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Title: Cleg Kelly, Arab of the City - His Progress and Adventures
Author: Crockett, S. R. (Samuel Rutherford)
Language: English
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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.

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CLEG KELLY

ARAB OF THE CITY


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR._

Uniform Edition. Each, $1.50.


Bog-Myrtle and Peat.

"Here are idylls, epics, dramas of human life written in words that
thrill and burn.... All are set down in words that are fit, chaste, and
noble. Each is a poem that has the immortal flavor."—_Boston Courier._


The Lilac Sunbonnet.

"A love story pure and simple—one of the old-fashioned, wholesome,
sunshiny kind, with a pure-minded, sound-hearted hero and a heroine who
is merely a good and beautiful woman; and if any other love story half
so sweet has been written this year it has escaped our notice."—_New
York Times._


New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: From the lake arose the voice, mocking and bitter.

  (See page 260.)]



CLEG KELLY
ARAB OF THE CITY

His Progress and Adventures

by

S. R. CROCKETT

Author of
The Lilac Sunbonnet, Bog-Myrtle and Peat, etc.

Illustrated



New York
D. Appleton and Company
1896

Copyright, 1895, 1896,
By D. Appleton and Company.



CONTENTS.


   ADVENTURE                                          PAGE

         I.—The outcasting of Cleg Kelly                 1

        II.—The burning of the Whinny Knowes             5

       III.—Why Cleg Kelly hated his father             13

        IV.—How Isbel Kelly heard sweet music           21

         V.—The brigands of the city                    29

        VI.—Cleg turns burglar                          38

       VII.—The adventure of the cockroaches            45

      VIII.—The flight of Sheemus                       51

        IX.—The warming of the Drabble                  57

         X.—The squaring of the police                  62

        XI.—The boy in the wooden hut                   68

       XII.—Vara Kavannah of the Tinklers' Lands        72

      XIII.—Cleg's second burglary                      80

       XIV.—Cleg turns diplomatist                      86

        XV.—The fire in Callendar's yard                94

       XVI.—In the key of boy natural                  101

      XVII.—The Knuckle Dusters                        110

     XVIII.—Big Smith subdues the Knuckle Dusters      116

       XIX.—The pilgrims of the penny gaff             123

        XX.—The difficulties of Adonis betwixt
            two Venuses                                129

       XXI.—An idyll of Bogie roll                     139

      XXII.—The seduction of a bailie                  143

     XXIII.—The amorous adventures of a
            night-shift man                            147

      XXIV.—The crook in the lot of Cleaver's boy      153

       XXV.—A comely Providence in a new frock         157

      XXVI.—R. S. V. P.                                163

     XXVII.—Janet of Inverness tastes the herb
            bitter-sweet                               167

    XXVIII.—The engine-driver with the beard           172

      XXIX.—Muckle Alick's Bannockburn                 177

       XXX.—How Geordie Grierson's engine broke
            its buffer                                 181

      XXXI.—The "awfu' woman"                          184

     XXXII.—Maid Greatheart and her pilgrims           190

    XXXIII.—The babes in the haystack                  194

     XXXIV.—That of Mary Bell, byre lass               198

      XXXV.—The knight in the soft hat                 202

     XXXVI.—The madness of Hugh Boy                    207

    XXXVII.—Boy Hugh finds out the nature of a kiss    212

   XXXVIII.—Of Miss Briggs and her ten cats            216

     XXXIX.—The adventure of Snap's porridge           222

        XL.—A new kind of hero                         227

       XLI.—"Twa laddies—and a lassie"                 233

      XLII.—Muckle Alick considers                     243

     XLIII.—Town knight and country knight             247

      XLIV.—Cleg relapses into paganism                253

       XLV.—The cabin on the summit                    262

      XLVI.—A child of the devil                       268

     XLVII.—The sleep of James Cannon, signalman       275

    XLVIII.—Muckle Alick sees the distant signal
            stand at Clear                             284

      XLIX.—Cleg collects tickets                      291

         L.—General Theophilus Ruff                    300

        LI.—The General's establishment                309

       LII.—The three coffins in the strong-room       318

      LIII.—A stormy morning at Loch Spellanderie      326

       LIV.—Kit Kennedy's farewell                     335

        LV.—A young man's fancy                        341

       LVI.—The voices in the marsh                    349

      LVII.—Fighting the beasts                        359

     LVIII.—Within the red door                        367

       LIX.—The beech hedge                            377

        LX.—Cleg's treasure-trove comes to him         383



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                               FACING PAGE

   From the lake arose the voice mocking
   and bitter. (see page 260)               _Frontispiece_

   When "the Warrior" came.                             11

   "I shall be ruined!"                                 65

   "Our roads separate here."                          123

   "He gripped them baith, but he hadna time to loup
   clear o' the far rail."                             182

   "Out with it!" said the minister.                   208

   Along gloomy passages.                              321

   The dark figure ran past them.                      358



ADVENTURE I.

THE OUTCASTING OF CLEG KELLY.


"It's all a dumb lie—God's dead!"

Such a silence had never fallen upon the Sunday school, since the
fatal day when the gate was blown into the middle of the floor
by Mickey McGranaghan, a recent convert (and a temporary one) to
the peculiar orthodoxy of Hunker Court. But the new explosion far
outstripped the old in its effects. For it contained a denial of all
the principles upon which the school was founded, and especially it
confounded and blasphemed the cheerful optimism of Mr. James Lugton,
its superintendent, otherwise and more intimately known as "Pund o'
Cannles."

The statement which contained so emphatic a denial of the eternity of
the Trinity was made by Cleg Kelly, a barelegged loon of eleven, who
stood lone and unfriended on the floor before the superintendent's desk
in the gloomy cellar known as Hunker Court school. Cleg Kelly had been
reported by his teacher for incorrigible persistence in misconduct. He
had introduced pins point upwards through the cracks in the forms. He
had an instrument of wire cunningly plaited about his fingers, by means
of which he could nip unsuspecting boys sitting as many as three or
four from him—which is a great advantage to a boy in a Sunday school.
Lastly, he had fallen backwards over a seat when asked a question; he
had stood upon his hands and head while answering it, resuming his
first position as if nothing had happened so soon as the examination
passed on to the next boy. In fact, he had filled the cup of his
iniquities to the brim.

His teacher did not so much object to the pranks of Cleg Kelly
himself. He objected mainly because, being ragged, barelegged, with
garments picturesquely ventilated, and a hat without a crown, he was
as irresistible in charm and fascination to all the other members of
his class as if he had been arrayed in silver armour starry clear.
For though Hunker Court was a mission school, it was quite a superior
mission. And (with the exception of one class, which was much looked
down upon) the lowest class of children were not encouraged to attend.
Now Cleg Kelly, by parentage and character, was almost, if not quite,
as the mothers of the next social grade said, "the lowest of the low."

So when Cleg's teacher, a respectable young journeyman plumber, could
stand no more pranks and had grown tired of cuffing and pulling, he led
Cleg up to the awful desk of the superintendent from which the rebukes
and prizes were delivered.

Thereupon "Pund o' Cannles," excellent but close-fisted tallow chandler
and general dealer, proceeded to rebuke Cleg. Now the rebukes of "Pund
o' Cannles" smelt of the counter, and were delivered in the tones in
which he addressed his apprentice boys when there were no customers in
the shop—a tone which was entirely different from the bland suavity
which he used when he joined his hands and asked, "And what is the next
article, madam?"

"Do you know, boy," said the superintendent, "that by such sinful
conduct you are wilfully going on the downward road? You are a wicked
boy, and instead of becoming better under your kind teacher, and taking
advantage of the many advantages of this place devoted to religious
instruction, you stick pins—brass pins—into better conducted boys than
yourself. And so, if you do not repent, God will take you in your
iniquity and cast you into hell. For, remember, God sees everything and
punishes the bad people and rewards the good."

The superintendent uttered, though he knew it not, the most ancient of
heresies—that which Job refuted.

It was at this point in the oration of "Pund o' Cannles" that Cleg
Kelly's startling interruption occurred. The culprit stopped making O's
on the dusty floor with his toe, amongst the moist paper pellets which
were the favourite distraction of the inattentive at Hunker Court; and,
in a clear voice, which thrilled through the heart of every teacher and
scholar within hearing, he uttered his denial of the eternity of the
Trinity.

"It's all a dumb lie—God's dead!" he said.

There was a long moment's silence, and small wonder, as the school
waited for the shivering trump of doom to split the firmament. And the
patient and self-sacrificing teachers who gave their unthanked care to
the youth of the court every Sunday, felt their breaths come short, and
experienced a feeling as if they were falling over a precipice in a
dream. At last Mr. James Lugton found his voice.

"Young and wicked blasphemer!" he said sternly, "your presence must no
longer, like that of the serpent in Paradise, poison the instruction
given at this Sabbath school—I shall expel you from our midst——"

Here Cleg's teacher interposed. He was far from disliking his scholar,
and had anticipated no such result arising from his most unfortunate
reference of his difficulty to the superintendent. For he liked Cleg's
ready tongue, and was amused by the mongrel dialect of Scots and Irish
into which, in moments of excitement, he lapsed.

"I beg pardon, sir," he said, "but I am quite willing to give Kelly
another chance—he is not such a bad boy as you might think."

The superintendent waved his hand in a dignified way. He rather fancied
himself in such scenes, and considered that his manner was quite as
distinguished as that of his minister, when the latter was preaching
his last memorable course of sermons upon the imprecatory psalms, and
making solemn applications of them to the fate of members of a sister
denomination which worshipped just over the way.

"The boy is a bold blasphemer and atheist!" he said; "he shall be cast
out from among our innocent lambs. Charles Kelly, I solemnly expel you
upon this Christian Sabbath day, as a wicked and incorrigible boy, and
a disgrace to any respectable mission school."

The attitude of the superintendent was considered especially fine at
this point. And he went home personally convinced that the excellent
and fitting manner in which he vindicated the good name of Hunker
Court upon this occasion, was quite sufficient to balance an extensive
practice of the use of light weights in the chandler's shop at the
corner of Hunker's Row. He further entirely believed judicious severity
of this kind to be acceptable in the highest quarters.

So as the resisting felon is taken to prison, Cleg Kelly, heathen of
eleven years, was haled to the outer door and cast forth of Hunker
Court. But as the culprit went he explained his position.

"It's all gammon, that about prayin'," he cried; "I've tried it heaps
of times—never fetched it once! An' look at my mother. She just prays
lashings, and all the time. An' me father, he's never a bit the
better—no, nor her neither. For he thrashes us black and blue when he
comes hame just the same. Ye canna gammon me, Pund o' Cannles, with
your lang pray-prayin' and your short weight. I tell you God's dead,
and it's all a dumb lie!"

The last accents of the terrible renunciation lingered upon the tainted
air even after the door had closed, and Cleg Kelly was an outcast. But
the awed silence was broken by a whiz and jingle which occurred close
to the superintendent's ear, as Cleg Kelly, Iconoclast, punctuated
his thesis of defiance by sending a rock of offence clear through the
fanlight over the door of Hunker Court mission school.



ADVENTURE II.

THE BURNING OF THE WHINNY KNOWES.


Cleg Kelly was now outcast and alien from the commonwealth. He had
denied the faith, cast aside every known creed, and defied the Deity
Himself. Soon he would defy the policeman and break the laws of
man—which is the natural course of progression in iniquity, as every
one knows.

So leaving Hunker Court he struck across the most unfrequented streets,
where only a stray urchin (probably a benighted Episcopalian) was
spending the Sabbath chivying cats, to the mountainous regions of
Craigside, where the tall "lands" of St. Leonards look out upon the
quarried crags and steep hill ridges of Arthur's Seat. For Cleg was
fortunate enough to be a town boy who had the country at his command
just over the wall—and a wall, too, which he could climb at as many
as twenty points. Only bare stubby feet, however, could overpass
these perilous clefts. Cleg's great toes, horny as if shod with iron,
fitted exactly into the stone crevices from which the mortar had been
loosened. His grimy little fingers found a purchase in the slightest
nicks. And once on the other side, there was no policeman, park-keeper,
or other person in authority, who could make the pace with Cleg's bare
brown legs, at least up the loose clatter of the shingle between the
lower greensward and the Radical Road.

So, after being expelled from Hunker Court, Cleg made straight for a
nook of his own among the crags. Here, like a prudent outlaw, he took
account of his possessions with a view to arranging his future career
of crime. He turned out his pockets into his hat. This was, indeed,
a curious thing to do. For the article which he wore upon his shaggy
locks was now little more than the rim of what had once been a covering
for the head, proof against wind and water. But though Cleg's treasures
rested upon the ground, the fact that they were within his hat-rim
focussed them, as it were, and their relative worth was the more easily
determined.

The first article which Cleg deposited upon the ground inside his hat
was a box of matches, which had been given him to light the gas with in
the outlying corners of Hunker Court school, for that dank cellar was
gloomy enough even on a summer afternoon. Then came some string, the
long-pronged nipping-wires which he had taken from his father's stores,
a pair of pincers, a knife with one whole and one broken blade, a pipe,
some brown-paper tobacco of a good brand, a half-written exercise-book
from the day-school at which Cleg occasionally looked in, five marbles
of a variety known as "commonies," one noble knuckler of alabaster
which Cleg would not have parted with for his life, a piece of dry
bread, and, lastly, half an apple, with encroaching bays and projecting
promontories, which indicated in every case but one the gap in Cleg's
dental formation on the left side of his upper jaw, which dated from
his great fight with Hole in the Wa' in the police yard. The exception
was a clean semicircle, bitten right into the apple-core. This was the
tidemark of a friendly bite Cleg had given to a friend, in whose double
row were no gaps. The perfect crescent had been made by the teeth of a
lassie—one Vara Kavannah.

The box of matches was to its owner the most attractive article in
all this array of wealth. Cleg looked into his hat-rim with manifest
pleasure. He slapped his knee. He felt that he was indeed well adapted
to the profession of outlaw. If he had to be a Cain, he could at least
make it exceedingly lively in the Land of Nod.

It was a chilly day on the craigs, the wind blowing bask from the East,
and everything underfoot as dry as tinder. The wild thought of a yet
untried ploy surged up in Cleg's mind. He grasped the matchbox quickly,
with thoughts of arson crystallising in his mind. He almost wished that
he had set Hunker Court itself on fire. But just in time he remembered
Vara Kavannah and her little brother Hugh.

"I'll get them to gang to anither school first," he said.

But in the meantime, with the thought of setting fire to something in
his heart and the matchbox in his hand, it was necessary to find the
materials for a blaze. He had no powder with him or he would have made
a "peeoye"—the simple and inexpensive firework of metropolitan youth.

He looked up at the heather and whin which covered the Nether Hill.
His heart bounded within him at the thought. He looked again at his
matchbox, which was one of the old oval shape, containing matches so
exceedingly and gratuitously sulphurous, that the very smell of one of
them was well worth the halfpenny charged for the lot. So, without any
further pause for reflection, Cleg stowed away all the possessions,
inventoried with such accuracy above, into various outlying nooks and
crevices among the seams and pockets of his flapping attire.

Having collected the last one of these, Cleg climbed up a crumbling
cliff at the eastern end of the craigs, where the stones lie about in
slats. Upon each of them, for all the world like green post-office
wax dripped upon grey paper, was some curious mineral, which Cleg,
in his hours of decent citizenship, collected and sold at easy rates
to the boys of the Pleasance as a charm. This mysterious green stuff
had even been made a seal of initiation into one of the most select,
aristocratic, and bloody secret societies of which Cleg was a member.
Indeed, if the truth must be told, Cleg had formed the association
chiefly that he might be able to supply the badges of membership, for
he had a corner in green mineral wax—at least so long as the mine
at the east corner of the craigs remained undiscovered by the other
adventurous loons of the south side.

Cleg soon reached the tawny, thin-pastured, thick-furzed slopes which
constitute the haunch of Arthur's lion hill. In the days of Cleg's
youth these were still clad thick with whins and broom, among which the
birds built in the spring, and lovers sat in long converse on little
swarded oases.

"I'll juist set fire to this wee bit knowe," said Cleg, his heart
beating within him at the enormity of the offence. "There's no a
'keelie' in the toon that wad dare to do as muckle!"

For the ranger of that particular part of the hill was an old soldier
of great size and surprising swiftness in a race. And many had been the
Arthur Street urchins who had suffered a sore skin and a night in the
cells after being taken in dire offence. So "the Warrior" they called
him, for an all-sufficient name.

In a sheltered spot, and with the wind behind him, Cleg opened his
matchbox. He struck a match upon the rough oval bottom. It spurted
faintly blue, burned briskly, and then flickered out within Cleg's
hollowed hands. Cleg grunted.

"A fizz an' a stink," said he, summing up the case in a popular phrase.

The next went somewhat better. The flame reached the wood, dipped as
if to expire, took hold again, and finally burned up in a broad-based
yellow triangle. Cleg let it drop among the crisp, dry, rustling
grasses at the roots of the whin bushes. Instantly a little black line
ran forward and crossways, with hardly any flame showing. Cleg was
interested, and laid the palm of his hand upon the ground. He lifted it
instantly with a cry of pain. What had seemed a black line with an edge
of flickering blue was really a considerable fire, which, springing
from the dry couch grass and bent, was briskly licking up the tindery
prickles of the gorse.

The next moment, with an upward bound and a noise like the flapping
of a banner, the flame sprang clear of the whin bushes, and the blue
smoke streamed heavenwards. Cleg watched the progress, chained to the
spot. He well knew that it was time for him to be off. But with the
unhallowed fascination of the murderer for the scene of his crime upon
him, he watched bush after bush being swallowed up, and shouted and
leaped with glee. But the progress of the flame was further and swifter
than he had intended. One little knoll would have satisfied him. But in
a minute, driven forward by a level-blowing, following wind, the flame
overleaped the little strait of short turf, and grasped the next and
far larger continent of whin.

Cleg, surprised, began to shrink from the consequences of his act.
He had looked to revenge himself upon society for his expulsion from
Hunker Court by making a little private fire, and lo! he had started a
world conflagration. He ran round to the edge of the gorse covert. Two
hedge-sparrows were fluttering and dashing hither and thither, peeping
and crying beseechingly. Cleg looked at the objective point of their
anxiety, and there, between two whin branches, was the edge of a nest,
and a little compact yellow bundle of three gaping mouths, without the
vestige of a body to be seen.

"Guid life," cried Cleg, who kept kindness to birds and beasts as the
softest spot of his heart, "guid life, I never thocht the birds wad be
biggin' already!"

And with that he took off his coat, and seizing it in both hands he
charged boldly into the front of the flame, disdainful of prickles
and scorchings. He dashed the coat down upon a bush which was just
beginning to crackle underneath; and by dint of hard fighting and
reckless bravery he succeeded in keeping the fire from the little
island, on the central bush of which was situated the hedge-sparrow's
nest. Here he stood, with his coat threshing every way, keeping the
pass with his life—brave as Horatius at the bridge (or any other
man)—while the flames crackled and roared past him.

[Illustration: When "the Warrior" came.]

Suddenly there was a great fizzing and spitting from the ragged coat
which Cleg wielded as a quenching weapon. The fatal matchbox,
cause of all the turmoil, had exploded. The fumes were stifling, but
the flames still threatened to spread, and Cleg still laid about him
manfully. The tails of the coat disappeared. There was soon little
left but the collar. Cleg stood like a warrior whose sword has broken
in his hand in the face of the triumphant enemy. But the boy had a
resource which is not usually open to the soldier. He cast the useless
coat-collar from him, stripped a sleeved waistcoat, which had been
given him by the wife of a mason's labourer, and, taking the garment by
the two arms, he made an exceedingly efficient beater of the moleskin,
which had the dried lime yet crumbly upon it at the cuffs.

When at last "the Warrior" came speeding up the hill, warned out of his
Sabbath afternoon sleep by the cry that the whins were on fire, he was
in no pleasant temper. He found, however, that the fire had been warded
from the greater expanses by a black imp of a boy, burned and smutted,
with the remains of a moleskin garment clasped in a pair of badly
burned hands.

When the crowd of wanderers had gathered from all parts of the hill,
and the fire had been completely trampled out, the ranger began his
inquiries. Cleg was the chief suspect, because no one had seen any
other person near the fire except himself. On the other hand no one had
seen him light the whins, while all had seen him single-handed fighting
the flames.

"It's Tim Kelly's loon, the housebreaker, that leeved in the Sooth
Back!" said the inevitable officious stranger with the gratuitous
local knowledge. At his father's ill-omened name there was an obvious
hardening in the faces of the men who stood about.

"At ony rate, the loon is better in the lock-up," said the ranger
sententiously.

At this Cleg's heart beat faster than ever. Many had been his perilous
ploys, but never yet had he seen the inside of the prison. He
acknowledged that he deserved it, but it was hard thus to begin his
prison experience after having stayed to fight the fire, when he could
easily have run away. There was unfairness somewhere, Cleg felt.

So, with the burnt relics of his sleeved waistcoat still in his hands,
Cleg was dragged along down the edge of the Hunter's Bog. The ranger
grasped him roughly by a handful of dirty shirt collar, and his strides
were so long that Cleg's short legs were not more than half the time
upon the ground.

But at a certain spring of clear, crystal water, which gushes out of
the hillside from beneath a large round stone, the ranger paused.

He too had fought the flames, and he had cause to thirst. For it
was Sunday afternoon, and he had arisen from his usual lethargic
after-dinner sleep upon the settle opposite the kitchen fire.

So at the well he stooped to drink, one hand still on Cleg's collar,
and the palm of the other set flat on the side of the boulder. It was
Cleg's opportunity. He quickly twisted himself suddenly round, just
after the ranger's lips had touched the water. The rotten cloth of his
shirt tore, and Cleg sprang free. The ranger, jerked from the support
of the stone, and at the same moment detached from his prisoner, fell
forward with his head in the spring, while Cleg sped downhill like the
wind. He was ready stripped for the race. So, leaving the panting chase
far behind, he made for a portion of the encompassing wall, which none
but he had ever scaled. Having clambered upon the top, he crossed his
legs and calmly awaited the approach of the ranger.

"It's a warm day, Warrior," said Cleg; "ye seem to be sweatin'!"

"Ye limb o' Sawtan," panted the ranger, "gin ever I get ye this side o'
the dyke, I'll break every bane in your body."

"Faith," answered Cleg, "ye should be braw an' thankfu', Warrior, for
ye hae gotten what ye haena had for years, and had muckle need o'!"

"And what was that, ye de'il's buckie?" cried the angry ranger.

"A wash!" said Cleg Kelly, as he dropped down the city side of the
wall, and sped home to his fortress.



ADVENTURE III.

WHY CLEG KELLY HATED HIS FATHER.


This is a bad, black tale; yet, for the sake of what comes after, it
must be told.

Cleg Kelly had a father. He was a deeply pockmarked man who hated
his son; but not so bitterly as his son hated him. Once on a time
Cleg Kelly had also a mother, and it is the story of his mother which
remains to tell. The story of most men is the story of their mother.
They drank love or hatred, scorn or sympathy, at her breasts.

So it was with Cleg Kelly. So let the story of Isbel Kelly be told. How
a woman may be murdered in this land and none swing for it! How a woman
may be put to the torture every day and every night for years, and the
voice of her crying mount (we must believe it) into the ears of the God
of Sabaoth, yet no murmur reach her nearest neighbour upon the earth!
Gladlier would I tell a merrier tale, save that it is ever best to get
the worst over first, as medicine goes before barley-sugar.

Isbel Kelly had not always been Isbel Kelly. That is to say, she had
not always been unhappy. There was a time when Timothy Kelly had not
come into her life. Isbel Beattie was once a country girl. She had
sung in the morn as she went afield to call the dappled kine, as glad
a milkmaid as any in song or story. Her foot was the lightest in the
dance at the "kirn," her hand the deftest at the spinning-wheel, her
cheerful presence the most desired when the butter would not come. For
the butter ever comes fastest for a good-tempered woman. A vixenish
disposition only curdles the milk. That is why young men, landward
but wise, so eagerly offer to help the maids at the butter-making.
And no sweeter maiden than Isbel Beattie ever wore print gowns and
lilted "O whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad," in all the parish of
Ormiland—that is, till Timothy Kelly came, and Isbel sang no more.

Isbel Beattie was "fey," they said, and would take no advice. Lads
tight and trig stood in rows to wait for her as she came out of the
kirk, on fine Sabbath days when the lilac blossoms, white and purple,
were out, and there was a drooping sprig in every spruce bachelor's
coat. But Isbel passed them all by with a toss of her head. She could
have married a rather stupid young farmer of the best intentions and
unquestioned solvency had she so chosen. But Isbel was "fey," and would
take counsel from neither maid nor matron.

Now Timothy Kelly, the weasel-faced Irish harvestman, wormed himself
into the girl's affections by ways of his own, as before and after he
had undone many a trebly fastened door with his steel picklock.

From that day until the hour of her death Isbel Beattie saw no good
day. A week after they were married, Timothy Kelly was drinking Isbel's
last half-year's wages in a public-house, and Isbel was crying at home
with a bruised cheek. She sang no more late or early; but learned to
endure hardness and to pray that the kind Lord of whom she had heard in
the kirk, might send a swift and easy death as the best thing to pray
for.

Timothy Kelly was not long in Ormiland ere he removed to Edinburgh in
the interests of business. He needed the metropolis for the exercise of
his talents. So Isbel packed what he had left her, and followed him,
faithful and weary-foot, to the city lane, and Timothy Kelly cursed her
over his shoulder all the way. But she did not hear him, and his words
did not hurt her. God had stopped her ears. For the sound of a dearer
voice was in them, and the promise of the Eden joy answered Isbel, as
though the Lord Almighty walked with her through the streets of the
city in the cool of the day.

A week after an infant lay on the breast of Isbel Kelly, in a garret
up Meggat's Close, off the Pleasance. A kindly neighbour looked in now
and then when Tim Kelly was out, and comforted the young mother. When
Tim came in he cursed them all impartially. His foul words sent the
neighbours forth again, full of pity and indignation; and so he cast
himself down to sleep off drink and temper on the couch of rags in the
corner.

Towered fair-faced Edinburgh and its seething under-world held no man
like Timothy Kelly. A sieve-net might have been drawn through it and no
worse rascal caught than he. Cruel only where he dared with impunity
to be cruel, plausible and fawning where it was to his interest so to
be, Timothy Kelly was a type of the criminal who lives to profit by
the strange infatuations of the weakest women. From silly servant
girls at kitchen doors who thought him "a most civil-spoken young man,"
he obtained the professional information which enabled him to make
unrecognised but accurate lists of the family silver upon some stormy
midnight, when the policemen stood in doorways, or perambulated the
city with their helmets down upon their brows.

Isbel Kelly wore thin and white, and the bruises on her face grew
chronic, only occasionally changing the side. For in this matter
Timothy Kelly had no weak partiality. Yet, in the midst of all, Cleg
Kelly gained in years and strength, his mother many a time shielding
him from blows with her own frail body. There was a soft light on her
face when she looked at him. When her husband was out Isbel watched
Cleg all day long as he lay on the bed and kicked with sturdy limbs, or
sprawled restlessly about the house. The dwelling was not extensive. It
consisted of one room, and Tim Kelly's "hidie holes," where he kept the
weapons of his craft—curious utensils, with iron crab fingers set at
various angles upon the end of steel stalks.

Now, it is the strangest, yet one of the commonest, things in this
world that Isbel Kelly loved her husband, and at the worst times said
no word against him. It was a mistake. She ought to have outfaced him,
insulted him, defied him, given him blow for blow. Then he might have
been a reasonably decent husband, according to the standard of Meggat's
Close.

But Cleg Kelly made no such mistake. From the time that he was a
toddling little fellow till the parish buried his mother, Cleg Kelly
looked at his father with level brows of hate and scorn. No one had
taught him; but the perception of youth gauged the matter unerringly.

There are but two beings in the universe whom a really bad-hearted man
cannot deceive: his Maker and a young child. Cleg Kelly never quailed
before his father. Neither words nor blows daunted him. Whenever his
father went out, he said:

"Bad mannie gone away, minnie!"

"Na, Cleg," said his mother, "ye mauna speak that way o' yer faither!"

"Bad mannie, minnie!" Cleg repeated determinedly; "bad mannie gone
away."

And from this she could not move him.

Then as soon as his father began to beat the lad, and his mother was
not able to protect him, Cleg developed a marvellous litheness and
speed. He could climb roofs like a cat at five years of age, and watch
his father from the ledge of an outlying wall or the side of a reeking
chimney-can, where even the foot of the practised burglar dared not
venture.

Then came a year black and bitter. It was the year of the small-pox.
That part of Edinburgh where the Kellys lived became a walled city.
There was one death in every three or four attacked. And Tim Kelly went
to the seaside for his health.

But Isbel and her boy battled it out alone. She had seven shillings
a week for cleaning a day-school. But soon the schools were closed,
and her pay ceased. Nevertheless, she earned money somehow, and the
minister of the McGill-Gillespie church visited her. It would take a
whole treatise on Church History, and a professor thereof, to tell why
that church was called the McGill-Gillespie. But the unlearned may be
assured that these excellent gentlemen were not canonised Scottish
saints, nor were their effigies worshipped inside. But at this time the
minister of the church came very near to being worshipped outside.

The children knew his step, and ran—_to_, not _from_, him. He was the
only man, except the doctor, at whom the urchins of Meggat's did not
fling dirt. One of these had even been known to touch his hat to the
minister of McGill-Gillespie. But this was a great risk, and of course
he did not do it when any one was looking.

One day Cleg Kelly sickened, and though at the time he was a great boy
of six, his mother carried him about in her arms all day, soothing him.
And the hot, dry spots burned ever brighter on his cheeks, and his eyes
shone like flame. The minister brought the doctor, for they hunted
in couples—these two. Some of the ministers had gone to the seaside
with Timothy Kelly, and along with them a few great professional men
from the West-End. But the Pleasance doctor, a little fair man, and
the minister of McGill-Gillespie, a tall dark man, remained with the
small-pox. Also God was there—not very evidently, or obtrusively,
perhaps; but the minister of McGill-Gillespie knew where to find Him
when He was wanted.

And He was needed badly enough in the sick-room of Cleg Kelly. No
doubt Cleg ought to have gone to the hospital. But, for one thing, the
hospitals were overcrowded. And, for another, if they had taken Cleg,
they might have taken his mother also. At all events Cleg was nursed in
his home, while his father remained at the seaside for his health.

One night, when the trouble was at its height, Cleg ran deliriously on
about "the bad mannie." His mother stilled and tended him. The doctor
ordered a little warm wine to be given to Cleg occasionally, and the
minister of McGill-Gillespie had brought it. But Cleg wavered between
life and death in spite of the wine—and much nearer death than life.
Isbel had seen the doctor earlier in the day, and she was to go for him
again if a certain anticipated change did not come within six hours.
The change did not come, though the mother never took her eyes off
her boy. Cleg lay back on his pallet bed, inert and flaccid, his eyes
glassy and fixed in his head. His mother softly closed the door, took
her shawl over her head, and fled through the midnight streets to the
doctor's house.

A sudden summer storm had arisen off the sea. The wind swirled about
the old many-gabled closes of Edinburgh. It roared over the broken
fortress line of the Salisbury Crags. The streets were deserted. The
serried ash-backets were driven this way and that by the gale. Random
cats scudded from doorstep to cellar, dipped, and disappeared. _Clash!_
fell a great shutter on the pavement before her. Isbel Kelly was at the
doctor's door. He was not in. Would she leave a message? She would,
and the message was that a little boy was sinking, and that unless the
doctor came quickly a mother's only son would die. She cried out in
agony as she said it, but the wind swirled the cry away.

So through the turmoil of the storm she came back, and ran up the
evil-smelling dark stairs, where the banister was broken, and only
the wind-blown fleer of the gas-lamp outside, flickering through the
glassless windows of the stairway, lighted her upwards. She had once
been a milkmaid, but she had forgotten how the cowslips smelled. And
only in her dreams did she recall the scent of beehives over the wall
on a still summer night.

She opened the door with a great yearning, but with no presentiment of
evil.

"Tim!" she said, her face whitening.

A man, weasel-faced and hateful to look upon, stood by the little
cupboard. He had a purse in his hand, and a bottle stood on the
mantelshelf beside him.

"Oh, Tim!" she cried, "for the Lord's sake dinna tak' my last
shillin'—no frae me an' the boy. He's deein', Tim!"

She ran forward as if to beseech him to give the money back to her; but
Tim Kelly, reckless with drink, snatched up the minister's wine-bottle
and it met his wife's temple with a dull sound. The woman fell in a
heap. She lay loosely on the floor by the wall, and did not even moan.
Tim Kelly set the bottle to his lips to drain the last dregs with an
empty laugh. But from the bed something small and white flew at his
throat.

"Bad mannie, bad mannie, bad mannie!" a shrill voice cried. And before
Tim Kelly could set down the bottle, the little figure in flying
swathings had dashed itself again and again upon him, biting and
gnashing on him like a wolf's cub. For the blood of Tim Kelly was in
the lad, as well as the blood of the milkmaid who lay on the floor as
one dead.

And this was what the doctor found, when he stumbled up the stair and
opened the door. He had seen many strange things in his day, but none
so terrible as this. He does not care to speak about it, though he told
the minister that either Providence or the excitement had probably
saved the child's life. Yet for all that he tended Timothy Kelly, when
his turn came, as well as the best of paying patients. For Tim's was an
interesting case, with many complications.

So this adventure tells the reason of three things very important to be
known in this history—why, six months after, Isbel Kelly was glad to
die, why Cleg Kelly hated his father, and why smooth-faced Tim, who had
once deceived the servant girls, was ever after a deeply pockmarked man.

What it does not tell is, why God permitted it all.



ADVENTURE IV.

HOW ISBEL KELLY HEARD SWEET MUSIC.


Cleg Kelly did not die just then, which was in some ways a good thing.
But neither did his mother Isbel, which, for herself, was a pity. It
was also a mistake for society, for then Tim Kelly might also have died
for the want of a nurse, and Providence and the city authorities would
have been saved a vast deal of trouble.

But in spite of all boasts to the contrary, this is so little a free
country that people cannot always die when they want—some not even
when they ought to. And not a few have got themselves into trouble for
assisting manifest destiny. But no one, not even the chief constable,
would have been sorry had Isbel Beattie forgotten to help Tim Kelly,
her husband, at some crisis of his disease, so that he might have gone
betimes to his own place, and thus have been compelled to leave alone
a great number of other places and things with which he had no proper
concern.

But Isbel Kelly did not think of that. Moreover, Tim Kelly behaved
himself better as an invalid than he had ever done as a whole man. And
as for little Cleg, he got better rapidly in order to get out of his
father's way.

But there came a day when both her invalids were out of her hands, and
Isbel had time to clean her house and give her attention to dying on
her own account. She did not wish to put any one to an inconvenience.
But, indeed, there was little else left for her to do. Tim Kelly
was again able to attend to his business—which, strictly speaking,
consisted in the porterage of other people's goods out of their houses,
without previous arrangement with the owners, and in a manner as
unobtrusive as possible.

Cleg was too young for this profession, but according to his father's
friends his day was coming. In the meantime he spent most of the day in
a brickyard at the back. For Tim Kelly, owing to a little difficulty
as to rent, had moved his household goods from Meggat's Close to the
outskirts of the city. Now they do not use many bricks about Edinburgh;
but there are exceptions, especially in the direction of Leith, and
this was the place where they made the exceptions.

The brickyard was a paradise to Cleg Kelly in the warm days of summer.
The burning bricks made a strange misty fume of smoke in the air, which
was said to be healthy. People who could not afford to go to Portobello
for convalescence brought their children to the brickyard. They made
drain-pipes and other sanitary things there; and on that account also
the brickyard was accounted healthy for people in the position of the
Kellys.

At any rate Cleg Kelly was well content, and he played there from morn
to night. His mother generally watched him from a window. There was but
one window in the little "rickle of brick" which their pawnbroking Jew
landlord called a "commodious cottage." He might call it what he liked.
He never got any rent for it from Tim Kelly.

Yet Isbel was happier here than in the city. At least she could see the
trees, and she had neighbours who came in to visit her when her husband
was known to be from home.

"Eh, Mistress Kelly, I wonder ye can pit up wi' sic a man," said the
wife of Jo Turner, a decent man steadily employed on the brickfields,
who only drank half his wages.

Isbel signed frantically towards the bed with her hand. But without
noticing her signals of distress, the innocent Mrs. Turner went on with
the burden of her tale.

"Gin _I_ had sic a man, I wad tak' him to bits an' pit him up again
anew—the black-hearted scoondrel o' a red-headed Irishman!"

Tim Kelly rose from the bed where he had been resting himself. They do
not set a bed in a room in that country. They put it down outside a
room and build it round on three sides. Then they cover the remaining
side in with as many cloths as possible, for the purpose of keeping out
the air. From such a death-trap Tim Kelly rose slowly, and confronted
Mistress Turner.

"Get out av me house, Misthress Turner, afore I break the thick skull
av yer ill-conditioned face," said Tim, whose abuse was always of the
linked and logical kind.

"'Deed an' I'll gang oot o' yer hoose wi' pleesure, Timothy Kelly; gin
I had kenned that the likes o' ye was in it, Mary Turner wad never hae
crossed yer doorstep."

"Well, now that ye are here, be afther takin' yersilf acrost the
durestip, as suddent an' comprehensive-like as ye can—wid yer brazen
face afore ye an' yer turned-up nose in the air. When ye are wanted bad
in this house, ye'll get an invite wid a queen's pictur' on it an' me
kyard!" said Tim Kelly, sarcastically.

Mary Turner betook herself to the door, in a manner as dignified as
it is possible to retain when retreating with one's face to the foe.
But when she got there, she put her arms akimbo and opened the vials
of her wrath on Tim Kelly. The neighbours came to the doors to listen.
It was a noble effort, and the wives remembered some of Mistress
Turner's phrases long after, and reproduced them every fortnight upon
pay-nights, for the benefit of their husbands when they came home with
only eleven intact shillings out of twenty-three.

But Tim Kelly hardly troubled to reply. He only said that Mary Turner
was a brass-faced old Jezebel, a statement which he repeated several
times, because he observed that it provoked on each occasion a fresh
burst of the Turnerian vocabulary.

Tim Kelly never wasted animosity. After all, Mistress Turner was not
his wife, and there were other means of getting even with her. He could
win money at cards from her husband, or he could teach her son, Jamie,
who had just left school, a fine new game with the lock of a door and
one of his curious pronged hooks. There are more ways of killing a cat
than drowning it in cream—also many deaths less agreeable to the cat.
So Tim Kelly bided his time.

But for some reason Tim Kelly grew less unkind to his wife than he had
ever been, since those terrible days when in Ormiland parish bonny
Isbel Beattie grew "fey."

It was said that Tim was afraid of his son Cleg. At any rate, certain
it is that he beat his wife no more, and very occasionally he even
gave her a little money. So in her heart Isbel Kelly counted these
good days, and sometimes she could almost have wished to live a little
longer.

It was not often that Cleg stayed in the house with her. That she did
not expect. But at all times of the day she could see him, rushing
about the brickfield, sometimes piling bricks into castles; at other
times helping Jo Turner; then again playing at marbles for "keeps" in
the red dust of the yard, with the sun pouring down upon his head. It
was a constant marvel to Isbel that he was never tired. She was always
tired.

Sometimes Cleg Kelly fought, and then his mother called him in. He
always came—after the fight was over. He still wore a hat of straw with
a hole in it, or rather he wore a hole with a little rim of hat round
it. He loved his mother, and, on the whole, attended to what she told
him. He did not steal anything of value, nor would he go near Hare's
public. He did not tell more lies than were just and necessary. He
minded his mother's wants, and was on the whole a fairly good boy, as
boys go down by the Easter Beach brickyard. The standard was not an
exacting one.

"Mind, now, Cleg, when I gang awa', ye are to bide wi' your faither,
an' no cross him ower sair. He is your faither, mind, an' I leave him
to you."

Cleg promised—to please his mother, but he loved his other parent none
the more. The next time he saw him come home drunk, he clouted him with
a paving-stone from behind the yard wall. He excused himself by saying
his mother was not gone away yet.

This was the lesson Isbel taught Cleg every day when he came in to his
scanty meals, many of which good Mistress Turner slipped into the house
under her apron, when the "brute beast and red-headed gorilla" of her
anathema was known to be out of the way.

After a while there came an afternoon when Isbel Kelly felt strangely
quiet. It was a drowsy day, and the customary sounds of the brickfield
were hushed in the doze of the afternoon sun. Outside it was hot
with an intense heat, and a kind of pale bluish smother rose off the
burning bricks. The reek of the kilns drifted across the fields, too
lazy to rise through the slumberous sunshine. The whole yard radiated
blistering heat like an oven.

Isbel sat by the window in a chair which Tim had made during his
convalescence; for he was exceedingly handy with tools, and during
those days he had nothing worse to do.

She made the house as tidy as she could compass during the morning
hours, steadying herself with one hand on the walls as she went about.
Cleg, of course, was playing outside. He had come racing in for his
dinner with a wisp of hair sticking out of the hole in his hat. Isbel
smoothed it down, and because her hand touched him like a caress Cleg
put it from him, saying, "Dinna, mother; somebody micht see ye!"

It was hot, and the boy was a little irritable; but his mother
understood.

Then, as he took the plate of broth, he told his mother all that had
happened in the brickfield that day. He had carried clay for Jo, and
Jo had given him a penny. Then he had been at a rat-hunt with the best
terrier in the world. He had also chased Michael Hennessy twice round
the yard after a smart bout of fisticuffs. Thereupon, the men had
cheered him, and called him a "perfect wull-cat"—which Cleg took to be
a term of praise, and cherished as a soldier does the "penn'orth o'
bronze" which constitutes the Victoria Cross.

Isbel only sat and rested and listened. Tim was away for the day, she
knew not where, and the minutes Cleg remained indoors and talked to her
were her sole and sufficient pleasure. She thanked the Lord for each
one of them. But she never called the boy in against his will, nor yet
held him longer than he cared to stay.

Yet, somehow, on this day Isbel was more eager than usual to detain
her son. She clung to him with a strange kind of yearning. But as
soon as Cleg had finished his bread and soup he snatched up his white
straw hat-brim and raced out, crying, as he ran, "I'm awa', mither—Tam
Gillivray has stealed my auld basin withoot the bottom."

This was a serious offence, and Cleg went down in haste to avenge the
insult. Soon there was the noise of battle below—chiefly, however, the
noise of them that shout for the mastery; and then, in a little, when
the bottomless basin had been recovered by its rightful owner, the
noise of them that cry for being overcome.

From the window Isbel watched. Her thin hair fell over her wasted
temples, and she pressed her hand on her breast, searching as though
something were missing there. And so there was. It was about a lung and
a half which she missed. Nevertheless there had fallen a peace upon
Isbel to which she had been unaccustomed. Faint tremors ran through her
body, and though the window was wide open, she often gasped for breath.
A blissful, painless weariness stole over her.

Cleg was playing below. He had achieved a victory, complete, yet not
quite bloodless, for Tam Gillivray was staunching his nose at the
smith's cauldron with a lump of cold iron at the back of his neck.
Cleg, prancing in haughty state and followed by a little train of
admirers, was now dragging the basin in triumph round the yard. He was
pretending that it was a railway train drawn by an engine of extremely
refractory disposition, which curvetted and reared in a most unenginely
manner.

Isbel watched him from her window.

"He is happy, puir laddie—maybe happier than he'll ever be again. Let
him bide a wee. I'll gie him a cry, in time."

Then she looked again. She prayed a little while with her eyes shut.
Beneath, Cleg was holding his court. He had crowned himself with the
basin, and pulled his hair through it in the shape of a plume. As an
appropriate finish for the whole, he had stuck the mop of protruding
locks full of feathers, and now he was presiding over a court of
justice at which Michael Hennessy was being tried for his life on the
charge of murdering a "yellow yoit." In due course the verdict of
justifiable homicide was returned, and the culprit sentenced to kill
another, or be belted round the brickyard.

Then, wearying for a fresher ploy, the boys decided to build a
fortress, and instantly, as soon as they had thought of it, they set to
work with a mountain of refuse bricks, Cleg Kelly putting no hand to
the manual labour, but being easily first in the direction of affairs.
This "gaffership" suited Cleg so well that he turned three excellent
wheels in the greatness of his content, and then immediately knocked
over several boys for presuming to imitate him, when they ought to have
been fulfilling orders and building bricks into a fortress.

From the window his mother still watched him. She smiled to see his
light-heart joy, and said again, as if to herself, "In a while I shall
cry to him—I dinna need him yet!"

All about there grew up in her ears a sound of sweet music, as of the
many singers at the kirk on still, warm Sabbath days, singing the
psalms which she remembered long ago in Ormiland, only they sounded
very far away. And at times the brickyard reeled and dazzled, the arid
trodden ground and steaming bricks fell back, the cracked walls opened
out, and she saw the sun shining upon golden hills, the like of which
she had never seen before.

"What is this? Oh, what's this?" she asked herself aloud, and the sound
of her own voice was in her ears as the roaring of many waters.

It seemed to her to be almost time now. She leaned forward wearily to
call her son to help her. But he was sitting on a throne in the midst
of his castle, dressed as Robin Hood, with all his merry men about him.
He looked so happy, and he laughed so loud, that Isbel said again to
herself—

"I can manage yet for half an hour, and then I shall cry to him."

But her son caught sight of her at the window. He was so elated that he
did not mind noticing his mother, as a common boy would have done. He
waved his hand to her, calling out loud—

"Mither, mither, I'm biggin' a bonny hoose for ye to leeve in!"

Isbel smiled, and it was as if the sun which shone on the hills of her
dream had touched her thin face and made it also beautiful for the last
time before sundown.

"My guid boy—my nice boy," she said, "the Lord will look till him! He
said he was biggin' a hoose for his mither. Let him big his hoose. In
an hour I shall cry to him—my ain laddie!"

Yet in an hour she did not cry, and it was the only time she had ever
broken her word to her son.

But that was because Isbel Kelly had journeyed where no crying is.
Neither shall there be any more pain.



ADVENTURE V.

THE BRIGANDS OF THE CITY.


Cleg Kelly's mother lay still in her resting grave, and had no more
need of pity. Cleg abode with his father in the tumble-down shanty by
the brickfield at Easter Beach, and asked for no pity either. Cleg had
promised his mother, Isbel, that he would not forsake his father.

"Na, I'll no rin awa' frae ye," so he told his father, frankly, "for I
promised my mither; but gin ye lick me, I'll pit my wee knife intil ye
when ye are sleepin'! Mind ye that!"

And his father minded, which was fortunate for both.

Cleg was now twelve, and much respected by his father, who fully
believed that he was speaking the truth. Tim Kelly, snow-shoveller,
feared his son Cleg with his sudden wild-cat fierceness, much more than
he feared God—more, even, than he feared Father Donnelly, to whom he
went twice a year to ease his soul of a portion of his more specially
heinous sins.

Yet Tim Kelly was a better man, because of the respect in which he held
his son. He even boasted of Cleg's cleverness when he was safe among
his old cronies in Mother Flannigan's kitchen, or in the bar-parlour at
Hare's public.

"Shure, there's not the like av him in this kingdom av ignorant
blockheads. My Clig's the natest and the illigantest gossoon that
stips in his own boot-leather. Shure, he can lick anything at all near
his own weight. Sorra's in him, he can make his ould man stand about.
Faith, 'tis him that's goin' to be the great man intoirely, is our
little Clig."

These were the opinions of his proud father.

But Jim Carnochan, better known as the "Devil's Lickpot," demurred. If
Cleg was so clever a boy, why was he not set to work? A boy so smart
ought long ere this to have been learning the profession. To this
Mother Flannigan agreed, for she shared in the profits.

"My Peether, rest his sowl for a good lad—him as was hanged be token of
false evidence—and the bobbies findin' the gintleman's goold watch in
Peether's pocket, was at wurrk whin he was six years av his age. Take
my wurrd for it, Timothy Kelly, there never yet was a thruely great
man that didn't begin his education young."

"Maybe," said Tim, "and that's the raison, Misthress Flannigan, that so
few av them grew up to be ould men."

"Gin he was my boy," said Sandy Telfer, whose occupation was breaking
into houses during the summer holidays (one of the safest "lays" in the
profession, but looked down upon as mean-spirited), "I wad be haein'
him through the windows and openin' the front doors every dark nicht."

"Ah, you wud, wud ye?" replied Tim Kelly contemptuously; "you're
the great boy to talk, you that has no more manhud in ye than a
draff-sack wid a hole in it. Yuss, ye can do yer dirthy way wid your
own mane-spirited spalpeens, wid no more spunk than a dure-mat. But I'd
have ye know that my Clig cud make hares av you an' ivvery Telfer av
the lot o' ye—hear to me now!"

And Tim Kelly shook his fist within an inch of the nose of Sandy
Telfer, who, not being a man of war, showed by the curl of his nostril
and the whitening of his lip, that he did not find the bouquet of Tim
Kelly's bunch-of-fives an agreeable perfume. Tim Kelly waited to see if
on any pretext he could bring his fist into closer contact with Sandy
Telfer's face, but he found no cause.

"My Clig," he said emphatically, "is goin' to be a great characther.
He is jist the boy that is to climb the top laddher av the profession.
It's his father that must be out at night, an' run the risk av the
dirthy bobby wid his lanthern, an' the gintleman av the house in his
night-shirt wid a cruel poker. But Clig shall sit safe and aisy in his
chair, an' make his thousands a year wid the scrap av his pen. He'll
promothe companies, an' be out av the way when they burst. He'll write
so illegant that he cud turn ye off another gintleman's signathure as
fast as his own, an' worth a deal more on a bit av paper than anny av
our names——"

"Come away hame, faither, sittin' bletherin' there. Ye hae been here
lang enough."

It was the face of Cleg Kelly, dirty, sharp, and good-natured, which
appeared at the door of the boozing ken.

Mistress Flannigan caught up a pound weight and threw it at Cleg with
a woman's aim. It flew wide, and would surely have smashed some of the
unclean vessels standing ready for the wash on the dresser, had Cleg
not stepped briskly within, and, catching the missile deftly, made a
low bow as he laid it on the table, and said, with his rare disarming
smile—

"Your obedient servant, Cleg Kelly!"

"Hear to him now, the young bliggard!" cried his delighted and
well-intoxicated father. "He has come to arm the ould man home, an' the
ould man'll have to be stippin' too when Clig gives the wurrd."

Isbel Kelly had indeed been a happy woman if, ten years ago, she had
learned Cleg's method.

"Come on, faither," reiterated Cleg, who had again retreated to the
door, for he had no liking for the company or the place.

Tim Kelly got himself on his feet unsteadily, and lurched towards the
door. His son caught him deftly on the descending swoop.

"Steady, faither, mind the stair. Gie us yer han'."

And so Cleg got Timothy, his father, who deserved no such care,
tenderly up the filthy exit of Mistress Flannigan's cellar.

"Tim's not the man he was," Sandy Telfer said, as the pair went out.

"It's fair undecent doin' as the boy bids him, an' never so much as
puttin' the laddie to an honest bit o' wark. Ah, he'll suffer for that,
or a' be dune! They'll be raisons annexed to that," continued the
summer housebreaker, who had been respectably brought up on the Shorter
Catechism, but who, owing to a disappointment in love, had first of all
joined another denomination, and, the change not answering its purpose,
had finally taken to housebreaking and drink.

"Ye may say so, indeed," said Bridget Flannigan.

So Cleg took his father home to the rickety house by the brickyard.
Cleg kept the room clean as well as he could. But the sympathetic
neighbour, who remembered his mother, occasionally took a turn round
the place with a scrubbing-brush when it was absolutely certain that
the "red-headed gorilla" was absent, attending to other people's
business.

Whenever Cleg saw his father refrain from Hare's public and the evening
sessions of Mistress Flannigan's interesting circle, he knew that Tim
had a project on hand. Generally he took no particular heed to these.
For it was his custom, as soon as he saw his father off on any of his
raids, to go and report himself casually at the nearest police-station,
where the sergeant's wife knew him. She often gave him a "piece" with
sugar on it, having known his mother before ever she left the parish of
Ormiland.

The sergeant's wife remembered her own happy escape from being Mrs.
Timothy Kelly, and though her heart had been sore against Isbel at the
time, she had long forgotten the feeling in thankfulness that her lines
had fallen on the right side of the law. But she had never confided to
the sergeant that she had once known Tim Kelly somewhat intimately.

Cleg did not mean to be mixed up in any of his father's ill-doings if
he could help it, so upon these occasions he frequented the precincts
of the police-station as much as the sergeant's wife would let him.

It was his custom to take his "piece"—an excellent thick slice of bread
with brown sugar on it—and seat himself on a luxurious paling opposite
to eat it. The fact that a great many message boys passed that way may
have had something to do with Cleg's choice of locality. Cleg liked to
be envied. And, seeing the "piece," more than one boy was sure to give
chase. This introduced a healthy variety into Cleg's life. He liked to
fool with these young men of the message basket. Exercise sharpens the
appetite, and when this morning the butcher's boy chivvied him over the
parched-up grass field that lay between the station and the brickyard,
Cleg fairly whooped in his joy.

At first he ran slowly, and apparently with great alarm, so that the
butcher's boy had not the least doubt that he easily could catch him.
Cleg held the sergeant's wife's "piece" in his hand as he ran, so that
the butcher's boy could see the thick sugar on the top of the yellow
butter. This stirred up the pursuer's desires, and he made a spurt to
seize Cleg. Had the assailant been the grocer's boy, to whom sugar and
butter were vain things, Cleg would have had to try another plan. Now,
when the butcher's boy spurted, Cleg almost let himself be caught. He
heard close behind him the labouring of the avenger. With a sudden rush
he sped thirty yards in front; then he turned and ran backwards, eating
the sergeant's wife's "piece" as he ran. This aggravated the butcher's
boy to such an extent that he had to stop with his hand on his panting
side, and curse Cleg's parentage—which, sad to relate, pleased Cleg
more than anything. He said it was prime. By which he meant, not the
sergeant's wife's "piece," but the whole situation, and especially the
disgust of the butcher's boy.

Then Cleg, being contented, offered honourable terms, for he and the
butcher's boy were in reality very good friends. He gave his late
pursuer a fair half of the bread and sugar, but reserved the crust for
himself. So, munching amicably, Cleg and the butcher's boy returned
together to the paling on which Cleg had been sitting.

But, alas! during his temporary absence from his care, Tam Luke, the
baker's boy, had come along. And in pursuit of the eternal feud between
butcher's boys and baker's boys, he had overturned the basket and
rolled the meat on the road. Luke was now sitting on the rail a little
way along, smoking a pipe loaded with brown paper, with a kind of
ostentatious calmness.

When half across the field the butcher's boy observed the insult to his
basket. Yet he said nothing till he came quite near. Then, in the most
friendly manner possible, he seized the defiled leg of mutton, destined
for the dinner of an eminent Doctor in Divinity, and hit Tam Luke a
swinging blow over the head with it, which not only broke that youth's
pipe, but for a season spoiled the shape of his mouth, and tumbled him
incontinently over the fence.

The baker's boy rose, shedding freely bits of clay pipe and exceedingly
evil words. A battle royal seemed imminent to one who did not know the
commonplaces of friendly intercourse among these worthies. But the
baker's boy contented himself with stating over and over in varied and
ornamental language, highly metaphorical in parts, what he would do
to the butcher's boy if he hit him again. However, the butcher's boy
had too great an advantage in handling Professor Hinderlands' leg of
mutton, and the tempest gradually blew itself out.

Whereupon all parties betook themselves to a street pump to wash the
various articles which had been strewed in the mire, and to dry them
on the butcher's boy's blue-striped apron, which he wore girt about
him like a rope. It was a highly instructive sight. And had the cooks
of various respectable families seen the process, they would have had
a sufficient answer to their frequent indignant question that morning,
"What can be keeping Cleaver's young vaigabond?"

Also, had they happened to pass, a number of the good ladies who sat
down so comfortably to enjoy their dinners (which they called "lunch"
if anybody happened to call) would certainly have gone without the
principal course.

But the butcher's boy and the baker's boy were not in the least
distressed. Such things happened every day. It was all in the way of
business. And as for our hero, he, as we have indicated before, merely
remarked, in his vulgar way, that it was prime.

So far he had had a good, interesting day, and was exceedingly pleased
with himself.

Presently all three went and calmly smoked on the side of the road,
roosting contentedly on the paling, while Tam Luke, who had got a prize
for good reading at the school, drew out of his pocket "The Bully
Boys' Budget"—an international journal of immense circulation, which
described the adventures of associated bands of desperate ruffians
(aged, on an average, nine) in New York, a city which Cleaver's loon
looked upon as a boys' Paradise. Boys were discouraged in Edinburgh.
They got no chance of distinguishing themselves.

"It's a most michty queer thing," said Cleg, "that the story says, if
Tam Luke reads it richt——"

"I'll smash yer tawtie heid!" remarked that gentleman, mightily
offended at the insinuation.

"If Tam Luke reads it richt," continued Cleg, "that in New York the
bobbies rin frae the boys; but here the boys rin frae the bobbies like
fun."

"_Me?_" said Cleaver's boy. "I wadna rin for ony bobby in the hale
toon."

"An' _me_," cried Tam Luke, with mighty contempt, "I lickit a big bobby
the nicht afore yestreen. I could fecht a bobby wi' yae hand tied ahint
my back."

"Bobbies are nane sic bad folks. The sergeant's wife over there gied me
a 'piece,'" said Cleg gratefully.

"Ye are a reid-heided Irish traitor!" said the butcher's boy with
emphasis.

"It's my faither that's reid-heided," said Cleg promptly; "but tak'
that ony way for speaking ill o' the family!"

And with the back of his hand he knocked the libeller of his forbears
over into the field.

"I'm gaun to be captain o' a band o' robbers—will ye baith join?" said
Tam Luke.

Cleaver's boy was about to wreak his vengeance on Cleg from the other
side of the fence, but he paused with his arm suspended to think over
the proposal.

"I'm gaun to be captain o' a band mysel'! Will ye join?" said the
butcher's boy to Cleg, instead of assaulting him as he had first
intended.

"What to do?" asked practical Cleg.

"To fecht the poliss, of course!" cried the butcher's boy and the
baker's boy together. Their unanimity was wonderful.

"_There's the sergeant the noo!_" said Cleg quietly, pointing across
the road.

And it was indeed the sergeant, who, having been on night duty, had
just risen and strolled out to see what kind of weather it was.

The valiant captains of the decimating bands which were to terrorise
the police of the city, descended from their several roosts as with
one mind, seized their baskets, and sped round opposite corners with
amazing speed.

Cleg Kelly was left alone, sitting on the paling. He pulled out what
remained of his crust, and as he ate it with relish, he laughed aloud
and kicked his heels with glee, so that the sergeant, stretching
himself after his day-sleep, called across to the boy——

"What's up wi' ye, Cleg? Ye seem to be enjoyin' yoursel'!"

But all the answer he could get out of Cleg was just, "O man, sergeant,
it's prime!"

But as to whether he meant the crust or only things in general, the
sergeant was none the wiser.



ADVENTURE VI.

CLEG TURNS BURGLAR.


Cleg had watched his father furtively all day. Little conversation
passed between these two. Cleg devoted much of his time to a
consideration of the best means of legitimate gain in his new
profession of capitalist. He possessed the large sum of one shilling
and a penny. It was banked upon sound old principles in the hollow
end of a brick, which was buried under a flag in the backyard of a
brewery. Cleg had hidden it with mystic incantations, and now carried
a red worsted thread twisted round his finger to remind him of its
whereabouts.

But there was another reason besides his large capital, why Cleg was
unusually watchful of his father that day. First of all, Tim Kelly
had come home sober from Hare's public the night before. That was a
suspicious circumstance in itself. It showed not only that his ready
cash had all been liquefied, but that Mistress Hare had drawn a line
under the big chalk score behind her door. This line was the intimation
that the single file of figures must be wiped off before another dram
was served.

"Ye've had Larry on your back long enough, sure, Tim!" said Mistress
Hare, who regulated these matters in person. "Idleness is a most deadly
sin, Father Malony sez!" continued the landlady devoutly.

"Shure, an' it's not the divil's sin, thin, Mistress Hare," said Tim
acutely, "for he's busy enough!"

Tim was the only burglar with a brogue in the city, and as such was
dear to the heart of Mistress Hare. For the Scot, when he takes to the
investigation of other people's houses, does so grimly and without
romance. But Tim had always a hint of Celtic imagination and even of
poetry in his creations.

For instance, all that day on which Cleg kept his eye on his father,
Tim was meditating a raid on the house of Mr. Robert Grey Tennant, a
comfortable burgess of the burgh, who for the ease of his later life
had built himself—not a lordly pleasure house indeed, but a comfortable
mansion of Craigleith stone, exactly like three hundred and sixty-five
other mansions on the south side of the city.

There was at the back of Aurelia Villa a little bordering of flowers
and strawberries. These, however, never came to much, for the cats
broke the flowers and extraneous boys stole the strawberries. There was
also a little green plot, big enough for parlour croquet, but not big
enough for lawn tennis. Yet this did not prevent the serious-minded
and inventive young woman of the house, Miss Cecilia Tennant, from
frequently playing what she called "pocket-handkerchief tennis" on this
scraplet of lawn. And it was indeed a lively game, when two or three
of her admirers arrived with racquets and rubber shoes to engage in
silk-striped summer strife.

When a couple of champions of the Blackhouse Club met on the same side
of the net, they winked at each other, and amusement struggled with
politeness within them. But when each one of their services came near
to annihilating an opponent's nose, and as they sent their returns
out of court and over boundary walls with monotonous regularity, they
changed their minds. Especially was this so when Miss Cecilia Tennant
and a certain Junior Partner in a mercantile concern in the town, put
in with equal certainty neat services and returns, dropping the balls
unexpectedly into odd corners as if playing with egg spoons. They asked
the Junior Partner how he did it. The Junior Partner said it was native
genius. But perhaps the undisclosed fact that Cecilia Tennant and he
played together three nights out of six on that lawn had rather more to
do with it. Pocket-handkerchief tennis is certainly convenient for some
things. It keeps the players very close to one another, except when
they fall out—an advantage which it shares with ballooning.

But Tim Kelly was not interested in this house because of the desirable
young men who played tennis there, nor yet because of any love of the
young woman for whose sweet sake they bought new scarves and frequented
the neighbourhood on the chance of a casual meeting. On the contrary,
Timothy was after the spoons. Hall-marked silver was his favourite
form of sport. And for this he had all the connoisseur's eagerness and
appreciation.

His son was, on the contrary, exceedingly interested in the house
itself. He was the most fervent of Miss Cecilia Tennant's admirers,
though he had never told her so. This peculiarity he shared with a
great many other young gentlemen, including every male teacher except
two (already attached) in Hunker Court school.

Yet in spite of all this affection, before midnight of that autumn
night, Cleg Kelly, future Christian, became a burglar—and that upon the
premises of his benefactress, Miss Cecilia Tennant. It happened in this
wise.

Tim sat all day on the floor of his house at home. He did so from
necessity, not from choice. For his apartment was airily furnished in
the Japanese fashion, with little except a couple of old mattresses
and as many rugs. There were no chairs. They had been removed during
Tim's last absence in the "Calton" by the landlord in lieu of rent. So
Tim sat on the floor and worked with a file among a bundle of keys and
curiously constructed tools. There was, for instance, a great lever
with a fine thin edge set sideways to slip beneath windows on stormy
nights, when the wrench of the hasp from its fastening would not be
heard.

There were delicate little keys with spidery legs which Tim looked
at with great admiration, and loved more than he had ever loved his
wife and all his relations. There were also complicated wrenching
implements, with horror latent about them, as though they had come from
some big arm-chaired, red-glassed dental surgery. Tim Kelly was putting
his tools to rights, and Cleg watched him intently, for he also was a
conspirator.

At midday the boy vanished and reported himself at the
police-sergeant's. He asked for a "piece," and the sergeant's wife told
him to be off. She was busy and he might come back when the weans came
in for their dinners. She had not time to be always giving the likes of
him "pieces" in the middle of the day.

Cleg did not care. He was not particularly hungry. But he hung about
all afternoon in the neighbourhood of the police-station, and so
pestered the good-natured policemen off duty, that one of them
threatened him with "a rare belting" if he did not quit.

Whereupon Cleg buttoned up his jacket, made to himself a paper helmet,
and with a truncheon in his hand stalked about in front of the station,
taking up stray dogs in the name of the law. One of these he had
previously taught to walk upon its hind legs. This animal he arrested,
handcuffed with a twist of wire, and paraded over against the station
in a manner killingly comic—much to the amusement of the passers-by,
as well as detrimental to the sobriety and discipline of the younger
officers themselves. But Cleg was seldom meddled with by the police.
He was under the protection of the sergeant's wife, who so often gave
him a "piece." She also gave "pieces" sometimes to the officers at the
station-house. For according as a policeman is fed, so is he. And it
was the sergeant's wife who stirred the porridge pot. Therefore Cleg
was left alone.

In this manner Cleg amused himself till dark, when he stole home. His
father was already coming down the stairs. Cleg rapidly withdrew.
His father passed out and took the narrowest lanes southward till he
entered the Queen's Park under the immanent gloom of the Salisbury
Crags. Cleg followed like his shadow. Tim Kelly often looked behind.
He boasted that he could hear the tramp of the regulation police boot
at least half a mile, and tell it from the tread of a circus elephant,
and even from the one o'clock gun at the Castle. But he saw no silent
boy tracking him noiselessly after the fashion of the Indian scout, so
vividly described in the "Bully Boys' Journal."

Tim Kelly bored his way into the eye of a rousing south wind that
"reesled" among the bare bones of Samson's Ribs, and hurled itself
upon Edinburgh as if to drive the city off its long, irregular ridge
into the North Sea. Bending sharply to the right, the burglar came
among buildings again. He crossed the marshy end of Duddingstone Loch.
It was tinder-dry with the drought. At the end of a long avenue was
to be seen the loom of houses, and the gleam of lights, as burgess's
wife and burgess moved in this order to their bedrooms and disarrayed
themselves for the night.

Tim Kelly hid behind a wall. Cleg crouched behind his father, but
sufficiently far behind not to attract his attention. Cleg was
taking his first lessons in the great craft of speculation—which is
the obtaining of your neighbour's goods without providing him with
an equivalent in exchange. The trifling matter of your neighbour's
connivance, requisite in betting and stock transactions, escaped the
notice of the Kellys. But perhaps after all that did not matter.

Aurelia Villa, the home of Miss Cecilia Tennant (incidentally also of
her father, Mr. Robert Grey Tennant), darkened down early; for Mr.
Robert Tennant was an early riser, and early rising means early bedding
(and a very good thing too).

Tim Kelly knew all that, for his local knowledge was as astonishing
as his methods of obtaining it were mysterious. It was not twelve of
the clock when Tim drew himself over the wall out of the avenue, and
dropped lightly as a cat upon the pocket-handkerchief lawn, which all
the summer had been worn at the corners by the egg-spoon tennis of
Cecilia and the Junior Partner.

Tim Kelly was at the back door in a minute. It was down three steps. He
laid a bag of tools, which clinked a little as he took them out of his
pocket, on the stone ledge of the step. It might be safer, he thought,
to take a look round the house and listen for the hippopotamus tread
of the regulation bull-hide. In a moment after Tim was round at the
gable end flat among the strawberries. There it came! Clear and
solemnising fell the tread of the law in all its majesty—a bull's-eye
lantern swinging midships a sturdy girth, which could hardly, even by
courtesy, be called a waist. Flash! Like a search-light ran the ray of
the lantern over the front of the property of Mr. Robert Grey Tennant.

But the regulation boots were upon the feet of a man of probity. The
wearer opened the front gate, tramped up the steps, conscientiously
tried the front door and dining-room window of the end house in the
row. They were fast. All was well. Duty done. The owners might sleep
sound. They paid heavy police rates to a beneficent local authority.
Why should they not sleep well? But, alas! the regulation boots did not
take any cognisance of Tim Kelly with his nose among the strawberries,
or of a small boy who was speeding over the waste fields and back yards
into the Park. The small boy carried a parcel. He was a thief. This
small boy was Cleg Kelly, the hero of this tale.

Timothy Kelly rose from among the strawberries with laughter and scorn
in his heart. If the bobby had only gone to the back door instead of
the front, there was a parcel there, which it would have made him a
proud policeman to take to the head office. Tim Kelly stooped at the
steps to take up his precious satchel of tools. His hand met the bare
stone. His bag was gone! His heart dinned suddenly in his ears. This
was not less than witchcraft. He had never been ten yards from them
all the time. Yet the tools were gone without sound or sight of human
being. Then there was an interval.

       *       *       *       *       *

During this interval Tim Kelly expressed his opinions upon things in
general. The details are quite unfit for publication.

But at that very moment, over at the end of Duddingstone Loch, a small
boy was whirling a small but heavy bag round his head.

"Once! Twice! Thrice—and away!" he cried with glee. Something hurtled
through the air, and fell with a splash far in the black deeps of the
loch. Years after this the antiquary of the thirtieth century may find
this bundle, and on the strength of it he will take away the honest
character of our ancestors of the Iron Age, proving that burglary was
commonly and scientifically practised among them. But the memory of
Cleg Kelly will be clear.

Indeed, he was sound asleep when his father came in, breathing out
threatenings and slaughter. Tim listened intently with his ear at his
son's mouth, for it is well to be suspicious of every one. But Cleg's
breathing was as natural and regular as that of an infant.

