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Title: Merkland - or, Self Sacrifice
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret), 1828-1897
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 "Merkland - or, Self Sacrifice" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



 Every attempt has been made to replicate the original as printed. Some
   typographical errors have been corrected; a list follows the text.
   Archaic spellings (i.e. rebelious, rebelion, contemn, gallopping,
 tryste, knawing, bideing...) have been preserved. (etext transcriber's
                                 note)


[Illustration: The Prodigal's Solemn Pledge in Mrs. Catherine's little
room.

See page 92]



                               MERKLAND,


                            SELF-SACRIFICE.

                            BY THE AUTHOR OF

                          "MARGARET MAITLAND."

                             [Illustration]

   "Lord, look upon mine offering--I bring thee back seven-fold. Lord
        of Mercy! cast me not away for evermore!--See page 292.

                       [Illustration: decoration]

                     STRINGER & TOWNSEND, NEW YORK.



                               MERKLAND,


                            SELF SACRIFICE.

                                   BY

                             THE AUTHOR OF

         "PASSAGES IN THE LIFE OF MRS. MARGARET MAITLAND," &C.

                               NEW YORK:
                          STRINGER & TOWNSEND.
                                 1854.



                               MERKLAND;


                            SELF-SACRIFICE.



CHAPTER I.


"But may not Mrs. Catherine's visitor belong to another family? The name
is not uncommon."

"You will permit me to correct you, Miss Ross. The name is by no means a
common one; and there was some very distant connexion, I remember,
between the Aytouns and Mrs. Catherine. I have little doubt that this
girl is his daughter."

"Mother! mother!" exclaimed the first speaker, a young lady, whose face,
naturally grave and composed, bore tokens of unusual agitation. "It is
impossible; Mrs. Catherine, considerate and kind as she always is, could
never be so cruel."

"I am quite at a loss for your meaning, Anne."

"To bring her _here_--to our neighborhood," said Anne Ross, averting her
eyes, and disregarding her step-mother's interruption, "where we must
meet her continually, where our name, which must be odious to her, will
be ringing in her ears every day. I cannot believe it. Mrs. Catherine
could not do anything so barbarous."

Mrs. Ross, of Merkland, threw down her work, and pushed back her chair
from the table:

"Upon my word, Anne Ross, you turn more absurd every day. What is the
meaning of this?--_our_ name odious! I should not like Lewis to hear you
say so."

"But Lewis does not know this terrible story," said Anne.

"And never shall," replied Mrs. Ross. "Neither can your brother's crime
make my son's name odious to any one. I fancied you knew that Norman was
called by your mother's name; and this Aytoun girl, if she knows
anything of it at all, will have heard of him as Rutherford, and not as
Ross."

"But Mrs. Catherine--she at least cannot be ignorant, cannot have
forgotten: who could forget this? and my mother was her friend!"

"The friendship has descended, I think," said Mrs. Ross, with a sneer,
"as you seem to imagine feuds should. I suppose you think this girl's
brother, if she has one, would be quite doing his duty if he demanded
satisfaction from Lewis, for a thing which happened when the poor boy
was a mere infant? But be not afraid, most tender and scrupulous sister.
People have better sense in _these_ days."

Anne Ross turned away, grieved and silenced; her conversations with her
step-mother too often terminated so: and there was a long pause. At last
she said, timidly, as if desirous, and yet afraid of asking further:
"And my father never knew how he died?"

Mrs. Ross glanced hurriedly at the door: "He did not die."

Anne started violently. "Norman, my brother? I beseech you to tell me,
mother, is he not dead?"

"Ah, there is Duncan back, from Portoran," said Mrs. Ross, rising.
"Letters from Lewis, no doubt. How slow they are!" And she rang the bell
vehemently.

The summons brought in a maid, struggling with the buckle of Duncan's
letter-bag, which was opened at length, and gave to Mrs. Ross's
delighted eyes the expected letters from her only son: but Anne sat
apart, shivering and trembling with a great dread--a secret, most sad
and terrible; a tale of dishonor, and crime, and misery, such as might
chill the very heart to hear.

"And there's a letter from the Tower, Miss Anne," said the maid, giving
her a note. "Duncan got it at the Brig, from Johnnie Halflin, and
Johnnie was to wait, till Duncan got back with the answer, if there was
to be any."

"There is no answer, May," said Anne, glancing over the brief epistle;
and May withdrew reluctantly, having obtained no news of Maister Lewis,
or his wanderings, wherewith to satisfy her expectant audience in the
kitchen.

The letter of Lewis was a long one, and Anne had time to travel
listlessly again and again over the angular and decided characters of
her ancient friend.

     "My friend," said the singularly-folded black letter-looking note,
     "you will come to the Tower to-morrow. I am expecting Alison Aytoun
     at night; and seeing the world has gotten two new generations (to
     keep within the truth) since I myself was done with the company of
     children, I am in need of your counsel how we are to brighten the
     bed-chamber and other apartments, so as will become the presence of
     youth. For undoubtedly in this matter, if I am like any mortal
     person, it is like Issachar in the prophecy (not to be profane,)
     for there is Elspat Henderson, my own woman, that would have out
     the old red satin curtains (that are liker black than red now, as
     you will mind,) to put upon the bed, and Euphan Morison, her
     daughter, is for no curtains at all, for the sake of health, (pity
     me, Anne, that have doctors among my serving-women!) and Jacky,
     Euphan's daughter (bethanked that she has but one!) has been
     gathering dahlias and sunflowers, and such other unwholesome and
     unyouthful things, to put in the poor bairn Alison's room,
     wherewith I have near brought a fever upon myself, first with the
     evil odor of them, and then with flying upon the elf Jacky. So mind
     you come to the Tower, like a good bairn, as you are, and have
     always been, as early in the day as you can; and before twelve of
     the clock, if possible, seeing that I have many things to say to
     you.

"CATHERINE DOUGLAS."



For the third or fourth time, Anne's eyes had travelled down to that
firm and clear signature, when an exclamation from her step-mother
roused her. "Lewis will be home before his birthday! Lewis will be here
on Friday! I believe you are more concerned about that girl coming to
the Tower. Do you hear me, Anne? On Friday your brother will be home."

There were only two days to prepare for his coming; and before Anne had
finished her hasty perusal of the letter which Mrs. Ross permitted her
to see, the house was full of joyful bustle and unwonted glee--for the
frigid soul of its mistress melted under the influence of her son, as if
his words had been very sunbeams. By nature she was neither amiable nor
generous; but the mother's love, in its first out-gushing, almost made
her both.

And she had known the details of that dark mystery too long, and had too
little liking for her husband's unhappy son, to sympathize at all with
Anne's horror and agony. And so Mrs. Ross, of Merkland, bustled and
rejoiced in her selfish gladness, while Anne, longing to ask, and yet
afraid of rude repulse or angry reprimand, sat silently, with a heavy
heart, beside her. At length, when they were about to separate for the
night, Anne took courage.

"Mother," she said, "I do not wish to disturb you, in so happy an
occupation as this, but only one word--Norman, poor Norman, you said he
did not die."

"Upon my word, Anne, I think you might choose a better time for those
disagreeable inquiries," said Mrs. Ross, impatiently.

"He is my brother," said Anne, "and with such a dreadful history.
Mother, is Norman alive?"

"How can I tell?" cried Mrs. Ross. "You ought to desire most earnestly,
Anne, both for his sake and your own, that he may be peacefully dead.
Your father, I know, received a letter from him, secretly, after the
ship was lost. He had escaped the wreck; but that is seventeen years
ago."

"And did he confess?" said Anne, eagerly.

"Confess! Criminals do not generally do that. No, no, he professed his
innocence. I may find you the letter sometime. There, will not that do?
Go to your room now."

"And will you not tell Lewis?" said Anne.

"Tell Lewis!" exclaimed Mrs. Ross, "why should I grieve my boy? He is
but his half-brother."

Anne turned away without another word and went quietly up stairs--not to
her own apartment first, but to a dusty attic lumber-room, seldom
entered, except by herself. In one dark corner stood a picture, its face
to the wall. Anne placed her candle on the floor, and kneeling down
turned the portrait--a frank, bold, generous face, half boy, half man,
with its unshadowed brow and clear eyes, that feared no evil.

"Lewis is but my half-brother also," said Anne Ross, replacing the
picture with a sigh; "but Norman was my mother's son."

The house and small estate of Merkland were situated in one of the
northern counties of Scotland, within some three or four miles of a
little post-town which bore the dignified name of Portoran. The Oran
water swept by the side of its small port, just before it joined its
jocund dark-brown waters to the sea, and various coasting vessels
carried its name and its traffic out (a little way) into the world. The
parish in which Merkland stood, boasted at least its three Lairds'
houses--there was Strathoran, the lordliest of all, with its wide acres
extending over three or four adjacent parishes. There was the Tower,
with its compact and richly-cultivated lands, the well-ordered property
of Mrs. Catherine Douglas; and, lastly, there was Merkland--the home of
a race of vigorous Rosses, renowned in former generations for its hosts
of sons and daughters, and connected by the spreading of those strong
and healthful off-shoots, with half of the families of like degree in
Scotland. The children of the last Ross of Merkland had not been
vigorous--one by one, in childhood, and in youth, they had dropped into
the family grave, and when the infant Anne was born, her worn-out mother
died, leaving besides the newborn child, only one son. His mother's
brother long before had made this Norman, his heir. At the same time, in
consideration of his independent inheritance, and his changed name, he
had been excluded from the succession to his father's lands. So Mr. Ross
of Merkland, in terror lest his estate should have no worthier
proprietor than the sickly little girl whose birth had cost her mother's
life, married hastily again. When Lewis and Anne were still only
infants, Norman Rutherford left his father's house to take possession of
his own--and then some terrible blight had fallen upon him, spoken of in
fearful whispers at the time, but almost wholly forgotten now. A
stranger in the district at the time our history begins would only have
learned, after much inquiry, that Norman, escaping from his native
country with the stain of blood upon his hands, proved a second Jonah to
the ship in which he had embarked, and so was lost, and that grief for
his crime had brought his father's grey hairs in sorrow to the grave.
But the difference of name, and the entire silence maintained by his
family concerning him, had puzzled country gossips, and restrained the
voice of rumor, even at the time. Now his remembrance had almost
entirely passed away, and in another week Lewis Ross, Esq., of Merkland,
would be of age.

But the whole dreadful tale in all the darkness of its misery had been
poured into Anne's ears that day. She had known nothing of it before.
Now, her stepmother thought, it was full time she should know,
because--a reason that made Anne shrink and tremble--Mrs. Ross felt
convinced that the girl who was so soon to be a visitor at the Tower,
could be no other than the daughter of the murdered man.

"The south room, May--he had it when he was a boy," said Mrs. Ross, as
Anne entered their breakfast-room the next morning. "I wish there had
been time to get some of the furniture renewed; but I dare say Lewis
will like to see it as he left it. Do you not think so, Anne?"

"He was always such a kindly heart," interposed May.

Mrs. Ross looked dubious.

"You must remember, May, that my son is no longer a boy. This day week
he will take the management of his affairs into his own hands. He left
us a youth, but he returns a man."

"And I was just thinking that myself, ma'am," said May; "and Duncan says
it behoves us to call the young Lord by his own name, Merkland,--and not
Mr. Lewis; but I always think the old way's the kindliest."

"Lewis will be changed, if he does not like the kindliest best," said
Anne.

"Ah, that may be," said Mrs. Ross; "but there is something due to--Well,
where were we. Ay, the south room. I know you keep it in good order,
May, but we must have it on Friday shining like--"

"Like a new pin, ma'am," said May, as Mrs. Ross paused for a simile;
"and so it shall, and you may trust that to me."

"Yes, Lewis will be quite a man," said Mrs. Ross, leaning back in her
chair with a smile. "I should think he would be a good deal browned,
Anne--I have been thinking so all the morning."

"Oh! and he'll have a lordly presence," said May, "like his father
before him. The Rosses have always been grand men to look upon. They say
the young Laird--"

"Was not in the least degree like what my son will be," said Mrs. Ross,
stiffly, while Anne grew pale. "You will see that my orders are strictly
attended to, May, and let Duncan come to me whenever we have had
breakfast. Take your place, Anne."

Discomfited by her abrupt dismissal, May took her departure, muttering
between her teeth:

"One would think it was a crime to speak a good word of the old lady's
bairns! Well, if one but knew what became of him at last, I would like
to see the man in all Strathoran like the young Lord."

"Anne," said Mrs. Ross, somewhat sternly, as May withdrew, leaving
Anne's heart vibrating painfully with her indiscreet reference; "was it
to-day that Mrs. Catherine expected her visitor?"

"Yes, mother."

"And to-day you are engaged to go to the Tower?"

"Yes," said Anne. "But I can send Duncan with an apology, if you wish
it. I did not know that Lewis was likely to arrive so soon when I
received Mrs. Catherine's note."

"Send Duncan! no, indeed!" said Mrs. Ross. "There would be little profit
in wasting _his_ time to save yours. Duncan is the most useful person
about Merkland."

"And I the most useless," said Anne, sighing. "It grieves me deeply,
mother, that it should be so."

Mrs. Ross threw back her head slightly, expressing the peevish scorn
which she did not speak, and Anne returned to her tea-making; and so
they sat till their joyless meal was ended: each the sole companion and
nearest connexion of the other, and yet so utterly separated in all that
constitutes true fellowship.

The clear light of the October sun was shining on the waters of Oran,
and its tinted, overshadowing leaves, when Anne emerged from among the
trees that surrounded Merkland, and took her solitary way to the Tower.
Her heart was heavy within her, her step irregular, her brow clouded.
The great secret of the family had fallen upon her spirit with all the
stunning force of a first grief, and vainly she looked about her for
comfort, finding none.

How many times had May's admiring mention of the "young Laird" called
forth upon her lips a sad smile of affectionate sorrow for the dead
brother whom she never saw. How often had she marvelled at the old
nurse's stern summary of his end: "He died a violent death!" How often
lingered with sorrowful admiration over his picture in the attic
lumber-room! And now his name had become a name of fear! The stain of
blood was upon him! A Cain! a murderer!

Not dead! Anne's hasty steps passed quick over the narrow pathway, with
its carpeting of fallen leaves. In what pain--what misery, must that
blighted life have passed! Whither might that guilty soul have
wandered, seeking, in crowd or in solitude, to hide itself from its own
fearful consciousness, and from its angry God! In privation, in danger,
in want in sin, unfriended and accursed, and alone, with none to speak
to him of mercy, of hope, of Divine forgiveness! And this was her
brother! her mother's son!

It was like some dreadful dream--but not like a dream could it be shaken
off. How often in her childish imaginings, long ago, had she dreamed of
the dead Norman living again, her friend and protector! Now how bitter
and strong that unavailing wish, that God had indeed stricken him in his
early youth, and laid him in the peaceful family grave unstained. Again
and again those dark particulars rolled back upon her in bitter waves,
swelling her grief and horror up to agony. And that the daughter of the
slain man should come here--here, to have daily intercourse with the
nearest kindred of her father's murderer! The idea was so terrible, that
it produced a revulsion. She tried to believe that it was not so--that
it could not be possible.

Again and again she stopped, and would have turned back, and yet a
strange fascination drew her on. There was a link of terrible connexion
between herself and this girl, and Anne's spirit throbbed to bursting
with undefined and confused purposes. She could not trust herself alone,
therefore she put force upon her struggling heart, as she had learned to
do long years ago, and passed on to the Tower.

For the step-daughter of Mrs. Ross, of Merkland, had small reason to
think of this many-sided world as a place of happiness. In a household
which had barely means enough to support its station, and provide for
the somewhat expensive wanderings of its heir, she was the one
dependent, and Anne had ripened into some three-and-twenty years, and
was no longer a girl. She felt how useless she was in the eyes of her
clever step-mother; she felt the lethargic influence of having no aim,
and deep down in that hidden heart of hers, which few others knew, or
cared to know, sorrow and pain had been dwelling long, like Truth, in
the well of their own solitary tears.

She was now proceeding to the house of her most dear and especial
friend: an ancient lady, whose strong will swayed, and whose warm heart
embraced all who came within their influence, and whose healthful and
vigorous spirit was softened in a manner most rare and beautiful by
those delicate perceptions and sympathies which form so important an
element in the constitution of genius. Mrs. Catherine Douglas had seen
the snows of sixty winters. For more than thirty of these, her strong
and kindly hand had held absolute dominion at the Tower, yet of the few
admitted to her friendship and confidence, Anne Ross, the neglected
step-daughter of Mrs. Ross, of Merkland, an ill-used child, a slighted
woman, held the highest place.

The Tower was a gray, old, stately place, defiant alike of storm and
siege, with deep embrasures on its walls meant for no child's play, and
a court-yard that had rung to martial music centuries ago, in the days
of the unhappy Stuarts. Deep woods stretched round it, tinted with
autumn's fantastic wealth of coloring. The Oran ran so close to the
strong, heavy, battlemented wall, that in the old warlike days, it had
been the castle-moat, but the drawbridge was gone, and there was
peaceful access now, by a light bridge of oak. A boat lay on the stream,
moored to an over-hanging rock, by which Mrs. Catherine herself was wont
to make the brief passage of the Oran. It was a favorite toy of Anne's
also, in her happier moods, but she was too heavy of heart to heed it
now.

"Mrs. Catherine is in the library, Miss Anne," said Mrs. Euphan Morison,
the portly, active housekeeper, whose medical propensities so frequently
annoyed her mistress; and threading the dark passages familiarly, Anne
passed on alone.

"Mrs. Catherine is in the library, Miss Anne," repeated a dark, thin,
elfin-like girl, who sat on the sill of a deep window, reading, and
hiding her book beneath the stocking which she ought to have been
knitting, as she threw furtive glances to the door of the housekeeper's
especial sanctum: "but there's gentlemen with her. It's a business day."

"I suppose you may admit me, Jacky," said Anne. "Mrs. Catherine expects
me."

"Mr. Walter Foreman's in, Miss Anne," said Jacky.

"And what then?" said Anne, smiling.

"And Mr. Ferguson, the factor from Strathoran," said the girl, gravely,
taking up, with a look of abstraction, some dropt loops in her neglected
stocking.

"Then I will go to the drawing-room," said Anne. "Tell me, Jacky, when
Mrs. Catherine is disengaged."

"And Miss Anne," said Jacky, starting, as Anne was about to pass on,
"the young lady's coming."

"So I have heard," said Anne.

"And she's to get the mid-chamber," said Jacky, "and the chairs have
come out of the big room in the west tower. You never saw them, Miss
Anne. Will you come?" And Jacky jerked her thin, angular frame off her
seat, and threw down book and stocking.

"What have you been reading, Jacky?" said Anne.

The sharp, dark face owned an involuntary flush, and the furtive eyes
glanced back to the housekeeper's closed door. "It was only the Faery
Queen."

"The Faery Queen! Jacky, these are strange studies for you."

"There's no harm in it," muttered the girl, angrily.

"I did not say there was," said Anne; "and you need not transfix me with
those sharp eyes of yours, because I wondered. But, Jacky, your mother
would not be pleased with this."

"It's not the chief end of woman to work stockings," murmured the girl.

"No, surely," said Anne; "nor yet to read poems. Come, Jacky, let me see
the mid-chamber."

Jacky seized the book, deposited it in a dark niche below the window,
and glided away before Anne up the broad stone stairs, to the room which
the united skill of the household had been decking for a bower to little
Alice Aytoun. The mid-chamber, as its name imports, occupied the front
of the building, between the two round towers, that rose grimly with
their dark turrets on either side. It was a room of good proportions,
with two deep windows, looking out on the windings of the Oran, and
commanding a view of the little town, seated on the point where the
river poured itself into the sea. The country looked rich and gay in its
russet coloring, and here and there you could see the harvest labourers
in a half-reaped field--for the harvests were late beneath the northern
sky of Strathoran. A little way below, the unpretending house of
Merkland stood, peacefully among its trees; on the left hand, the plain
church and substantial Manse basked in the sunbeams; and the broad sea,
flashing beneath the light, belted its blue breadths around the
landscape. Anne stood at the window, and looked out, as in a dream; dim,
misty, spectral visions floating before her, in which were ever mingling
her unhappy wandering brother, and the unconscious girl who should look
forth on that same scene to-night.

"It's not so much here," said Jacky, glancing round, and looking
complacently on a great bunch of dahlias and hollyhocks, rudely inserted
in an uncouth china vase. "The room's just as it always is, except the
flowers--will you come in here, Miss Anne?"

Anne followed, thinking little of the arrangements which she came to
superintend. The room they entered was small and rounded, occupying as
it did, a corner of the eastern tower. Its deep-set window was toward
the sunrising--towards the hills, too, and the sea--and Anne paused upon
the threshold, in wonder at the unwonted preparations made for this
youthful visitor. In one end of the room stood a great wardrobe of
richly-carved oak. There was an ancient piano, also, and little tables
laden with well-chosen books, and the antique chairs looked richly sober
in their renovation, heightening the air of olden romance which hung
about this lady's bower. The blooming plants in the window were the only
things new, and pertaining to the immediate present. Graceful and pure
in its antique delicacy, the small apartment was a bower indeed.

"But Mrs. Catherine," said Jacky, "would let me put no flowers
here--only a big branch of barberries that I slipped in myself."

The branch of barberries was, indeed, projecting fantastically from the
rich frame of the mirror on the wall.

"I think you may let Mrs. Catherine have the whole merit of this,
Jacky," said Anne, taking it down; "and do you have a ramble through the
garden, and find something more fragrant than those sunflowers. You will
get some roses yet--run, Jacky. Mrs. Catherine--"

"Is troubled with undutiful bairns," said the lady herself entering the
room. "Wherefore did you not come to me, Anne, and me in urgent need of
counsel? And wherefore did you not open the door, you elf, Jacky, unless
you be indeed a changeling, as I have always thought you, and were
feared for learned words? Come down with me this moment, Anne! You can
fiddle about these trifling things when there is no serious matters in
hand. I am saying, Come with me!"

Mrs. Catherine Douglas was tall and stately, with a firm step, and a
clear voice, strong constitutioned, and strong spirited. In appearance
she embodied those complexional peculiarities which gave to the fabled
founder of her house his far-famed name--black hair, streaked with
silver, the characteristic pale complexion, and strongly-marked
features, harmonising perfectly in the hue--she was dark-grey. It seemed
her purpose, too, to increase the effect by her dress. At all times and
seasons, Mrs. Catherine's rich, rustling, silken garments were grey, of
that peculiar dark-grey which is formed by throwing across the sable
warp a slender waft of white. In winter, a shawl of the finest texture,
but of the simple black and white shepherd's check, completed her
costume. In summer, its soft, fine folds hung over her chair. No
rejoicing, and no sorrow, changed Mrs. Catherine's characteristic dress.
The lustrous silken garment, the fine woollen shawl, the cap of old and
costly lace remained unchanged for years.

"It is a new vocation for me, child," said Mrs. Catherine, as Anne
followed her down stairs, "to set myself to the adorning of rooms; but
when my serving-women must have their divers notions concerning them, I
should put to my own hand, unless I had wanted the stranger to be
terrified with the aspect of my house--which I do not, for--Look back,
child, is that elf Jacky behind you with her sharp eyes. But I have
matters more important on my hand to-day."

They reached the library door as Mrs. Catherine spoke, and she entered,
while Anne lingered behind. Another voice, the brisk one of Walter
Foreman, the young Portoran writer, began to speak immediately, but was
summarily interrupted by Mrs. Catherine's clear tones:

"I tell you you're a fool, Walter Foreman, as was your father before
you--it's in the blood. You say he was a kinsman. Ay, doubtless, as if I
did not known that. And was not James Aytoun as near of kin to him as
me, and Ralph Falconer nearer. To think of any mortal, in his senses,
passing over the promising lads, to leave siller to me! Me, that have an
abundance for my own turns, and none to be heir to either my land or my
name. Speak not to me. Walter Foreman, I say the man was crazy!"

"But even if he were," said Mr. Walter Foreman, as Anne entered the
library, "you would surely never think, Mrs. Catherine, of contesting
the validity of a will made in your own favor."

"And who said I would not, if it seemed right in my own eyes?" said Mrs.
Catherine, indignantly. "Come here, Anne; you are not blinded with the
sight of siller, as this youth is. Robert Falconer, the merchant (the
third son of old Falcon's Craig,) is dead, and passing over his own near
kin, that needed it (besides leaving the most part of his siller to
hospitals, which may be was right, and may be not, I have not time to
enter upon it,) the auld fool--that I should speak so of a man that is
gone to his account--has left by his will a portion of siller, ten
thousand pounds, no less, to me: me, that have no manner of use for it;
that know not even what to do with it. I am thankful to you, Mr.
Ferguson, you would learn me an easy way of putting it out of my hand;
but I must consider, first, with your permission, whether I have any
right to take it in."

Mr. Ferguson, the Strathoran factor, smiled. "It is not often, Mrs.
Catherine, that people receive legacies as you do."

"No--neither, I am hoping, are there many left like this," said Mrs.
Catherine; "but truly, gentlemen, that is no fault of yours, that I
should fall upon you for it. Come back to me this day week, Mr.
Ferguson; and you can come also, Walter Foreman, unless your father, who
has more discretion, has the time to spare; and in that space, I will
have taken counsel what I should do."

Mr. Ferguson and the young lawyer took their leave; and Mrs. Catherine
turned to Anne: "Heard you ever the like of it, child? To leave siller
to me! You did not know the man; but Ralph Falconer, of Falcon's Craig,
is his grand-nephew, and James Aytoun is also allied to him by the
mother's side: and I, that am but his cousin, three times removed, and
having my own share of this world's goods, and none to come after
me--undoubtedly the man was crazy!"



CHAPTER II.


The October sun rose brilliantly upon ancient Edinburgh, throwing the
strong radiance of its russet gold upon the noble outline and antique
grandeur of the historic city, and shone joyously into a family room,
where a small household round their breakfast table were discussing the
journey which that fair-haired, smiling girl, half-timorous,
half-exultant, was to undertake that day. The white hair upon the
mother's placid forehead was belied by the fresh cheek and dewy liquid
eye, from which time had not taken the brightness. Her son was entering
upon the strongest years of manhood, with sense and intelligence shining
in his face. Her daughter was a girl, just emerging from the child's
mirth and unrestrained gaiety, into those sensitive, imaginative years,
which form the threshold of graver life--

    "Standing with reluctant feet,
     Where the brook and river meet,
     Womanhood and childhood sweet."

"But, mother," exclaimed Alice Aytoun, suddenly, "Miss Douglas will see
at once that Bessie has not been my maid at home."

"_Miss_ Douglas!" cried her mother. "Alice, did I not tell you that you
were on no account to call her _Miss_. Remember always, Mrs. Catherine.
And she knows very well that we are not able to keep a maid for you, and
will understand that Bessie is for a companion on the way, and in some
sense a protector. If you stay long, you can send her home."

"And be alone in the strange place, mother," said Alice, the sunshine
fading, for a moment, from her face.

"How long will it be strange, Alice?" said her brother. "How many
acquaintances will you make in a week?"

The sunshine flushed back again.

"And Mrs. Catherine--is she very eccentric, mother? I hope I shall like
her."

"I hope still more, Alice," said Mrs. Aytoun, smiling, "that she may
like you. Mrs. Catherine has many friends who could serve James; and
then, you know, she has no heir. So be as fascinating as possible."

"Mother!" exclaimed James, "this worldly wisdom sounds strangely from
your lips. We do not send Alice away to pay court to Mrs. Catherine
Douglas for her estate's sake."

"By no means," said Mrs. Aytoun. "I have heard Mrs. Catherine spoken of
often as a most kind, loveable person, in her own peculiar way; and I
accepted her invitation to Alice gladly, not because she has an estate
unheired, but because--for various reasons, indeed--but the other, by
the way. You are a landless laird yourself, James, and I am not quite so
stoical as to despise a good inheritance."

"Do you know any of Mrs. Catherine's neighbors, mother?" said Alice,
whose attention, sadly distracted by anticipation, had altogether
wandered during this discussion of motives. "The people I am likely to
meet, do you know any of them?"

"No," said Mrs. Aytoun, "I never was at the Tower; and my mother left
the neighborhood young, and died so soon, too, that I have had very
little connexion with her friends or native place. Indeed, it surprised
me, that Mrs. Catherine should remember our relationship at all: but she
is one of the most generous persons possible, I have heard often; and no
doubt wishes to give you a glimpse, Alice, of the world you should enter
on now." And Mrs. Aytoun gave a very quiet sigh.

"Nonsense, mother!" said her son, energetically. "Alice stands in no
need of generosity: and I should fancy a set of North Country lairds
could be very little superior to the society we have here, landless
though we be."

"There are most gentlemanly and intellectual men in the North Country,
James," said Mrs. Aytoun, quietly shifting her premises.

"No doubt of it, mother; but not better than we have in Edinburgh."

Mrs. Aytoun drew her hand over her daughter's fair curls, and made no
answer; confessing to herself, that a North Country laird would be, in
her eyes, a more suitable partner for her Alice, than any rising W.S.,
or poor advocate of all James Aytoun's friends.

Alice's trunks were standing, corded and ready. Little Bessie, the
daughter of a woman who had been Mrs. Aytoun's nurse in better times,
and who was her humble agent and assistant in all emergencies now, sat
in the kitchen in all the glory of a new shawl and bonnet, a brevet
ladies-maid; and it was nearly time to start. Mrs. Aytoun had yet to
pack some small, forgotten tendernesses in a basket, with tremulous
mother-anxiety, half-pleased, half-sorrowful, while James stood, watch
in hand, warning her of the flight of those quick moments and of the
possible starting of the coach before her cares were at an end.

At last, they left the house, established Alice in the cosiest corner,
set little Bessie by her side, gave the guard all manner of instructions
to attend to their comfort, and waited till the vehicle should start.

"Mind, Alice," whispered Mrs. Aytoun, anxiously; "always to call her
Mrs. Catherine," and, in a moment more, Alice had lost sight of the
compelled smile on her mother's pale face, and had started on her first
journey from home.

She was seventeen only, and her heart was bounding high within her. The
October morning was so bright and invigorating, the beautiful world so
new and so unknown. A transitory qualm passed over the unclouded,
youthful spirit, as she thought it not right, perhaps, to rejoice at
leaving home, but that passed speedily. A temporary anxiety as to the
unknown Mrs. Catherine, whom she was hastening to see: but that
disappeared also. The brilliant dreams that had been rising by day and
night, since that momentous invitation came, floated together in
indistinct brightness before her. The red October sunbeams, the bracing
October breeze, the beautiful landscapes on that northern road--though
these danced but indistinctly in her eyes, a part of the exhilaration of
spirit, yet scarcely things rejoiced in for their own beauty--filled up
her gladness to overflowing. The little heart at her side danced too, in
its degree, as blithely, for after the young lady herself, in the great
house to which they journeyed, was not the young lady's maid next in
dignity.

At one of the stages of the journey, a hypochondriac old gentleman, who
had been the only other tenant of the coach, became faint, and declared
himself unable to remain in the inside; whereupon, after some delay, an
outside passenger was prevailed upon to exchange. A by no means
unpleasant exchange, for the new comer was a young man of good looks,
and frank, prepossessing manners, to whom the innocent, youthful face,
with its blue eyes and fair curls might, or might not, have been an
inducement to descend.

The beauty of the road became more articulate after that, as the polite
stranger, apparently well-acquainted with the way, took care to point
out to his young fellow-traveller its various points of interest, and
imperceptibly, Alice scarce knew how, they glided into confidential
conversation. For Strathoran, the stranger said, was his home and
birth-place, whither he was returning after a long absence, and Mrs.
Catherine Douglas was one of his oldest friends--he had known her all
his life. So the hours went on, quick and pleasantly, and the long miles
gradually dwindled down. Her new friend talked, Alice thought, as few
could talk, and interspersed his comments on their present road so
gracefully, with anecdotes of other roads, world-famed and wonderful,
which she had read of often, but which he had seen.

He told her of her kinswoman, too, and of the Tower, and hinted how her
own gentle presence would brighten the old walls and recall its youth
again, till Alice, with all these magic influences about her, began to
discover that this journey, instead of the weary means of reaching a
wished-for destination, was in itself a young Elysium, unthought of,
and delightful--the first homage rendered to the youthful woman, no
longer a child: the first sign of her entrance into that fair world of
more eventful life, whose air seemed now so golden with smiles and
sunshine.

The dim lights of Portoran began to blink at last through the mists of
the October night, and by and bye, the coach stopped at the door of the
principal inn, in the main street. Already Alice could perceive various
individual loungers without, touching their hats as they caught a
glimpse of her companion, and while she herself began to wonder how she
was to travel the remaining five or six miles to the Tower, the head of
a tall and gaunt, elderly woman, dressed in stiff old-fashioned
garments, looked in at the coach window.

"Is Miss Aytoun here?" said a harsh voice.

Alice answered timidly to her name.

"Quite safe; but very weary I am afraid," said the gentleman, "Mistress
Elspat, you have forgotten me, I see. How are they all at the Tower?"

"Bless me, Mr. Lewis, is't you?" said the stately Mrs. Elspat Henderson,
own woman to Mrs. Catherine Douglas, of the Tower. "Who would have
thought of meeting you here? They're a' well, Sir. I left Miss Anne
there even now; but the carriage is waiting for the young lady. The
carriage is waiting, Miss Aytoun."

And, beginning to tremble, with a revulsion of all her simple
apprehensions and timidity, Alice Aytoun was transferred to Mrs.
Catherine's comfortable carriage, and leaving Lewis Ross at the inn
door, looking after her, rolled away through the darkness to the Tower.

It was not a pleasant change; to leave the cheerful voice and vivacious
conversation of Lewis, for those formal questions as to her journey, and
the terrified stillness of little Bessie, as she sat tremulously by Mrs.
Elspat's side. Alice had scarcely ever seen before the dense darkness of
starless nights in so wide and lonely a country, as she looked out
through the carriage window, and saw, or fancied she saw the body of
darkness floating round about her, the countless swimming atoms of gloom
that filled the air, her bounding heart was chilled. The faint autumnal
breeze, too, pouring its sweeping, sighing lengths, through those
endless walls of trees; the excited throb of her pulse when in some
gaunt congregation of firs, she fancied she could trace the quaint
gables and high roof of some olden dwelling-place; the disappointment of
hearing in answer to her timid question that the Tower was yet miles
away! Alice sank back into her corner in silence, and closed her eyes,
feeling now many fears and misgivings, and almost wishing herself at
home.

At last the voice of the Oran roused her; there was something homelike
in its tinkling musical footsteps, and Alice looked up.--Dimly the massy
Tower was rising before her, planting its strong breadth firmly upon its
knoll, like some stout sentinel of old. The great door was flung wide
open as they approached, and a flood of light, and warmth, and
kindliness beaming out, dazzled and made denser the intervening gloom.
Foremost on the broad threshold, stood a young lady, whose graver and
elder womanhood, brought confidence to the throbbing girlish heart;
behind stood the portly Mrs. Euphan Morison--the elfin Jacky, and
furthest back of all, a tall figure, enveloped in the wide soft folds of
the gray shawl, Mrs. Catherine's characteristic costume. Little Alice
alighted, half stumbling in bashful awkwardness, the young lady on the
threshold came forward, took her hand, and said some kindly words of
welcome. Jacky curtsied; the tall figure advanced.

"I have brought ye the young lady--Miss Aytoun, ma'am," said Mrs. Elspat
Henderson, and Alice lifted her girlish face, shy and blushing, to the
scrutiny of her ancient kinswoman. Mrs. Catherine drew the young
stranger forward, took her hand, and looked at her earnestly.

"A right bonnie countenance it is," she said at last, bending to kiss
the white forehead of the tremulous Alice. "You are welcome to my house,
Alison Aytoun. Anne, the bairn is doubtless cold and wearied. Do you
guide her up the stair."

Up the fine old staircase, into the inner drawing-room, which was Mrs.
Catherine's especial sanctum, with its warm colors, and blazing fire,
and shining tea equipage. Little Alice had to close her blue eyes
perforce, dazzled as they were, that no one might see the happy dew that
gathered in them. The contrast was so pleasant, and forthwith the
bounding of that gay heart, and all its bright dreams and sunshiny
anticipations came flushing back again.

"And so you had a pleasant journey," said Mrs. Catherine, kindly, when
after half an hour which Alice had spent arranging her dress, half in
awe, and more than half in pleasure, in the beautiful apartment called
her dressing-room, they were seated at table--Anne Ross presiding over
the massy silver tea-pot, and hissing urn: "and were not feared to
travel your lane? Jacky, you elf! what call had you to open that door,
and let in a draft upon us? The bairn will get her death of cold."

"If you please, Miss Anne," said Jacky, resolutely holding the door of
the outer room open, as she kept her ground.

"Come in, ye fairy, and shut the door," commanded Mrs. Catherine.

The girl obeyed, casting long sharp glances from under her dark
eye-brows at the wondering Alice.

"If you please, Miss Anne, my grandmother says--"

"What, Jacky?"

Jacky had paused to ascertain who it was that the young stranger was
like, and muttered a private memorandum of her discovery before she went
on.

"It's the little picture in the west room--my grandmother says, Miss
Anne, that Mr. Lewis--but she bade me say, Merkland--"

"What of him, Jacky?" said Anne, rising hastily.

"If ye please, Miss Anne, he came to Portoran in the coach with a young
lady to-night."

"Came to Portoran to-night!" repeated Anne, "then you must let me leave
you immediately, Mrs. Catherine. I must hasten to tell my mother, if
indeed Lewis is not at home already."

"Away with you down the stairs, you elf," cried Mrs. Catherine, "and see
if the horses are put up yet; and if they're not, let Simon be ready to
drive Miss Ross to Merkland. Anne, doubtless you must go, but mind the
bairn Alison is not used to such company as a staid auld wife like me,
and be soon back again."

"I will bring Lewis to see you to-morrow, Mrs. Catherine," said Anne, as
she hastily bade Alice good night.

"It must have been your brother who travelled with me, Miss Ross," said
Alice. "He said he had been abroad, and knew Mrs. Catherine--and he was
very kind. Will you thank him for me?"

Anne Ross felt herself shrink and tremble from the touch of the small
soft hand, the innocent frank look of the girlish face--the child of the
slain man, whose blood was on Norman's hand.

A strange contrast--the little throbbing happy heart, whose slight
fears, and shy apprehensions, scarcely graver than a child's, had
trembled and palpitated so short a time before, in the same vehicle
which carried down to Merkland, so grave a burden of grief, so few
hopes, so many sorrows, in Anne's maturer spirit--for before _her_ there
lay no brilliant heritage of unknown good to come. One vision was in her
very heart continually--a wandering, sorrowing, sinning man, buffeting
the wind, striving through the tempest, enveloped with every physical
attribute of misery, and carrying its essence in his soul. It is only
those who have mourned and yearned for such, who can know how the sick
heart, in its anxious agonies, conjures up storm, and blast, and
desolation, to sweep around the beloved head, of whose sin and
wanderings it knows, yet knows not where those wanderings are--the pain
without, symbolizing and heightening the darker pain within, with one of
those touches of tragic art, which grief does so strangely excel in.

Lewis had not arrived when Anne reached Merkland, but he came shortly
after; and the stir of joy incident on his arrival united the family
more closely together than was usual for them. Mrs. Ross's cold bright
eyes were wet with tears of joy that night, and her worldly spirit
melted into kindliness; and the presence of Lewis gave his only sister a
greater share in the household and its rejoicings. He stood between her
step-mother and her, the nearest relation of each, linking them
together. Lewis had been two years away. He had gone, a fairhaired
youth, with a gay party from Strathoran, who, seizing the first
opportunity of restored peace, set out to those sunny continental
countries from which mere tourists had been excluded so long. He was a
man now, bronzed and bearded, and with the independent manners of one
who had been accustomed in all matters to guide and direct himself.
There were various particulars of that same independence which jarred
upon Anne's delicate feelings. A considerable remainder of boyish
self-importance, and braggadocio--a slight loudness of tone, and
flippancy of expression; but there was the excitement of his
home-coming, to excuse these faults in some degree.

"And the Duncombes, Lewis," asked Mrs. Ross, when the first burst of
welcome was over, and they were seated by the fireside, discussing his
journey--"where are they now?"

"Oh, Duncombe's in Gibraltar," said Lewis, "with his regiment of course.
Duncombe can't afford to choose his residence--he must have his full
pay. A dull life they have of it, yonder."

"And how does Isabel Sutherland like that, Lewis?" said Anne.

"Isabel Sutherland? Mrs. Duncombe, do you mean? Why you don't think
_she's_ one of the garrison! She's not such a fool, I can tell you!"

"Where is she then, if she is not with her husband?" said Anne,
wonderingly.

"What an innocent you are, sister Anne!" said Lewis, laughing. "Why,
she's one of the 'unattached,' as Gordon says. I left her in Paris with
Archie. You have no idea what a moody, gloomy fellow Duncombe's grown. I
should think he was enough to frighten anybody!"

"He was always a bilious-looking man," said Mrs. Ross; "and yet Isabel
ran away with him."

"Ah! there's no accounting for the taste of young ladies," said Lewis,
lightly. "I should think she would be more likely to run away _from_
him, than _with_ him, now. But you should see their _menage_ in Paris!
Archie's the man for all that."

"How do you mean, Lewis?" said Anne.

"You used to like him--eh, Annie?" said Lewis. "Don't break your
heart--it's all up with that now. But, I can tell you, he makes the
money fly finely."

Anne's face flushed deeply--perhaps with the faintest shadow of pain at
that intelligence, more than did merely belong to her regret for the
folly of an old neighbor and early companion--but certainly with a
painful feeling of the levity and carelessness of Lewis.

"Well, Lewis," said Mrs. Ross; "I should think Archibald Sutherland
could afford it pretty well. The old people must have saved a great
deal, they lived so quietly. Strathoran is a good estate. Archie does
not need to be so frugal as you."

"Frugal!" echoed her son. "I wish you only saw. But, unless you did,
with your quiet Scotch notions, you could have no idea of it. If Archie
Sutherland is not poorer than we are, I'm mistaken."

"Oh!" said Mrs. Ross; "that will be the reason they are thinning the
woods. Then why don't they come home and economize?"

"Come home!" cried Lewis. "Home to this dull Strathoran after Paris!
It's not such an easy thing, I can tell you, mother. But, to be sure,
one never knows the true reason. I've heard Archie often wishing for
home--perhaps he is afraid of falling in love with Anne."

"At all events, Lewis," said Anne, gravely, "whatever Archie Sutherland
fears, you are not afraid of giving me pain."

"Don't be absurd, Anne," said Mrs. Ross. "The poor boy's first night at
home, to begin with these airs of yours!"

Lewis saw the painful flush upon Anne's face--the look of deep
humiliation with which she turned away her head, and his heart smote
him.

"I did not think you were so easily hurt. Nonsense, Anne! It was mere
thoughtlessness, I assure you. I would not give you pain for anything."

Alas! there were many things for which Lewis Ross would have been
content to pain any one in the world. But Anne was easily mollified, and
he ran on:

"I met a little fairy of a girl in the coach, to-day. She was going to
the Tower, to visit Mrs. Catherine. Hallo! what's the matter, Anne?"

"Nothing," said Anne, forcing a smile on the lip which she had felt
quiver a moment before.

"How pale you were!" said Lewis. "I thought you were ill. I must go up
to see Mrs. Catherine to-morrow. How does she wear, the old lady? She
must be getting very ancient now. But that girl is a pretty little
thing. Who can she be--do you know, Anne? I thought of her being a
companion, or something of that kind; but there was a little maid with
her."

"A relative of Mrs. Catherine's," said Anne, faintly.

"A relative--oh! What if she cuts you out!" said Lewis.--"I should have
thought you sure of a good place in Mrs. Catherine's will, Anne. But
there is no saying what a little fairy like that may do."

Anne Ross felt the pang of dependence bitterly that night. Lewis was too
like his mother to make it light to her; and portionless, with her plain
face, and fastidious taste, what could she ever look for but dependence.
Marriage, that necessity, often enough an unhappy one, to which so many
young women in her position must look, as to a profession, for home and
means, could never be a matter of mercenary convenience to Anne, and
honorable earning of her own bread was an impossibility. And from her
own sombre prospects she could turn for relief to so few of the things
or people around. Lewis, so carelessly unfeeling and indifferent, so
blunted in perception--Norman, whose very life was so great a dread to
her, remaining before her mind's eye for ever--and even the sunny,
youthful face at the Tower, which had lifted its blue eyes so trustfully
to her own--why did its remembrance, and Lewis's light words of comment
on its girlish comeliness, strike so deep a chill of fear into her
heart? Ah! clouds deeply gathering, heavily brooding over this nook of
still and peaceful country, what new combinations were your dark mists
to form?

Alice Aytoun by this time was snugly settled in the Tower, and had
already written a little note, overflowing with innocent pride and
joyousness to her mother at home, describing that most cheerful of all
inner drawing-rooms, and dwelling fully upon the glories of her own
apartments, the carved wardrobe, the old piano, the beautiful flowers;
mentioning, too, in the postscript, in the very slightest manner, a
"young gentleman," who had pointed out all the places to her on the way,
and who turned out to be Miss Ross's brother, though who Miss Ross was,
Alice did not stay to particularize. And after the letter was written,
Mrs. Catherine, whose eyes had been lingering on the youthful face with
most genial kindliness, began to play with her in talk, half childish,
and wholly affectionate, as with some toy of unknown construction, whose
capabilities she did not yet quite see. Jacky, too, with those quick,
sidelong glances, as she went jerking in and out at every possible
opportunity, had commenced her study of the young stranger's character,
and quickened by admiration of the simple pretty face, was advancing in
her study as quickly as her mistress. The minds of the stately old lady
and the elfin girl came to conclusions strangely similar. There rose in
them both an instinctive impulse of kindly protection, natural enough in
Alice Aytoun's aged kinswoman, but contrasting oddly with the age and
position of Jacky Morison.

Anne and Lewis visited the Tower next day. In the Sutherlands, of whom
Lewis brought tidings so unfavorable, Mrs. Catherine was deeply
interested, and listened while he spoke of them, with many shakings of
her head, and doubts and fears.

"Trysted to evil," she exclaimed, as Lewis told her in his careless way,
of Mrs. Duncombe's Paris life. "Did I not say nothing good could come of
the bairn that left the sick bed of her mother, for the sake of a
strange man; ay, and made the sick-bed--a death-bed by the deed. Lewis,
is't the lad's fault, think you, or is't hers?"

"Oh, I don't know that there is much fault in it," said Lewis. "It's not
a formal separation, you know; only Isabel's living with her brother,
because it is, beyond dispute, pleasanter to live in Paris than in
Gibraltar. You don't know really--you can have no idea."

"Think you so?" said Mrs. Catherine, quickly, "but maybe there are folk
living who knew such places and things, before you were born! Why does
Isabel Sutherland not return to the house of her fathers, if she cannot
dwell with the man she left father and mother for?"

"There is no accounting for these things," said Lewis, with a slight
sneer.

"Lewis Ross," said Mrs. Catherine, "hold your peace; you are but a boy,
and should leave that to your elders. Anne, I am sore grieved for Archie
Sutherland; if evil comes to the lad, it will be as hard to me, as if
evil were coming upon you."



CHAPTER III.


During the following week there were great preparations and much bustle
in Merkland, for Lewis's birthday was to be celebrated with unwonted
festivities, and all Mrs. Ross's energies were aroused to make an
appearance worthy the occasion. All the Lairds' families round about had
received invitations to the solemn dinner-party, at which Lewis Ross
was, for the first time, to take his father's place. There was to be a
dinner, too, in the Sutherland Arms, at Portoran, of the not very
extensive tenantry of Merkland, at which the landlord and his underlings
laughed in their sleeves, contrasting it secretly with the larger
festivities which had hailed the majority of the youthful Sutherland of
Strathoran, whose continued absence from his own home, gave occasion for
so many surmisings. But yet, on a small scale, as they were, these same
Merkland festivities were a matter of some moment in the quiet
country-side. Alice Aytoun's gay heart leaped breathlessly at the
thought of them, and many anxious cogitations had risen under her fair
curls, touching that pretty gown of light silk, which was her only gala
dress. Whether it was good enough to shine in that assemblage of rural
aristocracy, and how it would look beside the beautiful robes which,
Bessie reported, the Misses Coulter, of Harrows, had ordered from
Edinburgh for the occasion. Alice had serious doubts--her only
consolation under which was Bessie's genuine admiration; and thought
within herself, with a sigh, that if she had to go to _many_ parties,
the same dress would not do always, and her mother, at home, could not
afford to order beautiful robes for her, as Mrs. Coulter could; however,
that was still in the future, and but a dim prospective evil.

Lewis Ross, in those busy days, had many errands to the Tower, and on
his fine horse, looked, as Alice thought, the very impersonation of
youthful strength, and courage, and gay spirits. And Merkland was a
pretty house, with its deep bordering of woods, and its quiet
home-landscape, of cultivated fields and scattered farm-houses. Alice
almost thought she preferred its tamer beauty, to the wide expanse of
hills and valleys, of wandering river, and broad sea, upon which she
looked out, from the deepest window of her chamber in the eastern tower.

All the parish was stirred to welcome Lewis, and other parishes
surrounding Strathoran, added the pressure of their kindliness. He was
in the greatest request everywhere. From gay Falcon's Craig to the sober
Manse, from drowsy Smoothlie to the bustling homestead of Mr. Coulter,
of Harrows, everybody delighted to honor the youthful heir of Merkland.
Lewis did all that goodwill and good horsemanship could do, to renew his
acquaintance with them all. He gallopped to Falcon's Craig, and spent a
gay night with the bold Falconers. He met Ralph by appointment next day,
to follow the hounds. He made a visit to Smoothlie, and curbed his horse
into compulsory conformity to the sober paces of Mr. Ambler's
respectable pony, as that easy, quiet old gentleman, who was conjoined
with Mrs. Ross in the guardianship of her son, accompanied him to
Merkland. And Lewis inspected the stock at Harrows, and dropped in at
the Manse, to chat awhile with Mrs. Bairn's father; yet, with all these
labors on his hand, did yet insist, in the excess of his brotherly
solicitude, on accompanying his reluctant sister Anne to the Tower, the
day before he became of age.

Mrs. Catherine sat in her library, that day, in grave deliberation--with
young Walter Foreman, and Mr. Ferguson, the Strathoran factor, again
beside her. The table was strewed with papers, and the two gentlemen
were pressing something to which she objected, upon the firm old lady.

"The siller is mine," she said, "be it so. The man (I will say no ill
of him, seeing he was a kinsman of my own, but that he was a fool, which
is in no manner uncommon) is dead, and his will can have no more
changes; frail folk as we are, that can never be counted on for our
steadfastness, till we are in our graves! But allowing that the siller
is my own--is it a lawful purpose, I ask of you, Mr. Ferguson, to build
up with it, the foolish pleasures of a prodigal--alack, that I should
call his mother's son so! while I may have other righteous errands to
send it forth upon?"

"It is to build up the old house of Strathoran. It is to save your
friend's son," said the factor, with an appealing motion of his hand.

Mrs. Catherine was moved, and did not answer for a moment.

"The lad was left well in this world's goods," she said, at last. "A
fairer course was never before mortal man. An honorable name, a good
inheritance, the house of his fathers over his head, and a country-side
looking up to him. What could he seek more, I ask you, Mr. Ferguson? And
where is the lad? Revelling in yon land of playactors, and flunkies, and
knicknackets: consorting with a herd of buzzing things, that were worms
yesterday, and will be nothing in the morn. Speak not to me; I have seen
suchlike with my own eyes. He must have his feasts, and his flatterers,
forsooth! and the good land, that God gave him, eaten up for it.
Bonnie-dyes, and paintings, and statues said he? And if it were even so
(and the youth, Lewis Ross, says otherwise,) should he take the poor
man's lamb for that, think ye?--the farmer's honest gains, that he toils
for, with the care of his mind, and the sweat of his brow?"

The lawyer and the factor exchanged glances.

"I beg you to do us justice, Mrs. Catherine," said Mr. Ferguson,
deprecatingly: "that was done in no case but in Mr. Ewing's; and the
land is really worth considerably more now than when he got his former
lease."

"And whose praise is that?" said Mrs. Catherine, sharply. "Not the
laird's, who never put a finger to the land. Do you not know well
yourself, Robert Ferguson, that Andrew Ewing's lease had but four years
to run, when by the good hand of Providence, giving him a discreet wife,
with siller, he was set on improving the land? Has he not spent his
profits twice told upon it? And, before he has time to reap a just
harvest, the prodigal must come in, to take a tithe off the gains of the
honest man. I take ye to witness, that the welfare of the lad, Archie
Sutherland, Isabel Balfour's son, lies near my own heart, but I cannot
shut my eyes to this evil."

"It was done in no other case," repeated Mr. Ferguson.

"Was there any other lease out," retorted Mrs. Catherine, "that the
hunger of siller could have its aliment on? You are a discreet man, Mr.
Ferguson, and you, Walter Foreman, with your business-breeding, should
have some notion of the value of siller. Is it not a deep sea that ye
are asking me to throw this portion into? A hungry mouth that, the more
ye fill it, will but gape and gaunt the more? So far as the siller is
mine, have I not gotten it to use it well, as my light goes?--to succour
the widow and fatherless, maybe--not to pamper the unnatural wants of a
waster and a prodigal?"

"Mrs. Catherine," said the factor, "hear me speak before you make this
decision. I do not, by any means, defend Strathoran. I have taken it
upon me, indeed, both to warn and to entreat him to give up this
ruinous--I will not say criminal course, he is embarked on: and I have
received from him, in return, letters that would melt your heart. Why he
persists in what he acknowledges to be wrong, I cannot tell; and I do
not defend him. He has got into the vortex, I suppose, and cannot
extricate himself. But his father built up my fortunes, Mrs. Catherine,
and so long as anything can be done, I will not forsake his son. This
seasonable relief may save him: without this, his affairs are hopelessly
entangled, and Strathoran must cease to be the home of the Sutherlands."

Mrs. Catherine leaned her head upon her hand, and did not speak. At
length, looking up, she saw, through the opposite window, Anne Ross and
Lewis coming up the waterside, to the Tower.

"You will leave me a time, for further thought," she said, slowly. "Put
the papers out of yon keen gallant's sight, or go into another room. You
will hear tidings of your prodigal from Lewis, Mr. Ferguson; and
doubtless you know him well enough, Walter, being birds of a feather.
Euphan Morison, send lunch for the gentlemen into the dining-parlor, and
tell Miss Ross I am waiting for her, in the little room."

So speaking, Mrs. Catherine rose and left the library, her face shadowed
with deeper gravity than was its wont--her step slow and heavy, and
proceeded through many winding passages, to a locked door, in the
furthest angle of the western wing. She opened it with a key which hung
from her neck, and entered a small apartment furnished with the most
meagre simplicity. It contained but two chairs and a small table, and
from the deep diamond-paned window, you could only see the steep side of
a hill, rough with whins and crags, which sprang sheer upward from the
back of the Tower. Upon the wall hung a fine portrait--a noble,
thoughtful, manly face, resembling Mrs. Catherine's except in so far as
its flush of strong manhood was different from the aspect of her
declining years. It was her brother, whose untimely death had cast its
heavy shadow over her own womanly maturity; and the room was Mrs.
Catherine's especial retirement, whither she was wont to come in her
seasons of most solemn and secret prayerfulness, or at some crisis when
her deliberations were grave enough to require the entire attention of
her whole earnest mind. Upon the table lay a large Bible--other
furniture or adornments there were none. In elder days, when the
Douglases of the Tower professed the faith of Rome, it might have been
called the lady's oratory; in these plainer times it was only "the
little room;" yet was surrounded with the awe, which must always environ
the strugglings of a strong spirit, however faintly known to the weaker
multitude around. Mrs. Catherine paced up and down its narrow limits,
moved in her spirit, and expressing often her strong emotion aloud.

"Isabel Balfour," she murmured to herself, stopping as she passed, to
turn upon the picture a look of deep and sorrowful affection. "Ay,
Sholto, it is her bairn, her firstborn, the son of her right hand. If ye
were here, Sholto Douglas, where you should have been, but for God's
pleasure, what would you spare for Isabel's son, that should have been
yours also, and a Douglas? I envied you your bride and your bairns,
Strathoran, for _his_ sake that I left lying in foreign earth, and now
your home is left to you desolate--woe's me! woe's me!"

Mrs. Catherine turned away and paced the room again, with quick and
uneasy steps: "Unrighteous? I know it is unrighteous; but if he had been
Sholto's son, what would I not have done for him, short of sin? and he
_is_ Isabel's--"

A footstep approached, through the passage, as she spoke, and
controlling herself instantly, Mrs. Catherine opened the door to admit
Anne Ross.

"What is the matter?" exclaimed Anne, as she entered. "What has
happened, Mrs. Catherine, that you are here?"

"Nothing, but that I am in a sore strait, and am needing counsel," said
Mrs. Catherine, closing the door; "sit down upon that seat, child, that
I may speak to you."

Anne silently took the chair, and Mrs. Catherine seated herself at the
other side of the small table, with her dead brother's picture looking
down upon her from the wall.

"Anne," she said, gravely, "you have heard the history of Sholto
Douglas, and I need not begin and tell it here again. Look upon him
there, in the picture, and see what manner of man he was. And you have
heard of Isabel Balfour, the trysted bride of the dead, and how, when he
had been in his grave but two twelvemonths, she was wedded to
Strathoran. I blamed her not, Anne, though I myself was truer to the
memory of my one brother; but wherefore am I speaking thus? There are
two lads, Anne, to whom I may do service. One is, as I have heard, an
honorable and upright young man, born to better fortune than he has
inherited, and toiling manfully, as becomes the son of a good house;
besides that, there is a kindred of blood between us. And the other is a
rioter, wasting his substance, and dishonoring his name in a strange
country. I am in a strait between, the two, which will I help, and which
will I pass by?"

"Mrs. Catherine," said Anne, anxiously, "what can I say? I fear that I
can see whom you mean; but how can I advise?"

"The well-doing lad is James Aytoun, the brother of the bairn Alice,"
said Mrs. Catherine, "who is working an honorable and just work to win
back the inheritance of his fathers. The rioter is Isabel Balfour's one
son--that might have been your first-born, Sholto Douglas! and I am in a
sore struggle between my reason and my liking. The boy has gotten in to
my inmost heart, as if he had been truly Sholto's son, and I cannot see
him fall."

There was a long silence--for many motives deterred Anne from
attempting, what at any time she would have done with reluctance, to
offer counsel to the clear and mature judgment of Mrs. Catherine; and
she rightly judged that her ancient friend had all the strength of
secretly-formed resolution to combat the scruples which Anne could not
help sympathizing with, though in her also, so many kindly feelings
pleaded for Archibald Sutherland--a prodigal, indeed, but still the
frank and joyous comrade of her childish days, the "young Strathoran" of
her native district.

At last, Mrs. Catherine rose.

"It must be done," she exclaimed. "Bear me witness, Anne, that I do it
against my judgment. I take the siller to feed the false wants of the
waster, that should help the honorable man in his travail. I do it,
knowing it is ill, but I cannot see the lad a ruined man. Let us away. I
will blind myself with no more false reasonings; the thing is wrong, but
we must do it--come!"

Anne followed without speaking. Mrs. Catherine locked the door, and,
leaning on her heavily, led her up stairs. Alice Aytoun was in the
drawing-room; Mrs. Catherine sent Anne thither, and went herself to seek
for something in her own room. She had intended offering substantial
help to James Aytoun, and now, when the warmth of her feelings for
Archibald Sutherland baulked her benevolent intent, she turned with an
involuntary impulse to make some atonement to Alice.

It had been a very dull morning for Alice--Mrs. Catherine was unusually
grave at breakfast, and since breakfast Alice had been alone--then she
saw Lewis and Anne walking arm-in-arm up Oranside to the Tower, and for
a long half-hour had waited and wondered in tantalising loneliness,
vainly expecting that they would join her, or she be summoned to them.
But they did not come, and Alice, wearied and disappointed, was venting
some girlish impatience on the piano, and indulging in a sort of
fretful wish for home--quiet, affectionate home, where such slight
neglects and forgetfulness never could take place--but, while the
thought was being formed, Anne stood beside her.

"Oh! Miss Ross," exclaimed Alice, "I thought you were never coming," and
through the fair curls the slightest side-glance was thrown to the
closed door, which testified that Anne now came alone. "I saw you coming
up by the water, and I have waited so long."

"Mrs. Catherine had some business with me," said Anne: "and Lewis, I
think, is detained below with other visitors. And what do you think of
our Strathoran now, Miss Aytoun?"

"Oh! a great deal," said Alice; "only I have not seen Strathoran
itself--Mr. Sutherland's house--yet. I am to go to Falcon's Craig, Mrs.
Catherine says, after to-morrow. Miss Falconer was here
yesterday--riding."

"And you liked her, did you not?" said Anne, smiling.

Alice looked dubious.

"Yes, very well. But is she not more like a gentleman than a lady, Miss
Ross?"

"Tell her so yourself to-morrow," said Anne, "and she will think you pay
her a high compliment."

Alice shook her head.

"I should not mean it for that, Miss Ross; but Mrs. Catherine said you
would perhaps go with me to Falcon's Craig. Will you? I should be half
afraid if I went alone."

"Feared for Marjory Falconer!" said Mrs. Catherine, entering the room.
"If once she knew her own spirit, it is not an ill one; and I see not
wherefore she should scare folk. I know well _you_ are not feared, Anne.
See, bairns, here are some bonnie dyes to look at, while I am away. Ye
are to wear them the morn's night, Alison Aytoun, according to your
pleasure. They belong to yourself. And see you go not away, Anne, till I
come back again. I will send Lewis up to hold you in mirth. For myself,
I have things to make me up, other than mirthful."

Alice advanced timidly to the table as Mrs. Catherine left the room.
What might be within that mysterious enclosure of morocco? Anne
smilingly anticipated her. Rich ornaments of pearls, more beautiful than
any thing the simple, girlish eyes had ever looked upon before. Alice
did not know how to look, or what to say; only her heart made one great
leap of delight--all these were her own! How pleased and proud, not for
the gift alone, but for the kindness that gave it, would be the mother's
heart at home!

Mrs. Catherine descended slowly, and, resuming her seat in the library,
called the young lawyer and the factor to her presence, and dismissed
Lewis to the pleasanter company up stairs. Mr. Ferguson, one of those
acute, sagacious, well-informed men, who are to be met with so
frequently in the middle class of rural Scotland, came with looks of
anxious expectation, and Walter Foreman, of whom his independent client
did not deign to ask counsel, took his place again, with secret pique,
fancying himself at least as good an adviser as the plain and quiet
stepdaughter of Mrs. Ross, of Merkland.

"Mr. Ferguson," said Mrs. Catherine, "I have made up my mind. You shall
have the siller. Thank me not. I do that which I know is wrong, and
which I would have done for no mortal but Isabel Balfour's son. You can
get the papers made out at your convenience, and tell me the name of his
dwelling. I will write to the ill-doer myself."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Ferguson, eagerly, "I beg you will not give yourself
so much trouble, Mrs. Catherine. I will myself write to Strathoran
immediately, and tell him of your kindness."

"Doubtless," said Mrs. Catherine: "but wherefore should I not have my
word of exhortation, as well as another? Write me down Archie
Sutherland's address. I could get it from Lewis Ross, but I do not
choose that; and let the siller be paid to Mr. Ferguson, Walter
Foreman--that is, when the papers are ready--for mind that I do not
_give_ this siller, I only lend it."

"On the lands of Lochend and Loelyin," said Mr. Ferguson. "Of course,
Mrs. Catherine."

A slight smile of triumph hovered about the factor's mouth.--Mrs.
Catherine perceived it.

"On which I will have the annual rent paid to a day," she said, with
some sternness, "as if I were the coldest stranger that ever heard of
Archie Sutherland's needs or ill-doings, and, I trow, that is a wide
word. If I had not purposed so, I might have given him the siller, for
what is it to a woman of years like me? Truly, my own spirit bears me
witness, that I would give that threefold, if it were mine to give, with
a light heart, to restore the prodigal to the house of his fathers, as
innocent as he went away. Let the business be done, Walter Foreman;
doubtless, you will be taken up with the ploy to-morrow, and will be
putting it off till after that."

"We can get it done immediately," said Walter, somewhat sullenly.

"What ails you, sir?" said Mrs. Catherine. "Should I have taken counsel
with you on the secrets of my own spirit, think you?--I that am given to
take counsel of no man. Be content, Walter Foreman--you are not an ill
gallant, but have overmuch favor for your own wisdom, as is common at
your years. If you live to count threescore, you will be an humbler
man."

"Our success is a most fortunate thing for Strathoran," said Mr.
Ferguson, as they left the Tower. "But the letter--I would not receive
such a letter as Mrs. Catherine will write, on such a subject, for the
half of his estate."

Walter Foreman shrugged his shoulders.

"And yet she has the greatest regard for him. Mrs. Sutherland was
betrothed to Mrs. Catherine's brother, when he died, people say; and it
is her strange adoration of his memory that makes her so fond of young
Strathoran. A singular consequent, one would think."

"Mrs. Catherine is altogether singular," said Mr. Ferguson, "and not to
be judged as people of the world are."

And when the night was far spent, and Alice had carried her bounding
heart, and her new possessions, into her own bright apartment, and was
electrifying little Bessie there, with a glimpse of the wonderous beauty
of those pearls, and trying them on before the mirror on the walls, and
listening with bursts of gay laughter to Bessie's guesses of their
value--sums immense and fabulous to the simplicity of both, yet,
nevertheless, in truth, not greatly exceeding their true worth--Mrs.
Catherine sat in the library alone, writing her letter, her strong
features swept by deep emotion often, and her steady hand shaken. The
course which the young man was pursuing, was in every way the most
repulsive to her feelings. Sin it appeared in the eyes of her strong,
unswerving, pure religion--dishonor to her nice sense of uprightness and
independence. His foreign residence and likings shocked her warm,
home-affections, her entire nationality, and the possible alienation of
his lands from the name and family in whose possession they had been so
long, alarmed alike fear and prejudice; for Mrs. Catherine, boasting her
own pure descent from the "dark-grey man," was no enemy to the law of
entail. His sister, too, and her separation from the husband for whom
she had left her mother's sick-bed--all these things poured in upon Mrs.
Catherine's mind, increasing her agitation, and hallowed, as all her
fears were, by that strange visionary tenderness, so thoroughly in
unison with her strong character, despite its romance, which clung
around those who might have been the children of that dearest brother
Sholto, whose mortality, so much as remained of it, lay treasured in yon
lone burying-ground in far Madeira, upon whose sunny shore he died.

     "Archibald Sutherland," wrote Mrs. Catherine, "I have been hearing
     tidings of you, which have carried a sword into my inmost heart;
     and though I might well write in anger, seeing that though I am not
     of your kin, you were in my arms a helpless bairn, before you were
     in the arms of any mortal--it is in grief rather that I speak to
     you. Wherefore is there neither firelight nor candlelight in the
     house of Strathoran? Is the home of your fathers not good enough
     for a son that puts in jeopardy their good fame? Is the roof that
     sheltered Isabel Balfour in her bridal days, too mean for Isabel
     Sutherland? or wherefore is it, that with your fair lands and good
     possessions you are dwelling in a strange and ungodly country?
     Father and mother you have none to warn you. Answer to me, Archie
     Sutherland, who have known you all your days, wherefore it should
     be so. Think you that among the flattering fools that are about
     you, there is one that would lose a night's sleep, if Strathoran
     and all belonging to it, were swept into the sea? Come back to your
     own dwelling-place: witless and prodigal as you have been, there is
     not a hind in the parish but would lament over the desolate house
     of your fathers. Think you that it is a small thing, the leal
     liking and respect of a whole countryside, come down to you as a
     heritage? or is it your will to give up that for the antics of a
     papistical and alien race? I say to you, come back to your own
     house, Archie Sutherland. There is neither healthfulness nor
     safety--let alone good fame and godliness, a man's best plenishing
     for this world and the next--in the course you are running now.

     "Think not that I write this because I have served you with siller.
     Over the son of Isabel Balfour, the sister of Sholto Douglas has a
     right of succor and counsel, warning and reproof. Boy! if you had
     been my own--if in God's good pleasure you had borne the name of my
     own brother--the dearest name upon this earth to me--what is there
     that you might not have claimed at my hands? What is there now,
     that would be for your own good, that I would hesitate to do?--but
     far be it from me, who mind your mother's travail for the new birth
     in you, the which in all mortal seeming has not yet been granted to
     her prayers--to prop up your goings in a way of ill-doing. Of what
     good is it to the world, I ask you, Archie Sutherland, that you
     have been made upon it, a living man with a mind within you, and a
     heaven over you? Who is the better for the light that God has put
     into your earthen vessel? A crowd of dancing, singing fools, that
     know not either the right honor, or the grave errand of a man into
     this world. Shame upon you, the son of a stalwart and good house,
     to be wasting in bairnly diversion, the days you will never see
     again, till you meet them before the Throne. Listen to me, Archie
     Sutherland--return to your own house, and to such a manner of life
     as becomes an honorable and upright man, and I give you my
     word--the worth of which, you may be known--that for disentangling
     you from the unhealthful meshes of borrowed siller, the means shall
     not be to seek.

     "Unto your sister Isabel, I have ever been a prophet of evil;
     nevertheless, she bears the name, and, in a measure, the
     countenance, of Sholto's Isabel and mine. If she will not return to
     the lawful shelter and rule of her own house, let her come to
     Strathoran, or, if it likes her, to the Tower. Do you think, or
     does she think, that the very winged things that are about you,
     their own sillie selves, honor the wife for disregarding her
     natural right? The bond was of her own tieing; she liked him better
     than father and mother once--does she like him less now than she
     likes ill-fame, and slight esteem? If it is so, let her come home
     to me, her mother's earliest and oldest friend. Bairns!--bairns!
     there is more to provide for than the pleasure of the quick hours
     that are speeding over ye. Purity before God, honor in the sight of
     men: are your spirits blinded within ye, that you cannot perceive
     the two?

CATHERINE DOUGLAS."



CHAPTER IV.


The festive morning dawned at last, a vigorous, red October day, and all
about and around Merkland was bustle and preparation.

"Duncan," cried Bell the cook, her face looming, already red and full,
through a mist; "when was that weary man, Bob Partan, to send up the
turbot?"

"Punctual at eleven," said the laconic Duncan.

"Eh! man, Duncan," said May, "have ye tried on your new livery
yet?--isn't it grand?"

"Hout, you silly fool," responded Duncan, "has the like o' me leisure,
think you, to be minding about coats and breeks?"

"Eh!" exclaimed Bell, "what has possessed me! There's no clove in a' the
house and they need to be in--I kenna how mony things. You maun off to
Portoran, Duncan, gallopping; there's not a minute to be lost."

"Duncan," cried Johnnie Halflin, the boy at the Tower, who, with sundry
other articles, had been lent for the occasion, "I've casten doun a jar
o' the Smoothlie honey, and it's broken twa o' the bottles. Man, come
afore the leddy sees't."

"Duncan," said Barbara Genty, Mrs. Ross's own especial attendant. "You
are to go up to the parlor, this minute. You were sent for half an hour
ago."

"Conscience!" exclaimed the overwhelmed Duncan, "is there two of us,
that ye are rugging and riving at a man in that gate? Get out o' my
road, ye young sinner, or there shall be mair things broken than
bottles! I'm coming, Bauby. Woman Bell, could ye no hae minded a'thing
at once?"

Above stairs, Mr. Lewis's servant, who had left Merkland a loutish lad,
and returned glistening in Parisian polish and refinement, a superfine
gentleman, was condescendingly advising with Mrs. Ross, as to the
garniture of the dinner-table. Things were so arranged in the Hotel
de ----, John said; for Monsieur Charles, Mr. Sutherland's major-domo,
had a style of his own. But for the country, John fancied this would do
very well. Mrs. Ross had dismissed Anne, an hour before, to her own
room, as useless; and half-offended with the airs of her son's dignified
servant, was yet not above hearing the style of the Hotel de ----, and in
some degree making it her model, certain that Parisian fashion had not
penetrated to any other house in the district, and well-pleased to take
the lead. For the gay parties at Falcon's Craig, and the stately
festivities at the Tower, had an individuality about them which had
always been wanting in Merkland, and Mrs. Ross had resolved to outshine
all to-day.

Anne, meanwhile, sat up stairs, busied with her ordinary work. She was
the seamstress of the family, and the post was not by any means a
sinecure.

The guests began to arrive, at last. Mr. Ambler, of Smoothlie, emerged
from his dressing-room, neat as elderly, finical gentleman could be,
with his carefully arranged dress, and wig, savoring of olden times. Mr.
Ambler had been in India once, and alluded to the fact on all occasions;
albeit, an indulged only son, with the snug enough of his lairdship to
fall back upon, he had returned in the same vessel which took him out.
But though Mr. Ambler was too fond of slippered ease to try his fortune
under the burning sun of the East, his voyage supplied him with an
inexhaustible fund of conversation, innocently self-complacent, in which
India and its wonders had a place all incompatible with his brief
experience of them.

Dashing in, full gallop, came the Falconers--the gay, bold brother and
sister, fatherless and motherless, and entirely unrestrained in any way,
whose wild freaks afforded so much material for gossip to the
countryside. Then in a methodical, business-like trot, came in the sleek
horses and respectable vehicle of Mr. Coulter, of Harrows; the Manse
gig; the stately carriage of Mrs. Catherine, and other conveyances,
whose occupants we need not specify by name. The room was filled. Alice
Aytoun had never in her life been at so great a party.

She could distinguish on yonder sofa, in the corner, Mrs. Bairnsfather's
black satin gown, side by side with the strong thrifty hued silk of Mrs.
Coulter, of Harrows. The Misses Coulter, in their Edinburgh robes, were
near their mamma. They were very well-looking, well-dressed girls; but
Alice's own silk gown bore a comparison with theirs, and their ornaments
were nothing like those delicate pearls. The discovery emboldened little
Alice Aytoun, and took away her sole existing heaviness. She was fully
prepared to enjoy herself.

The stately dinner, and all its solemnities, were over at last. The real
pleasure of the evening was commencing; the company forming into gay
knots; and Lewis doing the honors, with so rare a grace, that his mother
almost forgot her own duties in admiration of her son. Alice Aytoun
admired him, too. The pretty little stranger had become a sort of centre
already, with the gayest and most attractive of all those varied groups,
about her--and Lewis let no opportunity pass of offering his homage.
Even on Mrs. Catherine's strong features, as she sat near her charge,
there hovered a mirthful smile. Mrs. Catherine herself was not
displeased that the _debut_ of her little stranger should be so much a
triumph.

"A pretty girl--there is no doubt of that," said the good-humored Mrs.
Coulter. "James, do you not think she is like our Ada? See, the heads of
the two are together, and Jeanie is behind them, with young Walter
Foreman. I declare that lad is constantly hovering about Jeanie. Ah,
Mrs. Bairnsfather, we have many cares who have a family!"

"No doubt," said the little, fat, round-about Mrs. Bairnsfather, the
childless minister's wife, whose cares, diverted from the usual channel
of children-loving, expended themselves upon the many comforts of
herself, and her easy, comfortable husband. "You must be troubled in
various ways now that the young people have got to man's estate, and
woman's. But what were you calling Miss Adamina, Mrs. Coulter? I noticed
a change in the name."

Mrs. Coulter looked slightly confused.

"You see, Mrs. Bairnsfather, it is a cumbrous name--four syllables--and
we must have some contraction. When they were all bairns, they used to
call her Edie, poor thing; but that would not do now; and at school she
got Ada, and it really is a prettier name, and quite a good diminutive:
so we just adopted it."

"Dear me! is that it?" said Mrs. Bairnsfather. "When I got the last note
from Harrows I saw it was 'A. M. Coulter.' And that's it!"

"Yes," said Mrs. Coulter. "Ada Mina--they are two very pretty names."

Mrs. Bairnsfather coughed a short sarcastic cough of wonder, and Mrs.
Coulter continued:

"Oh! there is John beside little Miss Aytoun. Is he not like his father,
Mrs. Bairnsfather? James, did you not say that Miss Aytoun was a
relative of Mrs. Catherine's?"

"Ay, my dear," said Mr. Coulter. "Mrs. Catherine told us so herself--you
recollect? or was it to me she said it? So it was--when she was looking
at yon new patent plough of John's."

"I wonder," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "who is likely to get the Tower? In
the course of nature, it cannot be very long in Mrs. Catherine's hands,
and it's a good estate."

"Wonderfully improved in my time," said Mr. Coulter. "Mrs. Catherine is
not without a notion of the science of agriculture, which, to the shame
of landed proprietors, is generally so much neglected. The low lands at
Oran Point were but moor and heather in my memory, but they grow as fine
barley now as any in the country."

"Well, I suppose no one can say that Mrs. Catherine neglects her carnal
interests," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, with a professional sigh. Her
husband was known among his shrewd parishioners to be greatly more
observant of temporal than spiritual matters, and his wife, conscious of
a failing in that respect, was wont to assume at times a technical
solemnity.

"I believe Mrs. Catherine is a very excellent woman in every respect,"
said the good-humored and uncensorious Mrs. Coulter, "and cares as
little about money, for money's sake, as any one can possibly do; but
she thinks it a duty to use well and improve what Providence has given
her, as you do yourself, James, though, to be sure, we have more motive,
with a young family rising round us."

"I was very much struck yesterday," said Mr. Coulter, "with the contrast
between the Tower fields, and the adjoining lands within the bounds of
Strathoran. There is a place where the three estates meet--Mrs.
Catherine's, Mr. Sutherland's and mine. You recollect the little burn,
my dear, which that silly maid of yours fell into last Hallow-e'en?
well, it is there. Mrs. Catherine's stubble-fields stretch to the very
burnside--mine are turnips--uncommonly fine Swedes; but, on the other
side, spreading away as far as you can see, is the brown moor of
Strathoran, miles of good land wastefully lost, besides breeding by the
thousand these small cattle of game, to destroy our corn."

"Ay," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, mysteriously, "I hear the Sutherlands are
not in the best way."

"Poor things! they are young to be out in the world alone," said Mrs.
Coulter; "and Isabel was a wilful girl at all times. I gathered from
what Lewis Ross said, that they were living very gaily; but perhaps you
have heard more?"

Mrs. Bairnsfather shook her head.

"It is a melancholy thing to think of the downfall of an old family!"

"Hout! Mrs. Bairnsfather," said Mr. Coulter; "you are taking it too
seriously. Strathoran can stand a good deal. It will take more than one
lad's extravagance to bring down the family, I trust; and young
Sutherland used to have good sense and discretion. I spoke to him of
draining Loelyin before he went away, and he really had very just ideas
on the subject. No, no; let us hope there will be no ruin in the case."

Mrs. Bairnsfather shook her head again.

"I have no objection to hope the best, Mr. Coulter; but it is no
uncommon thing to be disappointed in hopes; and, if what I hear be true,
there is more room for fear."

"What's this," said Mr. Ambler, approaching the little group, as he made
a leisurely, chatting, circuit round the room--"hoping and fearing, Mrs.
Bairnsfather? Is it about these happy-looking young people of ours, and
the future matches that may spring from their pairings--eh, Mrs.
Coulter?"

Mrs. Coulter smiled, and glanced over to where Walter Foreman lingered
by her Jeanie's side. They were a handsome couple, and Walter had a nice
little improvable property, inherited from his mother. There was no
saying what might come to pass.

"No, Mr. Ambler," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "we were speaking of poor
young Strathoran;" and, from the depths of her fat bosom there came a
mysteriously pathetic sigh.

"Strathoran! what's happened to the lad?" exclaimed Mr. Ambler. "Lewis
Ross left him well and merry--no accident I hope; but Lewis has not been
a week at home yet: there is little time for any change in his
fortunes."

"Ah, Mr. Ambler," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "it is not aye well to be
merry. I have heard from those who know, that young Mr. Sutherland's gay
life is putting his lands in jeopardy; they say he'll spend a whole
year's income sometimes in a single night, poor ill-advised lad! I
happened to mention it to Mrs. Catherine, but she turned about upon me,
as if _I_ was to be any better of Strathoran's downfall, which I am sure
I never meant, nor anything like it."

"Bless me!" said Mr. Ambler, "I am concerned to hear that--I am grieved,
do you know, to hear that. Is it possible? Why, I always thought Archie
Sutherland was a wise lad--a discreet lad of his years."

Mrs. Bairnsfather shook her head.

"Archibald Sutherland ruined!" continued Mr. Ambler, "no, it's surely
not possible--it must have been an ill-wisher that said that. Why,
Strathoran is as big as Falcon's Craig and Smoothlie put together--ay,
and even ye might slip in a good slice off Merkland. Ruined! it's not
possible. When I came home from India I heard of old Strathoran
saying--I do not recollect the amount, I always had a bad memory for
figures--but a great sum every year. It must be a false alarm, Mrs.
Bairnsfather."

"Very well, gentlemen," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "it's no concern of
mine; but a little time will show that I am correct."

"Bless me!" repeated Mr. Ambler, "then the lad must go to India, that is
clear--he may do great things in India. You see when I was there myself,
there was the best opening for a lad of talent that could possibly be;
but I had a yearning for home. I was always uncommonly fond of home, and
so I am only a country Laird, when I might have been a Nabob. But if he
were once in India I would have no fear for him--he would soon get up
again."

"India, Mr. Ambler!" exclaimed Mr. Coulter, "no doubt there are fortunes
to be made in India; but _I_ fancy it's a shame to us to send our sons
away to seek gold, when it is lying in our very fields for the
digging--agriculture--"

"What's that you're saying, Mr. Coulter?" exclaimed the Laird of
Smoothlie. "Gold! where is't man? we'll all take a hand at that work, if
it were but for poor auld Scotland's sake, who has ever been said to
have but a scanty providing of the precious metal."

"There are harvests lying in the cold breast of the great Strathoran
moor," said the agriculturist, energetically, "of more import to man,
Mr. Ambler, than if its sands were gold. If what we hear of Archibald
Sutherland is true, _he_ may never be able to do it now; but a sensible
man, with sufficient capital, might double the rent-roll of Strathoran."

Mr. Ambler looked slightly contemptuous.

"Well, well, Mr. Coulter, I'll not gainsay you; but to tell the truth,
I've no notion of making young lads of family and breeding amateur
ploughmen--I beg your pardon, Mr. Coulter, I mean no affront to you--you
look upon it as a science, I know, and doubtless so it is; but--you see
if Archie Sutherland could fall in with such an opening, as was waiting
ready for me when I went to India, he might be home again, a wealthy
man, before your harvests were grown."

"James," interposed Mrs. Coulter, "you are not looking at our young
people--how happy they all seem, poor things. I do not think you have
seen my Ada, Mr. Ambler, since she returned from Edinburgh."

Mr. Ambler adjusted his spectacles, with a smile. "No, I dare say not.
Is that her with Lewis Ross? No, that's Mrs. Catherine's little friend.
Ay, ay, I see her--like what her mother used to be, in my remembrance.
Mrs. Coulter, you must have great pleasure in your fine family."

Mrs. Coulter smiled, well pleased.

"Do you know, Mr. Ambler," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "who that Miss Aytoun
is?"

"Who she is? No, indeed, except a very bonnie little girlie. She is
that, without dispute; but Mr. Foreman will know. Mr. Foreman, can you
tell Mrs. Bairnsfather who that young lady is, at Lewis Ross's hand?"

"Miss Aytoun, ma'am, a relative of Mrs. Catherine's," said the lawyer.

"We know that," said Mr. Ambler. "Is that all her history?
Aytoun--Aytoun--I have surely some associations with that name myself."

"Very likely," said Mr. Foreman, dryly. "She comes from the south
country; her mother lives in Edinburgh, I believe, and is of a good
family. I do not know anything further of the young lady, Mrs.
Bairnsfather; that is, nothing at all interesting."

"Which means," said Mrs. Coulter aside to her husband, as their little
group increased, and the conversation became more general, "that Mr.
Foreman knows something very interesting about that pretty little girl.
Mrs. Catherine is a client of his. Perhaps he thinks of Miss Aytoun for
Walter. James, will you call Jeanie to me?"

And so, in quiet talk, in that bright drawing-room, these ladies and
gentlemen--all possessing their average share of kindliness--had decided
upon the ruin of Archibald Sutherland, who sat this same night in yonder
brilliant Parisian saloon, with the fatal dice trembling in his hand, in
all the wild, delirious gaiety of a desperate man; and in their flood of
easy conversation, had touched upon another centre of crime and misery,
darker and more fatal still, the facts of which lingered in the
lawyer-like memory of Walter Foreman's father, and even attached some
dim associations, in Mr. Ambler's mind, to Alice Aytoun's name. Strange
domestic volcano, over which these slippered feet passed so heedlessly!
How often, in quiet houses, and among quiet people, are mighty sins and
mighty miseries passed by as lightly!



CHAPTER V.


Sleepy, weary, and uncomfortable, the household of Merkland reluctantly
bestirred itself next morning. Mrs. Ross rose ill-humored from very
weariness. Duncan, and May, and Barbara, were all more than ordinarily
stupid; and Mr. Ambler, of Smoothlie, with all his neatness and
finicality, was still in the house. The imperturbable Mr. Ambler was
first in the breakfast-parlor, joking Anne on her pale cheeks, and Lewis
on his last night's conquests--fully prepared to do justice to the
edibles of the breakfast-table, and not, in any degree, inclined to
forgive the sleepiness which had mangled these delicate Oran trout, and
sent up the eggs hard-boiled; for Mr. Ambler, by right of his
comfort-loving old bachelorship, was excused everywhere for discussing
matters of the table more minutely than ordinary strangers were
privileged to do, and had besides, as Lewis Ross's guardian, a familiar
standing at Merkland.

"Bless me, Madam," said Mr. Ambler, "your cook must have been up all the
hours of the night. Sleepy huzzies! Why, I myself was not in bed till
two o'clock, and here I am, as fresh as ever I was. And just look at
this trout--as beautiful a beast as was ever caught in water--broken
clean in two! It's quite shocking!"

"Are there never any such incidents in Smoothlie, Mr. Ambler?" asked
Mrs. Ross, somewhat sharply.

"Accidents, Madam! Do you call _that_ an accident--the massacreing of a
delicate animal like a trout? No, I send Forsyth to the kitchen every
morning to superintend; and Forsyth, by long practice, has arrived at
perfiteness, as the old proverb says.--Better try a bit of one though,
Lewis, mangled though they be, than hurt your stomach with these eggs;
they're indigestible, man--like lead. Send me your plate; here is not a
bad bit."

"There is a kipper beside you, more carefully cooked, Mr. Ambler," said
Anne, smiling.

"Thank you, Anne, my dear; but I never take kippered trout when I can
get fresh, fit for the eating. Lewis, man, what makes you yawn so much?
It's very ill-bred."

Lewis laughed. Mrs. Ross looked displeased. "Poor boy, he is fatigued.
No wonder, after all his exertions yesterday."

"Fatigued! Nonsense. What should fatigue him?" said Mr. Ambler. "Take my
word for it, Mrs. Ross, it's just an idle habit, and not genuine
weariness. A young man, like Lewis, fatigued with enjoying himself!--on
his one-and-twentieth birthday, too! Who ever heard the like? When I
was in India (which is neither the day nor yesterday) I have seen me up
till far on in the night, and yet astir and travelling a couple of hours
before sunrise.--What would you say to that, Lewis? No; so far as I can
see, our young generation are more likely to be spoiled by indolence
than overwork."

"Indolence! that's quite too bad, Mr. Ambler," said Lewis.--"Bear me
witness, Anne, how I have been running about since I arrived at
Merkland. I don't think I have had a couple of hours to myself since I
came home."

"Lewis," said Mr. Ambler, "what was yon I heard last night of Archie
Sutherland? That little round body, Mrs. Bairnsfather, was enlightening
us all as to Strathoran's affairs. She says the lad is ruined."

Lewis shrugged his shoulders.

"I can't say, Mr. Ambler. I am not so deeply read in economics as the
good lady. Archie's an extravagant fellow: but--oh! if I say any more, I
shall have Anne upon me. Never mind, he's a fine fellow, Archie."

"Anne?" said Mr. Ambler, inquisitively. "Ay, what is Anne's special
interest in Archie Sutherland? Well, I will ask no questions."

"My special interest in Archie Sutherland, is a figment of my brother's
lively imagination, Mr. Ambler," said Anne, quietly, "produced by what
inspiration I do not know; but repeated, I suppose, because it annoys
me."

"Well, you can pay him back in his own coin," said the old gentleman.
"Oh, you need not look innocent, Lewis. Do you think nobody noticed you
last night hanging about that pretty little girl of Mrs. Catherine's?
Bless me! Anne, my dear, what is the matter?"

Anne had turned very pale, and felt a deadly sickness at her heart, as
she saw the color rising over Lewis's cheek, and the conscious smile of
pleasure and embarrassment hovering about his lip. But Mrs. Ross spoke
before she could render any reason for her change of countenance.

"Miss Aytoun, indeed! Upon my word, Mr. Ambler, your ward is indebted to
you--after all the pains that have been bestowed upon him, and all the
advantages he has had, to think he could be attracted by yon little
animated doll. Nonsense! Lewis will look higher, I confidently hope."

"Upon my word, you dispose of me very summarily," said Lewis, half
laughing, half angry. "Mr. Ambler, will you put my mother in remembrance
of those cabalistic forms of yesterday, which made me master of my own
person and possessions. I suppose I may be very thankful, though, that
you did not make me over to Miss Falconer--eh, Mr. Ambler?"

"Miss Falconer would not take you, Lewis," said Mr. Ambler, coolly. "I
will trouble you for the toast, Anne, and--yes, I will take the
marmalade, too--do not alarm yourself, Lewis, you are in no danger from
Miss Falconer."

Lewis looked piqued. It was more agreeable to feel himself a prize, than
to be told so very coolly that he was in no danger from Miss Falconer,
and the pleasant flattery of those blue eyes of Alice Aytoun's, which
had looked up to him so gladly last night, returned upon him in
consolatory fascination. His mother's interference, too, excited a
spirit of opposition and perversity, which stimulated the remembrance;
and when Mr. Ambler had happily ridden away, Lewis beguiled Anne into
going out with him, and, before long, their walk terminated at the door
of the Tower, whither Alice Aytoun had seen them approaching, from her
high window, and glided softly into the drawing-room, with her gay heart
fluttering, that she might at once meet and welcome Miss Ross.

"Anne," said Mrs. Catherine, "Alison Aytoun has a petition to make to
you. She wants you to protect her when she goes to Falcon's Craig. I,
myself, as you know, am not given to visiting; besides that, at this
time, I am taken up with graver matters. I would like you to take the
bairn there to-morrow."

"Oh, if you please, Miss Ross," pleaded Alice.

"For the Tower is dreary enough for a young thing," continued Mrs.
Catherine, "At all seasons. Lewis, they are always quickening the speed
of travel: how soon could a letter be answered from Paris?"

"Oh, in a week or two," said Lewis, carelessly. "A fortnight, I dare
say. But no one ever accused me of punctuality, Mrs. Catherine, so I
cannot say exactly."

"The more shame to you," said Mrs. Catherine. "A silly youth bragging of
a short-coming! Truly, Anne, I count it an affliction that folk must
bear with the lads through their fool-estate, before ye can find an
inkling of sense in any man. Alison, has Miss Ross consented to take
charge of you? and will you go, Anne?"

"I shall be very glad," said Anne, as Alice hung round her. "But is not
Marjory related to Miss Aytoun?"

"It's past counting, that kindred," said Mrs. Catherine; "we could
reckon it in my generation, that is with Alison's grand-mother and the
last family of Falconers passing the father of Ralph and Marjory, who
was an only son, and died young--a poor peasweep he was, that might
never have been born at all, for all the good he did!--and it was only a
third or fourth cousinship then. I want the bairn to go to Falcon's
Craig, more for a diversion to her, than any other thing: and doubtless
we must have festivities of our own, also. I will borrow your French
serving-man from you, Lewis, to teach us a right manner of rejoicing."

"You shall have him, with all my heart," said Lewis, with some offended
dignity; "only, I fear John would not take his orders from Mrs. Morison.
He is too sensitive."

"Set him up!" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine. "Sensitive, truly! Then you must
e'en keep him and humor him yourself, Lewis. I am plaguit enough in my
own household. There is Euphan Morison waylaying me with herbs. I caught
her my ownself, this very morning, wileing the bairn Alison into
poisoning herself with a drink made from dockens: the odor of them has
not left me yet."

"It was only camomile," whispered Alice.

"Never you heed what it was," said Mrs. Catherine. "Unwholesome trash
that she calls good for the stomach, as if a bairn like Alison had any
call to know whither she had a stomach or no! I have no patience with
them. Jacky, you evil spirit, what are ye wanting now?"

"If you please," said Jacky, "It's Mr. Foreman--"

Mrs. Catherine started.

"Where is he?"

"And a strange man with him, dressed like a gentleman," continued Jacky.
"They're in the library, Mrs. Catherine."

Mrs. Catherine rose hurriedly.

"Bairns, you will tarry till I come back. I am not like to be long."

Mr. Foreman, the acute, and sagacious writer of Portoran, was seated in
the library when Mrs. Catherine entered, and a man of equivocal
appearance, bearded like the pard, who had been swaggering round the
room, examining, with an eye of assumed connoisseurship, the dark family
portraits on the wall, turned round at the sound of her step to make an
elaborate bow. Mrs. Catherine looked at him impatiently.

"Well, Mr. Foreman, have you brought me any tidings?"

"I have brought you no direct tidings, Mrs. Catherine, but this,"--Mr.
Foreman looked dubiously at the stranger--"this _gentleman_, whom I met
accidentally in Portoran, is charged with a mission, the particulars of
which I thought you would like to know, being deeply interested in Mr.
Sutherland."

"Maiden aunt," murmured the stranger. "Ah! I see."

"You seem to have clear eyes, Sir," said Mrs. Catherine, sternly. "Mr.
Sutherland will be a friend of yours, doubtless?"

"Ah! a fine young fellow--most promising lad!" was the answer. "Might be
a credit to any family. I have the honor of a slight acquaintance.
Nothing could be more edifying than his walk and conversation, I assure
you, Madam."

"I will thank you to assure me of what I ask, and trouble your head
about no more," said Mrs. Catherine. "Are the like of you acquaint--I am
meaning, is Archibald Sutherland a friend of yours?"

"Very intimate. My friend Lord Gillravidge and he are. Astonishing young
man, Madam, my friend Lord Gillravidge--missed church once last year,
and was quite overcome with contrition--so much comforted by Mr.
Sutherland's Christian friendship and fraternity--quite delighted to be
a spectator of it, I assure you."

"I was asking you about Archibald Sutherland, Sir," said Mrs. Catherine,
standing stiffly erect, as the stranger threw himself into a chair
unbidden, "and in what manner the like of you were connected with him. I
am waiting for your answer."

"A long story, Madame," said the stranger, coolly, "of friendly interest
and mutual good offices. I have seen Mr. Sutherland often with my friend
Lord G., and was anxious to do him a service--my time being always at my
friend's disposal."

"Mr. Foreman," exclaimed Mrs. Catherine, "know you the meaning of all
this? You are a lawyer, man; see if you cannot shape questions so as
they shall be answered."

"Your friend Lord Gillravidge is intimately acquainted with Mr.
Sutherland?" interrogated Mr. Foreman.

"Precisely--delightful; dwelling together in unity, like--"

"And Mr. Sutherland is in embarrassed circumstances?" continued Mr.
Foreman, impelled by an impatient gesture from Mrs. Catherine.

The stranger turned round with a contraction of his forehead and gave a
significant nod.

"A most benevolent young man--kind-hearted people are always being
tricked by impostors, and made security for friends--merely
temporary--does him infinite credit, I assure you, Madam."

"Assure me no lies!" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine. "What have you to do--a
paltry trickster as you are--with the lad Archie Sutherland: answer me
that?"

"Madam!" exclaimed the stranger, rising indignantly, and assuming an
attitude.

"The lady is aware of Mr. Sutherland's embarrassments," interposed Mr.
Foreman, "and is putting no inquiries touching the cause. Your friend,
Lord Gillravidge, Mr. ----"

"Fitzherbert, Sir," said the stranger.

"Mr. Fitzherbert has served Mr. Sutherland in a pecuniary way?"

Mr. Fitzherbert bowed.

"And you are charged with a mission of a peculiar kind to Strathoran.
Might I beg you to explain its nature to Mrs. Catherine Douglas, a lady
who is deeply interested in your friend's friend, Mr. Sutherland."

The stranger looked perplexed, gracefully confused, and hung back, as if
in embarrassment and diffidence.

"The fact is, Madam, I am placed in quite a peculiar position--a mission
strictly confidential, intrusted to me--friendly inquiries--which I have
no authority to divulge. I beg I may not be questioned further."

"Mr. Fitzherbert, fortunately, was less delicate with me, Mrs.
Catherine," said Mr. Foreman. "Mr. Sutherland, Madam, is in treaty for
the sale of Strathoran--for some portion of the estate, at least, and
this gentleman is commissioned to report upon it, as he tells me, before
the bargain is completed."

"Not fair--against all principles of honor," exclaimed Mr. Fitzherbert.
"A mis-statement, Madam, I assure you; merely some shooting-grounds. Mr.
Sutherland is no sportsman himself, and my friend, Lord Gillravidge, is
a keen one. Amicable exchange--nothing more."

Mrs. Catherine stood firmly erect; gazing into the blank air. The shock
was great to her; for some moments she neither moved nor spoke.

"I appeal to yourself, Madam," resumed the stranger. "_I_ investigate
farms and fields. I, fresh from the most refined circles: do I look like
a person to report upon clods and cattle?"

The voice startled Mrs. Catherine from her fixed gravity.

"I will come to you by-and-by, Mr. Foreman," she said. "Gather the story
as clear as may be--at present, I cannot be troubled with strangers."

A slight, emphatic motion of her hand conveyed her desire that the
friend and emissary of Lord Gillravidge should be dismissed as speedily
as possible, and turning, she left the room.

"Spoilt it all," exclaimed Fitzherbert, as the door closed, "never have
any commerce with lawyers--bad set--Scotch especially--keen--ill-natured.
What harm would it have done you, old gentleman, if I had pleased the
old lady about her nephew, and got her, perhaps, to come down with
something handsome? I always like to serve friends myself--wanted to
put in a good word for Sutherland--but it's all spoiled now."

"You expect to see more of Strathoran, I suppose," said Mr. Foreman;
"good sport on the moor, they tell me, Mr. Fitzherbert, and you say Lord
Gillravidge is a keen sportsman."

"Keen in most things," said the stranger, with an emphatic nod.
"Sharp--not to be taken in--simple Scotch lad no match for
Gillravidge--serves him right, for thinking he was. But I say, old
gentleman, don't be ill-natured and tell the aunt--let him have a fresh
start."

"It is to be a sale, then?" said the lawyer, "is your friend really to
buy Strathoran?"

The stranger laughed contemptuously.

"Has Sutherland got anything else, that you ask that? all the purchase
money's gone already--nothing coming your way, old gentleman--all the
more cruelty in you preventing me from speaking a good word for him to
his aunt."

"Was the bargain concluded when you left?" said Mr. Foreman.

"Very near it," was the reply. "Why, he's been plunging on deeper in
Gillravidge's debt every night. _I_ say it was uncommonly merciful to
think of taking the land--an obscure Scotch place, with nothing but the
preserves worth looking at; but Gillravidge knows what he's about."

Half an hour afterwards, Mrs. Catherine re-entered the library. The
obnoxious visitor was gone, and Mr. Foreman sat alone, his brow clouded
with thoughtfulness. He, too, had known Archibald Sutherland's youth,
and in his father had had a friend, and the kindly bond of that little
community drew its members of all ranks too closely together, to suffer
the overthrow of one without regret and sympathy.

"Is it true--think you it is true?" said Mrs. Catherine.

"I can think nothing else," said Mr. Foreman, gravely; "there is but one
hope--that strange person who left the Tower just now tells me that the
bargain was not completed. Mr. Ferguson's letter, telling Strathoran of
the advance you were willing to make, Mrs. Catherine, may have reached
him in time to prevent this calamity."

"I cannot hope it--I cannot hope it," said Mrs. Catherine, vehemently.
"It is a race trysted to evil. Do you not mind, George Foreman, how the
last Strathoran was held down all his days, with the burdens that father
and grandsire had left upon him? Do you not mind of him joining with his
father to break the entail, that some of the debts might be paid
thereby? and now, when he has labored all his life to leave the good
land clear to his one son, must it be lost to the name and blood? George
Foreman, set your face against the breaking of entails! I say it is an
unrighteous thing to give one of a race the power of disinheriting the
rest; to put into the hands of a youth like Archie Sutherland, fatally
left to his own devices, the option of overthrowing an old and good
house--I say it is unrighteous, and a shame!"

Mr. Foreman made no answer--well enough pleased as he might have been
that in this particular case, the lands of Strathoran had been
entailed, he yet had no idea of committing himself on the abstract
principle, and Mrs. Catherine continued:

"What is he to do? what can the unhappy prodigal do, but draw the prize
of the waster--want. I cannot stand between him and his righteous
reward--I will do no such injustice. Where did you meet with the
ne'er-do-weel that brought you the tidings, Mr. Foreman? a fit messenger
no doubt, with his hairy face, and his lying tongue." Mrs. Catherine
groaned. "You are well gone to your rest, Isabel Balfour, before you saw
your firstborn herding with cattle like yon!"

"I think," said Mr. Foreman, "that you are anticipating evil which is by
this time averted, Mrs. Catherine. At the very crisis of Strathoran's
broken fortunes, your seasonable assistance would come in; and, on such
a temperament as his, I should fancy the sight of the precipice so near
would operate powerfully. I know how it has acted on myself, who ought
to have more prudence than Mr. Sutherland, if years are anything. I came
here to advise you to withdraw your money, when there was such imminent
danger of loss--and here I am, building my own hopes and yours on the
fact of its being promised."

Mrs. Catherine was pacing heavily through the room.

