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Title: It was a Lover and his Lass
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret)
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "It was a Lover and his Lass" ***

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IT WAS A LOVER AND HIS LASS

  _by_
  MRS. OLIPHANT


  HURST & BLACKETT LTD
  _London    New York    Melbourne    Sydney    Cape Town_


  _First published 1883_
  _This Edition    1951_



IT WAS A LOVER AND HIS LASS.



CHAPTER I.


There stands in one of the northern counties of Scotland, in the midst
of a wild and wooded landscape, with the background of a fine range of
hills, and in the vicinity of a noble trout-stream, a great palace,
uninhabited and unfinished. It is of the French-Scottish style of
architecture, but more French than Scotch--a little Louvre planted in
the midst of a great park and fine woods, by which, could a traveller
pass, as in the days of Mr. G. P. R. James, on a summer evening when
the sun had set, and find himself suddenly face-to-face with such an
edifice amid such a solitude, the effect even upon the most hardened
British tourist would be something extraordinary. There it stands,
white and splendid, raising its turreted roofs, such a house as a
prince might live in, which would accommodate dozens of guests, and
for which scores of servants would be needful. But all naked, vacant,
and silent, the glassless windows like empty sockets without eyes, the
rooms all unfinished, grass growing on the broad steps that lead up to
the great barricaded door, and weeds flourishing upon the approach.

Round about it are avenues of an exotic splendour, like the building,
tall araucarias of kin to nothing else that flourishes in Scotland,
blue-green pines of a rare species, and around these, in long-drawn
circles, lines of level green terraces, upon which you can walk for
miles--terraces more fit for Versailles than for Murkley, where
the grass is generally wet, and promenades of this kind not very
practicable for the greater part of the year. The pines have taken
hold of the soil, have thriven and flourished, the araucarias are
unequalled in Great Britain. Nature and the landscape have assimilated
them, and made them free of the country in which they are to stand
for ages. But the house, being due to human-kind, cannot be thus
assimilated. No kindly growth, naturalizes it, no softening of years
makes it fit into its place. It is too big and imposing to be run over
by honeysuckles and roses like a cottage; it stands like a ghost among
all the paths that lead to its blocked-up door. The rows of melancholy
openings where windows ought to be glare out in their emptiness, in
contrast with that door which never opens, and makes all natural
access to the place impossible. An army of tramps might clamber in at
the windows, and make carnival in the vacant rooms, but the master of
the house could not without an organized assault find admittance in
the recognized way. At night, or when the evening glooms are falling,
nothing can be more startling than to stray into the presence of this
huge thing, which is not a habitation, and which seems, all complete
yet so incomplete, to have strayed into regions quite uncongenial and
out of sympathy with it, where it stands as much out of its element as
a stranded boat.

But all the same there is nothing ghostly or terrible about Murkley
Castle. It involves no particular mystery of any kind--nothing but the
folly of a man who built a house without counting the cost, and who
found himself without means to complete, far less enjoy, the palace he
had constructed. Not the less is it a strange feature in the landscape,
and it would be still stranger if popular superstition did not see
sights and bear sounds in it of nights, for which the wiser persons
in the country declared they could not account, though of course they
did not believe in anything supernatural. This was the reason given by
the driver of the gig from the "George" at Kilmorley for the round he
wanted to make on a certain June night in the lingering daylight, as he
conducted the gentleman reckoned as No. 5 in the books at the 'George'
to Murkley village, where this ill-advised person, not knowing when
he was well off, as the "George" was of opinion, meant to establish
himself at the village inn, which was no better than a public-house.

"It's no from ony superstition," the driver said. "I'm no a man, I hope,
to be feared for ghosts; I'm mair feared for flesh and blood. I've a
good watch in my pocket, and life's sweet, and if it's tramps, as is
maist likely, that have a howff in the auld castle, and mak' a' thae
noises to frichten the countryside, the mair reason, say I, to gi'e the
auld castle a wide berth."

"But it's daylight," said the traveller; for, after all, as in the days
of Mr. G. P. E. James, it is a traveller of whose early impressions the
historian avails himself; "and there are two of us; and that beast of
yours could surely show a clean pair of heels----"

He spoke with a slight accent which was foreign, but which the
countryman took to be "high English:" and had certain little foreign
ways, which Duncan was not clever enough to understand. He responded,
cautiously,

"Oh, ay; she'll gang weel enough--but a mare ye see's a flighty
creature--they're mair nervous than a fine leddy--and, if they think
they see something they canna account for----"

"But, man alive!" cried the stranger, "you're not afraid of ghosts in
broad daylight."

"I'm no speaking about ghosts--and ye ca' this braid daylicht! It's
just the eeriest licht I ever saw. Do you ken what o'clock it is? Nine
o'clock at nicht, and ye can see as plain as if it was nine in the
morning. I come from the South mysel', and I'm no used to it. Nor it's
no canny either. It's no the sun, it's no the moon; what is it? Just
the kind of time, in my opinion, that ye might see onything--even if it
wasna there----"

This lucid description gave our traveller great pleasure.

"I had not thought of that," he said, "but it is quite true. Here is
a half-crown for you, if you will drive by Murkley--is it Murkley you
said?"

"You kent a' about Murkley when you made up your mind to make your
habitation there," said Duncan, with a glance of suspicion. "If you ken
the village, ye maun ken the castle. They're ower proud to have such a
ferly near them, thae ignorant folk."

"You don't mean to win the half-crown," said the other, with a
good-humoured laugh.

Duncan, who had slackened his pace when the offer was made, and
evidently, notwithstanding his ungracious remark, contemplated turning,
which was not so easy in the narrow road, here suddenly jerked his mare
round with an impatience which almost brought her on her hind quarters.
"It's of nae consequence to me," he said.

But this clearly meant not the half-crown, but the change of route.
They went in through a gate, to which a castellated lodge had been
attached, but the place was empty, like the castle itself. A slight
uncertainty of light, like a film in the air, began to gather as
they came in sight of the house, not darkening so much as confusing
the silvery clearness of the sky and crystalline air. This was all
new to the stranger. He had never been out in such an unearthly,
long-continued day. It was like fairyland, or dreamland, he could not
tell which. The evenings he had known had been those rapid ones, in
which darkness succeeds day with scarcely any interval; this fairy
radiance gave him a strange delight, the pleasure of novelty mingling
with the higher pleasure of a beauty which is exquisite and has
scarcely any parallel. It seemed to him the very poetry of the North,
the sentiment--far less glowing and passionate, yet, at the same time,
less matter of fact than that to which he was accustomed--of the
visionary land into which he had come. He did not know Scotland, nor
yet England, though nobody could more pride himself on the quality of
an Englishman. He knew Ossian, which had delighted him, as it delights
the fancy of those who know nothing about its supposed birthplace. To
be sure, storm was the Ossianic atmosphere, and nothing could be more
completely removed from any indication of storm than this. The sky was
like an opal descending into purest yellow, remounting into a visionary
faint blue, just touched with gossamer veils of cloud. It was not like
the glories he had read of a midnight sun. It was like nothing he had
ever read of. And into this strange, unearthly light suddenly arose the
great white bulk of the palace, with its rows upon rows of hollow eyes
looking out into space. Lewis Grantley started, in spite of himself,
at the sight, and, what was more remarkable, the mare started too, and
required all the efforts of her driver to hold her in.

"I tellt ye!" Duncan said, with a smothered oath, directed at the
horse or his companion, it would be difficult to say which. He did not
himself so much as look at the great house, giving his entire attention
to the mare, whom he held in with all his might, with a lowering
countenance and every sign of unwilling submission, when Grantley bid
him draw up in front of the castle. Two or three minutes afterwards,
the stranger waved his hand; and the animal darted on like an arrow
from a bow. She scarcely drew breath, flashing along through the avenue
at full speed, till they reached the further gate, which was opened for
them by a respectable woman, neat and trim, as one under the eye of her
master. Lewis could only perceive among the trees the small _tourelles_
of an old house as they darted out of the gate.

"I'll no get her soothered down till she's in her ain stable," Duncan
said. "Your half-a-crown's hard won. She'll just pu' my hands off on
the road hame, with her stable at the hinder end, and this pawnic in
her. And now ye have seen it are you muckle the better for it? That's
what I aye ask when folk risk their necks for the pleasure of their
een."

"My good fellow," said Lewis, "are all Scotchmen, I would like to know,
as uncivil as you?"

A spark of humour kindled in Duncan's eyes.

"No--no a'," he said, with a somewhat perplexing confusion of vowels,
and burst into a sudden laugh. "And even me, my bark's worse than my
bite," he added, with an amused look. Then, after a pause, "You're
a gentleman that can tak' a joke. I like that sort. The English are
maistly awfu' serious. They just glower at ye. You've maybe been in
this countryside before?"

"Never before. I have never been in Scotland before, nor in England
either, for that matter," said the young man.

"Lord sake!" cried Duncan, "and where may ye belong to, when you are at
hame?"

But the stranger did not carry his complacency so far as this. He said,
somewhat abruptly,

"Do you know anything about the family to whom that place belongs?"

"Do I ken onything about---- It's weel seen you've no acquaintance
with this countryside," said Duncan. "What should a person ken about
if no the Murrays? Was it the Murrays ye were meaning? I ken as much
about them as ony man, whaever the other may be. My sister cam' frae
Moffatt with them--that's my caulf-ground--and my little Bessy is in
the kitchen, and coming on grand. I can tell you everything about them,
if that's what you want."

"Oh, not so much as that," said Grantley; "I am not so curious. Do they
intend to finish the Murkley Castle?" he asked.

"Finish it! Oh, man, but it's little you ken. I'll tell ye the haill
story, if you like. You see there was old Sir Patrick. He was the man
that biggit yon muckle castle; but his siller failed, and he took a
disgust at it; then he gaed abroad, and things turned, and he got his
money back. But do ye think he was the man to do like other folk,
to let it go to them that had a right? Na, na, ye're out of your
reckoning. He was an auld fool--him that had a son, and grandchildren,
and a' that--what must he do but take up with some urchin he picked
out of the streets, and pet it, and make of it, and set it up for a
gentleman, and leave all his siller to that."

Lewis Grantley had started again at this description. He said, hastily,

"How do you know that it was out of the streets? How do you know----"
and then he stopped short, and laughed. "Tell the story, my good
fellow, your own way."

"I'll do that," said Duncan, who despised the permission. "Out o'
the streets or no out o' the streets, it was some adventurer-lad that
took the fancy o' the auld man. True flesh and blood will not aye make
itself over agreeable, and the short and the long is that he left all
his siller to the young fellow, that was not a drap's blood to him, and
left the muckle castle and the little castle and twa-three auld acres
mortgaged to their full valley to his son. He couldn't help that, that
was the bit that was settled, and that he couldn't will away."

The young man listened with great interest, with now and then a
movement of surprise. He did not speak at first; then he said, with a
long breath,

"That was surely a very strange thing to do."

"Ay was it--an awfu' strange thing--but Sir Patrick was aye what's
ca'ed an eccentric, and ye never could tell what he wouldna do. That's
Murkley down yonder, on the water-side. Ye'll be a keen fisher, I'm
thinking, to think o' living there."

"And the son?" said the young man. "I suppose he had behaved badly to
his father. It could not be for nothing that he was disinherited. You
people who know everything, I suppose you know the cause too."

"The general?" said Duncan. "Well, he wasna a saint: and when an auld
man lives twice as long as is expected, and his son is as auld as
himself, there's little thought of obedience to him then, ye may weel
suppose. The general had a way of pleasing himself. He married a lady
that was thought a grand match, and she turned out to have very little;
and syne when she was dead he married anither that had nothing ava, and
I suppose he never asked Sir Patrick's consent. If it was that, or if
it was something else, how can I tell? But you'll no find many men to
beat the general. They're a' very proud of him in this countryside."

"I thought he was dead," said the young man, hurriedly.

"Oh, ay, he's deed: and now it's the misses that has it. I have
the maist interest in them, for, as I tellt ye--but ye were paying
no attention--Moffatt, where their little bit place is, is my
caulf-ground. They're living in the auld castle, just by the gate we
came through. Lord, if he had been content with the auld castle, it
would have been better for them a' this day. But 'deed I shouldna say
that matters. It would have gane in every probability to yon creature I
was telling ye of, the foreign lad."

"You don't seem," said the stranger, with a laugh, "to have much
charity for this foreign lad. Are you sure he is foreign, by the way?"

"Ye'll maybe ken him, that ye ha'e a doubt," said the sharp-witted
countryman.

"How should I know him?" the young man replied, with a peculiar smile.

"I say foreign, for nae Englishman--or maybe rather nae Scotchman, for
I am no so clear of the other side--would do such a dirty trick. Take
a doited auld man's siller that had kith and kin and lawful progeny of
his ain. Fiech! I couldna do it if I was starving. And I ha'e a wife
and bairns, which are things that are aye craving for siller. The Lord
haud us out o' temptation! But I wouldna do it--no, if I was master of
mysel'."

"I did not know," said Grantley, with a forced gaiety, "that you were
so scrupulous in Scotland. It is not the character you usually get
in the world. But you are harsh judges all the same. Perhaps this
unfortunate fellow did not know the circumstances. Perhaps----"

"Unfortinate! with the Lord kens how mony thoosands! I dinna ca' that
misfortune, for my part."

"But then to balance the thousands he has not the privilege of
possessing your esteem," Grantley said. He had an air of anger and pain
under the pretended lightness of his tone, and meant to be bitterly
satirical, forgetting evidently, in the warmth of the feelings raised
by these animadversions, that the critic by his side was not very
likely to be reached by shafts of this kind.

Duncan gave him a stolid stare.

"Ye'll be joking?" he said.

The young man perceived the ludicrousness of his attempted sarcasm, and
burst into a laugh which was somewhat agitated, but betrayed no secret
to Duncan, who joined in it quite good-humouredly; but, growing grave
immediately, added,

"That's a' very weel. What I'm thinking of him's nae importance, nor
what's thought in the countryside; but for a' that it's an ill thing to
scandaleeze your fellow-creatures, whether they're folk of consequence
or no. Yon's the 'Murkley Arms,' and Adam at the door. Ye maun be an
awfu' keen fisher, sir, as I was saying, to leave a grand house like
the 'George' for a country public, for it's no to call an inn--just a
public, and no more. Here, Adam, here's a gentleman I've brought you;
you'll have to give me a good dram for handsel, and him your best room,
and as many trout as he can set his face to. He deserves it for coming
here."

The person thus addressed was a tall man, with a red beard, revealing
only about a quarter of a countenance, who stood smoking and leaning
against the doorway of the "Murkley Arms." He looked up, but somewhat
languidly, at the appeal, and said,

"Ay, Duncan, is that you?" with the greatest composure without
deranging himself. Thereupon Duncan jumped down, throwing the reins
on the mare's neck, who was much subdued by her rapid progress, and
besides had the habit of standing still before the door of a "public."

"And hoo's a' wi' ye, and hoo's the fushing?" Duncan said, plunging
into an immediate conversation with his friend, at which Grantley,
first in consternation, afterwards in amusement, listened with only
partial understanding, but a most comical sense of his own complete
unimportance and the total want of interest in him of the new world
into which he was thrown. He sat for about five minutes (as he thought)
quietly surveying from that elevation the village street, the river in
the distance, the homely sights and sounds of the evening. Cows were
coming home from the riverside meadows, and wondering no doubt why
night and milking-time were so long of coming; the children were still
about in the road, the men in groups here and there, the women at the
doors. They said to each other as a chance passenger went by, "It's
a bonnie nicht," interrupting the quiet now and then by a scream at
Jeanie or Jackey adjuring them to "come in to their beds." "They should
be a' in their beds, thae bairns; but what can ye do when it's sae lang
light?" the mothers said to each other.

Young Lewis Grantley in the leisure and surprise of his youth, still
fresh and pleased with everything novel he saw, was well enough
occupied in contemplating all this, and in no hurry to assert his own
consequence as a visitor. But by-and-by he got tired of his eminence
and jumped down from the dog-cart; the sound disturbed the lively
conversation at the inn door.

"Lord, we've forgotten the gentleman," said Duncan.

Long Adam took no notice of the gentleman, but he put his hand to his
mouth and called "Jennit!" in a sort of soft bellow, thunderous and
rolling into the air like a distant explosion. In a minute more quick
steps came pattering along the brick-paved passage.

"What's it noo?" said a brisk voice. "A gentleman. Losh me! what am
I to do with a gentleman?--no a thing in the house, and the curtains
aff a' the beds. I think ye're crackit, Duncan Davidson, to bring a
gentleman to me."

"He's crackit himself to want to come, but I have nae wyte o't," said
Duncan. "Would you have had me tak' him to Luckie Todd's? They'll take
him in, and welcome there."

"No, I wouldna be so illwilly as that," said the woman, with a laugh:
and she advanced and looked curiously at the neat portmanteau and
dressing-bag, which no one had attempted to take down from the
dog-cart. "Ye'll be for the fushin'," she said, dubiously; but the
absence of all a fisherman's accoutrements struck Janet with surprise.
She added, with a slight sigh of care, "I can give you a good bed, sir,
if you're no particular about your curtains; the curtains is a' doon
on account o' the hot weather; and something to eat, if you can put
up with onything that's going for the night. I'll promise you a fine
caller trout the morn," she said, with a smile. "But, ye see, it's
rare, rare that we have onybody here by the folk of the town; and it's
drink that's a' they're heeding," she added, with a shake of her head.

"I am not hard to please," said Grantley, with the little accent which
Duncan had taken for "high English."

Janet, better informed, made a little pause, and looked at her visitor
again. The lingering light had got more and more confused, though it
was nothing like dark. Janet's idea of "a foreigner," which was not
flattering, was that of a dark-bearded, cloak-enveloped conspirator.
The light, youthful figure, and smooth face of the new arrival did not
intimidate her. She took down the bag briskly from the dog-cart, and
bid her husband give himself a shake and see if he had spirit enough
to bring in the gentleman's portmanteau; then at last, after so many
delays, beckoned to him to follow her, and led the way upstairs.



CHAPTER II.


The village of Murkley next morning bore an aspect wonderfully
different from that of the enchanted dreamland of the previous night.
In that wonderful light, everything had been softened and beautified--a
sort of living romance was in the air; the evening softness and the
strange magic of the lingering light had given a charm to everything.
When Lewis Grantley looked out next morning, the prospect was not so
idyllic. The "Murkley Arms" was in the centre of the village, where
the street widened into a sort of _place_ by no means unlike that of a
French country town of small dimensions. The house exactly opposite was
an old one, with a projecting gable and outside stair, washed with a
warm yellow, such as the instincts of an earlier age found desirable,
and with excellent effect, in a climate never too brilliant. There were
two or three of these old houses about, which gave a quiet brightness
to the grey stone and blue slate which, alas, were in the majority.
The road was partly causewayed and partly in a state of nature--and
mud: though the dryness of the weather about which everybody remarked,
though it had not especially struck the stranger, had kept this in
check. A handful of hay dropped here and there, a few stalks of straw
or other litter, gave a careless look to the place, which otherwise
was not disorderly. The little stone houses, with the blue-slated
roofs, had a look of comfort. It was not half so pretty, but it was a
great deal more well-off than many villages the stranger knew, and he
recognized the difference. He could scarcely, by craning his neck, get
a glimpse from his window of the river, which, with one or two rare
bits of meadow on its bank, disappeared immediately below underwoods
and over-hanging cliffs.

The room from which Lewis Grantley made these observations was
immediately above the front-door, where he had stood so long, with
amused astonishment, watching the leisurely proceedings of his hosts,
downstairs. It was an old-fashioned parlour, with a red and green
carpet on the floor, a red and blue cover on the table, furniture of
mahogany and black haircloth, and a large sideboard like a catafalque.
A slight mustiness, as of a place long shut up, was in the air, but
this was counteracted by a huge bouquet of hawthorn thrust into a
large jug which stood upon the sideboard. The blossom of the thorn is
not May in Scotland: were it to take the name of a month, it would be
June. There was not much refinement in the manner of this decoration,
but it was fresh and fragrant; and the windows were open, and the
"caller trout," for which Mrs. Janet had pledged herself, cooked as
fish can only be cooked when it is newly out of the water, was on the
table, along with the tea, "masked" to Janet's own taste, black and
bitter, but with a jug of mollifying cream by the side of it, "baps"
and "scones," by no means to be despised, and sweet butter, free from
any suspicion of salt, furnished forth the table. Grantley did not
disdain these dainties. He made an excellent breakfast; and everything
was so fresh and new to him, that to look out of the window was enough
to amuse him, and the absence of a newspaper, and of various other
accompaniments of breakfast in town, did not disturb his comfort in the
least. Grantley did not know anything about town indeed, and had no
regrets when he found himself in the silent atmosphere of this strange
little place. He had a very serious purpose in coming, but apart from
that it was pleasant enough to see new sights, and breathe an air to
which he was unaccustomed.

His upbringing had been of a curious kind. He was the son of English
parents, born (let us say for the sake of brevity, and according
to the fashion of our country) "abroad," which may, of course, be
anywhere, from one side of the world to the other: but was, in the
present case, on the European continent, and amidst the highest
civilization. He had grown up there rather in the subjection and
quiescence of a French boy during his school-time, than in the
freedom of an English one, and at seventeen had been left orphaned
and penniless amid people who were very kind to him, but who did not
know what to do with the desolate boy. It was at this crisis, in his
mourning clothes, his eyes dim with watching and weeping, that he
attracted the attention of a desolate old Englishman, wandering vaguely
about the world, as it seemed, with nothing to interest or attract him.
It is not necessary to be good in order to be kind, and old Sir Patrick
Murray, though he had cast off his own family, and cared nothing for
his flesh and blood, was not without a capacity of love in him, and
was as desolate in his old age as any orphan could be in his youth. He
was appealed to, as being an Englishman, in favour of the child of the
English pair who were dead. They were not of exalted condition; the
father was a clerk in the Vice-Consul's office, the mother had come
"abroad" as a nursery governess, no more. Their child spoke English
badly, and though he was furious in defence of his nationality, knew
nothing about the habits of his race, and had never been in England in
his life. Sir Patrick took him as he might have taken a puppy in the
same desolate circumstances. The lad was about his house for a month or
two, reading for him, arranging his papers, fulfilling offices which
were only "not menial," as the advertisements say. He was browner
than an English lad, and more domestic, with no pressure upon him of
games to be played or athletic duties to fulfil, and perhaps more soft
in his manner, with warmer demonstrations of gratitude and youthful
enthusiasm for his benefactor than an English youth could have shown.
By degrees he got into the old man's heart. They left the place of
young Grantley's birth, and thus cut all the ties he had of human
association. There were some relatives at home he had never seen, and
one of them had written to say that his sister's son should not want
while he had anything, and that the boy "of course" must come to him;
but none of the others took any notice, and even this open-hearted
person was evidently very glad and relieved in no small degree when he
was informed that a rich old Englishman had taken his nephew up.

"I hope you will do nothing to forfeit his kindness," this uncle wrote,
"for, though you should have come to us and welcome had you been
destitute, we are poor people, and it is far better that you should
have to depend on yourself."

This was all Lewis had in the world out of old Sir Patrick's favour,
but that favour was bestowed upon him all the more liberally that he
had nobody, just as the old man declared _he_ had nobody, to care for
him.

"We'll stand by each other," Sir Patrick said. And no doubt there is a
standing ground upon which old age and youth can meet which is wanting
when one of the two involved is an old man and the other a middle-aged
one. Sir Patrick scarcely remembered his son, who had been away from
him by far the greater part of his life, and had shown very clearly,
when they met, that a man of fifty is on too great an equality with
another man of seventy-five to leave much room for filial feeling. The
general thought his father (frankly) an old bore, and could not forgive
him for that ridiculous palace, the new Murkley, which Sir Patrick had
built in his youth. But to Lewis Grantley his noble patron was no old
bore, but the most gracious of gentlemen and the kindest of fathers.
The lad looked up to him with a kind of adoration. What did he know
about the Scotch relations? and, if he had known, he would not have
cared. It seemed natural to him that a man should know nothing about
his relations. It was his own case.

They travelled about everywhere, the old man and the young one, the tie
between them growing closer every day. When Sir Patrick got too weak
to travel, Lewis nursed and served him like the most devoted of sons.
It was only when a letter came with prodigious black borders, about a
year before Sir Patrick's death, announcing that of General Murray,
that the young fellow became aware that his old friend had a son. But
except that a dinner-party was put off, and a hatband put on, no other
notice was taken of the loss, and it faded out of the favourite's mind
as a matter of no importance either to himself or any one else. When
Sir Patrick died, Lewis mourned as sincerely as ever child mourned a
parent, and was as much startled to find himself the master of a large
fortune, left to him by this second father, as if he had been seventeen
instead of twenty-five; for all this time, eight long years, had passed
since his adoption by the kind old man to whose service he had devoted
himself with an _insouciance_ more characteristic of the country of his
birth than of the race to which he belonged.

During Sir Patrick's life he had received an allowance which was enough
for his wants, and he had scarcely begun to awaken out of his grief
to the consciousness that he must do something else for his living
when the extraordinary intimation was made to him that he was a rich
man. It may be thought strange that a young man of five-and-twenty
should continue, without a profession or any further apparent hopes,
devoted to the service of an old benefactor who had never made him any
promises, and taking no thought as to what his future was to be, when
that old benefactor in the course of nature should be taken from him.
But such things are possible enough. The young man was not afraid of
the future. He had never expected anything but to face it when the time
came. He was of an easy temperament, not troubled about what would
happen to-morrow. And why should Sir Patrick die? He did not forestal
that event, nor make sure of it till it came. Afterwards he must do
what he could--he was not afraid.

But it overwhelmed the young man when he was told of all he had
gained by the death of his old friend. He had not even known how rich
Sir Patrick was. His income might have ended with him for anything
Lewis knew; he had never inquired what his means were. When this
astounding news suddenly burst upon him, he was so much touched and
overwhelmed by so great a token of the old man's love that no other
circumstances had much weight with him. But by-and-by he began to
inquire and understand. The will was a very curious will. It began by
enumerating the property which was settled and out of his power by his
son's marriage settlement, and which would naturally go to his son's
daughter; to other daughters mentioned as the elder and the second, but
without names, which probably had been forgotten, he left each a sum of
money, two thousand pounds, the residue being entirely for "the use and
benefit of my beloved young friend, Lewis Grantley, who has been a true
son to my old age."

This will, as we have said, came upon Lewis like a thunderbolt. That
he himself should suddenly be turned into a rich man was wonderful
enough, but that his old friend had relatives so near was still more
wonderful. After the first shock of sensation, which was naturally
excited by his own personal share of the revelation, the mind of the
heir turned with a vague curiosity to those unknown personages. It
did not for a long time occur to Lewis that he had in any way wronged
them; indeed, it is very doubtful whether it would ever have done so,
had not the suggestion been thrown into his mind by the lawyer who had
the management of Sir Patrick's affairs. When the agent and the heir
met some time after the old man's death, the former congratulated his
client significantly that "the family" did not seem to have any idea of
disputing the will.

"The family--disputing the will!" Lewis said, with astonishment. He
was bewildered by the suggestion. The agent had come from Scotland on
purpose to give the young man full information concerning his fortune.

"They might, you know, have pleaded undue influence, or even that Sir
Patrick was old, and unfit to judge for himself: that he had been
bullied into it, or coaxed into it."

"Bullied into it--or coaxed into it!" Lewis echoed the words in utter
amazement and dismay, with that slightest touch of foreignness in his
accent which in the circumstances made the lawyer's blood boil, for
he was an old family lawyer, who had managed the Murray property for
generations, and his indignation was unspeakable, as may be supposed.

"Just so," he said, coldly. "I was consulted on the subject; but I
could only say there was no evidence--nothing that had come under my
observation; so you need not fear any opposition on that point."

"But this is very mysterious," said Lewis. "Why should they entertain
such an opinion of me?"

He asked the question in all innocence, fixing his eyes upon the
lawyer's face; and Mr. Allenerly, though so prejudiced, could not help
being moved by this entirely straightforward regard.

"You see," he said, a little abashed, "they know nothing about you."

"That is true enough," said Lewis, reassured.

"They know nothing about you; all that they know is, that somebody
has stolen into their grandfather's regard, and got all their
money--somebody that has nothing to do with the family. That's rather a
bitter pill, for they're not rich. You might be an angel from heaven,
and yet as you are not a Murray the family would feel it; but you may
make yourself easy on the subject. There will be no opposition."

The insinuation and the re-assurance were alike astonishing to Lewis.

"If there is any ground on which to oppose it, I should wish that there
should be opposition. I did not want Sir Patrick's money. I never
thought of it--never knew he had any."

"You couldn't suppose," said Mr. Allenerly, with some disdain, "that
all this was kept up on nothing?"

They were in Sir Patrick's rooms, where the young man had remained.

"That is true. No, surely it could not be kept up without money--and
there was plenty of money--of course, I must have been aware of that;
but I never thought of it--not for myself."

The lawyer was very prejudiced and extremely unwilling to allow himself
to say anything, but after a little hesitation he burst forth, as if
the confession had been forced from him, "I believe that."

"Then why should they think so badly of me?" Lewis said.

He did not make any rash proposal to give up the property, as perhaps
a hot-headed young Englishman might have done. People who have been
brought up abroad have more respect for money in itself than we have.
If they do not seek after it so enterprisingly, neither do they
separate themselves from it so lightly. There was no indignant flash of
a proposal to undo Sir Patrick's will, and prove his disinterestedness
beyond a question, in what Lewis said. That would have been foreign
to all the habits of his mind. But he grew very grave from that time
forth, a mood which suited well enough with his mourning. An intention
formed itself in his mind almost immediately, which he did not at once
carry out for a number of petty reasons each entirely unimportant in
itself, but mounting up together into a certain reasonableness. It was
not his grief, for he was young and his patron old, and the natural
tears were wiped soon; nor the necessity of settling all his foreign
affairs, getting rid of the house, selling or storing up the furniture
and pictures, providing for the servants; but there were a number of
other small things, including an illness which very naturally followed
his long devotion to a sick old man.

At last, however, but not till Sir Patrick had been dead nearly a year,
he set off for Scotland to carry out his intention. He was not seduced
to London on the way, or to make any acquaintance with the wonders of
England. London, to be sure, was growing empty and the season near
its end. He came direct from one of the Dutch ports to Leith, and
without any pause proceeded to the town which was the nearest, so far
as he could make out, to Murkley. One night he had reposed himself in
Edinburgh, and one in the "George." It was but three days now since he
had crossed the sea, and here he was in Murkley, in the native place of
his benefactor, on the very estate which had been his, near the house
in which he was born. All this had produced a great effect upon the
young man, and so did the conversation with Duncan and the new view of
himself and his own conduct suggested by that worthy. Passing gusts
of anger and uneasiness had crossed his mind, which were neutralized
indeed by the amusing circumstances of his arrival and the novelty
of the scene around. But when he had found himself alone that first
evening, and the outer world shut out, it could not be denied that the
usual peace of his mind was much disturbed. He no longer felt sure of
himself, and that tranquil consciousness of having done and of meaning
to do his best, which gave serenity to his character, failed him
almost for the first time in his life. It was a painful experience to
go through, but there was a satisfaction in the thought that he was
now on the spot at least, and in the way of ascertaining exactly what
the state of the matter was, and how he could best amend it, or if
amendment was possible.

This cheering thought and the influence of the morning restored his
satisfaction in the external world, and his hopes for what was before
him, and the sense of being surrounded with novel circumstances in
a new country with everything to learn and to enjoy, restored his
spirits. One thing gave him a momentary annoyance, which, however,
ended soon in the half mischievous, boyish pleasure which he felt in
the expedient he thought of to meet it. The annoyance was his sudden
recollection that the name of Lewis Grantley was no doubt well known at
Murkley Castle. To allow himself to be known as that detested personage
would baffle him in all his intentions. The way of eluding this was a
sufficiently simple one, that of dropping his own name. Accordingly
he took the first step in conciliating the family by doing the thing
of all others at which they were most indignant--assuming the name of
Murray, as Sir Patrick had wished. Sir Patrick had expressed a wish on
the subject, but it was not mentioned in the will, nor was there any
such stipulation made. And Mr. Allenerly had thought it inexpedient.
Therefore it had been understood that Grantley he should continue to
be. The best disguise he could assume, he felt, was to take the name
which would be supposed to be the most unlikely he could hit upon, and
yet to which he had a certain right. The idea of doing so amused while
it annoyed him. Sir Patrick would have liked it. It would have been a
pleasure to the old man; and to himself it would be a shield in this
country of the Murrays where every third person to be met with bore the
name. If at the same time a sense of deception and unreality crossed
the young man's mind, he put it away as a piece of folly. He had
nothing but a good meaning in this visit to his adversary's country, to
the neighbourhood of the people whom he had wronged without knowing it,
most innocently because altogether unawares.

This serious background of thought occupied his mind much while he lay
awake in the stillness of the night. But the stillness did not continue
long. The darkness was not much more than the twinkling of an eyelid,
he thought, and the birds were all awake in a multitudinous chorus, and
the sun shining into his room before drowsiness overcame him. At five
and twenty, however, a great deal of noise and tumult is necessary to
keep sleep away from the eyes, and Lewis, when he got the tangle of his
cares unloosened, soon lost consciousness of the birds. And when he
woke in the morning and found himself in a new world, with everything
about him novel and unfamiliar, amusement and pleasure got the upper
hand with scarcely an effort. Let the countryside think what it would
of him, he knew himself better, and it would go hard with him, he said
to himself, if he did not conquer even the countryside.



CHAPTER III.


"Ye'll be for the fushin', sir? Adam, that's my man, will give ye a'
the information. He's fell at the saumon; and muckle need to be fell
at something," added Janet; "for a mair fusionless man about a house
doesna exist. He's no made for an innkeeper. I'm aye telling him that;
but I might just as weel keep my breath for ither purposes. It never
does him ony good."

"It is all the more to your credit, Mrs.----"

"Oh, you needna fash your head about the mistress. I've aye been Janet,
and Janet I'll be to the end o' the chapter. If there had been ony pith
in the man, we might, maybe, have risen like the rest of the world; for
he's no ignorant, nor yet a gommeral, though ye might think sae to see
him: but no pith in him--you would call it spirit, maybe, in English.
That's 'the stalk o' carle-hemp in man,' that Robert Burns speaks
about. You'll maybe mind? Na, he's no an ill man, but there's nae
carle-hemp in him. Sae I have a' upon my shoulders. And, if everything
shouldna be just as you wish, it'll be real kind to name it, Mr.
Murray. So you're Murray, too? there are a hantle Murrays hereabout.
Ye'll be of the Athol family, or----"

"I have lived abroad all my life," said Lewis, "and I have been an
orphan since I was very young--so that I know very little about my
relations."

He felt very self-conscious as he made this little explanation, and
thought it so awkward that he must be found out, but Janet was entirely
unsuspicious, and accepted it as a matter of course.

"Eh, that's an awfu' pity," she said, sympathetically; then added, "If
ye've been abroad so lang as that, ye'll maybe have met with auld Sir
Patrick about the world. That's the grandfather of our misses here--a
real grand-looking auld gentleman as ever I set eyes on--but, I'm
feared, sir, no sae good as he looked. He's been aye abroad sin ever I
mind, and the general and him didna gree; and he has left every penny
of his siller that he could meddle with, away frae his family. It's an
awfu' hard case," Janet said.

"I have heard something of that: and I think--I have met Sir Patrick."

"I wonder," said Janet, "if ye've seen the lad that did a' the
mischief!--a young Frenchman or foreigner he was--that creepit into the
auld gentleman's heart, and turned him against his ain flesh and blood.
I wouldna have that man's conscience for a' the siller."

"I've seen," said Lewis, colouring in spite of himself, "a young
man--to whom Sir Patrick had been very kind--and who loved him as if he
had been his father. They were like father and son for years. I don't
think he knew anything about the money."

"Eh, that's mair nor I can believe," said Janet, shaking her head.
"What was a' that for, if he kent nothing about the money? I canna
believe that."

"Do you think foreigners, as you call them, are such _canaille_--I
mean, such brutes and dogs----"

"I ken very well what canailye means," said Janet. "Well, I wouldna be
uncharitable. There's maybe some that are mair high-minded, but the
most of them, you'll allow, sir, are just for what they can get--'deed
the English are maistly the same, in my opinion;--and twa-three Scots,
too, for that matter," she added, with a laugh.

"You are entirely wrong in that," said Lewis, with some heat. "Don't
you know, in other places, it is the Scotch who are said to be so
interested and greedy--always grasping at advantage, always thinking
what is to pay."

"Weel," said Janet, "that just shows what I'm saying, how little we
ken about our neighbours. Murkley folk canna bide the Braehead, and
Braehead has aye an ill word conter Murkley. That's just the way o'
the world. Me that's a philosopher's wife, if I'm no philosophical
mysel'----"

"Are you a philosopher's wife?" said Lewis, restored to good-humour, as
she probably meant he should be, by this statement.

"Oh, sir, do you no ken that? That shows you're little acquaint with
this countryside," said Janet. "And yonder he is, just starting for the
water; and if I was a fine young gentleman like you, instead of 'biding
in the house this fine morning, I would just be aff to the water, too,
with Adam. Ye'll find him a diverting companion, sir, though it's maybe
no me that should say it. He has a great deal to say for himself when
he is in the humour. Hi!" she said, raising her voice, and tapping
loudly on the window, "here's the gentleman coming with you, Adam."

This way of getting him out of the house amused Lewis greatly. He did
not resist it, indeed the sun was shining so brightly, yet the air
was so cool and sweet, a combination little known to the stranger,
that he had already felt his blood frisking in his veins. Adam was
going leisurely along, with his basket slung around him, and a great
machinery of rods and lines over his shoulder. He scarcely paused
to let Lewis come up with him, and all he said by way of salutation
was, "Ye've nae rod," said somewhat sulkily, Lewis thought, out of
the depths of his beard and his chest. And it cannot be said that the
description of Janet was very closely fulfilled. Adam was much intent
upon his work. If he could be "diverting" when he was in the humour, he
was not in the humour to-day.

He led the way down the riverside with scarcely a word, and crossing
the unsheltered meadow which lay along the bank, with only a few trees
on the edge, soon got within the shelter of the woods. Tay was smooth
and smiling as he passed by the meadows and the village; a few yards
up the stream there was a ferry, with a large boat, intended to carry
horses and carriages over the water, but here, where the fisherman
established himself, the placid reach ended abruptly in rapids, rushing
among huge boulders, through which the water foamed and fretted, with
cliffs rising high on the opposite bank, and an abundance of great
trees bending over the water's edge and on the bank, and nodding from
the cliff that looked like a ruined tower.

"I was about to ask you if you had much boating here," Lewis said, with
a laugh; "but Nature seems to have stopped that."

"You'll no boat much here," said the philosopher, grimly, which was not
a profound remark.

He came to a pause upon a green bank, a little opening between the
trees opposite the great cliff which reared itself like a great
fortification out of the water. The village, the bit of level meadow,
the stillness and serene air of comfort seemed to have passed away in
a moment to give place to a mountain torrent, the dark water frowning
and leaping against the rocks. Adam took some time to arrange all his
paraphernalia, to fit his rod, and arrange his bait, during which time
he did not deign to address a word to his companion, who watched him
with curiosity, but, unfortunately, with a curiosity which was that of
ignorance. After he had asked several questions which made this very
distinct, the philosopher at last turned round upon him with a sort of
slow defiance.

"You're no a fisher," he said. "What will have brocht ye here?"

This was to Adam the most simple and natural of questions; but it
somewhat disturbed Lewis, who was conscious of intentions not perfectly
straightforward. Necessity, which is the best quickener of wit, came
to his aid. He bethought himself of a little sketch-book he had in his
pocket, and drew that out.

"There are other things than fishing to bring one into a beautiful
country," he said.

"Oh, ay," said Adam, "if you're o' the airtist class--" Perhaps there
was a shade of contempt in his tone. But, if so, he changed it quickly,
with a respect for his companion's feelings, which was the height of
politeness. "There's mony comes this way, but to my mind they should
a' gang a wee further. We're naething in comparison with the real
Highlands."

For nearly an hour he said no more; the little click of the reel, the
sweep of the water, the occasional leap of a fish, the multitudinous
hum of insects were all the sounds about. Lewis seated himself on the
grass, and began to justify his title of artist by beginning a sketch
at once. He had a pretty amateur talent, and could accomplish without
much difficulty the kind of sketch which seems to promise great things.
The promise was never fulfilled, but that mattered little. The bold
cliff opposite, the mass of rock half way across the stream, which at
that point lashed the rapid water into fury, the deeper shadow under
the bank, the blaze of light where the trees opened, and flickering
intermixture of light and shade where the foliage was thicker, gave
exactly the picturesque effect necessary for such a composition as
amateurs love.

As he sat on the grass, sketching this unfamiliar landscape, with
the silent figure by his side, manipulating his line, and the rush
of the water in his ears like a new language, Lewis could not but
smile to himself at the strange revolution in his own thoughts and
surroundings. His connections had been entirely urban. Old historical
towers, churches, and palaces had been the shrines at which he had paid
his devotions. Of Nature he knew next to nothing, and to think that
his first acquaintance with her should be made on the banks of the Tay
was strange indeed. The Tiber would have been more likely, that yellow
stream to which its sons paid a most undeserved compliment when they
hailed the noble Tay as its resemblance. But there was something in the
coolness and sweetness of this still hour which moved Lewis strangely.
He had been more used to the cicali in the trees than to the endless
twitter of the northern woods, the perpetual concert in which "the
mavis and the merle were singing," and to avoid the grass as perhaps
full of snakes, and to fear the sun as it is feared where its fury
gives sudden death. He sat in the full blaze of it now with a pleased
abandonment of all precautions. It was altogether like a pleasant dream.

"Is that a house behind the cliff high up among those trees?" he said.
He could not help thinking of a similar corner of old masonry peering
through the olive groves on a slope of the Apennines; but how different
this was! "And who may live there, I wonder?" he added, pausing to look
sideways at his sketch, in the true artistic _pose_.

Adam was very busy at that moment; he gave a sort of oblique glance
upwards from the corner of his eyes, but he was struggling with his
first fish, which was far too important a crisis to be mixed up with
talk, or vain answers to useless questions. It was not till he had
pulled out his prize, and deposited the glistening, gasping trout upon
the grass with a grunt of fatigue and satisfaction, that he took any
notice of what his companion said. Lewis got up to look at it as it
leaped its last in a convulsive flutter. He was no sportsman--indeed,
he was so little of his race that the sight of dying was painful to him
even in this uninteresting example. But he knew better than to show
this.

"That's a fine ane," said Adam--"no so big as mony, but a strong
creature; he has most strained my wrist wi' his acteevity. Ye were
asking what house is yon. It is old Stormont Tower, a bit poor place,
but as old as the hills themselves. You that makes pictures, did ye
ever see a bonnier picture than that?"

"Is it for the value of the fish or the pleasure of catching it," said
Lewis, "that you put a stop to its enjoyment? That's a more pleasant
picture, I think," and he pointed to the sudden gleam of a salmon
leaping in the middle of the stream.

Adam cast a glance at him of mingled curiosity and disdain.

"I said ye were nae fisher the first look I got at ye," he said. "And
ye find more pleasure in making scarts upon paper than in sport?" he
added, a minute after, in a solemn tone.

"At least, the scarts on the paper do no one any harm," said Lewis,
laughing. But he acknowledged the ineffectualness of his occupation by
forthwith putting away his sketch-book.

Adam saw this too with the corner of his eye, and apparently was
mollified by the withdrawal of that peaceful competitor Art from the
regions sacred to a stouter occupation. After a while, he spoke again,

"Sport," he said, "I'll no deny, is a mystery. That ye should take
your pleasure in what's pain and death to another poor creature, maybe
just as good as yoursel'--it's a real funny thing when you come to
think o't. I can gi'e no explanation. I've taken mony a thought on the
subject mysel'. That's how we're made, I suppose--to see the thing
fecht for its life, that's your pleasure, and to battle wi' 't and get
the upper hand. I canna be sorry for a trout," he said, casting a slow
glance at the fish; "it's just made for a man's dinner, and that's the
short and the long of it; but a deer, now--a grand creature, carrying
yon muckle horns like a king his crown, and a wheen skulking murderers
lying in wait for him, letting fly when the poor beast comes up
unsuspecting! I'm not a deer-stalker," said Adam, with more simplicity
than philosophy, making up

    "For sins he was inclined to
  By d--ning those he had no mind to,"

"and I just canna bide _yon_."

Upon which he cast his line once more, and Lewis, though he did not
feel any pleasure in the sight of the last convulsions, began to watch
with interest, which gradually grew into excitement, the skill with
which Adam plied his trade, the cunning arts by which he beguiled a
wary old Tay trout, up to a great many things, into acceptance of the
fly which dangled before his nose. The trout was experienced, but the
man was too much for him. Then there ensued that struggle between the
two which strained the fisherman's skill and patience to the utmost.
The little drama roused the spectator out of his calm and almost
repugnance. He followed it to its conclusion with almost as much real,
and considerably more apparent, excitement than Adam himself, and
scarcely repressed a "hurrah!" of triumph when the prey was finally
secured.

"I tell't you sae," said Adam. "That's just the way with man; ye canna
get the pleasure without the killing o' the creature. It's a queer
thing, but most things are queer. You'll have been at the college, and
studied pheelosophy, nae doubt? but you'll no explain that to me: nor
me, I can give no explanation, that have turned the thing o'er and o'er
in my head. Life's just a long puzzle from the beginning o't to the end
o't, and if you once begin to question what it means, ye'll never be
done, nor ye'll never get any satisfaction," Adam said.

Lewis did not take this bait as perhaps a young scholar, one of the
Oxford men to whom Adam was accustomed, who haunted these banks in the
autumn, or still more keenly an argumentative youth from Aberdeen or
St. Andrews might have done. He had known no college training, and had
little reading of the graver sort, but he pleased the fisherman almost
as much by his conversion to the excitement of sport to which indeed he
was as little accustomed as to philosophy. The hours passed on quickly
in the sweet air and sunshine, with the rhythm of the quick-flowing
river and the dramatic episodes of trout catching, and all the novelty
and freshness of the new world which was widening out around the young
man. He tried to beguile Adam to talk about matters which were still
more interesting to himself, but the philosopher had not that lively
interest in his fellow-creatures, at least of the human kind, which
usually characterizes the village sage.

When Adam's creel was full they went back, but by a round which brought
them in sight of the gate which Lewis remembered having passed through
on the previous night; the turrets of the old house showed over the
trees, and the young man looked at them with a quickened beating of
his heart. He was strangely simple in some matters, straightforward
in his ideas as Englishmen rarely are, and the secret intention in
his mind which had actuated his coming here moved all his pulses at
this sudden reminder. He looked curiously at the trees which hid this
dwelling-place. He did not know how to get access to it, how to carry
out his intention; but there it was, the aim of his journey, the future
scene of--how could he tell what? The future was all vague, but yet
alight with pleasant chances, he did not even know whether to call them
hopes. He was standing still gazing at the old house when he suddenly
heard voices behind him, kind salutations to Adam, to which the
fisherman replied with some cordiality. Lewis turned round quickly, for
the voices were feminine and refined, though they had a whiff of accent
to which he was as yet unaccustomed. It was a group of three ladies
who had paused to speak to Adam, and were looking with interest at his
fish. They were all in black dresses, standing out in the midst of the
sunshine, three slim, clear-marked figures. The furthest from him was
shorter than the others, and wore a veil which partially concealed
her face; the two who were talking were evidently sisters and of ripe
years. They talked both together, one voice overlapping the other.

"What fine fish you have got, Adam!" "And what a creel-ful! you've been
lucky to-day." "If Janet can spare us a couple, the cook will be very
thankful." "Dear me, that will be pleasant if Janet can spare us a
couple," they said.

After a few more questions they passed on, nodding and waving their
hands. "Come, Lilias," they called both together, looking back to the
third, who said nothing but "Good day, Adam," in a younger, softer
voice.

Lewis stood aside to let them pass, and took off his hat. It was
evidently a surprise to the ladies to see the stranger stand uncovered
as they passed. They looked at him keenly, and made some half audible
comments to each other. "Who will that be now, Jean?" "It will be
some English lad for the fishing, Margaret," Lewis heard, and laughed
to himself. Though he did not know much about Scotland, he had of
course picked up a Scotch novel now and then, and knew well enough
that what he profanely and carelessly, in the unconscious insolence
of his youth, called eccentric old ladies were figures invariable in
such productions. These no doubt were the Miss Grizzy and Miss Jacky
of Murkley. The little encounter pleased him. He should no doubt make
acquaintance with them and see the humours of the country at first
hand. The third little figure with the blue veil scarcely attracted his
eye at all; he saw her, but did not observe her. The blinding gauze hid
anything that might have raised his curiosity. She was less imposing in
every way, and when they both turned again with a "Come, Lilias," their
air gave their little companion the aspect of a child. He quickened his
pace to make up to Adam, who, though he seemed to plod along with slow,
large steps which had no appearance of speed, yet tasked his younger
companion, who was easily beguiled by any temptation of the way, to
keep up with him.

"Are those village people?" Lewis said.

"Eh? What was that you were saying?"

"Are those two ladies--village people? I mean do they live hereabout?"

Adam turned slowly half round upon him. His large and somewhat hazy
blue eyes uprose from between the bush of his shaggy eyebrows and the
redness of his beard, and contemplated the young man curiously.

"Yon's--the misses at the castle," Adam said.

"The misses?" Still Lewis did not take in what was meant; he repeated
the word with a smile.

"Our misses, the leddies at the castle," said Adam, laconically.

Lewis was so profoundly astonished that he gave a cry of dismay.

"The ladies at the castle?--Miss Murray of Murkley?" he said.

"Ay," said Adam, once more fixing him with a tranquil but somewhat
severe gaze. Then after a minute's reflection, "And wherefore no?"

Then Lewis laughed loud and long, with a mixture of excitement and
derision in his astonishment: the derision was at himself, but Adam was
not aware of this, and a shade of offence gradually came over as much
as was visible of his face.

"You're easy pleased with a joke," he said. "I canna say I see it." And
went on with his long steps devouring the way.

Lewis followed after a little, perhaps slightly ashamed of his
self-betrayal, although there was no betrayal in it save to himself.
As he looked round again he saw the group of ladies standing at the
Murkley gate. Probably their attention had been roused by the sudden
peal of his laughter, of which he now felt deeply ashamed. They were
going in at the smaller gate, which the lodgekeeper stood holding open
for them, but had paused apparently to look what it was that called
forth the young stranger's mirth. He was so self-conscious altogether
that he could scarcely believe the occasion of his laugh must be a
mystery to them, and felt ashamed of it as if they had been in the
secret. His impulse was to rush up to them, to assure them that it did
not matter, with an eagerness of shame and compunction which already
made his face crimson. What was it that did not matter? But then he
came to himself, and blushed more deeply than ever, and slunk away.
He did not hear the remarks the ladies made, but divined them in his
heart. What they said was brief enough, and he had indeed divined it
more or less.

"What is the lad laughing at? Do you think he is so ill-bred as to be
laughing at us, Jean?"

"What could he find to laugh at in us, Margaret?"

"'Deed that is what I don't know. Let me look at you. There is nothing
wrong about you that I can see, Jean."

"Nor about you, Margaret. It is, maybe, Lilias and her blue veil."

"Yes; it's odious of you," cried the third, suddenly seizing that
disguise in her hands and plucking it from her face, "to muffle me up
in this thing."

"You will not think that, my dear, when you see how it saves your
complexion. No doubt it was just the blue veil; but he must be a very
ill-bred young man."



CHAPTER IV.


This was also the opinion of Janet when she heard of the encounter
on the road. Her demeanour was very grave when she served her guest
with his dinner, of which one of the aforesaid trout constituted an
important part. She did not smile upon him as in the morning, nor
expatiate upon the diverse dishes, as was her wont, but was curt and
cold, putting his food upon the table with a thud of her tray which was
something like a blow. Lewis, who had not been used to the mechanical
attention of English servants, but to attendants who took a great
deal of interest in him and what he ate, and how he liked it, felt
the change at once. He was very simple in some matters, as has been
said, and the sense of disapprobation quite wounded him. He began to
conciliate, as was his nature.

"This is one of Adam's trout," he said.

"Just that; if it wasna Adam's trout, where would I get it?" said the
ungracious Janet.

"That is true; and a great deal better than if it came from a shop, or
had been carried for miles."

"Shop!" cried Janet, with lively scorn. "It's little you ken about our
countryside, that's clear. Where would I get a shop if I wantit it? And
wha would gang to sic a place that could have trout caller out of the
water."

"Don't be so angry," said Lewis, with a smile. "After all, you know,
if I am so ignorant, it is my misfortune, not my fault. If I had been
asked where I wanted to be born, no doubt I should have said the banks
of Tay."

"That's true," said Janet, mollified. "But you would do nothing o' the
sort," she added. "You're just making your jest of me, as you did of
the misses."

"I--jest at the--misses," said Lewis, with every demonstration of
indignant innocence. "Now, Mrs. Janet, look at me. Do you think I am
capable of laughing at--anyone--especially ladies for whom I would have
a still higher respect--if I knew them. I--jest! Do you think it is in
me?" he said.

Janet looked at him, and shook her head.

"Sir," she said, but with a softened tone, "you're just a whillie whaw."

"Now, what is a whillie whaw? I don't mind being called names," said
Lewis, "but you must not call me a ruffian, you know. If one has no
politeness, one had better die."

"Losh me! it's no just so bad as that. I said sae to Adam. A young
gentleman may have his joke, and no just be a scoundrel."

"Did Adam think I was a scoundrel? I am sorry I made such a bad
impression upon him. I thought we had become friends on the river-side."

"Oh, sir, you're takin' me ower close to my word. I wasna meaning
so bad as that; but, according to Adam, when you set eyes upon
the misses, ye just burst out into a muckle guffaw: and that's no
mainners--besides, it's not kind, not like what a gentleman's expected
to do--in this country," Janet added, deprecating a little. "For
onything I ken," she added, presently, "it may be mainners abroad."

"It is not manners anywhere," said Lewis, angrily. "But Adam is a
great deal too hard upon me, Mrs. Janet. I did not break into a
loud--anything when I saw the ladies--why should I? I did not know
who they were. But afterwards when I discovered their names---- You
must sympathize with me. I had been looking for young ladies, pretty
young ladies," he said, with a laugh at the recollection. "There is
something more even that I could tell you. There had been some idea
of an arrangement--of making a marriage, you understand--between a
Miss Murray and a--gentleman I know;--if the friends found everything
suitable."

"Making up a marriage," Janet echoed, with bewilderment, "if the
friends found it suitable!"

"Just so--nothing had been said about it," said the young man, "but
there had been an idea. And when, knowing he was young, I beheld--two
old ladies----"

"I dinna know what you call old," said Janet, with a little resentment.
"If Miss Margaret's forty, that's the most she is. She's twa-three
years younger than me. Ay, and so there was a marriage thought upon,
though your friend had never seen the leddy? and maybe the leddy was no
in the secret neither."

"Oh, certainly not," Lewis cried.

"It would be for her siller," said Janet, very gravely. "You would do
well to warn your friend, sir, that there's awfn' little siller among
them; they've been wranged and robbed, as I was telling you. Not only
they're auld, as ye say, but they're puir, that is to say, for leddies
of their consequence. I would bid him haud away with his plans and his
marriages, if I were you."

"Oh, there was, perhaps, nothing serious in it; it was only an idea,"
said Lewis lightly. "The trout has been excellent, Mrs. Janet. You cook
them to perfection. And I hope you are no longer angry with me or think
me a scoundrel, or even--the other thing."

"Oh, ay, sir, ye're just the other thing--ye're a whillie whaw--ye
speak awfu' fair and look awfu' pleasant, but I'm no sure how you're
thinking a' the time. When I'm down the stairs getting the collops
you'll maybe laugh and say, 'That's an old fuil' to yoursel'."

"I should be an ungrateful wretch if I did," said Lewis, "especially as
I am very anxious to see what pleasant surprise you have prepared for
me under the name of collops."

"Ah!" said Janet, shaking her head, but relaxing in spite of herself,
"you're just a whillie whaw."

When she was gone, however, Lewis shook his head still more gravely at
himself. Was it not very imprudent of him to have said anything about
that project?--and it was scarcely even a project, only an idea; and
now it was ridiculous. He had been very imprudent. No doubt this woman
would repeat it, and it would get into the air, and everyone would
know. The question now was whether he should confine himself in future
to the collops, or whether he should explain to Janet that he had meant
nothing, and that his communication was confidential. He had certainly
been a fool to speak at all. To tell the truth, he had never been alone
in a totally new world without any outlet for his thoughts before,
and his laugh had been so inevitable, and the explanation so simple.
When Janet re-appeared with the collops, however, she was in haste,
and nothing more was said; and by-and-by he forgot that he had said
anything that it was not quite natural to say.

The presence of this young stranger at a little village inn so
unimportant as the "Murkley Arms" was a surprising event in the
village, and set everybody talking. To be sure an enthusiastic
fisherman like Pat Lindsay, from Perth, had been known to live there
for a month at a time during the season, and to nod his head with great
gusto when Janet's merits as a cook were discussed. Most people in
Murkley were quite aware of Janet's merits, but the outside world, the
travellers and tourists who passed, so to speak, on the other side,
had no information on the subject. This was one of the points, indeed,
in which it was an endless vexation to her that her husband had "nae
pith" nor spirit in him. Had the little house been furbished up and
made into a fine hotel, Janet knew that she had it in her to make that
hotel a success; but with a man who could neither look imposing and
dignified at the head of such an establishment, nor do any of the hard
work necessary, what could a woman do? She had to give up the hope of
rising in the world; but, when it so happened that a guest did come,
Janet's treatment of him was royal. And she felt a certain gratitude to
the visitor who gave her an opportunity of showing what was in her.

"What is he here for?" she said. "What for should he no be here, if
ye please? He's here for his ain pleasure. He's from foreign parts,
and it's good for him to see what the life is in a real quiet,
honest place. They havena ower much of that abroad. They have your
gambling-tables, and music playing morning, noon, and nicht. Eh, but
they maun be sick o't! A band once in a way I say naething against,
and when it's a regiment marching it's grand; but trumpets blaring and
flaring like thae Germans, losh me! it would send a body out of her
wits in nae time. He's come away from that, and I think he's a wise
man. And though he's no fisher himself he likes to see Adam catch the
trout. And he's a fine lad. He's welcome to bide as long as he likes,
for me."

This was her answer to the many questions with which at first she was
plied on the subject. The minister, who was a man of very liberal
mind and advanced views was soon interested in the stranger, and made
acquaintance with him as he lingered about on Sunday after church
looking at the monuments in the church-yard. Lewis went to church
cheerfully as a sort of tribute to society, and also as the only
social meeting to which he could get admittance. He loved to be among
his fellow-creatures, to see other people round him, and, unknown
as he was, this was almost his only way of enjoying the pleasure.
The minister, whose name was Seton, accosted him with very friendly
intentions.

"You will find, I fear, a great difference in our services from those
you are used to," he said. "I would fain hope things were a little
better with us than they used to be; but we're far behind in ritual.
The sister Church has always held up a far different standard."

"Which Church is that?" said Lewis, with his friendly candour of mind.
"I am a very great ignoramus."

"Ah, I suppose you are High," said the minister, "and don't acknowledge
our orders. Of course, you cannot expect me to consent to that. The
Church of England is a great institution, but apt to carry things with
a high hand, and look down upon Protestant brethren."

"Ah, yes--but I don't know anything about England," said Lewis, still
puzzled; upon which Mr. Seton made many apologies.

"I ought to have known--of course, your complexion and all that; you
come from the land of enlightenment, where everything is subservient to
intellect. How glad I shall be of the opportunity ask to your advice
about some passages I am in doubt about! Your fatherland is the home of
biblical science."

"I am not a German," said Lewis, "but I know the language well enough,
and if I can be of any use----Oh, no, I am an Englishman, though I
never was in England--unless I may call this England."

"Which you certainly must not do," said the minister; "we've fought
hard enough on that account in our day. I suppose you are here
for the fishing," he added, as everybody did, but with a little
disingenuousness, for by this time all the world was aware that Lewis
did not fish, nor pretend to fish, nor, indeed, do anything but what
the good people of Murkley called idling his time away.

"I am no fisher," he said--"not a sportsman at all, and not much of an
artist either. I am not very good at anything. I came here because it
struck my fancy."

He laughed somewhat uneasily, because it was not true, and he was a bad
deceiver; but then Mr. Seton had no reason to suppose that it was not
true, and he took it with great composure as a natural reason enough.

"It is a fine country," he said. "I am free to say it, for it is not my
country. I am from the south myself."

"The south!" said Lewis, deceived in his turn, and looking with a
little surprise at the fine burly form and grizzled locks of the
clergyman, who seemed to him of the same type as Adam, and not like
anything that he realized as the south. "Do you mean of France, or
still nearer the mezzo-giorno? Oh, I know the south very well. I have
been through the wildest parts of Sicily and Calabria, as well as most
civilized regions."

"I meant Dumfriesshire," said the minister, with a blush. He felt as if
he had been guilty of false pretences. "That is south to us. You have
been a great traveller, Mr.----"

"Murray," said Lewis, quickly.

"You are a Murray, too? Then I suppose you had ancestors in this
district. That's very common; I have had people come here from all
the ends of the world anxious to look at the tombstones or the parish
register."

"I shall not need to do that," the young man said. "The name came to me
with some property," he added, with his usual mixture of caution and
imprudence--"from my god-father," he added, after another pause. This
was so far true that it was the name by which the young dependent on
his bounty had been used to call old Sir Patrick; his voice softened at
the word, which he had not used for so long. "He brought me up--he was
very good to me. I have lost him, there is about a year."

The minister felt that it was necessary to reply in his professional
capacity.

"Ah," he said, "such losses shatter the world to us; but so long as
they turn our thoughts to better things, to the land whither we must
all travel----"

Lewis was not used to spiritual consolation; he gave his companion a
nod of not uncheerful assent.

"He always wished me to travel," he said. "It has become to me a second
nature. I am told that it is to the Highlands that tourists go, but
otherwise this pleases me very much."

"And you are comfortable at Adam Burnet's? He is a character--the
sort of mind that we flatter ourselves is peculiarly Scotch," said
the minister. "I hope you will gratify my wife and me by taking your
luncheon with us. A stranger is always welcome," he continued, leading
the way after Lewis had consented with a smile and bow and flourish of
his hat, which made Mr. Seton smile, "in a Scotch manse; and if you are
making a long stay, Mr. Murray----"

It was thus that Lewis made his first entry into society in the village.

"You should have seen his bow, my dear," the minister said; "he is just
awfully foreign, but a good fellow for all that, or else my skill in
faces is at fault."

This was to prepare Mrs. Seton to receive the stranger, whom, indeed,
the minister brought in with a sense of an unauthorized interference in
what was not his department. He was at liberty to bring an old elder, a
brother minister, even a farmer of superior description; but Mrs. Seton
was particular about young men. Katie was sixteen, and "there was never
any telling," her mother said. In the present case the risks were even
greater than usual, for this young man was without an introduction,
nobody to answer for him or his respectability, and a foreigner
besides, which was at once more terrible and more seductive than an
intruder native born.

"Your father is so imprudent," she said to Katie. "How can we tell who
he is?"

"He looks very innocent," said that young woman, who had seen the
stranger a great many times, and found him entirely unlike her ideal.
Innocent was not what Miss Katie thought a young man ought to look.
She followed her mother to the early Sunday dinner, which Mr. Seton
entitled lunch, without the slightest excitement, but there was already
some one in the room whose presence disturbed Katie's composure more.
Of the three gentlemen there assembled, Lewis was the least in height
and the least impressive in appearance. The two stalwart Scotchmen,
between whom he stood, with vigour in every line of their long limbs
and every curl of their crisp locks, threw him into the shade. He was
shorter, slighter, less of him altogether. His hair was light, and
not very much of that. In all probability when he was older he would
be bald, and people who depreciated Lewis were apt to say of him that
he was all one colour, hair and complexion. His dress had a little
of a foreign cut, or rather it was elaborately English _à la mode de
Paris_, and he was not at all indifferent about his reception here, but
sincerely anxious to please and make a favourable impression, and did
not in the least hesitate to show that he was so. This went against him
with the party generally, but Lewis was quite unaware of that.

The other young man whom he had found there, when the minister showed
him into the little drawing-room and went to report what he had done to
his wife, was in reality half a head taller, and looked twice the size
of Lewis. He was brown and ruddy like most of the men about, accustomed
to expose himself to the weather, and to find his occupation and
pleasure out of doors. He was slightly shy, but yet quite at his ease,
knowing that it was his duty to talk and be friendly to the stranger,
and doing his duty accordingly, though he had none of Lewis's eager
desire to make himself agreeable. When the minister entered they were
introduced to each other as Mr. Murray and Mr. Stormont, upon which
Lewis said immediately, with a little effusive pleasure,

"Ah, I know your name very well; you must belong to the tower on the
other side of the river. I attempt to sketch you almost every day."

"Oh!" said young Stormont, and in his mind he added, "It's an artist,"
which seemed to account for the stranger at once.

"My attempts have not been very successful," Lewis added, laughing.
"I go out with Adam when he goes to fish, and when a trout is very
interesting my sketch-book falls out of my hands."

"You can't see much of the tower from the other side," said Stormont.
"I hope you will come and study it near at hand."

"That I will do with great pleasure," cried Lewis. It exhilarated him
to find himself again in good company. "You are very kind to admit me
into your house," he said, with frank gratification, to the minister.
"Mrs. Janet and her husband are very interesting; they throw a great
light upon the country: but I began to long to exchange a little
conversation with persons--of another class."

"I am sure we are very glad to see you," said Mrs. Seton. "It must be
lonely in an inn, especially if you have come out of a family. We have
seen you passing, and wondered what you could find in Murkley. There is
no society here. Even the tourists going out and in are a variety when
you are further north, but here we are just dropped in a corner and see
nothing. Oh, yes, old Pat Lindsay who thinks of nothing but his trout.
Trout are nice enough things on the table, but not as the subject of
conversation. Even Mr. Stormont here is away oftener than we would like
him to be."

"Only for the shooting," said Stormont, "and a little while in
Edinburgh in the winter, and sometimes a run up to town in the spring."

"How much does that leave?" said the lady, playfully. "But never mind,
we cannot expect to bind a young man here. I think of the time when my
own boys will grow up and want to be moving. Thanks be to Providence,
Katie's a girl and will stay at home."

Katie's eyes, which were bright and brown like the Tay, opened a little
wider at this, and gave out a glance which was half laughter across the
table. Lewis, looking on with great interest, felt that the glance was
winged to somewhere about that part of the table where young Stormont
sat, and felt a great sympathy and interest. He met her eyes with a
slight smile in his, making unconscious proffer of that sympathy, which
made Katie blush from head to foot, and grow hot with indignation as
well, as if she had been found out.

"Mr. Murray has been a great traveller," said the minister, "and,
Katie, you should seize the opportunity to try how your German sounds,
my dear. It is apt to be one thing on a book and another in the mouth.
I made so dreadful a failure in the speaking of it myself the first
time I tried to do it that I never made the attempt a second time. But
I suppose one language is the same as another to you."

"Katie speaks it very well, I believe," said her mother; "but, dear
me, where is the use of it here? We are out of the way both of books
and people, and how is a girl to keep it up? There's a great deal of
nonsense about teaching children foreign languages, in my opinion. But,
whisht, let me think what company we have that would suit Mr. Murray;
everybody is so far off. To be sure, there is one family, but then they
are all ladies--the Miss Murrays at the castle. We must not leave them
out, but they would be little resource to a young man."

"And perhaps they are not so kind, so hospitable as you," said Lewis.
"I have already, I fear, offended them, or if not them then their
admirers. It is they who are called the Misses? Then I thought that
must mean young ladies, very young. It was foolish, but I did so. And
when in the road with Adam we encountered these old ladies----"

"Oh, stop, stop, not old. I cannot have them called old," cried Mrs.
Seton. "Bless me, Miss Jean is not much more than my age."

"And it does not matter whether they are old or young," said Katie; "we
are all very fond of them."

"And I," said Lewis, putting his hand on his heart, "respect them
infinitely. I am much interested in those ladies. The oldness is
nothing--it does not affect me. I wish to know them above everything. I
have known their grandfather--abroad."

"Bless me," said Mrs. Seton; "old Sir Patrick? This is most
interesting. I never saw him; he was away before we came here. And
what did you think of him? He was a tyrant, I've always heard, and
a terrible egotist; thinking of nothing but his own pleasure. You
know the story, I suppose, of how he left all his money away from the
family; and nothing to any of them but the old house and that big folly
of a new one. I wonder they don't pull that place down."

"Oh, mamma, if money was to come into the family! that is what Lilias
says. If some uncle they never heard of was to come from India, or
somebody they had been kind to die all at once, and leave them a
fortune."

"I will not have you see so much of Lilias, if she fills your head full
of nonsense," said Mrs. Seton. "Such folly! for they have no uncle in
India, that ever I heard tell of; and people now-a-days don't make
those daft-like wills--though, to be sure, Sir Patrick's an example.
Did you ever see, Mr. Murray, the young man we've heard so much about?"

"The fellow that got the money," young Stormont said.

"What kind of a being was it?" said the minister. "Some supple foreign
lad that flattered the silly old man. It has always been strange to me
that there was nobody near to speak a word for justice and truth."

"You are hard upon foreigners," said Lewis. "It is not their fault
that they are foreign. Indeed they would not be foreign _there_, you
know, but the people of the country, and we the foreigners. I knew
this fellow, as you say. He was not even foreign, he was English. The
old gentleman was very fond of him, and good to him. He did not know
anything about the money."

"Ah, Mr. Murray, you'll never persuade me that. Would a young man give
up years of his life to an old one without any expectations? No, no, I
cannot believe that."

"Did he give up years of his life? Oh, yes, I suppose so. No one
thought of it--in that light. He loved him like his father. There was
no one else to take care of him, to make him happy. I see now from the
other point of view. But I do not think he meant any harm."

This Lewis said much too seriously and anxiously for his _rôle_ of
spectator, but at the moment, there being no suspicion, no one remarked
his nervous earnestness. He cast a sort of appealing glance round the
table, with a wistful smile.

"No one," he said, "_there_, thought any harm. He was the most
astonished himself."

"And what kind of a fellow was he," said Stormont, "a gentleman, or
just some cad the old man had picked up?"

At this Lewis grew red in spite of himself, then did his best to laugh,
though the effort was great.

"I do not know," he said, "having always lived abroad, what is exactly
a cad, and also what, when you come to its exact meaning, is a
gentleman?"

"Oh, a gentleman--" said Mrs. Seton. "Bless me, what a question? It
is just--not to be mistaken: there is no two words about it----No,
no--describe it! how could I describe it? A gentleman! my dear Mr.
Murray, you can be in no doubt about that."

"And a cad is just a cad," said young Stormont, "a fellow, don't you
know, that's not a gentleman--just as a hill isn't a river, and can
never be."

"As distinct as that?" said Lewis. "It is hard upon us who have always
lived abroad. It means, to be well-educated and well-bred----"

"And well-born, Mr. Murray; you must not leave out that. Well-born,
above all things; there's everything in race."

"But those whom you meet only in society," said Lewis, "even on the
Continent--where every man must have _ses papiers_--he does not carry
them about with him. He does not pin a little _carnet_ on his sleeve.
You must take him on trust."

"That is just the danger of promiscuous society," said Mrs. Seton,
briskly. "That is what I always say to papa. It is so easy to be taken
in by a fair exterior; and when you don't know who people are, and all
about them, it's a serious thing," said the lady, shaking her head,
"especially where there are young people. Oh, it is a very serious
thing, Mr. Murray. I am sure I always say about ball-room acquaintances
and persons of that sort, if harm comes of it, really you have nobody
to blame but yourself."

There was a pause after this, and a great sense of embarrassment. Katie
looked at her mother with anxious, telegraphic communications, of
which Mrs. Seton either would not or did not take any notice. Even Mr.
Stormont, though not very quick, saw the dilemma. Lewis was the most
self-possessed.

"I must be more grateful than ever," he said, turning to his hostess,
with that conciliatory smile which was so natural to him, "that you
have given your hospitality so kindly to one who has no vouchers, no
one to speak for him--a stranger."

"Bless me, Mr. Murray, I hope you never thought----Dear, dear, you
might be sure that was the last thing in my mind. Present company, you
know, of course; and then in some cases the first look is enough," said
Mrs. Seton, with a gracious bow to her guest.

This little episode distracted the company altogether from the question
propounded by Stormont about Sir Patrick Murray's heir, and during the
rest of the meal Lewis exerted himself to keep away from dangerous
subjects: which was a greater mental effort to him, perhaps, than
any he had ever made in his life. For he was ready by nature to take
everybody he met into his confidence. He had the most unbounded trust
in his fellow-creatures, and he wanted to be approved, to have the
sympathy of those about him. He, whose impulse it was to be always
looking out of the window--how could he put up shutters, and retire
into seclusion and mystery? It was the thing of all others most
difficult to him. But he was quick and ready, and kept his wits about
him, having been thus put on his guard. He betrayed something else with
great and simple pleasure--his own accomplishments, which were, in Mrs.
Seton's opinion, many. He showed them his amateur sketch-book, which
seemed the work of a great artist to these uninstructed people, and,
indeed, was full of fairly brilliant dashes at scenery and catchings up
of effect, which he himself was well aware were naught, but which were
very attractive to the uncritical. And it was all they could do to keep
him from the piano, where he sadly wanted to let them hear one or two
morceaux from the last opera. Mrs. Seton had to place herself in front
of the instrument with an anxiety to prevent the desecration of the
Sabbath without exposing herself to the charge of narrow-mindedness,
which was highly comic.

"That will be for to-morrow," she said. "We must not have all our
good things at once. No, no, we must leave something for to-morrow.
The servants, you see, have prejudices--we have to consider so many
things in a manse. A clergyman's family are always talked about: and
then economy's my principle, Mr. Murray; we must keep something for
to-morrow. And that just reminds me that I hope you will come in a
friendly way and spend the evening--we have no parties, you know,
here--but if you will just come in a friendly way: and _then_ it will
give us the greatest pleasure," Mrs. Seton said, nodding her head and
smiling.

Thus immediate advantage sprang from the over-boldness of his foreign
ways; and when he left the manse, young Stormont, though somewhat
contemptuous of a man who "went in for" music and spoke all sorts
of languages, yielded to the ingratiating ways of the stranger, and
invited him half surlily to lunch with him next day at the tower, which
Lewis accepted with his usual cordiality.

He went back with a sense of exhilaration to the parlour overlooking
the village street, all so still in the drowsy Sunday afternoon.

"Me voici lancé," he said to himself, with glee. He had known the
excitements of society very different from that of Murkley, but he knew
the true philosophy of being not only contented, but pleased, when you
cannot get everything you like, with what you are lucky enough to be
able to get.



CHAPTER V.


"We must ask just whoever there is to ask," said Mrs. Seton. "You see,
there will be no difficulty in entertaining them, with that young man.
He will play his music as long as anybody will listen to him, or I'm
mistaken. Philip Stormont is coming; I had to ask him, as he was there;
and you can send Johnnie over with a note to the Borrodailes, Katie,
and I'll write up to the Castle myself. Then there's young Mr. Dunlop,
the assistant at Braehead. He is of a better class than most of the
young men: and the factor--but there's three girls there, which is a
terrible band of women. If you were very good, and all things went
well, and there were two or three couples, without disturbing other
folk, and papa had no objection----"

"We might end off with a dance--that was what I expected," cried Katie,
clapping her hands. "I'll put on my hat and run up to the Castle to
save you writing."

"Stop, stop, you hasty thing!--on a Sabbath afternoon to give an
invitation! No, no, I cannot allow that. Sit down and write the notes,
and you can date them the 15th" (which was next morning), "and see
that Johnnie is ready to ride by seven o'clock at the latest. But I
would not let you go to the Castle in any case, even if it had not
been Sunday, for most likely they would not bring Lilias. I will just
ask Miss Margaret and Miss Jean to their tea. If there was a word of
dancing, there would be no chance; they would just say, 'She's not
_out_'."

"And neither am I out," cried Katie, with impatience.

"You--you're just nobody, my dear; there will be no grand ceremony,
no Court train and feathers, for you, a simple minister's daughter.
Not but what I might be presented, and you too, if I liked, and it
was worth the expense," said Mrs. Seton. "Lady Lorraine would do it
in a moment; but you are not an heiress, Katie. Still I think they're
over-particular--oh, yes, certainly they are over-particular; the poor
thing will miss all the little amusement that's going. But perhaps
they'll bring her, if they think they are only asked to their tea."

"The only thing I don't like in them," cried Katie, "is tying Lilias up
in that blue veil, and not letting her go to parties--that's odious!
But for all the rest, that Mr. Murray--that person you are so fond
of----"

"Me! fond of him! I think he will be an acquisition," said Mrs. Seton
calmly; "and now that I've been driven into asking him for the evening
we may as well make the best of it. Yes, my dear, I was driven into
it. You wouldn't have me be impolite? And you know, if the piano had
been heard going at three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, where would
your character have been, Robert? I would not say but they would have
had you up before the presbytery. I have to think of you as well as
of myself. Oh, well, I don't just say that I would have liked it much
myself. Opera music on a Sunday is a step further than I would like to
go, though I hope I'm not narrow-minded; so I was just obliged to ask
him for a week night. And if you will make allowance for the difference
of foreign manners I cannot but think that he looks a gentleman.
Yes--yes, he looks a gentleman--and it is not as if he was going to
settle here, when, of course, we would need to know a great deal more
about him; but you must take something on trust in the way of society,
and if he can play so well, and all that----"

"My dear, you are always blaming me for going too far, but yet you are
the one that goes the farthest," the minister said.

"Toots," replied his wife, good-humouredly, "you're just an old
croaker. Did any harm ever come of it? Did I ever go farther than was
justified? I think, though I don't wish to seem vain, that I have just
an instinct for things of that sort."

This was, indeed, the conviction of the neighbourhood in general, which
profited by the impromptu parties which the minister's wife was so
clever in getting up. They were frequent enough to be reckoned upon by
the people within reach; her own explanation of them was quite true and
scarcely flattered.

"We cannot do anything great," she said, "we have no room for it. I
couldn't give a regular dance like you. In the first place it would
put Mr. Seton out, for, though you would not think so, there is nobody
more nervous or that wants more care taken of him, not to disturb his
studies: and in the second place we have no room for it. No, no, you're
all very kind making allowances, but we've no room for it. And then
Katie's but a child; she is not out. Oh, I don't make a fuss of her not
being out like Miss Jean and Miss Margaret, they have some reason, you
know, to be particular; but to make such a phrase about a minister's
daughter would be perfectly ridiculous. Yes, yes, when she's eighteen
I'll take her to the Hunt Ball, and there will be an end of it. But at
present she is just in the school-room, you know. A little turn of a
waltz just by accident, when I have asked a few friends to tea, that
counts for nothing, and that is all I ever pretend to give." All this
was so well known that there was no longer any need for saying it,
though Mrs. Seton from habit continued to say it pretty often, as was
her way.

But the preparations made were almost as careful as if it had not been
impromptu. The furniture was deftly pushed, and edged, and sided off
to be as little in the way as possible. The piano was drawn into the
corner which, after much experiment, had been settled to be the best;
there was unusual sweeping oft-repeated to clear the room of dust.
Flowers were gathered in the most prodigal profusion. The manse garden
was old-fashioned, and well sheltered, nestling under a high and sunny
wall. The June fulness of roses had begun, and all sorts of sweet
smelling, old-fashioned flowers filled the borders.

"Oh, yes," Mrs. Seton said, "we must just be content with what we can
get. My poverty, but not my will, consents, as Shakspere says. No doubt
but I would have a fine show of pelargoniums, or Tom Thumbs, and a
border of lobelias, and the centre calceolaria, if I could. That is
all the fashion now. No, no, I don't make any grievance of it. I just
content myself with what I've got--old larkspurs and rockets, and so
forth, that have been there since my mother-in-law's time; but they're
just good enough, when you can't get better," this true philosopher
said. She had her other preparations made in the same spirit. "A cold
ham at the bottom of the table, and two or three chickens at the top,
and as much salad as they can set their faces to, and curds and cream,
which the young ones are all very fond of, and stewed gooseberries,
and anything else that may be in the garden, that is all the phrase I
make," said Mrs. Seton, who was sufficiently Scotch to employ a French
word now and then without knowing it; but would have resented the
imputation. Katie had her little white frock, which was as simple as
a child's, but very dainty and neat for all that, laid out upon her
little white bed, with a rose for her belt and a rose for her hair,
fresh gathered from the bushes, and smelling sweet as summer. Tea was
set out in the dining-room, where afterwards the cold ham and chickens
were to take the place now occupied by scones of kinds innumerable,
cookies, and jams, and shortbread, interspersed with pretty bouquets
of flowers. It was much prettier than dinner, without the heavy fumes
which spoil that meal for a summer and daylight performance. But we
must not jump at once into the heart of an entertainment which cost so
much pains and care.

Mrs. Seton's note was delivered early at the Castle next morning.
Truth compels us to admit that it was written on Sunday night; but it
was dated Monday morning, for why should anyone's feelings be hurt
even by an appearance of disrespect for the Sabbath day. ("There is
none meant," the minister's wife said, who had done all her duties
thoroughly, taught her Sabbath class, and heard her children their
lessons, and listened devoutly to two sermons before she turned to this
less sacred duty.)

"I am asking one or two friends to tea," she wrote, "and I hope you
will come. A gentleman will be with us who is a great performer on
the piano." It was in this way that the more frivolous intention was
veiled. But, unfortunately, as is the case with well-known persons in
general, Mrs. Seton's friends judged the past by the present, and were
aware of the risks they would run.

"It will be one of her usual affairs," said Miss Margaret, with a
glance of intelligence and warning to her sister.

"Just that, Margaret, I should suppose," said Miss Jean.

"Then it will not be worth while for Lilias to take the trouble of
dressing herself, Jean--a few old ladies invited to their tea."

"That was what I was going to say, Margaret. I would not fash to go, if
I was Lilias. She can have Katie here to-morrow."

"Sisters!" cried Lilias, springing up before them, "you said that last
time, and there was a dance. It is very hard upon me, if I am never to
have a dance--never till I am as old as you."

The two ladies were seated in two chairs, both large, with high
backs and capacious arms, covered with faded velvet, and with each a
footstool almost as large as the chair. They were on either side of the
window, as they might have been, in winter, on either side of a fire.
They wore black dresses, old and dim, but made of rich silk, which was
still good, though they had got ever so many years' wear out of it,
and small lace caps upon their heads. Miss Jean was fair, and Miss
Margaret's brown locks had come to resemble her sister's by dint of
growing grey. They had blue eyes, large and clear, so clear as almost
to be cold; and good, if somewhat large, features, and resembled each
other in the delicacy of their complexions in which there was the tone
of health, with scarcely any colour. Between them, on a small, very
low seat, not sitting with any dignity, but plumped down like a child,
was the third, the heroine of the veil, whose envelope had disguised
her so completely that even the lively mind of Lewis had not been
roused to any curiosity about her. She had jumped up when she made that
observation, and now flung herself down again with a kind of despairing
abandon. She looked eighteen at the utmost, a small, slight creature,
not like the other ladies in a single feature, at any time; and now,
with her brow puckered, the corners of her mouth drooping, her eyes
wet, more unlike them, in her young excitement and distress, than ever.

"Now, Lilias, don't be unreasonable, my dear. If it's a dance, it
stands to reason you cannot go; but what reason have you to suppose it
is a dance? none whatever. 'I am asking one or two friends to tea.' Is
that like dancing? She would not ask Jean and me, I suppose, if that
was what she meant. We are going to hear a gentleman who is a great
performer on the piano. It appears to me that will be rather a dreary
style of entertainment, Jean; and I am by no means certain that I will
go."

"Well, Margaret," said Jean, "having always been the musical one of the
family, it's an inducement to me; but Lilias, poor thing, would not
care for it. Besides, I have always been of the opinion that we must
not make her cheap, taking her to all the little tea-parties."

"Oh, how can you talk such nonsense, when you never take me to one,
never to one! and me close upon eighteen," the girl cried. "Katie goes
to them all, and knows everybody, and sees whatever is going on; but I
must do nothing but practise and read, practise and read, till I'm sick
of everything. I never have any pleasure, nor diversion, nor novelty,
nor anything at all, and Katie----"

"Katie! Katie is nothing but the minister's daughter, with no
expectations, nor future before her. If she marries a minister like
her father, she will do all that can be expected from her. How can you
speak of Katie? Jean and me," said Miss Margaret, "have just devoted
ourselves to you from your cradle."

"Not quite from her cradle, Margaret, for we were then young ourselves,
and her mother, poor thing----"

"Well, well, I did not intend to be taken to the letter," said Miss
Margaret, impatiently. "Since ever you have been in our hands--and that
is many years back--we have been more like aunts than sisters to you.
We have given up all projects of our own. A woman of forty, which is my
age, is not beyond thinking of herself in most cases."

"And, reason good, still less," said Miss Jean, "a woman of
eight-and-thirty."

"So little a difference as two years cannot be said to count; but all
our hopes we have put upon you, Lilias. We might have been jealous of
you, seeing what your position is, and what ours is; we would have
had great cause. But, on the contrary, we have put all our pride upon
you, and thought of nothing but what was the best for you, and pinched
ourselves to get masters and means of improvement, and taken houses in
Edinburgh winter after winter----"

"Not to speak," said Miss Jean, "of the great things Margaret has
planned, when the time comes, which was not done either for her or me."

"I know you are very kind," said Lilias, drying her eyes.

"My dear," said Miss Margaret, "a season in London, and you presented
to the Queen, and all the old family friends rallying round you--would
I think of a bit little country party with a prospect before me like
that?"

At this Lilias looked up with her eyes shining through the wetness that
still hung upon her eyelashes.

"It is very, very nice to think of, I don't deny. Oh, and awfully,
awfully kind of you to think of it."

(Let it be said here in a parenthesis that this "awfully, awfully," on
the lips of Lilias was not slang, but Scotch.)

"I think it _is_ rather good of us. It was never done, as she says, for
either Jean or me."

"I doubt if it would have made any difference," said Miss Jean. "What
is to be will be; and making a curtsey to the Queen--unless one could
get to be acquainted with Her Majesty, which would be a great honour
and pleasure----"

"It just makes all the difference," said Miss Margaret, who was more
dogmatic; "it just puts the stamp upon a lady. If you're travelling it
opens the doors of foreign courts, if you stay at home--well, there is
always the Drawing-room to go to."

"And can you go whenever you like, after you have been once
introduced?" Lilias added, with a gleam of eagerness.

"Surely, my dear; you send in your name, and you put on your court
dress."

"That will be very nice," said the girl. Her bosom swelled with a
sigh of pleasure. "For of course the finest company must be always
there, and you will hear all the talk that is going on, and see
everybody--ambassadors and princes, when they come on visits. Of course
you would not be of much importance among so many grand people, just
like the 'ladies, &c.,' in Shakespeare. They say nothing themselves,
but sometimes the Queen will beckon to them and send them a message,
or make them hold her fan, or bring her a book; but you hear all the
conversation and see everybody."

"I am afraid," said Miss Jean, who had been watching an opportunity to
break in, "you are thinking of maids-of-honour and people in office.
Drawing-rooms----" but here she caught her sister's eye and broke off.

"Maids-of-honour are of course the foremost," said Miss Margaret. "I
don't see, for my part, why Lilias should not stand as good a chance
as any. Her father was a distinguished soldier, and her grandfather,
though he has not behaved well to us, was a man that was very
well-known, and had a great deal of influence. And the Queen is very
feeling. Why she might not be a maid-of-honour, as well as any other
young lady, I am at a loss to see."

Lilias jumped to her feet again, this time in a glow of pride and
ambitious hope.

"Me!" she said (once more not for want of grammar, but for stress of
Scotch). Miss Jean, scarcely less excited, put down her knitting and
softly clapped her thin hands.

"That is a good idea; there is no one like Margaret for ideas," she
said.

"I see no reason why it should not be. She has the birth, and she would
have good interest. She has just got to let herself be trained in the
manners and the ways that are conformable. Silly lassie! but she would
rather go to a little tea-party in the country."

"No, no, no!" cried the girl, making a spring towards her, and throwing
her arms round the speaker's neck. "You don't know me yet, for I _am_
ambitious; I should like to raise the house out of the dust, as you
say--I, the last one, the end of all. That would be worth living for!"
she cried, with a glow of generous ardour in her eyes.

But when Lilias watched her sisters walking away, with their maid
behind them carrying their shoes across the park to the little gate
and green lane which led by a back-way to the manse, it was scarcely
possible that her heart should not sink within her. Another of those
lingering, endless evenings, hour after hour of silvery lightness after
the day was over, like a strange, unhopeful morning, yet so cool and
sweet, lingered out moment by moment over this young creature alone.
She had "her book" which, meaning literature in the abstract, was
constantly recommended to her by the other ladies; and she had her
sketch-book, and her needlework. Miss Margaret was wont to express
absolute consternation that, with so many things to amuse her, a girl
should ever feel dull. But this poor little girl, though surrounded by
all these, did feel dull and very lonely. To go to Drawing-rooms, which
Lilias innocently took to mean the inner circle of the court, and to
be a maid-of-honour was a prospect which took away her breath. With
that before her it would indeed be wonderful if she could not bear up
and submit to being dull and lonely as every girl, her sisters told
her, had to do before she came out; but, after she had repeated this
to herself half a dozen times, the impression on her mind grew faint,
the possible maid-of-honour, the gorgeous imagination of a Drawing-room
floated away; they were so far away at the best, so uncertain, while it
was very certain that she was lonely to-night, and that other people of
her age were enjoying themselves very much. Lilias' thoughts ended, as
was very natural, in a fit of crying, after which she rose up a little
better, and, the new box from the library happening by good fortune
to arrive at that moment, got out a new novel, which it was a small
excitement to be able to begin at her own will before her sisters had
decided which was and which was not good for her, and in that happiness
forgot her trouble, as she had so often done before.

"Did you really mean yon, Margaret?" Miss Jean said to her sister, as
she walked along towards the manse.

"Do you think I ever say out like that anything I don't mean, Jean? I
might humour the child's fancies, and let her think the drawing-rooms
were real society, like what she reads; but the other, to be sure
I meant it--wherefore not?--the lust of our family, her father's
daughter, and a girl with beauty. We must always recollect that. You
and I were good-looking enough in our day; you are sometimes very
good-looking yet----"

"That's your kind heart, Margaret."

"What has my kind heart to do with it? But Lilias has more than we
ever had--she has beauty, you know. Something should be made of that.
It should not just run away into the dust like our good looks, and be
of profit or pleasure to nobody. I struck out the idea," said Miss
Margaret, with a little pride, "on the spot, it is true; it came
to me, and I did not shut my mind to it; but it's full of reason,
when you come to think of it. I see a great many reasons for it, but
none against it. They have a sort of a little income--just something
for their clothes. They need not be extravagant in clothes, for Her
Majesty takes little pleasure in vanity and dressing; and then they
have honourable to their name. The Honourable Lilias Murray--it would
sound very well; and then in the service of the Queen. Don't go too
far forward, Jean; but it is a thing to think of, to keep her heart
up with. The little thing is very high-spirited when you take her the
right way."

"My heart smote me to come away and leave her, Margaret."

"Why should your heart smite you? Would you like her to be talked about
as the belle of a manse parlour, and perhaps worse than that--who can
tell, at her age? She might see some long-legged fellow that would take
her fancy--a factor's son, or an assistant minister, or even Philip
Stormont, who is not a match for a Murray."

"Say no more, Margaret. I am quite of your opinion."

"And that is a great comfort to me, Jean. We can do things together
that we could never do separate. Please God she shall have her day;
she shall shine, at the Queen's court, and marry nobly, and, if the
family must be extinguished as seems likely, we'll be extinguished with
_éclat_, my dear, not just wither out solitary like you and me."

It was an ambition, after its sort, of a not unworthy kind. The two
sisters, with scarfs thrown over their caps, and their maid following
at a few paces' distance, on their way to their tea-party, stepped
out with a certain elation in their tread, like two figures in a
procession, holding their heads high. They had each had experiences,
no doubt, of their own, and neither of them had expected that their
family should wither out solitary in their persons. But here they had
a new life in their hands, a new hope. Many fathers and mothers have
had the same thought--to secure that in the persons of their children
which they had never been able to attain themselves, to raise the
new generation on their shoulders, making themselves a pedestal for
the future greatness. Is it selfishness disguised, the rapacity of
disappointment? or is it love the purest, love unconquerable? Miss
Margaret and Miss Jean never asked themselves this question. They were
not in the habit of examining themselves except as to their religious
duty. But they reached the manse with a little thrill of excitement
about them, and a sort of exultation in their minds. The windows were
all open, and a hum of many voices reached them as they crossed the
smooth-shaven lawn. Margaret gave Jean a look.

"Was it not a good thing we left her at home?" they both cried.



CHAPTER VI.


Lewis came away from the manse on the Sunday afternoon with a great
many new thoughts stirring in his mind. His heart was made sore by
the perpetual condemnation of himself which he heard on every hand;
from Duncan of the dog-cart to the company at the manse, no one could
believe that old Sir Patrick's adopted son was anything but a villain,
a designing, mercenary adventurer, who had flattered and beguiled the
old man into making provision for him at the expense of his family.
It had never entered into the thoughts of these good people that they
might be wrong, that their verdict might be unjust; they were as sure
of it as if they had come to this decision upon the plainest and most
conclusive evidence. Lewis knew very well that it was not so, but still
he was a little cowed by the reiteration. It is terrible to appear
in this light to so many, even when you have the strongest internal
conviction that you are right and they wrong; after a while it comes to
have a certain effect upon a man's own spirit; the right which he was
so unhesitatingly sure of becomes confused and dim to him. He begins
even to wonder whether it is possible that he might have had an evil
scheme in his head without knowing it. Lewis had not got so far as
this, but he was troubled and depressed. He could not sit still in the
parlour overlooking the village. It was so quiet. He longed to see
somebody moving about. If there had been a band playing somewhere, and
the people walking about, even in that promenade up and down which gets
so dreary when it is an imperious habit, at all events that would have
been more cheerful for a looker-on. But the dead stillness oppressed
him. And there were no resources inside--no books, even if he had cared
much for books, no piano, nothing to do but think, which is generally
a troublesome and so often an unprofitable occupation. After a while
he ceased to be able to put up with it at all, and strolled out to the
water-side, where he so often sat and watched Adam fishing.

The trout had a peaceful time on Sunday. The river lay as still as if
it had flowed through a land unexplored. Now and then a fish would
flash from the water at its ease, and sink to its pool again without
anxiety. Did they know it was Sunday, Lewis wondered? It went a long
way to reconcile him to the unbroken quiet which, after all, had
something wonderful and beautiful in it. The cows were lying down in
the meadows, their great red-brown sides rising out in the green grass
and daisies with a peaceful warmth. Neither up nor down the water
did he see a single living soul. The stillness moved him as he had
sometimes been moved in a cathedral when all the worshippers had gone
away. It was the sort of moment and the sort of place, Lewis felt, to
say your prayers. He had not felt so in the morning at church. There
he had gone for the sake of society. Here all was sacred and still,
with something unseen giving meaning to all that was visible. He was
like a child in the readiness of his emotions. He took off his hat and
even said a prayer or two such as he could remember, and afterwards was
silent, thinking, with a little awe upon him, in which the idea of God,
a majestic old man like the Padre Eterno of many a picture, blended
somehow with the idea of his personal benefactor, his friend who had
been so good to him, and who also was old and majestic, a vision full
of tenderness to his grateful heart.

After a while the ferryman came out from his cottage up the water
with his two little children, and there was a far-away babble of
their little voices in the air which, though very sweet and innocent,
broke the spell. And then Lewis put on his hat, and began to think of
his more particular affairs. This moment of solemn calm had soothed
the painfulness of his sense of being unjustly treated. He began to
comfort himself with the thought of being by-and-by better understood.
When they knew that this adventurer, this schemer, was no other than
himself, they would change their minds, he thought. He had never been
misconstrued, but always liked and made much of wherever he had gone,
and he saw no reason why now, without any cause for it, all at once his
luck should change.

There were other questions, however, which had been called up by his
sudden introduction to society in Murkley. He thought of the little
party round the manse dinner-table with pleasure, thinking on the
whole that perhaps that was better than the more limited hospitality
of a curé who had nobody to sit at the head of his table, and only
himself to provide all the entertainment. Lewis was not sure of himself
whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant: he was very latitudinarian.
He thought, if the truth must be told, that both were best, for he
liked the curé too, and was more familiar with that form of clerical
development than with the comfortable minister surrounded by his
children. He did not know the English clergyman at all, which made a
sad vacancy in his experiences. But no curé ever spoke of the necessity
of being a gentleman, or ignored all other classes, as the minister's
wife did. Was there no other class in England? To be sure _gentilhomme_
meant something different; but there certainly were a great number of
people "abroad" who were not _gentilhommes_, and yet were not nobody.
This idea puzzled Lewis much. He asked himself was he a gentleman, with
a smile, yet a half-doubt. His old home, when he cast his mind back
so far, was a very homely one; his father had been the Vice-Consul's
clerk, he himself had been now and then employed about the office.
His mother had performed a great many of the domestic operations with
her own hands; he had seen her making the coffee in the morning,
sometimes even cooking the dinner, doing up the linen in a way, he
fondly thought, that he never saw it now. They were much respected,
but they were poor. To bury them even required a subscription from the
community. The uncle who had written to him, and who had been willing
to receive him, wrote like a shopkeeper. He remembered the aspect and
superscription of his letter as if he had received it yesterday.

If he got such a letter now, he would unhesitatingly conclude it to be
a bill.

Was he then a gentleman at all? Of course Sir Patrick was so--but
then Sir Patrick could not confer this nobility, or whatever it was,
upon him. This thought puzzled Lewis greatly. It did not distress,
but rather amused him; for, with all the associations and friends of
the last eight or nine years, by far the most important of his life,
it was impossible for him to imagine that he was not good enough to
associate with the good people at Murkley. He considered the question
altogether as an abstract one, a matter of curiosity; but it was a
question to consider. Then as to education, Lewis was aware that in
this point, too, he failed. He had gleaned enough from the conversation
of English visitors to know that a good education meant an education at
an English university. No other kind of training counted. He had heard
this from Sir Patrick himself satirically; for neither had Sir Patrick
been "a university man." So once more Lewis felt himself out of the
field altogether. Neither by birth nor education: there remained one
thing, money. This he had; but was this enough to claim the position of
a gentleman upon? and then they all thought the money was ill-gotten,
as good as stolen from the giver's descendants. Altogether Lewis felt
that, if it should be necessary for him to give up, metaphorically,
"ses papiers" to enter into the question of his own birth, education,
and fortune, things would go very hard with him in this little place.
When he came to this conclusion he laughed; for it seemed very amusing
that he, who had lived with ambassadors and knew his way about many a
palace, should be found not good enough for the society of the minister
and the minister's wife in Murkley. It did not even occur to him that,
amusing as it was, it might come some time to a serious question
enough. In the mean time it tickled his imagination greatly. Perhaps
no one ever sees the ludicrous side of a privilege so completely as
the man who is wanting in the qualifications to possess it. Lewis,
with his non-experience, amused himself a good deal with that question
about gentlemen. _Gentilhomme_ was far more easy to understand; but
this mysterious word which the English used so constantly, which they
tried to build upon one foundation after another, but which sometimes
did not seem to require any foundation at all, what was the meaning
of it? and how was it to be defined? Young Mr. Stormont of the Tower
which pushed out that angle of old masonry on the cliff opposite, had
every qualification necessary, "But not I," Lewis said, and laughed to
himself. The son of a poor clerk and a nursery governess, the nephew of
a linendraper--but this he was not aware of--with no education to speak
of, no belongings, no settled place or position, or friends to answer
for him! Decidedly, if Mrs. Seton had known all this she would have
closed her door most rigidly upon him. All this amused him very much
to think of as he got up from the grass, and took his way back to the
'Murkley Arms.'

By this time the world had begun to wake a little. The Sabbath
seriousness had relaxed. A few groups were standing about the road in
Sunday attire. The women had come out to the doors; the children were
playing discreetly, but now and then rising into louder riot, which
the nearest bystander rebuked with a "Whisht, bairns! mind it's the
Sabbath day." Notwithstanding this apparent severity, there was a good
deal of quiet pleasure diffused in the air. The softness of this pause
in the working-day tenor of existence pervaded everything, and at the
same time the duration of the unusual stillness and sense of monotony
it brought, made the good people think with pleasure of the toil to be
resumed to-morrow. Adam was standing in an attitude very unusual to
him, leaning against his doorpost, when Lewis came up, and Janet, in
her best gown, smoothing down a fresh white muslin apron, with many
frills and decorations, stood by his side. They were not an uncomely
couple. He, though he concealed under the veil of his beard all but his
blue-grey eyes and well-formed nose, had a head of great rustic dignity
and force surmounting his six feet of somewhat languid length; for Adam
had "nae pith," as his wife said, and, but for his great gift at "the
fushin'," would have been a somewhat useless personage. She was not,
to all appearance, of so elevated a type. Her face was round, and her
nose turned up, and she was forty-five. The roundness natural to that
mature age had taken all the charm from her trim figure, but still it
was trim: a little vibration of activity, as if the machinery was all
in such thorough order that the slightest touch would set it in motion,
was in her: and Janet's smiling countenance was all alive, ready to
hear and see everything, and give forth opinions, as many as might be
desired.

"It's been another bonnie day," she said. "Ye'll no tell us now, sir,
that we've nae fine weather on Tayside."

"I hope I never could have been so unmannerly," Lewis said.

"Na, you never said it, but I saw it in your eye--folk from the south
are a' of that opinion, but it's just lees. I hear there is mair fog
and mist in London town in a single winter than will come our way in a
dizzen years."

"You must be very glad Sunday is over," said Lewis, with a boldness
that took away Janet's breath.

"Sir!" she cried, scandalised; then after a pause of consideration:
"ye're taking your fun out of us. Them that are tired of the Sabbath
day, Mr. Murray, how are they to bide Heaven, if they win to it at the
hinder end?"

"Hold your tongue, Janet. We ken little enough about heaven," said
Adam, who was in the humour to talk. "Whiles an unconsidered question
like this young gentleman's will just let loose a thocht. I've been
thinking lang that ae use o' the Sabbath is just maybe to make us feel
that wark is the most entertaining in the lang run. There is nae time,"
he continued, with dignity, "that I think o' my occupation with mair
pleasure than just about this hour on the Sabbath night."