Yet there is no doubt whatever, that Cleg and not his father had been
guilty of both burglary and theft that night; and that Duddingstone
Loch was indictable for the reset of the stolen property.

Then Cleg Kelly, burglar, winked an eye at his father's back, and
settled himself to sleep the genuine sleep of the just.



ADVENTURE VII.

THE ADVENTURE OF THE COCKROACHES.


One day Cleg Kelly became paper-boy at the shop of Mistress Roy, at the
top corner of Meggat's Close. And he wanted you to know this. He was
no longer as the paper-boys who lag about the Waverley, waiting for
stray luggage left on the platforms, nor even as this match-boy. He was
in a situation.

His hours were from half-past six in the morning to half-past six in
the morning, when he began again. His wages were three shillings a
week—and his chance. But he was quite contented, for he could contrive
his own amenities by the way. His father had been in a bad temper ever
since he lost his tools, and so Cleg did not go home often.

This was the way in which he got his situation and became a member
of the established order of things, indeed, the next thing to a
voter. There had been a cheap prepaid advertisement in the "Evening
Scrapbook," which ran as follows:—

"WANTED, _an active and intelligent message-boy, able to read and
write. Must be well recommended as a Christian boy of good and willing
disposition. Wages not large, but will be treated as one of the
family.—Apply No. 2,301, _'Scrapbook'_ Office._"

Now Miss Cecilia Tennant thought this a most interesting and
encouraging advertisement. She had been for a long time on the look-out
for a situation to suit Cleg. The Junior Partner indeed could have
been induced to find a place for Cleg in "The Works," but it was
judged better that the transition from the freedom of the streets to
the lettered ease of an office desk should be made gradually. So Celie
Tennant went after this situation for Cleg in person.

The arrangement with Mistress Roy in the Pleasance was a little
difficult to make, but Celie made it. She went down one clammy evening,
when the streets were covered with a greasy slime, and the pavements
reflected the gloomy sky. In the grey lamp-sprinkled twilight she
reached the paper-shop. There were sheafs of papers and journals hung
up on the cheeks of the door. Coarsely coloured valentines hung in
the window, chiefly rude portraitures of enormously fat women with
frying-pans, and of red-nosed policemen with batons to correspond.

Celie Tennant entered. There was a heavy smell of moist tobacco all
about. The floor of the little shop was strewn with newspapers,
apparently of ancient date, certainly of ancient dirt. These rustled
and moved of themselves in a curious way, as though they had untimely
come alive. As indeed they had done, for the stir was caused by the
cockroaches arranging their domestic affairs underneath. Celie lifted
her nose a little and her skirts a good deal. It took more courage
to stand still and hear that faint rustling than to face the worst
bully of Brannigan's gang in the Sooth Back. She rapped briskly on the
counter.

A man came shuffling out of the room in the rear. He was clad in rusty
black, and had a short clay pipe in his mouth. His eyes were narrow and
foxy, and he looked unwholesomely scaly—as if he had been soaked in
strong brine for half a year, but had forgotten either to finish the
process, or to remove the traces of the incomplete pickling.

"Servant, m'am!" said he, putting his pipe behind him as he came into
the shop.

"I was referred here—to this address—from the office of the 'Evening
Scrapbook,'" said Celie, with great dignity, standing on her tiptoes
among the papers. "I called about the situation of message-boy you
advertised for."

"Ye wasna thinkin' o' applyin' yersel'!" said the man, with a weak
jocularity. "For my ain part I hae nae objections to a snod bit lass,
but the mistress michtna like it."

Miss Cecilia Tennant looked at him in a way that would have frozen a
younger man, but the frowsy object from the back shop only smirked and
laughed. With care, the jest would serve him a week. He made up his
mind to whom he would tell it when the lady was gone.

"I wish to recommend one of the boys from my class for the position.
His name is Charles Kelly. He is a smart boy of thirteen, and he is
anxious to get good and steady work. What are the wages you offer?"

The man looked cunningly all about the shop. He craned his neck over
the counter and looked up the street. He had a long-jointed body, and
a neck that shut up and pulled out like a three-draw telescope. Celie
Tennant shrank instinctively when the man protruded his head past her
in this curious manner, as she might have shrunk from some loathly
animal.

Then, having resumed his normal slouch behind the counter, he looked at
his visitant and said, "The wage is half a croon a week, and his chance
o' the drawer—the same as mysel'."

"His chance of the drawer!" said Celie, not understanding.

"When _she's_ oot," the man continued, laying his finger against
the side of his nose and winking with meaning and expression at his
visitor. The expression of disgust at the corner of Miss Tennant's
nose threatened to result in a permanent tilt, which might have been
unbecoming, and which certainly must have frightened the Junior Partner.

"When she's oot," repeated the frowsy one, confidentially, "your friend
is welcome to his chance o' the drawer—if," he added, with infinite
caution, "she was to leave it unlocked, which she seldom does. It's
lock'd the noo! See!" And he shook a greasy knob under the counter till
the drawer rattled against the bolt of the lock. "Oh, it's just like
her! She aye does that when she gangs oot. She's an awsome near woman!
She has nae confidence, nae open-hearted leeberality, sic' as a wife
ought to hae wi' the husband of her bosom."

"Do you want a message-boy, or do you not?" said Celie, who felt that
in the interests of Cleg she would face a battery of artillery, but who
really could not stand the rustling among the papers on the floor very
much longer.

"Certain she do that!" said the man, "an active boy, an intelligent
boy, a Christian boy—half a croon a week—and his chance o' the drawer."

Once more he protruded his head in that monstrously serpentine manner
round the corner of the low shop-door. But this time he retracted it
quick as lightning, and shuffled back into the room behind. Celie heard
him throw himself on a chair, which groaned under him.

"I'm sleepin' noo," he said, "sleepin' soond. Dinna say that I ever
spoke till ye, for I'll deny it if ye do!" he said.

Cecilia Tennant stood her ground bravely, though the newspapers on the
floor rustled continuously. She wondered why the path of duty was such
a cockroachy one. A moment afterward a grim-looking, hard-faced woman
entered. She was a tall woman, with a hooked nose and broad masculine
face. The eyes were at once fierce and suspicious. She marched straight
round the counter, lifting the little flap at the back and letting it
fall with a bang. The cat was sitting on the end of the counter nearest
the door of the inner room. The woman took her hand and swept it from
the counter, as though she had merely knocked off a little dust. The
cat went into the inner room like a projectile.

Then, having entrenched herself at the back of the counter, the
fierce-eyed woman turned sharp round and faced Celie Tennant.

"Well?" she said, with a certain defiance in her tone such as women
only use to one another, which was at once depreciatory and pitiful.
The Junior Partner would have turned and fled, but Celie Tennant was
afraid of no woman that walked.

"I came," she said, clearly and coldly, "to ask about the situation of
message-boy for one of my Mission lads. I was sent here from the office
of the newspaper. Has the situation been filled?"

"What is the boy's name?" asked the woman, twitching the level single
line of her black brows at her visitor.

"His name is Charles Kelly."

"Son o' Tim Kelly that leeves in the Brickfield?" asked the woman
quickly.

"I believe that is his father's name," said Celie, giving glance for
glance.

"Then we dinna want the likes o' him here!" said the woman, half
turning on her heel with a certain dark contempt.

"But my name is Cecilia Tennant of Glenleven Road, and I am quite
willing to give security for the boy—to a reasonable amount, that is——"
continued Celie, who had a practical mind and much miniature dignity.

"Will ye leave the money?" asked the woman, as if a thought struck her.

"Certainly not," replied Celie, "but I will write you a line stating
that I hold myself responsible for anything he is proved guilty of
stealing, to the extent of ten pounds."

It was thus that Cleg Kelly became newsboy and general assistant to
Mistress Roy and her husband at Roy's corner.

As Celie went out, she heard Mr. Roy stretching himself and yawning, as
though awakening out of a deep sleep.

"Wha's that ye hae had in?" he inquired pleasantly.

"What business is that o' yours, ye muckle slabber?" returned his wife
with instant aggression.

And the cockroaches continue to rustle all the time beneath the carpet
of old newspapers.



ADVENTURE VIII.

THE FLIGHT OF SHEEMUS.


Next morning Cleg Kelly entered upon his duties. He carried orders to
the various publishing offices for about two hundred papers in all. He
had often been there before upon his own account, so that the crowd and
the rough jocularity were not new to him. But now he practised a kind
of austere, aristocratic hauteur. He was not any longer a prowler on
the streets, with only a stance for which he might have to fight. He
was a newsvendor's assistant. He would not even accept wager of battle
upon provocation offered. He could, however, still kick; and as he had
an admirable pair of boots with tackety soles an inch thick to do it
with, he soon made himself the most respected boy in the crowd.

On returning to the Pleasance, he was admitted through the chink of the
door by Mistress Roy, who was comprehensively dressed in a vast yellow
flannel bed-gown, which grew murkier and murkier towards her feet. Her
hair was tumbling about her eyes. That, too, was of a yellow grey, as
though part of the bed-gown had been ravelled out and attached loosely
to her head. Feathers and woolly dust were stuck impartially over hair
and bed-gown.

"Write the names on the papers as I cry them," she said to Cleg, "and
look slippy."

Cleg was quick to obey. He had, in fact, his pencil ready.

"Cready, number seventeen—three stairs back. Dinna write a' that. Write
the name, an' mind the rest," said Mistress Roy.

"MacVane, twenty-wan, shop," and so on went the list interminably.

Mistress Roy kept no books, but in her memory she had the various
counts and reckonings of all grades of her customers. She retained
there, for instance, the exact amounts of the intricate scores of
the boys who took in the "Boys of the City." She knew who had not
paid for the last chapter of "Ned Kelly; or, the Iron-clad Australian
Bushranger." She had a mental gauge on the great roll of black twist
tobacco which lay on the counter among old "Evening Scraps." She knew
exactly how much there was in the casks of strong waters under the
stairs, from which, every Sunday, her numerous friends and callers were
largely entertained.

When Cleg went out to deliver his papers he had nearly a hundred calls
to make. But such was his sense of locality and his knowledge of the
district that, with the help of a butcher's boy of his acquaintance (to
whom he promised a reading of the "Desperadoes of New Orleans; or, the
Good Ku Klux"), he managed to deliver all—except a single "Scotsman"
to one Mackimmon, who lived in a big land at the corner of Rankeillor
Street. Him he was utterly unable to discover.

Upon his return Mistress Roy was waiting for him.

"Did ye deliver them a'?" she asked, bending forward her head in a
threatening manner as if expecting a negative reply.

"A' but yin!" said Cleg, who was in good spirits, and pleased with
himself.

His mistress took up a brush. Cleg's hand dropped lightly upon a pound
weight. He did not mean to play the abused little message-boy if he
knew it.

"And what yin might that be?" said Mistress Roy.

"Mackimmon," said the boy briefly, "he's no in Rankeillor Street ava'."

The hand that held the brush went back in act to throw. Now this was,
from the point of view of psychological dynamics, a mistake in tactics.
A woman should never attempt to throw anything in controversy, least of
all a brush. Her stronghold is to advance to the charge with all her
natural weapons and vigour. But to throw a brush is to abdicate her
providential advantages. And so Mistress Roy found.

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, and that
was the course described by the pound weight on which Cleg Kelly
dropped his hand. It sped fair and level from his hand, flung low as he
had many a time skimmed stones on Saint Margaret's Loch in the hollow
under the Crags.

"_Ouch!_" suddenly said Mistress Roy, taken, as she herself said, "in
the short of the wind." The hearth-brush with which she had been wont
to correct her former message boys fell helplessly to the ground.

"Fetch me a toothfu' frae the back o' the door. Oh, ye villain, Cleg
Kelly! I'm a' overcome like!" she said.

Cleg went to the back of the door where there was a keg with a spigot.
He brought his mistress a drink in a little tinnikin.

She seemed to have forgotten to be angry, and bent her brows upon him
more pleasantly than she had yet done.

"I thocht that ye were a religious boy," she said.

Cleg stood back a little with Mackimmon's paper still in his hand.

"Pund wecht for besom shank is good religion," said the imperfect
Christian but excellent message-boy.

"Gang and deliver that paper!" Mistress Roy commanded, again looking up.

"I want my breakfast," said Cleg, with an air of sullen determination.

His mistress looked at him a moment, still sitting with the tinnikin of
undutied whisky in her hand, and occasionally taking a sip. Cleg eyed
her level-fronted.

She gave in all at once.

"Tak' the knife and help yoursel'," she said, pointing to a loaf and a
piece of yellow cheese.

She went into a back room.

"Get up, Jock," she said, giving the clothes a jerk over the foot of
the bed, and seizing a water can. Her husband rose to his feet on
the floor without a word. Thus was business begun in Mistress Roy's
paper-shop on the Pleasance.

And so that day went on, the first of many. When Celie Tennant asked
Cleg how he was getting on, he said, as the manner of his kind is,
"Fine!" And no word more could she get out of him. For Cleg was not a
boy to complain. His father, Timothy Kelly, was safely in gaol, and
that was enough to give Cleg an interest in life. Moreover, he could
save some of his three shillings a week to give to Vara Kavannah to
help her with the children.

He had not as yet taken advantage of the "chance of the drawer"
offered by Mr. Roy. But, on the other hand, he had stuck out for three
shillings and his keep.

Also, as the advertisements which he read every day in the papers said,
he meant to see that he got it.

Vara Kavannah was a friend of Cleg's. She lived with her mother in
a poor room in the Tinklers' Lands, and tried to do her duty by her
little baby brother Gavin and her younger brother Hugh. Her mother was
a friend of Mr. Timothy Kelly's, and there is no more to be said. The
only happy time for all of them was when both Mr. Kelly, senior, and
Sal Kavannah were provided for in the gaol on the Calton. But this did
not happen often at one time. When it did, Cleg went up the long stairs
and told Vara. Then they started and took the baby and Hugh for a long
walk in the Queen's Park. Cleg carried the baby. The boys of his own
age did not mock him to his face for doing this. The Drabble had done
it once, and severely regretted it for several days, during which time
his face conveyed a moral lesson to all beholders.

It was also a happy time for Vara Kavannah when her mother was safely
locked up on a long sentence, or when for some weeks she disappeared
from the city. Her father, a kindly, weak man, stood the dog's life his
wife led him as long as possible.

Sheemus Kavannah was a poet. The heart was in him which tells men that
the world is wide and fair. He had endured his wife in the bitterness
of his heart, till late one evening he rose, and with his wife lying on
the floor, a log, he awaked his little lass. There were tears streaming
down his cheeks. His daughter started from her bed with her hair all
about her. She was used to sudden and painful wakenings.

"Vara," he said, speaking in Irish, "daughter of Sheemus, Vara
Kavannah, hark to me. Mavourneen, my heart is broke with your mother.
It's no good at all to stay. I am going to Liverpool for work, and when
I get it I shall come back and take you away—you, Vara, and Hugh and
little Gavin. Lonely shall my road be and far. But I shall return, I
shall return!"

Now Vara, being bred where they spoke not the tongue of the old
country, understood nothing but the last words, "I shall return, I
shall return!"

So it was in this way that Cleg Kelly became father and mother to the
little company of three in the Tinklers' Lands.

As he went on the way of his duty, he found out some things about
the business capacity of Mistress Roy that would have astonished the
police. He had, in the impetuous ardour of youth, cleared away the
accumulated papers on the floor, and raided the swarming cockroaches.

"Hullo, mother, what's the matter here?" cried one of the customers of
the place, coming to Mistress Roy, who sat in the little den at the
back.

"Naething," said that lady. "It's only that daft laddie. He disna think
I gie him aneuch to do, so he's ta'en to finding wark for himsel'."

The customer, a burly, clean-shaven man, took a long look at Cleg.

"Tim Kelly's kid," said the woman, by way of explanation.

The man whistled—a long, mellow whistle—with an odd turn at the end.

"No," said Mistress Roy, shaking her head, "the lad's square. And
what's mair, I'm no gaun to hae him meddled. He's the first boy that
ever took oot the papers without cheatin'." A good character is a
valuable asset, even in a shebeen.



ADVENTURE IX.

THE WARMING OF THE DRABBLE.


The Kavannahs lived in the Tinklers' Lands at the foot of Davie Dean's
Street. That was where Sheemus Kavannah left them when he went to
Liverpool to seek work. Originally they had lived on the second floor
of this great rabbit-warren of a land, but now they had sunk till they
occupied one room of the cellar. Their sole light came from an iron
grating let into the pavement.

The Kavannahs had no furniture. It was just possible for Vara to get
some little things together during the periods when her mother was
under the care of the authorities. But as soon as Sal Kavannah came
out, everything that would sell or pawn was instantly dissolved into
whisky.

At all times it was a sore battle in the Tinklers' Lands, for these
were the days before city improvements. In his wildest days Cleg Kelly
had always befriended the Kavannahs, and he had been as much Vara's
friend on the sly as a boy could be who valued the good opinion of
his companions. But when Cleg grew stronger in his muscles and less
amenable to public opinion, he publicly announced that he would "warm"
any boy who said a word to him about the Kavannahs.

One day he heard that Archie Drabble had kicked over the Kavannahs'
family bed, and left it lying, when Vara was out getting some things
for the children. Cleg started out to look up the Drabble. He
had formerly had an interview with that gentleman, which has been
chronicled elsewhere.[1] Cleg Kelly was on the way to reformation now,
so would not kick him. But as a faithful friend he would "warm" him
for his soul's good. Cleg did not mind doing this. It was a congenial
sphere of Christian work.

The Drabble was found trying to steal collars off a clothes-line at the
back of Arthur Street. Cleg Kelly had no objections to this feat. He
was not a policeman, and if the Drabble wished to get into the lock-up,
it was not his business. But first of all he must settle the matter
of the Kavannahs' bed. After that the Drabble, an it liked him, might
steal all the collars in the Pleasance.

"Drabble," cried Cleg, "come here, I want ye!"

"Want away," cried the Drabble, "gang and say yer prayers!"

This was intended for an insult, and so Cleg took it.

"Ye had better say yours!" he retorted. "When I catch you it'll no be
ordinar' prayers that will help you!"

Cleg had a disbelief in the efficacy of the prayers of the wicked which
was thoroughly orthodox. The Drabble was of the wicked. Once he had
thrown mud at a Sunday school teacher. Cleg only threw snow, as soft as
he could get it.

There was a wall between Cleg and the Drabble, a wall with a place for
your toes. With his boots off Cleg could have shinned up like a cat.
But three-shilling boots with toe caps are tender things and need to be
treated with respect. Whereupon Cleg had resort to guile.

"Hae ye seen the last number o' 'Gory Dick, the Desprader of the
Prairies,' Drabble?" cried Cleg over the wall.

"Gae 'way, man, an' eat sawdust, you paper boy!" cried the Drabble over
the wall.

The Drabble was of the more noble caste of the sneak thief. He had
still his eye on the collars. Cleg raged impotently. All his Irishry
boiled within him.

"Be the powers, Archie Drabble, wait till I catch ye. I'll not leave a
leevin' creature on ye from head to fut!"

The completeness of this threat might have intimidated the Drabble,
but he was on the safe side of the wall, and only laughed. He had
a vast contempt for Cleg, inasmuch as he had forsaken the good and
distinguished ways of Timothy Kelly, his father, and taken to missions
and Sunday schools. Cleg foamed in helpless fury at the foot of
the wall. He grew to hate his boots and his mended clothes, in his
great desire to get at the Drabble. To the original sin with regard
to the bed of the Kavannahs, the Drabble had now added many actual
transgressions. Cleg was the vindicator of justice, and he mentally
arranged to a nicety where and how he would punch the Drabble.

But just then the Drabble came over the wall at a run. He had been
spotted from a distance by an active young officer, Constable
Gilchrist, who was noted for his zeal in providing for the youth of
the south side. The Drabble dropped to the ground like a cat, with the
drawn pale face and furtive eyes which told Cleg that the "poliss" were
after him.

Without doubt Cleg ought to have given the offender up to justice, as
a matter of private duty. He might thus have settled his own private
matters with the pursued. But the traditional instincts of the outlaw
held. And, seeing the double look which the Drabble turned up and down
the street, he said softly—

"Here, Drabble; help me to deliver thae papers."

The Drabble glanced at Cleg to make out if he meant to sell him to
justice. That was indeed almost an impossibility. But the Drabble did
not know how far the evil communications of Sunday schools might have
corrupted the original good manners of the Captain of the Sooth-Back
Gang.

However, there was that in Cleg's face which gave him confidence. The
Drabble grabbed the papers and was found busily delivering them up one
side of the street while Cleg Kelly took the other, when Constable
Gilchrist, reinforced by a friend, came in sight over the wall by the
aid of a clothes-prop and the nicks in the stones.

Now the peaceful occupation of delivering evening newspapers is not
a breach of the peace nor yet a contravention of the city bylaws.
Constable Gilchrist was disappointed. He was certain that he had seen
that boy "loitering with intent"; but here he was peacefully pursuing a
lawful avocation. The Drabble had a reason, or at least an excuse, for
being on the spot. So the chase was in vain, and Constable Gilchrist
knew it. But his companion was not so easily put off the scent.

"Cleg Kelly," he cried, "I see you; hae you a care, my son, or you'll
end up alongside of your father."

"Thank ye, sir," said Cleg Kelly. "Buy a News, sir?"

"Be off, you impudent young shaver!" cried the sergeant, laughing.

And Cleg went off.

"That's a smart boy, and doing well," said Constable Gilchrist.

"Decent enough," returned the sergeant, "but he's in a bad shop at
Roy's, and he'll get no good from that Drabble loon!"

And this was a truth. But at that moment, at the back of the Tinklers'
Lands, the Drabble was getting much good from Cleg Kelly. Cleg had off
his coat and the Drabble was being "warmed."

"That'll learn ye to touch the Kavannahs' bed!" cried Cleg.

And the Drabble sat down.

"That's for miscaain' my faither!"

The Drabble sat down again at full length.

"That's for tellin' me to say my prayers! I learn you to meddle wi' my
prayers!"

Thus Cleg upheld the Conscience Clause.

But the Drabble soon had enough. He warded Cleg off with a knee and
elbow, and stated what he would do when he met him again on a future
unnamed occasion.

He would tell his big brother, so he would, and his big brother would
smash the face of all the Kellys that ever breathed.

Cleg was not to be outdone.

"I'll tell _my_ big brother o' you, Drabble. He can fecht ten
polissmen, and he could dicht the street wi' your brither, and throw
him ower a lamp-post to dry."

Cleg and the Drabble felt that they must do something for the honour of
their respective houses, for this sort of family pride is a noble thing
and much practised in genealogies.

So, pausing every ten yards to state what their several big brothers
would do, and with the fellest intentions as to future breaches of the
peace, the combatants parted. The afternoon air bore to the Drabble
from the next street—

"_You—let—the Kavannahs—alane frae this oot—or it'll be the waur for
you!_"

The Drabble rubbed his nose on his sleeve, and thought that on the
whole it might be so.

Then he took out three papers which he had secreted up his sleeve,
and went joyfully and sold them. The Drabble was a boy of resource.
Cleg had to come good for these papers to Mistress Roy, and also bear
her tongue for having lost them. She stopped them out of his wages.
Then Cleg's language became as bad as that of an angry Sunday school
superintendent. The wise men say that the Scots dialect is only Early
English. Cleg's was that kind, but debased by an admixture of Later
Decorated.

He merely stated what he meant to do to the Drabble when he met him
again. But the statement entered so much into unnecessary detail that
there is no need to record it fully.



ADVENTURE X.

THE SQUARING OF THE POLICE.


Cleg was free and barefoot. His father was "in" for twelve months.
Also it was the summer season, and soft was the sun. The schools were
shut—not that it mattered much as to that, for secular education was
not much in Cleg's way, compulsory attendance being not as yet great
in the land. Cleg had been spending the morning roosting on railings
and "laying for softies"—by which he meant conversing with boys in nice
clean jackets, with nice clean manners, whose methods of war and whose
habit of speech were not Cleg's.

Cleg had recently entered upon a new contract with the mistress of
Roy's paper shop. He was now "outdoor boy" instead of "indoor boy," and
he was glad of it. He had also taken new lodgings. For when the police
took his father to prison, to the son's great relief and delight, the
landlord of the little room by the brickfield had cast the few sticks
of furniture and the mattress into the street, and, as he said, "made a
complete clearance of the rubbish." He included Cleg.

But it was not so easy to get rid of Cleg, for the boy had his private
hoards in every crevice and behind every rafter. So that very night,
with the root of a candle which he borrowed from a cellar window to
which he had access (owing to his size and agility), he went back and
ransacked his late home. He prised up the boards of the floor. He
tore aside the laths where the plaster had given way. He removed the
plaster itself with a tenpenny nail where it had been recently mended.
He tore down the entire series of accumulated papers from the ceiling,
disturbing myriads of insects both active and sluggish which do not
need to be further particularised.

"I'll learn auld Skinflint to turn my faither's property oot on the
street," said Cleg, his national instinct against eviction coming
strongly upon him. "I'll wager I can make this place so that the man
what built it winna ken it the morn's morning!"

And he kept his word. When Nathan, the Jew pawnbroker and cheap
jeweller, came with his men to do a little cleaning up, the scene
which struck them on entering, as a stone strikes the face, was, as
the reporters say, simply appalling. The first step Mr. Nathan took
brought down the ceiling-dust and its inhabitants in showers. The next
took him, so far as his legs were concerned, into the floor beneath,
for he had stepped through a hole, in which Cleg had discovered a rich
deposit of silver spoons marked with an entire alphabet of initials.

The police inspector was summoned, and he, in his turn, stood in amaze
at the destruction.

"It's that gaol-bird, young Kelly!" cried Nathan, dancing and
chirruping in his inarticulate wrath. "I'll have him lagged for it—sure
as I live."

"Aye?" said the inspector, gravely. He had his own reasons for
believing that Mr. Nathan would do nothing of the sort. "Meantime, I
have a friend who will be interested in this place."

And straightway he went down and brought him. The friend was the Chief
Sanitary Inspector, a medical man of much emphasis of manner and
abruptness of utterance.

"What's this? What's this? Clear out the whole damnable pig-hole! What
d'ye mean, Jackson, by having such a sty as this in your district?
Clean it out! Tear it down! It's like having seven bulls of Bashan in
one stable. Never saw such a hog's mess in my life. Clear it out! Clear
it out!"

The miserable Nathan wrung his hands, and hopped about like a hen.

"Oh, Doctor Christopher, I shall have it put in beautiful
order—beautiful order. Everything shall be done in the besht style, I
do assure you——"

"Best style, stuff and nonsense! Tear it down—gut it out—take it all
away and bury it. I'll send men to-morrow morning!" cried the doctor,
decidedly.

And Dr. Christopher departed at a dog-trot to investigate a misbehaving
trap in a drain at Coltbridge.

The police inspector laughed.

"Are you still in a mind to prosecute young Kelly, Mr. Nathan?" he
said.

[Illustration: "I shall be ruined!"]

But the grief and terror of the pawnbroker were beyond words. He sat
down on the narrow stair, and laid his head between his hands.

"I shall be ruined—ruined! I took the place for a debt. I never got a
penny of rent for it, and now to be made to spend money upon it——"

The police inspector touched him on the shoulder.

"If I were you, Nathan," he said, "I should get this put in order. If
it is true that you got no rent for this place, the melting-pot in your
back cellar got plenty."

"It's a lie—a lie!" cried the little man, getting up as if stung. "It
was never proved. I got off!"

"Aye," said the inspector, "ye got off? But though 'Not proven' clears
a man o' the Calton gaol, it keeps him on our books."

"Yes, yes," said the little Jew, clapping his hands as if he were
summoning slaves in the Arabian Nights, "it shall be done. I shall
attend to it at once."

And the inspector went out into the street, laughing so heartily within
him that more than once something like the shadow of a grin crossed the
stern official face which covered so much kindliness from the ken of
the world.

The truth of the matter was that Cleg Kelly had squared the police. It
is a strange thing to say, for the force of the city is composed of men
staunchly incorruptible. I have tried it myself and know. The Edinburgh
police has been honourably distinguished first by an ambition to
prevent crime, to catch the criminal next, and, lastly, to care for the
miserable women and children whom nearly every criminal drags to infamy
in his wake.

Yet with all these honourable titles to distinction, upon this occasion
the police had certainly been squared, and that by Cleg Kelly. And in
this wise.

When Cleg had finished his search through the receptacles of his father
and his own hidie-holes, he found himself in possession of as curious a
collection of miscellaneous curiosities as might stock a country museum
or set a dealer in old junk up in business. There were many spoons
of silver, and a few of Britannia metal which his father had brought
away in mistake, or because he was pressed for time and hated to give
trouble. There were forks whole, and forks broken at the handle where
the initials ought to have come, teapots with the leaves still within
them, the toddy bowl of a city magnate—with an inscription setting
forth that it had been presented to Bailie Porter for twenty years of
efficient service in the department of cleaning and lighting, and also
in recognition of his uniform courtesy and abundant hospitality. There
were also delicate ormulu clocks, and nearly a score of watches, portly
verge, slim Geneva, and bluff serviceable English lever.

Cleg brought one of his mother's wicker clothes-baskets which had been
tossed out on the street by Mr. Nathan's men the day before, and,
putting a rich Indian shawl in the bottom to stop the crevices, he
put into it all the spoil, except such items as belonged strictly to
himself, and with which the nimble fingers of his father had had no
connection.

Such were the top half of a brass candlestick, which he had himself
found in an ash-backet on the street. He remembered the exact "backet."
It was in front of old Kermack, the baker's, and he had had to fight a
big dog to get possession, because the brass at the top being covered
with the grease, the dog considered the candlestick a desirable
article of _vertu_. There was a soap-box, for which he had once fought
a battle; the basin he used for dragging about by a string on the
pavement, with hideous outcries, whenever the devil within made it
necessary for him to produce the most penetrating and objectionable
noise he could think of. There was (his most valuable possession) a
bright brass harness rein-holder, for which the keeper of a livery
stable had offered him five shillings if he would bring the pair, or
sixpence for the single one—an offer which Cleg had declined, but which
had made him ever after cherish the rein-holder as worth more than all
the jewellers' shops on Princes Street.

These and other possessions to which his title was incontrovertible
he laid aside for conveyance to his new home, an old construction hut
which now lay neglected in a builder's yard near the St. Leonards
Station.

All the other things Cleg took straight over to the police-office near
the brickfield, where his friend, the sergeant's wife, held up her
hands at sight of them. Nor did she call her husband till she had been
assured that Cleg had had personally nothing to do with the collection
of them.

When the sergeant came in his face changed and his eyes glittered,
for here was stolen property in abundance, of which the Chief—that
admirable gentleman of the quiet manners and the limitless memory—had
long ago given up all hope.

"Ah! if only the young rascal had brought us these things before Tim's
trial, I would have got him twenty years!" said the Chief.

But though Cleg Kelly hated and despised his father, his hatred did not
quite go that length. He did not love the police for their own sake,
though he was friendly enough with many of the individual officers,
and, in especial, with the sergeant's wife, who gave him "pieces" in
memory of his mother, and, being a woman, also perhaps a little in
memory of what his father had once seemed to her.

Cleg did not stay to be asked many questions as to how he came into
possession of so many valuables. He had found them, he said; but
he could not be induced to condescend upon the particulars of the
discovery.

So the sergeant was forced to be content. But ever after this affair
it was quite evident that Cleg was a privileged person, and did not
come within Mr. Nathan's power of accusation. So it was manifest that
Cleg Kelly had corrupted the incorruptible, and crowned his exploits by
squaring the metropolitan police.



ADVENTURE XI.

THE BOY IN THE WOODEN HUT.


The wooden hut where Cleg had taken up his abode was on the property
of a former landlord, who in his time had tired of Tim Kelly as a
tenant, and had insisted upon his removal, getting his office safe
broken into in consequence. But Mr. Callendar had never been unkind
to Isbel and Cleg. So the boy had kindly memories of the builder, and
especially he remembered the smell of the pine shavings as Callendar's
men planed deal boards to grain for mahogany. The scent struck Cleg as
the cleanest thing he had ever smelled in his life.

So, with the help of an apprentice joiner, he set up the old
construction hut, which, having been used many years ago in the making
of the new coal sidings at the St. Leonards Station, had been thrown
aside at the end of the job, and never broken up.

The builder saw Cleg flitting hither and thither about the yard, but,
being accustomed to such visitors, he took no great notice of the boy,
till one day, poking about among some loose rubbish and boards at the
back of his yard, he happened to glance at the old hut. Great was his
astonishment to see it set on its end, a window frame too large for
the aperture secured on the outside with large nails driven in at the
corners, a little fringe of soil scraped roughly about it as if a brood
of chickens had worked their way round the hut, and a few solitary
daisies dibbled into the loose earth, lying over on their sides, in
spite of the small ration of water which had been carefully served out
to each.

Thomas Callendar stood a moment gathering his senses. He had a callant
of his own who might conceivably have been at the pains to establish a
summer-house in his yard. But then James was at present at the seaside
with his mother. The builder went round the little hut, and at the
further side he came upon Cleg Kelly dribbling water upon the wilting
daisies from a broken brown teapot, and holding on the lid with his
other hand.

"Mercy on us! what are ye doing here, callant?" cried the astonished
builder.

Cleg Kelly stood up with the teapot in his hand, taking care to
keep the lid on as he did so. His life was so constant a succession
of surprises provided against by watchfulness that hardly even an
earthquake would have taken him unprepared.

He balanced the teapot in one hand, and with the other he pulled at his
hat-brim to make his manners.

"If ye please, sir," he said, "they turned me oot at the brickyaird,
and I brocht the bits o' things here. I kenned ye wadna send me away,
Maister Callendar."

"How kenned ye that I wadna turn ye away, boy?" said the builder.

"Oh, I juist prefarred to come back here, at ony rate," said Cleg.

"But why?" persisted Mr. Callendar.

Cleg scratched the turned-up earth of his garden thoughtfully with his
toe.

"Weel," he said, "if ye maun ken, it was because I had raither
lippen[2] to the deil I ken than to the deil I dinna ken!"

The builder laughed good-naturedly.

"So ye think me a deil?" he asked, making believe to cut at the boy
with the bit of planed moulding he was carrying in his hand with black
pencil-marks at intervals upon it as a measuring-rod.

"Ow, it's juist a mainner o' speaking!" said Cleg, glancing up at Mr.
Callendar with twinkling eyes. He knew that permission to bide was
as good as granted. The builder came and looked within. The hut was
whitewashed inside, and the black edges of the boards made transverse
lines across the staring white.

Cleg explained.

"I didna steal the whitewash," he said; "I got it frae Andrew Heslop
for helpin' him wi' his lime-mixing.

"It's a fine healthsome, heartsome smell," the boy went on, noticing
that the builder was sniffing. "Oh, man, it's the tar that ye smell,"
he again broke in. "I'm gaun to tar it on the ootside. It keeps the
weather off famous. I gat the tar frae a watchman at the end o' the
Lothian Road, where they are laying a new kind o' pavement wi' an
awsome smell."

The interior of the hut was shelved, and upon a pair of old trestles
was a good new mattress. The builder looked curiously at it.

"It was the Pleasance student missionary got it in for my mither to lie
on afore she died," said Cleg in explanation.

"Aye, and your mither is awa," said the builder; "it's a release."

"Aye, it is that," said Cleg, from whose young heart sorrow of his
mother's death had wholly passed away. He was not callous, but he was
old-fashioned and world-experienced enough to recognise facts frankly.
It was a release indeed for Isbel Kelly.

"Weel," said the builder, "mind ye behave yoursel'. Bring nae wild
gilravage o' loons here, or oot ye gang."

"Hearken ye, Maister," said Cleg. "There's no a boy atween Henry Place
an' the Sooth Back that wull daur to show the ill-favoured face o'
him within your muckle yett. I'll be the best watch that ever ye had,
Maister Callendar. See if I'm no!"

The builder smiled as he went away. He took the measuring-rod of white
moulding in his hand, and looked at the marks to recall what particular
business he had been employed upon. But even as he did so a thought
struck him. He turned back.

"Mind you," he said to Cleg, "the first time that ye bring the faither
o' ye aboot my yaird, to the curb-stane ye gang wi' a' your traps and
trantlums!"

Cleg peeped elvishly out of his citadel.

"My faither," he said, "is snug in a far grander hoose than yours or
mine, Maister Callendar. He has ta'en the accommodation for a year, and
gotten close wark frae the Gowvernment a' the time!"

"What mean ye?" said the builder; "your faither never reformed?"

"Na, no that," answered Cleg; "but he got a year for ganging intil
anither man's hoose without speering his leave. And I was there and saw
the judge gie him a tongue-dressing afore he spoke oot the sentence.
'One year!' says he. 'Make it three, my Lord!' says I frae the back of
the coort. So they ran me oot; but my faither kenned wha it was, for
he cried, 'May hunger, sickness, and trouble suck the life from ye, ye
bloodsucking son of my sorrow! Wait till I get hoult o' ye! I'll make
ye melt off the earth like the snow off a dyke, son o' mine though ye
are!'"

The respectable builder stood aghast.

"And your ain faither said the like o' that till ye?" he asked, with a
look of awe in his face as if he had been listening to blasphemy. "And
what did you say to him?"

"Faith! I only said, 'I hope ye'll like the oakum, faither!'"



ADVENTURE XII.

VARA KAVANNAH OF THE TINKLERS' LANDS.


Cleg having finished his dispositions, shut to his door, and barred it
with a cunning bolt, shot with string, which he had constructed till
he should be able to find an old lock to manipulate with the craft
inherited from his father. Then he set forth for the Tinklers' Lands,
to visit his friends the Kavannahs. He had delivered his papers in
the early morning, and now he was free till the evening. For since a
threatened descent of the police, Mistress Roy, that honest merchant,
had discouraged Cleg from "hanging round" after his work was finished.
She attempted to do the discouraging with a broomstick or anything
else that came handy. But Cleg was far too active to be struck by a
woman. And, turning upon his mistress with a sudden flash of teeth like
the grin of a wild cat, he sent that lady back upon the second line
of her defences—into the little back shop where that peculiar company
assembled which gave to Roy's paper-shop its other quality of shebeen.

Cleg had just reached the arched gateway which led into the builder's
yard, when he saw, pottering along the sidewalk twenty yards before
him the squat, bandy-legged figure of his late landlord, Mr. Nathan.
He had been going the round of the builders, endeavouring to discover
which of them would effect the repairs of Tim Kelly's mansion at the
least expense, and at the same time be prepared to satisfy the fiery
Inspector of Sanitation.

Without a moment's hesitation, and as a mere matter of duty, Cleg
bent his head, and, running full-tilt between his late landlord's
legs, he overset him on the pavement and shot ahead on his way to make
his morning call on the Kavannahs. The fulfilment of healthy natural
function required that a well-conducted boy of good principles should
cheek a policeman and overset a Jew landlord whenever met with. In such
a war there could be no truce or parley.

Tinklers' Lands was in one of the worst parts of the city. Davie
Dean's Street goes steeply down hill, and has apparently carried all
its inhabitants with it. Tinklers' Lands is quite at the foot, and the
inhabitants have come so low that they can fear no further fall. The
Kavannahs, as has been said, dwelt in the cellar of the worst house in
Tinklers' Lands.

Cleg ran down into the area and bent over the grating.

"Vara!" he cried, making a trumpet of the bars and his hands.

"Aye, Cleg, is that you?" said Vara. "She's oot; ye can come in."

So Cleg trotted briskly down the slimy black steps, from which the top
hand-rail had long since vanished. The stumpy palings themselves would
also have disappeared if they had been anything else than cast metal, a
material which can neither be burned nor profitably disposed of to the
old junk man.

Vara met him at the foot. She was a pleasant, round-faced, merry-eyed
girl of ten—or, rather, she would have been round-faced but for the
pitiful drawing about the mouth and the frightened look with which she
seemed to shrink back at any sudden movement near her. As Cleg arrived
at the door of the cellar a foul, dank smell rose from the depths to
meet him; and he, fresh from the air and cleanliness of his own new
abode among the shavings and the chips, noticed it as he would not have
done had he come directly from the house by the brickfield.

"She gaed awa' last nicht wi' an ill man," said Vara, "and I hae seen
nocht o' her since."

Vara Kavannah spoke of Sheemus Kavannah as "faither," but always of her
mother as "she." To-day the girl had her fair hair done up in a womanly
net and stowed away on the top of her head. When one has the cares of
a house and family, it is necessary to dress in a grown-up fashion.
Indeed, in some of her moods, when the trouble of Hugh and the baby lay
heavy on her, Vara looked like a little old woman, as if she had been
her own fairy godmother fallen upon evil times.

But to-day she had her head also tied in a napkin, rolled white
and smooth about her brows. Cleg glanced at it with the quick
comprehension which comes from a kindred bitterness.

"Her?" he queried, as much with his thumb and eyebrow as with his voice.

"Aye," said Vara, looking down at the floor, for in the Lands such
occurrences were not spoken of outside the family; "yestreen."

Hearing the voices at the door, little Hugh, Vara's brother of four,
came toddling unevenly upon legs which ought to have been chubby, but
which were only feeble and uncertain. He had one hand wrapped in a
piece of white rag; and, whenever he remembered, he carried it in his
other hand and wept over it with a sad, wearying whimper.

Cleg again looked his query at Vara.

"Aye," said the girl, her eyes lighting this time with a glint of
anger; "the bairn toddled to her when she cam' hame, and he asked for
a bit piece. And wi' that she took him and gied him a fling across the
floor, and he hurt his airm on the corner of the bed."

And Cleg, though he had given up swearing, swore.

"The wean's asleep!" said Vara; "speak quietly."

And upon tiptoe she led the way. The dusk of the cellar was so dense
and the oppression of the foul air so terrible that had not Cleg been
to the manner born, he could hardly have reached the little crib where
the baby lay huddled among swathings of old petticoats and bits of
flannel, while underneath was a layer of hay.

Vara stood gazing with inexpressible rapture at the babe.

"Isna he bonny—bonny?"

She clasped her hands as she spoke, and looked for the answering
admiration in Cleg's face.

"Aye," said Cleg, who knew what was demanded of him if he expected to
remain Vara Kavannah's friend; "he's juist terrible bonny—elegant as a
pictur'!"

He had heard his father say that of a new "jemmy."

In truth, the babe was but skin and bone, with the drawn face of a
mummy of five thousand years—and tiny hands, prehensile like those of a
monkey.

"Vara," said Cleg, "ye canna bide here. I maun get ye awa'. This is no
to be tholed. What hae ye had to eat the day?"

"We had some broth that a neighbour brocht in yesterday, and some fish.
But the fish was bad," said Vara, flushing and hesitating even to say
these things to Cleg.

The badness of the fish, indeed, sufficiently advertised itself.

At the mention of something to eat little Hugh sharpened his croon of
pain into a yell.

"Hugh's awsome hungry! Hugh boy wants his dinner!"

Vara went to him and knelt beside him.

"Hush thee, Hugh boy!" she said, speaking with a fragrance of
motherliness which must have come to her from some ancestor, for
certainly never in her life had she experienced anything like it.
"Hush! Hugh boy shall have his dinner if he is a good boy! Poor handie!
Poor, poor handie!"

And the girl took the swollen wrist and torn hand into hers and rocked
to and fro with the boy on her knee.

"Hugh is gaun to be a man," she said. "He wadna greet. Na, he will wait
till faither comes hame. And then he will get ham, nice ham, singing
in the pan; aye, and red herring brandering on the fire, and salmon in
tins, an' aipples, an' oranges, an' cancellaries."

"Losh, aye, but that wull be guid!" said Hugh, stopping his crying to
listen to the enthralling catalogue.

"Aye," said Vara, "and when faither comes hame, he will tak' us away
to a bonny hoose to leeve where the ships sail by. For dadda has gane
to the seaside to look for wark. It will be a bonny hoose wi' swings
at every door, and blacky men that dance in braw, striped claes, and
shows. And Hugh boy shall gang to them a'. We'll howk holes in the
sand, and fill the dirt into buckets, and row our girds, Hughie. And we
shall paidle in the tide, and splash the bonny water aboon oor heids!"

"Oh, oh," cried the child, "Hugh boy wants to gang noo. He wants to
paidle in the bonny water and eat the oranges!"

"Bide ye, bonny man," said Vara, fondling him, "that's a' to be when
dadda comes hame."

"Hugh boy is gangin' to the door to look for dadda!" said the boy as he
moved off with his bandaged hand clutched to his side.

The baby in the bunk among the old clouts set up a crying, and Cleg
went to it, for he was touched to the heart by the voice of dumb things
in pain, whether babes or beasts.

But little Gavin (called for a comrade of Sheemus Kavannah's who had
been kind to him) was wrinkling all his face into a myriad crinkles.
Then, lifting up the tiniest shrill pipe, he cried with the cry
of underfed and ill-used childhood—a cry that breaks off sharp in
the middle and never attains to the lusty roar of the healthy and
well-grown malcontent.

Vara flew to Gavin and, taking the babe in her arms, she hushed him
back again to sleep, making a swift gesture of command for silence.
She kept her eyes fondly upon the peaked little face, till the wailing
ceased, the tiny clenched hand fell back from the puckered face, and
the infant dropped again to sleep, clasping the frill of Vara's
pinafore with fingers like bird claws.

"I was feared he wad waken an' I had nocht to gie him," she explained,
simply.

"God!" said Cleg; "I canna stand this."

And without a word he skimmed up the cellar steps and out. He went
straight to his mistress of the paper-shop, and with her he had a
loud-voiced and maledictory interview, in which he endeavoured to
uplift his week's wage before it was due. There were threats and
recriminations on both sides before a compromise was effected. It ended
in the half, which had already been worked for, being paid over in view
of instant necessities—which, it is to be regretted, Cleg did not quite
truthfully represent to Mistress Roy.

Then, with two silver shillings in his hand, Cleg went and bought
twopence worth of meat from the neck and a penny bone for boiling, a
penny worth of carrots, a halfpenny cabbage, a large four-pound loaf,
and twopence worth of the best milk. To this he added two apples and an
orange for Hugh, so that he might have a foretaste of the golden time
when dadda should come home.

It was as good as a circus procession when Cleg went back laden like a
bee, and no humble bee either, to the cellar in Tinklers' Lands. He had
his head in the air, and his chest out, just as he used to march when
he heard the regiments coming down the High Street from the Castle, and
caught a glimpse of their swinging tartans and towering plumes.

Vara met him at the door. She raised her hands in amaze, but
mechanically checked the cry of gladness and admiration on her lips
as Cleg came scrambling down, without ever minding his feet on the
slippery stairs.

"Cleg Kelly!" said she, speaking under her breath, "what are ye doin'
wi' a' that meat?"

"Oh, it's nocht ava," said Cleg lightly; "it's juist some things that
I had nae use for this week. Ye ken I'm watchman noo at Callendar's as
weel as working at the paper-shop!"

"Save us!" said Vara, "this is never a' for us. I canna tak' it. I
canna!"

"Aye, is it!" said Cleg, "an' you tak' it for the bairns' sake. Sheemus
will pay me when he comes back, gin ye like!"

Vara's heart broke out in a cry, "O Cleg, I canna thank ye!" And her
tears fairly rained down while she sobbed quickly and freely.

"Dinna, Vara, dinna, lassie!" said Cleg, edging for the door; "ye maun
stop that or I declare I'll hae to rin!"

From within came the babe's cry. But it had no terrors for Vara now.

"Greet, Gavin, greet," she cried; "aye, that is richt. Let us hear
something like a noise, for I hae gotten something to gie ye at last."

So she hasted and ran for the baby's bottle—which, as in all poor
houses, was one of Maw's best. She mixed rapidly the due proportions of
milk and water, and tested the drawing of the tube with her mouth as
she ran to the cot. At first the babe could not be brought to believe
in the genuineness of the nourishment offered, so often had the cold
comfort of the empty tube been offered. It was a moment or two before
he tasted the milk; but, as soon as he did so, his outcry ceased as if
by magic, the puckers smoothed out, and the big solemn baby eyes fixed
themselves on the ceiling of the cellar with a stare of grave rapture.

Then Cleg took himself off, with a hop and a skip up the steps,
having seen Hugh settled to his bread and butter, eating eagerly and
jealously, but never for a moment letting the orange, earnest of the
Promised Land of his father's return, out of his other hand. Vara was
putting away the great store of provision in the empty cupboard when
Cleg looked his last down the grating which admitted the scanty light
to the Kavannahs' home.

There had been few happier days in Cleg Kelly's life than this on which
he spent the half of his week's wage for the benefit of the Kavannahs.

So altogether happy did he feel that he went and cuffed the ears of
two well-dressed boys for looking at him. Then he threw their new
bonnets into the gutter and departed in a perfect glow of happiness and
philanthropy.



ADVENTURE XIII.

CLEG'S SECOND BURGLARY.


Cleg slept soundly on his bed within the whitewashed hut. The last
thing he did the night before was to go to the bench where the men
had been working, and bring an armful of the fragrant pine shavings
for a bouquet to scent his chamber. And never did boy sleep better.
It must be confessed, however, that the position of night-watchman at
Callendar's, of which he had boasted to Vara Kavannah, was entirely
a sinecure. For it was not until he heard the gruff voices of the
men clicking their tools and answering one another in pre-breakfast
monosyllables that he realized he had changed his abode. Then he
stirred so sharply that the mattress fell off the trestles, and Cleg
was brought up all standing against the side of the hut.

All that day he went about his duties as usual. He trotted to the
newspaper office and distributed his roll of papers mechanically; but
his mind was with the Kavannahs, and he longed for the time to come
when he could, with some self-respect, go and gloat over the effects of
his generosity. Doubtless there was a touch of self-glorification in
this, which, however, he kept strictly to himself. But who will grudge
it to a boy, who for the sake of a lassie has spent nearly half of his
week's wage, and who knows that he will have to live on bread and water
for ten days in consequence?

Cleg judged that it would not be advisable for him to go to Tinklers'
Lands before noon. So in the meanwhile he betook himself to Simon
Square to "lag for" Humpy Joe, who had called him "Irishman" the
previous evening, at a time when, with his papers under his arm, Cleg
was incapacitated for warfare, being, like Martha, much cumbered with
serving.

But Humpy Joe proved unattainable. For he had seen his enemy's
approach, and as soon as Cleg set foot within the square, he saluted
him with a rotten egg, carefully selected and laid aside for such an
emergency. And had it not been for the habitual watchfulness of Cleg,
Joe's missile would have "got him." But as it was, a sudden leap into
the air like that of a jack-in-the-box just cleared the danger, and
the egg, passing between Cleg's bare feet, made a long yolky mark of
exclamation on the ground.

Being defeated in this, Humpy Joe looked forth from an end window,
and entertained the neighbourhood with a gratuitous and wholly
untrustworthy account of Cleg's ancestors. And Cleg, in reply, devised
ingenious tortures, which he declared would be the portion of Humpy
Joe, when next he caught him "out."

Thus, after tiring of this, the embattled belligerents separated
in high delight and with mutual respect and good feeling, vowing
sanguinary vengeances when next they should meet at Sunday school.

At last the time came for Cleg to feast his happy eyes upon the table
which had been spread by his means for his friends the Kavannahs.
But first he lingered awhile about the end of Davie Dean's Street,
ostentatiously looking for a boy to lick, and throwing stones over the
wall at the baker's fat watch-dog to make it bark. In reality he was
making sure that none of his companions were in the neighbourhood,
lest, with some colour of truth, they should cast up at him the capital
offence of "speaking to a lassie."

At last the coast was clear. The only boy within half a mile had been
chased under the protection of the great guns of his own fortress,
being the vicinity of his mother's wash-tubs. Then Cleg dived quickly
down to the cellar beneath Tinklers' Lands.

For the first time in his experience, the door was shut. Cleg had set
his ear to the keyhole and listened. Then he put his eye there. But
neither sense told him anything.

"Vara!" he cried softly, and set his ear against the floor. Cleg knew
that the place to hear behind a door (if there is no danger of its
being hastily opened) is not at the keyhole, but close to the floor. He
listened, holding his breath. At first he could hear nothing; but in a
little, a low sob at stated intervals detached itself from the cursory
noises made by the other tenants of Tinklers' Lands and from the steady
growl of the streets above.

"Vara!" he cried a little louder; "Vara Kavannah, are ye in? What's
wrang?"

Still nothing came back to him but the mechanical sob, which wore his
patience suddenly to the breaking point.

"They're a' killed," said Cleg, who had once been at the opening of a
door, and had seen that which was within. "I'll break open the door."
And with that he dashed himself against it. But the strength of the
bolt resisted his utmost strength.

"Cleg," said a voice from within, very weak and feeble, "gang awa' like
a guid lad. Dinna come here ony mair——"

It was Vara's voice, speaking through pain and tears.

"Vara," said Cleg, "what's wrang? What for wull ye no open the door?"

"I canna, Cleg; she's here, lyin' on the floor in the corner. I canna
turn the key, for she has tied me to the bed-foot."

Cleg instantly understood the circumstances. They were none so
unprecedented in the neighbourhood of Tinklers' Lands. Sal Kavannah had
come home drunk, singly or in company. She had abused the children, and
ended by tying up Vara, lest she should go out while she lay in her
drunken sleep. Such things had been done within Cleg's knowledge—aye,
things infinitely worse than these. And with his unchildish wisdom Cleg
feared the worst.

But he was not Tim Kelly's son for nothing. And it did not cost him a
moment to search in his pocket for a fine strong piece of twine, such
as all shoemakers use. He always carried at least ten sorts of cord
about with him. This cobbler's string was a special brand, so wonderful
that Cleg had made friends with the shoemaker's boy (whom he loathed)
solely in order to obtain it.

Cleg knew that the key was in the lock, but that the wards were turned
clear, for his eyes, growing accustomed to the gloom, could now look
into the cellar. He also knew that nine door-keys out of ten have a
little groove at the end of the shank just below the wards. So he made
a noose of the fine, hard cobbler's twine, and slipped it into the
keyhole just as if he had been "girning" sticklebacks and "bairdies" in
the shallow burns about the Loch of Lochend.

After a failure or two the loop caught and tightened. Then Cleg shook
the string about with a cunning see-sawing motion, learned from his
father, till he felt the wards of the key drop down perpendicularly.
Then he took a long piece of stick, and, thrusting it into the keyhole,
he had the satisfaction of feeling the key drop inside the door, and
hang by the cobbler's twine. He eased it down to the floor, and found
that, as is the case with most doors, the bottom of that of the cellar
of Tinklers' Lands did not come quite close to the floor. It was,
therefore, easy for Cleg to dangle the key a little till he could bring
the end of it to the place where the arch was worn widest. Then he took
his hooked wire and pulled the key towards him. It was in itself a
pretty trick, and was executed by Cleg in far less time than it takes
to tell about it.

With the key in his hand, and in the other an open clasp-knife, Cleg
turned the bolt back and stepped within. A terrible enough sight met
his eyes, though not that which he dreaded. In the corner lay Sal
Kavannah, with a pair of empty bottles tossed at her side, her black
hair over her face, lying drawn together in a heap. Tied to the bed
was Vara, bleeding from a cut on the head, and trying to cover her
arms and hands from his sight. But Hugh and the baby lay in the bunk
together, sleeping peacefully. It was upon poor Vara that the brunt of
the woman's maniac fury had fallen.

Cleg stood stricken; but the sight of Vara bound with cords aroused
him. He had the knife in his hand, and it did not take a moment to free
her. But she was so stiff and exhausted that she fell forward on her
face as soon as the straps were removed. Then, after Cleg had lifted
her, he turned upon the sodden heap in the corner, and, with his knife
glittering in his hand and the wild-cat grin on his face, he said,
with a deep indrawing of his breath, "Oh, if ye had only been my ain
faither!"

And it was as well that it was Sal Kavannah and not Tim Kelly that had
done this thing.

Now, in an emergency Cleg always acted first and asked leave afterwards.

"Come awa' oot o' this, Vara, and I'll bring the bairn and Hugh," said
he to the girl, when she was somewhat recovered.

"But, Cleg, where are we to gang?" said Vara, starting back.

"Never you heed, Vara; there maun be nae mair o' this frae this time
oot."

His manner was so positive that the girl gave way. Anything rather than
abide with the thing which lay in the corner.

"Hae ye ocht that ye wad like to bring wi' ye?" Cleg asked of Vara, as
he shouldered Hugh, and took up the baby on his other arm.

"Aye," said Vara, "wee Gavin's feedin' bottle."

And she had to step over the sodden face of her mother to get it.

So the four went out into the noonday streets, and Cleg marched forth
like the pipe-major of the Black Watch—than whom no king on earth
walks with more dignity and pomp, when there is a big parade and the
full band of pipers leads the regiment.

Cleg almost wished that Humpy Joe might see him and taunt him, so that
on Sunday he might beat him to a jelly. But, as it chanced, the streets
were deserted, for it was the very middle of the workmen's dinner-hour.
So that the streams that went and came a quarter of an hour sooner and
a quarter of an hour later were for the moment all safely housed; while
those who had brought their dinners with them sat on benches in the
shade, and took no notice of the small forlorn company passing along
the causeway.

There was another way to the old construction hut at the back of
Callendar's yard which did not lead through the main gateway, but
entered from some waste ground, where only broken bottles and old tin
cans dwelt.

The children passed safely and unobserved by this way, and in a little
while Cleg had them safely housed in his own city of refuge. But Vara
was in great fear lest some of the men should see them and turn them
out upon the street. So Cleg shut the door upon them with the lock of
his own devising, and started at a run to find Mr. Callendar.



ADVENTURE XIV.

CLEG TURNS DIPLOMATIST.


James Callendar, honest man and pillar of the Seceder Kirk, was sitting
down to his dinner when Cleg came to his door. The one servant lass
whom the Callendars kept was "tidying" herself for the afternoon, and
very much resented having to answer the door for a ragged boy with
bare legs.

"Gae 'way, we hae nocht for the likes o' you here!" said she, and would
have shut the door upon him.

"No even ceevil mainners," said Cleg, stepping lightly past her into
the little side room, where he knew that Mr. Callendar ordinarily took
his meals. The builder was just putting a potato into his mouth. He
was so surprised to see Cleg enter unannounced, that the fork with the
round, well-buttered, new potato remained poised in mid-air.

Cleg plunged into his affairs without preamble, lest he should be
captured from behind and ignominiously expelled. But the trim servant
merely listened for a moment at the back of the door, to make sure
that the intruder had some genuine business with her master, and then
returned to the graver duties of her own toilet. It was her evening
out, and her "young man" had hinted at a sail to Aberdour on the
pleasure-boat, if they could get to the West Pier in time.

"Oh, Maister Callendar," Cleg began, eager and breathless, "ye hae been
a kind man to me, and I want ye to help me noo——"

"What's this, Cleg?" said the builder; "surely the police are not after
you?"

Cleg shook his head.

"Nor your faither gotten off?"

Again and more vigorously Cleg shook his head, smiling a little as he
did so.

"Oh, then," said the builder, much relieved, carrying the suspended
potato to his mouth, "it can be naething very dreadfu'. But when ye
came in like that on me, I declare that I thocht the wood-yaird was on
fire!"

Then Cleg proceeded with his tale. He told how the Kavannahs had been
deserted by their father, who had gone to look for work in Liverpool.
He sketched with the inevitable realism of the street-boy the career
of Sal Kavannah. He stated in plain language the fate that threatened
Vara. He described Sal's treatment of Hugh.

"And she battered her ain bairn till the blood ran on the floor. She
tossed the bairn against the wall till its arm was near broke. She
never hears her wee bit wean greetin' for the milk without cursing it.
Will ye turn them away to gang back to a' that?"

This was Cleg's climax, and very artfully he had worked up to it. The
builder, good man, was troubled. The tale spoiled the relish of his
new potatoes, and it was the first time he had had them that year. He
turned with some little asperity upon Cleg.

"But I dinna see what I can do," he said; "I canna tak' them here into
my house. The mistress wadna alloo it."

It was the first time he had referred to the ruler of his fortunes,
who at that moment was declaring to an acquaintance that she paid two
shillings a week less for her rooms than her friend in the next pew at
church. "And how she can afford it is mair than I can tell." It was no
wonder that honest Mr. Callendar said that his wife would not allow him
to bring the Kavannahs within his door.

"But," said Cleg, "if you will let them bide in the auld hut at the
back o' the yaird, where naebody gangs, I can easy get ither lodgings.
They'll meddle wi' naething, and I ken whaur to get wark for the
lassie, when she's fit for it."

Mr. Callendar considered. It was a good deal to ask, and he had no
guarantee for the honesty of his new tenants but the good word of the
son of a thief who had squatted on his property.

"Weel, Cleg," he said at last, with his quiet humorsome smile coming
back to his lips, "they can bide, gin ye are willing to come surety for
them."

Cleg jumped up with a shout and a wave of his bonnet, which brought the
trim servant to the back of the door in consternation.

"I kenned ye wadna turn them awa'—I kenned it, man!" he cried.

Then Cleg realised where he was, and his enthusiasm subsided as
suddenly as it rose.

"I shouldna behave like this on a carpet," he said, looking
apologetically at the dusty pads his bare feet had left on the good
Kidderminster.

He was on the eve of departing when the builder called him back. He had
been turning things over in his mind.

"I hae anither wood-yard doon by Echo Bank," he said. "There's a
cubby-hole there you could bide in, gin ye had a blanket."

"That's nocht," answered Cleg, "in this weather. And thank ye kindly. I
can do brawly withoot a blanket."

And he sped out as he came, without troubling the maid, who was
wearying for her master to be done with his dinner and take himself
away to his office.

The good news was conveyed directly to Vara, and then she set Cleg's
hut in order with a quieter heart. Cleg showed them where to get water,
and it was not long before the bairns were established in a safety and
comfort they had been strangers to all their lives.

But Cleg was not done with his day's work for the Kavannahs. He
went down to the Hillside Works and saw the watchman, after he had
delivered his tale of evening papers.

"D'ye think," he said diplomatically, "that there's ony chance for a
lassie to get wark here?"

The watchman shook his head.

"There's nae room for ony but the relations o' them that's workin' here
already."

The watchman could be as diplomatic as Cleg. He had daughters of his
own growing up, and, though he was willing to be a friend to Cleg, it
was against his principles to encourage the introduction into "our
works" of alien blood. There was a tradition at Hillside that every
old servant got his daughters "in" as a matter of course. Indeed,
matrimonial alliances were often arranged on that basis, and the
blessing of children was looked upon as equivalent to the supreme
blessing of money in the bank.

"But I dare say ye micht see Maister Donald," said the watchman,
relenting. He remembered that he had no daughters that could be ready
for a few years yet; and besides, Cleg was a good friend of his. "But
what ken ye aboot lassies? My sang, but ye are early begun, my lad.
Ye'll rue it some day."

Cleg smiled, but disdained an answer. He was not argie-bargiein' at
present, as he would have said. He was waiting to get a job for Vara
Kavannah. In another minute he found himself in the presence of Mr.
Donald Iverach, junior partner in the firm of Iverach & Company, whose
position in the paper trade and special eminence in the production
of the higher grades of foreign correspondence were acknowledged
even by rivals—as the senior partner wrote when he was preparing the
advertisement for the firm's yearly almanack.

Mr. Donald Iverach was not in the best of humours. He had hoped to
be playing "pocket-handkerchief tennis," of which he had grown
inordinately fond, upon the lawn of Aurelia Villa. But it so happened
that he had been required to supply his father upon the morrow with
important data concerning the half-yearly balance. For this reason he
had to remain in the dreary office in the South Back. This jumped ill
with the desires of the junior partner, who was at present so very
junior a partner that his share of the profits was only a full and
undivided fiftieth—"amply sufficient, however," as his father said many
times over, "and much more than ever I had at your age, with a wife and
family to keep."

"I wish I had!" said the reckless Donald, when he had heard this for
the twentieth time, not knowing what he said.

"Donald, you are a young fool!" said his father. Which, of course,
materially helped things.

Now the temper of Mr. Donald Iverach was specially tried on this
occasion, for he had good reason to believe that a picturesque cousin
of Cecilia's from London, who had been invalided home from some
ridiculous little war or other, was playing pocket-handkerchief tennis
at Aurelia Villa that evening in place of himself.

So his greeting to Cleg was curt indeed, as he looked up with his pen
in his fingers from the last estimate of "goods returned damaged"—an
item which always specially annoyed his father.

"What do you want, boy?" he said, with a glance at the tattered
trousers with one "gallus" showing across the blue shirt, which
represented Cleg's entire summer wear.

"Hae ye ony licht job ye could gie a clever and wullin' lassie the
morn?" said Cleg, who knew that the way to get a thing is to ask for it.

"What lassie?" said the junior partner indifferently.

"A lassie that has nae faither or mither," said Cleg—"worth speakin'
aboot," he added as an afterthought.

"We are full up," said Donald Iverach, balancing himself upon one
leg of his stool. For his father was old-fashioned, and despised the
luxury of stuffed chairs as not in keeping with a sound, old-fashioned
conservative business.

Cleg looked disappointed.

"It wad be an awsome graund thing for the lassie if she could get a job
here," said Cleg sadly.

"Another time," replied the junior partner, turning to his desk. To
him the case and application were as fifty more. He only wished the
manager had been at hand to refer the case to. Donald was like most of
his kindly fellow-creatures. He liked to have his nasty jobs done by
deputy. Which is one reason why the law is a lucrative profession.

Cleg was at the door, his head sunk so low that it was nearly between
his feet. But at the very out-going, with the great brass handle in his
fingers, he tried once more.

"Aweel," he said, without taking his eyes off the brown matting on the
floor, "I'll e'en hae to gang and tell Miss Tennant aboot it. She wull
be desperate vexed!"

The junior partner swung round on his stool and called, "Hey! boy,
stop!"

But Cleg was already outside.

"Call that boy back!" he shouted to the watchman, leaping to the door
with sudden agility and astonishing interest.

Cleg returned with the same dejected mien and abased eyes. He stood,
the image of sorrow and disappointment, upon the cocoa-nut matting.

"Whom did you say you would tell?" said Donald Iverach, in a tone in
his voice quite different from his business one.

"Only Miss Tennant—a freend o' mine," said Cleg, with incomparable
meekness and deference.

"Miss Tennant of Aurelia Villa?" broke in the eager youth.

"Aye, juist her," said Cleg dispassionately. "She learns us aboot Jacob
and Esau—and aboot Noah," he added as if upon consideration. He would
have mentioned more of the patriarchs if he could have remembered them
at the time. His choice of names did not spring from either preference
or favouritism. So he added Noah to show that there was no ill-feeling
in the matter.

"And Miss Tennant is your friend?" queried the young man.

Cleg nodded. He might have added that sometimes, as in one great ploy
yet to be described, he had been both teacher and friend to Miss Celie
Tennant.

"Tell your lassie to be here at breakfast-time to-morrow morning, and
to be sure and ask for Mr. Donald Iverach," was all the junior partner
remarked.

And Cleg said demurely, "Thank you, sir."

But as Cleg went out he thought a great deal of additional matter,
and when he said his adieus to the watchman he could hardly contain
himself. Before he was fairly down the steps, he yelled three times as
loud as he could, and turned Catherine-wheel after Catherine-wheel,
till at the last turn he came down with his bare feet in the waist-belt
of a policeman. The good-natured officer solemnly smacked the
convenient end of Cleg with a vast plantigrade palm, and restored him
to the stature and progression of ordinary humanity, with a reminder to
behave—and to mind where he was coming if he did not want to get run
in.

But even this did not settle Cleg.

"O Keelies!" he cried, as if he had been addressing a large company
of his fellows, "wasna it rare to see him loup off that stool, like a
yellow paddock into the canal!"

And Cleg, who scorned the eccentricities of love in more mature bosoms
even when he traded upon the resultant weaknesses, went off into an
ecstasy of mocking laughter.



ADVENTURE XV.

THE FIRE IN CALLENDAR'S YARD.


Vara Kavannah went daily to the factory at Hillside. She was but a slip
of a thing, yet she soon learned the work that fell to her share, and
developed marvellous quickness in passing the thin quires of foreign
paper, examining them for flaws and dirt, and rejecting the faulty
sheets.

The girls were mostly kind to her, though they teased her about her
name. And, indeed, in a world of Maggies and Jeanies, her Christian
name appeared somewhat strange. But Vara had a reverence for it,
because it had been her single legacy from her father, the gentle and
imaginative Sheemus, who had found married life so different from his
hopes that he had been brought at last to try that bitter pass of
flight, through which so many have gone to find a new life on the other
side.

These were pleasant evenings in the wooden hut. Cleg generally dropped
in to see his sub-tenants after his papers were delivered. Then he
would potter about, watering the flowers, which now began to bloom
bravely in spite of the city heat and the dust of the yard. Vara had
a seam or a stocking, and sat at the outside of the door on a creepie
stool.

Hugh learned to nurse Gavin on his knee or to rock him in the old
cradle which the kindly foreman of the yard, a widower, had lent to
Vara, saying, "I'm no needin' it the noo—no for a year or twa at ony
rate."

He was a "seeking" widower, and did not make the presentation absolute
because he was a far-sighted man, and one never knew what might happen.
As for Vara, she seemed to shoot up in stature every day, and the
curves of her wasted and abused body filled out. Her face again grew
merry and bright, and she was ready to take her share in mirthful talk.
But sometimes her eyes were sad and far away. Then she was thinking of
her father, the gentle Sheemus; and she longed greatly to go to meet
him in Liverpool, when the ill days should have overpassed and there
was no mother any more in her life.

