and birch, clothing portions of the lower hills, or nestling in
the crevices of the numerous watercourses which divide them.  Strewn
irregularly over the landscape are white-walled, low-roofed farms and
crofters' dwellings--each in the embrace of sheltering barn and byre,
whose roofs of vivid scarlet often shine out in the sun from a setting
of green meadow or garden.

Our own habitation is simple enough, yet amply suffices for our needs.
It is just a stone cottage of two stories, and is connected by a small
cloister-like passage, Gothic in character, with the stone chapel which
is the scene of Val's priestly ministrations.  This, too, is modest
enough.  The windows are triple lancets, filled with opaque glass, the
altar of stone and marble, but simple in decoration, the tabernacle of
brass, and the eastern window--larger than the others--is embellished
with stained glass.  It is in memory of our dear Dad, and besides his
patron, St. Andrew, it has the figures of St. Valentine and St. Edmund
on either side of the Apostle.

Within the house is a dining-room, a better furnished room for the
reception of important visitors, and a small den known as the "priest's
room," in which Val interviews members of his flock.  Upstairs are
Val's study and my sitting-room, with our respective bed-chambers and a
spare one for a casual visitor.  Kitchen offices and servants' quarters
are in a tiny special block.

Both chapel and house have been built by Val.  I can recall his
pleading letters to Dad for help to raise a more worthy temple.  The
Pater, with his characteristic caution, made it a condition of his help
that a new house should form part of the plan.  If the old chapel was
as unworthy of its purpose as Val's descriptions painted it, the
dwelling must have been indeed poverty-stricken.  From what I have
gleaned from the natives, both buildings must have surpassed in
meanness our wildest conceptions of them.  But more upon that subject

Any account of the chapel-house at Ardmuirland would be incomplete
without some reference to a personage who holds an important position
in the household, second only to that of the master of the house.  This
is Penelope Spence, known to the world outside as "Mistress Spence,"
and to Val and myself as "Penny."  She was our nurse long ago, and is
now the ruler of the domestic affairs of the chapel-house.  A little,
round, white-haired, rosy-faced dumpling of a woman is Penny; an
Englishwoman, too, from the Midlands, where the letter H is reserved by
many persons of her social standing for the sake of special emphasis
only.  I find by calculation that she first saw the light at least
seventy years ago, but she is reticent upon that subject.  All the
precise information I have ever extracted from her on the point is that
she is not so young as she once was--which is self-evident!  But young
or old, she is brisk and active, both in mind and body, still.  Such a
devoted old soul, too!  She would go to the stake cheerfully for either
of us, but for Val she entertains an almost superstitious reverence,
which would be amusing were it not touching.  When speaking of him to
the natives, she invariably styles him "the Priest."  I imagine she
looks for a higher place above, in recognition of her early services to

Penny was already a young married woman when she came into the service
of our family.  Her history, as I have learned it from her own lips,
will be worth narrating, if I can find room for it in these pages.

Elsie is Penny's "lady in waiting"; she is too youthful as yet to have
made history.  She hails from a neighboring farm, and is a really
satisfactory handmaid--ready, cheerful, and diligent; she entertains a
thoroughly genuine respect for her superior officer, "Mistress Spence,"
in spite of the latter's somewhat severe notions as to the training of
young servants.  In appearance Elsie is much like any other Scottish
lassie of her age--not strikingly beautiful, nor yet ugly; just
pleasant to look upon.  Her most conspicuous trait is a smile which
appears to be chronic.  One cannot help wondering what she looks like
on occasions when a smile is out of place--at her prayers, or at a
funeral, for instance.  I am quite prepared to maintain that she does
not lose it during sleep; for though I have noticed it growing deeper
and broader when she has reason to feel more than usual satisfaction
(e.g., when Penny unthinkingly utters a word of praise), it never
entirely disappears during the daytime.

There is another personage who deserves special mention; for not only
is he an important item in our establishment, but a very special crony
of mine.  This is Willy Paterson (known locally, by-the-bye, as "the
Priest's Wully"), our gardener, groom, coachman (when required), and
general handy man.  Willy is a wiry, wrinkled, white-haired little
man--little now, because stooping a bit under the weight of well-nigh
eighty years--who is greatly respected by his neighbors far and near
because he has "been sooth."  For he was long ago in the ranks of the
police of one of our biggest cities, and his former profession, not to
speak of his knowledge of the world gained thereby, entitles him to
esteem.  It has raised him to the rank of a species of oracle on any
subject upon which he is pleased to discourse; the result is a not
unpleasing, because altogether unintentional, dogmatism which seasons
Willy's opinions of men and things.

Our garden is the pride of Willy's heart.  It begins in front of the
house, where flowers of varied hue succeed one another as season
follows season, and roses--red, white, and yellow--seem almost
perennial, since they bud forth in late May and scarcely disappear till
December.  But that is due to our wonderful climate as much as to
Willy's attention.  As the garden disappears round the corner of the
house, its nature changes; vegetables in surprising and intricate
variety there flourish chiefly.  At the stable-yard it ceases; beyond
that a dense pine wood holds its own to the very top of a hill, which
rises above our domain and protects us from eastern blasts.  The wood
is not the least of the attractions which Ardmuirland has for me;
beyond the more prosaic quality of its health-giving power, it
possesses, as every bit of forest land does for those who can read its
message aright, a charm unspeakable.

And now I seem to hear some crusty reader exclaim quite impatiently,
having skimmed through my literary attempt thus far:

"No doubt the fellow thinks all this interesting enough!  But why
expect me to wade through pages of twaddle about Scottish peasants and
their doings--for it is evident that is what it will turn out?"

"Read it or not, just as you feel inclined, honored sir," I answer with
all the courtesy I can command.  "I respect your opinions, as your
fellow-creature, and have no desire to thrust my wares upon unwilling
hands.  But opinions differ, luckily, or this world would be an
undesirable habitation for any one, so there may be some who do not
disdain my humble efforts to entertain--and perhaps even amuse.  To
such I dedicate my pages."

Yet, between ourselves (dear, appreciative reader), it is but just that
I should offer some apology for thus rushing into print.  I trust to
you to keep the matter a strict secret from my doctor (McKillagen,
M.D., M.R.C.S.), but winter weather at Ardmuirland is not altogether of
a balmy nature.  Consequently it is necessary that these precious lungs
of mine should not be exposed too rashly to

  "the cauld, cauld blast, on yonder lea."

This leads to much enclosure within doors during a good share of the
worst of our months--say from February to May, off and on; this again
leads to a dearth of interesting occupation.

It is Val who is really to be blamed for this literary attempt.  When,
in an unlucky moment, I was one day expatiating on the material
afforded to a book-maker (I do not use the word in a sporting sense, of
course) by the varied characters and histories of our people, and the
more than ordinary interest attaching to some, he beamed at me across
the dinner-table, a twinkle of humor disclosing itself from behind his
glasses, and said:

"Why not write about them yourself, Ted?  You complain of having
nothing to do in bad weather."

The idea took root; it was nourished by reflection.  Here is the fruit;
pluck it or not, gentle reader, as your inclination bids.



  "Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
  Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain."
          (_Goldsmith--"Deserted Village"_)

I have heard a complaint made of some reverend preachers (untruthfully,
I well believe) that they could never begin a sermon without harking
back to the Creation.  Now it is not my intention to travel quite so
far back into the past, but I must confess to a desire to dig somewhat
deeply into the history of Ardmuirland in days gone by before touching
upon more recent happenings.  Such a desire led me to investigate the
recollections of some of our "oldest inhabitants."

Willy Paterson, I well knew, was to be trusted for accurate memories of
a certain class of happenings; but for more minute details of events
the feminine mind is the more reliable.  So I determined to start with
Willy's wife, Bell.  Their dwelling is nearest to ours; it stands,
indeed, but a few yards down the road which leads past our gate.  It is
a white-walled, thatched house of one story only--like most of the
habitations in Ardmuirland; it stands in a little garden whose neatness
and the prolific nature of its soil are standing proofs of Willy's
industry in hours of leisure.

Owing to the prevalence in our neighborhood of some particular
patronymics--Macdonald, Mackintosh, Mackenzie, and the rest--many
individuals are distinguished by what is called in Ardmuirland a
"by-name."  Some of these are furnished by the title of the residence
of the family in question, others by the calling or trade of father,
mother, or other relative; thus we have "Margot of the Mill," "Sandy
Craigdhu," as examples of the former, and "Nell Tailor," "Duncan the
Post," of the latter.  Still more variety is obtained by the mention of
some personal trait of the individual, such as "Fair Archie," "Black
Janet," and the like.  Willy Paterson's wife was commonly known by such
a by-name; every one spoke of her as "Bell o' the Burn," from the name
of her childhood's home.

Bell is a spare, hard-featured body--not attractive at first sight,
though when one comes to know her, and the somewhat stern expression
relaxes, as the lines about the mouth soften, and the brown eyes grow
kindly, one begins to think that Bell must have been once quite
handsome.  She is always scrupulously clean whenever I chance to visit
her, and is usually arrayed in a white "mutch" cap, spotless apron, and
small tartan shawl over her shoulders.  Willy and she have reared up a
large family, all of them now settled in the world and most of them
married.  They are most proud of their youngest, Margaret, who is a lay
sister in a town convent.  Though her husband is reckoned a traveler,
Bell can lay no claim to the title; she probably never moved farther
than ten miles away from the family hearthstone until the day she left
her father's house by the Burn of Breakachy to marry Willy Paterson,
and certainly has never traveled much since that time.

Most of the houses of Ardmuirland are constructed on exactly the same
plan.  There are two principal rooms--"but" and "ben," as they are
commonly designated.  (It is unnecessary here to dive into etymology;
but it may be noticed in passing that _but_ signifies "without" and
_ben_ "within.")  To "gae ben" is to pass into the inner room, which at
one time opened out of the ordinary living apartment or kitchen, but is
now usually separated from it by a little entrance lobby.  Besides
these two chief rooms, the initiated will be able to point out sundry
little hidden closets and cupboards, fitted up as sleeping apartments,
and reminding one of the contrivances on board ship.  The two rooms
each contain a more demonstrative bed, as a rule: but in some cases the
bed is shut up with panelled doors like a cupboard.

All that I learned from Bell about the Ardmuirland of bygone days was
gathered from her lips at intervals, and in the course of many repeated
visits; for it would have been fatal to my purpose had I allowed her to
imagine that I intended to make public use of her communications.
Though I have retained the substance, I have often altered the form;
for it would be useless to expect the reader to translate (if it were
even possible to do so without the help of a glossary) Bell's broad
Scots dialect.  Yet the temptation has been too great to be resisted
from time to time to quote her exact words--so quaint her diction and,
to me at least, so attractive withal.

A description of the original chapel of the district will serve as a
fitting introduction to these memoirs.  According to Bell, it must have
been simple even to destitution.  No smoothly hewn stones, no carved
windows, no decoration of any kind distinguished it from the houses of
the people.  It was a small, low building of rough stone, unplastered,
even inside, and roofed by a heather thatch.  There was a single door
in the side wall.  The roof within was open to the rude, unvarnished
beams which upheld the thatch.  The floor was of beaten clay, and there
were rough benches for the people to sit upon during the sermon, but no
contrivance for kneeling upon.

"Some o' the fowk had boards to kneel on, ye ken," Bell explained, "but
the maist o' them prayed kneelin' on the flure."

The altar was a plain, deal kitchen table, devoid of all ornament in
the shape of draperies except the necessary linen coverings.
Underneath it was a box, within which the vestments were stowed away;
for there was no semblance of sacristy, and the priest's house was some
yards distant.  At the opposite end from the altar was a raised dais
for the accommodation of the singers, of whom Bell herself was one.
She could not recall what they were accustomed to sing as a rule.

"I mind we wad sing the _Dies Irae_, whiles," was all the information
she could give on that point.  One would think it scarcely possible
that so penitential a chant could form the usual musical accompaniment
to Sunday Mass!  A teacher of music from a neighboring glen used to
come over from time to time to practise the singers.

"I mind weel," said Bell, "he had a wand and a tunin' fork."  Are these
not the recognized signs of ability, all the world over, to conduct a
band of singers?  The practices were held in the priest's house;
sometimes the pastor would join in the singing, although Bell naïvely
remarked on that point:

"He hadna much ear for music, ye ken."

Of the priest of that day, "Mr." McGillivray, as the old style of
address ran, more will be said later.  The figure next in prominence to
him in Bell's recollections was the old sacristan, Robbie Benzie.  For
many years he acted as "clerk" at the altar, continuing to carry out
his duties when well advanced in years.  During the week he carried on
his trade of weaver; on Sundays he was at his post betimes, carrying a
lantern with him, from which he took the light for the altar candles.
Bell describes him as a stalwart man with fine features and dark eyes.
Clad in his green tartan plaid, he always accompanied the priest round
the little chapel with the holy water for the Asperges, and with his
"lint-white locks" flowing onto his neck, he used to appear in Bell's
eyes "a deal mair imposin' lookin' ner the priest himsel'."  His modest
and respectful bearing gained him the esteem of all.  "I always think
of him," said Bell, "as one o' the saints of th' olden times, ye ken.
He was the model of a guid Catholic--pious, hard-workin', and aye happy
and contented."

In those far-off days Ardmuirland was entirely Catholic.  The Faith, in
consequence, was an integral part of the life of the district, and the
priest the recognized potentate, whom every one was at all times ready
to serve--working on his croft, plowing, harvesting, and such
like--with cheerful promptitude.  Any such labor, when required, was
requested by the priest from the altar on Sunday.

"I shall be glad to receive help this week on the glebe-land," he would
announce.  "You will kindly arrange the division of labor among

The same would happen when the time came for cutting and storing up
peats for the winter fuel.  The day and hour would be named, and all
who could possibly help would be at the hill punctually to take their
respective shares in the labor.

It was on one such occasion that the incident occurred which struck me
as the culminating point of Bell's recollections.  I cannot give it as
dramatically as she did, and if I attempted to do so the pathos would
be marred by the broad Doric--unintelligible to southrons--in which her
narrative was told; but I will reproduce it as faithfully as possible
in my own words.

It was the "peat-casting" for the priest; every one had worked with a
will--young and old.  Dinner had been sent up to the moss at noon by
the various housewives of the district.  It was a sumptuous repast, as
usual on so great an occasion; chickens, oatcake, scones, cheese, and
abundance of milk had been thoroughly enjoyed by the workers.  The
children--bearers of the dainties from their respective mothers--though
bashful in responding to the fatherly greetings of the old priest, were
yet secretly proud of the honor of his special notice.  Shyly they
stood about in groups, watching for a time the resumed labors of
fathers and brothers, until afternoon was wearing away, and it was time
to betake themselves home to make ready for the still more important
event of the day.  Gaily they rushed down the hill, their joyous
laughter and merry shouts--relieved as they were from the restraint
which good manners had imposed in the priest's presence--awaking the
echoes of the glen.  For many of them would be allowed to take part in
the evening's festivity, and all might share in the preparations for
it.  This event was the public supper in the priest's barn, when women
were welcomed with their husbands and brothers, and even the bigger
children were admitted.  For the evening repast, as for that of
noonday, each family contributed its share of provisions, which were
always ample in quantity as well as excellent in quality.

Supper, on this particular occasion--as was usual--took some time, and
it was a serious business, when little conversation was encouraged.
But after supper the real fun began.  None love dancing more than
Scots; so dancing must needs form the climax of every gathering for
social enjoyment.  The bashful roughness which characterized the
commencement had worn off; lads and lasses were thoroughly enjoying the
somewhat rare opportunity of taking part in so large an assembly;
Archie Cattanach, the piper, was throwing his whole soul into the
skirls and flourishes of his choice tunes; all was gaiety and innocent
enjoyment.  The good priest sat looking on pleased because his people
were happy; now and again he would move his position to another group
of the older guests, so that he might chat with all in turn; his flock,
though they held their Pastor in that reverence which none but a priest
can inspire, were under no false restraint in his presence, but joined
in laugh and jest with ease and simplicity.

Loudly rang out Archie's pipes, merrily tripped the dancers, and joy
reigned supreme, when suddenly there came an unexpected check.  The
outer door flew open, and a girlie of about ten, wild-eyed,
bare-headed, panting for breath, rushed into the midst of the
gathering.  She was evidently laboring under the stress of some
unwonted excitement.  There was no shyness now, in spite of the
priest's presence--in spite of the eager faces that sought hers in
anxious questioning.

"Mither, Mither!" she screamed shrilly, as she caught sight of the
familiar face she sought, and rushed toward her mother's open arms.  It
was little Peggy, Bell's younger sister.

"Oh, Mither," she wailed through her sobs, "oor Jessie's nae to be
foond!  She's nae at hame.  I dinna ken wha she's gane!"

With her mother's arms around her, the child was able to give a more
coherent account of the circumstances which had led to this abrupt
cessation of the dance; for Archie's melody had trailed off into an
unmusical drone and speedily ceased, and the dancers had spontaneously
crowded round the child and her mother.

Peggy had been left in charge at home, for Bell was allowed to take
part in the "ball."  Jessie, the youngest but one of the family, was a
little maid of four years.  She had accompanied Peggy and her brothers,
with a crowd of other small folk, when the children went to the moss
with provisions for the workers.  All had gone and returned in a body,
and no one noticed that Jessie was not with them.  It was only when
Peggy began to assemble her own little charges, to conduct them to
their own house, that she missed the wee lassie.  Peggy knew that her
father and mother, together with all her elders in the family, had
already started for the barn--some to help in the preparations, others
to chat with those who were assembling outside.  It was growing dark,
for the children had delayed their homeward journey (as they often will
when a number are together) to play and sport.

There was no one to advise or help the child.  Sending on
three-year-old Elsie and the other little ones in charge of Johnnie,
she ran back, half distracted, toward the hill they had left earlier in
the afternoon.  Shouting out for Jessie by name, she wandered hither
and thither--terrified, self-accusing, disconsolate.  But it was all to
no purpose.  Darkness fell, and fearful and contrite, Peggy had no
resource but to seek her mother.

There was no more merriment that night.  A search party was at once
organized by the younger men, who started with lanterns and some of
their collies to the peat-moss.  All that night the anxious mother kept
weary vigil, while the men-folk searched the hill.  Day broke, and no
trace had been found of the lost child.  Weary and sad, the men
returned for some needful rest and others took their places.  But
though they traversed the moors all day, and searched crevices and
water-courses with diligence, they met with no better success.
Sometimes a sound would break through the stillness which would stir
their hearts with renewed hope.  The cry of a child!  Weak and faint,
indeed, but telling of the continuance of life!  But again and again,
after scaling heights or creeping down comes, they were doomed to
disappointment.  It was but the bleat of a strayed lamb!  That night a
larger party set out with lanterns and torches, and once more ranged
the hills shouting for the child; but once again morning dawned upon
disappointed hopes.

Then every one who could be of any possible use was pressed into the
service.  The people flocked out of their homes from all that district,
and hand in hand they started in a long line stretching across a wide
tract of country, and moving slowly on until every inch of ground in
their way had been thoroughly explored.

It was after three nights and three days had passed that they came upon
the weak little body, lying stark and still under an overhanging rock,
and half buried in the heather.  Moss was clutched in her clenched
hand, and shreds of moss were on her cold lips; the poor little bairn
had hungered for food, and had seized that which first came to hand to
satisfy her craving.  She was quite dead.

The bereaved mother mourned her darling with a grief that none but a
mother can know.  But the child had been her father's special pet of
all his little flock.

"His heart," said Bell, the rising tears witnessing to the sadness of
the memories called back by her story, "was well-nigh broke.  He burst
into tears at the sight of her wee white face, and sobbed like a bairn
wi' the rest of us."

And poor little Peggy!  How touching the story!  She never ceased to
reproach herself for what she considered her carelessness in losing
sight of Jessie on that fatal day.  No single creature attached a
shadow of blame to her; on the contrary, it was the dearest wish of all
to try to console her and assure her of her innocence in that respect.
But it was of no avail.  Her unceasing grief fretted away her strength,
and six months later she was borne to St. Mungo's ancient burying
ground to share Jessie's grave.

"It's nigh on sixty years sin'," said Bell apologetically, as she wiped
her streaming eyes with her apron; "but the thocht o' that time brings
the tears up yet."



  "Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
    Thus unlamented let me die;
  Steal from the world, and not a stone
    Tell where I lie."
          (_Pope--"Ode to Solitude"_)

He was an unusually wretched semblance of a man.  A tattered coat--some
one's cast-off overcoat--green, greasy, mud-stained, clung round his
shaking knees; trousers which might have been of any hue originally,
but were now "sad-colored," flapped about his thin legs and fringed his
ankles; shoes, slashed across the front for ease, revealed bare feet
beneath; an antique and dirty red woolen muffler swathed his neck
almost to the ears.  Surmounting these woeful garments appeared a
yellow, wrinkled face surrounded by a straggling fringe of gray
whisker; gray locks strayed from an old red handkerchief tied round the
brows under a dilapidated wide-awake hat.  To add to his woe-begone
aspect, the poor wretch was streaming with wet, for a Scottish mist had
been steadily falling all the morning.

Leaning on his stick, the man slowly shuffled up the central path
toward the porch in which I was sitting, striving to get the nearest
possible approach to an open-air pipe.  Touching his sorry headgear, he
looked at me with mild eyes of faded blue, and smiled benignly as he

"Could I see himsel'?"

I had not long come to that part of the country, and I was not
thoroughly conversant with the terminology of the people, but it
flashed upon me what he meant.

"Did you wish to see the priest?" I rejoined.

"Aye," replied the old vagrant--for so I deemed him.  The smile seemed
stereotyped, for it never faded.  His face, when one regarded it
attentively, had a quite attractive pleasantness.

"I'm sorry to say he's out just now," I said.  "But you may go round to
the back and get something to eat, if you wish."

It struck me as strange that he did not ask for money, but thanked me
profusely and politely, as he touched his wretched hat once more and
shuffled off toward the kitchen quarters.

He did not reappear for so long a time that I began to think it would
be prudent to investigate.  Traveling gentry of such a class are not
always desirable visitors when the kitchen happens to be unoccupied for
the nonce.  As I made my way in that direction through the little hall
I heard voices through the half-open door beyond.

"It'll be all right, Archie," Penny was saying.  "The priest shall have
the money as soon as he comes in, and if he can't say the Mass
to-morrow, I'll take care to send you word by Willy.  Now, mind you get
a bit of fire lighted when you get back home.  You must be wet through!"

"Thank ye kindly, Mistress Spence," came the slow response in the
quavering voice of the old man.  "It's yersel' that's aye kind and

I waited till I heard the door close upon the supposed "tramp" before
venturing to make the inquiries that rushed to my lips.  And even then
I paused a while.  When needing information from Penny, one has to be
circumspect; she has a way of shutting off the supply with ruthless
decision, yet with a seeming absence of deliberate purpose, whenever
she suspects a "pumping" operation.

"I'm one that won't be drove," I've often heard her say.  So we old
fellows are often obliged to have recourse to diplomacy in dealing with
our old nurse.

Consequently I lounged casually, as it were, into Penny's domain with
the remark, "That poor old chap looked awfully wet, Penny."

"Wet enough he was, Mr. Edmund," replied the unsuspecting Penny, "and I
have just been giving him a good hot cup of tea; for he never touches
wine or spirits."

She was evidently betrayed by my apparent lack of inquisitiveness into
a relation of the details I was longing to hear.

"To think," she continued, "of the creature walking down in such
weather, and he such a frail old mortal, too, just to make sure of Mass
to-morrow for his wife's anniversary.  I can't help thinking, Mr.
Edmund, that some of us might take an example in many things from poor
old Archie McLean!"

"Does he live far away?" I asked--just to encourage the flow of the

"A good three miles--and his rheumatism something hawful," exclaimed
Penny, now thoroughly started on her recital.  I had but to lend an
ear, and my curiosity would be satisfied.

Archie, it appeared, had been a soldier in his young days, but when he
came to settle in Ardmuirland his time of service had expired; that was
long ago, for he was now quite an elderly man.  He took up his
residence in a deserted mill, by the Ardmuir Burn.  As he proved to be
thoroughly quiet and inoffensive, the neighbors--true to their national
character, not speedily attracted by strangers--began in course of time
to make his acquaintance, and he eventually became a great favorite
with all.  When younger, Penny had been told, he had been "a wonderful
good gardener," and for trifling payment, or in return for a meal,
would always "redd-up" the gardens of the district.  Thus he acquired
the designation of "Airchie Gairdener," and by that was usually known.

What his neighbors could not comprehend was how Archie spent these
small earnings, but more especially to what use he had put his army
pension, which every one knew he once received regularly.  He had no
occasion to buy food, for kindly neighbors would always exchange for
meal or eggs the varied produce of his well-cultivated garden.  His
clothes cost him nothing; for he had worn the same old garments for
years past, and though no self-respecting tramp would have accepted
them, he never seemed anxious to replace them.  If any others were
given him, he would use them for a time, out of compliment to the
donor, but the ancient attire would always reappear after a short

"As to where his money goes," summed up Penny, "I've a notion that his
Reverence knows more than any one else except Archie himself.  Poor
Archie often asks for the priest, and I've heard his Reverence speaking
to him in quite an angry way--for him," she added quickly; "but there's
never any change in Archie's way of living.  Some of the people here
think he's a perfect saint, and I'm not so sure that they're far wrong!
However, I think he ought to take ordinary care of his 'ealth; that
seems to me a duty even for saints!"

I tried to glean more details from Val, but found him strangely

"Poor old fellow!  A good soul, if ever there was one!" was the only
remark I could elicit.

This air of mystery made me more than ever desirous of learning
something about Archie's antecedents.  It was this curiosity which led
me, in the first instance, to visit his tumbledown dwelling.  It was a
quaint establishment.  A moderately large garden surrounded it on three
sides, roughly fenced in from the woodland, its fence interwoven with
gorse branches to keep out rabbits.  The varied supplies of vegetables
were evidence of Archie's industry, in spite of his rheumatism.  It was
by the produce of this garden that the old man obtained in return the
oatmeal and milk which formed his staple food; for he could no longer
work for others.

