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Title: What's Mine's Mine — Volume 3
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 3" ***

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WHAT'S MINE'S MINE

By George MacDonald

IN THREE VOLUMES

VOL. III.



CONTENTS OF VOL. III.

CHAPTER

    I. AT A HIGH SCHOOL
   II. A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY
  III. HOW ALISTER TOOK IT
   IV. LOVE
    V. PASSION AND PATIENCE
   VI. LOVE GLOOMING
  VII. A GENEROUS DOWRY
 VIII. MISTRESS CONAL
   IX. THE MARCHES
    X. MIDNIGHT
   XI. SOMETHING STRANGE
  XII. THE POWER OF DARKNESS
 XIII. THE NEW STANCE
  XIV. THE PEAT-MOSS
   XV. A DARING VISIT
  XVI. THE FLITTING
 XVII. THE NEW VILLAGE
XVIII. A FRIENDLY OFFER
  XIX. ANOTHER EXPULSION
   XX. ALISTER'S PRINCESS
  XXI. THE FAREWELL



WHAT'S MINE'S MINE



CHAPTER I

AT A HIGH SCHOOL.


When Mercy was able to go down to the drawing-room, she found the
evenings pass as never evenings passed before; and during the day,
although her mother and Christina came often to see her, she had
time and quiet for thinking. And think she must; for she found
herself in a region of human life so different from any she had
hitherto entered, that in no other circumstances would she have been
able to recognize even its existence. Everything said or done in it
seemed to acknowledge something understood. Life went on with a
continuous lean toward something rarely mentioned, plainly
uppermost; it embodied a tacit reference of everything to some code
so thoroughly recognized that occasion for alluding to it was
unfrequent. Its inhabitants appeared to know things which her people
did not even suspect. The air of the brothers especially was that of
men at their ease yet ready to rise--of men whose loins were girded,
alert for an expected call.

Under their influence a new idea of life, and the world, and the
relations of men and things, began to grow in the mind of Mercy.
There was a dignity, almost grandeur, about the simple life of the
cottage, and the relation of its inmates to all they came near. No
one of them seemed to live for self, but each to be thinking and
caring for the others and for the clan. She awoke to see that
manners are of the soul; that such as she had hitherto heard admired
were not to be compared with the simple, almost peasant-like dignity
and courtesy of the chief; that the natural grace, accustomed ease,
and cultivated refinement of Ian's carriage, came out in attention
and service to the lowly even more than in converse with his equals;
while his words, his gestures, his looks, every expression born of
contact, witnessed a directness and delicacy of recognition she
could never have imagined. The moment he began to speak to another,
he seemed to pass out of himself, and sit in the ears of the other
to watch his own words, lest his thoughts should take such sound or
shape as might render them unwelcome or weak. If they were not to be
pleasant words, they should yet be no more unpleasant than was
needful; they should not hurt save in the nature of that which they
bore; the truth should receive no injury by admixture of his
personality. He heard with his own soul, and was careful over the
other soul as one of like kind. So delicately would he initiate what
might be communion with another, that to a nature too dull or
selfish to understand him, he gave offence by the very graciousness
of his approach.

It was through her growing love to Alister that Mercy became able to
understand Ian, and perceived at length that her dread, almost
dislike of him at first, was owing solely to her mingled incapacity
and unworthiness. Before she left the cottage, it was spring time in
her soul; it had begun to put forth the buds of eternal life. Such
buds are not unfrequently nipped; but even if they are, if a dull,
false, commonplace frost close in, and numb the half wakened spirit
back into its wintry sleep, that sleep will ever after be haunted
with some fainting airs of the paradise those buds prophesied. In
Mercy's case they were to grow into spiritual eyes--to open and see,
through all the fogs and tumults of this phantom world, the light
and reality of the true, the spiritual world everywhere around
her--as the opened eyes of the servant of the prophet saw the
mountains of Samaria full of horses of fire and chariots of fire
around him. Every throb of true love, however mingled with the
foolish and the false, is a bourgeoning of the buds of the life
eternal--ah, how far from leaves! how much farther from flowers.

Ian was high above her, so high that she shrank from him; there
seemed a whole heaven of height between them. It would fill her with
a kind of despair to see him at times sit lost in thought: he was
where she could never follow him! He was in a world which, to her
childish thought, seemed not the world of humanity; and she would
turn, with a sense of both seeking and finding, to the chief. She
imagined he felt as she did, saw between his brother and him a gulf
he could not cross. She did not perceive this difference, that
Alister knew the gulf had to be crossed. At such a time, too, she
had seen his mother regarding him with a similar expression of loss,
but with a mingling of anxiety that was hers only. It was sweet to
Mercy to see in the eyes of Alister, and in his whole bearing toward
his younger brother, that he was a learner like herself, that they
were scholars together in Ian's school.

A hunger after something beyond her, a something she could not have
described, awoke in her. She needed a salvation of some kind, toward
which she must grow! She needed a change which she could not
understand until it came--a change the greatest in the universe, but
which, man being created with the absolute necessity for it, can be
no violent transformation, can be only a grand process in the divine
idea of development.

She began to feel a mystery in the world, and in all the looks of
it--a mystery because a meaning. She saw a jubilance in every
sunrise, a sober sadness in every sunset; heard a whispering of
strange secrets in the wind of the twilight; perceived a
consciousness of unknown bliss in the song of the lark;--and was
aware of a something beyond it all, now and then filling her with
wonder, and compelling her to ask, "What does it, what can it mean?"
Not once did she suspect that Nature had indeed begun to deal with
her; not once suspect, although from childhood accustomed to hear
the name of Love taken in vain, that love had anything to do with
these inexplicable experiences.

Let no one, however, imagine he explains such experiences by
suggesting that she was in love! That were but to mention another
mystery as having introduced the former. For who in heaven or on
earth has fathomed the marvel betwixt the man and the woman? Least
of all the man or the woman who has not learned to regard it with
reverence. There is more in this love to uplift us, more to condemn
the lie in us, than in any other inborn drift of our being, except
the heavenly tide Godward. From it flow all the other redeeming
relations of life. It is the hold God has of us with his right hand,
while death is the hold he has of us with his left. Love and death
are the two marvels, yea the two terrors--but the one goal of our
history.

It was love, in part, that now awoke in Mercy a hunger and thirst
after heavenly things. This is a direction of its power little
heeded by its historians; its earthly side occupies almost all their
care. Because lovers are not worthy of even its earthly aspect, it
palls upon them, and they grow weary, not of love, but of their lack
of it. The want of the heavenly in it has caused it to perish: it
had no salt. From those that have not is taken away that which they
have. Love without religion is the plucked rose. Religion without
love--there is no such thing. Religion is the bush that bears all
the roses; for religion is the natural condition of man in relation
to the eternal facts, that is the truths, of his own being. To live
is to love; there is no life but love. What shape the love puts on,
depends on the persons between whom is the relation. The poorest
love with religion, is better, because truer, therefore more
lasting, more genuine, more endowed with the possibility of
persistence--that is, of infinite development, than the most
passionate devotion between man and woman without it.

Thus together in their relation to Ian, it was natural that Mercy
and the chief should draw yet more to each other. Mercy regarded
Alister as a big brother in the same class with herself, but able to
help her. Quickly they grew intimate. In the simplicity of his large
nature, the chief talked with Mercy as openly as a boy, laying a
heart bare to her such that, if the world had many like it, the
kingdom of heaven would be more than at hand. He talked as to an old
friend in perfect understanding with him, from whom he had nothing
to gain or to fear. There was never a compliment on the part of the
man, and never a coquetry on the part of the girl--a dull idea to
such as without compliment or coquetry could hold no intercourse,
having no other available means. Mercy had never like her sister
cultivated the woman's part in the low game; and her truth required
but the slightest stimulus to make her incapable of it. With such a
man as Alister she could use only a simplicity like his; not thus to
meet him would have been to decline the honouring friendship. Dark
and plain, though with an interesting face and fine eyes, she had
received no such compliments as had been showered upon her sister;
it was an unspoiled girl, with a heart alive though not yet quite
awake, that was brought under such good influences. What better
influences for her, for any woman, than those of unselfish men? what
influences so good for any man as those of unselfish women? Every
man that hears and learns of a worthy neighbour, comes to the
Father; every man that hath heard and learned of the Father comes to
the Lord; every man that comes to the Lord, he leads back to the
Father. To hear Ian speak one word about Jesus Christ, was for a
true man to be thenceforth truer. To him the Lord was not a
theological personage, but a man present in the world, who had to be
understood and obeyed by the will and heart and soul, by the
imagination and conscience of every other man. If what Ian said was
true, this life was a serious affair, and to be lived in downright
earnest! If God would have his creatures mind him, she must look to
it! She pondered what she heard. But she went always to Alister to
have Ian explained; and to hear him talk of Ian, revealed Alister to
her.

When Mercy left the cottage, she felt as if she were leaving home to
pay a visit. The rich house was dull and uninteresting. She found
that she had immediately to put in practice one of the lessons she
had learned--that the service of God is the service of those among
whom he has sent us. She tried therefore to be cheerful, and even to
forestall her mother's wishes. But life was harder than hitherto--so
much more was required of her.

The chief was falling thoroughly in love with Mercy, but it was some
time before he knew it. With a heart full of tenderness toward
everything human, he knew little of love special, and was gradually
sliding into it without being aware of it. How little are we our
own! Existence is decreed us; love and suffering are appointed us.
We may resist, we may modify; but we cannot help loving, and we
cannot help dying. We need God to keep us from hating. Great in
goodness, yea absolutely good, God must be, to have a right to make
us--to compel our existence, and decree its laws! Without his choice
the chief was falling in love. The woman was sent him; his heart
opened and took her in. Relation with her family was not desirable,
but there she was! Ian saw, but said nothing. His mother saw it too.

"Nothing good will come of it!" she said, with a strong feeling of
unfitness in the thing.

"Everything will come of it, mother, that God would have come of
it," answered Ian. "She is an honest, good girl, and whatever comes
of it must be good, whether pleasant or not."

The mother was silent. She believed in God, but not so thoroughly as
to abjure the exercise of a subsidiary providence of her own. The
more people trust in God, the less will they trust their own
judgments, or interfere with the ordering of events. The man or
woman who opposes the heart's desire of another, except in aid of
righteousness, is a servant of Satan. Nor will it avail anything to
call that righteousness which is of Self or of Mammon.

"There is no action in fretting," Ian would say, "and not much in
the pondering of consequences. True action is the doing of duty,
come of it heartache, defeat, or success."

"You are a fatalist, Ian!" said his mother one day.

"Mother, I am; the will of God is my fate!" answered Ian. "He shall
do with me what he pleases; and I will help him!"

She took him in her arms and kissed him. She hoped God would not be
strict with him, for might not the very grandeur of his character be
rooted in rebellion? Might not some figs grow on some thistles?

At length came the paternal summons for the Palmers to go to London.
For a month the families had been meeting all but every day. The
chief had begun to look deep into the eyes of the girl, as if
searching there for some secret joy; and the girl, though she
drooped her long lashes, did not turn her head away. And now
separation, like death, gave her courage, and when they parted,
Mercy not only sustained Alister's look, but gave him such a look in
return that he felt no need, no impulse to say anything. Their souls
were satisfied, for they knew they belonged to each other.



CHAPTER II

A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


So entirely were the chief and his family out of the world, that
they had not yet a notion of the worldly relations of Mr. Peregrine
Palmer. But the mother thought it high time to make inquiry as to
his position and connections. She had an old friend in London, the
wife of a certain vice-chancellor, with whom she held an occasional
correspondence, and to her she wrote, asking if she knew anything of
the family.

Mrs. Macruadh was nowise free from the worldliness that has regard
to the world's regard. She would not have been satisfied that a
daughter in law of hers should come of people distinguished for
goodness and greatness of soul, if they were, for instance,
tradespeople. She would doubtless have preferred the daughter of an
honest man, whatever his position, to the daughter of a scoundrel,
even if he chanced to be a duke; but she would not have been content
with the most distinguished goodness by itself. Walking after Jesus,
she would have drawn to the side of Joanna rather than Martha or
Mary; and I fear she would have condescended--just a little--to Mary
Magdalen: repentance, however perfect, is far from enough to satisfy
the worldly squeamishness of not a few high-principled people who do
not know what repentance means.

Mrs. Macruadh was anxious to know that the girl was respectable, and
so far worthy of her son. The idea of such an inquiry would have
filled Mercy's parents with scornful merriment, as a thing ludicrous
indeed. People in THEIR position, who could do this and that, whose
name stood so high for this and that, who knew themselves well bred,
who had one relation an admiral, another a general, and a
marriage-connection with some of the oldest families in the
country--that one little better than a yeoman, a man who held the
plough with his own big hands, should enquire into THEIR social
standing! Was not Mr. Peregrine Palmer prepared to buy him up the
moment he required to sell! Was he not rich enough to purchase an
earl's daughter for his son, and an earl himself for his beautiful
Christina! The thing would have seemed too preposterous.

The answer of the vice-chancellor's lady burst, nevertheless, like a
bombshell in the cottage. It was to this effect:--The Palmers were
known, if not just in the best, yet in very good society; the sons
bore sign of a defective pedigree, but the one daughter out was,
thanks to her mother, fit to go anywhere. For her own part, wrote
the London correspondent, she could not help smelling the grains: in
Scotland a distiller, Mr. Peregrine Palmer had taken to brewing in
England--was one of the firm Pulp and Palmer, owning half the
public-houses in London, therefore high in the regard of the English
nobility, if not actually within their circle.--Thus far the
satirical lady of the vice-chancellor.

Horror fell upon the soul of the mother. The distiller was to her as
the publican to the ancient Jew. No dealing in rags and marine
stores, no scraping of a fortune by pettifogging, chicane, and
cheating, was to her half so abominable as the trade of a brewer.
Worse yet was a brewer owning public-houses, gathering riches in
half-pence wet with beer and smelling of gin. The brewer was to her
a moral pariah; only a distiller was worse. As she read, the letter
dropped from her hands, and she threw them up in unconscious appeal
to heaven. She saw a vision of bloated men and white-faced women,
drawing with trembling hands from torn pockets the money that had
bought the wide acres of the Clanruadh. To think of the Macruadh
marrying the daughter of such a man! In society few questions indeed
were asked; everywhere money was counted a blessed thing, almost
however made; none the less the damnable fact remained, that certain
moneys were made, not in furthering the well-being of men and women,
but in furthering their sin and degradation. The mother of the chief
saw that, let the world wink itself to blindness, let it hide the
roots of the money-plant in layer upon layer of social ascent, the
flower for which an earl will give his daughter, has for the soil it
grows in, not the dead, but the diseased and dying, of loathsome
bodies and souls of God's men and women and children, which the
grower of it has helped to make such as they are.

She was hot, she was cold; she started up and paced hurriedly about
the room. Her son the son in law of a distiller! the husband of his
daughter! The idea was itself abhorrence and contempt! Was he not
one of the devil's fishers, fishing the sea of the world for the
souls of men and women to fill his infernal ponds withal! His money
was the fungous growth of the devil's cellars. How would the brewer
or the distiller, she said, appear at the last judgment! How would
her son hold up his head, if he cast in his lot with theirs! But
that he would never do! Why should she be so perturbed! in this
matter at least there could be no difference between them! Her noble
Alister would be as much shocked as herself at the news! Could the
woman be a lady, grown on such a hot-bed! Yet, alas! love could tempt
far--could subdue the impossible!

She could not rest; she must find one of them! Not a moment longer
could she remain alone with the terrible disclosure. If Alister was
in love with the girl, he must get out of it at once! Never again
would she enter the Palmers' gate, never again set foot on their
land! The thought of it was unthinkable! She would meet them as if
she did not see them! But they should know her reason--and know her
inexorable!

She went to the edge of the ridge, and saw Ian sitting with his book
on the other side of the burn. She called him to her, and handed him
the letter. He took it, read it through, and gave it her back.

"Ian!" she exclaimed, "have you nothing to say to that?"

"I beg your pardon, mother," he answered: "I must think about it.
Why should it trouble you so! It is painfully annoying, but we have
come under no obligation to them!"

"No; but Alister!"

"You cannot doubt Alister will do what is right!"

"He will do what he thinks right!"

"Is not that enough, mother?"

"No," she answered angrily; "he must do the thing that is right."

"Whether he knows it or not? Could he do the thing he thought
wrong?"

She was silent.

"Mother dear," resumed Ian, "the only Way to get at what IS right is
to do what seems right. Even if we mistake there is no other way!"

"You would do evil that good may come! Oh, Ian!"

"No, mother; evil that is not seen to be evil by one willing and
trying to do right, is not counted evil to him. It is evil only to
the person who either knows it to be evil, or does not care whether
it be or not."

"That is dangerous doctrine!"

"I will go farther, mother, and say, that for Alister to do what you
thought right, if he did not think it right himself--even if you
were right and he wrong--would be for him to do wrong, and blind
himself to the truth."

"A man may be to blame that he is not able to see the truth," said
the mother.

"That is very true, but hardly such a man as Alister, who would
sooner die than do the thing he believed wrong. But why should you
take it for granted that Alister will think differently from you?"

"We don't always think alike."

"In matters of right and wrong, I never knew him or me think
differently from you, mother!"

"He is very fond of the girl!"

"And justly. I never saw one more in earnest, or more anxious to
learn."

"She might well be teachable to such teachers!"

"I don't see that she has ever sought to commend herself to either
of us, mother. I believe her heart just opened to the realities she
had never had shown her before. Come what may, she will never forget
the things we have talked about."

"Nothing would make me trust her!"

"Why?"

"She comes of an' abominable breed."

"Is it your part, mother, to make her suffer for the sins of her
fathers?"

"I make her suffer!"

"Certainly, mother--by changing your mind toward her, and suspecting
her, the moment you learn cause to condemn her father."

"The sins of the fathers are visited on the children!--You will not
dispute that?'

"I will grant more--that the sins of the fathers are often
reproduced in the children. But it is nowhere said, 'Thou shalt
visit the sins of the fathers on the children.' God puts no
vengeance into our hands. I fear you are in danger of being unjust
to the girl, mother!--but then you do not know her so well as we
do!"

"Of course not! Every boy understands a woman better than his
mother!"

"The thing is exceedingly annoying, mother! Let us go and find
Alister at once!"

"He will take it like a man of sense, I trust!"

"He will. It will trouble him terribly, but he will do as he ought.
Give him time and I don't believe there is a man in the world to
whom the right comes out clearer than to Alister."

The mother answered only with a sigh.

"Many a man," remarked Ian, "has been saved through what men call an
unfortunate love affair!"

"Many a man has been lost by having his own way in one!" rejoined
the mother.

"As to LOST, I would not make up my mind about that for a few
centuries or so!" returned Ian. "A man may be allowed his own way
for the discipline to result from it."

"I trust, Ian, you will not encourage him in any folly!"

"I shall have nothing to do but encourage him in his first resolve,
mother!"



CHAPTER III

HOW ALISTER TOOK IT.


They could not find Alister, who had gone to the smithy. It was
tea-time before he came home. As soon as he entered, his mother
handed him the letter.

He read it without a word, laid it on the table beside his plate,
and began to drink his tea, his eyes gleaming with a strange light,
lan kept silence also. Mrs. Macruadh cast a quick glance, now at the
one, now at the other. She was in great anxiety, and could scarce
restrain herself. She knew her boys full of inbred dignity and
strong conscience, but was nevertheless doubtful how they would act.
They could not feel as she felt, else would the hot blood of their
race have at once boiled over! Had she searched herself she might
have discovered a latent dread that they might be nearer the right
than she. Painfully she watched them, half conscious of a traitor in
her bosom, judging the world's judgment and not God's. Her sons
seemed on the point of concluding as she would not have them
conclude: they would side with the young woman against their mother!

The reward of parents who have tried to be good, may be to learn,
with a joyous humility from their children. Mrs. Macruadh was
capable of learning more, and was now going to have a lesson.

When Alister pushed back his chair and rose, she could refrain no
longer. She could not let him go in silence. She must understand
something of what was passing in his mind!

"What do you think of THAT, Alister?" she said.

He turned to her with a faint smile, and answered,

"I am glad to know it, mother."

"That is good. I was afraid it would hurt you!"

"Seeing the thing is so, I am glad to be made aware of it. The
information itself you cannot expect me to be pleased with!"

"No, indeed, my son! I am very sorry for you. After being so taken
with the young woman,--"

Alister looked straight in his mother's face.

"You do not imagine, mother," he said, "it will make any difference
as to Mercy?"

"Not make any difference!" echoed Mrs. Macruadh. "What is it
possible you can mean, Alister?"

The anger that glowed in her dark eyes made her look yet handsomer,
proving itself not a mean, though it might be a misplaced anger.

"Is she different, mother, from what she was before you had the
letter?"

"You did not then know what she was!"

"Just as well as I do now. I have no reason to think she is not what
I thought her."

"You thought her the daughter of a gentleman!"

"Hardly. I thought her a lady, and such I think her still."

"Then you mean to go on with it?"

"Mother dear," said Alister, taking her by the hand, "give me a
little time. Not that I am in any doubt--but the news has been such
a blow to me that--"

"It must have been!" said the mother.

"--that I am afraid of answering you out of the soreness of my
pride, and Ian says the Truth is never angry."

"I am quite willing you should do nothing in a hurry," said the
mother.

She did not understand that he feared lest, in his indignation for
Mercy, he should answer his mother as her son ought not.

"I will take time," he replied. "And here is Ian to help me!"

"Ah! if only your father were here!"

"He may be, mother! Anyhow I trust I shall do nothing he would not
like!"

"He would sooner see son of his marry the daughter of a cobbler than
of a brewer!"

"So would I, mother!" said Alister.

"I too," said Ian, "would much prefer that my sister-in-law's father
were not a brewer."

"I suppose you are splitting some hair, Ian, but I don't see it,"
remarked his mother, who had begun to gather a little hope. "You
will be back by supper-time, Alister, I suppose?"

"Certainly, mother. We are only going to the village."

The brothers went.

"I knew everything you were thinking," said Ian.

"Of course you did!" answered Alister.

"But I am very sorry!"

"So am I! It is a terrible bore!"

A pause followed. Alister burst into a laugh that was not merry.

"It makes me think of the look on my father's face," he said, "once
at the market, as he was putting in his pocket a bunch of more than
usually dirty bank-notes. The look seemed almost to be making
apology that he was my father--the notes were SO DIRTY! 'They're
better than they look, lad!' he said."

"What ARE you thinking of, Alister?"

"Of nothing you are not thinking of, Ian, I hope in God! Mr.
Palmer's money is worse than it looks."

"You frightened me for a moment, Alister!"

"How could I, Ian?"

"It was but a nervo-mechanical fright. I knew well enough you could
mean nothing I should not like. But I see trouble ahead, Alister!"

"We shall be called a pack of fools, but what of that! We shall be
told the money itself was clean, however dirty the hands that made
it! The money-grubs!"

"I would rather see you hanged, than pocketing a shilling of it!"

"Of course you would! But the man who could pocket it, will be
relieved to find it is only his daughter I care about."

"There will be difficulty, Alister, I fear. How much have you said
to Mercy?"

"I have SAID nothing definite."

"But she understands?"

"I think--I hope so.--Don't you think Christina is much improved,
lan?"

"She is more pleasant."

"She is quite attentive to you!"

"She is pleased with me for saving her life. She does not like
me--and I have just arrived at not disliking her."

"There is a great change on her!"

"I doubt if there is any IN her though!"

"She may be only amusing herself with us in this outlandish place!
Mercy, I am sure, is quite different!"

"I would trust her with anything, Alister. That girl would die for
the man she loved!"

"I would rather have her love, though we should never meet in this
world, than the lands of my fathers!"

"What will you do then?"

"I will go to Mr. Palmer, and say to him: 'Give me your daughter. I
am a poor man, but we shall have enough to live upon. I believe she
will be happy.'"

"I will answer for him: 'I have the greatest regard for you,
Macruadh. You are a gentleman, and that you are poor is not of the
slightest consequence; Mercy's dowry shall be worthy the lady of a
chief!'--What then, Alister?"

"Fathers that love money must be glad to get rid of their daughters
without a. dowry!"

"Yes, perhaps, when they are misers, or money is scarce, or wanted
for something else. But when a poor man of position wanted to marry
his daughter, a parent like Mr. Palmer would doubtless regard her
dowry as a good investment. You must not think to escape that way,
Alister! What would you answer him?"

"I would say, 'My dear sir,'--I may say 'My dear sir,' may I not?
there is something about the man I like!--'I do not want your money.
I will not have your money. Give me your daughter, and my soul will
bless you.'"

"Suppose he should reply,' Do you think I am going to send my
daughter from my house like a beggar? No, no, my boy! she must carry
something with her! If beggars married beggars, the world would be
full of beggars!'--what would you say then?"

"I would tell him I had conscientious scruples about taking his
money."

"He would tell you you were a fool, and not to be trusted with a
wife. 'Who ever heard such rubbish!' he would say. 'Scruples,
indeed! You must get over them! What are they?'--What would you say
then?"

"If it came to that, I should have no choice but tell him I had
insuperable objections to the way his fortune was made, and could
not consent to share it."

"He would protest himself insulted, and swear, if his money was not
good enough for you, neither was his daughter. What then?"

"I would appeal to Mercy."

"She is too young. It would be sad to set one of her years at
variance with her family. I almost think I would rather you ran away
with her. It is a terrible thing to go into a house and destroy the
peace of those relations which are at the root of all that is good
in the world."

"I know it! I know it! That is my trouble! I am not afraid of
Mercy's courage, and I am sure she would hold out. I am certain
nothing would make her marry the man she did not love. But to turn
the house into a hell about her--I shrink from that!--Do you count
it necessary to provide against every contingency before taking the
first step?"

"Indeed I do not! The first step is enough. When that step has
landed us, we start afresh. But of all things you must not lose your
temper with the man. However despicable his money, you are his
suitor for his daughter! And he may possibly not think you half good
enough for her."

"That would be a grand way out of the difficulty!"

"How?"

"It would leave me far freer to deal with her."

"Perhaps. And in any case, the more we can honestly avoid reference
to his money, the better. We are not called on to rebuke."

"Small is my inclination to allude to it--so long as not a stiver
of it seeks to cross to the Macruadh!"

"That is fast as fate. But there is another thing, Alister: I fear
lest you should ever forget that her birth and her connections are
no more a part of the woman's self than her poverty or her wealth."

"I know it, Ian. I will not forget it."

"There must never be a word concerning them!"

"Nor a thought, Ian! In God's name I will be true to her."

They found Annie of the shop in a sad way. She had just had a letter
from Lachlan, stating that he had not been well for some time, and
that there was little prospect of his being able to fetch her. He
prayed her therefore to go out to him; and had sent money to pay her
passage and her mother's.

"When do you go?" asked the chief.

"My mother fears the voyage, and is very unwilling to turn her back
on her own country. But oh, if Lachlan die, and me not with him!"

