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Title: What's Mine's Mine — Volume 2
Author: MacDonald, George, 1824-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "What's Mine's Mine — Volume 2" ***

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WHAT'S MINE'S MINE

By George MacDonald

IN THREE VOLUMES

VOL. II.



CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

CHAPTER

   I. THE STORY TOLD BY IAN
  II. ROB OF THE ANGELS
 III. AT THE NEW HOUSE
  IV. THE BROTHERS
   V. THE PRINCESS
  VI. THE TWO PAIRS
 VII. AN CABRACH MOR
VIII. THE STAG'S HEAD
  IX. ANNIE OF THE SHOP
   X. THE ENCOUNTER
  XI. A LESSON
 XII. NATURE
XIII. GRANNY ANGRY
 XIV. CHANGE
  XV. LOVE ALLODIAL
 XVI. MERCY CALLS ON GRANNIE
XVII. IN THE TOMB



WHATS'S MINE'S MINE.



CHAPTER I.

THE STORY TOLD BY IAN.


"There was once a woman whose husband was well to do, but he died
and left her, and then she sank into poverty. She did her best; but
she had a large family, and work was hard to find, and hard to do
when it was found, and hardly paid when it was done. Only hearts of
grace can understand the struggles of the poor--with everything but
God against them! But she trusted in God, and said whatever he
pleased must be right, whether he sent it with his own hand or not.

"Now, whether it was that she could not find them enough to eat, or
that she could not keep them warm enough, I do not know; I do not
think it was that they had not gladness enough, which is as
necessary for young things as food and air and sun, for it is
wonderful on how little a child can be happy; but whatever was the
cause, they began to die. One after the other sickened and lay down,
and did not rise again; and for a time her life was just a waiting
upon death. She would have wanted to die herself, but that there was
always another to die first; she had to see them all safe home
before she dared wish to go herself. But at length the last of them
was gone, and then when she had no more to provide for, the heart of
work went out of her: where was the good of working for herself!
there was no interest in it! But she knew it was the will of God she
should work and eat until he chose to take her back to himself; so
she worked on for her living while she would much rather have worked
for her dying; and comforted herself that every day brought death a
day nearer. Then she fell ill herself, and could work no more, and
thought God was going to let her die; for, able to win her bread no
longer, surely she was free to lie down and wait for death! But just
as she was going to her bed for the last time, she bethought herself
that she was bound to give her neighbour the chance of doing a good
deed: and felt that any creature dying at her door without letting
her know he was in want, would do her a great wrong. She saw it was
the will of God that she should beg, so put on her clothes again,
and went out to beg. It was sore work, and she said so to the
priest. But the priest told her she need not mind, for our Lord
himself lived by the kindness of the women who went about with him.
They knew he could not make a living for his own body and a living
for the souls of so many as well, and the least they could do was to
keep him alive who was making them alive. She said that was very
true; but he was all the time doing everything for everybody, and
she was doing nothing for anybody. The priest was a wise man, and
did not tell her how she had, since ever he knew her, been doing the
work of God in his heart, helping him to believe and trust in God;
so that in fact, when he was preaching, she was preaching. He did
not tell her that, I say, for he was jealous over her beauty, and
would have Christ's beloved sheep enter his holy kingdom with her
wool white, however torn it might be. So he left her to think she
was nobody at all; and told her that, whether she was worth keeping
alive or not, whether she was worth begging for or not, whether it
was a disgrace or an honour to beg, all was one, for it was the will
of God that she should beg, and there was no word more to be said,
and no thought more to be thought about it. To this she heartily
agreed, and did beg--enough to keep her alive, and no more.

"But at last she saw she must leave that part of the country, and go
back to the place her husband took her from. For the people about
her were very poor, and she thought it hard on them to have to help
a stranger like her; also her own people would want her to bury. For
you must know that in the clans, marriage was thought to be
dissolved by death, so far at least as the body was concerned;
therefore the body of a dead wife was generally carried back to the
burial place of her own people, there to be gathered to her fathers.
So the woman set out for her own country, begging her way thither.
Nor had she any difficulty, for there were not a few poor people on
her way, and the poor are the readiest to help the poor, also to
know whether a person is one that ought to be helped or not.

"One night she came to a farm house where a rich miserly farmer
dwelt. She knew about him, and had not meant to stop there, but she
was weary, and the sun went down as she reached his gate, and she
felt as if she could go no farther. So she went up to the door and
knocked, and asked if she could have a nights lodging. The woman
who opened to her went and asked the farmer. Now the old man did not
like hospitality, and in particular to such as stood most in need of
it; he did not enjoy throwing away money! At the same time, however,
he was very fond of hearing all the country rumours; and he thought
with himself he would buy her news with a scrap of what was going,
and a shake-down at the foot of the wall. So he told his servant to
bring her in.

"He received her not unkindly, for he wanted her to talk; and he let
her have a share of the supper, such as it was. But not until he had
asked every question about everybody he could think of, and drawn
her own history from her as well, would he allow her to have the
rest she so much needed.

"Now it was a poor house, like most in the country, and nearly
without partitions. The old man had his warm box-bed, and slept on
feathers where no draught could reach him, and the poor woman had
her bed of short rumpled straw on the earthen floor at the foot of
the wall in the coldest corner. Yet the heart of the man had been
moved by her story, for, without dwelling on her sufferings, she had
been honest in telling it. He had indeed, ere he went to sleep,
thanked God that he was so much better off than she. For if he did
not think it the duty of the rich man to share with his neighbours,
he at least thought it his duty to thank God for his being richer
than they.

"Now it may well seem strange that such a man should be privileged
to see a vision; but we do read in the Bible of a prophet who did
not even know his duty to an ass, so that the ass had to teach it
him. And the man alone saw the vision; the woman saw nothing of it.
But she did not require to see any vision, for she had truth in the
inward parts, which is better than all visions. The vision was on
this wise:--In the middle of the night the man came wide awake, and
looking out of his bed, saw the door open, and a light come in,
burning like a star, of a faint rosy colour, unlike any light he had
ever before seen. Another and another came in, and more yet, until
he counted six of them. They moved near the floor, but he could not
see clearly what sort of little creatures they were that were
carrying them. They went up to the woman's bed, and walked slowly
round it in a hovering kind of a way, stopping, and moving up and
down, and going on again; and when they had done this three times,
they went slowly out of the door again, stopping for a moment
several times as they went.

"He fell asleep, and waking not very early, was surprised to see his
guest still on her hard couch--as quiet as any rich woman, he said
to himself, on her feather bed. He woke her, told her he wondered
she should sleep so far into the morning, and narrated the curious
vision he had had. 'Does not that explain to you,' she said, 'how it
is that I have slept so long? Those were my dead children you saw
come to me. They died young, without any sin, and God lets them come
and comfort their poor sinful mother. I often see them in my dreams.
If, when I am gone, you will look at my bed, you will find every
straw laid straight and smooth. That is what they were doing last
night.' Then she gave him thanks for good fare and good rest, and
took her way to her own, leaving the farmer better pleased with
himself than he had been for a long time, partly because there had
been granted him a vision from heaven.

"At last the woman died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's
bosom. She was now with her own people indeed, that is, with God and
all the good. The old farmer did not know of her death till a long
time after; but it was upon the night she died, as near as he could
then make out, that he dreamed a wonderful dream. He never told it
to any but the priest from whom he sought comfort when he lay dying;
and the priest did not tell it till after everybody belonging to the
old man was gone. This was the dream:--

"He was lying awake in his own bed, as he thought, in the dark
night, when the poor woman came in at the door, having in her hand a
wax candle, but not alight. He said to her, 'You extravagant woman!
where did you get that candle?' She answered, 'It was put into my
hand when I died, with the word that I was to wander till I found a
fire at which to light it.' 'There!' said he, 'there's the rested
fire! Blow and get a light, poor thing! It shall never be said I
refused a body a light!' She went to the hearth, and began to blow
at the smouldering peat; but, for all she kept trying, she could not
light her candle. The old man thought it was because she was dead,
not because he was dead in sin, and losing his patience, cried, 'You
foolish woman! haven't you wit enough left to light a candle? It's
small wonder you came to beggary!' Still she went on trying, but the
more she tried, the blacker grew the peat she was blowing at. It
would indeed blaze up at her breath, but the moment she brought the
candle near it to catch the flame, it grew black, and each time
blacker than before. 'Tut! give me the candle,' cried the farmer,
springing out of bed; 'I will light it for you!' But as he stretched
out his hand to take it, the woman disappeared, and he saw that the
fire was dead out. 'Here's a fine business!' he said. 'How am I to
get a light?' For he was miles from the next house. And with that he
turned to go back to his bed. When he came near it, he saw somebody
lying in it. 'What! has the carline got into my very bed?' he cried,
and went to drive her out of the bed and out of the house. But when
he came close, he saw it was himself lying there, and knew that at
least he was out of the body, if not downright dead. The next moment
he found himself on the moor, following the woman, some distance
before him, with her unlighted candle still in her hand. He walked
as fast as he could to get up with her, but could not; he called
after her, but she did not seem to hear.

"When first he set out, he knew every step of the ground, but by and
by he ceased to know it. The moor stretched out endlessly, and the
woman walked on and on. Without a thought of turning back, he
followed. At length he saw a gate, seemingly in the side of a hill.
The woman knocked, and by the time it opened, he was near enough to
hear what passed. It was a grave and stately, but very happy-looking
man that opened it, and he knew at once it was St. Peter. When he
saw the woman, he stooped and kissed her. The same moment a light
shone from her, and the old man thought her candle was lighted at
last; but presently he saw it was her head that gave out the
shining. And he heard her say, 'I pray you, St. Peter, remember the
rich tenant of Balmacoy; he gave me shelter one whole night, and
would have let me light my candle but I could not.' St. Peter
answered, 'His fire was not fire enough to light your candle, and
the bed he gave you was of short straw!' 'True, St. Peter,' said the
woman, 'but he gave me some supper, and it is hard for a rich man to
be generous! You may say the supper was not very good, but at least
it was more than a cup of cold water!' 'Yes, verily!' answered the
saint, 'but he did not give it you because you loved God, or because
you were in need of it, but because he wanted to hear your news.'
Then the woman was sad, for she could not think of anything more to
say for the poor old rich man. And St. Peter saw that she was sad,
and said, 'But if he die to-night, he shall have a place inside the
gate, because you pray for him. He shall lie there!' And he pointed
to just such a bed of short crumpled straw as she had lain upon in
his house. But she said, 'St. Peter, you ought to be ashamed of
yourself! Is that the kind of welcome to give a poor new-dead man?
Where then would he have lain if I had not prayed for him?' 'In the
dog-kennel outside there,' answered St. Peter. 'Oh, then, please,
let me go back and warn him what comes of loving money!' she
pleaded. 'That is not necessary,' he replied; 'the man is hearing
every word you and I are this moment saying to each other.' 'I am so
glad!' rejoined the woman; 'it will make him repent.' 'He will not
be a straw the better for it!' answered the saint. 'He thinks now
that he will do differently, and perhaps when he wakes will think so
still; but in a day or two he will mock at it as a foolish dream. To
gather money will seem to him common sense, and to lay up treasure
in heaven nonsense. A bird in the hand will be to him worth ten in
the heavenly bush. And the end will be that he will not get the
straw inside the gate, and there will be many worse places than the
dog-kennel too good for him!' With that he woke.

"'What an odd dream!' he said to himself. 'I had better mind what I
am about!' So he was better that day, eating and drinking more
freely, and giving more to his people. But the rest of the week he
was worse than ever, trying to save what he had that day spent, and
so he went on growing worse. When he found himself dying, the terror
of his dream came upon him, and he told all to the priest. But the
priest could not comfort him."

By the time the story was over, to which Mercy had listened without
a word, they were alone in the great starry night, on the side of a
hill, with the snow high above them, and the heavens above the snow,
and the stars above the heavens, and God above and below everything.
Only Ian felt his presence. Mercy had not missed him yet.

She did not see much in the tale: how could she? It was very odd,
she thought, but not very interesting. She had expected a tale of
clan-feud, or a love-story! Yet the seriousness of her companion in
its narration had made some impression upon her.

"They told me you were an officer," she said, "but I see you are a
clergyman! Do you tell stories like that from the pulpit?"

"I am a soldier," answered Ian, "not a clergyman. But I have heard
my father tell such a story from the pulpit."

Ian imagined himself foiled in his attempt to interest the maiden.
If he was, it would not be surprising. He had not the least desire
to commend HIMSELF to the girl; and he would not talk rubbish even
to a child. There is sensible and senseless nonsense, good absurdity
and bad.

As Mercy recounted to her sister the story Ian had told her, it
certainly was silly enough. She had retained but the withered stalk
and leaves; the strange flower was gone. Christina judged it hardly
a story for a gentleman to tell a lady.

They returned almost in silence to find the table laid, a plentiful
supper spread, and the company seated. After supper came singing of
songs, saying of ballads, and telling of tales. I know with what
incredulity many highlanders will read of a merry-making in their own
country at which no horn went round, no punch-bowl was filled and
emptied without stint! But the clearer the brain, the better justice
is done to the more etherial wine of the soul. Of several of the
old songs Christina begged the tunes, but was disappointed to find
that, as she could not take them down, so the singers of them could
not set them down. In the tales she found no interest. The hostess
sang to her harp, and made to revering listeners eloquent music, for
her high clear tones had not yet lost their sweetness, and she had
some art to come in aid of her much feeling: loud murmurs of
delight, in the soft strange tongue of the songs themselves,
followed the profound silence with which they were heard, but
Christina wondered what there was to applaud. She could not herself
sing without accompaniment, and when she left, it was with a
regretful feeling that she had not distinguished herself. Naturally,
as they went home, the guests from the New House had much fun over
the queer fashions and poverty--stricken company, the harp and the
bagpipes, the horrible haggis, the wild minor songs, and the
unintelligible stories and jokes; but the ladies agreed that the
Macruadh was a splendid fellow.



CHAPTER II

ROB OF THE ANGELS.


Among the peasantry assembled at the feast, were two that had
neither danced, nor seated themselves at the long table where all
were welcome. Mercy wondered what might be the reason of their
separation. Her first thought was that they must be somehow, she
could not well imagine how, in lower position than any of the rest--had
perhaps offended against the law, perhaps been in prison, and
so the rest would not keep company with them; or perhaps they were
beggars who did not belong to the clan, and therefore, although fed,
were not allowed to eat with it! But she soon saw she must be wrong
in each conjecture; for if there was any avoiding, it was on the
part of the two: every one, it was clear, was almost on the alert to
wait upon them. They seemed indeed rather persons of distinction
than outcasts; for it was with something like homage, except for a
certain coaxing tone in the speech of the ministrants, that they
were attended. They had to help themselves to nothing; everything
was carried to them. Now one, now another, where all were guests and
all were servants, would rise from the table to offer them
something, or see what they would choose or might be in want of,
while they partook with the same dignity and self-restraint that was
to be noted in all.

The elder was a man about five-and-fifty, tall and lean, with a wiry
frame, dark grizzled hair, and a shaven face. His dress, which was
in the style of the country, was very poor, but decent; only his
plaid was large and thick, and bright compared with the rest of his
apparel: it was a present he had had from his clan-some giving the
wool, and others the labour in carding, dyeing, and weaving it. He
carried himself like a soldier-which he had never been, though his
father had. His eyes were remarkably clear and keen, and the way he
used them could hardly fail to attract attention. Every now and then
they would suddenly fix themselves with a gaze of earnest inquiry,
which would either grow to perception, or presently melt away and
let his glance go gently roving, ready to receive, but looking for
nothing. His face was very brown and healthy, with marked and
handsome features. Its expression seemed at first a little severe,
but soon, to reading eyes, disclosed patience and tenderness. At the
same time there was in it a something indescribably unlike the other
faces present-and indeed his whole person and carriage were
similarly peculiar. Had Mercy, however, spent on him a little more
attention, the peculiarity would have explained itself. She would
have seen that, although everybody spoke to him, he never spoke in
reply--only made signs, sometimes with his lips, oftener with hand
or head: the man was deaf and dumb. But such was the keenness of his
observation that he understood everything said to him by one he
knew, and much from the lips of a stranger.

His companion was a youth whose age it would have been difficult to
guess. He looked a lad, and was not far from thirty. His clothing
was much like his father's--poor enough, yet with the air of being
a better suit than that worn every day. He was very pale and
curiously freckled, with great gray eyes like his father's, which
had however an altogether different expression. They looked dreamy,
and seemed almost careless of what passed before them, though now
and then a certain quick, sharp turn of the head showed him not
devoid of attention.

The relation between the two was strangely interesting. Day and
night they were inseparable. Because the father was deaf, the son
gave all his attention to the sounds of the world; his soul sat in
his ears, ever awake, ever listening; while such was his confidence
in his father's sight, that he scarcely troubled himself to look
where he set his feet. His expression also was peculiar, partly from
this cause, mainly from a deeper. It was a far-away look, which a
common glance would have taken to indicate that he was "not all
there." In a lowland parish he would have been regarded as little
better than a gifted idiot; in the mountains he was looked upon as a
seer, one in communion with higher powers. Whether his people were
of this opinion from being all fools together, and therefore unable
to know a fool, or the lowland authorities would have been right in
taking charge of him, let him who pleases judge or misjudge for
himself. What his own thought of him came out in the name they gave
him: "Rob of the Angels," they called him. He was nearly a foot
shorter than his father, and very thin. Some said he looked always
cold; but I think that came of the wonderful peace on his face, like
the quiet of a lake over which lies a thin mist. Never was stronger
or fuller devotion manifested by son to father than by Rob of the
Angels to Hector of the Stags. His filial love and faith were
perfect. While they were together, he was in his own calm elysium;
when they were apart, which was seldom for more than a few minutes,
his spirit seemed always waiting. I believe his notions of God his
father, and Hector his father, were strangely mingled--the more
perhaps that the two fathers were equally silent. It would have been
a valuable revelation to some theologians to see in those two what
_love_ might mean.

So gentle was Rob of the Angels, that all the women, down to the
youngest maid-child, gave him a compassionate, mother-like love.
He had lost his mother when he was an infant; the father had brought
him up with his own hand, and from the moment of his mother's
departure had scarce let him out of his sight; but the whole
woman-remnant of the clan was as a mother to the boy. And from the
first they had so talked to him of his mother, greatly no doubt
through the feeling that from his father he could learn nothing of
her, that now his mother seemed to him everywhere: he could not see
God; why should not his mother be there though he could not see her!
No wonder the man was peaceful!

Many would be inclined to call the two but poachers and
vagabonds--vagabonds because they lived in houses not quite made
with hands, for they had several dwellings that were mostly
caves--which yet they contrived to make warm and comfortable; and
poachers because they lived by the creatures which God scatters on
his hills for his humans. Let those who inherit or purchase, avenge
the breach of law; but let them not wonder when those who are
disinherited and sold, cry out against the breach of higher law!

The land here had never, partly from the troubles besetting its
owners, but more from their regard for the poor, of the clan, been
with any care preserved; little notice was ever taken of what game
was killed, or who killed it. At the same time any wish of the chief
with regard to the deer, of which Rob's father for one knew every
antlered head, was rigidly respected. As to the parts which became
the property of others-the boundaries between were not very
definite, and sale could ill change habits, especially where owners
were but beginning to bestir themselves about the deer, or any of
the wild animals called game. Hector and Rob led their life with
untroubled conscience and easy mind.

In a world of the devil, where the justification of existence lay
in money on the one side, and work for money on the other, there
could be no justification of the existence of these men; but this
world does not belong to the devil, though it may often seem as if
it did, and father and son lived and enjoyed life, as in a manner so
to a decree unintelligible to him who, without his money and its
consolations, would know himself in the hell he has not yet
recognized. Neither of them could read or write; neither of them had a
penny laid by for wet weather; neither of them would leave any
memory beyond their generation; the will of neither would be laid up
in Doctors' Commons; neither of the two would leave on record a
single fact concerning one of the animals whose ways and habits
they knew better than any other man in the highlands; that they were
nothing, and worth nothing to anybody--even to themselves, would
have been the judgment of most strangers concerning them; but God
knew what a life of unspeakable pleasures it was that he had given
them-a life the change from which to the life beyond, would scarce
be distracting: neither would find himself much out of doors when he
died. To Bob of the Angels tow could Abraham's bosom feel strange,
accustomed to lie night after night, star-melted and soft-breathing,
or snow-ghastly and howling, with his head on--the bosom of Hector
of the Stags-an Abraham who could as ill do without his Isaac, as
his Isaac without him!

The father trusted his son's hearing as implicitly as his own sight.
When he saw a certain look come on his face, he would drop on the
instant, and crouch as still as if he had ears and knew what noise
was, watching Kob's face for news of some sound wandering through
the vast of the night.

It seemed at times, however, as if either he was not quite deaf, or
he had some gift that went toward compensation. To all motion about
him he was sensitive as no other man. I am afraid to say from how
far off the solid earth would convey to him the vibration of a
stag's footstep. Bob sometimes thought his cheek must feel the wind
of a sound to which his ear was irresponsive. Beyond a doubt he
was occasionally aware of the proximity of an animal, and knew
what animal it was, of which Rob had no intimation. His being,
corporeal and spiritual, seemed, to the ceaseless vibrations of the
great globe, a very seismograph. Often would he make his sign to
Kob to lay his ear on the ground and listen, when no indication had
reached the latter. I suspect the exceptional development in him of
some sense rudimentary in us all.

He had the keenest eyes in Glenruadh, and was a dead shot. Even the
chief was not his equal. Yet he never stalked a deer, never killed
anything, for mere sport. I am not certain he never had, but for Rob
of the Angels, he had the deep-rooted feeling of his chief in regard
to the animals. What they wanted for food, they would kill; but it
was not much they needed, for seldom can two men have lived on less,
and they had positively not a greed of any kind between them. If
their necessity was meal or potatoes, they would carry grouse or
hares down the glen, or arrange with some farmer's wife, perhaps
Mrs. Macruadh herself, for the haunches of a doe; but they never
killed from pleasure in killing. Of creatures destructive to game
they killed enough to do far more than make up for all the game they
took; and for the skins of ermine and stoat and fox and otter they
could always get money's worth; money itself they never sought or
had. If the little birds be regarded as earning the fruit and seed
they devour by the grubs and slugs they destroy, then Hector of the
Stags and Rob of the Angels also thoroughly earned their food.

When a trustworthy messenger was wanted, and Rob was within reach,
he was sure to be employed. But not even then were his father and he
quite parted. Hector would shoulder his gun, and follow in the track
of his fleet-footed son till he met him returning.

For what was life to Hector but to be with Rob! Was his Mary's son
to go about the world unattended! He had a yet stronger feeling than
any of the clan that his son was not of the common race of mortals.
To Hector also, after their own fashion, would Rob of the Angels
tell the tales that suggested the name his clanspeople gave
him--wonderful tales of the high mountain-nights, the actors in them
for the most part angels. Whether Rob believed he had intercourse
with such beings, heard them speak, and saw them, do the things he
reported, I cannot tell: it may be that, like any other poet of good
things, he but saw and believed the things his tales meant, the
things with which he represented the angels as dealing, and
concerning which he told their sayings. To the eyes of those who
knew him, Rob seemed just the sort of person with whom the angels
might be well pleased to hold converse: was he not simplicity
itself, truth, generosity, helpfulness? Did he not, when a child,
all but lose his life in the rescue of an idiot from the swollen
burn? Did he not, when a boy, fight a great golden eagle on its
nest, thinking to deliver the lamb it had carried away? Knowing his
father in want of a new bonnet, did not Rob with his bare hands
seize an otter at the mouth of its hole, and carry it home, laughing
merrily over the wounds it had given him?

His voice had in it a strangely peculiar tone, making it seem not of
this world. Especially after he had been talking for some time, it
would appear to come from far away, not from the lips of the man
looking you in the face.

It was wonderful with what solemnity of speech, and purity of form
he would tell his tales. So much in solitude with his dumb father,
his speech might well be unlike the speech of other men; but whence
the impression of cultivation it produced?

When the Christmas party broke up, most of the guests took the road
toward the village, the chief and his brother accompanying them part
of the way. Of these were Rob and his father, walking hand in hand,
Hector looking straight before him, Rob gazing up into the heavens,
as if holding counsel with the stars.

"Are you seeing any angels, Rob?" asked a gentle girl of ten.

"Well, and I'm not sure," answered Rob of the Angels.

"Sure you can tell whether you see anything!"

"Oh, yes, I see! but it is not easy to tell what will be an angel
and what will not. There's so much all blue up there, it might be
full of angels and none of us see one of them!"

"Do tell us what you see, Rob, dear Rob," said the girl.

"Well, and I will tell you. I think I see many heads close together,
talking."

"And can you hear what they will be saying?"

"Some of it."

"Tell me, do tell me-some-just a little."

"Well then, they are saying, one to the other--not very plain, but I
can hear--they are saying, 'I wonder when people will be good! It
would be so easy, if only they would mean it, and begin when they
are little!' That's what they are saying as they look down on us
walking along."

"That will be good advice, Rob!" said one of the women.

"And," he resumed, "they are saying now--at least that is what it
sounds to me--'I wish women were as good as they were when they
were little girls!'"

"Now I know they are not saying that!" remarked the woman. "How
should the angels trouble themselves about us! Rob, dear, confess
you are making it up, because the child would be asking you."

Rob made no answer, but some saw him smile a curious smile. Rob
would never defend anything he had said, or dispute anything another
said. After a moment or two, he spoke again.

"Shall I be telling you what I heard them saying to each other this
last night of all?" he asked.

"Yes, do, do!"

"It was upon Dorrachbeg; and there were two of them. They were
sitting together in the moon--in the correi on the side of the hill
over the village. I was lying in a bush near them, for I could not
sleep, and came out, and the night was not cold. Now I would never
be so bad-mannered as to listen where persons did not want me to
hear."

"What were they like, Rob, dear?" interrupted the girl.

"That does not matter much," answered Rob; "but they were white, and
their eyes not so white, but brighter; for so many sad things go in
at their eyes when they come down to the earth, that it makes them
dark."

"How could they be brighter and darker both at once?" asked the
girl, very pertinently.

"I will tell you," answered Rob. "The dark things that go in at
their eyes, they have to burn them in the fire of faith; and it is
the fire of that burning that makes their eyes bright; it is the
fire of their faith burning up the sad things they see."

"Oh, yes! I understand now!" said the girl. "And what were their
clothes like, Rob?"

"When you see the angels, you don't think much about their clothes."

"And what were they saying?"

"I spoke first--the moment I saw them, for I was not sure they knew
that I was there. I said, 'I am here, gentlemen.' 'Yes, we know
that,' they answered. 'Are you far from home, gentlemen?' I asked.
'It is all one for that,' they answered. 'Well,' said I, 'it is
true, gentlemen, for you seem as much at home here on the side of
Dorrachbeg, as if it was a hill in paradise!' 'And how do you know
it is not?' said they. 'Because I see people do upon it as they
would not in paradise,' I answered. 'Ah!' said one of them, 'the
hill may be in paradise, and the people not! But you cannot
understand these things.' 'I think I do,' I said; 'but surely, if
you did let them know they were on a hill in paradise, they would
not do as they do!' 'It would be no use telling them,' said he;
'but, oh, how they spoil the house!' 'Are the red deer, and the
hares, and the birds in paradise?' I asked. 'Certain sure!' he
answered. 'Do they know it?' said I. 'No, it is not necessary for
them; but they will know it one day.' 'You do not mind your little
brother asking you questions?' I said. 'Ask a hundred, if you will,
little brother,' he replied. 'Then tell me why you are down here
to-night.' 'My friend and I came out for a walk, and we thought we
would look to see when the village down there will have to be
reaped.' 'What do you mean?' I said. 'You cannot see what we see,'
they answered; 'but a human place is like a flower, or a field of
corn, and grows ripe, or won't grow ripe, and then some of us up
there have to sharpen our sickles.' 'What!' said I, for a great fear
came upon me, 'they are not wicked people down there!' 'No, not very
wicked, but slow and dull.' Then I could say nothing more for a
while, and they did not speak either, but sat looking before them.
'Can you go and come as you please?' I asked at length. 'Yes, just
as we are sent,' they answered. 'Would you not like better to go and
come of yourselves, as my father and I do?' I said. 'No,' answered
both of them, and something in their one voice almost frightened me;
'it is better than everything to go where we are sent. If we had to
go and come at our own will, we should be miserable, for we do not
love our own will.' 'Not love your own will?' 'No, not at all!'
'Why?' 'Because there is one--oh, ever so much better! When you and
your father are quite good, you will not be left to go and come at
your own will any more than we are.' And I cried out, and said, 'Oh,
dear angel! you frighten me!' And he said, 'That is because you are
only a man, and not a--' Now I am not sure of the word he said next;
bat I think it was CHRISTIAN; and I do not quite know what the word
meant."