"What care I for the siller," she exclaimed, sternly. "What is the
siller to me, in comparison with the welfare of Isabel Balfour's son?
Doubtless, if all the rest is gone, there is no need for throwing away
that with our eyes open; but what share in my thoughts, think you, has
the miserable dirt of siller, when the fate of the lad that might have
been of my own blood, is quivering in the balance? George Foreman, you
are discreet and judicious, but the yellow mammon is overmuch in your
mind. What is it to me that leave none after me--that am the last of my
name?"

"I think we may depend on the last statement of that strange
messenger--that Fitzherbert," said Mr. Foreman, endeavoring gently to
lower the excitement of his client, "that he came down to examine, and
would have his report to make, before the transaction was finished. Your
letter must reach Strathoran, Mrs. Catherine, before this fellow can
return. Depend upon it, the immediate danger is averted. Mr. Sutherland
has good sense and judgment: he must by this time have perceived the
danger, and receded from it."

Mrs. Catherine seated herself in gloomy silence.

"And if he has," she said, after a long pause, "if he has saved himself
for this moment, what then? He has sown the wind, and think you he can
shun its harvest? What has he to trust to? principle, honor, good fame,
the fear of God, the right regard to the judgment of his fellows which
becomes every man--has he not thrown them all away? What is there then,
to look to in his future, if it be not a drifting before every wind, a
running in every stray path, a following of all things that have the
false glitter upon them, whatsoever ill may be below? I am done with
hope for the lad: there is nothing to guide him, nothing to restrain
him. I must e'en take fear to my heart, and look this grief in the
face."

"He is quite young," said Mr. Foreman; "there is abundant time and room
for hope, Mrs. Catherine. I feel assured we have erred on the side of
fear. A shrewd lad, like Strathoran, surely could not be fascinated to
his destruction, in society which can tolerate that man, Fitzherbert.
Depend upon it, we have overrated the dangers; and that, by this time,
Mr. Sutherland has taken warning, and withdrawn. A pretty counsellor I
am, after all!--I should have sent Walter--coming here to advise you to
withdraw your money, and now felicitating myself that it is given."

Mrs. Catherine became more cheerful at last, before the kind-hearted
Portoran writer took his departure, and admitted the chances in favor of
his hopes. Archibald _had_ been shrewd and sensible, and could not
surely be so ruinously involved as to put his whole estate in peril;
nevertheless, dreary visions, such as he had read in books of modern
travel, of haggard gamesters risking their all upon a cast--staking
wealth, and hope, and honor, in the desperate game, and marking its loss
with the ghastly memento of blood, the hopeless death of the
suicide--rose darkly before the lawyer's eyes, as he rode home--home, to
pleasant competence and unobtrusive refinement, and to a family of sound
principle and cultivated intellect, in whose healthful upbringing and
clear atmosphere fictitious excitement had no share.

And Mrs. Catherine went up stairs, gravely, to her cheerful inner
drawing-room, and looking on the youthful faces there--the peaceful
household looks, suggesting anything rather than misery and
crime--forgot her terrors for Isabel Balfour's son, warm as her interest
in him was.

Haggard, desolate, hopeless, with no roof which he could justly call his
own to shelter him, and with a dreary blank before him, where the
teeming dreams of a bright future were wont to be, Archibald Sutherland
stood that night, in the strange alien country, a ruined man.



CHAPTER VI.


Tiresome as the manifold preparations for a feast may be, there is
something especially dreary and full of discomfort in the bustle of
setting to rights, which comes after: dismantled rooms undergoing a
thorough purification, before they can once more settle down into their
every day look and aspect; servants, in a chaos and frenzy of
orderliness, turning the house into a Babel--a kitchen saturnalia;
mistresses toiling in vain to have the work concluded bit by bit; and
all this without the stimulant of expected pleasure to make it bearable.

Mrs. Ross rather liked such an overturn, and had it commenced gaily in
the first relief of Mr. Ambler's departure; so that when Lewis and Anne
returned from the Tower, there was no place of refuge for them, save in
the small library, which Lewis had already appropriated as his own
peculiar place of retirement.

Mrs. Ross had long taken a malicious pleasure in excluding Anne from all
share in the economies of Merkland, in which, indeed, her own active
habits and managing disposition could brook no divided empire; and it
was not, therefore any super refinement of feeling which called Anne
Ross out after her daily task was over, into the silent evening air,
upon the quiet side of Oran. It is true that there were delicate tones
of harmony there, which few ears could appreciate as well as her own;
but the first yearning of these human spirits of ours, is for the
sympathy of other human spirits, and it is oftenest disappointment in
that, which at once makes us seek for, and susceptible to, the mild pity
and silent companionship of the wide earth around us.

A long invigorating walk she had, the little river modulating its voice,
as she could fancy, to bear her musings gentle company. Strangely
accordant was that plaintive harmony of nature. Wan leaves dropping one
by one, the stillness so great that you could hear them fall: the wide
air ringing with its tremulous, silent music; the pleasant voice of Oran
blending in low cadence, "most musical, most melancholy." These
graduated tones had been significant and solemn to Anne's spirit all her
life long--from the dreamy days of childhood, so strangely grave and
thoughtful, with all their shadowy array of haunting ghosts and angels,
those constant comrades of the meditative child--up through the long
still years of youth, unto this present time of grave maturity, of
subdued and chastened prime. Other and mightier things, springing from
heaven and not from earth, the presence of that invisible Friend, whose
brotherhood of human sympathy circles His people, no less tenderly than
His divine strength holds them up, were with her in her solitude; and
the lesser music of His fair universe wrought its fitting part in the
calming of the troubled spirit; pensive, shadowy, calm, and full of that
strange spiritual breath, which Time has, in his momentary lingering
between the night and day.

A lonely unfrequented path, winding by Oranside, to a little clump of
houses, not very far off, almost too few to be dignified by the name of
hamlet, ran close to the high, encircling hedge, which shut in at that
side the grounds of Merkland. Not far from the principal entrance was a
little gate, across which the branches nearly joined, and which was
never used, except by Anne herself, in her solitary rambles. She
lingered at it, before she entered again--her dark dress scarcely
distinguishable from the thick boughs behind her, as she leant upon the
lintel. There was some one approaching on the road, whom Anne regarded
with little interest, thinking her some resident of the hamlet,
returning to her home; but as the passenger came in front of Merkland,
she suddenly stopped, and standing still upon the road, gazed on the
quiet house. Her head was turned towards the gate, and Anne, startled
into attention, looked upon it wonderingly--an emaciated, pale face,
that spoke of suffering, with large, dark, spiritual eyes, beaming from
it, as eyes can beam only from faces so worn and wasted. Wistfully the
long, slow look fell upon Merkland; standing there, so firm, serene, and
homelike, its light shining through the trees. And then Anne heard an
inarticulate murmur, as of muttered words, and the cadence of a deep,
long sigh, and the stranger--for the wan face, and thin, tall figure,
were too remarkable to have escaped her notice, had the passer-by been
other than a stranger--went forward upon the darkening path, scarce
noting her, Anne thought, as the figure glided past her, like a spirit.

The image would not leave her mind. The pale, worn face--the wistful,
searching eyes--haunted her through that night, and mingled with her
dreams. Strange visions of Norman, such as now filled her mind
continually, received into them this stranger's spiritual face. Dangers,
troubles, the whole indefinite horde of dreaming apprehensions and
embarrassments clung round those wistful eyes, as round a centre. Anne
could scarcely believe next morning, when she awoke, with the
remembrance so clear upon her mind, that it was not some supernatural
presence, lingering about her still.

The morning was very bright and clear, and cold, for October was waning
then into the duskier winter; and Anne, remembering her engagement with
Alice, laid her work by early, and prepared to walk up to the Tower. She
met Lewis, booted and spurred, at the door.

"Are you going to the Tower, Anne?" he asked.

"Yes," was the answer.

"Well, don't be surprised if you find me at Falcon's Craig, before you."

"At Falcon's Craig, Lewis! What errand have you there?"

"May I not make a friendly call as well as yourself?" said Lewis, gaily.
"Besides, I shall take care of you, on the way home. How do I know that
the Strathoran roads are quite safe for young ladies?"

"But I thought you were afraid of Miss Falconer?" said Anne.

"Oh, Mr. Ambler relieved me of that fear, you know. She wouldn't have
me, he said. Very fortunate, for she will never get the offer."

"Mr. Ambler was quite right," said Anne, uneasily. "But, Lewis do not
go, pray--take another morning for your call at Falcon's Craig. Your
mother will be grieved and irritated--do not go to-day."

"My mother!" Lewis drew himself up with all the petulant dignity
peculiar to his years. "Upon my word, Anne, you are perfectly mistaken
if you think I have come home to be restrained and chidden like a
schoolboy! Grieved and irritated! because that pretty little Miss Aytoun
happens to be of the party, I suppose. You are a foolish set, you women,
forcing things upon a man's consideration, which, if you had but let him
alone--." Lewis drew himself up again, and let the end of his sentence
evaporate in a smile.

"I was not thinking of--I mean it is not for Miss Aytoun," said Anne,
anxiously; "but your mother wants to consult you, Lewis. There are so
many matters of business to attend to that you should manage yourself.
Do not go to-day."

"Don't fear me!" said Lewis, confidently. "I will attend to my business,
too. We shall soon see who is strongest in that respect. Here, Duncan!"

Duncan had brought his master's horse to the door, and stood at some
distance, holding the bridle.

"Good morning, Anne!" cried Lewis, as he mounted and cantered gaily out.
"I am off to Falcon's Craig."

Anne would gladly have broken her appointment now, had that been
possible, but, as it was not, she too set out on her way to the Tower. A
comfortable pony-carriage--Mrs. Catherine's favorite vehicle--stood at
the gate as she entered, and up stairs in her bright dressing-room Alice
Aytoun was hastily wrapping herself in the costly furs--Mrs. Catherine's
latest present--which she had already spent so much time in admiring.

"Child," said Mrs. Catherine, during the moment in which they were left
alone together, "let Lewis come to me the morn; or is he with you
to-day?"

"He spoke of meeting us at Falcon's Craig, and returning with us," said
Anne.

"Bring him to me, then, when you come back," said Mrs. Catherine. "I am
feared there is little hope for the lad, Archie Sutherland, child, and I
am solicitous to hear from Lewis what kind of friends his sister Isabel
has. If the lad is ruined (which the Almighty avert, if it be His
pleasure!) what is the wilful fool of a girl to do? A man may win back
good fame, even if it be once lost--and _that_ is a sore fight--but a
woman can never; and if she be left in that narrow place, with an
evil-speaking world that judges other folk as it knows it should be
judged itself, I say to you, child, what is the inconsiderate fuil to
do?"

"Captain Duncombe will surely come to take care of his wife," said Anne.

"What know you about Captain Duncombe?" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine. "I
will go myself to bring Isabel Balfour's ill bairn home to my own house,
child--the fittest place for her to be. I will leave her to the tender
mercies of no ill-conditioned man, well though she may deserve it; that
is if things come to the worst with Archie. Bring Lewis to me when ye
come back, child. I would know what kind of folk she has her friends
among."

In a few minutes after, attended by Johnnie Halflin, the two young
ladies drove over the bridge on their way to Falcon's Craig.

The road was pleasant, and Alice was so very gay and full of happiness,
that Anne's heart expanded in involuntary sympathy. The girl had been so
tenderly guarded through all her seventeen years, so hedged about with
domestic love and protection, and did so trustingly rely now upon the
kindness of all about her, that few could have been harsh enough to
disappoint the reliance of the youthful spirit, or teach it suspicion.
It was, besides, an altogether new enjoyment to Anne, to have anything
loveable looking up to her as Alice did. It suited her graver nature to
be trusted in, and leaned upon. The depths in Anne's spirit began to
stir; tenderness as of a mother's to spread its protecting wing over the
"little one" beside her. Might _she_ not make some secret
atonement--might she not by tenderest care, and sympathy, and counsel,
in some slight degree, make up the loss which her brother's hand had
inflicted upon that unconscious girl?

They reached Falcon's Craig at last. It was a great, rambling, gaunt,
old house, standing high and bare, with inartistic turrets, and
unsightly gables, on the summit of a rock. The perpendicular descent
behind was draped with clinging shrubs and ivy, but the situation gave
a bleak, cold, exposed look to the house. Nor had any precautions been
taken to amend this. Trees and shrubs before the door grew rough and
unkempt as nature had let them grow. The grass upon the lawn waved high
and rank, great rows of hollyhocks and sunflowers shed their withered
leaves and ripe seed below the windows. The much-trodden path, at the
further end which led to the stables, and the presence of one or two
lounging grooms, told the enjoyments of the Laird of Falcon's Craig, and
explained, in some degree, the inferior cultivation of the neighboring
fields--fields over which Mr. Coulter, of Harrows, with a good-humored
desire to see all around him as prosperous as himself, shook his head
and groaned.

The visitors alighted, and were shown into Miss Falconer's heterogeneous
drawing-room. The lady herself lay upon a sofa near the fire, with a
newspaper in her hand. Alice Aytoun did not like the appearance of the
reclining figure, in its bold, manlike attitude, and kept close to
Anne's side.

"Anne Ross!" exclaimed Miss Falconer, springing up with an energy which
made the room ring; "why, I should as soon have thought of Merkland
coming to see me bodily, as you. How do you do? How are you, little Miss
Aytoun? Tired of the Tower yet?"

"No," said Alice, drawing back, instinctively.

"Don't be afraid; I won't hurt you," said Miss Falconer, with a laugh.
"Well, Anne, how do you get on in Merkland? Mrs. Ross will be good and
dutiful now, when Lewis is at home."

"You must ask Lewis himself," said Anne; "he is here now, is he not?"

The face of Alice, which had been somewhat in shadow, brightened.

"Oh, yes, Lewis is here," said Miss Falconer; "gone with Ralph to these
everlasting stables. Take notice, Miss Aytoun, that when gentlemen come
to Falcon's Craig, it is Ralph's horses and dogs they come to see, and
not his sister. I say this, that you may not be jealous."

Little Alice blushed, and drew up her slight young figure, with some
budding dignity. "I have nothing to be jealous of, Miss Falconer."

Miss Falconer laughed again. "Well, we will not say anything before
Anne. Anne is taking lessons from Mrs. Catherine, in state and gravity.
How did you come? In that little phæton, I declare, with these two sober
ponies, that I have known all my life. You never ride now, Anne?"

"I do not remember that I ever did," said Anne. "We keep few horses in
Merkland; and besides, Marjory, there are not many ladies of your nerve
and courage."

"Miss Aytoun," said Miss Falconer, gaily, "do you ever flatter? Anne,
you see, knows my weak point, and attacks me accordingly. She thinks I
rather pride myself on these two unsafe qualities of nerve and courage.
Well, and why should we be cooped up within four walls, and sentenced to
do propriety all our lives? The bolder a man is, the more he is thought
of; but let one of us hapless women but stir a step beyond the line, and
we have 'improper, indecorous, unwomanly,' thundered in our ears from
every side."

"Then you will not acknowledge the proverbial truth of what everybody
says?" said Anne.

"Not a bit," said Miss Falconer, boldly. "Why should not I follow the
hounds as briskly, and read that political article," she pointed to the
paper she had thrown down, "with as much interest as my brother? I do,
it is true; but see how all proper mammas draw their pretty behaved
young ladies under their wings, when I approach. You all desert me, you
cowards of women; I have only men's society to fall back upon."

"But did you not tell us just now that you liked that best?" ventured
little Alice Aytoun.

"No, not I. Perhaps I do, though; but I did not say it."

"Then, after all," said Anne, "the mistake is not in what we quiet
people call decorous, and proper, and feminine; but only that you, with
your high spirits and courage, have the misfortune to be called Marjory,
instead of Ralph; that is all; for here, you see, are Miss Aytoun and
myself, and all the womankind of Strathoran to back us, who have no
ambition whatever to follow the hounds, nor any very particular interest
in the leading article. It is merely an individual mistake, Marjory.
Acknowledge it."

"Not I," exclaimed Miss Falconer; "it is a universal oppression of the
sex. They try to reason us down first, these men; and failing that, they
laugh us down: they will not be able to accomplish either, one of these
days. There! how you turn upon me, with that provoking smile of yours,
Anne Ross. What are you thinking of now?"

"Do you remember a little poem--I think of Southey's," said Anne,
smiling--"about the great wars of Marlbro' and Prince Eugene, long ago?
I was thinking of its _owerword_, Marjory--'What good came of it at
last? said little Wilhelmine.'"

"Ah, that is just like you," said Miss Falconer; "coming down upon one
with your scraps of poetry, when one is speaking common sense. Oh, you
need not raise your eyebrows! I tell you I am speaking quite reasonably
and calmly; and we shall see, one day."

"But, Miss Falconer," inquired Alice, timidly, "what shall we see?"

"See! Why, a proper equality between men and women, as we were created,"
said Miss Falconer, vehemently. "No more bandaging up our minds, as they
do the feet of the poor girls in China--oppressing us for their own
whims, everywhere! No more shutting us out of our proper share in the
management of the world--no more confining us in housekeepers' rooms and
nurseries; to make preserves, and dress babies!"

"Are the babies to be abolished, then?" said Anne. "For pity's sake,
Marjory, do not sentence the poor little things to masculine nurses.
Farewell to all music or harmony, then. If we are to dress babies no
more, let it be ordained, I pray you, that there shall be no more babies
to dress!"

"Nonsense, Anne!" exclaimed Marjory Falconer, loudly; "you want to
ridicule all I say. You are content with the bondage--content to be
regarded as a piece of furniture, a household drudge, a pretty doll."

"Hush!" said Anne; "spare me the abjective. I am in no danger of your
last evil. And see how Miss Aytoun looks at you."

"Never mind," said Miss Falconer; "Miss Aytoun will sympathise with me,
I am sure; every true woman must. See how they smile at our
opinions--how they sneer at our judgment--'Oh, it's only a woman.' I
tell you, Anne Ross, all that will be changed by-and-bye. We shall have
equal freedom, equal rights--our own proper dignity and standing in the
world."

"And how will it change our position?" said Anne.

"How obtuse you are! Change our position! Why it will make us free--it
will emancipate us--it will----"

"Particulars, particulars, Marjory?"

Miss Falconer paused.

"We shall not be thought unfit any longer to do what men do; our equal
mental power and intelligence shall be recognised. We shall have equal
rights--we shall be free!"

Anne looked up smiling.

"'And what good came of it at last? said little Wilhelmine.'"

Miss Falconer started from her seat in anger, and walked quickly through
the room for a moment, Alice looked on in wonder and alarm. At last
Marjory approached the table, looked Anne in the face, half smiling,
half angry, and replied, in a burst:

    "'Nay, that I cannot tell,' quoth he,
     But 'twas a glorious victory?'"

Conversation less abstract followed, when Lewis and Ralph joined them;
and not long after, Anne and Alice resumed their places in the phaeton,
and turned homewards, Lewis riding by their side. Anne's spirits had
wonderfully lightened during their drive, and now she defended Marjory
Falconer, almost gaily, against the laughing and half-contemptuous
attacks of Lewis.

"Marjory arms all the silly lads in the parish with flippant
impertinences about women and their rights, Miss Aytoun," she said. "I
did not mean you, Lewis, so there is no occasion for drowing yourself
up. Yet Marjory has some strength, and much kindliness of spirit. And
when she has once got rid of those foolish notions, which she will when
she has matured a little--"

Anne stopped abruptly. She had noticed before the tall, stooping figure
of a woman advancing towards them, and could recognise now, as the
passenger approached, the wan face, and wistful, melancholy eyes, which
had made so deep an impression upon her imagination, when she saw them
on the previous night, looking so sorrowfully on Merkland. A very
remarkable face it was, which the stranger now lifted to them, as she
passed slowly on, speaking in its emaciated lines of mental struggle
more than bodily sickness; and with its strange habitual look of wistful
search, as if its eyes had been exercised by constant watching, and had
sought about vainly for some hope or gladness never to be found again.
Anne met her steadfast, melancholy look for a moment; in another she had
passed on.

"What is the matter, Anne?" said Lewis.

Anne drove on awhile, in silence.

"Did you not observe that face?"

"What face? I saw a woman passing, who stared at you, as you did at her;
don't be sentimental, Anne: some shopkeeper's wife, from Portoran, who
has been at the mill. What were you saying of Marjory Falconer? Go on."

Anne went on.

"She will mature by-and-by, and come out of these follies a sensible
woman. You shake your head, Lewis. She will never be of the gentlest;
but sensible, and kindly, and vigorous, I believe she will be, one day.
There is often some eccentricity about strength, in its development."

"Hear, hear," cried Lewis. "Do you observe how Anne turns her periods,
Miss Aytoun? Marjory will keep a chair for you, Anne, in some of her
feminine colleges, when she has accomplished the rights of women. Moral
philosophy! I hope they will give you an LL.D."

They reached the mill as Lewis spoke. It stood near the spot Mr. Coulter
had spoken of "where three lairds' lands met;" and the burn was
intercepted for the uses of the mill, just before it joined its waters
to the Oran.

Anne drew up her ponies at the end of the little bridge, which gave
access to the miller's dwelling. Alice had never seen this picturesque
corner of the Oran banks, and Anne proposed giving her a glimpse of the
bright interior of Mrs. Melder's pleasant house: she was anxious herself
to ask the miller's wife if she knew anything of the singular stranger,
whose appearance had interested her so much.

So Johnnie Halflin scrambled down from his perch behind, to hold Lewis's
horse, much wondering what motive they could have for calling on Mrs.
Melder; and Alice lingered on the grassy bank, that sloped down to the
riverside, from Mrs. Melder's door, to ask questions and to admire. The
grey mill buildings, and mighty revolving wheel, and rush of foaming
water, as the bairn, like some brown mountain urchin, ran, boisterous,
from its labors into the placid Oran, giving life and animation to the
stream it increased, were worthy of admiration even more genuine than
that of Alice, whose little heart was beating very pleasantly, from
various causes, which she had not skill, if she had had inclination, to
analyze.

But the cottage door was suddenly flung open, a loud scream startled
them, and, turning round alarmed, they saw a child flee out, its little
frock blazing, its face distorted with pain and fear. Alice screamed,
and clung to the arm of Lewis, Lewis called to the boy, and sprang
irresolutely forward himself, not knowing what to do; Johnnie Halflin
scampered off in terror, holding firmly the bridle of his charge, and
the child, blinded with fear, and scorched with pain, flew forward
madly. Anne snatched from the carriage a large, rough plaid, threw
herself before the little girl, and wrapped it closer round her. The
child struggled--Anne pressed the long, wide folds closer and closer
round her, extinguishing the flames with her hands. The terrified
miller's wife ran to her assistance--so did Lewis, and at last, very
much frightened, and considerably scorched, but with no serious injury,
the child was carried into the house, where Alice followed timidly,
pressing the small hand of the sufferer within her own, and murmuring
kindly words to still its weeping. It was a little girl of some six
years, and moaned out its childish lamentations in broken words of some
strange, sweet, foreign tongue. The remnants of its burnt dress, too,
were not like the ordinary garments of peasant children, and Mrs. Melder
herself had no family.

"God be thankit ye were passing by, Miss Anne!" exclaimed Mrs. Melder.
"I am the silliest body mysel that was ever putten in a strait. Eh! do
ye no hear my heart beating?--and the stranger bairn!"

"Whose is it, Mrs. Melder?" asked Anne, as they undressed the moaning
child, and laid her on the wooden bed which formed part of the furniture
of the homely apartment.

"And that is just what I cannot tell ye, Miss Anne," said the miller's
wife. "It was left wi' me by ane--ye wad meet her on the road. She wasna
put on like a lady, but she wasna a common body either--it was clear to
see that. We've had a dreary house, Robert and me, since little Bell
(ye'll mind her, Miss Anne?) was ta'en from us, two years syne come
Martinmas, and the stranger leddy had heard tell o't, and thocht, as she
said, that I wad be guid to the child--as I will, doubtless, puir,
innocent thing!--who could be otherwise?"

"And where did she come from?" inquired Anne, as she assisted in
applying some simple remedies.

"The bairn? Na, how can I tell you that Miss Anne, when I dinna ken
mysel?"

"No, no; I mean the lady," said Anne, hurriedly. "I saw her--a very
remarkable-looking person she is. Is the child her own?"

"Na; she _said_ no, any way," said Mrs. Melder. "Whaever it belongs to,
they think shame o't, that's sure. Woes me, Miss Ross! the ill that
there is in this world! She has been living at the brig for a day or two
back, and the bairn wi' her. I am doubtful it was but a foolish thing,
taking a bairn when one kens nought of its kindred. But the house was
dreary. Where there has been a babe in a dwelling, it makes great odds
when the light of its bit countenance is lifted away, and my heart
warmed to the puir wee thing, sent out from its own bluid. So I took it,
ye see, Miss Ross, and Robert he didna oppose. It's to bide two
years--if we're all spared as long--and the stipend for it is twenty
pound, and the siller's lying in Mr. Foreman the writer's hands--so we
canna come to any loss. It's an uncommon bairn a'thegither o't, and
speaks in a tongue neither Robert nor me can make onything of. It maun
have come from some far part--was ye speaking, my lamb?"

Anne beckoned Lewis forward as the child murmured again some incoherent
words.

"What language is it?--I do not recognize the tongue."

"It is Spanish," said Lewis. "Strange! Where did the child come from,
Mrs. Melder?"

The miller's wife repeated her story, and, promising to call at the
house of the doctor on their way homeward, and send him up to the little
patient, her visitors left her, and proceeded on their way, disturbed by
no further incident, except in Anne's mind, by the strange excitement of
interest with which this story moved her. She could not banish the
stranger's pale face from her mind, nor forget the pitiful look of the
little child, in whose soft features she thought she could trace some
resemblance, moaning out its feeble complaint in that strange language,
uncomprehended, and alone.



CHAPTER VII.


These days passed on in suspense and anxiety to Mrs. Catherine.
Uncertain what to believe or disbelieve, concerning the young man in
whose fortunes she was so deeply interested, her strong spirit chafed
and struggled in its compulsory inactivity. Nor did Lewis's report of
Mrs. Duncombe's friends, in any degree still her anxiety. Fashionable
ladies stood low in Mrs. Catherine's opinion at all times; and her
strong nationality aggravated tenfold her dislike to fashionable ladies
in Paris--French or semi-French. Had it not been for Alice, Mrs.
Catherine herself would have been on her way to Paris ere now. But
unwilling to send the girl abruptly home, and riveted besides by a
hundred little ties, which made her absence from the Tower (she had not
left it since her sorrowful journey, thirty years' ago, from Sholto's
island grave) seem an impossibility; she waited--we are constrained to
admit, not patiently--for further tidings, inclined to hope sometimes
that Mr. Foreman's benevolent surmise might be well-founded; and anon,
cast down, and venting her grief in a show of bitter indignation at "the
prodigal that could sell his birthright."

Many solitary hours were spent during that anxious fortnight (for mails
travelled tardily thirty years ago) in the little room--and many
wrestlings of secret, silent prayer these narrow walls were witness to.
Jacky, gliding hither and thither in her elfin ubiquity, could hear Mrs.
Catherine's step shake the floor; and listened in tremulous awe and
reverence sometimes to those often-repeated words, the burden of Mrs.
Catherine's anxiety: "Isabel Balfour's one son--that might have been
_your_ firstborn, Sholto Douglas!" But Jacky, with a sentiment of honor
peculiar to herself, kept her knowledge of Mrs. Catherine's trouble,
jealously within her own mind, and in the intervals of her heterogeneous
occupations, and no less heterogeneous studies, wove dreams of that
young Laird of Strathoran, over whom Mrs. Catherine prayed and
mourned--and creating for his especial service, some such wondrous
vassal as the Genii of Aladdin, conjured Sholto Douglas back to life and
lands again, and made the prodigal his heir and son.

Little Bessie, Alice Aytoun's maid, did not know what to make of that
strange, thin, angular girl, with her dark keen face, and eccentric
motions, and singular language. Bessie, plump, rosy and good-humored,
looked on in wondering silence as Jacky sat on the carpet in the
library, bent almost double over some mighty old volume from those heavy
and well-filled shelves--was inclined to laugh sometimes, yet checking
herself in mysterious reverence, revolved in her mind the possibility
of Mrs. Catherine's frequent epithet "you elf"--having in it some shadow
of truth. Bessie had read fairy tales in her day, and knew that in these
authentic histories there were such things as changelings--could this
strange Jacky be one? The flying footsteps, and bold leaps and
climbings, which Bessie did not venture to emulate, gave some color to
the supposition, so did these out-of-the-way studies and singular
expressions; but Jacky withal was not malicious, nor evil-tempered, and
Bessie paused before condemning her. On consulting Johnnie Halflin on
the subject, she found him as much puzzled as herself.

"For ye see," said Johnnie, "she was never at the schule--and look till
her reading! I was three--four year at it mysel, the haill winter; for
ye ken in this part, Bessie, it's no' like a toun--there's the beasts to
herd all the summer and other turns, till the shearing's by; but I wad
rather hae a day's kemping with that illwilly nowt that winna bide out
o' the corn, than sit down to the books wi' Jacky. She kens best herself
where she learnt it."

"And look how she speaks," ejaculated Bessie.

"Speaks! ye have not heard her get to her English--it's like listening
to the leddies. No Mrs. Catherine ye see, for one canna think what words
_she_ says--ye just ken when ye hear her, that ye maun do what ye're
bidden in a moment; but Jacky! ye would think she got it a' out of
books--whiles, when ye anger her--"

"Eh, Johnnie! yonder she is, coming fleeing down the hill," cried little
Bessie in alarm, as a flying figure paused on a ridge of the steep
eminence above them, and drew itself back for a final race to the
bottom. "Look! ye would think she never touched the ground."

"Whist, whist," said Johnnie, apprehensively, "she can hear ony sound
about the place, as quick as Oscar, and Oscar's the best watch in the
parish--be quiet, Bessie."

The youthful gossips were standing, during their gloaming hour of
leisure, at the back of a knot of outhouses, barns, and stables, and
Jacky came sweeping down upon them out of breath.

"Are you there, Johnnie Halflin? is that you, Bessie? Has my mother been
in the barn yet?--whisht, there she's speaking."

"No, it's Jean," said the lad; "the cow's better, and Jean said she
would never let on there had been onything the matter wi't, or else the
puir beast would be killed wi' physic. Ye needna tell on her, Jacky--ye
wadna like to harm a bonnie cow like yon, yoursel."

"And we'll no' tell on you," added Bessie.

"I'm no caring," was the quick response, "whether ye tell on me or
no--only if you do, Bessie, I'll never be friends with ye again; and if
you do, Johnnie, ye'll catch grief. Guess where I've been."

"Scooring ower the hills on a heather besom," said Johnnie, "seeking the
fairies--they say ye're one yoursel."

A sweep of Jacky's energetic arm sent Johnnie staggering down the path.

"I have been down at Robert Melder's mill, and there's a bairn there--a
little girl--Bessie, ye never saw the like of it!"

"Is't a' dressed in green, and riding on a white powny?" said Mrs.
Catherine's youthful servingman, returning to the charge.

"Ye're a fuil," retorted Jacky, flushing indignantly, "how do the like
of you ken what's true and what's a fable? There was a lady once, that
led a lion in her hand--_you_ dinna ken what that means--and if there
were gentle spirits lang syne in the air, what do you ken about them?
Bessie, come with me the morn, and see the little bairn. I like to hear
her speak; she says words like what you hear in dreams."

Jacky's companions indulged in a smothered laugh.

"Has she wings?" asked the lad.

"I will throw ye into the Oran, Johnnie Halflin," cried Jacky, in wrath;
"if ye do not hold your peace in a minute. Miss Anne saved her life, and
she speaks a strange language that naebody kens; and she's from a
strange country; and she's like--"

"Oh, I saw her mysel," interrupted Johnnie, "a bit wee smout, wi' her
frock burning--saved her life! how grand we're speaking! I could have
done't mysel, a' that Miss Anne did, and made nae work about it--only I
had Merkland's horse to haud."

"I have seen a face like it," said Jacky, thoughtfully, "a' but the
eyes."

"Eh, and isna Mr. Ross a fine young gentleman?" said little Bessie.
Bessie was glad to seize upon the first tangible point.

"How would ye like to bide constant in Strathoran, Bessie," said Johnnie
Halflin, "down bye at Merkland? Eh, disna Mr. Lewis gie weary looks up
at the easter tower?"

Bessie bridled, and drew herself up with pleased consciousness, as her
mistress's representative.

"I wonder at ye, Johnnie! how can ye speak such nonsense?"

"Is't Miss Aytoun Mr. Lewis looks up for?" inquired Jacky.

Her companions answered with a laugh.

"I think," said the boy, "for my ain part, that there's not a young
leddy in a' Strathoran like Miss Aytoun. She's out-o'-sight bonnier than
Miss Anne."

Jacky pushed him indignantly away.

"A fine judge you are. Like a big turnip your ain sel. A clumsy Swede,
like what they give to the kye. But, Bessie, do you think Mr. Lewis is
in--" Jacky hesitated, her own singular romance making it sacrilege to
speak the usual word in presence of those ruder comrades: "do ye think
Mr. Lewis _likes_ Miss Alice? he's no courting her?"

Bessie smiled, blushed, and looked dignified.

"O, Jacky, how do I ken?"

"Does Miss Alice like _him_?"

"Jacky, what a question! Miss Alice disna tell me."

Jacky looked at her inquisitively, and finishing her share of the
conversation in her own abrupt fashion, shot into the byre to see the
ailing cow, from whence she soon after stole into the Tower, where an
irksome hour of compulsory stocking-knitting, in the comfortable
housekeeper's-room of Mrs. Euphan Morison, awaited Mrs. Euphan's
reluctant daughter. The room was a very cosy room in all things, but its
disagreeable odor of dried and drying herbs; and Jacky, after a reproof
from her mother, so habitual that it had sunk into a formula, took her
customary seat and work. Bessie joined her, by-and-bye, with some little
piece of sewing that she had to do for Miss Aytoun, and Johnnie Halflin,
less dignified, betook himself to the kitchen fire, to read, or joke, or
doze the evening out.

The time drew near when Mrs. Catherine's doubts concerning Archibald
Sutherland were to be solved. The strong old lady grew nervous on these
dim mornings, and opened her letter-bag with a tremor in her hand; but
when the latest day had come, there was still no letter from Paris.
Impatiently she tossed them out. There were two or three letters of
applicants for her vacant farm, the closely-written sheet of home-news
for Alice, business-notes of various kinds, but nothing from the
prodigal, whose interests lay so near her heart. She lifted them all
separately again, turned out the bag--in vain. Her clear eye had made no
blunder in its first quick investigation. Mrs. Catherine's brow
darkened. Alice hardly dared to approach timidly, and withdraw her own
letter from the little heap. Not that the face of her kinswoman
expressed anger, but it bore the impress of some unknown mental
struggle, which Alice, in the serene light of her girlish happiness, did
not even know by name.

So Alice stole up stairs to the fireside of her bright dressing-room, to
read the long mother's letter, overflowing with tender counsel and
affection, and to weave fair dreams--dreams of joy and honor to that
gentle mother, and all things pleasant and prosperous to James--round
one unacknowledged centre of her own. Pleasant are those bright
dream-mists of youthful reverie, with their vague fairy-land of
gladness--pleasant to weave their tinted web, indefinitely rich and
glorious, over that universe of golden air, with its long withdrawing
vistas--the wealthy future of youth.

But Mrs. Catherine sat still alone, her head bent forward, her keen eyes
looking into the blank depths of a mirror on the wall, as though, like
the hapless lady in the tale, she could read the wished-for tidings
there. The door opened slowly. Jacky, with some strange intuitive
knowledge of her mistress's anxiety, had been on the outlook from the
window of the west room, and had now glided down stairs to report. Mrs.
Catherine raised her head sharply as the girl's prefatory "If you
please!" fell on her ear.

"What ist', you elf?"

"If you please," continued Jacky, "it's Mr. Ferguson, the Strathoran
factor, gallopping up the waterside like to break his neck!"

Mrs. Catherine started to her feet.

"Take him to the library--I will be down myself in a moment. Are you
lingering, you fairy? Away with you!"

Jacky vanished, and Mrs. Catherine walked hastily through the room.

"He will have gotten tidings!" And then she was still for a moment, in
communion with One mightier than man, nerving herself for the "tidings,"
whatever they might be.

Jacky stood at the open door as Mr. Ferguson gallopped up, but he did
notice the unusual haste with which he was hurried into the library. A
cold dew was on his honest forehead; regret and grief were in his kindly
heart; the familiar ordinary things about him bore a strange look of
change. The difference was in his own agitated eyes, but he did not
think of that. Mrs. Catherine stood before him, calm and stern, in the
library.

"Mr. Ferguson, you have gotten tidings?"

The firm, strong figure reeled in Mr. Ferguson's dizzy eyes.

"Mr. Ferguson, you are troubled. Has the prodigal done his worst? Sit
down and calm yourself. I am waiting to hear?"

The factor sat down. Mrs. Catherine did not, but, clasping her hands
tightly together, stood before him and waited.

"I have bad news, Mrs. Catherine," said Mr. Ferguson; "worse news, a
hundred times, than ever I suspected--than ever you could expect.
Strathoran is fallen--ruined! No hope--no possibility of saving him! It
is all over!" And the strong man groaned.

"How and wherefore?" said Mrs. Catherine, sternly.

"He has sold his estate--parted with his home and his land to some
titled sharper in Paris. Sold! he has done worse--still more
dishonorable and fatal than that, he has _gambled_ it away; what his
father spent years to redeem, and set free _for him_, he has staked on
the chances of a game. Bear with me, Mrs. Catherine, if I speak
bitterly. The young man has disappointed all my hopes--ruined
himself--what will become of him?"

Mrs. Catherine stood with her head bowed down, but otherwise firmly
erect, and silent.

"What will he do?" repeated the distressed factor, "what can he do? land
and name, fortune and character, all lost. What has he left, as he
says, but despair--with his prospects too, his fair beginning. O, it is
enough to make a man distracted! What have they done, that unhappy race,
that they should be constantly thus--father and son, a wise man and a
prodigal, the one wasting his substance and his inheritance, the other
denying himself the lawful pleasures of a just life to win it back
again."

"Comfort yourself, Robert Ferguson," said Mrs. Catherine, bitterly, as
drawing forward a chair with emphatic rapidity, she seated herself at
the table, "there will be no son of the name again to waste years in
building up the house of Strathoran: their history has come to an
end--fitly ended in a rioter and a prodigal."

The factor looked up deprecatingly, the very words which his excitement
brought to his own lips, sounding harsh from another's.

"Mrs. Catherine, Mr. Archibald is young. When other lads were leaving
school or entering college, he was launched upon the world his own
master, with a great income and a large estate.--You know how easily the
light spirit of youth is moved, but you cannot know how the way of a
young man is hedged in with temptations--Mrs. Catherine!" the factor
raised his hand in appeal.

"Speak not to me," said Mrs. Catherine, "I know! yes truly, I know more
than you think, or give me credit for. Temptations! and what is
obedience that has never been tried, or strength that has not been
exercised in needful resistance? I bid ye listen to me, Robert
Ferguson--was there not a test appointed in Eden? and would you set
youself to say that the fool of a woman (that I should say so, who am of
her lineage and blood!) might be justified for her ill-doing, because
the fruit hung fair upon the tree, and tempted the wandering eye of her?
Think better of my judgment and bring no such pleas to me."

"What can I bring? What can I say?" said Mr. Ferguson, in a low voice.
"Is he to be left to live or die, as he best can, in yon strange
country? Are we to let him sink into a professional gamester, like the
men who have ruined him? I speak wildly.--He would never do that. I
myself must seek, in some other place, a livelihood for my family; and I
will get it; for my work is clear before me, and it is known that I can
do what I undertake; but for him, Mrs. Catherine, with no friend in this
wide world but yourself, who can give him efficient help--with not an
acre but these poor lands of Loelyin and Lochend, which are still
entailed; and, worse than all that, with his best years lost, his
principles unsettled, and a stain upon his name--what is to become of
him?"

"He will drink the beverage he has brewed," said Mrs. Catherine,
harshly. "He will have the reward of the waster, as I have told you
before now. Let him take his wages--let him want now, as he has sinfully
wasted. It is his righteous hire and reward."

"And you can see that, can think of that, and not stretch out a hand to
him?" cried the factor, nervously, as he rose from his chair. "Except my
hand and my head, Mrs. Catherine Douglas, I have no inheritance; and
your estate yields gold to you, greater every year; but, before I see
want come to Strathoran's son, I will labor night and day. The
professions are open to him yet.--His mother's uncle was a Lord of
Session; his father's cousin was the greatest physician in Edinburgh. I
bid you good morning, Mrs. Catherine. I have to write to Mr. Archibald,
without loss of time."

"Sit down upon your seat, this moment," said Mrs. Catherine,
authoritatively, "and do not speak to me like a fool, Robert Ferguson.
Let me hear Archie Sutherland's story, the worst and the best of it; and
spend a pound of your own siller on the rioter, at your peril! As if I
did not know one lad at the college was enough for any man. Sit down
upon your seat, and tell me the whole story, as I bid you, this moment;
or I vow to you, that your young advocate, if he had his gown the morn,
shall get no pleas of mine!"

Mr. Ferguson sat down, well pleased, and taking out a letter, laid it
silently before Mrs. Catherine. The letter was long, blurred, uneven,
and written, as it seemed, in hurried intervals, with breaks and
incoherent dashes of the pen between. It was not either very clear or
very coherent; but it told how rent and distracted the writer's heart
and spirit were, and what a ceaseless struggle raged and contended
there. The large soft folds of Mrs. Catherine's shawl shook as if a wind
had stirred them, but she did not speak; the moisture gathered thick
beneath her large eyelid, but was not shed, for Mrs. Catherine was not
given to tears. At last she closed the letter carefully, occupying much
more time in the operation than was necessary, and endeavored to assume
her former caustic tone to hide her graver emotions. "A fine story to
come to a gentlewoman withal! well, Mr. Ferguson, and what is it your
purpose that I should do for your rioter?"

"I do not know--I have not been able to think," said the factor, himself
moved even to weeping: "that something must be done, and that
immediately, is clear. If I had not been coming to you for assistance,
Mrs. Catherine, I should have come for advice, for how to proceed I
cannot see."

There was a considerable pause--at length, Mrs. Catherine started from
her seat and resumed her quick pacing of the room.

"Wherefore are we losing time--send a message home, to Woodsmuir to bid
them put up a change of apparel for you; ride into Portoran and get what
siller will be needful--do not be scrupulous--and go your ways this very
day, or, if it be too far spent, at the latest the morn, to the
prodigal. I would go myself, but the witless youth, as I see by his
letter, is feared for me, and you can maybe travel with less delay.
Bring him home. Strathoran can shelter him no longer, but the
dwelling-place of Sholto Douglas can never be closed upon Isabel
Balfour's son. I say to you, lose no time, Robert Ferguson." Mrs.
Catherine rang the bell energetically. "Write to your wife about the
needful raiment. Archie Sutherland has slept in young Robert's cradle.
She will not grudge the trouble."

Mr. Ferguson did not wait to reflect, but with all speed, drew paper and
ink towards him and began to write.

"Let Andrew or Johnnie be ready in a moment to ride to Woodsmuir," said
Mrs. Catherine, as Jacky appeared at the door; "and tell your mother to
send in refreshments for Mr. Ferguson. Begone, you imp--what are you
waiting for?"

"If you please," said Jacky, "it's Mr. Foreman himsel in the gig--will I
bring him in?" and, without waiting for an answer, the girl disappeared.

"Mr. Foreman himself," repeated Mrs. Catherine. "What new trouble is
coming now?--they are ever in troops."

Mr. Ferguson raised his head uneasily and paused in his writing. The
excited curiosity of both suggesting some further aggravation of the
great misfortunes they already knew.

Mr. Foreman entered the room gravely, and with care in his face--greeted
Mrs. Catherine in silence, and starting, when he saw Mr. Ferguson,
asked; "It is true, then?"

"True?--Ay, beyond doubt or hoping," said Mrs. Catherine, bitterly. "The
prodigal has made an end of his house and name. I was right, Mr.
Foreman, and you were wrong. The hairy fool had been sent on no less an
errand than to see the value of the prey. Grant me patience!--how am I
to see daily before me, some evil animal, such as could herd with cattle
like you, reigning in the house of the Sutherlands?"

"How have you heard, Mr. Foreman?" said the factor, anxiously. "Has Mr.
Archibald written to you himself?"

"No," said Mr. Foreman, "I have got my information from a most
disagreeable source. I received a letter to-day from the solicitors of
Lord Gillravidge, touching the conveyance of the property. Have you the
intelligence direct from Mr. Sutherland? I came up immediately to let
Mrs. Catherine know."

"I have a letter," said Mr. Ferguson. "It is indeed all over. He has
lost everything except the entailed lands of Loelyin and Lochend, and
the farm of Woodsmuir, upon which my own house stands, and it, you know,
is mortgaged to its full value. All the rest is gone. Mr. Archibald is
ruined."

There was a pause again, broken only by the sound of Mrs. Catherine's
footsteps, as she walked heavily through the room.--These grave, kind
men, Archibald Sutherland's factor and agent, who had known him all his
life, were almost as deeply affected with his sin and misfortune as
though he had been an erring son. Mr. Foreman broke the silence by
asking:

"What do you intend to do?"

"Mrs. Catherine advises me to start immediately for Paris," said Mr.
Ferguson. "We all of us know how bitterly Mr. Archibald will reproach
himself, now that all self-reproach is unavailing. I will endeavor to
bring him home--to the Tower, I mean; and then--I do not well know what
we are to do. But we must try to rouse his mind (it is a vigorous one,
if it were but in a purer atmosphere,) to shape out for itself another
course. I was about to ride into Portoran to make immediate preparation
for my journey."

"Your letter, Mr. Ferguson," said Mrs. Catherine, as Jacky again
appeared at the door. "Let Andrew--is it Andrew?--lose no time! Here,
you elf! Have you anything else to advise, Mr. Foreman? I myself would
start in a moment, but that I think Mr. Ferguson would do it better. The
lad's spirit is broken, doubtless, and I might be over harsh upon him.
Give me Archie's letter."

Mrs. Catherine's large grey eyelid swelled full again, and she seated
herself at the table.

"I have nothing else to advise," said Mr. Foreman, abstractedly. "I
think it is very wise, and you should start at once, Mr. Ferguson.
But--" The lawyer paused. "Is it not possible to do anything? Could no
compromise be made? Better mortgage the land (it was mortgaged heavily
enough in his grandfather's time--I remember how old Strathoran was
hampered by paying them off,) than suffer it to pass altogether out of
his hands. Could nothing be done? Mrs. Catherine, if such an arrangement
were possible, would you not lend your assistance?"

Mrs. Catherine raised her eyes from the letter.

"To what end or purpose? That he might have the freedom of losing the
land again, if it were won back to him by the spending of other folks'
substance? George Foreman, it is not like your wisdom to think of such a
thing. A penniless laird--a shadow, and no substance--with a false rank
to keep up, and nothing coming in to keep it up withal? I will not hear
of it! Gentlemen, I have made up my mind; out of yon hot unnatural air
of artificial ill, the lad must come down to the cold blast of poverty,
if he is ever to be anything but a silken fule, spending gear unjustly
gotten, in an unlawful way. I say I will have no hand in giving back
plenty and ease to Archie Sutherland, till he has righteously wrought
and struggled for the same. Bring him back to my house, Robert
Ferguson. He has lost the home and the lands of his fathers. Let him see
them in the hands of an alien, and then let him gird his loins to a
right warfare, and win them back again. With God's blessing, and man's
labor, there is nought in this world impossible. I hope to live to see
him win back his possessions, as I have seen him lose them. If he does
not, he deserves them not."

"Write to him so," said Mr. Ferguson, eagerly. "It is the spur he needs.
Let me have a letter, so hopeful and encouraging, to carry with me, Mrs.
Catherine. Mere reproach would do evil, and not good. You are perfectly
right. A struggle--a warfare--that is the true prescription. Write to
Mr. Archibald yourself--it will have more effect than anything I can
say."

Mr. Foreman sighed, and felt almost inclined to withdraw his adherence
from those reformers who aim at the abolition of entails. At length, and
slowly, he signified his consent.

"Yes--yes: Mrs. Catherine is right. I believe it is the wisest way.
But--"

Mr. Foreman paused again. A strange master in Strathoran--the kindly
union of the country broken in upon by one who, if they judged rightly,
had done grievous ill to Archibald Sutherland. A painful film came over
the lawyer's eyes. It seemed like treason to the trust reposed in him by
"Old Strathoran" thus to suffer his son's downfall.

"You are losing time," said Mrs. Catherine. "Robert Ferguson, the day is
wearing on. Ye will not be able to leave Portoran the night. Start with
the first coach the morn's morning. Do not tarry a moment. Mind how long
the days will be to a spirit in despair; and come to me when you are
returning from Portoran if there is time. I will write to the unhappy
lad."

Thus dismissed, both gentlemen took their leave, the factor receiving a
parting adjuration to "take sufficient siller--be not scrimpit. Ye will
have many charges in so long a journey; and, as I have said, Robert
Ferguson, lay out a pound of your own siller upon this dyvour at your
proper peril! I will visit your iniquity upon the head of your young
advocate, if ye venture to do such a thing.--Mind!"

Mrs. Catherine seated herself at her library table as the factor and the
lawyer rode away together, and began to write to Archibald Sutherland--a
hurried letter, swiftly written. It ran thus:

     "I have heard of your transgression and calamity, Archibald
     Sutherland, and write as I need not tell you, in sore grief.
     Nevertheless, I have neither time nor leisure to record my
     lamentations, nor do I think that tears from old e'en--the which
     are bitter in the shedding--are things to make merchandise of for
     the mending of young backsliders. At this moment, I have other
     matters in hand. I see by your letter to Mr. Ferguson (a better man
     than I fear you will ever be), that you are yourself cast down, and
     in grief, as it is meet you should be. See that it be for the sin,
     and not for the mere carnal consequences, and so there will be the
     better chance for a blessing on your repentance.

     "And boy, rise up and come back to the country that brought you
     forth, out of that den of sin and iniquity. The house of your
     fathers is open to you no longer--the house of Sholto Douglas can
     never be shut upon Isabel Balfour's son. Come back to me--you shall
     not be my heir, for the lands of my fathers must descend to none
     that cannot keep them firmly, and guide them well; but whatsoever
     is needful for you to begin your warfare, lies ready for your
     claiming. I say your warfare, Archie Sutherland, for I bid you not
     come home to dally through an idle life or waste more days.--Come
     home to fight for your possessions back again--come home to strive
     in every honorable and lawful way to win back the good land you
     have lost--come home, I say, Archie Sutherland, to redeem your
     inheritance by honest labor, and establish your house again, as it
     was established by the first Sutherland that set foot on Oranside.
     The road is clear before you. You have gotten all the siller wasted
     now that you can get to waste. I command you, as there is anything
     in this life you set a value on, to throw these evil things behind
     you, and gird yourself for a warfare--a warfare that will be
     neither light nor brief, but that will be--what your past life has
     not been--just and honorable, a work for a man, not a witless and
     sinful dalliance for a silly youth, a play for a fevered bairn.

     "I have a burden of years upon me as you know, and may have but a
     small distance between me and the kirkyard of Strathoran, therefore
     I lay my charge upon you to be speedy with your labor. My kin and
     youthful neighbors are round about me, Archie Sutherland, (all but
     Sholto my one brother, that I left lying in the cold earth of a
     strange country,) but they are dwelling in silent cities, where no
     living thing can tarry. Boy! let me see hope breaking upon you,
     before I lay down my head beside them. My time is short. Turn to
     this work, Archie Sutherland, that I may carry better tidings with
     me, to your father and your mother, in the good land where they are
     resting from their labor. To your warfare I command you, young man,
     that I may see your prosperity as I have seen your down-come. Come
     home to the house of your mother's oldest friend, come home without
     delay (and I charge you that what honor remains to your name may be
     preserved--to bring home to me that wilful girl, your sister
     Isabel) to your just work, that I may not go down with a sore heart
     to my last dwelling-place.

"CATHERINE DOUGLAS."



Mr. Ferguson returned to the Tower on his way to Woodsmuir, and received
this letter, with many messages and charges besides, especially
addressed to Isabel Sutherland, whom Mrs. Catherine, in the excitement
of her grief for Archibald, had almost forgotten. Mr. Ferguson was to
leave Portoran with the night-coach for Edinburgh; and, again, the
perforce quietude of waiting fell upon the aged lady of the Tower.



CHAPTER VIII.


Other two weary slow-paced weeks wore through, before Mrs. Catherine
heard any further tidings of her prodigal. At last Mr. Ferguson's
hurried intimation of his arrival in Paris came at once to satisfy and
to stimulate her anxiety--for Mr. Ferguson's brief epistle said
emphatically that it was _well_ he had lost no time in setting out upon
his journey, and that he found "Mr. Archibald" in sorest need of some
steadfast friend about him. A few days after there came a more explicit
letter. Mr. Ferguson had found poor Archibald Sutherland in the strong
grip of despair. Loss of fortune had brought loss of friends--not one of
all his former guests or flatterers remained to comfort him in his
poverty; and save for the jealous solicitude with which he guarded his
sister, Mr. Ferguson believed that his reckless desperation would have
laid him ere now in the grave of the suicide. But Isabel, wilful,
impetuous and admired as she was, bound her fierce guardian to his hated
life--still courted in these gay circles, for the wit and beauty which
all this burden of calamity could not diminish, the ruined man stalked
by her side everywhere, like some intruding spectre, casting a blight
upon the smiles that woke no congenial sunshine in his ghostly face. The
treachery which he had felt surrounding himself--the warning of Mrs.
Catherine's letters had awakened him to a wild anxiety for Isabel: he
could not bear her absence from him. Regardless of sneers and
inuendos--regardless of contempt and indifference, he followed his
sister wherever she went, and scowled away from her in his gaunt pride
and anger, whosoever ventured upon any show of admiration. But no human
spirit could bear that fierce tension long; and when his factor's home
face looked in upon him, so clear, upright, and manlike, with all its
respectful kindliness of sympathy, the heart of Archibald Sutherland
burst from its compulsory hardihood, and melted into very weakness. None
knew or could appreciate better than he, the thoroughly honorable
character of Mr. Ferguson--none better knew the warm kindliness of that
pleasant home of Woodsmuir, which the factor had left for the
discomforts of a long journey and a strange country, to aid and succor
_him_--him, the prodigal, the destroyer of his father's house. Tears,
strange to the eyes of the broken man, fell copiously over Mrs.
Catherine's letter--a time of strange incoherence followed, and when Mr.
Ferguson wrote again, it was from the sick room where Archibald
Sutherland lay, prostrate in body and mind, in the wild heat of fever,
struggling for his life.

Mr. Ferguson wrote with unwonted pathos of that strange phantom of
terror for Isabel, which haunted his patient's mind by night and
day--the one consistent thread through all that delirious chaos--of how
the wilful sister in the pride of her wit and beauty heard it first from
her brother's raving lips with indignant anger, haughtily blaming the
manly watcher by that brother's bedside whose place she did not offer to
take; but how, at last, the "weeping blood of woman's breast" was
reached by that wail of agony, and Isabel gave up her gaieties, and took
her place in the sick room, soothing the sufferer by her very presence.
But Mr. Ferguson did not tell, how unweariedly he himself watched by
that bed of fever, and when doctor and attendant despaired, still hoped
against hope--nor how, when feeble, and pale, and worn out, the
convalescent could raise his head again, it was the strong arm of his
Strathoran factor that held him up--it was the kindly tongue of home
that gave thanks for his recovery.

But long weeks had lengthened into months during Archibald's illness,
and the dark short days of December were rising, in their chill
alternations of frost and rain, upon the northern skies of Strathoran,
when Mr. Ferguson returned home. He came alone, for Captain Duncombe had
joined his wife and brother-in-law in Paris, and was to be their escort
to England. Captain Duncombe had got a considerable accession of
fortune, by the death of some friend, during the time of Archibald's
convalescence, and had managed to effect an exchange into a regiment
stationed near London, whither his wife had no objection to accompany
him. The saturnine Captain was something touched by his hapless
brother-in-law's emaciated appearance, and had no objection to travel
leisurely home for his convenience, though protesting many times, with
unnecessary fervor, that, when once at home, he could do nothing for
him; and Mr. Ferguson, whose own affairs imperatively called for his
presence, and whose strength had been wasted by long confinement,
reluctantly left his patient, and returned to Strathoran alone.

In the meantime, changes had taken place there: bevies of English
sportsmen had arrived with Lord Gillravidge at his newly acquired
property--gamekeepers and grooms, a whole village full, overbrimmed its
quiet precincts. Rough Ralph Falconer, condescendingly noticed at first,
in acknowledgment of his kindred pursuits, was shrinking from the
neighborhood already fairly over-crowed and put down, endeavoring to
hide his mortification under bitter laughter. Bitterly upon them,
"pilgarlic dandies," "hairy fuils," "idle cattle," poured the full flood
of Mrs. Catherine's derision. The countryside was stirred with unwonted
excitement. An Englishman, alien to their blood, and contemptuous of
their Church--the supplanter, besides, of an old and long established
family, in a district peculiarly tenacious of hereditary loves and
hatreds,--the new Lord of Strathoran had all the strongest feelings of
his neighbors arrayed against him.

The new Lord of Strathoran was supremely indifferent. The countryside
and its likings and dislikings, were not of the remotest consequence to
him.

And little Alice Aytoun was beginning to receive gentle and tender hints
from Edinburgh, that the original limits proposed for her visit, had
been considerably overpassed. She had forgotten, in the unconscious
selfishness of a light heart, how lonely the Edinburgh parlor would be,
during the long days which her mother spent there alone--for Alice's
_entree_ into the festivities and party-givings of that quiet district,
which her inexperience called "the world," had been a triumph--and with
so much homage laid at her little feet, and so much girlish delight and
laughing wonder, in receiving that strange, new tribute of admiration,
it was scarcely wonderful that the Edinburgh parlor, with its quiet
dwelling at home, and brief domestic circle, seemed almost sombre in the
contrast. It was arranged, however, that Alice should return home after
the new year, and, her conscience eased of some compunctions it had,
respecting neglect of her mother, Alice looked forward to the especial
merry-makings of that blythe season with a light heart.

Meanwhile, Anne Ross's ingenuity was vainly exercised in devising
expedients to occupy her brother, and divert him from those frequent
visits which it had become his pleasure to pay at the Tower. Lewis found
numberless errands--alleged consultations with Mrs. Catherine, at which
his mother fumed silently in sullen dignity--pretences for advising with
the shrewd factotum of Mrs. Catherine's finely-cultivated home-farm,
concerning those fields immediately adjoining Merkland which Mr. Coulter
advised, putting on some scientific regimen--or even a rare fungus, or
delicate moss to show to Miss Aytoun, who began to be interested in that
beautiful science of botany which Lewis himself had taken up so
suddenly.

These visits, and the too certain end to which they tended, pained Anne
deeply, overpowered her, indeed, sometimes with sick bewilderment, the
more that in the present state of matters, she was perfectly powerless.
Any step of her's might precipitate Lewis, so jealously alive to
interference as he was, and make that certain, which was now only feared
and deprecated, so Anne, like her friend in the Tower, had to wait
perforce for the regular course of events, and with an anxiety still
more intense and painful than Mrs. Catherine's. What but woe and mishap
could come from this unhappy intercourse? What but pain and
disappointment and sorrow to these two youthful hearts.

Anne could perceive that it annoyed her step-mother; that Mrs. Ross,
with her overweening partiality for, and pride in her only son, was
inclined to take his attention to Alice Aytoun as a personal slight and
injury to herself. But it was not because a connection so terrible
existed between the families already--Alice had no friends to elevate
the standing, nor portion to increase the wealth of her future partner,
and therefore Mrs. Ross frowned upon the growing devotion of Lewis, and
already, in many a peevish altercation and sarcastic allusion, had
brought in Alice Aytoun's name--fanning thereby the flame which she
hoped to extinguish.

And during these months, the little girl, so strangely brought to Oran
Mill, was learning the tongue of her new home rapidly. A strange
junction, the liquid Spanish, which fell on Jacky's visionary ear so
pleasantly, "like the words folk hear in dreams," made, mingled with
these soft syllables of the homely, Scottish tongue, broken from what
harshness soever might originally be in them, by the child's voice of
lisping music. Mrs. Melder had been told to call her Lilias, and
affection had already contracted the name into the familiar diminutive
of "Lilie." A strange exotic lily the child seemed with her small, pale
features and olive-tinted cheek, and flood of dusky silken hair, and she
had become already a wonder in the parish.

Mrs. Coulter sent for the miller's wife on some small pretext of
business, that she might see her little lodger, and Lilie returned from
Harrows laden with fruit, and toys, and sweetmeats, and leaving little
Harry Coulter, the agriculturist's Benjamin, struggling with desperate
energy to follow her, and hopelessly in love. Lilie had even been taken
to the Tower, and half smothered with caresses from Alice, had received
from Mrs. Catherine strange looks of musing melancholy, and one abrupt
expression of wonder--

"Who was she like?"

Miss Falconer herself had gallopped a couple of miles out of her way,
and stopped at the Mill, with her horse in a foam, to make acquaintance
with the little Donna. Jacky had constituted herself her bodyguard and
attendant, and carried her off whole days on solitary rambles among the
hills. There were few of all the circle round who were not interested in
the stranger child.

But no one received so great a share of Lilie's regard, or was so
powerfully attracted towards her, as Anne Ross. There was a new pleasure
now in the long walks, which had a half hour's playful intercourse with
Lilie to make them cheerful; and Anne again and again repeated her
inquiries concerning the stranger who had left the child with Mrs.
Melder, without however eliciting anything new.

"She wasna put on like a lady," repeated the miller's wife. "My ain
muckle shawl, wi' the border, was worth twa o' the ain she had on, and
naething but a printed goun. But I have seen folk in silks and satins,
Miss Anne, that had a commoner look--no that she was bonnie--but you saw
her yoursel."

"Yes," said Anne; "she was a very remarkable looking person."

"Na' but the eyes of her! They made me that I near sat down and
fainted--they had sic a wistful, murning look in them. The bairn's are
no unlike. Haud up your head, Lilie, my lamb--only it wad tak watching
and sorrow, if I'm no far mistaken, to gie her yon look. Waes me, Miss
Anne! it spoke o' a sair heart!"

"But Lilie's are bright and happy," said Anne, drawing the child closer
to her, and looking affectionately upon the little face, from which
shone eyes deep enough in their liquid darkness to mirror forth great
sorrows. "We must not let grief come near Lilie."

"Lilie blythe--blythe?" said the child, clinging to her side. "Lilie no
like happy. Blythe is bonnier! Lilie go the morn--up--up!"

"To the hills, Lilie?"

"Up--up!" said the child, imitating with feet and hands the motions of
climbing. "Lilie look away far--at the water."

"At the Oran, Lilie?"

"Where he go to?" asked Lilie, pointing through the window to the brown,
foaming water--"rinning fast? Where he go to?"

"To the sea, Lilie," said Anne.

"Yes--yes," said the child. "Lilie once sail upon the sea; row--row--in
a big boat. Lilie likes to look at it."

"Were you alone, Lilie?" said Anne. "Was no one with you?"

The child did not understand.

"A big boat--big--big--bigger than yon!" Lilie had seen Mrs. Catherine's
little vessel on the Oran, and had been greatly interested in it. "Lilie
ran about," and the child eked out her slender vocabulary with the
universal language of signs, "and saw the sea; but the water did not
come upon Lilie."

"And was there no one to take care of Lilie?" said Anne.--"No one to put
on her little frock, and to comb these pretty curls?"

The child looked up thoughtfully for a moment, and then, hiding her face
in Anne's lap, burst out into a passion of tears, moaning out in her own
language a lamentation over her "good nurse, her Juana," with all the
inconsolable vehemence of childhood.

"She has done that before," said Mrs. Melder. "Can ye make onything o'
the words, Miss Anne? I hae gotten to ken the sound o' them, though
neither Robert nor me can make ony sense o' the outlandish tongue.
Lilie, my lamb, whisht, like a guid bairn, and dry your eyes. See what a
bonnie book Miss Anne has brocht ye, and pictures in't!

"There's mony o' the neighbors wonder at us," continued Mrs. Melder, as
the child, when its fit of weeping was over, clambered up upon the table
in the window, and sat there, in enjoyment of the picture-book, "for
taking a bairn we ken naething about; and ye may think it foolish too,
Miss Anne. But the house was waesome wi' Robert out a' day, and the bit
thing had a pitiful look wi't, and the leddy--for she bid to be a leddy,
though she was plain enough put on--pleaded wi' me in sic a way that I
couldna withstand it; and we're clar o' a' loss, wi' the siller being in
Mr. Foreman's hand; and the bairn--puir wee desolate thing, cast off by
its ain bluid--is a fine bairn, now that she's learning to speak in a
civilized tongue. My ain Bell, if the Almighty had spared her, would hae
been about Lilie's age. Eh, Miss Anne! a young lady like you canna ken
what a sore dispensation that was! But we maun hae our ain way."

"And do you think the lady could be Lilie's mother?" said Anne, after a
pause.

"It's hard to say," said Mrs. Melder; "but I am maistly inclined to
think no, Miss Anne, for ye see the bairn disna greet after her the way
she did the now, when ye asked her wha came hame wi' her; and the leddy
hersel, though she beggit me to be careful o' the bairn, did not keep
her in her sight till the last moment, as a mother would have done; and
when she went by the Mill, Robert says--for he was watching--that she
never stopped to look back; sae I think she may have been a friend
further off, Miss Anne, but she couldna be Lilie's mother."

"Strange!" said Anne, "that any friend, above all a mother should send
away a child so interesting!"

"Ay, Miss Anne," said Mrs. Melder; "but the like o' you disna ken. There
are bitterer things in this world than even grief.--One canna tell. It
may be a shame and a disgrace to some decent family, that that wee
thing, pleasant as she is, has ever drawn breath--and the lady may be
some kin of the mother's, bringing it away out o' the sight o' kent folk
and friends. The like of that is ower common. Eh, pity me! there's nae
counting the wiles o' the enemy! There's Strathoran, ye see, and the
gentlemen that's in't playing at their cartes and their dice, they tell
me, on the very Sabbath day itsel! Is't no enough to bring a judgment on
the country-side? If auld Strathoran--honest man--could but look down
into his ain house now, I canna think but what it would make his heart
sair--even _yonder_. He was a guid man, auld Strathoran, though he did
put Mr. Bairnsfather into the parish."

"Was that wrong, Mrs. Melder?" said Anne.

"The Apostle says we're no to speak evil o' the ruler o' our people,"
said Mrs. Melder; "but, eh, Miss Anne, he's wersh and unprofitable. When
I was in my trouble and sorrow (and who can tell how dark the earth is,
and a'thing in't, when one is bereaved o' their first-born--their only
lamb!) Robert brought the minister, thinking he could speak a word o'
comfort to me; and what think ye he said, Miss Anne? No that I was to
look to my Lord that had gathered my lamb to his ain bosom, out of a'
the ills o' this world, but that I was to be reasonable and calm, and
bear the trouble wi' fortitude, because it couldna be helpit. That was
a' the comfort he had to speak to a distracted woman, whose only bairn
was in its grave! But he never had ony little ones himsel."

"And you do not come to the Church, now?" said Anne, holding out her
hand, as Lilie descended from the table, and came to her side again.

"Na; we were once gaun to the Meeting, Robert and me, for the Seceder
minister preaches guid doctrine, but we couldna think to leave the Kirk.
My father was an elder for twenty year--sae we aye waited on till Mr.
Lumsden came to Portoran. Eh, Miss Anne, he's a grand man! They say
there's no the like o' him in the haill Presbytery!"

"What is this, Lilie?" cried Anne.

Lilie had brought her new "Shorter Catechism," that much-prized
text-book of Presbyterian Scotland, to point out the lessons which she
was to repeat to Robert Melder, on the Sabbath afternoon, according to
the venerable and excellent custom of such religious humble households;
and insisted upon repeating her former "questions" and the first Psalm
she had learnt in her new language.

Anne took the book, well pleased, and listened, while Lilie repeated
that beautiful proposition in which all Scotland for centuries has
learned to define the chief end of man, and then, with some slight
stammering and uncertainty, went on:

    "That man hath perfect blessedness,
     Who walketh not astray."

The first verse was repeated, and Lilie stayed to remember the second.

"Eh," cried Mrs. Melder, "hasna she come uncommon fast on? but I wish ye
would speak to Jacky Morison, Miss Anne, she's learning the bairn
nonsense ballants and--"

    "He shall be like a tree that grows,
     Near planted by a river,"

burst out Lilie triumphantly.

    "Which in his season yields his fruit,
       And his leaf fadeth never.
     And all he doth shall prosper well--"

The child paused--accomplished the next three lines with prompting, and
then made a stop.

"Lilie no mind now--Lilie show you the tree."

Anne suffered herself to be drawn out--the tree which Lilie fancied must
be the one meant in the Psalm, was an oak which stood upon a swelling
hillock close by the Oran. When they came near, the child's wandering
attention was caught by some carving on the rude and gnarled trunk.

"What's that?" she asked.

Anne read it, wonderingly:

             "Norman R. R. Marion L."

Beneath were two longer lines:

    "Like autumn leaves upon the forest ways,
     The gentle hours fall soft, the brightest days
             Fade from our sight."

and a date. The carvings were near the root, and might have been done by
some one sitting on the grassy bank below. Anne had some difficulty in
deciphering them, and when she had led her little charge home, returned
alone to trace the moss-grown characters again. The date was seventeen
years before--Norman R. R. Could it be possible that some other bore
that name--or was it indeed a record of some bygone pleasant musing of
her unhappy brother's, before name, and fame, and fortune were lost in
that dark crime--before the mark of Cain was sealed upon his brow.

And were there yet greater depths in this calamity than she knew, and
more sufferers; the Marion who shared his happier thoughts--who was she?
or how had Norman's blight, so much more dreadful than death, fallen
upon her?

The dusky December weeks passed on, and, on the last night of the year,
a tall man, closely enveloped in a plaid, walked softly up the dark
avenue towards the house of Strathoran. He seemed to know its turns and
windings well, as keeping under covert of the thickest trees, he
hastily approached the house;--once near it, he crossed the path quickly
to gain the obscurity of its shadow, and then walked round it several
times without manifesting any desire of entering. It was a very dreary
night--the ground was thoroughly soaked with recent rains, and heavy
clouds drifted in dark masses over the sky, of whose dull leaden
surface, and wading afflicted moon you could see occasional glimpses, as
these gloomy hosts of vapors were parted by the wind. A fitful glance of
the moon fell now and then upon the stranger's face. It was pale and
resolute, and rigid, like the face of one undergoing some terrible
surgical operation, to endure which manfully his every nerve was
strained. He paused at last opposite a brilliant window, and retreating
backward, raised himself by aid of a tree, so that he could look in.
Through the closed curtains he could see a party of gentlemen sitting at
their wine--the sound of their laughter, and gay voices, reached him on
his watch. With keen eyes he surveyed the unconscious revellers, marked
every face, took in, as it seemed, every particular of the scene, and
then descending, took his way again through the solitary avenue, and
turning as before into a side path, reached the highway unseen. Onward
he went, walking very quickly for full two dreary miles, and arrived at
last not at any dwelling of man, but at a solitary graveyard, still and
solemn, lying upon Oranside, in the midst of which rose the ruined walls
of an ancient chapel, moss-grown, and clad with clinging ivy.--The alarm
which called forth the parishioners of more southern districts, night
after night, to watch their dead, had not reached the distant stillness
of Strathoran, and the stranger entered unmolested and unseen. He
directed his steps to the chapel, climbed the broken stair, and entered
the small unroofed apartment, with its ruined walls, and trailing ivy,
and floor of lettered flags, bearing upon them the names of those who
slept below--for this was the burial-place of the long-descended
Sutherlands of Strathoran. Another uncertain glance of the wan moon
directed him to a marble tablet in the wall, by the side of which he
stood long in the dreary silence, motionless and still, himself like
some dark statue, mocking the dead with empty honor. Hugh Sutherland and
Isabel his wife, lay underneath the watcher's feet; and the son to whom
they had left so fair a heritage, and who had visited their grave two
twelvemonths since, bearing a name of universal honor, and looking forth
upon a smiling future, through natural tears that became him well--stood
there now, tearless and stern in the thick gloom of night--a houseless,
joyless man.

"I have obeyed," said Archibald Sutherland, leaning upon the ruined
wall. "I have returned to see my father's house in the hands of an alien
to his blood--and now what remains?" His knees were bent upon the stone
that covered the dust of father and of mother--his brow pressed to the
tablet that chronicled their names; and the ruined man in his extremity,
poured out his full heart into the ear of One who heareth always, and
never more certainly than when the voice of supplication rises to Him
"out of the depths." "Who shall stand before thee if thou markest
iniquity? yet is there forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be
feared, and plenteous redemption."

Yes, _that_ remained--omnipotent, over all, in His tender mercy, the God
whose plentiful redemption encircles with its arms of divine compassion
its every returning prodigal--the loving-kindness that turns no
supplicant away. The sympathy most wonderful and strange of all, which
"touches"--the heart of the Incarnate God with "a fellow-feeling for our
infirmities!"--these remained--greater than all sorrows of the earth.

So with less sternness in his pale face, and less despair in his heart,
Archibald Sutherland retraced his steps, and turned to the humble
fisher's house far down the Oran, the inhabitants of which had recently
come to the district, and knew not either the name or the quality of the
stranger whom they had reluctantly agreed to shelter for the night.

He had hovered that same evening in cover of the darkness, in the
neighborhood of the Tower--had passed the hospitable walls of Woodsmuir,
and looked through the bare trees at Merkland; but drawing back in
painful shame, had not dared to enter, or make himself known to any of
them all--they all had households, kindred, warm friends about them. He
only was alone.

The next night, with his plaid wrapped as closely about him as before,
and serving as a disguise, he passed along Oranside in the darkness,
turning his steps to the Tower. He could not delay longer--already
perhaps in the bitter pain of last night's trial, he had delayed too
long, and in passing those wide-spreading fields and plantations, once
his own, but in which now the meanest hind dwelling among them had more
share than he, he felt that last night's trial might be indefinitely
prolonged. He came to the Tower at last, and found it also gay and full
of light. The hall-door was open, and within stood a knot of servants.
The door of Mrs. Euphan Morison's snug room was ajar, and showed Duncan
from Merkland, and Mr. Coulter's grave man-servant sitting comfortably
by the fireside, while the Falcon's Craig groom, and Mr. Foreman's lad,
and one or two younger attendants, stood among Mrs. Catherine's
maid-servants in the hall listening to the music above.

"Jacky, ye monkey, shut that door," cried Mrs. Euphan Morison, "Idle
hizzies clavering nonsense, and decent folk like to get their death o'
cauld. I wad advise ye to tak hame some o' that horehound-balsam wi'
ye, Duncan--it's uncommon guid for hoarseness. I made it with my ain
hand."

Jacky darted forward to do her mother's bidding; and Archibald felt the
girl's keen eye pierce his disguise in a moment.--She paused, looked at
him. "If ye please, will I tell Mrs. Catherine?"

"Yes--but wait, Jacky, let me go up stairs."

Jacky went gravely forward before him, and drawing his plaid more
closely over his face, Archibald followed her unobserved.--The girl led
him to a small apartment which opened into that well-remembered
drawing-room, and without saying a word, left him there. He sat down and
waited. Ah! these gay sounds of mirth and music, how bitterly they mock
sick hearts. A sort of hope had inspired him, as he felt himself once
more in shelter of these stately walls, but now, within hearing of the
sounds of pleasure and rejoicing, his heart again sank within him. There
was no place for him--homeless and hopeless, there. As he listened, a
simple voice began to sing--words chiming strangely in with his changed
fortunes.

    "Like autumn leaves upon the forest ways,
     The gentle hours fall soft, the brightest days
                 Fade from our sight.
     A dimness steals upon the earth and heaven,
                 Blended of gloom and light;
     Shuts its soft eyelid o'er day's azure levin,
     And shades with its soft tints the glories of sweet even
                 To sober-toned night.

    "From his deep cradle the woods among
       His russet robes waving free,
     The Oran with his kindly tongue,
       Is travelling to the sea.
     He rushes to the ocean old,
       In sparkling wave and foam,
     And out into that trackless wold
       Bears the kind voice of home.
                 Wayfaring man, far, on the sea
                 Listen how he calls to thee!

    "Warm household lights are shining out
       His rugged channel o'er.
     Ill plants of malice, and guile, and doubts
       Ne'er blossom on his shore.
     There is Peace in her matron's gown and hood.
       Her footsteps never roam,
     And Hope is in pleasant neighborhood
       And strength is strongest at home
                 Thy foot is weary, thy cheek is wan,
                 Come to thy kindred, wayfaring man

    "Oran's ringing voice he hears,
       The great sea waves among,
     To yon far shore the ripple bears
       The Oran's kindly tongue.
     Yet he labors on, and travels far,
       For years of toil must glide,
     Before he sees the even star
       Rise calm on Oranside.
                 Speed thy labor o'er land and sea,
                 Home and kindred are waiting for thee!

    "The gentle hours fall soft, the brightest days,
     Like autumn leaves upon the forest ways,
                 Fade from our sight.
     And night and day he labors as he can,
                 Far from home's kindly light.
     His foot is weary, and his cheek is wan,
     Ah! pray, young hearts, for the sad wayfaring man
                 Laboring this night."

The air was very simple beginning and ending in a low pathetic strain,
and with a quicker measure for the intervening verses--but the music was
but a soft chiming breath, bearing along the words. Archibald Sutherland
leaned his head upon his hands, the burden floating dizzily through his
mind. Alas! for him, beginning his wayfaring so painfully, neither home
nor kindred waited. He heard a step approach--a hand gently open the
door of communication, and raised his head, a sad calmness possessing
him.--Among the gay hearts, divided from him only by that wall, there
might be some one, whose prayer of gentle pity, would indeed rise for
the wayfaring man.



CHAPTER IX.


Anne Ross was seated near Mrs. Catherine's piano when Alice Aytoun took
her place at it timidly, and placing a sheet of manuscript music before
her, began her song. Anne started in tremulous wonder as it commenced.
Most strange to hear these words repeated by a living voice at
all--stranger still that they should fall from Alice Aytoun's. With
breathless interest she listened as the lines flowed on. The wayfaring
man in toil, and danger, and sorrow, hearing in the ripple of the great
sea, far away in some strange country, the kindly call of the Oran to
home and kindred. Her cheeks grew pale--her lips quivered. How could
this be twined into Norman's history?--or was Alice unconsciously
murmuring out the low, sad prayer of its conclusion for her father's
murderer?

The tears were swelling in Anne's eyes as the song concluded; and Ralph
Falconer who stood near had addressed to her some sneering compliment on
her sensibility, when Jacky stole behind her chair, and whispered
something in her ear. Anne recollected herself instantly, and,
approaching Mrs. Catherine, communicated to her Jacky's intelligence.
Mrs. Catherine started--rose from her seat--wavered a moment, and then
restraining her emotions, sat resolutely down again.

"See, Anne, there is the key of the little room. Take the dyvour
there--I will come myself when I can. Tell him that--." Anne turned to
obey. "And, child,--bid Euphan Morison have a good fire kindled in the
red room, and tell Andrew he is to hold himself ready to wait on Mr.
Archibald--and, child--be kindly to the unhappy youth. It behoves me to
be stern myself, but there is no such bondage upon you."

When Archibald Sutherland lifted his head it was Anne Ross who stood
before him, her eyes shining wet, her face full of sympathetic sorrow.
She held out her hand, and advanced towards him.

"Mr. Sutherland--Archibald."

"Anne!" said the broken man. They shook hands; there needed no more
speech; perfect and cordial sympathy, of no exaggerated sort, but such
as does sometimes, and should always subsist between those who have
passed childhood and early youth together, was between them in a moment.
There was no story told--no compassion claimed; but, in the pressure of
Anne's hand, and the subdued kindness of her look, the full heart felt
itself eased, and leaned upon the unexpressed sympathy as with the
confidence of nearest kindred. There were no words; but Anne knew how
Archibald's spirit was wading like the moon in clouds and darkness; and
Archibald felt that Anne, in the confidence of ancient kindness, was
ready to hope and believe all things for his final deliverance and
welfare.

"You will not go in," said Anne, gently. "There is a large party, and
some strangers."

"No--no," said Archibald. "I regret now that I came at all to-night. I
would be a strange spectre, disturbing your merrymaking, Anne."

"Merrymaking! With some of us, at least, there is not much of that,"
said Anne. "Lewis is home, Archibald; you must see _him_. But now will
you come with me to the little room? Mrs. Catherine will come herself
immediately."

"To the little room?"

"Yes; the house is full, and all the other apartments are occupied,"
said Anne; "that is all. Mrs. Catherine has been looking for you,
Archibald."

They left the room together, and, to the great wonder of the congregated
listeners in the hall, descended the stair, and turned through a dark
passage to Mrs. Catherine's place of especial retirement--the little
room. Archibald entered, and Anne, leaving him, hastened to Mrs. Euphan
Morison's apartment, to convey to her Mrs. Catherine's orders, in
immediate execution of which a reluctant maid was hurried up stairs.

And Archibald Sutherland seated himself alone, fearing the interview
which Mrs. Catherine made still more important and solemn by ordaining
that it should take place _there_. The firm, dark face of Sholto Douglas
looked down upon him from the wall, and fascinated his restless eyes.
There seemed a lofty purity of reproof in those fine lineaments, over
which the pallor of death had fallen, before Mrs. Catherine's only
brother had told out an equal number of years with himself. Sholto
Douglas, in his early prime of manhood, laid in a foreign grave, the
odor of a stainless name, and strong faith, numbering him among those
just, who shall be held in everlasting remembrance. Archibald
Sutherland, in the wreck of hope and fortune, and good fame, preserving
barely life. Ah! who would not rather have chosen the solitary grave in
far Madeira, in which all sin and uncertainty lay dead, and where, above
flowery sod, and gray headstone, there blossomed one sublime and
stedfast hope, as sure and true as heaven.

Archibald could not bear, what seemed the cold reproving scrutiny of
that noble pictured face, and laying his arms upon the table, he bent
down his head upon them. He fancied he could hear the music and gay
voices still. Anne had left him. Mrs. Catherine lingered in her coming;
even in this household, the only one in the cold world around him, in
which he thought himself secure of welcome, the ruined man was nothing;
bitter thoughts swelled up within his worn and wearied spirit, despair
came back like a flood upon his heart; exhausted in health, broken in
mind, disgraced in name--what remained for the once joyous heir of
Strathoran, but poverty, neglect, and death.

Large gray eyes, made larger by the dew that swelled beneath their lids,
were looking on him, as thus he sank further and further, into that
horror of great darkness. Mrs. Catherine, whose slow step he had not
heard approaching, in the tumult of his own thoughts, stood by him
silently; her strong features moved by the contest between severity and
tenderness.

"Archibald Sutherland," she said, harshly. The young man started, but
did not lift his head. "Archie, my man!" Her large hand was upon his
hair, stroking it softly, as if the head it covered had been a child's.
He looked up. "You have sinned against your own spirit, and in the sight
of God; but you are home in your own country, and under a kindly roof.
Archie Sutherland, give me your hand, and let bygones be bygones between
us."

There was a silence of some minutes, during which, Mrs. Catherine
grasped Archibald's trembling hand in one of her's, and with the other,
smoothed down his dark hair, wet as it was, with the cold dew of mental
pain. "Archie!" she repeated, "there have many waves passed over your
head since I laid my hand upon it last; waves of sorrow and shame, and
waves of sin, Archie Sutherland--but yet--be silent, and listen to
me--yet I pray, as I prayed when we parted, that the blessing of the God
of our fathers may be about you, boy, at this time, and for ever! Look
up, and hear me. Let trouble, and toil, and hardship come, as the Lord
will; lift up your head in His presence, Archie Sutherland, and plight
me your word, that in your further warfare, manfully and honestly, and
in the strength of His name, ye will resist sin. I fear no other thing
in this earth, be it the sorest pain that ever wrung mortal flesh; but
with a deadly fear do I tremble for that! That you will strive against
it night and day, that you will give place to it--no, not for an
hour--that wherever ye may be, in joy, or in tribulation, in peace, or
in strife--ye will remember the One name whereby we can be saved, and
resist iniquity, if need be unto blood. Your word, Archie Sutherland, I
am waiting for your word."

And solemnly, with lifted hand, and tremulous voice, the word was
plighted. "With all the strength of a sad man, honestly, and in truth.
Remembering the One name whereby we can be saved, and in the strength of
Him who has overcome sin. God succor me!"

The flush faded from his thin cheek, his hand fell. Mrs. Catherine stood
still by his side, in the same attitude, her hand lying fondly upon his
hair, and there was again an interval of silence. "The angel that
redeemed me from all evil, bless the lad. Archie, be of good cheer. Who
kens the ways of the Lord? We are tried, but we are not forsaken."

Mrs. Catherine seated herself opposite him, and looked into his face.
"You are white and thin, Archie, spent with that weary trouble--and you
have been walking upon the damp road in the night air, like an imprudent
lad, as you are, and will have wet feet, doubtless. Go up to your room
like a good heart, and change them, and then, Archie, my man, we are all
friends together. Come in, and see Lewis Ross, and the rest of them, for
I have a houseful to-night."

"I am not fit for any company," said the young man. "I should go in
among them like a ghost. Mrs. Catherine, I have obeyed you to the
letter. Last night, I saw my father's house in the possession of
strangers. Last night, I saw that man in my father's seat. I have not
shrunk from the full trial, and now there is no probation so hard, no
struggle so bitter, but I am willing to embrace it, if I may but have a
prospect of redeeming what I have sinfully lost; although it be only to
die when all is done, beneath the roof where my fathers have lived and
died before me."

A sympathetic light kindled in Mrs. Catherine's eye; but the wasted
young man beside her, needed soothing and rest, as she saw, and after
her own fashion she comforted him. "Archie, I am in years, and there is
no wish so near my heart, as to see your work done before I go hence;
but to do your work you must be strong, and to be strong, ye must rest;
this is no a time to speak of dying. I ken no man in this world, that
has a chain to life as strong as you have yourself, Archie Sutherland,
if it be the Lord's will, and truly, I have little hope of a man, with a
labor before him, turning to death for ease and idleness. I doubt not,
there are many years before you yet, blyther than these; but we will
have time to speak of that hereafter. Go up to your room, Archie. It
will mind ye of your school days, to have Andrew about you again, and
come down when you are ready, to the little east room to me. You must
even be a good bairn, and do my bidding to-night."

Mrs. Catherine rose. Archibald rose too, in obedience. The strong old
lady took the arm of the weak and exhausted young man, and half
supporting him, went with him herself to the door of the red-room, where
a cheerful fire was shining upon the warm color of curtains and
furniture, while Andrew, with his grey hair dressed, and his best livery
donned, in honor of the company, stood waiting at the door: the same
room, with all its arrangements perfectly unchanged! the same friendly
and well-known face, that had been wont to hover about him in kindly
attendance in those joyous boyish days! The prodigal had returned
home--the despairing man had entered into an atmosphere rich and warm
with hope. Archibald threw himself into the old fire-side chair, and hid
his face again in his hands, overpowered with a momentary weakness, from
whose tears the strength of steadfast resolution and grateful purpose
sprang up boldly, rising over bitterness and ruin and grief in sober
triumph, the beginning of better days.

But Archibald did not make his appearance in Mrs. Catherine's
drawing-room that night. With the shame of his downfall strong upon him,
and feeling so bitterly the disruption of all the ties which formerly
bound him in kindly neighborship to these prosperous people, who knew
his fall and humiliation alone, and did not know his painful struggles
and sore repentance, he shrank from meeting them; and when, having
entered the little east-room, he told Mrs. Catherine what pain her kind
wish to cheer him would inflict upon him, she did not repeat her
commands.

"But I will meet ye half-way, Archie," she said, "Robert Ferguson, your
good friend and honorable steward is laboring at this time redding up
the tangled odds and ends of your affairs, and it is meet you should
see him and render him right thanks for his good service. You ought to
have gone to Woodsmuir first. I know not any mortal you are so much
indebted to. Go your ways to the library and shut the door--I will send
over for Mr. Ferguson. Na--you shall not stir over my door in a damp
night till you have won back your strength again--and Mr. Foreman is
here, Archie; would you like me to send him down? or are you able to
stand it?"

"Quite able," said Archibald, hastily. "Ask Mr. Foreman to come to me,
Mrs. Catherine. With all your kindness, I yet cannot rest till I see
something definite before me. I have lost too much time already, and Mr.
Foreman is an old and kind friend. I do not deserve so many. Let him
come to me, if, indeed, he will come--I need counsel sorely."

Mrs. Catherine made a gesture of impatience. "And I am trysted with
these young fools, and cannot win down beside you to put in my word. Mr.
Foreman will come blythely, Archie--go your ways, and be careful of
shutting the door, that you may not be disturbed. Andrew, let Johnnie
Halflin ride to Woodsmuir without a moment's delay. If he tarries on the
road, it will be at his peril; and give my compliments to Mr.
Ferguson--or stay--Archie, write a word yourself."

Established in the library, Archibald wrote a hasty note to Mr.
Ferguson, and in a moment after heard Johnnie Halflin, with many
arguments, persuading an unwilling pony to face the damp, chill blast,
which swept so mournfully through the naked woods, and over the sighing
Oran, and at last gallopping off on the road to Woodsmuir, the footsteps
of his shaggy little steed sounding in unsteady leaps, as it struggled
to turn its head from the wind, and regain its comfortable stable.

Various groups in Mrs. Catherine's drawing room were whispering already
reasons for her absence.

"I am afraid, Mrs. Catherine is not well," said Mrs. Coulter,
sympathetically. "Her face has had a look of trouble all the night."

"Perhaps it is some unpleasant visitor," suggested Mr. Bairnsfather. "I
thought she was agitated."

"Mrs. Catherine agitated," cried Walter Foreman, "you might as soon
shake the Tower."

"Hold your peace, Sir," said his father. "These young men are constantly
speaking of things they don't comprehend. Mrs. Catherine feels much more
deeply than you will ever do."

Walter looked up amazed. His father's eyes were uneasily fixed upon the
door; his face anxious and full of care.

"Ay," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, shaking her head pathetically, "it has
been a great grief to her this downcome of young Strathoran. A fine
life he led in Paris, by all accounts; he will surely never come home,
to be a burden on Mrs. Catherine."

Mr. Foreman turned round impatiently, as if to answer, but evidently
checking with some difficulty an angry reply, looked again towards the
door.

"Poor Archibald," said the kindly Mrs. Coulter, "this is not a time for
his friends to desert him. Dear me, there is Mr. Ambler persuading
Jeanie to sing. Jeanie, my dear, mind what a cold you have got."

"Just, 'Auld Robin Gray,' for the benefit of the seniors," said Mr.
Ambler, "the first notes will call Mrs. Catherine back again."

Jeanie Coulter seated herself at the piano, Walter Foreman took his
place behind her. The "seniors" prepared to listen--the younger part of
the company to whisper and exchange smiles and glances, the long ballad
being too much for their patience.

"Do you think it can be young Strathoran who has arrived?" whispered
Mrs. Bairnsfather.

Mrs. Coulter nodded impatiently, resenting the interruption of Jeanie's
song.

"Not that new fangled nonsense, Jeanie my dear," said Mrs. Catherine,
entering. "You ken the tune Lady Anne wrote it for--a right breath to
carry forth the story on--not that--as if sick hearts were like to play
with a melody, and did not just seek the needful breath of music to send
forth their sorrows withal."

"You knew Lady Anne, Mrs. Catherine?" said Jeanie Coulter, playing with
the keys, and finding this a proper opportunity for the hesitation and
coyness necessary to set off her pretty voice and tasteful singing.

"Ay, I knew Lady Anne--you all ken that; sing your ballad, Jeanie
Coulter, and do not keep us waiting. Mr. Foreman, I have a word to say
to you."

The word was said. Mr. Foreman in haste, and not without agitation, left
the room, and Mrs. Catherine herself stood near the piano listening to
the music. Jeanie Coulter did the ballad--than which it seems to us,
there is no history of more perfect beauty and pathos in all the stores
of our Scottish tongue, rich though it be in such--full justice. The
tremulous sad music stole through the room, arresting even Alice, though
she was rising then nearly to the climax of her girlish happiness--"I
wish I were dead, but I'm no like to dee." What strange avalanche of
trouble could ever bring such words as these from Alice Aytoun's lips?
It was impossible.

Yet under that same roof was one, whose youthful beginning had been more
prosperous than Alice Aytoun's, schooling himself to patience, as again
and again the pain of his past transgressions came back upon him like a
flood. Agent and factor had both taken their place beside him in the
library--the lamp shone upon the somewhat sharp profile of Mr. Foreman,
with its deepset acute eyes and deliberative look--upon the healthful,
hardy, honest face of Mr. Ferguson, browned by exposure, and instinct
with earnest sympathy and kindness--and upon Archibald Sutherland's wan
and downcast countenance, with its mark of past sickness, and present
melancholy humility; they were discussing his future career.

"I will tell you what I propose for myself, Mr. Archibald," said Mr.
Ferguson, "My occupation is gone, as you know, in respect to the estate
of Strathoran. Now there is Loelyin and Lochend the entailed lands--you
will remember that Alexander Semple is in them, and there are three
years of his lease to run; but Semple has little capital and no
enterprise, and I think would be glad to get rid of his lease and try a
more productive farm. It is poor land."

Archibald looked up vaguely, not seeing what the factor's remarks tended
to:

"The land is poor but improvable," continued Mr. Ferguson; "and the farm
of Woodsmuir, which I have occupied myself, is in excellent condition. I
believe that with capital and perseverance, the value of these entailed
lands might be more than doubled, and Mr. Coulter, a practical man of
high authority, bears me out."

Archibald shook his head sadly:

"We have no capital, Mr. Ferguson."

"We have thought of that," said Mr. Ferguson; "but your friends--Mrs.
Catherine for example--have, and this would be no temporary relief, but
a certain benefit."

"I see," said Archibald; "and yet it is impossible. My most kind
friends, do not think it is pride--of all things there is none that
would become me worse than that; but I am quite unfit for this trial. I
question if now, with my mind excited and unsettled as it has been, I
could endure the placid routine of a farmer's life anywhere. I have
rather been looking forward to unceasing labor of a more engrossing
kind, as the only wholesome discipline for me; but _here_ it is
impossible--to live within sight of Strathoran, to reap the bitter
fruits of my folly day by day, without intermission, upon my own
alienated land--it would kill me--I could not do it, I could do anything
but that."

The factor had been waiting eagerly, with his hand lifted.--"Certainly
not--surely not--we never could think of such a thing, Mr. Archibald.
You must hear out my plan. What I propose is, that I, who have some
knowledge of agriculture, and a taste for it, should take these farms
into my own hand. I have consulted Mr. Coulter, and I will have the
full benefit of his advice; and I am confident of Mrs. Catherine's
assistance. In such an investment, capital is perfectly secure, and
subject to no vicissitudes--very few, at least; and I fully believe,
that, carefully and scientifically cultivated, we may quadruple the poor
two hundred a year it yields now: so that, in addition to your own
success, which I have no doubt is certain, if you throw your whole
strength into any profession, there will be, in not very many years, a
property of seven or eight hundred a year waiting for you. The original
property, Mr. Archibald, with opportunity of adding to it, perhaps, bit
by bit, from the rest of the estate--"

Archibald Sutherland extended his hand silently, and grasped his
factor's. "My punishment is to be overpowered with undeserved kindness,"
he said, his voice trembling. "My obligations to you already transcend
thanks, Mr. Ferguson, and yet you increase them."

Mr. Ferguson resumed his statement hastily, as if ashamed of the emotion
which wet his own eyes, and brought a kindred tremor to his voice. "I
have grown grey in the district, Mr. Archibald, and would like ill to
leave it now. My whole family were born in Woodsmuir. I have long been a
theoretical farmer, you know; and now I will get some of my favorite
crotchets put into practice. We shall come into collision Mr. Coulter
and I," continued the factor, with a kind of hysterical attempt at a
joke, which broke down woefully; "but we will, at least, have a fair
field for our respective hobbies; and the prospect of so great an
increase, Mr. Archibald, is worth working for."

"Yes, to the worker," said Archibald; "but what justice can there be Mr.
Ferguson, in you devoting years to increase my income? The fruit of your
improvements is clearly your own--not mine."

"There! there!" said Mr. Foreman, breaking in impatiently.--"The fact
is, Ferguson, that you should have just put in your proposal without any
preface to make it hazy. Mr. Ferguson takes Alexander Semple's place, at
Alexander Semple's rent, Mr. Sutherland--that's his proposal--continues
so, till his improvements are fairly and honestly paying, and then
remains your tenant at the advanced rent: we will see that he does not
offer you too little. As for the capital, that is our concern; I will
undertake that."

Archibald Sutherland said some incoherent words of thanks, he did not
himself know what--neither did his hearers, as Mr. Ferguson shook his
grey eye-lash free of some encumbering moisture, and Mr. Foreman
coughed, and cleared his throat. There was a brief pause.

"And for yourself, Mr. Archibald?" said the lawyer.

"For myself, I do not know. I have formed no definite plan. Give me your
counsel: I am ready to do anything."

"The bar?" suggested Mr. Foreman.

"Medicine?" ventured the factor.

Archibald shook his head. "I am no longer a youth, and could ill spare
years now for study. Do you know what a great work I am pledged to Mr.
Foreman? No less than winning back what I have lost, and doing it in
Mrs. Catherine's lifetime. You smile. It looks like a sick fancy, does
it not?--yet it is a fancy that stirs me in every vein. I must work,
gentlemen--I must work; how hardly I do not care; work for mere
mercenary gain. I shall not gain honor with my schoolfellow Robert, Mr.
Ferguson; that is beyond my reach. I must toil to the utmost of my
strength to regain my birthright. I can afford to lose no time."

Mr. Foreman had smiled gravely when Archibald began, but the smile
settled down into a look of earnest attention before he concluded. He
thought the hope futile, no doubt; but it was a hope: and his was not
the hand to snatch it rudely from the grasp of a fallen man.

"Business?" said Mr. Ferguson, half aloud. "He must be embarked in
business--but how?"

"Listen to me," said Archibald, becoming stronger, as it seemed, when
his own fate came under discussion. "My friends, I must go abroad; I can
neither rest nor work well at home--at this time, at least. Let me go
alone, as humbly as may be. I will put myself under mercantile training
at first, if you think it necessary. My own idea is--I have some poor
pride, perhaps, in letting you see that I am not too proud for my fallen
fortunes--that I should get a clerk's situation in some commercial house
abroad--I do not care where--and work my way upward, as I can. I have no
money; and what bare influence I could command, would help me little, I
fancy. Let me make this experiment, with no adventitious help of
patronage or introduction. If I fail, I will promise to return upon your
hands again, trusting that your kindness will counsel the unhappy waif
once more; but I hope not to fail. All the details remain to be
considered.--When or how I am to endeavor to begin, I have not thought;
and for whatever your kindness and better knowledge can suggest, I am in
your hands."

Neither of his grave counsellors spoke for some minutes; at last, Mr.
Foreman said: "You are right, Mr. Archibald. I thought of that myself,
formerly, but imagined foolishly, that you would shrink from trade. Your
resolution is proper and wise; but remember--I do not wish to discourage
you, but there are only a very few, who rise from the class of clerks
into that of merchant princes. We are apt, in these days, to form
mercantile romances for ourselves; there are some very wonderful
instances, I grant, but they are rare."

"As in all other professions," said Mr. Ferguson, watching the changes
of Archibald's face anxiously; "but talent and vigor still more rarely
remain in the humblest class. You are wearied, Mr. Archibald; let us
adjourn this discussion. We can meet in Portoran in a day or two, if you
are able," continued the factor, turning with all the solicitude of a
nurse to his late patient, "if you are sure you are able."

And with that agreement, Archibald, indeed thoroughly exhausted and worn
out, parted with his kind advisers and retired to his room, where he
fell asleep in dreamy peace, and strange unwonted quiet, in the
pleasant, ruddy twilight, which the fire made, as it glimmered in its
shooting lights, and depths of fantastic shadow, through the familiar
room.

The slight excitement of Archibald's arrival over, Anne returned to the
company, with Alice Aytoun's song still ringing in her ear. Strange it
was, how every passing event seemed to have some link of incoherent
connection with Norman's terrible history. The stranger child in Mrs.
Melder's cottage; the unconscious Alice; the magic threads were
extending themselves in all directions. Anne almost feared to see new
faces, to make new friends. Norman's image was growing before her eyes,
filling up the whole horizon of that dim future. If she should meet
himself! the wandering Cain might, with a strange fascination, such as
she had read of, seek his own birthplace, ere he died; the idea was
fearful--a constant haunting dread, surrounding her like a mist wherever
she went.

The evening wore on, and as the guests began to disperse, Anne, in
virtue of her standing in the household, had various parting courtesies
to pay; to stand at the hall door, while Mrs. Coulter's carriage was
packed with the many members of her family; to see Miss Falconer away,
and Mrs. Bairnsfather; and when she returned to look for Lewis, the
drawing-room was nearly empty. Lewis was not there, neither was Alice
Aytoun. The door communicating with the little east room was ajar, and
Anne entered, seeking her brother. The room was dimly lighted with one
candle. Who stood at its further end? Lewis Ross and Alice Aytoun, hand
in hand. Anne stood silent, on the threshold, in chill, fear and
apprehension, her head bent forward, her eyes fixed upon them. Little
Alice, drooping, blushing, leaning on her companion. Lewis, triumphant,
proud, meeting his sister's gaze with a smiling defiance. Anne stood
still, seeing all, and could not speak. In another moment, Alice had
glided towards her, thrown her slight arms round her waist, and was
clinging to her like a child.