She could say no more.

"He shall not die for want of you!" said the laird. "I will talk to
your mother."

He went into the room behind. Ian remained in the shop.

"Of course you must go, Annie!" he said.

"Indeed, sir, I must! But how to persuade my mother I do not know!
And I cannot leave her even for Lachlan. No one would nurse him more
tenderly than she; but she has a horror of the salt water, and what
she most dreads is being buried in it. She imagines herself drowning
to all eternity!"

"My brother will persuade her."

"I hope so, sir. I was just coming to him! I should never hold up my
head again--in this world or the next--either if I did not go, or if
I went without my mother! Aunt Conal told me, about a month since,
that I was going a long journey, and would never come back. I asked
her if I was to die on the way, but she would not answer me. Anyhow
I'm not fit to be his wife, if I'm not ready to die for him! Some
people think it wrong to marry anybody going to die, but at the
longest, you know, sir, you must part sooner than you would! Not
many are allowed to die together!--You don't think, do you, sir,
that marriages go for nothing in the other world?"

She spoke with a white face and brave eyes, and Ian was glad at
heart.

"I do not, Annie," he answered. "'The gifts of God are without
repentance.' He did not give you and Lachlan to each other to part
you again! Though you are not married yet, it is all the same so
long as you are true to each other."

"Thank you, sir; you always make me feel strong!"

Alister came from the back room.

"I think your mother sees it not quite so difficult now," he said.

The next time they went, they found them preparing to go.

Now Ian had nearly finished the book he was writing about Russia,
and could not begin another all at once. He must not stay at home
doing nothing, and he thought that, as things were going from bad to
worse in the highlands, he might make a voyage to Canada, visit
those of his clan, and see what ought to be done for such as must
soon follow them. He would presently have a little money in his
possession, and believed he could not spend it better. He made up
his mind therefore to accompany Annie and her mother, which resolve
overcame the last of the old woman's lingering reluctance. He did
not like leaving Alister at such a critical point in his history;
but he said to himself that a man might be helped too much; arid it
might come that he and Mercy were in as much need of a refuge as the
clan.

I cannot say NO worldly pride mingled in the chief's contempt for
the distiller's money; his righteous soul was not yet clear of its
inherited judgments as to what is dignified and what is not. He had
in him still the prejudice of the landholder, for ages instinctive,
against both manufacture and trade. Various things had combined to
foster in him also the belief that trade at least was never free
from more or less of unfair dealing, and was therefore in itself a
low pursuit. He had not argued that nothing the Father of men has
decreed can in its nature be contemptible, but must be capable of
being nobly done. In the things that some one must do, the doer
ranks in God's sight, and ought to rank among his fellow-men,
according to how he does it. The higher the calling the more
contemptible the man who therein pursues his own ends. The humblest
calling, followed on the principles of the divine caller, is a true
and divine calling, be it scavenging, handicraft, shop-keeping, or
book-making. Oh for the day when God and not the king shall be
regarded as the fountain of honour.

But the Macruadh looked upon the calling of the brewer or distiller
as from the devil: he was not called of God to brew or distil! From
childhood his mother had taught him a horror of gain by corruption.
She had taught, and he had learned, that the poorest of all
justifications, the least fit to serve the turn of gentleman,
logician, or Christian, was--"If I do not touch this pitch, another
will; there will be just as much harm done; AND ANOTHER INSTEAD OF
ME WILL HAVE THE BENEFIT; therefore it cannot defile me.--Offences
must come, therefore I will do them!" "Imagine our Lord in the
brewing trade instead of the carpentering!" she would say. That
better beer was provided by the good brewer would not go far for
brewer or drinker, she said: it mattered little that, by drinking
good beer, the drunkard lived to be drunk the oftener. A brewer
might do much to reduce drinking; but that would be to reduce a
princely income to a modest livelihood, and to content himself with
the baker's daughter instead of the duke's! It followed that the
Macruadh would rather have robbed a church than touched Mr.
Peregrine Palmer's money. To rifle the tombs of the dead would have
seemed to him pure righteousness beside sharing in that. He could
give Mercy up; he could NOT take such money with her! Much as he
loved her, separate as he saw her, clearly as she was to him a woman
undefiled and straight from God, it was yet a trial to him that she
should be the daughter of a person whose manufacture and trade were
such.

After much consideration, it was determined in the family conclave,
that Ian should accompany the two women to Canada, note how things
were going, and conclude what had best be done, should further
exodus be found necessary. As, however, there had come better news
of Lachlan, and it was plain he was in no immediate danger, they
would not, for several reasons, start before the month of September.
A few of the poorest of the clan resolved to go with them. Partly
for their sakes, partly because his own provision would be small,
Ian would take his passage also in the steerage.



CHAPTER IV

LOVE.


Christina went back to London considerably changed. Her beauty was
greater far, for there was a new element in it--a certain atmosphere
of distances and shadows gave mystery to her landscape. Her weather,
that is her mood, was now subject to changes which to many made her
more attractive. Fits of wild gaiety alternated with glooms, through
which would break flashes of feline playfulness, where pat and
scratch were a little mixed. She had more admirers than ever, for
she had developed points capable of interesting men of somewhat
higher development than those she had hitherto pleased. At the same
time she was more wayward and imperious with her courtiers. Gladly
would she have thrown all the flattery once so coveted into the
rag-bag of creation, to have one approving smile from the
grave-looking, gracious man, whom she knew happier, wandering alone
over the hills, than if she were walking by his side. For an hour
she would persuade herself that he cared for her a little; the next
she would comfort herself with the small likelihood of his meeting
another lady in Glenruadh. But then he had been such a traveller,
had seen so much of the great world, that perhaps he was already
lost to her! It seemed but too probable, when she recalled the
sadness with which he seemed sometimes overshadowed: it could not be
a religious gloom, for when he spoke of God his face shone, and his
words were strong! I think she mistook a certain gravity, like that
of the Merchant of Venice, for sorrowfulness; though doubtless the
peculiarity of his loss, as well as the loss itself, did sometimes
make him sad.

She had tried on him her little arts of subjugation, but the moment
she began to love him, she not only saw their uselessness, but hated
them. Her repellent behaviour to her admirers, and her occasional
excitement and oddity, caused her mother some anxiety, but as the
season came to a close, she grew gayer, and was at times absolutely
bewitching. The mother wished to go northward by degrees, paying
visits on the way; but her plan met with no approbation from the
girls. Christina longed for the presence and voice of Ian in the
cottage-parlour, Mercy for a hill-side with the chief; both longed
to hear them speak to each other in their own great way. And they
talked so of the delights of their highland home, that the mother
began to feel the mountains, the sea, and the islands, drawing her
to a land of peace, where things went well, and the world knew how
to live. But the stormiest months of her life were about to pass
among those dumb mountains!

After a long and eager journey, the girls were once more in their
rooms at the New House.

Mercy went to her window, and stood gazing from it upon the
mountain-world, faint-lighted by the northern twilight. She might
have said with Portia:--

   "This night methinks is but the daylight sick;
   It looks a little paler: 'tis a day,
   Such as the day is when the sun is hid."

She could see the dark bulk of the hills, sharpened to a clear edge
against the pellucid horizon, but with no colour, and no visible
featuring of their great fronts. When the sun rose, it would reveal
innumerable varieties of surface, by the mottling of endless
shadows; now all was smooth as an unawakened conscience. By the
shape of a small top that rose against the greenish sky betwixt the
parting lines of two higher hills, where it seemed to peep out over
the marge into the infinite, as a little man through the gap between
the heads of taller neighbours, she knew the roof of THE TOMB; and
she thought how, just below there, away as it seemed in the
high-lifted solitudes of heaven, she had lain in the clutches of
death, all the time watched and defended by the angel of a higher
life who had been with her ever since first she came to Glenruadh,
waking her out of such a stupidity, such a non-existence, as now she
could scarce see possible to human being. It was true her waking had
been one with her love to that human East which first she saw as she
opened her eyes, and whence first the light of her morning had
flowed--the man who had been and was to her the window of God! But
why should that make her doubt? God made man and woman to love each
other: why should not the waking to love and the waking to truth
come together, seeing both were of God? If the chief were never to
speak to her again, she would never go back from what she had
learned of him! If she ever became careless of truth and life and
God, it would but show that she had never truly loved the chief!

As she stood gazing on the hill-top, high landmark of her history,
she felt as if the earth were holding her up toward heaven, an
offering to the higher life. The hill grew an altar of prayer on
which her soul was lying, dead until taken up into life by the arms
of the Father. A deep content pervaded her heart. She turned with
her weight of peace, lay down, and went to sleep in the presence of
her Life.

Christina looked also from her window, but her thoughts were not
like Mercy's, for her heart was mainly filled, not with love of Ian,
but with desire that Ian should love her. She longed to be his
queen--the woman of all women he had seen. The sweet repose of the
sleeping world wrought in her--not peace, but weakness. Her soul
kept leaning towards Ian; she longed for his arms to start out the
alien nature lying so self-satisfied all about her. To her the
presence of God took shape as an emptiness--an absence. The resting
world appeared to her cold, unsympathetic, heedless; its peace was
but heartlessness. The soft pellucid chrysolite of passive heavenly
thought, was a merest arrangement, a common fact, meaning nothing to
her.

She was hungry, not merely after bliss, but after distinction in
bliss; not after growth, but after acknowledged superiority. She
needed to learn that she was nobody--that if the world were peopled
with creatures like her, it would be no more worth sustaining than
were it a world of sand, of which no man could build even a hut.
Still, by her need of another, God was laying hold of her. As by the
law is the knowledge of sin, so by love is selfishness rampantly
roused--to be at last, like death, swallowed up in victory--the
victory of the ideal self that dwells in God.

All night she dreamed sad dreams of Ian in the embrace of a lovely
woman, without word or look for her. She woke weeping, and said to
herself that it could not be. He COULD not be taken from her! it was
against nature! Soul, brain, and heart, claimed him hers! How could
another possess what, in the testimony of her whole consciousness,
was hers and hers alone! Love asserts an innate and irreversible
right of profoundest property in the person loved. It is an
instinct--but how wrongly, undivinely, falsely interpreted! Hence so
many tears! Hence a law of nature, deep written in the young heart,
seems often set utterly at nought by circumstance!

But the girl in her dejection and doubt, was worth far more than in
her content and confidence. She was even now the richer by the
knowledge of sorrow, and she was on the way to know that she needed
help, on the way to hate herself, to become capable of loving. Life
could never be the same to her, and the farther from the same the
better!

The beauty came down in the morning pale and dim and white-lipped,
like a flower that had had no water. Mercy was fresh and rosy, with
a luminous mist of loveliness over her plain unfinished features.
Already had they begun to change in the direction of beauty.
Christina's eyes burned; in Mercy's shone something of the light by
which a soul may walk and not stumble. In the eyes of both was
expectation, in the eyes of the one confident, in the eyes of the
other anxious.

As soon as they found themselves alone together, eyes sought eyes,
and met in understanding. They had not made confidantes of each
other, each guessed well, and was well guessed at. They did not
speculate; they understood. In like manner, Mercy and Alister
understood each other, but not Christina and Ian. Neither of these
knew the feelings of the other.

Without a word they rose, put on their hats, left the house, and
took the road toward the valley.

About half-way to the root of the ridge, they came in sight of the
ruined castle; Mercy stopped with a little cry.

"Look! Chrissy!" she said, pointing.

On the corner next them, close by the pepper-pot turret, sat the two
men, in what seemed to loving eyes a dangerous position, but to the
mountaineers themselves a comfortable coin of vantage. The girls
thought, "They are looking out for us!" but Ian was there only
because Alister was there.

The men waved their bonnets. Christina responded with her
handkerchief. The men disappeared from their perch, and were with
the ladies before they reached the ridge. There was no embarrassment
on either side, though a few cheeks were rosier than usual. To the
chief, Mercy was far beyond his memory of her. Not her face only,
but her every movement bore witness to a deeper pleasure, a greater
freedom in life than before.

"Why were you in such a dangerous place?" asked Christina.

"We were looking out for you," answered Alister. "From there we
could see you the moment you came out."

"Why didn't you come and meet us then?"

"Because we wanted to watch you coming."

"Spies!--I hope, Mercy, we were behaving ourselves properly! I had
no idea we were watched!"

"We thought you had quarrelled; neither said a word to the other."

Mercy looked up; Christina looked down.

"Could you hear us at that height?" asked Mercy.

"How could we when there was not a word to hear!"

"How did you know we were silent?"

"We might have known by the way you walked," replied Alister. "But
if you had spoken we should have heard, for sound travels far among
the mountains!"

"Then I think it was a shame!" said Christina. "How could you tell
that we might not object to your hearing us?"

"We never thought of that!" said Alister. "I am very sorry. We shall
certainly not be guilty again!"

"What men you are for taking everything in downright earnest!"
cried Christina; "--as if we could have anything to say we should
wish YOU not to hear?"

She pat a little emphasis on the YOU, hut not much. Alister heard it
as if Mercy had said it, and smiled a pleased smile.

"It will be a glad day for the world," he said, "when secrecy is
over, and every man may speak out the thing that is in him, without
danger of offence!"

In her turn, Christina heard the words as if spoken with reference
to Ian though not by him, and took them to hint at the difficulty of
saying what was in his heart. She had such an idea of her
superiority because of her father's wealth and fancied position,
that she at once concluded Ian dreaded rejection with scorn, for it
was not even as if he were the chief. However poor, Alister was at
least the head of a family, and might set SIR before, and BARONET
after his name--not that her father would think that much of a
dignity!--but no younger son of whatever rank, would be good enough
for her in her father's eyes! At the same time she had a choice as
well as her father, and he should find she too had a will of her
own!

"But was it not a dangerous place to be in?" she said.

"It is a little crumbly!" confessed Ian. "--That reminds me,
Alister, we must have a bout at the old walls before long!--Ever
since Alister was ten years old," he went on in explanation to
Christina, "he and I have been patching and pointing at the old
hulk--the stranded ship of our poor fortunes. I showed you, did I
not, the ship in our coat of arms--the galley at least, in which,
they say, we arrived at the island?"

"Yes, I remember.--But you don't mean you do mason's work as well as
everything else?" exclaimed Christina.

"Come; we will show you," said the chief.

"What do you do it for?"

The brothers exchanged glances.

"Would you count it sufficient reason," returned Ian, "that we
desired to preserve its testimony to the former status of our
family?"

A pang of pleasure shot through the heart of Christina. Passion is
potent to twist in its favour whatever can possibly be so twisted.
Here was an indubitable indication of his thoughts! He must make the
most of himself, set what he could against the overwhelming
advantages on her side! In the eyes of a man of the world like her
father, an old name was nothing beside new money! still an old
castle was always an old castle! and that he cared about it for her
sake made it to her at least worth something!

Ere she could give an answer, Ian went on.

"But in truth," he said, "we have always had a vague hope of its
resurrection. The dream of our boyhood was to rebuild the castle.
Every year it has grown more hopeless, and keeps receding. But we
have come to see how little it matters, and content ourselves with
keeping up, for old love's sake, what is left of the ruin."

"How do you get up on the walls?" asked Mercy.

"Ah, that is a secret!" said Ian.

"Do tell us," pleaded Christina.

"If you want very much to know,--" answered Ian, a little
doubtfully.

"I do, I do!"

"Then I suppose we must tell you!"

Yet more confirmation to the passion-prejudiced ears of Christina!

"There is a stair," Ian went on, "of which no one but our two selves
knows anything. Such stairs are common in old houses--far commoner
than people in towns have a notion of. But there would not have been
much of it left by this time, if we hadn't taken care of it. We were
little fellows when we began, and it needed much contrivance, for we
were not able to unseat the remnants of the broken steps, and
replace them with new ones."

"Do show it us," begged Christina.

"We will keep it," said Alister, "for some warm twilight. Morning is
not for ruins. Yon mountain-side is calling to us. Will you come,
Mercy?"

"Oh yes!" cried Christina; "that will be much better! Come, Mercy!
You are up to a climb, I am sure!"

"I ought to be, after such a long rest."

"You may have forgotten how to climb!" said Alister.

"I dreamed too much of the hills for that! And always the noise of
London was changed into the rush of waters."

They had dropped a little behind the other pair.

"Did you always climb your dream-hills alone?" asked Alister.

She answered him with just a lift of her big dark eyes.

They walked slowly down the road till they came to Mrs. Conal's
path, passed her door unassailed, and went up the hill.



CHAPTER V

PASSION AND PATIENCE.


It was a glorious morning, and as they climbed, the lightening air
made their spirits rise with their steps. Great masses of cloud hung
beyond the edge of the world, and here and there towered
foundationless in the sky--huge tumulous heaps of white vapour with
gray shadows. The sun was strong, and poured down floods of light,
but his heat was deliciously tempered by the mountain atmosphere.
There was no wind--only an occasional movement as if the air itself
were breathing--just enough to let them feel they moved in no
vacuum, but in the heart of a gentle ocean.

They came to the hut I have already described as the one chiefly
inhabited by Hector of the Stags and Bob of the Angels. It commanded
a rare vision. In every direction rose some cone-shaped hill. The
world lay in coloured waves before them, wild, rugged, and grand,
with sheltering spots of beauty between, and the shine of lowly
waters. They tapped at the door of the hut, but there was no
response; they lifted the latch--it had no lock--and found neither
within. Alister and Mercy wandered a little higher, to the shadow of
a great stone; Christina went inside the hut and looked from its
door upon the world; Ian leaned against the side of it, and looked
up to the sky. Suddenly a few great drops fell--it was hard to say
whence. The scattered clouds had been drawing a little nearer the
sun, growing whiter as they approached him, and more had ascended
from the horizon into the middle air, blue sky abounding between
them. A swift rain, like a rain of the early summer, began to fall,
and grew to a heavy shower. They were glorious drops that made that
shower; for the sun shone, and every drop was a falling gem,
shining, sparkling like a diamond, as it fell. It was a bounteous
rain, coming from near the zenith, and falling in straight lines
direct from heaven to earth. It wanted but sound to complete its
charm, and that the bells of the heather gave, set ringing by the
drops. The heaven was filled with blue windows, and the rain seemed
to come from them rather than from the clouds. Into the rain rose
the heads of the mountains, each clothed in its surplice of thin
mist; they seemed rising on tiptoe heavenward, eager to drink of the
high-born comfort; for the rain comes down, not upon the mown grass
only, but upon the solitary and desert places also, where grass will
never be--"the playgrounds of the young angels," Bob called them.

"Do come in," said Christina; "you will get quite wet!"

He turned towards her. She stepped back, and he entered. Like one a
little weary, he sat down on Hector's old chair.

"Is anything the matter?" asked Christina, with genuine concern.

She saw that he was not quite like himself, that there was an
unusual expression on his face. He gave a faint apologetic smile.

"As I stood there," he answered, "a strange feeling came over me--a
foreboding, I suppose you would call it!"

He paused; Christina grew pale, and said, "Won't you tell me what it
was?"

"It was an odd kind of conviction that the next time I stood there,
it would not be in the body.--I think I shall not come back."

"Come back!" echoed Christina, fear beginning to sip at the cup of
her heart. "Where are you going?"

"I start for Canada next week."

She turned deadly white, and put out her hands, feeling blindly
after support. Ian started to his feet.

"We have tired you out!" he said in alarm, and took her by both
hands to place her in the chair.

She did not hear him. The world had grown dark about her, a hissing
noise was in her ears, and she would have fallen had he not put his
arm round her. The moment she felt supported, she began to come to
herself. There was no pretence, however, no coquetry in her
faintness. Neither was it aught but misery and affection that made
her lay her head on Ian's shoulder, and burst into a violent fit of
weeping. Unused to real emotion, familiar only with the
poverty-stricken, false emotion of conquest and gratified vanity,
when the real emotion came she did not know how to deal with it, and
it overpowered her.

"Oh! oh!" she cried at length between her sobs, "I am ashamed of
myself! I can't help it! I can't help it! What will you think of me!
I have disgraced myself!"

Ian had been far from any suspicion of the state of things, but he
had had too much sorrowful experience to be able to keep his
unwilling eyes closed to this new consternation. The cold shower
seemed to flood his soul; the bright drops descending with such
swiftness of beauty, instinct with sun-life, turned into points of
icy steel that pierced his heart. But he must not heed himself! he
must speak to her! He must say something through the terrible shroud
that infolded them!

"You are as safe with me," he faltered, "--as safe as with your
mother!"

"I believe it! I know it," she answered, still sobbing, but looking
up with an expression of genuine integrity such as he had never seen
on her face before. "But I AM sorry!" she went on. "It is very weak,
and very, very un--un--womanly of me! But it came upon me all at
once! If I had only had some warning! Oh, why did you not tell me
before? Why did you not prepare me for it? You might have known what
it would be to hear it so suddenly!"

More and more aghast grew Ian! What was to be done? What was to be
said? What was left for a man to do, when a woman laid her soul
before him? Was there nothing but a lie to save her from bitterest
humiliation? To refuse any woman was to Ian a hard task; once he had
found it impossible to refuse even where he could not give, and had
let a woman take his soul! Thank God, she took it indeed! he yielded
himself perfectly, and God gave him her in return! But that was
once, and for ever! It could not be done again!

"I am very sorry!" he murmured; and the words and their tone sent a
shiver through the heart of Christina.

But now that she had betrayed her secret, the pent up tide of her
phantasy rushed to the door. She was reckless. Used to everything
her own way, knowing nothing of disappointment, a new and ill
understood passion dominating her, she let everything go and the
torrent sweep her with it. Passion, like a lovely wild beast, had
mastered her, and she never thought of trying to tame it. It was
herself! there was not enough of her outside the passion to stand up
against it! She began to see the filmy eyed Despair, and had neither
experience to deal with herself, nor reticence enough to keep
silence.

"If you speak to me like that," she cried, "my heart will
break!--Must you go away?"

"Dear Miss Palmer,--" faltered Ian.

"Oh!" she ejaculated, with a world of bitterness in the protest.

"--do let us be calm!" continued Ian. "We shall not come to anything
if we lose ourselves this way!"

The WE and the US gave her a little hope.

"How can I be calm!" she cried. "I am not cold-hearted like
you!--You are going away, and I shall never see you again to all
eternity!"

She burst out weeping afresh.

"Do love me a little before you go," she sobbed. "You gave me my
life once, but that does not make it right to take it from me again!
It only gives you a right to its best!"

"God knows," said Ian, "if my life could serve you, I should count
it a small thing to yield!--But this is idle talk! A man must not
pretend anything! We must not be untrue!"

She fancied he did not believe in her.

"I know! I know! you may well distrust me!" she returned. "I have
often behaved abominably to you! But indeed I am true now! I dare
not tell you a lie. To you I MUST speak the truth, for I love you
with my whole soul."

Ian stood dumb. His look of consternation and sadness brought her to
herself a little.

"What have I done!" she cried, and drawing back a pace, stood
looking at him, and trembling. "I am disgraced for ever! I have told
a man I love him, and he leaves me to the shame of it! He will not
save me from it! he will not say one word to take it away! Where is
your generosity, Ian?"

"I must be true!" said Ian, speaking as if to himself, and in a
voice altogether unlike his own.

"You will not love me! You hate me! You despise me! But I will not
live rejected! He brushes me like a feather from his coat!"

"Hear me," said Ian, trying to recover himself. "Do not think me
insensible--"

"Oh, yes! I know!" cried Christina yet more bitterly; "--INSENSIBLE
TO THE HONOUR _I_ DO YOU, and all that world of nothing!--Pray use
your victory! Lord it over me! I am the weed under your foot! I beg
you will not spare me! Speak out what you think of me!"

Ian took her hand. It trembled as if she would pull it away, and her
eyes flashed an angry fire. She looked more nearly beautiful than
ever he had seen her! His heart was like to break. He drew her to
the chair, and taking a stool, sat down beside her. Then, with a
voice that gathered strength as he proceeded, he said:--

"Let me speak to you, Christina Palmer, as in the presence of him
who made us! To pretend I loved you would be easier than to bear the
pain of giving you such pain. Were I selfish enough, I could take
much delight in your love; but I scorn the unmanliness of accepting
gold and returning silver: my love is not mine to give."

It was some relief to her proud heart to imagine he would have loved
her had he been free. But she did not speak.

"If I thought," pursued Ian, "that I had, by any behaviour of mine,
been to blame for this,--" There he stopped, lest he should seem to
lay blame on her.--"I think," he resumed, "I could help you if you
would listen to me. Were I in like trouble with you, I would go into
my room, and shut the door, and tell my Father in heaven everything
about it. Ah, Christina! if you knew him, you would not break your
heart that a man did not love you just as you loved him."

Had not her misery been so great, had she not also done the thing
that humbled her before herself, Christina would have been indignant
with the man who refused her love and dared speak to her of
religion; but she was now too broken for resentment.

The diamond rain was falling, the sun was shining in his vaporous
strength, and the great dome of heaven stood fathomless above the
pair; but to Christina the world was black and blank as the gloomy
hut in which they sat. When first her love blossomed, she saw the
world open; she looked into its heart; she saw it alive--saw it
burning with that which made the bush alive in the desert of
Horeb--the presence of the living God; now, the vision was over, the
desert was dull and dry, the bush burned no more, the glowing lava
had cooled to unsightly stone! There was no God, nor any man more!
Time had closed and swept the world into the limbo of vanity! For a
time she sat without thought, as it were in a mental sleep. She
opened her eyes, and the blank of creation stared into the very
heart of her. The emptiness and loneliness overpowered her. Hardly
aware of what she was doing, she slid to her knees at Ian's feet,
crying,

"Save me, save me, Ian! I shall go mad! Pardon me! Help me!"

"All a man may be to his sister, I am ready to be to you. I will
write to you from Canada; you can answer me or not as you please. My
heart cries out to me to take you in my arms and comfort you, but I
must not; it would not comfort you."

"You do not despise me, then?--Oh, thank you!"

"Despise you!--no more than my dead sister! I would cherish you as I
would her were she in like sorrow. I would die to save you this
grief--except indeed that I hope much from it."

"Forget all about me," said Christina, summoning pride to her aid.

"I will not forget you. It is impossible, nor would I if I could."

"You forgive me then, and will not think ill of me?"

"How forgive trust? Is that an offence?"

"I have lost your good opinion! How could I degrade myself so!"

"On the contrary, you are fast gaining my good opinion. You have
begun to be a true woman!"

"What if it should be only for--"

"Whatever it may have been for, now you have tasted truth you will
not turn back!"

"Now I know you do not care for me, I fear I shall soon sink back
into my old self!"

"I do care for you, Christina, and you will not sink back into your
old self. God means you to be a strong, good woman--able, with the
help he will give you, to bear grief in a great-hearted fashion.
Believe me, you and I may come nearer each other in the ages before
us by being both true, than is possible in any other way whatever."

"I am miserable at the thought of what you must think of me!
Everybody would say I had done a shameless thing in confessing my
love!"