"Oh, Rob, dear! everybody knows that!" exclaimed the girl.

But Rob said no more.

While he was talking, Alister had come up behind him, with Annie of
the shop, and he said--

"Rob, my friend, I know what you mean, and I want to hear the rest
of it: what did the angels say next?"

"They said," answered Rob, "--'Was it your will set you on this
beautiful hill, with all these things to love, with such air to
breathe, such a father as you've got, and such grand deer about
you?' 'No,' I answered. 'Then,' said the angel, 'there must be a
better will than yours, for you would never have even thought of
such things!' 'How could I, when I wasn't made?' said I. 'There it
is!' he returned, and said no more. I looked up, and the moon was
shining, and there were no angels on the stone. But a little way off
was my father, come out to see what had become of me."

"Now did you really see and hear all that, Rob?" said Alister.

Rob smiled a beautiful smile--with something in it common people
would call idiotic--stopped and turned, took the chief's hand, and
carried it to his lips; but not a word more would he speak, and soon
they came where the path of the two turned away over the hill.

"Will you not come and sleep at our house?" said one of the company.

But they made kindly excuse.

"The hill-side would miss us; we are expected home!" said Rob--and
away they climbed to their hut, a hollow in a limestone rock, with a
front wall of turf, there to sleep side by side till the morning
came, or, as Rob would have said, "till the wind of the sun woke
them."

Rob of the Angels made songs, and would sing one sometimes; but they
were in Gaelic, and the more poetic a thing, the more inadequate at
least, if not stupid is its translation.

He had all the old legends of the country in his head, and many
stories of ghosts and of the second sight. These stories he would
tell exactly as he had heard them, showing he believed every word of
them; but with such of the legends as were plainly no other than
poetic inventions, he would take what liberties he pleased--and they
lost nothing by it; for he not only gave them touches of fresh
interest, but sent glimmering through them hints of something
higher, of which ordinary natures perceived nothing, while others
were dimly aware of a loftier intent: according to his listeners was
their hearing. In Rob's stories, as in all the finer work of genius,
a man would find as much as, and no more than, he was capable of.
Ian's opinion of Rob was even higher than Alister's.

"What do you think, Ian, of the stories Rob of the Angels tells?"
asked Alister, as they walked home.

"That the Lord has chosen the weak things of the world to confound
the mighty," answered Ian.

"Tut! Rob confounds nobody."

"He confounds me," returned Ian.

"Does he believe what he tells?"

"He believes all of it that is to be believed," replied Ian.

"You are as bad as he!" rejoined Alister. "There is no telling,
sometimes, what you mean!"

"Tell me this, Alister: can a thing be believed that is not true?"

"Yes, certainly!"

"I say, NO. Can you eat that which is not bread?"

"I have seen a poor fellow gnawing a stick for hunger!" answered
Alister.

"Yes, gnawing! but gnawing is not eating. Did the poor fellow eat
the stick? That is just it! Many a man will gnaw at a lie all his
life, and perish of want. I mean LIE, of course, the real lie--a
thing which is in its nature false. He may gnaw at it, he may even
swallow it, but I deny that he can believe it. There is not that in
it which can be believed; at most it can but be supposed to be true.
Belief is another thing. Truth is alone the correlate of belief,
just as air is for the lungs, just as form and colour are for the
sight. A lie can no more be believed than carbonic acid can be
breathed. It goes into the lungs, true, and a lie goes into the
mind, but both kill; the one is not BREATHED, the other is not
BELIEVED. The thing that is not true cannot find its way to the home
of faith; if it could, it would be at once rejected with a loathing
beyond utterance; to a pure soul, which alone can believe, nothing
is so loathsome as a pretence of truth. A lie is a pretended truth.
If there were no truth there could be no lie. As the devil upon God,
the very being of a lie depends on that whose opposite and enemy it
is. But tell me, Alister, do you believe the parables of our Lord?"

"With all my heart."

"Was there any real person in our Lord's mind when he told that one
about the unjust judge?"

"I do not suppose there was; but there were doubtless many such."

"Many who would listen to a poor woman because she plagued them?"

"Well, it does not matter; what the story teaches is true, and that
was what he wanted believed."

"Just so. The truth in the parables is what they mean, not what they
say; and so it is, I think, with Rob of the Angels' stories. He
believes all that can be believed of them. At the same time, to a
mind so simple, the spirit of God must have freer entrance than to
ours--perhaps even teaches the man by what we call THE MAN'S OWN
WORDS. His words may go before his ideas--his higher ideas at
least--his ideas follow after his words. As the half-thoughts pass
through his mind--who can say how much generated by himself, how
much directly suggested by the eternal thought in which his spirit
lives and breathes!--he drinks and is refreshed. I am convinced that
nowhere so much as in the highest knowledge of all--what the people
above count knowledge--will the fulfilment of the saying of our
Lord, "Many first shall be last, and the last first," cause
astonishment; that a man who has been leader of the age's opinion,
may be immeasurably behind another whom he would have shut up in a
mad-house. Depend upon it, things go on in the soul of that Rob of
the Angels which the angels, whether they come to talk with him or
not, would gladly look into. Of such as he the angels may one day be
the pupils."

A silence followed.

"Do you think the young ladies of the New House could understand Rob
of the Angels, Ian?" at length asked Alister.

"Not a bit. I tried the younger, and she is the best.--They could if
they would wake up."

"You might say that of anybody!"

"Yes; but there is this among other differences--that some people do
not wake up, because they want a new brain first, such as they will
get when they die, perhaps; while others do not wake up, because
their whole education has been a rocking of them to sleep. And there
is this difference between the girls, that the one is full of
herself, and the other is not. The one has a close, the other an
open mind."

"And yet," said Alister, "if they heard you say so, the open mind
would imagine itself the close, and the close never doubt it was the
open!"



CHAPTER III

AT THE NEW HOUSE.


The ladies of the New House were not a little surprised the next day
when, as they sat waiting their guests, the door of the drawing-room
opened, and they saw the young highlanders enter in ordinary evening
dress. The plough-driving laird himself looked to Christina very
much like her patterns of Grosvenor-square. It was long since he had
worn his dress-coat, and it was certainly a little small for his
more fully developed frame, but he carried himself as straight as a
rush, and was nowise embarrassed with hands or feet. His hands were
brown and large, but they were well shaped, and not ashamed of
themselves, being as clean as his heart. Out of his hazel eyes,
looking in the candle-light nearly as dark as Mercy's, went an
occasional glance which an emergency might at once develop into a
look of command.

For Ian, he would have attracted attention anywhere, if only from
his look of quiet UNSELFNESS, and the invariable grace of the
movement that broke his marked repose; but his entertainers would
doubtless have honoured him more had they understood that his manner
was just the same and himself as much at home in the grandest court
of Europe.

The elder ladies got on together pretty well. The widow of the chief
tried to explain to her hostess the condition of the country and its
people; the latter, though knowing little and caring less about
relations beyond those of the family and social circle, nor feeling
any purely human responsibility, was yet interested enough to be
able to seem more interested than she was; while her sweet smile and
sweet manners were very pleasing to one who seldom now had the
opportunity of meeting a woman so much on her own level.

The gentlemen, too, were tolerably comfortable together. Both
Alister and Ian had plenty of talk and anecdote. The latter pleased
the ladies with descriptions of northern ways and dresses and
manners--perhaps yet more with what pleased the men also, tales of
wolf-and bear-shooting. But it seemed odd that, when the talk
turned upon the home-shooting called sport, both Alister and Ian
should sit in unsmiling silence.

There was in Ian a certain playfulness, a subdued merriment, which
made Mercy doubt her ears after his seriousness of the night before.
Life seemed to flash from him on all sides, occasionally in a keen
stroke of wit, oftener in a humorous presentation of things. His
brother alone could see how he would check the witticism on his very
lips lest it should hurt. It was in virtue of his tenderness toward
everything that had life that he was able to give such narratives
of what he had seen, such descriptions of persons he had met. When
he told a story, it was with such quiet participation, manifest in
the gleam of his gray eyes, in the smile that hovered like the very
soul of Psyche about his lips, that his hearers enjoyed the telling
more than the tale. Even the chief listened with eagerness to every
word that fell from his brother.

The ladies took note that, while the manners of the laird and his
mother were in a measure old-fashioned, those of Ian were of the
latest: with social custom, in its flow of change, he seemed at
home. But his ease never for a moment degenerated into the
free-and-easy, the dry rot of manners; there was a stateliness in
him that dominated the ease, and a courtesy that would not permit
frendliness to fall into premature familiarity. He was at ease with
his fellows because he respected them, and courteous because he
loved them.

The ladies withdrew, and with their departure came the time that
tests the man whether he be in truth a gentleman. In the presence of
women the polish that is not revelation but concealment preserves
itself only to vanish with them. How would not some women stand
aghast to hear but a specimen of the talk of their heroes at such a
time!

It had been remarked throughout the dinner that the highlanders took
no wine; but it was supposed they were reserving their powers. When
they now passed decanter and bottle and jug without filling their
glasses, it gave offence to the very soul of Mr. Peregrine Palmer.
The bettered custom of the present day had not then made progress
enough to affect his table; he was not only fond of a glass of good
wine, but had the ambition of the cellar largely developed; he would
fain be held a connaisseur in wines, and kept up a good stock of
distinguished vintages, from which he had brought of such to
Glenruadh as would best bear the carriage. Having no aspiration,
there was room in him for any number of petty ambitions; and it
vexed him not to reap the harvest of recognition. "But of course,"
he said to himself, "no highlander understands anything but whisky!"

"You don't mean you're a teetotaler, Macruadh!" he said.

"No," answered the chief; "I do not call myself one; but I never
drink anything strong."

"Not on Christmas-day? Of course you make an exception at times; and
if at any time, why not on the merriest day of the year? You are
under no pledge!"

"If that were a reason," returned Alister, laughing, "it would
rather be one for becoming pledged immediately."

"Well, you surprise me! And highlanders too! I thought better of all
highlanders; they have the reputation of good men at the bottle! You
make me sorry to have brought my wine where it meets with no
consideration.--Mr. Ian, you are a man of the world: you will not
refuse to pledge me?"

"I must, Mr. Palmer! The fact is, my brother and I have seen so much
evil come of the drinking habits of the country, which always get
worse in a time of depression, that we dare not give in to them. My
father, who was clergyman of the parish before he became head of the
clan, was of the same mind before us, and brought us up not to
drink. Throughout a whole Siberian winter I kept the rule."

"And got frost-bitten for your pains?"

"And found myself nothing the worse."

"It's mighty good of you, no doubt!" said the host, with a curl of
his shaven lip.

"You can hardly call that good which does not involve any
self-denial!" remarked Alister.

"Well," said Mr. Peregrine Palmer, "what IS the world coming to? All
the pith is leaking out of our young men. In another generation we
shall have neither soldiers nor sailors nor statesmen!"

"On what do you found such a sad conclusion?" inquired Ian.

"On the growth of asceticism in the young men. Believe me, it is
necessary to manhood that men when they are young should drink a
little, gamble a little, and sow a few wild oats--as necessary as
that a nation should found itself by the law of the strongest. How
else can we look for the moderation to follow with responsibilities?
The vices that are more than excusable in the young, are very
properly denied to the married man; the law for him is not the same
as for the young man. I do not plead for license, you see; but it
will never do for young men to turn ascetics! Let the clergy do as
they please; they are hardly to be counted men; at least their
calling is not a manly one! Depend upon it, young men who do not
follow the dictates of nature--while they are young, I mean--will
never make any mark in the world! They dry up like a nut, brain and
all, and have neither spirit, nor wit, nor force of any kind. Nature
knows best! When I was a young man,--"

"Pray spare us confession, Mr. Palmer," said Ian. "In our case your
doctrine does not enter willing ears, and I should be sorry anything
we might feel compelled to say, should have the appearance of
personality."

"Do you suppose I should heed anything you said?" cried the host,
betraying the bad blood in his breeding. "Is it manners here to
prevent a man from speaking his mind at his own table? I say a saint
is not a man! A fellow that will neither look at a woman nor drink
his glass, is not cut out for man's work in the world!"

Like a sledge-hammer came the fist of the laird on the table, that
the crystal danced and rang.

"My God!" he exclaimed, and rose in hugest indignation.

Ian laid his hand on his arm, and he sat down again.

"There may be some misunderstanding, Alister," said Ian, "between us
and our host!--Pray, Mr. Palmer, let us understand each other: do
you believe God made woman to be the slave of man? Can you believe
he ever made a woman that she might be dishonoured?--that a man
might caress and despise her?"

"I know nothing about God's intentions; all I say is, we must obey
the laws of our nature."

"Is conscience then not a law of our nature? Or is it below the
level of our instincts? Must not the lower laws be subject to the
higher? It is a law--for ever broken, yet eternal--that a man is his
brother's keeper: still more must he be his sister's keeper. Therein
is involved all civilization, all national as well as individual
growth."

Mr. Peregrine Palmer smiled a contemptuous smile. The other young
men exchanged glances that seemed to say, "The governor knows what's
what!"

"Such may be the popular feeling in this out-of-the-way spot," said
Mr. Peregrine Palmer, "and no doubt it is very praiseworthy, but the
world is not of your opinion, gentlemen."

"The world has got to come to our opinion," said the laird--at which
the young men of the house broke into a laugh.

"May we join the ladies?" said Ian, rising.

"By all means," answered the host, with a laugh meant to be
good-humoured; "they are the fittest company for you."

As the brothers went up the stair, they heard their host again
holding forth; but they would not have been much edified by the
slight change of front he had made--to impress on the young men the
necessity of moderation in their pleasures.

There are two opposite classes related by a like unbelief--those who
will not believe in the existence of the good of which they have
apprehended no approximate instance, and those who will not believe
in the existence of similar evil. I tell the one class, there are
men who would cast their very being from them rather than be such as
they; and the other, that their shutting of their eyes is no potent
reason for the shutting of my mouth. There are multitudes delicate
as they, who are compelled to meet evil face to face, and fight with
it the sternest of battles: on their side may I be found! What the
Lord knew and recognized, I will know and recognize too, be shocked
who may. I spare them, however, any more of the talk at that
dinner-table. Only let them take heed lest their refinement involve
a very bad selfishness. Cursed be the evil thing, not ignored! Mrs.
Palmer, sweet-smiled and clear-eyed, never showed the least
indignation at her husband's doctrines. I fear she was devoid of
indignation on behalf of others. Very far are such from
understanding the ways of the all-pardoning, all-punishing Father!

The three from the cottage were half-way home ere the gentlemen of
the New House rose from their wine. Then first the mother sought an
explanation of the early departure they had suggested.

"Something went wrong, sons: what was it she said?"

"I don't like the men, mother; nor does Ian," answered Alister
gloomily.

"Take care you are not unjust!" she replied.

"You would not have liked Mr. Palmer's doctrine any better than we
did, mother."

"What was it?"

"We would rather not tell you."

"It was not fit for a woman to hear."

"Then do not tell me. I trust you to defend women."

"In God's name we will!" said Alister.

"There is no occasion for an oath, Alister!" said his mother.

"Alister meant it very solemnly!" said Ian.

"Yes; but it was not necessary--least of all to me. The name of our
Lord God should lie a precious jewel in the cabinet of our hearts,
to be taken out only at great times, and with loving awe."

"I shall be careful, mother," answered Alister; "but when things
make me sorry, or glad, or angry, I always think of God first!"

"I understand you; but I fear taking the name of God in vain."

"It shall not be in vain, mother!" said the laird.

"Must it be a breach with our new neighbours?" asked the mother.

"It will depend on them. The thing began because we would not drink
with them."

"You did not make any remark?"

"Not until our host's remarks called for our reasons. By the way, I
should like to know how the man made his money."



CHAPTER IV.

THE BROTHERS.


Events, then, because of the deeper things whence they came, seemed
sorely against any cordial approach of the old and the new houses of
Glenruadh. But there was a sacred enemy within the stronghold of Mr.
Peregrine Palmer, and that enemy forbade him to break with the young
highlanders notwithstanding the downright mode in which they had
expressed their difference with him: he felt, without knowing it,
ashamed of the things he had uttered; they were not such as he would
wish proclaimed from the house-tops out of the midst of which rose
heavenward the spire of the church he had built; neither did the
fact that he would have no man be wicked on Sundays, make him feel
quite right in urging young men to their swing on other days.

Christian and Sercombe could not but admire the straightforwardness
of the brothers; their conventionality could not prevent them from
feeling the dignity with which they acted on their convictions. The
quixotic young fellows ought not to be cut for their behaviour! They
could not court their society, but would treat them with
consideration! Things could not well happen to bring them into much
proximity!

What had taken place could not definitely influence the ideas,
feelings, or opinions of the young ladies. Their father would sooner
have had his hand cut off than any word said over that fuliginous
dessert reach the ears of his daughters. Is it not an absolute
damnation of certain evil principles, that many men would be flayed
alive rather than let those they love know that they hold them? But
see the selfishness of such men: each looks with scorn on the woman
he has done his part to degrade, but not an impure breath must reach
the ears of HIS children! Another man's he will send to the devil!

Mr. Palmer did, however, communicate something of the conversation
to his wife; and although she had neither the spirit, nor the
insight, nor the active purity, to tell him he was in the wrong, she
did not like the young highlanders the worse. She even thought it a
pity the world should have been so made that they could not be in
the right.

It is wonderful how a bird of the air will carry a matter, and some
vaguest impression of what had occurred alighted on the minds of the
elder girls--possibly from hints supposed unintelligible, passing
between Mr. Sercombe and Christian: something in the social opinions
of the two highlanders made those opinions differ much from the
opinions prevailing in society! Now even Mercy had not escaped some
notion of things of which the air about her was full; and she felt
the glow of a conscious attraction towards men--somehow, she did not
know how--like old-fashioned knights errant in their relations to
women.

The attachment between the brothers was unusual both in kind and
degree. Alister regarded Ian as his better self, through whom to
rise above himself; Ian looked up to his brother as the head of the
family, uniting in himself all ancestral claims, the representative
of an ordered and harmonious commonwealth. He saw in Alister virtues
and powers he did not recognize in himself. His love blossomed into
the deeper devotion that he only had been sent to college: he was
bound to share with his elder brother what he had learned. So
Alister got more through Ian than he would have got at the best
college in the world. For Ian was a born teacher, and found
intensest delight, not in imparting knowledge--that is a
comparatively poor thing--but in leading a mind up to see what it
was before incapable of seeing. It was part of the same gift that he
always knew when he had not succeeded. In Alister he found a
wonderful docility--crossed indeed with a great pride, against
which he fought sturdily.

It is not a good sign of any age that it should find it hard to
believe in such simplicity and purity as that of these young men; it
is perhaps even a worse sign of our own that we should find it
difficult to believe in such love between men. I am sure of this,
that a man incapable of loving another man with hearty devotion, can
not be capable of loving a woman as a woman ought to be loved. From
each other these two kept positively nothing secret.

Alister had a great love of music, which however had had little
development except from the study of the violin, with the assistance
of a certain poor enough performer in the village, and what
criticism his brother could afford him, who, not himself a player,
had heard much good music. But Alister was sorely hampered by the
fact that his mother could not bear the sound of it. The late chief
was one of the few clergymen who played the violin; and at the first
wail of the old instrument in the hands of his son, his widow was
seized with such a passion of weeping, that Alister took the utmost
care she should never hear it again, always carrying it to some
place too remote for the farthest-travelling tones to reach her. But
this was not easy, for sound will travel very far among the hills.
At times he would take it to the room behind Annie's shop, at times
to the hut occupied by Hector of the Stags: there he would not
excruciate his host at least, and Rob of the Angels would endure
anything for his chief. The place which he most preferred was too
distant to be often visited; but there, soon after Christmas, the
brothers now resolved to have a day together, a long talk, and a
conference with the violin. On a clear frosty morning in January
they set out, provided for a night and two days.

The place was upon an upland pasture-ground, yet in their
possession: no farm was complete without a range in some high valley
for the sheep and cattle in summer. On the north of this valley
stood a bare hilltop, whose crest was a limestone rock, rising from
the heather about twenty feet. Every summer they had spent weeks of
their boyhood with the shepherds, in the society of this hill, and
one day discovered in its crest a shallow cave, to which thereafter
they often took their food, and the book they were reading together.
There they read the English Ossian, troubled by no ignorant
unbelief; and there they made Gaelic songs, in which Alister
excelled, while Ian did better in English.

When Ian was at home in the university-vacations, they were fonder
than ever of going to the hill. There Ian would pour out to Alister
of the fullness of his gathered knowledge, and there and then they
made their first acquaintance with Shakspere. Ian had bought some
dozen of his plays, in smallest compass and cleanest type, at a
penny a piece, and how they revelled in them the long summer
evenings! Ian had bought also, in a small thick volume, the poems of
Shelley: these gave them not only large delight, but much to talk
about, for they were quite capable of encountering his vague
philosophy. Then they had their Euclid and Virgil--and even tried
their mental teeth upon Dante, but found the Commedia without notes
too hard a nut for them. Every fresh spring, Ian brought with him
fresh books, and these they read in their cave. But I must not
forget the cave itself, which also shared in the progress of its
troglodytes.

The same week in which they first ate and read in it, they conceived
and began to embody the idea of developing the hollow into a house.
Foraging long ago in their father's library for mental pabulum, they
had come upon Belzoni's quarto, and had read, with the avidity of
imaginative boys, the tale of his discoveries, taking especial
delight in his explorations of the tombs of the kings in the rocks
of Beban el Malook: these it was that now suggested excavation.

They found serviceable tools about the place at home, and the rock
was not quite of the hardest. Not a summer, for the last seventeen
years, had passed without a good deal being done, Alister working
alone when Ian was away, and the cave had now assumed notable
dimensions. It was called by the people uamh an ceann, the cave of
the chief, and regarded as his country house. All around it was
covered with snow throughout the winter and spring, and supplied
little to the need of man beyond the blessed air, and a glorious
vision of sea and land, mountain and valley, falling water, gleaming
lake, and shadowy cliff.

Crossing the wide space where so lately they had burned the heather
that the sheep might have its young shoots in the spring, the
brothers stood, and gazed around with delight.

"There is nothing like this anywhere!" said Ian.

"Do you mean nothing so beautiful?" asked Alister.

"No; I mean just what I say: there is nothing like it. I do not care
a straw whether one scene be more or less beautiful than another;
what I do care for is--its individual speech to my soul. I feel
towards visions of nature as towards writers. If a book or a
prospect produces in my mind a mood that no other produces, then I
feel it individual, original, real, therefore precious. If a scene
or a song play upon the organ of my heart as no other scene or song
could, why should I ask at all whether it be beautiful? A bare hill
may be more to me than a garden of Damascus, but I love them both.
The first question as to any work of art is whether it puts the
willing soul into any mood at all peculiar; the second, what that
mood is. It matters to me little by whom our Ossian was composed,
and it matters nothing whoever may in his ignorance declare that
there never was an Ossian any more than a Homer: here is a something
that has power over my heart and soul, works upon them as not
anything else does. I do not ask whether its power be great or
small; it is enough that it is a peculiar power, one by itself; that
it puts my spiritual consciousness in a certain individual
condition, such in character as nothing else can occasion. Either a
man or a nation must have felt to make me so feel."

They were now climbing the last slope of the hill on whose top stood
their playhouse, dearer now than in their boyhood. Alister
occasionally went there for a few hours' solitude, and Ian would
write there for days at a time, but in general when they visited the
place it was together. Alister unlocked the door and they entered.

Unwilling to spend labour on the introductory, they had made the
first chamber hardly larger than the room required for opening the
door. Immediately within, another door opened into a room of about
eight feet by twelve, with two small windows. Its hearth was a
projection from the floor of the live stone; and there, all ready
for lighting, was a large pile of peats. The chimney went up through
the rock, and had been the most difficult part of their undertaking.
They had to work it much wider than was necessary for the smoke, and
then to reduce its capacity with stone and lime. Now and then it
smoked, but peat-smoke is sweet.

The first thing after lighting the fire, was to fill their kettle,
for which they had to take off the snow-lid of a small spring near
at hand. Then they made a good meal of tea, mutton-ham, oatcakes and
butter. The only seats in the room were a bench in each of two of
the walls, and a chair on each side of the hearth, all of the live
rock.

From this opened two rooms more--one a bedroom, with a bed in the
rock-wall, big enough for two. Dry heather stood thick between the
mattress and the stone. The third room, of which they intended
making a parlour, was not yet more than half excavated; and there,
when they had rested a while, they began to bore and chip at the
stone. Their progress was slow, for the grain was close: never, even
when the snow above was melting, had the least moisture come
through. For a time they worked and talked: both talked better when
using their hands. Then Alister stopped, and played while Ian went
on; Ian stopped next, and read aloud from a manuscript he had
brought, while his brother again worked. But first he gave Alister
the history of what he was going to read. It was suggested, he said,
by that strange poem of William Mayne's, called "The Dead Man's
Moan," founded on the silly notion that the man himself is buried,
and not merely his body.

   "I wish I were up to straught my banes,
        And drive frae my face the cauld, dead air;
    I wish I were up, that the friendly rains
        Micht wash the dark mould frae my tangled hair!"

quoted Ian, and added,

"I thought I should like to follow out the idea, and see what ought
to come of it. I therefore supposed a person seized by something of
the cataleptic kind, from which he comes to himself still in the
body, but unable to hold communication with the outer world. He
thinks therefore that he is dead and buried. Recovering from his
first horror, he reflects that, as he did not make himself think and
feel, nor can cease to think and feel if he would, there must be
somewhere--and where but within himself?--the power by which he
thinks and feels, a power whose care it must be, for it can belong
to no other, to look after the creature he has made. Then comes to
him the prayer of Job, 'Oh that thou wouldst hide me in the grave
till thy anger with me was past! Then wouldst thou desire to see
again the work of thy hands, the creature thou hadst made! Then
wouldst thou call, and I would answer.' So grandly is the man
comforted thereby, that he breaks out in a dumb song of triumph over
death and the grave. As its last tone dies in him, a kiss falls upon
his lips. It is the farewell of the earth; the same moment he bursts
the bonds and rises above the clouds of the body, and enters into
the joy of his Lord."

Having thus prepared Alister to hear without having to think as well
as attend, which is not good for poetry, Ian read his verses. I will
not trouble my reader with them; I am sure he would not think so
well of them as did Alister. What Ian desired was sympathy, not
admiration, but from Alister he had both.

Few men would care to hear the talk of those two, for they had no
interest in anything that did not belong to the reality of things.
To them the things most men count real, were the merest phantasms.
They sought what would not merely last, but must go on growing. At
strife with all their known selfishness, they were growing into
strife with all the selfishness in them as yet unknown. There was
for them no question of choice; they MUST choose what was true; they
MUST choose life; they MUST NOT walk in the way of death.