"I wouldna say but you're a grand authority," said his wife,
satirically, "such hard work as yours is! Sunday or Saturday a
woman's work is never done. I havena the time to weary, for my part.
There's Mr. Murray's dinner to be seen to this very blessed minute:
but you that makes your day's darg out o' what the gentlemen do for
pleesure----"

"Who are the gentlemen, Mrs. Janet?" asked Lewis, with all his late
speculations in his mind.

"She's speaking o' gentlemen in the abstract," said Adam, "and no a
high view of them; them that have plenty of siller and nothing to do."

"Well," said Janet, "what would ye have mair? That's just about your
ain description, Adam, my man; but I was not meaning them that leave
a woman at hame to work for them. There's different sorts, sir, ye'll
understand; there's the real gentlemen that have the land: and such as
have their fortunes ready-made for them are no far behind: and then
there is them that can take their leisure when they please and have a'
they wish for: but the grand, grand thing of a' is just what every fool
kens--them that have no occasion to work for their living; ye can never
deceive yourself in that," Janet said.

"So," said Lewis, "for it is information I want; one who works for his
living is not a gentleman."

Janet looked up somewhat startled.

"I'm far from saying that, sir," she said.

"Keep her to it, Mr. Murray; ye'll get her to maintain just the
opposite before you've done with her. That's women's way. There's
naething they're so fond o' as a grand, broad assumption, and then,
when they see a' it involves, they will just shift and shuffle and
abandon their poscetion. I'm well acquaint with a' that. The true
gentleman ye'll bring her to say is him that works the hardest and
brings in the most siller, and is never free of his business from
morning till night."

"And well might I say it," cried Janet, "and guid reason I would have
after a' that's come and gone. It's just that, sir. The man that does
the best work, him that leaves naething but what is in her share to
his wife, and lays up something for his bairns, and pays his debt of
every kind baith to them that are obliged to him, and them that he's
obliged to, and can haud up his head before ony man on earth, and no
feared even for his Maker but in the way of reverence and his duty.
Weel! that's an honest man at heart, if he's no a gentleman, and a
better thing than a gentleman, if it was my last word. But, losh me! if
I stand havering here," cried Janet, abandoning her peroration and her
excitement together, "you'll get no dinner, sir, the day."

"What do you ca' that thing the auld heathens fired as they fled, sir?"
said Adam, as Janet disappeared. "A Parthian arrow? Yon's just it. It's
naething to the argument, but it has its effect. It doesna convince
your mind, but it makes a kind of end of your debating. It's just a
curious question enough what makes a gentleman. I canna tell ye, for
my part. I'm maybe mair worth in many ways than a lad like you, not
meaning any offence. I've come through mair, I have pondered mair--but
pit me in your claes and you in mine, and it would be you that would be
the gentleman still. I canna faddom it: but that's no remarkable, for
there are few things I can faddom on this earth. The mair I ponder, the
less I come to ony end."

"All the philosophers are the same," said Lewis. "You are not singular,
my friend Adam. But how do you know I am a gentleman, come? I might
be nothing of the sort. You never saw me till ten days ago. It is not
the clothes, you admit, and you feel that you are a better man than I.
Then, why do you take it for granted that I am a gentleman? You have no
evidence."

"Maister Murray," said Adam, somewhat grimly, "evidence has little,
awfu' little to do with it. Maybe you're one of them that thinks with
Locke there are nae innate ideas? But I'm of the Scotch school, sir;
I'm no demanding daata daata for ever, like your Baconian lads. Let us
be, and we'll come down to your facks, and fit them a' in to a miracle.
It's just a brutal method, in my opinion, to demand the facks first,
and syne account for them and explain them a' away."

"You are abandoning the point more than your wife did," cried Lewis.
"Come! how do you know?"

"I know naething about it," said Adam, turning away. "I'll argue my
ain gait or I'll no argue at all. Your personal questions are naething
to a true philosopher. This I'll tell ye, if a man canna be kent for a
gentleman without proving it, it's my opinion he's nae gentleman ava.
And I'm for a turn before the night closes in," said Adam suddenly.

Lewis was left in the lurch, standing alone by the open door. He went
in after a little pause. He was pleased by what Adam said, though he
had not been at all distressed before by the doubts which he had set
forth before himself as to his own right to this title. He had laughed
at his own argument then, and he laughed now, but nevertheless he was
pleased. It was flattering, though it was so gruffly said.

Next morning rose still fair and bright, though Adam declared it would
be the last day of the fine weather. Lewis was delighted to think of
his two engagements. He did not care for his own exclusive society. He
set out for Stormont when the sun was high, at an hour which all the
experience of his previous life proved to him to be an impossible one
to walk in, and found it only bright and genial with all the breadth
and hush of noon, but without any of its oppressive qualities. He
went across the river in the big ferry-boat, along with a farmer's
shandry-dan. He recollected to have crossed a river so near Paestum
in the wildest wastes of Italy, with brigands about, and dangers. The
contrast was so strange that he laughed in spite of himself.

"It's perhaps not very well-bred," said the farmer's wife, who sat in
state in her vehicle, holding her horse warily in hand though he was
used to it, "but no doubt it's very funny to see me up here."

"Not funny at all, madam," said Lewis, taking off his hat; "but it
reminded me of a ferry abroad, where we were afraid of the brigands,
and every man you met carried a gun."

"Bless me! I suppose, sir, you have been a great traveller?" Mrs. Glen
said; and they talked all the way over, and she thought him "just
delightful." French! No, not a bit like French--nor English either. The
English, they are always condescending, and ready to explain your own
countryside to you. I would say of a good race, but brought up abroad.

Lewis by this time had also found out the advantages of that word
abroad. It saved all necessity for explanation. The Continent was taken
in by it from one coast to the other, and even America and the East.

He went on his way to Stormont very cheerfully after his talk with
Mrs. Glen. And the road was beautiful. It wound up the slope of a
fine wooded bank behind the cliff, with tall trees mounting upward,
the roots of one showing bold and picturesque through the feathering
tops of the others, in broken, irregular lines. When he had got about
half-way up he saw the house, of which one turret only surmounted
the cliff. It was not large, but its small windows and the rough,
half-ruined battlements showed that, at some time or other, it might
have been defended--which interested Lewis beyond measure. The lower
story had been modernized, and twinkled with plate glass windows
receiving the full sunshine; but the building altogether was like
something which had grown out of the soil, not a mere house made with
hands.

Stormont led his visitor all over the place. He took him upon the bit
of battlement that remained, and showed him that it commanded the cliff
in reality, though this did not appear from below; and he took him
into the chapel, a curious little detached piece of sixteenth century
architecture, which nobody knew much about, desecrated to common uses
which made Lewis shiver, though he said, quite simply, that he was "not
religious."

"Don't say that before my mother," Stormont said. "I am sure you are no
heathen, for you were at church like myself; but she would think you
so."

"Oh, that is nothing," said Lewis, "one goes to church for company.
I know nobody. It all amused me very much, and I made friends with
you, and with the good pastor and his family--what do you call him,
minister?"

"This is worse and worse. You must be careful not to say that you went
to church to be amused," Stormont said, with a big laugh. "I don't
myself find it amusing at all."

"We use the word in different senses. You must excuse me if I do so in
English--which is mixed up with other idioms in what you would call
my mind, if I have got one," Lewis said. "I should call it, perhaps,
interested. All is interesting to me here."

"This ramshackle old place, among other things, I hope," its master
said, with a little conscious pride.

"I have not the least idea what ramshackle means. The old place, oh
yes, more than anything. I begin to understand how it must feel to be
like this, planted here for ever and ever--_in sæcula sæculorum_. It
is very curious. It will become a part of you--or rather, you are a
part of it; not one man, but a race. For me, that have only money, the
contrast is very great."

"But you think you like the money best?"

"Otherwise, quite otherwise; but this is such a novelty. I have seen
great castles, of course, but this which is not great, yet the same as
greatness, it amuses me. Pardon there, I mistake again--it gives me
great interest," the stranger said.

Stormont's brow clouded over a little when Lewis said, "this which is
not great." He knew very well it was not great, but to hear it said was
less pleasant, and he was piqued by the shiver with which his visitor
saw the common uses to which the chapel was put.

"I thought you said you were not religious--which is a dreadful
confession to make."

"No, I am not _devot_--few people are, unless they have been peculiarly
brought up, at our age."

"But in Scotland you are supposed to be always devout--unless you are a
sceptic," said Stormont. "Sceptics are coming very much into fashion.
Mr. Seton has a great respect for them. If you are a freethinker, it
will be a great pleasure to him to fathom your state of mind, and do
everything for you. But keep quiet about all that before my mother, who
is very rigid in the old way."

"I am not a freethinker. I do not think, perhaps, at all so much as I
ought," said Lewis. "One does not give one's attention, that is all.
Ah, I think I understand; you have duties, a sort of anchor here. You
cannot any longer do whatever you like; you must respect the house and
the race. I admire all that very much, very much; but it cannot change
the character; it cannot give more seriousness, more substance--I think
that is the word."

"It is often a great bore," said Stormont, with a passing cloud upon
his brow.

"I can understand that; but it is impressive," Lewis said. And then the
two young men went into the modernized part of the building, into the
drawing-room, where Mrs. Stormont, in her widow's cap, sat knitting
near one of those windows which looked out upon the long rolling fields
of the strath and the hills beyond. The country was rich with green
corn waving thick and close, a very different landscape from that which
was lighted up by the rapid flow of the river. The lady received Lewis
very graciously. She made a few delicate researches to find out, if
possible, to whom he belonged, but he was so ignorant of the Murrays,
all and sundry, and so ready with his statement that the name had come
to him as an inheritance along with money that curiosity was baffled.
And Mrs. Stormont had no daughters to make her anxious. She thought him
"very foreign," having more or less insight than the farmer's wife in
the ferry-boat.

"But he has a very nice face," Mrs. Stormont said, when he was gone. "I
like the looks of him; there's innocence in it, and a good heart. He
would do very well for Katie Seton, if he means to settle here."

"There is no question, so far as I know, either of his settling here or
of Katie Seton. I would not be so free with a girl's name, mother, if I
were you," Stormont said, with some indignation.

Perhaps it was to call forth this remark, which afforded her some
information, that his mother spoke.



CHAPTER VII.


The greater part of the company were assembled when Lewis entered the
manse. He had been in some doubt how to dress for this rustic party,
and indeed, had not some good fairy recalled to him a recollection
of English male toilet in the evening, it is probable that he would
have appeared in grey trousers, after the fashion of the Continent.
But his good genius interfered (it would be profane to imagine that
a guardian angel took note of any such details, though indeed it
would have scandalised the Setons more to see an evening coat worn
over gray trousers than to know, as Stormont had suggested, that the
stranger was a freethinker, or even guilty of some breach of the minor
moralities). He appeared, however, with a black-silk handkerchief, tied
in a somewhat large bow, under his shirt-collar, instead of the stiff
little white tie with which all the other men recognised the claims
of an evening party. On the other side, he kept his hat in his hand,
while all the other people left in the hall their informal caps and
wideawakes, thus showing that he was not at all sure of his ground as
they were, but felt it necessary to be prepared for everything. Perhaps
he had never seen before the institution of tea. Little cups he had
indeed swallowed at various hours during the day--after the déjeuner in
foreign houses, at five o'clock in English ones, whenever the occasion
served in the apartments of princely Russians--but an English tea,
round a long table, with cakes and scones, and jam, and every kind of
bread and butter dainty, he was totally unacquainted with.

He did not much care for the tea, and still less did he like the
coffee, which was coffee-tea, a feeble decoction, and served with hot
milk, as if it had been for breakfast; but, on the other hand, Lewis
was quite capable of doing justice to the cakes, and not at all above
the enjoyment of the new meal, which "amused" him, according to his
usual phrase, greatly. And he made himself impartially agreeable to
everybody, showing as strong a desire to please old Mrs. Borrodaile,
in that cap which was the derision of the parish, as the youngest and
prettiest of her daughters.

When the meal was over, and the company streamed into the drawing-room,
where there was an unusual and suspicious vacancy, the furniture pushed
into corners, betraying to all the habitués the intention of the
hostess, Lewis was set down to the piano almost at once.

"Hush," Mrs. Seton said to a little group about her. "Just hold your
tongues, young people. There is to be something rational to begin with;
and let me see that you take advantage of your opportunities, for it
is not often you can hear good music. Nonsense, Katie, not a word. Do
you not see that the sooner he begins, the sooner it will be over? and
I am just bound to ask him to play, after yesterday. Little monkeys,"
the minister's wife continued, seating herself beside Miss Jean.
"They would like to have it all their own way; but I always insist on
something rational to begin with. Oh, yes, yes, a great treat; some
really good music. It is not often we hear it. And this is just an
opportunity, you know, a most unusual chance. Well, we do not know very
much about him, but he is a most well-mannered young man, brought up
abroad, which accounts for various little things in his appearance, and
so forth. And just a beautiful performer on the piano. I wonder what
that is. It sounds to me like Mozart, or Beethoven, or some of those
that you don't so commonly hear. Bach, do you think? Well, I should not
wonder. You know, songs are my branch."

Lewis had gone into the first movement of his sonata before he had at
all taken into consideration the character of his audience. He was,
in reality, though Mrs. Seton took up the belief entirely without
evidence, a very good performer, and had played to difficult audiences,
whose applause was worth having. After the first few minutes, it became
apparent to him by that occult communication which is in the air, and
which our senses can give no account of, that this audience was not
only unprepared but very much taken aback by the prospect of even half
an hour of the really good music and rational enjoyment which their
hostess promised. He could see when he suffered his eyes to stray on
a momentary rapid survey of the side of the room which was visible to
him, the excellent Mrs. Borrodaile, with her fat hands crossed in her
lap, and the air of a woman who knew her duty and was determined to do
it. Stormont stood bolt upright in the corner, now and then lifting his
eyebrows, or lowering them, or even forming syllables with his lips
in telegraphic communication with one or other of the young ladies
which showed impatience bursting through decorum in a guarded but very
evident way. The minister, with resignation depicted in every line,
even of his beard, turned vaguely over the leaves of a book. When the
movement came to an end, there was a long breath of unquestionable
relief on the part of the company generally.

"That's a very pretty thing," said Mrs. Borrodaile, almost enthusiastic
in the happiness of its being done with.

"Oh, hush, hush; that's only the first part. Dear me, do you not know
that there are different parts in a great piece of music like that? Go
back, go back to your seat," whispered Mrs. Seton, loudly.

It was all that Lewis could do not to laugh aloud behind the shelter
of the piano. He thought he had never seen anything so comical as the
resigned looks of the party generally, the reluctant hush which ran
round the room as he struck the first notes of the second movement.
Mischief began to twinkle in his eyes, he stopped, and his hearers
brightened. Then he broke into the lively, graceful music of a gavotte,
tantalising yet cheering--and finally, after another pause, dropped
into a waltz, which was more than the young people could bear. He
stood up, and looked at them over the piano, playing all the while.
"Dansons!" he cried: and in a moment, despite of Mrs. Seton and her
precautions, the whole party was in movement. Never in Tayside had such
a waltz been played before. Mrs. Seton was an excellent performer in
her way. She was unwearied, and could go on for hours on a stretch, and
she knew every tune that lad and lass could desire. But young Lewis,
standing, stooping, encouraging them with his merry eyes, gliding with
skilful hands on the keys, now softer, now louder, giving a double
rhythm to the sweep of the dance, which was formal enough so far as
the performers went, but yet took an additional grace and freedom from
the music--played as no one had ever played to them before. When he
stopped, with a peal of pleasant laughter that seemed to run into the
music, after he had tired out everybody but Katie, the whole party came
crowding round to thank him. It was so kind! it was so delightful!

"Oh, play us another, Mr. Murray," cried the girls.

"Tut, tut," said Mrs. Seton, bustling in, "is that all your manners?
So impatient that you made him stop that beautiful sonata, which it
was just a privilege to hear, and then pestering him to play waltzes,
which is a thing no good musician will do. I am sure, Mr. Murray, you
have behaved like a perfect angel; but these girls shall not tyrannize
over you. No, no, I'll just take the piano myself; it is no trouble to
me. You will think it is bold of me, playing before such a performer,
but I just never mind: and they like me as well as anyone. Come now,
Katie, and see that Mr. Murray gets a nice partner. He will take a turn
himself."

And with this the indefatigable little woman of the house sat down,
and played waltzes, polkas, and schottisches (which latter made Lewis
open his eyes) for hours on end, indicating meanwhile with her vigilant
glances, and with little nods of her lively head, to her husband and
children the various little offices in which it was necessary they
should replace her. Thus a nod in the direction of Mrs. Borrodaile
called the minister's attention to the terrible fact that one of his
guests was going to sleep: while a movement of the eyebrows directed
towards the factor's youngest daughter showed Katie that the young
woman in question was partnerless, while a young man in another corner
had escaped observation. Mrs. Seton managed to talk also all the time
to Miss Jean, who sat beside her.

"I am so used to it; it is really no trouble to me. When you have young
people growing up, you must just make up your mind to this sort of
thing. Yes, yes, it becomes a kind of mechanical. Dear me, I must not
talk; that bar was all wrong. But they're not particular, poor things,
so long as you just keep on, and keep the time: but playing set pieces
was always beyond me," Mrs. Seton said. And on she went for hours, with
a hard but lively hand, keeping capital time, and never tired.

The "set pieces" which she thus deprecated, and which had been beyond
her, meant by implication the sonata which Lewis had begun to play.

As for that young man himself, he found pleasure in everything. The
country girls were perhaps a little wanting in grace, and did not valse
as high-born ladies do in the lands where the valse is indigenous;
but they were light and lively, and the evening flew by to his great
entertainment. Then there was a reel danced, at which he looked on
delighted. Katie, who was a little ashamed of these pranks, stood by
him primly, and pretended to be bored.

"You must not think that is the sort of thing we care for in Scotland,"
she said. "It is _quite_ old-fashioned. You see, it amuses the country
people, and mamma will always insist upon having one to keep up the old
fashion; but you must not think that _we_ care for it," Katie said.

"That is unfortunate," said Lewis. "It is so much like the national
dance everywhere. The tarantella--you have heard of the tarantella? It
is like that. For my part, I like what is old-fashioned."

"Oh, yes, in furniture--and things," said Katie, vaguely. And she took
pains not to commit herself further.

He was so good a dancer that she neglected Philip Stormont for him,
to the great discontent of that young athlete, who thereupon devoted
himself to Annie Borrodaile in a way which it went to Katie's heart to
see. The windows stood wide open, the scent of the flowers came in; the
roses and the tall white lilies shone in the silvery light. Everything
was quaint and unreal to Lewis, to whom it had never happened to dance
in the lingering daylight before. The strange evening radiance would
have suited his own poetic valse better than the sharp, hard, unvaried
music which Mrs. Seton continued to make with so much industry. When
the reel was over, he went to the piano to relieve that lady.

"Let me play now. I shall like it; and you must be tired--you ought to
be tired," he said.

"Mr. Murray is the most considerate young man I ever saw," said Mrs.
Seton, shaking on her bracelets again. "You see he has relieved me
whether I would or not. As a matter of fact, I'm never tired so long
as they go on; I'm so used to it. But when somebody comes, you know,
and really says to you, I would rather--though it is difficult to
understand it, with so many nice girls dancing. And so you would not
bring Lilias, Miss Margaret? I did hope, I must say, just for to-night."

"You see," said Miss Margaret, solemnly, "she is not out yet."

"Oh, you can't think that matters among friends. Katie is not out, the
monkey. But, to be sure, as I tell her always, she is very different.
Poor Lilias! don't you think it would be better for her just to see
what the world is like a little before she comes out. She will be
forming such high-flown ideas. I always say to mine, 'Don't be excited.
Oh, no, no, don't be excited. A ball in London will just be very much
like a ball at home.'"

"That is true enough in one way," said Miss Margaret. "Her Majesty,
I suppose, is just like any other person: She has the same number
of fingers and toes: but, when a young girl makes her curtsey to
the Queen, I hope that will not be the way she will look upon her
sovereign."

"Oh, if you take it like that, nobody will beat me in loyalty," said
Mrs. Seton. "It was just as near a thing as possible last summer that
Robert would have been sent for to preach at Crathie; and I am sure
I would not have known if I was on my head or my heels. It's a thing
that will come sooner or later; but there will be all the difference,
no doubt, between seeing the Queen dressed up at a drawing-room, and
seeing her in her own house, just as you might see a friend."

"The difference will be all in Mr. Seton's advantage--when that comes
to pass," said Miss Margaret, with some satire in her voice.

"And do the wives go, too? Dear me, that will be a delightful ploy
for you," said Miss Jean, who, for her part, had not the slightest
intention of offence.

At this Mrs. Seton, who was very good-natured, ended the episode by a
laugh.

"I am sure they ought to; for what is a man without his wife? Robert, I
am sure, would never put on his collar straight, if I was not there,"
she said; and hurried away, intent on hospitable cares. It was then
that Miss Jean found courage to address the stranger, who had left the
piano for the moment, in consequence of a little bustle about supper,
and was standing by, with his friendly face smiling upon the party in
general, but without any individual occupation.

"You will excuse me," said Miss Jean, "but I must make you my
compliment upon your music--and more than your music," she said,
looking, to see how he would take it, into his face.

"There has not been very much music," he said, with a smile. "It was a
mistake to begin anything serious."

"It was perhaps a mistake; for you did not know how little the grand
music is understood," said Miss Jean. "But, if you will let me say
it, it was very fine of you, being just a young man, not used to be
disappointed."

"Indeed," said Lewis, "I am not unused to be disappointed." Then he
laughed. "It was not worth calling a disappointment. It is all new
here, and it amused me like the rest."

"But I call it a fine thing to change like that in a moment, and play
their waltz for them," said Miss Jean. "It means a fine nature--neither
dour nor hasty."

"Jean," said Miss Margaret, with an admonitory glance, "you are
probably giving your opinion where it is not wanted."

"Don't say so, please!" cried Lewis, putting his hands together in a
gesture of entreaty. It was one of those foreign ways which they all
liked, though they would scoff at them in the abstract. "I am very glad
I pleased you. That makes me more happy even than if--the company" (he
intended to say _you_, but paused, perceiving that he must not identify
these ladies with the company) "had liked music better."

"But you must not think," said Miss Jean, "that they don't like music.
They are very fond of it in their way, as much as persons can be
without education."

"She means," said Miss Margaret again, "that your high music is not
common with us. You see, we have not Handel in every church like you.
England is better off in some things. But, if you speak of education in
general, it is far behind--oh, far behind! Every common person here has
a chance with the best."

"And do you like that?" Lewis said.

"Do I like it? Do I like democracy, and the levelling down of all
we were brought up to believe in? Oh, no. But, on the other hand, I
like very well that a clever lad should have the means of bettering
himself. There is good and evil in everything that is human," said Miss
Margaret, very gravely.

Lewis stood before her, with the smile still upon his face, observing
her very slowly, wondering, if she knew who he was, whether she would
consider him as a clever lad who had bettered himself. He could not
have gazed so, without offence, into a younger face; as it was, his
fixed look made Miss Margaret smile. To blush for anything so young a
man could do, she would have thought beneath her dignity.

"You think what I am saying is very strange?" she said.

"Oh, no; it is very just, I think," he cried; but at this moment Mr.
Dunlop, the young assistant at Braehead, came forward to offer Miss
Margaret his arm. Lewis offered his to Miss Jean. "This is not wrong?"
he said. "One does not require to wait to be told?"

"But I am sure a young lady would be more to your taste," said Miss
Jean, smiling benignly. "Never mind me; I will go in in time. And look
at all these pretty creatures waiting for somebody."

But Lewis continued to stand with one arm held out, with his hat under
the other, and the bow which some thought so French, but the Miss
Murrays considered to be of the old school. Miss Jean accepted his
escort in spite of herself. She said,

"I would like to hear you play the rest of _yon_ upon our old piano. It
was a very good piano in its day, but, like its mistress, it is getting
old now."

"A good instrument is like a lady; it does not get old like a common
thing. It is always sweet," said Lewis. "I will come with--happiness."

An Englishman, of course, would have said with pleasure, but these
little slips on the part of Lewis, which were sometimes half
intentional, were all amply covered by his accent.

"I will play to you as much as you please," he added. "I have nothing
here to do."

"But you came for the trout?" said Miss Jean. "No, no, I will not take
you from the trout. My sister Margaret would never hear of that. But
when the fishing is over, perhaps----"

"I am no fisher. I sit and watch while Adam struggles with the trout;
it amuses me. But abroad, I suppose, we are less out of doors than in
England. Mr. Stormont tells me we may expect a great many wet days, and
what shall I have to do? May I come and play Beethoven during the wet
days?"

"We will see what Margaret says," said Miss Jean, a little alarmed lest
she should be going too far.

Miss Margaret was on the other side of the table. He looked at her with
a great deal of interest. She was a dark-eyed woman, looking older than
her age, with hair which had a suspicion of grey in it. Miss Jean had
no grey hairs. Her cheek was a little hollow, but that was almost the
only sign of age in her. But they dressed beyond their years, and were
quite retired among the matrons, neither of them making the slightest
claim to youth.

"Miss Margaret is your elder sister?" he said, with an ingratiating
openness. "Pardon me, if I am very full of curiosity. I have seen your
old castle, and I met you once upon the road; but there were then three
ladies----?"

"That was Lilias," said Miss Jean. "She is quite young, poor thing. We
stand in the place of mothers to her, and there are some times that I
think Margaret over-anxious. She will always rather do too much than
too little."

"She has a countenance that is very interesting," said Lewis.
Fortunately, he could not say here a face that amused him, which he
might have done, had he not been very desirous of pleasing, and anxious
not to offend.

"Has she not?" cried Miss Jean, triumphantly. "She has just the very
finest countenance! When she was young, I can assure you, she was very
much admired."

"I see no reason why she should not continue to be admired," said Lewis.

"Oh, we have given up everything of that kind," said Miss Jean with a
little laugh.

But, for almost the first time, she felt inclined to ask, Why should
they? A woman of forty is not an old woman. And Miss Jean was very
conscious that she herself was only thirty-eight.

"Perhaps it is the charge we have. I could not really say what it
is--but all that has been long over. We have not been very long in this
county. I think I may say that we will be glad to see you, and show you
the old house. And then there is the other place," Miss Jean continued.
It was a little exciting to her to talk to "an utter stranger," there
were so few that ever appeared in Murkley. "But there is nothing in
that to see, only the outside. And whoever passes is welcome to see the
outside."

"The country people think it is haunted," said Lewis.

"No, no; that is just a fancy. It is not haunted, it is quite a new
place. If you want a place that is haunted, there is our old Walk.
There is no doubt about that. We are so used to it that nobody is
frightened, and I rather like it myself. We will let you see that,"
Miss Jean said.

She was pleased with the stranger's bright face and deferential looks,
and, in her simple kindness, was eager to find out something that
would please him, though always with a doubt which dashed her pleasure
whether she was doing what her sister would approve.

"That will give me great happiness," said Lewis again. "It is all to me
very new and delightful to see the houses and the castles. I have been
to Mr. Stormont's house to-day. I have seen a great many old châteaux
abroad; but here it is more simple and more strange. To be great
persons and _seigneurs_, and yet not any more great than that."

Miss Jean looked at him with a little suspicion, not understanding.

"We have never travelled," she said, after a little pause. "Which was
a pity, I have often thought: and Margaret is of that opinion too. It
might have made a great difference to us."

She sighed a little as she spoke, and Lewis felt a hot wave of shame
and trouble go over him. She meant, no doubt, that, if they had
travelled, he would never have been thus mingled in their fate. He did
not know what to say, for a sudden panic seized him lest she should
find him out. Good Miss Jean had no idea that there was anything to
find out. She ate her little piece of chicken daintily, anxious all the
time lest she should be detaining her companion from the dancing, or
from the society of the young people.

"Supper was really quite unnecessary after such a tea. It is a thing we
never take."

"You must try a little of this cream, Miss Jean," cried Mrs. Seton.
"It is none of your confectioner's cream, that is all just froth put
into a refrigerator, but our own making, and I can recommend it: or a
little jelly. The jelly had scarcely time to stand; it is not so clear
as I should like; but you know the difficulty with country cooks. And,
Mr. Murray, I hope you will make a good supper. I am sure there is
nobody we have been so much obliged to. Everybody is speaking about
your wonderful playing. Oh, yes, yes, I am inclined to be jealous,
that is quite true. They used to be very well content with me, and
now they will think nothing of me. But I am just telling Katie that,
if she thinks she is going to get a fine performer like you to play
her bits of waltzes, she is very much mistaken. Once in a way is very
well--and I am sure they are all very grateful--but now they must just
be content, as they have always been hitherto with mamma. They are just
ungrateful monkeys. You must be content with me, Katie, and very glad
to get me. That is all I have to say."

"If Miss Katie would wish me to hold the piano for the rest of
the evening?--that is, when I have re-conducted this lady to the
drawing-room."

"Oh, will you?" cried Katie, with tones of the deepest gratitude. "It
is only one waltz. Mamma never lets us have more than one waltz after
supper; and it will be so kind; and we will enjoy it so much. Just one
waltz more."

"But let it be a long one," the others cried, getting round him.

Lewis smiled, and waved his hand with the most genial satisfaction in
thus so easily pleasing everybody.

"But I must first re-conduct this lady," he said.



CHAPTER VIII.


"Was it Murray they called him?"

This question was put to Miss Jean, who had confessed, with a little
hesitation, her rashness in inviting the stranger "to play his music"
at the Castle, as the sisters walked home. It was a very sweet evening;
not later than eleven o'clock, notwithstanding all the dancing. The
ladies had left, however, before that last waltz, and the music
continued in their ears half the way home, gradually dying away as they
left the green lane which led to the manse, and got into the park. Miss
Jean was, as she described afterwards, "really shy" of telling Margaret
the venture she had made; for to meet a stranger whom you know nothing
about _out_ is a very different thing from asking him to your house,
especially when it was a young man; and there was always Lilias to
think upon. So that on the whole Miss Jean felt that she had been rash.

"To tell you the truth, I cannot say I noticed, Margaret. Yes, I rather
think it was Murray; but you never catch a name when a person is
introduced to you. And, after all, I am not sure. It might be me she
was calling Murray--though, to be sure, she never calls me anything but
Miss Jean."

"If it was Murray, it will be easy to find out to what family he
belongs," said Miss Margaret. "And Lilias need not appear."

"Dear me," cried Miss Jean; "but that would be a great pity, Margaret,
and a great disappointment to the young man. I thought to myself to ask
him to come and play was a kind of liberty with a stranger, but then, I
thought, it will be a pleasure to him, poor lad, to see such a pretty
creature as our Lily. It is not much we have to give in return."

"I am not fond of young men coming to stare at Lilias," said Miss
Margaret. "You forget she has no mother. You and me are bound to be
doubly particular; and how do we know what might happen? She is very
inexperienced. She might like the looks of him; for he has a pleasant
way with him--or, even if it were not so bad as that, yet who can tell?
it might be hurtful to the young man's own peace of mind."

"Well, that is true, Margaret," said Miss Jean. "I thought it would
have been better to consult you first--but, dear me, one cannot think
of everything; and it seems so innocent for two young people to meet
once in a way, especially when the young man has his head full of his
music, and is thinking about nothing else."

"That's a very rare case, I am thinking," Miss Margaret said.

"It is a very rare case for a young man to be musical at all," Miss
Jean replied, with a little heat--which was an unquestionable fact on
Tayside.

They went along noiselessly, with their softly shod and softly
falling feet, two slim, dark figures in the pale twilight, with the
maid trotting after them. But for her plump youthfulness, they might
have been three congenial spirits of the place in a light so fit for
spiritual appearances. There was nothing more said until they had
almost reached home; then Miss Margaret delivered herself of the
conclusion to which she had been coming with so much thought.

"It was perhaps a little rash--considering the charge we have, and
that the young man is an utter stranger--but one cannot think of
everything, as you say. And I cannot see why you should be deprived of
a pleasure--there are not so many of them--because of Lilias. We will
say just nothing about it. We will trust to Providence. The likelihood
is she will be busy with her lessons, poor thing, and she will think it
is just you playing the piano."

"Me!" cried Miss Jean, "playing like _yon_."

"Well, well, you know I am no judge, and Lilias not much better. If
he can satisfy me what Murrays he belongs to, and can stand a near
inspection, she may come in; I'll make no objection," Miss Margaret
said, graciously, as she opened the door.

The key was turned when the family went to bed, but the hall-door of
Murkley Castle stood open all day long in primitive security. Miss Jean
lingered a little upon the steps.

"It is just the night," she said, "to take a turn down the Walk."

"Oh, you'll not do that, mem!" cried Susie, the maid.

"And why not, you silly lassie? If you'll come with me, you will see
there is nothing to fear."

"Eh no, mem!" cried Susie; "no, if you would give me the Castle to
mysel'."

"What is that you are saying about the Walk? Come in, Jean, it is too
late for any of your sentiment. And, Susie, my woman, go you to your
bed. If we had any business in the Walk, both you and me would go, be
you sure, and I would like to see you say no to your mistress. Come in,
that I may lock the door."

Nobody contradicted Miss Margaret in that house. Miss Jean glided
in most submissively, and Susie behind her, trying hard, but
ineffectually, to make as little noise. But, in spite of herself,
Susie's feet woke echoes on the old oak floor, and so did the turning
of the key in the great door. The noises roused at least one of the
inhabitants. Old Simon, the butler, indeed slept the sleep of the just
in a large chair, carefully placed at the door of the passage which
led to "the offices," in order that he might hear when the ladies
came home; but Lilias appeared presently at the head of the fine old
open staircase, which descended, with large and stately steps, into
the hall. She had an open book laid across her arm, and her eyes were
shining with excitement and impatience. They had wept, and they had
perhaps dozed a little, these eyes, but were now as wide open as a
child's when it wakes in the middle of the night. Her hair was tumbled
a little, for she had been lying on a sofa, and a white shawl was round
her shoulders; for even in a June night, in an old house with all the
windows open, especially when you are up late, you are apt to feel
cold on Tayside. She held a candle in her hand, which made a spot of
brightness in the dim light.

"Oh, Margaret," she said, "oh, Jean! is that you at last; and was it a
dance? I went up to the tower, and I am sure I heard the piano."

"You would be sure to hear the piano whatever it was," said Margaret,
silencing her sister by giving a sudden pull to her gown. "There is
always music at the manse. There was a grand sonata by one of Jean's
favourites, and her head is so full of it she can talk nothing but
music."

"Oh, a sonata!" cried Lilias, relieved, and she gave her head a small
toss, and laughed; "that is a long, long thing on the piano, and you
are never allowed to say a word. I'm glad that I was not there."

"That was what I told you," said Miss Margaret. "Now go to your bed,
and you'll hear all the rest to-morrow. You should have been in your
bed an hour ago at least. To-morrow you shall have a full account of
everything, and Jean will play you a piece of the sonata. I am sure she
has got it all in her head."

"Oh, I'm not minding!" said Lilias, lightly.

She thought, on the whole, her novel had been better.

She stood thus lighting them as they came up-stairs, and they thought
her the prettiest creature that had ever been seen; her sweet
complexion shining against the dark wainscot, her eyes giving out more
light than the candle. It smote Miss Jean's heart to deceive her, and
it was a faltering kiss which she gave to this little victim. But Miss
Margaret carried things with a high hand.

"It would be just barbarous," Miss Margaret said, when they were safe
within the little suite of rooms that formed their apartment, one
chamber opening into the other, "to tell her all about it to-night. You
can tell her to-morrow, when there's a new day in her favour. She would
just cry and blear her eyes; but to-morrow is a new day."

"I cannot bide," cried Miss Jean, "whatever you may say, Margaret--I
just cannot bide to disappoint the darling. I am sure it went to my
heart to see her just now so sweet and bonnie, and nobody to look at
her but you and me."

"The bonnier she is, and the sweeter she is, is that not all the more
reason, ye foolish woman, to keep her safe from vulgar eyes? Would you
make her, in all her beauty, cheap and common at these bits of parties
at the manse? No, no. We had no mother either, and perhaps we did not
have our right chance, but that's neither here nor there. We're in the
place of mothers to her, and Lilias shall have her day!"

This silenced Miss Jean, whose mind was dazzled by her sister's
greater purposes and larger grasp. She retired to her inner room with
a compunction, feeling guilty. It was a shame to deceive even for the
best motives, she felt; but, on the other hand, she could relieve her
conscience to-morrow, and there was such sense in all Margaret said.

"Margaret is just a wonderful creature for sense," Miss Jean said
to herself. This had indeed been her chief consolation in all the
difficulties of her life.

Meanwhile, other conversations were going on among the groups which
streamed from the manse, taken leave of heartily by the family at the
gate. It was "such a fine night" that Mrs. Seton herself threw a shawl
over her head, and walked, with those of her friends who were walking,
to the gate.

"Oh, yes, yes, I'll not deny, though I say it that shouldn't, I think
it has gone off very well," she said; "and, indeed, we have to thank
Mr. Murray, for I take no credit to myself to-night. Oh, yes, I'll
allow in a general way I do my best to keep you all going: but, dear
me! I'm not to be mentioned by the side of Mr. Murray. A performer
like him condescending to play your bits of waltzes and polkas for
you!--you ought to be very proud. Oh, yes, I know fine playing when I
hear it, though I never did much, except in the way of dance music,
myself. In dance music I used to think I would give in to nobody; but
pride will have a fall, and I have just sense enough to know when I'm
beaten--oh, yes, that I am. You'll be very glad to come back to me when
Mr. Murray is not to be had, I make no doubt; you are just ungrateful
monkeys, but I'll trust you for that."

Mrs. Seton's voice ran on in a sort of continued solo, to which all the
other murmurs of talk afforded an accompaniment. She shook hands with
Lewis at the gate with the most cordial friendliness.

"And whenever you weary," she said, "be sure you just come up to the
manse. Mr. Seton will always be glad of a talk, and there is nothing I
like so well as to hear about foreign society and scenery and all that;
and I can understand it better than most, for I have been up the Rhine
myself: and Katie will be most grateful for a little help with her
German; so, you see, you'll be welcome on every hand," the lady said,
with a grasp of his hand which meant everything she said.

Lewis walked to the river-side with young Stormont, who was not quite
so cordial.

"You've had it all your own way to-night, Murray," this young fellow
said, with a laugh which was not pleasant to hear.

"They are very kind to a stranger--it is true hospitality; but I think
it was you that had it your own way, for you would not listen to my
music," said Lewis. Then he, too, laughed--a laugh which was to the
other's like sunshine to a cloud. "I did cheat you all the same," he
added, "for the waltz was Beethoven's too--and quite as difficult, if
you had but known."

Mr. Stormont did not understand much about Beethoven, but he felt that
it was impossible to say the fellow was stuck-up about his music;
privately in his own mind he despised all male performances as things
unworthy of the sex.

"Miss Seton dances very prettily with you, my friend," said Lewis. "You
have practised much together, that is what one can see. I watched you
while I was playing. She dances always well, but better with you than
anyone. But tell me, for you know, about those ladies whom everyone
calls Miss Margaret and Miss Jean."

"Oh, the old ladies at Murkley! Why, these are the people we were
talking about on Sunday. You made a great impression there--we all
noticed," cried Stormont, with a laugh, which this time was somewhat
rude, but quite cordial, "the impression you made there."

"Yes?" said Lewis, gravely; with the thoughts he had in his mind he did
not mean to allow any ridicule. "It is the Miss Margaret that is the
eldest. She will have everything, I suppose, in your English way."

"Oh, if that is what you are thinking of," cried Stormont, in a
startled tone; and then he stopped and laughed again, the sound this
time pealing into all the echoes. "No, no, my fine fellow," he said,
"if that's what you're thinking of, you are out there; when it's women,
they're co-heiresses. The law has not so good an opinion of them as to
make an eldest son of a woman: so you're out there."

"Out there!" said Lewis, astonished. "What does that mean? And I do
not understand co-heiresses either? These ladies--no, I will not say
amuse me--I am interested in them. I have heard of them before I
came here--indeed, it was for that cause," he added, with one of his
imprudent confidences, then stopped short, giving emphasis to what he
said. "What is meant by co-heiresses, if you please?"

"It means," said Stormont, with a chuckle of mingled ridicule and
contempt, "that when there are sisters they share and share alike. It
was not very much to begin with, so you may judge, when it is divided,
whether it is worth anyone's while now. But try, my fine fellow, try;
you will not find many rivals," he added, with a scream of laughter.

Lewis looked up very gravely as he walked along by his companion's side.

"There is something which amuses you," he said; "perhaps it is that I
am slow in English. I do not perceive the joke."

"Oh, there is no joke," said Stormont, coming to himself; and they
walked to the river-side, where the ferryman was waiting, in a subdued
condition, neither saying much. Lewis, who had been in extremely high
spirits after his success at the party, had suddenly fallen into a
blank of embarrassment and perplexity, which silenced him altogether.
He was angry, without quite knowing why, with Stormont. But this was
nothing to the confusion which had overwhelmed his mind. He walked up
to his own inn in a state of bewilderment which it would be difficult
to describe. It was partially comic, but it was not until he had
reached his parlour, and seated himself opposite to the little paraffin
lamp, which always smelt a little, and gave to his most intimate
thoughts a sort of uneasy odour, that he was able to laugh at his own
discomfiture; then gradually the amusing aspect of the whole business
came over him; he laughed, but neither long nor loud. It was too
disagreeable, too annoying to laugh at after the first realization of
the dilemma. He was quite hushed and silenced in his simple mind by the
discovery he had made.

For it is time now to put plainly before the reader the intention
with which this young man had come to Murkley. It was with the
well-considered purpose of remedying the evident mistake which his
old friend and patron had made. Sir Patrick had withdrawn his fortune
from his own family, and given it to his adopted son, leaving his
grandchildren poor, while Lewis was rich--Lewis, who had what people
call, "no claim" upon him, who had only been his son and servant for
eight years of his life, giving him the love, and care, and obedience
which few sons give with so entire a devotion. He had no claim but
this, and he had expected nothing. When he found himself Sir Patrick's
heir, and a rich man, no one was so much surprised as Lewis; but
still, so it was, and he accepted his patron's will as he would have
accepted anything else that happened in which he himself had a share.
But, as soon as he heard of the family and their disappointment, Lewis
had made up his mind that he must do his best to remedy it. It would
be his duty, he thought, to offer himself and his possessions to the
lady who ought to have been Sir Patrick's heir. When he had discovered
that these ladies at Murkley were no longer young, it would be too
much to assert that it was not a shock to him. But the shock lasted
only for a moment. He had not come to Murkley with the intention of
pleasing his own fancy, but to fulfil a duty; and the age of the lady,
or her appearance, or any such secondary matter was little to him.
In all the easy and lighthearted acceptance of the position which
characterised him, he had never for a moment allowed himself to think
that he was free to abandon his plan, if, on examining into it, it
proved against his tastes. His tastes, after all, were involved only
in a secondary degree. Duty was the first, and to that nothing made
any difference. If Sir Patrick's heiress had been fifty, or if she
had been deformed and ugly, he would still have laid his fortunes at
her feet. It did not indeed occur to him to separate himself from the
fortune, and offer the money alone. He was not a Quixote. To denude
himself of all he had did not occur to him as a natural thing to do:
but to share it was more than natural, it was an obligation, a call
of honour. It was with this view that he had looked at Miss Margaret
across the table. It was impossible not to feel that the relationship
would be a peculiar one, but he felt nothing in himself that would
prevent him from entering into it worthily. Lewis had none of that
physical instinct of superiority which makes men despise women. He
did not think, as unfortunately most men do, with a curious want of
generosity, that the first object of a woman's life must be to secure a
husband, and that every sense of congruity, all good taste and delicacy
of liking, must succumb to this imperious necessity. This was not the
least in his thoughts. When he looked at Miss Margaret, the thought in
his mind was not so much any objection of his own to marry her, as the
certainty that she would object to marry him. He felt that it would be
a derogation, that she would come down from her dignity, give up her
high estate, if she accepted what he had to offer.

He studied her face with this idea in his mind. Was it the least likely
that a woman with a countenance like that would buy even justice so?
Miss Jean, to whom he was talking, was more malleable. It bewildered
him a good deal to look at them, and to think that one or the other
of these ladies before whom he bowed so low, who looked at him with
timidly suspicious eyes of middle age, might, should, must, if he had
his way, become his wife. But in his own person he never hesitated; he
did not know how it was to be brought about. If it could be done, as
"abroad," by the intervention of an agent, the matter would have been
greatly simplified. But this, he was partially aware, was not possible
in England. Neither in England, according to what he had heard, would
it be possible to settle it as a friendly arrangement, a piece of
mercenary business. No, he knew he must conform to English rules, if
he would be successful, and woo the wronged lady with all the ordinary
formulas. He would have to fall in love with her, represent himself
as dying for her. All these preliminaries Lewis had felt to be hard,
but he had determined within himself to go through with them. He would
be heroically tender, he would draw upon novels and his imagination
for the different acts of the drama, and carry them through with
unflinching courage. He was resolved that nothing should be wanting
on his part. But it cannot be denied that Stormont's revelation took
him altogether aback. Co-heiresses!--he could not offer himself to
two ladies--he could not declare love and pretend passion for two! He
remembered even that there was a third, the one in the blue veil, and
it was this thought that at last touched an easier chord in his being,
and relieved him with a long low tremulous outburst of laughter.

"Three!" he said to himself all at once, and he laughed till the tears
stood in his eyes. He had been ready loyally to overcome all other
objections, to bend before a beloved object of forty, and to declare
that his happiness was in her hands, with the purest loyalty of heart
and truth of intention; but before three--that was impossible--that
was out of the question. He laughed till he was ready to cry; then
he dried his eyes, and took himself to task as disrespectful to the
ladies, who had done nothing to forfeit anyone's respect, and then
burst forth into laughter again. Here was indeed a _reductio ad
absurdum_, beyond which it was impossible to go. Lewis tried hard to
bring himself back to the point from which he started--the sacred duty,
as he felt, of restoring his fortune to the source whence it came--but
he could not get past this tremendous, unthought-of obstacle. Three
of them! and he could not marry more than one, whatever he did. Now,
also, it became evident that injustice must be done in whatever way
the difficulty should be settled. He had endeavoured to believe, it
is needless to say, that the representative of the Murrays might have
turned out to be young and marriageable; he had been dazzled by bright
hopes that she might be fair and sweet, and everything a bride should
be. When these hopes and visions dispersed in the sober certainty that
the heiress of the Murrays was the eldest of three all much above his
own age, it had been a disenchantment, but he had stood fast. He had
not been afraid even of Miss Margaret--he had said to himself that he
would respect and venerate her, and be grateful to one who would thus
stoop to him from the serene heights; but to make up for the slights
of fortune to three ladies at once--Lewis, with the best will in the
world, felt that this would not be in his power.

When he got up next morning, the mirth of the night was over; he felt
then that the position was too serious for laughter. For a moment the
temptation of giving up altogether a duty which was too much for him
came over his mind. Why should not he go away altogether and keep
what was his? He was not to blame; he had asked nothing, expected
nothing. He was guiltless towards the descendants of his old friend,
and they knew nothing either of him or of his intentions. He had but
to go away, to walk back to the 'George' at Kilmorley, and turn back
into the world, leaving his portmanteaux to follow him, and he would
be free. But somehow this was an expedient which did not please his
imagination at all. The little rural place, the people about who had
become his friends, the family with which he felt he had so much to
do, kept a visionary hold upon him from which he could not get loose.
He struggled even a little, repeating to himself many things which he
could do if he were to free himself. He had never seen London--he had
never been in England. The season was not yet entirely over, nor London
abandoned; he could yet find people there whom he had met, who would
introduce him, who would carry him to those country-houses in which he
had always heard so much of the charm of England lay. All this he went
over deliberately, trying to persuade himself that in the circumstances
it was the best thing to do; but the result of his thoughts was that,
as soon as he felt it was decorous to do so, he set out for the Castle.
One visit, in any case, could do, he reflected, no harm.



CHAPTER IX.


The next day, as Adam had prophesied, the weather changed, or rather it
changed during the night, and the morning rose pale and weeping, with a
sky out of which all colour had departed, and an endless blast, almost
white, so close was the shower, of falling rain. Little rivulets ran
away down the pebbly slope of the village street towards the river when
Lewis got up; the trees were all glistening; the birds all silenced; a
perpetual patter of rain filling the air. The country carts that stood
at the door of the 'Murkley Arms' had the air of having been boiled;
the horse glossy yet sodden, with ears and tail in the most lugubrious
droop; the paint of the wheels and shafts glistening, the carter, with
a wet sack over his wet shoulders, looking as if the water could be
wrung out of him. He was being served with a dram by Janet at the door,
who had her shawl over her cap to preserve her.

"Now tak' my advice," she was saying, "and be content with that. It's
good whiskey. If you stop at every door to get something to keep out
the damp, ye'll be in a bonnie condition to go home to your wife at the
hinder end."

"Would ye have me get my death o' cauld?" said the man.

"Eh!" said Janet, "I daurna refuse to serve ye; for ye would just gang
straight to Luckie Todd's, and her whiskey's bad, and siller is a' her
thocht; but weel I wat, if ye were my man, I wad rather ye got your
death of cauld than of whiskey. And that's my principle, though I keep
a public mysel'."

Lewis, standing at his window, with the paths and the roofs all
glistening before him, and the sky so low down that it seemed almost
to touch the high gable of the house opposite, listened to the
dialogue with a smile. It was a new aspect under which he now saw the
village life. Many of the doors were shut which usually stood open;
the children had disappeared from the road; silence took the place of
the small, cheerful noises, the calls of the women, the chatter of
the infants; the cocks and hens, which generally strutted about in
full liberty, had taken refuge beneath a cart, where they huddled
together lugubriously--everything was changed. Lewis could not but
think of young Stormont, with a shrug of malicious pleasure, as he
amused himself with his breakfast: for he supposed erroneously that
this must be one of the days of which Stormont had spoken so sadly,
when there was nothing to do. But by-and-by Lewis also found that there
was nothing to do. He laughed at himself, which was still more comic.
Stormont was at home; he had his library, though he did not make use
of it; and his mother's piano, though he knew nothing about music; and
he had no doubt some sort of business concerning his small estate, and
he had spoken of amusing himself with fly-making and gun-cleaning.
But Lewis soon woke up to the sad conviction that, so far as he was
concerned, there was absolutely nothing to occupy the heavy hours. Of
the two or three books which the 'Murkley Arms' could boast, one was
Robertson's 'History of Scotland' in a small form, with small print,
discouraging to a careless reader, and another the 'Romance of the
Forest.' He was not a great reader under the best of circumstances,
and these did not tempt him. He had few correspondents, none indeed to
whom he could sit down on a dreary day and unbosom himself. The only
thing that offered him any distraction was his drawing. He took out his
sketch-books, and selected one he had made on the water-side, in order
to enlarge and complete it. But he was not enthusiastic enough to work
steadily, and he was unfortunately aware that his slightest sketches
were his best. When Janet came up-stairs "to speak about the denner,"
as she said, her compassion was aroused by his evident weariness.

"Adam's awa' to the watter," she said. "Watter below and watter aboon,
he'll get plenty o't. It's a grand day for the fushin', though it's no
so good for us poor mortals. Would ye no gang doon, and see how he's
getting on?"

"But it pours," said Lewis, "and with water above and water below, as
you say----"

"Hoot ay," said Janet, "but ye're young, and ye're neither sugar nor
salt, you'll no melt. At your age a bit of a shower does little harm;
and ye're just wrang biding in the house all day with nothing to do."

"That is true enough," Lewis said, but as he looked at the pouring rain
and the wet roads he shook his head. "I don't see that one can gain
much by getting wet, Mrs. Janet."

"Dear me! a young gentleman at your age! Weel, it's a grand thing to
take care of yourself. It's just what ye canna get young folk to do.
There's young Mr. Philip out on the water from the skreigh of day; he
just never minds. I'm no saying it's good for him. But they say it's
grand weather for the fushin', and that makes up for everything with
them, the gomerals. If they had your sense, Mr. Murray."

Lewis did not think she had a very high opinion of his sense, and
he was somewhat piqued by her suspicious semi-approval, and by her
description of Stormont, in whom the young man had come to see an
antagonistic type of mankind. The more fool he, if he had been out all
the morning between the water below and the water above, all for the
sake of a few fish. But the description piqued Lewis. He stood at his
window, and looked out for the twentieth time, and it did not look
tempting. Why, indeed, should he go out, and get himself wet and dirty
to please the prejudices of Janet. He had always heard that the English
went out in all weathers; that they had even a preference for mud and
damp, characteristic features of their own climate. But why should
he emulate this strange fancy? He sat down to his drawing again, but
he did not get any satisfaction out of it. Not to be approved of was
terrible to him. He could not bear that even Janet should have a small
opinion of his hardiness and manly bearing. This acted so strongly upon
Lewis that after a while he found himself pulling on his strongest
boots and getting into his thickest great-coat. The boots were not
very strong; he had never had any chance of those exposures to water
and weather in which impervious coverings are necessary; but, having
protected himself as well as he could, he sallied forth at last with
his umbrella, and went down to the river-side. There was little or no
wind, and the rain fell in a perpendicular flood, soaking everything.
Lewis under his umbrella went patiently on, enduring it manfully, but
unable to see any pleasure in his progress through the flood. He met
Katie Seton and her brother near the church. She was covered up in an
ulster, with a hood over her little hat. Her cheeks were like roses
"just washed in a shower."

"Oh, we never stay in for anything," she said. "It is always better out
than in."

Lewis in his courtesy would have made over his umbrella, but the girl
would none of it.

"Oh, I can't bear to carry an umbrella," she said.

He went on to the river-side with a little shrug of his shoulders. And
there was Adam, drenched, but glowing, pulling out trout after trout,
too busy to talk; and lower down the stream, in the middle of it, amid
the rush of broken water, where the river swirled round the rock, young
Stormont, almost up to his middle, in great fishing-boots, with sluices
of water flowing from his glazed sou'-wester.

"Jolly day!" Stormont cried through the rain.

"Grand for the trout," said Adam.

Lewis stood on the bank under the umbrella and shrugged his shoulders.

"I wish you joy of it," he said. His feet were growing wet, the
rain, though there was no wind, came in his face with something
like a special malice. He thought there was something savage in the
gratification of the two fishers. After he had watched them for a time,
he asked Adam for some of the trout in his basket, and went home,
carrying, with no great delight in the office, two noble trout tied
together with a string. These were cold and slimy, but he overcame
his repugnance. Janet saw him return, with his wet feet and the fish
hanging from his hand, with a mixture of amusement and dissatisfaction.

"Will they be for your lunch?" she said, with a contemptuous thought
of the fondness for eating with which Scotland always credits the
Englishman.

"Oh, no," Lewis cried, with horror; "do you think I would carry these
things for myself? Put them in a basket; I will take them to the
Castle, where," he added, with a little innocent pleasure in making the
announcement, "I am going this afternoon."

Janet looked at him with a certain contemptuous disappointment. She
thought he was going to carry the fish as a proof of his own skill and
prowess.

"I'll maybe no find a basket. What ails ye at them as they are?" she
said, with lowering brows: which our young man did not understand at
all, for it is needless to say that such an idea never crossed his
ingenuous mind.

He went up-stairs a little surprised that not even now, when he had
proved his manhood by wetting his boots (which he hastened to change),
did he please Mrs. Janet, as he called her, but without the slightest
clue to her suspicions. And after he had got into dry apparel, and
eaten his luncheon, Lewis sallied forth once more, much pleased to be
able to say that he was going to the Castle, where, indeed, the sound
of the bell at the door stirred and excited the whole household, which
had no hope of anything so refreshing as a visitor.

Miss Margaret was seated above-stairs with Lilias in a room devoted to
what was called her studies, and generally known by the title of the
book-room, though there were but few books in it. Lilias jumped up and
rushed to the window in the very midst of the chapter of constitutional
history which she was reading with her self-denying elder sister.

"There is no carriage," she said; "it will be somebody from the
village."

"Never mind who it is," said Miss Margaret; "we must finish our
chapter."

When the sound of music was diffused through the house some time
after, Miss Margaret had a shrewd guess as to who the visitor was, and
all the objections that existed to his introduction to Lilias came
up before her mind, while the girl pursued, alas! very dully, the
history of parliamentary institutions. "It will be the tuner come to
put the piano in order," she said by-and-by, she too speaking unawares
in the middle of a sentence. She felt that it was a fib, but yet it
was not necessarily a fib, for why should not it be the tuner? It
was about his time, she said to herself. This took from Lilias all
desire to go down-stairs, all expectation of a break in the dulness.
She went on with the drone of the history, which, to tell the truth,
was quite as much a burden to Miss Margaret as to herself. But duty
reigned supreme in the bosom of the elder sister, and Lilias had always
been submissive. She was well aware, too, of the advantage of having
Margaret instead of a governess. Miss Jackson would not have permitted
her to slip to the window with her book in her hand to see who it was.

Miss Jean was alone in the drawing-room, which was a large room, with
a number of small windows, high set in the thick old walls, each with
its own little recess. It was not light generally, but there were a
great many Rembrandtish effects, intense lights and shadows in bright
weather. To-day all was a sort of monotone of greenish dimness: the
wet trees glistening; the expanse of the wet park throwing a vague
reflection into the air. The room occupied a corner of the house, and
the windows on one side looked out upon a lime-tree walk, which lay
under the old enclosing wall, a high, semi-defensible erection, with
a turret at the corner; and on the other looked on the park, which
sloped downward towards the river. To the right hand the red-and-blue
roofs of the village glistened under the rain, the tiles giving a
little gleam of colour which the slates did their best to neutralize.
Nothing could be more complete than the air of mutual protection and
dependence which the village and the Castle bore, though the Castle was
but a small and homely representative of power. Miss Jean sat alone in
the window which commanded this prospect most fully. She had all her
work materials there; a basket of fine silks in every shade, a case of
pretty, shining silver implements, scissors, and thimbles, and bodkins,
and on her lap a wonderful table-cover, upon which, as long as any of
the young people remembered, she had been working a garland of flowers.
It was her own invention, drawn from Nature, and consequently, as
she sometimes explained with a little pride, the winter-time, which
was the best time for working in general, was lost to her, since she
always liked to have her models under her eyes. At the present moment,
a little cluster of pansies was before her in a glass, and the colours
arranged upon the table in which she was to copy them. But she was not
working; her table-cover lay on her lap. She was looking out vaguely
upon the rain, and the wet trees, and the village roofs. It was
supposed that Miss Jean was the one of the family who leant towards
the sentimental, and no doubt there had been incidents in her gentle
life which justified the opinion. She was thinking, as she would have
said--perhaps even so late as this the soft-hearted, middle-aged maiden
was dreaming--but, if so, nobody was the wiser for Miss Jean's dreams.
They never prevented her ready attention to any appeal, and she only
indulged in them when quite alone. They alternated with the flowers
of the table-cover in her mind, and both were emanations of the same
soft and tender spirit. The room was very still around this one quiet
figure; behind her the dim atmosphere was brighter with the glow of a
small, but cheerful fire. It was the opinion of the Miss Murrays, as
of many other comfortable people, that in wet weather an old house was
always the better for a fire. The little _pétillement_ of the fire and
the soft rush of the falling rain outside were all the sounds audible
in the extreme stillness. What wonder that Miss Jean should drop the
embroidered pansies on her lap, and take to thoughts which were a sort
of spiritual prototypes of the pansies--thoughtlets, little musings,
dreamikins, so to speak; they brought now and then from her gentle
bosom the softest little sigh, not a sigh that hurt, but one that
soothed. There was no part of her time that Miss Jean liked better than
these moments which she spent by herself, when Margaret was reading
history with Lilias. She closed up a pretty little note-book, which had
been in her hand, when she heard the sound of the bell. If truth must
be told, she had been writing in it a pretty little verse--a pansy of
still another kind; for Miss Jean belonged to the age when it was a
pretty accomplishment to write charming little "copies of verses," a
thing very sweet and delightful for a young woman to do.

The character of the place seemed to change at once when Lewis came in.
Life, and cheerfulness, and variety came with him. He was very anxious
to please and make himself agreeable. He told her of his walk to the
water-side, of Stormont in the river, and Adam on the bank; water above
and water below.

"You will think me very effeminate," he said. "I much prefer this nice
drawing-room;" and he looked round it with an admiring air that pleased
Miss Jean.

To tell the truth, Lewis was thinking that, though picturesque, it was
probably damp, a suggestion which would not have pleased Miss Jean at
all.

"Gentlemen are very venturesome," said Miss Jean; "indeed, the wonder
is that they are not all laid-up with rheumatism--but they're used to
it, I suppose."

"I am not at all used to it," said Lewis; and then he added, with one
of his confidential impulses: "A great part of my life I have spent in
attendance upon a dear old friend."

"Indeed," said Miss Jean, her eyes lighting up with interest. "That is
out of the way for a young man. You will excuse me, but I take a great
interest--not father or mother, as you say a friend?"

"No: my godfather, who took me up when my father and mother died, and
who was like father and mother in one. He was lonely and old, and I
never left him--for years."

As Lewis spoke there came a gleam of moisture into his eyes, as he
looked smiling into the face of the sympathetic woman, who had she but
known--But no suspicion crossed the mind of Miss Jean.

"Dear me!" she said; "lonely and old are sad words. And you gave up
your young life to him? There are few that would have done that."

"Oh, no, there was no giving-up, it was my happiness," said Lewis; "no
one was ever so kind; he was my dear companion. And then, you know,
abroad"--he smiled as he said this generic word which answered for
everywhere--"abroad boys are not all brought up to be athletic; to defy
the elements, as in England--"

"I do not know very much about England," said Miss Jean, entirely
unconscious that her visitor meant to embrace Tayside in this
geographical term, "but there is too much fishing and shooting here.
That is my opinion. I like a young man to be manly, but there are more
things in the world than the trout and the birds. And no doubt you
would learn your music to please your invalid? That is very touching.
I took an interest from the first, but still more now when I know the
cause."

"That reminds me," cried Lewis, "that my sole excuse for coming was to
play to you."

"Don't say that, Mr. Murray. We are very glad to see you," said Miss
Jean, though not without a quiver, "without any reason at all."

"That is very kind, more kind than I can say. A stranger has double
reason to be grateful."

"The advantage is ours," said Miss Jean, with old-fashioned politeness;
and then there was a momentary pause; for the question would obtrude
itself upon her, in spite of herself, "What will Margaret say?"

And then Lewis went to the piano and began to play. Miss Jean took
up her work and threaded her needle, and prepared for enjoyment, for
to work and be read to, or hear music played to you was one of her
beatitudes; but by-and-by the table-cover fell upon her knees again,
and she turned her face towards the musician in a growing ecstacy of
attention. Music is not like any other of the arts, it does not address
itself to the intellect. Miss Margaret was far more clever than her
sister, but she had no comprehension of Beethoven. Jean had the ear to
hear. At first her mind was somewhat agitated by doubts whether her
sister would approve, and even whether it was altogether prudent to
have thus received a young man whom nobody knew. She thought of the
text, "Lay hands suddenly on no man," and she was a little confused
about the matter altogether. And, had she been like her sister, Miss
Jean would have continued in this mood; she would have recognized that
it was good playing, but her mind would have been able to consider
the original question all through it, and her doubts, it is possible,
might have been increased rather than set at rest by the proficiency of
the young musician, a proficiency to which, so far as her experience
went, very few gentlemen attained. But Miss Jean had a faculty which
Margaret lacked. After a while she forgot everything but the divine
strain that was in her ear. The table-cover slipped over her knees to
the ground, and she was not even aware of it; the silks, so carefully
arranged in their right shades, dropped too, and lay all tangled and
mixed up on the carpet. Miss Jean did not care. She neither saw nor
heard anything but the music; she sat with her hands clasped, her eyes
fixed upon the piano, her mind absorbed. When he stopped, she could not
speak; she waved her hand to him inarticulately, not even knowing what
she wanted to say. And Lewis, after a little pause, resumed. It was
some time since he had touched a piano, and his mind too was agitated
and full of many questions. It was not for nought that he had got
admittance here. Perhaps a little of the elevation of a martyr was in
his thoughts. It had not occurred to him, so long as Sir Patrick lived,
that he was sacrificing his youth to the old man. It had not occurred
to him until he came here: now he seemed to see it more clearly. And he
had come with the intention of sacrificing himself once more, of giving
up natural choice and freedom, and returning his fortune (burdened
indeed with himself) to the family from which it had come. It was only
now with Miss Jean's mild eyes upon him that he fully realized all
this. He kept looking at her, as he played, with close and anxious
observation. Not an idea of the light in which she appeared to him was
in Miss Jean's mind. That any man should be looking at her with the
idea of making her his wife would have startled her beyond expression;
but a young man--a youth whom she regarded as not much more than a boy!
It is to be feared that Miss Jean's sentiments would have been those
of resentment. She would have thought herself insulted. But, happily,
there was not in anything around the smallest suggestion of such a
purpose. If the ladies of Murkley considered an intruder dangerous,
it was entirely on account of Lilias. To think of themselves never
entered their minds; they were beyond all that. They had settled down
upon their own unchangeable fortunes with great peace and tranquillity,
putting themselves, so far as the hopes and happiness of life were
concerned, into Lilias. She was to enjoy for them, to get advancement,
to go to court, to have all the delights and honours which they had
never known. Generally it is in their children that women thus live by
proxy; these maiden sisters felt it a special boon of Providence that,
unmarried and without succession as they were in life, they should have
this special representative in the new generation. But even Lilias went
out of Miss Jean's mind as she listened. She would have liked indeed
that Lilias, that all she loved, should be here to share the benefit;
but then she was aware that the benefit would have been much less to
them. She had, therefore, a reason to herself for enjoying it alone.
And the afternoon stole away while this wonderful delight went on.
Lewis, though he was the performer, did not lose himself in the music
as Miss Jean did. When he stopped at last, she could not speak to him;
her eyes were full of tears. She made him again a little sign with her
hand and was silent, waiting until she could come down from that upper
region, in which she had been soaring, to common earth. Fortunately at
this moment Miss Margaret came in.

"So you have been playing to Jean?" she said; "that is very amiable and
very kind. She is not quite her own woman where music is concerned.
I thought it best to leave the treat to her by herself, for I'm not
a fanatic as she is. But I am very much obliged to you for giving my
sister such a pleasure."

"The pleasure is," said Lewis, "to play to one who feels it so much."

"I can fancy that," said Miss Margaret, "that it is not just all on
one side. You are meaning to settle in this country, Mr. Murray? There
are many of our name hereabout. We may possibly count kin with you
ourselves when we know what family ye are of."

"I fear not," Lewis said, shaking his head. He grew pale, and then he
grew red. Here was a danger he had not thought of, and what was he to
say?

"You must not say that. It is far more likely than not that we'll find
ourselves cousins. All Murrays are sib to Murkley: they say, you know,
that all Stuarts are sib to the king. I am not taking such state upon
us as all that: the duke, he is the head of the clan: but still Murkley
is far ben," said Miss Margaret, satisfied, but calm. "Probably, as
you've been so long abroad, you are a little astray in your genealogy.
I have often remarked that. But tell me your county, and I will tell
you what branch you come from."

Lewis got up from the piano. He was glad to turn his back from the
light, to conceal his embarrassment.

"Indeed," he said, "I can't tell you even that. My god-father had been
long abroad; he spoke little of his people; his money was all in the
funds. I knew only him, not his origin."

"That is very strange," Miss Margaret said. "There are no godfathers in
our Scotch way; but I would have thought your good father and mother
would have been particular about a man's antecedents before they made
him responsible."

"Oh, my father and mother--" said Lewis--he was about to say knew
nothing of him, but stopped himself in time--"they died," he said,
hastily, "when I was very young, and he took me up, when I had nobody
to care for me. It has all been love and kindness on his part, and, I
hope, gratitude on mine."

"Indeed, and I am sure of that," said Miss Jean. "Just imagine,
Margaret, a young man, not much more than a boy, and he has devoted
himself to this old gentleman. It is not many that would do that. He
has given up his youth to please him. He has learned to play like _yon_
for his sake. He has been a son to him, and more. For my part, I never
heard anything like it. He has not a poor mind like yours and mine to
inquire was he Murray of this or that; he just loved him, and served
him for love's sake. And is not that the best of all?" Miss Jean said.
She was still in the rapture of the music she had heard; her heart
touched, her eyes wet, her pulses all throbbing in unison. She rose up
in her enthusiasm, letting the famous table-cloth drop again and walked
on it, unconscious of what she was doing, till she came to the fire,
near which her sister had established herself. Miss Jean leant her hand
upon the high mantel-piece, which was a narrow shelf of marble, and
stood up there, her head relieved against the white and highly-carved
pediment. Her tall, slight figure, in its black gown, had a thrill of
emotion about it. Miss Margaret, seated at a little distance in the
glow of the small, bright fire, looked calm like a judge, listening and
deciding, while the other had all the energy of an advocate.

"I am very glad to hear such a fine account of the young gentleman,"
she said.

"Your sister takes me on my own evidence," said Lewis. "It is only from
me she has heard it, and I did not know I was telling her all that.
What I told her was that my dear god-father was old and lonely, and
that when I was with him I could not learn to wade in the water and
devote myself to fishing like Stormont. It was jealousy made me say
so," cried the young man. "I thought Stormont looked such a fine fellow
risking his life for the trout, and me, I was sorry to get my feet wet.
What a difference! and not to my advantage. So, to account for myself,
and to be an excuse, I told my story. 'Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.' I had
no right to say anything about it. It was my jealousy, nothing more."

"You can ring for the tea, Jean," Miss Margaret said. This was the only
decision she delivered, but it was enough. She turned round afterwards
and made an elaborate apology for her other sister. "You will be
wondering you do not see Lilias," she said, "but she is much occupied;
she has a great many things to do. Another time when you come I hope I
may present you to her. She is so important to us all that perhaps we
are more anxious than we need be. Jean and me, we are two, you see, to
take care of her: and she is the chief object of our thoughts."

"I hope it is not bad health," Lewis said, "that makes you anxious."
His idea was that Lilias must be the eldest sister, and perhaps
beginning to succumb to the burdens of age.

Miss Margaret gave Miss Jean, who was about to speak, a warning look.

"No," she said, "it is not bad health; but there are many things to be
taken into account. And here comes Simon with the tea," she added, in a
tone of relief. If there was a mystery on his part, there was a little
concealment and conscious deception upon theirs too.



CHAPTER X.


Lewis was greatly elated by this easy beginning of his undertaking.
Everything had been so new to him in these unknown regions that he did
not know how he was to make his way, or whether it would be possible
to penetrate into the circle of the ladies of Murkley at all. And
now everything was so simple, so natural, that he wondered at his
own fears. He was the acquaintance of the whole village, or rather
"the haill toun," as they called themselves, and before he had been
a fortnight in the place was taken for granted as a member of the
little community. On the second rainy day he called at the manse, and
for politeness sake was asked to play there, and was listened to with
bustling attention by Mrs. Seton, while Katie discreetly yawned behind
her work, and Mr. Seton recollected an engagement.

"I'm very sorry," the minister said, "but my time is not my own. We
ministers are like doctors; we are constantly being called away."

Lewis was not offended by the good man's excuses, nor by little Katie's
weariness. He played them his "piece," as Mrs. Seton called it, and
then, with a laugh, left the piano. Mrs. Seton thought it was essential
to ask him to go on.

"You're not getting up yet, Mr. Murray," she said. "Oh, no, no, you
mustn't do that. It is just a treat, such as we seldom get. You see,
there are few people that can give the time to it. You must have
practised a great deal, far more than our young people will take the
trouble to do. Oh, you never bound yourself to hours? That must have
been because you were so fond of it, and just played on without taking
count of the time. Do you hear that, Katie? That is what you ought to
do, if you would ever be a performer like Mr. Murray. Just let him hear
you play that last thing of yours. Well, it is not like what Mr. Murray
can do, of course, but it is not at all bad for a little thing like
you; and very likely Mr. Murray could give you a hint or two. A hint
is sometimes of such consequence. Toots! just get up at once. When you
have to be pressed, and coaxed, and all that, people expect something
very grand. Now, in your simple way, you should just do it at once, and
nobody would criticise."

"But Mr. Murray doesn't want to hear me play. He plays far better--oh,
so much better--himself," cried Katie.

"Just never you mind that," said her mother. "Do your best, nobody can
do more. When you are as old as me, you will know that the best judges
are always the ones that are least hard to please. Just go at once,
Katie. Perhaps you will tell her what you see particularly wrong, Mr.
Murray," she added, as the girl reluctantly obeyed. "Unfortunately, we
can get so little advantage of masters here. I am always telling Mr.
Seton we must give her a winter in Edinburgh, just to get into the ways
of the world a little; for you cannot do that here--oh, no, no, you
just can't get that in the country. You must see people, and see how
they behave. But a clergyman has such a difficulty in getting away,
unless he really falls ill, or something of that kind; and it would be
going too far, you know, to wish for that. I think myself sometimes
that I see signs of overwork, but Mr. Seton will not hear of it--he
just will not hear of it. Katie, Katie, that's a great deal too quick.
Do you not think that was too fast, Mr. Murray? Dear, dear! you must
always count, you must not trust to your ear; and don't be so strong
upon the pedals, Katie. That was a little better. Take care of the
time, and the tune will take care of itself. La--la--la-la-la--la,"
sang the anxious mother, accompanying with waving hand and head the
somewhat uncertain performance.

Lewis was so sympathetic that he was quite conscious of Katie's
indignation, and shamefacedness, and blinding embarrassment, as well
as of the humour of her mother's remarks, which ran on all the time.
He got up after a little while and went and stood behind the young
performer.

"Don't be frightened," he said, in an undertone. "If you will play more
slowly, and not lose your head, you will do very well. I used to lose
my head, too, and make a dreadful mess of it when I was your age."

"I mean to stop at the end of the first bit," said Katie, in the same
undertone, with a defiant glance. "As you did the other day."

"At the end of the andante?" said Lewis. "Yes, that will be best."

The girl looked up at him this time with astonishment. It is one thing
to say that you intend to break off in a performance, but quite another
when your audience acquiesces in this rebellion.

"I thought you were so fond of it," Katie could not help saying, with
a little pique. So fond of it that he would have liked to prolong her
performance! Lewis laughed inwardly, but outside preserved his decorum.

"When you play without your will, it is no longer in harmony," he
said. "However you may be correct, it will never sound so. When you
take away the consent of the heart, the chords do not strike just--you
understand?"

Katie stared at him, while her fingers stumbled over the keys. She was
profoundly astonished, but she was not stupid, and more or less the
girl did understand.

They were left to each other, while Mrs. Seton rose to receive a
visitor, and Lewis seized the opportunity of the first break to
substitute conversation for music. He gave her a ludicrous account of
himself in the rain.

"If you had seen me, you would have despised me," he said. "How glad
I am we met only in the village, and not on the river-side! When I met
you I was like one of the fowls, with all my feathers drooping, don't
you know, longing to get under a cart, as they did."

"Oh, Mr. Murray!" cried Katie, with a broken giggle. She had thought
so, but to assent to this description of himself was quite against the
code of morals inculcated at the manse.

"Oh, it is very true," said Lewis, with his cordial laugh. "You scoffed
at my umbrella, but when it is wet one always carries an umbrella where
I come from. Ah, but there was worse than the umbrella, Miss Katie. Is
it permitted that I should say Miss Katie?"

"Oh, yes," said Katie, with a little blush--"everybody does it here:
though I am the eldest," she added, with a little dignity.

"Abroad," said Lewis, with the smile which he always permitted himself
when he used that vague term, "we say mademoiselle, or Fräulein, or
signorina. I know that miss is a little different in English. But I
wander from my subject. When I got to the river, I felt what you call
small, Miss Katie. There was Stormont in the middle of the stream--he I
thought a little languid the other day, not taking much interest--"

"Oh, but that, is a mistake," cried Katie, with a vivid blush; "it is
just that we're quiet in Scotland--we think quiet manners the best.
Oh, he takes a great interest----" and here she stopped embarrassed;
for why, indeed, should she take upon herself to respond for young
Stormont? She gave an anxious glance at Lewis, lest he should laugh,
or perhaps indulge in a little banter on the subject, which was not
foreign to the manners of the countryside. But Lewis was perfectly
serious, and answered her with the air of a judge.

"Of course, I was mistaken in that. There he was in the middle of
the river, like a young Hercules, glowing and fresh, while I was so
sodden and drooping. If you had heard me laugh at myself! 'What a poor
creature you are!' I said, 'not fit for this robust country at all,
thinking that your feet will get wet, that the grass is soaking, while
he is there enjoying himself--actually enjoying himself!'"

"Oh, yes," cried Katie, proud and pleased, "it was grand for the
fishing. He had such a basket of fish. One was seven pounds, they said.
Mr. Stormont called on his way home just to tell papa what sport he had
had," she added in explanation, "and that was how I know."

Lewis was not insensible to the fact that to call at the manse, which
was on the right side of the river, on his way to the Tower, which was
on the left, was a peculiar short cut for young Stormont to make: but
he accepted every detail with perfect gravity.

"I," he said, with his apologetic air and his cheerful laugh at
himself, "basely took advantage of Adam's skill, and got some of his
fish to carry to the Castle. I did not pretend I had caught them
myself--I was not quite so base as that. But Adam, too, how much he was
my superior! To see him there, all brown and strong, casting his rod,
the rain raining upon him, and little brooks running off his hat and
his clothes. How shall I make myself like that, Miss Katie? I am only a
carpet knight--I am not good for anything here."

"Oh, Mr. Murray!" repeated little Katie. She was shocked with herself
not to be able to find something consolatory, something gratifying to
say. At length she ventured, timidly and against her conscience, to
bring forward arguments in his defence against himself. "You can play
such beautiful music, such hard things--and no gentleman hereabouts can
do that; and you know a great many languages."

"That is no credit to me," Lewis said. "I could not help learning
them--when I was a child and knew no better," he added, with a laugh.

"We are awfully backward in languages," Katie said. "We had a German
governess for a while, but I never could learn it. And as for the
gentlemen, they never try. After all, it is not so much wanted, do you
think, unless you sing, to teach you how to pronounce the words? that
is what mamma says. If you sing, you must learn how to say your words;
they are always either Italian or German, or at the least French."

"That is very important," said Lewis, gravely; "and perhaps to know
what the words mean: that would help you to the appropriate expression."

"Oh, I don't mind so much about that," said Katie; "it's rather
old-fashioned to put expression into them. Mamma is old-fashioned;
she gives her head a little nod, and she turns it like this, and she
smiles at the funny parts--I don't mean really funny, you know, for of
course she never sings comic songs, but at the parts where you would
smile if you were talking. But you don't do that now; it is _quite_
old-fashioned, my music-mistress says."

"Oh, it is quite old-fashioned?" said Lewis.

"Quite. Miss Jean is ever worse than mamma. Sometimes you would think
she was going to cry. Perhaps you never heard her sing? Oh, it is only
the old Scotch things she sings; but some people think a great deal of
them. Mamma sings them sometimes too, I don't care for them myself.
What I should like best would be the German, if you were quite sure
that you pronounced the words right."

"So far as that goes, I might perhaps be of use."

"Oh, would you, Mr. Murray? That would be so very kind. If I only knew
how to pronounce them right, I would not care for anything else."

"Not this morning, Miss Katie; but you might be singing something you
would not like to utter----"

Katie looked at him for a moment with surprise, then she added, lightly,

"What could it matter? Nobody understands."

By this time several callers had arrived, and Mrs. Seton's monologue,
with occasional interruptions, was heard from the other end of
the room. Mrs. Stormont was one of the visitors, and Miss Jean
another; but, though the former lady was a formidable obstacle, the
quickly-flowing tide of speech from the minister's wife carried all
before it.

"Oh, yes, yes," she said, "that's just what I always say. If it's not
good for the country in one way, it is in another; it keeps down the
insects and things, and, if it's bad for the hay, it's excellent for
the turnips. And, besides, it's the Almighty's will, which is the best
reason after all. Sometimes it's very good for us just to be dull, and
put up with it--that's what I tell the children often. Oh, yes, yes; no
doubt it's hard to convince young things of what doesn't please them,
but it's true for all that. There are plenty of dull moments in life
besides the wet days, and we must just put up with them, Mr. Philip
brought us a beautiful present of trout just the other day; the big
one, what was it it weighed, Katie?--six pounds? Yes, yes, six pounds.
A lovely fish--I never saw a finer. I was unwilling to take it, though
that seemed ungracious. I just said, 'Toots, Mr. Philip, not me this
time; you're always so kind to the manse--you should send this to some
greater person.'"

"I did not know," said Mrs. Stormont, with very distinct enunciation,
"that my son had got anything so considerable. The biggest one he
brought home was four pounds; but at Philip's age it's seldom that the
best wins as far as home."

"Dear me!" cried Mrs. Seton. "Now that was scarcely nice of Mr. Philip.
I told him it was a present fit for a greater stranger; but he's just
very liberal-minded, and has a great respect for Mr. Seton, which
is so good for a young man. For I always say you can't have a safer
friend than your minister; but, if I had thought he was depriving you
of it, I would just have scolded him well. No, no, that's not my way
of thinking; it should always be the best for home--oh! yes, the best
should be for home. It's very fine to be generous, but the best should
always be for home. I often say to the children----"

"Young men and their families seldom agree on that subject," said Mrs.
Stormont. "Is it true, Miss Jean, the grand story I hear about Margaret
and you and little Lilias all going up to London next spring? Bless
me, that will be a terrible affair. I know what it is to go through a
season in London; I did it once, and only once, myself. I said to my
husband, 'We'll just be ruined,' and I would never hear of doing it
again."

"It would not be for us," said Miss Jean, "but for Lilias; you see, at
her age--and Margaret is of the opinion that we should give her every
justice; besides, we would not stay all the season, just enough to give
her a good idea; and then, you see, being once presented, she would be
prepared for whatever might happen."

"We all know what that means," said Mrs. Seton, nodding her head. "Oh,
yes, yes, it is very natural. When you have the charge of young people,
you must look on into the future. I am always telling Mr. Seton, Katie
must have a winter in Edinburgh; that will be season enough for her,
for you are never rightly at your ease in society till you have seen
something of the world."

"For my part, I think there's far better society in Edinburgh than
you can get in London," said Mrs. Stormont. "You get the best in the
one place, but it's a very different class you get in the other. A
good Scots family counts for nothing among all those fashionable folk.
You are asked at the tail-end of one of their great parties, and your
friends think they have done their duty by you. No, no, London's not
for me."

"That may be very true," said Miss Jean, "but Margaret is of the
opinion that this is the right thing to do; and she always strives to
carry out what she thinks to be right."

"It's just the most terrible waste of money," Mrs. Stormont continued.
"I never think you get half so much for a gold sovereign as you do for
a pound note; and if you ask your way in the street, or stroke a bairn
on the head as you pass it, there's sixpence to pay. And the beer!
nobody but wants beer. How they can stand all that cold stuff on their
stomachs is a mystery to me."

"Mr. Seton maintains it's not so bad as a dram," said the minister's
wife. "Oh! no, no, if you come to think of it, it is not so bad as the
drams. Whisky is far worse for their stomachs. If the one's cold, the
other just burns them up. I set my face against it, but it's so little
you can do. And sixpence goes a far way in beer; you can always hope
he'll not drink it all, but take home the half to his wife. Ah, no,
you must not speak against London. It's a grand place London. You see
the best of everything there. When we go up now and then, which is not
nearly so often as I should wish, we have no cause to complain of our
friends. They are just as pleased to see us as we are to see them, and
we must dine with this one, and the other will take us to the Academy,
or into the park, or to hear a concert. You would be happy there with
the music, Mr. Murray. The best always goes to London. Oh! yes, yes, in
London there is the best of everything."

"And the worst," said Mrs. Stormont, emphatically, as she rose. She
paused to shake hands with Lewis with a certain demonstration of
interest. "You are going to settle down in our neighbourhood?" she
said. "I'm sure I'm very glad to hear it. There's no better situation
that I know of. You're near the moors for the shooting, and close to
the river for the fishing, and what could heart of man desire more?"

"Unfortunately I am not much of a sportsman."

"Well, well, there are other attractions," said Mrs. Stormont, with
unusual geniality. "We can supply you with better things. A nice house
and pleasant neighbours, and a bonnie Scots lassie for a wife, if that
is within your requirements. Men are scarce, and you may pick and
choose."

"Not quite so bad as that, I hope," said Mrs. Seton, with a heightened
colour. "No, no, not so bad as that; but still, no doubt, there are
some fine girls."

"Some! there are dozens," said the other, with an evident meaning which
Lewis, surprised, did not fathom; "and take you my word, Mr. Murray,
you are in a grand position. You have nothing to do but pick and
choose."

Miss Jean rose up quickly when this was said. She was nervous and
alarmed by every trumpet of battle. She hastily interposed, with her
softer voice.

"I must be going, Mrs. Seton. We will soon, I hope, see you at the
castle; and Katie knows how welcome she is. No, no, you'll never mind
coming to the door. Here is Mr. Murray will see me out," cried Miss
Jean, eager to be absent from the fray.

Mrs. Stormont, however, had delivered her shaft, and it was she who led
the way, with a smile of satisfied malice.

"You must really settle among us. You must not just tantalize the young
ladies," she said.

When she had been placed in her pony-carriage and driven away, Lewis
took the opportunity thus presented to him, and accompanied Miss Jean,
somewhat to her alarm, into the park through the little wicket. Miss
Jean was still a little nervous, with a tremor of agitation about her.

"Did you ever hear anything like _yon_?" she said. "It was very
ill-bred. You see Mrs. Stormont is a person of strong feelings. That
is always the excuse Margaret makes for her. But you may disapprove of
a thing, surely, and show it in a way becoming a gentlewoman, without
going so far as that."

"What is it," asked Lewis, always full of interest in his
fellow-creatures, "which this lady does not approve?"

"There are great allowances to be made for her," said Miss Jean. "You
see Philip is her only son, and naturally, if he marries at all, she
would like him to look higher. The Setons are very nice people. I would
not have you think anything different; but it would not be wonderful
that she should like him to look higher."

"I see; then it is Mrs. Seton who has arranged to marry her daughter
to----"

"Oh, you must not take that into your head. Bless me! I would not say
that: it may never come the length of marrying; it is just that Philip
is always hanging about the manse. And Katie, she is very young, poor
thing, and fond of her amusement--they may mean nothing, for anything
I can tell; and that is Margaret's opinion," Miss Jean said, with
trepidation. "Margaret has always said it was nothing but a little
nonsense and flirtation between the young folk."

"It is the fashion of England," said Lewis, "I suppose--but it is
strange to me, too, as to Mrs. Stormont--that Miss Katie should manage
her own concerns."

"I know little about the fashions of England," said Miss Jean, slightly
annoyed by this answer, "but in Scotland it is not our way to arrange
these sort of things; when they come of themselves, we have just to put
up with it, if we don't like it, or to be thankful, if we do. It is
more natural than that French way of arranging--which comes to nothing
but harm, as I have often heard."

Lewis did not stand up in defence of the French way. He said,

"Miss Katie is too young, she will think that is play; but when it
is otherwise, when the lady is one who knows what is in the world,
and what it is to choose, and understands what she would wish in the
companion of her life----"

Here Miss Jean began to shake her head, and laugh softly to herself.

"Where will you find a young creature that will be so wise as that?"
she said.

"Perhaps I was not thinking of a young creature," said Lewis, piqued a
little by her laugh.

"Ah," said Miss Jean, "that is just another of your French ways. I
have heard that in their very stories it will be an elder person, a
widow perhaps, that will be the heroine. That's a thing which is very
repulsive to the like of us in this country. You will perhaps think I
am very romantic, but I like none of your unnatural stories. What I
like is two young folk, not very wise perhaps, mistaken it may be, but
with honest hearts towards one another, faithful and true; that is what
I like to hear of--and no parents interfering, except just to guide a
little, and help them on."

"Ah!" said Lewis, with an involuntary sigh, "that is one way, to be
sure; but must all other ways be unnatural? Might it not be that the
elder person, as you say, should have a charm greater than the younger,
should be more sweet in some one's eyes, kinder and truer? All romance
is not of one kind."

"I cannot abide," said Miss Jean, severely, "the woman that can begin
over again, and tag a new life on to the tail of another. No, I cannot
'bide that. It may be one of my old-fashioned ways: but to everything
there is a season, as Solomon, in his wisdom, was instructed to say."

"That is different," said Lewis; "but do you think, then, that the
heart grows old? I have known some who were as fresh as any young girl,
or even as a child, though they were not what you call young."

"Well, well!" said Miss Jean, with a smile and a sigh, "I will say
nothing against that. I'll allow it's true. Oh, yes; but you're a
clever young man to discern it. It is just ridiculous," she continued,
bursting into a little laugh, "the young feeling that--some persons
have; wrinkles and grey hairs outside, and just the foolish feeling
within, as if you were still a bit foolish lamb upon the lee."

Miss Jean laughed, but there was a little moisture in her eyes.

"You have neither wrinkles nor grey hairs," said the audacious Lewis.
"You choose to be old, but you are not old. Your eyes are as young as
Miss Katie's, your heart is more soft and kind. Why there should be
anything unnatural in a romance that had you for its centre I cannot
see."

"Me!"

Miss Jean stood still in her astonishment; a soft colour passed over
her gentle countenance, not so much with the emotion appropriate to
the occasion, as with wonder and amazement. It was a moment before she
fully realized what he meant to say, and then--

"Bless the laddie! is he going out of his senses," she cried. "Me!"

"And why not? I cannot see any reason," Lewis said. He was always
ingratiating, anxious to please, seeking with a smiling anxiety for
the sympathy of his companions. He looked at her now with a tender
desire to set her right with herself. A respectful admiration was in
his eyes; and indeed, as he looked with the strong desire which he had
to find out all that was best in the modest, gentle countenance before
him, it was astonishing how pretty Miss Jean began to grow. The faded
colour grew sweeter and brighter, the eyes enlarged, the very contour
of the face became more perfect. He could not help saying to himself
that careful dressing, and a little stir and excitement, would make
her handsome; and as for her age, what did a few years matter? Lewis
said to himself that he had no prejudices. When a man of forty marries
a woman of twenty-five, there is not a word to be said--and why should
there be any difference in this case? All this was written in his eyes,
had Miss Jean been clever enough to see it there. But she was not. She
considered that he was trying to please her, and make her satisfied
with herself, as a child sometimes does who cannot bear to think that
its mother or aunt is supposed old. Perhaps it pleased her as even the
child's naïve compliment pleases. She shook her head.

"You are very kind," she said, "to try to make me think that age is as
good as youth. But I'm not wishing to be young--I am quite content,
and there is no question of that. What I was wanting to say was that
I would never be the one to cross two young things in an attachment."
A pretty colour was on Miss Jean's face; she blushed a little for the
sake of the imaginary young people. "I would not part them--who can
ever tell what may come of it?--I would not part them," she said, with
fervour.

Lewis felt a warm glow under his waistcoat, and thought with a little
complacency that he was falling in love with Miss Jean as she spoke.



CHAPTER XI.


Katie Seton was not yet seventeen, but she was the eldest of her
family, which has a maturing influence, and she had been the chief
personage in a series of impromptu performances in the manse
drawing-room, like the one at which the reader has assisted, almost
as long as she could remember; so that she was familiar enough with
ideas which are generally beginning to develop at seventeen, and had
flirted very innocently ever since she was in short frocks. From that
time Philip Stormont had been her favourite partner, her closest
attendant. He was the one who walked home with her when they met at
the tea-parties of the neighbourhood, following with Katie behind her
father and mother in the strictest decorum, when his protection was
altogether unnecessary, and finding his way to the manse on any excuse;
and there are so many excuses in the country for such visits. Sometimes
he had business with the minister which kept him waiting for hours,
much deplored by Mrs. Seton, who would bustle out and in, and lament
her occupations, which did not permit her to remain with him, and her
husband's absence, which wasted his day.

"But I've sent little Robbie to see if he can find his father, and,
Katie, you must just do the best you can to wile away the time," Mrs.
Seton would say.

Katie did her very best on such occasions. She would give the young man
a lesson in dancing, in which she was acknowledged to be the greatest
proficient for miles around, or she would go over one song after
another, playing the tune with one hand to teach it to him, sometimes
guiding him with her own pretty little voice, sometimes breaking down
in rills of young laughter at his mistakes, in which he would join.
They were on such perfectly easy terms that his mistakes did not
trouble him before Katie--he even went wrong on purpose to make her
laugh. Sometimes they would meet out of doors and walk together, the
younger children who accompanied Katie following their own devices,
to the satisfaction of all parties, as soon as it was realized that
Stormont had appeared, and that the previous attendants were free. In
this way a great many passages had occurred, unknown, indeed, to father
and mother, and in themselves bearing but little meaning, which had so
linked these two young creatures together, that neither one nor the
other could identify themselves apart.

There had been nothing said between them about engagement or marriage,
but they felt a mutual right to pout and quarrel, if Katie danced with
some one else more than civility required, or if Philip walked home
with Annie Borrodaile. Annie Borrodaile was the individual whom Katie
had chosen to erect into a dangerous rival; while Philip, on his side,
after a marked identification of young Mr. Dunlop the assistant at
Braehead, had lately fallen upon Lewis as his antagonist. They would
taunt each other with these supposed preferences, in which neither
believed, but up to this time nothing had happened, nothing had been
said to make a reference to papa necessary on Katie's part, or to
give Mr. Philip that right "to put a stop to" a certain acquaintance,
which he constantly declared to be necessary. They were playing with
the gravity of the matter, and thinking that nobody saw clearer than
themselves. But how was it possible that anyone could see so clearly as
Philip's mother, who had no one but he, and who was a widow, with her
mind and thoughts continually following her son. Somehow, no one could
quite tell how, and herself least of all, Mrs. Stormont got to know
what her son did; where he walked; how often he met Katie; how often
he was received in the manse drawing-room. None of these things were
done clandestinely; the servants, the children, the neighbours, all had
a part in the proceedings of the young people, who themselves were as
honestly void of offence as ever young people were.

On the evening of the day on which Mrs. Stormont had made the visit
we have recorded, Katie went out with her young brothers and sisters.
Robbie and Jock were the next to her in age. They were fifteen and
thirteen, and full of mischief, as indeed, if boys are not at their
age, what is to become of them? Rosie and Minnie were younger; they
were little girls who had an eye to what was going on, and were deeply
aware that, if anything could make Katie indifferent to the fact that
they had taken off their shoes and stockings, and were wading on the
edge of the river like the boys, or had scrambled up into a tree, and
there sat dangling their small legs with absolute insensibility to
decorum, it was the sight of Philip coming vaguely along whistling
one of the tunes Katie had taught him, and looking about everywhere
to find her out. These young people offered no obstacles to Philip's
search: they aided him indeed with all their powers. The direction
in which they usually took their evening walk was up the water, a
path which ended in a wood stretching downwards from the big, empty,
unfinished house of Murkley to the river-side. This wood was their
favourite resort. There were rabbits in it, and squirrels; there were
oaks all twisted and gnarled, which were delightful to climb, and in
which the girls found no difficulty. There was a large willow very
near the bend of the river, with great branches stretching half-way
across the stream, upon which they would sit and fish, perched up like
a bird among the foliage, and out of everybody's way. And there was
an old quarry of red earth full of pebbles, in which nothing was so
easy, if wilder sports failed them, as to establish a shop, and sell
mimic sweets and fruits, pretending to be customers and pretending to
be saleswomen, to their hearts' desire. This latter delight was best
attainable by the girls when May came too, who was only eight, and
who thought nothing so delightful as playing shop. Meanwhile, the boys
would be after the rabbits, or investigating the nests.

The party had set out from the manse in very good order as usual. Katie
had been "upset" during the day, and her mother had petted and consoled
her. There had been no direct confidences between them. Mrs. Seton had
made little reference to the personal offence, though she had felt it
keenly.

"It was not pretty. Oh, no, it was not pretty," she said, "to speak
like yon to poor Mr. Murray, a young lad that is a stranger here, and
knows nobody's character. If he had known what kind of woman Mrs.
Stormont was--fond of making these kind of remarks--he would of course
have understood. But, no, no, indeed it was not pretty, and it should
just read us a lesson, Katie, to mind how we indulge our fancies, not
thinking of other people. It was not, maybe, civil either to you or me;
but we know what she is, and we never mind--no, no, we just never mind.
But I feel for poor Mr. Murray," Mrs. Seton said.

As for Katie, she said, with anger,

"What right had she to speak like that? as if we were wanting him, or
anyone."

"Tut," said her mother, "it was not us she was meaning. She just can't
help being disagreeable; it is her way."

But Katie had been angry, and consequently "upset" and wretched all the
day. It was at her mother's request that she went out with her brothers
and sisters. Mrs. Seton thought the air would do her good.

"Now, Robin and Jock, you will take care of Katie," their mother
said. "Play none of your pliskies, but just walk by her side like two
gentlemen, and take care of her, poor thing; and, Rosie and Minnie, you
are not to drag and hang upon Katie, but let her get a little quiet and
fresh air. Take a nice walk, and you'll be better when you come back."

The party set off very solemnly with their charge--they respected
their mother, at least, so far as they could be seen from the manse
windows, if not a little further. Rosie and Minnie walked in front
like two little judges, and Robbie and Jock were on either side of
their sister, walking, "like two gentlemen," in quiet gravity and
state. Katie, between them, had a languid air. She walked with her head
drooping a little, with a pensive seriousness in her countenance. It
was impressive to see this fine family taking the air. Till they took
the turn to the river-side their seriousness was unbroken. Then nature
began to assert itself. Robbie and Jock were startled into animation
by the sudden sight of a water-rat, after which Vixen, their dog,
without consulting them, but with a glance out of his shag of hair
contemptuous and impatient as who should say, "You laggards, come on,"
had turned in full pursuit. Rosie and Minnie persevered a little longer.

"It's nothing but a rat! but boys will rin for naething!" said Miss
Rosie, more contemptuous than Vixen. A minute or two after, they
thought they saw a squirrel, and flew along the path. Katie grew a
little less languid when she was thus left alone. She said to herself
that the air had done her good already. She did not call back the boys,
as she had once thought of doing, or summon the little girls, who
were within reach of her voice. What was the use when here was Philip
Stormont coming? He was more of her own age, she said to herself, and
more a companion, and there could be no doubt that he too, as well as
the young Setons, was wonderfully fond of that road by the river-side.
It can no more be denied that she was glad to see him approaching than
that she had confidently expected his appearance; but the first sight
of him suddenly gave Katie's little soul a perverse turn, and she
received him without her usual cordiality, with a preternaturally grave
face.

"I have often wondered," she said, "what brings you out at this hour,
and on this side of the water. It is nothing for us, because we don't
dine, and we have had our tea; but I have just been thinking what
becomes of your dinner, and you walking about all the evening. You
must be awfully fond of walking," Katie said, looking up, with the
profoundest air of philosophical inquiry on her face.

"Walking! It is perhaps something else I am fond of," said Philip.

"Something else? I never see you with your fishing-rod," proceeded
Katie; "but that does not matter, for of course you have your own
reasons. But what happens about your dinner, if you dine at seven
o'clock?"

"We don't dine at seven o'clock. Who would go in, a night like this,
for a dull dinner? No, I have just something when I go home: and in the
mean time I see you."

"Oh, me!--that's not much consequence," said Katie; and then she added,
"I know now why Mrs. Stormont was not pleased, if she has to take
her dinner by herself. I would not stand it, if I were your mother.
I wonder what you mean, all you boys. Do you think you are so much
grander than women are, that you turn everything upside down for your
own pleasure? Oh! if I were your mother, I would be worse than vexed! I
would just not put up with it," cried Katie, stamping her small foot.
The object of this assault was petrified. He looked at her with a gasp
of dismay.

"How do you know," he blundered out at last, "that my mother was angry?
You know I don't think myself grand at all nor anything worth speaking
of," he added, in a deprecating tone. "It is you, Katie, that are
angry."

"And I have cause, Mr. Stormont," said Katie, with dignity.

"Mr. Stormont! Is it a quarrel, then? You are always wanting to quarrel
with me," he said, in a tone of complaint, yet conciliation; "but it
takes two to do that. What is it now?"

"Oh, it is nothing," cried Katie; "if unkind things are said about
me, it is none of your affair. I am not complaining. It is a little
strange, however," she said, after an effective pause, "that because
a gentleman does not go in at the right hour and eat his dinner as he
ought, a girl that has nothing to do with him, that is no connection,
should be abused in her own mother's house."

"Is it me that you have nothing to do with?" said Philip, piteously. "I
think nobody can have so hard a heart."

"What have I to do with you, Mr. Philip?--we are just friends. You are
friends with a great many people. There are the Borrodailes--"

"I knew that was coming," said Philip, "though I tell you six times a
day that Annie Borrodaile is nothing----"

"I said not a word about Annie Borrodaile. It is just a guilty
conscience that makes you name one more than another. And why should
you tell me six times a day? I wonder what I have got to do with it?"

"Katie," cried poor Philip, "how can you speak to me so, when you know
just as well as I do that there's no one in the world I care about
but you? You have got everything to do with me. You know, if all the
ladies in the world were here, it is you I would choose; you know it
is for you I come here; you know I think of nobody else and nothing
else." Here Philip, approaching humbly, endeavoured to draw into his
own Katie's hand, which lay within reach upon her lap, for by this time
the pair had seated themselves, as they usually did, upon a fallen tree
which lay conveniently within reach of the road, but sheltered by the
brushwood. "Nobody else, and nothing else," said Philip, drawing closer.

"Except the trout," said Katie, with a laugh, "and birds in the season,
and the hunting, and the curling, and two or three hundred things, not
to speak of Annie Borrodaile."

To this Philip made no reply. He was wounded, and withdrew a little
to the other end of the tree. It was a scene which had been played a
great many times, and they were both quite familiar with it: but it
was always new to them, and always threatened for ten minutes at least
a tragical severance, which, however, happily never came.

"That, however, is nothing to me," said Katie; "but when your mother
comes and speaks as if--oh, as if I were the dust beneath her feet--as
if I were nobody that had ever been heard of before--as if I were a
girl that could be bought in the market like a slave in the 'Arabian
Nights'----"

"Katie, for goodness sake tell me what she said!"

Katie continued to play with his curiosity for some time longer, until
she had worked that and her own indignation into a tragic heat; then,
with tears of youthful fury and injured feeling in her eyes, she
unfolded her wrongs.

"Mr. Murray was there--he had come to play his piece to mamma--and Mrs.
Stormont turned round and looked me straight in the face, and said to
him that he must settle in Murkley. 'You'll get a nice house,' she
said, 'and a wife; you can pick and choose among the young ladies--oh,
yes you can take your choice of them,' and she looked at me--all
the time she looked at me! She just offered me--as if she had any
business with me!--to that man that is not a man, that can do nothing
but fiddle on the piano," cried Katie, transported by her wrongs and
her indignation. She even cried a little--hot tears, out of pity for
herself and the sense of injury which swelled all her youthful veins.