"I am not in the way of thinking as everybody thinks. There is
little justice, and less sympathy, to be had from everybody. I would
think and judge and feel as the one, my Master. Be sure you are safe
with me."

"You will not tell anybody?"

"You must trust me."

"I beg your pardon! I have offended you!"

"Not in the least. But I will bind myself by no promises. I am bound
already to be as careful over you as if you were the daughter of my
father and mother. Your confession, instead of putting you in my
power, makes me your servant."

By this time Christina was calm. There was a great load on her
heart, but somehow she was aware of the possibility of carrying it.
She looked up gratefully in Ian's face, already beginning to feel
for him a reverence which made it easier to forego the right to put
her arms round him. And therewith awoke in her the first movement of
divine relationship--rose the first heave of the child-heart toward
the source of its being. It appeared in the form of resistance.
Complaint against God is far nearer to God than indifference about
him.

"Ian Macruadh," said Christina solemnly, and she looked him in the
eyes as she said it, "how can you believe there is a God? If there
were, would he allow such a dreadful thing to befall one of his
creatures? How am I to blame? I could not help it!"

"I see in it his truth and goodness toward his child. And he will
let you see it. The thing is between him and you."

"It will be hard to convince me it is either good or loving to make
anyone suffer like this!" protested Christina, her hand
unconsciously pressed on her heart; "--and all the disgrace of it
too!" she added bitterly.

"I will not allow there is any disgrace," returned Ian. "But I will
not try to con vince you of anything about God. I cannot. You must
know him. I only say I believe in him with all my heart. You must
ask him to explain himself to you, and not take it for granted,
because he has done what you do not like, that he has done you a
wrong. Whether you seek him or not, he will do you justice; but he
cannot explain himself except you seek him."

"I think I understand. Believe me, I am willing to understand."

A few long seconds of silence followed. Christina came a little
nearer. She was still on her knees.

"Will you kiss me once," she said, "as you would a little child!"

"In the name of God!" answered Ian, and stooping kissed her gently
and tenderly.

"Thank you!" she said; "--and now the rain is over, let us join
Mercy and the chief. I hope they have not got very wet!"

"Alister will have taken care of that. There is plenty of shelter
about here."

They left the cottage, drew the door close, and through the heather,
sparkling with a thousand rain-drops, the sun shining hotter than
ever through the rain-mist, went up the hill.

They found the other pair sheltered by the great stone, which was
not only a shadow from the heat, but sloped sufficiently to be a
covert from the rain. They did not know it had ceased; perhaps they
did not know it had rained.

On a fine morning of the following week, the emigrants began the
first stage of their long journey; the women in two carts, with
their small impedimenta, the men walking--Ian with them, a stout
stick in his hand. They were to sail from Greenock.

Ian and Christina met several times before he left, but never alone.
No conference of any kind, not even of eyes, had been sought by
Christina, and Ian had resolved to say nothing more until he reached
Canada. Thence he would write things which pen and ink would say
better and carry nearer home than could speech; and by that time too
the first keenness of her pain would have dulled, and left her mind
more capable of receiving them. He was greatly pleased with the
gentle calm of her behaviour. No one else could have seen any
difference toward himself. He read in her carriage that of a child
who had made a mistake, and was humbled, not vexed. Her mother noted
that her cheek was pale, and that she seemed thoughtful; but farther
she did not penetrate. To Ian it was plain that she had set herself
to be reasonable.



CHAPTER VI

LOVE GLOOMING.


Ian, the light of his mother's eyes, was gone, and she felt
forsaken. Alister was too much occupied with Mercy to feel his
departure as on former occasions, yet he missed him every hour of
the day. Mercy and he met, but not for some time in open company, as
Christina refused to go near the cottage. Things were ripening to a
change.

Alister's occupation with Mercy, however, was far from absorption;
the moment Ian was gone, he increased his attention to his mother,
feeling she had but him. But his mother was not quite the same to
him now. At times she was even more tender; at other times she
seemed to hold him away from her, as one with whom she was not in
sympathy. The fear awoke in him that she might so speak to some one
of the Palmers as to raise an insuperable barrier between the
families; and this fear made him resolve to come at once to an
understanding with Mercy. The resulting difficulties might be great;
he felt keenly the possible alternative of his loss of Mercy, or
Mercy's loss of her family; but the fact that he loved her gave him
a right to tell her so, and made it his duty to lay before her the
probability of an obstacle. That his mother did not like the
alliance had to be braved, for a man must leave father and mother
and cleave to his wife--a saying commonly by male presumption
inverted. Mercy's love he believed such that she would, without a
thought, leave the luxury of her father's house for the mere plenty
of his. That it would not be to descend but to rise in the true
social scale he would leave her to discover. Had he known what Mr.
Palmer was, and how his money had been made, he would neither have
sought nor accepted his acquaintance, and it would no more have been
possible to fall in love with one of his family than to covet one of
his fine horses. But that which might, could, would, or should have
been, affected in no way that which was. He had entered in
ignorance, by the will of God, into certain relations with "the
young woman," as his mother called her, and those relations had to
be followed to their natural and righteous end.

Talking together over possibilities, Mr. Peregrine Palmer had agreed
with his wife that, Mercy being so far from a beauty, it might not
be such a bad match, would not at least be one to be ashamed of, if
she did marry the impoverished chief of a highland clan with a
baronetcy in his pocket. Having bought the land cheap, he could
afford to let a part, perhaps even the whole of it, go back with his
daughter, thus restoring to its former position an ancient and
honourable family. The husband of his younger daughter would then be
head of one of the very few highland families yet in possession of
their ancestral acres--a distinction he would owe to Peregrine
Palmer! It was a pleasant thought to the kindly, consequential,
common little man. Mrs. Palmer, therefore, when the chief called
upon her, received him with more than her previous cordiality.

His mother would have been glad to see him return from his call
somewhat dejected; he entered so radiant and handsome, that her
heart sank within her. Was she actually on the point of being allied
through the child of her bosom to a distiller and brewer--a man who
had grown rich on the ruin of thousands of his fellow countrymen? To
what depths might not the most ancient family sink! For any poverty,
she said to herself, she was prepared--but how was she to endure
disgrace! Alas for the clan, whose history was about to
cease--smothered in the defiling garment of ill-gotten wealth!
Miserable, humiliating close to ancient story! She had no doubt as
to her son's intention, although he had said nothing; she KNEW that
his refusal of dower would be his plea in justification; but would
that deliver them from the degrading approval of the world? How
many, if they ever heard of it, would believe that the poor,
high-souled Macruadh declined to receive a single hundred from his
father-in-law's affluence! That he took his daughter poor as she was
born--his one stipulation that she should be clean from her
father's mud! For one to whom there would even be a chance of
stating the truth of the matter, a hundred would say, "That's your
plan! The only salvation for your shattered houses! Point them up
well with the bird-lime of the brewer, the quack, or the
money-lender, and they'll last till doom'sday!"

Thus bitterly spoke the mother. She brooded and scorned, raged
inwardly, and took to herself dishonour, until evidently she was
wasting. The chief's heart was troubled; could it be that she
doubted his strength to resist temptation? He must make haste and
have the whole thing settled! And first of all speak definitely to
Mercy on the matter!

He had appointed to meet her the same evening, and went long before
the hour to watch for her appearing. He climbed the hill, and lay
down in the heather whence he could see the door of the New House,
and Mercy the moment she should come out of it. He lay there till
the sun was down, and the stars began to appear. At length--and even
then it was many minutes to the time--he saw the door open, and
Mercy walk slowly to the gate. He rose and went down the hill. She
saw him, watched him descending, and the moment he reached the road,
went to meet him. They walked slowly down the road, without a word
spoken, until they felt themselves alone.

"You look so lovely!" said the chief.

"In the twilight, I suppose!" said Mercy.

"Perhaps; you are a creature of the twilight, or the night rather,
with your great black eyes!"

"I don't like you to speak to me so! You never did before! You know
I am not lovely! I am very plain!"

She was evidently not pleased.

"What have I done to vex you, Mercy?" he rejoined. "Why should you
mind my saying what is true?"

She bit her lip, and could hardly speak to answer him. Often in
London she had been morally sickened by the false rubbish talked to
her sister, and had boasted to herself that the chief had never paid
her a compliment. Now he had done it!

She took her hand from his arm.

"I think I will go home!" she said.

Alister stopped and turned to her. The last gleam of the west was
reflected from her eyes, and all the sadness of the fading light
seemed gathered into them.

"My child!" he said, all that was fatherly in the chief rising at
the sight, "who has been making you unhappy?"

"You," she answered, looking him in the face.

"How? I do not understand!" he returned, gazing at her bewildered.

"You have just paid me a compliment--a thing you never did
before--a thing I never heard before from any but a fool! How could
you say I was beautiful! You know I am not beautiful! It breaks my
heart to think you could say what you didn't believe!"

"Mercy!" answered the chief, "if I said you were beautiful, and to
my eyes you were not, it would yet be true; for to my heart, which
sees deeper than my eyes, you are more beautiful than any other ever
was or ever will be. I know you are not beautiful in the world's
meaning, but you are very lovely--and it was lovely I said you
were!"

"Lovely because you love me? Is that what you meant?"

"Yes, that and more. Your eyes are beautiful, and your hair is
beautiful, and your expression is lovely. But I am not flattering
you--I am not even paying you compliments, for those things are not
yours; God made them, and has given them to me!"

She put her hand in his arm again, and there was no more
love-making.

"But Mercy," said the chief, when they had walked some distance
without speaking, "do you think you could live here always, and
never see London again?"

"I would not care if London were scratched out."

"Could you be content to be a farmer's wife?"

"If he was a very good farmer," she answered, looking up archly.

"Am I a good enough farmer, then, to serve your turn?"

"Good enough if I were ten times better. Do you really mean it,
Macruadh?"

"With all my heart. Only there is one thing I am very anxious
about."

"What is that?"

"How your father will take my condition."

"He will allow, I think, that it is good enough for me--and more
than I deserve."

"That is not what I mean; it is that I have a certain condition to
make."

"Else you won't marry me? That seems strange! Of course I will do
anything you would wish me to do! A condition!" she repeated,
ponderingly, with just a little dissatisfaction in the tone.

Alister wondered she was not angry. But she trusted him too well to
take offence readily.

"Yes," he rejoined, "a real condition! Terms belong naturally to the
giver, not the petitioner; I hope with all my heart it will not
offend him. It will not offend you, I think."

"Let me hear your condition," said Mercy, looking at him curiously,
her honest eyes shining in the faint light.

"I want him to let me take you just as you are, without a shilling
of his money to spoil the gift. I want you in and for yourself."

"I dare not think you one who would rather not be obliged to his
wife for anything!" said Mercy. "That cannot be it!"

She spoke with just a shadow of displeasure. He did not answer. He
was in great dread of hurting her, and his plain reason could not
fail to hurt her.

"Well," she resumed, as he did not reply, "there are fathers, I
daresay, who would not count that a hard condition!"

"Of course your father will not like the idea of your marrying so
poor a man!"

"If he should insist on your having something with me, you will not
refuse, will you? Why should you mind it?"

Alister was silent. The thing had already begun to grow dreadful!
How could he tell her his reasons! Was it necessary to tell her? If
he had to explain, it must be to her father, not to her! How, until
absolutely compelled, reveal the horrible fact that her father was
despised by her lover! She might believe it her part to refuse such
love! He trembled lest she should urge him. But Mercy, thinking she
had been very bold already, also held her peace.

They tried to talk about other things, but with little success, and
when they parted, it was with a sense on both sides that something
had got between them. The night through Mercy hardly slept for
trying to discover what his aversion to her dowry might mean. No
princedom was worth contrasting with poverty and her farmer-chief,
but why should not his love be able to carry her few thousands? It
was impossible his great soul should grudge his wife's superiority
in the one poor trifle of money! Was not the whole family superior
to money! Had she, alas, been too confident in their greatness? Must
she be brought to confess that their grand ways had their little
heart of pride? Did they not regard themselves as the ancient
aristocracy of the country! Yes, it must be! The chief despised the
origin of her father's riches!

But, although so far in the direction of the fact, she had no
suspicion of anything more than landed pride looking down upon
manufacture and trade. She suspected no moral root of even a share
in the chief's difficulty. Naturally, she was offended. How
differently Christina would have met the least hint of a CONDITION,
she thought. She had been too ready to show and confess her love!
Had she stood off a little, she might have escaped this humiliation!
But would that have been honest? Must she not first of all be true?
Was the chief, whatever his pride, capable of being ungenerous?
Questions like these kept coming and going throughout the night.
Hither and thither went her thoughts, refusing to be controlled. The
morning came, the sun rose, and she could not find rest. She had
come to see how ideally delightful it was just to wait God's will of
love, yet, in this her first trouble, she actually forgot to think
of God, never asked him to look after the thing for her, never said,
"Thy will be done!" And when at length weariness overpowered her,
fell asleep like a heathen, without a word from her heart to the
heart.

Alister missed Ian sorely. He prayed to God, but was too troubled to
feel him near. Trouble imagined may seem easy to meet; trouble
actual is quite another thing! His mother, perhaps, was to have her
desire; Mercy, perhaps, would not marry a man who disapproved of her
family! Between them already was what could not be talked about! He
could not set free his heart to her!

When Mercy woke, the old love was awake also; let Alister's reason
be what it might, it was not for her to resent it! The life he led
was so much grander than a life spent in making money, that he must
feel himself superior! Throned in the hearts, and influencing the
characters of men, was he not in a far nobler position than money
could give him? From her night of doubt and bitterness Mercy issued
more loving and humble. What should she be now, she said to herself,
if Alister had not taught her? He had been good to her as never
father or brother! She would trust him! She would believe him right!
Had he hurt her pride? It was well her pride should be hurt! Her
mind was at rest.

But Alister must continue in pain and dread until he had spoken to
her father. Knowing then the worst, he might use argument with
Mercy; the moment for that was not yet come! If he consented that
his daughter should leave him undowered, an explanation with Mercy
might be postponed. When the honour of her husband was more to her
than the false credit of her family, when she had had time to
understand principles which, born and brought up as she had been,
she might not yet be able to see into, then it would be time to
explain! One with him, she would see things as he saw them! Till her
father came, he would avoid the subject!

All the morning he was busy in the cornyard--with his hands in
preparing new stances for ricks, with his heart in try ing to
content himself beforehand with whatever fate the Lord might intend
for him. As yet he was more of a Christian philosopher than a
philosophical Christian. The thing most disappointing to him he
would treat as the will of God for him, and try to make up his mind
to it, persuading himself it was the right and best thing--as if he
knew it the will of God. He was thus working in the region of
supposition, and not of revealed duty; in his own imagination, and
not in the will of God. If this should not prove the will of God
concerning him, then he was spending his strength for nought. There
is something in the very presence and actuality of a thing to make
one able to bear it; but a man may weaken himself for bearing what
God intends him to bear, by trying to bear what God does not intend
him to bear. The chief was forestalling the morrow like an
unbeliever--not without some moral advantage, I dare say, but with
spiritual loss. We have no right to school ourselves to an imaginary
duty. When we do not know, then what he lays upon us is NOT TO KNOW,
and to be content not to know. The philosopher is he who lives in
the thought of things, the Christian is he who lives in the things
themselves. The philosopher occupies himself with God's decree, the
Christian with God's will; the philosopher with what God may intend,
the Christian with what God wants HIM TO DO.

The laird looked up and there were the young ladies! It was the
first time Christina had come nigh the cottage since Ian's
departure.

"Can you tell me, Macruadh," she said, "what makes Mrs. Conal so
spiteful always? When we bade her good morning a few minutes ago,
she overwhelmed us with a torrent of abuse!"

"How did you know it was abuse?"

"We understand enough of Gaelic to know it was not exactly blessing
us she was. It is not necessary to know cat-language to distinguish
between purring and spitting! What harm have we done? Her voice was
fierce, and her eyes were like two live peats flaming at us! Do
speak to her."

"It would be of no use!"

"Where's the good of being chief then? I don't ask you to make the
old woman civil, but I think you might keep her from insulting your
friends! I begin to think your chiefdom a sham!"

"I doubt indeed if it reaches to the tongues of the clan! But let us
go and tell my mother. She may be able to do something with her!"

Christina went into the cottage; the chief drew Mercy back.

"What do you think the first duty of married people, Mercy--to each
other, I mean," he said.

"To be always what they look," answered Mercy.

"Yes, but I mean actively. What is it their first duty to do towards
each other?"

"I can't answer that without thinking."

"Is it not each to help the other to do the will of God?"

"I would say YES if I were sure I really meant it."

"You will mean it one day."

"Are you sure God will teach me?"

"I think he cares more to do that than anything else."

"More than to save us?"

"What is saving but taking us out of the dark into the light? There
is no salvation but to know God and grow like him."



CHAPTER VII

A GENEROUS DOWRY.


The only hope of the chief's mother was in what the girl's father
might say to her son's proposal. Would not his pride revolt against
giving his daughter to a man who would not receive his blessing in
money?

Mr. Peregrine Palmer arrived, and the next day Alister called upon
him.

Not unprepared for the proposal of the chief, Mercy's father had
nothing to urge against it. Her suitor's name was almost an
historical one, for it stood high in the home-annals of Scotland.
And the new laird, who had always a vague sense of injury in the
lack of an illustrious pedigree of his own to send forward, was not
un willing that a man more justly treated than himself should supply
the SOLATIUM to his daughter's children. He received the Macruadh,
therefore, if a little pompously, yet with kindness. And the moment
they were seated Alister laid his request before him.

"Mr. Palmer," he said, "I come to ask the hand of your daughter
Mercy. I have not much beyond myself to offer her, but I can tell
you precisely what there is."

Mr. Peregrine Palmer sat for a moment looking important. He seemed
to see much to ponder in the proposal.

"Well, Macruadh," he said at length, hesitating with hum and with
haw, "the thing is--well, to speak the truth, you take me a good
deal by surprise! I do not know how the thing may appear to Mrs.
Palmer. And then the girl herself, you will allow, ought, in a free
country, to have a word in the matter! WE give our girls absolute
liberty; their own hearts must guide them--that is, where there is
no serious exception to be taken. Honestly, it is not the kind of
match we should have chosen! It is not as if things were with you
now as once, when the land was all your own, and--and--you--pardon
me, I am a father--did not have to work with your own hands!"

Had he been there on any other errand the chief would have stated
his opinion that it was degrading to a man to draw income from
anything he would count it degrading to put his own hand to; but
there was so much he might be compelled to say to the displeasure of
Mr. Palmer while asking of him the greatest gift he had to bestow,
that he would say nothing unpalatable which he was not compelled to
say.

"My ancestors," he answered, willing to give the objection a
pleasant turn, "would certainly have preferred helping themselves to
the produce of lowland fields! My great-great-grandfather, scorning
to ask any man for his daughter, carried her off without a word!"

"I am glad the peculiarity has not shown itself hereditary," said Mr.
Palmer laughing.

"But if I have little to offer, I expect nothing with her," said the
chief abruptly. "I want only herself!"

"A very loverly mode of speaking! But it is needless to say no
daughter of mine shall leave me without a certainty, one way or the
other, of suitable maintenance. You know the old proverb,
Macruadh,--'When poverty comes in at the door,'--?"

"There is hardly a question of poverty in the sense the proverb
intends!" answered the chief smiling.

"Of course! Of course! At the same time you cannot keep the wolf too
far from the door. I would not, for my part, care to say I had given
my daughter to a poor farmer in the north. Two men, it is, I
believe, you employ, Macruadh?"

The chief answered with a nod.

"I have other daughters to settle--not to mention my sons," pursued
the great little man, "--but--but I will find a time to talk the
matter over with Mrs. Palmer, and see what I can do for you.
Meanwhile you may reckon you have a friend at court; all I have seen
makes me judge well of you. Where we do not think alike, I can yet
say for you that your faults lean to virtue's side, and are such as
my daughter at least will be no loser by. Good morning, Macruadh."

Mr. Peregrine Palmer rose; and the chief, perplexed and indignant,
but anxious not to prejudice, his very doubtful cause, rose also.

"You scarcely understand me, Mr. Palmer," he said. "On the
possibility of being honoured with your daughter's hand, you must
allow me to say distinctly beforehand, that I must decline receiving
anything with her. When will you allow me to wait upon you again?"

"I will write. Good morning."

The interview was certainly not much to the assuagement of the
chief's anxiety. He went home with the feeling that he had submitted
to be patronized, almost insulted by a paltry fellow whose
consequence rested on his ill-made money--a man who owed everything
to a false and degrading appetite in his neighbours! Nothing could
have made him put up with him but the love of Mercy, his dove in a
crow's nest! But it would be all in vain, for he could not lie!
Truth, indeed, if not less of a virtue, was less of a heroism in the
chief than in most men, for he COULD NOT lie. Had he been tempted to
try, he would have reddened, stammered, broken down, with the full
shame, and none of the success of a falsehood.

For a week, he heard nothing; there seemed small anxiety to welcome
him into the Palmer family! Then came a letter. It implied, almost
said that some difficulty had been felt as to his reception by EVERY
member of the family--which the chief must himself see to have been
only natural! But while money was of no con sequence to Mr. Palmer,
it was of the greatest consequence that his daughter should seem to
make a good match; therefore, as only in respect of POSITION was the
alliance objectionable, he had concluded to set that right, and in
giving him his daughter, to restore the chief's family to its former
dignity, by making over to him the Clanruadh property now in his
possession by purchase. While he thus did his duty by his daughter,
he hoped the Macruadh would accept the arrangement as a mark of
esteem for himself. Two conditions only he would make--the first,
that, as long as he lived, the shooting should be Mr. Palmer's, to
use or to let, and should extend over the whole estate; the second,
that the chief should assume the baronetcy which belonged to him.

My reader will regard the proposition as not ungenerous, however
much the money value of the land lay in the shooting.

As Alister took leave of his mother for the night, he gave her the
letter.

She took it, read it slowly, laughed angrily, smiled scornfully,
wept bitterly, crushed it in her hand, and walked up to her room
with her head high. All the time she was preparing for her bed, she
was talking in her spirit with her husband. When she lay down she
became a mere prey to her own thoughts, and was pulled, and torn,
and hurt by them for hours ere she set herself to rule them. For the
first time in her life she distrusted her son. She did not know what
he would do! The temptation would surely be too strong for him! Two
good things were set over against one evil thing--an evil thing,
however, with which nobody would associate blame, an evil thing
which would raise him high in the respect of everyone whose respect
was not worth having!--the woman he loved and the land of his
ancestors on the one side, and only the money that bought the land
for him on the other!--would he hold out? He must take the three
together, or have none of them! Her fear for him grew and possessed
her. She grew cold as death. Why did he give her the letter, and go
without saying a word? She knew well the arguments he would adduce!
Henceforward and for ever there would be a gulf between them! The
poor religion he had would never serve to keep him straight! What
was it but a compromise with pride and self-sufficiency! It could
bear no such strain! He acknowledged God, but not God reconciled in
Christ, only God such as unregenerate man would have him! And when
Ian came home, he would be sure to side with Alister!

There was but one excuse for the poor boy--and that a miserable one:
the blinding of love! Yes there was more excuse than that: to be
lord of the old lands, with the old clan growing and gathering again
about its chief! It was a temptation fit to ruin an archangel! What
could he not do then for his people! What could he not do for the
land! And for her, she might have her Ian always at home with her!
God forbid she should buy even such bliss at such a cost! She was
only thinking, she said to herself, how, if the thing had to be, she
would make the best of it: she was bound as a mother to do that!

But the edge of the wedge was in. She said to herself afterwards,
that the enemy of her soul must have been lying in wait for her that
night; she almost believed in some bodily presence of him in her
room: how otherwise could she account for her fall! he must have
been permitted to tempt her, because, in condemning evil, she had
given way to contempt and worldly pride. Her thoughts unchecked
flowed forward. They lingered brooding for a time on the joys that
might be hers--the joys of the mother of a chief over territory as
well as hearts. Then they stole round, and began to flow the other
way. Ere the thing had come she began to make the best of it for the
sake of her son and the bond between them; then she began to excuse
it for the sake of the clan; and now she began to justify it a
little for the sake of the world! Everything that could favour the
acceptance of the offer came up clear before her. The land was the
same as it always had been! it had never been in the distillery! it
had never been in the brew-house! it was clean, whoever had
transacted concerning it, through whatever hands it had passed! A
good cow was a good cow, had she been twenty times reaved! For Mr.
Palmer to give and Alister to take the land back, would be some
amends to the nation, grievously injured in the money of its
purchase! The deed would restore to the redeeming and uplifting
influence of her son many who were fast perishing from poverty and
whisky; for, their houses and crofts once more in the power of their
chief, he would again be their landlord as well! It would be a pure
exercise of the law of compensation! Hundreds who had gone abroad
would return to replenish the old glens with the true national
wealth--with men and women, and children growing to be men and
women, for the hour of their country's need! These were the true,
the golden crops! The glorious time she had herself seen would
return, when Strathruadh could alone send out a regiment of the
soldiers that may be defeated, but will not live to know it. The
dream of her boys would come true! they would rebuild the old
castle, and make it a landmark in the history of the highlands!

But while she stood elate upon this high-soaring peak of the dark
mountains of ambition, sudden before her mind's eye rose the face
of her husband, sudden his voice was in her ear; he seemed to stand
above her in the pulpit, reading from the prophet Isaiah the four
Woes that begin four contiguous chapters:--"Woe to the crown of
pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a
fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that
are overcome with wine!"--"Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where
David dwelt! Add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices; yet I
will distress Ariel."--"Woe to the rebellious children, saith the
Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a
covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin!"--"Woe
to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and
trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because
they are very strong; but they look not unto the holy one of Israel,
neither seek the Lord!" Then followed the words opening the next
chapter:--"Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes
shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from
the wind, and a covert from the tempest." All this, in solemn order,
one woe after the other, she heard in the very voice of her husband;
in awful spiritual procession, they passed before her listening
mind! She grew cold as the dead, and shuddered and shivered. She
looked over the edge into the heart of a black gulf, into which she
had been on the point of casting herself--say rather, down whose
side, searching for an easy descent, she had already slid a long
way, when the voice from above recalled her! She covered her face
with her hands and wept--ashamed before God, ashamed before her
husband. It was a shame unutterable that the thing should even have
looked tempting! She cried for forgiveness, rose, and sought
Alister's room.

Seldom since he was a man had she visited her elder son in his
chamber. She cherished for him, as chief, something of the reverence
of the clan. The same familiarity had never existed between them as
between her and Ian. Now she was going to wake him, and hold a
solemn talk with him. Not a moment longer should he stand leaning
over the gulf into which she had herself well nigh fallen!

She found him awake, and troubled, though not with an eternal
trouble such as hers.

"I thought I should find you asleep, Alister!" she said.

"It was not very likely, mother!" he answered gently.

"You too have been tried with terrible thoughts?"

"I have been tried, but hardly with terrible thoughts: I know that
Mercy loves me!"