They were very near to agreeing about EVERYthing they should ask.
Few men are capable of understanding such love as theirs, of
understanding the love of David and Jonathan, of Shakspere to W. H.,
of Tennyson and Hallam. Every such love, nevertheless, is a
possession of the race; what has once been is, in possibility to
come, as well as in fact that has come. A solitary instance of
anything great is enough to prove it human, yea necessary to
humanity. I have wondered whether the man in whom such love is
possible, may not spring of an altogether happy conjunction of male
and female--a father and mother who not only loved each other, but
were of the same mind in high things, of the same lofty aims in
life, so that their progeny came of their true man-and-woman-hood.
If any unaccountable disruption or discord of soul appear in a man,
it is worth while to ask whether his father and mother were of one
aspiration. Might not the fact that their marriage did not go deep
enough, that father and mother were not of one mind, only of one
body, serve to account for the rude results of some marriages of
personable people? At the same time we must not forget the endless
and unfathomable perpetuations of ancestry. But however these things
may be, those two men, brothers born, were also brothers willed.

They ceased quarrying, and returned to the outer room. Ian betook
himself to drawing figures on one of the walls, with the intention
of carving them in dipped relief. Alister proceeded to take their
bedding from before the fire, and prepare for the night.



CHAPTER V.

THE PRINCESS.


While they were thus busied, Ian, with his face to the wall, in the
dim light of the candle by which he was making his first rough
sketches, began the story of his flight from Russia. Long ere he
ended, Alister came close behind him, and there stood, his bosom
heaving with emotion, his eyes burning with a dry fire. Ian was
perfectly composed, his voice quiet and low.

I will not give his tale in the first person; and will tell of it
only as much as I think it necessary my reader should know.

Having accepted a commission of the Czar, he was placed in a post of
trust in the palace.

In one apartment of it, lived an imperial princess, the burden of
whose rank had not even the alleviation of society. Her disclosure
of a sympathy with oppressed humanity had wakened a doubt as to her
politics, and she was virtually a prisoner, restricted to a corner
of the huge dwelling, and allowed to see hardly any but her women.
Her father had fallen into disgrace before her, and her mother was
dead of grief. All around her were spies, and love was nowhere.
Gladly would she have yielded every rag of her rank, to breathe the
air of freedom. To be a peasant girl on her father's land, would be
a life of rapture!

She knew little of the solace books might have given her. With a
mind capable of rapid development, she had been ill taught except in
music; and that, alone, cannot do much for spiritual development; it
cannot enable the longing, the aspiration it rouses, to understand
itself; it cannot lead back to its own eternal source.

She knew no one in whom to trust, or from whom to draw comfort; her
confessor was a man of the world, incapable of leading her to any
fountain of living water; she had no one to tell her of God and his
fatherhood, the only and perfect refuge from the divine miseries of
loneliness.

A great corridor went from end to end of one of the wings of the
palace, and from this corridor another passage led toward the
apartment of the princess, consisting of some five or six rooms. At
certain times of the day, Ian had to be at the beginning of the
corridor, at the head of a huge stair with a spacious hall-like
landing. Along the corridor few passed, for the attendants used a
back stair and passages. As he sat in the recess of a large window,
where stood a table and chair for his use, Ian one morning heard a
cry--whence, he never knew--and darted along the corridor, thinking
assistance might be wanted. When about halfway down, he saw a lady
enter, near the end of it, and come slowly along. He stood aside,
respectfully waiting till she should pass. Her eyes were on the
ground, but as she came near she raised them. The sadness of them
went to his heart, and his soul rushed into his. The princess, I
imagine, had never before met such an expression, and misunderstood
it. Lonely, rejected, too helpless even to hope, it seemed full of
something she had all her life been longing for--a soul to be her
refuge from the wind, her covert from the tempest, her shadow as of
a great rock in the weary land where no one cared for her. She stood
and gazed at him.

Ian at once perceived who she must be, and stood waiting for some
expression of her pleasure. But she appeared fascinated; her eyes
remained on his, for they seemed to her to be promising help. Her
fascination fascinated him, and for some moments they stood thus,
regarding each other. Ian felt he must break the spell. It was her
part to speak, his to obey, but he knew the danger of the smallest
suspicion. If she was a princess and he but a soldier on guard, she
was a woman and he was a man: he was there to protect her! "How may
I serve your imperial highness?" he asked. She was silent yet a
moment, then said, "Your name?" He gave it. "Your nation?" He stated
it. "When are you here?" He told her his hours. "I will see you
again," she said, and turned and went back.

From that moment she loved him, and thought he loved her. But,
though he would willingly have died for her, he did not love her as
she thought. Alister wondered to hear him say so. At such a moment,
and heart-free, Alister could no more have helped falling in love
with her than he could help opening his eyes when the light shone on
their lids. Ian, with a greater love for his kind than even Alister,
and with a tenderness for womankind altogether infinite, was not
ready to fall in love. Accessible indeed he was to the finest of
Nature's witcheries; ready for the response as of summer lightnings
from opposing horizons; all aware of loveliest difference, of refuge
and mysterious complement; but he was not prone to fall in love.

The princess, knowing the ways of the house, contrived to see him
pretty often. He talked to her of the hest he knew; he did what he
could to lighten her loneliness by finding her books and music; best
of all, he persuaded her--without difficulty--to read the New
Testament. In their few minutes of conference, he tried to show her
the Master of men as he showed himself to his friends; but their
time together was always so short, and their anxiety for each other
so great, seeing that discovery would be ruin to both, that they
could not go far with anything.

At length came an occasion when at parting they embraced. How it was
Ian could not tell. He blamed himself much, but Alister thought it
might not have been his fault. The same moment he was aware that he
did not love her and that he could not turn back. He was ready to do
anything, everything in honour; yet felt false inasmuch as he had
given her ground for believing that he felt towards her as he could
not help seeing she felt towards him. Had it been in his power to
order his own heart, he would have willed to love, and so would have
loved her. But the princess doubted nothing, and the change that
passed upon her was wonderful. The power of human love is next to
the power of God's love. Like a flower long repressed by cold, she
blossomed so suddenly in the sunshine of her bliss, that Ian greatly
dreaded the suspicion which the too evident alteration might arouse:
the plain, ordinary-looking young woman with fine eyes, began to put
on the robes of beauty. A softest vapour of rose, the colour of the
east when sundown sets it dreaming of sunrise, tinged her cheek; it
grew round like that of a girl; and ere two months were gone, she
looked years younger than her age. But Ian could never be absolutely
open with her; while she, poor princess, happy in her ignorance of
the shows of love, and absorbed in the joy of its great deliverance,
jealoused nothing of restraint, nothing of lack, either in his words
or in the caresses of which he was religiously sparing. He was
haunted by the dread of making her grieve who had already grieved so
much, and was but just risen from the dead.

One evening they met as usual in the twilight; in five minutes the
steps of the man would be heard coming to light the lamps of the
corridor, his guard would be over, and he must retire. Few words
passed, but they parted with more of lingering tenderness than
usual, and the princess put a little packet in his hand. The same
night his only friend in the service entered his room hurriedly, and
urged immediate flight: something had been, or was imagined to be
discovered, through which his liberty, perhaps his life, was
compromised; he must leave at once by a certain coach which would
start in an hour: there was but just time to disguise him; he must
make for a certain port on the Baltic, and there lie concealed until
a chance of getting away turned up!

Ian refused. He feared nothing, had done nothing to be ashamed of!
What was it to him if they did take his life! he could die as well
as another! Anxious about the princess, he persisted in his refusal,
and the coach went without him. Every passenger in that coach was
murdered. He saw afterward the signs of their fate in the snow.

In the middle of the night, a company of men in masks entered his
room, muffled his head, and hurried him into a carriage, which drove
rapidly away.

When it stopped, he thought he had arrived at some prison, but soon
found himself in another carriage, with two of the police. He could
have escaped had he been so minded, but he could do nothing for the
princess, and did not care what became of him. At a certain town his
attendants left him, with the assurance that if he did not make
haste out of the country, he would find they had not lost sight of
him.

But instead of obeying, he disguised himself, and took his way to
Moscow, where he had friends. Thence he wrote to his friend at St.
Petersburg. Not many letters passed ere he learned that the princess
was dead. She had been placed in closer confinement, her health gave
way, and by a rapid decline she had gained her freedom.

All the night through, not closing their eyes till the morning, the
brothers, with many intervals of thoughtful silence, lay talking.

"I am glad to think," said Alister, after one of these silences,
"you do not suffer so much, Ian, as if you had been downright in
love with her."

"I suffer far more," answered Ian with a sigh; "and I ought to
suffer more. It breaks my heart to think she had not so much from me
as she thought she had."

They were once more silent. Alister was full of trouble for his
brother. Ian at length spoke again.

"Alister," he said, "I must tell you everything! I know the truth
now. If I wronged her, she is having her revenge!"

By his tone Alister seemed through the darkness to see his sad
smile. He was silent, and Alister waited.

"She did not know much," Ian resumed. "I thought at first she had
nothing but good manners and a good heart; but the moment the sun of
another heart began to shine on her, the air of another's thought to
breathe upon her, the room of another soul to surround her, she
began to grow; and what more could God intend or man desire? As I
told you, she grew beautiful, and what sign of life is equal to
that!"

"But I want to know what you mean by her having her revenge on you?"
said Alister.

"Whether I loved her then or not, and I believe I did, beyond a
doubt I love her now. It needed only to be out of sight of her, and
see other women beside the memory of her, to know that I loved
her.--Alister, I LOVE HER!" repeated Ian with a strange exaltation.

"Oh, Ian!" groaned Alister; "how terrible for you!"

"Alister, you dear fellow!" returned Ian, "can you understand no
better than that? Do you not see I am happy now? My trouble was that
I did not love her--not that she loved me, but that I did not love
her! Now we shall love each other for ever!"

"How do you know that, Ian?"

"By knowing that I love her. If I had not come to know that, I could
not have said to myself I would love her for ever."

"But you can't marry her, Ian! The Lord said there would be no
marrying there!"

"Did he say there would be no loving there, Alister? Most people
seem to fancy he did, for how else could they forget the dead as
they do, and look so little for their resurrection? Few can be
said really to believe in any hereafter worth believing in. How many
go against the liking of the dead the moment they are gone-behave as
if they were nowhere, and could never call them to account! Their
plans do not recognize their existence; the life beyond is no factor
in their life here. If God has given me a hope altogether beyond
anything I could have generated for myself, beyond all the
likelihoods and fulfilments around me, what can I do but give him
room to verify it--what but look onward! Some people's bodies get so
tired that they long for the rest of the grave; it is my soul that
gets tired, and I know the grave can give that no rest; I look for
the rest of more life, more strength, more love. But God is not shut
up in heaven, neither is there one law of life there and another
here; I desire more life here, and shall have it, for what is
needful for this world is to be had in this world. In proportion as
I become one with God, I shall have it. This world never did seem my
home; I have never felt quite comfortable in it; I have yet to find,
and shall find the perfect home I have not felt this world, even my
mother's bosom to be. Nature herself is not lovely enough to satisfy
me. Nor can it be that I am beside myself, seeing I care only for
the will of God, not for my own. For what is madness but two or more
wills in one body? Does not the 'Bible itself tell us that we are
pilgrims and strangers in the world, that here we have no abiding
city? It is but a place to which we come to be made ready for
another. Yet I am sure those who regard it as their home, are not
half so well pleased with it as I. They are always grumbling at it.
'What wretched weather!' they say. 'What a cursed misfortune!'
they cry. 'What abominable luck!' they protest. Health is the
first thing, they say, and cannot find it. They complain that their
plans are thwarted, and when they succeed, that they do not yield
the satisfaction they expected. Yet they mock at him who says he
seeks a better country!--But I am keeping you awake, Alister! I will
talk no more. You must go to sleep!"

"It is better than any sleep to hear you talk, Ian," returned
Alister. "What a way you are ahead of me! I do love this world! When
I come to die, it will tear my heart to think that this cave which
you and I have dug out together, must pass into other hands! I love
every foot of the earth that remains to us--every foot that has been
taken from us. When I stand on the top of this rock, and breathe the
air of this mountain, I bless God we have still a spot to call our
own. It is quite a different thing from the love of mere land; I
could not feel the same toward any, however beautiful, that I had
but bought. This, our own old land, I feel as if I loved in
something the same way as I love my mother. Often in the hot
summer-days, lying on my face in the grass, I have kissed the earth
as if it were a live creature that could return my caresses! The
long grass is a passion to me, and next to the grass I love the
heather, not the growing corn. I am a fair farmer, I think, but I
would rather see the land grow what it pleased, than pass into the
hands of another. Place is to me sacred almost as body. There is at
least something akin between the love we bear to the bodies of our
friends, and that we bear to the place in which we were born and
brought up."

"That is all very true, Alister. I understand your feeling
perfectly; I have it myself. But we must be weaned, I say only
weaned, from that kind of thing; we must not love the outside as if
it were the inside! Everything comes that' we may know the sender-of
whom it is a symbol, that is, a far-off likeness of something in
him; and to him it must lead us-the self-existent, true, original
love, the making love. But I have felt all you say. I used to lie in
bed and imagine the earth alive and carrying me on her back, till I
fell asleep longing to see the face of my nurse. Once, the fancy
turned into a dream. I will try to recall a sonnet I made the same
night, before the dream came: it will help you to understand it. I
was then about nineteen, I believe. I did not care for it enough to
repeat it to you, and I fear we shall find it very bad."

Stopping often to recall and rearrange words and lines, Ian
completed at last the following sonnet:--

"She set me on my feet with steady hand, Among the crowding marvels
on her face, Bidding me rise, and run a strong man's race; Swathed
mo in circumstance's swaddling band; Fed me with her own self; then
bade me stand MYself entire,--while she was but a place Hewn for my
dwelling from the midst of space, A something better than HER sea or
land. Nay, Earth! thou bearest me upon thy back, Like a rough nurse,
and I can almost feel A touch of kindness in thy bands of steel,
Although I cannot see thy face, and track An onward purpose shining
through its black, Instinct with prophecy of future weal.

"There! It is not much, is it?"

"It is beautiful!" protested Alister.

"It is worth nothing," said Ian, "except between you and me-and that
it will make you understand my dream. That I shall never forget.
When a dream does us good we don't forget it.

"I thought I was home on the back of something great and strong-I
could not tell what; it might be an elephant or a great eagle or a
lion. It went sweeping swiftly along, the wind of its flight roaring
past me in a tempest. I began to grow frightened. Where could this
creature of such awful speed be carrying me? I prayed to God to take
care of me. The head of the creature turned to me, and I saw the
face of a woman, grand and beautiful. Never with my open eyes have I
seen such a face! And I knew it was the face of this earth, and that
I had never seen it before because she carries us upon her back.
When I woke, I knew that all the strangest things in life and
history must one day come together in a beautiful face of loving
purpose, one of the faces of the living God. The very mother of the
Lord did not for a long time understand him, and only through sorrow
came to see true glory. Alister, if we were right with God, we could
see the earth vanish and never heave a sigh; God, of whom it was but
a shimmering revelation, would still be ours!"

In the morning they fell asleep, and it was daylight, late in the
winter, when Alister rose. He roused the fire, asleep all through
the night, and prepared their breakfast of porridge and butter, tea,
oat-cake, and mutton-ham. When it was nearly ready, he woke Ian,
and when they had eaten, they read together a portion of the Bible,
that they might not forget, and start the life of the day without
trust in the life-causing God.

"All that is not rooted in him," Ian would say, "all hope or joy
that does not turn its face upward, is an idolatry. Our prayers must
rise that our thoughts may follow them."

The portion they read contained the saying of the Lord that we must
forsake all and follow him if we would be his disciples.

"I am sometimes almost terrified," said Ian, "at the scope of the
demands made upon me, at the perfection of the self-abandonment
required of me; yet outside of such absoluteness can be no
salvation. In God we live every commonplace as well as most exalted
moment of our being. To trust in him when no need is pressing, when
things seem going right of themselves, may be harder than when
things seem going wrong. At no time is there any danger except in
ourselves, and the only danger is of trusting in something else than
the living God, and so getting, as it were, outside of God. Oh
Alister, take care you do not love the land more than the will of
God! Take care you do not love even your people more than the will
of God."

They spent the day on the hill-top, and as there was no sign of
storm, remained till the dark night, when the moon came to light
them home.

"Perhaps when we are dead," said Alister as they went, "we may be
allowed to come here again sometimes! Only we shall not be able to
quarry any further, and there is pain in looking on what cannot go
on."

"It may be a special pleasure," returned Ian, "in those new
conditions, to look into such a changeless cabinet of the past. When
we are one with our life, so that no prayer can be denied, there
will be no end to the lovely possibilities."

"So I have the people I love, I think I could part with all things
else, even the land!" said Alister.

"Be sure we shall not have to part with THEM. We shall yet walk, I
think, with our father as of old, where the setting sun sent the
shadows of the big horse-gowans that glowed in his red level rays,
trooping eastward, as if they would go round the world to meet the
sun that had banished them, and die in his glory; the wind of the
twilight will again breathe about us like a thought of the living
God haunting our goings, and watching to help us; the stars will
yet call to us out of the great night, 'Love and be fearless.' 'Be
independent!' cries the world from its' great Bible of the
Belly;-says the Lord of men, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and
his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.'
Our dependence is our eternity. We cannot live on bread alone; we
need every word of God. We cannot live on air alone; we need an
atmosphere of living souls. Should we be freer, Alister, if we were
independent of each other? When I am out in the world, my heart is
always with mother and you. We must be constantly giving ourselves
away, we must dwell in houses of infinite dependence, or sit alone
in the waste of a godless universe."

It was a rough walk in the moonlight over the hills, but full of a
rare delight. And while they walked the mother was waiting them,
with the joy of St. John, of the Saviour, of God himself in her
heart, the joy of beholding how the men she loved loved each other.



CHAPTER VI.

THE TWO PAIRS.


The next morning, on the way to the village, the brothers overtook
Christina and Mercy, and they walked along together.

The young men felt inclined to be the more friendly with the girls,
that the men of their own family were so unworthy of them. A man who
does not respect a woman because she is a woman, cannot have
thorough respect for his own mother, protest as he pleases: he is
incapable of it, and cannot know his own incapacity. Alas for girls
in a family where the atmosphere of vile thinking, winnowed by the
carrion wings of degraded and degrading judgments, infolds them! One
of the marvels of the world is, that, with such fathers and
brothers, there are so few wicked women. Type of the greater number
stands Ophelia, poor, weak, and not very refined, yet honest, and,
in all her poverty, immeasurably superior to father and brother.

Christina's condescension had by this time dwindled almost to the
vanishing-point, and her talk was in consequence more natural: the
company, conversation, and whole atmosphere of the young men, tended
to wake in the girls what was best and sweetest. Reality appeals at
once to the real, opens the way for a soul to emerge from the fog of
the commonplace, the marsh of platitude, the Sahara of lies, into
the colour and air of life. The better things of humanity often need
the sun of friendship to wile them out. A girl, well-bred, tolerably
clever, and with some genius of accommodation, will appear to a man
possessed of a hundred faculties of which she knows nothing; but his
belief will help to rouse them in her. A young man will see an angel
where those who love her best see only a nice girl; but he sees not
merely what she might be, but what one day she must be.

Christina had been at first rather taken with the ploughman, but she
turned her masked batteries now mainly on the soldier. During the
dinner she had noted how entirely Ian was what she chose to call a
man of the world; and it rendered him in her eyes more worthy of
conquest. Besides, as elder sister, must she not protect the
inexperienced Mercy?

What is this passion for subjugation? this hunger for homage? Is it
of hell direct, or what is there in it of good to begin with?
Apparently it takes possession of such women as have set up each
herself for the object of her worship: she cannot then rest from the
effort to bring as many as possible to worship at the same shrine;
and to this end will use means as deserving of the fire as any
witchcraft.

Christina stopped short with a little cry, and caught Ian's arm.

"I beg your pardon," she said, "but I cannot bear it a moment
longer! Something in my boot hurts me so!"

She limped to the road-side, sat down, accepted the service of Ian
to unlace her boot, and gave a sigh of relief when he pulled it off.
He inverted and shook it, then searched and found a nail which must
have hurt her severely.

But how to get rid of the cruel projection! Ian's slender hand could
but just reach with its finger-tips the haunted spot. In vain he
tried to knock it down against a stone put inside. Alister could
suggest nothing. But Mistress Conal's cottage was near: they might
there find something to help! Only Christina could not be left
behind, and how was she to walk in a silk stocking over a road
frozen hard as glass? The chief would have carried her, but she
would not let him. Ian therefore shod her with his Glengarry bonnet,
tying it on with his handkerchief.

There was much merriment over the extemporized shoe, mingled with
apologetic gratitude from Christina, who, laughing at her poulticed
foot, was yet not displeased at its contrast with the other.

When the chief opened the door of the cottage, there was no one to
be seen within. The fire was burning hot and flameless; a
three-footed pot stood half in it; other sign of presence they saw
none. As Alister stooped searching for some implement to serve their
need, in shot a black cat, jumped over his back, and disappeared.
The same instant they heard a groan, and then first discovered the
old woman in bed, seemingly very ill. Ian went up to her.

"What is the matter with you, Mistress Conal?" he asked, addressing
her in English because of the ladies.

But in reply she poured out a torrent of Gaelic, which seemed to the
girls only grumbling, but was something stronger. Thereupon the
chief went and spoke to her, but she was short and sullen with him.
He left her to resume his search.

"Let alone," she cried. "When that nail leaves her brog, it will be
for your heart."

Ian sought to soothe her.

"She will bring misery on you all!" she insisted.

"You have a hammer somewhere, I know!" said Alister, as if he had
not heard her.

"She shall be finding no help in MY house!" answered the old woman
in English.

"Very well, Mistress Conal!" returned the chief; "the lady cannot
walk home; I shall have to carry her!"

"God forbid!" she cried. "Go and fetch a wheelbarrow."

"Mistress Conal, there is nothing for it but carry her home in my
arms!"

"Give me the cursed brog then. I will draw the nail."

But the chief would not yield the boot; he went out and searched the
hill-side until he found a smooth stone of suitable size, with which
and a pair of tongs, he beat down the nail. Christina put on the
boot, and they left the place. The chief stayed behind the rest for
a moment, but the old woman would not even acknowledge his presence.

"What a rude old thing she is! This is how she always treats us!"
said Christina.

"Have you done anything to offend her?" asked Alister.

"Not that we know of. We can't help being lowlanders!"

"She no doubt bears you a grudge," said Ian, "for having what once
belonged to us. I am sorry she is so unfriendly. It is not a common
fault with our people."

"Poor old thing! what does it matter!" said Christina.

A woman's hate was to her no more than the barking of a dog.

They had not gone far, before the nail again asserted itself; it had
been but partially subjugated. A consultation was held. It resulted
in this, that Mercy and the chief went to fetch another pair of
boots, while Ian remained with Christina.

They seated themselves on a stone by the roadside. The sun clouded
over, a keen wind blew, and Christina shivered. There was nothing
for it but go back to the cottage. The key was in the door, Ian
turned it, and they went in. Certainly this time no one was there.
The old woman so lately groaning on her bed had vanished. Ian made
up the fire, and did what he could for his companion's comfort.

She was not pleased with the tone of his attentions, but the way she
accepted them made her appear more pleased than Ian cared for, and
he became colder and more polite. Piqued by his indifference, she
took it nevertheless with a sweetness which belonged to her nature
as God made it, not as she had spoiled it; and even such a butterfly
as she, felt the influence of a man like Ian, and could not help
being more natural in his presence. His truth elicited what there
was of hers; the true being drew to the surface what there was of
true in the being that was not true. The longer she was in his
company, the more she was pleased with him, and the more annoyed
with her failure in pleasing him.

It is generally more or less awkward when a young man and maiden
between whom is no convergent rush of spiritual currents, find
themselves alone together. Ian was one of the last to feel such
awkwardness, but he thought his companion felt it; he did his best,
therefore, to make her forget herself and him, telling her story
after story which she could not but find the more interesting that
for the time she was quieted from self, and placed in the humbler
and healthier position of receiving the influence of another. For
one moment, as he was narrating a hair's-breadth escape he had had
from a company of Tartar soldiers by the friendliness of a young
girl, the daughter of a Siberian convict, she found herself under
the charm of a certain potency of which he was himself altogether
unconscious, but which had carried away hearts more indifferent than
hers.

In the meantime, Alister and Mercy were walking toward the New
House, and, walking, were more comfortable than those that sat
waiting. Mercy indeed had not much to say, but she was capable of
asking a question worth answering, and of understanding not a
little. Thinking of her walk with Ian on Christmas day,--

"Would you mind telling me something about your brother?" she said.

"What would you like to know about him?" asked Alister.

"Anything you care to tell me," she answered.

Now there was nothing pleased Alister better than talking about Ian;
and he talked so that Mercy could not help feeling what a brother he
must be himself; while on his part Alister was delighted with the
girl who took such an interest in Ian: for Ian's sake he began to
love Mercy. He had never yet been what is called in love--had
little opportunity indeed of falling in love. His breeding had been
that of a gentleman, and notwithstanding the sweetness and
gentleness of the maidens of his clan, there were differences which
had as yet proved sufficient to prevent the first approaches of
love, though, once entertained, they might have added to the depth
of it. At the same time it was by no means impossible for Alister to
fall in love with even an uneducated girl--so-called; neither would
he, in that case, have felt any difficulty about marrying her; but
the fatherly relation in which he stood toward his clan, had tended
rather to prevent the thing. Many a youth falls to premature
love-making, from the lack in his daily history of the womanly
element. Matrons in towns should be exhorted to make of their houses
a refuge. Too many mothers are anxious for what they count the
welfare of their own children, and care nothing for the children of
other women! But can we wonder, when they will wallow in meannesses
to save their own from poverty and health, and damn them into
comfort and decay.

Alister told Mercy how Ian and he used to spend their boyhood. He
recounted some of their adventures in hunting and herding and
fishing, and even in going to and from school, a distance of five
miles, in all weathers. Then he got upon the poetry of the people,
their legends, their ballads and their songs; and at last came to
the poetry of the country itself--the delights of following the
plough, the whispers and gleams of nature, her endless appeal
through every sense. The mere smell of the earth in a spring
morning, he said, always made him praise God.

"Everything we have," he went on, "must be shared with God. That is
the notion of the Jewish thank-offering. Ian says the greatest word
in the universe is ONE; the next greatest, ALL. They are but the two
ends of a word to us unknowable--God's name for himself."

Mercy had read Mrs. Barbauld's Hymns, and they had been something to
her; but most of the little poetry she had read was only platitude
sweetened with sound; she had never read, certainly never understood
a real poem. Who can tell what a nature may prove, after feeding on
good food for a while? The queen bee is only a better fed working
bee. Who can tell what it may prove when it has been ploughed with
the plough of suffering, when the rains of sorrow, the frosts of
pain, and the winds of poverty have moistened and swelled and dried
its fallow clods?

Mercy had not such a sweet temper as her sister, but she was not so
selfish. She was readier to take offence, perhaps just because she
was less self-satisfied. Before long they might change places. A
little dew from the eternal fountain was falling upon them.
Christina was beginning to be aware that a certain man, neither rich
nor distinguished nor ambitious, had yet a real charm for her. Not
that for a moment she would think seriously of such a man! That
would be simply idiotic! But it would be very nice to have a little
innocent flirtation with him, or perhaps a "Platonic friendship!
"--her phrase, not mine. What could she have to do with Plato, who,
when she said I, was aware only of a neat bundle of foolish desires,
not the God at her heart!

Mercy, on the other hand, was being drawn to the big, strong,
childlike heart of the chief. There is always, notwithstanding the
gulf of unlikeness between them, an appeal from the childish to the
childlike. The childish is but the shadow of the childlike, and
shadows are little like the things from which they fall. But to what
save the heavenly shall the earthly appeal in its sore need, its
widowhood, its orphanage? with what shall the childish take refuge
but the childlike? to what shall ignorance cry but wisdom? Mercy
felt no restraint with the chief as with Ian. His great, deep, yet
refined and musical laugh, set her at ease. Ian's smile, with its
shimmering eternity, was no more than the moon on a rain-pool to
Mercy. The moral health of the chief made an atmosphere of conscious
safety around her. By the side of no other man had she ever felt so.
With him she was at home, therefore happy. She was already growing
under his genial influence. Every being has such influence who is
not selfish.