Philip on his side was greatly relieved to find that it was no worse.
What he had feared was that his mother had interfered definitely in his
own affairs. His mind was greatly eased when he heard the extent of her
transgressions. He ventured upon a short laugh under his moustache.

"That was so like my mother," he said.

"It may have been very like your mother, Mr. Stormont," cried Katie,
"but if you think that I am going to put up with it--and mamma too!"

"Was Mrs. Seton angry?" said Philip. "Don't call me Mr. Stormont. Now
just reflect; I have nothing to do with it; I did not make my mother.
Was Mrs. Seton angry?--what did Mrs. Seton say? If you think my mother
ill-tempered, Katie, I know that your mother is kind. What did she say?"

"Oh," said Katie, softened, "she said nothing at all. She said that to
go out for a walk would do me good. She did not say a word; she just
said it was Mrs. Stormont's way."

"I don't think it is her way," said Philip, piqued a little; "but it
_was_ like my mother," he added, "oh, yes, it was like her. She would
wish to snatch you away under my very nose, and marry you to another
man before I knew what she was doing. Oh, that is just what she would
like to try. She would think it was no harm to you."

"And what business had she with me at all?" cried Katie, but more
gently, the storm having had its way.

"Well, I suppose she guesses what you know so well," said the young
lover, "and that is what you are to me, Katie: that there is nobody but
you for me: that I would not care if all the world was swept away so
long as I had you safe: that----"

"Oh, that is just your way of talking," said Katie, but she did not
withdraw her hand; "that is just your nonsense. As if it was likely the
world would be swept away, and me left! But that is no reason, if you
do like me, that she should think ill of me. I have done nothing to
her--why should she be so cruel to me?"

"I am all she has, you see," said Philip, "and she does not like to
give me up, as she will have to do."

"I am sure I am not wanting you," cried Katie. "She is welcome to keep
you to herself for me; besides, if it was not me, it would be somebody
else," she added, after a moment, reflectively, with a philosophy that
poor Mrs. Stormont would have done well to emulate. "At your age you
are sure to have somebody. She ought to mind that. If it was Annie
Borrodaile, would she be better pleased? Most likely," said Katie, "it
will be Annie Borrodaile after all."

It was when Philip was employed in energetic disposal of this
hypothesis, which it was her pleasure to fling at him whenever the
liveliness of the conversation flagged, that Lewis Murray, emerging
from the woods of Murkley, in which he had been wandering, thinking
over his own urgent affairs, approached the water-side. He came down
from behind the scaur by a path half overgrown with tall beeches and
brushwood, which was little used. The path was clothed with mosses and
covered with the brown beech-wort and the slippery droppings of the
firs, and a footstep was scarcely audible upon it. In the hollow of the
scaur the little girls were playing, the redness of the earth throwing
up their small active figures as they performed their little mimicry of
life, "pretending" to be grown-up actors in it, their voices sounding
clear into the echoes. At a distance the boys were shouting to each
other, and Vixen barking, all of them after the water-rat which had not
yet been exhausted as a possibility of fun.

Lewis looked at the children with ready pleasure and sympathy, without
thinking of anything further. He was just about to call to them, when a
lower murmur of voices caught his ear. He was still on a higher level
than the angle of the little wood where it ran down to the river, and,
as he glanced in the direction of this softer sound, the young pair
became apparent to him. They were close together now, bending towards
each other, making but one shadow. Philip's head was uncovered, the
light catching its vigorous reddish-brown, and Katie's blue frock made
a little background for the group as Lewis looked down upon them,
separating that spot from the brown of the tree's trunk and the green
of the foliage. A spectator may be pardoned for looking a moment at
such a scene before he makes his presence known, especially when he
comes upon it by surprise. Lewis stood still in a passion of soft
sympathy and emotion which he himself did not quite understand. In some
things he was younger than his age. He had known none of the innocent
emotions of boy and girl; darker and less lovely episodes he had heard
of in plenty, but fortunately for him his absorption in the life of
an old man, kind as his patron had been, had kept him apart from all
such seductions, and it had never been within his possibilities to fall
sweetly and innocently in love, according to what was the course of
nature with Katie and Philip.

He gazed at them as they sat together with a sudden comprehension,
a curious self-compassion and sense of envy. He laughed to himself
softly, so softly that it did not sound in the quiet evening air, with
that amusement which is everybody's first impulse at sight of a pair
of lovers: and then he grew suddenly grave. This was very different
from what he was contemplating for himself. He had thought of duty,
not of happiness, in all his recent plans. It had been a something
incumbent upon him to fulfil, a wrong to atone for, a blunder to set
right, that had been his inspiration. Perhaps his foreign breeding
was responsible for the fact that Lewis had not looked upon the
marriage which he thought it right to make as having much to do with
his happiness at all. It was a portion of life, a necessity, like
another, to be accepted manfully, but not the great and crowning want
of youth, not the turning-point of existence. Romance was not in it
to his straightforward views: and he was not unwilling to accept Miss
Jean for the partner of his life, even had she been less pleasant than
he found her. He would have approached even Miss Margaret in the same
spirit, and with the same dauntless simplicity, had that been the right
thing to do, and would have done his duty by either without any sense
of hardship or even regret. But when he saw Philip Stormont and Katie,
something awoke in him which was like a new sense. Oh, yes, he had
heard of love, he had read of it; there was not a novel without it, and
scarcely a song. He had seen lovers before now. But somehow this soft
and lingering eve, the novelty of all around him, the resolution he had
taken, even the satirical advice of Mrs. Stormont, and her suggestion
that he had but to pick and choose, were all working together in his
mind.

Suddenly it occurred to him that here was the something more which was
in life, which he had never known, which he had been vaguely conscious
of, but never laid hold upon, or even divined. He laughed, and then he
grew grave. He took in at a glance all the points of the situation,
which were so different from any of his experiences. It is to be feared
that Lewis was somewhat shocked by the facts of the case. He thought
that Katie ought not to have been here meeting her lover, and he
divined that it was a meeting which took place daily, and that it was
to both of them the chief feature in the twenty-four hours. But it was
something which would never be his. He stood very gravely, and looked
down upon the group for a moment more. His wooing would not be like
this; it would be all orderly, decorous, calm. He would be kind, always
tender, respectful, friendly to the lady whom he married. It was not in
him to fail in the regard which would be her due. But this was another
thing altogether. After he had laughed, he sighed. Nature in him had
made a mute protest. He looked wistfully and with an irrepressible
envy at the lovers. The lovers! As for himself, that was a character
which he was never likely to bear. His first idea had been to make his
presence known, to warn them of his coming, that they might not be
caught by his sudden appearance, or feel themselves found out. But the
result of this strange, new impression upon Lewis was that, after that
pause, he turned back, and went away out of sight into the woods again,
and, after a long _détour_, found his way by another path back to the
village. A sort of awe and wistful admiration was in his mind. He would
not have them know that anybody had surprised their secret. This tender
delicacy of sentiment was untouched by the fact that he thought the
meeting wrong. But, wrong or right, it was something which was beyond
him, something which he should never know or share.

"Poor Murray; if he were to take my mother's advice, you would think no
more of breaking his heart, if he has a heart----" Philip was saying,
as Lewis stole quietly away.

"How can you tell that? He is very nice. He waltzes a great deal better
than you do, though I have tried so hard to teach you my step. And if
you had only heard him play his piece to mamma! If he were to take your
mother's advice--perhaps I would take her advice too."

"And I'll tell you what I should do, Katie; pitch him into the Witch's
Cauldron, which is the deepest hole in the water. Play his piece! It
would do him a great deal of good to play his pieces there."

And they both laughed, all unconscious of his observation, as they rose
from their rustic seat unwillingly, and went lingeringly back towards
the manse, and the world, out of that enchanted wood. The children had
been faintly called half-a-dozen times before, but now Katie's voice
had a tone in it which they felt to convey a real command. The little
girls followed slowly; the boys sped on before. It was the recognized
way in which, as far as the ferry, where Philip's path struck off, the
procession moved towards home.



CHAPTER XII.


After the conversation with Miss Jean which has been reported, Lewis
felt that he had begun the undertaking which brought him to Murkley.
Before this it had been in a vague condition, a thing which might or
might not come to anything. But now he had, to his own consciousness at
least, committed himself. What effect his words might have had on Miss
Jean's mind he was of course unable to tell; but, whatever she might
do, there was now no retreat for him. He had given her to understand
that the aspect in which she appeared to him was one of great interest
and attraction. Having said so much, Lewis felt that it was incumbent
on him to say more; and indeed, there was a sensation of thankfulness
in his mind when he remembered that he had done so, and so made an
end of his own freedom in the matter. He was glad that he had done
this before the evening on which he saw Philip and Katie together,
and recognized in their intercourse a something which was lacking,
and always would be lacking, in his own case. What matter? he said to
himself. He had much, though not all. If Miss Jean became his wife,
he would have the satisfaction of redeeming a wrong for one thing,
and he would not have to blush for the good woman he had chosen. Her
middle-aged calm and propriety indeed suited much better the rôle of
wife, to his thinking, than Katie's youthfulness and levity. He thought
of her as an Englishman thinks of home, as something to return to after
the occupations and excitements of the world. What he looked forward to
was not perhaps a domestic life, but a life in which it would always
be good to come back after every variety of experience and personal
vicissitude to the same calm, smiling presence, the indulgence and
tenderness of one who would never be weary, never impatient, but always
ready to hear what he had to say, and to sympathize and advise.

The more he dwelt upon this idea, the more it pleased him. What he
wanted was not the inseparable companion who would share all his life
with him, but rather that domestic stronghold, that something to return
to. There are always these differences in life. And after a while
Lewis said to himself that he would have the best of it. Kate would
want a great many observances which an elderly bride would not dream
of; she would no doubt insist on knowing and sharing everything--her
husband's thoughts as well as his home, and this was not an ideal which
suited the pupil of Sir Patrick Murray. He had not been used to women,
and they were no necessary part of his life. His mother, so far as
he recollected her, had taken the place which he pleased himself to
think his wife would naturally take. Many women rebel now-a-days at
that ideal of a woman's existence which consists in being always at
home, always ready to receive the wanderer, to kill innumerable fatted
calves, and look out continually for the prodigal's return. Lewis would
be no prodigal, but his idea was to live his own life unfettered, and
to give no very great share in it to any woman. He would go back to her
when tired, when sick or sorry; he would be always tenderly careful of
her and kind. He would surround her, in that home where she should be
always waiting for him, with everything a woman could wish for; but
clearly he meant her to stay there while he should enjoy everything and
come back to be sympathized with. Such an ideal watcher is pleasant to
everybody's thoughts; the mere recollection of the dweller at home,
uncritical, all-believing, to whom one can return, sure of eager
attention, petting, and sympathy in every emergency, is in itself a
consolation. It is the primitive idea of the woman's office.

Lewis meant no disrespect to womankind in adopting it as his idea of
the relations to subsist between himself and his wife; he did not
know any better, and nothing could be more entirely in accord with
the position which Miss Jean, he thought, would naturally take. Few
intending bridegrooms perhaps allot this character at once to their
brides, but Lewis meant no harm; he subdued in himself the softer
thoughts which the sight of Katie and Philip had roused in his mind,
and in the morning was again fully awake to a state of satisfaction
with his own scheme, and ready to proceed with it.

In the pre-occupation of his mind, Adam's fishing had ceased to amuse
him, and he did not want to meet Philip, whose conduct in compromising
Katie, our young man highly disapproved of, even when he felt envious
of his happiness. When he went out, he turned his steps in the opposite
direction, going up the river, past the spot at which he had seen the
lovers, and reaching, by that _détour_ through the wood, the park of
Murkley, and the neighbourhood of the great unfinished palace which
had made him first acquainted with the family history. He had not
returned to visit that memorial of ambition again. Perhaps there was
nobody in the world who could regard it with the same feelings as
those which moved Lewis. Sir Patrick had not left a good name behind
him in the countryside. His tastes had never been those of a Scotch
country-gentleman. The building of this prodigious and pretentious
house had offended all his neighbours, to whom it was almost a personal
offence that he should attempt in this way to excel all their houses
and put himself on so much higher a level. When it turned out that he
was not able to complete what he had begun so ambitiously, a great
deal of bitterness and unfriendly humour exhaled in the pitiless
laughter with which his failure had been received, and there was
nobody about who did not more or less remember it against him--with a
scorn of failure which is very strong in Scotland--that he had thus
attempted a superiority which he was not able to maintain. His own
family contemplated the stately folly with modified feelings. Such a
standing proof of greatness had a certain effect upon their pride; but
the failure was bitter to them, and there was the sense besides that
their money had been wasted in the erection of a monstrosity which
was of use to no one, and of which they could make nothing. To Lewis
alone this great shell spoke eloquently of something which touched
the heart. The dreams of old Sir Patrick's life, its aspirations, its
pride, and hopes, all seemed to him embodied in these walls. The old
man had scarcely spoken of it. It was only after seeing it that Lewis
was able to recall words, incomprehensible at the moment, which he had
now no doubt referred to this proud intention, this ambitious vanity.
As he walked round it, he framed to himself an image of the young man,
impulsive, proud, and full of a hundred hasty projects, who had turned
into the old man he knew so well. If he had not been hasty, full of
sudden impulses, would he ever, Lewis asked himself, have taken up the
charge of a friendless orphan, and made himself responsible for the
life of a stranger in whom, save for tender charity and pity, he was in
no way involved?

He thought of himself as another Castle of Murkley. Sir Patrick had
wronged his children for the sake of both; his generosity had been as
rash as his ambition. He had trained and formed his dependent for a
life entirely above his natural prospects, and, if he had left Lewis
in the lurch, the case would have been an exact parallel to that of
the abandoned and uncompleted house. But the old man had done more for
love than he had done for pride, and it was not the part of Lewis at
least to blame him that he had again wronged his family for the sake
of an impulse of his own. But as he roamed round and round this pale,
half-ruined palace, with all its princely avenues and foreign trees,
a great tenderness arose in the young man's heart for his old patron.
What sanguine dreams must have been his while he was rearing these
fine walls--what intentions of liberal life! In Lewis's imagination
the picture rose all illuminated with sympathy and understanding. That
sanguine, hasty mind would never look at all on the other side; failure
would not seem possible to him till it had come. He could imagine him
over his plans, superintending his workmen, elate and dauntless. A
smile came upon his face and tears to his eyes as he realized what
young Sir Patrick in his pride and hope must have been, and what old
Sir Patrick, exiled and disappointed, but still sanguine and prodigal,
was. Lewis was the creation of his old age, as this castle was the
creation of his youth, both of them in their way injustices, but the
one capable of affording no compensation, the other so willing, so
ready, so anxious to atone. This inspired him while he stood gazing
up at the vacant windows of Sir Patrick's folly. It was wonderful to
comprehend how he could ever have believed himself rich enough for such
a habitation. It was a house for a prince: but this idea, which made
most people angry and impatient with the rash and vain man, who had not
paused to count the cost, melted altogether the heart of Lewis. Anyone
but Sir Patrick would have hesitated before taking upon himself the
charge of a young life; any man but Sir Patrick would have trained the
orphan lad to lowlier uses. He had made a son of him, and given him the
happiest, most beautiful life. Dear old Parrain! it had been wrong,
perhaps, but it was not for Lewis to judge. For him there was a greater
privilege left, a more delightful duty--to atone.

He was walking round this silent, shut-up, windowless, and lifeless
mansion, looking up at it with moisture in his eyes, when the sound of
voices suddenly made him aware that he was not the only person thus
occupied. He heard them but vaguely from the other side--voices in
animated talk, but not near enough to hear what they were saying. The
voices were all feminine, and by-and-by he made sure that they were the
ladies of Murkley whom he was about to meet. Presently three figures
became visible round the angle of the great house, one in advance of
the others, walking backward, with a form very unlike that of Miss
Margaret and Miss Jean, apparently gazing up at the walls, a blue veil
flying about her, her head raised, her light figure lightly poised
upon elastic feet, not like the sober attitude of the ladies he knew.
A momentary wonder crossed the mind of Lewis as to this third sister,
whom he had never seen, but he was too much pre-occupied to dwell upon
it. He divined that there was a little commotion among them at the
sight of a stranger. He heard Miss Margaret say something about a veil,
and then there came a protest in a voice full of complaining.

"Oh, Margaret, let my veil alone; there is no sun to spoil anybody's
complexion, is there, Jean?"

Some word or sign, proceeding from one of the other ladies, made the
speaker turn round, and Lewis had a momentary glimpse of a face which
was very different from that of the other sisters; large, wondering
eyes darted one glance at him, then the unknown turned again and
hurried back to the group, dropping the blue veil in her hurry and
astonishment. It was only a moment, and the sensation in Lewis's mind
was not more than surprise. The glimpse was momentary, his mind was
pre-occupied, and Miss Margaret advanced immediately to meet him,
covering the retreat of the others.

"You are looking at our grandfather's grand castle," Miss Margaret said.

"It is a wonderful place to find here, out in the wilderness; it is
like a palace that has been walking about and has lost its way," Lewis
said, with an attempt to cover the quickened movement of his own pulses
in the surprise of the encounter.

"I would not call this the wilderness," said Miss Margaret, with a
momentary tone of pique. "A great deal of care was taken about the
place before this great barrack was built--it's more like a barrack, in
my opinion, than a palace."

"It is like the Louvre," said Lewis; "it must have been planned by some
one who had travelled, who knew the French renaissance." He felt a
little jealous for the credit of his old friend.

"Oh, as for that," Miss Margaret said, with a wave of her hand,
"knowledge was not wanting, nor taste either. Our grandfather, Sir
Patrick Murray, was a man of great instruction: all the worse for his
descendants. This is how he wasted our substance--and in other ways."

"He was a collector, I suppose?"

"I perhaps don't understand what you call a collector--a gatherer of
costly things that are of no use to any mortal? Oh, he was that, and
more. And there are other ways in which a man can wrong his family;
but it's not a subject that can be interesting to a stranger," Miss
Margaret added, closing her mouth with a certain peremptory firmness,
as if to conclude the discussion. "Yon," she resumed, "was to have
been the great banqueting hall: and the drawing-rooms, you see--there
were to be three of them, the outer and the inner, and the lady's
_bouédwore_--were to occupy the other side; where he was to get the
lady and the banquet Sir Patrick never took thought. He was not a
man to take thought; but he was very well instructed, and knew what
he was doing--from that point of view. If he had known better about
the money, and counted the cost like the man in the Gospel, it would
have been better for them who came after him. But the Murrays were
never careful at counting the cost,"--that air of pride with which
prodigality in a family is always confessed came over Miss Margaret
as she said this, throwing up her head and animating her countenance.
Nobody ever yet made a statement of thrift and carefulness with the
same proud gratification. It is unpleasant to be poor, but Nature is
always more pleased with the lavish than the careful. Lewis suffered
himself to be led round the further side of the building, while she
talked and pointed out the position of the rooms. It was a moment full
of excitement for the young man; he listened eagerly while she spoke
of Sir Patrick, with the strongest sense of that link between them to
which she had not the slightest clue. Nor had he the slightest clue
to the motive which induced her to expatiate upon the building and
lead him round by the other side. The blue veil and the wondering,
youthful face it guarded had not done more as yet than touch his
mind with a momentary suspicion; his interest was engaged, not in
secret questionings about Lilias, as the elder sister thought, but in
recollections and associations of a very different kind.

"Perhaps," he said, following out his own thoughts, "had he waited and
gone more softly there would have been no imprudence."

"Waiting and going softly are not in our nature: no: I'm but a woman,
with little money, and very seriously brought up--and with my youth
past, and no motive; but if I were to let myself go--even now!"

A sudden flush came over her face, her eyes shone, and then Lewis
perceived that Miss Margaret, if she had not made up her mind to be
elderly and homely, would still be a handsome and imposing personage,
whom the society he had known would have admired and followed. He
thought that if she had been Sir Patrick's companion his _salon_ might
have been very different. With this view he could not help gazing at
her with a great curiosity, wondering how she would have filled that
place, and thinking what a pity that this, which would have ruined his
own prospects, had not been.

She looked at him quickly, meeting his gaze, and her eyes fell
momentarily under it.

"You think me an old fool," she said, "and no wonder. Imprudence--that
is always folly when it takes the power of beginning what you cannot
finish--would be worse folly than ever in a person like me; but, you
see, I never let myself go."

"That is not what I was thinking," said Lewis. "I was
thinking--wondering, though I had no right--why you did not go to him
when he was old."

"Go to him--to whom?" she cried, astonished.

"Ah! pardon! I have met Sir Patrick--abroad."

Miss Margaret turned upon him, and made a close and, as Lewis thought,
suspicious inspection of his face.

"If you met Sir Patrick abroad, you must have seen that he had no need
of his natural family, nor wish for them. There was no place for us
there. Perhaps you have not heard that he withdrew his property from
his family and gave it to one that was not a drop's blood to him--a
creature that had stolen into a silly old man's favour? But no, that
would not be known abroad," she added, with a long-drawn breath. Lewis
felt himself shrink from her eye; he made a step backward, with a sense
of guilt which in all the many discussions of the subject had never
affected him before.

"No," he said, with an involuntary tone of apology, "no, it was not
known, I think, that he had--any relations----"

Miss Margaret turned on him again with indignation more scathing than
before.

"Not known that he had relations!" then she paused, and gave vent
to a little laugh, "that must have been by persons who were very
ignorant--by people out of society themselves," she said.

To this Lewis made no reply. What could he say? It was true that he had
no standing in society himself, and he now perceived that he had been
guilty of one of his usual imprudences in drawing the attention of a
mind much more keen than Miss Jean's, and able to put things together,
to himself and his antecedents. After a moment she resumed.

"I am speaking too strongly perhaps to you, a stranger. It was perhaps
not to be expected--abroad--that everybody should know the Murrays of
Murkley. That is just one of the evils of that life abroad, that it is
lost sight of who you belong to. In your own country everybody knows.
If you put a friendly person, in the place of your flesh-and-blood,
the whole country cries out; but among strangers, who thinks or cares?
No, no, I was wrong there; I ask your pardon. In Scotland, or even in
England, Sir Patrick Murray's relations would be as well known as the
Queen's, but not abroad--that was his safeguard, and I forgot. Poor,
silly old man!" Miss Margaret said, after a pause, with energy, "he was
little to me. I have scarcely seen him all my days, and Lilias never at
all."

It seemed to Lewis that in this, perhaps, there was some explanation
and apology for the unfortunate position of affairs; but he was so glad
to escape from further questions that he did not attempt to follow the
subject further. They had by this time come round the other corner
of the building, and he perceived that the two other ladies had not
waited for Miss Margaret, but were already half-way along the broad and
well-kept drive which led from the unfinished palace to the old house.
The blue veil fluttering in advance caught his eye, and he said, more
with the desire to divert his companion from the previous subject than
out of any special interest in this,

"Your sister, whom I have not seen, is the youngest?"

Here Miss Margaret, with a little start, recalled herself to a
recollection which had temporarily dropped from her mind. She fixed him
with her eye.

"Yes, she is the youngest," she replied. And what of that? her tone
seemed to say.

"I had made one of the ridiculous mistakes strangers make," he said,
very conciliatory, his reason for this being, however, totally
different from the one she attributed to him. "I had supposed--you will
say I had no right to suppose anything, but one guesses and speculates
in spite of one's self--I had supposed that Miss Lilias was the eldest,
and in bad health; whereas by the glimpse I had she is----"

"Quite young," said Miss Margaret, taking the words out of his
mouth--"that is, quite young in comparison with Jean and me: but not so
strong perhaps as might be desired, and an anxious and careful charge
to us. Are you staying long here?"

"That will depend upon--various matters," Lewis said. "It is your
sister Miss Jean whom I have had the pleasure to see most. You will
pardon me if I say to you that I find a great attraction in her
society. It is presumptuous perhaps on my part, but it is thought right
where I have been brought up that one should say this when it occurs,
without delay, to the family----"

Miss Margaret looked at him with eyes of unfeigned astonishment.

"Say--what?" she asked, pausing to survey him once more. Was the young
man out of his senses? she said to herself.

"I mean," said Lewis, with that smile with which he assured everybody
that he was anxious to please them, "that in all other countries but
England things are so. The head of the family is consulted first before
a man will dare to speak to a lady; I understand it is not so here."

"And you mean to speak to me as the head of the family?" said Miss
Margaret. "Well, perhaps you are not far wrong; but my sister Jean and
I are equals--there is no superior between us. The only thing is, that
being a sweet and submissive creature, a better woman than I will ever
be, she leaves most things in my hands."

"That was my idea," Lewis said.

"And you wanted to speak to me of something that concerned Jean? Well,
there could be to me no more interesting subject: though what a young
man like you that might be her son, and a stranger, can have to say to
me about Jean----"

Lewis paused. He had not considered how awful it was to confront the
keen, inquiring eyes of the head of the family, who looked him, he
thought, through and through, and who, if he submitted his over-candid
countenance for long to her inspection, would probably end by reading
everything that was in him both what he meant to show and what he
wished to conceal.

"Perhaps," he said, "I am premature. What I would have said was to ask
if--I may come again? What further I wish will remain till later. If
Miss Murray will afford to me the happiness of coming, or recommending
myself so far as I can----"

"You speak," said Miss Margaret, somewhat grimly, and with a laugh, "as
if you were wanting to come wooing to our house. Now speak out, and
tell me to whom. I'll allow there's good in your foreign notions, if
you give me this warning; and I will warn you in your turn, my young
friend."

"I hope you will pardon my ignorance, if I do wrong," said Lewis. "It
is your sister, Miss Jean, whom I have seen most. I have not known
before such a woman. There is to me a charm--which I cannot explain. If
I might see her--if it might be permitted to me to recommend myself----"

Miss Margaret had been gazing at him with eyes of such astonishment
that he was disconcerted by the look. He came to a somewhat confused
pause, and stood silent before her, with something of the air of
a culprit on his trial. Then she cried out suddenly, "Jean!" and
burst into a resounding laugh, which seemed to roll forth over all
the landscape, and return from the tops of the trees. There is no
more crushing way of receiving such a suggestion. The young man
stood before her, silent, his face flushed, his eyes cast down for
the moment. At length, being a sanguine youth, and too entirely
good-humoured himself to impute evil intentions to anyone, he began to
recover. He looked up at her with a deprecating smile.

"I amuse you, it seems----" he said.

"Amuse me!" said Miss Margaret, with another peal of laughter; and then
she dried her eyes, and recovered her composure. "Mr. Murray--if your
name is Murray--" she said; "if you mean this for a joke--but I will
not do you that injustice; I see you mean it in earnest. It is very
unexpected. Do you think you have had time enough to consider whether
this is a wise resolution? Do you remember that she is twice your age?
No, no, I would not advise you to go that length," Miss Margaret said.

"The question is, if you will forbid me," said Lewis; "if you will say
I must not come."

"Ay! And what would you do then?"

"I think," he said, with a little hesitation, "I should then adopt the
English way. I should submit my cause to your sister herself. But then
there would be no deception, you would know."

He met her with such an open look that Miss Margaret was disarmed.

"You are a strange young man," she said, "with a strange taste for
a young man: but I think you're honest: or else you are a terrible
deceiver--and, if your meaning is what you say, you have no motive,
that I can see, to deceive."

"I have told you my motive," said Lewis. "I speak the truth."

She looked at him again with her searching eyes.

"Perhaps you think we are rich?" she said.

"I have heard, on the contrary, that----"

She waved her hand. It was not necessary that he should say poor.

"Perhaps you think--but I cannot attempt to fathom you," she said. "You
are a very strange young man. Jean! have you considered that she's
twice your age? I have no right to interfere. I will not forbid you
the house. But she will never take you, or any like you; she has more
sense," Miss Margaret cried.

To this Lewis only answered with a bow and a smile, in which perhaps
there was something of the conqueror; for indeed it did not occur to
him, as a contingency to be taken into consideration, that she might
refuse him. They walked on together for some time in silence, for
Miss Margaret was too much confused and excited to speak, and Lewis
had no more to say to her, feeling that it was only justice to the
sister he had chosen that she should have the first and the best of the
plea. It might be ten minutes after, and they were in sight of the old
house, within which the two figures before them had disappeared, when
Miss Margaret suddenly stopped short, and turned upon him with a very
serious and indeed threatening countenance.

"Young man," she said, in a low and passionate voice, "if you should
prove to be making a mask of my sister for other designs, if it should
be putting forward one to veil a deeper design upon another, then look
you to yourself--for I'll neither forgive you, nor let you slip out of
my hands."

Lewis met this unexpected address with sincere astonishment.

"Pardon me, but I do not know what deeper design I could have. What is
it that I could do to make you angry?" he said.

She looked at him once more from head to foot, as if his shoes or the
cut of his coat (which was somewhat foreign) could have enlightened her
as to his real motives: and then she said,

"I will take upon me to give you useful information. In the mornings I
am mostly occupied. You will find my sister Jean by herself before one
o'clock, and nobody to interfere."



CHAPTER XIII.


It was with a mixture of indignation and somewhat grim humour that
Miss Margaret gave the permission and sanction to Lewis's addresses
which have been above recorded. There was a smile upon her face as she
left him and went indoors, which burst forth in a short laugh as she
entered--a laugh of derision and mockery, yet of anger as well, mingled
with a sort of satisfaction in the idea of luring this presumptuous
young man to his fate. Jean to be made love to at this time of day
by a young man who might have been her son! (this, of course, was an
exaggeration, but exaggeration is inevitable in such circumstances).

The purely comic light in which she had at first contemplated the idea
gradually changed into an angry appreciation of the absurdity which
seemed to involve her sister too, and a lively desire to punish the
offender. That would be best done by giving him unlimited opportunity
to compromise himself, she decided, and it was with this vindictive
meaning, and not anything softer or more friendly, that she had so
pointedly indicated to Lewis the best time and manner of approaching
Miss Jean. He partially divined the satire and fierce gleam in her
eyes, but only partially, for to him there was no absurdity in the
matter.

Miss Margaret's heart almost smote her as he stood with his hat off,
and his genial young countenance smiling and glowing, thanking her
for what she had said; but this was only a momentary sensation, and
when she went in she laughed with derision and the anticipation of a
speedy end to a piece of folly which seemed to her beyond parallel.
Such things had been heard of as that a young man who was poor, should
basely and sordidly decide upon marrying, if he could, an old woman who
was rich; but when there was no such motive possible--when, instead of
being rich, the suitor was aware that the woman he sought was poor,
then the matter was beyond comprehension altogether.

Miss Margaret was not sufficiently impartial to pause and think of this
now, but as the day went on, and especially as she sat silent in the
evening, and heard Lilias prattling to Jean, there were various points
which returned to her mind with wonder. Why should he wish to marry
Jean? Miss Margaret glanced at her, then looked steadily, then began to
contemplate her sister with changed eyes. Something was different in
Jean--was it that she looked younger?--something like what she used to
look fifteen years ago? Was it that new hopes, new plans were rising in
her mind? For the first time there breathed across Miss Margaret a cold
and chilling breath of doubt--was it so sure that Jean would teach him
his place, would reject all his overtures? The thought of anything else
filled her with horror and shame. A young man, young enough to be her
son--was it, could it be possible that she would listen to him? A groan
came from Miss Margaret's breast in spite of herself.

"What is the matter?" cried Miss Jean, wondering.

"Oh, just nothing's the matter--an idea that came into my mind--nothing
that you could be interested in," said Miss Margaret.

"Am I not interested in everything that can make you sigh or make you
think?" said Miss Jean, with her soft voice.

"Yes, tell us--tell us what it is," said Lilias.

And then Miss Margaret laughed.

"You will know sooner or later, if it comes to anything," she said,
getting up with a little impatience and leaving them.

The new turn which her thoughts had taken filled her with dismay. She
went out to the lime-tree walk which lay between the house and the
high wall, all clothed with ivy, with bunches of honeysuckle hanging
from its embattled height. This was the walk that was considered to
be haunted, though no one was afraid of the gentle ghost that dwelt
there. Miss Margaret came out hastily to cool her cheeks, which were
burning, and divert her mind, which was full of uncomfortable thoughts.
It was still light, though it was nearly bed-time; the trees, so
silken green, kept their colour, though in a sort of spiritualized
tint, in the pale clear light. The sound of footsteps (which no doubt
a scientific inquirer would have decided to come from some entirely
natural phenomena of acoustics quite explainable and commonplace) was
more distinct than usual in the complete stillness of the evening. It
was said to be a lady who had died for love--one of the daughters of
Murkley in a distant age, who was the ghost of this pensive walk. She
was never visible; her steps softly sounding upon the path in a regular
cadence, coming and going, was all that was known of her. Sometimes,
when the family was in difficulty or danger, it had been reported that
a sigh was heard. But no one living had heard the sigh. And even the
maids were not afraid to walk in daylight in this visionary place.
There was a certain green line close by the trees which was never
encroached upon, and which was coloured by patches of mosses. It was
there the lady walked, so people said, without considering that no
footsteps could have sounded clear from that natural velvet. Miss
Margaret threw her little shawl over her cap, and went out into the
mysterious stillness, broken by those still more mysterious sounds
which she had been accustomed to from her childhood. It soothed her
to be there, and she took herself to task with a little indignation.
That she should suspect her sister! that she should think it possible
that Jean could "make a fool of herself!" When she had spent half an
hour in the walk, slowly pacing up and down, hearing the steps of that
other mysterious passenger going and coming, she returned to the house
subdued. But she did not go back to the drawing-room where Jean was.
Her fears on the subject of Lilias had altogether departed from her
mind with Lewis' extraordinary announcement; but even the risk of an
entanglement for Lilias, though more likely, and perhaps more serious,
would have been in the course of nature. It would not have affected her
with a sense of shame and intolerant passion like any short-coming on
the part of Jean.

As for Lewis, he went home to his inn pleased, but not agitated, like
Miss Margaret. He was very much satisfied with the sanction thus
accorded to him, and with the approval implied in it, as he thought. If
the elder sister had been disposed to oppose him, or, indeed, if she
had not approved of what he was about to do, she would not have gone
so far as to indicate to him when he might come. Miss Margaret's angry
enjoyment of the idea of his discomfiture, her eagerness to lead him
to the point so that he might be crushed at once, never occurred to
Lewis. There was nothing in his own honest intentions to throw light
upon such a meaning. For his own part, he did not contemplate the idea
of failure at all. He thought that Miss Jean, though she might be
surprised at his proposal, could have no reason to be offended by it,
and he believed that he would be successful. It seemed to him entirely
to her advantage, modest as he was. Her age, he thought, would make
the idea of a husband not less, but more agreeable to her. It was an
advancement in life of which she had probably given up all hopes. This
was his idea in an economical point of view, so to speak, and not from
any overweening opinion of himself. Marriage, he had been trained to
believe, was often irksome and disagreeable to a man, but for a woman
it was a necessity of well-being, of dignity, almost of self-respect.
It was this that gave him the calm confidence he had in respect to Miss
Jean. She would be startled, no doubt. It would take away her breath to
find herself, after all, still within the brighter circle of existence;
but she would not throw away this last and probably unexpected chance.
Personal vanity had nothing to do with Lewis' calm conviction. It was
not he that would be irresistible to her; but the fact of having a step
in existence offered to her--a higher place.

It was about noon next day when he set out for the Castle; and when he
was shown into the drawing-room, he found Miss Jean, as before, seated
over her table-cover, with all her silks arranged upon her table, and
her carnation in a glass being copied. She did not get up to greet him,
as she had done before. Even her old-fashioned ideas of politeness,
which were more rigorous than anything in the present day, yielded to
the friendly familiarity with which she was beginning to regard him.
She gave him her hand with a kind smile.

"This is very good of you, Mr. Murray," she said, "to give up a bonny
morning to me;" her eyes went instinctively to the piano as she spoke.
This piqued Lewis a very little; but he loved music too well to
disappoint her.

"The finer the morning," he said, "the more congenial it is to music."
There was time enough to indulge himself and her before beginning the
serious business of the matter between them, and indeed it was not even
necessary that there should be anything said upon that serious matter
to-day.

"And that is true," said Miss Jean, fervently; "the evening perhaps is
the best of all; the fading of the daylight, and the hushing of the
world, and the coming on of rest--that is beautiful with music. I like
it in the dusk, and I like it in the dark, when ye can only hear, not
see, and your soul goes upon the sound. But I like it as well in the
day, in the brightness, in the middle of life, at all times; it is
never out of season," she added, with an enthusiasm which elevated her
simple countenance.

Lewis felt a sensation of pride and happiness as he looked at her. No
one could say she was unworthy a man's choice or affections. It would
do him honour among all who were qualified to judge that he had made
such a choice. Miss Jean was somewhat astonished by the way in which he
turned upon her. It half confused, half pleased her. For a long time no
man had looked so intently upon her tranquil, middle-aged countenance.
She thought he was "an affectionate lad," probably being without mother
or sister to spend his natural kindness upon, and therefore eager to
respond to it wherever he found it. His compliments on their former
meeting she had put away out of her mind, though they had startled
and almost abashed her for the moment; but then compliments were the
common-places of foreigners, everybody knew that they meant nothing,
certainly no harm. It was just the same, she thought, as if a Scotchman
had said, "I am glad to see you looking well," no more than that.

And then he began to play. He chose Mozart after their talk about the
times and seasons. Lewis was not naturally given to much exercise of
the fancy, but he was very sympathetic, and readily took his cue from
any mind which was congenial to him. He thought that the splendour of
this great composer was appropriate to the richness and fulness of the
noon. Themes more dreamy, more visionary, more simply sweet would be
the language of the evening. And once more he watched, with an interest
and sympathy which he thought must be as nearly like love as possible,
the gradual forgetfulness of everything but the music which came over
Miss Jean. First her work flagged, then she pushed away the carnation
which she was copying to one side, and let her table-cover drop on her
knees; then she leant forward on the little table, her head in her
hands, her eyes fixed upon him; then those eyes filled with tears, and
saw nothing, neither him nor any accessory, but only a mystic world of
sweetness and emotion which she was utterly incapable of describing,
but which shone through her face with an eloquence which was beyond
words. Lewis, as he looked at her in this ecstatic state, which he had
the power of throwing her into, knew very well that, though he was the
performer and she only the listener, the music was not half to him
what it was to her. It filled her soul, it carried her away above the
world, and all that was in it. When he paused she sank back in her
chair overwhelmed, unable to say anything. He was fond of applause, but
applause was not necessary here.

"I wish," he said, rising, and coming towards her, full of a genuine
warmth and enthusiasm, "that I could play to you for ever."

She did not speak for a little, but smiled, and dried her soft eyes.

"No--no--that would be too much," she said.

"It would be too much to continue always, oh, yes--but I do not mean
that. To play to you whenever you pleased, as often as you pleased;
when you wished to come out of the common, to be happy; for it makes
you happy?"

"I think it must be like Heaven," said Miss Jean, fervently; "that is
all I can think of--the skies opening, and the angels singing."

"That is beautiful," he cried, "to open Heaven. That is what I should
like to do for you--always. To have it ready for you when you pleased."

"You have a kind heart," said Miss Jean; "oh, you have a kind heart.
But, if it cannot be always," she said, with a tender smile, "you must
just let it be as often as you can, as long as you are here."

"I am going to stay here," said Lewis, "that is, if you will let me."

"Me! Let you! But it is little I can have to do with it: and you may be
sure I would let you--and kindly welcome, kindly welcome," said Miss
Jean, recovering herself.

She was a little ashamed of feeling so deeply, but the beauty of the
music so completely occupied her mind that, save as "a kind lad," she
did not think of Lewis at all.

"If you will make me welcome, then I will stay. It depends upon you
altogether; I will stay or I will go away, as you please. It is you
that must decide," the young man said.

He was standing on the other side of the little table, his face lit
up with the enthusiasm of sympathy and pleasure. It was sweet to
him to have made so profound an impression, and the emotion in Miss
Jean's mind reflected itself in him. He admired her, he loved her for
feeling so much. It threw a tender light upon everything about her;
there was no effort wanting to look tenderly and speak tenderly with
all the emotion of a genuine sentiment. His eyes glowed with softness
and warmth, his voice took a pleading tone, he was ready to have put
himself at her feet, actually as well as metaphorically, so much was he
touched and moved by this sympathetic strain of feeling. Miss Jean, for
her part, gathering her work into her hand, and recovering her self
slowly, looked up with eyes of simple surprise at the extraordinary
aspect of the young stranger.

"You are meaning--? to be sure, we will be very glad, very happy to
have you for a neighbour; but, knowing so little of the circumstances,
how can we, that are but strangers----"

They were both so pre-occupied that they had not heard anything but the
sound of their own voices, and, when another suddenly interposed, they
started as if a shot had been fired beside them.

"Jean, Margaret sent me to tell you dinner was on the table," was the
peaceful intimation this voice made.

Lewis turned round with a nervous impatience, finding the interruption
vexatious. He turned round and found himself suddenly in a presence he
had never been clearly conscious of before. What was it? To external
appearance a young, slight girl, fair as Scottish beauty ought to be,
with light locks just tinged here and there with the brighter light
which makes them golden, a complexion of the most dazzling purity,
eyes, somewhat astonished, of deep blue, and features perhaps not equal
in quality to all the rest, but harmonious enough in their youth and
softness. This was what she was in actual flesh and blood; but as she
appeared to Lewis, at that moment actually feeling, and with all his
might endeavouring to impress upon a middle-aged woman, the fervour
of his devotion, and his dependence upon her fiat, she was something
more. She was Youth in person, she was Love, and Hope, and a sort of
incarnate delight. He looked at her, and the words he had been speaking
died from his lips, the enthusiasm he had been feeling was blown out
as if it had been the flame of a candle. He forgot himself and good
manners, and his position as a stranger, and stood, his lips apart, his
eyes wide opened, gazing at her at once in amazement and admiration.

Lilias looked at him too with much astonishment and a good deal of
curiosity. Was this the person whom Margaret had suggested to be the
man from Kilmorley come to tune the piano? Though she was a very docile
little girl, there were moments when she could be wilful. She made
Lewis a little curtsey, and gave him a smile which went to his head
like wine.

"And Margaret hopes the gentleman will come too," Lilias said.

"Oh!" cried Miss Jean with a tremor of conscience, and a questioning
look towards her little sister. Could it be possible that Margaret--"I
am sure," she said, "we will all be pleased if you will come and eat
something with us; it is our dinner, as we are only ladies, without a
man in the house; but it will do for luncheon for you."

"If you will permit me," said Lewis, with that profound bow which they
all thought foreign.

He drew away from the little table, so as to leave Miss Jean room to
gather together her embroidery before she rose from her chair, and
waited, ready to follow the ladies. The proposal was delightful to him.
He did not pause to ask whether the message had really come from Miss
Margaret; he had none of Miss Jean's tremor. He thought only that he
was ready to follow this nymph, this vision, to the end of the world if
she pleased. Had he ever seen anything so beautiful? he asked himself:
and, as may easily be supposed, said "No" with hasty readiness. Lilias
was in the perfection of youthful bloom and freshness, with the down
upon her like a peach, untouched by anything that could impair that
dazzling, morning glory; the dark old house, and the companionship of
the two sisters who in her presence became old and faded, threw up her
bloom all the more, and so did her simple frock, the girlish fashion of
her hair, her school-room apron, her position as Margaret's messenger.

"Come along, then," she said, lightly, and ran off in advance.

Lewis offered his arm to Miss Jean. She was very nervous, he thought,
because of what he had been saying to her--but Miss Jean had by no
means taken up, as he meant them, the things he had been saying to her,
and was nervous because of her doubt whether Margaret really meant
this invitation. What if it was a sudden thought of Lilias alone? The
girl did wicked things now and then of this sort, little rebellions
"in fun," audacities which sometimes vexed Margaret. But Miss Jean's
instincts of hospitality would have tempted her, even without this
proceeding on the part of Lilias, to invite her visitor, towards whom
she felt kindly. She put her arm within his with a little tremor: and
Lewis felt the quiver, and thought that he had been successful in
his suit. He pressed her hand softly against his side. Though he had
been so startled, shaken out of his previous thoughts by this sudden
apparition, yet it did not occur to him to be unfaithful. Nothing
yet occurred to him except that here was a new thing, a new glory
and beauty returned into life. This fairy creature glided out of the
room before them, ran downstairs like a ray of sunshine, making the
dark old oak staircase bright, and darted in at the open door of the
dining-room, where she evidently announced their coming with a laugh.
The laugh made Lewis smile in sympathy, but it made Miss Jean tremble,
for it proved that her alarm was justified, and so did the sudden,
startled sound of Miss Margaret's deeper voice. What Lilias said was,
with that laugh,

"Margaret, I have asked the music man to come too."

"The music man! He is no music man," cried Miss Margaret, and then she
said, "Quick, Simon, quick, lay another place." There was no time for
further explanations now.

Lewis thought this meal was the most delightful he had ever eaten
in his life. The two elder sisters sat at the head and foot of the
table, and opposite to him was Lilias, with a little flush of triumph
in her face, and a mischievous smile about the corners of her mouth.
She did not talk very much, and to him not at all. The other ladies
maintained the conversation chiefly between them. For his own part he
was content to say very little, to confine himself to replying when
they spoke to him, and listening eagerly to their talk, and watching
the beautiful girl whom he could not raise his eyes without seeing,
and whose glance he met now and then with something of the freemasonry
of youth. He did not know her, nor she him, while he was acquainted
with both the other ladies, and felt himself already in a position of
intimacy and sympathetic friendship, if no more, with Miss Jean; but
yet instinctively, and in a moment, they two, he felt, constituted a
faction, a party, youth against age.

While the elders talked, she would shoot a little glance at him
across the table, a glimmer of a smile would go over her face, in
which there was an appeal to him for an answering smile; a sort of
unconscious telegraph of mutual understanding was set up between them.
When Miss Margaret questioned him, he replied with a look to Lilias
first to see if she were listening. When she spoke, though it was
only a monosyllable, he paused to listen. After, when it was over,
the whole scene appeared to him like a dream; the dark wainscot of
the room, with the bloom of that young face against it, Miss Margaret
against the light, Miss Jean, with her sweet but faded face in the full
illumination of the window, old Simon making slow circles round the
table. His own heart was beating with pleasure, with suspense, with
excitement, the feeling that something had happened to him, something
new which he scarcely understood. He did not realize that he had been
suddenly stopped in his love-making to Miss Jean by this apparition,
nor that it had taken from him all desire to carry on that love-making.
Indeed, his mind had not taken in the new occurrence at all; he was
still in this state of sensation, knowing that here was a new event
which had suddenly happened to him, but not knowing what it was.



CHAPTER XIV.


Lewis left the Castle like a man in a dream. There was an
intoxication about him which affected his whole being vaguely, as
actual intoxication might do, in which there was not the slightest
self-reproach or sense of doing wrong. He was elated, delighted, happy;
a sort of suffusion of sweetness and brightness was in his veins,
filling up everything. It affected him like a new sensation, a new
event, a revelation of new possibilities. It never had occurred to him
that the world could be so sweet, or any mortal creature so happy. Why
was he so happy? Because there was in existence a creature so young,
so fair, so sweet, as to make life itself look beautiful. What reason
was that for the happiness of one who had nothing to do with her,
whose life could not be affected one way or other by her existence?
But he did not at first ask himself that question. It made him glad
without any reason; it affected him foolishly. He could have laughed
for pleasure; he thought better of everything for her sake. She seemed
to fill the fresh country with a reflection of herself. He thought of
nothing else as he walked down to his inn in the afternoon. She had
not cared for his society, but disappeared immediately after dinner
on a sign from her sister, turning and making him a salutation which
was half a curtsey and half a smiling nod of familiarity. She too,
perhaps, had felt the youth in him, and had not felt herself capable
of curtseying ceremoniously as she had been taught. There was a merry
glimmer in her eyes, though the rest of her was so demure, and this
conjunction was delightful to him. He had not known what the other
ladies said to him after; a kind of golden mist had seemed to him to
fill the air. The place was not desolate when she went out of it,
because she left it full of herself, full of vibrations and echoes. He
had heard the kind elder voices in his ears, with their long sentences
and the responsive waves of their talk, and had been aware that he
took some share in it, had answered them when they spoke, and was not
without comprehension of their meaning. But he had felt that he was
in haste to get away, to be alone, to think over this new thing. And
accordingly he did think it over, or rather he walked into the unbroken
enjoyment of it, into the contemplation of Lilias, when he walked out
of those old-fashioned doors into the afternoon sunshine. He did not
think of her, he only moved along in a current which was her, in air
which was full of her. He did not understand the sensation; it was as
new to him as she was--new and delightful, entrancing his soul.

Lewis moved along down the country-road and through the village with
his heart full of this strange and novel flood of feeling. Her look,
as, turning his head suddenly in the midst of the genuine fervour of
his address to Miss Jean, he had caught sight of her, and the words had
gone out on his lips: the turn of her head, the going and coming of her
smile as she sat opposite to him at table, the few words she said, the
simplicity of appearance and movements, only a little girl, and yet the
queen of all--these were before him as he walked, and not the features
of the landscape. Now it was one recollection, now another; the manner
in which she turned to go out of the room, the half curtsey, the half
laugh, full of a sweet malice, the glance of her blue eyes, half
mocking, half ceremonious. Never had drama been so full of interest for
a spectator. He went over everything. Then he went into his parlour and
threw himself down upon his hard angular sofa, and went over it all
again--every look, every movement, every raising of the eyelids. He
seemed to himself not to have forgotten a single movement, or step, or
word, or almost breath. She came in with him to the dingy room just as
she had come along the road. It was all a revelation, and so full of
dazzling light that it confused his mind and everything about him; the
sun was not so bright, nor the world so fair, as this new creature who
had suddenly made of herself a new centre to the universe.

Lewis had never in his life been so happy as he was in that curious
ecstasy. He did not ask himself why he went into details, he did not
say to himself that to have her, to appropriate her to himself, was
henceforward to be the object of his life. Many men have declared in
a moment, "This of all maids is the one maid for me." But Lewis did
not go so far as this; he had not thought as yet of appropriation.
What he felt was that here, in the world, was a creature more sweet,
more beautiful than he had ever dreamt of, and that the place was
transfigured, and mere living made into a delight because she was
there. This made the blood course through his veins with a warmth and
fulness he had never known before; he felt as if some great happiness
had come to him. But even when he paused and asked himself what was the
meaning of it, what good could come to him from it, he found no answer
to give to that question. He pushed it aside indeed; he had nothing to
do with it in his present mood.

Later, as it began to approach evening, Lewis met Mr. Seton on the
river-side, and, having nothing better to do, walked with him for a
mile or two on his way to some piece of parochial duty. The minister
complained a little of his work, as everybody is apt to do.

"They expect to be visited, however far-off they may be," he said, with
a pucker in his forehead and a quiver of complaint in his voice, "and
instead of bringing their children to church, as is their duty, they
will find some reason for a private christening. It is far too much
the way in these parts. Of course, the session might make a stand on
the subject, and some of my elders would be very well inclined, but
what is the use of making a commotion? I am fond of peace. I always say
just for this once--and that is how they come over me--rather that than
make a disturbance. I am always for yielding--when the question is not
vital--when the question is not vital! Of course, I make my stand upon
that."

"To be sure," said Lewis, vaguely, though he had only the faintest idea
what was meant.

"Better be baptized privately than not be baptized at all," said the
minister, solemnly. "But, to do the people justice, they are not so bad
as that. They will go to the Free Kirk, or the U. P., but they will not
leave a child unchristened. It is in the great towns that you find that
kind of heathenism, not in the country. The country, there is little
question, is better in some ways. There is not so much scepticism.
Perhaps you will say there is more indifference on all subjects, and
that our ploughmen just take things for granted?"

"Oh, no," said Lewis, more vague than ever, "I certainly should not say
that."

"You think not? Well, there are just very curious intellects among
them, I must allow that--strange bits of thought, you know, but seldom
sceptical." Mr. Seton spoke with a certain regret, for he felt himself
qualified to meet the legions of infidelity, and longed for nothing
so much as the opportunity of converting an unbeliever. "The doubts
they entertain are upon high points of doctrine which probably a young
man like you would never have heard of; but they make nothing of what
is often a great difficulty to a cultivated spirit--the standards,
Mr. Murray. You will sympathize with that difficulty. The Westminster
confession may be a stumbling-block to me, and the like of me, but as
for these ploughmen they will put-to their hand to the confession,
or to a dozen confessions. They swallow the longer and the shorter
catechisms without even wishing--they have very strong stomachs in
the way of doctrine. It is not on that point you will ever find them
wanting. The difficulties and dangers of more delicate minds----" Mr.
Seton said, bending upon Lewis a benignant eye.

"I suppose go with more delicate bodies," said that young man, with
a laugh, which was profoundly inappropriate. And he had to laugh
alone at his own jest, the minister looking upon him with gravity and
disapproval, both shocked and disappointed that he should show so
little appreciation. "But the ploughmen," he said, hastily and humbly,
"are not the most interesting part of the people?"

"If you think a small country-gentleman, such as we have here, is more
interesting, Mr. Murray, in an intellectual point of view----"

"No, no," said Lewis, half abashed, half amused. "You must not think so
badly of me; I was thinking of--some of the ladies."

At this the minister paused, and gave him a doubtful look, apprehensive
that the stranger was indulging in a little satire; but as Lewis
laughed with ingratiating simplicity and blushed a little, and added,
"I own they are more interesting to me," the minister too unbended, and
joined in the laugh, and shook his head the while.

"Ah! if we were all young men. But, to be sure, we must make allowance
for those that are. And which of the ladies is it that you find so
interesting, if it is not indiscreet to inquire?"

This question brought Lewis back to a perception that he was on
delicate ground.

"All whom I have met with," he said. "The intercourse is different,
very different from what I have been used to. The young ladies, who are
so frank, who meet us so--simply."

"Ah, that is your foreign way of thinking," said Mr. Seton. "No doubt
it seems strange to you, but we have every confidence in our daughters.
It is rarely, very rarely that it is found to be an undeserved
confidence."

"But some are not so," said Lewis. He had thought a few minutes before
that it would be impossible to bring the conversation to this subject,
and he could scarcely believe now in the easy success of his own bold
attempt. "Some are not so. I think there is one young lady who is
guarded as people do abroad. I have been here so long, and I saw her
but for the first time to-day."

"How long have you been here--three weeks? That is not a lifetime,"
said the minister. "And who may this be that is taken such care of? I
cannot call to mind----"

"It is the ladies at the Castle who interest me so much," said Lewis,
"especially the less old one, she whom you call Miss Jean, and who is
so susceptible to music. I have seen no one who is more susceptible. It
takes possession of her; it carries her away. To see it is beautiful,"
cried Lewis. "I am very much interested in Miss Jean; but there is
one, much more young, whom I have only seen for the first time----"

"Indeed!" said Mr. Seton. "Who could that be?" And then his tone
changed in a moment. "Oh, Lilias! Yes, to be sure. The old sisters, you
see, they are two old maids; they have got I don't know what ideas in
their heads. Poor little thing! they will make an old maid of her like
themselves. I hear my wife and Katie say that she sees nobody. Poor
girl! But then the old ladies are peculiar," the minister said.

"Are they such very old ladies?" said Lewis, somewhat piqued. "I think
that, on the whole, I like that--to have a lovely young lady, like a
flower, kept apart from the world, that pleases me. Perhaps it is that
I, too, am old-fashioned."

"Is she so lovely?" said the minister with a laugh. "Well, well,
perhaps she is so. I am saying nothing against it. She is just little
Lilias Murray to me. I've seen her grow up like my own. She is older
though than Katie. And so you admire her very much? I must tell my
wife. My wife will be very much amused to hear that somebody has seen
her after all, and that she is thought to be lovely, poor little
thing!" Mr. Seton repeated, with a laugh of amusement.

This annoyed Lewis more than he could say.

"It is a very distinguished family," he said, with gravity. "I find it
so. The two ladies like châtelaines of the old time; and the younger
one so beautiful, like a young princess who is in their charge."

"Well, that is very poetical," said Mr. Seton, but it was evident that
he felt it very difficult to restrain his sense of the ludicrous. "You
see we are too familiar with them," he said. "Familiarity, you know,
breeds contempt. No, not contempt in the ordinary sense of the word,
for two more respectable women don't exist; but I'm not sure that I
would just use the word distinguished. It is a very good old family,
the Murrays of Murkley--but distinguished, no."

"I used the word in another sense. It is their appearance--and manner
that is distinguished: as they say in France."

Upon this the minister broke forth again into a low laugh.

"They are just two very respectable, elderly women," he said.

Lewis made no reply. It appeared to him that here for the first time
he had encountered in his idyllic village the spirit of detraction,
the petty scorn of limited minds for people superior to themselves. He
felt that, if he spoke, it would only be to call forth the minister's
laughter more and more, and raise that feeling of ungenerous opposition
in his mind. Lewis did not leave Mr. Seton, as was his first impulse,
for he still felt the charm of being able to talk of them, and of
probably learning something more about Lilias, even though it were not
in a favourable sense, to be worth lingering for. He walked on by Mr.
Seton's side, saying as little as possible, and unaware that there was
in his aspect that air of slightly-injured dignity which, more than
anything else, amuses those who have been engaged in the congenial work
of pulling down idols, and making them appear to their worshippers in a
proper light. But the minister was infinitely tickled by Lewis's look.
And that anybody should contemplate the Misses Murray in an exalted
light was delightfully ridiculous to their neighbour, who had laughed
at them and their ways, and criticised their actions more or less for
years of his life.

"The ladies," he said, after a pause, "have been rather hard upon the
little one, or so my wife says--and women understand each other best.
They will never let her come out to a young party even at the manse. I
hear they are very ambitious for Lilias, and are reserving her, poor
innocent women--reserving her," Mr. Seton said, shaking his head with
an expression of amused pity, "for some grand match."

"For--some--" Lewis felt as if for one moment the wheels of his being
stood still; the earth was arrested in its progress. What could it
mean? he asked himself vaguely. A grand match! The words made a
wonderful commotion in his ears, but he said to himself that he did not
understand what they meant.

"That is it," said the minister, shaking his head, and with that smile
always on his face. "Poor things! they want her to build up the family
again. I hear they are going to take her to court, and make a great
fuss, all in the hopes that she will marry some great potentate or
other, and restore the credit of the Murrays. Well, since you think her
so lovely as all that," he added, with a little burst of laughter, as
if overcome with the ridicule of the idea, "it may be that it's us that
are the idiots after all, and that the ladies are right."

Lewis scarcely heard these remarks; his whole being was in a ferment.
Up to this moment it had not occurred to him what was the natural way
in which to regard this new apparition which had come into his life.
He had been wooing (so to speak) her sister, the old sister who was
as a mother to Lilias, when this wonder appeared to him, and it was
not that his mind changed about Miss Jean, but only that something
entirely new and extraordinary burst upon him, something he had never
dreamt of before. His words, his thoughts, the very action of his mind
was arrested. He had no longer the power of fixing upon that project
or any other, his mind being entirely engrossed and occupied by the
new thing presented to it. But his feelings had been entirely those
of joy and delight in his discovery. It was something that lighted
up the earth and made the whole world more sweet; but it had not yet
occurred to him to appropriate this lovely creature to himself, or to
make her the centre of his individual enjoyment. Now there burst upon
him another revelation, something of an entirely different nature.
That she was sweet, but not for him; that her beauty was not intended
only to make the whole world happier, but to be a special fountain of
joy to one, but that not himself, but some one else. Lewis did not
himself understand, in the rush and hurry of his feelings, what was
the sentiment which succeeded that vague sensation of happiness in his
mind. But he understood that in a moment the minister whom he had been
accompanying with so much friendliness on the way became intolerable,
and that the very sound of his voice was irritating, and not to be
borne. For the sake of appearances he went on with him to a cross-road
which they were approaching, that led Lewis did not know whither; but
anything was better than to go on with so heartless a companion. He
broke off abruptly when he came to this unknown path, saying something
about letters to write, and the necessity of getting back to his inn.

"You'll not get back to your inn that way," Mr. Seton said; but Lewis
paid no attention, indeed scarcely heard him as he hurried on.

He sped along this lonely road in a totally different direction from
that he was acquainted with, till he had entirely lost himself and worn
himself out, which perhaps in the circumstances was as wise a thing as
he could have done. For his mind was agitated with a wonderful variety
of new thoughts. He became aware of what that lovely figure was which
had glided across his vision, and in a moment swept everything else
out of his thoughts. She was more than youth, more than mere beauty
and brightness. She was love. The thoughts of last night, that sudden
curious contrast which had struck him between the plans and purposes
of his own life and those of Philip Stormont, flashed back again and
made the situation clear to him in a moment. Here was nature, here was
the secret of the world. The broken scenes and visions which had been
passing before his eyes since ever he saw her took a different form;
instead of only seeing her, he saw himself beside her. He saw the group
of last night changed from Stormont and Katie to Lilias and himself.
He walked by her side as he had walked by her sister's; but how
differently! He talked to her as he had talked to Miss Jean, but oh! in
how changed a tone.

All this went through his mind as he walked mile after mile, always
trying a new direction, always failing to recover his ground, or come
near any landmark he knew. The sun had been long set, and in any other
but these northern skies night would have set in, when he found himself
at last approaching the village. He could see that there was a little
commotion in the street as he came along, sadly weary and dusty, and
beginning to come down from those celestial circles of the imagination,
and to remember that he was very hungry, and had not dined. A little
group of children broke up and dashed down the road in front of him
towards the 'Murkley Arms.'

"Eh, yonder he's coming!" they cried.

Janet, with a very anxious countenance, was standing in the doorway.

"Eh, sir," she said, "is this you? And what has keepit ye frae your
dinner? We have had a maist anxious night looking out for ye, and
wondering what could have happened. Adam's away doun to the water-side,
and I've sent to the manse and the Castle, and every place I could
think of, we were that alarmed."

"Why should you be alarmed?" said Lewis. "The fact is, I lost my way."

"I'm real glad to see it's nae waur," said Janet. "There's been ane
here frae Kilmorley keen, keen to see ye. It was just the writer's
clerk, and that gied us a fright; and he didna seem that sure about
your name, and he said he had instructions just to bide and no to leave
till he had seen ye. But I sent him away with a flea in his lug," said
Janet. "I said you were just real respectable, as we've found you, sir,
and one of the Murrays, kent folk, and taken a hantle notice of by the
Murkley ladies, and how daured he come here to set your friends against
ye? But for a' that I got a terrible fright, Mr. Murray. I thought
maybe ye had got wit o' his coming, and had just slippit away, and we
would never have heard tell of ye again."

"Why should I slip away?" cried Lewis, astonished, his conviction of
innocence being too strong to permit him to entertain at the moment any
alarm as to the consequences that might follow if he were found to have
presented himself under a name which was not his own.

Janet gave him a confused, repentant, yet penetrating look.

"Deed, I canna tell," she said, somewhat abashed; "but how was I to
ken that there mightna be reasons, and the man so awfu' curious about
you, and him the writer's clerk? Gentlemen are whiles overtaken, just
the same as poor folk. It might have been siller, or it might have
been----But, dear bless me, what is the use of speakin', when here ye
are, just your ain sel', and no put aboot at a'; and the dinner's
spoilt, but nae mair harm done."

"My good Mrs. Janet," said Lewis, "I am much obliged to you, but you
need not entertain any fears about me. I am not afraid of any writer's
clerk. What is a writer, by the way?" he said, smiling, pausing as he
was about to enter.

She gazed at him with round eyes of amazement.

"What is a writer? Well, I always said you were an innocent young
man--I was aye sure there would be nothing in it--but you must ken very
little indeed, sir, if you have never come across a writer. He's just
a--well, maybe sometimes a terror to evil-doers, I would not say--but a
great fyke and trouble mony a time to them that do well. He is one that
will gather in the siller that's owin' ye, that ye canna get yoursel',
and pretend it's a' for your gude, syne take his percentage and his
profit, till there's more of it gangs into his pocket than yours. He is
one that----"

"I see--a lawyer of some sort. You thought I was perhaps running away
from my creditors," Lewis said, with a laugh.

Janet gave him a guilty glance. "Mony a grand gentleman has done that,
and lived to pay them a' to the last farden, and never been a preen the
waur."

Lewis laughed till all the attendant children, who had been looking
on, waiting for the penny promised them for intimating his approach,
laughed too in sympathy.

"I owe you more than I owe anybody else," he said; "but we'll talk of
that after dinner, for I'm famishing now."



CHAPTER XV.


Lewis woke up next morning a different man. His light-hearted youth
and easy views had gone from him. The musings of the night had only
showed him the position in which he was, without showing him any way
out of it. He had all but pledged himself to one woman, placed himself
at her disposal; and his heart had gone out to another. He felt that
life would not be worth living, nor the world have any charm for him,
unless he could secure Lilias as the companion of his existence. Yet at
the same time he recognized that it was the sister of Lilias to whom so
lightly, thinking, as it now seemed, nothing of it, he had offered that
life as he might have offered a flower. Was there ever a more terrible
dilemma for a young man? And he had not found it out at first. It had
not been till the terrible prose of the minister set the case fully
before him that he had recognized the complication which was so novel,
so strange, yet to him so overwhelming. Love! how could he love this
creature whom he had seen but once, of whom he knew nothing. But even
to ask that question seemed a sort of blasphemy against her, against
the strange and potent sweetness of his own emotion. Knew nothing!
he knew everything; he knew her, the wonder of creation! To see her
was enough. What doubt, what hesitation was possible? "There is none
like her, none;" he was as much convinced of that as if he had watched
all her ways for years. And to think that he had not had the patience
to wait, or any instinct to tell him that she was here! This was the
strange, the incomprehensible thing. It was a fatality. So it had been
ordained in Greek plays and uncompromising tragedy. That everything
which was sweetest should come too late--that one should be on the very
verge of the loveliest road to Paradise, and all unawares should choose
another which led a different way.

Lewis awoke to a sense, no longer of a world enhanced, and made
infinitely sweeter and fairer, by the presence in it of a creature more
beautiful and delightful than he had ever before dreamt of, but of a
universe which had gone suddenly out of joint, where the possibilities
of blessedness were counteracted by malign influences, and fate took
pleasure in turning happiness into trouble: one way and another the
calmly smiling day, the happy commonplace, the matter-of-course
existence had come to an end for him. It was very summary and very
complete. He looked back for a few days, and thought how easily he had
made up his mind about Miss Jean, how calmly he had determined to make
her a present of his existence, with a kind of horror. In reality it
had been a very small part of his existence which he had resolved to
give up to her: but this he did not recollect in the excitement of his
thoughts. He had meant to live as he pleased, always returning between
whiles to the kind, elderly, indulgent wife who, he felt sure, would
require no more of him; but this now seemed a sort of blasphemy to
him, a travesty of the life which a man should wish to live with the
true mate and companion who would share his every thought. He rejected
his former thoughts with a self-disgust that was full of anger. It was
odious to him to know that he had been capable of so thinking. All that
had altered in a moment; not with the first sight of love, and what it
was, in the person of Lilias, but with the first clear perception that
this fair creature was some one's destined bride, but not his. In the
irony of fate not his; revealed to him only after it was too late,
after he had mortgaged his existence and bound himself to a world so
much pettier and poorer than that of which she held the key.

Up to this moment there had been in the heart of Lewis very little
questioning of fate; he had taken all that came in his way with, on the
whole, a cheering composure. The loss of his parents had been made up
to him in a wonderful way. The loss of Sir Patrick was so completely
natural that there could be no repining in the sorrow, honest sorrow
deeply felt, but without any bitterness, with which his young dependent
mourned him. All this had been legitimate; he had accepted it as
inevitable and necessary. Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them
soon. He had taken his life in the same unquestioning matter-of-fact
way, almost unconscious of any deeper necessity for satisfaction in it
than that which lay on the surface, the honest discharge of such duties
as he knew, the honest enjoyment of such pleasures as were congenial
to him. He did not know that he wanted anything more. It was not that
Lewis had not heard the murmurings of bitter philosophy in many a tone,
he had heard his old patron discourse upon the deceptions of life, he
had heard Sir Patrick's friends talking, snarling over the lies and
delusions with which, to them, the world was full; but the youth in him
had rebelled, had laughed, had attributed all this to the ill-temper
of age and disappointment, sometimes pitying, always certain that to
him nothing of the kind would ever come. And there had been nothing
in his existence to contradict this easy confidence. Nothing had gone
amiss with him; there had been no occasion for him to rail at fortune,
which had always been so good to him, or to find any delusions in the
brightness of his life. It had been without complications, without
mystery; nothing in it that was not straightforward, until he came to
Murkley; and it seemed to him that the harshest moralist could not
have objected to his innocent little artifice, his adoption of a name
to which he had indeed a good title, even though it was taken up with
intention to deceive. And even the deception had a good reason. It
seemed hard to poor Lewis that coming thus innocently, with intention
to do well, to right wrong, to atone for injury, he should have been
made to suffer. It seemed to him cruel. His imagination did not blame
Providence, which was too far-off and too solemn to be made responsible
for such matters, but he found a little consolation in recalling to his
mind the old snarlings he used to hear, the complaints against fate,
whatever that was. Why, why should such a malign chance have fallen on
him, whose wish was to be just, to be true to everybody? It seemed to
Lewis that he had good reason to complain. To be sure, he did not very
well know against whom his complaint could be directed, but he felt it
all the same.

He was late of getting up; he was slow to go out; he did not care what
he did with himself; sometimes his impulse was to hurry to the Castle,
to take advantage as long as he could of the permission which certainly
had been given him, on the mere chance of perhaps seeing _her_ again.
But what was the use of seeing _her_? It was to Miss Jean his visit
would have to be made. It was she who had been the aim of his devotion;
and at that thought Lewis laid down the hat which he had snatched up,
and threw himself in despair upon his seat. No, better to hurry away,
never to put himself within the reach of her influence again, to do
nothing at least to deepen and increase it. And then he began to say to
himself, what matter? no one but himself should ever know the strong
temptation which had seized him, the enchantment she had exercised
unawares. It would do no harm to any one but himself, if he did see her
once more; and if he suffered for it, there would be compensation in
the sweetness of her presence; he would have had the sunshine at least,
even if the cloud were all the blacker afterwards.

Throughout the whole of this self-discussion it will be seen that the
idea of being unfaithful to his first declared object never occurred
to Lewis. He believed that he had made Miss Jean fully aware of the
proposal he meant to make her. He had told Miss Margaret of it. He
had no doubt that they must have communicated with each other on the
subject, and that the mere fact of his reception at the house was a
proof that he was viewed under the aspect of an accepted lover. And,
this being the case, nothing in the world would have made Lewis flinch
from the position he had assumed. It seemed to him now like going
from the glory of the skies and free air into the dim and shadowed
atmosphere indoors. Lilias would have meant the garden of Eden, the
perennial, never-exhausted idyll of human blessedness. Miss Jean meant
a domestic interior somewhat dull, grey, full of dimness and shadows.
But all the glory and blessedness in the world could not make that
possible which was impossible, as Lewis knew; and what was impossible
was to leave in the lurch the woman he had wooed. That was the one
thing he could not do, however hard the price he had to pay. It did not
come even the length of a discussion in his mind. It was too certain,
too self-evident, for anything of the kind. He made no question about
it. Thus sometimes he jumped up, thinking he would go at once to the
Castle, and linger there till it was time to see her again; sometimes
sat down again, saying to himself why should he do it? why should he
add to his pain? Better to keep that one vision as the only one, a
sort of poem, a revelation for one moment, and no more. In the lives of
the saints such things have been told; how they had seen a celestial
vision, sometimes printing marks in their very flesh, and had seen
no more. Lewis felt that it was perhaps profane to compare with that
supreme sort of revelation his sudden view of the woman whom he could
never forget, who might have made of his life a something glorious
and noble, altogether different from its natural commonplace. It was
profane, but he could not help it: only the highest images could
express what he meant. That mere glimpse of her, attended by so little
self-disclosure on her part, almost without the communication of
words, had it not already made such an impression on his soul as could
never wear out? It had revealed another world to him, it had shown him
what life might be, what it never could be, and with what a strange,
lamentable misconception he had chosen the lower place!

He was still in this uncertain condition, walking to the window now and
then, looking out vaguely, pacing about the room, pausing to look at
himself in the dingy mirror on the mantelpiece, taking up his hat and
putting it down again, not able to decide what he should do, when his
attention was caught by the sound of steps coming up the stairs, and
the voice of Janet directing some one to come "This way, sir, this way."

"Our young gentleman took a walk yestreen, ower long, and lost his
way, so he's no out this morning, which is just very lucky," Janet was
saying.

Lewis threw down his hat with an impatient exclamation. It was
Stormont, no doubt, he who could do what he pleased, who had taken his
own way and satisfied himself, though not as Lewis would have done:
or perhaps the minister who had laughed and spoken of the queen of
beauty and love as a "poor little thing." There sprang up in his mind
immediately a sort of hatred of them both as thus problematically
preventing him from seeing her again: for he no sooner felt that he
could not do it than it seemed to him he had made up his mind to do it,
and was in the very act of sallying forth. But it was neither Stormont
nor the minister who was shown in by Janet. She opened the door, and
put her head in first with a certain caution.

"This'll be yon gentleman," she said, and made a sort of interrogative
pause, as much as to say no one should enter did Lewis disapprove. Then
she opened the door wider, and added, "A gentleman to see you, Mr.
Murray," in a louder voice.

To say that Janet paused after this for a moment to satisfy herself
what sort of greeting passed between them, and whether or not she
had done well to introduce the stranger, is scarcely necessary. She
stood with the door in her hand, and the most sympathetic curiosity
in her mind: but when she saw the newcomer hurry forward with a sort
of chuckling laugh, holding out his hand and exclaiming, in familiar
accents, "So this is you! It was just borne in upon me that it must be
you," Janet withdrew well pleased.

"It's a' just as it should be," she said to Adam, who had lingered
to see the result. "I'll no say our young lad is pleased: but it's a
friend, it's no a spy nor a sheriff's officer."

"It's a writer from Edinburgh," said Adam; "I've seen him in the
Parliament house."

"Hoot awa' with your Parliament house!" cried Janet. "It's ten years
since you were in Edinburgh, and how can ye mind if he's a writer or
no? Besides, I told ye, he's no feared for ony writer; he asked me,
bless the callant! what a writer was?"

Adam was more sceptical, having, as he thought, more knowledge of the
world. "Ye may ken the thing and no ken the name," he said.

But even he shouldered his rood and stalked away with a relieved mind;
for Lewis had so moved the household at the 'Murkley Arms,' and even
the village itself, in his favour, that the writer would have fared
badly who had meant mischief to the kind and friendly visitor who had
conciliated everybody. Janet, considering all the circumstances, was of
opinion that, after the greeting she had seen, it would be natural and
desirable to put in hand certain preparations for luncheon of a more
than usually elaborate kind.

But if his humble friends were consoled, Lewis was taken entirely by
surprise. He said, "Mr. Allenerly!" in a tone between astonishment and
dismay.

"It is just me," said the lawyer, "and I had a moral conviction it was
you I should find, though no one knew the name of Grantley----"

"Hush!" cried Lewis in alarm, raising his hand.

"It is not a nice thing in any circumstances," said the newcomer, "for
a man to disown his own name."

There was an impulse of anger in Lewis' mind not at all natural to him.

"It is with no evil intention, and it is no case of disowning my name.
My kind god-father, my patron--you are free to call him what you
will--wished it to be so. I have adopted his suggestion, that is all."

"But here, of all places in the world!" cried Mr. Allenerly--"it is
the imprudence I am thinking of. You have a good right to it, if you
please--but here! Have they not put you through your catechism to know
what Murrays you were of? That would be the first thing they would
do----"

"Miss Margaret has done so, I allow."

"Miss Margaret! By my conscience, you have got far ben already! And she
never found you out? and you have got footing there?"

A pleasurable sense of success soothed the exasperation and pain in the
young man's mind.

"It was for that I came here," he said.

"I just guessed as much. I said to my wife, 'He's of the romantic sort;
he'll be after little Lilias, take my word for it, as soon as he hears
of her existence.' And so you've done it! Well, Mr. Murray, if that's
what I am to call you, I congratulate you--that is, if you get clear
of Miss Margaret. She's grand at a cross-examination, as I have good
reason to know. If you satisfied her----"

"I think I satisfied her--I go there--I was going now, if you had
not come," said Lewis, playing with his hat, which was on the table.
It seemed to him that to get rid of this visitor was the best, and,
indeed, only thing he wished for. "After little Lilias!" The words
rang and tingled through his head; he did not wish to be asked any
questions, for already he felt as if his countenance must betray him;
he could not laugh as his visitor did. It was impossible for him even
to respond with a smile. And that fixed gravity was something which had
never before been seen on Lewis's face.

Mr. Allenerly cast a curious look upon him, and then he in turn put
down his hat upon the table and drew forward a chair.

"You have made your way in what seems a surprising manner," he said,
"but you do not seem very cheery about it. You will excuse me if I am
pressing--it is a thing I should have been keen to push on, if I had
not known that things of this kind must come of themselves; and, if you
will pardon me for saying so, I wanted to know more of you before I
would have put you in the way of Miss Lilias, poor thing. She is very
young, and the first that comes has a great chance with a young girl.
But her sisters have very high notions; they are ambitious for her, I
have always heard, and whether they would have the sense to see that a
bird in the hand is worth two, or any number, in the bush----"

"I cannot let you continue in a mistake," said Lewis, pale and grave.
"It is not as you think; the thing is different----"

He paused, and Mr. Allenerly paused too, and looked at him with a
doubtful air.

"Do you mean," he said, "to tell me that you, a young man from foreign
parts, that knows neither England nor Scotland--a young man that is
your own master, going where you please--do you mean to say that you
come here to a small Scotch village, and settle down in a country
public-house (for it's little better) for weeks with no object? I have
a respect for you, Mr. Grantley, but I cannot swallow that."

"I did not say so," said Lewis, with a gravity that was exaggerated,
and full of the dignified superiority of offended youth; but he could
not defend himself from those impulses of imprudence which were natural
to him. "It is not necessary, I suppose," he said, "that my object
should be exactly as you have stated. There are three sisters----"

Mr. Allenerly made no reply at first, but gazed at him with astonished
eyes. Then he suddenly burst into a peal of laughter.

"This is too good a joke," he said, "you rogue, you deceiver! Do you
think it's a fair thing to play off your fun upon your man of business?
None o' that--none o' that! No, but that's the best joke I've heard
this year or more. I must tell my wife of that. There's three sisters,
says he! Lord! but that beats all."

"I am at a loss," said Lewis, more dignified than ever, "to understand
the cause of your mirth; but, when you have had it out, perhaps you
will let me inform you of the real state of affairs."

"That is just what I am ready to do," the lawyer said, in his turn
offended, "more than ready. The ladies are my clients, Mr.----"

"It was my godfather's desire that my name should be Murray."

"Then Murray be it!" cried the writer, with vehemence. "What have I
to do with your name? If it comes to that, ye may call yourself royal
Stuart, or Louis XVI., or anything ye please, for me."

"Don't let us quarrel, Mr. Allenerly; you have been very kind to me,"
said Lewis, suddenly struck with the absurdity of this discussion. He
laughed as he held out his hand. "Come," he said, "do not be so hot,
and I will tell you. But why should you laugh? I have paid my court
to the second of the two sisters. She is a lady whom I respect very
much. She is sweet and good. A laugh I cannot endure upon her account.
I have endeavoured to do what I could to please her. I hope I may
have--a little--succeeded," Lewis said. The supernatural gravity and
dignity had gone out of his face; instead of these, there came a smile
which had some pathos in it. There was a slight quiver in his sensitive
mouth. It was not vanity, but a certain sorrowful pleasure, a sort
of compassionate satisfaction which was in the smile; it checked the
lawyer's laugh more effectually than any big words could have done. But
he looked with great and growing surprise into the young man's face.

"Miss Jean?" he said, almost timidly, with a sudden sense of something
that lay behind.

"Miss Jean," Lewis said, with a little affirmative nod several times
repeated. "She loves music very much. She has a fine and tender soul. I
think no one knows what she is. They think her only gentle and weak."

"That is true--that is true. She is a good woman; but----"

"I will confess to you," said Lewis, "I heard that there were three,
and it troubled me. I had thought there would be one who was the heir
after your English way. I was in much trouble what to do. Then it was
evident that this good Miss Jean was she whom I could have most access
to, and I loved her on account of the music; but I did not know," he
added, ingenuously, with a sigh, "I will acknowledge it to you--I did
not know that the other lady was young; I did not know she was--what I
found her yesterday. Ah! I saw her only yesterday for the first time."

Mr. Allenerly, who had jumped up in great interest and excitement, and
had been pacing about the room all this time, here came up to Lewis and
struck him on the shoulder.

"You are neither Scotch nor English," he said, "but you're a fine
fellow; I would say that before the world. You came here to restore the
money to them in a real generous way without thinking of yourself; but
cheer up, my lad! Miss Jean has nothing to do with it. It is Lilias
that is the heir. What do I mean? I will soon tell you what I mean.
Margaret and Jean have a small estate in the south country that was
their mother's. They have nothing to do with Murkley. Boys are always
looked for, and little thought was taken for them. But when the general
married his second wife, the Castle and a bit of the old land, too
little, far too little, was put in the marriage settlement--and Lilias
is the heir of that--Lilias the little one, the young one, the bonnie
one. You are in greater luck than you thought."

"Then it will be no restoration at all," said Lewis, his face growing
longer and paler with disappointment and dismay.

"Not if you persevere in your present fancy--but that is just
nonsense--you must turn your thoughts into another channel."

"You speak," said Lewis, "as if one's thoughts were like a stream of
water. That is not to be considered at all; it is too late."

"Then it is all settled----Has Miss Jean--the Lord preserve
us--accepted ye?" Mr. Allenerly said.

"Does that matter?" said Lewis. "I have laid my homage at her feet; it
is for her to take, if she will."

"But--" cried the lawyer, in dismay, "don't ye see that all will be
spoiled? that your very purpose will be balked--that everything will go
wrong? If it is not settled beyond remedy, you must just do what many a
man has done before. You must draw back before it is too late----"

"Draw back--and leave a lady insulted----You forget"--the young man
spoke with much dignity--"that, though I am not a Murray, I am a
gentleman," Lewis said.



CHAPTER XVI.


General Murray, the only son of Sir Patrick, had, like his father
before him, married at a very early age, so that his eldest daughter
was not more than twenty-two years younger than himself, and he was,
when he married for the second time a wife younger than Margaret, a
man but little over forty, in the prime of his life and strength, as
handsome as he had ever been, and attractive enough to take any girl's
fancy. The second wife had been poor, but she had been noble, and the
entail of the old hereditary estate, upon which stood at once the
old Castle and the new unfinished palace, was broken in order that
it might be secured to the children of Lady Lilias, whether sons or
daughters. Who could doubt that so young and blooming a bride, out of
a well-conditioned family, would bring both in abundant measure to the
old house? Margaret and Jean, the two daughters of the first marriage,
were left in the south country in possession of their mother's little
estate when their father began life for the second time. They felt
themselves a little injured, shut out of their natural rights, as was
natural, and held themselves aloof from the new _ménage_, which was
established joyously in the old Castle with every augury of happiness.
But when, no more than a year after, the blooming young wife was
carried to the church-yard, and a second poor little Lilias left in her
stead, the two sisters flew, with many a compunction and self-reproach,
to the infant's cradle. Margaret especially, who, though she was young,
was already disposed to believe that everything went wrong when she was
absent, reproached herself bitterly for not being on the spot to watch
over her father's wife. It would not have happened had she been there,
she felt convinced, and this perfectly visionary self-blame no doubt
helped to give a certain bias to her already peculiar character. "I
must do my best for the daughter. I did not do it for the mother," she
acquired a habit of saying when any other career was suggested to her.
She did not feel quite sure that she was not her father's elder sister,
so confusing were their relations. He was broken down with grief and
disappointment, and she took charge of him at once, and of his home.
It would perhaps be going too far to say that this was the reason why
she did not marry. Had any great love arisen in her heart, no doubt
Margaret would, like other people, have considered it her duty to obey
its dictates; but, when suitors to whom she was indifferent came, Miss
Murray metaphorically pushed them aside out of her path, with a curt
intimation that she had no time to think of such nonsense. Miss Jean,
who was of a sentimental turn, had not so easily escaped the common
dangers of youth, but she did so in a more romantic way, poor lady, by
loving, unfortunately, a young hero who had not a penny, and who died
in an obscure Indian battle when she was a little more than twenty.
This was shortly after the time when the infant Lilias was thrown upon
her sisters' hands, and it was enough to determine the celibacy of the
gentle young woman, who was indeed an old maid born: an old maid more
tender and indulgent than any mother, an old maid who is still young,
and can enter into the troubles of childhood and youth not only by
recollection of her own, but in the sense of actual understanding and
fellowship as one who had herself never thrown quite behind her the
state of youth or even childhood. The more perfectly developed are apt
to smile at this arrested being, but there is nothing in the world more
delightful, tender, and sweet.

Between these two, Lilias' childhood had been passed. Her father was
less at home than ever after this destruction of his hopes. He held
some military appointments, and saw a good deal of service. In the
intervals, when he returned to Scotland, his young daughter adored and
made a playmate of him, his elder daughter kept him in order. Never was
a man taken better care of; when the breach with Sir Patrick happened,
the ladies stood by him with all the determined partisanship of women.
He was living with them then on their little estate of the south,
in the little feminine house called Gowanbrae, which had been their
mother's, and where they had taken the baby after her mother's death.
So long as they had that independent house, which they preferred, what
was the Castle of Murkley to them? When Sir Patrick died, they "came
north," as they expressed it, with the general, to show Lilias her
home, and to acquaint her at first hand with those glories of the
family which they pretended to scorn, but were in reality very proud of.

"All that money might have been in your pocket if your grandfather had
been a man of sense," Miss Margaret said, pointing to the bleached
walls of the unfinished palace.

But Jean and Lilias had both a wondering awe and admiration for folly
which was so magnificent. Lilias was sixteen when she saw it first. She
uttered a great cry of admiration and delight.

"I should like to save up every penny and finish it and live in it,"
she cried.

Her father shook his handsome white head: but Miss Margaret "had no
patience with such nonsense," as she said.

"Live in it!--what income do you think you would require to live in it?
The Queen has not so grand a house," said the elder sister, with the
pride that aped indignation, "except perhaps Windsor Castle and the
palace in London. Taymouth is not much bigger. You would want fifty
thousand a year at the very least penny. All we have for the whole
family on both sides would not so much as furnish it."

"Unless," said the general, with a laugh, "you make a great match, my
little Lily, and get your duke to do it for you--or perhaps a Glasgow
man would do?"

"A child of _our_ bringing up would not be likely to demean herself so
far, I hope," said Miss Margaret, with emphasis.

"A Glasgow man!" cried Miss Jean with a quaver of horror. "No, no,
Lilias will never come down to that."

The general liked to gibe at his daughters; perhaps, though they were
his daughters, he was not without some of that contempt for them which
men of all ages feel towards unmarried women.

"I have seen some fine fellows at Glasgow," he said, "and rolling in
money. I will look out for one, and bring him for your inspection,
Lilias. But, Meg and Jean, you must not prejudice my candidate--you
must let the child choose."

"Do, papa--it will be fun!" cried Lilias.

Miss Margaret had a high idea of her father's rights. She would not
make any direct protest, as Jean was anxious to do, but she took her
little sister aside when they returned home.

"My dear," she said, "gentlemen say many things that women-folk do not
agree in, and papa is fond of his joke. You must not suppose that is
all in earnest, that way he has of talking."

Lilias was "as quick as a needle," her sisters said. She made a
momentary pause, and then said, with a laugh,

"About the Glasgow man?"

"About any man," cried Miss Margaret. "My darling, gentlemen will be
gentlemen, even when they are your father. They think those sort of
pleasantries just innocent, but they are not pretty for a girl; you
must remember that. Jean and I have never let you hear anything of the
kind. A girl, above all things, Lilias, must be unspotted from the
world."

"Unspotted from the world!" the girl repeated, with a half-startled
look at her sister; and then she added, with a little emotion, "Oh,
what bonnie words, Margaret!"

"Yes, they are bonnie words; and they are better than bonnie, for
you know where they come from. Look at Jean, if you want to know the
meaning of them. You are just our child--we would like you to be like
that. Papa says nothing that is not worth your attention, but he likes
his joke, and when all's said he's a gentleman, Lilias, not like you
and me."

Lilias gave her sister a kiss, throwing her arms round her neck.
Margaret would say, "Hoot!" or "Toot!" when thus embraced, but yet
she liked it. "I understand," the girl said. But when she was by
herself she laughed a little at her old sister's delicacy. She did
not think there was any particular harm in the general's joke. It
seemed to her in her childish self-sufficiency that she understood
papa (who certainly was a man, there could be no doubt of it) better
than Margaret and Jean did. She was not herself a bit shocked. She
thought, on the whole, she would like to have the Glasgow man up to be
looked at; it would be fun. And then the girl asked herself, with a
blush, whether fun of this sort was incompatible with keeping yourself
"unspotted from the world." She repeated these words over and over to
herself for some time after. Yes, Margaret was right; when you looked
at Jean, you could understand what that meant. Margaret herself was
of much more consequence than Jean, but she was not so unspotted from
the world. Lilias had in her mind a sense of the pure and perfect
thing which it was her sister's ideal she herself should be, mingled
oddly with a little soft derision of those sisters of which she was
ashamed. They were old maids. She felt as if there might be a larger
life which would not be afraid of any touch from without, and yet would
be stainless: and then she grew red with indignation at herself for
presuming to smile at Margaret and Jean. A lily, like her name, all
sweetness and fragrance and purity, holding itself high, aloof from
every soil--she understood that: that was what they wanted her to be.
Her heart swelled with a touching humility, yet visionary emotion,
desiring to attain, yet wondering how she could be supposed capable
of so sweet a perfection; and then she laughed a little gentle laugh,
which, it is to be feared, was at some little peculiarities of theirs.
Was it quite impossible that the fun should be had in addition? She did
justice to the ideal, but----

The general thought his lily perfect, whatever she pleased to do,
and the girl knew this very well, and had a little disdain for his
judgment, though she adored himself. She had thus grown already into
an independent creature, with a judgment of her own, bringing them all
secretly to the bar, and forming her opinion in a way which bewildered
these elder people who had brought her up. She was not an echo of
any one of them, as at her age she might have been expected to be.
She was all herself, and took nothing now for granted. To be sure,
it was chiefly Margaret who noticed this. The general was not given
to analysis of character, and thought his child the perfection of
everything a girl ought to be, and Miss Jean was much of the same frame
of mind, though a breath of anxiety would ruffle her soul from time to
time. The household on the whole was unanimous enough in the worship
of Lilias. As for their father, he was something of a trouble to the
ladies. The sense that he was a gentleman, a being she understood but
imperfectly, gave Miss Jean a certain embarrassment in his presence.
She played all her music to him with a wondering doubt, which she never
solved, as to whether he liked it, or if it was a bore to him, and felt
that papa was far younger than herself, and that there was no telling
with so handsome a man what was the next step he might take. Margaret
felt him with still more force to be her junior, and kept his house
much as she might have done for a widowed nephew--that was the kind of
relationship which would have been natural between them. They sometimes
speculated between themselves whether there was any chance that he
might marry again. He was only sixty, very young-looking, in reality
very young; as active as he had ever been, a man who could ride all
day, and, if need were, dance all night as if he had been twenty. "I
never see the like of him wherever I go," Miss Margaret said. But then
he had nothing to settle, he was himself but a life-renter in Murkley,
and the fortune that had always been expected from old Sir Patrick had
gone to the dogs--or, at least, to a stranger.

The subject of these questions solved them all very summarily one
winter evening by dying. He had not been ill. He had a slight
cold--that, and nothing more. He had taken a hot drink to please
Margaret, and had put his feet in hot water when he went to rest. But
the next morning he was found dead in his bed. It was a very great
shock to his children; but perhaps, when the shock was over, Margaret
and Jean felt, though they would have thought it dreadful to say so,
that an embarrassing charge was removed from them, and that perhaps
it was for the best. For Lilias, who was the chief object of their
thoughts, it was scarcely to be doubted that it was for the best. There
would be no longer any contention, any struggle in her life. Not that
there had ever been a struggle. Margaret was too judicious and the
general too good-natured for that; but still, an element so out of
accord with all the principles of her education as her father, with
his free and easy ways, his experiences of the camp and the world, was
perhaps--better away. Margaret put it in the right way, in the only
permissible way, when she said, "Providence is inscrutable. A young
man, comparatively speaking, and younger in his ways than any of us.
And oh, so like to live! Nobody would have thought but that he would
see us all out. It is a terrible loss to us, especially to Lilias. She
was bound up in him, poor thing--perhaps more bound up in him than was
good for her--and a gentleman is always an interruption to education.
Poor thing! we must just put her back to her work as soon as she is
able. It will be the best thing to take off her thoughts."

As for Lilias, she did not want anything to take off her thoughts.
For three months nearly she cultivated everything that could make her
think of him, and keep up the sombre current. She retired to her own
room, and would stay there for hours, weeping, and keeping herself in
the atmosphere of affliction. At the end of that time the monotony of
sorrow began to press severely upon her young mind, and she was glad to
take to her lessons for a change; and thus gradually it came about that
she grew light-hearted again by unnoticed stages. When she thought of
dear papa now, it was sometimes with a little guilty sense that she had
forgotten him, partly with a half-fictitious representation to herself
that it was "far better" for him. Perhaps, indeed, it was so: but few
of us are fully able to believe that death is an advantage. And it was
very hard to realize that it would be an advantage to the general. He
had liked his life in Murkley so much; everything (except the want of
the money) had suited him so well. He liked his newspaper, his fishing
when the weather permitted, his old friends, his native place. To think
of him as denuded of all these things, and living under such different
conditions, was dreadfully difficult. And it seemed hard upon him to
be shut out of the house of his fathers so long, and to have so short
a time to enjoy it in--to be Sir George only for a year, just to be
permitted to take possession, to settle down: and then in a moment to
have to resign it all for a condition in which he would no longer be
Sir George, or derive any gratification from the possession of Murkley.
But such thoughts as these were not the sort of thoughts that she ought
to entertain, Lilias knew.

And so time went on, and the summer came back again, and happiness
returned to the girl's heart. The bonds of subjection to her sisters
was drawn a little closer, but it was so tender a tyranny that she
never resented it. It was a little hard, indeed, to be shut out from
all the innocent little parties at which Katie Seton figured, who was
younger than she; but then there was that reserved for her which would
never be in Katie Seton's power. And when the clouds of grief had
blown away from her sky, and she began to realize herself as the lady
of Murkley, it cannot be denied that there was many a flutter in the
heart of Lilias. Had Murkley been the great estate it ought to have
been, and had she been a rich heiress, she probably would not have
been half so much in love with her own position. There was a romance
in it that charmed the imagination. An heiress of poverty, with her
little old house, which was half as old as the Murrays--and what a
thing that was to say!--her tiny little estate, which, though there
was so little of it, was the original estate, land that had been in
the hands of the Murrays since the Jameses reigned in Scotland; her
great name and her small possessions delighted the girl. It did not
occur to her to think that Margaret and Jean came before herself in
the honours of the family. They were no competitors of hers--they were
aunts rather than sisters--they were their mother's children, the Miss
Murrays of Gowanbrae, in Dumfriesshire; whereas she was Lilias Murray
of Murkley. It was a curious position. She was like a young princess
whose youth had been confided to the care of two old ladies of honour
closely connected with the royal house, yet not altogether belonging to
it. Naturally Miss Margaret at forty looked an old lady to the little
princess of seventeen. They had done their best all their lives to
impress upon her the greatness of her position, and she took it in most
innocently, most sincerely. It is so natural for a young creature to
feel herself the central point, the most interesting figure, especially
when this has been impressed upon her all her life. She recognized
it fully, yet with a naturalness and sweet submission to the powers,
which were over her, yet all subservient to her interests, which took
every undesirable element out of this faith. It gave Lilias unbounded
material for dreams, and it gave her a youthful visionary dignity,
which, perhaps, had it been analyzed, would have been found to be a
little absurd by close critics, but which was very pretty in the girl,
who was so perfectly sincere in her fancy. She formed endless plans as
to what she was to do with that romantic palace, which was hers, yet
which was nobody's. Of course the first thing was to fit it up as it
was meant to be fitted up, and live in it with graceful magnificence,
holding a maiden court. And Lilias would dream of vast sums coming into
her hands, of treasures found in some old chest or secret nook in the
old house, of far-off, unknown cousins, who would send fabulous sums
from afar to restore Murkley to its greatness. It is so easy to imagine
benefactors of this kind--a novel-writer can invent them without giving
himself or herself the least trouble, much more the imagination of a
girl. Lilias was as indifferent to wealth as it was possible to be. A
single gold piece all her own, to do what she pleased with, especially
if she might spend it without putting down the items of her expenditure
in a note-book, was wealth to the young creature: but she knew just
so much as to know that it would require what she vaguely called,
following the phraseology of her sister, "thousands" to complete the
great house which her grandfather had left unfinished. If it ever
should happen that she could do that! In the long summer evenings,
especially when her sisters had gone out, and she was left alone, she
would dream out whole histories of how the money might be supplied.
What romances these would have made had she written them down! She
would figure forth to herself a stranger arriving suddenly some evening
in the gloaming--it was always in the gloaming, in the uncertainty
of light which suits women--not a handsome or interesting stranger,
not the tall hero, with dark eyes and curling hair, who, Lilias felt
assured, was the only man she would ever "care for," but a shabby
stranger, a man one would never look twice at, with all the appearance
of a nobody. Margaret and Jean were never rude to any one: they would
receive him very politely, and request him to come in to the fire, if
it was winter--and somehow it was always winter in these imaginations.
Then he would open his story to them, how he was a man who had been
much indebted to "the late Murkley," or to old Sir Patrick; or who
was a cousin-german of the old baronet, though perhaps the ladies had
never heard of him; how he had hoped and struggled to pay his debt, but
had never been able (this was to try them, and Lilias felt sure all
along that she for one would know better). But Margaret and Jean would
believe the story fully. They would be very sorry for him; they would
try immediately to think what they could do for him. If he professed to
be a relation, they would trace out his claim and satisfy themselves,
and then they would put all their resources at his disposal.

Lilias delighted in making up the dialogues which would be appropriate
to the occasion. She would picture to herself how Jean would clasp her
hands and cry, "Bless me!" as the stranger piled up his agony; and how
Margaret would say,

"Of course you will stay here till you hear of something better. We
are not rich, unfortunately because of divisions in the family, which
you shall hear about further on, but for the moment that's neither
here nor there. And we have little influence; for we have lived out of
the world, having our young sister to bring up, and being fond of the
country; but what can be done, we will do."

Lilias pictured herself as sitting silent, seeing the _dessous des
cartes_, and convinced in her own mind that all the time this shabby
old fellow was a millionnaire, like so many people who have figured
in old plays and novels, and, after a few scenes of this description,
there would come a crisis, and he would throw off his disguise, and
produce a pocket-book with "thousands" in it, and tell them that for
all his life it had been his ambition to see New Murkley finished, and
the family raised to its old grandeur. "I have neither kith nor kin but
yourselves," the old gentleman always said, "and all I have shall be
yours; only be as kind to me now I am rich as you were when I was poor."

It was not quite so easy to manage this scene as the first one; for
Lilias could not quite assure herself that Margaret's displeasure at
being taken-in might not overbalance the satisfaction of receiving
so unexpected an advantage. But it ended by her own intervention and
a vague tableau of happiness and union. How often she went over this
story! She became, in imagination, much attached to this old cousin.
She seemed to know him better than any one about her. She would even
make investigations into his life abroad, and get him to tell her
stories of the things that had happened to him. Sometimes he would have
lost his wife and an only child; sometimes he would be an old bachelor,
always faithful to the memory of some grand-aunt whose portrait was in
the library. It was a lady of the time of Queen Anne whom Lilias had
hit upon as the beloved of this old gentleman, but what did a century
or so matter! She never found the mistake out.

This was her favourite way of finishing New Murkley, and restoring the
family. But now and then, it cannot be denied, that there would gleam
across her mind a recollection of her father's suggestion. A Glasgow
man! In novels it was generally a Manchester man who took this part.
Lilias supposed they were about the same, but her mind did not play
with this idea. It flashed across her, and made her blush or made
her indignant. It did not attract her as the old relation did. There
is something in heiress-ship which changes a girl's feeling in this
respect; the idea of getting everything from a lover, from a husband,
was not pleasant to her. If she ever married, and this idea was not
one that the girl did more than contemplate furtively for a moment,
it would be without any thought of advantage. But the old cousin was
a delightful romance. And there were other expedients besides this
which now and then came in to vary the matter when she was tired of
elaborating her first fancy; people whose fortunes had been founded on
some help given by a Murray would step in; or even there might be boxes
of treasure found in the old cellars, or buried in the ghost's walk.
Who can ever tell what may happen? At seventeen everything is possible.



CHAPTER XVII.


Her sisters were as great visionaries in the concerns of Lilias as
she was herself, but in a different way. They had no hope of any old
cousin coming in from Australia or India with a pocket-book in which
there should be "thousands." Margaret and Jean knew all the possible
cousins of the family, and were aware that there was no one who could
be expected to appear in this accidental way. But for all that they too
had their dreams. So far as themselves were concerned, they had for
a long time given up that exercise. It is doubtful, indeed, whether
Margaret ever had indulged in it, and Jean's visions had come to an
end very sadly, as has been said. But the new castle of Murkley had
taken hold of their imaginations as of their little sister's. It was
their grandfather's folly which they had condemned all this time, but
they were but women when all is said, and the sight of it had an effect
upon their fancy which contradicted reason. Nothing could be more
absurd, or even wicked, than to weight an old Scotch, almost Highland,
estate in that ridiculous way, even if the money of the family had
not been separated from it, which was the climax of all. But at the
same time, if that grand house, that palace, could ever have been
inhabited, what glory to the race, what illustration to the name of
Murray! Margaret, to whom her young sister was as the apple of her eye,
beheld in imagination Lilias the queen of that noble and beautiful
place, sweeping through the fine suites of rooms, entertaining all the
great people. To see anything so young, and slight, and ethereal the
mistress of all this would be so pretty, so touching, would appeal
to all hearts. Margaret was as fond of picturing this to herself as
Lilias was of the aged cousin from Australia. Her fancy was captivated
by it: but how to make it possible? There was not money enough in the
family to furnish those fine rooms, and, if they were furnished, how
were they to be lived in? She counted over on her fingers the number
of servants it would require to keep them in order. As high as a groom
of the chambers, and as low as the scullery maids, Margaret went. She
smiled at herself, you may be sure, a hundred times when she caught
herself at it. But, notwithstanding, the very next morning when she
was outwardly occupied with her housekeeping, and her mind, therefore,
it might be supposed, too busy to heed what her fancy was doing, lo!
she would be at it again. A groom of the chambers would be necessary;
there would be footmen, so many; and, as for housemaids, a regiment
would be necessary, for Lilias no doubt would insist upon filling the
rooms with nick-nacks which take so long to dust. Margaret pretended
to care nothing for nick-nacks herself, but she furnished those great
noble rooms in her imagination with everything that befitted them, and
never counted the cost. When you have nothing at all to do this with,
it is easier than when you have almost enough to do it. In one case
the imagination may have its swing, in the other it must be sternly
repressed. She saw in her mind's eye the great façade of that palace,
no longer windowless, staring blankly into the daylight and night,
but lighted up in every chamber, shining through the woods, and the
rooms all full of fine company, and little Lilias the mistress of all.
That last particular was a constant delight. She laughed to herself at
the thought with the tender ridicule of a great longing. That little
thing! It was just nonsense, but how sweet to think of!--and things as
unlikely have happened, she said to herself. There was one way still
in which miracles happened every day. It was the way which she had
forbidden her little sister to look, which she had been so displeased
and provoked with her father for suggesting. Certainly Lilias must
never be allowed to think of it; Lilias must be kept unspotted from the
world. But Lilias' seniors, Lilias' guardians, there were things which
might be permitted to them.