In the Works Vara gained the friendship of her companions, though she
was younger than most of them. A tall girl, who was much looked up to
in the mill because she sang in a choir, stood firmly her friend. And
the two, Agnes Ramsay and little Vara, used to walk home together. Vara
was anxious that Cleg should apply for a situation for himself at the
Works; but Cleg preferred his untrammelled freedom, and continued to
deliver his papers and sleep in the yard at Echo Bank all through the
summer.

It was mid-August and the sky shone like copper. There was a peculiar
dunness in the air, and light puffs of burning wind came in, hot and
unrefreshing, from the walls and pavement in the afternoon. But when
the girls came home "on the back of six," as they said, the air had
grown cooler, and Agnes and Vara often lingered a little in the great
"saal," or work-room, in order to let the press of girls well down the
street before them, and so be rid of the rough chaff of the lads as
they passed home.

But this evening, as they came leisurely out, arm linked in arm, Vara
saw a great crowd blocking up the way in front of the clock which gave
the time to the Works, and with a quick clutch at her companion's arm
she would have drawn her away.

But Agnes Ramsay saw a woman furiously attacking the manager, and
pushed forward to get a better view. Vara knew too well what it meant.
Her enemy had found her. She tried to steal away, but it seemed
impossible to move. With a cry of anger Sal Kavannah recognised her
daughter, and threshed a way through the crowd to reach her. Vara stood
still, white to the lips. Her mother seized her by the neck of her
dress and began to shake her, striking her about the face and shoulders
with foul names and blasphemous words.

"Brazen besom," she cried; "you and your 'Keelie' stole my bairns frae
me. Where have you hidden them? Ye think I canna find oot. But I can
track them as I tracked you. Aff wi' that dress, you slut. It's ower
guid for the like o' you, and me trapesin' in a gown like this. Take it
off, I say, and give me back my children."

Vara stood mute and silent under the storm of oaths. The manager would
have sent for the police, but knowing that Vara was a _protégée_ of Mr.
Donald's, he went within, leaving them (as he said) to fight it out.

Then Agnes Ramsay pulled the shrinking girl away from her mother, and
so turned the abuse upon herself. But Agnes was a well-grown girl, and,
being supported by half-a-hundred of her companions, she stood her
ground valiantly.

"Run," she said, "run, lassie, while ye can. She doesna ken yet where
ye bide."

So like a hunted hare Vara turned and ran. But when she reached the
little wooden house, so trim and quiet, with its fragrant wood-yard
about it, and the daisies and pansies in the little plots and
diamond-shaped patches which Cleg had made, the bitterness of her heart
broke up within her, like the breaking up of the fountains of the great
deep.

Little Hugh came trotting to her, waving a red flag, the latest gift of
the widower foreman, in his hand. "Vara, Vara," he cried, "Gavin can
say 'Dadda,' and I nursed him good as gold all day."

The tears were running down Vara's face. She went in without power of
speech and sat by the babe's cot. He was asleep, and she laid her wet
cheek on the pillow beside his and sobbed. Hugh kept a little way off,
not knowing what to make of the unknown sorrow. Then he came softly up
to her, and gave her sleeve a little pull.

"Vara," he said, "here's a seetie."

For Hugh understood no sorrow which a sweetie would not make better.

"I can never go back to the Works," sobbed Vara. "I am disgraced before
them all. I can never face them—never!"

About seven Cleg came over the waste ground joyfully, having disposed
of his papers. He sat silent while Vara told him of the terrible
evening at the gate of Hillside, and of all her shame and terror. Cleg
whistled very softly to himself, as he always did when he was thinking
deeply.

"Wait here this ae nicht," he said. "I am watching with anither man at
the corner o' the Grange where they hae the road up. I'll think it oot
in the shelter. Keep up your heart, Vara—we'll win through yet."

But Vara would not be comforted. She would not even raise her head to
bid him say "Guid nicht."

So, still more softly whistling, Cleg departed.

He was not great company that night for the man in the shelter,
one "Tyke" Tweedie—a man who had once been a soldier for three
months, before being bought off by his father, who had regretted the
transaction ever since. "Tyke" was a man of battles. By his own account
he had been in the Crimea. He was great upon "the Hichts o' Almy." He
described the joint career of himself and the victorious Sir Colin
Campbell, concluding his epic with, "Then we charged the enemy and
carriet a' afore us, till we garred the Russian chiels rin like stour!"

But Tyke had a poor listener that night, though he never knew it. For
Cleg sat silent, and only by a nod did he acknowledge his interest when
Tyke had come to the crisis of one of his famous narrations.

The policeman on the beat would sometimes stop and look over the
windward edge of the shelter. "Hae ye gotten to the battle o' the
Inkermann yet?" he would ask.

"Na, Rob," Tyke would reply, "we are aye on the Hichts o' Almy yet!
Dear, sirce, but it was a sare, sare job. Ye see, there was me and Sir
Colin, and wi' that we at them sword in hand——"

And the policeman would stroll away from the glow of the fire, out
under the stars—alone save for the transient rake-hell cat skirmishing
across from area-railing to area-railing, and the tramp of a brother
officer coming up sombre and subdued from far down the hill.

But about one of the clock, when the night was verging to its stillest,
Cleg looked up and saw the stars overhead thinning out.

"It's never morning already!" he said, rubbing his eyes, for he had not
half solved the hard problem of Vara Kavannah.

He stepped out of the shelter. All the heaven to the north was
a-flicker with the skarrow of fire.

Without a word to the now drowsy Tyke, nodding over the blackening
cinders in his grated brazier, Cleg Kelly set off at his top speed
towards the fire, to be in at the death. "It's surely in the
Pleasance," he said to himself as he ran. The flame towered mightily
clear and clean, without sparks or crackling as when houses burn.

"It's Callendar's yaird!" said Cleg again, and never in his life had he
run so fast. For there in the midst of the timber was the little wooden
house in which were lying asleep little Vara Kavannah and her baby
brothers.

It was indeed Callendar's wood-yard. When Cleg arrived there were whole
regiments of firemen playing upon the flames; but his experienced
eyes saw at once that the case was hopeless. Indeed, the officer in
charge had come to the same conclusion some time before, and he was
now directing the solid streams of water towards such surrounding
properties as seemed in danger of catching fire.

The crowds were kept back by police, and all was orderly. The owner of
all stood patiently at the gate, talking matters over with his foreman.
After all, it was the visitation of God, and, further, he was fully
insured. It is a great thing to be prepared for affliction.

Into the black mass of the onlookers Cleg darted. He wormed his way
round to the back. He crossed a wall on which three or four boys were
roosting.

"Ye'll get nabbed if ye gang that road," cried one of them, giving
Cleg "the office" in the friendliest way, though he belonged to quite
another gang.

But Cleg sped on. He dived between the long legs of his former friend,
the red-headed officer known as "Longshanks." He skimmed across the
yard among the falling sparks, dodging the flames which shot out of the
burning piles to intercept him, as if they had been policemen.

The little wooden house lay before him in the red heart of the fire. He
saw the daisies growing in his own garden plots. He remembered that, in
the hurry and distress of listening to Vara's story, he had not watered
them that day.

But he dashed for the door, opened it eagerly, and fell forward across
the floor. The hut was filled with the odour of burning. Shooting
flames met him in the face as he rose; but nevertheless he groped all
about the tiny room, getting his hands and arms burned as he did so.
The children were not there—Vara, Hugh, and the baby—all were gone! He
turned to the door. The thing that he had stumbled over was a body.
He turned over the lump with his bare foot. It was soft, heavy, and
smelled of whisky. Cleg had found Sal Kavannah in the home he had made
to protect her children from her search. He had little doubt that it
was she who had set the yard on fire and stumbled in here afterwards.

Cleg stood a moment wondering whether he would not do better to leave
her where she was; and more than once since that night has the same
thought crossed his mind. He still fears that in dragging her away by
the feet from the burning hut he unduly interfered with the working of
the designs of an all-wise Providence.



ADVENTURE XVI.

IN THE KEY OF BOY NATURAL.


In time and under a new superintendent Cleg Kelly went back to Hunker
Court Sunday school, some time after the loss of his friends the
Kavannahs. This is equivalent to saying that Hunker Court became again
an exceedingly lively place of instruction and amusement on a Sabbath
afternoon. It is true that Cleg was not always present, and when he
was absent his teacher's heart sent up a silent thanksgiving. That, of
course, was before Miss Cecilia Tennant took him in hand.

Cleg had several teachers before he found his fate. He was, in fact,
the crux of the school, and every aspiring young neophyte who "took a
class" was provided with a nut to crack in the shape of Cleg. But he
never cracked him.

The superintendent of Hunker Court at the date of this first pilgrimage
was a somewhat ineffective gentleman, whose distinguishing trait was
that he appeared to be of a pale sandy complexion all over. That
is, all of him not covered by a tightly-buttoned black surtout.
His name was Samson Langpenny. Why it was so, is historically
uncertain—"Langpenny," probably, owing to his connection with his
father. But "Samson" is wholly inexplicable, and was certainly
exceedingly hard upon Master Langpenny as a boy. For it procured him
many lickings at that delightful season, owing to logic of the usual
schoolboy type and cogency.

"Jock, ye dinna ken wha was the strongest man?"

"It's a lee, I do ken. It was Samson!"

"Na, then it juist isna, for I lickit Samson this mornin' mysel'!"

The second boy thought this over a moment—saw it—considered it rather
good.

"Dod," he said, "I wad like to could say that mysel'. I can lick Samson
mysel' as weel as Pate Tamson!"

Whereupon he went and lurked for Samson till that unfortunate youth
came along. Then he triumphantly established his claim to be the
strongest man by once more thrashing "Samson" Langpenny, while the
tears of the first combat were hardly yet dry upon the cuff of the
coat-sleeve which Master Langpenny ordinarily used instead of a
pocket-handkerchief.

It was quite in accordance with the contrariness of things, that
Samson Langpenny should develop into the superintendent of the
roughest Sunday school in all the South Side of Edinburgh. He had
now a real handkerchief, as every one might see, for he wore about
equal parts of it within his pocket and without. The lower and
unseen portion was the working end. Now, there may be excellent
moral purpose in a judiciously-used pocket-handkerchief. There is,
indeed, a certain literary man whose wife avers that her husband's
toilet consists ordinarily of "four paper knives, four pens, and no
pocket-handkerchief." But this person is not usually held up in Sunday
schools as a shining example. Quite the contrary.

Now, Cleg Kelly had no great personal grievance against his
superintendent. But he said in his vulgar way (for there is no doubt
that he was that kind of boy) that "he did not cotton to that wipe o'
Langpenny's!"

Cleg's present teacher was a young gentleman of the name of Percy
Somerville, whose principal reasons for teaching in Hunker Court were
that he might improve the minds of the youth of the district, and that
he might have a fair chance of seeing Miss Cecilia Tennant home across
the meadows. This last was a pleasant thing to do at any time, but
specially desirable in the summer season, after the heat and turmoil
of Hunker Court, and on this account Samson Langpenny never lacked for
recruits to his teaching staff at that time.

Now, Percy Somerville was "a very nice boy"—these were Miss Tennant's
own words. "But, you know—well, you know—after all, he is only a boy."

And, in addition, as they say in political circles, when the leadership
of the party is in question, "there was no vacancy." The junior partner
still lived.

How Percy Somerville undoubtedly had his troubles, owing chiefly to
Celie Tennant's hardness of heart; but they were as nothing to the
difficulties which afflicted Samson Langpenny.

For instance, it was in this wise that Mr. Percy Somerville was
greeted, as he appeared with a reluctant scholar who had been detected
in trying to escape by the side door after the roll had been marked.
(It was drawing near the time of the summer treat into the country, so
it behoved the teachers to be careful in marking attendances.)

"Go it, Pierce-eye! Hit him one in the eye!"

This exclamation was traced afterwards to Cleg Kelly's acquaintance in
day-school with a baleful ballad included in the _Royal Poetry Book_,
and intituled "Chevy Chase."

Mr. Somerville thereupon promptly lost his rightful and given name, and
became to all eternity—or so long, at least, as he remained at Hunker
Court—"Old One-in-the Eye."

But it so happened that, on this particular Sunday, Cleg's teacher
with the pugnacious title was absent; and, in despite of the notice
prominently placarded on the walls behind the superintendent's desk, he
was absent without having provided a substitute.

There was nothing for it, therefore, but that Samson Langpenny should
take the class himself. And he would as soon have faced a battery of
artillery as a class in which sat the Egyptian plague of his school,
Cleg Kelly. It was, indeed, on this particular day that there came to
Samson the resolution to try him with Miss Celie Tennant as a last
resource, previous to a second and final expulsion.

Indeed, he would have chosen the latter alternative long ago, but for a
well-grounded inward belief that, at the close of the hour after Cleg's
compulsory exit, there would not be a whole pane of glass in all the
many windows of Hunker Court Sunday school. He remembered well as a
teacher the awful scene which accompanied the first expulsion under the
reign of "Pund o' Cannles"—a scene which since his return had made Cleg
almost idolised by the scholars of Hunker Court.

Samson Langpenny sat down to teach the Border Ruffians of the Sooth
Back—Cleg Kelly's class. Now he was out of place, and knew it. His true
sphere in a Sunday school was in the infant department; where, with a
packet of butterscotch and "Hush-a-bye, Baby!" he might have been a
great and shining success.

Why the minister did not see this was a standing problem in Hunker
Court. But, as the teachers said one to another on their several ways
home:

"It is so hard to get the minister to see anything—_and as for his
wife_——"

"Can you say your Psalm—metrical version?" asked Samson Langpenny, as
though of a certainty they were all letter-perfect in the prose version.

"_I_ can," said Cleg Kelly promptly.

"Then," said Samson, smiling, well-pleased, "we will take you last."

With various hitches and shoves, the awkward and unruly class bored
its way through the Psalm—"metrical version." An impartial observer
might have noticed that the teacher contributed about ninety-five
per cent. of the recitation in the form of hints and suggestions.
Nevertheless, each boy, having completed his portion, sat back with
a proud consciousness that he had done his duty with even needless
promptitude and accuracy. Also it was an established canon of the place
that so soon as each boy was released from the eye of the teacher, he
instantly put his hand slyly under the bench. Then he either nipped his
neighbour in a place which made the sufferer take an instant interest
in the circumstance, or else he incontinently stuck a pin into him.

In either case the boy assaulted remarked: "OUCH! please, sir, Tam
Rogerson's nippin' me. Wull ye speak to him?"

But this was only the usual routine, and provoked no remark.

When, however, the superintendent came to Cleg Kelly, and that diligent
young student began at once to reel off the twenty-third Psalm with
vivacity and despatch—the psalm which the entire body of Scottish youth
learns long before the A, B, C—it was obviously time to interfere.

"If ye please, sir (or whether or no), that's no the richt yin!" said
Tam Rogerson, who ran Cleg close for the place of honour as the "warst
loon i' the schule!" This was a post of as great distinction at Hunker
Court as the position of clown in a circus.

Cleg's answer was twofold.

To Tam Rogerson he remarked—under his breath, it is true, but with
startling distinctness—

"Wait till I get you oot, ma man; I'll warm you."

And Tam Rogerson grew hot from head to foot, for he knew that he was as
good as warmed already.

On the other hand, Cleg gave the answer of peace to his teacher:

"Please, sir, Maister Langshanks—penny, I mean—my faither is
a Papish—an' he winna let me learn ony ither Psalm but the
three-an'-twunty. But I hae learned HER to richts!"

After this exhibition of the rights of the nonconforming conscience
in strange places, Cleg continued his lesson in Hunker Court under
the vague tutelage of Samson Langpenny. Now Samson was unaware of the
strong feeling of resentment which was gathering in the bosoms of
his scholars, owing to the length of his "introductory exercises."
The Psalm and the "questions" were all in the day's work, but Samson
introduced a prayer in the middle of the teaching hour, which Cleg
Kelly considered to be wholly uncalled for and indeed little short of
impious.

So, as soon as Samson shut his eyes, Cleg silently joined the class
nearest him, and the other scholars of the absent Mr. Somerville
did likewise. When Samson opened his eyes and awoke to the state of
the case, he found himself wholly without a single scholar to whom
instruction could be given.

Cleg had betaken himself to the class of Miss Robina Semple, an
excellent maiden lady of much earnestness and vigour. She was so busy
explaining the Scripture lesson, that she did not at first observe the
addition to the number of her scholars in the wholly undesirable person
of Master Kelly.

The lesson was the parable of the lame man at the pool of Siloam.

Now in Miss Semple's class there was a lame boy named Chris Cullen. He
sat listening with strained attention and invincible eagerness to every
word which fell from his teacher. Cleg, to whom all lessons were much
alike, listened also—chiefly, it may be, because he saw the reflection
of an angel's smile on the face of the lame boy, Chris Cullen.

"What gars ye hearken like that, Chris?" whispered Cleg, with some
anxiety. Only the news of a prize fight would have brought such
an expression of interest to his own face, or (it might be) the
announcement that his father had got ten years.

"It's aboot a man that got a dook, an' then he could walk!" said Chris,
speaking hurriedly over his shoulder, being anxious not to miss a word.

"What hindered him to dook afore?" asked Cleg.

"He couldna get doon to the water-edge," said Chris.

"Was the bobby there?" persisted Cleg, to whom the limit of where he
might not go or might not do coincided with the beat of the officers of
Her Majesty's peace.

"_Wheesht!_" interjected Chris Cullen, "she's telling it the noo!"

For the lame boy, his teacher existed for this purpose alone.

The calm, high voice of Miss Robina Semple went on—Robina Semple, whom
some called "a plain old maid"—

"And so the poor man, who had no one to carry him down to the edge when
the angel troubled the water, had to stay where he was, and somebody
else got in before him! Are you not sorry for him?"

"Never heed, Chris Cullen," broke in Cleg, "I'll cairry ye doon on my
back mysel'! There's naebody will daur to hinder ye dookin' in ony dub
ye like, when I'm cairryin' ye!"

Cleg Kelly was certainly acquiring, by contact if in no other way,
certain Christian ideas. For the rest he was still frankly pagan.

Now at this particular date Hunker Court Sabbath school was run under
a misapprehension. It was the idea of the superintendent that a little
sugared advice would tame the young savages of the courts and wynds.
Hence the hour of instruction was largely taken up with confused
sound and fury. Samson would have been wiser if he had suborned a
prize-fighter of good moral principles to teach the young idea of
Hunker Court how to shoot head foremost out at the door. Under these
circumstances it is conceivable that some good might have been done.
But as it was, under the placid consulship of Samson Langpenny,
teachers and scholars alike had a good deal of physical exercise of an
interesting and healthful sort. But the moral and religious improvement
was certainly to seek.

Yet in the class of Miss Semple, that excellent woman and good teacher
of youth, there was one scholar who that Sunday had heard to profit. It
was Cleg Kelly. He carried home little Chris Cullen on his shoulders,
and if no angel stirred the waters of the gutter puddles as these two
went their way, and if no immediate healing resulted, both Chris and
Cleg were the better for the lesson of the troubling of the waters.

Even Samson Langpenny did not go to Hunker Court that day in vain,
for he went along with Chris and Cleg part of the way home. Pride was
not among Samson's failings, and, as we know, bashfulness was equally
absent from the black catalogue of the sins of our hero.

"What for are you carrying Chris?" asked Samson Langpenny, who, though
he had many weaknesses, had also large and sufficient virtues of
earnestness and self-sacrifice.

"Weel, ye see, sir," said Cleg, trotting alongside cheerily, his burden
upon his shoulders, "it's true that Chris can gang himsel'. But ye ken
yersel' gin the laddies are verra ceevil when they get oot o' schule.
They micht knock the wee yin ower. But when he is up on my shoothers,
they juist darena. My certes, but I wad like to fa' acquaint wi' the
yin that wad as muckle as lift a 'paver' to him. I wad 'paver' him!"

The superintendent smiled, though as a general rule he deprecated
an appeal to arms. Cleg had also a little sound advice to offer his
superior.

"Ye dinna lick aneuch in your schule, Maister!" continued Cleg, for he
was unselfishly desirous that everyone should succeed in the sphere of
life to which Providence had called him. He did not, it is true, see
any great reason for a man's having taken to keeping Sunday school.
Summer treats in the country might surely have been given without
them—likewise tea _soirées_. But since these things had been mixed up
together, the instruction part, however unnecessary, should certainly
be carried out in a workmanlike fashion.

"Not lick enough?" queried the superintendent, aghast. He thought
he could not have heard aright—the pest of Hunker Court counselling
corporal punishment!

"Aye, an' div ye ken," Cleg went on, "div ye ken I can tell ye, wha ye
could get to keep the laddies as quaite as pussy."

The superintendent looked at the rebel Head Centre of Hunker Court,
bending with the weight of Chris Cullen upon his shoulders. It did not
strike him that Cleg might also be able to support his own crippled
steps upon his willing heathen shoulders.

"What would you advise?" he asked at last, with a certain pathetic
humility.

"There's a maister at oor day schule that's awsome handy wi' the taws,
an a' the laddies are feared o' him. He comes to your kirk—I hae seen
him gang in the door. Ye micht get him for a teacher in yer Sabbath
schule! Then the boys wad hae to be quaite. His name's MacRobb."

"Why would the boys have to be quiet then?" said Samson Langpenny, who
did not yet understand what his ragged mentor was driving at.

"Dinna ye see, sir," said Cleg eagerly, "the boys daurna play their
capers on Sabbaths at Hunker Court, an' gang to his schule on Mondays.
Na, he wad fair skin them alive. It wad mak' an awfu' differ to you,
sir."

"But I do not know Mr. MacRobb," said Samson; "how can I get him to
give up his Sabbath afternoons to teach in such a noisy place? He will
say that he gets enough of teaching through the week."

"Gae 'way!" said Cleg in his vernacular, forgetting for the moment to
whom he spoke, "gae 'way, man! Get bonny Miss Tennant, the lass in
the yella frock, to speer him. He'll come fast aneuch then. He does
naething else in the kirk but glower at her a' the time the minister's
preaching."

Thus Cleg jested with love, and used its victims at his pleasure.



ADVENTURE XVII.

THE KNUCKLE DUSTERS.


Soon after this Cleg Kelly became a member of a young lady's class, in
a manner which has been elsewhere related.[3]

That young lady was Miss Cecilia Tennant, otherwise known as Celie—a
young lady much admired by all who knew her (and by some who did not,
but wanted to); and especially admired by Mr. Donald Iverach, junior
partner in the firm on whose premises the class was held. I have also
related the tragical events which preceded the formation of the boys'
class, organised under the guidance and tutelage of Cleg Kelly. But
it soon became evident that something more than a night class was
necessary, if any impression were to be made on the wild Arabs of the
Sooth Back.

"Ye see the way o' it is this, Miss Celie," Cleg explained. "Ye canna
keep a boy frae ill-doing by juist telling him aboot Jacob for an hour
in the week. There's a' day in the shop, wi' the gaffer swearin' blue
murder even on, an' ill-talk an' ither things that I juist canna tell
ye. Then there's every nicht, when we drap work. What can we do but
stand about the streets, or start the Gang an' look aboot us for a
bobby to chivvy, or else for something handy for 'liftin'?'"

"But, Cleg," cried Celie, much alarmed, "surely I do not understand you
to say that you _steal_?"

"Na," said Cleg, "we dinna steal. We only 'nick' things whiles!"

Celie had heard, indeed, of the "mobs," the "unions," the "gangs,"
the "crowds." But she thought them simply amiable and rather silly
secret societies, such as her own brothers used to make a great deal
of unnecessary secrecy about—calling themselves "Bloody Bill of the
Ranch," "Navajo Tommy," and other stupid names. She had remarked the
same mania in Cleg sometimes, and had some reason to believe that all
boys are alike, whatever may be their station in life.

But Cleg soon put his friend out of the danger of any such mistake.

"Mind, say '_As sure as daith_,' an' ye'll cut your throat gin ye
tell," said Cleg, very earnestly, "an' I'll tell ye, aye, an' make ye a
member!"

Cleg was about to reveal state secrets, and he did not want to run any
risks. Celie promised faithfully the utmost discretion.

"Weel, Miss Celie, I can see that ye are no gaun to do muckle guid
amang us boys, if I dinna tell ye. An' I want ye no to believe ony
lees, like what are telled to the ministers an' folk like them. There's
mair ill in the Sooth Back than can be pitten richt wi' a track. I
canna bide them tracks——"

The distribution of tracts was an old grievance of Cleg's. But Celie
earnestly and instantly put him on the plain way again, for if he once
began upon "tracks," there was no telling if ever she would get any
nearer to her promised lesson on the good and evil of the boys' unions.

Celie found herself as eager as ever was her first mother Eve, to eat
of the tree of the forbidden knowledge.

"Gie us your han', Miss Celie, I'll no hurt ye," said Cleg.

Celie drew off her dainty glove, and instantly extended a hand that was
white and small beyond all the boy's imagining. Cleg took it reverently
in his dirty, work-broadened paw. He touched the slender fingers as if
they were made of thistle-down and might blow away accidentally. So he
held his breath. Then he took out his knife, one with a point like a
needle, which had been used in a shoe factory.

Perhaps Celie winced a little as he opened the blade, but, if it were
so, it was very little indeed. Yet it was enough to be perceptible to
her very sincere admirer.

Cleg let her hand drop, and without a pause thrust the sharp point
into the ball of his own thumb, squeezing therefrom a single drop of
blood.

"It's no juist exactly richt, no to hae your ain blood, ye ken!" he
explained gravely; "but as ye dinna tell so mony lees as the boys,
maybe mine will do as weel this time to take the oath with."

With a clean new pen from Celie's desk, Cleg made on her palm the sign
of a cross, and for her life the initiated dared not so much as let her
hand quiver or her eyelid droop.

She knew that the occasion was an entirely critical one. But in a
moment it was over, and Celie Tennant was admitted a _bonâ fide_
acting member of the Sooth Back Gang, with full right in its secrets
and to the disposal of one full and undivided share of its profits. No
questions to be asked as to how these profits were come by. Indeed,
from that moment there is little doubt that Celie Tennant might have
been indicted for reset, conspiracy, and crimes infinitely various.

That night at Miss Tennant's class there was a full attendance, and the
opening was delayed owing to necessity arising for the expulsion of a
boy, apparently in no way offending against discipline.

Celie looked the question she dared not speak.

"_He's no yin o' us!_" explained Cleg in a whisper. "He belongs to the
Potter-raw gang—a low lot."

Celie felt morally raised by the consciousness of belonging to a gang
of the most high-toned "nickums" in the whole city.

Then Cleg, after the briefest opening exercises had been endured,
explained that there remained for that evening only the ceremony of
reception of a new member who had already been sworn in. In this Celie
had to concur with as good a grace as possible. She was then and there
appointed, with acclamation, a full member of the honourable (or
dishonourable, according to the point of view) society of the Knuckle
Dusters of the Sooth Back. It was generally felt after this, that Jacob
(the Patriarch of that name) could very well afford to wait over for a
little.

But, after the ceremony, when Celie looked again at her class, she
could hardly believe her eyes. Were these the lads who night after
night had stood before her with faces sleeked and smugged with arrant
hypocrisy, or had looked up at her after some bout of intolerable
mischief, as demure as kittens after spilling a saucer of milk?

A certain seriousness and comradeship pervaded the meeting. But Cleg
was not yet at the end of his surprises.

"I perpose," he said, "that we hae a Club a' for oorsels."

The meeting with unanimous palm and hoof signified its approval of this
grand proposal, obviously one which had been discussed before.

"We will hae it in here, and we'll pay to be members—an' that will do
for the coals, and we'll hae smokin'——"

Celie sat aghast. Events were precipitating themselves with a
vengeance. Indeed, surprise sat so manifest on her countenance that
Cleg thought it wise to point out its genuine character to his brother
members. It would never do for them to believe that the great idea of
the club had not originated with themselves.

"_She_ kens nocht aboot it, but I ken fine she's gaun to stan' in wi'
us!" he explained, putting her, as it were, on her honour and under the
solemn seal of the bloody cross of the Knuckle Dusters.

In this Celie, bound by her oath, had indeed no choice.

She must of a surety stand by them. But a serious difficulty occurred
to her.

"Lads," she said, "we have only the right to this place for one night
in the week. How can we occupy it every night?"

All the boys laughed loud. The question was mightily amusing. Indeed,
Celie was often most amusing to them when she had no intention of being
so.

"Of coorse, we ken, ye hae only to ask _him_!" they said, with one
solid voice of general concurrence.

Celie felt herself beginning to burn low down on her neck, and it made
her angry to think that in a minute more she would blush like a great
baby just out of the senior class of the Ladies' College. The boys
watched her maliciously till she looked really distressed, and then
Cleg struck gallantly into the breach.

"Chaps," he cried, "I think we should ask for oorsels. We are gaun to
elec' a commy-tee and run the show. Dinna let us begin by troublin'
Miss Tennant. We'll gang an' ask oorsels. Gin ye are feared, I'm no!"

Crash! came a stone through the window. All leapt to their feet in a
moment.

"It's that dirty scoondrel frae the Potter-raw. Oot after him!" cried
Cleg.

Whereupon the newly constituted Knuckle Dusters' Club tumultuously
detached itself for police duty. There was a scurry along the
highway, a fight at a street corner. Two boys got a black eye apiece.
A policeman was assaulted in the half-humorous way peculiar to the
district. A letter-deliverer sat down suddenly on the pavement, to
the delay of Her Majesty's mails, and after five well-spent and happy
minutes, the Club re-entered, wiping its brow, and Cleg cried:

"Three cheers for the Knuckle Dusters' Club! Miss Celie to be the
president for ever an' ever. We'll meet the morn's nicht to elec' the
commy-tee. _And there's twenty meenits left for Jacob!_"

And so the Knuckle Dusters' Club sat patiently down to endure its
Scripture lesson.



ADVENTURE XVIII.

BIG SMITH SUBDUES THE KNUCKLE DUSTERS.


The reader of this random chronicle has not forgotten the
Troglodytes—the Cave Dwellers, the Railing Roosters—alien to the race
of men, with manners and customs darkly their own.

These are they with whom Cleg had to do, when he amused himself all
that summer day opposite the house of the sergeant. Of the Troglodytes
the chief were Tam Luke, who for a paltry consideration gave his
time during the day to furthering the affairs of Tamson, the baker;
Cleaver's boy, who similarly conducted the butcher's business next
door; and the grocer's boy, who answered to the name of "Marg"—that is,
if he who used it was very much bigger and stronger than himself. In
other circumstances "Marg" chased and hammered according to his ability
the boy who called the name after him—for it was contracted from
"margarine," and involved a distinct slur upon his line of business.

But each man of the Troglodytes was a Knuckle Duster. In the Club they
were banded together for offence and defence. In the days before Cleg
took in hand to reorganise the club, they had a good many things in
common besides the fear of the constable.

Now, each boy was most respectable during his hours of business. There
was no "sneaking" the goods of their own masters. The till was safe,
and they did not carry away the stock-in-trade to sell it. But that was
pretty much all the way their honour went. Their kind of honesty, it
is to be feared, was chiefly of the "best policy" sort. Fun was fun,
and "sneaking" was the breath of life; but it was one thing to "fake an
apple," and altogether another to be "nicked" for stealing from one's
master. The latter meant the loss of situation without a character. Now
a character is a valuable asset. It is negotiable, and must be taken
care of. To steal does not hurt one's character—only to be found out.
To break a plate-glass window with a stone does not harm a character as
much as it damages the window; but to be an hour late three mornings
running is fatal. So Cleaver's boy had a character; "Marg" had a
character, and even Tam Luke had a character. They were all beauties.
Our own Cleg had half a dozen different characters—most of them,
however, rather indifferent.

But there is no mistake that, under the influence of Celie Tennant and
the new Knuckle Dusters' Club, they were all in the way of improvement.
The good character of their hours of work already began to lap over
into their play-time. But thus it was not always.

Just before its re-inauguration the Sooth Back "mob" had been rather
down on its luck. Cleg was among them only intermittently. They had had
a fight with Bob Sowerby's gang, which frequented the Pleasance lands,
and had been ignominiously defeated.

Worse than all, they had come across "Big" Smith, the athletic
missionary of the Pleasance. He was so called to distinguish him
from "Little" Smith, a distinguished predecessor of the same name,
who was popularly understood to have read every book that was. Big
Smith was not distinguished in the same way. All the same, he was both
distinguished and popular.

On this occasion he was addressing his weekly meeting underneath one of
the great houses. The Knuckle Dusters thought it good sport to ascend
to the window of the common stair, and prepare missiles both fluid and
solid. This was because they belonged to the Sooth Back, and did not
know Big Smith.

Big Smith's mode of exhortation was the prophetic denunciatory. He
was no Jeremiah—a Boanerges of the slums rather. He dealt in warm
accusations and vigorous personal applications. He was very decidedly
no minor prophet, for he had a black beard like an Astrakhan rug, and a
voice that could outroar a Gilmerton carter. Also he was six feet high,
and when he crossed his arms it was like a long-range marker trying to
fold his arms round a target.

"Sinners in Number Seventy-three!" cried Big Smith, and his voice
penetrated into every den and corner of that vast rabbit warren, "you
will not come out to hear me, but I'll make ye hear me yet, if I
scraich till the Day of Judgment. Sinners in Number Seventy-three, ye
are a desperate bad lot. I hae kenned ye this ten year—but——"

Clash!—came a pail of dirty water out of the stair window where the
Knuckle Dusters, yet completely unregenerate, were concealed.

Big Smith was taking breath for his next overwhelming sentence, but
he never got it delivered. For as soon as he realised that the insult
was meant for him, Big Smith pushed his hat firmly down on the back of
his head and started up the stair. He had his oak staff in his hand, a
stick of fibre and responsibility, as indeed it had need to be.

The first he got his hands upon was Tam Luke.

Tam was standing at the back of a door, squeezing himself against the
wall as flat as a skate.

"Come oot!" said Big Smith, in commanding tones.

"It wasna me!" said Tam Luke, who very earnestly wished himself
elsewhere.

"Come oot!" said Big Smith, missionary.

Tam Luke came—not wholly by his own will, but because the hand of Big
Smith seemed to gather up most of his garments at once. And he grasped
them hard too. Tam Luke's toes barely touched the ground.

"It wasna me!" repeated Tam Luke.

"What's a' this, then?" queried Big Smith, shaking him comprehensively,
as the coal-man of the locality empties a hundredweight sack into the
bunker. Half a dozen vegetables, more or less gamey in flavour, dropped
out of his pockets and trotted irregularly down the stair.

Then Tam Luke, for the first time in his life, believed in the power of
the Church militant. The Knuckle Dusters on the landing above listened
with curious qualms, hearing Tam singing out his petitions in a kind of
inappeasable rapture. Then, suddenly, they bethought them that it was
time they got out of their present invidious position, and they made a
rush downstairs.

But Big Smith stood on the steps, still holding Tam Luke, and with a
foot like a Sutton's furniture van, he tripped each one impartially as
he passed, till quite a little haycock of Knuckle Dusters was formed at
an angle of the stair.

Then Big Smith, in a singularly able-bodied way, argued with the heap
in general for the good of their souls; and the noise of the oak
stick brought out all the neighbours to look on with approbation.
They had no sympathy with the Knuckle Dusters whatever. And though
they continually troubled the peace of mind of Big Smith with their
goings on, yet they were loyal to him in their own way, and rejoiced
exceedingly when they saw him "dressing the droddums" of the youths of
the Sooth Back Gang.

"Lay on till them, Maister Smith!—bringin' disgrace on oor stair,"
cried a hodman's wife from the top landing, looking over with the brush
in her hand. And Maister Smith certainly obeyed her. Each Knuckle
Duster crawled hurriedly away as soon as he could disentangle himself.
And as each passed the lower landings the wives harassed his retreat
with brushes and pokers for bringing shame on the unstained good name
of Number Seventy-three in the Pleasance.

"It'll learn them no to meddle wi' oor missionary," they said, as they
retired to drink tea syrup, which had been stewing on the hearth since
morning.

For they felt proud of Big Smith, and told their husbands, actual and
attached, of the great doings upon their return at night. It became
a standing taunt as far as the Arch of Abbeyhill for a month, "I'll
send Big Smith till ye!" And there was not a Knuckle Duster that did
not hang his head at the remembrance. The Pleasance was naturally very
proud of its missionary, and offered long odds on him as against any
missionary in the town. "He could lick them a' wi' his hand tied ahint
his back," said the Pleasance in its wholly reasonable pride.

Now this was the cause of the depression which for a long time had
rested upon the Knuckle Dusters and tarnished the glory of their name.
So low had they sunk that it was more than a month since any of them
had been up for assaulting the police. So that, as you may see, things
were indeed coming to a pretty pass. From all this the new Club was to
save them.

First of all, it re-established them in their own self-esteem, which is
a great point. Then it gained them the respect of others as well, for
Miss Tennant was a much honoured person in the Sooth Back. Lastly, the
Club fire burned a half a ton of coals in the fortnight, and the fact
was fame in itself.

So the Knuckle Dusters squared themselves up, and for the first time
since the affair of Big Smith they looked a bobby in the face. More
than that, they actually began to show some of their old spirit again.

Specially did they delight to tell the story of the Leith chief of
police and the apples. It was, indeed, enough to gild any "mob" with a
permanent halo of glory.

This is the tale at its briefest. But it took four nights to tell in
the Club, working three hours a night.

The chief, in the plainest of plain clothes, was hastening down the
shore to catch the Aberdour boat, for he was a family man, and also a
most douce and home-loving citizen. He had taken a cottage near the
shore at Aberdour, where he could have his bairns under his eye upon
the beach, and at the same time be able to note how badly the Fife
police did their duty in the matter of the Sunday excursionists.

But for all that he ought to have had that packet of apples better tied
up, for he had bought a whole shilling'sworth on his way down. The
chief was rather partial to a good apple himself; and, in any case, it
is always advisable to be on the safe side of one's wife, even if you
are a chief of police.

Now the chief reckoned without the Knuckle Dusters. These valiant
youths were on the war-path, and as he was passing a point where the
houses are few, along by the dock gates, Tam Luke came alongside and
pulled the string of his parcel with a sharp and knowing twitch.
Instantly it came undone, and the apples rolled every way upon the
street. Thereupon every Knuckle Duster seized as many as he could
reach, and the Club scattered like hunted hares down alleys and over
fences.

For a moment the chief stood thunderstruck. Then he gave chase,
selecting Cleaver's boy for his prey. But he found that he was not
quite so supple as when he was a young constable fresh from the
country. And besides, he heard the warning whistle blow from the "Lord
Aberdour." He pictured his bairns on the quay and his wife looking
out for him. After all, was it worth it? So he darted into a shop and
bought chocolate instead, and took his anger out by saying, "I'll wager
I'll make it warm for these young vagabonds." He said it as many as
forty times on the way over. He never minded the scenery one single
bit. Among the Knuckle Dusters there was great jubilation. That night
they told the whole to Celie Tennant, who was horrified; but she could
only advise them to "restore fourfold," an unknown idea to the Club.

It was, however, a proposition ably advocated by Cleg Kelly, who,
owing to absence, not honesty, had taken no part in the larceny. And,
strictly as a humorous conception, the idea of fourfold restitution
caught on wonderfully.

This is why a very dirty paper containing two shillings came to the
chief of the Leith police, with the inscription thereon: "FOR TO BUY
MAIR AIPPLES."

Celie wanted them to send four shillings, but the Club unanimously
declined, because the grocer's boy said that the chief's apples were
only second quality.

And the Club had every confidence in the grocer's boy being
well-informed on the point.

[Illustration: "Our roads separate here."]



ADVENTURE XIX.

THE PILGRIMS OF THE PENNY GAFF.


The junior partner was, as he expressed it, "down on his luck." He was
heartily sorry for himself, and indeed the fault was not all his own.
It was now some considerable time since he began regularly to see home
the lady member of the Knuckle Dusters' Club, and perhaps he had begun
to some extent to presume upon his standing. He had, in fact, taken it
upon him to warn her as to the difficulties of her position.

"It is not right for a young lady to be about in this district at
night—no girl ought to do it, whatever be her motive."

He was sometimes a very short-sighted junior partner.

Celie Tennant fired up.

"And pray, Mr. Iverach, who made you my guardian? I am quite of age to
judge where it is right for me to go, and what it is proper for me to
do!"

The junior partner assumed a lofty attitude.

"I consider," he began, "that it is highly improper."

But this was as far as he got. The pose judicial was not one to which
Miss Cecilia Tennant was accustomed, even from her own father. She
dropped her companion a very pretty courtesy.

"_I_ consider that our roads separate here," she said; "and I wish you
a very good evening, Mr. Iverach!"

And she gave the junior partner a look at once so indignant and so
admirably provocative, that he turned away righteously incensed, but
at the same time miscalling himself for more kinds of idiot than his
father had ever called him, even on his most absent-minded days in the
office.

Nevertheless he endeavoured, by a dignified manner as he walked away,
to express his wounded feelings, his unquenchable sense of injustice,
the rectitude of his aims and intentions, and the completeness with
which he washed his hands of all consequences. It is not easy to
express all this by simply taking off one's hat, especially when you
have a well-grounded belief that you are being laughed at privately by
one whom you—well, respect. And saying "silly girl" over and over does
not help the matter either. For the junior partner tried, and did not
improve the situation so much as the value of a last evening's paper.

On the other hand, there was a sense of exhilaration about Celie
Tennant's heart and a certain lightness in her head, when she had
thus vindicated her independence. She stopped and looked into the
window of a shop in which nothing was displayed but a large model
of a coal-waggon, loaded with something "Jewels," and bearing the
sympathetic announcement that Waldie's Best Household Coal was down
this week one penny a bag.

It is a curious thing, when you come to think of it, that the prettiest
girls often stop opposite dark shop fronts where there is apparently
nothing to interest them, and pass by others all aglow with the
blanched whiteness of female frilleries. There is some unexplained
optical problem here. The matter has been mentioned to Miss Tennant,
but she says that she does not know the reason. She adds that it is all
nonsense. Perhaps, after Professor Tait has found out all about the
flight of the golf-ball, he will give some attention to this question.
He can obtain statistics and facts on any well-frequented street by
keeping to the shady side.

So Celie stood a moment—only a moment, and was then quite ready to
turn away, assured in mind and at peace with all men—with the doubtful
exception of Mr. Donald Iverach.

Her bonnet was indeed "straight on." But she gave her foot a little
stamp when she thought of the junior partner.

"The idea!" she said.

But she did not condescend to expound the concept which troubled her,
so that an idea it has ever since remained, and indeed must be left as
such.

Then Celie became conscious that some one was gazing at her—not a
woman, of course. She turned. It was only Cleg Kelly. But she was glad
to see even him, for, after all, one does need some support even in
well-doing. It is so difficult to be independent all by one's self.

"Where are you going, Cleg?" she said.

"To the penny shows aff o' the Easter Road," replied Cleg.

"Will you take me, Cleg?" said Celie, with a sudden clearing of her
face, her eyes beginning to blaze with excitement.

A great thought took possession of her. This appeared to be a
providential chance to prove all that she had been advancing to Mr.
Donald Iverach, who, indeed, had nothing whatever to do with the matter.

"Take you, Miss Celie?" stammered Cleg aghast. "Ye wadna gang to the
shows?"

And he laughed a little laugh of wonderment at the jest of his goddess,
for of course it could only be a joke.

"I _will_ come with you, Cleg, if you will take me!" said Celie.

"But ye ken, Miss Celie, it's no for the like o' you. It's a' weel
aneuch for boys and common fowk, but no for you!"

Thus Cleg urged prudence, even against the wild hope which took
possession of him.

"Come on, Cleg!" said Celie Tennant, rushing into rebellion at the
thought of having her independence called in question, even by one of
the Knuckle Dusters.

"It's all _his_ fault!" she said to herself.

Which it very clearly was—Cleg's, of course, for he ought not to have
followed her home.

Now along the Easter Road, then only a somewhat muddy country track,
there was a small quarry which is now filled up, and a vacant acre or
two of land where the show-folk took up their stances, and waged mimic
but not bloodless wars in the mornings for the best positions.

Great sheets of canvas were stretched above, flaring cressets were
being lighted below, for some of the largest shows were dark inside,
being those where the mysteries of "Pepper's Ghost" were shortly to be
unveiled.

Celie Tennant was greatly excited by the prospect of eating of the tree
of knowledge.

"Let us go in here," she said, pointing to the wondrous "Ghost
Illusion" bearing the name and style of Biddle. She drew out her
purse to pay, but Cleg stopped her with his hand. He had grown quite
dignified.

"Na," he said, "ye canna do that. It's my treat the nicht, when ye are
walkin' oot wi' me."

Then it dawned upon Celie that she was assisting at a well-understood
function—no less than the solemn treating of a lady fair upon the
evening of a pay-day. The thought nearly overcame her, but she only
said, "Thank you, Cleg," and was discreetly silent.

For the time being she was Cleg Kelly's "young woman."

They went in. A fat woman, with large silver rings in her ears of the
size of crown pieces, took Cleg's money and looked with great sharpness
at them both. Cleg paid for the best places in the house. They cost him
sixpence, and were carpeted—the seats, not the floor. To such heights
of extravagance does woman lead man! The play was already proceeding
as they sat down. Presently, after some very moral observations from
an old gentleman in trouble with a dying child (he said "choild"), the
curtain dropped and the roof of canvas was drawn aside, in order to let
in the struggling daylight and save the flaring naphtha cressets.

Instantly Celie and Cleg became the sole centre of attraction—a
doubleted courtier in tights, with an unruly sword which scraped the
curtain, having no chance whatever by comparison with their grandeur.
Cleg folded his arms with a proud disdain and sat up with a back as
straight as an arrow.

"Glory be—if 'tisn't Cleg Kelly wid the Quane of Shaeba!" said a
compatriot in the pit. (The house was divided into pit and carpet.)
And this was the general opinion. It was the proudest moment of Cleg's
existence—to date, as he himself said.

Celie sat all the while demure as a kitten and smoothed her gloves.
Several Knuckle Dusters passed Cleg the private wink of the society,
but none dared intrude on that awful dignity of responsibility.
Besides, none of them were "on the carpet," and Biddle of the Silver
Rings possessed a quick eye and a long arm.

The curtain went up. This time it was a haunted room. A haunted clock
ticked irregularly in the corner, and the villain sat alone in his
quite remarkable villainy, on a solitary chair in the middle of the
room. It was very dark, owing to the murky cast of crime all round.
Suddenly the gentleman on the chair shouted out the details of his
"croime" at the pitch of his voice, as if he had been the town crier.
He told how much he regretted having left his victim weltering in his
gore, whereupon the aforesaid victim abruptly appeared, "weltering," it
is true, but rather in a white sheet with the lower part of which his
legs appeared to be having a difficulty.

The villain hastened to rise to the occasion. Once more he drew his
sword, with which he had been making gallant play all the time. Again
he informed the next street of his "croime." Then he pulled a pistol
out of his belt and solemnly warned the spectre what would happen if he
did not clear out and take his winding-sheet with him.

But the spectre appeared to be wholly unimpressed, for he only gibbered
more incoherently and fluttered the bed-quilt (as Cleg called it) more
wildly. The villain continued to exhort.

"He's an awfu' blatherumskite!" said Cleg, contemptuously. He knew
something of real villains. He had a father.

Again the spectre was warned:

"Your blood be upon your own head!" shouted the villain, and fired the
pistol.

The ghost remarked, _Br-r-r-r-r! whoop!_—went up to the ceiling, came
down again wrong side up, and then set about gibbering in a manner
more freezing than ever. Whereupon the villain seized his crime-rusted
sword in both hands and puddled about in the spectre's anatomy, as if
it had been a pot, and he was afraid it would boil over. But soon he
satisfied himself that this was not the game to play with a spirit so
indifferent. And with a wild shriek of despair he cast the sword from
him on the floor.

"Ha, baffled! foiled!" he remarked, clasping his hand suddenly to his
brow: "COL-LD FIRE IS USELESS!"

This was summing up the situation with a vengeance, and tickled Celie
so much that she laughed joyously—as the audience clapped and cheered
with appreciation, and Cleg rose to come out.

"What comes after that?" said Celie, who was quite willing to stay to
the end.

"After that the devil got him. We needna wait for that!" said Cleg,
simply. He had an exceedingly healthy and orthodox belief in the
ultimate fate of ill-doers. But he did not choose that his goddess
should witness the details.



ADVENTURE XX.

THE DIFFICULTIES OF ADONIS BETWIXT TWO VENUSES.


But we must do our hero justice. After the spiriting away of Vara
Kavannah and the children from the burning house in Callendar's yard,
Cleg did not submit to their loss without making many attempts to find
them. His friend, the sergeant's wife, set the machinery of the police
in motion. But nothing could be heard of Vara or of Hugh, or of little
Gavin. Cleg went the round of the men who drive the rubbish-carts, each
man of whom was a personal and particular friend. Now a persevering
ash-man knows a lot—more than a policeman, having a wider beat, and not
so much encouragement officially to tell what he knows. But, as Cleg
could tell you, an ash-man's temper needs watching. Like the articles
of diet he empties out of the baskets into his great sheet-iron covered
carts, it is apt to go both bad and high. A policeman patrolling his
beat is, according to his personal deservings, stayed with flagons,
comforted with apples. But what maid in all the areas thinks upon the
poor dustman?

Nevertheless, Cleg went the round of the ash-cart men, and of each
he inquired circumspectly about the Kavannahs. Not one had seen them
in any part of the city. But, indeed, there were many people, even
women and children, awake and abroad that morning of the great fire
in Callendar's woodyard. Cleg next looked up the morning milkmen who
converge upon the city from every point, summer and winter. They have
risen to the milking of the cows during the small hours of the morning,
and thereafter they have set their barrels upon a light cart, before
spinning cityward between the hedges. The milkmen can tell as much of
the country roads as the dustmen of the city streets. But to none had
the vision of three pilgrim children, setting forth from the city of
persecution, been vouchsafed.

So Cleg had perforce to abide, with his heart unsatisfied and sore.
Perhaps, so he thought, one day hidden things would come to light, and
the shadows which had settled upon the fate of the Kavannahs break and
flee away.

In the meantime the ancient Society of the Knuckle Dusters flourished
exceedingly in its new incarnation of "The Club." The deputation
which approached Mr. Donald Iverach, having by the intervention of
the watchman chosen a good time for their visit, was most graciously
received. The watchman, a man of some penetration, gave Cleg the word
to come at six o'clock on a day when the junior partner had brought his
tennis shoes to the works.

"You want to use the old store-room every night?" said Donald Iverach,
looking at the shamefaced deputation, every man of whom itched to draw
triangles on the floor with his toe and yet dared not.

"Except Sundays," answered Cleg, who, as ever, was ready of speech, and
not at all shamefaced.

"What does Miss Tennant say?" asked the junior partner, who wished to
see where he was being led. He was not a selfish young man, but, like
the rest of us, he wanted to be sure what he was going to get out of a
thing before he committed himself.

"Miss Tennant's a memb—" began Tam Luke, who had no discretion.

Cleg kicked Tam Luke on the shin severely. Tam promptly coughed,
choked, and was led out by unsympathetic friends, who expressed their
opinion of him outside with pith and animation.

"Miss Celie wants us to look after this club oorsels," said Cleg.
"We are the commy-tee—except Tam Luke," he added. Tam had _de facto_
forfeited his position by his interruption.

The commy-tee hung its head, and looked about for possible exits.

"And who is responsible?" asked Mr. Donald Iverach, smiling a little
and shaking his head.

"Me an' Miss Celie," answered Cleg, promptly.

The junior partner stopped shaking his head, but continued to smile.

"Come away, chaps," said Cleg, who knew when the battle was won; "guid
nicht to ye, sir, an' thank ye. Miss Celie _wull_ be pleased!"

Thereafter the Knuckle Dusters' Club was formally organised. The
prominent feature in the management was the House Committee. Its powers
were unlimited, and were chiefly directed to "chucking out." This was
the club's sole punishment. Fines would certainly not be collected.
Privileges were so few that it was not easy to discriminate those which
pertained to members of the club in good standing. But the members of
the House Committee were chosen on the principle that any two of them,
being "in charge," should be qualified to "chuck" the rest of the
club—members of the House Committee itself being of course excepted. It
was a singularly able-bodied committee, and willing beyond all belief.
So long as it held together, the situation was saved. Its average
measurement round the forearm was eleven inches.

There were difficulties, of course. And, strange as it may seem, these
rose chiefly from the ravages of the tender sentiment of love. The
Knuckle Dusters had laid it down as a fundamental condition that no
girls were to be permitted, or even encouraged. Miss Celie had insisted
upon this. Perhaps, womanlike, she wished to reign alone, and could
brook no rivals near her throne. But in practice the rule was found
difficult of enforcement. For there was no maidenly backwardness about
the girls of the Sooth Back. It was indeed a rule that each Keelie,
beyond the condition of a schoolboy, should possess himself of a
sweetheart—that is, so soon as he was capable of "doing for himself."
Sometimes these alliances resulted in singularly early marriage.
Oftener they did not.

Cleg, of course, was much too young for "nonsense" of this kind, as he
described it. But Cleaver's boy, and Tam Luke, and indeed most of the
Knuckle Dusters, being "in places," were from the first equipped with
a complete working outfit of sweethearts, pipes, and navy revolvers.
They got them all about the same time, not because they wanted them,
but because it was the fashion. Yet I do them no more than justice when
I allow that they thought most highly of the pipes. They treated their
pipes with every consideration.

It is true that each Knuckle Duster spoke of his sweetheart as "my
young lady," but this was only between themselves. To the "young
ladies" themselves their words were certainly not the ordinary and
hackneyed terms of affection, such as generations of common lovers have
used.

But the girls were not to be daunted. With such cavalier and disdainful
knights, ordinary methods were put out of court. It was clearly
necessary that someone should do the wooing. If not the Knuckle Dusters
(haughty knaves), why, then the "young lady" herself. It was always
Leap Year in the Sooth Back. There were but two unforgivable crimes in
the bright lexicon of love, as it was consulted in the lower parts of
the Pleasance. On the side of the Knuckle Dusters the one unpardonable
fault was "going with a swell." On the part of the "young ladies" it
was "taking up with another girl." Blows, disdain, contumely, abuse,
all fell alike harmless—mere love-pats of the gentle god. "Another" is
the only fatal word in love.

So, then, it was quite in keeping with the nature of things, and
especially with the nature of untrammelled youth, that the Knuckle
Dusters' Club should have its amatorious difficulties. Part of each
evening at the club was now devoted to the sciences. Arithmetic and
writing were the favourites. There was also talk of forming a shorthand
class. For shorthand has a mysterious fascination for the uneducated.
It is universal matter of faith among them, that only the most gifted
of the human race can learn to write shorthand. This is strange enough,
for both observation and experience teach us that the difficulty lies
in reading the shorthand after it is written.

The entrance to the club-room of the Knuckle Dusters was through a
vaulted "pend," which, having no magistrate of the city resident within
it, was wholly unlighted. It was no uncommon thing, therefore, for the
solemn work of scientific instruction to be interrupted by the voice
of the siren outside—a siren with a towse of hair done up loosely in
a net, a shawl about her head, and elf locks a-tangle over her brow.
The siren did not sing. She whistled like a locomotive engine when the
signals are contrary and the engine-driver anxious to go off duty. At
first the Knuckle Dusters used to rise and quietly depart, when, in
this well-understood fashion, the voice of love shrilly breathed up
the store-room stair. But after a little, Celie, who, from an entirely
superfluous sense of delicacy, had hitherto suffered in silence, felt
that it was time to remonstrate.

It was Cleaver's boy who caused most trouble. Now this was by no means
the fault of Cleaver's boy, who, to do him justice, was far more
interested in the adventures of "Sixteen String Jack" or "Deadshot
Dick, the Cowboy of Coon County," than in a dozen Susies or Sallies.
But Cleaver's boy was a youth of inches. Besides, he had a curly head
and an imperious way with him, which took with women—who, gentle and
simple, like to be slighted and trodden upon when the right man takes
the contract in hand. Cleaver's boy was, in fact, just Lord Byron
without the title and the clubfoot. Cleaver's boy had also genius like
the poet. Here is one of his impromptus, written after a music-hall
model:

    I met my Sal a-walkin' out, a-walkin' on the street,
    I says to Sal, "Why do you walk upon them clumps of feet?"
    Says Sal to me, "None of your lip. I've got another chap!"
      _So I hits Sal a slap, and I sends her back
          To her ain countrie._

Cleaver's boy could do any amount of this kind of thing. He modelled
himself upon the popular broadsheet of the day. But it was not
popular in the Sooth Back. The article in demand there was a song
about a little child who softly faded away after bidding farewell—a
long farewell, to all his friends so dear—in a verse apiece. Like
King Charles, this boy was quite an unconscionable time a-dying. But
he did not know it. He was a popular boy in the Sooth Back, and Tam
Luke warbled about him till the assembled Knuckle Dusters snivelled
secretly, and looked hard down between their knees so as to pretend
they were spitting on the floor. But Cleaver's boy, who in early youth
had come from Blackburn with his father, the slaughterman, said it was
"Bully-rot!" He swore that he could make a song about Sal Mackay that
would be worth a shopful of such "tripe." The verse quoted above is
part of the song he made. Cleaver's boy has repeated the whole poem
to me more than once, but the above is all that I can bring myself to
print. For Sal Mackay has able-bodied relatives, and, besides, there is
a law of libel in this country, which is provided for in my agreement
with my publishers.

Sal Mackay and Susy Murphy were rivals in the affections of the
handsome "boy" of Cleaver the butcher. But for long the swain was coy
and gave no final evidence of preference. So that day by day in the
factory where they worked side by side, neither could exult over the
other.

"Ye needna think he cares a buckie for you, ye tow-headed, crawlin'
ferlie!" said Sue, who was of the dark allure, to Sal who was fair.

"He wadna look the road ye are on, ye ill-grown, cankered-faced,
jaundice hospital!" was the retort elegant of Sal Mackay.

So it happened nightly that when Celie Tennant was at the most
impressive portions of the Scripture lesson, or engaged in elucidating
the mysteries of compound division (and pardonably getting a little
tangled among the farthings), that there would come a long whistle at
the door, and then a smart rapping at the window. Another blast like
a steamer signal was blown before the dark tower, the Knuckle Dusters
would throw their heads back to laugh, and then look at Cleaver's
boy. He would stand it a little while, and then, to escape from their
meaning looks, he would throw down his slate and books and go quietly
out at the door.

At last Celie plucked up courage to speak to him.

"It is not so much that I mind," said Celie, for she had been learning
many things since she came down to the Sooth Back, things that she did
not mention when she went home to Aurelia Villa, or even repeat to the
Junior Partner.

"It is not that I mind so much myself," she said, "but it is a very bad
example for Cleg and the younger boys."

"I ken, I ken, but faith, I canna help it, Miss Celie," said Cleaver's
boy, in desperation. "As sure as daith, it is no my faut. Thae twa
lasses will juist no let me alane. I canna gang alang the street for
them."

And Celie, blushing for her sex, believed him and condoled. For, next
to Cleg, she had a weakness for Cleaver's boy. He was so good-looking.

"Wait till they come the nicht!" said Cleaver's boy, darkly.

It was the hour of the vesper writing lesson. Cleaver's boy was
seated at the long desk which Mr. Donald Iverach had found, as he
said, "about the premises"—but for which he had, curiously enough,
previously paid out of his own pocket. Cleaver's boy had his head
close down to the paper. His elbows were spread-eagled over the table.
His shoulders were squared with determination, and his whole pose gave
token of the most complete absorption and studious intentness. He was
writing the line, "Kindness to dumb animals is a sign of nobility of
character." As his pen traced the curves, his tongue was elaborating
the capitals, so exactly that you could almost tell by watching the tip
whether Cleaver's boy was writing a K or an N. This kind of expressive
caligraphy has not been sufficiently studied. But Cleaver's boy was
undoubtedly a master of it.

There came angry voices at the door.

"What are you doin' here? I tell ye he's my chap!" said a voice sharp
and shrill.

"It's a black lee. I tell ye he's naething o' the kind!" said another,
yet louder and rougher.

Sue Murphy and Sal Mackay were at it again. So said the Society of the
Knuckle Dusters as it winked amicably and collectively to itself. Celie
Tennant was just looking over the copybook of Cleaver's boy. As she
stood behind him, she could see the scarlet swiftly rising to his neck
and brow. Adonis was becoming distinctly annoyed. It was going to be a
rough night for Venuses.

"I tell ye it was only on Saturday nicht that he knocked my bonnet off
my head an' kickit it alang the street—an' ye will hae the impidence to
say after that that he is your lad!"

It was the voice of Sue Murphy which made this proud declaration.

"That nocht ava', ye Irish besom," retorted Sal Mackay; "yestreen nae
farther gane, he pu'ed a handfu' o' the hair oot o' my heid. Aye, and
rubbit my face wi' a clabber o' glaur, forbye!"

It was the last straw. Cleaver's boy rose to his feet with a look of
stern and righteous determination on his face. The assembled Knuckle
Dusters watched him eagerly. Celie stood aghast, fearing that murder
might be done, in the obvious endeavour Cleaver's boy was now about to
make, to excel all his previous records in the art of love-making, as
practised in the Sooth Back and the Tinklers' Lands.

He walked slowly to the corner of the store room, where on a little
bench stood two very large water cans of tin, painted a dark blue. They
were the property of the club and contained the drinking water for the
evening. They had just been filled.

Cleaver's boy took one in his hand and opened the door. Then he swung
the heavy can, and tilting it up with the other hand, he arched the
contents solidly and impartially upon the waiting Juliets. Returning,
he seized the other, and from the shrieking down the passage it was
obvious to Celie, that he had been equally successful in cooling the
ardour of the rivals with that.

Cleaver's boy came back with the empty cans in his hand, panting a
little as with honest toil, but there was no shamefacedness in his eyes
now. He looked straight at Celie like a man who has done his full duty,
and perhaps a little over.

"I pit it to yoursel', Miss Celie, can a man do mair than that?"

And with no further word, Cleaver's boy dusted the drops from the knees
of his breeches, and sat down to write six more lines of "Kindness to
dumb animals is a sign of nobility of character."

But next night he came to Celie in the blackness of despair.

"I will hae to resign, after all, Miss Celie," he said, "I canna bide
here to be a disgrace to ye a'."

"Why, what's the matter, James?" said Miss Tennant, who did not yet
know everything; "are the girls going to prosecute you in the police
court for throwing the water over them last night?"

Cleaver's boy opened his mouth in astonishment and kept it so for some
time.

"Prosecute me?—I wish to peace they wad!" cried he, after he got his
breath. "Na, faith, Miss Celie; will ye believe me, they are fonder
o' me than ever. They were baith waitin' for me at the stairfit this
mornin' when I cam doon to gang to the shop."

And Miss Celie again believed him.



ADVENTURE XXI.

AN IDYLL OF BOGIE ROLL.


Perhaps it was in sheer desperation that Cleaver's boy (whose name, by
the way, was James Annan, though the fact was hardly ever mentioned
except in the police court) at last resolved to make a desperate cast.

"They canna baith hae me," he said, "an' Guid kens I want neither o'
them. But gin I had yin o' them, she wad maybe keep the ither off."

So Cleaver's boy scratched his head to find out a way of settling the
difficulty. He could, he thought, be indifferently happy with either.
It was only having both of them "tearing at his coat-tails" that made
him miserable.

At last he dashed his hand against his thigh with a cry of joy, and
fell to dancing a hobnailed fandango in the gutter.

"Dod, man, the verra thing," he said; "I'll toss for them!"

So with that Cleaver's boy took out his lucky penny, and, selecting a
smooth space of the unpaved roadway of a new street, where the coin
would neither stick edgeways nor yet bounce unfairly on the stones, he
spun the coin deftly upwards from his level thumb-nail.

"Heads Sall—tails Susy!" he said, very solemnly, for his life was in
the twirl of the penny.

"Heads she is—Sal has got me!" exclaimed the ardent lover.

They were engaged that night. The next day they were photographed
together—Sal with a very large hat, a great deal of hair, and a still
larger amount of feather; Cleaver's boy with a very small hat, an
immense check suit, and a pipe stuck at a knowing angle with the bowl
turned down. That same night Sal had still a lover, indeed, but the
glory of her betrothal attire was no more. Her hat was a mere trampled
ruin. Her fringe was patchy. She had a black eye; and all that remained
of Susy Murphy was in the lock-up for assault and battery. Without
doubt it was a stirring time for James Annan, and it is to be feared
that Mr. Cleaver and his customers did not get quite their fair share
of his attention while it lasted.

Susy Murphy got off under the First Offenders Act. But immediately upon
re-encountering her successful rival she incontinently became a second
offender, and was as summarily fined thirty shillings or seven days.
And it added to the bitterness of Cleaver's boy, that he had to come
good for both the hat ruined in the first battle and the dress torn to
shreds in the second.

Then it also became his duty to take out Miss Mackay every evening,
and so frequent were the demands upon his purse, that Cleaver's boy
perceived that nothing but marriage stood between him and financial
ruin.

"If I was only marriet," he soliloquised, "I could stop the lemonades
and ice-creams. They're juist terrible expensive. I declare Sal thinks
naething o' a dozen bottles. And gin ye stickit a preen until her ony
gate, I declare she wad fizz."

It occurred to him, however, that as a temporary alternative it might
be possible to increase his earnings. And Cleaver's boy was not above
asking for what he wanted.

"Guid jobs wants finding nooadays!" was a favourite expression of his.

Now there was a certain Bailie Holden among the customers of Mr.
Cleaver. This dignitary had succeeded to the responsible position
of Convener of the Cleaning and Lighting department—a division of
the city's municipal business which has always been associated with
excellent eating and drinking, and a good deal of both.

Bailie Holden had the finest taste in the light wines of his country
of any man on the council. In his happier moments of inspiration he
could tell the age of Long John to within a year. Now Bailie Holden
had, among other excellent domestic properties, a kitchen-maid who
was not above casting soft eyes at spruce James Annan of Cleaver's,
so _débonnaire_, with his blue apron and his basket over his arm. And
James had cultivated the acquaintance according to his opportunity,
without, of course, thinking it necessary to say anything to Sal
Mackay—or, for the matter of that, to Sue Murphy either. So that, in
the course of conversation at the area door, it fell out that Cleaver's
boy mentioned his desire to be no more Cleaver's boy, but a servant of
the city corporation in the department of Cleaning and Lighting. And
the kitchen-maid answered, keeping her eyes on James and adjusting her
tumbled cap at the same time—

"I'll speak to the maister when he comes through the back kitchen, to
smoke his pipe in the yaird after dinner-time."

For it was the use and wont of Bailie Holden, when he was without
company, or could shunt the entertainment of it upon his wife, to put
on a seedy garden coat and slip off quietly round by the greenhouses.
Here he took from the edge of a heating tube a short clay pipe of
excessive blackness; then from a canister he extracted a snaky twist of
Bogie roll. Bailie Holden was renowned for keeping the best cigars in
the city, and he also smoked them regularly indoors. His wife, indeed,
did not allow anything else. But he came outside for his real smoke,
in his shirt-sleeves in the warm evenings, and in his garden coat when
it was colder. For though to all men he was now Havanna of the most
exclusive brand, and all his appointments like unto that dignity, yet
at the heart of him he was still kindly Bogie roll.

The Bailie thought on many things out there in the dark as he nuzzled
down the glowing ash in the pipe-bowl close under his nose. He thought,
for instance, of the year Elizabeth and he were married, when they
started at the foot of Morrison Street in one room at the back of the
gasfitter's shop. They did not keep a servant then, and Elizabeth had
not yet learned to object to the smoking of Bogie roll. Indeed, her
father and her three brothers (all honest masons) incessantly smoked
nothing else. But when there was need to find a place in the little
back-room for another person with no experience in Bogie roll where he
came from, then the Bailie had gone out every night to the backyard,
sat down on a roll of lead piping and smoked a black pipe, with a
babe's little complainings tugging at his heart all the while. And the
memory of the Bogie roll outside the window, across which the black
shadows went and came, had somehow kept his heart warm all through the
years.

And, strange it is to say it, but though he was in many ways a
difficult man to serve, yet many a servant had remained another term,
simply because the master slipped out to take his smoke away from
every one in the evening. This is the whole idyll of the life of
Bailie Holden, Convener of the Committee on Cleaning and Lighting and
proximate Lord Provost of the city. It is curious that it should be an
idyll of Bogie roll.



ADVENTURE XXII.

THE SEDUCTION OF A BAILIE.


So it was at this most favourable of times that Cleaver's boy's
kitchen-maid approached her master with her request. It was just at the
critical moment when the Bailie was laying aside the Convener and host,
and donning the Morrison Street plumber, with the garden coat which
carried so strong an atmosphere of the idyllic Bogie roll.

"If ye please, sir, there's a young man——," the voice of the
kitchen-maid broke upon his dreams.

"Ah, Janet," said the Convener, getting helped into the garden coat,
for he was not now so slim as once he had been, "there always is a
young man! And that's how the world goes on!"

"But," said Janet, the kitchen-maid, "this is a very nice young man.
You may have seen him, sir. He comes here twice every day from Mr.
Cleaver's, the butcher's, sir."

"No, Janet," replied the Bailie, amicably, "I do not know that I have
observed him. You see, my duties do not compel me to be cleaning the
kitchen steps when nice young men come from Cleaver's!"