The house itself was a picture!  Its aged roof seemed to have bent
beneath the weight of years; for the ridge had sunk in the middle of
its mossy, grass-grown expanse, and threatened to fall upon its
occupant to the peril of his life.  A small barrel served for a
chimney.  One window possessed still two small panes of glass; the
other openings were filled in with bits of boarding, as was the whole
of the other window.

There was something quite uncanny about the silence of the place.  The
monotonous ripple of the burn below seemed to intensify it.  I stood in
hesitation for a moment or two before venturing to knock at the door.
When at last I had done so, shuffling footsteps sounded within, and
Archie opened the door; the same bland smile which I had noticed when I
first saw him appeared on his wrinkled face, and the faded blue eyes
lighted up.

"Come ben, sir; come ben!" he said hospitably.  "Ye're kindly welcome,
tho' 'tis but a puir hoosachie for ane o' the gentry."

It was indeed a sorry place to live in.  The roof was so unsound that,
as I learned later from Bell, it was difficult to find a dry spot for
his wretched bed in wet weather.  Added to this, as the same informant
assured me, the place was a happy hunting-ground for rats.

"The rats is that bould, sir," she said, "that he's fairly to tak' a
stick to bed wi' him o' nichts, to keep the beasts off.  It's a wonder
they rats hasna' yokit on him afore this!"

But on this, my first visit, no rat put in an appearance.

I gave no motive for looking in, nor did Archie seem to be surprised at
my call.  He was evidently much pleased to see me; but I could not help
thinking at the time that his cordial welcome was due in great measure
to my relationship to Val.

That first visit was short, but it was succeeded by others.  It soon
became quite customary to wind up my daily walk with a chat with the
"hermit"--as I got into the way of calling him.  For beyond the mystery
attaching to the man--or perhaps I ought to say intensifying it--was
the fact that he was a really attractive personality.  He could talk
about the various countries he had seen with a degree of intelligence
unlooked for in one of his condition; moreover, he could season his
remarks with much spice of sound, earnest wisdom, which amused while it
edified me.  It did not take long to discover that Archie "Gairdener"
was a man out of the common.

That Archie was a good Christian was self-evident.  No weather, however
tempestuous, could keep him from Sunday Mass, and I noticed with some
surprise that he received Holy Communion at least once and sometimes
more frequently every week, but always on a week-day, when our
congregation consisted chiefly of our household and Bell.

"I suppose Archie 'Gairdener' finds it more convenient to come to the
Sacraments on a week-day," I remarked one day to Val, "because of the
late hour of Mass on Sunday."

"Scarcely that," was his quiet answer.  "I happen to know from other
sources that he still keeps up the old practice he found in use when he
first came here.  In those days no one dreamed of breaking fast on a
Sunday until the priest himself did.  Every one came to Mass fasting,
as Archie still does--though I believe he is the only one nowadays."

During the two or three years that followed I saw a good deal of
Archie.  We became such cronies, indeed, that Val was considerably
amused that I should take so much pleasure in the company of one with
whom I could have few ideas in common.  But there was something that
attracted me to the old fellow from the first, which I can not define
in words.

A severe winter made it almost impossible for the old man to get to
Sunday Mass at all; he would do his best, but it was evident, as I
could see more plainly in my visits, that he was growing very feeble.
I happened to be seedy myself at that time, and did not manage to get
out so frequently as before, owing to the trying weather.

It came with no surprise when Val told me in early spring that Archie
was growing worse, and that the doctor gave little hope of his
regaining strength; in the circumstances, Val thought it well not to
delay the Last Sacraments any longer.  I tried to accompany him when he
went to the old mill for that purpose, but I had to give it up.  It was
about a week later that I was able to visit the old man.

Winter seemed to have departed for good on that day in mid-April.  A
bright sun was shining; deluded little birds were flitting about as
though summer had come; even on the hill the air was mild and balmy.

The brooding silence seemed accentuated in the neighborhood of Archie's
hermitage.  An unusual sign of life was to be seen at the mill-house
itself; smoke was rising from the extemporized chimney; for Bell, as I
knew, had installed herself as nurse and was doing her best to render
the last days of the old recluse more restful than they could have been
during his more active period.

It was Bell who answered to my knock.  With a gesture imploring silence
she led me in.  I was startled at the sight which met my eyes.  The old
man lay stretched on the bare earthen floor, his head pillowed upon a
large stone.  His body was covered by blankets, but his arms were
crossed on his breast outside of them and embraced his crucifix.  His
eyes were closed, but he was still breathing fitfully.  Bell whispered,
in response to my amazed look of inquiry:

"He wouldna' rest till Wully and I lifted him oot o' bed before Wully
went for the priest.  He'd been keepin' yon big stane for years to
serve him at the last."

Val appeared very soon.  Archie showed no sign of recognition, even
when the well-known voice began the prayers he seemed to have been
waiting for before departing.

Bell lighted the blessed candle, which was in readiness, and knelt with
Willy on one side of the quiet form, while I knelt on the other near to
the priest.

"Go forth, Christian soul, out of this world, in the name of God the
Father Almighty, Who created thee: in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son
of the Living God, Who suffered for thee"--thus the quiet voice
continued until those prayerful words: "Pity his sighs, pity his tears,
trusting in nothing but thy mercy"--when the last long breath, like a
sigh of relief, passed from the dying man's lips as his soul departed.

I could not shake off a sense of loss as keen as though some dearly
loved friend had been taken from me.  Val and I walked home in unbroken
silence through the shadow of the wood, newly decked in tender green
buds, up to the rising ground beyond.  My brother seemed as much
touched as I.

It was not until our meal was over, and we sat on either side of the
still necessary fire, though we had dined without a lamp, and still
preferred the dusk for a quiet talk, that Val spoke of Archie.

"Now that the poor old fellow is at rest," he said, "I will tell you,
by his express desire, something about his history.   He wanted me to
promise to make it public, but that I resolutely refused to do, for
many reasons.  'Let Mr. Edmund know, at least,' he said.  'I do not
want him to have too good an opinion of me, or he will not pray as much
as I should wish for my poor soul.'  So you have a right to know, Ted."

And with that he unfolded the story of Archie McLean's early years.

Archie had been a wild boy in his youth, with a strong propensity for
drink--hereditary, unfortunately--which he was not so well able to
satisfy on his father's croft, in Banffshire; so, to gain more liberty,
he ran off and enlisted.  When scarcely more than twenty he took up
with a girl he met in one of the provincial towns in which he happened
to be stationed, and eventually married her.  He had asked no
leave--indeed, at his age it would not have been granted; his wife,
therefore, was not "on the strength of the regiment"--in other words,
depended entirely upon his pay, and what little she might earn, for the
necessaries of life, and even for traveling expenses, in case of
removal elsewhere.  The girl was a negligent Protestant, and he a
non-practising Catholic.  They had been married before a Registrar, and
neither of them entered a church as long as the woman lived.  The one
child born to them died a week later, unbaptized.

Such a marriage could not possibly prove happy, but it was more
unfortunate in its results than could have been imagined.  The man's
craving for drink grew with its indulgence.  His wife, neglected by
him, followed his example and took to that sorry comforter; before long
she had acquired habits of drunkenness that disgusted even him.  Soon
she had fallen so low that her life was a crying scandal for its
unrestrained vices.

The man's companions took a savage pleasure in taunting him about his
wife's depravity, until the very mention of her name was hateful to
him.  He acknowledged that he himself was bad enough, but her conduct
had reached the extreme of vileness.  The result was what might have
been foreseen.  Quarrels and recriminations were perpetual.  The man
hated the woman because of her vicious life; he hated himself because,
as his conscience reminded him in lucid intervals, he was responsible
for her downfall.

The regiment was on the eve of removing to other quarters, and much as
he would have liked to leave his wife behind to shift for herself, he
dare not face the consequences.  Coming to her lodgings, therefore, to
arrange about her journey, he found the woman hopelessly incapable.
His mad rage against her was inflamed by the drink he had just taken;
in his anger he was strongly tempted to rid himself of the burden she
had become.  Nothing could be easier!  No one had seen him enter the
house, and there was every chance of his being able to steal away
unperceived, in the dusk of the evening.  An uncontrollable loathing
for the woman urged him on; conscience was disregarded.  He seized one
of the pillows of the bed.  It was merely necessary to press it over
her face, hold it there till life was extinct, and creep away, a free

It must have been the ever-watching Angel Guardian of that wretched man
who touched his heart at that moment of danger, by a sudden grace.  He
faltered; threw down the pillow, and swiftly ran from the room and from
the house--pursued by remorse.

An hour later, when he ventured to return, he was met on the threshold
with the tidings that his wife had been found dead of heart failure.

For many a year after that horrible day Archie McLean was tormented by
his reproachful conscience.  He regarded himself as a murderer in
desire, though actually guiltless of his wife's blood.  The terrible
shock was his salvation.  From that day he never more touched strong
drink.  The formerly inveterate drunkard, a great portion of whose time
was spent in the cells, rose by degrees to the position of the smartest
soldier in his company.  When his long service had to come to an end,
he took a situation as gardener for a time; but a desire which had come
upon him when his army service had been completed became still more
urgent.  He longed to be able to devote himself to a penitential life,
as a means of making such atonement as was in his power for his past
transgressions.  Even while in the army his life had been one of
rigorous mortification, dating from the day when he once more began to
practise his religion; he shunned no duty, however distasteful, and
shrank from no danger.

In response to the keen desire which dominated him, Archie threw up his
situation, and searching for some part of the country in which he would
not be known, yet where he should find life and surroundings not
entirely foreign to his experience, settled at length at Ardmuirland.
For about forty years his life was characterized by a rigorous
austerity.  His pension was at once carried to the priest, as soon as
he received it, to be devoted to the offering of Masses for the soul of
his unhappy wife, and the relief of the poor--scarcely poorer than
himself.  He never spent a penny upon his own needs; even the scanty
earnings of his labor, unless made in kind, went the same way as his
pension.  The clothing, even, which charitable persons bestowed upon
him in pity soon passed into coin for the same end; no scolding of his
spiritual Father could prevail upon him to look better after his own

"I've been a great sinner, Father," he would say.  "I owe a big debt to
the justice of the Almighty!"

As he had lived, so he died, I had noticed that my brother had shown no
surprise, as I did, at the sight of the dying figure of the old man
stretched on the bare earth with a stone for his pillow; Val had become
familiar with the idea.

"My Saviour died on a Cross for me, and shall I, a vile sinner, be
content to die in my bed?"  Thus he would always answer the
remonstrances of the priest.

Whenever I read the Gospel narrative of Lazarus--the wretchedly
clothed, ill-fed, diseased mendicant--who inspired loathing in the eyes
and nostrils of the delicately nurtured, sensual men who flocked past
his unlovely form to the banquets of the rich glutton at whose palace
gate he lay, my thoughts fly at once to my old friend, Archie the
penitent, and my prayers rise to Heaven on his behalf in the Church's
touching petition for the departed:

  "Cum Lazaro, quondam paupere, eternam habeas requiem!"

  "With Lazarus, once poor, now blest
  May'st thou enjoy eternal rest!"



  "All the world is turning golden, turning golden
      In the spring."
          (_Nora Hopper--"April."_)

On a day when May was growing old, everything up at Ardmuirland was
green and gold except the sky, and that was mostly blue and gold.
Gorse and broom were in full blossom, so that on all sides the outlook
was glorious!

Looking through my field-glasses to discover the meaning of a column of
dense smoke, which seemed to be rising from a hill in the distance, I
found myself gazing at a forest in flames!  Fire--a very wall of
fire--seemed to extend for miles along a dense tract of woodland!  So
seemingly fierce the blaze that it lighted up with golden gleams the
tower of a distant church beyond the wood!  Yet, as I looked steadily,
it became evident that the flames neither diminished nor increased;
presently I discovered that the column of smoke rose from a spot
entirely different--more to the foreground.  In the end I had to
confess with reluctance that my eyes had been deceived; there was no
sensational forest fire at all!  What I had seen was but the sunshine
on an expanse of yellow bloom on some rising ground beyond the belt of
woodland, and on the old church tower, while a rare cloud shaded the
nearer prospect.

What a silly goat I called myself!  Looking nearer home I saw the same
red-gold glow, which needed but the sunshine to wake it into flame.
The disused quarry, not half a mile away, where the sun was bright,
might have been an open gold mine--so brilliant the shining of its
wealth of broom bushes!  The hedge of gorse which bordered the road on
both sides had no speck of green to mar its splendor.

  "All the world is turning golden, turning golden.
    Gold butterflies are light upon the wing;
  Gold is shining through the eyelids that were holden
        Till the spring."

The graceful verse haunted me all that day, repeating spontaneously,
again and again, its tuneful refrain.  For up at Ardmuirland we have to
wait till May for settled springtide.

Later on I strolled across to her cottage to have a chat with "Bell o'
the Burn."  I found her busy at her washtub on the threshold of the
door, but none the less ready to enter into conversation, as I leaned
on the garden fence watching her tireless pink hands, as they worked up
the snowy soapsuds.

"You've maybe haird the news, sir?" she began, a note of inquiry in her

I had seen yesterday's _Scotsman_, but not in those pages did any of
our folk look for news.  They read--those, at least, who possess that
accomplishment--the stories in the _People's Friend_ and the like, if
they were young; those who were older scanned the columns of the local
newspaper, published in the county town, and believed firmly in the
absolute truth of everything that was asserted there.  But "news" meant
something more intimate--something which affected our own immediate
circle by its relation to the daily life and interests of those around

So, knowing this, I did not dream about any startling political crisis,
recent mining disaster, or railway collision; Bell knew nothing about
such events.  Experience had taught me to allow her to enlighten me in
her own way.  So I put a question to that end.

"Have you heard some news?" I said.

Bell's delight at being first in the field was evident.

"Christian Logan's come intil a fortune!" she replied, with no little

"That is good news, indeed!" I cried impulsively.  For Christian was,
beyond doubt, one of the poorest of our neighbors, and the most

"But where did the fortune come from, Bell?" I asked.

"Her mon," explained Bell, "had a cousin oot in Ameriky as fowks allays
said wes gey rich.  But he niver so much as sent a word to Donal' for
years, till juist aboot a week afore the puir mon met wi' his accident,
ye ken.  An' he says in the letter," continued the old woman, warming
up with the interest attaching to her subject, "as Donal' wes the only
kin left him, an' he'd find himsel' nane the worse o' that.  Alexander
Gowan, they callit him."

"And so this cousin is dead, I suppose?"

"Na, na, sir," replied Bell.  "Gowan's on his wye back frae Ameriky, ye
ken, an' Christian's had word to expect him.  Maybe he'll be up here in
twa, three days after he lands, like."

This was news with a vengeance!  An American who was "gey rich" might
be a millionaire!  All kinds of rosy visions began to float through my
brain.  Thoughts of the manifold additions and improvements which Val
was dying to make in the church; of the shinty club we were so anxious
to start, but could not for want of means; of the hall we planned to
build some day for concerts and social gatherings in the long winter
evenings--all started into new life at the prospect of a wealthy
Catholic returning to his native land with gold in his pocket and a
ready hand to scatter it liberally for the benefit of his kinsfolk!

"I suppose he's a Catholic," was the remark to which my mental plans
gave birth.

"Aye," said Bell, in a reproachful tone, "the Gowans wes all strict
Catholics.  The mon would nae turn agen his chapel oot there, I'm

(In Ardmuirland, be it known, "chapel" means the Catholic Church, and
"church"--or more frequently "kirk"--denotes exclusively a Protestant
place of worship; thus do penal laws leave their trail behind them!)

"Not likely!" I exclaimed boldly.  For Bell began to look anxiously at
me, as though the staunch Catholicism of this particular Gowan might be
open to question.  "Our religion is as free out there as any other;
that's one good quality in republican America which our government
lacks at present."

Still, my own mind misgave me a little.  I knew of more than one of my
countrymen who had been "strict Catholics" once, but who had lamentably
fallen off through knocking about the world.  However, we were not
justified in classing Gowan with such.

"And will this good man put up at Christian's cottage?" I asked.

"Na, na, Mr. Edmund," said Bell, astonished, "Christian's nae ower weel
provided wi' sheets and siclike, ye ken.  Na! he's to stay wi' Mistress
Dobie at Larrigie Inn.  They've redded up the best rooms, and kindled
fires and a', to be ready gin he comes soon.  The fowks say as Gowan
'll likely have ane o' they motors, like the Squire's at the toon, so
as he can drive aboot the countryside and see a' the changes that's
come sin' he left."

The world was "turning golden," indeed!  My cogitations as I made my
way home were touched by the sheen.

Val took it all very calmly (as he is wont, dear boy! whenever I

"If he happens to be a millionaire, Ted," he remarked--and a twinkle
shone through his glasses--"you may give up all hope of getting
anything out of him.  It is proverbial that such gentry haggle over a
six-pence when it comes to gratuities!"

During the week that followed the whole countryside had no more
interesting subject of conversation than the coming of the rich cousin
to "make a lady" of Christian Logan.

Christian certainly deserved any good fortune that might fall to her.
She was the young widow of an under-gamekeeper at Taskerton, an estate
in our neighborhood.  Donald Logan had met with an accident, by the
discharge of a gun, and had died of lock-jaw, consequent on the wound.
He had not been very thrifty, poor fellow, for he was too fond of
whiskey; the result was that very little means remained for the support
of the family when the bread-winner had been taken.  The proprietor of
Taskerton was generally an absentee, and the casual tenants of the
place had little interest in those employed on the estate.
Consequently, Christian had to do her best to support herself and her
three young children by her own efforts.  Tam and Kirsty, aged
respectively twelve and eleven, had to continue at school for a year or
two at least; the youngest, Jeemsie, who was only eight, had been deaf
and dumb from his birth.

Luckily, the agent of the estate, being a man of kindly feelings, was
willing to allow the poor woman to remain for a time in the cottage
they had occupied, and Val had approached the proprietor on the subject
of a pension.  At present, however, beyond a liberal donation for
Christian's benefit, nothing definite had been settled.  We had all
subscribed to buy her a sewing-machine, and as she was a clever
seamstress she was able to make ends meet by dressmaking.  She had her
cow, and her few hens, so altogether, with the sale of eggs and
occasionally of milk, she was able to provide for her little ones for
the present.  She was such a cheery, kindly little body that every one
at Ardmuirland was her friend; this accounted in great measure for the
unusual interest in her prospects.

I felt that it would be but neighborly to offer Christian my
congratulations upon her approaching good fortune.  Her little house
stood near a belt of trees on a rising ground, a few feet from the road
that led higher up the hill.  No other habitation was within a mile of
it, and its solitary position was quite enough by itself to suggest to
any one that a man who had made money across the "drink"--as I heard an
American once irreverently style the Atlantic--would scarcely be likely
to stay for any considerable time in such an out-of-the-world spot.  To
my mind it seemed incredible that he could be content for long with the
comparative luxury of Mrs. Dobie's inn.

Christian sat at her machine in her clean little kitchen when I arrived
there, and she called to me cheerily through the open doorway to enter,
and rose to receive me.  She was a plain little woman, about forty
years old, probably; she bore the marks of her many anxieties on her
brow--too early scored with wrinkles.  I could not help thinking, as I
saw her, that no fine clothes that her rich relative might buy for her
would ever make her anything else than a plain country body; in silks
and satins, even, she would still be the same homely Christian.

"I came over to say how glad I am to hear of your good fortune," I said
when the usual greetings had passed, and I was seated in the chair of
state by the fire--for the hillside was chilly, and fires were seldom
wanting up there even in the summer weather.

"Thank you kindly, sir," was her answer.  "Father Fleming was in
himself yesterday, for the same reason.  It is very good of the priest
and yourself, sir, as well as our neighbors aboot, to take sic an
interest in us.  Indeed, I'm very thankful that God has been sae guid
to us.  It looks as though our troubles are coming to an end, with this
guid news!"

"When do you expect your cousin?" I asked.

Christian took a letter from the mantelpiece, where a china dog had
been guarding it.

"This is his last letter, sir," she said, with a touch of honest pride,
as she handed it to me to read.  "You will see what he says.  He was to
sail on the 14th, and that was about a fortnight ago.  Mistress Dobie
had a message to say that he would be there about the first of June.
He has business in Glasgow, which will keep him there a bit."

"It's a kind, friendly letter," I remarked, as I handed it back.  "He
speaks very nicely about you all."

"If only for the sake of the bairns, sir, I'm very thankful that we've
foond sae guid a friend," she said with much feeling.

Jeemsie peeped in at the door just then.  He was quite a handsome
little chap, with regular features and a rather intelligent face.

"Jeemsie will be provided for now," I said, beckoning the child to me.
He came, shyly smiling, and put his hand in mine.

"Yes, thank God!" was the poor mother's reply.  "It's been a trouble to
me to know what to do for him, and especially what'll happen to the
bairn when I'm taken.  But Father Fleming says his cousin can put him
to some kind of institution for a year or two, where they can teach him
to read and write and coont as well as any bairn wi' all his senses.
For he's nae daft!" she exclaimed, with motherly pride.  "He's just as
sensible as can be aboot most things.  He kens as weel as Tam aboot
searching for the eggs, and he loves to fetch water from the well in
his little pail for me, bless him!"

"Yes, it's a great thing for the child that his cousin is coming to
look after you all.  Jeemsie will be made a man of.  I once knew a
postman who was afflicted like Jeemsie, and he did his work better than
any of the other men in the same office.  The postmaster was quite
proud of him.  He couldn't talk, poor man, so there was no danger of
his wasting time in gossip."

I took my leave after chatting a while, and rejoiced as I pictured to
myself on the way home the lightening of so many burdens which had
pressed heavily on the shoulders of that brave little woman.

A week later and we heard through Willy that Mr. Gowan had arrived at
Larrigie Inn.

"An' a freer mon wi' his money, Mistress Dobie says, ye'd niver wish to
see," was his estimate of the newcomer.  "He was treatin' the fellows
wi' drams a' roond, the nicht he cam'; he wes sae glad to be bock i'
the auld place.  He wes a loon o' fafteen when him an' his farther went
an' to mak' their fortune in Ameriky, ye ken."

"I don't like to hear about that dramming business," was Val's comment
to me later.  "There's too much of that kind of thing already about
here.  However, we must make allowance for the man's natural joy at
seeing his old haunts once more."

"Including the inn, I suppose!  But he was too young when they left to
have cultivated a very intimate acquaintance with that one!"

Gowan proved to be but one of our own rough crofters who had acquired
so thin a veneer of civilization that it scarcely concealed the reality
beneath.  With a somewhat boisterous geniality he made instant friends
with all of his former class in the neighborhood.  With Val and myself
he was not altogether at his ease.  An abrupt awkwardness of manner,
which we put down to shyness, characterized our intercourse, which was
of rare occurrence.

He drove up to Mass on a Sunday, not in a motor, but in the ordinary
"machine" belonging to the inn--a kind of small wagonette, drawn by a
single horse--in which he always occupied the seat next the driver,
good-humoredly conveying any persons from that direction who might be
coming up our way, either to kirk or "chapel."

We heard glowing accounts of his kindness to Christian and the
children--of constant excursions to the town; of the purchase of
unlimited clothing for all the family, and of many costly presents,
such as watches for Christian and Tam, pretty trinkets for little
Kirsty, and toys for each of the bairns.  He seemed to be never happy
out of their company; when they were not driving about the country,
visiting neighbors, or picnicking on the hills, they took their more
important meals at the inn.  The two elder children seemed to have left
school for good; we heard later that Gowan had arranged matters with
the authorities, stating that he meant to take the family back to
America with him, or at any rate to find them a home elsewhere should
he make a lengthy stay in Scotland.

Things had gone on thus for three weeks before Val alluded to Gowan, or
anything connected with him.  But his words showed me as soon as he
began to speak that he had been thinking much on the subject.

"I don't like this prolonged carnival of Gowan's," he remarked to me.
"It's doing no good.  I hear of unlimited drinks at Larrigie day after
day for all who choose to ask.  Many of our young fellows are getting
into the habit of dropping in there of nights and listening to the
man's stories of life 't'other side.'  He seems capable of standing a
good deal of liquor himself, as he is never really overcome--only more
coarse and noisy, the more he takes.  I have had complaints from
several of the fathers of families about the harm he is doing."

"That's rather bad!" was my answer.  "But what about the Logans?  I
hear that he means to take them off with him, and he doesn't appear to
be a desirable guardian for those children, by all accounts."

"It is that I'm most anxious about," said Val.

And thereupon he became communicative.  Things were really worse than I
had thought.  Gowan, it is true, still came to Mass, but he was fond of
boasting to his boon companions that they had got beyond "all that
nonsense in the States!"  He had certainly, on his own showing, ceased
to be a practical Catholic for years, and it was probable that his
attendance at Mass and contribution of half a sovereign to the
offertory every Sunday was merely the result of a desire to stand well
in the estimation of the more staid members of the community, and might
be classed with the free drinks and other signs of friendliness to the
district.  The character of the man rendered Val naturally anxious
about the future of Christian Logan and her children, if they were to
depend upon him for support in a strange land among strangers.

"The one redeeming feature in his character," summed up Val, "is his
genuine affection for the children.  His wife died about two years ago,
it seems, and he is too old to marry again.  So he appears to have
devoted himself to the idea of practically adopting these three little

"It seems to me a case of body versus soul for the poor little kids, if
they are to trust to that old heathen for a proper bringing up.  But
the mother is a good woman, and has a will of her own."

"That's where it is so difficult to do anything," said Val sadly.  "She
does not understand the state of the case properly, though I've tried
to make it plain to her.  The fellow is an avowed Free Mason.  He can
not practise his religion, and in a kind of self-defense he rails
against it--though not openly to Catholics, I believe.  She is deluded
enough to imagine that the influence of herself and the children will
win him over to the right path again.  But it's far more likely that he
will win the children over to unbelief, if he is to become their
practical parent.  Christian acknowledges that his indulgence is
spoiling Tam already."