When Christina was re-shod, and they were leaving the cottage, Ian,
happening to look behind him, spied the black cat perched on the
edge of the chimney in the smoke.

"Look at her," he said, "pretending innocence, when she has been
watching you all the time!"

Alister took up a stone.

"Don't hurt her," said Ian, and he dropped it.



CHAPTER VII.

AN CABRACH MOR.


I have already said that the young men had not done well as hunters.
They had neither experience nor trustworthy attendance: none of the
chief's men would hunt with them. They looked on them as intruders,
and those who did not share in their chiefs dislike to useless
killing, yet respected it. Neither Christian nor Sercombe had yet
shot a single stag, and the time was drawing nigh when they must
return, the one to Glasgow, the other to London. To have no proof of
prowess to display was humbling to Sercombe; he must show a stag's
head, or hide his own! He resolved, therefore, one of the next
moonlit nights, to stalk by himself a certain great, wide-horned
stag, of whose habits he had received information.

At Oxford, where Valentine made his acquaintance, Sercombe belonged
to a fast set, but had distinguished himself notwithstanding as an
athlete. He was a great favourite with a few, not the best of the
set, and admired by many for his confidence, his stature, and his
regular features. These latter wore, however, a self-assertion which
of others made him much disliked: a mean thing in itself, it had the
meanest origin--the ability, namely, to spend money, for he was the
favourite son of a rich banker in London. He knew nothing of the
first business of life--self-restraint, had never denied himself
anything, and but for social influences would, in manhood as
infancy, have obeyed every impulse. He was one of the merest slaves
in the universe, a slave in his very essence, for he counted wrong
to others freedom for himself, and the rejection of the laws of his
own being, liberty. The most righteous interference was insolence;
his likings were his rights, and any devil that could whisper him a
desire, might do with him as he pleased. From such a man every true
nature shrinks with involuntary recoil, and a sick sense of the
inhuman. But I have said more of him already than my history
requires, and more than many a reader, partaking himself of his
character to an unsuspected degree, will believe; for such men
cannot know themselves. He had not yet in the eyes of the world
disgraced himself: it takes a good many disgraceful things to bring
a rich man to outward disgrace.

His sole attendant when shooting was a clever vagabond lad belonging
to nowhere in particular, and living by any crook except the
shepherd's. From him he heard of the great stag, and the spots which
in the valleys he frequented, often scraping away the snow with his
feet to get at the grass. He did not inform him that the animal was
a special favourite with the chief of Clanruadh, or that the clan
looked upon him as their live symbol, the very stag represented as
crest to the chief's coat of arms. It was the same Nancy had
reported to her master as eating grass on the burn-side in the
moonlight. Christian and Sercombe had stalked him day after day, but
without success. And now, with one poor remaining hope, the latter
had determined to stalk him at night. To despoil him of his life,
his glorious rush over the mountain side, his plunge into the
valley, and fierce strain up the opposing hill; to see that ideal of
strength, suppleness, and joyous flight, lie nerveless and flaccid
at his feet; to be able to call the thicket-like antlers of the
splendid animal his own, was for the time the one ambition of Hilary
Sercombe; for he was of the brood of Mephistopheles, the child of
darkness, whose delight lies in undoing what God has done--the
nearest that any evil power can come to creating.

There was, however, a reason for the failure of the young hunters
beyond lack of skill and what they called their ill-luck. Hector of
the Stags was awake; his keen, everywhere-roving eyes were upon
them, seconded by the keen, all-hearkening ears of Bob of the
Angels. They had discovered that the two men had set their hearts on
the big stag, an cabrach mor by right of excellence, and every time
they were out after him, Hector too was out with his spy-glass, the
gift of an old sea-faring friend, searching the billowy hills.
While, the southrons would be toiling along to get the wind of him
unseen, for the old stag's eyes were as keen as his velvety nose,
the father and son would be lying, perhaps close at hand, perhaps
far away on some hill-side of another valley, watching now the
hunters, now the stag. For love of the Macruadh, and for love of the
stag, they had constituted themselves his guardians. Again and again
when one of them thought he was going to have a splendid
chance--perhaps just as, having reached a rock to which he had been
making his weary way over stones and bogs like Satan through chaos,
and raised himself with weary slowness, he peeped at last over the
top, and lo, there he was, well within range, quietly feeding,
nought between the great pumping of his big joyous heart and the hot
bullet but the brown skin behind his left shoulder!--a distant shot
would forestall the nigh one, a shot for life, not death, and the
stag, knowing instantly by wondrous combination of sense and
judgment in what quarter lay the danger, would, without once looking
round, measure straight a hundred yards of hillocks and rocks
between the sight-taking and the pulling of the trigger. Another
time it would be no shot, but the bark of a dog, the cry of a
moorfowl, or a signal from watching hind that started him; for the
creatures understand each the other's cries, and when an animal sees
one of any sort on the watch to warn covey or herd or flock of its
own kind, it will itself keep no watch, but feed in security. To
Christian and Sercombe it seemed as if all the life in the glen were
in conspiracy to frustrate their hearts' desire; and the latter at
least grew ever the more determined to kill the great stag: he had
begun to hate him.

The sounds that warned the stag were by no means always what they
seemed, those of other wild animals; they were often hut imitations
by Bob of the Angels. I fear the animal grew somewhat bolder and
less careful from the assurance thus given him that he was watched
over, and cultivated a little nonchalance. Not a moment, however,
did he neglect any warning from quarter soever, but from peaceful
feeder was instantaneously wind-like fleer, his great horns thrown
back over his shoulders, and his four legs just touching the ground
with elastic hoof, or tucking themselves almost out of sight as he
skipped rather than leaped over rock and gully, stone and
bush--whatever lay betwixt him and larger room. Great joy it was to
his two guardians to see him, and great game to watch the motions of
his discomfited enemies. For the sake of an cabrach Hector and Bob
would go hungry for hours. But they never imagined the luxurious
Sasunnach, incapable, as they thought, of hardship or sustained
fatigue, would turn from his warm bed to stalk the lordly animal
betwixt snow and moon.

One night, Hector of the Stags found he could not sleep. It was not
for cold, for the night was for the season a mild one. The snow
indeed lay deep around their dwelling, but they owed not a little of
its warmth to the snow. It drifted up all about it, and kept off the
terrible winds that swept along the side of the hill, like sharp
swift scythes of death. They were in the largest and most
comfortable of their huts--a deepish hollow in the limestone rock,
lined with turf, and with wattles filled in with heather, the tops
outward; its front a thick wall of turf, with a tolerable door of
deal. It was indeed so snug as to be far from airy. Here they kept
what little store of anything they had--some dried fish and venison;
a barrel of oat-meal, seldom filled full; a few skins of wild
creatures, and powder, ball, and shot.

After many fruitless attempts to catch the still fleeting vapour
sleep, raising himself at last on his elbow, Hector found that Rob
was not by his side.

He too had been unable to sleep, and at last discovered that he was
uneasy about something-what, he could not tell. He rose and went
out. The moon was shining very clear, and as there was much snow,
the night, if not so bright as day, was yet brighter than many a
day. The moon, the snow, the mountains, all dreaming awake, seemed
to Rob the same as usual; but presently he fancied the hillside
opposite had come nearer than usual: there must be a reason for
that! He searched every yard of it with keenest gaze, but saw
nothing.

They were high above Glenruadh, and commanded parts of it: late
though it was, Rob thought he saw some light from the New House,
which itself he could not see, reflected from some shadowed
evergreen in the shrubbery. He was thinking some one might be ill,
and he ought to run down and See whether a messenger was wanted,
when his father joined him. He had brought his telescope, and
immediately began to sweep the moonlight on the opposite hill. In a
moment he touched Rob on the shoulder, and handed him the telescope,
pointing with it. Rob looked and saw a dark speck on the snow,
moving along the hill-side. It was the big stag. Now and then he
would stop to snuff and search for a mouthful, but was evidently
making for one of his feeding-places--most likely that by the burn
on the chief's land. The light! could it imply danger? He had heard
the young men were going to leave: were they about to attempt a last
assault on the glory of the glen? He pointed out to his father the
dim light in the shadow of the house. Hector turned his telescope
thitherward, immediately gave the glass to Bob, went into the hut,
and came out again with his gun. They had not gone far when they
lost sight of the stag, but they held on towards the castle. At
every point whence a peep could be had in the direction of the
house, they halted to reconnoitre: if enemies were abroad, they
must, if possible, get and keep sight of them. They did not stop for
more than a glance, however, but made for the valley as fast as they
could walk: the noise of running feet would, on such a still night,
be heard too far. The whole way, without sound uttered, father and
son kept interchanging ideas on the matter.

From thorough acquaintance with the habits of the animal, they were
pretty certain he was on his way to the haunt aforementioned: if he
got there, he would be safe; it was the chiefs ground, and no one
would dare touch him. But he was not yet upon it, and was in danger;
while, if he should leave the spot in any westward direction, he
would almost at once be out of sanctuary! If they found him
therefore at his usual feed, and danger threatening, they must scare
him eastward; if no peril seemed at hand, they would watch him a
while, that he might feed in safety. Swift and all but soundless on
their quiet brogs they paced along: to startle the deer while the
hunter was far off, might be to drive him within range of his shot.

They reached the root of the spur, and approached the castle;
immediately beyond that, they would be in sight of the feeding
ground. But they were yet behind it when Rob of the Angels bounded
forward in terror at the sound of a gun. His father, however, who
was in front, was off before him. Neither hearing anything, nor
seeing Rob, he knew that a shot had been fired, and, caution being
now useless, was in a moment at full speed. The smoke of the shot
hung white in the moonlight over the end of the ridge. No red bulk
shadowed the green pasture, no thicket of horns went shaking about
over the sod. No lord of creation, but an enemy of life, stood
regarding his work, a tumbled heap of death, yet saying to himself,
like God when he made the world, "It is good." The noble creature
lay disformed on the grass; shot through the heart he had leaped
high in the air, fallen with his head under him, and broken his
neck.

Rage filled the heart of Hector of the Stags. He could not curse,
but he gave a roar like a wild beast, and raised his gun. But Rob of
the Angels caught it ere it reached his shoulder. He yielded it,
and, with another roar like a lion, bounded bare-handed upon the
enemy. He took the descent in three leaps, and the burn in one. It
was not merely that the enemy had killed an cabrach mor, the great
stag of their love; he had killed him on the chief's own land! under
the very eyes of the man whose business it was to watch over him! It
was an offence unpardonable! an insult as well as a wrong to his
chief! In the fierce majesty of righteous wrath he threw himself on
the poacher. Sercombe met him with a blow straight from the
shoulder, and he dropped.

Rob of the Angels, close behind him, threw down the gun. The devil
all but got into Rob of the Angels. His knife flashed pale in the
moonlight, and he darted on the Sasunnach. It would then have gone
ill with the bigger man, for Bob was lithe as a snake, swift not
only to parry and dodge but to strike; he could not have reached the
body of his antagonist, but Sercombe's arm would have had at least
one terrible gash from his skean-dhu, sharp as a razor, had not, at
the moment, from the top of the ridge come the stern voice of the
chief. Rob's knife, like Excalibur from the hand of Sir Bedivere,
"made lightnings in the splendour of the moon," as he threw it from
him, and himself down by his father. Then Hector came to himself and
rose. Rob rose also; and his father, trembling with excitement,
stood grasping his arm, for he saw the stalwart form of his chief on
the ridge above them. Alister had been waked by the gun, and at the
roar of his friend Hector, sprang from his bed. When he saw his
beloved stag dead on his pasture, he came down the ridge like an
avalanche.

Sercombe stood on his defence, wondering what devil was to pay, but
beginning to think he might be in some wrong box. He had taken no
trouble to understand the boundaries between Mr. Peregrine Palmer's
land and that of the chief, and had imagined himself safe on the
south side of the big burn.

Alister gazed speechless for a moment on the slaughtered stag, and
heaved a great sigh.

"Mr. Sercombe," he said, "I would rather you had shot my best horse!
Are you aware, sir, that you are a poacher?"

"I had supposed the appellation inapplicable to a gentleman!"
answered Sercombe, with entire coolness. "But by all means take me
before a magistrate."

"You are before a magistrate."

"All I have to answer then is, that I should not have shot the
animal had I not believed myself within my rights."

"On that point, and on this very ground, I instructed you myself!"
said the chief.

"I misunderstood you."

"Say rather you had not the courtesy to heed what I told you-had not
faith enough to take the word of a gentleman! And for this my poor
stag has suffered!"

He stood for some moments in conflict with himself, then quietly
resumed.

"Of course, Mr. Sercombe, I have no intention of pushing the
matter!" he said.

"I should hope not!" returned Sercombe scornfully. "I will pay
whatever you choose to set on the brute."

It would be hard to say which was less agreeable to the chief-to
have his stag called a brute, or be offered blood-money for him.

"Stag Ruadh priced like a bullock!" he said, with a slow smile, full
of sadness; "--the pride of every child in the strath! Not a
gentleman in the county would have shot Clanruadh's deer!"

Sercombe was by this time feeling uncomfortable, and it made him
angry. He muttered something about superstition.

"He was taken when a calf," the chief went on, "and given to a
great-aunt of mine. But when he grew up, he took to the hills again,
and was known by his silver collar till he managed to rid himself of
it. He shall be buried where he lies, and his monument shall tell
how the stranger Sasunnach served the stag of Clanruadh!"

"Why the deuce didn't you keep the precious monster in a paddock,
and let people know him for a tame animal?" sneered Sercombe.

"My poor Euadh!" said the chief; "he was no tame animal! He as well
as I would have preferred the death you have given him to such a
fate. He lived while he lived! I thank you for his immediate
transit. Shot right through the heart! Had you maimed him I should
have been angrier."

Sercombe felt flattered, and, attributing the chief's gentleness to
a desire to please him, began to condescend.

"Well, come now, Macruadh!" he began; but the chief turned from him.

Hector stood with his arm on Rob's shoulder, and the tears rolling
down his cheeks. He would not have wept but that the sobs of his son
shook him.

"Rob of the Angels," Alister said in their mother-tongue, "you must
make an apology to the Sasunnach gentleman for drawing the knife on
him. That was wrong, if he had killed all the deer in Benruadh."

"It was not for that, Macruadh," answered Rob of the Angels. "It was
because he struck my father, and laid a better man than himself on
the grass."

The chief turned to the Englishman. "Did the old man strike you, Mr.
Sercombe?"

"No, by Jove! I took a little care of that! If he had, I would have
broke every bone in his body!"

"Why did you strike him then?"

"Because he rushed at me."

"It was his duty to capture a poacher!--But you did not know he was
deaf and dumb!" Alister added, as some excuse.

"The deaf makes no difference!" protested Bob. "Hector of the
Stags does not fight with his hands like a woman!"

"Well, what's done is done!" laughed Sercombe. "It wasn't a bad shot
anyhow!"

"You have little to plume yourself upon, Mr. Sercombe!" said the
chief. "You are a good shot, but you need not have been so
frightened at an old man as to knock him down!"

"Come, come, Macruadh! enough's enough! It's time to drop this!"
returned Sercombe. "I can't stand much more of it!--Take ten pounds
for the head!--Come!"

The chief made one great stride towards him, but turned away, and
said,

"Come along, Rob! Tell your father you must not go up the hill again
to-night."

"No, sir," answered Bob; "there's nothing now to go up the hill for!
Poor old Buadh! God rest his soul!"

"Amen!" responded the chief; "but say rather, 'God give him room to
run!'"

"Amen! It is better.--But," added Kob, "we must watch by the body.
The foxes and hooded crows are gathering already--I hear them on the
hills; and I saw a sea-eagle as white as silver yesterday! We
cannot leave Ruadh till he is under God's plaid!"

"Then one of you come and fetch food and fire," said the chief. "I
will be with you early."

Father and son communicated in silence, and Rob went with the chief.

"They worship the stag, these peasants, as the old Egyptians the
bull!" said Sercombe to himself, walking home full of contempt.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE STAG'S HEAD.


Alister went straight to his brother's room, his heart bursting with
indignation. It was some time before Ian could get the story from
him in plain consecution; every other moment he would diverge into
fierce denunciations.

"Hadn't you better tell your master what has happened?" at length
said Ian. "He ought to know why you curse one of your fellows so
bitterly."

Alister was dumb. For a moment he looked aghast.

"Ian!" he said: "You think he wants to be told anything? I always
thought you believed in his divinity!"

"Ah!" returned Ian, "but do you? How am I to imagine it, when you go
on like that in his hearing? Is it so you acknowledge his presence?"

"Oh, Ian! you don't know how it tortures me to think of that
interloper, the low brute, killing the big stag, the Macruadh
stag-and on my land too! I feel as if I could tear him in pieces.
But for him I would have killed him on the spot! It is hard if I may
not let off my rage even to you!"

"Let it off to him, Alister; he will give you fairer play than your
small brother; he understands you better than I."

"But I could not let it off to him that way!"

"Then that is not a good way. The justice that, even in imagination,
would tear and destroy and avenge, may be justice, but it is devil's
justice. Come, begin now, and tell me all quietly-as if you had read
it in a book."

"Word for word, then, with all the imprecations!" returned
Alister, a little cooler; and Ian was soon in possession of the
story.

"Now what do you think, Ian?" said the chief, ending a recital true
to the very letter, and in a measure calm, but at various points
revealing, by the merest dip of the surface, the boiling of the
floods beneath.

"You must send him the head, Alister," answered Ian.

"Send-what-who-I don't understand you, Ian!" returned the chief,
bewildered.

"Oh, well, never mind!" said Ian. "You will think of it presently!"

And therewith he turned his face to the wall, as if he would go to
sleep.

It had been a thing understood betwixt the brothers, and that from
so far back in the golden haze of childhood that the beginning of
it was out of sight, that, the moment one of them turned his back,
not a word more was to be said, until he who thus dropped the
subject, chose to resume it: to break this unspoken compact would
have been to break one of the strands in the ancient bond of their
most fast brotherhood. Alister therefore went at once to his room,
leaving Ian loving him hard, and praying for him with his face to
the wall. He went as one knowing well the storm he was about to
encounter, but never before had he had such a storm to meet.

He closed the door, and sat down on the side of his bed like one
stunned. He did not doubt, yet could hardly allow he believed, that
Ian, his oracle, had in verity told him to send the antlers of his
cabrach mor, the late live type of his ancient crest, the pride of
Clanruadh, to the vile fellow of a Sasunnach who had sent out into
the deep the joyous soul of the fierce, bare mountains.

There were rushings to and fro in the spirit of Alister, wild and
terrible, even as those in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He
never closed his eyes, but fought with himself all the night, until
the morning broke. Could this thing be indeed his duty? And if not
his duty, was he called to do it from mere bravado of goodness? How
frightfully would not such an action be misunderstood by such a man!
What could he take it for but a mean currying of favour with him!
Why should he move to please such a fellow! Ian was too hard upon
him! The more he yielded, the more Ian demanded! Every time it was
something harder than the last! And why did he turn his face to
the wall? Was he not fit to be argued with! Was he one that would
not listen to reason! He had never known Ian ungenerous till now!

But all the time there lay at his door a thing calling out to be
done! The thing he did not like was always the thing he had to do!
he grumbled; but this thing he hated doing! It was abominable! What!
send the grand head, with its horns spread wide like a half-moon,
and leaning--like oaks from a precipice--send it to the man that made
it a dead thing! Never! It must not be left behind! It must go to
the grave with the fleet limbs! and over it should rise a monument,
at sight of which every friendly highlandman would say, Feiich an
cabracli mor de Clanruadli! What a mockery of fate to be exposed for
ever to the vulgar Cockney gaze, the trophy of a fool, whose boast
was to kill! Such a noble beast! Such a mean man! To mutilate his
remains for the pride of the wretch who killed him! It was too
horrible!

He thought and thought--until at last he lay powerless to think any
more. But it is not always the devil that enters in when a man
ceases to think. God forbid! The cessation of thought gives
opportunity for setting the true soul thinking from another
quarter. Suddenly Alister remembered a conversation he had had
with Ian a day or two before. He had been saying to Ian that he
could not understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Whosoever shall
smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also;" and was
dissatisfied with the way Ian had answered him. "You must explain it
to yourself," Ian said. He replied, "If I could do that, I should
not have to ask you." "There are many things," Ian rejoined,
"--arithmetic is one--that can be understood only in the doing of
them." "But how can I do a thing without understanding it?" objected
Alister. "When you have an opportunity of doing this very thing,"
said Ian, "do it, and see what will follow!" At the time he thought
Ian was refusing to come to the point, and was annoyingly indefinite
and illogical; but now it struck him that here was the opportunity
of which he had spoken.

"I see!" he said to himself. "It is not want of understanding that
is in the way now! A thing cannot look hateful and reasonable at the
same moment! This may be just the sort of thing Jesus meant! Even if
I be in the right, I have a right to yield my right--and to HIM I
will yield it. That was why Ian turned his face to the wall: he
wanted me to discover that here was my opportunity! How but in the
name of Jesus Christ could he have dared tell me to forgive Ruadh's
death by sending his head to his murderer! It has to be done! I've
got to do it! Here is my chance of turning the other cheek and being
hurt again! What can come of it is no business of mine! To return
evil is just to do a fresh evil! It MAY make the man ashamed of
himself! It cannot hurt the stag; it only hurts my pride, and I owe
my pride nothing! Why should not the fellow have what satisfaction
he may--something to show for his shot! He shall have the head."

Thereupon rushed into his heart the joy of giving up, of deliverance
from self; and pity, to leaven his contempt, awoke for Sercombe. No
sooner had he yielded his pride, than he felt it possible to love
the man--not for anything he was, but for what he might and must be.

"God let the man kill the stag," he said; "I will let him have the
head."

Again and yet again swelled afresh the tide of wrath and
unwillingness, making him feel as if he could not carry out his
resolve; but all the time he knew the thing was as good as
done--absolutely determined, so that nothing could turn it aside.

"To yield where one may, is the prerogative of liberty!" he said to
himself. "God only can give; who would be his child must yield!
Abroad in the fields of air, as Paul and the love of God make me
hope, what will the wind-battling Ruadh care for his old head! Would
he not say, 'Let the man have it; my hour was come, or the Some One
would not have let him kill me!'?"

Thus argued the chief while the darkness endured--and as soon as the
morning began to break, rose, took spade and pick and great knife,
and went where Hector and Rob were watching the slain.

It was bitterly cold. The burn crept silent under a continuous
bridge of ice. The grass-blades were crisp with frost. The ground
was so hard it met iron like iron.

He sent the men to get their breakfast from Nancy: none but himself
should do the last offices for Ruadh! With skilful hand he separated
and laid aside the head--in sacrifice to the living God. Then the
hard earth rang with mighty blows of the pickaxe. The labour was
severe, and long ere the grave was deep enough, Hector and Rob had
returned; but the chief would not get out of it to give them any
share in the work. When he laid hold of the body, they did not offer
to help him; they understood the heart of their chief. Not without a
last pang that he could not lay the head beside it, he began to
shovel in the frozen clods, and then at length allowed them to take
a part. When the grave was full, they rolled great stones upon it,
that it might not be desecrated. Then the chief went back to his
room, and proceeded to prepare the head, that, as the sacrifice, so
should be the gift.

"I suppose he would like glass eyes, the ruffian!" he muttered to
himself, "but I will not have the mockery. I will fill the sockets
and sew up the eyelids, and the face shall be as of one that
sleeps."

Haying done all, and written certain directions for temporary
treatment, which he tied to an ear, he laid the head aside till the
evening.

All the day long, not a word concerning it passed between the
brothers; but when evening came, Alister, with a blue cotton
handkerchief in his hand, hiding the head as far as the roots of the
huge horns, asked Ian to go for a walk. They went straight to the
New House. Alister left the head at the door, with his compliments
to Mr. Sercombe.

As soon as they were out of sight of the house, Ian put his arm
through his brother's, but did not speak.

"I know now about turning the other cheek!" said Alister. "--Poor
Euadh!"

"Leave him to the God that made the great head and nimble feet of
him," said Ian. "A God that did not care for what he had made, how
should we believe in! but he who cares for the dying sparrow, may be
trusted with the dead stag."

"Truly, yes," returned Alister.

"Let us sit down," said Ian, "and I will sing you a song I made last
night; I could not sleep after you left me."

Without reply, Alister took a stone by the wayside, and Ian one a
couple of yards from him. This was his song.

    LOVE'S HISTORY.

    Love, the baby,
      Toddled out to pluck a flower;
    One said, "No, sir;" one said, "Maybe,
      At the evening hour!"

    Love, the boy,
      Joined the boys and girls at play;
    But he left them half his joy
      Ere the close of day.

    Love, the youth,
      Roamed the country, lightning-laden;
    But he hurt himself, and, sooth,
      Many a man and maiden!

    Love, the man,
      Sought a service all about;
    But he would not take their plan,
      So they cast him out.

    Love, the aged,
      Walking, bowed, the shadeless miles,
    Bead a volume many-paged,
      Full of tears and smiles.

    Love, the weary,
      Tottered down the shelving road:
    At its foot, lo, night the starry
      Meeting him from God!

    "Love, the holy!"
      Sang a music in her dome,
    Sang it softly, sang it slowly,
      "--Love is coming home!"

Ere the week was out, there stood above the dead stag a growing
cairn, to this day called Carn a' cabrach mor. It took ten men with
levers to roll one of the boulders at its base. Men still cast
stones upon it as they pass.

The next morning came a note to the cottage, in which Sercombe
thanked the Macruadh for changing his mind, and said that, although
he was indeed glad to have secured such a splendid head, he would
certainly have stalked another deer, had he known the chief set such
store by the one in question.

It was handed to Alister as he sat at his second breakfast with his
mother and Ian: even in winter he was out of the house by six
o'clock, to set his men to work, and take his own share. He read to
the end of the first page with curling lip; the moment he turned the
leaf, he sprang from his seat with an exclamation that startled his
mother.

"The hound!--I beg my good dogs' pardon, one and all!" he cried.
"--Look at this, Ian! See what comes of taking your advice!"

"My dear fellow, I gave you no advice that had the least regard to
the consequence of following it! That was the one thing you had
nothing to do with."

"READA," insisted Alister, as he pranced about the room. "No, don't
read the letter; it's not worth, reading. Look at the paper in it."

Ian looked, and saw a cheque for ten pounds. He burst into loud
laughter.

"Poor Ruadh's horns! they're hardly so long as their owner's ears!"
he said.

"I told you so!" cried the chief.

"No, Alister! You never suspected such a donkey!"

"What is it all about?" asked the mother.

"The wretch who shot Ruadh," replied Alister, "--to whom I gave his
head, all to please Ian,--"

"Alister!" said Ian.

The chief understood, and retracted.

"--no, not to please Ian, but to do what Ian showed me was right:--I
believe it was my duty!--I hope it was!--here's the murdering fellow
sends me a cheque for ten pounds!--I told you, Ian, he offered me
ten pounds over the dead body!"

"I daresay the poor fellow was sorely puzzled what to do, and
appealed to everybody in the house for advice!"

"You take the cheque to represent the combined wisdom of the New
House?"

"You must have puzzled them all!" persisted Ian. "How could people
with no principle beyond that of keeping to a bargain, understand
you otherwise! First, you perform an action such persons think
degrading: you carry a fellow's bag for a shilling, and then himself
for nothing! Next, in the very fury of indignation with a man for
killing the finest stag in the country on your meadow, you carry him
home the head with your own hands! It all comes of that unlucky
divine motion of yours to do good that good may come! That shilling
of Mistress Conal's is at the root of it all!"

Ian laughed again, and right heartily. The chief was too angry to
enter into the humour of the thing.