"Sir," said Janet, with a little privileged indignation, "James Annan,
sir, is a most respectable young man."

"And he asked you to speak to me?"

"Oh no, sir! Indeed, no, sir! But I thought, sir, that in your
department you might have need of a steady young man."

"I have, indeed, Janet. You are as right as ever you will be in your
life," said the Convener of Cleaning and Lighting, thinking of the
ravages which the traditional hospitality of the department sometimes
made among his steadiest young men.

"What are his desires, Janet?" said the Bailie; "does he want a chief
inspectorship, or will he be content to handle a broom?"

"Oh, not an inspectorship—at first, sir. And he can handle anything,
indeed, sir," said Janet, breathlessly, for the Convener had endued
himself with his coat and showed signs of moving gardenwards.

"Including your chin, my dear," said the Bailie, touching (it is very
regrettable to have to state) one of Janet's plump dimples with the
action which used fifty years ago to go by the name of "chucking." He
had dined, his wife was safely up stairs out of harm's way, and Bogie
roll glowed cloudily before him. Let these be his excuses.

"James Annan, nor no one else, has more to do with my chin than I like
to let them, sir," said Janet, who came from Inverness, and had a very
clear idea of business.

The Bailie laughed and went out.

"I will bear it in mind, Janet," said he, for he felt that he was
wasting time. He did not mean Janet's dimpled chin.

"Better put it down in your notebook—I'll fetch it, sir!" And Janet
promptly fetched a black leather case, round-shouldered with importance
and bulgy with business.

So the Bailie stood in the half-light which came from the kitchen
window, and wetted the stub of a lead-pencil, which Janet had carried
for years in the pocket of her working-dresses without ever needing it.
He hesitated what to write.

"The young man's name, sir, is James Annan, and you can send the letter
in care of me, sir," said Janet, with a subtle suggestiveness. She
tiptoed round till she touched his sleeve, so as to look over at what
he was writing.

"Thank you, Janet; anything else?" asked the Bailie.

"No, sir," said Janet, hesitating with her finger at her lip, "unless,
sir, you could think to put him on this district."

So it happened that in due time Mr. Cleaver lost the services of
Cleaver's boy. These valuable assets were simultaneously gained by the
city corporation in the department of Cleaning and Lighting. This has
been the immemorial method in which subordinate positions have been
filled, according to the best traditions of the municipal service. The
great thing is, of course, to catch your convener, as it were, between
dinner and Bogie roll.

James Annan was placed on the southern district, and his duty was to
mark in a notebook, less important but a good deal cleaner than the
Bailie's, the names of the streets which were attended to in their
order, and also the exact moment when each final ash-backet was heaped
upon the cart.

What precise benefit trim Janet of Inverness got from the arrangement
is not clear. For, being occupied during the night, Cleaver's boy
could no more come for the orders early in the morning, nor yet trot
whistling down the area steps an hour later with the laden basket upon
his arm. So that Janet, supposing the matter interested her at all,
seemed definitely to be the loser.

Yet one never knows. For the ways of girls from Inverness are deep
as the sea is deep in the unplumbed places in the middle, which are
painted the deepest indigo on the atlases. James Annan continued to
be called Cleaver's boy, in spite of the fact that a successor at six
shillings a week had been appointed, who now wore Cleaver's boy's
discarded blue aprons. In other ways he would have been glad to succeed
to the perquisites of Cleaver's boy. But he was a sallow-faced youth
with straight hair, who used his tobacco without the aid of a pipe. So
Janet did not deign to bandy a single word with the new boy. He was
no more than a penny-in-the-slot machine, wound up to deliver so many
pounds of steak every day. The kitchen steps were now always cleaned in
the early dawn, and Janet went about in her old wrapper all the morning
and most of the afternoon.

She had taken a saving turn, she said, as if it had been the measles.
It was all very well for the table-maid always to wear a black frock.

But though she saw less of Cleaver's boy (the original and only genuine
article), it is possible, and indeed likely, that Janet of Inverness
knew more of the romance of Susy and Sal than Cleaver's boy gave
her credit for. Let those who try to run three or four love affairs
abreast, like horses in a circus ring, take warning. Janet of Inverness
had never heard of either Sal or Susy from the lips of Cleaver's boy.
Nevertheless, there was not much of importance to her schemes which
was not familiar to the wise little head set upon the plumply demure
shoulders of Janet of Inverness.



ADVENTURE XXIII.

THE AMOROUS ADVENTURES OF A NIGHT-SHIFT MAN.


An interview which Cleaver's boy had to endure may throw some light
upon this. By some strange law of contrary, the undisputed possession
of James Annan's affections damped Sal's ardour. She became flighty
and difficult in her moods. Cleaver's boy could not take her to
enough places of resort, or at least, not to the right ones. So long
as he slighted her and rubbed her face with snow as a regular method
of courtship, she could not love him enough. But now, when she was
formally engaged to him and the alliance had been acknowledged by
Providence and Miss Cecilia Tennant, Sal suddenly found that she did
not care so much about Cleaver's boy after all. This happened in the
second week of the new situation in the department of Cleaning and
Lighting.

Sal came home from the mill at six. James went on duty at eight.
Consequently it was now usually about seven when James called. It
was an unhappy and ill-chosen time, as anybody but a man would have
known. For Sal appeared to be in some undress, and was indeed engaged
in frizzling her front hair with a pair of hot knitting needles,
occasionally burning her fingers and her forehead in the process.

"Hoo are ye the nicht, Sal?" said James, standing at the cheek of the
door and crossing his legs comfortably. Someone (he forgot who) had
told him he looked well that way.

"Naething the better for seein' you!" retorted Sal over her shoulder.
She never took her eyes off the fragment of mirror which was secured
to the wall by two long nails and the broken end of another knitting
needle.

"Wy Sal, what's wrang wi' ye?" began Cleaver's boy, anxiously. For
though in the affairs of men, as between boy and boy, his voice was
most for open war, yet in the things of love he liked peace and
sacrificed much to secure it.

Sal humped up the shoulder next him and turned sharply away from him
with a gesture indicative of the greatest disdain—without, however,
taking her eyes from the faint blue smoke which went up from the left
side of her fringe, to which she had at that moment applied a fresh
pair of red-hot knitting needles.

"Tell me what's the maitter wi' ye, Sal," said James humbly. For the
spirit seemed to have departed out of him.

Sal tossed her head and made a sound which, though inarticulate,
indicated that much might be said upon that subject. She could and she
would.

Slowly Cleaver's boy extracted from his pocket a neat parcel done up in
paper.

"Hae, Sal!" he said, going forward to her elbow and offering them to
her; "hae, here are some sweeties I fetched ye."

They were her favourite brandy-balls, and on a suitable day, with a
light wind and strong sun, their perfume carried a quarter of a mile.
James had never known them fail of their effect before. But now,
with a swift half-turn, Sal snatched them out of his hand and flung
them behind the fire. Cleaver's boy stood aghast. They had cost him
fourpence-halfpenny at Tam Luke's shop, and would have cost twice as
much but for Tam's good offices in the weighing department.

"What's wrang wi' the brandy-balls, Sal?" he cried in despair. The like
of this had never happened before in his experience. Thus Time works
out its revenges.

"Did ye get them oot o' an ash-backet?"[4] at last cried Sal, breaking
her indignant silence.

"No," said innocent James, "I got them at Tam Luke's for
fourpence-halfpenny."

"So ye say!" returned Sal, who was determined not to be appeased.

The brandy-balls were now flaming up the chimney, and fast dissolving
into their elements with a sickly smell and a fizzling noise.

"Tell us what ye hae against us, Sal; oot wi' it!" said Cleaver's boy,
who recognised the great truth that with a woman it is always better to
be at the bottom of what she knows, and that at once.

"I'm no gaun to keep company wi' ony man that gangs on the nicht
shift!" cried Sal, turning with the needles in her hand and stamping
her foot. "I'll let ye ken that Sal Mackay thinks mair o' hersel' than
that. I hae some pride!"

The murder was out. But poor James, who thought that he had done a
fine thing in attaining promotion, knew not what to reply.

"And what differ does that make, Sal?" asked Cleaver's boy in
astonishment.

"What differ does it make? Hear to the cuddy! Differ—juist this differ,
that ye'll walk oot wi' some dafter lass than Sal Mackay. I hae mair
respect for mysel' than to bemean mysel' to gang wi' a nicht-shift man!"

"But," said James, "I get far better pay. Think o' that, Sal!"

"I'm no carin' for that, when I canna be there when ye spend it," said
the mercenary Sal, with, however, commendable straightforwardness.

"But I fetched ye the brandy-balls, Sal," persisted the once proud boy
of Cleaver's.

"Brandy-balls! _That_ for your brandy-balls!" cried Sal, pointing to
the fireplace, in which a little blue flame was still burning, at the
spot where the Tam Luke's sweetmeats had been so irregularly consumed.
"D'ye think that Sal Mackay is to be dependent every nicht on a chap
that has to gang on duty at half-past seven?——"

"Eight o'clock!" said Cleaver's boy, eagerly.

"At half-past seven," said Sal, jerking her head pugnaciously at each
syllable, "he pits on claes that are a disgrace to be seen forbye
smelled. And what's to come o' the lemonades noo, I wad like to ken—or
o' the gallery at the theaytre?"

"There's Saturday afternoon, Sal," said James placably, with a sudden
access of cheerfulness. He had scored a point.

"Aye, there's Saturday afternune," replied Sal, with chilling cynicism,
"and what will ye do with your Saturday afternoon? Ye'll maybe tak' me
ower to Aberdour again in the boat, and be sae dazed and sleepy-like
that ye'll faa asleep on the road, as ye did the last time. And hae
everybody sayin', 'My word, Sal, but ye hae a blythe young chap there.
Ye maun hae been fine heartsome company to him?' D'ye think ony lass
that thinks onything o' hersel' wad stand the like o' that?"

Sal stamped her foot and paused for a reply. It was certainly an
awkward question. Sal, like most women (thought James) was a demon at
"casting-up" when she began.

Cleaver's boy scratched his curly head and advanced towards Sal. He
felt that in the war of words he was going to have very distinctly the
worst of it. But he thought that he might fare better nearer at hand.
It was one of his favourite axioms that "it is aye best to argue wi'
the weemen at close grips." Which, whether it be true or not, at least
shows that Cleaver's boy was a youth of some experience—but Sal Mackay
chose to misinterpret his action.

She turned instantly, and, snatching up an iron goblet of hot water
which stood on the hearth, she advanced to meet him, crying, "I'll gie
ye your fill o' throwin' water on decent folk. An' this water will keep
ye fine and warm on the nicht shift, my lad!"

At this Cleaver's boy turned and fled. But as he scudded down the
stairs, bent nearly double, the boiling water from Sal Mackay's pan
fell in stinging drops upon the back of his neck, and, what was worse,
upon his suit of new clothes, bought with his week's wages and donned
for the first time.

When Cleaver's boy reached the pavement, he dusted the water splashes
off as well as he could, and walked thoughtfully and determinedly
across Nicholson Street.

"It'll be an awesome savin' in lemonade," he said, "an' that dreadfu'
expensive bottle lemonade too!"

A tramcar was passing. A wild thought ran through his brain.

"Dod," he said, "I declare I'll save that muckle by giein' up Sal—I'll
risk it."

And he hailed the car and walked very slowly towards it when it
stopped. The conductor waved to him to come on.

"Could ye no hae run, man, an' no wasted a' this time?" he said, when
Cleaver's boy had at last got himself upon the platform.

"I was gettin' my twopence-worth," said James Annan, with dignity; "I
am an inside passenger!" And he went through the glass door and sat
beside Bailie Holden, who was going home to dinner and was already
thinking of Bogie roll.

The Bailie and Cleaver's boy got out at the same place. They made their
way to the same house. The Bailie let himself in by the front door.
Cleaver's boy went equally unannounced to the back. But Cleaver's boy
knew that he had pretty Janet of Inverness waiting for him, whereas the
Bailie only had his wife. And in these circumstances most people would
have preferred to enter by the back door with James Annan.

Janet of Inverness was standing by the kitchen-window polishing a brass
preserving pan in which she could admire her dimpled chin, and the hair
which, curling naturally, did not need the intervention of red-hot
knitting needles to be beautiful.

Janet ran hastily to the door.

"Do you want to see the maister?"

"No," said James Annan; "wull ye hae me, Janet?"

Janet of Inverness looked him a moment in the eyes. What she read
there, Janet only knows. At any rate it seemed to be satisfactory
enough, for, with all the ardour of love's young dream, she fell on
his neck, and murmured, "Aye, Jamie, when—" (here Janet of Inverness
sobbed)—"when ye get a rise!"



ADVENTURE XXIV.

THE CROOK IN THE LOT OF CLEAVER'S BOY.


I should have mentioned before that Inverness Janet's other name was
Urquhart, but for the fact that second names do not seem to matter
anywhere, except in those grades of society where persons require
calling cards to remind them of each others' names.

It was only a natural precisian like Mr. Cleg Kelly who always insisted
on the second name. But Cleg had a reason for that. He was himself in
the curious position of having no ascertained first name. There was
a tradition in the family that he had been baptized Bryan, but his
mother had never used the name. And since his father and everyone else
had always called him Cleg, Cleg Kelly he remained all his life—or at
least, as they say commercially, "to date."

But it is with Inverness Janet and the faithless and easily consoled
James Annan, late assistant to Mr. Cleaver, butcher, that we have
presently to do. Janet's conditional acceptance of his devotion seemed
in a fair way to being made absolute. For Cleaver's boy proved a
success at the night work. But in spite of this, and of his apparently
assured success, both in the fields of practical sanitation and in
those of love, James Annan was clearly not happy.

Judging by some past experience of his own, Cleg thought he must be
pining for his old freedom.

"What for do ye no rin away, if ye want to be rid o' Janet?" was Cleg's
contribution to the problem.

"Haud your tongue! I dinna want to get rid o' Janet!" said Cleaver's
boy, loyally, but without indignation. Such things had been, and might
be again.

"It's aboot Janet onyway," said wise Cleg, shaking his head; "hae Sal
or Susy been botherin' her?"

"Na," said Janet's lover, "they ken better. My certes, Janet wad gie
them the door in their faces and then send for a polissman."

"Ye had better tell me, at ony rate," said Cleg.

And with a little pressing, James Annan did unburden his sore heart.

"Ye see," he said, "Janet's bonny—or I think sae——"

"It is the same thing exactly!" interjected Cleg.

"She's bonny, an' easy to be doin' wi'. She's no sair ava' in the way
o' expense. She is a natural saver hersel', an' she's aye at me to be
puttin' by the siller. O, in some ways it is juist like heeven—nae
leemonades, nae swing rides, nae merry-go-rounds, nae shows! I declare
she cares no a buckie for Pepper's Ghost. In that respect there's no a
mair agreeabler lass in the toon. Janet is aye pleased to tak' a walk
on the Calton, or maybe in the Gardens, or to the Museum, or doon the
shore to Leith to see the ships, or, what pleases her best, juist doon
to the Waverley Station to see the Heelant train come in. O, Cleg, she
is sic a weel-dooin', couthy, kindly lass, that ony man micht hae been
prood o' her."

"What is't, then," said Cleg, "since she's sae perfect? Is't the
poetry?" To Cleg "the poetry" was a trouble which might seize a victim
at any moment, like the toothache. "And then where are ye?" he would
add, cogently.

But it was not the poetry. It was a deeper grief. It appeared from the
tale which Cleg laboriously extracted from the reluctant and deeply
wounded suitor, that Janet, though a well-doing lass in every respect,
had one grave fault.

All day she was at work quietly and willingly. It was the nature of
James's occupation that he should be in the neighbourhood in the
early morning. At that hour Janet, in her working gown, was all that
heart could desire. But when Cleaver's boy chanced to go round in
the afternoon, or met Janet by appointment, some malicious pixie had
wrought a sea-change in the lass of Inverness.

She would then tell, with the greatest candour and engaging innocence,
tales which even a faithful lover could not otherwise characterise than
as "whoppers." This mania appeared to come upon her whenever she had
taken off her morning wrapper and put on her company dress. She was
going (so she declared) to "the mistress" to ask for a few evenings
off in order to fulfil her innumerable social engagements. Every house
where at any time she had been engaged (as kitchen-maid) opened wide
its doors to her as a welcome guest. She told the cook, who listened
with unconcealed scorn, how she had been at balls and suppers galore
in "the best houses" in Melville Street and Princes Street. She must
really, she said, begin to remodel and refashion some of her many silks
and satins for the approaching season.

Only the evening before, she had entertained the servants' hall at
Bailie Holden's with an account of a dinner she had been at the night
before in the Grange. She had even got off early in order to have her
hair done by the hairdresser.

"The hairdresser, as a great favour, is going to arrange it in the
latest style for five shillings, instead of ten-and-six, his usual
charge," said Janet of Inverness, with a glance like an angel's for
innocence. Then she described her drive to the house in a four-wheeler.
"My hair would have got so blown about, or I should have gone in a
hansom, which is much more distinguished." Her former master had, it
appeared, come into the hall to receive her. Two gentlemen had almost
quarrelled as to who should see her home. A handsome and distinguished
gentleman and a member of Parliament for the city, celebrated for his
gallantry to the ladies, had, however, forestalled them both, arranged
the shawl deliciously about her shoulders with well-accustomed fingers,
and had thereafter driven home with her in a hansom.

"It did not matter about the hair then, you know," said gay Janet of
Inverness, looking daringly at Cleaver's boy.

At this the cook had laughed out loud. She then said that it was all
lies, and that she had seen Janet walking along the Bridges with
another girl at the supposed hour of the dinner. Thus was shame brought
upon Cleaver's boy and upon the pride and good name of his sweetheart.

"An' what do ye think I should do, Cleg?" asked James Annan.

"I wad gie her a lickin' and gar her stop," said Cleg, who had still
prehistoric notions as to the discipline of women.

"Na," said Cleaver's boy; "I hae thocht o' that. But, man, she's no
like Susy or Sal. Ye couldna lift a hand to her when she looks at ye
wi' yon e'en, an' tells ye that her faither was either a Highland Chief
or a Toon Councillor o' Inverness. I couldna do it, Cleg."

"Hoot," said Cleg, "then I wad try no to heed. She may grow oot o't.
An' thae Heelant folk are aye leein' onyway. Think on a' the lees they
tell aboot their Bonny Prince Chairlie!"

"I hae tried no to mind," answered Cleaver's boy, sadly; "but when I
see the ither yins a' laughin' at her an' her no seeing it, but gaun
straight on wi' her daft-like story, I tell ye, Cleg, it pits me fair
wild. There'll be murder dune, Cleg, gin it's no stoppit."

"Weel, Cleaver," said Cleg philosophically, "I think I see the reason
on't. She disna gang to shows an' theaytres, to save the siller; but
she says she gangs, an' that costs naething. I dinna see what ye hae to
compleen o'!"

"If that's a' ye can tell me," said Cleaver's boy indignantly, "I wadna
hae missed muckle if ye had stayed at hame."

"Hoots, butcher," said Cleg, with indulgence, "dinna gang a aff like
the fuff o' a match. There's little sense and nae siller in that. But
I'll tell ye what, butcher: I'll speak to Miss Celie. She will ken what
ye had better do."

It was thus indirectly that Providence was appealed to in the Sooth
Back.



ADVENTURE XXV.

A COMELY PROVIDENCE IN A NEW FROCK.


Cleg was as good as his word. He went that very night to call on Miss
Tennant at Aurelia Villa. He found her in a philanthropic frame of
mind. She had received from the dressmaker a dress of the latest mode,
and she was conscious that the new fashion suited her like a garment
fashioned by the fairies in a dream. Also (what was even better) that
it would make other girls whose shoulders were not so good and whose
figure was less slim and graceful, look perfectly hideous. Yet they
would have to wear it. Celie felt that evening that there was little
left to wish for in this sinful world. She looked out of the window
toward the west. There was also (it seemed on purpose) a beautiful
sunset which glorified the purple cliffs of Arthur's Seat—a quiet,
providential sunset, for it went so well with the colour of her new
dress. Besides, here was Mr. Donald Iverach walking slowly up the
Avenue. And yet some people complained that this was not a good world!
What would folk say next?

But Cleg forestalled the Junior Partner. He came by the back door, and
when in a strait betwixt two, a serving maid will always answer a knock
at the back before a ring at the front door. The back door is more
variously interesting.

So Cleg had the floor of the house, and was just finishing his tale,
when Mr. Donald Iverach was announced.

Celie held out her hand to him, with a motion which signified at once
a welcome and a desire that he should not interrupt. So the Junior
Partner, who had for some time been accustomed to devote more time to
the study of her moods than he had ever done to his Bible (and he had
not neglected that either when nobody saw him), sat down upon a sofa
and became interested in the pattern of some crochet work, which Miss
Celie had tossed on a chair with characteristic impetuosity when she
had rushed across the room to greet Cleg.

"Are ye gaun to pit on that dress on Sabbath at the Sunday school?"
asked Cleg, when he had time to think a little about his own affairs.

Celie looked at him with a small start of ingenuous wonder. It was a
good little start in its way, and expressed amazement that anyone
should notice so plain and simple a thing as her new dress. It is an
undoubted fact that she was a truthful girl, and it is also a fact that
she was quite aware how instantly the summer dress had riveted the
attention of both Cleg and the Junior Partner. Yet the little start
expressed as plainly as words her surprise, even her sorrow, that in
the midst of so serious a world the minds of men and boys should dwell
upon so vain a thing as a girl's gown. Perhaps Celie's little start was
her way of telling stories. For the sage sayeth that all women tell
stories habitually and unintentionally, whereas men tell them only
occasionally but intentionally.

At any rate, whether it was the start or whether it was merely owing
to her sympathetic nature, after a moment's consideration of the sad
failing of Janet of Inverness, Celie lifted her eyes to those of the
Junior Partner.

"Poor girl," she said, "I quite understand; don't you?"

"You see, I have not heard," said the Junior Partner, hesitating.

Celie instantly withdrew her eyes from his. She looked at once hurt
and disappointed. He set up for being sympathetic and kind, and he
had failed to understand a simple thing like this. He was clearly
unworthy of confidence. Celie Tennant turned to Cleg for assistance.
He was looking at her with wide eyes of boyish adoration. Cleg at any
rate understood. She turned half round in her chair and the profile
which she presented to Mr. Donald Iverach struck a chill through the
room like that part of Greenland which looks towards the Pole. Celie's
lovers did not lack varied interests in their life; and perhaps that
was why she had so many. For in the affairs of the heart most men like
good sport and a run for their money.

"Come, Cleg," she said, rising, "I want to speak to you. My father is
in the garden, Mr. Iverach!" she added, pointedly.

What Mr. Iverach said under his breath of his excellent friend Mr.
Robert Greg Tennant at that moment, it is perhaps better not to write
down. He rose and went to the window. From the wide space of its oriel,
he watched with furtive sidelong gloom the confabulation of Celie and
Cleg. Celie was explaining something with great animation to the boy,
who looked down and seemed a little doubtful. Then with inimitable
archness, which seemed thrown away upon an Arab of the city (if it were
intended for him), Celie explained the whole matter over again from the
top of the steps. She went a little way back towards the house.

"Now you quite understand?" she cried with impressive emphasis. And
lest he should not yet comprehend, she turned ere she reached the door,
ran to Cleg at the gate with still more inimitable daintiness, and,
with her hand upon his arm, she explained the whole thing all over
again. The Junior Partner felt a little string tighten somewhere about
the region in which (erroneously) he believed his heart to lie. He
clenched his fist at the sight.

"O confound it!" he remarked, for no very obvious reason, as he turned
away.

But Celie was full of the most complete unconsciousness. Yet (of course
without knowing it) she quite spoilt the game of two young men, who
were playing lawn tennis on the court of a neighbouring house. Their
returns grew wilder and their services were beneath contempt. Their
several partners (attractive young women whom the new style of dress
did not suit) met casually at the net, and one of them remarked to the
other, "Isn't she a minx? And her pretending to be good and all that!"
Which was perhaps their way of clenching fists and saying, "Confound
it!" Or worse.

Then in a little while Cleg went down the Avenue with a sense that the
heavens had fallen, and that angels were getting quite common about the
garden gates of the South Side. He carried the arm on which Celie had
laid her hand a little apart from him. It was as blissfully sensitive
as if he had been ten years older.

Celie stood a moment at the gate looking after him. She shaded her eyes
from the sunset and looked down the long street. It is a charming pose
when one is sure of one's arms and shoulders. At this moment one of
the young men in the garden sent a ball over the house, and the eyes
of his partner met those of the other girl. Peace was upon the earth
at that sweet hour of sunset, but good-will to women was not in their
two hearts. Celie felt that the light summer silk had already paid for
itself.

"I don't believe a bit in religion—so there!" said the girl next door
to her friend over the net.

At that moment Celie gave a little sigh to think that her first night
in the new garment was so nearly over. "And father wanted to give me a
black silk," said Celie Tennant to herself. Celie felt that she had not
wasted her time nor her father's money.

So to show her gratitude she went and found her father. He was slowly
walking up and down the little plot of garden, meditatively smoking his
large evening pipe. He stopped now before a favourite row of cabbages,
and now at the end of the strawberry bed. He regarded them equally with
the same philosophical and meditative attention. He was a practical man
and insisted on growing vegetables in his own private domains at the
back, leaving his daughter to cultivate roses and the graces in the
front garden.

Celie elevated her nose and sniffed as she came out. "O father, what a
horrid smell of tobacco you are making!"

"It is almost inevitable," he said, apologetically; "you see it is
tobacco I am smoking."

If it had been asafœtida, Celie could not have appeared more disgusted.

"I thought your young thieves smoked at that club of yours," said her
father.

"Oh, yes; but that is different," she answered.

"Yes, it _is_ different," chuckled her parent, thinking of what his
tobacco cost him.

Then Celie went on to explain all about Cleaver's boy and his trouble,
telling the sad tale of the "failing" of Janet of Inverness, as,
well—as I should like to have the tale of my weaknesses told, if it
were necessary that they should be told at all.

Her father smoked and listened. Sometimes he lifted a snail from the
leaf of a cabbage with care. Anon he kicked a stone sideways off the
path, and ever he smoked, listened, and nodded without comment.

"These are all your orders, ma'am?" he asked slowly, when his daughter
had finished.

"I'll pull your ears, father, now I will," said she, with equal want of
connection.

And did it.

"Oh, I had forgotten Mr. Iverach!" she cried, running off towards the
house with a little gesture of despair; "what shall I do?"

"Give him his orders, too!" her father called after her, as the last
flutter of the new dress flashed through the twinkling poplars.



ADVENTURE XXVI.

R. S. V. P.


A great event happened in the back-kitchen of Bailie Holden. The
postman had brought a letter with a fine monogram—a very stiff, square
letter, for Miss Janet Urquhart. The table-maid, who considered herself
quite as good as a governess, examined it as though there must needs be
some mistake in the address. The housemaid turned it about and looked
at it endways and upside down, to see if there might not be another
name concealed somewhere. She rubbed it with her apron to see if the
top would come off and something be revealed beneath. The cook, into
whose hands the missive next passed, left a perfect tracing of her
thumb and fore-finger upon it, done in oils, and very well executed,
too.

In this condition it reached the back-kitchen at last, and the hands of
Janet of Inverness. As she took the letter in her little damp fingers,
she grew pale to the lips. What she feared, I cannot tell—probably only
the coming true of some of her dreams.

In a cluster round the door stood the housemaid, the table-maid, and
family cat—the one which went habitually on four legs, I mean. The cook
moved indignantly about the range, clattering tongs, pans, and other
instruments of music, as it is the immemorial use of all cooks when the
bird in the breast does not sing sweetly. She was, of course, quite
above curiosity as to what Janet's letter might contain.

"Likely it's an invitation!" sneered the housemaid.

"Aye, frae the police!" added the table-maid from the doorway. She was
plain, and Cleaver's boy never stopped to gossip with her. Not that
she cared or would have stood talking with the likes of him.

The cook banged the top of the range, like Tubal-cain when Naamah vexed
him in that original stithy, near by the city of Enoch in the land of
Nod.

Janet of Inverness opened the letter. Scarcely could she believe her
eyes. It was a formal invitation upon a beautifully written card, and
contained a wish on the part of Mr. Greg Tennant and Miss Tennant that
Miss Janet Urquhart would favour them with her company at Aurelia Villa
on the evening of Friday the 17th, at eight o'clock. R.S.V.P.

Janet sank into a seat speechless, still holding the invitation. The
table-maid came and looked over her shoulder.

"Goodness me!" she exclaimed, as she read the card.

"She's been tellin' the truth after a'," said the housemaid, who,
having some claims to beauty, was glad of Janet's good fortune, and
hoped that the like might happen to herself.

"I dinna believe a word o't!" said the cook indignantly. "I'se warrant
she wrote it hersel'!"

But Janet had not written it herself. She could not even bring herself
to write the answer, though she had received a sound School Board
education. But the three R's do not contemplate the answering of
invitations upon thick cardboard, ending "R.S.V.P." They stop at the
spelling of "trigonometry" and the solving of vulgar fractions.

In spite of her silks and satins and her vaunted experience, Janet did
not know the meaning of "R.S.V.P." But the housemaid had not brushed
clothes ten years for nothing.

"It means 'Reply shortly, very pleased'!" said she. Which, being
substantially correct, settled the question.

Nevertheless, poor Janet was in great perturbation. When Cleaver's boy
went to see her that evening before going on duty she showed him the
card.

"What shall I do?" she said. "I hae nothing fit to wear, and I am
feared to gang."

Cleaver's boy looked up at the ceiling of the back-kitchen, as he sat
on the edge of the sink, unconscious that there was a tap running
behind him and that the plug was in.

"There was that purple brocade ye telled me aboot, wi' the auld lace
and the pearls that belonged to your grandmither, the Earl's dochter,"
said James Annan, meditatively.

"O aye," said Janet. "Yes, of course there is that ane." But she did
not look happy.

"Or there is the plain white muslin wi' the crimson sash aboot the
waist, that the twa gentlemen were for stickin' are anither aboot, yon
nicht they quarrelled wha was to see ye hame."

"Aye," said Janet, piteously, "there's that ane too."

"An' what say ye," continued James Annan remorselessly, "to the yellow
sattin, trimmed wi' flounces o' glory-pidgeon roses and——?"

Cleaver's boy suddenly stopped. He had been feeling for some time a
growing coolness somewhere. But at this point the water in the sink ran
over on the floor, and he turned round to discover that he had been
sitting in a full trough of excellent Moorfoot water, with the spigot
running briskly down his back all the while.

"O James," cried Janet, pleased to get a chance to change the subject,
"what for did ye do that, James? And your new breeks, too!" she added,
with an expression of supreme pain.

"I didna do it for naething," remarked Cleaver's boy, tartly. "I didna
do it ava'. It was you that left the spigot rinnin and the plug in!" he
added, after a thoughtful pause, while he realised how cool a sitz-bath
can be, even on a summer evening, when one stands by an open window.

Now nothing is more provoking, when you are performing a high and noble
work in the reformation of another person's morals, than to have the
thread of your weighty discourse broken by something so ridiculous as
sitting down in a bucket of water. There was every reason why Cleaver's
boy should be annoyed.

But Janet broke out in a sobbing ecstacy of laughter, which irritated
her lover more even than her wrong-doing.

"I wonder at you," he said, "telling a' thae lees when ye haena a dress
to your back, forbye the alpaca that ye pit on on Sabbaths!"

It was a mistake, and Cleaver's boy knew it as soon as he had the words
out of his mouth.

Janet instantly stopped in the midst of her laughter.

"I would have you know," she said with dignity, "that I shall accept
the invitation. And I will never speak to you again. I'll thank you to
take yourself out of my presence, James Annan!"

"And out of Bailie Holden's back-kitchen!" continued her lover, whose
colour did not diminish with the growing coolness consequent upon
standing in a draught. Then as he went up the steps from the area he
cried, "Be sure and put on the brocade, Janet!"

It was an unbearable affront, for Janet had told her stories so often,
and with so much innocent feeling, that though, of course, she could
not quite believe them herself, she had nevertheless all the feelings
of an indignant moralist insulted and outraged in her tenderest
susceptibilities.



ADVENTURE XXVII.

JANET OF INVERNESS TASTES THE HERB BITTER-SWEET.


Janet duly arrived at the house of Mr. Robert Greg Tennant at the hour
named in the invitation. She had had a great struggle with herself, but
pride had ultimately triumphed. Her fellow-servants had given her no
peace. She had, indeed, to dress in her black alpaca. But, sure enough,
her hair had been done in the latest fashion by her only friend, the
girl with whom the cook had seen her walking, who was an assistant in a
hair-dresser's shop. It was so twisted and tortured that Janet felt "as
if she had slept on it the wrong way," as she expressed it to herself.
She passed and re-passed the end of the Avenue half-a-dozen times, but
her courage would not let her ring the bell of the corner house. For
there were lights in nearly every window, and a cab had just driven
away from the door.

Poor Janet's heart leapt within her, and she had half a mind to turn
homeward and confess that she had been romancing. But another cab
stopped before the gate, and through the open door she saw a glimpse of
lights and flowers that looked to her like Paradise—as she imagined it
from the hymn-singing at the Salvation Army meetings.

So as the last cabman came slowly out of the Avenue, Janet called to
him. The man was arranging his rugs about him for a long drive back to
his stand at the centre of the town.

"I'll give you a sixpence if you will turn about and drive me up to
that door you have just been at," said Janet.

"Done," said the man; "and good money for the job."

So, without betraying the least surprise or curiosity, the man turned
about his vehicle, and Janet tripped daintily inside. They drove up to
the door with prodigious rattle and ceremony. The cabman jumped from
his seat and rang the bell in form. When the door was opened, Janet
Urquhart paid the man his easily-earned sixpence. He touched his hat,
and she went leadenly up the steps.

A trim maid-servant was at the door, who evidently had received very
definite orders, for only the faintest curl of the nostril betrayed her
own opinion of the affair.

When Janet was shown into the cloak-room her troubles began. Should she
take off her hat, or not? She looked about to see if the ladies had
left their hats. None were to be seen. Yet she had never seen ladies in
the evening, except bareheaded. After long consideration she resolved
to keep her hat on. But when she was in the doorway to go up to the
drawing-room she saw a lady coming through the outer door with a shawl
of soft gauzy wool over her head.

Janet shrank back instantly and turned cold with the thought of her
escape. With trembling hands she took off her hat and pinned her veil
to it as she had once seen her mistress do. The lady came in, bustling
a little like one who knows she is late.

"It is cold to-night," she said affably to the shy girl standing in the
doorway, but without looking at her.

"Yes, ma'am," said Janet, and the next moment she could have bitten her
tongue out for the mistake.

"Oh, how I wish I had never come," she said a score of times to herself
as she went up the stairs.

But it was too late to turn back.

"What name?" said the daintily-capped maiden, with the curl of her
nostril a little more accentuated.

For a moment Janet was so taken aback that she could not even remember
her own name.

"Janet," she stammered; "Janet—from Bailie Holden's."

The maid's face broadened into a smile, at sight of which poor Janet's
lip quivered, and for a moment she thought that she must burst out
crying. Scarcely was she able to keep back the welling tears. But the
door was a little open, and she saw Miss Celie, whom she already knew
and loved. The sight of that pleasant face, dimpling and flashing all
over with bright kindness, reassured her.

"Say 'Janet Urquhart'!" she said, with a little faltering return of
assurance in her voice.

And the trim maid-servant, with a strong protest in her tone, announced
in accents of terrifying distinctness, "Miss Janet Urquhart."

Then she shut the door, and Janet was left standing aghast and
speechless in the bright humming place.

"I would not have done it," soliloquised the indignant maid outside,
"unless my place had depended on it."

But within Celie Tennant's drawing-room, poor silly little Janet of
Inverness was being most pleasantly and charmingly entertained by her
hostess. Celie had, in fact, asked only a few of her most intimate
friends, whom she could trust with the momentous secret of the loves
and sorrows of Cleaver's boy. The fascinating cousin from the tented
field was there, ready for love or war. But it was to Donald Iverach
that the principal work of the evening had been allotted.

It was he who first asked Janet to dance with him. It was he who sat
out with her after her desperate failure, for she had lacked the
courage to say that she had never learned to dance. It was he who found
her a handkerchief, when, with the bitterness of disappointment, the
tears at last would not keep down, but welled piteously up from the
underlips of Janet's blue and childish eyes. It was Mr. Donald Iverach
who took her down to supper, where she suffered agonies over the use
of fish-knives and the management of a plate upon her knees. It was he
who finally took her aside, and so fervidly pursued his wooing that,
had Janet Urquhart been mercenary, he might without doubt have had a
suit for breach of promise of marriage successfully brought against
him. So far did the wooing proceed, and so fervently persistent was
this wicked Junior Partner, that, bewildered and dazzled, poor Janet
found herself being pressed to name the happy day, and, what is more,
in some danger of doing it, too. As for the Junior Partner, that young
man was obviously excited, but seemed quite unconscious of the risks
he was running. Had the Senior Partner heard him, he would undoubtedly
have considered his son to be rapidly qualifying for a strait jacket.
But the infatuated youth held on his way. Janet and he were sitting in
a little alcove at the top of the stairs, cobwebbed with the latest
artistic Japonaiseries of the period.

"And now," urged the reckless youth, when he had sealed in due form the
silent acquiescence he had won, "let us go back and tell them all that
we are going to be married."

Mr. Donald Iverach was certainly quite mad. But Janet of Inverness was
madder still, for instead of accepting the very eligible young man with
modest reluctance, she burst out crying all at once without the least
warning, and ran downstairs, leaving Donald Iverach standing spellbound
looking after her. Down the stair and through the hall she ran. She
opened the door and flew out into the night, crying "James! James! I
want you, James!"

And the strangest part of the whole is that even as she opened the door
two dark forms separated at the outer gate.

"There noo, look you after her," said Cleg Kelly to Cleaver's boy.
And James Annan went as he was bidden. The girl's wild cry of "James!
James!" hushed into quite another way of saying the same words, when
she found herself clasped in the arms of Janet's boy—late Cleaver's.
For James Annan not only had the root of the matter in him by nature,
but, as we have seen, he was a lad of some little experience.

"What did I tell you, sir?" said Cleg to the Junior Partner, as they
stood together on the step, and looked after the pair who had vanished
into the darkness.

"It came out all right, I grant," said Mr. Donald Iverach, "but I want
no more games with pretty kitchen-maids. I will tell you what—for three
full minutes I thought she was going to take me!"

And the Junior Partner went down the street at the rate of five miles
an hour.



ADVENTURE XXVIII.

THE ENGINE-DRIVER WITH THE BEARD.


What James Annan said to little Janet of Inverness on the way home,
and what Janet of Inverness said to James Annan, I know. But since
it concerns only themselves, with themselves I will leave it. At all
events, it was no long season before they were at one. Miss Cecilia
Tennant's exact share in the plot is a harder matter to apportion.
But that she had a share in it far beyond the mere issuing of the
invitations is certain, for Mr. Donald Iverach was heard saying to the
arch-conspirator in the semi-privacy of the dusky angle of the stairs,
"But what I want to make out is, what I am to get out of it."

"Virtue is its own reward," replied Miss Celie, sententiously, "and,
besides, you make love to that sort of person so well, that it is
evident you must have had a great deal of practice."

"Now I call that a little hard on me," said the Junior Partner, who
felt that he had made a martyr of himself all the evening, and that he
had, indeed, narrowly escaped the sacrificial altar.

"Wait," he said threateningly, "till you want me to do anything else of
the kind for you."

Celie Tennant set her pretty head the least bit to the side. It could
not be called a cock, but it was the next thing to it. Next she pursed
her mouth till it looked like a cherry.

"You would do it just as quick if I asked you to do it all over again,"
said Celie Tennant, looking pins and needles at Donald Iverach, till
the very palms of his hands pingled.

The Junior Partner stamped his foot.

"Oh, hang it all!" he cried, "I believe that's the God's truth—I would."

That night as he walked home, the Junior Partner, who had no gifts for
the imparting of religious instruction, but who respected those who had
(especially if they were pretty), wondered what could make a Sunday
school teacher act in such a perverse manner. He could not understand
how it was that Celie Tennant, who upon occasion would weep over the
crushing of a fly, and who was all the time worrying her life out over
these young rascals of hers, could yet take pleasure in tormenting a
fellow-creature, and making his very existence a burden to him.

But when he came to think of it afterwards, he had to confess that on
the whole he rather liked it. In fact, that he would rather be made
unhappy by Celie Tennant than that anyone else should give him the
happiness of Paradise. He was a rankly foolish young man, and he would
have hugged his follies if this particular one would have permitted him.

The present chronicler has, be it understood, undertaken to relate the
adventures of Cleg's companions as well as those which immediately
concern the hero. But these adventures of Cleaver's boy and his Janet
of Inverness were not without direct bearing upon the fates of Cleg
and of his lost friends the Kavannahs. For it so happened that Duncan
Urquhart, the uncle of Janet of Inverness, came one night to see her
in the kitchen of Bailie Holden. The cook was pleased with him, for he
was a single man and well bearded; in fact, the very kind of man whom
all cooks adore. Housemaids, on the other hand, like clean-shaven or
moustached men, and as a rule prefer to catch them younger. And this is
the reason why cooks marry gardeners while housemaids marry coachmen.
While nurses, having had enough of children, live to a good old age
in picturesque cottages, with assured pensions and uncertain tempers,
eventually dying old maids. At least, so sayeth the philosopher.

Duncan Urquhart was not the chief of a clan. He was an engine-driver
in the goods department of the Greenock and South-Eastern Railway. In
the course of conversation the engine-driver, chiefly for the sake of
the applause of the cook, cast about him for moving tales of the iron
road on which his working hours were passed. He had settled in his
mind that the cook was a wonderful woman. She could, to his certain
knowledge, watch a roast, turn an omelette, taste a soup, and cast a
languishing glance over her shoulder at him, all at the same time. He
could not help thinking how excellent a thing it would be to come home
after a grimy run on the footplate. And then, having washed, sit down
in his own house to the soup, the omelette, and the joint, with (so
little did he know) as many of the languishing glances as he could wish
for, thrown in as a permanent asset of his home. So overcome was he
by the idea, that for the moment he forgot that matters had proceeded
even further with another cook in the town of Netherby, which formed
his alternate stopping-place. It was a pity, he sometimes thought (for
an instant only), that the laws of his country did not permit two such
homes to be set up, one at either end of his daily journeyings.

Now, as one good effect of Duncan Urquhart's visit to the kitchen of
Bailie Holden, the position of Janet of Inverness as kitchenmaid was
made a far more tolerable one. It is a thing strongly advisable, that
if the junior domestics of a house have presentable brothers or even
uncles, unmarried and eligible, they should make haste to produce them.
Janet of Inverness quite understood this. She knew, indeed, that
Duncan was to marry his cousin Mary in the Black Isle. But she was far
too wise a little girl to say anything about a family arrangement like
that. And then the cook always allowed her to walk in pleasanter places
for several days after the visits of her Uncle Duncan, who, as has been
said, was a handsome man with a beard, and in habit very well put on
and desirable.

But it is with Duncan's story that we have to do. Duncan had the
English of Inverness crossed with the dialect peculiar to the Greenock
and South-Eastern—a line whose engines are apple-green and gold, but
the speech of whose engineers is blue, with purple patches. Not that
Duncan swore before ladies, though Bailie Holden's cook would have
forgiven him because of his beard. It was indeed a habit she was
rather partial to, thinking it a mighty offset to the conversation of
bearded men. There was no denying that Duncan's speech was picturesque.
But Cleg could not help feeling that swearing of Duncan's sort was
altogether roundabout and unmanly. For himself, when he had need and
occasion, he simply said "Dam" and had done with it. Anything more
savoured of superfluity to a boy of his simple tastes.

Duncan the engine-driver was talking about feats of strength.

"In my young days," he said, "I could toss the caber with any man. The
Black Deil o' Dumfries tak' me, gin I couldna send a young tree birlin'
through the air as if it had been a bit spale board. But ye should see
Muckle Alick doon at Netherby Junction, where I pit up for the nicht.
He's the porter there on the passenger side. An' the mid steeple is no
better kenned for twenty miles round Netherby. Hands like the Day o'
Judgment comin' in a thunder-cloud—heart like a wee white-faced lammie
on the braes o' the Black Isle—that's Muckle Alick o' Netherby.

"As braid across the breast as if he was the gable end o' a bakehoose
coming linkin' doon the street its lane. Lord bless me, when the big
storm blew doon the distant signals last spring, I declare gin Muckle
Alick didna juist stand on the railway brig that sits end on to the
Market Hill, and signal in the trains wi' airms like the cross trees o'
a man-o'-war!

"I declare to conscience it's a Guid's truth!

"Aye, an' when that puir trembling chicken-hearted crowl, Tam Mac
Wheeble, that drives the Port Andrew passenger, stood still, wi' the
bull's-eyes o' his wee blue engine juist looking round the corner, an'
whistled and yelled for the proper signal, pretendin' that he didna
see Muckle Alick (him belongin' to anither kirk), Alick cried doon at
him off the brig, so that they could hear him half a mile, 'Ye donnert
U. P., come on wi' your auld steam-roller an' your ill-faured cargo o'
Irish drovers, or I'll come doon an' harl ye a' in mysel'!'

"Fac' as daith! I was there, talkin' to a nice bit lass that stands in
the Refresh'!

"You weakly toon-bred loons" (here Duncan Urquhart looked at Cleg and
Cleaver's boy) "thinks me a strong man. But Alick, though his shooders
are gettin' a wee bowed and his craw-black hair is noo but a birse o'
grey, could tak' half-a-dozen like me and daud our heads thegither
till we couldna speak. True as the 'Reason Annexed' to the Third
Commandment! I hae seen him wi' thae een that's in my head the noo!"

"Tell us mair," said Cleg, standing with his mouth open, for the
relation of feats of strength is every unlearned man's "Iliad." So
Duncan went on to tell mighty things of the wrath of Muckle Alick.

"But, lads, ye maun ken Alick is no a ramblin' wastrel like the rest
o' us. He's an elder amang the Cameronians. Haith! a weel-learned man
is Alick, an' guid company for a minister—or ony other man. And never
an ill word oot o' the mouth o' him. Na, no even when yince there was
twa trains at different platforms, an' the station-maister cried to
Alick to tak' the tickets frae baith o' them at the same time. 'Juist
tak' the Port Road train yoursel', gin ye are in sic a fidge!' quoth
Alick. An' it was the station-maister that swore—Alick was even mair
pleased-like than usual.

"But nae man ever saw Muckle Alick angry. The ill-set callants o' the
Clearin' Hoose tries whiles to provoke him. Alick, he says little—only
looks at them like a big sleepy dog when the pups are yelping. Then
after a while he says, 'Ye are like Tam Purdy's cat, when it ate the
herrin' he had for his breakfast the time he was askin' the blessin',
ye are "gettin' raither pet!"'

"And then, if they winna take a telling, Alick will grip them in his
loofs, gie them a shake and a daud thegither as if he was knockin' the
stour aff a couple o' books, syne stick their heads in a couple o' bags
o' Indian meal, an' leave them wi' their heels in the air. But Alick is
never oot o' temper. And ceevil—fresh kirned butter is no sweeter at
eighteenpence a pund!"



ADVENTURE XXIX.

MUCKLE ALICK'S BANNOCKBURN.


"But what was I gaun to tell ye? Oh, aboot the Irish drovers. Ye maun
ken they are no a very weel-liked class doon aboot Netherby. For they
come in squads to the Market Hill on Mondays, and whiles their tongues
and their sticks are no canny. Though some, I'm no denyin', are ceevil
chiels. But them that I'm gaun to tell ye aboot were no that kind.

"It was the middle o' the day and Alick was away for his denner. There
had been a bad market that day. Baith the marts were through hours
afore their usual. So the drovers swarmed up to the station to get
the afternoon train for Port Andrew. And on the platform the drinkin'
frae bottles an' the swearin' was fair extraordinar'! So I am telled.
Then, when the train cam' in, there was eight or nine o' the warst
o' them that wadna be served but they maun a' get into a first-class
compartment. And oot o' that they wadna get!

"The station-maister was a young man then and newly gotten on. He
thocht a heap o' himsel'—as a young station-maister aye does when he
first gets on the stemmed bonnet, and comes oot frae the office like
Lord Almichty wi' a pen ahint his lug.

"Weel, at ony rate, the Netherby station-maister was that kind. An' he
was determined that naebody should cross him in his ain station.

"'I'll juist lock them in and let them fecht it oot,' said the guard,
'and by the time we are through the big cutting at the Stroan they'll
hae shuggled doon as quaite as a session.'

"It was doubtless good advice. But the station-maister was mainly
angered. He gaed to the door o' the compartment and threatened the
drovers wi' the law. And they juist pelted him wi' auld sodjers and
ill talk. Then he cried for a' the porters and clerks, till there was
a knot o' ten or a dozen o' them aboot the door—and a' the folk in
the train wi' their heads oot o' the windows, askin' what on earth
(an' ither places) was keepin' the train. And doon the main line the
express was fair whustling blue-fire and vengeance because the signals
were against her. But nae farther could they get. The station-maister
he was determined to hae the drovers oot. And they were as set no to
come—being gye and weel filled wi' the weedow's cheapest market whusky
that she keepit special for the drovers, for faith it wad hae scunnert
a decent Heelant sow! I tried it yince and was I the waur o't for a
fortnicht. But ony whusky is guid enough for an Irishman, if only ye
stir plenty o' soot amang it! They think they're hame again if they get
that.

"So here the hale traffic o' Netherby Junction was stelled for maybe a
quarter o' an hour, and the station-maister was nearly daft to think
what he wad hae to enter on his detention sheet. A' at ance somebody
cries, 'Here's Muckle Alick coming up the street.' And sure enough
there he was, coming alang by the hill dyke wi' his hands in his
pooches. For ye see this wasna his train, and he had ten minutes to
spare. So wi' that the station-maister and the guaird and half-a-dozen
lads frae the offices rins to the far side o' the platform, waving on
Alick and crying on him to come on. Alick he juist looks aboot to see
wha was late for the train. But no' seein' onybody he steps leisurely
alang, drawin' on his weel-gaun pipe, proud-like as ye hae seen an
elephant at the head o' a show.

"And the mair they cried and waved, the mair Alick looked aboot him for
the man that was late for the train.

"'It maun be the provost at the least, wi' a' this fuss,' said he to
himself; 'he'll be gaun to Loch Skerrow to fish!'

"At last a wee upsettin' booking-clerk, the size o' twa scrubbers,
cam rinning and telled Alick a' aboot the drovers and the state the
station-maister was in.

"'I'm no on duty at this train,' says Alick, 'but I'll come and speak
to them.'

"So they made way for him, and Alick gaed through the crowd at the
platform like a liner through the herring-fleet below the Tail o' the
Bank.

"'Lads,' says he to the drovers, 'what's this?—what's this?'

"Then they mocked and jeered at him. For it so happened that nane o'
them had been often at Netherby Market, and so no a man o' them was
acquaint wi' Muckle Alick. Providence was no kind to the Paddies that
time whatever.

"'Boys,' says Alick, as canny as if he had been courtin' his lass,
'this wull never do ava', boys. It's no nice conduck! It's clean
ridiculous, ye ken. Ye'll hae to come oot o' that, boys!'

"But they were fair demented wi' drink and pridefulness at keepin' the
train waitin', and so they miscaa'ed Alick for a muckle nowt-beast on
stilts. And yin o' them let on to be an auctioneer, and set Alick up
for sale.

"'Hoo muckle for this great lumbering Galloway stirk?' says he.

"'Thrip!' says another, 'and dear at the money.'

"'Boys,' says Alick again, like a mither soothin' her weans when she
hears the guidman's fit, 'boys, ye'll hae to come oot!'

"But they only swore the waur at him.

"'Aweel,' says Alick, 'mind I hae warned ye, boys——'

"And he made for the carriage-door in the face o' a yell like a'
Donnybrook broken lowse. Then what happened after that it is no' juist
easy to tell. Alick gaed oot o' sicht into the compartment, fillin' the
door frae tap to bottom. There was a wee bit buzzing like a bee-skep
when a wasp gets in. Then presently oot o' the door o' the first-class
carriage there comes a hand like the hand o' Providence, and draps a
kickin' drover on the platform, sprawlin' on his wame like a paddock.
Then, afore he can gather himsel' thegither, oot flees anither and
faa's richt across him—and so on till there was a decent pile o'
Irish drovers, a' neatly stacked cross-and-across like sawn wood in a
joiner's yaird. Certes, it was bonny to see them! They were a' cairded
through yin anither, and a' crawling and grippin' and fechtin' like
crabs in a basket. It was a heartsome sicht!

"Then, after the hindermost was drappit featly on the riggin', oot
steps Muckle Alick—edgeways, of course, for the door wasna wide
aneuch for him except on the angle. He was, if onything, mair calm
and collected than usual. Muckle Alick wasna angry. He juist clicked
his square key in the lock o' the door and stood lookin' doon at the
crawlin' pile o' drovers. Folk says he gied a bit smile, but I didna
see him.

"'Ye see, boys, ye had to come oot!' said Muckle Alick."



ADVENTURE XXX.

HOW GEORDIE GRIERSON'S ENGINE BROKE ITS BUFFER.


"Hoo-r-ray!" shouted Cleg Kelly and Cleaver's boy together, till the
cook and little Janet of Inverness smiled at their enthusiasm.

"But there's mair," said the engine-driver.

"It canna be better than that!" said Cleg, to whom the tale was good as
new potatoes and salt butter.

"It's better!" said the engine-driver, who knew that nothing holds an
audience and sharpens the edge of its appetite better than a carefully
cultivated expectancy.

"It was that same day after the Port Andrew train got away, when the
cowed drovers were sent to the landing-bank to wait for their cattle
train, and the carriage that was coupled on to it for their transport.
The driver o' the main line express was Geordie Grierson, an' he was
no well-pleased man to be kept waitin' twenty minutes with his whistle
yellyhooin' bluefire a' the time. He prided himsel' special on rinnin'
to the tick o' the clock. So as soon as the signal dropped to clear he
started her raither sharp, and she cam' into the station under a head
of steam some deal faster than he had intended. Ye could hae heard the
scraichin' o' the auld wood brakes a mile an' mair. But stop her they
couldna. And juist as Georgie Grierson's engine was turnin' the curve
to come past the facing points to the platform, what should we see but
a wee bit ragged laddie, carryin' a bairn, coming staggerin' cross the
metals to the near bank. Every single person on the platform cried to
him to gang back. But the laddie couldna see Geordie's engine for the
way he was carryin' the bairn, and maybe the noise o' the folk cryin'
mazed him. So there he stood on the four-foot way, richt between the
rails, and the express-engine fair on him.

"It cam' that quick our mouths were hardly shut after crying out, and
our hearts had nae time to gang on again, before Muckle Alick, wha was
standin' by the side o' the platform, made a spang for the bairns—as
far as we could see, richt under the nose o' the engine. He gripped
them baith in his airms, but he hadna time to loup clear o' the far
rail. So Muckle Alick juist arched a back that was near as braid as the
front of the engine itsel', and he gied a kind o' jump to the side.
The far buffer o' the engine took him in the broad o' his hinderlands
and whammeled him and the bairns in a heap ower on the grass on the far
bank.

[Illustration: "He gripped them baith, but he hadna time to loup clear
o' the far rail."]

"Then there was a sough amang us wi' the drawing in o' sae mony
breaths, for, indeed, we never looked for yin o' them ever to stir
again. Geordie Grierson managed to stop his train after it had passed
maybe twenty yairds. He was leanin' oot o' the engine cubby half his
length an' lookin' back, wi' a face like chalk, at Muckle Alick and the
weans on the bank.

"But what was oor astonishment to see him rise up wi' the bairns baith
in his ae arm, and gie his back a bit dust wi' the back o' the ither as
if he had been dustin' flour off it.

"'Is there ocht broken, think ye, Geordie?' Muckle Alick cried
anxiously to the engine-driver.

"'Guid life, Alick, are ye no killed?' said the engine-driver. And,
loupin' frae his engine, Geordie ran doon, if ye will believe it,
greeting like a very bairn. And, 'deed, to tell the truth, so was the
maist feck o' us.

"'Killed?' says Alick; 'weel, no that I ken o'!'

"And he stepped across the rails wi' the twa weans laughin' in his
airms, for a' bairns are fond o' Alick. And says he, 'I think I'll pit
them in the left luggage office till we get the express cleared.' So he
did that, and gied them his big turnip watch to play wi'. And syne he
took the luggage over and cried the name o' the station, as if he had
done nocht that day forbye eat his denner.

"Then there cam' a lassie rinnin' wi' a loaf in her airms, and lookin'
every road for something.

"'Did ye see twa bairns? Oh, my wee Hugh, what's come to ye?' she
cried.

"'Ye'll find them in the luggage office, I'm thinkin', lassie,' says
Alick."

And here the engine-driver of the goods train rose to depart. But his
audience would not permit him.

"And what cam' o' the bairns?" cried Cleg, white with anxiety, "and
what was their names, can ye tell me?"

"Na, I never heard their names, if they had ony," said Duncan Urquhart.
"They were but tinkler weans, gaun the country. But Alick could tell
ye, nae doot. For I saw him gang doon the street wi' the wee boy in his
hand, and the lass carryin' the bairn. An' the folk were a' rinnin' oot
o' their doors to shake hands wi' Alick, and askin' him if he wasna
sair hurt?"

"'Na,' says he; 'I'll maybe a kennin' stiff for a day or twa, but
there's nocht serious wrang—except wi' the spring o' the engine buffer!
That's gye sair shauchelt!'

"And guid nicht to ye a', an' a guid sleep. That's a' I ken," said
Duncan Urquhart from the kitchen door, where he was saying good-bye to
the cook in a manner calculated to advance materially the interests of
his niece, Janet of Inverness.

"And I'm gaun the morn's mornin' to see Muckle Alick!" cried Cleg. And
he went out with the engine-driver.



ADVENTURE XXXI.

THE "AWFU' WOMAN."


A sore heart had Vara Kavannah as she sat in the hut in Callendar's
yard the night her mother had appeared at the gate of Hillside Works.

"I can never go back among them—no, never, never!" said Vara to herself
again and again.

And already she saw the sidelong glance, the sneering word thrown over
the shoulder, as the companions from whom she had held herself somewhat
aloof reminded her of her mother's disgrace. "O father, father, come
back to us—come back to us!" she cried over and over again till it
became a prayer.

She sat with her hands before her face so long that little Hugh
repeatedly came and stirred her arm, saying "What ails sister? Hugh Boy
not an ill boy!"

Vara Kavannah's thoughts ran steadily on Liverpool, to which her father
had gone to find work. She remembered having seen trains with carriages
marked "Liverpool" starting from the rickety old station at the end of
Princes Street. She knew that they went out by Merchiston and Calder.
That must, therefore, be the way to Liverpool. Vara did not remember
that it must also be the way to a great many other places, since many
carriages with other superscriptions passed out the same way.

As it darkened in the little construction hut, Vara listlessly rose to
set the room to rights, and to give the baby its bottle. Nothing now
seemed any use, since her mother had come back into her life. Yet Vara
did not cry, for that also was no use. She had lost her place at the
works, or at least she could never go back any more. Her world was at
an end.

Hugh Boy still lingered outside, though it was growing latish, and
the swallows that darted in and out of the stacked rafters and piled
squares of boards began one by one to disappear from the vaulted sky.
Hugh was busy watering the plants, as he had seen Cleg do. And he
kept one hand in his pocket and tried to whistle as like his model as
possible. Vara was just laying the baby in its cot when she heard a
scream of pain from Hugh at the door.

"Mercy me!" she said, "has the laddie tumbled and hurt himsel'?"

She flew to the open door, which was now no more than a dusky oblong of
blue-grey. A pair of dark shapes stood in front of her. Little Hugh lay
wailing on the ground. A hard clenched hand struck Vara on the mouth,
as she held up her hands to shield the baby she had carried with her in
her haste, and a harsh thick voice screamed accumulated curses at her.

"I hae gotten ye at last, ye scum, you that sets yourself up to be
somebody. You that dresses in a hat and feather, devil sweep ye! Come
your ways in, lad, and we will soon take the pride out of the likes o'
her, the besom!"

The man hung back and seemed loth to have part in the shame. But Sal
Kavannah seized him by the hand and dragged him forward.

"This is your new faither, Vara," she said; "look at him. He is a
bonny-like man beside your poor waff wastrel runnagate faither, Sheemus
Kavannah!"

The man of whom Sal Kavannah spoke was a burly low-browed ruffian,
with the furtive glance of one who has never known what it is to have
nothing to conceal.

But Vara thought he did not look wholly bad.

"Come in, mother!" she said at last in a low voice. Then she went out
to seek for Boy Hugh, who had run into the dark of the yard and darned
himself safely among the innumerable piles of wood, which stood at all
angles and elevations in Callendar's wide quadrangle.

"Hugh! Boy Hugh!" she cried. And for a long time she called in vain. At
last a low and fearful voice answered her from a dark corner, in which
lay the salvage of a torn-down house.

"Is she gane away?" said the Boy Hugh.

"No, but ye are to come hame," said Vara, holding the babe closer to
her bosom.

"Then Hugh Boy is no comin' hame the nicht till the 'awfu' woman' is
gane away!" said the lad, determinedly.

"Come, boy, come," she said again; "my heart is wae for us a'. But come
wi' your Vara!"

"Na, Hugh Boy is no comin'. Ye will hae to _hist_ me oot wi' big dogs
afore I will come hame to the 'awfu' woman,'" said Hugh Boy, who was
mightily set when his mind was made up.

So Vara had perforce to drag her feet back to the horrors which
awaited her within the construction hut. The man and her mother had
been pledging one another when she entered. A couple of black bottles
stood between them, and Sal Kavannah looked up at her daughter with a
fleering laugh.

"Aye, here she comes that sets up for being better than your mother!
But we'll show you before we are through with you, my man and me, you——"

However, it does not enter into the purpose of this tale to blacken
a page with the foul excrement of a devilish woman's hate of her own
child. The Scripture holdeth—the mother may forget. She may indeed have
no compassion on the child of her womb. And Vara Kavannah sat still
and listened, till the burning shame dulled to a steady throbbing ache
somewhere within her. The woman's threats of future torture and outrage
passed idly over her, meaningless and empty. The man drank steadily,
and grew ever silenter and more sullen; for, to his credit be it said,
the situation was not to his taste, and he looked but seldom at Vara.
The girl sat clasping the babe to her bosom with a secret sense that
in little Gavin she had her best and indeed her only protector. For
even the very bad man in his senses will hardly hurt an infant—though a
bad woman will, as we may read in the records of our police courts.

So Vara sat till the man reeled to the door, carrying the unfinished
bottle with him, and Sal Kavannah, her orgie logically completed, sank
in a fœtid heap on the floor with the empty one beside her.

The man as he stumbled out left the door open, and in a little while
Vara could hear Boy Hugh's plaintive voice, asking from the wood-pile
in the corner whether the "awfu' woman" was gone yet.

As Vara sat and listened all through the short hours of that midsummer
night to the clocks of the city churches, the stertorous breathing of
her mother and the babe's occasional feeble wail were the only sounds
within the hut itself. But Boy Hugh's plaint detached itself fitfully
from the uneasy hum of the midnight city without. A resolve, new-born
indeed, but seemingly old and determinate as the decrees of the God she
had learned about in the Catechism, took hold upon her.

It seemed to Vara that it did not matter if she died—it did not even
matter whether Hugh and Gavin died, if only she could find her father,
and die far away from her mother and all this misery.

The girl was so driven to the last extremity by the trials of the
day and the terrors of the night that she rose and put on her hat
as calmly as though she had been going for a walk with Cleg and the
children across the park. As calmly also she made her preparations,
stepping carefully to and fro across her mother on the floor. She put
all the scraps of bread that were left from Cleg's windfall into her
pocket, together with the baby's feeding bottle and a spare tube.
Then she added Hugh's whistle and a certain precious whip with a short
bone handle and a long lash, which Cleg had given him. Vara was sure
that Hugh Boy would cry for these, and want to go back if she did not
take them with her. She had nothing of her own to take, except the
indiarubber umbrella ring which Cleg Kelly had given her. So she took
that, though she had never possessed an umbrella in her life. Groping
in Gavin's crib, she found her shawl, and wrapped it about her with a
knowing twist. Then she deftly took up the baby. The shawl went over
her left shoulder and was caught about her waist at the right side, in
a way which all nurses and mothers know, but which no man can ever hope
to describe. The babe was still asleep, and Vara's tender touch did not
awake it as she stepped out into the night to walk to Liverpool to find
her father.

But as a first step she must find Boy Hugh. And that young man was
exceedingly shy. He had got it in his obstinate little head that his
sister wished to drag him back to the "awfu' woman." It was not,
therefore, till Vara had managed to persuade him in the most solemn
way that she had no intention of ever going back that he consented to
accompany her upon her desperate quest.

At last Boy Hugh took her hand and the three bairns left Callendar's
yard behind them for ever. What happened there that night after they
left we already know. It is with the children's wanderings that we now
have to do.



ADVENTURE XXXII.

MAID GREATHEART AND HER PILGRIMS.


It was grey day when the children fared forth from the city. Vara's
chief anxiety was lest they should not be able to escape out of the
town before the light came, so that some officious neighbour might
be able to direct her enemy upon their track. It was not long before
they emerged out of the side-alleys on a broad paved street which led
towards the south.

Vara paused and asked a policeman if this was the way to Liberton.

"And what are you going to do at Liberton so early in the morning?"
said the policeman. He asked because he was a Lothian man, who always
puts a second question before he can bring himself to answer the first.

"We are gaun to see our faither," said Vara, speaking the truth.

"Weel," said the policeman, "that is the road to Liberton. But if I was
you I would wait till the milk-cairts were drivin' hame. Then I could
get ye a lift to Liberton fine."

He was a kind-hearted "poliss," and in fact the same officer who had
looked over the screen by the watch-shelter behind which Tyke was
spinning his yarns to Cleg Kelly.

So that—thus strange is the working of events when they take the reins
into their own hands—at the very moment when Cleg Kelly was sleeplessly
turning over in his mind the problem of the life-fate of Vara and the
children by the dying fire at the Grange crossing, Vara herself with
the baby on her arm was trudging down the pavement opposite. As she
passed she looked across, and only the timbered edge of the shelter
prevented her from seeing Cleg Kelly.

Thus, without the least hindrance or observation, the three children
escaped out of their thrice-heated fiery furnace into the cool of the
country hedges and upon the clean hard surface of the upland roads.

With the inevitable instinct of hunted things Vara turned aside
whenever she heard the brisk clapper of the hoofs of a milk-cart, or
the slower rumble of a market waggon. For she knew that it was of such
early comers into the city that questions would be asked. So, when Cleg
set about his inquisition, he was foiled by the very forethought which
had only desired to defeat an enemy, not to mystify a friend.

Thus hour by hour they left quiet, kindly red-tiled villages behind,
set in heartsome howes and upon windy ridges. And, as they went ever
forwards, morning broadened into day; day crept dustily forward to hot
noon; noon drowsed into afternoon; with the scent of beanfields in the
air, dreamily sweet. Vara's arm that held the baby grew numb and dead.
Her back ached acutely from the waist downwards as though it would
break in two. Sometimes the babe wailed for food. Little Hugh dragged
leadenly upon her other hand, and whinged on, with the wearisome
iteration of the corncrake, that he wished to go back to Callendar's
yard, till Vara had to remind him, because nothing else would stay his
plaining, of the "awfu' woman" waiting for him there.

Vara did not rest long that whole day. They sat down as seldom as
possible, and then only for a few minutes. Vara poured a little of
the water from a wayside spring upon the crumbs that were left, and
gave them to little Gavin, mixing them with the remaining milk in his
bottle. Hugh begged incessantly that Vara would let him take off his
boots and walk barefoot. But his sister knew that he would certainly
become lame in a mile or two. Yet there might have been pleasure in
it too, for they sat down in the pleasantest places all that fine,
bough-tossing day. The shadows were sprinkled on the grassy hillsides,
like a patchwork quilt which Vara had once seen in their house when
Hugh was very little, but which had long ago become only a memory and a
lost pawn-ticket.

Never before had the children seen such quaint woodland places—nooks
where the rabbits tripped and darted, or sat on the bank washing faces
pathetically innocent and foolish. Little runnels of water trickled
down the gullies of the banks and dived under the road. But for Vara
there was no enjoyment, no resting all that day. They soon spent their
store of food. By noon Hugh had eaten all the cold potatoes. The babe
had taken, at first with difficulty, then, under the pressure of
hunger, greedily, the thin water and milk with the crushed crumbs in
it which Vara had made at the brook-side. So that also was finished.
Hunger began, not for the first time, to grip them.

But they could not rest long. In a little, just as Hugh Boy was
beginning to drop asleep and lean heavily against Vara, there came
again upon her without warning a terrible fear. She looked down the
road they had come, and she seemed to see the cruel eyes of her mother,
to hear again the foul threats of the life she was to be compelled to
lead for "setting herself up to be better than her mother," all the
words which she had listened to during those last hours of terror and
great darkness in the old construction hut.

