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Title: Robert Falconer
Author: MacDonald, George
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 "Robert Falconer" ***

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By George Macdonald

Note from electronic text creator: I have compiled a glossary with
definitions of most of the Scottish words found in this work and placed
it at the end of this electronic text. This glossary does not belong to
the original work, but is designed to help with the conversations and
references in Broad Scots found in this work. A further explanation of
this list can be found towards the end of this document, preceding the

Any notes that I have made in the text (e.g. relating to Greek words in
the text) have been enclosed in {} brackets.










Robert Falconer, school-boy, aged fourteen, thought he had never seen
his father; that is, thought he had no recollection of having ever seen
him. But the moment when my story begins, he had begun to doubt whether
his belief in the matter was correct. And, as he went on thinking, he
became more and more assured that he had seen his father somewhere about
six years before, as near as a thoughtful boy of his age could judge
of the lapse of a period that would form half of that portion of his
existence which was bound into one by the reticulations of memory.

For there dawned upon his mind the vision of one Sunday afternoon. Betty
had gone to church, and he was alone with his grandmother, reading
The Pilgrim’s Progress to her, when, just as Christian knocked at the
wicket-gate, a tap came to the street door, and he went to open it.
There he saw a tall, somewhat haggard-looking man, in a shabby
black coat (the vision gradually dawned upon him till it reached the
minuteness of all these particulars), his hat pulled down on to his
projecting eyebrows, and his shoes very dusty, as with a long journey
on foot--it was a hot Sunday, he remembered that--who looked at him very
strangely, and without a word pushed him aside, and went straight into
his grandmother’s parlour, shutting the door behind him. He followed,
not doubting that the man must have a right to go there, but questioning
very much his right to shut him out. When he reached the door, however,
he found it bolted; and outside he had to stay all alone, in the
desolate remainder of the house, till Betty came home from church.

He could even recall, as he thought about it, how drearily the afternoon
had passed. First he had opened the street door, and stood in it. There
was nothing alive to be seen, except a sparrow picking up crumbs, and he
would not stop till he was tired of him. The Royal Oak, down the street
to the right, had not even a horseless gig or cart standing before it;
and King Charles, grinning awfully in its branches on the signboard, was
invisible from the distance at which he stood. In at the other end of
the empty street, looked the distant uplands, whose waving corn and
grass were likewise invisible, and beyond them rose one blue truncated
peak in the distance, all of them wearily at rest this weary Sabbath
day. However, there was one thing than which this was better, and that
was being at church, which, to this boy at least, was the very fifth
essence of dreariness.

He closed the door and went into the kitchen. That was nearly as bad.
The kettle was on the fire, to be sure, in anticipation of tea; but the
coals under it were black on the top, and it made only faint efforts,
after immeasurable intervals of silence, to break into a song, giving
a hum like that of a bee a mile off, and then relapsing into hopeless
inactivity. Having just had his dinner, he was not hungry enough to find
any resource in the drawer where the oatcakes lay, and, unfortunately,
the old wooden clock in the corner was going, else there would have been
some amusement in trying to torment it into demonstrations of life, as
he had often done in less desperate circumstances than the present. At
last he went up-stairs to the very room in which he now was, and sat
down upon the floor, just as he was sitting now. He had not even brought
his Pilgrim’s Progress with him from his grandmother’s room. But,
searching about in all holes and corners, he at length found Klopstock’s
Messiah translated into English, and took refuge there till Betty came
home. Nor did he go down till she called him to tea, when, expecting to
join his grandmother and the stranger, he found, on the contrary, that
he was to have his tea with Betty in the kitchen, after which he again
took refuge with Klopstock in the garret, and remained there till it
grew dark, when Betty came in search of him, and put him to bed in the
gable-room, and not in his usual chamber. In the morning, every trace of
the visitor had vanished, even to the thorn stick which he had set down
behind the door as he entered.

All this Robert Falconer saw slowly revive on the palimpsest of his
memory, as he washed it with the vivifying waters of recollection.


It was a very bare little room in which the boy sat, but it was
his favourite retreat. Behind the door, in a recess, stood an empty
bedstead, without even a mattress upon it. This was the only piece of
furniture in the room, unless some shelves crowded with papers tied up
in bundles, and a cupboard in the wall, likewise filled with papers,
could be called furniture. There was no carpet on the floor, no windows
in the walls. The only light came from the door, and from a small
skylight in the sloping roof, which showed that it was a garret-room.
Nor did much light come from the open door, for there was no window on
the walled stair to which it opened; only opposite the door a few steps
led up into another garret, larger, but with a lower roof, unceiled,
and perforated with two or three holes, the panes of glass filling which
were no larger than the small blue slates which covered the roof: from
these panes a little dim brown light tumbled into the room where the boy
sat on the floor, with his head almost between his knees, thinking.

But there was less light than usual in the room now, though it was
only half-past two o’clock, and the sun would not set for more than
half-an-hour yet; for if Robert had lifted his head and looked up, it
would have been at, not through, the skylight. No sky was to be seen. A
thick covering of snow lay over the glass. A partial thaw, followed
by frost, had fixed it there--a mass of imperfect cells and confused
crystals. It was a cold place to sit in, but the boy had some faculty
for enduring cold when it was the price to be paid for solitude. And
besides, when he fell into one of his thinking moods, he forgot, for
a season, cold and everything else but what he was thinking about--a
faculty for which he was to be envied.

If he had gone down the stair, which described half the turn of a screw
in its descent, and had crossed the landing to which it brought him,
he could have entered another bedroom, called the gable or rather ga’le
room, equally at his service for retirement; but, though carpeted
and comfortably furnished, and having two windows at right angles,
commanding two streets, for it was a corner house, the boy preferred
the garret-room--he could not tell why. Possibly, windows to the streets
were not congenial to the meditations in which, even now, as I have
said, the boy indulged.

These meditations, however, though sometimes as abstruse, if not so
continuous, as those of a metaphysician--for boys are not unfrequently
more given to metaphysics than older people are able or, perhaps,
willing to believe--were not by any means confined to such subjects:
castle-building had its full share in the occupation of those lonely
hours; and for this exercise of the constructive faculty, what he
knew, or rather what he did not know, of his own history gave him
scope enough, nor was his brain slow in supplying him with material
corresponding in quantity to the space afforded. His mother had been
dead for so many years that he had only the vaguest recollections of her
tenderness, and none of her person. All he was told of his father was
that he had gone abroad. His grandmother would never talk about him,
although he was her own son. When the boy ventured to ask a question
about where he was, or when he would return, she always replied--‘Bairns
suld haud their tongues.’ Nor would she vouchsafe another answer to any
question that seemed to her from the farthest distance to bear down upon
that subject. ‘Bairns maun learn to haud their tongues,’ was the sole
variation of which the response admitted. And the boy did learn to hold
his tongue. Perhaps he would have thought less about his father if he
had had brothers or sisters, or even if the nature of his grandmother
had been such as to admit of their relationship being drawn closer--into
personal confidence, or some measure of familiarity. How they stood with
regard to each other will soon appear.

Whether the visions vanished from his brain because of the thickening of
his blood with cold, or he merely acted from one of those undefined and
inexplicable impulses which occasion not a few of our actions, I cannot
tell, but all at once Robert started to his feet and hurried from the
room. At the foot of the garret stair, between it and the door of the
gable-room already mentioned, stood another door at right angles to
both, of the existence of which the boy was scarcely aware, simply
because he had seen it all his life and had never seen it open. Turning
his back on this last door, which he took for a blind one, he went down
a short broad stair, at the foot of which was a window. He then turned
to the left into a long flagged passage or transe, passed the kitchen
door on the one hand, and the double-leaved street door on the other;
but, instead of going into the parlour, the door of which closed the
transe, he stopped at the passage-window on the right, and there stood
looking out.

What might be seen from this window certainly could not be called a very
pleasant prospect. A broad street with low houses of cold gray stone
is perhaps as uninteresting a form of street as any to be found in the
world, and such was the street Robert looked out upon. Not a single
member of the animal creation was to be seen in it, not a pair of eyes
to be discovered looking out at any of the windows opposite. The sole
motion was the occasional drift of a vapour-like film of white powder,
which the wind would lift like dust from the snowy carpet that covered
the street, and wafting it along for a few yards, drop again to its
repose, till another stronger gust, prelusive of the wind about to
rise at sun-down,--a wind cold and bitter as death--would rush over the
street, and raise a denser cloud of the white water-dust to sting the
face of any improbable person who might meet it in its passage. It was a
keen, knife-edged frost, even in the house, and what Robert saw to make
him stand at the desolate window, I do not know, and I believe he could
not himself have told. There he did stand, however, for the space of
five minutes or so, with nothing better filling his outer eyes at least
than a bald spot on the crown of the street, whence the wind had swept
away the snow, leaving it brown and bare, a spot of March in the middle
of January.

He heard the town drummer in the distance, and let the sound invade his
passive ears, till it crossed the opening of the street, and vanished
‘down the town.’

‘There’s Dooble Sanny,’ he said to himself--‘wi’ siccan cauld han’s,
‘at he’s playin’ upo’ the drum-heid as gin he was loupin’ in a bowie
(leaping in a cask).’

Then he stood silent once more, with a look as if anything would be
welcome to break the monotony.

While he stood a gentle timorous tap came to the door, so gentle indeed
that Betty in the kitchen did not hear it, or she, tall and Roman-nosed
as she was, would have answered it before the long-legged dreamer could
have reached the door, though he was not above three yards from it.
In lack of anything better to do, Robert stalked to the summons. As he
opened the door, these words greeted him:

‘Is Robert at--eh! it’s Bob himsel’! Bob, I’m byous (exceedingly)

‘What for dinna ye gang hame, than?’

‘What for wasna ye at the schuil the day?’

‘I spier ae queston at you, and ye answer me wi’ anither.’

‘Weel, I hae nae hame to gang till.’

‘Weel, and I had a sair heid (a headache). But whaur’s yer hame gane
till than?’

‘The hoose is there a’ richt, but whaur my mither is I dinna ken. The
door’s lockit, an’ Jeames Jaup, they tell me ‘s tane awa’ the key. I
doobt my mither’s awa’ upo’ the tramp again, and what’s to come o’ me,
the Lord kens.’

‘What’s this o’ ‘t?’ interposed a severe but not unmelodious voice,
breaking into the conversation between the two boys; for the parlour
door had opened without Robert’s hearing it, and Mrs. Falconer, his
grandmother, had drawn near to the speakers.

‘What’s this o’ ‘t?’ she asked again. ‘Wha’s that ye’re conversin’ wi’
at the door, Robert? Gin it be ony decent laddie, tell him to come in,
and no stan’ at the door in sic a day ‘s this.’

As Robert hesitated with his reply, she looked round the open half
of the door, but no sooner saw with whom he was talking than her
tone changed. By this time Betty, wiping her hands in her apron, had
completed the group by taking her stand in the kitchen door.

‘Na, na,’ said Mrs. Falconer. ‘We want nane sic-like here. What does
he want wi’ you, Robert? Gie him a piece, Betty, and lat him gang.--Eh,
sirs! the callant hasna a stockin’-fit upo’ ‘im--and in sic weather!’

For, before she had finished her speech, the visitor, as if in terror of
her nearer approach, had turned his back, and literally showed her, if
not a clean pair of heels, yet a pair of naked heels from between the
soles and uppers of his shoes: if he had any stockings at all, they
ceased before they reached his ankles.

‘What ails him at me?’ continued Mrs. Falconer, ‘that he rins as gin I
war a boodie? But it’s nae wonner he canna bide the sicht o’ a decent
body, for he’s no used till ‘t. What does he want wi’ you, Robert?’

But Robert had a reason for not telling his grandmother what the boy
had told him: he thought the news about his mother would only make her
disapprove of him the more. In this he judged wrong. He did not know his
grandmother yet.

‘He’s in my class at the schuil,’ said Robert, evasively.

‘Him? What class, noo?’

Robert hesitated one moment, but, compelled to give some answer, said,
with confidence,

‘The Bible-class.’

‘I thocht as muckle! What gars ye play at hide and seek wi’ me? Do ye
think I dinna ken weel eneuch there’s no a lad or a lass at the schuil
but ‘s i’ the Bible-class? What wants he here?’

‘Ye hardly gae him time to tell me, grannie. Ye frichtit him.’

‘Me fricht him! What for suld I fricht him, laddie? I’m no sic ferlie
(wonder) that onybody needs be frichtit at me.’

The old lady turned with visible, though by no means profound offence
upon her calm forehead, and walking back into her parlour, where Robert
could see the fire burning right cheerily, shut the door, and left him
and Betty standing together in the transe. The latter returned to the
kitchen, to resume the washing of the dinner-dishes; and the former
returned to his post at the window. He had not stood more than half a
minute, thinking what was to be done with his school-fellow deserted
of his mother, when the sound of a coach-horn drew his attention to
the right, down the street, where he could see part of the other street
which crossed it at right angles, and in which the gable of the house
stood. A minute after, the mail came in sight--scarlet, spotted with
snow--and disappeared, going up the hill towards the chief hostelry of
the town, as fast as four horses, tired with the bad footing they had
had through the whole of the stage, could draw it after them. By this
time the twilight was falling; for though the sun had not yet set, miles
of frozen vapour came between him and this part of the world, and his
light was never very powerful so far north at this season of the year.

Robert turned into the kitchen, and began to put on his shoes. He had
made up his mind what to do.

‘Ye’re never gaein’ oot, Robert?’ said Betty, in a hoarse tone of

‘’Deed am I, Betty. What for no?’

‘You ‘at’s been in a’ day wi’ a sair heid! I’ll jist gang benn the hoose
and tell the mistress, and syne we’ll see what she’ll please to say till

‘Ye’ll do naething o’ the kin’, Betty. Are ye gaein’ to turn clash-pyet
(tell-tale) at your age?’

‘What ken ye aboot my age? There’s never a man-body i’ the toon kens
aught aboot my age.’

‘It’s ower muckle for onybody to min’ upo’ (remember), is ‘t, Betty?’

‘Dinna be ill-tongued, Robert, or I’ll jist gang benn the hoose to the

‘Betty, wha began wi’ bein’ ill-tongued? Gin ye tell my grandmither that
I gaed oot the nicht, I’ll gang to the schuilmaister o’ Muckledrum, and
get a sicht o’ the kirstenin’ buik; an’ gin yer name binna there, I’ll
tell ilkabody I meet ‘at oor Betty was never kirstened; and that’ll be a
sair affront, Betty.’

‘Hoot! was there ever sic a laddie!’ said Betty, attempting to laugh
it off. ‘Be sure ye be back afore tay-time, ‘cause yer grannie ‘ill be
speirin’ efter ye, and ye wadna hae me lee aboot ye?’

‘I wad hae naebody lee about me. Ye jist needna lat on ‘at ye hear
her. Ye can be deif eneuch when ye like, Betty. But I s’ be back afore
tay-time, or come on the waur.’

Betty, who was in far greater fear of her age being discovered than of
being unchristianized in the search, though the fact was that she knew
nothing certain about the matter, and had no desire to be enlightened,
feeling as if she was thus left at liberty to hint what she
pleased,--Betty, I say, never had any intention of going ‘benn the hoose
to the mistress.’ For the threat was merely the rod of terror which she
thought it convenient to hold over the back of the boy, whom she always
supposed to be about some mischief except he were in her own presence
and visibly reading a book: if he were reading aloud, so much the
better. But Robert likewise kept a rod for his defence, and that was
Betty’s age, which he had discovered to be such a precious secret that
one would have thought her virtue depended in some cabalistic manner
upon the concealment of it. And, certainly, nature herself seemed to
favour Betty’s weakness, casting such a mist about the number of
her years as the goddesses of old were wont to cast about a wounded
favourite; for some said Betty was forty, others said she was
sixty-five, and, in fact, almost everybody who knew her had a different
belief on the matter.

By this time Robert had conquered the difficulty of induing boots as
hard as a thorough wetting and as thorough a drying could make them, and
now stood prepared to go. His object in setting out was to find the boy
whom his grandmother had driven from the door with a hastier and
more abject flight than she had in the least intended. But, if his
grandmother should miss him, as Betty suggested, and inquire where he
had been, what was he to say? He did not mind misleading his grannie,
but he had a great objection to telling her a lie. His grandmother
herself delivered him from this difficulty.

‘Robert, come here,’ she called from the parlour door. And Robert

‘Is ‘t dingin’ on, Robert?’ she asked.

‘No, grannie; it’s only a starnie o’ drift.’

The meaning of this was that there was no fresh snow falling, or beating
on, only a little surface snow blowing about.

‘Weel, jist pit yer shune on, man, and rin up to Miss Naper’s upo’ the
Squaur, and say to Miss Naper, wi’ my compliments, that I wad be sair
obleeged till her gin she wad len’ me that fine receipt o’ hers for
crappit heids, and I’ll sen’ ‘t back safe the morn’s mornin’. Rin, noo.’

This commission fell in admirably with Robert’s plans, and he started at


Miss Napier was the eldest of three maiden sisters who kept the
principal hostelry of Rothieden, called The Boar’s Head; from which, as
Robert reached the square in the dusk, the mail-coach was moving away
with a fresh quaternion of horses. He found a good many boxes standing
upon the pavement close by the archway that led to the inn-yard,
and around them had gathered a group of loungers, not too cold to be
interested. These were looking towards the windows of the inn, where the
owner of the boxes had evidently disappeared.

‘Saw ye ever sic a sicht in oor toon afore!’ said Dooble Sanny, as
people generally called him, his name being Alexander Alexander,
pronounced, by those who chose to speak of him with the ordinary respect
due from one mortal to another, Sandy Elshender. Double Sandy was
a soutar, or shoemaker, remarkable for his love of sweet sounds and
whisky. He was, besides, the town-crier, who went about with a drum at
certain hours of the morning and evening, like a perambulating clock,
and also made public announcements of sales, losses, &c.; for the
rest--a fierce, fighting fellow when in anger or in drink, which latter
included the former.

‘What’s the sicht, Sandy?’ asked Robert, coming up with his hands in the
pockets of his trowsers.

‘Sic a sicht as ye never saw, man,’ returned Sandy; ‘the bonniest leddy
ever man set his ee upo’. I culd na hae thocht there had been sic a
woman i’ this warl’.’

‘Hoot, Sandy!’ said Robert, ‘a body wad think she was tint (lost) and ye
had the cryin’ o’ her. Speyk laicher, man; she’ll maybe hear ye. Is she
i’ the inn there?’

‘Ay is she,’ answered Sandy. ‘See sic a warl’ o’ kists as she’s brocht
wi’ her,’ he continued, pointing towards the pile of luggage. ‘Saw ye
ever sic a bourach (heap)? It jist blecks (beats) me to think what ae
body can du wi’ sae mony kists. For I mayna doobt but there’s something
or ither in ilka ane o’ them. Naebody wad carry aboot toom (empty) kists
wi’ them. I cannot mak’ it oot.’

The boxes might well surprise Sandy, if we may draw any conclusions
from the fact that the sole implement of personal adornment which he
possessed was two inches of a broken comb, for which he had to search
when he happened to want it, in the drawer of his stool, among awls,
lumps of rosin for his violin, masses of the same substance wrought into
shoemaker’s wax for his ends, and packets of boar’s bristles, commonly
called birse, for the same.

‘Are thae a’ ae body’s?’ asked Robert.

‘Troth are they. They’re a’ hers, I wat. Ye wad hae thocht she had been
gaein’ to The Bothie; but gin she had been that, there wad hae been a
cairriage to meet her,’ said Crookit Caumill, the ostler.

The Bothie was the name facetiously given by Alexander, Baron Rothie,
son of the Marquis of Boarshead, to a house he had built in the
neighbourhood, chiefly for the accommodation of his bachelor friends
from London during the shooting-season.

‘Haud yer tongue, Caumill,’ said the shoemaker. ‘She’s nae sic cattle,

‘Haud up the bit bowat (stable-lantern), man, and lat Robert here see
the direction upo’ them. Maybe he’ll mak’ something o’t. He’s a fine
scholar, ye ken,’ said another of the bystanders.

The ostler held the lantern to the card upon one of the boxes, but
Robert found only an M., followed by something not very definite, and a
J., which might have been an I., Rothieden, Driftshire, Scotland.

As he was not immediate with his answer, Peter Lumley, one of the
group, a lazy ne’er-do-weel, who had known better days, but never better
manners, and was seldom quite drunk, and seldomer still quite sober,
struck in with,

‘Ye dinna ken a’ thing yet, ye see, Robbie.’

From Sandy this would have been nothing but a good-humoured attempt at
facetiousness. From Lumley it meant spite, because Robert’s praise was
in his ears.

‘I dinna preten’ to ken ae hair mair than ye do yersel’, Mr. Lumley;
and that’s nae sayin’ muckle, surely,’ returned Robert, irritated at his
tone more than at his words.

The bystanders laughed, and Lumley flew into a rage.

‘Haud yer ill tongue, ye brat,’ he said. ‘Wha’ are ye to mak’ sic
remarks upo’ yer betters? A’body kens yer gran’father was naething but
the blin’ piper o’ Portcloddie.’

This was news to Robert--probably false, considering the quarter whence
it came. But his mother-wit did not forsake him.

‘Weel, Mr. Lumley,’ he answered, ‘didna he pipe weel? Daur ye tell me
‘at he didna pipe weel?--as weel’s ye cud hae dune ‘t yersel’, noo, Mr.

The laugh again rose at Lumley’s expense, who was well known to have
tried his hand at most things, and succeeded in nothing. Dooble Sanny
was especially delighted.

‘De’il hae ye for a de’il’s brat! ‘At I suld sweer!’ was all Lumley’s
reply, as he sought to conceal his mortification by attempting to join
in the laugh against himself. Robert seized the opportunity of turning
away and entering the house.

‘That ane’s no to be droont or brunt aither,’ said Lumley, as he

‘He’ll no be hang’t for closin’ your mou’, Mr. Lumley,’ said the

Thereupon Lumley turned and followed Robert into the inn.

Robert had delivered his message to Miss Napier, who sat in an arm-chair
by the fire, in a little comfortable parlour, held sacred by all about
the house. She was paralytic, and unable to attend to her guests
further than by giving orders when anything especial was referred to her
decision. She was an old lady--nearly as old as Mrs. Falconer--and wore
glasses, but they could not conceal the kindness of her kindly eyes.
Probably from giving less heed to a systematic theology, she had nothing
of that sternness which first struck a stranger on seeing Robert’s
grandmother. But then she did not know what it was to be contradicted;
and if she had been married, and had had sons, perhaps a sternness not
dissimilar might have shown itself in her nature.

‘Noo ye maunna gang awa’ till ye get something,’ she said, after taking
the receipt in request from a drawer within her reach, and laying it
upon the table. But ere she could ring the bell which stood by her side,
one of her servants came in.

‘Please, mem,’ she said, ‘Miss Letty and Miss Lizzy’s seein’ efter the
bonny leddy; and sae I maun come to you.’

‘Is she a’ that bonny, Meg?’ asked her mistress.

‘Na, na, she’s nae sae fearsome bonny; but Miss Letty’s unco ta’en wi’
her, ye ken. An’ we a’ say as Miss Letty says i’ this hoose. But that’s
no the pint. Mr. Lumley’s here, seekin’ a gill: is he to hae’t?’

‘Has he had eneuch already, do ye think, Meg?’

‘I dinna ken aboot eneuch, mem; that’s ill to mizzer; but I dinna think
he’s had ower muckle.’

‘Weel, lat him tak’ it. But dinna lat him sit doon.’

‘Verra weel, mem,’ said Meg, and departed.

‘What gars Mr. Lumley say ‘at my gran’father was the blin’ piper o’
Portcloddie? Can ye tell me, Miss Naper?’ asked Robert.

‘Whan said he that, Robert?’

‘Jist as I cam in.’

Miss Napier rang the bell. Another maid appeared.

‘Sen’ Meg here direckly.’

Meg came, her eyes full of interrogation.

‘Dinna gie Lumley a drap. Set him up to insult a young gentleman at my
door-cheek! He s’ no hae a drap here the nicht. He’s had ower muckle,
Meg, already, an’ ye oucht to hae seen that.’

‘’Deed, mem, he ‘s had mair than ower muckle, than; for there’s anither
gill ower the thrapple o’ ‘m. I div my best, mem, but, never tastin’
mysel’, I canna aye tell hoo muckle ‘s i’ the wame o’ a’ body ‘at comes

‘Ye’re no fit for the place, Meg; that’s a fac’.’

At this charge Meg took no offence, for she had been in the place for
twenty years. And both mistress and maid laughed the moment they parted

‘Wha’s this ‘at’s come the nicht, Miss Naper, ‘at they’re sae ta’en
wi’?’ asked Robert.

‘Atweel, I dinna ken yet. She’s ower bonnie by a’ accoonts to be gaein’
about her lane (alone). It’s a mercy the baron’s no at hame. I wad hae
to lock her up wi’ the forks and spunes.’

‘What for that?’ asked Robert.

But Miss Napier vouchsafed no further explanation. She stuffed his
pockets with sweet biscuits instead, dismissed him in haste, and rang
the bell.

‘Meg, whaur hae they putten the stranger-leddy?’

‘She’s no gaein’ to bide at our hoose, mem.’

‘What say ye, lass? She’s never gaein’ ower to Lucky Happit’s, is she?’

‘Ow na, mem. She’s a leddy, ilka inch o’ her. But she’s some sib
(relation) to the auld captain, and she’s gaein’ doon the street as
sune’s Caumill’s ready to tak her bit boxes i’ the barrow. But I doobt
there’ll be maist three barrowfu’s o’ them.’

‘Atweel. Ye can gang.’


Robert went out into the thin drift, and again crossing the wide
desolate-looking square, turned down an entry leading to a kind of
court, which had once been inhabited by a well-to-do class of the
townspeople, but had now fallen in estimation. Upon a stone at the door
of what seemed an outhouse he discovered the object of his search.

‘What are ye sittin’ there for, Shargar?’

Shargar is a word of Gaelic origin, applied, with some sense of the
ridiculous, to a thin, wasted, dried-up creature. In the present case
it was the nickname by which the boy was known at school; and, indeed,
where he was known at all.

‘What are ye sittin’ there for, Shargar? Did naebody offer to tak ye

‘Na, nane o’ them. I think they maun be a’ i’ their beds. I’m most
dreidfu’ cauld.’

The fact was, that Shargar’s character, whether by imputation from
his mother, or derived from his own actions, was none of the best. The
consequence was, that, although scarcely one of the neighbours would
have allowed him to sit there all night, each was willing to wait yet
a while, in the hope that somebody else’s humanity would give in first,
and save her from the necessity of offering him a seat by the fireside,
and a share of the oatmeal porridge which probably would be scanty
enough for her own household. For it must be borne in mind that all
the houses in the place were occupied by poor people, with whom the
one virtue, Charity, was, in a measure, at home, and amidst many sins,
cardinal and other, managed to live in even some degree of comfort.

‘Get up, than, Shargar, ye lazy beggar! Or are ye frozen to the
door-stane? I s’ awa’ for a kettle o’ bilin’ water to lowse ye.’

‘Na, na, Bob. I’m no stucken. I’m only some stiff wi’ the cauld; for
wow, but I am cauld!’ said Shargar, rising with difficulty. ‘Gie ‘s a
haud o’ yer han’, Bob.’

Robert gave him his hand, and Shargar was straightway upon his feet.

‘Come awa’ noo, as fest and as quaiet ‘s ye can.’

‘What are ye gaein’ to du wi’ me, Bob?’

‘What’s that to you, Shargar?’

‘Naything. Only I wad like to ken.’

‘Hae patience, and ye will ken. Only mind ye do as I tell ye, and dinna
speik a word.’

Shargar followed in silence.

On the way Robert remembered that Miss Napier had not, after all, given
him the receipt for which his grandmother had sent him. So he returned
to The Boar’s Head, and, while he went in, left Shargar in the archway,
to shiver, and try in vain to warm his hands by the alternate plans of
slapping them on the opposite arms, and hiding them under them.

When Robert came out, he saw a man talking to him under the lamp.
The moment his eyes fell upon the two, he was struck by a resemblance
between them. Shargar was right under the lamp, the man to the side of
it, so that Shargar was shadowed by its frame, and the man was in its
full light. The latter turned away, and passing Robert, went into the

‘Wha’s that?’ asked Robert.

‘I dinna ken,’ answered Shargar. ‘He spak to me or ever I kent he was
there, and garred my hert gie sic a loup ‘at it maist fell into my

‘And what said he to ye?’

‘He said was the deevil at my lug, that I did naething but caw my han’s
to bits upo’ my shoothers.’

‘And what said ye to that?’

‘I said I wissed he was, for he wad aiblins hae some spare heat aboot
him, an’ I hadna freely (quite) eneuch.’

‘Weel dune, Shargar! What said he to that?’

‘He leuch, and speirt gin I wad list, and gae me a shillin’.’

‘Ye didna tak it, Shargar?’ asked Robert in some alarm.

‘Ay did I. Catch me no taking a shillin’!’

‘But they’ll haud ye till ‘t.’

‘Na, na. I’m ower shochlin’ (in-kneed) for a sodger. But that man was
nae sodger.’

‘And what mair said he?’

‘He speirt what I wad do wi’ the shillin’.’

‘And what said ye?’

‘Ow! syne ye cam’ oot, and he gaed awa’.’

‘And ye dinna ken wha it was?’ repeated Robert.

‘It was some like my brither, Lord Sandy; but I dinna ken,’ said

By this time they had arrived at Yule the baker’s shop.

‘Bide ye here,’ said Robert, who happened to possess a few coppers,
‘till I gang into Eel’s.’

Shargar stood again and shivered at the door, till Robert came out with
a penny loaf in one hand, and a twopenny loaf in the other.

‘Gie’s a bit, Bob,’ said Shargar. ‘I’m as hungry as I am cauld.’

‘Bide ye still,’ returned Robert. ‘There’s a time for a’ thing, and your
time ‘s no come to forgather wi’ this loaf yet. Does na it smell fine?
It’s new frae the bakehoose no ten minutes ago. I ken by the fin’ (feel)
o’ ‘t.’

‘Lat me fin’ ‘t,’ said Shargar, stretching out one hand, and feeling his
shilling with the other.

‘Na. Yer han’s canna be clean. And fowk suld aye eat clean, whether they
gang clean or no.’

‘I’ll awa’ in an’ buy ane oot o’ my ain shillin’,’ said Shargar, in a
tone of resolute eagerness.

‘Ye’ll do naething o’ the kin’,’ returned Robert, darting his hand at
his collar. ‘Gie me the shillin’. Ye’ll want it a’ or lang.’

Shargar yielded the coin and slunk behind, while Robert again led the
way till they came to his grandmother’s door.

‘Gang to the ga’le o’ the hoose there, Shargar, and jist keek roon’ the
neuk at me; and gin I whustle upo’ ye, come up as quaiet ‘s ye can. Gin
I dinna, bide till I come to ye.’

Robert opened the door cautiously. It was never locked except at night,
or when Betty had gone to the well for water, or to the butcher’s or
baker’s, or the prayer-meeting, upon which occasions she put the key
in her pocket, and left her mistress a prisoner. He looked first to the
right, along the passage, and saw that his grandmother’s door was shut;
then across the passage to the left, and saw that the kitchen door was
likewise shut, because of the cold, for its normal position was against
the wall. Thereupon, closing the door, but keeping the handle in his
hand, and the bolt drawn back, he turned to the street and whistled soft
and low. Shargar had, in a moment, dragged his heavy feet, ready to part
company with their shoes at any instant, to Robert’s side. He bent his
ear to Robert’s whisper.

‘Gang in there, and creep like a moose to the fit o’ the stair. I maun
close the door ahin’ ‘s,’ said he, opening the door as he spoke.

‘I’m fleyt (frightened), Robert.’

‘Dinna be a fule. Grannie winna bite aff yer heid. She had ane till her
denner, the day, an’ it was ill sung (singed).’

‘What ane o’?’

‘A sheep’s heid, ye gowk (fool). Gang in direckly.’

Shargar persisted no longer, but, taking about four steps a minute,
slunk past the kitchen like a thief--not so carefully, however, but
that one of his soles yet looser than the other gave one clap upon the
flagged passage, when Betty straightway stood in the kitchen door, a
fierce picture in a deal frame. By this time Robert had closed the outer
door, and was following at Shargar’s heels.

‘What’s this?’ she cried, but not so loud as to reach the ears of Mrs.
Falconer; for, with true Scotch foresight, she would not willingly call
in another power before the situation clearly demanded it. ‘Whaur’s
Shargar gaein’ that gait?’

‘Wi’ me. Dinna ye see me wi’ him? I’m nae a thief, nor yet’s Shargar.’

‘There may be twa opingons upo’ that, Robert. I s’ jist awa’ benn to the
mistress. I s’ hae nae sic doin’s i’ my hoose.’

‘It’s nae your hoose, Betty. Dinna lee.’

‘Weel, I s’ hae nae sic things gang by my kitchie door. There, Robert!
what’ll ye mak’ o’ that? There’s nae offence, there, I houp, gin it
suldna be a’thegither my ain hoose. Tak Shargar oot o’ that, or I s’
awa’ benn the hoose, as I tell ye.’

Meantime Shargar was standing on the stones, looking like a terrified
white rabbit, and shaking from head to foot with cold and fright

‘I’ll tak him oot o’ this, but it’s up the stair, Betty. An’ gin ye gang
benn the hoose aboot it, I sweir to ye, as sure ‘s death, I’ll gang doon
to Muckledrum upo’ Setterday i’ the efternune.’

‘Gang awa’ wi’ yer havers. Only gin the mistress speirs onything aboot
it, what am I to say?’

‘Bide till she speirs. Auld Spunkie says, “Ready-made answers are aye to
seek.” And I say, Betty, hae ye a cauld pitawta (potato)?’

‘I’ll luik and see. Wadna ye like it het up?’

‘Ow ay, gin ye binna lang aboot it.’

Suddenly a bell rang, shrill and peremptory, right above Shargar’s head,
causing in him a responsive increase of trembling.

‘Haud oot o’ my gait. There’s the mistress’s bell,’ said Betty.

‘Jist bide till we’re roon’ the neuk and on to the stair,’ said Robert,
now leading the way.

Betty watched them safe round the corner before she made for the
parlour, little thinking to what she had become an unwilling accomplice,
for she never imagined that more than an evening’s visit was intended by
Shargar, which in itself seemed to her strange and improper enough even
for such an eccentric boy as Robert to encourage.

Shargar followed in mortal terror, for, like Christian in The Pilgrim’s
Progress, he had no armour to his back. Once round the corner, two
strides of three steps each took them to the top of the first stair,
Shargar knocking his head in the darkness against the never-opened door.
Again three strides brought them to the top of the second flight; and
turning once more, still to the right, Robert led Shargar up the few
steps into the higher of the two garrets.

Here there was just glimmer enough from the sky to discover the hollow
of a close bedstead, built in under the sloping roof, which served it
for a tester, while the two ends and most of the front were boarded up
to the roof. This bedstead fortunately was not so bare as the one in
the other room, although it had not been used for many years, for an old
mattress covered the boards with which it was bottomed.

‘Gang in there, Shargar. Ye’ll be warmer there than upo’ the door-step
ony gait. Pit aff yer shune.’

Shargar obeyed, full of delight at finding himself in such good
quarters. Robert went to a forsaken press in the room, and brought out
an ancient cloak of tartan, of the same form as what is now called an
Inverness cape, a blue dress-coat, with plain gilt buttons, which shone
even now in the all but darkness, and several other garments, amongst
them a kilt, and heaped them over Shargar as he lay on the mattress. He
then handed him the twopenny and the penny loaves, which were all his
stock had reached to the purchase of, and left him, saying,--

‘I maun awa’ to my tay, Shargar. I’ll fess ye a cauld tawtie het again,
gin Betty has ony. Lie still, and whatever ye do, dinna come oot o’

The last injunction was entirely unnecessary.

‘Eh, Bob, I’m jist in haven!’ said the poor creature, for his skin began
to feel the precious possibility of reviving warmth in the distance.

Now that he had gained a new burrow, the human animal soon recovered
from his fears as well. It seemed to him, in the novelty of the place,
that he had made so many doublings to reach it, that there could be no
danger of even the mistress of the house finding him out, for she could
hardly be supposed to look after such a remote corner of her dominions.
And then he was boxed in with the bed, and covered with no end of warm
garments, while the friendly darkness closed him and his shelter all
round. Except the faintest blue gleam from one of the panes in the roof,
there was soon no hint of light anywhere; and this was only sufficient
to make the darkness visible, and thus add artistic effect to the
operation of it upon Shargar’s imagination--a faculty certainly
uneducated in Shargar, but far, very far from being therefore
non-existent. It was, indeed, actively operative, although, like that
of many a fine lady and gentleman, only in relation to such primary
questions as: ‘What shall we eat? And what shall we drink? And
wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ But as he lay and devoured the
new ‘white breid,’ his satisfaction--the bare delight of his animal
existence--reached a pitch such as even this imagination, stinted with
poverty, and frost-bitten with maternal oppression, had never conceived
possible. The power of enjoying the present without anticipation of the
future or regard of the past, is the especial privilege of the animal
nature, and of the human nature in proportion as it has not been
developed beyond the animal. Herein lies the happiness of cab horses and
of tramps: to them the gift of forgetfulness is of worth inestimable.
Shargar’s heaven was for the present gained.


Robert had scarcely turned out of the square on his way to find Shargar,
when a horseman entered it. His horse and he were both apparently black
on one side and gray on the other, from the snow-drift settling to
windward. The animal looked tired, but the rider sat as easy as if he
were riding to cover. The reins hung loose, and the horse went in a
straight line for The Boar’s Head, stopping under the archway only when
his master drew bridle at the door of the inn.

At that moment Miss Letty was standing at the back of Miss Napier’s
chair, leaning her arms upon it as she talked to her. This was her way
of resting as often as occasion arose for a chat with her elder sister.
Miss Letty’s hair was gathered in a great knot at the top of her head,
and little ringlets hung like tendrils down the sides of her face, the
benevolence of which was less immediately striking than that of her
sister’s, because of the constant play of humour upon it, especially
about the mouth. If a spirit of satire could be supposed converted into
something Christian by an infusion of the tenderest loving-kindness
and humanity, remaining still recognizable notwithstanding that all its
bitterness was gone, such was the expression of Miss Letty’s mouth. It
was always half puckered as if in resistance to a comic smile, which
showed itself at the windows of the keen gray eyes, however the mouth
might be able to keep it within doors. She was neatly dressed in black
silk, with a lace collar. Her hands were small and white.

The moment the traveller stopped at the door, Miss Napier started.

‘Letty,’ she said, ‘wha’s that? I could amaist sweir to Black Geordie’s

‘A’ four o’ them, I think,’ returned Miss Letty, as the horse,
notwithstanding, or perhaps in consequence of his fatigue, began to paw
and move about on the stones impatiently.

The rider had not yet spoken.

‘He’ll be efter some o’ ‘s deevil-ma’-care sculduddery. But jist rin to
the door, Letty, or Lizzy ‘ll be there afore ye, and maybe she wadna be
ower ceevil. What can he be efter noo?’

‘What wad the grew (grayhound) be efter but maukin (hare)?’ returned
Miss Letty.

‘Hoot! nonsense! He kens naething aboot her. Gang to the door, lassie.’

Miss Letty obeyed.

‘Wha’s there?’ she asked, somewhat sharply, as she opened it, ‘that
neither chaps (knocks) nor ca’s?--Preserve ‘s a’! is’t you, my lord?’

‘Hoo ken ye me, Miss Letty withoot seein’ my face?’

‘A’body at The Boar’s Heid kens Black Geordie as weel ‘s yer lordship’s
ain sel’. But whaur comes yer lordship frae in sic a nicht as this?’

‘From Russia. Never dismounted between Moscow and Aberdeen. The ice is
bearing to-night.’

And the baron laughed inside the upturned collar of his cloak, for he
knew that strangely-exaggerated stories were current about his feats in
the saddle.

‘That’s a lang ride, my lord, and a sliddery. And what’s yer lordship’s

‘Muckle ye care aboot my lordship to stand jawin’ there in a night like
this! Is nobody going to take my horse?’

‘I beg yer lordship’s pardon. Caumill!--Yer lordship never said ye
wanted yer lordship’s horse ta’en. I thocht ye micht be gaein’ on to The
Bothie.--Tak’ Black Geordie here, Caumill.--Come in to the parlour, my

‘How d’ye do, Miss Naper?’ said Lord Rothie, as he entered the room.
‘Here’s this jade of a sister of yours asking me why I don’t go home to
The Bothie, when I choose to stop and water here.’

‘What’ll ye tak’, my lord?--Letty, fess the brandy.’

‘Oh! damn your brandy! Bring me a gill of good Glendronach.’

‘Rin, Letty. His lordship’s cauld.--I canna rise to offer ye the
airm-cheir, my lord.’

‘I can get one for myself, thank heaven!’

‘Lang may yer lordship return sic thanks.’

‘For I’m only new begun, ye think, Miss Naper. Well, I don’t
often trouble heaven with my affairs. By Jove! I ought to be
heard when I do.’

‘Nae doobt ye will, my lord, whan ye seek onything that’s fit to be gien

‘True. Heaven’s gifts are seldom much worth the asking.’

‘Haud yer tongue, my lord, and dinna bring doon a judgment upo’ my
hoose, for it wad be missed oot o’ Rothieden.’

‘You’re right there, Miss Naper. And here comes the whisky to stop my

The Baron of Rothie sat for a few minutes with his feet on the fender
before Miss Letty’s blazing fire, without speaking, while he sipped the
whisky neat from a wine-glass. He was a man about the middle height,
rather full-figured, muscular and active, with a small head, and an eye
whose brightness had not yet been dimmed by the sensuality which might
be read in the condition rather than frame of his countenance. But while
he spoke so pleasantly to the Miss Napiers, and his forehead spread
broad and smooth over the twinkle of his hazel eye, there was a sharp
curve on each side of his upper lip, half-way between the corner and
the middle, which reminded one of the same curves in the lip of his
ancestral boar’s head, where it was lifted up by the protruding tusks.
These curves disappeared, of course, when he smiled, and his smile,
being a lord’s, was generally pronounced irresistible. He was
good-natured, and nowise inclined to stand upon his rank, so long as he
had his own way.

‘Any customers by the mail to-night, Miss Naper?’ he asked, in a
careless tone.

‘Naebody partic’lar, my lord.’

‘I thought ye never let anybody in that wasn’t particularly particular.
No foot-passengers--eh?’

‘Hoot, my lord! that’s twa year ago. Gin I had jaloosed him to be a
fren’ o’ yer lordship’s, forby bein’ a lord himsel’, ye ken as weel ‘s I
du that I wadna hae sent him ower the gait to Luckie Happit’s, whaur
he wadna even be ower sure o’ gettin’ clean sheets. But gin lords an’
lords’ sons will walk afit like ither fowk, wha’s to ken them frae ither

‘Well, Miss Naper, he was no lord at all. He was nothing but a
factor-body doon frae Glenbucket.’

‘There was sma’ hairm dune than, my lord. I’m glaid to hear ‘t. But
what’ll yer lordship hae to yer supper?’

‘I would like a dish o’ your chits and nears (sweetbreads and kidneys).’

‘Noo, think o’ that!’ returned the landlady, laughing. ‘You great fowk
wad hae the verra coorse o’ natur’ turned upside doon to shuit yersels.
Wha ever heard o’ caure (calves) at this time o’ the year?’

‘Well, anything you like. Who was it came by the mail, did you say?’

‘I said naebody partic’lar, my lord.’

‘Well, I’ll just go and have a look at Black Geordie.’

‘Verra weel, my lord.--Letty, rin an’ luik efter him; and as sune ‘s
he’s roon’ the neuk, tell Lizzie no to say a word aboot the leddy. As
sure ‘s deith he’s efter her. Whaur cud he hae heard tell o’ her?’

Lord Rothie came, a moment after, sauntering into the bar-parlour, where
Lizzie, the third Miss Napier, a red-haired, round-eyed, white-toothed
woman of forty, was making entries in a book.

‘She’s a bonnie lassie that, that came in the coach to-night, they say,
Miss Lizzie.’

‘As ugly ‘s sin, my lord,’ answered Lizzie.

‘I hae seen some sin ‘at was nane sae ugly, Miss Lizzie.’

‘She wad hae clean scunnert (disgusted) ye, my lord. It’s a mercy ye
didna see her.’

‘If she be as ugly as all that, I would just like to see her.’

Miss Lizzie saw she had gone too far.

‘Ow, deed! gin yer lordship wants to see her, ye may see her at yer
wull. I s’ gang and tell her.’

And she rose as if to go.

‘No, no. Nothing of the sort, Miss Lizzie. Only I heard that she was
bonnie, and I wanted to see her. You know I like to look at a pretty

‘That’s ower weel kent, my lord.’

‘Well, there’s no harm in that, Miss Lizzie.’

‘There’s no harm in that, my lord, though yer lordship says ‘t.’

The facts were that his lordship had been to the county-town, some forty
miles off, and Black Geordie had been sent to Hillknow to meet him; for
in any weather that would let him sit, he preferred horseback to every
other mode of travelling, though he seldom would be followed by a groom.
He had posted to Hillknow, and had dined with a friend at the inn. The
coach stopping to change horses, he had caught a glimpse of a pretty
face, as he thought, from its window, and had hoped to overtake the
coach before it reached Rothieden. But stopping to drink another bottle,
he had failed; and it was on the merest chance of seeing that pretty
face that he stopped at The Boar’s Head. In all probability, had the
Marquis seen the lady, he would not have thought her at all such a
beauty as she appeared in the eyes of Dooble Sanny; nor, I venture to
think, had he thought as the shoemaker did, would he yet have dared to
address her in other than the words of such respect as he could still
feel in the presence of that which was more noble than himself.

Whether or not on his visit to the stable he found anything amiss with
Black Geordie, I cannot tell, but he now begged Miss Lizzie to have a
bedroom prepared for him.

It happened to be the evening of Friday, one devoted by some of the
townspeople to a symposium. To this, knowing that the talk will throw
a glimmer on several matters, I will now introduce my reader, as a
spectator through the reversed telescope of my history.

A few of the more influential of the inhabitants had grown, rather than
formed themselves, into a kind of club, which met weekly at The Boar’s
Head. Although they had no exclusive right to the room in which they
sat, they generally managed to retain exclusive possession of it; for if
any supposed objectionable person entered, they always got rid of him,
sometimes without his being aware of how they had contrived to make him
so uncomfortable. They began to gather about seven o’clock, when it
was expected that boiling water would be in readiness for the compound
generally called toddy, sometimes punch. As soon as six were assembled,
one was always voted into the chair.

On the present occasion, Mr. Innes, the school-master, was unanimously
elected to that honour. He was a hard-featured, sententious, snuffy
individual, of some learning, and great respectability.

I omit the political talk with which their intercommunications began;
for however interesting at the time is the scaffolding by which existing
institutions arise, the poles and beams when gathered again in the
builder’s yard are scarcely a subject for the artist.

The first to lead the way towards matters of nearer personality was
William MacGregor, the linen manufacturer, a man who possessed a score
of hand-looms or so--half of which, from the advance of cotton and the
decline of linen-wear, now stood idle--but who had already a sufficient
deposit in the hands of Mr. Thomson the banker--agent, that is, for the
county-bank--to secure him against any necessity for taking to cotton
shirts himself, which were an abomination and offence unpardonable in
his eyes.

‘Can ye tell me, Mr. Cocker,’ he said, ‘what mak’s Sandy, Lord Rothie,
or Wrathy, or what suld he be ca’d?--tak’ to The Bothie at a time
like this, whan there’s neither huntin’, nor fishin’, nor shutin’, nor
onything o’ the kin’ aboot han’ to be playacks till him, the bonnie
bairn--‘cep’ it be otters an’ sic like?’

William was a shrunken old man, with white whiskers and a black wig, a
keen black eye, always in search of the ludicrous in other people, and a
mouth ever on the move, as if masticating something comical.

‘You know just as well as I do,’ answered Mr. Cocker, the Marquis of
Boarshead’s factor for the surrounding estate. ‘He never was in the way
of giving a reason for anything, least of all for his own movements.’

‘Somebody was sayin’ to me,’ resumed MacGregor, who, in all probability,
invented the story at the moment, ‘that the prince took him kissin’
ane o’ his servan’ lasses, and kickit him oot o’ Carlton Hoose into the
street, and he canna win’ ower the disgrace o’ ‘t.’

‘’Deed for the kissin’,’ said Mr. Thomson, a portly, comfortable-looking
man, ‘that’s neither here nor there, though it micht hae been a duchess
or twa; but for the kickin’, my word! but Lord Sandy was mair likly to
kick oot the prince. Do ye min’ hoo he did whan the Markis taxed him

‘Haud a quaiet sough,’ interposed Mr. Cruickshank, the solicitor;
‘there’s a drap i’ the hoose.’

This was a phrase well understood by the company, indicating the
presence of some one unknown, or unfit to be trusted.

As he spoke he looked towards the farther end of the room, which lay in
obscurity; for it was a large room, lighted only by the four candles on
the table at which the company sat.

‘Whaur, Mr. Cruickshank?’ asked the dominie in a whisper.

‘There,’ answered Sampson Peddie, the bookseller, who seized the
opportunity of saying something, and pointed furtively where the
solicitor had only looked.

A dim figure was descried at a table in the farthest corner of the room,
and they proceeded to carry out the plan they generally adopted to get
rid of a stranger.

‘Ye made use o’ a curious auld Scots phrase this moment, Mr. Curshank:
can ye explain hoo it comes to beir the meanin’ that it’s weel kent to
beir?’ said the manufacturer.

‘Not I, Mr. MacGregor,’ answered the solicitor. ‘I’m no philologist or
antiquarian. Ask the chairman.’

‘Gentlemen,’ responded Mr. Innes, taking a huge pinch of snuff after
the word, and then, passing the box to Mr. Cocker, a sip from his glass
before he went on: ‘the phrase, gentlemen, “a drap i’ the hoose,” no
doobt refers to an undesirable presence, for ye’re weel awaur that it’s
a most unpleasin’ discovery, in winter especially, to find a drop o’
water hangin’ from yer ceiling; a something, in short, whaur it has no
business to be, and is not accordingly looked for, or prepared against.’

‘It seems to me, Mr. Innes,’ said MacGregor, ‘that ye hae hit the nail,
but no upo’ the heid. What mak’ ye o’ the phrase, no confined to the
Scots tongue, I believe, o’ an eaves-drapper? The whilk, no doobt,
represents a body that hings aboot yer winnock, like a drap hangin’ ower
abune it frae the eaves--therefore called an eaves drapper. But the sort
of whilk we noo speak, are a waur sort a’thegither; for they come to the
inside o’ yer hoose, o’ yer verra chaumer, an’ hing oot their lang lugs
to hear what ye carena to be hard save by a dooce frien’ or twa ower a
het tum’ler.’

At the same moment the door opened, and a man entered, who was received
with unusual welcome.

‘Bless my sowl!’ said the president, rising; ‘it’s Mr. Lammie!--Come
awa’, Mr. Lammie. Sit doon; sit doon. Whaur hae ye been this mony a day,
like a pelican o’ the wilderness?’

Mr. Lammie was a large, mild man, with florid cheeks, no whiskers, and a
prominent black eye. He was characterized by a certain simple alacrity,
a gentle, but outspeaking readiness, which made him a favourite.

‘I dinna richtly mak’ oot wha ye are,’ he answered. ‘Ye hae unco little
licht here! Hoo are ye a’, gentlemen? I s’ discover ye by degrees, and
pay my respecks accordin’.’

And he drew a chair to the table.

‘’Deed I wuss ye wad,’ returned MacGregor, in a voice pretentiously
hushed, but none the less audible. ‘There’s a drap in yon en’ o’ the
hoose, Mr. Lammie.’

‘Hoot! never min’ the man,’ said Lammie, looking round in the direction
indicated. ‘I s’ warran’ he cares as little aboot hiz as we care aboot
him. There’s nae treason noo a-days. I carena wha hears what I say.’

‘For my pairt,’ said Mr. Peddie, ‘I canna help wonnerin’ gin it cud be
oor auld frien’ Mr. Faukener.’

‘Speyk o’ the de’il--’ said Mr. Lammie.

‘Hoot! na,’ returned Peddie, interrupting. ‘He wasna a’thegither the

‘Haud the tongue o’ ye,’ retorted Lammie. ‘Dinna ye ken a proverb whan
ye hear ‘t? De’il hae ye! ye’re as sharpset as a missionar’. I was only
gaun to say that I’m doobtin’ Andrew’s deid.’

‘Ay! ay!’ commenced a chorus of questioning.



‘What gars ye think that?’

‘And sae he’s deid!’

‘He was a great favourite, Anerew!’

‘Whaur dee’d he?’

‘Aye some upsettin’ though!’

‘Ay. He was aye to be somebody wi’ his tale.’

‘A gude-hertit crater, but ye cudna lippen till him.’

‘Speyk nae ill o’ the deid. Maybe they’ll hear ye, and turn roon’ i’
their coffins, and that’ll whumle you i’ your beds,’ said MacGregor,
with a twinkle in his eye.

‘Ring the bell for anither tum’ler, Sampson,’ said the chairman.

‘What’ll be dune wi’ that factory place, noo? It’ll be i’ the market?’

‘It’s been i’ the market for mony a year. But it’s no his ava. It
belangs to the auld leddy, his mither,’ said the weaver.

‘Why don’t you buy it, Mr. MacGregor, and set up a cotton mill? There’s
not much doing with the linen now,’ said Mr. Cocker.

‘Me!’ returned MacGregor, with indignation. ‘The Lord forgie ye for
mintin’ (hinting) at sic a thing, Mr. Cocker! Me tak’ to coaton! I wad
as sune spin the hair frae Sawtan’s hurdies. Short fushionless dirt,
that canna grow straucht oot o’ the halesome yird, like the bonnie
lint-bells, but maun stick itsel’ upo’ a buss!--set it up! Coorse vulgar
stuff, ‘at naebody wad weir but loup-coonter lads that wad fain luik
like gentlemen by means o’ the collars and ruffles--an’ a’ comin’ frae
the auld loom! They may weel affoord se’enteen hunner linen to set it
aff wi’ ‘at has naething but coaton inside the breeks o’ them.’

‘But Dr. Wagstaff says it’s healthier,’ interposed Peddie.

‘I’ll wag a staff till him. De’il a bit o’ ‘t ‘s healthier! an’ that
he kens. It’s nae sae healthy, an’ sae it mak’s him mair wark wi’ ‘s
poothers an’ his drauchts, an’ ither stinkin’ stuff. Healthier! What

‘Somebody tellt me,’ said the bookseller, inwardly conscious of offence,
‘’at hoo Lord Sandy himsel’ weirs cotton.’

‘Ow ‘deed, maybe. And he sets mony a worthy example furbye. Hoo mony,
can ye tell me, Mr. Peddie, has he pulled doon frae honest, if no frae
high estate, and sent oot to seek their livin’ as he taucht them? Hoo

‘Hoot, hoot! Mr. MacGregor, his lordship hasn’t a cotton shirt in his
possession, I’ll be bound,’ said Mr. Cocker. ‘And, besides, you have not
to wash his dirty linen--or cotton either.’

‘That’s as muckle as to say, accordin’ to Cocker, that I’m no to speik
a word against him. But I’ll say what I like. He’s no my maister,’ said
MacGregor, who could drink very little without suffering in his temper
and manners; and who, besides, had a certain shrewd suspicion as to the
person who still sat in the dark end of the room, possibly because the
entrance of Mr. Lammie had interrupted the exorcism.

The chairman interposed with soothing words; and the whole company,
Cocker included, did its best to pacify the manufacturer; for they all
knew what would be the penalty if they failed.

A good deal of talk followed, and a good deal of whisky was drunk. They
were waited upon by Meg, who, without their being aware of it, cast a
keen parting glance at them every time she left the room. At length the
conversation had turned again to Andrew Falconer’s death.

‘Whaur said ye he dee’d, Mr. Lammie?’

‘I never said he was deid. I said I was feared ‘at he was deid.’

‘An’ what gars ye say that? It micht be o’ consequence to hae ‘t
correck,’ said the solicitor.

‘I had a letter frae my auld frien’ and his, Dr. Anderson. Ye min’ upo’
him, Mr. Innes, dunna ye? He’s heid o’ the medical boord at Calcutta
noo. He says naething but that he doobts he’s gane. He gaed up the
country, and he hasna hard o’ him for sae lang. We hae keepit up a
correspondence for mony a year noo, Dr. Anderson an’ me. He was a
relation o’ Anerew’s, ye ken--a second cousin, or something. He’ll be
hame or lang, I’m thinkin’, wi’ a fine pension.’

‘He winna weir a cotton sark, I’ll be boon’,’ said MacGregor.

‘What’s the auld leddy gaein’ to du wi’ that lang-leggit oye (grandson)
o’ hers, Anerew’s son?’ asked Sampson.

‘Ow! he’ll be gaein’ to the college, I’m thinkin’. He’s a fine lad, and
a clever, they tell me,’ said Mr. Thomson.

‘Indeed, he’s all that, and more too,’ said the school-master.

‘There’s naething ‘ull du but the college noo!’ said MacGregor, whom
nobody heeded, for fear of again rousing his anger.

‘Hoo ‘ill she manage that, honest woman? She maun hae but little to
spare frae the cleedin’ o’ ‘m.’

‘She’s a gude manager, Mistress Faukner. And, ye see, she has the
bleachgreen yet.’

‘She doesna weir cotton sarks,’ growled MacGregor. ‘Mony’s the wob o’
mine she’s bleached and boucht tu!’

Nobody heeding him yet, he began to feel insulted, and broke in upon the
conversation with intent.

‘Ye haena telt ‘s yet, Cocker,’ he said, ‘what that maister o’ yours is
duin’ here at this time o’ the year. I wad ken that, gin ye please.’

‘How should I know, Mr. MacGregor?’ returned the factor, taking no
notice of the offensive manner in which the question was put.

‘He’s no a hair better nor ane o’ thae Algerine pirates ‘at Lord
Exmooth’s het the hips o’--and that’s my opingon.’

‘He’s nae amo’ your feet, MacGregor,’ said the banker. ‘Ye micht jist
lat him lie.’

‘Gin I had him doon, faith gin I wadna lat him lie! I’ll jist tell ye
ae thing, gentlemen, that cam’ to my knowledge no a hunner year ago. An’
it’s a’ as true ‘s gospel, though I hae aye held my tongue aboot it till
this verra nicht. Ay! ye’ll a’ hearken noo; but it’s no lauchin’, though
there was sculduddery eneuch, nae doobt, afore it cam’ that len’th. And
mony a het drap did the puir lassie greet, I can tell ye. Faith! it was
no lauchin’ to her. She was a servan’ o’ oors, an’ a ticht bonnie lass
she was. They ca’d her the weyver’s bonny Mary--that’s the name she gaed
by. Weel, ye see--’

MacGregor was interrupted by a sound from the further end of the room.
The stranger, whom most of them had by this time forgotten, had risen,
and was approaching the table where they sat.

‘Guid guide us!’ interrupted several under their breaths, as all rose,
‘it’s Lord Sandy himsel’!’

‘I thank you, gentleman,’ he said, with a mixture of irony and contempt,
‘for the interest you take in my private history. I should have thought
it had been as little to the taste as it is to the honour of some of you
to listen to such a farrago of lies.’

‘Lees! my lord,’ said MacGregor, starting to his feet. Mr. Cocker looked
dismayed, and Mr. Lammie sheepish--all of them dazed and dumbfoundered,
except the old weaver, who, as his lordship turned to leave the room,

‘Lang lugs (ears) suld be made o’ leather, my lord, for fear they grow
het wi’ what they hear.’

Lord Rothie turned in a rage. He too had been drinking.

‘Kick that toad into the street, or, by heaven! it’s the last drop any
of you drink in this house!’ he cried.

‘The taed may tell the poddock (frog) what the rottan (rat) did i’ the
taed’s hole, my lord,’ said MacGregor, whom independence, honesty, bile,
and drink combined to render fearless.

Lord Sandy left the room without another word. His factor took his hat
and followed him. The rest dropped into their seats in silence. Mr.
Lammie was the first to speak.

‘There’s a pliskie!’ he said.

‘I cud jist say the word efter auld Simeon,’ said MacGregor.

‘I never thocht to be sae favoured! Eh! but I hae langed, and noo I hae
spoken!’ with which words he sat down, contented.

When Mr. Cocker overtook his master, as MacGregor had not unfitly styled
him, he only got a damning for his pains, and went home considerably

Lord Rothie returned to the landlady in her parlour.

‘What’s the maitter wi’ ye, my lord? What’s vexed ye?’ asked Miss
Napier, with a twinkle in her eyes, for she thought, from the baron’s
mortification, he must have received some rebuff, and now that the
bonnie leddy was safe at Captain Forsyth’s, enjoyed the idea of it.

‘Ye keep an ill-tongued hoose, Miss Naper,’ answered his lordship.

Miss Napier guessed at the truth at once--that he had overheard some
free remarks on his well-known licence of behaviour.

‘Weel, my lord, I do my best. A body canna keep an inn and speir the
carritchis (catechism) at the door o’ ‘t. But I believe ye’re i’ the
richt, my lord, for I heard an awfu’ aff-gang o’ sweirin’ i’ the yard,
jist afore yer lordship cam’ in. An’ noo’ ‘at I think o’ ‘t, it wasna
that onlike yer lordship’s ain word.’

Lord Sandy broke into a loud laugh. He could enjoy a joke against
himself when it came from a woman, and was founded on such a trifle as a
personal vice.

‘I think I’ll go to bed,’ he said when his laugh was over. ‘I believe
it’s the only safe place from your tongue, Miss Naper.’

‘Letty,’ cried Miss Napier, ‘fess a can’le, and show his lordship to the
reid room.’

Till Miss Letty appeared, the baron sat and stretched himself. He then
rose and followed her into the archway, and up an outside stair to a
door which opened immediately upon a handsome old-fashioned room, where
a blazing fire lighted up the red hangings. Miss Letty set down the
candle, and bidding his lordship good night, turned and left the room,
shutting the door, and locking it behind her--a proceeding of which his
lordship took no notice, for, however especially suitable it might be in
his case, it was only, from whatever ancient source derived, the custom
of the house in regard to this particular room and a corresponding
chamber on the opposite side of the archway.

Meantime the consternation amongst the members of the club was not so
great as not to be talked over, or to prevent the call for more whisky
and hot water. All but MacGregor, however, regretted what had occurred.
He was so elevated with his victory and a sense of courage and prowess,
that he became more and more facetious and overbearing.

‘It’s all very well for you, Mr. MacGregor,’ said the dominie, with
dignity: ‘you have nothing to lose.’

‘Troth! he canna brak the bank--eh, Mr. Tamson?’

‘He may give me a hint to make you withdraw your money, though, Mr.

‘De’il care gin I do!’ returned the weaver. ‘I can mak’ better o’ ‘t ony

‘But there’s yer hoose an’ kailyard,’ suggested Peddie.

‘They’re ma ain!--a’ ma ain! He canna lay ‘s finger on onything o’ mine
but my servan’ lass,’ cried the weaver, slapping his thigh-bone--for
there was little else to slap.

Meg, at the moment, was taking her exit-glance. She went straight to
Miss Napier.

‘Willie MacGregor’s had eneuch, mem, an’ a drappy ower.’

‘Sen’ Caumill doon to Mrs. MacGregor to say wi’ my compliments that she
wad do weel to sen’ for him,’ was the response.

Meantime he grew more than troublesome. Ever on the outlook, when sober,
after the foibles of others, he laid himself open to endless ridicule
when in drink, which, to tell the truth, was a rare occurrence. He was
in the midst of a prophetic denunciation of the vices of the nobility,
and especially of Lord Rothie, when Meg, entering the room, went quietly
behind his chair and whispered:

‘Maister MacGregor, there’s a lassie come for ye.’

‘I’m nae in,’ he answered, magnificently.

‘But it’s the mistress ‘at’s sent for ye. Somebody’s wantin’ ye.’

‘Somebody maun want me, than.--As I was sayin’, Mr. Cheerman and

‘Mistress MacGregor ‘ll be efter ye hersel’, gin ye dinna gang,’ said

‘Let her come. Duv ye think I’m fleyt at her? De’il a step ‘ll I gang
till I please. Tell her that, Meg.’

Meg left the room, with a broad grin on her good-humoured face.

‘What’s the bitch lauchin’ at?’ exclaimed MacGregor, starting to his

The whole company rose likewise, using their endeavour to persuade him
to go home.

‘Duv ye think I’m drunk, sirs? I’ll lat ye ken I’m no drunk. I hae a
wull o’ mine ain yet. Am I to gang hame wi’ a lassie to haud me oot o’
the gutters? Gin ye daur to alloo that I’m drunk, ye ken hoo ye’ll fare,
for de’il a fit ‘ll I gang oot o’ this till I hae anither tum’ler.’

‘I’m thinkin’ there’s mair o’ ‘s jist want ane mair,’ said Peddie.

A confirmatory murmur arose as each looked into the bottom of his
tumbler, and the bell was instantly rung. But it only brought Meg back
with the message that it was time for them all to go home. Every eye
turned upon MacGregor reproachfully.

‘Ye needna luik at me that gait, sirs. I’m no fou,’ said he.

‘’Deed no. Naebody taks ye to be,’ answered the chairman. ‘Meggie,
there’s naebody’s had ower muckle yet, and twa or three o’ ‘s hasna had
freely eneuch. Jist gang an’ fess a mutchkin mair. An’ there’ll be a
shillin’ to yersel’, lass.’

Meg retired, but straightway returned.

‘Miss Naper says there’s no a drap mair drink to be had i’ this hoose
the nicht.’

‘Here, Meggie,’ said the chairman, ‘there’s yer shillin’; and ye jist
gang to Miss Lettie, and gie her my compliments, and say that Mr.
Lammie’s here, and we haena seen him for a lang time. And’--the rest was
spoken in a whisper--‘I’ll sweir to ye, Meggie, the weyver body sanna
hae ae drap o’ ‘t.’

Meg withdrew once more, and returned.

‘Miss Letty’s compliments, sir, and Miss Naper has the keys, and she’s
gane till her bed, and we maunna disturb her. And it’s time ‘at a’
honest fowk was in their beds tu. And gin Mr. Lammie wants a bed i’ this
hoose, he maun gang till ‘t. An’ here’s his can’le. Gude nicht to ye a’,

So saying, Meg set the lighted candle on the sideboard, and finally
vanished. The good-tempered, who formed the greater part of the company,
smiled to each other, and emptied the last drops of their toddy first
into their glasses, and thence into their mouths. The ill-tempered,
numbering but one more than MacGregor, growled and swore a little, the
weaver declaring that he would not go home. But the rest walked out and
left him, and at last, appalled by the silence, he rose with his wig
awry, and trotted--he always trotted when he was tipsy--home to his


Meantime Robert was seated in the parlour at the little dark mahogany
table, in which the lamp, shaded towards his grandmother’s side, shone
brilliantly reflected. Her face being thus hidden both by the light and
the shadow, he could not observe the keen look of stern benevolence with
which, knowing that he could not see her, she regarded him as he ate
his thick oat-cake of Betty’s skilled manufacture, well loaded with the
sweetest butter, and drank the tea which she had poured out and sugared
for him with liberal hand. It was a comfortable little room, though its
inlaid mahogany chairs and ancient sofa, covered with horsehair, had a
certain look of hardness, no doubt. A shepherdess and lamb, worked in
silks whose brilliance had now faded half-way to neutrality, hung in
a black frame, with brass rosettes at the corners, over the
chimney-piece--the sole approach to the luxury of art in the homely
little place. Besides the muslin stretched across the lower part of the
window, it was undefended by curtains. There was no cat in the room, nor
was there one in the kitchen even; for Mrs. Falconer had such a respect
for humanity that she grudged every morsel consumed by the lower
creation. She sat in one of the arm-chairs belonging to the hairy set,
leaning back in contemplation of her grandson, as she took her tea.

She was a handsome old lady--little, but had once been taller, for she
was more than seventy now. She wore a plain cap of muslin, lying close
to her face, and bordered a little way from the edge with a broad black
ribbon, which went round her face, and then, turning at right angles,
went round the back of her neck. Her gray hair peeped a little way from
under this cap. A clear but short-sighted eye of a light hazel shone
under a smooth thoughtful forehead; a straight and well-elevated, but
rather short nose, which left the firm upper lip long and capable of
expressing a world of dignified offence, rose over a well-formed mouth,
revealing more moral than temperamental sweetness; while the chin was
rather deficient than otherwise, and took little share in indicating the
remarkable character possessed by the old lady.

After gazing at Robert for some time, she took a piece of oat-cake from
a plate by her side, the only luxury in which she indulged, for it
was made with cream instead of water--it was very little she ate of
anything--and held it out to Robert in a hand white, soft, and smooth,
but with square finger tips, and squat though pearly nails. ‘Ha’e,
Robert,’ she said; and Robert received it with a ‘Thank you, grannie’;
but when he thought she did not see him, slipped it under the table
and into his pocket. She saw him well enough, however, and although she
would not condescend to ask him why he put it away instead of eating it,
the endeavour to discover what could have been his reason for so doing
cost her two hours of sleep that night. She would always be at the
bottom of a thing if reflection could reach it, but she generally
declined taking the most ordinary measures to expedite the process.

When Robert had finished his tea, instead of rising to get his books and
betake himself to his lessons, in regard to which his grandmother had
seldom any cause to complain, although she would have considered herself
guilty of high treason against the boy’s future if she had allowed
herself once to acknowledge as much, he drew his chair towards the fire,
and said:


‘He’s gaein’ to tell me something,’ said Mrs. Falconer to herself. ‘Will
‘t be aboot the puir barfut crater they ca’ Shargar, or will ‘t be aboot
the piece he pat intil ‘s pooch?’

‘Weel, laddie?’ she said aloud, willing to encourage him.

‘Is ‘t true that my gran’father was the blin’ piper o’ Portcloddie?’

‘Ay, laddie; true eneuch. Hoots, na! nae yer grandfather, but yer
father’s grandfather, laddie--my husband’s father.’

‘Hoo cam that aboot?’

‘Weel, ye see, he was oot i’ the Forty-five; and efter the battle o’
Culloden, he had to rin for ‘t. He wasna wi’ his ain clan at the battle,
for his father had broucht him to the Lawlands whan he was a lad; but he
played the pipes till a reg’ment raised by the Laird o’ Portcloddie.
And for ooks (weeks) he had to hide amo’ the rocks. And they tuik a’ his
property frae him. It wasna muckle--a wheen hooses, and a kailyard or
twa, wi’ a bit fairmy on the tap o’ a cauld hill near the sea-shore;
but it was eneuch and to spare; and whan they tuik it frae him, he had
naething left i’ the warl’ but his sons. Yer grandfather was born the
verra day o’ the battle, and the verra day ‘at the news cam, the mother
deed. But yer great grandfather wasna lang or he merried anither wife.
He was sic a man as ony woman micht hae been prood to merry. She was the
dother (daughter) o’ an episcopalian minister, and she keepit a school
in Portcloddie. I saw him first mysel’ whan I was aboot twenty--that was
jist the year afore I was merried. He was a gey (considerably) auld man
than, but as straucht as an ellwand, and jist pooerfu’ beyon’ belief.
His shackle-bane (wrist) was as thick as baith mine; and years and
years efter that, whan he tuik his son, my husband, and his grandson, my

‘What ails ye, grannie? What for dinna ye gang on wi’ the story?’

After a somewhat lengthened pause, Mrs. Falconer resumed as if she had
not stopped at all.

‘Ane in ilka han’, jist for the fun o’ ‘t, he kneipit their heids
thegither, as gin they hed been twa carldoddies (stalks of ribgrass).
But maybe it was the lauchin’ o’ the twa lads, for they thocht it unco
fun. They were maist killed wi’ lauchin’. But the last time he did it,
the puir auld man hostit (coughed) sair efterhin, and had to gang and
lie doon. He didna live lang efter that. But it wasna that ‘at killed
him, ye ken.’

‘But hoo cam he to play the pipes?’

‘He likit the pipes. And yer grandfather, he tuik to the fiddle.’

‘But what for did they ca’ him the blin’ piper o’ Portcloddie?’

‘Because he turned blin’ lang afore his en’ cam, and there was naething
ither he cud do. And he wad aye mak an honest baubee whan he cud; for
siller was fell scarce at that time o’ day amo’ the Falconers. Sae he
gaed throu the toon at five o’clock ilka mornin’ playin’ his pipes, to
lat them ‘at war up ken they war up in time, and them ‘at warna, that it
was time to rise. And syne he played them again aboot aucht o’clock at
nicht, to lat them ken ‘at it was time for dacent fowk to gang to their
beds. Ye see, there wasna sae mony clocks and watches by half than as
there is noo.’

‘Was he a guid piper, grannie?’

‘What for speir ye that?’

‘Because I tauld that sunk, Lumley--’

‘Ca’ naebody names, Robert. But what richt had ye to be speikin’ to a
man like that?’

‘He spak to me first.’

‘Whaur saw ye him?’

‘At The Boar’s Heid.’

‘And what richt had ye to gang stan’in’ aboot? Ye oucht to ha’ gane in
at ance.’

‘There was a half-dizzen o’ fowk stan’in’ aboot, and I bude (behoved) to
speik whan I was spoken till.’

‘But ye budena stop an’ mak’ ae fule mair.’

‘Isna that ca’in’ names, grannie?’

‘’Deed, laddie, I doobt ye hae me there. But what said the fallow Lumley
to ye?’

‘He cast up to me that my grandfather was naething but a blin’ piper.’

‘And what said ye?’

‘I daured him to say ‘at he didna pipe weel.’

‘Weel dune, laddie! And ye micht say ‘t wi’ a gude conscience, for he
wadna hae been piper till ‘s regiment at the battle o’ Culloden gin he
hadna pipit weel. Yon’s his kilt hingin’ up i’ the press i’ the garret.
Ye’ll hae to grow, Robert, my man, afore ye fill that.’

‘And whase was that blue coat wi’ the bonny gowd buttons upo’ ‘t?’ asked
Robert, who thought he had discovered a new approach to an impregnable
hold, which he would gladly storm if he could.

‘Lat the coat sit. What has that to do wi’ the kilt? A blue coat and a
tartan kilt gang na weel thegither.’

‘Excep’ in an auld press whaur naebody sees them. Ye wadna care,
grannie, wad ye, gin I was to cut aff the bonnie buttons?’

‘Dinna lay a finger upo’ them. Ye wad be gaein’ playin’ at pitch and
toss or ither sic ploys wi’ them. Na, na, lat them sit.’

‘I wad only niffer them for bools (exchange them for marbles).’

‘I daur ye to touch the coat or onything ‘ither that’s i’ that press.’

‘Weel, weel, grannie. I s’ gang and get my lessons for the morn.’

‘It’s time, laddie. Ye hae been jabberin’ ower muckle. Tell Betty to
come and tak’ awa’ the tay-things.’

Robert went to the kitchen, got a couple of hot potatoes and a candle,
and carried them up-stairs to Shargar, who was fast asleep. But the
moment the light shone upon his face, he started up, with his eyes, if
not his senses, wide awake.

‘It wasna me, mither! I tell ye it wasna me!’

And he covered his head with both arms, as if to defend it from a shower
of blows.

‘Haud yer tongue, Shargar. It’s me.’

But before Shargar could come to his senses, the light of the candle
falling upon the blue coat made the buttons flash confused suspicions
into his mind.

‘Mither, mither,’ he said, ‘ye hae gane ower far this time. There’s ower
mony o’ them, and they’re no the safe colour. We’ll be baith hangt, as
sure’s there’s a deevil in hell.’

As he said thus, he went on trying to pick the buttons from the coat,
taking them for sovereigns, though how he could have seen a sovereign
at that time in Scotland I can only conjecture. But Robert caught him by
the shoulders, and shook him awake with no gentle hands, upon which he
began to rub his eyes, and mutter sleepily:

‘Is that you, Bob? I hae been dreamin’, I doobt.’

‘Gin ye dinna learn to dream quaieter, ye’ll get you and me tu into mair
trouble nor I care to hae aboot ye, ye rascal. Haud the tongue o’ ye,
and eat this tawtie, gin ye want onything mair. And here’s a bit o’
reamy cakes tu ye. Ye winna get that in ilka hoose i’ the toon. It’s my
grannie’s especial.’

Robert felt relieved after this, for he had eaten all the cakes Miss
Napier had given him, and had had a pain in his conscience ever since.

‘Hoo got ye a haud o’ ‘t?’ asked Shargar, evidently supposing he had
stolen it.

‘She gies me a bit noo and than.’

‘And ye didna eat it yersel’? Eh, Bob!’

Shargar was somewhat overpowered at this fresh proof of Robert’s
friendship. But Robert was still more ashamed of what he had not done.

He took the blue coat carefully from the bed, and hung it in its place
again, satisfied now, from the way his grannie had spoken, or, rather,
declined to speak, about it, that it had belonged to his father.

‘Am I to rise?’ asked Shargar, not understanding the action.

‘Na, na, lie still. Ye’ll be warm eneuch wantin’ thae sovereigns. I’ll
lat ye oot i’ the mornin’ afore grannie’s up. And ye maun mak’ the best
o’t efter that till it’s dark again. We’ll sattle a’ aboot it at the
schuil the morn. Only we maun be circumspec’, ye ken.’

‘Ye cudna lay yer han’s upo’ a drap o’ whusky, cud ye, Bob?’

Robert stared in horror. A boy like that asking for whisky! and in his
grandmother’s house, too!

‘Shargar,’ he said solemnly, ‘there’s no a drap o’ whusky i’ this hoose.
It’s awfu’ to hear ye mention sic a thing. My grannie wad smell the
verra name o’ ‘t a mile awa’. I doobt that’s her fit upo’ the stair

Robert crept to the door, and Shargar sat staring with horror, his eyes
looking from the gloom of the bed like those of a half-strangled dog.
But it was a false alarm, as Robert presently returned to announce.

‘Gin ever ye sae muckle as mention whusky again, no to say drink ae drap
o’ ‘t, you and me pairt company, and that I tell you, Shargar,’ said he,

‘I’ll never luik at it; I’ll never mint at dreamin’ o’ ‘t,’ answered
Shargar, coweringly. ‘Gin she pits ‘t intil my moo’, I’ll spit it oot.
But gin ye strive wi’ me, Bob, I’ll cut my throat--I will; an’ that’ll
be seen and heard tell o’.’

All this time, save during the alarm of Mrs. Falconer’s approach,
when he sat with a mouthful of hot potato, unable to move his jaws for
terror, and the remnant arrested half-way in its progress from his mouth
after the bite--all this time Shargar had been devouring the provisions
Robert had brought him, as if he had not seen food that day. As soon as
they were finished, he begged for a drink of water, which Robert managed
to procure for him. He then left him for the night, for his longer
absence might have brought his grandmother after him, who had perhaps
only too good reasons for being doubtful, if not suspicious, about boys
in general, though certainly not about Robert in particular. He carried
with him his books from the other garret-room where he kept them,
and sat down at the table by his grandmother, preparing his Latin and
geography by her lamp, while she sat knitting a white stocking with
fingers as rapid as thought, never looking at her work, but staring
into the fire, and seeing visions there which Robert would have given
everything he could call his own to see, and then would have given his
life to blot out of the world if he had seen them. Quietly the evening
passed, by the peaceful lamp and the cheerful fire, with the Latin on
the one side of the table, and the stocking on the other, as if ripe and
purified old age and hopeful unstained youth had been the only extremes
of humanity known to the world. But the bitter wind was howling by fits
in the chimney, and the offspring of a nobleman and a gipsy lay asleep
in the garret, covered with the cloak of an old Highland rebel.

At nine o’clock, Mrs. Falconer rang the bell for Betty, and they had
worship. Robert read a chapter, and his grandmother prayed an extempore
prayer, in which they that looked at the wine when it was red in the
cup, and they that worshipped the woman clothed in scarlet and seated
upon the seven hills, came in for a strange mixture, in which the
vengeance yielded only to the pity.

‘Lord, lead them to see the error of their ways,’ she cried. ‘Let the
rod of thy wrath awake the worm of their conscience that they may know
verily that there is a God that ruleth in the earth. Dinna lat them gang
to hell, O Lord, we beseech thee.’

As soon as prayers were over, Robert had a tumbler of milk and some more
oat-cake, and was sent to bed; after which it was impossible for him to
hold any further communication with Shargar. For his grandmother, little
as one might suspect it who entered the parlour in the daytime, always
slept in that same room, in a bed closed in with doors like those of a
large press in the wall, while Robert slept in a little closet, looking
into a garden at the back of the house, the door of which opened from
the parlour close to the head of his grandmother’s bed. It was just
large enough to hold a good-sized bed with curtains, a chest of drawers,
a bureau, a large eight-day clock, and one chair, leaving in the centre
about five feet square for him to move about in. There was more room
as well as more comfort in the bed. He was never allowed a candle, for
light enough came through from the parlour, his grandmother thought; so
he was soon extended between the whitest of cold sheets, with his knees
up to his chin, and his thoughts following his lost father over
all spaces of the earth with which his geography-book had made him

He was in the habit of leaving his closet and creeping through his
grandmother’s room before she was awake--or at least before she
had given any signs to the small household that she was restored to
consciousness, and that the life of the house must proceed. He therefore
found no difficulty in liberating Shargar from his prison, except
what arose from the boy’s own unwillingness to forsake his comfortable
quarters for the fierce encounter of the January blast which awaited
him. But Robert did not turn him out before the last moment of safety
had arrived; for, by the aid of signs known to himself, he watched
the progress of his grandmother’s dressing--an operation which did
not consume much of the morning, scrupulous as she was with regard to
neatness and cleanliness--until Betty was called in to give her careful
assistance to the final disposition of the mutch, when Shargar’s exit
could be delayed no longer. Then he mounted to the foot of the second
stair, and called in a keen whisper,

‘Noo, Shargar, cut for the life o’ ye.’

And down came the poor fellow, with long gliding steps, ragged and
reluctant, and, without a word or a look, launched himself out into the
cold, and sped away he knew not whither. As he left the door, the only
suspicion of light was the dull and doubtful shimmer of the snow that
covered the street, keen particles of which were blown in his face by
the wind, which, having been up all night, had grown very cold, and
seemed delighted to find one unprotected human being whom it might
badger at its own bitter will. Outcast Shargar! Where he spent the
interval between Mrs. Falconer’s door and that of the school, I do not
know. There was a report amongst his school-fellows that he had been
found by Scroggie, the fish-cadger, lying at full length upon the back
of his old horse, which, either from compassion or indifference, had not
cared to rise up under the burden. They said likewise that, when accused
by Scroggie of housebreaking, though nothing had to be broken to get in,
only a string with a peculiar knot, on the invention of which the
cadger prided himself, to be undone, all that Shargar had to say in his
self-defence was, that he had a terrible sair wame, and that the horse
was warmer nor the stanes i’ the yard; and he had dune him nae ill, nae
even drawn a hair frae his tail--which would have been a difficult feat,
seeing the horse’s tail was as bare as his hoof.


That Shargar was a parish scholar--which means that the parish paid his
fees, although, indeed, they were hardly worth paying--made very little
difference to his position amongst his school-fellows. Nor did the
fact of his being ragged and dirty affect his social reception to his
discomfort. But the accumulated facts of the oddity of his personal
appearance, his supposed imbecility, and the bad character borne by his
mother, placed him in a very unenviable relation to the tyrannical and
vulgar-minded amongst them. Concerning his person, he was long, and,
as his name implied, lean, with pale-red hair, reddish eyes, no visible
eyebrows or eyelashes, and very pale face--in fact, he was half-way to
an Albino. His arms and legs seemed of equal length, both exceedingly
long. The handsomeness of his mother appeared only in his nose and
mouth, which were regular and good, though expressionless; and the birth
of his father only in his small delicate hands and feet, of which any
girl who cared only for smallness, and heeded neither character nor
strength, might have been proud. His feet, however, were supposed to be
enormous, from the difficulty with which he dragged after him the huge
shoes in which in winter they were generally encased.

The imbecility, like the large feet, was only imputed. He certainly was
not brilliant, but neither did he make a fool of himself in any of
the few branches of learning of which the parish-scholar came in for a
share. That which gained him the imputation was the fact that his nature
was without a particle of the aggressive, and all its defensive of as
purely negative a character as was possible. Had he been a dog, he
would never have thought of doing anything for his own protection beyond
turning up his four legs in silent appeal to the mercy of the heavens.
He was an absolute sepulchre in the swallowing of oppression and
ill-usage. It vanished in him. There was no echo of complaint, no murmur
of resentment from the hollows of that soul. The blows that fell upon
him resounded not, and no one but God remembered them.

His mother made her living as she herself best knew, with occasional
well-begrudged assistance from the parish. Her chief resource was no
doubt begging from house to house for the handful of oatmeal which
was the recognized, and, in the court of custom-taught conscience, the
legalized dole upon which every beggar had a claim; and if she picked
up at the same time a chicken, or a boy’s rabbit, or any other stray
luxury, she was only following the general rule of society, that your
first duty is to take care of yourself. She was generally regarded as
a gipsy, but I doubt if she had any gipsy blood in her veins. She was
simply a tramper, with occasional fits of localization. Her worst fault
was the way she treated her son, whom she starved apparently that she
might continue able to beat him.

The particular occasion which led to the recognition of the growing
relation between Robert and Shargar was the following. Upon a certain
Saturday--some sidereal power inimical to boys must have been in the
ascendant--a Saturday of brilliant but intermittent sunshine, the white
clouds seen from the school windows indicating by their rapid transit
across those fields of vision that fresh breezes friendly to kites, or
draigons, as they were called at Rothieden, were frolicking in the upper
regions--nearly a dozen boys were kept in for not being able to pay down
from memory the usual instalment of Shorter Catechism always due at
the close of the week. Amongst these boys were Robert and Shargar.
Sky-revealing windows and locked door were too painful; and in
proportion as the feeling of having nothing to do increased, the more
uneasy did the active element in the boys become, and the more ready
to break out into some abnormal manifestation. Everything--sun, wind,
clouds--was busy out of doors, and calling to them to come and join the
fun; and activity at the same moment excited and restrained naturally
turns to mischief. Most of them had already learned the obnoxious
task--one quarter of an hour was enough for that--and now what should
they do next? The eyes of three or four of the eldest of them fell
simultaneously upon Shargar.