"Ah, my son, my dear son! love itself is the terrible thing! It has
drawn many a man from the way of peace!"

"Did it draw you and my father from the way of peace?" asked
Alister.

"Not for a moment!" she answered. "It made our steps firmer in the
way."

"Then why should you fear it will draw me from it? I hope I have
never made you think I was not following my father and you!"

"Who knows what either of us might have done, with such a temptation
as yours!"

"Either you say, mother, that my father was not so good as I think
him, or that he did what he did in his own strength!"

"' Let him that thinketh '--you know the rest!" rejoined the mother.

"I don't think I am tempted to anything just now."

"There it is, you see!--the temptation so subtle that you do not
suspect its character!"

"I am confident my father would have done just as I mean to do!"

"What do you mean to do?"

"Is it my own mother asks me? Does she distrust her husband and her
son together?"

It began to dawn on the mother that she had fallen into her own
temptation through distrust of her son. Because she-distrusted him,
she sought excuse for him, and excuse had turned to all but
justification: she had given place to the devil! But she must be
sure about Alister! She had had enough of the wiles of Satan: she
must not trust her impressions! The enemy might even now be bent on
deceiving her afresh! For a moment she kept silence, then said:--

"It would be a grand thing to have the whole country-side your own
again--wouldn't it, Alister?"

"It would, mother!" he answered.

"And have all your people quite under your own care?"

"A grand thing, indeed, mother!"

"How can you say then it is no temptation to you?"

"Because it is none."

"How is that?"

"I would not have my clan under a factor of Satan's, mother!"

"I do not understand you!"

"What else should I be, if I accepted the oversight of them on terms
of allegiance to him! That was how he tempted Jesus. I will not be
the devil's steward, to call any land or any people mine!"

His mother kissed him on the forehead, walked erect from the room,
and went to her own to humble herself afresh.

In the morning, Alister took his dinner of bread and cheese in his
pocket, and set out for the tomb on the hill-top. There he remained
until the evening, and wrote his answer, sorely missing Ian.

He begged Mr. Peregrine Palmer to dismiss the idea of enriching him,
thanked him for his great liberality, but declared himself entirely
content, and determined not to change his position. He could not and
would not avail himself of his generosity.

Mr. Palmer, unable to suspect the reasons at work in the chief's
mind, pleased with the genuineness of his acknowledgment, and
regarding him as a silly fellow who would quixotically outdo him in
magnanimity, answered in a more familiar, almost jocular strain. He
must not be unreasonable, he said; pride was no doubt an estimable
weakness, but it might be carried too far; men must act upon
realities not fancies; he must learn to have an eye to the main
chance, and eschew heroics: what was life without money! It was not
as if he gave it grudgingly, for he made him heartily welcome. The
property was in truth but a flea-bite to him! He hoped the Macruadh
would live long to enjoy it, and make his father-in-law the great
grandfather of chiefs, perpetuating his memory to ages unborn. There
was more to the same effect, void neither of eloquence nor of a
certain good-heartedness, which the laird both recognized and felt.

It was again his painful turn. He had now to make his refusal as
positive as words could make it. He said he was sorry to appear
headstrong, perhaps uncivil and ungrateful, but he could not and
would not accept anything beyond the priceless gift of Mercy's hand.

Not even then did Peregrine Palmer divine that his offered gift was
despised; that idea was to him all but impossible of conception. He
read merely opposition, and was determined to have his way. Next
time he too wrote positively, though far from unkindly:--the
Macruadh must take the land with his daughter, or leave both!

The chief replied that he could not yield his claim to Mercy, for he
loved her, and believed she loved him; therefore begged Mr.
Peregrine Palmer, of his generosity, to leave the decision with his
daughter.

The next was a letter from Mercy, entreating Alister not to hurt her
father by seeming to doubt the kindness of his intentions. She
assured him her father was not the man to interfere with his
management of the estate, the shooting was all he cared about; and
if that was the difficulty, she imagined even that might be got
over. She ended praying that he would, for her sake, cease making
much of a trifle, for such the greatest property in the world must
be betwixt them. No man, she said, could love a woman right, who
would not be under the poorest obligation to her people!

The chief answered her in the tenderest way, assuring her that if
the property had been hers he would only have blessed her for it;
that he was not making much ado about nothing; that pride, or
unwillingness to be indebted, had nothing to do with his
determination; that the thing was with him in very truth a matter of
conscience. He implored her therefore from the bottom of his heart
to do her best to persuade her father--if she would save him who
loved her more than his own soul, from a misery God only could make
him able to bear.

Mercy was bewildered. She neither understood nor suspected. She
wrote again, saying her father was now thoroughly angry; that she
found herself without argument, the thing being incomprehensible to
her as to her father; that she could not see where the conscience of
the thing lay. Her terror was, that, if he persisted, she would be
driven to think he did not care for her; his behaviour she had tried
in vain to reconcile with what he had taught her; if he destroyed
her faith in him, all her faith might go, and she be left without
God as well as without him!

Then Alister saw that necessity had culminated, and that it was no
longer possible to hold anything back. Whatever other suffering he
might cause her, Mercy must not be left to think him capable of
sacrificing her to an absurdity! She must know the truth of the
matter, and how it was to him of the deepest conscience! He must let
her see that if he allowed her to persuade him, it would be to go
about thenceforward consumed of self-contempt, a slave to the
property, no more its owner than if he had stolen it, and in danger
of committing suicide to escape hating his wife!

For the man without a tender conscience, cannot imagine the state to
which another may come, who carries one about with him, stinging and
accusing him all day long.

So, out of a heart aching with very fullness, Alister wrote the
truth to Mercy. And Mercy, though it filled her with grief and
shame, had so much love for the truth, and for the man who had waked
that love, that she understood him, and loved him through all the
pain of his words; loved him the more for daring the risk of losing
her; loved him yet the more for cleaving to her while loathing the
mere thought of sharing her wealth; loved him most of all that he
was immaculate in truth.

She carried the letter to her father's room, laid it before him
without a word, and went out again.

The storm gathered swiftly, and burst at once. Not two minutes
seemed to have passed when she heard his door open, and a voice of
wrathful displeasure call out her name. She returned--in fear, but
in fortitude.

Then first she knew her father!--for although wrath and injustice
were at home in him, they seldom showed themselves out of doors. He
treated her as a willing party to an unspeakable insult from a
highland boor to her own father. To hand him such a letter was the
same as to have written it herself! She identified herself with the
writer when she became the bearer of the mangy hound's insolence! He
raged at Mercy as in truth he had never raged before. If once she
spoke to the fellow again, he would turn her out of the house!

She would have left the room. He locked the door, set a chair before
his writing table, and ordered her to sit there and write to his
dictation. But no power on earth or under it would have prevailed to
make Mercy write as her own the words that were not hers.

"You must excuse me, papa!" she said in a tone unheard from her
before.

This raising of the rampart of human dignity, crowned with refusal,
between him and his own child, galled him afresh.

"Then you shall be compelled!" he said, with an oath through his
clenched teeth.

Mercy stood silent and motionless.

"Go to your room. By heaven you shall stay there till you do as I
tell you!"

He was between her and the door.

"You need not think to gain your point by obstinacy," he added. "I
swear that not another word shall pass between you and that
blockhead of a chief--not if I have to turn watch-dog myself!"

He made way for her, but did not open the door. She left the room
too angry to cry, and went to her own. Her fear of her father had
vanished. With Alister on her side she could stand against the
world! She went to her window. She could not see the cottage from
it, but she could see the ruin, and the hill of the crescent fire,
on which she had passed through the shadow of death. Gazing on the
hill she remembered what Alister would have her do, and with her
Father in heaven sought shelter from her father on earth.



CHAPTER VIII

MISTRESS CONAL.


Mr. Peregrine Palmer's generosity had in part rested on the idea of
securing the estate against reverse of fortune, sufficiently
possible though not expected; while with the improvements almost in
hand, the shooting would make him a large return. He felt the more
wronged by the ridiculous scruples of the chief--in which after all,
though he could not have said why, he did not quite believe. It
never occurred to him that, even had the land been so come by that
the chief could accept a gift of it, he would, upon the discovery
that it had been so secured from the donor's creditors, at once have
insisted on placing it at their disposal.

His wrath proceeded to vent itself in hastening the realization of
his schemes of improvement, for he was well aware they would be
worse than distasteful to the Macruadh. Their first requirement was
the removal of every peasant within his power capable of violating
the sanctity of the deer forest into which he and his next neighbour
had agreed to turn the whole of their property. While the settlement
of his daughter was pending, he had seen that the point might cause
trouble unless previously understood between him and the chief; but
he never doubted the recovery of the land would reconcile the latter
to the loss of the men. Now he chuckled with wrathful chuckle to
think how entirely he had him in his power for justifiable
annoyance; for he believed himself about to do nothing but good to
THE COUNTRY in removing from it its miserable inhabitants, whom the
sentimental indulgence of their so-called chief kept contented with
their poverty, and with whom interference must now enrage him. How
he hated the whole wretched pack!

Mr. Palmer's doing of good to the country consisted in making the
land yield more money into the pockets of Mr. Brander and himself by
feeding wild animals instead of men. To tell such land-owners that
they are simply running a tilt at the creative energy, can be of no
use: they do not believe in God, however much they may protest and
imagine they do.

The next day but one, he sent Mistress Conal the message that she
must be out of her hut, goods and gear, within a fortnight. He was
not sure that the thing was legally correct, but he would risk it.
She might go to law if she would, but he would make a beginning with
her! The chief might take up her quarrel if he chose: nothing would
please Mr. Palmer more than to involve him in a law-suit, clear him
out, and send him adrift! His money might be contemptible, but the
chief should find it at least dangerous! Contempt would not stave
off a land-slip!

Mistress Conal, with a rage and scorn that made her feel every inch
a witch, and accompanied by her black cat, which might or might not
be the innocent animal the neighbours did not think him, hurried to
the Macruadh, and informed him that "the lowland thief" had given
her notice to quit the house of her fathers within a fortnight.

"I fear much we cannot help it! the house is on his land!" said the
chief sorrowfully.

"His land!" echoed the old woman. "Is the nest of the old eagle his
land? Can he make his heather white or his ptarmigan black? Will he
dry up the lochs, and stay the rivers? Will he remove the mountains
from their places, or cause the generations of men to cease from the
earth? Defend me, chief! I come to you for the help that was never
sought in vain from the Macruadh!"

"What help I have is yours without the asking," returned the chief.
"I cannot do more than is in my power! One thing only I can promise
you--that you shall lack neither food nor shelter."

"My chief will abandon me to the wolf!" she cried.

"Never! But I can only protect you, not your house. He may have no
right to turn you out at such short notice; but it could only be a
matter of weeks. To go to law with him would but leave me without a
roof to shelter you when your own was gone!"

"The dead would have shown him into the dark, ere he turned me into
the cold!" she muttered, and turning, left him.

The chief was greatly troubled. He had heard nothing of such an
intention on the part of his neighbour. Could it be for revenge? He
had heard nothing yet of his answer to Mercy! All he could do was to
represent to Mr. Palmer the trouble the poor woman was in, and let
him know that the proceeding threatened would render him very
unpopular in the strath. This he thought it best to do by letter.

It could not enrage Mr. Palmer more, but it enraged him afresh. He
vowed that the moment the time was up, out the old witch should go,
neck and crop; and with the help of Mr. Brander, provided men for
the enforcement of his purpose who did not belong to the
neighbourhood.

The chief kept hoping to hear from the New House, but neither his
letter to Mercy nor to her father received any answer. How he wished
for Ian to tell him what he ought to do! His mother could not help
him. He saw nothing for it but wait events.

Day after day passed, and he heard nothing. He would have tried to
find out the state of things at the New House, but until war was
declared that would not be right! Mr. Palmer might be seeking how
with dignity to move in the matter, for certainly the chief had
placed him in a position yet more unpleasant than his own! He must
wait on!

The very day fortnight after the notice given, about three o'clock
in the afternoon, came flying to the chief a ragged little urchin
of the village, too breathless almost to make intelligible his
news--that there were men at Mistress Conal's who would not go out
of her house, and she and her old black cat were swearing at them.

The chief ran: could the new laird be actually unhousing the aged,
helpless woman? It was the part of a devil and not of a man! As he
neared the place--there were her poor possessions already on the
roadside!--her one chair and stool, her bedding, her three-footed
pot, her girdle, her big chest, all that she could call hers in the
world! and when he came in sight of the cottage, there she was being
brought out of it, struggling, screaming, and cursing, in the grasp
of two men! Fierce in its glow was the torrent of Gaelic that rushed
from the crater of her lips, molten in the volcanic depths of her
indignant soul.

When one thinks of the appalling amount of rage exhausted by poor
humans upon wrong, the energy of indignation, whether issued or
suppressed, and how little it has done to right wrong, to draw
acknowledgment or amends from self-satisfied insolence, he
naturally asks what becomes of so much vital force. Can it fare
differently from other forces, and be lost? The energy of evil is
turned into the mill-race of good; but the wrath of man, even his
righteous wrath, worketh not the righteousness of God! What becomes
of it? If it be not lost, and have but changed its form, in what
shape shall we look for it?

"Set her down," cried the chief. "I will take care of her."

When she heard the voice of her champion, the old woman let go a
cat-like screech of triumph, and her gliding Gaelic, smoothness
itself in articulation, flowed yet firier in word, and fiercer in
tone. But the who were thus ejecting her--hangers on of the
sheriff-court in the county town, employed to give a colour of law
to the doubtful proceeding--did not know the chief.

"Oh, we'll set her down," answered one of them insolently, "--and
glad enough too! but we'll have her on the public road with her
sticks first!"

Infuriated by the man's disregard of her chief, Mistress Conal
struck her nails into his face, and with a curse he flung her from
him. She turned instantly on the other with the same argument ad
hominem, and found herself staggering on her own weak limbs to a
severe fall, when the chief caught and saved her. She struggled hard
to break from him and rush again into the hut, declaring she would
not leave it if they burned her alive in it, but he held her fast.

There was a pause, for one or two who had accompanied the men
employed, knew the chief, and their reluctance to go on with the
ruthless deed in his presence, influenced the rest. Report of the
ejection had spread, and the neighbours came running from the
village. A crowd seemed to be gathering. Again and again Mistress
Conal tried to escape from Alister and rush into the cottage.

"You too, my chief!" she cried. "You turned against the poor of your
people!"

"No, Mistress Conal," he answered. "I am too much your friend to let
you kill yourself!"

"We have orders, Macruadh, to set fire to the hovel," said one of
the men, touching his hat respectfully.

"They'll roast my black one!" shrieked the old woman.

"Small fear for him," said a man's voice from the little crowd, "if
half be true--!"

Apparently the speaker dared no more.

"Fire won't singe a hair of him, Mistress Conal," said another
voice. "You know it; he's used to it!"

"Come along, and let's get it over!" cried the leader of the
ejection-party. "It--won't take many minutes once it's well a
going, and there's fire enough on the hearth to set Ben Cruachan in
a blaze!"

"Is everything out of it?" demanded the chief.

"All but her cat. We've done our best, sir, and searched everywhere,
but he's not to be found. There's nothing else left."

"It's a lie!" screamed Mistress Conal. "Is there not a great pile of
peats, carried on my own back from the moss! Ach, you robbers! Would
you burn the good peats?"

"What good will the peats be to you, woman," said one of them not
unkindly, "when you have no hearth?"

She gave a loud wail, but checked it.

"I will burn them on the road," she said. "They will keep me a few
hours from the dark! When I die I will go straight up to God and
implore his curse upon you, on your bed and board, your hands and
tools, your body and soul. May your every prayer be lost in the wide
murk, and never come at his ears! May--"

"Hush! hush!" interposed the chief with great gentleness. "You do
not know what you are saying. But you do know who tells us to
forgive our enemies!"

"It's well for HIM to forgive," she screamed, "sitting on his grand
throne, and leaving me to be turned out of my blessed house, on to
the cold road!"

"Nannie!" said the chief, calling her by her name, "because a man is
unjust to you, is that a reason for you to be unjust to him who died
for you? You know as well as he, that you will not be left out on
the cold road. He knows, and so do you, that while I have a house
over my head, there is a warm corner in it for you! And as for his
sitting on his throne, you know that all these years he has been
trying to take you up beside him, and can't get you to set your foot
on the first step of it! Be ashamed of yourself, Nannie!"

She was silent.

"Bring out her peats," he said, turning to the bystanders; "we have
small need, with winter on the road, to waste any of God's gifts!"

They obeyed. But as they carried them out, and down to the road, the
number of Mistress Conal's friends kept growing, and a laying
together of heads began, and a gathering of human fire under
glooming eyebrows. It looked threatening. Suddenly Mistress Conal
broke out in a wild yet awful speech, wherein truth indeed was the
fuel, but earthly wrath supplied the prophetic fire. Her friends
suspended their talk, and her foes their work, to listen.

English is by no means equally poetic with the Gaelic, regarded as a
language, and ill-serves to represent her utterance. Much that seems
natural in the one language, seems forced and unreal amidst the less
imaginative forms of the other. I will nevertheless attempt in
English what can prove little better than an imitation of her
prophetic outpouring. It was like a sermon in this, that she began
with a text:--

"Woe unto them," she said--and her voice sounded like the wind among
the great stones of a hillside--"that join house to house, that lay
field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed
alone in the midst of the earth!"

This woe she followed with woe upon woe, and curse upon curse, now
from the Bible, now from some old poem of the country, and now from
the bitterness of her own heart. Then she broke out in purely native
eloquence:--

"Who art thou, O man, born of a woman, to say to thy brother,
'Depart from this earth: here is no footing for thee: all the room
had been taken for me ere thou wast heard of! What right hast thou
in a world where I want room for the red deer, and the big sheep,
and the brown cattle? Go up, thou infant bald-head! Is there not
room above, in the fields of the air? Is there not room below with
the dead? Verily there is none here upon the earth!' Who art thou, I
say, to speak thus to thy fellow, as if he entered the world by
another door than thyself! Because thou art rich, is he not also a
man?--a man made in the image of the same God? Who but God sent
him? And who but God, save thy father was indeed the devil, hath
sent thee? Thou hast to make room for thy brother! What brother of
thy house, when a child is born into it, would presume to say, 'Let
him begone, and speedily! I do not want him! There is no room for
him! I require it all for myself!' Wilt thou say of any man, 'He is
not my brother,' when God says he is! If thou say, 'Am I therefore
his keeper?' God for that saying will brand thee with the brand of
Cain. Yea, the hour will come when those ye will not give room to
breathe, will rise panting in the agony, yea fury of their need, and
cry, 'If we may neither eat nor lie down by their leave, lo, we are
strong! let us take what they will not give! If we die we but die!'
Then shall there be blood to the knees of the fighting men, yea, to
the horses' bridles; and the earth shall be left desolate because of
you, foul feeders on the flesh and blood, on the bodies and souls of
men! In the pit of hell you will find room enough, but no drop of
water; and it will comfort you little that ye lived merrily among
pining men! Which of us has coveted your silver or your gold? Which
of us has stretched out the hand to take of your wheat or your
barley? All we ask is room to live! But because ye would see the
dust of the earth on the head of the poor, ye have crushed and
straitened us till we are ready to cry out, 'God, for thy mercy's
sake, let us die, lest we be guilty of our own blood!'"

A solitary man had come down the hill behind, and stood alone
listening. It was the mover of the wickedness. In the old time the
rights of the people in the land were fully recognized; but when the
chiefs of Clanruadh sold it, they could not indeed sell the rights
that were not theirs, but they forgot to secure them for the helpless,
and they were now in the grasp of the selfish and greedy, the
devourers of the poor. He did not understand a word the woman was
saying, but he was pleased to look on her rage, and see the man who
had insulted him suffer with her. When he began to note the glances
of lurid fire which every now and then turned upon him during
Mistress Conal's speech, he scorned the indication: such poor
creatures dared venture nothing, he thought, against the mere
appearance of law. Under what he counted the chiefs contempt, he had
already grown worse; and the thought that perhaps the great world
might one day look upon him with like contempt, wrought in him
bitterly; he had not the assurance of rectitude which makes contempt
hurtless. He was crueller now than before the chief's letter to his
daughter.

When Mistress Conal saw him, she addressed herself to him directly.
What he would have felt had he understood, I cannot tell. Never in
this life did he know how the weak can despise the strong, how the
poor can scorn the rich!

"Worm!" she said, "uncontent with holding the land, eating the earth
that another may not share! the worms eat but what their bodies will
hold, and thou canst devour but the fill of thy life! The hour is at
hand when the earth will swallow thee, and thy fellow worms will eat
thee, as thou hast eaten men. The possessions of thy brethren thou
hast consumed, so that they are not! The holy and beautiful house of
my fathers,--" She spoke of her poor little cottage, but in the
words lay spiritual fact. "--mock not its poverty!" she went on, as
if forestalling contempt; "for is it not to me a holy house where
the woman lay in the agony whence first I opened my eyes to the sun?
Is it not a holy house where my father prayed morning and evening,
and read the words of grace and comfort? Is it not to me sacred as
the cottage at Nazareth to the poor man who lived there with his
peasants? And is not that a beautiful house in which a woman's ear
did first listen to the words of love? Old and despised I am, but
once I was younger than any of you, and ye will be old and decrepit
as I, if the curse of God do not cut you off too soon. My Alister
would have taken any two of you and knocked your heads together. He
died fighting for his country; and for his sake the voice of man's
love has never again entered my heart! I knew a true man, and could
be true also. Would to God I were with him! You man-trapping,
land-reaving, house-burning Sasunnach, do your worst! I care not."
She ceased, and the spell was broken. "Come, come!" said one of the
men impatiently. "Tom, you get a peat, and set it on the top of the
wall, under the roof. You, too, George!--and be quick. Peats all
around! there are plenty on the hearth!--How's the wind
blowing?--You, Henry, make a few holes in the wall here, outside,
and we'll set live peats in them. It's time there was an end to
this!"

"You're right; but there's a better way to end it!" returned one of
the clan, and gave him a shove that sent him to the ground.

"Men, do your duty!" cried Mr. Palmer from behind. "_I_ am here--to
see you do it! Never mind the old woman! Of course she thinks it
hard; but hard things have got to be done! it's the way of the
world, and all for the best."

"Mr. Palmer," said another of the clan, "the old woman has the right
of you: she and hers have lived there, in that cottage, for nigh a
hundred years."

"She has no right. If she thinks she has, let her go to the law for
it. In the meantime I choose to turn her off my land. What's mine's
mine, as I mean every man jack of you to know--chief and beggar!"

The Macruadh walked up to him.

"Pardon me, sir," he said: "I doubt much if you have a legal right
to disturb the poor woman. She has never paid rent for her hut, and
it has always been looked upon as her property."

"Then the chief that sold it swindled both me and her!" stammered
Mr. Palmer, white with rage. "But as for you who call yourself a
chief, you are the most insolent, ill-bred fellow I ever had to do
with, and I have not another word to say to you!"

A silence like that before a thunderstorm succeeded: not a man of
the clan could for the moment trust his hearing. But there is
nothing the Celtic nature resents like rudeness: half a dozen at
once of the Macruadhs rushed upon the insulter of their chief,
intent on his punishment.

"One of you touch him," cried Alister, "and I will knock him down. I
would if he were my foster-brother!"

Each eager assailant stood like a block.

"Finish your work, men!" shouted Mr. Palmer.

To do him justice, he was no coward.

"Clansmen," said the chief, "let him have his way. I do not see how
to resist the wrong without bringing more evil upon us than we can
meet. We must leave it to him who says 'Vengeance is mine.'"

The Macruadhs murmured their obedience, and stood sullenly looking
on. The disseizors went into the hut, and carried out the last of
the fuel. Then they scooped holes in the turf walls, inside to
leeward, outside to windward, and taking live peats from the hearth,
put them in the holes. A few minutes, and poor Nannie's "holy and
beautiful house" was a great fire.

When they began to apply the peats, Alister would at once have taken
the old woman away, but he dreaded an outbreak, and lingered. When
the fire began to run up the roof, Mistress Conal broke from him,
and darted to the door. Every one rushed to seize her, Mr. Palmer
with the rest.

"Blackie! Blackie! Blackie!" she shrieked like a madwoman.

While the men encumbered each other in their endeavours to get her
away, down shot the cat from the blazing roof, a fizz of fire in his
black fur, his tail as thick as his neck, an infernal howling
screech of hatred in his horrible throat, and, wild with rage and
fear, flung himself straight upon Mr. Palmer. A roar of delighted
laughter burst forth. He bawled out--and his bawl was mingled with a
scream--to take the brute off him, and his own men hurried to his
rescue; but the fury-frantic animal had dug his claws and teeth into
his face, and clung to him so that they had to choke him off. The
chief caught up Mistress Conal and carried her away: there was no
danger of any one hurting Mr. Palmer now!

He bore her on one arm like a child, and indeed she was not much
heavier. But she kept her face turned and her eyes fixed on her
burning home, and leaning over the shoulder of the chief, poured
out, as he carried her farther and farther from the scene of the
outrage, a flood of maledictory prophecy against the doers of the
deed. The laird said never a word, never looked behind him, while
she, almost tumbling down his back as she cursed with outstretched
arms, deafened him with her raging. He walked steadily down the path
to the road, where he stepped into the midst of her goods and
chattels. The sight of them diverted a little the current of her
wrath.

"Where are you going, Macruadh?" she cried, as he walked on. "See
you not my property lying to the hand of the thief? Know you not
that the greedy Sasunnach will sweep everything away!"

"I can't carry them and you too, Mistress Conal!" said the chief
gayly.

"Set me down then. Who ever asked you to carry me! And where would
you be carrying me? My place is with my things!"

"Your place is with me, Mistress Conal! I belong to you, and you
belong to me, and I am taking you home to my mother."

At the word, silence fell, not on the lips, but on the soul of the
raving prophetess: the chief she loved, his mother she feared.

"Set me down, Macruadh!" she pleaded in gentle tone. "Don't carry me
to her empty-handed! Set me down straight; I will load my back with
my goods, and bear them to my lady, and throw them at her feet."

"As soon as we get to the cottage," said the chief, striding on with
his reluctant burden, "I will send up two men with wheelbarrows to
bring them home."

"HOME, said you?" cried the old woman, and burst into the tearless
wailing of a child; "there is a home for me no more! My house was
all that was left me of my people, and it is your own that make a
house a home! In the long winter nights, when I sat by the fire and
heard the wind howl, and the snow pat, pat like the small hands of
my little brothers on the window, my heart grew glad within me, and
the dead came back to my soul! When I took the book, I heard the
spirit of my father reading through my own lips! And oh, my mother!
my mother!"

She ceased as if in despair.

"Surely, Nannie, you will be at home with your chief!" said Alister.
"My house is your house now, and your dead will come to it and be
welcome!"

"It is their chief's house, and they will!" she returned hopefully.
"They loved their chief.--Shall we not make a fine clan when we're
all gathered, we Macmadhs! Man nor woman can say I did anything to
disgrace it!"