"Anne, be her sister," said Lewis, with unusual emotion. Anne smiled a
sickly smile, as in a painful dream, laid her hand unconsciously upon
the girl's fair hair, felt Alice start, and shiver at the touch of her
cold fingers, and then, hastily disengaging herself, left the room, her
very brain reeling, leaving Lewis enraged, and Alice grieved and
alarmed, in the very fulness of her joy. It was all over now; the fatal
engagement was made, and what remained but to blight the girlish
gladness, and pour upon Lewis's startled ears, the knowledge of that
fatal crime, which stood like a spectre between his betrothed and him.



CHAPTER X.


Lewis Ross and his sister walked home together in silence and
alienation. Lewis was sullenly indignant, while Anne, still overpowered
by that whirl of agitation, pain and fear, felt grateful for Duncan's
officious attendance with his lanthorn, which precluded any conversation
of a private kind, between her brother and herself. In her first shock
and bewilderment, she knew not what to do--whether to communicate her
secret at once, or to delay until she herself knew the terrible story
more perfectly. She determined on the latter course, before they reached
Merkland, and pained still further by her brother's averted looks, and
sullen silence, whispered: "Lewis, forgive me, I knew not what I was
doing," as they entered the house. Lewis took no notice, but went
angrily into the parlor, in which his mother usually sat. A fit of
ill-humor had prevented Mrs. Ross from accompanying them to the
Tower--the same cause had afflicted her with headache, and sent her to
her room, full two hours before they returned home, and to Anne's
satisfaction, there was no family intercourse of any kind that night.

Once safe in the shelter of her own apartment, she sat through the dead
hours of that chill January night, laboring to form some plan for her
further proceedings. She could not concentrate her mind upon
them--shooting off, now here, now there, those floods of distempered
thoughts refused that bondage--now called back from a long and vivid
picturing of Norman's desolate and hopeless way, and Norman's blighted
life--now from recalling in strange caprice the girlish gaiety and sunny
future of Alice Aytoun, dwelling upon its bright particulars, as if to
exaggerate the gloom that now lowered over the gladness of those
youthful days. The host of indefinite and conflicting purposes, which
terminated all these discursive wanderings of thought, would not be
reconciled. Crowding about her like so many phantoms, they even stifled
the voice of her appeal to that One counsellor from whom it was Anne
Ross's constant wont to seek wisdom and guidance. Confused words,
meaningless and often repeated, swelled up from her heart, constantly--a
mere vacant cry of agony--for her mind was wandering all the while, from
point to point, in aimless and bewildered speed.

With but the slight difference, that, for an hour or two, these confused
thoughts, remaining as active as before, took upon them the yet more
fantastic garb of dreams; her mind continued in the same state of
excited agitation during the whole night, and it was only when the chill
morning began to break, grey and faint, through the dark clouds of the
east, that springing from her feverish sleep and unhappy fancies
together, Anne girded herself for the work that lay before her. To see
Mrs. Catherine, and ascertain beyond doubt that Alice was the daughter
of that Aytoun who fell by Norman's hand--that seemed her first step. To
learn as fully and clearly as might be the particulars of the tragedy
itself, and if possible, to get possession of Norman's letter to her
father, which Mrs. Ross had mentioned, and which, with foolish
procrastination for which she now blamed herself, Anne had shrunk from
seeking. If she had but accomplished these necessary preliminaries, Anne
hoped that her mind might acquire more coherence, and that she might be
able to resolve what was best to be done, for making known the secret to
Alice and Lewis--the two individuals most deeply concerned.

Dressing herself hastily, she left Merkland, and took the path up
Oranside, which led to the Tower. Anne was privileged to have admittance
at all times, and knew that Mrs. Catherine was, comparatively, an early
riser. The path was damp and slippery--the morning coming in, in
clinging garments of wet mist, grey, drizzling and disconsolate, with
blasts of thin rain, sweeping now and then in her face.

Mrs. Catherine was seated in her small dressing room, which was
immediately over "the little room"--and like it looked out upon the bare
ascent of the hill behind the Tower. She was dressed, all but the large
soft grey shawl which her stately attendant Mrs. Elspeth Henderson was
carefully unfolding; and seated in an easy chair by the fireside, was
having her usual half-hour's gossip with her "gentlewoman."

"And so you think Anne Ross is looking ill, Elspat," said Mrs.
Catherine; "it's my hope you and your wise daughter have no design upon
the poor bairn. Mind, I will have no doctoring of my Anne. I believe
Euphan Morison is crazy!--my best cow in the deadthraw with her
abominations! I will not have it, Elspat, though she is your daughter.
My household shall be poisoned with physic at the will of no woman."

"Euphan walks according to her lights, Madam," responded Mrs. Elspat;
"but if ye ask my opinion, I would say that Miss Ross needit spiritual
physic, and no temporal: the bitter herbs o' repentance and grace, and
no camomile and wormwood--though I hold with Euphan doubtless that the
last are of service in their place."

"Hold with Euphan--a great authority truly!" said Mrs. Catherine.
"Spiritual physic, bitter herbs--ye are all fools together, the whole
household and lineage of you! Not that I am saying we are, any of us,
above grace and repentance--forbid that such a profane thing should come
from my lips, but--Elspat Henderson what are you groaning at?--the bairn
Anne is more simple and devout than the whole tribe of you."

Mrs. Elspat Henderson looked meek and injured.

"It would ill become me, Madam, to maintain that anything is, when it's
your pleasure to say it _is not_. Nevertheless, it's my privilege to
lift up my testimony to the iniquity of human-kind, all and haill. We
are all perverse, yea we have gone out of the way--we have together
become unprofitable; there is none--"

"Woman, woman, hold your peace," said Mrs. Catherine, "as if I was like
to hold inherent ill of light import--me that have seen its outbreaking,
time after time, in lives that the world called pure, and no less in my
own. Carry your testimony to your Maker's presence, Elspat Henderson,
and mind that ye stand sole there, and cannot glide out of your ain
private evil in the cover of a '_we_.' And what is your special ill-will
at Anne Ross? what is her misdeed the now?"

Mrs. Elspat gave a prolonged sigh.

"That ye should have so puir an opinion of me, as to throw such a blame
on your auld and faithful servant. _Me_, a special ill-will at the young
lady! it's my hope I will never be so far left to mysel, frail vessel as
I am."

Mrs. Catherine groaned.

"Is it your purpose to drive me out of all patience, Elspat Henderson?
Truly, if the three of you are no enough to banish peace from any
mortal, I am no judge. What cause of censure have you, then, if I am no
to say ill-will against my Anne? What has she done?"

Mrs. Elspat coughed solemnly.

"Miss Ross has been looking uncommon white and thin, Madam, since ever
the day that Miss Aytoun came to the Tower; and if ye'll notice yoursel
how she looks steadfast at Miss Alice, and syne grows white, as if she
would swarf away, you'll see that what I am saying is true, neither less
nor mair."

Mrs. Catherine seemed struck, and did not answer immediately. Her
attendant approached with the shawl. Mrs. Catherine took it, and wrapped
it round her.

"Ay!" she exclaimed at last, "and what does your wisdom make of that?"

"If there is a sore evil under the sun," said Mrs. Elspat, oracularly,
"it is envy, and a jealous ill-will at folk better gifted and better
likit than oursels. Far be it from me to lay a hard word upon a young
lady like Miss Ross, but--"

"Elspat Henderson!" said Mrs. Catherine, angrily, "your learned daughter
will be waiting on you for her breakfast. Go your ways down the stair,
and, between this time and the morn, look me out the Psalm that gives a
righteous reward to him that slanders his neighbor privately. I know
well David, honest man, let his pen fall ajee when he wrote it 'him,'
and no 'her'--and see that you coin no more scandal out of the ill mists
of your own brain to rouse my wrath withal. You may leave the room, Mrs.
Elspat Henderson--I have no further need of you."

The cowed attendant withdrew, and Mrs. Catherine seated herself in
stately indignation. By-and-by her face grew calmer, graver. The
suggestion awakened a new train of thought, and roused anxieties and
fears, hitherto, in the pre-occupation of her mind, never dreamed of.
Anne Ross's light tap at the door came when she was deeply engaged in
these, and Mrs. Catherine rose and opened it with some anger remaining
in her face.

"Child!" she exclaimed; "at this time in the morning--through the
mist--and with trouble in your face! What is the matter?" Anne entered,
and sat down to recover her breath, and re-arrange her thoughts. Mrs.
Catherine closed the door carefully, and, resuming her seat, looked in
Anne's face and waited.

"There is nothing the matter, Mrs. Catherine," said Anne, smiling
faintly; "that is--they are all well in Merkland, and I--I just wanted
to consult you--to ask your advice."

"Speak out, child," said Mrs. Catherine. "It is something not common
that has brought you here this morning. Tell me what it is. Does it
concern Archie?"

"No, no," said Anne. "Something far more--I mean just a little matter
connected with ourselves--I should say myself, rather, for neither Mrs.
Ross nor Lewis know my errand, Mrs. Catherine--"

"Child, speak out," exhorted her friend.

"You will think it very foolish," said Anne, a sickly ray of hope
breaking upon her as the time of certain knowledge drew so near, "I only
wanted to ask you about Miss Aytoun's family. I mean--Miss
Aytoun--Alice--is her father alive?"

Mrs. Catherine regarded her for a considerable time in silence. Anne
felt the long, firm look a death knell to her last hope, and returned it
with a strange, callous steadiness, such as comes occasionally in the
extremity of trial, imparting to the sufferer a fictitious strength.

"Her father is not alive. Wherefore do you ask me, child?"

The unnatural flicker of hope rose again.

"Where did he die, and how? I beseech you to tell me, Mrs. Catherine!"

"Anne," said Mrs. Catherine, gravely; "for what purpose do you seek to
know? Wherefore do you question me so?"

"Where did he die, and when, and how?" repeated Anne.--"Answer me, Mrs.
Catherine--do not hesitate--I am prepared."

Mrs. Catherine paused long before she answered.

"The place was a country place--far south from this; the time was
seventeen years ago; the way was--" Mrs. Catherine paused again. "To
what purpose is this questioning, child? It is a matter that concerns
you not."

"The way was--?" repeated Anne, clasping her hand eagerly.

"The way was--he was killed," said Mrs. Catherine, in abrupt haste.
"Shot, as men shoot beasts. Anne Ross, I brought the bairn Alison to my
house, because she was an innocent bairn that I wanted to do a kindness
to, and not because of her parentage."

Anne heard the words, but did not discern their meaning, and sat, in the
blind, fainting sickness that possessed her, repeating them to herself,
unconsciously.

"Child, child!" said Mrs. Catherine, in alarm. "What ails you? What have
you heard? I am meaning, why have you come to me with such a question?"

"One other--only one," said Anne, recollecting herself. "Mrs. Catherine,
who was it--who was the murderer?"

Mrs. Catherine made an appealing motion with her hand, and did not
answer.

But Anne was perfectly self-possessed again.

"Was it Norman?"

Mrs. Catherine did not speak; it was not necessary. The answer was far
too legibly written in the long, steadfast look of grief and sympathy
which she fixed upon her companion's face.

And so they sat in silence for some minutes, too deeply moved and
engrossed for words. At length Anne started up.

"That is all," she said, hurriedly. "I must go now. I have much to do."

Mrs. Catherine rose also, took her hand, and led her back to her seat.

"You shall not leave my house, child, till I hear more of this. Who was
so cruel as to tell you this sorrowful story? and what is it that you
have to do?"

Anne sat down again, mechanically.

"Child," said Mrs. Catherine; "I have never spoken Norman's name in your
hearing, nor suffered it to be spoken. Who has told you a terrible
story, which was buried in grief and forgetfulness long ago, when the
unhappy lad found his grave under the sea? It is not known in the
countryside, for the deed was done far from here, and your father hung
back, and took no note, outwardly, of the miserable boy's fate. He was
right maybe. I would not have done the like--but that is little matter.
Who told you?"

"Found his grave under the sea!" murmured Anne, unconsciously.

"What say ye, child?"

"It was Mrs. Ross," said Anne, "when Miss Aytoun came first to the
Tower, she told me that she feared this was _his_ daughter. Oh! Mrs.
Catherine, why did you not keep her separate from us? If we had not been
brought so much together, this could not have happened."

"Child," said Mrs. Catherine, "there is something on your mind yet,
which is not known to me; the story is a woeful story, dark enough to
cause sore grief; but it is over and past, and there is some living
dread upon you. What has happened?"

Anne looked up--she could not find words to communicate her "living
dread"--she only murmured "Lewis."

Mrs. Catherine started. "Lewis? Child what is it ye mean? No that there
is anything--No, no, what makes me fear that--there can be no liking
between the two."

"There is, there is," said Anne.

Mrs. Catherine rose, and walked through the room uneasily.

"It must be put to an end--immediate--without delay. I brought the bairn
here to do her a kindness, no to give her a sore heart. Child, Lewis
must not enter my house again till Alison Aytoun is home. She is but a
bairn--it can have gone no further than the slight liking of a boy and a
girl. Where were my eyes that I did not see the peril? Child, it must
end this very day--better the pang of a sudden parting--better that each
of them should think they were slighted by the other, than that it
should ever come to an explanation between them, and then to the
rendering of reasons--it must go no further."

"It is too late," said Anne; "there has already been an explanation
between them. Mrs. Catherine, they are engaged."

Mrs. Catherine paced up and down the small apartment with quick steps.

"I am compassed with troubles! no sooner seeing my way out of one, than
another opens before me. Anne, my puir bairn, I am a selfish fool to
think of my own gray head, when the burden falls the heaviest on your
young one. What will we do? there is a purpose in your eye as I can
see--tell me what it is."

Anne did not know how to proceed: she could not betray Norman's secret
even to Mrs. Catherine.

"I will tell Lewis," she said, "and perhaps, Mrs. Catherine--I do not
know what is best to be done with poor Alice, so happy and young as she
is--perhaps you will tell her--not all--but something to excuse Lewis."

Mrs. Catherine shook her head.

"It will not do. It will not do. If I excuse Lewis, she will think it is
but some passing thing that awhile will wear away.--No, child, no, if
the bairn hears anything, she must hear all."

"I will tell Lewis," said Anne; "but I must first learn the whole of
this dreadful story more perfectly. I thought of going to old Esther
Fleming: she was Norman's nurse, Mrs. Catherine--is she likely to know
of this?"

"I mind much of it myself," said Mrs. Catherine, "but you will get it
better from Esther Fleming than from any other mortal. I have been taken
up with many diverse things, but Norman and her own son were year's
bairns, and Norman was the light of Esther Fleming's eyes. Your father
made no endeavor to help the miserable young man, child. I know what you
would say--there was no time--and it is true--for the deed had not been
two days done, when he was on the sea--be thankful, child, that he
perished in the sea and did not die a shameful death."

Anne trembled--the consciousness of her secret overpowering her as if it
had been guilt. Alas! over the head of the murderer the shameful death
impended still.

"Did the family know?" she asked, her mind becoming strangely familiar
with the subject: "could they know of Norman's relationship to Lewis?"

"No," said Mrs. Catherine. "When Arthur Aytoun died, his wife was a
young thing, feeble in her health, and oppressed with many troubles; for
I have heard that he was far from a good man. James Aytoun was but a
bairn then, and Alison was not born; besides that, they were strangers
in that countryside, as well as Norman--being from the south--and would
know little of him but his name. Mrs. Aytoun is a woman of a chastened
spirit, child; she knows the unhappy lad has answered for his guilt
langsyne before his Maker; and think not that she will keep his name in
the mother's heart of her, in any dream of vengeance."

Anne could not answer: her secret lay upon her like a cloud, weighing
her down to the very earth.

"I must tell the bairn," continued Mrs. Catherine, as if consulting with
herself; "ay, I must tell the bairn, that she may know, without having
any sick month of waiting, that there is a bar between Lewis and her
that cannot be passed over--that there is a stern and terrible
conclusion put to the dreams of their young love.--Child! it is a sore
weight to lay upon a spirit innocent of all sorrow."

Anne assented silently.

"And you will have a harder battle with the youth," said Mrs. Catherine.
"Child, there are bairns in this generation that would fain inherit the
rights and possessions of their fathers, without the ills and the
wrongs. Take heed of Lewis, lest he endeavor to hold this black deed
lightly. I will not have it. The blood that a Ross spilt must never be
joined in near kindred to another Ross. There is a deadly bar between
the houses. Forgiveness there may be, full and free--I doubt it not--but
union never. Mind, there can be no softening--no forgetting. The spirit
that was sent to its account in violence and haste, by Norman's hand,
would rise to bar that ill-trysted betrothal. It must end."

Anne rose.

"I will go," she said. "I parted from Lewis last night in anger, because
I had no kind word to say to Alice when he bade me be her sister. I must
hasten now to learn these terrible details more accurately. Lewis might
refuse to believe a story which came so suddenly upon him, and came for
such a purpose, if I did not know it all. I must go now."

"You will get it best from Esther," said Mrs. Catherine. "I know she has
brooded, in secret, over his sin and his death, since ever his sun set
in yon terrible waves of blood-guiltiness. Anne, my bairn!" Mrs.
Catherine paused, laid her hand upon Anne's drooping head, and went on,
her voice sounding low and solemn. "The Lord uphold and strengthen you
for your work; the Lord guide you with the uplifting of His countenance,
and give you to walk firm in the midst of tribulation, and not to falter
or be weary in the way."

Once out again upon Oranside, Anne felt the oppression of her terrible
secret grow upon her to suffocation. "He is alive! he is alive!"--the
words came bursting to her lips; she felt tempted, in the strange,
almost irresistible, insanity of the moment, to proclaim it aloud, as
she hurried along; running sometimes, with a sick feeling of escaping
thereby from the phantom that overshadowed her inmost heart. The crime
itself seemed to become dimmer, in its far distance. The thought that
Norman was alive, laden with his fearful burden of remorse and
blood-guiltiness, abiding perchance the shameful death of the murderer,
filled her whole being almost to frenzy, and, with its circle of
possibilities, curdled her very blood with terror.

Mrs. Ross and Lewis were about sitting down to breakfast, when Anne
returned to Merkland, and the domestic horizon was anything but clear.
Lewis, forgetful of his last night's sullen petulance, was in high
spirits--spirits so high as to aggravate his mother's ill-humor. She
grudged that he should have found so much pleasure at the Tower; and,
sneering at Mrs. Catherine, whose unquestioned superiority had always
galled her, kept up a biting war of inuendo and covert sarcasm.

"A pleasant morning for walking, Miss Ross," she said, as Anne took her
seat at the table.

"Why, Anne, have you been out?" exclaimed Lewis. "You have good taste
certainly, so far as weather goes. Where do you go to, so early in the
morning?"

"Oh, no doubt she has been at the Tower," said Mrs. Ross. "Duncan and
May will be going next. We are possessed with a Tower fever. I presume
you were making tender inquiries after Mr. Sutherland, Miss Ross? At
this time, of course, it is quite sentimental and romantic to entertain
a friendship--nay, perhaps, something warmer than friendship--for the
interesting unfortunate."

"I might have asked for poor Archibald," said Anne, "if I had thought of
him at all; but I did not remember even that he had come home."

"Then you have been at the Tower?"

Anne hesitated. "I did go in to see Mrs. Catherine," she said,
falteringly.

Lewis looked up gratefully, and smiled upon her with a smile which said,
"I thank you;" before which Anne shrank, and turned away her head.

"I do not know how we shall get on in the ordinary affairs of life,"
continued Mrs. Ross, "while this Tower madness lasts. I should like to
know wherein the fascination lies. One can understand a passing
infatuation, in a boy like Lewis; but for you, Anne, who should have
some idea of propriety and decorum, to be visiting the house, where you
knew that young man had arrived at night, so very early in the
morning--I really am amazed; I do not understand it."

Anne blushed painfully: Lewis drew himself up in towering indignation.
"Passing infatuation!"--"a _boy_ like Lewis!"

There was a fortunate diversion made, however, by the entrance of May,
with letters, and until their meal was ended, there was a cessation of
hostilities, though Mrs. Ross still kept up a fugitive fire, hitting
right and left, Lewis and Anne alternately. The breakfast over, Lewis
rose to leave the room.

"Oh!" exclaimed his mother. "I suppose you are going to the Tower."

"Yes, mother," said Lewis, gravely, "I am going to the Tower; and when I
return I shall have something to tell you, which, as it will be of
great importance to me, I hope you will receive calmly, and in a more
gentle spirit."

He left the room. Mrs. Ross followed him with her eyes in astonishment,
and then going to the window, watched him turn up Oranside. Anne sat in
terror, lest she should be questioned as to the mystery of Lewis' words,
but fortunately, she was not. Mrs. Ross sat down, and took her sewing.
Anne had done so before, and the two ladies pursued their work in
silence.

The needle trembled in Anne's excited fingers; she felt the acceleration
of her pulse, she heard the loud, quick throbbing of her heart. The
silence became awful; she fancied Mrs. Ross could hear her fingers
stumbling at every stitch. "Mother," she said, looking up at last. "I
have a great favor to ask of you."

Mrs. Ross glanced at her impatiently. "Well; what is it?"

"You spoke to me once, of a letter--a letter," continued Anne, growing
bolder, as she steadied her voice, "which my unhappy brother, Norman,
wrote to my father; you said I might see it some time, mother!"

"Upon my word, girl, I believe you want to drive me mad," exclaimed Mrs.
Ross, angrily. "You see me half distracted, with the wilfulness and
regardlessness of Lewis, and you bring in your own foolish fancies, and
your brother's shameful story, as if I had not enough to vex me without
that. Try to come down to ordinary life a little, and do not torment me
with your chimeras."

"This is no chimera," said Anne, "nor whim, nor fancy, nor anything of
the kind; it is of the gravest importance that I should see that letter.
It is not even curiosity, though I need hardly be blamed for feeling
deep interest in the history of my brother. For the sake of my father's
memory, and for the sake of Lewis, the two bonds between us, give me
Norman's letter. I will ask nothing further of you; this I must beg and
plead for, this you must give me."

Mrs. Ross stared angrily in her face, resenting, and yet something
impressed by the very strange tone of command, which, impelled by the
vehemence of her feelings, mingled with Anne's entreaty. At last she
rose, and walking quickly to her desk, opened it, and took from an inner
drawer a small key, which she threw upon the table.

"There! let me have no further heroics; that is the key of an old bureau
of your father's, which you will find up stairs among the lumber. The
letter is in some of the drawers. At least, don't let me have any
further trouble about it. I yield to you now, only to take away from you
the power of tormenting me at another time."

Anne did not pause to note the ungracious manner in which her petition
was granted; but laying by her work nervously, she took the key, and
hurried upstairs. The old bureau, of dark carved wood, stood dusty and
damp in a recess, and Anne had to draw aside boxes of mouldering papers,
and articles of broken furniture, before she reached it. The picture
stood in her way; she knelt down again, delaying in her very eagerness,
now, that the long wished-for letter was within her reach, to look upon
the portrait; so bold, and frank, and open, in its flush of manly
boyhood. Was that the face of a murderer?

Her fingers trembled so with haste and agitation, that she could
scarcely open the many drawers, and examine their contents. In the last
of all she found the letter, wrapped in a large sheet of paper, within
which was something written, in the tremulous scratchy hand, which Anne
knew to be her father's. With Norman's letter before her, she yet paused
to read the comment of the dead--a comment which startled her into wild
agitation, and still wilder hope.

"To my children, Anne and Lewis Ross:

     "I am a dying man, and will never see either of you arrive at years
     to be trusted with such a secret; but I charge you, when this
     packet comes to your hands, to give earnest heed to it, as you
     value the last words of your father. I am standing in the presence
     of my Lord, with death at my door, a hoary-headed man, bent to the
     grave with trouble, and I leave to you who come after me, my solemn
     conviction that Norman Rutherford, your brother, is innocent of the
     crime laid to his charge. The whole course of his past life is
     before me, and my eyes are clear with looking upon death face to
     face. This blood is not upon Norman's hand. Listen to his own
     words, children; and believe with me that his words are true. A
     frail and stricken man, I have done nothing to clear him of the
     imputed guilt; but as a special heritage, I leave this work to you.
     His blood is in your veins; he is your nearest kindred. Children of
     my old age, save my son Norman! As you would have a blessing on
     your own youth and prosperity, remember the desolate exile in his
     wanderings, and clear his name and fame. My eye is waxing heavy,
     and my hand weak--it is the beginning of death. Anne, sole child of
     his mother! Lewis, heir of my name! my charge is upon you. I appeal
     you to the throne of Him, who, in the fulness of His glory, forgot
     not this fallen world, but left a heavenly kingdom to save and die
     for it--if you disregard the last petition my lips will ever utter
     on this earth. My son Norman is innocent of this blood--clear him
     of the blot upon his name--bring him back to die peacefully in his
     own land, and the blessing of the God who binds up the
     broken-hearted, be about you all, for evermore.

LAWRENCE ROSS."



Anne laid down the letter, her eyes full of grateful tears, almost
joyful in their tremulous solemnity. There was sorrow, and labor, and
darkness in the way--there was not crime. The blessed belief came into
her soul in solemn sunshine--the cloud rolled off her head. A strange
invigoration was in every vein. Norman was _alive!_ alive to receive the
triumphant acquittal of justice--alive to be saved! She opened his
letter, her tears falling thick upon it: other drops had fallen there
before--the tears of the old man's agony. She read it.

     "Before you see this, they will have told you that I am a murderer.
     It is not so, father: believe a despairing man, it is not so.
     Arthur Aytoun has done me wrong: but I would not have put a hair of
     his head in peril. I would have guarded him with my own life.
     Wherever he is, be it in joy or misery, he bears me witness, before
     God, that I am innocent of his blood. Father my heart is like to
     burst. What can I say to you--my hand is clean. I am innocent!--I
     am innocent! there is no blood upon my soul. And yet I dare not
     venture to trust myself to a trial, with every circumstance against
     me. I have nothing for it but flight. To-night I go further away--I
     know not where--under cover of the darkness, like a felon and a
     criminal, as men will call me. It gnaws at my very heart. I would
     rather have died a thousand times--a cold-blooded, cowardly
     murderer! Father, father! you will not believe it of your son!

     "They would find me guilty if I remained--they could not fail to
     find me guilty--and the disgrace of a fugitive will be less upon
     our house and name than the disgrace of a convicted murderer, dying
     a shameful death. It is like a coward to fly. I am a coward. I do
     not dare to meet that fatal judgment. I could not bear to hear
     myself called guilty, with my innocence strong in my heart. I have
     a suspicion, too--a terrible fear and suspicion--and I must fly.
     Father, I can say no more, even to you. I am a sinful man before
     God; but my hand is as pure of blood, as when I stood beside you on
     Oranside, before death had ever entered Merkland. They know in
     Heaven--if they can see my unhappy fortunes--my mother, Lawrence,
     Edward--they know that I am innocent. I do not know what I say. My
     thoughts are wandering like a sick man's. Father, I am innocent!

     "Marion is with me--she is my wife. We have escaped from the sea in
     peril of our lives--they will tell you I have perished in it--I
     would I had, but for Marion. Father, you may never hear from me, or
     of me, again; but again remember, I am innocent--this blood does
     not stand between God and me. Why this fearful cloud has covered
     us, He knows who sent it. It may depart yet, in His good time. For
     this unjust world, farewell, father. We will meet where there are
     no false accusations--where God himself shall vindicate the right.
     I become patient--I become trustful. Father, pray--pray that I may
     live to be cleared of this horror--that the curse may be taken from
     my name--that I may be acknowledged guiltless.

N. R. R."



Norman Rutherford's sister was kneeling before his portrait--her clasped
hands holding her forehead, her eyes raining hot tears, her soul poured
out before God. Norman was _alive_--could be prayed for, hoped for,
toiled for. The curse was turned into a blessing. The path was wintry
still, and bare, and laborious; but that horrible spectre of blood was
gone; and the majestic presence of justice, and the clear rays of hope,
were on the way instead. She was able for all labor, all patience, all
sorrow in his cause. Norman was innocent.

Anna rose at length, folded the precious letters carefully, placed them
in her bosom, and then hastily descended the stair, and set out again
for the old nurse's cottage, to learn, according to her original
intention, the particulars of this dark history there. The Oran moaned
no more, but only murmured plaintively, between his banks, the kindly
song of home; and Anne, as she passed under the trees, almost with a
light heart, murmured to herself the prayer of Alice Aytoun's song--for
the wayfaring man.



CHAPTER XI.


Esther Fleming, Norman Rutherford's nurse, lived in a cottage by
herself, not far from Merkland. When the first Mrs. Ross's first son was
born, Esther had entered her service as "bairns'-maid," had left it
again to be married, and after a brief period of two years had returned
a youthful widow, with one boy infant of her own, between whose birth
and Norman's there was but some brief intervals of weeks. Esther had
remained the head of Mrs. Ross's nursery through the vicissitudes of all
the succeeding years; had received into her charge infant after infant
of Mrs. Ross's family, and with grief, less only than the mother's, had
seen the tender blossoms fall one by one into the family grave: but
Norman was peculiarly her own--a tie especially tender attached the
generous, manly boy, to his foster-mother; and when her own handsome
sailor-lad, returned from his first voyage, stood up to measure his
height with that of his playmate and comrade, Esther's overflowing eye
looked with scarce less partial pride upon Norman Rutherford than upon
William Fleming. When Mrs. Ross herself died, the little Anne became
the object of Esther's devoted and unceasing care, although her removal
from Merkland to the cottage she now occupied took place before the
second marriage of Mr. Ross; but even after that event, bitterly as the
faithful servant resented it, Esther continued, for her delicate
nurseling's sake, to hold her footing in Merkland, and to pay daily
visits to her old dominion in the nursery, asserting against all comers,
and in face of the new darling, Lewis himself, the rights and privileges
of "Miss Anne." But when Anne was still a child, a blight fell upon
Esther Fleming; the self-same blight, which brought the gray hairs of
Norman Rutherford's father in sorrow to the grave. The old nurse,
stronger, or more tenacious of life, had borne her sorrow silently, and
marked it more by her utter seclusion from the rustic society round her,
than by any other demonstration. She had a little niece living with her,
to manage her small domestic concerns, and except through this girl and
Anne, Esther had no intercourse with the world--the very brief and quiet
world--about her. Her house stood on a high bank of the Oran, with a
pathway winding before it; and the grassy descent, dark with old trees
and bushes, shelving steeply down behind. Within, the little dwelling
consisted of two apartments, perfectly clean and neat (as is, indeed,
much more usual in our Scottish cottage than southern readers give us
credit for,) though without any attempt at ornament, except the two or
three small profile portraits of children, which hung over the
mantlepiece of the outer room, the only existing memorials of the dead
sons and daughters of the house of Merkland, which Esther had rescued
from their disgrace, in the lumber-room, after Mr. Ross's death.

The nurse herself, in her gown and petticoat of dark print, and white
cap bordered with narrow lace, and carefully-kept hood of black velvet,
sat sewing by the fire, making shirts for her sailor son, then far away
in a man-of-war, toiling upon the sea. Esther was alone, so there was no
obstacle in the way of Anne's errand.

"Esther," she said, when she had delayed nervously for some time, in
indifferent conversation, "I have come to ask you about a very grave
matter, of which I only heard recently. A secret, Esther--you know--"

She paused. Esther looked up gravely in her face, and then, rising,
closed the door.

"Mr. Norman?" she asked in a very low voice.

"Yes," said Anne. "You know it all, Esther?"

"God be thanked that has put it in your heart to ask," said the nurse,
solemnly. "Yes, Miss Anne, I ken. It has been lying heavy on my heart
since ever that cloud fell upon my boy. I have looked to you--I have aye
looked to. Ye are like your mother, and will not falter. Oh, Miss Anne!
if ye but kent how it has lain upon my heart!"

Anne looked at her inquisitively, uncertain how far her knowledge went,
or whether it was safe to speak to her of Norman, as alive.

"Ye are doubtful of me, Miss Anne," said Esther. "I see it in your eye.
What of this story do ye ken yoursel? Have ye heard it _all_?"

Anne faltered.

"I do not know, Esther. I have heard--"

"Let me tell ye what _I_ ken," interrupted the nurse, "and then ye can
give me your full trust. I claim nothing less from your mother's bairn.
Miss Anne, your brother Norman lies under the reproach of a black
crime--the blackest that man can be blotted wi'. Folk think that he is
dead, and he is guilty; he is not either the one nor the other. He is a
living and an innocent man!"

Anne's whole frame thrilled with joy as the words were said.--Solemn as
was the testimony of the dead, and deeply as her hapless brother's
self-defence moved her, the words seemed surer and more hopeful when a
living voice pronounced them.

"I want you to tell me everything, Esther," she said, eagerly.--"I have
Norman's letter, and my father's testimony, but, except these, I have
heard little. This morning I was in despair, because I knew that Norman
lived, and believed that he was guilty. Now, I can do anything. His
innocence is all I care for. Tell me what can be done to prove his
innocence--rather, I should say, tell me every circumstance,
Esther--tell me all you know."

"I care about his innocence also," said Esther. "Yes, living or dead, I
care about that first. But, Miss Anne, ye dinna ken--ye canna fathom how
dearly I care about himsel. He was laid in my arms a helpless, greeting
bairn, the first day o' his life; wi' my ain hands I put his first
mortal claes about him--my boy!--my gallant, mirthful boy! And to think
of him spending his best years toiling in a strange country, wi' a dark
end hanging ower him, his name cursed, and his lands lost!--and him an
innocent man! Oh! I have thought upon it till my heart was like to
burst!"

"Why did you not tell me?" said Anne. "We have lost years! Esther, there
might have been something done long ago, if you had only told me."

"I durstna," said the nurse. "I was feared to whisper to mysel that he
was living, for fear of trouble; but now, Miss Anne, now, ye have your
work before ye--and a strange work it is for a young lady. But ye maunna
shrink or fail."

"I will not--do not fear me," said Anne. "Only tell me, Esther--tell me
everything you know--let us lose no more time."

"It's a lang story," said Esther, "and ye maun let me tell ye my ain
way, Miss Anne, as I have thought it ower in my ain spirt, money a time,
looking for this day. Maybe, if ye haena patience wi' me, I may mak it
no sae clear. It's a lang story, and, to understand it right, ye bid to
ken his nature. I maun begin at the beginning."

Anne assented, and Esther went on. "Miss Anne, he was the sweetest bairn
that was ever putten into mortal hands for earthly upbringing. I think I
can see him before me yet; aye the head o' them a' in their wild plays,
and never out o' mischief; but, for a' that, as gentle as a lamb. I used
to tell them, when they came in to me wi' torn claes and dirty shoes,
and blythe, black faces, that they were the plagues o' my life--eh! Miss
Anne, the ill o' thae idle words--they were its very joy and sunshine;
my blythe callants!--my bonnie, brave, pleasant bairns!

"For Mr. Norman was alike in age wi' my Willie, and the twa were like
brithers; they lay in the same cradle, and were nursed in the same
arms--puir, feckless, withered arms, as they are noo!--and I had a
conceit that they were like ane an ither, though Mr. Norman was head and
shouthers higher than Willie, and had eyes like stars in a frosty nicht,
and hair as dark as the clouds; and Willie was blue-e'ed and
fair-haired, like his father before him. Ony way, they were like in
spirit; the very look of them was heartsome in a house.

"But there was ane thing special, Miss Anne, about your brother; a
thought o' pleasure never entered his head; he had a sunshine within
himsel that keepit him aye cheery; and the bits o' dawting, and good
things, and makings o', that ither bairns fecht for, he heeded not,
though I never saw a laddie that liket better the quietest mark of
kindliness: only, if there was onything like a privilege or an honor, he
would aye have it wared on the rest; no jealous and grudging, like as ye
will see some bairns, that are learned to pretend to do the like, and no
to be selfish; but with a blythe spark shining in his eye, enjoying the
good thing, whatever it was, far mair than if he had gotten it himsel.

"It might be because Mr. Lawrence was aye delicate, and bid to get his
ain way; but the maist of it, without doubt, was in the nature. My ain
Willie was a kindly callant, as need to be; but I have seen him (who was
only a poor man's son, and no equal to the young Laird,) standing out
against Mr. Lawrence in his pets, when Mr. Norman gaed way, in his
blythe, frank manner, without sae much as a thought about ony pride o'
his ain; and I have kent him, money a time, when ony o' them were in the
wrang, taking the blame upon himsel.

"Ye will think I am dwelling on thae auld stories ower lang, Miss Anne;
but I see them--I think I can see them on Oranside, Mr. Lawrence
sitting, white and thin, on the bank, watching them; and my ain twa, my
beautiful laddies! as wild in their innocent play as twa foals on a lee;
and the cut fingers, and the torn clothes, and the fa's into Oran: waes
me! what were a' their bits o' tribulations but just another name for
joy?

"Weel, Mr. Lawrence died, as ye ken. If he was petted whiles, it was wi'
sickness and suffering--pain that the young spirit could ill bear, and
that awfu' cough; but he was a blessed bairn, and departed as calm and
pleasant as an angel gaun hame--as truly he was, puir lamb!--out of a
world that had held nothing but ill to him; and the other bairns dwined
away from the house o' Merkland. Eh! Miss Anne, ane canna read thae sore
and sorrowful dispensations! To think that there should be sae mony
blythe families round about, wi' no ane wee head lifted out among them,
and a' the Mistress's lilies gathered--a' but Mr. Norman; and ye wad
have thought the rest had left a portion of their life to him, as that
strange lassie, Jacky Morison, was saying to me out of a book of
ballants, about three knights--aye as the ane was killed, the spirit and
the strength of him entered into the other; but that's a fule story. So,
as I was saying, ye might have thought it was so wi' Mr. Norman; for,
the mair death there was in the house, the stronger and fuller of life
_he_ grew. Ye may think, Miss Anne, how the Mistress's heart was bound
up in her one son, growing among tears and troubles, like a strong young
tree by the waterside.

"And then she died hersel. He wad be haill eighteen then, maistly a man;
and ye wad have thought his heart would burst. For months after that, he
used to come in and sit beside me in the nursery, never speaking a word.
We were the truest mourners in Merkland, him and me, and maybe it made
us like ane anither a' the better.

"It was a dreary year, that first year after your mother died; but there
were drearier years to come. The twelvemonth was just out, when it began
to be whispered in the countryside that Merkland was courting a new
wife. I could have felled the first body that said it to me, and Mr.
Norman flew upon Duncan, in the greatest passion I ever saw him in, for
dauring to hint at sic a word; but the rumor rose, for a' that (folk
said it was because Mr. Norman had been put aside from inheriting
Merkland, because he was to take his uncle's name, and sae noo there was
nae heir,) till I put it to the Laird my ain sel--ye may think it bauld,
Miss Anne, but I had been about the house a' his married life.--That
very night--for I wasna likely to bide wi' a strange woman in my
mistress's seat--I was sorting my bits of odds and ends to gang away;
and looking at you, sleeping in your wee bed, and murning for ye, an
innocent lamb, left to the cold mercies of a stepmother, when Mr.
Norman came in. I saw, by the white look of him, in a moment, that he
had been hurt and wounded to the very heart (and so he was,) for his
father had tell't him. Eh! Miss Anne, to think that he could tell the
fine, manly, grown-up lad, that nae mortal could help being proud o';
and that was liker being marriet himsel than hearing tell o' his father.

"So he sat down by the fireside and covered his face wi' his hands, and
did not say a word to me--only I heard him moaning to himsel, 'O,
mother, mother!' Nae wonder--we were wearing our murnings still, and she
had been but ae twelvemonth gone.

"So the marriage-day came at last. I had flitted into this house the
week afore--and there were mony folk at the wedding, only Mrs.
Catherine, and Strathoran's lady, and some more, wouldna come; and when
they sought Mr. Norman, he wasna to be found far or near--where think ye
he spent that day, Miss Anne? at his mother's grave!

"Ye're wearying on me--it's just because it's a' sae clear in my ain
mind--I canna help it; but I am coming to the time noo. Mr. Norman ye
ken, had an inheritance o' his ain by the mother's side. Your uncle, Mr.
Rutherford, of Redheugh, was a bachelor gentleman, and died three or
four years before your mother--and Mr. Norman was his heir. He was to
take both the land and the name, and I have heard it was a better
property than Merkland, only it was far south by this, on the ither side
o' Edinburgh. Mr. Norman was to bide wi' his father till he came of age,
and a sore and weary time it was, for this Mrs. Ross couldna bear the
sicht of him, and he likit her as ill. I maistly wished for his ain sake
that the time was come, though it was a sore thought to me that I was to
have the sight o' him, gladdening my auld e'en (I wasna sae auld then
either nae mair).

"And at last his one-and-twentieth birthday came, and he gaed away. I
did not see him after that for a whole year. The light of my eyes was
ta'en from me, Miss Anne--I had little pleasure of my life, for both my
boys were away.

"Willie had served out his prenticeship, and was sailing second-mate in
a timber ship to the Baltic; but that time he had ta'en a langer voyage,
to India and thereaway, and didna came hame till the year was out. The
very next day after Willie came, Mr. Norman arrived on a visit at
Merkland, and the first body he came to see, after his father, was just
my very sel--and what do ye think he had been devising in the kindness
of his heart for my Willie? There was a schooner lying at Leith on sale,
and Mr. Norman had made an offer for't, for Willie's sake, and no ither,
to make him captain; and when they had rested themsells a week at hame,
Mr. Norman took Willie away to Leith wi' him to see the ship. Weel, Miss
Anne, every thing was bright for baith o' them when they gaed away; but
when they got to Leith, and had near settled about the boat, my puir
Willie, being maybe ower proud and uplifted about the honor, and the
grand prospect, was careless o' himself: and the first word that came to
me was, no that he was captain of Mr. Norman's ship, but that he was
pressed, and ta'en away to some of the muckle English sea-towns on the
east coast, to be a common man afore the mast in a man-o-war."

Esther paused to wipe her eyes with her apron.

"Eh, Miss Anne, thae sore and humbling providences! just when ane
thought every thing was prosperous and full of promise to be cast down
into the very depths--my heart was sick within me. I had no more spirit
for onything, but just gaed about the house like a ghaist, and caredna
to spin, as the lass says in the sang. Mr. Norman did his endeavor to
free my puir laddie, but it couldna be--and ye may think what a clould
fell upon me, dwelling here alane, and my son far away in the dangers o'
the war, where, if he were spared, I couldna see him for years.

"Mr. Norman came seldom back to Merkland after that. He liked Mrs. Ross
but little at all times, and I think he reproached himsel for no being
carefu' enough of Willie, though I never blamed him--no for a moment;
but onyway he was altogether pairted from his ain auld hame--no that he
forgot us; there was aye the tither bit present coming to me, at
New-year's times, and his birth-days and the like; and many fine claes
and toys, and things, to yoursel, Miss Anne, that ye didna get the half
o'--

"So three years ran out, and ane day when I happened to be up at
Merkland, on some errand concerning yoursel, ye came, to me, Miss Anne,
wi' a paper in your hand, to let me hear ye read (ye were six years auld
then.) So I got the paper--ye had slipped it out o' the lockit book-case
in the library, the time your papa was writing a letter, and didna see
ye. I mind the very words ye said--because I likit to see the
papers--and so I did, to see what word there was about the war, and if
there was ony tidings of Willie's ship. Sae I got it, and began to read
it, the time Mr. Lewis and you were playing at my fit.

"Eh! Miss Anne: I mind the bits of words that came in upon me now and
then, when I was looking at that awful paper, as if I had heard them in
a fever. There was the haill story of the murder in't; of how Mr. Norman
and Mr. Aytoun had had a bitter quarrel the night before, and parted in
anger--and how, the next morning. Mr. Aytoun was found lying dead in a
lone place by a waterside--and how a man, gaun to his work, had met Mr.
Norman coming, like from the same place, just about the time the deed
bid to hae been dune--and there was mair than that still--a gun was
found in the wood, and the gun was Mr. Norman's, and when the officers
gaed to take him up, he had fled, no man kent whither. My e'en were
reeling in my head, but I could read it for a' that--I didna lose a
word; and in anither place there was mair news--the murderer, as they
daured to ca' him, had been traced into a Holland boat, and there was
certain word of it, that it was wrecked, and all on board lost, so he
had come, they said, to speedy punishment. I ken not now, how I had
strength to do it; but I rose up the moment I was done, and went down
into the library mysel'--what cared I at that time, if I had met a' the
leddies in the land?--to put it back secretly into the book-case again.
Your father was sitting in the library, Miss Anne, a changed man; the
white on his face was the white of death, and he was trembling like as
with the cauld, and had the darkest woe in his e'e, that I ever looked
upon. I put down the paper on the table, and he started, and looked up
at me. There was never a word said between us; but we were equal in our
terrible sorrow. He kent that, and so did I.

"I know not how I gaed hame that day; it was a bonnie day in June, but I
thought that the sky, and the earth, and the trees, were a' black alike,
and the running of the Oran was hoarse and loud, like the wild sea that
was flowing over my dear, dear bairn. It was before my eyes night and
day, sleeping and waking. I kent he couldna have done it out of evil
counsel or malice, but he might have done it in passion. The sinking
ship, and the storm, and the black sky, and my pleasant laddie in the
midst, wi' bluid on his hand, and despair in his soul; oh, Miss Anne!

"A month past in that way. I dauredna face Merkland, and he never came
near me, and I thought not there was any hope for Mr. Norman; I never
doubted he was dead. In the beginning of July, I got a letter from
Willie, telling me his ship was lying in Leith Roads, and I was to come
and see him. So I put up a bit bundle, and took some lying siller, and
set out upon the road. I wanted to buy some bits of things the puir
laddie needed, and so I couldna afford to tak the coach, but walked
every step, and a weary road it was. So Willie met me in my cousin's
house in the Citadel, and whenever our first meeting was ower, he came
after me to the room I was to sleep in, and shut the door, and I saw
there was trouble in his face. So I did not doubt he had heard.
'Mother,' he said to me, 'I have news to tell you.'

"'Oh, Willie!' said I. 'I ken, I ken; it has near broken my heart.'

"So Willie went to the door again, and saw it was safe shut, and said
he, 'Mother, what do ye ken?'

"'About Mr. Norman, my dear laddie,' said I; 'that he has been left to
himself, and done a terrible crime, and died a terrible death. Oh, that
we had but kent that he repented; oh, that we had ony token that the
Lord had visited his soul.'

"'Mother,' said Willie, very low, 'do ye need me to tell you that he
didna do it? Do you no ken that yoursel? O, mother! mother! him that
wouldna have harmed the worm at his fit.'

"'Ane disna ken--ane canna tell,' said I; 'he never did it wi' purpose
and counsel, Willie; but he may have been beguiled by passion. God send
that it hasna been counted to him.'

"'Mother,' said Willie. 'Whisht! mind that a precious life is hinging
on't. I have seen Mr. Norman.'

"Miss Anne, I thought I would have fa'en at his feet, for what could I
think, but that it was the unquiet spirit my puir laddie had seen.

"'Mother,' said Willie, 'God has saved him out o' the sea, near by a
miracle. Mr. Norman is a living man, and an innocent man. The hand that
saved him will clear him in its ain guid time; but he bade me tell you.
He couldna bear, he said, that folk that had kent him, and likit him
weel should think he had done that crime; and he minded me that folk
could pray for a living man, and couldna for a dead, and bade me tell
you, mother.'

"'O, Willie!' said I, 'wherefore did he flee?--the right would have been
proved, if he had but waited for the trial.'

"'I canna tell ye, mother,' said Willie, 'but he said every thing was
against him; and it was borne in on my mind, that he knew wha had dune
the deed, and that it was ane he likit weel and was willing to suffer
for--ye ken his nature--but mind, that was only a fancy o' my ain, for
he did not mint a word of it to me.'

"'And where was he, Willie?' said I, 'where was my dear laddie?--was he
out of peril?"

"'It was in a town on the Holland coast,' said Willie, 'a bit sma place,
less than Portoran. They had travelled there on fit, from the place
where the boat was cast away; and Mr. Norman was waiting till there
should be some ship sailing from Rotterdam to India. He said to me,
mother, that he would never daur write hame again; but if he died he
would cause that word should be sent baith to Merkland and you--but as
lang as ye didna hear, ye were to mind and pray for him, as a living and
sorrowful man, and no to think he was dead.'

"'My laddie!' said I, 'my dear bairn!--oh, that the Lord would bring
forth His righteousness as the noonday, and His judgment as the morning
light. Ye said _they_, Willie--was there onybody wi' him?'

"'Yes, mother,' said Willie; 'Mr. Norman was married the nicht before he
fled, and there was a young lady with him. She didna belang about
Strathoran--I never saw her before, but Mr. Norman said that in the
wreck, she was braver than him, though she was a bit genty,
delicate-looking thing. Mr. Norman took me in to see her, and tell't her
I was his foster-brother and friend. He is aye like himsel, thinking on
pleasuring me, in the midst o' a' his ain trouble--and she gaed me her
hand wi' a sorrowful smile, that made me like to greet--and whiles when
he was speaking to me, when his grief was like to get the better of him,
she put her bit little hand on his arm, and said, "Norman, Norman," and
then he aye calmed down again.'

"So that was a' that Willie had to tell, and in little mair than a week
after that, his ship sailed again, and when I was on my road hame, I
went first of a' to the place where the deed was done. Its on the south
side o' the Firth, far down--but I could find out naething there, except
that everybody blamed Mr. Norman, and naebody would believe but what he
was the murderer.

"And since then, Miss Anne--it's seventeen years past in the last
July--I have been a bereaved woman, for Willie never came hame but ance,
when the war was ended, and that was just for a while, for he had
pleased his captain unco weel, and was made gunner in the ship, and he
had got used wi' their life, and liked it, so he just gaed back. He said
to me, I mind, that he might aye be in the way of hearing tidings of Mr.
Norman, and would come hame without delay if there was ony guid word.
But word, guid or bad, there has been nane since that time, Miss Anne; a
weary time it has been to me--but your brother is a living man, and the
work is not too late."

"What can be done?" said Anne; "what can be done?"

She felt an impulse to rise and hurry to the work at once. She felt it a
sin to lose a moment. Yet all the difficulties rose up before her. What
steps to take--what to do!

"Miss Anne," said Esther; "I have pondered it, and ower again pondered
it in my ain mind since I came hame frae that weary journey, and often I
have been on the point of gaun away back again, to see if I could hear
onything mair. But what I would bid ye do, would be to gang, or to get
some of thae keen writer chiels to gang, cannily, without letting on
what they want, to do their endeavor to find out if onybody else in that
countryside had an ill-will at Mr. Aytoun: he was a wild man, I heard,
and nae doubt had enemies--and if ony other man had been seen leaving
the wood that awful morning bye Mr. Norman. There's been a lang time
lost, but I've thought often, it might maybe put the real sinner aff his
guard, and so he micht be easier found. Miss Anne, that is the way, sae
far as I can see. Ye maun try and find the true man that did it, living
or dead."

"And bring disgrace and ruin into some other peaceful family, Esther,"
said Anne, sadly. "It is a terrible alternative!"

"Miss Anne," said Esther, "my dear laddie Norman maun be saved, if I
should gang away mysel. I aye waited for you. I had no thought ye wad
falter. The work is a sore and painful work, but if ye will not do it,
that have better power, I will try myself."

"I had no thought of faltering, Esther," said Anne. "I only said it was
a very sad and terrible alternative, and so it is--if William was
correct--if we are to endeavor to prove the guilt of one whom Norman was
willing to sacrifice name and fame for, it is only so much the more
painful. Yet I do not falter--you say truly, Norman must be saved--if it
is within human power to clear his name, he shall be saved. But, oh! for
guidance--for wisdom!"

When Anne left the house, Esther accompanied her to the door, earnestly
urging upon her the necessity of losing no time. To lose no time!--no,
surely; when, for all Alice Aytoun's sunny lifetime, Norman had been an
outcast and an exile.

And the "Marion!"--who was this who had not deserted him in the midnight
of his calamity? this who had been bolder amidst the perils of the wreck
than he, and who had gone with him to the unknown far country, the
outcast's wife? Anne's imagination no longer pictured him alone, abroad
beneath sweeping blast and tempest. A calmer air stole over the picture.
It might be from some humble toiling home--not bright, yet with a
chastened sunshine of hope and patience about it still--that the tidings
of restored honor and fortune should call the exile, and the exile's
household, rejoicing to their own land.



CHAPTER XII.


Lewis Ross found but a cold welcome at the Tower from its aged mistress.
Why she addressed him with so much reserve, and without even the
familiar harshness of her usual manner, Lewis could not understand, and
it roused his indignation mightily. He, an independent man, a landed
proprietor of influence, a travelled, educated gentleman, to be
over-borne by the caprices and prejudices of a set of old women! His
dignity was hurt, his petulant pride roused. He certainly _was_
conscious of doing simple Alice Aytoun some considerable honor, and did
not fancy there was anything unnatural in his mother thinking that he
might have done better--but to control his liberty--to think that by all
this coldness and discouragement, they could change the current of his
inclination and affections--it was quite too much. Lewis did not feel by
any means inclined to submit to it. He felt, too, that Archibald
Sutherland shrank from his not very delicate questionings, and that,
beyond all doubt, he himself, Lewis Ross, of Merkland, important person
as he was, was decidedly _de trop_ in the Tower.

Even Alice felt it, as she sat in her corner by the window, that
delicate embroidery, which she wished to finish for a cap to Mrs.
Catherine, before she returned home, trembling in her small fingers, and
her heart beating loud and unsteadily. Mrs. Catherine had been so tender
to herself this morning, almost as if she knew--it was so strange that
she should be cold to Lewis. Mrs. Catherine left the room for a moment:
Lewis approached the window, and whispered a petition, that she would
meet him at "the little gate." Alice did not say no. "Immediately,"
whispered Lewis. "I have a great deal to say to you."

Alice laid down her embroidery, and leaving the room, stole tremulously
up stairs, to put on her bonnet and shawl, and steal tremulously down
again, and out to her first tryste. The little gate stood on a shady
by-way, or "loaning," which ran by Oranside through the grounds of
Strathoran and the Tower. Lewis joined her immediately. He had much to
say to her--much that was very pleasant to hear, if it was not very
wise, nor even very connected and relevant, for Lewis, spite of his
boyish pride and self importance, felt truly and deeply, so far as
little Alice was concerned, and had not escaped the ameliorating effect
of that influence, which, according to the gay old epicurean of our
Scottish ballad-writers, "gives one an air, and even improves the
mind."--The youthful couple wandered through the loaning, unconscious in
their own dreamy happiness of the chill wind that swept through its high
bare hedges, till nearly an hour had passed. But Alice suddenly saw,
through the gap in the hedge, Miss Falconer riding quickly to the Tower;
she came, by appointment, to bid Alice good-by, and so that most
pleasant ramble must, of necessity, be terminated. Alice accompanied
Lewis a little further down the lane, lest Marjory's quick eye should
discover him, and then they parted.

She was to leave the Tower in a week; but too pleasantly absorbed to
think even of that, Alice went lightly along the dim loaning, with its
high rustling hedges, and borders of wet herbage. Only one little grief
lay within the glad heart, which began to throb now with deeper
happiness--Anne; why would not Lewis Ross's sister acknowledge, last
night her agitated, shame-faced, simple embrace? It was the only way
which Alice could think of, for intimating to Anne the connexion now
formed between them; and she trembled again, to remember the cold hand
that had been laid upon her head, the look of sharp silent pain, that
had fallen upon Lewis and herself as they stood together, in the first
confidence of their betrothal--Anne, who had always been so kind and
gentle to her! It made Alice uneasy, as she went dreamily forward, until
brighter imaginations came to the rescue, and Anne's neglect sank into
the background, in presence of that more immediate sunshine, the warmer
devotion of Lewis.

Loud gay voices startled her, when she had nearly reached the little
gate, and looking up, she saw a couple of gentlemen approaching, whom
she immediately knew to belong to Lord Gillravidge's not very orderly
household at Strathoran. The aforesaid little gate was the boundary of
Mrs. Catherine's property, so Alice was then in the grounds of
Strathoran--the gentlemen were returning home. Alice proceeded quickly,
eager to pass them, for their loud tone startled her, and she was near
enough to hear a rude compliment aimed at herself, which sent the
womanly blood to her cheek in indignation. They met at last, and
suddenly extending their arms, the strangers barred her passage. Little
Alice's heart beat like a frightened bird. She ran to each side of the
road, only to shrink back again from the rude hands extended towards
her; she looked back to see if there was any chance in flight, she
lifted her simple face imploringly to them, and said; "Pray, let me
pass; pray, gentlemen, let me pass." They laughed at her; poor little
Alice was in despair.

One of the strangers was the "hairy fule," who had visited Mrs.
Catherine. Jacky's expressive description of him: "A man, dressed like a
gentleman," was emphatically correct. The other was a simple, foolish,
fair-haired lad, who, besides some boyish admiration of the pretty girl,
thought this interruption of her progress a pleasant frolic, and good
fun. There was no other way of entering the precincts of the Tower,
except by the gap in the hedge, which the timid Alice did not dare to
venture on, and so she renewed her prayer. "Pray, let me go on; pray,
gentlemen, let me pass."

A crash of the boughs behind her, made Alice turn her head.--Marjory
Falconer, riding-whip in hand, came springing through the gap. "What is
the matter, Alice?" cried Miss Falconer; "who obstructs you? Gentlemen,
be so good as give way."

The gentlemen laughed. The house of Falconer, like the house of Seton in
old days, was of prompt ire, and its sole daughter did it no discredit.
"This is great impertinence," exclaimed Marjory; "pass immediately,
or--" she gave an emphatic flourish of her whip.

A louder laugh than before bade her defiance; in another moment an
unhesitating cut of the ready whip made the younger of the two spring
aside. Alice flew past, and Marjory lingered for an instant to sweep a
few short, sharp lashes over the amazed Fitzherbert, whose strange
grimace of rage sent his young comrade into a fit of laughter, and
earned for Marjory a full forgiveness of his own individual stroke.
"There!" cried Marjory Falconer, as she closed the gate behind her, her
face shining with mingled mirth and anger. "You can boast that you have
had the honor of being horse-whipped by a lady."

Little Alice was running on, in a great tremor, to the Tower.--"What is
the matter?" said her deliverer, laughing, as she overtook her. "What a
trembling, frightened bird you are, little Alice Aytoun. Why, we have
had an adventure: only, to be correct, it should have been Lewis Ross
who delivered you, and not I: is it so? Ah, I am afraid he has been
doing damage here, this same Lewis Ross. It is a great shame--these men
monopolize everything; one cannot even get a nice little girl kept to
oneself."

Alice drew herself up. It was not quite proper that she, the head elect
of an important house like Merkland, with a shadow of matronly dignity
upon her fair brow already, should be spoken of as a little girl. "I was
so glad you came, Miss Falconer. It was very foolish, perhaps; but they
frightened me."

"And you had no whip, even if you had been bold enough to use it," said
Miss Falconer, laughing, as she gathered up the train of her
riding-habit, which had escaped from her hand, and bore sundry marks (no
uncommon thing, however) of its contact with the damp path. "You may be
thankful it was my indecorous, unfeminine self, and not any of the
proprieties. Suppose it had been Jeannie Coulter--why, they would have
caught you both."

"But Miss Coulter is a very nice girl; is she not?" said Alice.

"Oh! exceedingly--as nice a girl as could be; and will be as
good-looking, and proper, and sensible a Mrs. Walter Foreman as it will
be possible to find in the country; as proper, and not quite so
good-looking, and more sensible, than you will be, when you are Mrs.
Lewis Ross; for she has come to years of discretion, you know, and you
are only a little girl."

Alice did not like all this. "I wonder at you, Miss Falconer! I am sure
it is far better to be what you call proper than--" Alice hesitated; "I
mean, no one thinks Mrs. Catherine, and Mrs. Coulter, and Miss Ross
weak, because they are always like what ladies should be."

Miss Falconer laughed. "Well done, my little Mentor; but, for all that,
confess that I was of more service to-day, with my good stout arm, than
if I had been always like what ladies should be. Miss Lumsden is staying
with me at the Craig: I had a bold purpose of getting my poor mother's
old phæton hunted up, and driving her over to see you; but we cannot
compass a vehicle, we Falconers, so I had to give it up. It is just as
well. Miss Lumsden (she's John Lumsden's sister, of Portoran,) would
have been shocked. I shall take your advice, little Miss Aytoun; I shall
abstain from shocking people unnecessarily, after this, when I can help
it."

This was better: the little matron elect was pleased to have her advice
taken, and so ventured further. "And, Miss Falconer, don't be
angry--wouldn't it be better not to speak so? I don't like--I mean Anne
Ross does not like--she says it makes foolish people laugh, and be
impertinent."

Miss Falconer's face became crimson. Miss Falconer drew up her tall,
handsome figure, to its full height, and looked haughty for a moment.
Alice was afraid.

"There! that will do. You will be able to give gentle reproofs,
by-and-by, beautifully: only you must not experiment on me much, you
know, lest I should grow angry. No, no; do not lift up those blue eyes
of yours so pitifully. I am not angry now--but I am sometimes, and I
should not like you to see me so."

The straightforward little Alice looked up in wonder, fancying that the
blunt, strong, unschooled mind beside her, might be in the habit of
giving way to ungovernable and wild fits of passion, such as she had
read of; it was all a mistake. Marjory Falconer was by no means so rude
and unfeminine as she gave herself credit for being, and had bitter
compunctions of outraged delicacy sometimes, after those masculine
speeches, which revenged her womanhood completely. But the little world
of Strathoran did not know that--did not know either how the strong and
healthful spirit of the motherless, ill-educated girl was forcing itself
through a rough process of development, and, like other strong plants,
was rank and wild in its growth, and needed vigorous pruning--pruning
which it would not fail, by-and-by, to manage for itself, with an
unhesitating hand.

So the youthful people of Strathoran laughed, and the elders hung back,
and called her improper and unfeminine; and thus the original evil was
increased by the grievance of which she herself complained; she was left
to the company of men--men, moreover, of that rude, uncultured,
sportsman class, her own superiority over whom she felt bitterly, and
asserted with characteristic vehemence.

Alice Aytoun saw, when her visitor was gone, still more visibly than she
had done in the morning, that Mrs. Catherine was sad.--She could not
help observing the long, wistful looks bestowed upon herself--the
hundred little indulgences which Mrs. Catherine gave her that day, as
she would have given them to a sick child; and Alice wondered. These
steadfast, compassionate looks became painful at last, and there was so
great a chill of gravity and sadness about the stranger, Archibald
Sutherland, that Alice, carried that tremulous happiness of hers--so
much deeper, and yet so much less exuberant than it had been one little
month ago--into her own pretty room.

Bessie sat there sewing, and disconsolate. Johnnie Halflin had protested
vehemently last night that "the Tower wadna be like itsel when she gaed
away." The Falcon's Craig groom had particularly distinguished little
Bessie by his notice. Mr. Foreman's lad from Portoran had bidden her "be
sure and come soon back again," when he shook hands with her. Jacky,
with her eldritch voice, had attempted to sing 'Bessie Bell' in her
honor--and to leave it all! So little Bessie sat sentimental and
despondent in the room, with some vision of breaking hearts, and never
being happy again, while her youthful mistress sat down by the window,
and looked over to Merkland.

Ah! that breadth of hazy air which hovered between the house of Merkland
and Alice Aytoun's chamber window, how full of beautiful shapes it
was--and how instinct with gladness! Mrs. Catherine dined at four--never
later, except on some very great and solemn occasion; and when dinner
was over that day, and the darkness of the long January night had begun,
Mrs. Catherine took her youthful kinswoman by the arm, and led her away
from the dining-room without speaking. They did not go up stairs; they
went away through that dim passage, and stopped at the door of the
little room. Alice was terrified. Mrs. Catherine unlocked the door, drew
the girl in with her, and closed it again in silence. Alice's heart
began to beat loud, in awe and terror. What strange discipline was this?

There was a fire burning brightly; the waning gloaming without gave the
whins, that almost touched the window, a ghostly look. The gray crag
above seemed to be looking in with a pale, withered, inquisitive face.
Mrs. Catherine seated herself on one of the chairs and bade Alice take
the other. The firelight fell warm and bright upon that fine dark
portrait on the opposite wall. There was a lamp upon the table, but it
was not lighted. Alice sat trembling, silent, apprehensive. What could
Mrs. Catherine have to tell her?

"Alison," said Mrs. Catherine, "do you see that picture?"

"Yes," said Alice, timidly.

The light was hovering about it, shooting now a spark of radiance into
the eye, and now moving in a strange, fantastic smile upon the lip.
Alice had heard from some of the visitors at the Tower of Mrs.
Catherine's brother, and knew that this was his portrait.

"Ye ken who it is?--my one brother, Sholto Douglas," said Mrs.
Catherine. "Look at him well. Do you see how strong, and full of health,
and strength, and youth that face is, Alison? Look at him well."

Alice looked again wonderingly at the fine face of Sholto Douglas. To
her, as to Archibald Sutherland, it looked loftily calm and pure,
removed far above all the changeful hopes and fears of this "pleasing,
anxious being."

"Alison," said Mrs. Catherine, "I want to tell you the history of Sholto
Douglas. Sit quiet, and do not tremble, but listen to me."

Alice tried not to tremble--she could scarcely help it. The ghostly
inquisitive crag, behind which she could fancy some malicious elf
watching them--the dark whins pressing close to the window--the dreary
sough of the wind as it swept through the bare trees without, and the
long passages within, moaning so _eerie_ and spirit-like--the calm,
unmoved face looking down from the wall--the comparative gloom of this
sacred and mysterious apartment--she could not repress the involuntary
thrill of fear and wonder.

"Sholto Douglas was my one brother--we were the sole children of our
name," said Mrs. Catherine, her utterance so slow and marked the while,
that it was easy to recognise this as the history of her great sorrow,
"and I cannot tell you how dear we were to one another. You are a bairn,
yourself, of too gentle and quiet a spirit. You cannot know the loves
and griefs of harsher natures.

"We were never separate a day; we were bairns; we grew up into youth; we
passed to manhood and to womanhood hand in hand. In his earliest flush
of strength and manliness, Sholto was arrested on the way. I am a woman
now laden with years, and drawing near to the grave, but, bairn, there
is no earthly motive that would rouse me to any work or labor like the
remembrance of my brother Sholto, that I left lying in foreign earth,
thirty years ago.

"That is not the matter I have to speak of first. When Sholto Douglas
was in the strength of his youthful manhood he was trysted in solemn
betrothal, whereof I myself was a witness, to Isabel Balfour, the mother
of the young man who came to my house last night. She was a gentle,
pleasant, gladsome girl, like your own self, Alison Aytoun. I liked her
well before for her own sake, and I liked her dearly then for Sholto's.
The day was set for the bridal--the whole kindred were stirred to do
them honor--there was nothing in their way, but joy, and blessings, and
prosperity, as we thought in our vain hope. Alison! between them there
was the stern and sore shadow of death, and they knew it not!

"A week before his bridal day, Sholto came home from Edinburgh a
stricken man. I read it in the doctor's face that came to see him first.
I saw it in the blood they took from him, till he was worn and wasted to
a shadow. The burning heat of his inflammation was on him the day that
should have been his bridal day--and when he rose from that bed it was
only to sink into the terrible beauty of decline--with all its dreams of
health, and wild hopes, and sick delusions. Be thankful, bairn, that no
such weird is laid upon you.

"I saw him dying before me day by day. Into my heart there had never
mortal man entered but Sholto, my one brother; and in his prime of
youth, with hopes thick about his brow like the clusters of his hair,
was the Lord parting him from me. I could not hope--when Isabel leant
upon his chair, and looked into his face--his cheek with its bright
color, and his glorious e'en--and smiled and rejoiced, and said he would
be well, I turned from her, my heart within me sick unto death. I knew
he was a doomed man--I saw there was no hope.

"They said at last that the air of some sunnier country would heal him
of his trouble, and I prepared for the journey; anxiously I pleaded with
Isabel to go with us, that he might have the comfort of her presence.
Her kindred would not let her--she thought it not needful herself,
neither did he: they would meet again, he said, so soon in health and
gladness. I turned away from him--my heart was bursting. I kent they
would never meet again--I kent that I took him away to die.

"Alison, I saw the parting of the two. I saw the sick hope in Isabel
Balfour's face, and the wan courage in Sholto's--their hearts misgave
them at that moment. There is a shadow of fear upon all partings, and it
was deepened upon theirs. As for me, my sky could not well be darker--it
was not fear with me, but a deadly knowledge. I kent they would never
meet again.

"And so I went away with him--guarding the young man that had been so
strong and healthful, from every blast of wind, as ye would guard a sick
bairn. I went with him to Italy--to France--syne when he got no
stronger--I took him away to that sunny island in the sea, where so many
are sent to die. His doom was upon him--the light was in his eye more
glorious than ever, the hectic was burning on his cheek. What was the
soft air and the beautiful days, in comparison with the might of death.
He died. I saw him laid in the cold earth of a foreign country, far away
from the grave of his fathers, and turned in my desolation to come back
to my own country, my lane.

"Alison! you do not ken the blackness of darkness, the shadow of that
terrible wing of death. Think of it--think of my desolate journey--think
of my first parting with my one brother. Could ye have borne a woe like
that?"

Alice was weeping--she had forgot herself and Lewis for the moment. Her
gentle heart could not fathom the stern depths of suffering, which still
swelled in Mrs. Catherine's larger spirit, but she recognized the
sovereignty of grief, and answered with her tears:

"And there was the bride to come home to--the desolate bride, that had
been dreaming vain dreams of pleasantness and hope to come. A year
before you would have thought that if ever there were two fated to a
bountiful and gladsome lot, it was Sholto Douglas and his trysted bride.
Now, she was stricken down in her first agony, and he was lying in his
stranger grave.

"Know you, Alison, that there are woes like that wherever there are
living men?--that there is some shadow on every lot, how fair soever,
may be its beginning?--that even the like of you, in your youth and
smiles, have a weird to watch and weep through, every one of you for her
own self, and not another?"

Alice looked up--the tears stealing over her cheeks, the "hysterica
passio" swelling up in its "climbing sorrow" in her tightened breast.
Her blue eyes looked fearfully and anxiously in Mrs. Catherine's face.
This most sad history, Alice felt, was the preface of some personal evil
to herself, some misfortune to Lewis. She could not speak--she only
looked imploringly in sad fear and wonder into the face of her
kinswoman.

"My poor bairn!" said Mrs. Catherine, "you can think how Isabel mourned
in her dark solitude? ye can feel for Isabel?"

Alice started up, all her gay hopes and girlish happiness floating away
before that blast, as such light things will float, and threw herself
unconsciously at Mrs. Catherine's feet, kneeling there in incoherent
grief and terror, and burying her fair head in the lap of her kinswoman:
"What is it--what is it? I will bear it--tell me what it is."

Mrs. Catherine's hand lay upon her fair hair in grave kindness. Mrs.
Catherine bent down. "Alison! wherefore did ye not tell me of this
unhappy tryste, that has been made between Lewis Ross and you?"

Alice could not look up; trembling through all her slight figure, she
waited for the next words.

"My bairn! my poor fatherless bairn! if there was but any weight on my
gray head that could keep off this sore stroke from your's! It is your
appointed weird; ye must be strong, and listen to me. In the fulness of
their joy and hope, it pleased the Lord to sunder for ever, in this
world, the two I have told you of. Alison! there lies as deadly a bar
between Lewis Ross and you; a bar that can never be passed, or lifted
away in this life. You may hear of his welfare and prosperity, and he of
yours; but in this world you must be strangers. It cannot last a day,
this link between you; you cannot go a step further in this perilous
road, Alison!"

One great convulsive throb had shaken the slender frame that leant upon
Mrs. Catherine's knee. There was a moment's pause, and then Alice rose,
her tears dashed away, yet still noiselessly welling out, and a
momentary flush of womanly pride inspiring her girlish figure. "He might
have told me himself," she exclaimed, passionately. "He need not have
been afraid; I--I am not so foolish--I can bear it--my heart will not
break; he had no right to think--he might have told me himself!"

Mrs. Catherine rose, and put her arm round her. The girl turned away,
and endeavored to release herself; endeavoring vainly also to hide the
large hot tears, that, spite of pride and resentment, were falling
passionately again.

"Alison," said Mrs. Catherine, "the youth did not ken himself. I cannot
deny him justice, though I have little wish that you should think of him
more. He did not know himself. It will fall as heavily on him as it does
on you."

Alice endeavored again to free herself, her tears flowing more gently,
and the weight and oppression at once lifted off her youthful heart. So
long as change did not come upon either herself or Lewis, what were
external obstacles to them, in their triumphant hope and affection? But
injured pride, and outraged feelings, made her reject Mrs. Catherine's
offered kindness. Why should she interpose between these two?

"Alison," said Mrs. Catherine, "listen to me. If Lewis's heart were
brimming full with the greatest love that ever was in the heart of
mortal man, and if you yourself were clinging to him as never woman
clung before, yet must ye part: there is no hope--no choice. Before ever
you were born, there was a deadly bar laid between Lewis Ross and you.
It cannot be passed: there is no hand in this world that can lift it
away: it is as unchangeable as death. Bairn, I am speaking to you most
sorrowfully. I would not, for all my land, have laid this burden on your
young head, if there had been either help or choice: there is none. You
must be parted. Alison, look at me."

Alison looked wistfully through her tears at the strongly-marked stern
face, now so strangely moved and melted. She saw the steadfast,
sorrowful, compassionate look, in which there was no hope; and, yielding
to the pressure of the encircling arm, leaned her head upon Mrs.
Catherine's shoulder, and nestled into her breast like a grieved child.

By-and-by, they had returned to their original positions. Mrs. Catherine
seated herself in her chair again, and Alice glided down passively, and
lay like a broken lily, with her head hidden in Mrs. Catherine's lap.
She was stunned and overpowered. The gentle heart lay in a kind of
stupor, a dead and vacant sleep; she hardly felt it beat. The hope, and
shame, and anger, the very wonder and grief, seemed gone; yet in her
crushed apathy, she listened--the faintest word, uttered near, would not
have been lost on the ears so nervously awake to every sound. She was
waiting for further confirmation of the strange fate pronounced upon
her.

"Are you content?" said Mrs. Catherine, lifting the fair head tenderly
in her hand--"are you content to believe me, my poor bairn, and to give
up the gladness of your youth? Speak to me, Alison. I have maybe been
harsher than I should be with your gentle nature, and I am asking you to
make a sore sacrifice. For the sake of your kindly mother, Alice; for
the sake of your honorable and upright brother James: for the memory's
sake of your dead father, whom you never saw, I ask you to give up this
stranger lad. He was nothing to you three months ago. They have
nourished you, and cherished you, all the days of your life. Believe me,
Alison, my bairn, that what I have told you is true; and, for their
sake, give up this Lewis Ross. The bar between you is deadly and
unchangeable: you cannot pass it over, were you to wait a lifetime."

Alice lifted her wan cheek from Mrs. Catherine's knee, and looked up
with sad, beseeching eyes. "What is it? Tell me what it is?"

"It might do you ill, but it could not do you good," said Mrs.
Catherine. "Take my word, Alison, and give me your promise. It is a
thing that cannot change--that nothing in this world can make amends
for. Alison, it is your weird--it has been laid on you, to prove what
strength you have. You must make the sacrifice, hard though it be."

"I have not any strength," murmured poor little Alice, in her plaintive,
complaining voice: "I am not strong, and there is no one with me. Mrs.
Catherine, what is it? Tell me what it is?"

"Bairn," said Mrs. Catherine, "you would need to be strong to listen to
the story, and I have withheld it to spare you. You are but a frail,
young, silly thing, to have such troubles shadowing you; but it may be
most merciful, in the end, to let you ken it all. Listen to me." Mrs.
Catherine paused for a moment, and then resumed: "You have heard tell of
your father, and how he died a violent death? Alison Aytoun, did you
ever hear who it was that killed him?"

Alice shivered, and glanced up in trembling wonder. Mrs. Catherine went
on: "The name of him was Norman Rutherford. He was a young man, as
gallant and as generous as ever breathed mortal breath. Why he was left
to himself in so dreadful a way, I cannot tell. It will never be known
on this earth. Alison Aytoun, are you hearing me? Norman Rutherford,
your father's murderer, was the nearest kindred of Lewis Ross; he was
his brother!"

A long, low cry of pain, involuntary and unconscious, came from Alice
Aytoun's lips. She turned from Mrs. Catherine's lap, and covered her
face with her hands. There was nothing more to say or to hope; and the
mist and film of her first sorrow blinded and stilled the girlish
heart, which beat so gay and high when that dull morning rose.

By-and-by, she had wandered up stairs, and was in her own room alone.
The room was dim, and cheerless, and cold, she thought; and Alice laid
herself down upon her bed, and hid her sad, white face in the pillow,
and silently wept. The girlish light heart sank down under its sudden
burthen, without another struggle. "I am not strong," murmured little
Alice; "and there is no one with me."

There was no one with her. Never before had any misfortune come to her
youthful knowledge, which could not be shared. Now the shrinking,
delicate spirit, half child, half woman, had entered into the very
depths of a woe which must be borne alone. The dull, leaden darkness
gathered round her; the tears flowed over her white cheek in a
continuous stream; and into the dim, disconsolate air the plaintive
young voice sounded sadly, instinctively calling on its mother's name.
Alice was alone!



CHAPTER XIII.


When Anne entered Merkland after her visit to the nurse's cottage, and
was proceeding, as usual to her own room, she was stopped by Duncan.

"Miss Anne," said Duncan, significantly, "Merkland is in the parlor."

"Well, Duncan," said Anne, "what of that? Does Lewis want me?"

"Na, I'm no saying that," said the cautious Duncan; "but I just thought
within mysel that maybe ye were wanting to see the Laird; and he's in
the parlor, and so's the mistress. Mr. Lewis has been hame this
half-hour."

Anne comprehended. The clouds of the morning had broken into a storm,
and Duncan, with whom "Mr. Lewis," partly as a child of his own
training, and partly as the Laird of Merkland, was a person of the very
highest importance, and not to be teased and incommoded by "a wheen
woman," desired her interposition to receive the tempest upon her own
head, and avert it from Lewis, as was the general wont, when Anne made
her appearance in the midst of any quarrel between the mother and son.

"I will return immediately, Duncan," she said, as she ran up stairs to
take off her cloak and bonnet.

Duncan turned away satisfied.

"A wheen, silly, fuils o' women, as they are a', the haill sect o'
them," he soliloquized, fretfully; "wearing the very life and pith out
o'the lad, wi' their angers, and their makings o'. First the one and
then the other. Ane would need lang tack o' patience that ventured to
yoke wi' them, frae Job himsel, honest man, doun to Peter Hislop, the
stock farmer at Wentrup Head. 'Deed, and the twa are in no manner
unlike, when ane has a talent for similarities. They were baith rich in
cattle, and had a jaud of a wife to the piece o' them. Clavering,
ill-tongued randies, wearing out the lives of peaceable men."

When Anne entered the room, she found Lewis pacing back and forward in
it, in haste and anger, while Mrs. Ross sat leaning back in her chair
with the air of a besieger, who has thrown his last bomb, and waits to
see its effect.

"I cannot believe it,--I will not believe it!" exclaimed Lewis, as Anne
entered. "If it had been so, I should have heard it before. Oh! I know
you could not have kept this pleasure from me so long, mother! and I
declare to you that this stratagem--I say this unworthy stratagem--only
strengthens my determination. Anne," continued Lewis, perceiving her as
he turned, in his hasty progress from one end of the room to the other,
"you have heard this story--this phantom of Norman--the murderer, as he
is called--which my kind mother has conjured up to frighten me. Join
with me in telling her it is not true--that we are not to be
deceived--that we do not believe this!"

Mrs. Ross endeavored to toss her head as contemptuously as was her
wont--it would not do; the motion was spasmodic. She was reaping the
fruit of her own training, and the ingratitude and rude anger of her
only son, from whom, indeed, she did not deserve this, stung her to the
heart.

"Lewis," said Anne, "you are behaving very unjustly to your mother. Be
calm, and do not give way to anger so unseemly."

"Oh! do not interrupt him," said Mrs. Ross, "let him go on; it is
pleasant to insult his mother."

Lewis turned from her angrily.

"This is not a time for any absurd punctilio, Anne. Let me hear you say
this is not true--this story--this scheme. I will not submit to it. Am I
a boy, I wonder, that I am to be frightened by such a--"

Mrs. Ross rose. The darling son--the only child--to turn on his mother
thus!

"Lewis!" she said, her features twitching, her voice husky. "Beware!"

"Lewis!" said Anne; "I cannot bear this either; it is mere madness; sit
down quietly and listen. Mother, I beg of you to sit down; forgive him
this; he does not know--he cannot comprehend. Lewis, when your mother
told you this very terrible story, she believed it true."

Mrs. Ross had been regarding Anne, whose support she deserved as little
as she did the insults of her son, with a face in which wonder and shame
were strangely blended. Now she darted up a sharp, keen glance.

"_Believed_ it true! This from you, Anne Ross--this from you!"

"Bear with me, mother," exclaimed Anne; "and you, Lewis, be still and
hear me. I believe with my whole heart that our brother, Norman
Rutherford, is innocent of this terrible deed; but, in the judgment of
the world, he is condemned long years ago. Every one thinks him guilty.
Not your mother only, but Mrs. Catherine, and all who know the story,
except myself and one other. Lewis, I do not say how unbecoming and
unnatural this passion is, but your mother has only told you, what I
have been eager to tell you through all these anxious months. So far as
common belief goes, you have heard rightly."

"But it is not true," said Lewis, doggedly, throwing himself into a
chair; "you admit it is not true. A scheme--a--"

"Mother, leave this to me," cried Anne, trembling as she saw the
contortion of Mrs. Ross's face. "It is no scheme, Lewis. You do us cruel
wrong in using such a word. It is true in every particular, but in the
one which has given it all its bitterness to me. It is not true that
Norman is guilty. It is true, that for seventeen years--for all Alice
Aytoun's sunny lifetime--he has been expiating, in a foreign country,
the crime of another man. Do not sneer, mother; I cannot bear it. Do not
turn away Lewis; I will not be disbelieved. My brother Norman is
innocent; the two hearts that knew him, and loved him best, have put
their seal upon his truth, one bearing witness in the clearsightedness
of nearly approaching death, the other cherishing it in her inmost heart
as the one hope of her waning years. Lewis, here is your father's latest
words and testimony. Read it, and believe that it is true."

"What is true?" exclaimed Lewis, starting up, without, however, taking
the letters which Anne held out to him. "What is the meaning of all
this, Anne? My mother tells me first, that this Norman killed the father
of Alice Aytoun, and then you come in, and tell me all the story is
true, and yet that Norman is innocent; what do you mean? I am not to be
treated as a schoolboy. I shall not submit to these mysteries; tell me
plainly what you mean."

Anne looked anxiously at Mrs. Ross. "Have you told him all? Does he know
all, mother?"

"I don't understand you, Anne," said Mrs. Ross, sullenly.

Anne stood between them, baited by both, her patience nearly breaking
down. "Does he know all?" she repeated; "does he know that Norman is
alive? Lewis, have you heard that?"

Lewis walked through the room hastily, and did not answer. He had heard
it--it was clear; and Anne fancied that, like herself, the thousand
apprehensions connected with that secret were overwhelming Lewis, that
grief and fear for their unhappy brother were swelling up in his heart,
too great for speech.

"Lewis," she continued, "you ask me what I mean--I will tell you. This
morning, and for many a sorrowful and dreary morning before this, I knew
the history of Norman, as you know it now. I knew that the stain of a
great crime was upon his name. I believed that Alice Aytoun's father had
fallen by his hand. I knew that justice had set its terrible mark upon
him, and that the world thought him already dead; yet, all the while, I
knew he was alive, still wandering, Cain-like, with his guilt and his
condemnation upon his head. Lewis! since Alice Aytoun came to the Tower,
this has haunted me night and day, waking and sleeping; it has tinged my
every thought and every dream; it has never left my mind for an hour.
You thought I wished to put obstacles between Alice Aytoun and you; you
were right, I did so. I endeavored in every possible way to keep you
separate. I schemed as I never schemed before; you know now the reason.
I wanted to preserve you both; to save her young heart from this cloud,
and to keep you even from knowing it, because it was your mother's wish
you should not know. Our plans are not the best, and Providence has
mercifully baulked mine. Lewis, with you I am sure, as with me, the one
circumstance in Norman's calamity that makes it bitter, is the crime.
What happened last night, driving me, as it did, almost to absolute
despair, drove me also to exertion. And this morning, I found these
precious letters--look at them, Lewis--which clear Norman, and which
leave to us my father's dying charge, to redeem the fame of his unjustly
accused son. Lewis, take the letters; they are addressed to you no less
than to me, and if we but discharge our trust faithfully, all will be
well."

Something moved by Anne's earnestness, Lewis took the letters, and sat
down to examine them. Anne threw herself, exhausted, into a chair; the
mental excitement of the morning, and its sudden transition from despair
to hope, had worn her out. Mrs. Ross glanced from the one to the other
angrily, and cast keen glances at the yellow tear-blotted letters in her
son's hand. He had laid down his father's cover, and was reading with
kindred keenness, Norman's incoherent self-defence. The young man's
sharp, cold scrutiny, was little like that of one, whose present
happiness depended upon the truth of this; his steady hand, and
business-like demeanor, revealed no deeper interest in that cry of
agony, than if its writer had been the merest stranger, and not a
much-suffering brother. Anne watched him also, with compressed lips, and
anxious eyes; she thought his indifference firmness, or tried to think
so, though very differently, she knew, that utterance of Norman's
distress had entered into her own heart.

He finished the letters; but there came no exclamation of hope or
thanksgiving from the steady lip of Lewis. He folded them up carefully,
and laid them on the table. Anne waited in breathless anxiety. "Well,"
he said, coldly, "and what do you think you can make of these?"

"Lewis!" exclaimed Anne.

"Ah! I thought you would be disappointed. It's not at all wonderful that
you should think these letters could do a mighty deal of themselves, for
you've no experience, you know nothing of the world; and yet, I thought
you had better sense, Anne. They're not worth a rush."

Anne looked at him in amazement; she would not understand his meaning.

"They prove nothing--nothing in this world," said Lewis, with some
impatience. "An incoherent attempt to deny a crime, which nobody could
suppose he would like to acknowledge, and simply my father's belief,
that what his son said was true, to support it; it is quite nonsense,
Anne; nothing could be founded upon such things."

"Yes; I hope you will see the folly of that romantic stuff," said Mrs.
Ross; "a man sacrificing himself entirely, rather than venture to stand
a trial! Depend upon it, Anne Ross, your brother Norman had his senses
better about him than you; he fled, because he knew that his only chance
of escape was in flight, you may take my word for that. And now that you
are satisfied, Lewis; now that you have received the testimony of some
one you can credit, that your mother has not told you a lie; you will
not hesitate, I trust, to take the only honorable step that remains for
you, and immediately give up your very foolish engagement with this
girl."

Lewis looked up indignantly.

"I am old enough certainly to manage that for myself. I shall make my
own decision."

Mrs. Ross rose, lowering in sullen anger, and left the room; and Anne,
pale and excited, rose to claim her letters. The youth's heart was moved
within Lewis Ross at last, in spite of all his premature prudence, and
worldly wisdom; he met his sister's inquisitive, searching look, with
his own face more subdued and milder.

"Well, Anne?"

Anne lifted the letters.

"Is it possible, Lewis--is it possible, that you can have read these,
and remain unconvinced? Has my father's charge no weight with you? Has
Norman's distress no power? I cannot believe it--you feel as I do,
Lewis, that Norman is not guilty."

"I don't know, Anne--I can't see it," said Lewis, leaning his head on
his hand. "Here is every chance against him--every circumstance, and
nothing in his favor but these two incoherent rambling letters. He was
an excitable nervous person himself, and my father was an old man,
almost in his dotage. I have my mother's authority for saying so--and
what is their mere assertion against all the evidence?"

"What evidence, Lewis?"

"Oh, I have seen it all!" said Lewis, waving his hand: "my mother had
the papers ready for me when I came in; she has hoarded them up, I
fancy, to let me have the pleasure. If you had not said it, Anne, I
should never have believed that the Norman Rutherford she told me of was
any brother of ours; but since he is--the evidence it seems to me is
irresistible. No, I can't say these letters convince me. It may be all
very well to maintain a friend's innocence to the world, but between
ourselves, you know, I see nothing in them."

Anne turned from him impatiently.

"Well!" exclaimed Lewis, "upon my word you bait and badger a man till he
does not know his own mind. What would you have me do, Anne? Shall I go
away and labor to find this Norman, and beg him to take Merkland off my
hands, and permit me to remain his very humble servant? What do you
mean? what would you have me do?"

"I would have you do the duty of a son and a brother," said Anne; "and
if you will not do it, I warn you, Lewis, that I take this work upon
myself, however unsuitable it may be for a woman. You have a special
stake in it, Lewis--you must see that, till this mystery is cleared,
Alice Aytoun is unapproachable to you; the brother of her father's
accused murderer can be nothing to her, but a stranger whom she must
shrink from and avoid. I know how this will crush poor Alice, but she is
far too gentle and good a girl to go to any passionate extreme. You
would speak of prejudice, and revenge, and arbitrary custom, Lewis: it
is nonsense to say that; but were it only custom and prejudice, Alice
will be ruled by it. She will not see you again."

"Will she not?" exclaimed Lewis, triumphantly, "we shall soon see. I
don't mean to do anything tragical or high-flown, Anne, there's an end
of it. Thanks to the difference of name, Alice knows nothing of this,
and I do not see the remotest occasion for her ever knowing. I shan't
tell her certainly. I intend to write to her mother to-day--you need not
look horrified--this shall not keep me back an hour. Why should it? _I_
had no hand in her father's murder; and as for Norman, I am very sorry,
but I cannot help him in any way. If he has not deserved this by his
guilt, he has by his folly; and it's not to be expected, I fancy, that I
should entirely sacrifice myself for the sake of a half-brother whom I
never saw--more particularly as the chances are, that the sacrifice
would do him no good, and only waste my time, and make me unhappy."

"And have you no fear of Mrs. Aytoun and her son?" inquired Anne, in a
low voice.

"No; the difference of name is very fortunate--how should any one
suppose that a Rutherford in the east was the brother of a Ross in the
north? Besides, if they _had_ any suspicion, I hope they are
sufficiently anxious about Alice and her happiness, to keep it to
themselves. We are not in the age of feuds now, sister Anne: don't
trouble yourself about it."

"If we are past feuds, we are not past nature," said Anne, hastily.
"Lewis, I saw Mrs. Catherine this morning. I could not rest till I had
ascertained whether there was any hope, that Alice was not this man's
child. Mrs. Catherine knew the reason of my inquiries and agitation, and
exclaimed immediately that you must not see Alice again; before this
time Alice knows all, and however you might hope to weaken the
impression it will make upon her--and you could not succeed even in
that, for Alice with all her gentleness would do nothing so abhorrent to
natural feeling and universal opinion, were her heart to break--you know
very well that it would be folly to attempt moving Mrs. Catherine.--She
will not permit your engagement to continue, Lewis--you may be sure of
that."

Lewis burst forth into indignant exclamations: "Who dared to interfere
between Alice and him? who would venture, for a crime done before her
birth, to hinder their happiness?"

"Lewis," said Anne, "this is quite useless. I do not want to interfere
between Alice and you. I believe the great obstacle is removed, and that
with but proper exertion on your own part, you may at once secure your
purpose, and deliver our poor Norman; but, as for daring and venturing,
would Mrs. Catherine hesitate, think you? would Alice Aytoun's brother
be afraid? Lewis, you are mistaken: it may break poor Alice's girlish
heart--far too young for such a weight--but it will not make her
rebelious; it will lead her to no unwomanly extreme: she will submit!"

Lewis was for a time passionate and loud, inveighing against them all
for keeping him in ignorance, blaming Anne for telling Mrs. Catherine,
and indulging in a thousand extravagances. Anne stood calmly beside him,
and bore it all, too deeply bent on her own object to heed these
effusions of passion.

"And supposing it possible," exclaimed Lewis, sitting down again, after
his passion had nearly exhausted itself--"supposing it possible to prove
Norman innocent, what then? I don't see how my position is at all
bettered. What will I have to offer Alice? Some poor thousand pounds,
perhaps, that may be doled out to me as the younger brother's
portion--no house, no certain means of living. I suppose you would have
me get a school in Portoran, or apply for a situation in the Bank, or go
into a writer's office in Edinburgh," continued Lewis, bitterly, "and
think I was anticipating love in a cottage, when I spoke of Alice
Aytoun!"

Anne could have said much--could have begged and prayed him to believe
that the landless Lewis Ross, who had saved his brother, would be a
nobler man by far than the Laird of Merkland, who had left his nearest
relative to languish out dishonored days in a strange country, uncared
for and unsuccored: but she began to know better the material she had to
work upon.

"Norman has his own land, Lewis," she said. "Had he remained at home,
and had all been well with him, you still would have inherited Merkland.
I know that certainly."

"Is it so?" said Lewis, eagerly. "If it is legally so--if the estate is
settled on me to the exclusion of Norman, of course that puts the matter
in quite a different aspect. And so you think he is innocent?"

Lewis took the letters in his hand again.

"I do not _think_ he is innocent, Lewis," said Anne. "I may take your
licence of strong speaking, in respect to this. I never had a
doubt--never a fear. I _felt_ that he was innocent. The joy was almost
too much for me this morning. Lewis, do not think at all--open your
heart to feel the agony of Norman's, and you will know that he is not
guilty!"

"Sit down, Anne," said Lewis, more gently. "I want to look at these
letters again."

Anne sat down. Lewis opened the papers and read them over carefully once
more. He did not say any thing when he had finished, but remained for
some time in silence. Their own internal force of truthfulness did not
carry conviction to the cold, logical understanding of Lewis; he did not
let his own heart have any influence in the judgment: he thought of
legal evidence, not of moral certainty.

"And what would you advise should be done?" he said at length, as he met
Anne's eye.

Anne repeated to him all the further particulars which she had learned
from Esther Fleming, together with the nurse's suspicion that Norman
knew who was the murderer, and was content thus far to suffer in his
stead. Lewis's interest was excited by the idea of discovering the true
criminal, but flagged again when Anne told him how bootless Esther's
inquiries had been, and how widely spread was the conviction of Norman's
guilt--and again he repeated, almost listlessly: "What would you have me
do?"

"I would have you go to this place yourself immediately, Lewis," said
Anne. "I would have you set out at once without the loss of any more
time, and yourself go among the people.--You will find many of them, no
doubt, who remember the story--it is not of a kind to be forgotten. Act
upon Esther's suggestion--endeavor to find the real criminal--go over
the whole neighborhood--spare no labor--no trouble. It may be a work
demanding much time and much patience. Never mind that, the result is
worth the toil of a lifetime, and you, Lewis, you have a special stake
in it--there is a definite reward for you."

But the work, albeit he had a special stake in it, looked very different
in the eyes of Lewis. He did not answer for some time, and then said:
"It's entirely out of the question to go myself. I could not do it. I
have neither time nor patience to expend so, but I'll tell you what I'll
do, Anne--I'll write to Robert Ferguson--I saw him this morning leaving
Woodsmuir to return to Edinburgh; he is a cool, shrewd, lawyer-like lad.
I'll trust it to him."

"But think of the danger to Norman in making this secret known,"
exclaimed Anne.

"We need not tell him that," said Lewis, "there is no occasion whatever
for trusting him with that. He can have some hint of what has occurred
lately, and that it is a matter of some importance to us. I will write
to him to-day. Does that satisfy you, Anne?"

There was no choice; she was compelled to be satisfied with it. The
lawyer, no doubt, might manage it best, yet Anne had an instinctive
confidence, in a search which should be guided, not by business-like
acuteness alone, but by the loving energy of a heart which yearned over
the outcast Norman, the desolate exiled brother. And Lewis spoke so
coldly, "of _some_ importance"--how the strange limitation chilled her
heart.

"And I want you to do something for me in return, Anne," said Lewis,
looking at his watch. "After dinner, come up with me to the Tower, and
tell your story to Mrs. Catherine and Alice, your own way. You can do it
better than I could, for you have more faith in it than I--altogether,"
he continued, rising, with a laugh: "You are more a believing person
than I am, I fancy, Anne--no doubt it is quite natural--you women
receive whatever's presented to you--it's all very right that you
should--but something more is required of _us_."

Alas! poor Lewis! He did not know how incomparably higher that faculty
of belief was than his meagre and poor calculations; nor could
comprehend the instant and intuitive apprehension, which darted to its
true conclusion at once, and left him weighing his sands of legal
evidence so very far behind.

The evening was gusty, wild and melancholy, one of those nights that
make the fireside lights look doubly cheerful; and just as little Alice
Aytoun crept disconsolately up stairs in the darkness, Lewis and Anne
left Merkland for the Tower. They had not much conversation on the way,
for Anne was busied, chalking out a plan of procedure for herself,
should Robert Ferguson's mission fail, and Lewis had lighter fancies,
unwillingly obscured by some tinge of the truths he had learned that
day, to keep him silent. There were no lights in the accustomed windows
when they reached the Tower. Mrs. Catherine's own sitting-room was dark,
and from the windows of the dining-parlor, there came only the red
glimmer of firelight. Archibald Sutherland sat there alone, as Mrs.
Catherine and Alice had left him, and had been too deeply engaged with
his own thoughts to heed the gathering darkness.

"Mr. Archibald is in the dining-parlor," said Jacky, opening the door,
as she spoke, to admit Lewis, and gliding back instantly to Anne's side.
With natural delicacy, the servants had followed Mr. Ferguson's example,
and when they could no longer call the broken man "Strathoran," returned
to the kindly name of his boyhood.

"And if ye please, Miss Anne," continued Jacky, looking up wistfully
into Anne's face. "Mrs. Catherine is in the little room."

Anne hesitated--Jacky's keen eyes were fixed upon her anxiously. "May I
go in, I wonder, Jacky?"

"If ye please, Miss Anne--" began the girl.

"What, Jacky?"

"Miss Alice is no weel--I saw her gaun up to her ain room, slow and
heavy. Mostly ye canna hear her foot, it's like a spirit's--the night it
was dragging slow and sad-like, and I heard her say--"

Jacky paused.

"What did you hear her say?"

"It was in her ain room--I wasna listening, Miss Anne, I just heard
it--she said 'there is no one with me'--low, low--like as if she was in
grief. Miss Anne, will ye go up to Miss Alice? There was naebody near
her but me, and she wasna wanting me. Will ye go, Miss Anne?"

Jacky's keen eyes was softened with an involuntary tear.

"I must see Mrs. Catherine first," said Anne, passing on hurriedly to
the little room. Jacky seated herself in the window-seat near the
library-door, in meditative solitude; the strange, chivalrous girl's
heart within her beating high with plans of help and aid to that
gentle, weeping Alice, whom all the stronger spirits round her seemed
instinctively to join in warding evil and trouble from.

The door of the little room was at once opened to Anne, and she found
Mrs. Catherine within, the trace of a tear even visible upon her sterner
cheek.

"The poor bairn, child!" she exclaimed. "The poor, bit, silly, gentle
thing! I could almost have seen yourself suffering, sooner than her. If
stronger folk feel it even more painfully, there is aye a kind of
struggle with their sorrow; but yonder, there was no strength to make
resistance, child. The trouble sank down, like a stone, to the bottom of
the bairn's heart. I cannot get away from my eye the bit, wan,
unresisting, hopeless look of her."

"Mrs. Catherine!" exclaimed Anne, "I must go to her instantly. I bring
hope. Do not look at me in anger. I am speaking words of truth and
soberness: the matter does not stand as you think--as I thought this
morning. Mrs. Catherine, Norman is innocent."

Mrs. Catherine made an emphatic motion with her hand, as if commanding
Anne to go on; and waited breathlessly.

"Mrs, Catherine, I have his own words to build upon. I have the recorded
conviction of my father. Do you think they could be deceived, to whom he
was dearest upon earth? My father, Esther, Marion his wife, who went
with him, they all believed him innocent--the last, by sharing his fate.
You could not but believe his own words. He did not do it, Mrs.
Catherine. He is innocent."

Mrs. Catherine laid her hands upon Anne's shoulders, and gazed with
earnest scrutiny into her face.

"His own words--sharing his fate--what does the bairn mean? Child, I
thought there was some other terror upon your mind, this morning, that
ye did not tell me. Is Norman Rutherford alive?"

"Mrs. Catherine, his secret is safe with you," said Anne, drawing the
letters from her bosom. "Norman is alive, unjustly condemned, and
innocent. We must prove that first: but take these, and let me go to
Alice."

"Sit down upon that seat, and wait," said Mrs. Catherine, peremptorily.
"I must see the ground of your hope myself, before ye sicken the silly
bairn with what may be but a false sunshine. Give me the papers, child."

The lamp was speedily lighted, and Mrs. Catherine seated herself to
examine them. How different was the keen interest inspiring the strong
face which bent over them, the eyes that traced their incoherent lines
so rapidly, from the cold examination of Lewis. How different the
conclusion.

"The Lord be thanked!" burst from Mrs. Catherine's lips, as she came to
the end of Norman's letter. "The Lord, in His infinite tenderness, be
thanked for the comfort. Gowan, what are ye lingering for? Go to the
bairn, and give her the good news. It is meet that I should be alone.
Hear ye, child, go to the bairn."

Anne needed no urging--she left the room instantly, and hurried up
stairs.

Alice's gay bower was dark--the fire burning dull and low: the very
flowers drooping like their mistress. Anne passed through the opened
door hastily, to the still darker and chiller bed-chamber within, where
she could see the girl's slight figure lying on the bed. Alice was
roused by the approaching footsteps, and said, as Anne drew near her:

"Not now, Bessie; leave me, I do not want you now."

Anne advanced, and gently drew the hidden cheek from the wet pillow.

"It is not Bessie," she said: "it is I, Alice, Anne Ross, your sister."

Alice raised her head.

"My sister! Ah! you do not know."

Her hair was thrown back in a momentary attempt at pride, and then Alice
hid her face again in her hands. It was as Mrs. Catherine said; the
gentle little heart could offer no resistance to this dull, dead weight
of sorrow.

"I do know, Alice!" said Anne. "Look up now, and do not weep. Lewis is
waiting to see you. Mrs. Catherine knows he is here--Alice!"