Robert was sitting plunged in one of his day-dreams, for he, too, had
learned his catechism, when he was roused from his reverie by a question
from a pale-faced little boy, who looked up to him as a great authority.

‘What for ‘s ‘t ca’d the Shorter Carritchis, Bob?’

‘’Cause it’s no fully sae lang’s the Bible,’ answered Robert, without
giving the question the consideration due to it, and was proceeding to
turn the matter over in his mind, when the mental process was arrested
by a shout of laughter. The other boys had tied Shargar’s feet to the
desk at which he sat--likewise his hands, at full stretch; then, having
attached about a dozen strings to as many elf-locks of his pale-red
hair, which was never cut or trimmed, had tied them to various pegs in
the wall behind him, so that the poor fellow could not stir. They
were now crushing up pieces of waste-paper, not a few leaves of stray
school-books being regarded in that light, into bullets, dipping them in
ink and aiming them at Shargar’s face.

For some time Shargar did not utter a word; and Robert, although
somewhat indignant at the treatment he was receiving, felt as yet no
impulse to interfere, for success was doubtful. But, indeed, he was not
very easily roused to action of any kind; for he was as yet mostly in
the larva-condition of character, when everything is transacted inside.
But the fun grew more furious, and spot after spot of ink gloomed upon
Shargar’s white face. Still Robert took no notice, for they did not
seem to be hurting him much. But when he saw the tears stealing down his
patient cheeks, making channels through the ink which now nearly covered
them, he could bear it no longer. He took out his knife, and under
pretence of joining in the sport, drew near to Shargar, and with rapid
hand cut the cords--all but those that bound his feet, which were less
easy to reach without exposing himself defenceless.

The boys of course turned upon Robert. But ere they came to more than
abusive words a diversion took place.

Mrs. Innes, the school-master’s wife--a stout, kind-hearted woman,
the fine condition of whose temperament was clearly the result of
her physical prosperity--appeared at the door which led to the
dwelling-house above, bearing in her hands a huge tureen of potato-soup,
for her motherly heart could not longer endure the thought of dinnerless
boys. Her husband being engaged at a parish meeting, she had a chance of
interfering with success.

But ere Nancy, the servant, could follow with the spoons and plates,
Wattie Morrison had taken the tureen, and out of spite at Robert, had
emptied its contents on the head of Shargar, who was still tied by the
feet, with the words: ‘Shargar, I anoint thee king over us, and here
is thy crown,’ giving the tureen, as he said so, a push on to his head,
where it remained.

Shargar did not move, and for one moment could not speak, but the next
he gave a shriek that made Robert think he was far worse scalded than
turned out to be the case. He darted to him in rage, took the tureen
from his head, and, his blood being fairly up now, flung it with all his
force at Morrison, and felled him to the earth. At the same moment the
master entered by the street door and his wife by the house door,
which was directly opposite. In the middle of the room the prisoners
surrounded the fallen tyrant--Robert, with the red face of wrath, and
Shargar, with a complexion the mingled result of tears, ink, and soup,
which latter clothed him from head to foot besides, standing on the
outskirts of the group. I need not follow the story farther. Both
Robert and Morrison got a lickin’; and if Mr. Innes had been like some
school-masters of those times, Shargar would not have escaped his share
of the evil things going.

From that day Robert assumed the acknowledged position of Shargar’s
defender. And if there was pride and a sense of propriety mingled with
his advocacy of Shargar’s rights, nay, even if the relation was not
altogether free from some amount of show-off on Robert’s part, I cannot
yet help thinking that it had its share in that development of the
character of Falconer which has chiefly attracted me to the office
of his biographer. There may have been in it the exercise of some
patronage; probably it was not pure from the pride of beneficence; but
at least it was a loving patronage and a vigorous beneficence; and,
under the reaction of these, the good which in Robert’s nature was as
yet only in a state of solution, began to crystallize into character.

But the effect of the new relation was far more remarkable on Shargar.
As incapable of self-defence as ever, he was yet in a moment roused to
fury by any attack upon the person or the dignity of Robert: so that,
indeed, it became a new and favourite mode of teasing Shargar to heap
abuse, real or pretended, upon his friend. From the day when Robert thus
espoused his part, Shargar was Robert’s dog. That very evening, when she
went to take a parting peep at the external before locking the door for
the night, Betty found him sitting upon the door-step, only, however,
to send him off, as she described it, ‘wi’ a flech [1] in ‘s lug (a flea
in his ear).’ For the character of the mother was always associated
with the boy, and avenged upon him. I must, however, allow that those
delicate, dirty fingers of his could not with safety be warranted from
occasional picking and stealing.

At this period of my story, Robert himself was rather a
grotesque-looking animal, very tall and lanky, with especially long
arms, which excess of length they retained after he was full-grown. In
this respect Shargar and he were alike; but the long legs of Shargar
were unmatched in Robert, for at this time his body was peculiarly long.
He had large black eyes, deep sunk even then, and a Roman nose, the size
of which in a boy of his years looked portentous. For the rest, he was
dark-complexioned, with dark hair, destined to grow darker still, with
hands and feet well modelled, but which would have made four feet and
four hands such as Shargar’s.

When his mind was not oppressed with the consideration of any important
metaphysical question, he learned his lessons well; when such was
present, the Latin grammar, with all its attendant servilities, was
driven from the presence of the lordly need. That once satisfied in
spite of pandies and imprisonments, he returned with fresh zest, and,
indeed, with some ephemeral ardour, to the rules of syntax or prosody,
though the latter, in the mode in which it was then and there taught,
was almost as useless as the task set himself by a worthy lay-preacher
in the neighbourhood--of learning the first nine chapters of the first
Book of the Chronicles, in atonement for having, in an evil hour of
freedom of spirit, ventured to suggest that such lists of names, even
although forming a portion of Holy Writ, could scarcely be reckoned of
equally divine authority with St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.


Although Betty seemed to hold little communication with the outer world,
she yet contrived somehow or other to bring home what gossip was going
to the ears of her mistress, who had very few visitors; for, while her
neighbours held Mrs. Falconer in great and evident respect, she was not
the sort of person to sit down and have a news with. There was a certain
sedate self-contained dignity about her which the common mind felt to be
chilling and repellant; and from any gossip of a personal nature--what
Betty brought her always excepted--she would turn away, generally with
the words, ‘Hoots! I canna bide clashes.’

On the evening following that of Shargar’s introduction to Mrs.
Falconer’s house, Betty came home from the butcher’s--for it was
Saturday night, and she had gone to fetch the beef for their Sunday’s
broth--with the news that the people next door, that is, round the
corner in the next street, had a visitor.

The house in question had been built by Robert’s father, and was,
compared with Mrs. Falconer’s one-storey house, large and handsome.
Robert had been born, and had spent a few years of his life in it, but
could recall nothing of the facts of those early days. Some time before
the period at which my history commences it had passed into other hands,
and it was now quite strange to him. It had been bought by a retired
naval officer, who lived in it with his wife--the only Englishwoman in
the place, until the arrival, at The Boar’s Head, of the lady so much
admired by Dooble Sanny.

Robert was up-stairs when Betty emptied her news-bag, and so heard
nothing of this bit of gossip. He had just assured Shargar that as soon
as his grandmother was asleep he would look about for what he could
find, and carry it up to him in the garret. As yet he had confined the
expenditure out of Shargar’s shilling to twopence.

The household always retired early--earlier on Saturday night in
preparation for the Sabbath--and by ten o’clock grannie and Betty were
in bed. Robert, indeed, was in bed too; but he had lain down in his
clothes, waiting for such time as might afford reasonable hope of his
grandmother being asleep, when he might both ease Shargar’s hunger and
get to sleep himself. Several times he got up, resolved to make his
attempt; but as often his courage failed and he lay down again, sure
that grannie could not be asleep yet. When the clock beside him
struck eleven, he could bear it no longer, and finally rose to do his

Opening the door of the closet slowly and softly, he crept upon his
hands and knees into the middle of the parlour, feeling very much like a
thief, as, indeed, in a measure he was, though from a blameless motive.
But just as he had accomplished half the distance to the door, he was
arrested and fixed with terror; for a deep sigh came from grannie’s bed,
followed by the voice of words. He thought at first that she had
heard him, but he soon found that he was mistaken. Still, the fear of
discovery held him there on all fours, like a chained animal. A dull red
gleam, faint and dull, from the embers of the fire, was the sole light
in the room. Everything so common to his eyes in the daylight seemed
now strange and eerie in the dying coals, and at what was to the boy the
unearthly hour of the night.

He felt that he ought not to listen to grannie, but terror made him
unable to move.

‘Och hone! och hone!’ said grannie from the bed. ‘I’ve a sair, sair
hert. I’ve a sair hert i’ my breist, O Lord! thoo knowest. My ain
Anerew! To think o’ my bairnie that I cairriet i’ my ain body, that
sookit my breists, and leuch i’ my face--to think o’ ‘im bein’ a
reprobate! O Lord! cudna he be eleckit yet? Is there nae turnin’ o’ thy
decrees? Na, na; that wadna do at a’. But while there’s life there’s
houp. But wha kens whether he be alive or no? Naebody can tell. Glaidly
wad I luik upon ‘s deid face gin I cud believe that his sowl wasna amang
the lost. But eh! the torments o’ that place! and the reik that gangs up
for ever an’ ever, smorin’ (smothering) the stars! And my Anerew doon i’
the hert o’ ‘t cryin’! And me no able to win till him! O Lord! I canna
say thy will be done. But dinna lay ‘t to my chairge; for gin ye was a
mither yersel’ ye wadna pit him there. O Lord! I’m verra ill-fashioned.
I beg yer pardon. I’m near oot o’ my min’. Forgie me, O Lord! for I
hardly ken what I’m sayin’. He was my ain babe, my ain Anerew, and ye
gae him to me yersel’. And noo he’s for the finger o’ scorn to pint at;
an ootcast an’ a wan’erer frae his ain country, an’ daurna come
within sicht o’ ‘t for them ‘at wad tak’ the law o’ ‘m. An’ it’s a’
drink--drink an’ ill company! He wad hae dune weel eneuch gin they
wad only hae latten him be. What for maun men be aye drink-drinkin’ at
something or ither? I never want it. Eh! gin I war as young as whan he
was born, I wad be up an’ awa’ this verra nicht to luik for him. But
it’s no use me tryin’ ‘t. O God! ance mair I pray thee to turn him frae
the error o’ ‘s ways afore he goes hence an’ isna more. And O dinna lat
Robert gang efter him, as he’s like eneuch to do. Gie me grace to haud
him ticht, that he may be to the praise o’ thy glory for ever an’ ever.

Whether it was that the weary woman here fell asleep, or that she
was too exhausted for further speech, Robert heard no more, though he
remained there frozen with horror for some minutes after his grandmother
had ceased. This, then, was the reason why she would never speak about
his father! She kept all her thoughts about him for the silence of the
night, and loneliness with the God who never sleeps, but watches the
wicked all through the dark. And his father was one of the wicked! And
God was against him! And when he died he would go to hell! But he was
not dead yet: Robert was sure of that. And when he grew a man, he would
go and seek him, and beg him on his knees to repent and come back to
God, who would forgive him then, and take him to heaven when he died.
And there he would be good, and good people would love him.

Something like this passed through the boy’s mind ere he moved to creep
from the room, for his was one of those natures which are active in the
generation of hope. He had almost forgotten what he came there for; and
had it not been that he had promised Shargar, he would have crept back
to his bed and left him to bear his hunger as best he could. But now,
first his right hand, then his left knee, like any other quadruped, he
crawled to the door, rose only to his knees to open it, took almost a
minute to the operation, then dropped and crawled again, till he had
passed out, turned, and drawn the door to, leaving it slightly ajar.
Then it struck him awfully that the same terrible passage must be gone
through again. But he rose to his feet, for he had no shoes on, and
there was little danger of making any noise, although it was pitch
dark--he knew the house so well. With gathering courage, he felt his way
to the kitchen, and there groped about; but he could find nothing beyond
a few quarters of oat-cake, which, with a mug of water, he proceeded to
carry up to Shargar in the garret.

When he reached the kitchen door, he was struck with amazement and for
a moment with fresh fear. A light was shining into the transe from the
stair which went up at right angles from the end of it. He knew it could
not be grannie, and he heard Betty snoring in her own den, which opened
from the kitchen. He thought it must be Shargar who had grown impatient;
but how he had got hold of a light he could not think. As soon as he
turned the corner, however, the doubt was changed into mystery. At the
top of the broad low stair stood a woman-form with a candle in her hand,
gazing about her as if wondering which way to go. The light fell full
upon her face, the beauty of which was such that, with her dress, which
was white--being, in fact, a nightgown--and her hair, which was hanging
loose about her shoulders and down to her waist, it led Robert at once
to the conclusion (his reasoning faculties already shaken by the events
of the night) that she was an angel come down to comfort his grannie;
and he kneeled involuntarily at the foot of the stair, and gazed up at
her, with the cakes in one hand, and the mug of water in the other, like
a meat-and-drink offering. Whether he had closed his eyes or bowed his
head, he could not say; but he became suddenly aware that the angel had
vanished--he knew not when, how, or whither. This for a time confirmed
his assurance that it was an angel. And although he was undeceived
before long, the impression made upon him that night was never effaced.
But, indeed, whatever Falconer heard or saw was something more to him
than it would have been to anybody else.

Elated, though awed, by the vision, he felt his way up the stair in
the new darkness, as if walking in a holy dream, trod as if upon sacred
ground as he crossed the landing where the angel had stood--went up and
up, and found Shargar wide awake with expectant hunger. He, too, had
caught a glimmer of the light. But Robert did not tell him what he had
seen. That was too sacred a subject to enter upon with Shargar, and he
was intent enough upon his supper not to be inquisitive.

Robert left him to finish it at his leisure, and returned to cross his
grandmother’s room once more, half expecting to find the angel standing
by her bedside. But all was dark and still. Creeping back as he had
come, he heard her quiet, though deep, breathing, and his mind was at
ease about her for the night. What if the angel he had surprised had
only come to appear to grannie in her sleep? Why not? There were such
stories in the Bible, and grannie was certainly as good as some of the
people in the Bible that saw angels--Sarah, for instance. And if the
angels came to see grannie, why should they not have some care over his
father as well? It might be--who could tell?

It is perhaps necessary to explain Robert’s vision. The angel was the
owner of the boxes he had seen at The Boar’s Head. Looking around her
room before going to bed, she had seen a trap in the floor near the
wall, and raising it, had discovered a few steps of a stair leading down
to a door. Curiosity naturally led her to examine it. The key was in the
lock. It opened outwards, and there she found herself, to her surprise,
in the heart of another dwelling, of lowlier aspect. She never saw
Robert; for while he approached with shoeless feet, she had been
glancing through the open door of the gable-room, and when he knelt, the
light which she held in her hand had, I presume, hidden him from her.
He, on his part, had not observed that the moveless door stood open at

I have already said that the house adjoining had been built by Robert’s
father. The lady’s room was that which he had occupied with his wife,
and in it Robert had been born. The door, with its trap-stair, was
a natural invention for uniting the levels of the two houses, and a
desirable one in not a few of the forms which the weather assumed in
that region. When the larger house passed into other hands, it had
never entered the minds of the simple people who occupied the contiguous
dwellings, to build up the doorway between.


The friendship of Robert had gained Shargar the favourable notice of
others of the school-public. These were chiefly of those who came from
the country, ready to follow an example set them by a town boy. When his
desertion was known, moved both by their compassion for him, and their
respect for Robert, they began to give him some portion of the dinner
they brought with them; and never in his life had Shargar fared so well
as for the first week after he had been cast upon the world. But in
proportion as their interest faded with the novelty, so their appetites
reasserted former claims of use and wont, and Shargar began once more
to feel the pangs of hunger. For all that Robert could manage to procure
for him without attracting the attention he was so anxious to avoid,
was little more than sufficient to keep his hunger alive, Shargar
being gifted with a great appetite, and Robert having no allowance of
pocket-money from his grandmother. The threepence he had been able to
spend on him were what remained of sixpence Mr. Innes had given him
for an exercise which he wrote in blank verse instead of in prose--an
achievement of which the school-master was proud, both from his
reverence for Milton, and from his inability to compose a metrical line
himself. And how and when he should ever possess another penny was even
unimaginable. Shargar’s shilling was likewise spent. So Robert could but
go on pocketing instead of eating all that he dared, watching anxiously
for opportunity of evading the eyes of his grandmother. On her dimness
of sight, however, he depended too confidently after all; for either she
was not so blind as he thought she was, or she made up for the defect of
her vision by the keenness of her observation. She saw enough to cause
her considerable annoyance, though it suggested nothing inconsistent
with rectitude on the part of the boy, further than that there was
something underhand going on. One supposition after another arose in
the old lady’s brain, and one after another was dismissed as improbable.
First, she tried to persuade herself that he wanted to take the
provisions to school with him, and eat them there--a proceeding of which
she certainly did not approve, but for the reproof of which she was
unwilling to betray the loopholes of her eyes. Next she concluded, for
half a day, that he must have a pair of rabbits hidden away in some nook
or other--possibly in the little strip of garden belonging to the house.
And so conjecture followed conjecture for a whole week, during which,
strange to say, not even Betty knew that Shargar slept in the house. For
so careful and watchful were the two boys, that although she could not
help suspecting something from the expression and behaviour of Robert,
what that something might be she could not imagine; nor had she and her
mistress as yet exchanged confidences on the subject. Her observation
coincided with that of her mistress as to the disappearance of odds and
ends of eatables--potatoes, cold porridge, bits of oat-cake; and even,
on one occasion, when Shargar happened to be especially ravenous, a
yellow, or cured and half-dried, haddock, which the lad devoured raw,
vanished from her domain. He went to school in the morning smelling so
strong in consequence, that they told him he must have been passing the
night in Scroggie’s cart, and not on his horse’s back this time.

The boys kept their secret well.

One evening, towards the end of the week, Robert, after seeing Shargar
disposed of for the night, proceeded to carry out a project which
had grown in his brain within the last two days in consequence of an
occurrence with which his relation to Shargar had had something to do.
It was this:

The housing of Shargar in the garret had led Robert to make a close
acquaintance with the place. He was familiar with all the outs and
ins of the little room which he considered his own, for that was a
civilized, being a plastered, ceiled, and comparatively well-lighted
little room, but not with the other, which was three times its size,
very badly lighted, and showing the naked couples from roof-tree to
floor. Besides, it contained no end of dark corners, with which his
childish imagination had associated undefined horrors, assuming now one
shape, now another. Also there were several closets in it, constructed
in the angles of the place, and several chests--two of which he had
ventured to peep into. But although he had found them filled, not with
bones, as he had expected, but one with papers, and one with garments,
he had yet dared to carry his researches no further. One evening,
however, when Betty was out, and he had got hold of her candle, and gone
up to keep Shargar company for a few minutes, a sudden impulse seized
him to have a peep into all the closets. One of them he knew a little
about, as containing, amongst other things, his father’s coat with
the gilt buttons, and his great-grandfather’s kilt, as well as other
garments useful to Shargar: now he would see what was in the rest. He
did not find anything very interesting, however, till he arrived at
the last. Out of it he drew a long queer-shaped box into the light of
Betty’s dip.

‘Luik here, Shargar!’ he said under his breath, for they never dared to
speak aloud in these precincts--‘luik here! What can there be in this
box? Is’t a bairnie’s coffin, duv ye think? Luik at it.’

In this case Shargar, having roamed the country a good deal more than
Robert, and having been present at some merry-makings with his mother,
of which there were comparatively few in that country-side, was better
informed than his friend.

‘Eh! Bob, duvna ye ken what that is? I thocht ye kent a’ thing. That’s a

‘That’s buff an’ styte (stuff and nonsense), Shargar. Do ye think I
dinna ken a fiddle whan I see ane, wi’ its guts ootside o’ ‘ts wame, an’
the thoomacks to screw them up wi’ an’ gar’t skirl?’

‘Buff an’ styte yersel’!’ cried Shargar, in indignation, from the bed.
‘Gie’s a haud o’ ‘t.’

Robert handed him the case. Shargar undid the hooks in a moment, and
revealed the creature lying in its shell like a boiled bivalve.

‘I tellt ye sae!’ he exclaimed triumphantly. ‘Maybe ye’ll lippen to me
(trust me) neist time.’

‘An’ I tellt you,’ retorted Robert, with an equivocation altogether
unworthy of his growing honesty. ‘I was cocksure that cudna be a fiddle.
There’s the fiddle i’ the hert o’ ‘t! Losh! I min’ noo. It maun be my
grandfather’s fiddle ‘at I hae heard tell o’.’

‘No to ken a fiddle-case!’ reflected Shargar, with as much of contempt
as it was possible for him to show.

‘I tell ye what, Shargar,’ returned Robert, indignantly; ‘ye may ken the
box o’ a fiddle better nor I do, but de’il hae me gin I dinna ken the
fiddle itsel’ raither better nor ye do in a fortnicht frae this time. I
s’ tak’ it to Dooble Sanny; he can play the fiddle fine. An’ I’ll play
‘t too, or the de’il s’ be in’t.’

‘Eh, man, that ‘ll be gran’!’ cried Shargar, incapable of jealousy. ‘We
can gang to a’ the markets thegither and gaither baubees (halfpence).’

To this anticipation Robert returned no reply, for, hearing Betty come
in, he judged it time to restore the violin to its case, and Betty’s
candle to the kitchen, lest she should invade the upper regions in
search of it. But that very night he managed to have an interview with
Dooble Sanny, the shoemaker, and it was arranged between them that
Robert should bring his violin on the evening at which my story has now

Whatever motive he had for seeking to commence the study of music, it
holds even in more important matters that, if the thing pursued be
good, there is a hope of the pursuit purifying the motive. And Robert no
sooner heard the fiddle utter a few mournful sounds in the hands of the
soutar, who was no contemptible performer, than he longed to establish
such a relation between himself and the strange instrument, that, dumb
and deaf as it had been to him hitherto, it would respond to his touch
also, and tell him the secrets of its queerly-twisted skull, full of
sweet sounds instead of brains. From that moment he would be a musician
for music’s own sake, and forgot utterly what had appeared to
him, though I doubt if it was, the sole motive of his desire to
learn--namely, the necessity of retaining his superiority over Shargar.

What added considerably to the excitement of his feelings on the
occasion, was the expression of reverence, almost of awe, with which
the shoemaker took the instrument from its case, and the tenderness with
which he handled it. The fact was that he had not had a violin in his
hands for nearly a year, having been compelled to pawn his own in order
to alleviate the sickness brought on his wife by his own ill-treatment
of her, once that he came home drunk from a wedding. It was strange to
think that such dirty hands should be able to bring such sounds out of
the instrument the moment he got it safely cuddled under his cheek. So
dirty were they, that it was said Dooble Sanny never required to carry
any rosin with him for fiddler’s need, his own fingers having always
enough upon them for one bow at least. Yet the points of those fingers
never lost the delicacy of their touch. Some people thought this was
in virtue of their being washed only once a week--a custom Alexander
justified on the ground that, in a trade like his, it was of no use to
wash oftener, for he would be just as dirty again before night.

The moment he began to play, the face of the soutar grew ecstatic. He
stopped at the very first note, notwithstanding, let fall his arms, the
one with the bow, the other with the violin, at his sides, and said,
with a deep-drawn respiration and lengthened utterance:


Then after a pause, during which he stood motionless:

‘The crater maun be a Cry Moany! Hear till her!’ he added, drawing
another long note.

Then, after another pause:

‘She’s a Straddle Vawrious at least! Hear till her. I never had sic a
combination o’ timmer and catgut atween my cleuks (claws) afore.’

As to its being a Stradivarius, or even a Cremona at all, the testimony
of Dooble Sanny was not worth much on the point. But the shoemaker’s
admiration roused in the boy’s mind a reverence for the individual
instrument which he never lost.

From that day the two were friends.

Suddenly the soutar started off at full speed in a strathspey, which was
soon lost in the wail of a Highland psalm-tune, giving place in its turn
to ‘Sic a wife as Willie had!’ And on he went without pause, till Robert
dared not stop any longer. The fiddle had bewitched the fiddler.

‘Come as aften ‘s ye like, Robert, gin ye fess this leddy wi’ ye,’ said
the soutar.

And he stroked the back of the violin tenderly with his open palm.

‘But wad ye hae ony objection to lat it lie aside ye, and lat me come
whan I can?’

‘Objection, laddie? I wad as sune objeck to lattin’ my ain wife lie
aside me.’

‘Ay,’ said Robert, seized with some anxiety about the violin as he
remembered the fate of the wife, ‘but ye ken Elspet comes aff a’ the
waur sometimes.’

Softened by the proximity of the wonderful violin, and stung afresh by
the boy’s words as his conscience had often stung him before, for he
loved his wife dearly save when the demon of drink possessed him,
the tears rose in Elshender’s eyes. He held out the violin to Robert,
saying, with unsteady voice:

‘Hae, tak her awa’. I dinna deserve to hae sic a thing i’ my hoose. But
hear me, Robert, and lat hearin’ be believin’. I never was sae drunk but
I cud tune my fiddle. Mair by token, ance they fand me lyin’ o’ my back
i’ the Corrie, an’ the watter, they say, was ower a’ but the mou’ o’
me; but I was haudin’ my fiddle up abune my heid, and de’il a spark o’
watter was upo’ her.’

‘It’s a pity yer wife wasna yer fiddle, than, Sanny,’ said Robert, with
more presumption than wit.

‘’Deed ye’re i’ the richt, there, Robert. Hae, tak’ yer fiddle.’

‘’Deed no,’ returned Robert. ‘I maun jist lippen (trust) to ye, Sanders.
I canna bide langer the nicht; but maybe ye’ll tell me hoo to haud her
the neist time ‘at I come--will ye?’

‘That I wull, Robert, come whan ye like. An’ gin ye come o’ ane ‘at
cud play this fiddle as this fiddle deserves to be playt, ye’ll do me

‘Ye min’ what that sumph Lumley said to me the ither nicht, Sanders,
aboot my grandfather?’

‘Ay, weel eneuch. A dish o’ drucken havers!’

‘It was true eneuch aboot my great-grandfather, though.’

‘No! Was’t railly?’

‘Ay. He was the best piper in ‘s regiment at Culloden. Gin they had a’
fouchten as he pipit, there wad hae been anither tale to tell. And he
was toon-piper forby, jist like you, Sanders, efter they took frae him
a’ ‘at he had.’

‘Na! heard ye ever the like o’ that! Weel, wha wad hae thocht it? Faith!
we maun hae you fiddle as weel as yer lucky-daiddy pipit.--But here’s
the King o’ Bashan comin’ efter his butes, an’ them no half dune yet!’
exclaimed Dooble Sanny, settling in haste to his awl and his lingel (Fr.
ligneul). ‘He’ll be roarin’ mair like a bull o’ the country than the
king o’ ‘t.’

As Robert departed, Peter Ogg came in, and as he passed the window, he
heard the shoemaker averring:

‘I haena risen frae my stule sin’ ane o’clock; but there’s a sicht to be
dune to them, Mr. Ogg.’

Indeed, Alexander ab Alexandro, as Mr. Innes facetiously styled him, was
in more ways than one worthy of the name of Dooble. There seemed to be
two natures in the man, which all his music had not yet been able to


Little did Robert dream of the reception that awaited him at home.
Almost as soon as he had left the house, the following events began to
take place.

The mistress’s bell rang, and Betty ‘gaed benn the hoose to see what she
cud be wantin’,’ whereupon a conversation ensued.

‘Wha was that at the door, Betty?’ asked Mrs. Falconer; for Robert had
not shut the door so carefully as he ought, seeing that the deafness of
his grandmother was of much the same faculty as her blindness.

Had Robert not had a hold of Betty by the forelock of her years, he
would have been unable to steal any liberty at all. Still Betty had a
conscience, and although she would not offend Robert if she could help
it, yet she would not lie.

‘’Deed, mem, I canna jist distinckly say ‘at I heard the door,’ she

‘Whaur’s Robert?’ was her next question.

‘He’s generally up the stair aboot this hoor, mem--that is, whan he’s no
i’ the parlour at ‘s lessons.’

‘What gangs he sae muckle up the stair for, Betty, do ye ken? It’s
something by ordinar’ wi’ ‘m.’

‘’Deed I dinna ken, mem. I never tuik it into my heid to gang
considerin’ aboot it. He’ll hae some ploy o’ ‘s ain, nae doobt. Laddies
will be laddies, ye ken, mem.’

‘I doobt, Betty, ye’ll be aidin’ an’ abettin’. An’ it disna become yer
years, Betty.’

‘My years are no to fin’ faut wi’, mem. They’re weel eneuch.’

‘That’s naething to the pint, Betty. What’s the laddie aboot?’

‘Do ye mean whan he gangs up the stair, mem?’

‘Ay. Ye ken weel eneuch what I mean.’

‘Weel, mem, I tell ye I dinna ken. An’ ye never heard me tell ye a lee
sin’ ever I was i’ yer service, mem.’

‘Na, nae doonricht. Ye gang aboot it an’ aboot it, an’ at last ye come
sae near leein’ that gin ye spak anither word, ye wad be at it; and
it jist fleys (frights) me frae speirin’ ae ither question at ye.
An’ that’s hoo ye win oot o’ ‘t. But noo ‘at it’s aboot my ain oye
(grandson), I’m no gaein’ to tyne (lose) him to save a woman o’ your
years, wha oucht to ken better; an sae I’ll speir at ye, though ye suld
be driven to lee like Sawtan himsel’.--What’s he aboot whan he gangs up
the stair? Noo!’

‘Weel, as sure’s deith, I dinna ken. Ye drive me to sweirin’, mem, an’
no to leein’.’

‘I carena. Hae ye no idea aboot it, than, Betty?’

‘Weel, mem, I think sometimes he canna be weel, and maun hae a tod (fox)
in ‘s stamack, or something o’ that nater. For what he eats is awfu’.
An’ I think whiles he jist gangs up the stair to eat at ‘s ain wull.’

‘That jumps wi’ my ain observations, Betty. Do ye think he micht hae a
rabbit, or maybe a pair o’ them, in some boxie i’ the garret, noo?’

‘And what for no, gin he had, mem?’

‘What for no? Nesty stinkin’ things! But that’s no the pint. I aye hae
to haud ye to the pint, Betty. The pint is, whether he has rabbits or

‘Or guinea-pigs,’ suggested Betty.


‘Or maybe a pup or twa. Or I kent a laddie ance ‘at keepit a haill
faimily o’ kittlins. Or maybe he micht hae a bit lammie. There was an
uncle o’ min’ ain--’

‘Haud yer tongue, Betty! Ye hae ower muckle to say for a’ the sense
there’s intil ‘t.’

‘Weel, mem, ye speirt questions at me.’

‘Weel, I hae had eneuch o’ yer answers, Betty. Gang and tell Robert to
come here direckly.’

Betty went, knowing perfectly that Robert had gone out, and returned
with the information. Her mistress searched her face with a keen eye.

‘That maun hae been himsel’ efter a’ whan ye thocht ye hard the door
gang,’ said Betty.

‘It’s a strange thing that I suld hear him benn here wi’ the door
steekit, an’ your door open at the verra door-cheek o’ the ither, an’
you no hear him, Betty. And me sae deif as weel!’

‘’Deed, mem,’ retorted Betty, losing her temper a little, ‘I can be as
deif ‘s ither fowk mysel’ whiles.’

When Betty grew angry, Mrs. Falconer invariably grew calm, or, at least,
put her temper out of sight. She was silent now, and continued silent
till Betty moved to return to her kitchen, when she said, in a tone of
one who had just arrived at an important resolution:

‘Betty, we’ll jist awa’ up the stair an’ luik.’

‘Weel, mem, I hae nae objections.’

‘Nae objections! What for suld you or ony ither body hae ony objections
to me gaein’ whaur I like i’ my ain hoose? Umph!’ exclaimed Mrs.
Falconer, turning and facing her maid.

‘In coorse, mem. I only meant I had nae objections to gang wi’ ye.’

‘And what for suld you or ony ither woman that I paid twa pun’ five i’
the half-year till, daur to hae objections to gaein’ whaur I wantit ye
to gang i’ my ain hoose?’

‘Hoot, mem! it was but a slip o’ the tongue--naething mair.’

‘Slip me nae sic slips, or ye’ll come by a fa’ at last, I doobt, Betty,’
concluded Mrs. Falconer, in a mollified tone, as she turned and led the
way from the room.

They got a candle in the kitchen and proceeded up-stairs, Mrs. Falconer
still leading, and Betty following. They did not even look into the
ga’le-room, not doubting that the dignity of the best bed-room was in no
danger of being violated even by Robert, but took their way upwards to
the room in which he kept his school-books--almost the only articles of
property which the boy possessed. Here they found nothing suspicious.
All was even in the best possible order--not a very wonderful fact,
seeing a few books and a slate were the only things there besides the
papers on the shelves.

What the feelings of Shargar must have been when he heard the steps and
voices, and saw the light approaching his place of refuge, we will not
change our point of view to inquire. He certainly was as little to
be envied at that moment as at any moment during the whole of his

The first sense Mrs. Falconer made use of in the search after possible
animals lay in her nose. She kept snuffing constantly, but, beyond
the usual musty smell of neglected apartments, had as yet discovered
nothing. The moment she entered the upper garret, however--

‘There’s an ill-faured smell here, Betty,’ she said, believing that they
had at last found the trail of the mystery; ‘but it’s no like the smell
o’ rabbits. Jist luik i’ the nuik there ahin’ the door.’

‘There’s naething here,’ responded Betty.

‘Roon the en’ o’ that kist there. I s’ luik into the press.’

As Betty rose from her search behind the chest and turned towards her
mistress, her eyes crossed the cavernous opening of the bed. There, to
her horror, she beheld a face like that of a galvanised corpse staring
at her from the darkness. Shargar was in a sitting posture, paralysed
with terror, waiting, like a fascinated bird, till Mrs. Falconer
and Betty should make the final spring upon him, and do whatever was
equivalent to devouring him upon the spot. He had sat up to listen to
the noise of their ascending footsteps, and fear had so overmastered
him, that he either could not, or forgot that he could lie down and
cover his head with some of the many garments scattered around him.

‘I didna say whusky, did I?’ he kept repeating to himself, in utter
imbecility of fear.

‘The Lord preserve ‘s!’ exclaimed Betty, the moment she could speak; for
during the first few seconds, having caught the infection of Shargar’s
expression, she stood equally paralysed. ‘The Lord preserve ‘s!’ she

‘Ance is eneuch,’ said Mrs. Falconer, sharply, turning round to see what
the cause of Betty’s ejaculation might be.

I have said that she was dim-sighted. The candle they had was little
better than a penny dip. The bed was darker than the rest of the room.
Shargar’s face had none of the more distinctive characteristics of
manhood upon it.

‘Gude preserve ‘s!’ exclaimed Mrs. Falconer in her turn: ‘it’s a

Poor deluded Shargar, thinking himself safer under any form than that
which he actually bore, attempted no protest against the mistake. But,
indeed, he was incapable of speech. The two women flew upon him to drag
him out of bed. Then first recovering his powers of motion, he sprung up
in an agony of terror, and darted out between them, overturning Betty in
his course.

‘Ye rouch limmer!’ cried Betty, from the floor. ‘Ye lang-leggit jaud!’
she added, as she rose--and at the same moment Shargar banged the
street-door behind him in his terror--‘I wat ye dinna carry yer coats
ower syde (too long)!’

For Shargar, having discovered that the way to get the most warmth from
Robert’s great-grandfather’s kilt was to wear it in the manner for which
it had been fabricated, was in the habit of fastening it round his waist
before he got into bed; and the eye of Betty, as she fell, had caught
the swing of this portion of his attire.

But poor Mrs. Falconer, with sunken head, walked out of the garret in
the silence of despair. She went slowly down the steep stair, supporting
herself against the wall, her round-toed shoes creaking solemnly as she
went, took refuge in the ga’le-room, and burst into a violent fit of
weeping. For such depravity she was not prepared. What a terrible curse
hung over her family! Surely they were all reprobate from the womb, not
one elected for salvation from the guilt of Adam’s fall, and therefore
abandoned to Satan as his natural prey, to be led captive of him at his
will. She threw herself on her knees at the side of the bed, and prayed
heart-brokenly. Betty heard her as she limped past the door on her way
back to her kitchen.

Meantime Shargar had rushed across the next street on his bare feet
into the Crookit Wynd, terrifying poor old Kirstan Peerie, the divisions
betwixt the compartments of whose memory had broken down, into the
exclamation to her next neighbour, Tam Rhin, with whom she was trying to

‘Eh, Tammas! that’ll be ane o’ the slauchtert at Culloden.’

He never stopped till he reached his mother’s deserted abode--strange
instinct! There he ran to earth like a hunted fox. Rushing at the door,
forgetful of everything but refuge, he found it unlocked, and closing it
behind him, stood panting like the hart that has found the water-brooks.
The owner had looked in one day to see whether the place was worth
repairing, for it was a mere outhouse, and had forgotten to turn the key
when he left it. Poor Shargar! Was it more or less of a refuge that
the mother that bore him was not there either to curse or welcome his
return? Less--if we may judge from a remark he once made in my hearing
many long years after:

‘For, ye see,’ he said, ‘a mither’s a mither, be she the verra de’il.’

Searching about in the dark, he found the one article unsold by the
landlord, a stool, with but two of its natural three legs. On this he
balanced himself and waited--simply for what Robert would do; for his
faith in Robert was unbounded, and he had no other hope on earth.
But Shargar was not miserable. In that wretched hovel, his bare feet
clasping the clay floor in constant search of a wavering equilibrium,
with pitch darkness around him, and incapable of the simplest
philosophical or religious reflection, he yet found life good. For it
had interest. Nay, more, it had hope. I doubt, however, whether there is
any interest at all without hope.

While he sat there, Robert, thinking him snug in the garret, was walking
quietly home from the shoemaker’s; and his first impulse on entering was
to run up and recount the particulars of his interview with Alexander.
Arrived in the dark garret, he called Shargar, as usual, in a
whisper--received no reply--thought he was asleep--called louder (for
he had had a penny from his grandmother that day for bringing home
two pails of water for Betty, and had just spent it upon a loaf for
him)--but no Shargar replied. Thereupon he went to the bed to lay hold
of him and shake him. But his searching hands found no Shargar. Becoming
alarmed, he ran down-stairs to beg a light from Betty.

When he reached the kitchen, he found Betty’s nose as much in the air
as its construction would permit. For a hook-nosed animal, she certainly
was the most harmless and ovine creature in the world, but this was a
case in which feminine modesty was both concerned and aggrieved. She
showed her resentment no further, however, than by simply returning no
answer in syllable, or sound, or motion, to Robert’s request. She was
washing up the tea-things, and went on with her work as if she had been
in absolute solitude, saving that her countenance could hardly have kept
up that expression of injured dignity had such been the case. Robert
plainly saw, to his great concern, that his secret had been discovered
in his absence, and that Shargar had been expelled with contumely.
But, with an instinct of facing the worst at once which accompanied him
through life, he went straight to his grandmother’s parlour.

‘Well, grandmamma,’ he said, trying to speak as cheerfully as he could.

Grannie’s prayers had softened her a little, else she would have been
as silent as Betty; for it was from her mistress that Betty had learned
this mode of torturing a criminal. So she was just able to return his
greeting in the words, ‘Weel, Robert,’ pronounced in a finality of tone
that indicated she had done her utmost, and had nothing to add.

‘Here’s a browst (brewage)!’ thought Robert to himself; and, still on
the principle of flying at the first of mischief he saw--the best mode
of meeting it, no doubt--addressed his grandmother at once. The effort
necessary gave a tone of defiance to his words.

‘What for willna ye speik to me, grannie?’ he said. ‘I’m no a haithen,
nor yet a papist.’

‘Ye’re waur nor baith in ane, Robert.’

‘Hoots! ye winna say baith, grannie,’ returned Robert, who, even at the
age of fourteen, when once compelled to assert himself, assumed a modest

‘Nane o’ sic impidence!’ retorted Mrs. Falconer. ‘I wonner whaur ye
learn that. But it’s nae wonner. Evil communications corrupt gude
mainners. Ye’re a lost prodigal, Robert, like yer father afore ye. I hae
jist been sittin’ here thinkin’ wi’ mysel’ whether it wadna be better
for baith o’ ‘s to lat ye gang an’ reap the fruit o’ yer doin’s at ance;
for the hard ways is the best road for transgressors. I’m no bund to
keep ye.’

‘Weel, weel, I s’ awa’ to Shargar. Him and me ‘ill haud on thegither
better nor you an’ me, grannie. He’s a puir cratur, but he can stick
till a body.’

‘What are ye haverin’ aboot Shargar for, ye heepocreet loon? Ye’ll no
gang to Shargar, I s’ warran’! Ye’ll be efter that vile limmer that’s
turnt my honest hoose intil a sty this last fortnicht.’

‘Grannie, I dinna ken what ye mean.’

‘She kens, than. I sent her aff like ane o’ Samson’s foxes, wi’ a
firebrand at her tail. It’s a pity it wasna tied atween the twa o’ ye.’

‘Preserve ‘s, grannie! Is’t possible ye hae ta’en Shargar for ane o’

‘I ken naething aboot Shargar, I tell ye. I ken that Betty an’ me tuik
an ill-faured dame i’ the bed i’ the garret.’

‘Cud it be his mither?’ thought Robert in bewilderment; but he recovered
himself in a moment, and answered,

‘Shargar may be a quean efter a’, for onything ‘at I ken to the
contrairy; but I aye tuik him for a loon. Faith, sic a quean as he’d

And careless to resist the ludicrousness of the idea, he burst into a
loud fit of laughter, which did more to reassure his grannie than any
amount of protestation could have done, however she pretended to take
offence at his ill-timed merriment.

Seeing his grandmother staggered, Robert gathered courage to assume the

‘But, granny! hoo ever Betty, no to say you, cud hae driven oot a puir
half-stervit cratur like Shargar, even supposin’ he oucht to hae been
in coaties, and no in troosers--and the mither o’ him run awa’ an’ left
him--it’s mair nor I can unnerstan.’ I misdoobt me sair but he’s gane
and droont himsel’.’

Robert knew well enough that Shargar would not drown himself without at
least bidding him good-bye; but he knew too that his grandmother could
be wrought upon. Her conscience was more tender than her feelings; and
this peculiarity occasioned part of the mutual non-understanding rather
than misunderstanding between her grandson and herself. The first
relation she bore to most that came near her was one of severity and
rebuke; but underneath her cold outside lay a warm heart, to which
conscience acted the part of a somewhat capricious stoker, now quenching
its heat with the cold water of duty, now stirring it up with the poker
of reproach, and ever treating it as an inferior and a slave. But her
conscience was, on the whole, a better friend to her race than her
heart; and, indeed, the conscience is always a better friend than a
heart whose motions are undirected by it. From Falconer’s account of
her, however, I cannot help thinking that she not unfrequently took
refuge in severity of tone and manner from the threatened ebullition
of a feeling which she could not otherwise control, and which she was
ashamed to manifest. Possibly conscience had spoken more and more gently
as its behests were more and more readily obeyed, until the heart began
to gather courage, and at last, as in many old people, took the upper
hand, which was outwardly inconvenient to one of Mrs. Falconer’s
temperament. Hence, in doing the kindest thing in the world, she would
speak in a tone of command, even of rebuke, as if she were compelling
the performance of the most unpleasant duty in the person who received
the kindness. But the human heart is hard to analyze, and, indeed, will
not submit quietly to the operation, however gently performed. Nor is
the result at all easy to put into words. It is best shown in actions.

Again, it may appear rather strange that Robert should be able to talk
in such an easy manner to his grandmother, seeing he had been guilty
of concealment, if not of deception. But she had never been so actively
severe towards Robert as she had been towards her own children. To him
she was wonderfully gentle for her nature, and sought to exercise the
saving harshness which she still believed necessary, solely in keeping
from him every enjoyment of life which the narrowest theories as to
the rule and will of God could set down as worldly. Frivolity, of
which there was little in this sober boy, was in her eyes a vice; loud
laughter almost a crime; cards, and novelles, as she called them, were
such in her estimation, as to be beyond my powers of characterization.
Her commonest injunction was, ‘Noo be douce,’--that is sober--uttered
to the soberest boy she could ever have known. But Robert was a
large-hearted boy, else this life would never have had to be written;
and so, through all this, his deepest nature came into unconscious
contact with that of his noble old grandmother. There was nothing small
about either of them. Hence Robert was not afraid of her. He had got
more of her nature in him than of her son’s. She and his own mother had
more share in him than his father, though from him he inherited good
qualities likewise.

He had concealed his doings with Shargar simply because he believed they
could not be done if his grandmother knew of his plans. Herein he did
her less than justice. But so unpleasant was concealment to his nature,
and so much did the dread of discovery press upon him, that the moment
he saw the thing had come out into the daylight of her knowledge, such a
reaction of relief took place as, operating along with his deep natural
humour and the comical circumstance of the case, gave him an ease and
freedom of communication which he had never before enjoyed with her.
Likewise there was a certain courage in the boy which, if his own
natural disposition had not been so quiet that he felt the negations
of her rule the less, might have resulted in underhand doings of a very
different kind, possibly, from those of benevolence.

He must have been a strange being to look at, I always think, at this
point of his development, with his huge nose, his black eyes, his lanky
figure, and his sober countenance, on which a smile was rarely visible,
but from which burst occasional guffaws of laughter.

At the words ‘droont himsel’,’ Mrs. Falconer started.

‘Rin, laddie, rin,’ she said, ‘an’ fess him back direckly! Betty! Betty!
gang wi’ Robert and help him to luik for Shargar. Ye auld, blin’, doited
body, ‘at says ye can see, and canna tell a lad frae a lass!’

‘Na, na, grannie. I’m no gaein’ oot wi’ a dame like her trailin’ at
my fut. She wad be a sair hinnerance to me. Gin Shargar be to be
gotten--that is, gin he be in life--I s’ get him wantin’ Betty. And gin
ye dinna ken him for the crater ye fand i’ the garret, he maun be sair
changed sin’ I left him there.’

‘Weel, weel, Robert, gang yer wa’s. But gin ye be deceivin’ me, may the
Lord--forgie ye, Robert, for sair ye’ll need it.’

‘Nae fear o’ that, grannie,’ returned Robert, from the street door, and

Mrs. Falconer stalked--No, I will not use that word of the gait of a
woman like my friend’s grandmother. ‘Stately stept she butt the hoose’
to Betty. She felt strangely soft at the heart, Robert not being yet
proved a reprobate; but she was not therefore prepared to drop one atom
of the dignity of her relation to her servant.

‘Betty,’ she said, ‘ye hae made a mistak.’

‘What’s that, mem?’ returned Betty.

‘It wasna a lass ava; it was that crater Shargar.’

‘Ye said it was a lass yersel’ first, mem.’

‘Ye ken weel eneuch that I’m short sichtit, an’ hae been frae the day o’
my birth.’

‘I’m no auld eneuch to min’ upo’ that, mem,’ returned Betty
revengefully, but in an undertone, as if she did not intend her mistress
to hear. And although she heard well enough, her mistress adopted
the subterfuge. ‘But I’ll sweir the crater I saw was in cwytes

‘Sweir not at all, Betty. Ye hae made a mistak ony gait.’

‘Wha says that, mem?’


‘Aweel, gin he be tellin’ the trowth--’

‘Daur ye mint (insinuate) to me that a son o’ mine wad tell onything but
the trowth?’

‘Na, na, mem. But gin that wasna a quean, ye canna deny but she luikit
unco like ane, and no a blate (bashful) ane eyther.’

‘Gin he was a loon, he wadna luik like a blate lass, ony gait, Betty.
And there ye’re wrang.’

‘Weel, weel, mem, hae ‘t yer ain gait,’ muttered Betty.

‘I wull hae ‘t my ain gait,’ retorted her mistress, ‘because it’s the
richt gait, Betty. An’ noo ye maun jist gang up the stair, an’ get the
place cleant oot an’ put in order.’

‘I wull do that, mem.’

‘Ay wull ye. An’ luik weel aboot, Betty, you that can see sae weel, in
case there suld be ony cattle aboot; for he’s nane o’ the cleanest, yon

‘I wull do that, mem.’

‘An’ gang direckly, afore he comes back.’

‘Wha comes back?’

‘Robert, of course.’

‘What for that?’

‘’Cause he’s comin’ wi’ ‘im.’

‘What he ‘s comin’ wi’ ‘im?’

‘Ca’ ‘t she, gin ye like. It’s Shargar.’

‘Wha says that?’ exclaimed Betty, sniffing and starting at once.

‘I say that. An’ ye gang an’ du what I tell ye, this minute.’

Betty obeyed instantly; for the tone in which the last words were spoken
was one she was not accustomed to dispute. She only muttered as she
went, ‘It ‘ll a’ come upo’ me as usual.’

Betty’s job was long ended before Robert returned. Never dreaming that
Shargar could have gone back to the old haunt, he had looked for him
everywhere before that occurred to him as a last chance. Nor would he
have found him even then, for he would not have thought of his being
inside the deserted house, had not Shargar heard his footsteps in the

He started up from his stool saying, ‘That’s Bob!’ but was not sure
enough to go to the door: he might be mistaken; it might be the
landlord! He heard the feet stop and did not move; but when he heard
them begin to go away again, he rushed to the door, and bawled on the
chance at the top of his voice, ‘Bob! Bob!’

‘Eh! ye crater!’ said Robert, ‘ir ye there efter a’?

‘Eh! Bob,’ exclaimed Shargar, and burst into tears. ‘I thocht ye wad
come efter me.’

‘Of coorse,’ answered Robert, coolly. ‘Come awa’ hame.’

‘Whaur til?’ asked Shargar in dismay.

‘Hame to yer ain bed at my grannie’s.’

‘Na, na,’ said Shargar, hurriedly, retreating within the door of the
hovel. ‘Na, na, Bob, lad, I s’ no du that. She’s an awfu’ wuman, that
grannie o’ yours. I canna think hoo ye can bide wi’ her. I’m weel oot o’
her grups, I can tell ye.’

It required a good deal of persuasion, but at last Robert prevailed
upon Shargar to return. For was not Robert his tower of strength? And if
Robert was not frightened at his grannie, or at Betty, why should he
be? At length they entered Mrs. Falconer’s parlour, Robert dragging in
Shargar after him, having failed altogether in encouraging him to enter
after a more dignified fashion.

It must be remembered that although Shargar was still kilted, he was not
the less trowsered, such as the trowsers were. It makes my heart ache to
think of those trowsers--not believing trowsers essential to blessedness
either, but knowing the superiority of the old Roman costume of the

No sooner had Mrs. Falconer cast her eyes upon him than she could not
but be convinced of the truth of Robert’s averment.

‘Here he is, grannie; and gin ye bena saitisfeed yet--’

‘Haud yer tongue, laddie. Ye hae gi’en me nae cause to doobt yer word.’

Indeed, during Robert’s absence, his grandmother had had leisure to
perceive of what an absurd folly she had been guilty. She had also had
time to make up her mind as to her duty with regard to Shargar; and
the more she thought about it, the more she admired the conduct of her
grandson, and the better she saw that it would be right to follow his
example. No doubt she was the more inclined to this benevolence that she
had as it were received her grandson back from the jaws of death.

When the two lads entered, from her arm-chair Mrs. Falconer examined
Shargar from head to foot with the eye of a queen on her throne, and
a countenance immovable in stern gentleness, till Shargar would gladly
have sunk into the shelter of the voluminous kilt from the gaze of those
quiet hazel eyes.

At length she spoke:

‘Robert, tak him awa’.’

‘Whaur’ll I tak him till, grannie?’

‘Tak him up to the garret. Betty ‘ill ha’ ta’en a tub o’ het water up
there ‘gen this time, and ye maun see that he washes himsel’ frae heid
to fut, or he s’ no bide an ‘oor i’ my hoose. Gang awa’ an’ see till ‘t
this minute.’

But she detained them yet awhile with various directions in regard of
cleansing, for the carrying out of which Robert was only too glad to
give his word. She dismissed them at last, and Shargar by and by found
himself in bed, clean, and, for the first time in his life, between a
pair of linen sheets--not altogether to his satisfaction, for mere order
and comfort were substituted for adventure and success.

But greater trials awaited him. In the morning he was visited by Brodie,
the tailor, and Elshender, the shoemaker, both of whom he held in awe as
his superiors in the social scale, and by them handled and measured from
head to feet, the latter included; after which he had to lie in bed
for three days, till his clothes came home; for Betty had carefully
committed every article of his former dress to the kitchen fire, not
without a sense of pollution to the bottom of her kettle. Nor would he
have got them for double the time, had not Robert haunted the tailor,
as well as the soutar, like an evil conscience, till they had finished
them. Thus grievous was Shargar’s introduction to the comforts of
respectability. Nor did he like it much better when he was dressed, and
able to go about; for not only was he uncomfortable in his new clothes,
which, after the very easy fit of the old ones, felt like a suit of
plate-armour, but he was liable to be sent for at any moment by the
awful sovereignty in whose dominions he found himself, and which,
of course, proceeded to instruct him not merely in his own religious
duties, but in the religious theories of his ancestors, if, indeed,
Shargar’s ancestors ever had any. And now the Shorter Catechism seemed
likely to be changed into the Longer Catechism; for he had it Sundays as
well as Saturdays, besides Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted, Baxter’s
Saint’s Rest, Erskine’s Gospel Sonnets, and other books of a like
kind. Nor was it any relief to Shargar that the gloom was broken by the
incomparable Pilgrim’s Progress and the Holy War, for he cared for none
of these things. Indeed, so dreary did he find it all, that his love to
Robert was never put to such a severe test. But for that, he would have
run for it. Twenty times a day was he so tempted.

At school, though it was better, yet it was bad. For he was ten times as
much laughed at for his new clothes, though they were of the plainest,
as he had been for his old rags. Still he bore all the pangs of
unwelcome advancement without a grumble, for the sake of his friend
alone, whose dog he remained as much as ever. But his past life of cold
and neglect, and hunger and blows, and homelessness and rags, began
to glimmer as in the distance of a vaporous sunset, and the loveless
freedom he had then enjoyed gave it a bloom as of summer-roses.

I wonder whether there may not have been in some unknown corner of the
old lady’s mind this lingering remnant of paganism, that, in reclaiming
the outcast from the error of his ways, she was making an offering
acceptable to that God whom her mere prayers could not move to look
with favour upon her prodigal son Andrew. Nor from her own acknowledged
religious belief as a background would it have stuck so fiery off
either. Indeed, it might have been a partial corrective of some yet
more dreadful articles of her creed,--which she held, be it remembered,
because she could not help it.


The winter passed slowly away. Robert and Shargar went to school
together, and learned their lessons together at Mrs. Falconer’s table.
Shargar soon learned to behave with tolerable propriety; was obedient,
as far as eye-service went; looked as queer as ever; did what he
pleased, which was nowise very wicked, the moment he was out of the old
lady’s sight; was well fed and well cared for; and when he was asked how
he was, gave the invariable answer: ‘Middlin’.’ He was not very happy.

There was little communication in words between the two boys, for the
one had not much to say, and the pondering fits of the other grew
rather than relaxed in frequency and intensity. Yet amongst chance
acquaintances in the town Robert had the character of a wag, of which
he was totally unaware himself. Indeed, although he had more than the
ordinary share of humour, I suspect it was not so much his fun as his
earnest that got him the character; for he would say such altogether
unheard-of and strange things, that the only way they were capable of
accounting for him was as a humorist.

‘Eh!’ he said once to Elshender, during a pause common to a
thunder-storm and a lesson on the violin ‘eh! wadna ye like to be up in
that clood wi’ a spaud, turnin’ ower the divots and catchin’ the flashes
lyin’ aneath them like lang reid fiery worms?’

‘Ay, man, but gin ye luik up to the cloods that gait, ye’ll never be
muckle o’ a fiddler.’

This was merely an outbreak of that insolence of advice so often shown
to the young from no vantage-ground but that of age and faithlessness,
reminding one of the ‘jigging fool’ who interfered between Brutus and
Cassius on the sole ground that he had seen more years than they. As if
ever a fiddler that did not look up to the clouds would be anything but
a catgut-scraper! Even Elshender’s fiddle was the one angel that held
back the heavy curtain of his gross nature, and let the sky shine
through. He ought to have been set fiddling every Sunday morning, and
from his fiddling dragged straight to church. It was the only thing man
could have done for his conversion, for then his heart was open. But I
fear the prayers would have closed it before the sermon came. He should
rather have been compelled to take his fiddle to church with him, and
have a gentle scrape at it in the pauses of the service; only there are
no such pauses in the service, alas! And Dooble Sanny, though not too
religious to get drunk occasionally, was a great deal too religious to
play his fiddle on the Sabbath: he would not willingly anger the powers
above; but it was sometimes a sore temptation, especially after he got
possession of old Mr. Falconer’s wonderful instrument.

‘Hoots, man!’ he would say to Robert; ‘dinna han’le her as gin she war
an egg-box. Tak haud o’ her as gin she war a leevin’ crater. Ye maun
jist straik her canny, an’ wile the music oot o’ her; for she’s like
ither women: gin ye be rouch wi’ her, ye winna get a word oot o’ her.
An’ dinna han’le her that gait. She canna bide to be contred an’ pu’d
this gait and that gait.--Come to me, my bonny leddy. Ye’ll tell me yer
story, winna ye, my dauty (pet)?’

And with every gesture as if he were humouring a shy and invalid girl,
he would, as he said, wile the music out of her in sobs and wailing,
till the instrument, gathering courage in his embrace, grew gently
merry in its confidence, and broke at last into airy laughter. He always
spoke, and apparently thought, of his violin as a woman, just as a
sailor does of his craft. But there was nothing about him, except
his love for music and its instruments, to suggest other than a most
uncivilized nature. That which was fine in him was constantly checked
and held down by the gross; the merely animal overpowered the spiritual;
and it was only upon occasion that his heavenly companion, the violin,
could raise him a few feet above the mire and the clay. She never
succeeded in setting his feet on a rock; while, on the contrary, he
often dragged her with him into the mire of questionable company and
circumstances. Worthy Mr. Falconer would have been horrified to see his
umquhile modest companion in such society as that into which she was now
introduced at times. But nevertheless the soutar was a good and patient
teacher; and although it took Robert rather more than a fortnight
to redeem his pledge to Shargar, he did make progress. It could not,
however, be rapid, seeing that an hour at a time, two evenings in
the week, was all that he could give to the violin. Even with this
moderation, the risk of his absence exciting his grandmother’s suspicion
and inquiry was far from small.

And now, were those really faded old memories of his grandfather and
his merry kindness, all so different from the solemn benevolence of his
grandmother, which seemed to revive in his bosom with the revivification
of the violin? The instrument had surely laid up a story in its hollow
breast, had been dreaming over it all the time it lay hidden away in the
closet, and was now telling out its dreams about the old times in the
ear of the listening boy. To him also it began to assume something of
that mystery and life which had such a softening, and, for the moment at
least, elevating influence on his master.

At length the love of the violin had grown upon him so, that he could
not but cast about how he might enjoy more of its company. It would not
do, for many reasons, to go oftener to the shoemaker’s, especially
now that the days were getting longer. Nor was that what he wanted.
He wanted opportunity for practice. He wanted to be alone with the
creature, to see if she would not say something more to him than she had
ever said yet. Wafts and odours of melodies began to steal upon him ere
he was aware in the half lights between sleeping and waking: if he could
only entice them to creep out of the violin, and once ‘bless his humble
ears’ with the bodily hearing of them! Perhaps he might--who could tell?
But how? But where?

There was a building in Rothieden not old, yet so deserted that its very
history seemed to have come to a standstill, and the dust that filled it
to have fallen from the plumes of passing centuries. It was the property
of Mrs. Falconer, left her by her husband. Trade had gradually ebbed
away from the town till the thread-factory stood unoccupied, with all
its machinery rusting and mouldering, just as the work-people had risen
and left it one hot, midsummer day, when they were told that their
services were no longer required. Some of the thread even remained upon
the spools, and in the hollows of some of the sockets the oil had as yet
dried only into a paste; although to Robert the desertion of the place
appeared immemorial. It stood at a furlong’s distance from the house, on
the outskirt of the town. There was a large, neglected garden behind it,
with some good fruit-trees, and plenty of the bushes which boys love
for the sake of their berries. After grannie’s jam-pots were properly
filled, the remnant of these, a gleaning far greater than the gathering,
was at the disposal of Robert, and, philosopher although in some measure
he was already, he appreciated the privilege. Haunting this garden in
the previous summer, he had for the first time made acquaintance with
the interior of the deserted factory. The door to the road was always
kept locked, and the key of it lay in one of grannie’s drawers; but he
had then discovered a back entrance less securely fastened, and with a
strange mingling of fear and curiosity had from time to time extended
his rambles over what seemed to him the huge desolation of the place.
Half of it was well built of stone and lime, but of the other half the
upper part was built of wood, which now showed signs of considerable
decay. One room opened into another through the length of the place,
revealing a vista of machines, standing with an air of the last folding
of the wings of silence over them, and the sense of a deeper and deeper
sinking into the soundless abyss. But their activity was not so far
vanished but that by degrees Robert came to fancy that he had some
time or other seen a woman seated at each of those silent powers, whose
single hand set the whole frame in motion, with its numberless spindles
and spools rapidly revolving--a vague mystery of endless threads in
orderly complication, out of which came some desired, to him unknown,
result, so that the whole place was full of a bewildering tumult of
work, every little reel contributing its share, as the water-drops
clashing together make the roar of a tempest. Now all was still as the
church on a week-day, still as the school on a Saturday afternoon. Nay,
the silence seemed to have settled down like the dust, and grown old and
thick, so dead and old that the ghost of the ancient noise had arisen to
haunt the place.

Thither would Robert carry his violin, and there would he woo her.

‘I’m thinkin’ I maun tak her wi’ me the nicht, Sanders,’ he said,
holding the fiddle lovingly to his bosom, after he had finished his next

The shoemaker looked blank.

‘Ye’re no gaein’ to desert me, are ye?’

‘Na, weel I wat!’ returned Robert. ‘But I want to try her at hame. I
maun get used till her a bittie, ye ken, afore I can du onything wi’

‘I wiss ye had na brought her here ava. What I am to du wantin’ her!’

‘What for dinna ye get yer ain back?’

‘I haena the siller, man. And, forbye, I doobt I wadna be that sair
content wi’ her noo gin I had her. I used to think her gran’. But I’m
clean oot o’ conceit o’ her. That bonnie leddy’s ta’en ‘t clean oot o’

‘But ye canna hae her aye, ye ken, Sanders. She’s no mine. She’s my
grannie’s, ye ken.’

‘What’s the use o’ her to her? She pits nae vailue upon her. Eh, man,
gin she wad gie her to me, I wad haud her i’ the best o’ shune a’ the
lave o’ her days.’

‘That wadna be muckle, Sanders, for she hasna had a new pair sin’ ever I

‘But I wad haud Betty in shune as weel.’

‘Betty pays for her ain shune, I reckon.’

‘Weel, I wad haud you in shune, and yer bairns, and yer bairns’ bairns,’
cried the soutar, with enthusiasm.

‘Hoot, toot, man! Lang or that ye’ll be fiddlin’ i’ the new Jeroozlem.’

‘Eh, man!’ said Alexander, looking up--he had just cracked the
roset-ends off his hands, for he had the upper leather of a boot in the
grasp of the clams, and his right hand hung arrested on its blind way to
the awl--‘duv ye think there’ll be fiddles there? I thocht they war a’
hairps, a thing ‘at I never saw, but it canna be up till a fiddle.’

‘I dinna ken,’ answered Robert; ‘but ye suld mak a pint o’ seein’ for

‘Gin I thoucht there wad be fiddles there, faith I wad hae a try. It
wadna be muckle o’ a Jeroozlem to me wantin’ my fiddle. But gin there
be fiddles, I daursay they’ll be gran’ anes. I daursay they wad gi’ me a
new ane--I mean ane as auld as Noah’s ‘at he played i’ the ark whan the
de’il cam’ in by to hearken. I wad fain hae a try. Ye ken a’ aboot it
wi’ that grannie o’ yours: hoo’s a body to begin?’

‘By giein’ up the drink, man.’

‘Ay--ay--ay--I reckon ye’re richt. Weel, I’ll think aboot it whan ance
I’m throu wi’ this job. That’ll be neist ook, or thereabouts, or aiblins
twa days efter. I’ll hae some leiser than.’

Before he had finished speaking he had caught up his awl and begun
to work vigorously, boring his holes as if the nerves of feeling were
continued to the point of the tool, inserting the bristles that served
him for needles with a delicacy worthy of soft-skinned fingers, drawing
through the rosined threads with a whisk, and untwining them with a
crack from the leather that guarded his hands.

‘Gude nicht to ye,’ said Robert, with the fiddle-case under his arm.

The shoemaker looked up, with his hands bound in his threads.

‘Ye’re no gaein’ to tak her frae me the nicht?’

‘Ay am I, but I’ll fess her back again. I’m no gaein’ to Jericho wi’

‘Gang to Hecklebirnie wi’ her, and that’s three mile ayont hell.’

‘Na; we maun win farther nor that. There canna be muckle fiddlin’

‘Weel, tak her to the new Jeroozlem. I s’ gang doon to Lucky Leary’s,
and fill mysel’ roarin’ fou, an’ it’ll be a’ your wyte (blame).’

‘I doobt ye’ll get the straiks (blows) though. Or maybe ye think Bell
‘ill tak them for ye.’

Dooble Sanny caught up a huge boot, the sole of which was filled with
broad-headed nails as thick as they could be driven, and, in a rage,
threw it at Robert as he darted out. Through its clang against the
door-cheek, the shoemaker heard a cry from the instrument. He cast
everything from him and sprang after Robert. But Robert was down the
wynd like a long-legged grayhound, and Elshender could only follow like
a fierce mastiff. It was love and grief, though, and apprehension and
remorse, not vengeance, that winged his heels. He soon saw that pursuit
was vain.

‘Robert! Robert!’ he cried; ‘I canna win up wi’ ye. Stop, for God’s
sake! Is she hurtit?’

Robert stopped at once.

‘Ye hae made a bonny leddy o’ her--a lameter (cripple) I doobt, like yer
wife,’ he answered, with indignation.

‘Dinna be aye flingin’ a man’s fau’ts in ‘s face. It jist maks him ‘at
he canna bide himsel’ or you eyther. Lat’s see the bonny crater.’

Robert complied, for he too was anxious. They were now standing in the
space in front of Shargar’s old abode, and there was no one to be seen.
Elshender took the box, opened it carefully, and peeped in with a face
of great apprehension.

‘I thocht that was a’!’ he said with some satisfaction. ‘I kent the
string whan I heard it. But we’ll sune get a new thairm till her,’ he
added, in a tone of sorrowful commiseration and condolence, as he took
the violin from the case, tenderly as if it had been a hurt child.

One touch of the bow, drawing out a goul of grief, satisfied him that
she was uninjured. Next a hurried inspection showed him that there was
enough of the catgut twisted round the peg to make up for the part
that was broken off. In a moment he had fastened it to the tail-piece,
tightened and tuned it. Forthwith he took the bow from the case-lid,
and in jubilant guise he expatiated upon the wrong he had done his bonny
leddy, till the doors and windows around were crowded with heads peering
through the dark to see whence the sounds came, and a little child
toddled across from one of the lowliest houses with a ha’penny for the
fiddler. Gladly would Robert have restored it with interest, but, alas!
there was no interest in his bank, for not a ha’penny had he in the
world. The incident recalled Sandy to Rothieden and its cares. He
restored the violin to its case, and while Robert was fearing he would
take it under his arm and walk away with it, handed it back with a
humble sigh and a ‘Praise be thankit;’ then, without another word,
turned and went to his lonely stool and home ‘untreasured of its
mistress.’ Robert went home too, and stole like a thief to his room.

The next day was a Saturday, which, indeed, was the real old Sabbath, or
at least the half of it, to the schoolboys of Rothieden. Even Robert’s
grannie was Jew enough, or rather Christian enough, to respect this
remnant of the fourth commandment--divine antidote to the rest of the
godless money-making and soul-saving week--and he had the half-day to
himself. So as soon as he had had his dinner, he managed to give Shargar
the slip, left him to the inroads of a desolate despondency, and stole
away to the old factory-garden. The key of that he had managed to
purloin from the kitchen where it hung; nor was there much danger of its
absence being discovered, seeing that in winter no one thought of the
garden. The smuggling of the violin out of the house was the ‘dearest
danger’--the more so that he would not run the risk of carrying her out
unprotected, and it was altogether a bulky venture with the case. But
by spying and speeding he managed it, and soon found himself safe within
the high walls of the garden.

It was early spring. There had been a heavy fall of sleet in the
morning, and now the wind blew gustfully about the place. The neglected
trees shook showers upon him as he passed under them, trampling down the
rank growth of the grass-walks. The long twigs of the wall-trees, which
had never been nailed up, or had been torn down by the snow and the
blasts of winter, went trailing away in the moan of the fitful wind, and
swung back as it sunk to a sigh. The currant and gooseberry bushes, bare
and leafless, and ‘shivering all for cold,’ neither reminded him of the
feasts of the past summer, nor gave him any hope for the next. He strode
careless through it all to gain the door at the bottom. It yielded to a
push, and the long grass streamed in over the threshold as he entered.
He mounted by a broad stair in the main part of the house, passing the
silent clock in one of its corners, now expiating in motionlessness the
false accusations it had brought against the work-people, and turned
into the chaos of machinery.

I fear that my readers will expect, from the minuteness with which I
recount these particulars, that, after all, I am going to describe a
rendezvous with a lady, or a ghost at least. I will not plead in excuse
that I, too, have been infected with Sandy’s mode of regarding her,
but I plead that in the mind of Robert the proceeding was involved in
something of that awe and mystery with which a youth approaches the
woman he loves. He had not yet arrived at the period when the feminine
assumes its paramount influence, combining in itself all that music,
colour, form, odour, can suggest, with something infinitely higher and
more divine; but he had begun to be haunted with some vague aspirations
towards the infinite, of which his attempts on the violin were the
outcome. And now that he was to be alone, for the first time, with this
wonderful realizer of dreams and awakener of visions, to do with her as
he would, to hint by gentle touches at the thoughts that were fluttering
in his soul, and listen for her voice that by the echoes in which she
strove to respond he might know that she understood him, it was no
wonder if he felt an ethereal foretaste of the expectation that haunts
the approach of souls.

But I am not even going to describe his first tête-à-tête with his
violin. Perhaps he returned from it somewhat disappointed. Probably he
found her coy, unready to acknowledge his demands on her attention. But
not the less willingly did he return with her to the solitude of the
ruinous factory. On every safe occasion, becoming more and more frequent
as the days grew longer, he repaired thither, and every time returned
more capable of drawing the coherence of melody from that matrix of
sweet sounds.

At length the people about began to say that the factory was haunted;
that the ghost of old Mr. Falconer, unable to repose while neglect was
ruining the precious results of his industry, visited the place night
after night, and solaced his disappointment by renewing on his favourite
violin strains not yet forgotten by him in his grave, and remembered
well by those who had been in his service, not a few of whom lived in
the neighbourhood of the forsaken building.

One gusty afternoon, like the first, but late in the spring, Robert
repaired as usual to this his secret haunt. He had played for some time,
and now, from a sudden pause of impulse, had ceased, and begun to
look around him. The only light came from two long pale cracks in
the rain-clouds of the west. The wind was blowing through the broken
windows, which stretched away on either hand. A dreary, windy gloom,
therefore, pervaded the desolate place; and in the dusk, and their
settled order, the machines looked multitudinous. An eerie sense of
discomfort came over him as he gazed, and he lifted his violin to dispel
the strange unpleasant feeling that grew upon him. But at the first long
stroke across the strings, an awful sound arose in the further room; a
sound that made him all but drop the bow, and cling to his violin. It
went on. It was the old, all but forgotten whirr of bobbins, mingled
with the gentle groans of the revolving horizontal wheel, but magnified
in the silence of the place, and the echoing imagination of the boy,
into something preternaturally awful. Yielding for a moment to the
growth of goose-skin, and the insurrection of hair, he recovered himself
by a violent effort, and walked to the door that connected the two
compartments. Was it more or less fearful that the jenny was not going
of itself? that the figure of an old woman sat solemnly turning and
turning the hand-wheel? Not without calling in the jury of his senses,
however, would he yield to the special plea of his imagination, but went
nearer, half expecting to find that the mutch, with its big flapping
borders, glimmering white in the gloom across many a machine, surrounded
the face of a skull. But he was soon satisfied that it was only a blind
woman everybody knew--so old that she had become childish. She had heard
the reports of the factory being haunted, and groping about with her
half-withered brain full of them, had found the garden and the back door
open, and had climbed to the first-floor by a farther stair, well known
to her when she used to work that very machine. She had seated herself
instinctively, according to ancient wont, and had set it in motion once

Yielding to an impulse of experiment, Robert began to play again.
Thereupon her disordered ideas broke out in words. And Robert soon began
to feel that it could hardly be more ghastly to look upon a ghost than
to be taken for one.

‘Ay, ay, sir,’ said the old woman, in a tone of commiseration, ‘it maun
be sair to bide. I dinna wonner ‘at ye canna lie still. But what gars ye
gang daunerin’ aboot this place? It’s no yours ony langer. Ye ken whan
fowk’s deid, they tyne the grip (loose hold). Ye suld gang hame to yer
wife. She micht say a word to quaiet yer auld banes, for she’s a douce
an’ a wice woman--the mistress.’

Then followed a pause. There was a horror about the old woman’s voice,
already half dissolved by death, in the desolate place, that almost took
from Robert the power of motion. But his violin sent forth an accidental
twang, and that set her going again.

‘Ye was aye a douce honest gentleman yersel’, an’ I dinna wonner ye
canna bide it. But I wad hae thoucht glory micht hae hauden ye in. But
yer ain son! Eh ay! And a braw lad and a bonnie! It’s a sod thing he
bude to gang the wrang gait; and it’s no wonner, as I say, that ye lea’
the worms to come an’ luik efter him. I doobt--I doobt it winna be to
you he’ll gang at the lang last. There winna be room for him aside ye in
Awbrahawm’s boasom. And syne to behave sae ill to that winsome wife o’
his! I dinna wonner ‘at ye maun be up! Eh na! But, sir, sin ye are up,
I wish ye wad speyk to John Thamson no to tak aff the day ‘at I was awa’
last ook, for ‘deed I was verra unweel, and bude to keep my bed.’

Robert was beginning to feel uneasy as to how he should get rid of her,
when she rose, and saying, ‘Ay, ay, I ken it’s sax o’clock,’ went out
as she had come in. Robert followed, and saw her safe out of the garden,
but did not return to the factory.

So his father had behaved ill to his mother too!

‘But what for hearken to the havers o’ a dottled auld wife?’ he said to
himself, pondering as he walked home.

Old Janet told a strange story of how she had seen the ghost, and had
had a long talk with him, and of what he said, and of how he groaned and
played the fiddle between. And finding that the report had reached his
grandmother’s ears, Robert thought it prudent, much to his discontent,
to intermit his visits to the factory. Mrs. Falconer, of course,
received the rumour with indignant scorn, and peremptorily refused to
allow any examination of the premises.

But how have the violin by him and not hear her speak? One evening the
longing after her voice grow upon him till he could resist it no longer.
He shut the door of his garret-room, and, with Shargar by him, took her
out and began to play softly, gently--oh so softly, so gently! Shargar
was enraptured. Robert went on playing.

Suddenly the door opened, and his grannie stood awfully revealed before
them. Betty had heard the violin, and had flown to the parlour in the
belief that, unable to get any one to heed him at the factory, the ghost
had taken Janet’s advice, and come home. But his wife smiled a smile
of contempt, went with Betty to the kitchen--over which Robert’s room
lay--heard the sounds, put off her creaking shoes, stole up-stairs on
her soft white lambswool stockings, and caught the pair. The violin was
seized, put in its case, and carried off; and Mrs. Falconer rejoiced to
think she had broken a gin set by Satan for the unwary feet of her poor
Robert. Little she knew the wonder of that violin--how it had kept the
soul of her husband alive! Little she knew how dangerous it is to shut
an open door, with ever so narrow a peep into the eternal, in the face
of a son of Adam! And little she knew how determinedly and restlessly
a nature like Robert’s would search for another, to open one possibly
which she might consider ten times more dangerous than that which she
had closed.

When Alexander heard of the affair, he was at first overwhelmed with the
misfortune; but gathering a little heart at last, he set to ‘working,’
as he said himself, ‘like a verra deevil’; and as he was the best
shoemaker in the town, and for the time abstained utterly from whisky,
and all sorts of drink but well-water, he soon managed to save the money
necessary, and redeem the old fiddle. But whether it was from fancy, or
habit, or what, even Robert’s inexperienced ear could not accommodate
itself, save under protest, to the instrument which once his teacher had
considered all but perfect; and it needed the master’s finest touch to
make its tone other than painful to the sense of the neophyte.

No one can estimate too highly the value of such a resource to a man
like the shoemaker, or a boy like Robert. Whatever it be that keeps the
finer faculties of the mind awake, wonder alive, and the interest above
mere eating and drinking, money-making and money-saving; whatever it
be that gives gladness, or sorrow, or hope--this, be it violin, pencil,
pen, or, highest of all, the love of woman, is simply a divine gift of
holy influence for the salvation of that being to whom it comes, for the
lifting of him out of the mire and up on the rock. For it keeps a way
open for the entrance of deeper, holier, grander influences, emanating
from the same riches of the Godhead. And though many have genius that
have no grace, they will only be so much the worse, so much the nearer
to the brute, if you take from them that which corresponds to Dooble
Sanny’s fiddle.


For some time after the loss of his friend, Robert went loitering and
mooning about, quite neglecting the lessons to which he had not, it must
be confessed, paid much attention for many weeks. Even when seated at
his grannie’s table, he could do no more than fix his eyes on his book:
to learn was impossible; it was even disgusting to him. But his was a
nature which, foiled in one direction, must, absolutely helpless against
its own vitality, straightway send out its searching roots in another.
Of all forces, that of growth is the one irresistible, for it is the
creating power of God, the law of life and of being. Therefore no
accumulation of refusals, and checks, and turnings, and forbiddings,
from all the good old grannies in the world, could have prevented Robert
from striking root downward, and bearing fruit upward, though, as in all
higher natures, the fruit was a long way off yet. But his soul was only
sad and hungry. He was not unhappy, for he had been guilty of nothing
that weighed on his conscience. He had been doing many things of late,
it is true, without asking leave of his grandmother, but wherever prayer
is felt to be of no avail, there cannot be the sense of obligation save
on compulsion. Even direct disobedience in such case will generally
leave little soreness, except the thing forbidden should be in its own
nature wrong, and then, indeed, ‘Don Worm, the conscience,’ may begin to
bite. But Robert felt nothing immoral in playing upon his grandfather’s
violin, nor even in taking liberties with a piece of lumber for which
nobody cared but possibly the dead; therefore he was not unhappy, only
much disappointed, very empty, and somewhat gloomy. There was nothing
to look forward to now, no secret full of riches and endless in hope--in
short, no violin.

To feel the full force of his loss, my reader must remember that around
the childhood of Robert, which he was fast leaving behind him, there had
gathered no tenderness--none at least by him recognizable as such. All
the women he came in contact with were his grandmother and Betty. He
had no recollection of having ever been kissed. From the darkness and
negation of such an embryo-existence, his nature had been unconsciously
striving to escape--struggling to get from below ground into the sunlit
air--sighing after a freedom he could not have defined, the freedom that
comes, not of independence, but of love--not of lawlessness, but of
the perfection of law. Of this beauty of life, with its wonder and its
deepness, this unknown glory, his fiddle had been the type. It had been
the ark that held, if not the tables of the covenant, yet the golden pot
of angel’s food, and the rod that budded in death. And now that it was
gone, the gloomier aspect of things began to lay hold upon him; his
soul turned itself away from the sun, and entered into the shadow of the
under-world. Like the white-horsed twins of lake Regillus, like Phoebe,
the queen of skyey plain and earthly forest, every boy and girl, every
man and woman, that lives at all, has to divide many a year between
Tartarus and Olympus.

For now arose within him, not without ultimate good, the evil phantasms
of a theology which would explain all God’s doings by low conceptions,
low I mean for humanity even, of right, and law, and justice, then only
taking refuge in the fact of the incapacity of the human understanding
when its own inventions are impugned as undivine. In such a system, hell
is invariably the deepest truth, and the love of God is not so deep as
hell. Hence, as foundations must be laid in the deepest, the system is
founded in hell, and the first article in the creed that Robert Falconer
learned was, ‘I believe in hell.’ Practically, I mean, it was so; else
how should it be that as often as a thought of religious duty arose in
his mind, it appeared in the form of escaping hell, of fleeing from the
wrath to come? For his very nature was hell, being not born in sin and
brought forth in iniquity, but born sin and brought forth iniquity. And
yet God made him. He must believe that. And he must believe, too, that
God was just, awfully just, punishing with fearful pains those who did
not go through a certain process of mind which it was utterly impossible
they should go through without a help which he would give to some, and
withhold from others, the reason of the difference not being such,
to say the least of it, as to come within the reach of the persons
concerned. And this God they said was love. It was logically absurd, of
course, yet, thank God, they did say that God was love; and many of them
succeeded in believing it, too, and in ordering their ways as if the
first article of their creed had been ‘I believe in God’; whence, in
truth, we are bound to say it was the first in power and reality, if
not in order; for what are we to say a man believes, if not what he acts
upon? Still the former article was the one they brought chiefly to bear
upon their children. This mortar, probably they thought, threw the shell
straighter than any of the other field-pieces of the church-militant.
Hence it was even in justification of God himself that a party arose to
say that a man could believe without the help of God at all, and after
believing only began to receive God’s help--a heresy all but as dreary
and barren as the former. No one dreamed of saying--at least such a
glad word of prophecy never reached Rothieden--that, while nobody can
do without the help of the Father any more than a new-born babe could of
itself live and grow to a man, yet that in the giving of that help the
very fatherhood of the Father finds its one gladsome labour; that for
that the Lord came; for that the world was made; for that we were born
into it; for that God lives and loves like the most loving man or woman
on earth, only infinitely more, and in other ways and kinds besides,
which we cannot understand; and that therefore to be a man is the soul
of eternal jubilation.

Robert consequently began to take fits of soul-saving, a most rational
exercise, worldly wise and prudent--right too on the principles he
had received, but not in the least Christian in its nature, or even
God-fearing. His imagination began to busy itself in representing the
dire consequences of not entering into the one refuge of faith. He made
many frantic efforts to believe that he believed; took to keeping the
Sabbath very carefully--that is, by going to church three times, and to
Sunday-school as well; by never walking a step save to or from church;
by never saying a word upon any subject unconnected with religion,
chiefly theoretical; by never reading any but religious books; by never
whistling; by never thinking of his lost fiddle, and so on--all the time
feeling that God was ready to pounce upon him if he failed once; till
again and again the intensity of his efforts utterly defeated their
object by destroying for the time the desire to prosecute them with
the power to will them. But through the horrible vapours of these vain
endeavours, which denied God altogether as the maker of the world, and
the former of his soul and heart and brain, and sought to worship him as
a capricious demon, there broke a little light, a little soothing, soft
twilight, from the dim windows of such literature as came in his way.
Besides The Pilgrim’s Progress there were several books which shone
moon-like on his darkness, and lifted something of the weight of that
Egyptian gloom off his spirit. One of these, strange to say, was Defoe’s
Religious Courtship, and one, Young’s Night Thoughts. But there was
another which deserves particular notice, inasmuch as it did far more
than merely interest or amuse him, raising a deep question in his mind,
and one worthy to be asked. This book was the translation of Klopstock’s
Messiah, to which I have already referred. It was not one of his
grandmother’s books, but had probably belonged to his father: he had
found it in his little garret-room. But as often as she saw him reading
it, she seemed rather pleased, he thought. As to the book itself, its
florid expatiation could neither offend nor injure a boy like Robert,
while its representation of our Lord was to him a wonderful relief from
that given in the pulpit, and in all the religious books he knew. But
the point for the sake of which I refer to it in particular is this:
Amongst the rebel angels who are of the actors in the story, one of
the principal is a cherub who repents of making his choice with Satan,
mourns over his apostasy, haunts unseen the steps of our Saviour, wheels
lamenting about the cross, and would gladly return to his lost duties
in heaven, if only he might--a doubt which I believe is left unsolved
in the volume, and naturally enough remained unsolved in Robert’s
mind:--Would poor Abaddon be forgiven and taken home again? For although
naturally, that is, to judge by his own instincts, there could be no
question of his forgiveness, according to what he had been taught there
could be no question of his perdition. Having no one to talk to, he
divided himself and went to buffets on the subject, siding, of course,
with the better half of himself which supported the merciful view of
the matter; for all his efforts at keeping the Sabbath, had in his own
honest judgment failed so entirely, that he had no ground for believing
himself one of the elect. Had he succeeded in persuading himself that he
was, there is no saying to what lengths of indifference about others the
chosen prig might have advanced by this time.

He made one attempt to open the subject with Shargar.

‘Shargar, what think ye?’ he said suddenly, one day. ‘Gin a de’il war to
repent, wad God forgie him?’

‘There’s no sayin’ what fowk wad du till ance they’re tried,’ returned
Shargar, cautiously.

Robert did not care to resume the question with one who so circumspectly
refused to take a metaphysical or a priori view of the matter.

He made an attempt with his grandmother.