"Lest we should disgrace it," answered the chief, "we must bear with
patience what is sent upon it."

He carried her into the drawing-room and told her story, then stood,
to the delighted amusement of his mother, with his little old sister
in his arms, waiting her orders, like a big boy carrying the baby,
who now and then moaned a little, but did not speak.

Mrs. Macruadh called Nancy, and told her to bring the tea-tray, and
then, get ready for Mistress Conal the room next Nancy's own, that
she might be near to wait on her; and thither, when warmed and fed,
the chief carried her.

But the terrible excitement had so thinned the mainspring of her
time-watch, that it soon broke. She did not live many weeks. From
the first she sank into great dejection, and her mind wandered. She
said her father never came to see her now; that he was displeased
with her for leaving the house; and that she knew now she ought to
have stayed and been burned in it. The chief reminded her that she
had no choice, but had been carried bodily away.

"Yes, yes," she answered; "but they do not know that! I must make
haste and tell them! Who can bear her own people to think ill of
her!--I'm coming! I'm coming! I'll tell you all about it! I'm an
honest woman yet!"

Another thing troubled her sorely, for which she would hear no
consolation; Blackie had vanished!--whether he was killed at the
time of his onslaught on Mr. Palmer, or was afterwards shot;
whether, disgusted with the treatment of his old home, or the memory
of what he had there suffered, he had fled the strath, and gone to
the wild cats among the hills, or back to the place which some
averred he came from, no one could tell. In her wanderings she
talked more of her cat than of anything else, and would say things
that with some would have gone far to justify the belief that the
animal was by nature on familiar terms with the element which had
yet driven him from his temporary home.

Nancy was more than uneasy at having the witch so near, but by no
means neglected her duty to her. One night she woke, and had for
some time lain listening whether she stirred or not, when suddenly
quavered through the dark the most horrible cat-cry she had ever
heard. In abject terror she covered her head, and lay shuddering.
The cry came again, and kept coming at regular intervals, but
drawing nearer and nearer. Its expression was of intense and
increasing pain. The creature whence it issued seemed to come close
to the house, then with difficulty to scramble up on the roof, where
it went on yowling, and screeching, and throwing itself about as if
tying itself in knots, Nancy said, until at last it gave a great
choking, gobbling scream, and fell to the ground, after which all
was quiet. Persuading herself it was only a cat, she tried to sleep,
and at length succeeded. When she woke in the morning, the first
thing she did was to go out, fully expecting to find the cat lying
at the foot of the wall. No cat was there. She went then as usual to
attend to the old woman. Mistress Conal was dead and cold.

The clan followed her body to the grave, and the black cat was never
seen.



CHAPTER IX

THE MARCHES.


It was plainly of no use for the chief to attempt mollifying Mr.
Palmer. So long as it was possible for him to be what he was, it
must be impossible for him to understand the conscience that
compelled the chief to refuse participation in the results of his
life. Where a man's own conscience is content, how shall he listen
to the remonstrance of another man's! But even if he could have
understood that the offence was unavoidable, that would rather have
increased than diminished the pain of the hurt; as it was, the
chief's determination must seem to Mr. Palmer an unprovoked insult!
Thus reflecting, Alister tried all he could to be fair to the man
whom he had driven to cut his acquaintance.

It was now a lonely time for Alister, lonelier than any ever before.
Ian was not within reach even by letter; Mercy was shut up from him:
he had not seen or heard from her since writing his explanation; and
his mother did not sympathize with his dearest earthly desire: she
would be greatly relieved, yea heartily glad, if Mercy was denied
him! She loved Ian more than the chief, yet could have better borne
to see him the husband of Mercy; what was wanting to the equality of
her love was in this regard more than balanced by her respect for
the chief of the clan and head of the family. Alister's light was
thus left to burn in very darkness, that it might burn the better;
for as strength is made perfect through weakness, so does the light,
within grow by darkness. It was the people that sat in darkness that
saw a great light. He was brought closer than ever to first
principles; had to think and judge more than ever of the right thing
to do--first of all, the right thing with regard to Mercy. Of giving
her up, there was of course no thought; so long as she would be his,
he was hers as entirely as the bonds of any marriage could make him!
But she owed something to her father! and of all men the patriarchal
chief was the last to dare interfere with the RIGHTS of a father.
BUT THEY MUST BE RIGHTS, not rights turned into, or founded upon
wrongs. With the first in acknowledging true, he would not be with
the last even, in yielding to false rights! The question was, what
were the rights of a father? One thing was clear, that it was the
duty, therefore the right of a father, to prevent his child from
giving herself away before she could know what she did; and Mercy
was not yet of age. That one woman might be capable of knowing at
fifteen, and another not at fifty, left untouched the necessity for
fixing a limit. It was his own duty and right, on the other hand, to
do what he could to prevent her from being in any way deceived
concerning him. It was essential that nothing should be done,
resolved, or yielded, by the girl, through any misunderstanding he
could forestall, or because of any falsehood he could frustrate. He
must therefore contrive to hold some communication with her!

First of all, however, he must learn how she was treated! It was not
only in fiction or the ancient clan-histories that tyrannical and
cruel things were done! A tragedy is even more a tragedy that it has
not much diversity of incident, that it is acted in commonplace
surroundings, and that the agents of it are commonplace persons--fathers
and mothers acting from the best of low or selfish motives.
Where either Mammon or Society is worshipped, in love, longing, or
fear, there is room for any falsehood, any cruelty, any suffering.

There were several of the clan employed about the New House of whom
Alister might have sought information; but he was of another
construction from the man of fashion in the old plays, whose first
love-strategy is always to bribe the lady's maid: the chief scorned
to learn anything through those of a man's own household. He fired a
gun, and ran up a flag on the old castle, which brought Rob of the
Angels at full speed, and comforted the heart of Mercy sitting
disconsolate at her window: it was her chiefs doing, and might have
to do with her!

Having told Rob the state of matters between him and the New House--

"I need not desire you, Rob," he concluded, "to be silent! You may
of course let your father know, but never a soul besides. From this
moment, every hour your father does not actually need you, be
somewhere on the hills where you can see the New House. I want to
learn first whether she goes out at all. With the dark you must draw
nearer the house. But I will have no questioning of the servants or
anyone employed about it; I will never use a man's pay to thwart his
plans, nor yet make any man even unconsciously a traitor."

Rob understood and departed; but before he had news for his master
an event occurred which superseded his service.

The neighbours, Mr. Peregrine Palmer and Mr. Brander, had begun to
enclose their joint estates for a deer-forest, and had engaged men
to act as curators. They were from the neighbourhood, but none of
them belonged to Strathruadh, and not one knew the boundaries of the
district they had to patrol; nor indeed were the boundaries
everywhere precisely determined: why should they be, where all was
heather and rock? Until game-sprinkled space grew valuable, who
would care whether this or that lump of limestone, rooted in the
solid earth, were the actual property of the one or the other!
Either would make the other welcome to blast and cart it away!

There was just one person who knew all about the boundaries that was
to be known; he could not in places draw their lines with absolute
assurance, but he had better grounds for his conclusions than anyone
else could have; this was Hector of the Stags. For who so likely to
understand them as he who knew the surface within them as well as
the clay-floor of his own hut? If he did not everywhere know where
the marchline fell, at least he knew perfectly where it ought to
fall.

It happened just at this time that THE MISTRESS told Hector she
would be glad of a deer, intending to cure part for winter use; the
next day, therefore,--the first of Rob of the Angels' secret
service--he stalked one across the hill-farm, got a shot at it near
the cave-house, brought it down, and was busy breaking it, when two
men who had come creeping up behind, threw themselves upon him, and
managed, well for themselves, to secure him before he had a chance
of defending himself. Finding he was deaf and dumb, one of them knew
who he must be, and would have let him go; but the other, eager to
ingratiate himself with the new laird, used such, argument to the
contrary as prevailed with his companion, and they set out for the
New House, Hector between them with his hands tied. Annoyed and
angry at being thus treated like a malefactor, he yet found
amusement in the notion of their mistake. But he found it awkward to
be unable to use that readiest weapon of human defence, the tongue.
If only his EARS AND MOUTH, as he called Rob in their own speech,
had been with him! When he saw, however, where they were taking him,
he was comforted, for Rob was almost certain to see him: wherever he
was, he was watching the New House! He went composedly along with
them therefore, fuming and snorting, not caring to escape.

When Rob caught sight of the three, he could not think how it was
that his father walked so unlike himself. He could not be hurt, for
his step was strong and steady as ever; not the less was there
something of the rhythm gone out of his motion! there was "a broken
music" in his gait! He took the telescope which the chief had lent
him, and turned it upon him. Discovering then that his father's
hands were bound behind his back, fiercest indignation overwhelmed
the soul of Rob of the Angels. His father bound like a criminal!--his
father, the best of men! What could the devils mean? Ah, they were
taking him to the New House! He shut up his telescope, laid it down
by a stone, and bounded to meet them, sharpening his knife on his
hand as he went.

The moment they were near enough, signs, unintelligible to the
keepers, began to pass between the father and son: Rob's meant that
he must let him pass unnoticed; Hector's that he understood. So,
with but the usual salutation of a stranger, Rob passed them. The
same moment he turned, and with one swift sweep of his knife,
severed the bonds of his father. The old man stepped back, and
father and son stood fronting the enemy.

"Now," said Rob, "if you are honest men, stand to it! How dared you
bind Hector of the Stags?"

"Because he is not an honest man," replied one of them.

Rob answered him with a blow. The man made at him, but Hector
stepped between.

"Say that again of my father," cried Rob, "who has no speech to
defend himself, and I will drive my knife into you."

"We are only doing our duty!" said the other. "We came upon him
there cutting up the deer he had just killed on the new laird's
land."

"Who are you to say which is the stranger's, and which the
Macruadh's? Neither my father nor I have ever seen the faces of you
in the country! Will you pretend to know the marches better than my
father, who was born and bred in the heather, and knows every stone
on the face of the hills?"

"We can't help where he was born or what he knows! he was on our
land!"

"He is the Macruadh's keeper, and was on his own land. You will get
yourselves into trouble!"

"We'll take our chance!"

"Take your man then!"

"If he try to escape, I swear by the bones of my grandfather," said
the more inimical of the two, inheritor of a clan-feud with the
Macruadhs, "I will shoot him."

Bob of the Angels burst into a scornful laugh.

"You will! will you?"

"I will not kill him; I don't want to be hanged for him! but I will
empty my shot-barrel into the legs of him! So take your chance; you
are warned!"

They had Hector's gun, and Rob had no weapon but his knife. Nor was
he inclined to use either now he had cooled a little. He turned to
his father. The old man understood perfectly what had passed between
them, and signed to Rob that he would go on to the New House, and
Rob might run and let the chief know what had happened. The same
thing was in Rob's mind, for he saw how it would favour the desires
of his chief, bringing them all naturally about the place. But he
must first go with his father on the chance of learning something.

"We will go with you," he said.

"We don't want YOU!"

"But I mean to go!--My father is not able to speak for himself!"

"You know nothing."

"I know what he knows. The lie does not grow in our strath."

"You crow high, my cock!"

"No higher than I strike," answered Rob.

In the eyes of the men Rob was small and weak; but there was
something in him notwithstanding that looked dangerous, and, though
far from cowards, they thought it as well to leave him alone.

Mercy at her window, where was her usual seat now, saw them coming,
and instinctively connected their appearance with her father's new
measures of protection; and when the men turned toward the kitchen,
she ran down to learn what she could. Rob greeted her with a smile
as he entered.

"I am going to fetch the Macruadh," he whispered, and turning went
out again.

He told the chief that at the word her face lighted up as with the
rise of the moon.

One of the maids went and told her master that they had got a
poacher in the kitchen.

Mr. Palmer's eyes lightened under his black brows when he saw the
captive, whom he knew by sight and by report. His men told him the
story their own way, never hinting a doubt as to whose was the land
on which the deer had been killed.

"Where is the nearest magistrate?" he inquired with grand severity.

"The nearest is the Macruadh, sir!" answered a highlander who had
come from work in the garden to see what was going on.

"I cannot apply to him; the fellow is one of his own men!"

"The Macruadh does what is just!" rejoined the man.

His master vouchsafed him no reply. He would not show his wrath
against the chief: it would be undignified!

"Take him to the tool-house, and lock him up till I think what to do
with him. Bring me the key."

The butler led the way, and Hector followed between his captors.
They might have been showing him to his bed-room, so calm was he:
Bob gone to fetch the chief, his imprisonment could not last!--and
for the indignity, was he not in the right!

As Mr. Palmer left the kitchen, his eye fell on Mercy.

"Go to your room," he said angrily, and turned from her.

She obeyed in silence, consoling herself that from her window she
could see the arrival of the chief. Nor had she watched long when
she saw him coming along the road with Rob. At the gate she lost
sight of them. Presently she heard voices in the hall, and crept
down the stair far enough to hear.

"I could commit you for a breach of the peace, Mr. Palmer," she
heard the chief say. "You ought to have brought the man to me. As a
magistrate I order his release. But I give my word he shall be
forthcoming when legally required."

"Your word is no bail. The man was taken poaching; I have him, and I
will keep him."

"Let me see him then, that I may learn from himself where he shot
the deer."

"He shall go before Mr. Brander."

"Then I beg you will take him at once. I will go with him. But
listen a moment, Mr. Palmer. When this same man, my keeper, took
your guest poaching on my ground, I let Mr. Sercombe go. I could
have committed him as you would commit Hector. I ask you in return
to let Hector go. Being deaf and dumb, and the hills the joy of his
life, confinement will be terrible to him."

"I will do nothing of the kind. You could never have committed a
gentleman for a mistake. This is quite a different thing!"

"It is a different thing, for Hector cannot have made a mistake. He
could not have followed a deer on to your ground without knowing
it!"

"I make no question of that!"

"He says he was not on your property."

"Says!"

"He is not a man to lie!"

Mr. Palmer smiled.

"Once more I pray you, let us see him together."

"You shall not see him."

"Then take him at once before Mr. Brander."

"Mr. Brander is not at home."

"Take him before SOME magistrate--I care not who. There is Mr.
Chisholm!"

"I will take him when and where it suits me."

"Then as a magistrate I will set him at liberty. I am sorry to make
myself unpleasant to you. Of all things I would have avoided it. But
I cannot let the man suffer unjustly. Where have you put him?"

"Where you will not find him."

"He is one of my people; I must have him!"

"Your people! A set of idle, poaching fellows! By heaven, the strath
shall be rid of the pack of them before another year is out!"

"While I have land in it with room for them to stand upon, the
strath shall not be rid of them!--But this is idle! Where have you
put Hector of the Stags?"

Mr. Palmer laughed.

"In safe keeping. There is no occasion to be uneasy about him! He
shall have plenty to eat and drink, be well punished, and show the
rest of the rascals the way out of the country!"

"Then I must find him! You compel me!"

So saying, the chief, with intent to begin his search at the top of
the house in the hope of seeing Mercy, darted up the stair. She
heard him coming, went a few steps higher, and waited. On the
landing he saw her, white, with flashing eyes. Their hands clasped
each other--for a moment only, but the moment was of eternity, not
of time.

"You will find Hector in the tool-house," she said aloud.

"You shameless hussey!" cried her father, following the chief in a
fury.

Mercy ran up the stair. The chief turned and faced Mr. Palmer.

"You have no business in my house!"

"I have the right of a magistrate."

"You have no right. Leave it at once."

"Allow me to pass."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself--making a girl turn traitor to
her own father!"

"You ought to be proud of a daughter with the conscience and courage
to turn against you!"

The chief passed Mr. Palmer, and running down the stair, joined Rob
of the Angels where he stood at the door in a group composed of the
keepers and most of the servants.

"Do you know the tool-house?" he said to Rob.

"Yes, Macruadh."

"Lead the way then. Your father is there."

"On no account let them open the door," cried Mr. Palmer. "They may
hold through it what communication they please."

"You will not be saying much to a deaf man through inch boards!"
remarked the clansman from the garden.

Mr. Palmer hurried after them, and his men followed.

Alister found the door fast and solid, without handle. He turned a
look on his companion, and was about to run his weight against the
lock.

"It is too strong," said Rob. "Hector of the Stags must open it!"

"But how? You cannot even let him know what you want!"

Rob gave a smile, and going up to the door, laid himself against it,
as close as he could stand, with his face upon it, and so stood
silent.

Mr. Palmer coming up with his attendants, all stood for a few
moments in silence, wondering at Rob: he must be holding
communication with his father--but how?

Sounds began inside--first a tumbling of tools about, then an attack
on the lock.

"Come! come! this won't do!" said Mr. Palmer, approaching the door.

"Prevent it then," said the chief. "Do what you will you cannot make
him hear you, and while the door is between you, he cannot see you!
If you do not open it, he will!"

"Run," said Mr. Palmer to the butler; "you will find the key on my
table! I don't want the lock ruined!"

But there was no stopping the thing! Before the butler came back,
the lock fell, the door opened, and out came Hector, wiping his brow
with his sleeve, and looking as if he enjoyed the fun.

The keepers darted forward.

"Stand off!" said the chief stepping between. "I don't want to hurt
you, but if you attempt to lay hands on him, I will."

One of the men dodged round, and laid hold of Hector from behind;
the other made a move towards him in front. Hector stood motionless
for an instant, watching his chief, but when he saw him knock down
the man before him, he had his own assailant by the throat in an
instant, gave him a shake, and threw him beside his companion.

"You shall suffer for this, Macruadh!" cried Mr. Palmer, coming
close up to him, and speaking in a low, determined tone, carrying a
conviction of unchangeableness.

"Better leave what may not be the worst alone!" returned the chief.
"It is of no use telling you how sorry I am to have to make myself
disagreeable to you; but I give you fair warning that I will accept
no refusal of the hand of your daughter from any but herself. As you
have chosen to break with me, I accept your declaration of war, and
tell you plainly I will do all I can to win your daughter, never
asking your leave in respect of anything I may think it well to do.
You will find there are stronger forces in the world than money.
Henceforward I hold myself clear of any personal obligation to you
except as Mercy's father and my enemy."

From very rage Mr. Palmer was incapable of answering him. Alister
turned from him, and in his excitement mechanically followed Rob,
who was turning a corner of the house. It was not the way to the
gate, but Rob had seen Mercy peeping round that same corner--anxious
in truth about her father; she feared nothing for Alister.

He came at once upon Mercy and Rob talking together. Rob withdrew
and joined his father a little way off; they retired a few more
paces, and stood waiting their chief's orders.

"How AM I to see you again, Mercy?" said the chief hurriedly. "Can't
you think of some way? Think quick."

Now Mercy, as she sat alone at her window, had not unfrequently
imagined the chief standing below on the walk, or just beyond in the
belt of shrubbery; and now once more in her mind's eye suddenly
seeing him there, she answered hurriedly,

"Come under my window to-night."

"I do not know which it is."

"You see it from the castle. I will put a candle in it."

"What hour?"

"ANY time after midnight. I will sit there till you come."

"Thank you," said the chief, and departed with his attendants.

Mercy hastened into the house by a back door, but had to cross the
hall to reach the stair. As she ran up, her father came in at the
front door, saw her, and called her. She went down again to meet the
tempest of his rage, which now broke upon her in gathered fury. He
called her a treacherous, unnatural child, with every name he
thought bad enough to characterize her conduct. Had she been to him
as Began or Goneril, he could hardly have found worse names for her.
She stood pale, but looked him in the face. Her mother came
trembling as near as she dared, withered by her terror to almost
twice her age. Mr. Palmer in his fury took a step towards Mercy as
if he would strike her. Mercy did not move a muscle, but stood ready
for the blow. Then love overcame her fear, and the wife and mother
threw herself between, her arms round her husband, as if rather to
protect him from the deed than her daughter from its hurt.

"Go to your room, Mercy," she said.

Mercy turned and went. She could not understand herself. She used to
be afraid of her father when she knew no reason; now that all the
bad in his nature and breeding took form and utterance, she found
herself calm! But the thing that quieted her was in reality her
sorrow that he should carry himself so wildly. What she thought was,
if the mere sense of not being in the wrong made one able to endure
so much, what must not the truth's sake enable one to bear! She sat
down at her window to gaze and brood.

When her father cooled down, he was annoyed with himself, not that
he had been unjust, but that he had behaved with so little dignity.
With brows black as evil, he sat degraded in his own eyes, resenting
the degradation on his daughter. Every time he thought of her, new
rage arose in his heart. He had been proud of his family autocracy.
So seldom had it been necessary to enforce his authority, that he
never doubted his wishes had but to be known to be obeyed. Born
tyrannical, the characterless submission of his wife had nourished
the tyrannical in him. Now, all at once, a daughter, the ugly one,
from whom no credit was to be looked for, dared to defy him for a
clown figuring in a worn-out rag of chieftainship--the musty
fiction of a clan--half a dozen shepherds, crofters, weavers, and
shoemakers, not the shadow of a gentleman among them!--a man who ate
brose, went with bare knees, worked like any hind, and did not dare
offend his wretched relations by calling his paltry farm his
own!--for the sake of such a fellow, with a highland twang that
disgusted his fastidious ear, his own daughter made a mock of his
authority, treated him as a nobody! In his own house she had risen
against him, and betrayed him to the insults of his enemy! His
conscious importance, partly from doubt in itself, boiled and fumed,
bubbled and steamed in the caldron of his angry brain. Not one, but
many suns would go down upon such a wrath!

"I wish I might never set eyes on the girl again!" he said to his
wife. "A small enough loss the sight of her would be, the ugly,
common-looking thing! I beg you will save me from it in future as
much as you can. She makes me feel as if I should go out of my
mind!--so calm, forsooth! so meek! so self-sufficient!--oh, quite a
saint!--and so strong-minded!--equal to throwing her father over
for a fellow she never saw till a year ago!"

"She shall have her dinner sent up to her as usual," answered his
wife with a sigh. "But, really, Peregrine, my dear, you must compose
yourself! Love has driven many a woman to extremes!"

"Love! Why should she love such a fellow? I see nothing in him to
love! WHY should she love him? Tell me that! Give me one good reason
for her folly, and I will forgive her--do anything for her!--anything
but let her have the rascal! That I WILL NOT! Take for your
son-in-law an ape that loathes your money, calls it filthy
lucre--and means it! Not if I can help it!--Don't let me see her! I
shall come to hate her! and that I would rather not; a man must love
and cherish his own flesh! I shall go away, I must!--to get rid of
the hateful face of the minx, with its selfrighteous, injured look
staring at you!"

"If you do, you can't expect me to prevent her from seeing him!"

"Lock her up in the coal-hole--bury her if you like! I shall never
ask what you have done with her! Never to see her again is all I
care about!"

"Ah, if she were really dead, you would want to see her again--after
a while!"

"I wish then she was dead, that I might want to see her again! It
won't be sooner! Ten times rather than know her married to that
beast, I would see her dead and buried!"

The mother held her peace. He did not mean it, she said to herself.
It was only his anger! But he did mean it; at that moment he would
with joy have heard the earth fall on her coffin.

Notwithstanding her faculty for shutting out the painful, her
persistent self-assuring that it would blow over, and her confidence
that things would by and by resume their course, Mrs. Palmer was in
those days very unhappy. The former quiet once restored, she would
take Mercy in hand, and reasoning with her, soon persuade her to
what she pleased! It was her husband's severity that had brought it
to this!

The accomplice of her husband, she did not understand that influence
works only between such as inhabit the same spiritual sphere: the
daughter had been lifted into a region far above all the arguments
of her mother--arguments poor in life, and base in reach.



CHAPTER X

MIDNIGHT.


Mercy sat alone but not lonely at her window. A joy in her heart
made her independent for the time of human intercourse. Life at the
moment was livable without it, for there was no bar between her and
her lover.

The evening drew on. They sent her food. She forgot to eat it, and
sat looking, till the lines of the horizon seemed grown into her
mind like an etching. She watched the slow dusk swell and
gather--with such delicate, soft-blending gradations in the birth of
night as Edwin Waugh loves to seize and word-paint. Through all its
fine evanescent change of thought and feeling she watched
unconsciously; and the growth, death, and burial of that twilight
were ever after a substratum to all the sadness and all the hope
that visited her. Through palest eastern rose, through silvery gold
and golden green and brown, the daylight passed into the shadow of
the light, and the stars, like hope in despair, began to show
themselves where they always were, and the night came on, and deeper
and deeper sank the silence. Household sound expired, and no step
came near her door. Her father had given orders, and was obeyed.
Christina has stolen indeed from her own room and listened at hers,
but hearing nor sound nor motion, had concluded it better for Mercy
as well as safer for herself, to return. So she sat the sole wakeful
thing in the house, for even her father slept.

The earth had grown vague and dim, looking as it must look to the
dead. Its oppressive solidity, its obtrusive HERENESS, dissolved in
the dark, it left the soul to live its own life. She could still
trace the meeting of earth and sky, each the evidence of the other,
but the earth was content to be and not assert, and the sky lived
only in the points of light that dotted its vaulted quiet. Sound
itself seemed asleep, and filling the air with the repose of its
slumber. Absolute silence the soul cannot grasp; therefore deepest
silence seems ever, in Wordsworth's lovely phrase, wandering into
sound, for silence is but the thin shadow of harmony--say rather
creation's ear agape for sound, the waiting matrix of interwoven
melodies, the sphere-bowl standing empty for the wine of the spirit.
There may be yet another reason beyond its too great depth or height
or strength, why we should be deaf to the spheral music; it may be
that the absolute perfection of its harmony can take to our ears but
the shape of silence.

Content and patient, Mercy sat watching.

It was just past midnight, but she had not yet lighted a candle,
when something struck the window as with the soft blow of a moth's
wing. Her heart gave a great leap. She listened breathless. Nothing
followed. It must have been some flying night-thing, though surely
too late in the year for a moth!

It came again! She dared not speak. She softly opened the window.
The darkness had thinned on the horizon, and the half-moon was
lifting a corner above the edge of the world. Something in the
shrubbery answered her shine, and without rustle of branch, quiet as
a ghost, the chief stepped into the open space. Mercy leaned toward
him and said,

"Hush! speak low."

"There is no need to say much," he answered. "I come only to tell
you that, as man may, I am with you always."

"How quietly you came! I did not hear a sound!"

"I have been two hours here in the shrubbery."

"And I not once to suspect it! You might have given me some hint! A
very small one would have been enough! Why did you not let me know?"

"It was not your hour; it is twelve but now; the moon comes to say
so. I came for the luxury of expectation, and the delight of knowing
you better attended than you thought: you knew me with you in
spirit; I was with you in the body too!"

"My chief!" she said softly. "I shall always find you nearer and
better than I was able to think! I know I do not know how good you
are."

"I am good toward you, Mercy! I love you!"

A long silence, save of shining eyes, followed.

"We are waiting for God!" said Alister at length.

"Waiting is loving," answered Mercy.

She leaned out, looking down to her heaven.

The moon had been climbing the sky, veiled in a little cloud. The
cloud vanished, and her light fell on the chief.