"Is it not true?" whispered Alice; "is it not true? You would not call
me Alice if it were true. Oh! Miss Ross, tell me."

"It is not true; we have found out that we were wrong," said Anne,
soothingly. "Rise, now, and let me be your maid instead of Bessie, and
you shall hear it all when you are able."

Alice had half risen, and was already clinging to Anne like a child.

"Tell me now; I am able. Oh! Miss Ross, why did Mrs. Catherine tell me
that? why did you let her? I could not bear it. If it were to come back
again I should die--I know I should die!"

Anne smiled sadly. And yet it might have been so; the gentle and weak
may droop their heads like flowers, and die; the stronger must live on,
bearing undying griefs through long lifetimes: it is so appointed. Very
sad was this plaintive, murmuring sorrow from lips so young. Sadder
still was the conscious life of that other more perfect woman of the
ballad: "I wish I was dead, but I'm no like to dee."

Jacky was hovering not far off with lights, and Anna lifted her little
patient tenderly, put her dress in order, and led her down to the
cheerful fireside of Mrs. Catherine's inner drawing-room, where Lewis
joined her by-and-bye, and from the warm and hopeful air of which, glad
lights went flashing back again over the fair horizon of Alice Aytoun's
life.

"Child," said Mrs. Catherine, as they parted, "I perceive it will be a
hard work and a sore; but let me see you fainting, if you daur! Make no
scruple to ask whatsoever aid is needful from me--ye ken that. You
cannot see the truthfulness of it, child, as I do, that ken the lad. Be
of good cheer, and never doubt that the Lord will bring light out of
this great darkness in his own time."



CHAPTER XIV.


Within a week after these agitating events, Archibald Sutherland, in
company with the anxious and attentive factor, rode into Portoran, to
meet the third individual of their council, Mr. Foreman, and engage in a
final consultation. During the days which had intervened since
Archibald's return, there had already been much discussion and
deliberation between the two good men, who took an interest so kindly in
his changed fortunes. Mr. Ferguson, who had a distant kinsman, the most
inaccessible and hypochondriacal of nabobs, and under whose ken had
passed various bilious, overgrown fortunes accumulated in the golden
East, gave his voice for India. Mr. Foreman, whose brother had grown
comfortably rich, on the shores of that river "Plate," whose very name
in mercantile mouths, seems to savor so pleasantly of golden harvests,
spoke strongly in favor of South America. Mr. Foreman had been
consulting with his minister, of whose business head, and clear
judgment, the good lawyer was becomingly proud, and slightly given to
boast himself; and it happened that, at that very time, Mr. Lumsden had
heard from his brother, the clever manager and future junior partner of
Messrs. Sutor and Sinclair's, great commercial house in Glasgow, that
Mr. Sinclair, the partner in Buenos Ayres, was in urgent want of an
intelligent and well-educated clerk, and had written to his partner and
manager, desiring them, either to send one of the young men in their
Glasgow office, or to employ one of higher qualifications, if need were,
and send him out without delay. Now it happened, wrote Mr. Lumsden's
brother, that the house of Sutor and Sinclair had divers other branches,
in different parts of the world, and their clerks of experience having
been drafted, one by one, to these, they were now left with none of
sufficient age, or acquirements, to suit the fastidious Mr. Sinclair,
whose letter had conveyed a delicate hint, that if it were possible, he
should desire a young man of some culture and breeding to fill the
vacant post. Mr. Lumsden's brother further explained, that this was a
quiet stroke at the less polished Mr. Sutor, who had previously sent a
clerkship, in the shape of a great hearty, joyous, enterprising cub, of
true Glasgow manufacture and proportions, born to make a fortune, but
unfortunately, not born either to be or look anything beyond the honest,
genial, persevering, money-making man he already was. Mr. Sinclair's
health was delicate; his mind, considering that he was a clever and very
successful merchant, pre-eminently so; and the choice of his
confidential clerk, puzzled Mr. George Lumsden and his principal sadly.

Mr. Foreman, on hearing of this, had written without delay to his
minister's brother, desiring to know whether poor Archibald--the ruined
laird--might have any chance of suiting so peculiar a situation. His
name, Mr. Foreman wrote somewhat proudly, was a sufficient voucher for
his personal acquirements; he had been unfortunate, but the youthful
madness which occasioned these misfortunes had been bitterly repented
of, and there was little doubt that his ability, and earnest endeavor to
redeem his lost ground, would carry him to the head of whatever he
attempted. When Mr. Ferguson and Archibald entered Mr. Foreman's private
room, they found him waiting in nervous expectation for an answer to
this letter. He knew the mail had come in; he had dispatched a messenger
to the post-office half an hour ago, and was fuming now over the
vexatious delay. In the meantime, however, he managed to explain the
matter to his visitors.

"From all that I can hear, Mr. Archibald, is just the thing for
you--without office drudging, and with a man who could understand and
sympathize with your feelings. I do think we have been fortunate in
hearing of it."

Archibald shook his head. "You are too ambitious for me, Mr. Foreman. I
would rather--it may be a sort of pride, perhaps, though pride sits ill
on me--I would, indeed, rather not have my feelings sympathized with by
strangers. I should prefer no manner of distinction.

"Well, well!" said Mr. Foreman, "neither there will be; only the
situation is a superior one, and you would have in it the best possible
opening."

"Don't think me ungrateful," said Archibald. "I shall be very glad of
it, if you think me at all likely to have the necessary qualifications.
But in business, you know, I want experience entirely. I almost want
even elementary knowledge."

"No fear of that," said Mr. Ferguson, "a good head and clear mind soon
master the details of business--but India!"

"Ah! has the little wretch come back at last?" cried Mr. Foreman,
darting into the outer office, and seizing upon his messenger, who,
lingering only to watch the progress of one most interesting game at
"bools," which came to a crisis just as he was passing, had returned
from the post-office with his load of letters. These were examined in a
moment; one bearing the square Glasgow post-mark selected, the others
tossed over in an indiscriminate heap to Walter, and Mr. Foreman,
opening his letter hurriedly, re-entered the room reading it. It was
decidedly favorable. Much of sympathy and compassion for the young man
shipwrecked so early, much of regret for the downfall of an old house
(for Mr. Lumsden was a north countryman, and knew the Sutherland family
by name) were in it; but these Mr. Foreman kept to himself. The prudent
manager of Messrs. Sutor and Sinclair's Glasgow house, was rather
dubious, as to a young man, who had managed to ruin himself at
five-and-twenty, being quite a suitable person for a merchant's trusted
and confidential clerk; but proposed that Mr. Sutherland should come,
for a month or two, to the Glasgow counting-house, to acquire a
knowledge of the business, and enable them to form a better judgment of
him, on personal knowledge. Mr. Lumsden's words were quite kind, and
perfectly respectful, yet Mr. Foreman delicately softened them as he
read, and when he had concluded, looked triumphantly from Archibald to
Mr. Ferguson.

"Well, gentlemen; what do you say?"

The factor gave in his adhesion; his own vague hope from India could not
stand before a definite proposal like this. "It looks well, Mr.
Archibald; upon my word, I do think it looks well."

"It is quite above my expectations," said Archibald. "I am perfectly
ready to enter upon my probation at once--without delay. I accept your
friend's offer without the least hesitation, Mr. Foreman; write him, I
beg, and tell him so, and let the time be fixed for the commencement of
my apprenticeship--and then, if I satisfy my new employers--then, for
the shores of that luxurious Spain in the west, and such prosperity as
Providence shall send me there. Nay, nay; you look sorrowfully at me, as
if I mocked myself; I do not--my second beginning is more hopeful than
my first. I will do no dishonor--I trust--I hope I shall do no further
dishonor to your kindness, or my father's name: only let us have it
settled upon, and begun as early as possible, Mr. Foreman. I have no
time to lose."

"I am glad! I am delighted!" exclaimed the honest lawyer, "to see you
take it so well. If the first disagreeables were but over!"

"Never mind the first disagreeables, Mr. Foreman," said Archibald,
cheerfully. "I shall be the better of difficulties to begin with--if I
only were begun."

"We will not linger about that," said Mr. Foreman, catching the
contagion of his client's cheerfulness, which, to tell the truth, was
more in seeming than reality. "I shall write to Mr. Lumsden at once."

Other arrangements had to be made before they left Portoran--the
transfer of Alexander Semple's lease to Mr. Ferguson being the principal
matter which occupied them. Semple was a soft, spiritless man, of
indolent temper; and no enterprise, and the bleak, unprofitable acres
were certain to remain as unprofitable and bleak as ever during his
occupancy. Already many times Mr. Coulter had sighed over them, and
poured into the ears of their listless tenant vain hints, and unheeded
remonstrances. Mr. Coulter was most pleasantly busied now devising the
means for their fertilization, and, in company with Mr. Ferguson, had
already taken various very long, wearisome, and delightful walks, partly
from a neighborly regard for the interests of the broken man, and partly
from his own entire devotion to his respectable and most important
science, advising with the new farmer as to the various profitable and
laborious processes necessary for these unpromising and barren fields.
The rental Archibald Sutherland insisted should remain in the factor's
hands, or in Mr. Foreman's hands, or in the Portoran branch of the
British Linen Company's Bank, if his zealous friends insisted on that,
his own resolution being to spend nothing beyond the income he worked
for, however small that might be at first. His own tastes had always
been simple, and money the mere bits of gold and scraps of paper--had
become precious in his eyes. There was little fear either that he should
ever be a worshipper of the golden calf--the unrighteous Mammon. But
Strathoran--his home--his birth-place--the house of his fathers!

He saw its turrets rising from among the trees as he turned his horse's
head from the pleasant threshold of Woodsmuir, to which he now paid his
first visit. These fair slopes and hollows, the brown moor running far
northward, the gray hills in the distance, with the red glory of the
frosty January sunlight on their bare, uncovered heads. What were they
now to him? What? Dearer, more precious than ever; the aim to which he
looked forward through a dim vista of hard-working years; a prize to be
won; a goal to be attained; a treasure to be brought by his own toil!
Was there no sickening of the heart, as the young man, born and nurtured
in that proud old house of Strathoran, the heir of all its inherited
honors, looked forward to the lifetime of toil that lay before him,
obscure, ignoble, unceasing? The office in Glasgow where he should be
put on trial, and have the strange new experience of unknown masters, on
whose favor depended all his prospects; the still more dim and unknown
counting-house of Buenos Ayres, with its exile and estrangement from
home-looks and language. Was not his heart sickening within him? No! Who
that has felt his pulses quicken, and his heart beat, at the
anticipation of a clear and honorable future, filled only with
unencumbered labor, a healthful frame, a sound mind, and a great aim in
view, could ask that question? Sickness, deadly and painful, overpowered
Archibald Sutherland's heart when he looked _behind_; that wild
lee-shore of weakness, those fierce rocks of temptation and passion upon
which his fortune and his honor had made disastrous shipwreck. These are
the things to sicken hearts and crush them, not the bracing chill air
that swept the path to which he began to bind his breast. The hill was
steep, the way long, rough, laborious. What matter? There was hope, and
mental health, and moral safety in his toils; a definite aim at its
summit; an All-guiding Providence, giving strength to the toiler, and
promising a blessing upon every righteous effort, to uphold and bear him
on.

The cloud that had passed over that little, blue-eyed, gentle girl at
the Tower--the new interest which occupied the mind of Mrs. Catherine,
were known to Archibald in some degree, and interested him deeply. But
the great secret--that Norman lived yet to be toiled, and hoped, and
prayed for--was not communicated to either Archibald or Alice. They knew
only that their friends believed him unjustly accused, and intended to
labor for proof of that--proof which might be difficult enough to find,
after the lapse of so many years--but the fact of the engagement between
Lewis and Alice, was quite sufficient to account for the suddenly
awakened anxiety concerning Norman's innocence.

The first week of the new year was past: the next day little Alice was
to return home. They were all sitting in Mrs. Catherine's inner
drawing-room, about her cheerful tea-table--Mrs. Catherine herself,
Alice, Anne, Archibald, and Lewis. The spirits of the young people had
risen; they were all hopeful, courageous, and conversing with that
intimate and familiar kindliness which unites so much more closely and
tenderly on the eve of a parting than at any other time. Alice was to
sing to them--to sing as Anne and Archibald begged--that song of the
'Oran' which had moved them so deeply on the night of the new year. The
sweet young voice had grown more expressive since that time; the gentle,
youthful spirit had passed through greater vicissitudes in that week
than in all its previous bright lifetime, and, therefore, the song was
better rendered--its tinge of sadness--its warm breath of hope--

    "Ah, pray, young hearts, for the sad wayfaring man!"

Anne met Archibald's eyes with a supplicating glance in them as the
melody ended. Her own were wet with sympathetic tears. Yes, for him who
must count so many years of toil before he could see the evening star
rise calm on the home-waves of Oran, she echoed the prayer, but more
deeply, and with a thrill of still devouter earnestness, for that exiled
brother who already had borne the burden of the long laborious day, so
far from home and all its comforts, so far from hope and honor.

Alice sang again, a pretty little pastoral song of the district, which
was a favorite with Lewis. He was leaning over her chair, and Anne,
approaching Mrs. Catherine, took the opportunity of asking her about
this ballad--whether it really had any connexion with Norman, or was but
linked to him, by her own fancy.

"It is Norman's song," said Mrs. Catherine. "Ye know, child, that I like
ballads that have the breath of life in them. Langsyne, Norman left that
with me; the author of it was some student lad about Redheugh, that he
liked well, and it has lain bye me ever since. I desired the bairn
Alison to learn it. I am an auld fuil to heed such bairnly things,
child; but it pleased me to hear her father's daughter singing that.
There was a kind of forgiveness and peace in it to the memory of the
unhappy callant.--It was a foolish fancy, was it not, for an auld wife?
But silence! let us hear her."

And so, next morning, little Alice, very sadly, and with many tears,
went away; Lewis and Anne accompanying her to Portoran. Alice wore a
little ring of betrothal upon her slender finger, and carried with her a
letter from Mrs. Catherine, stating all the circumstances of her
engagement, and their conviction that they could prove to Mrs. Aytoun's
satisfaction the innocence of Norman. It had been thought best that
Lewis should not write himself, until Mrs. Catherine had explained his
peculiar position to the mother and brother of Alice; and they had
arranged that he should follow her, very shortly, to Edinburgh, to
present himself to her family, and urge his suit in person.

Very sad also was the leave-taking of Bessie and her friends at the
Tower. Johnnie Halflin had bought a pretty little silk handkerchief for
her, which Bessie, in simple fidelity, vowed never to part with. Jacky
had bestowed a book, and some very beautiful moss, from a gray, old
tombstone in the graveyard on Oranside, which, tradition said, covered
the last resting-place of the heroine of an old, pathetic ballad,
current in the countryside. Bessie let the book slide thanklessly to the
bottom of her little "kist," and was sadly at a loss what to do with the
moss, which however, was finally thrust into the same repository. Poor
Jacky had chosen her parting presents unhappily.

And at last, they were away. The frost had broken, through the night,
and it was another of those dull, drizzling, melancholy winter days.
Lewis placed Alice, carefully wrapped up, and protected from the cold,
in the corner of the same coach in which she had seen him first. Little
Bessie was seated by her side, and leaving the Tower and all its
pleasant neighborhood lying dark behind her, Alice Aytoun was whirled
away home.

It cost her no inconsiderable amount of exertion and self-denial to have
the tears and sadness sufficiently overcome to meet her mother's
greeting as she wished to do. But Alice schooled herself bravely, like a
little hero, and conquered. They were home, in the old familiar room, by
the well-known fireside. Mrs. Aytoun was smiling, as she had not smiled
before since Alice went away. James was half-ashamed of being so
unusually joyous. They had all her news to hear, all her three months'
history over again, in spite of the long recording letters.

"And what is this?" said Mrs. Aytoun, taking her daughter's small white
hand, upon which glittered the little token ring. "Is this another of
those delicate gifts of Mrs. Catherine's?"

Little Alice could not answer; the blood flushed over her face and neck.
She stammered and trembled. Mrs. Aytoun looked at her, in alarm and
wonder.

"Read this letter, mother," whispered Alice, at last, putting Mrs.
Catherine's letter into her mother's hands, and sinking upon a stool at
her feet. "It will tell you all."

James had left the room, a minute before. Mrs. Aytoun, somewhat
agitated, opened the letter, and Alice laid her head upon her mother's
knee, and hid it in the folds of her dress. Mrs. Aytoun read:

     "I herewith send back to you, kinswoman, your pleasant bairn, who
     has been a great comfort and solace to me, though my old house was
     maybe too dark a cage for a singing bird like her. I am by no means
     confident either whether I will ever undertake the charge of any
     such dangerous gear again; for in the ordinary course of nature,
     the bit gay spirit and bonnie face of her have been making mischief
     in Strathoran; and besides having my door besieged by all manner of
     youthful company, there is one lad, who, I am feared, has crossed
     my threshold too often, maybe, for your good pleasure.

     "The lad is Lewis Ross, of Merkland, a gallant of good outward
     appearance and competent estate, with no evil condition that I can
     specially note about him, except having arrived at that full period
     of years, when it is the fashion of young men to give themselves
     credit for more wisdom than any other mortal person can see. In
     other things, so far as I can judge, the two are well enough
     matched: for Lewis is the representative of a family long settled
     in the countryside, and has his lands free of any burden or
     encumbrance, besides being in all matters of this world a prudent,
     sensible, and managing lad.

     "I would have put in a reservation, however, till your pleasure was
     known, but doubtless the deliberate ways of age differ from the
     swift proceedings of youth; and the two had plunged themselves
     beyond power of redemption, before I had any inkling of the matter.
     I see no good way of stopping it now, and I think you may trust
     your Burd Alice in the hands of Lewis Ross, without fear.

     "And now, kinswoman, there comes a graver and darker matter into
     the consideration. I will not ask you if ye mind the beginning of
     your widowhood. It is pain and grief to me to say a word that may
     bring that terrible season back to ye, even in the remembrance;
     only it has so happened, in the wonderful course of Providence,
     that it should have an unhappy connection with the troth-plighting
     of these two bairns. Kinswoman you are younger than me, and have
     seen less of this world's miseries, though your own trials have not
     been light. But what think you of a young man, in the bloom of his
     years and his hopes, with a pleasant heritage and a fair name,
     suddenly covered with the shame and dishonor of a great
     crime--threatened with a shameful death--exposed to the hatred of
     all men, that bore the love of God and their neighbors in honest
     hearts,--and him innocent withal? What think you of a
     lad--generous, upright, honorable--as true and single-minded a
     youth as the eye of day ever looked upon, suddenly plunged into a
     horror of darkness like this--knowing himself everywhere condemned,
     yet, in his true and honest heart, knowing himself guiltless? I
     say, what think you of this? Was there ever a darker or more
     terrible doom, in this world of ills and mysteries?

     "I knew him--kinswoman, from his birth-year to the time of his
     blight, I knew this unhappy heart: the truthfulness of him--the
     honoring of others above himself, that was inherent in his simple,
     manly nature--the strength of gentleness and patience, that might
     have been crowning an old and wise head, instead of being yoked
     with the impetuous spirit of youth! All this I knew; and yet,
     painfully and slowly, I also was permitted to believe that his pure
     hand had blood upon it--that he had done this crime.

     "My eyes are opened. I am humbled to the ground in my rejoicing,
     that I should have dared, even in my own secret spirit, to malign
     the gracious nature I knew so well. Kinswoman, the violent death of
     your husband, by whom or wherefore done I know not, brought this
     sore doom undeserved upon Norman Rutherford. The bridal tryst of
     your pleasant bairn Alice, will clear his dishonored name again.

     "You think he killed your husband. I am not given to hasty
     judgment, nor am I easily misguided. He did not do it; and when I
     tell you that your bairn Alison is plighted to a near kinsman of
     Norman Rutherford's, I lay my charge upon you not to let your heart
     sink within you, or suffer the bairn's bit gentle spirit to be
     broken again. I pledge you my word, that they will seek no further
     consent from you, till Norman's righteousness is clear to your eyes
     as the morning light. There are two urgent reasons pressing them--I
     am meaning Lewis Ross, and his sister, my own Anne,--on this work;
     the winning of your pleasant bairn and the clearing of their
     brother's lost fame and honor.

     "For he is their brother, their nearest kin. Again, I charge you,
     think of this terrible doom laid upon a gallant of as clear and
     lofty a spirit as ever was in mortal knowledge; and let the
     mother's heart within you have compassion on his name. Shut not
     your mind against the proof--it may be hard to gather--and take
     time and patience; but if mortal hands can compass it, it shall be
     laid before you soon or syne.

     "Lewis Ross (trusting you will receive him) will shortly tell you
     of this himself, with his own lips; and having maybe some right of
     counsel, in virtue of my years, and of our kindred, it is my prayer
     that you put no discouragement in this way.

     "Be content to wait till the proof is brought to you; and break not
     the gentle spirit of the bairn, by crossing her in the first
     tenderness of her youth.

CATHERINE DOUGLAS."



Mrs. Aytoun was greatly agitated. James had entered the room, and stood
in silent astonishment, as he looked at Alice clinging to her mother's
knee, and the letter trembling in Mrs. Aytoun's hand. "Mother--Alice--what
has happened? What is the matter?"

Mrs. Aytoun handed the letter to him in silence, and, lifting her
daughter up, drew her close to her breast: "My Alice! my poor, simple
bairn! why did I let you away from me?"

The girl clung to her mother, terrified, ashamed, and dizzy.--She
trembled to hear some fatal sentence, parting her for ever from Lewis.
She fancied she could never lift up her blushing face again, to speak of
him, even if that terror were withdrawn: she could only lean on that
kind breast, and cling, as is the nature of such gentle, dependent
spirits. Anne Ross's words were true.--Had Mrs. Aytoun but said that she
must never see Lewis again, poor little Alice would have submitted
without a struggle, and would have been right; she was safe in that wise
guidance--she was not safe in her own.

But Mrs. Aytoun's motherly lips gave forth no such arbitrary mandate.
She rose, still holding Alice within her arm. "James," she said, "that
letter is a most important one: read it carefully.--We will join you
again by-and-by."

And leading and supporting her drooping daughter, Mrs. Aytoun went to
her own room, and, seating herself there, began to question Alice.

And then the whole stream came flowing forth, hesitating and broken; how
Lewis had travelled with her, and had been constantly at her side, ever
since that momentous journey; how Anne had been her patient, kind,
indulgent friend; how at last, upon that eventful New year's night,
Lewis and herself had been alone together--and then--and then--there
followed some incoherent words, which Mrs. Aytoun could comprehend the
purport of; how Anne came in, looking so chill and pale, and
horror-stricken; how Mrs. Catherine next day took her into the little
room, and almost broke the gentle heart that was beating so high now,
with anxiety and suspense; how Anne returned at night with voice as
tender and hand as gentle as her mother's telling her that Norman was
innocent; and then, how glad and happy they had all been together
again--and then--if her mother could only see him--if she could only see
Anne--they could tell her so much better!

Mrs. Aytoun was still anxious and pale, but her tremor of agitation was
quieted.

"She must be a very kind, good girl, this Anne, Alice."

Alice breathed more freely--if her mother had been very angry, was her
simple reasoning, she would not have spoken so.

"She is very good--very kind, mother--like you, gentler than Mrs.
Catherine; but she is not a girl, she is older than--than Lewis."

Mrs. Aytoun smiled.

"How old is Lewis?"

The simple little heart began to beat with troubled joy.

"He is twenty-one, mother. It was his birthday just a week after I went
to the Tower."

Mrs. Aytoun did not speak for some time.

"Alice," she said at last, "I must see this Lewis, and consult with
James, before I make any decision--in the meantime you will be very
patient, will you not?"

"Oh, yes, yes--I do not care how long--only--if you saw him, mother, if
you just saw him, I know how you would like him!"

"Would I?" said Mrs. Aytoun, smiling: "well, we shall see; but now dry
your eyes, and let us go back to James again."

They returned to the parlor. James sat at the table, the letter lying
before him, and his face exceedingly grave. He was very much disturbed
and troubled. He did not well see what to do.

For some time there was little conversation between them--the mother and
son consulted together with their grave looks. Little Alice, again
sadly cast down, sat silent by the fireside. At last her brother
addressed her with a sort of timidity, blushing almost as she did
herself, when he mentioned the name.

"Alice, when does Mr. Ross come to Edinburgh?"

Mr. Ross! so cold it sounded and icy--would not Lewis be his brother?

"In a fortnight," murmured Alice.

"A fortnight! then, mother, I think my best plan is to go down to
Strathoran myself and make inquiries. In a matter which involves two
such important things as the happiness of Alice, and the honor of our
family, there is no time for delay. I shall start to-morrow."

"Can you spare the time?" said his mother--while Alice looked up
half-glad, half-sorrowful--it might keep Lewis from coming to
Edinburgh--at the same time, James was so sure to be convinced by
Lewis's irresistible eloquence, and the gentler might of Anne.

"I must spare it, mother," was the answer, "my ordinary business is not
so important as this. What do you think--am I right?"

"Perfectly right, James," said his mother, promptly, "I was about to
advise this myself; and if you find anything satisfactory to report, you
can bid this Lewis still come. I shall want to see who it is, who has
superseded me in my little daughter's heart."

"Oh, no, mother--no, no," cried Alice, imploringly. "Do not say that."

James Aytoun rose and laid his hand caressingly upon his little sister's
fair hair. She had been a child when he was rising into manhood. He
thought her a child still--and with the grave difficulties of this, very
unexpected problem, which they had to solve, there mingled a
half-mirthful, half-sad, sort of incredulous wonder. Little Alice had
done a very important piece of business independently and alone. Little
Alice had the sober glory of matronhood hanging over her fair, girlish
forehead. Little Alice was engaged!



CHAPTER XV.


Several days before Alice left the Tower, Lewis had written to Robert
Ferguson, the youthful Edinburgh advocate, of whose very early call to
the bar his father was so justly and pleasantly proud, telling him all
they knew and guessed of Norman's history, except the one circumstance
of his escape from the shipwreck; and explaining, in some slight
degree, the immediate reason of their anxiety to clear their brother's
name from the foul blot that lay upon it. Very shortly after Alice
Aytoun's departure, an answer came to the letter of Lewis.

With quick interest, partly in that it was one of the first cases in
which his legal wisdom had been consulted, and partly from the kindly
feeling of neighborship, which is so warm in Scotland, the young lawyer
embraced the search, and promised to go down instantly to the parish in
which the deed was done, or even to engage the assistance of an acute
writer, of experience in his craft, if Lewis thought that desirable. Mr.
Robert, however, with a young man's abundant confidence in his own
power, fancied that he could accomplish the work quite as well alone.
"He would go down quietly to the village," he said, "taking care to do
nothing which might put the true criminal, if he still lived, upon his
guard; and as soon as he had procured any information, would report it
to Lewis."

The letter was satisfactory--the warm readiness of belief in Norman's
innocence pleased Anne. In such a matter, however strong one's own faith
may be, it is a great satisfaction to hear it echoed by other minds.

In the afternoon of that day, Anne went, by appointment, to the Tower,
to communicate Robert's opinion to Mrs. Catherine.--She made a circuit
by the mill, to see Lilie; for Mrs. Catherine and Archibald, she knew,
had business in Portoran, and would not return early. It was a clear,
bright, mild day, with a spring haze of subdued sunshine about it,
reminding one, pleasantly, that the year "was on the turn." Lilie was
not at home.

"And I wish ye would speak to that outre lassie, Jacky Morison, Miss
Anne," said Lilie's careful guardian. "She had the bairn away this
morning, and trails her about to a' kinds of out o' the way places; in
the wood, and on the hills; and I'm not sure in my ain mind, that it's
right to let the bairn wi' the like o' her."

"Jacky is sure to be very careful," said Anne.

"Na, it's no sae muckle for that," said Mrs. Melder; "though I have a
cauld tremble whiles when I think o' the water. Jacky's no oncarefu.
It's a great charge being answerable for a stranger bairn, Miss Anne;
but Lilie's learning (it's just a pleasure to see how fast she wins on)
a' manner o' nonsense verses; and has her bit head fu' of stories o'
knights and fairies, and I kenna a' what. It's Jacky's doing and no
ither. I am at times whiles far frae easy in my mind about it."

"No fear," said Anne, smiling. "Jacky will do Lilie no harm, Mrs.
Melder."

"To be sure," said Mrs. Melder, thoughtfully, "she's no an ill scholar,
to be sic a strange lassie; and has been lookit weel after at the
Tower. She was here the other day, when the minister was in--that's Mr.
Lumsden--he had a diet[1] in my house, Miss Anne--and it wad have dune
ye gude to have heard her at the questions. No a slip; and as easy in
the petitions as in man's chief end. They say," continued Mrs. Melder,
somewhat overpowered, "that she can say the hundred and nineteenth psalm
a' out, without missing a word."

    [1] A diet of examination. One of the periodical visits made by
    Scottish clergymen in former times, during which the household,
   and especially its younger members, were examined on the "Shorter
       Catechism," the universal text-book of Scottish Theology.

Leaving the miller's kindly wife a good deal reassured by these signs of
Jacky's orthodoxy, Anne proceeded towards the Tower. The highroad was
circuitous, and long; and the direct and universally-used path ran along
the northern bank of the river, through the grounds of Strathoran. The
little green gate, near which Alice had met Mr. Fitzherbert, was at the
opposite extremity of this by-way, where it entered the precincts of the
Tower.--As she drew near the stile, at which the narrow path was
admitted into the possessions of the fallen house of Sutherland, Anne
heard voices before her. One of them, whose loud tone was evidently full
of anger and excitement, she recognised at once as Marjory Falconer's;
and having heard of her former adventure with Mr. Fitzherbert, and
gallant defence of little Alice, Anne hurried forward, fearing that her
friend's prompt ire, and impetuous disposition, had involved her in some
new scrape. It was evident that Marjory had some intention, in raising
her voice so high. Anne could hear its clear tone, and indignant
modulation, before she came in sight of the speaker.

He would venture to take the airs of a chieftain upon him--he, an
English interloper, a mushroom lord! "Pull away the branches, George:
never mind, let them indict you for trespass if they dare."

Anne had quickened her pace, and was now close to the stile. Miss
Falconer, her face flushed, her strong, tall, handsome figure swelling
stronger and taller than ever, as she pulled, with an arm not destitute
of force, one great branch which had been placed with many others,
across the stile, barring the passage, stood with her head turned
towards Strathoran, too much engrossed to notice Anne's approach. The
Falcon's Craig groom was laboring with all his might to clear away the
other obstructions, his broad face illuminated with fun, and hot with
exertion, enjoying it with his whole heart. Miss Falconer went on:

"A pretty person to shut us out of our own country--to eject our
cottars--honester men a hundredfold than himself; a chief forsooth! does
he think himself a chief? I would like to see the clan of Gillravidge.
Pull away these barriers, George; if Mrs. Catherine does not try
conclusions with him, I do not know her."

"Marjory," said Anne, "what are you doing?--what is the matter now?"

"Anne Ross, is that you?--the matter!--why, look here--here is matter
enough to make any one angry--_our_ road, that belonged to us and our
ancestors before this man's race or name had ever been heard of--look at
it, how he has blocked it up--look at this 'notice to trespassers'--'to
be prosecuted with the utmost rigor of the law'--very well, let them
prosecute!" continued Marjory, raising her voice, and sending a
flashing, keen glance towards a corner of the adjoining plantation, "let
them prosecute by all means--in five minutes more, they shall have some
trespassers. These paltry little tyrants--these upstart Englishmen,
daring, in a lowland country, and on poor Archibald Sutherland's lands,
to do what a highland chief would not venture on, on his own hills!"

"It must be some mistake, Marjory," said Anne, "it is impossible any one
could do this with the intention of insulting the whole countryside. It
must be a mistake."

"Mistake, indeed!--throw it into the Oran, George, throw it over the
water," cried Miss Falconer, as the groom raised in his arms an immense
piece of wood, the last barrier to the passage. "We shall see that
by-and-by--come, Anne."

Marjory mounted the style, and sprang down in the Strathoran grounds on
the other side. "Come, Anne, come."

"Had we not better go the other way?" said Anne. "It is but subjecting
ourselves to impertinence, Marjory. Nay, do not look contemptuous. I am
not afraid of accompanying you, but I do think that Lewis and Ralph
might manage this better than we can."

Marjory threw back her head with an indignant, impatient motion. "Don't
be a fool, Anne. Come, I am going to the Tower. Lewis and Ralph indeed!"

"Well," said Anne, "if they could not do it better, it would be at least
more suitable. We shall only expose ourselves to impertinence, Marjory.
Let us go round the other way."

"Very well," said Miss Falconer, turning away; "I will go alone."

Anne crossed the stile. It was annoying to be forced into any
altercation, such as was almost sure to ensue upon their meeting any of
the dependents of Lord Gillravidge; at the same time, she could not
suffer Marjory to go alone. George lifted a large, empty basket, and
followed them, his hot, merry face shining like a beacon as he passed
beneath the bare and rustling boughs.

Miss Falconer, with the large basket full, had been visiting a widow,
whose only son had met with a severe accident, while engaged in his
ordinary labor. The widow had some claim on the household of Falcon's
Craig--some one of those most pleasant and beneficial links of mutual
good-will and service which unite country neighborhoods so healthfully,
subsisted between the poor family and the great one, and as, on any
grand occasion at Falcon's Craig, the brisk services of Tibbie Hewit,
the hapless young mason's mother, would have been rendered heartily and
at once, so the accident was no sooner reported to Miss Falconer, then
she set out with her share of the mutual kindliness. We cannot tell what
was in the basket, but Tibbie Hewit's "press" was very much better
filled when it went away empty, than when Miss Falconer entered her
cottage.

"What a pity I have not my whip," said Marjory, as, drawing Anne's arm
within her own, they passed on together. "You should have seen that
cowardly fellow who stopped little Alice! what a grimace he made when he
felt the lash about his shoulders! I say, Anne,"--Miss Falconer's voice
sank lower--"did you see them hiding in the wood?"

"Who, Marjory?"

"Oh! that ape with the hair about his face, and some more of them. I
should not have pulled down their barricade, I dare say, if I had not
seen them. But you do not think I would retreat for _them_?"

"I do think, indeed," said Anne, looking hastily round, "that retreat
would be by far our most dignified plan. Suppose they come down to us,
Marjory, and we, who call ourselves gentlewomen, get involved in a
squabble with a set of impertinent young men. I do think we are
subjecting ourselves to quite unnecessary humiliation."

A violent flush covered Marjory Falconer's face--one of those
overpowering rebounds of the strained delicacy and womanliness which
revenged her _escapades_ so painfully--the burning color might have
furnished a hundred fluttering blushes for little Alice Atoun. But still
she had no idea of yielding.

"Perhaps you are right, Anne. I did not think of that; but at least we
must go on now. And think what an insult it is!--to all of us--to the
whole country. We cannot suffer it, you know. Mrs. Catherine, I am sure,
will take steps immediately."

"Very likely," said Anne.

Anne was revolving the possibility of crossing the Oran by the
stepping-stones, which were about a quarter of a mile along, and so
escaping the collision she dreaded.

"There, you see!" exclaimed Marjory, triumphantly; "there is a proof of
the way we are dealt with, the indignities they put upon women! Neither
Lewis nor Ralph would have the public spirit to resist such a thing as
this. Oh! I can answer for Ralph, and I know Lewis would not. But one
can be quite sure of Mrs. Catherine--one is never disappointed in her.
Yet you will hear silly boys sneer at her, and think her estate would be
better in their feeble hands, than in her own strong ones. I ask you,
what do you think of that, Anne Ross--can you see no injustice there?"

"Injustice?" said Anne, laughing. "No, indeed, only a great, deal of
foolishness and nonsense; both on the part of the silly boys, and--I beg
your pardon, Marjory--on yours, for taking the trouble of repeating what
they say."

"Oh, very well!" said Miss Falconer, coloring still more violently, yet,
with characteristic obstinacy plunging on in the expression of her pet
opinions. "Yes! I know you think me very unwomanly; you pretend to be
proper, Anne Ross--to set that sweet confection of gentleness, and
mildness, and dependence, which people call a perfect woman, up as your
model; but it's all a cheat, I tell you! You ought to try to be weak and
pretty, and instead of that, you are only grave and sensible. You ought
to be clinging to Lewis, as sweet and timid as possible; instead of
that, you are very independent, and not much given, I fancy, to
consulting your younger brother. You're not true, Anne Ross; you think
with me, and are only quiet to cover it."

"Hush!" said Anne; "do not be so very profane, Marjory.--Do you remember
how the Apostle describes it; those words that charm one's ear like
music, 'the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit.' Are not the very
sounds beautiful? Mildness and gentleness are exceeding good things; but
I do not set any sweet confection before me, for my model. Marjory! do
you remember those other beautiful words; 'Strength and honor are her
clothing; she opens her mouth with wisdom, and in her lips is the law of
kindness?' There is nothing weak about that, and yet that seems to me a
perfectly womanly woman."

Marjory Falconer did not answer.

"But I feel quite sure," said Anne, smiling, "that when she opened her
mouth with wisdom, she never said a word about the rights of women; and
that when her husband went out to the gate, to sit among the elders, she
did not think her own position, sitting among her maidens, a whit less
dignified and important than his, or envied him in any way indeed. When
you are tempted Marjory with this favorite heresy of yours, read that
beautiful poem--there is not a morsel of confectionery about it; you can
see the woman, whose household was clad in scarlet, and whose children
rose up and called her blessed, and know her a living person, as truly
as you know yourself. You call me quiet, Marjory; I intend to be
demonstrative to-day, at least, and I do utterly contemn and abominate
all that rubbish of rights of women, and woman's mission, and woman's
influence, and all the rest of it; I never hear these cant words, but I
blush for them," and Anne did blush, deeply as she spoke; "we are one
half of the world--we have our work to do, like the other half--let us
do our work as honorably and wisely as we can, but for pity's sake, do
not let us make this mighty bustle and noise about it. We have our own
strength, and honor, and dignity--no one disputes it; but dignity, and
strength and honor, Marjory, are things to live in us, not to be talked
about; only do not let us be so thoroughly self-conscious--no one gains
respect by claiming it. There! you are very much astonished and
horror-stricken at my burst. I cannot help it."

"Very well! very well!" exclaimed Miss Falconer, clapping her hands.
"Utterly contemn and abominate! Hear, hear, hear! who could have
believed it of quiet Anne Ross?"

Anne laughed. "Quiet Anne Ross is about to dare something further,
Marjory. See; when did you cross the stepping-stones?"

They had reached them; three or four large, smooth stones, lay across
the stream, at a point where it narrowed; the middle one was a great
block of native marble, which had been there, firm in its centre, since
ever the brown Oran was a living river. The passage was by no means
perilous, except for people to whom a wet shoe was a great evil. It is
not commonly so with youthful people in the country; it was a matter of
the most perfect unconcern to Marjory Falconer.

"When did I cross the stepping-stones? Not for a good twelvemonth. I
challenge you, Anne; if we should stumble, there is no one to see us but
George. Come along."

And Marjory, in the close-fitting, dark-cloth pelisse, which her old
maid at Falcon's Craig congratulated herself "could take no scather,"
leaped lightly from stone to stone, across the placid, clear, brown
water. Anne, rejoicing in the success of her scheme, followed. So did
George, somewhat disappointed, at losing the expected fun, of a
rencontre with "some o' the feckless dandy chaps at Strathoran," and the
demolition of the barricade at the other end of the way.

They had to make a considerable circuit before they reached the road;
but Anne endured that joyfully, when she saw through the trees the
hirsute Mr. Fitzherbert, and some of his companions, assembled about the
second stile--Marjory saw them too--the deep blush of shame returned to
her cheek in overpowering pain: she did not say anything, but did not
feel the less for that. Did Anne, indeed, need to scheme, for the
preservation of her dignity?

Little Lilie came running forth from Mrs. Euphan Morison's room, to meet
them, as they crossed the bridge. Lilie had wonderful stories to tell of
her long rambles with Jacky. The delicate moss on the tomb of the
legendary maiden in the graveyard of Oranside, received more admiration
from the child's quick sense of beauty, than it could elicit from the
common-place mind of Bessie; for Lilie thought the graveyard was "an
awfu' still place--nae sound but the water rinning, slow--slow; and the
branches gaun wave wave; and the leaves on the wind's feet, like the
bonnie shoon the fairies wear; and a' the folk lying quiet in their
graves."

They were lingering without--the air was so very mild and balmy, as if
some summer angel had broken the spell of winter for one day. Marjory
leant against a tree; her clear, good face, more thoughtful than usual.
Anne had seated herself on a stone seat, beside the threshold, and was
bending over Lilie, and her handful of moss; while Jacky, like a brown
elf, as she was called, hovered in the rear. Mrs. Catherine had not yet
returned from Portoran.

"If ye please will ye go in?" asked Jacky.

"No, let us stay here, Anne," said Miss Falconer. "Jacky, how did Mrs.
Catherine go?"

"If ye please, she's in the phaeton," said Jacky.

"In the phaeton? oh!" exclaimed Miss Falconer, in a tone of
disappointment; "and those steady wretches of ponies--there is no chance
of anything happening to them--there is no hope of them running away."

"Hope, Marjory?" said Anne.

"Yes, hope! If Mrs. Catherine could only be caught in that shut-up
by-way herself. Anne, I would give anything, just to find her in it."

"Here she comes," said Anne, as the comfortable brown equipage, and its
brisk ponies, came smartly up towards the door, driven by Archibald
Sutherland. "Ask her to walk to the little gate with you, Marjory--she
will do it. But be careful not to speak of it before Archibald."

"Thank you for the caution," said Miss Falconer, in an undertone. "I
wont; but I had forgotten--"

The vehicle drew up. Mrs. Catherine alighted, and, at Marjory's request,
turned with her to the little gate, from the shady dim lane beyond which
the barricaded stile was visible, which shut passengers out from the
sacred enclosure of Strathoran.

Archibald sat down on the stone seat at the threshold, by Anne's side.
Lilie was very talkative--she had seen the little ruined chapel on
Oranside for the first time that day.

"There's grass upon the steps," said Lilie, "and they're broken--and
then up high it's a gray, but the branches, and they're like the lang
arms of the brown spirits on the muir that Jacky kens about. Ye would
think they had hands waving--"

Anne patted the child's head, bidding her describe this at another time:
but Lilie was i' the vein.

"And upon the wall there's something white, printed in letters like a
book--and down below, Oh, ye dinna ken what I found!--Jacky's got it. It
was a wee, wee blue flower, growing in a corner, where it could see
naithing but the sky. Would that be the way it was blue?"

Anne could give no satisfactory answer, and Lilie went on.

"Jacky was to keep it for me, but I'll give it to you, because it's
pretty,--like the Oran, in the gloaming, when the sky's shining in the
water. There's no flower but it--no--" said Lilie, comprehending in one
vast glance the whole wide sweep of hill and valley round her--infinite
as it seemed to the child's eyes; "no in the world--only it, and folk
were sleeping below it. Jacky says the angels plant them--is that true?
wait till I get it."

The child darted away, and returned in a moment, bringing a small, wild,
blue violet, one of those little, shapeless flowers, whose minute, dark
leaves have so exquisite a fragrance. Anne took it from her, smiling,
and repeating: "It will return in spring," offered it to Archibald. He
received it with some emotion.--This sole flower in the world, as Lilie
said, brought to him from the grave of father and of mother--the only
spot of earth in Strathoran where he was not a stranger. He accepted the
emblem, fragrant of their memories, as it seemed, fragrant of hope and
life in the dreary winter-time, and, with its promise breathing from its
leaves: "It will return in spring!"

They were both silent and thoughtful: Archibald absorbed with these
remembrances and anticipations, while Anne, sympathizing fully with him,
was yet half inclined to blame herself for her involuntary exhilaration.
The weight was lifted off Anne's heart. It was no longer a dread and
horror, that secret life of Norman's but a thing to be rejoiced in, and
to draw brightest encouragement from--a very star of hope.

The sound of wheels upon the road recalled her thoughts. Mrs.
Catherine's ponies had been led away by Johnnie Halflin. It was a shabby
inn-gig, driven by one of the hangers-on of the 'Sutherland Arms,' in
Portoran, which now drove up, and took the phaeton's place. A young man,
with a pleasant, manly face, alighted, and, looking at Anne and
Archibald dubiously, stood hesitating before them, and, at last, with
some embarrassment, asked for Mrs. Catherine.

Jacky darted forward to show him in, and, in a few minutes, reappeared,
breathless, with the stranger's card in her hand.--Archibald had gone
in--Anne had risen, and stood looking towards the little gate, waiting
for Mrs. Catherine and Miss Falconer.

"Oh! if ye please, Miss Anne--" exclaimed Jacky.

"Well, Jacky, what is it?"

Jacky held up the card--"Mr. James Aytoun." "If ye please, Miss Anne, I
think it'll be Miss Alice's brother."

Anne hastened forward to tell Mrs. Catherine, somewhat disturbed by the
information. She feared for Lewis. Lewis was not so confident in the
truth of these letters as she, and might, betray his doubt to Alice
Aytoun's brother, a lawyer, skilled in discerning those signs of truth
in the telling of a story, which Lewis would lack in his narrative.

Jacky stole back to the library: the fire was getting low, she persuaded
herself, and while she improved it, she could steal long glances at the
stranger, and decide that he was "like Miss Alice, only no half so
bonnie." When the mending of the fire was complete, she slid into a
corner, and began to restore various misplaced books. James watched her
for a minute or two with some amusement. Alice had spoken of this dark,
singular, elfin girl. She lingered so long that he forgot her. At last a
voice alarmed him, close at his ear.

"If ye please--"

He looked up--Jacky was emboldened.

"If ye please--Miss Alice--"

"What about Miss Alice?" asked James, kindly.

"Just, is she quite well, Sir?" said Jacky, abashed.

"Quite well, I am much obliged to you," said James.

Jacky hovered still. Somewhat startled James Aytoun would have been, had
he divined the eager question hanging upon her very lips:

"Oh, if ye please, will they no let her be married on Mr. Lewis?" but
Jacky restrained her interest in Alice Aytoun's fortunes, sufficiently
to say: "Mrs. Catherine is coming, Sir!" and to glide out of the room.

"James Aytoun!" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine, as Anne interrupted the
indignant declamation of Marjory Falconer, to inform her of the
stranger's arrival. "Ay! that is like a man; I am pleased with that. The
lad must have, both sense and spirit.--Send down to Merkland for Lewis
without delay, child, and come in with me to the library; the lad's
business is with you, more than me. I like the spirit of him; there has
been no milk-and-water drither, or lingering here. Come away."

They entered the house. "Marjory Falconer," said Mrs. Catherine, "go up
the stair, and wait till we come to you. Say nothing of yon to Archie;
but, be you sure, I will stand no such thing from the hands of the evil
pack of them--hounds!"

Marjory obeyed; and Mrs. Catherine and Anne entered the library. The
young man and the old lady exchanged looks of mutual respect. James
Aytoun's prompt attention to this important matter, brought the full
sunshine of Mrs. Catherine's favor upon him. She received him after her
kindest fashion.

"You are welcome to my house, James Aytoun; and it pleases me, that I
can call a lad who give such prompt heed to the honor of this house
kinsman. Are you wearied with your journey? or would you rather speak of
the matter that brought you here at once?"

"Certainly," said James, smiling in spite of himself, at this abrupt
introduction of the subject, "I should much rather ascertain how this
important matter stands, at once. Your letter surprised us very greatly,
Mrs. Catherine; you will imagine that--and of course I feel it of the
utmost consequence that I should lose no time in making myself
acquainted with the particulars."

"Wise and right," said Mrs. Catherine, approvingly, "and spoken like a
forecasting and right-minded man. Sit down upon your seat, James Aytoun,
and you shall hear the story."

James seated himself.

"Perhaps it would be well that I saw Mr. Ross?"

"I have sent for Lewis," said Mrs. Catherine. "He will be here as soon
as he is needed. This is his sister, Miss Ross, of Merkland. Anne, you
are of more present use than Lewis--you will stay with us."

They gathered round the table in silence. James Aytoun felt nervous and
embarrassed--he did not know how to begin. Mrs. Catherine saved him from
his difficulty.

"James Aytoun, it would be putting a slight upon the manly and
straightforward purpose that brought you here, if we were going about
the bush in this matter, and did not speak clearly.--Your father was
murdered--shot by a coward hand behind him. The whole world has laid the
act upon Norman Rutherford. I have believed the same myself for eighteen
years. Listen to me! I am not given to change, nor am I like to alter my
judgment lightly; but now I declare to you, James Aytoun, that, far more
clearly than ever I held his guilt, do I believe, and am sure, that
Norman Rutherford was not the man."

James was uneasy under the gaze of those large, keen eyes, and did not
wish either to meet the earnest look of Anne Ross, who seemed to be
watching so eagerly for his opinion.

"I shall be most happy, Mrs. Catherine," he said, "to find that you have
proof--that Mr. Ross has proof--sufficient for the establishment of
this. I have certainly no feelings of revenge; but the crime which
deprived Alice and myself of a father must of necessity keep the two
families apart. I could not consent to any further intercouse between
Mr. Ross and my sister on any other terms than those you mention. But
the evidence is fearfully strong, Mrs. Catherine. Since my mother
received your letter, I have examined it again thoroughly, and so far
as circumstantial evidence can go, it is most clear and overwhelming. I
shall be most happy to be convinced that the world has judged
erroneously; but you will excuse me for receiving it with caution; if
this unhappy young man--I beg your pardon, Miss Ross--had been brought
before any court in Scotland, with the evidence, he must infallibly have
been found guilty."

"Anne," said Mrs. Catherine, "you have the letters."

Anne drew them from her breast--she had a feeling of insecurity when
they were not in her own immediate possession.

"Had we not better wait till Lewis comes?"

"No," said Mrs. Catherine. "What Lewis cares for, is the winning of the
bairn Alice--what you care for, first and most specially, is the
clearing of your brother's disgraced name. Norman is safest in your
hands, Anne. Read the letters."

"Mr. Aytoun," said Anne, with nervous firmness, "we have no systematic
proof to lay before you. Anything which can directly meet and overcome
the evidence of which you speak, remains still to be gathered--and it is
possible, that this, on which we build our hopes, may seem but a very
feeble foundation to you. In law, I suppose, it could have no weight for
a moment: but yet to those who knew my brother Norman, and were
acquainted with his peculiar temperament and nature, it carries absolute
conviction.--I scarcely hope that it can have the same power of
convincing you--but I pray you to receive as certainly true, before I
read this, the judgment which all his friends pronounced upon my unhappy
brother, before this dishonor came upon him. They call him the most
truthful and generous of men: they distinguish him for these two
qualities above all his compeers. Mrs. Catherine, I speak truly?"

"Truthful as the course of nature itself, which the Almighty keeps from
varying. Generous as the sun that He hath set to shine upon the just and
the unjust. Do not linger, Anne: read Norman's letter."

Anne lifted the letter, and glanced up at James before she began to
read--his eyes were fixed upon her, his face was full of grave
anxiety--convinced or unconvinced, she was sure at least of an attentive
listener. She began to read--her voice trembling at first, as the quick
throbbings of her heart almost choked it, but becoming hysterically
strong, as she went on; her mind agitated as Norman's was when he wrote
that letter, eager like him, by what repetitions or incoherent words
soever, that were strongest and most suitable for the urgent purpose, to
throw off the terrible accusation under which he lay: it was like no
second party reading an old letter; it was the very voice and cry of one
pleading for life--for more than life--for lost good fame and honor.

James Aytoun's eyes were steadily fixed upon her; and as she closed the
letter, her whole frame vibrating, he drew a long breath--that most
grateful of all sounds to the ears of a speaker who desires to move and
impress his audience. Anne looked up eagerly and anxious. He had covered
his face with his hand. Neither of them spoke; until, at last, James
raised his head:

"May I see that letter, Miss Ross? Can you give it me?"

Anne had omitted the sentence in which Norman mentioned his escape. She
folded it in, and handed him the letter. He read it again carefully, and
yet again. Besides the earnest agony of its words, there was a mute
eloquence about that yellow, timeworn paper. Blisters of tears were on
it: tears of terrible grief--tears of tremulous hope. Its very
characters, abrupt and broken as they were, spoke as with a living
voice. Nothing false--nothing feigned, could be in the desperate energy
of that wild cry, the burden of Norman's self-defence: "I am innocent! I
am innocent!"

"Miss Ross," said James Aytoun, "there never was man convicted from
clearer evidence than that which has persuaded the world of your
brother's guilt. I cannot comprehend it--my faith is shaken. I confess
to you, that I feel this letter to be true--that I can no longer think
of him as the murderer."

Anne tried to smile--she could not. A stranger--a man prejudiced against
Norman--the son of the dead. The tears came over her cheeks in a burst
of joy. She thought it the voice of universal acquittal: she forgot all
the difficulties that remained--Norman was saved.

The library-door opened, and Lewis entered. Mrs. Catherine rose, and
presented him to James: the two young men shook hands with an
involuntary cordiality, at which they were themselves astonished. Anne
was conquering herself again; but joy seemed so much more difficult to
keep in bounds, and restrain, than sorrow was. She had little experience
of the first--much of the other. She started up, and laid her hand on
Lewis's arm.

"Lewis, Lewis! the way is clearing before us. Mr. Aytoun gives us his
support. Mr. Aytoun thinks him innocent!"



CHAPTER XVI.


Lewis Ross was undergoing a process of amelioration. From his earliest
days he had been taught to consider himself the person of greatest
importance in Merkland; and the pernicious belief had evolved itself in
a very strong and deeply-rooted selfishness, to which the final touch
and consummation had been given by his foreign travel. Thrown then, with
his natural abilities, always very quick and sharp, if not of the
highest order, upon the noisy current of the world, with no other
occupation than to take care of himself--to attend to his own
comforts--to scheme and deliberate for his own enjoyments, the
self-important boy had unconsciously risen into a selfish man, having no
idea that a supreme regard for his own well-being and comfort was not
the most reasonable and proper centre, round which his cares and hopes
could revolve.

He returned home. The home routine was going on as before. The servants,
his mother, Anne, all did homage to the superior importance of Lewis. He
received it as his due. These were but satellites; he, himself, was the
planet of their brief horizon. Little Alice helped the delusion on; her
simple heart yielded with so little resistance to his fascinations.

All at once the dream was rudely broken. Anne, his quiet, serviceable
sister, he suddenly found to be absorbed by the concerns of this unknown
Norman, whose very name was strange to him. His own little Alice must
consider the pleasure of her mother and brother before his. Lewis was
suddenly stopped short in his career of complacent selfishness. The
people round him were ready to risk all things for each other. Mrs.
Catherine's wealth and lands were nothing to her, as she said, in
comparison with the welfare of Archibald Sutherland, who had no nearer
claim upon her than that of being the son of her friend. Anne's whole
soul was engrossed with anxiety for the deliverance of Norman: her own
self did not cost her a thought. Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Foreman were
spending time and labor heartily in the service of the broken laird, who
could make them no return: and worst of all, they expected that Lewis
also should join in that Quixotry, as a necessary and unavoidable duty,
without even thinking that by so doing he would deserve any particular
praise. In the fastnesses of his self-content, Lewis was shaken.

Then came James Aytoun, the stranger, to whom this Norman, whose very
name inspired Anne, was, and could be nothing, except, indeed, a
detested criminal--the supposed murderer of his father. He came, he saw:
and lo! he was deeper into the heart of the struggle than Lewis had ever
been: believing Norman's innocence--declaring his intention of joining
Robert Ferguson immediately, and assisting in his investigations;
consulting with Anne in frank confidence, and with a far more genuine
sympathy than had ever been awakened in the colder heart of Lewis.

The young Laird of Merkland was overpowered: the contagion of James
Aytoun's hearty, manly feeling, of his ready and quick belief, smote
Lewis with a sense of his own unenviable singularity. The cloak of self
he had been wrapped in began to loosen, and drop away; he began to
realise the sad lot of his exiled brother, continually waiting for the
kind search, and acquitting justice, which should bring him home again;
and growing sick with deferred and fainting hope, as year after year
went by, and there came no kindly token over the sea. The letter,
instinct now with the breath of earnest belief, which had carried it
into those other hearts, began to operate upon Lewis. He sat down
between James Aytoun and Anne; he took a part in their consultations; he
forgot himself, in thinking of Norman. The divine rod had stricken the
desert rock once more, and the freshness of new life--a life for
others--a life for the world, dawned upon Lewis Ross.

Anne and James were already conversing like intimate friends. Lewis,
with his natural frankness, was soon as deep in the subject as they.
Anne's face brightened as she looked upon him. Mrs. Catherine sent him
now and then a word of kindly harshness, more affectionately than was
her wont. Their plans were being laid.

"And I would ask of you, James Aytoun," said Mrs. Catherine, "for what
reason that ill-favored buckie of a gig is standing at my door? and what
business the cripple helper from the Portoran inn has among my servants?
I must take order with this."

"The man is waiting for me," said James. "I must return home to-morrow,
Mrs. Catherine--and the day is waning. I must get into Portoran soon."

"You must not think," said Mrs. Catherine, "of crossing my threshold
this night again. Hold your peace, young man: there is no voice lifted
under this roof with authority but mine, and I will not have it. Jacky!"
Jacky made her appearance at the door--"let the man that drove Mr.
Aytoun up, get his dinner, and then tell your mother he is not to
wait--Mr. Aytoun does not return to-night. And now, young folk, are you
nearly through with your consulting? I have a visitor waiting for me up
the stair."

"You decide to go with me to-morrow, Mr. Ross?" said James.

"Yes, certainly," said Lewis. "I will not do much good I dare say; but I
shall, at least, be on the spot."

"You are done, are you?" said Mrs. Catherine. "James Aytoun I have
another matter to speak to you about. Has a stranger in the country--the
purchaser of an old estate--any shadow of a right to shut up a road
which has been the property of the folk of this parish of Strathoran,
since beyond the memory of man?"

"No," said James, "no proprietor has--of however long standing he may
be."

"Not myself say you?" said Mrs. Catherine, "that is another thing, James
Aytoun. My house has held this land for many generations. I have a
right of service from the people; but an upstart--a laird by purchase,
by purchase, said I?--by cheatry and secret theftdom, nothing better!
There is a creature of this kind upon the lands of Strathoran, and the
way by the waterside is blocked up this day--a kirk road! a by-way as
old as the tenure of my lands!--the cattle never did a worse thing for
their own peacefulness. The road shall return to the folk it rightfully
belongs to, if I should have the whole reprobate pack of them before the
Court of Session!"

"Who is the proprietor?" said James.

"Lord Gillravidge," answered Lewis.

"Lord Gillravidge? Hold your peace, Lewis Ross, when folk are not
speaking to you, as one of your years should. The house of Strathoran
has been a sinful house, James Aytoun, and Providence has sent upon it a
plague of frogs, as was sent upon Egypt in the time of Israel's
captivity--puddocks that have the gift of venom over and above the
native slime of them. The proprietor is Archibald Sutherland, who is
dwelling in my house at this moment; but the lad has let his possessions
slip through his fingers, and the vermin are in them. I would take the
law with me. What should be my first step, James Aytoun, for the
recovery of the road?"

"Throw down the barricade," said Lewis.

"Lewis Ross, I have told you to hold your peace--though I will not say
but what there are glimmerings of discernment breaking through the
shell; tell Alice from me, James Aytoun, that the youth, if he were once
through this season of vanity, gives promise of more judgment than I
looked for at his hands. It is not my wont to wait for other folk's
bidding, Lewis--the barricade is down before now; but what order is it
right that I should take, if the cattle put it up again?"

"Had you not better try a remonstrance, Mrs. Catherine," said James. "It
may have been done in ignorance."

"Remonstrance! a bonnie story that I should condescend to remonstrate
with the hounds. Where are you going, Anne? Did I not bid ye remain with
us?"

"You forget that Marjory is up stairs, Mrs. Catherine," said Anne.

"I forget no such thing--the bairns are mad! counselling me with their
wisdom in my own house--and that minds me that I am forgetting the
comfort of the stranger like a self-seeking old wife as I am. James
Aytoun, I will let you see your room--and you, bairns, remain where you
are, and dine with him. You are like to be near kindred--it is right you
should be friends."

Mrs. Catherine led James Aytoun away, and Anne and Lewis joined Marjory
in the drawing-room, where, the fumes of her indignation scarcely over,
she had been firmly shutting her lips for the last hour, lest some hint
of the shut-up by-way should escape them, to pain the landless
Archibald.

They spent the evening pleasantly together. James Aytoun was fresh from
that peculiar society of Edinburgh, whose intellectual progress is the
pulse of Scotland, healthful, strong, and bold, as its beatings have
been for these past centuries. His own compeers and companions were the
rising generation--lawyers, physicians, clergymen, literati, whom the
course of some score years would find in the highest places there. The
intellectual life and activity which breathed out from his very
conversation, stimulated Lewis. These pursuits of science and
literature--those professional matters even, to the consideration of
which intellect so elevated and acute was devoted, gave the country
laird a new idea of the pleasure and dignity of life. Labor--healthful,
vigorous, energetic, manly labor--not vacant ease of frivolous
enjoyment, was the thing esteemed in that lettered community of
beautiful Edinburgh, the names of whose toiling, daring, chivalrous,
intellectual workmen, would be household words to the next wave of
Scottish population--would have risen into the mental firmament ere
then, stars for a world to see.

It was a particularly happy thing for Lewis at this especial time, his
encounter with James Aytoun; the unselfish breadth of his good mind and
heart, the generous start to exertion, the clear health and readiness of
all his well cultured faculties, and his frank and instinctive energy,
carried with them all the better part of Lewis Ross's nature. Their
visitor, with his intelligent conversation, and well-cultivated mind,
pleased and made friends of them all; but conferred especial benefit and
invigoration upon Lewis.

The next day they left the Tower together. Lewis, with his old
self-confidence, believing himself sure to help on the search mightily
by his presence; but yet so much more earnest and unselfish in his
desire to see the truth established, that Anne's heart rejoiced within
her. Mrs. Ross was sulkily reconciling herself to the obvious necessity.
She was by no means interested in the result of the investigation, and
was inclined to hope that it would be unsuccessful, and that Lewis might
be released from his engagement, yet, nevertheless, prepared herself,
with much sullenness and ill-humor, for "the worst."

Anne accompanied Lewis, in the morning, to the Tower, to bid James
good-by, and charge him with various kindly messages, and some little
tokens of sisterly good-will for Alice. At Mrs. Catherine's desire she
remained. Mrs. Catherine had already despatched Andrew with the
following missive to Strathoran:

"Mrs. Catherine Douglas, of the Tower, desires that Lord Gillravidge
will explain to her, at his earliest leisure, his motive for shutting up
the by-way upon Oranside--a thing both unreasonable and unlawful, and
which she has no thought of submitting to for a day. The path belongs to
the people of the parish, who had dwelt upon the land for centuries,
before ever it passed into Lord Gillravidge's tenantcy. Mrs. Catherine
Douglas desires Lord Gillravidge to know that he has done what is
contrary to the law of the land, and expects to have an immediate reason
rendered to her, for the insult and hardship inflicted upon her people
and parish, by the closing of a known kirk road, and public way."

Mrs. Catherine and her household were busied in preparation for
Archibald's departure. Mrs. Catherine herself was hemming with a very
fine needle, and almost invisible thread, breadths of transparent
cambric, for the shirts which her three generations of domestics, Mrs.
Elspat Henderson, Mrs. Euphan Morison, and Jacky, were occupied in
making.

"And child," said Mrs. Catherine, "I like not idle greives. If you are
not pleased with Jacky's stitching, take the other breast
yourself--there is plenty to hold you all busy. I have no brood of young
folk, sitting with their hands before them. What did you get clear
eyesight and quick fingers for?"

Anne took the work--into no unknown or "'prentice hand," would it have
been confided. Mrs. Catherine's "white seam" was elaborated into a
positive work of art. Within her strong spirit, and covered by her harsh
speech, there lay so much of that singular delicacy, which could endure
nothing coarse or unsuitable, that the smallest household matters came
within its operation. Mrs. Catherine had little faith in the existence
of fine taste or delicate perceptions, in conjunction with a coarse or
disorderly "seam." Would modern young ladies think her judgment correct?

"Archie is in Portoran," said Mrs. Catherine, after a little time had
elapsed, during which the fine work and cheerful conversation proceeded
in brisk and pleasant unison. "There are still some matters to be
settled with Mr. Foreman, and he expects the letter the day that will
fix his going to Glasgow. We are nothing less than a bundle of
contradictions, child, we unsatisfied human folk. It was my own special
desire and wish that the lad should verily plunge himself into some
labor for the redemption of his land; now I have a drither at letting
him go away to a mere, hard money-getting work, where little of either
heart or head is needed."

"Little heart, perhaps," said Anne; "but, at least, the head must be
very necessary, Mrs. Catherine."

"You do not know," answered Mrs. Catherine. "Head! I tell you, child, I
have seen divers in my youth who had gathered great fortunes by trade,
and yet were vaporing, empty-headed, purse-proud fuils; beginning by
running errands, and sweeping shops, and the like, and ending by making
bairnly fuils of themselves, to the laughter of the vain and
thoughtless, and to the shame of right-minded folk. We have other
imaginations of merchantmen, child; we give them a state and
circumstance that the men are as innocent of, as Johnnie Halflin out
there. We think of the old days when merchants were princes, and of them
that stood afar off, and wailed for Babylon. There are some such,
doubtless, now, but it is not always the best that are the most
fortunate. And to think of Archie living for years among folk to whom
the paltry siller is the sole god and good in this world or the next.
Maybe, child--maybe in the rebound of his carelessness, getting to like
the yellow dirt himself for its own sake!"

"No fear," said Anne. "Archibald is able to stand the probation in every
way, I trust, Mrs. Catherine; and it is but a means--it is not an end."

"Ay," said Mrs. Catherine. "The youth has a great stake.--He is a
changed man, child, so far as we may form a judgment. Wherefore should I
ever have doubted it? As if true prayers could lie unanswered before the
Throne for ever!"

Jacky opened the door.

"If ye please--"

"What you elf? Can you no speak out?"

"It's--it's the man--the stranger"--Jacky remembered her former
description of him, but scorned to repeat herself; "that came to the
Tower with Mr. Foreman. If ye please, will I bring him in?"

"The jackal--the fuil that does Lord Gillravidge's errands," said Mrs.
Catherine. "I am lothe that the feet of an unclean animal should come
within this room, but what can I do, child? The library is Archie's
especial room, and if he comes in, I would like ill that he saw any of
this evil crew."

"He had better come here," said Anne.

Mrs. Catherine made a motion of disgust.

"Hear you, you imp! Is he alone?"

"There's a gentleman with him," said Jacky. "No a grown-up man--just
young like--but he's a gentleman."

"Bring them up here."

Jacky disappeared, and, in a moment after, ushered Mr. Fitzherbert, and
the good-humored, fair-haired lad, who had been with him when Alice
Aytoun was intercepted on the way, into the room. Mrs. Catherine's note
had been the subject of considerable mirth at Strathoran. The Honorable
Giles Sympelton, in particular, had been exceedingly amused at the idea
of the old lady "showing fight," and had proposed and urged, something
against Fitzherbert's will, this present expedition. Mr. Fitzherbert
was elaborately polite and high-bred. The young man was in high spirits,
overflowing with suppressed laughter, and anticipating capital fun.

Mrs. Catherine rose, drew up her stately figure, and remained standing.
Mr. Fitzherbert bowed with agreeable condescension. The Honorable Giles
was startled out of his laughter.--That strong, vigorous, stately old
lady was not a person to be trifled with.

"Lord Gillravidge, Madam," began Mr. Fitzherbert, "received your
communication, and would have been most happy to have made your
acquaintance personally, had it not been for the misfortune of a
previous engagement. He has requested me to represent him--quite
unworthy, certainly--but, having the honor to be acquainted with his
sentiments, shall be glad to give any explanation that you desire."

"I require no explanation from Lord Gillravidge," said Mrs. Catherine,
"except of his purpose concerning this unlawful deed he has done. Will
he give it up of his own will, or will he be forced to do it? That is
all I desire to know of Lord Gillravidge."

Mr. Fitzherbert seated himself unbidden.

"Beg you will permit me to make a brief explanation. Lord Gillravidge
has the tenderest regard for feelings--indulgent even to a little
natural prejudice--means everything to be done in the most friendly
manner. I assure you, Madam, I can explain everything with the greatest
ease."

The Honorable Giles was still standing. The lad began to have some
perception that this was not a place for boyish mirth or derision. Anne
silently invited him to be seated.

Mrs. Catherine grew still more stately and erect. She would not
condescend to be angry.

"I desire no explanations at Lord Gillravidge's hands. Will he throw the
by-way open, or will he not?"

Mr. Fitzherbert smiled insinuatingly.

"Your kind indulgence, Madam--but for a moment. I shall take care not to
exhaust your patience, knowing that ladies are not distinguished for
patience, a good quality though--I beg your pardon, Madam. I am sorry to
see I keep you standing."

"Be not troubled, Sir," said Mrs. Catherine, with bitter contempt; "but
make yourself sure that a whole tribe like you would keep me in no
position that did not please myself."

"Sorry to have the misfortune of displeasing you, Madam," said the
imperturbable Fitzherbert. "Had not the least intention of offence, I
assure you--return to the subject. Lord Gillravidge, Madam, is actuated
by the best feelings--the utmost desire to be on friendly terms. He only
needs to be known to be appreciated. An excellent neighbor, a warm
friend--altogether, a remarkable person, is my friend, Lord
Gillravidge."

"Fitz, Fitz!" whispered his young companion, reprovingly.

Mrs. Catherine turned round, and looked at the lad with grave concern,
and some interest.

"His Lordship is willing to be perfectly tolerant," continued Mr.
Fitzherbert; "to give way to prejudices, and make allowance for angry
feelings--and of course he expects to be as well used in return. 'Do
unto others,'--it is natural that he should look for the same in
return."

Mrs. Catherine waved her hand.

"A lady of refined tastes, such as I have the honor of addressing, must
perfectly understand the peculiar feelings and excessive delicacy and
retirement of my accomplished friend. Feels himself quite wounded by
vulgar intrusion--shrinks, above all things, from public
notice--extremely susceptible by nature, and of the most delicate
constitution."

Mrs. Catherine stamped her foot impatiently.

"Is it the Comus of yon crew of transformed cattle that the man ventures
to profane such words upon?"

"Sorry to be so misapprehended," said Mr. Fitzherbert, with an
assumption of dignity. "Mere false reports, and vulgar misunderstanding
of elegant leisure, and refined amusements--perfectly unfounded, I
assure you, Madam. Lord Gillravidge should be judged by his peers, not
by a set of barbarous rustics."

"Be silent, Sir," said Mrs. Catherine. "I understand well the people of
this parish should be judged by their peers, and that is another race
than yours. Beware how you lay ill names, in my presence, upon the
natives of this soil!"

"Beg pardon, Madam, I am unfortunate in my subjects--had no idea you
were specially interested in illiterate peasants. I beg you yourself
will do his Lordship the honor of considering his position. I know him
so intimately, that I can speak with confidence of his excessive
delicacy and nervous refinement of constitution--quite remarkable, I
assure you."

"And what is all this to me?" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine. "Think you I
care the value of a straw for the nerves of your lordling? Will he
persist in this folly, or will he not? His constitution may be either
iron or glass, besides, for any concern I have in the matter."

"Your patience, Madam," said the smiling Fitzherbert, "I mention these
characteristics in explanation. My lord is a stranger, not acquainted
with the superior character of the natives of this soil. A most
distinguished peasantry, moral and intelligent--but vulgar nevertheless,
and intruding on his privacy. There is some natural hauteur
perhaps--what might be expected from an English nobleman of high
family, accustomed to all the privileges of exalted rank, and shrinking
from undue familiarity. He really cannot bear intrusion, and therefore
shut up the by-way--positively compelled by his delicate
feelings--trains of rustics passing through his private grounds! His
Lordship could not permit it."

Mrs. Catherine could bear this no longer--she was walking through the
room in towering wrath and indignation.

"An English nobleman! an English cheat and sharper! enjoying his
ill-gotten gains under a roof, that I marvel does not fall upon the
reprobate cattle he has gathered below it. Vulgar intrusion! the
passing-by of honorable men and women, that would not change the honest
name of their birth, for the disgrace of his wealth and his sin. _His_
private grounds! and who, if it were not the master-spirit of all
iniquity, procured that the fair lands of Strathoran should ever brook
him as their lord? You, your very self, pitiful animal as you are, the
hired servant of this prosperous iniquity, doing its evil bidding, are
scarce so abhorrent to decent folk as the master of you; the malignant
tempting spirit, that led an innocent youth into the mire of sin and
folly, that he might rob him of his inheritance; and now, can venture
here, in the very face of me, who know his villanies, to set up for a
man of delicate frame and tender mind, shrinking from the lawful
passers-by of a peaceable parish; folk of lineage and blood, if that
were all, an hundred-fold better than himself!"

Vehemently, and inspired with indignation, Mrs. Catherine spoke, the
floor thrilling beneath her hasty steps.

"Fitz," whispered the astonished lad, "the old lady has the best of
it--she's right."

Fitzherbert assumed an air of offended innocence. "Really, Madam, after
this language--I am amazed--astonished!"--

"And who, think ye, in this house or country is concerned, that you
should be astonished or amazed?" interrupted Mrs. Catherine; "or what
are you, that I should hold parley with your like, and profane the air
of my dwelling with your master's unclean name? Answer me my demand with
as much truthfulness as is in you, and begone from my house. I will have
the breath of no such vermin near me."

"Upon my word!" exclaimed the astounded Fitzherbert, "this is perfectly
unparalleled; if a gentleman were using such language to me--"

"You would fight him," said Mrs. Catherine, disdainfully. "Ay! presuming
that he was inclined so to demean himself, and was not content with
laying his whip about your shoulders, as Marjory Falconer did."

Fitzherbert started up, enraged. "I can hold no communication with a
person who delights in insulting me. You shall rue this, Madam, you
shall rue this!"

"Fitz," said the Honorable Giles, interposing as he passed to the door,
"Gillravidge will be angry; you have not arranged this."

"And with your permission," added Mrs. Catherine, "I say you do not
leave this house till my question is answered."

Poor Fitzherbert could not afford to incur the anger of Lord
Gillravidge. He was compelled to content himself with many humiliations,
and this among the rest.

"Madam!, in consideration of my friend's business, I overlook these
personalities. Lord Gillravidge is, as I have said, a man of ancient
family, and high breeding, belonging to a most exclusive aristocratic
circle, and will not have his privacy broken. His Lordship hoped to be
understood--the peculiar feeling of high birth, and necessity for
retirement--and must continue to trust that a lady, herself of some
station, will offer no opposition."

"Ancient family!" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine. "Does your English lordling,
whose name no man ever heard tell of, till he came to take possession of
his prey, dare to say that to me, who can trace my lineage, without
break or blot, back to the dark gray man! Tell the reprobate master of
you, that my house was set down upon this land, before ever the rank
soil and unwholesome heat of cities had brought forth the first ancestor
of your evil brood. Tell him, that this people is my people, and that
his good blood is a mean fraud, if he does not honor the honorable folk
native to a free land. Further, I will spare neither time nor siller to
recover them their right; either he will throw open the road this very
day, or he will suffer the immediate judgment of the law--I leave him
his choice; and now, the need for bearing the sight of you is over,
carry my message, and depart from my house."

Fitzherbert did not linger. Young Sympelton rose to follow him.

"Sir," said Mrs. Catherine, "you are young to be in such evil hands.
Tarry a moment, I would speak further to you."

The lad hesitated. Fitzherbert was already descending the stair.

"Sit down," said Mrs. Catherine. "I have something to say to you."

The lad obeyed.

"Have you been long in the keeping of these vile cattle? I am meaning,
have you been long in the unwholesome neighborhood of that man?"

The Honorable Giles laughed; tried to be very frank, and at his ease,
and answered that he had been a month at Strathoran.

"Dwelling night and day under the shadow of uncleanness and all
iniquity. Young man, to whom do you belong? Has nobody charge of you?"

To which the Honorable Giles responded, somewhat offended, that he was
quite able to take care of himself.

"Are you?" said Mrs. Catherine; "you are the first of your years that I
ever knew capable of doing so. Have you father or mother living?"

"My father is: he's in France," said young Sympelton: "my mother is
dead."

"Ay, it is even as I thought. Poor motherless lad, trusted in such
company. Is your father in his senses, that he perils you thus?"

"In his senses! what do you mean?" exclaimed the Honorable Giles.

"I will tell you, what I mean. You have a youthful face, that looks as
if it did not know vice yet, for its own hand. If I tell you there is a
deadly plague in that house, will you believe me, and flee from it?"

The youth looked at her in amazement.

"I tell you, young man, there is a mortal malady in that house of
Strathoran; a sickness that will kill more than your life; that will
strip you of good fame and honor, or ever you have entered the world;
and make you a bankrupt, ruined, disgraced man, when you should be but a
fresh, youthful, ingenuous man. Mind what I am saying; there are
serpents yonder, deadlier than the snakes of India. Do not sleep under
that roof another night. Go home to your father, and tell him
henceforward to keep an eye on your wanderings himself, and no trust
you, a precious laddie, as ye no doubt are to him, to the warning of a
stranger."

The young man laughed; he did not know how to understand this, though
the kindness of the strange, stern old lady, moved as much as it
astonished him.

"Oh! that's because you've quarrelled with Gillravidge."

"I quarrel with no vermin," said Mrs. Catherine. "If I cannot cast the
plague out of a land, I warn the healthful and innocent from its
borders. Young man! I know not so much as your name; but six or seven
years ago, a youth, very dear to me, was as you are, blythe, happy, full
of promise, well endowed, and honored. The reptile brood you are among
got their meshes over him--corrupted his young mind, broke his blythe
spirit, devoured his substance, defrauded him of his land, and then left
him--a sinful, broken man, to struggle with his bitter repentance and
misery as he best could. Beware, young man--beware of your youth--beware
of the gladness that must depart for evermore, if you once taste of that
cup of vice. You have a terrible stake in it; for the sake of all that
you have, or can gain in this world and the next, come out of that
sinful house. I will give you the shelter of mine if ye desire it. I
cannot see a young man like what ye are, or seem, lost to all honest
uses, and not put forth my hand."

Young Sympelton rose--he lingered--hesitated--there was dew under his
eyelids; he was ashamed that any one could have moved him so--_him_, a
man!

Fitzherbert thrust in his head at the door--laughed derisively.

"Ah, a young penitent--very interesting--old lady preaching at him."

The youth dashed out and ran down the stair.

They saw him immediately after, arm-in-arm with the tempter, returning
to Strathoran.

"Anne, dear child," said Mrs. Catherine, "the look of that youth's face
has made my heart sore. I have warned him--I can help him in no other
way. The Lord requite the reprobate race that are leading young spirits
to destruction."



CHAPTER XVII.


Mr. George Lumsden, the manager of Messrs. Sutor and Sinclair's Glasgow
house, was desirous that Mr. Sutherland should enter immediately on his
probation. So said the letter which Mr. Foreman read to Archibald, while
Mrs. Catherine was receiving at the Tower the emissaries from
Strathoran. The good lawyer was in high spirits at the successful issue
of his negotiations. Archibald was satisfied that his work was now so
near a beginning. Mr. Ferguson acquiesced with a sigh. There were no
further obstacles in the way. Next morning, it was arranged, Archibald
should leave Portoran.

He rode home to the Tower in a slight excitement of mingled regret and
hopefulness. He was sadly wanting in that placid equanimity whose calm
is not disturbed by change. He felt these variations of the firmament of
his fortune, as the sea feels the wind, answering no less swiftly to the
curl of the lightest breeze, than to the sweep of the gale which
chronicles its progress in stories of shipwreck and death. He felt it a
very momentous thing, this second beginning of his course. Formerly, he
had left his native district with every adventitious help--favored of
fortune, rich in friends--yet had returned a ruined, solitary man. Now
he went forth with every favoring circumstance withdrawn--his own
strength and the help of Providence--no other aid to trust to--how, or
in what sort, should he make his second return?

Mrs. Catherine's preparations were not quite completed: one half of the
abundant outfit which she was preparing for her adventurer, would need
to be sent after him to Glasgow. By earliest daybreak the next morning,
Mrs. Euphan Morison herself began to make ready the heap of delicate and
snowy linen, the making of which had occupied their time of late. At
eleven Archibald was to set out.

He had time that morning to visit Merkland, to take leave of Mrs. Ross,
and with much silent sorrow, and an indefinite understanding which
expressed itself in no words, to bid farewell to Anne. Both of them were
immersed in other cares and occupations. A solitary and long warfare lay
before Archibald. Concerning matters private to themselves, both were
heroically silent. They parted, each knowing the strong, honorable, true
heart that was within the other--each aware of the other's entire and
full sympathy--in grave faith, fortitude, patience; and with a silent
regret, that spoke more powerfully than words.

Mrs. Catherine was in the little room; she had spent most of the morning
there. She had provided Archibald with all temporal necessities--she was
pleading now, before God, for that other, and yet more needful spiritual
providing, which should keep him blameless, in the warfare of an evil
world. No vain repetitions were there in that speechless agony of
supplication: the strong spirit, with its mighty grasp of faith, was
wrestling for a blessing--for prosperity and success, if it should
please the Giver of all Good; but, above all earthly success and
prosperity, for purity and deliverance from sin. Half an hour before the
time of his departure, the young man joined her.

"Archie," said Mrs. Catherine, "I desired to say my last words to you
here: you mind your return to my house--you mind your covenant with me,
before God, and within the shadow of Sholto Douglas, my one brother,
whom, if it had not been otherwise ordained, you might have drawn your
name and blood from--Archie Sutherland, you mind your covenant?"

"I do."

"In whatever circumstances the Lord may place you--in peril, in toil, in
striving with the world harder than that, in ease, and peace, and
prosperity, if it be His will to give you these: with a single eye, and
an honest heart, and in the strength of Him that saved you, you will
resist sin. Archie Sutherland, you hold by your covenant? you plight me
your word again?"

"Most earnestly--most truthfully. You trust me, Mrs. Catherine?"

"I trust you, Archie. The Lord uphold and strengthen you in your
goings-out, and in your comings-in!" There was a pause.--"And have you
gotten everything right, Archie? are you sure there is nothing wanting
that you will need, or that I can get for ye?"

"Nothing," said Archibald. "You are only too lavish in your kindness,
Mrs. Catherine; you forget that I am but a poor adventurer now."

"Hush!" said Mrs. Catherine. "Kindness is not a word to be between your
mother's son and me. Ay, Archie, you are an adventurer; mind it is no
common errand you are going forth upon. To the like of you, hope is the
natural breath and common air--the hopes of age are solemn ventures, our
last and weightiest--when they fail, there is no new upspringing in the
pithless soil that many hopes have withered and died upon, like
September leaves. Archie, the last great hope of an aged woman is
embarked in your labor. See--look where my first sun set--the darkness
of its sinking is not out of my heart yet. You might have been of my own
blood, boy; you might have borne the name of Sholto Douglas! Now the
last of them all is on your head.--Archie Sutherland, be mindful of it;
let me see you honorably home in your own land, before I go to another
country."

Archibald answered her almost incoherently: "If it was within the power
of man--if any toil could accomplish it--"

The phæton was at the door; Andrew and Johnnie Halflin were placing the
traveller's trunks upon it, while Mrs. Euphan Morison, portly and broad,
stood in the doorway superintending. The hour drew very near.

"And there is yet another thing," said Mrs. Catherine.--"Archie, it
happens whiles that prosperity is not in the power of man--if toil
cannot accomplish it--if the blessing that maketh rich, comes not upon
your labor, I charge you to spend no time in vain repinings, nor to be
cast down beyond measure: mind at all times that my house is open to
you--that if you have no other shelter in the wide world, under this
roof there constantly remains for you a home. I say, mind this, Archie,
as the last charge I lay upon you. If you are like to be overcome in
your striving, come home; if your heart grows faint within you, and you
find only weariness in your plans of merchandize instead of fortune,
come home--you can come at no time when you will not be dearly welcome.
Mind, Archie Sutherland, I say to you, mind! that let the world smile
upon you or frown upon you as it lists, you have a home to come to--a
household blythe to welcome you!"

The time had come at last. The hope of return in his heart bowed down
under the heaviness of his farewell, Archibald seated himself in the
vehicle, and seizing the reins, drove hastily away, not trusting himself
to look back again. When he had reached the high road he paused once
more, to answer the mute farewell waved to him from within the enclosure
of Merkland, and then turned resolutely away--away from genial home,
warm friends, affection, sympathy, to cold toil and friendless labor, an
uncongenial atmosphere, a strange country. His heart swelled within
him--his breast tightened--his eyes overflowed. Years must pass, with
all their unknown vicissitudes, before he looked again upon those
familiar faces--before he saw his own country again lie beautiful and
calm beneath the sun. He quickened his pace, keeping time with the rapid
current of his thoughts. For home--for friends--for country--all his
labor, all his endurance, would be for these: was it for him to repine,
or murmur, with his work and his reward before him? The remembrance
stirred his spirit like a trumpet, and the home voice of the Oran stole
in upon his thoughts chiming so hopefully and brave:

    "Speed thy labor o'er land and sea,
     Home and kindred are waiting for thee!"

The remainder of the month passed quietly away; the little world of
Strathoran was unusually still. Jeanie and Ada Mina Coulter began to
weary for the marriage, which rumor said would shortly bring a very
youthful, blue-eyed bride to Merkland, and for the festivities and
party-givings consequent thereupon. Miss Falconer was unusually quiet.
Walter Foreman, John Coulter and their set, had scarcely any new feats
or new speeches of Marjory's to make mirthful comments on. She was
becoming intimate with a sober, stout, cheerful, elderly lady, who wore
one unvarying dress of black silk, and was Mr. Lumsden's (of Portoran)
unmarried elder sister. Miss Lumsden had taken a decided liking for the
strange, wild, eccentric girl, whose exploits kept all the parish
amused; and had resided one whole fortnight in the immediate vicinity of
the Falcon's Craig stables and kennel, in order to assist and counsel
her young friend in the onerous duties of housekeeping. To Miss
Lumsden's honor be it spoken, she returned to the orderly and quiet
Manse, more stanchly Miss Falconer's friend than ever, and that in spite
of the very decided hand with which Marjory held the reins of government
at Falcon's Craig, barely admitting counsel, and by no means tolerating
assistance.

Mr. Foreman, to the great amazement of Lord Gillravidge and his friends,
had served upon them sundry mystic papers, interdicting them from their
obstruction of the by-way. Lord Gillravidge resisted, and the case was
to be tried before the Court of Session.

Mrs. Catherine's stately quietude was broken by the successive charges
of this legal war; the old lady entered into it keenly, anathematizing
with no lack of vehemence the "hounds" who were usurping the possession
of the dignified house of Strathoran.--The more than ordinary stillness
of the district brought out the excesses of Lord Gillravidge's household
in prominent and bold relief. The country people told sad tales of
these--exaggerated no doubt by their own simple habits, and by their
thorough dislike to the new-comer; but still possessing some foundation
of truth.

Lewis Ross, with James Aytoun and Robert Ferguson, were hard at work in
the fair parish on the south bank of "_the_ Firth," where stood the
desolate mansion of Redheugh, and where Arthur Aytoun met his fate.
Lewis and James were resident in the village inn, Robert had his
quarters in a comfortable farm-house at some distance from them. They
were pursuing their inquiry with all diligence. In Lewis's letters to
Anne, were recorded the long walks they took, the long conversations in
peasant houses, to which they were compelled to submit, in return for
the scraps of information gathered, the immense quantity of country
gossip, with which the history was interlarded, and the very slow
progress they made in their search. Many of the elder cottagers of the
district, remembered "young Redheugh" well, and spoke of his character,
Lewis said, as Esther Fleming and Mrs. Catherine had done; but, though
there was much affectionate respect for his youthful goodness, and much
pity for his terrible fate, there was no doubt of his guilt among them,
and they concluded their history of him, with an "Eh, Sirs! but mortal
flesh is weak when it's left to itsel; to think o' sae mony guid gifts
coming to sic an end!" Lewis did not know well what to do; he could see
no hope.

Early in February they returned to Edinburgh from whence came the
following letter to his anxious sister:

     "My dear Anne,

     "We have at last abandoned the search in despair--there is nothing
     to be made of it--I thought so before we began. We have awakened
     the attention of the district, and will, I fear, have to pay the
     penalty in some newspaper paragraphs resuscitating the whole story,
     which is disagreeable enough certainly--otherwise we have done
     nothing.

     "I told you that we had, the other day, called at the cottage of
     the man, who was the first to discover Mr. Aytoun after the murder.
     This man was an important witness. He had been employed about
     Redheugh, and was a spectator of the quarrel between Aytoun and
     Norman. It had reference to a young lady, between whom and Norman
     there was a rumored engagement; whether Aytoun knew this, or not, I
     cannot tell, but he spoke disparagingly of the girl, who was of
     inferior rank. Norman resented the slighting words with the utmost
     vehemence and passion; so much so, that the man feared some
     immediate collision between them. This was prevented, however, by
     some chance interposition, which he does not very clearly
     recollect. Norman was called away, and Mr. Aytoun returned home.

     "It was his daily custom to walk in this wood, though one would
     fancy from the character they give him, that he was by no means of
     a contemplative kind. He seems rather to have been one of those
     cool men, who take prudent means to recover themselves from the
     dissipation of one night, in order that they may be fit for the
     dissipation of the next. So it was his habit to walk in this wood
     early in the morning, and Norman knew it. Our informant was
     something of an artist, Anne. You should have heard his homely
     description of the stillness and beauty of the wood, as he went
     through it, returning from his morning's work, to breakfast; 'the
     sun was shining as clear as if there was naething below that
     dauredna be seen, or needit to shrink from the sight of man; and
     the innocent water running blythe beneath the trees, and the sky
     spreading calm aboon a', as if violence had never been dune in
     sicht of its blue e'e;' heightening the serenity of his background
     by all those delicate touches, that the terrible discovery he was
     about to make might stand out in bolder relief. You will say I
     treat this with indifference, Anne, but indeed, you are mistaken. I
     know Norman better, and am more interested in his fate now, (not to
     speak of my own individual interest in the result) than when I left
     Merkland.'

     "To resume the story. Our informant going carelessly forward
     through the wood, came suddenly upon the body of the murdered man,
     which had fallen, breaking down the low bushes and brushwood upon
     the waterside. I need not tell you his horror, nor how he describes
     it. He procured assistance immediately, and conveyed the body home,
     and afterwards returned to ascertain whether there were any traces
     visible of the murderer. He says, he never doubted for a
     moment--the last night's quarrel and estrangement, the cold sneers
     of Aytoun, and Norman's passionate vehemence, left him, as he
     thought, no room for doubt. His strong suspicion became absolute
     certainty, when on returning, he found, lying below some thick
     underwood, a light fowling-piece, bearing Norman's initials and
     arms. His story differs in no point from the evidence given by him
     at the time, and there mingles with it a compassion and regret for
     Norman, which make its truthfulness still more apparent. When I
     ventured to suggest, that in spite of all these condemnatory
     circumstances, the criminal might still be another person, he shook
     his head. 'I wad gie twa and a plack, Sir, to ony man that could
     prove that to me; na, bluid winna hide. If ony man living had
     spilt it, it wad have been brought hame to him before now.' To such
     a statement one could make no answer. I confess, I left him utterly
     hopeless; what can we do further?

     "The other man, who met Norman upon that fatal morning, leaving the
     wood, is dead; but his widow lives, and remembers her husband's
     story perfectly. Norman, the widow says, was smiling and cheerful,
     humming a tune, and apparently in high spirits, and stopped on his
     way to greet her husband kindly, as was his wont; for she, too,
     testifies to the uniform goodness and gentleness of "young
     Redheugh." It was a mystery to her husband, she says, to the last
     day of his life, how a man, newly come from such a deed, with the
     blood of a fellow creature and a friend warm on his hand, should
     have smiles on his face, and kindness on his tongue, to an
     indifferent passer-by.

     "I cannot understand it either, Anne. It is the one thing, above
     all others, which staggers me. A calculating, cool, reasoning man,
     who even, at such a time, could think of the chances of a favorable
     evidence, might have been supposed capable of this--even then, I
     fancy there is hardly anything of the kind on record. But an
     impulsive, generous, sensitive man, such as universal testimony
     concurs in representing Norman--one cannot comprehend it. If the
     gaiety had been forced, the man must have observed it--it would
     have been an additional evidence of his guilt--but it was not so.
     The favorite tune--the elastic, joyous manner--the frank greeting!
     I cannot reconcile these with the idea of his guilt. If it had not
     been for this one very indistinct and impalpable piece of evidence,
     which, like his own letter, may influence the mind, but can have no
     legal force as proof, I should at once have given up the search,
     and taken refuge in the certainty of his guilt.

     "All inquiries as to any other suspected party have proved entirely
     fruitless. Every circumstance had pointed so clearly to Norman,
     that, as I think, anything inculpating another, must have faded
     from the memories of the people as quite unimportant.

     "James Aytoun looks very grave: he does not say much, and I cannot
     guess his opinion. He has been very zealous and active in the
     search, and has conducted it, as it seems to me, with great
     prudence and wisdom. I think he is very much disappointed. I even
     think that he still retains a lingering conviction of Norman's
     innocence, and is, like myself, bewildered and uncertain what step
     to take, or what to do.

     "From Mrs. Aytoun I have received just such a reception as you
     might have expected from the mother of James and Alice. Tremulously
     kind, almost tender to me for her daughter's sake, yet often lost
     in long reveries of silent sorrow. No doubt this search, recalling
     all the circumstances of her widowhood to Mrs. Aytoun's mind, has
     cost her much pain. I think, however, that, to speak modestly, they
     don't altogether dislike me. So far as worldly matters go, we, you
     know, hold our heads higher than they do, and I cannot help hoping
     that people so sensible and friendly as James Aytoun and his
     mother, will not, in the spirit of a darker age, allow this old and
     forgotten crime to hinder the happiness of their gentle Alice. I
     have improved my time sufficiently, I trust, to ensure that that
     same happiness is not very safe, if I am denied a share in it. I
     intend, to-morrow, to have an explanation with them, and ascertain
     definitely what are our future prospects. I need not say how
     gentle, and sympathizing, and affectionate--how entirely like
     herself, in short, our little Alice is.

     "I have not much fear of the _eclaircissement_ to-morrow. They
     will, very likely, impose some probation upon us. We are both young
     enough to tolerate that--but that they can steadily refuse their
     consent to a connection (as I flatter myself) so proper and
     suitable, an advantageous settlement for Alice, which will secure
     alike her happiness and her external comfort, I cannot believe. I
     shall, likely, return some time this week. Let Duncan meet me in
     Portoran on Friday. If I do not come, it does not matter much--the
     old man will be the better for the drive.

"LEWIS ROSS."



Beside the letter of Lewis was another, the handwriting of which Anne
did not know. She had few correspondents, and opened it wonderingly. It
was from James Aytoun.

"My dear Miss Ross,

     "Your brother will have informed you of our failure. So far as I
     can at present see, we have used every possible means, and the only
     result is, a strengthening of the former evidence, and a more clear
     establishment of Mr. Rutherford's apparent guilt. For my sister's
     sake I began this, deeply anxious for a favorable issue. I feel
     only more anxious now, when I know, and have a personal interest in
     the nearest relatives of this unhappy young man, whom men call my
     father's murderer. I cannot comprehend it. In this very clear and
     satisfactory evidence, I am entirely bewildered and confused.
     Everything I have gathered in my search has confirmed and
     strengthened the circumstances against him; and yet, by some
     strange perversity, everything I have heard has increased my
     conviction of his innocence.

     "I write thus to you, because I feel that you are even more deeply
     interested in this than your brother. With my friend Lewis it is a
     secondary matter, and I am rather pleased that it should be. So
     that we are sufficiently satisfied not to withhold our consent to
     his engagement with Alice, he has no very engrossing interest in
     the matter; but with you--if I am wrong you will pardon me--it
     seems more deeply momentous and important. I also feel very greatly
     interested in it. If it were but in a professional point of view,
     it would claim my utmost attention.

     "The evidence is very clear and full. Were it brought before any
     jury, there could not be the slightest doubt of the result.--But,
     with all the tales of generosity and kindness which yet make your
     brother's memory fragrant in the district, and with his own very
     moving self-defence still further to counteract it, I have no
     hesitation in saying to you that this mass of evidence makes no
     impression upon my mind, but the very uneasy and painful one of
     doubt and apprehension. There is no certainty in it. All these
     things might have remained as they are, and yet your brother's
     innocence be triumphantly vindicated--if, indeed, it had not been
     for that last fatal step of his flight. Is he now, truly, beyond
     the reach of either acquittal or condemnation?--does there remain
     only his _name_ to vindicate?

     "In the meantime there cannot be any nearer connexion between our
     family and yours. I regret it deeply--but it is impossible to
     forget that the murdered man is my father, and that while so much
     as a doubt remains, we must not dishonor the memory of the dead.
     You will understand and feel for us, I am sure. For my mother,
     especially, I must beg your sympathy: this matter has most
     painfully revived the bitterest time of her life; and while, like
     myself, her feelings--both for Alice's sake, and his own--are all
     enlisted in favor of your brother, she feels, with me, that until
     we have some more satisfactory proof, nearer connexion is
     impossible.

     "You will forgive me, if I speak harshly. I feel that you will
     understand the necessity more calmly than I should wish Lewis to
     do; and I am confidant that we can trust in your kind co-operation.
     In the meantime, I shall keep my eye on the district, and let no
     opportunity of throwing light upon this dark matter pass me. May I
     also beg your confidence? If there is any further particular of
     importance, trust me with it. So far as my ability goes, I shall
     leave no stone unturned; and will, I assure you, betray no
     confidence with which you may honor me.

"Believe me, my dear Miss Ross,
"Very sincerely yours.
"JAMES AYTOUN."



Anne was uneasy and perplexed: this sensible, generous, thoughtful James
Aytoun, suspected her secret, and claimed to be trusted with it. Could
she withhold it from him? And then, this fallen edifice of hope, with
all the sickness of its indefinite deferring--what could be done,
indeed? It seemed foolish--it seemed mere madness, the burning desire
that rose within her, to hurry to the place herself, and see if the
eager eyes of anxiety and sisterly yearning could discover nothing.
Alas! were not James Aytoun's eyes eager also? was not his mind trained
and practised? It did not matter--Anne felt it impossible to stand
still--to wait--until she had convinced herself that there was nothing
more to learn. Esther Fleming's eager repetition: "I lookit to you, Miss
Anne, I aye lookit to you," came back upon her, like a call from her
father's very grave. She wrote hastily to Lewis, begging him to return
immediately; and then sat down to consider her plan.--It might be
foolish--it might be Quixotic. Possibly she could do no good--but she
must try.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Upon the Friday Lewis returned home. Anne had walked out upon the
Portoran road, looking for him, and met him a short distance from the
gate of Merkland. He looked sulky and out of humor, and leaping from the
gig, threw the reins to Duncan, and joined his sister.

"Well?" said Anne, when their first greeting was over, and Duncan out of
hearing.

"Well," said Lewis, "we are just where we were. I expected nothing
better. We have not advanced a step."

"I understand that," said Anne; "but what of the Aytoun's?--what
understanding have you come to?--what arrangement about Alice?"

"Nothing--nothing," said Lewis, hastily; "I tell you we are exactly
where we were. My position is not in the least degree better than it was
on the first day I knew this history--it is worse indeed, for you buoyed
me up with hopes then of the great things we should discover--see what
it has all come to."

"You have surely made some arrangement--come to some understanding?"
said Anne; "it is a quite useless thing to tantalize me, Lewis. Your
engagement has not terminated--you have not given up--"

"'Given up!" Lewis turned round indignantly. "I suppose you would like
nothing better, my mother and you; but you're mistaken, I tell you. All
the mothers and sisters in the kingdom should not make me give up
Alice--a pretty thing!"

"You are quite unreasonable, Lewis," said Anne; "I do not want you to
give up Alice--very far from that--I think you have been fortunate in
winning so fresh and guileless a youthful spirit; but this impatience
and petulance makes you unworthy of Alice Aytoun. At your years men
should regard their own dignity more--you are not a boy now, Lewis."

"I should think not," was the angry response. It made him quiet
nevertheless; these fits of ill-humor and peevishness were certainly
neither dignified nor manly.

"What have you done then? how have you arranged?" said Anne.

"Oh, we must wait, they say. If it had been merely a few months, or even
a year, I should not have thought anything of it: but this indefinite
delay--to be as patient and dignified as you like, Anne, it is very
disagreeable and painful."

"I do not doubt it," said Anne.

"And so, till some further evidence of Norman's innocence can be
procured--further! I should say until they can get _any_ evidence--we
must wait. James is to keep his eye on the district, he says, and lose
no opportunity; that looks all very well, but if there _is_ no evidence
to be got, Alice and I may wait till our lives are spent in vain. It's
very hard, Anne; I do say so, however boyish you may think it."

"I do not think _that_ boyish, Lewis," said Anne. "We must take measures
more active than James's mere watching the district. Lewis, it is my
turn to be called childish now. You must let me try--I must go to this
place myself."

Lewis opened his eyes in consternation:

"_You_ try! _you_ go yourself! why, what on earth could _you_ do? Anne,
you are mad!"

"I am not mad, Lewis, in the least degree, and yet I _must_ go to this
place myself; it is not in self-confidence. I have patience more than
you, and time less occupied; I never expected that this work could be
done easily or soon. Lewis, _I_ must go."

They were entering the house as Anne spoke. Lewis did not answer her. He
only shook his head impatiently. There was something humiliating in the
very idea that she could accomplish a thing in which he had failed.

He met his mother dutifully and with proper respect and kindness. Mrs.
Aytoun's natural, unassuming dignity and entire sympathy with her
children; the frank, affectionate, tender intercourse subsisting between
them; the seemly regard for her opinion, which was no less apparent in
her manly son, James, than in her gentle daughter, Alice, had charmed
Lewis unconsciously. The absolute propriety and fitness of that natural
honor and reverence made an involuntary impression upon him--an
impression which now softened his voice and restrained his temper. With
good training, and these righteous influences round him, Lewis was a
hopeful subject yet.