One Sunday, his thoughts, after trying for a time to revolve in due
orbit around the mind of the Rev. Hugh Maccleary, as projected in a
sermon which he had botched up out of a commentary, failed at last
and flew off into what the said gentleman would have pronounced ‘very
dangerous speculation, seeing no man is to go beyond what is written in
the Bible, which contains not only the truth, but the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth, for this time and for all future time--both here
and in the world to come.’ Some such sentence, at least, was in his
sermon that day, and the preacher no doubt supposed St. Matthew, not St.
Matthew Henry, accountable for its origination. In the Limbo into
which Robert’s then spirit flew, it had been sorely exercised about the
substitution of the sufferings of Christ for those which humanity must
else have endured while ages rolled on--mere ripples on the ocean of

‘Noo, be douce,’ said Mrs. Falconer, solemnly, as Robert, a trifle
lighter at heart from the result of his cogitations than usual, sat down
to dinner: he had happened to smile across the table to Shargar. And he
was douce, and smiled no more.

They ate their broth, or, more properly, supped it, with horn spoons, in
absolute silence; after which Mrs. Falconer put a large piece of meat on
the plate of each, with the same formula:

‘Hae. Ye s’ get nae mair.’

The allowance was ample in the extreme, bearing a relation to her words
similar to that which her practice bore to her theology. A piece of
cheese, because it was the Sabbath, followed, and dinner was over.

When the table had been cleared by Betty, they drew their chairs to
the fire, and Robert had to read to his grandmother, while Shargar sat
listening. He had not read long, however, before he looked up from his
Bible and began the following conversation:--

‘Wasna it an ill trick o’ Joseph, gran’mither, to put that cup, an’ a
siller ane tu, into the mou’ o’ Benjamin’s seck?’

‘What for that, laddie? He wanted to gar them come back again, ye ken.’

‘But he needna hae gane aboot it in sic a playactor-like gait. He needna
hae latten them awa’ ohn tellt (without telling) them that he was their

‘They had behaved verra ill till him.’

‘He used to clype (tell tales) upo’ them, though.’

‘Laddie, tak ye care what ye say aboot Joseph, for he was a teep o’

‘Hoo was that, gran’mither?’

‘They sellt him to the Ishmeleets for siller, as Judas did him.’

‘Did he beir the sins o’ them ‘at sellt him?’

‘Ye may say, in a mainner, ‘at he did; for he was sair afflickit afore
he wan up to be the King’s richt han’; an’ syne he keepit a hantle o’
ill aff o’ ‘s brithren.’

‘Sae, gran’mither, ither fowk nor Christ micht suffer for the sins o’
their neebors?’

‘Ay, laddie, mony a ane has to do that. But no to mak atonement, ye ken.
Naething but the sufferin’ o’ the spotless cud du that. The Lord wadna
be saitisfeet wi’ less nor that. It maun be the innocent to suffer for
the guilty.’

‘I unnerstan’ that,’ said Robert, who had heard it so often that he had
not yet thought of trying to understand it. ‘But gin we gang to the gude
place, we’ll be a’ innocent, willna we, grannie?’

‘Ay, that we will--washed spotless, and pure, and clean, and dressed
i’ the weddin’ garment, and set doon at the table wi’ him and wi’ his
Father. That’s them ‘at believes in him, ye ken.’

‘Of coorse, grannie.--Weel, ye see, I hae been thinkin’ o’ a plan for
maist han’ toomin’ (almost emptying) hell.’

‘What’s i’ the bairn’s heid noo? Troth, ye’re no blate, meddlin’ wi’ sic
subjecks, laddie!’

‘I didna want to say onything to vex ye, grannie. I s’ gang on wi’ the

‘Ow, say awa’. Ye sanna say muckle ‘at’s wrang afore I cry haud,’ said
Mrs. Falconer, curious to know what had been moving in the boy’s mind,
but watching him like a cat, ready to spring upon the first visible hair
of the old Adam.

And Robert, recalling the outbreak of terrible grief which he had heard
on that memorable night, really thought that his project would bring
comfort to a mind burdened with such care, and went on with the
exposition of his plan.

‘A’ them ‘at sits doon to the supper o’ the Lamb ‘ll sit there because
Christ suffert the punishment due to their sins--winna they, grannie?’

‘Doobtless, laddie.’

‘But it’ll he some sair upo’ them to sit there aitin’ an’ drinkin’ an’
talkin’ awa’, an’ enjoyin’ themsel’s, whan ilka noo an’ than there’ll
come a sough o’ wailin’ up frae the ill place, an’ a smell o’ burnin’
ill to bide.’

‘What put that i’ yer heid, laddie? There’s no rizzon to think ‘at
hell’s sae near haven as a’ that. The Lord forbid it!’

‘Weel, but, grannie, they’ll ken ‘t a’ the same, whether they smell ‘t
or no. An’ I canna help thinkin’ that the farrer awa’ I thoucht they
war, the waur I wad like to think upo’ them. ‘Deed it wad be waur.’

‘What are ye drivin’ at, laddie? I canna unnerstan’ ye,’ said Mrs.
Falconer, feeling very uncomfortable, and yet curious, almost anxious,
to hear what would come next. ‘I trust we winna hae to think muckle--’

But here, I presume, the thought of the added desolation of her Andrew
if she, too, were to forget him, as well as his Father in heaven,
checked the flow of her words. She paused, and Robert took up his
parable and went on, first with yet another question.

‘Duv ye think, grannie, that a body wad be allooed to speik a word i’
public, like, there--at the lang table, like, I mean?’

‘What for no, gin it was dune wi’ moedesty, and for a guid rizzon? But
railly, laddie, I doobt ye’re haverin’ a’thegither. Ye hard naething
like that, I’m sure, the day, frae Mr. Maccleary.’

‘Na, na; he said naething aboot it. But maybe I’ll gang and speir at
him, though.’

‘What aboot?’

‘What I’m gaein’ to tell ye, grannie.’

‘Weel, tell awa’, and hae dune wi’ ‘t. I’m growin’ tired o’ ‘t.’

It was something else than tired she was growing.

‘Weel, I’m gaein’ to try a’ that I can to win in there.’

‘I houp ye will. Strive and pray. Resist the deevil. Walk in the licht.
Lippen not to yersel’, but trust in Christ and his salvation.’

‘Ay, ay, grannie.--Weel--’

‘Are ye no dune yet?’

‘Na. I’m but jist beginnin’.’

‘Beginnin’, are ye? Humph!’

‘Weel, gin I win in there, the verra first nicht I sit doon wi’ the lave
o’ them, I’m gaein’ to rise up an’ say--that is, gin the Maister, at
the heid o’ the table, disna bid me sit doon--an’ say: “Brithers an’
sisters, the haill o’ ye, hearken to me for ae minute; an’, O Lord! gin
I say wrang, jist tak the speech frae me, and I’ll sit doon dumb an’
rebukit. We’re a’ here by grace and no by merit, save his, as ye a’ ken
better nor I can tell ye, for ye hae been langer here nor me. But it’s
jist ruggin’ an’ rivin’ at my hert to think o’ them ‘at’s doon there.
Maybe ye can hear them. I canna. Noo, we hae nae merit, an’ they hae nae
merit, an’ what for are we here and them there? But we’re washed clean
and innocent noo; and noo, whan there’s no wyte lying upo’ oursel’s,
it seems to me that we micht beir some o’ the sins o’ them ‘at hae
ower mony. I call upo’ ilk ane o’ ye ‘at has a frien’ or a neebor down
yonner, to rise up an’ taste nor bite nor sup mair till we gang up
a’thegither to the fut o’ the throne, and pray the Lord to lat’s gang
and du as the Maister did afore ‘s, and beir their griefs, and cairry
their sorrows doon in hell there; gin it maybe that they may repent and
get remission o’ their sins, an’ come up here wi’ us at the lang last,
and sit doon wi’ ‘s at this table, a’ throuw the merits o’ oor Saviour
Jesus Christ, at the heid o’ the table there. Amen.”’

Half ashamed of his long speech, half overcome by the feelings fighting
within him, and altogether bewildered, Robert burst out crying like a
baby, and ran out of the room--up to his own place of meditation, where
he threw himself on the floor. Shargar, who had made neither head nor
tail of it all, as he said afterwards, sat staring at Mrs. Falconer. She
rose, and going into Robert’s little bedroom, closed the door, and what
she did there is not far to seek.

When she came out, she rang the bell for tea, and sent Shargar to look
for Robert. When he appeared, she was so gentle to him that it woke
quite a new sensation in him. But after tea was over, she said:

‘Noo, Robert, lat’s hae nae mair o’ this. Ye ken as weel ‘s I du that
them ‘at gangs there their doom is fixed, and noething can alter ‘t. An’
we’re not to alloo oor ain fancies to cairry ‘s ayont the Scripter. We
hae oor ain salvation to work oot wi’ fear an’ trimlin’. We hae naething
to do wi’ what’s hidden. Luik ye till ‘t ‘at ye win in yersel’. That’s
eneuch for you to min’.--Shargar, ye can gang to the kirk. Robert’s to
bide wi’ me the nicht.’

Mrs. Falconer very rarely went to church, for she could not hear a word,
and found it irksome.

When Robert and she were alone together,

‘Laddie,’ she said, ‘be ye waure o’ judgin’ the Almichty. What luiks
to you a’ wrang may be a’ richt. But it’s true eneuch ‘at we dinna ken
a’thing; an’ he’s no deid yet--I dinna believe ‘at he is--and he’ll
maybe win in yet.’

Here her voice failed her. And Robert had nothing to say now. He had
said all his say before.

‘Pray, Robert, pray for yer father, laddie,’ she resumed; ‘for we hae
muckle rizzon to be anxious aboot ‘im. Pray while there’s life an’ houp.
Gie the Lord no rist. Pray till ‘im day an’ nicht, as I du, that he wad
lead ‘im to see the error o’ his ways, an’ turn to the Lord, wha’s ready
to pardon. Gin yer mother had lived, I wad hae had mair houp, I confess,
for she was a braw leddy and a bonny, and that sweet-tongued! She cud
hae wiled a maukin frae its lair wi’ her bonnie Hielan’ speech. I never
likit to hear nane o’ them speyk the Erse (Irish, that is, Gaelic), it
was aye sae gloggie and baneless; and I cudna unnerstan’ ae word o’
‘t. Nae mair cud yer father--hoot! yer gran’father, I mean--though his
father cud speyk it weel. But to hear yer mother--mamma, as ye used to
ca’ her aye, efter the new fashion--to hear her speyk English, that was
sweet to the ear; for the braid Scotch she kent as little o’ as I do o’
the Erse. It was hert’s care aboot him that shortent her days. And a’
that’ll be laid upo’ him. He’ll hae ‘t a’ to beir an’ accoont for. Och
hone! Och hone! Eh! Robert, my man, be a guid lad, an’ serve the Lord
wi’ a’ yer hert, an’ sowl, an’ stren’th, an’ min’; for gin ye gang
wrang, yer ain father ‘ll hae to beir naebody kens hoo muckle o’ the
wyte o’ ‘t, for he’s dune naething to bring ye up i’ the way ye suld
gang, an’ haud ye oot o’ the ill gait. For the sake o’ yer puir father,
haud ye to the richt road. It may spare him a pang or twa i’ the ill
place. Eh, gin the Lord wad only tak me, and lat him gang!’

Involuntarily and unconsciously the mother’s love was adopting the hope
which she had denounced in her grandson. And Robert saw it, but he was
never the man when I knew him to push a victory. He said nothing. Only a
tear or two at the memory of the wayworn man, his recollection of whose
visit I have already recorded, rolled down his cheeks. He was at such a
distance from him!--such an impassable gulf yawned between them!--that
was the grief! Not the gulf of death, nor the gulf that divides hell
from heaven, but the gulf of abjuration by the good because of his evil
ways. His grandmother, herself weeping fast and silently, with scarce
altered countenance, took her neatly-folded handkerchief from her
pocket, and wiped her grandson’s fresh cheeks, then wiped her own
withered face; and from that moment Robert knew that he loved her.

Then followed the Sabbath-evening prayer that she always offered
with the boy, whichever he was, who kept her company. They knelt down
together, side by side, in a certain corner of the room, the same, I
doubt not, in which she knelt at her private devotions, before going to
bed. There she uttered a long extempore prayer, rapid in speech, full of
divinity and Scripture-phrases, but not the less earnest and simple, for
it flowed from a heart of faith. Then Robert had to pray after her, loud
in her ear, that she might hear him thoroughly, so that he often felt as
if he were praying to her, and not to God at all.

She had begun to teach him to pray so early that the custom reached
beyond the confines of his memory. At first he had had to repeat the
words after her; but soon she made him construct his own utterances,
now and then giving him a suggestion in the form of a petition when
he seemed likely to break down, or putting a phrase into what she
considered more suitable language. But all such assistance she had given
up long ago.

On the present occasion, after she had ended her petitions with those
for Jews and pagans, and especially for the ‘Pop’ o’ Rom’,’ in whom with
a rare liberality she took the kindest interest, always praying God to
give him a good wife, though she knew perfectly well the marriage-creed
of the priesthood, for her faith in the hearer of prayer scorned every
theory but that in which she had herself been born and bred, she turned
to Robert with the usual ‘Noo, Robert!’ and Robert began. But after he
had gone on for some time with the ordinary phrases, he turned all
at once into a new track, and instead of praying in general terms for
‘those that would not walk in the right way,’ said,

‘O Lord! save my father,’ and there paused.

‘If it be thy will,’ suggested his grandmother.

But Robert continued silent. His grandmother repeated the subjunctive

‘I’m tryin’, grandmother,’ said Robert, ‘but I canna say ‘t. I daurna
say an if aboot it. It wad be like giein’ in till ‘s damnation. We maun
hae him saved, grannie!’

‘Laddie! laddie! haud yer tongue!’ said Mrs. Falconer, in a tone of
distressed awe. ‘O Lord, forgie ‘im. He’s young and disna ken better
yet. He canna unnerstan’ thy ways, nor, for that maitter, can I preten’
to unnerstan’ them mysel’. But thoo art a’ licht, and in thee is no
darkness at all. And thy licht comes into oor blin’ een, and mak’s
them blinner yet. But, O Lord, gin it wad please thee to hear oor
prayer...eh! hoo we wad praise thee! And my Andrew wad praise thee mair
nor ninety and nine o’ them ‘at need nae repentance.’

A long pause followed. And then the only words that would come were:
‘For Christ’s sake. Amen.’

When she said that God was light, instead of concluding therefrom that
he could not do the deeds of darkness, she was driven, from a faith in
the teaching of Jonathan Edwards as implicit as that of ‘any lay papist
of Loretto,’ to doubt whether the deeds of darkness were not after all
deeds of light, or at least to conclude that their character depended
not on their own nature, but on who did them.

They rose from their knees, and Mrs. Falconer sat down by her fire, with
her feet on her little wooden stool, and began, as was her wont in that
household twilight, ere the lamp was lighted, to review her past life,
and follow her lost son through all conditions and circumstances to her
imaginable. And when the world to come arose before her, clad in all the
glories which her fancy, chilled by education and years, could supply,
it was but to vanish in the gloom of the remembrance of him with whom
she dared not hope to share its blessedness. This at least was how
Falconer afterwards interpreted the sudden changes from gladness to
gloom which he saw at such times on her countenance.

But while such a small portion of the universe of thought was
enlightened by the glowworm lamp of the theories she had been taught,
she was not limited for light to that feeble source. While she walked
on her way, the moon, unseen herself behind the clouds, was illuminating
the whole landscape so gently and evenly, that the glowworm being the
only visible point of radiance, to it she attributed all the light. But
she felt bound to go on believing as she had been taught; for sometimes
the most original mind has the strongest sense of law upon it, and will,
in default of a better, obey a beggarly one--only till the higher law
that swallows it up manifests itself. Obedience was as essential an
element of her creed as of that of any purest-minded monk; neither being
sufficiently impressed with this: that, while obedience is the law of
the kingdom, it is of considerable importance that that which is obeyed
should be in very truth the will of God. It is one thing, and a good
thing, to do for God’s sake that which is not his will: it is another
thing, and altogether a better thing--how much better, no words can
tell--to do for God’s sake that which is his will. Mrs. Falconer’s
submission and obedience led her to accept as the will of God, lest she
should be guilty of opposition to him, that which it was anything but
giving him honour to accept as such. Therefore her love to God was too
like the love of the slave or the dog; too little like the love of the
child, with whose obedience the Father cannot be satisfied until he
cares for his reason as the highest form of his will. True, the child
who most faithfully desires to know the inward will or reason of
the Father, will be the most ready to obey without it; only for this
obedience it is essential that the apparent command at least be such as
he can suppose attributable to the Father. Of his own self he is bound
to judge what is right, as the Lord said. Had Abraham doubted whether it
was in any case right to slay his son, he would have been justified
in doubting whether God really required it of him, and would have been
bound to delay action until the arrival of more light. True, the will
of God can never be other than good; but I doubt if any man can ever be
sure that a thing is the will of God, save by seeing into its nature and
character, and beholding its goodness. Whatever God does must be right,
but are we sure that we know what he does? That which men say he does
may be very wrong indeed.

This burden she in her turn laid upon Robert--not unkindly, but as
needful for his training towards well-being. Her way with him was
shaped after that which she recognized as God’s way with her. ‘Speir nae
questons, but gang an’ du as ye’re tellt.’ And it was anything but a bad
lesson for the boy. It was one of the best he could have had--that of
authority. It is a grand thing to obey without asking questions, so long
as there is nothing evil in what is commanded. Only grannie concealed
her reasons without reason; and God makes no secrets. Hence she seemed
more stern and less sympathetic than she really was.

She sat with her feet on the little wooden stool, and Robert sat beside
her staring into the fire, till they heard the outer door open, and
Shargar and Betty come in from church.


Early on the following morning, while Mrs. Falconer, Robert, and Shargar
were at breakfast, Mr. Lammie came. He had delayed communicating the
intelligence he had received till he should be more certain of its
truth. Older than Andrew, he had been a great friend of his father,
and likewise of some of Mrs. Falconer’s own family. Therefore he was
received with a kindly welcome. But there was a cloud on his brow which
in a moment revealed that his errand was not a pleasant one.

‘I haena seen ye for a lang time, Mr. Lammie. Gae butt the hoose, lads.
Or I’m thinkin’ it maun be schule-time. Sit ye doon, Mr. Lammie, and
lat’s hear yer news.’

‘I cam frae Aberdeen last nicht, Mistress Faukner,’ he began.

‘Ye haena been hame sin’ syne?’ she rejoined.

‘Na. I sleepit at The Boar’s Heid.’

‘What for did ye that? What gart ye be at that expense, whan ye kent I
had a bed i’ the ga’le-room?’

‘Weel, ye see, they’re auld frien’s o’ mine, and I like to gang to them
whan I’m i’ the gait o’ ‘t.’

‘Weel, they’re a fine faimily, the Miss Napers. And, I wat, sin’ they
maun sell drink, they du ‘t wi’ discretion. That’s weel kent.’

Possibly Mr. Lammie, remembering what then occurred, may have thought
the discretion a little in excess of the drink, but he had other matters
to occupy him now. For a few moments both were silent.

‘There’s been some ill news, they tell me, Mrs. Faukner,’ he said at
length, when the silence had grown painful.

‘Humph!’ returned the old lady, her face becoming stony with the effort
to suppress all emotion. ‘Nae aboot Anerew?’

‘’Deed is ‘t, mem. An’ ill news, I’m sorry to say.’

‘Is he ta’en?’

‘Ay is he--by a jyler that winna tyne the grup.’

‘He’s no deid, John Lammie? Dinna say ‘t.’

‘I maun say ‘t, Mrs. Faukner. I had it frae Dr. Anderson, yer ain
cousin. He hintit at it afore, but his last letter leaves nae room to
doobt upo’ the subjeck. I’m unco sorry to be the beirer o’ sic ill news,
Mrs. Faukner, but I had nae chice.’

‘Ohone! Ohone! the day o’ grace is by at last! My puir Anerew!’
exclaimed Mrs. Falconer, and sat dumb thereafter.

Mr. Lammie tried to comfort her with some of the usual comfortless
commonplaces. She neither wept nor replied, but sat with stony face
staring into her lap, till, seeing that she was as one that heareth not,
he rose and left her alone with her grief. A few minutes after he was
gone, she rang the bell, and told Betty in her usual voice to send
Robert to her.

‘He’s gane to the schule, mem.’

‘Rin efter him, an’ tell him to come hame.’

When Robert appeared, wondering what his grandmother could want with
him, she said:

‘Close the door, Robert. I canna lat ye gang to the schule the day. We
maun lea’ him oot noo.’

‘Lea’ wha oot, grannie?’

‘Him, him--Anerew. Yer father, laddie. I think my hert ‘ll brak.’

‘Lea’ him oot o’ what, grannie? I dinna unnerstan’ ye.’

‘Lea’ him oot o’ oor prayers, laddie, and I canna bide it.’

‘What for that?’

‘He’s deid.’

‘Are ye sure?’

‘Ay, ower sure--ower sure, laddie.’

‘Weel, I dinna believe ‘t.’

‘What for that?’

‘’Cause I winna believe ‘t. I’m no bund to believe ‘t, am I?’

‘What’s the gude o’ that? What for no believe ‘t? Dr. Anderson’s sent
hame word o’ ‘t to John Lammie. Och hone! och hone!’

‘I tell ye I winna believe ‘t, grannie, ‘cep’ God himsel’ tells me. As
lang ‘s I dinna believe ‘at he’s deid, I can keep him i’ my prayers. I’m
no gaein’ to lea’ him oot, I tell ye, grannie.’

‘Weel, laddie, I canna argue wi’ ye. I hae nae hert til ‘t. I doobt I
maun greit! Come awa’.’

She took him by the hand and rose, then let him go again, saying,

‘Sneck the door, laddie.’

Robert bolted the door, and his grandmother again taking his hand, led
him to the usual corner. There they knelt down together, and the old
woman’s prayer was one great and bitter cry for submission to the divine
will. She rose a little strengthened, if not comforted, saying,

‘Ye maun pray yer lane, laddie. But oh be a guid lad, for ye’re a’ that
I hae left; and gin ye gang wrang tu, ye’ll bring doon my gray hairs wi’
sorrow to the grave. They’re gray eneuch, and they’re near eneuch to the
grave, but gin ye turn oot weel, I’ll maybe haud up my heid a bit yet.
But O Anerew! my son! my son! Would God I had died for thee!’

And the words of her brother in grief, the king of Israel, opened the
floodgates of her heart, and she wept. Robert left her weeping, and
closed the door quietly as if his dead father had been lying in the

He took his way up to his own garret, closed that door too, and sat down
upon the floor, with his back against the empty bedstead.

There were no more castles to build now. It was all very well to say
that he would not believe the news and would pray for his father, but
he did believe them--enough at least to spoil the praying. His favourite
employment, seated there, had hitherto been to imagine how he would grow
a great man, and set out to seek his father, and find him, and stand by
him, and be his son and servant. Oh! to have the man stroke his head
and pat his cheek, and love him! One moment he imagined himself his
indignant defender, the next he would be climbing on his knee, as if he
were still a little child, and laying his head on his shoulder. For he
had had no fondling his life long, and his heart yearned for it. But all
this was gone now. A dreary time lay before him, with nobody to please,
nobody to serve; with nobody to praise him. Grannie never praised him.
She must have thought praise something wicked. And his father was in
misery, for ever and ever! Only somehow that thought was not quite
thinkable. It was more the vanishing of hope from his own life than a
sense of his father’s fate that oppressed him.

He cast his eyes, as in a hungry despair, around the empty room--or,
rather, I should have said, in that faintness which makes food at once
essential and loathsome; for despair has no proper hunger in it. The
room seemed as empty as his life. There was nothing for his eyes to rest
upon but those bundles and bundles of dust-browned papers on the shelves
before him. What were they all about? He understood that they were his
father’s: now that he was dead, it would be no sacrilege to look at
them. Nobody cared about them. He would see at least what they were. It
would be something to do in this dreariness.

Bills and receipts, and everything ephemeral--to feel the interest of
which, a man must be a poet indeed--was all that met his view. Bundle
after bundle he tried, with no better success. But as he drew near the
middle of the second shelf, upon which they lay several rows deep, he
saw something dark behind, hurriedly displaced the packets between, and
drew forth a small workbox. His heart beat like that of the prince in
the fairy-tale, when he comes to the door of the Sleeping Beauty. This
at least must have been hers. It was a common little thing, probably
a childish possession, and kept to hold trifles worth more than they
looked to be. He opened it with bated breath. The first thing he saw was
a half-finished reel of cotton--a pirn, he called it. Beside it was a
gold thimble. He lifted the tray. A lovely face in miniature, with dark
hair and blue eyes, lay looking earnestly upward. At the lid of this
coffin those eyes had looked for so many years! The picture was set all
round with pearls in an oval ring. How Robert knew them to be pearls
he could not tell, for he did not know that he had ever seen any pearls
before, but he knew they were pearls, and that pearls had something
to do with the New Jerusalem. But the sadness of it all at length
overpowered him, and he burst out crying. For it was awfully sad that
his mother’s portrait should be in his own mother’s box.

He took a bit of red tape off a bundle of the papers, put it through
the eye of the setting, and hung the picture round his neck, inside his
clothes, for grannie must not see it. She would take that away as she
had taken his fiddle. He had a nameless something now for which he had
been longing for years.

Looking again in the box, he found a little bit of paper, discoloured
with antiquity, as it seemed to him, though it was not so old as
himself. Unfolding it he found written upon it a well-known hymn, and at
the bottom of the hymn, the words: ‘O Lord! my heart is very sore.’--The
treasure upon Robert’s bosom was no longer the symbol of a mother’s
love, but of a woman’s sadness, which he could not reach to comfort. In
that hour, the boy made a great stride towards manhood. Doubtless his
mother’s grief had been the same as grannie’s--the fear that she would
lose her husband for ever. The hourly fresh griefs from neglect and
wrong did not occur to him; only the never never more. He looked no
farther, took the portrait from his neck and replaced it with the paper,
put the box back, and walled it up in solitude once more with the dusty
bundles. Then he went down to his grandmother, sadder and more desolate
than ever.

He found her seated in her usual place. Her New Testament, a large-print
octavo, lay on the table beside her unopened; for where within those
boards could she find comfort for a grief like hers? That it was the
will of God might well comfort any suffering of her own, but would it
comfort Andrew? and if there was no comfort for Andrew, how was Andrew’s
mother to be comforted?

Yet God had given his first-born to save his brethren: how could he be
pleased that she should dry her tears and be comforted? True, some awful
unknown force of a necessity with which God could not cope came in to
explain it; but this did not make God more kind, for he knew it all
every time he made a man; nor man less sorrowful, for God would have his
very mother forget him, or, worse still, remember him and be happy.

‘Read a chapter till me, laddie,’ she said.

Robert opened and read till he came to the words: ‘I pray not for the

‘He was o’ the world,’ said the old woman; ‘and gin Christ wadna pray
for him, what for suld I?’

Already, so soon after her son’s death, would her theology begin to
harden her heart. The strife which results from believing that the
higher love demands the suppression of the lower, is the most fearful of
all discords, the absolute love slaying love--the house divided against
itself; one moment all given up for the will of Him, the next the human
tenderness rushing back in a flood. Mrs. Falconer burst into a very
agony of weeping. From that day, for many years, the name of her
lost Andrew never passed her lips in the hearing of her grandson, and
certainly in that of no one else.

But in a few weeks she was more cheerful. It is one of the mysteries of
humanity that mothers in her circumstances, and holding her creed, do
regain not merely the faculty of going on with the business of life,
but, in most cases, even cheerfulness. The infinite Truth, the Love of
the universe, supports them beyond their consciousness, coming to them
like sleep from the roots of their being, and having nothing to do with
their opinions or beliefs. And hence spring those comforting subterfuges
of hope to which they all fly. Not being able to trust the Father
entirely, they yet say: ‘Who can tell what took place at the last
moment? Who can tell whether God did not please to grant them saving
faith at the eleventh hour?’--that so they might pass from the very
gates of hell, the only place for which their life had fitted them, into
the bosom of love and purity! This God could do for all: this for the
son beloved of his mother perhaps he might do!

O rebellious mother heart! dearer to God than that which beats
laboriously solemn under Genevan gown or Lutheran surplice! if thou
wouldst read by thine own large light, instead of the glimmer from
the phosphorescent brains of theologians, thou mightst even be able to
understand such a simple word as that of the Saviour, when, wishing his
disciples to know that he had a nearer regard for them as his brethren
in holier danger, than those who had not yet partaken of his light, and
therefore praying for them not merely as human beings, but as the human
beings they were, he said to his Father in their hearing: ‘I pray not
for the world, but for them,’--not for the world now, but for them--a
meaningless utterance, if he never prayed for the world; a word of
small meaning, if it was not his very wont and custom to pray for the
world--for men as men. Lord Christ! not alone from the pains of hell, or
of conscience--not alone from the outer darkness of self and all that is
mean and poor and low, do we fly to thee; but from the anger that arises
within us at the wretched words spoken in thy name, at the degradation
of thee and of thy Father in the mouths of those that claim especially
to have found thee, do we seek thy feet. Pray thou for them also, for
they know not what they do.


After this, day followed day in calm, dull progress. Robert did not care
for the games through which his school-fellows forgot the little they
had to forget, and had therefore few in any sense his companions. So
he passed his time out of school in the society of his grandmother
and Shargar, except that spent in the garret, and the few hours a
week occupied by the lessons of the shoemaker. For he went on, though
half-heartedly, with those lessons, given now upon Sandy’s redeemed
violin which he called his old wife, and made a little progress even, as
we sometimes do when we least think it.

He took more and more to brooding in the garret; and as more questions
presented themselves for solution, he became more anxious to arrive at
the solution, and more uneasy as he failed in satisfying himself that
he had arrived at it; so that his brain, which needed quiet for the true
formation of its substance, as a cooling liquefaction or an evaporating
solution for the just formation of its crystals, became in danger of
settling into an abnormal arrangement of the cellular deposits.

I believe that even the new-born infant is, in some of his moods,
already grappling with the deepest metaphysical problems, in
forms infinitely too rudimental for the understanding of the grown
philosopher--as far, in fact, removed from his ken on the one side, that
of intelligential beginning, the germinal subjective, as his abstrusest
speculations are from the final solutions of absolute entity on the
other. If this be the case, it is no wonder that at Robert’s age the
deepest questions of his coming manhood should be in active operation,
although so surrounded with the yoke of common belief and the shell of
accredited authority, that the embryo faith, which in minds like his
always takes the form of doubt, could not be defined any more than its
existence could be disproved. I have given a hint at the tendency of
his mind already, in the fact that one of the most definite inquiries to
which he had yet turned his thoughts was, whether God would have mercy
upon a repentant devil. An ordinary puzzle had been--if his father were
to marry again, and it should turn out after all that his mother was
not dead, what was his father to do? But this was over now. A third was,
why, when he came out of church, sunshine always made him miserable, and
he felt better able to be good when it rained or snowed hard. I might
mention the inquiry whether it was not possible somehow to elude the
omniscience of God; but that is a common question with thoughtful
children, and indicates little that is characteristic of the individual.
That he puzzled himself about the perpetual motion may pass for little
likewise; but one thing which is worth mentioning, for indeed it caused
him considerable distress, was, that in reading the Paradise Lost
he could not help sympathizing with Satan, and feeling--I do not say
thinking--that the Almighty was pompous, scarcely reasonable, and
somewhat revengeful.

He was recognized amongst his school-fellows as remarkable for his love
of fair-play; so much so, that he was their constant referee. Add to
this that, notwithstanding his sympathy with Satan, he almost invariably
sided with his master, in regard of any angry reflection or seditious
movement, and even when unjustly punished himself, the occasional
result of a certain backwardness in self-defence, never showed any
resentment--a most improbable statement, I admit, but nevertheless
true--and I think the rest of his character may be left to the gradual
dawn of its historical manifestation.

He had long ere this discovered who the angel was that had appeared
to him at the top of the stair upon that memorable night; but he could
hardly yet say that he had seen her; for, except one dim glimpse he
had had of her at the window as he passed in the street, she had not
appeared to him save in the vision of that night. During the whole
winter she scarcely left the house, partly from the state of her health,
affected by the sudden change to a northern climate, partly from the
attention required by her aunt, to aid in nursing whom she had left the
warmer south. Indeed, it was only to return the visits of a few of Mrs.
Forsyth’s chosen, that she had crossed the threshold at all; and those
visits were paid at a time when all such half-grown inhabitants as
Robert were gathered under the leathery wing of Mr. Innes.

But long before the winter was over, Rothieden had discovered that the
stranger, the English lady, Mary St. John, outlandish, almost heathenish
as her lovely name sounded in its ears, had a power as altogether
strange and new as her name. For she was not only an admirable performer
on the pianoforte, but such a simple enthusiast in music, that the man
must have had no music or little heart in him in whom her playing did
not move all that there was of the deepest.

Occasionally there would be quite a small crowd gathered at night by the
window of Mrs. Forsyth’s drawing-room, which was on the ground-floor,
listening to music such as had never before been heard in Rothieden.
More than once, when Robert had not found Sandy Elshender at home on the
lesson-night, and had gone to seek him, he had discovered him lying in
wait, like a fowler, to catch the sweet sounds that flew from the opened
cage of her instrument. He leaned against the wall with his ear laid
over the edge, and as near the window as he dared to put it, his rough
face, gnarled and blotched, and hirsute with the stubble of neglected
beard--his whole ursine face transfigured by the passage of the sweet
sounds through his chaotic brain, which they swept like the wind of God,
when of old it moved on the face of the waters that clothed the void and
formless world.

‘Haud yer tongue!’ he would say in a hoarse whisper, when Robert sought
to attract his attention; ‘haud yer tongue, man, and hearken. Gin yon
bonny leddy ‘at yer grannie keeps lockit up i’ the aumry war to tak to
the piano, that’s jist hoo she wad play. Lord, man! pit yer sowl i’ yer
lugs, an’ hearken.’

The soutar was all wrong in this; for if old Mr. Falconer’s violin had
taken woman-shape, it would have been that of a slight, worn, swarthy
creature, with wild black eyes, great and restless, a voice like a
bird’s, and thin fingers that clawed the music out of the wires like the
quills of the old harpsichord; not that of Mary St. John, who was tall,
and could not help being stately, was large and well-fashioned, as full
of repose as Handel’s music, with a contralto voice to make you weep,
and eyes that would have seemed but for their maidenliness to be always
ready to fold you in their lucid gray depths.

Robert stared at the soutar, doubting at first whether he had not
been drinking. But the intoxication of music produces such a different
expression from that of drink, that Robert saw at once that if he had
indeed been drinking, at least the music had got above the drink. As
long as the playing went on, Elshender was not to be moved from the

But to many of the people of Rothieden the music did not recommend
the musician; for every sort of music, except the most unmusical
of psalm-singing, was in their minds of a piece with ‘dancin’ an’
play-actin’, an’ ither warldly vainities an’ abominations.’ And Robert,
being as yet more capable of melody than harmony, grudged to lose a
lesson on Sandy’s ‘auld wife o’ a fiddle’ for any amount of Miss St.
John’s playing.


One gusty evening--it was of the last day in March--Robert well
remembered both the date and the day--a bleak wind was driving up the
long street of the town, and Robert was standing looking out of one of
the windows in the gable-room. The evening was closing into night. He
hardly knew how he came to be there, but when he thought about it he
found it was play-Wednesday, and that he had been all the half-holiday
trying one thing after another to interest himself withal, but in vain.
He knew nothing about east winds; but not the less did this dreary wind
of the dreary March world prove itself upon his soul. For such a wind
has a shadow wind along with it, that blows in the minds of men.
There was nothing genial, no growth in it. It killed, and killed most
dogmatically. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Even an east
wind must bear some blessing on its ugly wings. And as Robert looked
down from the gable, the wind was blowing up the street before it
half-a-dozen footfaring students from Aberdeen, on their way home at the
close of the session, probably to the farm-labours of the spring.

This was a glad sight, as that of the returning storks in Denmark.
Robert knew where they would put up, sought his cap, and went out. His
grandmother never objected to his going to see Miss Napier; it was in
her house that the weary men would this night rest.

It was not without reason that Lord Rothie had teased his hostess about
receiving foot-passengers, for to such it was her invariable custom to
make some civil excuse, sending Meg or Peggy to show them over the way
to the hostelry next in rank, a proceeding recognized by the inferior
hostess as both just and friendly, for the good woman never thought of
measuring The Star against The Boar’s Head. More than one comical story
had been the result of this law of The Boar’s Head, unalterable almost
as that of the Medes and Persians. I say almost, for to one class of
the footfaring community the official ice about the hearts of the three
women did thaw, yielding passage to a full river of hospitality and
generosity; and that was the class to which these wayfarers belonged.

Well may Scotland rejoice in her universities, for whatever may be said
against their system--I have no complaint to make--they are divine in
their freedom: men who follow the plough in the spring and reap
the harvest in the autumn, may, and often do, frequent their sacred
precincts when the winter comes--so fierce, yet so welcome--so severe,
yet so blessed--opening for them the doors to yet harder toil and yet
poorer fare. I fear, however, that of such there will be fewer and
fewer, seeing one class which supplied a portion of them has almost
vanished from the country--that class which was its truest, simplest,
and noblest strength--that class which at one time rendered it something
far other than ridicule to say that Scotland was pre-eminently a
God-fearing nation--I mean the class of cottars.

Of this class were some of the footfaring company. But there were others
of more means than the men of this lowly origin, who either could
not afford to travel by the expensive coaches, or could find none to
accommodate them. Possibly some preferred to walk. However this may have
been, the various groups which at the beginning and close of the session
passed through Rothieden weary and footsore, were sure of a hearty
welcome at The Boar’s Head. And much the men needed it. Some of them
would have walked between one and two hundred miles before completing
their journey.

Robert made a circuit, and, fleet of foot, was in Miss Napier’s parlour
before the travellers made their appearance on the square. When they
knocked at the door, Miss Letty herself went and opened it.

‘Can ye tak ‘s in, mem?’ was on the lips of their spokesman, but Miss
Letty had the first word.

‘Come in, come in, gentlemen. This is the first o’ ye, and ye’re the
mair welcome. It’s like seein’ the first o’ the swallows. An’ sic a day
as ye hae had for yer lang traivel!’ she went on, leading the way to her
sister’s parlour, and followed by all the students, of whom the one that
came hindmost was the most remarkable of the group--at the same time the
most weary and downcast.

Miss Napier gave them a similar welcome, shaking hands with every one of
them. She knew them all but the last. To him she involuntarily showed a
more formal respect, partly from his appearance, and partly that she
had never seen him before. The whisky-bottle was brought out, and all
partook, save still the last. Miss Lizzie went to order their supper.

‘Noo, gentlemen,’ said Miss Letty, ‘wad ony o’ ye like to gang an’
change yer hose, and pit on a pair o’ slippers?’

Several declined, saying they would wait until they had had their
supper; the roads had been quite dry, &c., &c. One said he would, and
another said his feet were blistered.

‘Hoot awa’!’ [2] exclaimed Miss Letty.--‘Here, Peggy!’ she cried, going to
the door; ‘tak a pail o’ het watter up to the chackit room. Jist ye gang
up, Mr. Cameron, and Peggy ‘ll see to yer feet.--Noo, sir, will ye gang
to yer room an’ mak yersel’ comfortable?--jist as gin ye war at hame,
for sae ye are.’

She addressed the stranger thus. He replied in a low indifferent tone,

‘No, thank you; I must be off again directly.’

He was from Caithness, and talked no Scotch.

‘’Deed, sir, ye’ll do naething o’ the kin’. Here ye s’ bide, tho’ I suld
lock the door.’

‘Come, come, Ericson, none o’ your nonsense!’ said one of his fellows.
‘Ye ken yer feet are sae blistered ye can hardly put ane by the
ither.--It was a’ we cud du, mem, to get him alang the last mile.’

‘That s’ be my business, than,’ concluded Miss Letty.

She left the room, and returning in a few minutes, said, as a matter of
course, but with authority,

‘Mr. Ericson, ye maun come wi’ me.’

Then she hesitated a little. Was it maidenliness in the waning woman of
five-and-forty? It was, I believe; for how can a woman always remember
how old she is? If ever there was a young soul in God’s world, it was
Letty Napier. And the young man was tall and stately as a Scandinavian
chief, with a look of command, tempered with patient endurance, in his
eagle face, for he was more like an eagle than any other creature,
and in his countenance signs of suffering. Miss Letty seeing this,
was moved, and her heart swelled, and she grew conscious and shy, and
turning to Robert, said,

‘Come up the stair wi’ ‘s, Robert; I may want ye.’

Robert jumped to his feet. His heart too had been yearning towards the

As if yielding to the inevitable, Ericson rose and followed Miss Letty.
But when they had reached the room, and the door was shut behind them,
and Miss Letty pointed to a chair beside which stood a little wooden
tub full of hot water, saying, ‘Sit ye doon there, Mr. Ericson,’ he drew
himself up, all but his graciously-bowed head, and said,

‘Ma’am, I must tell you that I followed the rest in here from the very
stupidity of weariness. I have not a shilling in my pocket.’

‘God bless me!’ said Miss Letty--and God did bless her, I am sure--‘we
maun see to the feet first. What wad ye du wi’ a shillin’ gin ye had it?
Wad ye clap ane upo’ ilka blister?’

Ericson burst out laughing, and sat down. But still he hesitated.

‘Aff wi’ yer shune, sir. Duv ye think I can wash yer feet throu ben’
leather?’ said Miss Letty, not disdaining to advance her fingers to a

‘But I’m ashamed. My stockings are all in holes.’

‘Weel, ye s’ get a clean pair to put on the morn, an’ I’ll darn them ‘at
ye hae on, gin they be worth darnin’, afore ye gang--an’ what are ye sae
camstairie (unmanageable) for? A body wad think ye had a clo’en fit in
ilk ane o’ thae bits o’ shune o’ yours. I winna promise to please yer
mither wi’ my darnin’ though.’

‘I have no mother to find fault with it,’ said Ericson.

‘Weel, a sister’s waur.’

‘I have no sister, either.’

This was too much for Miss Letty. She could keep up the bravado of
humour no longer. She fairly burst out crying. In a moment more the
shoes and stockings were off, and the blisters in the hot water. Miss
Letty’s tears dropped into the tub, and the salt in them did not hurt
the feet with which she busied herself, more than was necessary, to hide

But no sooner had she recovered herself than she resumed her former

‘A shillin’! said ye? An’ a’ thae greedy gleds (kites) o’ professors to
pay, that live upo’ the verra blude and banes o’ sair-vroucht students!
Hoo cud ye hae a shillin’ ower? Troth, it’s nae wonner ye haena ane
left. An’ a’ the merchan’s there jist leevin’ upo’ ye! Lord hae a care
o’ ‘s! sic bonnie feet!--Wi’ blisters I mean. I never saw sic a sicht o’
raw puddin’s in my life. Ye’re no fit to come doon the stair again.’

All the time she was tenderly washing and bathing the weary feet. When
she had dressed them and tied them up, she took the tub of water and
carried it away, but turned at the door.

‘Ye’ll jist mak up yer min’ to bide a twa three days,’ she said; ‘for
thae feet cudna bide to be carried, no to say to carry a weicht like
you. There’s naebody to luik for ye, ye ken. An’ ye’re no to come doon
the nicht. I’ll sen’ up yer supper. And Robert there ‘ll bide and keep
ye company.’

She vanished; and a moment after, Peggy appeared with a salamander--that
is a huge poker, ending not in a point, but a red-hot ace of
spades--which she thrust between the bars of the grate, into the heart
of a nest of brushwood. Presently a cheerful fire illuminated the room.

Ericson was seated on one chair, with his feet on another, his head
sunk on his bosom, and his eyes thinking. There was something about him
almost as powerfully attractive to Robert as it had been to Miss Letty.
So he sat gazing at him, and longing for a chance of doing something for
him. He had reverence already, and some love, but he had never felt
at all as he felt towards this man. Nor was it as the Chinese puzzlers
called Scotch metaphysicians, might have represented it--a combination
of love and reverence. It was the recognition of the eternal brotherhood
between him and one nobler than himself--hence a lovely eager worship.

Seeing Ericson look about him as if he wanted something, Robert started
to his feet.

‘Is there onything ye want, Mr. Ericson?’ he said, with service standing
in his eyes.

‘A small bundle I think I brought up with me,’ replied the youth.

It was not there. Robert rushed down-stairs, and returned with it--a
nightshirt and a hairbrush or so, tied up in a blue cotton handkerchief.
This was all that Robert was able to do for Ericson that evening.

He went home and dreamed about him. He called at The Boar’s Head the
next morning before going to school, but Ericson was not yet up. When he
called again as soon as morning school was over, he found that they had
persuaded him to keep his bed, but Miss Letty took him up to his room.
He looked better, was pleased to see Robert, and spoke to him kindly.
Twice yet Robert called to inquire after him that day, and once more he
saw him, for he took his tea up to him.

The next day Ericson was much better, received Robert with a smile, and
went out with him for a stroll, for all his companions were gone, and of
some students who had arrived since he did not know any. Robert took him
to his grandmother, who received him with stately kindness. Then they
went out again, and passed the windows of Captain Forsyth’s house. Mary
St. John was playing. They stood for a moment, almost involuntarily, to
listen. She ceased.

‘That’s the music of the spheres,’ said Ericson, in a low voice, as they
moved on.

‘Will you tell me what that means?’ asked Robert. ‘I’ve come upon ‘t
ower an’ ower in Milton.’

Thereupon Ericson explained to him what Pythagoras had taught about the
stars moving in their great orbits with sounds of awful harmony,
too grandly loud for the human organ to vibrate in response to their
music--hence unheard of men. And Ericson spoke as if he believed it.
But after he had spoken, his face grew sadder than ever; and, as if to
change the subject, he said, abruptly,

‘What a fine old lady your grandmother is, Robert!’

‘Is she?’ returned Robert.

‘I don’t mean to say she’s like Miss Letty,’ said Ericson. ‘She’s an

A long pause followed. Robert’s thoughts went roaming in their usual

‘Do you think, Mr. Ericson,’ he said, at length, taking up the old
question still floating unanswered in his mind, ‘do you think if a devil
was to repent God would forgive him?’

Ericson turned and looked at him. Their eyes met. The youth wondered at
the boy. He had recognized in him a younger brother, one who had begun
to ask questions, calling them out into the deaf and dumb abyss of the

‘If God was as good as I would like him to be, the devils themselves
would repent,’ he said, turning away.

Then he turned again, and looking down upon Robert like a sorrowful
eagle from a crag over its harried nest, said,

‘If I only knew that God was as good as--that woman, I should die

Robert heard words of blasphemy from the mouth of an angel, but his
respect for Ericson compelled a reply.

‘What woman, Mr. Ericson?’ he asked.

‘I mean Miss Letty, of course.’

‘But surely ye dinna think God’s nae as guid as she is? Surely he’s as
good as he can be. He is good, ye ken.’

‘Oh, yes. They say so. And then they tell you something about him that
isn’t good, and go on calling him good all the same. But calling anybody
good doesn’t make him good, you know.’

‘Then ye dinna believe ‘at God is good, Mr. Ericson?’ said Robert,
choking with a strange mingling of horror and hope.

‘I didn’t say that, my boy. But to know that God was good, and fair, and
kind--heartily, I mean, not half-ways, and with ifs and buts--my boy,
there would be nothing left to be miserable about.’

In a momentary flash of thought, Robert wondered whether this might not
be his old friend, the repentant angel, sent to earth as a man, that he
might have a share in the redemption, and work out his own salvation.
And from this very moment the thoughts about God that had hitherto been
moving in formless solution in his mind began slowly to crystallize.

The next day, Eric Ericson, not without a piece in ae pouch and money
in another, took his way home, if home it could be called where neither
father, mother, brother, nor sister awaited his return. For a season
Robert saw him no more.

As often as his name was mentioned, Miss Letty’s eyes would grow hazy,
and as often she would make some comical remark.

‘Puir fallow!’ she would say, ‘he was ower lang-leggit for this warld.’

Or again:

‘Ay, he was a braw chield. But he canna live. His feet’s ower sma’.’

Or yet again:

‘Saw ye ever sic a gowk, to mak sic a wark aboot sittin’ doon an’ haein’
his feet washed, as gin that cost a body onything!’


One of the first warm mornings in the beginning of summer, the boy woke
early, and lay awake, as was his custom, thinking. The sun, in all
the indescribable purity of its morning light, had kindled a spot of
brilliance just about where his grannie’s head must be lying asleep in
its sad thoughts, on the opposite side of the partition.

He lay looking at the light. There came a gentle tapping at his window.
A long streamer of honeysuckle, not yet in blossom, but alive with the
life of the summer, was blown by the air of the morning against his
window-pane, as if calling him to get up and look out. He did get up and
look out.

But he started back in such haste that he fell against the side of his
bed. Within a few yards of his window, bending over a bush, was the
loveliest face he had ever seen--the only face, in fact, he had ever yet
felt to be beautiful. For the window looked directly into the garden
of the next house: its honeysuckle tapped at his window, its sweet-peas
grew against his window-sill. It was the face of the angel of that
night; but how different when illuminated by the morning sun from then,
when lighted up by a chamber-candle! The first thought that came to him
was the half-ludicrous, all-fantastic idea of the shoemaker about his
grandfather’s violin being a woman. A vaguest dream-vision of her having
escaped from his grandmother’s aumrie (store-closet), and wandering free
amidst the wind and among the flowers, crossed his mind before he had
recovered sufficiently from his surprise to prevent Fancy from cutting
any more of those too ridiculous capers in which she indulged at will in
sleep, and as often besides as she can get away from the spectacles of
old Grannie Judgment.

But the music of her revelation was not that of the violin; and
Robert vaguely felt this, though he searched no further for a fitting
instrument to represent her. If he had heard the organ indeed!--but he
knew no instrument save the violin: the piano he had only heard through
the window. For a few moments her face brooded over the bush, and
her long, finely-modelled fingers travelled about it as if they were
creating a flower upon it--probably they were assisting the birth or
blowing of some beauty--and then she raised herself with a lingering
look, and vanished from the field of the window.

But ever after this, when the evening grew dark, Robert would steal
out of the house, leaving his book open by his grannie’s lamp, that its
patient expansion might seem to say, ‘He will come back presently,’ and
dart round the corner with quick quiet step, to hear if Miss St. John
was playing. If she was not, he would return to the Sabbath stillness
of the parlour, where his grandmother sat meditating or reading, and
Shargar sat brooding over the freedom of the old days ere Mrs. Falconer
had begun to reclaim him. There he would seat himself once more at his
book--to rise again ere another hour had gone by, and hearken yet again
at her window whether the stream might not be flowing now. If he found
her at her instrument he would stand listening in earnest delight,
until the fear of being missed drove him in: this secret too might
be discovered, and this enchantress too sent, by the decree of his
grandmother, into the limbo of vanities. Thus strangely did his evening
life oscillate between the two peaceful negations of grannie’s parlour
and the vital gladness of the unknown lady’s window. And skilfully did
he manage his retreats and returns, curtailing his absences with such
moderation that, for a long time, they awoke no suspicion in the mind of
his grandmother.

I suspect myself that the old lady thought he had gone to his prayers in
the garret. And I believe she thought that he was praying for his dead
father; with which most papistical, and, therefore, most unchristian
observance, she yet dared not interfere, because she expected Robert to
defend himself triumphantly with the simple assertion that he did not
believe his father was dead. Possibly the mother was not sorry that
her poor son should be prayed for, in case he might be alive after all,
though she could no longer do so herself--not merely dared not, but
persuaded herself that she would not. Robert, however, was convinced
enough, and hopeless enough, by this time, and had even less temptation
to break the twentieth commandment by praying for the dead, than his
grandmother had; for with all his imaginative outgoings after his
father, his love to him was as yet, compared to that father’s mother’s,
‘as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.’

Shargar would glance up at him with a queer look as he came in from
these excursions, drop his head over his task again, look busy and
miserable, and all would glide on as before.

When the first really summer weather came, Mr. Lammie one day paid
Mrs. Falconer a second visit. He had not been able to get over the
remembrance of the desolation in which he had left her. But he could
do nothing for her, he thought, till it was warm weather. He was
accompanied by his daughter, a woman approaching the further verge of
youth, bulky and florid, and as full of tenderness as her large frame
could hold. After much, and, for a long time, apparently useless
persuasion, they at last believed they had prevailed upon her to pay
them a visit for a fortnight. But she had only retreated within another
of her defences.

‘I canna leave thae twa laddies alane. They wad be up to a’ mischeef.’

‘There’s Betty to luik efter them,’ suggested Miss Lammie.

‘Betty!’ returned Mrs. Falconer, with scorn. ‘Betty’s naething but a
bairn hersel’--muckler and waur faured (worse favoured).’

‘But what for shouldna ye fess the lads wi’ ye?’ suggested Mr. Lammie.

‘I hae no richt to burden you wi’ them.’

‘Weel, I hae aften wonnert what gart ye burden yersel’ wi’ that Shargar,
as I understan’ they ca’ him,’ said Mr. Lammie.

‘Jist naething but a bit o’ greed,’ returned the old lady, with the
nearest approach to a smile that had shown itself upon her face since
Mr. Lammie’s last visit.

‘I dinna understan’ that, Mistress Faukner,’ said Miss Lammie.

‘I’m sae sure o’ haein’ ‘t back again, ye ken,--wi’ interest,’ returned
Mrs. Falconer.

‘Hoo’s that? His father winna con ye ony thanks for haudin’ him in

‘He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, ye ken, Miss Lammie.’

‘Atweel, gin ye like to lippen to that bank, nae doobt ae way or anither
it’ll gang to yer accoont,’ said Miss Lammie.

‘It wad ill become us, ony gait,’ said her father, ‘nae to gie him
shelter for your sake, Mrs. Faukner, no to mention ither names, sin’
it’s yer wull to mak the puir lad ane o’ the family.--They say his ain
mither’s run awa’ an’ left him.’

‘’Deed she’s dune that.’

‘Can ye mak onything o’ ‘im?’

‘He’s douce eneuch. An’ Robert says he does nae that ill at the schuil.’

‘Weel, jist fess him wi’ ye. We’ll hae some place or ither to put him
intil, gin it suld be only a shak’-doon upo’ the flure.’

‘Na, na. There’s the schuilin’--what’s to be dune wi’ that?’

‘They can gang i’ the mornin’, and get their denner wi’ Betty here; and
syne come hame to their fower-hoors (four o’clock tea) whan the schule’s
ower i’ the efternune. ‘Deed, mem, ye maun jist come for the sake o’ the
auld frien’ship atween the faimilies.’

‘Weel, gin it maun be sae, it maun be sae,’ yielded Mrs. Falconer, with
a sigh.

She had not left her own house for a single night for ten years. Nor is
it likely she would have now given in, for immovableness was one of the
most marked of her characteristics, had she not been so broken by mental
suffering, that she did not care much about anything, least of all about

Innumerable were the instructions in propriety of behaviour which she
gave the boys in prospect of this visit. The probability being that
they would behave just as well as at home, these instructions were
considerably unnecessary, for Mrs. Falconer was a strict enforcer of all
social rules. Scarcely less unnecessary were the directions she gave as
to the conduct of Betty, who received them all in erect submission, with
her hands under her apron. She ought to have been a young girl instead
of an elderly woman, if there was any propriety in the way her mistress
spoke to her. It proved at least her own belief in the description she
had given of her to Miss Lammie.

‘Noo, Betty, ye maun be dooce. An’ dinna stan’ at the door i’ the
gloamin’. An’ dinna stan’ claikin’ an’ jawin’ wi’ the ither lasses whan
ye gang to the wall for watter. An’ whan ye gang intil a chop, dinna
hae them sayin’ ahint yer back, as sune’s yer oot again, “She’s her ain
mistress by way o’,” or sic like. An’ min’ ye hae worship wi’ yersel’,
whan I’m nae here to hae ‘t wi’ ye. Ye can come benn to the parlour
gin ye like. An’ there’s my muckle Testament. And dinna gie the lads a’
thing they want. Gie them plenty to ait, but no ower muckle. Fowk suld
aye lea’ aff wi’ an eppiteet.’

Mr. Lammie brought his gig at last, and took grannie away to Bodyfauld.
When the boys returned from school at the dinner-hour, it was to exult
in a freedom which Robert had never imagined before. But even he could
not know what a relief it was to Shargar to eat without the awfully calm
eyes of Mrs. Falconer watching, as it seemed to him, the progress of
every mouthful down that capacious throat of his. The old lady would
have been shocked to learn how the imagination of the ill-mothered lad
interpreted her care over him, but she would not have been surprised to
know that the two were merry in her absence. She knew that, in some of
her own moods, it would be a relief to think that that awful eye of
God was not upon her. But she little thought that even in the lawless
proceedings about to follow, her Robert, who now felt such a relief in
her absence, would be walking straight on, though blindly, towards a
sunrise of faith, in which he would know that for the eye of his God
to turn away from him for one moment would be the horror of the outer

Merriment, however, was not in Robert’s thoughts, and still less was
mischief. For the latter, whatever his grandmother might think, he had
no capacity. The world was already too serious, and was soon to be
too beautiful for mischief. After that, it would be too sad, and then,
finally, until death, too solemn glad. The moment he heard of his
grandmother’s intended visit, one wild hope and desire and intent had
arisen within him.

When Betty came to the parlour door to lay the cloth for their dinner,
she found it locked.

‘Open the door!’ she cried, but cried in vain. From impatience she
passed to passion; but it was of no avail: there came no more response
than from the shrine of the deaf Baal. For to the boys it was an
opportunity not at any risk to be lost. Dull Betty never suspected what
they were about. They were ranging the place like two tiger-cats whose
whelps had been carried off in their absence--questing, with nose to
earth and tail in air, for the scent of their enemy. My simile has
carried me too far: it was only a dead old gentleman’s violin that a
couple of boys was after--but with what eagerness, and, on the part of
Robert, what alternations of hope and fear! And Shargar was always the
reflex of Robert, so far as Shargar could reflect Robert. Sometimes
Robert would stop, stand still in the middle of the room, cast a
mathematical glance of survey over its cubic contents, and then dart off
in another inwardly suggested direction of search. Shargar, on the
other hand, appeared to rummage blindly without a notion of casting the
illumination of thought upon the field of search. Yet to him fell the
success. When hope was growing dim, after an hour and a half of vain
endeavour, a scream of utter discordance heralded the resurrection
of the lady of harmony. Taught by his experience of his wild mother’s
habits to guess at those of douce Mrs. Falconer, Shargar had found
the instrument in her bed at the foot, between the feathers and the
mattress. For one happy moment Shargar was the benefactor, and Robert
the grateful recipient of favour. Nor, I do believe, was this thread
of the still thickening cable that bound them ever forgotten: broken it
could not be.

Robert drew the recovered treasure from its concealment, opened the case
with trembling eagerness, and was stooping, with one hand on the neck of
the violin, and the other on the bow, to lift them from it, when Shargar
stopped him.

His success had given him such dignity, that for once he dared to act
from himself.

‘Betty ‘ll hear ye,’ he said.

‘What care I for Betty? She daurna tell. I ken hoo to manage her.’

‘But wadna ‘t be better ‘at she didna ken?’

‘She’s sure to fin’ oot whan she mak’s the bed. She turns ‘t ower and
ower jist like a muckle tyke (dog) worryin’ a rottan (rat).’

‘De’il a bit o’ her s’ be a hair wiser! Ye dinna play tunes upo’ the
boxie, man.’

Robert caught at the idea. He lifted the ‘bonny leddy’ from her coffin;
and while he was absorbed in the contemplation of her risen beauty,
Shargar laid his hands on Boston’s Four-fold State, the torment of his
life on the Sunday evenings which it was his turn to spend with Mrs.
Falconer, and threw it as an offering to the powers of Hades into the
case, which he then buried carefully, with the feather-bed for mould,
the blankets for sod, and the counterpane studiously arranged for
stone, over it. He took heed, however, not to let Robert know of the
substitution of Boston for the fiddle, because he knew Robert could not
tell a lie. Therefore, when he murmured over the volume some of its
own words which he had read the preceding Sunday, it was in a quite
inaudible whisper: ‘Now is it good for nothing but to cumber the ground,
and furnish fuel for Tophet.’

Robert must now hide the violin better than his grannie had done, while
at the same time it was a more delicate necessity, seeing it had lost
its shell, and he shrunk from putting her in the power of the shoemaker
again. It cost him much trouble to fix on the place that was least
unsuitable. First he put it into the well of the clock-case, but
instantly bethought him what the awful consequence would be if one of
the weights should fall from the gradual decay of its cord. He had heard
of such a thing happening. Then he would put it into his own place of
dreams and meditations. But what if Betty should take a fancy to change
her bed? or some friend of his grannie’s should come to spend the night?
How would the bonny leddy like it? What a risk she would run! If he put
her under the bed, the mice would get at her strings--nay, perhaps, knaw
a hole right through her beautiful body. On the top of the clock, the
brass eagle with outspread wings might scratch her, and there was not
space to conceal her. At length he concluded--wrapped her in a piece of
paper, and placed her on the top of the chintz tester of his bed, where
there was just room between it and the ceiling: that would serve till he
bore her to some better sanctuary. In the meantime she was safe, and the
boy was the blessedest boy in creation.

These things done, they were just in the humour to have a lark with
Betty. So they unbolted the door, rang the bell, and when Betty
appeared, red-faced and wrathful, asked her very gravely and politely
whether they were not going to have some dinner before they went back to
school: they had now but twenty minutes left. Betty was so dumfoundered
with their impudence that she could not say a word. She did make haste
with the dinner, though, and revealed her indignation only in her
manner of putting the things on the table. As the boys left her, Robert
contented himself with the single hint:

‘Betty, Bodyfauld ‘s i’ the perris o’ Kettledrum. Min’ ye that.’

Betty glowered and said nothing.

But the delight of the walk of three miles over hill and dale and moor
and farm to Mr. Lammie’s! The boys, if not as wild as colts--that is,
as wild as most boys would have been--were only the more deeply excited.
That first summer walk, with a goal before them, in all the freshness of
the perfecting year, was something which to remember in after days
was to Falconer nothing short of ecstasy. The westering sun threw long
shadows before them as they trudged away eastward, lightly laden with
the books needful for the morrow’s lessons. Once beyond the immediate
purlieus of the town and the various plots of land occupied by its
inhabitants, they crossed a small river, and entered upon a region of
little hills, some covered to the top with trees, chiefly larch, others
cultivated, and some bearing only heather, now nursing in secret its
purple flame for the outburst of the autumn. The road wound between, now
swampy and worn into deep ruts, now sandy and broken with large stones.
Down to its edge would come the dwarfed oak, or the mountain ash, or
the silver birch, single and small, but lovely and fresh; and now green
fields, fenced with walls of earth as green as themselves, or of stones
overgrown with moss, would stretch away on both sides, sprinkled with
busily-feeding cattle. Now they would pass through a farm-steading,
perfumed with the breath of cows, and the odour of burning peat--so
fragrant! though not yet so grateful to the inner sense as it would be
when encountered in after years and in foreign lands. For the smell of
burning and the smell of earth are the deepest underlying sensuous bonds
of the earth’s unity, and the common brotherhood of them that dwell
thereon. Now the scent of the larches would steal from the hill, or
the wind would waft the odour of the white clover, beloved of his
grandmother, to Robert’s nostrils, and he would turn aside to pull her
a handful. Then they clomb a high ridge, on the top of which spread a
moorland, dreary and desolate, brightened by nothing save ‘the canna’s
hoary beard’ waving in the wind, and making it look even more desolate
from the sympathy they felt with the forsaken grass. This crossed, they
descended between young plantations of firs and rowan-trees and
birches, till they reached a warm house on the side of the slope, with
farm-offices and ricks of corn and hay all about it, the front overgrown
with roses and honeysuckle, and a white-flowering plant unseen of their
eyes hitherto, and therefore full of mystery. From the open kitchen
door came the smell of something good. But beyond all to Robert was the
welcome of Miss Lammie, whose small fat hand closed upon his like a very
love-pudding, after partaking of which even his grandmother’s stately
reception, followed immediately by the words ‘Noo be dooce,’ could not
chill the warmth in his bosom.

I know but one writer whose pen would have been able worthily to set
forth the delights of the first few days at Bodyfauld--Jean Paul. Nor
would he have disdained to make the gladness of a country school-boy the
theme of that pen. Indeed, often has he done so. If the writer has any
higher purpose than the amusement of other boys, he will find the
life of a country boy richer for his ends than that of a town boy.
For example, he has a deeper sense of the marvel of Nature, a tenderer
feeling of her feminality. I do not mean that the other cannot develop
this sense, but it is generally feeble, and there is consequently less
chance of its surviving. As far as my experience goes, town girls and
country boys love Nature most. I have known town girls love her
as passionately as country boys. Town boys have too many books and
pictures. They see Nature in mirrors--invaluable privilege after they
know herself, not before. They have greater opportunity of observing
human nature; but here also the books are too many and various. They
are cleverer than country boys, but they are less profound; their
observation may be quicker; their perception is shallower. They know
better what to do on an emergency; they know worse how to order their
ways. Of course, in this, as in a thousand other matters, Nature will
burst out laughing in the face of the would-be philosopher, and bringing
forward her town boy, will say, ‘Look here!’ For the town boys
are Nature’s boys after all, at least so long as doctrines of
self-preservation and ambition have not turned them from children of
the kingdom into dirt-worms. But I must stop, for I am getting up to the
neck in a bog of discrimination. As if I did not know the nobility of
some townspeople, compared with the worldliness of some country folk. I
give it up. We are all good and all bad. God mend all. Nothing will do
for Jew or Gentile, Frenchman or Englishman, Negro or Circassian, town
boy or country boy, but the kingdom of heaven which is within him, and
must come thence to the outside of him.

To a boy like Robert the changes of every day, from country to town
with the gay morning, from town to country with the sober evening--for
country as Rothieden might be to Edinburgh, much more was Bodyfauld
country to Rothieden--were a source of boundless delight. Instead of
houses, he saw the horizon; instead of streets or walled gardens, he
roamed over fields bathed in sunlight and wind. Here it was good to
get up before the sun, for then he could see the sun get up. And of
all things those evening shadows lengthening out over the grassy
wildernesses--for fields of a very moderate size appeared such to
an imagination ever ready at the smallest hint to ascend its solemn
throne--were a deepening marvel. Town to country is what a ceiling is to
a cælum.


Grannie’s first action every evening, the moment the boys entered the
room, was to glance up at the clock, that she might see whether they had
arrived in reasonable time. This was not pleasant, because it admonished
Robert how impossible it was for him to have a lesson on his own violin
so long as the visit to Bodyfauld lasted. If they had only been allowed
to sleep at Rothieden, what a universe of freedom would have been
theirs! As it was, he had but two hours to himself, pared at both ends,
in the middle of the day. Dooble Sanny might have given him a lesson
at that time, but he did not dare to carry his instrument through the
streets of Rothieden, for the proceeding would be certain to come to
his grandmother’s ears. Several days passed indeed before he made up his
mind as to how he was to reap any immediate benefit from the recovery
of the violin. For after he had made up his mind to run the risk of
successive mid-day solos in the old factory--he was not prepared to
carry the instrument through the streets, or be seen entering the place
with it.

But the factory lay at the opposite corner of a quadrangle of gardens,
the largest of which belonged to itself; and the corner of this garden
touched the corner of Captain Forsyth’s, which had formerly belonged
to Andrew Falconer: he had had a door made in the walls at the point of
junction, so that he could go from his house to his business across
his own property: if this door were not locked, and Robert could pass
without offence, what a north-west passage it would be for him! The
little garden belonging to his grandmother’s house had only a slight
wooden fence to divide it from the other, and even in this fence there
was a little gate: he would only have to run along Captain Forsyth’s top
walk to reach the door. The blessed thought came to him as he lay in bed
at Bodyfauld: he would attempt the passage the very next day.

With his violin in its paper under his arm, he sped like a hare from
gate to door, found it not even latched, only pushed to and rusted into
such rest as it was dangerous to the hinges to disturb. He opened it,
however, without any accident, and passed through; then closing it
behind him, took his way more leisurely through the tangled grass of
his grandmother’s property. When he reached the factory, he judged it
prudent to search out a more secret nook, one more full of silence, that
is, whence the sounds would be less certain to reach the ears of the
passers by, and came upon a small room, near the top, which had been the
manager’s bedroom, and which, as he judged from what seemed the signs of
ancient occupation, a cloak hanging on the wall, and the ashes of a
fire lying in the grate, nobody had entered for years: it was the safest
place in the world. He undid his instrument carefully, tuned its strings
tenderly, and soon found that his former facility, such as it was, had
not ebbed away beyond recovery. Hastening back as he came, he was just
in time for his dinner, and narrowly escaped encountering Betty in the
transe. He had been tempted to leave the instrument, but no one could
tell what might happen, and to doubt would be to be miserable with

He did the same for several days without interruption--not, however,
without observation. When, returning from his fourth visit, he opened
the door between the gardens, he started back in dismay, for there stood
the beautiful lady.

Robert hesitated for a moment whether to fly or speak. He was a Lowland
country boy, and therefore rude of speech, but he was three parts a
Celt, and those who know the address of the Irish or of the Highlanders,
know how much that involves as to manners and bearing. He advanced the
next instant and spoke.

‘I beg yer pardon, mem. I thoucht naebody wad see me. I haena dune nae

‘I had not the least suspicion of it, I assure you,’ returned Miss St.
John. ‘But, tell me, what makes you go through here always at the same
hour with the same parcel under your arm?’

‘Ye winna tell naebody--will ye, mem, gin I tell you?’

Miss St. John, amused, and interested besides in the contrast between
the boy’s oddly noble face and good bearing on the one hand, and on the
other the drawl of his bluntly articulated speech and the coarseness of
his tone, both seeming to her in the extreme of provincialism, promised;
and Robert, entranced by all the qualities of her voice and speech, and
nothing disenchanted by the nearer view of her lovely face, confided in
her at once.

‘Ye see, mem,’ he said, ‘I cam’ upo’ my grandfather’s fiddle. But my
grandmither thinks the fiddle’s no gude. And sae she tuik and she hed
it. But I faun’t it again. An’ I daurna play i’ the hoose, though my
grannie’s i’ the country, for Betty hearin’ me and tellin’ her. And sae
I gang to the auld fact’ry there. It belangs to my grannie, and sae does
the yaird (garden). An’ this hoose and yaird was ance my father’s, and
sae he had that door throu, they tell me. An’ I thocht gin it suld be
open, it wad be a fine thing for me, to haud fowk ohn seen me. But it
was verra ill-bred to you, mem, I ken, to come throu your yaird ohn
speirt leave. I beg yer pardon, mem, an’ I’ll jist gang back, and roon’
by the ro’d. This is my fiddle I hae aneath my airm. We bude to pit back
the case o’ ‘t whaur it was afore, i’ my grannie’s bed, to haud her ohn
kent ‘at she had tint the grup o’ ‘t.’

Certainly Miss St. John could not have understood the half of the words
Robert used, but she understood his story notwithstanding. Herself an
enthusiast in music, her sympathies were at once engaged for the awkward
boy who was thus trying to steal an entrance into the fairy halls
of sound. But she forbore any further allusion to the violin for the
present, and contented herself with assuring Robert that he was heartily
welcome to go through the garden as often as he pleased. She accompanied
her words with a smile that made Robert feel not only that she was
the most beautiful of all princesses in fairy-tales, but that she had
presented him with something beyond price in the most self-denying
manner. He took off his cap, thanked her with much heartiness, if not
with much polish, and hastened to the gate of his grandmother’s little
garden. A few years later such an encounter might have spoiled his
dinner: I have to record no such evil result of the adventure.

With Miss St. John, music was the highest form of human expression, as
must often be the case with those whose feeling is much in advance of
their thought, and to whom, therefore, may be called mental sensation
is the highest known condition. Music to such is poetry in solution, and
generates that infinite atmosphere, common to both musician and poet,
which the latter fills with shining worlds.--But if my reader wishes to
follow out for himself the idea herein suggested, he must be careful to
make no confusion between those who feel musically or think poetically,
and the musician or the poet. One who can only play the music of others,
however exquisitely, is not a musician, any more than one who can read
verse to the satisfaction, or even expound it to the enlightenment of
the poet himself, is therefore a poet.--When Miss St. John would worship
God, it was in music that she found the chariot of fire in which to
ascend heavenward. Hence music was the divine thing in the world for
her; and to find any one loving music humbly and faithfully was to find
a brother or sister believer. But she had been so often disappointed in
her expectations from those she took to be such, that of late she had
become less sanguine. Still there was something about this boy that
roused once more her musical hopes; and, however she may have restrained
herself from the full indulgence of them, certain it is that the next
day, when she saw Robert pass, this time leisurely, along the top of the
garden, she put on her bonnet and shawl, and, allowing him time to reach
his den, followed him, in the hope of finding out whether or not he
could play. I do not know what proficiency the boy had attained, very
likely not much, for a man can feel the music of his own bow, or of his
own lines, long before any one else can discover it. He had already made
a path, not exactly worn one, but trampled one, through the neglected
grass, and Miss St. John had no difficulty in finding his entrance to
the factory.

She felt a little eerie, as Robert would have called it, when she passed
into the waste silent place; for besides the wasteness and the silence,
motionless machines have a look of death about them, at least when they
bear such signs of disuse as those that filled these rooms. Hearing no
violin, she waited for a while in the ground-floor of the building; but
still hearing nothing, she ascended to the first floor. Here, likewise,
all was silence. She hesitated, but at length ventured up the next
stair, beginning, however, to feel a little troubled as well as eerie,
the silence was so obstinately persistent. Was it possible that there
was no violin in that brown paper? But that boy could not be a liar.
Passing shelves piled-up with stores of old thread, she still went on,
led by a curiosity stronger than her gathering fear. At last she came
to a little room, the door of which was open, and there she saw Robert
lying on the floor with his head in a pool of blood.

Now Mary St. John was both brave and kind; and, therefore, though not
insensible to the fact that she too must be in danger where violence had
been used to a boy, she set about assisting him at once. His face was
deathlike, but she did not think he was dead. She drew him out into the
passage, for the room was close, and did all she could to recover him;
but for some time he did not even breathe. At last his lips moved, and
he murmured,

‘Sandy, Sandy, ye’ve broken my bonnie leddy.’

Then he opened his eyes, and seeing a face to dream about bending in
kind consternation over him, closed them again with a smile and a sigh,
as if to prolong his dream.

The blood now came fast into his forsaken cheeks, and began to flow
again from the wound in his head. The lady bound it up with her
handkerchief. After a little he rose, though with difficulty, and stared
wildly about him, saying, with imperfect articulation, ‘Father! father!’
Then he looked at Miss St. John with a kind of dazed inquiry in his
eyes, tried several times to speak, and could not.

‘Can you walk at all?’ asked Miss St. John, supporting him, for she was
anxious to leave the place.

‘Yes, mem, weel eneuch,’ he answered.

‘Come along, then. I will help you home.’

‘Na, na,’ he said, as if he had just recalled something. ‘Dinna min’ me.
Rin hame, mem, or he’ll see ye!’

‘Who will see me?’

Robert stared more wildly, put his hand to his head, and made no reply.
She half led, half supported him down the stair, as far as the first
landing, when he cried out in a tone of anguish,

‘My bonny leddy!’

‘What is it?’ asked Miss St. John, thinking he meant her.

‘My fiddle! my fiddle! She ‘ll be a’ in bits,’ he answered, and turned
to go up again.

‘Sit down here,’ said Miss St. John, ‘and I’ll fetch it.’

Though not without some tremor, she darted back to the room. Then she
turned faint for the first time, but determinedly supporting herself,
she looked about, saw a brown-paper parcel on a shelf, took it, and
hurried out with a shudder.

Robert stood leaning against the wall. He stretched out his hands

‘Gie me her. Gie me her.’

‘You had better let me carry it. You are not able.’

‘Na, na, mem. Ye dinna ken hoo easy she is to hurt.’

‘Oh, yes, I do!’ returned Miss St. John, smiling, and Robert could not
withstand the smile.

‘Weel, tak care o’ her, as ye wad o’ yer ain sel’, mem,’ he said,

He was now much better, and before he had been two minutes in the
open air, insisted that he was quite well. When they reached Captain
Forsyth’s garden he again held out his hands for his violin.

‘No, no,’ said his new friend. ‘You wouldn’t have Betty see you like
that, would you?’

‘No, mem; but I’ll put in the fiddle at my ain window, and she sanna
hae a chance o’ seein’ ‘t,’ answered Robert, not understanding her;
for though he felt a good deal of pain, he had no idea what a dreadful
appearance he presented.

‘Don’t you know that you have a wound on your head?’ asked Miss St.

‘Na! hev I?’ said Robert, putting up his hand. ‘But I maun gang--there’s
nae help for ‘t,’ he added.--‘Gin I cud only win to my ain room ohn
Betty seen me!--Eh! mem, I hae blaudit (spoiled) a’ yer bonny goon.
That’s a sair vex.’

‘Never mind it,’ returned Miss St. John, smiling. ‘It is of no
consequence. But you must come with me. I must see what I can do for
your head. Poor boy!’

‘Eh, mem! but ye are kin’! Gin ye speik like that ye’ll gar me greit.
Naebody ever spak’ to me like that afore. Maybe ye kent my mamma. Ye’re
sae like her.’

This word mamma was the only remnant of her that lingered in his speech.
Had she lived he would have spoken very differently. They were now
walking towards the house.

‘No, I did not know your mamma. Is she dead?’

‘Lang syne, mem. And sae they tell me is yours.’

‘Yes; and my father too. Your father is alive, I hope?’

Robert made no answer. Miss St. John turned.

The boy had a strange look, and seemed struggling with something in his
throat. She thought he was going to faint again, and hurried him into
the drawing-room. Her aunt had not yet left her room, and her uncle was

‘Sit down,’ she said--so kindly--and Robert sat down on the edge of
a chair. Then she left the room, but presently returned with a little
brandy. ‘There,’ she said, offering the glass, ‘that will do you good.’

‘What is ‘t, mem?’

‘Brandy. There’s water in it, of course.’

‘I daurna touch ‘t. Grannie cudna bide me to touch ‘t,’

So determined was he, that Miss St. John was forced to yield. Perhaps
she wondered that the boy who would deceive his grandmother about a
violin should be so immovable in regarding her pleasure in the matter of
a needful medicine. But in this fact I begin to see the very Falconer of
my manhood’s worship.

‘Eh, mem! gin ye wad play something upo’ her,’ he resumed, pointing
to the piano, which, although he had never seen one before, he at once
recognized, by some hidden mental operation, as the source of the sweet
sounds heard at the window, ‘it wad du me mair guid than a haill bottle
o’ brandy, or whusky either.’

‘How do you know that?’ asked Miss St. John, proceeding to sponge the

‘’Cause mony’s the time I hae stud oot there i’ the street, hearkenin’.
Dooble Sanny says ‘at ye play jist as gin ye war my gran’father’s fiddle
hersel’, turned into the bonniest cratur ever God made.’

‘How did you get such a terrible cut?’

She had removed the hair, and found that the injury was severe.

The boy was silent. She glanced round in his face. He was staring as if
he saw nothing, heard nothing. She would try again.

‘Did you fall? Or how did you cut your head?’

‘Yes, yes, mem, I fell,’ he answered, hastily, with an air of relief,
and possibly with some tone of gratitude for the suggestion of a true

‘What made you fall?’

Utter silence again. She felt a kind of turn--I do not know another word
to express what I mean: the boy must have fits, and either could not
tell, or was ashamed to tell, what had befallen him. Thereafter she
too was silent, and Robert thought she was offended. Possibly he felt a
change in the touch of her fingers.

‘Mem, I wad like to tell ye,’ he said, ‘but I daurna.’

‘Oh! never mind,’ she returned kindly.

‘Wad ye promise nae to tell naebody?’

‘I don’t want to know,’ she answered, confirmed in her suspicion, and at
the same time ashamed of the alteration of feeling which the discovery
had occasioned.

An uncomfortable silence followed, broken by Robert.

‘Gin ye binna pleased wi’ me, mem,’ he said, ‘I canna bide ye to gang on
wi’ siccan a job ‘s that.’

How Miss St. John could have understood him, I cannot think; but she

‘Oh! very well,’ she answered, smiling. ‘Just as you please. Perhaps you
had better take this piece of plaster to Betty, and ask her to finish
the dressing for you.’

Robert took the plaster mechanically, and, sick at heart and speechless,
rose to go, forgetting even his bonny leddy in his grief.

‘You had better take your violin with you,’ said Miss St. John, urged
to the cruel experiment by a strong desire to see what the strange boy
would do.

He turned. The tears were streaming down his odd face. They went to her
heart, and she was bitterly ashamed of herself.

‘Come along. Do sit down again. I only wanted to see what you would do.
I am very sorry,’ she said, in a tone of kindness such as Robert had
never imagined.

He sat down instantly, saying,

‘Eh, mem! it’s sair to bide;’ meaning, no doubt, the conflict between
his inclination to tell her all, and his duty to be silent.

The dressing was soon finished, his hair combed down over it, and Robert
looking once more respectable.

‘Now, I think that will do,’ said his nurse.

‘Eh, thank ye, mem!’ answered Robert, rising. ‘Whan I’m able to play
upo’ the fiddle as weel ‘s ye play upo’ the piana, I’ll come and play at
yer window ilka nicht, as lang ‘s ye like to hearken.’

She smiled, and he was satisfied. He did not dare again ask her to play
to him. But she said of herself, ‘Now I will play something to you, if
you like,’ and he resumed his seat devoutly.

When she had finished a lovely little air, which sounded to Robert
like the touch of her hands, and her breath on his forehead, she
looked round, and was satisfied, from the rapt expression of the boy’s
countenance, that at least he had plenty of musical sensibility. As if
despoiled of volition, he stood motionless till she said,

‘Now you had better go, or Betty will miss you.’

Then he made her a bow in which awkwardness and grace were curiously
mingled, and taking up his precious parcel, and holding it to his bosom
as if it had been a child for whom he felt an access of tenderness, he
slowly left the room and the house.

Not even to Shargar did he communicate his adventure. And he went no
more to the deserted factory to play there. Fate had again interposed
between him and his bonny leddy.

When he reached Bodyfauld he fancied his grandmother’s eyes more
watchful of him than usual, and he strove the more to resist the
weariness, and even faintness, that urged him to go to bed. Whether he
was able to hide as well a certain trouble that clouded his spirit I
doubt. His wound he did manage to keep a secret, thanks to the care of
Miss St. John, who had dressed it with court-plaster.

When he woke the next morning, it was with the consciousness of having
seen something strange the night before, and only when he found that he
was not in his own room at his grandmother’s, was he convinced that it
must have been a dream and no vision. For in the night, he had awaked
there as he thought, and the moon was shining with such clearness, that
although it did not shine into his room, he could see the face of the
clock, and that the hands were both together at the top. Close by the
clock stood the bureau, with its end against the partition forming the
head of his grannie’s bed.

All at once he saw a tall man, in a blue coat and bright buttons, about
to open the lid of the bureau. The same moment he saw a little elderly
man in a brown coat and a brown wig, by his side, who sought to remove
his hand from the lock. Next appeared a huge stalwart figure, in shabby
old tartans, and laid his hand on the head of each. But the wonder
widened and grew; for now came a stately Highlander with his broadsword
by his side, and an eagle’s feather in his bonnet, who laid his hand on
the other Highlander’s arm.

When Robert looked in the direction whence this last had appeared, the
head of his grannie’s bed had vanished, and a wild hill-side, covered
with stones and heather, sloped away into the distance. Over it passed
man after man, each with an ancestral air, while on the gray sea to the
left, galleys covered with Norsemen tore up the white foam, and dashed
one after the other up to the strand. How long he gazed, he did not
know, but when he withdrew his eyes from the extended scene, there stood
the figure of his father, still trying to open the lid of the bureau,
his grandfather resisting him, the blind piper with his hand on the head
of both, and the stately chief with his hand on the piper’s arm. Then a
mist of forgetfulness gathered over the whole, till at last he awoke and
found himself in the little wooden chamber at Bodyfauld, and not in the
visioned room. Doubtless his loss of blood the day before had something
to do with the dream or vision, whichever the reader may choose to
consider it. He rose, and after a good breakfast, found himself very
little the worse, and forgot all about his dream, till a circumstance
which took place not long after recalled it vividly to his mind.

The enchantment of Bodyfauld soon wore off. The boys had no time to
enter into the full enjoyment of country ways, because of those weary
lessons, over the getting of which Mrs. Falconer kept as strict a watch
as ever; while to Robert the evening journey, his violin and Miss St.
John left at Rothieden, grew more than tame. The return was almost
as happy an event to him as the first going. Now he could resume his
lessons with the soutar.

With Shargar it was otherwise. The freedom for so much longer from Mrs.
Falconer’s eyes was in itself so much of a positive pleasure, that
the walk twice a day, the fresh air, and the scents and sounds of the
country, only came in as supplementary. But I do not believe the boy
even then had so much happiness as when he was beaten and starved by
his own mother. And Robert, growing more and more absorbed in his own
thoughts and pursuits, paid him less and less attention as the weeks
went on, till Shargar at length judged it for a time an evil day on
which he first had slept under old Ronald Falconer’s kilt.


Before the day of return arrived, Robert had taken care to remove the
violin from his bedroom, and carry it once more to its old retreat in
Shargar’s garret. The very first evening, however, that grannie again
spent in her own arm-chair, he hied from the house as soon as it grew
dusk, and made his way with his brown-paper parcel to Sandy Elshender’s.

Entering the narrow passage from which his shop door opened, and hearing
him hammering away at a sole, he stood and unfolded his treasure, then
drew a low sigh from her with his bow, and awaited the result. He heard
the lap-stone fall thundering on the floor, and, like a spider from his
cavern, Dooble Sanny appeared in the door, with the bend-leather in one
hand, and the hammer in the other.

‘Lordsake, man! hae ye gotten her again? Gie’s a grup o’ her!’ he cried,
dropping leather and hammer.

‘Na, na,’ returned Robert, retreating towards the outer door. ‘Ye maun
sweir upo’ her that, whan I want her, I sall hae her ohn demur, or I
sanna lat ye lay roset upo’ her.’