"Have you been to a ball?" said Mercy.

"No, Mercy. I doubt if there will be any dancing more in
Strathruadh!"

"Then why are you in court dress?"

"When should a Celt, who of all the world loves radiance and colour,
put on his gay attire? For the multitude, or for the one?"

"Thank you. Is it a compliment?--But after your love, everything
fine seems only natural!"

"In love there are no compliments; truth only walks the sacred path
between the two doors. I will love you as my father loved my mother,
and loves her still."

"I do like to see you shining! It was kind of you to dress for the
moon and me!"

"Whoever loves the truth must love shining things! God is the father
of lights, even of the lights hid in the dark earth--sapphires and
rubies, and all the families of splendour."

"I shall always see you like that!"

"There is one thing I want to say to you, Mercy:--you will not think
me indifferent however long I may be in proposing a definite plan
for our future! We must wait upon God!"

"I shall think nothing you would not have me think. A little while
ago I might have dreamed anything, for I was fast asleep. I was dead
till you waked me. If I were what girls call IN LOVE, I should be
impatient to be with you; but I love you much more than that, and do
not need to be always with you. You have made me able to think, and
I can think about you! I was but a child, and you made a woman of
me!"

"God and Ian did," said Alister.

"Yes, but through you, and I want to be worthy of you. A woman to
whom a man's love was so little comfort that she pined away and died
because she could not be married to him, would not be a wife worthy
of my chief!"

"Then you will always trust me?"

"I will. When one really knows another, then all is safe!"

"How many people do you know?" asked the chief.

She thought a moment, and with a little laugh, replied,

"You."

"Pardon me, Mercy, but I do want to know how your father treats
you!"

"We will not talk about him, please. He is my father!--and so far
yours that you are bound to make what excuse you can for him."

"That I am bound to do, if he were no father to either of us. It is
what God is always doing for us!--only he will never let us off."

"He has had no one to teach him, Alister! and has always been rich,
and accustomed to have his own way! I begin to think one punishment
of making money in a wrong manner is to be prosperous in it!"

"I am sure you are right! But will you be able to bear poverty,
Mercy?"

"Yes," she answered, but so carelessly that she seemed to speak
without having thought.

"You do not know what poverty means!" rejoined Alister. "We may have
to endure much for our people!"

"It means YOU any way, does it not? If you and poverty come
together, welcome you and your friend!--I see I must confess a
thing! Do you remember telling me to read Julius Caesar?"

"Yes."

"Do you remember how Portia gave herself a wound, that she might
prove to her husband she was able to keep a secret?"

"Yes, surely!"

"I have my meals in my room now, so I can do as I please, and I
never eat the nice things dear mother always sends me, but potatoes,
and porridge, and bread and milk."

"What IS that for, Mercy?"

"To show you I am worthy of being poor--able at least to be poor. I
have not once tasted anything VERY nice since the letter that made
my father so angry."

"You darling!"

Of all men a highlander understands independence of the KIND of
food.

"But," continued Alister, "you need not go on with it; I am quite
convinced; and we must take with thanksgiving what God gives us.
Besides, you have to grow yet!"

"Alister! and me like a May-pole!"

"You are tall enough, but we are creatures of three dimensions, and
need more than height. You must eat, or you will certainly be ill!"

"Oh, I eat! But just as you please! Only it wouldn't do me the least
harm so long as you didn't mind! It was as much to prove to myself I
could, as to you! But don't you think it must be nearly time for
people to wake from their first sleep?"

The same instant there was a little noise--like a sob. Mercy
started, and when she looked again Alister had vanished--as
noiselessly as he came. For a moment she sat afraid to move. A wind
came blowing upon her from the window: some one had opened her door!
What if it were her father! She compelled herself to turn her head.
It was something white!--it was Christina! She came to her through
the shadow of the moonlight, put her arms round her, and pressed to
her face a wet cheek. For a moment or two neither spoke.

"I heard a little, Mercy!" sobbed Christina. "Forgive me; I meant no
harm; I only wanted to know if you were awake; I was coming to see
you."

"Thank you, Chrissy! That was good of you!"

"You are a dear!--and so is your chief! I am sorry I scared him! It
made me so miserable to hear you so happy that I could not help it!
Would you mind forgiving me, dear?"

"I don't mind your hearing a bit. I am glad you should know how the
chief loves me!"

"But you must be careful, dear! Papa might pretend to take him for a
robber, and shoot him!"

"Oh, no, Chrissy! He wouldn't do that!"

"I would not be too sure! I hadn't an idea before what papa was
like! Oh what men are, and what they can be! I shall never hold up
my head again!"

With this incoherent speech, to Mercy's astonishment and
consternation she burst into tears. Mercy tried to comfort her, but
did not know how. She had seen for some time that there was a
difference in her, that something was the matter, and wondered
whether she could be missing Ian, but it was merest surmise. Perhaps
now she would tell her!

She was weeping like a child on her shoulder. Presently she began to
tremble. Mercy coaxed her into her bed, and undressing quickly, lay
down beside her, and took her in her arms to make her warm. Before
the morning, with many breaks of sobbing and weeping, Christina had
told Mercy her story.

"I wish you would let me tell the chief!" she said. "He would know
how to comfort you."

"Thank you!" said Christina, with not a little indignation. "I
forgot I was talking to a girl as good as married, who would not
keep my secrets any more than her own!"

She would have arisen at once to go to her own room, and the night
that had brought such joy to Mercy threatened to end very sadly. She
threw her arms round Christina's waist, locked her hands together,
and held her fast.

"Hear me, Chrissy, darling! I am a great big huge brute," she cried.
"But I was only stupid. I would not tell a secret of yours even to
Alister--not for worlds! If I did, he would be nearer despising me
than I should know how to bear. I will not tell him. Did I ever
break my word to you, Chrissy?"

"No, never, Mercy!" responded Christina, and turning she put her
arms round her.

"Besides," she went on, "why should I go to anyone for counsel?
Could I have a better counsellor than Ian? Is he not my friend? Oh,
he is! he is! he said so! he said so!"

The words prefaced another storm of tears.

"He is going to write to me," she sobbed, as soon as she could again
speak.

"Perhaps he will love you yet, Chrissy!"

"No, no; he will never love me that way! For goodness' sake don't
hint at such a thing! I should not be able to write a word to him,
if I thought that! I should feel a wolf in sheep's clothing! I have
done with tricks and pretendings! Ian shall never say to himself, 'I
wish I had not trusted that girl! I thought she was going to be
honest! But what's bred in the bone--!' I declare, Mercy, I should
blush myself out of being to learn he thought of me like that! I
mean to be worthy of his friendship! His friendship is better than
any other man's love! I will be worthy of it!"

The poor girl burst yet again into tears--not so bitter as before,
and ended them all at once with a kiss to Mercy.

"For his sake," she said, "I am going to take care of Alister and
you!"

"Thank you! thank you, Chrissy! Only you must not do anything to
offend papa! It is hard enough on him as it is! I cannot give up the
chief to please him, for he has been a father to my better self; but
we must do nothing to trouble him that we can help!"



CHAPTER XI

SOMETHING STRANGE.


Alister did not feel inclined to go home. The night was more like
Mercy, and he lingered with the night, inhabiting the dream that it
was Mercy's house, and she in the next room. He turned into the
castle, climbed the broken steps, and sat on the corner of the wall,
the blank hill before him, asleep standing, with the New House on
its shoulder, and the moonlight reflected from Mercy's window under
which he had so lately stood. He sat for an hour, and when he came
down, was as much disinclined to go home as before: he could not
rest in his chamber, with no Ian on the other side of its wall! He
went straying down the road, into the valley, along the burnside, up
the steep beyond it, and away to the hill-farm and the tomb.

The moon was with him all the way, but she seemed thinking to
herself rather than talking to him. Why should the strange,
burnt-out old cinder of a satellite be the star of lovers? The
answer lies hid, I suspect, in the mysteries of light reflected.

He wandered along, careless of time, of moonset, star-shine, or
sunrise, brooding on many things in the rayless radiance of his
love, and by the time he reached the tomb, was weary with excitement
and lack of sleep. Taking the key from where it was cunningly
hidden, he unlocked the door and entered.

He started back at sight of a gray-haired old man, seated on one of
the stone chairs, and leaning sadly over the fireless hearth: it
must be his uncle! The same moment he saw it was a ray from the
sinking moon, entering by the small, deep window, and shining feebly
on the chair. He struck a light, kindled the peats on the hearth,
and went for water. Returning from the well he found the house dark
as before; and there was the old man again, cowering over the
extinguished fire! The idea lasted but a moment; once more the level
light of the moon lay cold and gray upon the stone chair! He tried
to laugh at his fancifulness, but did not quite succeed. Several
times on the way up, he had thought of his old uncle: this must have
given the shape to the moonlight and the stone! He made many
attempts to recall the illusion, but in vain. He relighted the fire,
and put on the kettle. Going then for a book to read till the water
boiled, he remembered a letter which, in the excitement of the
afternoon, he had put in his pocket unread, and forgotten. It was
from the family lawyer in Glasgow, informing him that the bank in
which his uncle had deposited the proceeds of his sale of the land,
was in a state of absolute and irrecoverable collapse; there was not
the slightest hope of retrieving any portion of the wreck.

Alister did not jump up and pace the room in the rage of
disappointment; neither did he sit as one stunned and forlorn of
sense. He felt some bitterness in the loss of the hope of making up
to his people for his uncle's wrong; but it was clear that if God
had cared for his having the money, he would have cared that he
should have it. Here was an opportunity for absolute faith and
contentment in the will that looks after all our affairs, the small
as well as the great.

Those who think their affairs too insignificant for God's regard,
will justify themselves in lying crushed under their seeming ruin.
Either we live in the heart of an eternal thought, or we are the
product and sport of that which is lower than we.

"It was evil money!" said the chief to himself; "it was the sale of
a birthright for a mess of pottage! I would have turned it back into
the right channel, the good of my people! but after all, what can
money do? It was discontent with poverty that began the ruin of the
highlands! If the heads of the people had but lived pure, active,
sober, unostentatious lives, satisfied to be poor, poverty would
never have overwhelmed them! The highlands would have made Scotland
great with the greatness of men dignified by high-hearted
contentment, and strong with the strength of men who could do
without!" Therewith it dawned upon Alister how, when he longed to
help his people, his thoughts had always turned, not to God first,
but to the money his uncle had left him. He had trusted in a
fancy--no less a fancy when in his uncle's possession than when cast
into the quicksand of the bank; for trust in money that is, is no
less vain, and is farther from redress, than trust in money that is
not. In God alone can trust repose. His heart had been so faithless
that he did not know it was! He thought he loved God as the first
and last, the beginning, middle, and end of all things, and he had
been trusting, not in God, but in uncertain riches, that is in vile
Mammon! It was a painful and humiliating discovery. "It was well,"
he said, "that my false deity should be taken from me! For my
idolatry perhaps, a good gift has failed to reach my people! I must
be more to them than ever, to make up to them for their loss with
better than money!"

He fell on his knees, and thanked God for the wind that had blown
cold through his spirit, and slain at least one evil thing; and when
he rose, all that was left of his trouble was a lump in his throat,
which melted away as he walked home through the morning air on the
hills. For he could not delay; he must let his mother know their
trouble, and, as one who had already received help from on high,
help her to bear it! If the messenger of Satan had buffeted him, he
had but broken a way for strength!

But at first he could not enjoy as he was wont the glory of the
morning. It troubled him. Would a single note in the song of the
sons of the morning fail because God did or would not do a thing?
Could God deserve less than thanks perfect from any one of his
creatures? That man could not know God who thanked him but for what
men call good things, nor took the evil as from the same love! He
scorned himself, and lifted up his heart. As he reached the brow of
his last descent, the sun rose, and with it his soul arose and
shone, for its light was come, and the glory of the Lord was risen
upon it. "Let God," he said, "take from us what he will: himself he
can only give!" Joyful he went down the hill. God was, and all was
well!



CHAPTER XII

THE POWER OF DARKNESS.


He found his mother at breakfast, wondering what had become of him.

"Are you equal to a bit of bad news, mother?" he asked with a smile.

The mother's thoughts flew instantly to Ian.

"Oh, it's nothing about Ian!" said the chief, answering her look.

Its expression changed; she hoped now it was some fresh obstacle
between him and Mercy.

"No, mother, it is not that either!" said Alister, again answering
her look--with a sad one of his own, for the lack of his mother's
sympathy was the sorest trouble he had. "It is only that uncle's
money is gone--all gone."

She sat silent for a moment, gave a little sigh, and said,

"Well, it will all be over soon! In the meantime things are no worse
than they were! His will be done!"

"I should have liked to make a few friends with the mammon of
unrighteousness before we were turned out naked!"

"We shall have plenty," answered the mother, "--God himself, and a
few beside! If you could make friends with the mammon, you can make
friends without it!"

"Yes, that is happily true! Ian says it was only a lesson for the
wise and prudent with money in their pockets--a lesson suited to
their limited reception!"

As they spoke, Nancy entered.

"Please, laird," she said, "Donal shoemaker is wanting to see you."

"Tell him to come in," answered the chief.

Donal entered and stood up by the door, with his bonnet under his
arm--a little man with puckered face, the puckers radiating from or
centering in the mouth, which he seemed to untie like a money-hag,
and pull open by means of a smile, before he began to speak. The
chief shook hands with him, and asked how he could serve him.

"It will not be to your pleasure to know, Macruadh," said Donal,
humbly declining to sit, "that I have received this day notice to
quit my house and garden!"

The house was a turf-cottage, and the garden might grow two bushels
and a half of potatoes.

"Are you far behind with your rent?"

"Not a quarter, Macruadh."

"Then what does it mean?"

"It means, sir, that Strathruadh is to be given to the red deer, and
the son of man have nowhere to lay his head. I am the first at your
door with my sorrow, but before the day is over you will have--"

Here he named four or five who had received like notice to quit.

"It is a sad business!" said the chief sorrowfully.

"Is it law, sir?"

"It is not easy to say what is law, Donal; certainly it is not
gospel! As a matter of course you will not be without shelter, so
long as I may call stone or turf mine, but things are looking bad!
Things as well as souls are in God's hands however!"

"I learn from the new men on the hills," resumed Donal, "that the
new lairds have conspired to exterminate us. They have discovered,
apparently, that the earth was not made for man, but for rich men
and beasts!" Here the little man paused, and his insignificant face
grew in expression grand. "But the day of the Lord will come," he
went on, "as a thief in the night. Vengeance is his, and he will
know where to give many stripes, and where few.--What would you have
us do, laird?"

"I will go with you to the village."

"No, if you please, sir! Better men will be at your door presently
to put the same question, for they will do nothing without the
Macruadh. We are no more on your land, great is our sorrow, chief,
but we are of your blood, you are our lord, and your will is ours.
You have been a nursing father to us, Macruadh!"

"I would fain be!" answered the chief.

"They will want to know whether these strangers have the right to
turn us out; and if they have not the right to disseize, whether we
have not the right to resist. If you would have us fight, and will
head us, we will fall to a man--for fall we must; we cannot think to
stand before the redcoats."

"No, no, Donal! It is not a question of the truth; that we should be
bound to die for, of course. It is only our rights that are
concerned, and they are not worth dying for. That would be mere
pride, and denial of God who is fighting for us. At least so it
seems at the moment to me!"

"Some of us would fain fight and have done with it, sir!"

The chief could not help smiling with pleasure at the little man's
warlike readiness: he knew it was no empty boast; what there was of
him was good stuff.

"You have a wife and children, Donal!" he said; "what would become
of them if you fell?"

"My sister was turned out in the cold spring," answered Donal, "and
died in Glencalvu! It would be better to die together!"

"But, Donal, none of yours will die of cold, and I can't let you
fight, because the wives and children would all come on my hands,
and I should have too many for my meal! No, we must not fight. We
may have a right to fight, I do not know; but I am sure we have at
least the right to abstain from fighting. Don't let us confound
right and duty, Donal--neither in thing nor in word!"

"Will the law not help us, Macruadh?"

"The law is such a slow coach! our enemies are so rich! and the
lawyers have little love of righteousness! Most of them would see
the dust on our heads to have the picking of our bones! Stick nor
stone would be left us before anything came of it!"

"But, sir," said Donal, "is it the part of brave men to give up
their rights?"

"No man can take from us our rights," answered the chief, "but any
man rich enough may keep us from getting the good of them. I say
again we are not bound to insist on our rights. We may decline to do
so, and that way leave them to God to look after for us."

"God does not always give men their rights, sir! I don't believe he
cares about our small matters!"

"Nothing that God does not care about can be worth our caring about.
But, Donal, how dare you say what you do? Have you lived to all
eternity? How do you know what you say? GOD DOES care for our
rights. A day is coming, as you have just said, when he will judge
the oppressors of their brethren."

"We shall be all dead and buried long before then!"

"As he pleases, Donal! He is my chief. I will have what he wills,
not what I should like! A thousand years I will wait for my rights
if he chooses. I will trust him to do splendidly for me. No; I will
have no other way than my chief's! He will set everything straight!"

"You must be right, sir! only I can't help wishing for the old
times, when a man could strike a blow for himself!"

With all who came Alister held similar talk; for though they were
not all so warlike as the cobbler, they keenly felt the wrong that
was done them, and would mostly, but for a doubt of its rectitude,
have opposed force with force. It would at least bring their case
before the country!

"The case is before a higher tribunal," answered the laird; "and
one's country is no incarnation of justice! How could she be, made
up mostly of such as do not love fair play except in the abstract,
or for themselves! The wise thing is to submit to wrong."

It is in ordering our own thoughts and our own actions, that we have
first to stand up for the right; our business is not to protect
ourselves from our neighbour's wrong, but our neighbour from our
wrong. This is to slay evil; the other is to make it multiply. A man
who would pull out even a mote from his brother's eye, must first
pull out the beam from his own eye, must be righteous against his
own selfishness. That is the only way to wound the root of evil. He
who teaches his neighbour to insist on his rights, is not a teacher
of righteousness. He who, by fulfilling his own duties, teaches his
neighbour to give every man the fair play he owes him, is a
fellow-worker with God.

But although not a few of the villagers spoke in wrath and
counselled resistance, not one of them rejoiced in the anticipation
of disorder. Heartily did Rob of the Angels insist on peace, but his
words had the less force that he was puny in person, and, although
capable of great endurance, unnoted for deeds of strength. Evil
birds carried the words of natural and righteous anger to the ears
of the new laird; no good birds bore the words of appeasement: he
concluded after his kind that their chief countenanced a determined
resistance.

On all sides the horizon was dark about the remnant of Clanruadh.
Poorly as they lived in Strathruadh, they knew no place else where
they could live at all. Separated, and so disabled from making
common cause against want, they must perish! But their horizon was
not heaven, and God was beyond it.

It was a great comfort to the chief that in the matter of his clan
his mother agreed with him altogether: to the last penny of their
having they must help their people! Those who feel as if the land
were their own, do fearful wrong to their own souls! What grandest
opportunities of growing divine they lose! Instead of being
man-nobles, leading a sumptuous life until it no longer looks
sumptuous, they might be God-nobles--saviours of men, yielding
themselves to and for their brethren! What friends might they not
make with the mammon of unrighteousness, instead of passing hence
into a region where no doors, no arms will be open to them! Things
are ours that we may use them for all--sometimes that we may
sacrifice them. God had but one precious thing, and he gave that!

The chief, although he saw that the proceedings of Mr. Palmer and
Mr. Brander must have been determined upon while his relation to
Mercy was yet undeclared, could not help imagining how differently
it might have gone with his people, had he been married to Mercy,
and in a good understanding with her father. Had he crippled his
reach toward men by the narrowness of his conscience toward God? So
long as he did what seemed right, he must regret no consequences,
even for the sake of others! God would mind others as well as him!
Every sequence of right, even to the sword and fire, are God's care;
he will justify himself in the eyes of the true, nor heed the
judgment of the false.

One thing was clear--that it would do but harm to beg of Mr. Palmer
any pity for his people: it would but give zest to his rejoicing in
iniquity! Something nevertheless must be determined, and speedily,
for winter was at hand.

The Macruadh had to consider not only the immediate accommodation of
the ejected but how they were to be maintained. Such was his
difficulty that he began to long for such news from Ian as would
justify an exodus from their own country, not the less a land of
bondage, to a home in the wilderness. But ah, what would then the
land of his fathers without its people be to him! It would be no
more worthy the name of land, no longer fit to be called a
possession! He knew then that the true love of the land is one with
the love of its people. To live on it after they were gone, would be
like making a home of the family mausoleum. The rich "pant after the
dust of the earth on the head of the poor," but what would any land
become without the poor in it? The poor are blessed because by their
poverty they are open to divine influences; they are the buckets set
out to catch the rain of heaven; they are the salt of the earth! The
poor are to be always with a nation for its best blessing, or for
its condemnation and ruin. The chief saw the valleys desolate of the
men readiest and ablest to fight the battles of his country. For the
sake of greedy, low-minded fellows, the summons of her war-pipes
would be heard in them no more, or would sound in vain among the
manless rocks; from sheilin, cottage, or clachan, would spring no
kilted warriors with battle response! The red deer and the big sheep
had taken the place of men over countless miles of mountain and moor
and strath! His heart bled for the sufferings and wrongs of those
whose ancestors died to keep the country free that was now expelling
their progeny. But the vengeance had begun to gather, though neither
his generation nor ours has seen it break. It must be that offences
come, but woe unto them by whom they come!



CHAPTER XIII.

THE NEW STANCE.


The Macruadh cast his mind's and his body's eye too upon the small
strip of ground on the west side of the castle-ridge, between it and
the tiny tributary of the strath burn which was here the boundary
between the lands of the two lairds. The slope of the ridge on this
side was not so steep, and before the rock sank into the alluvial
soil of the valley, it became for a few yards nearly level--sufficiently
so, with a little smoothing and raising, to serve for a foundation;
while in front was a narrow but rich piece of ground, the bank of the
little brook. Before many days were over, men were at work there, in
full sight of the upper windows of the New House. It was not at first
clear what they were about; but soon began to rise, plain enough, the
walls of cottages, some of stone, and some of turf; Mr. Palmer saw a
new village already in process of construction, to take the place of
that about to be destroyed! The despicable enemy had moved his camp,
to pitch it under his very walls! It filled him with the rage of
defeat. The poor man who scorned him was going to be too much for
him! Not yet was he any nearer to being placed alone in the midst of
the earth. He thought to have rid himself of all those hateful faces,
full of their chiefs contempt, he imagined, ever eyeing him as an
intruder on his own land; but here instead was their filthy little
hamlet of hovels growing like a fungus just under his nose, expressly
to spite him! Thinking to destroy it, he had merely sent for it!
When the wind was in the east, the smoke of their miserable cabins
would be blown right in at his dining-room windows! It was useless
to expostulate! That he would not like it was of course the chief's
first reason for choosing that one spot as the site of his new
rookery! The fellow had stolen a march upon him! And what had he
done beyond what was absolutely necessary for the improvement of
his property! The people were in his way, and he only wanted to get
rid of them! And here their chief had brought them almost into his
garden! Doubtless if his land had come near enough, he would have
built his sty at the very gate of his shrubbery!--the fellow could
not like having them so near himself!

He let his whole household see how annoying the thing was to him. He
never doubted it was done purely to irritate him. Christina ventured
the suggestion that Mr. Brander and not the chief was the author of
the inconvenience. What did that matter! he returned. What right had
the chief, as she called him, to interfere between a landlord and
his tenants? Christina hinted that, evicted by their landlord, they
ceased to be his tenants, and even were he not their chief, he could
not be said to interfere in giving help to the destitute. Thereupon
he burst at her in a way that terrified her, and she had never even
been checked by him before, had often been impertinent to him
without rebuke. The man seemed entirely changed, but in truth he was
no whit changed: things had but occurred capable of bringing out the
facts of his nature. Her mother, who had not dared to speak at the
time, expostulated with her afterward.

"Why should papa never be told the truth?" objected Christina.

Her mother was on the point of replying, "Because he will not hear
it," but saw she owed it to her husband not to say so to his child.

Mercy said to herself, "It is not to annoy my father he does it, but
to do what he can for his people! He does not even know how
unpleasant it is to my father to have them so near! It must be one
of the punishments of riches that they make the sight of poverty so
disagreeable! To luxury, poverty is a living reproach." She longed
to see Alister: something might perhaps be done to mitigate the
offence. But her father would never consent to use her influence!
Perhaps her mother might!

She suggested therefore that Alister would do nothing for the sake
of annoying her father, and could have no idea how annoying this
thing was to him: if her mother would contrive her seeing him, she
would represent it to him!

Mrs. Palmer was of Mercy's opinion regarding the purity of Alister's
intent, and promised to think the matter over.

The next night her husband was going to spend at Mr. Brander's: the
project might be carried out in safety!

The thing should be done! They would go together, in the hope of
persuading the chief to change the site of his new village!

When it was dark they walked to the cottage, and knocking at the
door, asked Nancy if the chief were at home. The girl invited them
to enter, though not with her usual cordiality; but Mrs. Palmer
declined, requesting her to let the chief know they were there,
desirous of a word with him.

Alister was at the door in a moment, and wanted them to go in and
see his mother, but an instant's reflection made him glad of their
refusal.

"I am so sorry for all that has happened!" said Mrs. Palmer. "You
know I can have had nothing to do with it! There is not a man I
should like for a son-in-law better than yourself, Macruadh; but I
am helpless."

"I quite understand," replied the chief, "and thank you heartily for
your kindness. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Mercy has something she wants to speak to you about."

"It was so good of you to bring her!--What is it, Mercy?"

Without the least hesitation, Mercy told him her father's fancy that
he was building the new village to spite him, seeing it could not be
a pleasure to himself to have the smoke from its chimneys blowing in
at door and windows as often as the wind was from the sea.

"I am sorry but not surprised your father should think so, Mercy. To
trouble him is as much against my feelings as my interests. And
certainly it is for no convenience or comfort to ourselves, that my
mother and I have determined on having the village immediately below
us."

"I thought," said Mercy, "that if you knew how it vexed papa, you
would--But I am afraid it may be for some reason that cannot be
helped!"

"Indeed it is; I too am afraid it cannot be helped! I must think of
my people! You see, if I put them on the other side of the ridge,
they would be exposed to the east wind--and the more that every door
and window would have to be to the east. You know yourselves how
bitterly it blows down the strath! Besides, we should there have to
build over good land much too damp to be healthy, every foot of
which will be wanted to feed them! There they are on the rock. I
might, of course, put them on the hillside, but I have no place so
sheltered as here, and they would have no gardens. And then it gives
me an opportunity, such as chief never had before, of teaching them
some things I could not otherwise. Would it be reasonable, Mercy, to
sacrifice the good of so many poor people to spare one rich man one
single annoyance, which is yet no hurt? Would it be right? Ought I
not rather to suffer the rise of yet greater obstacles between you
and me?"