So Vara shook Hugh awake, stroking his cheeks down gently till his
eyes opened. She settled the shawl over her other shoulder, and the
bairns were soon on their way again. The dusty road beneath appeared
to stream monotonously between their feet, and so weary did they grow
that sometimes they seemed to be only standing still. Sometimes, on the
contrary, they appeared to be going forward with incredible speed. Vara
bore the aching of her carrying-arm till it became agony unspeakable,
and the weight of Gavin dragged on her very brain. Then, for a treat,
she would shift him to the other arm, and for a few minutes the keen
twingeing ache deadened to a dull ache, as the tired wrist and elbow
dropped to her side. But soon in the other arm the same stounding agony
began.

Still the children fared on, spurred forward by the fear of that which
was behind them. The thought and hope of their father had greatly died
out of Vara's mind, though not altogether. But the mighty instinct
of hiding from days and nights like those which had gone over her
head recently drove her restlessly forward. Yet she began sadly to
acknowledge that, though she might be able to stumble on a little
longer that night, little Hugh could not go much further. He began to
lag behind at every turn, and whenever they stopped a moment he fairly
dropped asleep on his feet, and his head fell flaccidly against her
side.

The bells of a little town on the slope of a hill were just striking
six and the mill-folk were streaming homeward, when the children
had their first great piece of luck. They were just by a stone
watering-trough at the curve of a long brae, when a smart light cart
with yellow wheels came past. It was driven by a young man, who sat,
looking very bright and happy, with his sweetheart beside him. As the
pair came slowly up the brae they had been talking about the children,
whom they could see dragging on before them weary-foot, sick with pain
and weariness.

Perhaps the young man's heart was touched. Or mayhap his sweetheart
asked him to give them a penny, and he wished to show his generosity.
But in either case certain it is that as he passed up the hill he
nodded brightly back to the children and threw them a coin. It rolled
on its edge to Vara's feet, who stooped and picked it up, solacing her
independent soul as the silver lay apparent in her hands by telling
herself that she had not asked for it. Her mother had found all her
savings the night before, and had emptied them into the hand of her
companion, out of the cup in which they had stood on the shelf which
served for the mantelpiece of the construction hut. So that but for
this happy young man's sixpence Vara and her charges were absolutely
penniless.



ADVENTURE XXXIII.

THE BABES IN THE HAYSTACK.


But even Hugh brightened at the sight of the silver, and when Vara
proposed to go back and buy something for them while he stayed with
Gavin and gathered him flowers to play with, the lad said determinedly,
"Hugh Boy come too!"

So they all went back to the village. They stood looking long and
wistfully into the shop-windows, for what to buy was so momentous a
question that it took them some time to decide. At last Vara made up
her mind to have twopence-worth of stale bread at a baker's. She was
served by the baker's wife, who, seeing the girl's weary look, gave
her a fourpenny loaf of yesterday's baking for her coppers, together
with some salt butter in a broad cabbage leaf into the bargain. Vara's
voice broke as she thanked the woman, who had many bairns of her own,
and knew the look of trouble in young eyes. Then at another shop Vara
bought a pennyworth of cheese, which (as she well knew) satisfies
hunger better than any other food. Then came a pennyworth of milk for
the baby, with which she filled his bottle, and gave what was over to
Hugh Boy, who drank it out of the shopkeeper's measure.

When the children came out, Vara took Hugh by the hand, and they
marched past the baker's without stopping. For the boy had set his
love upon a certain gingerbread lion with a pair of lack-lustre eyes
of currants, and as they passed the baker's shop he set up a whining
whimper to have it. But his sister marched him swiftly past before
the dews in his eyes had time to fall. The baker's wife had come to
the door to look after them, and seeing Hugh Boy's backward-dragging
look, she sent her little girl after them with the very gingerbread
lion of Hugh's dreams. Hugh Boy stood speechless, open-mouthed with
thankfulness. The little girl smiled at his surprise.

"We hae lots o' them at our house," she said, and hurried back to her
mother.

They mounted the hill once more and sat on the grassy bank by the side
of the watering-trough, into which a bright runlet of water fell, and
in which little stirring grains of sand dimpled and danced.

Never was anything sweeter than the flavour of yesterday's bread,
except the gingerbread lion, from which Hugh had already picked one
black currant eye, leaving a yellow pitted socket which leered at him
with horrid suggestiveness of stomach-ache. But hunger-ache was Hugh
Boy's sole enteric trouble, so that the suggestion was lost upon him.

The water of the hill spring, splashing into the stone trough, sounded
refreshing beyond expressing. The baby dreamed over his bottle, and lay
with his eyes fixed on the clear heavens above—from which, if all tales
be true, he had come to a world of whose kindness he had had so little
experience since his arrival.

For the first time that day Vara took a bite for herself and many a
draught of the dimpling springwater, whose untiring crystal rush into
the basin it was so pleasant to watch. Then Vara washed Hugh's feet and
her own in the overflow of the trough, just at the place where the burn
ran under the road. On Hugh Boy's feet was a painful pink flush, but no
blister appeared. On her own feet, however, there were two or three.
Vara was glad that Hugh was fit for his journey.

They started again, and, with the refreshment of the food and the
rest, they managed to make two or three miles further before the dark
fell. But soon it was evident that the three wanderers could go little
further that night. The babe's eyes were long closed with sleep, and
poor little Hugh could only keep awake and stagger on by constantly
rubbing his knuckles into the corners of his eyes.

They were now on a high wild moor, and there was no house within sight.
They still went onward, however, blindly and painfully. The roadsides
trailed past them black and indistinct till they came to a farmhouse.
They could see tall buildings against the skies and hear the lash of an
unseen mill-stream over a wheel into a pool. A blackcap sang sweetly
down in some reeds by the mill-dam.

Vara did not dare to knock at the door of the house. She was just about
to go into the farmyard in search of a shed to lie down in, when she
remembered that she had heard from Cleg how there were always fierce
dogs about every farmhouse. For Hugh's sake she could not risk it.
Instead of going forward, therefore, she groped her way with one hand
into a field where there were many stacks of hay and corn. Vara could
tell by the rustling as her hand passed over them. Soon she came to a
great stack in a kind of covered shed, which stood between wooden posts
like trees. One end of it was broken down and cut into platforms. Vara
mounted upon one with the baby, and reached down a hand for Boy Hugh.
For the last few miles, indeed ever since it grew dark, Hugh had been
more than half asleep, and his weariful sobbing had worn down to a
little clicking catch in his throat, which still recurred at intervals.
It was by the sound that Vara found him. She leaned over as far as she
dared, and drew him up beside her. He was asleep in her arms before she
could lay him down.

Vara thought the people of the farm would not be very angry in the
morning if she pulled out a little of the hay.

"It is for the baby's sake!" she said, to excuse herself.

So she scooped out of the higher step of the stack where it was
broadest a little cave among the hay, and into this she thrust Boy Hugh
gently, putting his legs in first and leaving only his head without.
Then she rolled the babe and herself in the shawl and crawled in beside
him. She drew the hay close like a coverlet about them. She listened
awhile to Hugh Boy's breathing, which still had the catch of bygone
tears in it. She kissed Gavin, closed her eyes, and instantly fell
asleep herself. Vara said no prayers. But the incense of good deeds and
sweetest essential service went up to God from that haystack.



ADVENTURE XXXIV.

THAT OF MARY BELL, BYRE LASS.


The morning came all too soon, with a crowing of cocks and the clashing
hurrahs of the rooks, circling up from their nesting in the tall trees.
But the tired children slept on. The life of the farm began about them,
with its cheerful sounds of clinking head-chains as the cattle came
in, and of tinkling harness as the teams went afield. But still the
children did not wake. It was not till Mary Bell, byre lass, came to
get an armful of fodder from the stack that they were found.

"Lord, preserve us! what's that?" she cried when, with her knees upon
the step of the stack, she saw the children—Vara's wearied face turned
to the babe, and the dew damp on the white cheeks of Boy Hugh.

"I maun fetch the mistress!" said Mary Bell.

And then these two women stood and marvelled at the children.

"Mary," said the mistress of the farm, "d'ye mind the text last
Sabbath?"

Mary Bell looked indignantly at her employer.

"How do ye think I can mind texts wi' as mony calves to feed?" she
asked, like one of whom an unfair advantage is taken.

"O Mary!" said her mistress, "how often hae I telled you no to set your
mind on the vainities o' this wicked world?"

"An' whatna ane do ye pay me for?—to keep mind o' texts or to feed the
calves?" asked the byre lass, pertinently.

"Mary," said the other, ignoring the argument, "the text was this: 'I
will both lay me down and sleep'—dod, but I declare I forget the rest
o't," she concluded, breaking down with some ignominy.

"In the land o' the leal," suggested Mary Bell, either wickedly or with
a real desire to help. Her superior promptly accepted the emendation.

"That's it!" she said. "Is it no bonny to look at thae bairns and mind
the text, 'I will both lay me down and sleep, in the land o' the leal'?"

"I'll wauken them," said practical Mary Bell, "and bring them into the
hoose for some breakfast."

"Na, na," said her mistress, "ye maunna do that. What wad the guidman
say? Ye ken he canna be doin' wi' folk that gang the country. A wee
drap o' yestreen's milk noo—or the scrapins o' the parritch pot!"

"Aye," said Mary Bell, "'in the land o' the leal.' Ye had better gang
ben and look up the text, mistress; I'll attend to the bairns."

"Aye, do that," said the good wife, with perfect unconsciousness of
Mary Bell's sarcasm, "but be sparin'. Mind ye, this is hard times for
farm folk! And we canna spend gear and graith recklessly on unkenned
bairns."

"Ye will be free o' that crime, mistress," murmured Mary, as her
mistress took her way into the house; "gin ye could tak' a' that ye hae
saved wi' ye, what a bien and comfortable doon-sitting wad ye no hae in
heeven! Itherwise, I'm nane sae sure—in spite o' your texts."

Then Mary sat down and took the children one by one, touching their
faces to make them waken. Vara sat up suddenly, with wild eyes and a
cry of fear. In her terror she clasped the baby so hard that it waked
and cried. With the other hand she brushed away the elf locks about
her own eyes. But her heart stilled its fluttering as she caught the
kindly eyes of Mary Bell, set in a brown sun-coarsened face of broad
good humour.

"O," said Vara, "I thought ye were my mother!"

And Mary Bell, who, though a byre lass and daughter of toil, was born
with the gentle heart of courtesy within her, refrained from asking why
this wandering girl should be so greatly afraid of her own mother.

"Are you hungry?" she said, instead.

And little Boy Hugh awoke, rolled out of the hay, and shook himself
like a young puppy. He stretched his arms wide, clasping and unclasping
his fingers.

"I'm _that_ hungry!" he said, as if he had heard Mary Bell's words in a
dream.

"That's answer enough!" said the byre lass. "Certes, ye are a bonny
laddie; come here to me."

And Mary Bell, who was born to love children and to bear them, snatched
him up and kissed him warmly and roughly. But Hugh wriggled out of her
arms, and as soon as he found himself on the ground he wiped his mouth
deliberately and ungratefully with the back of his hand.

"Hae ye ony pieces and milk for wee boys?" he said.

The byre lass laughed.

"Ye like pieces and milk better than kisses," said she. "Hoo does that
come?"

"Pieces and milk are better for ye!" said Boy Hugh, stating an
undeniable truth.

"It's a peety," said Mary Bell, sententiously, "that we dinna aye ken
what's guid for us." And she was thoughtful for some moments. "Come
awa', bairns," she said, taking Gavin from Vara, and carrying him
herself into a milk house, which was filled with a pleasant smell of
curds and cheese.

Hugh Boy went wandering about, wondering at the great tin basins
filled with milk to the brim, some fresh and white, and some covered
smoothly with a thick yellow coating of cream.

"I never thocht there was as muckle milk in the world!" said Boy Hugh.

So here the children ate and drank, and were refreshed. And as she set
before them each new dainty—farles of cake, thick new scones, milk with
the cream still generously stirred amongst it, fresh new milk yet warm
from the cow for Gavin, Mary Bell said: "This is better than mindin'
a text! Sirce me, heard ye ever the like o' it—'To the land o' the
leal'?' An' she took it a' in. She reads a' the Bible ever she reads
between her sleeps in the kirk, I'se warrant. Wait till I see Jamie
Mailsetter; I'll hae a rare bar to tell him!"

It was an hour after, much comforted and refreshed, with a back load
of provisions and one of Mary Bell's hardly-earned shillings, that the
wanderers set out. They continued to wave her their farewells till they
were far down the loaning.

And they might well be sorry, for there were not many people so kind
and strong-hearted as Mary Bell to be met with between the Town of
Pilgrimage and the City of the Twelve Foundations. And some of these
are rough-handed and weather-beaten men and women, who work out their
Christianity in feeding calves and bairns instead of parading texts,
keeping the word of God in their hearts according to the commandment.



ADVENTURE XXXV.

THE KNIGHT IN THE SOFT HAT.


And so their second day was a good day, as most days are that are well
begun with a good breakfast. For, together with a good conscience, that
makes all the difference. And especially when you are Hugh Boy's age,
for then even the conscience does not so much matter.

Hugh Boy had never been in the country before, and, being a lad of
much observation, he had to watch all that there was there. And there
were many things for Hugh Boy to see that day. Robin redbreasts peeped
with their summer shyness upon them from the low bushes on the banks.
Sparrows pecked among flower patches, instead of at the mud in the
streets, as Hugh Boy had always seen them do before. There was a big
bird which floated above the farmyard of one of the farms they passed.
Hugh wondered what sort of bird it could be. He heard a motherly hen,
which had been scraping and clucking among the dust when they came
round the corner, suddenly give a strange screech, just like that which
Vara had given the other night when the "awfu' woman" came to their
door. He saw the hen droop her wings and crouch in the dust, keeping
her beak up in the air, her timid eyes glittering with anger.

Hugh Boy questioned Vara, but Vara had the baby to attend to, and
answered that it was just a bird. But soon the big shadow on the sky
with the outstretched wings floated away, and the hen went back to its
contented picking. The children also went along the wayside to-day with
many more rests and lingerings. For they had no longer the instant spur
of pursuit driving them on.

They stopped to take their meal by a little bridge, under which a
moorland burn ran bickering down to join a big river which flowed to
the distant sea.

They sat down in the dark of the arch, and Vara had spread out all
the provision which her kind friend, Mary Bell, had given her before
she saw that at the other end a young man was sitting close in by the
wall. At sight of him Vara started, and would have put her bread and
milk back again. But the man cried over to her, "Not so fast, my pretty
dears; there's another hungry stomach here."

"You are welcome to a share o' what we have," said Vara, who had been
too often hungry herself not to know the pain it meant.

The youth came and sat down by them. He was a lean and
unwholesome-looking vagrant. The whites of his eyes had turned an
unpleasant lead colour, while the pupils were orange-coloured, like the
stripes on a tiger's skin.

Vara gave him one of the largest of Mary Bell's scones, and some of the
butter they had got from the baker's wife the day before. The young man
ate these up greedily, and reached out his hand for more. Vara offered
him some of the loaf which she had bought.

"None o' that dry choko-tuck for me; gimme the soft bread!" said he,
rudely snatching at it.

Vara told him civilly that it was not for herself that she wanted to
keep it, but to break up in the baby's milk.

In spite of her pitiful protest, however, the young man snatched the
scone and ate it remorselessly, looking at Vara all the time with evil
eyes, and smiling a smirk of satisfaction. There was no snivelling
weakness about him. Hugh Boy never took his eyes off him. Then, when
he had finished, the lout rose, coolly stuffed the remainder of their
provision into his pocket, and came over towards Vara with his hand
stretched out. He caught her by the wrist and sharply twisted her arm.

"Shell out your tin," he said. "Out with it now, and no bones about it!"

Vara bore the pain as well as she could without crying out. Suddenly,
however, the rascal dropped her hand, and snatched Gavin from her arms.
He stood on the edge of the ravine over which the bridge went, holding
the child, and threatened to throw him over if she did not give him
all the money she had. He was, of course, as he told himself, only
"kidding" her, but Vara was in wild terror for Gavin. Her particular
evil genius had never hesitated to carry out such threatenings.

"I will! I will!" cried Vara. And she took the byre lass's shilling out
of her pocket and gave it to the man.

"Any more?" said he. "Yes, I see there is. Out with it!"

And Vara drew out the remainder of the sixpence which the young lover
had thrown to her from his cart yesterday.

Then the cruel hobbledehoy tossed her the child with a laugh, and
sprang sharply round the parapet of the bridge. Pale as ivory, Vara ran
after him to watch. The rascal was quite at his ease, for he stopped
to light his pipe and take a drink out of a little square bottle. This
he stowed away in the tails of his coat, which were very long. Then he
waved his hand humorously at Vara and Boy Hugh as they stood by the
arch of the bridge.

A tall, well-built young fellow, was coming down the road, and a hope
sprang up in Vara's mind that he might do something for her. The
stranger's round soft hat and dark clothes marked him for a clergyman.
But he swung his stick and whistled, which were new things to Vara in
one of his cloth.

At sight of him the thief pulled down the corners of his mouth and put
on his regulation mendicant's whine.

"For the love o' God, sir, help a poor fellow that's dyin' o' hunger.
I've walked fifty miles without a bite—hope to die if I haven't, sir. I
wouldn't tell you a lie, sir."

The stalwart young minister smiled, and gave his stick another swing
before he spoke.

"You have not walked five miles without drinking, anyway, as my nose
very plainly tells me. And your pipe is setting your coat on fire at
this very moment!"

The hobbledehoy plucked his lighted pipe out of his pocket and set his
thumb in the bowl.

"You are one of the good kind," he persisted; "you are not the sort
that would deny a poor chap a sixpence because he takes a draw of
tobacco when he can get it?"

"Not a bit," said the minister, good-humouredly; "I can take a whiff
myself. But I don't ask anybody else to pay for it. It's a fine
business, yours, my lad. But I'm not keeping a free rum and tobacco
shop. So you had best tramp, my man."

At this the tramp began to pour forth a volley of the most foul-mouthed
abuse, cursing all parsons for rogues, liars, and various other things.
The minister listened patiently for some time.

"Now," he said, when at last there came a pause, "I have given you your
say—away with you! And if I hear another foul word out of your mouth, I
will draw my stick soundly across your back."

"Oh!" said the other impudently, "I thought you were one of the softish
kind—the sort that when you smote them on the one cheek, turned the
other also."

The young man in the round hat squared his shoulders.

"Did anyone smite me on the one cheek?" he asked. "If they did, I
didn't know it. Perhaps you would like to try?"

And he came nearer to the rascal, who drew off as if not at all
inclined to make the experiment. He made no reply.

"But," said the minister, "since you are so ready with your Scripture,
you will not object to another text, just as good, and more suitable
for application to the like of you. It is—'A rod for the fool's back!'"

And with that he lifted his stick and brought it down on the young
rough's shoulders with the swing of a cricketer cutting a high ball to
the boundary.

Never was there a more astonished scoundrel. He turned on the instant
and ran. But Vara was close beside them by this time.

"He stole my money!" she cried; "catch him! O dinna let him away!"

The young minister clapped his hat firmly on the back of his head and
gave chase. The thief was for the moment the swifter, but he had not
the wind nor the training of his opponent.

"Stop!" cried the pursuer.

The thief glanced about, and seeing the stick he had tasted before
hovering in the air, he dropped in a heap across the path to trip
his pursuer. The minister cleared him in his stride and turned upon
him. The rascal kept perfectly still till his captor approached. Then
suddenly he shot out his foot in a vicious kick. But the young fellow
in the round hat had been in France and knew all about that game. He
caught the foot in his hand and turned the fellow over on his back.
Vara came panting up.

"Give this girl her money," said the minister. "How much was it, my
lassie?"

"It was a shilling and two pence," said Vara.

"Out with it or I'll go through you!" said the minister. And the thick
stick again hovered an ultimatum.

So Vara got her money, and without even a parting curse the cowed
and frightened rascal took himself off down the road at a slow trot,
keeping his eyes on the ground all the way.

Vara was left alone with her knight of the soft hat.



ADVENTURE XXXVI.

THE MADNESS OF HUGH BOY.


The young minister put out his hand to Vara and the two walked quietly
back to where Boy Hugh was kneeling on the grass, and baby Gavin was
sitting grasping a dandelion with one hand and looking with wide
deep-set eyes of philosophic calm upon the world.

"Tell me all about it," said her champion. And Vara told the tale with
her heart again beginning to beat with terror. "But how is it that you
are here?" said he. And Vara explained as much as she could.

"To look for your father in Liverpool?" he said. "It is a long, sad
way—a terrible journey." He mused.

He had a passion for setting things right, this young fellow, and it
occurred to him that it would be a good thing if he could get these
children into a home of some kind, and then communicate with the police
on the subject of their father.

But as soon as the young man began to speak in his low, persuasive
tones of a home where they could be safe and quiet, Vara stood up.

"O no, sir, I thank you, but we can not bide. Somebody might come and
find us."

At the mere thought she began to tremble and hastily to put her
scattered belongings together. The young minister made no further
objection. He walked with them a little along the way, and before he
parted from them he put another shilling into Vara's hand. Then he
leaped over the stone dyke on his way to a farmhouse where there was
a sick man waiting for him. From the other side of the fence he told
Vara shyly to remember that she had another Father to care for her,
who could always be found. But he was shy about saying so much, this
remarkable young man. However, he had a high sense of duty, and he felt
that the circumstances justified the observation.

"Thank ye," said Vara; "I'll no forget."

This, their second day, had become one of brooding heat, and Vara was
glad to have enough to buy a good meal for them all at the next little
town they passed through. They were fortunate also in the afternoon,
for at a little house by the wayside, a cottage with red creepers
growing all along the wall, the mistress took them all in and gave them
a cup of tea and some of the fresh white scones she was baking. There
was milk too for little Gavin. And as they went away a thought seemed
to strike the woman. She bade them wait a little while. She climbed up
into the attic, and presently returned with a shawl, which she wrapped
about Vara, and settled the baby into the nook of it with her own hands.

"But this is a good shawl. We must not take it from you," said Vara.

"Nonsense," said the good woman; "it is a fair exchange. Leave me the
auld ane; it will make very decent floor-clouts."

[Illustration: "Out with it!" said the minister.]

So it was on the whole a good day for them. And it was not till late
in the evening that misfortune again befell them. Vara's hands were
usually so full of Gavin that she had little thought for anything else.
But at one resting place she put her hand into her pocket and her heart
stood still because she failed to find the slim coins upon which she
had put her trust. She felt the pennies, but not the shilling or the
sixpence. She laid Gavin down on the grass and turned the pocket inside
out. There was nothing whatever there. But Vara found instead a little
slit in the lining, and the thought of her great loss, together with
what it meant to them all, turned her faint and sick.

"The man might just as well have had them, after all," she said.

Night fell with them still upon the road. They had found no friendly
shelter, and they seemed to be alone on the wide moor, through which
the road ran unfenced, like a tangle of string which has been loosely
thrown down. Hugh Boy cried bitterly to be allowed to lie down. Vara
looked about her anxiously and long. But she could see nothing but the
wild moorish hilltops girdling the horizon, too like one another to
give her any idea of the direction in which a habited house might lie.
She only saw the slow twilight of midsummer in the north creeping down
over the brown moors, and in the moist hollows of the bogs shallow
pools of mist gathering.

For the distance, the sound of a voice was borne in the still air.

"Hurley, hurley, hie away hame!" it said. And Vara went to the top of
a heathery knowe and called loudly. But only the moorbirds, making
ready for bed, answered her. They flew round, circling and complaining,
especially the peewits, which, being reassured by the small size of
the three, came almost offensively near.

Boy Hugh filled his pockets with stones to drive them away. He also
got out his whip. He had heard of the Babes in the Wood, and, being
a sensible boy, he did not want any Robin Redbreast nonsense. It was
not that he so much objected to die, but he felt the humiliation of
being covered with leaves by the whaups. He complained bitterly to
Vara, who was preoccupied with Gavin, that the Drabble had stolen from
him the iron barrel of the pistol which Cleg Kelly had given him. Had
it not been for that felony, they would not now have found themselves
defenceless in that wild place.

"Boy Hugh thinks there's sure to be lions an' teegers here!" he said.

It was not long before Vara decided that they must spend another night
out of doors, and looked about for a suitable spot where they could get
water and shelter.

At last she settled upon the lee of a large boulder, and began to
give Gavin what remained of his milk. Boy Hugh thought this was his
opportunity to make sure that they were well defended against their
enemies. The moon was rising, and he remembered that Cleg Kelly
had told him how lions and tigers always hunted by moonlight. That
widely-read journal, "The Bully Boys of New York," was Cleg's authority
for this statement.

There was certainly an appalling silence on the face of the moorland.
Boy Hugh could see, indeed, the rock behind which Vara and Gavin
were. But he tried to forget it. He wanted the sensation of perfect
loneliness. Then the devil entered into Boy Hugh, and he wanted
to explore. The moon came out from behind a cloud, and everything
became bleached and flat, melting away into vague immensities and
nerve-shaking mysteries which vanished as you approached. Of course
that was not the way Boy Hugh put it to himself. It only made him want
to run away. But suddenly a vague fear struck him to the heart, and he
started to run back (as he thought) towards Vara and Gavin. He imagined
that he could hear the sound of some animal trampling about the moss in
search of wandering little boys. And it occurred to him that he had no
means of defence except the whip, and even that served him not so well
now, for the lash was broken. So this was the reason why Boy Hugh ran
away.

Though, indeed, his progress could hardly be called running. For at
every few steps he tripped in some intricate twist of heather, tough
as wire, and, falling forward, he instinctively bent his body into a
half-hoop, like a young hedgehog. Thus he rolled down the brae, often
coming upon his feet at the bottom and continuing his flight with
energy unabated and without pausing a single moment even to ascertain
damages.

And so soon as she missed him Vara stood up, with Gavin in her arms,
and cried, "Come back, Boy Hugh!" But Boy Hugh continued his wild
flight, driven by the unreasoning terror of the vast and uncomprehended
which had seized him suddenly and without warning.

At last Boy Hugh paused, not so much because he wished it as because
he had fallen into a moss-hole up to the neck, and so could run no
further. He sustained himself by grasping a bush of blaeberry plants,
and he dug his toes into the soft black peat.

Then Boy Hugh, who had not gone to Hunker Court for nothing, bethought
him that, since there was nothing else that he could do, it was time to
say his prayers. "O Lord!" he prayed—"O Lord, forgive us our sins, and
remember not our trans-somethings against us! Look down from heaven
and help"—(so far his supplications had run in the accustomed groove
in which Samson Langpenny conducted the "opening exercises" of Hunker
Court, but at this point Boy Hugh diverged into originality, as Samson
did sometimes when he stuck in the middle of the Lord's prayer)—"Look
down from heaven and help—a—wee laddie in a moss-hole. Keep him frae
teegers and lions, and bogles and black horses that come oot o' lochs
and eat ye up, and frae the green monkeys that hing on to trees and
claw ye as ye gang by. And gie me something to eat, and Vara and Gavin
after me. For I'm near dead o' hunger, and I want nae mair yesterday's
bread, and help me to find my whup-lash. And make me grow up into a man
fast, for I want to do as I like—and then, my certes, but I'll warm the
Drabble for stealin' my pistol. And bless Vara and Gavin, my faither
and Cleg Kelly, and a' inquirin' freends. Amen."

And if anybody knows a more comprehensive prayer, let him instantly
declare it, or, as the charge runs, be for ever silent.



ADVENTURE XXXVII.

BOY HUGH FINDS OUT THE NATURE OF A KISS.


Vara always looks back upon that night of fear and loneliness as the
worst in all their wanderings. She wrapped Gavin tightly in the shawl,
till only a little space was left for him to breathe. Then she ran from
knowe-top to knowe-top to look for Boy Hugh, and to call him to come
back to her. She dared not go far from the boulder lest she should miss
her way, and so not be able to find her way to the baby.

While Vara was wandering distracted over the moor, calling pitifully to
him, Boy Hugh was comfortably asleep beneath a heather bush. And the
June nights are brief and merciful in Scotland. It was not long before
a broad bar of light lay across the eastern hills. The pale sea-green
lingering in the west where the sun had gone down had not altogether
faded into the ashy grey of uncoloured night ere the eastern sky began
to flame.

The clouds of sunrise are like ocean-rollers on a wide beach—long,
barred, and parallel—for the sun rises through them with majestic
circumspection. But the clouds of sunset are apt to converge to a
point, like the wake which the sun draws after him in his tumultuous
downward plunge.

But the sun rose quite sharply this morning, as though he must be
businesslike and alert, in spite of the fact that he had a whole long
day before him. As he did so the shadows of every bush of bog-myrtle
and each tuft of heather started westwards with a rush. And the cool
blue image of a lonely boulder, like a Breton menhir, lay far half a
mile across the moor. On the sunny side of this landmark the red rays
fell on a bare and curly head. There was dew upon the draggled hair,
just as there was upon the yellow bent grass upon which it pillowed
itself.

Boy Hugh lay curled up, like a collie drowsing in the sun. He continued
to sleep quietly and naturally the undisturbed sleep of childhood. Nor
did he waken till the dew had dried from the bent and from off the
tangles of his hair.

At last he awoke, when the sun was already high. He uncoiled him like
a lithe young animal, and started to find himself under the open
heaven instead of under a roof. With a shake and a toss of his head he
made his toilet. Then suddenly he remembered about Vara, and hoped
vaguely that he would soon find her. But, alas! the day was bright.
The sunshine began to run in his veins, and all the moorland world
was before him. He did not think much more about her at all. For the
moment he was as merry as the larks singing above him. He hallooed
to the plovers, and occasionally he threw stones at them, just as
the mood took him. By-and-bye Boy Hugh came to a wide burn, and at
once proceeded to cross it, as many a time he had crossed a plank in
Callendar's yard, upon all-fours like a monkey.

The burn was fringed, like many of the watercourses of the southern
uplands, with a growth of sparse and ill-favoured birches. Hugh
Boy found one of these which leaned far over the water, having had
its roots undermined by the winter spates. He crawled out upon its
swaying top without hesitation till it became too slender to bear
him. He counted upon the slender trunk bending like a fishing-rod and
depositing him near enough to the opposite bank to drop safely to the
ground. But just when Hugh Boy was ready to leap, the treacherous birch
gave way entirely, and fell souse into the water, with the small human
squirrel still clinging to it. The birch lay across the pool, and Boy
Hugh held fast. He was up to the neck in water. He wondered how he
would get out. First he managed to kick his legs free of the twigs
which clutched him and tried to drag him down.

"Here, nice little boy!" suddenly a voice above him cried. "Take hold
of my hand, and I will pull you out of the water."

It was the clearest little voice in the world, and it spoke with a
trill which Boy Hugh seemed to have heard somewhere before. It conveyed
somehow, indeed, a reminiscence of Miss Celie Tennant. But the little
lady who spoke was only a year or two older than Boy Hugh himself, and
she was dressed in the daintiest creamy stuff, fine like cobweb. Boy
Hugh looked at her in such amazement that he came near to letting go
the birch-tree altogether. She seemed to him to be all wonderful, with
yellow hair like summer clouds, and blue eyes full of pity.

Boy Hugh recalled certain things which he had heard at Hunker Court.

"Are you an angel?" he said, quite seriously.

"Oh no, silly!" cried the maiden gaily, shaking her fleece
bewilderingly at him. "Of course, I am only a little girl. I just
tooked my parolsol and comed a walk. And you are the very nicest little
boy that ever I saw—quite a child, of course," she added patronisingly.
"But take hold of my parolsol. Be careful not to splash me when you
shake yourself. And after that I'll give you a kiss. I like nice little
boys!"

"What is a kiss?" asked Boy Hugh.

They did not deal in the commodity in the Tinklers' Lands. And even if
his sister Vara did kiss him to sleep every night, and was for ever
kissing the baby as if its mouth was a sweetmeat, she did not think it
becoming or menseful to mention the word. So that, quite sincerely, Boy
Hugh asked again, "What is a kiss, little girl?"

"Come up here, nice boy, and I will show you!" replied the maiden
promptly.

And somehow Hugh knew that this was an invitation by no means to be
declined.



ADVENTURE XXXVIII.

OF MISS BRIGGS AND HER TEN CATS.


"Now then, do you like it?" asked this frank young person. But Hugh Boy
was silent as to what he thought of his first knowledgable kiss. Not
that it mattered, for the gay little lady rattled on regardless. "And
what is your name, little boy? You are very ragged, and you have come
a long way. But you are clean, and Aunt Robina can't scold me, for she
tells me to be kind to the poor, especially when they are quite clean."

Boy Hugh bashfully answered that his name was Hugh Kavannah. "And a
very nice name it is, nice little boy!" the maid rattled on, heeding
him but little, but loving the sound of her own twitter.

The children went over the moor together, till it began to feather into
sparse birch-woods and thicker copses towards the plain. Sometimes
as they went the little girl's hair whipped Boy Hugh's brow. He had
forgotten all about Vara and the baby.

"Do they make you say your prayers in the morning as well as at night?"
she asked; "they do me—such a bother! Aunt Robina, she said last week,
that it was self-denial week, and we must give up something for the
Lord. So I said I did not mind giving up saying my prayers in the
morning. 'Oh, but,' said cousin Jimmy, 'you must give up something you
_like_ doing.' Horrid little boy, Jimmy, always blowing his nose—you
don't, well, I don't believe you have a handkerchief—and Aunt Robina,
she says, 'Well, and what do you think God would say if you gave up
saying your prayers?' 'God _has_ said already,' I told her. 'What has
God said?' she wanted to know, making a face like this——. So I told
her that God said, 'Pray don't mention it, Miss Briggs.' My name is
Miss Briggs, you know. I have ten cats. Their names are Tom and Jim,
and Harry and Dick, and Bob and Ben and Peter. But Peter's an awful
thief."

She paused for breath, and shook her head at the same time. Hugh Boy
listened with the open mouth of unbounded astonishment.

"Yes, indeed," said Miss Briggs, "and I fear he will come to a bad end.
I've thrown him into the mill-dam three times already, like Jonah out
of the ship of Tarshish. Aunt Robina says I may play Bible stories on
Sundays, you know. So I play Jonah. But he always gets out again. Next
time I'm going to sit squash on him till he's dead. Once I set on a
nestful of eggs because I wanted some dear wee fluffy chickens—but I
need not tell you about that. I got whipped, but Aunt Robina had to buy
me a new pair of—oh, I forgot, I was telling you about wicked Peter.
Peter is not a house-cat like the rest, you see. He is a bad, wicked
cat. He lives in the barn or in the coach house and eats the pigeons.
And he lies on the cows' backs on cold nights. But in the daytime Peter
sleeps on the roof of the outhouses, and when any one of the other cats
gets anything nice to eat, Peter comes down on them like a shot——"

"Oh aye!" cried Boy Hugh, excited to hear about something he
understood, "I hae seen them do like that. Then there's a graund fecht,
lying on their backs and tearing at ane anither wi' their claws, and
spittin' and rowin' ower yin anither like a ba'——"

"My cats are not horrid creatures like that!" said Miss Briggs, in a
dignified manner, "as soon as ever they see Peter coming they take to
their heels and—oh, you should just see them run for the kitchen door!
And their tails are just like the fox's brush that Aunt Robina dusts
the pictures with. And then in a minute after you can see wicked Peter
sitting on the rigging of the barn eating my poor darling house-cat's
nice breakfast."

"Three cheers for Peter!" cried Hugh, who did not know any better than
to express his real sentiments to a lady.

Miss Briggs instantly withdrew her hand from his. Her nose turned up
very much, till its expression of scorn became almost an aspiration.

"I am afraid you are not such a nice little boy after all," she said,
severely.

As they went on together the children came to the very edge of the
moorland. They ascended a few steps to a place where there were many
tumbled crags and cunning hiding-places. From the edge of these they
looked down upon a plain of tree tops, in the midst of which peeped out
the front of a considerable mansion. The lower windows and the door
were hidden in a green haze of beech leaves.

"That is where I live, little boy," said Miss Briggs, grandly. "The
propriety will belong to me some day. And then I shall send Peter away
for good."

Miss Briggs looked down on the house and gardens with the eye of the
possessor of a "propriety."

"Tissy, wissy—tissy—wissy!" she cried, suddenly forgetting her dignity.

There was a stirring here and there among the trees. And lo! from off
the roofs of the barn and the byre, out of the triangular wickets,
from off round-topped corn-stacks and out of different doors in the
dwelling-house, there sprang a host of cats. "See them," said Miss
Briggs, impressively, "every one of them comes to meet me. That's
Peter, wicked Peter," she said, pointing to a large brindled pussy
which led the field by half-a-dozen lengths. Over the bridge they came,
all mewing their best, and all arching their tails.

"Their ten tails over their ten backs!" said Miss Briggs, as if she
found much spiritual comfort in the phrase.

The cats rubbed themselves against her. Some of them leaped upon her
shoulder and sat there, purring loudly. Hugh Boy was unspeakably
delighted.

"I wish Vara could see," he said, remembering for the first time his
sister and Gavin.

A harsh voice broke in upon them.

"Elizabeth Briggs! Elizabeth Briggs! What is all this play-acting? And
what gangrel loon is this that ye are bringing to the door by the hand?
Is there not enough wastry and ruination aboot the house of Rascarrel
already, without your wiling hame every gypsy's brat and prowling
sorrow of a gutter-bluid? Think shame o' yoursel', Elizabeth Briggs!"

Hugh Boy dropped the hand which held his. He would not bring disgrace
on the friend who had helped him.

"Aunt Robina, you forget yourself," interposed the young lady with prim
dignity, "and you forget 'what sayeth the Scripture.'"

She took Boy Hugh's hand again, and held it tighter. "Forget the
Scripture," cried a tall dark-browed woman who came limping out from a
seat under a weeping elm. She was leaning heavily with both hands upon
a staff, which she rattled angrily on the ground as she spoke.

"Yes," said Miss Briggs, "do you not know that I am Pharaoh's daughter,
and this is little Moses that I drew out of the water?"

"Hold your tongue, Elizabeth Briggs, and come here instantly!" said
the dark woman, tapping the ground again with her staff.

Hugh Boy knew the tone. He had heard something like this before.

"Is that your 'awfu' woman'?" he said aloud, pointing with his finger
at the woman leaning upon the stick.

"Elizabeth Briggs," she commanded again, pointing at the little girl
with her stick, "come in to your lesson this minute. And you, whatever
you may call yourself, take yourself off at once or I'll get the police
to you!"

"Yes, do go away, nice little boy," said Miss Briggs; "but when you
grow big, come back to the house of Rascarrel and Miss Briggs will
marry you. And I will give you another kiss at the garden stile—and
so will Peter!" she added. For she felt that some extra kindness and
attention was due from her, to make up for the most unscriptural
hardheartedness of her Aunt Robina.

So the children took their way together to the garden stile, and as
they went out of sight, Boy Hugh turned round to the dark-browed woman:

"My name is Boy Hugh," he said, "but I'm not a beggar, awfu' woman!"

The children went slowly and sorrowfully along a gravel walk thickly
overgrown with chickweed and moss. Their feet made no sound upon it.
On either side box borders rose nearly three feet, straggling untended
over the walks. Still further over were territories of gooseberry
bushes, senile and wellnigh barren, their thin-leaved, thorny branches
trailing on the ground and crawling over each other. Beyond these again
was a great beech hedge rising up into the sky. Boy Hugh looked at the
dark Irish yews standing erect at the corner of every plot. He thought
they were like the sentinels at the gate of Holyrood, at whom he used
to look as often as he could slip away from the Tinklers' Lands.

Then all suddenly and unexpectedly he began to cry. Miss Briggs stopped
aghast. She was, like all womenfolk, well accustomed to her own sex's
tears. But a male creature's emotion took her by surprise.

"What is the matter?" she said; "tell me instantly, nice little boy."

"This maun be heaven, after a'," said he, "an' your awfu' woman winna
let Boy Hugh bide."

Presently they came out upon a circular opening where the bounding
beech edge bent into a circle, and the gloomy yew tree sentinels stood
wider about. Overhead the crisp leafage of the beeches clashed and
rustled.

Here was a great garden seat of stone, and there at the back rose a
fountain with stone nymphs—a fountain long since dry and overgrown with
green moss. It seemed to Boy Hugh as if they could never get out of
this vast enclosure.

There was also a little stone building at the end down the vista of the
gravel walk. Its door stood open and Boy Hugh looked within. It was
empty like a church. The floor was made of unpainted wood in squares
and crosses. There were painted pictures on the walls, and a shining
thing with candles standing upon it at the far end. Behind this the sun
shone through a window of red, and yellow, and blue.

"Is that God?" said Hugh Boy, after gazing a long time at the glory
of the shining crimson and violet panes and the shining gold upon the
altar.

But Miss Briggs dragged him away without making him any answer.

Presently they came to half-a-dozen steps in an angle, which led over
the outer wall. They had slipped under a mysterious archway of leaves
and so through the beech hedge in order to reach this ladder of stone.

"Good-bye!" said Miss Briggs; "remember—come back, nice little boy, as
soon as you are growed up, and I will marry you. And then we will send
Aunt Robina to the poorhouse. Kiss me, nice boy—and now kiss Peter."

With that Miss Briggs disappeared, running as hard as ever she could,
so that she would not need to cry within sight.

But as soon as she got to the great circle of the beeches and yews, she
burst out sobbing. "He was the very nicest boy—the nicest boy. But of
course there could be nothing in it. For he is only a mere child, you
know!"

But Boy Hugh walked stolidly up the steps, and so out of Paradise.

"I am very hungry!" he said.



ADVENTURE XXXIX.

THE ADVENTURE OF SNAP'S PORRIDGE.


But he found Providence just over the wall. For there sat Vara and
there was the great stone behind which they had spent the night. All
his wanderings had just brought him back to where he had started from.
But for all that he was exceedingly glad to see Vara.

He called her, standing still on the top of the wall. She started up as
if she had heard a voice from the grave. And the face which she turned
to him was colourless like chalk.

"Wi' Vara," said Hugh, "what's wrang? Your face looks terrible clean?"

"O, Boy Hugh—Boy Hugh," she cried, bursting into relieving tears, "it's
you. What a night you have given me!"

But not a word of reproach came from the lips of Vara Kavannah. She
had, indeed, enough to do to keep the babe quiet. For having run hither
and thither over the moor looking for her brother, she had not had time
to seek for any farmhouse where she could get some milk for Gavin's
bottle.

In a little, however, they were again walking hand in hand, and Boy
Hugh was pouring out all the story of his adventures in the Paradise of
the House of Rascarrel.

Chiefly he dwelt upon the divine beauty and abounding merits of Miss
Briggs.

"Dinna you think she was an angel frae heeven?" said Boy Hugh.

"I think she was a nasty, wicked, enticing little monkey!" burst out
Vara. For though it is part of womanhood's privilege to put up with
the truantry of mankind without complaint, it is too much to expect
her to suffer gladly his praises of the Canaanitish women he may have
collogued with upon his travels.

And then Vara walked a long way silent and with her head in the air.
Hugh Boy kicked all the stones out of his path and was silent also.

Nevertheless, though in this sulky silence, they travelled steadily
on and on. Horizon after horizon broke up, spread out to either side,
streamed dispersedly past them, and recomposed itself again solidly
behind them.

"I'm awesome hungry!" at last said Boy Hugh, humbly. Vara became full
of compassion in a minute.

"And Vara has nothing to give ye!" she said; "poor Boy Hugh!"

The baby woke with a faint cry.

They had passed off the moor and were now come among inhabited houses
again. They were just passing a little cottage which stood with its end
to the road, as a little boy came out of the gate with a great bowl of
porridge and milk in his hand.

"Snap! Snap!" he cried, and looked up and down the road. A small
terrier pricked its ears briskly over a wall and then leaped down upon
the road. "Here, Snap!" cried the boy.

Snap came slowly walking down the dusty highway. He smelled at the dish
of porridge and milk. Then he sniffed loudly upon the nose of contempt.
For he had just been dining richly in the outhouse on a rat which he
had killed himself.

Vara's eyes blazed at the sight of the porridge and milk.

"O, gie that to the baby!" she cried, her eyes fairly sparkling fire.
"Gie that to wee Gavin. The dog doesna want it!"

The little boy ran back into the house, crying out at the top of his
voice, "O, mither, mither, here's a lassie wants to gie our Snap's
porridge to a babby!"

A kindly-faced, apple-cheeked country woman came to the door of the
cottage. She had been baking cakes, and she dusted the oatmeal off her
hands as she stood there.

"Can I get the dog's porridge for the bairns? He doesna want them.
'Deed he doesna!" cried Vara, beseechingly.

"Of course, lassie, ye can hae the porridge, and welcome!" said the
woman, doubtfully.

"O, thank ye, mem, thank ye!" cried Vara, pouncing instantly on the
porridge, lest the permission should be withdrawn. In a minute she
had put most of the milk into the babe's bottle and the rest into the
hands of Boy Hugh, who fell upon the porridge unceremoniously with his
fingers. Vara smiled as she looked. She was hungrier than either—but
happy.

The woman stood watching the wolfish eagerness of the younger children
at the sight of food with a strange look on her face. Her lip tightened
and her eyes grew sterner. Suddenly Vara glanced up at her with frank
blue Irish eyes, brightened by hunger and suffering. They looked
through and through the woman at the door.

"Mither," said the boy, "they're eatin' up a' our Snap's porridge, and
there will no be a drap left——"

The woman turned on him with a kind of gladness.

"Hold your tongue!" she said, with quite unnecessary vehemence. And
she slapped her son smartly for no particular reason. The tears were
running down her cheeks. She almost dragged the children into the
house. Then and there she spread such a breakfast for them as Vara
had been seeing in her dreams ever since she grew hungry. It seemed
that Gavin grew visibly plumper before her very eyes, with the milk
which he absorbed as a sponge takes up water. And there appeared to
be no finality to Boy Hugh's appetite. He could always find room for
just another scone, spread with fresh butter and overlaid with cool
apple-jelly such as Vara had never in her life partaken of.

Vara herself was almost too happy to eat. But the kind woman pressed
her and would not let her leave the table.

"But I hae naething to pay ye wi'!" said Vara, whose soul was great.

"Hoot, hear to the lassie! I wadna tak' pay frae the Queen if she caaed
in aff the road to drink a dish of tea. My man's the Netherby carrier.
But tell me what's brocht ye here, wi' sic a bairn?"

And Vara told her as much as was necessary.

"To Liverpool to find your faither," said the woman. "Ye dinna stir a
fit till the morrow's morn, and then ye can get a ride wi' our John as
far as Netherby, at ony rate."

Vara was more than grateful to her. She was the first person who had
taken their quest seriously. So the carrier's wife kept them till
night, and helped Vara to give the baby and Hugh a bath. Then she
made Vara strip herself, and shut the door upon her till the girl
had enjoyed such a tubful of warm water as she had never washed in
before. As Vara was finishing and rubbing her slender, wearied body and
blistered feet with a soft towel, the carrier's wife opened the door.
"Put on these!" she said; "they were my wee Gracie's, and I canna bear
to keep them in the house." Vara would have protested, but the woman
shut the door with a slam.

When Vara came out, Gavin was sitting on the carrier's knees and
plucking at his beard. For "our John" had come in and heard their
story. He was a wise carrier, and knew better than to attempt
to interfere with his wife's benevolences. Then what was Vara's
astonishment to find the babe also clad in a new frock, and giving
rustling evidence of fresh underclothing. She could hear Boy Hugh's
voice outside. He and Snap's master had made up the peace, and were now
out somewhere about the barn, encouraging Snap to possess himself of
another dinner of rat.

The woman's wonderful kindness went to Vara's heart.

"Ye shouldna, oh, ye shouldna!" she said, and bowing her head in
her hands, she wept as she had never done in the worst of all her
sufferings.

"Hoot! can ye no haud your tongue, lassie?" said the carrier's wife.
"So mony bairn's things were just a cumber and a thocht to me in this
hoose. Our youngest (Tam there) is ten, an' we hae dune wi' that kind
o' nonsense in this hoose. What are ye lauchin' at, guidman?" she
cried, suddenly turning on the carrier, who had been quaintly screwing
up his face.

"I wasna lauchin'," said "our John," his face suddenly falling to a
quite preternatural gravity.

"They were juist a cumber and a care," continued the carrier's wife.
"And they are better being o' some use to somebody."

"Now ye will lie down and sleep in the back room, till the guidman
starts on his round at five i' the mornin'."

So the wearied children were put to bed in the "back room," and they
fell asleep to the sound of psalm-singing. For the good carrier and his
wife were praising the Lord. It is quite a mistake to suppose that most
psalm-singers are hypocrites. Much of the good of the world is wrought
by those who, being merry of heart, sing psalms.



ADVENTURE XL.

A NEW KIND OF HERO.


Then with the morning came the new day. The bitterest blast was over
for these small pilgrims. The night's rest, the clean clothes, the
goodness of the kind carrier folk were new life to Vara. There was
brighter hope in her heart as the carrier's wife set them under the
blue hood of the light cart, for her "man" did not expect any heavy
loads that day. The children, therefore, were to ride in the covered
waggon. The good woman wept to let them go, and made Vara promise many
a time, to be sure and send her a letter. As they went away she slipped
half-a-crown into Vara's hand.

"For the baby!" she whispered, like one who makes a shamefaced excuse.
And at that moment the carrier pretended to be specially busy about his
harness.

But Hugh Boy had quarrelled again with Snap's master, and that
enterprising youth sat on the fence opposite and made faces at the
party, till his mother, turning round somewhat quickly, caught him in
the act.

"Ye ill-set hyule," said she, "wait till I get ye!"

But her firstborn did not wait. On the other hand, he betook himself
down the meadow with much alacrity. His mother's voice followed him.

"My lad, wait till bedtime. It'll dirl far waur then. 'Warm backs, guid
bairns!' I'll learn you to make faces ahint my back."

And as Snap's master went down the meadow, the parts likely to be
nocturnally affected began to burn and tingle.

And the thought of the interview she would have with her son in the
evening did something to console the carrier's wife for the loss of the
children to whom she had taken such a sudden liking.

The light cart went jingling on. The Netherby carrier whistled steadily
as he sat on the edge of his driving-board, with his feet on the shaft.
Every now and then he passed over a bag of peppermint drops to the
children.

"Hae!" he said.

The Netherby carrier was a man of few words, and this was his idea of
hospitality. Hugh Boy did not remember ever to have been so happy
in his life. Kissing was very well in its way, though Vara had not
been pleased when she heard of it. But it was nothing to sitting in
a blue-hooded cart and hearing the click and jingle of brass-mounted
harness. Now and then the carrier stopped at snug farm-houses, and
went in to chaffer with the goodwife for her eggs. Then he left the
horse in charge of Hugh Boy, and so completely won that small heart.
When the carrier came out again, the farmer's wife mostly came too,
and the bargaining and bantering were kept up as the cart receded from
the door. Even when the blue-hooded cart was far down the loaning, a
belated and forgetful goodwife would come running to some knowe-top,
and from that eminence she would proceed to give further directions for
commissions from the town.

"Mind ye buy the thread at Rob Heslop's—no at that upstart sieffer's at
the corner, wi' his wax figgurs an' his adverteesements. I dinna haud
wi' them ava'!"

For there are still uncouth and outlandish parts of the country, where
the medical axiom that it is wicked and unprofessional to advertise
holds good in practical commerce. Now the road toward England does not
run directly through Netherby, but leaves the town a little to one side
with its many spires and its warring denominations. From the outside
Netherby looks like a home of ancient peace. But for all that, there
were hardly two neighbour shopkeepers down all its long main street who
belonged to the same religious denomination—the only exceptions being
Dickson the baker and Henderson the butcher. But Henderson and Dickson
did not speak to one another, having quarrelled about the singing of
paraphrases in the Seceder kirk.

However, the poor benighted Kavannahs did not know one kirk from
another. And what is worse, indeed held almost criminal in Netherby,
they did not care.

It was here at the parting of the roads that John the carrier took his
leave of them. His farewell was not effusive.

"Weel," he said, cracking his whip three times over, while he thought
of the rest of his speech, "guid-day. Be sure and come back and see us,
as the wife bade ye. The sooner the better!"

But he put a shilling into Hugh's hand as they parted.

"For peppermints!" he said.

Vara did not know when she might come to another town on her way, so
she decided to buy a loaf in Netherby before going further. For though
they never asked for food, except when driven by hunger, as in the case
of Snap's dinner, yet since the night on the moor she had resolved to
ask for shelter if they came to any house at nightfall. So after the
carrier was gone, with many charges Vara left Hugh in care of Gavin and
went into the town to make her markets.

Hugh Boy sat a good while by the roadside, till the time began to
pass very dully. Then he became interested in the trains which kept
shunting and whistling behind him. So he carried Gavin to the side of
the railway line, where he could just see the road by which Vara would
return. He was quite sure that he could not be doing any harm. Directly
opposite there was a fascinating turn-table, upon which two men stood
with iron poles in their hands wheeling round a great engine as if it
had been a toy. This was really too much for Boy Hugh. Forgetting all
about Vara's warning, he scrambled over the wire paling, and staggered
across the netted lines in order to get a nearer view of the marvel.

But just at that moment up came the main line express twenty minutes
behind time, and the engine-driver in a bad temper. And if Muckle
Alick had not opposed the breadth of his beam to the buffer of Geordie
Grierson's engine, this tale, so far at least as two of the Kavannahs
were concerned, would have ended here. But when Muckle Alick gripped
the children in his great arms, and made that spring to the side,
the engine caught him so exactly in the right place that it did no
more than considerably accelerate his lateral motion, and project
him half-way up the bank. As has been recorded, Muckle Alick's first
exclamation (which immediately became proverbial all over the Greenock
and South-Eastern) was, "Is there aught broke, Geordie, think ye?"

They talked of getting up a testimonial to Muckle Alick. But the hero
himself strongly discouraged the notion. Indeed, he went so far as to
declare that he "wad gie the fule a ring on the lug that cam' to him
wi' ony sic a thing!" This was a somewhat unusual attitude for a hero
to assume in the circumstances. But it was quite genuine. And so well
known was the horse-power of Alick's buffet, that it would have been
easier to recruit a storming party in Netherby than a deputation to
present a "token of esteem" to the head porter at Netherby Junction.

In time, however (though this is somewhat to anticipate the tale),
there came from the Royal Humane Society a medal, together with a long
paper setting forth the noble deed of the saving of the children. No
notice of this ever appeared publicly in the local prints, to which
such things are usually a godsend.

For Alick immediately put the medal in the bottom of his trunk, beneath
his "best blacks" which he wore only twice a year at Sacraments.

He had heard that the editor of the "Netherby Chronicle and
Advertiser" had collogued with the provost of the town to bring about
this "fitting acknowledgment." Now Muckle Alick could not help the
thing itself, but he could help people in Netherby getting to hear
about it.

Muckle Alick called upon the editor of the "Chronicle." He found him
in, and engaged in the difficult task of penning an editorial which
would not alienate the most thin-skinned subscriber, but which would
yet be calculated to exasperate the editor of the opposition local
paper published in the next county.

"Maister Heron," said the head-porter, "I juist looked in to tell ye,
that there's nocht to come oot in the 'Chronicle' aboot me the morn."

"But, my dear sir," said the editor, "the item has been specially
communicated, and is already set up."

"Then it'll hae to be set doon again!" said Muckle Alick, firmly.

"Impossible, impossible, I do assure you, my dear friend," remonstrated
the editor. He was proprietor—editor and proprietor in one. Such
editors in agricultural communities are always polite to subscribers.

"But it's no onpossible. It's to be!" said Alick—"or there's no a paper
will leave the junction the morn—aye, and there'll no be a paper sell't
in this toon eyther."

It was not clear to the editor how Muckle Alick could bring about this
result.

"But," said he, tapping the desk with his pen, "my dear sir, the
stationmaster—the railway company——"

"Ow aye, I ken," said Muckle Alick, "there wad be a wark aboot it
after, nae doot. But it's the morn I'm speakin' aboot, Maister Heron.
It is possible I micht get the sack ower the head o' it—(though I'm
thinkin' no). But that wadna help your papers to sell the morn." Alick
paused to let this sink well in. Then he took his leave.

"Noo, mind, I'm tellin' ye. Guid day, Yedditur!"

That afternoon Alick presided at a gathering of the amalgamated paper
boys of the town, being accredited representatives of all the various
newsagents. The proceedings were private, and as soon as strangers were
observed, the house was counted out (and stones thrown at them). But
the general tenor of the resolutions passed may be gathered from the
fact that when Mr. Heron heard of it, he ordered the junior reporter to
"slate a novel" just come in—a novel by an eminent hand. "It's to make
three quarters of a column, less two lines," he said.

So that we know from this, the length of the suppressed article on the
presentation of a medal of the Royal Humane Society to "our noble and
esteemed townsman, Mr. Alexander Douglas." The "Netherby Chronicle
and Advertiser" enjoyed its normal circulation next day. And, after
Muckle Alick had carefully searched every column of the paper, the
parcels were forwarded from the junction with the usual promptitude and
despatch.

But this is telling our tale "withershins about," as they say in
Netherby. We return to Vara and her bairns.



ADVENTURE XLI.

"TWA LADDIES—AND A LASSIE."


Muckle Alick trotted the children soberly down the street, and at the
foot he turned his long lumbering stride up a country road. For Alick
had a little wife who was an expert market-gardener and beekeeper.

Her name was Mirren, and her size, as reported by her husband, was
"near-aboots as big as twa scrubbers." It was for her sake and because
he could not help himself, that Muckle Alick lived so far from his work.

"D'ye think that because I hae to put up wi' a great hulk like you,
comin' hame at nicht smellin' o' cinders and lamp oil, that I'm gaun
to leeve in a hut amang the coal waggons? Na, certes, gin ye want to
hae Mirren Terregles to keep ye snug, ye maun e'en walk a mile or twa
extra in the day. And it will be the better for keepin' doon that great
muckle corporation o' yours!"

And that is the way that Muckle Alick Douglas lived out at Sandyknowes.
It was to his small garden-girt house that he took the children.

"What's this ye hae fetched hame in your hand the nicht?" cried the
little wife sharply, as she saw her husband come up the loaning. "It's
no ilka wife that wad be pleased to hae a grown family brocht in on her
like this!"

"Hoot, Mirren woman!" was all that Muckle Alick said, as he pushed Vara
and Hugh in before him, Gavin nestling cosily in his arms the while.

"Whaur gat ye them, Alick?" said Mirren, going forward to look at the
bairn in his arms. "They are bonny weans and no that ill put on."

Little Gavin was so content in the arms of Muckle Alick that he smiled.
And his sweetness of expression struggling through the pinched look of
hunger went right to the heart of Mirren, who, having no bairns of her
own—"so far," as Muckle Alick remarked cautiously—had so much the more
love for other people's. She turned on Vara, who stood looking on and
smiling also. The little woman was almost fierce.

"What has been done to this bairn that he has never grown?" said Mirren
Douglas, wife of Muckle Alick.

Vara flushed in her slow still way, at the imputation that she had not
taken good care enough of her Gavin—to pleasure whom she would have
given her life.

"I did the best I could," she said, "whiles we had to sleep oot a'
nicht, an' whiles I had nae milk to gie him."

"Lassie! lassie!" cried Mirren Douglas, "what is this ye are tellin'
me?"

"The truth," said Vara Kavannah, quietly; "Gavin and Boy Hugh and me
hae walked a' the road frae Edinburgh. We hae sleepit in the hills,
and——"

"But how cam' the bairn here?" asked Muckle Alick's fiercely tender
little wife; "tell me quick!"

"I hae carried Gavin a' the road!" said Vara, simply.

"You, lassie!" cried Mirren, looking at the slip of pale girlhood
before her, "it's juist fair unpossible!"

"But I did carry him. He's no that heavy when ye get the shawl weel
set."

"O lassie, lassie, ye juist mak' me fair shamed," cried Mistress
Douglas. "Alick, ye muckle bullock; what for are ye standin' there like
a cuif? Gang ower to Mistress Fraser's and ask the lend o' her cradle.
Thae bairns are gaun to bide——"

"But, wife, hae ye considered?" Alick began.

"Considered, my fit, did ye no hear me? Dinna stand hingin' there,
balancin' on your soles like a show elephant lookin' aboot for
cookies—gang, will ye!"

The little wife stamped her foot and made a threatening demonstration.
Whereupon Muckle Alick betook himself over the way to Mistress
Fraser's, and he never smiled till he got past the gate of the front
garden, in which Mirren kept her old-fashioned flowers.

"I thocht that's what it wad come to," said Alick to himself, "when
she saw the bairns. I wonder if she means to keep haud o' them a'
thegither? She's been wearing her heart on the flooers a lang while,
puir lassie. It wad be a farce if three bairns cam' hame at once to
Sandyknowes after sae lang withoot ony, twa o' them walkin' cantily on
their ain feet!"

Thus Alick mused, laughing a little to himself as he went over to
borrow Mistress Fraser's cradle. He had an idea.

"There'll be some amusement at ony rate," he said, "but I maunna be
ower keen. Na, and I maun haud back an' make difficulties. And then the
wife will tak' the ither side and be juist daft to get her ain way and
keep them."

Alick was well aware of the value of a certain amount of opposition,
judiciously distributed.

He arrived before long at the cottage of Mistress Fraser. It was set
like his own in the midst of a garden. But instead of being bosomed in
flowers, with beeskeps scattered about, the garden was wholly taken up
with potatoes, cabbage, and curly greens. It was a strictly utilitarian
garden. As soon as Muckle Alick hove in sight, turning up off the main
road, a covey of children broke from the door of the house and ran
tumultuously towards him. They tripped one another up. They pulled each
other back by the hair, or caught those in front by the heels or the
coat-tails. It was a clean-limbed, coltish lass of thirteen who gained
the race and sprang first into the arms of Muckle Alick. Then two
smaller boys gripped each a mighty leg, while a whole horde of smaller
banditti swarmed up Alick's rearward works and took his broad back by
storm. When he got to the potato garden he looked more like the show
elephant his wife had called him than ever. For he was fairly loaded
with children "all along the rigging," as Mistress Fraser said.

She was a buxom, rosy-cheeked woman, gifted upon occasion with an
astonishing plainness of speech.

"Guidnicht to ye, Alick," she said, "thae bairns maks as free wi' ye as
if they were a' your ain?"

Alick disentangled the hands of one of the rearward harpies from his
beard and mouth. Whereupon the offended rascal was not to be appeased.
He slid down, caught the giant about the knee, and began to kick an
outlying shin with all his might.

"Ye should ken best whether they are or no," said Alick, "there's
plenty o' them at ony gait!"

"An' what wind has blawn ye awa' frae Sandyknowes this nicht? It takes
naething less than an earthquake to shake ye awa' frae Mirren. Ye hae
fair forgotten that there's ither folk in the warl."

"I was wanting the lend o' your cradle, guidwife," said Alick, with
affected shamefacedness, well aware of the astonishment he would
occasion by the simple request.

Mistress Fraser had been stooping over a basin in which she was mixing
meal and other ingredients, to form the white puddings for which she
was famous. She stood up suddenly erect, like a bow straightening
itself. Then she looked sternly at Alick.

"Ye are a nice cunning wratch to be an elder—you and Mirren Terregles
baith—and at your time o' life. An' hoo is she?"

"Ow, as weel as could hae been expectit," said Muckle Alick, with just
the proper amount of hypocritical resignation demanded by custom on
these occasions. Mistress Fraser, whose mind ran naturally on the lines
along which Muckle Alick had directed it, was completely taken in.

"An' what has Mirren gotten?—a lassie, I'll wager," said the excited
mother of eleven, dusting her hands of the crumblings of the pudding
suet, and then beginning breathlessly to smooth her hair and take off
her baking apron. So excited was she that she could not find the loop.

"Aye," said Alick, quietly, "there's a lassie!"

"I juist kenned it," said Mistress Fraser, drawing up wisdom from the
mysterious wells of her experience; "muckle men and wee wives aye start
aff wi' a lassie—contrarywise they begin wi' a laddie. Noo me and my
man——"

What terrible revelation of domestic experience would inevitably have
followed, remains unfortunately unknown. For the words which at that
moment Muckle Alick delicately let drop, as the chemist drops a rare
essence into two ounces of distilled water, brought Mistress Fraser
to a dead stop in the fulness of her career after the most intimate
domestic reminiscences.

"But there's a laddie come too!" said Muckle Alick, and looked
becomingly at the ground.

Mistress Fraser held up her hands.

"Of a' the deceitfu', hidin', unneighbourly craiturs," said Mistress
Fraser, "Mirren Terregles is the warst—an' me to hae drank my tea wi'
her only last week. I'll wager if I live to hae fifty bairns——"

"The Lord forbid," said her husband, unexpectedly, from the doorway.
"We hae plenty as it is——"

"And wha's faut's that?" cried his wife over her shoulder. "Oh the
deceitfu' randy——"

"In fact," said Muckle Alick, dropping another word in, "there's twa
laddies—_and_ a lassie!"

Mistress Fraser sat down quite suddenly.

"Gie me a drink frae the water can, Tam!" she said; "haste ye fast,
Alick's news has gi'en me a turn. Twa laddies and a lassie—I declare
it's a Queen's bounty! Preserve me, it's no a cradle ye want, man,
but a mill happer! A time or twa like this, and ye'll hae to plant
taties in the front yaird—ye will hae to pay soundly for your ploy at
this rate, my man. Three at a whup disna gang wi' cancy-lairies in the
cabbage plots, my lad."

"It's a maist notoriously curious thing," began Tam Fraser,
unexpectedly, "that I saw Mirren carryin' twa cans o' water this very
mornin'——"

Muckle Alick gave him a warning look, which made him catch his next
unspoken sentence as a wicket-keeper holds the ball before the field
has seen it leave the bat.

"But—but she didna look weel——" added Tam.

"I wad think no, juist," cried Mistress Fraser, who in an inner room
was busy putting a selection of small white things into a covered
reticule basket. "An puir Mirren, she'll no be ready for the like. Wha
could be prepared for a hale nation like this—I'll tak' her what I hae.
O, the deceitfu' besom—I declare it wad tak' a little to gar me never
speak to her again."

"Dinna do that!" said the hypocritical giant; "think on her
condeetion——"

"Condeetion, condeetion, quo' he—I wonder ye are no black ashamed,
Alick Douglas. And nane o' the twa o' ye ever to say a word to me,
that's your nearest neebour——"

"I gie ye my word," said Muckle Alick, "I kenned nocht aboot it till an
hour or twa afore the bairns cam' hame!"

Mistress Fraser turned fiercely upon him.

"Weel, for a' the leers in this pairish—and there are some rousers—ye
beat them clean, Alick Douglas—and you an elder amang the Cameronian
kirk! Hoo daur ye face your Maker, to say nocht o' the kirk folk as ye
stand at the plate on Sabbaths, wi' siccan lees in your mouth?

"Come awa, man," she cried from the door in her haste, "I hae twa
bagfu's o' things here. Tam, gang ower by to the Folds and up to
Cowdenslack and borrow their twa cradles. They'll no be needing them
for a month or twa—I ken that brawly—na, they are straight-forrit
women, and never spring the like o' this on puir folk to set them a' in
a flutter!"

"I think a single cradle wad do. It was a' that Mirren asked for," said
Alick demurely; "but please yoursel', Mistress Fraser, it is you that
kens."

"Yin," cried Mistress Fraser, "the man's gane gyte. Gin ye wull bring
a family into the warld by squads o' regiments, ye maun e'en tak' the
consequences. Lod, Lod, three cradles a' rockin' at the same time in
yae hoose, it will be like a smiddy—or a watchmaker's shop! It'll be
fine exerceese for ye, Alick, my man, when ye come hame at nichts—nae
mair planting o' nasty-hurcheons and pollyanthies. But every foot on
a cradle rocker, and the lassie's yin to pu' wi' a string. An' serve
ya baith richt. O, the deceitfu' madam; wait till I get ower to the
Sandyknowes!"

And Alick had to take his longest strides to keep pace with the anxious
mother of eleven—to whom he had told no lie, though, as he afterwards
said, he "had maybes keeped his thumb on some blauds o' the truth."

"It shows," said Alick, "what a differ there is atween the truth and
the hale truth—specially when there's a reason annexed in the shape of
a woman's imagination, that naturally rins on sic like things."

But as they neared Sandyknowes it is not to be doubted that Alick grew
a little anxious. His position would not be exactly a pleasant one, if,
for instance, Mirren should suddenly come out of their little byre
with a full luggie of milk. And it was about milking time.

"There doesna appear to be muckle steer aboot the place, for siccan an
awfu' thing to hae happened so lately!" said Mistress Fraser.

"Na," said the arch-deceiver Alick, making a last effort, "we are
tryin' to keep a' thing as quaite as possible."

"And faith, I dinna wonder. Gin the wives nooadays had ony spunk in
them ava', ye wad be mobbed and ridden on the stang, my man!" Then her
grievance against Mirren came again upon Mistress Fraser with renewed
force, "O, the randy, the besom," she cried; "wait till I get her!"

By this time they were nearing the door of Sandyknowes.

"I dinna think I'll come ben wi' ye the noo. I'll gang ower by the barn
instead. There's some things to look to there, I misdoubt," said Alick.

Just then they heard Mirren's voice raised in a merry laugh. It was
really at the tale of Boy Hugh and Miss Briggs, which Vara was telling
her.

But the sound brought a scared look to the face of Mistress Fraser.