It was almost dramatic that at that moment a knock at the room door
should prove to be from Elsie, who announced the presence of Christian
Logan in the "priest's room" asking for a few minutes' conversation
with his Reverence.

The interview proved to be somewhat long.  Val gave me an account of it
later in the day.  Gowan had proposed that Jeemsie should be placed
without delay in an English institution for the deaf and dumb, while
the others traveled a little about Scotland before starting for
America, as he had now decided to do.  He had made his money in
horse-dealing, it appeared, and was not satisfied with his present
prosperous condition, but longed to make more money; probably, too, he
was tired of idling, after a rather strenuous life spent in business.

Christian was willing to part with the little fellow for a time, but
only on condition that he should go to a Catholic institution, of which
Val had told her previously.  The idea infuriated Gowan.  What did
religion matter?  Protestant institutions of the kind were far in
advance of Catholic.  It was ridiculous to think of sending the boy
anywhere except to a place thoroughly up-to-date.  Finally he had
refused to do anything in the matter unless he had free scope to place
the child where he should think best.

The poor woman's eyes were opened at last.  She was absolutely
determined that Jeemsie should be given up to no authority that was
incapable of teaching him all that was necessary for the practice of
his religion.  She had come to pour out her difficulties to Val, and to
ask further advice.  He, of course, applauded her decision, and
strengthened her in the resolution she had made, even though it might
lead to a temporary withdrawal of Gowan's liberality.  Val was
convinced that the man was too much attached to the children to break
altogether with the Logans.

Gowan had expressed his intention of going up to settle definitely with
Christian about the matter of Jeemsie, and she was most anxious for Val
to be present.  To this he had at once consented; for he felt it a
foremost duty to protect the faith of the little lad.  So next morning
the interview would come off.

"It was a stormy conference!" was Val's first remark, when we met for
lunch next day.  "But we've won the victory for the little chap's
faith, though it has cost us Gowan's further patronage!"

The man had refused to be persuaded to allow the priest to choose some
institution to which Jeemsie might safely be sent--merely because it
was a priest who wished to have a voice in the matter, Val was inclined
to think; for the Protestant Home which Gowan favored was in no way
superior.  They discussed the question in all its bearings, and
eventually Gowan lost his temper and showed his hand.  He meant to
bring up all the children Protestants!  He had learned by experience
what a hindrance it was to have to submit in everything to the
dictation of priests, and he was determined to have no more of it!

It was at that stage that Christian interposed.  Very quietly but
firmly she spoke her mind.

"If you expect me to risk the loss of my children's souls as well as my
own for the sake of worldly advantages, Cousin Aleck, I may as well
speak plainly.  I would rather stay here and work myself to death than
take your money."

This produced a terrific storm of abuse from Gowan.  He called her
"priest-ridden" and every kind of fool and idiot.  She would soon learn
to repent of her folly, for he would go straightway to a lawyer and
change his will!  Not a penny would she get--now or later--from him, as
she would find one day to her cost!  Then he dashed away without
further discussion.

"The fellow is a brute!" was Val's conclusion.  "They are well rid of
him!  What a blessing he showed himself in his true colors before it
was too late!"

Gowan left the neighborhood that very day.  No one knew his
destination.  Mrs. Dobie replied to all inquiries that Mr. Gowan had
paid "like a gentleman," and she was "sorry that some people did'na ken
when they were well off!"--alluding, of course, to Christian.  But Mrs.
Dobie, not being "of the household of the Faith," could not be expected
to show sympathy toward a course of action which robbed her of so
profitable a guest.

Thus were our golden dreams dispelled!  Ardmuirland, indeed, took some
little time to recover from the dazzling visions which the coming of
"the millionaire"--as Val and I delighted to style him in private--had
called up, but in a year or so Gowan's name had become a mere memory to
most of us.  Christian alone--true to her baptismal name--held that
memory in benediction; every night she and her little ones gave a
prominent place in their family prayers to the "Cousin Aleck" whom they
all regarded as a generous benefactor.  It was not difficult to
interpret the mother's intention in thus making the man a constant
object of prayer; to her the possession of God's grace appeared a good
beyond all earthly riches and delights, and I can well believe that she
even rejoiced that she had been called upon to give testimony of the
faith that was in her.  Her sentiments were doubtless those of Tobias
of old: "For we are the children of saints, and look for the life which
God will give to those that never change their faith from him."



  "A light to guide, a rod
  To check the erring and reprove."
          (_Wordsworth--"Ode to Duty"_)

Few of the many conversations I have had from time to time with old
Willy have been more interesting than those upon the subject of schools
and schoolmasters in the days when he was young.

In the early part of the nineteenth century education was conducted in
a primitive fashion at Ardmuirland.  In a small community, consisting
almost entirely of Catholics, and those mostly in poor circumstances, a
trained teacher was rarely to be found.  In many country districts like
ours the task of instructing the young devolved upon one or other of
the better educated of the crofter class.  For in those days even
reading and writing--not to mention "counting," or arithmetic, as we
style it--constituted a liberal education in Ardmuirland, and many of
the people were unable to boast of possessing either.  Hence when one
of the community was sufficiently versed in such accomplishments he was
looked up to as a qualified instructor.

Willy had passed through the hands of more than one of such
schoolmasters, and his recollections on the subject are interesting.
The one who seems to have made the most impression upon his memory was
a better informed man than is usually found in the class to which he

"Finlay Farquharson wes the best o' them a'!  There wes saxty or
siventy bairns went to his school at Carnavruick when I wes a loon.
He'd been to Ameriky, ye ken, sir, and I doot he'd brought back wi' him
a bit o' the Yankee tongue.  Faix!  He had a lively tongue!  He niver
wanted his answer when he had to come oot wi' it."

Farquharson's "Academy" was his little living-room--not over-spacious
for such an assembly; but in those days no parental government
legislated for so many cubic feet of space for each child, and they
seemed to keep in health and strength in spite of that fact.  The
school assembled in what we may term the winter months only, which in
Scotland may be reckoned as nearly two-thirds of the year.  The
remaining months were occupied in farming work both by master and

During the term (as we may call it) the procedure was as follows:
Farquharson was accustomed to rise about four o'clock and to work for
two or three hours at threshing corn.  After an early breakfast he made
preparations for his scholastic duties by clearing out of the way all
unnecessary furniture--though there was little that was
superfluous--and placing the long planks supported by big stones which
served for forms.  As some children were sure to be occupied with class
work during the whole time, fewer seats were needed than would have
been necessary otherwise.  The schoolmaster's old mother, Margot, kept
her own chair by the fire, where she kept an eye on the pot of soup and
occupied herself with knitting.  The one small table served as master's
desk and as writing-table for those pupils who had advanced
sufficiently in the art to be allowed to use a copy-book instead of a
slate--but they were few.

The scholars arrived about eight o'clock.  It was required of each, as
part of the school fees, to bring a block of dried peat to serve as
fuel for the fire.  It was always the ambition of a boy of lively
temperament, such as Willy represented himself to be, to choose as hard
a "peat" as he could possibly find, to serve as a weapon in the mimic
battles fought on the road to school.  As the fire was composed wholly
of peat, and the chimney was wide, the place would be often a difficult
one to study in when the wind was in the wrong quarter.  At such times,
to use Willy's description:

"It wes juist a reeky hole!  We wes all well learned to pit up wi' the
reek!  I niver thocht muckle o' reek aifter that schule!"

The proceedings began with reading; after that came spelling.
"Coontin'" followed for those who were sufficiently accomplished.

"Them as wes best at the readin' spent nearly all day at the coontin'
and writin'.  The maister wes short enuch in the temper," remarked
Willy on this point.  "Aye, aye, he wes gey hot in the temper, I insure
ye!  I mind a loon comin' up to him ane day wi' a coont on his slate,
ye ken, an' Farquharson wes that enraged at a mistak' i' the coont that
he broke the slate on the laddie's heid an' left the frame hangin' like
a horse's collar roond his neck!"

Farquharson evidently held to the great principle that corporal
punishment was part of a sound education.  Behind the door was a stool,
which served as a block upon which to stretch a victim whose offense
deserved the extreme punishment, but that was not often required.  A
favorite instrument was the strap, or, as Willy termed it, "the belt."
Should the master catch sight of an idler, or practical joker, he would
throw the strap to the delinquent as a sign that a thrashing was due,
and the boy or girl had to come up to his table and receive the

"Some wad be stiff to come up wi't, ye ken," explained Willy; "but he'd
niver let a loon off, though he wes mair merciful-like to the wee
lassies.  He'd larnt by experience, ye ken; for in the auld days, afore
I went there, ane o' the lassies wes a month awa' frae the schule--he
throosh her that severe."

About midday there was a recess, and the children ate their "pieces,"
which they had brought from home, and spent a little time outside at
play, while the schoolmaster took his simple meal.  The favorite game
was a kind of shinty.  It was played by the boys with a ball, driven
with sticks, each with "a big lump o' wood at the end o't."

The more advanced pupils learned grammar.

"I niver learned nae graymer masel'," said Willy.  "I couldna'
onderstan' a word o't.  I thocht it a gey-like leetany to hear the
graymer.  'I mak', thou mak's, he mak's'--seemed to me nae sense, ye

There were no holidays as a regular thing.  School went on in the
season every week-day.  But there was one great day in the year, which
was looked forward to by both parents and children; it was that set
apart for what we more delicately reared folk in these days would
regard as cruel sport--that of cock-fighting!  Sometimes as many as
thirty of the lads would each bring his bird under his arm, and these
in turn would be placed in the ring.  Neighbors from far and near would
come to the school for that day.

"The best fichter," said Willy, "wes callit the King; the second best,
the Queen; the third, the Knave.  Them as wouldna' ficht we callit
'fougie.'  Eh, what a day that wes!"

But it must not be thought that the duties of the schoolmaster were
confined to his school.  He was a personage in the community when he
had assumed his position as pedagogue.  Since he was instructor of
youth, he was regarded as capable of assisting the literary pursuits of
their parents and elders.

"We callit the schoolmaster 'Dominie Dick,'" explained Willy.  "He wes
a big mon i' the distric', ye ken, sir!  He'd oft write letters for the
fowk roond aboot!"

I gathered from the same authority that the "Dominie," for the time
being, was also the reliable reader of the public newspaper.  When the
weekly paper had arrived, all the men who were interested in what the
world was doing would gather at some specified house to listen to the
schoolmaster as he read aloud choice extracts.  In his absence the best
reader of the party was requested to undertake the duty.

"My faither," said Willy, "wes aye conseedered the best aifter the
schulemaister.  If he miscallit a word the dictionar' wes allas
consultit; it wes on the table ready."

This recollection called up another in commendation of his father's
reading powers.

"The maister o' the Strathdalgie Schule wes a Protestant, ye ken, but
he wouldna' hae ony person read till him but my faither.  He had to gae
till the schulemaister's bedside when he wes dyin'; for the puir mon
wouldna' hae the menister, as he likit a' the words clear."

Farquharson's quasi-official position was on one occasion the cause of
rather an unpleasant experience.  One of his predecessors in office, an
old man named McConnachie, had been forced to retire from the teaching
profession on account of failing intellect.  After an illness, when he
was already far advanced in years, his mind gradually gave way, until
he was nothing better than a harmless lunatic.  No one grudged the old
man a little oatmeal or a bag of potatoes now and again, and he could
get milk for the asking from any of those who owned a cow.  He lived
all by himself in a small house, and a kindly neighbor would go in
occasionally to "redd up"--in other words, put the place in order.

But the poor old fellow's lunacy became less harmless as he grew older.
It developed into a kind of kleptomania.  Should a housewife have a
family wash hanging on her clothes-lines, it was not infrequently the
case that many of the articles would mysteriously disappear.  The most
extraordinary objects would vanish from the houses--chimney ornaments,
cups, spoons, flatirons, buttons, photographs, and such like gear.  For
a time no one suspected old McConnachie; though, upon reflection, after
the matter had been cleared up it appeared that many of the losers had
missed articles after one of his calls.  When a venturous spirit
undertook to search the old man's habitation during his absence, a
store of miscellaneous objects came to light, which revealed the
hitherto unknown pilferer.

In another way, too, McConnachie became a nuisance to the community.
Perhaps some faint recollection of one of his duties as "Dominie" may
have led to it; but he began to show so violent a dislike toward any of
the children who might cross his path that he would do his best to give
them a good drubbing with his stick.  In the case of the more simple he
sometimes succeeded in seizing hold before the child had attempted to
escape his clutches, and in giving the unfortunate culprit a good
reason for flying home in tears to exhibit to an angry mother the marks
of "t' auld schulemaister's wand!"

Under such circumstances it became necessary to take counsel with the
Inspector of the Poor with a view to getting McConnachie placed under
restraint.  Matters were easily settled and a time fixed for his
deportation to the County Asylum.

But though the old fellow was mad enough in some respects, he was sharp
enough in others!  It required diplomacy to get him to leave his home
and undertake a journey even in the conveyance which the Inspector had
promised to provide to take him to the railway station some miles away.
Farquharson, on account of his office, was the only person in the
community who was on terms of cordiality with McConnachie; for the old
man had a great idea of his position in Ardmuirland, and held himself
somewhat above the common run of people.  With Farquharson he could
converse as with one who was _almost_ an equal--not absolutely, for he
himself had been through some little training which the other had not.
To Farquharson, therefore, the Inspector looked for assistance.  He
arranged for him to travel with the old fellow, under the pretence of
visiting a large school on the invitation of a master there whom he
knew; this supposititious friend had included McConnachie in the letter
(really written by the Inspector) which Farquharson had received on the

The old schoolmaster was easily duped by this trick, and on an
appointed day the two set off.  The first obstacle arose at the
station, when Farquharson had taken the tickets, for which the "friend"
had provided the necessary money.

"I should like to have my own ticket," the older man remarked with an
air of dignity.  "I'm not a bairn to be likely to lose it."

Here was a slight difficulty!  Farquharson had taken a single ticket
for the other and a return for himself.  It would never do to allow
this to be known.  On the other hand, McConnachie must be kept in good
humor or he would give trouble to his guardian, who began now to see
the weak points in the plot.  So trusting to the certainty of being
able to get back the remaining half-ticket when the old man was safely
lodged in the Asylum, he retained the single ticket and gave
McConnachie the other.

They reached the end of their railway journey successfully, and
Farquharson managed to explain their destination to a porter privately,
and asked him to get a cab for them.  The man was either stupid or was
disappointed at receiving an insignificant tip, since Farquharson was
not one to waste money unnecessarily; for he gave the direction
"Asylum" to the driver in a voice that McConnachie must have been deaf
not to have heard distinctly.  Farquharson glanced at once at his
companion, but the old man's face was expressionless, and he persuaded
himself, almost against his will, that McConnachie was too much taken
up with the novelty of the situation to catch the words spoken.  The
eagerness with which the old man took notice of every feature of their
progress tended to confirm the idea, and by the time the Asylum was
reached Farquharson felt more at ease.

"The grounds are well kept," remarked McConnachie as they proceeded up
the short avenue.

"Aye, aye, they are that!" was the other's ready answer.

"It seems a big building!" said the old man, as they drove up to the

"Far bigger than I expected," said Farquharson.

The cabby rang the bell, and the door was opened by a man-servant, who
came down the steps and opened the carriage door.  Farquharson got out
first and incautiously walked up the steps toward the door of the
building.  With a madman's cunning, McConnachie whispered to the

"That's the gentleman I was to bring.  He's gone in, so I need not
wait.  Tell the man to drive back."

And the agonized Farquharson beheld his charge rapidly driving away and
leaving him behind alone.

"Stop!  Stop!" he cried in an angry voice.  "That's the man I was
bringing here!  He's not fit to be left alone.  I tell you he's the
daft man!  I'm only a friend!"

"Quite so, sir," said the servant quietly.  "It will be all right if
you will step in for a few minutes.  We can easily explain to the

Two other attendants had appeared on the scene by this time, and the
gentle pressure of the servant's hand on his arm induced the hapless
Farquharson to ascend the steps once more and enter the hall.

He repeated his explanation to the other men, who treated it in the
same quiet way as the first had done.  Then it began to dawn upon him
that they really took him for the madman and McConnachie for his sane

It was a natural mistake as far as they were concerned; for it was
quite a common thing for patients to suppose every one else to be
mentally afflicted except themselves.  Moreover, McConnachie had a more
cultured manner than Farquharson at any time, and when the latter
showed so much excitement on account of the trick which had been played
upon him, he did not appear to advantage.  He was so intensely angry
and so apprehensive of the consequences of the disaster that he was
scarcely coherent, and this justified the attendants in their view of
the situation.

The Governor had already been prejudiced against him, when Farquharson
at last obtained an interview with him, and took the same view as the
others.  The fact of his having given the return ticket to McConnachie
made it difficult to explain that the other had no right to it; the
faint glimmer of a smile on the face of the attendant while he was
attempting to clear up that point filled poor Farquharson with dismay
and rendered him still more nervous and excited.

So the poor schoolmaster was detained in the Asylum and old McConnachie
returned home in state.  All was put right in a day or two, for the
Inspector was informed of the turn affairs had taken, and lost no time
in releasing Farquharson.  The unfortunate man did not dare to return
to the district for some time.  When he at last ventured to appear,
McConnachie had long left the place and was dead and almost forgotten,
and neighbors were too glad to welcome Farquharson back among them to
remind him of his humiliation.

"Things is gey different now, sir," was Willy's summing-up on the
subject of education.  "The bairns get mair teechin' noo, and less o'
the beltin', an' I'm no sure but they learn a' the better for it!"



  "'Tis not the whole of life to live;
  Nor all of death to die."
          (_Montgomery--"Issues of Life and Death"_)

Old Widow Lamont and her spinster daughter, Robina, lived in a bit of a
house on the edge of the pine wood that sheltered our presbytery from
the east winds; they were consequently our nearest neighbors with the
exception of Willy and Bell.  They possessed a cow and a few hens, and
Robina, who was a sturdy woman of forty, did the work of their small
croft with occasional help from one of the males of the community.  For
in Ardmuirland, be it known, one neighbor helps another in return for
the like service when required; thus Robina would lend a hand at
hay-time, harvest, potato planting, and the rest, and would be entitled
to a few days' plowing and harrowing on her own land in compensation.

The Lamonts, though not exceedingly poor, could not be called
well-to-do.  The absence of a resident man in a small croft must be of
necessity a difficulty; but they were upright, hard-working women, and
managed to maintain themselves in a simple, frugal way.  Oatmeal and
potatoes were grown on the croft; bread could be obtained from the
passing baker's cart in exchange for eggs; butter, and sometimes milk,
could be sold to neighbors; the widow's knitted stockings fetched a
fair price with the hosier in the county town; in these various ways
they made ends meet.

Old-age pensions were then unheard of, and the Lamonts would have
thought themselves insulted had any one suggested parish relief for the
old woman; although her helpless condition would have justified it, for
she never moved from her corner by the fire, to which she was carried
from her bed in the morning to be borne back to bed at night.  An
accident which had befallen her when in the prime of life had rendered
her a cripple without power to move her lower limbs.

Like many of their class, the Lamonts were full of an honest pride, and
although they may have possibly felt the pinch of poverty now and
again, they would have scorned to acknowledge it.  By the exercise of
diplomacy Penny has often managed to help them in little ways from time
to time; she will visit the old woman to inquire after her health, and
take with her in a neighborly way some little delicacy in the shape of
soup or pudding.  At one time she tried to furnish her with some orders
for stockings, but it turned out that the Lamonts considered it next
door to heresy to take payment from the priest's house, and Penny's
charitable attempts were frustrated.  She found it better to "borrow" a
few eggs occasionally (even though she was not in great need of them),
and to more than pay their value in little presents--an acknowledgment
of the kindness of the lenders.

"The very thing for the Lamonts!" exclaimed Val at breakfast one
morning.  He had been reading his letters, just delivered, and I was
glancing through that day's paper.  I looked up in token of interest.

"I have an application from the Inspector of the Poor," he continued,
"for a quiet, reliable family, who would be willing to take charge, for
payment, of a poor daft fellow.  He is about thirty, and has been in
this state since he was eighteen, when he had a bad fever.  He is
perfectly tractable, quite inoffensive, and thoroughly good-tempered.
The only reason for moving him from his present home is that it is in a
village, and the children tease and annoy him.  I fancy the Lamonts
would jump at the opportunity."

I quite agreed with him.  To my mind, Robina Lamont was a match for a
far more dangerous character.  She would be equal in strength to many
an able-bodied man.  But I felt doubtful whether the arrangement would
be satisfactory as regarded the old widow.  She was so helpless that
unless the man was actually as harmless as was supposed it might he
risky to place him in such a house.  I voiced my objection, but Val was
not impressed by it.  He had great confidence in the judgment of the
Inspector--a thoroughly able man, and shrewd withal.

When the question was proposed to the Lamonts they at once warmed to
the idea.  It appeared that one of the lads of their own family--now
long dead--had been in much the same state, though _he_ was inclined to
be unruly at times; consequently neither the widow nor her daughter
felt the least apprehension of difficulties in managing their patient.
Thus it came about that Bildy Gow became a member of our community.

In Scotland we have many more diminutive forms of ordinary Christian
names than is the case in England.  William, for example, figures as
Willy, Wildy, Will, Bill, Billy, and Bildy.  The variety is useful in
cases, which are of frequent occurrence, where the same name belongs to
grandfather, father, and son; William, Wildy, and Bill are perfectly
distinct.  It was as Bildy that William Gow became known among us;
before long every one dropped the unnecessary surname and he was spoken
of habitually as Bildy simply.

Robina brought her lodger to Mass with her in state on the very first
Sunday.  He was rather a good-looking fellow, tall and straight, with
fresh complexion, regular features and light-brown hair and moustache.
He was neatly dressed, too, for he had evidently been fitted out for
his new home by the liberality of the Inspector.  Beyond a shy, vacant
expression, Bildy gave no evidence of mental incapacity in his
appearance.  He kept close to Robina when they emerged from church, and
seemed to rely upon her protection with the air of a shy lad, which was
rather pathetic to witness.  He was not a Catholic, but he had shown
such distress when Robina had told him to sit at home with her mother
that they were forced to let him go to church to keep him quiet.

On further acquaintance, Bildy did not belie the good character given
him by the Inspector.  He was merely a grown-up child.  In his youth he
must have been of a thoroughly quiet, innocent nature, for he showed it
in his aspect still; his character had never developed beyond that
innocent adolescence, while his mind had retrograded to a state
resembling early childhood.  If one spoke to him on the road he at once
assumed the air of an exceedingly shy bairn--frightened and
embarrassed.  It would have been amusing were it not so sad.  I could
never extract a word from him on such occasions, so overawed was he!

From the first, while looking upon Robina as the supreme authority to
which he owed implicit obedience, Bildy seemed to give all his
affection to the old widow.  He liked nothing better than to sit
opposite her by the fireside, watching the tireless swiftness of her
knitting needles as they flashed in the firelight.  When summoned by
Robina for any duty, he would promptly comply, returning as soon as
free to his favorite attraction.

I was passing by the Lamonts' house one afternoon, and as Robina was
working in her garden I stopped for a chat.  After asking after her
mother and things in general, the conversation turned on Bildy.  Robina
praised him highly.

"He's as biddable as a bairn," she declared.  "He carries a' the water
for us frae the spring, an' takes oot the coo, an' fetches her hame as
weel as I could masel'.  He's nae tribble to us whateever!"

She then launched into details concerning Bildy which were very
entertaining, and gave much amusement to Val over our dinner.  It
appeared that the poor fellow had formed a most reverential opinion of
the priest on his first visit to our church for Mass.  On his return
home he sat by the fire smiling delightedly and murmuring to himself.
They did not catch what he said, but after repeated questioning Robina
found that he was quite pleased with the "chapel."

"An' yon mon!" he exclaimed.  "Isna' he dressed fine?  Wha's yon mon
wi' the fine dress?"

"Yen's the priest," explained Robina.  "Father Fleming, he's callit."

"Father Fleming!  Father Fleming!" repeated Bildy over and over again,
as though to familiarize himself with the sound of it.

"Aye, aye!  He's the boy!  He can gab, canna' he?  He's the boy to tell
us what to dee!" he continued in his broad Scots.

"It's extraordinary how well he behaves at Mass--or at any rate during
the sermon," said Val when he heard the story.  "I wish some others
were as good!"

That reminded me of another anecdote.  After one or two Sundays, Bildy
had got familiar with the church, and was inclined to gaze about more
than Robina approved of.  She therefore took it upon herself to
instruct him upon the sacred character of the place, and to threaten to
keep him at home if he did not behave better.

"Remember, Bildy," she said as they started next Sunday, "it's the
hoose o' God ye're goin' tee.  Ye musna' glower aboot!  Juist sit ye
still an' look straicht at Father Fleming a' the time."

After that his manner was irreproachable.  But one Sunday, as Penny was
leaving the church after Mass, she caught sight of Bildy furiously
shaking his fist--at her, she thought!  So she mentioned the fact
quietly to Robina, who promised to investigate the matter.  It turned
out that poor Bildy had so thoroughly assimilated her instructions as
to the requisite behavior in church that he had been silently reproving
what he thought irreverence.  He had seen a crofter whom he knew very
well dozing during the sermon, and had "wagged his fist" at
him--righteously indignant.

"Sleepin' i' the hoose o' God!" cried Bildy.  "Yon's nae the place to
sleep in!  I waggit my fist, an' I sair fleggit him!"

Bildy evidently congratulated himself on having so successfully "sore
frighted" the delinquent that he would never dare to behave so badly

Bildy's respect for Val never waned.  He never caught sight of the
priest, even at some little distance, but his hand flew up to his cap
in salutation, and remained there until Val had seen him and had
returned his salute.  This would happen if he saw Val at a window of
our house just the same as when outside.