Is it necessary to say that what Miss Margaret thought of was a great
marriage? Such a thing is always possible at eighteen. Not a Glasgow
man, according to her father's profane suggestion. It was a proof
the General had never thought of it seriously, or he never would have
said that. Glasgow men at the most were last resources, things upon
which a woman who had outstayed her time might fall back. But a young
girl in the bloom and glory of her youth, of an old family, with a
little historical estate, General Sir George Murray's daughter--to
be sure, nobody could be in earnest who put her within the reach of
a Glasgow man. Margaret imagined the lover for her with a much more
clear perception of what was needful than Lilias possessed. Lilias had
never gone further than to imagine a handsome giant, six-foot-two at
least, with wonderful dark eyes and crisp hair. But Margaret was far
more circumstantial. She planned a paladin. She gave him every charm
that the most fastidious could demand. It seemed to her better that
he should not have a peerage; for then the race of Murray would be
engulfed, and heard no more of. A commoner would do better, but then
a commoner of pretensions, such as would make half the peerage look
pale. She laid on fine qualities with a liberal hand; for it cost her
nothing. While she was about it, she might as well make her young lover
perfect. She even, though with a slight contempt of the addition, made
him an amateur of music to please Jean. Why should any gift be left
out? And he should come all unawares, and find Lilias blooming like
a flower, and woo her--as heroes woo their heroines no longer--with
a humility and faithful service and reverential devotion such as
belonged to the chivalrous age; and, after having pined a little, and
despaired, and considered himself all unworthy, would be raised into
paradise again, and receive her hand, and, in giving his, give with it
wealth enough to do everything that was wanted. It would be well that
he should be a man without a great family castle of his own, otherwise
perhaps he would not take to Murkley, and spend so much upon it. In her
leisure moments, as she moved about the house, Margaret would employ
herself in elaborating this young man, in adding to him yet another and
another perfection. She would sit, while Lilias read her histories,
listening to the calm young voice stumbling a little over the dates,
and afraid of a reprimand, and never hear the blunder because of
some new attraction she was conferring upon the lover of Lilias, the
hero who was coming. Now and then, when thus employed in the girl's
presence, Margaret would come to herself with a sense of the humour of
the situation, and laugh out suddenly without any reason.

"What are you laughing at, Margaret?" Jean would ask.

And her sister would reply.

"At Pussy there, with all your fine silks. It will be the cat that
will finish your tablecover;" which sent both her companions off in
dismay to collect the skeins of silk, and left her free to pursue her
occupation, though not without a slight sense of treachery in carrying
on a manufacture so important to Lilias in her presence without a word
of warning. Thus if the girl had her dreams, the elder sister was not
far behind; and Margaret had no less warmth of imagination at forty
than Lilias had at seventeen. They were both possessed by one master
thought, though in a different way. Margaret all the time would scoff
at New Murkley, and call it a great ruckle of stones, and wonder what
Sir Patrick could be thinking when he planned it.

"He never could have lived in it," she would say. "Twenty servants
would never be known in it: and to keep up a place like that on a
limited income would just be purgatory, or worse."

"I wish we were rich," Lilias would say. "I would soon show you if it
was a ruckle of stones. It is a beautiful palace! If there was glass
in all the windows, and satin curtains, and grand carved chairs, and a
grand gentleman, quite different from Simon, to open the door----"

"And a pumpkin coach, and a cat for the coachman, and two fine mice
with good long tails for the footmen behind the carriage, to carry
Cinderella off to the ball," Margaret would say, grimly.

Upon which Jean would step in and interpose.

"Dear Margaret, you must not abash her in her bit little fancies! Dear
me, why should she not live to make something of it? It would make a
grand hospital. To give our fine air, and quiet, and healing to poor
sick folk would be a fine thing to do: and you would get a blessing
with the rest."

"A hospital!" cried Lilias, in dismay; and then a flush of shame flew
over her to think she had never thought of that. She flung her arms
about her sister and gave her a kiss. "It is you that think of the best
things," she said, and remembered what Margaret had said about the one
who was unspotted from the world.

This Jean took very sedately, not seeing anything wonderful in it, and
would then enter into details which chilled both the elder and the
younger dreamer. Nevertheless, when Lilias was at church, or when she
was pensive, or when she grew tired of inventing the old Australian
cousin, and wanted something more definite, she turned back to this
idea of the hospital with a slightly subdued sense of power. If that
old man should never turn up--if nothing should happen--if she should
be intended by Providence to live like Margaret and Jean all her life,
which was perhaps a somewhat depressing idea, notwithstanding her love
and admiration for her sisters--why, then there was this idea to fall
back upon. She would make it a hospital. She would become a benefactor
of her kind; she would devote herself to it like a sister of charity.
There were moods and moments when this was a thing which pleased the
imagination of the dreaming girl. But Margaret rejected the hospital
with disdain and almost anger. She took Jean to task for the suggestion
when they were alone.

"Can you not see," she said, "that to put Quixotic fancies into a young
head is just criminal? They come quick enough of themselves. Next to
having everything your heart can desire, what's so enticing as to give
up everything at her age? You have never grown any older or any wiser
yourself, my dear. I know that well enough, and I like you, perhaps,
all the better. But Lilias is not like us. She is Murray of Murkley. If
it had been me at her age, my word but I would have made you all stand
about! But it's better as it is. She will marry, which most likely I
never would have done, for I'm perhaps too much of a man myself to be
troubled with gentlemen. She'll marry and raise up the old house."

To this Jean consented plaintively, yet with a little excitement.

"But who will she marry?" Jean asked; "and, if she were married
to-morrow, where are they to get the money to restore New Murkley? He
would be for selling it, far more likely."

Margaret had often been made to perceive before this that Jean, though
she was not clever, by dint of approaching a new subject simply from a
natural point of view, often threw unexpected light upon it. This was
the case now. A burst or flood of illumination of the most disagreeable
kind suddenly burst upon her with these words.

"Sell it!" she cried, with a kind of horror--"bless me! I never thought
of that."

"Or suppose it was some person from England, that would think nothing
of spending thousands----"

This was how Miss Jean always spoilt a point when she had made one. Her
sister laughed.

"No person from England would spend thousands on what was not his own.
As for letting it, that's out of the question in its present state.
But there's truth in what you say. A man might want to sell it rather
than be at the expense of finishing it. I'm glad you've put me upon my
guard, for that must not be. You see," said Margaret, feeling a relief
in explaining herself now that the question was broached, "as Lilias is
sure to marry, my mind has been greatly exercised upon the subject.
She must not marry just the first comer."

"If the first comer was the man that took her heart, poor thing--"
said Jean. Her face, always so soft, grew softer at the touch of this
sympathetic emotion. Lilias, who had been a child hitherto, suddenly
appeared to her in a new light. It had been her own experience that the
first comer was the hero.

"We must take care of her heart," said Margaret, curtly. "I will have
her betrayed into no sentiment. He must satisfy me before I will let
her so much as think of him. No, I'm not a mercenary person; for myself
or you I would never have thought twice. Had I been a marrying woman
myself, I would just have followed the drum as soon as anything else,
and kept my man on his pay."

Jean did not say anything, but there came a little moisture into the
corners of her eyes, and her hands clasped each other with that clasp
which is eloquent, which tells of renunciation, yet of the sense of
what might have been. And a sudden remorse overwhelmed her sister.

"I am just like a brute beast," she cried, "with no feeling in me. But
Lilias, you will see, my dear, is different. The family depends upon
her. She must marry, not for money--the Lord forbid!--but he must have
plenty. I will insist upon that. I would not give her to a man that was
nobody, or that was vulgar or beneath her, or that was old, or with any
imperfection, not for all the gold that ever came out of the bowels of
the earth. He must be a fine fellow in himself, or he shall not have
Lilias; but he must have a good fortune too."

Jean looked at her sister with a little shake of her head.

"It would be far better," she said; "but you never can be certain of
anything. She will make her own choice, Margaret, without thinking of
either you or me."

"She cannot make her choice till she sees somebody to choose from,"
said Margaret, "and that will be my business. She shall see nobody that
would not answer. I take that in hand."

Jean still shook her gentle head. She remembered very well where she
had first seen her lieutenant--on St. Mary's Loch with a party of
strangers. It was as unexpected as if he had dropped from the skies. In
this respect she had an experience of which Margaret was destitute.

"How can you guard against accident?" she said. "She might see
somebody--out of the window. You never can tell how these things may
happen."

"There is no such thing as accident," said Margaret, with equal
assurance and rashness. Was there ever a more foolhardy speech? "For
those that keep their eyes about them as I will do, the things that
can happen are always foreseen. Whom could she see out of the window?
A tourist! Do you think our Lilias is likely to lose her heart to a
tourist? No, no, there will be no risks run. I know all that is at
stake. She shall see nobody that would not do."

Jean shook her head still: but she said, with humility: "You are far
wiser than I am, and have more sense, and understand the world----"

"But you think you know better than I do all the same? That's very
natural. In ordinary cases you would be right, and, if anybody said
to me what I'm saying to you, I would think as you do. I would think
there's a bragging idiot that knows nothing about human nature. But
then I know what I'm capable of myself. Oh! you may shake your head,
but there are not many that can watch over their children as I will
watch over Lilias. Mothers have divided interests; they have their
husbands to consider, and other bairns to distract them. You, my bonnie
Jean, you had nobody at all to look after you, for I was not old
enough."

"I am glad I had nobody to look after me, Margaret."

"I know that. You are glad of your heart-break, you innocent creature.
We'll say nothing about that. But you would not like Lilias to have
the same? Well, I will not brag--but if care and watching can find the
right man, and bring him forward and no other----You don't know, Jean,"
said Margaret, abruptly, with a little broken laugh, which was her
symbol of emotion, "what that bit creature is to me. She is just the
apple of my eye."

"And to me too," Jean said: but so low that perhaps her sister, being
moved beyond her wont, did not hear. For Miss Jean had the tenderest
delicacy of soul, and would not put forth any claim that might have
seemed to detract from the preeminence of Margaret's. Margaret had
done far more for Lilias than she herself would do. Margaret had been
the referee in everything. She had settled every particular of the
girl's life. In the time of governesses she had managed them, and
made everything go smoothly. She had watched over her health, she had
managed her property, even, in the time of the General, taking all
trouble out of his hands, as if she had been the factor instead of a
daughter of the house. And now she was reading history with Lilias,
and making an accomplished woman of the little girl. What were Jean's
pettings and soothings, her little bit of music, her tenderness that
never failed, in comparison with this? She drew back into the shadow,
and respected her sister's warmer passion of motherhood. And she prayed
that Margaret's cares might be successful, that no misfortune might
befall her, that she might have the desire of her heart. Oh, how few
people have that! but you are encouraged, Miss Jean thought to herself,
to pray for it, because in the psalmist's days he did; not only what
is good for you, and what is for God's glory,--such as no doubt is
the first object of prayer,--but for your heart's desire. There are
people who think that your heart's desire must naturally be bad for
you. But Miss Jean was not one of those, neither was King David. She
prayed that Margaret might have her wish. It is to be doubted whether
Margaret herself had courage to do this, for she felt her own wish to
be somewhat worldly. To ask from heaven a man with plenty of money to
marry Lilias might have been a very honest proceeding, but not a very
spiritual one. To be sure a parent or guardian is very well entitled to
desire such a blessing: but to ask for it direct from God would have
been a bold step. To the profane it would, no doubt, have appeared a
somewhat grotesque devotion. She did not venture to do it; but Jean,
who entered into no such niceties, asked with a devout simplicity that
Margaret might have the desire of her heart.

Margaret, meanwhile, cast her eyes about her. Nobody in the
neighbourhood was at all admissible. They were indeed dangers in her
way, and nothing else. The idea of Philip Stormont made her blood run
cold. A long-legged lad, with his mother's jointure to pay, and next to
nothing besides. That he should be brought within sight of Lilias, or
any like him, was mortal peril: and she knew that Philip was just the
kind of well-looking hound (as she said) who might take a young girl's
fancy. It was this, as much as concern for her complexion, which made
her impose upon Lilias that blue veil: and it was this which made her
so sternly determined never to take her little sister to any of the
parties at the manse, where such dangers were likely to abound.

She avoided skilfully any explanation on this subject, but the natural
objections of Lilias to being left behind were not to be got rid of
without an equivalent. It was in this difficulty that Margaret had
propounded the scheme which had been developing in her mind, and placed
before the dazzled eyes of Lilias the glorious prospect which has been
already referred to. That she should be taken to London, presented at
court, and see society at its fountain-head, had been a prospect which
took away the girl's breath, and made Jean's blood run cold. Such
a privilege had not been possessed by either of the elder sisters.
But then neither of them had been the reigning Murray of Murkley,
the heiress and representative of the family. The little complaints
to which the young creature had been tempted to give vent were all
silenced by this expedient; how could she complain when this was the
cause of her seclusion, when she was debarred from the little country
amusements only that she should have those great and noble ones, and
enter the world like a heroine, like a great lady? Lilias had been
filled with awe at the prospect, as well as with delight and pride. She
had not said a word more about Katie Seton and the little festivities
at the manse. But Jean had ventured upon a faltering and awe-stricken
remonstrance. London! And the expense of it! How was it to be done?

"You may leave that to me," Margaret said.

"Oh, Margaret," cried Jean, "it's not that I would interfere. You know
I would never interfere; but where will you get the money? And do you
think it will not be putting fancies in Lilias' head? It's like that
dream of living in New Murkley. She will never be able to do it. Even
if she had gotten my grandfather's money----"

"She has not gotten my grandfather's money," said Margaret. "You may
leave the question of money to me."

"And so I will, and so I will," said Jean. "But oh, do you not think
that all that grandeur, and fashion, and luxury which we cannot keep up
will be bad for her. It will be just a glimpse, and then all done."

"Unless there should come something of it; and then it need not be all
done," Margaret said, oracularly.

"What could come of it?" cried Miss Jean, opening wide her gentle eyes.

But Miss Margaret, bidding her ask no questions, if she did not
understand, left her in her wondering. What could come of it? Margaret
could not be thinking of a place at court for Lilias, as she was only
a girl, poor thing; and even places at court are not things to make
anybody's fortune. What could Margaret mean? But Jean had not the
smallest inkling of what her sister's intentions could be.

As for Margaret, as soon as she had fully formed this determination in
her own mind, her thoughts took a new impulse. She had thought over the
question a great deal, but the new plan was struck out in a moment as
by an inspiration. Her first idea had been Edinburgh, the metropolis
of her youth, and the assemblies there which had been all the gaiety
she had ever herself known. But Margaret had heard that Edinburgh was
not all it once was, and the assemblies no longer the dazzling scenes
they had been in her day. Besides, she reflected that there her choice
would be very limited. She did not want a young advocate or legal
functionary for Lilias. Many unexceptionable young men there were in
these categories with good names and good blood. But this did not
content her ambition. She wanted something greater, something more
than an eligible _parti_ or a good match. Such words were vulgar in
comparison with the high ideal in her mind. She wanted the highest and
best of all things for Lilias--a perfect lover, a husband worthy to
be the prop and support and restorer of the house of Murray. She knew
very well that she would not be easily satisfied. Wealth would not be
enough, nor good looks, nor a good name. She wanted all together, and
she wanted something more. A fool, if he were a prince, would not have
done for her, nor a man of genius unless he had been a true lover,
putting Lilias above all women.

It may be imagined that the quest on which she was setting out was not
an easy one. She followed it in her thoughts through many an imaginary
scene. Miss Margaret was a very sensible woman; there was nobody better
able to guide the affairs of her family. She was not easily taken-in
nor given to deceiving herself; yet, when in her imagination she went
into the world of London and society there, no dream was ever more
wildly unlike reality than were her thoughts. She evolved these scenes
from her own consciousness, and moved about among them with a progress
as purely visionary as that of Una or of Britomart. Like the one, she
was in search of a true knight; like the other, ready to face all
enchanters and overcome all perils; but the world into which she was
about to launch was as little like the world of her fancy as was the
court of Gloriana or the woods of Broceliande.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The only thing which had shaken Lilias in the virginal calm of her
thoughts was the example of little Katie Seton, a younger girl than
herself, and whose system of education had been so different. While
Lilias had been kept under the wing of her sisters, apart from any
encounter, Katie had been introduced to everything their little
world contained of wild sensation and adventure. She had entered
upon the agitations of love-making almost as soon as she was in her
teens, and her sixteenth birthday was scarcely past when she appeared
one afternoon, as Lilias put away her books, evidently in all the
excitement of some great news to communicate, which Miss Margaret's
presence kept in, though Katie was bursting with it. Miss Margaret, as
was natural, stayed in the school-room, which was still the special
haunt of Lilias, much longer than was usual. It was a rainy day, and
no walk was possible. Is it from perversity and desire to interfere
with the pleasures of the young--pleasures now out of their own
reach--that the elder people will linger and keep girls and boys on the
rack when they have things to say to each other not intended for elder
ears? Katie thought so as she sat biting her lips, hardly able to keep
still, brimming over with her news; and Lilias, who divined that there
was something unusual, almost was tempted to think so too, as Miss
Margaret considered over the book-shelves, looking for she did not know
what, and opened all the drawers to find an old exercise-book which was
of no interest at the moment.

"Oh! if you will just leave it to me, I will find it, Margaret," Lilias
cried.

"You would find it the easier for knowing what it is," said Margaret,
grimly, "which is almost more than I do myself. I will know it by
head-mark when I see it."

"Let me turn out the drawer," cried Katie, officiously.

Miss Margaret looked at the girl with humorous perversity.

"What nonsense are you plotting between you?" she said. "Katie, your
eyes are just leaping out of your head, and you have not been still a
moment since you came into this room, every flounce in motion----"

"Could anybody help it?" cried Katie. "Such a day!--and me just wanting
Lilias to come out and see the garden. The lilacs are all out, and
everything so sweet: and now this pouring rain will spoil them all. I
am just like to cry," said Katie, the corners of her mouth drooping.
But Miss Margaret knew very well it was not for the lilacs or the rain,
but for excitement and impatience, that Katie was like to cry.

"Well, well," she said, "I suppose you must have your bits of secrets
at your age; there will be no great harm in them. I will find my book
another time. But mind you don't stay too long in this room, which is
cold when there is no sun, but come into the drawing-room to your tea.
You will find me there, and Jean--and sense," said Miss Margaret, with
her back turned to them, calmly selecting a book from the shelves--"if
you should happen to stand in any need of that last----"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Katie, when at last Miss Margaret went away,
running to shut the door after her, and make sure at least of being
alone with her friend, "we stand in no need of that. Oh, Lilias!" she
said, rushing up to her companion and flinging her arms round her with
such vehemence that the slight girl swayed with the sudden shock.

"What is it, Katie!" Lilias cried. "What is it? Tell me, but do not
knock me down."

"Oh, it is you that are sense," cried Katie, with a sort of fury,
pushing her friend into the big chair, and falling down herself at
the side of it, with her arms on Lilias' knee. There was a degree of
violence in these preliminaries; for Katie, though full of a woman's
secret, was still half girl, half boy in her early development, as the
sister of many brothers is apt to be. Lilias, so much more delicate
and dainty, took hold of the hands which had numberless scratches upon
them, nails cut to the quick, and other indications of having been put
to boyish uses, and held them in her own white fingers closely clasped.

"I am as anxious to hear as you are to tell," she said. "Quick, quick,
tell me! What is the matter? Have they sent him away?"

"Oh, Lily! Something far more wonderful. There is no knowing what they
may do. They will do something dreadful--they will do anything to part
us. Oh, Lily! you'll never, never tell anybody, not even Miss Jean--not
a word! I'll never, never speak to you all my life, if you tell upon me
now!"

"I tell upon you! Did I ever tell upon you?" said Lilias, indignant.
"That about Robbie Bairnsfather was found out. It was never me."

"I know you will not tell," said Katie. "You are just my own Lily.
You will never say a word. Lilias! I'm----oh, can't you guess? We
are--engaged--It is quite true. Look," the girl cried, with a glowing
countenance, opening a button of her boddice and drawing forth from
under it a little ring, attached to a ribbon. Her hand trembled, though
it was the hand of a tom-boy. Her face shone; tears were in the eyes
which were, as Miss Margaret said, "leaping out of her head."

"Engaged!" cried Lilias. "Oh, you gave me such a fright. When I saw the
ring, I thought you were going to say you were--married. Let me get my
breath."

"Married!" Katie said, with a certain contempt. To be married would
be the prose of the transaction. She felt herself upon a higher, more
ethereal altitude. "That would be nothing," she said. "There would be
no secret then. Oh, Lily, isn't it wonderful? This is a ring that is
his very own, that an old lady gave him when he was a boy. Look at it!
It's all turquoise, and turquoise means happiness. He put it on my
finger, but I dare not wear it on my finger, for mamma would be sure
to notice. She notices everything. Old people," said Katie, aggrieved,
"pretend to wear spectacles, and all that, as if they couldn't see: but
nothing escapes them! I can't put a pin in my collar, but mamma will
see it. 'Katie, Katie!' she always says; and I know in a moment what
it is. Oh, but she would say, 'Katie, Katie!' twice as loud, if she
saw this! So I wear it round my neck: but I may put it on here," Katie
said. "Look, Lilias! Isn't it bonnie? I always wanted a ring, but I
never thought I would get the engaged ring the very first of all."

There was a little triumph in Katie's tone. Not only was Lilias far,
very far, from being the proud possessor of an "engaged" ring, but she
had scarcely been allowed "to speak to a gentleman"--a thing Mrs. Seton
thought the worst policy--in all her life.

"But never mind the ring. Tell me about--what happened," said Lilias.
"You have not even told me who it is."

"Oh!" cried Katie, red with indignation, "who could it be but _him_? I
am sure I have never said a word, or even thought of anybody but him
for--for ages," she added, with a little vagueness, sinking from the
assumed superiority of her former tone.

"Well, dear," said Lilias, soothingly, "but then, you know, there was
Mr. Dunlop."

"I never cared a bit about him. He was only just in the way. You have
to let a gentleman speak to you when he is in your way."

"I suppose so," said Lilias, with a faint sigh. Such an experience
had never happened to herself. "But how was I to know? And it is not
very long since--but it _is_ Philip? Oh, yes, I supposed so all along,
especially as it is such a secret. If it had been Mr. Dunlop it would
have been no secret--or Robbie--or--"

"I wish you would not speak such nonsense. I never, never thought--it
was only just for fun. I never in all my life cared for anybody but
him! Oh, never; you may say what you please, but it's only me that can
know."

"That is true," said Lilias, with gentle conviction. "But tell me how
it happened, and when--and what he said, and what you said. It will be
like a story, but only far, far more interesting," Lilias said.

"It was not like a story at all," said Katie, with some indignation.
"Am I that kind of person? We just happened to meet down by the
waterside. Oh yes, I am fond of walking there; and the boys were after
a water-rat, as they always are, and the little girls were somewhere--I
am sure I never can tell where they go. Mamma scolds me when they tear
their frocks, but is it likely I can run into all their hiding holes
with them at my age?"

"And then?" said Lilias, conducting her penitent skilfully over this
obstacle.

"And then--oh, well, nothing particular. He happens often to be that
way himself. It is the prettiest walk. I was rather glad to see
him coming; for, you know, neither the boys nor the girls are just
companions for me. And then I asked him when he was going away, and he
said would I be sorry? and I said, oh yes, I would be sorry; for he was
always somebody to speak to. And he said, was that all? And I said, oh,
you know that we danced the same step, and that was always nice. And
then he said--oh, just nonsense; that _I_ was always nice, or something
like that; and then he said he would never go away, if he could help
it. And I said, what was he going for, then? And he said, because he
was too fond of somebody that never thought upon him. Of course I knew
well enough what he meant, but I pretended to be very sorry, and said,
who could that be?"

Katie made a very pretty picture as she told her story. She was leaning
her elbows on Lilias' lap, and playing with the long chain which
Lilias, after the fashion of the time, wore to her watch, and which was
the object of Katie's warmest admiration. She was twisting this in her
fingers, tying knots in it, occupying her eyes with it, and escaping
her friend's gaze, though she sometimes paused for a moment and gave
a glance upward. Her little blooming face was in a glow of colour and
excitement, ready to laugh, ready to cry. As for Lilias, she was full
of attention, bending forward, her face following every variation of
her friend's.

"But," Lilias said, "I thought it was not he that wanted to go away,
but Mrs. Stormont that was sending him."

"Oh," cried Katie, "I wish you would not insist upon everything like a
printed book. I am telling you what he said--I was never saying it was
all true. They never tell exactly the truth," Katie interrupted herself
to say, with conviction. "There is always a little more--or just a
little twist to make you believe----But you can understand that, if you
have any sense. I said--who could that be? and he said, 'Oh, Katie!'
just like mamma."

"And then?" cried Lilias, breathless.

"Oh, there was nothing particular then," said Katie, all one blush,
"but just nonsense, you know; and fancy, he had been carrying _this_
about all the time, always wanting to give it to me! He just put it on,
and then we were engaged," Katie said.

"Oh, Katie, what a terrible thing to happen! And then did you just go
home as usual, and never say a word?"

"What could I say? I would not tell mamma for all the world. She would
want to make a business of it, and tell Mrs. Stormont, and get it
all settled. She would want us to be married; but I don't want to be
married--I want to have my fun."

"Oh, Katie!"

"Everybody says 'Oh, Katie!'" said the girl, plaintively; "but that
does not make any difference. It is not dreadful at all--it is very
nice. I belong to him, and he belongs to me; he tells me everything,
and I tell him everything. But we don't want to make a fuss; we are
quite happy as we are. Mrs. Stormont would just go daft, you know. She
knows quite well that is what it is coming to--oh, I can see it in her
eyes! I think she would like to send me to prison, if she could, to get
me out of Philip's way."

"But, Katie, if you think that----"

"Oh, it does not make any difference to me; perhaps I would do the same
myself. There's our Robbie, if he wanted to be married, I would think
he was mad, and mamma would be--I don't know what mamma wouldn't do. I
suppose it's natural. Everybody wants their own people to do well for
themselves, and I have no money, not a penny. Mrs. Stormont would have
been quite pleased, Lilias, if it had been you."

"Me!" said Lilias, with a blush, but a slight erection of her head; she
laughed to carry off the slight shock of offence. "But that would not
have done at all," she said.

"Oh, no, it is just the same thing; you are too good, and I'm not good
enough. If it had been you, Miss Margaret would have tried to have
_him_ sent to prison; and perhaps, when there is somebody found grand
enough for you, Lilias, _his_ folk will not be pleased. That is always
the way," said the shrewd Katie, shaking her head; "but it happens, all
the same. Isn't it bonnie?" she added, returning to the former subject,
and holding up her hand with the ring on it. "Turquoise is the right
thing for an engaged ring; but, when your one comes, never let him give
you an opal, Lilias--that is such bad luck."

"Oh! if anyone were to come--as you say: I should think of something
else than rings," Lilias said, and blushed at the thought. It seemed
to her a little breach of modesty even to speak of any such incident.
When, in the fulness of time, it came, with a strange and wonderful
event! but not to be profaned by anticipation. Her heart gave a throb,
then left the subject in silence. "But it will have to be known some
time," she said.

Katie shrugged her little shoulders.

"It will not be through me," she said. "They say a girl can't keep a
secret, but just you try me. He can do what he likes, but I will never
tell--never, not if I were to be put on the rack."

"But, Katie, do you think it is right? To live at home and see your
father and mother every day, and not tell them--you could not do it!"

"Just you try me," said Katie. "Do you think in the persecuting days I
would have told where they were hidden--or Prince Charlie?" cried the
girl, with pardonable confusion. "Never!--I would never have minded
either the thumbscrew or the boot."

"But I don't think this is the same," said Lilias, doubtfully. "You
will be always seeing him, meeting him, and they will not know; and you
will have secrets, and he will tell you things, and you will tell him
things, and yet at home they will not know."

"That is just the fun of it," Katie cried.

"Oh, I cannot see any fun in that. And it will be so difficult; you
will forget, you will say something when you do not intend----"

"Not me," cried Katie. "I hope I have my wits about me. I will never
betray him; whoever is not true, I will always be true."

Lilias was somewhat staggered by this view of the subject, but she was
not convinced. She shook her head.

"I could not do it," she said.

"Oh, you! No, you could not do it; but then you could not do any of
it," cried Katie. "You have been brought up by old maids; you are never
let speak to a gentleman at all; it never could happen to you," she
cried, with a little triumph.

And Lilias, for her part, had to allow to herself, with a certain sense
of humiliation, that Katie was right. It never would happen to her.
No Orlando would ever be able to hang verses on the trees at Murkley,
even no Philip meet her out walking by the river-side, and woo her
in Katie's artless way. She wondered how it ever could be permitted
to happen at all--or would it never happen, and she herself live and
die without any other experience, like Jean and Margaret? Her heart
fluttered in her maiden bosom with the strangeness of the question. She
did not believe in the depths of her heart that it never could happen.
In some miraculous way, as it happened to the ladies of romance,
it would come to her. But it would be very different from Katie's
story--everything about it would be different. The news roused her
mind and affected her dreams in spite of herself. That night, in her
maiden sleep, never interrupted heretofore by such visions, she dreamed
that some one took her hand and put a ring upon it--a big blob of
blue, far bigger than Katie's turquoise, which changed as she looked
at it into the strange changing tints of an opal. She thought it very
strange that she should dream of this just after Katie's disquisition
on the subject. The two things did not present themselves to Lilias'
mind under the semblance of cause and effect. But it vexed her that
she could not in the least make out who it was that put the ring upon
her hand. She was not destitute of jewellery as Katie was, though Miss
Margaret discouraged ornaments; but she had neither a turquoise nor an
opal in her stones.

And there were other ways in which Katie's story affected Lilias. She
could not help thinking of the meetings of the lovers. She had herself
gone sometimes when she was younger, with Katie to the walk by the
water-side, when the boys went after water-rats or rabbits, and the
little girls made "little housies" in the sand of the old quarry. In
those days Lilias and Katie strolled up and down, superior to the
children, talking of a hundred things. Lilias knew how it would all
be. She went out herself into the Ghost's Walk, where it was always
permitted her to walk when she pleased, and thought wistfully, with a
little sigh, of the water-side and all its freedom, the children busy,
their voices softened in the distance, and the two in the centre of
the landscape, whose whispering would be--something different. What
it would be, Lilias did not know. In the very secretest corner of
her imagination little broken dialogues had gone on between herself
and--another. But they had been too secret, too vague even to come
into the legitimate and acknowledged land of visions in which the old
Australian cousin had played so large a part. Katie's story dismissed
that benevolent old man with his full purse from Lilias' imagination,
and brought those far less perfect germs of dreaming into prominence
instead.

The sunset was still blazing over the river, when it was already
twilight in the Ghost's Walk, which lay on the other side of the
house, and saw no sunshine later than noon. Lilias paced about under
the silken foliage of the limes in the still air, which was full of
dreams, and felt herself left outside of life, looking at it from a
distance with a visionary pensive sadness. There was something in the
air, the subdued light, the sense of evening all about, which chimed
in with this mood. It was curious to think of Katie, so much younger
than herself, enjoying everything, the flush of youthful sunshine,
while she was thus left out. But Lilias felt at the same time a certain
gentle superiority, the elevation of the pensive vestal, in delicate
solitude and retirement, over the common ways of the world. She walked
about in a soft dream, with a sigh, yet with a sensation of gentle
grandeur which made up for and was enhanced by the sadness. As she
paused under the great old lime-tree which was in the centre of the
walk, the soft sounds which distinguished the family spectre were very
audible. She knew the story of that gentle lady who had died for love.
None of the Murrays were afraid of her. To have seen her would have
been a distinction--they had heard her from generation to generation.
There was even a tradition in the family that one time or other, when
the wedded mistress of the house should be at the same time a daughter
of the house, a Murray born, the lady of the walk would appear to her,
and pace by her side, and tell her something that would be well for the
race.

Lilias paused, and looked about her with pride, and tenderness, and a
thrill of anticipation. She had thought often that she herself might
be that destined lady; but the thought had never moved her as now. It
awoke a little tumult in her bosom as she stood there in the subdued
evening air full of the recollection of the love-tale that had been
told her. Margaret and Jean walked in the Ghost's Walk without any such
movements or beatings of the heart. Lilias felt a great awe come over
her as she stood and listened. If ever these soft steps that had paced
about under the limes for two hundred years should turn aside from
their habitual walk, and the air above them shape into a vision, what
wonderful events must happen first? She stood silent, almost without
breathing for a moment, and then she drew the skirt of her dress over
her arm, and fled into the house as if something had been pursuing her.
It was not that she was afraid of any ghostly appearance; but she was
afraid of the rustling of the wings of the coming years, and of the
events that were approaching her through the silence, the things that
were to shape her life. What were they?--perhaps patience, perhaps
sorrow, such as women so often have to dwell with. Perhaps, who could
tell, Love, the unknown, the greatest of all. She fled from them and
the thought of them, whatever they might be.



CHAPTER XIX.


"Did you ever hear that a turquoise was lucky and an opal an ill stone?"

Lilias was seated beside her sisters in the drawing-room in the soft
darkness of the summer night. But that there were two lamps lighted,
shining like two dim earth-stars in the large dim room, with its dark
wainscot and faded velvet curtains, you would scarcely have known it
was night. The windows were not closed, and the pale day had not
altogether died. There was still light enough to read by; but Simon
brought in the lamps at a certain hour, without much respect to the
state of the daylight. They lighted up each the circle of the table
on which it stood, but made the rest of the room darker than before.
The three ladies were seated about one of these tables. Jean was
knitting--a piece of work better adapted for this light than her famous
table-cover; Margaret was reading the newspaper. The _Times_ (for
they indulged in the luxury of the _Times_, considered to be rather
an extravagance in these parts) arrived at night, which was a wonder
they were never tired of expatiating upon. "Published in London this
morning, and here in my hands within the twelve hours; it is just a
miracle," Miss Margaret was fond of saying. The large broad-sheet
caught the glow of the lamp, and made a large white space in the
dimness, in the midst of which Margaret's countenance was set. It made
a rustling as she turned it over, and from time to time she read out
a paragraph. The others were not much given to the newspaper. They
heard enough of it from the bits that Miss Margaret read out. Being a
person of very decided and consistent political views, she despised and
detested the politics of her favourite newspaper, and would sometimes
read out a leading article with a string of satirical comments, which,
had Miss Jean known a little more about it, or Lilias taken a greater
degree of interest, would have been amusing. But in neither case did it
tell as it ought. Miss Margaret was used to a want of sympathy in this
respect; but it is to be supposed that in the mere utterance aloud of
her sentiments there was some pleasure, for she continued to express
them without much reference to her audience. Miss Jean threw in a word
now and then, mostly in deprecation.

"No, no, Margaret, I can't think that; the man will just be mistaken,"
she would say, or, "No, no--it's just a matter of opinion."

"Opinion!" Miss Margaret would say. "An idiot might hold the opinion
that white is black--but it takes a dishonest person to say white is
white one day, and black the next."

"Whisht, whisht, Margaret; how can you tell it is the same person?"
Miss Jean would say.

Lilias scarcely took any notice at all. She was at the age when a
young creature can carry on two mental processes at once. She was
thinking all the time, dreaming her dreams, holding all sorts of
dialogues within herself, but at the same time she heard every word and
remembered, and could strike in when it pleased her. All her faculties
were as vivid as youth and life could make them. She missed nothing and
forgot nothing, yet never paid the least attention. To do this is what
we all are capable of in our day.

Lilias sat on the other side of the round table with a box before her
filled with trinkets. There was nothing of any great value in the
little velvet-lined shelves and drawers; they were her mother's girlish
ornaments, and the presents that had been made to herself from time to
time, and the little nothings that gather in an old house, brooches
and bracelets that had belonged to former generations, and which,
found from time to time lying in a drawer, had been handed over with a
"Would you like to have it?" from Margaret, or a pleased exclamation,
"This will just do for Lilias," from Jean. Her mother's diamonds,
which, though they were not very rich or rare, were still diamonds,
were locked up securely for her against the time when she should be old
enough to wear them; but the contents of the box which was now upon the
table had given Lilias far more pleasure than she would ever get from
diamonds. The cornelians and old-fashioned topazes and amethysts, the
twisted chains and necklets and filigree brooches, had been her delight
for years. She had put them upon her dolls when she was a child.
Afterwards it had been one of her great pleasures to arrange and polish
them, and seduce Jean into telling her over and over again the story
of this one and the other. That was old Sir Claude's hair set round
with a mourning border of black and a row of small lustrous pearls: the
topazes? "Oh! I remember them very well; old Aunt Barbara used to wear
them. She was grandpapa's aunt, and she lived to be nearly a hundred. I
remember how I used to wonder--" and so on, and so on.

Lilias had heard all the stories a hundred times, but she liked them
still; they were associated to her with many a cheerful, feverish hour,
and many a delightful, childish convalescence. While Jean knitted her
white fleecy wool and Margaret read her paper, Lilias took out and put
in again the shining little ornaments, caressing them with her slim
fingers. They were her earliest childish property; many of them were
hideous, but she did not like them the worse for that. She had just
taken out a little bracelet set with little turquoises, some of which
had grown green instead of blue with age and neglect. Then it was that
she made the little speech above recorded. "Did you ever hear that a
turquoise was lucky and an opal an ill stone?"

"Not an ill stone," said Miss Jean, who could not bear to hear the
character even of a stone taken away, "it is just beautiful; but it is
a common saying that it brings ill-luck. I do not believe in any such
nonsense. Long ago it had a different character. Dear me, what was the
property it had? Margaret will mind."

"What are you saying about Margaret? What will I mind? You think I have
room for all the trash that can be collected in my poor head, like
Lilias' trinket-box. Opals! they were said to change colour when they
were near poison. But we are in no risk of poison, and I'm not fond of
them. Where did you hear anything about opals, or turquoise either?"
Miss Margaret said.

The question confused Lilias slightly, for it brought vividly before
her the great communication Katie had made to her, and the necessity
for keeping it secret.

"Oh, I did not hear much about them," she said.

"It would be in some story-book," said Miss Jean. "It is just the thing
to be in a story-book. But there is no luckiness or unluckiness in
stones. That is just superstition."

"It is a thing you know nothing about," said Miss Margaret, "nor me
either. We'll wait till we know before we pronounce judgment."

She put down her paper in one hand, so that the light and shade of the
group was a little altered, and she looked keenly at Lilias through her
spectacles. For she had already taken to spectacles, though all her
contemporaries declared it to be affectation. She would have seen her
little sister better without them, but Miss Margaret was of opinion
that they increased the dignity of her appearance, and conveyed an
impression of more penetrating insight. She always put them on when she
had some reproof to make.

"What set Katie talking of jewels?" she said. "She has none, that I
know of."

"Oh, for nothing at all," said Lilias; and then she added, "We were
speaking of rings, and she said what she liked best."

"Which was turquoise? The little cutty, what does she know about such
things? It will be some love-business. I hope her mother knows, or that
good Christian, her father, that they just turn round their little
fingers. But I'll have no talk about lovers here."

"Margaret!" said Miss Jean, with a look of distress. "Oh, I hope you
are not hardening your heart, and judging your neighbours. Little Katie
is a harmless thing. She is no more than a child. I suppose Lilias was
showing her the things in the box. I would give her that bit bracelet,
if I were you, Lily. You will never miss it, and what she wants is just
a little ornament or two. Mrs. Seton takes a great deal of trouble with
her dress. It does her mother great credit, Katie's dress, for they are
far from rich. Since she is fond of turquoises, I would give her the
bracelet: and I think I could find a locket to go with it."

"How kind you are, Jean--even though you don't approve of Katie."

"There is nobody that Jean does not approve of," said Miss Margaret,
"if she thinks she has anything that they would like. As for that
little thing, the best thing they can do with her is to marry her.
She should marry the helper at the Braehead, who, they tell me, will
be assistant and successor, for Mr. Morrison is an old man, and
very frail. It would be a very suitable marriage, just in their own
condition of life, and really a very presentable person."

"Katie does not think he is in their own condition of life."

"Katie is just a--cutty. I have always disliked that in a minister's
family. They look down upon their own kind. Well, there is the young
man that plays the piano. I am not fond of men that give themselves up
to music. The piano is a fine thing for girls that have little to do.
And that's well thought upon--I have not heard you practise, Lilias,
for a whole month."

"I played all my pieces over the day before yesterday," said Lilias,
with a little indignation.

"Oh, Lilias!" cried Miss Jean, putting up her hands, "as if it were
just mechanical, to hear you speak like that."

"I see no harm in what she says," said Miss Margaret. "But when a thing
has been learnt, and cost a good deal of trouble, it should not just
be let down. I was saying that young man who plays the piano. He's a
stranger here. If he has a good profession, or anything to live on,
they might get him for Katie. I would marry her early, if she belonged
to me, which, the Lord be thanked, she does not, nor any of her kind."

"There is no harm in her that I can see," said the gentler sister.

Miss Margaret answered with that monosyllabic sound which it is common
to spell, "Humph," and went back to her newspaper; and then the little
group fell again into soft silence, full of thinkings and dreamings.
Miss Jean, indeed, did not do much beyond counting the stitches of her
knitting. She was capable of refraining even from thought. She had no
harsh conclusions in her mind, nor anything to disturb her. The hours
slid on softly. She was happy to see the others occupied, to have no
jar in the air, nothing to derange the harmony of the gentle silence.
The little oppositions between her sister and herself never came to
any discord. And, as for Lilias, she had begun to occupy herself, with
the pleasure of a child, in stringing some pretty blue Venetian beads,
which it was quite a pleasure to find loose. The girl was delighted
with the task--she threaded them one by one, letting each drop upon the
other with a little tinkle. This made a sort of merry accompaniment
to her thoughts, and, after the foregoing interruption, she took up
those thoughts--if thoughts they can be called--just where she had
left them, and resumed the dialogue she had been carrying on. It was
a dialogue between herself and--the other. He had just saved her life
(for the hundredth time), and she was thanking him, and he, with words
which meant far more than they sounded, was giving her to understand
that for him to save her life was mere selfishness, for what would the
world be without her? It was Katie's communication which had emboldened
Lilias to carry on a conversation like this in the very presence of
her sisters. She indulged generally in it only in snatches, in the
uttermost retirement. Now at the very table sitting with them she
ventured upon it. What would they think if they knew? This gave her
a quiver of laughter and pain and pleasure all together--laughter to
think how little they knew, pain to contemplate the possibility that
they might find out. But in fact that did not come into the bounds of
possibility. Thus the three sisters sat together, and knew just as much
and as little of each other as is common with human folk.

It was about this time that Lewis first came to the house to play to
Miss Jean; but of this Lilias was not supposed to know anything. She
had seen him to be a stranger when they had first met on the road, and
she had perceived, with a mixture of amusement and pique that whereas
he looked with a good deal of curiosity at her sister, her own blue
veil had been a sort of sanctuary for herself. Lilias could not but
think he must be a stupid young man not to have divined. It tickled
her to think that he had passed her quite over and gazed at Margaret
and Jean. But he did not interest her much. Nothing could be more
unlike the fine specimen of manhood over six feet high, with dark eyes
that went to your very soul, who was in the habit most evenings of
saving Lilias' life, than this commonplace young man who never looked
at her. Lewis was not tall; there was not much colour about him. He
did not seem at all like a person who could stop a runaway horse, or
burst through a flaming door, or leap a wall to render instant and
efficient help as that hero had now done so often that Lilias felt a
little variety would be desirable. When she met him again at the new
castle, she was still more amused by his startled look at her, and
by the way in which he permitted Miss Margaret to swoop upon him and
carry him off. There was something amiable, something _nice_ about him,
she thought. He was like a brother. Sometimes in novels the heroine
will have a brother who is completely under her control, who takes his
opinions and views from her, and is useful at last in marrying her
confidant, as well as in backing herself up generally, whatever she
may have to do. It seemed to Lilias that he would do very well for
that _rôle_. She was seized with sudden kindness for him after that
second encounter. And then it amused her much that Margaret thought it
necessary to carry off this mild, colourless, smiling youth out of her
way. From the moment this happened she made up her mind to make his
acquaintance, and it was not in such utter innocence as Jean supposed
that Lilias made that sudden appearance in the drawing-room, cutting
short a proposal upon the very lips of Lewis, and interrupting the high
tension of the situation. The dinner that followed, the startled look
which he had cast upon herself, his silence and bewildered absorption
when he sat opposite to her, and the discomfiture of Margaret, had
all been exceedingly amusing to the young plotter. She meant no harm,
neither to Lewis nor to her sisters. She neither meant to make a
conquest of the stranger, nor to alarm her anxious guardians. She
wanted a little fun. She was a girl full of imagination, full of
poetical attributes: but by times an imperious desire for a little fun
will overwhelm the sagest bosom of eighteen. She could not resist the
impulse. To see the agitation she had caused was delightful. She could
scarcely contain her laugh as she sat down opposite to him and saw his
wondering looks, and perceived the efforts of Miss Margaret to keep his
attention engaged. Lilias had been very demure. She had sat at table
like an innocent little school-girl who thought of nothing but her
lessons. She became conscious after a while that he had once or twice
met her eye when she was off her guard, and probably had caught the
sparkle of malice in it; and then Lilias began to feel guilty, but this
was not till the meal was nearly over, and she had got her amusement
out of it. She disappeared the moment they rose from table, determined
to show Margaret that she meant no harm. And indeed Miss Margaret was
too anxious to put "nothing in her head," to suggest no ideas to the
young mind which she believed so innocent, to say a word as to this
incident. It was quite natural that the child in her guilelessness
should ask the stranger to come to dinner.

"I feel it a reproach on myself," Margaret said. "It's not the habit in
any house of ours to let a visitor go without breaking bread. I did not
do it myself because of a feeling, that is perhaps an unworthy feeling,
that he came of none of the Murrays we know of, and that I'm not fond
of sitting down with a person that might not be just a----"

"Oh, don't say not a gentleman, Margaret," cried Jean. "He might be an
angel to hear him play."

"Ah! well, that might be: an angel is not necessarily----" Miss
Margaret said, with a curious dryness. "But you were quite right,
Lilias. It's what I desire that a creature like you should just do what
is right without thinking of any reason against it."

Margaret's brow had a pucker of care in it even when she said this,
and Lilias felt so guilty that she had nearly fallen on her knees and
confessed her little trick. But to what good? Had she confessed, they
would have thought her far more to blame than she really was; they
would have thought she wanted to make the stranger's acquaintance, or
had some secret inclination towards him, whereas all that she wanted
was fun, a thing as different as night from day.

"This young man was probably saying something to you about himself,"
Miss Margaret said. "Lilias, you may go to your books, and I will
come to you in half-an-hour or so. You have the air of being a little
put about, Jean. I would be glad of your confidence, if you have no
objection. I hope there is nothing that can occur that will come
between you and me."

"Come between you and me!" cried Miss Jean, in astonishment. "I know
nothing that could do that, Margaret; but, dear me! you must mean
something. You would not say a thing like that just merely without any
cause. Confidence!--I have no confidence to give. You know me just as
well as I know myself."

"Is that so?" said the elder sister, looking at her with penetrating
eyes.

"Why should it not be so? There must be something on your mind,
Margaret."

"There is nothing on my mind. No doubt this young man was saying
something to you--about himself."

"I cannot remember what he said," said Miss Jean; and then she uttered
an exclamation of annoyance. "How selfish I am!" she said--"just like
all the rest. We listen to what concerns us, and not a bit to what
concerns another person. Yes, he did tell me something, poor lad, about
settling down here. I was surprised, for what should a young man do
here? and yet you do not like to say a word against it, when it's your
own place. It is like saying you will take no notice of him, or that
there's some reason why he shouldn't come. I was very glad when Lilias
came in; it saved me from making any answer, and I did not know what to
say."

"Dear me!" said Miss Margaret, still suspicious. "It must have been
something out of the common if you were so much at a loss as that."

Jean looked at her for a moment with doubtful eyes.

"If it had been only me, it would have been easy enough," she said. "I
would have said, 'If you settle here, Mr. Murray, we will be very glad
from time to time to see you at the Castle, and if you should be going
to marry, as would be natural, my sisters and me will do what we can to
make the place agreeable to your young lady.' That is what I would have
said if it had been only me; for to play such music as you is given to
few, and my opinion is that nobody but a well-educated person, and one
that was gentle by nature, could ever do it. But when I remembered that
you had not that way of knowing, and were a little suspicious of the
lad that he might be a common person, I was just silenced, and could
not find a word to say."

Margaret had turned away to conceal a certain constraint that was in
her countenance. She waited for a few minutes with her back to her
sister, looking out of the window, before she ventured to speak.

"I am glad he was so modest," she said; "but what would he do settling
here in this quiet little place?"

"That is just what I said," said Jean, all unconscious. "I told him he
would repent. And he really is a most innocent, single-minded youth,
for he said something quite plain about looking to us for society,
which made it more hard for me to give him no encouragement. But I did
not like to take it upon me as you were not there."

Upon this Margaret turned round upon her placid sister with a little
excitement.

"You are old enough to judge for yourself, Jean. You have a good right
to choose for yourself. I'm a woman of strong opinions, I cannot help
it. But you're a gentle creature, and you have a heart as young as
Lilias. Just do what you think best, and don't let anything depend on
me."

Jean looked up with a little surprise at this speech. "I have no
desire," she said, "my dear Margaret, to set up my judgment in that
way. We're one, we're not two, we have always been of the same mind.
Perhaps we will hear something more satisfactory about his family; for
I have a real hope you will take the young man up. He has very nice
manners, and his touch is just extraordinary. It would be such a good
thing for Lilias, too. To see him at the piano is better than many a
lesson. So I hope you will take the best view you can of him. To bring
him to dinner was very startling to me, but it is fine that Lilias has
such a sense of hospitality."

All this Jean said with a manner so entirely undisturbed that
Margaret could not tell what to think. It was she who was abashed and
confused--she who had supposed it possible that her sister could be
moved by the young man's nonsense. Indeed, when she came to think
it over, she felt almost a conviction that it was she herself who
was mistaken. Jean evidently was totally unenlightened in respect to
any intentions he might have. It must have been she who had made the
mistake. She was not fond of acknowledging herself in the wrong, even
to herself, but it was fortunate at least that no one else knew the
delusion she had been under, and still more fortunate that now that
delusion was past.



CHAPTER XX.


The framework of society at Murkley was of a simple description.
There were no great gatherings in that corner of the countryside. A
dinner-party happened now and then, but these were very rare, for most
of the best families dined in the middle of the day in a primitive
manner, and a great dinner meant an overthrow of all the habits of
the house. Usually friends came to tea, and remained, as in the
manse, when the majority was young, to dance: or in other houses,
when the majority were older people, to play a friendly rubber, with
a round game for such youth as might be of the party. The routine
was completely stereotyped; for human nature is very uninventive,
especially in the country. Sometimes there was an attempt to vary
this procedure by "a little music;" but in those days music was less
cultivated than now, and a few pieces of the "Battle of Prague" kind,
were usually all that were to be found in a young lady's repertoire,
varied perhaps by "Sweet Spirit, hear my Prayer," and other elegant
morceaux of that description. And it is much to be feared that, had the
music been of a higher order, it would have been relished still less;
for however little the art of conversation may be cultivated as an art,
and however little entertainment there may be in it, everybody resents
the stoppage of talk, and the gloomy countenance of even the most
æsthetic of parties, when compelled to silent listening, continues to
prove how much more attractive are our own sweet voices than anything
that supersedes them. Society in Murkley would willingly put up with a
few songs. It is true that it knew them by heart, but the good people
were always charitable on this point, and liked, "Oh, no, we never
mention her!" just as well the hundredth time as the first. And there
was another thing which many of the elder ladies could do without any
vanity on the subject, or even any idea that the gift was more than
a convenience. They played dance music with the greatest spirit and
accuracy. Mrs. Seton possessed this talent, and so to some extent did
Mrs. Stormont, though she put it to less frequent use, and had not the
real enjoyment which the minister's wife had in the exercise of her
talent. These ladies were surprised to be complimented on the subject.
It was no credit to them. It was "just a necessity where there are
young people," Mrs. Seton said; a sort of maternal accomplishment which
everybody took for granted. But though the entertainments and social
constitution were so simple, the same schemes and hopes underlay them
as were to be found on the highest levels. It was, as has been said,
the dearest object of Miss Margaret's heart to keep her little sister
safe, and preserve her from all youthful entanglements of sentiment.
But Mrs. Stormont of the Tower had a dearest object which was entirely
in opposition to Margaret's. Her dream was to secure for her own Philip
this very lily of Murkley which was kept so persistently in the shade.
Mrs. Stormont had been an old friend of the General; they had called
themselves old friends for years with a twinkle in the eye of one and a
conscious smile upon the corners of the other's mouth, which would have
betrayed their little secret had not the countryside in general known
it as well as they did. They had been, in fact, lovers in their youth,
and all the skill of their respective families had been exercised once
upon a time to keep them apart. The attempt had been quite successful,
and neither Mrs. Stormont nor the General had been sorry in after-life.
They had talked it over with a laugh when they met again, more than
twenty years after, each with a little mental comment. It was shortly
after the General's second marriage, when, in the pride and triumph of
having won for himself so young and delightful a bride, he too felt
himself delightful and young as in his best days.

"Good Lord! to think I might have been tied to that old woman!" he said
to himself. She was some years younger than he was, and a handsome
woman, but she was not like Lady Lilias at eighteen.

Mrs. Stormont's reflections were of a different order. She went about
all day after, saying, "Tchich-tchich," to herself at intervals, or
rather making that little sound with the tongue upon the palate which
is the language of mild astonishment mingled with dismay. "He promised
to be a man of sense when _I_ knew him," Mrs. Stormont said, and the
thought of what "a handful" she would have found him gave her a sense
of exhilaration in her escape: thus they were mutually contented that
they had not become one; but yet there was a little consciousness
between them. They would laugh and look at each other when certain
things were said. They had a good-humoured contempt each for the other,
and yet a certain charity. And, when the pretty young wife was cut off,
Mrs. Stormont was very sorry. "Poor thing, she is no doubt taken from
the evil to come," she said, devoutly, with a sense that Lady Lilias
too, when she grew older, might have found her handsome General "a
handful."

But this was partially a mistake on Mrs. Stormont's part, for the
General never did very much harm short of quarrelling with his father.
She was so far justified, however, that secretly, at the bottom of her
heart, it is not to be denied, Miss Margaret agreed with her. It was
long before the General's death, however, that Mrs. Stormont had formed
her plans. Philip was the only child left to her after the loss of
many. She did not adore him in the ordinary way; she formed to herself
no delusions as to his excellence, but knew him as what he was, an
honest fellow, who would never set the Tay, let alone the Thames, on
fire. It was a disappointment to his mother that he was not clever, but
she had made up her mind to that. But she felt that he could not help
more or less making a figure in the county if it could be secured for
him that he should have Lilias Murray to be his wife.

Everything is relative in human society. Lilias was poor in the
estimation of the people whom her sisters would have considered her
equals: and they know her to be poor, they who were supplementing her
importance by their own, maintaining the little state they thought
necessary out of their own means, and allowing the income of Murkley,
such as it was, to accumulate for their child: and all the parents
of the wealthy young gentlemen whom Miss Margaret might have smiled
upon as suitors for Lilias would have considered her poor. But to Mrs.
Stormont she was an heiress and a person of importance. The revenues
of Lilias, added to his own, would make Philip, if not a great man, at
least one who had to be taken into account, who would be reckoned upon
at an election, who might even stand for the county. He was of a good
family, and Lilias was of a better. They would supplement each other,
and increase each other's consequence. In no other way was it likely
that he could do half as well. He might get more money, Mrs. Stormont
said to herself, but money was not everything. The last Stormont of
the Tower married to the last Murray of Murkley would have a position
which the duke himself must pay respect to. She had thought of this
for years. When Lilias was a child she had been regaled with the
finest gooseberries in the garden; little parties had been assembled
for her, the first and the last strawberries reserved for her, with
cream in which the spoon would "stand alone." Mrs. Stormont had never
intermitted these delicate attentions. She stroked the girl's fair
locks every time they met, and said, "I might have been your mother,"
with a laugh and a sigh. It had distressed Miss Margaret to see that
these soft seductions had a great deal of effect upon the girl, and she
had indeed been injudicious enough to do everything she could to push
Philip's claims by a continual depreciation of them.

"That long-leggit lad," she had been in the habit of calling him, until
Lilias had been roused to ask,

"Do you object to long legs, Margaret?"

"Me! object to long legs! No; but I like a head along with them,"
Margaret said.

"Oh! Philip has a nice curly head," cried Lilias.

This had happened when the girl was fifteen, when the General was still
living to lead her into folly. After that she forgot and outgrew Philip
Stormont. Her mourning and retirement made it easy for her sister to
regain the reins which had slipped out of her hands, and establish her
own more rigorous system. And then the young people had arrived at an
age when it is no longer possible to make arrangements for them, when
they begin to settle for themselves. Philip grown-up had showed no
inclination to carry out his mother's wishes. He had gone away for some
years. He had come home quite independent, making his own engagements.
He had grown into an _habitué_ of the manse, not of the castle. And
Margaret had shut her little sister up, letting her go nowhere. This
made at last a crisis in the history of the parish.

Mrs. Stormont lived a somewhat lonely life in her Tower. In winter
especially it was a long walk for people who did not keep carriages.
The remoter county people paid ceremonious calls, just as many as were
due to her, and Mrs. Seton, never to be discouraged in the discharge of
her duty, bravely climbed the cliff about once a fortnight. But these
visits Mrs. Stormont did not esteem. As anxious as she was to find her
son a fitting mate in Lilias, so anxious, she could not but allow,
other people might be to advance the interests of their children.
Philip would be but a bad match for Lilias, but he was an excellent one
for Katie Seton. The one mother comprehended the tactics of the other.
Therefore, when the minister's wife came to call, there was a sort of
duel between the ladies--an encounter from which cordiality did not
ensue. The only ground on which they were unanimous was in denouncing
the pride of Margaret Murray in withdrawing her young sister from the
society of her neighbours, and that ambitious project she had for
taking her to London. Mrs. Seton had been powerless in all her attempts
to have the embargo removed.

"You know what my little bits of parties are," she said, "just a few
friends to tea--and, if the young people like to have a little dance
after, I would not stop them; but no preparations--just the table drawn
away into a corner----"

"Oh! you do yourself injustice," said Mrs. Stormont; "I consider those
little parties very dangerous. I can understand very well why Margaret
will not let Lilias go."

"Dangerous!" cried Mrs. Seton. "Dear me, what could put such a word
into your head? My visitors are all very young, that is the worst of
them. No, no, I should say it was the best. They are so young, they
have nothing in their heads but just the dancing. Oh! perhaps you will
be meaning Philip? Well, you should know best. I don't pretend to
fathom what's in a young man's mind; but I see no signs of anything
else but just a little natural pleasure. I was wild about dancing in
my own day. And so is Katie after me. I cannot say a word to her. It's
just like myself in my time."

"Oh! I think I have heard that," Mrs. Stormont said.

Now it was very well known that the minister's wife in her day had been
a little person full of flirtations and naughtiness; and there was a
good deal of significance in the tone in which the other lady spoke.
But Mrs. Seton was clothed in armour of proof, and knew no harm of
herself.

"I will never deny it," she said. "I was at every dance I could
hear of. And Katie would be just the same, only that there are no
dances--except the bit little things, which are not to be called
dances, which we give ourselves. I will take her to the Hunt Ball when
she is old enough; but it is not the like of that a young creature
wants. She wants just her fun and a little movement; and to have
something to talk about among her friends. Oh! the chatter they will
keep up when two or three of them get together. You would think my
little tea-parties were grand balls, nothing less."

"I consider them far more dangerous than your grand balls," said Mrs.
Stormont. "The young men, when they go to the Hunt Ball, are on their
guard; but he must be a very suspicious person who would take such
precautions for a tea-party at the manse."

"It would be quite out of the question: precautions!" Mrs. Seton cried.
"Two or three boys and girls thinking of nothing but what a bonnie
waltz that is, or whose steps go best together."

She laughed, but Mrs. Stormont did not laugh. She sat very upright in
her chair, and went on with her knitting without the relaxation of a
feature.

"I am thinking," she said, after a pause, "if I keep well, of seeing a
little company myself."

"Dear me! that will be a great pleasure to the young people to hear of."

"Oh, I'll not enter into competition with you," said Mrs. Stormont,
coldly. "But Philip is not just in the boy and girl category. It's for
his sake that I think it's necessary to see a few of my old county
friends."

Mrs. Seton, though she was piqued, was equal to the occasion.

"That's quite a different thing, to be sure," she said, "from the
parish. I may not be very quick in the uptake, but of course I can see
that."

"On the contrary, I would say you were very quick in the uptake,"
said Mrs. Stormont; "there is nobody but knows it. It is not the same
as just the neighbours in the parish; but I need not say that the
clergyman, especially when he's respected like Mr. Seton, and his
family are always included."

"That's very kind," said Mrs. Seton. "If it is to be soon, however, I'm
afraid we will not have the pleasure; we are going to pay some summer
visits, my husband and me, and I think we'll take Katie with us. It's
time she were seeing a little of the world."

"Bless me! at sixteen, what does a girl want with seeing the world?"
Mrs. Stormont cried.

"There is never any telling," said the minister's wife. "It's sometimes
a great advantage to be made to see that a parish or even a county is
not all the world. But," she added, rising with great suavity, "if we
do not see it, we'll hear about it, and I'm sure I hope it will be a
great success."

"She hopes nothing of the sort," said Mrs. Stormont, when her visitor
was gone. She lived so much alone that she would sometimes say out
in very plain language, confident that nobody could hear her, the
sentiments of her mind. "She hopes nothing of the sort; she would
like to hear that my cakes would not rise nor my bread bake, and that
everybody was engaged."

When, however, a little time had elapsed, and Philip's mother had
recovered her temper, she modified this expression. For Mrs. Seton was
not an ill-natured woman. She liked to be first--who does not? She
liked to feel herself a social personage sought by everybody. When
she was neglected or threatened with neglect, she knew how to show
"a proper pride;" but she wished no harm to her neighbours or their
entertainments. And at the present moment the Stormonts were very
important to her. She thought she saw a proposal in Philip's eyes.
Poor lady! she was not wiser than another, she was not aware it had
been made and accepted. She did not know that her little Katie, whose
flirtations she considered of so little consequence, was holding a
secret of such importance from her. She was very quick-witted in such
matters, and would have found out any other girl in a moment; but to
think that Katie was deceiving her was impossible to her. She thought
she had it all in her own hands; sometimes she confided her feelings to
her husband, who was very helpless, and did not know anything about it.

"Things have gone just far enough," she said to him, "with that lad
Philip Stormont--just far enough. Unless he is going to speak, he has
no business to hang about our house morning, noon, and night. He must
see that we are not people to be trifled with, Robert. I am not going
to put up with it if it goes too far."

"I hope, my dear," said the minister, with an air of distress, "that
you don't want me to interfere; I understand nothing about it. I never
spoke to a man upon such a subject in my life. I really could not do
it. You must not ask me to interfere."

Mrs. Seton looked at him with a contemplative air of wondering contempt.

"Of all the frightened creatures in this world, there is nothing like
a man," she said; "a hare is nothing to you. Interfere!--do I ever
interfere with your sermons? I was silly to say a word, but there are
times when a person cannot help herself, when there is just a necessity
to speak to somebody. And I have not Katie to fall back upon. No,
no--don't you be frightened. I hope I have more sense than to ask you
to interfere."

The minister was relieved, but still not quite easy in his mind.

"I hope nobody will do it," he said. "I'd like to horsewhip the fellow
that behaved ill to my Katie; but I would not say a word to him, I
would----"

"Just you hold your tongue, Robert," Mrs. Seton said. "Am I likely to
compromise Katie? Just you write your sermons, and leave the bairns to
me. We are both best in our own departments."

To which sentiment the minister yielded a silent assent. He was
altogether overwhelmed with alarm at the thought of having any
negotiation to manage of such a delicate kind. And Katie, after all,
was a child; and women have a way of giving such exaggerated importance
to everything. But he watched his wife with a little anxiety for some
time after. He found her, however, when he saw them together, on the
best possible terms with Philip Stormont, and he congratulated himself
that the cloud had blown over, and that there would need to be no
interference at all.

"Your mother tells me she's meditating some parties," said Mrs. Seton,
when she saw the young man. "Oh, no, no, not our kind. I hope I know
better than to think of that. Me, I never venture on more than a
tea-party, and, though you do us the honour to come, and the ladies
from the Castle, the rest are just parish neighbours. But, so far as I
understand from Mrs. Stormont, it is the whole county that is coming.
Is it to be a ball? I said to your mother we would probably be away,
Mr. Seton and myself, and that I thought of taking Katie; but I am not
sure that I will keep to that, if it is going to be a ball."

"I don't know anything about it," said Philip. "My mother thinks we
should do something, as people have been so kind to me; but nobody has
been so kind as you have been, and, if you are away, it must be put off
till you come back--unless you send Katie----"

"My dear Mr. Philip," said Mrs. Seton, "it is not that I'm a
punctilious person: and you have known Katie all her life: but, you
see, she is now grown up, and at the first opportunity I am going to
bring her _out_. Yes, I allow it is very early--sixteen and a half--but
the eldest daughter, that always counts for something. And, in the
family, it would be ridiculous if you called her anything but by her
name; but I must ask you, before strangers, to say Miss Seton, or even
Miss Katie. It's more suitable when a girl grows up."

Philip stared with his mouth open, as well as his eyes. Nobody could
say this was interfering. It was different from the brutal method
which asks a man what are his intentions: but all the same he felt
himself pulled suddenly up, when he was fearing nothing. He answered,
faltering, that in that respect and every other he would of course do
what Mrs. Seton thought right, but----

"Oh, yes," she said, with perfect good-humour, "of course you will do
just what I please, but--I am acquainted with your buts, you young
folk--you forget that I was once young myself. No, Philip, Katie is
very well for the house, but it does not do for the world. What would
you think in the middle of your grand party, with all the county there,
as your mother says--that is, if we are asked, which I am not taking
for granted----"

"There shall be no party in any house I belong to, where you are not
asked the very first," Philip said.

"Well, that is a very nice thing to say. It is just what it is becoming
and nice for you to say, having been so much about our house. But what
would people think, if you were to be heard with your Katie here and
Katie there in the middle of all the fine county ladies? What would
they say? You see, I am obliged to think of all that."

"I don't know what they would think," said Philip, with what Mrs.
Seton called afterwards, "a very red face." "I don't know what they
might say--but I know what I should tell them, if any one of them
ventured----"

Mrs. Seton put up her hand to stop him. She would indeed have liked
very much to hear what he would have told them, if any one had
ventured--But, after all, she had no mind to betray him into a hasty
statement. She put up her hand, and said,

"Whisht, whisht! You may be sure nobody would venture. I will tell
you what they would say. They would say _that_ Mrs. Seton's a silly
woman not to notice that her daughter is grown up, and to make other
people take notice of it too. So you see, after all, it is myself I am
thinking of," she concluded, with a laugh.

Philip retired, feeling much discomforted, after this conversation.
His secret had not weighed upon him before. He meant no harm. There
was a certain enjoyment in the mystery, in the stolen meetings, and
secret understanding. He did not mean anything dishonourable. But
as he listened to this unexpected address, and found himself placed
on the standing-ground of one who had known Katie from a child, but
henceforward must learn to respect her as a young lady, a curious shame
and sense of falsehood came over him. As if he were a stranger! as if
he had nothing to do with her! while all the while Katie was----All
the interference in the world could not have convinced the young man
like this. Was it possible that he would have to make believe; to call
his betrothed by the formal name of Miss Seton? His imagination was
not lively, but yet he was capable of figuring to himself his mother's
party at the Tower, with Katie present amid the crowd of guests, and
he, the master of the house, obliged to reserve his attentions for
those who were entitled to them, and incapable of distinguishing her.
Mrs. Seton had overlooked this, clear-sighted as she was. She had
spoken as if the risk were that he would distinguish Katie over-much,
and rouse the surprise of all the fine people by too familiar use of
her name. Alas, if that had been all! But Philip knew better what his
fate would be. He would be occupied with very different duties; his
work would be all laid out for him--whom he was to dance with, to
whom he was to devote his attentions. He would not be able to approach
Katie, perhaps, till the end of the evening after he had paid his
devoirs to all the greater people present.

Poor Philip's heart grew sick as he thus realized his position. If he
could but prevail upon his mother to give up her plans!--failing that,
he was obliged to confess with bitterness that it would be far better
if Katie would go away visiting with her parents. He would not care
for the ball were she absent, that was true; but, Heaven help him!
what was he to do were she present?--how explain to her that he must
abandon her?--and, still more, how explain to her mother, who expected
something so different? Katie might pardon for love's sake, and because
of his protestations and explanations, his apparent neglect--though
Katie, too, was very high-spirited, and would ill be able to brook
the slight. But her mother, how could she be mollified, how brought
to understand it?--she who was so confident of her own great kindness
to him and his indebtedness to her, and only afraid lest his extreme
intimacy should appear too much. Poor Philip! his very soul sank within
him as he anticipated his mother's party. Was it, perhaps, with some
consciousness of all these promising elements of a quarrel that Mrs.
Stormont's plans had been laid?



CHAPTER XXI.


But Mrs. Stormont was not a person whom it was easy to move from
her purpose. She was a serious woman, little addicted to balls,
but, when she had determined upon this frivolity, it became to her
a piece of business as incumbent upon her, and to be undertaken as
conscientiously, as any other duty. If she foresaw in her sober and
long-sighted intelligence the embarrassment it was likely to bring into
her son's relations with the Setons, this was merely by the way, and
not important enough to rank with her as a motive. She glimpsed at it
in passing as an auxiliary advantage rather than contemplated it as
worth the trouble she was taking in itself. Her motives were distinct
enough. She said to the world that her object was to return the
civilities which had been paid to her son, than which nothing could be
more natural. She owned to herself another and still stronger motive,
which she prepared to carry out by a visit to Murkley as soon as her
project had fully shaped itself in her mind. If she could succeed in
bringing out Lilias at this entertainment, and making it the occasion
of her introduction into society--if, amid the gratification which this
preference of his house above all the other houses of the district must
give Philip, she could place before her son's eyes a young creature
far more lovely than Katie, as well as more gently bred and of higher
pretensions, and re-knit the old bonds of childish intimacy between
them, and convince both that they were made for each other, Mrs.
Stormont felt that all the trouble and the expense, which she did not
like, but accepted as a dolorous necessity, would not be in vain. This
was her aim, if she could but carry it out.

As she thought over the details, she felt, indeed, that the minister's
family, who had given themselves the air of being Philip's chief
friends, would no doubt on such an occasion find their level. Mrs.
Seton, who had it all her own way in the parish, would in the society
of the county be put in her right place. And as for the little thing,
who was not worth half the trouble she was likely to give, she would
get her fill of dancing--for she was a good dancer, there could be
no doubt on that point--but she would not have Mr. Stormont to dance
attendance upon her, as no doubt she would expect. This would be a sort
of inevitable revenge upon them, not absolutely intentional--indeed,
beyond any power of hers to prevent--but which naturally she would have
done nothing to prevent, even if she had the power. She caught sight
of it, as it were, by the way, and was grimly amused and pleased. They
would not like it; but what did that matter? It would let them see what
was their proper place.

This, however, which to Mrs. Stormont was but one of the gratifying
details of her plan, bulked much more largely in the eyes of Philip. He
did the best he could to turn her from the ball altogether.

"It will be a great expense," he said, with a face as long as his arm.
"Do you think, mother, it is really worth the while?"

"Everything is worth the while, Philip, that will put you in your
proper place."

"What is my proper place, if I am not in it already without that? There
is no more need for a ball to-day than there was a year ago."

"Then the less I lee, when I say it's needed now," said Mrs. Stormont,
who loved a proverb. "Being wanted a year ago, as you confess, it is
indispensable by this time. I am going to begin with Murkley; they
are our nearest neighbours, and the oldest family in the county.
If Margaret will but bring Lilias, that of itself will be worth all
the cost. The prettiest girl in the whole neighbourhood, and so much
romance about her. I would dearly like if she took her first step in
the world in this house, Phil. It was here she first learned to walk
alone, poor bit motherless thing; and her first step was into your
arms."

Philip laughed, but the suggestion was confusing.

"I hope you don't intend that performance to be repeated now," he said.

"I would have no objection for my part," said his mother. "You might go
farther and fare worse--both of you. Murkley marches with your lands,
and if anything of the kind should come to pass----"

"I wish, mother, you would give up calculations of that sort."

"I never began them," said Mrs. Stormont, promptly. "I say you may go
farther and fare worse. You can drive me to Murkley, if ye please, in
the afternoon, and pay your respects to the ladies."

"Can't Sandy drive you, as usual?" said her son, with a lowering brow.

"Oh, for that matter, I'm very independent. I can drive myself,"
said Mrs. Stormont, who went on the safe principle of making her own
arrangements.

She lamented a little over Philip's churlishness when he left the
room, reminding herself how different it had been when he was a boy,
with a maternal complaint which is too common to require repetition.
But she was too wise a woman to be tragical on this subject. A mother,
even when she has but one child, must harden herself in such matters.
She rang for Sandy, and ordered her little carriage without any
sentimentality.

"Will I clean myself, and go with ye, ma'am," asked Sandy, "or will Mr.
Philip?"

"We must not depend upon Mr. Philip," said Mrs. Stormont, with a smile.
"Gentlemen have so many occupations. You will just be ready at three
o'clock, in case I want you."

And at three o'clock, accordingly, the sturdy old pony felt in his
imagination the flashing of Sandy's whip, and set off at a steady pace
down the hill towards Murkley. They crossed in the big ferry-boat,
to which they were all accustomed, and which the pony regarded as an
every-day matter. Understanding all about the boat, probably he would
have felt a bridge to be something more alarming. The day was fine, the
river shining in the sun, the trees in their deepest summer wealth of
shade.

"Is that the English gentleman that came over to lunch with your
master?" Mrs. Stormont asked.

"I'm no that sure, mem, that he's English," Sandy replied.

"I'm astonished that he's still about. I thought he was a tourist, or
some of those cattle. What is he doing so long here?" the lady asked,
peremptorily.

"He's nae fisher," replied Sandy, with a slight shake of his
head--implying at once a certain stigma upon Lewis' morals, and a
deeper shade of mystery as to his object.

The young man himself was seated on the river-bank, with a sketch-book
before him. He was surrounded by a group of children, however, and was
evidently making very little progress with his sketch. There was a look
of indolence about him which disturbed these critics.

"He's doing nothing," said Mrs. Stormont.

"I canna make out that he ever does anything but tell the bairns
stories," said Sandy.

Such a phenomenon was rare at Murkley, where everybody had something
to do. Had he been fishing however unsuccessfully, both mistress and
man would have been satisfied. But in the absence of that legitimate
occupation Lewis was a vagabond, if not a semi-criminal, meditating
mischief, in their eyes.

The appearance of Mrs. Stormont's carriage was very welcome at Murkley
in the languor of the afternoon. Something in the sense that she "might
have been their mother" gave a softness to her manners in that place.
She kissed even Margaret and Jean with a certain affectionateness,
although they could not have been more than step-daughters to her in
any case.

"And where is my bonnie Lily?" she said. There could not be a
doubt that she loved Lilias for herself, besides all her other
recommendations. She took the girl into her arms, into the warm
enfolding of her heavy black-silk cloak. "Now, let me see how you're
looking," she said, holding her at arm's length. "My dear Margaret,
we'll have to acknowledge, whether we will or not, that this bit
creature is woman grown."

"I have not grown a bit for two years," said Lilias. "I am more than a
woman, I am getting an old woman; but Margaret will never see it."

"And what is the news with you?" said Miss Jean.

"Well, my dears," said Mrs. Stormont, "I have some news, for a wonder,
and I have come to get you to help me. I am going to give a party."

Lilias uttered a soft little cry, and put out her hands towards
Margaret with a gesture of appeal.

"A--ball," said Mrs. Stormont, with deliberation, making a pause before
the word.

Lilias jumped to her feet. She clapped her hands together with soft
vehemence.

"Oh, Margaret, oh, Margaret!" she cried.

"That is exactly what I mean," the elder lady said. "I meant to have
approached the subject with caution, but it's better to be bold and
make a clean breast of it. That is just what it is, Margaret. You see,
everybody has been very kind to Philip, yourselves included. And I
want to give an entertainment, to make some little return. But I am
not a millionnaire, as you know, and I'm very much out of the habit of
gaieties. There is just one thing my heart is set upon, and that is to
have the Lily of Murkley at Philip's ball."

There are some things that even the most judicious cannot be expected
to understand, and one of them is the manner in which persons who
are most important and delightful to themselves may be regarded by
others. That her son was neither a hero nor a genius Mrs. Stormont was
very well aware. She had said to herself long since that she had no
illusions on this subject. There was nothing wonderful about him one
way or another. He would no doubt turn out a respectable member of
society, like his father before him. "You are very well off when you
can be sure of that; plenty of women just as good as I am are trysted
with fools or reprobates," Mrs. Stormont said to herself: and Philip
was neither the one nor the other. If he was not devoted to his mother,
he had never yet gone against her or openly opposed her decisions, and
with this she had learned to be content, and even to glorify herself
a little, comparing her position with that of old Lady Terregles,
who had been obliged for very good reasons to leave her son's house.
But, reasonable as she was, there was one natural weakness which Mrs.
Stormont had not got free of. It had not occurred to her that it could
be anything but a recommendation of her ball to everybody about that
it was Philip's ball. To say that it was for him seemed to be the way
of attracting everybody's interest. She thought, in the unconscious
foolishness which accompanied so much excellent sense, that there was
much less likelihood of overcoming Margaret's scruples if she had
claimed Lilias for her party on the ground of her own old affection: to
ask this privilege for Philip's ball was the most ingratiating way she
could put it. She expected with confidence the effect this statement
would have upon them. Philip's ball: not for her sake--that might not
be motive enough--but to confer distinction upon Philip. Poor Mrs.
Stormont! It would have been some consolation to her had she known
that Philip had been the object of Margaret's chiefest alarm for a
long time past. But she did not know this; and when she looked round
upon the ladies and saw the blank that came over their faces, it gave
her a pang such as she had not felt since the first lowering of her
expectations for Philip--and that was long ago. But Lilias herself did
not show any blank. The girl had begun to execute a little dance of
impatience before Margaret, holding out supplicating hands.

"Oh, will you let me go? Oh, Margaret, let me go! I will be an old
woman before you let me see a dance. Oh, just this once, Margaret! Oh,
Jean, why don't you speak? Even if I am to go to Court, the Queen will
never know. And besides, do you think she would take the trouble to
find out whether the girls that are present had ever been at a dance
before? Do you think the Queen has the time for that? And she's far too
kind, besides. Margaret, oh! will you let me go?"

Lilias, it is needless to say, being Scotch, was not skilled in the
management of her wills and shalls; but there were no critical ears in
the little company to find her out.

"I will be sixty before I ever see a dance, and what will I care for it
then?" she added, sinking into plaintive tones.

But Margaret sat behind without saying a word. It is needless to add
that Miss Jean had already put on a look as suppliant as that of the
petitioner herself; instead of backing up her stronger sister, she went
over to the side of youth without a struggle. But Margaret sat in her
big easy-chair, with her feet elevated upon a high footstool--a type of
the inexorable. And, as so often happens, it was upon the innocent one
of the three, she who could derive no benefit from any yielding, that
she turned her thunder.

"Jean," she cried, "I wonder at you! How often have we consulted upon
this, and made up our minds it was best for the child to keep steady
to her lessons till the time and the way that we had fixed upon for
the best? Has anything happened to change that? I am not aware of it.
Every circumstance is just the same; but you pull at my sleeve and you
cast eyes at me as if I was a tyrant not to change at the first word.
I understand Lilias, that is but a child, and thinks of nothing but
diversion; but I am surprised at _you_!"

"Oh! Margaret," Jean said, but she did not venture on anything more.

"My dear Margaret," said Mrs. Stormont, "I would always respect a
decision that had been come to after reflection, as you say. But, dear
me, after all it's not so serious a matter. If a girl had to be kept
out of the world till she's presented, as Lilias says, I suppose that
would be a reason. But you know better than that. And I may never live
to give another dance, though you will have plenty of them, my dear,
long before you are sixty. And it will never be just the same thing
again for Philip. Think what friends they've been all their lives. When
I think they might have been brother and sister," she added, with a
laugh, "if I had been left to my own guiding!--and Philip has always
had that feeling for her. Bless me, Lilias, if _that_ had taken place,
you would have been no heiress at all. So perhaps it is as well for you
I am not your mother," Mrs. Stormont said.

At this Lilias paused in the midst of her excitement to consider so
curious a question. It opened up speculations, indeed, for them all.
To have had a male heir had always been supposed to be the thing
upon earth which would have been most blessed for the Murrays, and
the elder sisters in past years had often sighed to think how much
better it would have been had Lilias been a boy. But the idea that
Philip Stormont might have been that heir-male was confusing and not
agreeable. They felt a sort of half resentment at the suggestion. A
young man like that, who was just nobody, a mere "long-leggit lad." Had
the long-leggit lad been their own, no doubt the sisters would have
represented him to themselves as the most delightful of young heroes:
for even our own detrimentals are better than the best possessions of
other people. But as a supposition it did not please them. To have had
no Lilias, but Philip Stormont instead! Certainly Mrs. Stormont had
been unfortunate in her modes of recommending her son. The presumption
of supposing it possible that Philip could ever have been a Murray was
scarcely less than that of believing that carefully constructed system
could be broken through in order that Lilias might go to Philip's ball.
What was Philip, that they should thus meet him upon every side? Mrs.
Stormont did not quite fathom the cause of the sudden cloud which fell
upon her friends. It could not, she said to herself, be her joke about
Philip--that was just nonsense, she had no meaning in it. It was just
one of the things that people say to keep up the conversation. But she
had to retire without receiving any final answer to her proposition.
She had indeed to congratulate herself that there was no final answer,
for this left ground for a little hope; but, whether or not Lilias
was eventually permitted to accept the invitation, Mrs. Stormont left
Murkley with an uncomfortable feeling that her present visit had been
a failure. She had gone wrong somehow, she could not exactly tell
how. Something about Philip had jarred upon them, and she had been so
anxious to present Philip under the best possible light! It was not
often that she failed in making herself welcome, and the sensation
was disagreeable. It was this failure, perhaps, which prompted her to
tell Sandy to drive to the manse, perhaps with a slight inclination
to indemnify herself, to make the people there suffer a little for
the mistake she had made. She was so sure that Mrs. Seton had been
injudicious about Katie, that she felt confident in her own power of
being disagreeable at a moment's notice. It was not, however, with any
intention of this kind that she stopped Sandy at the garden door, and
went round by that way, instead of driving formally round the little
"sweep," and reaching in state the grand entrance. Most of the visitors
of the manse entered by the garden. Had she been walking, neither she
nor any one else would have thought of any other way.

But it was an unfortunate moment. Somebody was playing the piano in
the drawing-room. "And, if that is Katie, she must have been having
lessons, for I never heard her play like that before: and, no doubt,
dear lessons," Mrs. Stormont added to herself, "though there are six
of a family, and boys that should be at college." She was a little
jaundiced where the Setons were concerned. She came up to the glass
door, and tapped lightly; whereupon there was a stir in the room, not
like the placid composure with which people turn their faces towards
a new visitor when they have been doing nothing improper. There was a
confused sound of voices: one of the younger girls came in sight from
behind the piano, and advanced with a somewhat scared face to the door
which Mrs. Stormont had opened. Having thus had her suspicions fully
aroused, she was scarcely surprised to see stumbling up from a chair,
in a corner which retained a position of guilty proximity--noticed too
late to be remedied--to another chair, her very son Philip who had
already spoiled one visit to her, and of whom she believed that he was
engaged in some necessary duty about the estate several miles off.
Philip's face was flushed and sullen. Of all things in the world there
is nothing so disagreeable as being "caught," and perhaps the sensation
of being caught is all the more odious when you have the consciousness
of doing no wrong. Katie, more rapid than her lover, was standing at
the window with innocent eyes regarding the flowers. To jump up from
Philip's side had been the affair of an instant with her. She came
forward now, but not without a certain faltering.

"Mamma has just gone to the nursery for a moment; but I will tell her
you are here," Katie cried. As for Philip, he stood like a culprit,
like a man at the bar, and frowned upon his mother.

"Oh! Philip!" she said, "so you are here."

"Why shouldn't I be here?" the young man replied. He thought for the
moment, with the instinct of guilt, that his mother had come on purpose
to find him out.

All this time there was, as Mrs. Stormont afterwards remembered with
gratitude, "one well-bred person" in the room, which was the stranger
of whom Sandy had doubted whether he were English. English or not, he
was a gentleman, she afterwards concluded, for he went on playing,
not noisily, as if to screen anything, but as he had been doing when
she came through the garden, and asked herself could that be Katie
who played so well. Lewis had perception enough to know that this
unexpected arrival would not be pleasant to his friends. He, who had
stumbled into their secret before without any will of his, was aware
of the whispering of the lovers in the corner, which he saw out of the
corner of his eye with a wistful sort of sympathy. He had put his music
between himself and them to afford at once a cover to their whisperings
and a shelter to himself from the sight of a happiness which he thought
never would be his. When the mother came in, startled, irate, yet
self-subdued, his quick sympathy perceived that this was no moment to
stop to emphasize the situation more. He had a vague perception of the
half-quarrel, the sullen, too ready self-defence, the surprise which
was an accusation. His heart took the part of the lover as a matter of
course. The old lady was jealous, ill-tempered, full of suspicions.
What wonder, he thought, that Philip, out of the offensive atmosphere
at home, should take refuge here?

Mrs. Seton came bustling in a moment after, full of apologies. "I had
not been out of the room a moment--not a moment. But this is always
what happens. The moment you turn your back somebody appears that you
would wish to have the warmest welcome. But I hope it's not too late.
And I am so glad to see you, Mrs. Stormont. I hope you are not walking
this warm afternoon. No, no, you must not sit down there; let me give
you this comfortable chair, and I've told Katie not to wait, but to
send for the tea at once. You will be all the better, after your drive,
of a cup of tea."

"I am afraid," said Mrs. Stormont, "that I've disturbed you all. It
is a stupid thing coming in at a side door. I am sure I don't know
what tempted me to do it. Another time I will know better. I have just
disturbed everybody."

She tried not to look at Philip, but his eyes were bent upon her under
cloudy brows.

"You have disturbed nobody," cried Mrs. Seton. "We've just been sitting
doing nothing, listening to the music. Mr. Murray is so kind; he just
comes in and plays when he pleases, and it is a privilege to listen to
him. There is my little Jeanie sits down on her little stool by his
feet, and is just lost in it. She has a great turn for music: and I am
sure it makes an end to work for Katie and me--we can do nothing but
listen. Play that little bit again, Mr. Murray. I really forget what
you called it--the bit that begins," and she sang a few bars in a voice
that had been very good in its day. "Let Mrs. Stormont hear that; she
will understand the way you keep us all just hanging upon you. He's so
unassuming," she added, turning to the visitor, whose aspect was less
sweet than the music, "so modest, you would never know he had such a
gift. But he has taken kindly to us--I'm sure I don't know why--and
comes in almost every day."

"No wonder he comes when he has such listeners," said Mrs. Stormont.
"And, Philip, are you finding out that you have a turn for music too?"

"Oh, Mr. Philip, he comes with his friend," said Mrs. Seton. "Listen,
now, that's just delightful! I let my stocking drop--where is my
stocking? Music is a thing that just carries me away. Thank you--thank
you, Mr. Murray; and, dear me, Katie is so anxious not to lose
anything, here she is back already with the tea."

Katie came back with a little agitation about her, which the keen
spectator observed in a moment, not without a little pang to perceive
how prettily the colour came and went upon her little countenance,
and how her eyes shone. Katie felt guilty, very guilty. There was a
throb of pleasure in her heart to feel herself in the position of the
wicked heroine. She was frightened and subdued and triumphant all at
once. To see the mother watching who was suspicious, and angry, and
afraid--actually afraid of Katie--made her heart beat high. She made
all the haste she could to speed on the maid with the tea, under cover
of whom she could go back to the arena of the struggle. It is needless
to say that the music did not exercise a very great influence over
Katie. It had veiled her whispering with Philip, so that not even her
mother took any notice of it. And Mrs. Seton, though she was very
tolerant of a little flirtation, was not in the secret, and would have
certainly stopped anything that appeared very serious in her eyes.

Now that they were all put on their guard, the fact was that Mrs.
Stormont was much mystified, and unable to assure herself that she had
found out anything. No one can found an accusation on the fact that a
girl grows red or a young man black and lowering at her appearance.
Such evidence may be quite convincing morally, but it cannot be
brought forth and alleged as a reason for action.

"If there was nothing wrong, why did she blush and you look so glum?"
she asked afterwards.

"I don't know what you call looking glum," said Philip; "perhaps it is
my natural look."

Alas! his mother was also tempted to say, it was. For the last three
months he had been often glum, easily offended. He was only a little
more so when vexed. And Katie blushed very readily; she was always
blushing, with reason and without reason. The only certainty that Mrs.
Stormont arrived at was that the stranger was "a fine lad;" and she
invited him to her ball on the spot, an invitation which Lewis accepted
with smiling alacrity. That was all that came for the moment of Mrs.
Stormont's mission to Murkley.



CHAPTER XXII.


But Mrs. Stormont's visit was far from being destitute of results.
It caused a great many discussions and much agitation at Murkley,
where Lilias was in the greatest commotion all the evening, and could
scarcely sleep the whole night through. If it was not necessary, as
Mrs. Stormont had hinted, to be absolutely in a state of innocence,
unacquainted with all balls and parties, and every sort of dissipation,
before the Queen would admit you to the drawing-room, why then, oh! why
might not she go to Philip's ball?

"I was sure the Queen would never mind," Lilias said. "If it was
for nothing else, she is far too kind; unless she was obliged for
etiquette; and if she is not obliged----"

"Oh, my dear, the Queen is the fountain-head--how could she be obliged?
She is never obliged to do this or that. Whatever she does, that is the
right thing," cried Jean, shocked by the girl's bold words. Margaret
was quite as loyal, but not quite so confident. She shook her head.

"There is nobody that has a greater respect for her Majesty than me;
but, nevertheless, I cannot but think there are things she has to
make a point of just for the sake of good order. Mrs. Stormont is no
judge--she is not in the position; her Majesty would be little likely
to take any trouble about small gentry of that kind; but the Murrays
are not small gentry, and your mother was Lady Lilias Abernethy--that
makes all the difference. You would be inquired about where an ordinary
person would not, and there's an interest about a motherless girl. The
Queen, who, they say, forgets nothing, will remember your mother, and
that you never had that advantage; her heart will be sore for you, poor
thing: and if it comes to her ears that Lilias Murray has been seen by
everybody dancing at all the small country balls and dances----"

"Now, Margaret!" cried Lilias, jumping to her feet, "how could the
Queen hear that, when it would be only one, only one at the most?"

"One would be just the beginning," said Miss Margaret. "When you had
been to Mrs. Stormont's ball (for it is nonsense to call it Philip's),
everybody else that was going to give a dance would be after you, and
they would say, with reason, if she went to Stormonts, you cannot
refuse to let her come to me; or else if you go to no other place,
worse will be said, and it will go through the country that there is
Some Reason why you should go there and nowhere else."

"Some reason!--but what reason could there be?" cried Lilias, appalled
by this solemnity, and, in spite of herself, growing pale.

"They would invent some story or other," said her sister. "You see,
there is nothing stands by itself in this world--one thing is always
connected with another, so that ye can never just do a simple action
without taking into account what comes after and what has gone before."

Miss Margaret enunciated this alarming doctrine in the evening,
with the light of the lamp falling upon her face and the widespread
whiteness of her newspaper, and showing against the dark background the
scared looks of her two companions, one of whom listened with a gasp of
alarm, while the other made a mild remonstrance.

"Margaret! you will frighten the poor thing out of her life."

"Is it true, or is it not true?" said Margaret. "You have lived long
enough, Jean, to know. There is always," she added, with a little sense
of success which is seductive, "a little of the next morning and the
night before in every day."

Now Lilias had a lively mind, and, though she had been struck by
the first statement, this repetition took away her alarm. Her
reverential attitude towards her sisters prevented her from making any
demonstration, but she was no longer cowed.

"To be sure," she said, "in a ball you are asked ever so long before,
and it is sure to last till next morning. I see now what you mean."

"Oh, if that is all," said Jean, relieved.

"Whether that is all or not, it is time for bed," Miss Margaret said,
which is always a good way of evading an argument with a young person.
But she was somewhat severe upon her sister when they were left alone.
"Do you not see," she said, "that all this is just to get Lilias for
that long-leggit lad of hers? If it had been any other person I would
have consented at once; but Philip Stormont! It would be like falling
into a man-trap just outside your own gate."

"But you were just the same, Margaret--I'm not blaming you, for I am
sure you have your reasons--about the little bits of tea-parties at the
manse that could harm nobody."

"And where there was just the same danger," said Margaret. "Not that I
would have any fear of Philip Stormont if there were others to compare
with him; but, where there's nobody else, any young man would be
dangerous. I want her when she goes from here to be fancy free."

"But there will be plenty to compare with him; there will be the best
in the county--for Mrs. Stormont is much respected," said Jean. "And
even at the manse, you forgot, Margaret, there was that young Mr.
Murray."

"The lad that plays the music," said Miss Margaret, with a smile. "I
would not hurt your feelings, Jean: but a young man that has nothing
better to do than play the piano----"

"Oh, Margaret!" Miss Jean said.

She was wounded by so much ignorance and prejudice. She went away
softly, and lighted her candle with a sort of quiet dejection, shaking
her head. A young man that had such a gift! Yet Margaret, though she
scoffed at Philip as a long-leggit lad, thought more of him than of
the young musician. Her own profound respect for Margaret's superior
judgment made it all the harder to bear. And Miss Jean was aware that
Margaret expressed the general sentiment, and that there was nobody
about who would not esteem the quality of him whose highest gift was
to stand up to his waist in the water catching trout, far above that
of the man who drew her very soul out of her breast with such strains
as she had never heard before. She could not argue in favour of the
more heavenly accomplishment. How could she speak of it even, to those
who were insensible to it, and Margaret, who was so much cleverer than
she was? The sense of helplessness and inability to explain herself,
yet of a certain humble, natural superiority, and happiness in her own
understanding, filled her mind.

Margaret, whose heart had smote her for wounding her sister, stopped
her as she was going out, candle in hand.

"You must just set it down to my ignorance, if I have vexed you, Jean;
and you will remember that I was ill enough pleased to see your friend
(as we know nothing about him) in the company of Lilias the other day;
so I'm meaning no disrespect to him."

"He is not my friend, Margaret--any more than yours, or any person's,"
said Jean, with gentle deprecation.

"I will not allow that," said Margaret, with a smile.

It was something of an uneasy smile, between ridicule and indignation,
but Jean had not the smallest conception what its meaning was. She
went upstairs with her candle somewhat consoled, but yet feeling that
her favourite had scant justice, and grieved that Margaret, and even
Lilias, should be incapable of the pleasure which was to herself so
great. Both so much more clever than she was, and yet indifferent to,
almost contemptuous of, music! Miss Jean shook her head as she went up
the dark oak staircase with the candle, and her shadow stalking behind
her, twice as large as she, nodded its head too, with a dislocated
bend, upon the darkness of the panelled walls.

Next morning, however, Margaret astonished them all by a decision which
went entirely against all the arguments of the night.

"I have been thinking," she said, as they sat at breakfast. "There are
a great many things to be taken into account. You see, it is in our own
parish, at our very doors. The horse-ferry is troublesome, but still it
is a thing that is in use both day and night, and there is no danger in
it."

"Oh, no danger!" cried Jean, who divined what was coming.

"It was you I was thinking of, to make your mind easy; for you are
the timorous one," Miss Margaret said. "Lilias there, with her eyes
leaping out of her head, would wade the water rather than stay at home,
and, for my part, I'm seldom afraid. So it's satisfactory, you think;
there's no danger, Jean? Well! and, for another thing, if we were to
refuse, it might be thought there was a reason for it. That's very
likely what would be said. That there was an Inclination, or something
that you and me, Jean, had occasion to fear."

"It would never do to give anybody a chance of saying that, Margaret,"
said Jean, with dismay.

"That is what I have been thinking," Miss Margaret said.

And then Lilias jumped from her chair again, with impatience and wild
excitement.

"Oh, will you speak English, Margaret, or Scots, or something that one
can understand! What do you mean about Reasons and Inclinations? Is it
philosophy you are talking--or is it something about the ball?"

"You are a silly thing with your balls. You don't know your steps even.
You have never had any lessons since you were twelve. I am not going to
a ball with a girl that will do me no credit."

"Me--not know my steps! And, if I didn't, Katie would teach me. Oh,
Margaret! will I go after all?"

And Lilias flung herself upon her sister's neck, and spilt Miss
Margaret's tea in the enthusiasm of her embrace. The tea was hot, and
a much less offence would have been almost capital from any other
sinner; but when Margaret felt the girl's soft arms about her neck, and
received her kiss of enthusiasm, her attempt at fault-finding was very
feeble.

"Bless me, child, mind, I have on a clean collar. And you'll ruin my
gown: a purple gown with tea spilt upon it! Is that a way of thanking
me, to spoil my good clothes? There will be all the more need to take
care of them, for you'll want a new frock, and all kinds of nonsense.
Sit down--sit down, and eat your egg like a natural creature. And,
Jean, you must just give me another cup of tea."

"I will do that, Margaret; and, as for the dress, it will be better to
write about it at once----"

"The dress is not all; there will be shoes, and gloves, and flowers,
and fans, and every kind of thing. If you had waited till the right
time, we would have been in London, where it is easy to fit out a
princess; but I must just write to Edinburgh."

"She is a kind of a princess in her way," said Miss Jean, looking
fondly at the young heroine.

Lilias was touched by all these tender glances, though she felt them to
be natural.

"I only want a white frock," she said, with humility. "I want to go for
fun, not for finery."

Miss Jean nodded her head with approval.

"But there is your position that we must not forget," she said.

"You are too innocent," said Miss Margaret, "you don't know the meaning
of words. You shall just have a white frock. What do you think you
could wear else?--black velvet, perhaps, because of your position, as
Jean says? But there are different kinds of white frocks. One kind
like Katie Seton's, which is very suitable to her father's daughter,
and another--for Lilias Murray of Murkley. You may trust that to me.
But it's a fortnight off, this grand ball, and if I hear another word
about it betwixt this and then, or find it getting into your head when
you should be thinking of Queen Elizabeth----"

"I will think of nothing but Queen Elizabeth," cried Lilias, clasping
her hands with all the fervour of a confession of faith. And she kept
her word. But, nevertheless, when Miss Jean was taking her little
stroll in the Ghost's Walk, in the hush of noon, when studies were over
and Margaret busy with her account-books, she felt a sudden waft of air
and movement, a soft breeze of youth blowing, an arm wound round her
waist.

"Oh! Jean," cried a soft voice in her ear, "will it come true?"

"My darling, why should it not come true? It is just the most natural
thing in the world. I am never myself against a little pleasure; but
Margaret has always," said Miss Jean, with a little solemnity, "your
interest at heart."

"And you too, Jean--and you too."

"But I am silly," said Miss Jean. "I would not have the heart to go
against whatever you wanted. I am just a weak-minded creature. The
moment you wish for anything, that is just enough for me. But you have
a great deal of sense, Lilias, and you can see that would never do. Now
Margaret takes everything into consideration, and she has the true love
to deny you when it is needful--that is true love," Jean said, with
moisture in her eyes.

Lilias, who was responsive to every touch of emotion, acknowledged this
with such enthusiasm as delighted her sister.

"But it is far nicer when she is not always thinking of my best
interests. It is delightful to be going!" she cried. "You have been at
a hundred balls, and you know how to behave. Tell me what I am to do."

This appeal was embarrassing to Miss Jean, who, indeed, had not been at
a ball for a great many years, and understood that things were greatly
changed since her day. For one thing, waltzes were looked but coldly on
in those past times, and now she understood they were all the vogue.
Jean was far too delicate in mind to suggest to her little sister that
the waltz had been considered indelicate in her own day. It was the
fashion now, and to put such a thought into a young creature's head,
she said to herself, was what nobody should do. But she said, with a
little faltering,

"What you are to do? But, Lilias, it is very hard to answer that. The
gentlemen will come and ask you to dance, and all you have to do is
just to----"

"To choose," said Lilias. "I know as much as that."

"Yes," said Jean, a little doubtfully, "I suppose you may say you
have to choose; but you would not like to hurt a gentleman's feelings
by giving him a refusal. I don't think that is ever done, my dear. You
will just make them a curtsey and give them a smile, and they will
write down their name upon a card."

"What! everybody that asks?" cried Lilias, "whether I like them or
not?" and her face clouded over. "There will be sure to be some that
are disagreeable, and there are some, Katie says, that cannot dance.
Will I be obliged to curtsey to them, and smile too? But I will not do
it," Lilias said, with a pout. "I do not see the good of going to a
ball if it is like that."

"It is not just perfection, no more than other things," said Jean; "but
most of the young men will, no doubt, be very nice, and you would not
like to hurt their feelings."