"Upon my word, Ian, it is too bad of you! What ARE you laughing at?
It would become you better to tell me what I am to do! Am I free to
break the rascal's bones?"

"Assuredly not, after that affair with the bag!"

"Oh, damn the bag!--I beg your pardon, mother."

"Am I to believe my ears, Alister?"

"What does it matter, mother? What harm can it do the bag? I wished
no evil to any creature!"

"It was the more foolish."

"I grant it, mother. But you don't know what a relief it is
sometimes to swear a little!--You are quite wrong, Ian; it all comes
of giving him the head!"

"You wish you had not given it him?"

"No!" growled Alister, as from a pent volcano.

"You will break my ears, Alister!" cried the mother, unable to keep
from laughing at the wrath in which he went straining through the
room.

"Think of it," insisted Ian: "a man like could not think otherwise
without a revolution of his whole being to which the change of the
leopard's spots would be nothing.--What you meant, after all, was
not cordiality; it was only generosity; to which his response, his
countercheck friendly, was an order for ten pounds!--All is right
between you!"

"Now, really, Ian, you must not go on teasing your elder brother
so!" said the mother.

Alister laughed, and ceased fuming. "But I must answer the brute!"
he said. "What am I to say to him?"

"That you are much obliged," replied Ian, "and will have the cheque
framed and hung in the hall."

"Come, come! no more of that!"

"Well, then, let me answer the letter."

"That is just what I wanted!"

Ian sat down at his mother's table, and this is what he wrote.

"Dear sir,--My brother desires me to return the cheque which you
unhappily thought it right to send him. Humanity is subject to
mistake, but I am sorry for the individual who could so
misunderstand his courtesy. I have the honour to remain, sir, your
obedient servant, Ian Macruadh."

As Ian guessed, the matter had been openly discussed at the New
House; and the money was sent with the approval of all except the
two young ladies. They had seen the young men in circumstances more
favourable to the understanding of them by ordinary people.

"Why didn't the chief write himself?" said Christian.

"Oh," replied Sercombe, "his little brother had been to school, and
could write better!"

Christina and Mercy exchanged glances.

"I will tell you," Mercy said, "why Mr. lau answered the note: the
chief had done with you!"

"Or," suggested Christina, "the chief was in such a rage that he
would write nothing but a challenge."

"I wish to goodness he had! It would have given me the chance of
giving the clodhopper a lesson."

"For sending you the finest stag's head and horns in the country!"
remarked Mercy.

"I shot the stag! Perhaps you don't believe I shot him!"

"Indeed I do! No one else would have done it. The chief would have
died sooner!"

"I'm sick of your chief!" said Christian. "A pretty chief without a
penny to bless himself! A chief, and glad of the job of carrying a
carpet-bag! You'll be calling him MY LORD, next!"

"He may at least write BARONET after his name when he pleases,"
returned Mercy.

"Why don't he then? A likely story!"

"Because," answered Christina, "both his father and himself were
ashamed of how the first baronet got his title. It had to do with
the sale of a part of the property, and they counted the land the
clan's as well as the chief's. They regarded it as an act of
treachery to put the clan in the power of a stranger, and the chief
looks on the title as a brand of shame."

"I don't question the treachery," said Christian. "A highlander is
treacherous."

Christina had asked a friend in Glasgow to find out for her anything
known among the lawyers concerning the Macruadhs, and what she had
just recounted was a part of the information she had thereby
received.

Thenceforward silence covered the whole transaction. Sercombe
neither returned the head, sent an apology, nor recognized the gift.
That he had shot the stag was enough!

But these things wrought shaping the idea of the brothers in the
minds of the sisters, and they were beginning to feel a strange
confidence in them, such as they had never had in men before. A
curious little halo began to shimmer about the heads of the young
men in the picture-gallery of the girls' fancy. Not the less,
however, did they regard them as enthusiasts, unfitted to this
world, incapable of self-protection, too good to live--in a word,
unpractical! Because a man would live according to the laws of his
being as well as of his body, obeying simple, imperative, essential
human necessity, his fellows forsooth call him UNPRACTICAL! Of the
idiotic delusions of the children of this world, that of being
practical is one of the most ludicrous.

Here is a translation, made by Ian, of one of Alister's Gaelic
songs.

    THE SUN'S DAUGHTER.

    A bright drop of water
        In the gold tire
    Of a sun's daughter
        Was laughing to her sire;

    And from all the flowers about,
        That never toiled or spun,
    The soul of each looked out,
        Clear laughing to the sun.

    I saw them unfolding
        Their hearts every one!
    Every soul holding
        Within it the sun!

    But all the sun-mirrors
        Vanished anon;
    And their flowers, mere starers,
        Grew dry in the sun.

    "My soul is but water,
        Shining and gone!
    She is but the daughter,"
        I said, "of the sun!"

    My soul sat her down
        In a deep-shaded gloom;
    Her glory was flown,
        Her earth was a tomb,

    Till night came and caught her,
        And then out she shone;
    And I knew her no daughter
        Of that shining sun--

    Till night came down and taught her
        Of a glory yet unknown;
    And I knew my soul the daughter
        Of a sun behind the sun.

    Back, back to him that wrought her
        My soul shall haste and run;
    Straight back to him, his daughter,
        To the sun behind the sun.



CHAPTER IX.

ANNIE OF THE SHOP.


At the dance in the chief's barn, Sercombe had paired with Annie of
the shop oftener than with any other of the girls. That she should
please him at all, was something in his favour, for she was a
simple, modest girl, with the nicest feeling of the laws of
intercourse, the keenest perception both of what is in itself right,
and what is becoming in the commonest relation. She understood by a
fine moral instinct what respect was due to her, and what respect
she ought to show, and was therefore in the truest sense well-bred.
There are women whom no change of circumstances would cause to alter
even their manners a hair's-breadth: such are God's ladies; there
are others in whom any outward change will reveal the vulgarity of a
nature more conscious of claim than of obligation.

I need not say that Sercomhe, though a man of what is called
education, was but conventionally a gentleman. If in doubt whether a
man be a gentleman or not, hear him speak to a woman he regards as
his inferior: his very tone will probably betray him. A true
gentleman, that is a true man, will be the more carefully
respectful. Sercombe was one of those who regard themselves as
respectable because they are prudent; whether they are human, and
their brother and sister's keeper, they have never asked themselves.

To some minds neither innocent nor simple, there is yet something
attractive in innocence and simplicity. Perhaps it gives them a
pleasing sense of their superiority--a background against which to
rejoice in their liberty, while their pleasure in it helps to
obscure the gulf between what the man would fain hold himself to be,
and what in reality he is. There is no spectre so terrible as the
unsuspected spectre of a man's own self; it is noisome enough to the
man who is ever trying to better it: what must it appear to the man
who sees it for the first time! Sercombe's self was ugly, and he did
not know it; he thought himself an exceptionally fine fellow. No one
knows what a poor creature he is but the man who makes it his
business to be true. The only mistake worse than thinking well of
himself, is for a man to think God takes no interest in him.

One evening, sorely in lack of amusement, Sercombe wandered out into
a star-lit night, and along the road to the village. There he went
into the general shop, where sat Annie behind the counter. Now the
first attention he almost always paid a woman, that is when he cared
and dared, was a compliment--the fungus of an empty head or a false
heart; but with Annie he took no such initiative liberty, and she,
accustomed to respectful familiarity from the chief and his brother,
showed no repugnance to his friendly approach.

"Upon my word, Miss Annie," said Sercombe, venturing at length a
little, "you were the best dancer on the floor that night!"

"Oh, Mr. Sercombe! how can you say so--with such dancers as the
young ladies of your party!" returned Annie.

"They dance well," he returned, "but not so well as you."

"It all depends on the dance--whether you are used to it or not."

"No, by Jove! If you had a lesson or two such as they have been
having all their lives, you would dance out of their sight in the
twinkling of an eye. If I had you for a partner every night for a
month, you would dance better than any woman I have ever seen--off
the stage--any lady, that is."

The grosser the flattery, the surer with a country girl, he thought.
But there was that in his tone, besides the freedom of sounding her
praises in her own ears, which was unpleasing to Annie's ladyhood,
and she held her peace.

"Come out and have a turn," he said thereupon. "It is lovely
star-light. Have you had a walk to-day?"

"No, I have not," answered Annie, casting how to get rid of him.

"You wrong your beauty by keeping to the house."

"My beauty," said Annie, flushing, "may look after itself; I have
nothing to do with it--neither, excuse me, sir, have you."

"Why, who has a right to be offended with the truth! A man can't
help seeing your face is as sweet as your voice, and your figure, as
revealed by your dancing, a match for the two!"

"I will call my mother," said Annie, and left the shop.

Sercombe did not believe she would, and waited. He took her
departure for a mere coquetry. But when a rather grim, handsome old
woman appeared, asking him--it took the most of her English--"What
would you be wanting, sir?" as if he had just come into the shop, he
found himself awkwardly situated. He answered, with more than his
usual politeness, that, having had the pleasure of dancing with her
daughter at the chief's hall, he had taken the liberty of looking in
to inquire after her health; whereupon, perplexed, the old woman in
her turn called Annie, who came at once, but kept close to her
mother. Sercombe began to tell them about a tour he had made in
Canada, for he had heard they had friends there; but the mother did
not understand him, and Annie more and more disliked him. He soon
saw that at least he had better say nothing more about a walk, and
took himself off, not a little piqued at repulse from a peasant-girl
in the most miserable shop he had ever entered.

Two days after, he went again--this time to buy tobacco. Annie was
short with him, but he went yet again and yet sooner: these
primitive people objected to strangers, he said; accustomed to him
she would be friendly! he would not rest until he had gained some
footing of favour with her! Annie grew heartily offended with the
man. She also feared what might be said if he kept coming to the
shop--where Mistress Conal had seen him more than once, and looked
poison at him. For her own sake, for the sake of Lachlan, and for
the sake of the chief, she resolved to make the young father of the
ancient clan acquainted with her trouble. It was on the day after
his rejection of the ten-pound note that she found her opportunity,
for the chief came to see her.

"Was he rude to you, Annie?" he asked.

"No, sir--too polite, I think: he must have seen I did not want his
company.--I shall feel happier now you know."

"I will see to it," said the chief.

"I hope it will not put you to any trouble, sir!"

"What am I here for, Annie! Are you not my clanswoman! Is not
Lachlan my foster-brother!--He will trouble you no more, I think."

As Alister walked home, he met Sercombe, and after a greeting not
very cordial on either side, said thus:

"I should be obliged to you, Mr. Sercombe, if you would send for
anything you want, instead of going to the shop yourself. Annie
Macruadh is not the sort of girl you may have found in such a
position, and you would not wish to make her uncomfortable!"

Sercombe was, ashamed, I think; for the refuge of the fool when
dissatisfied with himself, is offence with his neighbour, and
Sercombe was angry.

"Are you her father--or her lover?" he said.

"She has a right to my protection--and claims it," rejoined Alister
quietly.

"Protection! Oh!--What the devil would you protect her from?"

"From you, Mr. Sercombe."

"Protect her, then."

"I will. Force yourself on that young woman's notice again, and you
will have to do with me."

They parted. Alister went home. Sercombe went straight to the shop.

He was doing what he could to recommend himself to Christina; but
whether from something antagonistic between them, or from
unwillingness on her part to yield her position of advantage and so
her liberty, she had not given him the encouragement he thought he
deserved. He believed himself in love with her, and had told her so;
but the truest love such a man can feel, is a poor thing. He
admired, and desired, and thought he loved her beauty, and that he
called being in love with HER! He did not think much about her
money, but had she then been brought to poverty, he would at least
have hesitated about marrying her.

In the family he was regarded as her affianced, although she did not
treat him as such, but merely went on bewitching him, pleased that
at least he was a man of the world.

While one is yet only IN LOVE, the real person, the love-capable,
lies covered with the rose-leaves of a thousand sleepy-eyed dreams,
and through them come to the dreamer but the barest hints of the
real person of whom is the dream. A thousand fancies fly out,
approach, and cross, but never meet; the man and the woman are
pleased, not with each other, but each with the fancied other. The
merest common likings are taken for signs of a wonderful sympathy,
of a radical unity--of essential capacity, therefore, of loving and
being loved; at a hundred points their souls seem to touch, but
their contacts are the merest brushings as of insect-antennae; the
real man, the real woman, is all the time asleep under the
rose-leaves. Happy is the rare fate of the true--to wake and come
forth and meet in the majesty of the truth, in the image of God, in
their very being, in the power of that love which alone is being.
They love, not this and that about each other, but each the very
other--a love as essential to reality, to truth, to religion, as the
love of the very God. Where such love is, let the differences of
taste, the unfitnesses of temperament be what they may, the two must
by and by be thoroughly one.

Sercombe saw no reason why a gentleman should not amuse himself with
any young woman he pleased. What was the chief to him! He was not
his chief! If he was a big man in the eyes of his little clan, he
was nothing much in the eyes of Hilary Sercombe.



CHAPTER X

THE ENCOUNTER.


Annie came again to her chief, with the complaint that Mr. Sercombe
persisted in his attentions. Alister went to see her home. They had
not gone far when Sercombe overtook them, and passed. The chief told
Annie to go on, and called after him,

"I must have a word or two with you, Mr. Sercombe!"

He turned and came up with long steps, his hands in his
coat-pockets.

"I warned you to leave that girl alone!" said the chief.

"And I warn you now," rejoined Sercombe, "to leave me alone!"

"I am bound to take care of her."

"And I of myself."

"Not at her expense!"

"At yours then!" answered Sercombe, provoking an encounter, to which
he was the more inclined that he saw Ian coming slowly up the ridge.

"It was your deliberate intention then to forget the caution I gave
you?" said the chief, restraining his anger.

"I make a point of forgetting what I do not think worth
remembering."

"I forget nothing!"

"I congratulate you."

"And I mean to assist your memory, Mr. Sercombe."

"Mr. Macruadh!" returned Sercombe, "if you expect me not to open my
lips to any hussy in the glen without your leave,--"

His speech was cut short by a box on the ear from the open hand of
the chief. He would not use his fist without warning, but such a
word applied to any honest woman of his clan demanded instant
recognition.

Sercomhe fell back a step, white with rage, then darting forward,
struck straight at the front of his adversary. Alister avoided the
blow, but soon found himself a mere child at such play with the
Englishman. He had not again touched Sercombe, and was himself
bleeding fast, when Ian came up running.

"Damn you! come on!" cried Sercombe when he saw him; "I can do the
precious pair of you!"

"Stop!" cried Ian, laying hold of his brother from behind, pinning
his arms to his sides, wheeling him round, and taking his place.
"Give over, Alister," he went on. "You can't do it, and I won't see
you punished when it is he that deserves it. Go and sit there, and
look on."

"YOU can't do it, Ian!" returned Alister. "It is my business. One
blow in will serve. He jumps about like a goat that I can't hit
him!"

"You are blind with blood!" said Ian, in a tone that gave Sercombe
expectation of too easy a victory. "Sit down there, I tell you!"

"Mind, I don't give in!" said Alister, but turning went to the bank
at the roadside. "If he speak once again to Annie, I swear I will
make him repent it!"

Sercombe laughed insultingly.

"Mr. Sercombe," said Ian, "had we not better put off our bout till
to-morrow? You have fought already!"

"Damn you for a coward, come on!"

"Would you not like to take your breath for a moment?"

"I have all I am likely to need."

"It is only fair," persisted Ian, "to warn you that you will not
find my knowledge on the level of my brother's!"

"Shut up," said Sercombe savagely, "and come on."

For a few rounds Ian seemed to Alister to be giving Sercombe time to
recover his wind; to Sercombe he seemed to be saving his own. He
stood to defend, and did not attempt to put in a blow.

"Mr. Sercombe," he said at length, "you cannot serve me as you did
my brother."

"I see that well enough. Come on!"

"Will you give your word to leave Annie of the shop alone?"

Sercombe answered with a scornful imprecation.

"I warn you again, I am no novice in this business!" said Ian.

Sercombe struck out, but did not reach his antagonist.

The fight lasted but a moment longer. As his adversary drew back
from a failed blow, Alister saw Ian's eyes flash, and his left arm
shoot out, as it seemed, to twice its length. Sercombe neither
reeled nor staggered but fell supine, and lay motionless. The
brothers were by his side in a moment.

"I struck too hard!" said Ian.

"Who can think about that in a fight!" returned Alister.

"I could have helped it well enough, and a better man would.
Something shot through me--I hope it wasn't hatred; I am sure it was
anger--and the man went down! What if the devil struck the blow!"

"Nonsense, Ian!" said Alister, as they raised Sercombe to carry him
to the cottage. "It was pure indignation, and nothing to blame in
it!"

"I wish I could be sure of that!"

They had not gone far before he began to come to himself.

"What are you about?" he said feebly but angrily. "Set me down."

They did so. He staggered to the road-side, and leaned against the
bank.

"What's been the row?" he asked. "Oh, I remember!--Well, you've had
the best of it!"

He held out his hand in a vague sort of way, and the gesture invaded
their soft hearts. Each took the hand.

"I was all right about the girl though," said Sercombe. "I didn't
mean her any harm."

"I don't think you did," answered Alister; "and I am sure you could
have done her none; but the girl did not like it."

"There is not a girl of the clan, or in the neighbourhood, for whom
my brother would not have done the same." said Ian.

"You're a brace of woodcocks!" cried Sercombe. "It's well you're not
out in the world. You would be in hot water from morning to night! I
can't think how the devil you get on at all!"

"Get on! Where?" asked Ian with a smile.

"Come now! You ain't such fools as you want to look! A man must make
a place for himself somehow in the world!"

He rose, and they walked in the direction of the cottage.

"There is a better thing than that," said Ian!

"What?"

"To get clean out of it."

"What! cut your throats?"

"I meant that to get out of the world clean was better than to get
on in it."

"I don't understand you. I don't choose to think the man that
thrashed me a downright idiot!" growled Sercombe.

"What you call getting on," rejoined Ian, "we count not worth a
thought. Look at our clan! it is a type of the world itself.
Everything is passing away. We believe in the kingdom of heaven."

"Come, come! fellows like you must know well enough that's all bosh!
Nobody nowadays--nobody with any brains--believes such rot!"

"We believe in Jesus Christ," said Ian, "and are determined to do
what he will have us do, and take our orders from nobody else."

"I don't understand you!"

"I know you don't. You cannot until you set about changing your
whole way of life."

"Oh, be damned! what an idea! a sneaking, impossible idea!"

"As to its being an impossible idea, we hold it, and live by it. How
absurd it must seem to you, I know perfectly. But we don't live in
your world, and you do not even see the lights of ours."

"'There is a world beyond the stars'!--Well, there may be; I know
nothing about it; I only know there is one on this side of them,--a
very decent sort of world too! I mean to make the best of it."

"And have not begun yet!"

"Indeed I have! I deny myself nothing. I live as I was made to
live."

"If you were not made to obey your conscience or despise yourself,
you are differently made from us, and no communication is possible
between us. We must wait until what differences a man from a beast
make its appearance in you."

"You are polite!"

"You have spoken of us as you think; now we speak of you as we
think. Taking your representation of yourself, you are in the
condition of the lower animals, for you claim inclination as the law
of your life."

"My beast is better than your man!"

"You mean you get more of the good of life!"

"Right! I do."

The brothers exchanged a look and smile.

"But suppose," resumed Ian, "the man we have found in us should one
day wake up in you! Suppose he should say, 'Why did you make a
beast of me?'! It will not be easy for you to answer him!"

"That's all moonshine! Things are as you take them."

"So said Lady Macbeth till she took to walking in her sleep, and
couldn't get rid of the smell of the blood!"

Sercombe said no more. He was silent with disgust at the nonsense of
it all.

They reached the door of the cottage. Alister invited him to walk
in. He drew back, and would have excused himself.

"You had better lie down a while," said Alister.

"You shall come to my room," said Ian. "We shall meet nobody."

Sercombe yielded, for he felt queer. He threw himself on Ian's bed,
and in a few minutes was fast asleep.

When he woke, he had a cup of tea, and went away little the worse.
The laird could not show himself for several days.

After this Annie had no further molestation. But indeed the young
men's time was almost up--which was quite as well, for Annie of the
shop, after turning a corner of the road, had climbed the hill-side,
and seen all that passed. The young ladies, hearing contradictory
statements, called upon Annie to learn the truth, and the
intercourse with her that followed was not without influence on
them. Through Annie they saw further into the character of the
brothers, who, if they advocated things too fine for the world the
girls had hitherto known, DID things also of which it would by no
means have approved. They valued that world and its judgment not a
straw!



CHAPTER XI.

A LESSON.


All the gentlemen at the New House left it together, and its ladies
were once more abandoned to the society of Nature, who said little
to any of them. For, though she recognized her grandchildren, and
did what she could for them, it was now time they should make some
move towards acquaintance with her. A point comes when she must
stand upon her dignity, for it is great. If you would hear her
wonderful tales, or see her marvellous treasures, you must not
trifle with her; you must not talk as if you could rummage her
drawers and cabinets as you pleased. You must believe in her; you
must reverence her; else, although she is everywhere about the
house, you may not meet her from the beginning of one year to the
end of another.

To allude to any aspect of nature in the presence of the girls was
to threaten to bore them; and I heartily confess to being bored
myself with common talk about scenery; but these ladies appeared
unaware of the least expression on the face of their grand-mother.
Doubtless they received some good from the aspect of things--that
they could not help; there Grannie's hidden, and therefore
irresistible power was in operation; but the moment they had their
thoughts directed to the world around them, they began to gape
inwardly. Even the trumpet and shawm of her winds, the stately march
of her clouds, and the torrent-rush of her waters, were to them
poor facts, no vaguest embodiment of truths eternal. It was small
wonder then that verse of any worth should be to them but sounding
brass and clanging cymbals. What they called society, its ways and
judgments, its decrees and condemnations, its fashions and pomps and
shows, false, unjust, ugly, was nearly all they cared for. The truth
of things, without care for which man or woman is the merest puppet,
had hitherto been nothing to them. To talk of Nature was
sentimental. To talk of God was both irreverent and ill-bred.
Wordsworth was an old woman; St. Paul an evangelical churchman. They
saw no feature of any truth, but, like all unthinkers, wrapped the
words of it in their own foolishness, and then sneered at them. They
were too much of ladies, however, to do it disagreeably; they only
smiled at the foolish neighbour who believed things they were too
sensible to believe. It must, however, be said for them, that they
had not yet refused anything worth believing--as presented to them.
They had not yet actually looked upon any truth and refused it. They
were indeed not yet true enough in themselves to suspect the
presence of either a truth or a falsehood.

A thaw came, and the ways were bad, and they found the time hang yet
heavier on their unaided hands. An intercourse by degrees
established itself between Mrs. Macruadh and the well-meaning,
handsome, smiling Mrs. Palmer, and rendered it natural for the girls
to go rather frequently to the cottage. They made themselves
agreeable to the mother, and subject to the law of her presence
showed to better advantage.

With their love of literature, it was natural also that the young
men should at such times not only talk about books, but occasionally
read for their entertainment from some favourite one; so that now,
for the first time in their lives, the young ladies were brought
under direct teaching of a worthy sort--they had had but a mockery
of it at school and church--and a little light began to soak through
their unseeking eyes. Among many others, however, less manifest, one
obstruction to their progress lay in the fact that Christina, whose
perceptions in some directions was quick enough, would always make a dart
at the comical side of anything that could be comically turned, so
disturbing upon occasion the whole spiritual atmosphere about some
delicate epiphany: this to both Alister and Ian was unbearable. She
offended chiefly in respect of Wordsworth--who had not humour enough
always to perceive what seriously meant expression might suggest a
ludicrous idea.

One time, reading from the Excursion, Ian came to the verse--not to
be found, I think, in later editions--

"Perhaps it is not he but some one else":--

"Awful idea!" exclaimed Christina, with sepulchral tone; "--'some
one else!' Think of it! It makes me shudder! Who might it not have
been!"

Ian closed the book, and persistently refused to read more that day.

Another time he was reading, in illustration of something,
Wordsworth's poem, "To a Skylark," the earlier of the two with that
title: when he came to the unfortunate line,--

"Happy, happy liver!"--

"Oh, I am glad to know that!" cried Christina. "I always thought the
poor lark must have a bad digestion--he was up so early!"

Ian refused to finish the poem, although Mercy begged hard.

The next time they came, he proposed to "read something in Miss
Palmer's style," and taking up a volume of Hood, and avoiding both
his serious and the best of his comic poems, turned to two or three
of the worst he could find. After these he read a vulgar rime about
an execution, pretending to be largely amused, making flat jokes of
his own, and sometimes explaining elaborately where was no occasion.

"Ian!" said his mother at length; "have you bid farewell to your
senses?"

"No, mother," he answered; "what I am doing is the merest
consequence of the way you brought us up."

"I don't understand that!" she returned.

"You always taught us to do the best we could for our visitors. So
when I fail to interest them, I try to amuse them."

"But you need not make a fool of yourself!"

"It is better to make a fool of myself, than let Miss Palmer make a
fool of--a great man!"

"Mr. Ian," said Christina, "it is not of yourself but of me you have
been making a fool.--I deserved it!" she added, and burst into
tears.

"Miss Palmer," said Ian, "I will drop my foolishness, if you will
drop your fun."

"I will," answered Christina.

And Ian read them the poem beginning--

   "Three years she grew in sun and shower."

Scoffing at what is beautiful, is not necessarily a sign of evil; it
may only indicate stupidity or undevelopment: the beauty is not
perceived. But blame is often present in prolonged undevelopment.
Surely no one habitually obeying his conscience would long be left
without a visit from some shape of the beautiful!



CHAPTER XII.

NATURE.


The girls had every liberty; their mother seldom interfered. Herself
true to her own dim horn-lantern, she had confidence in the
discretion of her daughters, and looked for no more than discretion.
Hence an amount of intercourse was possible between them and the
young men, which must have speedily grown to a genuine intimacy had
they inhabited even a neighbouring sphere of conscious life.

Almost unknown to herself, however, a change for the better had
begun in Mercy. She had not yet laid hold of, had not yet perceived
any truth; but she had some sense of the blank where truth ought to
be. It was not a sense that truth was lacking; it was only a sense
that something was not in her which was in those men. A nature such
as hers, one that had not yet sinned against the truth, was not one
long to frequent such a warm atmosphere of live truth, without
approach to the hour when it must chip its shell, open its eyes, and
acknowledge a world of duty around it.

One lovely star-lit night of keen frost, the two mothers were
sitting by a red peat-fire in the little drawing-room of the
cottage, and Ian was talking to the girls over some sketches he had
made in the north, when the chief came in, bringing with him an air
of sharp exhilaration, and proposed a walk.

"Come and have a taste of star-light!" he said.

The girls rose at once, and were ready in a minute.

The chief was walking between the two ladies, and Ian was a few
steps in front, his head bent as in thought. Suddenly, Mercy saw him
spread out his arms toward the starry vault, with his face to its
serrated edge of mountain-tops. The feeling, almost the sense of
another presence awoke in her, and as quickly vanished. The thought,
IS HE A PANTHEIST? took its place. Had she not surprised him in an
act of worship? In that wide outspreading of the lifted arms, was he
not worshipping the whole, the Pan? Sky and stars and mountains and
sea were his God! She walked aghast, forgetful of a hundred things
she had heard him say that might have settled the point. She had,
during the last day or two, been reading an article in which
PANTHEISM was once and again referred to with more horror than
definiteness. Recovering herself a little, she ventured approach to
the subject.

"Macruadh," she said, "Mr. Ian and you often say things about NATURE
that I cannot understand: I wish you would tell me what you mean by
it."

"By what?" asked Alister.

"By NATURE" answered Mercy. "I heard Mr. Ian say, for instance, the
other night, that he did not like Nature to take liberties with him;
you said she might take what liberties with you she pleased; and
then you went on talking so that I could not understand a word
either of you said!"