"So you have returned as you went away?" said Mrs. Ross, when they had
been some little time together.

"Yes," said Lewis, "I should say worse, for I had some hope then, and I
have none now."

"I thought it was all nonsense," said Mrs. Ross. "I knew you could make
nothing of it."

"You were wrong then, mother," said Lewis, quickly. "We have got no
evidence--but I believe now, what I did not believe when we left
Merkland, that Norman is innocent."

Anne looked up joyfully.

"Not that my believing it will do much good," said Lewis, "when such a
thing as definite proof is not to be had; but that the man, these people
spoke of as young Redheugh could do a deliberate and cowardly murder is
nearly impossible."

"I thank you, Lewis," exclaimed Anne. "I thank you for myself and for
Norman!"

"But what good does it all do?" continued Lewis. "I may believe--but
unless you can get other people to believe too, what is the use of it?"

"The use of it!" Anne's lightened heart and shining eye bore witness to
its use. "James Aytoun believes it also," she said.

"Yes, James Aytoun believes it; but neither James nor you, Anne, will be
satisfied with believing it yourselves. I don't see what we're to do.
People judge by evidence--all the evidence is against him, and the only
thing in his favor is an impression--well, I will go further--a kind of
certainty--one can't give any reason for it, it is the merest
indefinite, impalpable thing in the world. There's just a conviction
that he is not guilty--there's nothing to support it."

"Well," said Anne, cheerfully; "but the evidence to support it must be
got, Lewis. It is foolish to think that a work like this could be done
in so short a time, and with so small an expenditure of labor and
patience. Your time is otherwise engaged--so is James Aytoun's--he has
his business to manage--you, your estate. I have nothing. I am and have
been all my life, a very useless person; let me have the satisfaction of
being of some service for once in my life."

"Why, Anne," exclaimed Lewis, "are you in your senses? what in the world
could you do? Do you think I could ever listen to such a thing?
Nonsense, nonsense--mind your own affairs like a good girl, and do not
meddle with what is quite out of your sphere."

Anne smiled, but with some pain--another person might have laughed
frankly at the condescending superiority of the younger brother. It hurt
her a little.

"Lewis, I have even more interest in this matter than you--many hopes
there may be, and are, in your life. I have few. This of Norman's return
is the greatest of all--and what concerns my brother cannot be out of my
sphere."

"No--to wish for it--or to dream about it, or even to scheme for it,"
said Lewis, "That's all very well; but for anything else--why, what
could you do, Anne--what could any woman do? You know nothing of the
laws of evidence--you don't know even how to make inquiries. You might
go and spend money, and get the thing talked about, and written of in
local newspapers. Content yourself, Anne, and leave it in our hands: you
could do nothing more."

Alice Aytoun could have done nothing more. Anne Ross felt very certain
that she had no gift for spending money and getting herself talked
about--that it might be possible for her to do something more. So she
said:

"You do not convince me, Lewis. To discover truth, one does not need to
be familiar with laws of evidence. I am not a lawyer, and could not go
as a lawyer would; but I am Norman's only sister, Lewis, and, as such,
might find some fragments of truth favorable to him. I do not ask you to
decide immediately--think of it, and then give me your sanction to my
enterprise."

"I am perfectly amazed, Anne--quite astonished," exclaimed Mrs. Ross.
"What can the girl be dreaming of? _you_ go to collect evidence!--you
accomplish what Lewis and Mr. Aytoun, and Robert Ferguson--trained
lawyers have failed to do! I never heard of such self-confidence. I
cannot comprehend it."

Anne was roused out of her usual patience.

"Mother!" she said, "you have often called me very useless--I grant it,
if you choose--I have at least not been undutiful. Hitherto, you know, I
have been almost entirely guided by your pleasure. Here is one thing
upon which I must exercise my own judgment--_must_, mother--it is no
question of liking or disliking. I also have some affections, desires,
wishes of my own. I am not merely an appendage--a piece of
goods--forgive me if I speak hastily; but supposing that neither
affection nor wish were in this matter, I have even a prior _duty_ to
Norman; I have my father's command. Mother, I am no longer a girl--there
is some other duty for me now, than mere obedience; I have rendered you
that for three-and-twenty years: do not grudge me some exercise of my
own faculties now."

Mrs. Ross stared at her in open-eyed astonishment. Lewis had laughed at
first--now he was graver. Mrs. Ross, with much obstinacy of her own, was
one of those people who sometimes bluster, but always yield and quail
before genuine, sober firmness.

"What do you mean? What do you wish to do?" she asked, peevishly.
"Dutiful, obedient! ah, I have had a good daughter in you, without
doubt! You are your brother's own sister. By all means, devote yourself
to Norman. What right have I, who have only been a mother to you all
your life, in comparison with this brother Norman, whom you never saw?"

Anne was already sorry for her outburst; yet, in spite of herself, felt
indignant and impatient. This thraldom galled her grievously, yet she
knew it to be a necessary result of her dependence.

"Stay, mother," said Lewis, "let me be peacemaker, for once. You forget
how tired I am. Postpone your discussion till after dinner. We have had
civil war long enough; let us have peace now."

Anne withdrew to her own room. So did Lewis; and the discussion was at
an end.

What should she do? The few shillings in the end of her purse were all
inadequate for the journey, and the expense of residing, perhaps for
some considerable time, among strangers. That difficulty there was but
one way of overcoming. Anne could not rely upon the generosity of Lewis,
or his mother. To tell the truth, the finances of Merkland were in a
state of considerable attenuation. But she could rely, without
hesitation, upon Mrs. Catherine.

And there were further difficulties: how to go alone, and live alone, in
the strange, unknown place: how to forsake her ordinary habits, and take
to cottage visiting as indefatigably as an English Lady Bountiful. The
first she was rather uneasy about; the second was a trifle. Things which
were merely disagreeable, did not much distress Anne Ross: she was by no
means in despair even at those which most people called impossible; but
shrank with nervous delicacy from any, the very slightest, appearance of
evil.

After dinner, the conversation was renewed. Lewis had been somewhat
struck by Anne's assertion of some little claim to her own judgment. He
certainly did not think her so wise as himself, but he knew her quite
equal to various of his friends, whose claim to independent will and
action was quite indisputable. Only, she was a woman: that was all the
difference. Lewis resolved to be very enlightened and liberal, to let
his sister express her opinions freely, and himself to give a final and
impartial deliverance upon them.

"Did I mention, in my last letter, the people who had been so intimate
with Norman?" he asked, to begin.

"No," said Anne.

"An old woman referred us to them. She said it was a sister of theirs
who was the occasion of the dispute between Aytoun and Norman; a poor
girl who went to visit some friends in the west, about the time of the
murder, and died there of a broken heart. One believes in such things
when one hears stories like these. They live alone, in a great, gaunt
old house, a brother and sister."

"And what?" said Anne, eagerly.

"Oh, nothing. I have no story to tell. We could gather nothing from
them. The sister is a strange, emaciated, worn-out woman. James thought
she looked agitated; but save a burst of broken praise of 'poor
Redheugh'--I believe she even called him Norman--we elicited nothing
more. The brother is an invalid and hypochondriac; we caught a glimpse
of him, once or twice, wandering on the beach, but never could address
him. They seemed strange people, but had nothing to tell."

Anne did not speak. Her curiosity and interest were awakened.

"What a strange fellow," exclaimed Lewis, "that Norman must have been!"

"Strange!" said Mrs. Ross, "Yes, indeed, I should think he was. I know
we had little peace in Merkland, before he came of age."

"How he managed to make the country people all so fond of him,"
continued Lewis, disregarding his mother's interruption, "one can't
tell. And falling in love with a girl, of quite different rank.
Altogether, it's a strange story."

"What was their name?" said Mrs. Ross. "I thought you said they lived in
an old, great house, Lewis."

"So they do," said Lewis. "It is not their own, though.--They pay some
nominal rent, and take care of the place. Their name--what is their
name?--upon my word I don't recollect. I don't know that I ever heard
the surname. I remember the sister was called Miss Christian: but James
will know."

"And you are sure they know nothing?" said Anne.

"Yes; at least the sister gave us no information, and the brother, as I
told you, is a poor ailing creature--half crazy, the people say. He had
saved an old man from drowning, shortly before we reached the place, and
was very much elated about it."

"And their sister?" said Anne.

"Their sister was a very gentle, sweet girl--so runs the story--and was
much attached to Norman. The news of his flight was carried to her
abruptly by some officious person, and the consequence was, that the
poor girl broke her heart, and died. It is a very sad story. Alice
seemed to be able for nothing but crying when I told her."

Anne was ruminating in wonder and doubt--who then was the "Marion?" It
was impossible that this truthful, upright Norman should have his troth
plighted to two! Impossible that he could play one false! The doubt made
her heart sink: the weight of one sin is so much heavier than the
burden of a hundred misfortunes.

"Now Anne," said Lewis, "what has become of your famous resolution? Has
your heart failed you already? I am glad of it: better faint before you
enter the wood, than when you are on the way."

"I have no idea of fainting at all," said Anne, "unless, indeed, when we
have fairly emerged into the clear air again, with Norman honorably in
his own house, and Alice at Merkland--I may have leisure for fainting
then. Now, Lewis--listen to me, I beg, mother--I want you to consent
that I should go to this place--to Aberford--immediately, or if not
immediately, at least soon.--Let me have some one with me--May would do,
or old Esther Fleming. I can take quiet lodgings and live there,
professedly for the sake of sea air, if, indeed, any pretence is
necessary. Once there, with no other claim on my time, and patience
enough to bear any ordinary disagreeables, I may make quiet, noiseless
unsuspected investigations. Let me try; the matter is of consequence to
us all, and the expense will not be great. I beg that I may not be
hindered from making this endeavor; it may produce something--and if it
does not, there is nothing lost."

"Upon my word you take it very coolly," said Mrs. Ross. "I should like
to know why my son's means should be wasted in such an absurd
expedition. You will never make anything of it, it is quite nonsense:
besides, the idea of a girl going away from home, and living alone,
engaged in such a search!--perfectly improper! I am amazed at you,
Anne!"

Anne blushed deeply. It might, indeed, be called improper and
indecorous, and she was not given to neglect the veriest outer garment
and vesture of good fame; but for this, a matter so very dear and
precious, involving so many interests, a mere punctilio might surely be
disregarded--a ceremonial dispensed with.

"Mother!" she said, "if I were ill, you would not object to this: on the
mere order of a doctor, you would have thought it perfectly proper to
suffer me to go to the sea-side: how much more now, when interests so
great are at stake--Lewis and Norman--your hope and mine! Mother! let me
have your consent."

Lewis was touched. This Norman, whom she emphatically called her hope,
did not live at all in Anne's remembrance, except in the merest shadow.
He began to perceive how void of personal hopes and joys her life was.
There were some--deeper, graver, more earnest than his--foremost among
them, the deliverance and return of this exile brother; should he, her
nearest relative, dim and darken this great hope for her? Lewis forgot
himself, and his forgetfulness ennobled him.

"Anne," he said, "let us speak of this hereafter--nay, I mean soon; but
not--" he glanced at his mother, "not to-night."

Anne understood, and was satisfied. Lewis had turned peacemaker. Lewis
was devising means to turn his mother's ill-humor and undeserved
reproofs from her. All honor and praise to that kindly household of
Aytoun; the manly son, the gracious mother, the gentle little girl,
Alice, who had found out for him, and brought into the pleasant air of
day, the hidden heart of Lewis Ross.

The next morning, Lewis himself proposed a consultation with Mrs.
Catherine. Anne consented gladly, and they set out. The Oran was frozen
hard, and lay, a glittering road of ice, far below the high pathway of
crisp snow they were walking on, through which the topmost branches of
the buried hedge peered forth like wayside weeds. The snow lay three or
four feet deep, and it was intensely cold.

They found Mrs. Catherine in her ruddy inner room, hemming fine cambric
still. In the one article of linen, Archibald Sutherland was not likely
to find himself deficient for years. Lewis gave in his report. Mrs.
Catherine was disappointed.

"But it is no marvel to me, mind, though you yourself, Lewis, are in
trouble, as I see, that your skill, and wisdom, and great experience,
have failed in the first trial. Take good heart, boy; when you have come
to years, you will understand that men are not wont to win the head of
the contest, in the first trial. Set your breast to it, man; begin
again."

"Why, we have done everything, Mrs. Catherine," said Lewis.

"Ay! you are a clever chield, Lewis Ross. Is it a month since the two
gallants went away, Anne? Truly, I had no thought there were two such
giants under my roof yon bright January day--done everything!--in _four_
weeks! It is a comfort to folk of an older generation, that have worn
out lifetimes at one labor, to hear tell of the like of that."

Lewis did not know whether to laugh, or to be angry: acting on his new
notions of manliness, he chose the former. "Of course, Mrs. Catherine, I
mean everything we could do."

"Lewis," said Mrs. Catherine, "you are wrong; there is no man in this
world--at least, I have never heard name nor fame of him--that did
everything he could do in such a space of time; it is a delusion of
youth. You have girded yourself for the race, and have run hard for one
mile; you think ye have done all. Boy! you are neither footsore, nor
weary, nor sick at heart; what ails you to go on? I have known folk
struggling hard, that were all the three. Turn back, Lewis Ross, and
begin again."

"Mrs. Catherine," said Anne, "if Lewis returned, it would excite
curiosity; their investigations have aroused attention already. I think
it would not be wise. We came to consult you on a plan of mine. Mrs.
Catherine, they say, despairing men venture on forlorn hopes often. I am
not despairing, I am only useless; but I want Lewis to entrust this
forlorn hope to me."

"And I," said Lewis, "think it is a very foolish idea; but yet have no
reasonable defence to offer against it."

Mrs. Catherine looked at Anne earnestly.

"Are you able? that you would endeavor this I never doubted--have you
strength for it?"

"I? I am strong," said Anne, "you know that, Mrs. Catherine. I scarcely
know what sickness is."

Mrs. Catherine touched, with her fingers, the smooth, clear cheek, which
testified the firm and elastic health, both physical and mental, of its
owner, and yet was so far removed from robustness.

"Anne, I believe you are able; you have my full consent, and God-speed.
Mind you, what I have said to Lewis; it's no one trial, or two, or
three--time and patience, thought and labor; you must grudge none of
them all. Tell me your plan."

"Must we submit?" said Lewis. "Anne, is Mrs. Catherine's judgment final?
is there no appeal?"

"Silence!" said Mrs. Catherine, peremptorily; "who was speaking of
appeal or judgment? There is a work to do, Lewis Ross; the thing is to
get the fittest workman, and beware how we hinder him of his labor. We
have tarried long enough; this is no a time to put further barriers in
the road. Child, your plan?"

"I propose going to Aberford," said Anne; "taking some trusty person
with me, Mrs. Catherine. It is common, I hear, for people to go there,
who seek sea air. I shall attract no attention; it does not matter much
how long I stay. I can establish myself under the wing of some matron,
and so escape the charge of impropriety. Then I shall go about the
district, make acquaintance with every one to whom I can have access,
and inquire with all zeal and all quietness. While questions from Lewis,
and a lawyer-like person, like James Aytoun, might confuse the people,
they will speak frankly to me. I will gossip with them, play with their
children; get all possible scraps of recollectings and imaginings, and,
perhaps, when the heap is winnowed, something worth going for."

Mrs. Catherine bent her head gravely, and asked: "When?"

"Immediately," said Anne; "at least, I should desire so. We have lost
much time already."

Mrs. Catherine rose, and went to the window. The sky was heavy and dark,
lowering like some great gloomy forehead. It was laden with snow--large,
dilated flakes, like those of fire upon Dante's burning sand were
falling one by one, upon the white earth. It was a feeding storm.

"Bonnie weather for the sea-side," said Mrs. Catherine, returning to her
seat. "You must go with a good excuse, child, not with an apparent
falsehood on your tongue. 'February fills the dyke, either with black or
white.' We are getting both of them this month. March is a blustering,
wintry time, when there is little to be seen or heard tell of about the
coast but shipwreck and disaster. April is pleasant in a landward place.
You _may_ go in April; it is too soon, but for the necessity's sake you
may go then--not a day sooner, at your peril. You are able and well? I
understand your look, child--hold your peace. I would give a good year
of my life--and I have few of them to spare, seeing I am trysted to
abide in my present tabernacle, if the Lord will tell Archie Sutherland
has won back his land--to see Norman Rutherford a free man on Oranside
again; but I will not consent to put you in peril, child, for any
prospective good. I say you shall go in April. I put my interdict upon
you venturing before. I will give you your freedom in the last blast of
the borrowing days. Not an hour sooner. Now, will you abide by my
judgment, or will you not?"

Anne looked out uneasily. The heavy sky slowly beginning to discharge
its load--the earth everywhere covered with that white, warm mantle--the
gradually increasing storm. She submitted. Now, at least, it was
impossible to go.

Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Catherine took her into another room, and
interrogated her concerning her pecuniary arrangements for the journey.
Anne evaded the question, laughed at the scanty family of shillings in
her own purse, and spoke of Lewis.

"Child, you are a gowk after all," said Mrs. Catherine. "The lad needs
all his siller for himself. If there is anything to spare, let him use
it on bonnie dies to dress his little bride withal--though the bairn
Alison has a natural grace, and needs them less than most. But if you
say a word about siller to Lewis, you shall never enter my door again.
Mind! It is my wont to keep my word."

Within a week after this conversation, the last half of Mrs. Catherine's
prodigal outfit was hurriedly sent to Glasgow, where Archibald
Sutherland had made his first beginning with success and honor. The cold
lodging, to whose narrow and solitary fireside he returned, night after
night alone--the fat, Glasgow landlady, whose broad, good-humored face
began to smile upon him with a familiar kindliness, which the broken
laird blamed himself for almost shrinking from--the life of strange
labor--he was getting accustomed to them all.

The house which he had entered was a great one. The senior partner, Mr.
Sutor, a man of good mercantile descent, and capital business head,
lived at a considerable distance from Glasgow, in one of those
magnificent solitudes of hill and water, whither the merchants of St.
Mungo are wont to carry their genial wealth, and their fine houses. It
was within convenient distance of the "Saut Water," that irresistible
temptation and delight of every genuine Glaswegian. Mr. Sutor came up
frequently to business; he was still the active sagacious head of his
extensive establishment. The manager, Mr. George Lumsden, was as great a
man in his way. He lived in the dignified vicinity of Blytheswood
Square. He had a fine house, a well-dressed pretty wife, and beautiful
children; gave good dinners; visited baillies and town-councillors, and
had baillies and town-councillors visiting him, and was certain in a
very short time, to have his respectable name introduced into the firm.
He was moreover an active, intelligent man, almost intellectual in spite
of those absorbing cares of business, and worthy to call the minister of
Portoran brother. Had Archibald chosen, he might have made a tolerably
good _entre_ into the society of Glasgow, in the hospitable house of Mr.
Lumsden; but Archibald did not choose. His former folly, illness, and
repentance had both sobered and saddened him, and he desired to avoid
society--a desire which Mr. Lumsden kindly perceived; and after one or
two unhappy evenings, during which the sensitive young man had endured
in exquisite pain "the pity of the crowd," and suffered the sympathy of
indifferent strangers, Mr. Lumsden forbore pressing further invitations
upon him.

Messrs. Sutor and Sinclair's office was filled with young men--very
young men, most of them--adventurous scions of commercial Glasgow
families, foredoomed to push their fortunes, and to push them
successfully in every quarter of the globe. Youths who made immense
havoc among "grossets," strawberries, and all other delicacies of the
luxurious summer-time, sacred to Clydesdale orchards, and radiant with
the crowning glory of the Saut Water; nor in the gloomier season did
less execution among edibles and drinkables, by no means so delicate or
innocent--uproarious, laughter loving, practical-joking youths, among
whose noisy conclave Archibald Sutherland sat silent, grave, and sad, in
strange solitude.

Thoroughly respectable they would all be by-and-by, on English 'Change
and foreign market-place, and home counting-house--men who could lose
some few thousands without much discomposure, and whose custom was to
win them in tens and twenties. Yet one could pass so lightly over these
ruddy faces, to rest upon that pale one among them, with its secret
history--its grief--its hope--altogether forgetful that this was a hired
clerk, and that the cubs were young gentlemen, taken in at nominal
salaries, to learn their craft, and saving Mr. Sutor no inconsiderable
annual sum in the salaries of other hired clerks, whose services his
great business must have demanded but for them.

But Archibald discharged his duty well: so well, that Mr. Lumsden
formally pronounced his satisfaction--shortened his probation--and when
he had been but a month in the Glasgow counting-house, bade him prepare
immediately for his voyage. Archibald did so: wrote a long letter, and
received a short note of leave-taking from his sister Isabel--the
much-admired and gay Mrs. Duncombe--packed up his great outfit, placed
in his pocketbook Mrs. Catherine's long letter of pithy counsel and
tender kindliness; with these few words of grave farewell from Merkland;
and on a heavy day in February, took his last look of the fair West
Country, and its beautiful Clyde, and set sail for the New World.



CHAPTER XIX.


Mr. Lumsden, of Portoran, was seated in his study. The March wind was
blustering boisterous and rude without, driving its precious dust, so
valuable, as the proverb says, to farmer and seedsman, upon the window.
The study of the Portoran Manse was by no means a luxurious place--there
were no reclining library chairs in it: the formidable volumes that
clothed its walls were such as no _dilettanti_ student would venture to
engage withal. Its furniture was of the plainest. One large respectable
looking glazed bookcase, and a multitude of auxiliary shelves, were
piled to overflowing with books--books worth one's while to look at,
though Russian leather and gilding were marvellously scant among them.
That glorious row of tall vellum-covered folios--Miss Lumsden tells a
story of them--how they were presented to her studious brother John, the
day he was licensed, by a wealthy elder (to whom be all honor and laud,
and many followers;) and how John, in the mightiness of his glee,
forgetful of the new dignity of his Reverend, fairly danced round the
ponderous volumes in overbrimming pride and exultation. Miss Lumsden's
studious brother John, sits listening the while, with his own peculiar
smile upon his face--a smile which gives to that dark, penetrating,
intellectual countenance a singular fascination--there is something in
the simplicity of its glee, which at once suits so well and contrasts so
strangely with his strong and noble character.

For Mr. Lumsden, of Portoran, was altogether a peculiar man; we are
sorry that we cannot venture to call him a type of the clergymen of
Scotland; he was not a type of any body or profession. You will find
rare individuals of his class here and there, but nowhere many. That
there were such things as fatigue and weariness, Mr. Lumsden knew--he
had heard of them, with the hearing of the ear, and believed in their
existence as on good testimony we believe that there are mountains in
the moon; but Mr. Lumsden regarded people who complained much of these
with a smile, half-pitying, half-incredulous, and met the idea of
himself suffering from them with a no less amused burst of open wonder
than if it had been suggested to him that he should hold a diet of
examination, on some chill hillside of the pale planet over us. The
laborious duties of a brave and faithful minister were very life and
breath to Mr. Lumsden, of Portoran--obstacles that discouraged every
other man did only pleasantly excite and stimulate his patient might of
labor. Weary work, from which all beside him turned disconsolate and
afraid, Mr. Lumsden swept down upon, his face radiant with all its frank
simplicity of glee. Nothing daunted the mighty, vigorous, healthful soul
within him--nothing cast down that great, broad, expansive power of
Hope, which was with him no fair beguiling fairy, but an athletic
spirit, greedy of labor as the elfin serving-man of Michael Scot. In
labors manifold the minister of Portoran spent his manly days; foremost
in every good work, valiantly at the head of every Christian enterprise,
and full of that high religious chivalry which dares all things in the
service of the Church and of the Church's Head.

The widow and the fatherless knew well the firm footstep of their
faithful friend and comforter; the poor of his parish claimed his kindly
service as a public property; no man seeking counsel or help, comfort or
assistance, went doubtingly to the Manse of Portoran. The minister--his
wisdom, his influence, his genial large heart, belonged to the people;
he was the first person sought in misfortune, the first to whom sorrow
was unfolded. In a great joy the people of Portoran might forget
him--they never forgot to warn him of the coming of grief.

Mr. Lumsden was seated in his study--a great quarto of ponderous Latin
divinity, the produce of that busy time after the Reformation, when
divines _did_ write in quarto and folio volumes, terrible to look upon
in these degenerate days, lay on the table before him. He was not
reading it, however; he was pulling on his boot, and looking at an open
note which lay upon the book.

One boot was already on--he was tugging at the other indignantly. Mr.
Lumsden was particularly extravagant in that article of boots--so much
so, as entirely to shock his prudent sister Martha. This one, which
would not be drawn on, had been out during the night, upon its master's
foot, trudging through all manner of wet by-ways to a sick-bed--it had
not yet recovered the drenching. So Mr. Lumsden pulled, and between the
pulls looked at the note, and muttered to himself words which his
correspondent would not have cared to hear.

Miss Lumsden entered the study. Miss Lumsden had seen out her fortieth
winter; for the last ten of these, she had worn one constant dress of
black silk, and pronounced herself an old woman; and as it was very much
for the benefit of her married sisters and unmarried brothers that she
should think so, no one contradicted her. It happened at this time, to
be John's turn to have the noted housekeeper of the Lumsden family
resident with him. The Manse of Gowdenleas in the rich plains of Mid
Lothian, and the Manse of Kilfleurs in the West Highlands, the
respective residences of her brothers, Robert and Andrew, were under an
interregnum. Mrs. Edie nee Lumsden, in her Fife Manse, had no
expectation of a new baby; Mrs. Gilmour the Edinburgh physician's wife,
had no sickness among her seven children; Mrs. Morton, the great
invalid, whose husband held an office in the Register House was much
better than could be expected; so the universally useful sister Martha
had time to bestow her care and attention upon the domestic comfort of
her brother John.

The boot suddenly relaxed as Miss Lumsden entered, and the shock brought
out her brother's muttering in a louder tone than he intended: "A pretty
fellow!"

"Who is that?" asked his sister.

Mr. Lumsden looked up, flushed with exertion. "This lord at Strathoran.
Take his note--a seemly thing indeed to write so to me; Marjory Falconer
is right after all--the man thinks himself a Highland chieftain."

Miss Lumsden read the note, wonderingly.

"Sir.

     "My people inform me that you are in the habit of visiting my
     tenants at Oranmore, and inciting them to a course of action quite
     subversive of my plans. I am informed that the glen is in the
     parish of Strathoran, and consequently under the charge of another
     clergyman--the Rev. Mr. Bairnsfather--whose own good sense and
     proper feeling have withheld him from any interference between
     myself and my dependants. I am not inclined to submit to any
     clerical meddling, and therefore beg to remind you, that as
     Oranmore is not under your charge, any interference on your part is
     perfectly uncalled for and officious. I do not choose to have any
     conventicles in the glen, and trust that you will at once refrain
     from visits, which may injure the people but can do them no good.

"I am, &c.
"GILLRAVIDGE."



"Did ever any mortal hear such impertinence?" exclaimed the amazed Miss
Lumsden.

"_His_ people!" said the minister: "they have been his a long time to be
so summarily dealt with as goods and chattels. The man must have got his
ideas of Scotland from 'Waverley,' and thinks he is a Glennaquoich and
at the head of a clan--what absurd folly it is!"

"And just, 'Sir!'" said Miss Lumsden, indignantly; "he might have had
the good breeding to call you 'Reverend' at least."

Mr. Lumsden laughed. He rose and changed the long black garment, once a
great-coat, now his study-coat and morning-undress, for habiliments
better suiting the long ride he was about to commence, twisted his plaid
round his neck, and shut his quarto.

"What do you intend to do, John?" asked Miss Lumsden. "Are you going
out?"

"I intend to do just what I should have done, had I not received this
polite note," said Mr. Lumsden. "I am going to Oranmore, Martha. This
lordling threatens to eject these hapless Macalpines, and poor Kenneth,
the widow's son, is on the very verge of the grave. I must see him
to-day. If they attempt to remove him, it will kill the lad."

"Remove them, John? what are you thinking of?" said Miss Lumsden: "it is
nearly three months yet to the term."

The minister shook his head.

"They were warned to quit at Martinmas, Martha. This man, Lord
Gillravidge, has his eyes open to his own advantage. He has been
advised, I hear, to make one great sheep-farm of these exposed
hill-lands. The poor little clachan of Oranmore could not believe that
those fearful notices were anything but threats to secure the payment of
their rent; but now they promise to turn very sad earnest. I do not know
what to do."

"Eject them?" said Miss Lumsden, "bring one of those terrible Irish
scenes to our very door--in our peaceable country? John, it's not
possible!"

Mr. Lumsden looked still more serious.

"I fear it is nearly certain, Martha. I met Big Duncan Macalpine on the
road last night. He says Lord Gillravidge's agent and that fellow with
the moustache, have been in the glen several times of late; and the
ejectment must be accomplished before their seed is sown. At least if
they are permitted to remain till after seed-time, the man will not
surely have the heart to remove them then. I do not know--it is a very
sad business altogether; but we must try to do something better for them
than sending them, friendless and penniless, to Canada. We get a trial
of all businesses, we ministers, Martha--this is a new piece of work for
me."

The minister's man stood at the door, holding the minister's stout,
gray pony. Mr. Lumsden left the room. "And a great comfort it is, John
my man," soliloquized his sister, "that your Master has made you able
for them all."

Oranmore was not in Mr. Lumsden's parish. Mr. Lumsden was, what in those
days was called a "Highflyer," that is, a purely and earnestly
evangelical minister--a man who dedicated his whole energies, not to any
abstraction of merely beautiful morality--not to amiable respectability,
nor temporal beneficence; but in the fullest sense of these solemn
words, to the cause and service of Christ. In consequence, Mr. Lumsden
was assailed with all the names peculiarly assigned to his class by
common consent of the world: sour Presbyterian, gloomy Calvinist,
narrow-minded bigot, illiberal Pharisee. The minister of Portoran, like
his brethren in all ages, escaped thus the woe denounced by his Master
against those of whom all men speak well.

He was a thorough Presbyterian, a sound Calvinist. Men who know, and may
rationally judge of these two stately systems of discipline and
doctrine, can decide best whether the frank and open pleasantness of Mr.
Lumsden's face belied his faith or no. He was a man of one idea--we
confess to that; but the mightiness that filled his mind was great
enough to overbrim a universe. It was the Gospel--the Gospel in its
infinite breadth of lovingness--the Gospel no less in its restrictions
and penalties. His hand did not willingly extend itself in fellowship to
any man who dishonored the name of his Divine leader and King. His soul
was not sufficiently indifferent to prophesy final blessedness to those
who contemned and set at nought the everlasting love of God--so far he
was narrow-minded and illiberal, a bigot and a Pharisee.

But it happened that Mr. Lumsden's co-presbyters on every side were men
called, in the emphatic ecclesiastical phraseology of Scotland,
"Moderates;" men who wrote sermons and preached them because it was a
necessity of their office, not because they had a definite message to
deliver from a Lord and Master known and beloved; men who tolerated
profanity, and hushed uncomfortable fears, and were themselves so very
moderately religious, as to give no manner of offence to that most
narrow-minded and illiberal of all bigots, the irreligious world. We
mention this, in explanation of a foible of Mr. Lumsden's, particularly
alluded to in the letter of Lord Gillravidge, and the cause of much
skirmishing in the Presbytery of Strathoran. Mr. Lumsden had an especial
knack of preaching in other people's parishes.

Not to the neglect of his own--of all kinds of dishonor or ill-fame, Mr.
Lumsden held none so grievous as the neglecting or slight performance of
any part of that honorable and lofty work of his. Dearly as he loved
extraneous labor, the minutest of his own especial parochial duties were
looked to first. But all his round of toil gone through; his sermons
prepared; his examinations held; himself, heart and mind, at the
constant service of his people, Mr. Lumsden thought it no longer
necessary to confine his marvellous appetite for work within the limits
of Portoran.--There was a heathenish village yonder, growing up in all
the rude brutality of rural vice, untaught and uncared for. What matter
that the privilege of instructing it belonged to the Reverend Michael
Drowsihed? The Reverend Michael awoke out of his afternoon sleep one day
in wrath and consternation. Mr. Lumsden, of Portoran, had established a
fortnightly sermon, and threatened to set down a daily school, in his
own neglected village. What matter, that the half-Gaelic colony of
Oranmore, belonged of right to Mr. Bairnsfather? The warm heart of the
Minister of Portoran was laboring in the cause of the Macalpines, while
Mr. Bairnsfather was "sheughing kail and laying leeks," in his own Manse
garden.

In consequence of which propensity, Mr. Lumsden made a mighty commotion
in that ecclesiastical district. Gratefully to his ears, as he wended
homeward, came the voice of psalms from peasant-households, whom his
faithful service had brought back to the devout and godly habits of
their forefathers. Pleasantly before him stood, in rustic bashfulness,
the ruddy village children, for whom his care and labors had procured an
education of comparative purity; but by no means either grateful or
pleasant were those endless battles convulsing his presbytery, shaking
study chairs in drowsy Manses, and sweeping in a perfect whirlwind of
complaint and reprimand through the Presbytery House of Portoran.

Mr. Lumsden had his failings--we do not deny it. He had no especial
shrinking from a skirmish in the Presbytery. He walked to the bar of
that reverend court with so very little awe, that the Moderator was
well-nigh shocked out of his propriety. He had even been heard
irreverently to suggest to the newly-placed Minister of Middlebury, a
young brother, who seemed rather inclined to abet him in his rebelion,
that it would be better for him to take his place permanently at the
bar, than to be called to it at every meeting. He had been reprimanded
by the Presbytery, till the Presbytery were tired of reprimanding. Mr.
Bairnsfather had carried the case to the Synod, by appeal. The Synod had
denounced his irregularities in its voice of thunder. Mr. Lumsden only
smiled his peculiar smile of gleeful simplicity, and went on with his
labor.

He was going now to Oranmore. The glen of Oranmore lay among the lower
heights of the Grampians, a solitary, secluded valley. A small colony of
Highlanders, attached to the Strathoran branch of the house of
Sutherland, in feudal times, and bearing the ancient name of Macalpine,
had settled there, nearly a century before. The patriarchs of the little
community still spoke their original Gaelic; but the younger
generations, parents and children, approached much more closely to their
Lowland neighbors, whose idiom they had adopted. The glen was entirely
in their hands, and its fields, reclaimed by their pains-taking
husbandry, produced their entire subsistence. Some flocks of sheep
grazed on the hillside. There was good pasture land for their cattle,
and the various patches of oats and barley, turnips and potatoes, were
enough to keep these sturdy cottar families in independent poverty.
Whether in other circumstances they might have displayed the inherent
indolence which belongs, as men say, to that much belied Celtic race, we
cannot tell. But having only ordinary obstacles to strive against--an
indulgent landlord, and a kindly factor--the Macalpines had maintained
themselves as sturdily as any Saxon tribe of their numbers could
possibly have done; and had, what Saxon hamlets in the richer South are
not wont to have, a couple of lads from their little clachan at
college--one preparing himself for the work of the ministry, and another
aspiring to the dignity of an M. D.

In summer time, these peaceful cot-houses, lying on either side of the
infant Oran, within the shadow of the hills, with the fair low country
visible from the end of the glen, and the stern Grampians rising to the
sky above, were very fair to look upon; and the miniature clan at its
husbandry, working in humble brotherhood--the link of kindred that
joined its dozen families, all inheriting one name and one blood--the
purer atmosphere of morality and faith among them--made the small
commonwealth of Oranmore a pleasant thing for the mind to rest upon, no
less than for the eye.

Mr. Ferguson had never dealt hardly with these honest Macalpines, in
regard to the rent of their small holdings. He knew they would pay it
when they could, and, in just confidence, he gave them latitude.
Unhappily for the Macalpines, one whole half-year's rent remained
unpaid, when the new landlord took the management out of Mr. Ferguson's
kindly hands. The year was a backward year: their crops had been
indifferent, and the Macalpines were not ready with their rent at
Martinmas.

The consequence was, that these fearful notices to quit were served upon
them. Big Duncan Macalpine, a man of very decided character and deep
piety--one of that class, who, further north, are called "the
men,"--perceived the alien Laird's intention of removing them at once.
The remainder of the humble people, looked upon the notices only as
threats, and set to with all industry to make up the rents, and prevent
the dread alternative of leaving their homes. They had come there in the
time of Laird Fergus, the great-grandfather of Archibald Sutherland.
Their ninety-nine year's lease had expired in the previous year, and had
not (for it was Archibald's dark hour) been renewed, so that now they
were the merest tenants at will. Mr. Foreman warned Big Duncan that they
might be ejected at any time.

The small community became alarmed. The big wheel was busy in every
cottage. Sheep and poultry were being sold; every family was ready to
make sacrifices for the one great object of keeping their lands and
homes. The sharp, keen, unscrupulous writer whom Lord Gillravidge had
employed in Edinburgh, where his over-acuteness had lost him caste and
character, had been seen in the glen for three successive days. The
Macalpines were smitten with dread. Rumors floated up into their hilly
solitude of a great sheep-farmer from the south, who was in treaty for
these hill-lands of Strathoran. A shadow fell upon the humble
households. The calamity that approached began to shape itself before
them. To leave their homes--the glen to which they clung with all the
characteristic tenacity of their race--the country for which the
imaginative Celtic spirit burned with deep and patriotic love--the
national faith, still dearer, and more precious--for a cold, unknown,
and strange land, far from their northern birth-place, and their
preached Gospel!

Mr. Lumsden's strong, gray pony was used to all manner of rough roads,
and so could climb along the craggy way that led to Oranmore. The
minister rode briskly into the glen. His keen and anxious look became
suddenly changed as he entered it into one of grief and indignation. He
quickened his pace, leaped from the saddle, fastened his pony to a
withered thorn, and hastened forward.

The crisis had come. Mr. Whittret the lawyer, and Mr. Fitzherbert, stood
in the middle of a knot of Macalpines; a party of sheriff's-officers
hung in the rear, and the youthful Giles Sympelton stood apart, looking
on. The high head of Duncan Macalpine towered over the rest. In his
moral chieftainship he was the spokesman of his neighbors. He was
speaking when Mr. Lumsden approached.

"Your rent is ready, Sir--the maist of us are ready with your rent; but
oh! if there is a heart of flesh within ye, spare us our hames!
Gentlemen, we have a' been born here. Yon auld man," and Duncan pointed
to the venerable white head of a trembling old man, wrapped in a plaid,
who leaned against the lintel of the nearest cottage--"and he's past a
century--is the only ane amang us that was a living soul at the
flitting. For pity's sake, Sir, think o't! Gie us time to make up the
siller. We'll pay the next half-year in advance, if better mayna be; but
do not bid us leave the glen."

"That's all very well," said Fitzherbert, "very pretty. A set of Scotch
cheats, who only want to deceive Lord Gillravidge."

"I want to deceive no man," said the humble chief of Oranmore,
indignantly. "I wouldna set my face to a lee for a' his revenues. I am a
head of a family, and a decent man, in God's providence, Sir; and I gie
ye my word, that if ye'll just give us time, we'll make up the next
half-year's rent in advance. His Lordship is a stranger, and maybe,
doesna ken whether he can trust us or no. Mr. Ferguson will bear us
witness, Sir--the Laird himsel will bear us witness. Mr. Lumsden--Guid
be thankit he is here himsel!--the minister will bear us witness!"

Mr. Lumsden entered the circle, hailed by various salutations.
"Blessings on him! He never fails when he's needed." "He'll bear witness
to us that we're honest folk." And one indignant outcry from Duncan's
sister: "Ye'll believe the minister!"

"What is the matter, Duncan?" said Mr. Lumsden.

"The gentlemen have come for our rent, Sir; we're ahin' hand. I make nae
wonder that folk new to the countryside mayna trust us; but oh! if they
would but pit us on trial. I promise, in the name of all in the
glen--ye're a' hearing me?--that, though it should take our haill
substance, we'll pay the siller just and faithfully, as we have aye
dune, if we only can bide upon our ain land."

"You own land!" echoed Fitzherbert. "Fellow! the land is Lord
Gillravidge's."

Big Duncan Macalpine's honest face flushed deeply.

"I am nae fellow, Sir; and the land belangs to us by an aulder tenure
than can give it to ony foreign lord. We are clansmen of the Laird's.
Langsyne our chief sold our land further north--instead of it we got
this glen. I say, Sir, that the land is ours.--We were born and bred in
it; our fathers fought for it langsyne. We hold it on an auld
tenure--aulder than ony lordship in thae pairts. Our forebears were
content to follow their chief when he threw his ain hills into the hands
of strangers. We got this instead of our auld inheritance. I say, Sir,
that the land is ours--that no man has a right to take it from us. Mr.
Whittret, ye're a lawyer--am I no speaking true?"

"Bah! You're a cheat!" exclaimed Fitzherbert.

Big Duncan's muscular arm shook nervously. He restrained himself with an
effort. Not so his vehement sister Jean.

"Wha daurs say sic a name to Duncan Macalpine? Wha daurs disbelieve his
word, standing in Oranmore? A feckless, ill-favored fuil, wi' as muckle
hair about the filthy face o' him as wad hang him up in a tree, as the
prodigal Absalom hung langsyne.--A cheat! If Big Duncan Macalpine wasna
caring mair for his folk and name than for himsel, ye wad hae been
spinning through the air afore now, in your road to the low country, ye
ill-tongued loon!"

"Whisht, Jean!--whisht!" said her brother. "What needs we heed ill word?
We're langer kent it in Oranside than the gentleman."

Duncan drew himself up in proud dignity. The puny "gentleman"--a thing
of yesterday--was insignificant in the presence of the cottar of
Oranmore--a true heritor of the soil.

"You do not mean, gentleman," said Mr. Lumsden,--"I trust you do not
mean to take any extreme proceedings. I rejoice to be able to give my
testimony to the sterling honor and integrity of Duncan Macalpine and
his kinsmen of Oranmore. Lord Gillravidge cannot have better, or more
honorable tenants. I entreat--I beg that time may be given them to make
a representation of their case to his Lordship. He is new to the
country, and may not know that these men are not ordinary tenants--that
they have, as they truly say, a right to the soil. Mr. Whittret, you
cannot refuse them your influence with Lord Gillravidge--you know their
peculiar claim?"

"They might have a claim upon Mr. Sutherland," said the agent, gloomily.
"They can have none upon Lord Gillravidge."

"Lord Gillravidge is bound to preserve ancient rights," exclaimed Mr.
Lumsden. "It is not possible he can know the circumstances. These men
are not ordinary cottars, Mr. Whittret--you understand their position.
For pity's sake do not drive them to extremity!"

"It cannot be helped," said Mr. Whittret, bending his dark brows, and
shunning the clear eye of the minister: "I must adhere to my
instructions, Sir. These hill-lands are already let to a stock-farmer. I
must proceed."

"There can be no need for haste, at least," said Mr. Lumsden. "The new
tenant cannot enter till Whit-Sunday. Let the Macalpines stay--let them
remain until the term."

Mr. Whittret lifted his eyes in furtive malice, with a glance of that
suspicious cunning which perpetually fancies it is finding others out.

"And have Lord Gillravidge called a tyrant and oppressor for removing
the people after their seed is sown? You are very good, Mr. Lumsden--we
know how clerical gentlemen can speak. We shall take our own plan.
Simpson, begin your work."

A detached cottage, the furthest out of the group, stood close upon the
Oran--the narrow streamlet, a mere mountain burn so near its source, was
spanned there by white stepping-stones. A woman in a widow's cap stood
at the cottage-door, looking out with a silent want of wonder, which
told plainly enough that some mightier interest prevented her from
sharing in the excitement of her neighbors. The men approached the
house, and after summoning her to leave it instantly, a summons which
the poor woman heard in vacant astonishment, immediately prepared to
unroof her humble habitation. The crowd of Macalpines had been looking
on in breathless silence. Now there was a wild shriek of excitement and
fury--men and women precipitated themselves at once upon the minions of
that ruthless law which was not justice.--The ladder was thrown down;
the hapless officer who had been the first to mount it, struggled in the
hands of two strong young men; and Jean Macalpine, a tall athletic
woman, stood before the terrified widow in the doorway, another officer
prostrate at her feet. Mr. Fitzherbert and Whittret rushed
forward--their satellites formed themselves together for resistance--the
Macalpines furiously surrounded the cottage--there promised to be a
general melee. But loud above the noise and tumult sounded the united
voices of Big Duncan, and his minister.

"Jean Macalpine," shouted the chief of Oranmore, "come out from among
this senseless fray. Dugald Macalpine, quit the man: why will ye pollute
your hands striving with him? Donald Roy, let go your hold. Gentlemen,
gentlemen, haud your hands, and hear me."

There was a momentary truce.

"Beware!" said Mr. Lumsden. "Within that house lies an invalid--if you
expose that sinking lad, you will have a death to answer for. I tell
you, beware!"

"Gentlemen," said Big Duncan Macalpine, "yon house is mine. I protest,
in the name of my people, that ye are doing an unrighteous and unlawful
thing. I beg ye, as ye are Christian men, that ken what hames are, to
let us bide in our ain glen and country.--In honor, and honesty, and
leal service we will pay ye for your mercy; but if ye are determined to
carry on this work, unrighteous as it is in the sight of God and man,
begin yonder--take my house. I was born in it--I thocht to die in
it--begin with my house; but if ye would escape a curse and desolation,
leave the hame of the widow."

There was a pause--the invading party were in a dilemma.--The very
officials were moved by the manly disinterestedness of Big Duncan
Macalpine. He himself strode to the side of the lads who had pulled the
man from the ladder, and freed him from their grasp: then he gathered
the Macalpines together, spoke a word of comfort to the widow, and
placing himself by the door of her cottage, looked calmly towards his
own house and waited.

Mr. Whittret stood undecided. Fitzherbert was furious. He had already
issued his orders to the men to proceed, when his arm was grasped from
behind. He turned round--the Honorable Giles Sympelton was at his elbow,
his simple youthful face quivering with emotion.

"Fitz, Fitz," cried the lad, "stop this--I cannot bear it. I wll' not
see it; if you destroy that noble fellow's house I will never enter
Gillravidge's again. Take care what you do--they are better men than
we."

Mr. Whittret looked up. Mr. Lumsden had his note-book in his hand, and
was writing. The mean soul of the agent writhed within him. That Mr.
Lumsden was writing an exposure of his conduct he never doubted; he
would be covered with infamy and shame; at least it should not be
without cause. "Simpson," he cried, "take the fellow at his
word--proceed with your work."

Vain evil-thinking of the evil-doer! Mr. Lumsden, in fear of the
compulsory removal of the invalid, was writing to his sister to send up
a chase immediately from Portoran, and in a moment after, had despatched
the most ungovernable of the lads to carry his note to the Manse.

Duncan Macalpine stood looking calmly at his cottage. His sister Jean,
following his heroic example, had hurried into it, and now returned,
leading a feeble woman of seventy--their mother. Duncan's wife stood
beside her husband; two of his little boys lingered in childish wonder
by the cottage door. The men began their odious work--the straw bands
were cut, the heather thatch thrown in pieces on the ground. The
children looked on at first in half-amused astonishment. They saw their
home laid open to the sky with all its homely accommodations--their own
little bed, their grandmother's chair by the fire, the basket of
oatcakes on the table from which their "eleven-hours piece" had been
supplied. The eldest of them suddenly rushed forward in childish rage
and vehemence, and springing upon the ladder, dealt a fruitless blow at
one of the devastators. He was thrown off--a piece of the thatch struck
upon his head--the child uttered a sharp cry and fell. His mother flew
out from among the crowd. The Macalpines were shaken as with a wind, and
with various cries of rage and grief were pressing forward again. Again
Big Duncan stayed them. "Fuils that ye are, would ye lose your guid fame
with your hames? would ye throw everything away? Be still I tell you.
Can I no guard my ain bairn mysel?"

The wave fell back: muttering in painful anger, the Macalpines obeyed
the king-man among them, and restrained themselves. Big Duncan in his
stern patience went forward. Before him, however, was a slight boyish
figure, with uncovered head and long fair hair--the child was lifted in
the youth's arms, "I will carry him--good woman, come with me--come away
from this place. It is not right you should see it--come away."

"I thank ye, young gentleman," said Big Duncan: "it becomes a young
heart to shrink from the like of this, but we maun stay. Neither my wife
nor me can leave the glen till we leave it with our haill people."

Giles Sympelton hurried on to the widow's cottage with the boy. The
child was not much hurt--he was only stunned; and attended by his mother
and aunt, he was taken into the house. Sympelton placed himself in front
of the Macalpines by Mr. Lumsden's side.

The destruction went on--you could trace its progress by the agonized
looks of these watching people. Now a sharp, sudden cry from some
distressed mother, that bore witness the destroyers were throwing down
the roof under which her little ones had been born. Now a long, low
groan told the father's agony. The young men were shutting out the sight
with their hands--they could not school themselves to patience; the
little children, clinging about their feet, kept up a plaintive cry of
shrill dismay and wonder, the chorus of that heart-breaking scene. House
after house, un-windowed, roofless, and doorless, stood in mute
desolation behind the hirelings of the unjust law, as their work went
on. At last it was completed, and they approached the widow's cottage
again. There was an instant forgetfulness of individual suffering.
Closely, side by side, the Macalpines surrounded the house of the widow.
These strong men were dangerous opponents--even these excited women
might be formidable to meet at such a time. The officers held back.

"I implore--I beseech!" cried Mr. Lumsden, "spare this house! Leave the
sick youth within to die in peace. Leave us this one asylum for the aged
and the feeble. If ye are men, spare the widow--spare the boy!"

"Fitz!" cried Giles Sympelton, in a tone of indignant appeal.

Mr. Whittret was enraged and furious.

"Lose no time, Simpson!" he cried. "It is three o'clock already. Make
haste and finish!"

Big Duncan Macalpine stood undecided.

"It's a life!" he muttered. "It's lawful to defend a life, at any risk
or hazard! Sir--Mr. Lumsden--what will we do?"

Mr. Lumsden made another appeal. It was useless. More peremptorily still
the agent ordered the men to proceed.

"Duncan," said Mr. Lumsden, "for the sake of the Gospel you profess, and
for your own sake, let there be no resistance! Lift the boy out--protect
him as you best can; we must leave the issue in God's hands. Brethren,
give way to the officers. You can only bring further evil on yourselves.
You cannot deliver the widow. Sirs, stand back till we are ready--we
will give you space for your work then. The consequences be upon your
own heads!"

The minister entered the cottage, and passed through among the
patriarchs of the sorrowful community, who were sheltering from the
chill March wind, under the only remaining roof in the glen. In a moment
after he reappeared, bearing the sick lad, a helpless burden, in his
strong arms. A cry rose from the women--the men clenched their fingers,
and gnashed their teeth. The sharp, pale face raised itself above Mr.
Lumsden's arm--the feeble invalid was strong with excitement.

"Be quiet, oh! be quiet--dinna do ill for my sake!"

"And now," cried Big Duncan, "I bid ye to my house--all of ye that are
Macalpines. Leave the birds of prey to their work--come with me!"

The people obeyed. They formed themselves into a solemn procession: the
tremulous old man, whose years outnumbered a century, leaning upon two
stalwart grandsons; the aged woman, Duncan Macalpine's mother, supported
on her son's arm; strong men restraining by force which shook their
vigorous frames the natural impulse to resistance; mothers, with
compressed lips, shutting in the agony of their hearts--the train of
weeping, bewildered children! The March wind swept keen and biting over
them as they passed by their own desolate houses in stern silence, and
assembled again, further up the glen. The work was accomplished. The
last cottage in Oranmore was dismantled and roofless. The Macalpines
were without a home!



CHAPTER XX.


Giles Sympelton ran from the glen. The lad was light of foot, and
inspired with a worthy errand. Headlong, over burn, and ditch, and
hedgerow he plunged on--past the long woods of Strathoran--past the gate
where stood some of Lord Gillravidge's household, sheer on to the Tower.
The door was open--he darted in--rushed up stairs--and in headlong haste
plunged into Mrs. Catherine's inner drawing-room. Mrs. Catherine herself
was seated there alone. She looked up in wonder, as, with flushed face
and disordered hair, and breathless from his precipitate speed, the lad
suddenly presented himself before her.

"I want your carriage--I want you to send your carriage with me--for a
dying lad--a sick boy who has no shelter. Give me your carriage!"

"Young man," said Mrs. Catherine, "what do you mean?" She rose and
approached him. "You are the lad that was in temptation at Strathoran.
Have you seen the evil of your ways?"

"Your carriage--I want your carriage!" gasped poor Giles Sympelton.
"Order it first, and I will tell you afterwards."

Mrs. Catherine did not hesitate. She rang the bell, and ordered the
carriage immediately.

"Immediately--immediately!" cried the lad. "The cold may kill him."

"Sit down," said Mrs. Catherine, "till it is ready; and tell me what has
moved you so greatly."

The youth wiped his hot forehead, and recovered his breath.

"The cottagers up the glen--their name is Macalpine--Lord Gillravidge
has evicted them. There is not a house standing--they are all unroofed.
The people have no shelter. And the lad--the dying lad?"

Mrs. Catherine rose. Amazement, grief, and burning anger contended in
her face.

"What say you? The alien has dared to cast out the Macalpines of
Oranmore from their own land! I cannot believe it--it is not possible!"

"The lad is dying!" cried young Sympelton, too much absorbed with what
he had seen to heed Mrs. Catherine's exclamation. "They are covering him
with cloaks and plaids--they say the cold will kill him. It is a
terrible sight!--old men, and women, and little children, and the dying
lad! Not a roof in the whole glen to shelter them!"

Mrs. Catherine left the room, and went down stairs. An energetic word
sent double speed into Andrew's movements as he prepared the carriage.
Mrs. Euphan Morison was ordered to put wine into it; blankets and cloaks
were added, and Mrs. Catherine, with her own hands, thrust Giles into
the carriage.

"Bring the lad here, to the Tower: come back to me yourself. Bring the
aged and feeble with you, as many as can come. Mind that you return to
me your own self. And now, sir, away!"

The carriage dashed out of the court, and at a pace to which Mrs.
Catherine's horses were not accustomed, took the way to Oranmore.

Fitzherbert and Whittret had left the glen, with their band of
attendants. The Macalpines were alone; the shadows of the March evening
began to gather darkly upon the hills. In Big Duncan's roofless cottage,
on a bed, hastily constructed before the fire, and shielded with a rude
canopy of plaids, lay the sick lad, shivering and moaning, as the gust
of wind which swept through the vacant window-frame, and burst in wild
freedom overhead, shook the frail shelter over him, and tossed the
coverings off his emaciated limbs. Mr. Lumsden stood beside him. In the
first shock of that great misfortune, the minister endeavored to speak
hopeful, cheering words--of earthly comfort yet to come--of heavenly
strength and consolation, which no oppressing hand could bereave them
of.--Homeless and destitute, in the stern silence of their restrained
emotions, the Macalpines heard him; some vainly, the burning sense of
personal wrong momentarily eclipsing even their religion; some with a
noble patience which, had they been Romans of an older day, would have
gained them the applauses of a world. These brief and lofty words of his
were concluded with a prayer. The March evening was darkening, the wind
sweeping chill and fierce above them. The tremulous old man leaned on
the sick lad's bed; the grandmother crouched by the fire upon her
grandchild's stool. Big Duncan Macalpine stood on his own threshold;
without, close to the vacant window, stood the neighbors who could not
find admission into the interior, and from the midst of them the voice
of supplication ascended up to heaven, "For strength, for patience, for
forgiveness to their enemy."

A consultation followed. Mr. Lumsden was looking out eagerly for the
chaise from Portoran. It could not arrive in less than an hour, Big
Duncan said; and the minister with his own hands, endeavored to fix up
more securely a shelter for the suffering lad.

"What are we to do?" exclaimed one of the Macalpines.--"Neighbors, what
is to become of us?--where are we to gang?"

A loud scream from a young mother interrupted him; her infant was seized
with the fearful cough and convulsive strugglings of croup. The poor
young woman pressed it to her breast, and rushed to her own desolate
cottage. Alas! what shelter was there? The roof lay in broken pieces on
the ground; window and door were carried away; the fire had sunk into
embers. She threw herself down before it, and tried to chafe the little
limbs into warmth. Other mothers followed her. All the means known to
their experience were adopted in vain. The terrible hoarse cough
continued--the infant's face was already black.

"What are we to do?" exclaimed the same voice again. "Are we to see our
bairns die before our eyes? Duncan, we let them destroy our houses at
your word! What are we to do?"

"If ye had dune onything else," said Big Duncan Macalpine, "we would
have had the roof of a jail ower our heads before this time--and it's my
hope there is nae faint heart among us, that would have left the wives
and the bairns to fend for themsels.--Neighbors, I know not what to do;
if we could but get ower this night, some better hope might turn up for
us."

His sister brushed past them as he spoke, carrying hot water to bathe
the suffering infant--not hot enough, alas! to do it any good. The other
women were heaping peats upon a fire, to make ready more; the old people
within Duncan's house crouched and shivered by the narrow hearth; the
little children clinging to the skirts of their parents, were sobbing
with the cold.

"Get ower the night?" said Roderick Macalpine, "we might get along
oursels on the hillside; but what's to come of them?" and he waved his
hand towards the helpless circle by the fire--the aged, the dying, the
children.

"Sirs," said the old man coming forward, fancying as it seemed that they
appealed to him, "let us go to the kirkyard. You can pit up shelters
there--no man can cast ye out of the place where your forebears are
sleeping. If they take all the land beside, ye have yet a right to
that."

The listeners shrank and trembled--the old man with his palsied head,
and withered face, and wandering light blue eyes, proposing to them so
ghastly a refuge. The Macalpines were not driven so utterly to
extremity. It remained for these more enlightened days to send Highland
cottars, in dire need, to seek a miserable shelter above the dust of
their fathers.

The consultation was stayed--no one dared answer the old man--when
suddenly Giles Sympelton was seen running in haste up the glen. He had
brought the carriage as high as it could come, and now flew forward
himself to get the invalid transferred to it. Big Duncan lifted the sick
lad in his arms, and carried him away, while Giles lingered to deliver
Mrs. Catherine's orders.

"Let me take the old people with me," he said, eagerly, to Mr. Lumsden.
"The carriage is large--the old lady said I was to bring as many as
could come. It is Mrs. Catherine Douglas, of the Tower--do not let us
lose time, Sir: get the oldest people down to the carriage."

The Macalpines did not cheer--they were too grave for that; but the
lad's hand was grasped in various honest rough ones, and "blessings on
him!" were murmured from many tongues. Three of the most feeble could be
accommodated in the carriage--at least, could be crowded beneath its
roof, while the sick youth was placed on the cushions, and his mother
sat at his feet.

"Is there anything more I can do?" said Giles, looking in grief and pity
upon the agonized face of the young mother, sitting within the
dismantled cottage waiting while her neighbors prepared another hot-bath
for her child.

"Nothing," said Mr. Lumsden. "I thank you heartily, young gentleman, for
what you have already done. You may have saved that poor lad's life by
your promptitude. Tell Mrs. Catherine that every arrangement that can
possibly be made for the comfort of the Macalpines, I will attend to.
Good night--I thank you most sincerely. You will never repent this day's
work, I am sure."

Giles lingered still.

"How is the child? will it die?" he asked anxiously of one of the women.

"Bless the innocent, the water's hot this time," was the answer; "it's
no moaning sae muckle. Eh, the Lord forbid it should die!"

Giles turned and ran down the glen, saw his charge safely deposited in
the carriage, and, mounting beside the coachman, drove more leisurely to
the Tower.

Before they had been very long away, the chaise arrived from Portoran.
The infant's sufferings were abated; it had sunk into a troubled,
exhausted sleep. Mr. Lumsden filled the chaise immediately with the
feebler members of the houseless community. It was arranged that the
rest should walk to Portoran--it was twelve miles--a weary length of
way, where the minister pledged himself they should find accommodations.
Big Duncan and Roderick Macalpine voluntarily remained in the glen, to
protect the household goods of their banished people.

The chaise had driven off--the pedestrians were already on the high
road. Duncan and Roderick, wrapped in their plaids, had seated
themselves by the peat-fire in Duncan's roofless dwelling.--The stern
composure upon the faces of these two men, lighted by the red glow of
the fire, as they sat there in the rapidly darkening twilight, told a
tale of the intense excitement of that day, and now of the knawing
sorrow, the weight of anxiety that possessed them. Mr. Lumsden stood at
the door, his pony's bridle in his hand.

"Mind what I have said," he cried, as he left them. "Keep up your hearts
and do not despair. You will not need to leave the country--you will
find friends--only keep up your hearts and be strong. God will not
forsake you."

They returned his good-night with deep emotion. This peaceful glen, that
yesternight had slept beneath the moonbeams in the placid sleep of
righteous and honorable labor--strange policy that could prefer some
paltry gain to the continuance of the healthful homejoy of these true
children, and heirs of the soil!

The two Macalpines sat together in silence, their eyes fixed on the red
glow of the fire before them. By-and-by Roderick's gaze wandered--first
to the numberless little domestic tokens round, which spoke so pitiful a
language--the basket of cakes was still on the table, the "big wheel" at
which Jean Macalpine had been spinning so busily on the previous night,
stood thrust aside in the corner. His eyes stray further--through the
vacant window-frame he saw, upon the other side of the Oran, his own
roofless house; he saw the cradle from which his child had been
hurriedly snatched, lying broken within; he saw the household seat in
which, only some five winters since, he had placed bonnie Jeanie
Macalpine, a bride then, the mother of three children now. His hearth
was black--his house desolate--Jeanie and her heart failed him: "Oh,
man! Duncan!" exclaimed poor Roderick, as he hid his face in his hands
in an agony of grief.

Big Duncan Macalpine's dark eyes were dilated with the stern and
passionate force of his strong resolution; his clear, brave, honest face
was turned steadfastly towards the fire.

"Roderick," he said, emphatically, "I daurna trust mysel to look about
me. Keep your eyes away from the ruined houses--look forward, man. Have
I no my ain share? is my house less desolate than yours?"

In the meantime, Giles Sympelton had arrived with his charge at the
Tower; and having seen the sick youth placed in a warm room, with kindly
hands about him, and the old people settled comfortably by the great
kitchen fire, was finally solacing himself after the labors of this
strangely exciting day, at Mrs. Catherine's well-appointed dinner-table,
with Mrs. Catherine herself opposite him. She was singularly kind. In
spite of much temptation, and many bad associates, Giles Sympelton had
remained unsophisticated and simple. The fear of ridicule, which might
in other circumstances have induced him to resist the attractions of
this stately old lady, with whom he had been brought so strangely in
contact, was removed from the lad now--he gave way to the fascination.
With natural _naivete_ and simplicity, he told her his whole brief
history; how of late he had written very seldom to his father; how he
had become disgusted with Fitzherbert, and disliked Gillravidge, and was
so very sorry for "poor Sutherland;" how he vowed never to enter Lord
Gillravidge's house again, if "that noble fellow, Macalpine," were
turned out of his; and, finally, how determined was he to keep his
vow--to send for his servant, and his possessions, and to go into
Portoran that very night: he was resolved not to spend another night in
Strathoran.

"I have houseroom for you," said Mrs. Catherine. "Let your servant bring
your apparel here--I am not straitened for chambers. You have done good
service to the Macalpines, as becomes a young heart. I rejoice to have
you in my house. You should send for your man without delay."

The youth hesitated--met Mrs. Catherine's eye--blushed--looked down, and
muttered something about troubling her.

"You will be no trouble to me--I have told you that. What is your name?"

Sympelton looked up surprised and bashful.

"Giles Sympelton," he said.

"Sympelton?" said Mrs. Catherine. "Was the bairn that died in Madeira
thirty years ago, a friend to you?"

"My father had a sister," said young Sympelton; "he was very fond of
her--who died very long ago, years before I was born."

Mrs. Catherine was silent, and seemed much moved.

"Friend!" she said, "I had one brother who was the very light of my
eyes, and there was a gentle blue-eyed bairn, in yon far away island,
who went down with him to the grave. The name of her was Helen. He died
in the morning, and she died at night, and on the same day her brother
and I buried our dead. If you are of her blood, you are doubly welcome!"

"My aunt's name was Helen," said Giles, "and she was only fifteen when
she died. I have heard my father speak of her often."

Mrs. Catherine was so long silent after that, that the young man began
to feel constrained and uneasy, and to think that, after all, he had
better try the accommodation of the "Sutherland Arm's" in Portoran. All
the circumstances of Mrs. Catherine's great grief were brought vividly
before her by his name. Helen Sympelton!--how well she remembered the
attenuated child-woman, maturing brilliantly under the deadly heat of
that consumptive hectic, who had accompanied Sholto to the grave.

She spoke at last with an effort:

"I have some country neighbors coming to me this night. You may not be
caring for meeting them: therefore do not come up the stair, unless you
like. Andrew will let you see your room, and you will find sundry
pleasant books in my library; and, till your man comes, Andrew will wait
your orders."

Giles intimated his perfect satisfaction in the prospect of meeting Mrs.
Catherine's country neighbors; and after some further kindly words, and
a beaming sunshiny smile, the old lady left the room.

Mr. Lumsden also had by this time received, and provided accommodation
for, his share of the ejected Macalpines. The families of Roderick and
Duncan were in his own hospitable Manse. Some of the others had been
received, in their way down, into the farm-house of Whiteford. Duncan
Roy had stopped to pour his story, in indignant Celtic vehemence, into
the ears of Mr. Ferguson, and, with his pretty sister, Flora, had been
taken into Woodsmuir. The others were provided for in various houses in
Portoran--the most of them in genuine neighborly sympathy and
compassion, and some for the hire which Mr. Lumsden offered, when other
motives were wanting. They were all settled, in comparative comfort at
last; all but those two stern watching men, who sat through the gloom of
the wild March night, within the roofless walls of Big Duncan's house,
watching the humble possessions of the Macalpines of Oranmore.

His manifold labors over, Mr. Lumsden took a hurried dinner, and
proceeded to dress. He had been invited to the Tower, to Mrs.
Catherine's quiet evening gathering of country neighbors. His sister
endeavored to dissuade him, on the ground of his fatigue. Mr. Lumsden
laughed--he always did laugh when fatigue was mentioned. Then it was
absolutely necessary that he should see how poor Kenneth Macalpine had
borne his removal: and then--probably Mr. Lumsden had some additional
inducement, private to himself, which we cannot exactly condescend upon.

Miss Lumsden excused herself from accompanying him. Her brother had
done his part for the poor Macalpines--it was her turn now. The gray
pony too was not quite so invulnerable as its master. It owned to the
fatigue of the day, in a very decided disinclination to leave its
comfortable stable, so Mr. Lumsden took his seat beside Walter Foreman
in the gig, and proceeded to the Tower.

It was not unusual for Mrs. Catherine to have these gatherings. They
were very simple affairs. She liked to bring the young people together;
she liked herself, now and then, to have a pleasant domestic chat with
the elders. Everybody liked those quiet and easy parties, to which the
guests came in their ordinary dress, and enjoyed themselves after their
own fashion, without restraint or ceremony; and everybody, who had the
good fortune to be on Mrs. Catherine's list of favorites, had most
pleasant recollections of the ruddy inner drawing-room, at these
especial times.

Giles Sympelton paid another visit to poor Kenneth Macalpine after
dinner. He found him sleeping pleasantly in the warm, cheerful, light
apartment, his mother watching with tearful joy by his bedside, and Mrs.
Euphan Morison sitting in portly state by the fire. Widow Macalpine
whispered thanks and blessings, and added, that, "he hadna sleeped sae
quiet, since ever they were warned out o' the glen." Giles withdrew with
very pleasant feelings, and walking up to the room prepared for him,
where his servant already waited, proceeded to dress.

This important operation was performed very carefully, some dreamy idea
of "astonishing the natives" floating through his boyish brain the
while. Giles, simple lad as he was, was yet a gentleman--he had no
flashy finery about him--his dress was perfectly plain and simple. He
was satisfied, however, and felt he would make an impression.

Ada Mina Coulter's pretty, girlish face was the first he noticed on
entering the room. He did make an impression. Ada knew very pleasantly,
as she drooped her brown curls before the glance of the stranger, that
the blue eyes from whence that glance came, belonged to a lord's son--an
Honorable Giles.

Mrs. Catherine introduced him, with kindly mention of his day's labor,
to her elder friends--to Lewis Ross and Anne--and then committing him to
their charge, returned to her conversation with the fathers and mothers.
Giles by no means made the impression he expected on that party--he had
a feeling of old friendship for Anne--a slight idea of rivalry in
respect to Lewis--but consoled himself pleasantly half an hour after, by
Ada Coulter's side, putting her into a very agreeable state of flutter
and tremulousness. Ada was younger than Alice Aytoun--was but a little
way past her sixteenth birth-day indeed, and was not yet accustomed to
the homage of young gentlemen--and an Honorable Giles!

There was great indignation concerning the ejection of the Macalpines,
and as soon as it was known that Giles had been present, a little crowd
gathered round him. He told the story with great feeling; described Big
Duncan Macalpine's conduct with enthusiasm; touched slightly on his own
fears for poor Kenneth; and laughed when he told them of his race. Mrs.
Catherine drew near at that point of the story, and extending her hand
over Ada's curles, patted him kindly on the head. The Honorable Giles
felt rather indignant--it was making a child of him. No matter--Ada
Coulter thought him a hero.

A graver group were discussing the subject at the other end of the room.
Mr. Lumsden told the story there. Mr. Coulter and Mr. Ferguson were
bending forward to him with anxious faces.--The ladies were no less
interested. Anne Ross leant on the sofa at Mrs. Coulter's elbow. Marjory
Falconer stood apart, with her hand upon the back of a chair, and her
strong and expressive face swept by whirlwinds--indignation, grief,
sympathy--all mellowed, however, by a singular shade of something that
looked very like proud and affectionate admiration--of whom was Marjory
Falconer proud?

"Now, gentlemen," said Mr. Lumsden, "you must assist me.--I have set my
heart upon it, Mr. Coulter, that these families shall not be sent
penniless to Canada. I don't like emigration at all, but in this case it
would be nothing less than banishment--what can we do for them?"

Mr. Coulter took a pinch of snuff.

"It is not a bad thing emigration, Mr. Lumsden; if there was no
emigration, what would become of these vast waste lands? I suppose we
might pour our whole population into the backwoods, and there would
still be unreclaimed districts. Depend upon it, Sir, it comes very near
a sin to let land, that should be bringing forth seed and bread, lie
waste and desolate, when there are men to work it."

"Well," said Mr. Lumsden, "we won't argue about that. It may be right
enough--I only say I don't like emigration; and we have abundance of
waste lands at home, Mr. Coulter; but in the case of the Macalpines, it
could bear no aspect but banishment.--I believe they would almost starve
first. What can we do for them?"

There was a pause of consideration.

"Robert," said Mrs. Ferguson.

Her husband looked round.

"When you commence your improvements, you will require many
laborers--would not the Macalpines do? We were thinking of taking Flora
to be one of our maids at Woodsmuir, you know--other people, no doubt,
would do the same. What do you think?"

Mr. Ferguson spent a moment in deliberation; then he looked up to Mr.
Coulter inquiringly.

"Not a bad idea," said the agriculturist.

"I was thinking of that myself," said Mr. Ferguson. "There is not a very
great number of them: we shall surely be able to keep them in the
district; and there is always the hope," the good factor endeavored to
look very sanguine and cheerful--"there is always the hope of Mr.
Archibald's return."

No one made any response; saving himself and Mrs. Catherine, no one was
sanguine on that subject: they were very glad to join in good wishes for
the broken laird; but saw all the improbabilities in a stronger light
than his more solicitous friends could do.

"If he does," said Mr. Lumsden, "if he ever can redeem the estate again,
I suppose the Macalpines are safe."

Mr. Ferguson looked with gratitude at the minister. It was pleasant to
have his hope homologated even so slightly. "Safe? ay, without doubt or
fear! there is not a kinder heart in all Scotland. How many men will
there be, Mr. Lumsden? how many able men?"

Mr. Lumsden entered into a calculation. We need not follow him through
the list of Duncans, and Donalds, and Rodericks; there were eleven
fathers of families. Duncan Roy and his sister Flora were orphans;
besides, there were six or seven young men, and a plentiful undergrowth
of boys of all ages and sizes.

"Say sixteen men," said Mr. Ferguson, "the rest could be herds,
or--there is always work for these halflin lads. What do you say, Mr.
Coulter?"

Mr. Coulter's deliverance was favorable. Mrs. Catherine had urgent need
of a plough-man, she suddenly discovered. Mrs. Coulter thought she
"could do with" another maid. The Macalpines were in a fair way of being
settled.

"Mind what I say," said Mrs. Catherine, "its only for a time. They shall
recover their ancient holdings, every inch of them; their right to the
land is as good as Archie's; the clansman holds it on as clear a title
as the chief. Mind, I put this in the bargain; that whenever the estate
returns to its rightful owner, the Macalpines return to Oranmore."

Mr. Ferguson's eyes glistened. He seemed to be looking forward to some
apocryphal future gladness, which he dared hardly venture to believe in,
yet to which his heart could not choose but cling. God speed the
adventurer in the new world!

Mr. Lumsden proceeded down stairs immediately, to visit the aged and
sick who had been brought to the Tower: in a short time he returned. The
guests young and old were more amalgamated than before; they were
sitting in a wide circle round Mrs. Catherine's chair. They did not
perceive the minister's entrance: for some reason known to himself he
stepped behind the window-curtain. He was looking out upon the clear,
cold, starry night.

"Bless me," said Mrs. Bairnsfather, "Mr. Lumsden is in high favor with
us all. It's a wonder a fine young man like him has not got a wife yet."

Marjory Falconer looked thundery; she had been aware of a private
telegraphic sign made by the hand of a certain tall dark figure, which
was looking out upon the night.

"All in good time," said Mrs. Coulter, "he is but a young man yet."

"How old would you say?" inquired Mrs. Bairnsfather.

"Oh! one or two and thirty perhaps--not more."

"Not more!" Mrs. Bairnsfather had a vindictive recollection of sundry
invasions of her husband's parish. "I'll warrant him a good five years
older than that."

"Well, well," said the good-humored agriculturist. "He is not too old to
be married yet, that is a consolation."

"What would you say to Miss Ada Mina!" continued Mrs. Bairnsfather.
"Miss Jeanie, I suppose, I must not speak of now."

Ada Coulter shook her curls indignantly. She, full sixteen, and
receiving the homage of an Honorable Giles, to be "scorned" with a
minister of five and thirty!

"Or Miss Ross?" said the mischief-making Mrs. Bairnsfather.--"They would
make an excellent couple, I am sure."

"I won't have that," said Lewis. "I have engaged Anne, Mrs.
Bairnsfather; if she does not take my man, I'll disown her."

"Anne, I want you," said Marjory Falconer: "come here."

"Or Miss Falconer herself?" said the indefatigable Mrs. Bairnsfather
turning sharp round, and directing the attention of all and sundry to
Marjory's face, perfectly scorching as it was, with one of her
overwhelming, passionate blushes, "and that would secure the contrast
which people say is best for peace and happiness."

Miss Falconer tried to laugh--the emphasis on the word _peace_ had not
escaped her; she slid her arm through Anne's and left the room. The dark
figure behind the curtain, followed her with his eye; laughed within
himself a mighty secret laugh, and came out of his concealment, to the
immense discomfiture of Mrs. Bairnsfather, and the great mirth of Giles
and Ada.

"That abominable woman!" exclaimed Marjory, as they went down stairs.

"Hush," said Anne, "she is the minister's wife."

"The minister's wife! there is never any peace where _she_ is.--She is a
pretty person to think she can understand--"

"Who, Marjory?"

"Oh," said Marjory, with a less vehement blush, "it's because John
Lumsden is so popular in Strathoran--you know that.--Come, let us go and
see Kenneth Macalpine."

They did go; poor Kenneth was feverish and unable for any further
excitement, so they spoke a few kindly encouraging words to his mother,
and left the room. Mrs. Euphan Morison had retreated to her own
apartment, and sat there by the fire sulky and dignified--the doctor had
absolutely forbidden her administering to the invalid a favorite
preparation of her own which she was sure would cure him.

Marjory and Anne turned to the great, warm, shining kitchen. The
patriarch of Oranmore was dozing in a chair by the fire--the old man's
mind was unsettled; he had returned to his native Gaelic, and had been
speaking in wandering and incoherent sentences of the church-yard, and
the right they had to the graves of their fathers. An aged woman, the
grand-aunt of Duncan Roy and Flora, who had brought up the orphans, sat
opposite to him, muttering and wringing her withered hands in pain. She
had been long afflicted with rheumatism, and the exposure made her aged
limbs entirely useless. She had to be lifted into her chair--and
aggravating her bodily pain was the anguish of her mind: "The
bairns--the bairns! what will become of the bairns?"

The other Macalpine was a feeble woman, widowed and childless, to whom
her honorable and kindly kindred had made up, so far as temporal matters
went, the loss of husband and of children. She was rocking herself to
and fro, and uttering now and then a low unconscious cry, as she brooded
over the ruin of her friends, and her own helpless beggary. The
firmament was utterly black, for her--she had no strength, no hope.

Marjory and Anne lingered for some time, endeavoring to cheer and
comfort these two helpless women. Mrs. Catherine's maids, carefully
superintended by Jacky, had done everything they could to make them
comfortable; and before the young ladies left the kitchen, Flora
Macalpine had entered, and was at her aunt's side, telling of the
reception Duncan and herself had met with at Woodsmuir, and how Mrs.
Ferguson had half promised to take her into the nursery to be
"bairn's-maid" to the little Fergusons. The old woman was a little
comforted--very little; for if Flora was away in service, who could take
care of her painful, declining years?

Jacky followed Anne and Marjory out of the kitchen. They were absorbed
with this matter of the ejectment, and so did not observe her. Marjory
drew her companion to the library.

"Do come in here, Anne. I don't want to go up stairs yet."

They went in, Jacky following--she seemed determined not to lose the
opportunity.

"If ye please, Miss Anne--"

"Well, Jacky?"

Jacky hesitated--she did not know how to go on, so she repeated: "If ye
please, Miss Anne--" and stopped again.

"What is it, Jacky?" said Anne, "tell me."

"If ye please, will ye let me go with ye, Miss Anne?" said Jacky, in a
burst. "I ken how to--to behave mysel, and to attend to a lady, and I'll
never give ye ony trouble, and I'll do whatever I'm bidden. Oh, Miss
Anne, will ye let me go?"

"What has put that into your head, Jacky?" exclaimed Anne.

Jacky could not tell what had put it into her head, inasmuch as any
explanation might have shown Anne that the singular elf before her had,
by some intuition peculiar to herself, made very tolerable progress in
the study of those important matters which of late had occupied so much
of their thoughts, and hopes, and consultations in Merkland and the
Tower: so she merely repeated:

"Oh, if ye please, Miss Anne, will ye let me go?"

Anne was somewhat puzzled.

"You are too young to be my maid, Jacky," she said.

"Oh, if ye please, Miss Anne, I ken how to do--and I'm no idle when
there's ony purpose for't--and I aye do what I'm bidden, except--" Jacky
hung her head, "except whiles."

"But Anne wants a great big woman, like me, Jacky," said Marjory
Falconer, laughing, "an old woman perhaps."

"But if ye please, Miss Falconer," said Jacky, seriously, "an old woman
wouldna do--an old woman wouldna be so faithful and--and--" Jacky
paused, her conscience smiting her: was not the Squire of the
redoubtable Britomart an old woman? Whereupon there ensued in Jacky's
mind a metaphysical discussion as to whether Glauce or Mrs. Elspat
Henderson was the best type of the class of ancient serving-women--remaining
undecided upon which point, she had nothing for it but to repeat the
prayer of her petition: "Oh, Miss Anne, will you let me go?"

"Do you intend to take a maid with you, Anne?" asked Marjory.

"Yes."

"Then you should take Jacky by all means."

Anne hesitated.

"You forget, Jacky, that it is not I, but Mrs. Catherine, who must
decide this."

"Oh, if ye please, Mrs. Catherine will let me go, Miss Anne, if you're
wanting me."

"And your mother, Jacky?"

"My mother's no needing me, Miss Anne."

"Well, we will see about it," said Anne, smiling; "as you seem to have
quite made up your mind, and decided on the matter. I will speak to Mrs.
Catherine, Jacky. We shall see."

Jacky made an uncouth courtesy and vanished.

"Is it Edinburgh you are going to, Anne?" said Marjory, shooting a keen
glance upon her friend's face.

"I shall be in Edinburgh," said Anne, evasively.

"Why, Anne!" exclaimed Marjory, "must one not even know where you are
going? What is this secret journey of yours?"

"It is no secret journey, Marjory. I am going farther east than
Edinburgh--to the sea-side."

"To the sea-side!" Marjory looked amazed. "You are not delicate, Anne
Ross. What are you going to do at the sea-side?"

"Nothing," said Anne.

"Nothing! You have not any friends there--you are going away quite by
yourself! Is anything the matter, Anne? Tell me what you are going to
do."

"I would tell you very gladly, Marjory, if I could. My errand is quite a
private one: when it is accomplished, you shall hear it all."

The blood rushed in torrents to Marjory Falconer's face.

"You cannot trust me!" she exclaimed. "Anne, I do not care for Mrs.
Bairnsfather's petty insults. I have been too careless of forms,
perhaps--perhaps I have made people think me rude and wild, when I was
only striving to reach a better atmosphere than they had placed me
in--but you, Anne Ross--you to think me unworthy of confidence!"

"Hush--hush, Marjory," said Anne. "Pray do not begin to be
suspicious--it does not become you at all. I had a brother once,
Marjory--as people say, a most generous, kind, good brother--whose name
lies under the blot of a great crime. He was innocent--but the world
believed him guilty. I am going to try--by what quiet and humble means
are in my power--to remove this undeserved stain. If I succeed, I shall
have a very moving story to tell you: if I do not succeed, let us never
speak of it again. In any case, I know you will keep my secret."

Marjory pressed her friend's hand, and did not speak. She remembered
dimly having heard of some great sorrow connected with Mr. Ross's (of
Merkland) death, and was ashamed and grieved now, that she had pressed
her inquiries so far. Marjory Falconer, like Lewis Ross, was learning
lessons: the rapidly developing womanhood, which sent those vehement
flushes to her cheek, and overpowered her sometimes with agonies of
shame, was day by day asserting itself more completely. A few more
paroxysms, and it would have gained the victory.



CHAPTER XXI.


By the beginning of April, the Macalpines were finally settled; the
majority of them being employed as laborers on Mr. Ferguson's farms of
Loelyin and Lochend. Roderick and his family occupied a cottage in the
vicinity of the Tower. He was engaged as ploughman by Mrs. Catherine
Douglas. Big Duncan remained with his people--their houses were now far
apart--they were restless and ill at ease, feeling their dispersion as
the Jews of old felt their captivity. These clinging local attachments
are comparatively little known to people confined within the limits of
cities, and living in the hired houses, which any caprice or revolution
of fortune may make them change. It is not so with the "dwellers of the
hills," the whole circuit of whose simple lives for generations have
passed under one roof; to whom the sun has risen and set behind the same
majestic hills in daily glory, and whose native streamlet has a
house-hold tongue, as familiar as the more articulate one of nearest
kindred. A hope had sprung up in the breast of the Macalpines--a hope to
which their yearning home-love gave vivid strength and power. Their
chief would return: he would come back in renewed wealth and prosperity:
he would lead them back to their own homes in triumph. This anticipation
enlivened the sad pilgrimages, which the banished hillfolk made on those
dewy spring evenings to their beloved glen. It needed some such hope to
stifle the indignant grief and anger, which might have else blazed up in
illegal vehemence, when the ejected Macalpines, in little parties of two
and three, returned to Oranmore, to look upon their former homes, now
desolate and blackened, with grass springing up on each household floor,
and waving already from the broken walls--but they looked away, where,
far over the wide-spreading low-country, there shone in the distance,
the glimmer of the great sea; and prayed, in the fervor of their hope
and yearning, for the home-coming of their chief. God speed the
adventurer, landing even now on the sunny shores of the new world! How
many hearts beat high with prayers and hopes for his return!

The sick lad, Kenneth, did not die: he lived to hold the name of the
youthful Giles Sympelton in dearest honor and reverence, and to do him
leal service in an after-time. Giles, with some reluctance, left the
Tower, after a week's residence there, to join his father--leaving Ada
Coulter with the first sadness upon her, which she had experienced since
her happy release from school.

In the middle of April, Anne set out upon her journey. With Mrs.
Catherine's full consent, Jacky was to accompany her. Anne's departure
excited some attention. There seemed to be a vague conception among the
neighbors, that something of moment was concealed under this quiet visit
to the south, of the very quiet Miss Ross, of Merkland. Jeanie Coulter
wondered if she was going to be married. Mrs. Coulter endeavored to
recollect if she had ever heard of the Rosses having relations in that
quarter. Mr. Foreman said nothing, but, with that keen lawyer eye of
his, darted into the secret errand at once, and already sympathized with
the failure and disappointment, which he felt sure would follow.

Anne's farewells were over--all but one--the day before leaving
Merkland, she went up to the mill to say good-by to little Lilie. She
found Mrs. Melder in ecstasies of wonder and admiration, holding up her
hands, and crying, "Bless me!" as she unfolded one by one the contents
of a box which stood upon the table. They consisted of little garments
beautifully made--a profusion of them. Lilie herself was luxuriating
over a splendid picture-book, after viewing with a burst of childish
delight the pretty little silk frock which Mrs. Melder, in the pride of
her heart, was already thinking would make so great a sensation when it
appeared first in their seat in the front gallery (_alias_ the mid loft)
of Portoran kirk. Nothing less than a mother's hand could have packed
that wonderful box; its gay little muslin frocks, which Mrs. Melder "had
never seen the like of, for fineness," its inner garments of beautiful
linen, its bright silken sashes, its story books, resplendent in their
gilded bindings, its parcels of sweetmeats and toys. Mrs. Melder was
overwhelmed--the grandeur and wealth of her little charge fairly took
away her breath.

"And now when she's won to an easier speech, Miss Anne," said the good
woman aside. "She calls me nurse--what think ye! it's a wonderful
bairn--and ye'll hear her say lang words sometimes, that I'm sure she
never learned frae me; it's my thought, Miss Anne, that the bairn kent
the English tongue afore she came here, and had either forgotten't,
or--atweel ane disna ken what to think; but this while she's ta'en to
speaking about her mamma. It's a wonder to me that ony mother could hae
the heart to part wi' her."

"See," cried Lilie, springing to Anne's side, "look what bonnie things,"
and she precipitated a shoal of little books upon Anne's knee.

"They are very pretty, Lilie," said Anne. "Who sent you all these?"

The child looked at her gravely. "It would be mamma--it was sure to be
mamma."

"Where is mamma?" asked Anne.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Far away yonder--over the big water--but she aye minds Lilie."

"And why did you come away from mamma, Lilie?" said Anne.

The child began to cry. "Lilie ill, ill--like to die. Oh! if you had
seen my mamma greeting." And throwing herself down on the ground, Lilie
fell into one of her passionate bursts of grief.

"But yon wasna your mamma that brought ye here, my lamb?" said Mrs.
Melder.

Lilie continued to weep--too bitterly to give any answer.

Anne turned over the books--in the blank leaf of one of them a name was
written in a boyish hand--"Lilia Santa Clara." By-and-by the child's
grief moderated, and, taking up her books again, she ran to the mill to
show them to Robert.

"Lilia Santa Clara," it gave no clue to the child's origin.

"Haill three names!" said Mrs. Melder, "if ane only kent what her
father's name was; the leddy that brought her here said only 'Lilias,'
and I dinna mind if I askit the last ane in my flutter--and bonnie
outlandish names they are; 'Lilia Santa Clara'--to think of a wean wi'
a' thae grand names putting Melder at the hinder end!--it's out of the
question."

"Santa Clara may be the surname, Mrs. Melder," said Anne, smiling at the
conjunction.

"Eh! think ye so, Miss Anne? I never heard of folk having first names
for their surname; though to be sure they do ca' the English flunky that
has the confectionary shop in Portoran, Thomas. Well, it may be sae."

"Does she call herself by this name?" asked Anne.

"Ay, I have heard the words mony a time; and sae far as I can guess,
Miss Anne, she maun hae been sent to yon lady frae some foreign pairt.
Eh, bless me! there maun be some shame and reproach past the common,
afore they sent away a bairn like yon."

Jacky Morison was in a state of intense and still excitement--the fire
had reached a white heat before they left Merkland. Barbara Genty, Mrs.
Ross's favored maid, cast envious looks at her as she sat perched in the
back seat of the gig, which was to convey them to Portoran. Old Esther
Fleming, who stood without the gate to watch Miss Anne's departure,
regarded Jacky dubiously, as if doubting her fitness for her important
post. Jacky rose heroically to the emergency. Her faithfulness, her
discretion, her true and loyal service, should be beyond all question
when they returned.

From her earliest recollection, Anne Ross had been Jacky's pattern and
presiding excellence, less awful and nearer herself than Mrs.
Catherine--and of all kinds of disinterested and unselfish devotion,
there are few so chivalrous as the enthusiastic and loving service of a
girl, to the grown woman who condescends to notice and protect her.

When the coach arrived in Edinburgh, Anne saw from its window little
Alice Aytoun's fair face looking for her anxiously. James and Alice were
waiting to take her home. Anne had purposed spending the short time she
should remain in Edinburgh, in the house of an old companion and former
schoolfellow; but Alice clung and pleaded, there was no denying her--so
Anne suffered herself to be guided to Mrs. Aytoun's quiet little house.

Mrs. Aytoun received her with grave kindness; the affectionate
dependence which Alice had upon the stronger character of Anne, the good
report which James had given of her, and even her present undertaking,
out of the way and unusual though it was, had prepossessed Mrs. Aytoun
in her favor. And Norman--the neglected wife remembered him too, so
delicately kind, so generous, so reverent of her weakness long ago, when
her husband and he were friends; and though she delivered no judgment in
his favor, her heart yet went forth in full sympathy with the brave
sister, who was so resolute in her belief of his innocence, so eager to
labor for its proof. Mrs. Aytoun's God-speed was music to the heart of
Anne.

And Alice, very tremulously joyful, clung about her all night long--now
sitting on the stool at her feet, her fair curls drooping on Anne's
knee--now leaning on her chair--now seated by her side, clasping her
hand. James, too, with brotherly confidence and kindness, advised with
her about her plans and future proceedings. Anne felt the atmosphere
brighten. Surely these were good omens.

In the meantime, Jacky, we regret to say, had been suffering a good deal
from disappointment; it was not from her first glimpse of Edinburgh, but
it was from the house in Edinburgh, which was specially honored as being
the dwelling of "Miss Alice." Jacky had been struck with awe and
admiration as she glanced at it from without. The great "land" looked
very stately, and spacious, and commanding, though it did immediately
front a street, and had neither grounds nor trees surrounding it--but
when the immense house dwindled into a single flat, of which she could
count all the rooms at a glance, Jacky felt the disappointment sadly.
Then she was taken into the small bright kitchen, where Mrs. Aytoun's
stout woman-servant, the only domestic of the household, was preparing
tea for the travellers. Jacky was scarcely prepared for this. It might
have been difficult, we fancy, for many persons more experienced than
Jacky, to ascertain what claim to respect or honor, a young Scottish
lawyer, with very little practice as yet, whose house consisted of one
flat only, and the wants of whose establishment one woman-servant could
supply--could possibly have.

But James Aytoun had not only an excellent claim to respect and honor,
but actually received it. It was not any empty pride either which led
him to sign himself James Aytoun, of Aytoun. Had it not been for the
reckless and extravagant father, whose debts had so hopelessly entangled
his inheritance, the territorial designation would have represented many
fair acres--a long-descended patrimony. As it was, with only a desolate
mansion-house, in a southern county, and some bleak lands about it,
James Aytoun, of Aytoun, was still received and honored as a gentleman
of good family and blood--neither by descent, education, nor breeding
beneath any family in Scotland.

It is but a narrow spirit which endeavors to sneer at a distinction like
this, and call it the pride of poverty. James Aytoun belonged to that
well-nurtured, manly class, whose hereditary honor and good fame belong
to the nation, and whose frank dignity of mind and tone are as far
removed as mental loftiness can be from that vulgar and arrogant thing,
which mean men call pride.

Jacky was reconciling herself to the little Edinburgh kitchen, and had
already entered into conversation with Tibbie, when little Bessie
arrived from her mother's humble house in an adjacent back street, to
renew her acquaintance with her Strathoran friend.--Jacky had many
messages to deliver from Johnnie Halflin, which Bessie received with a
due amount of blushing laughter.

"And, Oh, Jacky! how will they ever do wanting you at the Tower?"

Jacky did not apprehend the covert wit--did not even perceive that the
rosy little Edinburgh-bred girl, was about to condescend to, and
patronise, the awkward rustic one.

"They'll only miss me, for a while, at first--and then maybe, we'll no
be long."

"Is't Miss Ross that's with you?" asked Bessie.

"I'm with Miss Ross," said Jacky, quickly "Miss Anne chose me of her own
will--after I askit her--and so did Miss Falconer."

"Eh! isna she an awfu' funny lady, yon Miss Falconer?"

"Funny!" Jacky was indignantly astonished. "I dinna ken what ye ca'
funny, Bessie. She's like--"

"She's no like ither folk," said Bessie.

"It's you that doesna ken. She's like--"

"Wha is she like, Jacky?"

"She's like Belphoebe," muttered Jacky, hastily. "But ye dinna ken wha
_she_ was--and she's a lady, for a' that she does strange thing whiles."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is that the lady that throosh the gentleman that was gaun to be uncivil
to our Miss Alice?" interposed Tibbie.

"Yes," said Bessie laughing. Little Bessie was not above the vanity of
being thought to know these north country magnates.--"And on New-year's
night, when all the ladies were at the Tower, (ye mind, Jacky?) Miss
Falconer gied me a shilling a' to mysel, for bringing her napkin to her,
that she had left in Miss Alice's dressing-room--and nippit my lug, and
tell't me to take care o' Miss Alice--she ca'ed her my little mistress.
Isna she an awful height herself?"

"She's no so tall as Mrs. Catherine," said Jacky.

"Eh, Jacky! Miss Alice didna come up to her shouther, and she's a haill
head higher than Miss Ross."

Jacky did not choose to answer: though why there should seem any slight
to Marjory, in an exaggeration of her stature, we cannot tell. Without
doubt, Belphoebe was to the full as tall as she.

"Do you ken that Merkland's been in Edinburgh?" asked Bessie. In
Strathoran she had called Lewis, Mr. Ross; now she was bent on
impressing Tibbie with a deep sense of her own familiarity with these
great people. "Eh, Jacky, do you mind what Johnnie Halflin used to say
about Merkland?"

Jacky had a high sense of honor. She made an elfin face at her talkative
companion, and remained prudently silent.

"What did he say?" asked Tibbie.

"Ou naithing. Jacky and me kens."

"An he said onything ill, I redd him to keep out o' the power o' my ten
talents. He's a young blackguard, like maist feck of his kind, I'll
warrant--idle serving callants, wi' nought to do in this world, but
claver about their betters, wi' light-headed gilpies, like yoursel. I
wad just like to ken what he said!"

"It was naething ill," said Jacky.

"Oh, he'll be a lad to some o' ye, nae doubt--set ye up! But I can tell
ye, he had better no come here to say an ill word o' young Mr. Ross."

"Miss Anne's Mr. Lewis's sister," said Jacky, decisively.--"Johnnie
dauredna say a word ill o' him--only that he was--"

Bessie laughed--_she_ had no honorable scruples, but maliciously
refrained from helping Jacky out.

"Only about Miss Alice and him."

"Weel ye're a queer lassie," said Mrs. Aytoun's maid. "Could ye no have
tell't me that at first?"

Bessie laughed again.

"And, Jacky, is the wee fairy lady aye at the Mill yet?"

"Wha's that?" cried the curious Tibbie.

"Oh, it's a wee bairn that the fairies sent to Strathoran. She was a'
dressed in green silk, and had wings like Miss Alice's white veil, and
was riding on a pony as white as snaw; and the miller's wife took her
in, and her wings took lowe at the fire, and she would have been a'
burned, if Miss Ross hadna saved her--and Johnnie Halflin saw her wi'
his ain e'en--and they say she's some kin to Jacky."

Jacky repelled the insult with immense disdain.

"If I had Johnnie Halflin here, I would douk him in the Oran."

"Ye might douk him in the water o' Leith, Jacky," said Bessie, laughing;
"but the Oran's no here, mind."

Jacky was indignantly silent.

"And wha is she?" inquired Tibbie.

"She's a little girl," said Jacky, with some dignity, "a very bonnie wee
foreign lady; and Mrs. Melder keeps her at the Mill, and she speaks in a
strange tongue, and sings sangs--low, sweet, floating sangs--ye never
heard the like of them, and her name is Lilie."

"Lilie what?"

"I dinna ken. She says her name is Lilia Santa Clara, but neabody kens
whether that's her last name or no."

"Losh!" exclaimed Tibbie, "will she be canny, after a'?"

"Canny!--you should look nearer yoursel," said Bessie, with laughing
malice.

"Never heed her," said Tibbie. "Sit into the table, and take your tea.
She's a light-headed fuil--and ye can tell Johnnie Halflin that frae
me."

"Is Miss Anne gaun to bide in Edinburgh?" inquired Bessie, as they
seated themselves at Tibbie's clean, small table.

"No--she's gaun to the sea-side."

"Eh, Jacky, where? we'll come out and see ye."

"I dinna mind the name of the place," said Jacky, "but it's on the
sea-side."

"And what's Miss Anne gaun to do?"

Jacky paused to deliberate. "She's no gaun to do onything.--She's just
gaun to please hersel."

"Ay," said the inquisitive Bessie, "but what is't for?"

"It's maybe for something good," said Jacky, quickly, "for that's aye
Miss Anne's way; but she wasna gaun to tell me."

"But what do you _think_ it is, Jacky?" persisted Bessie, "ane can aye
gie a guess--is she gaun to be married?"

"No!" exclaimed Jacky indignantly, "Married! It's because ye dinna ken
Miss Anne."

"Miss Anne's just like ither folk," was the laughing response; "and
there's nae ill in being married."

"Lassie, there'll be news o' you, if you're no a' the better hadden in,"
cried Tibbie. "Set ye up wi' your lads and your marryings! Maybe the
young lady's delicate, or she'll hae friends at the sea-side."

To which more delicate fishing interrogatories, Jacky, who knew that
Anne was neither delicate nor had any friend at the sea-side, prudently
refrained from making any answer.

The next day, Anne, accompanied by Mrs. Aytoun and Alice, set out for
Aberford on a search for lodgings. Mrs. Aytoun had a friend, a regular
frequenter of all places of general resort, whose list of sea-bathing
quarters was almost a perfect one, and fortified by the results of her
experience, they departed upon their quest, leaving Jacky in Bessie's
care behind them, to dream at her leisure over that wonderful Edinburgh,
whose stately olden beauty the strange girl, after her own fashion,
could appreciate so well.

Anne observed, with regret and sympathy, the gloom of silence that fell
over the kind mother by her side, as they approached their destination.
She observed the long, sad glances thrown through the windows of the
coach at the country road, known long ago, when Mrs. Aytoun was not a
widow. There were no other passengers to restrain their conversation,
and when they were very near the village, Mrs. Aytoun pointed to a
house, surrounded with wood, and standing at a considerable distance
from the road. "Yonder, Alice, look--you were born there."

Alice looked eagerly out. "You liked this place better than Aytoun,
mother? Aytoun must have been very gloomy always."

"Aytoun was a larger house than we needed, Alice--you have heard me say
so--and I was in very delicate health then. I was never well while--"
your father lived, Mrs. Aytoun was about to say, but she checked herself
hurriedly; not even in so slight a way would she reproach the dead.

The coach stopped--they were in the dull main street of the village.
Mrs. Aytoun took out her list--at the head of the column stood "Mrs.
Yammer"--the sea-bathing friend had particularly recommended the house,
whose mistress bore so distressful a name. It was a short way out of the
village, close upon the sea-side; they turned to seek it.

The magnificent Firth lay bright before them, its islands standing out
darkly from its bosom, and its sunny glories bounded by the fertile
shores and distant hills of the ancient kingdom of Fife. The exuberant
wealth of these rich Lothian lands was bursting out around into Spring's
blythest green--a sunny April sky overhead, and April air waving in its
golden breadths about them everywhere--it was impossible to think of
sadness there. The shadow of her old woe floated away from Mrs. Aytoun's
unselfish spirit--Alice was so gay, Anne so pleasantly exhilarated, that
she could not refuse to rejoice with them.

Mrs. Yammer's house promised well. It was seated upon a gentle
elevation--its front, at least, for the elevation made a very abrupt
descent, and so procured that the rooms which were on the ground-floor
before, should be the second story behind. In front ran the road leading
to the country town, beyond there were some brief intervening fields,
and then the sands. It was not above ten minutes walk from the immediate
shore. At some little distance further on, there stood a house close to
the water, standing up, gaunt and tall, from among a few trees. In the
bright, living spring-day, it had a spectral, desolate look about it.
Anne remarked it with some curiosity as she glanced round; but Mrs.
Aytoun had already knocked, and she had not time to look again.

The door was opened by an energetic little servant, who ushered the
ladies into an airy, lightsome parlor, with which Alice Aytoun was in
ecstasies. One window looked out on the sea--the other, in a corner of
the room, had a pleasant view of the fresh green country road, and
glimpse of the village of Aberford itself in the distance; the furniture
was very tolerable--the whole room particularly clean.

"O, Anne!" exclaimed Alice Aytoun, "I will come to see you every week!"

A little woman bustled into the room. She had on an old silk gown,
curiously japanned by long service, and possessing in an uncommon degree
the faculty of rustling--a comical, little, quick, merry, eccentric
face--some curls which looked exceedingly like bits of twisted wire,
covered by a clean cap of embroidered muslin, with a very plain border
of well-darned lace. Mrs. Aytoun hesitated. To call this little person
"Mrs." anything, was palpably absurd; yet they had asked for Mrs.
Yammer.