Penny took quite a motherly interest in the poor afflicted fellow.
Whenever he came on any errand from the Lamonts he was always given a
piece of cake or fruit--anything sweet, for he had a child's taste.
But although Bildy was supremely delighted, he seldom said more than
"thank you, Ma'am!"  I once suggested that she should refer to Val, and
the experiment was successful in opening Bildy's mouth.  After that the
conversation would almost invariably run thus:

"Did you see Father Fleming on Sunday, Bildy?"

"Aye, aye!  He's the boy!  Father Fleming's the boy!"

Next to the old widow, Bildy loved the cow.  She was his particular
charge, and he was soon on intimate terms with her.  Not only did he
carry on familiar conversations with her, on his part, but it appeared
that the cow made him her confidant in return.  If he began to murmur
something to himself as he sat by the chimney corner, they would
inquire what he was talking about.  It was generally arrant nonsense
that he told them.  Once Robina asked:

"Wha tellit ye that rubbish, Bildy?"

"The coo," he gravely answered.

On a damp, misty morning he had gone out as usual to drive the cow out
to the meadow to graze.  Widow Lamont, from her place opposite the
window, noticed that they did not pass out in the customary way, and
notified the fact to Robina.  The latter accordingly ran out at once to
inquire the reason of the delay.  She found Bildy quietly fastening the
door of the byre before returning to the house.

"Ye havna' fetched oot the coo!" she exclaimed.  "Gae in an' drive her
oot, Bildy!"

"Na, na," replied he, solemnly shaking his head.  "She says it's ower
cauld the day.  She'll bide inside."

Bildy's hero-worship of my brother increased as time went by.  He
regularly came to Mass, and obedient to Robina's instructions sat still
and looked "straicht at Father Fleming."  On one particular Sunday,
when we had a priest staying with us (an old friend of Val's), the
latter invited him to preach.  This did not suit Bildy at all.  After
Mass he walked home alone, not waiting for Robina, who was chatting
with her neighbors outside the church, and showed by his manner that
something was amiss.  Widow Lamont put down her book, in which she had
been piously reading her "Prayers for Mass," and accosted him with the
usual formula:

"Weel, Bildy, what kind o' preachin' had ye the day?"

But the answer was not that which they took a simple pleasure in
drawing from him usually.  Bildy began to bite his hand--a trick he had
when annoyed.

"That's nae preachin'," he cried indignantly.  "Yon monnie canna'
preach!  Wha's the reason Father Fleming canna' preach the day?  Eh!"
(with withering contempt.)  "Sic a monnie preach!"

The diminutive, in Bildy's phraseology, implied depreciation; that was
why he stigmatized a regular six-footer as a "monnie."

When Doddy came to Ardmuirland, Bildy discovered his real vocation!
Doddy--or, in English, Georgie--was the orphan child of Robina's
sister.  His father had married a second wife and had gone out to
Canada, and Widow Lamont had insisted upon having the little chap with
her; for his father and step-mother were both Protestants, and Doddy
stood little chance of being reared in the faith of his baptism.  So
the man agreed, and undertook to pay a trifle weekly for the child's
keep, until he could earn something for himself.

Doddy was almost a baby--not more than four, and quite small of his
age; but he soon discovered that he had a slave at his beck and call in
the spellbound Bildy.  The man seemed to worship the little fellow.
Whenever Bildy was free from his ordinary occupations he was playing
with Doddy, as though they were both children--with this difference:
Doddy was always the tyrant, and Bildy the submissive subject.

It was a proof of the man's absolute harmlessness that he never so much
as touched any one who angered him.  Sometimes other children,
attracted by Doddy, would come to join in the games, and often drove
poor Bildy away.  He would slink off, the picture of misery, and make
his way home, biting his hand--his only sign of displeasure.

When Doddy was five, and had to attend school, Bildy would watch with
the utmost patience the road by which the child had to return, until he
caught sight of the tiny figure in the distance; then he would run to
meet Doddy with every demonstration of joy, pick him up, set him on his
shoulder, and amble off up the hill to the cottage.

Bildy had been about six years in Ardmuirland, and had become a
favorite with every one.  The poor fellow was so unfeignedly pleased to
receive any little notice from any one that all accosted him kindly,
and no one in the district would have dreamed of causing him
unhappiness.  Doddy had grown into a sharp little lad of seven, and was
no longer so dependent upon Bildy for companionship.  Yet Bildy did not
relinquish altogether his post of guardian, but kept a wary eye upon
the movements of his little master, ready at all times to do his

Winter set in that year unusually early.  At the beginning of December
earth and water were bound in the chains of a very hard frost.  Nothing
could more delight the heart of a schoolboy, and those of Ardmuirland
were in their element.  There was a small, shallow pond close by the
schoolhouse, and there they were able to slide and sport about to their
hearts' content.  But children are changeful.  When the frost had
lasted more than two whole weeks, the little pond was not exciting
enough.  There was a mountain lake about a mile farther on, a much
larger piece of water.  Thither the more adventurous spirits determined
to go one holiday afternoon.  Doddy, who was precocious for his years,
made up his mind to go too, proud in being the companion of much bigger
boys.  Unluckily, none of the parents of the boys had any idea of the
proposed adventure; had they known, the project would have been sternly
prohibited.  It is possible that the young adventurers knew this and
kept the matter quiet.

But Doddy's faithful guardian had watched the boy steal off, to be met
by five or six others, and followed them at a distance.  He did not
venture to join the party openly, fearing to be driven off
ignominiously, as he often had been before on other occasions.  By the
time he reached them they had been some half-hour at the lake, and had
most of them ventured cautiously to try the bearing power of the ice.
The long frost had made this quite safe in most parts; but, unluckily,
the lads were not aware that there were other portions where rising
springs prevented the water from freezing much, if at all.  As long as
they kept near to the place upon which they had first set foot all was
well; but security made them venturesome.  They started a game of
shinty, and threw themselves into the sport with fervor.

Bildy, partly hidden behind the bushes which skirted the water, watched
the game with interest, his eyes on his beloved Doddy.  Suddenly, while
he looked on, Doddy disappeared, and a shout of terror arose from the
other boys, who were too full of fear to do much toward helping the
unfortunate child, though one or two slid down prostrate and tried to
crawl to the hole into which Doddy had fallen, in order to help him out
with their sticks.

It remained for Bildy to come to their assistance.  With a frightened
cry the man rushed over the ice to the spot, and regardless of the
cautions which the others shrilled at him, plunged into the water.
Doddy had fallen in where there was only very thin ice around the edge
of an open sheet of water.  Luckily, it was shallow for a man, though
it covered the child.  Bildy managed to seize the boy and rose up
gasping from the pool, holding Doddy aloft.  He seated the frightened
child on his shoulder, and was able to keep half his own body out of
the water.  Thus they remained till help came in the shape of one or
two farm-servants, who had been summoned by the screams of the boys.

It was not a difficult matter to get the two out of the water safely;
indeed, any one more sensible than poor Bildy could have lifted the
child onto thicker ice, after wading some paces in the water.  Both
were shivering with cold and drenched with water, which froze on their
clothes during their hurried progress home to bed.

The after-effects were not serious, as far as Doddy was concerned.  He
got a severe cold, but nothing worse--not taking into account the
castigation administered with a good-will by his "auntie."  With poor
Bildy it was different.  He had been in the ice-cold water far longer
than the boy, and a serious attack of pneumonia was the result.  The
poor fellow had probably little stamina.  He did not rally, even when
the climax seemed to have been successfully passed, but grew weaker
every day.

"Robina Lamont wants me to go to that poor fellow," Val said one day.
"She wants me to do what I can for him, as the doctor gives no hope of
recovery.  I can baptize him conditionally, of course, and I am
starting now.  Would you like to come, Ted?"

I was most anxious to accompany him, and we set out at once for the
Lamonts' cottage.

Bildy looked frightfully wasted; his face was the color of parchment,
and his brown eyes looked enormously large and startlingly bright.  But
what touched me more than his emaciated appearance was the wonderful
expression of emotion which shone from those large eyes as we appeared
at the bedside; they looked at Val with the yearning affection that one
sees sometimes in a faithful dog.  The poor fellow put out his white,
wasted hand to Val with evident delight.

"Bildy's been wearyin' for ye, Father," said Robina.  "He's often cried
out for Father Fleming."

The dying man's eyes were proof that she spoke truly.

The short ceremony was soon over, and after some prayers for the sick
man we took our leave.  For the few days that he lingered after that,
the visit of the priest--twice every day and sometimes oftener--was the
culminating point of satisfaction for poor Bildy.

I was there with Val when the end came.  Bildy passed away quite
peacefully while we joined in the prayers for the dying; a calm smile
was on his face, and some vision of delight before his wide-open eyes,
which it is not for mortals to attempt to fathom.

"Poor fellow!" exclaimed Val, as we took our way home; "life has held
little of happiness for him.  Indeed, one can hardly call it life in
the full sense of the word; it was mere existence, as far as we can

"Let's hope that life has begun for him at last," I said reverently.

"I have little doubt of that," replied the priest.



      "My enemy's dog,
  Though he had bit me, should have stood that night
      Against my fire."
          (_"King Lear"--Act IV, Sc. 7._)

"Aebody kent Davie Forbes wes tarrible at the smugglin'," said Willy.

We had been discussing the _pros_ and _cons_ of illicit
distilling--known inland as "smuggling"--and I found that Willy agreed
with the general opinion of the district that the only harm in it was
the penalty due "'gin ye get foond oot by the gauger."  He assured me
that in his young days the practice was widespread.  This had brought
us to Davie Forbes and his persistence in escaping government dues, and
led on to the narrative which I here set down in intelligible English.

Davie was a fine, hearty specimen of a Scottish crofter, whose
appearance did not tally with his acknowledged seventy-nine years; for
his handsome, ruddy face, framed by white whiskers, and crowned with
abundant, curly white locks, showed scarcely a wrinkle.  He was
stalwart and straight, too, as many a man twenty years his junior would
dearly love to be.

Davie's wife had been dead many years at the date of this story; his
only daughter, Maggie Jean, was housekeeper for him and her two
unmarried brothers, Jock and Peter.  Like many of his fellows who might
have to support a widowed mother or other helpless relatives, he had
not married until rather late in life.  Consequently, Maggie Jean, the
youngest of the family, was a strapping lass of thirty, and Jock, the
eldest, a "lad" of thirty-six; for an unmarried man in our
neighborhood, be it known, is a lad till he becomes decrepit!

The family residence of the Forbes stood about half-way up Ben
Sgurrach, the highest hill in the district, and the house was at least
1,000 feet above the sea.  It was sheltered from the east wind by a
clump of scarecrow-looking pine trees, and a spur of barren rock rose
behind it on the north.  I could imagine those trees, though I have
never seen them; we have some such in our little wood behind the
presbytery.  Gaunt-looking figures they are indeed!  Some have been
twisted into uncouth shapes by adverse winds; others stand draped in
veritable garments of gray lichen--weird and shaggy.  The latter, seen
in the dusk, are calculated to terrify a chance comer who might find
himself in their neighborhood; for he would probably mistake them for

A copious spring of excellent water and several convenient crevices in
the surrounding rocks made Davie's place an excellent site for a still.
His son Jock was occupied with odd jobs provided for him as handy man
at a shooting lodge not far from the foot of the hill, where he tended
the garden and looked after the pony at ordinary times, and acted as
gillie when the shooting season came round.  Peter did most of the work
on the croft, lower down the hill; for David himself was getting past
arduous labors, though he directed the distilling, in which Peter, and
occasionally Jock, did the greater part of the work.  Much of the
barley for the still grew on their own land, where also they raised
corn for their own oatmeal and for Maggie Jean's chickens, as well as
turnips for her "coo."  The customers for whiskey were many; for owing
to its innocence of government duty it was cheaper than could be got
from a merchant, while for quality it was renowned.  Davie was a past
master in the art of distilling, and the secluded nature of his
storehouses enabled him to keep it until its rawness had worn off with

Many a tale was told of Davie's adventures in his contraband trade.  In
days when he was young and strong revenue officers would scour the
hills with a small band of soldiers in their company, the better to
over-awe the country folk.  On one such occasion Davie had the
misfortune to be apprehended in his house, when off his guard; for he
was well known to the preventive men of the district, who had long been
seeking to trap him.  They had tracked him from his still, which they
then took charge of, and surrounded his house to prevent escape.  But
Davie was too wary for them in the end.  He feigned submission, and got
his old mother to bring out refreshments for the party within the
house, and went himself to the door with glasses and whiskey for the
two soldiers on guard there.  But they never tasted their dram; Davie
was the renowned wrestler of the neighborhood, and in a second or two
he had tripped up both men and had made off for some secret
hiding-place in the hills before the party inside, aroused by the cries
of the sentinels, were able to understand what had happened.  Both the
unfortunate soldiers had been so badly bruised by their fall on the
flagstones near the doorway that they were unable to rise without help.

At another time he was still more successful.  The revenue officers and
their escort surprised his house at midnight, and demanded admission in
the King's name.  Old Jeandy, his mother, who was then alive, made as
much difficulty as possible in getting the door open in order to give
Davie time to conceal himself.  But he did better than hide in the
house.  Springing out of bed, he actually broke a hole through the
"divets" or turfs of the thatch, and creeping through it, climbed down
outside, just as his adversaries, certain of capturing their prize,
were mounting the ladder which led to his bed-chamber.  When the
exciseman saw the empty bed he cried with an angry oath:

"Here's the nest--still warm; but the bird's awa'!"  The "bird" had
flown to a more hidden place of retirement under cover of the darkness!

In later years Davie was not much molested by the representatives of
the excise.  A gauger was indeed stationed in a town ten miles distant,
but he was elderly, and not over energetic.  He would make a formal
visit now and again to suspected districts, and content himself with a
few casual inquiries.  As a matter of fact, he was personally quite
inadequate to the task of searching for illicit stills in a district of
such abundant hidden recesses.

But there was a change of front when the old officer retired and a
young and energetic man succeeded him.  A "new broom" is eulogized in
proverb; and Mr. Michael Bonar, being new to his district, and a man of
youth and determination, boasted that he meant to sweep away the taint
of smuggling from the neighborhood of Ardmuirland, which bore a bad
name in that respect.

The boast of the incautious gauger was repeated far and wide, and a
strong spirit of opposition was aroused.  Many a wary practitioner
began to devise cunning means of concealment, and to invent traps to
catch their adversary and turn him into ridicule.  Davie Forbes was not
behindhand in making remote preparations for the ganger's certain visit
to him.  But it was then mid-winter, and if Bonar was the canny man
that he was said to be, there would be little fear of any attempted
search for Davie's implements and stores before spring had set in.  So
the Forbes family congratulated themselves upon the security of their
airy nest, and would smile grimly when the name of Bonar was mentioned.

The gauger was, it is true, canny, but his youth made him perhaps a
trifle too venturesome.  He was not unused to climbing, and had scaled
many a mountain more imposing than Ben Sguarrach; but it was not in
winter; forgetfulness of that trifling circumstance led to his
discomfiture.  Ben Sguarrach was indeed no pleasant place in wintry
weather.  Its open spaces were swept by icy blasts; snow often drifted
to unparalleled depths, and made the ascent dangerous to those who were
not familiar with the mountain in its more peaceful aspects.

To Bonar's ardent mind the season of the year seemed likely to assist
rather than hinder him.  Days were short; nights were dark (if the moon
should happen to be unpropitious), but they were long.  No work was
possible at such a time in a mountain distillery, and stores could not
be shifted so readily as in summer time.  So he determined to bide his
opportunity and make a secret visit to Davie Forbes' dwelling, just to
reconnoiter.  He would thus be enabled to form his plan of campaign for
a more bold attack.

Unfortunately, the gauger did not thoroughly know the people he had to
deal with or he would have made allowance for their clannish devotion
to each other's interests.  Every one recognized him as a public enemy,
and however politely he might be treated public sympathy was on the
side of his opponents.  He might flatter himself that he was keeping
his intentions and movements absolutely secret, yet it was impossible
not to take some one or other into his confidence; thus it came about
that tidings of his intended visit flew to Davie at least a week before
his attempt.

In consequence of this fact, all incriminating evidence was carefully
concealed by the old man and his sons, and it would have taken a
sharper man than Bonar--intelligent as he was--to discover any traces
of illicit distilling in the neighborhood of their house.  There was
one suspicious feature only; a large eighteen-gallon barrel, full of
something--whatever the liquid might be--was barely covered by
peat-turfs heaped over it under the shelter of the end wall of the
byre.  But it had not been overlooked; arrangements had been made in
its regard, should circumstances demand its more thorough concealment,
otherwise it must not be disturbed.  For--if the truth must be
told--that particular cask contained the store of whiskey which Davie
had been carefully preserving for his last act of hospitality; it was
for the entertainment of those who would attend his funeral.  Who,
indeed, was able to provide refreshment for the crowd of mourners who
would surely assemble on such an occasion, if not Davie, whose
"whuskey" was renowned in the whole countryside?

Bonar had the good sense to keep from every one the actual date of his
intended visit, lest tidings should reach the Forbes.  He fixed upon a
night when there would be an early rising moon to light him.  On the
morning of the day he made all his preparations very carefully.  In
view of an absence of some hours, he provided himself with a good
packet of sandwiches and a flask of spirits.  He then set out for
Fouranbuie Inn, a dreary hostel about four miles distant from the foot
of the mountain.  There he made a substantial meal, and about four in
the afternoon started on his quest.  He had resolved to ride off from
the inn on his bicycle, ostensibly toward a village farther on; then to
dismount at the foot of Ben Sgurrach, and, hiding his machine in some
bushes, to start the climb as dusk fell.  Jock, as he had found out,
was accustomed to approach from another direction when returning from

The January day was already closing when Bonar began the ascent.  The
climb was decidedly pleasant; the wintry air, the excitement coming
from the spirit of adventure, the vigorous exercise--all tended to
raise the young man's ardor, and he trod the upward path with the
steady, swinging pace of a Highlander.

The moon had scarcely risen when clouds began to drift across the sky,
and the wind became more boisterous.  The darkness increased, and soon
it became almost impossible to discern the path.  Then cold, soft
particles brushed his cheek, and he realized that snow was beginning to
fall.  In a snowstorm he had no better prospect of finding his way to
his bicycle down below than up to Davie Forbes' house.  So he kept
mechanically groping his way upward, although the storm had commenced
in earnest now.

There was less difficulty in progressing while the pretty well-defined
pathway could be kept to; but the falling snow began to obliterate its
traces.  His entire surroundings soon became shut out from the man's
vision.  He moved on resolutely, although his face smarted and his eyes
were blinded by the steadily descending snow, which surrounded him on
all sides like a moving curtain of grayish white.  He owned to himself
that it was impossible to proceed, but what was he to do?  To return
was just as impossible!

Fortune at last favored him.  Staggering through the wind and snow of
the ever-increasing storm, he ran unexpectedly upon a lofty wall of
rock looking to him like a high cliff.  He had evidently lost the path,
for here was an insurmountable obstacle.  Clinging to the rough
surface, he cautiously felt his way along the rock for some yards.  He
was still ascending, but the ground was rough and piled with small
stones, which had crumbled off from the main wall and lay in heaps
beneath it.  He knew enough about Scottish mountains to expect to find
an opening in the wall large enough to enable him to creep into some
kind of shelter; he was not disappointed, for soon he came upon a
crevice--not deep enough to be called a cave, but affording some
temporary relief from the storm, which had by this time assumed a
furious aspect.

The retreat happened to be under the lee of the rock, so that although
it had little depth, he was protected from the violence of the storm;
the relief was great after the fatiguing struggle he had been
undergoing.  He managed to strike a match and look at his watch; it was
only six o'clock.  Had he to pass the night in that chill and dreary

Gruesome anecdotes rushed tormentingly to memory.  It was but last
winter that he had read of the finding of a man's body, stark and cold,
not fifty yards from his own threshold; he had fallen helpless, faint
from incessant struggling through the snow-drifts and too weak to make
his cries for help heard above the rushing of the wind and the swish of
the snow on the window behind which his terrified wife was anxiously
awaiting his coming.

And what of Bonar himself?  He might at that instant be miles away from
any human habitation; it might be days before a human being chanced to
pass that way!  Would his body confront some wandering shepherd or some
sportsman months hence, when the snows had gone, and, perhaps--horrible
thought, yet possible to be realized!--after carrion birds had made
their onslaught on the foul thing it had become?

Be sure he called himself every kind of idiot for venturing on such a
fool's errand at such a time.  But that did not warm his shivering
limbs or infuse patience into his almost despairing heart.  The cold
was intense.  He was obliged at last to move away from his
shelter--such as it was--and in spite of the thick snow beneath his
feet, and the hurrying flakes still noiselessly but relentlessly
falling, to trample some kind of pathway in which he might pace
backwards and forwards to keep the blood circulating in his veins.

It was not quite dark, but the gray curtain of falling snow shut out
everything from his vision; no sound could be heard but the rush of the
wind over the slopes, and an occasional wail nearer at hand, as it
swished round a corner of the rocks behind him.  He dare not attempt to
climb higher, nor dare he descend.  What unexplored expanses of
moorland might lie beyond, to lure him farther away from the chance of
shelter or rescue?  What hidden pitfalls might not lurk below, to trap
his inexperienced feet and hurl him to his death?

Warmed by his exercise, he crept back into his recess to await the
possibility of some cessation of the storm.  Busied with anxious
thoughts, he failed to notice the gradual lessening of the snow-flakes
and the lull in the wind beyond the rocks.  It was only when the moon
shone out clearly once more that he perceived that the storm was over.

Courage returned at once.  He left his shelter and tried to find the
direction of the upward path.  Light had dispelled his fears.  It was
better to trust himself to the dangers of the higher level than to risk
a fall into some crevice on the downward way.  Before his eyes lay
stretched out a vast snowfield!  More dazzlingly white in the moonlight
than before, a thick carpet of snow lessened every inequality of
surface; it softened every hard outline, while it filled up
depressions.  Sounding every step as he advanced, he trod slowly
upwards; plowing now and again into drifts waist-deep, staggering over
submerged bowlders and stony heaps whose unexpected existence would
often imperil his balance, he managed to climb considerably higher.
But his progress was necessarily slow.  He kept as near as possible to
the rocky ridge which had sheltered him; for on his other hand the
ground sloped downwards in a steep gradient, and the treacherous snow
might well conceal many a deadly peril.

His strength was becoming exhausted by the severe strain of wading
through the deep drifts when, turning round a corner of the wall of
rock beside him, his eyes were gladdened by a welcome sight.  Across
the expanse of snow he could see shining a tiny bright light.  It was
no reflection from the moonbeams, for it burned with a reddish glow
amid the dazzling whiteness all around.  His courage revived; he was
certainly not far from some habitation--perhaps the very one he sought!
The thought filled him with fresh vigor; his wearied limbs gained new
strength, and he climbed forward with energy and decision.  But, alas!
in spite of his efforts, the light seemed to recede; it grew gradually
smaller and less bright until he lost sight of it altogether.

The man's powers of endurance were well-nigh spent.  His food had been
eaten long before while he lay in shelter; his flask--more carefully
husbanded--was now empty.  He almost gave up striving.  Why not give
way to the almost uncontrollable desire to lie down and rest in the
snow?  He could hold out no longer!

It was at that critical moment that through the intense stillness of
the mountain solitudes he heard the bark of a dog!  Once more he picked
up courage.  Staggering on a few steps further, he saw from behind an
intervening rock, which had concealed it till then, the light from a
window not far ahead!

All interest in his errand had departed long before.  What did he care
if the mountain were full of illicit stills?  The only desire that
possessed him now was that roused by the human instinct in every man in
peril of his life--the desire to escape from danger.  Oh, for
sufficient strength to creep onwards!  If he could but hold out a
little, shelter and warmth, and--above all--safety would be his!  So
once again, wearily, painfully, and slowly, he plowed his way through
the drifts toward the beacon that shone ahead.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Within the modest dwelling to which Davie Forbes was wont to refer as
his "hoosachie" (little house), on snow-clad Ben Sguarrach, the
living-room looked cosy enough on that wild evening.  By the two
windows--one at the gable-end of the house, the other near the door--no
icy draught could enter, for both apertures were hermetically sealed!
All the ventilation deemed necessary during the daytime came through
the usually open door, by which Maggie Jean was continually passing in
and out, bent on domestic duties.  (Like other Scottish housewives, she
carried out much of her rougher and dirtier housework in the open.) At
night, when work was over, the bright lamp and fire of glowing peat and
blazing logs kept the house warm and snug; the pungent "reek" from the
peat, too, acted as a healthy disinfectant.

Everything was scrupulously clean.  The flagged floor, the deal table,
the dresser, with its shelves filled with crockery--all spoke of
frequent and thorough scrubbing.  The high mantel-shelf bore brass
candlesticks--more for ornament than use--which had been polished till
they shone like gold.  The very walls had been so often subjected to
Maggie Jean's whitewashing brush that they were spotless.

Under the overhanging ingle-nook, in which a ham or two were hanging
overhead, sat Davie in his own special corner and his own special
chair, calmly smoking; opposite sat Jock, a black-bearded man of sturdy
build, who was also smoking.  Both were listening to Maggie Jean, who,
seated near her father, was reading in a monotonous voice the choice
extracts from a three-days-old local paper.  Now and again, as the snow
beat more forcibly upon the window, or the wind moaned round the corner
of the house, or drove the peat reek in gusts into the room, she would
pause and glance anxiously through the uncurtained window near the
door.  For Peter had gone down to the croft to bring back a bag of
turnips for her "coo" during this unforeseen spell of fierce weather.
The storm had come on suddenly, and provender was low; so Peter had
volunteered his services in his characteristically shy way (which a
southron, perhaps, would have taken for an indication of surliness),
and his sister, in equally characteristic Scottish fashion, had
accepted the offer with the air of one who had a right to it.  Yet all
the while (I am sure, for I know the type well!) Peter was full of
tender compassion for the poor beast, and Maggie Jean's heart
overflowed with solicitude for her brother's safe return.