"She's lauchin', I declare!" she cried; "that's an awesome bad sign.
Guid kens hoo mony there may be by this time——"

And she fairly lifted her voluminous petticoats, and, with her bundles
under her arm, ran helter-skelter for the door of Sandyknowes, more
like a halfling lassie than a douce mother of eleven bairns.

Muckle Alick saw her fairly in at the kitchen door.

"I think I'll gang ower by to the barn," he said.

But he had not got more than half-way there when both leaves of
the kitchen door sprang open, and out flew Mistress Fraser with the
large wooden pot-stick or spurtle in her hand. Alick had admired her
performance as she ran towards the house. But it was nothing to the
speed with which she now bore down upon him.

"It was like the boat train coming doon by the Stroan, ten minutes
ahint time, an' a director on board!" he said afterwards.

At the time Muckle Alick had too many things to think about, to say
anything whatever. He ran towards the barn as fast as he could for
the choking laughter which convulsed him. And behind him sped the
avenger with the uplifted porridge spurtle, crying, "O ye muckle leein'
deevil—ye blackguaird—ye cunnin' hound, let me catch ye——"

And by the cheek of the barn door catch him Mistress Fraser did. And
then, immediately after, it was Muckle Alick who received the reward of
iniquity. But Mirren stood in the doorway with little Gavin in her arms
and Vara and Boy Hugh at either side, and laughed till the tears ran
down her cheeks in twin parallel rills.

"Gie him his paiks, and soundly, Mistress Fraser; pink him weel. Hit
him on the knuckles or on the elbows. Ye micht as weel hit Ben Gairn as
try to hurt him by hitting him on the head!"

Alick was speechless with laughter, but Mistress Fraser exclaimed with
each resounding stroke, "Twa laddies and a lassie! O ye vermin!—And me
has sent to the Folds and the Cowdenslacks for twa cradles to mak' up
the three. Ye hae made a bonny fule o' me. I'll never hear the last o'
it till my dying day in this countryside. But, at ony rate, I take my
piper's pay in ha'pence out o' your skin, my man Alick!"



ADVENTURE XLII.

MUCKLE ALICK CONSIDERS.


"Noo that the collyshangie's dune," quoth Mirren Douglas, "ye micht gie
us a word o' advice what we should do wi' the bairns. But come oot by.
They are a' to their beds doon the hoose. And we can be takin' a look
at the blossoms as we gang."

"We are to plant cabbage here next year, Mistress Fraser says!" cried
Muckle Alick.

"Havers!" said his wife. But Mistress Fraser gave Alick a look which
said as plain as print, "Have you not had enough?"

"Heard ye what the name o' the puir wandering things might be?" asked
Mistress Fraser.

"Aye," said Mirren, briskly, "I hae heard a' aboot it. Their name is
Kavannah. Their faither gaed awa' to Liverpool a whilie since to seek
wark. And the bairns has left their mither in Edinburgh to seek their
faither. And I judge their mither is a gye ill yin."

"Did she tell ye that?" asked Muckle Alick, quickly.

"Na, but I jalloused it!"[5] said his wife.

"And hoo in the world could ye jallouse sic a thing as that?" said he.

"Just the way ye jallouse that the express is comin' when ye hear the
whistle, and the signal draps to 'clear,' ye muckle nowt!" said his
wife, taking what is known as a personal example.

"The lassie didna tell me yae single word, but the boy showed me an
_arr_-mark on his temple. 'The awfu' woman did that!' says he.

"'And wha's the awfu' woman, my bonny man?' says I."

"The lassie tried to turn him, but he oot wi' it. 'It's just my
mither!' says he. And if ye didna caa that a gye near signal, I ken na
what is. It's as plain as findin' bits o' a dog collar in the sausage
or a burn troot in the milk!"

But her husband did not laugh, as he usually did at her sayings. His
own humour was not of that kind, but slow, ponderous, and deliberate.

"What are ye standin' there gapin' at?" demanded his wife.

Alick held up his hand. His wife knew that this was a signal that he
wished to be left to think undisturbed a little longer. So she hurried
Mistress Fraser along to look at what she called her "nasty-hurcheons."
Sandy's mental machinery, like his bodily, was slow to set in motion,
but it worked with great momentum when once it was set a-going.

Muckle Alick was putting two and two together.

"I ken a' aboot it," he said at length, when the process was complete.
"We will need to be awesome careful. Thae bairns' faither never got
to Liverpool; consequently it's little use them gaun there to seek
him. He's either in his grave or the Edinburgh Infirmary. D'ye mind
yon tramp man that gat the hurt in his head last spring, by hiding and
sleepin' in the cattle waggons when they were shuntin'? His name was
James Kavannah. I'se warrant he was the bairns' faither!"

Mirren Douglas gave Muckle Alick a bit clap on the shoulder.

"Whiles ye are nane so stupid, man," she said, "I believe ye are richt."

"And he was on his road to Liverpool, too," added Alick, "for when he
was oot o' his mind he cried on aboot that a' the time. And aye the
owerword o' his sang was, 'She'll no get me in Liverpool!'"

His wife looked at Alick. And Muckle Alick looked at Mirren.

"We'll keep them awhile, onyway, till they can get a better hame. The
lassie will soon be braw and handy," said Mirren.

"I'm thinkin'," said Alick, "that the flower-beds will hae to come up
after a', and we'll plant taties if the porridge pot shows signs o'
wearin' empty."

It was thus that our three wanderers found a place of lodgment in the
wilderness in the kindly house of Sandyknowes.

"There's my sister Margaret up at Loch Spellanderie," said Mistress
Fraser; "she was tellin' me on Monday that she was wantin' a lass.
She's no very easy to leeve wi', I ken. But she will gie a guid wage,
and the lass would get an insicht into country wark there. It micht be
worth while thinkin' aboot."

"It is kind o' ye to think o't," said Mirren, doubtfully.

"O," replied Mistress Fraser, "I'm nane so sure o' that. As I tell ye,
oor Meg is nane o' the easiest to serve. But, as the guid Buik says,
it's a good and siccar lesson for the young to bear the yoke in their
youth."

"An' I'm sure thae puir bairns hae had their share o't," said Muckle
Alick.

"I suppose," said Mistress Fraser, as she prepared to take her leave,
"that ye canna keep your thumb on the joke aboot the twa laddies and
a lassie. Na, it's no to be expected o' you, Mirren. It's ower guid
a tale to tell, specially on me, that aye prided mysel' on letting
naebody draw my leg. But ye did me to richts this time, ye great
stirk—to bring me fleein' ower here wi' my coaties kilted as if I had
the back-door trot, a' to see three newly-come-hame bairns, and the
auldest o' them near woman muckle. And the loon that gaed me the cheat
an elder o' the kirk! Sorrow till ye, Alick, but I could find it in my
heart to clour your lugs even yet."

"Ye hae my richt guidwull," said Mirren, encouragingly.

But Muckle Alick only laughed. Then Tam Fraser came in seeking his wife.

"I hae been hearin' a' aboot your daft ploy, rinnin' in front o' the
engine and gettin' dunted oot o' the road," said he. "Some folk was
threepin' that it was awesome brave o' ye, but I think it was juist a
daft, rackless triflin' wi' Providence. That's my thocht on't."

"What was that? I hae heard tell o' it for the first time," said
Mirren. "But that's nae new thing in this hoose. Alick's married wife
is aye the last to hear o' his daft-like doin's."

"O, nocht very special this time," said Tam Fraser. "He only threw a
hundred and six Irish drovers oot o' a third story window ower the
engine o' the Port express, but there's nae mair than ten o' them dead.
And then he louped in front on an engine gaun at full speed and to draw
some bairns frae below the wheels," said Tam Fraser, giving the local
version, corrected to date.

"Is this true?" said his wife severely, fixing her eyes upon Alick with
a curious expression in them.

"There's juist aboot as muckle truth in it as there is in maist
Netherby stories for common, after they hae gotten ten minutes' start,"
said Muckle Alick.

"What is your version o't?" said his wife, never taking her eyes off
her husband.

"O, it was naething to tell aboot," said Muckle Alick. "There was some
drovers in a carriage where they had nae business, and they wadna come
oot, till I gaed in to them—and then they cam' oot! And the wee laddie
an' the bairn were comin' alang the line afore the engine. And Geordie
couldna stop. So I gied them a bit yirk oot and gat a dunch in the back
wi' the buffer."

Mirren took her husband by the rough velveteen coat-sleeve.

"My man!" she said, rubbing her cheek against it. "But what for did ye
no tell me?"

"I was gaun to tell ye the morn's mornin'," said Alick. "There was
nae harm dune, ye see, but yin o' my gallus buttons riven off an'
the buffer of Geordie's engine smashed. I was gaun to tell ye in the
mornin' aboot the button needing sewin' on."

"Did ye ever see siccan auld fules," said Tam Fraser, as he and his
wife went home, "rubbin' her cheek again his airm, that's as thick as a
pump theekit frae the frost wi' strae rapes?"

"Haud your tongue, Tam," said his wife, whose temper had suffered; "if
I had a man like that I wad rub my cheek against his trouser leg, gin
it pleasured him, the day by the length."



ADVENTURE XLIII.

TOWN KNIGHT AND COUNTRY KNIGHT.


Mr. Cleg Kelly awoke early on the day upon which he was to make the
bold adventure of getting to Netherby Junction without enriching the
railway company by the amount of his fare. But his conscience was
clean; he was going to work his passage. It is true that neither the
general manager nor yet the traffic inspector had been consulted in
the matter. But for the sake of Cleg's friend (to be exact, Cleaver's
boy's sweetheart's fellow-servant, cook at Bailie Holden's), Duncan
Urquhart was willing (and he believed able) to engineer Cleg's passage
to Netherby without fee or reward.

Duncan was friendly with the guard of his goods train, which is a thing
not too common with those who have to run goods trains together, week
in and week out. The shunting at night in particular is wearing to the
temper, especially in the winter time, when it is mostly dark in an
hour or two whenever your train happens to start.

"Can you stand there and turn a brake?" said Duncan to Cleg, setting
him in a small compartment by himself; "screw her up whenever we are
running downhill. Ye will ken when by the gurring and shaking."

Mr. Duncan Urquhart was a very different man during the day, to the
gay and gallant evening caller who had won the easy-melted heart of
the cook at Holden's—which a disappointed suitor once said bitterly
was made of dripping. He was very grimy; he spoke but seldom, and then
mostly in the highly imaginative and metaphorical language popular on
the Greenock and South-Eastern. Duncan Urquhart, as has already been
mentioned, was quite a first-class swearer, and had an originality
not common among engineers, which he owed to his habit of translating
literally from the Gaelic. Also, though he swore incessantly, he never
defiled his mouth with profanity, but confined himself assiduously to
personal abuse, which, if less sonorous, is infinitely more irritating
to the swearee.

So hour after hour Cleg stood in the train and was hurled and shaken
southwards towards Netherby. He helped at the shunting, coupling,
and uncoupling with the best. For, from his ancient St. Leonards
experience, he could run the coal-waggons to their lies as well as a
professional. And though his occupations had been varied and desultory,
Cleg was a born worker. He always saw merely the bit of work before
him, and he set his teeth into it (as he said picturesquely) till he
had clawed his way through.

Thus it was that Cleg found himself at Netherby Junction one Saturday
night at six o'clock. It was the first time he had ever been further
than the confines of the Queen's Park. And his vision of the country
came to him as it were in one day. He saw teams driving afield. He saw
the mowers in the swathes of hay. He watched with keen delight the
grass fall cleanly before the scythe, and the point of the blade stand
out at each stroke six inches from under the fallen sweep of dewy grass.

"Netherby Junction! Guidnicht!" said Duncan Urquhart, briefly. He had
an appointment to keep with the provost's cook, who was also partial to
well-bearded men with blue pilot-cloth jackets. Duncan would not have
been in such a hurry, but for the fact that it took him half an hour to
clean himself. He knew that half an hour when you go a-courting, and
when the other fellow may get there first, is of prime importance.

Now, as Cleg Kelly stepped out upon the cattle-landing bank, he caught
a glimpse of the biggest man he had ever seen, walking slowly along
the white dusty road which led out of the passenger station. He was
swinging his arms wide of his sides, as very big and broad men always
do.

Cleg sped after him at top speed and took a tour round him before he
spoke. The big man paid no attention, walking with his eyes fixed on
the ground.

"Are ye the man that pitched oot the drovers?" said Cleg at last,
coming to anchor in front of the giant.

Muckle Alick stopped in the road, as much surprised as though the town
clock had spoken to him. For Cleg put a smartness and fire in his
question to which the boys about Netherby were strangers.

"Where come ye frae?" he said to Cleg.

"I come from Edinburgh to see Vara Kavannah," said Cleg. "Is she biding
wi' you?"

"She was, till yestreen," said Alick.

"And where is she noo?" said Cleg, buckling up his trousers.

"She is gane to serve at Loch Spellanderie by the Water o' Ae!" said
Alick.

"And how far micht that be?" asked Cleg, finishing his preparations.

"Three mile and a bittock up that road!" said Muckle Alick, pointing
with his finger to a well-made dusty road which went in the direction
of the hills.

"Guidnicht!" cried Cleg, shortly. And was off at racing pace.

Muckle Alick watched him out of sight.

"That cowes a'!" he said, "to think that I could yince rin like that
to see a lass. But the deil's in the loon. He's surely braw an early
begun!"

Then Muckle Alick went round and told his wife.

"It will be the laddie frae Enbra that got them the wark in the mill,
and gied up his wood hut to the bairns to leeve in. What for did ye no
bring him to see Hugh Boy and the bairn?"

"I dinna ken that he gied me the chance," said Alick. "He was aff like
a shot to Loch Spellanderie. I wad gie a shilling to hear what Mistress
McWalter will say to him when he gets there. I houp that it'll no make
her unkind to the lassie! If it does, I'll speak to her man. And at
the warst she can aye come back to us. At a pinch we could be doing
without her wage!"

"Aweel," said his wife, "the loon will be near there by this time."

And the loon was.

Cleg was just turning up over the hill road towards Loch Spellanderie,
when he heard that most heartsome sound to the ear of a country boy—the
clatter of the pasture bars when the kye are coming home. It is a sound
thrilling with reminiscences of dewy eves, or heartsome lowsing times,
of forenichts with the lasses, and of all that to a country lad makes
life worth living.

But to Cleg the rattle of the bars meant none of these things. Two
people were standing by the gate—a boy and a girl. Cleg thought he
would ask them if this was the right road to Loch Spellanderie.

But as he came nearer he saw that the girl was Vara herself. She was in
close and, apparently, very friendly talk with a stranger—a tall lad
with a face like one of the white statues in the museum, at which Cleg
had often peeped wonderingly on free days when it was cold or raining
outside.

"Vara!" cried Cleg, leaping forward towards his friend.

"Cleg! What are you doing here?" said Vara Kavannah, holding out her
hand.

But there was something in her manner that froze Cleg. He had come with
a glowing heart. He had overcome difficulties. And now she did not seem
much more glad to see him than she had been to talk with this young
interloper at the gate of the field.

"This is Kit Kennedy," said Vara, with a feeling that she must by her
tactfulness carry off an awkward situation.

"O it is, is it?" said Cleg, ungraciously.

Vara went on hastily to tell Cleg about the children—how well and how
happy they were, how Gavin was twice the weight he had been, how Hugh
Boy ran down the road each night to meet Muckle Alick, and how she was
now able to keep herself, besides helping a little to support Hugh and
Gavin also.

Cleg stood sulkily scraping the earth with the toe of his boot. Kit
Kennedy left them together, and was going off with the cows towards the
byre. He had seen a tall, gaunt woman, who was not to be trifled with,
walking through the courtyard, and he knew it was time to take the kye
in.

Vara stopped talking to Cleg somewhat quickly. For she also had seen
Mistress McWalter. She walked away towards the farm. Cleg and Kit were
left alone.

Quick as lightning Cleg thrust his arm before Kit Kennedy's face.

"Spit ower that!" he said.

Kit hesitated and turned away.

"I dinna want to fecht ye!" he said, for he knew what was meant.

"Ye are feared!" said Cleg, tauntingly.

Kit Kennedy executed the feat in hydraulics required of him.

"After kye time," said he, "at the back o' the barn."

Cleg nodded dourly.

"I'll learn ye to let my lass alane!" said the town boy.

"I dinna gie a button for your lass, or ony ither lass. Forbye there
was nae ticket on her that I could see!" answered he of the country.

"Aweel," said Cleg; "then I'll warm ye for sayin' that ye wadna gie a
button for her. I'm gaun to lick ye at ony rate."

"To fecht me, ye mean?" said Kit Kennedy, quietly.

Thus was gage of battle offered and accepted betwixt Cleg Kelly and Kit
Kennedy.



ADVENTURE XLIV.

CLEG RELAPSES INTO PAGANISM.


The lists of Ashby were closed. The heralds and pursuivants did their
devoirs, and the trumpets rang out a haughty peal. Or at least to that
effect, as followeth:

"Come on!" said Cleg Kelly.

"Come on yoursel'!" said Kit Kennedy.

"Ye're feared," cried the Knight of the City, making a hideous face.

"Wha's feared?" replied the Knight of the Country, his fists twirling
like Catherine wheels. The boys slowly revolved round one another. It
was like the solar system, only on a somewhat smaller scale. For first
of all their fists revolved separately round each other, then each
combatant revolved on his own axis, and lastly, very slowly and in a
dignified manner, they revolved round one another.

All this happened in the cool of the evening, at the back of the
barn at the farmhouse of Loch Spellanderie. It was after the kye had
all been milked and Vara Kavannah was in the house clearing away the
porridge dishes, while the mistress put the fretful children to bed
with an accompanying chorus of scoldings, slappings, and wailings of
the smitten.

As the lads stood stripped for fight Cleg was a little taller than Kit
Kennedy, and he had all the experience which comes of many previous
combats. But then he was not, like Kit Kennedy, thrice armed, in the
consciousness of the justice of his quarrel.

"Come on," cried Cleg again, working up his temperature to flash point,
"ye gawky, ill-jointed, bullock-headed, slack-twisted clod-thumper, ye!
See gin I canna knock the conceit oot o' ye in a hop, skip, and jump!
I hae come frae Edinburgh to do it. I'll learn you to tak' up wi' my
lass! Come on, ye puir Cripple-Dick!"

And at that precise moment Kit Kennedy, after many invitations, very
suddenly did come on. Cleg, whose passion blinded him to his own
hurt, happened to be leaning rather far forward. It is customary in
the giving of "dares" round about the Sooth Back, for the threatener
to stick his head as far forward as he can and shake it rapidly up
and down in a ferocious and menacing manner. This ought to continue,
according to the rules, for fully ten minutes, after which the
proceedings may commence or not according to circumstances. But Kit
Kennedy, farm assistant to Mistress McWalter of Loch Spellanderie,
was an ignorant boy. He had had few advantages. He did not even know
the rules appertaining to personal combats, nor when exactly was the
correct time to accept an invitation and "come on."

So that was the reason why Cleg Kelly's left eye came unexpectedly in
violent contact with Kit's knuckles. These were as hard with rough
labour as a bullock's hind leg.

The sudden sting of the pain had the effect of making Cleg still more
vehemently angry. "I'll learn you," he shouted, "ye sufferin', shairny
blastie o' the byres, to strike afore a man's ready. You fecht! Ye can
nae mair fecht than a Portobello bobbie! Wait till I hae dune wi' ye,
my man. There'll no be as muckle left o' ye as wad make cat-meat to a
week-auld kittlin'. What for can ye no fecht fair?"

Our hero's cause was so bad, and his lapse into heathenism became at
this point so pronounced, that for the sake of all that has been we
decline to report the remainder of his speech.

But Kit Kennedy did not wait on any further preliminaries.

_Ding-dong!_ went his fists, one on Cleg's other eye and the other
squarely on his chest. Cleg was speaking at the time, and the latter
blow (as he afterwards said) fairly took the words from him and made
him "roop" like a hen trying to crow like a cock.

At this terrible breach of all laws made and promulgated for the proper
conduct of pitched battles, what remained of Cleg's temper suddenly
gave way. He rushed at Kit Kennedy, striking at him as hard as he
could, without the slightest regard to science. But Kit Kennedy was
staunch, and did not yield an inch. Never had the barn end of Loch
Spellanderie witnessed such a combat. Cleg, on his part, interpolated
constant remarks of a disparaging kind, such as "Tak' that, ye seefer!"
"That'll do for ye!" But Kit Kennedy, on the other hand, fought
silently. The most notable thing, however, about the combat was that in
the struggle neither of the knights took the slightest pains to ward
off the other's blows. They were entirely engrossed in getting in their
own.

The dust flew bravely from their jackets, until the noise resembled
the quick, irregular beating of carpets more than anything else. But,
after all, not very much harm was done, and their clothes could hardly
have been damaged by half a dozen Waterloos. It was like to be a drawn
battle, for neither combatant would give in. All Cleg's activity
and waspishness was met and held by the country boy with dogged
persistency and massive rustic strength. Cleg was lissom as a willow
wand, Kit tough and sturdy as an oak bough. And if Cleg avoided the
most blows, he felt more severely those which did get home.

Thus, not unequally, the battle raged, till the noise of it passed all
restraint. John McWalter of Loch Spellanderie was making his evening
rounds. As he went into the barn he heard a tremendous disturbance
at the back among his last year's corn-stacks. He listened eagerly,
standing on one foot to do it. The riot was exceedingly mysterious.
Very cautiously he opened the top half of the barn door and peered
through. It might be an ill-set tinker come to steal corn. John
McWalter had Tweed and Tyke with him, and they frisked their tails and
gave each a little muffled bark to intimate that they should much like
to join in the fray.

John McWalter was not used to facing difficult positions on his own
responsibility, so quite as cautiously he slipped back again through
the barn, and crossed the yard to the house.

His wife was actively engaged scolding Vara for wasting too much hot
water in cleaning the supper bowls. This happened every evening,
and Vara did not greatly mind. It saved her from being faulted for
something new.

"Ye lazy, guid-for-naething!" Mrs. McWalter was saying, "I wonder what
for my daft sister at Netherby sent a useless, handless, upsetting
monkey like you to a decent house—a besom that will neither work nor
yet learn——"

At this moment John McWalter put his head within the door.

"There's twa ill-set loons killin' yin anither ahint the barn!" he
said.

"What's that gotten to do wi' it, guidman," replied his wife. "Guid
life! Ye cry in that sudden I thought it was twa o' the kye hornin'
yin anither. But what care I for loons? Juist e'en let them kill yin
anither. There ower great plenty o' them aboot Loch Spellanderie at ony
rate! Ill plants o' a graceless stock. Never was a McWalter yet worth
his brose!"

"But," said her husband, "it's Kit Kennedy fechtin' wi' a stranger loon
that I never saw afore! And I dinna believe he has foddered the horse!"

Mistress McWalter snatched up the poker.

"Him," she cried, "the idle, regairdless hound, what can the like o'
him be thinkin' aboot? I'll learn him. Gin he gets himsel' killed
fechting wi' tinklers for his ain pleesure, wha is to look the sheep
and bring in the kye in the mornin'? And the morn kirnin' day too!"

So in the interests of the coming hour at which the week's cream was to
be churned into butter, and from no regard whatever for her nephew's
life or limb, the mistress of Loch Spellanderie hasted out to interfere
in the deadly struggle. But Vara Kavannah was before her. She flew out
of the kitchen door, and ran round the house. The McWalters followed as
best they could, her mistress calling vainly on her to go back and wash
the dishes.

When Vara turned the corner, Cleg and Kit were still pelting at it
without the least sign of abating interest. Cleg was now darting hither
and thither, and getting in a blow wherever he could. Kit was standing
doggedly firm, only wheeling on his legs as on a pivot, far enough to
meet the town boy's rushes. It was a beautiful combat, and the equality
of it had very nearly knocked all the ill-nature out of them. Respect
for each other was growing up in their several bosoms, and if only they
could have stopped simultaneously they would have been glad enough to
shake hands.

So when Vara came flying round the corner and ran between them, the
boys were quite willing to be separated, indeed even thankful.

"Run, quick!" she cried to Cleg, "they are comin'. O haste ye fast!"

But Cleg did not know any respect for the powers that be. He knew
that the ordinary bobby of commerce did not dwell in the country. And
besides, even if he did, the lad who could race red-headed Finnigan,
the champion runner of the Edinburgh force, and who had proved himself
without disgrace against the fastest fire engine in the city, was not
likely to be caught, even in spite of the fact that he had run all the
way from Netherby Junction that night already.

So Cleg turned a deaf ear to Vara's entreaties, and, very simply and
like a hero, wiped his face with the tail of his coat.

Kit Kennedy also kept his place, a fact which deserves recognition. For
he, on his part, faced a peril long known and noted. The mystery of
unknown and unproven danger did not fascinate him.

In a moment more Mistress McWalter, a tall, masculine woman, with
untidy hair of frosty blue-black, came tearing round the corner, while
at the same time out of the back barn door issued John McWalter, armed
with a pitchfork, and followed by Tweed and Tyke, the clamourous
shepherding dogs of Loch Spellanderie.

Cleg found his position completely turned, and he himself beset on
all sides. For behind him the Loch lay black and deep. And in front
the wall of the barn fairly shut him in between his enemies. Mistress
McWalter dealt Kit Kennedy a blow with the poker upon his shoulder as
she passed. But this was simply, as it were, a payment on account, for
_his_ final settlement could be deferred. Then, never pausing once in
her stride, she rushed towards Cleg Kelly. But she did not know the
manifold wiles of a trained athlete of the Sooth Back. For this kind of
irregular guerilla warfare was even more in Cleg's way than a plain,
hammer-and-tongs, knockdown fight.

As she came with the poker stiffly uplifted against the evening sky,
Mistress McWalter looked exceeding martial. But, as Cleg afterwards
expressed it, "A woman shouldna try to fecht. She's far ower flappy
aboot the legs wi' goons and petticoats." Swift as a duck diving, Cleg
fell flat before her, and Mistress McWalter suddenly spread all her
length on the ground. Cleg instantly was on his feet again. Had the
enemy been a man, Cleg would have danced on him. But since (and it was
a pity) it was a woman, Cleg only looked about for an avenue of escape.

Kit Kennedy pointed with his finger an open way round the milkhouse.
And Cleg knew that the information was a friendly enough lead. He had
no doubts as to the good faith of so sturdy a fighter as Kit Kennedy.
He was obviously not the stuff that traitors are made of.

But a sudden thought of inconceivable grandeur flushed Cleg's cheek.
Once for all, he would show them what he could do. He would evade his
pursuers, make his late adversary burst with envy, and wring the heart
of Vara Kavannah, all by one incomparable act of daring. So he stood
still till Mistress McWalter arose again to her feet and charged upon
him with a perfect scream of anger. At the same time John McWalter
closed in upon the other side with his hay-fork and his dogs. Cleg
allowed them to approach till they were almost within striking distance
of him. Then, without giving himself a moment for reflection, he
wheeled about on his heels, balanced a moment on the brink, bent his
arms with the fingers touching into a beautiful bow, and sprang far out
into the black water.

So suddenly was this done that the good man of Loch Spellanderie,
approaching with his hay-fork from one direction, ran hastily into the
arms of his spouse charging from the other. And from her he received
a most unwifely ring on the side of the head with the poker, which
loosened every tooth John McWalter still retained in his jawbones.

"Tak' that, ye donnert auld deevil, for lettin' him by!" cried the
harridan.

"Ye let him by yoursel', guidwife," cried her husband, who did not
often resent anything which his wife might do, but who felt that he
must draw the line at having to welcome the poker on the side of his
head. "Dinna come that road again, my woman. I declare to peace; had it
no been for the hay-time comin' on, and few hands to win it, I wad hae
stuck the fork brave and firmly intil ye, ye randy besom!"

To what lengths the quarrel would have gone if it had been allowed to
proceed, will never be known. For just at that moment the head of Cleg
emerged far out upon the dark waters of Loch Spellanderie.

Cleg Kelly swam nearly as easily in his clothes as without them. For he
had cast his coat at the beginning of the fray, and as to his trousers,
they were loose and especially well ventilated. So that the water
gushed in and out of the holes as he swam, much as though they had
been the gills of a fish. Indeed, they rather helped his progress than
otherwise.

Then from the dusky breadths of the lake arose the voice, mocking and
bitter, of the Thersites of the Sooth Back, equally well equipped for
compliment and deadly in debate.

"Loup in," he cried, "try a dook. It is fine and caller in here the
nicht. But leave the poker ahint ye. It will tak' ye a' your time to
keep your ain thick heid abune the water. Come on, you!" he cried
pointedly to Mistress McWalter. "That face o' yours hasna seen water
for a month, I'll wager. A soom will do you a' the guid in the world!
And you, ye guano-sack on stilts, come and try a spar oot here. I'll
learn ye to stick hay-fows into decent folk!"

But neither John McWalter nor yet his wife had a word to say in answer.

Then began such an exhibition as Loch Spellanderie had never seen.
Cleg trod water. He dived. He swam on his back, on his side, on his
breast. His arms described dignified alternate circles—half in air and
half in water. He pretended to be drowning and let himself, after a
terror-striking outcry, sink slowly down into deep water, from which
presently he arose laughing.

And all the time his heart was hot and prideful within him.

"I'll learn her," he said over and over to himself, "I'll learn her to
tak' up wi' a country Jock."

And then he would execute another foolhardy prank, dismally rejoicing
the while in Vara's manifest terror.

"Cleg, come oot! Ye'll be drooned!" Vara cried, wringing her hands in
agony. Simple and innocent herself, she could not understand why her
kind good Cleg should act so. She had no conception of the evil spirit
of pride and vainglory, which upon occasion rent and tormented that
small pagan bosom.

"I'll show her!" remained the refrain of all Cleg's meditations for
many a day.

Finally, when this had gone on for a quarter of an hour, Cleg trod
water long enough to kiss his hand, and cry "Guidnicht!" to Mistress
McWalter and her husband, who meanwhile stood dumb and astonished on
the bank.

Then he turned and swam steadily away across the loch. He did not know
in the least how he would get his clothes dried, nor yet where he would
have to sleep. But his many adventures that day, and in especial the
way he had "taken the shine oot o' that loonie wi' the curls," warmed
and comforted him more than a brand new suit of dry clothes. So long as
he could see them he looked over his shoulder occasionally. And when he
noted the four dark figures still standing on the bank, Cleg chuckled
to himself and his proud heart rejoiced within him.

"I telled ye I wad show her," he said to himself, "and I hae shown her!"



ADVENTURE XLV.

THE CABIN ON THE SUMMIT.


Like most Scottish lakes, Loch Spellanderie is not wide, and Cleg
manfully ploughed his way across without fear of the result. For he
had often swam much further at the piers of Leith and Trinity, as
well as much longer in the many lochs which are girt like a girdle of
jewels round about his native city. But presently his clothes began to
tire him, and long ere the dark line of the trees on the further side
approached, he was longing to be on shore again.

Sometimes also he seemed to hear the voices of men before him, though,
owing the deep shadow of the trees, he could see no one. Cleg's arms
began to ache terribly, and his feet to drag lower and lower. The power
went out of his strokes. He called out lustily for the men to wait for
him. He could hear something like a boat moving along the edge of the
reeds, rustling through them with a sough as it went.

Suddenly Cleg saw something dark swimming slowly along the surface of
the water. He struck towards it fearlessly. It was a piece of wood
moved, as it seemed, by some mysterious power from the shore. Cleg
called out again for the men whose voices he had heard to wait for him.
But, instead of waiting, they promptly turned and fled. Cleg could
hear them crashing like bullocks through the briars and hazels of the
underbrush.

However, he was not far from the land now, and in a minute more he felt
his feet rest upon the shelving gravel of the lake shore. Cleg brought
the wedge-shaped piece of wood with him. He found upon holding it close
to his eyes in the dim light, that a double row of hooks was attached
to it beneath, and that there were half a dozen good trout leaping and
squirming upon different sides of it.

Cleg had no notion of the nature of the instrument he had captured. Nor
indeed had he the least idea that he had disturbed certain very honest
men in a wholly illegal operation.

He only shook himself like a water-dog and proceeded to run through the
wood at an easy trot, for the purpose of getting some heat back into
his chilled limbs.

As he ran his thoughts returned often to Loch Spellanderie, and each
time he cracked his thumbs with glee.

"I showed her, I'm thinkin'!" he said aloud.

Suddenly Cleg found himself out of the wood. He came upon a slight
fence of wire hung upon cloven undressed posts, over which ran the
shallow trench of the railway to Port Andrew.

Cleg knew himself on sure ground again so soon as he came to something
so familiar as the four-foot way. He felt as if he had a friend in each
telegraph post, and that the shining perspective of the parallel metals
stretched on and on into direct connection with Princes Street Station
and the North Bridge tram lines which ran almost to the Canongate Head.
He was, as it were, at home.

The boy hesitated a little which way to turn. But ultimately he decided
that he would take the left hand. So Cleg sped along the permanent way
towards Port Andrew at the rate of six miles an hour.

Had he known it, he was running as fast as he could out of all
civilisation. For at this point the railway passes into a purely
pastoral region of sheep and muircocks, where even farms and cot-houses
are scarcer than in any other part of the lowlands of Scotland.

Nevertheless Cleg kept up the steady swinging trot, which had come to
him by nature in direct descent from Tim Kelly, the Irish harvestman
and burglar who in his day had trotted so disastrously into Isbel
Beattie's life.

But Cleg was not to lie homeless and houseless that night, as Vara and
the children had often done. Cleg possessed all a cat's faculty for
falling on his feet.

At a lonely place on the side of the line he came upon a little cluster
of tanks and offices, which was yet not a station. There was, in fact,
no platform at all. It consisted mainly of the little tank for watering
the engine, and, set deep under an overhanging snout of heathery
moorland, an old narrow-windowed railway carriage raised upon wooden
uprights.

Cleg stood petrified with astonishment before this strange encampment.
For there were lights in the windows, and the sound of voices came
cheerfully from within. Yet here was the lonely moor, with the birds
calling weirdly all about him, and only the parallel bars of the
four-foot way starting out east and west into the darkness, from the
broad stream of comfortable light which fell across them from the
windows of the wheelless railway carriage.

Finally Cleg plucked up heart to knock. He had a feeling that nothing
far amiss could happen to him, so near a railway which led at long
and last to Princes Street, where even at that moment so many of his
friends were busily engaged selling the evening papers. Besides which
he was in still nearer connection with his friends Muckle Alick,
the porter, and Duncan Urquhart, the goods enginedriver at Netherby
Junction.

Cleg tapped gently, but there was at first no cessation in the noise.
He knocked a second time a little harder; still it was without effect.

A voice within took up a rollicking tune, and the words came rantingly
through the wooden partition. Cleg's hand slid down till it rested
upon the stirrup-shaped brass handle of a railway carriage. It turned
readily in his fingers, and Cleg peered curiously within.

He could now see the singer, who sat on a wooden chair with his
stocking-soles cocked up on the little stove which filled all one end
of the hut. There came from within a delightful smell of broiling bacon
ham, which hungry Cleg sniffed up with gusto.

The singer was a rough-haired, black-bearded man with a wide chest
and mighty shoulders, even though he could not be called a giant when
compared with Muckle Alick down at Netherby. And this is what he sang:

    Auld Granny Grey Pow,
      Fetch the bairnies in;
    Bring them frae the Scaur Heid,
      Whaur they mak' sic din.
    Chase them frae the washin' pool,
      Thrang at skippin' stanes—

    _Auld Granny Grey Pow,
    Gather hame the weans._

The singer's voice sang this verse of the Poet of the Iron Road[6] so
gaily that Cleg felt that his quarters for the night were assured. He
was about to step within when a new voice spoke.

"'Deed and it micht serve ye better a deal, Poet Jock, gin ye wad
set doon your feet and lift your Bible to tak' a lesson to yoursel',
instead o' rantin' there at a gilravage o' vain sangs—aye, even wastin'
your precious time in makkin' them, when ye micht be either readin'
the Company's rules or thinkin' aboot the concerns o' your never-dying
sowl!"

"You haud your tongue, Auld Chairlie," cried the singer, pausing a
moment, but not turning round; "gin ye hadna missed thae troots the
nicht and lost your otter to the keepers in Loch Spellanderie, ye wadna
hae been sitting there busy wi' Second Chronicles!"

And again the singer took up his ranting melody:

    Bring in Rab to get him washed,
      Weel I ken the loon,
    Canna do unless he be
      Dirt frae fit to croon.
    Tam and Wull are juist the same
      For a' I tak' sic pains—

    _Auld Granny Grey Pow,
    Gather hame the weans._

So the singer sang, and ever as he came to the refrain he cuddled an
imaginary fiddle under his chin and played it brisk and tauntingly like
a spring:

    _Auld Granny Grey Pow,
    Gather hame the weans._

Then, before another word could be spoken, Cleg stepped inside.

"Guidnicht to ye a'!" he said politely.

The man who had been called Poet Jock took down his feet from the top
of the stove so quickly that the legs of the chair slipped from under
him, and he came down upon the floor of the carriage with a resounding
thump. Auld Chairlie, a white-haired old man who sat under a lamp with
a large book on his knee, also stood up so suddenly that the volume
slipped to the floor.

"O mercy! Lord, preserve me, what's this?" he cried, his teeth
chattering in his head as he spoke.

"Wha may you be and what do ye want?" asked poet Sandy, without,
however, getting up from the floor.

"I'm juist Cleg Kelly frae the Sooth Back," said the apparition.

"And whaur got ye that otter and troots?" broke in Auld Chairlie, who
could not take his eyes off them.

"I got them in the loch. Did ye think they grew in the field, man?"
retorted Cleg, whose natural man was rising within him at the enforced
catechism.

"Preserve us a'—I thocht ye had been either the deil or a gamekeeper!"
said Auld Chairlie, with intense earnestness; "weel, I'm awesome glad
ye are no a game watcher, at ony rate. We micht maybe hae managed to
gie the deil a bit fley by haudin' the muckle Bible to his e'e. But
gamekeepers are a' juist regairdless heathen loons that care neither
for Kirk nor minister—except maybe an orra while at election time."

"Aye, man, an' ye are Cleg Kelly? Where did ye 'Cleg' frae?" asked the
poet, who contented himself jovially with his position in the corner of
the floor, till a few cinders fell from the stove and made him leap to
his feet with an alacrity which was quite astounding in so big a man.
Then the reason why he had been content to sit still became manifest.
For his head struck the roof of the little carriage with a bang which
made him cower. Whereupon he sat down again, rubbing it ruefully,
muttering to himself, "There maun be the maist part o' an octavo volume
o' poems stuck to that roof already, and there gangs anither epic!"

When the Poet and Auld Chairlie had re-composed themselves in the
little hut, Cleg proceeded to tell them all his adventures, and
especially all those which concerned Mistress McWalter of Loch
Spellanderie, and the great swim across the water.



ADVENTURE XLVI.

A CHILD OF THE DEVIL.


"We'll e'en hae yon trouts to our suppers yet!" said Poet Jock.
"Chairlie, man, pit on the pan. It's wonderfu' the works o' a gracious
Providence!"

And so in a trice the two noble loch trouts were frying with a pat
of butter and some oatmeal in the pan, and sending up a smell which
mingled deliciously enough with that of the fried ham which already
smoked upon an aschet by the fireside.

The good-hearted surfacemen at the Summit Hut seemed to take it for
granted that Cleg was to remain with them. At least neither of them
asked him any further questions. This might be because in the course of
his story he had mentioned familiarly the name of Duncan Urquhart the
goods guard, and the still greater one of Muckle Alick, the head porter
at Netherby. And these to a railway man on the Port Road were as good
as half-a-dozen certificates of character.

What a night it was in that wild place! The poet chanted his lays
between alternate mouthfuls of ham and fried scones of heavenly
toothsomeness. Auld Chairlie said quite a lengthy prayer by way of
asking a blessing. And the supplication would have continued a longer
time still, but for Poet Jock's base trick of rattling a knife and fork
on a plate, which caused Auld Chairlie to come to an abrupt stoppage
lest any unsportsmanlike march should be stolen upon him.

Finally, however, all started fair.

"I wadna' wonder gin thae troots were poached!" said the poet, winking
slily at Cleg; "ye wadna' believe what a set o' ill-contrivin' fallows
there are in this countryside!"

"As for me," said Auld Chairlie, "I can see naething wrang in catchin'
the bit things. Ye see it's no only allowed, it's commanded. Did ye
never read how the birds in the air and the fishes in the flood were
committed too or faither Aaidam to tell the names o' them? Noo, unless
he gruppit them, how could he possibly tell their names? The thing's
clean ridiculous!"

"Mony a decent man has gotten sixty days for believin' that!" cried the
poet between the mouthfuls.

In the middle of the meal the poet leaped up suddenly, checking
himself, however, in the middle of his spring with a quick remembrance
of the roof above him. "Preserve us, laddie, ye are a' wat!"

"So would you," quoth Cleg, who in the congenial atmosphere of the
cabin had recovered all his natural briskness, "gin ye had soomed Loch
Spellanderie as weel as me! Even a pairish minister wad be wat then!"

"Aye," said Auld Chairlie, sententiously, "that's juist like your poet.
He hears ye tell a' aboot soomin' a loch. But he never thinks that ye
wad hae to wat your claes when ye did it."

"But ye didna' speak aboot it ony mair than me, Auld Chairlie!"
retorted Poet Jock.

"An' what for should I do that? I thocht the laddie maybe prefer't to
'bide wat!" said Auld Chairlie, with emphasis.

"Ye are surely growin' doited, Chairles," said the poet; "ye took the
Netherby clearin' hoose clerk for the General Manager o' the line the
day afore yesterday!"

"An' so micht onybody," replied Auld Chairlie, "upsetting blastie that
he is! Sic a wame as the craitur cairries, wag-waggin' afore him. I
declare I thocht he wad be either General Manager o' the line or the
Provist o' Glescae!"

"Haud your tongue, man Chairlie, and see if ye can own up, for yince!
If we are to judge folk by their wames, gussy pig gruntin' in the
trough wad be king o' men. But stop your haverin' and see if ye hae ony
dry claes that ye can lend this boy. He'll get his death o' cauld if he
lets them dry on him."

But Auld Chairlie had nothing whatever in the way of change, except a
checked red-and-white Sunday handkerchief for the neck.

"And I hae nocht ava'!" exclaimed the poet. "Ye maun juist gang to your
bed, my man, and I'll feed ye over the edge wi' a fork!"

But Cleg saw in the corner the old flour sack in which the surfaceman
had imported his last winter's flour. The bag had long been empty.

"Is this ony use?" said Cleg. "I could put this on!"

"Use," cried the poet, "what use can an auld flour sack be when a man's
claes are wat?"

"Aweel," said Cleg, "ye'll see, gin ye wait. Railway folk dinna ken a'
thing, though they think they do!"

So with that he cut a couple of holes at the corners, and made a still
larger hole in the middle of the sack bottom. Then he disrobed himself
with the utmost gravity, drew the empty sack over his head, and put his
arms through the holes in the corners.

"It only needs a sma' alteration at the oxters to fit like your very
skin," he said. Then he took up Auld Chairlie's table-knife and made a
couple of slits beneath the arms, "and there ye hae a comfortable suit
o' claes."

The poet burst into a great laugh and smote his thigh. "I never saw the
match o' the loon!" he cried, joyously.

"They are nocht gaudy," Cleg went on, as he seated himself at the
corner of the table, having first spread his wet garments carefully
before the stove, "but it is a fine an' airy suit for summer wear. The
surtowt comes below the knee, so it's in the fashion. Lang-skirted
coats are a' the go on Princes Street the noo. A' the lawyers wear
them."

At this point Cleg rose and gave an imitation of the walk and
conversation of a gentleman of the long robe, as seen from the
standpoint of the Sooth Back.

Once he had looked into Parliament House itself, and managed to walk
twice round before "getting chucked," as he remarked. So he knew all
about it.

He took an oily piece of cotton waste with which Poet Jock cleaned his
lamps. He secured it about his head, so that it hung down his back
for a wig. He put a penny in his eye, instead of the orthodox legal
eyeglass. Then he set his hands in the small of his back, and began to
parade up and down the centre of the old railway carriage in a very
dignified manner, with the old sack waving behind him after the fashion
of a gown.

He pretended to look down with a lofty contempt upon Poet Jock and Auld
Chairlie, as they watched him open-mouthed.

"Who the devil are those fellows?" he said; "lot of asses about.
Everybody is an ass. Who's sitting to-day? Ha! old Bully-boy—bally ass
he is! Who's speaking? Young Covercase—another bleating ass! Say, old
chappie, come and let's have a drink, and get out of the way of the
asses."

It is to be feared that Cleg would next have gone on to imitate the
clergy of his native city. But he was hampered by the fact that his
opportunities for observation had been limited to the street. He had
never been within a church door in his life. And that not so much
because he would have stood a good chance of being turned out as a
mischief-maker, but from natural aversion to an hour's confinement.

Then Cleg wrapped his old sack about him very tightly, and assumed
a fixed smile of great suavity. He approached the poet, who was
stretching his long limbs in the upper bunk which occupied one side of
the hut.

"Ah," said Cleg, slowly wagging his head from side to side, "and how do
we find ourselves to-day? Better? Let me feel your pulse—Ah, just as
I expected. Tongue—furry? Have you taken the medicine? What you need
is strengthening food, and the treatment as before. See that you get
it—blue mange, grouse pie, and the best champagne! And continue the
treatment! _Good_-morning!"

Cleg wrapped his sack closer about him as he finished, to represent the
slim surtout of the healing faculty, and, setting an old tea "cannie"
of tin upon his head to represent a tall hat, he bowed himself out with
his best Canongate imitation of a suitable and effective bedside manner.

There was no end to Cleg's entertainment when he felt that he had an
appreciative audience. And as the comedy consisted not so much in what
he said as in the perfect solemnity of his countenance, the charm of
his bare arms meandering through the holes in the corners of the sack,
and the bare legs stalking compass-like through its open mouth, Poet
Jock laughed till he had to lie down on the floor in the corner. Even
Auld Chairlie was compelled perforce to smile, though he often declared
his belief that it was all vanity, and that Cleg was certainly a child
of the devil.

Chairlie was specially confirmed in this opinion by Cleg's next
characterisation.

"Did ye ever see the Track Woman?" said Cleg, dropping for a moment
into his own manner. "I canna' bide her ava. There's them that we like
to see comin' into our hooses—folk like Miss Celie, that is veesitor in
oor district, or Big Smith, the Pleasance Missionary, even though he
whiles gies us a lick wi' his knobby stick for cloddin' cats. But the
Track Woman I canna bide. This is her!"

And he gathered up his sack very high in front of him, to express the
damage which it would receive by contact with the dirt of Poet Jock's
abode. Then he threw back his head and stuck out his chin, to convey an
impression of extreme condescension.

"Good day, poor people," he said, "I have called to leave you a little
tract. I don't know how you can live in such a place. Why don't you
move away? And the stair is so dirty and sticky! It is really not fit
for a lady to come up. What's this? What's this"—(smelling)—"chops!
Chops are far too expensive and wasteful for people in your position. A
little liver, now, or beef-bone——. What did you say? 'Get out of this!'
Surely I did not hear you right! Do you know that I came here to do you
good, and to leave you a little tract? Now, I pray you, do not let your
angry passions rise. I will, however, do my duty, and leave a little
tract. Read it carefully; I hope it will do you good. It is fitted to
teach you how to be grateful for the interest that is taken in you by
your betters!"

As soon as Cleg had finished, he lifted the skirts of his old sack
still higher, tilted his nose yet more in the air, and sailed out,
sniffing meanwhile from right to left and back again with extreme
disfavour.

But as soon as he had reached the door his manner suffered a
sea-change. He bounded in with a somersault, leaped to his feet, and
pretended to look out of the door after the departing "Track Woman."

"O ye besom!" he cried, "comin' here nosing and advising—as stuffed wi'
stinkin' pride as a butcher's shop wi' bluebottles in the last week o'
July! Dook her in the dub! Fling dead cats at her, and clod her wi'
cabbages and glaur! Pour dish-washin's on her. Ah, the pridefu' besom!"

And with this dramatic conclusion Cleg sank apparently exhausted into a
chair with the skirts of the sack sticking out in an elegant frill in
front of him, and fanned himself gracefully with an iron shovel taken
from the stove top, exactly as he had seen the young lady performers at
the penny theatres do as they waited in the wings for their "turn."

Great was the applause from Poet Jock, who lay in a state of collapse
on the floor.

"Boys O!" he exclaimed feebly, "but ye are a lad!"

Auld Chairlie only shook his head, and repeated, "I misdoot that ye are
a verra child o' the deevil!"



ADVENTURE XLVII.

THE SLEEP OF JAMES CANNON, SIGNALMAN.


On the morrow Cleg was up betimes. But not so early as Poet Jock and
Auld Chairlie. His own clothes were pretty dry, but Cleg had been so
pleased with the freedom and airiness of his "sack suit," as he called
it, that, as it was a warm morning and a lonely place, he decided to
wear it all day.

Cleg went out, and, starting from the side of the line, he ran
light-foot to the top of a little hill, from whence he could look
over a vast moorish wilderness—league upon league of purple heather,
through which the railway had been cut and levelled with infinite but
unremunerative art.

From horizon to horizon not a living thing could Cleg see except the
moorbirds and the sheep. But over the woods to the east he could catch
one glimpse of Loch Spellanderie, basking blue in the sunlight. He
could not, however, see the farmhouse. But he rubbed his hands with
satisfaction as he thought of swimming away from them all into the
darkness the night before.

"I showed her wha was the man, I'm thinkin'!" he said. And there upon
the heather-blooms Cleg Kelly flapped his thin arms against his sack
and crowed like a chanticleer. Then in a few moments there came back
from over the moor and loch a phantom cock-crow reduced to the airiest
diminuendo. It was the tyrant of the Loch Spellanderie dung-hill which
spoke back to him.

"I'm richt glad I'm no there," said Cleg, heartily.

Nevertheless he went down the hill again a little sadly, as though he
were not quite sure, when he came to think about it, whether he was
glad or not.

But on the whole it was perhaps as well that he was where he was, at
least in his present costume.

When Cleg got back to the hut, he looked about for something to do
till his friends returned. His active frame did not stand idleness
well. He grew distracted with the silence and the wide spaces of air
and sunshine about him. He longed to hear the thunderous rattle of the
coal-carts coming out of the station of St. Leonards. He missed the
long wolf's howl of the seasoned South Side coalman. In the morning,
indeed, the whaups had done something to cheer him, wailing and crying
to the peewits. But as the forenoon advanced even they went off to the
shore-side pools, or dropped into the tufts of heather and were mute.

Cleg grew more and more tired of the silence. It deafened him, so that
several times he had to go outside and yell at the top of his voice
simply, as it were, to relieve nature.

It happened that on the second occasion, as soon as he had finished
yelling—that is, exhausted an entire vocabulary of hideous sounds—a
train to Port Andrew broke the monotony. It did not actually stop,
because it was a passenger train and had already "watered up" at
Netherby. But Cleg was as pleased as if it had brought him a box of
apples. He climbed up and sat cross-legged on the top of the hut in his
sack, for all the world like an Indian idol; and the engine-driver was
so astonished that he forgot to put the brake on till he was thundering
headlong half way down the incline on the western side of the Summit
cabin.

But the stoker, a young man incapable of astonishment (as many of the
very young are), picked up a lump of coal from the tender and threw
it at Cleg with excellent aim. However, as the train was going slowly
uphill at the time, Cleg caught it and set the piece of coal between
his teeth. His aspect on this occasion was such as would fully have
warranted Auld Chairlie in setting him down not as a child of the
devil, but as the father of all the children of the devil.

The train passed, and Cleg was again in want of something to do. He
could not sit there in the sun, and be slowly roasted with a piece of
coal between his teeth, all for the benefit of the whaups. He thought
with regret how he should like to sit, just as he was, on some towering
pinnacle of the Scott monument where the police could not get him, and
make faces at all the envious keelies in Edinburgh. To do this through
all eternity would have afforded him much more pleasure than any
realisation of more contentional presentations of the joys of heaven.

He descended and looked about him.

At the end of the little cabin he found a pitcher of tar, but no brush.
He searched further, however, till he found it thrown carelessly
away among the heather. Whereupon Cleg forthwith appointed himself
house-painter-in-ordinary to the Port Andrew Railway Company, and
attacked the Summit cabin. He laid the tar on thick and good, so that
when the sun beat upon his handiwork it had the effect of raising
a smell which made Cleg's heart beat with the joy of reminiscence.
It reminded him of a thousand things—of the brickyard on blistering
afternoons, and also (when the perfume came most undiluted to his
nose) of that district of Fountainbridge which has the privilege of
standing upon the banks of the Forth and Clyde canal, and of containing
several highly respectable and well-connected glue factories. Cleg had
once gone there to "lag for a boy" who had offended his dignity by
"trapping" him at school in the spelling of the word "coffin."

Cleg had spelled it, simply and severely, "kofn."

The boy from Fountainbridge, however, had spelled it correctly. Not
only so, but he had been elated about the matter—very foolishly and
rashly so, indeed.

"For," said Cleg, "it's easy for him. His faither is a joiner, and
makes coffins to his trade. Besides, he had a half-brither that died
last week. He micht easy be able to spell 'coffin'!"

To prevent the pride which so surely comes before a fall, Cleg waited
for the "coffin" boy and administered the fall in person—indeed,
several of them, and mostly in puddles.

He was therefore agreeably reminded of his visit to Fountainbridge
whenever he stirred up the pitch from the bottom and the smell rose
to his nostrils particularly solid and emulous. He shut his eyes and
coughed. He dreamed that he was back and happily employed in "downing"
the orthographist of Fountainbridge upon the flowery banks of the Union
Canal.

It was after ten o'clock in the evening before Poet Jock came in
sight. He had been on a heavy job with a break-down gang on the Muckle
Fleet incline. All day long he had been rhyming verses to the rasp of
pick and the scrape of shovel. Sometimes so busy was he that he had
barely time to take his mate's warning and leap to the side before
the engine came leaping round the curve scarcely thirty lengths of
rail away. But Poet Jock was entirely happy. Probably he might have
travelled far and never known greater exhilaration than now, when he
heard the engine surge along the irons, while he tingled with the
thought that it was his strong arms which kept the track by which man
was joined to man and city linked to city.

A fine, free, broad-browed, open-eyed man was Poet Jock. And his hand
was as heavy as his heart was tender. As, indeed, many a rascal had
found to his cost. Those who know railwaymen best, are surest that
there does not exist in the world so fine a set of workers as the men
whose care is the rails and the road, the engines and the guard vans,
the platforms, goods sheds, and offices of our common railways.

A railway never sleeps. A thousand watchful eyes are at this moment
glancing through the bull's-eyes of the driver's cab. A thousand strong
hands are on the driving lever. Aloft, in wind-beaten, rain-battered
signal boxes, stand the solitary men who, with every faculty on the
alert, keep ten thousand from instant destruction. How tense their
muscles, how clear their brains must be as they pull the signal and
open the points! That brown hand gripping lever number seventeen,
instead of number eighteen within six inches of it, is all that
preserves three hundred people from instant and terrible death. That
pound or two of pressure on the signal chain which sent abroad the
red flash of danger, stopped the express in which sat our wives and
children, and kept it from dashing at full speed into that over-shunted
truck which a minute ago toppled over and lay squarely across the
racer's path.

And the surfacemen, of whom are Auld Chairlie and Poet Jock? Have you
thought of how, night and day, they patrol every rod of iron path—how
with clink of hammer and swing of arm they test every length of
rail—how they dash the rain out of their eyes that they may discern
whether the sidelong pressure of the swift express, or the lumbering
thunder of the overladen goods, have not bent outwards the steel rail,
forced it from its "chair," or caused the end of the length to spring
upward like a fixed bayonet after the weight has passed over it?

A few men standing by the line side as the train speeds by. What of
them? Heroes? They look by no means like it. Lazy fellows, rather,
leaning on their picks and shovels when they should be working. Or a
solitary man far up among the hills, idly clinking the metals with his
hammer as he saunters along through the stillness.

These are the surfacemen—and that is all most know of them. But wait.
When the night is blackest, the storm grimmest, there is a bridge out
yonder which has been weakened—a culvert strained where a stream from
the hillside has undermined the track. The trains are passing every
quarter of an hour in each direction. Nevertheless, a length of rail
must be lifted and laid during that time. A watch must be kept. The
destructiveness of nature must be fought in the face of wetness and
weariness. And, in spite of all, the train may come too quick round
the curve. Then there follows the usual paragraph in the corner of
the local paper if the accident has happened in the country, a bare
announcement of the coroner's inquest if it be in the town.

A porter is crushed between the platform and the moving carriages; a
goods guard killed at the night shunt in the yard. Careless fellow!
Serves him right for his recklessness. Did he not know the risk when
he engaged? Of course he did—none better. But then he got twenty-two
shillings a week to feed wife and bairns with for taking that risk. And
if he did not take it, are there not plenty who would be glad of the
chance of his empty berth?

And what then? Why, just this: there is one added to the thousands
killed upon the railways of our lands—one stroke, a little figure 1
made at the foot of the unfinished column, a grave, a family in black,
a widow with six children moved out of the company's house on which
grow the roses which he planted about the door that first year, when
all the world was young and a pound a week spelled Paradise. The six
children have gone into a single room and she takes in washing, and is
hoping by and by to get the cleaning of a board school, if she be very
fortunate.

To blame? Who said that any one was to blame? Of course not. Are we not
all shareholders in the railways, and do we not grumble vastly when our
half-yearly dividend is low? So lengthen the hours of these over-paid,
lazy fellows in corduroys—lengthen that column over which the Board of
Trade's clerk lingers a moment ere he adds a unit. O well, what matter?
'Tis only statistics filed for reference in a Government office.

But while Cleg waited for Poet Jock something else was happening at
Netherby.

It was a bitter night there, with a westerly wind sweeping up torrents
of slanting rain through the pitchy dark. Netherby Junction was
asleep, but it was the sleep which draws near the resurrection. The
station-master was enjoying his short after-supper nap in the armchair
by the fire. For the down boat-train from Port Andrew and the Duncan
Urquhart's goods train would pass each other at Netherby Junction at
10.5 P. M.

The signal box up yonder in the breast of the storm was almost carried
away. So tall it rose that the whole fabric bent and shivered in each
fierce gust which came hurtling in from the Atlantic. James Cannon,
the signalman of Netherby West, was not asleep. His mate was ill, but
not ill enough to be quite off duty. James Cannon had applied for a
substitute, but headquarters were overtaxed for spare men and had not
responded. Netherby was considered a light station to work, and the
duty would no doubt be done somehow.

James Cannon had been on duty since six in the morning—sixteen hours
already at the levers. Then he had also been up nearly all the night
before with a weakly and fretful child. But the company's regulations
could not be expected to provide for that.

James Cannon, however, was not asleep. He had his eyes fixed on the
distant signal on the high bank, as he caught the gleam of it wavering
through the storm. That was the way the boat express would have to
come in a few minutes more. The electric needle quivered and clicked
behind him. The signalman thought of the light upon the Little Ross,
which he used to see from the green Borgue shore when he was a boy. He
had always looked out at it every night before he went to sleep. The
distant signal on the high bank seemed now to flash and turn like a
lighthouse. Was that the Little Ross he was looking at? Surely he could
hear the chafing of the Solway tides. Was that not his mother bidding
him lie down and sleep? James Cannon saw the distant signal no more.
The lights of other days beckoned him, and he attended to their signal.


Below in the left luggage office stood Muckle Alick. He was taking his
mate's place at that night's express. He had asked away in order to
visit his sweetheart, Alick knew. Though certainly his mate had not
mentioned it in his application to the station-master. Many a time had
he done the same for the sake of Mirren Terregles.

Muckle Alick was arranging the parcels—which were to go, and which to
be delivered on the morrow. He laid them neatly on long high benches at
opposite sides of the room, with the larger ones below on the floor.
There was no work of Muckle Alick's doing which was not perfectly done,
and as featly and daintily as a girl twitches her crochet needles among
the cotton.

So engrossed was Alick in this work that it was five minutes past ten
before he looked up at the clock—a cheap one which he had bought from a
Jew pedlar, and fixed upon the wall himself—"to see the time to go home
by," his mates said. The clock told him it was time to go home already.

He started up and rushed out. The London express was due from the Irish
Boat! It passed Netherby without stopping, running on to the other line
for thirty miles, which from the Junction was a single one. Duncan
Urquhart's heavily-laden goods ought already to have passed. It was
James Cannon's duty to keep back the express till he could turn the
goods on to a siding, so that the rails might be kept clear for the
passage of the express five minutes later.

Muckle Alick started up in instant affright. He had not heard Duncan
Urquhart's heavy train go rumbling by.



ADVENTURE XLVIII.

MUCKLE ALICK SEES THE DISTANT SIGNAL STAND AT CLEAR.


Alick rushed out without waiting to put on his cap. He glanced up at
the signal box. It seemed dim and dusky. "James Cannon has let his lamp
go low!" muttered Alick to himself.

At that moment he heard first one warning whistle, and then two. He was
not quite sure about the last, for the wind was shrieking its loudest,
and it was not easy to be certain about anything.

He looked up and down the line, shading his eyes from the rain with his
hand.

Great God of heaven! The goods train was not yet off the single line.
Both signals were standing at clear, and the points were not shifted.
The Boat express was thundering down the hill from Port Andrew at the
rate of sixty miles an hour, and would be through the Junction in a
minute. And there upon the single metals right ahead would be Duncan
Urquhart with his heavy goods train.

Muckle Alick snatched up a huge bar of metal, which was used in forcing
round the cranks when they reversed the engines on the turn-table by
the engine house, the same which little Hugh had almost spent his life
in trying to observe more nearly.

With this ponderous tool in his hand Muckle Alick rushed along to the
facing points, whence Duncan Urquhart's goods train might possibly be
guided upon the proper metals ere the express rushed past. As he ran
he saw Duncan's headlights coming, and the thunder of the express was
also in his ears. He shouted with all his power, but the wind whirled
away Muckle Alick's cries as though they had been baby Gavin's.

On came the goods train, laden with heavy merchandise and coals,
beating up slowly against the westerly wind. At that moment the rending
screech of the express pierced to his heart. Another moment and it must
dash into the train driven by Duncan Urquhart.

Muckle Alick found the points open. Throwing his great crowbar forward
he inserted it beneath the length of rail, and with the strength of
Samson, he moved the whole section over to the other side. He could
not lock the points, of course, as the signal-man could have done.
But Alick held them tight with his lever, while the heavy goods train
bumped along, passing over the improperly joined points with a terrible
jolting which almost dislocated his arms. But still Muckle Alick held
on. For he knew that the lives of a hundred men and women depended upon
the sureness of his hand.

The goods train was a long one and it jolted slowly past. It was not
till he saw the hind light of the guard's van passing him with a
swing, that Muckle Alick's heart gave a joyful leap. But just as the
last van went past, with a roar and a rush of fire-lighted smoke the
express leaped by. A moment before the released points had flown back
to their place. The way was clear. But something, it is thought the
iron framework of the catcher on the postal car, caught Muckle Alick
and jerked him thirty yards from where he had been standing. Without so
much as a quiver, the express flew out again into the dark, her whistle
screaming a death-knell and the back tempest hurtling behind her.

No one had seen Muckle Alick. None knew of his deed of heroism, save
only Duncan Urquhart, who, unconscious of danger, had cried cheerfully
as he passed, "What are ye hanging on to a post there for, Alick?"

It was fully a quarter of an hour later that Urquhart went to look for
Muckle Alick. He thought he would walk the first part of his way home
with him. It was always wholesome and always cheery to walk with Muckle
Alick, even when he was going home from a long spell of overtime.

At that moment the station master woke up with a start. _It was twenty
minutes past ten. The Express——!_

He rushed out. The signal box was quite dark. Duncan Urquhart was
coming up the platform alone with his coat over his arm. He called out
to the station master:

"Is your signal-man deid, or only sleepin'?"

A few moments after James Cannon awoke from a pleasant dream of the
Ross Lighthouse.

"Get up, man!" cried the station master, standing over him with a
lantern, "God kens how many lives ye hae lost through your ill deeds!"

Dazed and bewildered, James Cannon arose to the damning fact that the
boat train was past, and he knew well that he had never altered the
signals or set the points.

Five minutes later Duncan Urquhart found Muckle Alick. He was lying
half on and half over the embankment of the cattle shipping bank, where
the express had tossed him like a feather.

"Oh, what's wrang, what's wrang, Alick?" cried Duncan Urquhart in
terror.

"It's a' richt, Duncan," said Muckle Alick, slowly but very distinctly.
"I gripped the points and held them till ye won by!"

"Can ye bide a minute, Alick?" said Duncan tenderly.

"Ow, aye," said the wounded man, "dinna fash yoursel'. There's nae
hurry—Mirren wasna' expectin' me!"

Faster far than his own train had passed the points, Duncan Urquhart
sped back to the station.

"Alick's lying killed doon on the cattle bank!" he cried. "Help us wi'
that board!"

And, rushing into the empty waiting-room, he laid hold of a
newly-erected partition which had recently been set up to keep the
draughts from the passengers.

It resisted his strength, but with the station master to help him, and
a "One, Two, Three," it yielded, and the men tore down the platform
with it.

With the help of poor, dazed James Cannon and another, they laid the
giant tenderly upon it. But they had to wait for other two, hastily
summoned from the nearest railway houses, before they dared try to lift
Muckle Alick.

"Does it hurt, Alick?" asked Duncan of Inverness, gently, like a
Highland man.

"It's no that sair," said Alick, as quietly, "but juist try no to be
ower lang wi' me!"

They carried him to the left-luggage office, into which, a few weeks
before, he had taken the children whom, at the peril of his life, he
had saved from death. They were going to lay down the partition with
its load upon the table on which he had been arranging the parcels half
an hour before.

"Pit me on the bench," said Alick, calmly, "dinna meddle the parcels.
They are a' ready to gang oot wi' the first delivery the morn."

So, even as he bade them, on the bench they laid Alick down. What like
he was I know, but I am not going to tell. His wife, Mirren, might
chance to read it.

There were tears running down Duncan Urquhart's face. The station
master had already run for a doctor.

"Dinna greet, Duncan," said Alick. "The boat train won by a' richt, and
I manned to haud the points for ye."

But Duncan Urquhart could answer him no word. In the corner sat James
Cannon with his head on his hands, rocking himself to and fro in
speechless agony of soul.

"Oh, I wuss it had been me," he wailed. "I wuss it had been me!"

"Hoot na, James," said Alick. "It's better as it is—ye hae a young
family."

Then, as if he had been thinking it over—

"Duncan," he said, "Duncan, promise me this—ye'll no let Mirren see me.
Mind ye, Mirren is no to see me. I dinna want her to think o' me like
this.

"She was aye sae taen up aboot me, ye see," he added apologetically,
after a little pause.

The doctor came. He bent over Alick. He moved him tenderly, this way
and that. Then he ordered all out of the left-luggage office, except
Duncan Urquhart and the station master's wife, a quiet motherly woman.

Then, while the doctor did his duty, Alick sank into a kind of stupor.
Presently he woke from it with a little start.

"Doctor, is this you?" he said; "this is terrible kind o' ye. But it's
a cauld nicht for you to be oot o' your bed so late—and you wi' a
hoast!"

"Wheesht, Alick!" said the doctor. And said no more for a little. For,
like every one else, he loved the soft-hearted giant.

Then Alick beckoned the station master to him from the door of the
left-luggage office, where he stood nervously clasping and unclasping
his hands. The station master came and bent his head.

"The boat train," whispered Muckle Alick, "ye'll hae to enter her
in the shedule five meenites late. But ye can say that she passed
Netherby wi' the signals standing at clear."

He was silent a moment. Then he looked up again.

"Mind ye, there's to be nocht said aboot it in the papers. You'll see
to that, will ye no? It's my wish. An' if the company likes to do
aught, it'll aye be a help to Mirren."

There was a sound of sobbing at the door, and the station master shoved
the youngest porter out on the platform with his foot.

"Has—ony—body gaen to tell Mirren?" asked Alick in a little.

The doctor nodded. He had, in fact, sent his own coachman to
Sandyknowes with a gig.

"Puir Mirren," said Alick again, "I'm some dootsome that she'll tak'
this hard. She was na looking for it, like."

He looked about apologetically again.

"She was that sair set on me, ye see—maybe wi' us haein' nae bairns, ye
ken."

He was silent a little while, and then he said, more brightly, "There's
three comed noo, though. Maybe they'll be a blessin' to her. The Lord
sent them to her, I'm thinkin'. He wad ken o' this aforehand, nae doot!"

Suddenly he held up his hand, and there was a light shining like a lamp
in his eyes.

"Hearken! that's the whistle!" he cried. "Are the signals clear?"

There was no train in the station nor near it.

Muckle Alick went on. He lifted his head and looked through the open
door as one looks ahead under his hand when the sun is strong.

"I can see the distant signal. It is standing at clear!" he said, and
sank back.

And thus the soul of Muckle Alick passed out of the station—with the
distant signal standing at clear.

They brought the little wife in to him a quarter of an hour after.
Already her face seemed to have shrunk to half its size and was paler
than Alick's own. The doctor had him wrapped delicately and reverently
in the station master's wife's fairest linen. The face was untouched
and beautiful, and as composed as it was on Sacrament Sabbaths when he
carried in the elements at the head of the session, as it is the custom
for the elders to do in the Cameronian Kirk.

His wife went up to him quietly and laid her hand on his broad white
brow. "My man—my ain man!" she said. And she bent down and touched it,
not with her lips but with her cheek.