"It's no me, it's my sister," said the brisk little person before them.
"I'm Miss Crankie. Will ye sit down ladies? I am very glad to see you."

Mrs. Aytoun sat down--little Alice concealed her laugh by looking
steadfastly down the road, at the distant roofs of Aberford, and Anne
took a chair beside her.

"Is't no a grand prospect?" said Miss Crankie, "a' the Firth before us,
and the town at our right hand--a young lady that was here last simmer
said to Tammie (that's my sister, Mrs. Yammer, her name's Thomasine--we
call her Tammie for shortness,) 'If it wasna for breaking the tenth
command, I would covert ye your house, Mrs. Yammer,'--and so dry, and
free from drafts, and every way guid for an invalid. It's uncommonly
weel likit."

"It seems a very nice house," said Mrs. Aytoun. "Are your rooms
disengaged, Miss Crankie?"

"For what time was ye wanting them, Mem?" said Miss Crankie. "There's
young Mrs. Mavis is to be here in July, and Miss Todd was speaking of
bringing ower her brother's bairns in August--but I'm aye fond to oblige
a lady--for what time was ye wanting them?"

"This young lady, Miss Ross"--Miss Crankie honored Anne with a queer nod
and a smile, which very nearly upset the gravity of Alice, and put
Anne's own in jeopardy, "desires to have lodgings in the neighborhood
for this month, and, perhaps, May.--What do you think, my dear? will you
need them longer?"

"I hope not," said Anne, "but still, it is possible I may."

"Miss Ross requires change of air," said Mrs. Aytoun, faltering and
endeavoring to excuse her equivocation, by noticing that Anne did look
pale.

"Of scene, rather," said Anne, slightly affected by the same hesitation.
It was true, however, if not in the usual sense.

Miss Crankie fixed her odd little black eye upon Anne, nodded, and
looked as if she comprehended perfectly.

"Will you be able to accommodate Miss Ross and her servant, Miss
Crankie?"

"That will I; there's no better accommodation in the haill Lothians;
and, for change of scene, what could heart desire better than that--ay,
or that either, young Miss, which is as bonnie a country view (no to be
the sea) as can be seen. Will ye look at the bed-room?"

Miss Crankie darted out, leading the way. Mrs. Aytoun, Anne, and Alice
followed. The bed-room was immediately behind the parlor, resplendent in
all the glory of white covers, and chintz curtains, and with an
embowered window looking out upon "the green," which was separated from
the kitchen-garden by a thick hedge of sweet-briar. Alice was delighted,
and Anne so perfectly satisfied, that Mrs. Aytoun made the bargain. The
rooms were taken, together with a little den up stairs for Jacky. Miss
Crankie faithfully promised in her own name and Mrs. Yammer's, that the
apartments should be ready for Anne's reception next day; and when they
had partaken of a frugal refreshment--some very peculiar wine of Miss
Crankie's own manufacture, and cake to correspond--they left the house.

The day was so very beautiful, and Alice enjoyed the rare excursion so
much, that they prolonged their walk. "Do you think I could walk out
from Edinburgh, mother?" said Alice. "I should like so well to come and
see Anne often; and, Anne, you will be dull alone."

"But you will laugh at Miss Crankie, Alice," said Anne, smiling, "and so
get into her bad graces."

Alice laughed. "Is she not a very strange person?"

"I have no doubt you will find her a kindly body," said Mrs. Aytoun;
"But I hope Jacky's sense of the ludicrous is not so keen as her poetic
feelings. You must take care of Jacky."

"O, mamma," said Alice, "you don't know what a strange good girl Jacky
is. People laugh at her, but she would not hurt any one's feelings."

"You do Jacky justice, Alice," said Anne. "She _is_ a strange _good_
girl--she--"

Anne paused suddenly, breathless and excited. Who was that tall, gaunt
woman, walking thoughtfully with bent head and lingering foot step, over
the sands? She seemed to have come from the spectral dark house, which
Anne had noticed before, looming so drearily over the sunny waters. She
raised her eyes as they met--the large, wistful, melancholy eyes fell
upon Anne's face. It was the unknown relative of little Lilie--the
passenger who, six months ago, had lingered to cast that same searching,
woeful look upon the house of Merkland.

Anne was startled and amazed. She thought the stranger seemed disturbed
also. Her eyes appeared to dilate and grow keener as she looked
earnestly at Anne, and then passed on.

"Do you know that person?" said Mrs. Aytoun, wonderingly.

Anne turned to look after her; instead of her former slow pace, her
steps were now nervously quick and unsteady. Surely some unknown emotion
strong and powerful, had risen in the stranger's breast from this
meeting. Anne answered Mrs. Aytoun with an effort. "I do not know
her--but I have seen her before--I met her once in Strathoran."

They went on. Anne's mind was engrossed--she could not, as before, take
part in the gay conversation of Alice. Mrs. Aytoun perceived her
gravity. After some time, she asked again: "Do you know who she is? I
see you are interested in her."

"I do not know her at all," said Anne. "You will think me very foolish,
Mrs. Aytoun, it is her look--her eyes--she has a very remarkable face."

"Probably she lives here," said Mrs. Aytoun. "Let us look at this
house."

The house was no less spectral and gaunt, when they were near it, than
at a distance. Many of the windows were closed--the large garden seemed
perfectly neglected--only some pale spring flowers bloomed in front of a
low projecting window, where there seemed to linger some remnants of
cultivation. "It is a mysterious looking house," said Mrs. Aytoun; "she
may keep it perhaps--but there certainly can be no family living here."

By-and-by they returned to Edinburgh--where Anne spent the remainder of
the day in making some necessary calls. She spoke as little as possible
of her intention of remaining in Aberford--those ordinary questions were
so difficult to answer.

And who was this melancholy woman who had brought little Lilie to
Strathoran? Could _she_ have any connection with Norman's history, or
was it only the prevailing tone of Anne's mind and thoughts that threw
its fantastic coloring on every object she looked upon?



CHAPTER XXII.


Upon the next day, Anne, accompanied by Jacky, left Edinburgh finally
for her Aberford lodgings. She felt the isolation strangely at first:
being alone in her own room, and being alone in the parlor of Mrs.
Yammer's house, were two very different things. She seated herself by
the window as these long afternoon hours wore on. Jacky sat at the other
end of the room, already engaged on some one of the numberless linen
articles, which had been provided by her prudent mother, to keep her
occupied. Jacky had already cast several longing glances at the little
shelf between the windows, which contained the books of Mrs. Yammer's
household, but the awe of Anne's presence was upon her; she sewed and
dreamed in silence.

The dark spectral house by the waterside--the melancholy woman who had
taken Lilie to Strathoran--Anne's mind was full of these. Now and then a
chance passenger upon the high road crossed before her; once or twice
she had seen a solitary figure on the sands. None of these bore the same
look. The steady pace of country business, and the meditative one of
country leisure she could notice--nowhere the slow lingering heavy
footsteps, the wistful melancholy face which distinguished the one
individual, whom that fantastic spirit of imagination had already
associated with Norman's fate.

Anne had decided upon beginning her inquiries on the next day. She
hastily bethought herself now, of a mode of making this evening of some
service in her search; and turning to Jacky, bade her ask Miss Crankie
and Mrs. Yammer to take tea with her.--Jacky with some hesitation
obeyed--she thought it was letting down Miss Anne's dignity. Miss Anne
herself thought it was rather disagreeable and unpleasant: nevertheless,
it might be of use, and she was content to endure it.

Miss Crankie had a turban, terrible to behold, made of black net, with
what looked like spangles of yellow paint upon it, which she wore on
solemn occasions. In honor of her new lodger, she donned it to-night.
Jacky arranged the tea in almost sulky silence. At the appointed hour,
Miss Crankie and her sister sailed solemnly in.

It was the merest fiction to call this pleasant house the property of
Mrs. Yammer, as all who were favored with any glimpse into its domestic
arrangements could easily perceive. Mrs. Yammer was a woeful, patient,
resigned woman, very meekly submitting to the absolute dominion of
"Johann," saved for a feeble murmuring of her own complaints, the most
voiceless and passive of weak-minded sisters. Miss Johann Crankie was
very kind to the woeful widow, who hung upon her active hands so
helplessly. She shut her ears to Mrs. Yammer's countless aches and
palpitations, as long as it was practicable--when she could no longer
avoid hearing them, she administered bitter physic, and mustard
plasters; a discipline which was generally successful in frightening
away the distempers for some time.

Mrs. Yammer, in a much-suffering plaintive voice, immediately began to
tell Anne of the palpitations of her heart. Miss Crankie fidgeted on her
seat, shooting odd glances at Jacky, and intelligent ones of ludicrous
pity at Anne, who endured Mrs. Yammer's enumeration of troubles as
patiently as was possible. The tea was a fortunate diversion.

"What is the name of that house on the waterside, Miss Crankie?" asked
Anne.

"That's Schole, Miss Ross," said Miss Crankie, with the air of a person
who introduces a notability. "You will have heard of it before, no
doubt? It came into the possession of the present Laird, when he was in
his cradle, puir bairn, and his light-headed gowk of a mother has him
away, bringing him up in England.--She's English hersel: maybe ye might
ca' that an excuse. I say its a downright imposition and shame to tak
callants away to a strange country to get their breeding, when a'body
kens there's no the like o' us for learning in a' the world and Fife?"

"And does the proprietor of the house live in it now?" said Anne.

"Bless me, no--the Laird's but a callant yet. Tammie, woman, what year
was't that auld Schole died?"

"It was afore I was married," said Mrs. Yammer, dolefully.--"I was a
lang tangle of a lassie then, Miss Ross; and I mind o' rinning out
without my bonnet, and wi' bare shoulders, and standing by the roadside,
to see the funeral gang by. I have never been free o' rheumatism since
that day--whiles in my head--whiles in my arm--whiles--"

"Miss Ross will hear a' round o' them afore she gangs away, Tammie,"
said Miss Crankie, impatiently, "or else it'll be a wonderful year. It's
maybe fifteen or sixteen years ago; and the widow and the bairn were off
to England in the first month. Ye may tak my word for't, there wasna
muckle grief, though there was crape frae head to fit of her. I mind the
funeral as weel as if it had passed this morning--folk pretending they
were honoring the dead, that would scarce have spoken a word to him when
he was a living man. He was an old, penurious nasty body, that bought a
young wife wi' his filthy siller. Ye mind him, Tammie?"

"Mind him!" said the martyr Tammie, pathetically, "ay, I have guid
reason to mind him. Was I no confined to my bed, haill six weeks after
that weary funeral wi' the ticdouleureux? the tae cheek swelled, and the
tither cheek blistered. I ken naebody, Johann, that has guid reason to
mind him as me."

"Weel, weel," said Miss Crankie, "it was a strong plaister of guid
mustard that cured ye. It's a comfort that ane needs nae advice to
prepare that--its baith easy made and effectual."

Mrs. Yammer was cowed into silence. Miss Crankie, with a triumphant
chuckle, went on: "And since then there's been no word of them, Miss
Ross, except an intimation in the newspapers, that the light-headed fuil
of a woman had married again. Pity the poor bairn that has gotten a
stepfather over him, for bye being keeped out of the knowledge o' his
ain land. I was ance in England mysel. There's no an article in't but
flat fields, and dead water, and dreary lines o' hedges. Ye may gang
frae the tae end to the tither (a' but the north part, and its maistly
our ain,) and never ken ye have made a mile's progress--its a' the same
thing ower again--and sleek cattle, beasts and men, that ken about
naething in this world but eating and drinking. To think of a callant
being keeped there, out of the knowledge of his ain country, and it a
country like this!"

"It is a great pity, certainly," said Anne, smiling.

"Pity! it's a downright wrong and injury to the lad--there's nae saying
if his mind will ever get the better o't."

"And is the house empty?" said Anne; "does no one live in it?"

"Naebody that belangs to the house--but there are folk in't.--There's a
brother and a sister o' them, and they're far frae common folk."

"Is the sister tall and thin--with large, dark, melancholy eyes?" said
Anne, anxiously.

"Ay, Miss Ross," said Miss Crankie, casting a sharp inquisitive look at
Anne; "where hae ye fa'en in with her? it's no often she has ony
commerce with strangers."

"I met her on the sands," said Anne, suppressing her agitation with an
effort; "and was very much struck by her look."

"I dinna wonder at that--she never was just like ither folk; and since
her sister died--puir Kirstin!"

"Have they a story then?" said Anne; she was trembling with interest and
impatience--she could scarcely contain herself to ask the question.

"Ay, nae doubt, ye'll be fond of stories, Miss Ross? the most of you
young ladies are."

"I do feel very much interested in that singular melancholy woman," said
Anne, tremulously.

Miss Crankie examined her face with an odd magpie-like curiosity. Anne
smiled in spite of herself. The strange little head nodded, and Miss
Crankie began:

"Ye see, Kirstin and me were at the schule thegither. Ye think Kirstin's
younger-like than me? Ay, so she is. I was dux of the class and reading
in the Bible, when Kirstin began wi' the question book; but we were at
the schule thegither for a' that--there's maybe six or seven years
between us. There were three of a family of them; their father had been
a doctor--a wild, reckless, dissipated man, like what ower mony were,
and the family was puir. I used to take them pieces when they were wee
bairns--ye mind, Tammie?"

"Ay," said the doleful Tammie, "ye see Johann has a pleasure in minding
thae times, Miss Ross. It's different wi'a puir frail widow woman like
me; the last year I was at the schule I was never dune wi' the
toothache."

"Kirstin was the auldest," said Miss Crankie, turning her back
impatiently upon her sister, "and Patrick was next to her, and there was
as bonnie a bit lassie as ever you saw, Miss Ross, that was the youngest
of the three--she wasna like the young lady that was here yesterday--she
was darker and mair womanlike; but eh! she was bonnie.

"They had nae mother--Kirstin was like the mother of them. We used to
laugh at her, when she was a wean of maybe twelve hersel, guiding the
other twa like as if they had been her ain bairns; she was aye quiet and
thoughtful. I was an uncommon grand hand at the bools mysel, and could
throw the ba' as far as Robbie King the heckler--ye mind, Tammie?"

"Ye threw't on my head yince and broke the skin," said the disconsolate
invalid. "Eh, Miss Ross, the sore headaches I was trysted wi' when I was
a bairn!"

"I am saying there were three of them," interrupted Miss Crankie. "They
had some bit annuity that keepit them scrimply, and by guid fortune the
father died when Kirstin was about seventeen; so how she guided the
siller I canna tell, or if there was a blessing on't like the widow's
cruise that never toomed; but she keepit hersel and her little sister
decent, and sent Patrick to the college wi' the rest. They had a
cottage, and a guid big garden--she used to be aye working in the garden
hersel. I believe they lived on greens and taties a' the week, and
never had fleshmeat in the house but on the Sabbath-day, when Patrick
was at hame. Mind, I'm only saying I _think_ that, for they were aye
decently put on, and made a puir mouth to nobody.

"Patrick was serving his time to be a doctor. He was dune wi' his
studies, and was biding at hame for a rest, when a young gentleman that
was heir of an auld property, on the ither side of Aberford, came into
his fortune. Ye'll maybe have heard of him, Miss Ross--the poor,
misguided, unhappy young lad--they ca'ed him Mr. Rutherford, of
Redheugh."

Anne could hardly restrain an involuntary start; she answered, as calmly
as she could:

"I have heard the name."

"Ay, nae doubt--mony mair folk have heard his name than had ony
occasion; it was his ain fault to be sure, but he was just a' the mair
to be pitied for that."

"I was aye chief wi' Kirstin. I liked her--maybe she didna dislike me.
I've weeded her flowers to her mony a time. I was throughither whiles in
my young days, Miss Ross--no very, but gey. I yince loupit from the top
of our garden wa' wi' her wee sister in my arms--I had near gotten a
lilt with it, for I twisted my ancle--and that would have been a
misfortune."

"Ye trampit on my fit--it's never been right since," said Mrs. Yammer;
"ye never were out o' mischief."

Miss Crankie gave a sidelong look up to Anne, with her odd, merry,
little black eyes, and laughed; she took the accusation as a compliment.

"Weel, but that's no my story. Ye see, Miss Ross, they were never like
ither folk--there was aye something about them--I canna describe it.
Mrs. Clippie, the Captain's wife, was genteeler than them--to tell the
truth we were genteeler oursels; but for a' that, there was just
something--I never could ken what it was. They keepit no company, but a'
the lads were daft about Marion."

"What Marion?" exclaimed Anne, eagerly.

"Oh, just Marion Lillie, Kirstin's sister."

"Marion Lillie!" a wild thrill of hope, and fear, and wonder shot
through Anne's frame. What could that strange conjunction of names
portend?

"So ye see, the young gentleman, Mr. Rutherford, of Redheugh, came to
the countryside--and Kirstin's house is near his gate, and so he behoved
to see the bonnie face at the window. It wasna like he could miss it.

"Before lang he had gotten very chief wi' the haill family--they didna
tak it as ony honor--they were just as if they thought themsels the
young Laird's equals; but they were awfu' fond o' him. I have seen
Patrick's face flush like fire if onybody minted a slighting word of
young Redheugh--no that it was often done, for there was never a man
better likit--and Kirstin herself treated him like anither brother, and
for Marion--weel, she was but a lassie; but the Laird and her were just
like the light of ilk ither's e'en.

"Ye may think, Miss Ross, there was plenty said about it in the
countryside. Rich folk said it wasna right, and puir folk said it wasna
right; but Kirstin guarded her young sister so, that naebody daured mint
a word of ill--it was only spite and ill-nature.

"Maybe, Miss Ross, your maid will carry ben the tray? or I can cry upon
Sarah."

Miss Crankie lifted up her voice and called at its loudest pitch for her
handmaiden. Sarah entered, and cleared away the tea equipage with
Jacky's tardy assistance. Jacky was by no means pleased to find her
attendance no longer necessary; she had managed to hear a good deal of
the story, and thirsted anxiously for its conclusion.

"Bring me my basket, Sarah," said Miss Crankie. "Miss Ross, ye'll excuse
me if I take my work. I have no will to be idle--it's an even down
punishment to me."

Mrs. Yammer crossed her hands languidly upon her lap and sighed. Sarah
returned, bearing a capacious work-basket, from which Miss Crankie took
a white cotton stocking, in which were various promising holes. "If ye
want onything of this kind done, I'll be very glad, Miss Ross--I'm a
special guid hand."

Anne thanked her.

"But your'e wearying for the end of my story, I see," said Miss Crankie,
"just let me get my needle threaded."

The needle was threaded--the stocking was drawn upon Miss Crankie's
arm--the black turban nodded in good-humored indication of having
settled itself comfortably--and the story was resumed.

"About that time, when young Redheugh was at his very chiefest with the
Lillies, and folk said he was going to be married upon Marion, a
gentleman came to stay here awhile for the benefit of the sea-side. His
wife was a bit delicate young thing--they said he wasna ower guid to
her. They lived on the other side of the town, and their name was
Aytoun. Mr. Rutherford and him had gotten acquaint in Edinburgh, and for
awhile they were great cronies. Patrick Lillie could not bide this
stranger gentleman--what for I dinna ken--but folk said Redheugh and him
had some bit tifft of an outcast about him; onyway it made no difference
in their friendship.

"But one July morning, Miss Ross, we were a' startled maist out of our
senses: there was an awfu' story got up of a dead man being found by the
waterside, just on the skirts of yon muckle wood that runs down close by
the sea, and who should this be but the stranger gentleman, Mr. Aytoun.
Somebody had shot him like a coward frae behind, and when they looked
among the bushes, lo! there was a gun lying, and whose name do you think
was on't? just Mr. Rutherford's, of Redheugh.

"The haill country was in a fever--the like of that ye ken was a
disgrace to us a'--and it was in everybody's mouth. The first body I
thought of was Marion Lillie; the day before she had gone into
Edinburgh--folk said it was to get her wedding dress. Eh, puir lassie!
was that no a awfu' story for a bride to hear?

"They gaed to apprehend Mr. Rutherford the same night, but he had fled,
and was away before they got to Redheugh, no man kent whither. I met
Christian that day; though I ca' her Kirstin speaking to you, I say aye
Miss Lillie to herself. In the one day that the murder was done she had
gotten yon look. It feared me when I saw it. Her e'en were travelling
far away, as if she could see to ony distance, but had nae vision for
things at hand. 'Eh, Miss Lillie!' I said to her, 'isna this an awfu'
thing; wha could have thought it of young Redheugh!'

"'I will never believe it!' she said, in a wild away: 'he is not guilty.
I will never believe it!'

"'And Miss Marion,' said I, 'bless me, it will break the puir lassie's
heart.'

"'I will not let her come home,' said Kirstin, 'I will send her to the
west country to my father's friends. She must not come home.'

"She would never say before that there was onything between her sister
and young Redheugh--now she never tried to deny it, her heart was ower
full.

"Weel, Miss Ross, the miserable young man had gotten away in a foreign
ship, and they hadna been at sea aboon a week when she foundered, and a'
hands were lost; and there was an end of his crime and his
punishment--they were baith buried in the sea.

"But no the misery of them--the puir lassie was taen away somegate about
Glasgow, but the news came to her ears there. What could ye think, Miss
Ross? It wasna like a common death--there was nae hope in it, either for
this world or the next. It crushed her, as the hail crushes flowers.
Within a fortnight after that, bonnie Marion Lillie was in her grave.

"Patrick was taen ill of a fever--they say the angry words he had spoken
about Mr. Aytoun to young Redheugh lay heavy on his mind. Kirstin had to
nurse him night and day--she couldna even leave him to see Marion
buried. She died, and was laid in her grave among strangers. When
Patrick was able to leave his bed, the two went west to see the
grave--that was all that remained of their bonnie sister Marion.

"Since that time they have lived sorrowful and solitary, keeping company
with naebody; the sore stroke has crushed them baith. Patrick never
sought his doctor's licence, nor tried to get a single patient. He has
been ever since a broken-down, weak, invalid man."

"He had a frail constitution like my ain," said Mrs. Yammer, "and Johann
maun aye have some great misfortune to account for it, when it's
naething but weakness. Eh, Miss Ross, if ye only kent the trouble it is
to a puir frail creature like me to make any exertion."

Miss Crankie twisted her strange little figure impatiently:

"When auld Schole died, Christian and Patrick flitted into the house,
and let their ain; they couldna bide it after that. It's a bit bonnie
wee place, maybe twa miles on the ither side of Aberford; and Redheugh
is maybe a quarter o' a mile nearer. They say the King gets the lands
when ony man does a crime like that; it's what they ca' confiscate.
Redheugh has been confiscate before now. The auld Rutherfords were
Covenanters langsyne, and lost their inheritance some time in the
eight-and-twenty years--but that was in a guid cause. Ony way, this Mr.
Rutherford was the last of his name: if there had been ony heir, I kenna
whether he could have gotten Redheugh or no, but it's a mercy the race
is clean gane, and there is none living to bear the reproach."

Anne's heart beat loudly against her breast; she remained to represent
the fallen house of Rutherford--she was the heir--the reproach: and the
suffering must be her's as well as Norman's.

"And was there no doubt?" she asked, "was no one else suspected?"

"Bless me, no; wha in our quiet countryside would lift a hand against a
man's life? If he hadna done it, he wadna have fled away; and if Kirstin
had ony certainty that he hadna done it, do you think she could have
bidden still? Na, I ken Kirstin Lillie better. Patrick was aye a weakly
lad, ower gentle for the like of that, but Kirstin could never have
sitten down in idleset if there had been ony hope. Mony a heart was wae
for him at the time, but the story has blawn by now; few folk think of
it. I wadna have tell't ye, Miss Ross, if ye hadna noticed Kirstin first
yoursel--but ye'll no mention it again."

"I certainly will not do anything that could hurt Miss Lillie's
feelings," said Anne.

"Ye see, she's half housekeeper of Schole the now; she pays nae rent, or
if there's ony, it's just for the name, and the house is sae
dismal-looking that naebody seeks to see't. You would think they couldna
thole a living face dear them; they gang to the Kirk regular, and whiles
ye will see them wandering on the sands; but for visiting onybody, or
having onybody visiting them, ye might as weel think of the spirits in
heaven having commune with us that are on the earth."

"And that minds me," said Mrs. Yammer, breaking in with a long loud
sigh, which the impatient Miss Crankie knew by dire experience was the
prelude to a doleful story, "of the awfu' fright I got after my man John
Yammer was laid in his grave, that brought on my palpitation. Ye see,
Miss Ross, I was sitting my lane, yae eerie night about Martinmas, in my
wee parlor that looks out on the green; and Johann, she was away at
Aberford, laying in some saut meat for the winter--wasna it saut meat,
Johann?"

"Never you mind, Tammie, my woman," said Johann, persuasively. "We're
dune wi' saut meat for this year."

"Ay, but it was just to let Miss Ross see the danger of ower muckle
thought, and how it brought on my palpitation. Eh woman, Johann, if ye
only kent how my puir heart beats whiles, louping in my breast like a
living creature!"

And the whole story was inflicted upon Anne--of how Mrs. Yammer, on the
aforesaid dreary Martinmas night, fancied she saw the shadow of the
umquhile John, gloomily lowering on her parlor wall; of how her heart
"played thud and cracked, like as it wad burst," as the shadowy head
nodded solemnly, darkening the whole apartment; of how at last Johann
returned, and with profane laughter, discovered the ghost to be the
shadow of a branch of the old elm without, some bare twigs upon the
extremity of which were fashioned into the likeness of an exceeding
retrousee nose, "the very marrow" of that prominent feature in the face
of the late lamented John; of which discovery his mournful relic was but
half convinced, and her heart had palpitated since, "sometimes less, and
sometimes mair, but I've never been quit o't for a week at a time."

The infliction terminated at last, Miss Crankie carried her sister off
when the gloaming began to darken, having sufficient discernment to
perceive that Anne's patience had been enough tried for a beginning.

Anne's thoughts were in a maze. She sat down by the window in the soft
gloom of the spring night, and looked towards the house, where beat
another true and faithful heart which had wept and yearned over
Norman--Marion--Marion--was she living or dead? could this Christian
Lillie be aware of Norman's existence, and of his innocence? There could
not be two betrothed Marions. In the latter part of the story, the
countryside must have been deceived. Who so likely to accompany the
exile as the sister of this brave woman, who had done the housemother's
self-denying duty in her earliest youth? Anne's pulse beat quick, she
became greatly agitated; was there then a tie of near connexion between
herself and this stranger, whose path she had again crossed? Was
Norman's wife Christian's sister? had they an equal stake in the return
of the exile?

She could not sit still--cold dew was bursting upon her forehead; she
walked from window to window in feverish excitement. Could she dare to
ask?--could she venture to make herself known? Alas, she was still no
whit advanced in her search for proof of Norman's innocence! If
Christian Lillie had possessed any clue, she must, it was certain, have
used it before now; and until some advance had been made, these two
strangers in their singular kindred would not dare to whisper to one
another that Norman lived.

Anne threw herself upon her chair again. And Lilie--who was Lilie? Why
was this stranger child brought--of all localities in the world--to the
neighbourhood of Merkland? Could it be? could it be? her heart grew sick
with feverish hope and anxiety; her mind continued to hover about, and
dwell upon this mystery; but she almost forcibly restrained herself from
articulate thought upon it--she could not venture yet to entertain the
hope.

And Norman! Esther Fleming's story had brought him out clear before her,
in the gay light of his generous boyhood.--Graver and more deeply
affecting was this. Who might venture to compute the untold agonies of
that terrible time of parting--the nervous compulsory strength of the
girl-heart that went with him--the stern patience of the maturer one,
who above by the sick-bed at home! Grief that must have remained with
all its burning sense of wrong, and heavy endurance of an undeserved
curse, since ever little Alice Aytoun opened her blue eyes to the
light--a lifetime of pain, and fear, and sorrow--too dreadful to look
back upon!

And Anne's heart sank when she looked forward--living here, in the
immediate spot where the deed was done, with all facility for collecting
favorable evidence, and with better knowledge, and a more immediate
certainty of Norman's innocence than even Anne herself could have--why
had the brother and sister done nothing to remove this stain? She could
only account for it by supposing them paralysed with fear--terrified to
risk the present security of those so dear to them, for any uncertainty
even of complete acquittal--and afraid of making any exertion, lest the
eyes of curiosity should be turned upon them.

The Forth lay vast in silvery silence, breathing long sighs along its
sands. Opposite swelling soft and full, in the spiritual dimness of the
spring night, rose the fair lands of Fife. Still and solemn in its
saintly evening rest, lay the beautiful earth everywhere. Only awake and
watching, under dusky roofs, and in dim chambers, were the hoping,
toiling, wrestling souls of men, nobler and of mightier destiny, than
even the beautiful earth.

The next morning, when she entered the sunny little parlor, Anne found
Jacky rearranging, according to her own ideas of elegance, the breakfast
equipage, which Miss Crankie's energetic little servant had already
placed upon the table. Anne smiled, and felt almost uncomfortable, as
she observed the solitary cup and saucer on the table--the single
plate--the minute teapot.--After all, this living alone, had something
very strange in it.

Jacky seemed to think so too: she filled out Anne's cup of tea, and
lingered about the back of her chair.

"If ye please, Miss Anne--"

"Well, Jacky?"

"If ye please," said Jacky, hesitating, "do ye ken wha little Miss Lilie
is?"

Anne started and turned round in alarm--was this strange, dark maid of
her's really an elfin, after all?

"No, Jacky," she said. "Why do you ask?"

"Because--it's no forwardness, Miss Anne," murmured Jacky, hanging down
her head.

"I know that, Jacky--because what?"

"Because, Miss Anne," said Jacky, emboldened, "I saw a lady down on the
sands. She was standing close by the bushes at yon dark house, and her
e'en were travelling ower the water, and her face was white--I will aye
mind it--and--"

"And what?"

"It was her that brought little Lilie to the Mill. I saw her once by
Oranside at night; and she was on our side of the water; and she was
looking across at Merkland."

"Was Lilie with her then, Jacky?"

"No, Miss Anne; but I saw her after, leading Lilie by the hand, and then
she was on the Merkland side, where Esther Fleming lives; and she was
walking about, canny and soft, as if she wanted to see in."

"And are you sure it is the same lady, Jacky?" said Anne.

"I ken, Miss Anne," said Jacky, eagerly; "because there's no twa faces
like yon in a' the world; and, Miss Anne, do ye mind Lilie's e'en?"

"Yes, Jacky."

Anne did recollect them--and how dark and full their liquid depths were!

"Because Lilie's e'en are the very same--only they're no sae woeful--and
I kent the lady would be some friend, but Mrs. Melder said it couldna be
her mother."

Anne's heart swelled full. Could this little child be as near of
kindred to herself as to Christian Lillie? Her mind was overflowing with
this. She forgot that Jacky lingered.

"And, if ye please, Miss Anne--"

Anne again turned round to listen.

"She was looking away ower the water, and leaning on the hedge--maybe
she lives yonder--and Miss Anne--"

"What is it, Jacky?"

Jacky drew near and spoke very low:

"Do you mind the sang, Miss Anne, that Miss Alice sang on the New-year's
night, when Mr. Archibald came home to the Tower?"

Anne started.

"The lady was saying it to hersel very low--the way Lilie sings her
strange music."

"What did she say, Jacky?"

"If ye please, Miss Anne, it was a short verse--it was about seeing the
stars rise upon the Oran. I can say't a'." And Jacky hung back, and
blushed and hesitated.

The connexion became clearer by every word. "The student lad" who wrote
this ballad--could it be Patrick Lillie?

"Was it last night you heard this, Jacky?"

"No, Miss Anne, it was this morning very early. I wanted to see the
sea," said Jacky, bashfully, "and I saw the sun rise. But I think the
lady wasna heeding for the sea. She wasna there at a'. She was in her
ain spirit."

"And you are sure you are not mistaken, Jacky?" said Anne.

"Miss Anne!" exclaimed Jacky, "ye would ken yourself, if you saw her.
Its just Lilie's e'en--only they are far, far deeper and sadder, and aye
searching and travelling, as if something was lost that they bid to
find, and were seeking for night and day."

"That they bid to find!" The words roused Anne. "Did you mention this to
any one?" she asked.

Jacky looked injured--an imputation on her honor she could not bear.

"I never tell things, Miss Anne. I'm no a talepyet."

"Well, Jacky, remember that I trust you. I have heard that this lady has
had great sorrow; and she has some good reason, no doubt, for not
keeping Lilie beside her. Mind, you must never mention this to any
one--not to Bessie--not even to your mother, when we return. No one
knows it, but you and me. I am sure I can trust you, Jacky."

Jacky gave a faithful promise, and went away with secret and proud
dignity. She also had entered upon the search--she had begun to
co-operate with Anne.



CHAPTER XXIII.


Anne had fairly started upon her voyage of discovery. The beginning of
it cost her many thoughts. She had half advanced to various peasant
wives, whom she saw at cottage doors, screaming to unruly children, or
out upon the universal "green," superintending their little
bleaching--and had as often shrunk back, in painful timidity, which she
blamed herself greatly for, but could not manage to overcome. It was
quite different among the well-known cottages of Strathoran, though even
with them, Anne would have felt visits of condescension or patronage
unspeakably awkward and painful. Now this constitutional shyness must be
overcome. Walking along the high road, a considerable way beyond the
village of Aberford, she suddenly came upon a desolate mansion-house.
The broken gate hung by the merest tag of hinge; the stone pillars were
defaced and broken. What had formerly been ornamental grounds before the
house, were a jungle of long grass, and uncouth brushwood. Bushes grown
into unseemly straggling trees, beneath the shadow of which, thistles
and nettles luxuriated, and plumes of unshorn grass waved rank and long,
as if in the very triumph of neglect. The house-door hung as insecurely
as the gate--the steps were mossy and cracked--the windows entirely
shattered, and in some cases the very frames of them broken. Behind, the
gardens lay in a like state of desolation. Here and there a cultivated
flower, which had been hardy enough to cling to its native soil, marked
among wild blossoms, and grass, and weeds, a place where care and
culture had once been. Upon a mossed and uneven wall some fruit-trees
clung, rich with blossoms: it had been an orchard once. In the midst of
another waste and desolate division stood the broken pedestal of a
sun-dial; a sloping wilderness ascended from it to the low windows of
what seemed once to have been a drawing-room. A spell of neglect was
over it all, less terrific than that still horror which a poet of our
own time has thrown over his haunted house, but yet in the gay wealth
and hopefulness of spring, striking chill and drearily upon the
observer's eye. Anne examined it with curious interest; she could
suspect what house it was.

A little further on she came upon a cottage of better size and
appearance than most, with a well-filled little garden before its door,
and knots of old trees about it. It was the house of a "grieve," or farm
overseer, a rising man in his humble circle, whose wife aimed at being
genteel. She stood in the door, basking in the sun, with her youngest
baby in her arms; the good woman had a multitude of babies; the latest
dethroned one was tumbling about at her feet. Anne bent over the little
gate to ask the name of the forlorn and desolate house she had just
past.

"Oh, that's Redheugh," said Mrs. Brock, the grieve's wife.

Anne lingered, and held out her hand to the hardy little urchin
scrambling in the garden. Mrs. Brock looked as if she would quite like
to enter into conversation:

"Be quiet, Geordie; ye'll dirty the lady's gloves."

"No, no," said Anne, taking the small brown hand into her own. "I am
very fond of children, and this is a fine, sturdy little fellow."

"Ye'll be a stranger, I'm thinking?" said Mrs. Brock. "There's few folk
in our parish that dinna ken Redheugh."

"Yes," said Anne. "I am quite a stranger; what is the reason it lies so
deserted and desolate?"

"Ye'll be come to the sea-side?" pursued Mrs. Brock; "it's no often we
have folk out frae Edinburgh sae early in the year. Is't no unco cauld
for bathing?"

"I should think it was," said Anne smiling, "but I have never, bathed
yet."

"It'll be just for the sea air?" continued Mrs. Brock. "Are ye bideing
far frae here, Mem, if yin may ask?"

"I am living a good way on the other side of Aberford," said Anne.

"Oh, and ye have had a lang walk, and it's a warm day. Get out of the
road, Geordie; will ye no come in and sit down? ye'll be the better for
the rest?"

Mrs. Brock, as we have before said, had an ambition to be genteel. Now
Anne Ross with her very plain dress, and quite simple manners, was
eminently ladylike, and might be a desirable acquaintance. Anne accepted
the invitation, and setting the strong little urchin, whom his mother
knocked about with so little delicacy, on his feet, she led him in with
her.

Mrs. Brock's parlor was a temple sacred to company, and holidays. Its
burnished grate, and narrow mantlepiece, elaborately ornamented with
foreign shells; brilliant peacock feathers waved gracefully over the
gilded frame of the little square mirror; the carpet was resplendent in
all the colors of the rainbow. There were sturdy mahogany chairs, and a
capacious haircloth sofa--the two ends of a dining-table stood in the
middle of the room, elaborated into the brightest polish--the center
piece was placed against the wall, and decorated with a case of stuffed
birds. Mrs. Brock paused at the door, and contemplated it all with
infinite complacency. It was something to have so grand a place to
exhibit to a stranger.

"Take a seat on the sofa, Mem; ye'll be wearied wi' your lang walk.
Geordie, ye little sinner, wad ye put your dirty shoon on the guid
carpet? Get away wi' ye."

Mrs. Brock bundled the little fellow unceremoniously out, and seated
herself opposite her guest.

"You have a fine view," said Anne.

"Is't no beautiful? They tell me there's no a grander sight in the world
than just the Firth and Fife. Yonder's the Lomonds, ye ken, and yon
muckle hill, even over the water, that's Largo Law. My mother was a Fife
woman--I have lived at Colinsbrugh mysel; and we can see baith Inchkeith
and the May in a clear day, no to speak o' the Bass. We're uncommonly
well situate here; it's a fine house altogether."

"It seems so, indeed," said Anne.

"Ye see the only ill thing about it is, that it's no our ain.--George
was uncommon keen to have had the house the bairns were a' born in. He's
an awfu' man for his bairns."

"Very natural," said Anne.

"Oh, ay, nae doubt it's natural, but it's no ilka body that has the
thought; he wad have gien twa hunder pounds for the house; twa clear
hunder--it's no worth that siller, ye ken, but it's just because we've
been in't sae lang. But Miss Lillie wadna hear o't; it's no every day
she could get an offer like that, and they canna be sae weel off as to
throw away twa hunder pounds, ane would think."

"Is this Miss Lillie's house?" said Anne.

"Ay--ye'll ken Miss Lillie it's like?"

"No," said Anne, "I do not know her, but I have heard her name."

"There's bits of conveniences a' through it," said Mrs. Brock, "that had
been putten up when they were bideing here themsels; and the garden
behint. Miss Lillie beggit George to keep the flowers right, and he
takes uncommon pains with them. He's a guid-hearted man, our George;
ye'll no often meet wi' the like of him."

"And that house of Redheugh," said Anne; "why is it so neglected and
desolate?"

"Eh, bless me!" said Mrs. Brock, "have ye no heard the story?"

"What story?" said Anne.

"Eh, woman!" exclaimed the grieve's wife, forgetting her good manners in
astonishment. "Ye maun have been awfu' short time hereabout, if ye
havena heard the story of the Laird o' Redheugh."

"I only arrived yesterday," said Anne.

"Weel, it's no ill to tell. The young gentleman that aught it killed a
man and was drowned himsel when he was trying to escape: it's just as
like the Book o' Jonah as anything out o' the Bible could be. There was
a great storm, and the ship he was in sank; he couldna carry the guilt
of the pluid over the sea. They say murder wouldna hide if ye could put
a' the tokens o't beneath North Berwick Law. It made an awfu' noise in
the countryside at the time, but it's no muckle thought o' now, only
a'body kens what gars the house lie desolate. Folk say ye may see the
gentleman that was killed, and Redheugh himsel in his dreeping claes,
like as if he was new come up from the bottom of the sea, fighting and
striving in the auld avenue--aye at midnight o' the night it was
done--but _ye'll_ no believe the like o' that?"

"No," said Anne vacantly; she did not know what she answered.

"Weel, I never saw onything myself--but they say the spirit's ill to
pacify, that's met wi' a violent death--and I wad just be as weel
pleased no to put myself in the way. I have aye an eerie feeling when I
pass the gate at night. After a' ye ken, there's naething certain about
it in Scripture--maybe the dead can come back, maybe they canna--ane
disna ken. I think it's aye best to keep out of the gait."

"It is, no doubt, the most prudent way," said Anne, smiling.

"Ye wad, maybe, like to see the garden, Miss--"

Mrs. Brock was mightily anxious to know who her visitor was.

"Ross," said Anne.

"Weel, Miss Ross, I am sure ye'll be pleased wi' the garden--will ye
come this way?"

Anne followed. The garden was in trim order--well kept and gracefully
arranged. Spring flowers, with their delicate hopeful fragrance and pale
hues, were scattered through the borders. The blossom on the lilac
bushes was already budded, and the hawthorn had here and there unfolded
its first flowers.

"But the simmer-house, Miss Ross," said Mrs. Brock.

The summer-house was not one of the ordinary tea-garden abominations. It
was a knoll of soft turf, the summit of which had been formed into a
seat, with a narrow space of level greensward for its footstool. Over it
was a light and graceful canopy, with flowering plants more delicate and
rare, than are generally seen in cottage gardens, clustering thickly
over it, while the foliage of some old trees, growing at the foot of the
hillock, made a rich background. From its elevated seat, you could see
the slopes of Fife lying fair below the sun, and the gallant Forth
between.--Anne stood and gazed round her in silence. She could see the
dark trees, and high roof of Redheugh at her other hand; how often might
Norman, in his happy years long ago, have stood upon this spot? Yet here
it shone in its fresh life and beauty, when all that remained of him,
was dishonor and desolation!

But there was in this a solemn, silent hope which struck Anne to the
heart. Christian Lillie had entreated, as her tenant said, that these
flowers should be carefully tended. Christian Lillie would not part with
the house. Was she not looking forward, then, to some future
vindication--to some home-coming of chastened joyfulness--to some final
light, shedding the radiance of peace upon her evening time?

Anne had to sit down in Mrs. Brock's parlor again, and suffer herself to
be refreshed with a glass of gooseberry wine, not quite so delectable as
Mrs. Primrose's immortal preparation, before she was permitted to
depart. Mrs. Brock had another decanter upon her table, filled with a
diabolical compound, strongly medicinal in taste and odor, which she
called ginger wine, and which Anne prudently eschewed--and a plate of
rich "short-bread," at which little Geordie, tumbling on the mat at the
door, cast longing loving looks. Mrs. Brock hoped Miss Ross would come
to see her again.

"It's just a nice walk. Ye maun come and tak' a cup o' tea when George
is in himsel. He's an uncommon weel-learned man, our George--he could
tell ye a' the stories o' the countryside."

Anne had to make a half promise that she would return to avail herself
of the stores of George Brock's information, before his admiring wife
released her.

She had overcome her repugnance a little--it was a tolerable beginning
so far as that went--but how dark, how hopeless seemed the prospect!
There was no doubt in that confident expression--no benevolent hope that
Norman might be guiltless! She had been told so long before, and had
come to Aberford, in the face of that. Yet the repetition of it by so
many indifferent strangers discouraged her sadly--her great expectation
collapsed. Only a steady conviction in her brother's innocence, a solemn
hope of vindication to him, living or dead, upheld her in her further
way.

In the evening she wandered out upon the sands. It was a still night,
wrapped in the gray folds of a mistier gloaming, than she had before
seen sinking over the brilliant Firth. Anne hovered about the enclosure
of Schole. The dreary house had a magnetic attraction for her. She stood
by the low gate, close to the water, and looked in. The high foliage of
the hedge hid her--gate itself was the only loophole in the thick fence,
which surrounded the house on all sides. There was light in the low
projecting window, which dimly revealed a gloomy room, furnished with
book shelves. At a sort of study table, placed in the recess of the
window, there sat a man bending over a book. His face was illuminated by
the candle beside him. A pale, delicate face it was, telling of a mind
nervously susceptible, a spirit answering to every touch, with emotion
so intense and fine, as to make the poetic temperament, not a source of
strength and mighty impulse, as in hardier natures, but a well-spring of
exquisite feebleness--a fountain of pensive blight and beauty. The snowy
whiteness of his high, thin temples, the long silky fair hair upon his
stooping head, heightened the impression of delicate grace and
feebleness. He looked young, but had, in reality, seen nearly forty
years of trouble and sorrow. His brow was almost covered by the long,
thin white fingers that supported it. He was absorbed in his book.

A strange resemblance to Christian Lillie was in the student's pale and
contemplative face. There could be no doubt that he was her invalid
brother--and yet how strangely unlike they were!

Anne turned to pursue her walk along the dim sands. A faint ray of
moonlight was stealing through the mist, silvering the water, and the
long glistening line of its wet shores here and there. In the light, she
caught a glimpse of a slow advancing figure. Fit place and time it was,
for such a meeting--for the tall dark outline and slow step, could
belong to but one person. Anne trembled, and felt her own step falter.
They had never yet heard each other's voices, yet were connected by so
close a tie--were wandering upon this solitary place, brooding over one
great sorrow--perhaps tremulously embracing one solemn hope.

When they met, she faltered some commonplace observation about the
night. To her astonishment, Christian Lillie replied at once. It might
be that she saw Anne's agitation--it might be that she also longed to
know Norman's sister. That she knew her to be so, Anne could not doubt:
her melancholy contemplation of Merkland--her evident start and
surprise, when they formerly met upon the sands, made that certain.

"Yes," said Christian Lillie, in a voice of singular sadness, "it is a
beautiful night."

The words were of the slightest--the tone and manner, the drawing in of
that long breath, spoke powerfully. This, then, was her one
pleasure--this gentle air of night was the balm of her wearied spirit.

"The mist is clearing away," said Anne, tremulously. "Yonder lights on
the Fife shore are clear now--do you see them?"

"Ay, I see them," was the answer. "Cheerful and pleasant they look here.
Who knows what weariness and misery--what vain hopes and sick hearts
they may be lighting."

"Let us not think so," said Anne, gently. "While we do not know that our
hopes are vain we still have pleasure in them."

"I have seen you more than once before," said Christian Lillie. "You are
not, or your face is untrue, one to think of vain pleasure at an
after-cost of pain. Hopes!--I knew what they were once--I know now what
it is to feel the death of them: what think you of the vain toils that
folk undergo for a hope? the struggle and the vigils, and the sickness
of its deferring? I see light burning yonder through all the watches of
the night--what can it be but the fever of some hope that keeps them
always shining? I saw yours in your window last night, when everybody
near was at rest but myself. What is it that keeps you wakeful but some
hope?"

"You know me then--you know what my hope is?" said Anne, eagerly.

"No," said Christian. "Tell it not to me. I have that in me that blights
hope--and the next thing after a blighted hope, is a broken heart. It is
wonderful--God shield you, from the knowledge--how long a mortal body
will hold by life after there is a broken heart within it! I think
sometimes that it is only us who know how strong life is--not the
hopeful and joyous, but us, who are condemned to bear the burden--us,
who drag these days out as a slave drags a chain."

"Do not say so," said Anne. Her companion spoke with the utmost
calmness--there was a blank composure about her, which told more
powerfully even than her words, the death of hope.--"There can be no
life, however sorrowful, that has not an aim--an expectation."

"An aim?--ay, an aim! If you knew what you said you would know what a
solemn and sacred thing it is that has stood in my path, these seventeen
years, the ending of my travail--an expectation! What think you of
looking forward all that time, as your one aim and expectation--almost,
God help us, as your hope--for a thing which you knew would rend your
very heart, and make your life a desert when it came--what think ye of
that? There are more agonies in this world than men dream of in their
philosophy."

"Are we not friends?" said Anne. "Have we not an equal share in a great
sorrow that is past--I trust and hope in a great joy that is to come?
Will you not take my sympathy?--my assistance?"

Christian Lillie shrank, as Anne thought, from her offered hand.

"An equal share--an equal share. God keep you from that--but it becomes
you well: turn round to the light, and let me see your face."

She laid her hand on Anne's shoulder, and, turning her round, gazed upon
her earnestly.

"Like--and yet unlike," she murmured. "You are the only child of your
mother? she left none but you?"

"Except--"

"Hush, what would you say?" said Christian, hurriedly.--"And you would
offer me sympathy and help? Alas! that I cannot take it at your, hands.
You have opened a fountain in this withered heart, that I thought no
hand in this world could touch but one. It is a good deed--you will get
a blessing for it--now, fare you well."

"Shall I not see you again?" said Anne.

Christian hesitated.

"I do not know--why should you? you can get nothing but blight and
disappointment from me, and yet--for once--you may come to me at
night--not to-morrow night, but the next. I will wait for you at the
little gate; and now go home and take rest--is it not enough that one
should be constantly watching? Fare you well."

Before Anne could answer, the tall, dark, gliding figure was
away--moving along with noiseless footstep over the sands to the gate of
Schole. She proceeded on herself, in wonder and agitation--how shallow
was her concern for Norman in comparison with this; how slight her
prospect of success when this earnest woman, whose words had such a tone
of power in them, even in the deepness of her grief, declared that in
her all hope was dead. It was a blow to all her expectations--nevertheless
it did not strike her in that light. Her anticipation of the promised
interview, her wonder at what had passed in this, obliterated the
discouraging impression. She was too deeply interested in what she
had seen and heard, to think of the stamp of hopelessness which these
despairing words set on her own exertions. That night she transferred
her lights early from her little sitting-room to the bed-chamber
behind. That was a small matter, if it gave any satisfaction to the
melancholy woman, the light from whose high chamber window she could
see reflected on the gleaming water, after Miss Crankie's little
household had been long hours at rest.

The next day was a feverish day to Anne, and so was the succeeding one.
She took long walks to fill up the tardy time, and made acquaintance
with various little sunbrowned rustics, and cottage mothers; but gained
from them not the veriest scrap of information about Norman, beyond what
she already knew--that he had killed a man, and had been drowned in his
flight from justice--that now the property, as they thought, was in the
king's hands, "and him having sae muckle," as one honest woman
suggested, "he didna ken weel what to do wi't. Walth gars wit
wavor--It's a shame to fash him, honest man, wi' mair land that he can
make ony use o'--it would have been wiser like to have parted it among
the puir folk."

On the afternoon of the day on which she was to see Christian Lillie
again, Anne lost herself in the unknown lanes of Aberford. After long
wandering she came to the banks of a little inland water, whose quiet,
wooded pathway was a great relief to her, after the dust and heat of
the roads. She stayed for a few minutes to rest herself; upon one hand
lay a wood stretching darkly down as she fancied to the sea. She was
standing on its outskirts where the foliage thinned, yet still was
abundant enough to shade and darken the narrow water; a little further
on, the opposite bank swelled gently upward in fields, cultivated to the
streamlet's edge--but the side on which she herself stood, was richly
wooded along all its course, and matted with a thick undergrowth of
climbing plants and shrubs and windsown seedlings. The path wound at
some little distance from the waterside through pleasant groups of
trees. Anne paused, hesitating and undecided, not knowing which way to
turn. A loud and cheerful whistle sounded behind her, and looking back,
she saw a ruddy country lad, of some sixteen or seventeen years,
trudging blythely along the pathway; she stopped him to ask the way.

"Ye just gang straight forenent ye," said the lad, "even on, taking the
brig at Balwithry, and hauding round by the linn in Mavisshaw. Ye canna
weel gang wrang, unless ye take the road that rins along the howe of the
brae to the Milton, and it's fickle to ken which o' them is the right
yin, if ye're no acquaint."

"I am quite a stranger," said Anne.

"I'm gaun to the Milton mysel," said the youth. "I'll let ye see the way
that far, and then set ye on to the road."

Anne thanked him, and walked on briskly with her blythe conductor, who
stayed his whistling, and dropped a step or two behind, in honor of the
lady. He was very loquacious and communicative.

"I'm gaun hame to see my mother. My father was a hind on the Milton
farm, and my mother is aye loot keep the house, now that she's a
widow-woman. I've been biding wi' my uncle at Dunbar. He's a shoemaker,
and he wanted to bind me to his trade."

"And will you like that?" said Anne.

"Eh no--I wadna stand it; I aye made up my mind to be a ploughman like
my father before me; sae my uncle spoke for me to the grieve at Fantasie
and I'm hired to gang hame at the term. So I cam the noo to see my
mother."

"Have you had a long walk?" said Anne.

"It's twal mile--it was eleven o'clock when I started--I didna ken what
hour it is noo. It should be three by the sun." Anne consulted her
watch; it was just three; the respect of her guide visibly
increased--gold watches were notable things in Aberford.

"I thought yince of starting at night. Eh! if I had been passing in the
dark, wadna I hae been frighted to see a leddy thonder."

"Why yonder?" said Anne, "is there anything particular about that
place?"

"Eh!" exclaimed the lad, "do ye no ken? there was a man killed at the
fit of thon tree."

Anne started. "Who was he?" she asked.

"I dinna mind his name--it's lang, lang ago--but he was a gentleman, and
my father was yin 'o the witnesses. Maybe ye'll have seen a muckle
house, ower there, a' disjasket and broken down. George Brock, the
grieve lives near the gate o't--it's no far off."

"Yes, I have seen it," said Anne.

"Weel, the gentleman that killed him lived there--at least a'body said
it was him that did it--I have heard my father speak about him mony a
time."

"And what was your father a witness of?" said Anne.

"Oh, he met Redheugh coming out of the wood--only my father aye thought
that he bid to be innocent, for he was singing, and smiling, and as
blythe as could be."

"And your father thought him innocent?" said Anne eagerly.

"Ay--at least he thought it was awfu' funny, if he had killed the man,
that he should be looking sae blythe. A' the folk say there was nae
doubt about it, and sae does my mother, but my father was aye in a
swither; he thought it couldna be. Here's the Milton, and ower yonder,
ye see, like a white line--yon's the road--it's just the stour that
makes it white; and if ye turn to the right, and haud even on, ye'll
come to the toun."

Anne thanked him, and offered some small acknowledgment, with which the
lad, though he took it reluctantly, and with many scruples, went away,
whistling more blythely than ever. How little did the youthful rustic
imagine the comfort and hope and exhilaration which these thoughtless
words of his had revived in his chance companion's heart!

There had been one in this little world, who, in the midst of
excitement, and in the face of evidence, and the universal opinion of
his fellows, held Norman innocent. Anne thanked God, and took
courage--there was yet hope.

She waited nervously for the evening; when the darkness of the full
night came stealing on, she glided along the sands to the gate of
Schole.

The projecting window was dark; there seemed to be no light in the whole
house. She looked over the gate anxiously for Christian--no one was
visible--dark ever-green shrubs looking dead and stern among the gay
spring verdure, stood out in ghostly dimness along the garden; the house
looked even more gloomy and dismal than heretofore, and the night was
advancing.

Anne tried the gate; it opened freely. She went lightly along the
mossed and neglected path to the principal door. It was evidently
unused, and in grim security barred the entrance; she passed the
projecting window again, and with some difficulty found a door at the
side of the house, at which she knocked lightly.

There was evidently some slight stir within; she thought she could hear
a sound as of some one listening. She knocked again--there was no
response--she repeated her summons more loudly; there was nothing
clandestine in her visit to Christian.

She fancied she could hear steps ascending a stair, and echoing with a
dull and hollow sound through the house. Presently a window above was
opened, and the face of an old woman, buried in the immense borders of a
white night-cap, looked out:

"Eh! guid preserve us. Wha are ye, disturbing honest folk at this hour
o' the night; and what do ye want?"

"Is Miss Lillie not within?" said Anne in disappointment.

"Miss Lillie! muckle you're heeding about Miss Lillie; its naething but
an excuse for theftdom and spoliation; but I warn ye, ye'll get naething
here. Do ye ken there's an alarm-bell in Schole?"

"I am alone," said Anne, "and have merely come to see Miss Lillie, I
assure you. You see I could do you no injury."

"And how div I ken," said the cautious portress a little more gently,
"that ye havena a band at the ither side of the hedge?"

"You can see over the hedge," said Anne, smiling in spite of her
impatience, "that I am quite alone. Pray ask Miss Lillie to admit me;
she will tell you that I came by her own appointment.

"A bonnie like hour for leddies to be visiting at," said the old woman;
"and how div ye ken that Miss Lillie will come at my ca'?"

"Pray do not keep me waiting," said Anne, "it is getting late. Tell Miss
Lillie that I am here."

"And if I were gaun to tell Miss Lillie ye were here, wha would take
care o' the house, I wad like to ken? Ye're no gaun to pit your gowk's
errands on me. If I had the loudest vice in a' Scotland, it wadna reach
Miss Lillie, an I cried till I was hoarse."

"You don't mean to say," exclaimed Anne, "that she is not at home!--that
Miss Lillie has left Schole?"

"Ay, deed div I--nothing less. Mr. Patrick and her gaed away last night'
to see their friends in the west country. Is that a'? If ye had a hoast
like me, and were as muckle fashed wi' your breath, ye wadna have keeped
your head out of the window sae long as I have done."

"Did she leave no word?" said Anne, "no message--or did she say when she
would return?"

"Neither the tane nor the tither: she never said a word to me, but that
they were gaun to the west country to see their friends. What for should
they no? They are as free to do their ain pleasure as ither folk."

Anne turned away, greatly disappointed and bewildered.

"Be sure you sneck the gate," screamed the careful guardian of Schole,
"and draw the stane close till't that ye pushed away wi' your fit."

Anne obeyed, and proceeded homeward very much downcast and disappointed.
She had expected so much from this interview, and had looked forward to
it so anxiously. Why should they avoid her? For what reason should the
nearest relatives of Norman's wife, flee from Norman's sister? She
herself had hailed, with feelings so warmly and sadly affectionate, the
idea of their existence and sympathy--perhaps of their co-operation and
help. Now Christian's words returned to her mind in sad perplexity. She
could find no clue to them. The house of Schole looked more dreary and
dismal than ever. She felt a void as she looked back to it, and knew
that the watcher, whose light had fallen upon the still waters of the
Firth through all the lingering night, was there no longer. She left her
watch at the window early, and, with a feeling of blank disappointment
and loneliness, laid herself down to her disturbed and dreaming
rest--very sad, and disconsolate, and unsettled--seeing no clear
prospect before her, nor plan of operation.



CHAPTER XXIV.


The bright weeks of May stole on rapidly, and Anne had made no advance
in her search. Little Alice Aytoun, when she came to visit her, clung
round her neck anxiously, lifting up beseeching eyes to her face, but
Anne had no word of hopeful answer to give. Her own heart was sinking
day by day; the window of Patrick Lillie's study was still shut up and
dark; the old servant whom they had left behind them could give no
information as to their return. Anne was compelled to confess to herself
that her plan had failed--that except for her dim and mysterious
knowledge of these singular Lillies, she had not made a single step of
progress.

Then Lewis wrote letters, slightly querulous, requiring her presence at
home--and Mrs. Catherine sent one characteristic note promising, "if ye
will be a good bairn and come back, maybe to go with ye myself, when the
weather is more suiting for the seaside." She was doing no good in
Aberford; so with a heavy heart Anne returned home.

The first day after her arrival at Merkland, she visited the Mill. With
what strange feelings swelling in her heart did she draw the child to
her side, and take into her own its small soft hand. The little strange
exotic Lilie, the wonder of the quiet parish--was she indeed a Lilias
Rutherford?--a daughter of the banished Norman?--her own nearest kin and
relative?

"Jacky Morison's been up this morning already, Miss Anne," said Mrs.
Melder. "Indeed, and ye may think muckle o' yoursel, Lilie my
woman--baith leddy and maid comin anceerrant to see ye, the first thing
after their home-coming. She's an awfu' strange lassie yon, Miss Anne;
ane would think she had gotten some word o' the bairn that naebody else
kens. She was aye unco fond o' her, but now it's _Miss_ Lilie every
word."

Strange indeed! these intuitive perceptions of Jacky's puzzled Anne
greatly.

"That was what they called Lilie at home," said the child thoughtfully.

"Ay, listen till her; I dinna misdoubt it, Miss Anne--the folk that sent
a' yon bonnie things, maun be weel off in this world."

"Will you come and walk with me, Lilie?" said Anne: "see what a
beautiful day it is."

The child assented eagerly, and trying on her bonnet, Anne led her out.
They went to the foot of the tree on which were carved the names of
those two exiles--Norman and Marion. It was a fit resting-place for
their sister and their child. Anne seated herself on the turf, and
placed Lilie by her side.

"Can you tell me where your home is, Lilie?"

"Away yonder," said Lilie, "far away, over the sea."

"And what like is it?" said Anne, "do you remember?"

"A bonnie, bonnie place--where there's brighter light and warmer days;
and grand flowers far bigger than any in Strathoran; but its lang, lang
to sail, and whiles there were loud winds and storms, and Lilie wasna
weel."

"Would you like to go home, Lilie?" said Anne.

"I would like to go to mamma. I would like to go to my own mamma;
but--mamma doesna call yon place home."

"What does she call it, Lilie?"

"When mamma was putting Lilie into the big ship, she said Lilie was
coming home; and maybe she would come hersel for Lilie."

"And how did she look when she said that?" said Anne.

The child began to cry.

"She put down her head--my mamma's bonnie head--down into her hands,
this way; and then she began to greet, like me--oh, my mamma!"

Anne drew the little girl's head into her lap, and wiped away the tears.
"You would be very glad to see mamma, Lilie, if she came here? she will
come perhaps some day."

"Do you ken my mamma?" said Lilie eagerly. "Did she tell you she was
coming?"

"No," said Anne, "but when she comes, you will take my hand, and say,
'Mamma, this is my friend;' will you not, and introduce me to her?"

The child looked brightly up:

"Eh, Lilie will be blythe! blythe!--but if mamma were coming, what would
Lilie call you?"

"You would call me aunt," said Anne, her eyes filling as she looked upon
the little face lying on her knee. "Your Aunt Anne that found you out,
when you came a little stranger to the Mill."

Lilie rose to wind her small arms round Anne's neck.

"But you're no Lilie's aunt--I wish you were Lilie's aunt--then you
would take me to live at Merkland."

"Would you like to live at Merkland, Lilie?"

"Whiles," said the child; "no in bonnie days like this, but
whiles--Jacky says I'm a lady--am I a lady?"

"Not till you are old, like me; you will be a lady then."

"But Jacky says I'm a _young_ lady," reiterated Lilie; "does Jacky no
ken?"

"We will ask mamma when she comes," said Anne.

The little face became radiant:

"Eh! when mamma comes!--will you be glad too, like Lilie?--and will they
a' be there? Papa and Lawrie? What way do you put your head down? then
your eyelashes come upon your cheek, and then you grow like--"

"Like whom, Lilie?"

"My papa. If mamma comes, will they a' come--papa and Lawrie?"

"Who is Lawrie, Lilie?" The name was a still further corroboration;
there was something touching in the exile calling his son by his
father's name.

"Lilie's brother. He is near as tall as you, and he's like papa."

"And you think I am like papa," said Anne, tremulously.

"Whiles, when you hold down your head, and look sad."

"Does papa look sad?"

"No," said Lilie, "but when you look as if you would greet, then you
grow like him; and Lawrie never greets, and yet he's like him, too. What
way is that?"

"And do they call you Miss Lilie at home?" said Anne, at once to evade
the difficult question submitted to her, and to ascertain something of
the worldly comforts of her banished brother. Mrs. Melder's guess was no
doubt correct: the box which had been sent to Lilie could come from no
_poor_ house.

"No papa, or mamma, or Lawrie, but the maids and English John, and
Jose--for papa's no like Robert Melder; he's a rich gentleman."

"And why did they send you here?" exclaimed Anne, more as expressing her
own astonishment, than addressing the child.

"Lilie was very ill--had to lie in her bed--mamma thought I would die,
and it was to get strong again. See," Lilie disengaged herself from
Anne, and ran away along the bank of the Oran, returning ruddy and
breathless, "Lilie's strong now."

"And why did you not tell me this before?" said Anne.

"Lilie didna mind--Lilie didna ken how to speak;" and the child looked
confused and bewildered. By means of her broken sentences, however, Anne
made out that Lilie had been brought home by a Juana, a Spanish nurse,
and had been accustomed to hear the servants in her father's house speak
the liquid foreign tongue, which she was already beginning to forget.
That being suddenly brought into the rustic Scottish dwelling, and
seeing, with the quick perception of a child, that its inhabitants were
of the same rank as her former attendants, the child had naturally
fancied that their language must also be, not the cultivated English,
the speaking of which was an accomplishment, but the more ornate tongue
which she had been accustomed to hear among their equals in her own
country. Then Mrs. Melder's dialect still further puzzled the lonely
child, who, under the care of Juana, had spoken nothing but Spanish
during the voyage, which she thought so long a one, so that the ideas of
the little head became quite perplexed and ravelled; and it was not
until she had mastered in a considerable degree this new Scottish
tongue, that the more refined words learned from "mamma" began to steal
once more into her childish memory.

But Anne's attempted questioning, respecting the person who brought
Lilie to the Mill, produced no satisfactory answer. The remembrance had
become hazy already; and save for a general impression of
discomfort--one of those vague indefinite times of childish suffering
and unhappiness, which are by no means either light or trivial,
howsoever we may think of them, when we are involved in more mature
calamities, Lilie's memory failed her. She could give no account of the
interim, between her voyage under the government of Juana, and her
transference to the rule of Mrs. Melder.

To Mrs. Catherine, Anne had said little of the Lilies--to Lewis nothing.
Their connexion with Norman had nothing to do with the proof of his
innocence, and though Christian Lilie's strange words had occupied her
own mind night and day since she heard them, she yet did not think it
either necessary or prudent to make them a matter of conversation.

Again, she remained in so much doubt about this singular brother and
sister--their strange seclusion, and grief, and inactivity--their
mysterious and abrupt removal, which evidently was to avoid meeting her,
perplexed herself so much that she did not venture to confide even in
Mrs. Catherine. She brooded over her secret by herself; she slept
little--rested little--took long, solitary, meditative walks, and much
exercise, and felt herself more than ever abstracted from the busy
little world about her. She was becoming a solitary, cheerless woman,
cherishing in silent sadness one great hope; a hope with which strangers
might not intermeddle--which was foolishness to her own nearest
friends--which might never be realized upon this earth--nevertheless a
hope in which her whole nature was concentrated--the very essence and
aim of her being.

She did not even reveal to Mrs. Catherine her suspicion her hope, that
Lilie was the child of her banished brother. She cherished it in her own
mind as a secret strength and comfort. She endeavored in all gentle ways
to supply the want of the mother after whom the little heart yearned,
and she was successful. Lilie began to call her aunt--to watch in
childish anxiety for her daily visits--to wander about anywhere,
unwearied and joyous, so long as Anne was leading her, and to look to
her at all times as her dearest friend and protector. Then these
childish confidences--these snatches, of dear remembrance of the
far-away mamma--these glances into the household of the exile! Anne drew
new invigoration, strength, and hope from these, in the darkest time of
her depression.

Yet all endeavors for her great end were stayed--no one lifted a hand in
the cause of the injured man--no one made any exertion to deliver him.
In the bright sunshine of that leafy month of June her heart sickened
within her. She longed to return again to the place where something
might be done, where with a prospect of success, or without it, she
might still labor; she might still engage in the search.

In the meantime, everything went on peaceably in the parish of
Strathoran. Jeanie Coulter and Walter Foreman had made up their mind,
and were speedily to be married. Ada Mina, in the glory of being
bridesmaid and bride's sister, had almost forgotten Giles Sympelton.
Marjory Falconer was very remarkably quiet; she was "beginning to
settle." Mrs. Bairnsfather said, maliciously, "and it was high time."
Mr. Ferguson's work was advancing in the bleak lands of Lochend and
Loelyin. Mr. Coulter and he were very busy, and in high spirits. Lord
Gillravidge had left Strathoran. The fair country, in the height of its
summer beauty, had no attractions for Lord Gillravidge. There was no
game to slaughter, and other kind of excitement, the quiet Norland
parish had never possessed any.

Mr. Fitzherbert was left behind; he was now lord paramount at
Strathoran, and a very great man, intensely detested by the Macalpines
of Oranmore, and spoken of with bitter derision and disdain by all the
other inhabitants of Strathoran. He had displeased Lord Gillravidge by
being the occasion of Giles Sympelton's desertion, and was left behind
half as a punishment for that offence, and half as a promotion for
counter-balancing good offices. Mr. Fitzherbert's feelings concerning it
were of the same mixed description. He was immensely bored with the
intolerable weariness of the country, while at the same time he enjoyed
his temporary lordship, and ordered and stormed magnificently in the
desecrated house of the Sutherlands.

We should not have intruded ourselves into his disagreeable presence had
that been all. But Mr. Fitzherbert in his dreariness, when he had
exercised his petty despotism to its full extent--had cursed the
servants, bullied Mr. Whittret, and asserted his predominance in various
other pleasant and edifying ways--was forced to invent further amusement
for himself. Surely, there never was an unhappy individual with small
brains and a craving for excitement more miserably placed.

It chanced one day that Flora Macalpine, Mrs. Ferguson's very pretty and
very bashful nurserymaid, unwarily entered the contested by-way, while
walking with the Woodsmuir children. Mr. Fitzherbert met her there, and
the first harsh sound of his command to leave the road, was very much
less disagreeable than the softening of tone which followed. Mr.
Fitzherbert began to admire the pretty Highland girl, and to venture to
express to her his admiration--to her, a Macalpine! Flora hurried from
the by-way with her charge, in burning shame and indignation.

But Mr. Fitzherbert was not to be got rid of so easily. Flora did not
know the might of _ennui_ which made him seek out her quiet walks, and
waylay her so perseveringly. She avoided him in every possible way; but
still he found means to persecute her with his odious flattery and
attentions. Flora was engaged, moreover, and tall Angus Macalpine, her
handsome bride-groom elect, and Duncan Roy, her brother, were equally
irate, and equally contented to have a decided personal plea for
punishing the obnoxious jackal of Lord Gillravidge. So Flora reluctantly
suffered herself to be made a party in a plan, which should ensnare her
tormentor, and pour out upon him, in full flood, the rage and contempt
of the Macalpines.

It was a beautiful evening in June: Mr. Fitzherbert had just received
from Lord Gillravidge the much wished-for call to London.

In great glee he put the letter in his pocket, took his hat, and sallied
out. His splendid hair, his magnificent whiskers and moustache were in
the most superlative order. Flora Macalpine had intimated to him
bashfully that she would be in the contested by-way, near the
stepping-stones, at seven o'clock; it is always pleasant to be
victorious. Mr. Fitzherbert had no doubt that the power of his
fascinations had smitten the simple cottager, and accordingly in perfect
good-humor with himself, and very much disposed to accept Flora's
homage, with the utmost condescension, he set out for the
stepping-stones.

Close by the trysting place, in the slanting June sunlight, screening
himself with the thick foliage of a "bourtree-bush," stood tall Angus
Macalpine watching for his prey. Flora, nervous and trembling, stood
beside him; she felt she was very much out of place, and did not at all
like her position, but that strong, thickset little brother of hers,
Duncan Roy, was squatting at her feet, concealing the flaming red head,
which might have alarmed their victim, among the surrounding leaves, and
Angus, bending down his handsome head with its curling fair hair, and
healthful, good-looking face, was very carefully supporting her, and
guarding against her running away. So, after all, there was nothing
improper in it, and she could not help herself. The idea of the
compulsion comforted Flora.

Footsteps approached by-and-by. It was not Mr. Fitzherbert. It was
George, the Falcon's Craig groom, and Johnnie Halflin, to whom Duncan
Roy had communicated some hint of his intention. The punishment was far
too just, the fun far too good, for these mischief-loving lads to let it
slip. They had come to assist the Macalpines. George was making horrible
faces. His veins were perfectly swoln with the might of his suppressed
laughter. Johnnie had a little pink pocket-handkerchief--a keepsake from
Bessie--thrust bodily into his capacious mouth. The Macalpines were
graver; a quiet glee was shooting from the eyes of Duncan Roy, and Angus
sometimes smiled--but the smile was an angry one.

"But, Angus," whispered Flora; "mind, you maun promise that you'll no
hurt him?"

"I'll try," was the emphatic response.

"Eh! but Duncan--Angus! Dinna hurt him, for ony sake.--Just fear him, or
I'll rin away this moment."

It was easier said than done. That mighty arm of Angus Macalpine's might
have restrained a man of his own inches without any particular strain.

"We'll no hurt him, Flora," said Duncan encouragingly,--"We'll only
douk him, forbye--Listen! There he is--in behint the bush, lads. Angus,
let Flora go."

It was indeed Fitzherbert. They could hear his swaggering step as he
advanced, whistling gaily.

"I'll whistle ye!" exclaimed the angry Angus, in a strong undertone. "If
ye were ance in my hands, my lad, ye'll whistle or ye get out again!"

Flora had only time to speak another earnest remonstrance, when her
admirer appeared.

The ambush had been skilfully contrived. The unsuspected Fitzherbert
advanced gaily. Poor Flora trembled and shrank back--the instinctive
delicacy of her simple womanly nature overpowering her with shame. To
meet this odious man at all, if it were but for a second, was a disgrace
to her, even though Angus and Duncan were waiting at her side.

Mr. Fitzherbert began a gallant speech--he attempted to take Flora's
hand. The girl shrank back to the shelter of the bourtree-bush--and in
another moment, Fitzherbert was struggling in the stalwart arms of Angus
Macalpine--an embrace as unexpected as it was overpowering.

"Haud the ill tongue of ye!" exclaimed Duncan Roy, as he seized the
struggling legs of the unhappy adventurer, and held him fast. "If ye say
another word, ye shall rue it a' your days."

"Do you want to rob me?" cried Fitzherbert. "I haven't my purse on me,
good fellows. Let me go, or you shall suffer for it."

"Rob ye!" Tall Angus Macalpine seized his collar with an exclamation of
disgust, and shook him violently. "Rob ye! Ye pitiful animal, wha would
file their fingers with your filthy siller! Duncan, give me the plaid."

The other two auxiliaries were standing by expending their pent-up
laughter, Johnnie Halflin bestirred himself now, to hand to Angus one of
the plaids that lay on the grass beside him.

Threats, entreaties, vociferation, rage, all were in vain. The plaid was
bound tightly round the unhappy Fitzherbert, strapping his arms to his
side. Then Duncan confined in like manner his struggling feet. Then they
laid him down on the grass.

"Hushaba!" sung Johnnie Halflin as, with laughter not to be suppressed,
they viewed the ludicrous bondage of their foe. "Eh, man, ye're a muckle
baby to lie there, and do naething but squeal."

"What gars ye no fight wi' your neives, like a man?" cried George.

"Do you no see? He's putting a' his strength into the feet of him. See,
woman Flora, he's walopping like the fishes in the Portoran boats when
they're new catched. _He's_ new catched, too. Gie him a taste o' the
water."

"If ye had dune what ye had to do against us, like a man," said Angus
Macalpine, solemnly, addressing the miserable captive, who lay prone
before these shafts of rustic wit, upon the grass at their feet, "we
might have throoshen ye like a man, and gi'en ye fair play; but because
ye're a vermin that have creeped in to quiet places, where there was nae
man to chastise ye--and because ye have tried to breathe your ill breath
into the purest heart in a' Strathoran, ye shall hae only a vermin's
punishment. Duncan, ye can get your shears. I'll haud the sheep."

Duncan advanced in grim mirth, holding a pair of mighty shears. Angus
knelt down upon the grass, and held Fitzherbert with his arm. The
operation commenced. The punishment was the bitterest they could have
chosen. Duncan Roy squatting at his side, with methodic composure and
malicious glee, began to clip, and cut away, in jagged and uneven bits,
his cherished whiskers, his beautiful moustache, his magnificent hair.
The victim roared and groaned, entreated and threatened, in vain--the
relentless operators proceeded in their work--the scissors entered into
his soul.

A light, quick step came suddenly along the path. They did not hear it,
so overwhelming was the laughter of the lookers-on, till Marjory
Falconer stood in the midst of them. Duncan's scissors suddenly ceased.
The victim looked up in momentary hope, and again shrank back
despairing. He by no means desired to throw himself upon the tender
mercies of Miss Falconer.

"What is the matter?" cried Marjory. "Flora, are you here! What is the
matter? what are they about?"

"Oh! Miss Falconer," exclaimed Flora who, between shame and laughter,
was now in tears, "it's the gentleman from Strathoran--and it's Duncan
and Angus--and he wouldna let me be, and they're--"

An involuntary burst of laughter choked Flora's penitence.--The lifted
head of her brother, with its look of comic appeal, as he held up his
shears before Miss Falconer, and silently asked her permission to
proceed--the grim steadfastness with which Angus continued to hold the
victim on the grass--the vain attempt of Miss Falconer to look gravely
displeased and dignified--the fierce struggles of Fitzherbert--Flora
could not bear it: she ran in behind the bourtree-bush.

Marjory stood undecided for a moment. She had great influence with the
Macalpines and their class, as a strong and firm character always has.
She thought for an instant of what people would say, almost for the
first time in her life. Then she looked at the ludicrous scene before
her--the just punishment of poor Flora's persecution. The prudent
resolution faded away--she yielded to the fun and to the justice. She
could not put her veto upon it.

"George, do you go home--you are not wanted. Duncan, have you finished?"

"Na," said the rejoicing Duncan, beginning with double zeal to ply his
redoubtable shears. "He's a camstarie beast, this ane--he tak's lang
shearing--but we're winning on, Mem."

George reluctantly turned away. His mistress's orders were not to be
trifled with, he knew. Little Bessie's pink handkerchief was in Johnnie
Halflin's mouth again. Flora remained behind the bourtree-bush,
terrified to look upon her tormentor's agonized face. Marjory Falconer
looked on.

The blood was rushing in torrents to her hot cheeks already.--She could
have put an end to this if she would: instead of that she had encouraged
it. She had yielded to the mirthful impulse: now she was paying the
penalty in one of her overpowering agonies of shame.

"Now--now!" she exclaimed, as Duncan, with methodic accuracy, finished
his operation on one side of Mr. Fitzherbert's fiery countenance, "that
will do now--let him go."

The operators looked up in disappointment.

"Do let him go; let me see him released before I leave you."

Duncan and Angus looked at each other.

"Weel," said Angus, smiling grimly, "he's gey weel; ye'll think again,
my lad, before ye offer to lay your filthy fingers on a Macalpine, or
ony ither lass in the countryside. Now, Duncan--"

They began to free him from his bondage. Angus took one end of the plaid
which confined his arms--Duncan the other. The process was satisfactory,
but by no means gentle; over and over they rolled him, and when the
hapless Fitzherbert found himself at last at liberty, he was lying
within the green verge of the Oran--the soft waters embracing him. His
first struggle threw him further in; and when he rose at last,
spluttering with wrath and water, his clothes wet, his face scarred with
the pebbles, and shorn of its hirsute glories--all his tormentors were
gone. Light of foot, and conversant with all the by-ways, they had
dispersed, considerably against the will of the Macalpines, but in
obedience to the command of Miss Falconer, and the entreaties of Flora.

In burning rage and mortification Mr. Fitzherbert stalked back to
Strathoran. In the distance, upon the other side of the river, he could
see the retreat of the Macalpines; it was a fruitless thing vowing
vengeance upon them. He had done his worst; they were out of his power.

But Mr. Fitzherbert's mortification and rage reached a climax when he
looked upon his sad mutilation--cruel as Hanun the son of Nahash, and
his artful counsellors of the children of Ammon, the scissors of the
remorseless Duncan had swept away one entire half of Mr. Fitzherbert's
adornments. It must all go, cherished and dearly beloved as it was--the
flowing luxuriance of the one side must be sacrificed to the barbarous
stubble of the other.--Alas the day! How should he meet Lord
Gillravidge! how account for the holocaust! Mr. Fitzherbert was fitly
punished--he was in despair.

Marjory Falconer hurried along the road to Merkland, little less
despairing than Mr. Fitzherbert. She was bitterly ashamed; her face was
burning with passionate blushes. She needed no one to remind her of her
loss of dignity; the strong and powerful vitality of her womanhood
avenged itself completely. Like Jeanie Coulter, or Alice Aytoun, or even
Anne Ross herself, she knew Marjory Falconer could never be!--nor like
the cheerful active sister Martha of the Portoran Manse. Marjory did not
blush more deeply when that last name glided into her memory; that was
impossible--no human verdict, or condemnation would have abashed her so
entirely as did her own strong, clear, unhesitating judgment; but she
looked uncomfortable and uneasy. Another person now might be involved in
the blame of her misdoings; the reflected shadow of those extravagancies
might fall upon one, of whom many tongues were sufficiently ready to
speak evil. It did not increase the scorching passion of her shame--but
it deepened her repentance.

"Is Miss Ross in, Duncan?" she asked as she entered Merkland.

"Ou ay, Miss Falconer, Miss Anne's in," said Duncan, preceding her
leisurely to Mrs. Ross's parlor. "She's in her ain room--according to
her ain fashion. There's nae accounting for the whigmaleeries of you
leddies, but an she disna live liker a human creature and less like a
bird, ye may tak my word for't she'll no live ony way lang."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Marjory. "Is Miss Ross ill?"

"Na. I'm no saying she's ill," was the cautious answer; "but taking lang
flights her lane, up the water and down the water, and when she comes in
eating a nip that wadna ser a lintie, and syne away up the stair to
pingle her lane at a seam; I say it's a clear tempting o' Providence,
Miss Falconer, and I have tell't Miss Anne that mysel."

Marjory ran up stairs, and tapped at the door of Anne's room. "Come in,"
said Anne. Marjory entered.

The window was open--the full glory of the setting sun was pouring over
the beautiful country, lying like a veil of golden tissue, sobered with
fairy tints of gray and purple upon the far-off solemn hills, and
gleaming in the river as you could trace its course for miles, where its
thick fringe of foliage was parted here and there. Anne leant upon the
window-still, looking out. It was not the fair heights and hollows of
her native district that she saw; her eyes were veiled to these. The dim
shores of the Forth in the still evening-time--the long, low, sighing of
the waters--the desolate, gloomy house behind--the tall, gaunt figure
stealing shadowlike over the glistening sand--these were before her
constantly, in dream and vision, shutting out with their gray tints and
sad colouring all other landscapes, how fair soever they might be.

She did not look up when Marjory entered, but waited to be addressed,
thinking it May or Barbara. At last, finding the new-comer did not
speak, she turned round.

"Marjory, is that you?"

"What are you thinking of, Anne?" said Marjory. "What makes you dream
and brood thus? There you have been gazing out these two minutes, as
fixedly as if you saw something of the greatest interest. I am quite
sure you don't know what you are looking at, and, had I come forward
suddenly, and asked you what river that was, you would have faltered and
deliberated before you could be certain it was the Oran. I know you
would. What is it all about?"

Anne smiled.

"It is not so easy to tell. You put comprehensive questions, Marjory."

"And here are you making yourself ill!" exclaimed Marjory, impetuously;
"dreaming over something which no one is to know; walking alone, and
sitting alone, and defrauding yourself of proper rest and relaxation,
and altogether, as plainly as possible endeavoring to manufacture a
consumption. I say, Anne Ross, what is it all about? I have a right to
know--we all have a right to know; you don't belong to yourself. If you
were not Anne Ross, of Merkland, I should begin to suspect we had some
love-sickness on our hands."

"And if you were any one else but Marjory Falconer, of Falcon's Craig, I
should be very angry," said Anne, smiling.

"Never anything reasonable from you since you came home; never a call
upon any one but Mrs. Melder. Nothing but patient looks, and paleness,
and reveries! I don't see why we should submit to it, Anne Ross. I
protest, in the name of the parish--it is a public injustice!"

"Very well, Marjory," said Anne. "Pray be so good as sit down now, and
do not scold so bitterly. Did you come all the way from Falcon's Craig
for the sole purpose of bringing me under discipline?"

Marjory Falconer put up her hands to her cheeks to hide the vehement
blushes which rushed back again; then, as she recalled the story she had
come to tell, its ludicrous points overcame the shame, and she laughed
with characteristic heartiness. There was not, after all, so very much
to be ashamed of; but, as everybody exaggerated the extravagance of
everything done by Marjory Falconer, so Marjory Falconer felt herself
bitterly humiliated in the recollection of _escapades_ which young
ladies of much greater pretensions would only have laughed at.

"What is it, Marjory?" said Anne.

The fit of shame returned.

"Oh! not much. Only I have been making a fool of myself again."

Anne expressed no wonder; she only drew her friend into a chair, and
asked:

"How?"

"I am going to tell you. I came here at once, you see, lest some one
else should be before me with the news. Ah! and there you sit as cool
and calm as though I were not entering my purgatory!"

"I don't want to tease you further," said Anne, "or I should say that
when people make purgatories for themselves, it behoves them to endure
patiently."

"Very well: you don't intend to be sympathetic. I am quite satisfied.
Now for my confession. Most unwittingly and innocently, I premise, was I
led into the snare. Anne Ross! turn away from the window, and keep your
glances within proper bounds. If your eyes wander so, I shall forget my
own foolishness in yours--and I don't choose that."

Anne obeyed, and Marjory told her story--sometimes overwhelmed with her
own passionate humiliation, sometimes bursting into irrepressible mirth.
It was very soon told. Anne looked annoyed and vexed. She did not speak.
It was the sorest condemnation she could have given.

"You have nothing to say to me!" exclaimed Marjory, the hot flood
burning over her cheek, and neck, and forehead. "You think I am clearly
hopeless now. You think--"

"I think," said Anne, "that Marjory Falconer, whom malicious people
blame for pride, is not half proud enough."

"Not proud enough!"

It was difficult to believe, indeed, when one saw the drawing-up of her
tall, fine figure, and the flashing of her eye.

"Yes, I understand. You would be proud enough were you Ralph; then, for
everything brave, and honorable, and true, the fame of the Falconers
would be safe in your hands: but you are not proud enough, being
Marjory. I fancy we should inhabit a loftier atmosphere than these
boyish frolics could find breath in, Marjory; an atmosphere too pure and
rare to carry clamorous voices, whatever may be their burden."

"Gentle and mild," said Marjory, attempting a laugh, which would not
come; "perfumed and dainty. I am no exotic, Anne; I must breathe living
air. I cannot breathe odors."

Anne rose, and lifted her Bible from the table.

"The sublime of mild and gentle belongs to One greater than us; but I
don't want to compel you to these. Look here, Marjory."

Marjory looked--read.

"'Strength and honor are her clothing,'" and bowed her head, in token of
being vanquished.

"You have nothing to oppose to my argument," said Anne, smiling. "You
are obliged to yield without a word. Let me convince you, Marjory, that
we stoop mightily from our just position, when we condescend to meddle
with such humiliating follies as the rights of women--that we do
compromise our becoming dignity when we involve ourselves in a
discreditable warfare, every step in advance of which is a further
humiliation to us. I forgive you your share in this exploit with all my
heart. I am not sorry the man is punished, though I would rather you had
not been connected with his punishment. It is not very much, after all;
but I do declare war against these polemics of yours--all and
several.--I would have you more thoroughly woman-proud: it is by no
means inconsistent with the truest humility. I would have you like this
portrait; men do not paint in such vigorous colors now. Strength and
honor, Marjory; household strength, and loftiness, and purity--better
things than any imaginary rights that clamor themselves into mere
words."

Marjory was half angry, half smiling.

"Very gentle, and calm, and proper, for an example to me; and so nobody
does us any injustice--nobody oppresses us? Very well: but I did not
know it before."

"Nay," said Anne, playfully; "that is not what I said. But:

            "'The good old rule
      Sufficeth me, the simple plan,
    That they should take who have the power,
      And they should keep who can.'"

"Anne!"

"I am quite serious. There are few amongst us who are ruled more than we
need to be, Marjory. The best mind will always assert itself, in
whomsoever it may dwell--we are safe in that.--The weak ought to be
controlled and guided, and will be, wherever there is a stronger,
whether man or woman."

"Strange doctrines, these!" said Marjory Falconer. "I acknowledge myself
outdone. I give up my poor little innovations. Why, Anne Ross, what
would the proper people say? What would the Coulters--the Fergusons--the
whole parish?"

"Perfectly agree with me," said Anne, "when it had time to think about
it, without being shocked in the least. The proper people. You forget
that I am a very proper person myself."

"So I did," said Marjory Falconer, shrugging her shoulders, "so I did.
Patronised by Mrs. Bairnsfather, highly approved by Mrs. Coulter and
Mrs. Ferguson--I almost thought, just now, that you were as improper as
myself."



CHAPTER XXV.


The summer had reached its height--the fervent month of July was waning,
and Anne Ross's cheek growing paler every day.--Very hard to bear this
time of waiting was, harder than any toil or labor, more utterly
exhausting than any weight of care and sorrow, which had opportunity and
means of working! She hardly ventured to speak of returning to Aberford,
for Mrs. Ross's peevishness at the merest hint of such a wish, and the
impatience of Lewis, were perfectly natural, she acknowledged. Her
former journey, undertaken in opposition to their opinion, had produced
nothing; she could not expect that they would readily yield to her
again.

In the meantime tidings had come from Archibald Sutherland. He had
reached his destination safely, and, under circumstances much more
favorable than he could have hoped, had commenced his work. He had been
able to render some especial service, the nature of which he did not
specify, to his employer's only son, a very fine lad of fourteen or
fifteen, which within a few days of his arrival brought him into Mr.
Sinclair's house on the footing of a friend. Mr. Sinclair himself was,
as common report said, a man of great enterprise in business, and
notable perseverance, whose fortune was the work of his own hands; and
blending with this, Archibald found a singular delicacy of tone and
sentiment which pleased him greatly. A man of strong mould, whose "stalk
of carle hemp," was invested with rare intellectual grace and
refinement--a household which, under the fervent skies of that strange
Western World, remained still a Scottish household, looking back with
the utmost love and tenderness to its own country and home--in the
atmosphere of these, the broken laird found himself not long a stranger.

Mr. Sinclair had some knowledge of the North country--had heard of
Archibald's family, and on some long past occasion, had seen Mrs.
Catherine. This was an additional bond. The family of the merchant lived
a very quiet life in a country house in the vicinity of the town, having
scarcely any visitors: Archibald Sutherland, with his attainments and
abilities, was an acquisition to them.

His prospects were pleasant; they brightened the inner room at the
Tower, and shed a ray of light even upon Anne's reveries. Something more
was needed, however, to shake off the lethargic sadness that begun to
overpower her. Mrs. Catherine applied the remedy.

Upon a drowsy July afternoon, when one could fancy the earth, with her
flushed cheek and loose robes, lying in that languid dreamy state, half
way between asleep and awake, which in Scotland we call "dovering," Mrs.
Catherine in her rustling silken garments, went stately down under the
shadow of the trees, to Merkland. It was a very unusual honor. Mrs.
Catherine was wont to receive visits, not to pay them.

Anne went to the gate to receive her. Lewis who, with characteristic
prudence, had already begun to devote himself to the careful managing of
his lands, put away the papers that lay before him, and left the library
with much wonder, to ascertain Mrs. Catherine's errand. Mrs. Ross rose
very peevishly from the sofa on which she had been for the last hour
enjoying her usual sleep. It was enough to make any one ill-humored to
be disturbed so unexpectedly.

"Now, Madam," said Mrs. Catherine, when Mrs. Ross had greeted her with
great ceremony and politeness, "you may ken I have come for a special
purpose; I am going to Edinburgh."

"To Edinburgh!" exclaimed Mrs. Ross; "_you_, Mrs. Catherine. How shall
we manage to get on at all without you?"

"You will contrive it in some manner doubtless," said Mrs. Catherine,
drily.

"_I_ may, perhaps, for I am a great house-keeper; but for Anne and
Lewis, nothing goes right if a week passes without two or three visits
to the Tower."

"Ay, Lewis, is it so?" said Mrs. Catherine. "I thought not I had kept
the power, now that I am past threescore, of drawing to my dwelling
gallants of your years."

"I have not been at the Tower for a month," said Lewis, bluntly; "I mean
I have been very much occupied."

"As you should be," said Mrs. Catherine. "I am not seeking excuses,
Lewis; I am but blythe that it is not my memory that is failing
me--seeing I should like ill to suffer loss in that particular, till
this world's affairs are out of my hands--be careful of your lawful
business, Lewis, as becomes your years. If you were a good bairn, I
might maybe do my endeavor to bring folk back with me, that your leisure
would be better spent upon: in the meantime, I have a suit to your
mother."

Mrs. Ross looked astonished.

"To me?"

"Yes; this bairn Anne, Mrs. Ross, as you see, has been misbehaving
herself. My own gray cheek, withered as it is, has stronger health upon
it than is on her young one. I have a doctor of physic among my serving
woman; I see no reason why I should not undertake to work cures as well
as my neighbors--send her with me--I will bring her back free of her
trouble."

"Oh, I beg you will not refer to me," said Mrs. Ross, angrily. "Anne is
quite able to judge for herself."

"I beg your pardon, Madam. I say this bairn Anne has no call to judge
for herself. Is it your pleasure that I should try my skill? I came to
make my petition to you, and not to Anne."

"She is an excessively unreasonable girl," said Mrs. Ross, tossing her
head; "if you know how to manage her, it is more than I do. I assure
you, Mrs. Catherine, Anne's conduct to me is of the most undutiful kind.
She is a very foolish, unreasonable girl."

Poor Anne had been laboring these three or four weeks to please her
stepmother, as assiduously as any fagged governess or sempstress in the
land. The honorable scars of the needle had furrowed her finger; she had
been laboring almost as hardly, and to much better purpose than the
greater portion of those "needlewomen, distressed or otherways," whose
miserable work done for miserable wages attracts so much sympathy and
benevolent exertion in these days. She was somewhat astonished at the
undeserved accusation. If she did wander for long miles along the course
of the Oran, it was in the dewy morning, before Mrs. Ross had left her
room. If she did brood over her secret hope and sorrow, it was when Mrs.
Ross was sullen or asleep. She said nothing in self-defence, but felt
the injustice keenly, notwithstanding.

"That is what I am saying," said Mrs. Catherine. "She has been
misbehaving herself, and we have noticed her pining away, in silence. So
far as I can see, it is high time to take note of it now; therefore my
petition is, that you suffer her to go with me. It is not my wont to
pass over ill-doing; let me have the guiding of her for a while."

"I think you ought to take advantage of Mrs. Catherine's invitation,
Anne," said Lewis. "You do not look well."

Mrs. Ross tossed her head in silence.

"Truly, Anne," said Mrs. Catherine, "I have worn out of the way of
asking favors; maybe it is want of use that makes me prosper so ill. Am
I to get your daughter, Mrs. Ross for company on my travel, or am I
not? I must pray you to let me have your answer."

"Oh, if you choose to take her, and if Anne chooses to go, my consent is
of little consequence," said Mrs. Ross: then softening her tone a
little, she added, "I have no objection, unfortunately Anne is not of
sufficient importance in the household, Mrs. Catherine, to make us feel
the want of her greatly. Certainly I have no objection--she can go."

A harsh reply rose to Mrs. Catherine's lips; but for Anne's sake, she,
suppressed it--the permission, ungracious as it was, was accepted, and
Mrs. Catherine made arrangements with Anne for their journey; she had
settled that they should leave the Tower that week.

Mrs. Catherine travelled in her own carriage. She had an old house,
grand and solitary, in an old quarter of Edinburgh, whose antique
furniture and lofty rooms strangers came to see, as one of the lesser
wonders of the city, which boasts so many. Mrs. Catherine's horses were
proceeding at a good pace along the southward road, within sight of a
dazzling sea, and very near the dark high cliffs, and scattered fisher
villages which formed its margin. Johnnie Halflin sat beside the
coachman, Jacky Morison and her grandmother were behind. Mrs. Catherine
within was explaining her plans to Anne.

"It is my purpose, child, to set you to your labor again; I see there is
neither health nor peace for you until you have got some better inkling
of this matter. Am I not right?"

"Perfectly," said Anne. "I cannot rest, indeed. I shall be of little use
to any one, until some light is thrown on this."

"Then, child, it is my meaning to dwell in my own house in Edinburgh,
where you can find me, if I am needed. I cannot be in the house of a
stranger, or I would have gone with you. I am not ill-pleased that this
necessity has come, for there are many in Edinburgh, that it is meet I
should say farewell to, before I depart to my rest. Forbye this, child,
there is another cloud rising upon the sky of that ill-trysted house of
Sutherland."

Anne started.

"Archibald is well--is there any further intelligence, Mrs. Catherine?"

"Archie's sister is not well, Gowan. Did I not tell you that her fuil of
a man was dead?"

"No, I never heard it before."

"I meant to tell you--it has passed from my mind, in the thought of the
travel. He has been killed--how, or for what reason, I have not asked. I
have written to Isabel Sutherland to come home. I cannot trust her
without natural guard or helper, her lane in the midst of strangers. She
is a light-headed, vain, undutiful girl--I know her of old--and farther
shame must not come upon the house, Gowan, if it is in my power to ward
it off. If she will not come, I have made up my mind--I will go, and
bring her home."

"Go!" exclaimed Anne. "To England?--you are not able for the journey."

"Hold your peace, child! I am able for whatever is needful, as every
mortal is, that has a right will to try. It's my hope Archie Sutherland
is in a fair way of recovering his good fame and healthful spirit. If
Isabel is in peril, it is deadly and beyond remedy--for the sake of the
fuil herself (she bears Isabel Balfour's name and outward resemblance,)
and for the sake of Archie, I am bound to do my endeavor, if it should
be by the strong hand. Child, you may think me distrustful beyond what
is needed. Maybe I am. She left her mother's sick-bed for the sake of a
strange man. And when he was sent to a solitary place, she left him,
also, for the sake of vanities. If you had done the like, I would have
distrusted you."

Anne could not realize the cause of distrust. She deprecated, and
thought Mrs. Catherine's fears uncalled for--shrinking from the idea of
danger to Isabel, almost as she would have done from any suspicion of
herself.

When she had seen Mrs. Catherine settled comfortably in her spacious and
grand Edinburgh lodging, and the bustle of arrival fairly over, Anne,
with her attendant Jacky, proceeded to Aberford.

Miss Crankie and Mrs. Yammer were at tea. Their energetic little servant
ushered Anne into the small parlor, looking out upon the green, in which
they usually sat. They had blue cups and saucers of the venerable willow
pattern, arranged above the red and yellow lady on the tray--a teapot,
belonging to the same set, with a lid, the sole relic of a broken black
one--a comfortable plate of tolerably thick bread-and-butter, and two or
three saucers, containing various specimens of jellies. Mrs. Yammer sat
languidly in a great, old elbow-chair. Miss Crankie was perched upon a
low seat before the tray, making tea.

Anne's entrance caused a commotion. There were a great many apologies,
and expressions of wonder and pleasure at seeing her again; and then she
was begged to take a seat, and a cup of tea. Anne sat down, and kindly
looked out at the window, while Miss Crankie abstracted the lid from the
teapot, and, from the depths of an adjoining cupboard, produced another
one more resembling it in color.

"Ye see," said Miss Crankie, nodding her wiry little curls at the
ruddy-colored compounds in the saucers, "we've been making our jelly,
and were just trying it. I can recommend the rasps, Miss Ross--the red
currants would take a thought mair boiling, and the gooseberries are
drumlie--but I can recommend the rasps."

"If Miss Ross is no feared for her teeth," sighed Mrs. Yammer. "I got
cauld mysel on Sabbath at the Kirk, and was trying the jam for my
throat. I'm a puir weak creature, Miss Ross: the wind gangs through me
like a knife."

"I have returned to you for accommodation, Miss Crankie," said Anne.
"Are the rooms unoccupied now?"

"Eh, bless me! isna that an uncommon providence," exclaimed Miss
Crankie. "Mrs. Mavis is gaun away the morn!"

"But what can you do with me to-night?" said Anne.

"Oh, nae fear o' us--we'll do grand," said Miss Crankie. "I'm blyth
ye're come back Miss Ross, and yet I'm sorry to see you so shilpit.
Ye'll find the sea-air do ye mair guid noo. Ye're no looking half sae
well as ye did when ye gaed away."

"Ah! Miss Ross," said Mrs. Yammer, dolorously, "I hope ye'll use the
means and get right advice in time. Ye'll be fashed wi' a pain in your
side? For mysel, it's little use saying what I have to thole--there's
scarce an hour in the day, that I havna stitches through and through
me."

"Hout, Tammie, ye're aye meat-hale," responded her brisker sister.
"Ye've come at a better season now, Miss Ross, the haill town is full of
sea-bathers. I was saying to auld Marget, that she might win a pound or
twa for her ain hand, with letting some o' thae muckle rooms, in Schole,
and naebody, be the waur--it's sae handy for the sea--if Kirstin Lillie
and her brother, hadna come hame sae suddenly."

"They are at home, then?" said Anne.

"Oh, ay! they came hame about a month ago, in as great a hurry as they
gaed away; ane scarce ever sees them noo, even on the sands--they're
strange folk."

The next day, young Mrs. Mavis and her two blooming children left their
sea-side lodgings, and Anne took peaceful possession of her former
rooms. The tall gaunt outline of Schole, as it stood out against the
deep blue of the evening sky, dismal and forlorn as it was, looked like
a friend; but though she lingered about its vicinity all the night, and
watched eagerly within sight of its little gate, no one ventured forth.
The low projecting window had light within it, but it was curtained
carefully. She could see no trace of Christian. Why did they avoid her?
why was there so much additional secrecy and seclusion?

The second day after their arrival in Aberford, Jacky had a visitor. It
was little Bessie, Alice Aytoun's maid. Bessie was living with an aunt,
the wife of a forester, whose house was within three or four miles of
Aberford. Jacky, by Anne's permission, returned with her to spend the
afternoon in the aunt's house.

The two girls set out very jubilant and in high spirits, with much
laughing mention of Johnnie Halflin, whom Bessie had already seen in
Edinburgh, and from whom she had received a very grandiloquent account
of the chastisement of Mr. Fitzherbert, and of the mighty things which
the said Johnnie would have done, had not Miss Falconer put her _veto_
on his valor.