Upon this Lilias pondered for some moments, with a countenance somewhat
overcast.

"It is always said that a lady has to choose," she said; "but if it is
only to say yes whoever asks you----"

Jean shook her head. She could not resist the chance of a little
moralizing.

"My dear," she said, "with the most of women, I'm sorry, sorry to say
it, it comes to very little more."

Lilias looked at her old sister with keen, unbelieving eyes. She ran
over in her mind, in spite of herself, all that is said of old maids
in books, and even in such simple talk as she had heard; her mind
revolted against it, yet she could not forget it. She wondered in
her heart whether this might account for so strange a version of the
prerogative of women. She did not believe Jean's report. She raised her
fair head in the air with a little fling of pride and power. She was
not disposed to give up that stronghold of feminine imagination. A girl
must have something to believe in to make her confront with composure
the position that is allotted to her. If she is to give up all active
power of choice, she must at least have faith that the passive one, the
privilege of refusal, is still to be hers. She thought that Jean, in
her old maidenhood, in her sense, perhaps, of failure or inacquaintance
with the ways of more fortunate women, must be mistaken in her
judgment. That she herself, Lilias, should have no greater lot in the
world than to sit and smile, and accept whatever might be offered to
her, was a conception too humbling. She smiled, not believing it.
Jean was good, she was unspotted from the world, but perhaps her
very excellence made her slow of understanding. Lilias concluded her
thoughts on the subject by giving her old sister a compassionate,
caressing look.

"It is you that never would hurt anybody's feelings," she said. But she
did not ask any more questions. She concluded that it would be better,
perhaps, on the whole, to trust to instinct and her own perception of
the circumstances as they occurred. And then there was always Katie to
fall back upon--a young person of much more immediate experience and
practical knowledge than could be expected from Jean.

Miss Jean was conscious on her side that she had not satisfied the
girl's curiosity, or given the right answer--the answer that was
expected of her--and this troubled her much; for she said to herself,
"Where is she to get understanding if not from Margaret or me?" Her
first idea was to refer Lilias with humility to Margaret, but in this
she paused, reflecting that Margaret had never "troubled her head" with
such matters, that she had always been a masterful woman that took
her own way, and preferred the management of the house and the estate
to any sort of traffic with gentlemen or other frivolous persons.
Margaret, then, perhaps, after all, would in this respect be a less
qualified guide than herself, though it was a long time since she had
entered into anything of the kind. And Jean, besides her tremulous
eagerness to direct Lilias so that as much of the pleasure and as
little of the pains that are involved in life should come to her as
possibly could be, was not without a natural desire to teach and convey
the fruits of her experience into another mind. She walked along in
silence for a short time, and then she resumed the broken thread of her
discourse.

"My dear," she said, "you may think my ways of knowing are small: and
that is true, for Margaret and me have had none of the experiences of
married women, or of the manners of men, and the commerce of the world.
But you always learn something just by looking on at life, and, indeed,
they say that the spectators sometimes see the game better than those
who are playing at it. But there is just the danger, you know, that
when we say what we've seen, it may be discouraging to a young creature
who is just upon the beginning of life, and thinks all the world (which
is natural) at her feet."

"I am sure," said Lilias, half offended, "I don't think all the world
at my feet."

"When I was like you," said Jean, "I thought it was all before me to
pick and choose, but you see that little has come of it: and many a
girl has thought like me. It is very difficult not to think so when
you start out upon the road with everything flattering, and the sun
shining, and the heart in your bosom just as lightsome as a bird."

"Am I like that?" said Lilias, half to herself, and a conscious smile
came upon her face. She was conscious of herself for the moment, of
the lightness with which she was walking, the ease, the freedom, the
easily-diverted mind, the happy constitution of everything. She had no
thought of own beauty, or any special excellence in herself, for her
mind had been rather directed to the wholesome consideration of her
defects than of her advantages; but as she walked there, all young and
light by her elderly sister's side, for the first time that conscious
possession of the world and heirship of all that was in it became
apparent to her. She felt like a young queen; everything in it was hers
to possess, all the beauty of it and the pleasure--indeed, it was all
in her, in the power she had to enjoy, to see, and hear, and admire,
and love: her young fresh faculties all at their keenest--these were
her kingdom. She could not help feeling it. It came over her in a
sudden rush of sweetness and perception.

"Perhaps it is so--I never thought of it before," she said.

"Ah, but it is so, Lilias; and I hope, my darling, you will have your
day, and get the good of it; none of us have more than our day. It is
not a thing that will last."

To this Lilias answered only with a smile. She was not afraid either
of not having her day, or that it would not last. She required to look
forward to no future. The present to her was endless; it extended into
the light on either hand. It was as good as an eternity. She smiled,
confident, in the face of Fate. Jean walking beside her with her faded
sweetness and no expectation any longer in her life, did not effect
in the smallest degree the mind of her younger sister. Jean was Jean,
and Lilias Lilias. How the one could develop out of the other, how the
warm stream of living in herself could ever fall low and faint, and
trickle in a quiet stream like that of her sister, she was all unable
to understand. She smiled at the impossibility as it presented itself
to her, but neither of that, nor of any failure in her opportunities of
enjoyment, had she any fear.



CHAPTER XXIII.


"Refuse?" said the experienced Katie, a little bewildered by the
question. "Oh, but you could not want to refuse. It would not be civil.
If you have an objection to a gentleman, you can always manage to give
him the slip. You can keep out of his way, or say you're tired, or
just never mind, and get another partner, and pretend you forgot."

"Then Jean is quite right; and you have no choice. You must just
accept, whatever you think?" said Lilias, pale with indignation and
dismay.

"I don't know what a gentleman would think, if you refused him," said
Katie. "It is a thing I never heard of. You would make him wild. And
then he would not understand. He would just gape at you. He would
not believe his ears. He would think it was your ignorance. And the
others would all take his part; they would say they would not expose
themselves to such an insult. Nobody would ask you again."

"As for that, it is little I would care," cried Lilias throwing her
head back. "It is as much an insult to a girl when they pass her by and
don't ask her; and must she never give it them back? They have their
choice, but we have none."

"Oh, yes," said Katie, "it is easy to say, what would I care? But when
the time comes, and you sit through the whole evening and see everybody
else dancing----"

At this Lilias gave her little friend a look of astonishment and
disdainful indignation, which frightened Katie, though she could not
understand it. No one could be more humble-minded, less disposed to
stand upon her superiority. But yet that superiority was undoubted,
and the idea that Lilias Murray of Murkley could sit neglected had
a ludicrous impossibility which it was inconceivable that any one
could overlook. Had a little maid-of-honour ventured to say this to a
princess, it could not have been more out of character. The princess
naturally would not condescend to say anything of that impossibility
to the little person who showed so much ignorance, but it would be
scarcely possible to refrain from a glance. Lilias ended, however, so
ridiculous was it, by a laugh, though still holding her head high.

"If that is the case, it must be better not to go to balls," she said.
"For to think that a gentlewoman is to be at the mercy of whoever
offers----"

"Oh, but, Lilias, I never said you couldn't give him the slip!" cried
Katie, who did not know what she had said that was wrong. "Or, if your
mind is made up against any gentleman, you can always say to the lady
of the house, 'Don't introduce so-and-so, or so-and-so.'"

"I was not thinking of myself," said Lilias, almost haughtily. "But, if
a girl is asked," she added, after a pause, "what does that mean, if
she may not refuse? The gentleman has his choice; he need not ask her
unless he pleases--but she--she must not have any choice--she must just
take everybody that comes! one the same as another, as if she were
blind, or deaf, or stupid!"

"Oh, Lilias!--but I never said it was so bad as that! And when I tell
you that you can always find a way to throw them over. You can say
you're tired, or that you made a mistake, and were engaged before they
asked you; or you can keep your last partner, and make him throw over
his, which is the easiest way of all--but there are dozens of ways----"

"By cheating!" said Lilias, with lofty indignation. "So Jean was right
after all," she said, "and I am the silly one! I never believed that
ladies were treated like that--even when they are young, even when----"

Here Lilias paused, feeling how ungenerous was the argument, as only
high-spirited girls do.

"If gentlemen were what it seems to mean," she said, with her eyes
flashing, "it would not be only when ladies are young and--it would
not be only _then_ they would give that regard to them! And it should
be scorn to a man to pass by any girl, and so let her know he will not
choose to ask her, unless she has a right to turn too, and refuse him!"

"Oh, Lilias, that is just nonsense, nobody thinks of that," said
Katie. "If you take a little trouble, you need never dance with a man
you don't like. If you see him coming, you can always get out of the
way, and be talking to somebody else; or say your card's full, or that
you're afraid you will be away before then--or a hundred things. But
to say No!--it would be so ill-bred. And then the gentlemen would all
be so astonished, they would not expose themselves to such a thing as
that. Not one would ever ask you again."

"That is what we shall see!" said Lilias.

Katie was so truly distressed by a resolution so audacious and so
suicidal that she spent half the afternoon in an endeavour to persuade
her friend against it. She even cried over Lilias' perversity.

"What would you say?" she asked. "Oh, you could not--you could not be
so silly! They will just think it is your ignorance. They will say you
are so bashful, or even that you are _gauche_."

Katie was not very clear what _gauche_ meant, and the word had all
the more terrors for her. The girls were walking in the Castle park,
between New Murkley and Old Murkley, when this conversation went on.
It was a way that was free to wayfarers, but the passers-by were very
few. And Margaret had loosened a little her restrictions upon Lilias
since the memorable decision about the Stormont ball had been come to.
What was the use of watching over her so jealously, wrapping her up in
blue veils, and keeping her from sight of, or converse with, the world,
when in a little while she was to be permitted a glimpse of the very
vortex, the whirlpool of dissipation--a ball? The blue veil accordingly
was thrown back, and floated over the girl's shoulders, making a dark
background to her dazzling fairness, her light locks, and lovely
colour. And both form and face profited by the stir of indignation,
the visionary anger and scorn which threw her head high, and inspired
her step. These were the very circumstances in which the lover should
appear: here were the heroine and the confidant, the two different
types of women, not the dark and fair only (though Katie was not dark,
but brown, hazel-eyed, and chestnut-haired), but the matter-of-fact and
the poetic, the visionary and the woman of the world. And opportunities
such as these are not of the kind that are generally neglected. It
was no accident indeed that brought Philip by the little gate that
opened from the manse garden into the path in which he knew he should
find Katie. And perhaps it was not exactly accident which led to the
discovery of Lewis when they neared the end of their walk, the great
white mass of New Murkley--about which the young man was wandering,
as he so often was, thinking many an undivined thought. He was there
so often that, had any one thought on the subject, it might have been
with the express object of finding him that the party strayed that
way; but Lilias, at least, was entirely innocent of either knowledge
or calculation, so that, so far as she was concerned, it was pure
accident. He was walking with his back to them, gazing up at the
eyeless sockets of the windows, when they came in sight. Lilias had
been reduced to an embarrassed silence since the appearance of Philip.
Her knowledge of their secret overwhelmed her in their presence. She
thought they must be embarrassed too. She thought they must wish to get
rid of her. She had not the least idea that to both these young persons
she was a defence and protection, under cover of which they could
enjoy each other's company, yet confront the world. While they talked
undaunted--or rather, while Katie talked, for Philip was of a silent
nature--Lilias walked softly on, on the other side, getting as far
apart as she dared, drooping her head, wondering what opportunity there
might be to steal away. She was not displeased, but somewhat startled
at the outcry of pleasure Katie made on perceiving the other--the
fourth who made the group complete.

"Oh, Mr. Murray--there is Mr. Murray; but I might have known it, for
he is always about New Murkley," Katie cried. And Lewis turned round
with friendly looks, which glowed into wondering delight when he
saw the shyer figure lingering a little behind, the blue veil thrown
back. Just thus, attended by her faithful guardians, he had seen her
first. He recollected every circumstance in a moment, as his eyes
went beyond Katie to her companion in the background. He remembered
how Miss Margaret had stepped forth to the rescue; how he had been
marched away, and his thoughts led to other matters. He had but just
glimpsed then, and he had not comprehended, that type of beautiful
youth in the shadow of the past. He had asked himself since how it
was possible that he had passed it over? It had been like a picture
seen for an instant. When he saw her now again, he felt like a man
who has dreamed of some happiness, and awoke to find that he had lost
it: but the dream had returned, and this time he should not lose
it. He received, with smiling delight, the salutations of Katie,
who hailed him from afar, and stood with his hat in his hand, while
Lilias responded shyly but brightly to his greeting. She was pleased
too. It was deliverance to her from the restraint which she felt she
was imposing upon the lovers. And the friendly countenance of the
stranger, and his confused looks, and the aspect of Jean at her own
appearance before him, and of Margaret when he followed her into the
dining-room, had created an atmosphere of amusement and interest round
him. It had been all fun that previous meeting, the most delightful
break in the every-day monotony. This made it agreeable to Lilias,
without any other motive, that she should see Lewis again. She dared
not laugh with him over it, for she did not know him sufficiently, nor
would she have laughed at anything which involved Jean and Margaret in
the faintest derision; but the sense of this amusement past, and the
secret laughter it had given her, made the sight of him very pleasant.
And then he was pleasant; not in the least handsome--unworthy a second
glance so far as that went--totally unseductive to the imagination--so
entirely different from the _beau chevalier_, six feet two, with those
dark eyes and waving locks, who some time or other was to appear out
of the unseen for Lilias. Never at any time could it be possible that
so undistinguished a figure as that of Lewis should take the central
place in her visionary world; but he had already found a little corner
there. He was like, she thought, the brother she ought to have had.
The hero whose mission it was to save her life, to be rewarded by her
love, stood worlds above any such intruder; but this beaming, friendly
countenance had come in as a symbol of kindness. Lilias had perceived
at once by instinct that he and she could be friends.

"Lilias," cried Katie, "you must talk to him about Murkley. He is
always here. I think he comes both night and day. You ought to find out
what he means, if he has seen a ghost, or what it is. And you are fond
of it too."

Lilias looked with a little surprise at the stranger. Why should he
care for Murkley?

"You think it is strange to see such a great big desolate house in such
a place."

"I think--a great many things that I do not know how to put into words:
for my English, perhaps, is not so good----"

"Are you a German, Mr. Murray?" asked Lilias, shyly.

The end of the other two was attained; they had turned aside into
the woods, by that path which led down to the old quarry and the
river-side, the scene of so many meetings. Lilias had no resource but
to follow, though with a sense of adventure and possible wrong-doing.
She was relieved that Katie and Philip were at last free to talk as
they pleased, and she was not at all alarmed by her own companion;
still the thought of what Margaret might say gave her a little thrill,
half painful, half pleasant.

"I am English," said Lewis; "yes, true English, though no one will
believe me--otherwise I am of no country, for I have lived in one as
much as another. I have a great interest in Murkley. If it were ever
completed, it would be very noble; it would be a house to entertain
princes in."

"That is what I think sometimes," said Lilias; "but, then, it will
never be completed. All the country knows our story. We are poor, far
too poor. And, even if it were finished, it would need, Margaret says,
an army of servants, and to furnish it would take a fortune. So it
would be long, long before we arrived at the princes." She ended with a
laugh, which, in its turn, ended with a sigh.

"But you--would like to do it?--that would amuse you----"

"Oh! amuse me! It would not be amusement. It would be grand to do it!
They say it would be finer than Taymouth. Did you ever hear that?"

"It is like the Louvre," said Lewis, "and that was built for a great
king's palace. It is like the ghost, not of a person, but of an age. I
think your ancestors must come and walk about and inspect it all, and
hold solemn councils."

"But my ancestors knew nothing about it," said Lilias. "Oh! not that;
if they come it will be to make remarks, and say how silly grandpapa
was. If ghosts are like people, that is what they will be saying, and
that they knew what it would end in all along, but he never would pay
any attention. I hope he never comes himself, or he would hear--he
would hear," cried Lilias, laughing, "what Margaret calls a few
truths."

"Do you think he was--silly?" Lewis asked. What right had he to be so
_émotionné_, to feel the moisture in his eyes and his voice tremble?
What could she think of him if she perceived this? She would think it
was affectation, and that he was making believe.

"I think I am silly too," Lilias said. She would not commit herself.
She had heard a great deal about the old Sir Patrick, and she was aware
that he had disinherited her; but he, too, was in her imagination a
shadowy, great figure, of whom something mysterious might yet be heard,
for all Lilias knew. Strange stories had been told about him. He had
dabbled in black-arts. He had done a great many strange things in his
life. Perhaps even now a mysterious packet might arrive some day, a new
will be found, or some late movement of repentance. He might even step
out from behind a tree in the Ghost's Walk, or out of a dark corner
in the library, and explain with a dead voice, sounding far off, what
he had done and why. This suppressed imagination made Lilias always
charitable to him. Or perhaps she was moved by a kind of fascination
and sympathy for one who had made his imagination into something
palpable, and built castles in stone as she had done in dreams.

Lewis looked at her very wistfully.

"The princes you entertained would be noble ones," he said, "not only
princes for show."

"Oh, how do you know, Mr. Murray? Do you think I am such a--fool? Well!
it would be like a fool to dream of that, when there is next to no
money at all; you might forgive a child for being so silly, but a woman
grown-up, a person that ought to know better----"

He kept looking at her, with a little moisture in his eyes.

"I wish I were a magician," he said; and then, with one of his
outbursts of confidence, which, having no previous clue to guide them,
nobody understood--"What it would have been," he said, clasping his
hands together, "if I had come here two years ago!"

Lilias looked at him with extreme surprise. She thought he had suddenly
grown tired, as people so often do, of discussing the desires of
others, and had plunged back thus abruptly into his own.

"If you had come here?" she said, with a little wonder. "Has Murkley,
then, something to do with you too?"

He did not make her any reply; but, after a while, said, faltering
slightly,

"I hope that--Miss Jean--is well. I hope it is not presumption, too
much familiarity, to call her so."

"Oh, everybody calls her Miss Jean," said Lilias. "There is no
over-familiarity. She is so happy with your music; she plays it half
the day, and then she says she is not worthy to play it, that she is
not fit to be listened to after you."

"I think," said Lewis, "that there can be no music that she is not
worthy to play, not if it were the angel-music straight out of heaven."

"And did you see that, so little as you have known of her?" cried
Lilias, gratefully. "Ah, then I can see what she finds in you, for you
must be one that can understand. Do you know what Margaret says of
Jean?--that she is unspotted from the world."

"And it is true."

The countenance of Lewis grew very serious as he spoke; all its
lines settled down into a fixed gravity, yet tenderness. Lilias was
altogether bewildered by this expression. He took Jean's praises
far too much to heart for a stranger, yet as if they gave him more
sadness than pleasure. Why should he be sad because Jean was good? An
inclination to laugh came over her, and yet it was cruel to laugh at
anything so serious as his face.

"And she has had her patience so tried--oh! dear Jean, how she has had
her patience tried, her and Margaret, with me--me to bring-up! I have
been such a handful."

Lewis was taken entirely by surprise by this leap from grave to gay. He
was taken, as it were, with the tear in his eye, his own mind bent on
the solemnest of matters, and she knowing nothing, amused by that too
serious aspect, made fun of him openly, turning his pensiveness into
laughter! He looked at her almost with alarm, and then he smiled, but
went no further.

"It is that he will not laugh at Jean--no, nor anything about her; and
what a thing am I to do it!" Lilias cried out within herself, with a
revulsion as sudden into self-disgust. And then they both became very
grave, and walked along by each other's side in tremendous solemnity,
neither saying a word.

"Are you, too, so fond of music?" Lewis asked at length.

Lilias gave him a half-comic look, and put her hands together with a
little petition for tolerance.

"It is not my fault," she said, softly. "I have not had time to
understand."

Her penitence, her appeal, her odd whisper of excuse disarmed Lewis.
His solemnity fled away; he forgot that he was to his own thinking
the grave and faithful partner of Miss Jean, assuring himself that he
had got in her the noblest woman, and pushing all lighter thoughts
aside; and became once more a light-hearted youth by the side of
a light-hearted girl in a world all full of love, and mirth, and
joyfulness. He laughed and she laughed in the sudden pleasure of this
new-found harmony.

"You do not care for it," he said; "you like it to make you dance, not
otherwise."

In cold blood this state of mind would have horrified Lewis--in his
present condition it seemed a grace the more, a delightful foolishness
and ignorance, a defect which was beautiful and sweet.

"I think I should care if I knew better," said Lilias, trying on her
part to approach him a little from her side, partly in sympathy, partly
in shame of her own imperfection. "And as for dancing," she said,
quickly seizing the first means of escape, "I know nothing about it. I
have never been at one--I am going to one in a fortnight."

"And so am I," Lewis said.

"I am very glad; but you are different, no doubt. You have lived
abroad, where they are always dancing. They have different customs,
perhaps, there. It was not intended that I should go to any in the
country. We are to spend the next season in London. But I was so silly
(I told you I was silly) that I insisted to go, thinking it would
be delightful. I don't at all wish to go now," said Lilias, drawing
herself up with great dignity.

Lewis had been following all she said with so much devotion that he
felt himself suddenly arrested too by this stop in the current of her
feelings.

"Is it permitted to ask why?" he said. "I hope not because I am to be
there?"

Lilias paused for a moment uncertain; then, "I am glad you are to be
there, and I hope that we shall dance together," she said, making him
a beautiful, gracious little bow like that of a princess, in her grace
and favour according him the boon which he had not yet ventured to ask.

Lewis' hat was off in a moment, and his acknowledgments made with
enthusiasm. He thought it the most beautiful and charming departure
from the conventional, while she on her side thought it the most
natural thing in the world. But at this moment the others turned
back upon them in a tempest of laughter. Katie had recounted their
recent conversation to Philip, and Philip had received it with all the
amusement which became the occasion.

"Lilias," Katie cried, "Philip says he will be frightened to go to his
own ball. If you say no to him, he will just sink down through the
floor."

"You will never be so hard upon us as all that," said Philip, not
quite so bold when he looked at her, but yet with another laugh.

Lilias blushed scarlet; the idea of ridicule was terrible to her as to
all young creatures. She looked at them with mingled shame and pride
and disdain and fear. Could there be anything more terrible than to
be absurd, to be laughed at? She could not speak for a choking in her
throat. And Lewis, who had not yet had time to replace his hat upon
his head, or to come down to an ordinary level out of his enthusiasm
of admiration and pleasure, felt Katie's quick eye upon him, and was
discomfited too. But love (if it was love, alas!) sharpened his wits.

"It is a pity," he said, "that I do not understand the pleasantry,
that I might laugh too. A stranger is what you call left out in the
cold when you make allusions which are local. Pardon me if I do not
understand. You are going to the river and the high-road?"

"Oh, not me!" cried Lilias. "Katie, you know I must not go this way; I
meant to say so at once, but I did not like to disturb you. Good-bye. I
can run home by myself."

"We are all coming," Katie said, somewhat sullenly. She had not meant
any harm. A joke against Lilias was no more than a joke against any one
else. One must have one's fun, was Katie's principle. But she was not
aware of having done anything to call forth that violent and painful
blush. Her own confidences were scarcely intended to be sacred, and
she did not know the difference between her own easy-going readiness
to take and give and the sensitive withdrawal of the other girl, who
knew nothing about the noisy criticism of a family. She had intended
to make use of the protection afforded by the presence of Lilias, to
wander about all the summer afternoon in the woods, and be happy. Why
Lewis should have interfered she could not tell. Could he not be happy
too without meddling with other folk? Katie turned unwillingly and
accompanied her friend along the unsheltered carriage road through the
park towards the old castle.

"He had his hat off," she whispered to Philip. "Does he think she's a
grand duchess, and that he must speak to her that way? They are just
alike with their old-fashioned ways--or, at least, she is high-flown
and he is foreign. But don't you tell anybody _that_, for you see she
is angry. She did not mean me to tell it. She will be awfully angry
if it goes further. I never thought of that; but, if you tell, I will
never speak to you again."

"Toot! it is too good to keep," cried Philip. "There are just two or
three fellows----"

"If you tell one of them," cried Katie, exasperated, "I will never,
never--and you know I keep my word--speak to you again!"

While she thus made up for her inadvertent fault, Lewis walked slowly,
and with a certain solemnity, by Lilias' side towards Murkley. He was
suddenly stilled and calmed out of his excitement by the mere act
of turning towards the old castle. He said, in a subdued voice, "I
will go, if you will permit me, and pay my respects to Miss Jean. It
is possible that she might wish for a little music:" which he said
with a sigh, feeling in his heart that it was necessary to crush this
dangerous sentiment in his heart, to flee from the dangerous bliss and
elation that had filled his soul, and to establish himself steadily
beyond any doubt in his more sober fate.



CHAPTER XXIV.


They walked together very quietly towards the old house. The sound of
the voices of Philip and Katie behind them seemed to save them from the
embarrassment of saying nothing, and it seemed to Lilias that it was
a very friendly silence in which they moved along. The fierceness of
her anger died away from her, though she was still annoyed that Katie
should have betrayed her, and Lilias felt a sort of repose and ease in
the quietness of the young man by her side, who seemed, she thought,
instinctively to respect her sentiment. She gave him credit for a sort
of divination. She said to herself that she had known he would be
kind, that he had such a friendly face, just like a brother. When they
reached the door, she turned round to the others, saying good-bye, to
the discomfiture of both; for Katie had promised her mother to have no
meetings with Philip, and Philip knew that were he seen with Katie his
reception at home would not be cordial. But Lilias confined herself to
this little demonstration of displeasure, and allowed her little friend
to follow her into the coolness of the old hall, which was so strange
a contrast to the blaze of afternoon sunshine out of which they had
come. Lilias led Lewis across to the drawing-room door. She gave him a
smiling look to bid him follow her.

"I think Jean is here," she said; then added, softly, "I would come,
too, to hear the music, but I must speak to Katie; and two of us would
disturb Jean. It will make her more happy if she has it to herself."

Lewis did not make any reply. All the smiling had gone out of his face.
He was glad to be allowed to go alone. He said to himself that he would
have no more trifling, that it was unworthy of the lady whom he was
approaching that he should go to her with regrets. He had no right to
have any regrets, and their existence was a wrong to her. It might be
that the vocabulary of passion was unnecessary at her calm and serious
age, but the most tender respect and devotion she was well worthy of.
It would be a wickedness to go to her with any other feeling. Lewis
rose superior to himself as he went across the hall by the side of
that wonderful creature, who had for the moment transported him out of
himself. Let all that be over for ever. He did not even look at her,
but composed his mind to what was before him, feeling a sudden calm and
strength in the determination to postpone it no longer. Lilias even,
all unsuspicious as she was, felt somehow the gravity that had come
over him, which awakened again a little laughing mischief in her mind.
Was it the music, or was it Jean that made him so serious? but she
restrained the jibe that came to her lips.

Miss Jean was seated, as usual, in one corner of the large room, within
the niche of a deeply recessed window, with her table, her silks, her
piece of work. It was not yet the hour when Margaret retired from
the manifold businesses that employed her. Margaret was not only
housekeeper and instructress. She was the factor, the manager of the
small estate, the farm, everything in one; and the universal occupation
of Margaret had left the more passive sister time to grow ripe in the
patience and sweetness of her less important _rôle_.

"Jean, here is Mr. Murray," said Lilias at the door.

She held it open for him, and stood smiling by as he passed in,
watching the eagerness with which Jean rose to her feet, her little
entanglement in her work, and startled anxiety to welcome her visitor.

"Oh, but I am glad to see you," Miss Jean said, holding out her hand.
"I was afraid you had gone away--and left all that grand music. I was
saying to-day where should I send it after you--but Margaret said you
would never go without saying good-bye."

"I hope you did not think I could," said Lewis.

She smiled upon him with an indulgent look of kindness.

"I am aware," she said, "that young men will sometimes put off
things--and sometimes forget. But I am very glad to see you, Mr.
Murray. And have you had success in your fishing? But, now I remember,
it was not for the fishing you were here--and, dear me, now it comes
back upon me--you were thinking of settling near Murkley?"

Was it mere imagination that her voice was a little hurried and her
manner confused? He thought so, and that she had felt the difference
between the fervour of what he had said to her on his last visit and
the interval he had allowed to elapse before repeating it. As a matter
of fact, Miss Jean had never remarked the fervour, or had not taken it
as having any connection with herself.

"I said then that it would much depend on you," he said.

"On the neighbours, and a friendly welcome--but you are sure of that,"
said Miss Jean. "Nobody but will be glad to see you. I give great
weight myself to the opinion of a whole neighbourhood. It is not easy
to deceive--and there is nobody but what is pleased to hear that you
will stay among us."

"That was not what I meant," Lewis said; and then he made a pause of
_recueillement_ of serious preparation, that it might be made apparent
how much in earnest he was.

But Miss Jean did not understand this: and though she was far too
polite to suggest that, as music was his chief standing ground, he
might as well proceed to that without further preliminary, yet she
could not prevent her eyes from straying towards the piano, with a
look which she was afterwards shocked to think was too significant. He
caught it and answered it with a grave smile.

"After," he said, "as much as you please, as long as you will listen to
me; but there is now something else, which I would say first, if I may."

"Indeed," cried Miss Jean, anxiously, "you must not think me so
ill-bred and unkind. If you are not in the mood for it, I would not
have you think of the music. I am very glad to see you," she added,
lifting her soft eyes to him, "if you should never touch a note. You
must not think I am a person like that, always trying what I can
get--no, no, you must not think that."

"I think you," said Lewis, with a subdued and grave enthusiasm, "one of
the most beautiful spirits in the world."

Miss Jean looked up with a little start of amazement. She looked at
him, and in her surprise blushed, rather with pleasure than with
shamefacedness. Nothing could be further from her mind than any notion
that this was the speech of a lover. She shook her head.

"It is very kind and very bonnie of you to say that. I am fond that
young folk should like my company. It is just one of my weaknesses.
You would not think _that_, perhaps, if you knew me better; but I'm
pleased--pleased to be so well thought of, not because I think it is
true, but because--well, just because it is pleasant, I suppose; and
then it is fine of a young lad like you to be so kind," said Miss Jean,
smiling upon him with a tender approval.

Lewis had heart enough to understand this most delicate of all the
pleasures of being beloved, this approbation and sense of moral beauty
in an affection so disinterested, which filled Miss Jean's virginal
soul with sweetness. Her eyes caressed him as his mother's eyes might
have done, for a mother, too, is doubly happy in the love bestowed upon
her because it is so good, so fine, so seemly in her children. Lewis
understood it, but not at this moment. There was in him something of
the feeling of a desperate adventurer and something of a martyr, and
the curious excitement in his veins gradually rendered him incapable of
perceiving anything but his own purpose, and such response to it as he
might obtain.

"That is not what I mean," he said, clearing his throat, for his voice
had become husky. "It is not anything good in me. It is that I think
you the best, the most good and sweet. I have known no one like you,"
he added, with fervour. Of all things that he had encountered in the
world, it seemed the most difficult to Lewis to make this proposal,
and to speak of something that could be called love to this soft-eyed
woman, looking at him with tender confidence, as if she had been his
mother. How was he to make her understand? It was he who was red and
embarrassed, not she, who suspected nothing, who had no idea in her
mind of any such possibility. Her smile turned into a gentle laugh as
she listened quite attentively and seriously to what he said. She shook
her head, and put up her hand in gentle deprecation.

"No, no," she said, "you must not go too far. I will take a little
flattering from you on the ground that it's friendship and your good
heart, but you must not give me too much, for that would be nonsense.
But since you like me (which gives me so much pleasure), I will be bold
with you, and bid you just play me something," said Miss Jean, "for I
think you are a little put about, and there is nothing like music to
set the heart right; and afterwards you will tell me what the trouble
is."

"It is no trouble," he said. "You look at me so sweetly--will you not
understand me? I am quite lonely--I have nobody to care for me--and
when I came here and saw you, it seemed to me that I was getting into
a haven. But you will not understand! I am of far too little account,
not worth your thinking of," cried Lewis--"too trifling, too young,
if I must say it; but if you could care a little for me, and give me
a right to love you and serve you, it would make me too happy," he
said, his voice faltering, his susceptible soul fully entering into
and feeling the emotion he expressed; "and if it would give you any
pleasure to be the cause of that, and to have somebody near you who
loved you truly, who would do anything in the world to please you----"

Miss Jean sat gazing at him with a bewildered face. Sudden lights
seemed to break over it from time to time, then disappeared in the
blank of wonder and incredulity. She was giving her mind to it with
amazement, with interest, with a kind of consternation, trying to
make out what he meant. One moment there was a panic in her face,
which, however, gave place to the faint wavering of a smile, as if she
represented to herself the impossibility of any meaning that could
alarm her. Her attention was so absorbed in trying to find out what it
was that, when his voice ceased, she made no effort to reply. She drew
a long breath, as people who have been listening to an orator do when
he comes to a pause; but she was so unable to comprehend what he could
be aiming at that she was incapable of speech.

"I would live where you pleased," said Lewis; "I should do what you
pleased. I know enough to fulfil all your wishes, there could be no
failure in that. There is no worthiness in me, and perhaps you will
think me unsuitable, a nobody, too young, too unimportant, that is all
true; but, if devotion could make up for it, the service of my life----"

"Mr. Murray," said Miss Jean at last, interrupting him, putting out her
hand to stop him, "wherefore would you do all this for me? What is it
you are wanting? It must be just my fancy, though I am sure my fancy
was never in that way--but you seem to be making me an offer, to me
that might be your mother. It cannot be that, it is not possible; but
that is what it seems."

"It is so," said poor Lewis, overwhelmed with such a sense of his own
youngness, triflingness, insignificance, as he had never been conscious
of before. "It is so! I want nothing better in this world than that you
should let me love you, and take care of you; and if you would overlook
my deficiencies, and be my----"

"Oh, hush, hush!" cried Miss Jean, her face growing very pale. She
sat for a moment with her hands clasped together, the lines of her
countenance tremulous with emotion, "you must not say that word--oh!
no, you must not say that word. There was a time when it was said to me
by one--that would be gone almost before you were born."

If Lewis had been suddenly struck by a thunderbolt he could not have
been more startled, his whole being seemed arrested; he was silent,
put a stop to, words and thoughts alike. He could do nothing but gaze
at her, astonished, incapable even of thought.

Now whether it was simple instinct, or whether it was a gleam of genius
unknown in her before (and the two things are not much different), Miss
Jean, as soon as she perceived what it meant, which it was so difficult
to do, perceived the way out of it in a moment. Her first words closed
the whole matter as effectually, as completely, as if it had never been.

"You would never hear of that," she said. "How should you? I was but
very young myself; at an age when that is natural. He was a sailor and
a poor man. My father would never hear of it, and perhaps it could not
have been; it is not for me to say. But the Lord had settled that in
His great way, that puts us all to shame. It is my delight and pride,"
said Miss Jean, her soft eyes filling with something that looked like
light rather than tears, "that it was permitted to him to end his days
saving life, and not destroying it. There were seven of them that he
saved. It is a long time ago. You know grief cannot last; it is just
like a weed, it is not a seed of God; but love lasts long, long, just
for ever. There are few people that mind, or ever take thought about
him and me. But just now and then to a kind heart like you, and one
that understands, it comes into my head to tell that old story. You
would scarcely be born," Miss Jean added, with a smile that seemed
to Lewis ineffable, full of the tenderest sweetness. He was entirely
overcome. He had not been used to the restraints which Englishmen make
for themselves. His eyes were full and running over. He leaned forward
to her, listening, with a kind of worship in his face. He had forgotten
all the incongruous folly of his suit as if it had never been, without
being ashamed or wounded, or feeling any obstacle rise up because of
it, between him and her. She had opened her tender heart to him in the
very act of showing that it was closed and sacred for ever and ever.
How long that moment lasted they neither of them knew. But presently
he came to himself, feeling her soft, caressing hand upon his arm and
hearing her say, "You will go and play me something, my bonnie man, and
that will put us all right."

"My bonnie man!"--he had heard the women calling their children so. It
seemed to him the most exquisite expression of motherhood, of tender
meaning and unspeakable distance, that he had ever heard in his life.
He went away like a child to the piano, and sat down there, hushed
and yet happy, his heart quivering with sympathy, and affection, and
ease, and peace; and Miss Jean folded her soft hands in her lap, and
gave herself up to listening, with that look of entire absorption and
content which he thought he had never seen in any other face. The
music wafted her away out of everything troublous and painful, wafted
her feelings to a higher presence, into some ante-chamber where chosen
souls can hear some notes of the songs of the angels. He had played
Beethoven to her and Mozart on the other occasions, now he chose
Handel, filling the silent room with anthems and symphonies of heaven.
He watched her lean back, her eyes growing dim with a silent rapture,
till it became apparent that all the circumstances of common life had
gone from her, and that her soul had lost itself in that world of
exquisite sensation and perfect peace.

This was the end of Lewis's first attempt at wooing. Before he had
done, Miss Margaret came in, who made him a sign to go on, and listened
very respectfully, with great attention and stillness, making not a
movement that could disturb her sister, or the performance. When it was
over, she said it was beautiful, and that he must stay and take a cup
of tea; and presently Lilias and Katie joined the party, two fair young
creatures full of what is considered the poetry of life. Miss Jean had
resumed her table-cover by this time, and sat among her silks, puzzling
a little which to choose, very undecided and vacillating, between a
yellow-brown and an orange red for one of the shades of her carnation.
Lilias and Katie both gave advice which was authoritative, wondering
how there could be any question as to which was the best.

"It is your eyes that are going," Lilias said, in thoughtless
impatience.

"My dear, I suppose it must just be that," said Miss Jean. She was
exactly as she always was, returned into all the little details of her
gentle life, and not one of them was aware into what lofty regions she
had been wandering. She spoke without the slightest embarrassment to
Lewis, and looked up with all her usual kindness, quite matter-of-fact
and ordinary, into his face. "You will not be long of coming back," she
said, with a smile.

He felt too much bewildered to make any reply; the change from that
wonderful interview in which he had been raised from earth to heaven,
in which his heart had beat so high, and his life had hung in the
balance, into the calm scene of the drawing-room with its tea-table,
the lady who said that last thing was just beautiful, and the airy talk
of the girls, was so bewildering that he could not realise it. He had
been obliged to rouse himself up, to act like an ordinary denizen of
the daylight, to laugh and listen even to Katie, as if that strange
episode had never been; but when he went away he went back into it,
and could not think even of Lilias. With what a strange gravity as of
despair he had gone away from the side of Lilias to make this attempt
which he thought honour and good faith made necessary, feeling all
the while that in doing so he was giving up the brighter happiness,
the more natural life, that had been revealed to him. But, after that
interview with Miss Jean, Lilias herself had seemed tame. He did not
wish to stay in her presence, to behold her beauty; he wanted to get
away to think over the strange scene that had passed. He made his
way through the park, not thinking where he was going, as far as New
Murkley, then through the woods to the old quarry and the waterside,
and during all this round he thought of nothing but Miss Jean and her
story, and the way in which she had put him from her without a word
of refusal, without a harsh tone, putting him away, yet bringing him
closer to her very feet. He was refused, and that by a woman who, in
comparison with himself, was an old woman, who permitted him to see
that his suit was as folly to her; that she did not and would not give
it a moment's consideration; and yet he was not affronted nor offended,
nor did he feel the smallest shade of bitterness.

It all seemed astonishing to Lewis. Was it the difference of English
ways and manners, or was it individual? But he could not make it clear
to himself which it was. He walked round by the water-side and into the
village that way, not to distract himself, but to have more time to
think it over. His heart had been so deeply touched that he was still
quivering with its effect. Everything seemed to have changed to him.
He had believed last time he went by this way that his life was to be
spent henceforward in a state of voluntary renunciation. He had meant
to give up all that was warmest and sweetest in it, to content himself
with a subdued and self-restrained well-being. Now all that was over,
the situation changed, and he might hope like any other man to have
what all men coveted. And yet he was not exhilarated. His mind had not
leapt back to the thought of Lilias, as would have been so natural.
Lilias seemed to have faded into the background; he scarcely thought of
her at all. Happiness seemed to have become a thing secondary, almost
an inferior item in the history even of the heart.

The landscape was very still in the afternoon quiet. The children
were all at school, except the funny little parti-coloured group
which belonged to the ferryman, little creatures like chickens, with
lint-white heads and round, red cheeks, who were always on the very
edge of the river, in risk, as it seemed, of their lives, but to whom
nothing ever happened, except an occasional shrill cry of the mother
from the cottage, or deep bass objurgation of the ferryman himself.
They should all have been drowned a dozen times over, but were not. The
big boat was making its way across with a farmer's shandry-dan upon
it, reflected in the clear brown of the rushing water. Just within the
shadow of the high cliff above which was crowned by the tower of the
Stormonts, Lewis saw a fish leap half out of the water, with a gleam
and splash. This sufficed to do what even Lilias had not done, to turn
the current of his thoughts. He had not been able to get back to any
consideration of his changed prospects and regained freedom, but the
flash of the trout struck some accidental chord. With a half-laugh
at the curious importance of this new subject, he crossed the broad
opening of the village street, and went along the bank to Adam's usual
nook opposite the cliff. There Adam was posted, as usual, one foot
advanced to give him a firmer standing ground, his arms thrown high,
a fine athletic image, against the brown water and the green leaves.
Lewis went and stood by him for a time without saying anything. He
felt a certain ease and sense of deliverance in the quiet scene, where
there was enough to occupy the eye and a certain superficial mind,
which occasionally takes the place of the real one, and to make thought
unnecessary. His deeper cogitations dropped like a falling wind, and he
watched with an amused interest the movements so wary, and skilful, the
deep silence, and absorbed excitement of the fisher. It was only when
the trout was landed and Adam took breath, that Lewis ventured to speak.

"That is a fine fellow," he said.

"Nothing to speak of," said Adam, throwing the silvery creature on the
grass, with a certain contempt. "Lord, to think of a' that time wared
upon a brute that will scarce make a mouthful a-piece for twa-three
hungry men!"

"The brute, as you call it, would willingly have let you off."

"Oh, ay, sir, that's true enough. It's just as little sensible o' the
end o' its being as you and me. The creatures o' God are a' alike, so
far as that goes."

"Do you think, then, that the end of its being is that mouthful
a-piece? I would rather think of the river, where no doubt poor Mrs.
Trout and the little ones are expecting your victim home."

Adam shook his head with a short laugh.

"Ceevilization," he said, "stops on the land, Mr. Murray. Thae kind of
regulations gi'e little trouble in the breast of Tay. That's just an
ordinance of Providence, I would say; for, if there was any natural
feeling among the brute creation, every river, and every moor, and a'
the wild places of the earth, would be naething but just a moanin' and
a mournin'."

"That is not a pleasant thought for you slaughterers of your
fellow-creatures. I have my conscience clear," Lewis said with a smile.

Adam looked at him with a mild contempt, but made no remark. Then he
said,

"Did you ever hear the sheep on the hill-sides when their lambs are
ta'en from them? Oh, but yon's heart-breakin'. They're nothing but the
inferior creation, and if they've hearts or no, I canna tell; but it's
certain they have nae souls. For a' that, when I hear thae puir beasts,
nothing will come into my head but just the Scripture itsel', which nae
doubt was made for higher uses. Rachel weepin' for her children, and
would not be comforted. It makes a man silly to hear them--when he has
ony thought."

"There was once a saint in Italy," said Lewis, "that was not of your
opinion about the animals. When he was tired of preaching to men, he
preached to the birds or the fishes. The birds made a great noise one
day in the middle of his sermon to the men, and he stopped and rebuked
them, bidding them be silent till their turn came."

"And what came of that?" said Adam, quickly, looking up with a glance
of interest. He was ashamed of it apparently, for he followed it up
with a low laugh. "He would be one of thae craturs in the Middle Ages,"
he added, in a lower tone.

"The story says that the swallows, and the sparrows, and all the rest
settled upon the roof and among the pinnacles of the cathedral, and
everything was still till the sermon was over."

"And syne they had their turn?" Adam said, with the same low laugh.
He was a little moved by the story. "It's a very bonnie fancy. Burns
might have made a poem about it, if he had ever heard it. He was one
that had a real pitiful heart for dumb creatures too. Do ye mind that,
when he's lying in his bed warm and safe, and hearing the wind brattle
at the windows, and like to take off the roof, 'I think upon the oorie
cattle,' he says. Man, that's come into my head mony's the night! but
the kye and the yowes, they're a kind o' human beasts, and the birds
are like bairns, mair or less; but I canna get ony sentiment about the
trout. There's nae feeling in them. They'll fight for their lives, but
no for one another; and nae sort of sense in them that ever I heard."

"There was another saint that preached to the fishes--but I don't know
the result," said Lewis. "No doubt it was meant to show the people that
these were their fellow-creatures too."

"I like none of your explanations," said Adam, with a half-angry
glance. "If the man that preached to them didna believe in them, he
was just a dreamer, and the swallows would never have bud still for
him, ye may take my word. Na," said Adam, "I'll say nothing about
miracles--but, when there's a real true feeling, that has an awfu'
grand effeck. Just a man that looks in your face, and believes in ye.
That's a kind of inspiration. Bird, or beast, or, waur than ony, a
contradictious human creature--ye'll no escape the power o' that."

Lewis said nothing. His eyes flooded silently with tears. They did not
fall, not because he was ashamed of them, like an ordinary Briton,
but because the emotion in his brain seemed too still for that
demonstration. His heart filled, like his eyes, with a sacred flood of
tenderness. He had not escaped the power of that. It made him sad with
exquisite sympathy, and happy with such a sense of the beauty of truth
and faithfulness, and a constant heart, as in all his life he had had
no comprehension of before.



CHAPTER XXV.


Miss Jean returned to her work after tea. It was her time for taking
her walk, either with her sister, if Margaret had any inclination that
way, or by herself, in the contemplative stillness of the Ghost's Walk.
But this afternoon she sat still over that carnation which was never
ending, with its many little leaves and gradations of colour; the
carnation in the glass which she was copying had twice been removed,
and perhaps it was the little apology with which she thought it
necessary to account for her departure from her usual habit of taking a
little relaxation at this time of the day, that aroused Miss Margaret's
suspicion.

"I think I must just finish this flower. I have been a terrible time at
it," Miss Jean said.

"Ye may well say that," said her sister; "it will never be done. You
will come back and work at it to frighten Lilias' grandchildren after
we are all in our graves."

"I will never do that," said Miss Jean firmly, "whatever I may do."

"There is no telling," said Miss Margaret. "I have often thought, if
there were any ghosts, that a poor thing in that condition might just
wander back to its old dwelling and hover about its old ways, without a
thought that it might be a terror to those that behold it. It would not
be easy to conceive that kindly folk in your house would be frightened
at you."

"But, Margaret, how would a blessed existence that had passed into the
heavens themselves come back to hover about earthly howffs and haunts?
Oh, no, I cannot think that. To do a service or to give a warning,
you could well understand; but just to wander about and frighten the
innocent----"

"It is not a subject I have studied," said Miss Margaret, "though
there's Lady Jean out there in the walk has had a weary time of it,
summer and winter, if all tales be true. The music this afternoon must
have been very moving, and you and your musician, you have grown great
friends. I would have said you had both been greeting, if there could
be any possible reason for it."

Jean's head was bent over her work, but Margaret kept her keen eyes
fixed upon her. It was not a look which it was easy to ignore.

"It was Handel," said Miss Jean, softly; "there are some parts that
would just wile your heart out of your breast, and some that are like
the thunder rolling and the great winds. Friends, did you say? Oh, yes,
we are great friends; and we were greeting together, though you may
wonder, Margaret. He was telling me of his own affairs: and somehow,
before ever I knew, I found that I was telling him about mine: and we
both shed tears, I will not deny, he for my trouble, I am thinking, and
me partly for his."

"And what was his, if one might ask?" Miss Margaret said.

"Mostly the troubles of a young spirit that has not learned to measure
the world like you and me, Margaret, and that has little sense of what
is out of his reach and what is in. And me, I was such an old haverel
that I could not keep myself to myself, but just comforted him with
telling him. He is a fine lad, Margaret; I never saw one that was more
ready to feel."

"More ready, perhaps, than was wanted," cried Margaret, who could not
divest herself of a little indignation and alarm.

"It's not easy to be too ready with your sympathy," said her sister,
mildly. "Few folk are that."

Margaret was silent, wondering much what had passed. She stood at
the window pretending to look out. She was perhaps a little jealous
of the love of her life's companion. Had she known nothing of Lewis'
intentions, there was indeed no indication to warn her that Jean's calm
had been thus disturbed. She had expected some flutter in her sister's
gentle spirit. She had expected perhaps a little anger, a few tears,
or, what would have been worse, an exaggerated pity for the young
man, and a flattered sense of power on Jean's part. Not one of these
sentiments was visible in her. An anxious eye could see some traces of
emotion: and that she had been much moved was certain, or she would
not have "comforted him by telling him," as she had said. Margaret,
who was excited and uneasy, was almost jealous that, even by way of
crushing this young man's presumptuous hopes, Jean should so far have
admitted him into her confidence as to tell him her own story; even
that was a great deal too much.

"I would like to know," she said, "what right a strange lad could have,
that is not a drop's blood to us, to come with his stories to you?"

"Poor callant!" said Miss Jean, "he has no mother. It was perhaps that,
Margaret."

"Was he looking for a mother in you?" cried Margaret, sharply. If she
had detected a blush, a smile, a movement of womanly vanity still
lingering, there is no telling what Miss Margaret would have been
capable of. But Jean worked on at her carnation in her tremulous calm,
and made no sign. Perhaps it was the last sublimated essence of that
womanly vanity which made her so tender of the young intruder. She
would not hand him over to ridicule any more than to indignation. It
was perhaps the first secret she had ever kept from Margaret; but then
it was his secret, and not hers.

"He did not just say that, or perhaps think it," said Miss Jean; "he
may have thought I would be affronted, being a single person: but that
was what he meant."

"I hope you will never encourage such folly," said Margaret. "It is a
thing that always ends in trouble. You are not old enough to be a man's
mother, and it is very unbecoming; it is even not--delicate. You, that
have been all your life like the very snowdrift, Jean!"

Jean raised her mild eyes to her sister. They were more luminous than
usual with the tears that had been in them. There was a look of gentle
wonder in their depths. The accusation took her entirely by surprise,
but she did not say anything in her own defence. If there was any
reproach in the look, it was of the gentlest kind. It was perhaps the
first time in her life that Jean felt herself Margaret's superior. But
she did not take any pleasure in her triumph. As for Margaret, her
suspicion or temper could not bear that look. She stamped her foot
suddenly on the floor with a quick cry.

"I am just a fool!" she said, turning all her weapons against herself
in a moment--"just a fool! There's not another word to say."

"You were never that, Margaret."

"I have just been _that_ all my life, and I will be so to my dying
day!" cried Margaret, vehemently; and then she laughed, but not at her
own want of grammar, of which she was unconscious. "And you are just a
gowk too," she added, in her more usual tone.

"That may very well be, Margaret," said Miss Jean, returning to her
carnation; and not a word more was said between the sisters of this
curious incident.

But it was a long time before Margaret dismissed it from her mind. She
watched Jean and all her movements, with many attempts to discover
what effect had been produced upon her. But Jean went about her gentle
occupations just as usual. The one departure from her customary
routine was the omission of that evening walk. No doubt such a thing
had happened before without attracting any notice; and if she were
more still and silent than usual during the evening, where could there
be a more natural explanation of that than in the fact which she had
confessed that she had told her own story to her visitor? Not for
nothing are those doors of the past opened. However entirely the sorrow
that is long over may dwell in the mind, there is an agitation, a
renewal of the first acuteness of the pain in the retelling of it. Miss
Margaret said all this to herself, and fully accounted for any little
change which her keen inspection found out in the demeanour of her
sister; but, indeed, had it not been for that close watch, there was no
change. She had not been disturbed in the calm of her spirit--perhaps
she had not quite realised what Lewis meant. Afterwards it was certain,
when she thought it over, she rejected altogether the hypothesis which
had been forced upon her by his words, and said to herself that she
must have taken him up altogether wrong. What motive could he have
in speaking so to her? She was old, she was without money or any
recommendation, and it was not as if he had known her long, to grow
fond of her, as will happen sometimes without thought or premeditation
on either side. She thought to herself that it was very fortunate she
had not been betrayed into any expression that could have shown her
mistake, for it must have been a mistake. And how fortunate that it had
blown over so easily, for they were better friends than ever, and the
sweet-hearted lad had wept actual tears for her trouble. The Lord bless
him for it! Miss Jean said, with gratitude and tender pleasure. And
then she fell to thinking how wonderful it was that you will sometimes
unbar your secret heart to a stranger when you could not do it to those
you see every day. How strange that was, with a confusing sort of sense
in it, that in the dimness of this world, where you can only see the
outside, those that were made to be the dearest of friends might never
find each other out. But that was too deep a thought for Miss Jean,
who returned to her carnation, and worked away a bit of musing into it
in little broken half-suggestions, which never made themselves into
words, but which made her life far more full and sweet, as she sat
there and patiently worked the silken flowers into a piece of stuff not
half worth the trouble--than anyone knew or suspected. Margaret would
be a little impatient of its long duration sometimes, and even of the
stooping of Jean's head, as she sat against the light in the window,
with her basket of silks and the carnation in the glass.

This episode, however, was lost in the stir of the preparations for
Lilias' first appearance in the world. Needless to say that no idea
of the possibility of any incident in which she herself was not the
central figure ever crossed the mind of Lilias. Her sisters were
her guardians, the chief upholders of the little world of which she
herself was the interest and living centre. That anything apart from
herself should happen to them was as impossible as that everything
should not happen to her, standing as she did upon the threshold of
life. A natural conviction so undoubting would have closed her eyes
even if there had been anything to see; and there was nothing, save in
Miss Margaret's anxious fancy. She was the one of the party who was
disturbed by the visit of Lewis. When he came back, as he did very
soon, it is impossible to describe the restless anxiety of Margaret.
She would have liked to see from some coign of vantage what they were
doing; she would have liked to overhear their talk. Her impatience was
almost irrestrainable while she sat and listened to Lilias reading.
What was Queen Elizabeth to her? It was right, no doubt, that the child
should be brought up in right views. But what if in the mean time all
that mysterious scene which had passed downstairs out of her knowledge
should be gone over again, and Jean, always too gentle, be this time
over-persuaded? So restless did she become that Lilias at last paused
in her reading.

"You are tired, Margaret; you are anxious about something. What is it?"
the girl said.

"Me--anxious--what should I be anxious about? I am thinking of your
dress, if it was right to have it silk--muslin would have been better
at your age; and then there is Jean no doubt just taigled with that
young lad, and not able to get him off her hands."

"Oh, as for Jean, do you not hear the piano, Margaret? You may be sure
she is perfectly happy: for, you know, Mr. Murray is a great performer.
Mrs. Seton says so, and she knows about music."

"I am sick of Mrs. Seton and her great performers. Murray! who knows
even if he is a Murray? He cannot tell who he belongs to. If he was
come of any Murray that has ever been heard tell of, he would know
that----"

"I daresay," said Lilias, boldly, "there are a great many Murrays, very
nice people, that have never been heard tell of----"

"Lilias!" said her sister, in dismay. "It is a great deal you can know
about it," she added, with a somewhat angry laugh. Her mind was more
easy when she heard the piano. Nothing of importance could be talked
about while it went on in full force.

"I don't know very much, Margaret; but everybody is allowed to think,"
said the girl; "and old families, like old clothes, most surely wear
out. I am not sure that it is such an advantage to be old. If I were a
new man, I think I would be proud of it. It would be all my own doing;
or, if I were a new man's daughter, it would be grand to think that it
was all from my father, him and nobody else. That would be something to
be proud about."

"Money," Margaret said, laconically, and with an accent of disdain.

"Money! Oh, but I did not mean money."

"Do you know what you meant?" said Miss Margaret, scornfully. "What
does a new man, as you call it, make but money? For honours, you must
have time and opportunity. In these days it is a quack medicine, or a
new invention for taking work out of poor men's hands, or the grand
art of selling water for milk, and carrion for meat, and the sweepings
of the house for honest cloth. It's that that makes a new man; and it
would be a great credit and honour, no doubt, to be his daughter."

"Margaret, you know that is not what I meant," cried Lilias,
indignant. "I was not thinking of the people that are only rich. I was
thinking----"

"I well understand that you know nothing about it; and how should you?
But one thing of this age is that the babes and sucklings just think
themselves as wise as Solomon in all his glory. I cannot hear if that
piano is aye bumming. Bless me, what a waste for a young man that might
be on the hill-side--or he might be in the colonies making corn grow
for the good of man--or taming down the savages in Africa."

"He could not be on the hill-side, if you mean shooting, Margaret, for
you forget it's only July----"

"He might be doing many better things than sitting at a piano at his
age, deluding an old maid."

"Margaret!" cried Lilias, springing up with flashing eyes. "Is it my
Jean you are calling _that_?"

"Well! and what else is she? or me, either, for that matter. Just two
old maids: and, for anything we know, you may be a third yourself, more
likely than not, unless you take the first that offers--which was what
neither her nor me were allowed to do."

"I will never take the first that offers," cried Lilias, indignantly.
"What is the matter with you, Margaret? Music is always called such a
fine thing in books. If we do not care for it, perhaps it is our fault;
and Jean is so fond of it, which shows it must be good."

There had been a lull in the sound of the piano which had called forth
Margaret's outburst. She was more charitable as it went on.

"If you are going to read your book, Lilias," she said, "go on with it:
but, if you are going to argue, just put the other away first. For my
part, I think it is about time for the tea."

And when she went downstairs everything was re-assuring. The music was
tranquil, and Miss Jean quite calm, not even excited and ecstatic,
as she had been on previous occasions. The perfect composure of the
atmosphere smoothed Miss Margaret down in a moment, and, as so often
happens after a false alarm, she was more gracious, more gay than usual
in the relief of her mind.

"Jean," she said, "you must mind that Mr. Murray is a young man, and
wants diversion--not to be kept close to a piano on a bonnie summer
afternoon, when everybody that can be out, is out, and enjoying this
grand weather. I would not say but what music was a great diversion
too--but we are old, and he is young."

"I have had my fill of sunshine," said Lewis, "and sketched everything
there is to sketch within a mile or two. And I have no piano. I hope
you are not going now to turn me away."

"So you sketch too? Yes, I heard it before no doubt, but I had
forgotten. You are a very accomplished young man. In our day, it was
the young ladies that learned all that; the boys were packed away into
the Army, or the Navy, or to India, and never had any time. It was the
girls of a family----"

"But oh, Margaret! if you will think what kind of music and drawing
it was! 'Rousseau's Dream' upon the piano, and a painted flower upon
cardboard. I think shame when you speak of it. A real musician, and a
true artist, is very different----"

"I don't merit those fine titles," said Lewis, with a laugh. "I
understand what Miss Margaret means. The thing to do for me is to turn
me loose upon New Murkley, and let me decorate those great rooms. I
have a little turn that way. I have seen the great palaces of that
architecture, and I have studied. I should be no more idle, if you
would permit me to do that."

"Decorate the rooms! But that would be worse still than being idle,"
said Margaret. "For it would be work for no use. If no miracle happens
to the family, so far as I can see, Lilias will just have to pull down
that fool's palace, or sell it, one or the other. You need not cry out.
What would you do with it, you silly thing, with no money to keep it
up?"

"I will never sell it," cried Lilias, with flashing eyes.

"That would be the best; for we might get some new rich person, one
of the men you admire, Lilias, to give a sum of money for it. And you
might build a wall between it and us, and we would be none the worse.
Pulling it down would be a waste, though it would be more comfortable
to one's feelings; for you would get nothing but the price of old
materials for that big castle that we have looked at all our lives.
But, any way, to decorate a house that is doomed, and not a window in
it to keep out the weather----"

"It might be made into a hospital," said Miss Jean. "That has always
been my notion, Margaret. We can make no use of it ourselves, and it
would be a heartbreak to sell it, and Lilias would never like to pull
down such solid bonnie walls. I doubt even if it would be right."

"Why should it not be right, you veesionary? It is her own at least,
to do as she pleases--if once she were of full age, and nothing can be
done before that."

"But, Margaret, there's more in it--solid bonnie walls that took a long
time to build, and a good warm steady roof, and all the grand, big
rooms, though there's nothing in them--and when you consider the poor
sick folk and the helpless bairns that have no shelter! I'm not clear
in my mind that it would be a lawful thing," Miss Jean said.

"Did I not say she was a veesionary?" said Margaret. "We would have had
no shelter to our own heads, let alone help for the poor folk, if I
had not been here to look over the house. We are just an impracticable
race. One has one whimsey, and one another. The thing has been built
for a fancy, and our fancies will keep us from getting rid of it. I
am not sure that I am heartwhole myself. I would not like to see a
pickaxe laid upon it. We will have to make up our minds before Lilias
comes of age. But, one way or another, Mr. Murray, you will see that
decorations are not just our affair. We are meaning to be--in town for
the next season," she added, with the solemnity which such a statement
demanded. "And afterwards our movements may be a little uncertain, not
knowing what that may lead to. It is just possible that we may come no
more to Murkley till Lilias is of age."

Lewis made no reply. He had to receive the intelligence with a bow;
it was not his part to criticise, or even to regret. He had come
fortuitously across their path, and had not even standing ground
enough with them to venture to say that he hoped the friendship might
not end there. To Miss Jean, had he been alone with her, he could
have said this, but not under Margaret's keen, all-inspecting eye. It
was with a mixture of pain and pleasure that he felt himself in the
background, listening to what they said. The very termination of his
plans in respect to Miss Jean detached him, and made him feel himself
a stranger in the midst of this little company of women, to which he
had attached himself so completely in his own thoughts. So long as
that question was unresolved, Lewis had felt, even with a sort of
despairing acquiescence, that he was one of them, though they did not
know it, with a certain concern in all their family arrangements, and
hold upon them. Now this visionary right had gone altogether, and he
knew that he was of no importance, nothing to them one way or another.
It chilled him to feel it, and yet there was no doubt that it was so,
and that he could expect or look for nothing else. He sat by for a
while in silence, with a sort of smile, while they proceeded to talk of
other things. Now and then Miss Jean would make an effort of kindness
to bring him into the current, but he felt that he had nothing to do
with that current. He was outside; he felt even that he ought to go
away, and that it was rude not to do so; but at the same time it was
difficult for him to issue forth from the charmed circle. Once gone, it
seemed to Lewis that he could scarcely have a pretence for coming again.

At last he got up to go away.

"You will come again soon?" said Miss Jean.

"Bless me, Jean," said Margaret, "you must think Mr. Murray has little
to do that he will come day after day at your bidding; though we are
always glad to see him, I need not say," she added, with some ghost of
cordiality.

He felt himself standing before her as if she had been his judge, and
looked at her somewhat wistfully; but there was no encouragement in
Margaret's face. Lewis felt that the hand she gave him made a gesture
of dismissal. He walked to the door sadly enough. It seemed to him
that, his first attempt having ended in failure, there was no further
opportunity left him by which to approach the family which he had so
unwittingly wronged. He felt abashed and humbled by his failure. To
have been accepted by Miss Jean, although that would have been to
separate him from all brighter hopes, would have been far better than
this. Then at least he would have had some means of reparation. Now
it seemed, as he turned his back upon them, as if he were turning his
back also upon the honest wish which had brought him here, the generous
desire that had been his leading principle ever since he had heard of
old Sir Patrick's rightful heirs. Lewis was exceedingly cast down and
troubled. He thought, as he went slowly across the old hall, that in
all probability he would never be admitted to it again.

There was no servant to open the door to him, none of the usual urgency
of politeness by which one of the ladies themselves, if Simon were out
of the way, would accompany a visitor to the threshold. It was one sign
of their dismissal of him, he thought, that he was to let himself out
without a word from anyone. As he put his hand, however, reluctantly
upon the door, Lewis was suddenly aware of a skim and flutter across
the oak floor and the old Turkey carpet in the centre of the hall, and,
looking up, perceived with a start and flush Lilias herself, and no
other, who had darted after him from the open door of the drawing-room.
It lasted only a moment, but he saw it like a picture. The girl in
her light dress, dazzling, with her fair head and smiling countenance
bent towards him: and beyond her, in the room within that open door,
Margaret standing in an attitude of watchfulness, keenly listening,
intent upon what passed. Lilias had flown after him, indifferent to all
remonstrance. Her sweet voice, with its little trick of accent, and
the faint cadence in it of the lingering vowels, had a touch of gay
defiance in its sound.

"You are not going away," she said--"you are to be at the ball--you are
not to forget. And perhaps we shall dance together," she said, with a
smile, offering him her hand.

What was he to do with her hand when he got it? Not shake it and let it
drop, like an ordinary Englishman. He had not been bred in that way. He
bowed over it and kissed it before Lilias knew. He would have kissed
her slipper had he dared, but that would have been an unusual homage,
whereas this was the most natural, the most simple salutation in the
world.

It took Lilias altogether by surprise. No lip of man had ever touched
her hand before. Her fair face turned crimson. She could not have
been more astonished had he kissed her cheek, though the astonishment
would have been of a different kind. She stood bewildered when this
wonderful thing had happened, looking at her hand almost with alarm, as
if the mark would show. She was ready to say, "It was not my fault," in
instinctive self-defence. And yet she was not offended or displeased,
but only startled. What would Margaret say? what would Jean say? or
should she tell them? To end this self-discussion, she fled upstairs
suddenly to her own room, and there considered the question, and the
incident which was the strangest that ever had happened to her in all
her life.



CHAPTER XXVI.


The night of the Stormont ball was as lovely and warm as a July night
could be so far north. It was, it is scarcely necessary to say, full
moon, country entertainers taking care to secure that great luminary to
light their guests home, though in this case it was scarcely necessary,
for no one intended that anything less than daylight should see them
leave the scene of the festivities. The commotion was great in the old
house, where every servant felt like one of the hosts, and the house
was turned upside down from top to bottom with an enjoyment of the
topsy-turvy which only a simple household unused to such incidents
can know. Mrs. Stormont had spared no expense; there were lanterns
hung among the trees, along the whole length of the avenue; there
were lights in every window; even on the top of the old tower there
was a blaze which threw a red reflection on the water, and was the
admiration of the village. To see the ladies of Murkley cross in the
great ferry-boat in their old-fashioned brougham, which was scarcely
big enough to hold the three, and the Setons after them, wrapped up in
cloaks and "clouds," was a sight that filled all Murkley with pleasure.
"And they'll come back like that at three or four in the morning. Eh,
bless me! but they maun be keen of pleasure to gang through a' that
for't," the elderly sceptics said; but they were pleased to see the
ladies in their fine dresses all the same. Miss Jean had a silver-grey
satin, a soft, poetical dress that suited her; but Miss Margaret,
notwithstanding the season, was in velvet, with point-lace that a queen
might have envied. As for Lilias, it was universally acknowledged that
the ball-dress which had come for her from London "just beat a'."
Nothing like it had ever been imagined in Murkley. We have read in
an American novel--where such glories abound--an account of a lovely
_confection_ by Mr. Worth, called the "Blush of Dawn," or some other
such ethereal title, by which an awed spectator might see what a fine
thing a ball-dress could be; but English narrative is not equal to the
occasion, and the dress of Lilias was white and virginal, as became the
wearer, and afforded no such opportunities to the historian. These two
parties were the only ones that crossed the ferry. Peter the ferryman
was aware that their coming back might abridge his rest, and was not
over-gracious.

"It'll be fower in the mornin' or sae, or ye come back?" he said to old
Simon on the box of the brougham.

"Me! I'm coming back to my supper and my bed," said the other; "but
fower is late for the leddies. I would say atween twa and three," which
made Peter grave.

"One man's meat is another's man's poison," he said to himself. The
manse party would certainly not return till four at the earliest, so
that he had the comfortable prospect of being up all night, "and none
o' the fun," not even a dram to keep him warm: for even a July morning,
between two and four, is a chilly moment so far north. The high-road
was in a cloud of dust with the carriages that came rolling along from
all quarters in the soft twilight; for, though in July the days have
shortened a little, the skies were still shining clear at nine o'clock,
and the lingering reflections of the sunset scarcely passed away.

Mrs. Stormont and her son were both dressed and ready, standing in
the handsome old gallery, where the dancing was to be. She was in her
widow's dress, which so many ladies in Scotland never abandon, and
which, notwithstanding all the abuse that has been levelled at it, is
like a conventual garb, very becoming to a person with any natural
claim to admiration. Her rich black silk gown, her perfectly plain,
spotless cap with the long white, misty pendants like a veil behind,
made Mrs. Stormont, who might have been buxom in gay colours, into a
dignified, queen-dowager personage of imposing appearance. She was
giving a final lecture to Philip, who was nervous in the prospect, and
felt the dignity of the position too much for him.

"You will mind," she said, "my dear, that, when you give us a grand
party like this, it is not altogether just for pleasure like those
silly bits of dances you go to at the manse."

"You may be sure, mother," said Philip, ironically, "that there is no
chance of forgetting that."

"I hope not, Philip. It's a return for favours received, and also it's
a claim for your proper position in the county, a claim you must never
let down; and Philip, my man, you will mind, will you not, to pay a
great deal of attention to Lilias Murray? I consider her the queen of
the ball. There will be a great curiosity about her, because she is so
young, poor thing, and because nobody knows much about her, and her
position is so very peculiar. As often as you can spare from duty to
other people you will dance with Lilias, Philip. You have very little
occasion, I can tell you, to make a face at that. Better men than you
would be glad of the chance."

"That may very well be, and I hope they will take it," said Philip. "I
am not going to make a fool of myself, I can tell you, dancing every
dance with any girl--if she were Cleopatra!" Philip cried. Why he
should have chosen Cleopatra as his type of womanhood nobody could have
guessed, and himself least of all.

"That is right, my man, that is just what I desired to hear," cried his
mother. "Of course, you must ask all the principal ladies, and mind you
begin with the countess, and make no mistake. The quadrilles are for
that. If I see you sitting out, as you call it, with Katie Seton or any
other cutty, when you should be doing your duty----"

"I wish you would not be violent, mother," Philip said.

His mother had to pause, to gulp down the excitement which such an
apprehension raised in her, and which just the moment before the
arrival of the guests was doubly inappropriate, before she spoke. She
had not time to be angry. She laid her hand on his arm, just as the
bell clanged into the echoes announcing the first arrival.

"My dear boy," she said, almost with tears in her eyes, "mind that the
Murkley lands march with Stormont, and, though they're not very rich,
it's a grand old family, and two littles would make a muckle in such a
case."

She put her hand upon his shoulder, but Philip twisted himself away
from her touch. He had heard all this before, and he was not at all
disposed to listen now.

"I think I had better go down to the hall and receive them as they
arrive," he said.

His mother looked at him divided between admiration and suspicion.

"Well, that is a very good idea," she said. "It will have a nice effect
if you lead the countess up the stairs yourself instead of leaving it
to the servants, and you may do the same to Margaret Murray, or any
important person, but don't you waste your time upon the common crowd:
and, above all, Philip----" He gave his shoulders an impatient shrug,
and was gone before she could say more. Poor Mrs. Stormont shook her
head. "It will be to get a word with that little cutty out of my
sight," the poor lady said, "and that scheming woman, her mother!"
she added to herself, with a movement of passion. She could have been
charitable to Katie--but a manœuvring mother, a woman that would stick
at nothing to get a good marriage for her girl! that was what Mrs.
Stormont could not away with, she said in her heart.

It is needless to say that she had divined Philip's meaning with the
utmost exactitude. To get a word with Katie was indispensable: for,
if he was rather more in subjection to his mother than was for his
comfort, Philip was in subjection to Katie too, and just as much afraid
of her. By good luck he fell into the midst of the group newly arrived
from Murkley, which was followed almost immediately by the Setons. They
were almost the first, and the young master of the house was at liberty
to stand among them, and talk while the elder ladies took tea.

"The light on the Tower has a great effect, and so have the lamps in
the avenue. Do you call it an avenue?" Miss Margaret said, graciously,
yet with a betrayal of her sense of the inferiority which perhaps was
not so well-bred as Margaret usually was.

"It's just like fairyland," cried Mrs. Seton, much more enthusiastic.
"Yes, yes, just like the decorations you read of in the newspapers
when some grand person comes of age. The lamps among the green are
just beautiful, and an avenue is far more picturesque, if it's not so
imposing, when it mounts a hill-side."

While they were talking, and Miss Jean was giving a last tender touch
to the roses on Lilias' bodice, Philip ventured to Katie's side.

"If I seem to neglect you, Katie, will you understand?" he said.

"Oh, yes, I will understand," said the little cutty, with a toss of her
pretty head, "that you are just frightened to speak to me; but I'll get
plenty of others that will speak to me."

Philip in his despair was so wanting in politeness as to turn his back
upon the elders and more important people.

"If you go flirting about with Murray and Alec Bannerman you will just
drive me desperate," he said.

"What would your lordship like me to do?" said Katie. "Sit in a corner
and look as if I were going to cry? I will not do that, to please
anybody. I have come to enjoy myself, and, if I cannot do it in one
way, I will in another."

"Oh, Katie, have a little pity upon me, when you know I cannot help
myself," the unfortunate lover said.

"I will make everybody believe that there's nothing in it," said
Katie, "your mother and all. And is not that the best thing I can do
for you?"

She was radiant in mischief and contradiction, inexorable, holding her
little head high, ready to defy Mrs. Stormont and every authority. Poor
Philip knew she would flirt to distraction with every man that crossed
her path while he was dancing quadrilles with the dowagers, and doing
what his mother thought his duty. But at that moment among a crowd of
new arrivals came the countess herself, and Katie had to be swept away
by the current. Amuse herself! She might do it, or anyone else might
do it: but as for the hero of the occasion, poor fellow, that was the
last possibility that was likely to come to him. He walked through the
quadrille with the countess, looking like a mute at a funeral, and as,
fortunately, she was a woman of discretion, she gave him her sincerest
sympathy.

"I think you might have dispensed with this ceremony," she said. "But
don't look so miserable, it will soon be over."

"I miserable! Oh, no; though I confess I don't care for square dances,"
Philip said.

"Nobody does," said the lady, "but still you should show a little
philosophy. Who is that little espiègle that is laughing at us?"

She laughed in sympathy, being a very good-natured woman, but Philip
did not laugh; for of course it was Katie, radiant with mischievous
smiles, upon the arm of Mr. Alec Bannerman, with whom she was to "take
the floor" at once, as soon as this solemnity was over. By the glance
she gave him, touching the card which swung from her fan, he divined
that she had filled up that document, and had not a dance left: and for
the rest of the melancholy performance the countess could not extract
a word from him. Of his two tyrants, Katie was the worst. There was no
telling the torture to which she subjected him as the evening went on.
She was an admirable dancer; as airy as a feather, adapting herself to
everybody's step, or in the intervals of the dances, during the other
quadrille, which absolutely put Philip's sanity in danger, teaching
her own in a corner to an intending partner. And her flirtations were
endless.

"Katie?" said Mrs. Seton. "Oh, don't ask me anything about Katie! She
has never once sat down all the night. No, no, not a sight of her have
I had, the little monkey. She would just dance, dance till the day
after to-morrow, if there was no stop put to her. I am just obliged to
submit, for I cannot go running after her all down this long gallery,
and she knows where to find me, if such a thing happened as that she
had no partner, which is but little likely," Mrs. Seton said.

"I was coming to see if I could get her partners," said Mrs. Stormont.
"For not being out, or in society, as I understood----"

"I am sure you are very kind: but nobody need give themselves any
trouble about Katie," said Mrs. Seton.

It was "not very nice" of Philip's mother to be displeased and angry
when she heard this; for as she took the trouble to separate Philip
from her, she ought to have been glad that the girl, even if she was a
"little cutty," should have others to amuse her: but Mrs. Stormont was
not pleased. She felt injured by the popularity of the foolish little
thing who had come between her son and herself.

Lilias enjoyed her first ball in a much more modest and subdued way.
She stood by the side of her sisters, whose anxiety about the perfect
success of her _début_ was great, surveying the scene around her with a
smile. She made the old-fashioned curtsey which they had taught her to
the young men, who came round with eagerness, not only to do their duty
to the old family tree, but to secure the hand of the heroine of the
evening, the girl who had piqued the curiosity of the county more than
anyone had done before for generations, and who was at the same time
the prettiest creature, the beauty of the assemblage. Lilias made her
pretty curtsey to them, and gave each a smile, but she said,

"I do not mean to dance very much. I am not used to it. You must not
think me uncivil. Thank you very kindly. No, I wish to look on, and see
the others. It is so pretty. If I were to dance, I should not see it."

Some of the suppliants were entirely discomfited by this novel
reception; they retired in offence or in dismay; but those who were
more discerning exercised a little diplomacy, and from time to time,
"the Lily of Murkley," as Mrs. Stormont, for the greater glory of
her entertainment, had called the girl, was led forth by a gratified
partner, to the envy of the others. Her success in the obstinacy of
her determination not to accept everybody, gave a little excitement of
triumph to Lilias. She was pleased with herself and with everybody. As
for the sisters, there can be no doubt that this singular behaviour
brought on them a momentary cloud.

"I see Katie Seton dancing every dance," Miss Jean said, with an air of
trouble.

She looked wistfully at the partners whom Lilias sent away. And even
Miss Margaret for the first moment was disappointed. The idea that
anyone could imagine her child, her little princess, to be neglected,
fired her soul, and it was all she could do to restrain herself when
Mrs. Seton came bustling up to interfere.

"Dear me! dear me!" cried that energetic woman, "do I see Lilias
without a partner? I could not believe my eyes. No, no, you'll not tell
me that the young men are so doited; there must just be some mistake.
No doubt there is some mistake. They are frightened for you two ladies
just like two duennas. A girl should be left to herself for a little.
But just let me----"

"You'll observe, if you will wait for a moment," said Miss Margaret,
with dignity, "that Lilias does not just dance with everybody. It is
not my pleasure that she should. I am not one that would have a girl
make herself cheap."

"But not because she looks down upon any person," cried Miss Jean,
eagerly, "because she is not just very strong, and we insist she should
not weary herself, as it is her first ball, and she is not used to it."

Thus they took upon themselves the blame: while Lilias stood smiling
by, and from time to time accepted the arm of a partner more fortunate
than the rest, leaving her sisters in a flutter which it was difficult
to conceal.

"Now what could be the reason of her choosing _him_?" Miss Jean
whispered, in a faltering voice.

"Oh, just her ain deevil," cried Miss Margaret, moved out of all
decorum. "I think the creature will just drive me out of my senses."

"But she has good taste," said Miss Jean, wistfully, "on the whole."

This action upon the part of Lilias changed to them the whole character
of the evening. They would have liked that she should have been like
Katie, besieged by partners. The partners, indeed, had besieged her,
but the company was not aware of it, and it was possible that other
people besides Mrs. Seton might suppose it to be neglect.

This was not the only way in which Lilias signalized herself, though
fortunately it was only a few who were conscious of what she did. She
was dancing with Philip Stormont, whom, with a sense of the obligations
of a guest, she did not refuse, at the lower end of the gallery, far
away from the inspection of the greater ladies of the party. Poor
Philip looked very glum indeed, especially when Katie, at a height of
gaiety and excitement, which betrayed some sentiment less happy below,
came across him. He had never danced with Katie the whole evening
through, and as her enjoyment grew, his countenance became heavier
and heavier. Poor Philip was too far gone to attempt any semblance of
happiness; he turned round and round mechanically, feeling, perhaps, a
little freedom with Lilias, an emancipation from all necessity to talk
and look pleasant.

"Look at Philip Stormont revolving," Katie said to Lewis, with whom
she was dancing; "he is like a figure on a barrel organ. I suppose he
is tired, poor fellow. Perhaps he has been fishing all day, Mr. Murray.
You admire him for fishing all day: and you have been doing nothing
but playing the piano. I am sorry for Lilias; he is dragging her about
as if she were a pedlar's pack. Let us go round and round them," cried
that spiteful little person, pressing her partner into a wilder pace.

"You must not be cruel," said Lewis; "you will be sorry to-morrow if
you are cruel."

"Cruel!" cried Katie--"he never asked me till it was far too late. Was
I going to wait for him--he that has always come to us as long as I can
recollect?--and he never asked me. I want to show him the difference,"
Katie cried.

Next moment she begged her partner to stop, that she was out of breath.
The poor little girl was too young to be able to keep the mastery over
herself all the evening. The tears were very near her eyes as she
laughed in Philip's face, who had come ponderously to a stop also close
to her.

"I hope you are enjoying your ball," she said, maliciously. "It is a
beautiful ball, and you have danced with all the best people,--you
would, of course, in your own house," Katie cried.

Philip was beyond speech; he heaved a sigh, which nearly blew out the
nearest lights, and cast a pathetic look at her.

"Oh, yes, I have seen you; you have been enjoying yourself," Katie
cried, and laughed. "I am quite ready, Mr. Murray."

Upon this Lilias darted in, clapping her hands softly together as they
do in childish games.

"We will change partners," she cried. It seemed to Lewis that he had
bounded suddenly into the skies when she laid her hand on his shoulder.
"Quick, quick, that they may not stop us," Lilias said.

And Lewis was not reluctant. They flew off together, leaving the other
two astonished, confused, looking at each other.

"I suppose we may as well dance," said Philip, and then he poured forth
his heart. His little tormentor was taken by surprise. "Oh, what a
wretched night!" said poor Philip. "I have been wondering whether it
would ever be over, and, now that I have got you, it is against your
will. I will never forget Lilias Murray for it all the same. That's
what a good girl will do for you--a real true, good girl, by Jove, that
does not mind what anybody thinks."

"And I am a bad girl, I suppose?" said Katie, held fast in his arm, and
carried along against her will, yet with a thrill of pleasure which had
been absent from all her previous merry-making.

"Oh! I don't know what you are," cried the angry lover. "You are just
you; there is nobody else. Oh! Katie, how are we to get out of this? I
cannot go through such another night. If I had not got you, what would
have happened to me?"

"Nothing," cried Katie, almost sobbing, determined to laugh still at
all costs; "you would just have gone to your bed and had a good night's
rest."

"I think I would have gone to the bed of Tay," cried poor Philip.

She laughed upon his shoulder till he could have beaten Katie, until he
suddenly found the sound turn to crying, when Philip grew frightened
and abject. He took her downstairs, as soon as she had recovered a
little, to have some tea, and caught up the first shawl he could find
and wrapped it round her, and led her out into the flower-garden, where
the night odours were sweet from the invisible flowers, and the tower
threw a deep black shadow, topped by the glare of the light which rose
red and smoky against the shining of the moon. There were various other
pairs about, but they kept in the moonlight. Philip and Katie felt
themselves safer in the dark, and there lingered, it is needless to
say, much longer than they ought.

"Are you shocked at my behaviour, Mr. Murray?" said Lilias. "Should I
not have done it? Perhaps I should not; but they were so unhappy. And I
thought you would never mind. I do not think I would have done it if it
had not been you."

"That is the best of all," said Lewis.

"What is the best of all? It was taking a liberty--I am very conscious
of that; but Jean says you are full of understanding. And you saw,
didn't you, as well as me? Why should people come between other people,
Mr. Murray? If I were Philip's mother--you need not laugh--"

"What should you do if you were Philip's mother?" he said.

"I would never, never stand between them. How can she tell she might
not be spoiling his life? You read that in books often. Philip is not
the grand kind of man who would die for love----"

"Do you think that would be a grand kind of man?"

"Oh, don't you? I would like to live among that kind of people. It
would be far finer, far simpler, than the common kind that die just of
illnesses and accidents like beasts. I would like to die by my heart."

"I don't think Mr. Stormont will die."

"No, he is not good enough," said Lilias, "he is afraid of his mother.
I am a little afraid of Margaret, too; but I would not do an ill thing,
I think, even if she wanted me. To be sure, she never would want me.
Do you know, I have had my way to-night; I have just refused the people
I did not like. Katie dared me to do it, and Jean said I must not do
it; but I did it--I was determined I would: and Margaret knew nothing
about it, so she could not forbid me," said Lilias, with a laugh.

"That was very prudent, when there is only one you are afraid of, not
to let her know."

"I did not keep it from her on purpose," said Lilias, half-offended.
"Mr. Murray, do you see that they have gone away downstairs? I am
afraid they may be silly now they are together. Don't you think we
should go too?"

"I will do whatever Miss Lilias pleases," said Lewis, "and go where you
like best. After this you will give me one other little dance--just
one; that was like heaven."

"Heaven!" cried Lilias, scandalized. It seemed profanity to her
innocent ears. "That will be the way," she said, somewhat severely,
"that people permit themselves to speak abroad? I have always
heard----But I am sure you did not mean it. It was very nice. I
suppose, Mr. Murray, you dance very well?"

"I am not the judge," said Lewis laughing, but confused in spite of
himself.

"Neither am I," said Lilias, calmly, "for I have never danced much with
gentlemen. But you do not bump like most; you go so smoothly, it was a
pleasure. But I wonder where Katie is? Doesn't it seem to you a long
time?"

"It is only a moment since we have been together," Lewis said.

"Do you think so? Oh! I am afraid a great many moments--even minutes.
Look! Mrs. Stormont is beginning to be uneasy--she is looking for
Philip. Oh! come before she sees----"

They hurried downstairs, Lilias leading the young man after her, with a
guiding hand upon his arm. The great hall door was standing open, the
freshness of the summer night coming in, close to the house a dark belt
of shadow, and beyond the shadow, and beyond the shrubberies and garden
paths clear in the moonlight. It could only have been by instinct that
Lilias penetrated round the corner to the lonely spot in the darkness
where the two lovers had betaken themselves, and where Katie, after
her hysterical outburst, had become calm again and recovered command
of herself. The darkness, and the moonlight, and the soft noises and
breathings of the night, and the neighbourhood of the other pair,
mounted into the head of Lewis. He scarcely knew what he was doing. He
said in a whisper, "Do not interrupt them. Wait here a little," not
knowing what he said.

Lilias did not object, or say a word. She took the _rôle_ of sentinel
quite calmly, while he stood by her, throbbing with a thousand motives
and temptations. His own conscious being seemed arrested, his reason
and intelligence; bold words came into his mind which he wanted to
whisper to her--he bent towards her, in spite of himself approaching
her ear. How was it that he said nothing? He could not tell. His heart
beat so fast that it took away his breath. Had he not been so entirely
transported out of himself he must have spoken, he must have betrayed
himself. He felt afterwards, with a shudder, as if he had been on the
edge of a bottomless pit, and had been kept on firm standing-ground not
by any wisdom of his, but by the rapture of feeling which possessed
him. He had kissed her hand in her own house without any hesitation or
sense of timidity, but he did not do it now. He did not even touch with
his own the hand that lay on his arm. He was in a sort of agony, yet
ecstasy. "Wait a little, wait a little," was all he said. And Lilias
took no fright from the words. She did not know how near she was to
some confession, some appeal, that would have startled her at once out
of her usual freshness and serenity. They stood close together, like
two different worlds, the one all passion and longing, the other all
innocent composure and calm. But by degrees Lilias became impatient of
waiting.

"You are kinder than I am," she whispered, "Mr. Murray. It is a little
cold, and Mrs. Stormont will be looking everywhere for Philip. We must
not stand any longer, we must try to find them. Do you see nothing?"

"Nothing," said Lewis, with a gasp of self-restraint. His face seemed
nearer to her than she expected, and perhaps this startled Lilias. She
gave a sudden low cry through the stillness.

"Katie! are you there? Katie! are you there?"



CHAPTER XXVII.


Mrs. Stormont felt that all was going well. Philip had not shown any
great degree of gaiety, but he had done his duty like a man. The
countess, after that duty-quadrille, had come and sat down beside her,
and praised her son in words ever pleasant to a mother's ear.

"He did not pretend to like it," she said; "but he did his duty nobly.
Now I hope he will enjoy himself: I have no objection to stand up with
such a nice young fellow, but I think, dear Mrs. Stormont, that in the
country we might dispense with these formal quadrilles that all the
young people hate."

"Perhaps I am an old-fashioned person," said Mrs. Stormont; "but it
could be nothing but a pleasure to Philip."

The countess shook her head, and said he was a fine young fellow that a
mother might well be proud of.

"He is dancing with Ida now, which is more to the purpose," she said.

Now Ida was her ladyship's niece, and for a moment it occurred to
Philip's mother that perhaps she had come to a conclusion too quickly
in respect to Lilias, and that her son, with all his attractions,
might have done better. She had the good sense, however, to perceive
that Lady Ida was altogether too great a personage for the Tower
of Stormont: but this did not lessen her satisfaction in the good
impression produced by her boy. And her confidence increased as the
evening went on. She saw him taking out Lilias, dazzling in her fair
beauty and white robes, and thought with natural pride that they made
a lovely couple: he so dark-haired, brown, and manly, and she so fair.
In all her progresses among her guests, her intimate conversations with
one and another, Mrs. Stormont had always one eye directed towards
Philip. He was very dutiful, and did all that she had pointed out to
him as right and proper to do. And he kept away from the Setons. Her
heart rose. Here it was evident she had succeeded in doing the right
thing at the right time. She had separated him from the manse people,
and that little cutty, and she had put him in the way of better things.
Naturally he would contrast little Katie with Lady Ida, or even with
Lilias, and he would see how he had been taken in. All this went on to
perfection till after supper, when, dancing having begun again with
double energy, the evils above recounted took place quite out of sight
of the anxious mother. Her vigilance had slackened. She had scorned to
fix upon her son that all-seeing regard. She had even begun a little
to enjoy herself among her old friends independent of him, with old
recollections and many a scrap of individual biography. She had seated
herself between Miss Margaret and Miss Jean, and, well-pleased, was
receiving their congratulations upon the success of everything, when
it suddenly occurred to her that amid all the mazes of the dancers
Philip was not anywhere visible. She watched with increased anxiety
for a time: but after all he might have taken down some lady for
refreshments, or to get a breath of fresh air after the dance.

"They will catch their death of cold," she said, "those thoughtless
things! I have little doubt my Philip is away into the moonlight with
some of them, for I cannot see him."

"Bless me! it will be our Lilias," said Miss Margaret.

"Oh, I'll run and see that she has her cloak," cried Miss Jean,
starting to her feet, but both the elder sister and the mother
protested against this extreme care.

"They must just take their chance," said Miss Margaret. "We cannot be
always after her."

"And my Philip will take care of that," said Mrs. Stormont.

But after this alarm, the eyes of all were busy, watching for the
truants. A vague uneasiness was in Mrs. Stormont's mind. If it was
Lilias, as the other ladies said, then all was well: but the mother
of a man recognizes a perversity in that article which is never to
be calculated upon. It was possible they might be mistaken. It was
possible--who can tell what a young lad is not capable of? It was
very consoling, very re-assuring, that Lilias was invisible as well
as Philip, but a hundred terrors shook the anxious mother's bosom
whenever, through the circles of the dancers, she saw a dress more
white than usual, a blonde head, like that of Lilias, reveal itself;
and there were of course many fair-haired girls. At last her suspense
got too much for her. She left the sisters, under pretence of speaking
to another old friend, but once free stole towards the door, and out
upon the wide old staircase, which was full of sitters out. Mrs.
Stormont escaped with difficulty from the too-zealous cavaliers, who
were anxious to take her down for the cup of tea she professed to be in
search of. She could hardly get free from their importunities. The door
was wide open; the chill that comes before dawn was stealing in, but
even when she looked out, shivering, from the threshold some officious
person insisted on talking to her.

"Yes, yes, it is a fine night, and the moon is just beautiful--but,
for my part, I think it's very cold, and I wish those incautious young
creatures would not wander about like that, with nothing on them. If I
could see Philip, I would send him out to beg them to come in."

She stood on the step, drawing her shawl round her, looking out with
great anxiety into the gloom. It was just trembling on the turn
between darkness and light: ten minutes more would have betrayed to
her what was taking place under the shadow of the bushes--the change
of partners once more in the little group at the corner of the house.
But it is impossible to tell what a bound of relief Mrs. Stormont's
sober heart gave when suddenly, coming forward into the light, she
beheld the welcome figure of Lilias, all white and fair, leading rather
than being led by Philip. There was a look which was half-shame and
half-mischief in Lilias' eyes. She was a conscious deceiver, yet
enjoyed the _rôle_. Her eyes were shining, dazzled with the light, as
she came out of the darkness, a blush upon her face, a little shrinking
from the gaze of the happy mother, who was so thankful to make sure
that it was Lilias.

"Oh, my dear child," she cried, "is that you? and what do you mean, you
selfish loon, by keeping her out in the cold?"

As she addressed him with this abusive expression, Mrs. Stormont laid
her hand caressingly upon Philip's other arm. He had not looked so
happy all the evening. She turned and went in with him, ordering her
son to get his bonnie lady something to warm her after stravaighing
like that in the dark. Poor lady! she did not see little Katie, her
heart fluttering in her throat, who stole in after, and hurried off to
her mother, while the mistress of the feast had her back turned. Lewis
took her back to Mrs. Seton very gravely, and Katie was frightened for
once in her life, but presently, finding no harm come of it, shook
herself free of all unnecessary tremors, and was flying over the floor
with Alec Bannerman, who had been looking for her everywhere, as he was
telling her when Mrs. Stormont came into the room radiant. That lady
went back to the sisters, nodding her head with satisfaction.

"It was just as we thought," she said. "They were out for some fresh
air, the monkeys! Fresh air!--it was like December! But I'm glad to
tell you my boy had the sense to put a shawl upon her, and they're safe
now in the tea-room, where I bade him give her some wine or something
to warm her. So now your minds can be at ease."

How much at ease her own was! She left them to seat herself beside
another county lady, whose sons, poor soul, were wild, and gave her a
great deal of trouble: and there discoursed, as women sometimes will,
upon the perfections of her Philip, not without a gratified sense that
the other sighed over the contrast. But Margaret and Jean were not so
much relieved as Mrs. Stormont.

"It is not like our Lilias," Margaret said. "I hope she will not learn
these unwomanly ways. Out in the dark with a long-leggit lad like yon
Philip, that his mother thinks perfection--I am disappointed in her,
Jean."

"It will have been some accident," said Jean, cast down, yet faithful.

"Accident!--how could it be an accident? I hope it is not the
appearance in her of any light-headedness. I would shut her up for the
rest of her life if I thought that."

"How can you think so, Margaret?" cried Jean, indignantly. "There are
no light-headed persons in our family."

"But she is of her mother's family as well as ours," said the elder
sister, seriously. "You can answer for your own blood, but never for
another. Have you been out too, Mr. Murray? There is a breath about you
of the caller air."

"That is a pretty word, the caller air," said Lewis. "It is just upon
dawn, and the birds will soon be singing; but I think it is too cold
for the ladies to go out. They are very brave not to mind."

"Brave!--I call it foolhardy; and, indeed, if it's on the turn of the
dawning, as Mr. Murray says, I think, Jean, we should be making our
way----"

"Margaret," cried Lilias in her ear, "I have got it upon me! Now I am
going to dance every dance. It is just a sort of a fever, and, when you
take it, it must run its course. Was this the dance you asked me for?"
the girl said, turning and holding out her hand to Lewis. Her eyes were
shining, her face full of animation, the thrill of the music in her
frame.

Lewis was so much entranced gazing at her that he scarcely realized the
boon she was offering him. Did she mean to turn his head? She who had
refused half the people in the room, and now gave herself to him with
this sweet cordiality. The sisters sat and looked at each other when
the pair floated away.

"It is because she thinks him a stranger, and a little out of his
element," said Jean, ever ready with an apology.

"A stranger! He is just a beautiful dancer. Very likely he would be
clumsy in a reel; but nobody dances reels nowadays. And as for those
round dances (which I cannot say I approve of), he is just perfect. I
don't wonder Lilias likes to dance with him. But I hope she will not
just put things into his head," Margaret said.

"Oh, no," said Jean--"I don't think she will do that."

It was not till two hours later, in the lovely early daylight, that
the Miss Murrays left the Tower. Though there was not much room in the
brougham, they sat close to take Mrs. Seton and her daughter into it,
Katie, much subdued, sitting on Miss Margaret's velvet lap, upon the
point lace which was almost the most valuable thing she possessed. The
elder ladies talked a little, moralizing upon the perversity of human
nature, which sent them home like this in their finery on the bonnie
bright morning, when working folk were going out to their day's darg.

"If they would have the sense to begin early, as you do at your little
tea-parties," Miss Margaret said, graciously.

"But oh! we must make allowances for a ball. Yes, yes, there are so
few of them in the county we may make allowance once in a way for a
ball--and a grand ball, too, we must all admit; and the young people
all enjoyed themselves just uncommonly," cried Mrs. Seton.

When they were in the ferry-boat, Lilias desired to be allowed to get
out of the carriage, and, with their fleecy white wraps about their
heads, the girls went to the bow of the boat and stood in the fresh
light looking out upon the silent river, which lay in that ecstasy of
self-enjoyment, brooding upon all its shadows, and reflecting every
gradation of light, which Nature is possessed by in hours when man is,
so to speak, non-existent. The birds sang as if they had never known
before what delight there was in singing, and were all trying some new
carols in an enthusiasm of pleasure, breaking off and beginning again
as if they had never sung them before this day. And the shadows were
all made of light, as well as the illuminations, and everything was
glorified in the water which reproduced the bank and the foliage and
every sleeping cottage. There was a little awe in it, it was so bright,
so limpid and serene. Lewis, who was crossing with them, leaned over
the side of the boat, and did not even speak when they approached him:
and when Katie began her usual chatter, though even that was subdued,
Lilias stopped her with a movement of her hand.

"They are all at their prayers," said Lilias. She spoke, not quite
knowing what she meant; for it is doubtful whether this is enough to
express that supreme accord and delight of Nature in her awakening,
before she has begun to be troubled by her unruly inmate, man.

But Katie was not to be restrained for long. She acquiesced for the
moment, her little soul being influenced for about that space of time.
Then she got her arm round that of Lilias, and drew her aside.

"It is very bonnie," said Katie, "but I must speak to you. You never
came home from a ball in the morning before, or you would not be so
struck with it. It's always like this except when it is raining.
Lilias, oh! I want to tell you; I will never forget what you did
to-night, nor Philip either. He is just silly about it. He says that's
what a good girl will do for a friend. I was just at the very end of
what I could bear--I would have been hysterical or something. Fancy,
bursting out crying in a ball-room! I believe I would have done it; I
could not have put up with it a moment longer. That was why we went out
upon the grass; it was very damp," said Katie, looking at her slippers.
"I don't know what mamma will say when she sees my shoes."

"I wonder," cried Lilias, half disgusted, "that you can think about
your shoes."

"I am not thinking about them--I am thinking what mamma will think.
But, Lilias, that's not what I was going to speak of. We will never,
never forget it, neither him nor me." (This is perfectly good grammar
in Scotch, which was Katie's language, though she was not aware of it.)
"And, Lilias, do you think you would, just out of kindness, keep it up
for a while, like that?"

"Keep it up?--like what!" Lilias was bewildered, and looked in Katie's
face for an explanation.

"Oh, surely you know what I mean. It would be no harm; I am the only
person it could hurt, and it is I that am asking you to do it. Oh!
Lilias, it is only to make Mrs. Stormont believe that it is you that
Philip is after, and not me."

"Katie, are you crazy? Me that Philip is--after! Oh! how can you say
such vulgar things?"

"Why should it be vulgar?" said Katie, growing pale at this reproach;
"it is true. Philip has been after me as long as I can remember. What
would you have me say--in love? Oh! but to say that just gives you a
red face--it makes your heart jump. It sounds like poetry."

"And so it should, Katie; if it does not sound like poetry, it cannot
be true."

"It is very well for you to say that; in the first place, you have no
one--after you; at least, not as yet. And then you are a grander person
than I am. It might suit you to talk of love, every day, but it would
not suit me--oh, no! But that does not alter the thing; or, if you
like to change the word, I am sure I am not heeding: if you will only,
only---- Oh! Lilias, for the sake of friendship, and because we all
knew each other when we were little things--if you would only let Mrs.
Stormont think that he was in love with you!"

A flush of somewhat angry pride came over the face of Lilias. She drew
her arm away from Katie's clinging grasp, which scarcely would consent
to be detached.

"I don't know what you mean. I think you must want to insult me," she
cried.

"What good would it do me to insult you?" cried Katie, reproachfully.
"Instead of that I am just on my knees to you. Oh! don't you see what I
mean? We want to gain a little time. If _she_ does not consent, nobody
will consent, nor even mamma, and never, never papa. They will not go
against _his_ mother. And Philip is very dour: he would quarrel with
her, if it came to a struggle. That is what I am frightened for. If
she thinks it is you, she will never stop him from coming. She will be
so pleased, she will do whatever he likes, and we will be able to meet
almost every day, and no suspicion. Oh! Lilias, what harm would it do
you?" cried Katie, clasping her hands.

Lilias was taken entirely by surprise. Her action in the midst of the
dance had been quite unpremeditated. She had been struck by sudden pity
to see Philip so dark and gloomy, and little Katie, in her excitement,
so near to self-betrayal. She looked with dismay now at the little
pleading face, so childish, yet occupied with thoughts so different
from those of a child. To think the elder ladies, Katie's mother, her
own sisters, should be so near and so little aware what was passing.

"How could I pretend anything like that?" she said. "I would be
ashamed. I could not do it. And what would it come to in the end?"

"It would all come right in the end, if we only could have a little
time," said Katie. "Oh, Lilias, here we are at the shore. Just say yes,
or I will break my heart."

"Why should you break your heart?" Lilias said, looking with dismay
and trouble upon the little countenance just ready to dim itself
with weeping, the big tears just gathering, the corners of the mouth
drooping.

But next moment the boat grated on the shore. Lewis came forward to
give them his hand. The brougham, with a little plunge and roll, came
to land, and Mrs. Seton's voice was heard with its habitual liveliness
and continuance.

"No, no, we'll not give you that trouble. We will just run home, Katie
and I; it is no distance. No, no, I could not let you put yourself
about for me, and Lilias in her satin shoes. Katie's are kid, and will
take no harm. We are quite used to it; it is what we always do. Good
night, or, I should say, good morning; and many thanks for bringing us
so far. Katie, gather up your frock, we will be home in a minute," Mrs.
Seton said. "No, no, Mr. Murray, there is no need for you either. In a
minute we will be at our own gate."

Lilias stood in the clear morning light, looking after them as they
hurried away, neglecting the call of her sisters and the attitude of
Lewis, who stood waiting, holding open the door of the brougham. The
still morning, the village street, without a creature moving, the
sleep-bound look of the cottages, and the two figures disappearing like
muffled ghosts into the lane which led to the manse, was like a story
to the girl--a story into which she had stumbled somehow in the middle
of it, but in which she was about to play a part against her will.
She shivered a little with the excitement and bewilderment, and also
because this fresh, clear, silvery air, so still, yet tingling with the
merry twitter of the birds, was a little chill too.

"Lilias, Lilias, do not stand there. And the poor horse just dropping
with sleep, and Sanders too."