While she spoke, Ian had turned and rejoined them, and they were now
walking in a line, Mercy between the two men, and Christina on Ian's
right. The brothers looked at each other: it would be hard to make
her understand just that example! Something more rudimentary must
prepare the way! Silence fell for a moment, and then Ian said--

"We mean by nature every visitation of the outside world through our
senses."

"More plainly, please Mr. Ian! You cannot imagine how stupid I feel
when you are talking your thinks, as once I heard a child call
them."

"I mean by nature, then, all that you see and hear and smell and
taste and feel of the things round about you."

"If that be all you mean, why should you make it seem so difficult?"

"But that is not all. We mean the things themselves only for the
sake of what they say to us. As our sense of smell brings us news of
fields far off, so those fields, or even the smell only that comes
from them, tell us of things, meanings, thoughts, intentions beyond
them, and embodied in them."

"And that is why you speak of Nature as a person?" asked Mercy.

"Whatever influences us must be a person. But God is the only real
person, being in himself, and without help from anybody; and so we
talk even of the world which is but his living garment, as if that
were a person; and we call it SHE as if it were a woman, because so
many of God's loveliest influences come to us through her. She
always seems to me a beautiful old grandmother."

"But there now! when you talk of her influences, and the liberties
she takes, I do not know what you mean. She seems to do and be
something to you which certainly she does not and is not to me. I
cannot tell what to make of it. I feel just as when our music-master
was talking away about thorough bass: I could not get hold, head or
tail, of what the man was after, and we all agreed there was no
sense in it. Now I begin to suspect there must have been too much!"

"There is no fear of her!" said Ian to himself.

"My heart told me the truth about her!" thought Alister jubilant.
"Now we shall have talk!"

"I think I can let you see into it, Miss Mercy," said Ian. "Imagine
for a moment how it would be if, instead of having a roof like 'this
most excellent canopy the air, this brave o'erhanging, this
majestical roof, fretted with golden fire,'--"

"Are you making the words, or saying them out of a book?"
interrupted Mercy.

"Ah! you don't know Hamlet? How rich I should feel myself if I had
the first reading of it before me like you!--But imagine how
different it would have been if, instead of such a roof, we had only
clouds, hanging always down, like the flies in a theatre, within a
yard or two of our heads!"

Mercy was silent for a moment, then said,

"It would be horribly wearisome."

"It would indeed be wearisome! But how do you think it would affect
your nature, your being?"

Mercy held the peace which is the ignorant man's wisdom.

"We should have known nothing of astronomy," said Christina.

"True; and the worst would have been, that the soul would have had
no astronomy--no notion of heavenly things."

"There you leave me out again!" said Mercy.

"I mean," said Ian, "that it would have had no sense of
outstretching, endless space, no feeling of heights above, and
depths beneath. The idea of space would not have come awake in it."

"I understand!" said Christina. "But I do not see that we should
have been much the worse off. Why should we have the idea of more
than we want? So long as we have room, I do not see what space
matters to us!"

"Ah, but when the soul wakes up, it needs all space for room! A
limit of thousands of worlds will not content it. Mere elbow-room
will not do when the soul wakes up!"

"Then my soul is not waked up yet!" rejoined Christina with a laugh.

Ian did not reply, and Christina felt that he accepted the
proposition, absurd as it seemed to herself.

"But there is far more than that," he resumed. "What notion could
you have had of majesty, if the heavens seemed scarce higher than
the earth? what feeling of the grandeur of him we call God, of his
illimitation in goodness? For space is the body to the idea of
liberty. Liberty is--God and the souls that love; these are the
limitless room, the space, in which thoughts, the souls of things,
have their being. If there were no holy mind, then no freedom, no
spiritual space, therefore no thoughts; just as, if there were no
space, there could be no things."

Ian saw that not even Alister was following him, and changed his
key.

"Look up," he said, "and tell me what you see.--What is the shape
over us?"

"It is a vault," replied Christina.

"A dome--is it not?" said Mercy.

"Yes; a vault or a dome, recognizable at the moment mainly by its
shining points. This dome we understand to be the complement or
completing part of a correspondent dome on the other side of the
world. It follows that we are in the heart of a hollow sphere of
loveliest blue, spangled with light. Now the sphere is the one
perfect geometrical form. Over and round us then we have the one
perfect shape. I do not say it is put there for the purpose of
representing God; I say it is there of necessity, because of its
nature, and its nature is its relation to God. It is of God's
thinking; and that half-sphere above men's heads, with influence
endlessly beyond the reach of their consciousness, is the beginning
of all revelation of him to men. They must begin with that. It is
the simplest as well as most external likeness of him, while its
relation to him goes so deep that it represents things in his very
nature that nothing else could."

"You bewilder me," said Mercy. "I cannot follow you. I am not fit
for such high things!"

"I will go on; you will soon begin to see what I mean: I know what
you are fit for better than you do yourself, Miss Mercy.--Think
then how it would be if this blue sky were plainly a solid. Men of
old believed it a succession of hollow spheres, one outside the
other; it is hardly a wonder they should have had little gods. No
matter how high the vault of the inclosing sphere; limited at all it
could not declare the glory of God, it could only show his
handiwork. In our day it is a sphere only to the eyes; it is a
foreshortening of infinitude that it may enter our sight; there is
no imagining of a limit to it; it is a sphere only in this, that in
no one direction can we come nearer to its circumference than in
another. This infinitive sphere, I say then, or, if you like it
better, this spheric infinitude, is the only figure, image, emblem,
symbol, fit to begin us to know God; it is an idea incomprehensible;
we can only believe in it. In like manner God cannot by searching be
found out, cannot be grasped by any mind, yet is ever before us, the
one we can best know, the one we must know, the one we cannot help
knowing; for his end in giving us being is that his humblest
creature should at length possess himself, and be possessed by him."

"I think I begin," said Mercy--and said no more.

"If it were not for the outside world," resumed Ian, "we should have
no inside world to understand things by. Least of all could we
understand God without these millions of sights and sounds and
scents and motions, weaving their endless harmonies. They come out
from his heart to let us know a little of what is in it!"

Alister had been listening hard. He could not originate such things,
but he could understand them; and his delight in them proved them
his own, although his brother had sunk the shaft that laid open
their lode.

"I never heard you put a thing better, Ian!" he said.

"You gentlemen," said Mercy, "seem to have a place to think in that
I don't know how to get into! Could you not open your church-door a
little wider to let me in? There must be room for more than two!"

She was looking up at Alister, not so much afraid of him; Ian was to
her hardly of this world. In her eyes Alister saw something that
seemed to reflect the starlight; but it might have been a luminous
haze about the waking stars of her soul!

"My brother has always been janitor to me," replied Alister; "I do
not know how to open any door. But here no door needs to be opened;
you have just to step straight into the temple of nature, among all
the good people worshipping."

"There! that is what I was afraid of!" cried Mercy: "you are
pantheists!"

"Bless my soul, Mercy!" exclaimed Christina; "what do you mean?"

"Yes," answered Ian. "If to believe that not a lily can grow, not a
sparrow fall to the ground without our Father, be pantheism, Alister
and I are pantheists. If by pantheism you mean anything that would
not fit with that, we are not pantheists."

"Why should we trouble about religion more than is required of us!"
interposed Christina.

"Why indeed?" returned Ian. "But then how much is required?"

"You require far more than my father, and he is good enough for me!"

"The Master says we are to love God with all our hearts and souls
and strength and mind."

"That was in the old law, Ian," said Alister.

"You are right. Jesus only justified it--and did it."

"How then can you worship in the temple of Nature?" said Mercy.

"Just as he did. It is Nature's temple, mind, for the worship of
God, not of herself!"

"But how am I to get into it? That is what I want to know."

"The innermost places of the temple are open only to such as already
worship in a greater temple; but it has courts into which any honest
soul may enter."

"You wouldn't set me to study Wordsworth?"

"By no means."

"I am glad of that--though there must be more in him than I see, or
you couldn't care for him so much!"

"Some of Nature's lessons you must learn before you can understand
them."

"Can you call it learning a lesson if you do not understand it?"

"Yes--to a certain extent. Did you learn at school to work the rule
of three?"

"Yes; and I was rather fond of it."

"Did you understand it?"

"I could work sums in it."

"Did you see how it was that setting the terms down so, and working
out the rule, must give you a true answer. Did you perceive that it
was safe to buy or sell, to build a house, or lay out a garden, by
the rule of three?"

"I did not. I do not yet."

"Then one may so far learn a lesson without understanding it! All
do, more or less, in Dame Nature's school. Not a few lessons must be
so learned in order to be better learned. Without being so learned
first, it is not possible to understand them; the scholar has not
facts enough about the things to understand them. Keats's youthful
delight in Nature was more intense even than Wordsworth's, but he
was only beginning to understand her when he died. Shelley was much
nearer understanding her than Keats, but he was drowned before he
did understand her. Wordsworth was far before either of them. At the
same time, presumptuous as it may appear, I believe there are
regions to be traversed, beyond any point to which Wordsworth leads
us."

"But how am I to begin? Do tell me. Nothing you say helps me in the
least."

"I have all the time been leading you toward the door at which you
want to go in. It is not likely, however, that it will open to you
at once. I doubt if it will open to you at all except through
sorrow."

"You are a most encouraging master!" said Christina, with a light
laugh.

"It was Wordsworth's bitter disappointment in the outcome of the
French revolution," continued Ian, "that opened the door to him. Yet
he had gone through the outer courts of the temple with more
understanding than any who immediately preceded him.--Will you let
me ask you a question?"

"You frighten me!" said Mercy.

"I am sorry for that. We will talk of something else."

"I am not afraid of what you may ask me; I am frightened at what you
tell me. I fear to go on if I must meet Sorrow on the way!"

"You make one think of some terrible secret society!" said
Christina.

"Tell me then, Miss Mercy, is there anything you love very much? I
don't say any PERSON, but any THING."

"I love some animals."

"An animal is not a thing. It is possible to love animals and not
the nature of which we are speaking. You might love a dog dearly,
and never care to see the sun rise!--Tell me, did any flower ever
make you cry?

"No," answered Mercy, with a puzzled laugh; "how could it?"

"Did any flower ever make you a moment later in going to bed, or a
moment earlier in getting out of it?"

"No, certainly!"

"In that direction, then, I am foiled!"

"You would not really have me cry over a flower, Mr. Ian? Did ever a
flower make you cry yourself? Of course not! it is only silly women
that cry for nothing!"

"I would rather not bring myself in at present," answered Ian
smiling. "Do you know how Chaucer felt about flowers?"

"I never read a word of Chaucer."

"Shall I give you an instance?"

"Please."

"Chaucer was a man of the world, a courtier, more or less a man of
affairs, employed by Edward III. in foreign business of state: you
cannot mistake him for an effeminate or sentimental man! He does not
anywhere, so far as I remember, say that ever he cried over a
flower, but he shows a delight in some flowers so delicate and deep
that it must have a source profounder than that of most people's
tears. When we go back I will read you what he says about the daisy;
but one more general passage I think I could repeat. There are
animals in it too!"

"Pray let us hear it," said Christina.

He spoke the following stanzas--not quite correctly, but supplying
for the moment's need where he could not recall:--

    A gardein saw I, full of blosomed bowis,
    Upon a river, in a grene mede,
    There as sweetnesse evermore inough is,
    With floures white, blewe, yelowe, and rede,
    And cold welle streames, nothing dede,
    That swommen full of smale fishes light,
    With finnes rede, and scales silver bright.

    On every bough the birdes heard I sing,
    With voice of angell, in hir armonie,
    That busied hem, hir birdes forth to bring,
    The little pretty conies to hir play gan hie,
    And further all about I gan espie,
    The dredeful roe, the buck, the hart, and hind,
    Squirrels, and beastes small, of gentle kind.

    Of instruments of stringes in accorde,
    Heard I so play, a ravishing swetnesse,
    That God, that maker is of all and Lorde,
    Ne heard never better, as I gesse,
    Therewith a wind, unneth it might be lesse,
    Made in the leaves grene a noise soft,
    Accordant to the foules song on loft.

    The aire of the place so attempre was,
    That never was ther grevance of hot ne cold,
    There was eke every noisome spice and gras,
    Ne no man may there waxe sicke ne old,
    Yet was there more joy o thousand fold,
    Than I can tell or ever could or might,
    There is ever clere day, and never night.

He modernized them also a little in repeating them, so that his
hearers missed nothing through failing to understand the words: how
much they gained, it were hard to say.

"It reminds one," commented Ian, "of Dante's paradise on the top of
the hill of purgatory."

"I don't know anything about Dante either," said Mercy regretfully.

"There is plenty of time!" said Ian.

"But there is so much to learn!" returned Mercy in a hopeless tone.

"That is the joy of existence!" Ian replied. "We are not bound to
know; we are only bound to learn.--But to return to my task: a man
may really love a flower. In another poem Chaucer tells us that such
is his delight in his books that no other pleasure can take him from
them--

    Save certainly, when that the month of May
    Is comen, and that I heare the foules sing,
    And that the floures ginnen for to spring,
    Farwell my booke, and my devotion!

Poor people love flowers; rich people admire them."

"But," said Mercy, "how can one love a thing that has no life?"

Ian could have told her that whatever grows must live; he could
further have told her his belief that life cannot be without its
measure of consciousness; but it would have led to more difficulty,
and away from the end he had in view. He felt also that no
imaginable degree of consciousness in it was commensurate with the
love he had himself for almost any flower. His answer to Mercy's
question was this:--

"The flowers come from the same heart as man himself, and are sent
to be his companions and ministers. There is something divinely
magical, because profoundly human in them. In some at least the
human is plain; we see a face of childlike peace and confidence that
appeals to our best. Our feeling for many of them doubtless owes
something to childish associations; but how did they get their hold
of our childhood? Why did they enter our souls at all? They are
joyous, inarticulate children, come with vague messages from the
father of all. If I confess that what they say to me sometimes makes
me weep, how can I call my feeling for them anything but love? The
eternal thing may have a thousand forms of which we know nothing
yet!"

Mercy felt Ian must mean something she ought to like, if only she
knew what it was; but he had not yet told her anything to help her!
He had, however, neither reached his end nor lost his way; he was
leading her on--gently and naturally.

"I did not mean," he resumed, "that you must of necessity begin with
the flowers. I was only inquiring whether at that point you were
nearer to Nature.--Tell me--were you ever alone?"

"Alone!" repeated Mercy, thinking. "--Surely everybody has been many
times alone!"

"Could you tell when last you were alone?"

She thought, but could not tell.

"What I want to ask you," said Ian, "is--did you ever feel alone?
Did you ever for a moment inhabit loneliness? Did it ever press
itself upon you that there was nobody near--that if you called
nobody would hear? You are not alone while you know that you can
have a fellow creature with you the instant you choose."

"I hardly think I was ever alone in that way."

"Then what I would have you do," continued Ian, "is--to make
yourself alone in one of Nature's withdrawing-rooms, and seat
yourself in one of Grannie's own chairs.--I am coming to the point
at last!--Upon a day when the weather is fine, go out by yourself.
Tell no one where you are going, or that you are going anywhere.
Climb a hill. If you cannot get to the top of it, go high on the
side of it. No book, mind! nothing to fill your thinking-place from
another's! People are always saying 'I think,' when they are not
thinking at all, when they are at best only passing the thoughts of
others whom they do not even know.

"When you have got quite alone, when you do not even know the
nearest point to anybody, sit down and be lonely. Look out on the
loneliness, the wide world round you, and the great vault over you,
with the lonely sun in the middle of it; fold your hands in your
lap, and be still. Do not try to think anything. Do not try to call
up any feeling or sentiment or sensation; just be still. By and by,
it may be, you will begin to know something of Nature. I do not know
you well enough to be sure about it; but if you tell me afterwards
how you fared, I shall then know you a little better, and perhaps be
able to tell you whether Nature will soon speak to you, or not
until, as Henry Vaughan says, some veil be broken in you."

They were approaching the cottage, and little more was said. They
found Mrs. Palmer prepared to go, and Mercy was not sorry: she had
had enough for a while. She was troubled at the thought that perhaps
she was helplessly shut out from the life inhabited by the brothers.
When she lay down, her own life seemed dull and poor. These men,
with all their kindness, respect, attention, and even attendance
upon them, did not show them the homage which the men of their own
circle paid them!

"They will never miss us!" she said to herself. "They will go on
with their pantheism, or whatever it is, all the same!"

But they should not say she was one of those who talk but will not
do! That scorn she could not bear!

All the time, however, the thing seemed to savour more of spell or
cast of magic than philosophy: the means enjoined were suggestive of
a silent incantation!



CHAPTER XIII.

GRANNY ANGRY.


It must not be supposed that all the visiting was on the part of
those of the New House. The visits thence were returned by both
matron and men. But somehow there was never the same freedom in the
house as in the cottage. The difference did not lie in the presence
of the younger girls: they were well behaved, friendly, and nowise
disagreeable children. Doubtless there was something in the absence
of books: it was of no use to jump up when a passage occurred; help
was not at hand. But it was more the air of the place, the presence
of so many common-place things, that clogged the wheels of thought.
Neither, with all her knowledge of the world and all her sweetness,
did Mrs. Palmer understand the essentials of hospitality half so
well as the widow of the late minister-chief. All of them liked, and
confessed that they liked the cottage best. Even Christina felt
something lacking in their reception. She regretted that the house
was not grand enough to show what they were accustomed to.

Mrs. Palmer seldom understood the talk, and although she sat looking
persistently content, was always haunted with a dim feeling that her
husband would not be hest pleased at so much intercourse between his
rich daughters and those penniless country-fellows. But what could
she do! the place where he had abandoned them was so dull, so
solitary! the girls must not mope! Christina would wither up without
amusement, and then good-bye to her beauty and all that depended
upon it! In the purity of her motherhood, she more than liked the
young men: happy mother she would think herself, were her daughters
to marry such men as these! The relations between them and their
mother delighted her: they were one! their hearts were together!
they understood each other! She could never have such bliss with her
sons! Never since she gave them birth had she had one such look from
either of hers as she saw pass every now and then from these to
their mother! It would be like being born again to feel herself
loved in that way! For any danger to the girls, she thought with a
sigh how soon in London they would forget the young highlanders. Was
there no possibility of securing one of them? What chance was there
of Mercy's marrying well! she was so decidedly plain! Was the idea
of marrying her into an old and once powerful family like that of
the Macruadh, to her husband inconceivable? Could he not restore its
property as the dowry of his unprized daughter! it would be to him
but a trifle!--and he could stipulate that the chief should
acknowledge the baronetcy and use his title! Mercy would then be a
woman of consequence, and Peregrine would have the Bible-honour of
being the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell
in!--Such were some of the thoughts that would come and go in the
brain of the mother as she sat; nor were they without a share in her
readiness to allow her daughters to go out with the young men: she
had an unquestioning conviction of their safety with them.

The days went by, and what to Christina had seemed imprisonment,
began to look like some sort of liberty. She had scarce come nearer
to sympathy with those whose society consoled her, but their talk
had ceased to sound repulsive. She was infinitely more than a
well-modelled waxflower, and yet hardly a growing plant. More was
needed to wake her than friends awake. It is wonderful how long the
sleeping may go with the waking, and not discover any difference
between them. But Grannie Nature was about to interfere.

The spring drew gently on. It would be long ere summer was summer
enough to show. There seemed more of the destructive in the spring
itself than of the genial--cold winds, great showers, days of steady
rain, sudden assaults of hail and sleet. Still it was spring, and at
length, one fine day with a bright sun, snow on the hills, and
clouds in the east, but no sign of any sudden change, the girls went
out for a walk, and took the younger girls with them.

A little way up the valley, out of sight of the cottage, a small
burn came down its own dell to join that which flowed through the
chiefs farm. Its channel was wide, but except in time of rain had
little water in it. About half a mile up its course it divided, or
rather the channel did, for in one of its branches there was seldom
any water. At the fork was a low rocky mound, with an ancient ruin
of no great size-three or four fragments of thick walls, within
whose plan grew a slender birch-tree. Thither went the little party,
wandering up the stream: the valley was sheltered; no wind but the
south could reach it; and the sun, though it could not make it very
warm, as it looked only aslant on its slopes, yet lighted both sides
of it. Great white clouds passed slowly across the sky, with now and
then a nearer black one threatening rain, but a wind overhead was
carrying them quickly athwart.

Ian had seen the ladies pass, but made no effort to overtake them,
although he was bound in the same direction: he preferred sauntering
along with a book of ballads. Suddenly his attention was roused by a
peculiar whistle, which he knew for that of Hector of the Stags: it
was one of the few sounds he could make. Three times it was
hurriedly repeated, and ere the third was over, Ian had discovered
Hector high on a hill on the opposite side of the burn, waving his
arms, and making eager signs to him. He stopped and set himself to
understand. Hector was pointing with energy, but it was impossible
to determine the exact direction: all that Ian could gather was,
that his presence was wanted somewhere farther on. He resumed his
walk therefore at a rapid pace, whereupon Hector pointed higher.
There on the eastern horizon, towards the north, almost down upon
the hills, Ian saw a congeries of clouds in strangest commotion,
such as he had never before seen in any home latitude--a mass of
darkly variegated vapours manifesting a peculiar and appalling
unrest. It seemed tormented by a gyrating storm, twisting and
contorting it with unceasing change. Now the gray came writhing out,
now the black came bulging through, now a dirty brown smeared the
ashy white, and now the blue shone calmly out from eternal
distances. At the season he could hardly think it a thunderstorm,
and stood absorbed in the unusual phenomenon. But again, louder and
more hurried, came the whistling, and again he saw Hector
gesticulating, more wildly than before. Then he knew that someone
must be in want of help or succour, and set off running as hard as
he could: he saw Hector keeping him in sight, and watching to give
him further direction: perhaps the ladies had got into some
difficulty!

When he arrived at the opening of the valley just mentioned,
Hector's gesticulations made it quite plain it was up there he must
go; and as soon as he entered it, he saw that the cloudy turmoil was
among the hills at its head. With that he began to suspect the
danger the hunter feared, and almost the same instant heard the
merry voices of the children. Running yet faster, he came in sight
of them on the other side of the stream,--not a moment too soon. The
valley was full of a dull roaring sound. He called to them as he
ran, and the children saw and came running down toward him, followed
by Mercy. She was not looking much concerned, for she thought it
only the grumbling of distant thunder. But Ian saw, far up the
valley, what looked like a low brown wall across it, and knew what
it was.

"Mercy!" he cried, "run up the side of the hill directly; you will
be drowned--swept away if you do not."

She looked incredulous, and glanced up the hill-side, but carne on
as if to cross the burn and join him.

"Do as I tell you," he cried, in a tone which few would have
ventured to disregard, and turning darted across the channel toward
her.

Mercy did not wait his coming, but took the children, each by a
hand, and went a little way up the hill that immediately bordered
the stream.

"Farther! farther!" cried Ian as he ran. "Where is Christina?"

"At the ruin," she answered.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Ian, and darted off, crying, "Up the hill
with you! up the hill!"

Christina was standing by the birch-tree in the ruin, looking down
the burn. She had heard Ian calling, and saw him running, but
suspected no danger.

"Come; come directly; for God's sake, come!" he cried. "Look up the
burn!" he added, seeing her hesitate bewildered.

She turned, looked, and came running to him, down the channel, white
with terror. It was too late. The charging water, whose front rank
was turf, and hushes, and stones, was almost upon her. The solid
matter had retarded its rush, but it was now on the point of
dividing against the rocky mound, to sweep along both sides, and
turn it into an island. Ian bounded to her in the middle of the
channel, caught her by the arm, and hurried her back to the mound as
fast as they could run: it was the highest ground immediately
accessible. As they reached it, the water broke with a roar against
its rocky base, rose, swelled--and in a moment the island was
covered with a brown, seething, swirling flood.

"Where's Mercy and the children?" gasped Christina, as the water
rose upon her.

"Safe, safe!" answered Ian. "We must get to the ruin!"

The water was halfway up his leg, and rising fast. Their danger was
but beginning. Would the old walls, in greater part built without
mortar, stand the rush? If a tree should strike them, they hardly
would! If the flood came from a waterspout, it would soon be
over--only how high it might first rise, who could tell! Such were
his thoughts as they struggled to the ruin, and stood up at the end
of a wall parallel with the current.

The water was up to Christina's waist, and very cold. Here out of
the rush, however, she recovered her breath in a measure, and showed
not a little courage. Ian stood between her and the wall, and held
her fast. The torrent came round the end of the wall from both
sides, but the encounter and eddy of the two currents rather pushed
them up against it. Without it they could not have stood.

The chief danger to Christina, however, was from the cold. With the
water so high on her body, and flowing so fast, she could not long
resist it! Ian, therefore, took her round the knees, and lifted her
almost out of the water.

"Put your arms up," he said, "and lay hold of the wall. Don't mind
blinding me; my eyes are of little use at present. There--put your
feet in my hands. Don't be frightened; I can hold you."

"I can't help being frightened!" she panted.

"We are in God's arms," returned Ian. "He is holding us."

"Are you sure we shall not be drowned?" she asked.

"No; but I am sure the water cannot take us out of God's arms."

This was not much comfort to Christina. She did not know anything
about God--did not believe in him any more than most people. She
knew God's arms only as the arms of Ian--and THEY comforted her, for
she FELT them!

How many of us actually believe in any support we do not immediately
feel? in any arms we do not see? But every help I from God; Ian's
help was God's help; and though to believe in Ian was not to believe
in God, it was a step on the road toward believing in God. He that
believeth not in the good man whom he hath seen, how shall he
believe in the God whom he hath not seen?

She began to feel a little better; the ghastly choking at her heart
was almost gone.

"I shall break your arms!" she said.

"You are not very heavy," he answered; "and though I am not so
strong as Alister, I am stronger than most men. With the help of the
wall I can hold you a long time."

How was it that, now first in danger, self came less to the front
with her than usual? It was that now first she was face to face with
reality. Until this moment her life had been an affair of
unrealities. Her selfishness had thinned, as it were vaporized,
every reality that approached her. Solidity is not enough to teach
some natures reality; they must hurt themselves against the solid
ere they realize its solidity. Small reality, small positivity of
existence has water to a dreaming soul, half consciously gazing
through half shut eyes at the soft river floating away in the
moonlight: Christina was shivering in its grasp on her person, its
omnipresence to her skin; its cold made her gasp and choke; the push
and tug of it threatened to sweep her away like a whelmed log! It is
when we are most aware of the FACTITUDE of things, that we are most
aware of our need of God, and most able to trust in him; when most
aware of their presence, the soul finds it easiest to withdraw from
them, and seek its safety with the maker of it and them. The
recognition of inexorable reality in any shape, or kind, or way,
tends to rouse the soul to the yet more real, to its relations with
higher and deeper existence. It is not the hysterical alone for whom
the great dash of cold water is good. All who dream life instead of
living it, require some similar shock. Of the kind is every
disappointment, every reverse, every tragedy of life. The true in
even the lowest kind, is of the truth, and to be compelled to feel
even that, is to be driven a trifle nearer to the truth of being, of
creation, of God. Hence this sharp contact with Nature tended to
make Christina less selfish: it made her forget herself so far as to
care for her helper as well as herself.

It must be remembered, however, that her selfishness was not the
cultivated and ingrained selfishness of a long life, but that of an
uneducated, that is undeveloped nature. Her being had not
degenerated by sinning against light known as light; it had not been
consciously enlightened at all; it had scarcely as yet begun to
grow. It was not lying dead, only unawaked. I would not be
understood to imply that she was nowise to blame--but that she was
by no means so much to blame as one who has but suspected the
presence of a truth, and from selfishness or self-admiration has
turned from it. She was to blame wherever she had not done as her
conscience had feebly told her; and she had not made progress just
because she had neglected the little things concerning which she had
promptings. There are many who do not enter the kingdom of heaven
just because they will not believe the tiny key that is handed them,
fit to open its hospitable gate.

"Oh, Mr. Ian, if you should be drowned for my sake!" she faltered
with white lips. "You should not have come to me!"