‘I swear ‘t, Robert; I sweir ‘t upo’ her,’ said the soutar hurriedly,
stretching out both his hands as if to receive some human being into his

Robert placed the violin in those grimy hands. A look of heavenly
delight dawned over the hirsute and dirt-besmeared countenance, which
drooped into tenderness as he drew the bow across the instrument, and
wiled from her a thin wail as of sorrow at their long separation. He
then retreated into his den, and was soon sunk in a trance, deaf to
everything but the violin, from which no entreaties of Robert, who
longed for a lesson, could rouse him; so that he had to go home
grievously disappointed, and unrewarded for the risk he had run in
venturing the stolen visit.

Next time, however, he fared better; and he contrived so well that,
from the middle of June to the end of August, he had two lessons a week,
mostly upon the afternoons of holidays. For these his master thought
himself well paid by the use of the instrument between. And Robert made
great progress.

Occasionally he saw Miss St. John in the garden, and once or twice met
her in the town; but her desire to find in him a pupil had been greatly
quenched by her unfortunate conjecture as to the cause of his accident.
She had, however, gone so far as to mention the subject to her aunt, who
assured her that old Mrs. Falconer would as soon consent to his being
taught gambling as music. The idea, therefore, passed away; and beyond
a kind word or two when she met him, there was no further communication
between them. But Robert would often dream of waking from a swoon, and
finding his head lying on her lap, and her lovely face bending over him
full of kindness and concern.

By the way, Robert cared nothing for poetry. Virgil was too troublesome
to be enjoyed; and in English he had met with nothing but the dried
leaves and gum-flowers of the last century. Miss Letty once lent him The
Lady of the Lake; but before he had read the first canto through, his
grandmother laid her hands upon it, and, without saying a word, dropped
it behind a loose skirting-board in the pantry, where the mice soon made
it a ruin sad to behold. For Miss Letty, having heard from the woful
Robert of its strange disappearance, and guessing its cause, applied to
Mrs. Falconer for the volume; who forthwith, the tongs aiding, extracted
it from its hole, and, without shade of embarrassment, held it up like
a drowned kitten before the eyes of Miss Letty, intending thereby, no
doubt, to impress her with the fate of all seducing spirits that should
attempt an entrance into her kingdom: Miss Letty only burst into merry
laughter over its fate. So the lode of poetry failed for the present
from Robert’s life. Nor did it matter much; for had he not his violin?

I have, I think, already indicated that his grandfather had been a
linen manufacturer. Although that trade had ceased, his family had still
retained the bleachery belonging to it, commonly called the bleachfield,
devoting it now to the service of those large calico manufactures which
had ruined the trade in linen, and to the whitening of such yarn as the
country housewives still spun at home, and the webs they got woven of it
in private looms. To Robert and Shargar it was a wondrous pleasure when
the pile of linen which the week had accumulated at the office under the
ga’le-room, was on Saturday heaped high upon the base of a broad-wheeled
cart, to get up on it and be carried to the said bleachfield, which lay
along the bank of the river. Soft laid and high-borne, gazing into the
blue sky, they traversed the streets in a holiday triumph; and although,
once arrived, the manager did not fail to get some labour out of them,
yet the store of amusement was endless. The great wheel, which drove the
whole machinery; the plash-mill, or, more properly, wauk-mill--a word
Robert derived from the resemblance of the mallets to two huge feet, and
of their motion to walking--with the water plashing and squirting from
the blows of their heels; the beatles thundering in arpeggio upon the
huge cylinder round which the white cloth was wound--each was haunted in
its turn and season. The pleasure of the water itself was inexhaustible.
Here sweeping in a mass along the race; there divided into branches and
hurrying through the walls of the various houses; here sliding through
a wooden channel across the floor to fall into the river in a
half-concealed cataract, there bubbling up through the bottom of a huge
wooden cave or vat, there resting placid in another; here gurgling along
a spout; there flowing in a narrow canal through the green expanse of
the well-mown bleachfield, or lifted from it in narrow curved wooden
scoops, like fairy canoes with long handles, and flung in showers over
the outspread yarn--the water was an endless delight.

It is strange how some individual broidery or figure upon Nature’s
garment will delight a boy long before he has ever looked Nature in
the face, or begun to love herself. But Robert was soon to become dimly
conscious of a life within these things--a life not the less real that
its operations on his mind had been long unrecognized.

On the grassy bank of the gently-flowing river, at the other edge of
whose level the little canal squabbled along, and on the grassy brae
which rose immediately from the canal, were stretched, close beside each
other, with scarce a stripe of green betwixt, the long white webs of
linen, fastened down to the soft mossy ground with wooden pegs, whose
tops were twisted into their edges. Strangely would they billow in the
wind sometimes, like sea-waves, frozen and enchanted flat, seeking to
rise and wallow in the wind with conscious depth and whelming mass. But
generally they lay supine, saturated with light and its cleansing power.
Falconer’s jubilation in the white and green of a little boat, as we
lay, one bright morning, on the banks of the Thames between Richmond
and Twickenham, led to such a description of the bleachfield that I can
write about it as if I had known it myself.

One Saturday afternoon in the end of July, when the westering sun was
hotter than at midday, he went down to the lower end of the field, where
the river was confined by a dam, and plunged from the bank into deep
water. After a swim of half-an-hour, he ascended the higher part of the
field, and lay down upon a broad web to bask in the sun. In his ears
was the hush rather than rush of the water over the dam, the occasional
murmur of a belt of trees that skirted the border of the field, and
the dull continuous sound of the beatles at their work below, like a
persistent growl of thunder on the horizon.

Had Robert possessed a copy of Robinson Crusoe, or had his grandmother
not cast The Lady of the Lake, mistaking it for an idol, if not to the
moles and the bats, yet to the mice and the black-beetles, he might
have been lying reading it, blind and deaf to the face and the voice
of Nature, and years might have passed before a response awoke in
his heart. It is good that children of faculty, as distinguished from
capacity, should not have too many books to read, or too much of early
lessoning. The increase of examinations in our country will increase
its capacity and diminish its faculty. We shall have more compilers and
reducers and fewer thinkers; more modifiers and completers, and fewer

He lay gazing up into the depth of the sky, rendered deeper and bluer by
the masses of white cloud that hung almost motionless below it, until he
felt a kind of bodily fear lest he should fall off the face of the round
earth into the abyss. A gentle wind, laden with pine odours from the
sun-heated trees behind him, flapped its light wing in his face: the
humanity of the world smote his heart; the great sky towered up
over him, and its divinity entered his soul; a strange longing after
something ‘he knew not nor could name’ awoke within him, followed by
the pang of a sudden fear that there was no such thing as that which he
sought, that it was all a fancy of his own spirit; and then the voice
of Shargar broke the spell, calling to him from afar to come and see
a great salmon that lay by a stone in the water. But once aroused, the
feeling was never stilled; the desire never left him; sometimes growing
even to a passion that was relieved only by a flood of tears.

Strange as it may sound to those who have never thought of such things
save in connection with Sundays and Bibles and churches and sermons,
that which was now working in Falconer’s mind was the first dull and
faint movement of the greatest need that the human heart possesses--the
need of the God-Man. There must be truth in the scent of that pine-wood:
some one must mean it. There must be a glory in those heavens that
depends not upon our imagination: some power greater than they must
dwell in them. Some spirit must move in that wind that haunts us with a
kind of human sorrow; some soul must look up to us from the eye of that
starry flower. It must be something human, else not to us divine.

Little did Robert think that such was his need--that his soul was
searching after One whose form was constantly presented to him, but as
constantly obscured and made unlovely by the words without knowledge
spoken in the religious assemblies of the land; that he was longing
without knowing it on the Saturday for that from which on the Sunday he
would be repelled without knowing it. Years passed before he drew nigh
to the knowledge of what he sought.

For weeks the mood broken by the voice of his companion did not return,
though the forms of Nature were henceforth full of a pleasure he had
never known before. He loved the grass; the water was more gracious to
him; he would leave his bed early, that he might gaze on the clouds of
the east, with their borders gold-blasted with sunrise; he would linger
in the fields that the amber and purple, and green and red, of the
sunset, might not escape after the sun unseen. And as long as he felt
the mystery, the revelation of the mystery lay before and not behind

And Shargar--had he any soul for such things? Doubtless; but how could
he be other than lives behind Robert? For the latter had ancestors--that
is, he came of people with a mental and spiritual history; while the
former had been born the birth of an animal; of a noble sire, whose
family had for generations filled the earth with fire, famine,
slaughter, and licentiousness; and of a wandering outcast mother, who
blindly loved the fields and woods, but retained her affection for her
offspring scarcely beyond the period while she suckled them. The love
of freedom and of wild animals that she had given him, however, was far
more precious than any share his male ancestor had borne in his mental
constitution. After his fashion he as well as Robert enjoyed the sun
and the wind and the water and the sky; but he had sympathies with the
salmon and the rooks and the wild rabbits even stronger than those of


The period of the hairst-play, that is, of the harvest holiday time,
drew near, and over the north of Scotland thousands of half-grown hearts
were beating with glad anticipation. Of the usual devices of boys to
cheat themselves into the half-belief of expediting a blessed approach
by marking its rate, Robert knew nothing: even the notching of sticks
was unknown at Rothieden; but he had a mode notwithstanding. Although
indifferent to the games of his school-fellows, there was one amusement,
a solitary one nearly, and therein not so good as most amusements,
into which he entered with the whole energy of his nature: it was
kite-flying. The moment that the hairst-play approached near enough to
strike its image through the eyes of his mind, Robert proceeded to
make his kite, or draigon, as he called it. Of how many pleasures does
pocket-money deprive the unfortunate possessor! What is the going into a
shop and buying what you want, compared with the gentle delight of hours
and days filled with gaining effort after the attainment of your end?
Never boy that bought his kite, even if the adornment thereafter lay in
his own hands, and the pictures were gorgeous with colour and gilding,
could have half the enjoyment of Robert from the moment he went to the
cooper’s to ask for an old gird or hoop, to the moment when he said
‘Noo, Shargar!’ and the kite rose slowly from the depth of the aërial
flood. The hoop was carefully examined, the best portion cut away from
it, that pared to a light strength, its ends confined to the proper
curve by a string, and then away went Robert to the wright’s shop. There
a slip of wood, of proper length and thickness, was readily granted to
his request, free as the daisies of the field. Oh! those horrid town
conditions, where nothing is given for the asking, but all sold for
money! In Robert’s kite the only thing that cost money was the string to
fly it with, and that the grandmother willingly provided, for not
even her ingenuity could discover any evil, direct or implicated, in
kite-flying. Indeed, I believe the old lady felt not a little sympathy
with the exultation of the boy when he saw his kite far aloft,
diminished to a speck in the vast blue; a sympathy, it may be, rooted in
the religious aspirations which she did so much at once to rouse and to
suppress in the bosom of her grandchild. But I have not yet reached the
kite-flying, for I have said nothing of the kite’s tail, for the sake of
which principally I began to describe the process of its growth.

As soon as the body of the dragon was completed, Robert attached to its
spine the string which was to take the place of its caudal elongation,
and at a proper distance from the body joined to the string the first
of the cross-pieces of folded paper which in this animal represent the
continued vertebral processes. Every morning, the moment he issued from
his chamber, he proceeded to the garret where the monster lay, to add
yet another joint to his tail, until at length the day should arrive
when, the lessons over for a blessed eternity of five or six weeks, he
would tip the whole with a piece of wood, to which grass, quantum suff.,
might be added from the happy fields.

Upon this occasion the dragon was a monster one. With a little help
from Shargar, he had laid the skeleton of a six-foot specimen, and had
carried the body to a satisfactory completion.

The tail was still growing, having as yet only sixteen joints, when Mr.
Lammie called with an invitation for the boys to spend their holidays
with him. It was fortunate for Robert that he was in the room when Mr.
Lammie presented his petition, otherwise he would never have heard of
it till the day of departure arrived, and would thus have lost all the
delights of anticipation. In frantic effort to control his ecstasy, he
sped to the garret, and with trembling hands tied the second joint of
the day to the tail of the dragon--the first time he had ever broken the
law of its accretion. Once broken, that law was henceforth an object of
scorn, and the tail grew with frightful rapidity. It was indeed a great
dragon. And none of the paltry fields about Rothieden should be honoured
with its first flight, but from Bodyfauld should the majestic child of
earth ascend into the regions of upper air.

My reader may here be tempted to remind me that Robert had been only too
glad to return to Rothieden from his former visit. But I must in my turn
remind him that the circumstances were changed. In the first place, the
fiddle was substituted for grannie; and in the second, the dragon for
the school.

The making of this dragon was a happy thing for Shargar, and a yet
happier thing for Robert, in that it introduced again for a time some
community of interest between them. Shargar was happier than he had been
for many a day because Robert used him; and Robert was yet happier than
Shargar in that his conscience, which had reproached him for his neglect
of him, was now silent. But not even his dragon had turned aside his
attentions from his violin; and many were the consultations between the
boys as to how best she might be transported to Bodyfauld, where endless
opportunities of holding communion with her would not be wanting. The
difficulty was only how to get her clear of Rothieden.

The play commenced on a Saturday; but not till the Monday were they
to be set at liberty. Wearily the hours of mental labour and bodily
torpidity which the Scotch called the Sabbath passed away, and at length
the millennial morning dawned. Robert and Shargar were up before
the sun. But strenuous were the efforts they made to suppress all
indications of excitement, lest grannie, fearing the immoral influence
of gladness, should give orders to delay their departure for an awfully
indefinite period, which might be an hour, a day, or even a week.
Horrible conception! Their behaviour was so decorous that not even a
hinted threat escaped the lips of Mrs. Falconer.

They set out three hours before noon, carrying the great kite, and
Robert’s school bag, of green baize, full of sundries: a cart from
Bodyfauld was to fetch their luggage later in the day. As soon as they
were clear of the houses, Shargar lay down behind a dyke with the kite,
and Robert set off at full speed for Dooble Sanny’s shop, making a
half-circuit of the town to avoid the chance of being seen by grannie or
Betty. Having given due warning before, he found the brown-paper parcel
ready for him, and carried it off in fearful triumph. He joined Shargar
in safety, and they set out on their journey as rich and happy a pair of
tramps as ever tramped, having six weeks of their own in their pockets
to spend and not spare.

A hearty welcome awaited them, and they were soon revelling in the
glories of the place, the first instalment of which was in the shape of
curds and cream, with oatcake and butter, as much as they liked. After
this they would ‘e’en to it like French falconers’ with their kite, for
the wind had been blowing bravely all the morning, having business to
do with the harvest. The season of stubble not yet arrived, they were
limited to the pasturage and moorland, which, however, large as their
kite was, were spacious enough. Slowly the great-headed creature arose
from the hands of Shargar, and ascended about twenty feet, when, as if
seized with a sudden fit of wrath or fierce indignation, it turned right
round and dashed itself with headlong fury to the earth, as if sooner
than submit to such influences a moment longer it would beat out its
brains at once.

‘It hasna half tail eneuch,’ cried Robert. ‘It’s queer ‘at things winna
gang up ohn hauden them doon. Pu’ a guid han’fu’ o’ clover, Shargar.
She’s had her fa’, an’ noo she’ll gang up a’ richt. She’s nane the waur
o’ ‘t.’

Upon the next attempt, the kite rose triumphantly. But just as it
reached the length of the string it shot into a faster current of air,
and Robert found himself first dragged along in spite of his efforts,
and then lifted from his feet. After carrying him a few yards, the
dragon broke its string, dropped him in a ditch, and, drifting away,
went fluttering and waggling downwards in the distance.

‘Luik whaur she gangs, Shargar,’ cried Robert, from the ditch.

Experience coming to his aid, Shargar took landmarks of the direction in
which it went; and ere long they found it with its tail entangled in the
topmost branches of a hawthorn tree, and its head beating the ground at
its foot. It was at once agreed that they would not fly it again till
they got some stronger string.

Having heard the adventure, Mr. Lammie produced a shilling from the
pocket of his corduroys, and gave it to Robert to spend upon the needful
string. He resolved to go to the town the next morning and make a grand
purchase of the same. During the afternoon he roamed about the farm
with his hands in his pockets, revolving if not many memories, yet
many questions, while Shargar followed like a pup at the heels of
Miss Lammie, to whom, during his former visit, he had become greatly

In the evening, resolved to make a confidant of Mr. Lammie, and indeed
to cast himself upon the kindness of the household generally, Robert
went up to his room to release his violin from its prison of brown
paper. What was his dismay to find--not his bonny leddy, but her poor
cousin, the soutar’s auld wife! It was too bad. Dooble Sanny indeed!

He first stared, then went into a rage, and then came out of it to go
into a resolution. He replaced the unwelcome fiddle in the parcel, and
came down-stairs gloomy and still wrathful, but silent. The evening
passed over, and the inhabitants of the farmhouse went early to bed.
Robert tossed about fuming on his. He had not undressed.

About eleven o’clock, after all had been still for more than an hour,
he took his shoes in one hand and the brown parcel in the other, and
descending the stairs like a thief, undid the quiet wooden bar that
secured the door, and let himself out. All was darkness, for the moon
was not yet up, and he felt a strange sensation of ghostliness in
himself--awake and out of doors, when he ought to be asleep and
unconscious in bed. He had never been out so late before, and felt as
if walking in the region of the dead, existing when and where he had no
business to exist. For it was the time Nature kept for her own quiet,
and having once put her children to bed--hidden them away with the world
wiped out of them--enclosed them in her ebony box, as George Herbert
says--she did not expect to have her hours of undress and meditation
intruded upon by a venturesome school-boy. Yet she let him pass. He
put on his shoes and hurried to the road. He heard a horse stamp in
the stable, and saw a cat dart across the corn-yard as he went through.
Those were all the signs of life about the place.

It was a cloudy night and still. Nothing was to be heard but his own
footsteps. The cattle in the fields were all asleep. The larch and
spruce trees on the top of the hill by the foot of which his road wound
were still as clouds. He could just see the sky through their stems. It
was washed with the faintest of light, for the moon, far below, was yet
climbing towards the horizon. A star or two sparkled where the clouds
broke, but so little light was there, that, until he had passed the
moorland on the hill, he could not get the horror of moss-holes, and
deep springs covered with treacherous green, out of his head. But he
never thought of turning. When the fears of the way at length fell back
and allowed his own thoughts to rise, the sense of a presence, or of
something that might grow to a presence, was the first to awake in him.
The stillness seemed to be thinking all around his head. But the way
grew so dark, where it lay through a corner of the pine-wood, that he
had to feel the edge of the road with his foot to make sure that he was
keeping upon it, and the sense of the silence vanished. Then he passed
a farm, and the motions of horses came through the dark, and a doubtful
crow from a young inexperienced cock, who did not yet know the moon from
the sun. Then a sleepy low in his ear startled him, and made him quicken
his pace involuntarily.

By the time he reached Rothieden all the lights were out, and this was
just what he wanted.

The economy of Dooble Sanny’s abode was this: the outer door was always
left on the latch at night, because several families lived in the house;
the soutar’s workshop opened from the passage, close to the outer door,
therefore its door was locked; but the key hung on a nail just inside
the soutar’s bedroom. All this Robert knew.

Arrived at the house, he lifted the latch, closed the door behind him,
took off his shoes once more, like a housebreaker, as indeed he was,
although a righteous one, and felt his way to and up the stair to the
bedroom. There was a sound of snoring within. The door was a little
ajar. He reached the key and descended, his heart beating more and more
wildly as he approached the realization of his hopes. Gently as he could
he turned it in the lock. In a moment more he had his hands on the spot
where the shoemaker always laid his violin. But his heart sank within
him: there was no violin there. A blank of dismay held him both
motionless and thoughtless; nor had he recovered his senses before he
heard footsteps, which he well knew, approaching in the street. He slunk
at once into a corner. Elshender entered, feeling his way carefully, and
muttering at his wife. He was tipsy, most likely, but that had never yet
interfered with the safety of his fiddle: Robert heard its faint echo
as he laid it gently down. Nor was he too tipsy to lock the door behind
him, leaving Robert incarcerated amongst the old boots and leather and

For one moment only did the boy’s heart fail him. The next he was in
action, for a happy thought had already struck him. Hastily, that he
might forestall sleep in the brain of the soutar, he undid his parcel,
and after carefully enveloping his own violin in the paper, took the old
wife of the soutar, and proceeded to perform upon her a trick which in
a merry moment his master had taught him, and which, not without some
feeling of irreverence, he had occasionally practised upon his own bonny

The shoemaker’s room was overhead; its thin floor of planks was the
ceiling of the workshop. Ere Dooble Sanny was well laid by the side of
his sleeping wife, he heard a frightful sound from below, as of some one
tearing his beloved violin to pieces. No sound of rending coffin-planks
or rising dead would have been so horrible in the ears of the soutar.
He sprang from his bed with a haste that shook the crazy tenement to its

The moment Robert heard that, he put the violin in its place, and took
his station by the door-cheek. The soutar came tumbling down the stair,
and rushed at the door, but found that he had to go back for the key.
When, with uncertain hand, he had opened at length, he went straight to
the nest of his treasure, and Robert slipping out noiselessly, was in
the next street before Dooble Sanny, having found the fiddle uninjured,
and not discovering the substitution, had finished concluding that the
whisky and his imagination had played him a very discourteous trick
between them, and retired once more to bed. And not till Robert had cut
his foot badly with a piece of glass, did he discover that he had left
his shoes behind him. He tied it up with his handkerchief, and limped
home the three miles, too happy to think of consequences.

Before he had gone far, the moon floated up on the horizon, large, and
shaped like the broadside of a barrel. She stared at him in amazement to
see him out at such a time of the night. But he grasped his violin and
went on. He had no fear now, even when he passed again over the desolate
moss, although he saw the stagnant pools glimmering about him in the
moonlight. And ever after this he had a fancy for roaming at night. He
reached home in safety, found the door as he had left it, and ascended
to his bed, triumphant in his fiddle.

In the morning bloody prints were discovered on the stair, and traced to
the door of his room. Miss Lammie entered in some alarm, and found him
fast asleep on his bed, still dressed, with a brown-paper parcel in his
arms, and one of his feet evidently enough the source of the frightful
stain. She was too kind to wake him, and inquiry was postponed till
they met at breakfast, to which he descended bare-footed, save for a
handkerchief on the injured foot.

‘Robert, my lad,’ said Mr. Lammie, kindly, ‘hoo cam ye by that bluidy

Robert began the story, and, guided by a few questions from his host, at
length told the tale of the violin from beginning to end, omitting only
his adventure in the factory. Many a guffaw from Mr. Lammie greeted its
progress, and Miss Lammie laughed till the tears rolled unheeded down
her cheeks, especially when Shargar, emboldened by the admiration Robert
had awakened, imparted his private share in the comedy, namely, the
entombment of Boston in a fifth-fold state; for the Lammies were none
of the unco guid to be censorious upon such exploits. The whole business
advanced the boys in favour at Bodyfauld; and the entreaties of
Robert that nothing should reach his grandmother’s ears were entirely

After breakfast Miss Lammie dressed the wounded foot. But what was to
be done for shoes, for Robert’s Sunday pair had been left at home? Under
ordinary circumstances it would have been no great hardship to him to
go barefoot for the rest of the autumn, but the cut was rather a serious
one. So his feet were cased in a pair of Mr. Lammie’s Sunday boots,
which, from their size, made it so difficult for him to get along, that
he did not go far from the doors, but revelled in the company of his
violin in the corn-yard amongst last year’s ricks, in the barn, and in
the hayloft, playing all the tunes he knew, and trying over one or two
more from a very dirty old book of Scotch airs, which his teacher had
lent him.

In the evening, as they sat together after supper, Mr. Lammie said,

‘Weel, Robert, hoo’s the fiddle?’

‘Fine, I thank ye, sir,’ answered Robert.

‘Lat’s hear what ye can do wi’ ‘t.’

Robert fetched the instrument and complied.

‘That’s no that ill,’ remarked the farmer. ‘But eh! man, ye suld hae
heard yer gran’father han’le the bow. That was something to hear--ance
in a body’s life. Ye wad hae jist thoucht the strings had been drawn
frae his ain inside, he kent them sae weel, and han’led them sae fine.
He jist fan’ (felt) them like wi’ ‘s fingers throu’ the bow an’ the
horsehair an’ a’, an’ a’ the time he was drawin’ the soun’ like the sowl
frae them, an’ they jist did onything ‘at he likit. Eh! to hear him play
the Flooers o’ the Forest wad hae garred ye greit.’

‘Cud my father play?’ asked Robert.

‘Ay, weel eneuch for him. He could do onything he likit to try, better
nor middlin’. I never saw sic a man. He played upo’ the bagpipes, an’
the flute, an’ the bugle, an’ I kenna what a’; but a’thegither they cam’
na within sicht o’ his father upo’ the auld fiddle. Lat’s hae a luik at

He took the instrument in his hands reverently, turned it over and over,
and said,

‘Ay, ay; it’s the same auld mill, an’ I wat it grun’ (ground) bonny
meal.--That sma’ crater noo ‘ill be worth a hunner poun’, I s’ warran’,’
he added, as he restored it carefully into Robert’s hands, to whom it
was honey and spice to hear his bonny lady paid her due honours. ‘Can ye
play the Flooers o’ the Forest, no?’ he added yet again.

‘Ay can I,’ answered Robert, with some pride, and laid the bow on the
violin, and played the air through without blundering a single note.

‘Weel, that’s verra weel,’ said Mr. Lammie. ‘But it’s nae mair like as
yer gran’father played it, than gin there war twa sawyers at it, ane at
ilka lug o’ the bow, wi’ the fiddle atween them in a saw-pit.’

Robert’s heart sank within him; but Mr. Lammie went on:

‘To hear the bow croudin’ (cooing), and wailin’, an’ greitin’ ower the
strings, wad hae jist garred ye see the lands o’ braid Scotlan’ wi’ a’
the lasses greitin’ for the lads that lay upo’ reid Flodden side; lasses
to cut, and lasses to gether, and lasses to bin’, and lasses to stook,
and lasses to lead, and no a lad amo’ them a’. It’s just the murnin’ o’
women, doin’ men’s wark as weel ‘s their ain, for the men that suld
hae been there to du ‘t; and I s’ warran’ ye, no a word to the orra
(exceptional, over-all) lad that didna gang wi’ the lave (rest).’

Robert had not hitherto understood it--this wail of a pastoral and
ploughing people over those who had left their side to return no
more from the field of battle. But Mr. Lammie’s description of his
grandfather’s rendering laid hold of his heart.

‘I wad raither be grutten for nor kissed,’ said he, simply.

‘Haud ye to that, my lad,’ returned Mr. Lammie. ‘Lat the lasses greit
for ye gin they like; but haud oot ower frae the kissin’. I wadna mell
wi’ ‘t.’

‘Hoot, father, dinna put sic nonsense i’ the bairns’ heids,’ said Miss

‘Whilk ‘s the nonsense, Aggy?’ asked her father, slily. ‘But I doobt,’
he added, ‘he’ll never play the Flooers o’ the Forest as it suld be
playt, till he’s had a taste o’ the kissin’, lass.’

‘Weel, it’s a queer instructor o’ yowth, ‘at says an’ onsays i’ the same

‘Never ye min’. I haena contradickit mysel’ yet; for I hae said
naething. But, Robert, my man, ye maun pit mair sowl into yer fiddlin’.
Ye canna play the fiddle till ye can gar ‘t greit. It’s unco ready
to that o’ ‘ts ain sel’; an’ it’s my opingon that there’s no anither
instrument but the fiddle fit to play the Flooers o’ the Forest upo’,
for that very rizzon, in a’ his Maijesty’s dominions.--My father playt
the fiddle, but no like your gran’father.’

Robert was silent. He spent the whole of the next morning in reiterated
attempts to alter his style of playing the air in question, but in
vain--as far at least as any satisfaction to himself was the result. He
laid the instrument down in despair, and sat for an hour disconsolate
upon the bedside. His visit had not as yet been at all so fertile in
pleasure as he had anticipated. He could not fly his kite; he could not
walk; he had lost his shoes; Mr. Lammie had not approved of his playing;
and, although he had his will of the fiddle, he could not get his will
out of it. He could never play so as to please Miss St. John. Nothing
but manly pride kept him from crying. He was sorely disappointed and
dissatisfied; and the world might be dreary even at Bodyfauld.

Few men can wait upon the bright day in the midst of the dull one. Nor
can many men even wait for it.


The wound on Robert’s foot festered, and had not yet healed when the
sickle was first put to the barley. He hobbled out, however, to the
reapers, for he could not bear to be left alone with his violin, so
dreadfully oppressive was the knowledge that he could not use it after
its nature. He began to think whether his incapacity was not a judgment
upon him for taking it away from the soutar, who could do so much more
with it, and to whom, consequently, it was so much more valuable. The
pain in his foot, likewise, had been very depressing; and but for the
kindness of his friends, especially of Miss Lammie, he would have been
altogether ‘a weary wight forlorn.’

Shargar was happier than ever he had been in his life. His white
face hung on Miss Lammie’s looks, and haunted her steps from spence
(store-room, as in Devonshire) to milk-house, and from milk-house to
chessel, surmounted by the glory of his red hair, which a farm-servant
declared he had once mistaken for a fun-buss (whin-bush) on fire. This
day she had gone to the field to see the first handful of barley cut,
and Shargar was there, of course.

It was a glorious day of blue and gold, with just wind enough to set the
barley-heads a-talking. But, whether from the heat of the sun, or the
pain of his foot operating on the general discouragement under which he
laboured, Robert turned faint all at once, and dragged himself away to a
cottage on the edge of the field.

It was the dwelling of a cottar, whose family had been settled upon the
farm of Bodyfauld from time immemorial. They were, indeed, like other
cottars, a kind of feudal dependents, occupying an acre or two of the
land, in return for which they performed certain stipulated labour,
called cottar-wark. The greater part of the family was employed in the
work of the farm, at the regular wages.

Alas for Scotland that such families are now to seek! Would that the
parliaments of our country held such a proportion of noble-minded men as
was once to be found in the clay huts on a hill-side, or grouped about a
central farm, huts whose wretched look would move the pity of many a
man as inferior to their occupants as a King Charles’s lap-dog is to a
shepherd’s colley. The utensils of their life were mean enough: the life
itself was often elixir vitae--a true family life, looking up to the
high, divine life. But well for the world that such life has been
scattered over it, east and west, the seed of fresh growth in new lands.
Out of offence to the individual, God brings good to the whole; for
he pets no nation, but trains it for the perfect globular life of all
nations--of his world--of his universe. As he makes families mingle, to
redeem each from its family selfishness, so will he make nations
mingle, and love and correct and reform and develop each other, till the
planet-world shall go singing through space one harmony to the God of
the whole earth. The excellence must vanish from one portion, that
it may be diffused through the whole. The seed ripens on one favoured
mound, and is scattered over the plain. We console ourselves with the
higher thought, that if Scotland is worse, the world is better. Yea,
even they by whom the offence came, and who have first to reap the woe
of that offence, because they did the will of God to satisfy their own
avarice in laying land to land and house to house, shall not reap their
punishment in having their own will, and standing therefore alone in the
earth when the good of their evil deeds returns upon it; but the tears
of men that ascended to heaven in the heat of their burning dwellings
shall descend in the dew of blessing even on the hearts of them that
kindled the fire.--‘Something too much of this.’

Robert lifted the latch, and walked into the cottage. It was not quite
so strange to him as it would be to most of my readers; still, he had
not been in such a place before. A girl who was stooping by the small
peat fire on the hearth looked up, and seeing that he was lame, came
across the heights and hollows of the clay floor to meet him. Robert
spoke so faintly that she could not hear.

‘What’s yer wull?’ she asked; then, changing her tone,--‘Eh! ye’re no
weel,’ she said. ‘Come in to the fire. Tak a haud o’ me, and come yer
wa’s butt.’

She was a pretty, indeed graceful girl of about eighteen, with the
elasticity rather than undulation of movement which distinguishes the
peasant from the city girl. She led him to the chimla-lug (the ear of
the chimney), carefully levelled a wooden chair to the inequalities of
the floor, and said,

‘Sit ye doon. Will I fess a drappy o’ milk?’

‘Gie me a drink o’ water, gin ye please,’ said Robert.

She brought it. He drank, and felt better. A baby woke in a cradle on
the other side of the fire, and began to cry. The girl went and took him
up; and then Robert saw what she was like. Light-brown hair clustered
about a delicately-coloured face and hazel eyes. Later in the harvest
her cheeks would be ruddy--now they were peach-coloured. A white neck
rose above a pink print jacket, called a wrapper; and the rest of her
visible dress was a blue petticoat. She ended in pretty, brown bare
feet. Robert liked her, and began to talk. If his imagination had not
been already filled, he would have fallen in love with her, I dare
say, at once; for, except Miss St. John, he had never seen anything he
thought so beautiful. The baby cried now and then.

‘What ails the bairnie?’ he asked.

‘Ow, it’s jist cuttin’ its teeth. Gin it greits muckle, I maun jist tak
it oot to my mither. She’ll sune quaiet it. Are ye haudin’ better?’

‘Hoot, ay. I’m a’ richt noo. Is yer mither shearin’?’

‘Na. She’s gatherin’. The shearin’ ‘s some sair wark for her e’en noo. I
suld hae been shearin’, but my mither wad fain hae a day o’ the hairst.
She thocht it wud du her gude. But I s’ warran’ a day o’ ‘t ‘ll sair
(satisfy) her, and I s’ be at it the morn. She’s been unco dowie
(ailing) a’ the summer; and sae has the bairnie.’

‘Ye maun hae had a sair time o’ ‘t, than.’

‘Ay, some. But I aye got some sleep. I jist tuik the towie (string) into
the bed wi’ me, and whan the bairnie grat, I waukit, an’ rockit it till
‘t fell asleep again. But whiles naething wad du but tak him till ‘s

All the time she was hushing and fondling the child, who went on
fretting when not actually crying.

‘Is he yer brither, than?’ asked Robert.

‘Ay, what ither? I maun tak him, I see. But ye can sit there as lang
‘s ye like; and gin ye gang afore I come back, jist turn the key ‘i the
door to lat onybody ken that there’s naebody i’ the hoose.’

Robert thanked her, and remained in the shadow by the chimney, which
was formed of two smoke-browned planks fastened up the wall, one on each
side, and an inverted wooden funnel above to conduct the smoke through
the roof. He sat for some time gloomily gazing at a spot of sunlight
which burned on the brown clay floor. All was still as death. And he
felt the white-washed walls even more desolate than if they had been

Looking about him, he found over his head something which he did not
understand. It was as big as the stump of a great tree. Apparently
it belonged to the structure of the cottage, but he could not, in the
imperfect light, and the dazzling of the sun-spot at which he had
been staring, make out what it was, or how it came to be up
there--unsupported as far as he could see. He rose to examine it,
lifted a bit of tarpaulin which hung before it, and found a rickety box,
suspended by a rope from a great nail in the wall. It had two shelves in
it full of books.

Now, although there were more books in Mr. Lammie’s house than in his
grandmother’s, the only one he had found that in the least enticed him
to read, was a translation of George Buchanan’s History of Scotland.
This he had begun to read faithfully, believing every word of it, but
had at last broken down at the fiftieth king or so. Imagine, then, the
moon that arose on the boy when, having pulled a ragged and thumb-worn
book from among those of James Hewson the cottar, he, for the first
time, found himself in the midst of The Arabian Nights. I shrink from
all attempt to set forth in words the rainbow-coloured delight that
coruscated in his brain. When Jessie Hewson returned, she found him
seated where she had left him, so buried in his volume that he did not
lift his head when she entered.

‘Ye hae gotten a buik,’ she said.

‘Ay have I,’ answered Robert, decisively.

‘It’s a fine buik, that. Did ye ever see ‘t afore?’

‘Na, never.’

‘There’s three wolums o’ ‘t about, here and there,’ said Jessie; and
with the child on one arm, she proceeded with the other hand to search
for them in the crap o’ the wa’, that is, on the top of the wall where
the rafters rest.

There she found two or three books, which, after examining them, she
placed on the dresser beside Robert.

‘There’s nane o’ them there,’ she said; ‘but maybe ye wad like to luik
at that anes.’

Robert thanked her, but was too busy to feel the least curiosity about
any book in the world but the one he was reading. He read on, heart and
soul and mind absorbed in the marvels of the eastern skald; the stories
told in the streets of Cairo, amidst gorgeous costumes, and camels, and
white-veiled women, vibrating here in the heart of a Scotch boy, in the
darkest corner of a mud cottage, at the foot of a hill of cold-loving
pines, with a barefooted girl and a baby for his companions.

But the pleasure he had been having was of a sort rather to expedite
than to delay the subjective arrival of dinner-time. There was, however,
happily no occasion to go home in order to appease his hunger; he had
but to join the men and women in the barley-field: there was sure to be
enough, for Miss Lammie was at the head of the commissariat.

When he had had as much milk-porridge as he could eat, and a good slice
of swack (elastic) cheese, with a cap (wooden bowl) of ale, all of
which he consumed as if the good of them lay in the haste of their
appropriation, he hurried back to the cottage, and sat there reading The
Arabian Nights, till the sun went down in the orange-hued west, and
the gloamin’ came, and with it the reapers, John and Elspet Hewson, and
their son George, to their supper and early bed.

John was a cheerful, rough, Roman-nosed, black-eyed man, who took snuff
largely, and was not careful to remove the traces of the habit. He had
a loud voice, and an original way of regarding things, which, with his
vivacity, made every remark sound like the proclamation of a discovery.

‘Are ye there, Robert?’ said he, as he entered. Robert rose, absorbed
and silent.

‘He’s been here a’ day, readin’ like a colliginer,’ said Jessie.

‘What are ye readin’ sae eident (diligent), man?’ asked John.

‘A buik o’ stories, here,’ answered Robert, carelessly, shy of being
supposed so much engrossed with them as he really was.

I should never expect much of a young poet who was not rather ashamed of
the distinction which yet he chiefly coveted. There is a modesty in all
young delight. It is wild and shy, and would hide itself, like a boy’s
or maiden’s first love, from the gaze of the people. Something like this
was Robert’s feeling over The Arabian Nights.

‘Ay,’ said John, taking snuff from a small bone spoon, ‘it’s a gran’
buik that. But my son Charley, him ‘at ‘s deid an’ gane hame, wad hae
tell’t ye it was idle time readin’ that, wi’ sic a buik as that ither
lyin’ at yer elbuck.’

He pointed to one of the books Jessie had taken from the crap o’ the wa’
and laid down beside him on the well-scoured dresser. Robert took up the
volume and opened it. There was no title-page.

‘The Tempest?’ he said. ‘What is ‘t? Poetry?’

‘Ay is ‘t. It’s Shackspear.’

‘I hae heard o’ him,’ said Robert. ‘What was he?’

‘A player kin’ o’ a chiel’, wi’ an unco sicht o’ brains,’ answered John.
‘He cudna hae had muckle time to gang skelpin’ and sornin’ aboot the
country like maist o’ thae cattle, gin he vrote a’ that, I’m thinkin’.’

‘Whaur did he bide?’

‘Awa’ in Englan’--maistly aboot Lonnon, I’m thinkin’. That’s the place
for a’ by-ordinar fowk, they tell me.’

‘Hoo lang is ‘t sin he deid?’

‘I dinna ken. A hunner year or twa, I s’ warran’. It’s a lang time. But
I’m thinkin’ fowk than was jist something like what they are noo. But I
ken unco little aboot him, for the prent ‘s some sma’, and I’m some ill
for losin’ my characters, and sae I dinna win that far benn wi’ him.
Geordie there ‘ll tell ye mair aboot him.’

But George Hewson had not much to communicate, for he had but lately
landed in Shakspere’s country, and had got but a little way inland yet.
Nor did Robert much care, for his head was full of The Arabian Nights.
This, however, was his first introduction to Shakspere.

Finding himself much at home, he stopped yet a while, shared in the
supper, and resumed his seat in the corner when the book was brought
out for worship. The iron lamp, with its wick of rush-pith, which hung
against the side of the chimney, was lighted, and John sat down to read.
But as his eyes and the print, too, had grown a little dim with years,
the lamp was not enough, and he asked for a ‘fir-can’le.’ A splint of
fir dug from the peat-bog was handed to him. He lighted it at the lamp,
and held it in his hand over the page. Its clear resinous flame enabled
him to read a short psalm. Then they sang a most wailful tune, and John
prayed. If I were to give the prayer as he uttered it, I might make my
reader laugh, therefore I abstain, assuring him only that, although full
of long words--amongst the rest, aspiration and ravishment--the prayer
of the cheerful, joke-loving cottar contained evidence of a degree of
religious development rare, I doubt, amongst bishops.

When Robert left the cottage, he found the sky partly clouded and the
air cold. The nearest way home was across the barley-stubble of the
day’s reaping, which lay under a little hill covered with various
species of the pine. His own soul, after the restful day he had spent,
and under the reaction from the new excitement of the stories he had
been reading, was like a quiet, moonless night. The thought of his
mother came back upon him, and her written words, ‘O Lord, my heart is
very sore’; and the thought of his father followed that, and he limped
slowly home, laden with mournfulness. As he reached the middle of the
field, the wind was suddenly there with a low sough from out of the
north-west. The heads of barley in the sheaves leaned away with a soft
rustling from before it; and Robert felt for the first time the sadness
of a harvest-field. Then the wind swept away to the pine-covered hill,
and raised a rushing and a wailing amongst its thin-clad branches, and
to the ear of Robert the trees were singing over again in their night
solitudes the air sung by the cottar’s family. When he looked to the
north-west, whence the wind came, he saw nothing but a pale cleft in the
sky. The meaning, the music of the night awoke in his soul; he forgot
his lame foot, and the weight of Mr. Lammie’s great boots, ran home and
up the stair to his own room, seized his violin with eager haste, nor
laid it down again till he could draw from it, at will, a sound like the
moaning of the wind over the stubble-field. Then he knew that he could
play the Flowers of the Forest. The Wind that Shakes the Barley cannot
have been named from the barley after it was cut, but while it stood in
the field: the Flowers of the Forest was of the gathered harvest.

He tried the air once over in the dark, and then carried his violin down
to the room where Mr. and Miss Lammie sat.

‘I think I can play ‘t noo, Mr. Lammie,’ he said abruptly.

‘Play what, callant?’ asked his host.

‘The Flooers o’ the Forest.’

‘Play awa’ than.’

And Robert played--not so well as he had hoped. I dare say it was
a humble enough performance, but he gave something at least of the
expression Mr. Lammie desired. For, the moment the tune was over, he

‘Weel dune, Robert man! ye’ll be a fiddler some day yet!’

And Robert was well satisfied with the praise.

‘I wish yer mother had been alive,’ the farmer went on. ‘She wad hae
been rael prood to hear ye play like that. Eh! she likit the fiddle
weel. And she culd play bonny upo’ the piana hersel’. It was something
to hear the twa o’ them playing thegither, him on the fiddle--that verra
fiddle o’ ‘s father’s ‘at ye hae i’ yer han’--and her on the piana.
Eh! but she was a bonnie wuman as ever I saw, an’ that quaiet! It’s my
belief she never thocht aboot her ain beowty frae week’s en’ to week’s
en’, and that’s no sayin’ little--is ‘t, Aggy?’

‘I never preten’t ony richt to think aboot sic,’ returned Miss Lammie,
with a mild indignation.

‘That’s richt, lass. Od, ye’re aye i’ the richt--though I say ‘t ‘at

Miss Lammie must indeed have been good-natured, to answer only with a
genuine laugh. Shargar looked explosive with anger. But Robert would
fain hear more of his mother.

‘What was my mother like, Mr. Lammie?’ he asked.

‘Eh, my man! ye suld hae seen her upon a bonnie bay mere that yer father
gae her. Faith! she sat as straught as a rash, wi’ jist a hing i’ the
heid o’ her, like the heid o’ a halm o’ wild aits.’

‘My father wasna that ill till her than?’ suggested Robert.

‘Wha ever daured say sic a thing?’ returned Mr. Lammie, but in a tone
so far from satisfactory to Robert, that he inquired no more in that

I need hardly say that from that night Robert was more than ever
diligent with his violin.


Next day, his foot was so much better that he sent Shargar to Rothieden
to buy the string, taking with him Robert’s school-bag, in which to
carry off his Sunday shoes; for as to those left at Dooble Sanny’s, they
judged it unsafe to go in quest of them: the soutar could hardly be in a
humour fit to be intruded upon.

Having procured the string, Shargar went to Mrs. Falconer’s. Anxious not
to encounter her, but, if possible, to bag the boots quietly, he
opened the door, peeped in, and seeing no one, made his way towards
the kitchen. He was arrested, however, as he crossed the passage by
the voice of Mrs. Falconer calling, ‘Wha’s that?’ There she was at the
parlour door. It paralyzed him. His first impulse was to make a rush and
escape. But the boots--he could not go without at least an attempt upon
them. So he turned and faced her with inward trembling.

‘Wha’s that?’ repeated the old lady, regarding him fixedly. ‘Ow, it’s
you! What duv ye want? Ye camna to see me, I’m thinkin’! What hae ye i’
that bag?’

‘I cam to coff (buy) twine for the draigon,’ answered Shargar.

‘Ye had twine eneuch afore!’

‘It bruik. It wasna strang eneuch.’

‘Whaur got ye the siller to buy mair? Lat’s see ‘t?’

Shargar took the string from the bag.

‘Sic a sicht o’ twine! What paid ye for ‘t?’

‘A shillin’.’

‘Whaur got ye the shillin’?’

‘Mr. Lammie gae ‘t to Robert.’

‘I winna hae ye tak siller frae naebody. It’s ill mainners. Hae!’ said
the old lady, putting her hand in her pocket, and taking out a shilling.
‘Hae,’ she said. ‘Gie Mr. Lammie back his shillin’, an’ tell ‘im ‘at I
wadna hae ye learn sic ill customs as tak siller. It’s eneuch to gang
sornin’ upon ‘im (exacting free quarters) as ye du, ohn beggit for
siller. Are they a’ weel?’

‘Ay, brawly,’ answered Shargar, putting the shilling in his pocket.

In another moment Shargar had, without a word of adieu, embezzled the
shoes, and escaped from the house without seeing Betty. He went straight
to the shop he had just left, and bought another shilling’s worth of

When he got home, he concealed nothing from Robert, whom he found seated
in the barn, with his fiddle, waiting his return.

Robert started to his feet. He could appropriate his grandfather’s
violin, to which, possibly, he might have shown as good a right as his
grandmother--certainly his grandfather would have accorded it him--but
her money was sacred.

‘Shargar, ye vratch!’ he cried, ‘fess that shillin’ here direckly. Tak
the twine wi’ ye, and gar them gie ye back the shillin’.’

‘They winna brak the bargain,’ cried Shargar, beginning almost to
whimper, for a savoury smell of dinner was coming across the yard.

‘Tell them it’s stown siller, and they’ll be in het watter aboot it gin
they dinna gie ye ‘t back.’

‘I maun hae my denner first,’ remonstrated Shargar.

But the spirit of his grandmother was strong in Robert, and in a matter
of rectitude there must be no temporizing. Therein he could be as
tyrannical as the old lady herself.

‘De’il a bite or a sup s’ gang ower your thrapple till I see that

There was no help for it. Six hungry miles must be trudged by Shargar
ere he got a morsel to eat. Two hours and a half passed before he
reappeared. But he brought the shilling. As to how he recovered it,
Robert questioned him in vain. Shargar, in his turn, was obstinate.

‘She’s a some camstairy (unmanageable) wife, that grannie o’ yours,’
said Mr. Lammie, when Robert returned the shilling with Mrs. Falconer’s
message, ‘but I reckon I maun pit it i’ my pooch, for she will hae her
ain gait, an’ I dinna want to strive wi’ her. But gin ony o’ ye be in
want o’ a shillin’ ony day, lads, as lang ‘s I’m abune the yird--this
ane ‘ll be grown twa, or maybe mair, ‘gen that time.’

So saying, the farmer put the shilling into his pocket, and buttoned it

The dragon flew splendidly now, and its strength was mighty. It was
Robert’s custom to drive a stake in the ground, slanting against the
wind, and thereby tether the animal, as if it were up there grazing in
its own natural region. Then he would lie down by the stake and read
The Arabian Nights, every now and then casting a glance upward at the
creature alone in the waste air, yet all in his power by the string at
his side. Somehow the high-flown dragon was a bond between him and the
blue; he seemed nearer to the sky while it flew, or at least the heaven
seemed less far away and inaccessible. While he lay there gazing, all at
once he would find that his soul was up with the dragon, feeling as it
felt, tossing about with it in the torrents of the air. Out at his
eyes it would go, traverse the dim stairless space, and sport with the
wind-blown monster. Sometimes, to aid his aspiration, he would take a
bit of paper, make a hole in it, pass the end of the string through the
hole, and send the messenger scudding along the line athwart the depth
of the wind. If it stuck by the way, he would get a telescope of Mr.
Lammie’s, and therewith watch its struggles till it broke loose, then
follow it careering up to the kite. Away with each successive paper
his imagination would fly, and a sense of air, and height, and freedom
settled from his play into his very soul, a germ to sprout hereafter,
and enrich the forms of his aspirations. And all his after-memories of
kite-flying were mingled with pictures of eastern magnificence, for
from the airy height of the dragon his eyes always came down upon the
enchanted pages of John Hewson’s book.

Sometimes, again, he would throw down his book, and sitting up with his
back against the stake, lift his bonny leddy from his side, and play as
he had never played in Rothieden, playing to the dragon aloft, to keep
him strong in his soaring, and fierce in his battling with the winds of
heaven. Then he fancied that the monster swooped and swept in arcs, and
swayed curving to and fro, in rhythmic response to the music floating up
through the wind.

What a full globated symbolism lay then around the heart of the boy in
his book, his violin, his kite!


One afternoon, as they were sitting at their tea, a footstep in the
garden approached the house, and then a figure passed the window. Mr.
Lammie started to his feet.

‘Bless my sowl, Aggy! that’s Anderson!’ he cried, and hurried to the

His daughter followed. The boys kept their seats. A loud and hearty
salutation reached their ears; but the voice of the farmer was all
they heard. Presently he returned, bringing with him the tallest and
slenderest man Robert had ever seen. He was considerably over six feet,
with a small head, and delicate, if not fine features, a gentle look
in his blue eyes, and a slow clear voice, which sounded as if it were
thinking about every word it uttered. The hot sun of India seemed to
have burned out everything self-assertive, leaving him quietly and
rather sadly contemplative.

‘Come in, come in,’ repeated Mr. Lammie, overflowing with glad welcome.
‘What’ll ye hae? There’s a frien’ o’ yer ain,’ he continued, pointing to
Robert, ‘an’ a fine lad.’ Then lowering his voice, he added: ‘A son o’
poor Anerew’s, ye ken, doctor.’

The boys rose, and Dr. Anderson, stretching his long arms across the
table, shook hands kindly with Robert and Shargar. Then he sat down and
began to help himself to the cakes (oat-cake), at which Robert wondered,
seeing there was ‘white breid’ on the table. Miss Lammie presently came
in with the teapot and some additional dainties, and the boys took the
opportunity of beginning at the beginning again.

Dr. Anderson remained for a few days at Bodyfauld, sending Shargar to
Rothieden for some necessaries from The Boar’s Head, where he had left
his servant and luggage. During this time Mr. Lammie was much occupied
with his farm affairs, anxious to get his harvest in as quickly as
possible, because a change of weather was to be dreaded; so the doctor
was left a good deal to himself. He was fond of wandering about, but,
thoughtful as he was, did not object to the companionship which Robert
implicitly offered him: before many hours were over, the two were

Various things attracted Robert to the doctor. First, he was a relation
of his own, older than himself, the first he had known except his
father, and Robert’s heart was one of the most dutiful. Second, or
perhaps I ought to have put this first, he was the only gentleman,
except Eric Ericson, whose acquaintance he had yet made. Third, he was
kind to him, and gentle to him, and, above all, respectful to him; and
to be respected was a new sensation to Robert altogether. And lastly,
he could tell stories of elephants and tiger hunts, and all The Arabian
Nights of India. He did not volunteer much talk, but Robert soon found
that he could draw him out.

But what attracted the man to the boy?

‘Ah! Robert,’ said the doctor one day, sadly, ‘it’s a sore thing to come
home after being thirty years away.’

He looked up at the sky, then all around at the hills: the face of
Nature alone remained the same. Then his glance fell on Robert, and he
saw a pair of black eyes looking up at him, brimful of tears. And thus
the man was drawn to the boy.

Robert worshipped Dr. Anderson. As long as he remained their visitor,
kite and violin and all were forgotten, and he followed him like a dog.
To have such a gentleman for a relation, was grand indeed. What could he
do for him? He ministered to him in all manner of trifles--a little to
the amusement of Dr. Anderson, but more to his pleasure, for he saw
that the boy was both large-hearted and lowly-minded: Dr. Anderson had
learned to read character, else he would never have been the honour to
his profession that he was.

But all the time Robert could not get him to speak about his father. He
steadily avoided the subject.

When he went away, the two boys walked with him to The Boar’s Head,
caught a glimpse of his Hindoo attendant, much to their wonderment,
received from the doctor a sovereign apiece and a kind good-bye, and
returned to Bodyfauld.

Dr. Anderson remained a few days longer at Rothieden, and amongst others
visited Mrs. Falconer, who was his first cousin. What passed between
them Robert never heard, nor did his grandmother even allude to the
visit. He went by the mail-coach from Rothieden to Aberdeen, and whether
he should ever see him again Robert did not know.

He flew his kite no more for a while, but betook himself to the work of
the harvest-field, in which he was now able for a share. But his violin
was no longer neglected.

Day after day passed in the delights of labour, broken for Robert by The
Arabian Nights and the violin, and for Shargar by attendance upon Miss
Lammie, till the fields lay bare of their harvest, and the night-wind of
autumn moaned everywhere over the vanished glory of the country, and it
was time to go back to school.


The morning at length arrived when Robert and Shargar must return to
Rothieden. A keen autumnal wind was blowing far-off feathery clouds
across a sky of pale blue; the cold freshened the spirits of the boys,
and tightened their nerves and muscles, till they were like bow-strings.
No doubt the winter was coming, but the sun, although his day’s work was
short and slack, was still as clear as ever. So gladsome was the world,
that the boys received the day as a fresh holiday, and strenuously
forgot to-morrow. The wind blew straight from Rothieden, and between
sun and wind a bright thought awoke in Robert. The dragon should not be
carried--he should fly home.

After they had said farewell, in which Shargar seemed to suffer more
than Robert, and had turned the corner of the stable, they heard the
good farmer shouting after them,

‘There’ll be anither hairst neist year, boys,’ which wonderfully
restored their spirits. When they reached the open road, Robert laid his
violin carefully into a broom-bush. Then the tail was unrolled, and the
dragon ascended steady as an angel whose work is done. Shargar took the
stick at the end of the string, and Robert resumed his violin. But the
creature was hard to lead in such a wind; so they made a loop on the
string, and passed it round Shargar’s chest, and he tugged the dragon
home. Robert longed to take his share in the struggle, but he could not
trust his violin to Shargar, and so had to walk beside ingloriously. On
the way they laid their plans for the accommodation of the dragon. But
the violin was the greater difficulty. Robert would not hear of the
factory, for reasons best known to himself, and there were serious
objections to taking it to Dooble Sanny. It was resolved that the only
way was to seize the right moment, and creep upstairs with it before
presenting themselves to Mrs. Falconer. Their intended manoeuvres with
the kite would favour the concealment of this stroke.

Before they entered the town they drew in the kite a little way, and cut
off a dozen yards of the string, which Robert put in his pocket, with
a stone tied to the end. When they reached the house, Shargar went into
the little garden and tied the string of the kite to the paling between
that and Captain Forsyth’s. Robert opened the street door, and having
turned his head on all sides like a thief, darted with his violin up
the stairs. Having laid his treasure in one of the presses in Shargar’s
garret, he went to his own, and from the skylight threw the stone down
into the captain’s garden, fastening the other end of the string to the
bedstead. Escaping as cautiously as he had entered, he passed hurriedly
into their neighbour’s garden, found the stone, and joined Shargar. The
ends were soon united, and the kite let go. It sunk for a moment, then,
arrested by the bedstead, towered again to its former ‘pride of place,’
sailing over Rothieden, grand and unconcerned, in the wastes of air.

But the end of its tether was in Robert’s garret. And that was to him a
sense of power, a thought of glad mystery. There was henceforth, while
the dragon flew, a relation between the desolate little chamber, in
that lowly house buried among so many more aspiring abodes, and the
unmeasured depths and spaces, the stars, and the unknown heavens. And
in the next chamber lay the fiddle free once more,--yet another magical
power whereby his spirit could forsake the earth and mount heavenwards.

All that night, all the next day, all the next night, the dragon flew.

Not one smile broke over the face of the old lady as she received them.
Was it because she did not know what acts of disobedience, what breaches
of the moral law, the two children of possible perdition might have
committed while they were beyond her care, and she must not run the risk
of smiling upon iniquity? I think it was rather that there was no smile
in her religion, which, while it developed the power of a darkened
conscience, overlaid and half-smothered all the lovelier impulses of her
grand nature. How could she smile? Did not the world lie under the wrath
and curse of God? Was not her own son in hell for ever? Had not the
blood of the Son of God been shed for him in vain? Had not God meant
that it should be in vain? For by the gift of his Spirit could he not
have enabled him to accept the offered pardon? And for anything she
knew, was not Robert going after him to the place of misery? How could
she smile?

‘Noo be dooce,’ she said, the moment she had shaken hands with them,
with her cold hands, so clean and soft and smooth. With a volcanic heart
of love, her outside was always so still and cold!--snow on the
mountain sides, hot vein-coursing lava within. For her highest duty was
submission to the will of God. Ah! if she had only known the God who
claimed her submission! But there is time enough for every heart to know

‘Noo be dooce,’ she repeated, ‘an’ sit doon, and tell me aboot the fowk
at Bodyfauld. I houpe ye thankit them, or ye left, for their muckle
kindness to ye.’

The boys were silent.

‘Didna ye thank them?’

‘No, grannie; I dinna think ‘at we did.’

‘Weel, that was ill-faured o’ ye. Eh! but the hert is deceitfu’ aboon
a’ thing, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Come awa’. Come awa’.
Robert, festen the door.’

And she led them to the corner for prayer, and poured forth a confession
of sin for them and for herself, such as left little that could have
been added by her own profligate son, had he joined in the prayer.
Either there are no degrees in guilt, or the Scotch language was equal
only to the confession of children and holy women, and could provide no
more awful words for the contrition of the prodigal or the hypocrite.
But the words did little harm, for Robert’s mind was full of the kite
and the violin, and was probably nearer God thereby than if he had
been trying to feel as wicked as his grandmother told God that he was.
Shargar was even more divinely employed at the time than either; for
though he had not had the manners to thank his benefactor, his heart had
all the way home been full of tender thoughts of Miss Lammie’s kindness;
and now, instead of confessing sins that were not his, he was loving
her over and over, and wishing to be back with her instead of with this
awfully good woman, in whose presence there was no peace, for all the
atmosphere of silence and calm in which she sat.

Confession over, and the boys at liberty again, a new anxiety seized
them. Grannie must find out that Robert’s shoes were missing, and what
account was to be given of the misfortune, for Robert would not, or
could not lie? In the midst of their discussion a bright idea flashed
upon Shargar, which, however, he kept to himself: he would steal them,
and bring them home in triumph, emulating thus Robert’s exploit in
delivering his bonny leddy.

The shoemaker sat behind his door to be out of the draught: Shargar
might see a great part of the workshop without being seen, and he could
pick Robert’s shoes from among a hundred. Probably they lay just where
Robert had laid them, for Dooble Sanny paid attention to any job only in
proportion to the persecution accompanying it.

So the next day Shargar contrived to slip out of school just as the
writing lesson began, for he had great skill in conveying himself
unseen, and, with his book-bag, slunk barefooted into the soutar’s

The shop door was a little way open, and the red eyes of Shargar had
only the corner next it to go peering about in. But there he saw the
shoes. He got down on his hands and knees, and crept nearer. Yes, they
were beyond a doubt Robert’s shoes. He made a long arm, like a beast
of prey, seized them, and, losing his presence of mind upon possession,
drew them too hastily towards him. The shoemaker saw them as they
vanished through the door, and darted after them. Shargar was off at
full speed, and Sandy followed with hue and cry. Every idle person
in the street joined in the pursuit, and all who were too busy or
too respectable to run crowded to door and windows. Shargar made
instinctively for his mother’s old lair; but bethinking himself when he
reached the door, he turned, and, knowing nowhere else to go, fled in
terror to Mrs. Falconer’s, still, however, holding fast by the shoes,
for they were Robert’s.

As Robert came home from school, wondering what could have become of his
companion, he saw a crowd about his grandmother’s door, and pushing
his way through it in some dismay, found Dooble Sanny and Shargar
confronting each other before the stern justice of Mrs. Falconer.

‘Ye’re a leear,’ the soutar was panting out. ‘I haena had a pair o’
shune o’ Robert’s i’ my han’s this three month. Thae shune--lat me
see them--they’re--Here’s Robert himsel’. Are thae shune yours, noo,

‘Ay are they. Ye made them yersel’.’

‘Hoo cam they in my chop, than?’

‘Speir nae mair quest’ons nor’s worth answerin’,’ said Robert, with a
look meant to be significant. ‘They’re my shune, and I’ll keep them.
Aiblins ye dinna aye ken wha’s shune ye hae, or whan they cam in to ye.’

‘What for didna Shargar come an’ speir efter them, than, in place o’
makin’ a thief o’ himsel’ that gait?’

‘Ye may haud yer tongue,’ returned Robert, with yet more significance.

‘I was aye a gowk (idiot),’ said Shargar, in apologetic reflection,
looking awfully white, and afraid to lift an eye to Mrs. Falconer, yet
reassured a little by Robert’s presence.

Some glimmering seemed now to have dawned upon the soutar, for he began
to prepare a retreat. Meantime Mrs. Falconer sat silent, allowing no
word that passed to escape her. She wanted to be at the bottom of the
mysterious affair, and therefore held her peace.

‘Weel, I’m sure, Robert, ye never tellt me aboot the shune,’ said
Alexander. ‘I s’ jist tak them back wi’ me, and du what’s wantit to
them. And I’m sorry that I hae gien ye this tribble, Mistress Faukner;
but it was a’ that fule’s wite there. I didna even ken it was him, till
we war near-han’ the hoose.’

‘Lat me see the shune,’ said Mrs. Falconer, speaking almost for the
first time. ‘What’s the maitter wi’ them?’

Examining the shoes, she saw they were in a perfectly sound state, and
this confirmed her suspicion that there was more in the affair than had
yet come out. Had she taken the straightforward measure of examining
Robert, she would soon have arrived at the truth. But she had such a
dread of causing a lie to be told, that she would adopt any roundabout
way rather than ask a plain question of a suspected culprit. So she laid
the shoes down beside her, saying to the soutar,

‘There’s naething amiss wi’ the shune. Ye can lea’ them.’

Thereupon Alexander went away, and Robert and Shargar would have
given more than their dinner to follow him. Grannie neither asked any
questions, however, nor made a single remark on what had passed. Dinner
was served and eaten, and the boys returned to their afternoon school.

No sooner was she certain that they were safe under the school-master’s
eye than the old lady put on her black silk bonnet and her black woollen
shawl, took her green cotton umbrella, which served her for a staff,
and, refusing Betty’s proffered assistance, set out for Dooble Sanny’s

As she drew near she heard the sounds of his violin. When she entered,
he laid his auld wife carefully aside, and stood in an expectant

‘Mr. Elshender, I want to be at the boddom o’ this,’ said Mrs. Falconer.

‘Weel, mem, gang to the boddom o’ ‘t,’ returned Dooble Sanny, dropping
on his stool, and taking his stone upon his lap and stroking it, as if
it had been some quadrupedal pet. Full of rough but real politeness to
women when in good humour, he lost all his manners along with his temper
upon the slightest provocation, and her tone irritated him.

‘Hoo cam Robert’s shune to be i’ your shop?’

‘Somebody bude till hae brocht them, mem. In a’ my expairience, and
that’s no sma’, I never kent pair o’ shune gang ohn a pair o’ feet i’
the wame o’ them.’

‘Hoots! what kin’ o’ gait ‘s that to speyk till a body? Whase feet was
inside the shune?’

‘De’il a bit o’ me kens, mem.’

‘Dinna sweir, whatever ye du.’

‘De’il but I will sweir, mem; an’ gin ye anger me, I’ll jist sweir

‘I’m sure I hae nae wuss to anger ye, man! Canna ye help a body to win
at the boddom o’ a thing ohn angert an’ sworn?’

‘Weel, I kenna wha brocht the shune, as I tellt ye a’ready.’

‘But they wantit nae men’in’.’

‘I micht hae men’t them an’ forgotten ‘t, mem.’

‘Noo ye’re leein’.’

‘Gin ye gang on that gait, mem, I winna speyk a word o’ trowth frae this
moment foret.’

‘Jist tell me what ye ken aboot thae shune, an’ I’ll no say anither

‘Weel, mem, I’ll tell ye the trowth. The de’il brocht them in ae day in
a lang taings; and says he, “Elshender, men’ thae shune for puir
Robby Faukner; an’ dooble-sole them for the life o’ ye; for that auld
luckie-minnie o’ his ‘ill sune hae him doon oor gait, and the grun’ ‘s
het i’ the noo; an’ I dinna want to be ower sair upon him, for he’s a
fine chield, an’ ‘ll mak a fine fiddler gin he live lang eneuch.”’

Mrs. Falconer left the shop without another word, but with an awful
suspicion which the last heedless words of the shoemaker had aroused
in her bosom. She left him bursting with laughter over his lapstone.
He caught up his fiddle and played The De’il’s i’ the Women lustily and
with expression. But he little thought what he had done.

As soon as she reached her own room, she went straight to her bed and
disinterred the bonny leddy’s coffin. She was gone; and in her stead,
horror of horrors! lay in the unhallowed chest that body of divinity
known as Boston’s Fourfold State. Vexation, anger, disappointment, and
grief possessed themselves of the old woman’s mind. She ranged the house
like the ‘questing beast’ of the Round Table, but failed in finding the
violin before the return of the boys. Not a word did she say all that
evening, and their oppressed hearts foreboded ill. They felt that there
was thunder in the clouds, a sleeping storm in the air; but how or when
it would break they had no idea.

Robert came home to dinner the next day a few minutes before Shargar. As
he entered his grandmother’s parlour, a strange odour greeted his sense.
A moment more, and he stood rooted with horror, and his hair began to
rise on his head. His violin lay on its back on the fire, and a yellow
tongue of flame was licking the red lips of a hole in its belly. All
its strings were shrivelled up save one, which burst as he gazed. And
beside, stern as a Druidess, sat his grandmother in her chair, feeding
her eyes with grim satisfaction on the detestable sacrifice. At length
the rigidity of Robert’s whole being relaxed in an involuntary howl
like that of a wild beast, and he turned and rushed from the house in a
helpless agony of horror. Where he was going he knew not, only a blind
instinct of modesty drove him to hide his passion from the eyes of men.

From her window Miss St. John saw him tearing like one demented along
the top walk of the captain’s garden, and watched for his return. He
came far sooner than she expected.

Before he arrived at the factory, Robert began to hear strange sounds in
the desolate place. When he reached the upper floor, he found men with
axe and hammer destroying the old woodwork, breaking the old jennies,
pitching the balls of lead into baskets, and throwing the spools into
crates. Was there nothing but destruction in the world? There, most
horrible! his ‘bonny leddy’ dying of flames, and here, the temple of his
refuge torn to pieces by unhallowed hands! What could it mean? Was his
grandmother’s vengeance here too? But he did not care. He only felt like
the dove sent from the ark, that there was no rest for the sole of his
foot, that there was no place to hide his head in his agony--that he was
naked to the universe; and like a heartless wild thing hunted till its
brain is of no more use, he turned and rushed back again upon his track.
At one end was the burning idol, at the other the desecrated temple.

No sooner had he entered the captain’s garden than Miss St. John met

‘What is the matter with you, Robert?’ she asked, kindly.

‘Oh, mem!’ gasped Robert, and burst into a very storm of weeping.

It was long before he could speak. He cowered before Miss St. John as if
conscious of an unfriendly presence, and seeking to shelter himself by
her tall figure from his grandmother’s eyes. For who could tell but at
the moment she might be gazing upon him from some window, or even from
the blue vault above? There was no escaping her. She was the all-seeing
eye personified--the eye of the God of the theologians of his country,
always searching out the evil, and refusing to acknowledge the good. Yet
so gentle and faithful was the heart of Robert, that he never thought of
her as cruel. He took it for granted that somehow or other she must be
right. Only what a terrible thing such righteousness was! He stood and
wept before the lady.

Her heart was sore for the despairing boy. She drew him to a little
summer-seat. He entered with her, and sat down, weeping still. She did
her best to soothe him. At last, sorely interrupted by sobs, he managed
to let her know the fate of his ‘bonnie leddy.’ But when he came to the
words, ‘She’s burnin’ in there upo’ granny’s fire,’ he broke out once
more with that wild howl of despair, and then, ashamed of himself,
ceased weeping altogether, though he could not help the intrusion of
certain chokes and sobs upon his otherwise even, though low and sad

Knowing nothing of Mrs. Falconer’s character, Miss St. John set her down
as a cruel and heartless as well as tyrannical and bigoted old woman,
and took the mental position of enmity towards her. In a gush of
motherly indignation she kissed Robert on the forehead.

From that chrism he arose a king.

He dried his eyes; not another sob even broke from him; he gave one
look, but no word of gratitude, to Miss St. John; bade her good-bye; and
walked composedly into his grandmother’s parlour, where the neck of the
violin yet lay upon the fire only half consumed. The rest had vanished

‘What are they duin’ doon at the fact’ry, grannie?’ he asked.

‘What’s wha duin’, laddie?’ returned his grandmother, curtly.

‘They’re takin’ ‘t doon.’

‘Takin’ what doon?’ she returned, with raised voice.

‘Takin’ doon the hoose.’

The old woman rose.

‘Robert, ye may hae spite in yer hert for what I hae dune this mornin’,
but I cud do no ither. An’ it’s an ill thing to tak sic amen’s o’ me, as
gin I had dune wrang, by garrin’ me troo ‘at yer grandfather’s property
was to gang the gait o’ ‘s auld, useless, ill-mainnert scraich o’ a

‘She was the bonniest fiddle i’ the country-side, grannie. And she
never gae a scraich in her life ‘cep’ whan she was han’let in a mainner
unbecomin’. But we s’ say nae mair aboot her, for she’s gane, an’ no by
a fair strae-deith (death on one’s own straw) either. She had nae blude
to cry for vengeance; but the snappin’ o’ her strings an’ the crackin’
o’ her banes may hae made a cry to gang far eneuch notwithstandin’.’

The old woman seemed for one moment rebuked under her grandson’s
eloquence. He had made a great stride towards manhood since the morning.

‘The fiddle’s my ain,’ she said, in a defensive tone. ‘And sae is
the fact’ry,’ she added, as if she had not quite reassured herself
concerning it.

‘The fiddle’s yours nae mair, grannie. And for the fact’ry--ye winna
believe me: gang and see yersel’.’

Therewith Robert retreated to his garret.

When he opened the door of it, the first thing he saw was the string of
his kite, which, strange to tell, so steady had been the wind, was still
up in the air--still tugging at the bedpost. Whether it was from the
stinging thought that the true sky-soarer, the violin, having been
devoured by the jaws of the fire-devil, there was no longer any
significance in the outward and visible sign of the dragon, or from
a dim feeling that the time of kites was gone by and manhood on the
threshold, I cannot tell; but he drew his knife from his pocket, and
with one down-stroke cut the string in twain. Away went the dragon,
free, like a prodigal, to his ruin. And with the dragon, afar into the
past, flew the childhood of Robert Falconer. He made one remorseful dart
after the string as it swept out of the skylight, but it was gone beyond
remeid. And never more, save in twilight dreams, did he lay hold on his
childhood again. But he knew better and better, as the years rolled on,
that he approached a deeper and holier childhood, of which that had been
but the feeble and necessarily vanishing type.

As the kite sank in the distance, Mrs. Falconer issued from the house,
and went down the street towards the factory.

Before she came back the cloth was laid for dinner, and Robert and
Shargar were both in the parlour awaiting her return. She entered heated
and dismayed, went into Robert’s bedroom, and shut the door hastily.
They heard her open the old bureau. In a moment after she came out with
a more luminous expression upon her face than Robert had ever seen it
bear. It was as still as ever, but there was a strange light in her
eyes, which was not confined to her eyes, but shone in a measure from
her colourless forehead and cheeks as well. It was long before Robert
was able to interpret that change in her look, and that increase of
kindness towards himself and Shargar, apparently such a contrast with
the holocaust of the morning. Had they both been Benjamins they could
not have had more abundant platefuls than she gave them that day. And
when they left her to return to school, instead of the usual ‘Noo be
douce,’ she said, in gentle, almost loving tones, ‘Noo, be good lads,
baith o’ ye.’

The conclusion at which Falconer did arrive was that his grandmother had
hurried home to see whether the title-deeds of the factory were still in
her possession, and had found that they were gone--taken, doubtless,
by her son Andrew. At whatever period he had appropriated them, he must
have parted with them but recently. And the hope rose luminous that
her son had not yet passed into the region ‘where all life dies, death
lives.’ Terrible consolation! Terrible creed, which made the hope that
he was still on this side of the grave working wickedness, light up the
face of the mother, and open her hand in kindness. Is it suffering,
or is it wickedness, that is the awful thing? ‘Ah! but they are both
combined in the other world.’ And in this world too, I answer; only,
according to Mrs. Falconer’s creed, in the other world God, for the sake
of the suffering, renders the wickedness eternal!

The old factory was in part pulled down, and out of its remains a
granary constructed. Nor did the old lady interpose a word to arrest the
alienation of her property.


Mary St. John was the orphan daughter of an English clergyman, who had
left her money enough to make her at least independent. Mrs. Forsyth,
hearing that her niece was left alone in the world, had concluded
that her society would be a pleasure to herself and a relief to the
housekeeping. Even before her father’s death, Miss St. John, having met
with a disappointment, and concluded herself dead to the world, had been
looking about for some way of doing good. The prospect of retirement,
therefore, and of being useful to her sick aunt, had drawn her

She was now about six-and-twenty, filled with two passions--one for
justice, the other for music. Her griefs had not made her selfish,
nor had her music degenerated into sentiment. The gentle style of
the instruction she had received had never begotten a diseased
self-consciousness; and if her religion lacked something of the
intensity without which a character like hers could not be evenly
balanced, its force was not spent on the combating of unholy doubts
and selfish fears, but rose on the wings of her music in gentle
thanksgiving. Tears had changed her bright-hued hopes into a
dove-coloured submission, through which her mind was passing towards a
rainbow dawn such as she had never dreamed of. To her as yet the Book
of Common Prayer contained all the prayers that human heart had need
to offer; what things lay beyond its scope must lie beyond the scope of
religion. All such things must be parted with one day, and if they had
been taken from her very soon, she was the sooner free from the painful
necessity of watching lest earthly love should remove any of the old
landmarks dividing what was God’s from what was only man’s. She had now
retired within the pale of religion, and left the rest of her being, as
she thought, ‘to dull forgetfulness a prey.’

She had little comfort in the society of her aunt. Indeed, she felt
strongly tempted to return again to England the same month, and seek a
divine service elsewhere. But it was not at all so easy then as it is
now for a woman to find the opportunity of being helpful in the world of

Mrs. Forsyth was one of those women who get their own way by the very
vis inertiae of their silliness. No argument could tell upon her. She
was so incapable of seeing anything noble that her perfect satisfaction
with everything she herself thought, said, or did, remained
unchallenged. She had just illness enough to swell her feeling of
importance. She looked down upon Mrs. Falconer from such an immeasurable
height that she could not be indignant with her for anything; she only
vouchsafed a laugh now and then at her oddities, holding no further
communication with her than a condescending bend of the neck when they
happened to meet, which was not once a year. But, indeed, she would
have patronized the angel Gabriel, if she had had a chance, and no doubt
given him a hint or two upon the proper way of praising God. For the
rest, she was good-tempered, looked comfortable, and quarrelled
with nobody but her rough honest old bear of a husband, whom, in his
seventieth year, she was always trying to teach good manners, with the
frequent result of a storm of swearing.

But now Mary St. John was thoroughly interested in the strange boy
whose growing musical pinions were ever being clipped by the shears of
unsympathetic age and crabbed religion, and the idea of doing something
for him to make up for the injustice of his grandmother awoke in her
a slight glow of that interest in life which she sought only in doing
good. But although ere long she came to love the boy very truly, and
although Shargar’s life was bound up in the favour of Robert, yet
neither stooping angel nor foot-following dog ever loved the lad with
the love of that old grandmother, who would for him have given herself
to the fire to which she had doomed his greatest delight.

For some days Robert worked hard at his lessons, for he had nothing else
to do. Life was very gloomy now. If he could only go to sea, or away to
keep sheep on the stormy mountains! If there were only some war going
on, that he might list! Any fighting with the elements, or with the
oppressors of the nations, would make life worth having, a man worth
being. But God did not heed. He leaned over the world, a dark care,
an immovable fate, bearing down with the weight of his presence all
aspiration, all budding delights of children and young persons: all must
crouch before him, and uphold his glory with the sacrificial death of
every impulse, every admiration, every lightness of heart, every bubble
of laughter. Or--which to a mind like Robert’s was as bad--if he did not
punish for these things, it was because they came not within the sphere
of his condescension, were not worth his notice: of sympathy could be no

But this gloom did not last long. When souls like Robert’s have been
ill-taught about God, the true God will not let them gaze too long upon
the Moloch which men have set up to represent him. He will turn away
their minds from that which men call him, and fill them with some of his
own lovely thoughts or works, such as may by degrees prepare the way for
a vision of the Father.

One afternoon Robert was passing the soutar’s shop. He had never gone
near him since his return. But now, almost mechanically, he went in at
the open door.

‘Weel, Robert, ye are a stranger. But what’s the maitter wi’ ye? Faith!
yon was an ill plisky ye played me to brak into my chop an’ steal the
bonnie leddy.’

‘Sandy,’ said Robert, solemnly, ‘ye dinna ken what ye hae dune by that
trick ye played me. Dinna ever mention her again i’ my hearin’.’

‘The auld witch hasna gotten a grup o’ her again?’ cried the shoemaker,
starting half up in alarm. ‘She cam here to me aboot the shune, but I
reckon I sortit her!’

‘I winna speir what ye said,’ returned Robert. ‘It’s no maitter noo.’

And the tears rose to his eyes. His bonny lady!

‘The Lord guide ‘s!’ exclaimed the soutar. ‘What is the maitter wi’ the
bonnie leddy?’

‘There’s nae bonnie leddy ony mair. I saw her brunt to death afore my
verra ain een.’

The shoemaker sprang to his feet and caught up his paring knife.

‘For God’s sake, say ‘at yer leein’!’ he cried.

‘I wish I war leein’,’ returned Robert.

The soutar uttered a terrible oath, and swore--

‘I’ll murder the auld--.’ The epithet he ended with is too ugly to

‘Daur to say sic a word in ae breath wi’ my grannie,’ cried Robert,
snatching up the lapstone, ‘an’ I’ll brain ye upo’ yer ain shop-flure.’

Sandy threw the knife on his stool, and sat down beside it. Robert
dropped the lapstone. Sandy took it up and burst into tears, which
before they were half down his face, turned into tar with the blackness
of the same.

‘I’m an awfu’ sinner,’ he said, ‘and vengeance has owerta’en me. Gang
oot o’ my chop! I wasna worthy o’ her. Gang oot, I say, or I’ll kill

Robert went. Close by the door he met Miss St. John. He pulled off his
cap, and would have passed her. But she stopped him.

‘I am going for a walk a little way,’ she said. ‘Will you go with me?’

She had come out in the hope of finding him, for she had seen him go up
the street.

‘That I wull,’ returned Robert, and they walked on together.

When they were beyond the last house, Miss St. John said,

‘Would you like to play on the piano, Robert?’

‘Eh, mem!’ said Robert, with a deep suspiration. Then, after a pause:
‘But duv ye think I cud?’

‘There’s no fear of that. Let me see your hands.’

‘They’re some black, I doobt, mem,’ he remarked, rubbing them hard upon
his trowsers before he showed them; ‘for I was amaist cawin’ oot the
brains o’ Dooble Sanny wi’ his ain lapstane. He’s an ill-tongued chield.
But eh! mem, ye suld hear him play upo’ the fiddle! He’s greitin’ his
een oot e’en noo for the bonnie leddy.’

Not discouraged by her inspection of his hands, black as they were, Miss
St. John continued,

‘But what would your grandmother say?’ she asked.

‘She maun ken naething aboot it, mem. I can-not tell her a’thing. She
wad greit an’ pray awfu’, an’ lock me up, I daursay. Ye see, she thinks
a’ kin’ o’ music ‘cep’ psalm-singin’ comes o’ the deevil himsel’. An’ I
canna believe that. For aye whan I see onything by ordinar bonnie,
sic like as the mune was last nicht, it aye gars me greit for my brunt

‘Well, you must come to me every day for half-an-hour at least, and I
will give you a lesson on my piano. But you can’t learn by that. And my
aunt could never bear to hear you practising. So I’ll tell you what you
must do. I have a small piano in my own room. Do you know there is a
door from your house into my room?’

‘Ay,’ said Robert. ‘That hoose was my father’s afore your uncle bought
it. My father biggit it.’

‘Is it long since your father died?’

‘I dinna ken.’

‘Where did he die?’

‘I dinna ken.’

‘Do you remember it?’

‘No, mem.’

‘Well, if you will come to my room, you shall practise there. I shall be
down-stairs with my aunt. But perhaps I may look up now and then, to see
how you are getting on. I will leave the door unlocked, so that you can
come in when you like. If I don’t want you, I will lock the door. You
understand? You mustn’t be handling things, you know.’

‘’Deed, mem, ye may lippen (trust) to me. But I’m jist feared to lat
ye hear me lay a finger upo’ the piana, for it’s little I cud do wi’ my
fiddle, an’, for the piana! I’m feart I’ll jist scunner (disgust) ye.’

‘If you really want to learn, there will be no fear of that,’ returned
Miss St. John, guessing at the meaning of the word scunner. ‘I don’t
think I am doing anything wrong,’ she added, half to herself, in a
somewhat doubtful tone.

‘’Deed no, mem. Ye’re jist an angel unawares. For I maist think
sometimes that my grannie ‘ll drive me wud (mad); for there’s naething
to read but guid buiks, an’ naething to sing but psalms; an’ there’s nae
fun aboot the hoose but Betty; an’ puir Shargar’s nearhan’ dementit
wi’ ‘t. An’ we maun pray till her whether we will or no. An’ there’s
no comfort i’ the place but plenty to ate; an’ that canna be guid for
onybody. She likes flooers, though, an’ wad like me to gar them grow;
but I dinna care aboot it: they tak sic a time afore they come to

Then Miss St. John inquired about Shargar, and began to feel rather
differently towards the old lady when she had heard the story. But how
she laughed at the tale, and how light-hearted Robert went home, are
neither to be told.

The next Sunday, the first time for many years, Dooble Sanny was at
church with his wife, though how much good he got by going would be a
serious question to discuss.


Robert had his first lesson the next Saturday afternoon. Eager
and undismayed by the presence of Mrs. Forsyth, good-natured and
contemptuous--for had he not a protecting angel by him?--he hearkened
for every word of Miss St. John, combated every fault, and undermined
every awkwardness with earnest patience. Nothing delighted Robert so
much as to give himself up to one greater. His mistress was thoroughly
pleased, and even Mrs. Forsyth gave him two of her soft finger tips to
do something or other with--Robert did not know what, and let them go.

About eight o’clock that same evening, his heart beating like a captured
bird’s, he crept from grannie’s parlour, past the kitchen, and up the
low stair to the mysterious door. He had been trying for an hour to
summon up courage to rise, feeling as if his grandmother must suspect
where he was going. Arrived at the barrier, twice his courage failed
him; twice he turned and sped back to the parlour. A third time he made
the essay, a third time stood at the wondrous door--so long as blank as
a wall to his careless eyes, now like the door of the magic Sesame that
led to the treasure-cave of Ali Baba. He laid his hand on the knob,
withdrew it, thought he heard some one in the transe, rushed up the
garret stair, and stood listening, hastened down, and with a sudden
influx of determination opened the door, saw that the trap was raised,
closed the door behind him, and standing with his head on the level of
the floor, gazed into the paradise of Miss St. John’s room. To have one
peep into such a room was a kind of salvation to the half-starved nature
of the boy. All before him was elegance, richness, mystery. Womanhood
radiated from everything. A fire blazed in the chimney. A rug of long
white wool lay before it. A little way off stood the piano. Ornaments
sparkled and shone upon the dressing-table. The door of a wardrobe had
swung a little open, and discovered the sombre shimmer of a black silk
dress. Something gorgeously red, a China crape shawl, hung glowing
beyond it. He dared not gaze any longer. He had already been guilty of
an immodesty. He hastened to ascend, and seated himself at the piano.

Let my reader aid me for a moment with his imagination--reflecting what
it was to a boy like Robert, and in Robert’s misery, to open a door in
his own meagre dwelling and gaze into such a room--free to him. If he
will aid me so, then let him aid himself by thinking that the house of
his own soul has such a door into the infinite beauty, whether he has
yet found it or not.

‘Just think,’ Robert said to himself, ‘o’ me in sic a place! It’s a
pailace. It’s a fairy pailace. And that angel o’ a leddy bides here, and
sleeps there! I wonner gin she ever dreams aboot onything as bonny ‘s

Then his thoughts took another turn.

‘I wonner gin the room was onything like this whan my mamma sleepit in
‘t? I cudna hae been born in sic a gran’ place. But my mamma micht hae
weel lien here.’

The face of the miniature, and the sad words written below the hymn,
came back upon him, and he bowed his head upon his hands. He was sitting
thus when Miss St. John came behind him, and heard him murmur the one
word Mamma! She laid her hand on his shoulder. He started and rose.