The forester's house was in the bosom of the wood under his charge. A
narrow foot-road, winding through the trees, ran close to the bounding
hedge of its well-stocked garden, and nestling warmly below the thick
foliage, the house stood snug in the corner of its luxuriant enclosure,
presiding in modest pride, like some sober cottage matron, conscious of
decent comfort and independence, over its flourishing cabbages, and
stately bushes of southern-wood, ripe gooseberries, and abounding roses.
Within, it was as clean and bright as forest cottage could be, and with
its long vistas of noble trees everywhere, and the one thread of
communication with the outer world that ran close to its door, was a
pleasant habitation--homelike and cheerful. Bessie's aunt was, like her
cottage, soberly light-hearted, kind and motherly. Upon her well scoured
white deal table, she had set out a row of glancing cups and saucers,
flanked with delicate bannocks of various kinds, and jelly more
plentiful than Miss Crankie's. It was early in the afternoon. Mrs.
Young, honest woman, hospitably purposed entertaining her guests with a
magnificent tea before her husband and stalwart sons came in to their
ruder and more substantial meal. She gave her niece's friend a hearty
welcome; the two girls, after their dusty walk of four miles, by no
means thought the kindly auntie's preparations unseasonable; but after
Mrs. Young had turned a deaf ear to two or three hints from Bessie, she
explained her delay at last.

"Ye see, lassies, there's an auld neighbor coming this gate this
afternoon. Her and me served in one place before I was married, and
she's been lang in a gentleman's house, south--near Berwick. She's an
auld lass; a thrifty weel-doing carefu' woman, wi' a guid wage, and
siller to the fore; but she's come to years when folk are lone, if they
have nae near friends, and Rob Miller, her brither, has a housefu' o'
weans; and I'm no sure that his wife can be fashed fyking about a
pernickity single woman. So ye maun see and be ceevil, and take note o'
Jean--how weel put on and wise-like she is--and tak a pattern by her;
it's a' her ain doing; she's been working for hersel' a' her days."

Bessie drummed upon the table--looked at the tea "masking" before the
fire, the smooth, well-baked bannocks, and beautiful red currant jelly
upon the table--and became impatient.

"I wish she would come then, auntie. It's awfu' stourie on the road."

"Yonder's somebody in among the trees," said Jacky, glancing out.

It was Mrs. Young's friend at last, and the good woman bestirred herself
to complete her table arrangements, while Bessie conveyed the mighty
Leghorn bonnet and wonderful Paisley shawl, which Rob Miller's eldest
daughter already looked forward to as a great inheritance, into the
inner room. Mrs. Young's friend was a tall, bony, erect woman, with a
thin brown face, and projecting teeth, and sandy hair carefully smoothed
beneath a muslin cap, modestly, tied with a scrap of blue ribbon. She
was a very homely, unhandsome-looking person, yet had an unassuming
simplicity about her, not common in the upper servant class. Jean Miller
had known evil in her day. The long upper lip pressing above these
irregular ill-shaped teeth of her's had quivered with deep griefs many
times in the painful and weary past years, which had left no record of
themselves or of her course in them, save that most deeply pathetic one
engraven in her own solitary high heart--a high heart it was, humble and
of slight regard as was the frame it dwelt in--much stricken, sorely
tried, and with an arrow quivering in it still.

Jean's hands were rigidly crossed in her lap; she was never quite at
ease in idleness. Mrs. Young good-humoredly drew her chair to the table,
called Bessie, placed the teapot on the tray, and began her duties.
There was a simple blessing asked upon the "offered mercies," according
to the reverent usage of peasant families in Scotland, and then the
dainties were discussed.

"And how is Andrew winning on wi' his learning, Jean?" said Mrs. Young.

There was a slight quivering of the thin upper lip--very slight--no eye
less keen than Jacky's could have perceived it.

"They tell me very weel," said Jean, meekly; "he's been getting some
grand books in a prize, and they're unco weel pleased wi' him at the
college."

"He's a clever lad," said Mrs. Young.

"Ay, I'll no say but he's a lad of pairts," said Jean, "if he but makes
a right use o' them."

"Ay," said Mrs. Young, sympathetically, "they're no ower guid company
for that, thae young doctor-lads. Eh, keep me! Jean woman, if this
callant was taking to ill courses like his faither, ye wad never haud up
your head again."

Jean's lip quivered again--more visibly this time--the discipline of her
self-denying life had been a stern one. The prodigal of her family, the
gayest, handsomest, and cleverest of them all, a good workman, and an
idle one, had hung upon her, a heavy, painful burden, falling step by
step in the ruinous downward course of reckless dissipation, until he
ended his days at last, shorn of all the gaiety and cleverness which had
thrown a veil at first upon his sin--an imbecile, drivelling drunkard.
With mighty anguish, which few comprehended or could sympathize with,
she had prayed, entreated, remonstrated, forgiven, and supported him
through all his sad career. He left an orphan boy on her hands. With the
tenderest mother-anxiety, Jean Miller had brought up this child--with
genuine mother-ambition, had, at the cost of long labor, and much
self-denying firmness on her own part, sent him to college when he
reached proper years, eager to raise him above the fear of that terrible
stain and sin which had destroyed the first Andrew--her once gay and
clever brother. But of late insidious voices had whispered in her ear
that the second Andrew had taken the first step in that descending
course. In agony unspeakable, the youth's watchful guardian hastened to
Edinburgh to ascertain the truth of this. She found it false; there was
yet no appearance of any budding evil, but her heart, falling back upon
its sad experience, sank within her, prophetic of evil. She said nothing
in return to the ill-advised sympathy of Mrs. Young--her lip
quivered--it was more eloquent than words.

"You're new to this country, I'm thinking?" she said, addressing Jacky.

"Yes," said Jacky, bashfully.

"She's frae the north country," said Mrs. Young. "Ye've been lang out o'
this pairt yoursel, Jean."

"Ay," was the answer, "it's eighteen year past the twenty-first o'
June--I mind the day weel."

"That would be about the time the gentleman was killed," said Mrs.
Young.

"Yes," said Jean; "the very morning. I'll ne'er forget it."

"Eh, auntie!" exclaimed Bessie. "Whatna gentleman?"

Jacky did not speak, but her thin, angular frame thrilled nervously, and
she fixed her keen eyes upon Jean.

"Deed a gentleman ye've heard o' often enough, Bessie," said her aunt.
"Miss Alice's father--ye've heard your mother telling the story about
Mr. Aytoun mony a time, nae doubt. Ye see, Jean, my sister was Mrs.
Aytoun's right-hand woman. I dinna ken how the puir lady would have won
through her trouble ava, when Miss Alice was born, if it hadna been for
our Bell--no that he was ower guid a man, if a' tales were true, but nae
doubt it was an awfu' dispensation. Ane forgets ill and wrang when the
doer o't's taen away--and a violent death like that!"

"Weel," said Jean Miller, "a'body's dear to their ain. But he wasna
muckle worth the mourning for."

"And how was he killed?" asked Jacky, with some trepidation.

"Anither gentleman--a fine, cheery, kindly lad as ye could see--shot him
wi' a gun. It was an awfu' disgrace to the parish, as weel as a great
crime; but, sae far as I could hear, the folk were mair wae for young
Redheugh than they were for Mr. Aytoun."

"And were they sure he did it?" asked Jacky, breathlessly.

"Sure! Lassie, what could be surer? They found his gun, wi' his name
on't and they saw him himsel leaving the wood; and unco easy he had
ta'en it, as the folk say, for he was gaun whistling and singing at a
fule sang, and the man's bluid on his hand."

"If he took it easy, it's mair than his friends did," said Jean Miller,
significantly.

"I never heard tell of ony friends he had in this part," said the
matter-of-fact Mrs. Young. "He was nephew to the auld family, and no
son. I mind hearing ance that he was frae some place away in the
Hielands--but maybe that was a' lees."

"But maybe you werena meaning a relation?" adventured Jacky, addressing
Jean.

"Na, lassie, it was nae relation. I ken naething about his kin: it was a
friend--ane that was uncommon chief wi' him. He was a student lad at
that time, that had served his time to be a doctor like my ain nephew
Andrew, only he was done wi' the college; and if ever mortal man was out
o' his mind wi' trouble and fricht and sore grief for an unhappy
reprobate, it was that lad, the morning o' the murder."

"Did you see him?" exclaimed Jacky, anxiously.

"Ay, lass, I saw him. I was gaun hame that very day to my place that I'm
in yet--I've been eighteen year past wi' the same mistress--and it
happened I was by that waterside between eight and nine in the morning.
I was but a young lass then, and I had reason for't--it's nae matter now
what it was. I was coming round the howe o' the brae where the road
turns aff to the Milton, when I met that lad. That white apron had mair
a life-like color than he had on his face; but, for a' that, he was
wiping his brow for heat. The look of him was like the look of a man
that had the bluid standing still in his veins. He neither saw me, nor
the road he was gaun on, but just dashed on right before him, as if
naething could stop him in the race. Ye may tak my word, it's nae little
grief like what men ca' sympathy or pity, that could pit a man into a
blind madness like that. I ken mair about it noo than I did then."

"Woman--Jean!" exclaimed Mrs. Young; "what for did ye no come forrit at
the time--it might have helped the proof? Losh! would the tane be
helping the tither? would there be twa o' them at the misfortunate man?"

"Na; he was an innocent, pithless callent, that Maister Patrick," said
Jean. "_He_ could have nae hand in't. A' that day I couldna get his
face out o' my mind; but I had mony things to trouble me, sorting at my
mother, and putting things right for Andrew--he was doing weel then,
puir man!--and getting my ain kist ready for my journey, and I gaed away
early in the day, and so I didna hear o' the murder. And my mother was
nae hand at the writing, and Andrew, puir man, was aye a thocht
careless, and I never saw ane belanging to my ain place, to tell me the
news. So a' the trying that there was, was dune, and poor young Redheugh
was lying at the bottom of the sea, before I ever heard tell o't--but
I've aye minded sinsyne Maister Patrick Lillie's awfu' face--I've had a
kindness for him frae that day, for of a' the sair troubles in this
world, I ken nane, like murning ower a sinner that ye canna mend, and
yet that ye would gie your ain life for, as blythe as ever ye gaed to
your rest. I ken what it is--and sure am I, that if ever there was a man
distracted with the crime o' anither, it was Maister Patrict Lillie, for
young Redheugh."

"And was Redheugh an ill man?" said Jacky, in a half whisper.

"I never heard an ill word o' him till then. He was as weel likit as a
man could be--and a kinder heart to puir folk there wasna in the
countryside."

"And that's true," said Mrs. Young. "Ye should take it to yoursels,
lassies--you that are young, and havena got the rule o' your ain
spirits. There was a fine young gentleman, ye see, wi' routh o' a'
thing, as grand as heart could desire, and yet he tint baith life and
name, in this world and the next, a' for an evil anger in his heart.
It's an awfu' warning--it's our pairt to improve it for our ain
edification."

"And what for was the gentleman angry at Mr. Aytoun?" asked Bessie.

"Oh! the adversary has aye plenty spunks to light that fire wi'. Some
folk say yae thing, and some anither. I've heard it was for speaking
lightly of a young lady that was trothplighted to Redheugh."

"And what for did he no fecht him, the way folk fecht in books?" said
Bessie.

"Nae doubt because the enemy thought he had fa'en on an easier plan of
putting an end to them baith. Nae mortal in this world, let alane a bit
lassie like you, can faddom the wiles o' the auld serpent, or the
weakness o' folk's ain treacherous hearts. It's no what folk should do,
to be making a wark about a criminal like that, that shed blood wi' a
wilful hand--but there was mony a heart in the parish wae for Redheugh."

"And him that ye saw coming out of the wood?" said Jacky, tremulously,
turning to Jean Miller again: "how would he ken?"

"I canna tell," said Jean. "It was my thought he had met Redheugh, or
seen him, when the deed was new done--and it stunned the very soul
within him, so that he scarce kent in his extremity what it was, that
was pitting him distracted. I was asking Rob's wife about him last
night: she says his sister and him are living their lane in an unco
quiet way. Puir lad!--but he'll be a man of years now."

"And ye didna speak to him?" said Jacky.

"Speak to him! Lassie, if ye havena a lighter weird than ither folk,
ye'll ken before lang, that sore trouble is not to be spoken to. I wad
rather gang into a king's chamber unbidden, than put mysel forrit, when
I wasna needed, into the heavy presence of grief."

"For grief is a king, too," murmured Jacky.

"And so it is," said Jean Miller, with another emphatic quiver of her
lip--the little narrow Edinburgh attic, in which her student nephew
toiled, or ought to toil, rising before her eyes, and her heart yearning
over him in unutterable agonies of tenderness--"and so it is--and
kenning that there's sin in ane ye like weel, or fearing that there's
sin, in ane whose purity is the last hope o' your heart, that's the king
o' a' griefs. But, mind, ye mauna say a word of this ower again. I never
tell't onybody before now, and I would like ill to add a trouble to a
sair heart. Mind, ye mauna mention this again."

"Yonder's my uncle!" exclaimed Bessie, whom this grave episode had
wearied mightily, "and Jamie, and Michael, and Tam. We've twa good hours
yet, Jacky, before, ye need to gang hame, and Miss Anne winna be angry
if you're a thocht late. We'll gang and let ye see the Fairy Well--it's
at the ither end o' the wood. Eh, woman, ye dinna ken how bonnie it is!"

But Jacky had no heart for the Fairy Well, or the rude gallantry of Tam,
and Michael, and Jamie. She was too full of the great intelligence she
had gathered for her mistress. She drew her own conclusions, quickly
enough, if not very clearly, but she saw at once that Anne would think
it of the highest importance. How she knew so much we cannot tell--she
could not have told herself. These electric thrills of intuition, which
put the elf into possession of the most secret and guarded desires and
wishes of her superiors, were as much a mystery to herself as to others.
There were various mysteries about her--not the least of these being the
reason why the spirit of a knight errant, of as delicate honor, and
heroic devotion, as ever adorned the brightest age of chivalry, should
have been endued with the singular, and by no means elegantly formed
garment, of this girl's dark elfin frame and humble place.

So Jacky with much weariness, physical and mental, endured the visit to
the Fairy Well; and then under the safe conduct of Tam, Mrs. Young's
youngest son, and "convoyed" half way by Bessie and Michael, returned to
Aberford. The night had fallen before she reached Miss Crankie's house.
Anne, newly returned from a long and ineffectual survey of Schole, had
passively submitted to have candles placed upon her table by Miss
Crankie's servant. She still sat by the window, however, looking out
upon that centre of mysterious interest. It was perfectly still--only a
faint reflection of light upon the dark water told of a watcher in the
high chamber of the desolate house.

Jacky entered, and Anne turned to ask her kindly how she had enjoyed her
visit. "I dinna ken, Miss Anne," said Jacky, "but if ye please--"

"What, Jacky?"

"Would ye let me draw down the blind, and put in your chair to the
table, because I've something to tell you, Miss Anne."

Anne consented immediately. The room looked, as dusky parlors will look
by faint candle-light in the evenings of bright summer days, very dull
and forlorn and melancholy. Anne seated herself smiling by the table;
she expected some chronicle of little Bessie's kindred, or at the utmost
some confession of petty ill-doing, which burdened Jacky's conscience.
Jacky's conscience was exceedingly tender; she did make such confessions
sometimes.

"If ye please, Miss Anne," began Jacky earnestly, "Bessie's aunt kens
Jean Miller."

"And who is Jean Miller, Jacky?" said Anne, smiling.

"And if ye please, Miss Anne, Jean Miller was in the wood by the
waterside, at the brae, where the road goes to the Milton farm, eighteen
years ago, on the twenty first of June."

It was Anne's turn to start, and look up anxiously now. Jacky went on in
the firm steadiness of strong excitement.

"And if ye please, Miss Anne, she saw a man; and it wasna Mr. ---- it
wasna the gentleman they ca' young Redheugh--"

"Who was it, Jacky?"

"His face was whiter than white cloth, and he was like as if the blood
was standing still in his veins, and he was running straight on, as if
he neither saw the road nor who was looking at him; and as he ran, he
wipit his brow, for a' that he was whiter than death."

Anne was walking through the room in burning agitation; she could not
rest--now she came up to Jacky, as the girl made a pause for breath, and
grasped her arm.

"Who was he, Jacky--who was he?"

"If ye please, Miss Anne, it was the gentleman at Schole. She called him
Mr. Patrick Lillie."

Anne put her hands up to her head, dizzy and stunned; she felt like one
who had received a mighty shock, and scarcely knew either the instrument
or the reality of it in the first extremity of its power. She did not
say a word--she did not think--she sat down unconsciously on her chair,
and pressed her hands to her head with some vague idea of crushing the
dull indefinite pain out of it. Jacky stood beside her, pale,
self-possessed, but trembling violently; the girl's excitement had
reached a white heat--intensely strong and still.

Deadly light and deadly darkness struggling for hopeless mastery--a goal
so nearly won, and yet so utterly removed. A long, low cry of pain came
from Anne's parched lips; she had not strength or heart to inquire
further; a fearful possibility came upon her now, which had never struck
her mind before.

At length, when the violence of the first shock was moderated, she began
again to question Jacky. Jean Miller's explanation of the haggard looks
and wild bewilderment of Norman's friend composed, though it could not
convince her. She must see him, this mysterious sufferer, must
ascertain--standing before him face to face--what of this dark dread
might be true, and what false. It would not leave her: before she had
been alone for ten minutes, the deadly bewilderment had returned, and
what to do she knew not!



CHAPTER XXVI.


The next morning rose, dim, hot, and oppressive, suiting well, in its
unnatural stillness and sultry brooding, with the terror of bewilderment
and darkness which had fallen upon Anne. The tossings and wild
restlessness of that mental fever, the gloomy clouds that had settled
upon the future, the sad significance with which Christian Lillie's
words came burning back upon her memory--bore her down in dark blinding
agony as those heavy thunder clouds bore down upon the earth. She
wandered out:--with eyes keen for that one object, and veiled to all
things else, she hovered about Schole. Once as she lingered by the
hedge, she saw an upper window opened, and the pale head which she had
seen once before, with its high snowy temples and thin hair, and
delicately lined face, looked out steadfastly upon the gloomy weltering
water. The eyes were blue, deep, and liquid as a summer evening sky--the
face, with all its tremulous poetry, and exquisite delicacy of
feebleness, was gazing out with a mournful composure, which made its
extreme susceptibility and fluctuating language of expression, more
remarkable than ever. Calmly mournful as it then was, you could so well
see how the lightest breath would agitate it--the faintest whisper sway
and mould these delicate facile features. One long, steadfast sad look
was thrown over the darkly silent water, and brooding ominous sky, and
then the window was closed. Anne remained upon the sands nearly the
whole day--but saw nothing more of the mysterious inhabitants of Schole.

Wild whispers of wind curled along the dark Firth as the evening fell.
All the day, the earth had been lying in that dread, bewildered pause
which comes before a thunder storm. Now, as Anne sat looking out into
the darkness, the tempest began; the night was very dark--the whole
breadth of the sky was covered by one ponderous thunder-cloud, through
which there suddenly shot a sheet of ghastly light. Anne was still at
the window--she started back, but not before the scene revealed by that
flash, had fixed itself in its terrific gloom and unearthly colors upon
her memory. The dismal outline of the house of Schole--the sea beyond,
plunging and heaving in black wrath--and on its troubled and gloomy
bosom, a drifting, helpless ship, the broken masts and rigging of which
seemed for the moment flaming with wild, phosphoric light. Anne shrank
from the window; but in a moment returned in intense anxiety, too
thoroughly aroused and absorbed to think of fear.

Another flash, and yet another--and still the helpless, dismantled ship
was drifting on; she fancied she could see dark figures, specks in the
distance, clinging to the yards; she fancied she could discern the black
waves weltering over the buried hull, as the light fell full upon the
vessel--there was a blind incompetency in its motions which showed that
its crew had lost command of it.--She saw the falling of some spar--she
fancied she could hear a terrible shrill cry; she threw open her window.
The thunder was pealing its awful trumpet-note into the dense
darkness:--gazing eagerly through the gloom she waited for another
flash.

"For guid sake come in--for pity's sake come in," cried Miss Crankie,
pulling her from behind. The sisters, their maid, and Jacky had crowded
together into Anne's room in the gregarious instinct of fear.

Bursting over the mighty gloom of waters flashed that death-like
illumination. There _were_ figures on the yards of the drifting
ship--there were wild cries of sharp despair and anguish; you could
fancy there were even agonized hands stretching out in vain for help,
and there were--yes, there were also figures upon the sands. "God
preserve us!" exclaimed Miss Crankie in overwhelming awe and excitement
as the flash shone over their faces. "Miss Ross for pity's sake come
in."

Anne did come in--she snatched a shawl which hung upon a chair, and
hurried blindly forward to the door.

"Where are ye gaun?" exclaimed Miss Crankie.

It was echoed in different tones by all the others, as they crowded
together in awe and terror.

"To the sands--to the sands," said Anne: she made her way through them
in spite of remonstrance and entreaty: she extricated herself from the
detaining grasp of Miss Crankie, and leaving the house, ran hastily
towards Schole.

It was a fearful night; the wind had risen imperceptibly from the wild
whispers which crept over the Firth in the earlier evening to a
shifting, coarse, impetuous gale. The lightning, as it burst in sheets
over the earth, revealed strange glimpses of the shivering summer
foliage and verdure, which bore so strange a contrast to the storm
raging above. Anne saw nothing but the black, weltering water--the
helpless drifting ship--the deadly danger of some souls--the help that
might be rendered them.

Before she reached Schole, Miss Crankie and Jacky overtook her--none of
them spoke. All were agitated, excited, and anxious--all were looking
eagerly towards the sea.

Another flash--the black waters were dashing high up on those feeble
spars. Clinging to them in the wild vehemence of despair were several
men, and one slight shadow bound as it seemed to the mast--could it be a
woman in that extremity? The hull was covered--the waters appeared to
rise higher every moment.--There was a little knot of people on the
sands--was there no help?

Again the deadly illumination bursts over sea and sky. There is a figure
struggling through the surge--you catch a glimpse of him--now fighting
through the foam--now buffeting with the black waves. Anne and her
companions are already on the sands; they see a strong rope trailing
over the wet shore--the other end is fastened round the body of this
brave man. The little knot on the shore is sternly silent--fearfully
anxious. No one looks in the face of his neighbor they are watching with
intense, unswerving gaze, the progress of that adventurer across the
gloomy water. Even Anne scarcely notes that the gates of Schole stand
open, and there are lights within!

They see him again further in, when the next flash comes, fighting
vigorously through the waves; the dark figures on the yards of the
helpless ship have ceased to cry--they too are watching (who can tell
with what agonies of fear and hope?) the speck that fights towards them
through the turbid gloom of that dark sea.

There is a long pause this time, between the lightning and its
accompanying thunder. In the dense gloom they can discover nothing of
his progress. They wait in intense anxiety for the next flash.

The water is bathed in light again: he is returning. He carries an
indistinct burden in one arm, guiding himself painfully as they can
discern by the tightened rope. The men on shore assist him
warily--another long buffeting--another breathless watch, and he has
reached solid land again.

Who is this man? Anne Ross's eyes are strained eagerly to discover. The
light from a lantern streams on a woman carried in his arms; he did not
wait to bring her fully to the land, but placing her in the hold of one
of the lookers on, turned instantly back again--back through the gloomy,
heaving, turbid water, to save more lives--to complete the work he had
begun.

Anne watched him toiling back again through surge and foam, so anxiously
that she scarcely noted the burden he had brought from the wreck in his
arms. Now a faint cry recalled her attention; the saved woman was a
young mother clasping an infant convulsively to her breast. Two or three
female figures were already kneeling round her--Miss Crankie, Jacky, and
another.--Anne joined them; the third person was Christian Lillie.

They could scarcely draw the child from the strained arms that clasped
it; it was alive--nothing more. The agonized hold relaxed at last, and
Miss Crankie received it from the mother.

"Let us take her in," said Christian Lillie raising the young woman in
her arms.

She resisted feebly.

"No--no till they're a' safe; no till I see Willie."

Miss Crankie carried the child into Schole. Christian and Anne wrapped
the young mother in a shawl, and supported her.--Her limbs were rigid
with the terrible vigil. She gazed in agony towards the ship, and
murmured:

"He'll no leave it till the last; he'll no save himsel till a'body else
is saved. Oh! the Lord keep him--Willie!--Willie!"

And there they remained till six heroic voyages had been made to the
helpless vessel. They were all saved at last. The last, the husband of
the young woman, and captain of the ship, fighting his own way to the
shore; he had more strength or nerve than the rest.

And who had done it all? The light from the lantern streamed for a
moment on his face--that pale susceptible face, whose delicate features
spoke so eloquently the language of expression--the thin hair clung to
his white temples; his eyes were shining with unnatural excitement--with
something which looked like an unnatural vehemence of hope. It was
Patrick Lillie!

The bystanders and the saved men alike poured into Schole; they were all
assembled in the large old-fashioned kitchen. Their deliverer had
disappeared. Miss Crankie, alert and active, went about, briskly helping
all. Christian was there, and Anne.--Seven lives in all had been saved
by Patrick Lillie. The young wife of the captain lay almost insensible
in an easy chair; she had borne the extremity of danger bravely, but
now she sank--the over-strained nerves gave way--she could hardly answer
the inquiries of her husband.

By and by, under Christian's directions, he carried her to a small room
upstairs, where a bed had been hastily prepared for her. Anne
volunteered her attendance, and rendered it with all care and
tenderness; she was left alone with the young mother, Christian and the
captain of the ill-fated vessel in the meantime arranging for the
accommodation of the men.

The rigid limbs of Anne's patient relaxed at last; the chill was
gradually overcome, and about an hour after they had been brought within
the sheltering walls of Schole, Anne received the infant from Miss
Crankie to satisfy the eager mother. The strangers by this time were
gone; the shipwrecked men were accommodated as well as might be in the
comfortable kitchen.--Miss Crankie herself, when there remained nothing
further to be done, departed also--only Anne continued with her
patient--she had not seen either Patrick or Christian again.

Drawing the baby to her breast, the young mother soon fell into a
refreshing sleep. Anne sat thoughtfully by her bed-side--now and then
she heard a footstep below testifying that the household was still
astir. She was anxious to remain as long as possible--to endeavor to
open some communication with this singular brother and sister. For the
moment she had forgotten Jean Miller's history, and shuddered and
trembled as she remembered it--would they avoid her still?

The room she occupied had a faded red curtain drawn along the further
wall; she fancied she heard a low murmur as of some voice beyond it, and
rose to see. The wall was a very thin partition which had evidently been
put up in some emergency to make two rooms of one--immediately behind
the curtain was a door standing ajar. Anne could see through into
another room guarded like this by a curtain, placed there for some
simple purpose of preventing a draft of air as it seemed, for each of
the rooms had another door, and both entered from a gusty, windy
gallery.

And there was a voice proceeding from that outer room--a solitary voice,
low-toned, and strange--it was reading aloud as it seemed, although its
owner was evidently alone. "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to
the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation,
I restore him fourfold."--Anne glanced back to see that her patient
slept; she was lying in a calm slumber, luxuriously peaceful, and at
rest. The low voice went on:

"Not fourfold but sevenfold. Lord! Thou seest the offering in my hand.
Thou who didst not reject this sinner of old times.--Thou who didst
tread wearily that way to Jericho for this publican's sake, who was a
son of Abraham. Lord, Lord, rejectest Thou me?--seven for one--wherefore
did I toil for them, but to lay them at Thy feet--seven saved for one
lost. Oh, Thou blessed One, where are Thy tender mercies--Thy loving
kindnesses--wilt Thou shut thy heaven only to me?"

There was a pause; the voice was broken and unsteady; the strange
utterance passionate and solemn; it was resumed:

"Not thy heaven, unless it be Thy will--not Thy glory or Thy
gladness--only Thy forgiveness, merciful Lord, only one uplifting of Thy
reconciled countenance. There is no light. I grope in the noonday, like
a blind man, I cannot see Thee--I cannot see Thee! Lord, I confess my
iniquity before Thee. Lord, I restore Thee sevenfold. Look upon my
offering--seven for one! I bring them to Thy feet--seven saved for one
lost! Lord of all tenderness--of all compassion, Thou most
merciful--most mighty--is it I--is it I? Wilt Thou reject only me?"

Anne stood fixed in silent, eager interest--she could not think of any
evil in her listening. She was too deeply moved--too mightily concerned
for that!

"Thou knowest the past. Thou, who ordainest all things, dost know these
fearful years. Blood for blood. Lord, thou hast seen mine agonies--Thou
knowest how I have died a thousand times in this fearful, blighted life:
look upon mine offering--I bring thee back sevenfold. Lord of mercy,
cast me not away for evermore!"

The voice ceased. Anne cast a tremulous glance from the edge of the
curtain. He was sitting by a table, a Bible lying open before him. Large
drops hung upon his thin, high forehead--his delicate features were
moving in silent agonies of entreaty--a hot flush was on his cheek. He
suddenly buried his face in his hands, and bowed it down upon the open
Bible. Very fearful was this to see and hear! This living death of
wakeful misery--this vain struggling to render with his own hands the
atonement which he, of all men, needed most--while the great Evangel of
divine love and tenderness, with its mightier offering and all-availing
sacrifice, lay unapplied at his hands.

Anne drew back in awe and reverence, and carefully closed the door--it
was not meet that she should pry further into the secret agonies of this
stricken and sinful spirit, as it poured itself forth before its God.
She returned to the bedside, her head throbbing with dull pain, her
heart full of darkness and anguish. Was it true?--was it indeed true?--a
haunting fear no longer, but a deadly and hopeless reality!

At intervals she heard the murmurings renewed, and watched in breathless
anxiety then, lest her patient should wake--at length it ceased
altogether. The young mother slept peacefully with her infant nestling
in her arms--a strange contrast there was between the sleeper and the
watcher--the one in delicious safety and rest, after deadliest
peril--the other wading through a restless sea of grief and pain, to
which there seemed neither shore nor boundary, involving agonies
mightier than death.

The night wore swiftly on--the morning rose as calm and sunny as if
storms had never raged in the soft atmosphere which it gilded with its
early sunbeams. Anne rose to look from the window--the Firth lay broad
before her, still something moved and unquiet--rolling long waves upon
the shore, and specked like the breast of some war-horse, with spots of
foam. At a little distance, dashed against a bold, projecting cliff, the
masts of the hapless vessel appeared through the dark water. Anne
shuddered when she saw the white spars, rising so very short a way above
the broad surface of the Firth. A little longer delay last night--a
paroxysm of desperate energy a little less bold, and these hapless
seamen, and this youthful mother, had been lying, far from all
consciousness of earthly pain or pleasure, in the dark graves of the
sea!

Sevenfold--seven saved for one lost! Alas, was this all?--had he no hope
but this?

Anne's patient waked--she began to look about her confusedly--then she
recollected herself: "Willie, Willie, where is he--is he safe?"

Anne hastened to reassure her; but finding that she only partially
succeeded, and hearing as she thought some one stirring below, she left
the room to seek "Willie," to satisfy his anxious wife.

In a small bare parlor below she found the serving-woman of the Lillies
and Jacky--they had just made a fire, and Marget, with considerable
grumbling, was preparing tea. Jacky, looking very dark, and pale, and
wakeful, was moving about in her own intense stillness of nervous
activity, discharging various pieces of work entrusted to her, and
returning instantly to seek more.

"I declare," exclaimed Marget, peevishly, as Anne reached the door,
"ye're enough to pit a body daft. Afore ane can think ye're weel begun
wi' ae turn, ye're seeking anither. Have ye washen a' the cups?"

"Yes."

Marget looked back--the long array of gleaming earthenware spoke for
itself. In anticipation of so many stranger guests, Marget had collected
a dusty congregation of cups and saucers, out of the corners of a dark
old pantry.

"Do ye aye do your work as cleverly? Ye're a strange speerit o' a
creature to get through a turn at that rate. Are ye aye as fast?"

"Ay," said Jacky, bashfully, "when there's ony need."

"I wadna like to be trysted to haud ye gaun. Ye wad be as ill to ser as
Michael Scot's man. Get out yon muckle tray, and tak the dust aff't, and
set down the cups--it's aye something. Eh, Mem, I beg your pardon!"

This was addressed to Anne, whom Marget descried for the first time
standing behind her. Anne asked where the young captain was.

"Ye see, they're a' lying in the kitchen, puir creatures. It was the
warmest place, and we made shake-downs to them as well as we could; and
no to disturb them, I kindled my bit fire in here--and your lassie is
very handy, Mem, and I'm muckle obliged to ye for letting her help me.
Ye see I'll hae plenty on my hands wi' a' thae strangers, and trouble in
the house forbye."

"Is any one ill?" asked Anne, eagerly.

"Ye see, it's just yin o' Mr. Patrick's ill turns. What was onybody to
expect after the way he exposed himsel last night?--a frail man like him
fighting through the sea as if he had been a giant--and he's waur than
ordinar the day."

"Can I see Miss Lillie?" said Anne.

"Miss Kirstin's been at his bedside close, since ever we got the men
sorted in the kitchen. She had to wile him out o' his ain room, because
the young Captain's wife was in the next, and she was feared he would
disturb her, and he's lying up in the west room. He'll no hear o' a
doctor--maybe it's because he kens about physic himself--ony way he'll
no have yin near him."

"But Miss Lillie would see me perhaps, if you asked her," said Anne.

"She's no fond o' onybody fashing her, when she's no wanting them," said
Marget, "and it's ill my pairt to anger my mistress.--I've been here
even on wi' her this sixteen year--I come frae Falkirk mysel, and dinna
belang about this place--and a guid mistress she is, if she's no just
like ither folk, And it's a lang trail up that weary stair when ane's
breath is as short as mine--and--if ye have nae objection, Mem, I wad
rather ye would wait till she comes down hersel. She'll be wanting
something for Mr. Patrick before lang."

"Will you ask the Captain of the ship to come to me then?" asked Anne.

Marget went with some reluctance, and returned in a few minutes with the
stalwart young Captain. Anne begged her to guide him to his wife's room,
and then opening the outer door, stepped out herself into the garden for
a moment's refreshment in the cool morning air.

Fresh, bright, healthful, tinged and gilded with their young sunbeams,
while everything around rejoiced in its lightsome breadth and purity,
Anne almost fancied it strange that the joyous air did not shrink from
these gray walls--so full of sin and grief--sorrow, remorse, and pain,
that shrank from the eye of man, as they were.

When she again entered the room where she had found Marget and Jacky,
the young captain of the wrecked ship was there, somewhat tremulous and
unsteady, poor fellow, after his meeting with his wife. They had been
looking together from the window at the lost vessel with mingled
thankfulness and regret. Anne began to speak to him.

"The boat was a schooner--the William and Mary of Kincardine--homeward
bound from the Baltic, with a cargo of timber. We've been water-logged
for three weeks; drifting very much where the wind likit to drive us. If
it had not been for the summer weather and lown winds, we must have
perished before now; we've had a dreadful time--no that I care for a
while of hardship myself--it like comes natural to a seafaring life--but
Mary and the infant! I was saying to her the now, that she had better
make up her mind, to let me go alone after this; I durst not put her in
such peril again.

"She seems to have borne it bravely," said Anne.

"Ay, that she has," said the young man, his eyes glistening.--"It's
often no the strongest and roughest like that can bear the most. For the
bairn's sake and mine, and her mother's at hame, I believe she could
have held out as long as myself. To be sure, we sheltered her, while
shelter was possible, but that has not been for a while--and now she's
less worn out than the men. It's a strange thing that, but I've seen the
like of it before. They can stand work--plenty of it--but they canna
both work and thole--and we have needed both."

"It is very strange," said Anne, "almost all of them were stronger than
their deliverer."

"Ay it's no that," said the captain of the William and Mary, "it's the
spirit that ever does anything. My men were stunned and helpless, worn
out with the terrible watch they have kept for three weeks bye-past. The
gentleman scarce so much as felt he had a body clothing him, when he saw
our peril. It was the keen spirit that did it."

Anne sighed. This unhappy man, borne down by his fearful secret, his
life desolated by a great hidden crime, was a very angel of bravery and
goodness to the men whose lives he had saved.--She asked:

"Will the loss be great?"

The young man's countenance fell.

"No doubt it'll be heavy upon us. It's part my father's, and part mine.
We built it just before I was married, as you would, maybe, notice by
the name. My mother had aye a great wark with Mary, and she would have
it called after us both. When the tide's out, we'll see better what's
lost, and what may be saved. It's a mercy the cargo can take no scaith,
being timber. Onyway it must be a heavy loss, but we may be thankful
we're to the fore ourselves."

Anne did not answer. At any other time, she would have sympathized
warmly with this prepossessing, youthful couple. At present, her
interest and thoughts were so engrossed, that any other feeling was
faint within her.

"Mary was speaking of coming down herself," said the young captain, "to
thank you for your goodness. And the gentleman--I have not seen the
gentleman!"

"I hear he is ill," said Anne. "I am only a--a neighbor: but I hear Mr.
Lillie's exertions have hurt him--he has been long an invalid."

The young man said some words of respectful regret, and then left her to
attend to his men. He wished to remove them as soon as possible--especially
now, when he heard that there was sickness in the house.

Marget, with a good deal of grumbling, was preparing a breakfast for
them. Anne opened the door of a room on the opposite side of the
hall--it was Patrick Lillie's study--and went in. She felt she had a
right. In all the world, there was no family so closely connected with
her as this.

Upon the table, in the recess of the low projecting window, lay an old
Latin book--others of a like nature were scattered round. Anne was
sufficiently acquainted with old literature to see that some of these
were rare and strange. A small pile, which she could fancy the daily and
beloved companions of their owner, lay at one side. The upper one of the
pile, was the "Imitatione Christi," of Thomas a Kempis, in the original
Latin--the others were of the same contemplative cast. Old emblematic
poems, full of devout conceits: old dialectic philosophy, subtle and
shifting--a strange atmosphere for that fragile mind, with its sensitive
beauty and feebleness, to breathe and dwell in.

She was thinking of him--with her hands clasped over her eyes, and her
head bowed down, she was trying to think what she could do--"looking
forward as the aim and expectation of your life--almost, God help us--as
your hope--for a thing which you knew would rend your heart, and make
your life a desert when it came." The words returned before her
constantly, blinding her mind and stilling it. She could do nothing.

A hand was laid upon her shoulder. She looked up hastily--it was
Christian Lillie. Her eyes were fixed upon Anne with a look of wistful
inquiry: her tall figure was slightly bent. Anne saw more clearly than
she had ever done before, how attenuated and worn out she was. Yet, in
the melancholy face and shadowy frame, there was no trace of greater
weariness than usual. She had been watching by a sick-bed all the
night--and such a sick-bed!--but she thought of no rest, she evidenced
no fatigue. You could fancy the soul within, so constantly awake and
watching, that its thin robe of earthly covering needed not the common
sustenance of feeble humanity.

"What do you here?" said Christian Lillie, "this is no air for you to
breathe--no roof to cover you. Let us bear our own burden as we best
can; you must not try to render help to us--no, nor even sympathy--you
must go from this fated house."

Anne took into her own the thin hand which rested on her shoulder.

"You must let me stay," she said eagerly. "I can take no dismissal--you
must let me stay--no one else in this wide world could be beside you as
I can be--save one. I must remain with you; I must share your
labors--you cannot watch continually."

"Watch!" said Christian, "I _have_ watched continually, without ceasing
night or day. You can rest who are young--you who have known no deadly
evil--what rest is there for me? Leave me to my own weird. God knows,
who sent it, that He has sent patience also to bear its bitterness. It
was long before that came, but I watched, and waited, and prayed for it
dry-eyed: tears are not for me, unless it be the terrible ones that the
heart weeps when it is wrung. You must go from this place; let us not
throw the shadow of our desolation over another of your blood. You must
go before you are blighted."

"Do not fear me," said Anne, anxiously; "do not fear to trust me. Is not
our sorrow the same--our hope the same? let me stay beside you."

"The same--the same! God forbid that you knew what you were saying.
There are agonies that folk may not lay the light name of sorrow upon.
Be thankful that you know nothing sorer than grief; and if you would
keep your hope alive, leave the house that contains us."

"I cannot leave you; you must not ask me," said Anne; "I have a claim
upon you. Do not you know better than I the bond that there is between
us? I will not leave you."

Christian Lillie walked through the room slowly, sadly, heavily; she
made no answer; she seemed to acquiesce at last.

For a time they both continued silent. Then Anne asked:

"Is he ill? they told me he was ill."

"_He!_" Christian paused; over the steadfast whiteness of her face there
flushed an unnatural color. She gazed upon Anne; her wistful melancholy
eyes dilating as it seemed in eager inquiry. "He!" she checked herself;
it appeared to have flashed upon her that Anne knew something of their
mighty secret greater than she had before thought. She controlled
herself with an effort--"yes, he is ill; what can he be else but ill?"

"I must return to him," she resumed, after an incoherent pause. "Stay
with us, since you will stay; but mind I have warned you, that with us
there can be nothing but desolation, and blight, and hopelessness. What
depths you may fathom before we are parted, I know not. It may be that
you are sent thither for that end. We walk darkling, but He sees the
beginning and the end: let His will be done."

She left the room--in a short time, Anne also quitted it. Marget was
arranging in the kitchen the breakfast for the shipwrecked seamen. There
was no scant or niggardly provision. The men, gaunt and famished-like,
an uncouth company, were gathered about the table. In the little parlor
sat the captain and his wife.

"Miss Kirstin said I was to see they had plenty to their breakfast,"
said Marget, deprecatingly, "and there wasna bread enough in the house;
and I'm no sae young as I hae been mysel, forbye having a fashious
hoast, and a sore shortness in my breath, sae I took the freedom to send
your lass, because she was willing to gang, and I hope, Mem, ye'll no be
angry."

"By no means," said Anne. "Jacky will be glad to help you, I am sure."

"She's a willing lassie," said Marget; "but if it werena that she's
discreet, and does what she's bidden, I wad maist think she wasna canny.
Preserve me! there she is already rattling at the gate; if she's been at
Aberford, she maun hae flown."

Jacky had only been at Miss Crankie's; she returned laden with
provisions sent by Anne's kind, active, odd little landlady--there was a
full supply. Anne herself joined the young captain and his wife in the
little parlor.

In the course of the day the forlorn crew of the "William and Mary,"
considerably revived by their night's rest and shelter, left
Schole--with much gratitude expressed and unexpressed. William and Mary
themselves proceeded, with their infant, to the house of the husband's
father. The men dispersed to their various homes.

Anne remained--only once again during that day she saw Christian. Then
she spoke less incoherently, with something indeed of singular
gentleness, and an endeavor for the moment to forget her individual
burden, as though her heart began to yearn for the sympathy of this
younger sister. Patrick was very ill; he could not leave his bed.

The next day told the same tale, and so did the next--and the next
again. The illness increased. The fever and agitation of that night had
wrought their due effect upon the delicate, enfeebled frame whenever the
desperate tension and rigid strength of its nervous excitement failed.
On the fourth day, Christian, who all this time had watched unceasingly,
called the medical practitioner of the little town to her brother's
bedside. Anne saw him as he passed down stairs, and asked eagerly for
his patient; the doctor shook his head--he could give no hope.

Anne spent the greater part of the day in Schole, returning to Miss
Crankie's only for the night. Now, when Patrick's illness had increased
so alarmingly, she could only exchange a passing word with Christian on
the stair, or at the door of the sick-room. She had pleaded vainly for
permission to help her in her tendance of the sufferer: failing in that,
she gradually assumed the management of the household matters below. She
lightened Christian's hands, at least so far.

A week after the shipwreck, Anne entered Christian's room--the high
turret chamber from which so often she had seen the reflected light
gleaming upon the dark waters of the Firth--to wait for her coming. It
was a still, dim, balmy night, soft and melancholy. There was always a
great attraction in that broad Firth at their feet--a kind of wandering
freedom for the overcharged heavy hearts gazing forth upon it. The
rounded window was veiled by an old-fashioned, faded curtain: within
this there was a seat which Christian Lillie had occupied for more
lingering woeful nights than we could count or record. Anne seated
herself there, and looked out in the dim gloaming upon the silent land,
and gleaming sea.

By-and-by she heard the slow, sad footstep enter, and sat still, in
expectation of being joined immediately--for Christian, like herself,
continually sought these windows; continually calmed her sorrow in the
wide tranquillity and balmy peace that lay around.

"Give him to me for a prey. Lord, give him to me for a prey," were the
strange words that came to Anne's ear, falling low through the tremulous
darkness; "I ask not for his life. Thou knowest that I ask not for his
life. My Father, wilt Thou not hear? wilt Thou forget the prayers that
have risen to Thee day by day and night by night since Thou didst hide
Thy countenance from us? My Lord! hast Thou said any word in vain? shall
any promise be forgotten before Thee?"

The listener sat still in awe; she dared not interrupt this agony of
supplication with any token of her presence.

Christian was pacing the room quickly, with tremulous step, and
passionate low voice, too mightily absorbed to think of form or posture.

"If it be Thy will--Thy will--and Thy will is to seek and save the lost;
and this is lost in sin, in blindness, and the deep gloom of unbelief,
and it was such that Thou camest to save--such, and not the righteous.
It is Thy will--it is Thy will. Grant me Thy will of salvation to this
sinner--Lord! Lord!"

She paused; she threw herself on her knees; there was an indefinite
sound of entreaty--groaning that could not be uttered.--Then she started
to her feet again, and the words poured forth aloud, as one who finds a
new argument and can scarce pause for language in which to state and
plead it.

"Thou who art a man! Thou who bearest a human heart in Thy high heaven!
Thou who hast entreated, and yearned, and wept over sinful brethren,
whom the adversary sifted as wheat! Thou, O Lord! who wearest Thy
humanity upon Thy throne!--he is a sinner--so were they whom Thou didst
call Thy friends.--He hath denied Thee--so did he, for whom Thy holy
lips prayed, that his faith might not fail. My Lord!--my Lord!--thou
hearest always. Look down upon us, and send us deliverance."

She sat down; she put back her wet hair, and wiped the heavy dew from
her forehead. Then she clasped her hands over her brow.

"Not life--not joy--not temporal deliverance--whatsoever is in Thy hands
is well--be it to us as seemeth good to Thee. But light, O, my Father!
light to this darkness--deliverance to this bondman--the grace of Thine
infinite mercy--the touch of Thy divine compassion. Lord, if Thou wilt,
Thou canst deliver him."

There was a faint call from another room. Christian Lillie paused for a
moment to compose her agitated features, and then hastened to the
restless sick-bed. Anne Ross sat still at the high turret window,
looking out through silent tears upon the dim country, and the gleaming
sea.

That sky serene, and calm, and boundless, beholding all beneath its
infinite extent--that mighty eye above, looking down amid the countless
myriads of its universe, as certainly upon the untold agonies of this
house as if all humanity were centered there--that One, at the right
hand of the Father, who, in the might of His eternal Godhead, doth dwell
in heaven--a man! The appeal of the broken heart was to these; and they
do not fail to answer.



CHAPTER XXVII.


Wearily, mocking sick hearts with their floods of brightness, the summer
days stole on. The house of Schole gaunt and melancholy, stood shrined
in the full glory of that sunshine. The dark figures within wandered
about in restless pain, like ghosts uncongenial to the light, or gazed
forth with vacant eyes upon the rejoicing country, and dazzling sea. In
the sick chamber lay that restless, suffering man, wending unconsciously
nearer and nearer the valley of the shadow of death.

The doctor from the little town had visited him repeatedly.--Nearly a
fortnight after the wreck, he had a final conversation with Christian.
Anne was watching eagerly in Patrick Lillie's study. Christian
accompanied the doctor to the door, and answered his subdued and
sorrowful farewell; then she entered the study. Anne looked up anxiously
in her face.

"The time has come," said Christian, solemnly, "there is no hope of his
life. He has but a little way to go, and yet he knows not the only
entrance. God succor us--what can we do alone? Come with me--now there
is no longer any obstacle or hindrance--come with me."

Anne followed her silently. The room in which Patrick lay was high, and
had also windows looking on the water--that broad placid, noble Firth,
the sole companion of the watcher.

Wan and wasted, with only the hectic spot burning on his cheek to
distinguish it from the pillow on which it uneasily rested, lay the
dying man. Cold, wasting, death-like perspiration lay heavily upon his
brow; his long, white hand and emaciated arm were stretched upon the
coverlet with a power of nervous motion in them, which contrasted
strangely with their color and form of death.

On a small table beside him lay a paper closely written. Near at hand
were writing materials. His eyes were fixed upon the manuscript--he did
not seem to notice the entrance of Christian and Anne. He was speaking
in broken sentences, with incoherent intervals between.

"Sevenfold--sevenfold. Thou God of mighty justice! Thou Lord of holy
revenge! What can a sinful man do more? Not an old man, O, Lord! not a
little child; seven lives in their prime--seven full of health, and
strength, and hopefulness--seven saved for one lost. Lord of mercy, wilt
Thou accept them! what can I more?"

"Patrick," said Christian Lillie, "if the whole world had lain perishing
at your feet, what more than urgent need was it to save them all; the
seven will not atone for the one. If ye have no other atonement to
offer, then the blood is still crying upon God for vengeance."

"Christian," exclaimed the dying man, "what can I do?--what shall I do?
They tell me I am near the hour of judgment; will you thrust away my
last plea?--will ye deny me my last hope? Did He not accept the publican
who restored fourfold? Behold my offering, O, Lord, and be merciful--be
merciful! I have toiled through all this terrible life--labored, and
groaned, and fainted for the uplifting of Thy countenance--and shall I
go away in darkness, and wilt Thou show me no more light at all for
ever? Lord! Lord!"

The thin, worn arms were lifted in passionate appeal--the long white
fingers clasped--the wasted face convulsed with despairing earnestness.
Christian Lillie knelt by her brother's bedside.

"Mercy and light, Patrick--mercy and light! our Father in heaven does
not give them for a hire. Take them out of a gracious hand that has paid
a bitter price for the gifts--take them, Patrick. Take them from Him who
has made the sole sacrifice that can stand in the sight of God. Blood
for blood."

"Blood for blood!" said Patrick Lillie, with a wild shudder. "Blood for
blood! has it come to this end? Christian, I have been laboring to make
amends--I have labored in vain: let me pay the price now at last--there
may be peace then. Let me away--let me away--I will pay the price--a
life for a life!"

He was struggling to rise--his emaciated features shining wildly with
his desperate purpose. Christian's arms were stretched over him,
subduing the frenzy.

"Patrick," she said, solemnly, "in a little while the Lord will recall
the life He has sent so fearful a shadow on. A day or two--maybe only an
hour or two--and in this ghastly noon of ours, which is more terrible
than the darkest midnight, the sun of your life must go down. The Lord
is taking the price with his own hand. Patrick, let me but know that you
are grounded on the one rock--that ye can see the one sacrifice."

The unhappy sufferer sank back exhausted.

"'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.'
Christian, it is a just sentence--take me away--I see it--I see it--it
is what no mercy can wipe out--no grace forgive--it must be atoned for.
Ye hear me, Christian! the price must be paid. If ye would have hope in
my death, take me away."

"It is a just sentence," said Christian Lillie, firmly. "Just in the
sight of God and man--I say not that there needs no public atonement;
but ye cannot pay it now--and I say that for your life, your higher
life, Patrick, an atonement has been made. Do you forget Him that died
at Jerusalem? they ranked him with murderers--was He one? He was
accursed for the shedders of blood. Throw but your sin upon Him--rest
but your soul upon Him, and I will have hope in your death--ay! such
hope as will cover all the by-gone darkness with a mist of radiance;
only let me know that you are safe in His shadow--strong in His faith,
and I am content."

"I have slain a man to my bruising, and a young man to my hurt,"
murmured the dying man, "and I should--God forgive me that I have
shrunk and trembled from this fearful penalty--I should pay back blood
for blood in the sight of man. Christian, hear me: I acknowledge Him, my
Saviour--my Lord--my King. I acknowledge His work--only not for
this--for this I must render justice in the sight of men. Let me go--I
have trembled for it all these dreadful years--I have hid me from the
very sunshine for its fear--I have doomed them--God bless them! God, out
of his gracious heaven, send down the blessings of the covenant upon
them! whom I shall never look upon in this world again--to exile and
shame for me. Christian, let me go--I see it all now--my eyes are
opened. Let me pay the price--then there may be peace; whoso sheddeth
man's blood--Christian, let me go!"

"Patrick," said Christian Lillie, "you have told me when your mind was
clear that this deed was not wilful, nor springing from a heart of evil
against him that is gone. Tell me again. Patrick!--do you mind how he
fled into the sacred city in the ancient Israel, who had shed blood
unawares, and there was safe? Can you see? is there no shadow before
your eyes? Can you tell me? Patrick, you shed this blood unawares."

A wild gleam shot over the sick man's death-like face. His lips
moved--he shut them convulsively as though to keep down some thrill of
agony.

"I cannot tell--I cannot tell. God help me--there is nothing clear; that
I did it--that I took away the divine mysterious life which all the
universe could not give back again--Christian, Christian, it will make
me mad--the remembrance of it has gone near to make me mad a thousand
times. Oh, that my life had been taken instead! oh, that he had slain
me, and not I him!"

Christian knelt by his bedside holding his hand--he became calmer.

"Lord, show it to me--show me the past--show me what is to come. I was
angry with my brother in my heart--I cannot see--I cannot tell, if the
fiend was within me then. Christian, have _they_ not suffered a death
for me?--have I not slain them in cold blood with my fear and cowardice!
I will do them justice--I will bear my own sin. Let me go."

He sat up in his bed, his excitement giving nervous strength to his
wasted frame; as he rose he saw Anne for the first time--she stood awed
and wondering by the door.

The unhappy man threw himself back upon his pillow, covering his face.

"Send her away. Do you want to kill me--do you want to betray me,
Christian? Send her away."

Christian Lillie made a motion with her hand, and Anne withdrew. Most
strange, and sad, and terrible was this scene; this unhappy sufferer
enduring in those agonies so intense a retribution--eager to do justice
on his death-bed, and yet shrinking from the sight of her who might
bring that justice speedily upon him--her, the sister of the injured
Norman, who would not have inflicted another pang upon the man for whom
her generous brother had sacrificed his all.

She did not see Christian again that day: during all its long, weary,
sunny hours, Christian remained constantly by that sick-bed--through the
shorter watches of the balmy and tranquil night her vigil continued;
those melancholy wistful eyes never closed in slumber; that gaunt,
attenuated frame sought neither rest nor nourishment; the agony of
eighteen years had come to a climax; the heroic work of all her desolate
lifetime was drawing to an end.

Anne did not leave the house till late that evening; she could hear the
sound of voices in the sick chamber, and Christian's slow step sometimes
traversing it, when she went away. In the morning she returned early.
Christian was in her own room, as Anne could hear, while she sat in the
apartment below--sometimes kneeling--sometimes pacing it slow and
heavily as was her wont, and sometimes with the agitated quick step,
which she had heard before during the short time in which she witnessed
Christian Lillie's supplications. Her patient was for the time asleep.
She was there, not resting nor seeking rest, absorbed in the unutterable
earnestness of her pleadings, wrestling with God for a blessing.

The day glided on, so slow--so wearily, with but the drowsy ripples of
the sea, the steady, cold, immovable beating of that strange pulse of
Time, whose sound fatigues the anxious ear so miserably, and the
irregular, agitated throbs of her own heart, to fill its languid
lingering hours, that Anne sickened when she looked abroad upon its
cloudless radiance. Then those books of Patrick Lillie's fascinated
while they irked and pained her--the pensive, contemplative tone--the
microscopic, inward-looking eye--the atmosphere of monastic quietude and
meditative death! She was in no mood for studying character, yet she
felt how strangely constituted the spirit must have been which found its
daily ailment in these.

Had he done that deed and yet was he not guilty? Did he stand in the
position of the manslayer, for whom God's stern law of olden vengeance,
in one of those exquisite shadings of mercy, which mark the unchanging
unity of our Gospel Lord and Saviour--ordained through ancient
Palestine, the sacred cities of refuge? Had he shed this blood unawares?
and whence then came the terrible mist which had gathered in his memory
about the deed? Was it possible that he could be uncertain of
himself?--that he could have forgotten those momentous circumstances?
or had his long-diseased brooding over them made imagination and fact
stand in his remembrance side by side?

At last, the weary day declined. Christian Lillie came to her at sunset,
and with few words, bade her follow to the sick room again. Anne obeyed.

It was very near now, that awful peace of Death. The emaciated face was
sharp and fixed--the stamp was upon his forehead. A little time now, and
all earthly agony would be over for him.

But there was a tranquil shadow on his face, and the large caverns of
Christian's eyes were full of dew, which did not fall, but yet had risen
to refresh the burning lids which had kept watch so long. The manuscript
was upon the table still--the thin arm lay quietly on the coverlet. A
slight shudder passed across his frame as Anne entered; an involuntary
thrill of that coward fear which had overwhelmed his nature. Then he
turned his eyes upon her with a steadfast, melancholy, lingering look,
failing sometimes for a moment as the slow blood crept coldly to his
heart in another pang of terror; but renewed again--a sorrowful look of
lingering, clinging tenderness, as though he saw in her face the shadow
of another--the generous glance of one dearly beloved long ago, who had
given up name, and wealth, and honor for his sake.

"Christian," he said, "Christian, it comes. I feel that I am entering
the dark valley. What I have to do, let me do quickly.--Raise me up."

She lifted him in her arms--in her strong devotion she might have borne
a threefold weight--the dying man was like an infant in her hands.

He took the pen she offered him into his unsteady fingers, and began, in
feeble characters, to trace his name at the bottom of the manuscript.
While he did so, he murmured broken words.

"I am guilty--I am guilty! I only. Lord, Thou knowest who hast saved me!
Only his tenderness, like Thine--only his gracious heart, Thy true
follower, has screened me, a miserable sinner, from the doom of the
slayer! It is I only--my Lord, Thou knowest it is I!"

He had signed his name. Christian laid him back tenderly upon the
pillow. With a firm hand she placed her own signature at the side of the
document, and then gave the pen to Anne. The sister of the man who had
done the deed, and the sister of him who had suffered for it--it was
meet their names should stand together. Anne added hers. She could form
some idea, of what this paper was. She signed it as a witness.

The words of the dying man ran on--a feeble, murmuring stream.

"Christian! he is alive--he is safe! No evil has come upon them! Tell me
again--tell me again! They do not curse me--they forgive the miserable
man who has made them exiles? It is over now, Christian. All your
anguish--all your vigils: their disgrace and banishment--it is over now.
God knows, who has visited me with His mercy and His light, why this
desolation has fallen upon you all for my sin. I have been a coward.
Christian, Christian! when they are home in their joyous household--when
they have forgotten all their grief and dishonor, when they are tranquil
and at rest--they will never name my name; my memory will be a thing of
shame and fear: they will shrink from me in my grave."

The thin hands met in silent appeal. There was a wistful, deprecating
glance thrown upon Anne and Christian.

"Patrick," said Christian, "can _we_ ever shrink from you, who have been
willing, for your sake, to endure the hardest calamity that could be
thrown upon man? Can _they_ forget your name, who have lost their own
for your sake, and never murmured? Patrick! look upon his sister. She
has come to us in our sorest trouble; she has clung to us with her
tenderest service, as if we had blessed him, and not blighted. Take your
comfort from her. As for me, my labor is over. I will live to see
Marion. I must, if it be the Lord's will--but for forgetfulness, or
shame, or shrinking, ye never thought of me!"

Anne stood by the bedside. The eyes of the dying man, so intensely blue,
and strangely clear, were shining wistfully upon her. She could not find
words to speak to him.

"Mind them of me," said Patrick Lillie, faintly. "Tell them, that if
they have suffered pain for me, they never can know what agony, bitterer
than death, I have endured within this desolate house. Bid them mind me
as I was, in yon bright, far away time, that I have been dwelling in
again this day. Tell them, the Lord has given me back my hope, that He
gave me first in my youth. Tell them, I am in His hand, who never loses
the feeblest of His flock. Tell them--"

He was exhausted--the breath came in painful grasps.

"Do not fear," said Anne, gently. "We will remember you in all
tenderness, with sorrow and with reverence. I will answer for Norman."

"For Norman!" said the dying man. "All blessings on the name that I have
not dared to say for years! The blessing of my God upon him, who has
been separated from his brethren. Norman! Marion! They have suffered in
exile and in grief for me. Tell them, that with my last breath, I bade
God bless them--God bless them! They have done as my Lord did--they have
suffered for the guilty--and He will acknowledge His own."

There was a pause. His breath came painfully. The hectic on his cheek
flushed deeper. Christian made a gesture with her hand to Anne,
dismissing her. He saw it.

"Stay," he said, "stay--my work is not yet done. Christian, hear me;
when I have said this, I will take my journey in peace. My eyes are
clear now. I dare look back to that terrible time. I did it unawares.
The blood on my hand was not wilfully shed; ye hear me, ye trust me,
Christian! I had that deadly weapon in my hand; my mind was far away as
it often was. I was thinking of the two, and of their bright lot; my eye
caught something dark among the trees. I thought it was a bird.
Christian, it was the head of Arthur Aytoun, the man that I was hating
in my heart! I came home; my soul was blinded within me. I was as
innocent of wish to harm him as was the water at my feet; but yet in my
inmost heart long before, I had been angry with my brother! My soul was
blind; now I see, for the Lord has visited me with His mercy. You know
all now. I have sinned; but I did this unawares, and into His city of
refuge, my Lord has received my soul."

The shadows were gathering--darker, closer--the face becoming deadly
white. His breath came with less painful effort, but the end was at
hand. He made a sign which Christian knew. She lifted a Bible, and began
to read. Anne stood behind in silent awe, as the low voice rose through
that dim room, whose occupant stood upon the eternal brink so near an
unseen world. "There is, therefore, now no condemnation." Wondrous
words! spanning all this chaos of human sin and feebleness with their
heavenward bridge of strong security.

Christian read on calmly, solemnly while the slow life ebbed wave by
wave. She had reached the end.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that
loved us. For--"

She was stayed by the outstretching of that worn and wasted hand. A
strange shrill voice, unnaturally clear, took up the words:

"I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor
principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus my Lord."

Christian sprang forward to support him. He needed no support. In the
might of that one certain thing, of which he was at last persuaded, the
spirit of Patrick Lillie had ascended into his Saviour's heaven.

A pale, feeble, worn-out garment, over which no longer the fluctuating
fever of a wavering mind should sweep and burn--a fair, cold face, whose
gentle features could answer no longer to the thousand changes of that
delicate and tremulous soul, Christian laid back upon the pillow--no
longer restless, or ill at ease, or fearful, but sleeping peaceful
sleep--tranquil and calm at last!

And she stood by his bedside who had borne, through all these dreadful
years, the strong tenacious life of deadly agony for him. As pale as
his, was the thin, worn face bending over him; for a moment she listened
with that intensest pain of watching, which seems to make the listener
blind, and concentrates all the senses in that one--listening for the
faint fall of his breath. It was in vain: those pale lips, until the
great day of resurrection, should draw breath again--never more.

"I thank God," said Christian Lillie, in the solemn calm of that
death-chamber; "I thank God, Patrick, my brother, that you are safe, and
at rest. Safe after perils greater than time could wear out. At rest
after the hourly warfare and deadly travail of a lifetime--I thank God.
My Father!--my Father! I thank Thee, who rejectest no petition, that
Thou hast heard my cry!"

Her hands were clasped. Anne feared they were becoming rigid in the
attitude of supplication so common to them. She laid her hand upon
Christian's arm.

"Ay, I will not linger," said Christian, "but look at him--look at him
at peace, and blessed at last. Do you see my tears? I have not shed one
since yon June morning, but now I can weep. I will not linger; but can
you not feel the blessedness of seeing his salvation--his rest in the
fair haven--his solemn peace at last? I thank God, Patrick--I thank
God!"

"You are worn out," said Anne, gently; "come now and take rest--leave
the further cares of this sad time to me."

The tears were falling from her eyes like large soft rain-drops; there
was a quivering, woeful smile about her lip.

"Ay, ay, I will go; I have one work yet for his sake, and theirs. At
peace in the pure heaven of our Lord and Saviour--at rest. In hope and
certainty that nothing can shake again, look how he has begun his
tranquil waiting for the second coming. He is with his Lord, and I--yes,
I will go and rest. Here I take up again the human hope that has been
dead within me for eighteen lingering years; it died by him, and by him
it is alive again. I will go and take rest for my labor. I trust him to
your hands; I have never trusted him before in the care of any mortal.
Now, I must rest for Norman's sake, and you will watch for Patrick's; I
trust him to you."

And so, at last Anne was able to lead her to her own chamber. The
tension of mind and frame had been so long and stern, that now, when it
was relaxed, Anne trembled for the issue; but Christian had borne all
the vicissitudes of mental agony too long to sink now when there still
remained labor to do "for his sake, and theirs." She suffered Anne's
attendance with a strange child-like gentleness, as of one whose own
long task is over; and while she lay down upon her bed, continued to
speak of that blessed rest and peacefulness with a tremulous quivering
smile, and wandering of thought which brought the tears fast from Anne's
eyes.--Deeply pitiful and moving was this pathetic garment of her grief.

At last, sleep was mercifully sent, such sleep as God gives to His
beloved--calm, serene, and child-like--the sad smile trembling upon her
lip--the mild tears stealing from under her closed eyelids, and her soul
the while carried back to times of past tranquillity--the peace and
gentle joyousness of the old cottage home.

From Christian's bedside, Anne proceeded to a sadder work; a work too
painful and repugnant for anything but callous habit, or deep
tenderness. She called up the old serving-woman, and together they
rendered the last offices to the dead.

The solemn, calm, majestic, awful dead, in whose still presence, were he
in life the meanest, the princeliest soul of earth must stoop and bow.
Strange doom which, with its sad mysterious ending, can make the meanest
lifetime a sublime, unequalled thing! Strange death which, in its
ghostly silence, can thrust so lightly the vain speculations of man
aside, and make our mortal flesh shrink and tremble from the thrilling
power of unseen life, that moves behind the curtain of its gloom. What
man shall stand in its presence, and dare to say that this is the end?
What man shall look upon its majesty, and tell us that is the mere death
at which he thrills and shivers? It is not so--mightier, more terrible
and great--it is the supernatural glow of an unseen life beyond that
thus appals us.

The moonbeams glided over the Firth in spiritual stillness.--The
necessary offices were done, and Anne and Marget sat down in a small
adjoining room to watch. The old woman began to nod in her chair; this
was to her but an ordinary death, and death to those who are accustomed
to assist at its dread ceremonials, loses its awe and solemnity. Anne
opened the window as the sun rose, and bathed her pale face in the
delicious air of the morning. Under her sadness and awe a solemn joy was
trembling.--Her work was accomplished--now for the exile's
home-coming--for household rest and companionship--for communion with
the near and dear kindred over whom her heart had yearned so long.

The country was beginning to awake: the early morning labor of those
rural people had commenced. She could see smoke rising from the
indistinct dim towns on the Fife coast.--She awoke her companion, and
then went softly into Christian's room.

But Christian was gone; her Bible lay open upon the table, where she had
sought its comfort when she rose. Her plain black silk cloak and bonnet
had been taken away. Anne began to be alarmed; where could she be?

In the chamber of death she was not. Anne fancied she could perceive
some trace of her having entered the room, but they had watched in the
adjoining apartment, and Anne knew that she had been wakeful. She
hurried down stairs and searched the rooms below: Christian was not to
be found.

Looking through the low window of the study, she saw Jacky standing at
the gate, and hastened to admit her. The girl was shivering with intense
anxiety, and alarm--she had been standing there for more than an hour.
On the previous night, she had haunted the precincts of Schole in fear
and trembling for her mistress, and had been abruptly dismissed by
Marget, with a fretful explanation that "Maister Patrick was in the
deadthraw"--since then she had been watching at the window of Miss
Crankie's parlor. Now, she was awe-stricken, speaking below her breath,
and letting fall now and then silent, solitary, large tears. She had
never been in the shadow of death before, and her imaginative spirit
bowed before its majesty.

"Jacky," said Anne, "he is dead."

Jacky did not answer--she only glanced a timid, wistful, upward look out
of those keen, dark eyes of hers, dilated and softened with her
sympathy.

"You will come in and stay with me, Jacky," said Anne. "I must remain
here for some days--you are not afraid?"

Afraid! no. Jacky was stricken with awe and sad reverence, but not with
fear.

"I do not well know what to do, Jacky," said Anne, thoughtfully. "Miss
Lillie seems to have wandered out: I cannot find her."

"If ye please, Miss Anne, I saw her."

"Where, Jacky?"

"I was standing at the window looking out--it was just at the
sun-rising--and I saw the gate of Schole opened canny, and Miss Lillie
came out. She was just as she aye is, only there was a big veil over her
face, and she took the Aberford road; and she didna walk slow as she
does at common times, but was travelling ower the sands as fast as a
spirit--as if it was a great errand she was on; naebody could have
walkit yon way that hadna something urging them, and I thought then that
Mr. Patrick was dead."

Anne did not observe Jacky's reflections and inferences--she was too
much occupied in speculations as to Christian's errand.

"If ye please, Miss Anne, would ye no go up to your ain room and lie
down? I'll stay and keep a'thing quiet."

"I must see Miss Crankie," said Anne. "The air will revive me, Jacky,
and I could not rest. In the meantime, you must stay at Schole, and see
that no one disturbs the stillness that belongs to this solemn vicinity.
We should have reverenced him living--we must reverence him more sadly
dead."

Jacky was overcome--her eyes were flooded--she needed to make no
promise. Anne's charge to her was given in consequence of some grumbling
threat of Marget's to "get in some o' the neighbors--no to be our lane
wi' the corp." Anne was determined that there should be no unseemly
visits, or vulgar investigation of the remains of one who had shrunk
from all contact with the world so jealously.

"If ye please, Miss Anne--"

Anne had put on her bonnet, and stood at the gate on her way out.

"What is it, Jacky?"

Jacky hung her head in shy awkwardness.

"It was just naething, Miss Anne."

Anne comprehended what the "just naething" was, and, understanding the
singular interest and delicate sympathy of this elfin attendant of hers,
knew also how perfectly she was to be trusted.

"Jacky," she said, "what I tell you, you will never tell again, I know:
this gentleman who died last night was nearly connected with us--if
Marget asks you any questions, you can tell her that; and my work is
accomplished here--accomplished in sorrow and in hope. By-and-by my
brother of whom you have heard, will come home I trust, in peace and
honor, to his own house and lands.--The work we came here for is done."

Jacky was tremulously proud, but she had yet another question.

"And if ye please, Miss Anne--little Miss Lilie?"

A radiant light came into Anne's eye. It was the first time she had
dared to speak of the near relationships with which she now hoped to be
surrounded.

"Lilie is my niece--my brother's child--I believe and hope so, Jacky."

Jacky's first impulse was to turn her back on Schole, and flee without a
moment's delay to Oranside. She recollected herself, however; she only
sat down on the mossy garden-path, and indulged in a fit of joyous
crying--pride, and exultation, and affection, all contributing their
part. "For I kent," said Jacky to herself, tremulously, when Anne was
gone, "I aye kent she was like somebody--a' but the e'en--and it would
be her mother's e'en!"

But Jacky recollected her charge--recollected the solemn tenant who lay
within those walls, and became graver. Marget was sitting in the kitchen
when she entered, refreshing herself with a cup of tea. Their
salutations were laconic enough.

"Is that you, lass?" said Marget.

"Yes, it's me," said Jacky. "Miss Anne said I was to come in and stay;
and she'll be back soon hersel."

"And wha's Miss Anne that's taking sae muckle fash wi' this puir
afflicted family?" said Marget. "Are ye ony friend to us, lassie? or
what gars your mistress and you come into our house, this gate?"

"Miss Anne says Miss Lillie is a friend. I think it's maybe by ither
friends being married, but I dinna ken--only that they're
connected--Miss Anne said that."

"And what do they ca' ye?" continued Marget.

"They ca' me Jacobina Morison--I was christened that after my uncle--but
I aye get Jacky at hame; and they ca' Miss Anne, Miss Ross, of
Merkland."

"She'll be frae the north country," said Marget. "I never heard o' ony
Norland freends Miss Kirstin had. Onyway it maun be for love ony fremd
person taks heed o' us--for it canna be for siller. They're a strange
family. Ye see the breath was scarce out o' Maister Patrick, puir
lamb--he was liker a bairn, than a man of years at ony time--when Miss
Kirstin she gaed away. I saw your leddy seeking her--whaur she's gane,
guid kens."

"Did she ever do that before?" asked Jacky.

"Eh, bless me, no: she was aye ower feared about _him_, puir man, wha
has won out o' a' trouble this night. Maybe ye wad like to see him? He's
a bonnie--"

Jacky interrupted her hurriedly. In that imaginative, solemn awe of
hers, she could not endure the ghastly admiration which one hears so
often expressed by persons of Marget's class for the dead, about whom
they have been employed.

"Ye'll be wearied?" said Jacky, hastily.

"Ay, lass, I'm wearied: it's no like I could be onything else wi' a'
that I have to do--and that sair hoast, and the constant fecht I hae wi'
my breath--it's little the like o' you ken--forbye being my lane in the
house. If ye'll just bide and look to the door, I'll gang an get some o'
the neighbor wives to come in beside me: there's nae saying when Miss
Kirstin may be hame."

"Miss Anne's coming hersel," said Jacky, eagerly. "And if ye would lie
down and get some rest, I'll do the work--and I'm no feared to be my
lane--and if ye had a guid sleep, ye would be the better o't."

"I'll no' say but what I would," said Marget, graciously; "and ye're a
considerate lass to think o't. Tak a cup o' tea--it's no right to gang
out in the morning fasting--and I daresay I'll just tak your counsel.
It doesna do for an auld body like me to be out o' my bed a' night."

So Jacky got Marget disposed of, and remained with much awe, and some
shadow of superstitious fear, alone within the house of
Schole--supported by the sunshine round about her as she lingered at the
door--for Marget, in decent reverence, had drawn a simple curtain across
the window. The other rooms were shuttered and dark--the natural homage
of seemly awe and gravity in the presence of death.

Anne had no difficulty in inducing Miss Crankie to take upon her those
matters of sad external business, which she herself was not qualified to
manage. With more delicacy than she expected, Miss Crankie undertook
them immediately. Mrs. Yammer was "in sore distress with rheumatics in
my back, and my head like to split in twa wi' the ticdoloureux--and it's
a' yon awfu' nicht--and I dinna believes Miss Ross, I'll ever get the
better o't.--Johann and you, that are strong folk, fleeing out into the
storm, and me, a puir weak creature, left, to fend my lane--forbye being
like to gang out o' my judgment wi' fricht, for you and the perishing
creatures in the ship. Eh! wha would have thought of a weak man like yon
saving them--and so he's ta'en to his rest! Weel I'm sure, Miss Ross,
you've been uncommon kind to them--they canna say but they've found a
friend in need."

"They are my relatives," said Anne: "I mean we are nearly connected."

Miss Crankie opened her little dark eyes wide. Mrs. Yammer began, with
an astonished exclamation, to recollect the pedigree of the Lillies, and
acquaint herself with this strange relationship.--Her sister stopped her
abruptly.

"Take your breakfast, Tammie, and dinna haver nonsense. Is Kirstin
content, Miss Ross, to have ye biding in her house?"

"Quite content," said Anne.

Miss Crankie's eyes opened wider. She began with a rapid logic, by no
means formal, but which had a knack of arriving at just conclusions, to
put things together. She had a glimmering of the truth already.

"Miss Lillie is out," said Anne. "I fear, in her deep grief, she
wandered out, finding herself unable to rest; but neither she nor I are
able for these details. You will greatly oblige me, Miss Crankie, and do
your old friend a most kind service, if you will undertake this."

Miss Crankie promised heartily, and Anne returned to Schole. Again there
passed a long, weary, brilliant summer day, but Christian did not
return. The night fell, but the roof that covered the mortal garment of
Patrick Lille, sheltered no kindred blood. Anne had taken Christian's
place--she was the watcher now.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Another day, as bright, as weary, and as long, and still there were no
tidings of Christian. Anne became alarmed. She sent out Jacky to make
inquiries; Jacky ascertained that Miss Lillie on the previous morning
had gone by the earliest coach to Edinburgh. The intelligence was some
relief, yet perplexed Anne painfully; the arrangements were going on,
but what could she do, if Christian remained absent, thus left alone
with the dead?

In the middle of the day, Miss Crankie brought her a letter from Mrs.
Catherine. Anne's conscience smote her; during Patrick's illness, she
had scarcely written to Mrs. Catherine at all; and her brief notes had
only intimated his illness, and her hope of obtaining some further
information through the Lillies. Mrs. Catherine's letter had an
enclosure.

"My Gowan,

     "What has come over you? I have been marvelling these past mornings
     whether it was success or failure--a light heart or a downcast one,
     that made you forgetful of folk to whom all your doings are matters
     of interest, and have been since you could use your own proper
     tongue to testify of them. Think you this lad Lillie has any
     further knowledge than you have yourself? I count it unlikely, or
     else he is a pithless laggard, not worthy to call Norman Rutherford
     friend, and Norman was not one to choose his friends lightly, or be
     joined in near amity with a shallow head and a faint heart. So I
     would have you build little on the hope of getting good tidings
     from him, seeing that if he had known anything, he must have put it
     to its fitting use before now. You say it gave him a fever? I like
     not folk, child, who are thrown into fevers by sore trouble and
     anguish, and make themselves a burden and a cumbrance, when they
     ought to be quickened to keener life--the more helpful and strong,
     the greater the extremity; it augurs a narrow vessel and a frail
     spirit in most cases--it may be other in his. Certain he bore
     himself like a man in the night you tell me of. Let me see his
     sister, if you can bring her; there, seems--if ye draw like the
     life--to be no soil in her for the cowardice of sickness to
     flourish on, from which I take my certainty, that if she had kent
     any good word concerning this dark mystery, she must have put it to
     the proof before now.

     "To speak about other matters, I send you a letter--worthy the
     light-headed, undutiful fuil from whose vain hand it comes. You
     will see she will have none of my counsel, and puts my offer of an
     honorable roof over her, and a home dependent on no caprice or
     strange woman's pleasure, in the light of a good meaning--will to
     do kindness without power. If it were not for Archie's sake, and
     for the good-fame of their broken house, she should never more say
     light word to me. He has been but a month dead, this miserable man
     of hers--that she left her mother's sick-bed for--and look at her
     words! without so much as a decent shadow on them, to tell where
     the sore gloom of death had fallen so late. I am growing testy in
     my spirit, child; though truly sorrow would set me better than
     anger, to look upon the like of a born fuil like this--her brother
     ruined, and her man killed. Archie, a laboring wayfarer, with his
     good name tarnished, and his father's inheritance, lost; the
     husband for whose sake she brought down her mother's gray hairs
     with sorrow to the grave, taken away suddenly from this world by
     the red grip of a violent death, and the wanton fuil what can I
     call her else?--as if she had not gotten enough to sober her for a
     while, returning in haste to her vanities--feared to leave the
     atmosphere of them--singing songs over the man's new grave, and
     giving long nights to strangers, when she can but spare a brief
     minute to say a kind word to her one brother--a kind word, said I!
     I should say a bitter one, of folly and selfishness,--not comfort
     to him in his labor, but records of her own sinful vanities.

     "You will say I am bitter, child, at this fuil--so I am--the more
     that I cannot be done with her, as I could with any other of her
     kind. She is still the bairn of Isabel Balfour--in good or in evil
     I am trysted to keep my eye upon her. I have been asking about the
     household she is in. The mistress of it, her friend, is at least of
     pure name; a scheming woman as I hear from one of their own vain
     kind--who has a pride in yoking the fuils about her in the unstable
     bands of marriage. Isabel has her mother's fair face; they will be
     wedding her again for some passing fancy, or for dirt of siller. I
     scarce know which is the worst. I will have no hand in it, however
     it happens. Since she will be left to herself, she must. If deadly
     peril ever comes, I must put forth the strong hand.

     "You will come to me with all speed when you can win. If you have
     any glimpse of good tidings, or if you have none--I am meaning when
     you come to any certainty--let me know without delay, that I may
     make ready for our home-going. To say the truth, I am weary at my
     heart of this place, and sickened with anger at the fuil whose
     letter I send you. Let me look upon you soon, lest the wrath settle
     down, and I be not able to shake it off again; which evil
     consequent, if you prevent it not, will be the worse for you all.

CATHERINE DOUGLAS."



Mrs. Duncombe's letter was enclosed.

"My dear Mrs. Catherine,

     "It is so good of you to think of troubling yourself with me at the
     Tower, and must have put you so much out of the way, coming to
     Edinburgh, that I hasten to thank you. Poor dear Duncombe was taken
     away very suddenly; you would be quite shocked to hear of it. I was
     distracted. They had been quarrelling over their wine. Poor
     Duncombe was always so very jealous; and it was all for the merest
     word of admiration, which he might have heard from a thousand
     people beside. So they fought, and he was wounded mortally. You may
     think how dreadful it was, when they brought him home to me dying.
     I went into hysterics directly, I believe I needed the doctor's
     care more than he did: before he died I was just able to speak to
     him, and he was so very penitent for having been sometimes rude to
     me, and so sorry for his foolish jealousy. Poor dear Edward!--I
     shall never forget him.

     "I am staying here with a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Legeretie. She
     has got a delightful house, quite out of town, and they have come
     here just for my sake, to be quiet and away from the gay world,
     which of course I could not bear just now. We have quite a nice
     circle of friends, besides our visitors from London, and just with
     quiet parties, and country amusements, get on delightfully. Dear
     Eliza is so kind, and gives up her engagements in town, without a
     murmur, just to let me have the soothing quietness of the country,
     which the doctors order me--with cheerful society--for if it were
     not for that, my poor heart would break, I am sure--I have suffered
     so dreadfully.

     "You will have heard that dear Archibald has arrived safely at that
     horrid place in America. What could induce him to do such a thing,
     when he might have gone into the army, or got into Parliament, or
     something? and the friends of the family would have helped him, I
     am sure. It's just like Archie; he's always so hot and extreme. I
     thought he would have killed himself that dreadful time at Paris,
     before he took the fever; and what a shocking thing that would have
     been for me, with all my other misfortunes. To be sure, it was a
     horrid, foolish business--that of losing the estate--and if it had
     not been that dull old Strathoran, where papa and mamma managed to
     vegetate all the year through, I don't know how--I should have been
     broken-hearted. I am sure, considering that dear Archie was only my
     brother, there was nothing I was not willing to do for him; but to
     go away a common clerk, into a horrid mercantile office! I must say
     he has shown very little regard for the feelings of his relatives,
     especially as he knows how I detest these ogres of commercial
     people. One can only bear with them if they are very rich, and I am
     afraid dear Archie is not likely ever to become a moneyed man.

     "They are so fond of me here, and dear Eliza has done so much to
     make me comfortable, that I should be very ungrateful to run away,
     else I should have been delighted to spend a week or two at the
     Tower. Mr. Legeretie has a shooting-lodge in the Highlands, and
     dear Eliza talks of going down with him this year to give me a
     little change; if we do, we shall come by dear old dreary
     Strathoran just to look at it again. I hope the Rosses, and all the
     other old friends, are well. I used to think a good deal of Lewis.
     I suppose Anne is never married yet; she must be getting quite
     ancient now.

"My dear Mrs. Catherine,
"Very sincerely yours,
"ISABEL DUNCOMBE."



It was a strange contrast--with Christian Lillie's desolate life before
her--with her own heart throbbing so anxiously for the stranger, Norman,
whom, in her remembrance, she had never seen--to hear this Isabel, her
play-mate long ago, talking of Archie as "_only_" her brother. The
effect was very singular. What had become of the sad sufferer who lay
within these walls in the tranquil rest of death, if for Christian, and
Marion, and Norman there had been any "only" stemming the deep tide of
their self-denying tenderness?

Anne wrote a brief note to Mrs. Catherine, announcing Patrick Lillie's
death, and saying that her mission was now accomplished; and that in a
day or two she would return to Edinburgh to explain the further
particulars of this long mystery. The day was waning again; in weary
sadness and solitude she sat in Patrick Lillie's study. From the kitchen
she could hear the subdued voices of Marget and Jacky: above, the
stealthy step of Miss Crankie, as she arranged the sad preliminaries of
the funeral. The second evening had fallen since he departed to his
rest; and where was Christian?

A dark shadow flitted across the window. She heard a footstep enter, and
pass quickly up the stair. Anne rose and followed. The footstep was
quicker than Christian's, but it went steadily to the chamber of death.

Anne paused at the door. The lonely dimness of the evening air gathered
shadowy and spiritual round the bed, a dark background, from which that
rigid marble face stood out in cold relief. A deadly stillness--a dim,
brooding, tremulous awe--which carried in it a vague conviction of
watching spirits, and presences mysteriously unseen, was hovering in the
room.

And kneeling at the bedside, her veil hanging round her white, thin
face, like a cloud over the tearful pallor of a wan November sky, was
Christian Lillie, the quivering smile upon her lip again, and the words
of sad thankfulness falling from her tongue.

"Ye are thanking God in His own heaven, Patrick, my brother; the justice
is done, the cloud is taken away. Henceforward, in the free light of
heaven, may Norman bear his own name; and now there remaineth nothing
but to lay you, with hope and solemn thanksgiving into your quiet
grave."

Anne stood still; there was a long pause. Christian knelt silently by
her dead brother's side, in darkness, in silence, in the presence of
death, thanking God.

At last she rose, and turned to leave the room. Anne's presence did not
seem to excite any wonder; she took her offered arm quietly and kindly.

"I have been very anxious," said Anne.

"Ay," said Christian; "did you think I could rest, and that blight
remaining on their name? Did you think there was any peace for me till
all my labor was accomplished? Now--you heard me speak--Norman
Rutherford may bear his own name, and return to his own country with
honor and blessing upon him, in the open sunshine of day. My work is
ended: I must but tarry for one look upon them, and then I wait the
Lord's pleasure. His call will not come too soon."

"You have taken no rest," said Anne, anxiously: "remember, there is one
trial yet remaining. Let me get you some refreshment, and then try to
sleep. This constant watching will kill you."

Christian suffered herself to be led down stairs. Into the little parlor
Anne hastily brought tea, and, considerably to Jacky's horror, insisted
upon rendering all needful services herself. It was evident that
Christian felt the delicacy which kept strange eyes from beholding her
grief. She took the tea eagerly, removed her cloak and bonnet, and met
Anne's anxious look with a tremulous, tender smile, inviting, rather
than deprecating, conversation now.

"Let me go with you to your own room," said Anne; "you have been in
Edinburgh, and are quite exhausted, I see. You will be better after you
have slept."

"Sit down, I need no sleep," said Christian: "I scarcely think now, after
my long watching, that I can begin to think of rest.--Sometimes--sometimes--"

She rose and stretched out her thin arms, like one who complains of some
painful void within, drawing them in again wearily to her breast.

"Sometimes, when I do not think of _them_, and mind that he is gone, I
could be content to bear it all again, were he but back once more. God
aid us, for we are weak. Patrick, my brother, are ye away at last? are
ye at peace? And I am ready to lament and pine, and not to thank God!
God be thanked! God be thanked! that he is away in blessedness at last."

She paced the room slowly for a while, and sitting down by the window,
drew the curtains aside, and looked out in silence upon the sea--the
placid, wakeful sea--with which so often in her misery she had taken
counsel.

"The morning after he went home," she said at last, turning to Anne
abruptly, "I saw you looking out upon the Firth, when I departed on my
needful errand. You mind the soft fall of the air, like the breath of a
young angel--a spirit in its first joy--the latest born of heaven? You
mind the joy and gentleness that were in the air?"

"Yes," said Anne.

"On such a morning--as soft, as joyous, and as bright--he came to me,
who is now in heaven at peace. There was no peace about him then. Within
his soul, and in his face, was an agony more bitter than death. You know
the reason. He had done the deed, for which, through eighteen lingering,
terrible years, Norman Rutherford has been a banished man.

"I took him in, and closed the door: he fell down upon the ground, at my
feet. From the terrible words of his first madness, I gleaned something
of the truth. Think of it--think of that.--The horror of great darkness
that fell on me that day has scarce ever been lightened for an hour,
from that time to this.

"I sent for him, for Norman, your brother, and mine. He came to me, into
the room where Patrick lay, in a burning fever of agony and madness. By
that time a breath of the terrible story was abroad. It was his gun it
was done with. He had parted from Arthur Aytoun in just anger. There
were but two ways--either to give up the frantic, fevered lad that lay
there before us, knowing neither him nor me, to a death of shame and
horror, or for him--him, in his honorable, upright, pure youth--to
sacrifice honor, and home, and name.

"He did not hesitate--the Lord bless him!--the Lord send the blessings
of the convenant upon him, promised and purchased!--he made up his mind.
And to us, as we stood there in our first agony, with Patrick stricken
down before us, there was no consolation of innocence. We knew not but
what the blood had been wilfully shed: we thought the torture he was in
was the just meed of a murderer.

"I gave him a line to Marion: she was at a friend's house, between
Edinburgh and Glasgow. She had gone, a joyous light-hearted girl, with
as fair a lot before her as ever lay at mortal feet, to get apparel for
her bridal. I bade her go with Norman. When I wrote that, I was calmer
than I am now. I, that was parting with them both--that was left here
alone with this stricken man and his blood-guiltiness.

"They went away, and he was still lying unconscious on my hands. Then I
had to hear the unjust stain thrown upon the noble and brave heart that
was bearing the burden. I had to hear it all--to listen to the
certainties of his guilt--to hear them tell how he had done it like a
coward; and with my heart burning within me, I dared not say to them
that he was pure and guiltless as ever was righteous man. I turned from
the scorching summer light, and the false accusation, in to the bedside
of my raving, maddened brother, and he was the man. Oh, Lord! oh, Lord!
how did I live?

"Then there came the word that they were lost; and a calm, like what you
will see in storms, came over the miserable heart within me. I defied my
misery: I dared it to add to me another pang.

"Then I said that Marion was dead--my bird--my light--my little sister!
When I said that, I knew not it was false; I believed she was gone out
of her new grief; I believed I was alone in the world.

"Then the secret news came to me that they were safe, and then the life
struggled through that time of horror, and Patrick rose from his bed.
One solemn still night I told him all, and in his agony he said he was
innocent. Since that time through all this life of desolation, he has
repeated that at times, when his mind was clear; but his soul was frozen
within him in terror. When I spoke of justice to Norman, he shrank and
trembled, and bade me wait. What could I do? I could not give him up as
a shedder of blood--he was in my hand. To my own heart, and to my Father
in heaven, I had to answer for him; and when I dared hope that he had
shed this blood unawares, I became strong."

She paused. She had been speaking rapidly, without stop or hesitation,
almost without breath. Anne endeavored to soothe and calm her.

"Last year, they sent me their child. He had called her Lilie. He
himself, whom our unhappy name had blighted. The child was pining under
the hot sun of yon strange land. I could not keep her in our desolate
house. I took her to Norman's country. I was to place her with his
nurse, near to his old home. When we got there, I feared to enter; I
trembled to betray the secret I was burdened with. I thought a heart
that he was dear to, could not fail to discover his bairn, and so I took
her to a stranger.

"When I left her there--you mind?--I met you, and we looked upon each
other face to face: I did not need to hear the name that the blue-eyed
girl by your side was saying. I knew you were Norman's sister--I felt
that his spirit was within you, and that we would meet again.

"Now we have met, and you know it all. The history is public now. The
ban is off Norman's name--your brother and mine. I will see them
again--my bird Marion--my bairn, that my own hands nurtured!"

"Christian," said Anne, "for her sake, and for us all, you must rest.
There are quiet days in store--tranquil days of household peace and
honor. You have done your work nobly and bravely, as few could have
done; for Marion's sake, who is my sister as well as yours, and for the
sake of the dead, for whom you have watched so long, take rest now. Your
work is over."

Christian drew the curtain aside again, and gazed out upon the sea. "For
him--for Marion--for Norman; for Thy mercy's sake, O, Lord! and for Thy
beautiful world, which Thou hast given to calm us, I will be calm--give
me now what Thou willest, and Thy rest in Thine own heaven, when Thy
good time shall come."

And so peacefully, in chastened hope and with gentle tears, refreshing
with their milder sorrow the weary eyes that had burned in tearless
agony so long, they laid the innocent shedder of blood in his quiet
grave.

On the evening after the funeral, Christian wandered out alone. "She
goeth unto the grave to weep there," said Anne, as it was said of the
Mary of the Lord's time; and she made no attempt either to detain or to
accompany her. To Christian, the balm of Anne's sisterly care and
sympathy was evidently very dear; but she was not wont to lean upon any
mortal arm, and it was best that she should be left with her sorrow
alone.

The house had the exhausted, worn-out look which is common after such a
solemn departure. Marget sat, dressed in her new mourning, in the
kitchen, in languid despondent state, telling Jacky traits of the dead
Master, whom, now that all excitement was over, she began to miss and
lament, and weep some natural tears for. Jacky was half-listening to
these, half-buried in an old volume of "Quarles' Emblems," which she had
recently brought from the study. Anne had opened the low projecting
window, and sat in the recess with one of those devout contemplative
books in her hand; she was reading little, and thinking much--feeling
herself affected by the listless weariness that reigned around her.

She saw a lad come in at the gate, without observing who he was. In a
minute after Jacky entered the study.

"If ye please, Miss Anne, it's Johnnie Halflin."

Anne started.

"Has he come from Mrs. Catherine?"

"If ye please, Miss Anne, Mrs. Catherine's at Miss Crankie's."

Anne rose immediately, and proceeded up the lane to Miss Crankie's
house. Mrs. Catherine's carriage stood at the door. Mrs. Catherine
herself was in the parlor, where Miss Crankie stood in deferential
conversation with her--keenly observant of all the particulars of her
plain, rich dress and stately appearance, and silently exulting over the
carriage at the door--the well-appointed, wealthy carriage, which all
the neighborhood could see.

"Anne!" exclaimed Mrs. Catherine, as Anne in her deep mourning dress
entered the room. "What is the matter?"

Miss Crankie sensibly withdrew.

"He is dead, Mrs. Catherine," said Anne.

"Who is dead? Who is this lad?"

"The brother of Marion--the brother of Norman's wife."

"Anne," said Mrs. Catherine, "you have not dealt ingenuously and frankly
with me in this matter. Who is this lad, I ask you? Have you a certainty
that Norman's wife was his sister, that you are thus mourning for a
fremd man?"

Anne sat down beside her.

"What I knew formerly was so dim and indistinct that I feared to tell
you. They avoided me--they went away from their own home to shun my
presence. In the confusion of my imperfect knowledge, I felt that I
could not speak of them. Now I am sure. There is a most sad story to
tell you, Mrs. Catherine--Patrick Lillie is Marion's brother--he is more
than that."

"Speak out, child. Who is he?"

"He is the man for whom Norman sacrificed all--he is the slayer of Alice
Aytoun's father."

Mrs. Catherine started--in her extreme wonder she could say nothing.

"An innocent man, Mrs. Catherine; this dreadful deed was done unawares,
and in a life of agony has it been avenged."

Mrs. Catherine remained silent for a moment.

"And he let Norman, the honorable, generous, just lad, suffer a death
for him--suffer the death of a lifetime? Anne--Anne, is it a coward like
this you are mourning for? A faint heart and a weak spirit--what could
it be other that would let a righteous man bear this for him?"

"There is justice done," said Anne, "it is over now. I acknowledge the
weakness, Mrs. Catherine; but he has suffered dreadfully. A gentle,
delicate, pensive spirit, unfit for storms and trials--altogether unfit
for doing any great thing: one to be supported and tenderly upheld--not
to take any bold step alone."

"Suffered!" Mrs. Catherine rose and walked through the room, till the
boards, less solid than those of the Tower, quaked and sounded below her
feet. "Wherefore did he not come forth in the light of day, and bear his
own burden? Good fame and honor--land and home--what was he that a just
man should lay down these for him?"

"He was a feeble, delicate, dependant spirit," said Anne: "one of those
whom it is our natural impulse to defend and suffer for. That was his
only claim; but you know how strong that is."

Mrs. Catherine did know, but she felt no sympathy for the shrinking
weakness which could suffer another to bear its own just punishment.

"I know? Yes, I know; but what claim has the like of such a weakling to
call himself a man? Eighteen years--eighteen long, slow years--all Alice
Aytoun's lifetime. Anne, I marvel you can bear with his memory, or lift
up your face to me, and speak of him as kindred. He shed this blood
unawares, said you? Did he doom Norman to this death unawares? was it
without his knowledge that he laid this blight upon the two that have
borne banishment for him? Speak not to me of this coward, child. I say,
mention not his name to me."

"Mrs. Catherine," said Anne, "bear with me till you hear his story. If
you had seen him as I have seen--if you had listened to Christian as I
have listened, you too would mourn over this blighted, broken man, less
in his death than in his life. When Norman fled, he was in an agony of
fever and madness, unconscious of what was passing round him--only aware
in his burning horror and grief that he had shed blood. When he
recovered--and most strange it was that he should have recovered--most
strange the tenacious life and strength of his feebleness--he heard of
Norman's sacrifice; and then I acknowledge he ought to have done
justice, had not his weakness overpowered him. He dared not face the
terror and the shame; perhaps the dreadful death due to his
blood-guiltiness, and so he lived on--such a life as few have ever lived
in this world--a life of despair, and gloom, and misery: terrible to
hear of--more terrible to see."

Mrs. Catherine seated herself again.

"And the sister and the righteous man, his friend, bearing a dark name
for him over the sea; and the sad woman at home, that you have told me
of, wearing out her days for him. Was his miserable life worth that,
think you? Should that not have been worse than any death?"

"Should have been," said Anne; "but I do not speak of what should be,
Mrs. Catherine. Why this shrinking, feeble spirit was conjoined with
such a lot, who can tell? It had a strange, feverish, hysteric strength,
too. When he battled through yon dark waves to save the perishing
seamen, you would not have said that Patrick Lillie was a coward."

There was a pause. Mrs. Catherine's manner softened. Anne took
advantage of it to repeat to her Christian Lillie's story. The stern,
stately old lady was moved to very tears.

"And so at last justice is done," she said. "Anne, it is meet that this
worn woman, after her travail, should have light in her evening-time. If
she will come with you, bid her come to my house. The like of her would
do honor to any dwelling, were it a king's. And she left him at his
grave's brink, whenever he was at rest, to render what was just to the
banished man? She did well. It behoves that all who known this history
should render reverence. I say she did well."

There was again a momentary pause.

"And where is he?" asked Mrs. Catherine. "Where, and in what condition
is Norman Rutherford?"

"I have never asked yet," said Anne. "I was anxious to soothe her; she
has been so worn out with watching and grief. I will ask her now, when
all excitement is over, and she has only to bear her gentle sorrow for
Patrick's death."

"Ay--ay," said Mrs. Catherine, slowly; "ay--and yet you do not know,
Gowan, the terrible, dreary calm that is left by that shadow of death. I
speak of the death that carries home a godly, honorable, righteous man,
whose life was a joy and a blessing.--This is a grief sorer than mine. I
bow my head to this tribulation. I cannot fathom all the depths of its
bitterness; it is greater than mine."

And with her large gray eyelid swelling full, Mrs. Catherine Douglas
bowed her stately head. Yes! the solitary, desolate, dumb might of
anguish with which her strong spirit quivered, when she left all that
remained of Sholto Douglas sleeping peacefully in his calm island grave,
overwhelming as it was, became a gentle sorrow in presence of the life
of wakeful agony which Christian Lillie had borne silently within the
desolate walls of Schole.

Mrs. Catherine began to speak of the possibility of remaining for the
night. It was a very strange idea for her, who had not slept under a
strange roof for more than thirty years. Since Patrick's death, Anne had
passed both night and day at Schole, and the pretty little clean
bed-room behind was unoccupied. Miss Crankie herself was called in to be
consulted on the subject.

Miss Crankie had scarcely entered the room, when there was a rush in the
passage. The door flew violently open, and Mrs. Yammer, her head bound
up with mighty rolls of flannel, and a newspaper trembling in her eager
hand, stood before them.

"Eh, Johann!--Eh, Miss Ross!" she could articulate no more.

"What in the world has come ower the woman now?" exclaimed Miss Crankie,
peevishly. "If ye will be a puling, no-weel fuil, ye may keep your
ailments to yoursel at least. For guid sake, Tammie, haud your tongue;
dinna deave the ladies."

"Eh, Miss Ross!--Eh, Johann!" exclaimed the aroused and excited Mrs.
Yammer, "if it wasna for the stitch in my side, I wad read it to ye
mysel. Look at this."

Anne took the paper wonderingly. She glanced down a long paragraph,
headed "Romance in real life," with hurried half attention, and little
interest. Her eyes were arrested by the concluding words: they seemed to
shine out from a mist. Unconsciously, in her sudden excitement, she read
them aloud: "This most honorable vindication of Norman Rutherford, of
Redheugh--"

"Gowan," exclaimed Mrs. Catherine, hastily, taking the paper from her
powerless hand, "what is that you say?"

"Ye see," said Mrs. Yammer, following up briskly her unwonted
independent movement, "we get it atween us. Mr. Currie, the saddler, and
Mrs. Clippie, the captain's widow, and Robert Carritch, the
session-clerk, and Johann and me; and I was just sitting ower the fire,
trying if the heat would do ony guid to my puir head, when I saw that
about young Redheugh--and I'll be out o' my wits the morn wi the draft
frae that open door."

"Gae way to your fireside again, and haud your tongue," said Miss
Crankie, bundling her sister unceremoniously out of the door before her.
"Wits!--woman, if ye had as muckle judgment as wad lie on a sixpence, ye
wad see that the ladies have mair concern in that than either you or
me."

Anne had been looking at them vacantly with a vague, unconscious smile
upon her lip. Now, when the door was shut, she suddenly knelt down at
Mrs. Catherine's knees, scarce knowing what she did, and leaning there,
burst into tears. She was conscious of Mrs. Catherine's hand laid
caressingly upon her hair; she was conscious of an indistinct mist of
joy and thankfulness. It overpowered and weakened her; she could not
stay these tears.