"And you will catch your death of cold," added Miss Jean.

But it was Lewis holding out his hand to help her into the carriage
who roused Lilias. He looked at her with an admiring sympathy, so full
of understanding and appreciation of her difficulty, as she thought,
that it brought her back to herself. Had he heard what Katie had been
saying? Did he know the strange proposal that had been made to her? She
looked at him with a question and appeal in her eyes, and she thought
he answered her with a re-assuring look of approval and consolation.
All this was imagination, but it gave her a little comfort in her
bewilderment. He put her into the carriage with a touch of her hand,
which seemed to mean more than the mere little unnecessary help. It
did mean a great deal more, but not what Lilias supposed; and then the
slumberous old horse and old Sanders, scarcely able to keep his eyes
open upon the box, got the old vehicle into motion again, and Lewis,
too, disappeared like a shadow, the only one upon the silent road.
Margaret and Jean looked like two ghosts, pale in the light of morning.

"Well, that is one thing well over--but as for sleeping in one's bed
at this hour, with all the birds singing, it is just impossible," Miss
Margaret said.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


Next morning Katie appeared at the old castle before Lilias had
woke out of her first deep sleep. They had gone to bed after all,
notwithstanding that Margaret pronounced it impossible, and even the
two sisters were an hour late for breakfast. But it was now noon, and
Lilias' windows had not yet been opened. Katie, who was, in comparison,
well used to dissipation, contemplated her friend's privileges with
admiration.

"Mamma will always make me come down to breakfast," she said,
plaintively. "She just never minds. She says balls are all very well if
they are never supposed to interfere with next day; and the consequence
is I just feel as if I were boiled," said Katie.

"You are looking just as usual," said Miss Margaret.

Katie pouted a little at this re-assuring statement, but afterwards
recovered, and begged leave to be allowed to carry up the cup of tea
which was being prepared for the darling of the house.

"You may come with me," said Miss Jean; "but I must go myself, for I am
afraid she may have got a cold after all the exposure last night."

Katie went upstairs after Miss Jean, with various reflections upon the
happiness of Lilias.

"I was exposed just the same. Oh! much more," cried Katie to herself,
"but nobody thinks I can ever take cold."

What differences there were between one girl and another; Mrs. Stormont
would give her little finger if Philip would marry Lilias, and would
not hear of Katie, though she was Philip's choice. These things were
inscrutable. And the luxury of Lilias' room, the tray set down by her
bed-side, the soft caution of the awakening, and Miss Jean's low tones,
"I have brought you your breakfast, Lilias." Katie thought of her own
case, called at seven as usual, in the room she shared with two little
sisters, plagued by half a dozen appeals. "Oh, will you tie my hair,
Katie! Oh, will you fasten my frock!" when her eyes were scarcely open.
This it is to be an only child, an heiress, a lady of high degree. And,
when Lilias opened her eyes and saw Katie beside her, her look of alarm
was unquestionable. She jumped up from among her pillows.

"Is anything wrong?" she said.

"I just came," said Katie, "to talk over the ball. I thought you would
want to talk it all over. When it is your first ball, it is not like
any other. But we got home quite safe, and opened the door and were in
bed without waking anyone. And I was up to breakfast as usual," Katie
said.

"Lilias is not used to such late hours," said Miss Jean. "She never was
up so late in all her life, and neither Margaret nor I have seen the
early morning light like that for years--except in cases of sickness
and watching, which is very different. It was a great deal finer than
the ball, though at your age perhaps it is not to be expected that you
should think so."

Katie opened her eyes wide, and gave Miss Jean a puzzled look. To be
sure there were many agitations in her little soul that did not disturb
a middle-aged existence. She was anxious to get rid of the elderly
sister to pour out her heart to the young one who could understand her.

"Don't you think it was a very nice ball?" said Katie. "I never sat
down once, and it was not too crowded, either. Oh! I like when you
have no more room than just enough to get along. I don't mind a crowd.
It makes you feel it's a real ball, and not just a little dance. Mr.
Murray dances beautifully. Didn't you think so, Lilias? I saw you,
though you refused so many people; and you danced three times with
him, including----" Here Katie paused, with a blush and a sudden
recollection of the presence of Miss Jean.

"Did I?" cried Lilias, with a look of great surprise. "I did not think
of it. I suppose that is what you call wrong, too, to dance with some
one that is nice to dance with, instead of just taking anyone that
comes?"

Lilias was somewhat proud of having carried her point. Her evening had
been triumphant, in spite of her daring exercise of her right of choice.

"My dear," said Miss Jean, mildly, "everything depends upon the meaning
you have. The like of Mr. Murray will never harm you; he is not
thinking of any nonsense. And he is a stranger; he has nobody belonging
to him."

Katie gave a little cough of dissent. It was all that she permitted
herself. And Miss Jean did not leave the room till Lilias had taken,
which she was nothing loth to do, the dainty little breakfast that her
sister had brought her. This represented the very climax of luxury to
both the girls, and Jean looked on benignant with a pleasure in every
morsel her little sister consumed, which the most exquisite repast
could not have given her.

"Now I will leave you to talk about your dances," she said; "but,
Lilias, Margaret will like you to be up soon, and ready for your
reading. We like you to have a good sleep in the morning, but not
to be idle all day." She gave them a tender smile as she went away.
"Now you will just chatter nonsense--like two birds in a bush," she
said. She could remember faintly, from her old girlish experiences,
the talk about this quadrille and that country dance, for waltzes had
scarcely penetrated into the country in Miss Jean's day, and about
the new figures, and the new steps, and how So-and-so was a stupid
partner, and So-and-so an amusing one. She thought she knew exactly
the sweet nonsense they would rush into, like two birds, she said, in
the headlong twitter of domestic intercourse crowding their notes and
experiences together, as the birds had done that morning, till the
listeners felt as if they were eavesdropping. It would be like that,
not much reason in it, one scarcely stopping to listen to the other,
each full of her own reminiscences, a sort of delightful gibberish--but
so sweet!

Instead of this, Katie ran to the doors, when Miss Jean departed, to
see that they were all closed, and then rushed back and took her seat
upon the bed, where Lilias was sitting up among her pillows, her fair
locks streaming about her shoulders.

"Oh, I have so much to say to you, Lilias," Katie cried, and threw
herself upon her friend and kissed her. "I should have hated to think
of last night if it hadn't been for you. Oh! Lilias, you are just going
to be our salvation."

"How can that be?" said Lilias. "I did not mean anything. Oh! Katie,
never think about that any more. It was just a silly impulse--I did not
mean it."

"But when I ask you," said Katie--"and when you know it will be so
important for Phil and me--and when you see the power you have, and
that only you can do it--oh! Lilias, you will not turn your back upon
me--you will stand our friend?"

"I should not turn my back on anyone," said Lilias; "but what am I to
do, and how can I stand your friend? Just let me alone, Katie, please.
I am too ignorant--I don't know about these sort of things. Philip and
you should not be like that when everybody objects. I am sure I would
not vex Margaret and Jean, not for any man."

"That is all you know," said Katie, shaking her head. "That just means
that you do not know the man. When your time comes, you will just carry
on like the rest. And nobody said a word about Philip and me till it
was too late. We were let to be together as much as we liked; he was
for ever at the manse, and nobody said a word. If mamma was against it,
she might have told me; but just to step in at the last and say, 'We'll
not allow it,' and never a word of warning before, that is cruel,"
Katie said, with an angry flash from her eyes. "And now they think they
can just part us as if we were two sticks!"

Lilias could not deny that there was reason in what was thus said.

"But you should have told your mother, Katie, before----"

"Told my mother!--do you think you can tell your mother all the
nonsense that is said to you? Most part of it is just nonsense. I would
think shame. When they speak of love and things like that, either you
laugh, or--or--you put faith in it," Katie said. "It would not be fair
to tell when you just laugh, and, when you believe, you think shame."

Katie's little countenance, flushing and glowing, her little head
shaken from time to time as she delivered these words of wisdom, her
eyes full of many experiences, gave weight to what she said.

"But, Katie, you are younger than I am," said Lilias, "and where did
you find out all that? It is Latin to me."

"It is being in the world," said Katie, with great gravity. "You see,
I am the eldest, and I was brought out very early, perhaps too early,
but mamma did not think so. She always said, 'Her sisters will just be
on her heels before we know where we are,' and that was how it was. But
I am not so young--I am seventeen," said Katie, drawing herself up with
the air of a woman of thirty. Her own private opinion was that a woman
of thirty was approaching decrepitude, and no longer likely to interest
herself in matters of the heart.

"I shall not be eighteen till August, and your birthday is----"

"Oh, what does it matter about a month or so?" said Katie. "I am far,
far older than you are: and if I were only six, that does not make
it any easier; for here is Philip and me that they are wanting to
separate, and we will never, never give each other up. And, Lilias,"
she added, dropping into tender confidence after this little outburst,
"there is nobody that we put our faith in but you."

Lilias turned her head away from her friend. She was touched by the
appeal, and she felt, as every girl would feel, a thrill of pleasure
in being believed in, and in the idea of being able to help. Who does
not like to be a guardian angel, the only deliverer possible. But along
with this there came a shiver of alarm. How could she undertake such an
office, and what would Margaret say?

"I told you in the ferry boat," said Katie, "but you were sleepy."

"Me! sleepy! when it was all so beautiful!"

"When you are up all night," said the young philosopher, "you never
heed whether it is beautiful or not. But, any way, you did not
understand. You were terrified, and then you thought it would bring you
into trouble, and then----"

"I never thought it would bring me into trouble," cried Lilias,
indignant. "I was not thinking of myself, and I was no more sleepy--!
But to do something that is not true, to pretend--to cheat, for it
would be cheating----"

"It would be nothing of the kind," said Katie, indignantly. "Do you
think I'm asking you to go to Mrs. Stormont and tell her that Philip
is in love with you? Oh! Lilias, don't be angry. It's just this. Let
him come here sometimes--Miss Margaret would not mind; and then if you
will come out with me for a walk in the afternoons? Oh! Lilias, it is
not so much to do for a friend. It is quite natural that, when he sees
you much, he should like you best. If he had never come to our house
when he did, if he had never met me, if there had been no Katie at
all," said the girl, with pathos; "of course it would have been you
that Philip would have thought of. There would never have been another
fancy in his mind; he would have loved you, and all would have gone
well. Oh! what a pity," she cried, "what a pity that ever, ever there
was a Katie at all!"

"You are the silliest little thing in the world," cried Lilias,
starting up in her white night-dress, with her hair floating about her.
"All would have gone well? Oh! you think I would have taken Mr. Philip
Stormont? You think Margaret would have let me? Was there nothing to do
but for him to take a fancy to me? Oh! that is just too much, Katie;
that is more than I can put up with," she cried, with a spring on the
floor. "Will you go away, please, and let me get up?"

Katie was prudent, though she was offended, and she was determined to
gain her point.

"I will go into the library and wait there," she said. "But oh! Lilias,
why will you be so angry with me?"

"I am not angry, if you would not speak such nonsense," Lilias cried.

"I will not speak nonsense, I will say nothing to displease you; but
oh! Lilias, what will happen to me if you turn your back upon me?" said
the girl.

She went away so humbly, with such deprecating looks, that Lilias not
only felt her anger evaporate, but took herself severely to task for
her sharpness with poor little Katie.

"After all, she is a whole year younger than me, whatever she says,"
Lilias said, sagely, to herself, "and a year makes a great difference
at our age." Then her heart softened to Katie; if anything she could
do would smooth over her poor little friend's troubles, what a
hard-hearted girl she would be to deny it--"Me that does nothing for
anybody, and everybody so good to me!" Lilias said in her heart. It
began to seem to her a kind of duty to take upon her the task Katie
proposed. If it did _them_ good, it would do nobody harm. If Margaret
got a fright and thought that she--she, Lilias Murray of Murkley--was
going to fix her choice upon Philip Stormont, it would serve Margaret
right for entertaining such an unworthy idea. "Me!" Lilias cried,
with a smile of profound disdain. But for Katie it was all very well.
For Katie it was entirely unobjectionable. Philip was just the right
person for her, and she for him. Lilias made as short work of any
romantic pretensions which the Stormonts might put forth as her sister
could have done. What were they, to set up for being superior to the
minister's daughter? The Setons were well born, for anything Lilias
knew to the contrary, and the others were but small lairds, not great
persons. Perhaps Mrs. Stormont's favourite claim upon her as one who
might have been her mother had irritated the temper of the daughter
of Lady Lilias Murray. She had a scorn of the pretensions of the
smaller family. Katie was "just as good," she declared to herself. All
this process of thought was going on while Lilias went through the
various processes of her toilet. When she went into the book-room,
which was sacred to her studies, and found Katie there, she gave her
little friend a condescending kiss, though she did not say much. And
Katie, who was very quick-witted, understood. She did not tease her
benefactress with questions. She was ready to accept her protection
without forcing it into words.

And no doubt, in the days that followed, Margaret and Jean were much
perplexed, it might even be said distressed. Philip Stormont began to
pay them visits with a wearisome pertinacity. When he came he had not
much to say; he informed them about the weather, that it was a fine day
or a bad day, that the glass was falling, that the dew had been heavy
last night, with many other very interesting scraps of information.
But, when he had exhausted this subject, he fell to sucking the top of
his cane. He was very attentive when anyone else spoke, especially Miss
Margaret, and he looked at Lilias, perhaps as Katie had instructed him
to look, with a gaze which indeed was more like anxiety than anything
else, but which might do duty as admiration and interest with those
who did not know the difference. To the outside spectator, who knew
nothing about the conspiracy entered into by these young people, it
would indeed have appeared very evident that Philip had been converted
to his mother's opinion by the apparition of Lilias at the ball. And
indeed the beauty of Lilias, like her position, was so much superior to
that of Katie that nobody could have been surprised at the young man's
change of opinion.

It might have been thought very natural too, that, after his early
flirtations with the minister's daughter, whose mother brought her
far too much forward, his fancy should have turned legitimately in a
higher direction as his taste improved. Mrs. Stormont heard of her
son's proceedings with the liveliest delight, giving God thanks indeed,
poor lady, in her deceived heart that He had turned her boy's thoughts
in the right direction, and given her this comfort when she needed it
most. And she also applauded somewhat her own cleverness in having seen
the right means for so desirable an end, and secured the _début_ of
Lilias at Philip's ball, an event which connected their names, and no
doubt would make them feel themselves more or less bound to each other.
Mrs. Stormont felt that little Katie was routed horse and foot, and
also that poor Mrs. Seton, whom she considered a designing woman and
manœuvring mother (entirely oblivious of her own gifts of that kind),
was discomfited and thrown out, a thought almost as sweet to her mind
as that of Philip's deliverance. And it would be wrong to say that Mrs.
Seton herself did not feel a certain sense of defeat. When she met
Philip going up the village towards the castle, the smile and banter
with which she greeted him were bitter-sweet.

"I am really glad to see that you are finding some entertainment at
Murkley," she would say. "I have so often been sorry for you with
nothing to occupy you. Yes, yes, whatever women may think, a young man
wants something to amuse him; and the ladies at the castle are most
entertaining. Miss Margaret has just an uncommon judgment, and dear
Miss Jean, we are all fond of her; and as for Lilias, that speaks for
itself. Yes, yes, Mr. Philip, with a face like that, there is nothing
more to say."

Philip listened to all this with wonderful composure. He secretly
chuckled now and then at the ease with which everybody was taken
in. "Even her own mother," he said to himself, with the greatest
admiration of his Katie. Deception looks like a high-art to the simple
intelligence when it is exercised to his own advantage, and even the
highest moralist winks at the artifices with which a couple of young
people contrive to conceal their courtship. It is supposed that the
supreme necessity of the end to be obtained justifies such means: at
least that would seem to be the original cause of such a universal
condonation of offence.

Miss Margaret did not share Mrs. Stormont's sentiments. She had
always been afraid of this long-leggit lad. He was just the kind of
well-grown, well-looking production of creation that might take a
young girl's eye, she felt, before she had seen anything better: and
she blamed herself as much for permitting the ball as Philip's mother
applauded herself for contriving it. Margaret was very far from happy
at this period. The more Philip talked about the weather, and the more
minute were the observations he made about the glass rising, or the
dew falling, the more she looked at him, with a growing consternation,
wondering if it were possible that Lilias could be attracted by such
qualities as he exhibited.

"He is just a gomeril," she said, indignantly.

"Indeed, Margaret," Jean would say, "he is very personable, there is no
denying that."

"He is just a great gowk," growing in vehemence, Miss Margaret said.

But, in fact, her milder, less impassioned statement was, after all,
the true one. His chief quality was that he was a long-leggit lad, a
fine specimen of rural manhood. There was nothing wrong, or undersized,
or ill-developed about him. He had brain enough for his needs. He was
far from being without sense. He had a very friendly regard for his
neighbours, and would not have harmed them for the world. There was
nothing against him; but then Lilias was the apple of the eye to these
two ladies, who were entirely visionary in their ambition for her,
and in all the hopes they had set on her head. That she should make a
premature choice of one of whom all that could be said was, that there
was nothing against him, was a terrible humiliation to all their plans
and thoughts.

And in the afternoons, while July lingered out, with its warm days and
rosy sunsets, the month without frost, the genial heart of the year,
Lilias' walks were invariably accompanied by Katie, who, liberated as
she was from visitors at home by Philip's desertion, ran in and out of
the castle at all hours, and was the constant attendant of her friend.
Philip would join them in their walks, which were always confined to
the park, almost every day, and Lilias, at one moment or other, would
generally stroll off by herself to leave them free. She got a habit
of haunting New Murkley very much during these afternoon walks. She
would wander round and round it, studying every corner, returning to
all her dreams on the subject, peopling the empty place with guests,
hearing through its vacant windows the sound of voices and society, of
music and talk. How it was that those half-comprehended notes which
entranced Jean and had established so warm a bond of union between
her and the young stranger at Murkley should always be sounding out
of these windows, Lilias could not tell, for she had professed openly
her want of understanding and even of interest. But, notwithstanding
her ignorance, there was never a day that in her dreams she did not
catch an echo, among all the imagined sounds of the great house, from
some room or other, from some corner, of Lewis Murray's music. Perhaps
it was that she met himself so often about this centre of her lonely
wanderings.

Generous though Lilias was, and ready to sacrifice herself for the
advantage of her friends, it is not to be supposed that when she left
those two together to the mutual explanations and consultations and
confidences which took so long to say, she herself found much enjoyment
in the solitude even of her own words, with the sense in her mind
all the time that for the sake of the lovers she was deceiving her
sisters, whom she loved much better, and in a lesser sense helping to
deceive Katie's parents and Philip's mother, all of whom were more or
less under the same delusion. It did not make Lilias happy; she fled
to her dreams to take refuge from the questions which would assail
her, and the perpetual fault-finding of her conscience. When Lewis
appeared she was glad, for he answered the purpose of distracting her
from these self-arraignments better even than her dreams; yet sometimes
would be vexed and angry, disposed to resent his interest in the place
as an impertinence, and to wonder what he had to do with it that he
should go there so often and study it so closely, for he had always
his sketch-book in his hand. She was so restless and uncomfortable
that there were moments when Lilias felt her sense of propriety grow
strong upon her, and felt disposed to treat the young man haughtily as
an intruder, just as there were other moments when his presence was a
relief, when she would plunge almost eagerly into talk, and betray to
him, only half consciously, only half intentionally, the visions of
which her mind was full. There got to be a great deal of talk between
them on these occasions, and almost of intimacy as they wandered from
subject to subject. It was very different from the conversation which
Lilias carried on with her other companions, though she had known them
all her life--conversations in which matters of fact were chiefly in
question, affairs of the moment. With Lewis she spread over a much
wider range. With that curious charm which the mixture of intimacy
and new acquaintance produces, the sense of freedom, the certainty
of not being betrayed or talked over, Lilias opened her thoughts to
the new friend, whom she scarcely knew, as she never could have done
to those whom she had been familiar with all her life. It was like
thinking aloud. Her innocent confidences would not come back and stare
her in the face, as the revelations we make to our nearest neighbours
so often do. She did not reason this out, but felt it, and said to
Lewis, who was at once a brother and a stranger, the most attractive
conjunction--more about herself than Margaret knew, or even Jean,
without being conscious of what she was doing, to the great ease and
consolation of her heart.

But one of these afternoons Lilias met him in a less genial mood. She
had been sadly tried in patience and in feeling. Mrs. Stormont had paid
one of her visits that day. She had come in beaming with triumphant
looks, with Philip in attendance, who, in his mother's presence, was
even less amusing than usual. Mrs. Stormont had been received with
very cold looks by Margaret, and with anxious, deprecating politeness
by Jean, who feared the explosion of some of the gathering volcanic
elements; and Lilias perceived to her horror that Philip's mother
indemnified and avenged herself on Jean and Margaret by the triumphant
satisfaction of her demeanour towards herself, making common cause
with her, as it were, against her elder sisters, and offering a hundred
evidences of a secret bond of sympathy. She said "we," looking at
Lilias with caressing eyes. She called her by every endearing name she
could think of. She made little allusions to Philip, which drove the
girl frantic. And Philip himself sat by, having indeed the grace to
look terribly self-conscious and ashamed, but by that very demeanour
increasing his mother's urbanity and her triumph. Lilias bore this
while she could, but at last, in a transport of indignation and
suppressed rage, made her escape from the room and from the house,
rushing out into the coolness of the air and silence of the park, with
a sense that her position was intolerable, and that something or other
she must do to escape from it. So far from escaping from it, however,
she had scarcely got out of sight of the windows when she was joined
by Katie, whose fondness and devotion knew no limits, and who twined
her arm through that of Lilias with a tender familiarity which made her
more impatient still.

The climax was reached when Philip's steps were heard hurrying after
them, and Lilias knew as if she had seen the scene, what must have been
the delight of Mrs. Stormont as he rose to follow her, and what the
dismay and displeasure of Margaret and Jean. She seemed to hear Mrs.
Stormont declare that "like will draw to like" all the world over, and
to see the gloom upon the face of her mother-sisters.

"Oh! Lilias," Katie cried, "here he is coming; he can thank you better
than I can; all our happiness we owe to you."

Lilias turned blazing with quick wrath upon her persecutor.

"Why should _you_ be happy," she cried, "more than other people--and
when you are making me a liar? Yes, it is just a liar you are making
me!"

"Oh, Lilias, you are just an angel!" cried Katie, "and that is what
Philip thinks as well as me."

"Philip!" cried Lilias, with a passion of disdain. She cast a look at
him as he came up, of angry scorn, as if his presumption in forming
such an opinion was intolerable. She drew her arm out of Katie's almost
with fury, pushed them towards each other, and walked on swiftly with
a silent step of passion which devoured the way. She was so full of
heat and excitement that when she reached the new house of Murkley,
and almost stumbled against Lewis, who was standing against a tree
opposite the door, she gave a start of passion, and immediately turned
her weapons against him. She cast a glance of angry scorn at the
sketch-book in his hand.

"Are you here, Mr. Murray?" she cried, "and always your sketch-book,
though I never see you draw anything. I wonder what you come for,
always to the same spot every day; and it cannot be of any interest to
you."

Lewis, who had not been prepared for this sudden attack, grew red with
an impulse of offence, but checked himself instantly.

"You have entirely reason," he said, with his hat in his hand in his
foreign way. "I do nothing; I am not, indeed, worth my salt. The
sketch-book is no more than an excuse; and it is true," he added, "that
I have no right to be here, or to claim an interest----"

There is nothing that so covers with discomfiture an angry assailant
as the prompt submission of the person assailed, and Lilias was doubly
susceptible to this way of putting her in the wrong. She threw down her
arms at once, and blushed from head to foot at her own rudeness.

"Oh, what was I saying?" she cried--"what business have I to meddle
with you, whether you were sketching or not? But it was not you--it was
just vexation about--other things."

His tone, his look (though she was not looking at him), everything
about him, expressed an indignant partisanship, which went to Lilias'
heart.

"Why should you have any vexation? It is not to be borne!" he cried.

Lilias was so touched with this sympathy that it at once blew her cloud
away, and made her feel its injustice more than ever, which is a not
unusual paradox of feeling.

"Oh, what right have I to escape vexation?" she said. "I am just like
other people." And then she paused, and, looking back, saw the two
figures which she had abandoned in such angry haste turning aside into
the woods. They cared nothing about her vexation, whoever did so. She
laughed in an agitated way, as though she might have cried. There was
no concealing her feelings from such a keen observer. "I suppose," she
said, "that you are in the secret too?"

"I am in no secret," said Lewis, and his eyes were full of indignation;
"but that you should be made the scapegoat--oh, forgive me! but that is
what I cannot persuade myself to bear."

"Ah!" said Lilias, "how nice it is to meet with some one who
understands without a word! But I am no scapegoat--it is not quite so
bad as that."

"It ought not to be so at all," Lewis said, with a touch of severity
that had never been seen in his friendly face before.

Lilias looked at him with a little alarm, and with a great deal of
additional respect. And then she began to defend the culprits, finding
them thus placed before a judge so much more decided than herself.

"They don't think I mind--they don't mean to hurt me," she said.

"But they do hurt you--your delicate mind, your honour, and sense of
right. It is much against my interest," said Lewis, "I ought to plead
for them, to keep it all going on, for otherwise I should not see you,
I should not have my chance too; but it is more strong than me. It
ought not to be."

Lilias did not know what to answer him. His words confused her, though
she understood but dimly any meaning in them. His chance, too!--what
did he mean? But she did not ask anything about his meaning, though his
wonder distracted her attention, and made her voice uncertain.

"It is not so bad for me as it would be for them," Lilias said.

And then his countenance, which she had thought colourless often and
unimportant, startled her as he turned towards her, so glowing was it
with generous indignation. She had used the same words herself, or at
least the same idea, but somehow they had not struck her in their full
meaning till now.

"Why should they be spared at your expense? But you have no hand nor
share in it," he said. "We must bear our own burdens."

"But, Mr. Murray," said Lilias, "what should you think of a friend that
would not take your burden upon her shoulders and help you to bear it?"
The argument restored her to herself.

"I should think such a friend was more than half divine," he said.

Lilias knew very well that she was not half divine, and Katie's
declaration that she was an angel roused nothing but wrath in her mind;
nevertheless she was curiously consoled in her troubles by this other
hyperbole now.



CHAPTER XXIX.


"This will never do," said Miss Margaret to Miss Jean.

They were sitting together with very serious faces after the triumphant
departure of Mrs. Stormont, who had declared with a countenance full
of smiles that to wait for Philip would be nonsense, since "when these
young creatures get together there is no telling when we may see them
again." The ladies had listened with grave looks, presenting a sort of
blank wall of disapproval to their visitor's effusiveness, and when
she had been seen to the door with stern politeness and cleared, as it
were, out of their neighbourhood, they had returned and sat down for a
few minutes without speaking, with many thoughts in their hearts.

"No," said Miss Jean, deprecating yet decided. "It is very natural, no
doubt, on her side; but to expect you to be pleased with it----"

"Pleased with it! What is there to be pleased with?" cried Miss
Margaret. "It is just a plot and a conspiracy--that is what it is, and
Lilias has no more to do with it than you or me."

"If I thought that, Margaret----"

"If you just apply your mind to it, you will soon see that. She could
not put up with that woman's petting and phrasing. If we had not
brought her up to politeness, she would have said something. She just
flew off when she could bear it no longer. And then that long-leggit
Philip--if it had not been a look from his mother, he would not even
have had the spirit to go after her. That woman is just a----"

"Oh! whisht, Margaret. I would not call her _that woman_; long-leggit
or not, he is just her son, and she thinks much of him. Very likely,"
said Jean, "she thinks it would be a grand thing for Lilias if----"

"The impertinence of her is just boundless!" Margaret said; "but we
cannot let ourselves be beaten and put out of all our plans, and our
bonnie Lilias turned into just a common country laird's wife--not for
all the Mistress Stormonts and all the long-leggit loons in Scotland!"

When Miss Margaret was excited, it was her habit to take advantage of
a few strenuous words of what she would have called "broad Scots." She
was no more Scotch perhaps at these moments than in her most dignified
phraseology, to a southern ear; but to herself the difference was
intense, and marked a crisis. It was as if she had sworn an oath.

"No, no, Margaret," said Miss Jean, soothingly--"no, no; we will never
do that."

"And how are we to help it if we sit with our hands in our laps?" Miss
Margaret cried. She got up in her excitement and began to pace through
the room, which was such a home of quiet, with its brown wainscot
and the glimmer of its many windows, that this agitation seemed to
disturb it as if it had been a living thing. Jean followed her sister's
movements with anxious eyes.

"Oh! Margaret," she said, "I am not afraid but you will think of
something. If it was only me, it would be different; but, so long as
there is you to watch over her----"

"What can I do, or anybody, if they will not be watched over, these
young things?" Margaret said, sitting down as suddenly as she had
sprung up. And then there was a moment of profound silence, as if the
very walls were relieved by the cessation of that thrill of human
movement. They had seen a great deal worse, these old walls, bloodshed
and violence, and struggle and tumult; they seemed to treat with
contempt, in their old-fashioned experience, a mere question about the
managing of a silly little girl, or even her wooing, which was less
important still.

Lilias was of opinion that she had already put up with quite too much
annoyance on the subject when she got home. She had taken with great
docility and sweetness the disapproval of Lewis, and been grateful to
him for taking her part; but when Katie fell upon her with tears and
kisses, and Philip, standing by with confused looks, sucked his stick,
and murmured an assent to the praises and entreaties poured upon her,
Lilias had not been able to withstand the importance of the position
and the benedictions of the lovers. What should they do without her?
She herself was not disinclined, when it was thus put before her, to
recognise the necessity for her help, and that without her they must
be ruined altogether; such a catastrophe, she felt, must be averted at
all hazards. "It would just be my death," Katie said, weeping; "and oh,
Lilias, we have been brought up together all our lives, and how could
you see me perish like that?" Philip did not count for much in the
matter. He was not unwilling perhaps that there should be a question of
some one perishing for his sake, but he wanted to enjoy his walks and
talks with Katie. Lilias, however, was altogether subdued by the idea
of a funeral procession, and all the black hat-bands tied up by white
ribbons. She felt that if Katie were to perish, it would be murder on
her part. She yielded, notwithstanding her sense of wrong, and the
disapproval of Lewis. After all, he had nothing to do with it--nobody
had anything to do with it. If she chose to make herself a shield for
the loves of Katie and Philip, it was her own business. Even Margaret
had no right to interfere. But Lilias felt she had enough of it when
she went home. She did not want to hear even the names of the people
whom she was thus serving at so great a cost, and the remembrance
of the scene with Mrs. Stormont and all her caresses was odious to
her. She put it severely out of her mind. She resolved that for no
inducement would she be present when Mrs. Stormont paid another visit,
and that Philip should never be permitted to accompany his mother to
the castle. These things she would insist upon, and then nothing so
disagreeable as this past afternoon could happen again.

She stole in, a little breathless, and desirous of getting to her room
unperceived. The result of so much agitation was that she had lingered
longer than usual. There had been Lewis in the first place, who had
a great deal to say, and then the lovers, from whom she had broken
away in anger, had taken a long time to reconcile her. It was late,
accordingly, when she got in, and by the time she had changed her
dress, and was ready to appear in the drawing-room, it was very late,
and her sisters were both waiting for her. They did not say anything at
that moment, but contemplated her with very serious looks during their
evening meal. Even old Simon perceived that something was coming. He
showed his sympathy to "little missie" by offering her everything twice
over, and anxiously persuading her in a whisper to eat.

"It will do you good, missie," he said in her ear; "you're taking
nothing." He even poured out some wine for her, though she never took
wine, and adjured her to drink it. "It will just be a support," he said.

These signs were not wanted to show Lilias that a storm was brewing.
She was a little frightened, yet plucked up a courage when she heard
Margaret clearing her throat. After all, she had done nothing that was
wrong. But the form which the assault took was one which Lilias had not
foreseen. They returned to the drawing-room before a word was said. By
this time it was quite evening, the sunshine gone, and a twilight much
more advanced than that out of doors lay in all the corners. Except the
space in front of the windows, the room, indeed, was almost dark, and
the bare walls seemed to contract and come close to hear what was going
to be said.

"Lilias," said Miss Margaret, "Jean and I have been consulting about
many things. You see, this is rather a dear place, there are so many
tourists; and especially in the autumn, which is coming on, and the
meat is just a ransom. Even in a little place like Murkley there
are strangers, and Kilmorley just eats up all the provisions in the
country."

Lilias' heart, which had been beating high in anticipation, sank down
at this in her bosom with a delicious sense of relief and rest. There
was nothing to be said then on any troublous subject, for who could be
excited about the tourists and the price of meat? She was glad she had
not taken the wine, for there could be no need for it--evidently no
need.

"I don't know anything about that, Margaret," she said. "I wish there
was no meat at all."

"Yes, you are just a perverse thing about your eating," said Miss
Margaret--"we all know that."

"And it is not good for you, my dear; it keeps you delicate," said Miss
Jean.

"Oh!" cried Lilias, springing from her chair, "was that all you were
going to speak to me about? And even Simon saw it, and brought me
wine to drink to do me good; and it is only about the price of meat
and provisions being dear! What do you frighten people for, if it is
nothing but that?"

If Lilias had been wise, she would have perceived by Margaret's serious
looks and the wistful sympathy in Jean's face that she was far as yet
from being out of the wood; but, after the little bound of impatience
which was habitual to her, she calmed down immediately, and made them a
curtsey.

"I don't know what is dear and what is not dear," she said.

"Ah," said Margaret, shaking her head, "but if you were to marry a poor
man, or into a struggling family that have more pretensions than they
have money, you would soon have to change your mind about that. You
would have to study what was dear and not dear then. You would have
just to spend your life in thinking what he would like, and what they
would put up with, and the price of butter, and how many eggs your hens
were laying. I'm not averse to such things myself, but how the like of
you would win through it----"

"I suppose," said Lilias, "when there is need for it, there is nobody
who cannot do that?"

"Oh, Lilias, that is far from being the case, my dear," said Miss Jean.
"It takes a great deal of thought, just like other things. Margaret
there has just a genius----"

"It was not me we were speaking of," said Margaret. "I don't wish you
to be exposed to that. It is a hard life for any young girl; and you
have been bred with--other thoughts. I don't wish you, Lilias, to be
exposed to that."

"You speak as if I wished it," said the girl. "Do I want to be poor?
What I want is to be rich, rich! to have a great fortune, and finish
the house, and fill it with people, and live like a lady----"

"You might do that without being rich," said Miss Jean, softly, which
was a sentiment quite inappropriate to the occasion, and at which
Margaret frowned.

"Well, that is a digression," the elder sister said. "We cannot tell
whether you are to be rich or poor--we must just leave that in the
hands of Providence; but in the mean time, not just to be ruined and
over-run with those tourist cattle, I was thinking, and Jean was
thinking, that if we were to retire a little and economize, and save
two or three pounds before we go to London--to Gowanbrae."

"To Gowanbrae!" said Lilias, wondering, scarcely comprehending.

"My dear," they both said, together, "it will be far better for
you. You will never be free of engagements here," Margaret went on,
"after that unfortunate weakness of mine about letting you go to Mrs.
Stormont's; and then, you know, we can face the winter quietly, and
get all our things together for the season. And--what is it, Lilias?
What is it, my pet? What is it, my dear? Oh, Jean, you said true. It is
breaking her heart."

"Margaret! you will never be hard upon our darling--even if you cannot
approve----"

Here Lilias, who had flung herself upon her elder sister, with her
arms round her neck, sprang apart from her again, clasping her hands
together with the impatience of a child.

"What is it you are saying about me?" she said. "Breaking my heart!
when I am just like to dance with joy? Gowanbrae! that is what I
want, that is exactly what I want. Oh, yes, yes, let us go, let us go
to-morrow, Margaret. That will put everything right."

They sat in their high-backed chairs, looking at her like two judges,
yet not calm enough for judges, full of grave anxiety yet tremulous
hope. Margaret put up her hand to check Jean, who showed an inclination
to speak.

"Not a word," she said, "not a word. Lilias, this is more serious
perhaps than you think. All our plans and all our thoughts are for you.
It's your good we are thinking of. But don't you trifle with us. When
you say _that_, is it out of some bit quarrel or coolness? or is it to
cheat your own heart? or is it a real conviction that it is for your
safety and your good to go away?"

Lilias stamped her foot upon the floor. She clenched her hands in a
little outburst of passion.

"Oh! you are just two----Oh! what are you making such a fuss about? It
is neither for a quarrel nor for safety (safety! Am I in any danger?)
nor for any other silly thing. It is just because I want to go. Oh,
Gowanbrae! We have not been there for two years. I like it better than
any place in the world. That was what I was pining for all the time,
only I could not remember what it was!"

"It was just a little change she was wanting, Margaret," Miss Jean said.

Margaret did not make any immediate reply. She kept her eyes upon
Lilias as a physician keeps his finger upon a pulse.

"You will get your wish then," she said. "This takes away the only
doubt I had; and now we're all of one mind, which is a wonderful
blessing in a house. As soon as the washing is done, and the things
ready, we'll start; for that will just give them time to put up the
curtains, and put everything right."

This was a somewhat dry ending to so emotional a discussion, but Miss
Margaret, who was not fond of scenes, considered it best to restore
everything to its matter-of-fact basis as quickly as possible.

"Go away, and play some of your music," she said to her sister, in
an undertone, "and don't just carry this on, and put nonsense into
people's heads." She took up her stocking, which she had dropped.
"Bless me," she said, "how much shorter the days are growing, though we
are only in July. Gowanbrae is just beautiful in the autumn, and warm
for the winter. Your old castle, Lilias, is grander, but there is more
sun in the south country."

"Margaret, if you will make comparisons, I shall have to stand up for
Murkley," cried Lilias. "But I like the one just as well as the other,
winter and summer."

"Which is all that is necessary," said Miss Margaret, nodding her head.
"Now take your book or something in your hands to do, for I cannot bide
to see a young person sitting idle. It's not becoming either in young
folk or old; and work is best, in my opinion; for doing nothing but
reading books just bewilders the brain," Miss Margaret said.

Nevertheless, it was with a book in her arms that Lilias stole into
the window, where Miss Jean usually sat with her work. She took the
book, but she did not read. It was now dark enough to conceal from the
quick eyes of Margaret how far she was carrying out her injunction,
and Lilias was in so considerable a commotion of mind that she was
glad to retire into her own thoughts. Jean's music made no very strong
appeal to either of her listeners. She sat in the further part of the
room in the dimness, scarcely perceptible, and filled the silence with
soft strains which formed a sort of accompaniment to thought, and did
not interrupt it. Miss Margaret in the middle of the room, with such
light as remained centering in her face and the hose upon her hand,
sat motionless in her high chair. She had allowed her stocking to drop
upon her lap; though she had made that protestation against idleness,
she was herself doing nothing. Perhaps she was listening to the music,
for now and then she would say, "That is a very bonnie thing you have
just been playing," or, "What was that? for I liked it, Jean." She
said this, however, night after night, at the same place, so that it
is to be feared she did it purely out of sympathy, and not from any
appreciation of the "bonnie thing" of which she desired so often to
know the name.

The soft shadows gathered over the group thus composed. Lilias in the
window, her profile showing against the light, sat in a hush of relief
and calm, never stirring, half conscious only of the dim background,
of Margaret in the chair, and Jean at the piano; other pictures were
before her eyes. Katie all in tears, hearing with consternation the
news of this unlooked-for change; Philip sucking his cane; Lewis----Ah!
she could not but wonder a little what Mr. Murray would think of it.
He would be glad, no doubt; he would approve; he would think it a good
thing that she should go away, and no longer be a screen to the lovers.
Then Lilias wondered a little, with a faint sense of mingled amusement
and--no, not regret. Why should she regret or care at all about it? He
was Jean's friend, not hers. But it was not possible not to be moved
by a question or two in respect to him. Would he go to New Murkley as
often, would he stand with his sketch-book in his hand never drawing a
line, would he take as much interest in it all when she was no longer
there? A faint smile woke about the corners of her mouth. Nobody could
see it to ask what she was smiling at. To such a question she would
have answered, "Nothing;" and it was nothing, only a vague, amused
wonder in her own mind. He would be glad she was going away, but----The
road through the park and the grass-grown spaces round the great empty
house, would no one at all linger about them now? Not Katie, who could
no longer have the excuse of coming to her friend; nor Philip, whom
no doubt his mother, much disappointed, would keep a closer hold upon
than ever. But Lilias did not care so much about them. What would
the other do, who was a stranger, who took such an interest in the
vacant palace? The smile continued upon her face; perhaps, though she
said "No, no!" vehemently to herself, there was a slight sensation of
regret, a little blank in her heart. She wondered whether it would
all come to an end? whether, when the fishing was over (but he did
not care for the fishing), he would disappear and be seen no more? or
whether he would turn out to be somebody, and to have a real interest
in Murkley? He might be, not the Australian cousin, but perhaps a son
of that superseded benefactor, secretly inspecting his cousins before
he disclosed the link of kindred; he might be----But here Lilias turned
back again, quite illogically, breaking her self-argument off in the
middle, to repeat all these wonderings from the beginning. Would he
drop out of their knowledge when they left Murkley? would they ever
see him again? what would happen? But why should anything happen? No
doubt he would just go away when it began to grow dull in Murkley, and
be seen no more. Lilias had a consciousness that it would grow very
dull in Murkley when she herself went away, and perhaps it was this
that made her, after the first moment of pleasure with which she had
heard of the proposed change, feel something that it would be wrong to
call sadness--a little blank, a subdued sensation of regret, not for
herself, as if she were leaving anything, but for the others. And of
course it would be the stranger, he who had no other thing to amuse
him, who would feel it most.

The news of the revolution and radical change of all the conditions
of life which had thus been decided upon reached the stranger with
the utmost promptitude and distinctness. Miss Margaret herself was
not aware of having revealed it to anyone but her confidential maid
when it came like a thunderbolt upon Lewis, something which it had not
entered into his mind to fear. He had been engaged all the morning
in finishing a sketch of New Murkley which he meant to offer--to
Lilias, if permitted--if not, to her sisters, and which he had hoped
would bring about some new _rapprochement_, some further step in the
intercourse which had as yet so little sanction from the heads of the
house, and which he was almost nervously anxious to reveal; for even
his own chance meetings with Lilias, which had followed in the train
of the other imprudent business to which she had given her protection,
troubled the young man's conscience and aroused his prejudices,
although against himself. He was as anxious to get the sanction of
authority for these meetings, and even to betray himself, as Philip
was to shelter in the slender shadow of Lilias and keep his real
wooing secret. This had kept him from his usual morning saunter by the
river-side, and, when Adam arrived late for his dinner with a basket
of trout, Lewis, who had heard Janet's not very amiable greeting of
her husband from the open window, went down to see the results of the
fisherman's morning work. It was not very great, and Janet stood with
a disproportionately large _ashet_[1] in her hand, which she seemed to
have chosen from the biggest in her possession, while Adam took from
his basket deliberately one by one a few small fish. She greeted each
as it appeared with a little snort.

[Footnote 1: A dish, from the French _assiette_.]

"Well, that was worth the trouble! Eh, but that's just grand for a
day's work! It shows the valley o' a man to see that."

"Ye talk about the valley o' a man that ken nothing about it," said
Adam, "the smawller they are they gi'e the mair trouble whiles. But
here is ane that was a dour ane," he added, after a pause, producing
at last a fish of reasonable size. "He's taken me maist of my mornin'.
Up the water and down the water he's tried a' the ways o't. A fish is a
queer beast: it has nae sense o' what's possible. Would you or me, Mr.
Murray, think life worth leevin' with a hook through our jaws? though I
will not say but there are human creatures that gang through it little
better off."

"Some would be a' the better for a hook through their jaws; it would
keep them from havering," said Janet, tartly.

"Deil a bit. No if it was a woman, at least, wha will haver till her
last breath, if she had all the lines in Tay grippit to that souple
jaw o' hers. But you would think," said Adam, dropping into his usual
tranquil strain after this outburst, "that a trout, gey high up as I
have heard in the awquatic organizations, would have the sense to ken
that a glancing, darting thing like a fishing-line with a far cleverer
cratur at the other end o't----"

"Eh, but the troutie would be sair deceived! ye mean a blind,
blundering cratur that a bit thing like this can lead a bonnie dance
up the water and down the water, as you say yoursel'. Fishes maun ha'e
their ain thochts like the rest o' us, and ye mightna be flattered if
ye heard them, for a' you think so little o' their opinion."

"The inferior creation," said Adam, calmly, "have a' their bits o'
blasphemies against man, who is their lord and master; but nobody
could think little o' the opinion, if ye could get at it, of a cratur
that had such a warstle for its life. Think o' a' the cunning and the
cleverness, and what you would ca' calculation, and its wiles and its
feints to draw aff your attention. Na, I canna have a gallant beast
like that put into a frying-pan in my house."

"Then, Mrs. Janet," said Lewis, always courteous, "you will put it in a
basket and send it to the castle, and I will tell the ladies that it is
a hero, or a great general, to be eaten tenderly."

"My poor young gentleman," said Janet, with a sort of compassionate
contempt, "whatever you have to send to the Misses, you must send it
soon, soon! for a' is settled and packit, and they're starting for the
south country."

"The south country!" said Lewis, in dismay. The announcement was so
sudden that it bewildered him, and, once more deceived, he thought of
Italy. "But why--what is the matter? What has happened?" he cried;
"they are not _poitrinaires_. Ah, I forgot, it is something else you
mean by the south."

"I mean just their ain house, that is near Moffat, a bonnie enough
place, but no like Murkley. I thought, sir, you would have heard," said
Janet, fixing her eyes upon him. She had become greatly devoted to her
lodger, but human curiosity is stronger even than affection, and she
was anxious to know how he would take this blow which, she felt sure,
would crush all his hopes.

And, indeed, Lewis grew a little pale; his surprise was great, a
sickening disappointment came over him; but yet, along with it, a
certain relief. His mind had been greatly disturbed by the existing
position of affairs. He had a passing sense that he was glad in the
midst of his downfall. Janet could not comprehend how this was.

"It must be very sudden," he said, moistening his lips, which the
sudden shock had made dry: and he grew pale, and his face lengthened;
but nevertheless he had a smile which contradicted these signs, so that
the keen observer at his side was at a loss.

"The mair need to lose no time with the trout," said Adam; "and,
besides, it's always best caller from the water. Janet, have ye a
basket? I'll take it up mysel'."

"Oh, ay, onything that means stravaighin'," said Janet, bitterly. "Just
gi'e a glance round ye, my man, and see if ye canna capture a basket
for yersel'."

But these passages of arms amused Lewis no more. He walked upstairs
very gravely into his parlour, where his sketch stood upon a small
easel. Would there not be time even to finish it? His face had grown
a great deal longer. This was an end upon which he had not at all
calculated: and somehow an end of any kind did not seem so desirable as
it had done an hour ago, when none seemed likely. The reign of Philip
and Katie, after all, was not, perhaps, so much harm.



CHAPTER XXX.


It was curious how the aspect of everything had changed to Lewis when
he walked up the now familiar way to the old Castle of Murkley through
the sunshine of the July afternoon. It was still full summer, but
there seemed to him a cloud in the air--a cloud too subtle to show
upon the brightness of the unsympathetic blue, but which indicated
storm and change. The trees were almost black in the fulness of their
leafage, dark green, no tender tints of spring lingering among them,
as there had still been when he first came to the little village on
the river-side, and first saw those turrets sheltered among the trees.
What a difference since then! The unknown, with all its suggestions,
had disappeared; he was aware what he was likely to meet round
every corner. But the excitement of a life in suspense had only been
intensified. When he came to Murkley, with the virtuous intention
of bestowing himself and his fortune upon one of old Sir Patrick's
disinherited granddaughters, there had been no very entrancing
expectations in his mind. He had not thought of falling in love, but
of accomplishing his duty. That duty he would have been happy to
accomplish under the gentle auspices of Miss Jean. He would never have
grumbled at the twilight life he should have spent with her; no such
radiant vision as Lilias had ever flitted across his imagination, nor
had he expected, in case his suit should be rejected (a possibility
which at first, indeed, he had not taken into account), to return with
anything less agreeable than that calm sense of having done his duty
which consoles a man for most small disappointments. But now all this
was changed. In the case he had supposed beforehand, a refusal would
have been an emancipation. He would have felt that he had done all
he could, and was now free to enjoy unfettered what he had felt the
justice of sharing, should they please, with one of the natural heirs.
But Lewis felt now that the whole question had been opened, and did
not know where he might find himself, or what he might feel to be his
duty if he failed now. It had been easy to put all that aside when he
knew that Lilias was near him, that he had the same chance as all her
countrymen, and was free to speak to her, to exercise what charms he
might possess. Every decision was stopped naturally, every calculation,
even, until it appeared whether in this supreme quest he might have
good fortune. But when she should be gone, what would happen? When she
should be gone, the glory would be gone out of everything. Murkley
would turn into a dull little village, full of limited rural people,
and his own life would appear as it was, a mere exotic, without meaning
or rule. There was a meaning in it now, but then there would be none.

He walked up the village-street with that suddenly elongated
countenance, feeling that everything was crumbling about him. The
children with their lintwhite locks, the fowls sheltering beneath the
old cart turned up on the roadside, the slow, lumbering figures moving
about across the fields and dusty roads, struck him for the first
time with a sense of remoteness. What had he to do among them? It was
impossible to imagine anything more entirely unlike the previous tenor
of his life, and if he failed--if he did not succeed in the suit which,
as soon as he thought of it, seemed to him preposterous, what would his
life become? Whatever it was, it would be very different from Murkley,
and any existence that was possible there. Accordingly it was not only
his love that might be disappointed, but his life, which probably would
entirely change. Very few men have this to contemplate when they think
of putting their fortune to the touch, unless it is those men who take
up marriage as a profession, a class fortunately very few.

The ladies were all in, Simon said. He had made an alteration in his
appearance which revealed a high sense of the appropriate. He had an
apron upon his person, and several straws at his feet, which he stooped
to pick up.

"You'll excuse us, sir, if we're not just in our ordinary," Simon said.
"You see we're packing." A hope that he would be the first to tell it,
and that explanations might be demanded from him, gave vivacity to
Simon's looks. But he relapsed into gravity when Lewis, with that long
face, gravely replied that he was very sorry, and that it must have
been a sudden resolution. "Things is mostly sudden, sir," said Simon,
with a dignified sense of superiority, "in a lady's house. Miss Jean is
in the drawing-room, but Miss Margaret is up the stair."

Lewis stood, with his heart beating, under the old man's calm
inspection.

"I am going to see Miss Jean," he said, "but afterwards will you ask,
Simon, if Miss Murray will grant me an interview. There is something--I
wish to ask her."

"Lord bless us!" said Simon, "you'll no be meaning----"

And then he stopped short, eyeing Lewis, who stood half angry, half
amused under this inspection. The old servant's eyes had a twinkle in
them, and meant much, but he recollected himself in time.

"You'll be meaning Miss Margaret," he said. "I'll allow it's
ridiculous, with the two leddies here; but the one that is Miss Murray
according to all rights is Miss Lilias--for she is Miss Murray of
Murkley, and the other two leddies, they're just the Miss Murrays
of Gowanbrae. That was, maybe, the General's fault: or, maybe, just
his wisdom and far-seeingness; for he was a clever man, though few
saw it. Old Sir Patrick, the old man, he was just the very devil for
cleverness," Simon said.

This did not sound like a servant's indiscretion, but the somewhat
free opinion of a member of the family, which was how Simon considered
himself. He made a little pause, contemplating Lewis with a humorous
eye, and then he said,

"I'll take ye to Miss Jean, sir, and then I'll give your message to
Miss Margaret. I will say in half an hour or three-quarters of an hour,
that they may be sure not to clash."

"That will do very well," said Lewis, not knowing why it was that
Simon twinkled at him with so admiring an eye.

The old servant smote upon his thigh when he had introduced the visitor
into the drawing-room.

"If one will not do, he'll try the other. But, Lord save us, to tackle
Miss Margaret! Eh, but yon's a lad of spirit," Simon said. For the
little episode of the devotion of Lewis for Miss Jean had not passed
unobserved by the keen eyes of the domestic critics. They understood
what had happened as well as Lewis, and considerably better than Jean
did, though with consternation, not knowing what the young man's object
could be. No doubt he had thought that she was the one that had the
siller, they concluded, but his desire to have an interview with Miss
Margaret convulsed the house with wonder.

"Miss Margaret will soon give him his answer," said the cook,
indignant. "I would have turned him about his business, if it had been
me, and tellt him our ladies werena in."

"Would you have had me file my conscience with a lee?" said Simon;
and then he added, with a chuckle, "I wish the keyhole was an honest
method, or I could get below the table. I would sooner see them than
ony play."

"She will send him away with a flea in his lug," said the angry cook.

Meanwhile Lewis, unsuspecting that his designs were so evident, went
into the drawing-room, where Miss Jean sat as usual. She gave him her
usual gentle smile.

"Come away," she said, "Mr. Murray. I am very glad to see you. I should
have sent for you, if you had not come. For it will not be much longer
I will have the pleasure----We are going away from Murkley for a time.
It is sudden, you will think, but that is just because we have kept it
to ourselves. Murkley is just a terrible place for gossip," Miss Jean
said.

There was a little pause. It was one of those crises in which there is
much to say, but no legitimate means of saying it. "I am very sorry,"
said Lewis. Miss Jean, on her side, was much embarrassed, for somehow
it seemed to her that she had acted unkindly, and forgotten the claims
of this young man who threw himself in so strange, yet so trusting, a
way on her consideration. The events of the former interview, in which
there had been so much agitation, she had never formally explained
to herself. The shyness of her sweet old-maidenhood had eluded the
question. She had never asked herself what he meant, or why it was
that she had taken the extreme step of narrating to him the history of
her own love. She had done it by instinct at the moment, and the doing
of it had agitated and occupied her mind so much that she scarcely
thought of Lewis. But she had retained a warmer kindness for him, a
sense of having more to do with him than the others had, and she felt
now as if she had deserted him, almost betrayed his trust in her.

"You see," she said, a little anxiously, "we are not just free agents,
Margaret and me. There is always Lilias to think of. What is good for
her is the thing we are most guided by: and we think a change will be
good for her."

"And I am sure you are quite right in thinking so," said Lewis,
hastily. It was a thing he had no right to say. He reddened with
embarrassment and alarm when he had thus committed himself, and said,
hurriedly, "Everything, of course, must give way to that."

"You have thought her looking--pale? That is just what we have been
thinking, Margaret and me. And what is a very good thing is, that she's
fain, fain to go to Gowanbrae herself. That is our little place in the
south country, Mr. Murray. I am sure that if you were--passing that way
at any time, Margaret would be very glad to see you." Jean said this,
however, with but a half-assured air, and continued, hurriedly, "It
would be taking much upon ourselves to say you would perhaps miss us:
for you have many friends already in this country-side, and this house
is a very quiet house for you to find pleasure in; but it vexes me just
to cease to see you when we were beginning to know you."

"I will come to--the south country--with pleasure," said Lewis; then he
added, seeing her hesitation, "We shall meet, perhaps, in town."

"That will be the surest," said Miss Jean, brightening; "we will be
there by March, from all Margaret says. So far as she can hear, that
is the time when the drawing-rooms begin. If you are in London, that
will just be a great pleasure to look forward to, Mr. Murray. Dear me!
to think of meeting you among strangers, and hearing you play, and all
as if we were still at Murkley, in a great, vast, terrible place like
yon London! And where shall we hear of you? You will have a club, or
something. But, after all, what can that matter?" Miss Jean added, with
gentle dignity; "you will always be able to hear of the Miss Murrays of
Murkley; and you will tell me where I can hear good music, that is one
thing I am looking forward to."

"Are you too busy? or may I play to you now?" he said.

"Oh, no, I could never be too busy," said Miss Jean, "and, as a matter
of fact, I have nothing to take me up. Margaret is just a woman in a
thousand. She thinks nobody can do a thing right but herself. I would
be sitting with my hands before me but for this work that they all
laugh at. And never, never could I be too busy for music," she said,
with a little sigh of satisfaction, turning her face towards the piano.
Lewis was in that condition of suspense in which a man, with his mind
all directed to the near future, is scarcely conscious what he is doing
in the present. There had been a moment before in which his heart had
beat very anxiously in this same room, but with a very different kind
of anxiety from this. There lay before him then no dazzling possibility
of happiness, but now the hurry and tumult in all his veins was moved
by the knowledge that everything which was most beautiful in life was
before him. He did not expect that he was to get it. He had no hope
that Miss Margaret would open the doors of the house or the arms of
the family to him. But the mere idea of declaring himself, of making
the attempt, made his heart beat. It was almost certain, indeed, that
he would be rejected, but he had learned now to know that no such
injustice could be final. After Margaret, there was another tribunal.
Parents might frown, yet it was always possible in England that the
maiden herself would smile. He felt that, be the answer what it
might, when he opened his lips this day he would open up the supreme
question of his life. And yet, with this ferment in his being, he went
to the piano to play to the gentle listener who was never too busy
for music. He himself, though he was an enthusiast in his way, was
too busy for it now; he could not hear the sounds that came out from
under his fingers for the strong pulsations that beat in his heart and
made every other sound indifferent to him. In consequence of this, it
happened to Lewis to do what all artists have to do sometimes, whether
man or woman, seeing that life is more urgent than art. He played
with his hands not less skilfully, not less smoothly than usual, but
he did not play with his soul, and of all people in the world Miss
Jean was the most sensitive to the difference. She loved music not
for its technicalities, or for its execution, or for the grammar and
correctness of its construction. She loved it for the soul of it, by
instinct and not by purpose, and the fine dissatisfaction that arose
in her when she felt it came to her from his fingers only is more than
can be said. A veil of bewilderment came over her face. Was it her own
fault? was her mind taken up with the excitement of the journey, the
cares which she shared with her sister respecting Lilias? Miss Jean
placed herself at the bar with a sort of consternation. But it was
not she who was to blame. Had she received it as usual with serene
satisfaction and delight, he would have continued for some time at
least, anxious and excited though he was; but when the support of her
faith was withdrawn, this became impossible. He stopped abruptly when
he came to the end of the movement he was playing, broke into a wild
fantasia, and finally jumped up from his seat after a great jar and
shriek of outraged chords, holding out his hands in an appeal.

"Pardon!" he cried, "pardon! I cannot play a note--it is too strong for
me, and you have found me out."

"You are not well," she said, with ready sympathy, "or there is
something wrong."

"There is this wrong," he said, "that I think all my life is going to
be settled to-day. You, whom I have always revered and loved since I
first saw you, let me tell it to you. Oh! not the same as what happened
the other day when you stopped my mouth. I do not know what you will
think of me, but it was not falsehood one way or another. I had
scarcely seen her then. I have asked Miss Margaret for an interview,
and this time it is for life or for--no, I will not be fictitious, I
will not say death: for that is not how one dies."

"An interview with Margaret?" Jean repeated after him. She grew a
little pale in sympathy with his excitement. "My poor lad, my poor lad!
and what is that for?"

But she divined what it was for. For a moment it startled her indeed.
That gentle sense of property, of a sort of possession in him, which
was involuntary, which was the merest shadow of personal consciousness,
disturbed and bewildered her for a moment. Was this what he had
meant all along? It gave her a little shock of humiliation, not that
he should have changed his mind, but that she should have mistaken
him. How glad she was that she had stopped him at once, that she had
prevented all compromising words; but yet the possibility that she had
been so ridiculous as to mistake as addressed to herself what was meant
for Lilias, did touch Miss Jean's mind for a moment with a thrill of
pain; the next she was herself again.

"It is Lilias you mean?" she said, in a low and tremulous voice.

He made no reply except with his eyes, in which there was an appeal
to her for pardon and for help. He was too deeply moved and anxious,
fortunately, to realize the ludicrous element in the situation, and,
in his confusion and sense of guilt yet innocence, had no ridiculous
admixture of the comic in his thoughts. Perhaps people are slow to
see the humour in their own case: and Lewis had absolute trust in the
patroness whom he addressed. Even had he supposed her to have a feeling
of wrong in this quick transference of his suit, he would have opened
his heart to her all the same. But he had no reason to suppose that
Miss Jean could have any sense of wrong. She shook her head in reply to
his look of confusion and appeal.

"She is just the apple of Margaret's eye," she said.

"And I am--no one," said Lewis.

"You must not say that; but you are not a great man. And Margaret
thinks there is nobody good enough for her. I would not mind so much
myself; you are young, and have a kind, kind heart. But you have said
nothing to _her_?"

"What do you take me for?" said Lewis, with gentle indignation. Only a
few words had been said, and his former attitude towards Miss Jean had
not been one that would have seemed to make his present confidences
natural: but the fact was that he had utter confidence in her, and
she a soft, half-maternal compassion and sympathy for him which had
ranged her on his side in a moment. They were born to understand each
other. All that was confusing and embarrassing had blown away from
the thoughts of both. They sat together and talked for some minutes
longer, forgetting everything else in this entrancing subject; then she
sent him away, bidding God bless him, to the more important interview
which awaited him. Miss Jean dried her eyes, in which tears of sympathy
and emotion were standing, as she closed the door upon him. It was a
thing to stir the heart in her bosom. The first lover of Lilias! To
think that little thing newly out of the nursery, who had been a baby
but the other day, should have entered already upon this other stage
of existence! Miss Jean sat down in her window again and mused over
it with a tremor of profound sympathetic feeling in her heart. Bless
the darling! that she should have come to this already. But then,
what would Margaret say? He was not an earl nor a duke, but a simple
gentleman. Even when you came to that, nobody knew what Murrays he was
of; was there any hope that Margaret would yield her child to such a
one? Miss Jean shook her head all alone as she sat and mused; her heart
was sore for him, poor young man! but she did not think there was any
hope.

As for Lewis, he walked to the library, in which Miss Margaret awaited
him, with a sort of solemnity as men march to hear their sentence from
the court-martial that has been sitting upon them. He had not much more
hope than Miss Jean had, but he had less submission. He found Margaret
seated in a high-backed chair of the same order as that which she used
in the drawing-room--a commanding figure. She had no knitting nor
other familiar occupation to take off the edge of her dignity, but sat
expecting him, her hands folded upon her lap. She did not rise when he
came in, but gave him her hand with friendly stateliness.

"Simon tells me you were wanting to speak to me, Mr. Murray. It is most
likely our old man has made a mistake, and you were only coming to say
good-bye."

"He has made no mistake," Lewis said; "there is something I wanted to
say to you, to ask you. It is of the greatest importance to me, and, if
I could hope that you would give me a favourable answer, it would be of
importance to you too."

"Indeed!" she said, with a smile, in which there was some haughtiness
and a shade of derision. "I cannot think of any question in which our
interests could meet."

"But there is one," cried Lewis, anxiously. "And you will hear me--you
will hear me, at least? Miss Murray, I once said something to you--I
was confused and did not know--but I said something----"

"Not confused at all," said Miss Margaret. "You made your meaning very
clear, though it was a very strange meaning to me. It was in relation
to my sister Jean."

The young man bowed his head. He was confused now, if he had not been
so then. All that Miss Jean's gentle courtesy had smoothed over for him
he saw now in Margaret's smile.

"I hope," she said, pointedly, and with the derision more apparent than
ever, "that the answer you got then was of a satisfying kind."

"I got no answer," said Lewis, with a little agitation. "Your sister is
as kind as heaven; she would not let me put myself in the wrong. The
feeling I had was not fictitious; I would explain it to you if I dared.
She forgave me my presumption, and she stopped me. Miss Murray, it is a
different thing I have come to speak to you of to-day."

"I am glad of that," said Miss Margaret--"very glad of that; for I may
say, since you have thought better of it, that it was not a subject
that was pleasing to me."

Lewis rose up in his excitement; the little taunt in her tone, the
sternness behind her smile, the watchful way in which her eyes held
him, all made him feel the desperate character of the attempt he was
making, and desperation took away every restraint.

"It is very different," he said--"it is love. I did not intend it--I
had never thought of it--my mind was turned another way--but I saw
her by chance, and what else--what else was possible? Oh! it is very
different. Love is not like anything else. It forces to speak, it makes
you bold, it is more strong than I----"

"You are eloquent," said Miss Margaret. "Mr. Murray, that was very
well put. And who are you in love with that can concern us of the
house of Murkley, if I may ask the question? I will hope," she said,
with a laugh, "that it's not me you have chosen as the object of your
affection this time."

He looked at her with a pained look, reproachful and wistful. It did
him more good than if he had spoken volumes. A little quick colour,
like a reflection of some passing light, gleamed over Miss Margaret's
face.

"Mr. Murray," she said, "if that is your name, which you say yourself
is not your name--who are you, a stranger, to come like this to ladies
of a well-known family? I am not asking who is your object now. If
I seemed to jeer at you, I ask your pardon. I will say all I can--I
will say that I believe you mean no harm, but rather to be honourable,
according to what you think right. But I must tell you, you are not,
so far as I know, in the position of one with whom we could make
alliances. It is kindest to speak it plain out. It is just chance that
has thrown us in your way, and you take impressions far too seriously,"
she added, not without kindness. "There was my sister Jean, you know;
and now it is another. This will blow over too, if you will just wait a
little, and consider what is befitting."

She rose up from her high chair. She was more imposing seated in it
than standing, for her stature was not great. Lewis knew that this was
intended to give him his dismissal, but he was too much in earnest to
take it so easily.

"Let me speak one word," he said. "If I am not great, there is at least
one thing--I am rich. What she wishes to do, I could do it. It should
all be as if there had been no disinheriting. To me the family would
be as great an interest, as great a desire, as to her. Her palace of
dreams, it should be real. I would devote myself to it--it should be a
dream no longer. Listen to me, I could do it----"

"What you say is without meaning to me, Mr. Murray," Miss Margaret
said, with stern paleness. "It is better that no more should be said."

"Without any reference, without any appeal? how do you know," he said,
"that she might not herself think otherwise--that she might not, if
only for the sake of her dream----"

"A gentleman," said Miss Margaret, "will never force his plea upon
ladies when he sees it is not welcome. I will just bid you farewell,
Mr. Murray. We shall very likely not meet again."

She held out her hand, but he did not take it. He looked anxiously in
her face.

"Can I say nothing that will move you?" he said.

"I am thinking not, Mr. Murray. When two persons disagree so much as
we do upon a business so important, it is best to wish one another
good-bye. And it is lucky, as you will have heard, that we are going
away. I am offering you my hand, though you do not seem to see it. I
would not do that if I thought ill of you. Fare-you-well, and I wish
you every prosperity," Miss Margaret said.

He took her hand, and gave it one angry pressure. It was what he had
expected, but it hurt him more than he thought. The disappointment, the
sadness of leaving, the blank wall that seemed to rise before him, made
Lewis sad, and made him wroth. It did not seem to him that he deserved
so badly of Fate. He said "good-bye" almost in a sullen tone. But when
he reached the door he turned round and looked at her, standing where
he had left her, watching his departure.

"I must warn you. I do not accept this as final," he said.



CHAPTER XXXI.


The house of Gowanbrae was not an old historical house, like the
castle of Murkley. It had no associations ranging back into the mists.
It was half a cottage, half a country mansion-house, built upon a
slope, so that the house was one story higher on one side than on
the other. The ground descended from the back to a wooded dell, in
which ran a sparkling, noisy burn, like a cottage girl, always busy,
singing about its work as it trickled over its pebbles. The view from
the higher windows commanded a great sweep of country, long moorlands
and pastures, with here and there a comfortable farm-steading, and
a group of carefully cultivated fields. The noble Tay sweeping down
into its estuary was not more unlike the burn than this modest, cosy
villa was unlike the old ancestral house, with its black wainscot and
deep walls. The grandfather of Margaret and Jean had built it with
his Indian money when he came back after a lifetime of service in the
East--hard, and long, and unbroken, such as used to be, when a man
would not see his native country or belongings for twenty years at a
stretch. This old officer's daughter had not been a sufficient match
for the heir of Murkley, but it was a fortunate circumstance afterwards
for Margaret and Jean that their mother's little property was settled
upon them. Everything in the house was bright but homely. It had always
been delightful to Lilias, to whom Gowanbrae meant all the freedom of
childhood, open air, and rural life. She was not the lady or princess
there, and even Margaret acknowledged the relaxation of state which
this made possible. But when the little family travelled thither on
this occasion, the charm of the old life was a little broken. Not a
word had been said to Lilias of Lewis' proceedings. She was told drily
in Jean's presence by Miss Margaret, who gave her sister a severe look
of warning, that Mr. Murray had called to say good-bye, but that it had
not been thought necessary to call her.

"You have seen but little of him," Margaret said.

Lilias did not make any remark. She did not think it necessary to
tell how much she had seen of Lewis, and, to tell the truth, she did
not think it certain that an opportunity of saying good-bye to him
personally would not be afforded to her. But, as a matter-of-fact,
there was no further meeting between the two, and Lilias left Murkley
with a little surprise, and not without a little pique, that he
should have made no attempt to take his leave of her. She had various
agitating scenes with Katie to make up for it, and on the other hand an
anxious visit from Mrs. Stormont, full of excitement and indignation.

"What can take Margaret away at this moment? it is just extraordinary,"
that lady said, in the stress of her disappointment. "For I cannot
suppose, Jean, my dear, that you have anything to do with it. Dear me,
can she not let well alone? Where could you be better than at Murkley?"

"We are both fond of our own house," Jean said, with gentle
self-assertion.

"Bless me!" cried Mrs. Stormont, "are you not just the same as in your
own house? I am sure, though it belongs to Lilias, that Margaret is
mistress and more."

"--And Lilias is fain, fain to get to Gowanbrae. She was always fond of
the place--and we think her looking white, and that a change will do
her good."

"Oh! I am very well aware Margaret will never want for reasons for what
she does," cried the indignant mother.

Meanwhile Katie was sobbing on Lilias' shoulder. "He says he will go
away. He says he cannot face it, his mother will just drive him out of
his senses; and what is to become of me with nobody to speak to?" Katie
cried.

"Oh! Katie, cannot you just wait awhile?--you are younger than I am,"
said Lilias, in desperation.

"And when I think that we might just have been going on as happy as
ever, if it had not been you forsaking us!" cried Katie.

Lilias was too magnanimous to defend herself. She treated the departure
as a great ordinance of Nature against which there was not a word to
be said. But when the last evening passed, and nowhere in park or wood
did there appear any trace of the figure which had grown so familiar to
her, to say a word or look a look, it cannot be denied that a certain
disappointment mingled with the surprise in Lilias' heart. She could
not understand it. Though Margaret thought they had seen so little of
each other, there had been, indeed, a good deal of intercourse. Lilias
was very sure it had always been accidental intercourse, but still they
had met, and talked, and exchanged a great many opinions, and that he
should not have felt any desire to see her again was a bewilderment to
the girl. She did not say a syllable on the subject, by which even Miss
Jean concluded that it was of no importance to her, but, as in most
similar cases, Lilias thought the more. She looked out with a little
anxiety as her sisters and she drove to the station in their little
brougham. They passed on the road the rough, country gig which belonged
to the "Murkley Arms," which Adam was driving in the same direction.

"Are you leaving the country too, Adam?--all the good folk are going
away," Miss Margaret said, as they passed.

"It's no me, mem, it's our gentleman. He's away twa-three days ago, and
this is just his luggitch," said Adam.

"Dear me, when the season's just begun!"

"The season is of awfu' little importance to a gentleman that is nae
hand at the fishing, nor at naething I ken of, except making scarts
upon a paper," said Adam, contemptuously. He was left speaking like
the orators in Parliament, and only half of this sentence reached the
ears of the ladies as they drove on. This was all Lilias heard of the
young man who had been the first stranger with whom she had ever formed
any friendship: which was the light in which she thought she regarded
him. She had never talked so much to anyone who was not connected with
her by some tie of relationship or old connection, and that very fact
had added freshness and reality to their intercourse. It had been a
new element introduced into her life. Why had he gone away without any
reason? He had said nothing of any such purpose. On the contrary, they
had talked together of the woods in autumn and the curling in winter,
all of which he had intended, she was sure, to make acquaintance with.
Why had everything changed so suddenly in his plans as well as in
theirs? It did not seem possible that there should be any connection
between the one and the other; but a vague curiosity and bewilderment
arose in the girl's mind. But it did not occur to her to ask Jean
or Margaret for information. He was Jean's friend: it would have
been natural enough to ask her where he had gone, or why he had left
Murkley? But she did not, though she could not explain to herself any
reason why.

And the question was one which returned often to her mind during the
winter. The nearest post-town was several miles off, and there were
no very near neighbours, so that by times when the roads were bad or
the weather wild, they were lonely in Gowanbrae. Of old, Lilias had
never known what it was to have time hang heavy on her hands. She had
a hundred things to do; but now insensibly her childish occupations
had fallen from her, she could scarcely tell how. She missed the park,
she missed the river-side. She missed, above all, the great, vacant,
unfinished palace, with its eyeless windows staring into the gloom.
Her dreams seemed now to have no settled habitation, they roamed about
the world, now here, now there, wondering about a great many things
which had never excited her curiosity before. It seemed to Lilias
for the first time that she would take to travel, to see new scenes,
to make acquaintance with the places spoken of in books--indeed, she
turned to books themselves with a feeling very different from anything
she had felt before. Till now they had been inextricably associated
with lessons. Now lessons, though she still continued a semblance of
work under Margaret's eye, seemed to have floated away from her as
things of the past, and Lilias began to read poetry eagerly, to dive
into the mysteries of sentiment which hitherto had only wearied her.
She was growing older, she thought, and that was the reason. Pages
of measured verse which a few months before her eye had gone blankly
over in search of a story now became delightful to her. Things that
even Margaret and Jean turned from, she devoured with avidity. She
became familiar with those seeming philosophies which delight the
youthful intelligence, and liked shyly and silently to enter, in her
own mind, into questions about constancy and the eternal duration
of love, and whether it was possible to love twice,--a question, of
course, decided almost violently in the negative in Lilias' heart.
No one knew anything of those developments, nor were they in any way
consciously connected with the events of the summer. Indeed, no change
had taken place officially in the character of Lilias' dreams. The
hero of six feet two, with his hair like night, and his mystical dark
eyes, had not been dethroned--heaven forbid!--in favour of any smiling
middle-sized person, with a complexion the same colour as his hair. No
such desecration had happened. The hero still stood in the background,
serene and magnificent; he saved the heroine's life periodically in a
variety of ways, always at the hazard of his own. He had never been
amusing in conversation; it was not part of his _rôle_; and when she
thought of another quite insignificant individual occupying an entirely
different position, who would talk and smile, and tell of a hundred
unknown scenes, beguiling away the hours, or play as no one had ever
played in her hearing, Lilias felt that the infidelity to her hero
was venial. It was indeed an effort on her part to think not less but
more of her friend on this latter account, for, as has been said, "the
piano" was not a popular attribute of a young man in those days in
Scotland. People in general would have almost preferred that he should
do something a little wrong. Gambling, perhaps, was excessive, but
a little high-play was pardonable in comparison. Music was a lady's
privilege--the prerogative of a girl who was accomplished. But Lilias
forgave Lewis his music. She resorted to his idea in those dull days
somewhat fondly, if such a word may be used, but not with love--far
from it. She had never thought of love in connection with him. That was
entirely an abstract sentiment, so far as she was aware, vaguely linked
to six-feet-two and unfathomable eyes.

The whole house was a little out of joint. They had come to Gowanbrae
when they had not intended to do so, for one thing. All their previous
plans had been formed for Murkley, and various things were wanting
to their comfort, which, under other circumstances, would have been
supplied. For instance, there were new curtains and carpets wanted,
which Miss Margaret must have seen to had they intended from the first
to winter there, but which, with the prospect of a season in London
before them, could not be thought of. The garden was to have been
re-modelled under the eye of a new gardener, and a new greenhouse was
to have been built during their absence; but they had returned while
these improvements were in course of carrying out.

Gowanbrae, in fact, was better adapted for summer than for winter. When
the hills were covered with snow, the prospect was melancholy, and down
by the burn, though it was lovely, it was damp in the autumn rains.
The broad drive in the park between old Murkley and new, had always
supplied a dry and cheerful walk, and even the well-gravelled road by
the Tay was sumptuous in comparison with the muddy roads wending by
farmsteadings over boggy soil towards the moors. Indoors, to be sure,
all was cheerful, but even there disturbing imaginations would enter.
Miss Jean would spend hours playing the music which Lewis had left with
her, and which was a little above her powers. Her pretty "pieces,"
the gentle "reveries" and compositions that were quite within her
range, the Scotch airs which she played so sweetly, were given up,
with a little contempt and a great deal of ambition, for Mozart and
Beethoven; and the result was not exhilarating. When Margaret said, "I
would far rather hear your Scotch tunes," Jean would smile and sigh,
with a little conscious pride in her own preference of the best, and
play the "Flowers of the Forest" or "Tweedside" with an air of gentle
condescension, which made her sister laugh, and took the charm out of
the pretty performance, which once had been the pride of the house. As
for Lilias, she was more indulgent to these reminiscences of the past.
It did not trouble her, as it might have done had her ear been finer,
to hear the stumbling and faltering of Jean's fingers in her attempt
to render what the practised hands of the other had done so easily. On
the contrary, in the long winter evenings, when the house was shut up
by four o'clock, Lilias, with her book of poetry, whatever it might
be--and her appetite was so large that she was not so fastidious as
perhaps she ought to have been--half-buried in a deep easy-chair by
the fire, would catch, as it were, an echo of the finer strain as her
sister laboured at it, and liked it as it linked itself, broken yet
full of association, with the other kind of music she was reading.
Sometimes, when Margaret was absent, there would be a little colloquy
between the pair.

"That is bonnie, Jean. Play just that little bit again."

"Which bit, my darling?--the beginning of the andante?"

Miss Jean had learned from Lewis to speak more learnedly than was
natural.

"Oh, what do I know about your andantes? Play _that_--just that little
flowery bit--it's like the meadows in the spring."

"I wish Mr. Murray, poor lad, could have heard you call it that."

"Why is he a poor lad? I thought he was very well off. You always speak
of him in that little sighing tone."

"Do I, my dear? Oh, he is well enough in fortune--but there are more
things needed than fortune to make a young man happy."

Upon which Lilias laughed, yet blushed as well--not for consciousness,
but because she was at the stage when the very name of love brings the
colour to a girl's cheek.

"He must have a story, or you would not speak of him so. He must be in
love----"

"He is just that: and little hope. I think of him many a day, poor lad,
and with a sore heart."

"Did he tell you? did he say who it was? Is it anybody we know? Tell
me, tell me the story, Jean!"

"Not for the world. Do you think I would break his trust and tell
his secret? And whisht, whisht; Margaret is not fond of the name of
him," Jean would say; while Lilias dropped back into her book, and the
"Andante" was slowly beaten out of the old piano again.

This was all Miss Jean dared to do on behalf of Lewis; but she had
a great many thoughts of him, as she said. She had imagined many
situations in which they might meet again, but as the time drew nearer
it occurred to her often to wonder whether he would find it so easy
as she had once thought to find the Miss Murrays of Murkley in town.
Margaret had been receiving circulars from house-agents, communications
from letters of lodgings, counsels from friends without number--from
all which it began to become apparent to Miss Jean that, big place as
Edinburgh was, it was nothing to London. Would they be so sure to meet
as he had thought? He did not know London any more than they did, and
there rose before Miss Jean's eyes a melancholy picture of two people
vainly searching after each other, and meeting never. Naturally as
the year went on, they talked a great deal on this subject. Margaret
decided at last that to take lodgings would be the best, as the
transportation of servants to London would be an extensive matter,
besides their inacquaintance with the ways of town: while, on the other
hand, she herself shrank from the unknown danger of temporary London
servants, if all was true that was said of them.

"Though half of it at least will be nonsense," Miss Margaret remarked.
"You would think they were not human creatures to hear what is said in
the papers; in my experience, men and women are very like other men and
women wherever you go."

"And do you think it will be so very big a place that without an
address--if such a thing were to happen," said Miss Jean--in her own
opinion, with great astuteness--"you would not be able to find out a
friend?"

"Your friend would be a silly one indeed if she went about the world
without an address," said Miss Margaret; but after a moment she
added--"It would depend, I should say, whether she was in what is
called society or not. When you are in society you meet every kind of
person. You cannot be long without coming across everybody."

"And shall we be in society, Margaret?" said Lilias, unexpectedly
interposing.

"My dear," said Miss Margaret, "what do you suppose we are going to
London for?--to see the pictures, which are no such great things to see
when all's done; or to hear the concerts, which Jean may go to, but not
me for one? Or perhaps you think to the May-meetings, as they call
them, to hear all the missionary men giving an account of the way to
save souls. I would like to be sure first how to take care of my own."

"We must see all the pictures and go to the concerts; and the play and
whatever is going on, of course?" said Lilias. "Yes, I know society
means something more. We are going into the world, we are going to
Court. Of course that must be the very best society," the girl said,
with her serious face.

"Well, then, there is no need for me to answer your question," said
Miss Margaret, composedly. "Society is just the great object in London.
It is a big place, the biggest in the world; but society is no bigger
than a person with her wits about her can easily, easily learn by
headmark. I understand that you will meet the same people at all the
places, as you do in a far smaller town."

"Then in that way," said Miss Jean, with a little eagerness, "you could
just be sure to foregather with your friend, even though he had no
address?"

"And who may this friend be," said Miss Margaret, "that you are so
anxious to meet?"

"Oh, nobody!" said Miss Jean, confused. "I mean," she added, "I was
just thinking of a chance that might happen. You and me, Margaret, we
have both old friends that have disappeared from us in London----"

"And that is true," Miss Margaret said. The words seemed to awaken old
associations in her mind. She sighed and shook her head. "Plenty have
done that," she said. "It is just like a great sea where the shipwrecks
are many, and some sail away into the dark, and are never heard of
more."

Under cover of this natural sentiment, Miss Jean sailed off too out of
her sister's observation. She had given a sudden quick look at Lilias,
and it had occurred to her with a curious sensation that Lilias knew
what she meant. It was a momentary glance, the twinkling of an eye, and
no more; but that is enough to set up a private intelligence between
two souls. Jean felt a little guilty afterwards, as if she had been
teaching her young sister the elements of conspiracy. But this was not
at all the case. She had done nothing, or so very little, to bring
Lewis to her mind that it was not worth thinking of. Nevertheless,
it was a great revelation to her, and startled her much, that Lilias
understood. No, no, there was no conspiracy! Margaret herself could not
object to meet him in society; and, if they did not succeed in this,
Jean had no notion where the young stranger, in whom she took so great
an interest, was to be found.

Thus, with many a consultation and many an arrangement, often modified
and changed as time went on, the winter stole away. It seemed very
long as it passed, but it was short to look back upon, and, after
the new year, a gradually-growing excitement took possession of the
quiet household. From Simon, who, the other servants thought, gave
himself great airs, and could scarcely open his mouth without making
some reference to the memorable time when he was body-servant to the
General, and had been in London, and seen the clubs and all the sights,
or uttering some doubt as to the changes which might have passed since
that time; to Miss Margaret, upon whose shoulders was the charge of
everything, there was no one who did not feel the thrill of the coming
change. The maids who were not going were loud in their declarations
that they did not care, and would not have liked it, if Miss Margaret
had asked them--but they were all bitterly derisive of Simon, as an old
fool who thought he knew London, and was just as proud of it as if it
were a strange language.

"You could not make much more fuss if it was to France you were going,"
the women said.

"To France! As if there was onything in France that was equal to
London, the biggest ceety in the world, the place where you could
get the best of everything; where there were folk enough to people
Scotland, if onything went amiss."

"And what should go amiss? Does the man think the world will stand
still when he's no here," the maids said.

"Aweel, I do not know what ye will do without me. But to let the ladies
depart from here, alone in the world, and me not with them, is what I
could not do," Simon said.

Miss Margaret was almost as deeply moved by the sense of her
responsibilities. Many of them she kept to herself, not desiring to
overwhelm the gentle mind of Jean, or to frighten Lilias with the
numberless difficulties that seemed to arise in the way. The choice of
the lodgings alone was enough to have put a feebler woman distraught
altogether, and Margaret, who had never been in London, found it no
easy task to choose a neighbourhood which should be unexceptionable,
and from whence it would be a right thing to produce a lovely
_débutante_. When we say that there were unprincipled persons who
recommended Russell Square to her as a proper place of residence, the
perils with which Margaret was surrounded may be imagined. It was
almost by chance that she selected Cadogan Place, which is a place
no lady need be ashamed of living in. It was Margaret's opinion ever
after, pronounced whenever her advice was asked as to the ways and
means of settling in town, of which her experience was so great, that
this was a matter in which advice did more harm than good.

"There is just one thing," she would say, with the conscious
superiority of one who had bought her information dearly, and
understood the subject _au fond_, "and everything else is of little
importance in comparison. Never you consult your friends. Just hear
what the business persons have to say, and form your own opinion. You
know what you want yourself, and they have to give--but friends know
neither the one nor the other."

This was severe, but no doubt she knew what she was saying. For two
months beforehand her mind was occupied with little else, and every
post brought shoals of letters on the subject. You would have thought
the half of London was stirred with expectation. To Miss Jean it seemed
only natural. She was pleased that the advent of Margaret should cause
so much emotion, and that the way would be thus prepared for Lilias.

"Of course it will be a treat for them to see Margaret; there are not
many people like Margaret: and then, my darling, you, under her wing,
will be just like the bonnie star that trembles near the moon."

"I hope you don't mean that Margaret is like the moon," said Lilias,
recovering something of her saucy ways since this excitement had got
into the air.

She laughed, but she, too, felt it very natural. There was no
extravagance of pride about these gentlewomen. They were aware indeed
of their own position, but they were not proud. It was all so simple:
even Lilias could not divest herself of the idea that it would be
something for the London people to see Margaret in her velvet with all
her point lace, and the diamonds which had been her mother's. There
was, however, another great question to be decided, which the head of
the house herself opened in full family conclave as one upon which it
was only right that the humbler members of the family should have their
say.

"The question is, who is to present us?" Miss Margaret said. "Her aunt,
my Lady Dalgainly, would be the right person for Lilias. But I'm not
anxious to be indebted to that side of the house."

"Would it not be a right thing to ask the countess?" said Miss Jean.

It had already been decided that one Court dress was as much as each
property could afford, and that Jean was not to go; a decision which
distressed Lilias, who wanted her sister to see her in all her glory,
and could scarcely resign herself to any necessity which should make
Jean miss that sight.

"The countess would be the proper person," said Margaret; "but blood
is thicker than water, and suppose she had not you and me to care for
her, Jean, where could she turn to but her mother's family?"

Here Lilias made a little spring into the centre of the group, as was
her way.

"I have read in the papers," she said, "all about it. Margaret, this is
what you will do: the countess will present you--for who else could do
it?--and then you will present me. I will have no other," cried Lilias,
with a little imperative clap of her hands.

"Was there ever such a creature? She just knows everything," Miss Jean
cried.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The spring was very early that year. It had been a severe winter, and
even on the moors the leap of the fresh life of the grass out of the
snows was sudden; but when the ladies found themselves transported
to the fresh green in Cadogan Place, it is impossible to say what an
exhilarating effect this revelation had upon them. The elder sisters,
indeed, had visited London in their youth, but that was long ago, and
they had forgotten everything but the streets, and the crowd, and
the dust, an impression which was reproduced by the effect of the
long drive from Euston Square, which seemed endless, through lines
of houses and shops and flaring gaslights. That continuity of dreary
inhabitation, those long lines of featureless buildings, of which it
is so difficult to distinguish one from another, is the worse aspect
of London, and even Lilias, looking breathless from the window, ready
to be astonished at everything, was chilled a little when she found
nothing to be astonished at--for the great shops were closed which
furnish brightness to an evening drive, and it seemed to the tired
women as if they must have travelled half as far through those dreary,
half-lighted streets as they had done before over the open country. But
with a bright morning, and the sight of the opening leaves between them
and the houses opposite, a different mood came. Miss Jean in particular
hailed the vegetation as she might have greeted an old friend whose
face she had not hoped to see again.

"Just as green as our own trees, and far more forward," she said, with
delight, as she called Lilias next morning.

With the cheering revelation of this green, their minds were fully
tuned to see everything in the best light; but it is not necessary
to enter into the sight-seeing of the group of rural ladies, all
so fresh and unhackneyed, and ready to enjoy. Margaret preserved a
dignified composure in all circumstances. She had the feeling that
a great deal was expected from her as the head of the family. The
excitement which was quite becoming to the others would to her have
seemed unbecoming, and, as a matter of fact, she made out to herself
either that she "remembered perfectly," or, at least, was "quite well
aware from all she had heard" of the things which impressed her sisters
most profoundly. The work she had in hand was far more important than
sight-seeing, which, however, she encouraged in her sisters, being
anxious that Lilias should get all that over before she was "seen," and
had become an actual inhabitant of the great world. Margaret had made
every arrangement in what she hoped and believed was the most perfectly
good style. She spared no expense on this one episode of grandeur and
gaiety. All the little savings of Gowanbrae went to swell the purse
which she had made up for the occasion. Old Simon, the old family
servant, who had seen them all born, gave respectability to the little
open carriage which they had for fine days alternatively with the
brougham, by condescending to place himself on the box. He was not very
nimble, perhaps, in getting up and down, but he was highly respectable,
and indeed, in his best "blacks," was sometimes mistaken by ignorant
people for the head of the party. Simon, though he liked his ladies to
know that he was aware it was a condescension, in his heart enjoyed
his position, and laid up chapters of experience with which to keep
respectful audiences in rapt attention both at Murkley and Gowanbrae.
He made common cause with Lilias in her eagerness to see everything.
When Miss Jean held back, afraid that so much curiosity might seem
vulgar, Simon would take it upon himself to interpose.

"You'll excuse me, mem," he said, "but Miss Lilias is young, and it's
my opinion a young creature can never see too much. We are never
seventeen but wance in our lives."

"Dear me! that is very true, Simon," Miss Jean would say, and with
a little air of reserve, as if she herself knew all about it, would
accompany the eager girl, who sometimes called Simon forward to enjoy a
warmer sympathy.

"Look, Simon; that armour has been in battle. Knights have fought in
it," Lilias would say, her eyes dancing with excitement, while Miss
Jean stood a little apart with that benevolent smile.

Simon examined everything very minutely, and then he said,

"I'm saying naething against the knights, Miss Lilias, for I'm not
one that believes in mere stature without sense to guide it; but they
must have been awfu' little men. I would like to see one of those fine
fellows on the horses, with half a dozen of them round him," Simon
remarked. Lilias was somewhat indignant at this depreciation of the
heroes of the past, yet still was able to smile, for Simon's devotion
to the sentries at the Horse Guards was known. He thought at first
they were not real, and, when their movements undeceived him, was for
a long time disposed to think they were ingenious pieces of mechanism.
"Thae _men_!" he had said. "I canna believe it! That's what ye call
an occupation for a rational being! Na, na; I canna believe it." But
he would walk all the way from Cadogan Place in the morning before
breakfast to see these wonders of the world. And he acknowledged that
St. Paul's was grander than St. George's in Edinburgh, which showed he
had an impartial mind. "But, if ye test them by the congregation that
worships in them, it is we that will gain the day--and is that not
the best beauty of a kirk?" Simon said. These were days when popular
sermons and services were unthought of. But this history has no space
for the humours of this new exploration of London sights. It would be
difficult to say which of the party enjoyed them most: Lilias, all
eagerness and frank curiosity, or Miss Jean, holding back with that
protesting smile, asking no question lest she should show an ignorance
which did not become her position as the head of the party, or Simon,
who never forgot his _rôle_ of critic and moralist. But, while they
all enjoyed themselves, Miss Margaret sat in her parlour much more
seriously engaged. She had everything to contrive and to decide, and
Lilias' dress and all the preliminaries of her introduction to settle.
For herself, what could be more imposing than her velvet and all that
beautiful lace? The only thing that was wanted was a longer train. The
countess had been very ready to undertake the presentation, and had
asked the party to dinner, and sent them cards for a great reception.
She was very amiable, and delighted to see the Miss Murrays in town.

"And as for your little sister, she ought to make a sensation. She
ought to be one of the beauties of the season," the countess said.

"No, no; that is not to be desired for so young a thing. She is just
a country girl," said Miss Margaret, half-hoping that the great lady
would protest and declare it impossible that a Murray of Murkley should
be so described; but the countess, who was but slightly occupied
with Lilias, only smiled graciously and shook hands warmly, as she
dismissed her visitors. When they had left her noble mansion, Miss
Jean, mild as she was, on this occasion, took upon her to remonstrate.

"You must not speak of Lilias so," she said. "If you will think for a
moment, she has just a great deal of presence for so young a person,
and Lady Lilias' daughter. People are too civil to contradict you. I
would not call her just a country girl."

Margaret gazed at her sister with something of the astonishment which
Balaam must have felt on a certain remarkable occasion. "I would not
say but you are right," the candid woman said.

The Drawing-room was in the beginning of May. Lilias was greatly
interested in all the preparations for it. She was put into the hands
of a nice old lady who had been a great dancer in her day to be taught
her curtseys, which was a proceeding that amused the girl greatly. She
persuaded her instructress to talk, and learned with astonished soul a
great many things of which she had no idea, but fortunately no harm:
which was the merest chance, the sisters having given her over in the
utmost confidence to her teacher, not suspicious of anything injurious
that youth could hear from a nice old woman. These lessons were as good
as a play to the girl, and sometimes also to the spectators as she
practised her _trois obeisances_. To see her sink into the furbelows
of her fashionable dress, and recover herself with elastic grace and
without a sign of faltering, filled even Margaret with admiring wonder.
The elder lady's majestic curtsey was a far more difficult proceeding,
but even she condescended to practise it, to the delight of Lilias and
the admiration of Miss Jean, throned all the time in the biggest chair,
and representing Her Majesty.

"I would just bid you kneel down and make you Lady Margaret on the
spot, if it was me," Jean said.

"My dear, you are just a haverel: for it is men that have to kneel down
and be made knights of--and you would not have me made a Sir, I hope?"
said Margaret, with a laugh.

"I must say," said Miss Jean, "that there is injustice in that. Your
forefathers have been Sirs far longer than Her Majesty's family has
been upon the throne, and why should there be no trace of it left to
give pleasure, just because you and me--and Lilias too, more is the
pity--were born women?"

"I have yet to learn," said Miss Margaret, drawing herself up, "that
a title would make any difference to a Murray of Murkley; we are well
enough known without that."

"Oh! but, Margaret, you should be my lady," cried Lilias, springing up
and making curtseys in pure wantonness all round the room. "Miss is
not suitable for you. Mistress would be better, or Madam, but my lady
best of all. I think Jean is a wise woman; and if the queen--"

"You are a grand judge of wisdom," said her sister. "Jean and you, you
might just go in a show together, the female Solomon and the person
that explains the oracle; but you will just go to your bed, and take
a good rest, for it will be a fatiguing day to-morrow. You will have
plenty to do looking after your dress, and remembering your manners,
without taking it upon you to give your advice to Her Majesty, who has
been longer at the trade than you."

"To-morrow!--is it really to-morrow? Oh!" cried Lilias, "when I come
before her I will forget everything: and what will she say to me?" This
made the elder sister look a little confused, but she had herself but
little idea what the royal lady would do in the circumstances; and the
safest plan was to send Lilias to bed.

Next morning it was a sight to see the two _débutantes_. Miss Margaret
had a train of velvet sweeping from her shoulders that made her look,
Lilias declared, like Margaret of Anjou, though why this special
resemblance was hit upon, the young lady declined to say. As for
herself, in clouds of virgin white, it seemed to her sisters that
nothing had ever been seen so lovely as this little lily, who would,
however, have been more aptly termed a rose, with the colour of
excitement coming and going upon her cheeks, her eyes like dew with the
sun on it, her dazzling sweetness of complexion. Perhaps her features
were not irreproachable, perhaps her little figure wanted filling out;
but at seventeen these are faults that lean to virtue's side. She was
dazzling to behold in that first exquisite youthful bloom, which is
like nothing else in the world. When she came into the room where they
were awaiting her, she made them a curtsey to show her perfection, her
face running over with smiles. And then Lilias grew grave, a flutter
came to her child's heart. Her eyes grew serious with the awe of a
neophyte on the edge of the mysteries of life.

"When I come back I will be a woman," she said, with a little catch of
her breath.

"No, no, not till you are one-and-twenty, my darling," cried Jean, who
did not always know when to hold her peace.

"I shall be a woman," Lilias repeated. "I shall be introduced to the
world--I shall be able to go where I please----"

"There may be two words about that," said Margaret, interfering; "but
this is not a time for discoursing. So just you gather up your train,
Lilias, and let us go away."

Miss Jean went downstairs after them; she watched them drive
away, waving her hand. She thought Margaret was just beautiful
notwithstanding her age. "But, after all, forty is not such an
extraordinary age," Jean said to herself; and, as for Lilias, words
could not express what her sister felt. The Court must be splendid
indeed, and a great deal of beauty in it, if two ladies like that
were not observed. She took out her table-cover, which had been much
neglected, and sat down at the window and arranged her silks as of old.
There was no carnation now for a pattern, but indeed she was done with
that flower. When a woman has seen her best-beloved go forth in full
panoply to conquer, and feels the domestic silence close down upon
herself, there is, if she is the kind of woman, an exquisite repose and
pleasure in it. The mother who comes out to the door to watch her gay
party go away, and, closing it again with all their pleasure in her
mind, goes back to the quiet, either to work for them or to wait for
them, has her share both real and vicarious, and doubles the pleasure.
She goes with them along the way, she broods over their happiness at
home. Miss Jean, who was this kind of woman, had thus a double share,
and worked into her flowers the serene and delicious calm, the soft
expectation, the flutter of an excitement out of which everything harsh
was gone. She could not help thinking that it would be a real pleasure
to Her Majesty, who had girls of her own and a kind heart, to see such
a creature as Lilias just in the opening of her flower. The Queen would
be glad to know that General Murray had left such representatives,
though, no doubt, she would be sorry there was no son. Jean felt too,
modestly, that it was always possible, seeing Margaret and Lilias,
and admiring them as she must, that Her Majesty might graciously ask
whether there was no more of a family, and command that "next time"
the other sister should be brought to see her. "But, oh, she would be
disappointed in me!" Miss Jean said to herself. All these thoughts kept
her amused and happy, so that she wanted no other entertainment. She
even forgot Lewis and the confidence which had so touched her heart.
She thought it so likely that some young duke, some glorious lord in
waiting, would clasp his hands together and say, in the very presence
chamber, "Here, by God's word, is the one maid for me." Lewis had
floated from her mind, which was beguiled by higher things.

When the carriage drove up to the door, she rushed downstairs to meet
the victorious pair. Lilias was the first to appear, a little crushed
and faded, like a rose that has been bound into a bouquet and suffered
from the pressure: but that did not matter, for everybody knows there
is a great crowd. But the face was not radiant as it had been, Miss
Jean could not but perceive. There was a great deal of gravity in it.
The corners of the mouth were slightly, very slightly turned the wrong
way. She came in quite seriously, calmed out of all her excitement.
Margaret followed with the same serious air.

"Well, my darling!" Jean cried, running forward to meet the girl.

"Oh, it has all passed very well," Margaret said over Lilias' head.

Jean drew them into the little dining-room, which was on the ground
floor, to hear everything.

"And were the dresses beautiful, and the jewels? and was Her Majesty
looking well? and what did she say to you?" cried the eager spectator.

"You will just make Lilias take some wine, for the child is like to
drop with tiredness; and as for me, before I say a syllable, I must get
rid of this train, for it weighs me to the earth," said Margaret.

"My darling," cried Jean, throwing her arms about Lilias, "something
has happened!"

Upon which Lilias burst into a laugh, which, compared with the extreme
gravity of her face, had a somewhat rueful effect. It was a laugh which
was not mirthful and spontaneous as the laughter of Lilias generally
was, but produced itself of a sudden as by some quick impulse of
ridicule.

"No," she said, "Jean, that is just the thing, nothing has happened;"
and then the rueful look melted away, and a gleam of real fun came back.

"Dear me! dear me! something has gone wrong. You never got to the
drawing-room at all?"

"Oh yes," cried the girl, "and all went off very well, didn't you hear
Margaret say?"

"Well, then, my dear, I don't understand," Jean said, puzzled.

"It is just that that was all," said Lilias, with her laugh. "It all
went off very well. Everything was quite right, I suppose. Me that
thought it was the great, beautiful court itself, and that we would see
everybody, and that it would be known who you were, and everything!
I said to Margaret, 'Is that all?' And I think she was quite as
astonished as me, for she said, 'I suppose so.' And then we waited, and
at last we got the carriage, and we came away! Now that I think of it,
it was _awfully_ funny," said Lilias, with tears, which were no doubt
tears of merriment, but which were also tears of vexation, in her eyes.
"To think we should have thought of it for months and months, and got
such dresses, and played such pranks with Madame Ballerina--all for
that!"

"But, my dear," said Miss Jean, always consolatory, "it is not only for
that, it is for everything. It is just the beginning, you know. You
will see better society, and you will be asked to more places, and, if
ever you go abroad, they say it is such an advantage, and----Besides,
my darling, it is your duty to your sovereign," Miss Jean added, with a
little solemnity.

Upon this Lilias laughed more and more.

"Oh," she cried, "that is just the thing, Jean! I saw my sovereign
yawn. I am sure she did. I was so astonished. I noticed everything,
but the queen saw nothing to be surprised at, she has gone over it so
often. I am sure I saw her yawn, though she concealed it. Could there
nothing be invented," cried Lilias, with a liveliness in which there
was a sparkle of annoyance and passion, "that would be better than
that? And this was what we came to town for," she said, sitting down
upon her pretty train and her flowers, which were all tumbled. The
laugh went out of her face. "It is so funny," Lilias said, as grave as
a judge, "when you think upon it; so little, and yet so much."

"And did Her Majesty say nothing then about papa? She would not know it
was you, that must have been how it was. There are many Murrays, you
know. You will see the name even over shops. And never asked where you
were staying, or said that she would see you again--?"

"Jean," said Miss Margaret, appearing suddenly in a dressing-gown,
"what nonsense is that you are talking? Did anybody ever suppose that
the queen was to make remarks, and ask questions, with crowds of women
in their best gowns just ready to eat you to get past? It all went off
very well," she said, seating herself on the sofa. "Lilias, I just
cannot bide to see you at this hour of the day in that ridiculous
dress. I've taken off mine, and thankful to get rid of it. A girl of
your age can stand a great deal, but you are far nicer, to my opinion,
in your natural clothes. As I was saying, it went off just extremely
well. We got through really without so much crushing as I expected, and
the dresses were beautiful, and diamonds enough to make the sun think
shame of himself. No doubt it is just a little ridiculous, as Lilias
says, to see the ladies in all their finery in the daylight; but then
it is the custom. You can put up with anything when you know it is the
custom. People like us that just go once in a way, we never get into
the way of it; but for those that go often, you know, they just never
mind. And of course it was a beautiful sight."