"Yes, Alister, yes!" cried Mercy. "You must not change anything. I
am only sorry my father cannot be taught that you have no ill will
to him in what you do."

"I cannot think it would make much difference. He will never give
you to me, Mercy. But be true, and God will."

"Would you mind letting the flag fly, Alister? I should have
something to look at!"

"I will; and when I want particularly to see you, I will haul it
down. Then, if you hang a handkerchief from your window, I will come
to you."



CHAPTER XIV

THE PEAT-MOSS.


For the first winter the Clanruadh had not much to fear--hardly more
than usual: they had their small provision of potatoes and meal, and
some a poor trifle of money. But "Lady Macruadh" was anxious lest
the new cottages should not be quite dry, and gave a general order
that fires were to be burned in them for some time before they were
occupied: for this they must use their present stock of dry peats,
and more must be provided for the winter. The available strength of
the clan would be required to get the fresh stock under cover before
the weather broke.

The peat-moss from which they cut their fuel, was at some distance
from the castle, on the outskirts of the hill-farm. It was the
nearest moss to the glen, and the old chief, when he parted with so
much of the land, took care to except it, knowing well that his
remaining people could not without it live through a winter. But as,
of course, his brother, the minister, who succeeded him, and the
present chieftain, had freely allowed all the tenants on the land
sold to supply themselves from it as before, the notion had been
generated that the moss was not part of the chief's remaining
property.

When the report was carried to Mr. Peregrine Palmer, that the
tenants Mr. Brander and he were about to eject, and who were in
consequence affronting him with a new hamlet on the very verge of
his land, were providing themselves with a stock of fuel greatly in
excess of what they had usually laid in for the winter--that in fact
they were cutting large quantities of peat, besides the turf for
their new cottages; without making the smallest inquiry, or
suspecting for a moment that the proceeding might be justifiable, he
determined, after a brief consultation with men who knew nothing but
said anything, to put a stop to the supposed presumption.

A few of the peats cut in the summer had not yet been removed, not
having dried so well as the rest, and the owners of some of these,
two widows, went one day to fetch them home to the new village,
when, as it happened, there were none of the clan besides in the
moss.

They filled their creels, helped each other to get them on their
backs, and were setting out on their weary tramp home, when up rose
two of Mr. Palmer's men, who had been watching them, cut their ropes
and took their loads, emptied the peats into a moss-hag full of
water, and threw the creels after them. The poor women poured out
their wrath on the men, telling them they would go straight to the
chief, but were answered only with mockery of their chief and
themselves. They turned in despair, and with their outcry filled the
hollows of the hills as they went, bemoaning the loss of their peats
and their creels, and raging at the wrong they had received. One of
them, a characterless creature in the eyes of her neighbours,
harmless, and always in want, had faith in her chief, for she had
done nothing to make her ashamed, and would go to him at once: he
had always a word and a smile and a hand-shake for her, she said;
the other, commonly called Craftie, was unwilling: her character did
not stand high, and she feared the face of the Macruadh.

"He does not like me!" said Craftie.

"When a woman is in trouble," said the other, "the Macruadh makes no
questions. You come with me! He will be glad of something to do for
you."

In her confidence she persuaded her companion, and together they
went to the chief.

Having gathered courage to appear, Craftie needed none to speak:
where that was the call, she was never slow to respond.

"Craftie," said the chief, "is what you are telling me true?"

"Ask HER," answered Craftie, who knew that asseveration on her part
was not all-convincing.

"She speaks the truth, Macruadh," said the other. "I will take my
oath to it."

"Your word is enough," replied the chief, "--as Craftie knew when
she brought you with her."

"Please, laird, it was myself brought Craftie; she was not willing
to come!"

"Craftie," said the chief, "I wish I could make a friend of you! But
you know I can't!"

"I do know it, Macruadh, and I am sorry for it, many is the good
time! But my door never had any latch, and the word is out before I
can think to keep it back!"

"And so you send another and another to back the first! Ah, Craftie!
If purgatory don't do something for you, then--!"

"Indeed and I hope I shall fall into it on my way farther, chief!"
said Craftie, who happened to be a catholic.

"But now," resumed the chief, "when will you be going for the rest
of your peats?"

"They're sure to be on the watch for us; and there's no saying what
they mightn't do another time!" was the indirect and hesitating
answer.

"I will go with you."

"When you please, then, chief."

So the next day the poor women went again, and the chief went with
them, their guard and servant. If there were any on the watch, they
did not appear. The Macruadh fished out their creels, and put them
to dry, then helped them to fill those they had borrowed for the
occasion. Returning, he carried now the one, now the other creel, so
that one of the women was always free. The new laird met them on the
road, and recognized with a scornful pleasure the chief bending
under his burden. That was the fellow who would so fain be HIS
son-in-law!

About this time Sercombe and Valentine came again to the New House.
Sercombe, although he had of late had no encouragement from
Christina, was not therefore prepared to give her up, and came "to
press the siege." He found the lady's reception of him so far from
cordial, however, that he could not but suspect some new adverse
influence. He saw too that Mercy was in disgrace; and, as Ian was
gone, concluded there must have been something between them: had the
chief been "trying it on with" Christina? The brute was always
getting in his way! But some chance of serving him out was certain
to turn, up!

For the first suitable day Alister had arranged an expedition from
the village, with all the carts that could be got together, to bring
home as many peats as horses and men and women could together carry.
The company was seen setting out, and report of it carried at once
to Mr. Palmer; for he had set watch on the doings of the clan.
Within half an hour he too set out with the messenger, accompanied
by Sercombe, in grim delight at the prospect of a row. Valentine
went also, willing enough to see what would happen, though with no
ill will toward the chief. They were all furnished as for a day's
shooting, and expected to be joined by some of the keepers on their
way.

The chief, in view of possible assault, had taken care that not one
of his men should have a gun. Even Hector of the Stags he requested
to leave his at home.

They went in little groups, some about the creeping carts, in which
were the older women and younger children, some a good way ahead,
some scattered behind, but the main body attending the chief, who
talked to them as they went. They looked a very poor company, but
God saw past their poverty. The chief himself, save in size and
strength, had not a flourishing appearance. He was very thoughtful:
much lay on his shoulders, and Ian was not there to help! His
clothes, all their clothes were shabby, with a crumpled, blown-about
look--like drifts, in their many faded colours, of autumnal leaves.
They had about them all a forgotten air--looked thin and wan like a
ghostly funeral to the second sight--as if they had walked so long
they had forgotten how to sleep, and the grave would not have them.
Except in their chief, there was nothing left of the martial glance
and gait and show, once so notable in every gathering of the
Clanruadh, when the men were all soldiers born, and the women were
mothers, daughters, and wives of soldiers. Their former stately
grace had vanished from the women; they were weather-worn and bowed
with labour too heavy for their strength, too long for their
endurance; they were weak from lack of fit human food, from lack of
hope, and the dreariness of the outlook, the ever gray spiritual
horizon; they were numbed with the cold that has ceased to be felt,
the deadening sense of life as a weight to be borne, not a strength
to rejoice in. But they were not abject yet; there was one that
loved them--their chief and their friend! Below their level was a
deeper depth, in which, alas, lie many of like heart and, passions
with them, trodden into the mire by Dives and his stewards!

The carts were small, with puny horses, long-tailed and
droop-necked, in harness of more rope than leather. They had a look
of old men, an aspect weirdly venerable, as of life and labour
prolonged after due time, as of creatures kept from the grave and
their last sleep to work a little longer. Scrambling up the steep
places they were like that rare sea-bird which, unable to fly for
shortness of wing, makes of its beak a third leg, to help it up the
cliff: these horses seemed to make fifth legs of their necks and
noses. The chief's horses alone, always at the service of the clan,
looked well fed, well kept, and strong, and the clan was proud of
them.

"And what news is there from Ian?" asked an old man of his chief.

"Not much news yet, but I hope for more soon. It will be so easy to
let you hear all his letters, when we can meet any moment in the
barn!"

"I fear he will be wanting us all to go after the rest!" said one of
the women.

"There might be a worse thing!" answered her neighbour.

"A worse thing than leave the hills where we were born?--No! There
is no worse for me! I trust in God I shall be buried where I grew
up!"

"Then you will leave the hills sure enough!" said the chief.

"Not so sure, Macruadh! We shall rest in our graves till the
resurrection!" said an old man.

"Only our bodies," returned Alister.

"Well, and what will my body be but myself! Much I would make of
myself without my body! I will stay with my body, and let my soul
step about, waiting for me, and craving a shot at the stags with the
big branches! No, I won't be going from my own strath!"

"You would not like to be left in it alone, with none but unfriendly
Sasunnachs about you--not one of your own people to close your
eyes?"

"Indeed it would not be pleasant. But the winds would be the same;
and the hills would be the same; and the smell of the earth would be
the same; and they would be our own worms that came crawling over me
to eat me! No; I won't leave the strath till I die--and I won't
leave it then!"

"That is very well, John!" said the woman; "but if you were all day
with your little ones--all of them all day looking hunger in your
face, you would think it a blessed country wherever it was that gave
you bread to put in their mouths!"

"And how to keep calling this home!" said another. "Why, it will
soon be everywhere a crime to set foot on a hill, for frightening of
the deer! I was walking last month in a part of the county I did not
know, when I came to a wall that went out of my sight, seeming to go
all round a big hill. I said to myself, 'Is no poor man to climb to
heaven any more?' And with that I came to a bill stuck on a post,
which answered me; for it said thus: 'Any well-dressed person, who
will give his word not to leave the path, may have permission to go
to the top of the hill, by applying to--'--I forget the name of the
doorkeeper, but sure he was not of God, seeing his door was not to
let a poor man in, but to keep him out!"

"They do well to starve us before they choke us: we might else fight
when it comes to the air to breathe!"

"Have patience, my sons," said the chief. "God will not forget us."

"What better are we for that? It would be all the same if he did
forget us!" growled a young fellow shambling along without shoes.

"Shame! Shame!" cried several voices. "Has not God left us the
Macruadh? Does he not share everything with us?"

"The best coat in the clan is on his own back!" muttered the lad,
careless whether he were heard or not.

"You scoundrel!" cried another; "yours is a warmer one!"

The chief heard all, and held his peace. It was true he had the best
coat!

"I tell you what," said Donal shoemaker, "if the chief give you the
stick, not one of us will say it was more than you deserved! If he
will put it into my hands, not to defile his own, I will take and
give it with all my heart. Everybody knows you for the idlest
vagabond in the village! Why, the chief with his own hands works ten
times as much!"

"That's how he takes the bread out of my mouth--doing his work
himself!" rejoined the youth, who had been to Glasgow, and thought
he had learned a thing or two.

The chief recovered from his impulse to pull off his coat and give
it him.

"I will make you an offer, my lad," he said instead: "come to the
farm and take my place. For every fair day's work you shall have a
fair day's wages, and, for every bit of idleness, a fair thrashing.
Do you agree?"

The youth pretended to laugh the thing off, but slunk away, and was
seen no more till eating time arrived, and "Lady Macruadh's"
well-filled baskets were opened.

"And who wouldn't see a better coat on his chief!" cried the little
tailor. "I would clip my own to make lappets for his!"

They reached the moss. It lay in a fold of the hills, desert and
dreary, full of great hollows and holes whence the peat had been
taken, now filled with water, black and terrible,--a land hideous by
day, and at night full of danger and lonely horror. Everywhere stood
piles of peats set up to dry, with many openings through and
through, windy drains to gather and remove their moisture. Here and
there was a tuft of dry grass, a bush of heather, or a few
slender-stalked, hoary heads of CANNACH or cotton-grass; it was a
land of devoted desolation, doing nothing for itself, this bountiful
store of life and warmth for the winter-sieged houses of the strath.

They went heartily to work. They cut turf for their walls and peats
for their fires; they loaded the carts from the driest piles, and
made new piles of the fresh wet peats they dug. It was approaching
noon, and some of the old women were getting the food out of "my
lady's" baskets, when over the nearest ridge beyond rose men to the
number of seven, carrying guns. Rob of the Angels was the first to
spy them. He pointed them out to his father, and presently they two
disappeared together. The rest went on with their work, but the
chief could see that, stooping to their labour, they cast upward and
sidelong glances at them, reading hostility in their approach.
Suddenly, as by common consent, they all ceased working, stood
erect, and looked out like men on their guard. But the chief making
them a sign, they resumed their labour as if they saw nothing.

Mr. Peregrine Palmer had laid it upon himself to act with becoming
calmness and dignity. But it would amaze most people to be told how
little their order is self-restraint, their regular conduct their
own--how much of the savage and how little of the civilized man
goes to form their being--how much their decent behaviour is owing
to the moral pressure, like that of the atmosphere, of the laws and
persons and habits and opinions that surround them. Witness how
many, who seemed respectable people at home, become vulgar,
self-indulgent, ruffianly, cruel even, in the wilder parts of the
colonies! No man who has not, through restraint, learned not to need
restraint, but be as well behaved among savages as in society, has
yet become a true man. No perfection of mere civilization kills the
savage in a man: the savage is there all the time till the man pass
through the birth from above. Till then, he is no certain
hiding-place from the wind, no sure covert from the tempest.

Mr. Palmer was in the worst of positions as to protection against
himself. Possessed of large property, he owed his position to evil
and not to good. Not only had he done nothing to raise those through
whom he made his money, but the very making of their money his, was
plunging them deeper and deeper in poverty and vice: his success was
the ruin of many. Yet was he full of his own imagined importance--or
had been full until now that he felt a worm at the root of his
gourd--the contempt of one man for his wealth and position. Well
might such a man hate such another--and the more that his daughter
loved him! All the chief's schemes and ways were founded on such
opposite principles to his own that of necessity they annoyed him at
every point, and, incapable of perceiving their true nature, he
imagined his annoyance their object and end. And now here was his
enemy insolently daring, as Mr. Palmer fully believed, to trespass
in person on his land!

Add to all this, that here Mr. Peregrine Palmer was in a place whose
remoteness lightened the pressure of conventional restraints, while
its wildness tended to rouse all the old savage in him--its very
look suggesting to the city-man its fitness for an unlawful deed for
a lawful end. Persons more RESPECTABLE than Mr. Palmer are capable
of doing the most wicked and lawless things when their selfish sense
of their own right is uppermost. Witness the occasionally iniquitous
judgments of country magistrates in their own interest--how they
drive law even to cruelty!

"Are you not aware you are trespassing on my land, Macruadh?" cried
the new laird, across several holes full of black water which
obstructed his nearer approach.

"On the contrary, Mr. Palmer," replied the chief, "I am perfectly
aware that I am not!"

"You have no right to cut peats there without my permission!"

"I beg your pardon: you have no right to stand where you speak the
words without my permission. But you are quite welcome."

"I am satisfied there is not a word of truth in what you say,"
rejoined Mr. Palmer. "I desire you to order your people away at
once."

"That I cannot do. It would be to require their consent to die of
cold."

"Let them die! What are they to me--or to anybody! Order them off,
or it will be the worse for them--and for you too!"

"Excuse me; I cannot."

"I give you one more warning. Go yourself, and they will follow."

"I will not."

"Go, or I will compel you."

As he spoke, he half raised his gun.

"You dare not!" said the chief, drawing himself up indignantly.

Together Mr. Palmer and Mr. Sercombe raised their guns to their
shoulders, and one of them fired. To give Mr. Palmer the benefit of
a doubt, he was not quite at home with his gun, and would use a
hair-trigger. The same instant each found himself, breath and
consciousness equally scant, floundering, gun and all, in the black
bog water on whose edge he had stood. There now stood Rob of the
Angels, gazing after them into the depth, with the look of an
avenging seraph, his father beside him, grim as a gratified Fate.

Such a roar of rage rose from the clansmen with the shot, and so
many came bounding with sticks and spades over the rough ground,
that the keepers, knowing, if each killed his two men, they would
not after escape with their lives, judged it more prudent to wait
orders. Only Valentine came running in terror to the help of his
father.

"Don't be frightened," said Rob; "we only wanted to wet their
powder!"

"But they'll be drowned!" cried the lad, almost weeping.

"Not a hair of them!" answered Bob. "We'll have them out in a
moment! But please tell your men, if they dare to lift a gun, we'll
serve them the same. It wets the horn, and it cools the man!"

A minute more, and the two men lay coughing and gasping on the
crumbly bank, for in their utter surprizal they had let more of the
nasty soft water inside than was good for them. With his first
breath Sercombe began to swear.

"Drop that, sir, if you please," said Rob, "or in you go again!"

He began to reply with a volley of oaths, but began only, for the
same instant the black water was again choking him. Might Hector of
the Stags have had his way, he would have kept there the murderer of
AN CABRACH MOR till he had to be dived for. Rob on his part was
determined he should not come out until he gave his word that he
would not swear.

"Come! Come!" gasped Sercombe at length, after many attempts to get
out which, the bystanders easily foiled--"you don't mean to drown
me, do you?"

"We mean to drown your bad language. Promise to use no more on this
peat-moss," returned Rob.

"Damn the promise you get from me!" he gasped.

"Men must have patience with a suffering brother!" remarked Bob, and
seated himself, with a few words in Gaelic which drew a hearty laugh
from the men about him, on a heap of turf to watch the unyielding
flounder in the peat-hole, where there was no room to swim. He had
begun to think the man would drown in his contumacy, when his ears
welcomed the despairing words--

"Take me out, and I will promise anything."

He was scarcely able to move till one of the keepers gave him
whisky, but in a few minutes he was crawling homeward after his
host, who, parent of little streams, was doing his best to walk over
rocks and through bogs with the help of Valentine's arm, chattering
rather than muttering something about "proper legal fashion."

In the mean time the chief lay shot in the right arm and chest, but
not dangerously wounded by the scattering lead.

He had lost a good deal of blood, and was faint--a sensation new to
him. The women had done what they could, but that was only binding
his arm, laying him in a dry place, and giving him water. He would
not let them recall the men till the enemy was gone.

When they knew what had happened they were in sad trouble--Rob of
the Angels especially that he had not been quick enough to prevent
the firing of the gun. The chief would have him get the shot out of
his arm with his knife; but Rob, instead, started off at full speed,
running as no man else in the county could run, to fetch the doctor
to the castle.

At the chief's desire, they made a hurried meal, and then resumed
the loading of the carts, preparing one of them for his transport.
When it was half full, they covered the peats with a layer of dry
elastic turf, then made on that a bed of heather, tops uppermost;
and more to please them than that he could not walk, Alister
consented to be laid on this luxurious invalid-carriage, and borne
home over the rough roads like a disabled warrior.

They arrived some time before the doctor.



CHAPTER XV

A DARING VISIT.


Mercy soon learned that some sort of encounter had taken place
between her father's shooting party and some of the clan; also that
the chief was hurt, but not in what manner--for by silent agreement
that was not mentioned: it might seem to put them in the wrong! She
had heard enough, however, to fill her with anxiety. Her window
commanding the ridge by the castle, she seated herself to watch that
point with her opera-glass. When the hill-party came from behind the
ruin, she missed his tall figure amongst his people, and presently
discovered him lying very white on one of the carts. Her heart
became as water within her. But instant contriving how she could
reach him, kept her up.

By and by Christina came to tell her she had just heard from one of
the servants that the Macruadh was shot. Mercy, having seen him
alive, heard the frightful news with tolerable calmness. Christina
said she would do her best to discover before the morning how much
he was hurt; no one in the house seemed able to tell her! Mercy, to
avoid implicating her sister, held her peace as to her own
intention.

As soon as it was dark she prepared to steal from the house,
dreading nothing but prevention. When her dinner was brought her,
and she knew they were all safe in the dining-room, she drew her
plaid over her head, and leaving her food untasted, stole half down
the stair, whence watching her opportunity between the comings and
goings of the waiting servants, she presently got away unseen, crept
softly past the windows, and when out of the shrubbery, darted off
at her full speed. Her breath was all but gone when she knocked at
the drawing-room door of the cottage.

It opened, and there stood the mother of her chief! The moment Mrs.
Macruadh saw her, leaving her no time to say a word, she bore down
upon her like one vessel that would sink another, pushing her from
the door, and pulling it to behind her, stern as righteous Fate.
Mercy was not going to be put down, however: she was doing nothing
wrong!

"How is the Macruadh, please?" she managed to say.

"Alive, but terribly hurt," answered his mother, and would have
borne her out of the open door of the cottage, towards the latch of
which she reached her hand while yet a yard from it. Her action
said, "Why WILL Nancy leave the door open!"

"Please, please, what is it?" panted Mercy, standing her ground.
"How is he hurt?"

She turned upon her almost fiercely.

"This is what YOU have done for him!" she said, with right
ungenerous reproach. "Your father fired at him, on my son's own
land, and shot him in the chest."

"Is he in danger?" gasped Mercy, leaning against the wall, and
trembling so she could scarcely stand.

"I fear he is in GREAT danger. If only the doctor would come!"

"You wouldn't mind my sitting in the kitchen till he does?"
whispered Mercy, her voice all but gone.

"I could not allow it. I will not connive at your coming here
without the knowledge of your parents! It is not at all a proper
thing for a young lady to do!"

"Then I will wait outside!" said Mercy, her quick temper waking in
spite of her anxiety: she had anticipated coldness, but not
treatment like this! "There is one, I think, Mrs. Macruadh," she
added, "who will not find fault with me for it!"

"At least he will not tell you so for some time!"

The door had not been quite closed, and it opened noiselessly.

"She does not mean me, mother," said Alister; "she means Jesus
Christ. He would say to you, LET HER ALONE. He does not care for
Society. Its ways are not his ways, nor its laws his laws. Come in,
Mercy. I am sorry my mother's trouble about me should have made her
inhospitable to you!"

"I cannot come in, Alister, if she will not let me!" answered Mercy.

"Pray walk in!" said Mrs. Macruadh.

She would have passed Mercy, going toward the kitchen, but the
TRANCE was narrow, and Mercy did not move.

"You see, Alister, I cannot!" she insisted. "That would not please,
would it?" she added reverently. "Tell me how you are, and I will
go, and come again to-morrow."

Alister told her what had befallen, making little of the affair, and
saying he suspected it was an accident.

"Oh, thank you!" she said, with a sigh of relief. "I meant to sit by
the castle wall till the doctor came; but now I shall get back
before they discover I am gone."

Without a word more, she turned and ran from the house, and reached
her room unmissed and unseen.

The next was a dreary hour--the most painful that mother and son had
ever passed together. The mother was all this time buttressing her
pride with her grief, and the son was cut to the heart that he
should have had to take part against his mother. But when the doctor
came at length, and the mother saw him take out his instruments, the
pride that parted her from her boy melted away.

"Forgive me, Alister!" she whispered; and his happy kiss comforted
her repentant soul.

When the small operations were over, and Alister was in bed, she
would have gone to let Mercy know all she could tell her. But she
must not: it would work mischief in the house! She sat down by
Alister's bedside, and watched him all night.

He slept well, being in such a healthful condition of body that his
loss of blood, and the presence of the few shot that could not be
found, did him little harm. He yielded to his mother's entreaties to
spend the morning in bed, but was up long before the evening in the
hope of Mercy's coming, confident that his mother would now be like
herself to her. She came; the mother took her in her arms, and
begged her forgiveness; nor, having thus embraced her, could she any
more treat her relation to her son with coldness. If the girl was
ready, as her conduct showed, to leave all for Alister, she had
saved her soul alive, she was no more one of the enemy!

Thus was the mother repaid for her righteous education of her son:
through him her pride received almost a mortal blow, her justice
grew more discriminating, and her righteousness more generous.

In a few days the chief was out, and looking quite himself.



CHAPTER XVI

THE FLITTING.


The time was drawing nigh when the warning of ejection would
doubtless begin to be put in force; and the chief hearing, through
Rob of the Angels, that attempts were making to stir the people up,
determined to render them futile: they must be a trick of the enemy
to get them into trouble! Taking counsel therefore with the best of
the villagers, both women and men, he was confirmed in the idea that
they had better all remove together, before the limit of the
earliest notice was expired. But his councillors agreed with him
that the people should not be told to get themselves in readiness
except at a moment's notice to move. In the meantime he pushed on
their labour at the new village.

In the afternoon preceding the day on which certain of the clan were
to be the first cast out of their homes, the chief went to the
village, and going from house to house, told his people to have
everything in order for flitting that very night, so that in the
morning there should not be an old shoe left behind; and to let no
rumour of their purpose get abroad. They would thus have a good
laugh at the enemy, who was reported to have applied for military
assistance as a precautionary measure. His horses should be ready,
and as soon as it was dark they would begin to cart and carry, and
be snug in their new houses before the morning!

All agreed, and a tumult of preparation began. "Lady Macruadh" came
with help and counsel, and took the children in charge while the
mothers bustled. It was amazing how much had to be done to remove so
small an amount of property. The chief's three carts were first
laden; then the men and women loaded each other. The chief took on
his hack the biggest load of all, except indeed it were Hector's. To
and fro went the carts, and to and fro went the men and women, I
know not how many journeys, upheld by companionship, merriment,
hope, and the clan-mother's plentiful provision of tea, coffee,
milk, bread and butter, cold mutton and ham--luxurious fare to all.
As the sun was rising they closed every door, and walked for the
last time, laden with the last of their goods, out of the place of
their oppression, leaving behind them not a cock to crow, a peat to
burn, or a scrap that was worth stealing--all removed in such order
and silence that not one, even at the New House, had a suspicion of
what was going on. Mercy, indeed, as she sat looking from her window
like Daniel praying toward Jerusalem, her constant custom now, even
when there was no moon to show what lay before her, did think she
heard strange sounds come faintly through the night from the valley
below--even thought she caught shadowy glimpses of a shapeless,
gnome-like train moving along the road; but she only wondered if the
Highlands had suddenly gifted her with the second sight, and these
were the brain-phantasms of coming events. She listened and gazed,
but could not be sure that she heard or saw.

When she looked out in the morning, however, she understood, for the
castle-ridge was almost hidden in the smoke that poured from every
chimney of the new village. Her heart swelled with joy to think of
her chief with all his people under his eyes, and within reach of
his voice. From her window they seemed so many friends gathered to
comfort her solitude, or the camp of an army come to set her free.

Hector and Rob, with one or two more of the clan, hid themselves to
watch those who came to evict the first of the villagers. There were
no military. Two sheriff's officers, a good many constables, and a
few vagabonds, made up the party. Rob's keen eye enabled him to
distinguish the very moment when first they began to be aware of
something unusual about the place; he saw them presently halt and
look at each other as if the duty before them were not altogether
CANNY. At no time would there be many signs of life in the poor
hamlet, but there would always be some sounds of handicraft, some
shuttle or hammer going, some cries of children weeping or at play,
some noises of animals, some ascending smoke, some issuing or
entering shape! They feared an ambush, a sudden onslaught. Warily
they stepped into the place, sharply and warily they looked about
them in the street, slowly and with circumspection they opened door
after door, afraid of what might be lurking behind to pounce upon
them at unawares. Only after searching every house, and discovering
not the smallest sign of the presence of living creature, did they
recognize their fool's-errand. And all the time there was the new
village, smoking hard, under the very windows, as he chose himself
to say, of its chief adversary!