In the meantime, Mrs. Catherine read:

     "We have just had communicated to us the particulars of a very
     moving story, another of the many examples that truth is strange,
     stranger than fiction. We believe that many of our readers, who are
     acquainted with the neighborhood of our city, may have remarked a
     desolate house, standing in the midst of a very rich country,
     within sight of the Firth, and presenting a very singular contrast,
     in its utter neglect and ruin, to the prosperous and flourishing
     appearance of everything about it. The story current in the
     neighborhood is, that its last proprietor perished miserably in the
     sea, while flying from the doom of a murderer, with the blood of a
     friend shed deliberately and in cowardice on his hand. Other more
     ghostly rumors of sights seen and sounds heard in its immediate
     neighborhood are of course current also.--The account we have now
     to give of this dark transaction reveals something almost as
     strange as the re-appearance on this earthly scene of spirits long
     ago departed. It seems the very triumph and perfection of generous
     self-sacrifice and 'godlike amity,' and as such we are happy to
     have an opportunity of presenting it to our readers.

     "A few days since, the Lord Advocate received from a lady a full
     exculpation of Mr. Rutherford, of Redheugh, in the shape of a
     confession made by the real criminal upon his death-bed. We do
     wrong in applying the name of criminal to this unhappy
     man.--According to his death-bed declaration, made in the presence
     of witnesses, and to which full credence may be given, the death of
     the late Arthur Aytoun, Esq., of Aytoun, so long regarded as a
     murder, falls under the lighter title of an accident. A dreamy
     student had been spending an hour of a brilliant summer morning
     shooting upon the sands, and on his return home fired an
     inadvertent shot, while resting in a wood, when, instead of the
     bird which he fancied he aimed at, the unhappy young man heard a
     cry of mortal agony, and beheld the death of a fellow-man.
     Distracted and maddened, he rushed home; made some wild confession
     to his sister of the fact alone, without telling her that it was
     accidental, and immediately fell into the wild delirium of fever.
     Mr. Rutherford, of Redheugh, was the most intimate friend of the
     family, and betrothed to the younger sister. The fowling-piece,
     which had fallen from the young man's hand when he discovered the
     fatal effects of the shot, belonged to Mr. Rutherford. Mr. Aytoun
     and Mr. Rutherford had parted the night before in anger: every
     circumstance directed suspicion to the Laird of Redheugh. In her
     first terror, the sister of the unhappy shedder of blood, naturally
     sought counsel from the friend who was so shortly to enter into the
     most intimate relation with the family; and Mr. Rutherford, with a
     generosity never in our knowledge paralleled, resolved at once to
     divert attention from his helpless friend by his own flight. The
     younger sister accompanied him, after a secret marriage. By
     universal consent he was pronounced guilty: the fact of his flight
     settled that beyond dispute in the judgment of the world.

     "The vessel he sailed in was lost; himself in it, as has to this
     hour been universally believed. But the strange eventful history of
     this unfortunate gentleman has not had so abrupt a termination. He
     still lives, and will long live, we trust, to expend in a larger
     circle the rare generosity of which he has given so remarkable a
     proof.

     "The unhappy man, by whose inadvertent hand Mr. Aytoun fell, and
     for whom Mr. Rutherford has suffered, is lately dead.--Without a
     moment's delay, after his death, his sister immediately brought his
     confession to the proper quarter, so that now there remains nothing
     but to give to the world this most honorable vindication of Norman
     Rutherford, of Redheugh. In the consciousness of an act of singular
     goodness, bravely done, and in the universal applause of all good
     men, our heroic countryman, on his return to his own land, will, we
     doubt not, find himself abundantly rewarded."

     And thus it was made known to the world--the work of the two
     sisters was accomplished. Free from all stain and disgrace, radiant
     in the honor and blessing of generous work and life, the sentence
     of justice, and the universal voice of good men, should welcome to
     his long-lost home and country Norman Rutherford, of Redheugh.



CHAPTER XXIX.


The next day, after a long interview with Christian Lillie, and granting
the further delay of a week to Anne for Christian's sake, Mrs. Catherine
returned to Edinburgh. At the week's end, when she had rendered what
service and assistance she could to Christian, Anne was to join Mrs.
Catherine, and they were to proceed home.

But the invitation of Mrs. Catherine, and Anne's entreaty that she
should accompany them, was steadily and quietly negatived by Christian.
The day before Anne left Schole, they sat together in the study--Anne
was renewing her solicitations.

"No," said Christian, calmly, "no, I cannot leave his grave. I cannot
give up my watch of Patrick. You do not know--I pray God you never
may--when folk have watched and waited for a lifelong like me, how hard
it is to break the old wont, even though it be one of the sorest pain
that ever oppressed mortal spirit. I am calm now--you know how calm I
am--but I must tarry by his grave."

"And will you stay here," said Anne, "here in this desolate house?"

"At this time I must--my desire is to return to our old home, before
Marion comes back to me--I forget she has been a mother long, and a
grave tried woman. I only mind her as my bird Marion, my little sister;
I would like to have her chamber for her, as it was before this cloud
fell. You shall go with me to-morrow, and we will see what they say--the
people who are in the house."

"And where are they?" said Anne, "will you not tell me, Christian, where
they are?"

Christian's countenance changed: "They will be home in due time. Your
brother Norman will reveal himself to you himself, and you will not ask
me further. It is a weakness--a remembrance of my old bondage--but you
will wait, Anne, my sister.--Let him carry you his own secret himself."

Anne was silent. It was a singular hesitation this, but she could not
press her question further. "And will you not come to Merkland--to see
us--to see Lilie?"

"I will come when Marion comes," said Christian. "Let me stay until
then. By the time this year is ended, as I calculate, they will be home,
and till that time I will rest."

Anne rose, a stranger was at the gate: through the window she descried
the good-humored round face of Mrs. Brock, her earliest acquaintance in
Aberford. "Here is your tenant, Christian," she said: "shall I see her?
it may fatigue you."

"No," said Christian, "let her be brought in, Anne; it will save us our
walk to-morrow."

Anne went out, and met the Grieve's wife, who was greatly astonished to
see her. "Eh, preserve me! is this you, Miss Ross? and ye never came
back to tak a cup o' tea; and I've been looking for ye ilka fine day;
and sae muckle as wee Geordie had to tell his father about the leddy yon
night; and ye'll hae been biding close a' this time at Aberford?"

"No," said Anne, "I have been in the North since I saw you."

"And sae ye ken Miss Lillie? She'll be sair put out o' the way, it's
like, about her brother. Losh! do ye ken Miss Ross, our George says
there's something in the papers about it being Maister Lillie that
killed the man, and no young Redheugh. Is there onythiug in't, think ye?
ane couldna ask Miss Lillie."

"By no means," said Anne, "she is in great grief for her brother, and
you must not allude to it."

"It'll be true then? Eh! to think of a delicate looking man like thon
doing the like o' that."

"It was an accident," said Anne, quickly; "he was a gentleman, who would
not have harmed any living thing. Do you wish to see Miss Lillie?"

"Ou, ay, it was just about the house, ye ken. George thought we micht
maybe come to a settlement about the house. Ye see there's a new yin
building at the back end o' the toun, nigher the water--a guid twa story
house, and we've a big family, and George would like to be off or on at
yince."

Anne ushered the visitor into the study. Mrs. Brock, honest woman,
expended upon Christian some piece of common-place consolation, which
made the pale lip quiver. Then she entered upon her business.

"Ye see, we've reason to be thankfu', we've won on no that ill in the
world; and George says its a daftlike thing to us to be paying rent for
a house, and us has lying siller that could buy mair than yin. Sae if
ye're agreeable, he'll make ye his auld offer ower again--twa hunder
pounds, and us to get it as it stands, all and haill."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Brock," said Christian, "when you like it so well,
that I cannot part with it; but I must keep the house in my own
possession."

"Weel," said Mrs. Brock, "of course it's your ain to do what ye like
wi't--and ye see there's John Tamson, he began to build a twa story
house, down by the back end o' the toun--and he's broke. Its nae
wonder--his wife wearing silk gowns, and gowd earrings ilka day, less
wadna ser her, and her was only a ewemilker fræ the Lammermuir! Sae
George thinks we micht maybe buy John Tamson's house--its stickit in the
building e'enow, but we could sune hae it begun again; and maybe since
ye'll no sell yours, ye wad hae nae objection to quit us at Martinmas."

"I shall be very glad," said Christian. "I expect friends home who have
been long absent, and this house is not pleasant to me. I will be glad
to release you when you choose."

Mrs. Brock was satisfied; and after various other attempts at
conversation, in which Anne bore the brunt as well as she could, and did
all in her power to prevent their visitor from recurring to the death of
Patrick, Mrs. Brock at last intimated, "that she bid to be thinking o'
gaun hame--though it was an awfu' hot stourie day, and she was bye
ordinary tired."

Roused by this hint, Anne hastened to bring a glass of wine, and at last
their visitor departed.

"So there will be time to restore all," said Christian, as Mrs. Brock
left the house. "It is well, I will have a pleasure in it. It is the
first time I have said that word since yon June day! Do I look like a
woman dead? Is there something in my voice, and face, that speaks of
death?"

"Christian," said Anne in alarm, "why do you ask that?"

"Because I feel it, Anne--a dead unnatural calm, like the stillness of
the Firth before yon storm--not peace but death; I feel it in myself.
When I go about, I think I can hear no sound of my footsteps; when I
breathe, I think the air seems to cleave before me; when I speak, the
voice has a dull, cold modulation, that is not human. I can think of
them all--of Patrick in his agony--of myself so short a time ago, as
feverish shadows--I feel this calm oppress and envelop me like a
shroud--I feel like one dead."

"This should not be, Christian," said Anne, "it is but the reaction of
stillness after all your labor and watching. How much have you to live
for!"

"I have no further work," said Christian Lillie, in her old composure of
melancholy, "no further watching--no one now to care and labor for. You
do not know my life; when I was a girl, in the days when others are gay
and light of heart, beloved, and served, and cared for, I was fighting
with a household shame and sin--a miserable, sensual, earthly sin, in
the one man to whom I should have looked up for support and guidance:
striving to hide it--to keep it from the knowledge of the bairns--the
two that were depending more upon me, their sister, than upon him their
father; striving, too, with weary cares of poverty, to keep them from
want--real want and not mere meagreness. From that a death relieved
me--and then, with only eighteen years over my head, I was left the
mother of these two; to protect, and defend, and bring them up, the only
near kindred they had in the world. Since then my hands have been
full--there has been no lack of vigils or labors in this past life of
mine. Now it is over; I have carried Patrick safely to his grave, and
seen him laid down there in sorrow and in hope; and now Marion will come
again to a bright household in joy and honor. Do you marvel that I think
my work over?--the need of me in this world past."

"I do not marvel," said Anne, "but I wish that it should be otherwise,
Christian. I would not have your sky overcast with this dull calm; I
would have it free to receive God's sunshine; the light he sends upon
it, in the evening time."

"God forbid," said Christian Lillie rising, and pressing her hands
painfully to her breast, "God forbid that I should hide my head, from
His mercy of joy; God forbid that I should shut my eyes to His sunshine,
or sin His mercies; only I am blinded with this cold calm, and my heart
is dead within me. When I am in my own house, bring the child to
me--Marion's bairn, that he called by our unhappy name; and come
yourself, my sister Anne, that I may begin to live again. Till then, in
my own fashion let me rest."

And so they arranged. At the term of Martinmas, or sooner, if John
Tamson's house, the newly-acquired property of George Brock, should be
sooner completed--whenever Christian had regained possession of the old
home cottage, Anne was to visit her with Lilie. At present, all was done
for her that affectionate care could do, and on the next day Anne left
Aberford.

When in the evening she entered Mrs. Catherine's Edinburgh drawing-room,
in its stately pride of olden furniture, gracefully not stiffly antique,
she found James Aytoun and his mother waiting to meet her. Mrs. Aytoun
gave her a tremulous welcome, which was half an embrace, and would have
been wholly one, had Mrs. Aytoun been at all a demonstrative person.
James shook hands with her with respectful kindness and friendship. The
good opinion of such a mother and son was worth having. Anne felt
enlivened and exhilarated.

"Alice has gone out," said Mrs. Aytoun: "she will be with us very soon
again. They were to watch for your coming, but I fear these young people
become engrossed in their own matters sometimes."

"They?" said Anne.

"Ay, she has a gallant with her you have seen before," said Mrs.
Catherine, "be patient--you will find out who he is before long."

"Is it Lewis?--is Lewis here?" asked Anne.

"Mrs. Catherine wishes to take Alice from us again," said Mrs. Aytoun.
"I am afraid, Miss Ross, I can hardly thank you for the barrier you have
removed. Alice is so young--little more than a child yet."

James Aytoun took up a book, and went away smilingly to a window. He saw
that a consultation matrimonial and maternal was impending.

"I do think she is too young. I do not approve of too early marriages,"
said Mrs. Aytoun, shaking her head. "Why, many girls are but leaving
school at Alice's age--she is not quite eighteen yet."

"She is in no peril," said Mrs. Catherine. "It's my hope, kinswoman,
that you do not think you are sending her into a savage country, where
there will be but barbarous people to show kindness to the bairn. There
is no fear of her--I warrant her in as careful hands, when she is in
Lewis's, as she could be under the shadow of my very sel; I would not
just have advised you to wed her--a bairn as she undoubtedly is--to the
like of Archie Sutherland; but she is in no peril with Lewis."

The slightest possible additional color wavered over Anne's face. She
did by no means perceive any connexion, logical or otherwise, between
the marriage of little Alice Aytoun and Archie Sutherland.

"I am not afraid for her," said Mrs. Aytoun: "it is not peril that I
mean; but so young a girl entering upon the care of a house--the
management of a family--besides the pain of losing her. If it had not
been for your mother's presence, and your own, Miss Ross, I should never
have consented--at her age."

Mrs. Aytoun expressed something of what she felt, but not all. She did
not like the idea of Alice entering another family, not as its mistress,
but as a younger daughter. She felt sure of Anne; but Alice was by no
means so exuberant in her praise of Mrs. Ross.

"I do not know what arrangement my mother may make," said Anne, "but, of
course, whether we remain in Merkland or not, it must make a very great,
and a very pleasant change to us."

Mrs. Aytoun smiled a dubious smile--she was not reconciled to it. In any
way, parting with the girl-daughter was a great venture, but to send her
into the rule of a husband's mother, while even the husband himself was
comparatively unknown! Mrs. Aytoun was jealous and afraid for her little
clinging Alice, whose life hitherto had been so carefully guarded.

"And so you are demurring to the lad's petition?" said Mrs. Catherine.
"Well, I do not marvel; but a month or two can make little odds, and you
bid to have parted with her soon or syne."

"Certainly, that is a consolation," said Mrs. Aytoun, with her faint
smile. "It is selfish of me, I am afraid, to be so loath to think of
parting with Alice; and part I must one time or other, that is true, but
still--a little longer, I think, she may be left to me. Your brother has
been pressing an early time upon us, Miss Ross. I do not object that he
should wish it--but you must do us the kindness to help me in deferring
this a little."

"I believe," said Anne, "that my brother Norman may be home--that we may
expect him at the end of the year. I should like exceedingly that he
could be present--that it were deferred until that time."

Mrs. Aytoun pressed her hand gratefully--Alice, radiant with smiles and
blushes, looked in at the door. "Oh! Anne is here--she has come," she
exclaimed as she ran to Anne's side--Lewis was behind her.

"So my mother has been bringing you over to our side," said James
Aytoun, when the evening was considerably advanced, as he took a seat
near Anne. "Mrs. Catherine is wavering. I fear to find her throw her
mighty forces into alliance with the active, serviceable, energetic
troops whom Lewis himself brings into the field. We are by no means
pleased to have our little Alice carried off from us so rapidly. I begin
to fear Mrs. Catherine is anything but a safe guardian for young ladies;
I certainly shall not advise any client of mine to send favorite
daughters or sisters to the Tower, if he wants to keep them out of
harm's way."

"What is that you say?" said Mrs. Catherine, "do you make light of my
good name, James Aytoun? and do you, Anne, sit still and hear? you are
an irreverent generation! Never you heed, Alison. It is because you are
overlooking the rule of Laban, the son of Bethuel, and cheating him of
his elder right."

"If you will come to Merkland, James," said Lewis, "I will say a good
word for you to Marjory Falconer. By the bye, I forgot my great
news--have you heard about Marjory, Anne?"

"What about her?"

"In the first place, she has made a silent recantation--if one may guess
from appearances. A hint of Walter Foreman's the other day, about the
rights of women, instead of setting her off at a tangent, as such a
thing used to do, threw her into an agony of blushing, and made her
dumb. That is great enough for one report; but I have another. Marjory
Falconer--listen to me all who know Strathoran--Marjory Falconer is
about to be married!"

"To be married!" echoed little Alice, with a look of laughing wonder and
dismay. These two, Lewis and his betrothed, had not got the slightest
glimpse of Marjory Falconer yet, well though they fancied they knew her;
Anne looked slightly puzzled, and a little anxious: Mrs. Catherine
smiled.

"Who is it? who is it?" cried little Alice.

"Anne can guess," said Lewis: "I see his name upon her lips. It seems my
news is no such wonder, after all."

"Who is she going to marry, Lewis?" asked Anne, hastily, "it is rather a
wish than a guess with me. Marjory does not give confidences of that
kind--is it Mr. Lumsden?"

"May all your wishes, sister Anne," said Lewis, with mock gravity, "be
as fully realized. It is the mighty minister of Portoran. Ralph, they
say, rebelled, and had a swearing fit when he heard of it, which Marjory
promptly checked, however, and sent him down stairs to the congenial
society of his horses and grooms. It will be a serious matter for Ralph
though, for Marjory, with all her whims, kept things going at Falcon's
Craig."

"I am very glad to hear it," said Anne. "It is one of the few marriages
that have no drawback; one can feel that Marjory, with her strength and
good sense, is safe now, in a pure healthful atmosphere, where she will
grow and flourish. I am very glad."

Lewis and Alice exchanged glances and laughed.

"Lewis," said Mrs. Catherine, "hold your peace. It becomes the like of
you--gallants that have a while to grow before they reach their full
stature--to take heed that you meddle only with things within your power
of vision. Ay! you are lowering your bit forehead on me, Alison Aytoun;
but truly, after all, there are wiser men in this world, to my own
certain knowledge, than this gallant that calls himself of Merkland."

"But Miss Falconer figures very largely in Alice's reminiscences," said
James, smiling. "To whom shall I apply for an account of her? to you,
Mrs. Catherine, or to Lewis."

"I bid you come yourself and see, James Aytoun," said Mrs. Catherine.
"As for Lewis, he does not know, and therefore it is not likely he can
tell; but truly, I think you would be better employed telling my Anne,
whom you have set yourself beside, the issue of the plea, that Robert
Ferguson and you have been working at so long."

James obeyed: with signal disgrace and utter discomfiture, Lord
Gillravidge's defence had been overpowered. The road through the
Strathoran grounds, by the omnipotent voice of the Court of Session, was
proclaimed free as the sunshine to all and sundry, its natural
proprietors and heirs. Henceforward the pulling down of barricades was a
legal and proper enforcement of the law, and the erection of the same
entirely useless, for any other purpose than that of keeping the
well-disposed lads of Strathoran in glee and mischief. Mrs. Catherine
was victorious, and triumphed moderately in her victory.

"If it were not that I hope in my lifetime to see Archie Sutherland back
to his own lands, I would hazard a trial with that English alien, of his
title to take their old inheritance from the clansmen whose right it is.
You shake your head, James Aytoun--I will uphold it in the face of a
whole synod as learned in the law as yourself, that the clansman has the
same natural right of possession as his chief; that it comes to him by
the same inheritance; that in no way is the laird more certain in his
tenure than the humble man, except in so far as he is chief of both land
and men, natural protector, ruler and guardian of the same. You forget
the ancient right and justice in this drifting unsettled generation. If
it were not that you pleaders of the law, have a necessity of spinning
out the line of a plea, past the extremity of mortal life, and I hope to
see Archie home within the course of mine, I would see that this was
tried without delay, let the whole parliament-house of you shake the
heads of your wisdom if ye likit."

"I am afraid," said James, "we might get the theoretic justice of it
approved--but as for any practical result to follow--"

"You do not know," interrupted Mrs. Catherine: "so far as I have seen in
my life, a thing does not commonly succeed till it's tried; ay, tried
with labor, and zeal, and longwaiting; and it's a poor work that is not
worth that. I know not but what for the sake of the coming race, there
is a clear call to try it. If the first bit petty tyrant that took their
right inheritance from clansmen, whose fathers won it by the strong
hand, had been resisted in his ill doing, this pang English lordling
would not have dared to turn the Macalpines out of Oranmore."

"But we dont all hold our lands by the strong hand," said Lewis Ross.

"Lewis, you are a loon; how often have I told you to hold your peace;
and what better tenure could the man have for his lands, I would crave
to know, than just the tenure of the strong hand? Your fathers knew
better, and what they won by their sword and by their bow, was well won
I say! won by clansmen and chief together, and by clansmen and chief, in
their degree, to be lawfully and justly held--in peace, if the Almighty
ordained it so, and if not, in honorable holding of the land they had
won, against all aliens and incomers; whether they came by open war, or
with courtesies of craft and falsehood, as men do in this time!"

In a few days after, Mrs. Catherine and her train, including Alice
Aytoun and her maid Bessie, left Edinburgh for the Tower. In
consideration of the six months' delay to which Lewis had reluctantly
submitted, Mrs. Aytoun as reluctantly consented that her little daughter
should pay a brief visit to Mrs. Catherine--a visit which was by no
means to exceed the limits of a month.

Jacky and Bessie, under the safe-conduct of Johnnie Halflin, were to
travel by the coach. When the youthful trio reached the starting-place
in high glee, an early coach had just arrived from one of the many
village-towns in the vicinity of Edinburgh. Jacky's quick eye discerned,
among the little knot of bystanders, a tall lad of some nineteen or
twenty years, engaged in superintending the collection of boxes
belonging to an elderly woman, who stood with a slightly fluttered,
agitated look upon the pavement below. The large Paisley shawl, the
mighty leghorn bonnet--Jacky threw over them a glance of hasty
recognition. Their owner turned her head. The thin, long upper lip was
not quivering now--a glance of troubled joy was in the eye--Jacky
hastily ran to speak to her. It was Jean Miller. Bessie drew near also.
In Johnnie Halflin's presence, Bessie would have had no objection to a
slight flirtation with the young doctor, Jean Miller's genteel nephew.
The tall, slight lad drew himself up, however, with the slightest
possible recognition. He had a soul above flirtation with maid-servants.

"Andrew's maister, I'm meaning the doctor he's serving his time wi', has
ta'en in a daft gentleman to board wi' him," said Jean Miller, aside to
the sympathetic Jacky, "and so there wasna room for the callant, and it
was needful he should get up-putting in a strange house. Sae it chanced,
when I was in seeing him, that I saw some mair neighbors o' his,
collegianers, and ae young doctor, that was unco chief wi' him; and it
appears Andrew--he's a kindly callant, and has been a' his days--had
been telling them o' his auntie, and how I was anxious about him in the
strange place, where he had nae mother's e'e ower him, nor onybody to
keep him right. Sae what did they do--the young doctor and the auldest
o' the students, but they said, that if Andrew would get his auntie to
come in and take a house, they would a' bide wi' me, and that they would
be mair comfortable a'thegither, and could help ane anither in their
learning. Sae ye may think Andrew was blythe to come out to tell me,
and seeing I'm wearing into years, and a'body likes to have a house o'
their ain, and in especial for the laddie's sake, that he may be wiled
to care mair for hame, than for the vanities that have ruined lads of
promise by the hunder before him, as I ken ower weel, I didna swither;
and the house is ta'en, and the plenishing's bought, and I'm gaun hame
the day. It's a great change to me, but--Andrew, my man, yon blue box is
mine too--it'll be a great ease to my mind to hae my laddie aye in my
ain e'e; and I hope the Lord will send a blessing on't. It's a' for the
lad's guid I'm anxious. Guid kens, I would have little thought o' mysel
that am withered, and auld, and past my strength, if it werena for him."

The journey was accomplished in safety. Little Alice was established
again at the rounded window of that pretty bower of hers, looking over,
through the golden air, to the quiet house of Merkland, with no phantom
of grief or pain or sorrow, throwing its shadow now between; but
everything around and before, throwing out that sunny light of hope and
promise, beautiful to see.

The day after their arrival, Anne set out to visit Esther Fleming. Lewis
had not thought of any anxiety of Esther's; unfortunately, very much as
his intercourse with the Aytouns had improved him Lewis was still by no
means given to any great consideration of other people's anxieties, and
therefore he had suffered the paper which Anne sent specially for her,
containing the first public notice of Norman's innocence, to lie useless
in his library without the least remembrance of Esther. He had not the
same bond to her as Anne had, it is true, for Esther had never bestowed
any great share of her patronage upon "the strange woman's bairn."

A little way from the gate of Merkland, Anne met Marjory Falconer.
Marjory had the slightest possible air of timidity hanging upon her,
with a singular grace. She was a little afraid of Anne's reception of
her intended marriage--whether she already knew--and if she would
lecture, or rally her.

"Come with me to the Tower first," said Marjory, drawing Anne's arm
within her own. "I want to see little Alice Aytoun--and I have a great
deal to say to you."

"I am glad you have the grace to acknowledge that," said Anne, smiling;
"but I do think, Marjory, that some of it should have been said sooner."

"Anne!" exclaimed Marjory Falconer, with one of her violent blushes,
"you would not have had _me_ speak to _you_, the way young ladies speak
in novels."

"Many young ladies in novels speak very sensibly, Marjory," said Anne.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Very well--never mind, that is all over now. Tell me of your own
matters, Anne--you have not returned to Merkland as you went away; there
is to be no more brooding, no more unhappiness?"

Anne told her story briefly, as they went up Oranside. Marjory was much
affected. To her strong, joyous spirit, in its vigorous contendings with
mere external evil, and now in the prospective strength and honor of its
new, grave, happy household life, the mention of these agonies came with
strange power. Nothing like them, as the fair promise of her future
went, should ever enter the healthful precincts of the Manse of
Portoran, yet her heart swelled within her in deep sympathy as the
hearts of those swell who feel that they themselves also could bear like
perils and miseries--the true fraternity.

In the inner drawing-room they found little Alice alone, and there
ensued some gayer _badinage_, which Marjory bore with wonderful patience
and a considerable amount of blushing laughter, inevitable in the
circumstances. "The only thing is," said Marjory, with a look of comical
distress, "what I shall do with Ralph--I wish somebody would marry
him--I do wish some one would do me the special favor of marrying
Ralph!"

Little Alice Aytoun looked up in wonder. It was Alice's wont to be
greatly puzzled with those speeches of Marjory's, and quite at a loss to
know how much was joke, and how much earnest.

"Yes, indeed," said Marjory, laying her hand on Alice's shoulder. "I
think it would have been a very much more sensible thing for you, little
Alice Aytoun, to have fallen in love with my poor brother Ralph, who
needs somebody to take care of him, than with that rational, prudent
Lewis of Anne's who can take such very good care of himself."

Alice drew herself up, and was half inclined to be angry; but glancing
up to Marjory's face, ended in laughing, blushing and wondering.

"And yet that must have been very unsatisfactory too," said Marjory,
smoothing Alice's fair hair as she would have done a child's, "for then,
I had been certainly _thirled_ to Falcon's Craig to take care of you
both--to see that Ralph was not too rough with you, and that you were
too gentle with him. No, we must have some one who can hold the reins.
Altogether you have chosen better for yourself, little Alice--Lewis will
take care of you. But who shall I get to manage Ralph?"

"Perhaps Anne will," suggested Alice wickedly.

Anne was full three-and-twenty, and she was not even engaged! Little
Alice, with a touch of girlish generosity, felt the superiority of her
own position almost painful.

"Hush, little girl," said the prompt Marjory. "Anne is not a
horsewoman; besides I won't endanger a friend's interest, even for the
sake of getting Ralph off my hands. Anne is--"

"Oh! is Anne engaged?--is Anne engaged?" cried little Alice, clapping
her hands. Alice had been a good deal troubled by this same want of an
engagement for Anne, and had even been secretly cogitating, in her own
mind, whether it might not be possible to direct the attention of her
grave brother James to the manifold good qualities of Lewis's sister.

"Now, pray, do you two brides leave me undisturbed in my humble
quietness," said Anne, good-humoredly. "Why there is Jeanie Coulter to
be married next week--and then yourselves--if I do not hold my ground,
there will not be a single representative left of the young womanhood of
Strathoran and that is a calamity to be avoided by all means. I must
really go to Esther Fleming's now. Do you go with me, Marjory?"

Marjory assented, and they left the Tower; instead of going directly to
Esther Fleming's house, Anne went round by the mill. On reaching Mrs.
Melder's, they found that good woman standing, with a puzzled look,
before her table, on which lay a parcel, which Anne had sent with Jacky,
of mourning for the child. Lilie herself stood by, regarding the little
black frock, in which she was dressed, with a look of childish gravity.
The mourning chilled the little heart, though after being convinced that
nothing ailed papa, mamma, or Lawrie, Lilie, in Anne's bed-chamber, the
previous night, had heard of her uncle's death, with only that still awe
natural to the blythe little spirit, "feeling its life in every vein."
She did not know the strange uncle Patrick, who was dead. It only
subdued the gay voice a very little, and sent some sad speculations into
the childish head--a place where grave speculations are rife enough
sometimes, whether we of the elder generation discern them or no.

When Anne and Marjory approached the door, the child ran to meet them.
"Oh, aunt Anne--my aunt Anne!"

Marjory Falconer looked puzzled--she had not heard this part of Anne's
story.

"This is my niece," said Anne, with a slight tremor. "This is Lilias
Rutherford, my brother Norman's child."

"Anne!" exclaimed Marjory, in amazement, "what do you mean?" Mrs. Melder
pressed forward no less astonished.

"This little stranger," said Anne, holding the child's hand, "is the
daughter of my brother Norman, of whom you have heard so much,
Marjory--my niece, Lilias Rutherford."

Marjory Falconer, in the extremity of her astonishment, snatched up
Lilie in her arms, and ran out with her into the open sunlight, as if to
satisfy herself that Anne's new-found niece was indeed the little
Spanish Lilie, whose strange coming to the mill had been so great a
wonder to the countryside.

"Ye're no meaning you, Miss Anne?" exclaimed Mrs. Melder, anxiously,
"it's only a joke wi' Miss Falconer--ye're no meaning it?"

"Indeed I am," said Anne, "Lilie is truly my niece, Mrs. Melder; the
daughter of a brother who has been long lost to us, but whom we have now
found again."

"Eh!" cried Mrs. Melder, "that'll be the auld leddy's son that was said
to have killed anither man--and ye wad aye ken it, Miss Anne? Keep me!
To think of me telling ye about the leddy, and you kenning a' the time
wha the bairn was."

"No, you do me injustice," said Anne, eagerly. "At that time I had not
the slightest idea who Lilie was, and it is only a week or two since I
was certain."

Mrs. Melder did not look perfectly contented. "Weel, nae doubt it's my
pairt to be thankfu' that the bairn has friends o' her ain, that can be
better for her than me--and it's like ye'll do taking her to Merkland,
Miss Anne?" Mrs. Melder lifted the corner of her apron to her eye, and
tried to look offended and indifferent.

"I want to take her down with me to-day," said Anne, "and we can arrange
about that afterwards. Lilie, come here, I want you to go with me to
Merkland."

Mrs. Melder took Lilie's little bonnet, and drew the child to her knee
to put it on. "And they're gaun to take ye away frae me, my lamb! but
ye'll aye mind us, Lilie? and when ye're a grand laddy, ye'll no forget
the wee house at the mill, that ye lived in when ye were a bairn?" Mrs.
Melder's eyes were over-flowing.

"Dinna greet," whispered Lilie, clinging to her kind nurse, "if my aunt
Anne takes me to stay at Merkland, I'll come down every day--me and
Jacky--and when mamma comes, she'll come and see you. Eh!" cried Lilie,
forgetting her sympathy with Mrs. Melder in her remembrance of one
dearer than she; "you never saw a lady so bonnie as my mamma!"

"Ay, but, Lilie," said the good woman, applying the apron to her eyes
again, "ye dinna think how we'll miss ye here. There'll aye be the wee
bed empty at nicht, and aye the wee facie away in the morning. Oh!
Lilie, my lamb!"

"But I'll come down every day," said Lilie, in consolation; "and when
mamma comes, I'll bring her to see you, and papa, and Lawrie; and Jacky
will bring me every day, and when I'm a big lady, I'll come my lane."

They went down Oranside together, Lilie holding a hand of Anne and
Marjory, and skipping gaily between them. Marjory Falconer spoke little:
she had not yet overcome her surprise.

Esther Fleming sat by the door of her cottage, knitting a stocking, and
enjoying the sunshine. Her young niece was going lightly about within,
"redding up" the lightsome clean apartment. The old woman looked very
cheerful, neat and comfortable, her snow-white muslin cap covering her
gray hair, and closely surrounding her sensible, kindly face. She
started from her seat as she saw Anne.

"Eh, Miss Anne, are ye come at last?" but her face darkened with
disappointment as she perceived Marjory and the child.

"I would have come sooner, Esther," said Anne, "but that I thought you
had been told."

"Told what?" Esther staggered back to her seat, and sitting down there,
supported her head firmly between her hands. "For guid sake, Miss Anne,
say it out, whatever it is. Let me hear it at once. Young lady go away,
and let my bairn tell me her tidings."

"I may tell them before all the world Esther," said Anne. "Norman is
innocent, known and declared to be so, in the face of all men, free to
return to his own house and name, in honor and peace, and good fame. All
our sorrow and trouble for him are over. He is safe, Esther. He is
justified in the sight of the world."

The old woman uttered a cry--a low, wild, unconscious cry. She might
have done the same had it been bitter sorrow that overwhelmed her,
instead of a very agony and deluge of joy and thankfulness. She threw
her apron over her head--under its covering they could see the motion of
her hands, the bowing of her head. Prayers innumerable, offered by night
and day for eighteen years, that had lain unanswered till this time,
before yon Throne in Heaven, were pouring back upon her now in a flood
of blessedness. It was meet that they should stand apart in silent
reverence, while thus, in the presence of the Highest, His old and
faithful servant rendered thanks, where so long she had poured forth her
petition for mercy.

At last she raised her head--her clear and kindly features trembling yet
with the storm of joy that had swept over them; her eye fell upon the
child. She had seen Lilie once or twice before, but never before in this
strong light which tinged everything with a remembrance of Norman. She
started to her feet: "Wha are ye, bairn? wha are ye?--for ony sake, Miss
Anne, tell me wha this is?"

Anne took Lilie's hand, and led her to Esther's side; the child looked
up wonderingly with those large dark wistful eyes of hers, almost as
Christian Lilie had been wont to look--Anne placed her in the arms of
her father's devoted, loving friend. "Esther, you have a better right to
her than I--she is my brother's child--she is the daughter of Norman,
for whom you have sorrowed and prayed so long."

And Marjory Falconer stood apart, repeating to herself in a low voice,
which trembled sometimes, that Psalm, the blessing of the good man, sung
by the Hebrew people in the old time, as they journeyed to Jerusalem,
and familiar now to us in Scotland, as the household words of our own
land--

    "Behold each man that fears the Lord,
      Thus blessed shall he be,
     The Lord shall out of Sion send,
       His blessing unto thee,
     Thou shalt Jerusalem's good behold,
       While thou on earth dost dwell,
     Thou shalt thy children's children see,
       And peace on Israel!"



CHAPTER XXX.


The months travelled on peacefully; Jeanie Coulter and Walter Foreman
were married with all due mirth and rejoicing. Ada Mina was reigning
now, in the absence of all rival powers, acknowledged belle and youthful
beauty of Strathoran; and had been thrown into an immense flutter, to
the great dismay and manifest injury of a young Muirland laird from the
west, who had come to take lessons in agriculture from Mr. Coulter, and
was very assiduously paying court to Mr. Coulter's daughter--by a hint
from Mrs. Catherine, of a possible visit to the Tower of the Honorable
Giles. Little Harry Coulter, the Benjamin of Harrows, was more
desperately in love than ever with the stranger Lilie, now living at
Merkland, in her full dignity as Merkland's niece; and with his first
knife had already constructed, with mighty deliberation and care, a
splendid model of a patent plough, to be laid at the small feet of his
liege lady, who unfortunately had no manner of appreciation of patent
ploughs, and greatly preferred Charlie Ferguson's present, a boat--a
veritable boat with little white silken sails, elaborated in the
Woodsmuir nursery by Mary Ferguson and Flora Macalpine, and which could
actually, with a fairy cargo of moss and ruddy autumnal wild-flowers,
make genuine voyages upon the Oran, to the delight of Lilie and the
Woodsmuir party, and the immense disgust of Harry Coulter. Lilie was
becoming a great pet at Merkland, "evendown spoiled," as Mrs. Melder
said, with the slightest possible tinge of jealousy; the constant
companion and pupil of Anne, the plaything of Lewis, and even--so great
was the witchery of the fair fresh childhood--a favorite with Mrs. Ross
herself, whom aunt Anne taught Lilie to approach with the greatest
reverence, and to call grand-mamma--mamma would not do. Lilie stoutly
resisted the bestowal of that sacred name upon any individual except the
one enthroned in the loyal little heart, the _bonniest_ of all existent
ladies; the especial _mother_ of the loving child.

In the beginning of winter, Anne paid her promised visit to Christian,
carrying little Lilie with her. New life was budding again in the large
melancholy heart which had lived through a lingering death for so many
years. A deep sorrow, and tender remembrance of the dead carried about
with her in religious silence, shunning common sight and common comment,
did not prevent this. It was not meet that the griefs of such a spirit
should pass lightly away, or was it possible; but bordering the deep
stillness of that lasting sorrow were other holds on life. Hope for
Marion, the little sister of her happier days; reverent enjoyment of
God's mercies, which one who had bowed to His chastisements so long was
not like to hold lightly; a sympathy, exquisitely deep and tender, with
everything of nature, and much of humanity--all swelling up from the
strong vitality, healthful and pure and heaven-dependant, which God had
placed, as a fountain in his servant's heart, before He laid her mighty
load upon her.

Anne and the child remained for a considerable time with Christian. She
had settled again in the old cottage, and was already making
arrangements for the repair of Redheugh. When Anne parted with her, it
was in the confidence of meeting her again in the end of the year, when
Norman and Marion should have returned; a light passed over the wan
face, as Christian said those words, but still she did not say from
whence the exiles were to return. Anne could not press the question, and
the time was not very long to wait. Lilie returned with her to Merkland.

The year waned; the December days again darkened over the sky of
Strathoran. Mr. Lumsden of Portoran had refurnished his Manse, in a
style which utterly scandalized Mrs. Bairnsfather.--Some one presented
him with a whole library of additional books--the same individual that
had lately put into his hand money enough to build a school-house in the
hamlet at Oran Brig, at which already masons and joiners were working
merrily, and under whose shelter Mr. Lumsden himself had vowed to
preach, let the Presbytery storm as it pleased. Mrs. Bairnsfather moved
her husband to appeal the case to the Assembly this time, if the Synod's
thunders proved unavailing. Mr. Bairnsfather, very much disgusted as he
was--was dubious. A certain mighty man in an obscure Fife parish, lying
on the south side of the Tay--a wondrous visionary man, who seeing the
first experiments made with gas in the streets of the mighty cities,
had tubes laid for the conveyance of the same to the pleasant parlors of
that rural Manse of Kilmany, had discovered a mighty truth by that time,
and was beginning to throw the rays of it from that marvellous lamp of
his, over the Tay, to be over all Scotland ere long. The truth that
preaching proprieties would not do; that ministers of Christ's holy
evangel must preach Christ--nothing less, and that the name of the Lord
was the strong Tower--it and no other--in which purity of soul and life
could be kept unsullied and undimmed for ever. And vigorous athletic
forces, whose front rank, among other sons of Anak, stood that restless
man of might and labor, so long called fire-brand and fanatic, the Rev.
John Lumsden of Portoran, were pressing into the highest places of the
Church, with this greatest of Scottish men at their head. So Mr.
Bairnsfather sagaciously, over his gardening, resolved that it might be
well to proceed with caution in this matter, and that the eye of a
General Assembly in this great renewing of its youth, might see
shortcomings in his own ministerial life and conversation, not
particularly adapted for the light of the day; in consequence of which
prudent doubts Mr. Lumsden escaped a call to the bar of the supreme
judicatory of the Church.

He was not married yet, however, for Marjory Falconer was still
disconsolately, and in vain, looking out for some one who would do her
the especial favor of marrying Ralph.

Mrs. Ross was becoming reconciled to the inevitable marriage of Lewis.
It was to take place some time about the new year--the special period
depending upon the looked for arrival of Norman. Little Alice, with her
girlish kindness of heart, had put a decided negative upon Lewis's
proposal, that his mother should leave Merkland. Surely they could all
dwell together in unity. Alice had considerable confidence in her own
powers of charming. To a little bride of eighteen, whom all the stronger
natures round her instinctively conspired to guard and defend from evil,
the confidence was natural and becoming enough.

In the meantime, Alice had been plotting somewhat ineffectually to
direct the especial attention of that grave brother James of hers to
Anne, and Anne's to him. It by no means succeeded.--They were the best
friends in the world, but clearly, even to the solicitous eye of Alice,
as comfortably indifferent to each other as it was possible for very
good friends to be.

Mr. Ferguson's work went on prosperously in the bleak lands of Loelyin
and Lochend. The sides of the glen of Oranmore were covered with the
flocks of the Southland farmer. In the glen itself, those roofless walls
stood still desolate and silent, the end of many a stern pilgrimage made
by the ejected Macalpines, who from their cottages in the low-country,
and from fishing-boats on the wide seashore beyond Portoran, looked
forward constantly with silent prayers, and stern onwaiting for the
return of their chief, and the recovery of their homes.

He, this hapless chief of theirs, had heard ere now of their calamity,
and in an agony of bitter earnestness had plunged again into his labor,
his hope swelling within him, in a burst of force which made it almost
painful--for them--also like himself heirs of the soil--and for their
inheritance. It had been some relief to his burning eagerness, could he
have cried his war-cry as his ancestors did, and rushed on--

To the rescue! There never was deed of olden arms, or bold
knight-errantry more instinct with chivalrous honor and energy than
this, though the battle-field was counting-room and market-place, and
the wrestler a broken man!

Lord Gillravidge had returned to Strathoran, greatly to the chagrin of
his useful friend, Mr. Fitzherbert, who had been, through all the
intervening time laboriously endeavoring to convince his Lordship of the
insupportable _ennui_ of this out-of-the-world place of his. His
Lordship was more than half convinced; nevertheless there was excellent
shooting, and Lord Gillravidge filled his house with sportsmen, to the
defiance of _ennui_, which reigning supreme in presence of _one_ bore,
seems to be expected to dissipate itself in the society of twenty.

One evening late in the year, Mr. Fitzherbert chanced inconsiderately to
pass through the little hamlet at the Brig of Oran, after the darkening.
It was a beautiful, clear, frosty night.--Hardy, strong, red and blue
children, were sliding on the frozen Oran; young men and douce fathers,
had been tempted to join them. Cottage doors were open on all sides,
revealing homely interiors, partially lighted by the kindly firelight;
grandmothers seated by the firesides; mothers stirring with care and
pains-taking the mighty pot of wholesome "parritch" for their evening
meal; elder sisters, eager to be out upon the slide, rapidly, and with
much noise, putting upon the table bowls and plates to receive the same;
while some who had finished the process stood at the door calling
impatiently to boys and men, to "come in afore the parritch cules."
Through this peaceful place, Mr. Fitzherbert inconsiderately passed
alone. He had scarcely entered it, when he was recognised by a band of
children on the ice. The youngsters of the Brig of Oran were just in
such a state of exhilaration, as made them ready for mischief in all its
possible varieties. "Eh!" cried out a stout lad of fourteen, at the top
of his considerable voice, "younder's the man that Angus Macalpine shore
like a sheep at the stepping stanes!"

"Great cry and little woo!" shouted another, adding also the latter line
of the proverb, in all its ludicrous expressiveness.

"Eh man!" continued a third, "I wadna hae lain still, and gotten my head
cuttit when I wasna wanting it."

Mr. Fitzherbert was perfectly blind and dumb with rage; in the midst of
a chorus of laughter he hurried on.

"Never you heed, my man," said the shoe-maker's wife, known as "a randy"
beyond the precincts of the Brig of Oran, "ye've gotten new
anes--they're grown again."

"Grown again!" ejaculated a little old wifie, whose profession was that
of an itinerant small-ware dealer, and who was privileged as an
original, "grown again!" and she lifted her quick little withered hand
to Fitzherbert's face, as she glided in before him; "let-abee
shearing--I wad a bawbee the new anes wadna stand a pouk."

And secure in the protection of the hardy mason, under whose roof-tree
she was to receive shelter for the night, the old wifie extended her
fingers to the graceful ornament of hair which curled over Mr.
Fitzherbert's lip. We cannot tell what dread revelations might have
followed, had not Lord Gillravidge's unfortunate friend dashed the old
woman aside, and saved himself by flight. Poor old Nannie paid for her
boldness by a slight cut upon her withered brow--her host growled a
thundery anathema, and the well-disposed lads of the hamlet pursued the
fugitive with gibes and shoutings of revengeful derision up to the very
gate of Strathoran.

After which stimulating adventure, Mr. Fitzherbert's arguments became so
potent and earnest, that Lord Gillravidge was moved by them, and finding
likewise that Mr. Whittret turned out by no means the most honorable of
stewards, and that this great house was enormously expensive, his
Lordship took it into his serious consideration whether it might not be
the wisest course to get rid of Strathoran.

December passed away--the new year came, and still there were no tidings
of Norman. Anne became anxious and uneasy; but Christian's letters said,
and said with reason, that the delay of a week or so, was no unusual
matter in a long sea voyage. Where was he then, this exile brother?

Lewis was not to be put off so easily. He did not see why a matter of so
much importance as his marriage should be delayed for the uncertain
arrival of Norman. So the day was determined on at last; the ceremony
was to be performed at the Tower, by Mrs. Catherine's especial
desire--in the end of January; if Norman came before that time, so much
the better; if not they would go on without him.

A fortnight of the new year was gone already; the Aytouns had arrived at
the Tower. Mrs. Aytoun and her son, under the escort of Lewis, had gone
down to Merkland to pay a formal visit to Mrs. Ross. Anne was at the
Tower with Lilie. She had been there of late, even more than usual. It
was Mrs. Catherine's desire that her favorite should remain with her
permanently, when Alice had taken her place in Merkland. It pleased Anne
greatly to have the alternative, but until the return of Norman, she
made no definite arrangement.

The afternoon was waning--Alice was in very high spirits, a little
tremulous and even something excited. Her wedding-day began to approach
so nearly.

She had been sitting close by Anne's side, engaged in a long and earnest
conversation, wherein the elder sister had many grave things to speak
of, while the younger, leaning on her in graceful dependence, listened
and assented reverently, forgetting for the moment what a very important
little personage, she herself, the future Mrs. Ross of Merkland, was.

Mrs. Catherine entered the room suddenly, with a newspaper in her hand,
and a triumphant expression in her face. "Here is news, Anne, news worth
hearkening to. Did I not know the cattle would not be suffered to do
their evil pleasure long in the house of a good man? Now in a brief
hour, we will be clear of the whole race of them--unclean beasts and
vermin as they are. Look at this."

Anne started when she did so; it was a long advertisement setting forth,
in auctioneer eloquence, the beauties and eligibilities of the desirable
freehold property of Strathoran, which was to be offered for sale, on a
specified day in spring, within a specified place in Edinburgh.

"What think you of that?" said Mrs. Catherine. "We have smitten the
Philistines and driven them out of the land--a land that it is my hope
will be polluted with the footsteps of the like of them never more in my
day, though truly I am in doubt how we can get the dwelling purified, to
make it fit for civilized folk."

"And what do you mean to do?" said Anne, eagerly. "It may be bought by
some other stranger: it may be--"

"Hold your peace, Anne," said Mrs. Catherine; "are you also joining
yourself to the witless bairns that would give counsel to gray hairs. It
may be! I say it shall be! The siller will aye be to the fore, whether I
am or no, and think you I will ever stand by again, and let a strange
man call himself master of Strathoran--the house that Isabel Balfour
went into a bride, and went out of again, only to her rest? It has been
a thorn in my very side, this one unclean and strange tenant of it.
Think you I will ever suffer another?"

"And what then?" said Anne, with anxious interest.

"We must get it bought, without doubt," said Mrs. Catherine. "You are
slower of the uptake, Anne, than is common with you. Whether I myself
have, or have not, sufficient siller is another matter. There are folk
in Scotland, who know the word of Catherine Douglas, and can put faith
in it. Before three months are over our heads, an it be not otherwise
ordained, Archie Sutherland shall be master of his land again."

"Oh! Anne, are you not glad?" exclaimed little Alice: "we shall have Mr.
Sutherland back again."

Anne did not feel herself particularly called upon to express gladness,
but she looked up inquiringly into Mrs. Catherine's face.

"I said nothing of the lad coming home," said Mrs. Catherine firmly.
"Alison Aytoun, you are but a bairn, and will never be tried, so far as
I can see the lot before you, by thoughts or purposes of a stern and
troublous kind. It is other with you, Anne, as I know. This Archie
Sutherland, has wasted with his riotous living the substance given in
charge to him from his father, and from his father's God. It is not meet
he should come back unscathed to this leisure and honor; it is right he
should clear himself by labor and toil, not of the sin before God, which
is atoned for in a holier way, but of the sin in the sight of man. I
say, I also would be sinning against a justice, which neither fails nor
alters, and discouraging strong hearts that held upon their warfare
manfully, when he fell under the hand of the adversary, were I bringing
back Archie Sutherland at this time to the full honor and possessions of
his father's house. I will let him stay in his trial and probation,
child, till he can show labor of his own hands, bravely done and like a
man. The gallant is nearer to my own heart than ever man was, but Sholto
my one brother; but it is meet he should render due justice after he has
done evil."

Anne bowed her head in silent acquiescence: she did not speak. Mrs.
Catherine was right.

"But this must be looked to without delay," said Mrs. Catherine, seating
herself in her own great chair, while the gloaming shadows gathered
darkly in the room; "we must buy his land back for him now. I will speak
of it to Mr. Foreman this very night. Alison, go your ways, and sing to
me the ballad of the wayfaring man."

And in the soft shadowy gloaming, little Alice seated herself at the
piano, and began to sing. You could scarcely perceive her fair head in
the dreamy gloom of the large apartment. Further in, the red glow of the
fire flickered ruddy on the stately form of Mrs. Catherine, bringing out
with momentary flashes sometimes the shadow of her strong face in bold
relief against the wall. Still more in the shade sat Anne, very still
and thoughtful, looking at the old friend, and the young beside her, and
thinking of others far away. Over them all were these low floating notes
of music hopeful and sad--

    Thy foot is weary, thy cheek is wan,
    Come to thy kindred, wayfaring man!

Down stairs in the snug housekeeper's room, a little party was
assembled, merrier and younger than were wont to be seen within that
especial sanctum of the famous Mrs. Euphan Morison. Mrs. Euphan herself
had gone to Portoran, to make provision of many things necessary for the
jubilee and festivities, which in the ensuing week were to be holden in
the Tower. She was not to return till late that night, and Jacky had
taken advantage of her absence.

Round the fire, in the early winter gloaming, sat little Bessie, Johnnie
Halflin, Jacky herself and Flora Macalpine. There was to be a quiet
_reunion_ in the Tower that night, and Flora came, in attendance upon
little Mary Ferguson, who was gaily engaged at that moment, in the hall,
playing hide and seek with Lilie Rutherford.

The little company in the housekeeper's room were very merry. Jacky was
repeating to them that sad adventure of Sir Artegall, which ended in his
captivity to the most contemptuous of Amazons, the warlike Radigund;
with whispers innumerable, and stifled laughter, her companions
listened, or pretended to listen.

At that time, the gig from the Sutherland Arms, which had formerly
conveyed James Aytoun to the Tower, was tumbling along the high-road in
the same direction again. At some little distance from the entrance to
Mrs. Catherine's ground, two gentlemen alighted, and dismissing it,
ascended to the Tower.

One of them--he was bronzed by the beating of a sun more fervid than
that of Scotland--was casting keen glances of joyous recognition round
him--at the Tower--at Merkland--at a light in a high window there, which
he fancied he knew, and still more eagerly at Strathoran in the dim
distance. Its name had rung strangely in his ear from the tongue of the
"crooked helper" at the inn, who drove their humble vehicle--"mony
thanks to ye, Strathoran." It sent a thrill to the heart of Archibald
Sutherland.

Yes, Archibald Sutherland! it was no other!

An older man leaned on his arm. In the darkness you could not
distinguish particularly either his face or form; he was tall, with an
elastic buoyant footstep, and was looking about him in a singular abrupt
way, now here, now there, like a man in a dream.

They approached the Tower door--it was closed. Archibald's friend had
been eager hitherto, but now he lingered and seemed to wish delay.
Archibald was entirely in the dark as to the reason. There was a ruddy
light gleaming from a low window near at hand. The stranger drew near to
look in, almost as if he knew it.

The room was full of the ruddy fire-light--the two dark figures at the
window were quite unseen by those merry youthful people about the fire.
Some one had slightly opened the window a little while before, for the
room was very hot, and the door had been closed, that graver ears might
not hear their laughter.

Jacky sat in the midst, her dark face glowing keen and bright. She was
reciting vigorously that doleful adventure of the luckless Sir Artegall.
The woman's weedes put upon him by the disdainful Amazon; the white
apron--the distaff in his hand, "that he thereon should spin both flax
and tow;" his low place among the brave knights, whom he found "spinning
and carding all in comely row;" and

     "---- forst through penury and pyne,
    To doe these works to their appointed dew,
      For nought was given them to sup or dyne,
    But what their hands could earn by twisting linen twyne."

A very sad thing, doubtless, for the hapless Sir Artegall, and
furnishing very sufficient occasion for the "deep despight" and "secret
shame" of his lofty and royal Lady Britomart, but by no means calculated
to impress any deep feeling of pity or compassion upon that somewhat
ungovernable knot of youngsters.--Flora Macalpine, too kindly and
good-humored to hurt Jacky's feelings, had bent her head down upon her
knee to hide her laughter; Johnnie Halflin leaned against the
mantelpiece, shaking with secret earthquakes; Bessie had her head turned
to the door, and was gazing at it steadily, and biting her rosy lip.
They had all an awe of Jacky. It would not do, however. That picture,
with its gradual heightening; at last the sad honor of the unfortunate
knight, steadily spinning in his woman's weedes, because his word was
pledged to the despightful Radigund,--there was a general explosion--it
was impossible to withstand that.

Jacky stopped suddenly, and withdrew from the laughters in lofty
offence. She herself had a perception of the allegory, and was hurt and
wounded at its reception, as we see greater people sometimes, whose
myths a laughing world will persist in receiving as rather grotesque
than sublime.

Jacky was almost sulky; she sat down in the shade, and turned her head
resolutely away. Flora drew near to her in deprecatory humbleness. Jacky
resisted and resented proudly.

Just then the door opened; the tall man, leaning on Archibald
Sutherland's arm, gave a nervous start. Archibald had begun to weary of
his station here, at the window of the housekeeper's room. His friend
and employer, Mr. Sinclair was exhibiting a singular fancy to-night. He
looked in wonderingly to see the reason of the sudden start.

It was only the entrance of two little girls; one of them blooming and
ruddy, with radiant golden hair. The other paler, with a little frock
of black silk, and eyes like the night--wistful, spiritual, dark.

"What ails Jacky?" said the new comer.

"Oh, if ye please, Miss Lilie," said Bessie eagerly, "we werena meaning
ony ill; we only laughed."

Lilie slid gently within Jacky's arm--drew down the hand which supported
her head, and whispered in her ear--the arm of Mr. Sinclair quivering
all this time most strangely, as it leaned upon his friend's.

"Dinna be angry," whispered Lilie; "I want you to say Alice Brand. Mary
never heard it; never mind them. Say Alice Brand to Mary and me."

"Oh! ay, Jacky," echoed Bessie and Johnnie together, "say Alice Brand;
it's a real bonnie thing."

Jacky was mollified; after a brief pause, caressing Lilie, she began the
ballad. Little Mary Ferguson, with the fire-light gleaming in her golden
hair, stood, leaning on the shoulder of her favorite Flora. Lilie was at
Jacky's knee, lifting up her face of earnest childish interest, and
listening with all her might. Without, in the darkness stood the
stranger, eagerly looking in, and holding Archibald's arm.

The first notes of Alice Aytoun's song were sounding up stairs.
Archibald Sutherland stood still, but with eyes that wandered somewhat,
and a considerable weariness. This was a most strange freak of Mr.
Sinclair's--he could not comprehend it.

Her story possessed Jacky and inspired her. She rose as it swelled to
its climax, and spoke louder.--

    "It was between the night and day
        When the Fairy folk have power
     That I fell down in a sinful fray,
     And twixt life and death was snatched away,
      To the joyless, elfin bower.

     But wist I of a woman bold,
       Who thrice my brow durst sign,
     I might regain my mortal mould
       As fair a form as thine.

     She crossed him once, she crossed him twice,
       That lady was so brave;
     The fouller grew his goblin hue,
       The darker turned the cave,

     She crossed him thrice, that lady bold,
       He rose beneath her hand,
     The fairest knight on Scottish mold,
       Her brother, Ethert Brand!

    'Tis merry, 'tis merry, in good greenwood."--

The quick elfin eye shot a glance out into the darkness, and saw the
listening figures there; the well-known face of young Strathoran! Jacky
steadily finished the verse--committed Lilie into the hands of Flora
Macalpine, and shutting the door of the house-keeper's room carefully
behind her, opened the outer one, and admitted the strangers.

She conducted them up stairs in her own still, excited, elfin way; the
fumes of the ballad hanging about her still. Mr. Sinclair grasped
Archibald's arm, as they reached the door of the inner room, and held
him back. The plaintive hopeful music was floating out again upon the
soft shadows of the darkening night.

    "Speed thy labor o'er land and sea,
     Home and kindred are waiting for thee."

They entered, Jacky gliding in before them to light the candles which
stood upon the table. Mrs. Catherine started up in overwhelming
surprise--so did Anne and Alice. There was a loud exclamation, "Whence
come you, gallant and what brings you home?" and a confused uncertain
welcoming of Archibald. Then they became calmer, and he introduced Mr.
Sinclair. At this stranger, Jacky when she brought the lights, had
thrown a long, keen scrutinising glance. There seemed an agitated
uncertainty about him, which contrasted strangely with his firm lip and
clear eye. They were seated again at last. A mysterious agitation had
fallen upon them all, which Archibald could not comprehend. To this
new-comer Mrs. Catherine's large gray eyes were travelling continually.
Anne, with nervous timid glances, turned to him again and again. Mr.
Sinclair himself, generally so frank, and full of universal sympathies,
was confused and tremulous, speaking incoherently, and saying things
which had no meaning; Archibald was greatly astonished--even little
Alice Aytoun began to steal shy glances at the stranger.

Archibald made a sign to Anne, and rising went out--Anne followed. He
was in high spirits, great in hope, and with prospects more cheering
than he had ever dreamt of. He began to speak of them as she met him at
the door.

"Who is he? who is he?" exclaimed Anne eagerly.

Archibald looked at her in amazement. "My employer and friend, Mr.
Sinclair, Anne. What is the matter? I have come home with him at his own
special desire. He intends--"

Jacky had been hovering on the stairs. She came up to the door where
they were standing, and looked at them wistfully, "Oh if ye please, Miss
Anne--"

"What is it, Jacky?"

Jacky could not tell what it was. She sat down on the stair, and put
her hands up to her face, and began to cry--her excitement overpowering
her.

"I cannot bear this," said Anne, wringing her hands nervously. "Jacky,"
she whispered in her ear--the girl shot down stairs like a spirit.

"Anne!" exclaimed Archibald, "something ails you. I beg you to tell me
what it is."

"Afterwards--afterwards--" said Anne, hastily. "Go in now, Archibald.
Jacky, come--"

Jacky returned, leading little Lilie by the hand. Archibald in silent
amazement, went in again to the inner drawing-room. Anne followed him
with the child, her face deadly pale, her form trembling.

Mrs. Catherine had changed the position of the lights on the table--one
of them threw the profile of the stranger in clear shadow on the
wall--she was looking with a singular scrutiny on the face, and on the
shade of it. Little Alice Aytoun looked almost afraid. Mr. Sinclair was
as confused and agitated as ever.

Lilie came in--she drew near Archibald timidly, with some remembrance of
having seen him before; behind her, Anne stood in stiff excitement,
watching her motions.

Suddenly the child's quick eye caught the stranger. Mr. Sinclair's arms
moved tremulously. Lilie looked--wavered--turned back--looked again, her
dark eyes dilating--her face full of childish earnestness. The time--the
distance--the slight child's-memory--these did not make darkness enough,
to veil from her remembrance the well-known face. The child sprang
forward to the arms of the strong man, who sat trembling there under her
simple scrutiny; she uttered a cry--Anne only could distinguish the
latter words of it--they were enough, "My papa!"

And Mrs. Catherine rose, drawing up her stately figure to its full
height, in solemn, judicial dignity, and advanced to the side of the
father and child, "I bid you joyous, righteous, peaceful welcome; Norman
Rutherford, I bid you welcome to your own name and land!"

And this was he! after eighteen years of labor and pain and
banishment--an assumed name, a strange country, a toilsome life--in joy
and peace and honor, Norman Rutherford had returned again to his own
fatherland.

But their joy was too deep and still to bear recording; the manner of
their rejoicing, the forms of their thankfulness were not such as we can
dwell on. The serenity of deep and holy happiness, the exuberance of
new-found blessings!--we cherish those things too deeply in our inmost
hearts to speak of them; for we are very still, when we are very
blessed, in Scotland!

At Portoran he had left Christian, Marion, and his son. He had promised
to return to them immediately, with Anne and Lilie. Mrs. Catherine's
carriage was ordered for them, and they drove round by Merkland. Anne
sat, her heart beating joyously, by the side of her new-found brother.
Little Lilie was nestling in the darkness in her father's arm, pouring
forth a stream of questions about mamma and Lawrie. All the three were
half weeping yet, in the tumult and excitement of their joy. The past,
with all that was dark and painful in it, was lost in the present
brightness; peace, security--the bond of tender and near relationship no
longer a secret thing, but recognised now in joy and triumph, an abiding
gladness all their days. The brother and sister united now for the first
time in their lives, felt no restraining chillness of new
acquaintanceship. They knew each other, and rejoiced, with tender pride
and thanksgiving, in their kindred.

They stopped at Merkland--leading his child by the hand, and supporting
Anne on his arm, Norman Rutherford entered the house of his fathers. His
naturally buoyant step was restrained by a grave dignity; the memory of
the dead hung over these walls--a thousand sad and potent remembrances
were rising in the in the exile's heart--but withal he had been
_doubted_ here. He knew that, as it seemed instinctively, and drawing
his sister's hand more closely through his arm, they entered Mrs. Ross's
sitting-room together.

He stood gravely at the door waiting for his welcome. Lilie looked up
wonderingly in his face; he held her hand with such gentle firmness,
that she could not run to the wondering grand-mamma, who sat there
staring suspiciously at the new comers. Mrs. Aytoun rose--neglected
wives, sad and sorrowful, remember those who feel for their hidden
troubles delicately. She came forward, she looked at him, she held out
her hands, "Welcome, welcome home."

Mrs. Ross was looking at him now eagerly. James and Lewis had both
risen--so did she. "Who is this, Anne?" exclaimed Lewis: "Lilie, who is
this gentleman?"

Mrs. Ross's better angel visited her for that white moment. She advanced
before either Anne or Lilie could answer. "It is your brother,
Lewis--your brother Norman; Norman, you are welcome home."

And then a subdued and tender radiance came shining from the eyes of the
returned son. He led Mrs. Ross to her chair--he called her mother. In
the revulsion of his generous heart, thinking he had done her wrong, he
forgot the dark wedding-day long ago which had brought her, a strange
ruler, to Merkland, and which he spent by his own mother's grave. With
Lilie on the little stool at her feet, and Norman doing her reverence,
and all the rest joyous and glad about her, Mrs. Ross forgot it also.

He was to return to Merkland, she insisted, with his wife, their sister,
and their son. The old house would hold them all. Norman's dark eyes
brightened into deep radiance. He kissed the harsh step-mother's
hand--he had done her wrong.

Then he drew Anne's arm through his own once more, and leaving Lilie in
the carriage, in charge of Mrs. Catherine's careful coachman, went down
Oranside to Esther Fleming's cottage; but in Esther's recognition there
was neither pause nor doubt. The manly bronzed cheek, the dark hair with
its streaks of grey--she did not linger to look at these. She heard the
light elastic step, the voice so dearly known of old--and it was her
beautiful laddie, her bairn, her son--not the grave man, who had more
than reached the highest arch of his life--about whose neck the old
woman threw her withered arms, as she lifted up her voice and wept.

At last they reached Portoran. The Marion, the little sister of
Christian Lillie, had a face of thoughtful gracious beauty, such as
gladdens the eye and heart alike; a saintly peaceful face, in which the
strength of Christian and the weakness of Patrick were singularly
blended, for she was like them both. The plough of sorrow had not carved
its iron furrows on her fair brow, as it had done on Christian's. The
sunshine of her smile was only chastened with natural tears for the dead
brother who had gone to his rest; he was not her all in all as he had
been Christian's.

No, for the little girl rejoicing in a childish exuberance of joy and
tenderness already in her arms; the beautiful, bold, gallant boy, who
stood beside her chair; the radiant dark face of the father and husband
looking upon them with tremulous delight and pride--had all a share.
Christian too, whose heroic work was done, and the new-found sister
Anne; there was warm room for them all in the large heart of Marion
Rutherford. The burning fire of bitter grief had not intensified her
love upon one--she was the family head, the house-mother--full of all
gracious affections and sympathies, hopes and happiness.



CHAPTER XXXI.


Mrs. Ross was inspired--how or by what means we are not sufficiently
good metaphysicians to be able to specify--but inspired she was! It
might be that all the court that had been paid to her of late had
softened the adamantine heart: it only concerns us to know that softened
it was. She took immediate counsel with May; she had fires lighted in
half a dozen bed-chambers. Then the wainscotted parlor was made
radiant--a fire in its grate "enough," as Duncan said with an
involuntary grumble, "to keep the decent folk at the Brig of Oran in
eliding frae this till Canlemas"--and additional candles upon its table.
Then Mrs. Ross did something more wonderful than all this--the very
climax and copestone of her unwonted melting of heart. She sent Duncan
mysteriously up stairs to the attic lumber-room with secret
instructions. May and Barbara lingered in wonder to what was coming.

A great thing was coming--covered with dust, and grumbling audibly,
Duncan re-appeared in ten minutes, carrying in his arms a picture--the
portrait of the lost son of the house of Merkland--the boy's face of the
exiled Norman, dethroned from its standing in his father's house for
eighteen weary year.

It was restored again now, and when Mrs. Ross having dismissed the
servants sat down alone in her bright room, through the dark polished
walls of which the warm lights were gleaming pleasantly, to wait for her
guests; the unclouded sunshine of the bold, frank, fearless boy's face
shone upon her for the first time. It had enough of the indefinite
family resemblance, to bring her own Lewis before her mind. Lewis had
gone up to the Tower, but was to return immediately. His mother sat in
the parlor alone, more cheerily than was her wont, for the blood was
warming about her heart.

And then they arrived--the whole of them, with all their different
manifestations of joy; the mother Marion starting in delight at what she
thought the portrait of her own bright Lawrie, and Norman himself
heaping up in such generous measure his delicate amends of honor and
attention to the step-mother, whom he fancied he had wronged. She
remembered him so different once, in his impetuous youth, that the
compliment was all the greater now.

Christian and Anne sat by the fire in a quiet corner. Lawrie, proud of
his new kindred, and bashfully exultant over them all, hovered between
them and the uncle Lewis, whose good looks and independent young manhood
already powerfully attracted the boy: while on either side of Mrs. Ross
herself sat Norman and Marion, and Lilie loyal to the newly-come mamma,
joining her childish talk to theirs; and all so willing and eager to do
honor to the head of the household--the sole remnant of an older
generation. Deep peace fell upon Merkland that night in all its many
chambers--deeper than had been there before for years.

The evening was not far spent when Archibald Sutherland stole in among
them, not unwelcome, and with him to the gate of Merkland--no
further--came Marjory Falconer; she had one word to say to Anne. Anne
went to her at the gate; it was almost a relief in all this gladness to
have a minute's breathing time.

"I came to congratulate you, Anne," said Marjory breathlessly. The moon
was up, and at some little distance a tall dark shadow fell across the
Oran, which Anne smiled to see. "To wish you manifold joy of all the
arrivals--_all_, Anne. If I come down to-morrow, will you introduce me
to your brother?"

"Surely, Marjory," said Anne, "but why not come to-night?"

"I might have come if you had married Ralph," said Marjory laughing,
"but as it is, a stranger must not intermeddle with your joy. No,
no--but I shall come to see them all to-morrow. By the by--"

"What, Marjory?"

"Oh, not much--only speaking of Ralph--I have found her at last; I have
fairly laid my hands upon her. To-morrow I shall have her safely housed
in Falcon's Craig!"

"Who is it?--what do you mean?"

"The daughter of Nimrod! the mighty huntress! I have got her all safe,
Anne. I invite you to a wedding at Falcon's Craig in three months. I
give them three months to do it in."

"You should know the necessary time," said Anne smiling.--"Shall there
not be two, Marjory?"

"Hush," said Marjory gaily, "or I will retaliate. Now I must go. Mrs.
Catherine is quite out of sorts for the want of you, Anne; and Alice is
drooping as prettily as possible. Why did not your Norman come last
night, and then we might--all of us--have rejoiced over him at the
Tower?"

The next morning, the first excitement of their joy over, the three
sisters sat together in the Merkland parlor. Mrs. Ross was
superintending various domestic matters. Lewis was at the Tower. Norman
had gone out with his son. Christian, Marion, and Anne were sitting
together, with Lilie on her stool at their feet, communing "of all that
was in their heart"--and that was much.

"It was very strange to us," said Marion, "I cannot tell you how
strange, to hear from Mr. Sutherland--of Merkland, of you, of ourselves.
He told us our own story--so much as he knew of it, and sought our
sympathy and pity for his friends. Strangely--most strangely--did we
feel as he spoke."

"I did not think Archie would have spoken of a thing so private," said
Anne.

"Nay, do not blame him," said Marion. "He saved our Lawrie's life a few
days after his arrival; and that of course, even if he had possessed
fewer good qualities of his own, must have at once opened our hearts,
and our house to him. But we liked him for himself, and he seemed to
like us; and then as we knew him better, the home he spoke of, the names
he mentioned, were very music to Norman's ears. I cannot tell you,
Anne--you cannot fancy--how your brother has longed and yearned for the
home we dared not return to."

There was a pause.

"And then," continued Marion, "as he gradually became, a member of our
family, and a very dear friend, we gradually received his confidence. He
spoke one night of 'little Alice Aytoun.' The name startled us both.
Norman asked who she was--and then, Anne--by degrees we heard our own
story--very sad and mysterious he thought it, although he knew not,
Christian, the half of its sadness. But Anne, he said, was convinced of
the innocence of her dead brother, and was full of hope for the
vindication of his memory. 'Who is Anne?' I asked. Mr. Sutherland looked
astonished for a moment, and then slightly embarrassed. He seemed to
think it strange that there should be any one who did not know. Anne;
and, sister Anne, he did you justice. We were strangely excited that
night, Norman and I. I could not prevail upon him to go to rest. He
walked about the room with a mixture of joy and fear on his face, that
only people who have known such a position as ours could realize,
repeating to himself, 'Anne--the child--my little sister Anne!' It was
balm to him to think that you had faith in him, and hope for him; and
yet he was full of fear lest he should endanger"--

Marion paused--the tears came into her eyes; she looked at Christian.

"Go on, Marion," said Christian, leaning her head upon her hand. "Go
on--he is safe now, and past all peril."

"Our poor Patrick!" exclaimed his younger sister, "my gentle,
broken-hearted, sad brother! At that time when the eighteenth year was
nearly past, Norman was afraid--Norman was full of terror, lest any
exertion made for him should disturb the peace of Patrick. He was as
willing to suffer for him then, as he was when he went away--that
terrible time!"

"Do not think of it," said Christian. "We are all at peace now, Marion,
living and dead; and he the safest, peacefullest, most joyous of us
all."

"And then he told us of Lilie," said Marion after a long silence. "And
how you, Anne, became attached to the little stranger child; and we
listened, endeavoring to look as if we did not know or care--I wonder at
myself how I succeeded."

"And did you never tell him?" said Anne.

"No. Norman reserved it as a surprise to him when they should reach
Strathoran. He wondered, I could see, why we were so anxious to come
here, but he did not ask. Norman regards him almost as a younger
brother. He is very anxious that he should have a situation more
suitable for him, than the one he held at Buenos Ayres; but he will
tell you his arrangements himself;--where is Norman?"

He was out, no one knew where he was.

He was at that moment stooping his lofty head, to enter the door-way of
a solitary cottage--a very mean and poor one--at some distance from the
Brig of Oran. Its inhabitant in former days had known Mr. Norman of
Merkland well. She had been an old woman when he left home--she was a
very old woman, decrepid and feeble, now; yet on the first day after his
return, his kindly remembrance of old days carried the restored Laird,
the great merchant, to the cottage of the "old Janet," who had given him
apples and bannocks in his youth.

And in the long walk they took, the father and son made many similar
visits, to the great amazement of Lawrie, who knowing his father a
reserved grave man, called proud by strangers, was very greatly at a
loss how to account for these many friendships. The hearty kindliness of
these old cottage people, in which there was fully as much affection as
awe, and the frank familiarity of his father, puzzled Lawrie mightily.
He did by no means understand it.

They had begun with Esther Fleming's house--they ended with the Tower.
Between these two, besides the cottage visitations we have mentioned,
with all the joyful wonder of their recognitions, they visited a
grave--a grave which had received another name since Norman Rutherford
left his fatherland, and on which Lawrie read with awe and reverence,
names of his ancestry the same as his own, and near the end, that of
"Lawrence Ross, aged 15," his own age, who was his uncle.

In the meantime, at a solemn private conference in the little room, Mrs.
Catherine was receiving Archibald's report.

"Mr. Sinclair's proposal to me," said Archibald, "is of so liberal a
kind that I feel almost ashamed to accept it. Mr. Lumsden, the manager
at Glasgow, has been received as junior partner into the firm, and is
intended to succeed Mr. Sinclair at Buenos Ayres. Mr. Sinclair offers me
Mr. Lumsden's situation in Glasgow, in the meantime, as he says, with a
speedy prospect of entering the house. He himself intends to withdraw,
and he talks of my chance of taking his place in the firm. This for me,
who went out a poor clerk only a year ago, looks ridiculously Utopian;
but the managership--Mr. Lumsden's situation, is sure--and it is higher
than, in ordinary circumstances, I could have hoped to rise for years."

"I am glad of it--I am heartily glad to hear it, Archie," said Mrs.
Catherine. "That you should leave your lawful labor is no desire of
mine; but I have that to tell that concerns you more than even this.
Have you heard any tidings yet, of the cattle you left in Strathoran?"

Archibald changed color, and said "No."

"Then it has not been told you that your father's house is within your
reach again; that Strathoran is to be sold."

"To be sold!" Archibald started to his feet; his temples began to throb,
his heart to beat--within his reach and yet how very far removed, for
where could he find means to redeem his inheritance. "To be sold!"

"Yes. Archie Sutherland, to be sold--what say you to that?" He did not
say anything to it; he pressed his hand to his brow and groaned.

"What ails you? sit down upon your seat this moment, and hearken to me;
what say you to that?"

"I have nothing to say, Mrs. Catherine; it takes from me my great hope.
There is no possibility of recovering it now, and what chance is there
of any opportunity again. It is not likely to change hands thrice in one
life-time."

"Archie," said Mrs. Catherine, "you are but a silly heart, after all. I
thought not to have seen the beads on your brow for this matter. Sit
down upon your seat I bid you, and hearken to me. I am not without
siller as you know, seeing it is no such great space of time since a
Laird of Strathoran made petition to me, to serve him in this Mammon;
that you should have forgotten. I was slow then, for you were in the way
of evil, Archie; but ill as you were, you know I was nearly tempted to
cast away my siller, into the self-same mire in which you lost
Strathoran, for the sake of Isabel Balfour and him that was her trysted
bridegroom.--Now, Archie Sutherland, it is my hope that your eyes are
opened to see the right course of man; which is not idleset and the mean
pleasures of it, but honorable work and labor that the sun may shine
upon, and God and your fellows see. Think not that I mean the making of
siller; I mean a just work, whatsoever, is appointed you, to be done in
honor and bravery, and in the fear of God. So as it is my hope you
perceive this at last, you shall have your lands again, Archie. Not,
that I desire you to return to Strathoran, as if you had never done ill.
Go your ways and labor: you will return a better and a blyther man, that
you have redeemed your inheritance with the work of your own hands. In
the meantime, I myself will redeem it for you; I give you back the name
your fathers have borne for ages. See that it descends to your bairns
for their inheritance, Strathoran. And now I see Norman Rutherford at
the door; go and take counsel with him for your further travail and
leave me to my meditations."

And with kindly violence Mrs. Catherine shut the door of her sanctuary
upon the bewildered Archibald--then she seated herself opposite the
portrait of her brother, and gazed upon it long and earnestly. "Ay,
Sholto Douglas, he is Isabel's son, and what would you have left undone
for the bairn of Isabel?--and if he had been yours also, what is there
within the compass of mortal might, that I would have halted at for him?
He is Isabel's son--and it had not been ordered in a darker way, he
would have been your first-born, Sholto Douglas; the shadow of your
tenderness is upon the youth--he has none in this earth so near to him
as me."

That day, there were various visitors at Merkland--Mrs. Catherine, the
Aytouns, Marjory Falconer; they met together at night in the Tower, all
joyous, hopeful, and at peace.

But in the vicinity of the Tower, that evening, there hovered a knot of
stalwart men, uncertain as it seemed whether to enter or no. The younger
ones were for pressing forward; the most eager among them was Angus
Macalpine, himself longing to become the head of a household, and
remembering Flora's limit "no till we get back to the glen;" but the
highest and most potent of the group hung back.

"Man, Duncan, we're no wanting to vex him. I've as muckle honor for the
Laird as on a' man o' my name--only it's our right to have an answer. If
he's no gaun to buy back the land, maybe we could make favor wi' whaever
does. We belong to the ground, and the ground to us, Duncan--we've a
right to seek an answer at the hands of our chief."

"It a' sounds very just that, Angus," said Big Duncan Macalpine; "but
the Laird's a distressed man, that hasna siller to give for the
redemption of his inheritance and ours. Think ye onything but extremity
could have garred him time the lands as he did? or think ye there can be
siller enough gathered in ae year to buy back Strathoran? I tell ye,
lads, I ken the Laird, and if he's maybe wasted his substance like a
prodigal--I dinna dispute he has, and we're a' bearing the burden--he
keeps aye a kind heart. Now, here are we, coming to him, young men and
auld of us, that have been hunted from our hames. He kens it's his wyte,
and he kens he canna mend it; and what can we do but gie him a sair
heart, and what can he say but that it grieves him? If he had the power
we wad be hame again the morn; but he hasna the power, and wherefore
should we make his cup bitterer wi' putting our calamity before him and
saying it's his blame?"

The reasoning of Big Duncan was strong like himself--the men fell
back--but Angus was still eager.

"The auld man at the ingleside wrestles night and day to get quiet
deein' in his ain house in the glen. He's wandered in his mind since
ever yon weary day--aye, when he's no at his exercise--he's clear enough
then; and if ye heard him, just to get hame that he may fa' asleep in
peace, ye wadna be sae faint-hearted. I'm no meaning that you're
faint-hearted either; but the Laird hasna had sae muckle thought o' us,
that we should be sae mindfu' o' him."

"You're an inconsiderate lad, Angus," said Big Duncan; "but for the auld
man's sake we may wait a while here. Maybe the Laird may pass this
gate--yonder's somebody."

"It's the Laird," exclaimed Angus--forward as he had been before, he
shrank back now. The man who had opposed the measure was left to be the
spokesman.

Archibald had observed them from a window, and came towards them
rapidly. Duncan lifted his bonnet--no servile sign, as smaller spirits
in the arrogance of their so-called equality would assert, but the
independent respect of an honorable poor man, who in his chief's good
fame had an individual stake, and was himself honored. He was at some
loss how to frame his speech.

"I trust," said Archibald, hastily, "I trust I shall have it in my power
very shortly to redress your wrongs. You have suffered innocently--I
justly; but we have both had some trials of faith and patience since we
last met. Trust me the power shall not be in my hands a moment sooner
than the will, to make amends to you for your loss--the bitterest hour
of all this bitter twelvemonth was the one in which I heard of your
wrong. There are two months yet between us, and the time which shall
decide the proprietorship of Strathoran. I hope then, through my
friend's help, to be able to redeem my inheritance and yours--if I
succeed, have no fear--I will not spend an hour in unnecessary delay
till you again enter Oranmore in peace."

These men did not cheer him--we are by no means loud in our
demonstrations in Scotland--but their rough features moved and melted,
and some eyelids swelled full. Archibald was a little excited too.

"So far as I have caused this, Macalpines, you forgive your chief?" He
held out his hand--it was grasped with a silent fervor which spoke more
eloquently than words. Tall Angus Macalpine, who touched his chief's
hand last of all, could have thrown himself down at his feet, and craved
his pardon. He did not do that; but would have rejoiced with mighty joy,
as he flew down Oranside that night, to tap at the nursery window of
Woodsmuir and carry Flora the news, to have had an opportunity of
_douking_, knocking down, or in any way discomfiting "ony man that
daured to mint an ill word of the Laird!"

Upon the appointed day little Alice Aytoun was married--Ada Mina
Coulter, as having experience of the office, serving her in the capacity
of bridesmaid, while Anne and Marjory were merely lookers on; the latter
not without consideration of the proprieties of this same momentous
ceremony, so soon to be repeated in a case where she could not be merely
a spectator.

For Marjory's bold experiment was succeeding beautifully. Her visitor,
Sophy Featherstonehaugh, the mighty huntress over whom she exulted, was
half a Northumbrian, and half a maiden of the Merse--the daughter of a
foxhunting Squire, a careless, good-humored, frank, daring girl, who
could guide a vicious horse, or sing you "a westerly wind, and a cloudy
sky," with any sportsman in the land. Poor Sophy was an only
child--motherless from her infancy; the lands of her weak, boisterous,
indulgent father were strictly entailed, and he seemed to have deadened
any fatherly anxieties he might have had for leaving his daughter
penniless, by fooling her to the top of her bent, so long as he remained
lord of his own impoverished acres. But he died at last--and with an
immense mastery over horses, and sufficiently cunning in all sports of
the field to have filled the place of huntsman to some magnifico, and
withal with a dowry of two hundred pounds, Sophy Featherstonehaugh, the
daughter of an old and honorable family, was thrown upon the charities
of the world.

A precise aunt in Edinburgh, with a great nursery-full of children, gave
her a reluctant invitation. The innocent lady fancied Sophy's services
might be turned to good account as a sort of unpaid nursery-governess.
She was not long in discovering her mistake. Sophy had not been a week
in charge, when the walls of the nursery rang with a shrill "Tally-ho!"
of many juvenile voices. The next morning, Master Harry demanded from
his astonished papa a horse, and coolly proposed turning over his pony
to his sister, little Sophy, who earnestly seconded the embryo
sportsman. Their mother was dismayed. She resolved to have a solemn
forenoon conference with her unpaid nursery-governess, to ascertain what
all this meant. When she reached the schoolroom door, she paused to
listen. Alas! it was not any lesson that kept that little group so
steadily round their teacher. It was one of those barbarous ballads with
which a "northern harper rude" horrified the ears of the cultured
Marmion, in Norham's castled keep, celebrating the exploits of a
Featherstonehaugh. The aunt stood horror-stricken at the door--not long,
however, for Sophy, with her loud, frank, good-humored voice, was
already transgressing still more unpardonably, and in a moment after the
boisterous chorus of "A hunting we will go--eho--eho--eho!" pierced the
ears of the hapless mother, ringing from the shrill, united voices of
all her children.

There was no more to be said after that: in unutterable wrath, poor
Sophy was sent off immediately, in spite of her indignant remonstrances,
and her twenty years, to a boarding-school in the neighborhood of
Strathoran, the principal of which was informed of her past riotous
behavior, and begged, with much bitterness by the aunt, to do what she
could to make the girl human.

The girl's bold spirit rose at this--she, a Featherstonehaugh? But she
had no kindred in the wide world to turn to, and even her poor two
hundred pounds was mulcted for the payment of the year's stipend to the
boarding-school. In these circumstances, Marjory Falconer became
acquainted with her, and in a week thereafter, free from all
governesses, or attempts to humanize, the bold Featherstonehaugh was
triumphantly reining the wildest horse in the Falcon's Craig stables,
while Ralph rode in delight and admiration by her side, and Marjory,
standing at the door, said joyously, within herself:

"She has a firm hand--she can hold the reins--she will do!"

Marjory was by far too wise, however, to trust Ralph with her intention;
but she made much of the frank, good-humored Sophy, and looked forward
in good hopes.

The day arrived for the re-purchase of Strathoran, and Mr. Foreman and
Mr. Ferguson, in the abscence of all competitors, joyfully redeemed the
inheritance of Archibald Sutherland, at a price considerably below its
real value.

"Come light--gang light," said the lawyer, emphatically. "We give them
more for it than they gave us."

There had been negotiations entered into with the Southland
sheep-farmer, whose farm comprised the glen of Oranmore, and he readily
accepted in lieu of it, for the justice sake, and to oblige the Laird,
an equal extent of land elsewhere. In wild eagerness, the Macalpines
threw themselves into their glen, and wrought so furiously at their
dismantled houses, that in a very short time after the sale the
longed-for homes stood complete again, ready for the joyful flitting.

And then, upon a balmy day of early April the clansfolk returned, in
solemn procession, to their home. The bustle of removal was over--the
lofty tone of those mountain people made a grave ceremonial of their
return. In the glen, beneath the soft, blue sky, and genial spring
sunshine, they gathered together to thank God; and, with the blue
heights rising over them, and the fair low-country swelling soft and
green at their feet, and the peaceful cottar houses round, with fire
upon their hearths, and lowly, protecting roofs once more, they lifted
up their voices in psalms:

    "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place
      In generations all,
     Before Thou ever hadst brought forth
      The mountains great and small.
     Ere ever Thou hadst formed the earth,
      Or all the world abroad,
     Even Thou from everlasting art
      To everlasting God."

And then, their minister standing by the while, Duncan Macalpine the
elder, of Oranmore, rendered thanks to God.

Archibald Sutherland denied himself this gladness. It invigorated him in
the dingy manager's room of the Glasgow counting-house to hear of it,
but he felt he had no claim to the triumph. Mr. Ferguson was there,
radiant with honest glee, and Mr. Lumsden from Portoran, his face
covered with a dark glow of simple delight and sympathy. And there was
little Lilie, and Mary Ferguson, solemnly invited to take tea with Flora
and Angus, on their first entry into their new house, and Anne and
Marjory, with Lawrie for their gallant, were in charge of the children
and a straggling back-ground of well-wishers from Merkland and the
Tower, filled up the rear.

The months wore peacefully on. Esther Fleming's son had returned to her,
and only did not become captain of a schooner, which called Norman owner
now, because he had enough, and preferred comfortably dwelling at home,
greatly honored by his foster-brother, and very proud of the
relationship, while, withal, his mother's little housekeeper-niece did
so seriously incline to hear his stories of sea perils and victories,
that the rustic neighbors already in prophetic anticipation, had some
half dozen times proclaimed the banns of William Fleming.

Norman Rutherford and his family were settled peacefully in the now
bright and cheerful house of Redheugh. Anne was with them. Little Alice,
the blythest of young wives, kept Merkland bright and busy. There was
word in Edinburgh of some rich young Indian lady, who had thrown her
handkerchief on James.

And before the three months were fully expired, Anne Ross accepted
Marjory Falconer's invitation, and was present at a wedding-party in
Falcon's Craig. A double wedding--at which Mr. Lumsden, of Portoran,
placed in the stout hand of Sophy Featherstonehaugh the reins of the
ruder animal Ralph Falconer, of Falcon's Craig, and immediately
thereafter submitted in his turn to the same important ceremony,
performed in his case by the brother Robert, of Gowdenleas, in the midst
of an immense assemblage of kindred, Andrew of Kilfleurs standing by.

And prosperous were these weddings. Good-humored, kindly, and of
tolerable capacity, the bold Sophy had improved under her
sister-in-law's powerful tutorage. She _had_ a firm hand. The boisterous
Ralph felt the reins light upon him, yet was kept in bounds, and
by-and-by Sophy left the management of wild horses entirely in his
hands. She got other important things to manage--obstreperous atoms of
humanity, wilder than their quadruped brethren, and scarce less strong.

And with her old chimeras scattered to the winds, in lofty lowliness,
and chastened strength, Marjory Falconer entered her Manse, the
minister's stout-hearted and pure-minded wife. One hears no more of the
rights of women now--bubbles of such a sort do not float in the rare
atmosphere of this household--there is nothing in them congenial with
the sunshine of its blythe order and freedom.

For granting that our Calvinism is gloomy, and our Presbyterian
temperament sour, one wonders how universal this household warmth and
joyousness should be beneath the roof-trees of those strong, pure men,
whom the intolerant world upbraids with the names of bigot, hypocrite,
and pharisee. One could wish to have this same intolerant bigot world
make a tour of these Scottish Manses, from which it might return,
perchance, able to give a rational judgment on the doctrine and order of
Christ's Holy Evangel, as we have held it in Scotland from the days of
our fathers until now; at least might have its evil speaking hushed into
silence before the devout might, which labors for the hire, not of
silver and gold, but of saved souls--and the sunny godliness which is
loftiest gain.

There is a rumor in the Lumsden family that, upon one evening shortly
after the marriage, a certain chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians,
containing a verse which married ladies do mightily stumble at, was read
in regular course: on which occasion, says the mirthful Sister Martha of
the Portoran Manse, one could detect the shadow of a comic inflection in
the voice of the household priest, while his wife with a certain grave
doggedness, slightly bowed her strong head before the unpalatable
command.

We cannot tell how the truth of this story may be, but Sister Martha
laughs when she tells it, and Marjory blushes her violent blush, and the
minister looks on with his characteristic smile of simple
unsophisticated glee. But we can vouch for it, that Mrs. Lumsden of
Portoran has become a renowned church-lawyer, mighty in the "Styles,"
and great in the forms of process; whose judgment maintains itself
triumphantly in face of a whole Synod, and whose advice in complicated
matters, of edicts, or calls, or trials, youthful reverends scant of
ecclesiastical jurisprudence, would do well to take.

Only there is growing up in the Manse of Portoran a host of little
sun-burnt, dark-haired heads--all prosperity and increase to the
sparkling eyes and bold brows of them!--over whose rejoicing band a
little fairy sister, the joy of the minister's heart, exercises her
capricious sway, and sovereign tyranny. They are growing up, all of
them, to call Marjory blessed--already for their generous nurturing
"known in the gates" as hers--and hereafter still more to rejoice in the
strong, gladsome, sunshiny nature to which they owe their healthful
might and vigor. The prophecy and hope of her friend and counsellor is
fulfilled in full: "Strength and honor are her clothing. She opens her
mouth with wisdom, and in her lips is the law of kindness."

The months passed on, and lengthened into years. Archibald Sutherland,
after good work in the manager's room, entered the firm triumphantly as
Norman's successor; before that, he had succeeded to the well-ordered
house in the vicinity of Blythswood Square, which had been occupied by
his predecessor Mr. Lumsden. People said it certainly needed a mistress,
and very wonderful were the rapidity of those successive occasions, on
which the Laird of Strathoran, clear-headed as men called him, found it
absolutely necessary to repair to Redheugh to seek counsel of his
friend.

His sister Isabel had made a brilliant marriage; they had scarcely any
intercourse--unless some new misfortune should befall her she was lost
to her early friends. Mrs. Catherine and Mr. Ferguson, under Mr.
Coulter's advice, were managing his estate. Sentences oracular and
mysterious were sometimes heard falling from Mrs. Catherine's lips, in
which the names of "Archie" and "Anne" were conjoined. The house of
Strathoran had been thoroughly purified. Mrs. Catherine had made sundry
important additions to its plenishing; it was always kept in such order,
that its now prosperous and rising possessor might return to it, at
once. Anne was resident at the Tower sometimes, and knew of these
processes. They tended to some new change in the eventful life of Archie
Sutherland.

The Rosses of Merkland were visiting the Rutherfords of Redheugh. In the
large sunny drawing-room, from whose ample windows sloped a lawn of
close and velvet greensward, the whole family were assembled. The elder
Mrs. Ross was mollified and melted; the younger gay and rejoicing. Lewis
was in high spirits--under the regimen approved and recommended by Mr.
Coulter, Lewis hoped to raise the rent-roll of Merkland a half more than
it had ever been. You could see now in the large wistful dark eyes of
Christian Lillie, only the subdued and serious tone proper to those who
have borne great griefs without brooding over them. There was an aspect
of serene peace and healthful pleasure over all the house. The three
sisters, Marion, Christian, and Anne, were sisters indeed.

Without was a merrier group. Lilie Rutherford, with her youthful
gallant, Charlie Ferguson, now a High School boy, lodged in a closet of
his brother Robert's rooms, and frequent in his Saturday visits to
Redheugh; and Lawrie, growing a young man now, as he thought, and
dubious as to the propriety of keeping company with lesser boys and
girls, to whom he was very patronizing and condescending, stood by the
sun-dial; while in the background was Jacky, now waiting gentlewoman to
Miss Lilias Rutherford, a very great person indeed, and little Bessie,
young Mrs. Ross of Merkland's own maid.

Lilie was coquetishly making inquiries of Bessie, touching the welfare
of Harry Coulter, whereat Charlie Ferguson grew irate and sulky.

"And the young gentleman's biding at the Tower," said Bessie; "he's a
lord noo his ainsel--and he's been twice at Harrows."

"Who is that?" said little Lilie.

"Oh, if ye please, Miss Lilie," said Jacky, "it's a young gentleman that
was a lord's son, and now he's a lord himsel--and he's gaun to be
married to Mr. Harry's sister."

"Eh, Jacky, what gars ye say such a thing?" cried Bessie. "If ye please,
Miss Lilie, naebody kens--only he's been twice at Harrows; but maybe
he's no courting Miss Coulter for a' that."

"_I_ should think not," exclaimed Charlie Ferguson, indignantly. "Ada
Coulter married to a lord! Yes, indeed--and they can't talk of a single
thing at Harrows but fat pigs, and prize cattle, and ploughing matches.
Why, Lilie, do you mind what Harry gave you when you were at Merkland--a
plough! what can ladies do with ploughs?"

"Mrs. Catherine has a great many ploughs, Charlie," said Lilie,
gravely--"and it was very good of Harry; and Mary and me might have
played with it all our lane, and we would not have needed you. I dinna
like boats--folk can plough at hame--but in boats they go over the sea."

"And, eh, Jacky!" exclaimed Bessie, curiously, as Charlie followed his
capricious liege lady, to efface if he could this unfortunate
recollection of Harry Coulter and his gift--"isna young Strathoran awfu'
often at Redheugh?"

"He's here whiles," said Jacky, briefly.

"Johnnie Halflin says," said Bessie, "and it's a' through the
parish--and folk say Mrs. Catherine's just waiting for't, and that it's
to be in the Tower, and Mr. Lumsden is to do it, and Mrs. Lumsden kens
a' about it--"

"About what?"

"Oh, ye just ken better than me for a' you'll no say--just that young
Strathoran's coming out of yon muckle reekie Glasgow, hame to his ain
house, and then he's to be married to Miss Anne. Tell us, woman,
Jacky--I'll never tell a mortal body again, as sure as I'm living."

Jacky's dark face lighted up--she knew this secret would bear telling,
even though Bessie broke faith.

"We're a' gaun to the Tower at the New year--like the time Redheugh came
hame; Miss Lilie and Miss Anne, and a' the house--and young Strathoran's
to be there too. And Miss Anne has gotten a grand goun, a' of white
silk, shining like the snaw below the moon, and a shawl--ye never saw
the like o't--it's as lang as frae Merkland to the Tower. And maybe
something will happen then, and maybe no--Miss Anne wasna gaun to tell
me!"

                      THE END.


Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

Strathoram=> Strathoran {pg 16}

Its not so much here=> It's not so much here {pg 19}

hypocondriac=> hypochondriac {pg 24}

Little Allice=> Little Alice {pg 26}

dont=> don't {pg 29}

strangers character=> stranger's character {pg 30}

Mrs. Euphan Morrison=> Mrs. Euphan Morison {pg 26}

downfal=> downfall {pg 44 & 45}

its=> it's {pg 45}

Archilbald Sutherland=> Archilbald Sutherland {pg 46}

Mrs. Morrison=> Mrs. Morison {pg 51}

peplexed=> perplexed {pg 53}

momento=> memento {pg 56}

Mrs. Euphan Morrison=> Mrs. Euphan Morison {pg 70}

downfal=> downfall {pg 93}

cousulting=> consulting {pg 68}

dried and dyring=> dried and drying {pg 70}

Bobert Ferguson=> Robert Ferguson {pg 72}

with may messages=> with many messages {pg 78}

Mr. Furguson=> Mr. Ferguson {pg 78}

the the sad wayfaring man=> the sad wayfaring man {pg 88}

and ruin and ruin=> and ruin {pg 93}

her commads=> her commands {pg 93}

where whispering=> were whispering {pg 94}

orginal property=> original property {pg 97}

There? there!=> There! there! {pg 97}

stange unwonted=> stange unwonted {pg 99}

sick mouth of waiting=> sick month of waiting {pg 106}

sorow=> sorrow {pg 111}

kneeling before his portait=> kneeling before his portrait {pg 112}

Jackie Morison=> Jacky Morison {pg 116}

petulent=> petulant {pg 122}

tremulousley down again=> tremulously down again {pg 123}

one littlemonth ago=> one little month ago {pg 126}

solemn occassion=> solemn occasion {pg 127}

the tears stealing over he cheeks=> the tears stealing over her cheeks
{pg 130}

sinc ehe is=> since he is {pg 138}

acrifice myself=> sacrifice myself {pg 139}

Noman's guilt=> Norman's guilt {pg 141}

Catherin'e lips=> Catherine's lips {pg 144}

whose very nams=> whose very name {pg 145}

passible opening=> possible opening {pg 146}

elementary knowledged=> elementary knowledge {pg 146}

lilie's learning=> Lilie's learning {pg 156}

iu a lowland country=> in a lowland country {pg 158}

Orandside=> Oranside {pg 162}

desparate energy=> desperate energy {pg 167}

houshold=> household {pg 172}

Young Simpelton rose=> Young Sympelton rose {pg 177}

remebrance=> remembrance {pg 182}

disagreeble=> disagreeable {pg 189}

undeserved repoofs from her=> undeserved reproofs from her {pg 195}

Mr. Catherine's=> Mrs. Catherine's {pg 196}

Mr. Suter=> Mr. Sutor {pg 198}

well-dresed=> well-dressed {pg 198}

Mrs. Duncome=> Mrs. Duncombe {pg 199}

overbriming=> overbrimming {pg 199}

the macalpines=> the macalpines {pg 205}

Simson, begin your work=> Simpson, begin your work {pg 208}

leave it instanly=> leave it instantly {pg 208}

siting=> sitting {pg 215}

The chaise had drived off=> The chaise had driven off {pg 216}

Giles Sympleton=> Giles Sympelton {pg 217}

people cofined within the limits=> people confined within the limits {pg
226}

in ectasies=> in ecstasies {pg 234}

guant woman=> gaunt woman {pg 236}

contained the books Mrs. Yammer's household=> contained the books of
Mrs. Yammer's household {pg 237}

having settle itself=> having settled itself {pg 242}

terminated ar last=> terminated at last {pg 246}

complete acquital=> complete acquittal {pg 246}

Afer all=> After all {pg 247}

Annes' heart=> Anne's heart {pg 247}

and unven wall=> and uneven wall {pg 249}

mahogony=> mahogany {pg 250}

unceremniously=> unceremoniously {pg 251}

bligted=> blighted {pg 255}

Fizherbert=> Fitzherbert {pg 267}

rustice wit=> rustic wit {pg 268}

and when he rose a last=> and when he rose at last {pg 269}

widow-still=> window-still {pg 271}

Falcan's Craig=> Falcon's Craig {pg 271}

smilling=> smiling {pg 273}

I'ts my hope=> It's my hope {pg 278}

three or foor miles=> three or four miles {pg 280}

woud have done=> would have done {pg 280}

descent=> decent {pg 280}

cabages=> cabbages {pg 280}

discusseed=> discussed {pg 281}

betweeu=> between {pg 283}

on the shore the sternly silent=> on the shore is sternly silent {pg
289}

earthernware=> earthenware {pg 293}

seperate=> separate {pg 307}

Chrsitian's=> Christian's {pg 310}

Mr. Yammer=> Mrs. Yammer {pg 313}

litle=> little {pg 313}

not come to soon=> not come too soon {pg 318}

friends house=> friend's house {pg 319}

sooth=> soothe {pg 320}

thine own heaven=> Thine own heaven {pg 321}

youg ladies=> young ladies {pg 332}

Iu the first place=> In the first place {pg 333}

the lest remembrance=> the least remembrance {pg 336}

calmity=> calamity {pg 338}

Christian Lillie had=> Christian Lilie had {pg 340}

Christs holy=> Christ's holy {pg 343}

the the end=> the end {pg 343}

An odler man leaned on his arm=> An older man leaned on his arm {pg 348}

as of he knew it=> as if he knew it {pg 348}

Ail the three were half weeping ye=> All the three were half weeping ye
{pg 353}

nuturing=> nurturing {pg 365}





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