"It must have been that," cried Jean, seizing hold upon this certainty;
"you will call it to mind, Lilias, when it's long past, and it will
always be a pleasure to think of. It must have been a wonderful sight."

"As for expecting," continued Margaret, "that it would be an occasion
for rational intercourse, or anything like making acquaintance either
with the Court or Her Majesty, I could have told you from the beginning
that was nonsense. Just think of such crowds of women, one at the back
of another, like birds in a net. It would be out of the question to
think of it. Now, Lilias, go and get your things off, and, if you are
tired, you can lie down a little----"

"Yes, my dear, you must just lie down a little--it will do you good."

"Jean and Margaret," cried Lilias, jumping up, "do you think I am
old, like you? What am I to lie down for?--and besides, you never lie
down, that are old. It is only me you say that to. I will go and take
my things off, and then I will take Susan and go out, and look in at
all the vulgar shops, and see the common folk, for I think I like them
best."

"I am afraid, Margaret, the poor child is disappointed," said Jean,
when Lilias had gone away.

"It will be because you have been putting things into her head, then,"
said Margaret; "everything went off just as well as possible. You are
surely later than usual with the tea? My back is just broken with that
train. It is really as warm as a summer day, and to go dragging about
miles of velvet after you is something terrible. She made her reverence
as well as you could have desired, and looked just as bonnie. I cannot
say as much for Lady Ida, though she is nice enough; and oh, but that
dress is dreadful for women that have lost their figures, and are just
mountains of flesh, like so many of these English ladies. When I see
them, I am just thankful I never married. Husband and bairns are dear
bought at that cost. Where are you going? Now, Jean, just sit and
listen to me, and give me my cup of tea. There is Susan to take care of
Lilias."

"But if the poor thing is disappointed, Margaret? I am sure, for my
part, I expected----"

"And if you expected nonsense, will that do Lilias any good to let her
see it?" cried Margaret, testily. "When she comes to herself, she will
see that we have all been fools, and those that have the most sense
will say nothing about it. That is the part I am intending to take.
When you think of it, there could be nothing more ridiculous. When
you speak to Lilias, you must just laugh at her. You must say that a
drawing-room means nothing--it is just a formality. It means that you
have come into the world, and that you are of the class of people that
are beholden to pay their duty to the queen. That is all it means. I
cannot tell," said Margaret, with irritation, "what other ridiculous
idea the child has got into her head, or who put it there. Will you
give me my cup of tea?"

Lilias came down after awhile in her ordinary dress, and with a
countenance divided between mirth and melancholy.

"I thought I should feel a different person," she said, "but I am just
the same. I thought the world was going to be changed, but there is no
difference. All the same, I am a woman. I never can be sent back to the
school-room, and made to refuse parties, and stay at home, and give up
all the fun, now."

"All the fun is a vulgar expression," said Margaret. "It is just to
take you to parties and give you pleasure that we have come here."

"Ah, but there is more than that. I am not going to be taken, but to
go. I am grown-up now. It is curious," said Lilias, with a reflective
air, "how you understand things just by doing them. I was thinking of
something else; I was not thinking of this; and, of course, it turns
out to be the most important. All this time I have been your child,
yours and Jean's--now I am just _me_."

"So long as you do not carry it too far, my dear."

"I will carry it just as far as I can go," cried Lilias, with a laugh.
She rejected the tea, out of which Margaret was getting much comfort,
and ran upstairs again, where they could hear her at the piano, playing
over everything she knew, which was not very much. The sound and
measure were a little ease to her excitement. By-and-by Miss Jean was
allowed by Margaret to get free, and, going upstairs, found Lilias
standing with her forehead pressed against the window, looking out.
There was not very much to see--the upper windows opposite across the
light green foliage, a few carriages passing under the windows. When
she heard some one coming into the room behind her, the girl broke
forth suddenly.

"What are we here for in this strange place? I don't want to go to
parties; they will just be like seeing the Queen. What has that to do
with us? We may fancy we are great people, but we are only little small
people, and nobody ever heard of us before."

"Lilias, my love," said Jean, with her arms round her little sister,
"you must not say that."

"Why shouldn't I say it when it is true? To see all these grand ladies,
and none of them knew us. Oh yes, Margaret had known them--two or
three--but they had forgotten her and she only remembered them when she
heard their names. But when we are at home everybody knows us. What is
the use of pretending that we are great people like these? When we are
at home we are great enough--as great as I want to be."

"Your nerves are just a little upset, my darling, and you are
disappointed (and little wonder)."

"I am not disappointed--that is, I can see it was foolish all through;
and I have no nerves; but I have made a fool of myself, and I could
kill myself," cried Lilias; "and everybody----"

"Whisht! whisht! my bonnie dear. Put on your hat, and we will go out.
Margaret is resting, and I have got some little things to do."

After a while this simple project delivered Lilias out of her trouble;
to walk about in the air and sunshine, to see the other people, so
many of them, going about their business, to watch the movement of the
living world, even to go into the shops and buy "little things" here
and there, a bit of ribbon in one, some gloves in another, a pretty bit
of china Miss Jean had set her heart on, was enough to restore her to
her usual light-heartedness. Nothing very tragical had happened, after
all.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


It was after this that the experiences in society began. The countess
gave them a dinner, which was very kind and friendly, and at which they
met various country friends. Indeed it was an entertainment which had
a whiff of the country about it altogether, a sort of rural air; some
of the gentlemen who were posted here and there about the table to talk
the talk of the clubs and give the other _convives_ a sense of being in
London, got together after the meal was over and talked in the doorway
between the two drawing-rooms with mutual commiseration.

"I suppose all this is on account of Bellendean," they said. Bellendean
was her ladyship's son, and was intended to stand for the county on the
next opportunity. "It is like the Georgies," these gentlemen said. "It
is like running down into the country."

"The country!" said another, "where could you find any country like
that? Not within five hundred miles."

The countess smiled upon this pair as she passed among her guests,
and said, very low, "Talk to them--you are not doing your duty." The
gentlemen from the clubs followed her with mute looks of despair.
In this way a great lady does her devoir to her county without much
hardship. At least, three of the more important guests believed the
party to be made for them, and were surprised, and even a little more
than surprised, to find themselves among their country neighbours.
"Who would have thought of seeing you?" they said to each other. To
Lilias it was delightful to find these old friends. She sympathized
in the countess's very effusive regret at Bellendean's absence. "How
sorry he will be," his mother said. Bellendean was believed to be
engaged to Lady Ida, his plain relation. He was very good about it, and
did his duty manfully; but to have put a pretty little creature like
that in his way would have been madness, his mother felt. So that she
entertained her rural neighbours alone, with the aid of the gentlemen
from the clubs, who were all quite safe from bread-and-butter beauties,
though they admired her complexion and said to each other, "Jove! where
does the girl get her bloom from?"

"It does not come out of Bond Street," said the countess.

Miss Margaret was very stately in this party. She saw through it,
and was indignant with Jean and Lilias for enjoying themselves. Two
or three engagements sprang out of it, very pleasant, but somewhat
humiliating to the head of the family, who had come to London in order
to be beyond the country, and give Lilias experience of the great
world. There were two or three little dinners, one in a hotel, and
the others in other lodgings of similar character to those in Cadogan
Place, and many proposals that they should go to the play together,
and to the Royal Academy to see the pictures, proposals which it
was all Margaret could do to prevent the others from accepting. She
gave a couple of little parties herself to the rural notables. But
all these did not count, they only kept her out of society, in the
true sense of the word. Margaret was as proud a woman as ever bore a
Scottish name, which is saying much; but it seemed to her that she
would almost have stooped to a meanness to get an entry into the upper
world which she felt to be circling just out of her reach, and from
which now and then she heard echoes dropping into the lower spheres.
It was not for herself she desired that entry. And almost wrathful
contempt grew upon her as she heard the chatter of society, the evil
tales, the coterie gossip, the inane vulgarities which, to a visionary
from the country expecting great things, made the first impression
of town in many cases the most distressful of disappointments. For
herself, she longed for the serene quiet which, if it was sometimes
dull, was at least always innocent, and where the routine of every day
contented the harmless mind. Here an uneasy discontent, an ambition
which she felt humiliating, a constant strain of anxiety which was
mean and contemptible, filled her being. She wanted to know people
who had no claim upon human approbation but that of knowing a great
many other people and giving parties. She was unhappy because she
was not acquainted with ladies in the fashionable world, and men who
went everywhere. When Jean and Lilias, seated upon chairs by her side
looking on at the passing crowds of Vanity Fair in Rotten Row with all
the delight of people from the country, saw and hailed and exchanged
joyous greetings with other people from the country passing by,
Margaret's soul was filled with irritation and annoyance. These were
not the acquaintances she desired. It vexed her to be exposed to their
cordiality, their pleasure at sight of anybody they knew. Jean too
was delighted to perceive in the crowd what she called "a kent face;"
but Margaret's heart was wrung with envy, with unsatisfied wishes,
and with a profound contempt for herself which underlay all these.
She took the greatest trouble, however, to find out people of any
pretensions to fashion whom she had ever known, to recall herself to
their recollection, she who at home considered it her due to be courted
and sought out by others. While she sat in the crowd and listened to
the strangers about her talking over their amusements, her heart burned
within her. "I saw you at Lady Dynevor's last night. Did you ever see
such a crowd! As for dancing, it was out of the question:" or, "Are
you going to the duchess's concert to-morrow? Mamma has promised to go
if we can get away soon enough from the Esmonds', where we dine:" or,
"We have promised just to look in at the French Ambassador's after the
opera." She felt the muscles of her face elongate, and a watering in
her mouth. She looked at these favoured ones with wistful eyes. She did
not form any illusive vision to herself of the charm of society, or
suppose it to be eloquent and brilliant and delightful, but she wanted
to be in it, in the swing, as the slang expression was, not merely
making little parties with friends from the country, fraternizing with
known faces, going to the theatres and the sights. These were not
Margaret's object; her heart sank as she saw the weeks passing, and
felt herself to make no advance.

The countess's dinner had been a disappointment--almost, in the
excited state of Margaret's feelings, had seemed an insult; but there
was the greater gathering in prospect, the reception, at which all
society was expected to be present, and to which she looked forward
with a half-hope that this might realize some of her expectations,
yet a half-certainty of further disappointment and offence. Lilias
had got a new dress for the occasion, to her own surprise and almost
dissatisfaction, for she was somewhat alarmed by Margaret's bounties;
and Jean, though not without a little tremor lest the countess should
recollect that she had worn it at Mrs. Stormont's ball, and indeed on
several other occasions, put on her grey satin. Margaret was in black
silk, very imposing and stately, with her beautiful lace. The three
sisters were a fine sight as their hostess came forward to greet them
at the door of the beautiful rooms, one within another, which, what
with mirrors and a profusion of lights, seemed to prolong themselves
into indefinite distance. The rooms were not very full as yet, for the
ladies had come somewhat early, and the countess was very gracious to
them. She admired Lilias, and kissed her on the cheek, and told Jean,
who beamed, and Margaret, who was not quite sure that she was not
offended, that their little sister was a credit to the North.

"If you keep in this room, you will hear who the people are as they
come in," she said, with an easy assumption of the fact that they knew
nobody.

They took their places accordingly at a little distance, the two elder
ladies seating themselves until they were almost buried by the crowds
that streamed in and stood all about them in lively groups, standing
over them, talking across their shoulders as if they were objects in
still life, till Miss Margaret rose indignantly and formed a little
group of her own with Jean, who was a little bewildered, and Lilias,
who eyed the talkers round her, half frightened, half wistful, with a
great longing to have some one to talk with too.

"We may as well go into the next room," said Margaret; "there will
perhaps be some more rational conversation going on there;" for it is
impossible to describe how impatient she was growing of the duchess's
concert, and dear Lady Grandmaison's Saturdays, and all the other
places in which these fine people met each other daily or nightly. "To
hear who they are," said Margaret, "might be worth our while, if they
were persons that had ever been heard of; but when it is just Lady
Tradgett, and Sir Gilbert Fairoaks, and the Misses This or That, it is
not over-much to edification."

"And you cannot easily fit the folk to their names," said Miss Jean.

"They are just as little attractive as their names are," said Miss
Margaret; "and what does it matter, when it is a name that no mortal
has ever heard tell of, whether it has Lady to it or Sir to it?--or
Duke even, for that matter; but dukes are mostly historical titles,
which is always something."

"But it is a beautiful sight," said Miss Jean, "though it would be more
pleasant if we knew more people."

"I cannot think," said Margaret, with a little bitterness, "that we
would be much made-up with the acquaintance of the people here. So far
as I can judge, it is just the rabble of society that comes to these
big gatherings. It is just a sight, like going to the play."

"There is Lady Ida," said Lilias. "I hope she will come and speak to
us. But I would rather go to the play, if it is only a sight."

"Oh, my dear, it is just beautiful," said Miss Jean. "Look at the
flowers. The cost of them must have been a fortune--and all those grand
mirrors reflecting them till you think every rose is double. And the
diamonds, Lilias! There is an old lady there that is just like a lamp
of light! and many beautiful persons too, which is still finer," Miss
Jean added, casting a tender glance upon the little figure by her side,
which she thought the most beautiful of all.

"Oh, Miss Murray, I am so glad to see you," said Lady Ida. "We were
afraid you must have been caught by some other engagement; for no one
minds throwing over an evening invitation. Yes, there are a great many
people. My aunt knows everybody, I think. It is a bore keeping up such
a large acquaintance, but people always come, for they are sure of
meeting everybody they know."

"But that is not our case, for we are strangers--" began Miss Jean,
thinking to mend matters.

Her sister silenced her by a look, which made that well-intentioned
woman tremble.

"Being so seldom in town," she said, "it is not my wish to keep up an
indiscriminate acquaintance. In the country you must know everybody,
but in a place like London you can pick and choose."

This sentence was too long for Lady Ida, whose attention wandered.

"How do you do?" she said, nodding and smiling over Lilias' shoulder.
"Ah, yes, to be sure, that is quite true. I suppose you are going to
take Lilias to the ball everybody is talking of--oh, _the_ ball, the
Greek ambassador's?"

"Dear me, you have never heard of it, Margaret!" Miss Jean said.

"Oh, you must go! Lilias, you must insist upon going," Lady Ida cried,
her eyes going beyond them to some new comers who hurried forward with
effusive greetings. "You have got your tickets?" were the first words
she addressed to them.

"Oh, so many thanks," said the new people. "We got them this morning.
And I hear everybody is going. How kind of you to take so much trouble
for us."

Miss Margaret, somewhat grimly, had moved away. Envy, and desire, and
profound mortification were in her soul.

"If you cannot speak to the purpose, you might at least hold your
tongue," she said to Jean, with unwonted bitterness.

Lilias followed them forlorn. She was dazzling in her young bloom.
She was prettily dressed. Her sweet, wistful looks, a little scared
and wondering, afraid of the crowd, which laughed and talked, and
babbled about its pleasures, and took no notice of her, were enough
to have touched any tender heart. And no doubt there were a number of
sympathetic people about to whom Margaret and Jean would have been much
more interesting than the majority of the chatterers, and who would
have admired and flattered Lilias with the utmost delight. But there
was nobody to bring them together. Lady Ida, in the midst of a crowd
of her friends, was discussing in high excitement this great event in
the fashionable world. The other people were meeting each other daily
in one place or another. Our poor country friends, after the brave
front they had put upon it at first, and their pretence of enjoying
the beautiful sight--the flowers, the lights, the diamonds, the pretty
people--began to feel it all insupportable. After a while, by tacit
consent, they moved back towards the door.

"But the carriage will not be here for an hour yet, Margaret," Jean
said.

"Then we will wait for it in the hall," said Margaret, sternly.

"Are you really going away so soon?" cried the countess, shaking hands
with them. "I know! you are going to Lady Broadway's, you naughty
people. But of course you want to make the best of your time, and show
Lilias everything."

It was on Jean's lips to say, in her innocence, Oh no, they knew
nothing about Lady Broadway: but fortunately she restrained herself.
They drove home very silently, no one feeling disposed to speak, and
when they reached the stillness of Cadogan Place, where they were not
expected for an hour or two, and where no lamp was lighted, but only
a pair of glimmering candles upon the mantel-piece, Miss Margaret
closed the door, sending old Simon peremptorily away, and made a little
address to her sisters.

"It appears," she says, "that I have been mistaken, Lilias. I thought
the name of Murray of Murkley was well enough known to have opened
all the best houses to us wherever we went, and I thought we had old
friends enough to make society pleasant; but you perceive that I have
been mistaken. I would have concealed it from myself, if I could, and
I would have done anything to conceal it from you. But that is not
possible after to-night. My heart is just broken to have raised your
hopes, and then to disappoint them like this. But you see everything is
changed. Our old friends are dead, or out of the way, and it's clear
to me that those fashionable people, that are just living in a racket
night and day, have no thought for any mortal but just themselves and
their own kind. So there is nothing for it but to confess to you,
Lilias, that I have just made a mistake, and proved how ignorant I am
of the world."

"Oh! Margaret, not that--it is just the world that is unworthy of you,"
cried Jean, whom her sister put down with an impatient wave of her hand.

And now it was that Lilias showed her sense, as was often remarked
afterwards. She gave her little skip in the air, and said, with a laugh,

"What am I caring, Margaret? Ida was never very nice. She might have
introduced the people to us. If it had been a dance, it would have been
dreadful to stand and see the rest enjoying themselves; but when it was
nothing but talk, talk, what do I care?"

"It was a beautiful sight," said Jean, taking courage. "I am very glad
to have seen it, though I had never spoken to any person. And we were
not so bad as that. There was the countess and Lady Ida, and that old
gentleman who trod upon my train, and that was very civil, besides----"

"Besides that we did not want them a bit, for there are three of us,
and what do we care?" cried Lilias, throwing her arms round Margaret,
who had dropped, overcome by disappointment and fatigue, into a chair.

Thus there was a little scene of mutual tenderness and drawing together
after the trial of the evening, and Margaret retired to her room with a
relieved heart, though she had felt an hour or two before as if, after
having made her confession, she must drop the helm of the family for
ever and slip into a secondary place. No one, however, seemed to see it
in this light. Lilias and Jean had vied with each other in professions
of enjoyment. They liked the Row, they liked the park, they liked
going to the shops, and to see the play. If Margaret would not make
herself unhappy about it, they would be quite content without society.
They soothed her so much that she gave the helm a vigorous push before
she went to rest that very night; for even while the others were
speaking, and protesting their indifference to all the delights of the
fashionable world, her thoughts had leapt away from them to speculate
whether, after all, it might not be possible to show the countess and
Lady Ida that their good offices were not necessary, and that without
them Margaret Murray in her own person had credit enough to get tickets
for the great ball. She said to herself that her cards were not played
out yet, that she still had something in her power.

Lilias, for her part, was half-disposed to cry after her demonstration
of pride and high spirits. As Jean helped to undress her, which she
loved to do when she had the chance, the girl changed her tone.

"What is the use of all my pretty things, if we go nowhere?" she said.
"Oh, I should like one ball, just to say I have been at a real ball in
London. It would be dreadful to go back again, and, when Katie comes
asking how many dances we were at, to say not one. Oh!" cried Lilias,
clasping her hands, "I will tell fibs, I know I will, for it would be
terrible to confess that."

"My darling!" cried Miss Jean. "Oh, I wish there was any way to get you
asked to this grand one that all yon people were talking about. I am
sure I would give a little finger if that would do any good."

"But your little finger would do no good," said Lilias, ruefully. "I
see now that you never asked that fairy to my christening, as you ought
to have done: and she has never forgiven it. But never mind, I must
just tell Katie a good big one, for I will not have her pitying me. If
it is a little bigger than a fib, it will only be a _lee_, and that is
not so dreadful, after all."

"You must not tell even a fib, my darling--it is never right."

"No, it is never right," said Lilias, with a comical look, kissing her
sister, who was now busy, smoothing out and folding the creamy, foamy
white draperies in which Lilias had stood about the countess's rooms,
not unremarked, though unfriended. What was the use of all these pretty
things if they went nowhere? Miss Jean's thoughts were busy with the
same problem that occupied her elder sister. It was too impossible to
be considered a hope; but if she herself--she who was always the second
and far inferior in every way to Margaret--if only she could find some
way!

Thus those wonderful prognostications of glory and success with which
Miss Margaret had persuaded Lilias to give up the little dissipations
of the country, and in which she herself had entertained a faith
so calm and assured, came to nothing. Lilias, though in Margaret's
presence she took it so nobly, had a great many thoughts upon the
subject after she had smiled sleepily and received Miss Jean's good
night as if from the very borders of sleep. When Jean went out of
the room on tiptoe, Lilias woke up and began to think. She looked
down from those heights of experience on which she at present stood,
upon herself in the happy vale of her ignorance in Murkley, with a
little envy, yet a great deal of contempt. What a little silly thing
she had been, expecting to go to Court in the way people write of
in books, and to be one of the fine company about the Queen! Lilias
reflected with amazement, and even with an amusement which was more
droll than pleasant, that had it been suggested to her that she would
certainly be invited to Windsor Castle, she would have accepted the
incident as quite probable. Margaret had even spoken of the post of
maid-of-honour. Lilias laughed a small laugh to herself in the dusk.
She had believed it all, it had seemed to her quite natural; but
never--never could she be such a simpleton again. One may be silly
once, but when enlightenment of this sort comes, she said to herself,
it is for ever!--never--never could she be deceived again. And then
gulping down something in her throat, and drying her eyes hurriedly
under cover of the dark, she declared to herself that it was far better
to know, and that even the pain of it was better than the credulous
foolishness with which she had taken everything in. In any case it was
best to know. If Margaret had made such a mistake, it was not much
wonder that she, Lilias, should have been deceived. Lilias recalled
Lady Ida's look over her shoulder, the warmth of her greeting to the
people who had got the tickets, who were in the world, and felt once
more a sensation of hot resentment and indignation darting over her.
And yet, perhaps, even that was not so bad as it seemed. When Katie
Seton was taken by her mother to the county balls, the great ladies,
even Margaret herself, would not encourage the intrusion. To be sure,
Katie could not be left standing unnoticed, for she knew everybody just
as well as Lady Ida did. But London was very different, London was
the world, and it was evident that it was not Lilias' sphere. She saw
all the foolishness of the idea as she lay thinking, throwing off the
coverings and back the curtains to get as much air as possible in the
little, close, London room. She said to herself: Oh! for Murkley, where
there was always air enough and to spare, and wide, peaceful horizons,
and unfathomable skies, and people who had known her from her cradle.
That was far better than standing smiling at nothing, and trying to
look as if she liked it, among hordes and hordes of unknown people who
stared but never took any trouble to be kind to the strangers. "If
I were them," cried Lilias, regardless of possibilities, "and saw
strangers standing that knew nobody, it would be there I would go! I
would not just stare and think it was not my business. I would make it
my business!" She remembered so many ladies who looked as if they must
be _nice_, and girls like herself surrounded with acquaintances and
admirers. "Oh!" Lilias cried to herself, her eyes flashing in the dark,
"if it had been me!" She would not have let another girl stand forlorn
while she was enjoying herself. And Margaret and Jean, whom everybody
could see were so far above the common! Perhaps it was because they
were English--she said to herself, almost with a pleasant flash of
enlightenment--that they were so little kind. But, then, the countess
was not English. It was London that made them heartless, that made them
think of no one but themselves: at home it could not be so. Then Lilias
assured herself once more with lofty philosophy that, though it might
not be very pleasant, it was well to have found out at once, so that
there might be no further question about it, what a stranger had to
expect in the world. No such thing could ever happen at home. The thing
for herself and her sisters to do was to turn their backs upon this
heartless society, indignant, dignified, valuing it as it deserved, and
return to their native scenes, where everybody honoured them, where
they were courted when they appeared, and regretted when they went
away. The worst wish that Lilias could form was that some of these same
young ladies whose looks she could remember anywhere, she thought,
should appear in the country, knowing nobody: and then what a gracious
revenge the Murrays would take! Margaret would not even wait for an
introduction, she would let nobody stand there forlorn in the crowd,
and Lilias herself, proudly magnanimous, would prefer them to all the
little attentions which on Tayside could never fail. This thought gave
a warmer desire to the longing of her disappointment to get home.

But, as she was going to sleep, lulled by this anticipation, two
regrets sprang up within her mind, retarding for at least five minutes
each her slumbers--one was the thought what a pity to have so many
pretty things and never to go anywhere where they could be worn; the
other was a keen, acute, stinging realization of Katie, and the many
questions that little woman of the world would ask her. "How many balls
were you at?" Lilias almost skipped out of bed in her impatience. "But
I will not own to it. I will tell her a fib rather. I will almost tell
her a _lee_," Lilias cried to herself. A _lee_ was perhaps worse than a
fib; but it was not supposed to be so harsh a thing as a lie--at least
upon Tayside.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


Next morning some further incidents occurred which disturbed Margaret,
just recovering from the discomfiture of the preceding night, and
plunged her into fresh anxiety. It was Jean that was the cause of one
of these as of so many of her annoyances since they came to town--Jean,
who could not contain her pleasure when amid all these crowds of
unknown people she saw "a kent face." She had got so much into the
way of doing this, and was so delighted with everybody that looked
like home, ministers with their wives who had come up for a holiday
after the Assembly, and little lairds, and professional persons of all
classes, that, when it was possible, her sister had contrived to leave
Jean at home when they went into the Row for their usual walk. But on
this occasion it had not been possible to do so, and scarcely were they
seated under their favourite tree, when Margaret with dismay heard the
usual explosion.

"Oh! Lilias, just look--it is certainly him; though I never would have
thought of seeing him here."

"Whom do you mean by _him_?" said Margaret. "And for goodness sake,
Jean, where everybody is hearing you, do not exclaim like that. You
will just be taken for an ignorant person that knows nobody."

"And I'm sure they would not be far wrong that thought so," said Jean.
"Yes, I was sure it was him: and glad, glad he will be to see us, for
he seems not to have a creature to speak to. Dear me, Philip," she
said, rising and stretching out her hand through a startled group who
separated to let the friends approach each other, "who would have
thought of seeing you here!"

Philip Stormont's face lighted up.

"I was looking for you," he said, in his laconic way. He had been
strolling along with a vague stare, looking doubly rustic and home-spun
and out of place; he had the very same cane in his hand with the knob
that he used to suck at Murkley. "I knew you were here, and I was
looking for you," he said.

"And have you just arrived, and straight from Tayside? and how is your
good mother and all our friends?"

"My mother is away: and I've been away for the last three months," said
Philip; "I've been out in the Mediterranean. There was little doing at
home, and she was keen for me to go."

"And now I suppose you have come to London to go into all the gaieties
here?" said Margaret, for the first time taking her part in the
conversation. She looked somewhat grimly at the long-leggit lad. He was
brown from his sea-voyaging, and too roughly clad for these fashionable
precincts. "This is just the height of the season, and you'll no doubt
intend to turn yourself into a butterfly, like the rest of the young
men."

"I am not very like a butterfly now," said Philip, suddenly awakened to
the imperfections of his dress.

"Oh! but that is soon mended," said Miss Jean, always kind; "you will
have to go to your tailor, and you will soon be as fine as anybody."

Philip grew fiery red with sudden shame and dismay. He cast a glance at
Lilias, and read the same truth in her eyes. Except Jean, who had first
found him out, nobody was very glad to see him in his sea-going tweeds.
It had not struck him before. He muttered something about making
himself decent, and left them hurriedly, striding along out of sight
under the trees. Miss Margaret smiled as he disappeared.

"Well," she said, drawing a long breath, "that is a good riddance; and
I wish the rest of our country friends were got rid of as easy. I think
you might remember, Jean, that to entertain the like of Philip Stormont
is not what we came to London for."

Jean was magnanimous. She had it on her lips to say something of the
failure so far of their expedition to London, but it died away before
it was spoken. As for Margaret, she had forgotten the downfall of last
night. Her mind was labouring with schemes for advancement. All her
faculties were nerved to the struggle. But, alas! what are faculties
when it is friends you want? To repulse Philip was a matter of
instinct; but to open the doors of the great houses was another affair.
And, even when that was done, all was not done; for what would be the
good of taking Lilias to a great ball unless there was some prospect
of getting her partners when she was there? Margaret had determined
that she would accomplish both--but how? To see a worthy human being
struggling in the face of difficulties is a great sight, especially
when he (or she) struggles not for himself, but for those he loves.
Nothing can be more entirely true, or indeed more completely a truism;
but when the difficulties are those of getting an invitation to a ball,
and, when there, partners for your charge, the world may laugh, but the
struggle is no less arduous. A mother in such a case gets contempt,
if not reproach, instead of any just appreciation; but a sister may
perhaps secure a gentler verdict. Such love was in the object, if it
was not otherwise very worthy; and if there was much pride too, it was
of so natural a kind. She shook off Philip as she would have shaken
off a thorn that clung to her dress; but still he was another element
of discomfort. She wanted no long-leggit lad to attach himself to her
party, and less now than ever--for who could tell what effect the
contrast between the indifference of the world and the devotion of her
old playfellow might have upon Lilias if once, she said to herself, he
was out of those ridiculous tweeds, which he ought to have known better
than to appear in. Margaret made the signal to her party to rise from
their chairs after this little incident. She had a suspicion that the
people about were smiling at the encounter with the rustic. But indeed
the people about were concerned with themselves, and paying little
attention to the ladies from the country. Everybody knew them to be
ladies from the country, which of itself was an irritating circumstance
enough.

They got up accordingly with great docility and joined the stream of
people moving up and down. And now it was that another encounter,
more alarming and unexpected still, brought her heart to Margaret's
mouth, and moved both the others in different ways with sudden
excitement. As they moved along with the tide on one hand, the other
stream coming the other way, an indiscriminate mass, in which there
were so few faces that had any interest for them, suddenly, without
warning, wavered, opened, and disclosed a well-known countenance, all
lighted up with animation and eagerness. There was no imperfection of
appearance in the case of this young man. He was walking with two or
three others, and there was in his eyes nothing of that forlorn gaze
in search of acquaintances which distinguished the rural visitor. He
had been, perhaps, too dainty for Murkley, but he was in his element
here. He came up to the three ladies, taking off his hat with that
unusual demonstration of respect which had amused them amid the less
elaborate salutations of the country. His appearance froze the blood
in Margaret's veins. She felt that no compromise was possible, that
her action must be stern and decisive. She turned and gave Lilias a
peremptory look, then made Lewis such a curtsey as filled all the
spectators with awe. She even dropped her hand by her side and caught
hold of the draperies of Lilias to ensure that the girl followed her.
Lilias had almost given her little skip in the air for pure pleasure
at the sight of him, when she received that look and secret tug, more
imperative still. She put out her hand as she was swept past with
an "Oh, Mr. Murray!" which was half a protest: but she was too much
astonished to resist Margaret. Jean, left behind, in her surprise and
delight, greeted the stranger with a tremulous cry.

"Oh, but I am glad to see you!" she said.

But, when she saw that Margaret had swept on, she made an agitated
pause. Lewis took her hand almost with gentle violence.

"You must speak to her--you have always been my friend," he said.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Murray, I am your friend," said Miss Jean, following with
her eyes the two figures that were disappearing in the crowd; "but what
am I to do if I lose Margaret?"

Her perplexity and distress would have amused a less tender observer.

"We will go after them," he said, "and, if we miss them, cannot I see
you home?"

"But that would be taking you from your friends," said Miss Jean, with
wondering eyes and much-divided wishes. As, however, even in this
moment, she was already separated from Margaret, there was nothing to
be done but accept his companionship.

Jean was in a ferment of excitement and anxiety. It was what she
had wished and hoped for--it was delightful--it filled her with an
exhilarating sense of help and satisfaction; but, at the same time, if
it should turn out to be going against Margaret! How difficult it is in
such a terrible, unlooked-for crisis to know exactly what to do! She
did what her heart desired, which is the most general solution.

"They will probably turn at the end, and then I can go back to them,"
she said. "And why should Margaret object? for you have always been my
friend."

"Yes," said Lewis, "you will recollect it was you I knew first in the
family: and I was always supposed to be your visitor. What pleasant
hours those were at the piano! Ah, you could not be so cruel as to pass
me, to treat me like a stranger. We are in each other's confidence," he
said, looking so kindly, tenderly at her, with a meaning in his eyes
which Miss Jean understood, and which delivered her at once out of her
little flutter of timidity. She answered him with a look, and became
herself once more.

"It is so indeed," she said. "We have both opened our hearts to one
another, though I might be your mother. And glad, glad I am to see
you. I feel a little lost among all these people, though it is very
interesting to watch them: but I am just most happy when I come upon a
kent face. And have you been long in London, and have you friends here?
Without that there is but little pleasure in it," Miss Jean said, with
a suppressed sigh.

Then Lewis began to tell her that he had been in town for a week or
two, and had gone everywhere looking for her and her sisters; that he
had found abundance of friends, people whom he had met abroad, who had
known him "in my god-father's time," he said.

"I think I know almost all the diplomatic people, and they are a host;
and it is wonderful to find how many people one has come across, for
everybody goes abroad."

Jean listened with admiration and a sigh.

"There are few," she said, "of these kind of persons that come in our
way, either at Murkley or Gowanbrae."

Something in her tone attracted his attention, especially to the
sentiment of this remark, and Lewis was too sympathetic to be long
unacquainted with its meaning.

"No doubt," he said, "it is a long time since you have been here: and
you find your old friends gone, and strangers in their place."

"That is just it," said Miss Jean. "It has been perhaps a little
disappointment--oh, not to Lilias and me, who are delighted to see
everything, and never think of parties and things--but Margaret will
vex herself about it, wanting the child to enjoy herself, and to see
all that's worth seeing. You will understand the feeling. There is some
great ball now," she added, with vague hopes for which she could not
account to herself, "which everybody is speaking of----"

"It is perhaps the Greek ball? Is she going?" cried Lewis, eagerly.
"Ah, that will be what you call luck--great luck for me."

"I cannot say that she is going--if you mean Margaret," said Miss Jean,
trembling to feel success within reach. "It is not a thing, you know,
that tempts the like of us at our age--but just for Lilias. Well, I
cannot say. I hear people are asking for invitations, which, to my
mind, is a wonderful way of going about it. I do not think Margaret,
who is a proud person, would ever bring her mind to that."

"She shall not need," said Lewis. "Would she go? Would you go? Dear
Miss Jean, will not you do this for me? They are my dear friends, those
people. They know me since I was a boy. They will call at once, and
send the invitation. If I were not out of favour with your sister, I
would come with my friends. But not a word! Do not say a word! It will
all pass as if we had nothing to do with it, you and I. That is best;
but in return you will see that Miss Lilias saves for me a dance, two
dances perhaps."

"Poor thing!" said Miss Jean, "my fear just is that she will have all
her dances to spare; for we do not know many people, and the people we
know are not going--and it is perhaps just a little unfortunate for
Lilias."

"That will not happen again," cried Lewis, with a glow of pleasure. "I
am not of any good in Murkley, but I can be of some use here."

In the mean time Lilias, very much disappointed, was demanding an
explanation from her sister.

"It was Mr. Murray, Margaret! I would have liked to speak to him. He
was always nice. And you liked him well enough at Murkley. He was
dressed all right, not like poor Philip. Why might not I stop and speak
to him? I had to give him my left hand, for you pulled me away."

"There was no need for giving him any hand at all. He is just a person
we know nothing about--what his family is, if he belongs to anybody,"
Miss Margaret said.

"But we know _him_," said Lilias, with that perfectly inconclusive
argument which sounds so powerful to the foolish speaker, but which in
reality means nothing.

Margaret was full of irritation and annoyance, and a sense of danger to
come.

"What does that matter?" she cried. "Him! We know no harm of him, if
that is what you mean. But his belongings are unknown to me, and with a
man of his name, that cannot be but harm. If it was one of your English
names, it might just be any ignoramus: but there is no good Murray that
has not a drop's blood, as people say, between him and Murkley. I will
have no traffic with that young man."

"But he came to us at home!" said Lilias, in great surprise, "and I saw
him--often."

"Where did you see him, you silly thing? Twice, thrice, at the utmost!"

"Oh, Margaret! I used to see him with Katie. Katie was always about the
park, you know; and he was so fond of the new castle, and always making
sketches----"

Margaret looked at her with severe eyes. And indeed Lilias, who had
revealed perhaps more than was expedient, coloured, and was embarrassed
by her observation, though she indignantly declared to herself that
there was "no cause."

"So you saw him--often?" the elder sister said. "This is news to
me--and the more reason we should see nothing of him now; for a young
man that will thrust himself upon a girl's company when she is out of
the protection of her friends----"

"Margaret!" cried Lilias, with a flash of indignation. "Are you going
to leave Jean behind?" she added, hastily, in a voice of horror, as
Margaret, instead of turning back at the end of the walk, hurriedly
directed her steps homeward, crossing with haste and trepidation the
much crowded road.

"Jean must just take the risk upon herself. It is no doing of mine.
She will tell him no doubt where we are living, and the likelihood is
he will see her home. But mind _you_," said Margaret, turning round
upon the girl with that little pause in her walk to emphasize her
words, which is habitual with all eloquent persons, "I will not have
that young lad coming about us here. There must be no seeing--often,
here--no, nor seldom either. I am your guardian, and I will not be
made light of. He is not a person that I consider good enough for your
acquaintance, and I will not have it. So you must just choose between
him and me."

"Margaret!" cried Lilias again, in consternation.

Her mind had been agreeably moved by the sight of Lewis. He was
more than a kent face, he was a friend: and indeed he was more than
a friend. Whatever might be her feelings towards him, on which she
had not at all decided, Lilias had a very distinct idea of what his
feelings were towards her, and, let theorists say what they will, there
is nothing more interesting to a girl than the consciousness that she
is--thought of, dreamed of, admired, present to the mind of another,
even if she does not permit herself to say beloved. The sight of him
had brought back all those vague pleasures and embarrassments, those
shynesses, yet suddenly confidential outbursts, which had beguiled
the afternoon hours at Murkley. How friendly he looked! how ready
to listen! how full of talk! and how his face had lighted up at the
sight of her! He was very different from Philip sucking his stick, not
knowing what to do, and from the young men of society, who stared,
inspecting the ladies as if that impertinence was a certain duty.
Lewis had expanded with pleasure. He had detached himself from his
friends in a moment. The sun had shone full upon his head as he stood
uncovered, eager to speak. He was not handsome. He was not even tall
or big, or in any way imposing. As for the hero of whom Lilias had
dreamt so long, Lewis was not in the smallest degree like that paladin;
there need be no alarm on that subject. But he was a friend, and to
be swept away from a friend in this desert place where there were so
few of them, was at once a pain and an injury. What did Margaret mean?
Lilias felt herself insulted by the suspicion expressed, which she was
too proud to protest against. Her indignant exclamation, "Margaret!"
was all that she would condescend to. And they walked homeward through
the streets, which Margaret, in despite and alarm, had hastily chosen
instead of returning by the park, without saying a word to each other.
It was the first time that this had happened in Lilias' life. Her heart
grew fuller and fuller as she went home. Was Margaret, the ruler,
the universal guide, she who up to this time had been infallible, was
she prejudiced, was she unkind? When they reached the house, they
separated, neither saying a word. But this was intolerable to Lilias,
who by-and-by ran down to Margaret's room, and flung herself into her
sister's arms.

"I cannot bear it! I cannot bear it! Scold me, if you like, but speak
to me, Margaret," cried the little girl.

It was a very small matter, yet it was a great matter to them. Margaret
took the girl in her arms with a trembling in her own strong and
resolute figure.

"You are the apple of my eye, you are the light of my eyes," she said,
which was all the explanation that passed between them. For Lilias
was awed by the solemnity of her sister's rarely-expressed love. It
thrilled her with a wonderful sense of something too great for her own
littleness, an undeserved adoration that made her humble. It did not
occur to her that great tyrannies are sometimes the outspring of such
a passion. On the contrary, she felt that in the presence of this, her
little liking for a cheerful face was as nothing, too trifling a matter
to be thought of; and yet there was in her mind a little hankering
after that pleasant countenance all the same.

It was some time later before Jean returned, and there was in her a
wonderful flutter of embarrassment and delight, and of fictitious
composure, and desire to look as if nothing had happened, which filled
Lilias with curiosity and Margaret with an angry contempt for her
sister, as for an old fool, who was allowing her head to be turned
by the attentions of _that_ young man. _That_ young man was the name
Lewis took in the agitated mind of the elder sister. He was not even a
long-leggit lad, a member of a well-defined and honourable caste, which
it is permissible to women to be foolish about. Did the old haverel
think that it was really _her_ he was wanting?--Margaret asked herself:
with a disdain which it wounded her to entertain for her sister.

"He would say he had been just wearying to see you," she said, when
Jean entered late for luncheon, and with her hair hastily brushed,
which the wind had blown about a little under her bonnet. Jean was
not too old to indulge in hairdressing, in fringes and curls on her
forehead, had she so chosen, and indeed the wind would sometimes do as
much for her as fashion did for others, finding out unexpected twists
and fantasies in her brown locks. She had smoothed herself all down
outwardly, but had not quite succeeded in patting down those spiritual
signs of a ruffling breeze of excitement which answer to the incipient
curls and secret twists in the hair.

"He said he was very glad to see us all, poor lad! It was a great
disappointment to him, Margaret, when you just sailed away like
that--without a word."

"I hope," said Miss Margaret, "that I am answerable to nobody for the
choice I make of my friends, and this young man is one that gives no
satisfaction to me."

"Oh, but, Margaret----" cried Miss Jean, in eager remonstrance.

"I am laying down no laws for you--you are your own mistress, as I am
mine; but I will have none of him," Margaret said, decisively.

This sudden judgment had a great effect upon the gentler sister.

"Oh! but, Margaret," she repeated, again looking wistfully at the head
of the house. Then her anxious eyes sought Lilias. "I am sure," she
said, "that one more respectful or more anxious to be of any use----"

"And what use do you expect a lad like that to be?" cried Margaret,
with high disdain. "I hope the Murrays of Murkley will be able to fend
for themselves without help from any unknown person," she added, with
lofty superiority.

Jean looked at her with a glance in which there was disappointment,
impatience, wistfulness, and something else which Lilias could not
divine. There was more in it than mere regret for this ignoring
of Lewis' excellencies. There was--could it be possible?--a kind
of compassion for the other side. But this was so very unlikely a
sentiment to be entertained by Jean for Margaret that Lilias, secretly
observing, secretly ranging herself on Jean's side, felt that she must
be mistaken. But Jean was not herself; she was so crushed by this
conversation that she became silent, and said no more, though it was
evident that there came upon her again and again an impulse to talk,
which it was scarcely possible to restrain. Something was on her lips
to say, which she had driven back almost by force. A concealed triumph
was bursting forth by every outlet. When she sat down to her work,
secret smiles would come upon her face. A quiver was in her hands which
made her apparent industry quite ineffectual. She would start and look
at Lilias when any sound was heard without. Once when Margaret left the
room for a moment, Jean made a rush at her little sister and kissed her
with an agitation to which Lilias had no clue.

"Just you wait a little; it will come perhaps this afternoon," cried
Miss Jean in her ear.

"Do you expect Mr. Murray, Jean? Oh! Margaret will not be pleased,"
Lilias cried, in alarm.

Jean shook her head violently and retreated to the window, where, when
Margaret returned to the room, she was standing looking out.

"Dear me! can you not settle to something?" said Margaret. "I have no
nerves to speak of, but to see you whisking about like this is more
than I can put up with. The meeting this morning has been too much for
you."

"Oh, how little you know," cried Jean, under her breath--and this time
there was no mistaking the compassion, the reproachful pity in her
eyes; but then she added--"Perhaps I am a little agitated, but it is
to think you should be so prejudiced--you that have always had more
insight than other folk."

"If I have had the name of more insight, cannot you believe that I'm
right this time?" said Margaret.

Jean, standing at the window looking out, did nothing but shake her
head. She was entirely unconvinced. When, however, Margaret announced
some time after that she had ordered the victoria, and was going out to
make some calls with Lilias, this intimation had a great effect upon
Jean. She turned round with a startled look to interpose.

"Dear me, you are not going out again, Margaret! and me so sure you
would be at home. You will just tire yourself, and Lilias too: and if
you remember that we are going to the play to-night. There are no calls
surely that are so urgent as that."

"Bless me!" said Margaret, taken by surprise, "what is all this
earnestness for? You are perhaps expecting a visit from your friend;
but in that case it is far better that Lilias and me should be out of
the way."

"I am expecting no visit from him. I had to tell him, poor lad, that
it would be best not to come; but I wish you would stay in, Margaret:
I think it is going to rain, and you have just an open carriage, no
shelter. And you can never tell who may call. You said yourself that
when you went out in the afternoon you missed just the people you most
wanted to see."

"I am expecting nobody to-day," said Margaret; "and, if anybody comes,
there is you to see them."

"Me!" cried Jean, with a nervous tremor. "And what could I say to them?
What if it should be strangers?"

"I hope you have a good Scots tongue in your head," said Miss Margaret,
somewhat warmly perhaps. But Lilias lingered to console the poor lady,
whose look of alarm and trouble was greater than any mere possibility
could have produced.

"Oh! my darling, try to persuade her to stay at home; but mind you do
not say a word," cried Jean in the ear of Lilias, holding her two arms.
"I think there may perhaps be--some grand people coming. And how could
I speak to them?"

"What grand people?" the girl cried.

"Oh, hold your tongue--hold your tongue, Lilias! I would not have her
suspect--but who can tell what kind of people may be coming? Something
always happens when people are out; and then this ball----"

"Margaret," cried Lilias, "don't go out this afternoon. Jean thinks
that people may be calling--somebody who could get us tickets----"

"Oh! not me, not me," cried Jean, putting her hand on the girl's
mouth. "I never said such a thing. It was just an imagination--or a
presentiment----"

"Well," said Margaret, with her bonnet on, "Jean is just as able to
receive the finest company as I am. She is looking very nice, she has a
little colour. To be silly now and then is good for the complexion; she
is fluttered with the sight of her young friend--is it friend you call
him, Jean?"

"What could I call him else?" cried Jean, with dignity. "I will never
call a man more, as you well know; and besides, I might be his mother.
And why should I call him less, seeing he has always been so good to
me, and one that I think much of? But I am not expecting Mr. Murray,
you need not be feared for that. It is just a kind of presentiment,"
Miss Jean said.



CHAPTER XXXV.


Miss Jean sat down to her work at the window when the others went out.
There was a balcony full of flowers which prevented her from seeing
anything more distinct than the coming and going of the carriages,
but that was enough to keep her in a flutter of awed and excited
expectation. Lewis had said that his friends would call at once, and
the idea of receiving a foreign lady, a foreign ambassadress, who
perhaps did not speak English, made Miss Jean tremble from the lace
of her cap to the toe of her slipper. She tried to remember the few
words of school-book French which lingered in her mind; but what if
the lady spoke only Greek? In that case, their intercourse would need
to be carried on by signs: or, since she was an ambassadress, she
would perhaps carry an interpreter with her. Jean did not know the
manners and habits of such people. To be left to encounter such a
formidable person alone was terrible to her. And what would so great
a lady think if she came in expecting Margaret, whom no doubt Lewis
would have described, and found only Jean? "We saw nobody but a homely
sort of country person,"--that was what she would say. But the case
was desperate, and though, when the moment actually arrived, and an
imposing carriage and pair dashed up with all the commotion possible
to the door, and the knocker resounded through the house, Miss Jean's
heart beat so loudly in her ears that it drowned the very knocker, yet
still there was a sort of satisfaction in thus venturing for the sake
of Lilias, facing such an excitement for her benefit, and obtaining for
her what even Margaret had not been able to obtain.

Simon, creaking along the passage in his creaking shoes, seemed to
tread upon Miss Jean's heart. Would he never be ready? She waited,
expecting every moment the door to open, the sweep of silken draperies,
or perhaps--who could tell?--the entrance of a resplendent figure in
costume other than that of fashion; for Jean was aware that Greece
was in the east, and had been delivered in her youth out of its
subjection to the Turks, and that the men wore kilts, and the women
probably----These were long before the days of the dual dress, and
the idea filled her with alarm. She put away her work with trembling
hands, and stood listening, endeavouring to calm herself and make her
best curtsey, but in a whirl of anxiety lest Simon should not say the
name right or else be unable to catch it. But when, instead of this
extraordinary ordeal, she heard the clang, the stir, the glittering
sound of hoofs and wheels and harness, and became aware that the
carriage had driven away, Jean came to herself quite suddenly, as if
she had fallen to the ground. It was a relief unspeakable, but perhaps,
also, it was a little disappointment. She dropped back upon her chair.
To go through so many agonies of anticipation for nothing is trying
too. And Simon came upstairs as if he were counting his steps, as if it
was of no consequence!

"I told them you were in, Miss Jean, but they just paid no attention to
me: and I do not think you have lost much, for they were too flyaway,
and not of your kind. I hope there's cards enough: and this big letter,
with a seal as large as Solomon's," said Simon.

She took them with another jump of her heart. The envelope was too big
for the little tray on which he had placed it; it was half covered with
a great blazon. The cards were inscribed with a name which it taxed all
Jean's powers to make out. She was so moved that she made a confidant
of Simon, having no one else to confide in.

"It's an invitation," she said, "for one of the grandest balls in all
London."

Simon, for his part, looked down upon the magnificent enclosure without
any excitement, with a cynical eye.

"It's big enough to be from the Queen," he said, "and it will keep ye
up to a' the hours of the night, and the poor horse just hoasting his
head off. You'll excuse me, Miss Jean, but I cannot help saying rather
you than me."

"I should have thought, Simon," said Miss Jean, reproachfully, "that
you would have had some feeling for Miss Lilias."

"Oh! I have plenty of feeling for Miss Lilias; but sitting up till two
or three, or maybe four in the morning is good for nobody," Simon said.

Miss Jean could not keep still. As for work, that was impossible. She
met Margaret at the door, when the little victoria drove up, with a
countenance as pale as ashes.

"God bless me!" cried Margaret, in alarm, "what has happened?"

Jean thrust the cards and the envelope into her hands.

"You will know," she said, breathless, "what they mean better than me."
Miss Jean salved her conscience by adding to herself, "And so she will!
for she understands everything better than I do."

"What is it, Margaret?" said Lilias.

The ladies had been engaged all the afternoon in a hopeless effort
of which Lilias was entirely unconscious; they had gone to call on a
number of people in whom the girl, at least, felt no interest, but to
whom Margaret had condescended with a civility which her little sister
could not understand--The countess, who was too much occupied to pay
them any attention, and Lady Ida, who thought quite enough had been
done for the country neighbours, and was inclined to show that she was
bored; and the wife of the county member, who was on the other side in
politics, and consequently received the Miss Murrays with respect but
coldness, and some dowagers, who had almost forgotten Margaret, and
some new people who were barely acquainted with her----Why did she take
all that trouble?

"You are bound," Miss Margaret said, "when you are in London just to
keep up everybody. You never can tell when they may be of use."

"Is it to make them of use that you are friends with people?" Lilias
had asked, with wonder. But they were of no use. How was it possible?
And, even if they had been likely to be so Margaret's heart had failed
her. She was not used to such manœuvres. She came back in very low
spirits, feeling that it was impossible, feeling impotent, and feeling
humiliated not so much because of her impotence, as for a contempt of
her own aim. Between the two her heart had sunk altogether. To think
it possible that she, Margaret Murray, should be going from door to
door in a strange place, seeking an invitation to a ball! Was such
ignominy possible? She was angry with herself, angry with the world in
which trifles were of so much importance, angry with that big, pitiless
place, which had no knowledge of the Murrays of Murkley, and cared
for neither an old race, nor a lovely young creature like Lilias, nor
anything but just monstrous wealth and impudence: for that was how
Margaret put it, being disheartened and disappointed and disgusted
with herself. And coming in, in this state of mind, to meet Jean, pale
as a ghost, what could she think of but misfortune? She expected to
hear that Murkley Castle had been burnt to the ground, or that their
"man of business" had run away. Poor Mr. Allenerly, who was as safe as
Edinburgh Castle standing on a rock! but panic does not wait to count
probabilities. When the big envelope was thrust into her hand she
looked at it with alarm, as if it might wound her. And to think, after
all this mortification, disgust, and terror, to think of finding, what
at this moment looked like everything she desired, in her hand! For the
time, forgetting the frivolous character of the blessing, Margaret was
inclined to believe with a softening and grateful movement of her heart
that it had fallen upon her direct from heaven.

And during the rest of the afternoon no other subject was thought of.
When the ladies assembled over their tea in delightful relaxation and
coolness after the fuss and flutter of their walks and drives, and
those afternoon calls, which had brought nothing but vexation, the
little scene was worthy of any comedy. The delight of Lilias, which was
entirely natural and easy, had no such impassioned character about it
as the restrained and controlled exultation which showed in Margaret's
quietest words and movements. Jean, who was still pale and trembling
with the dread of detection and the strain of excitement, by-and-by
began to regard, with a wonder for which there were no words, her
sister's perfect unconsciousness and absence of suspicion. To associate
this envied distinction with Jean or anything she could have done,
or with the slight person whom she had declined to have anything to
say to in the morning, whose overtures she had negatived so sternly,
never entered Margaret's thoughts. In the happiness and calm that came
over her after the first ecstasy, she indulged, indeed, in a number of
speculations. But, after all, what so natural as that the lady with
the wonderful name, which none of them ventured to pronounce, had heard
that the Miss Murrays of Murkley were in town, and perhaps had them
pointed out to her somewhere, and felt that without Lilias the ball
would be incomplete.

"It might be the countess, but I can hardly think it, or she would have
let fall something to that effect," Margaret said; "and as for Mrs.
Maxwell, they are just in a sort of House-of-Commons circle, and know
little about fashion. But I am not surprised for my part: for, after
all, family is a thing that does tell in society, and I have always
felt that what was wanted was just to have it known we were here. Yes,
it is a great pleasure, I do not deny it--though if anybody had told
me I would have been so pleased to get an invitation to a ball at my
age----"

"It is not for yourself, Margaret."

"--But I am not surprised. The wonder has been the little attention we
have received: but I make little doubt we'll have even too much to fill
up our time now it is known we are here. And, Lilias, you must remember
I will not allow too much of it, to turn your head."

Lilias did not make any reply. She was studying the face of Jean, who
was very intent upon Margaret, following her looks with wondering
admiration, and half-struggling against her better knowledge to believe
that her sister must be in the right after all.

"You see," said Margaret, discoursing pleasantly and at her ease,
as she leant back in her chair, "we are all apt to judge the world
severely when we are not just getting what we want. I confess that I
was in a very ill key the other night. To be in the middle of a large
company all enjoying themselves, and acquainted with each other, and
to know nobody, is a trial for the temper. And as I am a masterful
person by nature, and perhaps used to my own way, I did not put up with
it as I ought. And if I had left town in a pet--as I had a great mind
to do--the impression would just never have been removed. But you see
what a little patience does. Indeed I have remarked before this that,
when you see everything at its blackest, Providence is just preparing a
surprise for you, and things are like to mend."

"If one can say Providence, Margaret," said Jean, a little shocked,
"about such a thing as a ball!"

"Do you think there is anything, great or small, that is beneath
that?" Margaret cried; but she felt herself abashed at having gone
so far. "I am not meaning the ball," she said. "What I am meaning is
just the recognition that we had a kind of a right to look for, and
the friendship and understanding which is the due of a family long
established, and that has been of use to its country, like ours. I hope
you do not think that beneath the concern of Providence--for the best
of life is in it," she added, taking high ground. "Little things may
be signs of it: but you will not say it is a little thing to be well
thought upon and duly honoured among your peers."

To this Jean listened with her lips dropping a little apart, and
her eyes more wide open than their wont, altogether abashed by the
importance of the doctrine involved, not knowing how to fit it into her
own ideal of existence, and half-tempted to confess that it was by her
simple instrumentality, and not in so dignified a way, that the event
had come about.

"But, Margaret----" she said.

"My dear, I wish you would not be always so ready with your buts. You
are just becoming a sort of Thomas, aye doubting," Margaret said. "But,
Jean--if you are going to the play, as you are so fond of, we will
have to be earlier than usual--and, in that case, it is time to dress:
though I am so tired, and have so much to think of, that I would rather
stay at home."

"There will be your ticket lost," said Jean, though in her heart she
was almost glad to have a little time out of Margaret's presence to
realize all that had passed on this agitating day.

"You can send it to Philip Stormont," said Margaret, moved to unusual
good humour, "and take him with you. To look for your carriage and
all that, he will be more use than old Simon. No, it is true I have
no great opinion of him. He is just a long-leggit lad. He has little
brains, and less manners, and his family is just small gentry; but
still he's maybe a little forlorn, and in a strange place he will look
upon us as more or less belonging to him."

"Oh, Margaret!" cried Jean, almost with tears in her eyes, "that is a
thing I would never have thought of. There is nobody like you for a
kind heart."

Margaret said "Toot!" but did not resent the imputation. "When you find
that you are thought upon yourself, it makes you more inclined to think
upon other people. And I'll not deny that I am pleased. To think you
and me, Jean, should be making all this work about a ball! I am just
ashamed of myself," she said, with a little laugh of pleasure.

But Jean did not make any response. She sent off old Simon to the
address which Philip even in the few moments they had seen him had
found time to give, and went upstairs to prepare in the silence of
bewilderment, not able to explain to herself the curious self-deception
and mistake of the sister to whom she had always looked up. She had
been afraid of being seen through at once: her tremor, her excitement,
her breathless consciousness, all, Jean had feared would betray her
yet: Margaret had never observed them at all! She was glad, but she was
also bewildered on her sister's account, and half-humiliated on her
own. For to have been suspected would have been something. Not to have
even been suspected at all, with so many signs of guilt about her, was
so wonderful that it took away her breath. And, tenderly respectful
as her mind was, she felt a little ashamed, a little to blame that
Margaret had been so easily deceived. Her satisfaction in her delusion
abashed Jean. She saw a grotesque element in it, when she knew how
completely mistaken it was. Lilias, who had been questioning her with
her eyes without attracting much attention from Jean, whose mind was
busy elsewhere, followed her upstairs. If Margaret did not suspect the
secret with which she was running over, Lilias did. She put her arm
round the conspirator from behind, making her start.

"It is you, Jean," she whispered in her ear.

"Oh! me, Lilias! How could it be me? Do I know these kind of foreign
folk?"

"Then you know who it is, and you are in the secret," Lilias said.

Jean threw an alarmed glance towards Margaret's closed door.

"You are to keep two dances for him," she whispered, hurriedly; "but if
I had thought what a deception it would be, Lilias! It just makes me
meeserable!"

"I hope you will never have anything worse to be miserable about," said
the girl, with airy carelessness.

"Oh! whisht, whisht!" cried Miss Jean, "it would go to her very heart,"
and she led the indiscreet commentator on tiptoe past Margaret's door.
Lilias sheltered herself within her own with a beating heart. To keep
two dances for him! Then it was he who had done it. It did not occur
to Lilias that to call any man _he_ was dangerous and significant. She
had not a doubt as to who was meant. Though she had not been allowed
to speak to him, scarcely to look at him, yet he had instantly exerted
himself to do her pleasure. Lilias sat down to think it over, and
forget all about the early dinner and the play. Her heart beat high
as she thought of the contrast. She had no knowledge of the world,
or the way in which girls and boys comport themselves to each other
now-a-days, which is so different from the way of romance. To think
that he should have set to work to procure a gratification for her,
though she had been made to slight him, pleased her fancy. Why did he
do it? It could not be for friendship, because she was not allowed to
show him any. Was it--perhaps--for the sake of Jean? In the unconscious
insolence of her youth, Lilias laughed softly at this hypothesis. Dear
Jean! there was nobody so kind and sweet; but not for such as Jean, she
thought, were such efforts made. It would have disappointed her perhaps
a little had she known that Lewis was entirely capable of having done
it for Jean's sake, even if he had not had the stronger inducement of
doing it for herself. But this did not occur to her as she sat and
mused over it with a dreamy smile wavering upon her face. She did not
ask herself anything about her own sentiments, or, indeed, about his
sentiments. She only thought of him as she had done more or less since
the morning in a sort of happy dream, made up of pleasure in seeing him
again, and of a vague sense that herself and the future were somehow
affected by it, and that London was brighter and far more interesting
because he was in it. To think of walking any morning round the street
corner, and seeing him advancing towards her with that friendly look!
It had always been such a friendly look, she said to herself, with a
little flutter at her heart. The bell ringing for dinner startled her
suddenly out of these thoughts, and she had to dress in haste and hurry
downstairs, where they were all awaiting her, Philip looking red and
sunburnt in his evening clothes. He was never a person who had very
much to say, and he was always overawed by Margaret, though she was
kind to him beyond all precedent. He told them about his voyage and the
Mediterranean, and the places he had seen--with diffidence, drawn out
by the elder ladies, who wished to set him at his ease. But Lilias was
pre-occupied, and said little to him. She felt that she was on no terms
of ceremony with Philip. She knew a great deal more about him than the
others did. She had borne inconveniences and vexations for him such as
nobody knew of--even now to think of his mother's affectionate adoption
and triumph in the supposed triumph of her son brought an angry red
on Lilias' cheek. All this made her entirely at her ease with Philip.
There could be no mistake between them. She behaved to him as she might
have behaved to a younger brother, one who had cost her a great deal
of trouble--that is to say, that he might have been a gooseberry-bush
or a cabbage-rose for anything Lilias cared. She took his attendance
as a matter of course, and gave him the orders about the carriage with
perfect calm. Philip on his part was by no means so composed. There
was a certain suppressed excitement about him. He had been chilled to
find that Lilias was not down when he came in, and feared for the
moment that he was to go to the theatre with the elder ladies: but the
appearance of the younger set this right. Lilias immediately decided
in her own mind that some new crisis had occurred in the love struggle
of which she was the confidant, and that it was his anxiety to speak
to her on the subject which agitated Philip. She took the trouble to
contrive that she should sit next to him, letting Jean pass in before
her, and as soon as there was an opportunity, when Jean's attention was
engaged, she took the initiative, and whispered, "You have something to
tell me?" in Philip's ear.

He started as if he had been shot; and looked at her eagerly, guiltily.

"Yes--there's a good deal to tell you: if you will listen," he said,
with something between an entreaty and a defiance, as if he scarcely
believed that her benevolence would go so far.

"Of course I will listen," said Lilias; and she added, "I have not
heard from her for a long time, Philip. Wasn't she very wretched about
it when you came away?"

A guilty colour came over Philip's face. He had looked a sort of orange
brown before, but he now became a dusky crimson.

"I don't know what you mean," he said, "by _she_," and stared at Lilias
with something like a challenge.

Lilias, for her part, opened her eyes twice as large as usual, and
gazed upon him.

"You--don't--know! I think you must be going out of your senses," she
said, briskly, with elder-sisterly intolerance. "Who should it be but
one person? Do you think I am some one else than Lilias that you speak
like that to me!"

"Indeed," said Philip, growing more and more crimson, "it is just
because you are Lilias that I am here."

This speech was so extraordinary that it took Lilias an entire act to
get over its startling effect, which was like a dash of cold water in
her face. By the time the act was over, she had made out an explanation
of it: which was that the something he had to tell her was something
that only a listener so entirely sympathetic and well-informed as
herself could understand. Accordingly, as soon as the curtain had
fallen, she turned to him again.

"Philip, I am afraid it must be something very serious that has
happened, and you want me to interfere. Perhaps you have quarrelled
with her--but you used to do that almost every day."

"There is nothing about her at all--whoever you mean by her," Philip
replied, with angry embarrassment, and a little shrinking from her eyes.

"Nothing about Katie! Then you _have_ quarrelled?" Lilias cried. "I had
a kind of instinct that told me; and that is why you are looking so
glum, poor boy."

If Philip was crimson before, he became purple now.

"I wish," he said, "that you would not try like this to fix me down to
a childish piece of nonsense that nobody approved. Do you think a man
doesn't outgrow such things?--do you think he can shut his eyes and not
see that others----"

Philip had never said so many words straight on end in all his life,
nor, if he had not been tantalized beyond bearing, would he have said
them now. Lilias fixed her eyes upon him gravely, without a sign
of any consciousness that she was herself concerned. She was very
serious, contemplating him with a sort of scientific observation; but
it was science touched with grief and disapproval, things with which
scientific investigation has nothing to do.

"Do you mean to say that you are inconstant?" she said, with solemnity.
"I have never met with that before. Then, Philip," she added, after a
pause, "if that is so, everything is over betwixt you and me."

"What do you mean by saying everything is over?" he cried--"everything
is going to begin."

She drew a little away from him with an instinctive movement of
delicacy, withdrawing her cloak, which had touched him. She disapproved
of him, as one of a superior race disapproves of a lower being. She
shook her head quietly, without saying any more. If he were inconstant,
what was there that could be said for him or to him? He was outside
the pale of Lilias' charity. She turned round and began to talk to
Jean at the other side. There had been a distinct bond between him and
her; she had been Katie's friend, their confidant, and she had been of
use to them. There must always be, while this lasted, a link between
Philip and herself; but all was over when that was broken. Lilias was
absolute in her horror and disdain of every infidelity; she was too
young to take circumstances into consideration. Inconstant!--it almost
made her shudder to sit beside him, as if it had been a disease--worse
than that, for it was his own fault. She had read of such things in
books, and burned with indignation in poetry over the faithless lover.
But here it was under her own eyes. She looked at it severely, and then
she turned away. She heard Philip's voice going on in explanation, and
she made him a little bow to show that she heard him. She would not be
uncivil, even to a person of whom she so thoroughly disapproved.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


But there is no lasting satisfaction in this world. Margaret had no
sooner received the invitation she longed for, the opportunity of
introducing Lilias to a brighter and gayer circle than any that had
been within their reach, than a sudden chill struck to her heart. A
mother has many special anguishes and anxieties all of her own which
nobody shares or even suspects, and Margaret had assumed the position
of a mother, and was bearing her burden with susceptibility all the
more intense that she had no right to it. Other women in society find
a satisfaction in the civilities and attentions that are shown to
themselves individually, but the mother-woman is so intent upon what
is going on in respect to her belongings that she cannot take into
account as she ought these personal solacements. It does not matter to
her if she is taken in first to supper, and has all the ladies in the
neighbourhood put, so to speak, under her feet, if, in the midst of
this glory, she is aware that her girls are not dancing, or that her
son is considered by some important maiden an awkward lout.

The poor lady with half a dozen ungainly daughters, who appears
everywhere, and who is held up to so much ridicule, how her heart cries
out against the neglect which they have to suffer! Her struggles to get
them partners, her wistful looks at everybody who can befriend them,
which are all ridiculous and humiliating enough, have a pathos in them
which is heart-rending in its way. The cause of the sudden coldness
which crept over Margaret, into her very heart like the east-wind, and
paralyzed her for the moment, was not perhaps a very solemn one. It was
no more than tragi-comic at the best; it was the terrible question,
suddenly seizing upon her like a thief in the night, how, now that she
had secured her ball, she was to secure partners for Lilias? Those who
laugh at such an alarm have never had to encounter it. What if, after
this unexpected good-fortune, almost elevated in its unexpectedness
and greatness into a gift from heaven, what if it should only be a
repetition of the other night? Visions of sitting against the wall
all the night through, looking out wistfully upon an ungenial crowd,
all occupied with themselves, indifferent to strangers, rose suddenly
before her troubled eyes. To see the young men come in drawing on their
gloves, staring round them at the girls all sitting expectant, of whom
Lilias should be one, and passing her by, was something which Margaret
felt no amount of philosophy, no strength of mind, could make her able
to bear. She grew cold and then hot at the prospect. It was thus they
had passed an hour or two in the countess's drawing-room, ignored by
the fine company; but in a ball it would be more than she should be
able to bear. She had scarcely time to feel the legitimate satisfaction
in her good-fortune, when the terror of this contingency swooped down
upon her. She had stayed at home with the intention of having a few
peaceful hours, and thinking over Lilias' dress, and anticipating her
triumph, when suddenly in a moment came that black horseman who is
always at our heels, and who had been unhorsed for a moment by the
shock of good-fortune--got up again and careered wildly about and
around her, putting a hoof upon her very heart.

It is not to be supposed that Margaret was unconscious of the fact,
which the simplest moralist could perceive, that to regard a frivolous
occurrence like a ball with feelings so serious was excessive and
inappropriate. Nobody could be more fully aware of this. She, Margaret,
a woman not without pretensions, if not to talent, at least to the
still more wonderful gift of capacity, that she should give herself all
this fyke and trouble, and just wear her very heart out about a thing
so unimportant! But who can regulate his feelings by such thought? Who
can hold a fire in his hand by thinking on the frosty Caucasus? But all
her self-reminders to this effect did nothing for her. Her scorn of any
other woman who concentrated her being on such frivolity would have
been as scathing as ever, but the fact remained that of all the many
objects of desire in this world not one seemed to her at the moment
half so important. Poor Margaret! her very goodness and piety added
torments to her pain; for she had been so used to pray for everything
she desired warmly that in the fervour of her heart she had almost
formulated a new petition, before she bethought herself, and stopped
abashed. "Lord send partners for Lilias!" Could any travesty of piety
be more profane? Margaret checked herself with unmingled horror, yet
returned to the subject unawares, and almost had uttered that innocent
blasphemy a second time, so great was her confusion--a fact which was
not without some pathos, though she herself, grieved and horrified,
was unaware of this. The overwhelming character of this new care
disturbed all her plans, and, instead of sitting tranquil enjoying her
solitude and thinking over her preparations, Margaret hastened to bed
on pretence of weariness, but in reality to escape, if possible, from
herself. Pausing first to look at the cards which had been left in
the afternoon, and which the delight of the invitation had made her
neglect, she found the card of Lewis, and stood pondering over it for
full five minutes. Simon, who had been summoned to put out the lamps,
gave a glance over his mistress's shoulder, with the confidence of a
rural retainer, to see what it was that occupied her. Margaret put the
card down instantly. She said,

"Simon, I see Mr. Murray, who was at Murkley, has been here this
afternoon."

"Yes, Miss Margaret," said Simon; "he has been here. He asked for you
all, and he said he was glad to see me, and that I must be a comfort
(which I have little reason to suppose); but maist probably that was
just all blethers to get round me."

"And why should Mr. Murray wish to get round you?" said Margaret; but
she did not wait for any reply. "If he calls again, and Miss Jean
happens to be in, you will be sure to bring him upstairs; but if she is
not in the house, and me alone, it will perhaps not be advisable to do
that. You must exercise your discretion, Simon."

"No me, mem," said Simon. "I'll exercise no discretion. I hope I
know my place better than that. A servant is here to do what he is
bid--and no to think about his master's concerns; but if you'll take my
advice----"

"I will take none of your advice," cried Margaret, almost angrily.

What contemptible weakness was it that made her give directions for the
problematical admission of the stranger whom she had made up her mind
to shut out and reject? Alas for human infirmity! It was because it had
suddenly gleamed upon her as a possibility that Lewis might be going to
the ball too!

When the momentous evening arrived, Lilias herself, though, with
unheard of extravagance, another new and astonishing dress had been
added to her wardrobe, did not quiver with excitement like Margaret.
The girl was just pleasantly excited; pleased with herself, her
appearance, her prospect of pleasure, and if with a little thrill of
keener expectation in the recollection of "two dances" mysteriously
reserved for "him," of whom Jean, even in moments of confidence, would
speak no more clearly--yet still entirely in possession of herself,
with none of the haze of suspense in her eyes or heart, of anxiety in
her mind, which made her elder sister unlike herself. Margaret was
so sorely put to it to preserve her self-control that she was graver
than usual, without a smile about her, when, painfully conscious that
she did not even know her hostess, she led her little train into the
dazzling rooms, decorated to the last extremity of artistic decoration,
of the Greek Embassy. A dark lady, blazing with diamonds, made a
step forward to meet her: and then our three strangers, somewhat
bewildered, passed on into the fairyland, which was half Oriental,
half European, as became the nationality of the hosts. Even the
anxiety of Margaret was lulled at first by the wonder of everything
about her. They had come early, as inexperienced people do, and the
assembled company was still a little fragmentary. The country ladies
discovered with great relief that it was the right thing to admire and
to express their admiration, which gave them much emancipation; for
they had feared it might be vulgar, or old-fashioned, or betray their
inacquaintance with such glories, if they ventured openly to comment
upon them. But, after all, to find themselves, a group of country
ladies knowing nobody, dropped as from the skies on the skirts of a
magnificent London mob belonging to the best society, was an appalling
experience, when the best was said; and they had all begun to feel as
they did at the countess's party, before aid and the guardian angel in
whom Miss Jean trusted, but whom even Lilias knew little about, who he
was--appeared. They had not ventured to go far from the door, having
that determination never to intrude into high places probably intended
for greater persons, which turns the humility of the parable into the
most strenuous exhibition of pride that the imagination can conceive.
Nobody should ever say to Margaret, "Give this man place." She stood,
with Lilias on one side of her, and Jean on the other, half a step in
advance of them, and felt herself stiffening into stone as she gazed at
the stream of new arrivals, and watched all the greetings around her.
Every new group was more splendid, she thought, than the other. If now
and then a dowdy person, or an old lady wrapped in dirty lace, appeared
among the grand toilettes, the eyes of the three instinctively sought
her as perhaps a sister in distress: but experience soon showed that
the dowdy ladies were often the most elevated, and that no fellowship
of this description was to be looked for. Dancing began in the large
rooms while this went on, and, with a sensation of despair, Margaret
felt that all her terrors were coming true.

"My darling," she said, turning to Lilias with a fondness in which she
seldom indulged, "you must just think, you know, that this grand sight
is like coming to the play. If it is just a sight, you will be pleased
to have seen it--and, when there are so many people, it cannot be very
pleasant dancing; and, my sweet, if by any sacrifice of money, or
trouble, or whatever woman could do, I could have made friends for you,
or gotten you partners--But it is just a beautiful sight----"

"I would rather have our parties at home," said Lilias, plaintively,
looking with wistful eyes towards the doorway, through which an
opening in the crowd permitted the sight now and then of the happy
performers in that whirl of pleasure from which she was shut out. But
she had a high spirit. She threw up her fair head, and would have
performed her little skip upon the floor had there been room for it.
"We are three Peris at the gate of Paradise, and that's too many," she
said, with a laugh.

Margaret was in no laughing mood. Dignity, which was almost tragical,
was in her whole person. The pose of her head, the stateliness of her
aspect, were enough to have dismayed any applicant for favour. She
began to eye the groups about, not anxiously as she had done at first,
but defiantly, as if she scorned them for their ignorance of her.

"I cannot say that I am surprised," she said; "for I counted the
cost--and I thought you would be better pleased to come and just
see what like it was. And then we can go away when we please."
Margaret added this forlorn consolation with a sigh. "What are
you saying, Jean?" she asked, somewhat sharply; for her sister's
voice reached her ear, not tuned at all in harmony with her own,
but with a tone of exultation in it. It would be the music that
pleased her, or some dress that she was admiring! Margaret, in her
vexation and disappointment--though indeed she had expected to be
disappointed--turned round upon her sister with rage in her soul.
Lilias had turned round too, with perhaps sharper ears, and, before
Margaret had recovered her composure, she found herself addressed in
tones whose blandishments she had rejected, but which now, against her
will, her heart beat to hear. There was the little strange accent, the
inflection not like any one else's, which had always hitherto moved her
to impatience--for why should a man pretending to be an Englishman, and
calling himself by a good Scots name, speak like a foreigner? All this
passed through her mind like a sudden flash of a lantern, and then she
found herself looking at Lewis with her most forbidding aspect, a frown
under her brow, but the profoundest anxiety in her heart.

"You are not in a good position here," he was saying, "and soon there
will be a great crowd. May I take you to a better place?"

"Oh! we are in a very good place for seeing, Mr. Murray, I am obliged
to you. We are not like friends of the house to take the best places.
We are just strangers, and enjoying," said Margaret, in her sternest
tones, "the fine sight."

"We are all friends of the house who are here," said Lewis, "and there
is no place that would be thought too good for Miss Murray. You would
like to see your sister when she is dancing: let me take you into
the other room," he said, offering his arm, with a smile which even
Margaret felt to be almost irresistible. She said to herself that it
was French and false, "like all these foreigners," but this was a
secret protest of the pride which was about to yield to necessity.
She made a little struggle, looking at him with a cloudy brow. "Your
sister--will like to dance," said Lewis.

And then Margaret threw down her weapons; but only after a fashion. She
took his arm with proud hesitation and reluctance.

"You just vanquish me," she said, "with that word; but I am not sure it
is quite generous. And, if I take advantage of your present offer, you
will remember it is in pure selfishness, and alters nothing of what has
passed between us. You will make nothing by it," she said.

He had the audacity to press her hand a little closer to his side with
something like a caress, and he laughed.

"In pure selfishness," he said. "I accept the bargain. Nothing is
altered, only a truce for reasons of state. But I must be free to act
according to the same rule of pure selfishness too."

Margaret gave him another keen look. She was not sure that he was
clever enough to mean what he was saying; but she did not commit
herself by any further explanation. She said, "We will just stay where
we can see what is going on, Mr. Murray. Lilias, who is a stranger
here, does not expect to dance."

Lewis smiled. He led the ladies to a sofa, where there was room for
Margaret, and introduced her to a lady in diamonds, who called him
Lewis.

"Take care of Miss Murray," he said, "duchess;" and, leaving Margaret,
approached Lilias, who stood demure behind her. Duchess! Margaret's
head seemed to spin round. She sank down by the side of this new and
magnificent acquaintance, who smiled graciously, and made room for her.
It was like a transformation scene.

"He is your relation, I suppose," said the great lady, with benign
looks.

"I cannot say that," Margaret answered, with a gasp of astonishment and
dismay. "I do not even know what Murrays----"

"Ah! in Scotland one knows you are all related." Margaret's horror
at this statement may be more easily imagined than described, as the
newspapers say; but there was no pause to give an opportunity for
the indignant explanation that rose to her lips. "But I forgot," the
duchess said, "there is quite a romantic story. Anyhow, he is a dear
boy. There is no family that might not be proud to claim him. And that
pretty creature who is dancing with Lewis. She is your--niece?"

"My sister," said Margaret. "It is a long story. My father, General
Murray of Murkley, married twice----"

"Ah! I knew you were related somehow. And that is your sister? You must
feel quite like a mother to her. She is a most perfect little Scotch
beauty--that lovely hair and that sweet complexion."

"And as good as she is bonnie," cried Miss Jean, who was standing
beaming at the end of the sofa. The unknown duchess lifted her eyes
with some surprise, and made her a small bow.

"I can very well believe it. I have a grandchild nearly that age, and
she seems to me an angel. I could wish that she should never grow any
older."

"Oh, no, madam," said Jean, whose heart responded to the eyes of the
other, as Margaret, proud, suspicious, and dominant, could not permit
herself to do. It seemed to Jean in her simplicity that some word of
respect ought to be added when she spoke to a duchess. "They are more
sweet than words can say," said the simple woman, "but we must not for
any pleasure of ours keep them from living their life."

"Will not you sit down?" said the duchess; "it is very hard standing
all the evening through, when you are not accustomed to it. You
interest me very much. I am sure you have thought a great deal on the
subject."

"My sister Jean," said Margaret, "has instincts that come to her like
other people's thoughts. She is not very wise, perhaps. But, if you
will allow me, Scotland is just the country where such ideas should
not be encouraged, for our names being names of clans, are just spread
among all classes, and----"

The duchess was much experienced in society, and never permitted
herself to be bored, which is one of the first rules for a great lady.
She suffered just that faintest shadow of indifference to steal over
her face, which warns the initiated, and said, sweetly,

"I have heard of that--it must be embarrassing. I am going to have a
little dance on the 17th--may I hope that you will bring your young
sister to it? It is a great pleasure to see anything so fresh and fair:
and Lewis may always command me for his friends," this gracious lady
said. And then she turned and talked to Jean, and ended by arranging
to convey her to a very recondite performance of classical music a
few days after. She left her seat on the sofa by-and-by, seeing, as
she said, some friends arrive whom she must talk to. But this was
not the only incident of the kind which made the evening remarkable.
In the course of these exciting hours Margaret and Jean made the
acquaintance of several other distinguished personages who were
giving entertainments, and who hoped they would bring their young
sister. They did not like to venture far from the spot where all this
had occurred, but they abandoned the sofa, with their sensitive fear
of being supposed to take too much upon them, and stood for the most
of the night, confused with all that passed, watching Lilias through
every dance, following her with their eyes when she disappeared
in the crowd. Jean was perfectly, ecstatically happy; though her
unaccustomed limbs were trembling under her, she stood up heroic, and
never complained since Margaret thought it right to stand lest they
might be taking up somebody's place. Margaret's happiness was not so
complete. She was able for a time to enjoy the consciousness that all
her troublous thoughts had come to nothing, and that Lilias' _succès_
was unquestionable. But, alas! there came with this the thought that
it was all owing to Lewis. His friends had given the invitations; the
young men who were contending for Lilias' dances were all friends of
his. It was supposed that the ladies were his relatives, a family group
whom he had brought up, all fresh and original, from the country. Thus
the sweetness was encompassed with bitterness, and surrounded with
embarrassment. How was she to keep her hostile position and receive
such favours?--and, if she allowed Lilias to be won after all this
trouble by a young man who had proposed for her in Murkley, what was
the object of all the care and expenditure? But that hypothesis was
impossible; it was not to be contemplated for a moment. Lilias to
marry a plain Mr. Murray, a person who was nobody, whose very right
to the name was doubtful--such a thing was not to be thought of. And,
though he had so many friends, these afforded no indication as to the
standing of his family, nor did anybody seem to know what his family
was, or they would not--not even those inconsiderate persons in London,
who, Miss Margaret said, "absolutely knew nothing" about families in
Scotland--have thought of supposing that he was related to Murkley.
Her enjoyment was marred by all these questions and thoughts, which
kept her still alive and awake when, in the dawning, Lewis put them
into their carriage--Lewis again--always Lewis. It was to Margaret
he devoted himself; he had taken her to supper, he had paid every
attention that a son or brother could have paid her.

"We are enemies," he had said--"generous enemies respecting each
other. We will hob and nob to-night, but to-morrow I know you will not
recognize me in the Row."

"I am far from sure that I am going to the Row--it is just a waste of
time," Margaret said, with a literalness which it pleased her sometimes
to affect. And Lewis laughed. He was himself somewhat excited, and
his laugh had a nervous sound. He had been very generous, he felt. He
had not tried to absorb Lilias; the utmost propriety had regulated all
his actions; he had presented to her the most attractive people he
knew; his behaviour had been almost angelic. He held Margaret's hand
for a moment (he was so audacious) as she followed the others into the
carriage.

"We are to go on the same rule as before," he said; "it is to be pure
selfishness; but you will not refuse to accept other invitations for
fear of meeting me."

"You are right about the principle, Mr. Murray," said Margaret, with
seriousness, "but, as for your fine friends and their invitations, it
will be time enough to answer them when I get them. Word of mouth is
one thing--but more is necessary for Lilias." And then she bade him
"good night," or rather "good morning," leaning out of the window of
the carriage to prevent any interchange of glances. There was pure
selfishness in that action, at least.

From this time the remainder of their season in London was almost too
brilliant. Though Margaret was greatly subdued, and would take little
pleasure in the thought that it was "the best people" to whose houses
they went, and whose acquaintance they made, she yet did not refuse
the invitations, and watched Lilias enjoying herself with a swelling
heart. Lilias, for her part, had no _arrière pensée_. She enjoyed her
gaieties with all her heart, and recovered from her awe, and set as
small store by her partners and admirers as she had done at Murkley.
She had "got out her horns again," Margaret said. She took little airs
upon her, and refused the languid gentlemen who proposed themselves
in tones which invited refusal. But even these languid gentlemen did
not like to be refused, and woke up, startled and tingling, when they
came into contact with this independent little beauty. For it had been
decided that she was a beauty in the highest circles. At home she had
only been a pretty girl; but, when fashion took Lilias up, she became
a beauty out of hand. Let nobody be deceived, however, and think
that her photograph was in the shop-windows or the newspapers. The
professional beauty had not been invented in those days, nor indeed
was she known till long after. There were not even any photographs to
speak of, and books of beauty had died out. It was an unusually safe
moment for the lovely face that did not want exhibition. She was the
Scotch beauty, which was distinction enough. Her sweet complexion,
her fair locks, too fair to be golden, the dazzling freshness of her
altogether, were identified with her country in a way which perhaps
neither Margaret nor Jean fully appreciated. They were both themselves
brown-haired and rather pale, and they were of opinion that their own
complexion was quite as distinctively Scotch, though not so beautiful
as the other. When it became the fashion to praise her accent and her
little Scotticisms, Margaret and Jean were much irritated. They were
very much attached to their country, but they were fondly convinced
that no shade of peculiarity or provincialism was to be found in
Lilias, whose English they considered perfect, far more perfect than
that generally spoken in London. When some unwise person spoke of the
"whiff of the heather," the sisters took it as an offence. But, with
this small exception, everything went to their wishes, and more than to
their hopes. Margaret, who had prepared herself at least a dozen times
to do final battle with Lewis, and show him conclusively, as she had
threatened at first, that "he would make nothing by it," was almost
disappointed that he provoked no explanation, and never indeed thrust
himself upon them except in society, where he was their good genius.
Was this a policy so astute that her simple wisdom was scarcely capable
of understanding it? or was it that he had thought better of his suit,
and meant to give up an effort so hopeless? This last supposition did
not perhaps bring so much pleasure with it as Margaret would have
wished. For in fact she had rather looked forward to the final battle
and trial of strength, and did not feel satisfied to think that she was
to be allowed to walk over the field.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


"I do not ask what you are doing or how you are doing it--I am only
asking if you are making progress, which is the great thing. No doubt
they will be seeing everybody in London, and, though she is not to
call a great heiress, she is a beautiful person--and an old castle in
Scotland, though it's much the worse for wear, is always something.
There's a romance about it. You may have one of those long-leggit
English fellows against ye before ever you are aware."

Mr. Allenerly too identified the strapping youths who have nothing
else in particular to recommend them as the long-legged order. Perhaps
he had taken it from Margaret. He was in London, as he said, upon
business, but also with a view to such sober-minded amusement as a
play, a night or two in the House of Commons when a Scotch bill was
in progress (which occurred sometimes in those days), and a dinner or
two with Scotch members at their clubs. He had come to see Lewis before
going to pay his respects, as it was his duty to do, at Cadogan Place.

"I am afraid I have made little progress," said Lewis. "Miss Margaret
is as unfavourable to me as ever. I think she expects me to speak to
her again; but what is the good? She has steeled her heart against me.
We have seen a good deal of each other in society--and I do not think
she dislikes me; but she will not give in, and what is the use of a
struggle----"

"Then _you_ are giving in? Do you mean to tell me that? throwing up
your arms for two old maids----"

"I will not have my dear ladies spoken of so--I throw up no arms. If I
do not succeed, it will not be my fault."

There was a faint smile about Lewis' mouth, a dreamy pleasure which
diffused itself over his face, and seemed to dim his eyes, like a cloud
just bursting, with the sunshine beyond it, and no darkness in it at
all.

"I see, I see," said the lawyer, and he began to sing, in a jolly bass
voice a little the worse for wear--

  "He speered na her faither, he speered na her mither,
    He speered na at ane of her kin,
  But he speered at the bonnie lass hersel',
    And did her favour win."

"That is the best road in the long run," Mr. Allenerly said.

"When it is successful," said Lewis, with a grimace which was partly
comic and partly very serious. "Every way is the best way when it
succeeds."

"But you have never told me how you got rid of the other: how you got
out of that mistake you made. It was a terrible mistake that first
try----"

Mr. Allenerly had a broad grin on his face. He had every respect for
the Murkley ladies, whom he had known all their lives. They were
considerably younger than he was, and he did not yet care to call
himself an old man; but the joke of a proposal to Miss Jean was one
which no masculine virtue could withstand.

"I did not get rid of her at all," said Lewis, with gravity, "if you
will understand it, Mr. Allenerly, I am deeply attached to Miss Jean,
and when you smile at my friend it hurts me. There is no room for
smiling. She was more gentle even than to refuse, she prevented me.
After I have told you my foolish presumption, it is right that you
should know the end of the story: and that is, it makes me happy to
tell you, that we are dear friends."

The lawyer kept eyeing the young man while he spoke, with a sarcastic
look; and, though he was by no means sure that Miss Jean's position
had been so dignified as was thus represented, he felt, at least, that
Lewis' account of it was becoming and worthy.

"You speak like a gentleman," he said, "and I have always felt that
you acted like a gentleman, Mr. Lewis. And, this being so, it just
surprises me that in one thing, and only one thing, you have come
a little short. You took pains to warn Miss Margaret that you were
seeking her little sister, and that was well done; and you went away
when she told you frankly she disapproved: which was also fit and
right."

"Pardon," said Lewis, with a smile, "I was not perhaps so good. I went
away when I heard they were going away. But always with the intention
of using the English method whenever I should have the chance."

"What do you call the English method? It is no more English than
Scotch," said the lawyer, with some indignation. "That is, 'speering
the bonnie lass herse''? It is, maybe, the best way; but still having
informed the parents, or those that stood in place of the parents, it
would seem to me that what you owe them is a full confidence, not half
and half. Being the real gentleman you are----"

"You think so? I am very glad you are of that mind. It perplexes me
sometimes what is the meaning of the word. There are many things which
gentlemen permit themselves to do. But you are more experienced than I
am. You understand it."

"I hope so," said Mr. Allenerly, "and a real gentleman you have proved,
if just not in one small particular, Mr. Lewis. I call you by the name
you have most right to. You should have let Miss Margaret know who you
are."

Lewis looked at him with a startled air.

"Do you think so?" he said. "But then there would have been no hope for
me," he added, with simplicity.

"That should be of no consequence in comparison with what was right.
You see," said the lawyer, with true enjoyment, "that is just the
difference between your foreign ways and what you call the English
method. We think nothing amiss here of a young man 'speerin' the bonnie
lass hersel'.' It is natural, as, after all, she is the person most
concerned. But what we cannot away with," said Mr. Allenerly, "is any
sort of mystery, even when it's quite innocent, about a man's name or
his position, or what we call his identity. There's no social crime
like going under a false name."

Lewis' countenance had grown longer and longer under this address. He
grew pale; there was no question on which he was so susceptible.

"But," he cried, with a guilty flush of colour, "it is not a false
name. It was his wish, his last wish, that I should take it. If I
wavered, it was because I was sick at my heart. I did not care. In such
circumstances a false name----That is what cannot be said. It is a
wrong," he said, vehemently, "to me."

"You may be justified in taking the name," said the lawyer, "but not in
using it, which is what I complain of, with intention to deceive."

Never culprit was more self-convicted than Lewis. His courage abandoned
him altogether.

"If this is so, then I am a--a thing which I will not name."

"You are just a young man not wiser than your kind, and that has made a
mistake: and I think it has done more harm than good. Margaret Murray,
she cannot get it out of her head that, being of no kent Murrays, no
name that you could give her, you are not only no Murray at all, which
is true enough, but just a sort of upstart, a deceiver----"

"Which is true also," said Lewis, looking at him with eyes that were
very pathetic and wistful, "if she thought badly of me in what you call
my false appearance, they all thought more badly of myself. Perhaps you
did so also. They described me as a designing person, upstart, as you
say, that wheedled an old man into making me his heir. Now that you
know me, you know a little if that was true: but they thought so all
of them. Should I have gone and said, 'Here am I, this deceiver, this
cheat, this dependent that took a base advantage of his benefactor.
Behold me, I have robbed you of your money. I have cajoled your
father'!"

"I would not have done it quite in that way; it would have been
unnecessary. I would have described it all without excitement.
Excitement is always a pity. I would have explained, and let them see
how a man's motives can be misrepresented, and how little you knew of
what was going on. If you had done so, you would have been in a better
position now."

Lewis paused long over this, pondering with troubled face. "You never,"
he said, "told me so before."

"I never had the chance. You had settled your mode of action, and were
known to all the village before I ever heard you were in Scotland; and
then what could I say?--I hoped you would perhaps give it up."

"I shall never give it up," cried Lewis, "till it is quite beyond all
hope."

"Which you think it is not now? But, my young friend, just supposing
that you are right, and that the young lady herself should decide for
you, which she is no doubt quite capable of doing. In that case there
would come a moment, you will allow, in which all would have to be
explained."

The countenance of Lewis grew brighter; a little colour flushed over it.

"But then--" he said, and stopped: for he could not tell to another
all the visions that had been in his mind as to the new champion he
should have, the advocate whose mouth was more golden than that of any
orator to those before whom his cause would have to be pleaded. Of this
he would say nothing; but his abrupt breaking off was eloquent. Mr.
Allenerly was opaque neither in one way nor the other; he had some mind
and some feeling. He caught a portion of the meaning with which Lewis
was musing over.

"I see," he said. "You would have some one, then, some one who would
be very potent to stand your friend. I do not doubt the importance of
that; but the straightforward way----"

Here Lewis sprang up from his chair with an impatience unusual with
him. Mr. Allenerly paused till the quick movement was over, and then he
continued, quietly.

"The straightforward way would be now, this very moment, to go and tell
your story, and abide--whatever the consequences might be. You will
have to do it one day. You should do it before, and not after, another
person is involved."

In all his life Lewis had never had such a problem to solve. In the
face of success so probable that, but for the reverence of true
feeling, which can never be certain of its own acceptance, and his
sense of the wonderfulness of ever having belonging to him that
foundation of all relationship, the love which means everything, he
would almost have ventured to be sure--was very hard to throw himself
back again, to undo all his former building, to present himself under
a different light, in the aspect of one not indifferent, but hated,
not a stranger, but one who had done them cruel wrong. It seemed to
him that even Jean would forsake him, that Lilias, just trembling on
the point of throwing herself into his arms, would turn from him with
loathing, would flee from him, rejecting his very name with horror. Was
it possible for a man to risk all this? And for what? For mere verbal
faithfulness, for the matter-of-fact truth which would in reality be
falsehood so far as he was concerned, which would convey not a true,
but an erroneous, representation of him to their minds. Never had he
even thought of so violent a step, one that would open all the question
again, and lose him all the standing he had gained. If it had been done
perhaps at first--but, now that things had gone so far, why should it
be done? The question was debated between the two men until the heart
of Lewis was sick with undesired conviction. Mr. Allenerly, to whom it
was a matter of business, and who was an entirely unemotional person,
had, it need not be said, the best of the argument. He held to his
point without swerving; he was very friendly, but a little contemptuous
perhaps of the excitement and trouble of Lewis, concluding in his heart
that it was his foreign breeding, and that an Englishman (but, to Mr.
Allenerly, even an Englishman was _tant soit peu_ foreign), if ever he
could have fallen into such an unlikely situation, would have taken
care at least not to betray his emotion. The conclusion, however, which
they came to at last was that this one evening, almost the last before
the ladies left town, and which Lewis was to spend in their company,
should be left to him--an indulgence of which Mr. Allenerly did not
approve; but that after this the matter should be left in the lawyer's
hands, and he should be entrusted with a full explanation of everything
to lay before Margaret. With this he went away grumbling, shaking his
head, but in his heart very pitiful, and determined so to fight his
young client's battles that Miss Margaret, were she as obstinate as
a personage whom Mr. Allenerly called the old gentleman, should be
compelled to yield; and Lewis was left to prepare for his last night.

His last night! His mind was in so great a state of agitation when Mr.
Allenerly left him that he could not settle to anything. At last he had
to look in the face an explanation which he saw now must be made, in
case his hopes were realized, which he had always pushed from him as
unnecessary, or rather had never thought of at all since the first days
when he had been in dread of discovery, and when the mere consciousness
of a secret had made him uncomfortable. But it was long since he had
got over that. And all through he tried to console himself, he had
told no lie. He had been rash even in his statements. Had any one put
two and three together, he might have been unmasked at any moment. In
the entire absence of suspicion, he had talked about his life abroad,
his old godfather, from whom his name and money had come, as he would
have done had he been assuming no disguise. And indeed he had assumed
no disguise; but yet he had, as the lawyer had said, that intention to
deceive which is the foundation of all lying. And now the end of all
this had come; he had not thought of the explanation that must be made
at the end.

He had thought of carrying away his bride like the Lord of Burleigh,
with no clearing up of matters until perhaps he should bring her home
to her own great palace all decked and garnished, and shown to her
the realization of all her dreams. Alas! he saw now that this could
not be. The heiress of Murkley could not be wedded so lightly. Was it
possible that he had never realized the settlements, the laying open of
all things, the unveiling of every mystery? Perhaps it was because he
had not thought of anything material in respect to Lilias, of anything
but the permission to love her and to serve her, the hope of having
her for his own, his companion, the epitome and representative of all
loves and relationships. This had been enough to fill all his being;
he had thought of nothing more; behind there was the dark shadow of
an interview with Margaret to throw up the glory of the sunshine;
but he had thought that when he went to Margaret with the news that
Lilias loved him, though she might struggle, it would be but a passing
struggle. They would not resist the love, the wish of Lilias. There
would be a painful interview, and it was likely enough he would have
need of all his patience to brave the bitter things that Margaret
would say. But what could they do against Lilias? They would give in;
and Lewis would have done nothing dishonourable, he would only have
done what was justified by the usages of the country, what was so
far justified by Nature--what the best in England declared to be the
best way. It had been his intention for a long time to risk the final
question to-night. He had put it off that none of his proceedings might
be hurried or secret. He had given Margaret full warning. When she
declared that pure selfishness was to be her rule, he had claimed it
also for his. She had no right to expect, after the severe repulse he
had received at her hands, that he would go to her again--at least,
until he had tried his fortune at first hand from Lilias herself. And
he meant to do so on this last night.

It is scarcely possible not to stray into the conventional when such
words are the text. They have been as fruitful of truism as ever words
were. But truism and conventional phrases now and then gain a certain
glorification from circumstances, and Lewis went to his ball that
night with all that had ever been said on the subject buzzing in his
mind. The last! it must bring a pang with it, even if it were to be
followed by higher happiness--the last of all those meetings which had
divided his life, which had been the points of happiness in it, the
only hours in the twenty-four that were of any particular importance.
How sweet they had been; sometimes, indeed, crossed by awful shadows of
tall heroes, with languishing eyes, exactly like (though fortunately
he did not know this) the hero of Lilias' dreams. These shadows had
crossed his path from time to time, filling his soul with pangs of envy
and hatred; but the tall heroes had come to nothing. Either they had
obliterated themselves, having other affairs in hand, or Lilias had
put them quickly out of their pain, and she had always turned back to
himself with a smile, always been ready to welcome him, to look to him
for little services. Was she, perhaps, too confiding, too smiling, too
much at her ease with him altogether, considering him more as a brother
than a lover? This fear would now and then cross his mind, chilly like
a breath of winter, but next time he would catch a glance of her eyes
which made his heart leap, or would see her watch him when he was apart
from her, as she watched no one else. But this gave him an exhilaration
against which prudence had no power. And now this was the last time,
and it must be decided once for all what was to come of it. Something
must come of it, either the downfall of all his dreams, or something
far more delightful, happy, and brilliant than the finest society could
give. He had looked forward to this climax since ever the time of the
ladies' departure had become visible, so to speak. At first a month
or six weeks seemed continents of time; but when these long levels
dwindled to the speck of a single week, it had become apparent to Lewis
that he must delay no longer. He would have liked to say what he had
to say in the woods of Murkley, in some corner full of freshness and
verdure, in the silence, and quiet of Nature. To say it in a corner
of a ball-room, with the vulgar music blaring and the endless waltz
going on, was a kind of profanation. But there was no help for it. He
had waited till the last day, and he had arranged the very spot, the
best that could be found in such a scene, the shade of a little thicket
of palms in a conservatory where there was little light, and where
only _habitués_ knew the secrets of the place. It had been before his
mind's eye for days and nights past. The cool air full of perfumes, the
Oriental leafage, the shaded light, the sounds of revelry coming faint
from the distance. He would take Lilias there under pretence of showing
her something, and, when they had reached this innermost hermitage,
what if the thing he had to show her was his heart?

So Lewis had planned. He had been full of it all the morning. It
seemed to run into his veins and brim them over. It was not that he
was planning what to say, but that the theme was so strong in him that
it said itself over and over, like a song he was singing. And that Mr.
Allenerly, and his trenchant advice, his disapproval, his suggestion
that filled Lewis with panic, his almost determination not to leave
the matter where it was, should fall upon him precisely at this moment,
was like the very spite of fate. Had the lawyer appeared before, or had
he come after, one way or other, it was over--there would have been
no particular importance in him; but that it should happen now!--no
interruption could have been more ill-timed. It checked his _élan_
at the moment of all others when he wanted his courage. It chilled
him when he was at the boiling point. Lewis did his utmost to throw
off the impression while he dined and prepared for the crisis. He had
chosen to dine alone, that nothing might disturb him, but the feverish
anticipation which was in him was so much twisted and strained by the
lawyer's ill-starred appearance, that he was sorry he had not company
to deliver him from himself and the too great pressure of his thoughts.

At last the moment came. He felt himself to change colour like a girl,
now red, now white, as he set out for the ball, late because his
heart had been so early. He did not know how he was to get through
the first preliminaries of it, the talking and the dancing, until the
time should come when he could find a pretext to lead Lilias away. The
programme was nearly half through before he got into the room, where,
after an anxious inspection, he saw his three judges, his fates, the
ladies of Murkley, all standing together. Lilias was not dancing; she
was looking, he thought, a little _distraite_. He stood and watched
her from the doorway, and saw her steal one or two long anxious looks
through the crowd. The sisters, he thought, looked grave--was it that
Allenerly had not respected their bargain, that he had gone at once
to make the threatened explanation? Lewis lingered gazing at them in
the distance, racking his soul with questions which he might no doubt
have solved at once. All at once he saw the countenance of Lilias light
up; her face took a cheerful glow, her eyes brightened, the smile came
back to her lip. Was this because she had seen him? He could not help
feeling so, and a warm current began to flow back into his heart. She
seemed to tell her sisters, and they, too, looked, Miss Jean waving her
hand to him, and even Miss Margaret more gracious than her wont. How
often a little gleam like this, too bright to last, fictitious even in
its radiance, comes suddenly over the world before a storm! He made
his way towards them, ignoring the salutations of his friends. When he
reached them, Margaret herself, who generally used but scant courtesy
to him, was the first to speak.

"We thought you were not coming," she said, "and I fear you have not
been well. You're looking pale."

"Dear me, Margaret, he is looking anything but pale--he has just a
beautiful colour," Miss Jean said, giving him her hand.