‘I beg yer pardon, mem. I hae no business to be here, excep’ to play.
But I cudna help thinkin’ aboot my mother; for I was born in this room,
mem. Will I gang awa’ again?’

He turned towards the door.

‘No, no,’ said Miss St. John. ‘I only came to see if you were here. I
cannot stop now; but to-morrow you must tell me about your mother. Sit
down, and don’t lose any more time. Your grandmother will miss you. And
then what would come of it?’

Thus was this rough diamond of a Scotch boy, rude in speech, but full
of delicate thought, gathered under the modelling influences of
the finished, refined, tender, sweet-tongued, and sweet-thoughted
Englishwoman, who, if she had been less of a woman, would have been
repelled by his uncouthness; if she had been less of a lady, would have
mistaken his commonness for vulgarity. But she was just, like the
type of womankind, a virgin-mother. She saw the nobility of his nature
through its homely garments, and had been, indeed, sent to carry on the
work from which his mother had been too early taken away.

‘There’s jist ae thing mem, that vexes me a wee, an’ I dinna ken what
to think aboot it,’ said Robert, as Miss St. John was leaving the room.
‘Maybe ye cud bide ae minute till I tell ye.’

‘Yes, I can. What is it?’

‘I’m nearhan’ sure that whan I lea’ the parlour, grannie ‘ill think I’m
awa’ to my prayers; and sae she’ll think better o’ me nor I deserve. An’
I canna bide that.’

‘What should make you suppose that she will think so?’

‘Fowk kens what ane anither’s aboot, ye ken, mem.’

‘Then she’ll know you are not at your prayers.’

‘Na. For sometimes I div gang to my prayers for a whilie like, but nae
for lang, for I’m nae like ane o’ them ‘at he wad care to hear sayin’ a
lang screed o’ a prayer till ‘im. I hae but ae thing to pray aboot.’

‘And what’s that, Robert?’

One of his silences had seized him. He looked confused, and turned away.

‘Never mind,’ said Miss St. John, anxious to relieve him, and establish
a comfortable relation between them; ‘you will tell me another time.’

‘I doobt no, mem,’ answered Robert, with what most people would think an
excess of honesty.

But Miss St. John made a better conjecture as to his apparent closeness.

‘At all events,’ she said, ‘don’t mind what your grannie may think, so
long as you have no wish to make her think it. Good-night.’

Had she been indeed an angel from heaven, Robert could not have
worshipped her more. And why should he? Was she less God’s messenger
that she had beautiful arms instead of less beautiful wings?

He practised his scales till his unaccustomed fingers were stiff, then
shut the piano with reverence, and departed, carefully peeping into the
disenchanted region without the gates to see that no enemy lay in wait
for him as he passed beyond them. He closed the door gently; and in one
moment the rich lovely room and the beautiful lady were behind him, and
before him the bare stair between two white-washed walls, and the
long flagged transe that led to his silent grandmother seated in her
arm-chair, gazing into the red coals--for somehow grannie’s fire always
glowed, and never blazed--with her round-toed shoes pointed at them
from the top of her little wooden stool. He traversed the stair and the
transe, entered the parlour, and sat down to his open book as though
nothing had happened. But his grandmother saw the light in his face, and
did think he had just come from his prayers. And she blessed God that he
had put it into her heart to burn the fiddle.

The next night Robert took with him the miniature of his mother, and
showed it to Miss St. John, who saw at once that, whatever might be
his present surroundings, his mother must have been a lady. A certain
fancied resemblance in it to her own mother likewise drew her heart to
the boy. Then Robert took from his pocket the gold thimble, and said,

‘This thimmel was my mamma’s. Will ye tak it, mem, for ye ken it’s o’
nae use to me.’

Miss St. John hesitated for a moment.

‘I will keep it for you, if you like,’ she said, for she could not bear
to refuse it.

‘Na, mem; I want ye to keep it to yersel’; for I’m sure my mamma wad hae
likit you to hae ‘t better nor ony ither body.’

‘Well, I will use it sometimes for your sake. But mind, I will not take
it from you; I will only keep it for you.’

‘Weel, weel, mem; gin ye’ll keep it till I speir for ‘t, that’ll du weel
eneuch,’ answered Robert, with a smile.

He laboured diligently; and his progress corresponded to his labour.
It was more than intellect that guided him: Falconer had genius for
whatever he cared for.

Meantime the love he bore his teacher, and the influence of her beauty,
began to mould him, in his kind and degree, after her likeness, so that
he grew nice in his person and dress, and smoothed the roughness and
moderated the broadness of his speech with the amenities of the English
which she made so sweet upon her tongue. He became still more obedient
to his grandmother, and more diligent at school; gathered to himself
golden opinions without knowing it, and was gradually developing into a
rustic gentleman.

Nor did the piano absorb all his faculties. Every divine influence tends
to the rounded perfection of the whole. His love of Nature grew more
rapidly. Hitherto it was only in summer that he had felt the presence of
a power in her and yet above her: in winter, now, the sky was true and
deep, though the world was waste and sad; and the tones of the wind
that roared at night about the goddess-haunted house, and moaned in the
chimneys of the lowly dwelling that nestled against it, woke harmonies
within him which already he tried to spell out falteringly. Miss St.
John began to find that he put expressions of his own into the simple
things she gave him to play, and even dreamed a little at his own will
when alone with the passive instrument. Little did Mrs. Falconer think
into what a seventh heaven of accursed music she had driven her boy.

But not yet did he tell his friend, much as he loved and much as he
trusted her, the little he knew of his mother’s sorrows and his father’s
sins, or whose the hand that had struck him when she found him lying in
the waste factory.

For a time almost all his trouble about God went from him. Nor do I
think that this was only because he rarely thought of him at all: God
gave him of himself in Miss St. John. But words dropped now and then
from off the shelves where his old difficulties lay, and they fell like
seeds upon the heart of Miss St. John, took root, and rose in thoughts:
in the heart of a true woman the talk of a child even will take life.

One evening Robert rose from the table, not unwatched of his
grandmother, and sped swiftly and silently through the dark, as was his
custom, to enter the chamber of enchantment. Never before had his hand
failed to alight, sure as a lark on its nest, upon the brass handle of
the door that admitted him to his paradise. It missed it now, and fell
on something damp, and rough, and repellent instead. Horrible, but true
suspicion! While he was at school that day, his grandmother, moved by
what doubt or by what certainty she never revealed, had had the doorway
walled up. He felt the place all over. It was to his hands the living
tomb of his mother’s vicar on earth.

He returned to his book, pale as death, but said never a word. The next
day the stones were plastered over.

Thus the door of bliss vanished from the earth. And neither the boy nor
his grandmother ever said that it had been.



The remainder of that winter was dreary indeed. Every time Robert went
up the stair to his garret, he passed the door of a tomb. With that gray
mortar Mary St. John was walled up, like the nun he had read of in the
Marmion she had lent him. He might have rung the bell at the street
door, and been admitted into the temple of his goddess, but a certain
vague terror of his grannie, combined with equally vague qualms of
conscience for having deceived her, and the approach in the far distance
of a ghastly suspicion that violins, pianos, moonlight, and lovely women
were distasteful to the over-ruling Fate, and obnoxious to the vengeance
stored in the gray cloud of his providence, drove him from the awful
entrance of the temple of his Isis.

Nor did Miss St. John dare to make any advances to the dreadful old
lady. She would wait. For Mrs. Forsyth, she cared nothing about
the whole affair. It only gave her fresh opportunity for smiling
condescensions about ‘poor Mrs. Falconer.’ So Paradise was over and

But though the loss of Miss St. John and the piano was the last blow,
his sorrow did not rest there, but returned to brood over his bonny
lady. She was scattered to the winds. Would any of her ashes ever rise
in the corn, and moan in the ripening wind of autumn? Might not some
atoms of the bonny leddy creep into the pines on the hill, whose ‘soft
and soul-like sounds’ had taught him to play the Flowers of the Forest
on those strings which, like the nerves of an amputated limb, yet
thrilled through his being? Or might not some particle find its way by
winds and waters to sycamore forest of Italy, there creep up through the
channels of its life to some finely-rounded curve of noble tree, on
the side that ever looks sunwards, and be chosen once again by the
violin-hunter, to be wrought into a new and fame-gathering instrument?

Could it be that his bonny lady had learned her wondrous music in those
forests, from the shine of the sun, and the sighing of the winds through
the sycamores and pines? For Robert knew that the broad-leaved sycamore,
and the sharp, needle-leaved pine, had each its share in the violin.
Only as the wild innocence of human nature, uncorrupted by wrong,
untaught by suffering, is to that nature struggling out of darkness into
light, such and so different is the living wood, with its sweetest tones
of obedient impulse, answering only to the wind which bloweth where it
listeth, to that wood, chosen, separated, individualized, tortured into
strange, almost vital shape, after a law to us nearly unknown, strung
with strings from animal organizations, and put into the hands of man
to utter the feelings of a soul that has passed through a like history.
This Robert could not yet think, and had to grow able to think it by
being himself made an instrument of God’s music.

What he could think was that the glorious mystery of his bonny leddy was
gone for ever--and alas! she had no soul. Here was an eternal sorrow.
He could never meet her again. His affections, which must live for
ever, were set upon that which had passed away. But the child that weeps
because his mutilated doll will not rise from the dead, shall yet find
relief from his sorrow, a true relief, both human and divine. He shall
know that that which in the doll made him love the doll, has not passed
away. And Robert must yet be comforted for the loss of his bonny leddy.
If she had had a soul, nothing but her own self could ever satisfy him.
As she had no soul, another body might take her place, nor occasion
reproach of inconstancy.

But, in the meantime, the shears of Fate having cut the string of the
sky-soaring kite of his imagination, had left him with the stick in his
hand. And thus the rest of that winter was dreary enough. The glow was
out of his heart; the glow was out of the world. The bleak, kindless
wind was hissing through those pines that clothed the hill above
Bodyfauld, and over the dead garden, where in the summer time the rose
had looked down so lovingly on the heartsease. If he had stood once more
at gloaming in that barley-stubble, not even the wail of Flodden-field
would have found him there, but a keen sense of personal misery and
hopeless cold. Was the summer a lie?

Not so. The winter restrains, that the summer may have the needful time
to do its work well; for the winter is but the sleep of summer.

Now in the winter of his discontent, and in Nature finding no help,
Robert was driven inwards--into his garret, into his soul. There, the
door of his paradise being walled up, he began, vaguely, blindly, to
knock against other doors--sometimes against stone-walls and rocks,
taking them for doors--as travel-worn, and hence brain-sick men have
done in a desert of mountains. A door, out or in, he must find, or

It fell, too, that Miss St. John went to visit some friends who lived
in a coast town twenty miles off; and a season of heavy snow followed
by frost setting in, she was absent for six weeks, during which time,
without a single care to trouble him from without, Robert was in the
very desert of desolation. His spirits sank fearfully. He would pass his
old music-master in the street with scarce a recognition, as if the bond
of their relation had been utterly broken, had vanished in the smoke of
the martyred violin, and all their affection had gone into the dust-heap
of the past.

Dooble Sanny’s character did not improve. He took more and more whisky,
his bouts of drinking alternating as before with fits of hopeless
repentance. His work was more neglected than ever, and his wife having
no money to spend even upon necessaries, applied in desperation to her
husband’s bottle for comfort. This comfort, to do him justice, he never
grudged her; and sometimes before midday they would both be drunk--a
condition expedited by the lack of food. When they began to recover,
they would quarrel fiercely; and at last they became a nuisance to the
whole street. Little did the whisky-hating old lady know to what god she
had really offered up that violin--if the consequences of the holocaust
can be admitted as indicating the power which had accepted it.

But now began to appear in Robert the first signs of a practical outcome
of such truth as his grandmother had taught him, operating upon the
necessities of a simple and earnest nature. Reality, however lapt in
vanity, or even in falsehood, cannot lose its power. It is--the other is
not. She had taught him to look up--that there was a God. He would put
it to the test. Not that he doubted it yet: he only doubted whether
there was a hearing God. But was not that worse? It was, I think. For it
is of far more consequence what kind of a God, than whether a God or no.
Let not my reader suppose I think it possible there could be other than
a perfect God--perfect--even to the vision of his creatures, the faith
that supplies the lack of vision being yet faithful to that vision. I
speak from Robert’s point of outlook. But, indeed, whether better or
worse is no great matter, so long as he would see it or what there was.
He had no comfort, and, without reasoning about it, he felt that life
ought to have comfort--from which point he began to conclude that the
only thing left was to try whether the God in whom his grandmother
believed might not help him. If the God would but hear him, it was all
he had yet learned to require of his Godhood. And that must ever be the
first thing to require. More demands would come, and greater answers he
would find. But now--if God would but hear him! If he spoke to him but
one kind word, it would be the very soul of comfort; he could no more
be lonely. A fountain of glad imaginations gushed up in his heart at the
thought. What if, from the cold winter of his life, he had but to open
the door of his garret-room, and, kneeling by the bare bedstead, enter
into the summer of God’s presence! What if God spoke to him face to
face! He had so spoken to Moses. He sought him from no fear of the
future, but from present desolation; and if God came near to him, it
would not be with storm and tempest, but with the voice of a friend.
And surely, if there was a God at all, that is, not a power greater than
man, but a power by whose power man was, he must hear the voice of the
creature whom he had made, a voice that came crying out of the very need
which he had created. Younger people than Robert are capable of
such divine metaphysics. Hence he continued to disappear from his
grandmother’s parlour at much the same hour as before. In the cold,
desolate garret, he knelt and cried out into that which lay beyond the
thought that cried, the unknowable infinite, after the God that may be
known as surely as a little child knows his mysterious mother. And from
behind him, the pale-blue, star-crowded sky shone upon his head, through
the window that looked upwards only.

Mrs. Falconer saw that he still went away as he had been wont, and
instituted observations, the result of which was the knowledge that
he went to his own room. Her heart smote her, and she saw that the boy
looked sad and troubled. There was scarce room in her heart for increase
of love, but much for increase of kindness, and she did increase it. In
truth, he needed the smallest crumb of comfort that might drop from the
table of God’s ‘feastful friends.’

Night after night he returned to the parlour cold to the very heart.
God was not to be found, he said then. He said afterwards that even then
‘God was with him though he knew it not.’

For the very first night, the moment that he knelt and cried, ‘O Father
in heaven, hear me, and let thy face shine upon me’--like a flash of
burning fire the words shot from the door of his heart: ‘I dinna care
for him to love me, gin he doesna love ilka body;’ and no more prayer
went from the desolate boy that night, although he knelt an hour
of agony in the freezing dark. Loyal to what he had been taught, he
struggled hard to reduce his rebellious will to what he supposed to be
the will of God. It was all in vain. Ever a voice within him--surely the
voice of that God who he thought was not hearing--told him that what he
wanted was the love belonging to his human nature, his human needs--not
the preference of a court-favourite. He had a dim consciousness that
he would be a traitor to his race if he accepted a love, even from God,
given him as an exception from his kind. But he did not care to have
such a love. It was not what his heart yearned for. It was not love.
He could not love such a love. Yet he strove against it all--fought for
religion against right as he could; struggled to reduce his rebellious
feelings, to love that which was unlovely, to choose that which was
abhorrent, until nature almost gave way under the effort. Often would he
sink moaning on the floor, or stretch himself like a corpse, save that
it was face downwards, on the boards of the bedstead. Night after night
he returned to the battle, but with no permanent success. What a success
that would have been! Night after night he came pale and worn from
the conflict, found his grandmother and Shargar composed, and in the
quietness of despair sat down beside them to his Latin version.

He little thought, that every night, at the moment when he stirred to
leave the upper room, a pale-faced, red-eyed figure rose from its
seat on the top of the stair by the door, and sped with long-legged
noiselessness to resume its seat by the grandmother before he should
enter. Shargar saw that Robert was unhappy, and the nearest he could
come to the sharing of his unhappiness was to take his place outside
the door within which he had retreated. Little, too, did Shargar, on
his part, think that Robert, without knowing it, was pleading for him
inside--pleading for him and for all his race in the weeping that would
not be comforted.

Robert had not the vaguest fancy that God was with him--the spirit of
the Father groaning with the spirit of the boy in intercession that
could not be uttered. If God had come to him then and comforted him with
the assurance of individual favour--but the very supposition is a taking
of his name in vain--had Robert found comfort in the fancied assurance
that God was his friend in especial, that some private favour was
granted to his prayers, that, indeed, would have been to be left to
his own inventions, to bring forth not fruits meet for repentance, but
fruits for which repentance alone is meet. But God was with him, and was
indeed victorious in the boy when he rose from his knees, for the
last time, as he thought, saying, ‘I cannot yield--I will pray no
more.’--With a burst of bitter tears he sat down on the bedside till the
loudest of the storm was over, then dried his dull eyes, in which
the old outlook had withered away, and trod unknowingly in the silent
footsteps of Shargar, who was ever one corner in advance of him, down
to the dreary lessons and unheeded prayers; but, thank God, not to the
sleepless night, for some griefs bring sleep the sooner.

My reader must not mistake my use of the words especial and private, or
suppose that I do not believe in an individual relation between every
man and God, yes, a peculiar relation, differing from the relation
between every other man and God! But this very individuality and
peculiarity can only be founded on the broadest truths of the Godhood
and the manhood.

Mrs. Falconer, ere she went to sleep, gave thanks that the boys had been
at their prayers together. And so, in a very deep sense, they had.

And well they might have been; for Shargar was nearly as desolate as
Robert, and would certainly, had his mother claimed him now, have gone
on the tramp with her again. Wherein could this civilized life show
itself to him better than that to which he had been born? For clothing
he cared little, and he had always managed to kill his hunger or thirst,
if at longer intervals, then with greater satisfaction. Wherein is the
life of that man who merely does his eating and drinking and clothing
after a civilized fashion better than that of the gipsy or tramp? If the
civilized man is honest to boot, and gives good work in return for the
bread or turtle on which he dines, and the gipsy, on the other hand,
steals his dinner, I recognize the importance of the difference; but
if the rich man plunders the community by exorbitant profits, or
speculation with other people’s money, while the gipsy adds a fowl or
two to the produce of his tinkering; or, once again, if the gipsy is as
honest as the honest citizen, which is not so rare a case by any means
as people imagine, I return to my question: Wherein, I say, is the warm
house, the windows hung with purple, and the table covered with fine
linen, more divine than the tent or the blue sky, and the dipping in the
dish? Why should not Shargar prefer a life with the mother God had given
him to a life with Mrs. Falconer? Why should he prefer geography to
rambling, or Latin to Romany? His purposelessness and his love for
Robert alone kept him where he was.

The next evening, having given up his praying, Robert sat with his
Sallust before him. But the fount of tears began to swell, and the more
he tried to keep it down, the more it went on swelling till his throat
was filled with a lump of pain. He rose and left the room. But he could
not go near the garret. That door too was closed. He opened the house
door instead, and went out into the street. There, nothing was to be
seen but faint blue air full of moonlight, solid houses, and shining
snow. Bareheaded he wandered round the corner of the house to the window
whence first he had heard the sweet sounds of the pianoforte. The fire
within lighted up the crimson curtains, but no voice of music came
forth. The window was as dumb as the pale, faintly befogged moon
overhead, itself seeming but a skylight through which shone the sickly
light of the passionless world of the dead. Not a form was in the
street. The eyes of the houses gleamed here and there upon the snow.
He leaned his elbow on the window-sill behind which stood that sealed
fountain of lovely sound, looked up at the moon, careless of her or
of aught else in heaven or on earth, and sunk into a reverie, in which
nothing was consciously present but a stream of fog-smoke that flowed
slowly, listlessly across the face of the moon, like the ghost of a
dead cataract. All at once a wailful sound arose in his head. He did not
think for some time whether it was born in his brain, or entered it from
without. At length he recognized the Flowers of the Forest, played as
only the soutar could play it. But alas! the cry responsive to his bow
came only from the auld wife--no more from the bonny leddy! Then he
remembered that there had been a humble wedding that morning on the
opposite side of the way; in the street department of the jollity
of which Shargar had taken a small share by firing a brass cannon,
subsequently confiscated by Mrs. Falconer. But this was a strange tune
to play at a wedding! The soutar half-way to his goal of drunkenness,
had begun to repent for the fiftieth time that year, had with his
repentance mingled the memory of the bonny leddy ruthlessly tortured
to death for his wrong, and had glided from a strathspey into that
sorrowful moaning. The lament interpreted itself to his disconsolate
pupil as he had never understood it before, not even in the
stubble-field; for it now spoke his own feelings of waste misery,
forsaken loneliness. Indeed Robert learned more of music in those few
minutes of the foggy winter night and open street, shut out of all
doors, with the tones of an ancient grief and lamentation floating
through the blotted moonlight over his ever-present sorrow, than he
could have learned from many lessons even of Miss St. John. He was cold
to the heart, yet went in a little comforted.

Things had gone ill with him. Outside of Paradise, deserted of his
angel, in the frost and the snow, the voice of the despised violin once
more the source of a sad comfort! But there is no better discipline
than an occasional descent from what we count well-being, to a former
despised or less happy condition. One of the results of this taste of
damnation in Robert was, that when he was in bed that night, his heart
began to turn gently towards his old master. How much did he not owe
him, after all! Had he not acted ill and ungratefully in deserting him?
His own vessel filled to the brim with grief, had he not let the waters
of its bitterness overflow into the heart of the soutar? The wail of
that violin echoed now in Robert’s heart, not for Flodden, not for
himself, but for the debased nature that drew forth the plaint. Comrades
in misery, why should they part? What right had he to forsake an old
friend and benefactor because he himself was unhappy? He would go and
see him the very next night. And he would make friends once more with
the much ‘suffering instrument’ he had so wrongfully despised.


The following night, he left his books on the table, and the house
itself behind him, and sped like a grayhound to Dooble Sanny’s shop,
lifted the latch, and entered.

By the light of a single dip set on a chair, he saw the shoemaker seated
on his stool, one hand lying on the lap of his leathern apron, his other
hand hanging down by his side, and the fiddle on the ground at his feet.
His wife stood behind him, wiping her eyes with her blue apron. Through
all its accumulated dirt, the face of the soutar looked ghastly, and
they were eyes of despair that he lifted to the face of the youth as
he stood holding the latch in his hand. Mrs. Alexander moved towards
Robert, drew him in, and gently closed the door behind him, resuming her
station like a sculptured mourner behind her motionless husband.

‘What on airth’s the maitter wi’ ye, Sandy?’ said Robert.

‘Eh, Robert!’ returned the shoemaker, and a tone of affection tinged the
mournfulness with which he uttered the strange words--‘eh, Robert! the
Almichty will gang his ain gait, and I’m in his grup noo.’

‘He’s had a stroke,’ said his wife, without removing her apron from her

‘I hae gotten my pecks (blows),’ resumed the soutar, in a despairing
voice, which gave yet more effect to the fantastic eccentricity of
conscience which from the midst of so many grave faults chose such a one
as especially bringing the divine displeasure upon him: ‘I hae gotten my
pecks for cryin’ doon my ain auld wife to set up your bonny leddy. The
tane’s gane a’ to aise an’ stew (ashes and dust), an’ frae the tither,’
he went on, looking down on the violin at his feet as if it had been
something dead in its youth--‘an’ frae the tither I canna draw a cheep,
for my richt han’ has forgotten her cunnin’. Man, Robert, I canna lift it
frae my side.’

‘Ye maun gang to yer bed,’ said Robert, greatly concerned.

‘Ow, ay, I maun gang to my bed, and syne to the kirkyaird, and syne to
hell, I ken that weel eneuch. Robert, I lea my fiddle to you. Be guid to
the auld wife, man--better nor I hae been. An auld wife’s better nor nae

He stooped, lifted the violin with his left hand, gave it to Robert,
rose, and made for the door. They helped him up the creaking stair, got
him half-undressed, and laid him in his bed. Robert put the violin on
the top of a press within sight of the sufferer, left him groaning, and
ran for the doctor. Having seen him set out for the patient’s dwelling,
he ran home to his grandmother.

Now while Robert was absent, occasion had arisen to look for him:
unusual occurrence, a visitor had appeared, no less a person than Mr.
Innes, the school-master. Shargar had been banished in consequence
from the parlour, and had seated himself outside Robert’s room, never
doubting that Robert was inside. Presently he heard the bell ring, and
then Betty came up the stair, and said Robert was wanted. Thereupon
Shargar knocked at the door, and as there was neither voice nor hearing,
opened it, and found, with a well-known horror, that he had been
watching an empty room. He made no haste to communicate the fact.
Robert might return in a moment, and his absence from the house not be
discovered. He sat down on the bedstead and waited. But Betty came up
again, and before Shargar could prevent her, walked into the room with
her candle in her hand. In vain did Shargar intreat her to go and say
that Robert was coming. Betty would not risk the danger of discovery in
connivance, and descended to open afresh the fountain of the old lady’s
anxiety. She did not, however, betray her disquietude to Mr. Innes.

She had asked the school-master to visit her, in order that she might
consult him about Robert’s future. Mr. Innes expressed a high opinion of
the boy’s faculties and attainments, and strongly urged that he should
be sent to college. Mrs. Falconer inwardly shuddered at the temptations
to which this course would expose him; but he must leave home or be
apprentice to some trade. She would have chosen the latter, I believe,
but for religion towards the boy’s parents, who would never have thought
of other than a profession for him. While the school-master was dwelling
on the argument that he was pretty sure to gain a good bursary, and she
would thus be relieved for four years, probably for ever, from further
expense on his account, Robert entered.

‘Whaur hae ye been, Robert?’ asked Mrs. Falconer.

‘At Dooble Sanny’s,’ answered the boy.

‘What hae ye been at there?’

‘Helpin’ him till ‘s bed.’

‘What’s come ower him?’

‘A stroke.’

‘That’s what comes o’ playin’ the fiddle.’

‘I never heard o’ a stroke comin’ frae a fiddle, grannie. It comes oot
o’ a clood whiles. Gin he had hauden till ‘s fiddle, he wad hae been
playin’ her the nicht, in place o’ ‘s airm lyin’ at ‘s side like a lang
lingel (ligneul--shoemaker’s thread).’

‘Hm!’ said his grandmother, concealing her indignation at this freedom
of speech, ‘ye dinna believe in God’s judgments!’

‘Nae upo’ fiddles,’ returned Robert.

Mr. Innes sat and said nothing, with difficulty concealing his amusement
at this passage of arms.

It was but within the last few days that Robert had become capable of
speaking thus. His nature had at length arrived at the point of so far
casting off the incubus of his grandmother’s authority as to assert some
measure of freedom and act openly. His very hopelessness of a hearing
in heaven had made him indifferent to things on earth, and therefore
bolder. Thus, strange as it may seem, the blessing of God descended on
him in the despair which enabled him to speak out and free his soul from
the weight of concealment. But it was not despair alone that gave him
strength. On his way home from the shoemaker’s he had been thinking what
he could do for him; and had resolved, come of it what might, that he
would visit him every evening, and try whether he could not comfort
him a little by playing upon his violin. So that it was loving-kindness
towards man, as well as despair towards God, that gave him strength to
resolve that between him and his grandmother all should be above-board
from henceforth.

‘Nae upo’ fiddles,’ Robert had said.

‘But upo’ them ‘at plays them,’ returned his grandmother.

‘Na; nor upo’ them ‘at burns them,’ retorted Robert--impudently it must
be confessed; for every man is open to commit the fault of which he is
least capable.

But Mrs. Falconer had too much regard to her own dignity to indulge her
feelings. Possibly too her sense of justice, which Falconer always said
was stronger than that of any other woman he had ever known, as well as
some movement of her conscience interfered. She was silent, and Robert
rushed into the breach which his last discharge had effected.

‘An’ I want to tell ye, grannie, that I mean to gang an’ play the fiddle
to puir Sanny ilka nicht for the best pairt o’ an hoor; an’ excep’ ye
lock the door an’ hide the key, I will gang. The puir sinner sanna be
desertit by God an’ man baith.’

He scarcely knew what he was saying before it was out of his mouth; and
as if to cover it up, he hurried on.

‘An’ there’s mair in ‘t.--Dr. Anderson gae Shargar an’ me a sovereign
the piece. An’ Dooble Sanny s’ hae them, to haud him ohn deid o’ hunger
an’ cauld.’

‘What for didna ye tell me ‘at Dr. Anderson had gien ye sic a sicht o’
siller? It was ill-faured o’ ye--an’ him as weel.’

‘’Cause ye wad hae sent it back till ‘im; an’ Shargar and me we thocht
we wad raither keep it.’

‘Considerin’ ‘at I’m at sae muckle expense wi’ ye baith, it wadna hae
been ill-contrived to hae brocht the siller to me, an’ latten me du wi’
‘t as I thocht fit.--Gang na awa’, laddie,’ she added, as she saw Robert
about to leave the room.

‘I’ll be back in a minute, grannie,’ returned Robert.

‘He’s a fine lad, that!’ said Mr. Innes; ‘an’ guid ‘ll come o’ ‘m, and
that ‘ll be heard tell o’.’

‘Gin he had but the grace o’ God, there wadna be muckle to compleen o’,’
acquiesced his grandmother.

‘There’s time eneuch for that, Mrs. Faukner. Ye canna get auld heids
upo’ young shoothers, ye ken.’

‘’Deed for that maitter, ye may get mony an auld heid upo’ auld
shoothers, and nae a spark o’ grace in ‘t to lat it see hoo to lay
itsel’ doon i’ the grave.’

Robert returned before Mr. Innes had made up his mind as to whether the
old lady intended a personal rebuke.

‘Hae, grannie,’ he said, going up to her, and putting the two sovereigns
in her white palm.

He had found some difficulty in making Shargar give up his, else he
would have returned sooner.

‘What’s this o’ ‘t, laddie?’ said Mrs. Falconer. ‘Hoots! I’m nae gaein’
to tak yer siller. Lat the puir soutar-craturs hae ‘t. But dinna gie
them mair nor a shillin’ or twa at ance--jist to haud them in life. They
deserve nae mair. But they maunna sterve. And jist ye tell them, laddie,
at gin they spen’ ae saxpence o’ ‘t upo’ whusky, they s’ get nae mair.’

‘Ay, ay, grannie,’ responded Robert, with a glimmer of gladness in his
heart. ‘And what aboot the fiddlin’, grannie?’ he added, half playfully,
hoping for some kind concession therein as well.

But he had gone too far. She vouchsafed no reply, and her face grew
stern with offence. It was one thing to give bread to eat, another to
give music and gladness. No music but that which sprung from effectual
calling and the perseverance of the saints could be lawful in a world
that was under the wrath and curse of God. Robert waited in vain for a

‘Gang yer wa’s,’ she said at length. ‘Mr. Innes and me has some business
to mak an en’ o’, an’ we want nae assistance.’

Robert rejoined Shargar, who was still bemoaning the loss of his
sovereign. His face brightened when he saw its well-known yellow shine
once more, but darkened again as soon as Robert told him to what service
it was now devoted.

‘It’s my ain,’ he said, with a suppressed expostulatory growl.

Robert threw the coin on the floor.

‘Tak yer filthy lucre!’ he exclaimed with contempt, and turned to leave
Shargar alone in the garret with his sovereign.

‘Bob!’ Shargar almost screamed, ‘tak it, or I’ll cut my throat.’

This was his constant threat when he was thoroughly in earnest.

‘Cut it, an’ hae dune wi’ ‘t,’ said Robert cruelly.

Shargar burst out crying.

‘Len’ me yer knife, than, Bob,’ he sobbed, holding out his hand.

Robert burst into a roar of laughter, caught up the sovereign from the
floor, sped with it to the baker’s, who refused to change it because he
had no knowledge of anything representing the sum of twenty shillings
except a pound-note, succeeded in getting silver for it at the bank, and
then ran to the soutar’s.

After he left the parlour, the discussion of his fate was resumed and
finally settled between his grandmother and the school-master. The
former, in regard of the boy’s determination to befriend the shoemaker
in the matter of music as well as of money, would now have sent him
at once to the grammar-school in Old Aberdeen, to prepare for the
competition in the month of November; but the latter persuaded her that
if the boy gave his whole attention to Latin till the next summer, and
then went to the grammar-school for three months or so, he would have an
excellent chance of success. As to the violin, the school-master said,
wisely enough:

‘He that will to Cupar maun to Cupar; and gin ye kep (intercept) him
upo’ the shore-road, he’ll tak to the hill-road; an’ I s’ warran’ a braw
lad like Robert ‘ll get mony a ane in Ebberdeen ‘ll be ready eneuch to
gie him a lift wi’ the fiddle, and maybe tak him into waur company nor
the puir bed-ridden soutar; an’ wi’ you an’ me to hing on to the tail o’
‘im like, he canna gang ower the scar (cliff) afore he learns wit.’

‘Hm!’ was the old lady’s comprehensive response.

It was further arranged that Robert should be informed of their
conclusion, and so roused to effort in anticipation of the trial upon
which his course in life must depend.

Nothing could have been better for Robert than the prospect of a college
education. But his first thought at the news was not of the delights
of learning nor of the honourable course that would ensue, but of
Eric Ericson, the poverty-stricken, friendless descendant of yarls and
sea-rovers. He would see him--the only man that understood him! Not
until the passion of this thought had abated, did he begin to perceive
the other advantages before him. But so practical and thorough was he
in all his proposals and means, that ere half-an-hour was gone, he
had begun to go over his Rudiments again. He now wrote a version, or
translation from English into Latin, five times a week, and read Caeser,
Virgil, or Tacitus, every day. He gained permission from his grandmother
to remove his bed to his own garret, and there, from the bedstead at
which he no longer kneeled, he would often rise at four in the morning,
even when the snow lay a foot thick on the skylight, kindle his lamp
by means of a tinder-box and a splinter of wood dipped in sulphur,
and sitting down in the keen cold, turn half a page of Addison into
something as near Ciceronian Latin as he could effect. This would take
him from an hour and a half to two hours, when he would tumble again
into bed, blue and stiff, and sleep till it was time to get up and go to
the morning school before breakfast. His health was excellent, else it
could never have stood such treatment.


His sole relaxation almost lay in the visit he paid every evening to
the soutar and his wife. Their home was a wretched place; but
notwithstanding the poverty in which they were now sunk, Robert soon
began to see a change, like the dawning of light, an alba, as the
Italians call the dawn, in the appearance of something white here and
there about the room. Robert’s visits had set the poor woman trying to
make the place look decent. It soon became at least clean, and there
is a very real sense in which cleanliness is next to godliness. If the
people who want to do good among the poor would give up patronizing
them, would cease from trying to convert them before they have gained
the smallest personal influence with them, would visit them as those who
have just as good a right to be here as they have, it would be all the
better for both, perhaps chiefly for themselves.

For the first week or so, Alexander, unable either to work or play,
and deprived of his usual consolation of drink, was very testy and
unmanageable. If Robert, who strove to do his best, in the hope
of alleviating the poor fellow’s sufferings--chiefly those of the
mind--happened to mistake the time or to draw a false note from the
violin, Sandy would swear as if he had been the Grand Turk and Robert
one of his slaves. But Robert was too vexed with himself, when he
gave occasion to such an outburst, to mind the outburst itself.
And invariably when such had taken place, the shoemaker would ask
forgiveness before he went. Holding out his left hand, from which
nothing could efface the stains of rosin and lamp-black and heel-ball,
save the sweet cleansing of mother-earth, he would say,

‘Robert, ye’ll jist pit the sweirin’ doon wi’ the lave (rest), an’ score
‘t oot a’thegither. I’m an ill-tongued vratch, an’ I’m beginnin’ to see
‘t. But, man, ye’re jist behavin’ to me like God himsel’, an’ gin it
warna for you, I wad jist lie here roarin’ an’ greitin’ an’ damnin’ frae
mornin’ to nicht.--Ye will be in the morn’s night--willna ye?’ he would
always end by asking with some anxiety.

‘Of coorse I will,’ Robert would answer.

‘Gude nicht, than, gude nicht.--I’ll try and get a sicht o’ my sins ance
mair,’ he added, one evening. ‘Gin I could only be a wee bit sorry for
them, I reckon he wad forgie me. Dinna ye think he wad, Robert?’

‘Nae doobt, nae doobt,’ answered Robert hurriedly. ‘They a’ say ‘at gin
a man repents the richt gait, he’ll forgie him.’

He could not say more than ‘They say,’ for his own horizon was all dark,
and even in saying this much he felt like a hypocrite. A terrible waste,
heaped thick with the potsherds of hope, lay outside that door of prayer
which he had, as he thought, nailed up for ever.

‘An’ what is the richt gait?’ asked the soutar.

‘’Deed, that’s mair nor I ken, Sandy,’ answered Robert mournfully.

‘Weel, gin ye dinna ken, what’s to come o’ me?’ said Alexander

‘Ye maun speir at himsel’,’ returned Robert, ‘an’ jist tell him ‘at ye
dinna ken, but ye’ll do onything ‘at he likes.’

With these words he took his leave hurriedly, somewhat amazed to find
that he had given the soutar the strange advice to try just what he had
tried so unavailingly himself. And stranger still, he found himself,
before he reached home, praying once more in his heart--both for Dooble
Sanny and for himself. From that hour a faint hope was within him that
some day he might try again, though he dared not yet encounter such
effort and agony.

All this time he had never doubted that there was God; nor had he
ventured to say within himself that perhaps God was not good; he had
simply come to the conclusion that for him there was no approach to the
fountain of his being.

In the course of a fortnight or so, when his system had covered over its
craving after whisky, the irritability of the shoemaker almost vanished.
It might have been feared that his conscience would then likewise relax
its activity; but it was not so: it grew yet more tender. He now began
to give Robert some praise, and make allowances for his faults, and
Robert dared more in consequence, and played with more spirit. I do not
say that his style could have grown fine under such a master, but at
least he learned the difference between slovenliness and accuracy, and
between accuracy and expression, which last is all of original that the
best mere performer can claim.

One evening he was scraping away at Tullochgorum when Mr. Maccleary
walked in. Robert ceased. The minister gave him one searching glance,
and sat down by the bedside. Robert would have left the room.

‘Dinna gang, Robert,’ said Sandy, and Robert remained.

The clergyman talked very faithfully as far as the shoemaker was
concerned; though whether he was equally faithful towards God might be
questioned. He was one of those prudent men, who are afraid of dealing
out the truth freely lest it should fall on thorns or stony places.
Hence of course the good ground came in for a scanty share too.
Believing that a certain precise condition of mind was necessary for
its proper reception, he would endeavour to bring about that condition
first. He did not know that the truth makes its own nest in the ready
heart, and that the heart may be ready for it before the priest
can perceive the fact, seeing that the imposition of hands confers,
now-a-days at least, neither love nor common-sense. He therefore dwelt
upon the sins of the soutar, magnifying them and making them hideous, in
the idea that thus he magnified the law, and made it honourable, while
of the special tenderness of God to the sinner he said not a word.
Robert was offended, he scarcely knew why, with the minister’s mode
of treating his friend; and after Mr. Maccleary had taken a far
kinder leave of them than God could approve, if he resembled his
representation, Robert sat still, oppressed with darkness.

‘It’s a’ true,’ said the soutar; ‘but, man Robert, dinna ye think the
minister was some sair upo’ me?’

‘I duv think it,’ answered Robert.

‘Something beirs ‘t in upo’ me ‘at he wadna be sae sair upo’ me himsel’.
There’s something i’ the New Testament, some gait, ‘at’s pitten ‘t into
my heid; though, faith, I dinna ken whaur to luik for ‘t. Canna ye help
me oot wi’ ‘t, man?’

Robert could think of nothing but the parable of the prodigal son. Mrs.
Alexander got him the New Testament, and he read it. She sat at the foot
of the bed listening.

‘There!’ cried the soutar, triumphantly, ‘I telled ye sae! Not ae word
aboot the puir lad’s sins! It was a’ a hurry an’ a scurry to get the
new shune upo’ ‘im, an’ win at the calfie an’ the fiddlin’ an’ the
dancin’.--O Lord,’ he broke out, ‘I’m comin’ hame as fest ‘s I can; but
my sins are jist like muckle bauchles (shoes down at heel) upo’ my feet
and winna lat me. I expec’ nae ring and nae robe, but I wad fain hae a
fiddle i’ my grup when the neist prodigal comes hame; an’ gin I dinna
fiddle weel, it s’ no be my wyte.--Eh, man! but that is what I ca’ gude,
an’ a’ the minister said--honest man--‘s jist blether till ‘t.--O Lord,
I sweir gin ever I win up again, I’ll put in ilka steek (stitch) as
gin the shune war for the feet o’ the prodigal himsel’. It sall be gude
wark, O Lord. An’ I’ll never lat taste o’ whusky intil my mou’--nor
smell o’ whusky intil my nose, gin sae be ‘at I can help it--I sweir ‘t,
O Lord. An’ gin I binna raised up again--’

Here his voice trembled and ceased, and silence endured for a short
minute. Then he called his wife.

‘Come here, Bell. Gie me a kiss, my bonny lass. I hae been an ill man to

‘Na, na, Sandy. Ye hae aye been gude to me--better nor I deserved. Ye
hae been naebody’s enemy but yer ain.’

‘Haud yer tongue. Ye’re speykin’ waur blethers nor the minister, honest
man! I tell ye I hae been a damned scoon’rel to ye. I haena even hauden
my han’s aff o’ ye. And eh! ye war a bonny lass whan I merried ye. I hae
blaudit (spoiled) ye a’thegither. But gin I war up, see gin I wadna gie
ye a new goon, an’ that wad be something to make ye like yersel’ again.
I’m affrontet wi’ mysel’ ‘at I had been sic a brute o’ a man to ye.
But ye maun forgie me noo, for I do believe i’ my hert ‘at the Lord’s
forgien me. Gie me anither kiss, lass. God be praised, and mony thanks
to you! Ye micht hae run awa’ frae me lang or noo, an’ a’body wad hae
said ye did richt.--Robert, play a spring.’

Absorbed in his own thoughts, Robert began to play The Ewie wi’ the
Crookit Horn.

‘Hoots! hoots!’ cried Sandy angrily. ‘What are ye aboot? Nae mair o’
that. I hae dune wi’ that. What’s i’ the heid o’ ye, man?’

‘What’ll I play than, Sandy?’ asked Robert meekly.

‘Play The Lan’ o’ the Leal, or My Nannie’s Awa’, or something o’ that
kin’. I’ll be leal to ye noo, Bell. An’ we winna pree o’ the whusky nae
mair, lass.’

‘I canna bide the smell o’ ‘t,’ cried Bell, sobbing.

Robert struck in with The Lan’ o’ the Leal. When he had played it over
two or three times, he laid the fiddle in its place, and departed--able
just to see, by the light of the neglected candle, that Bell sat on the
bedside stroking the rosiny hand of her husband, the rhinoceros-hide of
which was yet delicate enough to let the love through to his heart.

After this the soutar never called his fiddle his auld wife.

Robert walked home with his head sunk on his breast. Dooble Sanny, the
drinking, ranting, swearing soutar, was inside the wicket-gate; and he
was left outside for all his prayers, with the arrows from the castle of
Beelzebub sticking in his back. He would have another try some day--but
not yet--he dared not yet.

Henceforth Robert had more to do in reading the New Testament than in
the fiddle to the soutar, though they never parted without an air or
two. Sandy continued hopeful and generally cheerful, with alternations
which the reading generally fixed on the right side for the night.
Robert never attempted any comments, but left him to take from the
word what nourishment he could. There was no return of strength to the
helpless arm, and his constitution was gradually yielding.

The rumour got abroad that he was a ‘changed character,’--how is not far
to seek, for Mr. Maccleary fancied himself the honoured instrument of
his conversion, whereas paralysis and the New Testament were the chief
agents, and even the violin had more share in it than the minister. For
the spirit of God lies all about the spirit of man like a mighty sea,
ready to rush in at the smallest chink in the walls that shut him out
from his own--walls which even the tone of a violin afloat on the wind
of that spirit is sometimes enough to rend from battlement to base, as
the blast of the rams’ horns rent the walls of Jericho. And now to the
day of his death, the shoemaker had need of nothing. Food, wine, and
delicacies were sent him by many who, while they considered him outside
of the kingdom, would have troubled themselves in no way about him. What
with visits of condolence and flattery, inquiries into his experience,
and long prayers by his bedside, they now did their best to send him
back among the swine. The soutar’s humour, however, aided by his violin,
was a strong antidote against these evil influences.

‘I doobt I’m gaein’ to dee, Robert,’ he said at length one evening as
the lad sat by his bedside.

‘Weel, that winna do ye nae ill,’ answered Robert, adding with just a
touch of bitterness--‘ye needna care aboot that.’

‘I do not care aboot the deein’ o’ ‘t. But I jist want to live lang
eneuch to lat the Lord ken ‘at I’m in doonricht earnest aboot it. I hae
nae chance o’ drinkin’ as lang’s I’m lyin’ here.’

‘Never ye fash yer heid aboot that. Ye can lippen (trust) that to him,
for it’s his ain business. He’ll see ‘at ye’re a’ richt. Dinna ye think
‘at he’ll lat ye aff.’

‘The Lord forbid,’ responded the soutar earnestly. ‘It maun be a’ pitten
richt. It wad be dreidfu’ to be latten aff. I wadna hae him content wi’
cobbler’s wark.--I hae ‘t,’ he resumed, after a few minutes’ pause; ‘the
Lord’s easy pleased, but ill to saitisfee. I’m sair pleased wi’ your
playin’, Robert, but it’s naething like the richt thing yet. It does me
gude to hear ye, though, for a’ that.’

The very next night he found him evidently sinking fast. Robert took the
violin, and was about to play, but the soutar stretched out his one left
hand, and took it from him, laid it across his chest and his arm over
it, for a few moments, as if he were bidding it farewell, then held it
out to Robert, saying,

‘Hae, Robert. She’s yours.--Death’s a sair divorce.--Maybe they ‘ll hae
an orra [3] fiddle whaur I’m gaein’, though. Think o’ a Rothieden soutar
playin’ afore his grace!’

Robert saw that his mind was wandering, and mingled the paltry honours
of earth with the grand simplicities of heaven. He began to play
The Land o’ the Leal. For a little while Sandy seemed to follow and
comprehend the tones, but by slow degrees the light departed from his
face. At length his jaw fell, and with a sigh, the body parted from
Dooble Sanny, and he went to God.

His wife closed mouth and eyes without a word, laid the two arms,
equally powerless now, straight by his sides, then seating herself on
the edge of the bed, said,

‘Dinna bide, Robert. It’s a’ ower noo. He’s gang hame. Gin I war only
wi’ ‘im wharever he is!’

She burst into tears, but dried her eyes a moment after, and seeing that
Robert still lingered, said,

‘Gang, Robert, an’ sen’ Mistress Downie to me. Dinna greit--there’s a
gude lad; but tak yer fiddle an’ gang. Ye can be no more use.’

Robert obeyed. With his violin in his hand, he went home; and, with his
violin still in his hand, walked into his grandmother’s parlour.

‘Hoo daur ye bring sic a thing into my hoose?’ she said, roused by the
apparent defiance of her grandson. ‘Hoo daur ye, efter what’s come an’

‘’Cause Dooble Sanny’s come and gane, grannie, and left naething but
this ahint him. And this ane’s mine, whase ever the ither micht be. His
wife’s left wi’oot a plack, an’ I s’ warran’ the gude fowk o’ Rothieden
winna mak sae muckle o’ her noo ‘at her man’s awa’; for she never was
sic a randy as he was, an’ the triumph o’ grace in her ‘s but sma’,
therefore. Sae I maun mak the best ‘at I can o’ the fiddle for her. An’
ye maunna touch this ane, grannie; for though ye may think it richt
to burn fiddles, ither fowk disna; and this has to do wi’ ither fowk,
grannie; it’s no atween you an’ me, ye ken,’ Robert went on, fearful
lest she might consider herself divinely commissioned to extirpate the
whole race of stringed instruments,--‘for I maun sell ‘t for her.’

‘Tak it oot o’ my sicht,’ said Mrs. Falconer, and said no more.

He carried the instrument up to his room, laid it on his bed, locked his
door, put the key in his pocket, and descended to the parlour.

‘He’s deid, is he?’ said his grandmother, as he re-entered.

‘Ay is he, grannie,’ answered Robert. ‘He deid a repentant man.’

‘An’ a believin’?’ asked Mrs. Falconer.

‘Weel, grannie, I canna say ‘at he believed a’ thing ‘at ever was, for a
body michtna ken a’ thing.’

‘Toots, laddie! Was ‘t savin’ faith?’

‘I dinna richtly ken what ye mean by that; but I’m thinkin’ it was
muckle the same kin’ o’ faith ‘at the prodigal had; for they baith rase
an’ gaed hame.’

‘’Deed, maybe ye’re richt, laddie,’ returned Mrs. Falconer, after a
moment’s thought. ‘We’ll houp the best.’

All the remainder of the evening she sat motionless, with her eyes
fixed on the rug before her, thinking, no doubt, of the repentance and
salvation of the fiddler, and what hope there might yet be for her own
lost son.

The next day being Saturday, Robert set out for Bodyfauld, taking the
violin with him. He went alone, for he was in no mood for Shargar’s
company. It was a fine spring day, the woods were budding, and the
fragrance of the larches floated across his way. There was a lovely
sadness in the sky, and in the motions of the air, and in the scent of
the earth--as if they all knew that fine things were at hand which never
could be so beautiful as those that had gone away. And Robert wondered
how it was that everything should look so different. Even Bodyfauld
seemed to have lost its enchantment, though his friends were as kind as
ever. Mr. Lammie went into a rage at the story of the lost violin, and
Miss Lammie cried from sympathy with Robert’s distress at the fate of
his bonny leddy. Then he came to the occasion of his visit, which was
to beg Mr. Lammie, when next he went to Aberdeen, to take the soutar’s
fiddle, and get what he could for it, to help his widow.

‘Poor Sanny!’ said Robert, ‘it never cam’ intil ‘s heid to sell her, nae
mair nor gin she had been the auld wife ‘at he ca’d her.’

Mr. Lammie undertook the commission; and the next time he saw Robert,
handed him ten pounds as the result of the negotiation. It was all
Robert could do, however, to get the poor woman to take the money. She
looked at it with repugnance, almost as if it had been the price of
blood. But Robert having succeeded in overcoming her scruples, she did
take it, and therewith provide a store of sweeties, and reels of cotton,
and tobacco, for sale in Sanny’s workshop. She certainly did not make
money by her merchandise, for her anxiety to be honest rose to the
absurd; but she contrived to live without being reduced to prey upon her
own gingerbread and rock.


Miss St. John had long since returned from her visit, but having heard
how much Robert was taken up with his dying friend, she judged it better
to leave her intended proposal of renewing her lessons alone for
the present. Meeting him, however, soon after Alexander’s death, she
introduced the subject, and Robert was enraptured at the prospect of
the re-opening of the gates of his paradise. If he did not inform his
grandmother of the fact, neither did he attempt to conceal it; but
she took no notice, thinking probably that the whole affair would be
effectually disposed of by his departure. Till that period arrived, he
had a lesson almost every evening, and Miss St. John was surprised
to find how the boy had grown since the door was built up. Robert’s
gratitude grew into a kind of worship.

The evening before his departure for Bodyfauld--whence his grandmother
had arranged that he should start for Aberdeen, in order that he might
have the company of Mr. Lammie, whom business drew thither about the
same time--as he was having his last lesson, Mrs. Forsyth left the room.
Thereupon Robert, who had been dejected all day at the thought of the
separation from Miss St. John, found his heart beating so violently that
he could hardly breathe. Probably she saw his emotion, for she put her
hand on the keys, as if to cover it by showing him how some movement was
to be better effected. He seized her hand and lifted it to his lips.
But when he found that instead of snatching it away, she yielded it, nay
gently pressed it to his face, he burst into tears, and dropped on his
knees, as if before a goddess.

‘Hush, Robert! Don’t be foolish,’ she said, quietly and tenderly. ‘Here
is my aunt coming.’

The same moment he was at the piano again, playing My Bonny Lady Ann,
so as to astonish Miss St. John, and himself as well. Then he rose, bade
her a hasty good-night, and hurried away.

A strange conflict arose in his mind at the prospect of leaving the
old place, on every house of whose streets, on every swell of whose
surrounding hills he left the clinging shadows of thought and feeling.
A faintly purpled mist arose, and enwrapped all the past, changing even
his grayest troubles into tales of fairyland, and his deepest griefs
into songs of a sad music. Then he thought of Shargar, and what was to
become of him after he was gone. The lad was paler and his eyes were
redder than ever, for he had been weeping in secret. He went to his
grandmother and begged that Shargar might accompany him to Bodyfauld.

‘He maun bide at hame an’ min’ his beuks,’ she answered; ‘for he winna
hae them that muckle langer. He maun be doin’ something for himsel’.’

So the next morning the boys parted--Shargar to school, and Robert to
Bodyfauld--Shargar left behind with his desolation, his sun gone down
in a west that was not even stormy, only gray and hopeless, and Robert
moving towards an east which reflected, like a faint prophecy, the west
behind him tinged with love, death, and music, but mingled the colours
with its own saffron of coming dawn.

When he reached Bodyfauld he marvelled to find that all its glory had
returned. He found Miss Lammie busy among the rich yellow pools in her
dairy, and went out into the garden, now in the height of its summer.
Great cabbage roses hung heavy-headed splendours towards purple-black
heartseases, and thin-filmed silvery pods of honesty; tall white lilies
mingled with the blossoms of currant bushes, and at their feet the
narcissi of old classic legend pressed their warm-hearted paleness into
the plebeian thicket of the many-striped gardener’s garters. It was a
lovely type of a commonwealth indeed, of the garden and kingdom of God.
His whole mind was flooded with a sense of sunny wealth. The farmer’s
neglected garden blossomed into higher glory in his soul. The bloom and
the richness and the use were all there; but instead of each flower was
a delicate ethereal sense or feeling about that flower. Of these how
gladly would he have gathered a posy to offer Miss St. John! but,
alas! he was no poet; or rather he had but the half of the poet’s
inheritance--he could see: he could not say. But even if he had been
full of poetic speech, he would yet have found that the half of his
posy remained ungathered, for although we have speech enough now to be
‘cousin to the deed,’ as Chaucer says it must always be, we have not
yet enough speech to cousin the tenth part of our feelings. Let him who
doubts recall one of his own vain attempts to convey that which made
the oddest of dreams entrancing in loveliness--to convey that aroma of
thought, the conscious absence of which made him a fool in his own eyes
when he spoke such silly words as alone presented themselves for the
service. I can no more describe the emotion aroused in my mind by a
gray cloud parting over a gray stone, by the smell of a sweetpea, by
the sight of one of those long upright pennons of striped grass with
the homely name, than I can tell what the glory of God is who made these
things. The man whose poetry is like nature in this, that it produces
individual, incommunicable moods and conditions of mind--a sense of
elevated, tender, marvellous, and evanescent existence, must be a poet
indeed. Every dawn of such a feeling is a light-brushed bubble rendering
visible for a moment the dark unknown sea of our being which lies beyond
the lights of our consciousness, and is the stuff and region of our
eternal growth. But think what language must become before it will tell
dreams!--before it will convey the delicate shades of fancy that come
and go in the brain of a child!--before it will let a man know wherein
one face differeth from another face in glory! I suspect, however,
that for such purposes it is rather music than articulation that is
needful--that, with a hope of these finer results, the language must
rather be turned into music than logically extended.

The next morning he awoke at early dawn, hearing the birds at his
window. He rose and went out. The air was clear and fresh as a new-made
soul. Bars of mottled cloud were bent across the eastern quarter of the
sky, which lay like a great ethereal ocean ready for the launch of the
ship of glory that was now gliding towards its edge. Everything was
waiting to conduct him across the far horizon to the south, where lay
the stored-up wonder of his coming life. The lark sang of something
greater than he could tell; the wind got up, whispered at it, and lay
down to sleep again; the sun was at hand to bathe the world in the light
and gladness alone fit to typify the radiance of Robert’s thoughts. The
clouds that formed the shore of the upper sea were already burning from
saffron into gold. A moment more and the first insupportable sting of
light would shoot from behind the edge of that low blue hill, and the
first day of his new life would be begun. He watched, and it came. The
well-spring of day, fresh and exuberant as if now first from the holy
will of the Father of Lights, gushed into the basin of the world, and
the world was more glad than tongue or pen can tell. The supernal light
alone, dawning upon the human heart, can exceed the marvel of such a

And shall life itself be less beautiful than one of its days? Do not
believe it, young brother. Men call the shadow, thrown upon the universe
where their own dusky souls come between it and the eternal sun, life,
and then mourn that it should be less bright than the hopes of their
childhood. Keep thou thy soul translucent, that thou mayest never see
its shadow; at least never abuse thyself with the philosophy which calls
that shadow life. Or, rather would I say, become thou pure in heart, and
thou shalt see God, whose vision alone is life.

Just as the sun rushed across the horizon he heard the tramp of a heavy
horse in the yard, passing from the stable to the cart that was to carry
his trunk to the turnpike road, three miles off, where the coach would
pass. Then Miss Lammie came and called him to breakfast, and there sat
the farmer in his Sunday suit of black, already busy. Robert was almost
too happy to eat; yet he had not swallowed two mouthfuls before the sun
rose unheeded, the lark sang unheeded, and the roses sparkled with the
dew that bowed yet lower their heavy heads, all unheeded. By the time
they had finished, Mr. Lammie’s gig was at the door, and they mounted
and followed the cart. Not even the recurring doubt and fear that
hollowness was at the heart of it all, for that God could not mean such
reinless gladness, prevented the truth of the present joy from sinking
deep into the lad’s heart. In his mind he saw a boat moored to a rock,
with no one on board, heaving on the waters of a rising tide, and
waiting to bear him out on the sea of the unknown. The picture arose of
itself: there was no paradise of the west in his imagination, as in that
of a boy of the sixteenth century, to authorize its appearance. It rose
again and again; the dew glittered as if the light were its own; the
sun shone as he had never seen him shine before; the very mare that sped
them along held up her head and stepped out as if she felt it the finest
of mornings. Had she also a future, poor old mare? Might there not be
a paradise somewhere? and if in the furthest star instead of next-door
America, why, so much the more might the Atlantis of the nineteenth
century surpass Manoa the golden of the seventeenth!

The gig and the cart reached the road together. One of the men who had
accompanied the cart took the gig; and they were left on the road-side
with Robert’s trunk and box--the latter a present from Miss Lammie.

Their places had been secured, and the guard knew where he had to take
them up. Long before the coach appeared, the notes of his horn, as like
the colour of his red coat as the blindest of men could imagine, came
echoing from the side of the heathery, stony hill under which they
stood, so that Robert turned wondering, as if the chariot of his desires
had been coming over the top of Drumsnaig, to carry him into a heaven
where all labour was delight. But round the corner in front came the
four-in-hand red mail instead. She pulled up gallantly; the wheelers lay
on their hind quarters, and the leaders parted theirs from the pole; the
boxes were hoisted up; Mr. Lammie climbed, and Robert scrambled to his
seat; the horn blew; the coachman spake oracularly; the horses obeyed;
and away went the gorgeous symbol of sovereignty careering through
the submissive region. Nor did Robert’s delight abate during the
journey--certainly not when he saw the blue line of the sea in the
distance, a marvel and yet a fact.

Mrs. Falconer had consulted the Misses Napier, who had many
acquaintances in Aberdeen, as to a place proper for Robert, and suitable
to her means. Upon this point Miss Letty, not without a certain touch
of design, as may appear in the course of my story, had been able to
satisfy her. In a small house of two floors and a garret, in the old
town, Mr. Lammie took leave of Robert.

It was from a garret window still, but a storm-window now that Robert
looked--eastward across fields and sand-hills, to the blue expanse of
waters--not blue like southern seas, but slaty blue, like the eyes of
northmen. It was rather dreary; the sun was shining from overhead now,
casting short shadows and much heat; the dew was gone up, and the lark
had come down; he was alone; the end of his journey was come, and was
not anything very remarkable. His landlady interrupted his gaze to know
what he would have for dinner, but he declined to use any discretion in
the matter. When she left the room he did not return to the window, but
sat down upon his box. His eye fell upon the other, a big wooden cube.
Of its contents he knew nothing. He would amuse himself by making
inquisition. It was nailed up. He borrowed a screwdriver and opened it.
At the top lay a linen bag full of oatmeal; underneath that was a thick
layer of oat-cake; underneath that two cheeses, a pound of butter, and
six pots of jam, which ought to have tasted of roses, for it came from
the old garden where the roses lived in such sweet companionship with
the currant bushes; underneath that, &c.; and underneath, &c., a box
which strangely recalled Shargar’s garret, and one of the closets
therein. With beating heart he opened it, and lo, to his marvel, and the
restoration of all the fair day, there was the violin which Dooble Sanny
had left him when he forsook her for--some one or other of the queer
instruments of Fra Angelico’s angels?

In a flutter of delight he sat down on his trunk again and played the
most mournful of tunes. Two white pigeons, which had been talking to
each other in the heat on the roof, came one on each side of the window
and peeped into the room; and out between them, as he played, Robert saw
the sea, and the blue sky above it. Is it any wonder that, instead of
turning to the lying pages and contorted sentences of the Livy which
he had already unpacked from his box, he forgot all about school, and
college, and bursary, and went on playing till his landlady brought
up his dinner, which he swallowed hastily that he might return to the
spells of his enchantress!


I could linger with gladness even over this part of my hero’s history.
If the school work was dry it was thorough. If that academy had no
sweetly shadowing trees; if it did stand within a parallelogram of low
stone walls, containing a roughly-gravelled court; if all the region
about suggested hot stones and sand--beyond still was the sea and the
sky; and that court, morning and afternoon, was filled with the shouts
of eager boys, kicking the football with mad rushings to and fro,
and sometimes with wounds and faintings--fit symbol of the equally
resultless ambition with which many of them would follow the game
of life in the years to come. Shock-headed Highland colts, and rough
Lowland steers as many of them were, out of that group, out of the
roughest of them, would emerge in time a few gentlemen--not of the type
of your trim, self-contained, clerical exquisite--but large-hearted,
courteous gentlemen, for whom a man may thank God. And if the master was
stern and hard, he was true; if the pupils feared him, they yet cared to
please him; if there might be found not a few more widely-read scholars
than he, it would be hard to find a better teacher.

Robert leaned to the collar and laboured, not greatly moved by ambition,
but much by the hope of the bursary and the college life in the near
distance. Not unfrequently he would rush into the thick of the football
game, fight like a maniac for one short burst, and then retire and look
on. He oftener regarded than mingled. He seldom joined his fellows after
school hours, for his work lay both upon his conscience and his hopes;
but if he formed no very deep friendships amongst them, at least he made
no enemies, for he was not selfish, and in virtue of the Celtic blood in
him was invariably courteous. His habits were in some things altogether
irregular. He never went out for a walk; but sometimes, looking up from
his Virgil or his Latin version, and seeing the blue expanse in the
distance breaking into white under the viewless wing of the summer wind,
he would fling down his dictionary or his pen, rush from his garret, and
fly in a straight line, like a sea-gull weary of lake and river, down
to the waste shore of the great deep. This was all that stood for the
Arabian Nights of moon-blossomed marvel; all the rest was Aberdeen days
of Latin and labour.

Slowly the hours went, and yet the dreaded, hoped-for day came quickly.
The quadrangle of the stone-crowned college grew more awful in its
silence and emptiness every time Robert passed it; and the professors’
houses looked like the sentry-boxes of the angels of learning, soon to
come forth and judge the feeble mortals who dared present a claim
to their recognition. October faded softly by, with its keen fresh
mornings, and cold memorial green-horizoned evenings, whose stars fell
like the stray blossoms of a more heavenly world, from some ghostly wind
of space that had caught them up on its awful shoreless sweep. November
came, ‘chill and drear,’ with its heartless, hopeless nothingness; but
as if to mock the poor competitors, rose, after three days of Scotch
mist, in a lovely ‘halcyon day’ of ‘St. Martin’s summer,’ through whose
long shadows anxious young faces gathered in the quadrangle, or under
the arcade, each with his Ainsworth’s Dictionary, the sole book allowed,
under his arm. But when the sacrist appeared and unlocked the public
school, and the black-gowned professors walked into the room, and the
door was left open for the candidates to follow, then indeed a great awe
fell upon the assembly, and the lads crept into their seats as if to
a trial for life before a bench of the incorruptible. They took their
places; a portion of Robertson’s History of Scotland was given them to
turn into Latin; and soon there was nothing to be heard in the assembly
but the turning of the leaves of dictionaries, and the scratching of
pens constructing the first rough copy of the Latinized theme.

It was done. Four weary hours, nearly five, one or two of which passed
like minutes, the others as if each minute had been an hour, went by,
and Robert, in a kind of desperation, after a final reading of the
Latin, gave in his paper, and left the room. When he got home, he asked
his landlady to get him some tea. Till it was ready he would take his
violin. But even the violin had grown dull, and would not speak freely.
He returned to the torture--took out his first copy, and went over it
once more. Horror of horrors! a maxie!--that is a maximus error. Mary
Queen of Scots had been left so far behind in the beginning of the
paper, that she forgot the rights of her sex in the middle of it, and
in the accusative of a future participle passive--I do not know if more
modern grammarians have a different name for the growth--had submitted
to be dum, and her rightful dam was henceforth and for ever debarred.

He rose, rushed out of the house, down through the garden, across two
fields and a wide road, across the links, and so to the moaning lip of
the sea--for it was moaning that night. From the last bulwark of the
sandhills he dropped upon the wet sands, and there he paced up and
down--how long, God only, who was watching him, knew--with the low
limitless form of the murmuring lip lying out and out into the sinking
sky like the life that lay low and hopeless before him, for the want at
most of twenty pounds a year (that was the highest bursary then) to lift
him into a region of possible well-being. Suddenly a strange phenomenon
appeared within him. The subject hitherto became the object to a new
birth of consciousness. He began to look at himself. ‘There’s a sair bit
in there,’ he said, as if his own bosom had been that of another mortal.
‘What’s to be dune wi’ ‘t? I doobt it maun bide it. Weel, the crater had
better bide it quaietly, and no cry oot. Lie doon, an’ haud yer tongue.
Soror tua haud meretrix est, ye brute!’ He burst out laughing, after a
doubtful and ululant fashion, I dare say; but he went home, took up
his auld wife, and played ‘Tullochgorum’ some fifty times over, with
extemporized variations.

The next day he had to translate a passage from Tacitus; after executing
which somewhat heartlessly, he did not open a Latin book for a whole
week. The very sight of one was disgusting to him. He wandered about the
New Town, along Union Street, and up and down the stairs that led to the
lower parts, haunted the quay, watched the vessels, learned their forms,
their parts and capacities, made friends with a certain Dutch captain
whom he heard playing the violin in his cabin, and on the whole,
notwithstanding the wretched prospect before him, contrived to spend
the week with considerable enjoyment. Nor does an occasional episode of
lounging hurt a life with any true claims to the epic form.

The day of decision at length arrived. Again the black-robed powers
assembled, and again the hoping, fearing lads--some of them not lads,
men, and mere boys--gathered to hear their fate. Name after name was
called out;--a twenty pound bursary to the first, one of seventeen to
the next, three or four of fifteen and fourteen, and so on, for about
twenty, and still no Robert Falconer. At last, lagging wearily in
the rear, he heard his name, went up listlessly, and was awarded five
pounds. He crept home, wrote to his grandmother, and awaited her reply.
It was not long in coming; for although the carrier was generally the
medium of communication, Miss Letty had contrived to send the answer by
coach. It was to the effect that his grandmother was sorry that he had
not been more successful, but that Mr. Innes thought it would be quite
worth while to try again, and he must therefore come home for another

This was mortifying enough, though not so bad as it might have been.
Robert began to pack his box. But before he had finished it he shut the
lid and sat upon it. To meet Miss St. John thus disgraced, was more than
he could bear. If he remained, he had a chance of winning prizes at the
end of the session, and that would more than repair his honour. The five
pound bursars were privileged in paying half fees; and if he could only
get some teaching, he could manage. But who would employ a bejan when
a magistrand might be had for next to nothing? Besides, who would
recommend him? The thought of Dr. Anderson flashed into his mind, and he
rushed from the house without even knowing where he lived.


At the Post-office he procured the desired information at once. Dr.
Anderson lived in Union Street, towards the western end of it.

Away went Robert to find the house. That was easy. What a grand house of
smooth granite and wide approach it was! The great door was opened by a
man-servant, who looked at the country boy from head to foot.

‘Is the doctor in?’ asked Robert.


‘I wad like to see him.’

‘Wha will I say wants him?’

‘Say the laddie he saw at Bodyfauld.’

The man left Robert in the hall, which was spread with tiger and
leopard skins, and had a bright fire burning in a large stove. Returning
presently, he led him through noiseless swing-doors covered with cloth
into a large library. Never had Robert conceived such luxury. What with
Turkey carpet, crimson curtains, easy-chairs, grandly-bound books and
morocco-covered writing-table, it seemed the very ideal of comfort. But
Robert liked the grandeur too much to be abashed by it.

‘Sit ye doon there,’ said the servant, ‘and the doctor ‘ill be wi’ ye in
ae minute.’

He was hardly out of the room before a door opened in the middle of
the books, and the doctor appeared in a long dressing-gown. He looked
inquiringly at Robert for one moment, then made two long strides like a
pair of eager compasses, holding out his hand.

‘I’m Robert Faukner,’ said the boy. ‘Ye’ll min’, maybe, doctor, ‘at ye
war verra kin’ to me ance, and tellt me lots o’ stories--at Bodyfauld,
ye ken.’

‘I’m very glad to see you, Robert,’ said Dr. Anderson. ‘Of course I
remember you perfectly; but my servant did not bring your name, and I
did not know but it might be the other boy--I forget his name.’

‘Ye mean Shargar, sir. It’s no him.’

‘I can see that,’ said the doctor, laughing, ‘although you are altered.
You have grown quite a man! I am very glad to see you,’ he repeated,
shaking hands with him again. ‘When did you come to town?’

‘I hae been at the grammer school i’ the auld toon for the last three
months,’ said Robert.

‘Three months!’ exclaimed Dr. Anderson. ‘And never came to see me till
now! That was too bad of you, Robert.’

‘Weel, ye see, sir, I didna ken better. An’ I had a heap to do, an’ a’
for naething, efter a’. But gin I had kent ‘at ye wad like to see me, I
wad hae likit weel to come to ye.’

‘I have been away most of the summer,’ said the doctor; ‘but I have been
at home for the last month. You haven’t had your dinner, have you?’

‘Weel, I dinna exackly ken what to say, sir. Ye see, I wasna that
sharp-set the day, sae I had jist a mou’fu’ o’ breid and cheese. I’m
turnin’ hungry, noo, I maun confess.’

The doctor rang the bell.

‘You must stop and dine with me.--Johnston,’ he continued, as his
servant entered, ‘tell the cook that I have a gentleman to dinner with
me to-day, and she must be liberal.’

‘Guidsake, sir!’ said Robert, ‘dinna set the woman agen me.’

He had no intention of saying anything humorous, but Dr. Anderson
laughed heartily.

‘Come into my room till dinner-time,’ he said, opening the door by which
he had entered.

To Robert’s astonishment, he found himself in a room bare as that of
the poorest cottage. A small square window, small as the window in
John Hewson’s, looked out upon a garden neatly kept, but now ‘having no
adorning but cleanliness.’ The place was just the benn end of a cottage.
The walls were whitewashed, the ceiling was of bare boards, and the
floor was sprinkled with a little white sand. The table and chairs were
of common deal, white and clean, save that the former was spotted with
ink. A greater contrast to the soft, large, richly-coloured room they
had left could hardly be imagined. A few bookshelves on the wall were
filled with old books. A fire blazed cheerily in the little grate. A bed
with snow-white coverlet stood in a recess.

‘This is the nicest room in the house, Robert,’ said the doctor. ‘When I
was a student like you--’

Robert shook his head,

‘I’m nae student yet,’ he said; but the doctor went on:

‘I had the benn end of my father’s cottage to study in, for he treated
me like a stranger-gentleman when I came home from college. The father
respected the son for whose advantage he was working like a slave from
morning till night. My heart is sometimes sore with the gratitude I feel
to him. Though he’s been dead for thirty years--would you believe it,
Robert?--well, I can’t talk more about him now. I made this room as like
my father’s benn end as I could, and I am happier here than anywhere in
the world.’

By this time Robert was perfectly at home. Before the dinner was ready
he had not only told Dr. Anderson his present difficulty, but his whole
story as far back as he could remember. The good man listened eagerly,
gazed at the boy with more and more of interest, which deepened till
his eyes glistened as he gazed, and when a ludicrous passage intervened,
welcomed the laughter as an excuse for wiping them. When dinner was
announced, he rose without a word and led the way to the dining-room.
Robert followed, and they sat down to a meal simple enough for such a
house, but which to Robert seemed a feast followed by a banquet.
For after they had done eating--on the doctor’s part a very meagre
performance--they retired to his room again, and then Robert found the
table covered with a snowy cloth, and wine and fruits arranged upon it.

It was far into the night before he rose to go home. As he passed
through a thick rain of pin-point drops, he felt that although those
cold granite houses, with glimmering dead face, stood like rows of
sepulchres, he was in reality walking through an avenue of homes. Wet
to the skin long before he reached Mrs. Fyvie’s in the auld toon, he was
notwithstanding as warm as the under side of a bird’s wing. For he had
to sit down and write to his grandmother informing her that Dr. Anderson
had employed him to copy for the printers a book of his upon the Medical
Boards of India, and that as he was going to pay him for that and other
work at a rate which would secure him ten shillings a week, it would be
a pity to lose a year for the chance of getting a bursary next winter.

The doctor did want the manuscript copied; and he knew that the only
chance of getting Mrs. Falconer’s consent to Robert’s receiving any
assistance from him, was to make some business arrangement of the sort.
He wrote to her the same night, and after mentioning the unexpected
pleasure of Robert’s visit, not only explained the advantage to himself
of the arrangement he had proposed, but set forth the greater advantage
to Robert, inasmuch as he would thus be able in some measure to keep a
hold of him. He judged that although Mrs. Falconer had no great opinion
of his religion, she would yet consider his influence rather on the side
of good than otherwise in the case of a boy else abandoned to his own

The end of it all was that his grandmother yielded, and Robert was
straightway a Bejan, or Yellow-beak.

Three days had he been clothed in the red gown of the Aberdeen student,
and had attended the Humanity and Greek class-rooms. On the evening of
the third day he was seated at his table preparing his Virgil for the
next, when he found himself growing very weary, and no wonder, for,
except the walk of a few hundred yards to and from the college, he had
had no open air for those three days. It was raining in a persistent
November fashion, and he thought of the sea, away through the dark
and the rain, tossing uneasily. Should he pay it a visit? He sat for a

     This way and that dividing the swift mind, [4]

when his eye fell on his violin. He had been so full of his new position
and its requirements, that he had not touched it since the session
opened. Now it was just what he wanted. He caught it up eagerly, and
began to play. The power of the music seized upon him, and he went on
playing, forgetful of everything else, till a string broke. It was
all too short for further use. Regardless of the rain or the depth of
darkness to be traversed before he could find a music-shop, he caught up
his cap, and went to rush from the house.

His door opened immediately on the top step of the stair, without any
landing. There was a door opposite, to which likewise a few steps led
immediately up. The stairs from the two doors united a little below. So
near were the doors that one might stride across the fork. The opposite
door was open, and in it stood Eric Ericson.


Robert sprang across the dividing chasm, clasped Ericson’s hand in both
of his, looked up into his face, and stood speechless. Ericson returned
the salute with a still kindness--tender and still. His face was like a
gray morning sky of summer from whose level cloud-fields rain will fall
before noon.

‘So it was you,’ he said, ‘playing the violin so well?’

‘I was doin’ my best,’ answered Robert. ‘But eh! Mr. Ericson, I wad hae
dune better gin I had kent ye was hearkenin’.’

‘You couldn’t do better than your best,’ returned Eric, smiling.

‘Ay, but yer best micht aye grow better, ye ken,’ persisted Robert.

‘Come into my room,’ said Ericson. ‘This is Friday night, and there is
nothing but chapel to-morrow. So we’ll have talk instead of work.’

In another moment they were seated by a tiny coal fire in a room one
side of which was the slope of the roof, with a large, low skylight in
it looking seawards. The sound of the distant waves, unheard in Robert’s
room, beat upon the drum of the skylight, through all the world of mist
that lay between it and them--dimly, vaguely--but ever and again with a
swell of gathered force, that made the distant tumult doubtful no more.

‘I am sorry I have nothing to offer you,’ said Ericson.

‘You remind me of Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,’
returned Robert, attempting to speak English like the Northerner, but
breaking down as his heart got the better of him. ‘Eh! Mr. Ericson,
gin ye kent what it is to me to see the face o’ ye, ye wadna speyk like
that. Jist lat me sit an’ leuk at ye. I want nae mair.’

A smile broke up the cold, sad, gray light of the young eagle-face.
Stern at once and gentle when in repose, its smile was as the summer of
some lovely land where neither the heat nor the sun shall smite them.
The youth laid his hand upon the boy’s head, then withdrew it hastily,
and the smile vanished like the sun behind a cloud. Robert saw it, and
as if he had been David before Saul, rose instinctively and said,

‘I’ll gang for my fiddle.--Hoots! I hae broken ane o’ the strings. We
maun bide till the morn. But I want nae fiddle mysel’ whan I hear the
great water oot there.’

‘You’re young yet, my boy, or you might hear voices in that water--!
I’ve lived in the sound of it all my days. When I can’t rest at night, I
hear a moaning and crying in the dark, and I lie and listen till I can’t
tell whether I’m a man or some God-forsaken sea in the sunless north.’

‘Sometimes I believe in naething but my fiddle,’ answered Robert.

‘Yes, yes. But when it comes into you, my boy! You won’t hear much music
in the cry of the sea after that. As long as you’ve got it at arm’s
length, it’s all very well. It’s interesting then, and you can talk to
your fiddle about it, and make poetry about it,’ said Ericson, with a
smile of self-contempt. ‘But as soon as the real earnest comes that is
all over. The sea-moan is the cry of a tortured world then. Its hollow
bed is the cup of the world’s pain, ever rolling from side to side and
dashing over its lip. Of all that might be, ought to be, nothing to be
had!--I could get music out of it once. Look here. I could trifle like
that once.’

He half rose, then dropped on his chair. But Robert’s believing eyes
justified confidence, and Ericson had never had any one to talk to. He
rose again, opened a cupboard at his side, took out some papers, threw
them on the table, and, taking his hat, walked towards the door.

‘Which of your strings is broken?’ he asked.

‘The third,’ answered Robert.

‘I will get you one,’ said Ericson; and before Robert could reply he was
down the stair. Robert heard him cough, then the door shut, and he was
gone in the rain and fog.

Bewildered, unhappy, ready to fly after him, yet irresolute, Robert
almost mechanically turned over the papers upon the little deal table.
He was soon arrested by the following verses, headed:


     Everything goes to its rest;
       The hills are asleep in the noon;
     And life is as still in its nest
       As the moon when she looks on a moon
     In the depths of a calm river’s breast
       As it steals through a midnight in June.

     The streams have forgotten the sea
       In the dream of their musical sound;
     The sunlight is thick on the tree,
       And the shadows lie warm on the ground--
     So still, you may watch them and see
       Every breath that awakens around.

     The churchyard lies still in the heat,
       With its handful of mouldering bone;
     As still as the long stalk of wheat
       In the shadow that sits by the stone,
     As still as the grass at my feet
       When I walk in the meadows alone.

     The waves are asleep on the main,
       And the ships are asleep on the wave;
     And the thoughts are as still in my brain
       As the echo that sleeps in the cave;
     All rest from their labour and pain--
       Then why should not I in my grave?

His heart ready to burst with a sorrow, admiration, and devotion, which
no criticism interfered to qualify, Robert rushed out into the darkness,
and sped, fleet-footed, along the only path which Ericson could have
taken. He could not bear to be left in the house while his friend was
out in the rain.

He was sure of joining him before he reached the new town, for he was
fleet-footed, and there was a path only on one side of the way, so that
there was no danger of passing him in the dark. As he ran he heard the
moaning of the sea. There must be a storm somewhere, away in the deep
spaces of its dark bosom, and its lips muttered of its far unrest. When
the sun rose it would be seen misty and gray, tossing about under the
one rain cloud that like a thinner ocean overspread the heavens--tossing
like an animal that would fain lie down and be at peace but could not
compose its unwieldy strength.

Suddenly Robert slackened his speed, ceased running, stood, gazed
through the darkness at a figure a few yards before him.

An old wall, bowed out with age and the weight behind it, flanked the
road in this part. Doors in this wall, with a few steps in front of them
and more behind, led up into gardens upon a slope, at the top of which
stood the houses to which they belonged. Against one of these doors the
figure stood with its head bowed upon its hands. When Robert was within
a few feet, it descended and went on.

‘Mr. Ericson!’ exclaimed Robert. ‘Ye’ll get yer deith gin ye stan’ that
gait i’ the weet.’

‘Amen,’ said Ericson, turning with a smile that glimmered wan through
the misty night. Then changing his tone, he went on: ‘What are you
after, Robert?’

‘You,’ answered Robert. ‘I cudna bide to be left my lane whan I micht be
wi’ ye a’ the time--gin ye wad lat me. Ye war oot o’ the hoose afore I
weel kent what ye was aboot. It’s no a fit nicht for ye to be oot at a’,
mair by token ‘at ye’re no the ablest to stan’ cauld an’ weet.’

‘I’ve stood a great deal of both in my time,’ returned Ericson; ‘but
come along. We’ll go and get that fiddle-string.’

‘Dinna ye think it wad be fully better to gang hame?’ Robert ventured to

‘What would be the use? I’m in no mood for Plato to-night,’ he answered,
trying hard to keep from shivering.

‘Ye hae an ill cauld upo’ ye,’ persisted Robert; ‘an’ ye maun be as weet
‘s a dishcloot.’

Ericson laughed--a strange, hollow laugh.

‘Come along,’ he said. ‘A walk will do me good. We’ll get the string,
and then you shall play to me. That will do me more good yet.’

Robert ceased opposing him, and they walked together to the new town.
Robert bought the string, and they set out, as he thought, to return.

But not yet did Ericson seem inclined to go home. He took the lead, and
they emerged upon the quay.

There were not many vessels. One of them was the Antwerp tub, already
known to Robert. He recognized her even in the dull light of the quay
lamps. Her captain being a prudent and well-to-do Dutchman, never slept
on shore; he preferred saving his money; and therefore, as the friends
passed, Robert caught sight of him walking his own deck and smoking a
long clay pipe before turning in.

‘A fine nicht, capt’n,’ said Robert.

‘It does rain,’ returned the captain. ‘Will you come on board and have
one schnapps before you turn in?’

‘I hae a frien’ wi’ me here,’ said Robert, feeling his way.

‘Let him come and be welcomed.’

Ericson making no objection, they went on board, and down into the neat
little cabin, which was all the roomier for the straightness of the
vessel’s quarter. The captain got out a square, coffin-shouldered
bottle, and having respect to the condition of their garments, neither
of the young men refused his hospitality, though Robert did feel a
little compunction at the thought of the horror it would have caused his
grandmother. Then the Dutchman got out his violin and asked Robert to
play a Scotch air. But in the middle of it his eyes fell on Ericson,
and he stopped at once. Ericson was sitting on a locker, leaning back
against the side of the vessel: his eyes were open and fixed, and he
seemed quite unconscious of what was passing. Robert fancied at first
that the hollands he had taken had gone to his head, but he saw at the
same moment, from his glass, that he had scarcely tasted the spirit. In
great alarm they tried to rouse him, and at length succeeded. He closed
his eyes, opened them again, rose up, and was going away.

‘What’s the maitter wi’ ye, Mr. Ericson?’ said Robert, in distress.

‘Nothing, nothing,’ answered Ericson, in a strange voice. ‘I fell
asleep, I believe. It was very bad manners, captain. I beg your pardon.
I believe I am overtired.’

The Dutchman was as kind as possible, and begged Ericson to stay the
night and occupy his berth. But he insisted on going home, although he
was clearly unfit for such a walk. They bade the skipper good-night,
went on shore, and set out, Ericson leaning rather heavily upon Robert’s
arm. Robert led him up Marischal Street.

The steep ascent was too much for Ericson. He stood still upon the
bridge and leaned over the wall of it. Robert stood beside, almost in
despair about getting him home.

‘Have patience with me, Robert,’ said Ericson, in his natural voice. ‘I
shall be better presently. I don’t know what’s come to me. If I had been
a Celt now, I should have said I had a touch of the second sight. But I
am, as far as I know, pure Northman.’

‘What did you see?’ asked Robert, with a strange feeling that miles of
the spirit world, if one may be allowed such a contradiction in words,
lay between him and his friend.

Ericson returned no answer. Robert feared he was going to have a
relapse; but in a moment more he lifted himself up and bent again to the

They got on pretty well till they were about the middle of the

‘I can’t,’ said Ericson feebly, and half leaned, half fell against the
wall of a house.

‘Come into this shop,’ said Robert. ‘I ken the man. He’ll lat ye sit

He managed to get him in. He was as pale as death. The bookseller got
a chair, and he sank into it. Robert was almost at his wit’s end. There
was no such thing as a cab in Aberdeen for years and years after
the date of my story. He was holding a glass of water to Ericson’s
lips,--when he heard his name, in a low earnest whisper, from the door.
There, round the door-cheek, peered the white face and red head of

‘Robert! Robert!’ said Shargar.

‘I hear ye,’ returned Robert coolly: he was too anxious to be surprised
at anything. ‘Haud yer tongue. I’ll come to ye in a minute.’

Ericson recovered a little, refused the whisky offered by the
bookseller, rose, and staggered out.

‘If I were only home!’ he said. ‘But where is home?’

‘We’ll try to mak ane,’ returned Robert. ‘Tak a haud o’ me. Lay yer
weicht upo’ me.--Gin it warna for yer len’th, I cud cairry ye weel
eneuch. Whaur’s that Shargar?’ he muttered to himself, looking up and
down the gloomy street.