She looked up at the station master's wife.

"He aye liked me to do that!" she said, smiling a little, as it were,
bashfully.

And in all the room, where now stood ministers and doctors, men and
women that loved him well, hers were the only dry eyes that dark
midnight.

"I wad like to get him hame the nicht, if it's nae great trouble till
ye," she said; "I think I wad be mair composed gin I had him hame to me
the nicht!"

So they took her dead home to her to quiet Sandyknowes. They carried
him through between the beds of dusky flowers and laid him in his own
chamber. Then they left her alone. For so she desired it. The wandering
children, Hugh and Gavin, were asleep in the next room. So Mirren
watched her man all that night, and never took her eyes off the broad
noble brow, save once when little Gavin woke and cried. Then she rose
calmly and prepared him a bottle of milk, mixing it with especial care.
As she did so she raised her eyes and looked out into the dark. And
there on the brae face was the light of the distant signal shining like
a star in the midst of the brightening sky of morn.



ADVENTURE XLIX.

CLEG COLLECTS TICKETS.


Cleg Kelly had long finished the tarring of the hut at the Summit.
Poet Jock had not come home, though it was after ten at night. Auld
Chairlie wandered to and fro in front of the house and out on the muir
at the back, waiting upon him and complaining that the supper would be
spoiled. Cleg busied himself with "reddin' up" till it grew too dark to
see. That is, he carried all the old mouldy boots to a moss-hole and
sank them out of sight. Then he arranged all the useful articles each
upon its own shelf round the walls, and the bunks were never so well
made before nor the stove so bright.

But not that night, nor yet for three nights did Poet Jock return. It
was seven o'clock on the evening of the third day when he arrived. He
came walking up the Big Cutting with his head sunk on his breast, and
he did not even look up when Cleg called to him. He came in slowly,
and instead either of explaining, inquiring heartily for supper, or
sniffing as usual at the fragrant steam of the frying pan, he threw
himself down on the wooden shelf which constituted his bed.

"What has happened to ye, Poet Jock? Where hae ye been? Ye'll be
reported, as sure as daith," said Auld Chairlie, after silent
contemplation of this marvel for full five minutes. "Hae ye been fu',
or has she gi'en you up?"

The last was a question prompted by the fleeting nature of Poet Jock's
loves, and the ever recurring crisis through which his muse had to pass
before he could settle upon a worthy successor to the late faithless
fair.

But Poet Jock lay still and made no answer.

"Are ye no for ony supper?" said Cleg, practically, who was now as
familiar and free of the little cabin of the Summit as if he had been
the poet's twin brother—a little more so, in fact, for Jock was not
on speaking terms with his brother. To tell the truth, his brother
and he had had a fight on Monday fortnight at the level crossing—the
subject of contention being the minister's sermon the Sabbath before.
The theology of Poet Jock prevailed. His logic was most convincing. He
"downed" his brother three times. But though his brother owned that he
had had enough of theology, he had not since visited at the hut on the
Summit. But for all that they continued to sit side by side on Sabbaths
in the kirk, and to look on the family psalm-book, taking it as usual
in turns to find the places and shutting the book unanimously when a
paraphrase was given out.

It was now the fourth day of Cleg's sojourn at the hut. Every day
he had gone up to the top of the craigs that looked towards Loch
Spellanderie. And each day his resolve never to go near the place again
because of the faithlessness of woman, sensibly weakened.

But he had something else to think about now. For since he came
into the domains of the kindly surfacemen, Cleg had seen nothing so
mysterious as the obstinate refusal of the Poet to take any supper.

Auld Chairlie tried again.

"Look you here," he said, "either you tell's what is the maitter wi'
ye, or I'll send doon wi' the late passenger for the doctor to come up
the first thing the morn's mornin'!"

Poor Jock groaned, but said nothing for some minutes.

"Chaps," he said at last, "I may as weel tell ye. Muckle Alick at
Netherby was killed hauding the points to let by the boat train. And
his wee bit wife's a widow the nicht! I hae been at Netherby lettin' a
man off to fill his place."

Auld Chairlie dropped the tin platter which was in his hand.

"O Lord," he said, "could ye no hae ta'en ony o' the lave o' us? It
wadna hae made so verra muckle differ—But Alick——"

He stood still contemplating the gap that there was in the world.

"That's what they hae been crying at me off the engine the last twa
days, but I'm gettin' that deaf I couldna hear!"

But Cleg was prompt in action as ever.

"Guidnicht, lads," he said, "I'm gaun doon to Netherby to see gin I can
be ony use."

Poet Jock started up from his bunk, instinctively guarding his head
from the roof even in the midst of his distress of mind.

"What hae ye to do wi' it?" he cried, his voice sounding angry, though
he was not angry.

"The twa bairns I telled ye aboot are in Muckle Alick's hoose. He saved
their lives, and I'm gaun doon the noo to see what I can do for them."

"Ye canna gang that gate, man. Ye hae nae claes fittin' for a funeral!"
said Chairlie. "Ye hae nocht but that auld sack!"

"I'm no carin'," stoutly asserted Cleg, "I'm gaun doon to see if I can
help. It's no the funeral I'm carin' for, it's what's to come after."

Poet Jock got up and began cautiously to forage on all the shelves.

"A' my things are awesome big across," he said, "but maybe there will
be eneuch amang us to fit ye oot."

Cleg's wardrobe had dwindled to a shirt and a pair of trousers. He had
lost his cap in Loch Spellanderie.

But Auld Chairlie found him a pair of socks and a pair of boots—which,
though they were not "marrows" or neighbours, were yet wearable enough.
Cleg treated himself to a sleeved waistcoat, which, by merely shifting
the buttons, became a highly useful garment. It had been exposed for
some time to the weather, and when Cleg saw it, it was mounted upon two
sticks, out in the little patch of cornland which Poet Jock had sown at
the back of the cabin, upon a quarter acre of ground which the company
had included within its wire fence with some idea of constructing a
siding some day, when the traffic increased.

"Where gat ye that braw waistcoat?" queried Poet Jock when he came in,
looking admiringly at the remarkable change in Cleg's appearance.

"O I juist changed claes wi' the craw-bogle!" replied Cleg with a quiet
complacency, which became him like his new garment.

"Dod," said Auld Chairlie, "it's a maist remarkable improvement, I
declare."

Poet Jock gave Cleg a grey woollen shirt with a collar attached which
had washed too small for him, but which still reached nearly to Cleg's
feet. He added a red-and-green tie of striking beauty (guaranteed to
kill up to sixty yards), and an old railway cap, which had been a
castaway of some former occupant of the cabin.

"There, noo," he said, when Cleg was finally arrayed. "Ye are nane
so ill put on! Ye micht e'en gang to the funeral. I hae seen mair
unfaceable folk mony a time. I'll get ye on the late express, that is,
if it is no Sulky Jamie that's in chairge o' her."

Sulky Jamie was the name of a guard who withheld his hand from any work
of mercy, if it involved the least irregularity. He was an incomparably
faithful servant to the railway company of Port Andrew. But he could
not be said to be popular among his fellow servants along the line.

So Poet Jock, seeing that Cleg was bent upon his quest, withstood him
no more, but walked all the long way down the incline with him to
Dunnure station, and there waited to pick up a "chance of a ride" on
the night passenger. For no one in the cabin had a farthing of money.
Poet Jock, indeed, never had any four days after pay day, and Auld
Chairlie always sent his down to be banked, saving only what had to be
paid monthly to Sanders Bee, the shopkeeper at the Dunnure huts, for
their provisions.

"I canna trust mysel' when there's siller in the hoose!" said Auld
Chairlie, who knew himself to be a brand plucked from the burning, and
still glowing a little below the surface.

But it was with great good hope that Poet Jock walked with Cleg to
Dunnure, in order to arrange a free passage for him down to Netherby.

The last "stopping" passenger before the boat train was late, and they
had a good while to wait in the ill-lighted station.

But it came at last, and lo! Sulky Jamie was in charge.

Poet Jock went boldly up to his van and tackled him. He stated the case
with eloquence and lucidity. He argued with him, as Sulky Jamie moved
to and fro, swinging his lantern and never looking at him.

But the guard was incorruptible, as indeed he ought to have been. No
tramp should come on his train so long as he was the guard of it.

Whereupon Poet Jock, stung to the quick, told Sulky Jamie his opinion
of him. He said that when it came his time to leave the line, there
would be a hurrah which would run along the metals from Port Andrew to
Netherby. He further informed him that there was one testimonial which
would be subscribed with enthusiasm among his mates—a coffin for Sulky
Jamie. But even that only on condition that he would promptly engage
to occupy it. Poet Jock ended by offering to prepare him for burial on
the spot, and was in the act of declaring that he would put all these
things into rhyme when the guard blew his whistle.

Cleg was nowhere to be seen, but Sulky Jamie had had his eyes wide
open while he listened to the poet. He blew his whistle again, waved
the lamp, and stopped the train as it was moving out of the station.
He plunged into the forward van, which was sacred to the "through"
luggage. In a moment Cleg came out with a fling which sent him head
first upon the platform. A white-haired military-looking man looking
out of the next carriage laughed loudly, and clapped his hands with
glee.

This act of Sulky Jamie's aroused Poet Jock to fury.

"Wait," he cried, "wait till the fast day an' I'll settle wi' ye, ye
muckle swine, pitchin' oot the bit boy like that."

But Sulky Jamie was unmoved.

"I'll be pleased to see ye on the fast day or ony ither day. But I'll
hae nae tramps on my train!" said he, as he swung himself on board.

But, had he known it, he was carrying one at that moment. For it so
happened that a Pullman carriage had been invalided from the morning
boat train owing to a heated axle and an injury to the grease box. Now
the resources of the Port Andrew fitting shop, though adequate for all
ordinary purposes, were not sufficient to deal with the constitution of
such a delicate and high-bred work of art as a bogie Pullman.

So Cleg waited till he saw the guard at Dunnure station raise his hand
to blow his whistle. Then he darted sideways, in and out among the
carriages, and before the train was properly in motion he was lying at
full length on the framework of the bogie part of the Pullman.

With a growl and a roar the train started. Cleg's heart beat quickly.
He was jolted this way and that. The dust and small stones swept up
by the draught under the train nearly blinded him. But Cleg hung on
desperately. He had determined at all hazards to travel upon Sulky
Jamie's train. So the boy clutched the bars tighter and twined his feet
more firmly round the bogie, determined to win his passage to Netherby
in spite of all the ill-natured guards in the world.

Indeed, the jarring laugh of the man with the white moustache when
he was thrown out at Dunnure station, rankled much more in his small
heathen heart than the hard heart of Sulky Jamie.

"What was his business wi' it?" Cleg demanded of himself half a dozen
times, during that interminable period before they came to the next
station.

The train stopped at last, and Cleg dashed the wet locks off his brow
and cuddled his beam closer. He could stand it out now, he thought. He
was congratulating himself on being in Netherby in a few minutes, when
he heard the military voice above him.

"Guard," it said, "the boy you threw out of the train at Dunnure got
in below the empty Pullman. I think he is in there now."

Then Sulky Jamie swore loudly and emphatically. Cleg could hear him
swinging himself down from the platform upon the line.

The reflection of the lantern showed him the bars and wheels of the
forward bogie.

But Cleg did not wait for the arrival of Sulky Jamie. He dropped down
and sped out at the dark side of the station, with bitter anger in his
heart against the interfering military man. As he looked down from
the wire paling he saw the deserted platform of Newton Edward, and a
vengeful thought struck him. He ran quickly round the stern light of
the train and climbed upon the platform. A lantern was sitting on a
barrow. The station master was talking to the engine driver far away at
the end, for the late train was always long. The guard was routing out
tramps beneath the Pullman.

With sudden determination Cleg pulled the stem of his cap over his
eyes, and buttoned the sleeved waistcoat of railway velveteen closer
about him. Then he took the lantern in hand. He was going to pay his
debts to that evil-conditioned military man with the white moustache.

He could see him now, sitting at his ease, and trying to read his paper
by the light of the miserable oil lamp, fed with scanty drains of
dirty, half-melted oil, which to this day is supplied as an illuminant
by the Port Andrew Railway Company.

Cleg opened the door smartly.

"Ticket, sir!" he said briskly.

The military man put his hand in his side pocket, and handed out his
ticket without looking up, with the ease and freedom of a well-seasoned
traveller. He never took his eyes off his paper.

"Netherby—right, sir!" said Cleg Kelly, ticket collector.

Then Cleg went to the nearest compartment and promptly jumped in. It
was half full of sleepy commercial travellers, who took little notice
of the curiously attired boy.

Cleg could hear the tramp of his enemy as he came up from routing below
the Pullman. It sounded sulkier than ever upon the platform.

"Did not you nab him?" cried the voice of the military man from his
carriage window.

"None of your gammon!" replied the other voice. And the whistle sounded
promptly.

The temper of Sulky James was distinctly ruffled.

The train ran on down to Netherby. There the tickets were taken at
the little platform to which Muckle Alick had so often run, late and
early, with lamp in hand. It was a sleepy emergency man from the head
offices who took the tickets in Cleg's compartment. He lumped them all
together, and paid no attention whatever to the yellow first-class
through ticket among its green brethren, which Cleg handed to him with
such a natural air of loafish awkwardness.

Clang went the door. But the window was down for air, and Cleg could
hear the angry accents of Sulky Jamie further down the train.

"Nonsense! Your ticket took at the last station. More o' your gammon,
like enough. Find that ticket or pay for the journey from Port
Andrew—seven-and-nine! And look something slippy, too! I can't keep my
train waiting all day on the like of you, and the express due in twenty
minutes."

Cleg could not catch the answer of the military man. But the guard's
reply was clear.

"I don't care if ye were the Prince of Wales. Pay up, or I'll give ye
in charge!"

The train started down to the main platform. And Cleg had the door
open before the commercials in the corner were more than half awake.
He slipped out, and ran down the platform instead of up. At the corner
stood James Cannon's signal box, by the side of a white bridge. Cleg
swarmed up the pole at the corner, set a foot lightly on the white
painted palings, and dropped like a cat upon the road.

He was a modest boy, and did not desire to give any trouble.

He thought of the military man with joy in his heart.

"Now I guess we're about quits!" he said.



ADVENTURE L.

GENERAL THEOPHILUS RUFF.


Cleg slept that night in a hay-shed half a mile out of the town. He did
not mean to go to Sandyknowes till the morrow. And even then it was not
quite clear to him what he could do to help the widow. But as usual he
would think it out during the night.

The morning came, fiery with lamb's wool in fluffy wisps all about
the sky. Cleg shook himself, yawned, and dusted off the hay from his
garments.

Then he stepped over the edge of the stack and put his foot to the
road. He was very hungry and he had nothing upon which to break his
fast, except only the water of the brook. He stooped at the first burn
which crossed the road, and drank his fill. Presently he met a man who
came walking smartly down the road. He carried a cow switch in his hand
and chewed a straw.

"Can you tell me the road to Sandyknowes, if you please?" said Cleg,
politely.

The rustic with the straw in his mouth looked at Cleg all over
carefully. Then he roared with laughter, while Cleg flushed angrily.

"Your boots are no marrows!"[7] he cried. "O Lord, a stemmed bonnet and
his grandfather's waistcoat!"

And he went off again into such a fit of laughter that he let the straw
slip out of his mouth. But he perceived his loss, and lifted it from
the dust, wiping it carefully upon the dirtiest part of his trousers
before restoring it to the corner of his mouth.

"Can ye tell me the road to Sandyknowes, man?" said Cleg again, with a
little more sharpness and less politeness.

"I can, but I'll no!" gaped the rustic. And he went into another
prolonged fit of merriment, fairly hugging himself and squirming in his
enjoyment. It was the best jest he had had for a month. And he rather
fancied he landed some good ones.

Cleg Kelly's hand dropped upon a stone. The stone whizzed through the
air, and took effect on the third button of the man of straw's new
waistcoat.

The laugh ended in a gasp. The gasp was succeeded by a bad word,
and then the young man gave chase. Cleg pretended to run slowly—"to
encourage him," as he said afterwards. The yokel thought all the time
that he was just about to catch Cleg, but always just at the critical
moment that slippery youth darted a dozen yards ahead and again avoided
him.

At last the young man gave up the chase. He had suffered indignities
enough. He had lost his straw. But he had an appointment to keep with
a farmer three miles further on to whom he was offering his valuable
services. So he had perforce to turn away, and content himself with
promising what he would do to Cleg when he caught him.

What Cleg did was simpler. He patrolled the heights above, keeping
exact pace, step for step, with his enemy below. And with the aid of
the pebbles which plentifully strewed the brae face, he afforded the
young man of the straw some of the finest and most interesting active
exercise in getting out of the way he had had for many years. Indeed,
his whole line of march for more than a mile was completely enfiladed
by the artillery of the enemy.

"Will ye tell me the road to Sandyknowes noo?" cried Cleg, jubilantly,
as he kept the youth skipping from side to side of the highway.

At last he bade his adversary farewell, with a double machine gun fire
of words and heavier ammunition.

"This will maybe learn ye, country," he cried, "after this to gie a
civil answer to a civil question."

"Wait till I catch you——" the young man shouted, stung to desperation.

Whereupon, just for luck, Cleg ran in and delivered a volley at point
blank range, which sent the man of straw clattering up the road. It was
certainly not wise to dally with the prize marksman of the Sooth Back,
who in his good days could break any particular pane in a fifth story
window that you liked to specify, nine times out of ten.

After this Cleg Kelly returned along the heights to find out the way
to Sandyknowes for himself. More than a mile back a girl driving cows
pointed out to him the little path which led up to Mirren's door. But
Cleg did not go up directly. He played idly about, whittling sticks
and poking in hedge roots in his assumed character of vagrant boy. Yet
all the time he kept a bright look-out upon the door of the little
house among the flower-beds. The window blinds were drawn down, and
stared white like empty eye sockets of bone. The thought of the brave,
strong man who lay dead within oppressed Cleg's heart. Presently he saw
a woman come to the door, and go after the cow over the little meadow
pasture. Muckle Alick's wife, he thought. But he was wrong. It was her
warm-hearted neighbour, Mistress Fraser. Then presently he saw Boy Hugh
come running round the back of the house.

Cleg had arrived in time for Muckle Alick's funeral day. The large
company of mourners began to gather very early. All the town of
Netherby was there. Even the District Superintendent of the railway,
who happened to be in the neighbourhood on a tour, had telegraphed for
his "best blacks" from his wife in Greenock. And there he was standing
outside the house, waiting for the minister to finish the service, like
any common man.

Poor James Cannon was there, the tears coursing steadily down his
cheeks. The provost and magistrates were there. Every member of the
School Board was there, all agreed for once. Such a funeral had never
been seen in Netherby within the memory of man. That was the exact
phrase used (it is believed not for the first time) in describing the
occasion in the "Netherby Chronicle and Advertiser." But otherwise
Alick's dying request for silence was scrupulously regarded.

When the hearse moved away from the door, and the sombre congregation
fell in behind it, Mirren Douglas came to the door and watched it out
of sight. The good women who abode in the house to company with her
in her bereavement, begged her to go in and compose herself. But she
would not.

"I am in no ways discomposed," she said, "but I will watch him oot o'
sicht for the last time. I did it every mornin', ye ken," she explained
to them. "Let me bide!"

The black procession went serpentining down the road from Sandyknowes,
the men pacing slowly and gravely after the horses between the summer
hedges and under the green beech leaves.

Soon it approached the turn which would hide the hearse from those
standing at the door of the house. But a little hillock rose, grassy to
the top, at the gable end. It was the place to which she was used to
run out to watch for his return, in order to "mask" the tea in time for
his supper, that all might be ready for him when he came home wearied.

Mirren Douglas ran out thither, and, standing on the top of the
hillock, she waved her hand to that which was going out of sight. She
did not care who saw her.

"Fare ye weel, Alick," she cried, "fare ye weel that ever wast o' men
the kindest. Few are the choice hearts that will match thine—aye, even
up there, where thou art gane. And nane like to thysel' hast thou left
amang us. Fare ye weel, my ain man Alick! Naebody's man but mine!"

And with that she turned and walked in quite quietly.

As the funeral passed the end of the road, Cleg withdrew behind the
hedge, because, though his heart was full of love for the strong man
whom he had seen but once, he did not wish to disgrace that solemn
procession with his sleeved waistcoat and unpaired boots. As the hearse
passed him Cleg took off his railway cap and stood bareheaded behind
the hedge. So intent was he on the procession, that he did not see a
tall tightly-coated man of military carriage who had stepped over the
field towards him, and now stood silently by his side. The old officer
also took off his hat, and stood reverently enough till the last of the
mourners had passed by.

Then he laid his hand upon Cleg's shoulder.

"I'll trouble you for the price of my railway ticket!" he said. Cleg
turned. It was the man who had laughed when he was pitched out of the
carriage at Dunnure by Sulky Jamie!

For a moment his readiness forsook Cleg. He stood silent and gazed
dumbly at the tall figure before him, and at the right hand which
pulled grimly at the drooping moustache.

"You had better come away to the police station!" said the gentleman.

"Ye'll hae to catch me first, then!" cried Cleg, suddenly twisting
himself free and springing over into the highway. The old soldier made
no attempt to follow, but continued to gaze fixedly at Cleg.

"What is your name, boy?" he said, still keeping his eyes upon the lad.

"Slim Jim Snipe o' Slippery Lane!" cried Cleg promptly, "and muckle
obleeged to ye for speerin'!"

"You young imp!" cried the old man, advancing to the fence with his
cane uplifted threateningly, "would you dare to insult me?"

Cleg retreated.

"That's a guid enough name to gie to the poliss," he said. "If ye ask
me ceevilly, I'll tell you. Nae thanks to you that I got here ava!"

"I beg your pardon," said the old soldier, lifting his hat as to an
equal, with a certain punctilious restraint. "I have the honour to
inform you that my name is Major-General Theophilus Ruff, of Barnbogle
and Trostan."

"And mine," said Cleg Kelly, taking off his stemmed bonnet as politely,
"is Cleg Kelly o' the Sooth Back o' the Canongate, and late o'
Callendar's Yaird!"

The General bowed ceremoniously.

"And now," he said, "what do you propose to do about my railway ticket?"

"I'll work it out!" said Cleg, quickly.

There was something in "the looks of the starchy old geeser" (as Cleg
remarked to himself) which the boy rather liked, though without doubt
he was mad as a hatter.

"Work it out," cried the General; "what can you do?"

"Anything!" said Cleg. (It was his one touch of his father's dialect
that he still said "annything.")

"That's nothing!" said the General.

"Wait till you see," retorted Cleg. "You try me. I'm nae country gawk,
but reared in the heart o' the toon. I can rin errands. I can howk[8]
yairds for taties—or," he added, thinking of his flower-garden round
the old construction hut, "for flooers. And if I dinna ken the way to
do onything, I can find oot."

The General appeared to consider.

"Do you see that house over there among the trees—across the railway?"

"Aye," said Cleg, "I canna help seein' it! It's big eneuch and ugly
eneuch to be a jail!"

"Do you think that you could keep that house in order?"

"Me?" said Cleg, "me keep yon hoose—it's as big as the Infirmary."

"I live there all by myself," said the General. "I can not have women
about my place. The sight of them kills me. And I can not trust a grown
man not to bring a woman about the place. I might try a lad."

Cleg looked carefully from the General to the house and back again. He
was not sure that it might not be a joke.

"Have you a character?" asked the old man.

"Aye," said Cleg, "Miss Celie wad gie me yin."

The General turned pale and stamped with his foot.

"A woman," he said, "I could not apply to a woman. There is always
something odious about a woman's letter. I actually do not recover from
the shock of handling the writing of one of them for days. Do you not
know any one else?"

"There's Maister Donald Iverach," said Cleg. "He wad gie me a character
if I got Miss Celie to ask him," answered Cleg.

"My nephew in Edinburgh, that young three-legged stool! You'll do
nothing of the kind," cried the General. "I would not give a brass
button for his own character. And besides, from the tone in which
you speak, I have little doubt that the two persons you mention are
contemplating matrimony. I do not wish any communication with anything
so disgusting—much less when one of the parties is an ungrateful and
grasping relative of my own."

By this time Cleg had had enough of the General's catechism.

"I'll be requiring a reference mysel'," he said, in the tone which he
had heard Mistress Roy of the paper-shop adopt, when a new customer
asked for a week's credit.

"A what?" said the General, astonished.

"A reference as to your moral character, if I am to serve in your
house!" replied Cleg, unabashed.

The General clapped his hands with unfeigned pleasure.

"Bless you, my boy, you please me!" he said, chuckling; "do you know
that it is more than fifty years since General Theophilus Ruff had such
a thing?"

"All right," said Cleg, "suppose we chance the moral characters."

"Done!" said the old soldier, offering Cleg his hand.

Cleg took it and wrung it hard.

"I think we'll agree very well," he said. "I may be Ruff by name, but
I am Theophilus by nature. That's Greek, my boy—all I can remember,
indeed. The folk about here will tell you that I am crazy. They are no
judges. And my nephew wishes I were. Once his father tried to prove
it. But when the judge had once looked inside my account books, and
examined my system of bookkeeping, he said that, mad as I might be, it
was a kind of madness which was very well able to take care of itself."

Cleg accompanied the General over the fields to his house. The walks
and drives were completely overgrown with mossy grass and tangled
ferns. The gates were all padlocked and spiked. Whenever the General
came to one, he unlocked it with a brightly polished steel master-key
which he took from his pocket. Then, as soon as they had passed
through, he locked it behind him again as securely as before. "Spiked
on the top," he said to Cleg, with a cunning look, "keeps out the
women, you see. They don't like to have their frills and furbelows
torn."

Cleg nodded as though he understood. He was not particular either way.

"By-the-bye, you don't mind coffins and things?" said the old soldier,
glancing swiftly under his brows at Cleg.

"I don't think so, if they are empty. I yince slept in a coffin shop
for three months!" said Cleg.

"Have you anything you want to settle before you engage with me?" asked
the General.

"Yes," said Cleg, "there's a wife over the hedge yonder that has lost
her man. And I maun hae either the afternoon or the forenicht to help
her."

"Take any part of the day you like. Only change your clothes when you
come back," said the General testily, "but mind, if you bring any woman
inside the policies, I'll give you up to the police for obtaining
railway tickets under false pretences."



ADVENTURE LI.

THE GENERAL'S ESTABLISHMENT.


They were now standing at the front door. Cleg had never seen such a
house as this in his life. It was barred and defended like the Calton
jail, but no glass was to be seen in any of the windows. Indeed,
through some of the openings which served for lighting, one could see
straight through to the barred windows on the further side.

Barnbogle House had in time past been an ancient fortalice. But both
the former and the present lairds had spent large sums upon alterations
and repairs. The latest of these, General Theophilus Ruff, had a vast
and far-reaching local fame. Gamesome lasses skirled at his name, and
refused to keep their trysts for the terror of meeting him, wrapped in
his blue military cloak, stalking lonely by the light of the moon. The
very poachers would not fish in his streams or shoot in his coverts. He
had at once the repute of a wizard and the fame of a miser—rich beyond
calculation, but seeing things unseen to mortals. "He wasna canny!"
summed up the collective verdict of the countryside.

Theophilus Ruff had been an Indian officer at the time of the mutiny.
And those terrible days of midsummer when the sun dried up the blood
even as it was spilt, had changed the gay casual young officer into the
man whom all the country knew as "the daft general."

His father had been first a spendthrift and then a "neegar"—that is,
one who has become as great a screw as he had formerly been a mighty
and lavish spender.

The popular report of the contents of Barnbogle House told of chests
of gold and silver, cases of the most precious jewels, the spoil of
captured Indian cities—all watched over by the General himself with an
armoury of deadly weapons. For it was not the least of his terrors that
he dwelt all alone in that huge hundred-barred castle.

Yet there had been a time when Theophilus Ruff drove coach and four,
and when he saw only the gayest of gallant company. Among themselves
the chin-shaking elders would tell, with many cross-shoulder glances,
of the bold wanton eyes of ladies with once famous names, who had sat
beside Theophilus Ruff when he drove that coach and four, of the golden
candlesticks which had sparkled on the board, wide branching, holding
aloft many lights. Then Barnbogle was a gay place indeed, alive with
brilliant company, humming with mirth. For General Theophilus Ruff had
"used the company of the singing woman," and, as the Writ sayeth, he
had been taken in her attempts.

"He's garrin' the Indian yellow boys spin!" the Netherby people said
of him at this time. Yet they said it with a kind of pride, that such
wickedness should have happened in their parish.

But suddenly one morning, when the repair to his house was greatest,
when gold tresses shone most aureate, bright eyes most winsome and
sparkling, Theophilus Ruff came downstairs and gave every soul within
his house an hour's notice to quit. Great was the consternation, mighty
the upheaval. Ladies, lately so _débonnaire_, left by carriagefuls
wrangling fiercely as they went. Their gay companions took horse and
rode silently and wrathfully away. Theophilus Ruff stood on the step
of Barnbogle House and grimly watched them go. Then he went upstairs,
called his servants into the drawing-room, and dismissed them, paying
them their wages and board for six months in full. He kept on a stable
man or two till he could sell his horses, a manservant till he had
disposed of his cattle. Then he let his more distant grass parks, and
dwelt alone in the great house with barred and defended policies. After
this workmen from Glasgow were quartered at Barnbogle for nearly a
year. With them there came a man-cook to prepare their food, and rough
masons' labourers were lodged in the dainty, dismantled bedrooms where
last had dwelt the ladies of the blonde allures.

Now and then, on Sundays, one of these Glasgow callants would steal
out, at the risk of discovery and dismissal, to see the Netherby
lasses. Or, mayhap, an elder smith or joiner would escape to the
public-house of a dark evening. But it was at the peril of their places
and their excellent wages.

To them chiefly could be traced the tales of mighty strong-rooms, of
triple-barred gratings, of wondrously fitting doors with bolts, which
at the click of a key worn on the watch chain locked so firmly that
none could open again without secret passwords.

During this period General Theophilus Ruff had become an extremely
pious person. Every Sunday he conducted service with his workmen in
person. One day he would read the prayers and Litany of the Church of
England, with such a grace of intonation and a dignity, that it caused
the douce Glasgow Presbyterians to fear that even double wages would
hardly make up to them for their souls' peril in thus sacrificing to
idols.

But by the succeeding Sunday the General had discarded the
service-book, and he would lead them in prayer with the fervour and
interjectional fervour of a "ranter"—which at that date was the name by
which all revival preachers were called.

Every church in the neighbourhood benefited by the benefactions of the
General. And there was not a division of the Derbyites, Close, Open,
or Original, which did not receive a visit from him, and which had not
good cause to believe that the brethren had secured the richest convert
the sect had ever made. But the General contented himself with making
the most liberal contributions, and with listening to the brothers'
mourning for each other's backslidings, while at the same time
rejoicing that they only of all mankind could escape hell-fire. Then
he would return home, and the very next day proceed to give another
denomination the benefit of the doubt.

But, nevertheless, while the fit lasted the General was ready to
assist all and sundry to erect suitable places of worship. His purse
was long and deep. So the district of Netherby is distinguished among
its neighbours for the number of its spires and for the surpassing
whiteness of the outside of its cup and platter.

The only stipulation which the General made, was that he and he only
should have the right to prescribe the plan of the building, and
the time at which it was to be finished. This is the reason why the
"Englishy" kirk worships in a tabernacle erected in miniature of Mr.
Spurgeon's. So that the heart of the incumbent (who left the Church
of England (in England) to secure greater liberty of ritual) is daily
broken by the impossibility of having a procession within it, other
than one briefly semicircular; and also by the fact that he has to read
his sermon behind a table, only fitted for holding the glass of water
and Bible which completely equip the popular tribune.

Similarly the Kirk of Scotland by law established in Netherby presents
all the characteristics of a little Bethel meeting-house. And a new
minister of æsthetic tastes has to wrestle with the fact, that there is
no place in which to bestow an organ, except in the coal-cellar from
which the heating apparatus is worked.

But both the Auld Lichts and the Baptists are housed in haughty
fanes—not large, indeed, but built on the most approved cathedral
principles. The meeting-house of the Baptists, indeed, has no less
than two spires and the beginnings of another, after the fashion
of Lichfield. The whole front of the Free Kirk is a-glitter with
quartz-faced rocks. For during the time of its erection Theophilus
Ruff would arrive each day with his pockets full of stones with this
shell-white glance upon them. He even marked spots upon the moor, and
sent out masons to bring the pieces which took his fancy. And one by
one these all found their way into the frontage of the Free Kirk.

The most curious point about all this building of religious edifices
was, that Theophilus Ruff never allowed one of them to be finished.
When the last turret of the spire was on the point of being finished,
Theophilus would dismiss all the men, order the unfinished pinnacle to
be covered with lead to preserve it from the weather, and so leave the
church with an ugly hooded hump upon its back.

Or he would leave a rough stone dyke and a dozen old sand pits and
lime heaps lying for years about the gate, just as they had been
thrown down at the time when the building was begun. He preferred to
see one gate-post up and the other down. He had been known to build
a mill and fit it with expensive machinery, to construct a mill-dam
with the most approved modern sluices, and import the most advanced
American "notions" in the way of farm implements. Then one fine morning
he would arrive, and, when everything was almost complete, pay the
labourers their wages, discharge the engineers in the midst of fixing
a steam boiler or laying hot-water pipes for the most improved method
of preparing food for cattle. Thereafter he would write their masters
a cheque, and there was an end. Not an ounce of water would ever run
out of that granite-embanked mill-dam. Not a wheel of that beautiful
machinery would ever turn round. No horse wearing shoe-iron would ever
tread the asphalted floor of these sanitary stables. Year after year
the whole premises stood empty. The glass would early disappear from
the windows under a galling cross-fire from the catapults of all the
boys in the neighbourhood, with whom it was a point of honour to break
everything breakable about the various "follies" of General Theophilus
Ruff. Never did houses get the reputation of being haunted so quickly
as those buildings erected by him in all manner of unlikely places.
Even during the very week after the workmen had been unceremoniously
dismissed, and while the new gloss was yet on the handles of the doors
and the shop polish upon the machinery, the place began to be deserted
after dusk by every man, woman, and child in the neighbourhood.

Nay, more than this, the same mysterious blight was instantly
communicated to any property acquired by the General. For at this time
it was his habit to buy all that came into the market, without any
discrimination whatever. He had been known to buy the middle house of a
row of respectable tenements, turn out the occupants, look through the
windows one by one to see if they were all gone, then lock the door and
stalk solemnly away with the key in his pocket.

That very night the premises were haunted. The next day the boys began
to break the windows, from a safe distance, with their catapults,
frightening each other the while with the cry that the General was
coming. In six months the house was a mere melancholy wreck, in which
tramps camped at nights, and (if the police did not occasionally
interfere) pulled out the frames of the windows and the fittings of the
kitchen to burn over their fires.

It was no wonder that Cleg Kelly looked with much interest upon
Barnbogle House. And had he known its sinister repute, and the
character of his new master, he might never have set foot within
its doors. But he had never heard of Theophilus, as the General was
familiarly called by all the neighbourhood behind his back. The
minister of the U. P. denomination (the only one in the town which had
not been fostered by the General's money) explained on a sacramental
occasion that Theophilus meant a friend of God, but hastened to add
that this might be taken ironically, and that even the devil sometimes
appeared in the guise of an angel of light.

Nevertheless it was at the time thought a strange thing that the U. P.
cow died on the U. P. pasture, soon after the close of the service at
which this explanation was delivered from the U. P. pulpit.

This induced a carefulness of speech with regard to the General in the
pulpits of other denominations—except, perhaps, when the ministers had
probationers supplying for them. For probationers never have any cows.

When Cleg and he arrived at the house, the General bowed a moment, with
his back to his visitor, over the handle of the front door, whirled a
many-lettered combination, clicked a key, touched a knob, and lo! the
massive door swung noiselessly back.

When he invited Cleg to enter, Cleg put his foot over the threshold as
if he had been entering the Calton jail. But he had pledged himself,
and could not in honour draw back. Besides, Cleg had in him, as we
have seen, the spirit of the natural adventurer. He constantly did
things for the sake of seeing what would come of it, and embarked upon
perilous adventures only to see how the problem would work itself out.

The hall in which he found himself was of old panelled oak, with lights
which came from very high above. Oak furniture stood sparsely here and
there. The only remarkable things were a couple of plain white tablets
let into the wall at either side, like marble memorials in a church.

Through many passages and past the doors of innumerable rooms
Theophilus Ruff led our young hero. Bookcases filled with
solemn-looking books stood all along the corridors. Marble timepieces
squatted silently on the ledges. White statues held out cold glimmering
arms from dusky recesses. Here and there, on little round tables by
oriel windows, large-type family Bibles lay open, many of them having
bookmarks inserted here and there, some of discoloured ribbon, but many
of common pink and white string such as is used by country grocers to
tie up parcels of sugar.

They went next through a great echoing kitchen, with all manner of
rusted machinery for roasting and turning cobwebbing the walls; by the
side of vast black cooking-ranges, past a glimmering and diminishing
array of brass pans and silver dish-covers upon the walls, Cleg
followed the General like his shadow.

"We shall have some dinner presently," said Theophilus Ruff. "I always
dine in the middle of the day ever since I began to keep house for
myself."

He spun another combination lock, clicked a key, and Cleg found himself
in a little brick addition, plastered like a swallow's nest against the
rear wall of Barnbogle House.

Here were a little table of scoured woodwork, and a cheap cooking-range
with a paraffin stove, which, like all its kind, leaked a little.
Upon a shelf under the window were tumbled roughly a cooking-pot, a
frying-pan, a skillet, a brander, two tin plates, and half-a-dozen
cheap knives and forks, all of the poorest and most ordinary
description, and most of them dirty in the extreme.

The General ushered Cleg into this place with some ceremony and
condescension, like a superior initiating a new and untried assistant
into the work of his department.

"I will show you how to light the stove," he said; "it is an
exceedingly convenient invention. I wish we had had them in the army in
my time. I will do the cooking myself on this occasion, in order that
you may see in what manner you may best assist me in the future.

"There are herring here," he said, waving his hand to a barrel which
showed through a sparred locker, "and a ham there beyond. Butter you
will find in that firkin on your left. It is the best Danish from
Kiel. The tinned beef on the shelves is to be kept for emergencies. It
is not to be touched. The butter I import myself, and dispose of what
I do not use to an Italian warehouseman in Netherby. I find that it
takes the place of lard also. Here is flour for sauces, and I always
bring home a four-pound loaf every second day, which I find to be
amply sufficient. I propose to continue the duty, and shall bring two
in future. If there is anything necessary for your health which you
do not find, I shall be happy to supply it. I think I have a suit of
clothes—not my own, but which I happen to possess. They can easily be
adapted for your use."



ADVENTURE LII.

THE THREE COFFINS IN THE STRONG-ROOM.


While the General was explaining all these things, he was at the same
time deftly handling the gridiron upon which he was cooking the four
red herrings which he had laid out. These, with bread and the aforesaid
best specially imported Danish butter, dug out of the keg with a scoop,
furnished their simple meal. General Theophilus made tea in a black
kettle, by the simple process of putting in a soup ladle filled with
tea and allowing the water in the kettle to come to the boil.

"The tea is of the best quality," he said, "though I am somewhat
prodigal of it, as you see. But a man must have some luxuries."

Yet all the time, while Cleg was partaking of the herrings, cutting
the bread, and drinking the tea, he was oppressed by the dark
overwhelming bulk of the house behind him, through which he had
been led. He instinctively felt it to be full of secrets, of unknown
echoing passages, doors that clicked and sprung, and of all untold and
unutterable mysteries.

All through their dinner time the General was most courteously polite,
handing the salt and helping the herrings with infinite address. And
when Cleg in his ignorance or his awkwardness committed a solecism, the
General only in the slightest degree emphasised the correctness of his
own demeanour, so that Cleg, if he chose, might benefit by the lesson
in deportment. Not that Cleg needed many, for had he not often taken
tea with Miss Celie Tennant, which in itself was a charmingly liberal
education?

When the meal was finished, Theophilus Ruff took Cleg into a little
room adjoining. Here there was a fixed wash-tub and a tiny boiler.

"I do my own washing, you see. Cleanliness is most important!" the
General explained. "I learned the art while campaigning in Afghanistan.
For the present, therefore, I shall continue to do the washing, though
I shall be glad of your assistance in the matter of drying and ironing!"

Cleg could hardly credit his ears—a General and the owner of all this
wealth, talking freely of doing his own washing. Cleg looked at the
beautiful linen sheets on the bed and marvelled still more. Then he
remembered what Theophilus had said about the presence of women.

"This is your bedroom," said the General, opening a still smaller
room, which contained nothing but a wash-stand and a small "scissors"
camp-bed. Upon a nail behind the doors hung a couple of suits of
clothes.

"These are yours," explained the General; "this room is also yours.
I shall not again enter it. I beg of you, therefore, that when you
have been visiting your friend the widow you will wear one of these
suits, either as it pleases you. But when you come into the rooms which
I share with you, or undertake any of the duties connected with your
position, you will take the trouble to change into the other."

Cleg touched the nearer suit of clothes gently with his hand. It was of
fine texture, though of a fashion somewhat antique, with wide lapels to
the coat and the vest very long. The General opened a drawer.

"Here," he said, "you will find collars, shirts, and stockings which,
though a little large for you, are such as you will rapidly grow into.
Consider them as your own. Assure yourself completely that the owner of
these has no further need for them."

Cleg thanked his benefactor frankly, but without subservience or
profusion.

"Now," said the General, turning rapidly upon Cleg, "I should like to
come to financial terms with you. I am willing to give you one pound
sterling or twenty shillings a week and your food. At the present
rate of the rupee in India, from which much of my income is derived,
I am not desirous of making it more. But in the event of any decided
appreciation in the price of silver, I should be willing to consider
your claims to a supplement."

"It's far ower muckle as it is," cried honest Cleg. "Man, I wad be glad
o' the half o't!"

The General waved his hand.

"My dear sir," he said, "you are as yet unaware of the intensely
peculiar services which your position here will require of you. You
may have to see strange things sometimes, and to learn to say nothing.
I desire, therefore, to remunerate you suitably in advance. What I
shall reveal to you is perfectly harmless, as I shall show you. But
still I am aware that there is a not unnatural prejudice against such
experiences, especially among the young. We will call it, therefore,
for the present a pound a week."

[Illustration: Along gloomy passages.]

Cleg nodded. He was willing to sleep in a vault amongst skulls and
crossbones, with a reliable up-to-time ghost thrown in, for a pound a
week.

"I will now show you my own bedroom," he said.

The General opened the locks of the doors leading into the house with
the same precise caution, and with some additional secrecy as well. But
even in this the General behaved with a gentlemanly reticence.

"You will observe," he said, "that I do not for the present make you
free of the passwords of the fortress. That in time will doubtless
come; but in the meantime you will consider me as the governor of the
castle, with discipline to maintain and my own secrets to keep.

"Your nerves are strong, I trust?" he added, as they passed along
gloomy passages through which the winds blew gustily as in some cave of
the winds.

"I'm no feared, gin that's what ye mean. I dinna ken aught aboot
nerves," said Cleg.

The General led him sideways down a flight of steps like one that goes
stealthily into a cellar.

They stopped before a door of massive iron painted red as a ship is
before she is launched, and with the boltheads neatly picked out in
white.

"You observe," said the General, "this door is entirely of my
own construction—aided, that is, by the most skilled smiths and
mechanicians. You notice that the rock upon which the house is built
is above our heads, and also that the door is really excavated in the
stone itself. The iron frame upon which the door closes is mortised
so deeply and completely into the solid rock all round, that to all
intents and purposes it is practically one piece with it."

The General pointed upwards to where a pale yellow gleam on the wall
showed through a range of open and glassless but triply barred windows.

"That," he said, "is _Cheiranthus Cheiri_, the common, yellow, or wild
wallflower—of a different species from that of the garden and, in my
opinion, a much finer plant. It is growing up there on the natural
rock. So that I sleep, as sayeth the Scripture, 'within the living
stone'!"

Cleg looked at the General. His eyes seemed to grow darker, his figure
became more erect. He continued every few minutes to refer to his watch.

"This lock," he said, patting the keyhole, "is a highly ingenious union
of a time-lock and the commoner letter combination lock. This morning I
set the wards to open at two in the afternoon. So that it is now almost
the time when we shall be able by the application of the key-word to
open the door."

He waited till the hands of the watch were opposite the hour.

"Now!" he said, and stepped forward with some show of eagerness.

The son of the burglar looked on with an interest which was almost
painful.

The General twirled the lock till he had brought five letters into
line upon the dial. Then he inserted a little key which hung at his
watch-chain. The massive red iron door, with its white-studded nails,
swung back softly of its own accord.

"A simple application of the principle of the water balance," he said,
"thus—I open the lock, the water runs out and the door opens. In
another five minutes the small cistern will fill of its own accord, and
its weight will automatically close the door."

Cleg hung back. He was not afraid, as he had said. But it seemed an
uncanny place to be shut up in with only a madman for company. For Cleg
had no doubt whatever that the General was out of his mind.

General Theophilus Ruff noticed his hesitancy.

"Do not be afraid. I have the combinations all in the inside of my
watch scales, so that even if I were suddenly to die here, you would
still be able to make your way out."

The two stepped within, Cleg being ashamed to show any further feelings
of reluctance to trust his benefactor.

The General touched a match to a large lamp which stood on a pedestal.
The whole room, which had been pitchy dark a moment before, seemed now
fairly bursting with light.

"My bedroom!" said the General, circling the place with his hand, with
the air of one who makes an important introduction.

The walls were of red-painted iron throughout, the red of farm carts in
the district, and the bolts were again picked out with white. But the
furniture was the strange thing. There was nothing whatever in the room
save three coffins, each arranged squarely upon its own table.

The lids of the two at either side were hinged and closed. The centre
one stood open. The coffins were not large or fine ones, but, on the
contrary, common and covered with black cloth. The lid of the centre
one was off, and stood leaning against the wall at the coffin head.
Cleg could easily read the inscription, which was in white letters upon
a black painted plate:—

  MAJOR-GENERAL THEOPHILUS RUFF,
  E.I.C. BENGAL ARMY.
  BORN JULY 21st, 18—.
  DECEIVED JULY 21st, 18—.
  UNDECEIVED JULY 21st, 18—.
  DIED JULY 21st, 18—.

"It is not long now," he said, pointing to the latter date. "I have not
added the year, you observe. But it was revealed that all my days of
fate should culminate on the 21st of July. And so hitherto they have. I
do not think I shall see more than other four."

Then a new thought seemed to strike him. He turned to Cleg Kelly
sharply.

"Note the lettering on the coffins," he said; "I did it all with an
ordinary sharpened knitting needle. I bought a plain black tin plate
from the carpenter of the village, and he showed me how the paint
scrapes off. It is quite easy. But I have done it much more neatly than
could the carpenter himself. I have since attended quite a number of
male funerals in order to observe the quality of the lettering upon the
coffin. I do assure you it is, in general, disgracefully slipshod. The
man does not appear to take the least pains to improve. I have even
thought of offering to do the job for him."

Cleg was continuing to look about him, when a sudden noise behind him
caused him to leap to the side. The great red iron door had swung to
with a little well-oiled click.

The General smiled indulgently and reassuringly.

"It is only the water balance I told you of. It is now full; the little
wet-bob rises to the top, and the door swings to of its own accord."

Cleg continued to look about him. The room was about thirty feet square
and half as high. But there was no bedstead or any other furniture to
be seen.

The General noticed his perplexity.

"I observe," he said, smiling, "that you are looking for my bed. Here
it is," laying his hand on the central coffin. "Oblige me with your
hand. I usually depend upon a stick, but your shoulder is better."

The General balanced himself for a moment upon the edge of the coffin,
and let his head drop back upon the little white pad. Then he arranged
his shoulders into the fiddle-shaped swell, and deftly drew in his feet
after him.

"Now," he said, "damp the herbs in that pipe. Light a ribbon of the
prepared paper at the lamp, and put it in the bowl to smoulder."

Cleg hastened to obey. It was a large-headed East Indian pipe with a
flexible handle, and mouthpiece of fine pale amber.

"You observe," said the General, as he calmly and carefully adjusted
his pipe-stem over the edge of the coffin, "I do not use ordinary
tobacco, but a mixture of Indian hemp and _Datura stramonium_, or
thornapple, a common dunghill plant. With ordinary people the smoking
of these would produce madness; but in my case they produce only a
peculiar exaltation, and then a kind of ethereal coma, without at all
being followed by the evil effects of opium."

He beckoned Cleg to come nearer. Cleg did so, and took up his position
at the foot of the coffin with some reluctance.

"Now," he said, "I am about to take my siesta. Do you set the time
arrangement by carefully turning the hands of the small clock to
seven—the lower dial, if you please. Thank you. Now bring the letters
of the word FALSE to the face of the lock attachment, and you will be
able to open it by the use of this duplicate key. The same word will
(for this day only) enable you to open the outer door—from the inside,
that is, not again from the outside. The pass-word is changed every
day. I always write it on a paper inside my watch every morning."

As Cleg was leaving the room the face and neck of the General were
suddenly jerked up, so that he rose almost to a sitting position.
Cleg's muscles twitched, and with a sharp cry he leaped into the air.

The General waved the hand which was not employed in managing the
pipe-stem, upon which his eyes were steadily fixed.

"I beg your pardon most heartily," he said, "I should have warned you
of this. The fact is, I have an automatic attachment, which I have
applied beneath the pillow, by which at certain intervals my head is
raised. For, though so remarkably spare of person, I have several
times in the East been threatened with apoplexy; and, indeed, I suffer
constantly from asthma, for which I find the _Datura stramonium_ most
useful."

And as Cleg whirled the combination circles in imitation of the
General, he prayed that he might never again have to enter that ghastly
chamber. Yet it was his fortune to abide with the General four years
as his body servant, and to enter the strong-room of Barnbogle nearly
every day.



ADVENTURE LIII.

A STORMY MORNING AT LOCH SPELLANDERIE.


It had been a stormy morning at Loch Spellanderie. It was not wholly
that the winds howled gustily up the loch, or that the tiny breakers
lashed the shore in mimic fury. Mistress McWalter had ofttimes been a
deceived woman, but never before had she taken to her bosom so complete
a viper as Vara Kavannah. She had, indeed, been telling her so for
well-nigh four years. Even Kit Kennedy had become for once almost an
angel of light when compared with her. The reason of the sudden riot
was that Cleg Kelly had been discovered talking to Vara by the orchard
dyke the night before.

"Ye brazen-faced besom—ye toon's madam," cried Mrs. McWalter, "I'll
learn you to bring your ragged, unkempt, stravagin' followers
here!—Guidman, gin ye were worth your salt, as ye are not, ye wad tak'
speech in hand, and order sic a randy instantly frae 'boot the hoose!"

It was early in the morning. Mrs. McWalter was still in bed, and her
husband was pretending to be asleep. But she was well acquainted with
his guile.

"Ye needna pretend ye are sleepin', John, for brawly do I ken that ye
hear every word."

Vara, grown by this time into a tall, handsome girl, was already
brushing out the kitchen and lighting the fire. Kit Kennedy was
whistling cheerfully about the stable. Mistress McWalter always
assisted at reveille in the house of Loch Spellanderie. Her voice
was so sharp and shrill that it could easily reach every corner of
the house from her bed. And upon occasion, when she felt that she
was generally doing herself justice, it had been known to sweep the
cart-shed, and even beat upon the walls of the barn with considerable
effect. But that was, of course, when the front door of the
dwelling-house was open.

While thus lying comfortably upon her back, Mistress McWalter could
keep up a steady and destructive criticism of life in a high-pitched
falsetto, as it was represented below in the sweeps of Vara's brush and
the patter of Kit Kennedy's clogs upon the stone floor.

"What are ye doin' near the dresser, ye sly, ill-contrivin' limmer,"
she cried; "hae I no telled ye a thousand times, that if I catch ye
takkin' as muckle as a sup o' the milk that was skimmed yestreen for
the bairns' breakfast this mornin', I will hae the polissman at ye?
But the jail wad be no surprise to the likes o' you. Na, I'm guessin'
ye hae been weel acquant wi' the poliss a' your days. Tak' up the
water-cans and gang your ways to the well for water. Then haste ye fast
back and put on the muckle pot and the porridge pot, baith o' them. Or,
my certes, I'll come at ye wi' a stick, ye careless, trapesin' slut,
ye!"

Vara was not slow in obeying this command. To go to the well meant,
at the least, to be for five minutes out of the hearing of the
all-compassing tongue of Mistress McWalter, and out of the shrill
ding-dong of her vocabulary. It was not much, but still it was
something.

The girl took the blue cans readily, and went towards the door.

"Gang some deal quaiter," cried Mistress McWalter, "or, by my faith,
I'll thresh ye like a sheaf o' corn when I rise to ye, ye misleared
gamester frae the streets! Dinna wauken a' the puir tired bairns, for
they were honestly gotten and weel brocht up. And shut the door after
ye, when ye gang oot. Ye want us a' to get our deaths o' cauld, nae
doot!"

The anger that burned in Vara's breast was healthy and natural, and
it would have done her a world of good if she had been able to allow
herself the safety valve of intemperate speech. But she only said to
herself, "I'll thole awhile yet for Boy Hugh's and wee Gavin' sake,
till they can fend for themselves. I need the siller she pays me."

Kit Kennedy met Vara as she crossed the yard. Now in order to reach
the well it was necessary to go through the gate at the far angle of
the yard, and to walk some distance along the grassy road which led
to the next farm. The gusts blew off the lake and twirled Vara's hair
becomingly about her face. She was certainly growing a tall, shapely,
personable lass. And so thought Kit Kennedy, and said so with his eyes.

Kit was also tall and strong. There was nothing rustic about his
appearance. He had the profile and pose of head of the young Apollo of
the Bow. He did not, indeed, possess the sinewy, gypsy alertness of
Cleg Kelly, nor yet the devil's grit, turned, on the whole, to good
intents, which drove that youth safely through so many adventures. Kit
Kennedy was slower, more thoughtful, more meditative. Cleg never by any
chance wasted a moment in meditation, so long as there was a chance to
do anything. And when he did, it was only that he might again dash the
more determinedly and certainly into the arena of action.

But Kit Kennedy could call friends out of the visionary air to sit with
him in "sessions of sweet silent thought." Often he walked day after
day in a world all his own. And the most stinging words of Mistress
McWalter did not affect him one whit more than the gusts of wind-born
rain which dashed at him across the lake.

In the same circumstances, Cleg would simply have smitten Mistress
McWalter with a stone, or, if more convenient, with a poker, and so
departed well content. But Kit Kennedy forbore, and made nothing of
her persecution. He could dodge her blows by watching her hand. And he
could go on calmly rehearsing the adventures of Sir Aylmer de Vallance,
while the abuse of his aunt provided a ready-made background of storm
and fret, which gave a delicious relish to a victorious single combat
in Kit's imagination.

When Kit met Vara on the well road he took the cans naturally out of
her hands, as if he had been well accustomed to doing it. He had been
waiting for her. In his heart he always called her his lady Gloriana,
and it was only with difficulty that he could remember to call her
Vara. Kit had been much happier during the years since Vara came. He
had now a heroine for his romances, as well as a companion for his
hours of ease. For Kit went about acting another life all day long. He
fed the bullocks to the clatter of cavalry hoofs. He shepherded the
sheep towards pastures new, to the blast of trumpet and the beat of
drum. Or, as a great general, he stood gloomily apart upon a knoll,
with his staff around him, and sent a barking aide-de-camp here and
another there, to direct the woolly battalions how to make their attack
upon the bridge. He always thrust one hand into his breast, in order to
represent the correct attitude of a great general on such occasions. He
was compelled to unloose the third button of his waistcoat in order to
do it. This seemed strange. He had never read that this was necessary.
He wondered what heroes did in that case. But it struck him afterwards
that very likely they had their waistcoats made open on purpose.

Again, in his books of chivalry there was always a lady to be the
guiding star of every life of adventure. Each knight, if he was of any
respectability at all, provided himself at least with one. The great
Don Quixote had done that. For the Knight Dolorous was, in the opinion
of Kit Kennedy, as indeed in that of all fair-minded people, a most
high-minded and ill-used man.

Kit had tried in various directions to find a lady of his vows before
Vara came. For lack of better, he had even tried to imagine his aunt
as a divinity, beautiful and cruel. But something was always happening
to destroy this illusion. Nothing is more hurtful to exalted sentiment
than a box on the ear, administered unexpectedly. So, after a fair
trial, Kit was compelled definitely to give his aunt up, as a possible
queen of love and courtesy. It could not be done, even with all Kit's
very generous good-will. So, instead, he called her the False Duessa,
the black hag Sycorax, and especially and generally Beelzebubba, for
the last name pleased him greatly. And whenever she mocked him with her
bitter tongue, Kit hugged himself, saying, "Ah! if only I were to call
her Beelzebubba! Little knows she that in the history of my mighty and
knightly deeds, she is condemned to go down to posterity yet unborn
under the name of the Loathly Beelzebubba!"

So Kit carried the Lady Gloriana's silver vessels to the fountain of
the Elixir of Life, swinging them lightly and talking briskly all the
way.

Vara looked often at Kit, with his free breezy ways and erect carriage.
Indeed, she looked so often, that if Cleg had been within sight there
would certainly have been another fight.

But Vara was constantly mindful of Cleg. She prayed for him night
and morning. She remembered all his goodness, and she wished that he
could oftener come to see her. But in the meantime it was undoubtedly
pleasant to have some one at hand, so ready to help with sympathy for
herself and abuse of the enemy as Kit Kennedy.

The lad and the girl stood awhile at the well, leaning elbows upon the
dyke, while Vara confided to Kit all the morning enormities of Mistress
McWalter, and Kit bade her be of good cheer, for there was a good
time coming for them both. And also, doubtless, a very bad time for
Beelzebubba. It always was so in the story books.

"How splendid," said Kit, "if the devil were just to come for her as
he did for poor Faust! He will some day, you may depend. Beelzebubba
would be coming after me with a stick. She would run on and on, getting
nearer and nearer to the barn end. I would show the devil exactly
where to wait for her. Then I should put my hat on a stick and she
would come, crawling, crawling slowly—to get a whack at me. By-and-bye
she would get to the corner, and then—_pouch!_ the devil would jump
at her and catch her, the earth fly open, and nothing be left of
Beelzebubba but a smell of sulphur, as there is after a bee-killing."

The vision was monstrously comfortable as Kit painted it. But Vara did
not laugh.

"I think it's wicked to speak that gate," she said.

"What?" said Kit, hardly able to believe his ears, yet scenting a new
and unsuspected perfection in his lady Gloriana; "it is only my aunt.
It is Beelzebubba."

Vara shook her head. She could not give reasons, but she did not think
such talk could be right even to imagine.

"She is no that ill after a', if you consider that she keeps us," she
said.

Kit did not know that Vara had known intimately a far worse woman than
Mistress McWalter.

At the door Kit gave the cans of water to Vara, brimming full as he
had carried them, but silently, lest his aunt should hear from her bed
above. He touched Vara's hand lightly for reward. For he was a boy as
full of sentiment as his books were primed with it. He had brought
a dozen of his father's volumes with him, and though his aunt daily
prophesied their destruction by fire, Kit thought that she knew better
than to do that.

But, while Vara had been gone to the well for the water, momentous
things had been happening in the privacy of the chamber shared by
Mistress McWalter and her husband. The worm had turned. But, alas! even
when worms turn, they do not gain much by it. Except that perhaps they
may assist the early bird to wriggle down its breakfast a little more
easily.

Mistress McWalter had gone storming along her devious way of abuse
after Vara's departure.

"I wish ye wad let that lassie alane!" suddenly broke in John McWalter,
awaking out of his deep silence at the thirtieth repetition of the
phrase "impident madam of the street." "The lassie's weel eneuch, so
far as I see, gin ye wad only let her alane!"

For a long minute Mistress McWalter lay petrified with astonishment.
The like of this had not happened since six months after their
marriage. But the checked tide of her speech was not long in
overflowing the barrier like a bursting flood.

"Is't come to this between you an' me, John McWalter—that I may rise
and pack, and tak' awa me and my bairns, puir harmless bits o' things?
For it comes to that! After a' my thirty years aboot the hoose o'
Loch Spellanderie, that ye should tak' the pairt o' a reckless randy
gang-the-road trollop, against your ain married wife! Have I watched
and tended ye for this, when ye had the trouble in your inside,
and could get rest neither day nor nicht, you wantin' aye mustard
plaisters? Is it to be lichtlied for a lichtfit rantipole limmer that I
hae fed ye and clad ye—aye, and tended your bairns, washing them back
and front ilka Saturday nicht wi' a bit o' flannel and guid yellow
soap, forby drying them after that wi' a rough towel? And noo, since I
am to hae a besom like this preferred before me—I'll rise and be gaun.
I'll bide nae mair aboot this hoose. Guid be thanked there's them in
the warld that thinks mair o' me than John McWalter, my ain marriet
man!"

"Aye, juist na," said John McWalter, roused at last. "E'en gang your
ways, Mistress, if ye can make a better o't. Ye're braw and welcome to
trampit as far as this hoose is concerned. I'm thinkin' that your new
freends will be brave and sune tired o' ye!"

Mistress McWalter bounced out of bed and began hurriedly to gather her
apparel, as though she meditated leaving the house just as she was.
She would have given a considerable sum of money if at that moment she
could have wept real wet tears. However, she did her best with a dry
towel.

"To think," sobbed she, bouncing from chair to chair, "that ye prefer a
wandering gypsy's brat o' a hizzie to me! O what for did I ever leave
my mither, and the bonny hoose o' Knockshin where I was so muckle
thocht on? Waes me, for I am but a puir, heart-broken, deceivit woman!"

At this very moment Vara came in bearing her cans, with a lightened
heart after her journey to the well with Kit Kennedy. With a louder
voice and more abounding thankfulness, Mistress McWalter took up the
burden of her tale.

"Aye, here comes your base limmer. Ye had better be awa doon to her,
John McWalter," cried the Mistress of Loch Spellanderie, "or she may
tak' the country again, after the thief-like loon wha cam' seekin' her
on Monday nicht, nae farther gane."

Then Mistress McWalter went down stairs and opened more direct fire. It
was certainly a stormy day at Loch Spellanderie, little doubt was there
of that. For the winds roared about the farm on the hill above the
water. And within Mistress McWalter's tongue thundered like great guns
in a naval engagement. Vara went about her work with the tear on her
pale cheek all that day, and a wonder in her heart what she had done to
deserve such cruelty.



ADVENTURE LIV.

KIT KENNEDY'S FAREWELL.


It was about half-past four in the afternoon that Vara was coming round
the corner of the barn carrying an armful of hay. She was undisguisedly
sobbing now. For though she did not cry in the house where Mistress
McWalter could see her, it was too much for her to restrain herself
when she was alone out of doors.

John McWalter met her and stopped, with his usual elaborate pretence of
being in a hurry and not having a moment to spare. He had really been
doing nothing all the afternoon but looking for a chance of speaking to
her.

"Vara, dinna greet, my lassie," he said, "ye maunna heed the mistress'
tongue. We a' get oor share o't! Can ye no bide for a day or twa what I
hae ta'en to bed wi' me every nicht for thirty year?"

"Thank you," said Vara, "I am gaun awa' the nicht."

"Where are ye gaun, my lassie?" asked John McWalter kindly.

"To see Hugh and Gavin, my twa wee brithers at Sandyknowes," said Vara,
"and maybe I'll be some use there. An' if not, we will just hae to gang
farther on, and look for my faither again."

"Weel," said John McWalter, "Guid kens I dinna blame ye. Maybe, after
a', it wad be as weel. I can see plainly there is gaun to be nae peace
here, and it was a' my blame no haudin' my tongue this mornin'. But
here's something that will help ye on your road wherever ye gang, my
lassie, near or far. There's nae better friend in the world that I ken
o' than just a pound note."

And he slipped Vara a dirty little square of papers folded hard in his
hand.

"I canna tak' it," said Vara protestingly, with the paper in her
fingers.

"Hoots," said John McWalter, "I'm no needin' it. I hae plenty. And I
canna let ye gang oot o' my hoose unplenished and unprovided, ony mair
than if ye war my ain dochter. Tak' the pickle siller, lassie, and
welcome. And hark ye, mind and crave the mistress for your full wage
forbye. She'll think a heap mair o' ye for doin' that. And forbye,
she'll no jalloose[9] me so readily."

And that honest man John McWalter slipped like a thief of the night in
at the back door of the barn.

Vara promptly announced her intention of going away that evening. "Aye
and welcome," said Mistress McWalter; "the like o' you should never hae
entered my door."

"I shall want my wages," said Vara, plucking up courage and remembering
her master's words.

"Wages, ye randy," cried the good wife of Loch Spellanderie; "wages!
Set ye up, indeed, ye crawlin' blastie! Think ye that honest folk's
wages are for the like o' you, that canna bide awa' frae your deboshed
paramours, and that lies in wait to entrap decent folk's men, silly
craiturs that they are?"

"I am but a young lassie," said Vara, calmly, "and think on nane o'
thae things. Neither will ony body believe them but yoursel'. But I'm
gaun to hae my wages, or I'll gang to the kirk yett next Sabbath, and
tell a' the neebours how ye treat your servants, starvin' them on
scraps like dogs, making their lives a burden to them to get them no to
bide aboot the hoose, and then at the hinder end threatening them to
give them nae wages."

This threat, which would have feared no one who was conscious of good
intent, somewhat stilled Mrs. McWalter's fury. For she knew that
anything of the kind would be greedily listened to, and retailed at all
the tea drinking in the neighbourhood. And she felt, also, that she had
not quite the character in the country-side upon which such accusations
would fall harmless.

She went to a locked drawer.

"Here's your wages," she said, "and an ill wish gang wi' them. Glad am
I to be rid of you!"

Even thus Vara took her departure from the house of Loch Spellanderie.
John McWalter covertly watched her carrying her bundle out of the yard.
He was looking round the corner of a corn stack. He dared not come out
and bid the girl farewell because of his wife. But the tear was now in
his own eye.

"It micht hae been my ain lassie leavin' anither man's hoose. I am wae
for her," he said. "But I'm glad it was a ten-pund note that I slippit
her. And whatna state wad the wife no be in, gin she kenned!"

And there came a faint pleasure into his grieved heart as he watched
Vara out of sight.

Meanwhile Mistress McWalter stood at the door with victory in the
very poise of her ungainly figure. She had disdained to utter a
word, as Vara went past her and quietly bade her "Good-night!" But
now she cried, "Kit Kennedy! Kit Kennedy! Kit Kennedy!" with all the
penetrative power of her voice.

But there was no answer. Kit was not to be found.

For Kit Kennedy was in a better place. He was bidding his lady Gloriana
adieu. He had, indeed, never let Vara know that he had distinguished
her by that name, nor, indeed, save by his kindness and help, that he
thought of her at all.

But now she was going away for ever. Her little bundle was in her hand.
Her all was in it, and what Loch Spellanderie would be without her, Kit
did not like to think just yet.

It was under the orchard apple trees, at the place where they overhang
the wall, that Kit was waiting.

"I'm vexed, Vara, I'm sair vexed that ye are gaun awa' to leave us!"
said Kit Kennedy, hanging his head. "I do not ken what we will do
without you. It will no be the same place ava!"

"Fare ye weel, lad," Vara said, holding out her hand; "ye hae been kind
to me. Aye, juist past speakin' o'!"

"I'll carry your bundle as far as the march dyke, gin ye'll let me,"
said Kit, for once, bashfully. "I canna bear to think on ye gangin'
like this!"

"Ye had better no," said Vara, "she micht see ye!"

"Her!" said Kit, with a scornful look over his shoulder; "I wadna care
a buckie gin she was walkin' up the loan ahint us!"

Yet, in spite of this gallant defiance, Vara turned round to make sure
that the goodwife of Loch Spellanderie was not in the place designated.

They walked a long while in silence. It was Kit who spoke first.

"Vara," he said, "will ye whiles think on me?"

"Of course I will that," said Vara readily; "ye hae been verra kind to
me here."

"I'm but a laddie, I ken," said Kit, "but ye micht no a'thegither
forget me. I'll never forget you, lassie!"

There fell another silence between them.

"Ye'll be gaun back to be near _him_?" said Kit, a little sullenly.

"Aye," replied Vara, in a voice that was almost a whisper, "maybe! Ye
see, we hae kenned yin anither a' oor lives. And he kens hoo I was
brocht up—and a' aboot my folk! And I ken his."

"I'm jalloosin' ye'll be desperate fond o' him?" said Kit, in the same
hang-dog way, as if he were taking pleasure in his own pain.

"He fed the bairns wi' milk and bread," replied Vara softly; "aye, and
gied us a' that he had when we were starvin'! He gied up the very roof
abune his heid to shelter us when we were turned oot on the street. I
canna help bein' fond o' him, Kit. 'Deed I canna."

Kit Kennedy thought a long time, till indeed they had walked quite
across a field. Then he spoke.

"I canna feed ye, nor yet look after the bairns for ye. I hae nae hoose
to put ye in, Vara. But O, I am _that_ fond of ye, it's like to break
my heart."

Vara stretched out her hand.

"An' I'm fond o' you too, laddie!" she said.

"Aye, but no the way I mean!" said Kit sadly, with a sob in his voice.