"Eh!  But it's a fearfu' nicht, and nae mistak'!" old Davie would
exclaim, as the storm made itself felt more than usual.

"Aye, aye, it is thot," was Jock's imperturbable reply.

And Maggie Jean, with an anxious sigh, would resume her slow chant,
punctuated by occasional glances outside.

But a dash at the door from without, and Don's joyful barking, told of
the return of the dog and his master.  Snow-clad Peter, with his
lantern, looking like some rustic Santa Claus--all white from head to
foot--made his appearance, and with much stamping and shaking off of
the snow from his garments, divested himself of his wraps, and joined
the family circle, pushing his way past Jock to the corner nearest the
fire, his dog following at his heels.

"Eh!  But it's bin gey stormy!" he said as he filled his pipe.

"Nae doot o' thot!" hazarded Jock, solemnly sucking away at his.

"The sna's gey deep, I doot," remarked Davie interrogatively.

"Some o' the reefs is fower foot an' mair," answered Peter
nonchalantly, between puffs of smoke.

The announcement caused no visible surprise.  Maggie Jean made a

"It's fair noo," she said, glancing through the window, "and there's a
bonny moon!"

"Aye," responded Peter.  "There's bin nae sna' this guid while."

The party had settled down to silent contemplation of the cheery fire,
the men enjoying their pipes, Maggie Jean busy with her knitting.  No
sound disturbed the peaceful calm except the regular faint click of the
rapidly moving knitting-pins.

Suddenly there was a loud noise at the door.  It was not so much a
knock as the fall of some heavy body against it.  Don's startled bark
roused all from their seats, and Peter made for the door at once,
having first quieted the dog by the forcible argument of a
well-directed kick.  "It's a mon," he cried in surprise as he opened
the door, "faint wi' the cauld!"  And at once strong arms lifted the
prostrate form out of the snow and bore it to the warm hearthside.

It was a man--young and handsome.  He was well dressed, and his thick
gloves, gaiters and strong boots, together with his warm clothing,
showed him to be not altogether unprovided against the cold whose
unusual potency had overcome him.  He had evidently tramped for some
distance in deep snow, and gave proofs of more than one fall into the

The men busied themselves in efforts for his restoration.  Maggie Jean
produced whiskey, which they administered in small doses; Jock and
Peter drew off the man's sodden boots and socks, and chafed his hands
and feet in the warmth of the fire.  Old Davie stood regarding the
stranger attentively during these proceedings.

"It's himsel', I doot," he remarked to Jock at last.  "D'ye ken him?"

"Aye, aye," said Jock dispassionately.  "I ken him fine.  I see him in
the toon last market-day.  It's himsel', sure enough!"

"Eh!  Puir body!" exclaimed old Davie.  "And mayhe the creetur wes on
his wye t' oor still."

"Nae doot o' thot," remarked Peter, while Jock wisely nodded assent.

"No' but what he'd find it gey hard to come up wi't in the sna' and
a'!" added the latter, in a tone of unrestrained congratulation.

They spoke in half-whispers, and never ceased their charitable
ministrations the while.  Not a word passed on the subject again, for
in a few minutes the stranger had gained consciousness.  He looked in a
puzzled way from one face to another, not realizing for the moment
where he was.  Davie was the first to speak.

"The storm's bin ower muckle for ye, sir, I'm thinkin'," he said
kindly.  "It's weel ye chanced to find y'r wye t' oor wee hoosachie.
It's nae muckle to be prood on; but it's better ner bein' ootside in
siclike weather, I doot!"

Bonar suddenly became aware of the identity of his hosts.  He had no
doubt that this was Davie Forbes, whom he had come to spy upon and
denounce!  But he was no coward, and quickly reassured himself that
duty alone had led him.  Still, he was indebted to his enemies!

"I'm greatly obliged to you, indeed," he said with genuine gratitude.
"I probably owe my life to the good luck that led me to your door."

"Na, na, mon," replied Davie.  "Ye've naething to thank us for.  But
ye'll need a bit supper!" he added, as Bonar rose to his feet and
seemed about to prepare for departure.  (He felt rather unsteady on his
legs, but go he must, as he assured himself resolutely.)

"Aye, sure!" cried Maggie Jean, seconding her father's hospitable
invitation.  And without another word she produced from various hidden
receptacles tablecloth, knives and forks, bread, oatcake, butter,
cheese, and jam, with the rapidity of a conjurer--as the dazed Bonar
thought.  Then down came a frying-pan, and she began to cook eggs and
ham over the bright fire.

It was impossible to resist, and Bonar had no wish to refuse the food
he needed so badly.

"You're very good, I'm sure!" he faltered out.  "I really think it was
hunger alone that made me faint.  I've never done such a thing in my
life before!"

"Ye'd be nane the worse for a wee drappie sperrits afore y'r supper,"
said Davie.  "Peter, lad, fetch oot a drap frae yon jar beyont!"

Peter dutifully obeyed, retiring into some back recess and returning
with a small jug of whiskey, from which his father poured out drams for
the guest and himself.

"Y'r guid health, sir!" he said hospitably, lifting his glass.  "May ye
be nane the worse for y'r wettin', the nicht!"

Bonar would have been less than human to have refused.  He quietly
sipped his whiskey, which was excellent.  The spirit gave him renewed
strength; the savor of Maggie Jean's cooking whetted his appetite.  He
owed it to himself to take ordinary care of his health, he reasoned
interiorly.  He would tell them who he was, though, before he left.

He had indeed been saved from serious disaster, if not from death, by
means of this family.  Peter's lantern--which he had not troubled to
extinguish when the moon rendered it no longer necessary--had been
Bonar's first guiding-star.  Don's bark had renewed his energy, and the
result was shelter and hospitality.  Like a sensible man he accepted
the good fortune which had fallen to him, and ate a hearty meal.

When it came to the question of starting out again, he found it less
easy than he had anticipated.

"Ye'll nae think o' leavin' this hoose the nicht!" the old man
declared, when, after his supper and a pipe, Bonar touched on the

"It's an impossibeelity for ony mon as disna' ken the hill yon to find
his wye up or doon in siclike weather," Jock added grimly.

Bonar knew how true was Jock's remark.  Nevertheless, he felt very
uncomfortable at the prospect of remaining there for the night, as
Davie had proposed.  Did they know who he was?  It seemed most
unlikely, with the kindness they had shown him!  Yet he could not stay,
he told himself, under false pretences.

"It's more than kind of you to treat me like this," he said.  "I could
never have expected such a friendly welcome to one who is a perfect
stranger to you all."

"Nae altogither a stranger, whateever," returned Davie--and for a
moment there was ever so slight a suspicion of a twinkle in his kindly
old eyes.  "Ye're the new gauger we've haird sae muckle aboot, I'm

"Quite so," stammered Bonar, rather shamefacedly, "and--it's really
very good of you to show me so much kindness."

"Na, na, sir," said the old man warmly.  "I should be wantin' in human
feelin' if I wes to turn a dog oot sic a nicht--still mair a
fellow-creetur.  Na, na, sir!  Juist ye sit still, and Maggie Jean'll
redd up the bed for ye beyont for y'r nicht's rest!"

So in the smuggler's very house the smuggler's natural enemy was bound
to rest for the night, having been warmed at the smuggler's hearth and
cheered and invigorated by whiskey that had paid no duty!

It was with changed mien that Bonar trod his downward path next morning
under Peter's guidance.

Be sure he lost no time in applying for removal to a new sphere of
labor!  Let others tackle Davie Forbes and his sons if they wished; as
for himself, he could never so repay the fearless generosity to which
he owed--as he firmly believed--the saving of his life!



  "This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him."
          (_"Hamlet" Act I, Sc. 1._)

Strolling across the little stableyard one day to have a look at Tim, our
pony, I heard from the open door of the kitchen Penny's voice, raised in

"_Ghost_, indeed!"  And withering scorn was expressed in the very tone of
her ejaculation.  "When you're my _h_age you'll have learned to take no
'eed of such nonsense!  There's no such a thing; and I'm surprised as a
Catholic girl, born and bred, should be that superstitious!  You mustn't
believe such rubbish!"

I scented entertainment, for Penny dogmatizing on spiritualism was likely
to prove interesting.

"What's up, Penny?" I inquired with an air of innocence, as she suddenly
emerged from the kitchen, wrathfully brandishing a huge knife--as who
should say, in Hamlet's words:

"I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!"

had she not been bent upon the more peaceful, if prosaic, slaughter of a
lettuce for the luncheon salad.

Penny was just in the mood to give vent to her theological opinions
concerning the possibility of visits from another world, and at once
seized the opportunity of imparting a little wholesome instruction to any
audience obtainable.

"The nonsense that folks get into their 'eads nowadays, Mr. Edmund--what
with these trashy novels and 'apenny papers--is something past belief!
Not but what Elsie is a good, quiet girl enough, and reg'lar at her
duties every first Sunday in the month; but she's young, and I suppose we
'ave to make allowance for young folk."

I murmured in token of acquiescence.

"I let her off for the afternoon yesterday, to take tea with her _h_aunt
from America, and back she comes with a cock-and-bull story of a
_h_apparition her youngest brother Aleck imagined he saw the night before

"An apparition!" I cried.  "That's strange!  Where did the boy see it?"

"He couldn't have seen it, Mr. Edmund, as you must know very well, with
your _h_education and experience.  He was running home in the moonlight
and thought he saw some figure in the old mill, which, of course, he says
must have been a ghost."

"A ghost at the old mill!"  I laughed heartily myself at the notion.  "It
couldn't have been poor old Archie.  It's not like him to terrify his
neighbors in that way."

"I gave the girl a good talking to," continued Penny.  (I did not doubt
it!)  "'Read your Penny Catechism,' I said, 'and see how strong it is
against dealing with the Devil by consulting spiritualists, and don't let
me hear another word about it.'"

It seemed rather hard on poor Elsie, who was, beyond doubt, innocent of
any such forbidden practices.  But I refrained from comment, for I wanted
to hear more about the _h_apparition.

But Penny could not be drawn out.  She professed herself so disgusted at
Elsie's "superstition" that I could get no coherent account of what Aleck
was supposed to have seen.  So I left her to vent her wrath on the
defenceless vegetables, and determined to seek a more copious source of

Willy and Bell would be capable of second-hand descriptions only, so I
resolved to approach the fountain-head and interrogate Aleck in person.
I found the youth in the garden of Fanellan farm, evidently just passing
the time by a cursory pruning of berry bushes.  He had on his Sunday
suit, and was unusually smartened up for a weekday; for it was but
natural that neighbors might be expected to drop in for information as to
the supernatural manifestations he had experienced, and it was well to be
prepared.  He was a fresh-looking, fair-haired lad of eighteen or
thereabouts.  I had often noticed him on Sundays among the gathering
under the pine-trees near the church door, but had never spoken to him.

Aleck had not expected so illustrious a visitor as "the priest's
brother," and, though evidently gratified by my interest, was so
painfully shy that it would have needed an expert barrister to draw out
any satisfactory information from so bashful a witness.  Luckily his
mother had espied me from the window, and promptly appeared on the scene,
and by means of her judicious prompting the youth was induced to tell his

It appeared that Aleck was out on the night in question at the unusual
hour of twelve.  He had been "bidden," as his mother explained, to a
marriage in the neighborhood, and his father had allowed him to accept
the invitation on the condition of his return home by midnight.  As is
not unusual in such cases, the attractions of the dance had led the youth
to postpone his departure, minute by minute, until it was questionable
whether he could possibly reach home by the appointed time, even if he
ran his best.  Consequently he took all the short cuts he knew, and one
of them led him by the old mill.

I was well aware, from an anecdote related to me by Penny, that John
Farquhar, the lad's father, was a stern disciplinarian.  Elsie's elder
sister, Jean, a lass of nineteen, had once happened to return home from
confession rather later than usual one Saturday evening, owing to the
exceptionally large number awaiting their turn in the church.  On
reaching home about half-past eight on a spring evening, she became aware
of her father standing in the dusk at the garden gate, holding an
ominously slender walking-stick in his hand.  With this he proceeded to
deal several far from gentle strokes upon the girl's shoulders,
regardless of her frightened remonstrances and explanations.

"I dinna' care wha ye come frae, chaipel or nae chaipel; ye'll nae be
alloowed oot at sic an hoor!"

In the light of this circumstance it was not difficult to understand
Aleck's desire to reach Fanellan punctually.  But to return to his

As he approached the old mill he became aware of a light shining from one
of the windows.  Thinking that some traveling tinkers had taken up free
lodgings there, he was preparing to pass as quickly and quietly as
possible, to avoid drawing attention upon himself and delaying his
progress.  But, to his astonishment, the light suddenly went out, and by
the time he reached the house it was wrapped in darkness.  There was
little moonlight (spite of Penny's indignant insinuations), for it was a
cloudy night, and the lad would have had difficulty in finding his way
had it not been so familiar.  Curiosity urged Aleck to investigate the
mystery of the light, and, forgetful for the moment of his father's
injunction, he crept quietly to the unglazed window and looked through
the opening.  Not a sound revealed the presence of any human being
within.  A silence, accentuated no doubt by his startled imagination,
seemed to hang over the place.  He was starting on again when a strange
sight met his eyes.  Suddenly out of the darkness of the cottage shone
out the figure of a human hand!  It seemed to glow with a faint greenish
light, and it held a long pointed knife, which burned with the same pale
hue.  Nothing else could be seen except a kind of gauzy floating sleeve,
from which the mysterious hand emerged.  Aleck had no wish to investigate
further, but promptly took to his heels, and made for home with all
speed, frightened out of his wits.

As luck would have it, the clock by which he had started was fast, and he
was home in good time.  The circumstance tended to render his story more
worthy of credence than it might otherwise have proved.  But his evident
terror, and the very incoherence of his narrative, told in his favor.

"He's been a truthful lad all his days," his mother proudly testified;
"while as to drink--not a drop of spirits has passed his lips sin' I gev'
him a wee drop for the spasms when he wes a wean!"

And Aleck's blushing approval of the maternal statement bore witness to
its truth.

I confess that the story did not in the least rouse any superstitious
credence in my mind.  Luminous paint was not such an unknown quantity to
me as it would be to this country-bred lad and his family.  I took care,
however, to breathe no word of my suspicions; for I meant to make a few
investigations on my own account.  So with the looked-for expressions of
astonishment, I took my leave.

I had been asked to dine at Ardmuir House that evening, and as it was a
matter of eight miles distant, I was to stay the night.  Accordingly, I
started in good time in the pony cart, old Willy by my side to bring back
the trap.  Colonel Ashol was by way of being civil to Val and myself, and
frequently invited us; my brother, however, seldom accepted, and was
always glad when I undertook to represent the Flemings there.  The
Ashols, though a family of a feeble type of Protestants, showed no
decided bigotry.  They had a few Catholics in their employ on the estate,
and were cordial enough with us.

Ardmuir House and some of its land had been Church property before the
Reformation.  Val looked the matter up once, and discovered that it had
been a dependency upon one of the larger abbeys, and was itself a place
of no little importance.

The mansion itself was rather picturesque; it had been rebuilt in a later
century on the site and from the materials of the former church and
monastery.  You drove for some distance up a stately avenue of beeches
before sighting the house.  It was a big, roomy place, with fine large
windows and handsome moldings round them--probably portions of the spoils
of the ancient erection.  A wide portico, supported on stone pillars,
stood in front of the chief entrance, and carriages might drive under its
shelter to set down the occupants at the doorstep.  An air of gloom
seemed to hang about it, owing to the huge trees which grew pretty close
to it in places.

The one striking feature about the house was the parapet, which ran round
the entire roof.  This was pierced in such a way as to form the letters
composing a text of Scripture.  The inscription, in huge characters, ran


The idea of such a decoration doubtless originated with the desire of
some pious Presbyterian ancestor of the present owners to emphasize the
fact that the ancient builders had not made pure Gospel teaching their
sure foundation.  But, by the irony of fate, the text had become a
striking commentary upon the fortunes of later possessors of sacrilegious
spoils; for it was a tradition--upon which the family kept a discreet
silence--that three male heirs in direct succession had never lived to
inherit the property.  At the very time of which I am writing, Colonel
Ashol's only son was suffering from what doctors had pronounced to be
incipient spinal disease, which, should it develop, would render him a
helpless cripple for life--should life be granted to him.

I was rather more keen than usual about that particular visit, as I
expected to meet a young Catholic priest, who was to stay with the Ashols
for a day or two in company with his mother, an old friend of the
hostess.  For that reason Val would have accompanied me that evening, in
spite of his aversion to such "inanities," as he chose to call dinner
parties, had he not been otherwise engaged.  He had already made an
appointment to interview for the first time a girl who lived some
distance away and could not be easily postponed; moreover, the occasion
was important, being the commencement of a series of instructions
preparatory to her reception into the Church.  For the lassie in
question--to use the terminology of Ardmuirland--"had gotten a Catholic
man"; in other words, was engaged to be married to a Catholic, who had
inspired her with the desire of sharing his faith as well as his worldly

It was early when I arrived.  The Colonel and some of the men were still
out on the moors, but a few guests were sitting about in the big, cool
entrance hall, waiting for tea.  Among them were Mrs. Vansome and her
son, to both of whom I was at once presented.  They happened to be the
only Catholics of the house party.  We chatted amicably for some time,
until the dressing-bell broke up the gathering for the nonce.

I happened to remain for a few minutes in the hall after the rest had
left; I wanted to look into a paper which was there, and I knew my room
from previous visits.  The staircase ran along two sides of the hall and
led to a broad corridor, upon which the rooms opened.  Another passage at
right angles joined this corridor, and to reach my room I had to pass by
the end of it.

It was just between daylight and dusk, on a September evening, and no
lamps were yet needed.  As I passed the passage on my way I saw an
elderly lady coming toward the main corridor.  I am no great observer of
feminine costume--perhaps because I am not much in ladies' company, or,
it may be, because I never had a sister to instruct me; I can only say of
this lady's dress, therefore, that it struck me as differing from those I
had lately seen in the hall, both in fashion and material.  I remember
hearing a rustling as of silk, and I think there was some white lace
about the neck and hair.

But what struck me most was the woman's face.  I had looked in her
direction, lest I might seem discourteous to some acquaintance; but this
was a stranger.  The face was that of a woman in an agony of suffering!
The wide-open eyes were full of trouble; the whole countenance expressed
pain and something like terror.  (I am describing the impression made
upon me at the moment, for the incident passed more quickly than it takes
to tell, however brief the narration.)

As my eyes met hers, the woman stretched out her hands with an appealing
gesture, and seemed to be hastening swiftly toward me.  But just as she
was almost near enough to touch me, she suddenly disappeared--having
turned, as it seemed to me, into a door close by.

For a moment I stood bewildered.  Then that look of appeal for help came
back to mind; it was evident something was wrong.  I at once entered the
open door into which the figure had passed, determined to do what I could
to assist one in such unmistakable need of help.  To my astonishment I
found that the place was a mere housemaid's closet, for the keeping of
brooms, dusting appliances, and the like.  It was but a tiny room, too; a
glance from the threshold was enough to convince me that no human being
was there!

It was not so much surprise as terror that seized me at such a discovery.
I found myself wiping from my brow the cold sweat that stood there in
great drops.  I felt certain that I had been face to face with something
unexplainable by the ordinary laws of nature.  I was as well as usual.  I
had read nothing of late that could have conjured up such a figure.  As
to preternatural manifestations of such a kind--I had but that very day,
and but an hour or two ago, passed supercilious judgment on what I
thought the credulity of ignorant rustics.  And yet here I was, the
victim to some such hallucination--unless it was possible that I had
really seen the figure with my bodily eyes!  My knees were shaking under
me as I managed to reach my room, my whole being agitated by an
unaccountable sense of fear.

Luckily we were allowed an unusually long time for dressing, and I was
able to get a smoke and take a bath; by dinner-time I was more like

I tried hard at first to persuade myself that the entire scene had been
imaginary; but I could not succeed.  I was too firmly convinced that I
had actually seen such a figure to entertain the idea.

Dinner passed without particular incident.  I had an interesting chat
after with young Father Vansome.  I discovered that he was a Benedictine
attached to one of the English monasteries, and had been permitted, as a
relief from a long spell of heavy teaching work, to spend a few days at
Ardmuir House, where his mother was then staying.  He was dressed like an
ordinary priest; this, as he explained, was out of consideration for the
Ashols, who were entertaining among their guests that day some of
ultra-Protestant views, who might have resented the intrusion into their
midst of a real live monk, "in habit as he lived."

More than once during our conversation the extraordinary occurrence which
had disturbed my peace of mind kept intruding itself upon my mental
vision, and again and again it was almost divulged to my companion; but I
shrank from being laughed at as a victim to superstitious imaginings.  I
had a priest for a brother, and no one knew better than I how sceptical
were our own clergy with regard to any supernatural happenings that had
not been corroborated by the testimony of reliable authority.

There was the usual smoke, with the usual billiards, and bedtime arrived
without any disclosure on my part of the mysterious incident.  I did not
fear further revelations, for my bedroom was nowhere near the scene of
the apparition.  I must confess to a momentary creepy sensation as I
passed, in company with other men, the corridor of the adventure; but
nothing happened to disturb my rest materially.

I like to be stirring at a pretty early hour, to get a morning pipe of
peace.  But in a strange house it is not always convenient to prowl about
too soon; however, I could not interfere with any one in the garden, so
to the garden I promptly betook myself.  It wanted an hour until
breakfast, and I was rather surprised to find the Benedictine already
pacing the broad walk under the terrace, which was out of view of the
windows.  He was not smoking, though, and when I accosted him it seemed
to me that he looked somewhat disturbed and embarrassed.  We passed a few
desultory remarks, and then he asked whether I intended to leave early
after breakfast or stay for lunch.  As it happened, I had arranged for
Willy to bring the cart in time to start soon after ten; for Val had to
drive somewhere in the afternoon, and it was as well to give Tim a rest
before starting out again.  This I explained to Father Vansome.

"I wonder whether you could give me a lift," was his remark.  "I should
very much like to consult Father Fleming upon a certain matter, and if
you could take me, it would avoid a fuss here.  I shall enjoy the tramp
back again."

Of course I was delighted to give him a lift.  So we set off in due time
with Willy on the back seat.  I had been rejoicing in the prospect of an
agreeable drive with a pleasant companion, for I had been greatly
attracted by the young monk; but I was doomed to disappointment.  My
constant efforts at conversation fell flat; for the priest seemed
preoccupied, and his responses were evidently merely mechanical.

Father Vansome was closeted with Val up to lunch time.  He sat down to
table with us, and after the meal he and Val drove off together in the
trap; they had arranged that Father Vansome should get down at a point
where their roads diverged.  I was rather astonished to learn, when I
took leave of him, that he hoped to return that same evening, as he had a
particular reason for wishing to say Mass next day.

Left to myself, I turned my steps in the direction of Archie's former
dwelling at the old mill; for I hoped to light upon some evidence which
would clear up to my own satisfaction at least the apparent mystery of
Aleck Farquhar's ghost story.  Although I could not account by any
natural means for the event which had startled me at Ardmuir House, I was
nevertheless still sceptical with regard to the supposed apparition at
the mill-house.  Indeed, I felt more certain than ever that a living
person had been playing pranks in the latter case, to serve some purpose
of his own; the impossibility of fraud in my regard contrasted strongly
with its probability at the old mill.

I was not deceived in my expectation.  I found that the boards that
usually covered the window opening had been carefully removed, and were
standing in a corner awaiting replacement, probably.  Here was a sign
that the midnight visitor had been surprised, and had not dared to wait
to cover up the window again--unless, indeed, it meant that another
"apparition" was intended.  But a more close investigation convinced me
of trickery.  Flung away into a corner was a small brush bearing traces
of luminous paint, and in a heap of rubbish I discerned the very lid of a
small tin of that effective spiritualistic medium.  No further proof was
needed.  By lucky chance I discovered what appeared to be a clue to the
reason of all this mystification.  Loosened stones in the chimney and by
the hearth suggested that a search had been made for something supposed
to be hidden in the hut.  The spiritual visitor had evidently been bent
upon seizing the material riches which rumor had doubtless located in the
dwelling of one whom those not in his confidence would have reason to
regard as a miser.  Here then was one illusion dissipated by my

Father Vansome was driven over again in time for dinner.  During the
progress of the meal I was inclined to make merry over my find; but I had
little success in gaining the interest either of Val or our guest, who
both seemed to shun the topic.

When dinner was over, it occurred to me to introduce the subject of my
own ghostly experience, for I was curious to hear what the priests would
think of it.  As I led up to it by degrees I saw the dark eyes of Father
Vansome light up with expectation.  Both he and Val listened with keen
interest, neither attempting to interrupt the narration.  Then they
looked spontaneously at each other.

"I am quite as convinced as yourself," said the Benedictine to me as I
finished my relation, "that what you saw was neither an hallucination nor
a human figure.  I have seen it also, and that is why I am here now."

He then gave, in turn, his experience.  During the early part of the
night he had been unusually restless.  When he did at last fall asleep he
had a strange dream.  He saw the figure of an elderly woman, clad in
antique garb, holding by the hand a young man, who wore the habit of his
own Order.  The woman fixed upon him eyes full of entreaty, and implored
him in piteous accents to offer Mass for her soul, for it was in his
power to release her from grievous torments.  Father Vansome then awoke,
the impression made by his dream still vivid.  He struck a light and
looked at his watch.  It was two o'clock only; but his nerves were too
highly strung to suffer him to sleep again, and he lay wondering what the
dream could signify.