And then he felt that Margaret looked at him with interested eyes--with
eyes that were almost affectionate.

"I do not like changes like that," she said. "I am afraid you are not
well, and all this heat and glare is not good for you."

It had the strangest effect upon Lewis that she should speak to him as
if it mattered to her whether he was ill or well. Even with Lilias'
hand in his, he was touched by it. His heart smote him that he was not
fighting fair. Surely she was an antagonist worthy to be met with a
noble and unsullied glaive. He could not help giving her a warning even
at the last moment.

"You are very good to think of me," he said. "It is the mind, not the
body. I have had a great deal to think of." Surely a clever woman could
understand that. Then he turned to Lilias. "This is the dance you
promised me," he said.

Nothing could be more audacious or more untrue, but she acquiesced
without a question. She had scarcely danced all the evening. Some wave
from his excessive emotion had touched Lilias. She scarcely knew that
she was thinking of him, but she was preoccupied, restless. She had
told the others that she was tired, that this last evening she meant to
look on. How deeply she, too, felt that it was the last evening! There
was thunder in the air--something was coming--she knew it, though she
could not tell what it was. But, when he came to her, she remembered no
more her previous refusal, her plea of being tired. She went away with
him without a thought of what everybody would say, of the visible fact
that she had rejected everybody till his approach. She ought to have
known better, and indeed Margaret and Jean ought to have known better,
and to have interfered. But they were simple women, notwithstanding
their season in town, which had taught them so much; and they were
moved by a sort of vibration of the excitement round them. Lewis
affected them, though he was unaware of it, and though they had not
known till this moment that any change had taken place in him, or any
momentous decision been made.

The young pair danced a little, but he was not capable of this amount
of self-denial.

"Do you want to dance very much?" he said. "Then let us go and find a
quiet corner, and rest."

"That is what I should like," said Lilias, though she had said to her
other suitors that she wanted to look on. "I am tired too. I never
thought I should have had as many balls in my life."

"It is not the balls we have had--but the thought that this is the last
which troubles me."

"Yes," said Lilias, "it is a little strange. So long as it has been;
and then all to come to an end. But everything comes to an end,"
she added, after a moment. A more trite reflection could not be;
but Shakespeare, they both felt, could not have said anything more
profoundly and touchingly true.

"Come into the conservatory," he said. "It is cool; and there will be
nobody there."

Lilias raised no objection. She liked the idea that there would be
nobody there. She was quite ready to be talked to, ready to declare
that quiet conversation was, in certain cases, preferable to dancing.
It was because they had both danced so much, Lilias supposed.

Heaven and earth! He was so much disappointed, so much irritated, that
he could have taken the young fellow by the shoulders and turned him
out, when the tittering girl would no doubt have followed. To think
that a couple of grinning idiots should have occupied that place,
chatterers who had nothing to say to each other that might not have
been said in the fullest glare of the ball-room. Lewis was annoyed
beyond description. That secret corner commanded every part of the
conservatory, though it was itself so sheltered. He could not walk
about with Lilias, and tell her his tale under the spying of these two
young fools, to whom an evident courtship would have been a delightful
amusement. He was so disturbed that he could not conceal it from
Lilias, who looked at him with a little anxiety, and asked,

"Are you really ill, as Margaret says?"

"I am not ill, only fretted to death. I wanted to put you in that
chair, and talk to you. Does Margaret really take any interest whether
I am ill or not?"

"Oh, a great deal of interest! She thinks it her duty sometimes to look
severe, but there is no one that has a tenderer heart."

"But not to me. She never liked me."

"Oh, how can you say so!" Lilias cried. "She likes you--just as much as
the rest."

Lewis was annoyed more than it was possible to say by the appropriation
of his hermitage. And now the unexpected discovery that he was an
object of interest to Margaret caught him, as it were, by the throat.

"As much--" he said, with a sigh, "and as little. Will any one remember
after you have been gone a week?"

"I suppose," said Lilias, "that you will still be dancing, and dining,
and driving about to Richmond, and going everywhere--for much longer
than that, till the season is well over."

"I don't know what I may do," he said, disconsolately. "That does not
depend upon me. But, if I do, it will be without my heart."

Lilias felt a great strain and commotion in her own bosom, but she
achieved a little laugh.

"Do you always say that when people you know are going away?"

He was angry, he was miserable, he did not know what he was saying.
Providence, if it was fair to connect those two idiots with any great
agency, had prevented him. His programme of action seemed to be
destroyed. He could not answer this little provocation with any of
those prefaces of the truth which would so soon have brought everything
to a crisis had they been seated together under the palms. He said,
almost sharply, which was so unlike Lewis,

"You must go away; that is a little soil of society. You would not have
said so at Murkley last year."

"Mr. Murray!" cried Lilias.

The tears came suddenly to her eyes. It was as if he had struck her in
the melting of her heart. She made a gulp to get down a little sudden
sob, like a child that has been met with an unexpected check. And then
she said, softly,

"I do not think I meant it," with a look of apology and wonder, though
it was he who ought to have apologized. But he did not; he pressed her
hand close to his side almost unconsciously.

"Do you remember," he cried, "that lovely morning--was there ever such
a morning out of heaven? The river and the birds just waking, and you
standing in the bow----If it could but have lasted----"

"It lasted long enough," said Lilias, with an effort. "It began to get
cold; and Katie whispering, whispering. You never said a word all the
time."

Again he pressed her hand to his side.

"And I cannot say a word now," he said. "Let us go back and dance, or
do something that is foolish; for to think of that is too much. And
Margaret takes an interest in me! I wish she had not looked at me so
kindly. I wish you had not told me that."

"I think you are a little crazy to-night," Lilias said.

Was there a touch of disappointment in her tone? Had she too thought
that something would come of it? And the last night was going, was
gone--and nothing had come. Heaven confound Allenerly and all such! And
Margaret to take an interest in him! But for that lawyer, Margaret's
interest would have encouraged Lewis. Now it achieved his overthrow. He
was busy about them all the night, making little agitated speeches to
one and another, but he did not again attempt to find the seat vacant
under the palms in the conservatory. He gave up his happier plans, his
hopes, with an inward groan. Whatever was to be done now, must be done
in the eye of the day.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


Margaret was in the act of adding up her bills, and counting the
expenses of the season, next morning, when Mr. Allenerly was shown into
the room. She rose from her chair, and gave him a warm welcome; for he
was not only their "man of business," but an old friend of the family.
She asked after his belongings, and if Scotland stood where it did, as
is the use of compatriots when they meet in a strange country, and then
she said, though not without a certain keen glance of curiosity,--for
the visit of your man of business may always have something important
lying under it, however innocent it appears,--

"You will just have come to this great big Vanity Fair of a place to
divert yourself, like the rest of us?"

"A little of that--and a little thought of business too. Lawyers have
such an ill name that it is difficult to make the world believe we
take sometimes a great interest in our clients, and like to look after
them. But my diversion would never be like yours. I hear there has been
nothing but triumph in your career."

"Triumph! That is another question. You must have a great deal of
money, and not much sentiment, I should say, to make a triumph in
London--but we were not thinking of anything of that kind. We have had
some very pleasant society, and that is as much as we wanted."

"I know what that means," said Mr. Allenerly. "I have heard of Miss
Lilias; that there is nothing talked about but the young Scots' beauty,
and all the conquests she has made."

"Toot!" said Margaret; and then she melted a little. "Everybody has
been very kind. And we have seen a great deal--more than I ever
expected, such quiet people as we are. But as for triumph, that is a
large word. Whatever it has been, it has not turned her head."

"There is too much sense in it for that," said the lawyer.

"The sense in a young person's head of her age is never much to be
trusted to. But she just takes everything, the monkey, as if she had a
right to it, and that is a greater preservation than sense itself."

"I am thinking," said Mr. Allenerly, "that, after having all those
grandees at her feet, it will be ill to please her with a plain Scots
lad."

Miss Margaret gave him another keen look, but, though she had a great
deal of curiosity herself as to his meaning, she did not intend to
satisfy his curiosity. She laughed, accepting the inference, though
turning over in her mind at the same time the question what Scots lad
the lawyer could be thinking of. Not long-leggit Philip, it was to be
hoped!

"There is no hurry," she said, "for any decision of that kind."

"There is no hurry on her side," said Mr. Allenerly, "but on the other
there is generally a wish for an answer. So that I was thinking--But
you will stop me, if there is any absolute bar in the way of what I was
going to take upon me to say."

He looked at her with much keenness of inspection too, and their eyes
met like two rival knights, without much advantage on either hand.

"I can scarcely do that," said Miss Margaret, "till I know what it is
you are going to say."

Mr. Allenerly was tolerably satisfied by these preliminaries. Had there
been any approaching brilliant marriage for Lilias, it must have been
somehow revealed to him. He said,

"I am going to refer to events in the past that were painful at the
time. Things have come to my knowledge that have made me wishful to
interfere. There is a person who was once, without any will of his, an
instrument of wrong to this family."

"Dear me, that is a very serious beginning," Miss Margaret said.

"And it will be more serious before the end. I am not going to beat
about the bush with you. You are too well-informed and have too much
judgment to take up a thing hastily. You will remember, Miss Margaret,
all the vexation and trouble there was about your grandfather's will."

"Remember it! I would have a short memory or an easy mind if I did not
remember all about it. It is not three years since."

"That is true; and there was a great deal of vexation. Such a thing,
when it arises in a family, just spreads trouble."

"I don't know what you call vexation--that's an easy word. It was just
burning wrong, and injustice, and injury. There was nothing in it that
was not hateful to think upon and bitter to bear. I wonder that any one
who wishes well to the family should be able to speak of it in that
way."

"And yet I have been one that has wished well to the family--for more
years than I care to reckon," the lawyer said.

"Grant me your pardon, Mr. Allenerly! I try to put it out of my mind
as a Christian woman should; but, when I think of it, I just lose my
patience. Vexation! it was just a bitter wrong and shame all the ways
of it, both to him that gifted it and us that lost it."

"That is all true--it is all true: and nobody would suspect me of
making little of it. At the same time, Miss Margaret, I will own that
there was one part of the story that I was deceived in. The young man
that wrongously got this inheritance----"

"The favourite, the foreign swindler."

"That is just where we were deceived," cried the lawyer, hastily
throwing up his hand as if to stop the invective. "The young
man----Miss Margaret, if you will have a little patience! Am I one to
be easily convinced, or without chapter and verse? You have called me
a bundle of prejudice before now. I am fond of nothing foreign; an
intriguer is just what I cannot abide. Well, but this young man was
neither foreign nor a swindler. He was not to blame. I declare it to
you, if it was my dying word--he was not to blame."

Miss Margaret got up, and began to pace the little room in great
excitement. It was the little back room attached to the dining-room,
and was very small. She was like a lion in a cage. She put up her hand,
and turned away from him with an expression of resentment and scorn.

"That is a likely thing to say to me!"

"It is not an easy thing to say to you--you will grant that; but it is
true. He was young, and had been taken by Sir Patrick from a child; he
was an orphan and friendless. He knew nothing about the Murrays. He did
not even know that his benefactor had any children. He gave up the best
of his life to nursing and tending the old man. A woman could not have
been kinder. He expected nothing; when he heard what had happened, that
he was the heir, he thought it would at most be to all the nicknacks
and the gimcracks. He was thunderstruck when he knew what it was. I
was on the look-out for deceptions, and I thought this was one. I will
not deny it, I was of your opinion. You are not taking any notice of
what I say."

"On the contrary," said Miss Margaret, with a laugh of disdain, "I am
taking the greatest notice of it. And how did you come to change your
opinion? He must be a clever fellow, this person, to get over a Scotch
writer too."

"It is not so easy to get over a Scotch writer, as you say," said Mr.
Allenerly, wiping his forehead. "What got over me was just experience
of the lad. I have had a great deal to do with him. What with letters
and what with observation, I've come to know him. It is not that he's
difficult to know. It was all in him at the first glance, but I could
not believe it. I thought it was certain he must be a deceiver. But he
is no deceiver. He is more simple than the generality. You will believe
me or you will not believe me, as you please; but what I am saying is
true."

"It would be impossible for me not to believe--that you are speaking
what you think the truth--just as impossible," said Miss Margaret, "as
it is to believe that this is the truth. Was the old man doited then?
was he mad? had he lost every sense of what was due to those that came
after him? Then why did not you, a man of the law like you, prove him
so? This was what I never understood, for my part."

"He was neither mad nor doited, but knew what he was doing well, or,
you may be sure, if there had been any proof----There was no undue
influence; the young man did not so much as know what there was to
leave, or if there was a will at all."

"This is a very likely story," said Margaret, with a grim smile, "and
I acknowledge, at all events, that there is a kind of genius in making
you believe it all."

The lawyer gave her a look of indignation and anger, but restrained
himself with professional power.

"The General," he said--"you will forgive me, Miss Margaret: far be
it from me to say a word to his disadvantage--but he was not what you
would call a dutiful son. There was no question of that, you will say,
at his age--which is true enough. And Sir Patrick had been long abroad,
and none of you had ever gone near him, or showed any interest in him."

"How could we?" cried Margaret, roused to instant self-defence. "Was it
our part? We were women, never stirring from home. If he had held up a
finger--if he had given us the least invitation----"

"And, on the other hand, why should he?" said the lawyer. "He had a
kind of son of his old age that had no thought but his comfort. Why
should he put himself out of the way to invite his grandchildren, that
cared nothing about him? If he had known you and your sister, or if he
had seen that bonnie creature, Miss Lilias----"

"I am glad," cried Margaret, vehemently, "that we were never beguiled
to travel all that long way and put ourselves and Lilias into
competition with the wriggling creature you call the son of his old
age--I am thankful for that with all my heart."

"Then you will pardon me for saying you are thankful for small
mercies," the lawyer said, in an indignant tone. They paused, both
eyeing each other for the moment with equal displeasure and breathing
quick with excitement. "There seems but small encouragement," said
Mr. Allenerly, with that air of compassionate resignation which is so
irritating to an antagonist, "for the rest that I had to say; for, if
you will not listen to the first part of my story, it is very unlikely
that you will put up with the second."

"Oh, say on, say on!" said Miss Margaret, with an affectation of calm.
She went into the next room through the folding doors, and brought
back her knitting, and seated herself with a serene air of resignation
in the one easy-chair which the room contained. "I would like to hear
the whole," she said with a smile, "now that we are on the subject.
It is a pity to miss anything. If I were what they call a student of
human nature, it would be just a grand amusement. A clever man, and an
Edinburgh writer, and a person of judgment, telling me what's neither
more nor less than a fairy tale."

"It is God's truth," said Mr. Allenerly, sternly, "and I dare any man
to prove me mistaken; but the rest, you are right, it is like a fairy
tale. This young man, finding, after his first astonishment at being a
rich man (he was astonished to be rich, but not that his old friend,
his protector, his godfather, as he called him, had made a will in his
favour, which was the most natural thing----)"

"His--what did he call him?" Margaret said, with a start, looking up.

"His godfather--that was the name of kindness between them."

A gleam of fierce light came over Margaret's face. She threw down her
knitting and clasped her hands forcibly together.

"Ah!" she cried, in the tone of one upon whom a sudden light had been
thrown; then she said, "Go on! go on!" with an angry smile.

"I say he was sorely astonished, overcome at first, and it took him
a long time to accustom himself to it. He knew nothing about any
relations, and, when he was told of their existence, you'll excuse me
for saying that he would not believe in them--saying, as was quite
natural, that nobody ever came near the old man, that he was quite
alone in the world. But we have already discussed that question. I let
him know, however, that it was true, and it made a great impression on
him. For one thing, it wounded him in his love for old Sir Patrick:
for, after hearing that, he could not regard him as just the perfect
being he had supposed."

"That was a very delicate distress, Mr. Allenerly," Margaret said, with
fine sarcasm.

"He had a very delicate mind, as you shall see," said the lawyer,
equally caustic. "The second thing was that he conceived a grand idea
of setting the wrong right. He heard that the heirs were all ladies,
and his determination was taken in a moment--it was without any thought
of pleasing himself, or question whether they were old or young--just
to come to Scotland and offer himself to one of them."

Margaret rose from her seat with a start of energy. She flung her
knitting from her in the fervour of her feelings.

"There is no need to say any more," she cried, vehemently, "not another
word. I know who your friend is now. I know who he is. Lord in heaven!
that I should have been one of the credulous too!"

"If you know who he is, there is the less need----"

"Not another word," she cried, putting up her hand, "not another word.
To think that I should have been taken-in too! Oh! I see it all now.
I might have thought what was the motive that made him so keen after
one of us. Jean first, and, when that would not do, Lilias. Lilias! as
if I would give my child, my darling, the apple of my eye, to a man of
straw, a man of nothing, a man that has just _her_ money and nothing
more. And so that was what it was! and me trying to find out what
Murrays he was come of. Man!" she cried, turning upon the lawyer with a
movement which resembled the stamping of her foot in passion. "Oh, man!
why did you let me be humbled so?"

"Miss Margaret!--is that all you will say?"

"What more is there to say? I am humbled to the dust--I am just proved
a fool, which is a bitter thing for a woman to put up with. I have had
him in my house. I have let him come and go. I have accepted favours at
his hands. Lord!" cried Miss Margaret again, in passionate excitement,
clasping her hands together, "it is all his doing. I see it now. It
is just all his doing. It is he that brought these fine folk here. He
got the invitations for us that he might meet her. He has been at the
bottom of everything. And I--I have been a fool--a fool! and would
never have seen through it till doomsday, and was getting to be fond
of--Oh!" she cried, stamping her foot on the ground, unable to contain
herself, "is this me, Margaret, that have always had such an opinion of
myself? and now I am just humbled to the ground!"

"There is little occasion for being humbled--if you never do anything
less wise----"

"Hold your tongue, sir," she cried; "oh! hold your tongue. It has been
a scheme, a plot, a conspiracy from the beginning. I see through it all
now. Mr. Allenerly, I beg your pardon. If I am ill-bred to you, it is
just that there is more than I can bear!"

"Be as ill-bred as you please, if that is any ease to you; but, Miss
Margaret, be just. You are a just woman. Oh! think what you are doing.
You are not one to give way to a sudden passion."

"I am just one to give way to passion! What else should I do? Would you
have me to take it like a matter of business, or, maybe, thank your
friend for his good intentions," she cried, with a laugh of anger. They
both belonged to a race and class which forbids such demonstrations of
feeling; but righteous wrath is always exempted from the range of those
sentiments which are to be kept under control.

While this interview was going on, Lewis was passing through a strange
revolution, a sort of volcanic crisis such as had never happened in
his life before. He had not been trained to thought, nor was that his
tendency. He had all his life taken things as they came: _au jour le
jour_ had been his simple philosophy, a maxim which may be the most
sublime Christianity or the most reckless folly. In his case it was
neither, but rather the easy temperament of a simple nature, always
able to reconcile itself to the circumstances of the moment, finding
more or less enjoyment in everything that happened, and very little
pre-occupied with its own personality at all. A prudent young man
would have been concerned as to what was to happen to him after Sir
Patrick's death, when his luxurious home would be broken up, and he
himself, without profession or property, thrown upon the world; but
Lewis had given the matter no thought at all, with an easy confidence
of always finding bread and kindness, which both the circumstances of
his life and the disposition of his friends had fostered. Afterwards,
when he found himself Sir Patrick's heir and a man of fortune, he
accepted that too with surprise, but an easy reconciliation of all
confused matters, which, had he contemplated the subject in all its
lights, would have been impossible. It was only by degrees that he
woke to the other side of the question, the position of the despoiled
heirs. Then, the reader of this history is aware, his resolution had
been uncompromising. He had not thought of his own satisfaction at all.
Having come to the decision that Sir Patrick's heiress, or at least one
of Sir Patrick's heiresses, should have back the inheritance in the
only way that occurred to him as practicable, he had set about it at
once in the most straightforward manner possible. He had been ready to
subordinate his own feelings, to consider only the question of duty. In
every way that had seemed possible to him he had pursued this object.
When it happened, in pursuit of this duty, that love stepped in,
dazzling and bewildering, yet intensifying to the highest degree his
previous purpose, it had been a boon from heaven, a blessing upon that
purpose rather than a new object. It seemed to him another proof that
he was born under a happy star, that the one woman in the world whom he
desired to marry should also be the one in the world with whom it was
his duty to share everything that was his. It was this that made all
methods seem lawful to him, and had stirred him to the intention, which
was contrary to all his prejudices, of obtaining, if possible, her
assent to his suit, without the previous knowledge or even against the
wish of her family--the English way--the way that Philip Stormont and
Katie Seton, and indeed everybody about, thought legitimate. But now
for the first time Lewis had been driven out of his easy philosophy.
Mr. Allenerly's stern conception of honour, the new light upon the
whole subject that had been thrown by the lawyer's lantern, had found
those openings in the young man's mind which a new and deeper sentiment
than any he had ever known had opened in him. The natural affections
may be ever so warm and lovely without startling the soul into any new
awakening. Full of friendship, full of kindness, he had been all his
life more prone to serve and help than even to enjoy: but when a great
primary passion, one of the elementary principles of life, goes down
into the depths of innocent nature the effect is different. It is like
the Divine life, when that enters into a soul, bringing not peace but a
sword.

The year which had elapsed since he left Murkley had been a period of
chaos and doubt. He had been without any ray of distinct guidance,
looking vaguely to the chances of the future. Since he came to town and
had seen Lilias again, his whole mind had been occupied in her service,
in devising means for her entertainment and success, but also in
securing opportunities for himself, and in conspiring with everybody
who knew him, and would help him, for the glorification of his heroine.
And in fact, during the most of this period, simple love had carried
him away on its current. He had thought of no rational obstacles or
difficulties, but only of herself. Her looks, her words, the way in
which she took his arm, a glance surprised in the course of an evening,
had occupied him to the complete exclusion of everything else. The
approach of the critical moment when all must be decided had raised the
whole being of Lewis into an atmosphere of passion. The crisis affected
his mind as well as his feelings, and quickened his intelligence as it
developed his heart. When that clear, cold lantern of good sense in Mr.
Allenerly's hand flashed upon the confused scene, the light effected in
an instant what previous months had not effected. He began to see that
his own easy way was impossible. It would have been so much happier,
so much less complicated! but it was impossible. He could not even, as
has been seen, when the moment came, attempt to solve everything in
that easy way. Sailing over the surface would do no longer. He had to
go down into the heart of things, to question the depths, and see what
answer was in them. He began to ask himself what was the question which
he had skimmed over from the beginning, which he had so often attempted
to settle by natural compromises, by pleasant expedients, as was his
nature? When self is imperious in such a nature, necessity brings forth
treachery and guile. But to Lewis self was never in the foreground,
even in love, where self-will has a kind of justification, and
indulgence has an air of duty; it was not his nature to put it forward,
and truth was dear to him wherever he saw it. He began to think, almost
for the first time in his life.

And the first result of this process is seldom a pleasant one. When he
had put the ladies into their carriage on that last night, or rather
morning--for the dawn was blue in the streets, and London was coming
slowly into sight out of the darkness, with lamps burning unearthly in
a light far more potent than theirs--Lewis put his hat on his head,
and set out on a wonderful walk, which he remembered all his life. The
market carts, all fresh and alive, and somewhat chilly with their start
before the day; the carriages, with a jaded air, horses and people
alike, white bundles of drapery huddled up within them, and their lamps
flickering like impish eyes; the houses all asleep in long blank lines,
closed to every influence; the Park lying dewy and still, without a
speck of life upon it, gave a kind of unnatural background, familiar
yet strange to his thoughts. It might have been the extraordinary
character of these thoughts that had thus altered the aspect of the
visible world, in itself so well known. He assisted at the spectacle
of the great city's awaking, as he walked on and on; the parks always
lying in the midst of the scene, shut up, and silent, and inaccessible,
the early sun sweeping over them unbroken by any human shadow, in the
midst of the growing life and motion, like a haven which was not to be
attained, the always possible Eden, open to the longing vision, but
guarded from the eager step, which tantalizes most existences. His
mind got only more confused, a greater whirl of imperfect thinking was
about him as he hurried along, receiving all these external objects
distractedly into the ferment of his brain. It was full day, nearly six
o'clock, when he got home, and threw himself on his bed unnaturally in
the sunshine. But it was not to sleep. Thinking was so new a process
to Lewis that he felt as if some new jarring machinery had been set
up in his brain, and the whirl of the unaccustomed wheels made him
giddy, and took away all consciousness of mental progress. He seemed
to be in the same place, beating a painful round, with the whirl and
the movement and confusion, but nothing else, in his bewildered brain.
He must have slept, though he was scarcely aware of it, late into the
morning. But when he was disturbed by the entrance of his servant, and
sprang up suddenly into full consciousness and life, the first flash
of self-recollection revealed to him a resolution formed and perfect.
Where had it come from? Had the wheels been working while he slept,
and ground it out? had something above earth whispered it to him out
of the unseen? He was almost afraid, when he saw it looking him, as it
were, in the face, a something separate from himself, a definite thing,
resolved and certain. It was not there when he had come in; where had
it come from? He sprang up into the consciousness of a new world, a new
life, a changed order of things, as well as a new day.

When Mr. Allenerly came in about an hour after, Lewis met him with a
pale and somewhat jaded aspect not inappropriate to a man who had been
up all night, the lawyer thought, but also subdued and grave as of one
whose reflections had not been of a happy kind. The lawyer came in,
himself very serious, with the painful sense that his mission was to
quash all the hopes and make an end of all the plans which the other
had been making himself happy in forming. He sat down at the table
on which Lewis' breakfast stood untouched, without a word. The sight
of this partly reduced his sympathy for Lewis, for there was an air
of dissipation about it which displeased his orderly mind. Perhaps,
notwithstanding all the advantages of the arrangement, a young man who
had not breakfasted at twelve o'clock was scarcely a fit husband for
Lilias Murray, or one in whose hands her happiness would be sure. He
sat down and looked at Lewis with a disapproving eye.

"You are very late," he said. "I will soon be thinking of my lunch; but
I suppose you were up till all the hours of the night."

"I don't think I have slept at all," said Lewis, "I have been thinking.
Stop and hear me first. I know by your face what you are going to say.
But that has nothing to do with what I have made up my mind to. One
way or other, it could have nothing to do with it. Our talk yesterday
turned me all outside in. I never had thought it over from the
beginning to the end before."

"You must form no rash resolution," Mr. Allenerly said.

"It is the least rash I have ever formed. I suppose I am not given to
thinking. And, if it is wrong, it is you who have set me on this way,"
Lewis said, with a wistful sort of fatigued smile. "Now, before you say
anything, have patience and hear me out."



CHAPTER XXXIX.


There were many circumstances to add to the passionate annoyance and
irritation with which Margaret became aware of the deception, as she
conceived it, of which she had been the victim. She saw now a hundred
indications by which she ought to have been able to make sure from
the beginning who and what the stranger was: his sudden appearance
at Murkley, a place calculated to attract nobody, which even "those
tourist-cattle," who roused Miss Margaret's wrath, had left out,
where nobody came but for the fishing; his anxiety to secure their
acquaintance, to recommend himself to them, his suit to Miss Jean, so
unlike anything that had ever come in the way of the sisters before,
even his conversations, of which she recollected now disjointed scraps
and fragments quite enough to have betrayed him. Twice over had he come
to her to explain his wishes; the last time, she believed now (though
that was a mistake), that he had meant to confess everything. And she
would not listen to him. Well, that was all honest enough; it had not
been a wilful attempt to deceive her on his part: but yet she had been
completely deceived. How blind she had been! Had it not been plain to
every eye but hers? Had the Setons suspected something? Had Jean known
anything? Was it possible--Margaret started up and rang the bell with
great vehemence. She was so little in the habit of doing this that it
brought Simon rushing from below and Susan flying from above, and Miss
Jean in consternation to listen at the head of the stairs.

"Is my sister ill?" Jean said, trembling with apprehension.

"She would like if you would go and speak to her, mem," said Susan,
who had outstripped the heavier-footed man. Simon was standing ready
to open the door for her into the little room in which Margaret was
sitting.

"Is my sister ill?" she asked again.

"I reckon, mem, that something is wrong," Simon said, in his deliberate
voice.

"There is nothing wrong with me," said Miss Margaret. "Sit down, sit
down, and make no fuss, if you will not drive me doited: I am well
enough. But there is a matter to be cleared up between you and me. Will
you tell me frankly, Jean, eye to eye, what you know about this young
Murray that has just been haunting our house?"

"About Mr. Murray?" said Jean, looking more guilty than ever criminal
looked, innocent guilt faltering and ready to betray itself in every
line of her face.

"Just about Mr. Murray. I have said always he was of no kent
Murrays--were you in this secret all the time, you, my sister, the
other part of me? Oh! Jean, was this well done? I can read it in your
face. You were in his secret all the time."

"Margaret! what do you call his secret?" the culprit said.

She was of the paleness of ashes, and sat twisting her fingers
nervously together, feeling her treachery, her untruth to her first
allegiance, weigh upon her like something intolerable. Her very eyelids
quivered as she stole a glance at Margaret's face.

"Do you mean his secret at Murkley," poor Miss Jean said, breathless,
"or his secret--here?"

Margaret laughed aloud. The tones in this laugh were
indescribable--wrath, and scorn, and derision, and underneath all a
pitiful complaint.

"It is evident you are further ben than me, for I know of but one
secret," she said, "but we'll take them in succession, if you please."

"Oh! Margaret," said poor Jean, trembling, "was there any harm in it?
There was harm in me, perhaps, but what in him? For who could see
Lilias and not be in love with her? And then, when he saw us in London
just a little forlorn, and knowing so few folk, and him that had
everybody at his beck and call----"

"Him that had everybody at his beck and call--Yes?--and then? He took
pity upon us and----What are you meaning? Our friends in London," said
Margaret, with dignity, forgetting how she had, by the light of Mr.
Allenerly's statement, glimpsed the truth on this point as well as
on others, "are persons we have met at other friends' houses in the
ordinary way of society. There was nobody came to me from him, except
just perhaps that old duchess who takes you to the music. Your friend's
compassion, Jean, I think, might have been spared."

"Oh, Margaret!" faintly said the accused at the bar.

"What do you mean by 'Oh, Margaret'?--is it not true that I say? What
did it advantage us, I ask you, that this young lad had everybody, as
you say, at his beck and call?"

Jean gave a deprecatory, wistful glance at her sister, and said
nothing--but it was the look of one that had a great deal to say: and
there was that mixture of pity in it by which Margaret had been moved
to a passing wonder before.

"What did he ever do," she repeated, scornfully, "when he saw us,
as you say, forlorn in London, and knowing few folk? It is a pretty
description, but I cannot recognize it as a picture of me," Margaret
said, with a laugh of resentment. The conviction that had flashed upon
her concerning their life in London had been intolerable, and she had
pushed it from her. She was ready now to resist to desperation any
suggestion that Lewis had served them in society, or been instrumental
in opening to them so many fashionable houses. The consciousness in her
mind that this was so, gave heat and passion to her determination to
ignore it, and gave a bravado of denial to her tone. "All this," she
added, "is nothing, nothing to the main subject; but, as we are on it,
let us be done with it. What has your friend done for us I--I am at a
loss to know."

Jean was in a terrible strait, and knew not what to do. She was divided
between her desire to do justice to Lewis and her desire to save
Margaret pain. She hesitated, almost prevaricated in her anxiety, but
at last the story burst forth. The Greek ball, the beginning of all,
Margaret had firmly believed all along, was a homage to the importance
of the Miss Murrays of Murkley, a natural acknowledgment of their
claims to be considered. She could not help remembering the change
that had occurred in the aspect of affairs from the moment that Lewis
had appeared on the scene, but the invitation for which she had wished
so much, and the others that flowed from it, Margaret had endeavoured
to believe were natural: at least the first--she had always clung
to that. But when Jean's story, extracted in fragments, with many a
protestation and many an unintended admission, fell upon her ears,
the sudden disenchantment was terrible. To think that everything was
his doing from beginning to end, that he, this upstart, this minion,
this foreign favourite, should have been able to open the doors of
fashion to those whom he had so injured and supplanted, whose chief
enemy he was! Was it to humiliate them still more, to smite them down
into deeper abasement, to triumph over them in every way? The pang
which it gave Margaret was too bitter for speech. There had been an
appeal made to him, and in his magnanimity--that easy magnanimity of
the conqueror--he had responded to the appeal, and had taken compassion
upon them. It was a bitter pill for a proud woman to swallow. Jean had
appealed to him, and he had been kind--oh! these were the words. He
had been kind to the poor country ladies, and no doubt presented them
as originals, out of whom a little amusement could be had, to his fine
friends. Margaret would not even tell her sister, with whom she was
indignant beyond all possibility (she thought) of forgiveness, what she
had heard this morning. Her mortification, her sense of having been
tricked and cheated, was too great: the only thing she could think of
was to turn her back upon this hated place with all its delusions.

"I am just sick of London," she said; "my very heart is sick. Get your
packing done this afternoon. I will not spend another day here. I think
we will go home to-night."

"To-night!" cried Jean, with dismay. To oppose a decision of Margaret
was impossible, and she felt guilty, and wounded, and miserable, out
of favour, out of heart. But yet to be obliged to cut off her little
leave-takings, and not to see him, the cause of all this, the friend
who had been so kind, so tender, so eager to carry out all her wishes,
was very hard. And even to travel at night was alarming and terrible
to Miss Jean: she thought the dangers of the way were doubled by the
darkness, and that very likely there would be a railway accident. "It is
very sudden," she said. "Oh! Margaret, I know you are ill-pleased at
me. I am sorry--sorry! if I have done what was foolish, it was with a
good intention; but will you change all our plans just for that, only
for that?"

"Only for that!" said Margaret. "Only for what is burnt in on me in
shame, and should on you still more, if you had the heart--to have been
indebted to our enemy, to have sought the help of him, if there had not
been another man in the world, that should have been the last----"

"Oh! Margaret," cried poor Miss Jean, "you are unjust. You are
cruel. He is nobody's enemy. You may think him not good enough for
Lilias,--for who would seem good enough for Lilias to you and me?--but
an enemy he is none. Oh, no enemy, but a friend: or more like a son, a
brother."

Margaret rose with a stern intensity of tone and look that made her
sister tremble.

"Do you know who this friend is," she said, grimly, "this brother, this
lover, this benefactor? His name is not Murray, but Lewis Grantley,
a name you have heard before. He is your grandfather's heir. He has
gotten the inheritance of Lilias. And now, seeing she is a lovelier
thing even than the inheritance, this creature of nothing, this subtile
serpent, this _practiser_ upon an old man's weakness, would have her
too."

Jean had risen also, with eyes full of horror, in the extremity of her
astonishment. She lifted her arms, she opened her lips to cry out, but
no sound came. She stood an image of dumb consternation and misery
gazing at her sister. No doubt of Jean's innocence from all complicity
in the secret could be entertained by any one who saw her. She stood
dumb, staring at Margaret for some minutes. Then her breast began to
labour with choking sobs.

"Oh! no, no. Oh! no, no--no, no," she ran on, unable to restrain
herself. It was a protest which was pitiful, like the cry of a dumb
creature unable to articulate. Hysterics were unknown in the family,
and Margaret was alarmed. It subdued her anger in a moment, and
relieved her own oppressed and excited mind by giving her a new subject
of concern. She put Jean into the easy-chair, and brought her wine, and
soothed her: in the midst of which process Lilias came into the room,
all fresh and radiant, untouched by any darker knowledge.

"Just run away, my dear, Jean is not very well. I want her to stay
quite quiet just for two or three minutes, and then she will come to
you upstairs."

"But why should I run away? Let me take care of her, Margaret. How pale
she is!" cried Lilias, in alarm.

"There is--no--nothing the matter with me," said Jean, tremulously,
making shift to smile, and waving her hand to her darling. "I'll be
better--in two or three minutes."

"Just run away, my dear," Margaret repeated: and Lilias, as she was
told, ran away, in considerable alarm and uneasiness. But, after
all, there was nothing so alarming in the fact that Jean was pale,
and wanted to be quiet for two or three minutes, and the fear soon
dissipated itself. When the door was closed upon her, the two sisters
looked at each other: the shadow of anger that had been between them
had passed away. It even brought them nearer together, this secret
which was so momentous but which she, that young creature whom it was
their happiness to guard from all evil, knew nothing of. Jean pressed
Margaret's hand which held hers.

"You will not tell her?" she said.

"That is what we must see--and judge," said the elder sister. "We must
think of it when you are better."

Margaret said I oftener than we. It was a pledge of renewed union and
closer fellowship, which brought back Jean's smile.

And next morning they left London. It had not been intended that they
should go away till the end of the week, and their abrupt departure
was the occasion of various disturbances of other people's plans. The
person whom it was chiefly designed to affect was Lewis, who, knowing
as he did the crisis that had been reached, and occupied indeed with
the still more extraordinary crisis in his own existence, was not
affected by it at all. He had never, during all the intercourse of
those six weeks, been invited to Cadogan Place. He had been admitted
occasionally when he called, latterly almost always, and it had been
supposed by all the ladies that he would come to bid them good-bye. But
after the interview between Margaret and Mr. Allenerly there was an
end to that intention, and it was only by chance he discovered their
premature departure, which did not move him; for he had run through
all the gamut of emotion, and nothing seemed now to matter. But as
Lewis stood, more pensive than disappointed, gazing at the house,
in the window of which once more hung the intimation that it was to
let, and where a charwoman appeared at the door in place of Simon,
some one else strode up, to whom it was, to all appearance, much more
important. This was Philip Stormont, who, though he could not follow
the ladies into the fashionable world, had hung about them whenever
and wherever he could, following them to the park, turning up in all
their walks, and attaching himself like a sort of amateur footman to
the party. Lilias had been very cold to him for some time after that
evening at the theatre, but by-and-by had slid into her old habit of
a sort of sisterly indifference, thinking it not necessary to make
much account of what Philip said or did. And her sisters were always
"kind--enough," as Miss Jean said, to the young man whose lands marched
with Murkley, their nearest county neighbour, whom they had known all
his life. When it was fully apparent to them that Lilias was entirely
indifferent to this long-leggit lad, they were very kind to him, though
they gave him much good advice on the subject of going home. He had
hung on, following their steps, without any clear explanation of the
reason why, always postponing his departure until the time of theirs
approached. When that date was settled, he speedily found out that it
was important he should get home by the 26th, and it was settled that
he should travel with them. But in the hurry of sudden departure no one
had thought of Philip. He came "round," as he called it, to make the
final arrangements, and to settle where he should meet them, just at
the moment when Lewis, walking slowly past, looking up at the windows,
had concluded within himself, in a sort of stupor of over-feeling which
made the discovery almost unimportant to him, that they were gone. What
did it matter to Lewis? They were as far from him in Cadogan Place as
if they had been in Murkley. It made no difference; between him and
them there was a great gulf fixed. And yet he would have liked to see
her once more! but it made no difference--this was what he was saying
to himself. To Philip, however, it made a very great difference. He
went briskly up to the door, undismayed by a certain vacant air, and
the ticket in the window. Indeed he had not observed these signs. And,
when he was met by the charwoman with the news, his astonishment and
indignation knew no bounds.

"Gone! Why, I was to go with them. Are you sure they are gone?" he
said, with a dismay that was almost ludicrous. When he perceived Lewis
a little way off, he hurried up to him. "Do you understand anything
about this?" he said, with a sense of injured antagonism to everybody
who could be supposed to be in the ladies' confidence. There had
always been a jealous feeling in his mind in respect to Lewis, whose
constant presence at all the fine places of which Lilias spoke, to
which he himself had no way of procuring admittance, had given him a
feasible ground of complaint. But a common grievance is a great bond.
When Lewis had declared his ignorance, in a tone from which even his
insensibility to further pain could not take a certain pathos, Philip,
in the excitement of his feelings, obliged to talk to some one, seized
upon his arm, and poured out his heart.

"They just play with a man," he cried, "these women! They don't care
a bit what they do to you, so long as it doesn't touch themselves. I
was to go with them. It was all settled. Our way was the same, as far
as the railway goes--as far as the water-side, for that matter; for
you remember how near we are. And here they are, off without a word,
without a single word! not so much as to say, 'We are going sooner than
we thought,' or anything like that--but no, not a word! I was coming to
ask where I was to meet them, and if I should take the tickets, and so
forth."

Lewis did his best to dissipate the victim's dilemma. He suggested a
sudden change in their plans, a lost message, a mistake of one kind
or another, till Philip was somewhat mollified. But in his heart he
was not displeased to see another man suffer. That the ladies had been
agitated by the revelation made to them, and had changed their plans,
and forgotten their secondary engagements in consequence, soothed
him and gave him a faint sensation of pleasure. Besides, it is never
disagreeable to one man, whose heart is devoted to a certain woman, to
see another man left in the lurch. So far as he was able to enjoy at
all, Lewis enjoyed it, and this made him very amiable to the other,
who was certainly not a successful rival, or likely to be so. He who
had affected their minds so much as to make them alter all their
arrangements at the last moment had no reason to be uncharitable to
the man whose very existence they had evidently forgotten. And Philip,
in his ignorance, took refuge in the sympathy of Lewis. He had not
seen him much in the company of Lilias; they had revolved in different
spheres, and had rarely come in contact, and, so far as Philip knew,
Lewis was little more than an acquaintance of the ladies, who never
invited him, and seldom talked of him. He had forgotten by this time
the position of companion to Lilias which Katie and he had thrust upon
the stranger at Murkley. All that stage of existence had faded away
from Philip's thoughts.

"You see," he said, thrusting his arm through that of his sympathetic
friend, "I came here at first with no will of mine. A man should be
left free one way or other. If the mother is to have so much say as my
mother has, the son should be free to go where he likes, and make his
own way; but, as it is, I am neither laird nor loon, if you understand
what that means. I have the name of being independent; but, if my
mother were to take away her share and leave me with that house to
keep up, where would I be? So I have to be guided by her in many ways,
whether I will or not."

"I do not suppose that she is very hard to please," said Lewis,
politely.

"Oh, I don't know about that! She has always had her own way, and she
likes it. So do I, for that matter. But, you see, for years past there
has never been but a craik about Lilias Murray. She was the only girl
my mother would ever hear of: our lands march; and then the Murrays are
a great family, and then----"

"Do you think it is right to talk of things so private to me?"

"Oh, you!--you are just the person to talk to them about. You are a
stranger, you are an outsider; it cannot be any concern of yours. And
then you know what an ass I made of myself last year," Philip said,
reddening, and with an embarrassed laugh.

"I do not know about the ass," said Lewis, gravely; "I know--what was
happening last year."

"Well, it comes to the same thing, you know. My mother would not
hear of that----It is all very well for a fellow like you, that
are independent, that never needs to think of pleasing anybody but
yourself. But I can do nothing without my mother. As for marrying or
that sort of thing, it would be out of the question. If she gave me up,
I should be as poor as a church-mouse: so I am obliged to mind what she
says. And then, if truth must be told, I got just a little tired of the
affair itself."

"I don't think," said Lewis, disengaging his arm, "that it is quite
_comme il faut_ to say so."

"Com-eel--what do you mean by that? It began when I was too young to
think of anything but the fun of it: and she liked the fun, too. It was
a great joke to make a fool of everybody, and carry on behind their
backs; but, when it comes to be serious, you can't go on like that."

"I don't think you can go on _like that_ at any time," Lewis said,
gravely.

Philip laughed.

"That is just your stiff, foreign way," he said; "you are always
thinking harm--and there was no harm. Well, then, my mother insisted I
was to go away, and, as there was a good opportunity to have a little
yachting and see something of the world, I just consented. Absence
makes a great difference, you know," he added, laughing again somewhat
nervously. "I saw what an ass I had been making of myself. And then I
heard from home that the Murrays were here, and that I had better stay
and make myself agreeable. Now, you know, there's a great deal to be
done in London that makes the time pass. So I just stayed, and made
myself agreeable--as far as I could, you know----"

"Indeed it is not for me to know how far that is," said Lewis, with
something between a jeer and a snarl: for it was not in flesh and blood
to remain passive. "You are a dangerous fellow, no doubt, when you
please."

"Oh, I don't know about that," said simple Philip; "it was a bore at
first, but I couldn't help feeling that it was far the best way to get
out of the other, you know. And that little Lilias has grown awfully
pretty, don't you think?--whether it's the dress, or the way she's got
of carrying herself, or having seen a little more of the world----"

Lewis would have liked to knock him down, but probably could not have
done so, for the young Scot was much bigger and stronger than himself:
and then, even if he could, he had no pretext for so doing, for there
was no intentional disrespect in what Philip said.

"I never discuss ladies whom I respect--it is bad form," said Lewis,
bringing forward a word which he had picked up, and generally found
most effectual.

Philip reddened and grew serious all at once. He was one of the class
who hold that vague but stinging accusation in special awe.

"It would be worse form, I think, to discuss ladies whom you do not
respect," he said, very pertinently, but changing his tone. "Well," he
said, "to please you, I will say nothing about that. I thought it a
bore at first, but by-and-by it was different. And it is just the only
way of coming out of the other business safe and sound; and it would be
a fine thing for the property; and, to sum up all, the girl herself----"

Lewis raised his hand, for he felt that he could not bear much more.

"You mean that you fell in love, I suppose, since that is the English
phrase," he said, with a slight inflection of contempt, which the ear
of Philip was not keen enough to seize.

"Well, you may call it that, if you like," he said. "And I thought we
were getting on very well--they all bully me, as if I were a small
boy, and she too, but that's one way of showing that they consider me
one of the family, you know. So I thought we were getting on as well
as possible, and I wrote home word to my mother, and we were to travel
together, which would have given us just the opportunity to settle
everything before we got home: and that was what I wanted above all----"

Here poor Philip's face grew long once more, and the sense of the
ludicrous which had been growing in the mind of his hearer--a sort of
forlorn amusement to think of this little commonplace thread running
smoothly through the tangled web of affairs--rose above the irritation
and disdain, which were too serious for the occasion.

"Perhaps," he said, gravely, "it was the elder sisters. They might be
afraid of you."

Philip turned upon him with a beaming face and gave him a blow of
approval on his shoulder.

"Now that just shows," he said, "that you have an eye in your head. I
always knew you were a clever fellow--it is just that. Margaret cannot
abide me--my mother herself sees it. She has just held me at arm's
length since ever I was that height; but, if Lilias takes to me, I will
just snap my fingers at Margaret," cried the long-leggit lad, plucking
up his courage.

Finally he made up his mind to follow them by the evening train,
and pick them up at Stirling or Perth, where they would be sure, he
thought, to stay for the night. And Lewis went home to his rooms, where
also packing was going on, with a sense of exhaustion, through which
faint sensations of amusement penetrated. He was sad as death, but, at
the same time, he was worn out by a great mental conflict. At such a
moment pain is deadened by its own excess. He was like a man newly out
of a fever, not able to feel at all save in a muffled and ineffectual
way: and it almost amused him to see Philip's self-complacency and
confidence in "getting on very well." For such a rival he was not
afraid.



CHAPTER XL.


The ladies were very tired when they got home. It is a long journey
from London to the north. They were late next morning, and still
languid with the fatigue, and with the curious sense of having
dropped out of another sphere which came after their strange London
experiences. To come into the old house, and see everything unchanged,
was very wonderful. It made the past look like a dream. To Lilias,
above all, for whom life had sustained an entire revolution, there was
something extraordinary, weird, and uncanny about the old existence,
which seemed to wait for her here like a distinct and separate thing,
receiving her once more into its bosom, going on with her as if the
other had never been. As she lingered with Jean over the late breakfast
from which Margaret had risen an hour before, she looked round upon
the wainscot, with all those gleams of reflection in it which she
remembered all her life, and the old pictures, and the furniture all in
its place, with a sort of dismay.

"Do you think we have ever been away?" she said, with a scared look
in her eyes. She was afraid of the stillness, which seemed to close
over her, making all the colour and commotion of the past season, and
all the new thoughts with which it had filled her mind, die away like
things that had never been.

"That is just the feeling every time you make a change," said Jean,
"for life is a very strange thing. I've sometimes thought it was never
more than half-real at the best of times: and whiles you would like to
put forth your hand and grip to feel if it is true."

This was beyond the experience of little Lilias; but there was a
sensation of suspense and uncertainty in her mind which made her old
sister's contemplative thoughts very congenial to her.

"It will turn out," she said, with a laugh, the sound of which
half-frightened her, "that we have all been sleeping and dreaming.
But no!--for now I remember. I am not so silly now as when I went
away. London was very bonnie, but not grand like what I thought,
and, oh, do you remember, Jean, about the Queen in the Court, what a
fool--what a fool I was!" Lilias clapped her hands together in shame
and self-impatience. "You should have told me," she cried.

"But, my dear," said Miss Jean, "I cannot affirm that I know any
better, even now: for it was not me but Margaret that went with you to
see Her Majesty. You are more experienced than I am. You have had a
grand setting-out in the world, Lilias; none of our house for many a
day has done what you have done. Even your bonnie young mother, though
she was an earl's daughter--you have had, you may say, the world at
your feet, my bonnie dear. And it has not turned her head either," said
Miss Jean, smiling upon her with pride and happiness, "you are just our
little Lilias all the same."

"The world at my feet! I wonder what that means?" cried Lilias, with a
little scoff; but, after all, the suggestion was pleasant to her. She
was silent a little, thinking, with a smile, of two or three acts of
homage that had been done her, that had made the little girl aware that
she was a woman in her moment of power. It pleased and flattered, and
at the same time it amused her to recall those scenes in the brief and
bright drama which seemed, as she looked back upon it, like something
she had seen in the theatre, a curious, vivid, all-interesting
performance, in which the chief character was herself: and yet not
herself, a visionary creature, whose proceedings she, Lilias Murray,
at home in Murkley, could gaze at from afar with wonder and amusement.
She put her hands softly together, and said, "But if this is what it
all comes to in the end!" But even as she said these words there came a
delightful sense of expectation to her heart, and she laughed, knowing
that this was not all it was coming to. Jean, for her part, gave a soft
little sigh.

"When you are older, my darling," she said, "you will find a great
soothing is always coming back. Home is just like an old friend holding
its arms open to you, always waiting for you, aye ready, whatever
troubles you may be in."

Lilias listened, smiling. It was not the aspect of home which pleased
her fancy at the moment. Of all unrealities in the world nothing
seemed so unreal to her as the idea that a refuge from trouble would
ever be needful for the long young life that was in her heart and her
thoughts. She looked at her sister with a loving pity, tinged with
amusement too. It was natural that Jean should look upon it so. Dear
Jean! with all her pretty, old-fashioned ways, the tranquillity of her
gentle soul. She was in her element at Murkley, not in London. Lilias
knew that the old table-cover, with all its silken flowers half done,
would come out in another half-hour, and the basket of silks be set
forth upon the little table: and that Jean, with her fine head relieved
against the window, would look as if she had never moved from that
spot. She laughed at the thought, which was sweet, comical, pleasant.
For her own part she would sit down with a book in the other window and
look back, and behold the performances of that other Lilias who had the
world at her feet, and wonder--wonder and dream what was going to come
of it all! as if in her heart she did not know very well what was going
to come.

But, as they were preparing to go to the drawing-room to carry out this
performance, a voice reached their ears from the hall with a somewhat
excited, anxious tone in it.

"I could not have been more surprised if they had told me the Queen had
come: for I expected you all to-morrow. And what have you done with my
Philip?" Mrs. Stormont said. She came into the dining-room, followed by
Margaret, and came forward to the table, holding out her hands with an
air of joyous welcome under which there was a certain restlessness of
anxiety. "Oh, fie! this is your London hours, still at breakfast when
other people are thinking of their luncheon. But we must forgive you
this time on account of your journey; and what have you done with my
Philip?" she said again.

"Bless me!" said Margaret, "to think I should have been so far left
to myself as to forget all about that. It is true Philip was to have
travelled with us to-morrow; but circumstances made it more convenient
for me to come away sooner, and I never let him know. But I dare to
say," she added, "that he will not be ill-pleased; for to attend upon
three women and their boxes is a trial for any man."

Mrs. Stormont shot a keen look at the speaker over the shoulder of
Lilias, whom she was just then embracing with great fervour.

"Margaret is always severe upon men, as is perhaps natural enough,"
she said; "but I would have thought my bonnie Lily would have had more
feeling. And so my poor lad is left to kick his heels at the railway
station waiting for them that never come? I cannot thank you for that,
Margaret. I think you might have had a little more consideration. There
was perhaps something due to me--if Philip, poor man, was not grand
enough to merit a thought----"

"Indeed I can assure you," cried Miss Jean, anxiously, "there was
no want of thought. But, you see, we had serious business to attend
to, and Margaret was very much taken up at the end, and we were just
hurried away----"

Mrs. Stormont did not make any reply. It was evident that she was
anxious underneath the offence, and full of uneasy thoughts. She drew
Lilias into a chair by her side, and held her hand, and stroked it
tenderly.

"And you have just had a great success, by all I hear. The Lily of
Murkley has been blooming in the King's gardens. But I hope it has not
turned your little head. For whatever strangers may say, there are no
hearts so leal as those are at home."

"You must think me a very silly little thing," said Lilias, "if
you suppose that would turn my head. It was never for us; it was
just because of----" Here she caught Margaret's eye, and divined by
something in it, and perhaps also by a rising something in her own
breast which brought the colour to her cheeks, that her intended
attribution of honour where honour was due was for the moment
unnecessary. "Because of friends," she said, with hesitation and a
blush. "Because of him, because of him!" she added to herself in her
heart, with an indignant glance at Margaret.

If she were prevented from saying it out, all the more would she
maintain it to herself.

"Good introductions," said Margaret, significantly, "are, as everybody
knows, the half of the battle; and it would be strange if the Murrays
of Murkley could not get that advantage. It is all very well over, I
am glad to say. And Lilias has enjoyed herself, and we have all seen
a great deal of company; but for my part I enjoy nothing so much as
getting home."

"And what did you make of my Philip?" said Mrs. Stormont. "That is a
crow I have to pick with you, Lilias; for he would have been home long
ago, but for somebody that kept him hanging-on in town. 'I have put off
for another day; for I'm going to a ball at Lady So-and-so's, where the
Miss Murrays will be----' And then, 'I've put off a week; for I'm going
to travel with the Murrays.' That is what his letters have been, poor
fellow--and then to be left in the lurch at the end. Ye little fairy!
If your head's not turned, I am afraid you have turned other people's
heads," said Philip's mother, with a laughing flattery, which concealed
much graver feelings.

Lilias was somewhat alarmed by this personal attack. She looked at her
sisters for help, and it was Jean who came first into the breach.

"You need not be in any way uneasy about that; for Philip has plenty of
friends," said Miss Jean. "We met him no doubt from time to time, and
he was extremely kind in coming to see us; but he had always a number
of friends--he was not depending upon us. I assure you it could not
make that difference to him," she said, anxiously.

Mrs. Stormont confronted her with a superior smile.

"My dear Jean," she said, "do you think I was supposing my son had no
friends, or was just depending upon his country neighbours for a little
society? No, no, I am not such an ignoramus as that, though I have
myself been little in London, and never was at the expense of a season:
but I am not just so ignorant as that. There are other reasons that
influence a young man, and one that has had every encouragement----"

"Encouragement!" Margaret said, whose eyes were full of the light of
battle.

"Encouragement!" said Miss Jean, deprecating. "We were just kind, as
was natural."

The mother returned the look of defiance, and took no notice of Jean.

"Indeed, my dear Margaret," she said, "I was not addressing myself to
you. It is well known in the countryside what your ambition is, and
that nothing less than a duke or a prince would please you, if you had
any chance of getting them. I am speaking to Lilias, not to you, and
I am not a person to stand by and see a young thing's heart crushed,
especially one that might, had matters taken another turn, have been my
own. Yes, my bonnie pet, it is you that I am speaking to; and you know
you have given my boy a great deal of encouragement. You will not be
persuaded by thoughts of a grand match, or by worldly inducements, or
by the fear of man--or woman either--to turn against one----"

Here she stopped, perhaps with a sense of the rashness of this appeal.
She was very tremulous and anxious, and as she looked round upon the
three sisters, who had all been instrumental, as she thought, in
disappointing her and scorning her son and leaving him behind, it was
all the mother could do to restrain the flood of bitter words that came
pouring to her lips. She stopped, however, hastily, and with a little
agitated laugh.

"I am just taking the disappointment a great deal too seriously, you
will say; but I am disappointed, you see. I looked for my Philip
coming home happy and well pleased; and then to hear you were back
before your time, and not a word from him!--But no doubt he'll be home
to-morrow, and nothing changed. I am just going too fast; you will
think nothing of it. I'm of an anxious nature, and it's my way."

The elder ladies accepted the apology, according to their different
characters, Miss Jean eagerly agreeing that it was very disappointing
when you were looking for your only son, and found nothing but
strangers, and Miss Margaret receiving it stiffly with a dignity beyond
words.

"For," she said, "though we might be glad of the company of any friend
on a long journey, yet I never think it a good thing for women to
put their fashes about luggage and so forth upon a man, unless he
belongs to them. He is apt," she added, "to think more of it than it
deserves--as if the women could have done nothing without him, which is
not my way."

"No," said Mrs. Stormont, with a laugh which was in itself a confession
of excitement; "you're one of those that like to be independent. But
don't you copy your sister in that, Lilias, for it is a thing the men
cannot bide. They would rather you were silly, and always clinging to
them, than going your own gait in that bold manner. And though it may
suit Margaret, who is done with everything of the kind, it is not the
same for you."

Lilias had been watching the scene with anxious, half-amused eyes.
There had always been little passages of arms between Margaret and Mrs.
Stormont.

"Philip is not very clever about the luggage," she said. "He lost all
his own things, you know. I told him I could do it better myself."

"And what did he say?" said the mother, beaming upon her. "Oh, nothing
to say over again, I am sure, for he is not one for phrases, my Philip.
And so you had your fill of dancing and every pleasure? Well, well! it
is a grand thing to have your day: and now you've come back, Lilias,
just as you went, you must not scorn your old friends. 'Sneer na
British lads awa',' as Burns says."

"I hope she will sneer at nobody," said Miss Jean; "and two or three
months in London is not such a terrible time. There are few changes in
the parish, so far as I can hear. Old Mrs. Johnston at The Hillhead is
gone, poor lady; but that was to be looked for at her age; and young
Lauder married upon his housekeeper, which is a great pity, and must
vex all his friends; and----"

"No," said Mrs. Stormont, still looking at Lilias; "there's little
sneering in that bonnie face; but still hearing just one thing round
you may give a warp to your mind, and you must remember, Lilias, that
the grand folk in London, though they may be very smiling for a time,
they just go their own gait, and think no more of a country girl,
however she might be admired for the moment; but old friends are always
safe--they never change."

"Old friends or new friends, I would not advise her to be dependent
either upon one or the other," said Margaret. "It's best to stand on
your own ground. Lilias, will you go and tell Simon about getting out
the carriage, and bid him ask if we can have the horses, for there are
some visits that we ought to pay. You will forgive me," she said, when
the girl left the room, "for sending her away: for we must respect her
simplicity at her age. She is thinking nothing, neither of British
lads nor of any other. I am not one that likes to put such things in a
girl's head."

Mrs. Stormont blushed with anger and annoyance.

"It is the first time," she said, "that I have been blamed with putting
things that should not be there into a girl's head. But we all know
about maidens' bairns--and since Lilias is to be the immaculate one
that never thinks upon a lover--But, if that was your meaning, I wonder
you ever took her to London, which is just the grand marriage market,
if what everybody says is true."

"It was no marriage market, you may be sure," cried Margaret, growing
red in her turn, "for any child of mine."

"Well, that is proved, no doubt," said the other, with the composure of
successful malice, "since Lilias ye took her away, and Lilias ye have
brought her back."

"Oh, what is the use," cried Miss Jean, breaking in anxiously, "of the
like of us old friends casting out with each other about nothing? If
Lilias were to be married, it would be a terrible day for Margaret and
me."

"Oh, nobody will doubt that," cried Philip's mother. "After being
mistress and more at Murkley, and keeping that little thing that she
dare not say her soul's her own, it would be a terrible down-coming for
Margaret----"

"Mrs. Stormont!" Jean exclaimed, in terror and dismay.

As for Margaret, who had been moving about setting various things in
order, she came back at this to where the visitor was sitting, pale and
red by turns, in great nervous excitement. Margaret was very composed,
and smiled, though she was pale.

"I can make every allowance," she said, "for a disappointed mother."

She had the best of it, after all. She was able to regard with perfect
calmness the heat and passion of the other, whose long-leggit lad had
come so little speed.

"I am not the one to call disappointed," said Mrs. Stormont. "I am not
a woman with ambitions, like you. It is not me that has made a great
campaign, and nothing to show for it. But I would warn you just to mind
what you are about, for to play fast and loose with a high-spirited
lad----"

"Bless me!" said Margaret, in a tone which Jean herself could not but
allow to be very irritating, "who may that be? There were two or three,
I will allow, but they got their answer. Though I say it that should
not say it, having brought her up myself, Lilias is very clear in her
notions; she will never say no when she means yes, of that we may be
sure."

"Well," cried Mrs. Stormont, rising hurriedly, "I can only hope you'll
find things answer to your anticipations. It would be a terrible thing
to go through the wood and through the wood, and take up with a crooked
stick at the end."

"Or perhaps without a stick at all," said Margaret, with sarcastic
gravity, "which has happened with both Jean and me, you were going to
say."

"And so I was," said the angry woman--"you have just divined it; but
that beats all, Margaret Murray. If you are going to doom that bonnie
little thing to be an old maid like yourself, just that you may keep
the management and power in your hands----"

"It is such a grand scope for management, and so much power----"

"It's just as much as you ever had the chance of. Oh, I can see through
you. You just flatter her and stop the mouths of her friends with
giving her every opportunity, that you know will come to nothing--I see
through you like glass--and so keep her property in your hands, and
make her an old maid like yourself. And to keep up the farce," cried
Mrs. Stormont, "you'll keep one or two just hanging on, and give them
every encouragement. But just see if she does not turn upon you one of
these days, and choose for herself."

She hurried out, sending this shot after her from the door, and
leaving, it cannot be disputed, a great deal of the smoke and confusion
of a cannonade behind her. Even Margaret was confused, disturbed by
that sudden perception of how her proceedings might appear in the eyes
of others, which is so disenchanting. It is not a happy, though it may
be an improving process, to see ourselves as others see us. Though she
was so angry, she looked at her sister with a little dismay.

"The woman is daft," she said. "Who was it that encouraged that
long-leggit lad of hers? Never me, I'll answer for that. I hope it was
not you, Jean, that out of superabundant charity----"

"He came here more than you liked in the afternoons, Margaret, last
year."

"And what of that?" cried the mistress of Murkley. "If it had been
Donald Birnie, could I have turned him away from the door?"

"Donald Birnie knows his place," said Miss Jean, doubtfully; "but
Philip is just very suitable; and his mother might think----"

"I cannot tell what you mean with your 'very suitable.' Would you like
our Lilias to take up with the first long-leggit lad that comes to
hand? I thought we were agreed upon that point, you and me."

"Oh, Margaret, I am saying nothing else! I was only thinking that it
would not be so strange if his mother----And then there was always that
little Katie here."

"Now that is what _I_ would call very suitable," said Margaret,
regaining her composure. This recollection freed her at once from a
little fear that was beginning to creep upon her. "Katie! that would
just be the best thing in the world for him; for the Setons are very
well connected; and it would settle Philip Stormont, and make him
steady, and be company to his mother. There could be nothing better,"
Margaret said.

But, unfortunately, this was not how the matter presented itself to
those who were more immediately concerned. Mrs. Stormont went forth in
haste and heat, which old Simon, as he opened the door, perceived with
a chuckle, divining, with tolerable justice, the state of affairs; for
Simon, an old family retainer, was just as determined as Miss Margaret
that no long-leggit lad should carry off the young lady of Murkley.
Mrs. Stormont went away very hurriedly, and in so doing encountered
little Katie Seton hurrying towards the house. The very sight of the
girl added to the soreness and sense of downfall which was in the
mind of Philip's mother. She seemed to see Fate lowering upon her
over Katie's head. What if she were destined to accept the minister's
daughter for her son's wife after all!

"You are losing no time," she said. "Katie! you mean to hear all
the grand news and see the grand dresses the first moment that it's
possible. It is the best way."

"I am not so early as you, Mrs. Stormont," said Katie, who was pert,
and not inclined to yield her own cause.

"You will allow there is a difference," the angry woman said. "My son
was to have travelled with them; but he had a number of engagements,
having so many friends in London, and he left them in the lurch, which
gentlemen are too apt to do, even at the last moment. It is not pretty
of them, but it's just their nature," said Mrs. Stormont. This was an
arrow into Katie's heart as well as a forestalling of any report in
respect to Philip's unsuccess which she might hear. Katie replied with
a smile only, and went on to the house; but she had received the arrow.
And Philip's mother felt that she had in some degree redeemed the
fallen fortunes of the day.



CHAPTER XLI.


"And was it all very grand, Lilias? and did the ladies wear their
diamonds every day? and did you see the Queen? and what did she say
to you? I've come to hear everything--everything!" cried Katie. She
had taken off her hat and established herself in that corner of the
book-room where so many talks had taken place, where Lilias had painted
all the anticipatory scenes of grandeur which she intended to go
through, and where she had listened to Katie's plans, and not refused
her aid. It was a year since they had met, and Lilias, seated there,
with a little mist of suspense about her, waiting for the next chapter
in her life, had an air of dreamy development and maturity which made
a great impression upon her friend. In other days Katie, though the
youngest, had been the one that knew most of the world. She had been
full of dances, of partners, of what this one and that had said, while
Lilias had still no souvenirs. But all this had changed. It was Lilias
now who knew the world. She had gone away, she had been in the secrets
of society. She knew how duchesses looked, and what they put on. She
had seen princes walking familiarly about as if they were but men. Was
it this lofty experience which gave her that soft air as of a dream
enveloping her, as if, to put it in Katie's way, she was thinking of
something else, listening for somebody coming. Katie did not understand
the change; but she saw it now, and it overawed her. Her eyes sought
those of Lilias wistfully. There were other questions more important
which she had to ask; but, to begin with, the general ones seemed
necessary. She kept in her personal anxieties with an effort. For Katie
had many personal anxieties too, and was rather woebegone and pale, not
like the sprightly little girl of old.

"It was not nearly so grand as I thought--nothing is ever so grand as
you think," said Lilias. "London town is just big--big--not grand at
all, and men just look like men, and women like women. They are silly
just like ourselves. It is not another world, as I once thought. It
is quite the same. It was an _awful_ disappointment," said Lilias,
with a Scottish force of adjective which had not come to be slang in
those days; "but it was just nice enough all the same," she added,
condescendingly, after a momentary pause. "I thought I would just look
at it all, and admire it; but you could not do that, you had just to
take your part, as if you had been at home."

"Oh, I should not have cared to look at it," said Katie. "I would have
liked to have my share."

"Except at the Countess's," said Lilias, with an involuntary laugh. "We
stood there, and looked on. Lady Ida came and talked to us, and the
Countess herself. And then we stood and stared at all the people. It
makes me laugh now, but then it was like to make me cry. We were only
country neighbours there."

"And what were you in the other houses?" Katie asked.

"I don't know. It was different----" Lilias paused a little, musing,
with eyes full of a smile of recollection; then she said, suddenly,
glad to have an outlet, "Guess whom we met in London--a gentleman--one
that you know. And he knew everybody--and----" Lilias made another
pause of grateful thought, then added, softly, "he was a great man
there."

Katie clasped her hands together. To her Philip Stormont was a great
man anywhere. Her little countenance flushed, then grew pale, and it
could be seen how thin her cheeks had grown, and her eyes big and
eager, as the colour melted out of her face. She did not say anything,
but looked at Lilias with a wide-eyed, deeply meaning, reproachful
look. Her poor little bosom heaved with a painful, long-drawn breath.
Oh, how can you speak to me of him, her eyes seemed to say; and yet how
anxious she was to hear!

"Can't you guess?" said Lilias, with a smile of content.

"I suppose--it could be but one person. But oh, Lilias, everything is
so changed, so changed!" cried poor little Katie; and those caves, once
soft circles in which her pretty eyes were set, seemed to contract, and
fill with deep lakes of tears. She kept them back with a great effort,
and produced a little pitiful smile, the best she could muster. "I am
sure it isn't your fault," she said, magnanimously. "Tell me--all about
it, Lilias."

"All about what?" Lilias paused too, to look at her in amazement, and
a sort of cold breath came into her heart, chilling her in spite of
herself. "I did not know," she said, with sudden spirit, waking out of
her dream, "that Mr. Murray was of any consequence, Katie, to you."

Katie's countenance changed again in a moment from misery to gladness.

"Oh, Mr. Murray!" she cried. In the relief of the moment, the tears
came dropping down her cheeks like rain, and she laughed in the sudden
ease of her mind. "No, no consequence, no consequence at all," she
cried. "I thought--I thought it must be----"

The eyes of the girls met, the one inquiring, almost with a gleam of
contempt; the other shyly drawing back, denying the answer.

"I see," said Lilias, nodding her head. "No, I had not forgotten. I
knew very well----But, dear Katie," she cried, with the unrestrained
laugh of youth, "you could not think Philip--for it was Philip you
thought of--could be a great man in London. Philip!" The idea brought
with it a peal of laughter. "He may be very nice at home, but among all
the fashionable folk there----!"

Katie did not laugh with her friend; on the contrary, she grew red and
angry. Her tears dried, high indignation lighted up her face, but along
with it a little consolation too.

"They say," said Katie, "that you were not always of that mind, Lilias,
and that he was with you--oh, every day. They say he went with you
to all the parties, and danced with you every dance. They say----I
would like you to tell me true," cried the little girl. "Oh, you need
not think I will break my heart! Whatever has happened, if you think
_I_ will make a work about it, and a fuss, and all that, you are just
mistaken, Lilias! I hope I have more pride than that. If he likes you
better than me, he is welcome, oh, he is welcome! And if you that were
my own friend, that was like a sister--that was----"

Poor little Katie was choked with tears and excitement. She could not
say any more. Her voice failed her altogether, everything swam and
wavered in her eyes. Her own familiar friend had deceived her, her love
had forsaken her. The bitterness of abandonment was in her heart. She
had struggled hard to show what her mother called "a proper pride,"
and though it had hollowed out the sockets of her eyes, and taken the
colour from her cheeks, she thought she had succeeded. But to hear
Lilias, who had stolen him away, speak disdainfully of Philip, to
hear him scoffed at, whom Katie thought the first and most desirable
of human beings; it is impossible to say how hard this was. All the
faculties of her soul rose up against it: and yet--and yet----She would
not have let herself go, and suspend her proper pride so entirely,
if there had not been beyond, as it were the sense of her despair, a
rising gleam of hope.

"Who said that?" cried Lilias, in great astonishment and dismay. And
then she drew Katie's unwilling form towards her. "Do you think so much
about Philip still? Oh, Katie, he is not half good enough for you."

Katie flung herself out of her friend's grasp.

"I can put up with your treachery," she cried. "Oh! I can stand that;
but to hear you insult Philip is what I will not, I will not bear!"

Upon which Lilias sprang to her feet also.

"I will say just what I please of Philip," she cried; "and who is to
stop me? What am I caring about Philip? I just endured him because of
you. He neither went with me to parties, nor danced with me, nor was
with us every day. He is just a long-leggit lad, as Margaret says. If
he was rich or great, or if he was clever and wise, or even if he was
just kind--kind and true like some----But he is none of these, none of
these, Katie, not half good enough for you; and me, what is Philip to
me?" Lilias cried, with a grand disdain.

"Perhaps he has forsaken you--too," said Katie, looking at her with
mingled wrath and relief and indignation. She was very wroth and
wounded for Philip, but her heart, which had been so sore, felt cooled
and eased as by the dropping of some heavenly dew. Her anger with
Lilias was boundless. She could not refrain from that little blow at
her, and yet she could have embraced her for every careless word she
said.

Lilias looked at her for a moment, uncertain whether to be angry too.
But then the absurdity of the idea that Philip might have forsaken her,
suddenly seized her. She laughed out with a gaiety that could not be
mistaken, and took her seat again.

"When you are done questioning me about Philip--" she said. "I would
not have remembered Philip but for you. We forgot he was to have come
home with us, and never let him know; and nobody remembered, not even
_Jean_. But we have heard enough of Philip since we came home. His
mother has been here, demanding, 'What have you done with my Philip?'"
Lilias here fell into Mrs. Stormont's tone, and Katie, though still in
tears, had hard ado not to laugh. "Just demanding him from Margaret and
from me: and you next, Katie. As if we were Philip's keepers! He is big
enough, I hope, to take care of himself."

Here Katie came stealing up to her friend, winding a timid arm about
her neck.

"Oh! Lilias, was it all stories? and are you true, are you true?"

"Is that what has made you just a little ghost? And why did you never
write and tell me, when I could have put it all right with a word?"

"Oh, what could I say?" cried Katie. "A girl must have a proper pride.
Would I let you see and let _him_ see that I was minding! Oh! no, no!
and his mother every time we met her, and every time mamma met her,
always, always on about Philip and you. She told us all the places
he went with you--every place, even to the Queen's Court: and there
was his name in the _Times_--for she got it on purpose, and sent it
over the water to papa: and she said he always contrived to get an
invitation wherever you went."

Lilias smiled with high disdain.

"Many people would have liked to do that," she said, "for we went to
the grandest houses, where Philip Stormont, or even the Murrays of
Murkley, who are very different, would never set a foot. Oh! it was no
credit of ours--we just had--a friend----"

"A friend! And that was the gentleman you meant, not _him_; and it
was a person I knew? I cannot guess it, for I don't know any person
who could be a friend to you. But just it was not--him? That is so
wonderful, I cannot think of anything else; for all this time I have
been thinking and thinking, and trying not to think, and then just
thinking the more."

Lilias smiled upon her, a gracious, but half-disdainful,
half-disappointed smile. Katie could think of nothing but this. She had
no sympathy, no interest, in what had happened to her friend. It hurt
Lilias a little: for there was no one else whom she could speak to of
that other who was so much more important than Philip. She was wounded
a little, and retired into herself in lofty, but gentle superiority.
She could have told things that would have made her little companion
admire and wonder. But what did Katie care except about Philip, a
country youth who was nobody, a rustic gentleman that gaped and was
helpless in the brilliant world? Lilias felt a great superiority, but
yet a little check and disappointment too. It seemed to her that her
little companion had fallen far behind her in the march of life, that
Katie was only a child, crying, sobbing, unable to think of anything
but one thing--and a little nobody, too. She herself had gone a long
way beyond her little rural companion, which was quite just--for was
not Lilias a whole year older, besides her season in town? So she
allowed herself to be tolerant and indulgent. Was it not natural? So
young and little, and only one thing in her head--Philip, and no more.
Lilias put away her own interrupted history with a proud self-denial.
She would not betray it to any one who was not worthy of that
confidence, although her heart ached a little with the solitude of it
and the need of speech. But surely it was but for a day or two that it
could be allowed to continue, this solitude of the heart? She went out
in the afternoon with Katie for a walk, and went to New Murkley with
many a thought. But New Murkley was overflowing to Katie with images of
Philip, and Lilias moved along abstracted, always with a little sense
of disdainful wonder and toleration for one who could think of nothing
but Philip, though on the verge, had she chosen, of far greater things.

When she returned to her sisters afterwards, she found these ladies in
a state of great perturbation and distress. Jean was sitting, with her
bonnet still on, too much agitated to think of her work. Margaret was
walking up and down the drawing-room, also in her outdoor dress, and
carrying on an indignant monologue. The entrance of Lilias discomposed
them both. They had not expected her, and, as Margaret did not perceive
her at first, Jean gave a little exclamation of warning.

"Margaret, it is Lilias!" she cried.

And Margaret, in her walk up and down, turned round and faced her, with
a look of annoyance which it was impossible to conceal. She was heated
and angry, and the interruption aggravated her discontent. She said,

"Well, what about Lilias? It's all Lilias so far as I can see, and we
seem just fated to have no more peace in our lives."

"Is it I that am taking away your peace, Margaret?" Lilias said.
She had come in with a kind of lofty sadness and longing, her heart
full, and no relief to it possible; her life waiting, as it seemed,
for a touch from without--a something which could not come of her
own initiative. It was not enough to trouble her as with a sense of
dependence, but only to make her sensible of an incompleteness, an
impotence, which yet was sweet.

"There are several persons, it appears, from whom ye have taken away
the peace," said Margaret. "The countryside is just ringing with it
from all I hear. When was it that you gave so much encouragement to
that long-leggit fellow, Philip Stormont? I have heard of little else
all the time I have been out, and Jean will tell you the same thing.
They say he went to every place with us in London (I told you not to
take him to the theatre, Jean), and that it's all settled between him
and you."

"Margaret, I would not speak like that to Lilias that knows nothing
about such things."

"Just hold your peace, Jean; if she does not know about them, she'll
have to learn. When a man wants her to marry him, she'll have to hear
about it, and make her own decision." Margaret's conscience, perhaps,
upbraided her at this moment, for she made a perceptible pause, then
resumed, with increased impatience: "It may be true, for anything we
can tell. You gave him great encouragement, they say, before we went
from here--was that true? for I've many a thing to think of, and I
cannot call all these bits of nothings to mind."

"Oh, Margaret, how can ye upbraid our Lilias, that is as innocent as
an infant? Encouragement, as they call it, was what she never gave any
lad. Encouragement, say they?--that just means a forward person that
knows what a gentleman is meaning, and helps him on. Lilias, my dear,"
said Jean, "you'll just run away. Even to hear the like of that is not
for you."

"Is it Philip Stormont again?" cried Lilias. "I think you are very
unkind, Margaret; you ought to take my part, instead of scolding me.
What am I caring about Philip Stormont? I wish he was--no, I don't wish
him any harm--I don't care enough about him," cried the girl angrily.
"What is it now?"

"She knows there is something, Jean."

"And how could she help knowing, Margaret, when his mother was at her
this morning with that very word in her mouth? Encouragement!--it's
just his mother's doing, everything about it; he would never raise that
cry himself."

"Himself!--he has not enough in him," said Margaret. "But, Lilias,
whatever you have done, you will have to bear the blame, and it must
just be a lesson to us all. In the first place, they were all for
congratulating us, every person we met. Bonnie congratulations! I think
the world is out of its wits. To wish us joy of wedding the heiress of
Murkley upon a bonnet-laird like Philip Stormont! The old Murrays would
just turn in their graves, but all this senseless canailye wishes us
joy."

"Oh, whisht, Margaret! the people just meant very well; no doubt they
had many a private thought in their mind, but they would think it was
well to put the best face upon it."

"And, when they saw we knew nothing of it, what does the minister's
wife do but reads me a lecture on the sin of crossing young folk in
their affections! I am the kind of person, you will say, to be lectured
by Mrs. Seton and Mrs. Stormont, and all the rest," said Margaret, with
a laugh of scorn; but it was not indifferent to her. There was a slight
nervous tremor about her person, which betrayed a vexation almost more
serious than her words conveyed. "I am not finding fault with you,
Lilias. I well believe you meant no harm, and never thought you could
be misconceived; but I would mind upon this in the future if I were
you. Meet with nobody and walk with nobody but those that belong to
you, or that are like yourself. If you do that, you will give no handle
to any ill-disposed person. My dear, I am not finding fault."

"It sounds worse than finding fault," said Lilias. "It sounds as if
you thought I had been----Oh!" she cried, with a little stamp of her
foot, "unwomanly!--you will not say the word, but I know that is what
you mean. And it is not so--it never was so. It was not for me, it was
for----"

Here Lilias stopped in her impetuous self-defence, stopped, and blushed
crimson, and said, more impetuously still, but with a tone of humility
and self-reproach--

"I am just a traitor! It is true--I am a false friend."

"That was what I said, Margaret," cried Jean, "you will mind what I
said."

Of this Margaret took no notice, neither of the interrupted speech of
Lilias, but continued to pace about the room with a clouded brow. She
asked no further explanations; but she had many thoughts to oppress her
mind. The Countess had been one of those who had wished her joy. That
great lady had stopped her carriage, in which Lady Ida sat smiling,
and, with a certain air of triumph, had offered her congratulations.

"I always thought there was something between them," she had said, "and
two such charming young people, and in every way so suitable--"

"Your ladyship seems to forget," Margaret had said, trembling with
wrath, "that the Murrays of Murkley have been in the county before any
other name that's worth counting was heard of, and were never evened
with the small gentry, so far as I know, till this day."

"Oh! my dear Miss Murray, that is quite an antediluvian view to take,"
the Countess had said, and had driven off in great glee, accepting none
of the angry sister's denials. There was something underneath that made
this very galling to Margaret. Young Lord Bellendean had been one of
those that had been at the feet of Lilias, and this was the reason of
his mother's triumph. It had its effect upon Margaret, too, in a way
which was not very flattering to young Bellendean. She had not been
insensible to the pleasure of seeing the best match in the countryside
refused by her little sister. Lord Bellendean, too, was one of the
class which she described as long-leggit lads; but a peerage and great
estates make a difference. Lilias had never shown any inclination
towards their noble young neighbour; but the refusal of him would have
been gratifying. And now his mother, with this story of Philip, would
turn Bellendean effectually away. This was the chief sting of the
discovery she had made. But even to Jean she had not betrayed herself.
She was aware that perhaps it was not a very elevated hope, and that
her mortification would have but little sympathy had the cause of it
been revealed. This was in the foreground of her mind, and held the
chief place among her disturbed thoughts. But it was not all. She could
not flatter herself she had got rid of Lewis Murray by turning her
back upon him. Thus she stood as in the midst of a circle of masked
batteries. She did not know from which side the next broadside would
come. It was indispensable for her to be prepared on every hand.



CHAPTER XLII.


Philip Stormont did not return home for a week, during which period
Lilias had ample reason to share her sister's annoyance. She was
received wherever she appeared with congratulations and good wishes,
though it was a very daft-like thing, the village people thought, for
young folk, who had known each other all their lives and might have
spoken whenever they pleased, to go away up to London, and meet in
strange houses there before they could come to an understanding.

"No true! hoot, Miss Lilias! It must be true, for I had it from the
leddy hersel'," was the reception her denial got: and there was not
unfrequently a glance aside at Katie, which showed the consciousness of
the speaker of another claim. It was a curious study in human nature
for the neighbourhood, and, though it was perhaps cruel, the interest
of the race in mental phenomena generally may have accounted for the
pleasure mingled with compassion with which one after another offered
in Katie's presence their good wishes to Lilias, keenly observing
meantime the air and aspect of the maiden forsaken.

"It'll no have been true about Miss Katie and him, after all," Janet,
at the 'Murkley Arms,' announced to her husband, "for she took it just
as steady as a judge."

"Oh, ay, it was true enough; but men are scarce, and he's just ta'en
his pick," said Adam.

"My word, but he's no blate," said Janet, in high indignation. "Two of
the bonniest and best in a' the countryside for Philip Stormont to take
his pick o'! I would soon learn him another lesson. And it's just a'
lees--a' lees from beginning to end."

"In that case," said Adam, with philosophic calm, "I would not fash
my thoom about it, if I were you." But the philosophy was more than
Janet was capable of. She bade him gang aff to his fishing for a
cauld-hearted loon, that took nae interest in his fellow-creatures.

"It's naething to you if a young thing breaks her bit heart," Janet
said; and she added, with a sigh, "No to say that I had ither views for
Miss Lilias mysel'."

Perhaps it was some glimmer of these "ither views," some implication of
another name, never mentioned, but understood between them by a subtle
feminine freemasonry, which made Lilias insist so warmly to Janet upon
the falsehood of the common report. The girls went on to the manse
after this explanation, Lilias walking with great dignity, but with a
flush of offence and annoyance on her face.

"I wish he would just come back, and let them see it is all lies,"
Lilias cried.

Katie dried a furtive tear when they got within the shelter of the
manse garden. Would Philip, when he came, show that it was all lies? or
was he minded, like his mother, to make it true? And, if he put forth
those persuasive powers which Katie felt so deeply, could Lilias resist
him? These questions kept circling through Katie's brain in endless
succession. "It would maybe be better if he never came back," she said,
with a sigh.

Mrs. Seton was in all the bustle of her morning's occupations. She
came into the drawing-room a little heated, and with some suppressed
excitement in her eyes. Katie's mother was not entirely in Katie's
confidence, but she knew enough of her child's mind to take an agitated
and somewhat angry interest in the news of Lilias' supposed engagement.
Perhaps indeed she was not without a guilty sense of intention in
her former hospitality to Philip, which turned now, by a very common
alchymy of the mind, into an angry feeling that she had been kind to
him, and that he had been very ungrateful. She came in with a little
bustle, unable to chase from her countenance some traces of offence.

"Well, Lilias, so you have come to be congratulated," she said. "I am
sure I wish you every prosperity. Nobody will doubt that we wish you
well, such great friends as you have always been with Katie, and all
the old connection between us and Murkley." Here she kissed the girl on
both cheeks sharply, conveying a little anger even in the kiss. "But I
think, you know, you were a little wanting--oh! just a little wanting,
I'll not say much--considering all the intimacy, not to write at once
and let Katie know----"

"I would like to hear what there was to let Katie know," cried Lilias,
with indignation. "And why you should wish me prosperity? You never
did it before. I am just as I always was before; and as for Philip
Stormont," cried the girl, "he is nothing to me. Oh, yes, he is
something--he is a great trouble and bother, and makes Margaret angry,
and everybody talk nonsense. I wish he was at the other end of the
world!" Lilias cried, with a little stamp of her impatient foot upon
the floor.

"Dear me!" said Mrs. Seton, "but this is very different from what we
heard. No, no, it must be just a little temper, Lilias, and Margaret's
scolding that makes you turn it off like this. I can well understand
Margaret being angry," said the minister's wife, with a gleam of
satisfaction. "Her that thought nobody too grand for you; but there is
no calculating upon young folk. Here is Lilias, Robert; but she is just
in an ill way. She will have none of my good wishes. She has quarrelled
with him, I suppose. We all know what a lovers' quarrel is. Yes,
yes, she'll soon come to herself. And it would be a terrible thing,
you know, to tell a fib to your clergyman," Mrs. Seton said, with an
attempt at raillery; but she was anxious in spite of herself.

"Miss Lilias," said the minister, who had come in, and who was
more formal, "will have little doubt of our good wishes in all
circumstances, and especially on a happy----"

"Oh, will you hold all your tongues!" cried Lilias, driven out of
recollection of her good manners, and of the respect she owed, as Mrs.
Seton said, to her clergyman. "There's no circumstances at all, and
nothing happy, nor to wish me joy about. I am no more engaged than
you are," she said, addressing Mr. Seton, who stood, interrupted in
his little speech, in a sort of consternation. "I am not going to be
married. It is all just lies from beginning to end."

"Oh, my dear, you must not say that. It is dreadful to say that. If we
are really to believe you, Lilias----"

"You need not believe me unless you like. You seem to think I don't
know my own concerns. But it is all lies, and nothing else," cried
Lilias, with a glow of momentary fury. "Just lies from beginning to
end."

"Dear, dear me!" said Mrs. Seton. "My dear, we will not press it too
far. But perhaps you have refused poor Philip, and he cannot make up
his mind it has been final. If you are so sure of it on your side, it
will perhaps just be a mistake on his."

"Oh, I wish I had refused him!" cried Lilias, setting her small teeth.
"I wish he had asked me, and I would have given him his answer. I would
have said to him, I would sooner marry Adam at the inn, I would sooner
have little Willie Seton out of the nursery. Oh, there would have been
no mistake!"

"But, my dear Miss Lilias, why this warmth?" said the minister. "After
all, if the young man wanted you to marry him, it was a compliment, it
was no offence. He is a fine young fellow, when all is said; and why so
hot about it? It is no offence."

"It is just a----" Here Lilias paused, receiving a warning look from
Katie, who had placed herself behind backs, but how gave a little
furtive pull to her friend's dress.

"Margaret is very angry," she said, with dignity, "but not so angry
as I am. To be away a whole year, and then, when I am so glad to come
home, to have this thrown in my face! It is not Philip's fault, it is
just Mrs. Stormont, who never would let me alone--and oh! will you tell
everybody? You may say out of politeness that it is a mistake, but I
say it is all lies, and that is true."

"Whisht, whisht, whisht, my dear!" cried Mrs. Seton. "If you are sure
you are sincere----No, no; me doubting! I would never doubt your word,
if you are sure you are in earnest, Lilias. I will just tell everybody
with pleasure that some mistake has happened--just some mistake. You
were old friends, and never thought what meaning was in his mind; or it
was his mother who put a wrong interpretation. Yes, yes; you may rely
upon me, Lilias: if you are sure, my dear, if you are quite sure that
you are sincere!"

Lilias went home alone, in high excitement and anger with all the
world, holding her head high, and refusing to pause to speak to the
eager cottagers by their doors, who had all a word to say. This mode
of treatment was unknown at Murkley, and produced many shakings of the
head, and fears that London had made her proud. The wives reminded each
other that they had never approved of it. "Why can they no bide at
hame? It was never the custom in the auld days," the women said. But
Lilias made no response to their looks. She went through the village
with an aspect of disdain, carrying her head high; but, before she came
to the gates of the old castle, she became aware of Mrs. Stormont's
pony-carriage leisurely descending towards the river. With still
stronger reason she tossed her head aloft and hurried on. But she was
not permitted to escape so easily. Mrs. Stormont made her preparations
to alight as soon as the girl was visible, and left her no possibility
of escape. She thrust her hand through the unwilling arm of Lilias with
confidential tenderness.

"It was you I was looking for," she said. She had not the triumphant
look which had been so offensive on her previous visit. Her brow was
puckered with anxiety. "My bonnie Lily," she said, "you are angry,
and I have done more harm than good. What ails you at my poor laddie,
Lilias? Who have we thought upon all this time but only you? When I
took all the trouble of yon ball, which was little pleasure to me at
my time of life, who was it for but you? Do you think I was wanting to
please the Bairnsfaithers and the Dunlops, and all the little gentry
about, or even the Countess and Lady Ida? I was wanting to please you:
and my Philip----"

"He was wanting to please Katie Seton," said Lilias, with an angry
laugh; "and he was quite right, for they were fond, fond of each other."

"Oh, my bonnie pet, what a mistake!" cried Mrs. Stormont, growing
red. "Katie Seton! I would not have listened to it for a moment! The
Setons would never have been asked but just for civility. Philip to put
up with all that little thing's airs, and the vulgar mother! Oh! my
darling, do not you be deceived. What said he in London? Was there ever
a word of Katie? You would not cast up to him a folly of his youth now
that he's a man, and all his heart is set on you?"

"Even if it was so," cried Lilias, "my heart is not set on him; I do
not like him--Oh! yes, I like him well enough. He is just a neighbour;
but, Mrs. Stormont, nothing more."

"Lilias, Lilias, you don't know what you are doing! Oh! my dear, just
think a little. He has never come home; he has taken it sore, sore to
heart that you left town like that, and never let him know. How do I
know what my boy is doing, left by himself, with a disappointed heart,
among all yon terrible temptations? Oh, my lovely Lily, whom I have
petted and thought much of all your life, one word from you would bring
Philip home!"

"I cannot send him a word," cried Lilias. "Oh, how can you ask me,
when, wherever I go, everybody is at me wishing me joy; and, though
it is all lies, they make me think shame, and I don't know how to
look them in the face; but I am not ashamed--I am just furious!"
Lilias cried, with burning blushes. "And then you ask me to send him a
word----"

"To bring him home! He is everything I have in the world. Oh! Lilias,
you would not be the one to part a mother from her only son; you would
not be so hard-hearted as that, my Lily. If he has been wanting in any
way, if he has not been so bold in speaking out----"

It was all that Lilias could do to contain herself.

"Do I want him to speak out?" she cried. "I do not want Philip at all,
Mrs. Stormont. Will you believe what I tell you? If you want to get him
home, let him come back to Katie."

"Put Katie out of your mind," said Mrs. Stormont, sharply. "There is no
question of Katie. It is just an insult to me to speak of her at all."

Upon which Lilias threw her head higher still.

"And it is just an insult to me," she cried--"oh, far, far worse! for
I am little and young, and not able to say a word, and you are trying
to force me into what nobody wants. And Margaret will scold me as if it
were my fault."

"You are able to say plenty for yourself, it appears to me," said Mrs.
Stormont; and then she changed her tone. "Oh, Lilias, I have always
been fond, fond of you, my bonnie dear. I have always said you should
have been my child; and now, when there's a chance that you may be
mine----What ails ye at my Philip? Where will you find a finer lad?
Where will ye get a better son, except just when he loses his judgment
with disappointment and love? Oh, my bonnie Lily, he will come back--he
will come to his duty and his mother, if you will only send him a
word--just a word."

This conversation was interrupted in the strangest way by the sudden
apparition of a dog-cart driven at full speed down the road, which
Lilias had vaguely perceived approaching with a little flutter of her
heart, not knowing at any minute who might appear out of the unseen.
When it drew up suddenly at the roadside for a single moment the light
wavered in her eyes. But she came to herself again at once as Philip
Stormont jumped out and advanced to his mother, whose evident relief
and pleasure at the sight of him touched Lilias' heart. The poor lady
trembled so that she could scarcely stand. She could do nothing but
gaze at her son. She forgot in a moment the half-quarrel, the pathetic
plea which she was urging with Lilias. "Oh, my boy, you've come back!"
she said, throwing herself upon him. Lilias was far too young to
fathom what was in the mother's heart, but she was touched in spite of
herself. The change in Mrs. Stormont's face, the disappearance of all
the curves in her forehead, the melting of all the hard lines in her
face, was like magic to the watching girl. A little awe seized her of
the love that worked so profoundly, and which she had made so little
account of. It was true love, though it was not the form of true love
of which one thinks at eighteen. She withdrew a little from them in the
first moment of their meeting with natural delicacy, but did not go
away, feeling it would be somewhat cowardly to attempt to escape.

As for Philip, when he had greeted his mother, he turned from her to
Lilias with a countenance by no means love-like.

"You played me a pretty trick," he said. "Lucky for me that I went to
Cadogan Place first. I might have been at the station now kicking my
heels."

"Not for a week, I hope."

"I might have been there all night: and thinking all the time that
something must have happened. I did not take it kind," said Philip. His
mother was holding his arm, and already making little demonstrations
upon it to stop him in these ill-advised complaints; but Philip paid
little attention. "I wonder how you would have liked it yourself to be
left in the lurch without a word!"

"We were all very sorry," Lilias said, with an air of penitence, and
then she added, "when we remembered," with an inclination to laugh,
which was all the stronger because of the gravity of the situation a
few moments past.

He was somewhat travel-worn, covered with dust, and bearing marks of
the fact that he had left London the night before, and had not paused
long upon the way. His looks, as he regarded Lilias, were not those
of a lover, and as she said the last words he coloured high with not
unpardonable resentment.

"I can well believe that you took little pains to remember me at all,"
he said.

"Oh! Philip, how I have wearied for you," said his mother, anxiously,
making a diversion. "We were speaking of you, Lilias and I: and I was
going to send a message----"

"You are always so impatient," cried Philip, "pursuing a fellow with
telegrams as if he were a thief! Yes, I waited a day or two. There was
something I wanted to see. You can see nothing while that confounded
season is going on. But I'm tired, mother, and by your leave I'll get
home at once."

"You'll excuse him, Lilias," cried Mrs. Stormont, once more with
anxiety; "he'll pay his respects to you at a more fitting moment. Yes,
my dear boy, certainly we will go home; you can drive me back----"

"I've got a dog-cart from Kilmorley," said Philip; "and a better beast
than yours. I'll just go on in that. I'll be there half-an-hour before
you."

He took off his hat carelessly to Lilias, who was looking after him
almost with as much astonishment as his mother. The two ladies looked
at each other as he drove away. Poor Mrs. Stormont, after her agitation
and joy, had grown white and troubled. She gazed at Lilias wistfully
with deprecating eyes. The situation was ruefully comic, but she did
not see it. To have compromised the name of Lilias for Philip's
sake--to have compromised Philip by pleading with Lilias: and then to
have it proved by both before her eyes how useless were her pains--so
broadly, so evidently that she could not pretend to disbelieve it, was
hard. She said, quickly, as if with an attempt to convince herself,
"He is wearied with his journey; he is dusty, and not fit for a lady's
eye." But after that the situation was too strong for her; for a
moment there was humility in her tone. "My dear, perhaps I have made
a mistake; I will do what I can to put it right," she said. Then the
inalienable instinct of defence awoke again. "It is just that he is
turned the wrong way with all these slights and disappointments, to
be taken up one moment and cast away the next. He'll have taken an
ill notion against women. Men are always keen to do that. It's their
justification; and there is no doubt," she continued more briskly,
nerving her courage, "whatever you may say now, that he got a great
deal of encouragement at one time, Lilias. And now he's just turned
the wrong way," Mrs. Stormont ended with a sigh, slowly mounting into
her pony-carriage. Her old servant sat there motionless as he had
sat through all this conversation. "I hope you may never repent your
handiwork," she said.



CHAPTER XLIII.


There is something in the unchangeableness of rural scenery, and in the
unaltered method and order of a long established and carefully governed
household, which gives the sensitive spirit, returning to them after
great changes have passed over itself, a sort of shock as of pitiless
permanence and a rigid machinery of existence which must triumph over
every mere vicissitude of happiness or unhappiness.

After the little incidents of the first days, which after all had had
little to do with her own personal history, the absolute unchangedness
of Murkley, not a leaf different, every branch drooping in the same
line, the same flowers in the garden, the same arrangement of the
flower-vases to which Jean was so glad to get back (for she had never
been able to arrange the London bouquets to her own satisfaction in
those terrible glass things in Cadogan Place), conveyed to Lilias a
sense of some occult and secret power of passive authority in existence
itself, as separate from any individual will or wish, which appalled
her. London and all those wonderful scenes--the lights, the talks, the
dances, the intoxication of flattery and delight which had mounted
to her head--were all gone like a phantasmagoria. But life, which had
been waiting for her just as of old, which had been going on just as
of old, while she was flitting through that dream-world, had now taken
her in again steadily to its steady routine which admitted no thought
of change. It appalled her for the moment; her feet came down, with
a power of gravitation over which her impulses seemed to have little
or no influence, into the self-same line, upon the self-same path.
She tried to laugh sometimes at what everybody called the force of
habit, but she was frightened by it. She had acquired a great deal of
experience in those six weeks of the season; her memory was full of
scenes which flashed upon the inward eye whenever she was by herself,
or even when she sat silent in the old rooms where Jean and Margaret
were so silent too. And when some one called her, or something from the
outer world came in, Lilias felt a momentary giddiness, an inability
to arrange her thoughts or to be quite sure where she was, or which
was real, the actual world or that other in which the moment before
she had been. Her head seemed to turn round when she was spoken to.
To feel herself surrounded by a smiling crowd in rooms all splendid
with decoration, flowers, and lights, and fine pictures, with music
and flattering voices in the air--and then to look up and see Jean's
head somewhat paler than usual against the dark wainscot, and Miss
Margaret's voice saying, "If you will put on your hat, Lilias, we will
go out for our walk--" Which was true? She faltered as she rose up,
stumbling among the real. She was afraid of it: it seemed to her to be
a sort of ghost of existence from which she could not escape.

And in other respects there was no small agitation in the inner
consciousness of Lilias. She had felt that there was much in the air
on that last evening which never came to anything. The atmosphere of
the place, in which neither he nor she had cared to dance, had tingled
with something that had never been said. All those weeks, when she had
seen him so often, had produced their natural effect upon the girl. She
had never deceived herself, like Margaret, as to the many houses that
had suddenly been thrown open to them. Lilias had not forgotten how
it had been at the Countess's reception. She remembered the immediate
alteration of everything as soon as Lewis had appeared. She had not
been allowed to speak to him in the Row, but immediately after all the
doors had been thrown open as by magic. She knew very well that this
magic was in his hand. And how was it possible for her to believe that
it was merely "kindness," as she at first thought? It was kindness,
but there was something more. She saw not only the tenderness, but
the generosity of his treatment of her with wonder, almost with a
little offence at the magnanimity which she found it so difficult to
understand. Lewis had brought to her everybody that was best and most
attractive. She had looked again and again into eyes, bent upon her
with admiration, that might have been the eyes of the hero of her
dreams. Six-foot-two of fine humanity, in the Guards, in the Diplomatic
Service, or, better still, in no service at all, endowed with the
finest of English names and possessing the bluest blood, had exhibited
itself before her in the best light again and again. We do not pretend
to assert, nor did Lilias believe, that these paladins were all ready
to lay their hearts and honours at her feet; but there was one at
least who had done so, without even moving her to more than a little
tingle of gratified vanity and friendly regret. But from all these tall
heroes she had turned to middle-sized Lewis, with his eyes and hair
of no particular colour. She had always been aware when he was in the
most crowded room. Everybody had talked to her about him, believing
her to be his relation. They had all met him abroad; they had all some
grateful recollection of his services when they were ill, or where they
were strangers; they poured forth praises of him on all sides, till
Lilias felt her heart run over. Above even the attractions of six-feet,
had been the enthusiasm in her mind for the good and true. She did not
indeed want this enthusiasm to turn her thoughts to that first friend,
as she had called him in her heart, the first companion who had been
of her own choice and discovery, and whose absence had made to her a
wonderful blank, of which she felt the effect without fully realizing
the cause. But she realized the cause very well now: and felt the day
blank indeed in which he had no share.

Also she knew by instinct that something was to have been said to her
on that last evening. Was it merely his disappointment at finding his
favourite nook under the palms in the conservatory already occupied,
which prevented it being said? or was there some other cause? When they
left London so abruptly, two days before the appointed time, without
seeing Lewis, Lilias had been somewhat disturbed and wistful. She
had wondered at it, however, without being greatly cast down: there
was no fear, she thought, but that he would soon follow. He would
come after them to Murkley. What he had to say would be more fitly
said under the shadow of the great house, about which he too, like
herself, had dreamed dreams: he could not stay away, she felt sure.
And as for Margaret's opposition, that did not appal the young heroine
greatly. All it meant was that Margaret wanted a prince of the royal
blood for her child, and not even he unless he were handsome and
gallant, a youth to please a lady's eye. Lilias felt a little humorous
sympathy with Margaret: she felt that it would be hard for herself to
give up the idea of a hero. Lewis was not like a hero. He was like a
thousand other people, and nobody could identify him, or say, "who is
that?" as the owners of great dark eyes, and dark hair, at the top of
six-feet-two of stature, are ordinarily remarked upon. Lilias laughed
as this thought crossed her mind, and, with a little sympathetic
feeling, was sorry for Margaret. For herself she had ceased altogether
to think of the other, and she was not afraid that her sister would
stand out against Lewis. There would be a struggle: but a struggle in
which the happiness of a beloved child is at stake is decided before
it has