"I would not wish a better death," said Ian.

"How can you talk so coolly about it!" she cried.

"Well," he returned, "what better way of going out of the world is
there than by the door of help? No man cares much about what the
idiots of the world call life! What is it whether we live in this
room or another? The same who sent us here, sends for us out of
here!"

"Most men care very much! You are wrong there!"

"I don't call those who do, men! They are only children! I know many
men who would no more cleave to this life than a butterfly would
fold his wings and creep into his deserted chrysalis-case. I do care
to live--tremendously, but I don't mind where. He who made this room
so well worth living in, may surely be trusted with the next!"

"I can't quite follow you," stammered Christina. "I am sorry.
Perhaps it is the cold. I can't feel my hands, I am so cold."

"Leave the wall, and put your arms round my neck. The change will
rest me, and the water is already falling! It will go as rapidly as
it came!"

"How do you know that?"

"It has sunk nearly a foot in the last fifteen minutes: I have been
carefully watching it, you may be sure! It must have been a
waterspout, and however much that may bring, it pours it out all at
once."

"Oh!" said Christina, with a tremulous joyfulness; "I thought it
would go on ever so long!"

"We shall get out of it alive!--God's will be done!"

"Why do you say that? Don't you really mean we are going to be
saved?"

"Would you want to live, if he wanted you to die?"

"Oh, but you forget, Mr. Ian, I am not ready to die, like you!"
sobbed Christina.

"Do you think anything could make it better for you to stop here,
after God thought it better for you to go?"

"I dare not think about it."

"Be sure God will not take you away, if it be better for you to live
here a little longer. But you will have to go sometime; and if you
contrived to live after God wanted you to go, you would find
yourself much less ready when the time came that you must. But, my
dear Miss Palmer, no one can be living a true life, to whom dying is
a terror."

Christina was silent. He spoke the truth! She was not worth
anything! How grand it was to look death in the face with a smile!

If she had been no more than the creature she had hitherto shown
herself, not all the floods of the deluge could have made her think
or feel thus: her real self, her divine nature had begun to wake.
True, that nature was as yet no more like the divine, than the
drowsy, arm-stretching, yawning child is like the merry elf about to
spring from his couch, full of life, of play, of love. She had no
faith in God yet, but it was much that she felt she was not worth
anything.

You are right: it was odd to hold such a conversation at such a
time! But Ian was an odd man. He actually believed that God was
nearer to him than his own consciousness, yet desired communion with
him! and that Jesus Christ knew what he said when he told his
disciples that the Father cared for his sparrows.

Only one human being witnessed their danger, and he could give no
help. Hector of the Stags had crossed the main valley above where
the torrent entered it, and coming over the hill, saw with
consternation the flood-encompassed pair. If there had been help in
man, he could have brought none; the raging torrent blocked the way
both to the village and to the chief's house. He could only stand
and gaze with his heart in his eyes.

Beyond the stream lay Mercy on the hillside, with her face in the
heather. Frozen with dread, she dared not look up. Had she moved but
ten yards, she would have seen her sister in Ian's arms.

The children sat by her, white as death, with great lumps in their
throats, and the silent tears rolling down their cheeks. It was the
first time death had come near them.

A sound of sweeping steps came through the heather. They looked up:
there was the chief striding toward them.

The flood had come upon him at work in his fields, whelming his
growing crops. He had but time to unyoke his bulls, and run for his
life. The bulls, not quite equal to the occasion, were caught and
swept away. They were found a week after on the hills, nothing the
worse, and nearly as wild as when first the chief took them in hand.
The cottage was in no danger; and Nancy got a horse and the last of
the cows from the farm-yard on to the crest of the ridge, against
which the burn rushed roaring, just as the water began to invade the
cowhouse and stable. The moment he reached the ridge, the chief set
out to look for his brother, whom he knew to be somewhere up the
valley; and having climbed to get an outlook, saw Mercy and the
girls, from whose postures he dreaded that something had befallen
them.

The girls uttered a cry of welcome, and the chief answered, but
Mercy did not lift her head.

"Mercy," said Alister softly, and kneeling laid his hand on her.

She turned to him such a face of blank misery as filled him with
consternation.

"What has happened?" he asked.

She tried to speak, but could not.

"Where is Christina?" he went on.

She succeeded in bringing out the one word "ruin."

"Is anybody with her?"

"Ian."

"Oh!" he returned cheerily, as if then all would be right. But a
pang shot through his heart, and it was as much for himself as for
Mercy that he went on: "But God is with them, Mercy. If he were not,
it would be bad indeed! Where he is, all is well!"

She sat up, and putting out her hand, laid it in his great palm.

"I wish I could believe that!" she said; "but you know people ARE
drowned sometimes!"

"Yes, surely! but if God be with them what does it matter! It is no
worse than when a mother puts her baby into a big bath."

"It is cruel to talk like that to me when my sister is drowning!"

She gave a stifled shriek, and threw herself again on her face.

"Mercy," said the chief--and his voice trembled a little, "you do
not love your sister more than I love my brother, and if he be
drowned I shall weep; but I shall not be miserable as if a mocking
devil were at the root of it, and not one who loves them better than
we ever shall. But come; I think we shall find them somehow alive
yet! Ian knows what to do in an emergency; and though you might not
think it, he is a very strong man."

She rose immediately, and taking like a child the hand he offered
her, went up the hill with him.

The girls ran before them, and presently gave a scream of joy.

"I see Chrissy! I see Chrissy!" cried one.

"Yes! there she is! I see her too!" cried the other.

Alister hurried up with Mercy. There was Christina! She seemed
standing on the water!

Mercy burst into tears.

"But where's Ian?" she said, when she had recovered herself a
little; "I don't see him!"

"He is there though, all right!" answered Alister. "Don't you see
his hands holding her out of the water?"

And with that he gave a great shout:--

"Ian! Ian! hold on, old boy! I'm coming!"

Ian heard him, and was filled with terror, but had neither breath
nor strength to answer. Along the hillside went Alister bounding
like a deer, then turning sharp, shot headlong down, dashed into the
torrent--and was swept away like a cork. Mercy gave a scream, and
ran down the hill.

He was not carried very far, however. In a moment or two he had
recovered himself, and crept out gasping and laughing, just below
Mercy. Ian did not move. He was so benumbed that to change his
position an inch would, he well knew, be to fall.

And now Hector began to behave oddly. He threw a stone, which went
in front of Ian and Christina. Then he threw another, which went
behind them. Then he threw a third, and Christina felt her hat
caught by a bit of string. She drew it toward her as fast as
numbness would permit, and found at the end a small bottle. She
managed to get it uncorked, and put it to Ian's lips. He swallowed a
mouthful, and made her take some. Hector stood on one side, the
chief on the other, and watched the proceeding.

"What would mother say, Alister!" cried Ian across the narrowing
water.

In the joy of hearing his voice, Alister rushed again into the
torrent; and, after a fierce struggle, reached the mound, where he
scrambled up, and putting his arms round Ian's legs with a shout,
lifted the two at once like a couple of babies.

"Come! come, Alister! don't be silly!" said Ian. "Set me down!"

"Give me the girl then."

"Take her!"

Christina turned on him a sorrowful gaze as Alister took her.

"I have killed you!" she said.

"You have done me the greatest favour," he replied.

"What?" she asked.

"Accepted help."

She burst out crying. She had not shed a tear before.

"Get on the top of the wall, Ian, out of the wet," said Alister.

"You can't tell what the water may have done to the foundations,
Alister! I would rather not break my leg! It is so frozen it would
never mend again!"

As they talked, the torrent had fallen so much, that Hector of the
Stags came wading from the other side. A few minutes more, and
Alister carried Christina to Mercy.

"Now," he said, setting her down, "you must walk."

Ian could not cross without Hector's help; he seemed to have no
legs. They set out at once for the cottage.

"How will your crops fare, Alister?" asked Ian.

"Part will be spoiled," replied the chief; "part not much the
worse."

The torrent had rushed half-way up the ridge, then swept along the
flank of it, and round the end in huge bulk, to the level on the
other side. The water lay soaking into the fields. The valley was
desolated. What green things had not been uprooted or carried away
with the soil, were laid flat. Everywhere was mud, and scattered all
over were lumps of turf, with heather, brushwood, and small trees.
But it was early in the year, and there was hope!

I will spare the description of the haste and hurrying to and fro in
the little house--the blowing of fires, the steaming pails and
blankets, the hot milk and tea! Mrs. Macruadh rolled up her sleeves,
and worked like a good housemaid. Nancy shot hither and thither on
her bare feet like a fawn--you could not say she ran, and certainly
she did not walk. Alister got Ian to bed, and rubbed him with rough
towels--himself more wet than he, for he had been rolled over and
over in the torrent. Christina fell asleep, and slept many hours.
When she woke, she said she was quite well; but it was weeks before
she was like herself. I doubt if ever she was quite as strong again.
For some days Ian confessed to an aching in his legs and arms. It
was the cold of the water, he said; but Alister insisted it was from
holding Christina so long.

"Water could not hurt a highlander!" said Alister.



CHAPTER XIV

CHANGE.


Christina walked home without difficulty, but the next day did not
leave her bed, and it was a fortnight before she was able to be out
of doors. When Ian and she met, her manner was not quite the same as
before. She seemed a little timid. As she shook hands with him her
eyes fell; and when they looked up again, as if ashamed of their
involuntary retreat, her face was rosy; but the slight embarrassment
disappeared as soon as they began to talk. No affectation or
formality, however, took its place: in respect of Ian her falseness
was gone. The danger she had been in, and her deliverance through
the voluntary sharing of it by Ian, had awaked the simpler, the real
nature of the girl, hitherto buried in impressions and their
responses. She had lived but as a mirror meant only to reflect the
outer world: something of an operative existence was at length
beginning to appear in her. She was growing a woman. And the first
stage in that growth is to become as a little child.

The child, however, did not for some time show her face to any but
Ian. In his presence Christina had no longer self-assertion or wile.
Without seeking his notice she would yet manifest an almost childish
willingness to please him. It was no sudden change. She had, ever
since their adventure, been haunted, both awake and asleep, by his
presence, and it had helped her to some discoveries regarding
herself. And the more she grew real, the nearer, that is, that she
came to being a PERSON, the more she came under the influence of his
truth, his reality. It is only through live relation to others that
any individuality crystallizes.

"You saved my life, Ian!" she said one evening for the tenth time.

"It pleased God you should live," answered Ian.

"Then you really think," she returned, "that God interfered to save
us?"

"No, I do not; I don't think he ever interferes."

"Mr. Sercombe says everything goes by law, and God never interferes;
my father says he does interfere sometimes."

"Would you say a woman interfered in the management of her own
house? Can one be said to interfere where he is always at work? He
is the necessity of the universe, ever and always doing the best
that can be done, and especially for the individual, for whose sake
alone the cosmos exists. If we had been drowned, we should have
given God thanks for saving us."

"I do not understand you!"

"Should we not have given thanks to find ourselves lifted out of the
cold rushing waters, in which we felt our strength slowly sinking?"

"But you said DROWNED! How could we have thanked God for deliverance
if we were drowned?"

"What!--not when we found ourselves above the water, safe and well,
and more alive than ever? Would it not be a dreadful thing to lie
tossed for centuries under the sea-waves to which the torrent had
borne us? Ah, how few believe in a life beyond, a larger life, more
awake, more earnest, more joyous than this!"

"Oh, _I_ do! but that is not what one means by LIFE; that is quite a
different kind of thing!"

"How do you make out that it is so different? If I am I, and you are
you, how can it be very different? The root of things is
individuality, unity of idea, and persistence depends on it. God is
the one perfect individual; and while this world is his and that
world is his, there can be no inconsistency, no violent difference,
between there and here."

"Then you must thank God for everything--thank him if you are
drowned, or burnt, or anything!"

"Now you understand me! That is precisely what I mean."

"Then I can never be good, for I could never bring myself to that!"

"You cannot bring yourself to it; no one could. But we must come to
it. I believe we shall all be brought to it."

"Never me! I should not wish it!"

"You do not wish it; but you may be brought to wish it; and without
it the end of your being cannot be reached. No one, of course, could
ever give thanks for what he did not know or feel as good. But what
IS good must come to be felt good. Can you suppose that Jesus at any
time could not thank his Father for sending him into the world?"

"You speak as if we and he were of the same kind!"

"He and we are so entirely of the same kind, that there is no bliss
for him or for you or for me but in being the loving obedient child
of the one Father."

"You frighten me! If I cannot get to heaven any other way than that,
I shall never get there."

"You will get there, and you will get there that way and no other.
If you could get there any other way, it would be to be miserable."

"Something tells me you speak the truth; but it is terrible! I do
not like it."

"Naturally."

She was on the point of crying. They were alone in the drawing-room
of the cottage, but his mother might enter any moment, and Ian said
no more.

It was not a drawing toward the things of peace that was at work in
Christina: it was an urging painful sense of separation from Ian.
She had been conscious of some antipathy even toward him, so unlike
were her feelings, thoughts, judgments, to his: this feeling had
changed to its opposite.

A meeting with Ian was now to Christina the great event of day or
week; but Ian, in love with the dead, never thought of danger to
either.

One morning she woke from a sound and dreamless sleep, and getting
out of bed, drew aside the curtains, looked out, and then opened her
window. It was a lovely spring-morning. The birds were singing loud
in the fast greening shrubbery. A soft wind was blowing. It came to
her, and whispered something of which she understood only that it
was both lovely and sad. The sun, but a little way up, was shining
over hills and cone-shaped peaks, whose shadows, stretching eagerly
westward, were yet ever shortening eastward. His light was gentle,
warm, and humid, as if a little sorrowful, she thought, over his
many dead children, that he must call forth so many more to the new
life of the reviving year. Suddenly as she gazed, the little clump
of trees against the hillside stood as she had never seen it stand
before--as if the sap in them were no longer colourless, but red
with human life; nature was alive with a presence she had never seen
before; it was instinct with a meaning, an intent, a soul; the
mountains stood against the sky as if reaching upward, knowing
something, waiting for something; over all was a glory. The change
was far more wondrous than from winter to summer; it was not as if a
dead body, but a dead soul had come alive. What could it mean? Had
the new aspect come forth to answer this glow in her heart, or was
the glow in her heart the reflection of this new aspect of the
world? She was ready to cry aloud, not with joy, not from her
feeling of the beauty, but with a SENSATION almost, hitherto
unknown, therefore nameless. It was a new and marvellous interest in
the world, a new sense of life in herself, of life in everything, a
recognition of brother-existence, a life-contact with the universe,
a conscious flash of the divine in her soul, a throb of the pure joy
of being. She was nearer God than she had ever been before. But she
did not know this--might never in this world know it; she understood
nothing of what was going on in her, only felt it go on; it was not
love of God that was moving in her. Yet she stood in her white dress
like one risen from the grave, looking in sweet bliss on a new
heaven and a new earth, made new by the new opening of her eyes. To
save man or woman, the next thing to the love of God is the love of
man or woman; only let no man or woman mistake the love of love for
love!

She started, grew white, stood straight up, grew red as a
sunset:--was it--could it be?--"Is this love?" she said to herself,
and for minutes she hardly moved.

It was love. Whether love was in her or not, she was in love--and it
might get inside her. She hid her face in her hands, and wept.

With what opportunities I have had of studying, I do not say
UNDERSTANDING, the human heart, I should not have expected such
feeling from Christina--and she wondered at it herself. Till a child
is awake, how tell his mood?--until a woman is awaked, how tell her
nature? Who knows himself?--and how then shall he know his
neighbour?

For who can know anything except on the supposition of its remaining
the same? and the greatest change of all, next to being born again,
is beginning to love. The very faculty of loving had been hitherto
repressed in the soul of Christina--by poor education, by low family
and social influences, by familiarity with the worship of riches, by
vanity, and consequent hunger after the attentions of men; but now
at length she was in love.

At breakfast, though she was silent, she looked so well that her
mother complimented her on her loveliness. Had she been more of a
mother, she might have seen cause for anxiety in this fresh
bourgeoning of her beauty.



CHAPTER XV.

LOVE ALLODIAL.


While the chief went on in his humble way, enjoying life and his
lowly position; seeming, in the society of his brother, to walk the
outer courts of heaven; and, unsuspicious of the fact, growing more
and more in love with the ill educated, but simple, open, and wise
Mercy, a trouble was gathering for him of which he had no
presentiment. We have to be delivered from the evils of which we are
unaware as well as from those we hate; and the chief had to be set
free from his unconscious worship of Mammon. He did not worship
Mammon by yielding homage to riches; he did not make a man's money
his pedestal; had he been himself a millionaire, he would not have
connived at being therefore held in honour; but, ever consciously
aware of the deteriorating condition of the country, and pitifully
regarding the hundred and fifty souls who yet looked to him as their
head, often turning it over in his mind how to shepherd them should
things come to a crisis, his abiding, ever-recurring comfort was the
money from the last sale of the property, accumulating ever since,
and now to be his in a very few years: he always thought, I say,
first of this money and not first of God. He imagined it an
inexhaustible force, a power with which for his clan he could work
wonders. It is the common human mistake to think of money as a force
and not as a mere tool. But he never thought of it otherwise than as
belonging to the clan; never imagined the least liberty to use it
save in the direct service of his people. And all the time, the very
shadow of this money was disappearing from the face of the earth!

It had scarcely been deposited where the old laird judged it as safe
as in the Bank of England, when schemes and speculations were
initiated by the intrusted company which brought into jeopardy
everything it held, and things had been going from bad to worse ever
since. Nothing of this was yet known, for the directors had from the
first carefully muffled up the truth, avoiding the least economy
lest it should be interpreted as hinting at any need of prudence;
living in false show with the very money they were thus lying away,
warming and banqueting their innocent neighbours with fuel and wine
stolen from their own cellars; and working worse wrong and more
misery under the robe of imputed righteousness, that is,
respectability, than could a little army of burglars. Unawares to a
trusting multitude, the vacant eyes of loss were drawing near to
stare them out of hope and comfort; and annihilation had long closed
in upon the fund which the chief regarded as the sheet-anchor of his
clan: he trusted in Mammon, and Mammon had played him one of his
rogue's-tricks. The most degrading wrong to ourselves, and the worst
eventual wrong to others, is to trust in any thing or person but the
living God: it was an evil thing from which the chief had sore need
to be delivered. Even those who help us we must regard as the loving
hands of the great heart of the universe, else we do God wrong, and
will come to do them wrong also.

And there was more yet of what we call mischief brewing in another
quarter to like hurt.

Mr. Peregrine Palmer was not now so rich a man as when he bought
his highland property; also he was involved in affairs of doubtful
result. It was natural, therefore, that he should begin to think of
the said property not merely as an ornament of life, but as
something to fall back upon. He feared nothing, however, more
unpleasant than a temporary embarrassment. Had not his family been
in the front for three generations! Had he not a vested right in
success! Had he not a claim for the desire of his heart on whatever
power it was that he pictured to himself as throned in the heavens!
It never came into his head that, seeing there were now daughters in
the family, it might be worth the while of that Power to make a poor
man of him for their sakes; or that neither he, his predecessors,
nor his sons, had ever come near enough to anything human to be fit
for having their pleasures taken from them. But what I have to do
with is the new aspect his Scotch acres now put on: he must see to
making the best of them! and that best would be a deer-forest! He
and his next neighbour might together effect something worth doing!
Therefore all crofters or villagers likely to trespass must be got
rid of--and first and foremost the shepherds, for they had endless
opportunities of helping themselves to a deer. Where there were
sheep there must be shepherds: they would make a clearance of both!
The neighbour referred to, a certain Mr. Brander, who had made his
money by sharp dealing in connection with a great Russian railway,
and whom Mr. Peregrine Palmer knew before in London, had enlightened
him on many things, and amongst others on the shepherds' passion for
deer-stalking. Being in the company of the deer, he said, the whole
day, and the whole year through, they were thoroughly acquainted
with their habits, and were altogether too much both for the deer
and for their owners. A shepherd would take the barrel of his gun
from the stock, and thrust it down his back, or put it in a hollow
crook, and so convey it to the vicinity of some spot frequented by a
particular animal, to lie hidden there for his opportunity. In the
hills it was impossible to tell with certainty whence came the sound
of a shot; and no rascal of them would give information concerning
another! In short, there was no protecting the deer without
uprooting and expelling the peasantry!

The village of the Clanruadh was on Mr. Brander's land, and was
dependent in part on the produce of small pieces of ground, the
cultivators of which were mostly men with other employment as well.
Some made shoes of the hides, others cloth and clothes of the wool
of the country. Some were hinds on neighbouring farms, but most were
shepherds, for there was now very little tillage. Almost all the
land formerly cultivated had been given up to grass and sheep, and
not a little of it was steadily returning to that state of nature
from which it had been reclaimed, producing heather, ling,
blueberries, cnowperts, and cranberries. The hamlet was too far from
the sea for much fishing, but some of its inhabitants would join
relatives on the coast and go fishing with them, when there was
nothing else to be done. But many of those who looked to the sea for
help had lately come through a hard time, in which they would have
died but for the sea-weed and shellfish the shore afforded them; yet
such was their spirit of independence that a commission appointed to
inquire into their necessity, found scarcely one willing to
acknowledge any want: such was the class of men and women now
doomed, at the will of two common-minded, greedy men, to expulsion
from the houses and land they had held for generations, and loved
with a love unintelligible to their mean-souled oppressors.

Ian, having himself learned the lesson that, so long as a man is
dependent on anything earthly, he is not a free man, was very
desirous to have his brother free also. He could not be satisfied to
leave the matter where, on their way home that night from THE TOMB,
as they called their cave-house, their talk had left it. Alister's
love of the material world, of the soil of his ancestral acres, was,
Ian plainly saw, not yet one with the meaning and will of God: he
was not yet content that the home of his fathers should fare as the
father of fathers pleased. He was therefore on the outlook for the
right opportunity of having another talk with him on the subject.

That those who are trying to be good are more continuously troubled
than the indifferent, has for ages been a puzzle. "I saw the wicked
spreading like a green bay tree," says king David; and he was far
from having fathomed the mystery when he got his mind at rest about
it. Is it not simply that the righteous are worth troubling? that
they are capable of receiving good from being troubled? As a man
advances, more and more is required of him. A wrong thing in the
good man becomes more and more wrong as he draws nearer to freedom
from it. His friends may say how seldom he offends; but every time
he offends, he is the more to blame. Some are allowed to go on
because it would be of no use to stop them yet; nothing would yet
make them listen to wisdom. There must be many who, like Dives, need
the bitter contrast between the good things of this life and the
evil things of the next, to wake them up. In this life they are not
only fools, and insist on being treated as fools, but would have God
consent to treat them as if he too had no wisdom! The laird was one
in whom was no guile, but he was far from perfect: any man is far
from perfect whose sense of well-being could be altered by any
change of circumstance. A man unable to do without this thing or
that, is not yet in sight of his perfection, therefore not out of
sight of suffering. They who do not know suffering, may well doubt
if they have yet started on the way TO BE. If clouds were gathering
to burst in fierce hail on the head of the chief, it was that he
might be set free from yet another of the cords that bound him. He
was like a soaring eagle from whose foot hung, trailing on the
earth, the line by which his tyrant could at his will pull him back
to his inglorious perch.

To worship truly is to treat according to indwelling worth. The
highest worship of Nature is to worship toward it, as David and
Daniel worshipped toward the holy place. But even the worship of
Nature herself might be an ennobling idolatry, so much is the divine
present in her. There is an intense, almost sensuous love of Nature,
such as the chief confessed to his brother, which is not only one
with love to the soul of Nature, but tends to lift the soul of man
up to the lord of Nature. To love the soul of Nature, however, does
not secure a man from loving the body of Nature in the low
Mammon-way of possession. A man who loves the earth even as the meek
love it, may also love it in a way hostile to such possession of it
as is theirs. The love of possessing as property, must, unchecked,
come in time to annihilate in a man the inheritance of the meek.

A few acres of good valley-land, with a small upland pasturage, and
a space of barren hill-country, had developed in the chief a greater
love of the land as a possession than would have come of entrance
upon an undiminished inheritance. He clave to the ground remaining
to him, as to the last remnant of a vanishing good.

One day the brothers were lying on the westward slope of the ridge,
in front of the cottage. A few sheep, small, active, black-faced,
were feeding around them: it was no use running away, for the
chief's colley was lying beside him! The laird every now and then
buried his face in the short sweet mountain-grass-like that of the
clowns in England, not like the rich sown grass on the cultivated
bank of the burn.

"I believe I love the grass," he said, "as much, Ian, as your
Chaucer loved the daisy!"

"Hardly so much, I should think!" returned Ian.

"Why do you think so?"

"I doubt if grass can be loved so much as a flower."

"Why not?"

"Because the one is a mass, the other an individual."

"I understand."

"I have a fear, Alister, that you are in danger of avarice," said
Ian, after a pause.

"Avarice, Ian! What can you mean?"

"You are as free, Alister, from the love of money, as any man I ever
knew, but that is not enough. Did you ever think of the origin of
the word AVARICE?"

"No."

"It comes--at least it seems to me to come--from the same root as
the verb HAVE. It is the desire to call THINGS ours--the desire of
company which is not of our kind--company such as, if small enough,
you would put in your pocket and carry about with you. We call the
holding in the hand, or the house, or the pocket, or the power,
HAVING; but things so held cannot really be HAD; HAVING is but an
illusion in regard to THINGS. It is only what we can be WITH that we
can really possess--that is, what is of our kind, from God to the
lowest animal partaking of humanity. A love can never be lost; it is
a possession; but who can take his diamond ring into the somewhere
beyond?--it is not a possession. God only can be ours perfectly;
nothing called property can be ours at all."

"I know it--with my head at least," said Alister; "but I am not sure
how you apply it to me."

"You love your country--don't you, Alister?"

"I do."

"What do you mean by LOVING YOUR COUNTRY?"

"It is hard to say all at once. The first thing that comes to me is,
that I would rather live in it than in any other."

"Would you care to vaunt your country at the expense of any other?"

"Not if it did not plainly excel--and even then it might be neither
modest nor polite!"

"Would you feel bound to love a man more because he was a
fellow-countryman?"

"Other things being equal, I could not help it."

"Other things not being equal,--?"

"I should love the best man best--Scotsman or negro."

"That is as I thought of you. For my part, my love for my own people
has taught me to love every man, be his colour or country what it
may. The man whose patriotism is not leading him in that direction
has not yet begun to be a true patriot. Let him go to St. Paul and
learn, or stay in his own cellar and be an idiot.--But now, from
loving our country, let us go down the other way:--Do you love the
highlands or the lowlands best? You love the highlands, of course,
you say. And what district do you like best? Our own. What parish?
Your father's. What part of the parish? Why this, where at this
moment we are lying. Now let me ask, have you, by your love for this
piece of the world, which you will allow me to call ours, learned to
love the whole world in like fashion?"

"I cannot say so. I do not think we can love the whole world in the
same way as our own part of it--the part where we were born and
bred! It is a portion of our very being."

"If your love to what we call our own land is a love that cannot
spread, it seems to me of a questionable kind--of a kind involving
the false notion of HAVING? The love that is eternal is alone true,
and that is the love of the essential, which is the universal. We
love indeed individuals, even to their peculiarities, but only
BECAUSE of what lies under and is the life of them--what they share
with every other, the eternal God-born humanity WHICH IS THE PERSON.
Without this humanity where were your friend? Mind, I mean no
abstraction, but the live individual humanity. Do you see what I am
driving at? I would extend my love of the world to all the worlds;
my love of humanity to all that inhabit them. I want, from being a
Scotsman, to be a Briton, then a European, then a cosmopolitan,
then a dweller of the universe, a lover of all the worlds I see, and
shall one day know. In the face of such a hope, I find my love for
this ground of my father's--not indeed less than before, but very
small. It has served its purpose in having begun in me love of the
revelation of God. Wherever I see the beauty of the Lord, that shall
be to me his holy temple. Our Lord was sent first to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel:-how would you bear to be told that he loved
them more than Africans or Scotsmen?"