Suddenly, while still wide awake, he was aware of the figure of the woman
of his dream standing by his bed.  Her eyes were full of intense
supplication, and her hands stretched out to him in eager entreaty.
Yielding to a sudden, irresistible impulse, he exclaimed:

"Tell me, in God's name, who you are and what you want of me?"

The answer came in a clear, distinct voice:

"I am Elizabeth Ashol.  I am suffering for a wrong done to my stepson,
Gilbert, a monk of your Order.  Say Mass for my soul and I shall have

Then the figure vanished.

Father Vansome naturally had no more sleep that morning.  Very early,
indeed, he was summoned to his mother's bedside by her maid, and found
her as agitated as himself.  From her lips he learned that she too had
been visited by the figure he had himself seen.  The woman, answering to
the description of his ghostly visitor, had approached Mrs. Vansome's
bed, when she was still wide awake, with outstretched hands and
entreating eyes, but no voice had been heard.

The apparition to his mother had convinced Father Vansome that what he
had experienced was no trick of the imagination.  He had, however, taken
counsel with Val, who, like himself, was of opinion that the Mass ought
to be said.  He had found on returning to Ardmuir House that morning that
his mother had confided the matter to Mrs. Ashol, and had heard from her
that previous visitors had experienced similar apparitions; on further
consideration it was discovered--though Mrs. Ashol had not realized it
before--that such persons had been invariably Catholics.  There was,
however, no record of the figure having spoken; this had happened for the
first time to the only Benedictine monk who had ever entered the house
since Elizabeth Ashol's death, two centuries before.

It appeared that a certain Dame Elizabeth Ashol, second wife of Gilbert
Ashol, lived in the latter part of the seventeenth century.  She had one
son, Laurence, to whom his father left the estate, to the exclusion of
his eldest son, Gilbert, the offspring of the first marriage.  This
youth, to his father's intense indignation, had reverted to the faith of
his ancestors; soon after his conversion he had entered a monastery on
the continent, with a view to returning, as so many of his religious
brethren were then doing, to work for the restoration of his
fellow-countrymen to the Church.  It was generally thought that Dame
Elizabeth, in her ambition for the welfare of her own son, had encouraged
her husband in his religious bias, and secured the succession for
Laurence.  It was held in the family that the disasters which had always
befallen the first-born of the house dated from the unjust acquisition of
the estate by this Laurence, and the entire disinheriting of Gilbert; it
was from a kind of superstitious dread attaching to the name that no
Ashol for a long term of years had ever been baptized Laurence.

Father Vansome said the required Mass next morning, and his mother drove
over to assist at it.  Her prayers and mine were thus united with the
supreme Sacrifice on behalf of the soul so greatly in need.

The apparition has never been seen again, though many a Catholic guest
has visited Ardmuir House.  More wonderful still--the curse seems to have
been averted by the laying of the ghost; for young Gilbert Ashol has so
greatly improved in health and strength that his doctors predict for him
a probably long and useful life.

The family has indeed been thoroughly impressed by the strange
circumstances just related.  In the light of their increasing interest in
all things Catholic, Val is beginning to entertain hopes of the ultimate
return of the Ashols to the Faith their fathers abandoned more than three
hundred years ago.



  "Now Ariel goes a-singing, by the olden
    Dark yews, where flitter-mice were wont to cling.
  All the world is turning golden, turning golden
        In the spring."
          (_Nora Hopper--"April"_)

"Guess the latest news, Ted," said my brother, coming in from parochial

I shook my head.

"I'm no hand at riddles."

"Well, there's a marriage to come off in our parish before long, if
matters can be satisfactorily arranged."

"A marriage!"  That roused me; it would be the first function of the
kind I had seen in Ardmuirland.  For our lads usually fetched partners
from elsewhere, and maidens being accustomed to migrate to service in
the south, found mates there--even as the swallows.

"I thought that would fetch you!" cried Val triumphant.  "And now give
a guess."

But I racked my brains to no purpose.

"It's not Widow Lamont, and it's not Robina----"

"Why not?" he asked.  But I saw he was quizzing.

"It's a widow," he said.  "I'll tell you that much."

Even then I was nonplussed.

"Ted, you've no imagination!  Is Christian Logan too old?"

"Christian Logan!  Of course not!  Who's the happy man?"

"He's not altogether happy yet," returned Val.  "There are obstacles in
the way at present.  Do you know the Camerons of Redbank Farm at all?"

"Camerons of Redbank!  Why, they're Protestants!"

"Tell me something I don't know already," he retorted.

"I can say very little about them.  There are two brothers, I
believe--one very middle-aged and the other less so.  I may have passed
the time of day with one or the other."

"Well, it's the less middle-aged one--Lachlan by name--who wants to
marry Christian.  It's all right about religion.  He's ready to make
all the necessary promises, and moreover, remarked quite spontaneously
that he intended coming to church with his wife after they were
married--a most unusual undertaking in these cases.  He's evidently
merely ignorant of everything Catholic; not bigoted, really.  With a
wife like Christian, he is most likely to enter the Church himself

"But what are these almost insurmountable obstacles?"

"Chiefly financial.  It seems that the elder brother is the actual
tenant of Redbank, and Lachlan is little better than a farm-servant at
present.  It would be scarcely possible for the poor chap to support a
wife and three of a ready-made family on the wages of a mere
plowman--except, of course, in the style of a common laborer, and he is
far above that.  The best way out of the difficulty would be for
Christian to manage the house at Redbank, instead of a paid
housekeeper; but the old brother is bitter against Catholics, and more
opposed to young children in the house.  Hence these tears!  Don't you
think there are rather respectable obstacles to be overcome?"

"Quite.  So what did you suggest?"

"Cameron himself suggested what I think a reasonable solution: to try
for some situation as farm bailiff or manager.  He is thoroughly up to
it all, for he has been practically managing things at Redbank for the
last year or two, and has plenty of experience in farm work."

"He ought to be able to find something of the sort.  Could the factor
at Taskerton do anything for him, do you think?  Christian has already
lost a husband in the service of the estate, and it would be but
restitution to provide her with another."

"The idea struck me, too, though not in precisely the same terms," said
Val with an amused laugh.  "I am thinking of writing to him about the

"You are really satisfied with the man, then?"

"Decidedly so!  He struck me as being a very decent sort of fellow.  He
has a straight-forward, pleasant manner with him, and is altogether
superior to an ordinary crofter.  It would be a good match for
Christian.  Poor soul!  She deserves a better lot than she enjoys at

"What's his age, do you suppose?"

"Forty-six.  Quite a lad, for these parts!"

"Things look all right, certainly," was my summing up.

Val wrote to the factor, but the result was not over-promising.  He
knew of nothing suitable at present.  But he would keep the case in
mind, and write at once should he hear of anything available.

Both Val and I were keen on getting the matter settled, and often
talked it over together, discussing ways and means.  But the weeks
slipped by, and we found ourselves no nearer to a solution of the
difficulty.  We little dreamed of the quarter from which it was
eventually to come!

One day as we sat at breakfast Elsie brought in a telegram for Val.  It
was a somewhat unusual occurrence; for we were a good way from the
office, and, porterage being expensive, we had carefully instructed our
ordinary correspondents that we preferred the humbler post-card, as a
rule.  When a telegram did arrive, therefore, it generally presaged
something of unusual importance.  I saw Val's face change as he read
it.  He passed it over to me as he rose to write a reply.  This is what
I saw:

  "Gowan dying wants to see you come immediately."

It was signed by a Glasgow doctor, and sent from one of the chief
hotels of the city.

I followed Val to his den, where he was writing the answer.

"Would you mind my coming with you?" I asked.

"I should like it of all things," was his reply.

In less than half an hour we had started, and before night had arrived
at our destination.

It always seems to me that one feels one's personal insignificance more
keenly in a big city than anywhere else.  The hurry and bustle on all
sides witness to the self-interest which rules every individual of the
crowd, to the exclusion of any sincere concern for others.  The feeling
was accentuated when we reached the hotel.  There all was brightness
and movement; in the brilliantly lighted dining-room guests were
eating, drinking, chatting, and enjoying life; in the hall and on the
staircases attendants were moving swiftly about, visitors were coming
and going.  Each one's pleasures, comforts, and advantages were the
business of the hour.  Yet in some chamber overhead a momentous crisis
was at hand for one poor, lonely man, who had to leave behind him this
scene of busy life, to enter upon an eternity of weal or woe.  Upon the
passing moments everything depended for him; he had to prepare to meet
his God.  Around him things were taking their usual course; it mattered
little to the majority of the people under that roof whether he lived
or died, and less still how his soul would fare in that passage.  Yet
the things which made up the present happiness of the crowd were those
which he had labored so strenuously to procure--ease, enjoyment,
freedom from care--the companions of wealth.  For these he had bartered
not only the toil and stress of his best years, but something
infinitely more precious; part of the price had been the favour of his
God!  Now he had to part with all these gains, willing or unwilling;
would he have the grace to sue for the mercy which might still be his
for the asking?

We had ascertained that Gowan still lived, though there was no hope for
his recovery, and were ascending the staircase to our rooms when we
encountered a priest coming down.  He regarded Val with evident
interest, then stopped and accosted him.  He proved to be one of the
neighboring parochial clergy, who had just been visiting the dying man.
Val invited him to our room, and there we learned the circumstances of
the case.

Gowan had been in Glasgow about a fortnight, having come thither
immediately after landing in Liverpool.  He was seriously ill when he
arrived at the hotel, and was compelled to take to his bed at once.  A
doctor was sent for, and found him suffering from heart disease, which
had already reached an advanced stage.  In spite of every attention the
patient became rapidly worse.  He would not infrequently fall into fits
of unconsciousness, which were the prelude to a state of coma in which
he would eventually pass away from life.

To the man's credit, be it said, he at once asked for a priest when he
became aware of his danger, and had afterward desired to see Val.  All
the Sacraments had been administered, and Gowan lay in a weak state,
hovering between life and death.  I could not but think of the lasting
gratitude of Christian Logan and her children, which had led them to
remember this man daily in their prayers; who could tell how great a
part those prayers had had in securing for him the grace to make his
peace with God at the eleventh hour?

Val went in alone to Gowan's room; it was not for me to take any part
in such an interview.  It was not long before he was back again in our
own apartment.  Gowan's reception of him had been all that could have
been desired.  The man expressed sincere sorrow for his ill behavior,
and begged Val's forgiveness.  But what was still more satisfactory was
his message to Christian and her children.  He asked pardon for his
unkindness in deserting them; they would soon see, he said, how dear
they were to him.

"He has made his will in their favor," was Val's summing up of the
matter.  "He was just explaining that fact when he had another bad
attack quite suddenly, and I came away, after summoning the nurse."

That conversation, short as it was, proved to be the last in which the
dying man was to take part with my brother.  He passed away a short
time after, having never recovered consciousness.  The Catholic nurse
had sent for Val a few minutes after he had rejoined me.  We both went
to the sick-room, and my brother had said the prayers for the dying,
followed by those for the repose of his soul when Gowan ceased to

The funeral was over and we had been back in Ardmuirland for some weeks
before any tidings arrived about the dead man's affairs.  All
arrangements as to payment of expenses and the like were carried out by
a Glasgow lawyer, who had been empowered to act for Gowan's agent in
America.  The most thorough search had failed to discover anything in
the shape of a will among the dead man's effects in Glasgow, and it was
supposed to be in the keeping of the American lawyer.  When tidings did
arrive, they were such as to fill us with consternation.  The will in
the lawyer's possession was dated more than two years before, after
Gowan's return to America from Ardmuirland.  Its terms, moreover, by no
means tallied with the information given by the dying man to Val; for
in it there was no mention of the Logans at all, everything being
bequeathed to the Freemason's lodge of which Gowan had been a member.

Val was puzzled, but not convinced.

"It's a mystery, certainly," he said; "but I feel absolutely satisfied
that there is another will somewhere.  Poor Gowan said so,

"Can you recall his exact words?" I asked.

Val had an idea that Gowan had said: "I have settled everything on
Cousin Christian."  He fancied that just before the attack occurred he
had added: "You will have to see about it," or words to that effect.

We both felt convinced that Gowan had been too good a man of business
to make such a remark unless he had made his bequest legally secure.

The obvious thing to do was to cable at once to the lawyer to delay
action until the new will should turn up.  This we did; a letter
followed, detailing circumstances.

Our next communication was from the Glasgow lawyer, who requested Val's
presence there to consult about matters, as my brother was the only
person to whom Gowan had spoken on the subject of a second will.  I was
too much interested in the mystery to let Val go alone, and he was
delighted to have my company, so once more we set off for the distant

Dalziel, the lawyer in question, received us in his private office on
the morning after our arrival.  He was a small gray man, with keen
black eyes that twinkled behind his gold-rimmed spectacles now and
again when an ordinary man would have smiled.  His statement of affairs
was indeed not reassuring.  Every scrap of paper left behind by Gowan
had been carefully examined by one of his responsible clerks, but
nothing in the shape of a will had been discovered.  Had there been no
previous will, Christian Logan's boy might have claimed the estate as
next of kin; but that was now not possible.  To bring the matter before
the law courts was equally futile; the law took cognizance of a man's
wishes expressed in writing, and no evidence of a verbal declaration on
his part would suffice to set aside a written document.

"I am afraid, Father Fleming," said the lawyer, summing up his report,
"that there is no case to go upon for the Logan family."

"But I am convinced," replied Val, "that Gowan has made another will.
He sent for me to tell me so, and to ask me to help the Logans in the
matter.  The will must be somewhere.  The question is: Where?"

"I am inclined to think that he never made a second will," the lawyer
went on to say.  "Not that I think he meant to deceive you," he added
hastily, as he noticed Val's air of protest.  "But it has often come
within my experience that a man in such a weak state may persuade
himself that he has already accomplished something which he has fixed
his mind upon doing, while all the time nothing has been actually done."

Val, however, could not be convinced that such was the case in the
present instance, and I could not help agreeing with him.

"It would be as well if you would call at Gowan's hotel before you
leave Glasgow," said Dalziel, as our interview came to an end.  "There
are some clothes, traveling-cases, rugs, and such like, which it would
be absurd to send to America, and equally absurd to sell.  They will be
something for the Logons if you think well to take them.  I can easily
arrange with the legatees on the other side, who will certainly make no

It was a good idea, and we resolved to act upon it.  The lawyer drove
with us to the hotel, to introduce us to the manager, and left us when
we ascended to the room occupied by the dead man, which was still being
retained by the executor until the property should be removed.

The manager himself very civilly accompanied us, directing us to summon
a servant, when we had examined things to our satisfaction, and to give
orders about packing and removal.

I must confess that I had not altogether given up hope of discovering
the lost document among the clothes and packing-cases.  But my
anticipations were dispelled when we entered.  Everything had been
neatly folded and placed on the bed and the two tables; it was evident
that no document could have been passed unnoticed.  The room, too, was
quite clean and in order.  Val, like myself, seemed rather depressed at
the state of things.  There was no receptacle where any paper could
have been stowed away that had not been thoroughly ransacked by the
lawyer's men, whose interest it was to discover the will.  A wardrobe
for hanging clothes, a chest of drawers, dressing-table, and washstand
were the only articles of furniture besides bed, tables, and chairs;
none of them looked like possible receptacles of a hidden paper.

Scarcely realizing what I did, I began opening one after another the
drawers in the chest.  Each was neatly lined with paper, but otherwise
empty.  As though possessed by a mania for searching, I took out each
paper and carefully assured myself that nothing had slipped underneath.
Val, roused by my action, began to poke into the drawers of the
dressing-table; but his search was just as fruitless.  There was
nothing to be done but to settle as to the packing of the clothes and
take our departure.

Suddenly an idea struck me.  How often does a small article get lost in
a chest of drawers by slipping behind the drawers themselves.  At once
I acted on the suggestion.  I did not watt to consider that others had
probably searched as thoroughly as I could do.  Out came the drawers,
one after the other, and were deposited on the floor.  The bottom
drawer was rather tight, and would not come out easily; but I got it
out with an extra expenditure of muscle.  Positively, there was a small
folded paper--like a letter--lying behind it; my heart sank, for it was
too small for such a document as I was anxious to find.  I picked it up
listlessly and unfolded it.

"By Jove, Val!  Here it is!" I cried exultantly.

He skipped across the room to read the paper over my shoulder.

"That's it, all right!" was his exclamation.  "Thank God!"

It was but a sheet of common note-paper, bearing the printed heading of
the hotel.  Across it was written in shaky characters the following:

"This is the last will and testament of me, Alexander Gowan, of 269
Heniker Street, Chicago, U. S. A.  I revoke all former testaments, and
hereby bequeath the whole of the property of which I die possessed to
Rev. Valentine Fleming of Ardmuirland, Scotland, in trust for Christian
McRae, widow of Donald Logan, of Ardmuirland, and her children.


"May 16, 1912."

"Blessed Scottish law!" cried Val, when he had scanned the scrap of
paper that meant so much to us.  "It's not an imposing document, but
it'll stand good in this country.  Let's take it to Dalziel at once."

The lawyer corroborated Vat's declaration.  It was a holograph will,
and therefore needed no witness; Gowan was man of business enough to
realize that.  He had probably slipped it into the drawer where some of
his clothes were, meaning to hand it to Val.  The drawer must have been
over-full, and the mere opening of it would sweep the bit of paper to
the back, where it had fallen behind the other drawers.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Six months later we had a Catholic wedding in the little church at
Ardmuirland.  All the congregation flocked up for the ceremony and the
nuptial Mass--for the bridegroom had suggested that it would be well to
begin his married life in perfect union with his wife, and he had been
received into the Church a month before.

The Camerons are very well off; for poor old Gowan, though not a
millionaire, had put by pots of money.  But it would suit neither
Lachlan nor his wife to lead an idle life.  They have got Redbank into
their own hands and are turning it into quite a model farm.

The children are at school.  Jeemsie is said to be able to do
everything except talk.  Tam is bent on being a priest.

Val got his shinty club and his parish hall, and if he wants anything
for the church or for himself he has but to mention it.  Indeed, he had
almost to use force to prevent Christian handing over half her fortune.

Golden dreams do, now and again, it seems, get realized!



      "In sober state,
  Through the sequestered vale of rural life,
  The venerable patriarch guileless held
  The tenor of his way."

The priest who ministered to the Catholic flock of Ardmuirland in the
far-off days when "Bell o' the Burn" was a lassie was known as "Mr.
McGillivray"; for the repeal of the penal laws had not yet emancipated
the people from the cautious reticence of the days of persecution, and
they still spoke of "prayers" instead of "Mass," and of "speaking to
the priest" and "going forward" to intimate Confession and Holy

"He wes a stoot, broad-shouldered gentleman o' middle size," said Bell
in one of her reminiscent moods; "when I first knew him he wes gettin'
bent wi' age, and his hair wes snow-white and lang on his shoulders
like.  I couldna' ha' been muckle mair ner five or sax year auld when
he took me by the hand and askit me if I'd like to come an' herd his
coos an' leeve wi' his niece at the chapel hoose.  That wes in 1847,
sir, ten years aifter Queen Victoria (God rest her!) cam' to the
throne.  That's a good bit back, ye ken."

Bell dwelt under the same roof as the priest until she was needed at
home, a few years later.  Although chiefly employed during the day in
looking after the two cows that grazed on the hillside about a mile
distant, and driving them out and in, she was sufficiently within doors
to be able to gain much knowledge of the daily life of a simple
Scottish pastor of the old school.

That life, as her reminiscences witness, was one of extreme
homeliness--not to say austerity.  The food of the priest was that of
the ordinary peasant class among which he lived.  "His denner," said
Bell, "wes juist tatties, taken in their skins; his supper wes brochan
an' sometimes tatties as weel.  Some o' the neebors would come an' join
him, whiles, an' share the supper wi' him, as they sat roond the
hearth."  (In answer to my query Bell explained that "brochan" was a
kind of soup or gruel, made from oatmeal.)

"My faither an' mither," Bell remarked with some pride, "usit often to
tak' denner wi' the priest o' Sundays.  They wes bidin' a good bit awa'
frae the chapel, ye ken, sir, an' they aye likit a talk wi' me aifter
Mass.  So Mr. McGillivray wouldna' aloo them to fast till they got
hame, but aye pressit them to stay.  For they wouldna' break their fast
till the priest did, ye ken; it had aye been the custom in their young
days, and they keepit it till they wes too weak to fast sae lang."

Besides the Ardmuirland district, the priest had charge of two others
at some little distance over the hills in different directions.  It was
his duty to say Mass at one or other of these stations occasionally,
and the Ardmuirland folk who could conveniently manage the journey
would generally accompany him on a Sunday.  They would walk over the
hill in a kind of unorganized procession, reciting the Rosary and
litany as they went.

During the week the priest kept daily moving about among his people,
and little of interest could happen which did not soon come to his
knowledge.  "The fowk aye enjoyit a chat wi' the priest," said Bell,
"for Mr. McGillivray wes the best oot at tellin' auld-fashioned
stories."  His figure was a familiar one in all the countryside, as he
walked slowly along, leaning on his silver-mounted walking-stick, and
wrapped in the ample folds of a well-worn Spanish cloak, buckled at the
neck by a silver clasp.  Under that same cloak he would often carry
tit-bits of oatcake for the horses he might come across in the farms he
visited--for he was a lover of all dumb creatures.

Mr. McGillivray's only outdoor recreation was fishing.  Children knew
his ways, and would shyly steal after him down to the side of the burn
and watch him from a distance.  When his rod happened to get caught in
the branches of the stunted birches which bordered the stream--which
was not of infrequent occurrence--they would run to his assistance and
help to untangle the hook; they would often search for and carry to him
worms to serve as bait.  Both kinds of service were sure to be rewarded
by a piece of "black sugar," as Bell styled licorice, which he always
carried with him for use in such emergencies.

"We bairns," she explained, "were niver feared o' the priest.  I weel
remember hoo my mither chided me for usin' sic freedom wi' him--I had
lived sae lang in the hoose wi' him, ye ken, that I wes whiles gey
familiar in my speech.  Well, when he askit me one day--juist as a
joke, ye ken--to tak' a snuff oot o' the wee boxie he aye carrit, I
tossit my head and said (ill bred as I wes!), 'Fuich!'  Mr. McGillivray
wesna' angered; he juist laughed oot an' says he: 'Weel, lassie, ye
couldna' ha' said worse to a dog!'  But I got mair words frae my mither
aifter, an' a strappin' as weel, an' to bed wi'oot supper.  It learned
me to be mair respectful-like to the priest!"

This anecdote recalled another.  "I mind weel hoo I got my first bonnet
through Mr. McGillivray.  In they times, ye ken, sir, it wes aye the
fashion to wear large bonnets o' Tuscan straw, an' a lassie o' foorteen
wes surely auld enough for siclike--I said to mysel'.  So when the
priest cam' to oor hoose aince, I made sae bold as to get him to ask my
faither to buy me a bonnet for Sundays, next time he went to the toon
o' Aberdeen.  My faither wouldna' ha' done it for me, but he did when
the priest askit him, and I got my bonnet!  But I doot I wes a bit o' a
favorite with the priest, sin' I herdit his coos sae lang."

However free the children may have been in their intercourse with the
old priest, I gathered from Bell's narrative that the grown-ups rather
feared him.  His methods were certainly such as would be considered
unnecessarily severe in these days; still, there is no doubt he managed
by them to keep his people well in hand.

"I canna' mind muckle aboot Mr. McGillivray's discoorses," she
answered, when I questioned her on that subject.  "I wes but a bit
lassie, an' I couldna' onderstand weel.  He seemed to me to stan' an'
drone awa' mostly.  Whiles, he wud gi' great scoldin's, an' then I usit
to think it wes splendid!  He could be eloquent then, I assure ye, sir!
I mind weel when there wes a marriage in Advent in a Protestant family,
an' Mr. McGillivray warned the fowk that they mightna' attend it; some
o' them, in spite o' that, went to the marriage, an' I could niver
forget the awfu' way he chided them in the chapel on the Sunday aifter!
It wes tarrible!

"If ony o' the fowk cam' to the chapel in their working clothes he
would be greatly pit aboot.  He would ca' them up to the rail at
catechism time an' reprove them before a' the congregation."

"So you said your catechism in public!" I asked.

"There wes aye catechism, atween the Mass an' the preachin'.  Aebody
had to be prepared to be callit up till they wes marrit, at least!
Even aifter that, a body couldna' be sure o' bein' left alane!  I mind
him callin' a mon o' saxty years o' age ane Sunday!  He wes a mon
greatly thought of by the congregation, an' maybe the priest wes
afeared he wes gettin' prood.  Onyways, Mr. McGillivray had him at the
rails wi' the bairns.  'Are you ashamed,' he says, 'to learn your
Christian Doctrine?'  'Na, na, sir,' says he.  'Then gae back an' sit
ye doon,' says the priest."

Such treatment would scarcely be appreciated in these days, but perhaps
the reason is that we are less endowed with humility than our fathers
in the Faith.

Bell had other anecdotes of a like kind.

"If ony o' the bairns wes restless or trifling-kind, during the
preachin', Mr. McGillivray would stop his discoorse an' ca' them up to
the rail an' reprove them severely.  I mind him summoning a grown man
from the choir aince, and mak' him own his fault.  Hey!  He wer a
graund priest, an' nae mistak'--wer Mr. McGillivray!"

On stormy days, when it was difficult for the aged pastor to wade
through the deep snow down to the chapel, Mass was said in his own
house.  The people crowded in at the door of his little living-room,
and would fill the kitchen.  When he grew old and infirm it was
impossible for the greater number to hear anything of the sermon; yet
he never omitted to preach.

"An' I mind," naïvely added Bell, "that there wes aye a collection

People went to Confession in the house at such times; otherwise the
priest heard them in the chapel on Saturdays or Sundays, and on the
eves of feasts.

It can not be denied that Mr. McGillivray was a militant churchman,
whenever the interests of his flock or of the Catholic Church were at
stake.  Bell had more than one anecdote to prove it.