CHAPTER XVII

THE NEW VILLAGE.


The winter came down upon them early, and the chief and his mother
had a sore time of it. Well as they had known it before, the poverty
of their people was far better understood by them now. Unable to
endure the sight of it, and spending more and more to meet it, they
saw it impossible for them to hold out. For a long time their
succour had been draining if not exhausting the poor resources of
the chief; he had borne up in the hope of the money he was so soon
to receive; and now there was none, and the need greater than ever!
He was not troubled, for his faith was simple and strong; but his
faith made him the more desirous of doing his part for the coming
deliverance: faith in God compels and enables a man to be
fellow-worker with God. He was now waiting the judgment of Ian
concerning the prospects of the settlers in that part of Canada to
which he had gone, hoping it might help him to some resolve in view
of the worse difficulties at hand.

In the meantime the clan was more comfortable, and passed the winter
more happily, than for many years. First of all, they had access to
the chief at any moment. Then he had prepared a room in his own
house where were always fire and light for such as would read what
books he was able to lend them, or play at quiet games. To them its
humble arrangements were sumptuous. And best of all, he would, in
the long dark fore-nights, as the lowland Scotch call them, read
aloud, at one time in Gaelic, at another in English, things that
gave them great delight. Donal shoemaker was filled with joy
unutterable by the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If only this state
of things could be kept up--with Ian back, and Mercy married to the
chief! thought the mother. But it was not to be; that grew plainer
every day.

Mr. Palmer would gladly have spent his winter elsewhere, leaving his
family behind him; but as things were, he could not leave them, and
as certain other things were, he did not care to take them to
London. Besides, for them all to leave now, would be to confess
defeat; and who could tell what hurt to his forest might not follow
in his absence from the cowardly hatred of the peasants! He was
resolved to see the thing out. But above all, he must keep that
worthless girl, Mercy, under his own eye!

"That's what comes of NOT drinking!" he would say to himself; "a man
grows as proud as Satan, and makes himself a curse to his
neighbours!"

Then he would sigh like a man ill-used and disconsolate.

Both Mercy and the chief thought it better not to venture much, but
they did occasionally contrive to meet for a few minutes--by the
help of Christina generally. Twice only was Mercy's handkerchief
hung from the window, when her longing for his voice had grown
almost too strong for her to bear. The signal brought him both times
through the wild wintry storm, joyous as a bird through the summer
air. Once or twice they met just outside the gate, Mercy flying like
a snow-bird to the tryst, and as swiftly back through the keen blue
frost, when her breath as she ran seemed to linger in the air like
smoke, and threaten to betray her.

At length came the much desired letter from Ian, full of matter for
the enabling of the chief's decision.

Two things had long been clear to Alister--that, even if the ground
he had could keep his people alive, it certainly could not keep them
all employed; and that, if they went elsewhere, especially to any
town, it might induce for many, and ensure for their children, a
lamentable descent in the moral scale. He was their shepherd, and
must lose none of them! therefore, first of all, he must not lose
sight of them! It was now clear also, that the best and most
desirable thing was, that the poor remnant of the clan should leave
their native country, and betake themselves where not a few of their
own people, among them Lachlan and Annie, would welcome them to
probable ease and comfort. There he would buy land, settle with
them, and build a village. Some would cultivate the soil under their
chief; others would pursue their trades for the good of the
community and themselves!

And now came once more the love of land face to face with the love
of men, and in the chief's heart paled before it. For there was but
one way to get the needful money: the last of the Macruadh property
must go! Not for one moment did it rouse a grudging thought in the
chief: it was for the sake of the men and women and children whose
lives would be required of him! The land itself must yield, them
wings to forsake it withal, and fly beyond the sea!



CHAPTER XVIII

A FRIENDLY OFFER


It was agreed between mother and son to submit the matter to Ian,
and if he should, be of the same mind, at once to negotiate the sale
of the land, in order to carry the clan to Canada. They wrote
therefore to Ian, and composed themselves to await his answer.

It was a sorrowful thing to Alister to seem for a moment to follow
the example of the recreant chiefs whose defection to feudalism was
the prelude to their treachery toward their people, and whose
faithlessness had ruined the highlands. But unlike Glengarry or
"Esau" Reay, he desired to sell his land that he might keep his
people, care for them, and share with them: his people safe, what
mattered the acres!

Reflecting on the thing, he saw, in the case of Ian's approval of
the sale, no reason why he should not show friendliness where none
was expected, and give Mr. Peregrine Palmer the first chance of
purchase. He thought also, with his usual hopefulness, that the time
might come when the clan, laying its savings together, would be able
to redeem its ancient homesteads, and then it might be an advantage
that they were all in the possession of one man. Such things had
been, and might be again! The Lord could bring again the captivity
of Clanruahd as well as that of Zion!

Two months passed, and they had Ian's answer--when it was well on
into the spring, and weather good for a sea-voyage was upon its way.
Because of the loss of their uncle's money, and the good prospect of
comfort in return for labour, hard but not killing, Ian entirely
approved of the proposal. From that moment the thing was no longer
discussed, but how best to carry it out. The chief assembled the
clan in the barn, read his brother's letter, and in a simple speech
acquainted them with the situation. He told them of the loss of the
money to which he had looked for the power to aid them; reminded
them that there was neither employment nor subsistence enough on the
land--not even if his mother and he were to live like the rest of
them, which if necessary they were quite prepared to do; and stated
his resolve to part with the remnant of it in order to provide the
means of their migrating in a body to Canada, where not a few old
friends were eager to welcome them. There they would buy land, he
said, of which every man that would cultivate it should have a
portion enough to live upon, while those with trades should have
every facility for following them. All, he believed, would fare well
in return for hard work, and they would be in the power of no man.
There was even a possibility, he hoped, that, if they lived and
laboured well, they might one day buy back the home they had left;
or if not they, their sons and daughters might return from their
captivity, and restore the house of their fathers. If anyone would
not go, he would do for him what seemed fair.

Donal shoemaker rose, unpuckered his face, slackened the
purse-strings of his mouth, and said,

"Where my chief goes, I will go; where my chief lives, I will live;
and where my chief is buried, God grant I may be buried also, with
all my family!"

He sat down, covered his face with his hands, and wept and sobbed.

One voice rose from all present:

"We'll go, Macruadh! We'll go! Our chief is our home!"

The chief's heart swelled with mingled gladness and grief, but he
answered quietly,

"Then you must at once begin your preparations; we ought not to be
in a hurry at the last."

An immediate stir, movement, bustle, followed. There was much
talking, and many sunny faces, over which kept sweeping the clouds
of sorrow.

The next morning the chief went to the New House, and desired to see
Mr. Palmer. He was shown into what the new laird called his study.
Mr. Palmer's first thought was that he had come to call him to
account for firing at him. He neither spoke nor advanced a step to
meet him. The chief stood still some yards from him, and said as
pleasantly as he could,--

"You are surprised to see me, Mr. Palmer!"

"I am."

"I come to ask if you would like to buy my land?"

"Already!" said Mr. Palmer, cast on his enemy a glare of victory,
and so stood regarding him. The chief did not reply.

"Well!" said Mr. Palmer.

"I wait your answer," returned the chief.

"Did it never strike you that insolence might be carried too far?"

"I came for your sake more than my own," rejoined the chief, without
even a shadow of anger. "I have no particular desire you should take
the land, but thought it reasonable you should have the first
offer."

"What a dull ox the fellow must take me for!" remarked the new laird
to himself. "It's all a dodge to get into the house! As if he would
sell ME his land! Or could think I would hold any communication with
him! Buy his land! It's some trick, I'll lay my soul! The infernal
scoundrel! Such a mean-spirited wretch too! Takes an ounce of shot
in the stomach, and never says 'What the devil do you mean by it?' I
don't believe the savage ever felt it!"

Something like this passed with thought's own swiftness through the
mind of Mr. Palmer, as he stood looking the chief from head to foot,
yet in his inmost person feeling small before him.

"If you cannot at once make up your mind," said Alister, "I will
give you till to-morrow to think it over."

"When you have learned to behave like a gentleman," answered the new
laird, "let me know, and I will refer you to my factor."

He turned and rang the hell. Alister bowed, and did not wait for the
servant.

It must be said for Mr. Palmer, however, that that morning Christina
had positively refused to listen to a word more from Mr. Sercombe.

In the afternoon, Alister set out for London.



CHAPTER XIX

ANOTHER EXPULSION.


Mr. Peregrine Palmer brooded more and more upon what he counted the
contempt of the chief. It became in him almost a fixed idea. It had
already sent out several suckers, and had, amongst others, developed
the notion that he was despised by those from whom first of all he
looked for the appreciation after which his soul thirsted--his own
family. He grew therefore yet more moody, and his moodiness and
distrust developed suspicion. It is scarce credible what a crushing
influence the judgment he pretended to scorn, thus exercised upon
him. It was not that he acknowledged in it the smallest justice;
neither was it that he cared altogether for what such a fanatical
fool as the chief might think; but he reflected that if one could so
despise his money because of its source, there might be others,
might be many who did so. At the same time, had he been sure of the
approbation of all the world beside, it would have troubled him not
a little, in his thirst after recognition, that any gentleman, one
of family especially, however old-fashioned and absurd he might be,
should look down upon him. His smouldering, causelessly excited
anger, his evident struggle to throw off an oppression, and the
fierce resentment of the chief's judgment which he would now and
then betray, revealed how closely the offence clung to his
consciousness.

Flattering himself from her calmness that Mercy had got over her
foolish liking for the "boor," as he would not unfrequently style
the chief, he had listened to the prayers of her mother, and
submitted to her company at the dinner-table; but he continued to
treat her as one who had committed a shameful fault.

That evening, the great little man could hardly eat for recurrent
wrathful memories of the interview of the morning. Perhaps his most
painful reflection was that he had not been quick enough to embrace
the opportunity of annihilating his enemy. Thunder lowered
portentous in his black brows, and not until he had drunk several
glasses of wine did a word come from his lips. His presence was
purgatory without the purifying element.

"What do you think that fellow has been here about this morning?" he
said at length.

"What fellow?" asked his wife unnecessarily, for she knew what
visitor had been shown into the study.

"The highland fellow," he answered, "that claims to do what he
pleases on my property!"

Mercy's face grew hot.

"--Came actually to offer me the refusal of his land!--the merest
trick to get into the house--confound him! As much as told me, if I
did not buy it off-hand, I should not have the chance again! The
cheek of the brute! To dare show his face in my house after trifling
with my daughter's affections on the pretence that he could not
marry a girl whose father was in trade!"

Mercy felt she would be false to the man she loved, and whom she
knew to be true, if she did not speak. She had no thought of
defending him, but simply of witnessing to him.

"I beg your pardon, papa," she said, "but the Macruadh never trifled
with me. He loves me, and has not given me up. If he told you he was
going to part with his land, he is going to part with it, and came
to you first because he must return good for evil. I saw him from my
window ride off as if he were going to meet the afternoon coach."

She would not have been allowed to say so much, had not her father
been speechless with rage. This was more than he or any man could
bear! He rose from the table, his eyes blazing.

"Return ME good for evil!" he exclaimed; "--a beast who has done me
more wrong than ever I did in all my life! a scoundrel bumpkin who
loses not an opportunity of insulting me as never was man insulted
before! You are an insolent, heartless, depraved girl!--ready to
sacrifice yourself, body and soul, to a man who despises you and
yours with the pride of a savage! You hussey, I can scarce keep my
hands off you!"

He came toward her with a threatful stride. She rose, pushed back
her chair, and stood facing him.

"Strike me," she said with a choking voice, "if you will, papa; but
mamma knows I am not what you call me! I should be false and
cowardly if I did not speak the truth for the man to whom I
owe"--she was going to say "more than to any other human being," but
she checked herself.

"If the beggar is your god," said her father, and struck her on the
cheek with his open hand, "you can go to him!"

He took her by the arm, and pushed her before him out of the room,
and across the hall; then opening the door, shoved her from him into
the garden, and flung the door to behind her. The rain was falling
in torrents, the night was very dark, and when the door shut, she
felt as if she had lost her eyesight.

It was terrible!--but, thank God, she was free! Without a moment's
hesitation--while her mother wept and pleaded, Christina stood
burning with indignation, the two little ones sat white with open
mouths, and the servants hurried about scared, but trying to look as
if nothing had happened--Mercy fled into the dark. She stumbled into
the shrubbery several times, but at last reached the gate, and while
they imagined her standing before the house waiting to be let in,
was running from it as from the jaws of the pit, in terror of a
voice calling her back. The pouring rain was sweet to her whole
indignant person, and especially to the cheek where burned the brand
of her father's blow. The way was deep in mud, and she slipped and
fell more than once as she ran.

Mrs. Macruadh was sitting in the little parlour, no one but Nancy in
the house, when the door opened, and in came the wild-looking girl,
draggled and spent, and dropped kneeling at her feet. Great masses
of long black hair hung dripping with rain about her shoulders. Her
dress was torn and wet, and soiled with clay from the road and earth
from the shrubbery. One cheek was white, and the other had a red
patch on it.

"My poor child!" cried the mother; "what has happened? Alister is
away!"

"I know that," panted Mercy. "I saw him go, but I thought you would
take me in--though you do not like me much!"

"Not like you, my child!" echoed the mother tenderly. "I love you!
Are you not my Alister's choice? There are things I could have
wished otherwise, but--"

"Well could I wish them otherwise too!" interposed Mercy. "I do not
wish another father; and I am not quite able to wish he hadn't
struck me and put me out into the dark and the rain, but--"

"Struck you and put you out! My child! What did he do it for?"

"Perhaps I deserved it: it is difficult to know how to behave to a
father! A father is supposed to be one whom you not only love, as I
do mine, but of whom you can be proud as well! I can't be proud of
mine, and don't know quite how to behave to him. Perhaps I ought to
have held my peace, but when he said things that were not--not
correct about Alister, misinterpreting him altogether, I felt it
cowardly and false to hold my tongue. So I said I did not believe
that was what Alister meant. It is but a quarter of an hour ago, and
it looks a fortnight! I don't think I quite know what I am saying!"

She ceased, laid her head on Mrs. Macruadh's knee, then sank to the
floor, and lay motionless. All the compassion of the woman, all the
protective pride of the chieftainess, woke in the mother. She raised
the girl in her arms, and vowed that not one of her house should set
eyes on her again without the consent of her son. He should see how
his mother cared for what was his!--how wide her arms, how big her
heart, to take in what he loved! Dear to him, the daughter of the
man she despised should be as the apple of her eye! They would of
course repent and want her back, but they should not have her;
neither should a sound of threat or demand reach the darling's ears.
She should be in peace until Alister came to determine her future.
There was the mark of the wicked hand on the sweet sallow cheek! She
was not beautiful, but she would love her the more to make up! Thank
God, they had turned her out, and that made her free of them! They
should not have her again; Alister should have her!--and from the
hand of his mother!

She got her to bed, and sent for Rob of the Angels. With injunctions
to silence, she told him to fetch his father, and be ready as soon
as possible to drive a cart to the chief's cave, there to make
everything comfortable for herself and Miss Mercy Palmer.

Mercy slept well, and as the day was breaking Mrs. Macruadh woke her
and helped her to dress. Then they walked together through the
lovely spring morning to the turn of the valley-road, where a cart
was waiting them, half-filled with oat-straw. They got in, and were
borne up and up at a walking-pace to the spot Mercy knew so well.
Never by swiftest coach had she enjoyed a journey so much as that
slow crawl up the mountains in the rough springless cart of her
ploughman lover! She felt so protected, so happy, so hopeful.
Alister's mother was indeed a hiding place from the wind, a covert
from the tempest! Having consented to be her mother, she could
mother her no way but entirely. An outcast for the sake of her
Alister, she should have the warmest corner of her heart next to him
and Ian!

Into the tomb they went, and found everything strangely
comfortable--the stone-floor covered with warm and woolly skins of
black-faced sheep, a great fire glowing, plenty of provisions hung
and stored, and the deaf, keen-eyed father with the swift keen-eared
son for attendants.

"You will not mind sharing your bed with me--will you, my child?"
said Mrs. Macruadh: "Our accommodation is scanty. But we shall be
safe from intrusion. Only those two faithful men know where we are."

"Mother will be terribly frightened!" said Mercy.

"I thought of that, and left a note with Nancy, telling her you were
safe and well, but giving no hint of where. I said that her dove had
flown to my bosom for shelter, and there she should have it."

Mercy answered with a passionate embrace.



CHAPTER XX

ALISTER'S PRINCESS.


Ten peaceful days they spent in the cave-house. It was cold
outside, but the clear air of the hill-top was delicious, and inside
it was warm and dry. There were plenty of books, and Mercy never
felt the time a moment too long. The mother talked freely of her
sons, and of their father, of the history of the clan, of her own
girlhood, and of the hopes and intentions of her sons.

"Will you go with him, Mercy?" she asked, laying her hand on hers.

"I would rather be his servant," answered Mercy, "than remain at
home: there is no life there!"

"There is life wherever there is the will to live--that is, to do
the thing that is given one to do," said the mother.

In writing she told Alister nothing of what had happened: he might
hurry home without completing his business! Undisturbed by fresh
anxiety, he settled everything, parted with his property to an old
friend of the family, and received what would suffice for his
further intents. He also chartered a vessel to take them over the
sea, and to save weariness and expense, arranged for it to go
northward as far as a certain bay on the coast, and there take the
clan on board.

When at length he reached home, Nancy informed him that his mother
was at the hill-house, and begged he would go there to her. He was a
good deal perplexed: she very seldom went there, and had never
before gone for the night! and it was so early in the season! He set
out immediately.

It was twilight when he reached the top of the hill, and no light
shone from the little windows of the tomb.

That day Mercy had been amusing her protectress with imitations, in
which kind she had some gift, of certain of her London acquaintance:
when the mother heard her son's approaching step, a thought came to
her.

"Here! Quick!" she said; "Put on my cap and shawl, and sit in this
chair. I will go into the bedroom. Then do as you like."

When the chief entered, he saw the form of his mother, as he
thought, bending over the peat-fire, which had sunk rather low: in
his imagination he saw again the form of his uncle as on that night
in the low moonlight. She did not move, did not even look up. He
stood still for a moment; a strange feeling possessed him of
something not being as it ought to be. But he recovered himself with
an effort, and kneeling beside her, put his arms round her--not a
little frightened at her continued silence.

"What is the matter, mother dear?" he said. "Why have you come up to
this lonely place?"

When first Mercy felt his arms, she could not have spoken if she
would--her heart seemed to grow too large for her body. But in a
moment or two she controlled herself, and was able to say--sufficiently
in his mother's tone and manner to keep up the initiated misconception:

"They put me out of the house, Alister."

"Put you out of the house!" he returned, like one hearing and
talking in a dream. "Who dared interfere with you, mother? Am I
losing my senses? I seem not to understand my own words!"

"Mr. Palmer."

"Mr. Palmer! Was it to him I sold the land in London? What could he
have to do with you, mother? How did they allow him to come near the
house in my absence? Oh, I see! He came and worried you so about
Mercy that you were glad to take refuge from him up here!--I
understand now!"

He ended in a tone of great relief: he felt as if he had just
recovered his senses.

"No, that was not it. But we are going so soon, there would have
been no good in fighting it out. We ARE going soon, are we not?"

"Indeed we are, please God!" replied the chief, who had relapsed
into bewilderment.

"That is well--for you more than anybody. Would you believe it--the
worthless girl vows she will never leave her mother's house!"

"Ah, mother, YOU never heard her say so! I know Mercy better than
that! She will leave it when I say COME. But that won't be now. I
must wait, and come and fetch her when she is of age."

"She is not worthy of you."

"She is worthy of me if I were twenty times worthier! Mother,
mother! What has turned you against us again? It is not like you to
change about so! I cannot bear to find you changeable! I should have
sworn you were just the one to understand her perfectly! I cannot
bear you should let unworthy reasons prejudice you against
anyone!--If you say a word more against her, I will go and sit
outside with the moon. She is not up yet, but she will be
presently--and though she is rather old and silly, I shall find her
much better company than you, mother dear!"

He spoke playfully, but was grievously puzzled.

"To whom are you talking, Alister?--yourself or a ghost?"

Alister started up, and saw his mother coming from the bedroom with
a candle in her hand! He stood stupefied. He looked again at the
seated figure, still bending over the fire. Who was it if not his
mother?

With a wild burst of almost hysteric laughter, Mercy sprang to her
feet, and threw herself in his arms. It was not the less a new
bewilderment that it was an unspeakably delightful change from the
last. Was he awake or dreaming? Was the dream of his boyhood come
true? or was he dreaming it on in manhood? It was come true! The
princess was arrived! She was here in his cave to be his own!

A great calm and a boundless hope filled the heart of Alister. The
night was far advanced when he left them to go home. Nor did he find
his way home, but wandered all night about the tomb, making long
rounds and still returning like an angel sent to hover and watch
until the morning. When he astonished them by entering as they sat
at breakfast, and told them how he had passed the night, it thrilled
Mercy's heart to know that, while she slept and was dreaming about
him, he was awake and thinking about her.

"What is only dreaming in me, is thinking in you, Alister!" she
said.

"I was thinking," returned Alister, "that as you did not know I was
watching you, so, when we feel as if God were nowhere, he is
watching over us with an eternal consciousness, above and beyond our
every hope and fear, untouched by the varying faith and fluctuating
moods of his children."

After breakfast he went to see the clergyman of the parish, who
lived some miles away; the result of which visit was that in a few
days they were married. First, however, he went once more to the New
House, desiring to tell Mr. Palmer what had been and was about to be
done. He refused to see him, and would not allow his wife or
Christina to go to him.

The wedding was solemnized at noon within the ruined walls of the
old castle. The withered remnant of the clan, with pipes playing,
guns firing, and shouts of celebration, marched to the cave-house to
fetch thence the bride. When the ceremony was over, a feast was
ready for all in the barn, and much dancing followed.

When evening came, with a half-moon hanging faint in the limpid
blue, and the stars looking large through the mist of ungathered
tears--those of nature, not the lovers; with a wind like the breath
of a sleeping child, sweet and soft, and full of dreams of summer;
the mountains and hills asleep around them like a flock of
day-wearied things, and haunted by the angels of Rob's visions--the
lovers, taking leave only of the mother, stole away to walk through
the heavenly sapphire of the still night, up the hills and over the
rushing streams of the spring, to the cave of their rest--no ill
omen but lovely symbol to such as could see in the tomb the porch of
paradise. Where should true lovers make their bed but on the
threshold of eternity!



CHAPTER XXI

THE FAREWELL.


A month passed, and the flag of their exile was seen flying in the
bay. The same hour the chief's horses were put to, the carts were
loaded, their last things gathered. Few farewells had to be made,
for the whole clan, except two that had gone to the bad, turned out
at the minute appointed. The chief arranged them in marching column.
Foremost went the pipes; the chief, his wife, and his mother, came
next; Hector of the Stags, carrying the double-barrelled rifle the
chief had given him, Rob of the Angels, and Donal shoemaker,
followed. Then came the women and children; next, the carts, with a
few, who could not walk, on the top of the baggage; the men brought
up the rear. Four or five favourite dogs were the skirmishers of the
column.

The road to the bay led them past the gate of the New House. The
chief called a halt, and went with his wife to seek a last
interview. Mr. Peregrine Palmer kept his room, but Mrs. Palmer bade
her daughter a loving farewell--more relieved than she cared to
show, that the cause of so much discomfort was going so far away.
The children wept. Christina bade her sister good-bye with a
hopeless, almost envious look: Mercy, who did not love him, would
see Ian! She who would give her soul for him was never to look on
him again in this world!

Kissing Mercy once more, she choked down a sob, and whispered,

"Give my love--no, my heart, to Ian, and tell him I AM trying."

They all walked together to the gate, and there the chief's mother
took her leave of the ladies of the New House. The pipes struck up;
the column moved on.

When they came to the corner which would hide from them their native
strath, the march changed to a lament, and with the opening wail,
all stopped and turned for a farewell look. Men and women, the chief
alone excepted, burst into weeping, and the sound of their
lamentation went wandering through the hills with an adieu to every
loved spot. And this was what the pipes said:

We shall never see you more, Never more, never more! Till the sea be
dry, and the world be bare, And the dews have ceased to fall, And
the rivers have ceased to run, We shall never see you more, Never
more, never more!

They stood and gazed, and the pipes went on lamenting, and the women
went on weeping.

"This is heathenish!" said Alister to himself, and stopped the
piper.

"My friends," he cried, in Gaelic of course, "look at me: my eyes
are dry! Where Jesus, the Son of God, is--there is my home! He is
here, and he is over the sea, and my home is everywhere! I have lost
my land and my country, but I take with me my people, and make no
moan over my exile! Hearts are more than hills. Farewell Strathruadh
of my childhood! Place of my dreams, I shall visit you again in my
sleep! And again I shall see you in happier times, please God, with
my friends around me!"

He took off his bonnet. All the men too uncovered for a moment, then
turned to follow their chief. The pipes struck up Macrimmon's
lament, Till an crodh a Dhonnachaidh (TURN THE KINE, DUNCAN). Not
one looked behind him again till they reached the shore. There, out
in the bay, the biggest ship any of the clan had ever seen was
waiting to receive them.

When Mr. Peregrine Palmer saw that the land might in truth be for
sale, he would gladly have bought it, but found to his chagrin that
he was too late. It was just like the fellow, he said, to mock him
with the chance of buying it! He took care to come himself, and not
send a man he could have believed!

The clan throve in the clearings of the pine forests. The hill-men
stared at their harvests as if they saw them growing. Their many
children were strong and healthy, and called Scotland their home.

In an outlying and barren part of the chief's land, they came upon
rock oil. It was so plentiful that as soon as carriage became
possible, the chief and his people began to grow rich.

News came to them that Mr. Peregrine Palmer was in difficulties, and
desirous of parting with his highland estate. The chief was now able
to buy it ten times over. He gave his agent in London directions to
secure it for him, with any other land conterminous that might come
into the market. But he would not at once return to occupy it, for
his mother dreaded the sea, and thought to start soon for another
home. Also he would rather have his boys grow where they were, and
as men face the temptations beyond: where could they find such
teaching as that of their uncle Ian! Both father and uncle would
have them ALIVE before encountering what the world calls LIFE.

But the Macruadh yet dreams of the time when those of the clan then
left in the world, accompanied, he hopes, by some of those that went
out before them, shall go back to repeople the old waste places, and
from a wilderness of white sheep and red deer, make the mountain
land a nursery of honest, unambitious, brave men and strong-hearted
women, loving God and their neighbour; where no man will think of
himself at his brother's cost, no man grow rich by his neighbour's
ruin, no man lay field to field, to treasure up for himself wrath
against the day of wrath.

THE END.





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