But no Shargar was to be seen. Robert peered in vain into every dark
court they crept past, till at length he all but came to the conclusion
that Shargar was only ‘fantastical.’

When they had reached the hollow, and were crossing the canal-bridge
by Mount Hooly, Ericson’s strength again failed him, and again he leaned
upon the bridge. Nor had he leaned long before Robert found that he had
fainted. In desperation he began to hoist the tall form upon his back,
when he heard the quick step of a runner behind him and the words--

‘Gie ‘im to me, Robert; gie ‘im to me. I can carry ‘im fine.’

‘Haud awa’ wi’ ye,’ returned Robert; and again Shargar fell behind.

For a few hundred yards he trudged along manfully; but his strength,
more from the nature of his burden than its weight, soon gave way. He
stood still to recover. The same moment Shargar was by his side again.

‘Noo, Robert,’ he said, pleadingly.

Robert yielded, and the burden was shifted to Shargar’s back.

How they managed it they hardly knew themselves; but after many changes
they at last got Ericson home, and up to his own room. He had revived
several times, but gone off again. In one of his faints, Robert
undressed him and got him into bed. He had so little to cover him, that
Robert could not help crying with misery. He himself was well provided,
and would gladly have shared with Ericson, but that was hopeless. He
could, however, make him warm in bed. Then leaving Shargar in charge, he
sped back to the new town to Dr. Anderson. The doctor had his carriage
out at once, wrapped Robert in a plaid and brought him home with him.

Ericson came to himself, and seeing Shargar by his bedside, tried to sit
up, asking feebly,

‘Where am I?’

‘In yer ain bed, Mr. Ericson,’ answered Shargar.

‘And who are you?’ asked Ericson again, bewildered.

Shargar’s pale face no doubt looked strange under his crown of red hair.

‘Ow! I’m naebody.’

‘You must be somebody, or else my brain’s in a bad state,’ returned

‘Na, na, I’m naebody. Naething ava (at all). Robert ‘ll be hame in ae
meenit.--I’m Robert’s tyke (dog),’ concluded Shargar, with a sudden

This answer seemed to satisfy Ericson, for he closed his eyes and lay
still; nor did he speak again till Robert arrived with the doctor.

Poor food, scanty clothing, undue exertion in travelling to and from the
university, hard mental effort against weakness, disquietude of mind,
all borne with an endurance unconscious of itself, had reduced Eric
Ericson to his present condition. Strength had given way at last, and he
was now lying in the low border wash of a dead sea of fever.

The last of an ancient race of poor men, he had no relative but a second
cousin, and no means except the little he advanced him, chiefly in
kind, to be paid for when Eric had a profession. This cousin was in the
herring trade, and the chief assistance he gave him was to send him by
sea, from Wick to Aberdeen, a small barrel of his fish every session.
One herring, with two or three potatoes, formed his dinner as long as
the barrel lasted. But at Aberdeen or elsewhere no one carried his head
more erect than Eric Ericson--not from pride, but from simplicity and
inborn dignity; and there was not a man during his curriculum more
respected than he. An excellent classical scholar--as scholarship went
in those days--he was almost the only man in the university who made
his knowledge of Latin serve towards an acquaintance with the Romance
languages. He had gained a small bursary, and gave lessons when he

But having no level channel for the outgoing of the waters of one of
the tenderest hearts that ever lived, those waters had sought to break
a passage upwards. Herein his experience corresponded in a considerable
degree to that of Robert; only Eric’s more fastidious and more
instructed nature bred a thousand difficulties which he would meet
one by one, whereas Robert, less delicate and more robust, would break
through all the oppositions of theological science falsely so called,
and take the kingdom of heaven by force. But indeed the ruins of the
ever falling temple of theology had accumulated far more heavily over
Robert’s well of life, than over that of Ericson: the obstructions to
his faith were those that rolled from the disintegrating mountains of
humanity, rather than the rubbish heaped upon it by the careless masons
who take the quarry whence they hew the stones for the temple--built
without hands eternal in the heavens.

When Dr. Anderson entered, Ericson opened his eyes wide. The doctor
approached, and taking his hand began to feel his pulse. Then first
Ericson comprehended his visit.

‘I can’t,’ he said, withdrawing his hand. ‘I am not so ill as to need a

‘My dear sir,’ said Dr. Anderson, courteously, ‘there will be no
occasion to put you to any pain.’

‘Sir,’ said Eric, ‘I have no money.’

The doctor laughed.

‘And I have more than I know how to make a good use of.’

‘I would rather be left alone,’ persisted Ericson, turning his face

‘Now, my dear sir,’ said the doctor, with gentle decision, ‘that is very
wrong. With what face can you offer a kindness when your turn comes, if
you won’t accept one yourself?’

Ericson held out his wrist. Dr. Anderson questioned, prescribed, and,
having given directions, went home, to call again in the morning.

And now Robert was somewhat in the position of the old woman who ‘had
so many children she didn’t know what to do.’ Dr. Anderson ordered
nourishment for Ericson, and here was Shargar upon his hands as well!
Shargar and he could share, to be sure, and exist: but for Ericson--?

Not a word did Robert exchange with Shargar till he had gone to the
druggist’s and got the medicine for Ericson, who, after taking it, fell
into a troubled sleep. Then, leaving the two doors open, Robert joined
Shargar in his own room. There he made up a good fire, and they sat and
dried themselves.

‘Noo, Shargar,’ said Robert at length, ‘hoo cam ye here?’

His question was too like one of his grandmother’s to be pleasant to

‘Dinna speyk to me that gait, Robert, or I’ll cut my throat,’ he

‘Hoots! I maun ken a’ aboot it,’ insisted Robert, but with much modified
and partly convicted tone.

‘Weel, I never said I wadna tell ye a’ aboot it. The fac’ ‘s this--an’
I’m no’ up to the leein’ as I used to be, Robert: I hae tried it ower
an’ ower, but a lee comes rouch throw my thrapple (windpipe) noo. Faith!
I cud hae leed ance wi’ onybody, barrin’ the de’il. I winna lee. I’m nae
leein’. The fac’s jist this: I cudna bide ahin’ ye ony langer.’

‘But what the muckle lang-tailed deevil! am I to do wi’ ye?’ returned
Robert, in real perplexity, though only pretended displeasure.

‘Gie me something to ate, an’ I’ll tell ye what to do wi’ me,’ answered
Shargar. ‘I dinna care a scart (scratch) what it is.’

Robert rang the bell and ordered some porridge, and while it was
preparing, Shargar told his story--how having heard a rumour of
apprenticeship to a tailor, he had the same night dropped from the
gable window to the ground, and with three halfpence in his pocket had
wandered and begged his way to Aberdeen, arriving with one halfpenny

‘But what am I to do wi’ ye?’ said Robert once more, in as much
perplexity as ever.

‘Bide till I hae tellt ye, as I said I wad,’ answered Shargar. ‘Dinna ye
think I’m the haveless (careless and therefore helpless) crater I used
to be. I hae been in Aberdeen three days! Ay, an’ I hae seen you ilka
day in yer reid goon, an’ richt braw it is. Luik ye here!’

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out what amounted to two or
three shillings, chiefly in coppers, which he exposed with triumph on
the table.

‘Whaur got ye a’ that siller, man?’ asked Robert.

‘Here and there, I kenna whaur; but I hae gien the weicht o’ ‘t for ‘t
a’ the same--rinnin’ here an’ rinnin’ there, cairryin’ boxes till an’
frae the smacks, an’ doin’ a’thing whether they bade me or no. Yesterday
mornin’ I got thrippence by hingin’ aboot the Royal afore the coches
startit. I luikit a’ up and doon the street till I saw somebody hine awa
wi’ a porkmanty. Till ‘im I ran, an’ he was an auld man, an’ maist at
the last gasp wi’ the weicht o’ ‘t, an’ gae me ‘t to carry. An’ wha duv
ye think gae me a shillin’ the verra first nicht?--Wha but my brither

‘Lord Rothie?’

‘Ay, faith. I kent him weel eneuch, but little he kent me. There he was
upo’ Black Geordie. He’s turnin’ auld noo.’

‘Yer brither?’

‘Na. He’s young eneuch for ony mischeef; but Black Geordie. What on
earth gars him gang stravaguin’ aboot upo’ that deevil? I doobt he’s a
kelpie, or a hell-horse, or something no canny o’ that kin’; for faith!
brither Sandy’s no ower canny himsel’, I’m thinkin’. But Geordie--the
aulder the waur set (inclined). An’ sae I’m thinkin’ wi’ his maister.’

‘Did ye iver see yer father, Shargar?’

‘Na. Nor I dinna want to see ‘im. I’m upo’ my mither’s side. But that’s
naething to the pint. A’ that I want o’ you ‘s to lat me come hame at
nicht, an’ lie upo’ the flure here. I sweir I’ll lie i’ the street gin
ye dinna lat me. I’ll sleep as soun’ ‘s Peter MacInnes whan Maccleary’s
preachin’. An’ I winna ate muckle--I hae a dreidfu’ pooer o’ aitin’--an’
a’ ‘at I gether I’ll fess hame to you, to du wi’ ‘t as ye like.--Man, I
cairriet a heap o’ things the day till the skipper o’ that boat ‘at
ye gaed intil wi’ Maister Ericson the nicht. He’s a fine chiel’ that

Robert was astonished at the change that had passed upon Shargar.
His departure had cast him upon his own resources, and allowed the
individuality repressed by every event of his history, even by his
worship of Robert, to begin to develop itself. Miserable for a few
weeks, he had revived in the fancy that to work hard at school would
give him some chance of rejoining Robert. Thence, too, he had watched to
please Mrs. Falconer, and had indeed begun to buy golden opinions from
all sorts of people. He had a hope in prospect. But into the midst fell
the whisper of the apprenticeship like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky.
He fled at once.

‘Weel, ye can hae my bed the nicht,’ said Robert, ‘for I maun sit up wi’
Mr. Ericson.’

‘’Deed I’ll hae naething o’ the kin’. I’ll sleep upo’ the flure, or else
upo’ the door-stane. Man, I’m no clean eneuch efter what I’ve come throu
sin’ I drappit frae the window-sill i’ the ga’le-room. But jist len’ me
yer plaid, an’ I’ll sleep upo’ the rug here as gin I war i’ Paradees.
An’ faith, sae I am, Robert. Ye maun gang to yer bed some time the nicht
forby (besides), or ye winna be fit for yer wark the morn. Ye can jist
gie me a kick, an’ I’ll be up afore ye can gie me anither.’

Their supper arrived from below, and, each on one side of the fire,
they ate the porridge, conversing all the while about old times--for
the youngest life has its old times, its golden age--and old
adventures,--Dooble Sanny, Betty, &c., &c. There were but two subjects
which Robert avoided--Miss St. John and the Bonnie Leddy. Shargar was at
length deposited upon the little bit of hearthrug which adorned rather
than enriched the room, with Robert’s plaid of shepherd tartan around
him, and an Ainsworth’s dictionary under his head for a pillow.

‘Man, I fin’ mysel’ jist like a muckle colley (sheep-dog),’ he said.
‘Whan I close my een, I’m no sure ‘at I’m no i’ the inside o’ yer auld
luckie-daiddie’s kilt. The Lord preserve me frae ever sic a fricht again
as yer grannie an’ Betty gae me the nicht they fand me in ‘t! I dinna
believe it’s in natur’ to hae sic a fricht twise in ae lifetime. Sae
I’ll fa’ asleep at ance, an’ say nae mair--but as muckle o’ my prayers
as I can min’ upo’ noo ‘at grannie’s no at my lug.’

‘Haud yer impidence, an’ yer tongue thegither,’ said Robert. ‘Min’ ‘at
my grannie’s been the best frien’ ye ever had.’

‘’Cep’ my ain mither,’ returned Shargar, with a sleepy doggedness in his

During their conference, Ericson had been slumbering. Robert had visited
him from time to time, but he had not awaked. As soon as Shargar was
disposed of, he took his candle and sat down by him. He grew more
uneasy. Robert guessed that the candle was the cause, and put it out.
Ericson was quieter. So Robert sat in the dark.

But the rain had now ceased. Some upper wind had swept the clouds from
the sky, and the whole world of stars was radiant over the earth and its

‘O God, where art thou?’ he said in his heart, and went to his own room
to look out.

There was no curtain, and the blind had not been drawn down, therefore
the earth looked in at the storm-window. The sea neither glimmered nor
shone. It lay across the horizon like a low level cloud, out of which
came a moaning. Was this moaning all of the earth, or was there trouble
in the starry places too? thought Robert, as if already he had begun to
suspect the truth from afar--that save in the secret place of the Most
High, and in the heart that is hid with the Son of Man in the bosom of
the Father, there is trouble--a sacred unrest--everywhere--the moaning
of a tide setting homewards, even towards the bosom of that Father.


Robert kept himself thoroughly awake the whole night, and it was well
that he had not to attend classes in the morning. As the gray of the
world’s reviving consciousness melted in at the window, the things
around and within him looked and felt ghastly. Nothing is liker the gray
dawn than the soul of one who has been watching by a sick bed all the
long hours of the dark, except, indeed, it be the first glimmerings of
truth on the mind lost in the dark of a godless life.

Ericson had waked often, and Robert had administered his medicine
carefully. But he had been mostly between sleeping and waking, and
had murmured strange words, whose passing shadows rather than glimmers
roused the imagination of the youth as with messages from regions

As the light came he found his senses going, and went to his own room
again to get a book that he might keep himself awake by reading at the
window. To his surprise Shargar was gone, and for a moment he doubted
whether he had not been dreaming all that had passed between them the
night before. His plaid was folded up and laid upon a chair, as if it
had been there all night, and his Ainsworth was on the table. But beside
it was the money Shargar had drawn from his pockets.

About nine o’clock Dr. Anderson arrived, found Ericson not so much worse
as he had expected, comforted Robert, and told him he must go to bed.

‘But I cannot leave Mr. Ericson,’ said Robert.

‘Let your friend--what’s his odd name?--watch him during the day.’

‘Shargar, you mean, sir. But that’s his nickname. His rale name they say
his mither says, is George Moray--wi’ an o an’ no a u-r.--Do you see,
sir?’ concluded Robert significantly.

‘No, I don’t,’ answered the doctor.

‘They say he’s a son o’ the auld Markis’s, that’s it. His mither’s a
randy wife ‘at gangs aboot the country--a gipsy they say. There’s nae
doobt aboot her. An’ by a’ accoonts the father’s likly eneuch.’

‘And how on earth did you come to have such a questionable companion?’

‘Shargar’s as fine a crater as ever God made,’ said Robert warmly.
‘Ye’ll alloo ‘at God made him, doctor; though his father an’ mither
thochtna muckle aboot him or God either whan they got him atween them?
An’ Shargar couldna help it. It micht ha’ been you or me for that
maitter, doctor.’

‘I beg your pardon, Robert,’ said Dr. Anderson quietly, although
delighted with the fervour of his young kinsman: ‘I only wanted to know
how he came to be your companion.’

‘I beg your pardon, doctor--but I thoucht ye was some scunnert at
it; an’ I canna bide Shargar to be luikit doon upo’. Luik here,’ he
continued, going to his box, and bringing out Shargar’s little heap of
coppers, in which two sixpences obscurely shone, ‘he brocht a’ that hame
last nicht, an’ syne sleepit upo’ the rug i’ my room there. We’ll want
a’ ‘at he can mak an’ me too afore we get Mr. Ericson up again.’

‘But ye haena tellt me yet,’ said the doctor, so pleased with the lad
that he relapsed into the dialect of his youth, ‘hoo ye cam to forgather
wi’ ‘im.’

‘I tellt ye a’ aboot it, doctor. It was a’ my grannie’s doin’, God bless
her--for weel he may, an’ muckle she needs ‘t.’

‘Oh! yes; I remember now all your grandmother’s part in the story,’
returned the doctor. ‘But I still want to know how he came here.’

‘She was gaein’ to mak a taylor o’ ‘m: an’ he jist ran awa’, an’ cam to

‘It was too bad of him that--after all she had done for him.’

‘Ow, ‘deed no, doctor. Even whan ye boucht a man an’ paid for
him, accordin’ to the Jewish law, ye cudna mak a slave o’ ‘im for
a’thegither, ohn him seekin’ ‘t himsel’.--Eh! gin she could only get my
father hame!’ sighed Robert, after a pause.

‘What should she want him home for?’ asked Dr. Anderson, still making

‘I didna mean hame to Rothieden. I believe she cud bide never seein’ ‘im
again, gin only he wasna i’ the ill place. She has awfu’ notions aboot
burnin’ ill sowls for ever an’ ever. But it’s no hersel’. It’s the wyte
o’ the ministers. Doctor, I do believe she wad gang an’ be brunt hersel’
wi’ a great thanksgivin’, gin it wad lat ony puir crater oot o’ ‘t--no
to say my father. An’ I sair misdoobt gin mony o’ them ‘at pat it in her
heid wad do as muckle. I’m some feared they’re like Paul afore he was
convertit: he wadna lift a stane himsel’, but he likit weel to stan’ oot
by an’ luik on.’

A deep sigh, almost a groan, from the bed, reminded them that they were
talking too much and too loud for a sick-room. It was followed by the
words, muttered, but articulate,

‘What’s the good when you don’t know whether there’s a God at all?’

‘’Deed, that’s verra true, Mr. Ericson,’ returned Robert. ‘I wish ye wad
fin’ oot an’ tell me. I wad be blithe to hear what ye had to say anent
it--gin it was ay, ye ken.’

Ericson went on murmuring, but inarticulately now.

‘This won’t do at all, Robert, my boy,’ said Dr. Anderson. ‘You must not
talk about such things with him, or indeed about anything. You must keep
him as quiet as ever you can.’

‘I thocht he was comin’ till himsel’,’ returned Robert. ‘But I will tak
care, I assure ye, doctor. Only I’m feared I may fa’ asleep the nicht,
for I was dooms sleepy this mornin’.’

‘I will send Johnston as soon as I get home, and you must go to bed when
he comes.’

‘’Deed, doctor, that winna do at a’. It wad be ower mony strange faces
a’thegither. We’ll get Mistress Fyvie to luik till ‘im the day, an’
Shargar canna work the morn, bein’ Sunday. An’ I’ll gang to my bed for
fear o’ doin’ waur, though I doobt I winna sleep i’ the daylicht.’

Dr. Anderson was satisfied, and went home--cogitating much. This boy,
this cousin of his, made a vortex of good about him into which whoever
came near it was drawn. He seemed at the same time quite unaware of
anything worthy in his conduct. The good he did sprung from some inward
necessity, with just enough in it of the salt of choice to keep it from
losing its savour. To these cogitations of Dr. Anderson, I add that
there was no conscious exercise of religion in it--for there his mind
was all at sea. Of course I believe notwithstanding that religion had
much, I ought to say everything, to do with it. Robert had not yet found
in God a reason for being true to his fellows; but, if God was leading
him to be the man he became, how could any good results of this leading
be other than religion? All good is of God. Robert began where he could.
The first table was too high for him; he began with the second. If a
man love his brother whom he hath seen, the love of God whom he hath
not seen, is not very far off. These results in Robert were the first
outcome of divine facts and influences--they were the buds of the fruit
hereafter to be gathered in perfect devotion. God be praised by those
who know religion to be the truth of humanity--its own truth that sets
it free--not binds, and lops, and mutilates it! who see God to be
the father of every human soul--the ideal Father, not an inventor of
schemes, or the upholder of a court etiquette for whose use he has
chosen to desecrate the name of justice!

To return to Dr. Anderson. I have had little opportunity of knowing his
history in India. He returned from it half-way down the hill of life,
sad, gentle, kind, and rich. Whence his sadness came, we need not
inquire. Some woman out in that fervid land may have darkened his
story--darkened it wronglessly, it may be, with coldness, or only with
death. But to return home without wife to accompany him or child to
meet him,--to sit by his riches like a man over a fire of straws in a
Siberian frost; to know that old faces were gone and old hearts changed,
that the pattern of things in the heavens had melted away from the face
of the earth, that the chill evenings of autumn were settling down
into longer and longer nights, and that no hope lay any more beyond the
mountains--surely this was enough to make a gentle-minded man sad, even
if the individual sorrows of his history had gathered into gold and
purple in the west. I say west advisedly. For we are journeying, like
our globe, ever towards the east. Death and the west are behind us--ever
behind us, and settling into the unchangeable.

It was natural that he should be interested in the fine promise of
Robert, in whom he saw revived the hopes of his own youth, but in a
nature at once more robust and more ideal. Where the doctor was refined,
Robert was strong; where the doctor was firm with a firmness he had
cultivated, Robert was imperious with an imperiousness time would
mellow; where the doctor was generous and careful at once, Robert
gave his mite and forgot it. He was rugged in the simplicity of his
truthfulness, and his speech bewrayed him as altogether of the people;
but the doctor knew the hole of the pit whence he had been himself
digged. All that would fall away as the spiky shell from the polished
chestnut, and be reabsorbed in the growth of the grand cone-flowering
tree, to stand up in the sun and wind of the years a very altar of
incense. It is no wonder, I repeat, that he loved the boy, and longed to
further his plans. But he was too wise to overwhelm him with a cataract
of fortune instead of blessing him with the merciful dew of progress.

‘The fellow will bring me in for no end of expense,’ he said, smiling to
himself, as he drove home in his chariot. ‘The less he means it the more
unconscionable he will be. There’s that Ericson--but that isn’t
worth thinking of. I must do something for that queer protégé of his,
though--that Shargar. The fellow is as good as a dog, and that’s saying
not a little for him. I wonder if he can learn--or if he takes after his
father the marquis, who never could spell. Well, it is a comfort to have
something to do worth doing. I did think of endowing a hospital; but I’m
not sure that it isn’t better to endow a good man than a hospital. I’ll
think about it. I won’t say anything about Shargar either, till I see
how he goes on. I might give him a job, though, now and then. But where
to fall in with him--prowling about after jobs?’

He threw himself back in his seat, and laughed with a delight he had
rarely felt. He was a providence watching over the boys, who expected
nothing of him beyond advice for Ericson! Might there not be a
Providence that equally transcended the vision of men, shaping to nobler
ends the blocked-out designs of their rough-hewn marbles?

His thoughts wandered back to his friend the Brahmin, who died longing
for that absorption into deity which had been the dream of his life:
might not the Brahmin find the grand idea shaped to yet finer issues
than his aspiration had dared contemplate?--might he not inherit in
the purification of his will such an absorption as should intensify his


Ericson lay for several weeks, during which time Robert and Shargar were
his only nurses. They contrived, by abridging both rest and labour,
to give him constant attendance. Shargar went to bed early and got up
early, so as to let Robert have a few hours’ sleep before his classes
began. Robert again slept in the evening, after Shargar came home, and
made up for the time by reading while he sat by his friend. Mrs. Fyvie’s
attendance was in requisition only for the hours when he had to be at
lectures. By the greatest economy of means, consisting of what Shargar
brought in by jobbing about the quay and the coach-offices, and what
Robert had from Dr. Anderson for copying his manuscript, they contrived
to procure for Ericson all that he wanted. The shopping of the two boys,
in their utter ignorance of such delicacies as the doctor told them to
get for him, the blunders they made as to the shops at which they were
to be bought, and the consultations they held, especially about the
preparing of the prescribed nutriment, afforded them many an amusing
retrospect in after years. For the house was so full of lodgers, that
Robert begged Mrs. Fyvie to give herself no trouble in the matter. Her
conscience, however, was uneasy, and she spoke to Dr. Anderson; but he
assured her that she might trust the boys. What cooking they could not
manage, she undertook cheerfully, and refused to add anything to the
rent on Shargar’s account.

Dr. Anderson watched everything, the two boys as much as his patient. He
allowed them to work on, sending only the wine that was necessary from
his own cellar. The moment the supplies should begin to fail, or
the boys to look troubled, he was ready to do more. About Robert’s
perseverance he had no doubt: Shargar’s faithfulness he wanted to prove.

Robert wrote to his grandmother to tell her that Shargar was with him,
working hard. Her reply was somewhat cold and offended, but was inclosed
in a parcel containing all Shargar’s garments, and ended with the
assurance that as long as he did well she was ready to do what she

Few English readers will like Mrs. Falconer; but her grandchild
considered her one of the noblest women ever God made; and I, from his
account, am of the same mind. Her care was fixed

     To fill her odorous lamp with deeds of light,
     And hope that reaps not shame.

And if one must choose between the how and the what, let me have the
what, come of the how what may. I know of a man so sensitive, that he
shuts his ears to his sister’s griefs, because it spoils his digestion
to think of them.

One evening Robert was sitting by the table in Ericson’s room. Dr.
Anderson had not called that day, and he did not expect to see him now,
for he had never come so late. He was quite at his ease, therefore, and
busy with two things at once, when the doctor opened the door and walked
in. I think it is possible that he came up quietly with some design
of surprising him. He found him with a stocking on one hand, a darning
needle in the other, and a Greek book open before him. Taking no
apparent notice of him, he walked up to the bedside, and Robert put
away his work. After his interview with his patient was over, the doctor
signed to him to follow him to the next room. There Shargar lay on the
rug already snoring. It was a cold night in December, but he lay in his
under-clothing, with a single blanket round him.

‘Good training for a soldier,’ said the doctor; ‘and so was your work a
minute ago, Robert.’

‘Ay,’ answered Robert, colouring a little; ‘I was readin’ a bit o’ the

The doctor smiled a far-off sly smile.

‘I think it was rather the Katabasis, if one might venture to judge from
the direction of your labours.’

‘Weel,’ answered Robert, ‘what wad ye hae me do? Wad ye hae me lat Mr.
Ericson gang wi’ holes i’ the heels o’ ‘s hose, whan I can mak them a’
snod, an’ learn my Greek at the same time? Hoots, doctor! dinna lauch at
me. I was doin’ nae ill. A body may please themsel’s--whiles surely, ohn

‘But it’s such waste of time! Why don’t you buy him new ones?’

‘’Deed that’s easier said than dune. I hae eneuch ado wi’ my siller as
‘tis; an’ gin it warna for you, doctor, I do not ken what wad come o’
‘s; for ye see I hae no richt to come upo’ my grannie for ither fowk.
There wad be nae en’ to that.’

‘But I could lend you the money to buy him some stockings.’

‘An’ whan wad I be able to pay ye, do ye think, doctor? In anither
warl’ maybe, whaur the currency micht be sae different there wad be no
possibility o’ reckonin’ the rate o’ exchange. Na, na.’

‘But I will give you the money if you like.’

‘Na, na. You hae dune eneuch already, an’ mony thanks. Siller’s no sae
easy come by to be wastit, as lang’s a darn ‘ll do. Forbye, gin ye began
wi’ his claes, ye wadna ken whaur to haud; for it wad jist be the new
claith upo’ the auld garment: ye micht as weel new cleed him at ance.’

‘And why not if I choose, Mr. Falconer?’

‘Speir ye that at him, an’ see what ye’ll get--a luik ‘at wad fess a
corbie (carrion crow) frae the lift (sky). I wadna hae ye try that. Some
fowk’s poverty maun be han’let jist like a sair place, doctor. He
canna weel compleen o’ a bit darnin’.--He canna tak that ill,’ repeated
Robert, in a tone that showed he yet felt some anxiety on the subject;
‘but new anes! I wadna like to be by whan he fand that oot. Maybe he
micht tak them frae a wuman; but frae a man body!--na, na; I maun jist
darn awa’. But I’ll mak them dacent eneuch afore I hae dune wi’ them. A
fiddler has fingers.’

The doctor smiled a pleased smile; but when he got into his carriage,
again he laughed heartily.

The evening deepened into night. Robert thought Ericson was asleep. But
he spoke.

‘Who is that at the street door?’ he said.

They were at the top of the house, and there was no window to the
street. But Ericson’s senses were preternaturally acute, as is often the
case in such illnesses.

‘I dinna hear onybody,’ answered Robert.

‘There was somebody,’ returned Ericson.

From that moment he began to be restless, and was more feverish than
usual throughout the night.

Up to this time he had spoken little, was depressed with a suffering to
which he could give no name--not pain, he said--but such that he could
rouse no mental effort to meet it: his endurance was passive altogether.
This night his brain was more affected. He did not rave, but often
wandered; never spoke nonsense, but many words that would have seemed
nonsense to ordinary people: to Robert they seemed inspired. His
imagination, which was greater than any other of his fine faculties, was
so roused that he talked in verse--probably verse composed before and
now recalled. He would even pray sometimes in measured lines, and go
on murmuring petitions, till the words of the murmur became
undistinguishable, and he fell asleep. But even in his sleep he would
speak; and Robert would listen in awe; for such words, falling from
such a man, were to him as dim breaks of coloured light from the rainbow
walls of the heavenly city.

‘If God were thinking me,’ said Ericson, ‘ah! But if he be only dreaming
me, I shall go mad.’

Ericson’s outside was like his own northern clime--dark, gentle, and
clear, with gray-blue seas, and a sun that seems to shine out of the
past, and know nothing of the future. But within glowed a volcanic
angel of aspiration, fluttering his half-grown wings, and ever reaching
towards the heights whence all things are visible, and where all
passions are safe because true, that is divine. Iceland herself has her

Robert listened with keenest ear. A mist of great meaning hung about the
words his friend had spoken. He might speak more. For some minutes
he listened in vain, and was turning at last towards his book in
hopelessness, when he did speak yet again: Robert’s ear soon detected
the rhythmic motion of his speech.

     ‘Come in the glory of thine excellence;
     Rive the dense gloom with wedges of clear light;
     And let the shimmer of thy chariot wheels
     Burn through the cracks of night.--So slowly, Lord,
     To lift myself to thee with hands of toil,
     Climbing the slippery cliff of unheard prayer!
     Lift up a hand among my idle days--
     One beckoning finger.  I will cast aside
     The clogs of earthly circumstance, and run
     Up the broad highways where the countless worlds
     Sit ripening in the summer of thy love.’

Breathless for fear of losing a word, Robert yet remembered that he had
seen something like these words in the papers Ericson had given him to
read on the night when his illness began. When he had fallen asleep and
silent, he searched and found the poem from which I give the following
extracts. He had not looked at the papers since that night.


          O Lord, my God, how long
     Shall my poor heart pant for a boundless joy?
     How long, O mighty Spirit, shall I hear
     The murmur of Truth’s crystal waters slide
     From the deep caverns of their endless being,
     But my lips taste not, and the grosser air
     Choke each pure inspiration of thy will?

          I would be a wind,
     Whose smallest atom is a viewless wing,
     All busy with the pulsing life that throbs
     To do thy bidding; yea, or the meanest thing
     That has relation to a changeless truth
     Could I but be instinct with thee--each thought
     The lightning of a pure intelligence,
     And every act as the loud thunder-clap
     Of currents warring for a vacuum.

       Lord, clothe me with thy truth as with a robe.
     Purge me with sorrow.  I will bend my head,
     And let the nations of thy waves pass over,
     Bathing me in thy consecrated strength.
     And let the many-voiced and silver winds
     Pass through my frame with their clear influence.
     O save me--I am blind; lo! thwarting shapes
     Wall up the void before, and thrusting out
     Lean arms of unshaped expectation, beckon
     Down to the night of all unholy thoughts.

          I have seen
     Unholy shapes lop off my shining thoughts,
     Which I had thought nursed in thine emerald light;
     And they have lent me leathern wings of fear,
     Of baffled pride and harrowing distrust;
     And Godhead with its crown of many stars,
     Its pinnacles of flaming holiness,
     And voice of leaves in the green summer-time,
     Has seemed the shadowed image of a self.
     Then my soul blackened; and I rose to find
     And grasp my doom, and cleave the arching deeps
     Of desolation.

       O Lord, my soul is a forgotten well;
     Clad round with its own rank luxuriance;
     A fountain a kind sunbeam searches for,
     Sinking the lustre of its arrowy finger
     Through the long grass its own strange virtue [5]
     Hath blinded up its crystal eye withal:
     Make me a broad strong river coming down
     With shouts from its high hills, whose rocky hearts
     Throb forth the joy of their stability
     In watery pulses from their inmost deeps,
     And I shall be a vein upon thy world,
     Circling perpetual from the parent deep.
       O First and Last, O glorious all in all,
     In vain my faltering human tongue would seek
     To shape the vesture of the boundless thought,
     Summing all causes in one burning word;
     Give me the spirit’s living tongue of fire,
     Whose only voice is in an attitude
     Of keenest tension, bent back on itself
     With a strong upward force; even as thy bow
     Of bended colour stands against the north,
     And, in an attitude to spring to heaven,
     Lays hold of the kindled hills.

          Most mighty One,
     Confirm and multiply my thoughts of good;
     Help me to wall each sacred treasure round
     With the firm battlements of special action.
     Alas my holy, happy thoughts of thee
     Make not perpetual nest within my soul,
     But like strange birds of dazzling colours stoop
     The trailing glories of their sunward speed,
     For one glad moment filling my blasted boughs
     With the sunshine of their wings.

          Make me a forest
     Of gladdest life, wherein perpetual spring
     Lifts up her leafy tresses in the wind.

          Lo! now I see
     Thy trembling starlight sit among my pines,
     And thy young moon slide down my arching boughs
     With a soft sound of restless eloquence.
     And I can feel a joy as when thy hosts
     Of trampling winds, gathering in maddened bands,
     Roar upward through the blue and flashing day
     Round my still depths of uncleft solitude.

          Hear me, O Lord,
     When the black night draws down upon my soul,
     And voices of temptation darken down
     The misty wind, slamming thy starry doors,
     With bitter jests. ‘Thou fool!’ they seem to say
     ‘Thou hast no seed of goodness in thee; all
     Thy nature hath been stung right through and through.
     Thy sin hath blasted thee, and made thee old.
     Thou hadst a will, but thou hast killed it--dead--
     And with the fulsome garniture of life
     Built out the loathsome corpse.  Thou art a child
     Of night and death, even lower than a worm.
     Gather the skirts up of thy shadowy self,
     And with what resolution thou hast left,
     Fall on the damned spikes of doom.’

          O take me like a child,
     If thou hast made me for thyself, my God,
     And lead me up thy hills.  I shall not fear
     So thou wilt make me pure, and beat back sin
     With the terrors of thine eye.

          Lord hast thou sent
     Thy moons to mock us with perpetual hope?
     Lighted within our breasts the love of love,
     To make us ripen for despair, my God?

       Oh, dost thou hold each individual soul
     Strung clear upon thy flaming rods of purpose?
     Or does thine inextinguishable will
     Stand on the steeps of night with lifted hand,
     Filling the yawning wells of monstrous space
     With mixing thought--drinking up single life
     As in a cup? and from the rending folds
     Of glimmering purpose, the gloom do all thy navied stars
     Slide through the gloom with mystic melody,
     Like wishes on a brow?  Oh, is my soul,
     Hung like a dew-drop in thy grassy ways,
     Drawn up again into the rack of change,
     Even through the lustre which created it?
     O mighty one, thou wilt not smite me through
     With scorching wrath, because my spirit stands
     Bewildered in thy circling mysteries.

Here came the passage Robert had heard him repeat, and then the
following paragraph:

     Lord, thy strange mysteries come thickening down
     Upon my head like snow-flakes, shutting out
     The happy upper fields with chilly vapour.
     Shall I content my soul with a weak sense
     Of safety? or feed my ravenous hunger with
     Sore-purged hopes, that are not hopes, but fears
     Clad in white raiment?
     I know not but some thin and vaporous fog,
     Fed with the rank excesses of the soul,
     Mocks the devouring hunger of my life
     With satisfaction: lo! the noxious gas
     Feeds the lank ribs of gaunt and ghastly death
     With double emptiness, like a balloon,
     Borne by its lightness o’er the shining lands,
     A wonder and a laughter.
       The creeds lie in the hollow of men’s hearts
     Like festering pools glassing their own corruption:
     The slimy eyes stare up with dull approval,
     And answer not when thy bright starry feet
     Move on the watery floors.

       O wilt thou hear me when I cry to thee?
     I am a child lost in a mighty forest;
     The air is thick with voices, and strange hands
     Reach through the dusk and pluck me by the skirts.
     There is a voice which sounds like words from home,
     But, as I stumble on to reach it, seems
     To leap from rock to rock.  Oh! if it is
     Willing obliquity of sense, descend,
     Heal all my wanderings, take me by the hand,
     And lead me homeward through the shadows.
       Let me not by my wilful acts of pride
     Block up the windows of thy truth, and grow
     A wasted, withered thing, that stumbles on
     Down to the grave with folded hands of sloth
     And leaden confidence.

There was more of it, as my type indicates. Full of faults, I have given
so much to my reader, just as it stood upon Ericson’s blotted papers,
the utterance of a true soul ‘crying for the light.’ But I give also
another of his poems, which Robert read at the same time, revealing
another of his moods when some one of the clouds of holy doubt and
questioning love which so often darkened his sky, did at length

     Turn forth her silver lining on the night:


     They are blind and they are dead:
       We will wake them as we go;
     There are words have not been said;
       There are sounds they do not know.
         We will pipe and we will sing--
         With the music and the spring,
         Set their hearts a wondering.

     They are tired of what is old:
       We will give it voices new;
     For the half hath not been told
       Of the Beautiful and True.
         Drowsy eyelids shut and sleeping!
         Heavy eyes oppressed with weeping!
         Flashes through the lashes leaping!

     Ye that have a pleasant voice,
       Hither come without delay;
     Ye will never have a choice
       Like to that ye have to-day:
         Round the wide world we will go,
         Singing through the frost and snow,
         Till the daisies are in blow.

     Ye that cannot pipe or sing,
       Ye must also come with speed;
     Ye must come and with you bring
       Weighty words and weightier deed:
         Helping hands and loving eyes,
         These will make them truly wise--
         Then will be our Paradise.

As Robert read, the sweetness of the rhythm seized upon him, and, almost
unconsciously, he read the last stanza aloud. Looking up from the paper
with a sigh of wonder and delight--there was the pale face of Ericson
gazing at him from the bed! He had risen on one arm, looking like a dead
man called to life against his will, who found the world he had left
already stranger to him than the one into which he had but peeped.

‘Yes,’ he murmured; ‘I could say that once. It’s all gone now. Our world
is but our moods.’

He fell back on his pillow. After a little, he murmured again:

‘I might fool myself with faith again. So it is better not. I would
not be fooled. To believe the false and be happy is the very belly
of misery. To believe the true and be miserable, is to be true--and
miserable. If there is no God, let me know it. I will not be fooled.
I will not believe in a God that does not exist. Better be miserable
because I am, and cannot help it.--O God!’

Yet in his misery, he cried upon God.

These words came upon Robert with such a shock of sympathy, that they
destroyed his consciousness for the moment, and when he thought about
them, he almost doubted if he had heard them. He rose and approached
the bed. Ericson lay with his eyes closed, and his face contorted as by
inward pain. Robert put a spoonful of wine to his lips. He swallowed it,
opened his eyes, gazed at the boy as if he did not know him, closed them
again, and lay still.

Some people take comfort from the true eyes of a dog--and a precious
thing to the loving heart is the love of even a dumb animal. [6] What
comfort then must not such a boy as Robert have been to such a man as
Ericson! Often and often when he was lying asleep as Robert thought,
he was watching the face of his watcher. When the human soul is not yet
able to receive the vision of the God-man, God sometimes--might I not
say always?--reveals himself, or at least gives himself, in some
human being whose face, whose hands are the ministering angels of his
unacknowledged presence, to keep alive the fire of love on the altar
of the heart, until God hath provided the sacrifice--that is, until the
soul is strong enough to draw it from the concealing thicket. Here were
two, each thinking that God had forsaken him, or was not to be found
by him, and each the very love of God, commissioned to tend the other’s
heart. In each was he present to the other. The one thought himself the
happiest of mortals in waiting upon his big brother, whose least smile
was joy enough for one day; the other wondered at the unconscious
goodness of the boy, and while he gazed at his ruddy-brown face,
believed in God.

For some time after Ericson was taken ill, he was too depressed and
miserable to ask how he was cared for. But by slow degrees it dawned
upon him that a heart deep and gracious, like that of a woman, watched
over him. True, Robert was uncouth, but his uncouthness was that of a
half-fledged angel. The heart of the man and the heart of the boy were
drawn close together. Long before Ericson was well he loved Robert
enough to be willing to be indebted to him, and would lie pondering--not
how to repay him, but how to return his kindness.

How much Robert’s ambition to stand well in the eyes of Miss St. John
contributed to his progress I can only imagine; but certainly his
ministrations to Ericson did not interfere with his Latin and Greek. I
venture to think that they advanced them, for difficulty adds to result,
as the ramming of the powder sends the bullet the further. I have heard,
indeed, that when a carrier wants to help his horse up hill, he sets a
boy on his back.

Ericson made little direct acknowledgment to Robert: his tones, his
gestures, his looks, all thanked him; but he shrunk from words, with
the maidenly shamefacedness that belongs to true feeling. He would even
assume the authoritative, and send him away to his studies, but Robert
knew how to hold his own. The relation of elder brother and younger was
already established between them. Shargar likewise took his share in the
love and the fellowship, worshipping in that he believed.


The presence at the street door of which Ericson’s over-acute sense had
been aware on a past evening, was that of Mr. Lindsay, walking home
with bowed back and bowed head from the college library, where he was
privileged to sit after hours as long as he pleased over books too big
to be comfortably carried home to his cottage. He had called to inquire
after Ericson, whose acquaintance he had made in the library, and
cultivated until almost any Friday evening Ericson was to be found
seated by Mr. Lindsay’s parlour fire.

As he entered the room that same evening, a young girl raised herself
from a low seat by the fire to meet him. There was a faint rosy flush
on her cheek, and she held a volume in her hand as she approached her
father. They did not kiss: kisses were not a legal tender in Scotland
then: possibly there has been a depreciation in the value of them since
they were.

‘I’ve been to ask after Mr. Ericson,’ said Mr. Lindsay.

‘And how is he?’ asked the girl.

‘Very poorly indeed,’ answered her father.

‘I am sorry. You’ll miss him, papa.’

‘Yes, my dear. Tell Jenny to bring my lamp.’

‘Won’t you have your tea first, papa?’

‘Oh yes, if it’s ready.’

‘The kettle has been boiling for a long time, but I wouldn’t make the
tea till you came in.’

Mr. Lindsay was an hour later than usual, but Mysie was quite unaware of
that: she had been absorbed in her book, too much absorbed even to ring
for better light than the fire afforded. When her father went to put off
his long, bifurcated greatcoat, she returned to her seat by the fire,
and forgot to make the tea. It was a warm, snug room, full of dark,
old-fashioned, spider-legged furniture; low-pitched, with a bay-window,
open like an ear to the cries of the German Ocean at night, and like an
eye during the day to look out upon its wide expanse. This ear or eye
was now curtained with dark crimson, and the room, in the firelight,
with the young girl for a soul to it, affected one like an ancient book
in which he reads his own latest thought.

Mysie was nothing over the middle height--delicately-fashioned, at once
slender and round, with extremities neat as buds. Her complexion was
fair, and her face pale, except when a flush, like that of a white rose,
overspread it. Her cheek was lovelily curved, and her face rather short.
But at first one could see nothing for her eyes. They were the largest
eyes; and their motion reminded one of those of Sordello in the

     E nel muover degli occhi onesta e tarda:

they seemed too large to move otherwise than with a slow turning like
that of the heavens. At first they looked black, but if one ventured
inquiry, which was as dangerous as to gaze from the battlements of
Elsinore, he found them a not very dark brown. In her face, however,
especially when flushed, they had all the effect of what Milton
describes as

     Quel sereno fulgor d’amabil nero.

A wise observer would have been a little troubled in regarding her
mouth. The sadness of a morbid sensibility hovered about it--the sign
of an imagination wrought upon from the centre of self. Her lips were
neither thin nor compressed--they closed lightly, and were richly
curved; but there was a mobility almost tremulous about the upper lip
that gave sign of the possibility of such an oscillation of feeling as
might cause the whole fabric of her nature to rock dangerously.

The moment her father re-entered, she started from her stool on the rug,
and proceeded to make the tea. Her father took no notice of her neglect,
but drew a chair to the table, helped himself to a piece of oat-cake,
hastily loaded it with as much butter as it could well carry, and while
eating it forgot it and everything else in the absorption of a volume he
had brought in with him from his study, in which he was tracing out some
genealogical thread of which he fancied he had got a hold. Mysie was
very active now, and lost the expression of far-off-ness which had
hitherto characterized her countenance; till, having poured out the tea,
she too plunged at once into her novel, and, like her father, forgot
everything and everybody near her.

Mr. Lindsay was a mild, gentle man, whose face and hair seemed to have
grown gray together. He was very tall, and stooped much. He had a mouth
of much sensibility, and clear blue eyes, whose light was rarely shed
upon any one within reach except his daughter--they were so constantly
bent downwards, either on the road as he walked, or on his book as he
sat. He had been educated for the church, but had never risen above
the position of a parish school-master. He had little or no impulse to
utterance, was shy, genial, and, save in reading, indolent. Ten years
before this point of my history he had been taken up by an active lawyer
in Edinburgh, from information accidentally supplied by Mr. Lindsay
himself, as the next heir to a property to which claim was laid by the
head of a county family of wealth. Probabilities were altogether in
his favour, when he gave up the contest upon the offer of a comfortable
annuity from the disputant. To leave his schooling and his possible
estate together, and sit down comfortably by his own fireside, with the
means of buying books, and within reach of a good old library--that
of King’s College by preference--was to him the sum of all that was
desirable. The income offered him was such that he had no doubt
of laying aside enough for his only child, Mysie; but both were so
ill-fitted for saving, he from looking into the past, she from looking
into--what shall I call it? I can only think of negatives--what was
neither past, present, nor future, neither material nor eternal, neither
imaginative in any true sense, nor actual in any sense, that up to
the present hour there was nothing in the bank, and only the money for
impending needs in the house. He could not be called a man of learning;
he was only a great bookworm; for his reading lay all in the nebulous
regions of history. Old family records, wherever he could lay hold upon
them, were his favourite dishes; old, musty books, that looked as if
they knew something everybody else had forgotten, made his eyes gleam,
and his white taper-fingered hand tremble with eagerness. With such
a book in his grasp he saw something ever beckoning him on, a dimly
precious discovery, a wonderful fact just the shape of some missing
fragment in the mosaic of one of his pictures of the past. To tell the
truth, however, his discoveries seldom rounded themselves into pictures,
though many fragments of the minutely dissected map would find
their places, whereupon he rejoiced like a mild giant refreshed with
soda-water. But I have already said more about him than his place
justifies; therefore, although I could gladly linger over the portrait,
I will leave it. He had taught his daughter next to nothing. Being his
child, he had the vague feeling that she inherited his wisdom, and that
what he knew she knew. So she sat reading novels, generally trashy ones,
while he knew no more of what was passing in her mind than of what the
Admirable Crichton might, at the moment, be disputing with the angels.

I would not have my reader suppose that Mysie’s mind was corrupted. It
was so simple and childlike, leaning to what was pure, and looking up
to what was noble, that anything directly bad in the books she
happened--for it was all haphazard--to read, glided over her as a black
cloud may glide over a landscape, leaving it sunny as before.

I cannot therefore say, however, that she was nothing the worse. If
the darkening of the sun keep the fruits of the earth from growing,
the earth is surely the worse, though it be blackened by no deposit of
smoke. And where good things do not grow, the wild and possibly noxious
will grow more freely. There may be no harm in the yellow tanzie--there
is much beauty in the red poppy; but they are not good for food. The
result in Mysie’s case would be this--not that she would call evil good
and good evil, but that she would take the beautiful for the true and
the outer shows of goodness for goodness itself--not the worst result,
but bad enough, and involving an awful amount of suffering and possibly
of defilement. He who thinks to climb the hill of happiness thus, will
find himself floundering in the blackest bog that lies at the foot of
its precipices. I say he, not she, advisedly. All will acknowledge it of
the woman: it is as true of the man, though he may get out easier. Will
he? I say, checking myself. I doubt it much. In the world’s eye, yes;
but in God’s? Let the question remain unanswered.

When he had eaten his toast, and drunk his tea, apparently without any
enjoyment, Mr. Lindsay rose with his book in his hand, and withdrew to
his study.

He had not long left the room when Mysie was startled by a loud knock
at the back door, which opened on a lane, leading along the top of the
hill. But she had almost forgotten it again, when the door of the room
opened, and a gentleman entered without any announcement--for Jenny
had never heard of the custom. When she saw him, Mysie started from her
seat, and stood in visible embarrassment. The colour went and came on
her lovely face, and her eyelids grew very heavy. She had never seen the
visitor before: whether he had ever seen her before, I cannot certainly
say. She felt herself trembling in his presence, while he advanced
with perfect composure. He was a man no longer young, but in the full
strength and show of manhood--the Baron of Rothie. Since the time of my
first description of him, he had grown a moustache, which improved his
countenance greatly, by concealing his upper lip with its tusky curves.
On a girl like Mysie, with an imagination so cultivated, and with no
opportunity of comparing its fancies with reality, such a man would make
an instant impression.

‘I beg your pardon, Miss--Lindsay, I presume?--for intruding upon you so
abruptly. I expected to see your father--not one of the graces.’

She blushed all the colour of her blood now. The baron was quite
enough like the hero of whom she had just been reading to admit of her
imagination jumbling the two. Her book fell. He lifted it and laid it
on the table. She could not speak even to thank him. Poor Mysie was
scarcely more than sixteen.

‘May I wait here till your father is informed of my visit?’ he asked.

Her only answer was to drop again upon her low stool.

Now Jenny had left it to Mysie to acquaint her father with the fact of
the baron’s presence; but before she had time to think of the necessity
of doing something, he had managed to draw her into conversation. He
was as great a hypocrite as ever walked the earth, although he flattered
himself that he was none, because he never pretended to cultivate
that which he despised--namely, religion. But he was a hypocrite
nevertheless; for the falser he knew himself, the more honour he judged
it to persuade women of his truth.

It is unnecessary to record the slight, graceful, marrowless talk into
which he drew Mysie, and by which he both bewildered and bewitched her.
But at length she rose, admonished by her inborn divinity, to seek her
father. As she passed him, the baron took her hand and kissed it. She
might well tremble. Even such contact was terrible. Why? Because there
was no love in it. When the sense of beauty which God had given him
that he might worship, awoke in Lord Rothie, he did not worship, but
devoured, that he might, as he thought, possess! The poison of asps was
under those lips. His kiss was as a kiss from the grave’s mouth, for his
throat was an open sepulchre. This was all in the past, reader. Baron
Rothie was a foam-flake of the court of the Prince Regent. There are no
such men now-a-days! It is a shame to speak of such, and therefore they
are not! Decency has gone so far to abolish virtue. Would to God that a
writer could be decent and honest! St. Paul counted it a shame to speak
of some things, and yet he did speak of them--because those to whom he
spoke did them.

Lord Rothie had, in five minutes, so deeply interested Mr. Lindsay in
a question of genealogy, that he begged his lordship to call again in a
few days, when he hoped to have some result of research to communicate.

One of the antiquarian’s weaknesses, cause and result both of his
favourite pursuits, was an excessive reverence for rank. Had its claims
been founded on mediated revelation, he could not have honoured it more.
Hence when he communicated to his daughter the name of their visitor,
it was ‘with bated breath and whispering humbleness,’ which deepened
greatly the impression made upon her by the presence and conversation of
the baron. Mysie was in danger.

Shargar was late that evening, for he had a job that detained him. As he
handed over his money to Robert, he said,

‘I saw Black Geordie the nicht again, stan’in’ at a back door, an’ Jock
Mitchell, upo’ Reid Rorie, haudin’ him.’

‘Wha’s Jock Mitchell?’ asked Robert.

‘My brither Sandy’s ill-faured groom,’ answered Shargar. ‘Whatever
mischeef Sandy’s up till, Jock comes in i’ the heid or tail o’ ‘t.’

‘I wonner what he’s up till noo.’

‘Faith! nae guid. But I aye like waur to meet Sandy by himsel’ upo’ that
reekit deevil o’ his. Man, it’s awfu’ whan Black Geordie turns the white
o’ ‘s ee, an’ the white o’ ‘s teeth upo’ ye. It’s a’ the white ‘at there
is about ‘im.’

‘Wasna yer brither i’ the airmy, Shargar?’

‘Ow, ‘deed ay. They tell me he was at Watterloo. He’s a cornel, or
something like that.’

‘Wha tellt ye a’ that?’

‘My mither whiles,’ answered Shargar.


Ericson was recovering slowly. He could sit up in bed the greater part
of the day, and talk about getting out of it. He was able to give Robert
an occasional help with his Greek, and to listen with pleasure to his
violin. The night-watching grew less needful, and Ericson would have
dispensed with it willingly, but Robert would not yet consent.

But Ericson had seasons of great depression, during which he could not
away with music, or listen to the words of the New Testament. During one
of these Robert had begun to read a chapter to him, in the faint hope
that he might draw some comfort from it.

‘Shut the book,’ he said. ‘If it were the word of God to men, it would
have brought its own proof with it.’

‘Are ye sure it hasna?’ asked Robert.

‘No,’ answered Ericson. ‘But why should a fellow that would give his
life--that’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got--to believe in God, not be
able? Only I confess that God in the New Testament wouldn’t satisfy
me. There’s no help. I must just die, and go and see.--She’ll be left
without anybody. ‘What does it matter? She would not mind a word I
said. And the God they talk about will just let her take her own way. He
always does.’

He had closed his eyes and forgotten that Robert heard him. He opened
them now, and fixed them on him with an expression that seemed to ask,
‘Have I been saying anything I ought not?’

Robert knelt by the bedside, and said, slowly, with strongly repressed

‘Mr. Ericson, I sweir by God, gin there be ane, that gin ye dee, I’ll
tak up what ye lea’ ahin’ ye. Gin there be onybody ye want luikit
efter, I’ll luik efter her. I’ll do what I can for her to the best o’ my
abeelity, sae help me God--aye savin’ what I maun do for my ain father,
gin he be in life, to fess (bring) him back to the richt gait, gin there
be a richt gait. Sae ye can think aboot whether there’s onything ye wad
like to lippen till me.’

A something grew in Ericson’s eyes as Robert spoke. Before he had
finished, they beamed on the boy.

‘I think there must be a God somewhere after all,’ he said, half
soliloquizing. ‘I should be sorry you hadn’t a God, Robert. Why should
I wish it for your sake? How could I want one for myself if there never
was one? If a God had nothing to do with my making, why should I feel
that nobody but God can set things right? Ah! but he must be such a God
as I could imagine--altogether, absolutely true and good. If we came
out of nothing, we could not invent the idea of a God--could we, Robert?
Nothing would be our God. If we come from God, nothing is more natural,
nothing so natural, as to want him, and when we haven’t got him, to try
to find him.--What if he should be in us after all, and working in us
this way? just this very way of crying out after him?’

‘Mr. Ericson,’ cried Robert, ‘dinna say ony mair ‘at ye dinna believe in
God. Ye duv believe in ‘im--mair, I’m thinkin’, nor onybody ‘at I ken,
‘cep’, maybe, my grannie--only hers is a some queer kin’ o’ a God to
believe in. I dinna think I cud ever manage to believe in him mysel’.’

Ericson sighed and was silent. Robert remained kneeling by his bedside,
happier, clearer-headed, and more hopeful than he had ever been. What if
all was right at the heart of things--right, even as a man, if he could
understand, would say was right; right, so that a man who understood in
part could believe it to be ten times more right than he did understand!
Vaguely, dimly, yet joyfully, Robert saw something like this in the
possibility of things. His heart was full, and the tears filled his
eyes. Ericson spoke again.

‘I have felt like that often for a few moments,’ he said; ‘but
always something would come and blow it away. I remember one spring
morning--but if you will bring me that bundle of papers, I will show you
what, if I can find it, will let you understand--’

Robert rose, went to the cupboard, and brought the pile of loose leaves.
Ericson turned them over, and, Robert was glad to see, now and then
sorted them a little. At length he drew out a sheet, carelessly written,
carelessly corrected, and hard to read.

‘It is not finished, or likely to be,’ he said, as he put the paper in
Robert’s hand.

‘Won’t you read it to me yourself, Mr. Ericson?’ suggested Robert.

‘I would sooner put it in the fire,’ he answered--‘it’s fate, anyhow. I
don’t know why I haven’t burnt them all long ago. Rubbish, and diseased
rubbish! Read it yourself, or leave it.’

Eagerly Robert took it, and read. The following was the best he could
make of it:

     Oh that a wind would call
     From the depths of the leafless wood!
     Oh that a voice would fall
     On the ear of my solitude!
     Far away is the sea,
     With its sound and its spirit-tone:
     Over it white clouds flee,
     But I am alone, alone.

     Straight and steady and tall
     The trees stand on their feet;
     Fast by the old stone wall
     The moss grows green and sweet;
     But my heart is full of fears,
     For the sun shines far away;
     And they look in my face through tears,
     And the light of a dying day.

     My heart was glad last night,
     As I pressed it with my palm;
     Its throb was airy and light
     As it sang some spirit-psalm;
     But it died away in my breast
     As I wandered forth to-day--
     As a bird sat dead on its nest,
     While others sang on the spray.

     O weary heart of mine,
     Is there ever a truth for thee?
     Will ever a sun outshine
     But the sun that shines on me?
     Away, away through the air
     The clouds and the leaves are blown;
     And my heart hath need of prayer,
     For it sitteth alone, alone.

And Robert looked with sad reverence at Ericson,--nor ever thought that
there was one who, in the face of the fact, and in recognition of it,
had dared say, ‘Not a sparrow shall fall on the ground without your
Father.’ The sparrow does fall--but he who sees it is yet the Father.

And we know only the fall, and not the sparrow.


The next day was Sunday. Robert sat, after breakfast, by his friend’s

‘You haven’t been to church for a long time, Robert: wouldn’t you like
to go to-day?’ said Ericson.

‘I dinna want to lea’ you, Mr. Ericson; I can bide wi’ ye a’ day the
day, an’ that’s better nor goin’ to a’ the kirks in Aberdeen.’

‘I should like you to go to-day, though; and see if, after all, there
may not be a message for us. If the church be the house of God, as they
call it, there should be, now and then at least, some sign of a pillar
of fire about it, some indication of the presence of God whose house
it is. I wish you would go and see. I haven’t been to church for a long
time, except to the college-chapel, and I never saw anything more than a
fog there.’

‘Michtna the fog be the torn-edge like, o’ the cloody pillar?’ suggested

‘Very likely,’ assented Ericson; ‘for, whatever truth there may be in
Christianity, I’m pretty sure the mass of our clergy have never got
beyond Judaism. They hang on about the skirts of that cloud for ever.’

‘Ye see, they think as lang ‘s they see the fog, they hae a grup o’
something. But they canna get a grup o’ the glory that excelleth, for
it’s not to luik at, but to lat ye see a’ thing.’

Ericson regarded him with some surprise. Robert hastened to be honest.

‘It’s no that I ken onything aboot it, Mr. Ericson. I was only
bletherin’ (talking nonsense)--rizzonin’ frae the twa symbols o’ the
cloud an’ the fire--kennin’ nothing aboot the thing itsel’. I’ll awa’ to
the kirk, an’ see what it’s like. Will I gie ye a buik afore I gang?’

‘No, thank you. I’ll just lie quiet till you come back--if I can.’

Robert instructed Shargar to watch for the slightest sound from the
sick-room, and went to church.

As he approached the granite cathedral, the only one in the world, I
presume, its stern solidity, so like the country and its men, laid hold
of his imagination for the first time. No doubt the necessity imposed
by the unyielding material had its share, and that a large one, in the
character of the building: whence else that simplest of west windows,
seven lofty, narrow slits of light, parted by granite shafts of equal
width, filling the space between the corner buttresses of the nave, and
reaching from door to roof? whence else the absence of tracery in the
windows--except the severely gracious curves into which the mullions
divide?--But this cause could not have determined those towers, so
strong that they might have borne their granite weight soaring aloft,
yet content with the depth of their foundation, and aspiring not. The
whole aspect of the building is an outcome, an absolute blossom of the
northern nature.

There is but the nave of the church remaining. About 1680, more than
a century after the Reformation, the great tower fell, destroying the
choir, chancel, and transept, which have never been rebuilt. May the
reviving faith of the nation in its own history, and God at the heart of
it, lead to the restoration of this grand old monument of the belief
of their fathers. Deformed as the interior then was with galleries, and
with Gavin Dunbar’s flat ceiling, an awe fell upon Robert as he entered
it. When in after years he looked down from between the pillars of the
gallery, that creeps round the church through the thickness of the wall,
like an artery, and recalled the service of this Sunday morning, he felt
more strongly than ever that such a faith had not reared that cathedral.
The service was like the church only as a dead body is like a man. There
was no fervour in it, no aspiration. The great central tower was gone.

That morning prayers and sermon were philosophically dull, and
respectable as any after-dinner speech. Nor could it well be otherwise:
one of the favourite sayings of its minister was, that a clergyman is
nothing but a moral policeman. As such, however, he more resembled one
of Dogberry’s watch. He could not even preach hell with any vigour; for
as a gentleman he recoiled from the vulgarity of the doctrine, yielding
only a few feeble words on the subject as a sop to the Cerberus that
watches over the dues of the Bible--quite unaware that his notion of the
doctrine had been drawn from the Æneid, and not from the Bible.

‘Well, have you got anything, Robert?’ asked Ericson, as he entered his

‘Nothing,’ answered Robert.

‘What was the sermon about?’

‘It was all to prove that God is a benevolent being.’

‘Not a devil, that is,’ answered Ericson. ‘Small consolation that.’

‘Sma’ eneuch,’ responded Robert. ‘I cudna help thinkin’ I kent mony
a tyke (dog) that God had made wi’ mair o’ what I wad ca’ the divine
natur’ in him nor a’ that Dr. Soulis made oot to be in God himsel’. He
had no ill intentions wi’ us--it amuntit to that. He wasna ill-willy,
as the bairns say. But the doctor had some sair wark, I thoucht, to mak
that oot, seein’ we war a’ the children o’ wrath, accordin’ to him, born
in sin, and inheritin’ the guilt o’ Adam’s first trespass. I dinna think
Dr. Soulis cud say that God had dune the best he cud for ‘s. But he
never tried to say onything like that. He jist made oot that he was a
verra respectable kin’ o’ a God, though maybe no a’thing we micht wuss.
We oucht to be thankfu’ that he gae’s a wee blink o’ a chance o’ no
bein’ brunt to a’ eternity, wi’ nae chance ava. I dinna say that he said
that, but that’s what it a’ seemed to me to come till. He said a hantle
aboot the care o’ Providence, but a’ the gude that he did seemed to me
to be but a haudin’ aff o’ something ill that he had made as weel. Ye
wad hae thocht the deevil had made the warl’, and syne God had pitten us
intil ‘t, and jist gied a bit wag o’ ‘s han’ whiles to haud the deevil
aff o’ ‘s whan he was like to destroy the breed a’thegither. For
the grace that he spak aboot, that was less nor the nature an’ the
providence. I cud see unco little o’ grace intil ‘t.’

Here Ericson broke in--fearful, apparently, lest his boyfriend should be
actually about to deny the God in whom he did not himself believe.

‘Robert,’ he said solemnly, ‘one thing is certain: if there be a God at
all, he is not like that. If there be a God at all, we shall know him by
his perfection--his grand perfect truth, fairness, love--a love to make
life an absolute good--not a mere accommodation of difficulties, not a
mere preponderance of the balance on the side of well-being. Love only
could have been able to create. But they don’t seem jealous for the
glory of God, those men. They don’t mind a speck, or even a blot, here
and there upon him. The world doesn’t make them miserable. They can get
over the misery of their fellow-men without being troubled about them,
or about the God that could let such things be. [7] They represent a God
who does wonderfully well, on the whole, after a middling fashion. I
want a God who loves perfectly. He may kill; he may torture even; but if
it be for love’s sake, Lord, here am I. Do with me as thou wilt.’

Had Ericson forgotten that he had no proof of such a God? The next
moment the intellectual demon was awake.

‘But what’s the good of it all?’ he said. ‘I don’t even know that there
is anything outside of me.’

‘Ye ken that I’m here, Mr. Ericson,’ suggested Robert.

‘I know nothing of the sort. You may be another phantom--only clearer.’

‘Ye speik to me as gin ye thocht me somebody.’

‘So does the man to his phantoms, and you call him mad. It is but a
yielding to the pressure of constant suggestion. I do not know--I cannot
know if there is anything outside of me.’

‘But gin there warna, there wad be naebody for ye to love, Mr. Ericson.’

‘Of course not.’

‘Nor naebody to love you, Mr. Ericson.’

‘Of course not.’

‘Syne ye wad be yer ain God, Mr. Ericson.’

‘Yes. That would follow.’

‘I canna imagine a waur hell--closed in amo’ naething--wi’ naething a’
aboot ye, luikin’ something a’ the time--kennin’ ‘at it’s a’ a lee, and
nae able to win clear o’ ‘t.’

‘It is hell, my boy, or anything worse you can call it.’

‘What for suld ye believe that, than, Mr. Ericson? I wadna believe sic
an ill thing as that. I dinna think I cud believe ‘t, gin ye war to pruv
‘t to me.’

‘I don’t believe it. Nobody could prove that either, even if it were so.
I am only miserable that I can’t prove the contrary.’

‘Suppose there war a God, Mr. Ericson, do ye think ye bude (behoved) to
be able to pruv that? Do ye think God cud stan’ to be pruved as gin he
war something sma’ eneuch to be turned roon’ and roon’, and luikit at
upo’ ilka side? Gin there war a God, wadna it jist be sae--that we cudna
prove him to be, I mean?’

‘Perhaps. That is something. I have often thought of that. But then you
can’t prove anything about it.’

‘I canna help thinkin’ o’ what Mr. Innes said to me ance. I was but
a laddie, but I never forgot it. I plaguit him sair wi’ wantin’ to
unnerstan’ ilka thing afore I wad gang on wi’ my questons (sums). Says
he, ae day, “Robert, my man, gin ye will aye unnerstan’ afore ye du as
ye’re tellt, ye’ll never unnerstan’ onything. But gin ye du the thing I
tell ye, ye’ll be i’ the mids o’ ‘t afore ye ken ‘at ye’re gaein’ intil
‘t.” I jist thocht I wad try him. It was at lang division that I boglet
maist. Weel, I gaed on, and I cud du the thing weel eneuch, ohn made
ae mistak. And aye I thocht the maister was wrang, for I never kent
the rizzon o’ a’ that beginnin’ at the wrang en’, an’ takin’ doon an’
substrackin’, an’ a’ that. Ye wad hardly believe me, Mr. Ericson: it was
only this verra day, as I was sittin’ i’ the kirk--it was a lang
psalm they war singin’--that ane wi’ the foxes i’ the tail o’ ‘t--lang
division came into my heid again; and first aye bit glimmerin’ o’ licht
cam in, and syne anither, an’ afore the psalm was dune I saw throu’ the
haill process o’ ‘t. But ye see, gin I hadna dune as I was tauld, and
learnt a’ aboot hoo it was dune aforehan’, I wad hae had naething to
gang rizzonin’ aboot, an’ wad hae fun’ oot naething.’

‘That’s good, Robert. But when a man is dying for food, he can’t wait.’

‘He micht try to get up and luik, though. He needna bide in ‘s bed till
somebody comes an’ sweirs till him ‘at he saw a haddie (haddock) i’ the

‘I have been looking, Robert--for years.’

‘Maybe, like me, only for the rizzon o’ ‘t, Mr. Ericson--gin ye’ll
forgie my impidence.’

‘But what’s to be done in this case, Robert? Where’s the work that you
can do in order to understand? Where’s your long division, man?’

‘Ye’re ayont me noo. I canna tell that, Mr. Ericson. It canna be gaein’
to the kirk, surely. Maybe it micht be sayin’ yer prayers and readin’
yer Bible.’

Ericson did not reply, and the conversation dropped. Is it strange that
neither of these disciples should have thought of turning to the story
of Jesus, finding some word that he had spoken, and beginning to do that
as a first step towards a knowledge of the doctrine that Jesus was the
incarnate God, come to visit his people--a very unlikely thing to
man’s wisdom, yet an idea that has notwithstanding ascended above man’s
horizon, and shown itself the grandest idea in his firmament?

In the evening Ericson asked again for his papers, from which he handed
Robert the following poem:--


     I woke at midnight, and my heart,
     My beating heart said this to me:
     Thou seest the moon how calm and bright
     The world is fair by day and night,
     But what is that to thee?
     One touch to me--down dips the light
     Over the land and sea.
     All is mine, all is my own!
     Toss the purple fountain high!
     The breast of man is a vat of stone;
     I am alive, I, only I!

     One little touch and all is dark;
     The winter with its sparkling moons
     The spring with all her violets,
     The crimson dawns and rich sunsets,
     The autumn’s yellowing noons.
     I only toss my purple jets,
     And thou art one that swoons
     Upon a night of gust and roar,
     Shipwrecked among the waves, and seems
     Across the purple hills to roam;
     Sweet odours touch him from the foam,
     And downward sinking still he dreams
     He walks the clover field at home,
     And hears the rattling teams.
     All is mine; all is my own!
     Toss the purple fountain high!
     The breast of man is a vat of stone;
     I am alive, I, only I!

     Thou hast beheld a throated fountain spout
     Full in the air, and in the downward spray
     A hovering Iris span the marble tank,
     Which as the wind came, ever rose and sank
     Violet and red; so my continual play
     Makes beauty for the Gods with many a prank
     Of human excellence, while they,
     Weary of all the noon, in shadows sweet
     Supine and heavy-eyed rest in the boundless heat:
     Let the world’s fountain play!
     Beauty is pleasant in the eyes of Jove;
     Betwixt the wavering shadows where he lies
     He marks the dancing column with his eyes
     Celestial, and amid his inmost grove
     Upgathers all his limbs, serenely blest,
     Lulled by the mellow noise of the great world’s unrest.

     One heart beats in all nature, differing
     But in the work it works; its doubts and clamours
     Are but the waste and brunt of instruments
     Wherewith a work is done; or as the hammers
     On forge Cyclopean plied beneath the rents
     Of lowest Etna, conquering into shape
     The hard and scattered ore:
     Choose thou narcotics, and the dizzy grape
     Outworking passion, lest with horrid crash
     Thy life go from thee in a night of pain.
     So tutoring thy vision, shall the flash
     Of dove white-breasted be to thee no more
     Than a white stone heavy upon the plain.

     Hark the cock crows loud!
     And without, all ghastly and ill,
     Like a man uplift in his shroud,
     The white white morn is propped on the hill;
     And adown from the eaves, pointed and chill,
     The icicles ‘gin to glitter;
     And the birds with a warble short and shrill,
     Pass by the chamber-window still--
     With a quick uneasy twitter.
     Let me pump warm blood, for the cold is bitter;
     And wearily, wearily, one by one,
     Men awake with the weary sun.

     Life is a phantom shut in thee;
     I am the master and keep the key;
     So let me toss thee the days of old,
     Crimson and orange and green and gold;
     So let me fill thee yet again
     With a rush of dreams from my spout amain;
     For all is mine; all is my own;
     Toss the purple fountain high!
     The breast of man is a vat of stone;
     And I am alive, I, only I.

Robert having read, sat and wept in silence. Ericson saw him, and said

‘Robert, my boy, I’m not always so bad as that. Read this one--though
I never feel like it now. Perhaps it may come again some day, though. I
may once more deceive myself and be happy.’

‘Dinna say that, Mr. Ericson. That’s waur than despair. That’s flat
unbelief. Ye no more ken that ye’re deceivin’ yersel’ than ye ken that
ye’re no doin’ ‘t.’

Ericson did not reply; and Robert read the following sonnet aloud,
feeling his way delicately through its mazes:--

     Lie down upon the ground, thou hopeless one!
     Press thy face in the grass, and do not speak.
     Dost feel the green globe whirl?  Seven times a week
     Climbeth she out of darkness to the sun,
     Which is her god; seven times she doth not shun
     Awful eclipse, laying her patient cheek
     Upon a pillow ghost-beset with shriek
     Of voices utterless which rave and run
     Through all the star-penumbra, craving light
     And tidings of the dawn from East and West.
     Calmly she sleepeth, and her sleep is blest
     With heavenly visions, and the joy of Night
     Treading aloft with moons.  Nor hath she fright
     Though cloudy tempests beat upon her breast.

Ericson turned his face to the wall, and Robert withdrew to his own


Not many weeks passed before Shargar knew Aberdeen better than most
Aberdonians. From the Pier-head to the Rubislaw Road, he knew, if not
every court, yet every thoroughfare and short cut. And Aberdeen began
to know him. He was very soon recognized as trustworthy, and had pretty
nearly as much to do as he could manage. Shargar, therefore, was all
over the city like a cracker, and could have told at almost any hour
where Dr. Anderson was to be found--generally in the lower parts of
it, for the good man visited much among the poor; giving them almost
exclusively the benefit of his large experience. Shargar delighted in
keeping an eye upon the doctor, carefully avoiding to show himself.

One day as he was hurrying through the Green (a non virendo) on a
mission from the Rothieden carrier, he came upon the doctor’s chariot
standing in one of the narrowest streets, and, as usual, paused to
contemplate the equipage and get a peep of the owner. The morning
was very sharp. There was no snow, but a cold fog, like vaporized
hoar-frost, filled the air. It was weather in which the East Indian
could not venture out on foot, else he could have reached the place by
a stair from Union Street far sooner than he could drive thither. His
horses apparently liked the cold as little as himself. They had been
moving about restlessly for some time before the doctor made his
appearance. The moment he got in and shut the door, one of them reared,
while the other began to haul on his traces, eager for a gallop.
Something about the chain gave way, the pole swerved round under the
rearing horse, and great confusion and danger would have ensued, had
not Shargar rushed from his coign of vantage, sprung at the bit of the
rearing horse, and dragged him off the pole, over which he was just
casting his near leg. As soon as his feet touched the ground he too
pulled, and away went the chariot and down went Shargar. But in a moment
more several men had laid hold of the horses’ heads, and stopped them.

‘Oh Lord!’ cried Shargar, as he rose with his arm dangling by his side,
‘what will Donal’ Joss say? I’m like to swarf (faint). Haud awa’ frae
that basket, ye wuddyfous (withy-fowls, gallows-birds),’ he cried,
darting towards the hamper he had left in the entry of a court, round
which a few ragged urchins had gathered; but just as he reached it he
staggered and fell. Nor did he know anything more till he found the
carriage stopping with himself and the hamper inside it.

As soon as the coachman had got his harness put to rights, the doctor
had driven back to see how the lad had fared, for he had felt the
carriage go over something. They had found him lying beside his hamper,
had secured both, and as a preliminary measure were proceeding to
deliver the latter.

‘Whaur am I? whaur the deevil am I?’ cried Shargar, jumping up and
falling back again.

‘Don’t you know me, Moray?’ said the doctor, for he felt shy of calling
the poor boy by his nickname: he had no right to do so.

‘Na, I dinna ken ye. Lat me awa’.--I beg yer pardon, doctor: I thocht ye
was ane o’ thae wuddyfous rinnin’ awa’ wi’ Donal’ Joss’s basket. Eh
me! sic a stoun’ i’ my airm! But naebody ca’s me Moray. They a’ ca’
me Shargar. What richt hae I to be ca’d Moray?’ added the poor boy,
feeling, I almost believe for the first time, the stain upon his birth.
Yet he had as good a right before God to be called Moray as any other
son of that worthy sire, the Baron of Rothie included. Possibly the
trumpet-blowing angels did call him Moray, or some better name.

‘The coachman will deliver your parcel, Moray,’ said the doctor, this
time repeating the name with emphasis.

‘Deil a bit o’ ‘t!’ cried Shargar. ‘He daurna lea’ his box wi’ thae
deevils o’ horses. What gars he keep sic horses, doctor? They’ll play
some mischeef some day.’

‘Indeed, they’ve played enough already, my poor boy. They’ve broken your

‘Never min’ that. That’s no muckle. Ye’re welcome, doctor, to my twa
airms for what ye hae dune for Robert an’ that lang-leggit frien’ o’
his--the Lord forgie me--Mr. Ericson. But ye maun jist pay him what I
canna mak for a day or twa, till ‘t jines again--to haud them gaein’, ye
ken.--It winna be muckle to you, doctor,’ added Shargar, beseechingly.

‘Trust me for that, Moray,’ returned Dr. Anderson. ‘I owe you a good
deal more than that. My brains might have been out by this time.’

‘The Lord be praised!’ said Shargar, making about his first profession
of Christianity. ‘Robert ‘ill think something o’ me noo.’

During this conversation the coachman sat expecting some one to appear
from the shop, and longing to pitch into the ‘camstary’ horse, but not
daring to lift his whip beyond its natural angle. No one came. All at
once Shargar knew where he was.

‘Guid be here! we’re at Donal’s door! Guid day to ye, doctor; an’ I’m
muckle obleeged to ye. Maybe, gin ye war comin’ oor gait, the morn, or
the neist day, to see Maister Ericson, ye wad tie up my airm, for it
gangs wallopin’ aboot, an’ that canna be guid for the stickin’ o’ ‘t
thegither again.’

‘My poor boy! you don’t think I’m going to leave you here, do you?’ said
the doctor, proceeding to open the carriage-door.

‘But whaur’s the hamper?’ said Shargar, looking about him in dismay.

‘The coachman has got it on the box,’ answered the doctor.

‘Eh! that’ll never do. Gin thae rampaugin’ brutes war to tak a start
again, what wad come o’ the bit basket? I maun get it doon direckly.’

‘Sit still. I will get it down, and deliver it myself.’ As he spoke the
doctor got out.

‘Tak care o’ ‘t, sir; tak care o’ ‘t. William Walker said there was a
jar o’ drained hinney i’ the basket; an’ the bairns wad miss ‘t sair gin
‘t war spult.’

‘I will take good care of it,’ responded the doctor.

He delivered the basket, returned to the carriage, and told the coachman
to drive home.

‘Whaur are ye takin’ me till?’ exclaimed Shargar. ‘Willie hasna payed me
for the parcel.’

‘Never mind Willie. I’ll pay you,’ said the doctor.

‘But Robert wadna like me to tak siller whaur I did nae wark for ‘t,’
objected Shargar. ‘He’s some pernickety (precise)--Robert. But I’ll jist
say ‘at ye garred me, doctor. Maybe that ‘ll saitisfee him. An’ faith!
I’m queer aboot my left fin here.’

‘We’ll soon set it all right,’ said the doctor.

When they reached his house he led the way to his surgery, and there put
the broken limb in splints. He then told Johnston to help the patient to

‘I maun gang hame,’ objected Shargar. ‘What wad Robert think?’

‘I will tell him all about it,’ said the doctor.

‘Yersel, sir?’ stipulated Shargar.

‘Yes, myself.’

‘Afore nicht?’

‘Directly,’ answered the doctor, and Shargar yielded.

‘But what will Robert say?’ were his last words, as he fell asleep,
appreciating, no doubt, the superiority of the bed to his usual lair
upon the hearthrug.

Robert was delighted to hear how well Shargar had acquitted himself.
Followed a small consultation about him; for the accident had ripened
the doctor’s intentions concerning the outcast.

‘As soon as his arm is sound again, he shall go to the grammar-school,’
he said.

‘An’ the college?’ asked Robert.

‘I hope so,’ answered the doctor. ‘Do you think he will do well? He has
plenty of courage, at all events, and that is a fine thing.’

‘Ow ay,’ answered Robert; ‘he’s no ill aff for smeddum (spirit)--that
is, gin it be for ony ither body. He wad never lift a han’ for himsel’;
an’ that’s what garred me tak till him sae muckle. He’s a fine crater.
He canna gang him lane, but he’ll gang wi’ onybody--and haud up wi’

‘What do you think him fit for, then?’

Now Robert had been building castles for Shargar out of the hopes which
the doctor’s friendliness had given him. Therefore he was ready with his

‘Gin ye cud ensure him no bein’ made a general o’, he wad mak a gran’
sojer. Set’s face foret, and say “quick mairch,” an’ he’ll ca his
bagonet throu auld Hornie. But lay nae consequences upo’ him, for he
cudna stan’ unner them.’

Dr. Anderson laughed, but thought none the less, and went home to see
how his patient was getting on.


Meantime Ericson grew better. A space of hard, clear weather, in which
everything sparkled with frost and sunshine, did him good. But not yet
could he use his brain. He turned with dislike even from his friend
Plato. He would sit in bed or on his chair by the fireside for hours,
with his hands folded before him, and his eyelids drooping, and let his
thoughts flow, for he could not think. And that these thoughts flowed
not always with other than sweet sounds over the stones of question, the
curves of his lip would testify to the friendly, furtive glance of the
watchful Robert. None but the troubled mind knows its own consolations;
and I believe the saddest life has its own presence--however it may
be unrecognized as such--of the upholding Deity. Doth God care for
the hairs that perish from our heads? To a mind like Ericson’s the
remembered scent, the recurring vision of a flower loved in childhood,
is enough to sustain anxiety with beauty, for the lovely is itself
healing and hope-giving, because it is the form and presence of the
true. To have such a presence is to be; and while a mind exists in
any high consciousness, the intellectual trouble that springs from
the desire to know its own life, to be assured of its rounded law and
security, ceases, for the desire itself falls into abeyance.

But although Ericson was so weak, he was always able and ready to help
Robert in any difficulty not unfrequently springing from his imperfect
preparation in Greek; for while Mr. Innes was an excellent Latin
scholar, his knowledge of Greek was too limited either to compel
learning or inspire enthusiasm. And with the keen instinct he possessed
in everything immediate between man and man, Robert would sometimes
search for a difficulty in order to request its solution; for then
Ericson would rouse himself to explain as few men could have explained:
where a clear view was to be had of anything, Ericson either had it or
knew that he had it not. Hence Robert’s progress was good; for one word
from a wise helper will clear off a whole atmosphere of obstructions.

At length one day when Robert came home he found him seated at the
table, with his slate, working away at the Differential Calculus. After
this he recovered more rapidly, and ere another week was over began
to attend one class a day. He had been so far in advance before, that
though he could not expect prizes, there was no fear of his passing.

One morning, Robert, coming out from a lecture, saw Ericson in the
quadrangle talking to an elderly gentleman. When they met in the
afternoon Ericson told him that that was Mr. Lindsay, and that he had
asked them both to spend the evening at his house. Robert would go
anywhere to be with his friend.

He got out his Sunday clothes, and dressed himself with anxiety: he had
visited scarcely at all, and was shy and doubtful. He then sat down to
his books, till Ericson came to his door--dressed, and hence in Robert’s
eyes ceremonial--a stately, graceful gentleman. Renewed awe came upon
him at the sight, and renewed gratitude. There was a flush on Ericson’s
cheek, and a fire in his eye. Robert had never seen him look so grand.
But there was a something about him that rendered him uneasy--a look
that made Ericson seem strange, as if his life lay in some far-off

‘I want you to take your violin with you, Robert,’ he said.

‘Hoots!’ returned Robert, ‘hoo can I do that? To tak her wi’ me the
first time I gang to a strange hoose, as gin I thocht a’body wad think
as muckle o’ my auld wife as I do mysel’! That wadna be mainners--wad it
noo, Mr. Ericson?’

‘But I told Mr. Lindsay that you could play well. The old gentleman is
fond of Scotch tunes, and you will please him if you take it.’

‘That maks a’ the differ,’ answered Robert.

‘Thank you,’ said Ericson, as Robert went towards his instrument;
and, turning, would have walked from the house without any additional

‘Whaur are ye gaein’ that gait, Mr. Ericson? Tak yer plaid, or ye’ll be
laid up again, as sure’s ye live.’

‘I’m warm enough,’ returned Ericson.

‘That’s naething. The cauld ‘s jist lyin’ i’ the street like a verra
deevil to get a grup o’ ye. Gin ye dinna pit on yer plaid, I winna tak
my fiddle.’

Ericson yielded; and they set out together.

I will account for Ericson’s request about the violin.

He went to the episcopal church on Sundays, and sat where he could see
Mysie--sat longing and thirsting ever till the music returned. Yet the
music he never heard; he watched only its transmutation into form, never
taking his eyes off Mysie’s face. Reflected thence in a metamorphosed
echo, he followed all its changes. Never was one powerless to produce
it more strangely responsive to its influence. She had no voice; she had
never been taught the use of any instrument. A world of musical feeling
was pent up in her, and music raised the suddener storms in her mobile
nature, that she was unable to give that feeling utterance. The waves of
her soul dashed the more wildly against their shores, inasmuch as those
shores were precipitous, and yielded no outlet to the swelling waters.
It was that his soul might hover like a bird of Paradise over the lovely
changes of her countenance, changes more lovely and frequent than those
of an English May, that Ericson persuaded Robert to take his violin.

The last of the sunlight was departing, and a large full moon was
growing through the fog on the horizon. The sky was almost clear of
clouds, and the air was cold and penetrating. Robert drew Eric’s plaid
closer over his chest. Eric thanked him lightly, but his voice sounded
eager; and it was with a long hasty stride that he went up the hill
through the gathering of the light frosty mist. He stopped at the stair
upon which Robert had found him that memorable night. They went up. The
door had been left on the latch for their entrance. They went up more
steps between rocky walls. When in after years he read the Purgatorio,
as often as he came to one of its ascents, Robert saw this stair with
his inward eye. At the top of the stair was the garden, still ascending,
and at the top of the garden shone the glow of Mr. Lindsay’s parlour
through the red-curtained window. To Robert it shone a refuge for
Ericson from the night air; to Ericson it shone the casket of the
richest jewel of the universe. Well might the ruddy glow stream forth to
meet him! Only in glowing red could such beauty be rightly closed. With
trembling hand he knocked at the door.

They were shown at once into the parlour. Mysie was putting away her
book as they entered, and her back was towards them. When she turned, it
seemed even to Robert as if all the light in the room came only from her
eyes. But that light had been all gathered out of the novel she had just
laid down. She held out her hand to Eric, and her sweet voice was yet
more gentle than wont, for he had been ill. His face flushed at the
tone. But although she spoke kindly, he could hardly have fancied that
she showed him special favour.