"I'll be aye thinkin' on ye," said Vara. "I wish ye war awa' frae this
place."

"Dinna gie that a thocht!" said Kit, bravely; "I'm no mindin' a hair
for my auntie—at least, I wadna if ye had only bided, so that whiles I
could hae looked at ye, Vara!"

They had been walking hand in hand for some time. Kit Kennedy was
tingling with a great desire. His heart was beating violently, as he
nerved himself for the plunge.

They were at the march-dyke, just where it plunged into the wood of
birches and alders. The path went down close along the lake shore
from that point. The trees made a green haze of dusk there, with airs
blowing cool from off the lake.

"Gloriana," said Kit suddenly, "will ye gie me a bit kiss to mind ye
by?"

Vara looked at the lad with eyes of shy terror. This was indeed
something new. Even Cleg, who would readily have died for her, or given
her his coat or his house, if he had one, had never offered to kiss
her. So at the sound of Kit's voice her heart also drummed in her ears
emptily, as if her head were deep under water.

She stood still, looking away from him, but not turning her head down.
Kit bent his head and kissed her fairly.

A strange pang ran responsively to Vara's heart—a flash of rapture to
Kit's. They parted without a word, the girl walking sedately out of the
shadows in one direction, and the lad running with all his might back
to the farm in the other.

Each had their own several communings.

Vara said to herself, "Why does not Cleg think to speak to me like
that?"

It was a great blunder on Cleg's part, certainly, and, if heart-aches
were to be spared, one which he should speedily set himself to repair.

And as Kit Kennedy went home he said, over and over, "I hae kissed her.
I hae kissed her. Naething and naebody can take that from me, at least."

But with the stilling of his leaping and rejoicing heart came the
thought, "But had I the right? He fed them and clothed them, and never
asked as much. He is better than I. I will not trouble them any more.
For he is better and worthier than I."

So Kit's dreams and imaginings helped him to something more knightly
in his renunciation than in the brief rapturous flash of possession.



ADVENTURE LV.

A YOUNG MAN'S FANCY.


Meanwhile Cleg was looking after the General's interests when, had he
known it, he ought rather to have been looking after his own. He closed
the doors of the great house that afternoon, as he had done for many
months, and left his master in his strange bed. He was not afraid now,
any more. For, in spite of his madness, there was something engaging
about the General, something at once childlike and ingenuous, which
came out in the close intercourse of two people living altogether alone.

Cleg went into the little brick addition at the back, and the barred
doors of the great house shut mechanically behind him.

Cleg was making up his mind to ask the General to let him live out of
the house. Cleg was thinking, also, of speaking to Vara. But then Vara
might not agree. Had he ever asked her? Of course he had not. It was
"soft"—so he had held up to this point to speak to a girl about such
things. But yet the idea had its pleasures, and some day he would speak
to her about it. Had he been hidden that day in the little copse by the
march-dyke, on the road from Loch Spellanderie, he might have heard
something very much to his advantage, which might have spurred him on
to speak for himself, even at the risk of being considered exceedingly
"soft."

But the mere fact that he thought of it at all, argued a mighty change
in this Cleg of ours. He was no more only an Arab of the city all these
years. He had given Mirren half his wages and saved the rest, so that,
with the Christmas presents the General had given him, he had nearly a
hundred pounds in the bank.

Cleg pushed his way through the thickly matted copses of spurge laurel
and wet-shot alder. He was going to Sandyknowes. The lush green
Solomon's seal was growing all around, with its broad-veined green
leaves. A little farther on he came on the pure white blossoms of bog
trefoil, with its flossy, delicate petals, lace-edged like feminine
frilleries.

A thought came into Cleg's mind at the time which bore fruit
afterwards. He thought that, if at any time he should lose his position
with the General, he knew what he should do. For Cleg was an optimist,
and a working, scheming optimist as well. The man who succeeds in this
world is doubtless the man who, according to the copybook maxim, gives
his undivided attention to the matter in hand. But he is also the man
who has always a scheme or two in reserve. He is the man who is ready,
if need be, to "fight it out on this line all summer," but who has also
at the same time other fighting lines in reserve for the autumn and
winter campaigns.

So Cleg, with his ready brain, turned the wild flowers into a means
of getting the little house in the background for Vara and himself,
even if the General's kindness should vanish away as quickly and
unexpectedly as it had come.

The house of Sandyknowes was very quiet. Mirren Douglas had put away
vain regrets even as she had laid away Muckle Alick's things—and that
was as neatly as if he was to need them next Sabbath when he made ready
for the kirk. She had reviewed her position. And for four years, with
Vara's and Cleg's help, she had owed no man anything, and had brought
up Hugh and Gavin as if they were her own. But she never thought of
herself as Alick's widow. She was his wife still.

Alick and she had been saving people. Also he had been, as was said,
"a weel-likit man aboot the station," and he had left her nearly four
hundred pounds in the bank. But this Mirren, like a prudent woman, had
resolved not to touch if she could help it. She had still six years to
run of the nineteen years' lease of Sandyknowes—its grass parks and its
gardens, its beeskeps and little office houses. But she was often a
little wearied at night, cumbered with much service. She felt that now
she needed help.

Her thoughts fell on Vara. Should she not bring her home? But yet how
could she take her away till the term from Mistress McWalter of Loch
Spellanderie?

At that very moment Vara herself opened the door and walked in.

"Wi' lassie!" cried the astonished Mirren Douglas, "what for hae ye
left your place? Hae ye gotten leave to bide a' nicht?"

"I hae gotten my fee an' my leave, like the brownie Kit Kennedy sings
aboot!" said Vara pleasantly.

"And what's the reason o' that?" said Mirren, with great anxiety in her
motherly face.

"The master and the mistress fell oot aboot me," said Vara simply.

"Then I needna ask what yin o' them was in your favour," said Mirren,
sharply.

"I must look out for a place," said Vara. "Oh, Mirren Douglas, ye
hae been kind to me. But I couldna think o' puttin' you to fash and
trouble ony longer, noo that I'm woman muckle, and able to be doin' for
mysel'."

"Lassie," said little Mistress Mirren Douglas of Sandyknowes, "will
ye hae this place here? I was gaun awa' to look for a lass this very
minute. Will ye bide at Sandyknowes, at least till ye will be wantin'
to leave us o' your ain accord some day?"

"Aye, that I will, and heartily!" cried Vara, smiling gladly.

And the tender-hearted little woman in black fairly took Vara in her
arms and wept over her.

"I canna think what's come ower me thae days," she said; "I greet that
easy. And everything that I tak' in my fingers breaks. Since Alick gaed
awa' I think whiles that my fingers hae a' grown to be thumbs!"

There was a rap at the door. Vara rose naturally and went to it as if
she had never been away. It was Cleg Kelly.

All his greeting was just "Weel, Vara!" He did not so much as offer to
take her hand. Clever as he thought himself, Cleg Kelly had a great
deal to learn. Yet that very moment he had been dreaming of the little
house which was to grow out of the General's bounty, and out of the
trefoil and forget-me-not in the bog. Yet, when he found his sweetheart
at the back of the door, he could only mutter "Weel, Vara!" Nothing
more.

Cleg and Vara went in together, without speaking. Mirren rose to shake
hands. But little Hugh was before her. He distinguished himself by
summarily tumbling Gavin heels over head and scrambling towards the
visitor.

"Cleg Kelly! Cleg Kelly!" he cried. "I want ye to fecht the Drabble and
gar him gie me back my pistol. I'm big enough noo! There's an awesome
heap o' wild beasts here to shoot if only I had a pistol. In the wood
at the back there's lots o' elephants, and leepards, and—and teegars,"
he added, when he found that Cleg looked sufficiently credulous.

"And how do ye get on with the daft General?" asked Mirren, with great
interest in her face.

Cleg was amused at her question. He had become quite accustomed to the
wonder on people's faces, usually shading into awe, when they asked him
concerning his position in the household of the redoubtable General
Theophilus Ruff.

"Fine," said Cleg. "Him and me 'grees fine. I hae nae faut to the
General."

"Preserve us," said Mirren, "I never heard the like. The auld wizard
hadna had a leevin' soul aboot him before you came, since his Indian
servant Copper-Blackie died. And that's ten year since. And to think
that ye hae nae faut to him!"

She looked at Cleg again.

"Noo, come," she said, "sit doon and tell us a' aboot what's inside the
hoose."

But Cleg remained uninterestingly discreet. He said nothing about the
General's bedroom; but he filled up the tale with the most minute
details concerning the vaulted passages, the iron-barred casements in
the hall, and the camp-like conveniences of the little brick building
at the back.

Vara and Mirren Douglas listened with close attention. Hugh stopped
teasing the cat with a feather, as it was trying to go to sleep on the
hearthrug. Gavin was already asleep, with a brass door-knob and a whip
clutched in his hands.

"Aweel," said Mirren, when Cleg had finished, "I thought it was a deal
waur than that. But he maun be a fearsome creature to leeve wi', the
General. Yet he is nane so ill a neebour to me."

Cleg uncrossed his legs and became instantly at ease. Mirren looked
affectionately at Vara.

"Heard ye," she said, "that I hae gotten a new servant lass? I am able
to do withoot her wage. And it is worth far mair for the company," she
added.

"I wish I could bide and help ye too, for Alick's sake," said Cleg,
shyly.

Mirren rose and ran to the boy. Hastily Cleg held out his hand, and
Mirren Douglas clasped it. He was afraid that she was going to kiss
him, and though he admitted the thing as an abstract possibility of the
future, it had not quite come to that with him yet.

"Cleg," she said, "ye are a kind, good lad."

"Aye, that he is," chimed in Vara; "and ye wad say so if ye kenned him
as I do."

Cleg began to expand in this atmosphere of appreciation. He decided to
wait for tea. The hours sped all too swiftly, and the appointed time
arrived before he knew it, when he must return to the great barred
prison with the little brick martin's nest attached to the back of it.

But before Cleg went away he brought in the water for the night,
filling all the cans. He scoured the milk pails ready for the milking
of Mirren Douglas's three cows. He split abundance of kindling wood. He
brought in the peats off the stack—enough to do for all the following
day. He swept the yard clean as a hearth, with a worn stable brush. He
promised to come back on the morrow and sweep the chimney, when Mirren
puffed her cheeks at the smoke which blew down it occasionally. Then
he brought home the cows, assisted by Hugh, Vara watching meanwhile a
little wistfully from the gate. She felt sure that if it had been Kit
Kennedy, he would not have chosen Hugh to help him. Mirren watched the
girl with sharp, kindly eyes, but she said nothing.

When Cleg had done everything that he could think of for Vara and her
mistress, he tied a new whip lash on Gavin's driving stick, tossed Hugh
up to the ceiling, and departed.

Vara came with him to the door. Cleg did not even attempt to shake
hands. On the contrary, he edged cautiously away lest Vara should offer
to do it. "A chap looks saft aye shakin' hands" was how he explained
the matter to himself. So when Vara stood a moment at the doorstep,
with her hands wrapped tightly in her white apron and her eyes upon
the beehives, Cleg looked at her a long time. It was exceedingly good
to look upon her, and he had a little heartache all to himself as he
thought of Theophilus Ruff in his terrible bedroom. Vara seemed all
sunshine and pleasantness. But still he could think of nothing to say,
till he was about ten yards down the walk. Then at last he spoke.

"Ye are takkin' your meat weel to a' appearance," he said.

Vara understood his meaning and was pleased. It was more to her from
Cleg than all Kit Kennedy's sweet speeches. Her mind was mightily
relieved. Cleg would learn yet.

But Vara only replied, "Do you think so, Cleg?"

"Guidnicht, Vara," said Cleg, soberly.

And with that he took his way sedately over the fields and disappeared
into the coppice towards the house of Barnbogle. Vara watched him out
of sight; but now not so wistfully. There was a proud little expression
in her face. She looked almost conscious of her growing beauty.

"He maun think an awfu' deal o' me to say that!" she told herself.

When she went back into the house Mirren Douglas was just putting on
her milking apron. She pretended to busy herself with the strings.

"Cleg doesna improve muckle in looks," she said; "he's no great beauty,
is he noo?"

She spoke with intent to see what Vara would reply. For, after her
sorrow, the old Mirren was springing up again like roses in an Indian
summer.

"I never think muckle aboot his looks when I see him," said Vara
quickly. "If he had looked like an angel, he couldna hae been kinder to
me."

"Hoots, lassie," said Mirren hastily, "I was only jokin' ye. He is
growin' a fine, personable lad, and when he has some flesh on his banes
and a wee tait o' mair growth aboot his face, he'll do verra weel."

"He does very weel as he is, I think," said the loyal Vara, who was not
yet appeased. "He has chappit the firewood, fetched the water, brocht
in the peats and stalled the kye, soopit the yaird—and he is coming
back the morn to clean the lum."

"And to see you, Vara," said Mirren Douglas, with wicked meaning in
her tone. "What said ye at the door when he cannily bade ye guidnicht,
Vara?"

"He said I was lookin' like takkin' my meat weel," said Vara, demurely
pulling at the corner of her apron, where a knot of the lace was coming
loose. At least Vara was rapidly loosening it.

"Let your apron be, lassie; what ill-will hae ye at it?" cried Mirren
from the doorstep.

Vara dropped the loop as if it had been a white-hot iron. And as Mirren
Douglas carried her milking stool to the byre, she dropped a few tears.
"I mind sae weel," she said to herself, "the time when Alick was a lad
and coming aboot the place, I used to like naething better than for
folk to be aye botherin' me aboot him!"

And if "bothering" be a provocative to love, Mirren resolved that
neither Vara nor Cleg should lack the amatorious irritant.



ADVENTURE LVI.

THE VOICES IN THE MARSH.


During the days that followed her home-coming Vara was happier than
she had ever been. In the warm sunshine of family love and physical
well-being the curves of her figure filled out. She seemed to shoot
up all at once from the child into the woman. Her eyes lost their old
frightened look. Her arms and shoulders hid their angles and became
curved and dimpled. But Cleg waxed even more shy and awkward. But,
nevertheless, he came every day, and if there was anything to be done
about the house, or in the little grass parks, Cleg Kelly was there to
do it. It was Cleg, for instance, who started the wonderful wild-flower
industry. This was the secret which he had kept in store against the
day when he should fall out with the General.

It was Cleg's idea that if only he could send large enough quantities
of the commoner wild flowers to the market, there would soon be a trade
in them which might, with proper attention, grow to very considerable
dimensions.

Not that Cleg contemplated any great extensions at present. But he
desired to make a beginning, so that he might not have to build up from
the foundations, if anything were suddenly to happen which might cast
him again upon the world.

So Cleg advertised in the Scottish city papers that he was prepared to
supply both blooms and entire plants of such ferns and wild flowers as
grew in the neighbourhood of Netherby. He got Vara also to send similar
advertisements to the _Exchange and Mart_ and other papers. And in a
little time he had developed as large a trade as could be carried on
directly by parcel and limited orders. He found, for instance, a hill
not far off which was entirely overgrown with the parsley-fern. And
with this he made great deals in the fern market. For he was able to
supply a dozen or a hundred plants for a very modest remittance, and
that with merely the trouble of walking to the hill for them.

But he saw that the undertaking must have a surer basis than this
haphazard ingathering of chance growths. And so Cleg set himself to
plant out and cultivate the wild flowers in ground naturally suited for
their growth. He had the wet morass at hand for the water-plants, the
burnside for those which loved to be near, but not in, running water.
There were shy nooks about the linn for ferns, and for the rest the
fine light soil of Sandyknowes. He utilised ground which was not in use
for any other purposes, fencing it round with wire, and setting Vara
and Hugh to do the watering and caring for the plants, as they had done
long ago around the old construction hut in Callendar's yard.

Hugh Boy went to school during the day at Netherby Academy, and was
proving a great success. Cleg Kelly taught him how to box, and warned
him at the same time not to fight. But Cleg added that if he needed
to do it, it was better to do it once for all and be done with it. So
these advantages assured Hugh an easy life of it at school.

Cleg had also been thinking much lately of developing the wild-flower
business. He meant to establish an agency in each of the larger towns,
and he had already written a letter to Cleaver's boy offering him terms
as his agent and advising him to look out for openings. For Cleg was
proving himself above all things practical, and seemed destined to turn
out as prosperous a business man as Bailie Holden.

The General often laughed at Cleg's devotion to his flowers and his
children. Yet he liked to hear tidings of them. Sometimes, indeed,
he reproved Cleg for bringing with him a floating atmosphere and
suggestion of womankind. But Cleg always assured him that he had been
careful to change his clothes.

Life at Barnbogle went on uneventfully. Daily the time locks clicked.
Daily the General retired to his strange bedroom, coming forth again
with the pupils of his eyes dilated and his face drawn with the drugs
which he had inhaled and swallowed. Cleg cooked the bacon, brewed the
tea, and made a couple of daily pilgrimages to the room of the three
coffins. Then he came out again and shut the doors carefully behind
him, and slept soundly at nights. Cleg had no spiritual fears and had
outgrown his illusions—at least such of them as interfered with a pound
a week.

But whenever he went into Netherby he found himself an object of great
interest. For not even the peccadilloes of the ministers of Netherby,
nor yet the unbecoming gaiety of their wives' attire, supplied so
favourite a subject for gossip to the good folk of the town as the
madness and the miserliness of General Theophilus Ruff.

The old men would tell over again those tales of the General driving
his coach and six with the lady by his side who was arrayed like the
Queen of Sheba. Netherby had never had any doubt as to the fascinating
moral character of this personage. And Theophilus Ruff still carried
the glory of his former sins about with him, even though he had dwelt
for twenty years a hermit and a madman in his house of Barnbogle.

His fabulous wealth was everywhere a common topic. He received his
rents in person, but none of it, so far as was known, was placed in
the banks of the neighbourhood. The builders, the engineers, and the
locksmiths from the city had, as we have seen, all told tales of the
strong-rooms they had been erecting, and of the secret arrangements
which had been made with a great firm in London for yet more complete
safety.

"It's a perfect Guid's wonder that ye are no a' murdered in your beds,
wi' thae millions of siller lyin' in the hoose," said one of Cleg's
most persistent inquisitors, after vainly trying to extract from Cleg
whether he had ever seen the treasure with his own eyes.

"I wadna be in your shoon for a hundred pounds a week—na, no for a'
the gowd in Barnbogle Hoose," the respectable shopkeeper told him each
time he came in. "The General's servants never leave him. Na, they a'
dee—and generally michty suddenly at the tail o' the day. And naebody
kens in what mainner they come by their ends. I'm thinking that when he
gets tired o' them, he juist locks them up in yin o' his iron rooms and
then—lets them bide there!"

But Cleg was not frightened, as the good grocer had hoped. He bought
his red herrings, his bacon, and his eggs; and he carried them
peacefully back to the brick building in the rear of the vast blind
wall of Barnbogle House, to be ready when the General should come again
from his room.

"A pound a week was never easier earned," said practical and
unimaginative Cleg.

Vara felt that this time of bliss was too sweet to last. Yet, with
the fatalism of those bred up in the midst of misery, she was content
to bask carelessly in the sunshine of present prosperity. She was like
a bird taking its fill of the warmth and delight of summer, without
a thought of blusterous winter winds and the shrewd pinch of nipping
skies.

But one night, when the year was already drawing to its end, and
November was expiring in a clear silver-grey rime of frost, Vara was
locking up the outhouses at Sandyknowes in the gloaming. She had
already been at the byre, and had given the cows their last bit of
fodder, and a pat each on the flank as she passed—a pat so remote from
the sentient and operative end of the animal, that it seemed almost as
ridiculous as caressing the porch of a church in order to please the
parson.

Nevertheless, Vara never omitted the ceremony on any consideration.
Yet this particular evening, all the time she was foddering the cattle
Vara had a strange consciousness that she heard voices somewhere over
towards the marsh. The crisp air of coming frost sharpened her hearing,
and as the stars pricked themselves out, the whole night rang like a
bell with unknown and far-away sounds.

Voices Vara certainly did hear. But she thought that it might be only
a lad and lass on their way to the dancing-school, or a herd talking
aloud to his dog for company as he went homeward. Yet the sounds did
not resemble any of those with which Vara had been recently acquainted.
Some awful dread, inherited from a former and a more terrible
existence, returned upon her.

Her breath came hard and quick. She grew first hot and then cold, as
she stole down by the barn-end to listen. She was nearer to the voices
there. The murmur of them came more instant and terrible up from the
swamp above which Sandyknowes sat on its hill. Vara stole on tiptoe
nearer and nearer. The old hut in the hollow was a deserted cot-house
of the General's—a mere but-and-ben—which Muckle Alick had been
accustomed to use for storing old railway sleepers in. For these are
the winter fuel of men who work upon the railway.

Presently Vara saw its white gable-end staring out at her through
the bare branches of the underbrush. The angry voices became louder
and more threatening. A ray of light stole through a chink in the
boarded-up window. Stealthily Vara went on tiptoe round the gable till
she could put her eye to the chink. A cloth had been hung up over the
window, past one corner of which Vara could just see a fire flickering
in the grateless fireplace of the deserted cottage.

But her heart sank within her at the words she heard, which rang like
the very trump of doom in her ears: "Timothy Kelly," cried a voice
which Vara well knew—even that of her mother—"I tell ye I will have no
murder done! And on your own son! Shame on ye! It is enough to bring
a judgment on us all just to talk about it. I tell ye we can get the
stuff out of the house o' the loony General without the like of that."

Then the piping voice of the weasel-faced Tim Kelly answered, "'Tis
little that ye know, Sal Kavannah, you that never were at the taking
of a farthing's worth in your life, except off boosy softies in the
street. I tell ye, woman, that if Clig Kelly were to come in my road
when I am getting out the cargo I'd spit him like a rat!"

"But, maybes," said the other voice, which thrilled Vara the most,
"maybes, if ye was to speak peaceable-like to the lad ye might get him
to stand in with us."

"Sorra a fear of him," replied Tim; "Clig Kelly might have been like a
lump of paving-stone, for all the kindness he ever showed to his kin.
Aye, and after all that I have done for the boy!"

"Childer! poison them!" cried Sal Kavannah, "'tis little you have had
to suffer with your childer, Timothy Kelly! It's me that knows to the
roots of my heart. But wait till we have this stuff lifted and safe in
Mistress Roy's tea-kettle. Then we'll bring sweating sorrow on them
that's the proud ones this day."

"Set a match to the house this very night, and burn it about their
ears," said Tim Kelly. "Say the word and I'll do the job for you, and
that willin', Sal."

"I declare my heart's broke entirely with ungrateful children," said
Sal Kavannah; "but when once we get clear away with the old General's
jewels, we will have time and to spare to bring them to their senses."

Vara listened, now with fire glowing hot in her heart, and the next
moment she was again cold as a stone. She had her ear close down
against the bottom of the window-sill, and thus for a time she stood,
the thought that her enemy had found her out once more overwhelming all
other thoughts.

But presently the knowledge of Cleg Kelly's instant and terrible danger
came to her. Cleg was in sole charge of the great house of Barnbogle
with all its wonderful treasures. The master of it was reported to be
away. But, so strange and unaccountable were his comings and goings,
that no one knew whether General Theophilus Ruff was really in the
neighbourhood or not.

At all events, any way that Vara thought about it, there was little
doubt that Cleg was in imminent peril of his life. For if he refused to
give up the treasures of the General, his father would certainly kill
him. And if he were frightened or tortured into telling, then no one
would believe anything else than that he had been sent by his father
to worm himself into the confidence of the mad General and so open the
house to the robber.

Vara meditated what she should do. Could she get to the house of
Barnbogle before Tim Kelly, she might be able to put Cleg on his guard.
But a curious something, more disabling than fear, kept her chained to
the spot.

"The thing is easy as throat-slitting," said Tim emphatically. "I tell
you the lad has the keys; for I know he can let himself out and in at
his pleasure. Now, he shall give up the keys willingly, or I know a way
to make him. If the mad ould General comes in the road, I have that
in my pocket which will settle him dead for life. But I hear he's off
again on his thundering rounds, restless devil that he is!"

"But how," said Sal Kavannah, "is the like o' me to hold the boy? He
will be as strong as a young bullock by now."

"He'll be wake—wake as pump-water—when I get him in them hands,"
whispered Timothy Kelly, so that the listener barely heard him.

But Vara could see his narrow, weasel face thrust forward and hear the
hateful jar in his voice. "God's truth!" he said, "do I not owe him
wan? See them holes?" he cried more loudly, his hate mastering him,
"pockmarks ye could lose sixpence in. 'Twas the whelp that did that to
me! Ah! a fine man was Tim Kelly before that sorra came into the world."

"Vara! Vara!" cried suddenly a shrill voice behind the listening girl,
as she stood with her brow down on the window-sill. Her heart leaped
with wild terror; for it was the voice of little Gavin, come out to
seek her, and she feared that he would suddenly appear at the door of
the house on the bog. He had a curious faculty for following his sister
and finding her. Ever since she came back from Loch Spellanderie he
had not cared to let her out of his sight.

"Vara! Vara!" the shrill childish voice came again. She could hear
Gavin coming nearer, pushing his way through the crackling copsewood.
The wrangling voices within stilled themselves. The tell-tale light
went out at the crack in the board, and Vara knew that the wild beasts
inside would be after her in a moment.

If she could only silence Gavin, she thought. She rose to her feet and
dashed towards him.

"Vara! Vara!" rose the child's voice, clear on the frost-bitten air;
"where are ye, Vara?"

She could hear him beating gleefully with a stick on a wire fence which
ran down into the marsh, so that the very hills gave back the clear
humming sound. The wire was Gavin's telegraph, and he pleased himself
with the thought that he could always communicate with Vara by means
of it. The girl ran towards him, leaping over the frozen ditches, and
speeding through the briars, heedless of how she might hurt herself.
She came on Gavin at the edge of the wood, beating on the wire with his
stick and shouting boldly, "Vara, Vara, come forth!" as he had heard
the Netherby minister do in church.

"Hush, hush, Gavin!" she cried anxiously, holding out her arms to him,
"for God's sake, hush!"

And, in an agony of apprehension, she lifted him and strained him to
her breast. There came the sound of footsteps running through the
wood, and Vara dragged Gavin back into the shelter of the alders which
grew thick and rank in the marsh at the end of the fence. She covered
Gavin's mouth with her shawl as the flying footsteps clattered nearer.

Presently the dark figure of Tim Kelly ran past them, with his head
set very far forward, scenting from side to side like a beast of
prey hunting upon a hot trail. He held a knife point downwards in his
hand. Vara stood still while the terrifying vision passed. Tim Kelly
was running towards the house of Barnbogle. She could hear another—and
heavier—foot following. And before she had time to move, lo! Sal
Kavannah moved into the grey-litten space, and stood still within ten
yards of her children.

"The Awfu' Woman!" came from Gavin's lips, even through the folds of
the shawl. All terrifying things were summed up for him in that phrase
he had learned from his brother Hugh. Something seemed to tell Sal
Kavannah that she was near her children. She stood for what seemed an
eternity, stark and staring, rooted to the spot, only turning her head
slowly from side to side and straining her ears to hear the crack of a
twig or the rustle of a leaf.

Vara prayed as she had never done before. Gavin's eyes were fixed
in his head with terror. The end of the world had indeed come. "The
Awfu' Woman" was back again, and in a moment the quiet and safety of
Sandyknowes had ended for them.

But Vara stood the test. And Gavin had no words which were not shut
within him by the soul-terrifying proximity of Boy Hugh's "Awfu'
Woman." So silently did they stand that Sal Kavannah heard nothing; and
with her ears still on the stretch she moved slowly away, following Tim
Kelly in the direction of Barnbogle.

Then was Vara's heart fairly torn in twain. Should she go first to
Mirren Douglas and Boy Hugh? Or should she strike across through the
dark woods towards Barnbogle? Then, like sweet music, there fell on her
ears the loud, hearty accents of the voice of Mistress Fraser.

[Illustration: The dark figure ran past them.]

"Weel, Mirren, an' hoo's a' wi' ye the nicht? Hearty, thank ye!
I hae brocht my guidman an' Gibby, oor auldest callant, ower by to
hearten ye up. Gibby is a brave bullock-baned hullion, no bonny ony
mair than the daddy o' him—but that like Tam Fraser, that he could na
deny him even if he was willin'. And that is a guid thing for a decent
woman's reputation!"

Vara could not catch Mirren Douglas's reply, but she could hear
Mistress Fraser's next words; for that voluble lady always spoke as if
it were all important that the next two parishes should have a chance
of benefiting by her wisdom.

"Hoots, no! Gie yoursel' nae thocht aboot the lassie. She has Gavin wi'
her, and I'se warrant she'll be keepin' her bit trysts, just as you and
me had in the days that's lang bygane. Come your ways in, Gibby. Dinna
stand hingin' a leg there!"

Sandyknowes was therefore safe so long as the Frasers remained. The way
was clear for Vara to run through the woods to warn Cleg. So, plucking
Gavin to her, she lifted him in her arms and ran towards Barnbogle as
hard as she could. But the wild beast and the "Awfu' Woman" had a long
start of her.



ADVENTURE LVII.

FIGHTING THE BEASTS.


General Theophilus Ruff was at home. He had, in fact, never been away.
That very morning his lawyer had visited Barnbogle, and had stayed all
day in the little brick addition, with two of his clerks within call
in the kitchen behind, writing and witnessing deeds. The General sent
Cleg into Netherby in the forenoon upon half-a-dozen errands, and in
the afternoon he told him that he was free to do what he wished with
his time. Whereupon Cleg went and got a pail of whitewash to brighten
up the byre and stables of Sandyknowes, a job which he had been
promising himself as a treat for a long time.

After the General had dismissed the solicitor and his two clerks
to go back to the town of Drumnith, he withdrew into his room and
occupied himself with the arrangement and docketing of multitudinous
papers. When Cleg came back he made his supper by himself in the brick
addition, and was just sitting down with the paper-covered threepenny
novel which represented literature to him, when the door opened and
the General came in with a roll of papers in his hand. His hair stood
nearly straight up, and his eyes were bloodshot and starting from his
head. A great change had come over him since the morning.

"Cleg," he said abruptly, "you are going to lose your place."

Cleg stood on his feet respectfully. He was not much astonished. He had
been waiting for an announcement like this ever since he found what
manner of man his impulsive master was. His first thought was that he
would be able largely to increase the flower business.

"Verra weel, sir," said Cleg, glancing straight at the General, who
stood commandingly in the doorway, looking, in spite of his disarray,
imposing enough in his undress uniform; "verra weel, sir. Ye hae been
kind to me."

"Ah," said the General, "I mean that ye are going to lose your master,
not that he wishes you to leave your place. I have a long journey to
depart upon. I am going upon active service in another world. Three
times yestreen I heard the black dog summon me below the window."

"That maun hae been Tam Fraser's collie," said Cleg promptly, "nesty
brute that he is. I'll put a chairge o' number five in his tail the
next time he comes yowlin' and stravagin' aboot here!"

"No," said the General, without paying much attention, "it was the
Death Dog, which only appears when one of my race is about to die.
My hours of life are numbered, or at least I believe they are, which
is exactly the same thing. You will find that you are not left with
the empty hand, Cleg, my man. See that ye use it as wisely as ye have
used my money. For I have proved you an honest lad, and that to the
hilt—never roguing your master of a pennyworth, high or low, indoor or
out, and saving of the Danish butter when you fried the fish."

"Thank ye," said Cleg, "I am no o' high family, ye see. Nae dowgs come
aboot when the Kellys dee that I ken o', but if your yin bothers ye
I'll shoot him. Gin Rab Wullson the polissman hears tell o' it, he'll
be at us to tak' oot a leesence for him."

The General held out his hand.

"Good-bye," he said, "it is likely that I'll be waiting for you on the
waterside when you land. I have a tryst to-day with the old Ferryman.
The Black Dog has looked my way. I hear the lapping of the water
against the boat's sides, and I have coined my gold for drachmas to pay
my passage."

"Guidnicht, sir," answered Cleg, briskly; "will ye hae herrin' or bacon
to your breakfast the morn's mornin'?"

Cleg was accustomed to the General's megrims, and did not anticipate
anything special from this solemn harangue.

"Nae fears, sir," he said, encouragingly; "you tak' your comfortable
sleep; the black collie will never trouble ye. I'll leave the outer
door on the jar, an' faith! I'll hae a shot at him if he comes youchin'
aboot this hoose."

"Come up, Cleg," said Theophilus Ruff, as he stood by the door, "come
up in a quarter of an hour, and I'll take my pipe as usual."

"Aye, General," said Cleg, "I'll be up. Did ye say herrin'?"

The General went out without answering, and Cleg turned unconcernedly
to his immediate business of scouring the pans and setting the kitchen
to rights. He was naturally neat-handed, and by this time no work,
indoors or out, came wrong to him.

He was whistling cheerily and burnishing a tin skillet when a slight
noise at the outer door startled him. He dropped the can, and it rolled
with a clatter under the dresser.

"That dowg o' Fraser!" he said to himself. "I'll 'Black Dog' him!"

But before he could rise he felt his arms pinioned from behind, and
ere he could make any effective resistance he was thrown upon his
back on the floor. Cleg struggled gallantly, and it might have proved
successfully; but the face which looked hatefully into his took from
him in a moment all power of resistance.

It was his father's face, livid with hate and vile determination. Tim
Kelly coolly directed Sal Kavannah to sit upon the lad's feet, while
he himself trussed up his hands and arms as if he had been a fowl
ready for the market. Cleg suffered all this without showing the least
concern. He had no hope of pity. But he steeled himself to be silent,
and faithful to his benefactor.

His father shut the kitchen door. Then he looked carefully round the
brick house, and seemed infinitely relieved to find the door into the
house unlocked, as the General had left it when he went out for Cleg to
follow.

Presently Tim Kelly came back and kneeled by his son's side.

"Now, young serpent," he said, "the reckoning day has come at long and
last 'twixt you and me! You have got to tell me where the old chap
keeps his keys, and that mighty sharp—or I will see the colour of your
blood, sorrowful son o' mine though you be!"

But Cleg maintained a steady silence. Whereupon his father set his
fingers to his throat.

"I know a way to make you speak," he said. "Sal, take him by the feet
and throw him over that bed."

Sal Kavannah did as she was bid, and between them they threw Cleg
across his own bed with his head hanging down on the other side.

"Don't ye be thinking," said his father, bending over him, "that
because I had the ill luck to be father to the likes o' you, that will
do ye any good."

Cleg still held his peace, biting speech down with a proud, masterful
heart. He was resolved that, even if he killed him, his father should
not draw a single word out of him.

At that moment a loud clang sounded through the archway which led into
the dark house of Barnbogle. Cleg's eyes went in spite of him towards
the door. He knew that in a moment more the General would appear in the
doorway; and he feared that his father would kill him with the revolver
which, when on business errands, he always carried attached to his
waist by a leather strap.

Cleg started up as far as he could for his bonds and his father's
fierce clutch upon his throat.

"General," he cried, "run back to the strong-room—back as fast as you
can to the strong-room!"

Then Cleg heard with gratitude the sound of retreating footsteps
outside in the passage.

Timothy Kelly rose from his knees with an oath. He felt that he had
been tricked. His revolver was in his hand, and he pointed it at
his son's forehead. His fore-finger hooked itself on the trigger.
Cleg Kelly instinctively shut his eyes not to see the flash. But Sal
Kavannah jerked up her companion's arm.

"You waste time, man," she said; "through the door after the old
fellow!"

Tim Kelly lifted the slant-headed bar of iron which he had brought with
him to be inserted, if need were, under the sashes of the windows; and
as he ran out of the kitchen he struck his son heavily over the head
with this, leaving him lying in his blood upon the bed.

Through the long, vaulted passages the villain ran, with his accomplice
in crime close upon his heels. The door which divided the little brick
building from the main house of Barnbogle closed after them. Something
like a tall, flitting white-robed figure seemed to keep a little way
before them. They followed till it vanished through the open door of
the strong-room. In a moment both Tim Kelly and Sal Kavannah darted in
after it, and immediately, with a clang which resounded through the
whole house, the door closed upon pursuers and pursued. Then, through
the silence which ensued, piercing even the thick walls of the old
mansion, ringing all over the country-side, came three loud screams of
heart-sickening terror. And after that for a space again there fell
silence upon the strange house of Barnbogle, with its mad master and
its devilish visitants like wild, predatory beasts of the night. But
Cleg Kelly heard nothing; for the blow from his father's arm had left
him, as it proved, wounded and nigh unto death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vara we left panting along the road upon her quest of mercy, listening
fearfully for the feet of the pursuer. She dared not leave Gavin
behind her, but toiled under his load all the way—now stumbling in the
darkness and now falling headlong. The lad cried bitterly, but Vara
persevered, for she had the vision of Cleg before her, helpless in the
hands of the cruel enemies who were also hers.

When she came to the main door of the house of Barnbogle she found it
barred and locked, while the gloomy front loomed above with the windows
like still blacker gashes on its front. However, she remembered Cleg's
description, and, taking Gavin by the hand, she ran as swiftly as she
could through the dense coppice round to the little brick addition.

She had just reached the closed door when the three shrieks of terrible
distress pealed out upon the night silences.

But Vara nerved herself, and, lifting the latch, pushed the kitchen
door open. There across the bed, within three feet of her, lay Cleg,
bound, bleeding, and insensible. Vara set down Gavin, sprang towards
Cleg, and took him up in her arms. Hastily she unloosed him from his
bonds, and dashed water upon his face. But his head fell heavily and
loosely forward, and it was with a terrible sinking of the heart that
the thought flashed upon her that her friend was already dead. The
house continued to resound with cries of fear, demoniac laughter,
screams of ultimate agony. At any moment the fiends who made them
might burst upon her. Yet she could not leave Cleg to the mercy of the
merciless.

With eager hands she tore the sheet from the bed, and, wrapping him in
it, she lifted him in her arms and staggered into the night. Gavin came
after her, speechless with fear, clutching tightly the skirts of her
dress.

So, fainting and staggering, Vara bore Cleg across the marsh and up to
the little house of Sandyknowes. She was just able to put Cleg Kelly
into the arms of Mirren Douglas and sink fainting on the floor.

When she came to herself Tam Fraser and the doctor from Netherby were
bending over her.

"What was the maitter—wha hurt the laddie?" asked Tam Fraser.

"The House! The terrible House!" was all that Vara could say.

Cleg Kelly was not dead. The doctor reported him to be suffering from a
severe concussion of the brain, which might probably prevent a return
to consciousness for some days.

A band of men hastily equipped themselves and set out for the house of
Barnbogle. They stole up to the door of the kitchen. It stood open, as
Vara had left it. The light streamed out upon the green foliage and
the trampled grass. But inside there was only silence, and all around
a wild scene of confusion. The skillet which Cleg had been burnishing
lay upon the hearthstone. There was blood upon the stones of the floor
where he had been thrown down, and again on the bed from which Vara had
lifted him. But about all the house there was only silence.

The blacksmith of the nearest village brought a forehammer, and with
great difficulty he and his apprentice broke a way into the house
itself through one of the barred upper windows. But the whole mansion
within was entirely in order. The iron fronts of the safes in the hall
had not been tampered with. The red iron door of the strong-room in
the rock underground was close and firm—far beyond the art of Netherby
smiths to burst open.

It was considered, therefore, that the General must be from home, on
one of his ever-recurring journeys, and that his servant Cleg had been
attacked by the ruffians who had run off at the sound of the alarm
raised by Vara.

Yet it was thought somewhat strange that, as the men came back through
the empty house, they should find an iron crowbar, stained with blood,
lying at the top of the steps which led to the strong-room.



ADVENTURE LVIII.

WITHIN THE RED DOOR.


Cleg hovered long between life and death. The Netherby doctor made his
rounds twice a day in the direction of Sandyknowes in order to watch
the case. Vara and Mirren Douglas waited unweariedly upon him. It
seemed so strange a thing to them to see their lightsome, alert Cleg
thus lie senseless, speechless, turning his head only a little from
side to side occasionally, and keeping his eyes fixed steadfastly upon
the ceiling.

After the first night of stupor Cleg slept heavily and constantly for
nearly ten days, without being able either to speak or so much as tell
his own name.

The Netherby doctor raised each of the patient's eyelids when he came,
but the pupil remained dull. Every day the doctor would say, "Do not be
alarmed. This is a well-marked stage of the trouble, though no doubt it
is in this case somewhat unduly prolonged."

And so it proved, for Cleg did not come to himself until twelve days
after the night when Vara found him lying in the brick addition, with
the lamp lighted and signs of hideous outrage all about him on the
floor. A watch had been kept all the time by the county authorities
upon Barnbogle House, and every possible attempt had been made to
communicate with the owner. All places which he was known to visit had
been watched.

The steamers on the Caledonian Canal, the ferries to the Island of
Arran, the passenger boats to Orkney and Shetland had been carefully
examined; but so far it was all in vain. No one answering to the
description of General Theophilus Ruff could anywhere be found. Yet
there was nothing remarkable in this. For the mad General had been
in the habit of going off suddenly on tours by himself, by rail and
steamboat, without consulting any one. Upon his travels by sea he
had been distinguished by his habit of taking the officers under
his protection, and offering them advice upon the subject of their
profession, especially as to the proper way to handle a ship—advice
which, strangely enough, was not always received in good part.

But the mad soldier could nowhere be found. His lawyers continued
the search in other directions. They came to Netherby, and made very
particular inquiries as to the doings of Cleg during the day which had
ended so disastrously. Now it chanced that, even while Cleg himself lay
unconscious upon the bed at Sandyknowes, every hour of his day could
be accounted for; that is, up to the moment when he had gone home to
prepare supper for his master. The General had ordered a new fence of
barbed wire to be erected by the side of the railway, and Cleg had been
out all the forenoon superintending its erection, after having been
sent to Netherby by the General. He had been engaged in whitewashing
the office-houses at Sandyknowes in the afternoon.

So close was the inquiry, that the chief of the Netherby police asked
more than once of the detective employed by General Ruff's lawyers if
he had any cause for suspicion against the young man Kelly.

"None whatever," said the detective, "so far as I know. But I
understand that important testamentary dispositions will affect the
young man—that is, if he gets better and the General does not turn up."

Cleg did get better, but not suddenly or indeed speedily.

One morning, when the doctor came from Netherby, Cleg of his own accord
twitched an eyelid up and glanced at him.

"Doctor Sidey!" he said feebly, "have I been ill?"

Without answering, the doctor took his hand and bent over him.

His breathing was weak and irregular, but still perceptibly stronger.

"He'll do!" said Doctor Sidey of Netherby to Mirren Douglas, "but, mind
you, he is to be asked no questions till I can ask them myself."

So for nearly a week more Cleg lay in the dusky room, with the bees
humming drowsily outside the wall on sunny days, and the sounds of the
little farmyard of Sandyknowes coming to him softened by distance. Vara
looked in many times a day, as she passed the window to bring home the
cows, or going with a can to the well; and always at sight of her Cleg
smiled happily.

Or Mirren came in from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron,
and Cleg smiled again. Then Vara brought him his low diet of milk and
cornflour. But she did not speak to him. He looked at her in a manner
so pathetic in its weakness that Mirren Douglas had often, perforce,
to go into a corner and dry her eyes with her apron.

"He used to be so strong and cheery!" she said, as if explaining the
matter to the world in general.

Then Vara would briskly leave the room to bid Boy Hugh hush his noisy
calls to the chickens outside. Whereat Cleg Kelly would shake his head;
but whether because Vara had left the room, or because he liked the
simple, cheerful sounds of the yard coming into his chamber, Mirren
Douglas did not know.

It was a clear morning, about seven o'clock, when Cleg came fully to
himself. The trees upon the slope opposite stood black and hard against
a pale green midwinter sky. Cleg watched the light grow clearer behind
them as a chill wind from the south swayed the branches away from him.
He had a delicious sense of reposefulness and physical well-being. But
this was suddenly crossed and obliterated by the thought which came to
him that he had lost his place. How long had he been lying here? He
could not remember. His master—where was he? That hideous vision of his
old life which swept over him like a very eruption of devildom—was it a
dream, or a reality?

"The doctor! the doctor!" cried Cleg; "send for him quickly. I have
something I must tell him."

And Vara sped obediently away, putting forth all the strength in her
lithe young limbs to bring Doctor Sidey to Cleg Kelly as quickly as
possible.

When he came in he looked at Cleg quickly.

"Worse?" he queried, half to the patient and half to Mirren Douglas,
who stood by with folded hands.

"No," said Cleg, "not worse, doctor. But I have something to tell you
which cannot wait."

The doctor motioned Vara and Mirren out of the room. And then, in
hurried, breathless sentences, Cleg told the doctor of all that had
taken place on the night of the attack. He still thought that it had
been just the night before, and the doctor did not undeceive him.

"And the robbers are still in the house wi' my maister," Cleg asserted.
"I think he is shut up in the strong-room. If he doesna come oot soon
the room must be forced. But he never stays in it more than a night at
a time, so he is sure to come oot in the mornin'."

"What did you say?" cried the doctor, surprised out of himself.
"General Ruff in the strong-room—two robbers with him in the house!
Why, it is plainly impossible—it is three weeks on Tuesday since you
were hurt."

"The General was in the house when I was attacked," repeated Cleg. "I
heard him go into the strong-room and shut the door."

The doctor went into Netherby and telegraphed to the General's lawyers,
who lived in the larger town of Drumnith. The two heads of the firm
arrived by the next train, and, as a result of a conference with the
doctor and Cleg, an urgent message was sent to the great firm of safe
and strong-room makers who had engineered the safety appliances, to
come and open the room in which lay the most hidden treasures of
General Theophilus Ruff.

In response to this urgent application three skilled mechanicians came
down that same night, and by five in the morning they stood ready to
break in the door. The foreman of Messrs. Cox & Roskell's declared that
no power existed by which, in the absence of the keys and the knowledge
of the time and word combinations, the lock could be opened without
violence.

But the lawyers promptly decided that at all hazards the room must be
reached. So, very philosophically, the foreman proceeded to demolish
the work of his own hands and brain—the preparation and fitting of
which had cost him so many weeks.

He inserted two dynamite cartridges on either side of the red iron
door, boring holes for their reception in the rock itself, so that
the frame might be started bodily from its bed. Then he placed other
two under the step which led to the room. There were present only the
three artisans, the two lawyers from Drumnith of the firm of Hewitson &
Graham, together with Doctor Sidey, who had constituted himself Cleg's
representative, and had insisted either on having the regular police
called in or upon being present himself.

These six men stood far back from the house while the dynamite was
exploded. The foreman timed the fuse with his watch. Presently there
came a little jar of the earth, as if a railway train were passing
underneath. But the great bulk of the building stood firm. The lawyers
and the doctor were eager to run forward. But the foreman held them
back till the fumes had had time to clear out of the stone narrow
passages and to dissipate themselves through the glassless windows.

Then they went below, each carrying a lantern. The doctor had in
his pocket also a case of surgical instruments and the strongest
restoratives known to his art.

When they arrived in the passage they found the mighty iron door fallen
outward, frame and all. It lay with the time lock and the letter
attachment still in their places, leaving a black, cavernous opening,
into which the light of the bull's-eye lanterns refused to penetrate.

The foreman stooped as he came up.

"It's not a pennypiece the worse," he said, examining the fallen door
with professional solicitude.

But the doctor pushed him aside and entered. As he shed the light of
his lantern around he gasped like a man in extremity, for surely a
stranger or a more terrible sight the eyes of man had never looked upon.

Two dark forms, those of a man and a woman, were upon the floor, the
man prone on his face with his hands stretched out before him, the
woman crouched far back in the corner with her mouth wide open and her
eyes starting from her head with absolute and ghastly terror. Yet both
eyes and mouth were obviously those of a corpse. In the centre of the
room were three coffins laid upon narrow tables, the same that Cleg had
so often seen. But now they were all three open, and in each reclined
a figure arrayed in white, with the head raised on a level with the
coffin lid.

In the coffin in the centre lay General Theophilus Ruff, with an
expression of absolute triumph on his face. He appeared to lean forward
a little towards the woman in the corner, and his dead wide-open eyes
were fixed upon her. An empty opium box lay by his side. A revolver lay
across his knees, evidently fallen from his right hand, which hung over
the coffin edge. His Oriental pipe stood on the floor, and the amber
mouthpiece was still between his lips.

But the other two coffins contained the strangest part of the contents
of this room of horrors. To the right of the General lay the perfectly
preserved body of a woman, whose regular features and delicate skin had
only been slightly marred at the nostrils by the process of embalming.
She was dressed in white, and her hands were crossed upon her bosom.
A man, young and noble-looking, lay in the same position in the other
coffin upon the General's left.

But the most wonderful thing was that the necks of both the man and the
woman were bound about with a red cord drawn very tight midway between
the chin and the shoulder. Upon the breast of the man on the left were
written in red the words:

 "FALSE FRIEND."

And on the breast of the fair woman upon the right the words:

 "FALSE LOVE."

A row of tall candlesticks stood round the coffins, six on either side.
The great ceremonial candles which they had once contained had burned
down to the sockets and guttered over the tops. The floor was strewn
with the contents of drawers and papers, and with dainty articles of
female attire. A small glove of French make lay at the doctor's feet.

He lifted it and put it into his pocket mechanically, before turning
his attention to the bodies in this iron charnel-house. They were, of
course, all long since dead. The weasel-faced man on the floor had a
bullet through the centre of his forehead. The woman in the corner,
on the other hand, was wholly untouched by any wound; but from the
expression on her face she must have died in the most instant and
mortal terror.

When the first wild astonishment of the searchers had abated a little,
the lawyers ordered the men from Messrs. Cox & Roskell's to open the
various receptacles in the strong-room. Strangely enough, nothing
whatever was found in them, excepting some articles of jewelry and a
packet of letters in a woman's hand, which the lawyers took possession
of. The three confidential artificers from London remained in charge
till measures should be taken to clear out the strong-room.

The doctor examined Cleg with care and tact, for it was to him that
the lawyers looked for the explanation of the mystery. But first they
provided the mechanicians with very substantial reasons for secrecy,
if they would give their services to prevent a scandal in these very
remarkable family circumstances. The men, accustomed to secrecy, and
recognising the future and personal application of the lawyers' logic,
readily promised.

So far as the doctor could make out, this was what had happened. Cleg
told the truth fully, but he made no discovery of the relationship in
which he stood to the man who had so murderously attacked him. Nor yet
did he say anything of his knowledge of Sal Kavannah's identity. After
a little study and piecing of evidence, however, the process of events
seemed fairly clear.

When Cleg first sent his warning cry through the house, the General
had doubtless been engaged in arranging for his expected departure out
of the life which had brought so little happiness to him. For, like an
Oriental, he knew, or supposed that he knew, the exact moment of his
death—though, as we now know, his first impression had proved erroneous.

For some unknown purpose he had left the strong-room and hastened
through the passages till he had heard the hideous uproar in the
kitchen, whereupon he had promptly retreated to the strong-room, in all
probability to get his revolver. While there a mad idea had crossed his
mind to receive his visitors in his coffin. At any rate, upon entering
he left the red door open behind him. A few moments later Tim Kelly
came rushing in hot upon the trail, followed by the woman Kavannah. His
hands were wet and red with his son's blood. His heart was ripe for
murder. And this was the sight which met him—a room with open coffins
in a row and three dead folk laid upon them, six great candles burning
upon either side—all the horrors of a tomb in the place where he had
counted to lay his hand upon uncounted treasure.

Then, while Timothy Kelly and Sal Kavannah stood a moment looking with
fearful eyes on the tall ceremonial candles, which must have been
specially ghastly to them on account of their race, the strong door
swung noiselessly to upon its hinges; for the water balance had filled
up, and they found themselves trapped.

What happened after this was not so clear. Probably the robber was
proceeding in his desperation to rifle the open depositories of the
letters and gear, which the searchers found strewed up and down the
floor, when Theophilus Ruff sat up suddenly in the centre coffin, with
his revolver in his hand, just as Cleg had seen him the first time he
entered the chamber of death. Whether the ruffian had first attacked
the madman, or whether he had simply been shot down where he stood,
will never be known. But certain it is that he died instantly, and that
the horror of the sight killed Sal Kavannah where she sat crouched low
in the corner, as if trying to get as far as possible from the grisly
horrors of the three coffins.

Then, having done his work, Theophilus Ruff calmly swallowed all that
remained of his drugs, and slept himself into the land where vengeance
is not, with the mouthpiece of his pipe in his mouth and his revolver
upon his knees.

The heads of the embalmed bodies were turned so that they looked
towards Theophilus Ruff as he sat in his coffin. For twenty years it is
probable that he had gone to sleep every night with those dead faces
looking at him.

The coffins were buried as privately as possible, the two embalmed
bodies being laid within the private mausoleum at the foot of the
garden; for in noble families a private burying-place is a great
convenience in such emergencies. Here also Tim Kelly and Sal Kavannah
took their places with nobler sinners, and no doubt they lie there
still, mixing their vulgar earth with finer clay, and so will remain
until the final resurrection of good and evil.

Doctor Sidey certified truthfully that the death of General Theophilus
Ruff was due to an overdose of opium. And as there is no coroner's
inquest in Scotland (another convenience), matters were easily arranged
with the Procurator-Fiscal of the county—who was, in fact, a friend of
the distinguished and discreet firm of Hewitson & Graham at Drumnith.



ADVENTURE LIX.

THE BEECH HEDGE.


"And the queer thing o' it a' is," said Cleg, "that there's no as
muckle as a brass farthin's worth o' lyin' siller to be found."

"Ye tak' it brave and cool, my man," said Mistress Fraser. "My certes,
gin I had been left thirty thoosand pound, and then could find nane
o't, I wad be fair oot o' my mind wi' envy and spite. Save us a', man.
Ye hae nae spunk in ye ava."

"And what a wonderfu' thing is it," said Mirren Douglas, "that Maister
Iverach, the young lad frae Edinburgh, gets a' the land and the hooses,
but no a penny forbye!"

They were sitting—a large company for so small a place—in the little
ben room of Sandyknowes, with the roses again looking in the window.
For another spring had come, and a new year was already stretching
itself awake from its winter swaddling bands.

"What was it that the lawyer man wrote aboot your bequest?" asked
Mistress Fraser.

"But a' my lying money in the house o' Barnbogle and about the
precincts thereof, to be the property of Cleg Kelly, my present body
servant, in regard of his faithful tendance and unselfishness during
the past four years," quoted Cleg, leaning his head back with the air
of a languid prince. He was sitting on the great chest in which Mirren
kept all the best of her napery and household linen.

"My certes, ye tak' it braw and canny," repeated Mistress Fraser. "What
says Vara to a' this?"

Vara came out from the little inner room where she had been dressing
for the afternoon.

"What says Vara?" said Mistress Fraser, looking a little curiously at
the girl as she entered. Half-a-year of absolute freedom from care and
anxiety in the clear air of Sandyknowes had brought the fire to her eye
and the rose to her cheek.

"I think," she said, soberly, "that Cleg will find the siller yet. Or,
if he doesn't, he will be able to do withoot it!"

"It will make an awfu' difference to his plenishing when he comes to
set up a hoose," said the mother of eleven; "there's naebody in the
world kens what it tak's to furnish a hoose, but them that has begun
wi' naething and leeved through it!"

"Mr. Iverach is comin' frae Edinburgh the day," said Cleg, "to see
aboot knockin' doon the auld hoose o' Barnbogle."

"He's no willing to bide in it," said Mirren Douglas. "Lod, I dinna
wonder. Wha could bide in a place wi' siccan a chamber o' horrors doon
the cellar stairs as that was!"

Which showed that some one must have been telling tales.

"I'm to gang and meet him," said Cleg. "Vara, will ye come? Ye may
chance to forgather wi' a friend that ye ken."

Vara Kavannah nodded brightly, and glanced at the widow Douglas.

"If Mirren will gie a look to the bairns," she said.

At that moment there was a noisy rush past the window, and certain
ferocious yells came in at the door.

"Preserve me," said Mistress Fraser, "thae bairns are never hame frae
the schule already! Faith, I maun awa' hame, or my evil loons and
limmers will no leave a bite o' bread uneaten, or a dish o' last year's
jam unsupped in a' my hoose!"

But as she rose to go her husband's form darkened the doorway.

"Tam Fraser," she cried, "what are ye doing there? Are ye no awa' at
Auld Graham's funeral? A lawyer deid! The deil will dee next."

"I hae nae blacks guid enough to gang in," said Tam Fraser; "ye spend
a' my leevin' on thae bairns o' yours."

"Hoot, man," retorted his wife, "gang as ye are, an' tak' your
character on your back, and ye'll be black eneuch for ony funeral."

Tam Fraser stood a moment prospecting in his mind for a suitable reply.

"Meg," he said at last, "dinna learn to be ill-tongued. It doesna
become ye. D'ye ken, I was juist thinkin' as I cam' in that ye grow
younger every year. Ye are looking fell bonny the day!"

"Faith," said his wife sharply, "I am vexed I canna return the
compliment. Ye are lookin' juist like a craw-bogle, and that's a Guid's
truth."

"Aweel, guidwife," said Tam, seeing a chance now to get in his counter,
"if ye had only been ceevil eneuch, ye micht e'en hae telled a lee as
weel as mysel'!"

And with this he betook himself over the dyke, leaving his wife for
once without a shot in her locker.

Vara had gone quietly at Cleg's bidding and put on her hat. This
demurely sober lass had quite enough of beauty to make the country lads
hang a foot, and look after her with a desire to speak as she passed by
on her way to kirk and market.

Vara and Cleg walked quietly along down the avenue by the shortest road
to the house of Barnbogle.

"Vara," said Cleg, "I think we will do very well this year with the
flooers and the bees—forbye the milk."

"I am glad to hear it, for Mirren's sake," answered Vara, without,
however, letting her eyes rest on the lad.

"I selled baith my barrels o' milk and the ten pund o' butter forbye
this morning, a' in the inside o' an hour," said Cleg.

For during the last half year Cleg had been farming the produce of
Mirren's little holding with notable success.

"Vara," said Cleg, in a shy, hesitating manner, "in a year or twa I
micht be able to tak' in the Springfield as weel. Do ye think that ye
could"—Cleg paused for a word dry enough to express his meaning—"come
ower by and help me to tak' care o't? I hae aye likit ye, Vara, ye ken."

"I dinna ken, I'm sure, Cleg," said Vara soberly; "there's the bairns,
ye ken, Hugh and Gavin."

"Bring them too, of course," said Cleg. "I never thocht o' onything
else."

"But then there's Mirren, and she wad fair break her heart," protested
Vara.

"Bring her too!" said Cleg practically.

He had thought the whole subject over. They were now coming near the
old house of Barnbogle, which its new owner had doomed to destruction.
Cleg glanced up at the tall grey mass of it.

"I'm some dootfu' that we will never touch that siller," he said.

"Then," said Vara firmly, "we can work for mair. If we dinna get it,
it's a sign that we are better wantin' it."

She glanced at the youth by her side as she spoke.

"Vara," said Cleg quickly, "ye are awesome bonny when ye speak like
that."

Perhaps he remembered Tam Fraser, for he said no more.

Vara walked on with her eyes still demurely on the ground. They were
just where the high path looks down on the corner of the ancient
orchard.

"Vara," said Cleg, "what's your hurry for a minute? There's—there's a
terrible bonny view frae hereaboots."

Cleg, the uninstructed, was plunging into deep waters. Vara turned
towards the garden beneath at his word. There were three people to be
seen in it. First there was a young woman in a bright summer dress,
with a young man who walked very close beside her. Over a thick wall of
beech, which went half across the orchard, an older man was standing
meditatively with his hands clasped behind his back. He was apparently
engaged in trying how much tobacco smoke he could put upon the market
in a given time, for he was almost completely lost from sight in a blue
haze.

The young people walked up and down, now in view of their meditative
elder and now hidden from him by the hedge. And as Cleg and Vara
watched, they noticed a wonderful circumstance. As often as the young
man and his companion were behind the young beech hedge, his arm stole
round the waist of the summer dress; but so soon as they emerged upon
the gravel path, lo! they were again walking demurely at least a yard
apart.

The strangest thing about it all was, that the young woman appeared to
be entirely unconscious of the circumstance.

"That's an awesome nice view," said Cleg, when the pair beneath had
done this four or five times. And such is the fatal force of example
that he put his own arm about Vara's waist each time the young man in
the orchard below showed him how. And yet, stranger than all, Vara also
appeared to be entirely unconscious of the fact.

This went on till the pair beneath were at their tenth promenade—the
elderly man over the beech hedge was still studying intently an
overgrown bed of rhubarb—when, at the innermost corner, the young
lady in the summer dress paused to pluck a spray of honeysuckle. The
youth's arm was about her waist at the moment. Perhaps it was that she
had become conscious of it for the first time, or perhaps because it
cinctured the summer dress a little more tightly than the circumstances
absolutely demanded. However this may be, certain it is that the girl
turned her head a little back over her shoulder, perhaps to reproach
the young man, to request him to remove his property, and in the future
to keep it from trespassing on his neighbour's premises. Cleg and Vara
could not tell from the distance. But, at any rate, the young man and
the young woman stood thus a long moment, she looking up with her head
turned a little back and he looking intently down into her eyes. Then
their lips drew together, and softly, as if they sighed, rested a
moment upon each other.

"It's an _awesome_ nice view," said Cleg, with conviction and emphasis.
And forthwith did likewise.

The old man with his hands behind his back had a little while before
ceased his meditations upon the rhubarb leaves, and had walked quietly
all unperceived to the corner of the beech hedge. Here he stood looking
down towards the corner of the orchard, where the summer dress was
plainly in view. Then he raised his eyes to the road above, where stood
Vara and Cleg Kelly. His pipe fell from his mouth with astonishment,
but he did not stop to pick it up. He turned and stole hastily away on
tiptoe.

Then he too sighed, and that more than once, as soon as he had got out
of the orchard into the garden.

"It's just thirty years since—last July," he said.

And Mr. Robert Greg Tennant remained longer in meditation than ever,
this time upon a spindling rose which was drooping for want of water.



ADVENTURE LX.

CLEG'S TREASURE-TROVE COMES TO HIM.


Presently Cleg and Vara walked down, and when they came into the garden
they found Miss Celie Tennant in animated conversation with her father.
She was clinging very close to his arm, as though she never could be
induced upon any pretext to leave it for a moment. The old man was
smiling somewhat grimly. And Vara thought what a little hypocrite Celie
was. The Junior Partner was much interested in a curious pattern of
coloured stones, which the General had arranged with his own hand about
a toy fountain. Five more innocent and unconcerned people it would have
been impossible to meet with in broad Scotland.

But when Cleg Kelly was introduced to Mr. Robert Greg Tennant, he
was astonished to notice an unmistakable air of knowledge in that
gentleman's face. Indeed, something that was not far from a wink
wrinkled his cheek. The original Cleg rose triumphant—and he winked
back.

Then Mr. Greg Tennant put his hands into his pockets, and strolled off
whistling a refrain which was popular at that remote date—

    "I saw Esau kissing Kate,
        And he saw I saw Esau!"

Cleg went away with the Junior Partner to take another look at the
whole house, which was now wholly dismantled and about to be pulled
down to the foundations. The Junior Partner, who was henceforward to
be a sleeping partner only, intended to build a mansion on another
part of the property, so that all memory of the horrors which had been
contained within the Red Door was to be blotted out.

"And the sooner the better, sir," said Mr. Tennant, grimly. He had just
joined them.

"When I have money enough!" stammered the Junior Partner, not sure of
his meaning.

He looked about him. Cleg was still exploring far ahead in the ruined
tower, from the windows of which the frames and bars had been already
removed.

"I was going to speak to you, sir," said the Junior Partner, "but the
fact is, sir, till to-day I have had no permission and no right."

The elder man clapped the younger upon the back.

"All right," he said heartily; "I have been behind beech hedges myself
in my time. But I must say," he went on, "that I generally kept a
better watch on the old man!"

The Junior Partner blushed red as a rose—a peony rose.

"And if that is your meaning," continued Mr. Tennant, "why, get the
house built. I daresay there's tocher enough to go with my little lass
to pay for the stone and lime."

At this moment a whirlwind of primrose-coloured summer lawn, twinkling
black stockings, and silver-buckled shoes fell upon the two of them,
and reduced the Junior Partner to a state of smiling, vacuous inanity.

"Come, come quick!" Celie Tennant cried, with the most charming
impetuosity, seizing them each by a hand and dragging them forward
towards the brick kitchen. "We have found it—at least Vara has!
There's millions of gold—all new sovereigns and things. And I'm to be
bridesmaid!"

What the Junior Partner made out of this no one can tell; for at the
time he was certainly not in the full possession of his senses. But Mr.
Tennant was well used to his impetuous daughter's stormy moods, and
understood that something which had been lost was at last found.

Celie imperiously swept them along with her into the little brick
building.

"Not so fast, you small pocket hurricane!" cried her father,
breathlessly. "At my time of life I really cannot rush along like an
American trotter!"

They entered the kitchen. Vara was standing at the table at which Cleg
used to cut the bacon for the General's breakfast and his own. She
was calmly opening tin after tin of Chicago corned beef, cans of which
stood in rows round the walls. Each was full to the brim of bright
newly minted sovereigns.

"It is Cleg's money," cried Celie wildly, "and I found it all
myself—or, at least, Vara did, which is the same thing. There were just
two tins, one at each end, full of real, common, nasty beef for eating,
and the rest are all sovereigns. And I'm to be bridesmaid."

And, though a Sunday school teacher of long standing and infinite
gravity, the little lady danced a certain reckless breakdown which she
had learned in the Knuckle Dusters' Club from Cleaver's boy.

"Well, Miss Quicksilver, you had better go and tell him!" said her
father; "he is in the tower yonder."

Mr. Donald Iverach was starting out of the door to do it himself; but
Celie seized him tragically; "Father—Donald—how can you?" she cried
more in sorrow than in anger at their stupidity and ignorance. "Of
course, let _her_ go!"

And Vara went out of the door to seek for Cleg.

"Oh, I wish it was me!" Celie said wistfully and ungrammatically,
stamping her foot. "It's so splendidly romantic! Donald, why didn't you
make it turn out so that I could have come and said to you, 'I have a
secret. Hush! You are heir to a hidden treasure!' You never do anything
really nice for me!"

"Why, because the old man didn't leave it to me," said the Junior
Partner.

"And a good job for you, too, you great goose," cried Celie, daringly,
"for if he had I should certainly have made love to Cleg, and we would
have set up a market garden together. I am sure I should have liked
that very much."

And at that time Vara was telling Cleg in the tower that his treasure
had come to him at last.

And Cleg was sure of it.


LETTER INCLOSED.

(_Being a fragment from the postscript of a note, dated some years
later, from Mrs. Donald Iverach to the Girl over the Wall—who has been
her dearest friend ever since her engagement was announced._)

 "And the funny thing is that, after all, they _have_ a market garden!
 I've just been to see them, and they live in the loveliest little
 house down near the sea. And Cleg says he is going to make their
 little Donald (called after my Incumbrance, the old Dear) a market
 gardener—'Fruits in their Seasons,' and that kind of thing, you know.
 And I think it's so sensible of them. For, of course, they could
 never have gone into society, though she is certainly most charmingly
 behaved. But Cleg likes to go barefoot about the garden still, and you
 know that is not quite usual. Gavin is at the Academy, and is dux of
 his class. He is what is called a 'gyte,' which is a title of honour
 there.

 "And what do you think? Cleaver's boy is married, and they have got
 a baby also—not so lovely as its father was, but the sweetest thing!
 He is foreman now, and Janet never thinks of telling a fib, even to
 afternoon callers. Don't you think that's rather much? Oh, I forgot!
 Her uncle came in while I was there, and said to Mirren Douglas—that's
 the little widow, you know, who lives with Cleg and Vara—'I saw Hugh
 Kavannah walking to-day on Princes Street with little Miss Briggs!'
 But I don't think there can be anything in it—do you? For, after
 all, she's a lady, and he is only a student. Of course, when we were
 girls—but then this is so different.

 "Kit Kennedy has just been matriculated or rusticated or something.
 Everybody is very pleased. He is going in for agriculture, and tells
 Cleg when to sow his strawberry seed.

 "And the man who used to be Netherby carrier has come to take their
 stuff to market—so nice for him. And the baby is the prettiest you
 ever saw. But you should see mine. _He_ is a darling, if you like.
 He has four teeth, and I am quite sure he tries to say Papa!—though
 Donald laughs, and says it is only wind in his little ——. That was
 Donald who came and joggled my elbow. He is a HORROR!

 "And just think, Cleg Kelly has built, and Donald has furnished, the
 most wonderful Club in the South Back of the Canongate. It was opened
 last week. Bailie Holden—who is now Lord Provost, and a very good
 one—opened it. But Cleg made the best speech. 'Mind, you chaps,' he
 said—and they were all as quiet as mice when he was speaking—'mind,
 you chaps, if I hear o' ony yin o' ye making a disturbance, or as
 muckle as spittin' on the floor—weel, ye ken me!'"


THE END.



FOOTNOTES


[1] _The Stickit Minister_, 10th edition, p. 153.

[2] Trust.

[3] _The Stickit Minister_, p. 192.

[4] The local technical term. It seems to have resulted from an attempt
to say "bucket" and "basket" at the same time.

[5] Shrewdly suspected it.

[6] The brave "Surfaceman," Mr. Alexander Anderson of Edinburgh, for a
volume of whose collected railway verse many besides Cleg are waiting
with eager expectation.

[7] Not neighbours.

[8] Dig.

[9] Suspect.



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