A poor woman who was at the point of death had been induced by two good
old Catholic spinsters who lived near her to send for the priest to
reconcile her to the Church.  She was the offspring of a mixed
marriage; her mother--the Catholic party--had died when the child was
quite young, and the father had at once taken the girl to kirk with
him.  She had once been to Confession, but had received no other
Sacrament except Baptism.  When she had grown to womanhood, she married
a Presbyterian, and all her family had been brought up in that
religion.  Yet the grace of her Baptism seemed to cling to her.  After
her husband's death she would now and again attend at Mass, driven the
six miles by her Protestant son; but she was not known to the priest,
and so she remained outside the pale.  Her intimacy with Jeannie and
Katie Ann McGruer was the means of keeping her in touch with Catholic
matters, and eventually resulted in her reconciliation.

This was not accomplished, however, without a stiff skirmish between
the old priest and the members of her family--not to mention the
minister of their particular kirk.

In compliance with the summons conveyed by one of the McGruers (Bell
spoke of them as "guid Catholic lassies," but in answer to my query
explained that Katie Ann, the younger sister, would be "risin'
sixty"!), Mr. McGillivray betook himself to the house of the invalid.
The door was opened by her eldest son, Adam Fordyce--a burly,
black-browed, bearded man of forty.  He had charge of the roads in the
district, so that he and the priest were on speaking terms, at least.

Adam held the door in one hand and the door-post in the other, and his
portly figure filled up the opening fairly well.

"I am sorry to hear that your mother is unwell," said the priest

"Aye, aye, sir, she's nae weel at all," was the answer.

"I would like to see her, if she's well enough," said Mr. McGillivray.

"Weel, sir, I wouldna' like to say she's nae fit to see a
veesitor--but--ye ken, sir----"

"You mean she's not well enough to see me."

"Weel, it's this wye, Mr. McGillivray," answered Adam, lowering his
voice; "I'm nae ohjectin' mysel', sin she askit me to let ye come; but
the ithers is awfu' set again' it.  That's the wye it is, sir."

The fact was, the "Cerberus" was not at all fierce--quite the contrary!
He had been deputed by the others to confront the unwelcome visitor, as
being the eldest, and therefore responsible for all unpleasant duties;
but as far as he was concerned, he had no feeling in the matter.  Like
any Scotsman who had lived with his mother from childhood to mature
manhood, he was deeply attached to her, and willing to agree to
anything that might give her satisfaction in her present weak state;
that the visit of the priest would be a comfort to her he strongly
suspected, and hence the conflict between duty--as he regarded it--and

It took very little persuasion from the priest to overcome Adam's
scruples and gain admittance to the sick-room; this accomplished, it
might seem that the battle had been won for religion, but the victory
was not yet complete!

Adam had relented so far as to admit the priest, but no argument could
persuade him to leave him alone with the invalid.  He was the agent of
the family, and it was his duty to see everything that went on.  He
would have nothing underhand in the matter!

Mr. McGillivray easily interpreted his action.  He was afraid of what
the others might say should he desert his post--that was all.
Diplomacy was necessary and the priest rose to the occasion.

"Look here, Adam," he said; "I know you are merely carrying out what
you feel to be a duty to your family in staying here.  We can arrange
matters without any difficulty.  I must have a few minutes' private
talk with your mother on religious matters which concern herself and no
one else.  Just leave me with her for a bit and you can come back and
stay here as long as I do."

But Adam was obstinate.  He acknowledged that the others "wouldna' be
pleased" should he relinquish his post of watch-dog.  He must "bide" in
the room as long as the priest remained.

As in many houses of that class, there was what is called a
"bed-closet" opening out of the room in which the sick woman lay.  It
was literally a closet, containing nothing except the bed, and lighted
by a tiny window.  Without more ado, Mr. McGillivray seized the man by
the arm and led him to the closet.

"Just jump onto the bed," he whispered.  "No one will know that you
have not remained in the room.  You shall come out in a few minutes."

So the burly Adam climbed onto the bed, and the priest shut the door
upon his prisoner and fastened the "sneck."  After hearing the mother's
Confession, he released his captive, and Adam stood by while the saving
unction was administered to prepare the poor woman for her last
journey.  It was soon over and the priest took his leave.

Adam was quite relieved to find that his mother had been gladdened by
the priest's ministrations--for she had poured forth grateful thanks
for his kindness--while he had not been compromised in the eyes of his
brothers and sisters.  He willingly consented for Mr. McGillivray to
return next day to administer Holy Communion for the first--and
probably the last--time in the life of the dying woman.

"I've only one more office to do for your mother, Adam," the priest had
explained, "and then she will be quite at rest.  So I will call
to-morrow about this time."  And Adam had cordially agreed.

But there were others to be reckoned with.  The news of the priest's
visit was soon carried to the Free Church minister, and down he swooped
upon the luckless Fordyces that very afternoon.  Poor Adam was the
scapegoat.  He it was who had to bear the whole of the blame.  The
minister congratulated himself, when he took his leave (without
venturing into the sick-room, for the present), that he had
successfully prevented any further "popish antics" in that house!

Consequently, when Mr. McGillivray returned next day, according to
promise, he was met, not by Adam, but by the younger son--a dour
Presbyterian, of pronounced type.  He absolutely refused to allow the
priest to cross the threshold again.  His brother was "oot"; but he had
left word that he must not be allowed to enter the house.  The
minister, as the brother explained, "had been sair angered" on account
of the proceedings of the previous day.  He had threatened to remove
Adam from his post of "precentor" should he allow any more intercourse
between his mother and any "popish minister."

Remonstrances, persuasions, entreaties were all unavailing.  The man
declared that his mother "didna' wish to see" Mr. McGillivray.  The
latter had therefore reluctantly to submit to circumstances and return
home with the Blessed Sacrament, leaving the poor woman
"unhouselled"--although not "unanointed."  He feared that she had given
in to the persuasions of the minister to refuse further help.  But
after her death, which occurred a few days later, the good priest
ascertained that she had died in most edifying dispositions.  The
minister had not visited her, and she had thought it best to wait a
little before seeing the priest again, merely on account of her family.
The McGruers, who were present at the last, assured him that she had
died a good Catholic---her only regret the deprivation of Holy

Some remarks dropped by the Free Church minister as to the priest's
"interference" with a member of his congregation drew forth so vehement
a denial from Mr. McGillivray, and a demand for a public contradiction
of the statement from the pulpit on the following Sunday, that the
crestfallen minister had to eat his words.

The priest was indeed a match for any of his opponents in whatever way
they chose to attack him.  Once at a dinner, when three ministers were
present as well as Mr. McGillivray, one of them thought to make a butt
of the priest, and during the after-dinner toasts proposed suddenly:
"The Auld Kirk!"  But the priest was too quick for him.  Raising his
glass, he responded promptly: "The Auld Kirk--the True Kirk!"

"No!  No!" cried the entrapped Presbyterian.

"Then I'm sorry for _you_!" was the quiet retort.

One feature in Bell's recollections must not be passed over.  The
priest was renowned as a peacemaker.  Anything like family strife was
speedily put an end to by his tactful intervention.  Even by
Protestants his services were not infrequently asked for in this
respect, and the result was a great popularity with all classes in the
district of Ardmuirland.  There was much pathos about the old man's
last days; for he hastened his end by his self-denying charity in the
cause of peace.

A violent quarrel had taken place some years before between two
Protestant farmers, both living some distance away from the priest's
house.  They had married two sisters, and a dispute had arisen on the
subject of a legacy left to one of these nieces by their father's
brother, while the other was passed over entirely.  Suspicions and
insinuations of underhand dealing on the part of the successful legatee
had aroused strong feelings, with the result that all communication
between the two families had ceased.

At length the wife of one of the belligerents lay upon her deathbed,
and under the softening influence of that solemn hour she begged that
her sister should be asked to visit her, that they might part as
sisters should.  The other woman was just as anxious for a
reconciliation, but their respective husbands could not be brought to

In her distress the dying woman sent a message to the priest, begging
for his intervention.  It was the dead of winter, and a severe frost
had set in.  The old priest had to drive in a friendly farmer's open
vehicle for ten miles in a keen wind.  He succeeded in persuading one
of the men to seek for peace and friendship, then drove on five miles
farther to interview the other.  Through his earnest remonstrances the
strife was entirely brought to an end.  But it was at the cost of the
life of the aged peacemaker.  He caught a severe chill, which he was
never able to throw off, and after two or three months he bade farewell
to earth.

Mr. McGillivray had desired, when old age should have rendered him
incapable of his priestly charge, to be allowed to retire from active
work, and end his days in the quiet seclusion of his native district--a
strath shut in by hills, many miles to the north of Ardmuirland.  But
the family from which the priest had sprung were no great favorites
there, and his wish, when made known, had not been cordially received
by the people.  This had been sufficient to excite the wrath of the
Ardmuirland folk; they had risen up as one man against any such
arrangement.  An appeal was made to the Bishop to prevent their beloved
pastor from leaving his flock to die among comparative strangers.  So
it had been settled by authority that Mr. McGillivray should continue
his ministrations among them as long as he was able, and should then
receive a helper; thus he was never to take leave of Ardmuirland except
to receive his heavenly reward.  As we have seen, he died in harness,
before there could be any question of retirement.

And now another difficulty arose.  His own native district naturally
laid claim to his mortal remains, and his relatives had speedily made
arrangements for his burial in the family grave.  Then, indeed,
Ardmuirland was stirred.

"They wouldna' tak' him leevin'; they'll nae get him deid!" was the
universal cry.

So in the bright springtime, after a late fall of snow had clothed the
countryside in dazzling whiteness, his people bore him to the grave.
An immense gathering--of both Catholics and Protestants--had assembled;
in Bell's expressive phrase--"the country wes full o' men!"  Every man
took his turn in helping to bear the coffin shoulder-high all the five
miles which lay between the priest's house and the ancient
burial-ground of St. Michael below the hill.  There, surrounded by the
flock he had tended so long and so faithfully, the body of the pastor
awaits with them the general awakening to life eternal.



  "Amid the roses fierce Repentance rears
  Her snaky crest."
          (_Thomson's Seasons---"Spring"_)

"Shamrock in Scotland!" I seem to hear some captious critic exclaim.  I
do not attribute Scottish birth to the particular sprig of shamrock
which is to figure in these pages, dear reader.  Like all true
shamrock, it was grown in the Emerald Isle.  Nevertheless, it was by
its means that the subject of this story migrated to Ardmuirland; hence
it is responsible for my narrative.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

It was no fault on Bernard Murray's part that all his acquaintances
should without exception imagine that he was of Scottish race.  For
every one who knew him well--and they numbered not a few--dubbed him "a
canny Scot."  He had not started the fiction, even if he had done
nothing toward contradicting it.  For what did it matter to any one
else that his nationality should be so widely misinterpreted?  He did
not care a straw.  Indeed, it is possible that in his secret heart he
was rather pleased that the illusion had grown up.  For it might prove
awkward to be known as Irish; Ireland, among the set in which he moved,
was looked upon as so impossibly retrograde!  So when he was hailed as
"a canny Scot" Bernard merely smiled pleasantly and held his peace.

No doubt Violet Rossall thought that smile well worth awakening.  It
was so sunny--lighting up to classical beauty Bernard's usually grave
yet always handsome features.  The rarity of his smile, too, rendered
it all the more precious.  His habitual quiet thoughtfulness of
expression helped to settle so definitely his supposed origin; yet had
his admirers been better learned in physiognomy they could never have
guessed so wide of the mark.  The clear, pale skin, the black hair and
dark blue eyes so palpably proclaimed him Irish!  Moreover, it was to
his native traits that he really owed his wide popularity.  The quiet
reserve which usually characterized him hid a fund of brilliant humor,
which would occasionally, and often unexpectedly, flash out in some
quick retort or witty jest; nor was there ever wanting that indefinable
attraction which is the special charm of Erin's sons and daughters all
the world over.

Even Cuthbert Aston was not proof against that charm, although in a
sense he and Bernard were rivals.  For it must have been as evident to
Violet Rossall as it was to all onlookers that both Murray and Aston
sought her company in preference to that of any other maiden of their
acquaintance; which of the two was preferred by her was not so evident,
since she seemed to favor both alike.

Violet was, indeed, the center of attraction for all the unattached
males of her particular set.  For one reason, she was undeniably
beautiful.  An oval face, creamy complexion, large, changeful gray
eyes, abundant hair of bright chestnut hue, a slim and graceful
figure--these were but the half of her charms; there was beauty in her
ever-changing expression, and beauty, above all, in that radiant,
winning smile, apart from all loveliness of form or feature.  She was
so undeniably clever, too.  She had passed through school and college
with flying colors, carrying off one distinction after another; now she
held a prominent position as teacher in a secondary school, with the
certain prospect of advancement in course of time to spheres of higher
responsibility and social position.  Violet, therefore, was well
pleased with her lot, and felt, it may be taken for granted, little
anxiety about her future.

As regards a life-partner, were she disposed to relinquish the chance
of future honors for present ease and happiness, there were many
aspirants to the distinction; she might choose freely among the
eligible bachelors of her acquaintance.  Two only of these, however,
seemed to appeal to her sense of fitness--Murray and Aston.

The former, a year or two older than herself, was a master at the same
school; clever and capable, he was evidently destined to rise rapidly
in his profession, and his future promise, together with his attractive
personality, might well render him the more favored suitor.

Cuthbert Aston could not be compared with Murray as regarded intellect,
attainments, or personal charm; but he had other attractions of no less
weight in the eyes of a girl who had social ambitions.  His father had
made money in business, and bore the reputation of possessing great
wealth.  Cuthbert, was the only child of infatuated parents, who had
spared no expense in his upbringing, and were ready to gratify his
every whim.  For a genteel occupation he had been placed in a
bank--"not that it would be necessary for him to earn his living at
it," as Mrs. Aston was careful to inform her lady friends; "but it was
well to give him something to do, and banking is not trade!  If the
dear boy should get tired of the routine, he could easily take up
something else more to his taste."

Apart from his worldly prospects, there was little to attract a girl of
Violet's character toward Cuthbert Aston.  He was what men technically
style "a bounder!"  Yet, empty-headed, arrogant, self-centered though
he might be, he was a rich man's only son.  In Violet's eyes that in
itself condoned many flagrant defects.  The Astons moved in the highest
circles of the city--spite of Mrs. Aston's "flamboyant" style and her
husband's demonstrative vulgarity; as a member of their family,
therefore, her social status would be secure.

If the girl had any heart it must have pleaded on behalf of Bernard
Murray--young, handsome, lovable, as he was.  Nothing else except
ambition could have allowed her to compare Aston with him.  There
might, it is true, have been a spice of adventure connected with her
encouragement of the latter; it was well known that his parents looked
with dismay upon the prospect of their idolized boy "throwing himself
away on that little school-teacher," as his mother phrased it.

To do the Astons credit, their objection to Violet did not rest wholly
upon an imagined social disparity; there was a much graver reason.  The
girl lost no opportunity in proclaiming herself a pronounced
Free-thinker.  Her mother had died while she was quite a child, and for
her upbringing Violet had depended wholly upon her father--an ardent
Socialist as well as Atheist.  Thus she had grown up in an atmosphere
thoroughly anti-religious, until death had claimed her father also.
Socialism had never strongly appealed to her, and was not likely to do
so, under present circumstances; for religion she entertained a
supercilious disdain, as "out-of-date nonsense."

Here, then, were three young people kept in contact by the evident
attraction of both men for the same girl, and by the diplomatic
encouragement which the latter seemed to give to each in equal
proportion.  Had Violet not been in question, Murray would have given
the cold shoulder to Aston; but as Violet tolerated Aston, he perforce
must put up with him.  Aston, on his part, admired and feared Murray,
whom he regarded as a formidable rival.

"What puzzles me about Murray," he exclaimed once to a boon companion,
"is his jolly good English!  Why, the chap has positively no kind of
provincial accent!"  (Cuthbert's English, by the way, was not regarded
by his intimates as the perfect thing!)  "He doesn't speak like a
Scotch Johnny at all!  You never hear an 'Aye, aye' or 'd'ye ken?'--not
a broad vowel even!  Why, he might have lived all his life this side
the border, to judge by his tongue, confound him!"

There could be no doubt of Cuthbert's attachment to Violet.  No
remonstrances of his mother--and they were but mild, in spite of her
objection to Violet, since she recognized the futility of opposing her
son's determined will--had the slightest effect with him.  He felt
confident in the final acquiescence of both parents in whatever he
might choose to do with regard to marriage.  Everything, as he saw,
rested with Violet, and he was shrewd enough to appreciate the
advantages--not so much personal as social--involved in her ultimate

An amateur operatic company had been started in the town, and all the
musical talent among the younger generation had been stirred up to take
part in what was regarded as a pleasant occupation for winter evenings
with the pleasurable anticipation of the excitement of a public
performance as the outcome of practices.  Our human triangle formed
part of the company.  All three were musical, and two of them more than
usually talented both in singing and acting--Violet and Bernard.  The
former especially--endowed with a beautiful soprano voice, which had
been well cultivated, added to what is styled by the initiated "a good
stage presence"--was much in request on all such occasions.  She had
filled more than one title-role in popular operas presented by their
little company, and no one would dream of casting her for any other
than the leading part.  Bernard had a good tenor voice, and Cuthbert a
very fair bass.

It happened that the particular opera chosen for presentation during
the Easter holidays was to be performed by a capable traveling company
in a neighboring town a month or so before.  Consequently our amateurs
felt it their duty to witness the performance, and thus pick up some
valuable hints for future use by such a mild form of "under-study."
Not only our three friends, but two others of the company--the second
soprano and the contralto--started on their short railway journey on a
certain evening in March, intending to return by the last train.

It was scarcely possible, without giving offense to some one or other
of the party, to arrange beforehand who was to escort whom.  One of the
men must inevitably take charge of two of the ladies; fate must
determine which!  Cuthbert Aston--a youth unaccustomed to deny himself
any gratification upon which he had set his mind--had probably resolved
that it would not be he!  But fortune is proverbially fickle.  The
train was crowded and seats were at a discount.  It was impossible for
all five to travel together.  Violet--with a woman's perversity,
perhaps, because of Cuthbert's evident intention, or, it may be, to
show a deliberate preference for Murray--contrived that the latter
should accompany herself.  The other cavalier was therefore compelled,
with as good grace as he could manage, to find places in another
compartment for himself and the two very uninteresting maidens thus
thrust upon him.  No wonder he was nettled!  Like a spoiled boy he
determined to leave Violet to herself--or rather to her chosen
escort--for the rest of the evening.  Glum as an owl, he took his place
in the theater between the two girls, keeping himself severely aloof
from the fickle lady of his dreams.  She, on the contrary, stirred by
the pleasurable excitement of her surroundings, and possibly not
displeased by so evident a proof of Cuthhert's appreciation of her,
gave herself wholly to the enjoyment of the hour.

Bernard, on his part, could not fail to be struck by the preference
manifested in his regard; he, too, was consequently in high spirits.
No better companion--apart from his personal attraction for her--could
have been allotted to him for such an occasion.  Violet's sunny
presence, her clever criticisms of the acting and singing--which he had
learned of old to expect--promised for him a thoroughly enjoyable
evening.  His heart took courage; was it possible that this charming
girl really preferred him--a man who had to make his way in the world,
and work hard to provide a home for her such as befitted her hopes and
ambitions--to this rich man's only son, who had it in his power to give
her at once wealth, position, and admiration?

The first act was over.  They both had been charmed with what they had
seen and heard, and it was pleasurable to compare impressions and to
anticipate further gratifying experiences.  The theater was warm, and
Violet unwound from her neck a lace scarf which she had been wearing.
Pinned to the bosom of her pretty mauve dress was a tiny spray of dull
green leaves.

"What have you there?" he asked all unthinkingly.

But before she could answer he knew, and a wave of mingled remorse,
shame, and self-condemnation swept over his soul.

"What is it?  Why, shamrock, of course!"

"Shamrock!" was all he could falter lamely in reply.

"Yes, shamrock.  Queen Alexandra set the fashion, you know.  Every one
who wants to do the correct thing wears shamrock today.  But of course
you are a Scotchman; you probably have no idea what day it is!  So I
don't mind instructing you.  It's St. Patrick's Day."

He dare not speak.  She took his silence and his rapt gaze on the
little spray of green as token of his admiration of her.

"Perhaps," she rattled on lightly, "you never heard of Patrick, or if
you did, you are inclined to share the modern opinion that 'there never
was no sich a person'--to quote an immortal!  If you were an Irishman I
should not dare to whisper such a thing; but a canny Scot could have no
regard for Patrick, even should he believe in him ever so much!"

Bernard kept his self-control, though he was deadly pale as he spoke.

"If it is so correct to wear it, you might give me a bit of it."

Smilingly she complied.  He placed it in his buttonhole with what must
have seemed to her elaborate care.  Luckily the curtain rose, and he
was free to indulge his thoughts.

Oh, it was almost sacramental--that tiny sprig!  How it called up dead
memories--memories of the old land, of his dear ones now gone, of his
boyhood's simple faith!

"If you were an Irishman! . . .  Perhaps you never heard of Patrick!"
The frivolous words burned his brain.

O God!  Believe in Patrick!  His breath came and went.  He could hardly
refrain from pressing his lips to the tiny leaves he was wearing on his

An Irishman, indeed, he was; but how unworthy of the name!  He, a child
of that dear land which Patrick's blessed feet had trodden--he, a son
of that race to whom the saint's words of grace had made known the
Truth--what was he now?  A renegade!  A false deserter from the ranks
of his faithful countrymen!  He had been ashamed of his nationality!
He had ceased to practise or to cherish the faith which Patrick had
brought to the Isle of Saints!

The curtain fell upon the second act, and he had to be ready to listen
to frivolities and to respond.  He did it with a bad grace, as he well
knew.  Indeed, he would gladly have been far away--hidden in the dark
corner of some deserted church, where freely and unrestrainedly he
might pour forth penitential tears, and beg forgiveness of the Father
he had so wantonly offended.

"How deadly dull you are to-night!" cried his companion.  "I believe
Cuthbert Aston, glum as he looks, would have been more entertaining!
What can be the matter with you?"

Her banter failed to provoke the always ready apology--usually so
charmingly proffered.

He could only mutter something about an awful headache; luckily
Violet's attention was drawn for the moment to an acquaintance who
caught her eye, and there was a speedy change of subject.  Did he ever
see such execrable taste as that girl's dress?  It was positively
hideous!  The colors did not suit either the wearer or each other,
etc., etc.

It was a relief when the curtain rose once more.  The music and the
action of the piece engrossed the attention of Violet; to Bernard they
were God-sent helps.  His mind could range back over the past without
restraint, while outwardly he appeared absorbed in the play.

What torrents of self-reproach swept over him as he retraced the
wanderings of his misspent years--misspent as regarded the service of
his Creator, however prosperous in the eyes of the world!  The past
came back like a dream.  His innocent childhood, spent under the
vigilant care of a saintly mother; his boyhood, with its keener
joys--all tempered by religion; his school-days, his college
career--both dominated by faith; in minute detail the pictures passed
before his mental vision as he sat there, silent and solitary--heedless
of the throng of pleasure-seekers all around him.  The sorrow with
which such recollections filled his heart was caused by the contrast
which after years presented.  He could recall his first falling-away
from grace, when the successful attainment of a coveted appointment had
brought with it the necessity of concealing his Catholic upbringing and
convictions.  How rapidly had he descended after that turning point had
been passed!  Conscience had been stifled until its voice no longer
troubled him.  Ambition became his goal, worldly success his God.  Far
away in Ireland his mother had died blessing him for his generous
provision for her, ignorant of her darling's downfall.  None were now
left for whose opinion he had cared one straw, even should they learn
of his apostasy.

Shrouded as they were in the gloom of the auditorium, his face, kept
resolutely toward the stage, could not be seen by his companion, much
less his eyes, which were wells of misery.  In his overwhelming grief
he almost forgot the girl beside him until a whispered remark upon some
beautiful passage in the music recalled her presence.  It did but add
fresh stings to his remorse.  Could it be possible that he--a son of a
sainted mother, child of a faithful Catholic race--could have
contemplated marriage with a professed atheist?  Had he indeed been
planning to take to wife, to make the mother of his possible children,
one who openly flouted the idea of a personal God--he, who had drunk in
at his mother's breast the burning love of the Faith which is the
birthright of every true son of Ireland?

The pain and the shame which filled his heart were well-nigh
unendurable!  Oh, if he could but manage to keep his self-control for
an hour or two!  If he could but hold out until he was alone; for at
times it seemed as though he must betray himself--there, in that public
assembly--by crying aloud in his anguish, or even by breaking out into
unmanly weeping.

How he got through that miserable evening he never could recall.  He
realized by her coldness on the return journey, and by the
demonstrative encouragement shown to Aston, that he had woefully
offended Violet.

Bernard never played his allotted part in the opera; for to every one's
astonishment he threw up his appointment and left the town, bound no
one knew whither.  So the course was clear for Cuthbert Aston, and he
lost no time in making good his opportunity.  His engagement to Violet
took no one by surprise, when his only possible rival was out of the

It does not need a very vivid imagination to voice the sentiments of
Aston and his _fiancée_ on the subject of Bernard's extraordinary
conduct--as it would appear to them.

"I was always afraid," the successful suitor would doubtless exclaim,
"that Murray would be the fortunate chap; he was so jolly clever--and
good looking, too!"

"Of course," we may imagine the lady responding, "he was all right in
that way--handsome, and well-bred, and all that sort of thing.  But
surely affection is the only thing one really values, dear, and you
were always so faithful," etc., etc., etc.

Meanwhile, in the great Trappist monastery beyond the Irish Sea a
Brother Patrick labored and prayed--if so be he might make some
reparation, at least for past unfaithfulness to so bountiful a Lord.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

"You must have been working hard at your prayers, Ted," was Val's
morning salutation to me when I went in to breakfast one day.