Robert stood with his violin under his arm, feeling as awkward as if he
had never handled anything more delicate than a pitchfork. But Mysie sat
down to the table, and began to pour out the tea, and he came to himself
again. Presently her father entered. His greeting was warm and mild and
sleepy. He had come from poring over Spotiswood, in search of some Will
o’ the wisp or other, and had grown stupid from want of success. But
he revived after a cup of tea, and began to talk about northern
genealogies; and Ericson did his best to listen. Robert wondered at the
knowledge he displayed: he had been tutor the foregoing summer in one
of the oldest and poorest, and therefore proudest families in Caithness.
But all the time his host talked Ericson’s eyes hovered about Mysie,
who sat gazing before her with look distraught, with wide eyes and
scarce-moving eyelids, beholding something neither on sea or shore;
and Mr. Lindsay would now and then correct Ericson in some egregious
blunder; while Mysie would now and then start awake and ask Robert or
Ericson to take another cup of tea. Before the sentence was
finished, however, she would let it die away, speaking the last words
mechanically, as her consciousness relapsed into dreamland. Had not
Robert been with Ericson, he would have found it wearisome enough; and
except things took a turn, Ericson could hardly be satisfied with the
pleasure of the evening. Things did take a turn.

‘Robert has brought his fiddle,’ said Ericson, as the tea was removed.

‘I hope he will be kind enough to play something,’ said Mr. Lindsay.

‘I’ll do that,’ answered Robert, with alacrity. ‘But ye maunna expec’
ower muckle, for I’m but a prentice-han’,’ he added, as he got the
instrument ready.

Before he had drawn the bow once across it, attention awoke in Mysie’s
eyes; and before he had finished playing, Ericson must have had quite as
much of the ‘beauty born of murmuring sound’ as was good for him. Little
did Mysie think of the sky of love, alive with silent thoughts, that
arched over her. The earth teems with love that is unloved. The universe
itself is one sea of infinite love, from whose consort of harmonies if a
stray note steal across the sense, it starts bewildered.

Robert played better than usual. His touch grew intense, and put on all
its delicacy, till it was like that of the spider, which, as Pope so
admirably says,

     Feels at each thread, and lives along the line.

And while Ericson watched its shadows, the music must have taken hold of
him too; for when Robert ceased, he sang a wild ballad of the northern
sea, to a tune strange as itself. It was the only time Robert ever heard
him sing. Mysie’s eyes grew wider and wider as she listened. When it was

‘Did ye write that sang yersel’, Mr. Ericson?’ asked Robert.

‘No,’ answered Ericson. ‘An old shepherd up in our parts used to say it
to me when I was a boy.’

‘Didna he sing ‘t?’ Robert questioned further.

‘No, he didn’t. But I heard an old woman crooning it to a child in a
solitary cottage on the shore of Stroma, near the Swalchie whirlpool,
and that was the tune she sang it to, if singing it could be called.’

‘I don’t quite understand it, Mr. Ericson,’ said Mysie. ‘What does it

‘There was once a beautiful woman lived there-away,’ began Ericson.--But
I have not room to give the story as he told it, embellishing it,
no doubt, as with such a mere tale was lawful enough, from his own
imagination. The substance was that a young man fell in love with a
beautiful witch, who let him go on loving her till he cared for nothing
but her, and then began to kill him by laughing at him. For no witch can
fall in love herself, however much she may like to be loved. She mocked
him till he drowned himself in a pool on the seashore. Now the witch did
not know that; but as she walked along the shore, looking for things,
she saw his hand lying over the edge of a rocky basin. Nothing is more
useful to a witch than the hand of a man, so she went to pick it up.
When she found it fast to an arm, she would have chopped it off, but
seeing whose it was, she would, for some reason or other best known to
a witch, draw off his ring first. For it was an enchanted ring which she
had given him to bewitch his love, and now she wanted both it and the
hand to draw to herself the lover of a young maiden whom she hated. But
the dead hand closed its fingers upon hers, and her power was powerless
against the dead. And the tide came rushing up, and the dead hand held
her till she was drowned. She lies with her lover to this day at the
bottom of the Swalchie whirlpool; and when a storm is at hand, strange
moanings rise from the pool, for the youth is praying the witch lady for
her love, and she is praying him to let go her hand.

While Ericson told the story the room still glimmered about Robert as
if all its light came from Mysie’s face, upon which the flickering
firelight alone played. Mr. Lindsay sat a little back from the rest,
with an amused expression: legends of such sort did not come within the
scope of his antiquarian reach, though he was ready enough to believe
whatever tempted his own taste, let it be as destitute of likelihood as
the story of the dead hand. When Ericson ceased, Mysie gave a deep sigh,
and looked full of thought, though I daresay it was only feeling. Mr.
Lindsay followed with an old tale of the Sinclairs, of which he said
Ericson’s reminded him, though the sole association was that the
foregoing was a Caithness story, and the Sinclairs are a Caithness
family. As soon as it was over, Mysie, who could not hide all her
impatience during its lingering progress, asked Robert to play again. He
took up his violin, and with great expression gave the air of Ericson’s
ballad two or three times over, and then laid down the instrument. He
saw indeed that it was too much for Mysie, affecting her more, thus
presented after the story, than the singing of the ballad itself.
Thereupon Ericson, whose spirits had risen greatly at finding that he
could himself secure Mysie’s attention, and produce the play of soul in
feature which he so much delighted to watch, offered another story;
and the distant rush of the sea, borne occasionally into the ‘grateful
gloom’ upon the cold sweep of a February wind, mingled with one tale
after another, with which he entranced two of his audience, while the
third listened mildly content.

The last of the tales Ericson told was as follows:--

‘One evening-twilight in spring, a young English student, who had
wandered northwards as far as the outlying fragments of Scotland called
the Orkney and Shetland islands, found himself on a small island of
the latter group, caught in a storm of wind and hail, which had come on
suddenly. It was in vain to look about for any shelter; for not only did
the storm entirely obscure the landscape, but there was nothing around
him save a desert moss.

‘At length, however, as he walked on for mere walking’s sake, he found
himself on the verge of a cliff, and saw, over the brow of it, a few
feet below him, a ledge of rock, where he might find some shelter from
the blast, which blew from behind. Letting himself down by his hands, he
alighted upon something that crunched beneath his tread, and found the
bones of many small animals scattered about in front of a little cave
in the rock, offering the refuge he sought, He went in, and sat upon
a stone. The storm increased in violence, and as the darkness grew he
became uneasy, for he did not relish the thought of spending the night
in the cave. He had parted from his companions on the opposite side of
the island, and it added to his uneasiness that they must be full of
apprehension about him. At last there came a lull in the storm, and the
same instant he heard a footfall, stealthy and light as that of a wild
beast, upon the bones at the mouth of the cave. He started up in some
fear, though the least thought might have satisfied him that there could
be no very dangerous animals upon the island. Before he had time to
think, however, the face of a woman appeared in the opening. Eagerly the
wanderer spoke. She started at the sound of his voice. He could not see
her well, because she was turned towards the darkness of the cave.

‘“Will you tell me how to find my way across the moor to Shielness?” he

‘“You cannot find it to-night,” she answered, in a sweet tone, and with
a smile that bewitched him, revealing the whitest of teeth.

‘“What am I to do, then?” he asked.

‘“My mother will give you shelter, but that is all she has to offer.”

‘“And that is far more than I expected a minute ago,” he replied. “I
shall be most grateful.”

‘She turned in silence and left the cave. The youth followed.

‘She was barefooted, and her pretty brown feet went catlike over the
sharp stones, as she led the way down a rocky path to the shore. Her
garments were scanty and torn, and her hair blew tangled in the wind.
She seemed about five-and-twenty, lithe and small. Her long fingers kept
clutching and pulling nervously at her skirts as she went. Her face
was very gray in complexion, and very worn, but delicately formed, and
smooth-skinned. Her thin nostrils were tremulous as eyelids, and
her lips, whose curves were faultless, had no colour to give sign of
indwelling blood. What her eyes were like he could not see, for she had
never lifted the delicate films of her eyelids.

‘At the foot of the cliff they came upon a little hut leaning against
it, and having for its inner apartment a natural hollow within it. Smoke
was spreading over the face of the rock, and the grateful odour of
food gave hope to the hungry student. His guide opened the door of the
cottage; he followed her in, and saw a woman bending over a fire in the
middle of the floor. On the fire lay a large fish boiling. The daughter
spoke a few words, and the mother turned and welcomed the stranger. She
had an old and very wrinkled, but honest face, and looked troubled. She
dusted the only chair in the cottage, and placed it for him by the side
of the fire, opposite the one window, whence he saw a little patch of
yellow sand over which the spent waves spread themselves out listlessly.
Under this window was a bench, upon which the daughter threw herself in
an unusual posture, resting her chin upon her hand. A moment after the
youth caught the first glimpse of her blue eyes. They were fixed upon
him with a strange look of greed, amounting to craving, but as if aware
that they belied or betrayed her, she dropped them instantly. The moment
she veiled them, her face, notwithstanding its colourless complexion,
was almost beautiful.

‘When the fish was ready the old woman wiped the deal table, steadied it
upon the uneven floor, and covered it with a piece of fine table-linen.
She then laid the fish on a wooden platter, and invited the guest to
help himself. Seeing no other provision, he pulled from his pocket a
hunting-knife, and divided a portion from the fish, offering it to the
mother first.

‘“Come, my lamb,” said the old woman; and the daughter approached the
table. But her nostrils and mouth quivered with disgust.

‘The next moment she turned and hurried from the hut.

‘“She doesn’t like fish,” said the old woman, “and I haven’t anything
else to give her.”

‘“She does not seem in good health,” he rejoined.

‘The woman answered only with a sigh, and they ate their fish with the
help of a little rye-bread. As they finished their supper, the youth
heard the sound as of the pattering of a dog’s feet upon the sand close
to the door; but ere he had time to look out of the window, the door
opened and the young woman entered. She looked better, perhaps from
having just washed her face. She drew a stool to the corner of the fire
opposite him. But as she sat down, to his bewilderment, and even horror,
the student spied a single drop of blood on her white skin within her
torn dress. The woman brought out a jar of whisky, put a rusty old
kettle on the fire, and took her place in front of it. As soon as the
water boiled, she proceeded to make some toddy in a wooden bowl.

‘Meantime the youth could not take his eyes off the young woman, so that
at length he found himself fascinated, or rather bewitched. She kept her
eyes for the most part veiled with the loveliest eyelids fringed with
darkest lashes, and he gazed entranced; for the red glow of the little
oil-lamp covered all the strangeness of her complexion. But as soon as
he met a stolen glance out of those eyes unveiled, his soul shuddered
within him. Lovely face and craving eyes alternated fascination and

‘The mother placed the bowl in his hands. He drank sparingly, and passed
it to the girl. She lifted it to her lips, and as she tasted--only
tasted it--looked at him. He thought the drink must have been drugged
and have affected his brain. Her hair smoothed itself back, and drew her
forehead backwards with it; while the lower part of her face projected
towards the bowl, revealing, ere she sipped, her dazzling teeth in
strange prominence. But the same moment the vision vanished; she
returned the vessel to her mother, and rising, hurried out of the

‘Then, the old woman pointed to a bed of heather in one corner with a
murmured apology; and the student, wearied both with the fatigues of the
day and the strangeness of the night, threw himself upon it, wrapped in
his cloak. The moment he lay down, the storm began afresh, and the wind
blew so keenly through the crannies of the hut, that it was only by
drawing his cloak over his head that he could protect himself from its
currents. Unable to sleep, he lay listening to the uproar which grew in
violence, till the spray was dashing against the window. At length the
door opened, and the young woman came in, made up the fire, drew the
bench before it, and lay down in the same strange posture, with her chin
propped on her hand and elbow, and her face turned towards the youth. He
moved a little; she dropped her head, and lay on her face, with her arms
crossed beneath her forehead. The mother had disappeared.

‘Drowsiness crept over him. A movement of the bench roused him, and he
fancied he saw some four-footed creature as tall as a large dog trot
quietly out of the door. He was sure he felt a rush of cold wind. Gazing
fixedly through the darkness, he thought he saw the eyes of the damsel
encountering his, but a glow from the falling together of the remnants
of the fire, revealed clearly enough that the bench was vacant.
Wondering what could have made her go out in such a storm, he fell fast

‘In the middle of the night he felt a pain in his shoulder, came broad
awake, and saw the gleaming eyes and grinning teeth of some animal close
to his face. Its claws were in his shoulder, and its mouth was in the
act of seeking his throat. Before it had fixed its fangs, however,
he had its throat in one hand, and sought his knife with the other.
A terrible struggle followed; but regardless of the tearing claws, he
found and opened his knife. He had made one futile stab, and was
drawing it for a surer, when, with a spring of the whole body, and one
wildly-contorted effort, the creature twisted its neck from his hold,
and with something betwixt a scream and a howl, darted from him.
Again he heard the door open; again the wind blew in upon him, and it
continued blowing; a sheet of spray dashed across the floor, and over
his face. He sprung from his couch and bounded to the door.

‘It was a wild night--dark, but for the flash of whiteness from the
waves as they broke within a few yards of the cottage; the wind was
raving, and the rain pouring down the air. A gruesome sound as of
mingled weeping and howling came from somewhere in the dark. He turned
again into the hut and closed the door, but could find no way of
securing it.

‘The lamp was nearly out, and he could not be certain whether the
form of the young woman was upon the bench or not. Overcoming a strong
repugnance, he approached it, and put out his hands--there was nothing
there. He sat down and waited for the daylight: he dared not sleep any

‘When the day dawned at length, he went out yet again, and looked
around. The morning was dim and gusty and gray. The wind had fallen,
but the waves were tossing wildly. He wandered up and down the little
strand, longing for more light.

‘At length he heard a movement in the cottage. By and by the voice of
the old woman called to him from the door.

‘“You’re up early, sir. I doubt you didn’t sleep well.”

‘“Not very well,” he answered. “But where is your daughter?”

‘“She’s not awake yet,” said the mother. “I’m afraid I have but a poor
breakfast for you. But you’ll take a dram and a bit of fish. It’s all
I’ve got.”

‘Unwilling to hurt her, though hardly in good appetite, he sat down at
the table. While they were eating the daughter came in, but turned her
face away and went to the further end of the hut. When she came forward
after a minute or two, the youth saw that her hair was drenched, and her
face whiter than before. She looked ill and faint, and when she raised
her eyes, all their fierceness had vanished, and sadness had taken its
place. Her neck was now covered with a cotton handkerchief. She was
modestly attentive to him, and no longer shunned his gaze. He was
gradually yielding to the temptation of braving another night in the
hut, and seeing what would follow, when the old woman spoke.

‘“The weather will be broken all day, sir,” she said. “You had better be
going, or your friends will leave without you.”

‘Ere he could answer, he saw such a beseeching glance on the face of the
girl, that he hesitated, confused. Glancing at the mother, he saw the
flash of wrath in her face. She rose and approached her daughter, with
her hand lifted to strike her. The young woman stooped her head with a
cry. He darted round the table to interpose between them. But the mother
had caught hold of her; the handkerchief had fallen from her neck; and
the youth saw five blue bruises on her lovely throat--the marks of
the four fingers and the thumb of a left hand. With a cry of horror he
rushed from the house, but as he reached the door he turned. His hostess
was lying motionless on the floor, and a huge gray wolf came bounding
after him.’

An involuntary cry from Mysie interrupted the story-teller. He changed
his tone at once.

‘I beg your pardon, Miss Lindsay, for telling you such a horrid tale. Do
forgive me. I didn’t mean to frighten you more than a little.’

‘Only a case of lycanthropia,’ remarked Mr. Lindsay, as coolly as if
that settled everything about it and lycanthropia, horror and all, at

‘Do tell us the rest,’ pleaded Mysie, and Ericson resumed.

‘There was no weapon at hand; and if there had been, his inborn chivalry
would never have allowed him to harm a woman even under the guise of a
wolf. Instinctively, he set himself firm, leaning a little forward, with
half outstretched arms, and hands curved ready to clutch again at the
throat upon which he had left those pitiful marks. But the creature as
she sprang eluded his grasp, and just as he expected to feel her fangs,
he found a woman weeping on his bosom, with her arms around his neck.
The next instant, the gray wolf broke from him, and bounded howling up
the cliff. Recovering himself as he best might, the youth followed, for
it was the only way to the moor above, across which he must now make his
way to find his companions.

‘All at once he heard the sound of a crunching of bones--not as if a
creature was eating them, but as if they were ground by the teeth of
rage and disappointment: looking up, he saw close above him the mouth of
the little cavern in which he had taken refuge the day before. Summoning
all his resolution, he passed it slowly and softly. From within came the
sounds of a mingled moaning and growling.

‘Having reached the top, he ran at full speed for some distance across
the moor before venturing to look behind him. When at length he did so
he saw, against the sky, the girl standing on the edge of the cliff,
wringing her hands. One solitary wail crossed the space between. She
made no attempt to follow him, and he reached the opposite shore in

Mysie tried to laugh, but succeeded badly. Robert took his violin, and
its tones had soon swept all the fear from her face, leaving in its
stead a trouble that has no name--the trouble of wanting one knows not
what--or how to seek it.

It was now time to go home. Mysie gave each an equally warm good-night
and thanks, Mr. Lindsay accompanied them to the door, and the students
stepped into the moonlight. Across the links the sound of the sea came
with a swell.

As they went down the garden, Ericson stopped. Robert thought he was
looking back to the house, and went on. When Ericson joined him, he was
pale as death.

‘What is the maitter wi’ ye, Mr. Ericson?’ he asked in terror.

‘Look there!’ said Ericson, pointing, not to the house, but to the sky.

Robert looked up. Close about the moon were a few white clouds. Upon
these white clouds, right over the moon, and near as the eyebrow to
an eye, hung part of an opalescent halo, bent into the rude, but
unavoidable suggestion of an eyebrow; while, close around the edge
of the moon, clung another, a pale storm-halo. To this pale iris and
faint-hued eyebrow the full moon itself formed the white pupil: the
whole was a perfect eye of ghastly death, staring out of the winter
heaven. The vision may never have been before, may never have been
again, but this Ericson and Robert saw that night.


The next Sunday Robert went with Ericson to the episcopal chapel, and
for the first time in his life heard the epic music of the organ. It was
a new starting-point in his life. The worshipping instrument flooded
his soul with sound, and he stooped beneath it as a bather on the shore
stoops beneath the broad wave rushing up the land. But I will not linger
over this portion of his history. It is enough to say that he sought
the friendship of the organist, was admitted to the instrument; touched,
trembled, exulted; grew dissatisfied, fastidious, despairing;
gathered hope and tried again, and yet again; till at last, with
constantly-recurring fits of self-despite, he could not leave the grand
creature alone. It became a rival even to his violin. And once before
the end of March, when the organist was ill, and another was not to
be had, he ventured to occupy his place both at morning and evening

Dr. Anderson kept George Moray in bed for a few days, after which
he went about for a while with his arm in a sling. But the season of
bearing material burdens was over for him now. Dr. Anderson had an
interview with the master of the grammar-school; a class was assigned to
Moray, and with a delight, resting chiefly on his social approximation
to Robert, which in one week elevated the whole character of his person
and countenance and bearing, George Moray bent himself to the task
of mental growth. Having good helpers at home, and his late-developed
energy turning itself entirely into the new channel, he got on
admirably. As there was no other room to be had in Mrs. Fyvie’s house,
he continued for the rest of the session to sleep upon the rug, for he
would not hear of going to another house. The doctor had advised Robert
to drop the nickname as much as possible; but the first time he called
him Moray, Shargar threatened to cut his throat, and so between the two
the name remained.

I presume that by this time Doctor Anderson had made up his mind to
leave his money to Robert, but thought it better to say nothing about
it, and let the boy mature his independence. He had him often to his
house. Ericson frequently accompanied him; and as there was a good deal
of original similarity between the doctor and Ericson, the latter soon
felt his obligation no longer a burden. Shargar likewise, though
more occasionally, made one of the party, and soon began, in his new
circumstances, to develop the manners of a gentleman. I say develop
advisedly, for Shargar had a deep humanity in him, as abundantly
testified by his devotion to Robert, and humanity is the body of which
true manners is the skin and ordinary manifestation: true manners are
the polish which lets the internal humanity shine through, just as the
polish on marble reveals its veined beauty. Many talks did the elderly
man hold with the three youths, and his experience of life taught
Ericson and Robert much, especially what he told them about his Brahmin
friend in India. Moray, on the other hand, was chiefly interested in his
tales of adventure when on service in the Indian army, or engaged in the
field sports of that region so prolific in monsters. His gipsy blood and
lawless childhood, spent in wandering familiarity with houseless nature,
rendered him more responsive to these than the others, and his kindled
eye and pertinent remarks raised in the doctor’s mind an early question
whether a commission in India might not be his best start in life.

Between Ericson and Robert, as the former recovered his health,
communication from the deeper strata of human need became less frequent.
Ericson had to work hard to recover something of his leeway; Robert had
to work hard that prizes might witness for him to his grandmother and
Miss St. John. To the latter especially, as I think I have said before,
he was anxious to show well, wiping out the blot, as he considered it,
of his all but failure in the matter of a bursary. For he looked up
to her as to a goddess who just came near enough to the earth to be
worshipped by him who dwelt upon it.

The end of the session came nigh. Ericson passed his examinations with
honour. Robert gained the first Greek and third Latin prize. The
evening of the last day arrived, and on the morrow the students would be
gone--some to their homes of comfort and idleness, others to hard
labour in the fields; some to steady reading, perhaps to school again
to prepare for the next session, and others to be tutors all the summer
months, and return to the wintry city as to freedom and life. Shargar
was to remain at the grammar-school.

That last evening Robert sat with Ericson in his room. It was a cold
night--the night of the last day of March. A bitter wind blew about the
house, and dropped spiky hailstones upon the skylight. The friends were
to leave on the morrow, but to leave together; for they had already sent
their boxes, one by the carrier to Rothieden, the other by a sailing
vessel to Wick, and had agreed to walk together as far as Robert’s home,
where he was in hopes of inducing his friend to remain for a few days
if he found his grandmother agreeable to the plan. Shargar was asleep on
the rug for the last time, and Robert had brought his coal-scuttle into
Ericson’s room to combine their scanty remains of well-saved fuel in a
common glow, over which they now sat.

‘I wonder what my grannie ‘ill say to me,’ said Robert.

‘She’ll be very glad to see you, whatever she may say,’ remarked

‘She’ll say “Noo, be dooce,” the minute I hae shacken hands wi’ her,’
said Robert.

‘Robert,’ returned Ericson solemnly, ‘if I had a grandmother to go home
to, she might box my ears if she liked--I wouldn’t care. You do not know
what it is not to have a soul belonging to you on the face of the earth.
It is so cold and so lonely!’

‘But you have a cousin, haven’t you?’ suggested Robert.

Ericson laughed, but good-naturedly.

‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘a little man with a fishy smell, in a blue
tail-coat with brass buttons, and a red and black nightcap.’

‘But,’ Robert ventured to hint, ‘he might go in a kilt and top-boots,
like Satan in my grannie’s copy o’ the Paradise Lost, for onything I
would care.’

‘Yes, but he’s just like his looks. The first thing he’ll do the next
morning after I go home, will be to take me into his office, or shop,
as he calls it, and get down his books, and show me how many barrels of
herring I owe him, with the price of each. To do him justice, he only
charges me wholesale.’

‘What’ll he do that for?’

‘To urge on me the necessity of diligence, and the choice of a
profession,’ answered Ericson, with a smile of mingled sadness and
irresolution. ‘He will set forth what a loss the interest of the money
is, even if I should pay the principal; and remind me that although he
has stood my friend, his duty to his own family imposes limits. And he
has at least a couple of thousand pounds in the county bank. I don’t
believe he would do anything for me but for the honour it will be to
the family to have a professional man in it. And yet my father was the
making of him.’

‘Tell me about your father. What was he?’

‘A gentle-minded man, who thought much and said little. He farmed the
property that had been his father’s own, and is now leased by my fishy
cousin afore mentioned.’

‘And your mother?’

‘She died just after I was born, and my father never got over it.’

‘And you have no brothers or sisters?’

‘No, not one. Thank God for your grandmother, and do all you can to
please her.’

A silence followed, during which Robert’s heart swelled and heaved
with devotion to Ericson; for notwithstanding his openness, there was a
certain sad coldness about him that restrained Robert from letting out
all the tide of his love. The silence became painful, and he broke it

‘What are you going to be, Mr. Ericson?’

‘I wish you could tell me, Robert. What would you have me to be? Come

Robert thought for a moment.

‘Weel, ye canna be a minister, Mr. Ericson, ‘cause ye dinna believe in
God, ye ken,’ he said simply.

‘Don’t say that, Robert,’ Ericson returned, in a tone of pain with which
no displeasure was mingled. ‘But you are right. At best I only hope in
God; I don’t believe in him.’

‘I’m thinkin’ there canna be muckle differ atween houp an’ faith,’ said
Robert. ‘Mony a ane ‘at says they believe in God has unco little houp o’
onything frae ‘s han’, I’m thinkin’.’

My reader may have observed a little change for the better in Robert’s
speech. Dr. Anderson had urged upon him the necessity of being able at
least to speak English; and he had been trying to modify the antique
Saxon dialect they used at Rothieden with the newer and more refined
English. But even when I knew him, he would upon occasion, especially
when the subject was religion or music, fall back into the broadest
Scotch. It was as if his heart could not issue freely by any other gate
than that of his grandmother tongue.

Fearful of having his last remark contradicted--for he had an
instinctive desire that it should lie undisturbed where he had cast it
in the field of Ericson’s mind, he hurried to another question.

‘What for shouldna ye be a doctor?’

‘Now you’ll think me a fool, Robert, if I tell you why.’

‘Far be it frae me to daur think sic a word, Mr. Ericson!’ said Robert

‘Well, I’ll tell you, whether or not,’ returned Ericson. ‘I could, I
believe, amputate a living limb with considerable coolness; but put a
knife in a dead body I could not.’

‘I think I know what you mean. Then you must be a lawyer.’

‘A lawyer! O Lord!’ said Ericson.

‘Why not?’ asked Robert, in some wonderment; for he could not imagine
Ericson acting from mere popular prejudice or fancy.

‘Just think of spending one’s life in an atmosphere of squabbles.
It’s all very well when one gets to be a judge and dispense justice;
but--well, it’s not for me. I could not do the best for my clients. And
a lawyer has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven--only with his
clients. He must be a party-man. He must secure for one so often at the
loss of the rest. My duty and my conscience would always be at strife.’

‘Then what will you be, Mr. Ericson?’

‘To tell the truth, I would rather be a watchmaker than anything else I
know. I might make one watch that would go right, I suppose, if I lived
long enough. But no one would take an apprentice of my age. So I suppose
I must be a tutor, knocked about from one house to another, patronized
by ex-pupils, and smiled upon as harmless by mammas and sisters to the
end of the chapter. And then something of a pauper’s burial, I suppose.
Che sara sara.’

Ericson had sunk into one of his worst moods. But when he saw Robert
looking unhappy, he changed his tone, and would be--what he could not

‘But what’s the use of talking about it?’ he said. ‘Get your fiddle,
man, and play The Wind that Shakes the Barley.’

‘No, Mr. Ericson,’ answered Robert; ‘I have no heart for the fiddle. I
would rather have some poetry.’

‘Oh!--Poetry!’ returned Ericson, in a tone of contempt--yet not very
hearty contempt.

‘We’re gaein’ awa’, Mr. Ericson,’ said Robert; ‘an’ the Lord ‘at we ken
naething aboot alane kens whether we’ll ever meet again i’ this place.
And sae--’

‘True enough, my boy,’ interrupted Ericson. ‘I have no need to trouble
myself about the future. I believe that is the real secret of it after
all. I shall never want a profession or anything else.’

‘What do you mean, Mr. Ericson?’ asked Robert, in half-defined terror.

‘I mean, my boy, that I shall not live long. I know that--thank God!’

‘How do you know it?’

‘My father died at thirty, and my mother at six-and-twenty, both of the
same disease. But that’s not how I know it.’

‘How do you know it then?’

Ericson returned no answer. He only said--

‘Death will be better than life. One thing I don’t like about it
though,’ he added, ‘is the coming on of unconsciousness. I cannot bear
to lose my consciousness even in sleep. It is such a terrible thing!’

‘I suppose that’s ane o’ the reasons that we canna be content withoot
a God,’ responded Robert. ‘It’s dreidfu’ to think even o’ fa’in’ asleep
withoot some ane greater an’ nearer than the me watchin’ ower ‘t. But
I’m jist sayin’ ower again what I hae read in ane o’ your papers, Mr.
Ericson. Jist lat me luik.’

Venturing more than he had ever yet ventured, Robert rose and went to
the cupboard where Ericson’s papers lay. His friend did not check him.
On the contrary, he took the papers from his hand, and searched for the
poem indicated.

‘I’m not in the way of doing this sort of thing, Robert,’ he said.

‘I know that,’ answered Robert.

And Ericson read.


     Oh, is it Death that comes
     To have a foretaste of the whole?
       To-night the planets and the stars
       Will glimmer through my window-bars,
     But will not shine upon my soul.

     For I shall lie as dead,
     Though yet I am above the ground;
       All passionless, with scarce a breath,
       With hands of rest and eyes of death,
     I shall be carried swiftly round.

     Or if my life should break
     The idle night with doubtful gleams
       Through mossy arches will I go,
       Through arches ruinous and low,
     And chase the true and false in dreams.

     Why should I fall asleep?
     When I am still upon my bed,
       The moon will shine, the winds will rise,
       And all around and through the skies
     The light clouds travel o’er my head.

     O, busy, busy things!
     Ye mock me with your ceaseless life;
       For all the hidden springs will flow,
       And all the blades of grass will grow,
     When I have neither peace nor strife.

     And all the long night through,
     The restless streams will hurry by;
       And round the lands, with endless roar,
       The white waves fall upon the shore,
     And bit by bit devour the dry.

     Even thus, but silently,
     Eternity, thy tide shall flow--
       And side by side with every star
       Thy long-drawn swell shall bear me far,
     An idle boat with none to row.

     My senses fail with sleep;
     My heart beats thick; the night is noon;
       And faintly through its misty folds
       I hear a drowsy clock that holds
     Its converse with the waning moon.

     Oh, solemn mystery!
     That I should be so closely bound
       With neither terror nor constraint
       Without a murmur of complaint,
     And lose myself upon such ground!

‘Rubbish!’ said Ericson, as he threw down the sheets, disgusted with his
own work, which so often disappoints the writer, especially if he is by
any chance betrayed into reading it aloud.

‘Dinna say that, Mr. Ericson,’ returned Robert. ‘Ye maunna say that.
Ye hae nae richt to lauch at honest wark, whether it be yer ain or ony
ither body’s. The poem noo--’

‘Don’t call it a poem,’ interrupted Ericson. ‘It’s not worthy of the

‘I will ca’ ‘t a poem,’ persisted Robert; ‘for it’s a poem to me,
whatever it may be to you. An’ hoo I ken ‘at it’s a poem is jist this:
it opens my een like music to something I never saw afore.’

‘What is that?’ asked Ericson, not sorry to be persuaded that there
might after all be some merit in the productions painfully despised of

‘Jist this: it’s only whan ye dinna want to fa’ asleep ‘at it luiks
fearsome to ye. An’ maybe the fear o’ death comes i’ the same way: we’re
feared at it ‘cause we’re no a’thegither ready for ‘t; but whan the
richt time comes, it’ll be as nat’ral as fa’in’ asleep whan we’re
doonricht sleepy. Gin there be a God to ca’ oor Father in heaven, I’m
no thinkin’ that he wad to sae mony bonny tunes pit a scraich for the
hinder end. I’m thinkin’, gin there be onything in ‘t ava--ye ken I’m no
sayin’, for I dinna ken--we maun jist lippen till him to dee dacent an’
bonny, an’ nae sic strange awfu’ fash aboot it as some fowk wad mak a
religion o’ expeckin’.’

Ericson looked at Robert with admiration mingled with something akin to

‘One would think it was your grandfather holding forth, Robert,’ he
said. ‘How came you to think of such things at your age?’

‘I’m thinkin’,’ answered Robert, ‘ye warna muckle aulder nor mysel’ whan
ye took to sic things, Mr. Ericson. But, ‘deed, maybe my luckie-daddie
(grandfather) pat them i’ my heid, for I had a heap ado wi’ his fiddle
for a while. She’s deid noo.’

Not understanding him, Ericson began to question, and out came the story
of the violins. They talked on till the last of their coals was burnt
out, and then they went to bed.

Shargar had undertaken to rouse them early, that they might set out on
their long walk with a long day before them. But Robert was awake before
Shargar. The all but soulless light of the dreary season awoke him,
and he rose and looked out. Aurora, as aged now as her loved Tithonus,
peered, gray-haired and desolate, over the edge of the tossing sea, with
hardly enough of light in her dim eyes to show the broken crests of the
waves that rushed shorewards before the wind of her rising. Such an east
wind was the right breath to issue from such a pale mouth of hopeless
revelation as that which opened with dead lips across the troubled sea
on the far horizon. While he gazed, the east darkened; a cloud of hail
rushed against the window; and Robert retreated to his bed. But ere he
had fallen asleep, Ericson was beside him; and before he was dressed,
Ericson appeared again, with his stick in his hand. They left Shargar
still asleep, and descended the stairs, thinking to leave the house
undisturbed. But Mrs. Fyvie was watching for them, and insisted on
their taking the breakfast she had prepared. They then set out on their
journey of forty miles, with half a loaf in their pockets, and money
enough to get bread and cheese, and a bottle of the poorest ale, at the
far-parted roadside inns.

When Shargar awoke, he wept in desolation, then crept into Robert’s bed,
and fell fast asleep again.


The youths had not left the city a mile behind, when a thick snowstorm
came on. It did not last long, however, and they fought their way
through it into a glimpse of sun. To Robert, healthy, powerful, and
except at rare times, hopeful, it added to the pleasure of the journey
to contend with the storm, and there was a certain steely indifference
about Ericson that carried him through. They trudged on steadily for
three hours along a good turnpike road, with great black masses of cloud
sweeping across the sky, which now sent them a glimmer of sunlight, and
now a sharp shower of hail. The country was very dreary--a succession of
undulations rising into bleak moorlands, and hills whose heather would
in autumn flush the land with glorious purple, but which now looked
black and cheerless, as if no sunshine could ever warm them. Now and
then the moorland would sweep down to the edge of the road, diversified
with dark holes from which peats were dug, and an occasional quarry
of gray granite. At one moment endless pools would be shining in the
sunlight, and the next the hail would be dancing a mad fantastic dance
all about them: they pulled their caps over their brows, bent their
heads, and struggled on.

At length they reached their first stage, and after a meal of bread and
cheese and an offered glass of whisky, started again on their journey.
They did not talk much, for their force was spent on their progress.

After some consultation whether to keep the road or take a certain short
cut across the moors, which would lead them into it again with a saving
of several miles, the sun shining out with a little stronger promise
than he had yet given, they resolved upon the latter. But in the middle
of the moorland the wind and the hail came on with increased violence,
and they were glad to tack from one to another of the huge stones that
lay about, and take a short breathing time under the lee of each; so
that when they recovered the road, they had lost as many miles in
time and strength as they had saved in distance. They did not give in,
however, but after another rest and a little more refreshment, started

The evening was now growing dusk around them, and the fatigue of the day
was telling so severely on Ericson, that when in the twilight they heard
the blast of a horn behind them, and turning saw the two flaming eyes
of a well-known four-horse coach come fluctuating towards them, Robert
insisted on their getting up and riding the rest of the way.

‘But I can’t afford it,’ said Ericson.

‘But I can,’ said Robert.

‘I don’t doubt it,’ returned Ericson. ‘But I owe you too much already.’

‘Gin ever we win hame--I mean to the heart o’ hame--ye can pay me

‘There will be no need then.’

‘Whaur’s the need than to mak sic a wark aboot a saxpence or twa atween
this and that? I thocht ye cared for naething that time or space
or sense could grip or measure. Mr. Ericson, ye’re no half sic a
philosopher as ye wad set up for.--Hillo!’

Ericson laughed a weary laugh, and as the coach stopped in obedience to
Robert’s hail, he scrambled up behind.

The guard knew Robert, was pitiful over the condition of the travellers,
would have put them inside, but that there was a lady there, and their
clothes were wet, got out a great horse-rug and wrapped Robert in it,
put a spare coat of his own, about an inch thick, upon Ericson, drew out
a flask, took a pull at it, handed it to his new passengers, and blew
a vigorous blast on his long horn, for they were approaching a desolate
shed where they had to change their weary horses for four fresh

Away they went once more, careering through the gathering darkness. It
was delightful indeed to have to urge one weary leg past the other
no more, but be borne along towards food, fire, and bed. But their
adventures were not so nearly over as they imagined. Once more the hail
fell furiously--huge hailstones, each made of many, half-melted and
welded together into solid lumps of ice. The coachman could scarcely
hold his face to the shower, and the blows they received on their faces
and legs, drove the thin-skinned, high-spirited horses nearly mad. At
length they would face it no longer. At a turn in the road, where it
crossed a brook by a bridge with a low stone wall, the wind met them
right in the face with redoubled vehemence; the leaders swerved from it,
and were just rising to jump over the parapet, when the coachman, whose
hands were nearly insensible with cold, threw his leg over the reins,
and pulled them up. One of the leaders reared, and fell backwards; one
of the wheelers kicked vigorously; a few moments, and in spite of the
guard at their heads, all was one struggling mass of bodies and legs,
with a broken pole in the midst. The few passengers got down; and
Robert, fearing that yet worse might happen and remembering the lady,
opened the door. He found her quite composed. As he helped her out,

‘What is the matter?’ asked the voice dearest to him in the world--the
voice of Miss St. John.

He gave a cry of delight. Wrapped in the horse-cloth, Miss St. John did
not know him.

‘What is the matter?’ she repeated.

‘Ow, naething, mem--naething. Only I doobt we winna get ye hame the

‘Is it you, Robert?’ she said, gladly recognizing his voice.

‘Ay, it’s me, and Mr. Ericson. We’ll tak care o’ ye, mem.’

‘But surely we shall get home!’

Robert had heard the crack of the breaking pole.

‘’Deed, I doobt no.’

‘What are we to do, then?’

‘Come into the lythe (shelter) o’ the bank here, oot o’ the gait o’ thae
brutes o’ horses,’ said Robert, taking off his horse-cloth and wrapping
her in it.

The storm hissed and smote all around them. She took Robert’s arm.
Followed by Ericson, they left the coach and the struggling horses, and
withdrew to a bank that overhung the road. As soon as they were out of
the wind, Robert, who had made up his mind, said,

‘We canna be mony yairds frae the auld hoose o’ Bogbonnie. We micht win
throu the nicht there weel eneuch. I’ll speir at the gaird, the minute
the horses are clear. We war ‘maist ower the brig, I heard the coachman

‘I know quite well where the old house is,’ said Ericson. ‘I went in the
last time I walked this way.’

‘Was the door open?’ asked Robert.

‘I don’t know,’ answered Ericson. ‘I found one of the windows open in
the basement.’

‘We’ll get the len’ o’ ane o’ the lanterns, an’ gang direckly. It canna
be mair nor the breedth o’ a rig or twa frae the burn.’

‘I can take you by the road,’ said Ericson.

‘It will be very cold,’ said Miss St. John,--already shivering, partly
from disquietude.

‘There’s timmer eneuch there to haud ‘s warm for a twalmonth,’ said

He went back to the coach. By this time the horses were nearly
extricated. Two of them stood steaming in the lamplight, with their
sides going at twenty bellows’ speed. The guard would not let him have
one of the coach lamps, but gave him a small lantern of his own. When he
returned with it, he found Ericson and Miss St. John talking together.

Ericson led the way, and the others followed.

‘Whaur are ye gaein’, gentlemen?’ asked the guard, as they passed the

‘To the auld hoose,’ answered Robert.

‘Ye canna do better. I maun bide wi’ the coch till the lave gang back
to Drumheid wi’ the horses, on’ fess anither pole. Faith, it’ll be weel
into the mornin’ or we win oot o’ this. Tak care hoo ye gang. There’s
holes i’ the auld hoose, I doobt.’

‘We’ll tak gude care, ye may be sure, Hector,’ said Robert, as they left
the bridge.

The house to which Ericson was leading them was in the midst of a field.
There was just light enough to show a huge mass standing in the dark,
without a tree or shelter of any sort. When they reached it, all that
Miss St. John could distinguish was a wide broken stair leading up
to the door, with glimpses of a large, plain, ugly, square front. The
stones of the stair sloped and hung in several directions; but it was
plain to a glance that the place was dilapidated through extraordinary
neglect, rather than by the usual wear of time. In fact, it belonged
only to the beginning of the preceding century, somewhere in Queen
Anne’s time. There was a heavy door to it, but fortunately for Miss
St. John, who would not quite have relished getting in at the window of
which Ericson had spoken, it stood a little ajar. The wind roared in the
gap and echoed in the empty hall into which they now entered. Certainly
Robert was right: there was wood enough to keep them warm; for that
hall, and every room into which they went, from top to bottom of the
huge house, was lined with pine. No paint-brush had ever passed upon it.
Neither was there a spot to be seen upon the grain of the wood: it was
clean as the day when the house was finished, only it had grown much
browner. A close gallery, with window-frames which had never been
glazed, at one story’s height, leading across from the one side of the
first floor to the other, looked down into the great echoing hall, which
rose in the centre of the building to the height of two stories; but
this was unrecognizable in the poor light of the guard’s lantern. All
the rooms on every floor opened each into the other;--but why should I
give such a minute description, making my reader expect a ghost story,
or at least a nocturnal adventure? I only want him to feel something
of what our party felt as they entered this desolate building, which,
though some hundred and twenty years old, bore not a single mark
upon the smooth floors or spotless walls to indicate that article of
furniture had ever stood in it, or human being ever inhabited it.
There was a strange and unusual horror about the place--a feeling quite
different from that belonging to an ancient house, however haunted it
might be. It was like a body that had never had a human soul in it.
There was no sense of a human history about it. Miss St. John’s feeling
of eeriness rose to the height when, in wandering through the many rooms
in search of one where the windows were less broken, she came upon one
spot in the floor. It was only a hole worn down through floor after
floor, from top to bottom, by the drip of the rains from the broken
roof: it looked like the disease of the desolate place, and she

Here they must pass the night, with the wind roaring awfully through the
echoing emptiness, and every now and then the hail clashing against what
glass remained in the windows. They found one room with the window well
boarded up, for until lately some care had been taken of the place
to keep it from the weather. There Robert left his companions, who
presently heard the sounds of tearing and breaking below, necessity
justifying him in the appropriation of some of the wood-work for their
own behoof. He tore a panel or two from the walls, and returning with
them, lighted a fire on the empty hearth, where, from the look of the
stone and mortar, certainly never fire had blazed before. The wood was
dry as a bone, and burnt up gloriously.

Then first Robert bethought himself that they had nothing to eat. He
himself was full of merriment, and cared nothing about eating; for had
he not Miss St. John and Ericson there? but for them something must be
provided. He took his lantern and went back through the storm. The hail
had ceased, but the wind blew tremendously. The coach stood upon the
bridge like a stranded vessel, its two lamps holding doubtful battle
with the wind, now flaring out triumphantly, now almost yielding up the
ghost. Inside, the guard was snoring in defiance of the pother o’er his

‘Hector! Hector!’ cried Robert.

‘Ay, ay,’ answered Hector. ‘It’s no time to wauken yet.’

‘Hae ye nae basket, Hector, wi’ something to eat in ‘t--naething gaein’
to Rothieden ‘at a body micht say by yer leave till?’

‘Ow! it’s you, is ‘t?’ returned Hector, rousing himself. ‘Na. Deil ane.
An’ gin I had, I daurna gie ye ‘t.’

‘I wad mak free to steal ‘t, though, an’ tak my chance,’ said Robert.
‘But ye say ye hae nane?’

‘Nane, I tell ye. Ye winna hunger afore the mornin’, man.’

‘I’ll stan’ hunger as weel ‘s you ony day, Hector. It’s no for mysel’.
There’s Miss St. John.’

‘Hoots!’ said Hector, peevishly, for he wanted to go to sleep again,
‘gang and mak luve till her. Nae lass ‘ll think o’ meat as lang ‘s ye do
that. That ‘ll haud her ohn hungert.’

The words were like blasphemy in Robert’s ear. He make love to Miss St.
John! He turned from the coach-door in disgust. But there was no place
he knew of where anything could be had, and he must return empty-handed.

The light of the fire shone through a little hole in the boards that
closed the window. His lamp had gone out, but, guided by that, he found
the road again, and felt his way up the stairs. When he entered the room
he saw Miss St. John sitting on the floor, for there was nowhere else to
sit, with the guard’s coat under her. She had taken off her bonnet.
Her back leaned against the side of the chimney, and her eyes were bent
thoughtfully on the ground. In their shine Robert read instinctively
that Ericson had said something that had set her thinking. He lay on the
floor at some distance, leaning on his elbow, and his eye had the flash
in it that indicates one who has just ceased speaking. They had not
found his absence awkward at least.

‘I hae been efter something to eat,’ said Robert; ‘but I canna fa’ in
wi’ onything. We maun jist tell stories or sing sangs, as fowk do in
buiks, or else Miss St. John ‘ill think lang.’

They did sing songs, and they did tell stories. I will not trouble my
reader with more than the sketch of one which Robert told--the story
of the old house wherein they sat--a house without a history, save the
story of its no history. It had been built for the jointure-house of a
young countess, whose husband was an old man. A lover to whom she
had turned a deaf ear had left the country, begging ere he went her
acceptance of a lovely Italian grayhound. She was weak enough to receive
the animal. Her husband died the same year, and before the end of it
the dog went mad, and bit her. According to the awful custom of the
time they smothered her between two feather-beds, just as the house
of Bogbonnie was ready to receive her furniture, and become her future
dwelling. No one had ever occupied it.

If Miss St. John listened to story and song without as much show of
feeling as Mysie Lindsay would have manifested, it was not that she
entered into them less deeply. It was that she was more, not felt less.

Listening at her window once with Robert, Eric Ericson had heard Mary
St. John play: this was their first meeting. Full as his mind was of
Mysie, he could not fail to feel the charm of a noble, stately womanhood
that could give support, instead of rousing sympathy for helplessness.
There was in the dignified simplicity of Mary St. John that which made
every good man remember his mother; and a good man will think this grand
praise, though a fast girl will take it for a doubtful compliment.

Seeing her begin to look weary, the young men spread a couch for her as
best they could, made up the fire, and telling her they would be in the
hall below, retired, kindled another fire, and sat down to wait for
the morning. They held a long talk. At length Robert fell asleep on the

Ericson rose. One of his fits of impatient doubt was upon him. In the
dying embers of the fire he strode up and down the waste hall, with
the storm raving around it. He was destined to an early death; he would
leave no one of his kin to mourn for him; the girl whose fair face
had possessed his imagination, would not give one sigh to his memory,
wandering on through the regions of fancy all the same; and the
death-struggle over, he might awake in a godless void, where, having
no creative power in himself, he must be tossed about, a conscious yet
helpless atom, to eternity. It was not annihilation he feared, although
he did shrink from the thought of unconsciousness; it was life without
law that he dreaded, existence without the bonds of a holy necessity,
thought without faith, being without God.

For all her fatigue Miss St. John could not sleep. The house quivered in
the wind which howled more and more madly through its long passages
and empty rooms; and she thought she heard cries in the midst of the
howling. In vain she reasoned with herself: she could not rest. She rose
and opened the door of her room, with a vague notion of being nearer to
the young men.

It opened upon the narrow gallery, already mentioned as leading from one
side of the first floor to the other at mid-height along the end of the
hall. The fire below shone into this gallery, for it was divided from
the hall only by a screen of crossing bars of wood, like unglazed
window-frames, possibly intended to hold glass. Of the relation of the
passage to the hall Mary St. John knew nothing, till, approaching the
light, she found herself looking down into the red dusk below. She stood
riveted; for in the centre of the hall, with his hands clasped over his
head like the solitary arch of a ruined Gothic aisle, stood Ericson.

His agony had grown within him--the agony of the silence that brooded
immovable throughout the infinite, whose sea would ripple to no breath
of the feeble tempest of his prayers. At length it broke from him in low
but sharp sounds of words.

‘O God,’ he said, ‘if thou art, why dost thou not speak? If I am thy
handiwork--dost thou forget that which thou hast made?’

He paused, motionless, then cried again:

‘There can be no God, or he would hear.’

‘God has heard me!’ said a full-toned voice of feminine tenderness
somewhere in the air. Looking up, Ericson saw the dim form of Mary
St. John half-way up the side of the lofty hall. The same moment she
vanished--trembling at the sound of her own voice.

Thus to Ericson as to Robert had she appeared as an angel.

And was she less of a divine messenger because she had a human body,
whose path lay not through the air? The storm of misery folded its wings
in Eric’s bosom, and, at the sound of her voice, there was a great calm.
Nor if we inquire into the matter shall we find that such an effect
indicated anything derogatory to the depth of his feelings or the
strength of his judgment. It is not through the judgment that a troubled
heart can be set at rest. It needs a revelation, a vision; a something
for the higher nature that breeds and infolds the intellect, to
recognize as of its own, and lay hold of by faithful hope. And what
fitter messenger of such hope than the harmonious presence of a woman,
whose form itself tells of highest law, and concord, and uplifting
obedience; such a one whose beauty walks the upper air of noble
loveliness; whose voice, even in speech, is one of the ‘sphere-born
harmonious sisters? The very presence of such a being gives Unbelief the
lie, deep as the throat of her lying. Harmony, which is beauty and
law, works necessary faith in the region capable of truth. It needs the
intervention of no reasoning. It is beheld. This visible Peace, with
that voice of woman’s truth, said, ‘God has heard me!’ What better
testimony could an angel have brought him? Or why should an angel’s
testimony weigh more than such a woman’s? The mere understanding of a
man like Ericson would only have demanded of an angel proof that he was
an angel, proof that angels knew better than he did in the matter in
question, proof that they were not easy-going creatures that took for
granted the rumours of heaven. The best that a miracle can do is to
give hope; of the objects of faith it can give no proof; one spiritual
testimony is worth a thousand of them. For to gain the sole proof of
which these truths admit, a man must grow into harmony with them. If
there are no such things he cannot become conscious of a harmony that
has no existence; he cannot thus deceive himself; if there are, they
must yet remain doubtful until the harmony between them and his own
willing nature is established. The perception of this harmony is their
only and incommunicable proof. For this process time is needful; and
therefore we are saved by hope. Hence it is no wonder that before
another half-hour was over, Ericson was asleep by Robert’s side.

They were aroused in the cold gray light of the morning by the blast
of Hector’s horn. Miss St. John was ready in a moment. The coach was
waiting for them at the end of the grassy road that led from the house.
Hector put them all inside. Before they reached Rothieden the events of
the night began to wear the doubtful aspect of a dream. No allusion
was made to what had occurred while Robert slept; but all the journey
Ericson felt towards Miss St. John as Wordsworth felt towards the
leech-gatherer, who, he says, was

          like a man from some far region sent,
     To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.

And Robert saw a certain light in her eyes which reminded him of how she
looked when, having repented of her momentary hardness towards him, she
was ministering to his wounded head.


When Robert opened the door of his grandmother’s parlour, he found the
old lady seated at breakfast. She rose, pushed back her chair, and met
him in the middle of the room; put her old arms round him, offered her
smooth white cheek to him, and wept. Robert wondered that she did not
look older; for the time he had been away seemed an age, although in
truth only eight months.

‘Hoo are ye, laddie?’ she said. ‘I’m richt glaid, for I hae been
thinkin’ lang to see ye. Sit ye doon.’

Betty rushed in, drying her hands on her apron. She had not heard him

‘Eh losh!’ she cried, and put her wet apron to her eyes. ‘Sic a man as
ye’re grown, Robert! A puir body like me maunna be speykin to ye noo.’

‘There’s nae odds in me, Betty,’ returned Robert.

‘’Deed but there is. Ye’re sax feet an’ a hairy ower, I s’ warran’.’

‘I said there was nae odds i’ me, Betty,’ persisted Robert, laughing.

‘I kenna what may be in ye,’ retorted Betty; ‘but there’s an unco’ odds
upo’ ye.’

‘Haud yer tongue, Betty,’ said her mistress. ‘Ye oucht to ken better nor
stan’ jawin’ wi’ young men. Fess mair o’ the creamy cakes.’

‘Maybe Robert wad like a drappy o’ parritch.’

‘Onything, Betty,’ said Robert. ‘I’m at deith’s door wi’ hunger.’

‘Rin, Betty, for the cakes. An’ fess a loaf o’ white breid; we canna
bide for the parritch.’

Robert fell to his breakfast, and while he ate--somewhat ravenously--he
told his grandmother the adventures of the night, and introduced the
question whether he might not ask Ericson to stay a few days with him.

‘Ony frien’ o’ yours, laddie,’ she replied, qualifying her words only
with the addition--‘gin he be a frien’.--Whaur is he noo?’

‘He’s up at Miss Naper’s.’

‘Hoots! What for didna ye fess him in wi’ ye?--Betty!’

‘Na, na, grannie. The Napers are frien’s o’ his. We maunna interfere wi’
them. I’ll gang up mysel’ ance I hae had my brakfast.’

‘Weel, weel, laddie. Eh! I’m blythe to see ye! Hae ye gotten ony prizes

‘Ay have I. I’m sorry they’re nae baith o’ them the first. But I hae the
first o’ ane an’ the third o’ the ither.’

‘I am pleased at that, Robert. Ye’ll be a man some day gin ye haud frae
drink an’ frae--frae leein’.’

‘I never tellt a lee i’ my life, grannie.’

‘Na. I dinna think ‘at ever ye did.--An’ what’s that crater Shargar

‘Ow, jist gaein’ to be a croon o’ glory to ye, grannie. He vroucht like
a horse till Dr. Anderson took him by the han’, an’ sent him to the
schuil. An’ he’s gaein’ to mak something o’ ‘im, or a’ be dune. He’s a
fine crater, Shargar.’

‘He tuik a munelicht flittin’ frae here,’ rejoined the old lady, in a
tone of offence. ‘He micht hae said gude day to me, I think.’

‘Ye see he was feart at ye, grannie.’

‘Feart at me, laddie! Wha ever was feart at me? I never feart onybody i’
my life.’

So little did the dear old lady know that she was a terror to her
neighbourhood!--simply because, being a law to herself, she would
therefore be a law to other people,--a conclusion that cannot be

Mrs. Falconer’s courtesy did not fail. Her grandson had ceased to be
a child; her responsibility had in so far ceased; her conscience was
relieved at being rid of it; and the humanity of her great heart came
out to greet the youth. She received Ericson with perfect hospitality,
made him at home as far as the stately respect she showed him would
admit of his being so, and confirmed in him the impression of her which
Robert had given him. They held many talks together; and such was the
circumspection of Ericson that, not saying a word he did not believe,
he so said what he did believe, or so avoided the points upon which they
would have differed seriously, that although his theology was of course
far from satisfying her, she yet affirmed her conviction that the root
of the matter was in him. This distressed Ericson, however, for he
feared he must have been deceitful, if not hypocritical.

It was with some grumbling that the Napiers, especially Miss Letty,
parted with him to Mrs. Falconer. The hearts of all three had so taken
to the youth, that he found himself more at home in that hostelry than
anywhere else in the world. Miss Letty was the only one that spoke
lightly of him--she even went so far as to make good-natured game of him
sometimes--all because she loved him more than the others--more indeed
than she cared to show, for fear of exposing ‘an old woman’s ridiculous
fancy,’ as she called her predilection.--‘A lang-leggit, prood, landless
laird,’ she would say, with a moist glimmer in her loving eyes, ‘wi’ the
maist ridiculous feet ye ever saw--hardly room for the five taes atween
the twa! Losh!’

When Robert went forth into the streets, he was surprised to find how
friendly every one was. Even old William MacGregor shook him kindly by
the hand, inquired after his health, told him not to study too hard,
informed him that he had a copy of a queer old book that he would like
to see, &c., &c. Upon reflection Robert discovered the cause: though
he had scarcely gained a bursary, he had gained prizes; and in a little
place like Rothieden--long may there be such places!--everybody with any
brains at all took a share in the distinction he had merited.

Ericson stayed only a few days. He went back to the twilight of the
north, his fishy cousin, and his tutorship at Sir Olaf Petersen’s.
Robert accompanied him ten miles on his journey, and would have gone
further, but that he was to play on his violin before Miss St. John the
next day for the first time.

When he told his grandmother of the appointment he had made, she only
remarked, in a tone of some satisfaction,

‘Weel, she’s a fine lass, Miss St. John; and gin ye tak to ane anither,
ye canna do better.’

But Robert’s thoughts were so different from Mrs. Falconer’s that he did
not even suspect what she meant. He no more dreamed of marrying Miss St.
John than of marrying his forbidden grandmother. Yet she was no loss at
this period the ruling influence of his life; and if it had not been for
the benediction of her presence and power, this part of his history
too would have been torn by inward troubles. It is not good that a man
should batter day and night at the gate of heaven. Sometimes he can do
nothing else, and then nothing else is worth doing; but the very noise
of the siege will sometimes drown the still small voice that calls from
the open postern. There is a door wide to the jewelled wall not far from
any one of us, even when he least can find it.

Robert, however, notwithstanding the pedestal upon which Miss St. John
stood in his worshipping regard, began to be aware that his feeling
towards her was losing something of its placid flow, and I doubt whether
Miss St. John did not now and then see that in his face which made her
tremble a little, and doubt whether she stood on safe ground with a
youth just waking into manhood--tremble a little, not for herself, but
for him. Her fear would have found itself more than justified, if she
had surprised him kissing her glove, and then replacing it where he had
found it, with the air of one consciously guilty of presumption.

Possibly also Miss St. John may have had to confess to herself that
had she not had her history already, and been ten years his senior, she
might have found no little attraction in the noble bearing and handsome
face of young Falconer. The rest of his features had now grown into
complete harmony of relation with his whilom premature and therefore
portentous nose; his eyes glowed and gleamed with humanity, and his
whole countenance bore self-evident witness of being a true face and no
mask, a revelation of his individual being, and not a mere inheritance
from a fine breed of fathers and mothers. As it was, she could admire
and love him without danger of falling in love with him; but not without
fear lest he should not assume the correlative position. She saw no
way of prevention, however, without running a risk of worse. She shrunk
altogether from putting on anything; she abhorred tact, and pretence
was impracticable with Mary St. John. She resolved that if she saw any
definite ground for uneasiness she would return to England, and leave
any impression she might have made to wear out in her absence and
silence. Things did not seem to render this necessary yet.

Meantime the violin of the dead shoemaker blended its wails with the
rich harmonies of Mary St. John’s piano, and the soul of Robert went
forth upon the level of the sound and hovered about the beauty of his
friend. Oftener than she approved was she drawn by Robert’s eagerness
into these consorts.

But the heart of the king is in the hands of the Lord.

While Robert thus once more for a season stood behind the cherub with
the flaming sword, Ericson was teaching two stiff-necked youths in a
dreary house in the midst of one of the moors of Caithness. One day he
had a slight attack of blood-spitting, and welcomed it as a sign from
what heaven there might be beyond the grave.

He had not received the consolation of Miss St. John without, although
unconsciously, leaving something in her mind in return. No human being
has ever been allowed to occupy the position of a pure benefactor.
The receiver has his turn, and becomes the giver. From her talk with
Ericson, and even more from the influence of his sad holy doubt, a fresh
touch of the actinism of the solar truth fell upon the living seed
in her heart, and her life burst forth afresh, began to bud in new
questions that needed answers, and new prayers that sought them.

But she never dreamed that Robert was capable of sympathy with such
thoughts and feelings: he was but a boy. Nor in power of dealing with
truth was he at all on the same level with her, for however poor he
might have considered her theories, she had led a life hitherto, had
passed through sorrow without bitterness, had done her duty without
pride, had hoped without conceit of favour, had, as she believed, heard
the voice of God saying, ‘This is the way.’ Hence she was not afraid
when the mists of prejudice began to rise from around her path, and
reveal a country very different from what she had fancied it. She
was soon able to perceive that it was far more lovely and full of
righteousness and peace than she had supposed. But this anticipates;
only I shall have less occasion to speak of Miss St. John by the time
she has come into this purer air of the uphill road.

Robert was happier than he ever could have expected to be in his
grandmother’s house. She treated him like an honoured guest, let him do
as he would, and go where he pleased. Betty kept the gable-room in the
best of order for him, and, pattern of housemaids, dusted his table
without disturbing his papers. For he began to have papers; nor were
they occupied only with the mathematics to which he was now giving his
chief attention, preparing, with the occasional help of Mr. Innes, for
his second session.

He had fits of wandering, though; visited all the old places; spent a
week or two more than once at Bodyfauld; rode Mr. Lammie’s half-broke
filly; revelled in the glories of the summer once more; went out to tea
occasionally, or supped with the school-master; and, except going to
church on Sunday, which was a weariness to every inch of flesh upon his
bones, enjoyed everything.


One thing that troubled Robert on this his return home, was the
discovery that the surroundings of his childhood had deserted him. There
they were, as of yore, but they seemed to have nothing to say to him--no
remembrance of him. It was not that everything looked small and
narrow; it was not that the streets he saw from his new quarters, the
gable-room, were awfully still after the roar of Aberdeen, and a passing
cart seemed to shudder at the loneliness of the noise itself made; it
was that everything seemed to be conscious only of the past and care
nothing for him now. The very chairs with their inlaid backs had an
embalmed look, and stood as in a dream. He could pass even the walled-up
door without emotion, for all the feeling that had been gathered about
the knob that admitted him to Mary St. John, had transferred itself to
the brass bell-pull at her street-door.

But one day, after standing for a while at the window, looking down
on the street where he had first seen the beloved form of Ericson,
a certain old mood began to revive in him. He had been working at
quadratic equations all the morning; he had been foiled in the attempt
to find the true algebraic statement of a very tough question involving
various ratios; and, vexed with himself, he had risen to look out,
as the only available zeitvertreib. It was one of those rainy days
of spring which it needs a hopeful mood to distinguish from autumnal
ones--dull, depressing, persistent: there might be sunshine in Mercury
or Venus--but on the earth could be none, from his right hand round by
India and America to his left; and certainly there was none between--a
mood to which all sensitive people are liable who have not yet learned
by faith in the everlasting to rule their own spirits. Naturally enough
his thoughts turned to the place where he had suffered most--his old
room in the garret. Hitherto he had shrunk from visiting it; but now he
turned away from the window, went up the steep stairs, with their one
sharp corkscrew curve, pushed the door, which clung unwillingly to the
floor, and entered. It was a nothing of a place--with a window that
looked only to heaven. There was the empty bedstead against the wall,
where he had so often kneeled, sending forth vain prayers to a deaf
heaven! Had they indeed been vain prayers, and to a deaf heaven? or had
they been prayers which a hearing God must answer not according to the
haste of the praying child, but according to the calm course of his own
infinite law of love?

Here, somehow or other, the things about him did not seem so much
absorbed in the past, notwithstanding those untroubled rows of papers
bundled in red tape. True, they looked almost awful in their lack of
interest and their non-humanity, for there is scarcely anything that
absolutely loses interest save the records of money; but his mother’s
workbox lay behind them. And, strange to say, the side of that bed drew
him to kneel down: he did not yet believe that prayer was in vain. If
God had not answered him before, that gave no certainty that he would
not answer him now. It was, he found, still as rational as it had ever
been to hope that God would answer the man that cried to him. This came,
I think, from the fact that God had been answering him all the time,
although he had not recognized his gifts as answers. Had he not given
him Ericson, his intercourse with whom and his familiarity with whose
doubts had done anything but quench his thirst after the higher life?
For Ericson’s, like his own, were true and good and reverent doubts, not
merely consistent with but in a great measure springing from devoutness
and aspiration. Surely such doubts are far more precious in the sight of
God than many beliefs?

He kneeled and sent forth one cry after the Father, arose, and turned
towards the shelves, removed some of the bundles of letters, and drew
out his mother’s little box.

There lay the miniature, still and open-eyed as he had left it. There
too lay the bit of paper, brown and dry, with the hymn and the few words
of sorrow written thereon. He looked at the portrait, but did not open
the folded paper. Then first he thought whether there might not be
something more in the box: what he had taken for the bottom seemed to
be a tray. He lifted it by two little ears of ribbon, and there,
underneath, lay a letter addressed to his father, in the same
old-fashioned handwriting as the hymn. It was sealed with brown wax,
full of spangles, impressed with a bush of something--he could not tell
whether rushes or reeds or flags. Of course he dared not open it. His
holy mother’s words to his erring father must be sacred even from the
eyes of their son. But what other or fitter messenger than himself could
bear it to its destination? It was for this that he had been guided to

For years he had regarded the finding of his father as the first duty of
his manhood: it was as if his mother had now given her sanction to the
quest, with this letter to carry to the husband who, however he might
have erred, was yet dear to her. He replaced it in the box, but the
box no more on the forsaken shelf with its dreary barricade of soulless
records. He carried it with him, and laid it in the bottom of his box,
which henceforth he kept carefully locked: there lay as it were the
pledge of his father’s salvation, and his mother’s redemption from an
eternal grief.

He turned to his equation: it had cleared itself up; he worked it out in
five minutes. Betty came to tell him that the dinner was ready, and he
went down, peaceful and hopeful, to his grandmother.

While at home he never worked in the evenings: it was bad enough to have
to do so at college. Hence nature had a chance with him again. Blessings
on the wintry blasts that broke into the first youth of Summer! They
made him feel what summer was! Blessings on the cheerless days of rain,
and even of sleet and hail, that would shove the reluctant year back
into January. The fair face of Spring, with her tears dropping upon her
quenchless smiles, peeped in suppressed triumph from behind the growing
corn and the budding sallows on the river-bank. Nay, even when the snow
came once more in defiance of calendars, it was but a background from
which the near genesis should ‘stick fiery off.’

In general he had a lonely walk after his lesson with Miss St. John was
over: there was no one at Rothieden to whom his heart and intellect
both were sufficiently drawn to make a close friendship possible. He had
companions, however: Ericson had left his papers with him. The influence
of these led him into yet closer sympathy with Nature and all her moods;
a sympathy which, even in the stony heart of London, he not only did
not lose but never ceased to feel. Even there a breath of wind would not
only breathe upon him, it would breathe into him; and a sunset seen from
the Strand was lovely as if it had hung over rainbow seas. On his
way home he would often go into one of the shops where the neighbours
congregated in the evenings, and hold a little talk; and although, with
Miss St. John filling his heart, his friend’s poems his imagination, and
geometry and algebra his intellect, great was the contrast between his
own inner mood and the words by which he kept up human relations with
his townsfolk, yet in after years he counted it one of the greatest
blessings of a lowly birth and education that he knew hearts and
feelings which to understand one must have been young amongst them. He
would not have had a chance of knowing such as these if he had been the
son of Dr. Anderson and born in Aberdeen.


One lovely evening in the first of the summer Miss St. John had
dismissed him earlier than usual, and he had wandered out for a walk.
After a round of a couple of miles, he returned by a fir-wood, through
which went a pathway. He had heard Mary St. John say that she was going
to see the wife of a labourer who lived at the end of this path. In the
heart of the trees it was growing very dusky; but when he came to a spot
where they stood away from each other a little space, and the blue sky
looked in from above with one cloud floating in it from which the rose
of the sunset was fading, he seated himself on a little mound of moss
that had gathered over an ancient stump by the footpath, and drew out
his friend’s papers. Absorbed in his reading, he was not aware of an
approach till the rustle of silk startled him. He lifted up his eyes,
and saw Miss St. John a few yards from him on the pathway. He rose.

‘It’s almost too dark to read now, isn’t it, Robert?’ she said.

‘Ah!’ said. Robert, ‘I know this writing so well that I could read it by
moonlight. I wish I might read some of it to you. You would like it.’

‘May I ask whose it is, then? Poetry, too!’

‘It’s Mr. Ericson’s. But I’m feared he wouldna like me to read it to
anybody but myself. And yet--’

‘I don’t think he would mind me,’ returned Miss St. John. ‘I do know him
a little. It is not as if I were quite a stranger, you know. Did he tell
you not?’

‘No. But then he never thought of such a thing. I don’t know if it’s
fair, for they are carelessly written, and there are words and lines
here and there that I am sure he would alter if he cared for them ae

‘Then if he doesn’t care for them, he won’t mind my hearing them.
There!’ she said, seating herself on the stump. ‘You sit down on the
grass and read me--one at least.’

‘You’ll remember they were never intended to be read?’ urged Robert, not
knowing what he was doing, and so fulfilling his destiny.

‘I will be as jealous of his honour as ever you can wish,’ answered Miss
St. John gaily.

Robert laid himself on the grass at her feet, and read:--


     One is a slow and melancholy maid:
     I know not if she cometh from the skies,
     Or from the sleepy gulfs, but she will rise
     Often before me in the twilight shade
     Holding a bunch of poppies, and a blade
     Of springing wheat: prostrate my body lies
     Before her on the turf, the while she ties
     A fillet of the weed about my head;
     And in the gaps of sleep I seem to hear
     A gentle rustle like the stir of corn,
     And words like odours thronging to my ear:
     ‘Lie still, beloved, still until the morn;
     Lie still with me upon this rolling sphere,
     Still till the judgment--thou art faint and worn.’

     The other meets me in the public throng:
     Her hair streams backward from her loose attire;
     She hath a trumpet and an eye of fire;
     She points me downward steadily and long--
     ‘There is thy grave--arise, my son, be strong!
     Hands are upon thy crown; awake, aspire
     To immortality; heed not the lyre
     Of the enchantress, nor her poppy-song;
     But in the stillness of the summer calm,
     Tremble for what is godlike in thy being.
     Listen awhile, and thou shalt hear the psalm
     Of victory sung by creatures past thy seeing;
     And from far battle-fields there comes the neighing
     Of dreadful onset, though the air is balm.’

     Maid with the poppies, must I let thee go?
     Alas!  I may not; thou art likewise dear;
     I am but human, and thou hast a tear,
     When she hath nought but splendour, and the glow
     Of a wild energy that mocks the flow
     Of the poor sympathies which keep us here.
     Lay past thy poppies, and come twice as near,
     And I will teach thee, and thou too shalt grow;
     And thou shalt walk with me in open day
     Through the rough thoroughfares with quiet grace;
     And the wild-visaged maid shall lead the way,
     Timing her footsteps to a gentler pace,
     As her great orbs turn ever on thy face,
     Drinking in draughts of loving help alway.

Miss St. John did not speak.

‘War ye able to follow him?’ asked Robert.

‘Quite, I assure you,’ she answered, with a tremulousness in her voice
which delighted Robert as evidence of his friend’s success.

‘But they’re nae a’ so easy to follow, I can tell ye, mem. Just hearken
to this,’ he said, with some excitement.

          When the storm was proudest,
          And the wind was loudest,
     I heard the hollow caverns drinking down below;
          When the stars were bright,
          And the ground was white,
     I heard the grasses springing underneath the snow.

          Many voices spake--
          The river to the lake,
     The iron-ribbed sky was talking to the sea;
          And every starry spark
          Made music with the dark,
     And said how bright and beautiful everything must be.

‘That line, mem,’ remarked Robert, ‘’s only jist scrattit in, as gin he
had no intention o’ leavin’ ‘t, an’ only set it there to keep room for
anither. But we’ll jist gang on wi’ the lave o’ ‘t. I ouchtna to hae
interruppit it.’

          When the sun was setting,
          All the clouds were getting
     Beautiful and silvery in the rising moon;
          Beneath the leafless trees
          Wrangling in the breeze,
     I could hardly see them for the leaves of June.

          When the day had ended,
          And the night descended,
     I heard the sound of streams that I heard not through the day
          And every peak afar,
          Was ready for a star,
     And they climbed and rolled around until the morning gray.

          Then slumber soft and holy
          Came down upon me slowly;
     And I went I know not whither, and I lived I know not how;
          My glory had been banished,
          For when I woke it vanished,
     But I waited on it’s coming, and I am waiting now.

‘There!’ said Robert, ending, ‘can ye mak onything o’ that, Miss St.

‘I don’t say I can in words,’ she answered; ‘but I think I could put it
all into music.’

‘But surely ye maun hae some notion o’ what it’s aboot afore you can do

‘Yes; but I have some notion of what it’s about, I think. Just lend it
to me; and by the time we have our next lesson, you will see whether I’m
not able to show you I understand it. I shall take good care of it,’
she added, with a smile, seeing Robert’s reluctance to part with it. ‘It
doesn’t matter my having it, you know, now that you’ve read it to me, I
want to make you do it justice.--But it’s quite time I were going home.
Besides, I really don’t think you can see to read any more.’

‘Weel, it’s better no to try, though I hae them maistly upo’ my tongue:
I might blunder, and that wad blaud them.--Will you let me go home with
you?’ he added, in pure tremulous English.

‘Certainly, if you like,’ she answered; and they walked towards the

Robert opened the fountain of his love for Ericson, and let it gush like
a river from a hillside. He talked on and on about him, with admiration,
gratitude, devotion. And Miss St. John was glad of the veil of the
twilight over her face as she listened, for the boy’s enthusiasm
trembled through her as the wind through an Æolian harp. Poor Robert! He
did not know, I say, what he was doing, and so was fulfilling his sacred

‘Bring your manuscripts when you come next,’ she said, as they walked
along--gently adding, ‘I admire your friend’s verses very much, and
should like to hear more of them.’

‘I’ll be sure an’ do that,’ answered Robert, in delight that he had
found one to sympathize with him in his worship of Ericson, and that one
his other idol.

When they reached the town, Miss St. John, calling to mind its natural
propensity to gossip, especially on the evening of a market-day, when
the shopkeepers, their labours over, would be standing in a speculative
mood at their doors, surrounded by groups of friends and neighbours,
felt shy of showing herself on the square with Robert, and proposed that
they should part, giving as a by-the-bye reason that she had a little
shopping to do as she went home. Too simple to suspect the real reason,
but with a heart that delighted in obedience, Robert bade her good-night
at once, and took another way.

As he passed the door of Merson the haberdasher’s shop, there stood
William MacGregor, the weaver, looking at nothing and doing nothing. We
have seen something of him before: he was a remarkable compound of good
nature and bad temper. People were generally afraid of him, because he
had a biting satire at his command, amounting even to wit, which found
vent in verse--not altogether despicable even from a literary point of
view. The only person he, on his part, was afraid of, was his own wife;
for upon her, from lack of apprehension, his keenest irony fell, as
he said, like water on a duck’s back, and in respect of her he had,
therefore, no weapon of offence to strike terror withal. Her dulness was
her defence. He liked Robert. When he saw him, he wakened up, laid hold
of him by the button, and drew him in.

‘Come in, lad,’ he said, ‘an’ tak a pinch. I’m waitin’ for Merson.’ As
he spoke he took from his pocket his mull, made of the end of a ram’s
horn, and presented it to Robert, who accepted the pledge of friendship.
While he was partaking, MacGregor drew himself with some effort upon the
counter, saying in a half-comical, half-admonitory tone,

‘Weel, and hoo’s the mathematics, Robert?’

‘Thrivin’,’ answered Robert, falling into his humour.

‘Weel, that’s verra weel. Duv ye min’, Robert, hoo, whan ye was aboot
the age o’ aucht year aul’, ye cam to me ance at my shop aboot something
yer gran’mither, honest woman, wantit, an’ I, by way o’ takin’ my fun o’
ye, said to ye, “Robert, ye hae grown desperate; ye’re a man clean;
ye hae gotten the breeks on.” An’ says ye, “Ay, Mr. MacGregor, I want
naething noo but a watch an’ a wife”?’

‘I doobt I’ve forgotten a’ aboot it, Mr. MacGregor,’ answered Robert.
‘But I’ve made some progress, accordin’ to your story, for Dr. Anderson,
afore I cam hame, gae me a watch. An’ a fine crater it is, for it aye
does its best, an’ sae I excuse its shortcomin’s.’

‘There’s just ae thing, an’ nae anither,’ returned the manufacturer,
‘that I cannot excuse in a watch. Gin a watch gangs ower fest, ye
fin’ ‘t oot. Gin she gangs ower slow, ye fin’ ‘t oot, an’ ye can
aye calculate upo’ ‘t correck eneuch for maitters sublunairy, as Mr.
Maccleary says. An’ gin a watch stops a’thegither, ye ken it’s failin’,
an’ ye ken whaur it sticks, an’ a’ ‘at ye say ‘s “Tut, tut, de’il hae
‘t for a watch!” But there’s ae thing that God nor man canna bide in a
watch, an’ that’s whan it stan’s still for a bittock, an’ syne gangs on
again. Ay, ay! tic, tic, tic! wi’ a fair face and a leein’ hert. It wad
gar ye believe it was a’ richt, and time for anither tum’ler, whan it’s
twal o’clock, an’ the kirkyaird fowk thinkin’ aboot risin’. Fegs, I had
a watch o’ my father’s, an’ I regairdit it wi’ a reverence mair like a
human bein’: the second time it played me that pliskie, I dang oot its
guts upo’ the loupin’-on-stane at the door o’ the chop. But lat the
watch sit: whaur’s the wife? Ye canna be a man yet wantin’ the wife--by
yer ain statement.’

‘The watch cam unsoucht, Mr. MacGregor, an’ I’m thinkin’ sae maun the
wife,’ answered Robert, laughing.

‘Preserve me for ane frae a wife that comes unsoucht,’ returned the
weaver. ‘But, my lad, there may be some wives that winna come whan they
are soucht. Preserve me frae them too!--Noo, maybe ye dinna ken what I
mean--but tak ye tent what ye’re aboot. Dinna ye think ‘at ilka bonnie
lass ‘at may like to haud a wark wi’ ye ‘s jist ready to mairry ye aff
han’ whan ye say, “Noo, my dawtie.”--An’ ae word mair, Robert: Young
men, especially braw lads like yersel’, ‘s unco ready to fa’ in love wi’
women fit to be their mithers. An’ sae ye see--’

He was interrupted by the entrance of a girl. She had a shawl over her
head, notwithstanding it was summer weather, and crept in hesitatingly,
as if she were not quite at one with herself as to her coming purchase.
Approaching a boy behind the counter on the opposite side of the shop,
she asked for something, and he proceeded to serve her. Robert could not
help thinking, from the one glimpse of her face he had got through the
dusk, that he had seen her before. Suddenly the vision of an earthen
floor with a pool of brown sunlight upon it, bare feet, brown hair, and
soft eyes, mingled with a musk odour wafted from Arabian fairyland, rose
before him: it was Jessie Hewson.

‘I ken that lassie,’ he said, and moved to get down from the counter on
which he too had seated himself.

‘Na, na,’ whispered the manufacturer, laying, like the Ancient Mariner,
a brown skinny hand of restraint upon Robert’s arm--‘na, na, never heed
her. Ye maunna speyk to ilka lass ‘at ye ken.--Poor thing! she’s been
doin’ something wrang, to gang slinkin’ aboot i’ the gloamin’ like a
baukie (bat), wi’ her plaid ower her heid. Dinna fash wi’ her.’

‘Nonsense!’ returned Robert, with indignation. ‘What for shouldna I
speik till her? She’s a decent lassie--a dochter o’ James Hewson, the
cottar at Bodyfauld. I ken her fine.’

He said this in a whisper; but the girl seemed to hear it, for she left
the shop with a perturbation which the dimness of the late twilight
could not conceal. Robert hesitated no longer, but followed her,
heedless of the louder expostulations of MacGregor. She was speeding
away down the street, but he took longer strides than she, and was
almost up with her, when she drew her shawl closer about her head, and
increased her pace.

‘Jessie!’ said Robert, in a tone of expostulation. But she made no
answer. Her head sunk lower on her bosom, and she hurried yet faster. He
gave a long stride or two and laid his hand on her shoulder. She stood
still, trembling.

‘Jessie, dinna ye ken me--Robert Faukner? Dinna be feart at me. What’s
the maitter wi’ ye, ‘at ye winna speik till a body? Hoo’s a’ the fowk at

She burst out crying, cast one look into Robert’s face, and fled. What
a change was in that face? The peach-colour was gone from her cheek; it
was pale and thin. Her eyes were hollow, with dark shadows under them,
the shadows of a sad sunset. A foreboding of the truth arose in his
heart, and the tears rushed up into his eyes. The next moment the
eidolon of Mary St. John, moving gracious and strong, clothed in worship
and the dignity which is its own defence, appeared beside that of Jessie
Hewson, her bowed head shaken with sobs, and her weak limbs urged to
ungraceful flight. As if walking in the vision of an eternal truth, he
went straight to Captain Forsyth’s door.

‘I want to speak to Miss St. John, Isie,’ said Robert.

‘She’ll be doon in a minit.’

‘But isna yer mistress i’ the drawin’-room?--I dinna want to see her.’

‘Ow, weel,’ said the girl, who was almost fresh from the country, ‘jist
rin up the stair, an’ chap at the door o’ her room.’

With the simplicity of a child, for what a girl told him to do must be
right, Robert sped up the stair, his heart going like a fire-engine.
He had never approached Mary’s room from this side, but instinct or
something else led him straight to her door. He knocked.

‘Come in,’ she said, never doubting it was the maid, and Robert entered.

She was brushing her hair by the light of a chamber candle. Robert was
seized with awe, and his limbs trembled. He could have kneeled before
her--not to beg forgiveness, he did not think of that--but to worship,
as a man may worship a woman. It is only a strong, pure heart like
Robert’s that ever can feel all the inroad of the divine mystery of
womanhood. But he did not kneel. He had a duty to perform. A flush rose
in Miss St. John’s face, and sank away, leaving it pale. It was not
that she thought once of her own condition, with her hair loose on her
shoulders, but, able only to conjecture what had brought him thither,
she could not but regard Robert’s presence with dismay. She stood with
her ivory brush in her right hand uplifted, and a great handful of hair
in her left. She was soon relieved, however, although what with his
contemplated intercession, the dim vision of Mary’s lovely face
between the masses of her hair, and the lavender odour that filled the
room--perhaps also a faint suspicion of impropriety sufficient to
give force to the rest--Robert was thrown back into the abyss of his
mother-tongue, and out of this abyss talked like a Behemoth.

‘Robert!’ said Mary, in a tone which, had he not been so eager after his
end, he might have interpreted as one of displeasure.

‘Ye maun hearken till me, mem.--Whan I was oot at Bodyfauld,’ he began
methodically, and Mary, bewildered, gave one hasty brush to her handful
of hair and again stood still: she could imagine no connection between
this meeting and their late parting--‘Whan I was was oot at Bodyfauld ae
simmer, I grew acquant wi’ a bonnie lassie there, the dochter o’ Jeames
Hewson, an honest cottar, wi’ Shakspeare an’ the Arabian Nichts upo’ a
skelf i’ the hoose wi’ ‘im. I gaed in ae day whan I wasna weel; an’ she
jist ministert to me, as nane ever did but yersel’, mem. An’ she was
that kin’ an’ mither-like to the wee bit greitin’ bairnie ‘at she had
to tak care o’ ‘cause her mither was oot wi’ the lave shearin’! Her face
was jist like a simmer day, an’ weel I likit the luik o’ the lassie!--I
met her again the nicht. Ye never saw sic a change. A white face, an’
nothing but greitin’ to come oot o’ her. She ran frae me as gin I had
been the de’il himsel’. An’ the thocht o’ you, sae bonnie an’ straucht
an’ gran’, cam ower me.’

Yielding to a masterful impulse, Robert did kneel now. As if sinner, and
not mediator, he pressed the hem of her garment to his lips.

‘Dinna be angry at me, Miss St. John,’ he pleaded, ‘but be mercifu’ to
the lassie. Wha’s to help her that can no more luik a man i’ the face,
but the clear-e’ed lass that wad luik the sun himsel’ oot o’ the lift
gin he daured to say a word against her. It’s ae woman that can uphaud
anither. Ye ken what I mean, an’ I needna say mair.’

He rose and turned to leave the room.

Bewildered and doubtful, Miss St. John did not know what to answer, but
felt that she must make some reply.

‘You haven’t told me where to find the girl, or what you want me to do
with her.’

‘I’ll fin’ oot whaur she bides,’ he said, moving again towards the door.

‘But what am I to do with her, Robert?’

‘That’s your pairt. Ye maun fin’ oot what to do wi’ her. I canna tell ye
that. But gin I was you, I wad gie her a kiss to begin wi’. She’s nane
o’ yer brazen-faced hizzies, yon. A kiss wad be the savin’ o’ her.’

‘But you may be--. But I have nothing to go upon. She would resent my

‘She’s past resentin’ onything. She was gaein’ aboot the toon like ane
o’ the deid ‘at hae naething to say to onybody, an’ naebody onything to
say to them. Gin she gangs on like that she’ll no be alive lang.’

That night Jessie Hewson disappeared. A mile or two up the river under a
high bank, from which the main current had receded, lay an awful, swampy
place--full of reeds, except in the middle where was one round space
full of dark water and mud. Near this Jessie Hewson was seen about an
hour after Robert had thus pled for her with his angel.

The event made a deep impression upon Robert. The last time that he
saw them, James and his wife were as cheerful as usual, and gave him a
hearty welcome. Jessie was in service, and doing well, they said. The
next time he opened the door of the cottage it was like the entrance to
a haunted tomb. Not a smile was in the place. James’s cheeriness was all
gone. He was sitting at the table with his head leaning on his hand. His
Bible was open before him, but he was not reading a word. His wife was
moving listlessly about. They looked just as Jessie had looked that
night--as if they had died long ago, but somehow or other could not get
into their graves and be at rest. The child Jessie had nursed with such
care was toddling about, looking rueful with loss. George had gone to
America, and the whole of that family’s joy had vanished from the earth.

The subject was not resumed between Miss St. John and Robert. The next
time he saw her, he knew by her pale troubled face that she had heard
the report that filled the town; and she knew by his silence that it
had indeed reference to the same girl of whom he had spoken to her. The
music would not go right that evening. Mary was distraite, and Robert
was troubled. It was a week or two before there came a change. When the
turn did come, over his being love rushed up like a spring-tide from the
ocean of the Infinite.