"I could not bear it."

"Then, Alister, do you not see that the love of our mother earth is
meant to be but a beginning; and that such love as yours for the
land belongs to that love of things which must perish? You seem to
me not to allow it to blossom, but to keep it a hard bud; and a bud
that will not blossom is a coffin. A flower is a completed idea, a
thought of God, a creature whose body is most perishable, bat whose
soul, its idea, cannot die. With the idea of it in you, the
withering of the flower you can bear. The God in it is yours always.
Every spring you welcome the daisy anew; every time the primrose
departs, it grows more dear by its death. I say there must be a
better way of loving the ground on which we were born, than that
whence the loss of it would cause us torture."

Alister listened as to a prophecy of evil.

"Rather than that cottage and those fields should pass into the
hands of others," he said, almost fiercely, "I would see them sunk
in a roaring tide!"

Ian rose, and walked slowly away.

Alister lay clutching the ground with his hands. For a passing
moment Ian felt as if he had lost him.

"Lord, save him from this demon-love," he said, and sat down among
the pines.

In a few minutes, Alister came to him.

"You cannot mean, Ian," he said-and his face was white through all
its brown, "that I am to think no more of the fields of my fathers
than of any other ground on the face of the earth!" "Think of them
as the ground God gave to our fathers, which God may see fit to take
from us again, and I shall be content--for the present," answered
Ian.

"Do not be vexed with me," cried Alister. "I want to think as well
as do what is right; but you cannot know how I feel or you would
spare me. I love the very stones and clods of the land! The place is
to me as Jerusalem to the Jews:--you know what the psalm says:--

    Thy saints take pleasure in her stones,
    Her very dust to them is dear!"

"They loved their land as theirs," said Ian, "and have lost it!"

"I know I must be cast out of it! I know I must die and go from it;
but I shall come back and wander about the fields and the hills with
you and our father and mother!"

"And how about horse and dog?" asked Ian, willing to divert his
thoughts for a moment.

"Well! Daoimean and Luath are so good that I don't see why I should
not have them!"

"No more do I!" responded Ian. "We may be sure God will either let
you have them, or show you reason to content you for not having
them. No love of any thing is to be put in the same thought-pocket
with love for the poorest creature that has life. But I am sometimes
not a little afraid lest your love for the soil get right in to your
soul. We are here but pilgrims and strangers. God did not make the
world to be dwelt in, but to be journeyed through. We must not love
it as he did not mean we should. If we do, he may have great trouble
and we much hurt ere we are set free from that love. Alister, would
you willingly walk out of the house to follow him up and down for
ever?"

"I don't know about willingly," replied Alister, "but if I were sure
it was he calling me, I am sure I would walk out and follow him."

"What if your love of house and lands prevented you from being sure,
when he called you, that it was he?"

"That would be terrible! But he would not leave me so. He would not
forsake me in my ignorance!"

"No. Having to take you from everything, he would take everything
from you!"

Alister went into the house.

He did not know how much of the worldly mingled with the true in
him. He loved his people, and was unselfishly intent on helping them
to the utmost; but the thought that he was their chief was no small
satisfaction to him; and if the relation between them was a grand
one, self had there the more soil wherein to spread its creeping
choke-grass roots. In like manner, his love of nature nourished the
parasite possession. He had but those bare hill-sides, and those few
rich acres, yet when, from his eyry on the hill-top, he looked down
among the valleys, his heart would murmur within him, "From my feet
the brook flows gurgling to water my fields! The wild moors around
me feed my sheep! Yon glen is full of my people!" Even with the pure
smell of the earth, mingled the sense of its possession. When,
stepping from his cave-house, he saw the sun rise on the
outstretched grandeur of the mountain-world, and felt the earth a new
creation as truly as when Adam first opened his eyes on its glory,
his heart would give one little heave more at the thought that a
portion of it was his own. But all is man's only because it is
God's. The true possession of anything is to see and feel in it what
God made it for; and the uplifting of the soul by that knowledge,
is the joy of true having. The Lord had no land of his own. He did
not care to have it, any more than the twelve legions of angels he
would not pray for: his pupils must not care for things he did not
care for. He had no place to lay his head in-had not even a grave of
his own. For want of a boat he had once to walk the rough Galilean
sea. True, he might have gone with the rest, but he had to stop
behind to pray: he could not do without that. Once he sent a fish to
fetch him money, but only to pay a tax. He had even to borrow the
few loaves and little fishes from a boy, to feed his five thousand
with.

The half-hour which Alister spent in the silence of his chamber,
served him well: a ray as of light polarized entered his soul in its
gloom. He returned to Ian, who had been all the time walking up and
down the ridge.

"You are right, Ian!" he said. "I do love the world! If I were
deprived of what I hold, I should doubt God! I fear, oh, I fear,
Ian, he is going to take the land from me!"

"We must never fear the will of God, Alister! We are not right until
we can pray heartily, not say submissively, 'Thy will be done!' We
have not one interest, and God another. When we wish what he does
not wish, we are not more against him than against our real selves.
We are traitors to the human when we think anything but the will
of God desirable, when we fear our very life."

It was getting toward summer, and the days were growing longer.

"Let us spend a night in the tomb!" said Ian; and they fixed a day
in the following week.



CHAPTER XVI.

MERCY CALLS ON GRANNIE.


Although the subject did not again come up, Mercy had not forgotten
what Ian had said about listening for the word of Nature, and had
resolved to get away the first time she could, and see whether
Grannie, as Ian had called her, would have anything to do with her.
It were hard to say what she expected--something half magical rather
than anything quite natural. The notions people have of spiritual
influence are so unlike the facts, that, when it begins they never
recognize it, but imagine something common at work. When the Lord
came, those who were looking for him did not know him:--was he not a
man like themselves! did they not know his father and mother!

It was a fine spring morning when Mercy left the house to seek an
interview with Nature somewhere among the hills. She took a path she
knew well, and then struck into a sheep-track she had never tried.
Up and up she climbed, nor spent a thought on the sudden changes to
which at that season, and amongst those hills, the weather is
subject. With no anxiety as to how she might fare, she was yet
already not without some awe: she was at length on her pilgrimage
to the temple of Isis!

Not until she was beyond sight of any house, did she begin to feel
alone. It was a new sensation, and of a mingled sort. But the slight
sense of anxiety and fear that made part of it, was soon overpowered
by something not unlike the exhilaration of a child escaped from
school. This grew and grew until she felt like a wild thing that had
been caught, and had broken loose. Now first, almost, she seemed to
have begun to live, for now first was she free! She might lie in the
heather, walk in the stream, do as she pleased! No one would
interfere with her, no one say Don't! She felt stronger and fresher
than ever in her life; and the farther she went, the greater grew
the pleasure. The little burn up whose banks, now the one and now
the other, she was walking, kept on welcoming her unaccustomed
feet to the realms of solitude and liberty. For ever it seemed
coming to meet her, hasting, running steep, as if straight out of
the heaven to which she was drawing nearer and nearer. The wind woke
now and then, and blew on her for a moment, as if tasting her, to
see what this young Psyche was that had floated up into the wild
thin air of the hills. The incessant meeting of the brook made it a
companion to her although it could not go her way, and was always
leaving her. But it kept her from the utter loneliness she sought;
for loneliness is imperfect while sound is by, especially a
sing-sound, and the brook was one of Nature's self--playing
song--instruments. But she came at length to a point where the
ground was too rough to let her follow its path any more, and
turning from it, she began to climb a steep ridge. The growing and
deepening silence as she went farther and farther from the brook,
promised the very place for her purpose on the top of the heathery
ridge.

But when she reached it and looked behind her, lo, the valley she
had left lay at her very feet! The world had rushed after and caught
her! She had not got away from it! It was like being enchanted! She
thought she was leaving it far behind, but the nature she sought to
escape that she might find Nature, would not let her go! It kept
following her as if to see that she fell into no snare, neither was
too sternly received by the loftier spaces. She could distinguish
one of the laird's men, ploughing in the valley below: she knew him
by his red waistcoat! Almost fiercely she turned and made for the
next ridge: it would screen her from the world she had left; it
should not spy upon her! The danger of losing her way back never
suggested itself. She had not learned that the look of things as you
go, is not their look when you turn to go back; that with your
attitude their mood will have altered. Nature is like a lobster-pot:
she lets you easily go on, but not easily return.

When she gained the summit of the second ridge, she looked abroad on
a country of which she knew nothing. It was like the face of an
utter stranger. Not far beyond rose yet another ridge: she must see
how the world looked from that! On and on she went, crossing ridge
after ridge, but no place invited her to stay and be still.

She found she was weary, and spying in the midst of some short
heather a great stone, sat down, and gave herself up to the rest
that stole upon her. Though the sun was warm, the air was keen, and,
hot with climbing, she turned her face to it, and drank in its
refreshing with delight. She looked around; not a trace of humanity
was visible-nothing but brown and gray and green hills, with the
clear sky over her head, and in the north a black cloud creeping
up from the horizon. Another sense than that of rest awoke in her;
now first in her life the sense of loneliness absolute began to
possess her. And therewith suddenly descended upon her a farther
something she had never known; it was as if the loneliness, or what
is the same thing, the presence of her own being without another to
qualify and make it reasonable and endurable, seized and held her.
The silence gathered substance, grew as it were solid, and closing
upon her, imprisoned her. Was it not rather that the Soul of Nature,
unprevented, unthwarted by distracting influences, found a freer
entrance to hers, but she, not yet in harmony with it, felt its
contact as alien-as bondage therefore and not liberty? She was nearer
than ever she had been to knowing the presence of the God who is
always nearer to us than aught else. Yea, something seemed, through
the very persistence of its silence, to say to her at last, and keep
saying, "Here I am!" She looked behind her in sudden terror: 110
form was there. She sent out her gaze to the horizon: the huge waves
of the solid earth stood up against the sky, sinking so slowly she
could not see them sink: they stood mouldering away, biding their
time. They were of those "who only stand and wait," fulfilling the
will of him who set them to crumble till the hour of the new heavens
and the new earth arrive. There was no visible life between her and
the great silent mouldering hills. On her right hand lay a blue
segment of the ever restless sea, but so far that its commotion
seemed a yet deeper rest than that of the immovable hills.

She sat and sat, but nothing came, nothing seemed coming to her. The
hope Ian had given her was not to be fulfilled! For here there was
no revelation! She was not of the kind Nature could speak to!

She began to grow uncomfortable--to feel as if she had done
something wrong--as if she was a child put into the corner--a corner
of the great universe, to learn to be sorry for something. Certainly
something was wrong with her-but what? Why did she feel so
uncomfortable? Was she so silly as mind being alone? There was
nothing in these mountains that would hurt her! The red deer were
sometimes dangerous, but none were even within sight! Yet something
like fear was growing in her! Why should she be afraid? Everything
about her certainly did look strange, as if she had nothing to do
with it, and it had nothing to do with her; but that was all! Ian
Macruadh must be wrong! How could there be any such bond as he said
between Nature and the human heart, when the first thing she felt
when alone with her, was fear! The world was staring at her! She was
the centre of a fixed, stony regard from all sides! The earth, and
the sea, and the sky, were watching her! She did not like it! She
would rise and shake off the fancy! But she did not rise; something
held her to her thinking. Just so she would, when a child in
the dark, stand afraid to move lest the fear itself, lying in wait
like a tigress, should at her first motion pounce upon her. The
terrible, persistent silence!--would nothing break it! And there was
in herself a response to it--something that was in league with it,
and kept telling her that things were not all right with her; that
she ought not to be afraid, yet had good reason for being afraid;
that she knew of no essential safety. There must be some refuge,
some impregnable hiding-place, for the thing was a necessity, and
she ought to know of it! There must be a human condition of never
being afraid, of knowing nothing to be afraid of! She wondered
whether, if she were quite good, went to church twice every Sunday,
and read her bible every morning, she would come not to be afraid
of-she did not know what. It would be grand to have no fear of
person or thing! She was sometimes afraid of her own father, even
when she knew no reason! How that mountain with the horn kept
staring at her!

It was all nonsense! She was silly! She would get up and go home: it
must be time!

But things were not as they should be! Something was required of
her! Was it God wanting her to do something? She had never thought
whether he required anything of her! She must be a better girl! Then
she would have God with her, and not be afraid!

And all the time it was God near her that was making her unhappy.
For, as the Son of Man came not to send peace on the earth but a
sword, so the first visit of God to the human soul is generally in a
cloud of fear and doubt, rising from the soul itself at his
approach. The sun is the cloud-dispeller, yet often he must look
through a fog if he would visit the earth at all. The child, not
being a son, does not know his father. He may know he is what is
called a father; what the word means he does not know. How then
should he understand when the father comes to deliver him from his
paltry self, and give him life indeed!

She tried to pray. She said, "Oh G--od! forgive me, and make me good.
I want to be good!" Then she rose.

She went some little way without thinking where she was going, and
then found she did not even know from what direction she had come. A
sharp new fear, quite different from the former, now shot through
her heart: she was lost! She had told no one she was going anywhere!
No one would have a notion where to look for her! She had been
beginning to feel hungry, but fear drove hunger away. All she knew
was that she must not stay there. Here was nowhere; walking on she
might come somewhere--that is, among human beings! So out she set
on her weary travel from no-where to somewhere, giving Nature
little thanks. She did not suspect that her grandmother had been
doing anything for her by the space around her, or that now, by the
tracklessness, the lostness, she was doing yet more. On and on she
walked, climbing the one hillside and descending the other, going
she knew not whither, hardly hoping she drew one step nearer home.

All at once her strength went from her. She sat down and cried. But
with her tears came the thought how the chief and his brother talked
of God. She remembered she had heard in church that men ought to cry
to God in their troubles. Broken verses of a certain psalm came to
her, saying God delivered those who cried to him even from things
they had brought on themselves, and she had been doing nothing
wrong! She tried to trust in him, but could not: he was as far from
her as the blue heavens! True, it bent over all, but its one great
eye was much too large to see the trouble she was in! What did it
matter to the blue sky if she fell down and withered up to bones and
dust! She well might-for here no foot of man might pass till she was
a thing terrible to look at! If there was nobody where seemed to be
nothing, how fearfully empty was the universe! Ah, if she had God
for her friend! What if he was her friend, and she had not known it
because she never spoke to him, never asked him to do anything for
her? It was horrible to think it could be a mere chance whether she
got home, or died there! She would pray to God! She would ask him to
take her home!

A wintery blast came from the north. The black cloud had risen, and
was now spreading over the zenith. Again the wind came with an angry
burst and snarl. Snow carne swept upon it in hard sharp little
pellets. She started up, and forgot to pray.

Some sound in the wind or some hidden motion of memory all at once
let loose upon her another fear, which straight was agony. A rumour
had reached the New House the night before, that a leopard had
broken from a caravan, and got away to the hills. It was but a
rumour; some did not believe it, and the owners contradicted it, but
a party had set out with guns and dogs. It was true! it was true!
There was the terrible creature crouching behind that stone! He was
in every clump of heather she passed, swinging his tail, and ready
to spring upon her! He must be hungry by this time, and there was
nothing there for him to eat but her! By and by, however, she was
too cold to be afraid, too cold to think, and presently, half-frozen
and faint for lack of food, was scarce able to go a step farther.
She saw a great rock, sank down in the shelter of it, and in a
minute was asleep. She slept for some time, and woke a little
refreshed. The wonder is that she woke at all. It was dark, and her
first consciousness was ghastly fear. The wind had ceased, and the
storm was over. Little snow had fallen. The stars were all out
overhead, and the great night was round her, enclosing, watching
her. She tried to rise, and could just move her limbs. Had she
fallen asleep again, she would not have lived through the night. But
it is idle to talk of what would have been; nothing could have been
but what was. Mercy wondered afterwards that she did not lose her
reason. She must, she thought, have been trusting somehow in God.

It was terribly dreary. Sure never one sorer needed God's help! And
what better reason could there be for helping her than that she so
sorely needed it! Perhaps God had let her walk into this trouble
that she might learn she could not do without him! She--would try to
be good! How terrible was the world, with such wide spaces and
nobody in them!

And all the time, though she did not know it, she was sobbing and
weeping.

The black silence was torn asunder by the report of a gun. She
started up with a strange mingling of hope and terror, gave a loud
cry, and sank senseless. The leopard would be upon her!

Her cry was her deliverance.



CHAPTER XVII.

IN THE TOMB.


The brothers had that same morning paid their visit to the tomb, and
there spent the day after their usual fashion, intending to go home
the same night, and as the old moon was very late in rising, to take
the earlier and rougher part of the way in the twilight. Just as
they were setting out, however, what they rightly judged a passing
storm came on, and they delayed their departure. By the time the
storm was over, it was dark, and there was no use in hurrying;
they might as well stop a while, and have the moon the latter part
of the way. When at length they were again on the point of starting,
they thought they heard something like sounds of distress, but the
darkness making search difficult and unsatisfactory, the chief
thought of firing his gun, when Mercy's cry guided them to where she
lay. Alister's heart, at sight of her, and at the thought of what
she must have gone through, nearly stood still. They carried her in,
laid her on the bed, and did what they could to restore her, till
she began to come to herself. Then they left her, that she might not
see them without preparation, and sat down by the fire in the outer
room, leaving the door open between the two.

"I see how it is!" said Alister. "You remember, Ian, what you said
to her about giving Nature an opportunity of exerting her influence?
Mercy has been following your advice, and has lost her way among the
hills!"

"That was so long ago!" returned Ian thoughtfully.

"Yes-when the weather was not fit for it. It is not fit now, but she
has ventured!"

"I believe you are right! I thought there was some reality in
her!-But she must not hear us talking about her!"

When Mercy came to herself, she thought at first that she lay where
she had fallen, but presently perceived that she was covered, and
had something hot at her feet: was she in her own bed? was it all a
terrible dream, that she might know what it was to be lost, and
think of God? .She put out her arm: her hand went against cold
stone. The dread thought rushed in-that she was buried-was lying in
her grave-to lie there till the trumpet should sound, and the dead
be raised. She was not horrified; her first feeling was gladness
that she had prayed before she died. She had been taught at church
that an hour might come when it would be of no use to pray-the hour
of an unbelieving death: it was of no use to pray now, but her
prayer before she died might be of some avail! She wondered that she
was not more frightened, for in sooth it was a dreary prospect
before her: long and countless years must pass ere again she heard
the sound of voices, again saw the light of the sun! She was half
awake and half dreaming; the faintness of her swoon yet upon her,
the repose following her great weariness, and the lightness of her
brain from want of food, made her indifferent-almost happy. She
could lie so a long time, she thought.

At length she began to hear sounds, and they were of human voices.
She had companions then in the grave! she was not doomed to a
solitary waiting for judgment! She must be in some family-vault,
among strangers. She hoped they were nice people: it was very
desirable to be buried with nice people!

Then she saw a reddish light. It was a fire--far off! Was she in the
bad place? Were those shapes two demons, waiting till she had got
over her dying? She listened:--"That will divide her between us,"
said one. "Yes," answered the other; "there will be no occasion to
cut it!" What dreadful thing could they mean? But surely she had
heard their voices before! She tried to speak, but could not.

"We must come again soon!" said one. "At this rate it will take a
life-time to carve the tomb."

"If we were but at the roof of it!" said the other. "I long to
tackle the great serpent of eternity, and lay him twining and
coiling and undulating all over it! I dream about those tombs before
ever they were broken into-royally furnished in the dark, waiting
for the souls to come back to their old, brown, dried up bodies!"

Here one of them rose and came toward her, growing bigger and
blacker as he came, until he stood by the bedside. He laid his hand
on her wrist, and felt her pulse. It was Ian! She could not see his
face for there was no light on it, but she knew his shape, his
movements! She was saved!

He saw her wide eyes, two great spiritual nights, gazing up at him.

"All, you are better, Miss Mercy!" lie said cheerily. "Now you shall
have some tea!"

Something inside her was weeping for joy, but her outer self was
quite still. She tried again to speak, and uttered a few
inarticulate sounds. Then came Alister on tip-toe, and they stood both
by the bedside, looking down on her.

"I shall be all right presently!"' she managed at length to say. "I
am so glad I'm not dead! I thought I was dead!"

"You would soon have been if we had not found you!" replied Alister.

"Was it you that fired the gun?"

"Yes."

"I was so frightened!"

"It saved your life, thank God! for then you cried out."

"Fright was your door out of fear!" said Ian.

"I thought it was the leopard!"

"I did bring my gun because of the leopard," said Alister.

"It was true about him then?"

"He is out."

"And now it is quite dark!"

"It doesn't signify; we'll take a lantern; I've got my gun, and Ian
has his dirk!"

"Where are you going then?" asked Mercy, still confused.

"Home, of course."

"Oh, yes, of course! I will get up in a minute."

"There is plenty of time," said Ian. "You must eat something before
you get up. We, have nothing but oat-cakes, I am sorry to say!"

"I think you promised me some tea!" said Mercy. "I don't feel
hungry."

"You shall have the tea. When did you eat last?"

"Not since breakfast."

"It is a marvel you are able to speak! You must try to eat some
oat-cake."

"I wish I hadn't taken that last slice of deer-ham!" said Alister,
ruefully.

"I will eat if I can," said Mercy.

They brought her a cup of tea and some pieces of oat-cake; then,
having lighted her a candle, they left her, and closed the door.

She sipped her tea, managed to eat a little of the dry but wholesome
food, and found herself capable of getting up. It was the strangest
bedroom! she thought. Everything was cut out of the live rock. The
dressing-table might have been a sarcophagus! She kneeled by the
bedside, and tried to thank God. Then she opened the door. The chief
rose at the sound of it.

"I'm sorry," he said, "that we have no woman to wait on you."

"I want nothing, thank you!" answered Mercy, feeling very weak and
ready to cry, but restraining her tears. "What a curious house this
is!"

"It is a sort of doll's house my brother and I have been at work
upon for nearly fifteen years. We meant, when summer was come, to
ask you all to spend a day with us up here."

"When first we went to work on it," said Ian, "we used to tell each
other tales in which it bore a large share, and Alister's were
generally about a lost princess taking refuge in it!"

"And now it is come true!" said Alister.

"What an escape I have had!"

"I do not like to hear you say that!" returned Ian. "You have been
taken care of all the time. If you had died in the cold, it would
not have been because God had forgotten you; you would not have been
lost."

"I wanted to know," said Mercy, "whether Nature would speak to me.
It was of no use! She never came near me!"

"I think she must have come without your knowing her," answered Ian.
"But we shall have a talk about that afterwards, when you are quite
rested; we must prepare for home now."

Mercy's heart sank within her--she felt so weak and sleepy! How was
she to go back over all that rough mountain-way! But she dared not
ask to be left-with the leopard about! He might come down the wide
chimney!

She soon found that the brothers had never thought of her walking.
They wrapt her in Ian's plaid. Then they took the chiefs, which was
very strong, and having folded it twice lengthwise, drew each an end
of it over his shoulders, letting it hang in a loop between them: in
this loop they made her seat herself, and putting each as arm behind
her, tried how they could all get on.

After a few shiftings and accommodations, they found the plan
likely to answer. So they locked the door, and left the fire glowing
on the solitary hearth.

To Mercy it was the strangest journey--an experience never to be
forgotten. The tea had warmed her, and the air revived her. It was
not very cold, for only now and then blew a little puff of wind. The
stars were brilliant overhead, and the wide void of the air between
her and the earth below seemed full of wonder and mystery. Now and
then she fancied some distant sound the cry of the leopard: he might
be coming nearer and nearer as they went! but it rather added to the
eerie witchery of the night, making it like a terrible story read in
the deserted nursery, with the distant noise outside of her brothers
and sisters at play. The motion of her progress by and by became
pleasant to her. Sometimes her feet would brush the tops of the
heather; but when they came to rocky ground, they always shortened
the loop of the plaid. To Mercy's inner ear came the sound of words
she had heard at church: "He shall give his angels charge over thee,
and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou
dash thy foot against a stone." Were not these two men God's own
angels!

They scarcely spoke, except when they stopped to take breath, but
went on and on with a steady, rhythmic, silent trudge. Up and down
the rough hill, and upon the hardly less rough hill-road, they had
enough ado to heed their steps. Now and then they would let her walk
a little way, but not far. She was neither so strong nor so heavy as
a fat deer, they said.

They were yet high among the hills, when the pale, withered, waste
shred of the old moon rose above the upheaved boat-like back of one
of the battlements of the horizon-rampart. With disconsolate face,
now lost, now found again, always reappearing where Mercy had not
been looking for her, she accompanied them the rest of their
journey, and the witch-like creature brought out the whole character
of the night. Booked in her wonderful swing, Mercy was not always
quite sure that she was not dreaming the strangest, pleasantest
dream. Were they not fittest for a dream, this star and moon beset
night-this wind that now and then blew so eerie and wild, yet did
not wake her-this gulf around, above, and beneath her, through which
she was borne as if she had indeed died, and angels were carrying
her through wastes of air to some unknown region afar? Except when
she brushed the heather, she forgot that the earth was near her. The
arms around her were the arms of men and not angels, but how far
above this lower world dwelt the souls that moved those strong
limbs! What a small creature she was beside them! how unworthy of
the labour of their deliverance! Her awe of the one kept growing;
the other she could trust with heart as well as brain; she could
never be afraid of him! To the chief she turned to shadow her from
Ian.

When they came to the foot of the path leading up to Mistress
Conal's cottage, there, although it was dark night, sat the old
woman on a stone.

"It's a sorrow you are carrying home with you, chief!" she said in
Gaelic. "As well have saved a drowning man!"

She did not rise or move, but spoke like one talking by the
fireside.

"The drowning man has to be saved, mother!" answered the chief, also
in Gaelic; "and the sorrow in your way has to be taken with you. It
won't let you pass!"

"True, my son!" said the woman; "but it makes the heart sore that
sees it!"

"Thank you for the warning then, but welcome the sorrow!" he
returned. "Good night."

"Good night, chiefs sons both!" she replied. "You're your father's
anyway! Did he not one night bring home a frozen fox in his arms, to
warm him by his fire! But when he had warmed him--he turned him
out!"

It was quite clear when last they looked at the sky, but the moment
they left her, it began to rain heavily.

So fast did it rain, that the men, fearing for Mercy, turned off the
road, and went down a steep descent, to make straight across their
own fields for the cottage; and just as they reached the bottom of
the descent, although they had come all the rough way hitherto
without slipping or stumbling--once, the chief fell. He rose in
consternation; but finding that Mercy, upheld by Ian, had simply
dropped on her feet, and taken no hurt, relieved himself by
unsparing abuse of his clumsiness. Mercy laughed merrily, resumed her
place in the plaid, and closed her eyes. She never saw where they
were going, for she opened them again only when they stopped a
little as they turned into the fir-clump before the door.

"Where are we?" she asked; but for answer they carried her straight
into the house.

"We have brought you to our mother instead of yours," said Alister.
"To get wet would have been the last straw on the back of such a
day. We will let them know at once that you are safe."

Lady Macruadh, as the highlanders generally called her, made haste
to receive the poor girl with that sympathetic pity which, of all
good plants, flourishes most in the Celtic heart. Mercy's mother had
come to her in consternation at her absence, and the only comfort
she could give her was the suggestion that she had fallen in with
her sons. She gave her a warm bath,-put her to bed, and then made
her eat, so preparing her for a healthful sleep. And she did
sleep, but dreamed of darkness and snow and leopards.

As men were out searching in all directions, Alister, while Ian
went to the New House, lighted a beacon on the top of the old castle
to bring them back. By the time Ian had persuaded Mrs. Palmer to
leave Mercy in his mother's care for the night, it was blazing
beautifully.

In the morning it was found that Mercy had a bad cold, and could not
be moved. But the cottage, small as it was, had more than one
guest-chamber, and Mrs. Macruadh was delighted to have her to
nurse.

END OF VOL. II.





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