"What, am I late?" I asked, glancing at my watch.

"Oh, that's nothing unusual," was the unkind response, "But I was not
thinking of this morning in particular.  Don't you remember what I
asked you to pray for?"

"To be sure I do.  For a particularly good mistress for the school."
(For we had just had the misfortune to lose one who was next door to
perfection, and wanted to increase in perfection by entering a convent,
and Val had been worrying himself to replace her before the holidays
were over.)

"So you've heard of one?  That's good!" I continued.

"Well, not exactly," said Val.  "I've heard of a person who is on the
lookout for a place of this kind, and reference seem quite correct,

"But what?  If she is all right, why hesitate?  Write at once, my dear
fellow, and snap her up before some one else does!"

Val's eyes twinkled.

"It's not a _she_ at all.  That's the difficulty.  It's a master who is

I whistled my astonishment, then shook my head in distrust.

"If he's not a fraud he must be fooling you!" I rejoined irreverently.
"No capable master would come up here."

"Read that before you make a pronouncement," said Val, as he threw a
letter across the table to me.

It proved to be from an old college friend of Val's, and backed up very
warmly the application for our vacant post of a young man who was an
excellent trained teacher, who had tried his vocation as a monk, and
had failed through a breakdown in health.  He was in want of an easy
berth in good country air, where he could pick up his strength and fit
himself for entering college to train for the secular priesthood in a
couple of years.  No man with sense in his head would think twice about
closing with such a promising candidate; Val wrote back gladly
accepting the young man.

So Bernard Murray came to Ardmuirland, and won all our hearts in no

"That gentleman's got the face of a priest, Mr. Edmund," was Penny's
remark at first sight of him.

"Murray's a treasure!" cried Val in delight.  "He'll do wonders with
our bairns, Ted!"

It was a true forecast.  The children all took to him at once; the
little lassies loved him; for he had a gentle way with them--like that
of a kindly, grown-up brother; the boys regarded him with more awe, but
were ready to stand up for him against any adversary, as the best
shinty player in the district.  He thoroughly transformed our little
choir of children--leading them and accompanying them with taste and

To Val as well as to myself he grew inexpressibly dear.  It became the
regular custom for one or other of us to look in at the schoolhouse of
an evening, to smoke a pipe with the master, or to lure him for a
walk--should the weather be favorable; while on Sunday evenings after
service Murray dined with us as a matter of course.  It was in the
intimate fellowship thus engendered that he confided to me his life
story as detailed above.

It was a wrench to all three of us when the parting came, and the dear
boy left us to begin his training for the Foreign Missions--his elected
field of labor; but we could not grudge our sacrifice when we compared
it with the immensity of his.

Bernard is devoting rare talents, ceaseless energy, abundant tenderness
to the winning of souls to God.  Difficult and hopeless as his efforts
appear, yet his rare letters breathe patience and cheerful content.
Like every true missionary, he is prodigal of labor, in spite of the
apparent scarcity of the harvest gathered; for like his fellows, he
relies upon those inspired words which promise a plentiful reaping
before the great Harvest-home.

  "They went forth on their way and wept: scattering
      their seed.
  But returning, they shall come with joy: carrying
      their sheaves."



  "While memory watches o'er the sad review
  Of joys that faded like the morning dew."
          (_Campbell--"Pleasures of Hope"_)

Although Penny's early history is not concerned with Ardmuirland or its
neighborhood, yet her long residence in the district will serve as an
excuse for its introduction here, apart from the fact of its undoubted
interest.  Indeed, any account of Ardmuirland which should ignore so
prominent a figure in its social life would fail to give a perfect
picture of the place; yet but for the circumstances of her youthful
career Penny would never have appeared there at all.  Her story, as given
here, is pieced together from knowledge gained at various times in
intimate conversation; in such a form it is more likely to meet with the
reader's appreciation than related in her own words.

Lanedon, in the Midlands, was a humble village enough half a century ago.
It lay low, amid gently swelling green hills, and was shaded by luxuriant
woodlands; out of the beaten track it slept in rustic seclusion,
undisturbed by the events of the outside world, its knowledge of such
things being confined to scraps of information which the local newspaper
might cull from more up-to-date journals.

It had but one street--if a single straggling line of dwellings along a
roadside might be so termed; on one side were cottages, each in its
embowering garden, and on the other ran a clear streamlet, which supplied
all the residents with abundance of fresh water.  Besides these
habitations in the village proper, there were others, more pretentious,
though simple enough, in the shape of small farms situated in outlying
districts which claimed to belong to Lanedon parish, whose dwellers
worshiped in the little Norman church.

At one end of the village stood the "British Lion" public-house.  It was
a quaint old homestead of two stories, with black, oaken interlacing
beams in its wattled walls and mullioned windows, retaining the small
diamond, leaded panes, long ago discarded by more pretentious
contemporaries.  Before the door still stood an ancient horse-block,
which had served in its time to mount many a lady of olden days; for the
inn had once been of no little importance when stage-coaches plying
between London and the north, along the old Roman road, daily passed the
end of the lane leading to the village.  Many a guest of quality, in
those days, spent a night in the "British Lion."

Opposite the inn door, on the other side of the road, a signboard swung
in a frame upheld by a massive oaken pillar, under the shelter of a
cluster of tall elms; on a marine background, the noble beast that stands
for the type of national courage and strength was depicted rampant, his
fierce claws raised in defiance of all invaders.  Under the sign shone
out in golden letters the name, "Stephen Dale."

The other end of the straggling street was closed by the old church with
its squat tower, whose carven doorways and capitals were wont to attract
to the place many a traveler learned in archaeology; for it was a famous
building in its way, and was honorably mentioned in most manuals of

The inn and the church had little in common--less, indeed, than an inn
and a church in other villages.  Stephen Dale's sole interest in the
sacred building was of a temporal nature; he regarded its attractions
with satisfaction because they served to bring past his door many a
wayfarer who would otherwise never set foot in Lanedon.  Such might pass
on their way to the church, but would seldom omit to enter the inn on
their return journey for a few minutes of rest and refreshment.  And a
charming place of rest it was!  From a stone-paved passage you entered
the "house-place," a large square room, also stone-paved, a step lower
than the passage.  Its wide chimney had settled on either side, where one
could sit warm and comfortable--heedless of winter winds--in the glow of
the log-fire burning on the iron "dogs" of the low hearth.  In summer its
sanded pavement made it a gratefully cool retreat from the sunshine
outside.  Moreover, Stephen Dale's renowned home-brewed ale added to the
attractions of the house.

Neither Stephen nor any of his household ever set foot in the church for
the purposes of worship; for, strange as it may seem, the Dales,
surrounded by English country yokels, whose sole notion of religion lay
in a perfunctory attendance at church once on a Sunday--afternoon for
preference--to listen uncomprehending to the service, and slumber through
the sermon, came of a Catholic stock.  Both Stephen and his wife hailed
from Lancashire; they had spent many years in service together in a
Catholic household about fifty miles distant from Lanedon before they had
married and set up housekeeping at the "British Lion."  Nor were they so
utterly deprived of the consolations of religion as at first sight might
appear; four miles away were the military barracks of Melliford, and a
Catholic chapel which had been built there--principally on account of the
soldiers--was served every Sunday and holiday from a larger center, and
thither the Dales regularly drove to worship.

Seven children had been born to the worthy couple, but death had snatched
all in turn except the last; this was Penelope (our Penny), who, needless
to say, was the idol of both parents.  The result of their devotion was a
rather strict surveillance, to which she was subjected, not only during
childhood's years, but with even greater insistence when she had reached
maidenhood.  For it became necessary then to guard their treasure from
any adventurer who might seek to win her in marriage for the sake of the
goodly dowry which every one knew must fall to her lot.  Her father would
often remark with no little show of determination: "Penny shall never
throw herself away on any whipper-snapper of a fellow!  She'll not be a
pauper, and she can afford to wait a bit till she meets her match!"

It is not to be surprised, therefore, that Penny should hold her pretty
head rather high.  No mere plowman would dare to aspire to the hand of a
landlord's only daughter, and no marriageable farmer to whom Penny might
aspire was to be found in the neighborhood.  As to the military--Penny
would have scouted the idea of wedding a common soldier, and was sensible
enough to turn a cold shoulder upon the undisguised glances of admiration
of youthful and impressionable officers.  Thus it came about that she had
blossomed into a graceful girl of twenty--small in stature, yet not
without good looks--and yet remained heart-whole.

Among their few intimate acquaintances the Dales had a particular
attraction for one of the married sergeants of the barracks and his
wife--both Catholics.  Sergeant Pike and his better-half would not
infrequently, especially during the summer months, stroll over to the inn
of an evening--sure of a hearty welcome to a cup of tea and a chat.  Pike
had seen service in India, and his adventures would thrill his rustic
audience in the inn, as they listened over pipe and mug to his stirring
narratives.  His wife was equally entertaining toward Sarah Dale and her
daughter, in the little glass-partitioned bar in the corner of the
"house-place"; she had been maid to many an officer's lady, and had
traveled as far abroad as her husband.  Thus while "the tented field" and
its dangers held enthralled the larger company of men, present fashions
and past adventures--though less exciting than those of the
sergeant--were entertaining enough to the smaller audience in the bar.
Even 'Melia, the maid-servant of tender years, would share in the social
enjoyment, as knitting in hand she stole furtively in from the kitchen
and listened unreproved to the interesting discourse.  Sometimes it might
happen that the Pikes had been able to drive over in a borrowed
conveyance on a winter afternoon; in such case a cosy supper in the snug
little bar, after the ordinary company had departed, would take the place
of tea.  The Pikes, in their turn, were always hospitably inclined
whenever Stephen Dale, his wife, or daughter, or all of them together,
might look in upon them of a Sunday after Mass.

The acquaintance, thus ripened, was destined to influence Penny's future
beyond any anticipation on the part of either family.  It fell out on one
occasion that Mrs. Pike was unable to accompany the sergeant on a visit
to the Dales, and to serve as a companion on the walk he brought with him
a fellow-sergeant, much younger, whom he introduced to the Dales as "my
particular chum--Sergeant Spence."  The newcomer was a decidedly
handsome, strapping young soldier, with a merry dark eye, rendered still
more striking by his fair hair and tawny moustache.  His skin would have
been fair, too, had it not undergone a process of bronzing under tropical
suns.  He could not have been thirty, and looked even younger.  He proved
also to be unmarried; a fact playfully made known by his companion.
"Arthur's never met with a missus to suit him since he got his stripes,"
he said laughing, as they sat at supper; "he's like me--a bit particular
in that respect."  Spence merely greeted the remark with a quiet smile.
He seemed a silent young fellow, with a manner superior to his

Perhaps it was a want of circumspection on the part of Stephen Dale that
he should welcome a stranger, and a soldier, too, as a guest at his
family meal.  But it was his favorite axiom that a sergeant might not be
looked down upon "like as if he was a common Tom, Dick, or Harry in the
ranks"; so that his hospitality was to be expected in the present
instance.  Had either anxious parent had the slightest fear of the
attractive sergeant's pleasing qualities proving too strong for Penny's
"proper pride," their welcome would have been less genuine; but they were
altogether without suspicion.  Yet, as to Penny herself, it must have
been evident from the first that the dark eyes often strayed in her
direction, and that with unmistakable interest, even on so short an

After that first visit the handsome young sergeant became a frequent
partaker of the hospitality of the "British Lion."  He never omitted to
accompany the Pikes, and not seldom walked over on a summer's evening to
smoke a pipe with Stephen and feast his eyes surreptitiously upon
Stephen's attractive daughter.  He proved, on acquaintance, to be an
intelligent, well-spoken young fellow, evidently superior to most of his
class; this was owing to the fact that he was a farmer's son, left,
through a combination of circumstances, orphaned and almost destitute,
who had found in the army a welcome means of livelihood.

It was not long before Spence was on as familiar a footing at the
"British Lion" as his fellow-sergeant.  It was strange that both Stephen
Dale and his wife were altogether blind to the real reason for his
frequent visits.  Penny, on the other hand, had early discerned the state
of the young man's feelings toward her; but instinctively she guarded her
secret from all.  Even when Spence had spoken, and had learned her strong
affection for him, she insisted that all knowledge of their mutual
understanding should be kept from her parents until she could gauge their
feelings in the matter.  She was not without uneasiness; for it seemed
extremely doubtful whether her father--much as he liked her lover--would
consider him suitable as a son-in-law.  For her mother's opinion she felt
no anxiety; since Sarah Dale was thoroughly under her husband's thumb.
Penny's own strong will had come to her from her father alone.

The course of events was much like that of other instances of the kind.
Clandestine letters, less frequent meetings--as opportunity offered--ran
the usual risk; in due time, as might have been expected by any but
ardent lovers, the secret oozed out.  Some busybody or other lost no time
in conveying the startling news to Stephen Dale, who had hitherto had no
suspicion of the state of things.

To say that Penny's father was disappointed would be an altogether
inadequate description of his state of mind; he was thoroughly enraged.
Never in her life had his daughter seen him give way to such unrestrained
passion; for never before had his hopes and aspirations been so entirely
thrown over.  He had set his heart upon establishing his darling in a
position in life as far above his own as might be possible; now, by her
own initiative, she had paved the way to an evident descent in the social
scale.  Not content with choosing one far beneath her, she had even
chosen a Protestant!  Yet Stephen had too strong a will to be easily
contravened.  He was determined to prevent, at all costs, such a
disaster.  His first impulse was to relieve his mind by telling Spence in
no measured language what he thought of his conduct; the latter had
perforce to keep silent, however exaggerated the abuse heaped upon him,
for his conscience told him that he was in fault.  Penny was the next to
listen to some very candid truths as to the uprightness of her part in
the proceedings.  Then when he had given full play to his indignation,
Stephen began to make plans for the future which might effectually defeat
any attempts on the part of the young people to renew their intimacy.
Spence, of course, was absolutely forbidden to set foot again over the
threshold of the inn.  Penny was kept under strict surveillance until her
father was able to carry her off to a sister of his own in distant
Lancashire, who could be depended upon to prevent any communication
between the lovers.  The Pikes--poor people--though absolutely innocent
of any complicity, since they knew no more of what was going on than
Stephen himself, were made to share in Spence's interdict.  No assurances
of their total ignorance of the affair would avail; the fact that Pike
had been the unfortunate instrument in introducing his comrade to the
Dale family was in itself sufficient to kindle Stephen's wrath against
him.  To add to the sergeant's discomfiture, he could not forget that in
his admiration for his "chum" he had been unstinting in his praises; for
he had a genuine affectionate regard for Spence, as a thoroughly upright
young fellow, and a striking contrast to the majority of the Protestants
with whom he was daily brought into contact.

The unhappy Penny, placed under her aunt's vigilant guardianship, was
inconsolable.  She languished and drooped, during the first week or two
of her exile, as though her usually firm will had died within her.  So
utterly broken did she seem that her aunt began to lose all hope of
rousing her to any interest in life; apparently she was submitting in a
spirit of blank despair to a fate which she regarded as inevitable.  But
soon a change came over her.  Though still quiet and seemingly docile,
she gained by degrees some vestiges of her old cheerfulness and gaiety.
Her guardian's watchfulness inadvertently relaxed, for it appeared no
longer necessary.

But the unfortunate woman had a sad awakening.  One morning the girl went
out alone--ostensibly to Mass; the day wore on, and to her aunt's
consternation no Penny put in an appearance.  An explanation arrived next
morning by letter.  Penny's lover had contrived to communicate with her
and to arrange a meeting in Liverpool, where they had been married; by
the time the letter arrived at its destination the couple were on the way
to Ireland, whither Spence's regiment had been just transferred.

The two years that followed were, for the most part, years of happiness
for the sergeant and his bride.  Penny's conscience had been at first
greatly troubled by her sacrilegious marriage before a registrar, on
account of the inevitable haste with which it had to be carried through.
She bitterly deplored her weakness for many a long day, even after she
had done all that was possible to atone for her sin by a sincere
Confession.  Her husband could not be expected to realize as she did the
gravity of her offense against religion; but he sympathized with her
distress, and did all that lay in his power, by unceasing care and
devotion, to comfort her.  By degrees his lavish affection tended to
deaden for the time the keenness of her remorse.

Their happiness was increased by the birth of a little daughter.  The
child was the idol of her father, and Penny's life was brightened by the
joys of motherhood, in spite of the persistent refusal of Stephen Dale to
hold any communication with her or allow his wife to do so.

But all too soon that happiness was to be rudely shattered, and that in a
way entirely unforeseen.

Like many another family on the strength of the regiment, the Spences,
for lack of accommodation in barracks, were lodged in apartments in the
city.  One dreary winter evening, when little Annie was about a year old,
Penny sat at her knitting by the fireside, the baby in her cot close by,
fast asleep.  Spence had been taking part in a concert, and was later
than usual in coming in, for it was past ten o'clock.  In the silence
Penny heard the sound of footsteps ascending the stairs outside; they
halted at her door, and there was a gentle rapping.  She rose and opened
the door in response.

On the landing without stood a woman, whom she had never before seen--a
shabby-looking woman, dressed in soiled and worn garments, which had once
been bright and stylish.  Her appearance, apart from her dress, was far
from attractive; her lean face had dull red blotches upon it, her eyes
looked wild and shining, and her gray hair straggled out from her tawdry
bonnet.  It scarcely needed the evidence of a strong smell of spirits to
prove that she had been taking drink.

Penny instinctively shrank back from the threshold, but still held the
door in her hand.  The woman made no attempt to enter.  Fixing her too
bright eyes upon Penny's face with a scrutinizing glance, she said in a
raucous whisper:

"I was told that Sergeant Spence was likely to be here; but it seems I've
come to the wrong rooms."

Penny was silent for a moment, dreading she knew not what.

"Sergeant Spence may be here any moment," she answered, rousing herself.
She was praying that he might come quickly.

"Oh, indeed!  So he may be here any moment," said the woman in louder
tones.  "I suppose my fine fellow is courting you now," she went on,
staring boldly into Penny's frightened face.  "Well, I've no fault to
find with his taste.  He used to have an eye for a pretty face, and
you're a good-looking girl, though you're but a little one."

"What do you want with Sergeant Spence?" asked Penny, as her courage
began to return.  Why should she fear this coarse, black-eyed woman.  She
could have nothing in common with Arthur.  But why should she seek him
thus openly in his own dwelling?  Her fears began to return.

The strange visitor advanced across the threshold; Penny retreated before
her.  The color deepened in her already florid face as the woman cried

"What do I want with him?  I mean to force him to take me back to my
rightful place, that's what I want with him!"

Her voice, raised angrily, awoke the child, who gave a shrill cry of
fright.  The woman stared at the cot in astonishment.  Penny stooped and
lifted the little one, and faced the stranger once more as she pressed
the child to her bosom.

"Is that your baby?" the woman almost whispered, as she caught the gleam
of Penny's wedding ring.  Then she cried wrathfully:

"What!  Has he dared to marry you?  Oh, the treacherous villain!  Surely
you're not Arthur Spence's wife!"

In spite of the fear that fell upon her, Penny grew at once strangely
calm.  This must be some disreputable relative of her husband's--though
she had thought him alone in the world.  He was an orphan.  This could
not be Arthur's mother!  He could have nothing in common with a woman so
low as this!  It was some bold, bad creature trying to frighten her.
Thus spoke her trembling heart, but her voice was quiet and restrained as
she said in reply:

"I do not see how it affects you that Arthur Spence is my husband, and
this is our child."

The simple dignity with which she spoke and her apparent calmness seemed
to soften the woman and still her anger somewhat.  Drawing nearer, she
laid her hand with something of gentleness upon Penny's arm, and tears
started to her eyes as she exclaimed:

"My dear, the man's a scoundrel!  You are no wife of his.  He married me
when he was a stripling of eighteen, and he cast me off in less than a
year.  He ruined me, and now he's ruined you--poor dear!"

"It's false, it's false!" cried Penny with fierce eyes and glowing color.
"You certainly know nothing of my husband.  You'll never turn me against
him with your wicked lies!  He's good and true--I'm sure of it, say what
you like!"

"I only wish you were right, my dear," replied the other, evidently
softened by Penny's unshaken fidelity.  "But God knows I'm speaking the
truth; for here is the proof."

She drew from her pocket a folded paper and held it open before Penny's

It was a marriage certificate.  It described Arthur Spence as wedded to
Clara Millar, and the date was twelve years ago.  The shock, though
intense, was merely momentary.  So strong was Penny's trust in her
husband that not even this manifest evidence, as it seemed, could shake
it.  Another man might bear the same name--Arthur might have some
disreputable cousin or other relative.  She would believe nothing against
the uprightness of her Arthur.

"I do not believe," she said firmly, looking steadfastly at the other
woman, "that my husband could wrong any woman."

"I declare to you before God," cried the stranger excitedly, "that
Sergeant Arthur Spence, whom you call your husband, married me on the day
set down here!"  And she rapped with one hand on the paper she held in
the other.  "But I have a stronger proof.  Read that!"

She had taken an envelope from her pocket as she spoke, and drawing from
it a paper she held it before Penny.

With shaking hands the poor little wife took it.  It was a letter--the
handwriting familiar to her.  She turned to the signature; it was her
husband's own.

"Read it through," persisted the woman.  "See whether I am telling the
truth or lies."

Penny's knees were shaking under her.  She sank into a chair, and
clasping her baby more closely to her breast she read the letter.  It was
dated a few days before she and Arthur were married.

"Dear Clara," it ran.  "This is the last time I shall write to you.
Unless you stick to the agreement we made, I shall stop sending you
money.  Do not try to meet me, and do not mention again our unhappy
marriage--even to me--or I shall shake you off entirely.  So use your
common-sense, and keep quiet.  You will find that I shall do something
desperate if you keep on annoying me as you have done lately.  I tell you
plainly: I will never see you again."

What a moment of agony for the poor stricken wife!  There could no longer
he room for doubt.  She had indeed been fooled and deceived!  Her innate
courage rose and sustained her under the weight of the trial.  She would
leave that house--now, once and for all--before her betrayer could
return!  Never, never would she look upon his smiling, treacherous face

Animated with fresh strength, she rose and hastily began her
preparations.  She fetched the baby's warm wraps from the inner room and
began to dress the child.  The other woman looked on in silence--dazed
for the moment by Penny's brisk movements.  At last she found a voice.

"What are you doing?" she cried.  "Surely you will not take the child out

Penny made no answer, but fetched her own outdoor clothes and dressed

"Where are you going, on such a night?" cried the other excitedly.

"Anywhere," answered Penny, her lips white and her eyes flashing.
"Anywhere out of reach of that man."

"No, no!" the woman expostulated.  "Wait till morning!  I'll see him then
and settle everything."

"What can you settle that can make me stay?" asked Penny, in bitter
wrath.  "Do you think that I would spend another night under this roof?
Wait here and see him, if you wish--you have the right to be here, not I!
He will never see me again."

She ran back into her bedroom for the little purse.  In it were a few
pounds she had saved up to buy the man an easy chair for his coming
birthday.  How often she had pictured his pleasure when he would be able
to lean back comfortably in it on the opposite side of the fireplace and
smoke his evening pipe, his handsome face beaming love and admiration.
The vision filled her with fresh loathing.  She scarcely bade the other
woman good-night, but clasping her babe hurried from the room.  Swiftly
down the stairs she ran, heedless of the cries of the woman she had left
behind, and out into the wind and rain of the dreary street--fit emblem,
in its forlorn wretchedness, of the future which loomed hopeless before

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Two things added to the poignancy of Penny's unavailing grief in after
years: the innocence of Arthur Spence of any deception (except silence
regarding his past), and the fact that she never knew this until he had
given his life in his country's service.  It was then too late to reap
comfort in her supreme sorrow from the knowledge of his uprightness both
to herself and to the wretched woman who had caused her unreflecting
flight on that fatal night.

For many months she had been hidden from all her former acquaintances in
the Convent of Mercy, whose Superior she had long been intimate with.
There she had nursed her baby through an illness which at last proved
fatal.  Grief at the loss of her little one, added to her already heavy
burden of trouble, had told upon her own health, and for weeks she had
needed to be nursed herself.  After her recovery, as she shrank from
returning home, the good Sisters obtained for her the post of nurse with
our family.

Two years later Stephen Dale died suddenly.  Penny had written to him and
to her mother more than once, but got no answer; the intimation of her
father's death was the first communication she had received since leaving
home.  Later on a letter was forwarded to her, which had been found among
her father's papers.  It was from Spence, and was dated the day following
her flight.  In an agony of mind the man had searched for her everywhere,
and failing to discover any trace of her whereabouts, had written to her
under cover to her father.  He, poor man, could not send it--even had he
been willing--having no idea of her address.

The letter was a pitiful appeal to Penny to return, and contained a full
explanation of his conduct.  The marriage with the woman Millar--never a
happy one--had proved invalid, owing to the survival of her former
husband to a later date.  This, however, only became known to Spence
after the woman's intemperate habits had told upon her brain, and landed
her in an asylum.  She had really believed that her husband--a worthless
fellow--had died on the day stated.  It was characteristic of the
chivalrous nature of the man that Spence shrank from telling her, after
her recovery, of the error; content to send her an annual allowance on
condition that they should remain apart--as they had agreed to do long
before.  Although the woman had no legal claim upon him, he had continued
this allowance even after his marriage with Penny, hoping to secure by
this means freedom from molestation.

It was natural that Penny, knowing all the circumstances, should desire
to communicate with her husband and become reconciled.  My dear old
father, to whom she had confided her trouble, at once inquired through
the War Office as to where Arthur Spence was then stationed.  The answer
told of his death in action three months earlier.

Penny--poor soul!--when giving me these details many years later, utterly
broke down, as she accused herself of having wronged--however
unwittingly--by her suspicions the brave and upright man whose loss she
still keenly deplored, and whose soul (I make no doubt) she will never
omit to recommend to God in her daily prayers as long as life is granted
to her.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Up in Ardmuirland" ***

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