He was accompanying her piano with his violin. He made blunders, and
her playing was out of heart. They stopped as by consent, and a moment’s
silence followed. All at once she broke out with something Robert had
never heard before. He soon found that it was a fantasy upon Ericson’s
poem. Ever through a troubled harmony ran a silver thread of melody from
far away. It was the caverns drinking from the tempest overhead, the
grasses growing under the snow, the stars making music with the dark,
the streams filling the night with the sounds the day had quenched, the
whispering call of the dreams left behind in ‘the fields of sleep,’--in
a word, the central life pulsing in aeonian peace through the outer
ephemeral storms. At length her voice took up the theme. The silvery
thread became song, and through all the opposing, supporting harmonies
she led it to the solution of a close in which the only sorrow was in
the music itself, for its very life is an ‘endless ending.’ She found
Robert kneeling by her side. As she turned from the instrument his
head drooped over her knee. She laid her hand on his clustering curls,
bethought herself, and left the room. Robert wandered out as in a dream.
At midnight he found himself on a solitary hill-top, seated in the
heather, with a few tiny fir-trees about him, and the sounds of a wind,
ethereal as the stars overhead, flowing through their branches: he heard
the sound of it, but it did not touch him.

Where was God?

In him and his question.


If Mary St. John had been an ordinary woman, and if, notwithstanding,
Robert had been in love with her, he would have done very little in
preparation for the coming session. But although she now possessed him,
although at times he only knew himself as loving her, there was such a
mountain air of calm about her, such an outgoing divinity of peace, such
a largely moulded harmony of being, that he could not love her otherwise
than grandly. For her sake, weary with loving her, he would yet turn to
his work, and, to be worthy of her, or rather, for he never dreamed of
being worthy of her, to be worthy of leave to love her, would forget her
enough to lay hold of some abstract truth of lines, angles, or symbols.
A strange way of being in love, reader? You think so? I would there were
more love like it: the world would be centuries nearer its redemption
if a millionth part of the love in it were of the sort. All I insist,
however, on my reader’s believing is, that it showed, in a youth like
Robert, not less but more love that he could go against love’s sweetness
for the sake of love’s greatness. Literally, not figuratively, Robert
would kiss the place where her foot had trod; but I know that once he
rose from such a kiss ‘to trace the hyperbola by means of a string.’

It had been arranged between Ericson and Robert, in Miss Napier’s
parlour, the old lady knitting beside, that Ericson should start, if
possible, a week earlier than usual, and spend the difference with
Robert at Rothieden. But then the old lady had opened her mouth and
spoken. And I firmly believe, though little sign of tenderness passed
between them, it was with an elder sister’s feeling for Letty’s
admiration of the ‘lan’less laird,’ that she said as follows:--

‘Dinna ye think, Mr. Ericson, it wad be but fair to come to us neist
time? Mistress Faukner, honest lady, an’ lang hae I kent her, ‘s no sae
auld a frien’ to you, Mr. Ericson, as oorsel’s--nae offence to her, ye
ken. A’body canna be frien’s to a’body, ane as lang ‘s anither, ye ken.’

‘’Deed I maun alloo, Miss Naper,’ interposed Robert, ‘it’s only fair. Ye
see, Mr. Ericson, I cud see as muckle o’ ye almost, the tae way as the
tither. Miss Naper maks me welcome as weel’s you.’

‘An’ I will mak ye welcome, Robert, as lang’s ye’re a gude lad, as ye
are, and gang na efter--nae ill gait. But lat me hear o’ yer doin’ as
sae mony young gentlemen do, espeacially whan they’re ta’en up by their
rich relations, an’, public-hoose as this is, I’ll close the door o’ ‘t
i’ yer face.’

‘Bless me, Miss Naper!’ said Robert, ‘what hae I dune to set ye at me
that gait? Faith, I dinna ken what ye mean.’

‘Nae mair do I, laddie. I hae naething against ye whatever. Only ye see
auld fowk luiks aheid, an’ wad fain be as sure o’ what’s to come as o’
what’s gane.’

‘Ye maun bide for that, I doobt,’ said Robert.

‘Laddie,’ retorted Miss Napier, ‘ye hae mair sense nor ye hae ony richt
till. Haud the tongue o’ ye. Mr. Ericson ‘s to come here neist.’

And the old lady laughed such good humour into her stocking-sole, that
the foot destined to wear it ought never to have been cold while it
lasted. So it was then settled; and a week before Robert was to start
for Aberdeen, Ericson walked into The Boar’s Head. Half-an-hour after
that, Crookit Caumill was shown into the ga’le-room with the message to
Maister Robert that Maister Ericson was come, and wanted to see him.

Robert pitched Hutton’s Mathematics into the grate, sprung to his feet,
all but embraced Crookit Caumill on the spot, and was deterred only
by the perturbed look the man wore. Crookit Caumill was a very human
creature, and hadn’t a fault but the drink, Miss Napier said. And very
little of that he would have had if she had been as active as she was

‘What’s the maitter, Caumill?’ asked Robert, in considerable alarm.

‘Ow, naething, sir,’ returned Campbell.

‘What gars ye look like that, than?’ insisted Robert.

‘Ow, naething. But whan Miss Letty cried doon the close upo’ me, she had
her awpron till her een, an’ I thocht something bude to be wrang; but I
hadna the hert to speir.’

Robert darted to the door, and rushed to the inn, leaving Caumill
describing iambi on the road behind him.

When he reached The Boar’s Head there was nobody to be seen. He darted
up the stair to the room where he had first waited upon Ericson.

Three or four maids stood at the door. He asked no question, but went
in, a dreadful fear at his heart. Two of the sisters and Dr. Gow stood
by the bed.

Ericson lay upon it, clear-eyed, and still. His cheek was flushed. The
doctor looked round as Robert entered.

‘Robert,’ he said, ‘you must keep your friend here quiet. He’s broken
a blood-vessel--walked too much, I suppose. He’ll be all right soon,
I hope; but we can’t be too careful. Keep him quiet--that’s the main
thing. He mustn’t speak a word.’

So saying he took his leave.

Ericson held out his thin hand. Robert grasped it. Ericson’s lips moved
as if he would speak.

‘Dinna speik, Mr. Ericson,’ said Miss Letty, whose tears were flowing
unheeded down her cheeks, ‘dinna speik. We a’ ken what ye mean an’ what
ye want wi’oot that.’

Then she turned to Robert, and said in a whisper,

‘Dr. Gow wadna hae ye sent for; but I kent weel eneuch ‘at he wad be a’
the quaieter gin ye war here. Jist gie a chap upo’ the flure gin ye want
onything, an’ I’ll be wi’ ye in twa seconds.’

The sisters went away. Robert drew a chair beside the bed, and once more
was nurse to his friend. The doctor had already bled him at the arm:
such was the ordinary mode of treatment then.

Scarcely was he seated, when Ericson spoke--a smile flickering over his
worn face.

‘Robert, my boy,’ he said.

‘Dinna speak,’ said Robert, in alarm; ‘dinna speak, Mr. Ericson.’

‘Nonsense,’ returned Ericson, feebly. ‘They’re making a work about
nothing. I’ve done as much twenty times since I saw you last, and I’m
not dead yet. But I think it’s coming.’

‘What’s coming?’ asked Robert, rising in alarm.

‘Nothing,’ answered Ericson, soothingly,--‘only death.--I should like to
see Miss St. John once before I die. Do you think she would come and see
me if I were really dying?’

‘I’m sure she wad. But gin ye speik like this, Miss Letty winna lat me
come near ye, no to say her. Oh, Mr. Ericson! gin ye dee, I sanna care
to live.’

Bethinking himself that such was not the way to keep Ericson quiet,
he repressed his emotion, sat down behind the curtain, and was silent.
Ericson fell fast asleep. Robert crept from the room, and telling Miss
Letty that he would return presently, went to Miss St. John.

‘How can I go to Aberdeen without him?’ he thought as he walked down the

Neither was a guide to the other; but the questioning of two may give
just the needful points by which the parallax of a truth may be gained.

‘Mr. Ericson’s here, Miss St. John,’ he said, the moment he was shown
into her presence.

Her face flushed. Robert had never seen her look so beautiful.

‘He’s verra ill,’ he added.

Her face grew pale--very pale.

‘He asked if I thought you would go and see him--that is if he were
going to die.’

A sunset flush, but faint as on the clouds of the east, rose over her

‘I will go at once,’ she said, rising.

‘Na, na,’ returned Robert, hastily. ‘It has to be manage. It’s no to be
dune a’ in a hurry. For ae thing, there’s Dr. Gow says he maunna
speak ae word; and for anither, there’s Miss Letty ‘ill jist be like a
watch-dog to haud a’body oot ower frae ‘im. We maun bide oor time. But
gin ye say ye’ll gang, that ‘ll content him i’ the meantime. I’ll tell

‘I will go any moment,’ she said. ‘Is he very ill?’

‘I’m afraid he is. I doobt I’ll hae to gang to Aberdeen withoot him.’

A week after, though he was better, his going was out of the question.
Robert wanted to stay with him, but he would not hear of it. He would
follow in a week or so, he said, and Robert must start fair with the
rest of the semies.

But all the removal he was ever able to bear was to the ‘red room,’ the
best in the house, opening, as I have already mentioned, from an outside
stair in the archway. They put up a great screen inside the door, and
there the lan’less laird lay like a lord.


Robert’s heart was dreary when he got on the box-seat of the mail-coach
at Rothieden--it was yet drearier when he got down at The Royal Hotel in
the street of Ben Accord--and it was dreariest of all when he turned his
back on Ericson’s, and entered his own room at Mrs. Fyvie’s.

Shargar had met him at the coach. Robert had scarcely a word to say to
him. And Shargar felt as dreary as Robert when he saw him sit down, and
lay his head on the table without a word.

‘What’s the maitter wi’ ye, Robert?’ he faltered out at last. ‘Gin ye
dinna speyk to me, I’ll cut my throat. I will, faith!’

‘Haud yer tongue wi’ yer nonsense, Shargar. Mr. Ericson’s deein’.’

‘O lord!’ said Shargar, and said nothing more for the space of ten

Then he spoke again--slowly and sententiously.

‘He hadna you to tak care o’ him, Robert. Whaur is he?’

‘At The Boar’s Heid.’

‘That’s weel. He’ll be luikit efter there.’

‘A body wad like to hae their ain han’ in ‘t, Shargar.’

‘Ay. I wiss we had him here again.’

The ice of trouble thus broken, the stream of talk flowed more freely.

‘Hoo are ye gettin’ on at the schule, man?’ asked Robert.

‘Nae that ill,’ answered Shargar. ‘I was at the heid o’ my class
yesterday for five meenits.’

‘An’ hoo did ye like it?’

‘Man, it was fine. I thocht I was a gentleman a’ at ance.’

‘Haud ye at it, man,’ said Robert, as if from the heights of age and
experience, ‘and maybe ye will be a gentleman some day.’

‘Is ‘t poassible, Robert? A crater like me grow intil a gentleman?’ said
Shargar, with wide eyes.

‘What for no?’ returned Robert.

‘Eh, man!’ said Shargar.

He stood up, sat down again, and was silent.

‘For ae thing,’ resumed Robert, after a pause, during which he had been
pondering upon the possibilities of Shargar’s future--‘for ae thing, I
doobt whether Dr. Anderson wad hae ta’en ony fash aboot ye, gin he hadna
thocht ye had the makin’ o’ a gentleman i’ ye.’

‘Eh, man!’ said Shargar.

He stood up again, sat down again, and was finally silent.

Next day Robert went to see Dr. Anderson, and told him about Ericson.
The doctor shook his head, as doctors have done in such cases from
Æsculapius downwards. Robert pressed no further questions.

‘Will he be taken care of where he is?’ asked the doctor.

‘Guid care o’,’ answered Robert.

‘Has he any money, do you think?’

‘I hae nae doobt he has some, for he’s been teachin’ a’ the summer. The
like o’ him maun an’ will work whether they’re fit or no.’

‘Well, at all events, you write, Robert, and give him the hint that he’s
not to fash himself about money, for I have more than he’ll want. And
you may just take the hint yourself at the same time, Robert, my boy,’
he added in, if possible, a yet kinder tone.

Robert’s way of showing gratitude was the best way of all. He returned
kindness with faith.

‘Gin I be in ony want, doctor, I’ll jist rin to ye at ance. An’ gin I
want ower muckle ye maun jist say na.’

‘That’s a good fellow. You take things as a body means them.’

‘But hae ye naething ye wad like me to do for ye this session, sir?’

‘No. I won’t have you do anything but your own work. You have more to
do than you had last year. Mind your work; and as often as you get tired
over your books, shut them up and come to me. You may bring Shargar with
you sometimes, but we must take care and not make too much of him all at

‘Ay, ay, doctor. But he’s a fine crater, Shargar, an’ I dinna think
he’ll be that easy to blaud. What do you think he’s turnin’ ower i’ that
reid heid o’ his noo?’

‘I can’t tell that. But there’s something to come out of the red head, I
do believe. What is he thinking of?’

‘Whether it be possible for him ever to be a gentleman. Noo I tak that
for a good sign i’ the likes o’ him.’

‘No doubt of it. What did you say to him?’

‘I tellt him ‘at hoo I didna think ye wad hae ta’en sae muckle fash gin
ye hadna had some houps o’ the kin’ aboot him.’

‘You said well. Tell him from me that I expect him to be a gentleman.
And by the way, Robert, do try a little, as I think I said to you once
before, to speak English. I don’t mean that you should give up Scotch,
you know.’

‘Weel, sir, I hae been tryin’; but what am I to do whan ye speyk to me
as gin ye war my ain father? I canna min’ upo’ a word o’ English whan ye
do that.’

Dr. Anderson laughed, but his eyes glittered.

Robert found Shargar busy over his Latin version. With a ‘Weel,
Shargar,’ he took his books and sat down. A few moments after, Shargar
lifted his head, stared a while at Robert, and then said,

‘Duv you railly think it, Robert?’

‘Think what? What are ye haverin’ at, ye gowk?’

‘Duv ye think ‘at I ever could grow intil a gentleman?’

‘Dr. Anderson says he expecs ‘t o’ ye.’

‘Eh, man!’

A long pause followed, and Shargar spoke again.

‘Hoo am I to begin, Robert?’

‘Begin what?’

‘To be a gentleman.’

Robert scratched his head, like Brutus, and at length became oracular.

‘Speyk the truth,’ he said.

‘I’ll do that. But what aboot--my father?’

‘Naebody ‘ill cast up yer father to ye. Ye need hae nae fear o’ that.’

‘My mither, than?’ suggested Shargar, with hesitation.

‘Ye maun haud yer face to the fac’.’

‘Ay, ay. But gin they said onything, ye ken--aboot her.’

‘Gin ony man-body says a word agen yer mither, ye maun jist knock him
doon upo’ the spot.’

‘But I michtna be able.’

‘Ye could try, ony gait.’

‘He micht knock me down, ye ken.’

‘Weel, gae doon than.’


This was all the instruction Robert ever gave Shargar in the duties of
a gentleman. And I doubt whether Shargar sought further enlightenment by
direct question of any one. He worked harder than ever; grew cleanly
in his person, even to fastidiousness; tried to speak English; and a
wonderful change gradually, but rapidly, passed over his outer man.
He grew taller and stronger, and as he grew stronger, his legs grew
straighter, till the defect of approximating knees, the consequence of
hardship, all but vanished. His hair became darker, and the albino look
less remarkable, though still he would remind one of a vegetable grown
in a cellar.

Dr. Anderson thought it well that he should have another year at the
grammar-school before going to college.--Robert now occupied Ericson’s
room, and left his own to Shargar.

Robert heard every week from Miss St. John about Ericson. Her reports
varied much; but on the whole he got a little better as the winter
went on. She said that the good women at The Boar’s Head paid him every
attention: she did not say that almost the only way to get him to eat
was to carry him delicacies which she had prepared with her own hands.

She had soon overcome the jealousy with which Miss Letty regarded her
interest in their guest, and before many days had passed she would walk
into the archway and go up to his room without seeing any one, except
the sister whom she generally found there. By what gradations their
intimacy grew I cannot inform my reader, for on the events lying
upon the boundary of my story, I have received very insufficient
enlightenment; but the result it is easy to imagine. I have already
hinted at an early disappointment of Miss St. John. She had grown
greatly since, and her estimate of what she had lost had altered
considerably in consequence. But the change was more rapid after she
became acquainted with Ericson. She would most likely have found the
young man she thought she was in love with in the days gone by a very
commonplace person now. The heart which she had considered dead to the
world had, even before that stormy night in the old house, begun
to expostulate against its owner’s mistake, by asserting a fair
indifference to that portion of its past history. And now, to her large
nature the simplicity, the suffering, the patience, the imagination, the
grand poverty of Ericson, were irresistibly attractive. Add to this
that she became his nurse, and soon saw that he was not indifferent to
her--and if she fell in love with him as only a full-grown woman can
love, without Ericson’s lips saying anything that might not by Love’s
jealousy be interpreted as only of grateful affection, why should she

And what of Marjory Lindsay? Ericson had not forgotten her. But the
brightest star must grow pale as the sun draws near; and on Ericson
there were two suns rising at once on the low sea-shore of life whereon
he had been pacing up and down moodily for three-and-twenty years,
listening evermore to the unprogressive rise and fall of the tidal
waves, all talking of the eternal, all unable to reveal it--the sun of
love and the sun of death. Mysie and he had never met. She pleased his
imagination; she touched his heart with her helplessness; but she gave
him no welcome to the shrine of her beauty: he loved through admiration
and pity. He broke no faith to her; for he had never offered her any
save in looks, and she had not accepted it. She was but a sickly plant
grown in a hot-house. On his death-bed he found a woman a hiding-place
from the wind, a covert from the tempest, the shadow of a great rock in
a weary land! A strong she-angel with mighty wings, Mary St. John came
behind him as he fainted out of life, tempered the burning heat of the
Sun of Death, and laid him to sleep in the cool twilight of her glorious
shadow. In the stead of trouble about a wilful, thoughtless girl, he
found repose and protection and motherhood in a great-hearted woman.

For Ericson’s sake, Robert made some effort to preserve the acquaintance
of Mr. Lindsay and his daughter. But he could hardly keep up a
conversation with Mr. Lindsay, and Mysie showed herself utterly
indifferent to him even in the way of common friendship. He told her of
Ericson’s illness: she said she was sorry to hear it, and looked miles
away. He could never get within a certain atmosphere of--what shall
I call it? avertedness that surrounded her. She had always lived in a
dream of unrealities; and the dream had almost devoured her life.

One evening Shargar was later than usual in coming home from the walk,
or ramble rather, without which he never could settle down to his work.
He knocked at Robert’s door.

‘Whaur do ye think I’ve been, Robert?’

‘Hoo suld I ken, Shargar?’ answered Robert, puzzling over a problem.

‘I’ve been haein’ a glaiss wi’ Jock Mitchell.’

‘Wha’s Jock Mitchell?’

‘My brither Sandy’s groom, as I tellt ye afore.’

‘Ye dinna think I can min’ a’ your havers, Shargar. Whaur was the comin’
gentleman whan ye gaed to drink wi’ a chield like that, wha, gin
my memory serves me, ye tauld me yersel’ was i’ the mids o’ a’ his
maister’s deevilry?’

‘Yer memory serves ye weel eneuch to be doon upo’ me,’ said Shargar.
‘But there’s a bit wordy ‘at they read at the cathedral kirk the last
Sunday ‘at’s stucken to me as gin there was something by ordinar’ in

‘What’s that?’ asked Robert, pretending to go on with his calculations
all the time.

‘Ow, nae muckle; only this: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”--I
took a lesson frae Jeck the giant-killer, wi’ the Welsh giant--was ‘t
Blunderbore they ca’d him?--an’ poored the maist o’ my glaiss doon my
breist. It wasna like ink; it wadna du my sark ony ill.’

‘But what garred ye gang wi’ ‘im at a’? He wasna fit company for a

‘A gentleman ‘s some saft gin he be ony the waur o’ the company he gangs
in till. There may be rizzons, ye ken. Ye needna du as they du. Jock
Mitchell was airin’ Reid Rorie an’ Black Geordie. An’ says I--for I
wantit to ken whether I was sic a breme-buss (broom-bush) as I used to
be--says I, “Hoo are ye, Jock Mitchell?” An’ says Jock, “Brawly. Wha
the deevil are ye?” An’ says I, “Nae mair o’ a deevil nor yersel’, Jock
Mitchell, or Alexander, Baron Rothie, either--though maybe that’s no
little o’ ane.” “Preserve me!” cried Jock, “it’s Shargar.”--“Nae mair o’
that, Jock,” says I. “Gin I bena a gentleman, or a’ be dune,”--an’ there
I stack, for I saw I was a muckle fule to lat oot onything o’ the kin’
to Jock. And sae he seemed to think, too, for he brak oot wi’ a great
guffaw; an’ to win ower ‘t, I jined, an’ leuch as gin naething was
farrer aff frae my thochts than ever bein’ a gentleman. “Whaur do ye
pit up, Jock?” I said. “Oot by here,” he answert, “at Luckie
Maitlan’s.”--“That’s a queer place for a baron to put up, Jock,” says I.
“There’s rizzons,” says he, an’ lays his forefinger upo’ the side o’
‘s nose, o’ whilk there was hardly eneuch to haud it ohn gane intil the
opposit ee. “We’re no far frae there,” says I--an’ deed I can hardly
tell ye, Robert, what garred me say sae, but I jist wantit to ken what
that gentleman-brither o’ mine was efter; “tak the horse hame,” says
I--“I’ll jist loup upo’ Black Geordie--an’ we’ll hae a glaiss thegither.
I’ll stan’ treat.” Sae he gae me the bridle, an’ I lap on. The deevil
tried to get a moufu’ o’ my hip, but, faith! I was ower swack for ‘im;
an’ awa we rade.’

‘I didna ken ‘at ye cud ride, Shargar.’

‘Hoots! I cudna help it. I was aye takin’ the horse to the watter at
The Boar’s Heid, or The Royal Oak, or Lucky Happit’s, or The Aucht an’
Furty. That’s hoo I cam to ken Jock sae weel. We war guid eneuch frien’s
whan I didna care for leein’ or sweirin’, an’ sic like.’

‘And what on earth did ye want wi’ ‘im noo?’

‘I tell ye I wantit to ken what that ne’er-do-weel brither o’ mine was
efter. I had seen the horses stan’in’ aboot twa or three times i’ the
gloamin’; an’ Sandy maun be aboot ill gin he be aboot onything.’

‘What can ‘t maitter to you, Shargar, what a man like him ‘s aboot?’

‘Weel, ye see, Robert, my mither aye broucht me up to ken a’ ‘at fowk
was aboot, for she said ye cud never tell whan it micht turn oot to the
weelfaur o’ yer advantage--gran’ words!--I wonner whaur she forgathert
wi’ them. But she was a terrible wuman, my mither, an’ kent a heap o’
things--mair nor ‘twas gude to ken, maybe. She gaed aboot the country
sae muckle, an’ they say the gipsies she gaed amang ‘s a dreadfu’ auld
fowk, an’ hae the wisdom o’ the Egyptians ‘at Moses wad hae naething to
do wi’.’

‘Whaur is she noo?’

‘I dinna ken. She may turn up ony day.’

‘There’s ae thing, though, Shargar: gin ye want to be a gentleman, ye
maunna gang keekin’ that gate intil ither fowk’s affairs.’

‘Weel, I maun gie ‘t up. I winna say a word o’ what Jock Mitchell tellt
me aboot Lord Sandy.’

‘Ow, say awa’.’

‘Na, na; ye wadna like to hear aboot ither fowk’s affairs. My mither
tellt me he did verra ill efter Watterloo till a fremt (stranger) lass
at Brussels. But that’s neither here nor there. I maun set aboot my
version, or I winna get it dune the nicht.’

‘What is Lord Sandy after? What did the rascal tell you? Why do you make
such a mystery of it?’ said Robert, authoritatively, and in his best

‘’Deed I cudna mak naething o’ ‘m. He winkit an’ he mintit (hinted) an’
he gae me to unnerstan’ ‘at the deevil was efter some lass or ither, but
wha--my lad was as dumb ‘s the graveyard about that. Gin I cud only win
at that, maybe I cud play him a plisky. But he coupit ower three glasses
o’ whusky, an’ the mair he drank the less he wad say. An’ sae I left

‘Well, take care what you’re about, Shargar. I don’t think Dr. Anderson
would like you to be in such company,’ said Robert; and Shargar departed
to his own room and his version.

Towards the end of the session Miss St. John’s reports of Ericson were
worse. Yet he was very hopeful himself, and thought he was getting
better fast. Every relapse he regarded as temporary; and when he got a
little better, thought he had recovered his original position. It was
some relief to Miss St. John to communicate her anxiety to Robert.

After the distribution of the prizes, of which he gained three, Robert
went the same evening to visit Dr. Anderson, intending to go home the
next day. The doctor gave him five golden sovereigns--a rare sight in
Scotland. Robert little thought in what service he was about to spend


It was late when he left his friend. As he walked through the
Gallowgate, an ancient narrow street, full of low courts, some one
touched him upon the arm. He looked round. It was a young woman. He
turned again to walk on.

‘Mr Faukner,’ she said, in a trembling voice, which Robert thought he
had heard before.

He stopped.

‘I don’t know you,’ he said. ‘I can’t see your face. Tell me who you

She returned no answer, but stood with her head aside. He could see that
her hands shook.

‘What do you want with me--if you won’t say who you are?’

‘I want to tell you something,’ she said; ‘but I canna speyk here. Come
wi’ me.’

‘I won’t go with you without knowing who you are or where you’re going
to take me.’

‘Dinna ye ken me?’ she said pitifully, turning a little towards the
light of the gas-lamp, and looking up in his face.

‘It canna be Jessie Hewson?’ said Robert, his heart swelling at the
sight of the pale worn countenance of the girl.

‘I was Jessie Hewson ance,’ she said, ‘but naebody here kens me by that
name but yersel’. Will ye come in? There’s no a crater i’ the hoose but

Robert turned at once. ‘Go on,’ he said.

She led the way up a narrow stone stair between two houses. A door high
up in the gable admitted them. The boards bent so much under his weight
that Robert feared the floor would fall.

‘Bide ye there, sir, till I fess a licht,’ she said.

This was Robert’s first introduction to a phase of human life with which
he became familiar afterwards.

‘Mind hoo ye gang, sir,’ she resumed, returning with a candle. ‘There’s
nae flurin’ there. Haud i’ the middle efter me, or ye’ll gang throu.’

She led him into a room, with nothing in it but a bed, a table, and a
chair. On the table was a half-made shirt. In the bed lay a tiny baby,
fast asleep. It had been locked up alone in the dreary garret. Robert
approached to look at the child, for his heart felt very warm to poor

‘A bonnie bairnie,’ he said,

‘Isna he, sir? Think o’ ‘im comin’ to me! Nobody can tell the mercy o’
‘t. Isna it strange that the verra sin suld bring an angel frae haven
upo’ the back o’ ‘t to uphaud an’ restore the sinner? Fowk thinks it’s a
punishment; but eh me! it’s a mercifu’ ane. It’s a wonner he didna think
shame to come to me. But he cam to beir my shame.’

Robert wondered at her words. She talked of her sin with such a meek
openness! She looked her shame in the face, and acknowledged it hers.
Had she been less weak and worn, perhaps she could not have spoken thus.

‘But what am I aboot!’ she said, checking herself. ‘I didna fess ye here
to speyk aboot mysel’. He’s efter mair mischeef, and gin onything cud be
dune to haud him frae ‘t--’

‘Wha’s efter mischeef, Jessie?’ interrupted Robert.

‘Lord Rothie. He’s gaein’ aff the nicht in Skipper Hornbeck’s boat to
Antwerp, I think they ca’ ‘t, an’ a bonnie young leddy wi’ ‘im. They war
to sail wi’ the first o’ the munelicht.--Surely I’m nae ower late,’ she
added, going to the window. ‘Na, the mune canna be up yet.’

‘Na,’ said Robert; ‘I dinna think she rises muckle afore twa o’clock the
nicht. But hoo ken ye? Are ye sure o’ ‘t? It’s an awfu’ thing to think

‘To convence ye, I maun jist tell ye the trowth. The hoose we’re in
hasna a gude character. We’re middlin’ dacent up here; but the lave o’
the place is dreadfu’. Eh for the bonnie leys o’ Bodyfauld! Gin ye see
my father, tell him I’m nane waur than I was.’

‘They think ye droont i’ the Dyer’s Pot, as they ca’ ‘t.’

‘There I am again!’ she said--‘miles awa’ an’ nae time to be lost!--My
lord has a man they ca’ Mitchell. Ower weel I ken him. There’s a wuman
doon the stair ‘at he comes to see whiles; an’ twa or three nichts ago,
I heard them lauchin’ thegither. Sae I hearkened. They war baith some
fou, I’m thinkin’. I cudna tell ye a’ ‘at they said. That’s a punishment
noo, gin ye like--to see and hear the warst o’ yer ain ill doin’s. He
tellt the limmer a heap o’ his lord’s secrets. Ay, he tellt her aboot
me, an’ hoo I had gane and droont mysel’. I could hear ‘maist ilka word
‘at he said; for ye see the flurin’ here ‘s no verra soon’, and I was
jist ‘at I cudna help hearkenin’. My lord’s aff the nicht, as I tell ye.
It’s a queer gait, but a quaiet, he thinks, nae doobt. Gin onybody wad
but tell her hoo mony een the baron’s made sair wi’ greitin’!’

‘But hoo’s that to be dune?’ said Robert.

‘I dinna ken. But I hae been watchin’ to see you ever sin’ syne. I hae
seen ye gang by mony a time. Ye’re the only man I ken ‘at I could speyk
till aboot it. Ye maun think what ye can do. The warst o’ ‘t is I canna
tell wha she is or whaur she bides.’

‘In that case, I canna see what’s to be dune.’

‘Cudna ye watch them aboord, an’ slip a letter intil her han’? Or ye cud
gie ‘t to the skipper to gie her.’

‘I ken the skipper weel eneuch. He’s a respectable man. Gin he kent what
the baron was efter, he wadna tak him on boord.’

‘That wad do little guid. He wad only hae her aff some ither gait.’

‘Weel,’ said Robert, rising, ‘I’ll awa’ hame, an’ think aboot it as I
gang.--Wad ye tak a feow shillin’s frae an auld frien’?’ he added with
hesitation, putting his hand in his pocket.

‘Na--no a baubee,’ she answered. ‘Nobody sall say it was for mysel’ I
broucht ye here. Come efter me, an’ min’ whaur ye pit doon yer feet.
It’s no sicker.’

She led him to the door. He bade her good-night.

‘Tak care ye dinna fa’ gaein’ doon the stair. It’s maist as steep ‘s a

As Robert came from between the houses, he caught a glimpse of a man in
a groom’s dress going in at the street door of that he had left.

All the natural knighthood in him was roused. But what could he do? To
write was a sneaking way. He would confront the baron. The baron and the
girl would both laugh at him. The sole conclusion he could arrive at was
to consult Shargar.

He lost no time in telling him the story.

‘I tauld ye he was up to some deevilry or ither,’ said Shargar. ‘I can
shaw ye the verra hoose he maun be gaein’ to tak her frae.’

‘Ye vratch! what for didna ye tell me that afore?’

‘Ye wadna hear aboot ither fowk’s affairs. Na, not you! But some fowk
has no richt to consideration. The verra stanes they say ‘ill cry oot
ill secrets like brither Sandy’s.’

‘Whase hoose is ‘t?’

‘I dinna ken. I only saw him come oot o’ ‘t ance, an’ Jock Mitchell was
haudin’ Black Geordie roon’ the neuk. It canna be far frae Mr. Lindsay’s
‘at you an’ Mr. Ericson used to gang till.’

‘Come an’ lat me see ‘t direckly,’ cried Robert, starting up, with a
terrible foreboding at his heart.

They were in the street in a moment. Shargar led the way by a country
lane to the top of the hill on the right, and then turning to the left,
brought him to some houses standing well apart from each other. It was a
region unknown to Robert. They were the backs of the houses of which Mr.
Lindsay’s was one.

‘This is the hoose,’ said Shargar.

Robert rushed into action. He knocked at the door. Mr. Lindsay’s Jenny
opened it.

‘Is yer mistress in, Jenny?’ he asked at once.

‘Na. Ay. The maister’s gane to Bors Castle.’

‘It’s Miss Lindsay I want to see.’

‘She’s up in her ain room wi’ a sair heid.’

Robert looked her hard in the face, and knew she was lying.

‘I want to see her verra partic’lar,’ he said.

‘Weel, ye canna see her,’ returned Jenny angrily. ‘I’ll tell her
onything ye like.’

Concluding that little was to be gained by longer parley, but quite
uncertain whether Mysie was in the house or not, Robert turned to
Shargar, took him by the arm, and walked away in silence. When they were
beyond earshot of Jenny, who stood looking after them,

‘Ye’re sure that’s the hoose, Shargar?’ said Robert quietly.

‘As sure’s deith, and maybe surer, for I saw him come oot wi’ my ain

‘Weel, Shargar, it’s grown something awfu’ noo. It’s Miss Lindsay. Was
there iver sic a villain as that Lord Rothie--that brither o’ yours!’

‘I disoun ‘im frae this verra ‘oor,’ said Shargar solemnly.

‘Something maun be dune. We’ll awa’ to the quay, an’ see what’ll turn
up. I wonner hoo’s the tide.’

‘The tide’s risin’. They’ll never try to win oot till it’s slack
watter--furbye ‘at the Amphitrite, for as braid ‘s she is, and her bows
modelled efter the cheeks o’ a resurrection cherub upo’ a gravestane,
draws a heap o’ watter: an’ the bar they say ‘s waur to win ower nor
usual: it’s been gatherin’ again.’

As they spoke, the boys were making for the new town, eagerly. Just
opposite where the Amphitrite lay was a public-house: into that they
made up their minds to go, and there to write a letter, which they
would give to Miss Lindsay if they could, or, if not, leave with Skipper
Hoornbeek. Before they reached the river, a thick rain of minute drops
began to fall, rendering the night still darker, so that they could
scarcely see the vessels from the pavement on the other side of the
quay, along which they were hurrying, to avoid the cables, rings, and
stone posts that made its margin dangerous in the dim light. When they
came to The Smack Inn they crossed right over to reach the Amphitrite.
A growing fear kept them silent as they approached her berth. It was
empty. They turned and stared at each other in dismay.

One of those amphibious animals that loiter about the borders of the
water was seated on a stone smoking, probably fortified against the rain
by the whisky inside him.

‘Whaur’s the Amphitrite, Alan?’ asked Shargar, for Robert was dumb with
disappointment and rage.

‘Half doon to Stanehive by this time, I’m thinkin’,’ answered Alan. ‘For
a brewin’ tub like her, she fummles awa nae ill wi’ a licht win’ astarn
o’ her. But I’m doobtin’ afore she win across the herrin-pot her fine
passengers ‘ll win at the boddom o’ their stamacks. It’s like to blaw
a bonnetfu’, and she rows awfu’ in ony win’. I dinna think she cud
capsize, but for wamlin’ she’s waur nor a bairn with the grips.’

In absolute helplessness, the boys had let him talk on: there was
nothing more to be done; and Alan was in a talkative mood.

‘Fegs! gin ‘t come on to blaw,’ he resumed, ‘I wadna wonner gin they
got the skipper to set them ashore at Stanehive. I heard auld Horny
say something aboot lyin’ to there for a bit, to tak a keg or something

The boys looked at each other, bade Alan good-night, and walked away.

‘Hoo far is ‘t to Stonehaven, Shargar?’ said Robert.

‘I dinna richtly ken. Maybe frae twal to fifteen mile.’

Robert stood still. Shargar saw his face pale as death, and contorted
with the effort to control his feelings.

‘Shargar,’ he said, ‘what am I to do? I vowed to Mr. Ericson that, gin
he deid, I wad luik efter that bonny lassie. An’ noo whan he’s lyin’
a’ but deid, I hae latten her slip throu’ my fingers wi’ clean
carelessness. What am I to do? Gin I cud only win to Stonehaven afore
the Amphitrite! I cud gang aboord wi’ the keg, and gin I cud do naething
mair, I wad hae tried to do my best. Gin I do naething, my hert ‘ll brak
wi’ the weicht o’ my shame.’

Shargar burst into a roar of laughter. Robert was on the point of
knocking him down, but took him by the throat as a milder proceeding,
and shook him.

‘Robert! Robert!’ gurgled Shargar, as soon as his choking had overcome
his merriment, ‘ye’re an awfu’ Hielan’man. Hearken to me. I beg--g--g
yer pardon. What I was thinkin’ o’ was--’

Robert relaxed his hold. But Shargar, notwithstanding the lesson Robert
had given him, could hardly speak yet for the enjoyment of his own

‘Gin we could only get rid o’ Jock Mitchell!--’ he crowed; and burst out

‘He’s wi’ a wuman i’ the Gallowgate,’ said Robert.

‘Losh, man!’ exclaimed Shargar, and started off at full speed.

He was no match for his companion, however.

‘Whaur the deevil are ye rinnin’ till, ye wirrycow (scarecrow)?’ panted
Robert, as he laid hold of his collar.

‘Lat me gang, Robert,’ gasped Shargar. ‘Losh, man! ye’ll be on Black
Geordie in anither ten meenits, an’ me ahin’ ye upo’ Reid Rorie.
An’ faith gin we binna at Stanehive afore the Dutchman wi’ ‘s boddom
foremost, it’ll be the faut o’ the horse and no o’ the men.’

Robert’s heart gave a bound of hope.

‘Hoo ‘ill ye get them, Shargar?’ he asked eagerly.

‘Steal them,’ answered Shargar, struggling to get away from the grasp
still upon his collar.

‘We micht be hanged for that.’

‘Weel, Robert, I’ll tak a’ the wyte o’ ‘t. Gin it hadna been for you, I
micht ha’ been hangt by this time for ill doin’: for your sake I’ll be
hangt for weel doin’, an’ welcome. Come awa’. To steal a mairch upo’
brither Sandy wi’ aucht (eight) horse-huves o’ ‘s ain! Ha! ha! ha!’

They sped along, now running themselves out of breath, now walking
themselves into it again, until they reached a retired hostelry between
the two towns. Warning Robert not to show himself, Shargar disappeared
round the corner of the house.

Robert grew weary, and then anxious. At length Shargar’s face came
through the darkness.

‘Robert,’ he whispered, ‘gie ‘s yer bonnet. I’ll be wi’ ye in a moment

Robert obeyed, too anxious to question him. In about three minutes more
Shargar reappeared, leading what seemed the ghost of a black horse; for
Robert could see only his eyes, and his hoofs made scarcely any noise.
How he had managed it with a horse of Black Geordie’s temper, I do not
know, but some horses will let some persons do anything with them: he
had drawn his own stockings over his fore feet, and tied their two caps
upon his hind hoofs.

‘Lead him awa’ quaietly up the road till I come to ye,’ said Shargar, as
he took the mufflings off the horse’s feet. ‘An’ min’ ‘at he doesna
tak a nip o’ ye. He’s some ill for bitin’. I’ll be efter ye direckly.
Rorie’s saiddlet an’ bridled. He only wants his carpet-shune.’

Robert led the horse a few hundred yards, then stopped and waited.
Shargar soon joined him, already mounted on Red Roderick.

‘Here’s yer bonnet, Robert. It’s some foul, I doobt. But I cudna help
it. Gang on, man. Up wi’ ye. Maybe I wad hae better keepit Geordie
mysel’. But ye can ride. Ance ye’re on, he canna bite ye.’

But Robert needed no encouragement from Shargar. In his present mood
he would have mounted a griffin. He was on horseback in a moment. They
trotted gently through the streets, and out of the town. Once over the
Dee, they gave their horses the rein, and off they went through the dark
drizzle. Before they got half-way they were wet to the skin; but little
did Robert, or Shargar either, care for that. Not many words passed
between them.

‘Hoo ‘ill ye get the horse (plural) in again, Shargar?’ asked Robert.

‘Afore I get them back,’ answered Shargar, ‘they’ll be tired eneuch to
gang hame o’ themsel’s. Gin we had only had the luck to meet Jock!--that
wad hae been gran’.’

‘What for that?’

‘I wad hae cawed Reid Rorie ower the heid o’ ‘m, an’ left him lyin’--the
coorse villain!’

The horses never flagged till they drew up in the main street of
Stonehaven. Robert ran down to the harbour to make inquiry, and left
Shargar to put them up.

The moon had risen, but the air was so full of vapour that she only
succeeded in melting the darkness a little. The sea rolled in front,
awful in its dreariness, under just light enough to show a something
unlike the land. But the rain had ceased, and the air was clearer.
Robert asked a solitary man, with a telescope in his hand, whether he
was looking out for the Amphitrite. The man asked him gruffly in return
what he knew of her. Possibly the nature of the keg to be put on board
had something to do with his Scotch reply. Robert told him he was a
friend of the captain, had missed the boat, and would give any one five
shillings to put him on board. The man went away and returned with a
companion. After some further questioning and bargaining, they agreed
to take him. Robert loitered about the pier full of impatience. Shargar
joined him.

Day began to break over the waves. They gleamed with a blue-gray leaden
sheen. The men appeared coming along the harbour, and descended by a
stair into a little skiff, where a barrel, or something like one, lay
under a tarpaulin. Robert bade Shargar good-bye, and followed. They
pushed off, rowed out into the bay, and lay on their oars waiting
for the vessel. The light grew apace, and Robert fancied he could
distinguish the two horses with one rider against the sky on the top of
the cliffs, moving northwards. Turning his eyes to the sea, he saw the
canvas of the brig, and his heart beat fast. The men bent to their oars.
She drew nearer, and lay to. When they reached her he caught the
rope the sailors threw, was on board in a moment, and went aft to the
captain. The Dutchman stared. In a few words Robert made him understand
his object, offering to pay for his passage, but the good man would not
hear of it. He told him that the lady and gentleman had come on board as
brother and sister: the baron was too knowing to run his head into the
noose of Scotch law.

‘I cannot throw him over the board,’ said the skipper; ‘and what am I to
do? I am afraid it is of no use. Ah! poor thing!’

By this time the vessel was under way. The wind freshened. Mysie had
been ill ever since they left the mouth of the river: now she was much
worse. Before another hour passed, she was crying to be taken home to
her papa. Still the wind increased, and the vessel laboured much.

Robert never felt better, and if it had not been for the cause of his
sea-faring, would have thoroughly enjoyed it. He put on some sea-going
clothes of the captain’s, and set himself to take his share in working
the brig, in which he was soon proficient enough to be useful. When the
sun rose, they were in a tossing wilderness of waves. With the sunrise,
Robert began to think he had been guilty of a great folly. For what
could he do? How was he to prevent the girl from going off with her
lover the moment they landed? But his poor attempt would verify his

The baron came on deck now and then, looking bored. He had not
calculated on having to nurse the girl. Had Mysie been well, he could
have amused himself with her, for he found her ignorance interesting.
As it was, he felt injured, and indeed disgusted at the result of the

On the third day the wind abated a little; but towards night it blew
hard again, and it was not until they reached the smooth waters of the
Scheldt that Mysie made her appearance on deck, looking dreadfully ill,
and altogether like a miserable, unhappy child. Her beauty was greatly
gone, and Lord Rothie did not pay her much attention.

Robert had as yet made no attempt to communicate with her, for there was
scarcely a chance of her concealing a letter from the baron. But as soon
as they were in smooth water, he wrote one, telling her in the simplest
language that the baron was a bad man, who had amused himself by making
many women fall in love with him, and then leaving them miserable: he
knew one of them himself.

Having finished his letter, he began to look abroad over the smooth
water, and the land smooth as the water. He saw tall poplars, the spires
of the forest, and rows of round-headed dumpy trees, like domes. And
he saw that all the buildings like churches, had either spires like
poplars, or low round domes like those other trees. The domes gave an
eastern aspect to the country. The spire of Antwerp cathedral especially
had the poplar for its model. The pinnacles which rose from the base of
each successive start of its narrowing height were just the clinging,
upright branches of the poplar--a lovely instance of Art following
Nature’s suggestion.


At length the vessel lay alongside the quay, and as Mysie stepped from
its side the skipper found an opportunity of giving her Robert’s letter.
It was the poorest of chances, but Robert could think of no other.
She started on receiving it, but regarding the skipper’s significant
gestures put it quietly away. She looked anything but happy, for her
illness had deprived her of courage, and probably roused her conscience.
Robert followed the pair, saw them enter The Great Labourer--what
could the name mean? could it mean The Good Shepherd?--and turned away
helpless, objectless indeed, for he had done all that he could, and that
all was of no potency. A world of innocence and beauty was about to be
hurled from its orbit of light into the blackness of outer chaos; he
knew it, and was unable to speak word or do deed that should frustrate
the power of a devil who so loved himself that he counted it an honour
to a girl to have him for her ruin. Her after life had no significance
for him, save as a trophy of his victory. He never perceived that such
victory was not yielded to him; that he gained it by putting on the
garments of light; that if his inward form had appeared in its own
ugliness, not one of the women whose admiration he had secured would not
have turned from him as from the monster of an old tale.

Robert wandered about till he was so weary that his head ached with
weariness. At length he came upon the open space before the cathedral,
whence the poplar-spire rose aloft into a blue sky flecked with white
clouds. It was near sunset, and he could not see the sun, but the upper
half of the spire shone glorious in its radiance. From the top his eye
sank to the base. In the base was a little door half open. Might
not that be the lowly narrow entrance through the shadow up to the
sun-filled air? He drew near with a kind of tremor, for never before
had he gazed upon visible grandeur growing out of the human soul, in
the majesty of everlastingness--a tree of the Lord’s planting. Where had
been but an empty space of air and light and darkness, had risen, and
had stood for ages, a mighty wonder awful to the eye, solid to the
hand. He peeped through the opening of the door: there was the foot of
a stair--marvellous as the ladder of Jacob’s dream--turning away towards
the unknown. He pushed the door and entered. A man appeared and barred
his advance. Robert put his hand in his pocket and drew out some silver.
The man took one piece--looked at it--turned it over--put it in his
pocket, and led the way up the stair. Robert followed and followed and

He came out of stone walls upon an airy platform whence the spire
ascended heavenwards. His conductor led upward still, and he followed,
winding within a spiral network of stone, through which all the world
looked in. Another platform, and yet another spire springing from its
basement. Still up they went, and at length stood on a circle of stone
surrounding like a coronet the last base of the spire which lifted its
apex untrodden. Then Robert turned and looked below. He grasped the
stones before him. The loneliness was awful.

There was nothing between him and the roofs of the houses, four hundred
feet below, but the spot where he stood. The whole city, with its red
roofs, lay under him. He stood uplifted on the genius of the builder,
and the town beneath him was a toy. The all but featureless flat spread
forty miles on every side, and the roofs of the largest buildings below
were as dovecots. But the space between was alive with awe--so vast, so

He turned and descended, winding through the network of stone which was
all between him and space. The object of the architect must have been
to melt away the material from before the eyes of the spirit. He hung
in the air in a cloud of stone. As he came in his descent within the
ornaments of one of the basements, he found himself looking through two
thicknesses of stone lace on the nearing city. Down there was the beast
of prey and his victim; but for the moment he was above the region of
sorrow. His weariness and his headache had vanished utterly. With his
mind tossed on its own speechless delight, he was slowly descending
still, when he saw on his left hand a door ajar. He would look what
mystery lay within. A push opened it. He discovered only a little
chamber lined with wood. In the centre stood something--a bench-like
piece of furniture, plain and worn. He advanced a step; peered over the
top of it; saw keys, white and black; saw pedals below: it was an organ!
Two strides brought him in front of it. A wooden stool, polished
and hollowed with centuries of use, was before it. But where was the
bellows? That might be down hundreds of steps below, for he was half-way
only to the ground. He seated himself musingly, and struck, as he
thought, a dumb chord. Responded, up in the air, far overhead, a mighty
booming clang. Startled, almost frightened, even as if Mary St. John had
said she loved him, Robert sprung from the stool, and, without knowing
why, moved only by the chastity of delight, flung the door to the
post. It banged and clicked. Almost mad with the joy of the titanic
instrument, he seated himself again at the keys, and plunged into a
tempest of clanging harmony. One hundred bells hang in that tower of
wonder, an instrument for a city, nay, for a kingdom. Often had Robert
dreamed that he was the galvanic centre of a thunder-cloud of harmony,
flashing off from every finger the willed lightning tone: such was the
unexpected scale of this instrument--so far aloft in the sunny air
rang the responsive notes, that his dream appeared almost realized. The
music, like a fountain bursting upwards, drew him up and bore him aloft.
From the resounding cone of bells overhead he no longer heard their
tones proceed, but saw level-winged forms of light speeding off with
a message to the nations. It was only his roused phantasy; but a
sweet tone is nevertheless a messenger of God; and a right harmony and
sequence of such tones is a little gospel.

At length he found himself following, till that moment unconsciously,
the chain of tunes he well remembered having played on his violin the
night he went first with Ericson to see Mysie, ending with his strange
chant about the witch lady and the dead man’s hand.

Ere he had finished the last, his passion had begun to fold its wings,
and he grew dimly aware of a beating at the door of the solitary
chamber in which he sat. He knew nothing of the enormity of which he
was guilty--presenting unsought the city of Antwerp with a glorious
phantasia. He did not know that only upon grand, solemn, world-wide
occasions, such as a king’s birthday or a ball at the Hôtel de Ville,
was such music on the card. When he flung the door to, it had
closed with a spring lock, and for the last quarter of an hour
three gens-d’arme, commanded by the sacristan of the tower, had been
thundering thereat. He waited only to finish the last notes of the
wild Orcadian chant, and opened the door. He was seized by the collar,
dragged down the stair into the street, and through a crowd of wondering
faces--poor unconscious dreamer! it will not do to think on the
house-top even, and you had been dreaming very loud indeed in the church
spire--away to the bureau of the police.


I need not recount the proceedings of the Belgian police; how they
interrogated Robert concerning a letter from Mary St. John which they
found in an inner pocket; how they looked doubtful over a copy of Horace
that lay in his coat, and put evidently a momentous question about
some algebraical calculations on the fly-leaf of it. Fortunately or
unfortunately--I do not know which--Robert did not understand a word
they said to him. He was locked up, and left to fret for nearly a week;
though what he could have done had he been at liberty, he knew as little
as I know. At last, long after it was useless to make any inquiry about
Miss Lindsay, he was set at liberty. He could just pay for a steerage
passage to London, whence he wrote to Dr. Anderson for a supply, and was
in Aberdeen a few days after.

This was Robert’s first cosmopolitan experience. He confided the whole
affair to the doctor, who approved of all, saying it could have been of
no use, but he had done right. He advised him to go home at once, for
he had had letters inquiring after him. Ericson was growing steadily
worse--in fact, he feared Robert might not see him alive.

If this news struck Robert to the heart, his pain was yet not without
some poor alleviation:--he need not tell Ericson about Mysie, but might
leave him to find out the truth when, free of a dying body, he would
be better able to bear it. That very night he set off on foot for
Rothieden. There was no coach from Aberdeen till eight the following
morning, and before that he would be there.

It was a dreary journey without Ericson. Every turn of the road reminded
him of him. And Ericson too was going a lonely unknown way.

Did ever two go together upon that way? Might not two die together and
not lose hold of each other all the time, even when the sense of the
clasping hands was gone, and the soul had withdrawn itself from the
touch? Happy they who prefer the will of God to their own even in this,
and would, as the best friend, have him near who can be near--him who
made the fourth in the fiery furnace! Fable or fact, reader, I do not
care. The One I mean is, and in him I hope.

Very weary was Robert when he walked into his grandmother’s house.

Betty came out of the kitchen at the sound of his entrance.

‘Is Mr. Ericson--?’

‘Na; he’s nae deid,’ she answered. ‘He’ll maybe live a day or twa, they

‘Thank God!’ said Robert, and went to his grandmother.

‘Eh, laddie!’ said Mrs. Falconer, the first greetings over, ‘ane ‘s
ta’en an’ anither ‘s left! but what for ‘s mair nor I can faddom.
There’s that fine young man, Maister Ericson, at deith’s door; an’ here
am I, an auld runklet wife, left to cry upo’ deith, an’ he winna hear

‘Cry upo’ God, grannie, an’ no upo’ deith,’ said Robert, catching at the
word as his grandmother herself might have done. He had no such unfair
habit when I knew him, and always spoke to one’s meaning, not one’s
words. But then he had a wonderful gift of knowing what one’s meaning

He did not sit down, but, tired as he was, went straight to The Boar’s
Head. He met no one in the archway, and walked up to Ericson’s room.
When he opened the door, he found the large screen on the other side,
and hearing a painful cough, lingered behind it, for he could not
control his feelings sufficiently. Then he heard a voice--Ericson’s
voice; but oh, how changed!--He had no idea that he ought not to listen.

‘Mary,’ the voice said, ‘do not look like that. I am not suffering. It
is only my body. Your arm round me makes me so strong! Let me lay my
head on your shoulder.’

A brief pause followed.

‘But, Eric,’ said Mary’s voice, ‘there is one that loves you better than
I do.’

‘If there is,’ returned Ericson, feebly, ‘he has sent his angel to
deliver me.’

‘But you do believe in him, Eric?’

The voice expressed anxiety no less than love.

‘I am going to see. There is no other way. When I find him, I shall
believe in him. I shall love him with all my heart, I know. I love the
thought of him now.’

‘But that’s not himself, my--darling!’ she said.

‘No. But I cannot love himself till I find him. Perhaps there is no

‘Oh, don’t say that. I can’t bear to hear you talk so,’

‘But, dear heart, if you’re so sure of him, do you think he would turn
me away because I don’t do what I can’t do? I would if I could with all
my heart. If I were to say I believed in him, and then didn’t trust him,
I could understand it. But when it’s only that I’m not sure about what I
never saw, or had enough of proof to satisfy me of, how can he be vexed
at that? You seem to me to do him great wrong, Mary. Would you now
banish me for ever, if I should, when my brain is wrapped in the clouds
of death, forget you along with everything else for a moment?’

‘No, no, no. Don’t talk like that, Eric, dear. There may be reasons, you

‘I know what they say well enough. But I expect Him, if there is a Him,
to be better even than you, my beautiful--and I don’t know a fault in
you, but that you believe in a God you can’t trust. If I believed in
a God, wouldn’t I trust him just? And I do hope in him. We’ll see, my
darling. When we meet again I think you’ll say I was right.’

Robert stood like one turned into marble. Deep called unto deep in his
soul. The waves and the billows went over him.

Mary St. John answered not a word. I think she must have been
conscience-stricken. Surely the Son of Man saw nearly as much faith in
Ericson as in her. Only she clung to the word as a bond that the Lord
had given her: she would rather have his bond.

Ericson had another fit of coughing. Robert heard the rustling of
ministration. But in a moment the dying man again took up the word. He
seemed almost as anxious about Mary’s faith as she was about his.

‘There’s Robert,’ he said: ‘I do believe that boy would die for me, and
I never did anything to deserve it. Now Jesus Christ must be as good as
Robert at least. I think he must be a great deal better, if he’s Jesus
Christ at all. Now Robert might be hurt if I didn’t believe in him. But
I’ve never seen Jesus Christ. It’s all in an old book, over which the
people that say they believe in it the most, fight like dogs and cats. I
beg your pardon, my Mary; but they do, though the words are ugly.’

‘Ah! but if you had tried it as I’ve tried it, you would know better,

‘I think I should, dear. But it’s too late now. I must just go and see.
There’s no other way left.’

The terrible cough came again. As soon as the fit was over, with a grand
despair in his heart, Robert went from behind the screen.

Ericson was on a couch. His head lay on Mary St. John’s bosom. Neither
saw him.

‘Perhaps,’ said Ericson, panting with death, ‘a kiss in heaven may be as
good as being married on earth, Mary.’

She saw Robert and did not answer. Then Eric saw him. He smiled; but
Mary grew very pale.

Robert came forward, stooped and kissed Ericson’s forehead, kneeled and
kissed Mary’s hand, rose and went out.

From that moment they were both dead to him. Dead, I say--not lost, not
estranged, but dead--that is, awful and holy. He wept for Eric. He did
not weep for Mary yet. But he found a time.

Ericson died two days after.

Here endeth Robert’s youth.


In memory of Eric Ericson, I add a chapter of sonnets gathered from his
papers, almost desiring that those only should read them who turn to
the book a second time. How his papers came into my possession, will be
explained afterwards.

     Tumultuous rushing o’er the outstretched plains;
     A wildered maze of comets and of suns;
     The blood of changeless God that ever runs
     With quick diastole up the immortal veins;
     A phantom host that moves and works in chains;
     A monstrous fiction which, collapsing, stuns
     The mind to stupor and amaze at once;
     A tragedy which that man best explains
     Who rushes blindly on his wild career
     With trampling hoofs and sound of mailed war,
     Who will not nurse a life to win a tear,
     But is extinguished like a falling star:--
     Such will at times this life appear to me,
     Until I learn to read more perfectly.

     HOM.  IL. v. 403.

     If thou art tempted by a thought of ill,
     Crave not too soon for victory, nor deem
     Thou art a coward if thy safety seem
     To spring too little from a righteous will:
     For there is nightmare on thee, nor until
     Thy soul hath caught the morning’s early gleam
     Seek thou to analyze the monstrous dream
     By painful introversion; rather fill
     Thine eye with forms thou knowest to be truth:
     But see thou cherish higher hope than this;
     A hope hereafter that thou shalt be fit
     Calm-eyed to face distortion, and to sit
     Transparent among other forms of youth
     Who own no impulse save to God and bliss.

     And must I ever wake, gray dawn, to know
     Thee standing sadly by me like a ghost?
     I am perplexed with thee, that thou shouldst cost
     This Earth another turning: all aglow
     Thou shouldst have reached me, with a purple show
     Along far-mountain tops: and I would post
     Over the breadth of seas though I were lost
     In the hot phantom-chase for life, if so
     Thou camest ever with this numbing sense
     Of chilly distance and unlovely light;
     Waking this gnawing soul anew to fight
     With its perpetual load: I drive thee hence--
     I have another mountain-range from whence
     Bursteh a sun unutterably bright.


     ‘And yet it moves!’  Ah, Truth, where wert thou then,
     When all for thee they racked each piteous limb?
     Wert though in Heaven, and busy with thy hymn,
     When those poor hands convulsed that held thy pen?
     Art thou a phantom that deceivest men
     To their undoing? or dost thou watch him
     Pale, cold, and silent in his dungeon dim?
     And wilt thou ever speak to him again?
     ‘It moves, it moves!  Alas, my flesh was weak;
     That was a hideous dream!  I’ll cry aloud
     How the green bulk wheels sunward day by day!
     Ah me! ah me! perchance my heart was proud
     That I alone should know that word to speak;
     And now, sweet Truth, shine upon these, I pray.’

     If thou wouldst live the Truth in very deed,
     Thou hast thy joy, but thou hast more of pain.
     Others will live in peace, and thou be fain
     To bargain with despair, and in thy need
     To make thy meal upon the scantiest weed.
     These palaces, for thee they stand in vain;
     Thine is a ruinous hut; and oft the rain
     Shall drench thee in the midnight; yea the speed
     Of earth outstrip thee pilgrim, while thy feet
     Move slowly up the heights.  Yet will there come
     Through the time-rents about thy moving cell,
     An arrow for despair, and oft the hum
     Of far-off populous realms where spirits dwell.

     TO * * * *

     Speak, Prophet of the Lord!  We may not start
     To find thee with us in thine ancient dress,
     Haggard and pale from some bleak wilderness,
     Empty of all save God and thy loud heart:
     Nor with like rugged message quick to dart
     Into the hideous fiction mean and base:
     But yet, O prophet man, we need not less,
     But more of earnest; though it is thy part
     To deal in other words, if thou wouldst smite
     The living Mammon, seated, not as then
     In bestial quiescence grimly dight,
     But thrice as much an idol-god as when
     He stared at his own feet from morn to night. [8]


     From out a windy cleft there comes a gaze
     Of eyes unearthly which go to and fro
     Upon the people’s tumult, for below
     The nations smite each other: no amaze
     Troubles their liquid rolling, or affrays
     Their deep-set contemplation: steadily glow
     Those ever holier eye-balls, for they grow
     Liker unto the eyes of one that prays.
     And if those clasped hands tremble, comes a power
     As of the might of worlds, and they are holden
     Blessing above us in the sunrise golden;
     And they will be uplifted till that hour
     Of terrible rolling which shall rise and shake
     This conscious nightmare from us and we wake.



     One do I see and twelve; but second there
     Methinks I know thee, thou beloved one;
     Not from thy nobler port, for there are none
     More quiet-featured; some there are who bear
     Their message on their brows, while others wear
     A look of large commission, nor will shun
     The fiery trial, so their work is done:
     But thou hast parted with thine eyes in prayer--
     Unearthly are they both; and so thy lips
     Seem like the porches of the spirit land;
     For thou hast laid a mighty treasure by,
     Unlocked by Him in Nature, and thine eye
     Burns with a vision and apocalypse
     Thy own sweet soul can hardly understand.


     A Boanerges too!  Upon my heart
     It lay a heavy hour: features like thine
     Should glow with other message than the shine
     Of the earth-burrowing levin, and the start
     That cleaveth horrid gulfs.  Awful and swart
     A moment stoodest thou, but less divine--
     Brawny and clad in ruin!--till with mine
     Thy heart made answering signals, and apart
     Beamed forth thy two rapt eye-balls doubly clear,
     And twice as strong because thou didst thy duty,
     And though affianced to immortal Beauty,
     Hiddest not weakly underneath her veil
     The pest of Sin and Death which maketh pale:
     Henceforward be thy spirit doubly dear. [9]


     There is not any weed but hath its shower,
     There is not any pool but hath its star;
     And black and muddy though the waters are,
     We may not miss the glory of a flower,
     And winter moons will give them magic power
     To spin in cylinders of diamond spar;
     And everything hath beauty near and far,
     And keepeth close and waiteth on its hour.
     And I when I encounter on my road
     A human soul that looketh black and grim,
     Shall I more ceremonious be than God?
     Shall I refuse to watch one hour with him
     Who once beside our deepest woe did bud
     A patient watching flower about the brim.

     ‘Tis not the violent hands alone that bring
     The curse, the ravage, and the downward doom
     Although to these full oft the yawning tomb
     Owes deadly surfeit; but a keener sting,
     A more immortal agony, will cling
     To the half-fashioned sin which would assume
     Fair Virtue’s garb.  The eye that sows the gloom
     With quiet seeds of Death henceforth to spring
     What time the sun of passion burning fierce
     Breaks through the kindly cloud of circumstance;
     The bitter word, and the unkindly glance,
     The crust and canker coming with the years,
     Are liker Death than arrows, and the lance
     Which through the living heart at once doth pierce.


     I pray you, all ye men, who put your trust
     In moulds and systems and well-tackled gear,
     Holding that Nature lives from year to year
     In one continual round because she must--
     Set me not down, I pray you, in the dust
     Of all these centuries, like a pot of beer,
     A pewter-pot disconsolately clear,
     Which holds a potful, as is right and just.
     I will grow clamorous--by the rood, I will,
     If thus ye use me like a pewter pot.
     Good friend, thou art a toper and a sot--
     I will not be the lead to hold thy swill,
     Nor any lead: I will arise and spill
     Thy silly beverage, spill it piping hot.

     Nature, to him no message dost thou bear,
     Who in thy beauty findeth not the power
     To gird himself more strongly for the hour
     Of night and darkness.  Oh, what colours rare
     The woods, the valleys, and the mountains wear
     To him who knows thy secret, and in shower
     And fog, and ice-cloud, hath a secret bower
     Where he may rest until the heavens are fair!
     Not with the rest of slumber, but the trance
     Of onward movement steady and serene,
     Where oft in struggle and in contest keen
     His eyes will opened be, and all the dance
     Of life break on him, and a wide expanse
     Roll upward through the void, sunny and green.

     TO JUNE.

     Ah, truant, thou art here again, I see!
     For in a season of such wretched weather
     I thought that thou hadst left us altogether,
     Although I could not choose but fancy thee
     Skulking about the hill-tops, whence the glee
     Of thy blue laughter peeped at times, or rather
     Thy bashful awkwardness, as doubtful whether
     Thou shouldst be seen in such a company
     Of ugly runaways, unshapely heaps
     Of ruffian vapour, broken from restraint
     Of their slim prison in the ocean deeps.
     But yet I may not, chide: fall to thy books,
     Fall to immediately without complaint--
     There they are lying, hills and vales and brooks.


     Summer, sweet Summer, many-fingered Summer!
     We hold thee very dear, as well we may:
     It is the kernel of the year to-day--
     All hail to thee!  Thou art a welcome corner!
     If every insect were a fairy drummer,
     And I a fifer that could deftly play,
     We’d give the old Earth such a roundelay
     That she would cast all thought of labour from her
     Ah! what is this upon my window-pane?
     Some sulky drooping cloud comes pouting up,
     Stamping its glittering feet along the plain!
     Well, I will let that idle fancy drop.
     Oh, how the spouts are bubbling with the rain!
     And all the earth shines like a silver cup!

     ON A MIDGE.

     Whence do ye come, ye creature?  Each of you
     Is perfect as an angel; wings and eyes
     Stupendous in their beauty--gorgeous dyes
     In feathery fields of purple and of blue!
     Would God I saw a moment as ye do!
     I would become a molecule in size,
     Rest with you, hum with you, or slanting rise
     Along your one dear sunbeam, could I view
     The pearly secret which each tiny fly,
     Each tiny fly that hums and bobs and stirs,
     Hides in its little breast eternally
     From you, ye prickly grim philosophers,
     With all your theories that sound so high:
     Hark to the buzz a moment, my good sirs!


     Here stands a giant stone from whose far top
     Comes down the sounding water.  Let me gaze
     Till every sense of man and human ways
     Is wrecked and quenched for ever, and I drop
     Into the whirl of time, and without stop
     Pass downward thus!  Again my eyes I raise
     To thee, dark rock; and through the mist and haze
     My strength returns when I behold thy prop
     Gleam stern and steady through the wavering wrack
     Surely thy strength is human, and like me
     Thou bearest loads of thunder on thy back!
     And, lo, a smile upon thy visage black--
     A breezy tuft of grass which I can see
     Waving serenely from a sunlit crack!

     Above my head the great pine-branches tower
     Backwards and forwards each to the other bends,
     Beckoning the tempest-cloud which hither wends
     Like a slow-laboured thought, heavy with power;
     Hark to the patter of the coming shower!
     Let me be silent while the Almighty sends
     His thunder-word along; but when it ends
     I will arise and fashion from the hour
     Words of stupendous import, fit to guard
     High thoughts and purposes, which I may wave,
     When the temptation cometh close and hard,
     Like fiery brands betwixt me and the grave
     Of meaner things--to which I am a slave
     If evermore I keep not watch and ward.

     I do remember how when very young,
     I saw the great sea first, and heard its swell
     As I drew nearer, caught within the spell
     Of its vast size and its mysterious tongue.
     How the floor trembled, and the dark boat swung
     With a man in it, and a great wave fell
     Within a stone’s cast!  Words may never tell
     The passion of the moment, when I flung
     All childish records by, and felt arise
     A thing that died no more!  An awful power
     I claimed with trembling hands and eager eyes,
     Mine, mine for ever, an immortal dower.--
     The noise of waters soundeth to this hour,
     When I look seaward through the quiet skies.


     Hear’st thou the dash of water loud and hoarse
     With its perpetual tidings upward climb,
     Struggling against the wind?  Oh, how sublime!
     For not in vain from its portentous source,
     Thy heart, wild stream, hath yearned for its full force,
     But from thine ice-toothed caverns dark as time
     At last thou issuest, dancing to the rhyme
     Of thy outvolleying freedom!  Lo, thy course
     Lies straight before thee as the arrow flies,
     Right to the ocean-plains.  Away, away!
     Thy parent waits thee, and her sunset dyes
     Are ruffled for thy coming, and the gray
     Of all her glittering borders flashes high
     Against the glittering rocks: oh, haste, and fly!



A life lay behind Robert Falconer, and a life lay before him. He stood
on a shoal between.

The life behind him was in its grave. He had covered it over and turned
away. But he knew it would rise at night.

The life before him was not yet born; and what should issue from that
dull ghastly unrevealing fog on the horizon, he did not care. Thither
the tide setting eastward would carry him, and his future must be born.
All he cared about was to leave the empty garments of his dead behind
him--the sky and the fields, the houses and the gardens which those dead
had made alive with their presence. Travel, motion, ever on, ever away,
was the sole impulse in his heart. Nor had the thought of finding his
father any share in his restlessness.

He told his grandmother that he was going back to Aberdeen. She looked
in his face with surprise, but seeing trouble there, asked no questions.
As if walking in a dream, he found himself at Dr. Anderson’s door.

‘Why, Robert,’ said the good man, ‘what has brought you back? Ah! I see.
Poor Ericson! I am very sorry, my boy. What can I do for you?’

‘I can’t go on with my studies now, sir,’ answered Robert. ‘I have taken
a great longing for travel. Will you give me a little money and let me

‘To be sure I will. Where do you want to go?’

‘I don’t know. Perhaps as I go I shall find myself wanting to go
somewhere. You’re not afraid to trust me, are you, sir?’

‘Not in the least, Robert. I trust you perfectly. You shall do just as
you please.--Have you any idea, how much money you will want?’

‘No. Give me what you are willing I should spend: I will go by that.’

‘Come along to the bank then. I will give you enough to start with.
Write at once when you want more. Don’t be too saving. Enjoy yourself as
well as you can. I shall not grudge it.’

Robert smiled a wan smile at the idea of enjoying himself. His friend
saw it, but let it pass. There was no good in persuading a man whose
grief was all he had left, that he must ere long part with that too.
That would have been in lowest deeps of sorrow to open a yet lower deep
of horror. But Robert would have refused, and would have been right in
refusing to believe with regard to himself what might be true in regard
to most men. He might rise above his grief; he might learn to contain
his grief; but lose it, forget it?--never.

He went to bid Shargar farewell. As soon as he had a glimpse of what his
friend meant, he burst out in an agony of supplication.

‘Tak me wi’ ye, Robert,’ he cried. ‘Ye’re a gentleman noo. I’ll be
yer man. I’ll put on a livery coat, an’ gang wi’ ye. I’ll awa’ to Dr.
Anderson. He’s sure to lat me gang.’

‘No, Shargar,’ said Robert, ‘I can’t have you with me. I’ve come into
trouble, Shargar, and I must fight it out alone.’

‘Ay, ay; I ken. Puir Mr. Ericson!’

‘There’s nothing the matter with Mr. Ericson. Don’t ask me any
questions. I’ve said more to you now than I’ve said to anybody besides.’

‘That is guid o’ you, Robert. But am I never to see ye again?’

‘I don’t know. Perhaps we may meet some day.’

‘Perhaps is nae muckle to say, Robert,’ protested Shargar.

‘It’s more than can be said about everything, Shargar,’ returned Robert,

‘Weel, I maun jist tak it as ‘t comes,’ said Shargar, with a despairing
philosophy derived from the days when his mother thrashed him. ‘But, eh!
Robert, gin it had only pleased the Almichty to sen’ me into the warl’
in a some respectable kin’ o’ a fashion!’

‘Wi’ a chance a’ gaein’ aboot the country like that curst villain yer
brither, I suppose?’ retorted Robert, rousing himself for a moment.

‘Na, na,’ responded Shargar. ‘I’ll stick to my ain mither. She never
learned me sic tricks.’

‘Do ye that. Ye canna compleen o’ God. It’s a’ richt as far ‘s ye’re
concerned. Gin he dinna something o’ ye yet, it’ll be your wyte, no his,
I’m thinkin’.’

They walked to Dr. Anderson’s together, and spent the night there. In
the morning Robert got on the coach for Edinburgh.

I cannot, if I would, follow him on his travels. Only at times, when
the conversation rose in the dead of night, by some Jacob’s ladder of
blessed ascent, into regions where the heart of such a man could open
as in its own natural clime, would a few words cause the clouds that
enveloped this period of his history to dispart, and grant me a peep
into the phantasm of his past. I suspect, however, that much of it
left upon his mind no recallable impressions. I suspect that much of
it looked to himself in the retrospect like a painful dream, with only
certain objects and occurrences standing prominent enough to clear the
moonlight mist enwrapping the rest.

What the precise nature of his misery was I shall not even attempt to
conjecture. That would be to intrude within the holy place of a human
heart. One thing alone I will venture to affirm--that bitterness against
either of his friends, whose spirits rushed together and left his
outside, had no place in that noble nature. His fate lay behind him,
like the birth of Shargar, like the death of Ericson, a decree.

I do not even know in what direction he first went. That he had seen
many cities and many countries was apparent from glimpses of ancient
streets, of mountain-marvels, of strange constellations, of things in
heaven and earth which no one could have seen but himself, called up by
the magic of his words. A silent man in company, he talked much when
his hour of speech arrived. Seldom, however, did he narrate any incident
save in connection with some truth of human nature, or fact of the

I do know that the first thing he always did on reaching any new place
was to visit the church with the loftiest spire; but he never looked
into the church itself until he had left the earth behind him as far as
that church would afford him the possibility of ascent. Breathing the
air of its highest region, he found himself vaguely strengthened, yes
comforted. One peculiar feeling he had, into which I could enter only
upon happy occasion, of the presence of God in the wind. He said the
wind up there on the heights of human aspiration always made him long
and pray. Asking him one day something about his going to church so
seldom, he answered thus:

‘My dear boy, it does me ten times more good to get outside the spire
than to go inside the church. The spire is the most essential, and
consequently the most neglected part of the building. It symbolizes the
aspiration without which no man’s faith can hold its own. But the effort
of too many of her priests goes to conceal from the worshippers the
fact that there is such a stair, with a door to it out of the church. It
looks as if they feared their people would desert them for heaven. But
I presume it arises generally from the fact that they know of such an
ascent themselves, only by hearsay. The knowledge of God is good, but
the church is better!’

‘Could it be,’ I ventured to suggest, ‘that, in order to ascend, they
must put off the priests’ garments?’

‘Good, my boy!’ he answered. ‘All are priests up there, and must be
clothed in fine linen, clean and white--the righteousness of saints--not
the imputed righteousness of another,--that is a lying doctrine--but
their own righteousness which God has wrought in them by Christ.’ I
never knew a man in whom the inward was so constantly clothed upon by
the outward, whose ordinary habits were so symbolic of his spiritual
tastes, or whose enjoyment of the sight of his eyes and the hearing of
his ears was so much informed by his highest feelings. He regarded all
human affairs from the heights of religion, as from their church-spires
he looked down on the red roofs of Antwerp, on the black roofs of
Cologne, on the gray roofs of Strasburg, or on the brown roofs of
Basel--uplifted for the time above them, not in dissociation from them.

On the base of the missing twin-spire at Strasburg, high over the roof
of the church, stands a little cottage--how strange its white muslin
window-curtains look up there! To the day of his death he cherished the
fancy of writing a book in that cottage, with the grand city to which
London looks a modern mushroom, its thousand roofs with row upon row of
windows in them--often five garret stories, one above the other, and its
thickets of multiform chimneys, the thrones and procreant cradles of the
storks, marvellous in history, habit, and dignity--all below him.

He was taken ill at Valence and lay there for a fortnight, oppressed
with some kind of low fever. One night he awoke from a refreshing sleep,
but could not sleep again. It seemed to him afterwards as if he had lain
waiting for something. Anyhow something came. As it were a faint musical
rain had invaded his hearing; but the night was clear, for the moon was
shining on his window-blind. The sound came nearer, and revealed itself
a delicate tinkling of bells. It drew nearer still and nearer, growing
in sweet fulness as it came, till at length a slow torrent of tinklings
went past his window in the street below. It was the flow of a thousand
little currents of sound, a gliding of silvery threads, like the talking
of water-ripples against the side of a barge in a slow canal--all as
soft as the moonlight, as exquisite as an odour, each sound tenderly
truncated and dull. A great multitude of sheep was shifting its quarters
in the night, whence and whither and why he never knew. To his heart
they were the messengers of the Most High. For into that heart, soothed
and attuned by their thin harmony, not on the wind that floated without
breaking their lovely message, but on the ripples of the wind that
bloweth where it listeth, came the words, unlooked for, their coming
unheralded by any mental premonition, ‘My peace I give unto you.’ The
sounds died slowly away in the distance, fainting out of the air, even
as they had grown upon it, but the words remained.

In a few moments he was fast asleep, comforted by pleasure into repose;
his dreams were of gentle self-consoling griefs; and when he awoke in
the morning--‘My peace I give unto you,’ was the first thought of which
he was conscious. It may be that the sound of the sheep-bells made him
think of the shepherds that watched their flocks by night, and they
of the multitude of the heavenly host, and they of the song--‘On earth
peace’: I do not know. The important point is not how the words came,
but that the words remained--remained until he understood them, and they
became to him spirit and life.

He soon recovered strength sufficiently to set out again upon his
travels, great part of which he performed on foot. In this way he
reached Avignon. Passing from one of its narrow streets into an open
place in the midst, all at once he beheld, towering above him, on a
height that overlooked the whole city and surrounding country, a great
crucifix. The form of the Lord of Life still hung in the face of heaven
and earth. He bowed his head involuntarily. No matter that when he drew
nearer the power of it vanished. The memory of it remained with its
first impression, and it had a share in what followed.

He made his way eastward towards the Alps. As he walked one day about
noon over a desolate heath-covered height, reminding him not a little of
the country of his childhood, the silence seized upon him. In the midst
of the silence arose the crucifix, and once more the words which had
often returned upon him sounded in the ears of the inner hearing, ‘My
peace I give unto you.’ They were words he had known from the earliest
memorial time. He had heard them in infancy, in childhood, in boyhood,
in youth: now first in manhood it flashed upon him that the Lord did
really mean that the peace of his soul should be the peace of their
souls; that the peace wherewith his own soul was quiet, the peace at the
very heart of the universe, was henceforth theirs--open to them, to all
the world, to enter and be still. He fell upon his knees, bowed down in
the birth of a great hope, held up his hands towards heaven, and cried,
‘Lord Christ, give me thy peace.’

He said no more, but rose, caught up his stick, and strode forward,

He had learned what the sentence meant; what that was of which it spoke
he had not yet learned. The peace he had once sought, the peace that lay
in the smiles and tenderness of a woman, had ‘overcome him like a summer
cloud,’ and had passed away. There was surely a deeper, a wider,
a grander peace for him than that, if indeed it was the same peace
wherewith the king of men regarded his approaching end, that he had left
as a heritage to his brothers. Suddenly he was aware that the earth had
begun to live again. The hum of insects arose from the heath around him;
the odour of its flowers entered his dulled sense; the wind kissed him
on the forehead; the sky domed up over his head; and the clouds veiled
the distant mountain tops like the smoke of incense ascending from the
altars of the worshipping earth. All Nature began to minister to one who
had begun to lift his head from the baptism of fire. He had thought that
Nature could never more be anything to him; and she was waiting on
him like a mother. The next moment he was offended with himself for
receiving ministrations the reaction of whose loveliness might no longer
gather around the form of Mary St. John. Every wavelet of scent,
every toss of a flower’s head in the breeze, came with a sting in its
pleasure--for there was no woman to whom they belonged. Yet he could not
shut them out, for God and not woman is the heart of the universe.
Would the day ever come when the loveliness of Mary St. John, felt
and acknowledged as never before, would be even to him a joy and a
thanksgiving? If ever, then because God is the heart of all.

I do not think this mood, wherein all forms of beauty sped to his soul
as to their own needful centre, could have lasted over many miles of his
journey. But such delicate inward revelations are none the less
precious that they are evanescent. Many feelings are simply too good
to last--using the phrase not in the unbelieving sense in which it is
generally used, expressing the conviction that God is a hard father,
fond of disappointing his children, but to express the fact that
intensity and endurance cannot yet coexist in the human economy. But the
virtue of a mood depends by no means on its immediate presence. Like
any other experience, it may be believed in, and, in the absence which
leaves the mind free to contemplate it, work even more good than in its

At length he came in sight of the Alpine regions. Far off, the heads of
the great mountains rose into the upper countries of cloud, where
the snows settled on their stony heads, and the torrents ran out from
beneath the frozen mass to gladden the earth below with the faith of
the lonely hills. The mighty creatures lay like grotesque animals of
a far-off titanic time, whose dead bodies had been first withered into
stone, then worn away by the storms, and covered with shrouds and palls
of snow, till the outlines of their forms were gone, and only rough
shapes remained like those just blocked out in the sculptor’s marble,
vaguely suggesting what the creatures had been, as the corpse under the
sheet of death is like a man. He came amongst the valleys at their feet,
with their blue-green waters hurrying seawards--from stony heights of
air into the mass of ‘the restless wavy plain’; with their sides of rock
rising in gigantic terrace after terrace up to the heavens; with their
scaling pines, erect and slight, cone-head aspiring above cone-head,
ambitious to clothe the bare mass with green, till failing at length
in their upward efforts, the savage rock shot away and beyond and above
them, the white and blue glaciers clinging cold and cruel to their
ragged sides, and the dead blank of whiteness covering their final
despair. He drew near to the lower glaciers, to find their awful abysses
tremulous with liquid blue, a blue tender and profound as if fed from
the reservoir of some hidden sky intenser than ours; he rejoiced over
the velvety fields dotted with the toy-like houses of the mountaineers;
he sat for hours listening by the side of their streams; he grew weary,
felt oppressed, longed for a wider outlook, and began to climb towards
a mountain village of which he had heard from a traveller, to find
solitude and freedom in an air as lofty as if he climbed twelve of his
beloved cathedral spires piled up in continuous ascent.

After ascending for hours in zigzags through pine woods, where the only
sound was of the little streams trotting down to the valley below, or
the distant hush of some thin waterfall, he reached a level, and
came out of the woods. The path now led along the edge of a precipice
descending sheer to the uppermost terrace of the valley he had left. The
valley was but a cleft in the mass of the mountain: a little way over
sank its other wall, steep as a plumb-line could have made it, of solid
rock. On his right lay green fields of clover and strange grasses. Ever
and anon from the cleft steamed up great blinding clouds of mist, which
now wandered about over the nations of rocks on the mountain side beyond
the gulf, now wrapt himself in their bewildering folds. In one moment
the whole creation had vanished, and there seemed scarce existence
enough left for more than the following footstep; the next, a mighty
mountain stood in front, crowned with blinding snow, an awful fact; the
lovely heavens were over his head, and the green sod under his feet; the
grasshoppers chirped about him, and the gorgeous butterflies flew. From
regions far beyond came the bells of the kine and the goats. He reached
a little inn, and there took up his quarters.

I am able to be a little minute in my description, because I have since
visited the place myself. Great heights rise around it on all sides. It
stands as between heaven and hell, suspended between peaks and gulfs.
The wind must roar awfully there in the winter; but the mountains stand
away with their avalanches, and all the summer long keep the cold off
the grassy fields.

The same evening, he was already weary. The next morning it rained. It
rained fiercely all day. He would leave the place on the morrow. In the
evening it began to clear up. He walked out. The sun was setting. The
snow-peaks were faintly tinged with rose, and the ragged masses of
vapour that hung lazy and leaden-coloured about the sides of the abyss,
were partially dyed a sulky orange red. Then all faded into gray. But
as the sunlight vanished, a veil sank from the face of the moon, already
half-way to the zenith, and she gathered courage and shone, till the
mountain looked lovely as a ghost in the gleam of its snow and the
glimmer of its glaciers. ‘Ah!’ thought Falconer, ‘such a peace at last
is all a man can look for--the repose of a spectral Elysium, a world
where passion has died away, and only the dim ghost of its memory to
disturb with a shadowy sorrow the helpless content of its undreaming
years. The religion that can do but this much is not a very great or
very divine thing. The human heart cannot invent a better it may be, but
it can imagine grander results.’

He did not yet know what the religion was of which he spoke. As well
might a man born stone-deaf estimate the power of sweet sounds, or
he who knows not a square from a circle pronounce upon the study of

The next morning rose brilliant--an ideal summer day. He would not go
yet; he would spend one day more in the place. He opened his valise to
get some lighter garments. His eye fell on a New Testament. Dr. Anderson
had put it there. He had never opened it yet, and now he let it lie. Its
time had not yet come. He went out.

Walking up the edge of the valley, he came upon a little stream whose
talk he had heard for some hundred yards. It flowed through a grassy
hollow, with steeply sloping sides. Water is the same all the world
over; but there was more than water here to bring his childhood back
to Falconer. For at the spot where the path led him down to the burn, a
little crag stood out from the bank,--a gray stone like many he knew on
the stream that watered the valley of Rothieden: on the top of the stone
grew a little heather; and beside it, bending towards the water, was a
silver birch. He sat down on the foot of the rock, shut in by the high
grassy banks from the gaze of the awful mountains. The sole unrest was
the run of the water beside him, and it sounded so homely, that he
began to jabber Scotch to it. He forgot that this stream was born in the
clouds, far up where that peak rose into the air behind him; he did
not know that a couple of hundred yards from where he sat, it tumbled
headlong into the valley below: with his country’s birch-tree beside
him, and the rock crowned with its tuft of heather over his head, the
quiet as of a Sabbath afternoon fell upon him--that quiet which is the
one altogether lovely thing in the Scotch Sabbath--and once more the
words arose in his mind, ‘My peace I give unto you.’

Now he fell a-thinking what this peace could be. And it came into his
mind as he thought, that Jesus had spoken in another place about giving
rest to those that came to him, while here he spoke about ‘my peace.’
Could this my mean a certain kind of peace that the Lord himself
possessed? Perhaps it was in virtue of that peace, whatever it was, that
he was the Prince of Peace. Whatever peace he had must be the highest
and best peace--therefore the one peace for a man to seek, if indeed, as
the words of the Lord seemed to imply, a man was capable of possessing
it. He remembered the New Testament in his box, and, resolving to try
whether he could not make something more out of it, went back to the inn
quieter in heart than since he left his home. In the evening he returned
to the brook, and fell to searching the story, seeking after the peace
of Jesus.

He found that the whole passage stood thus:--

‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world
giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it
be afraid.’

He did not leave the place for six weeks. Every day he went to the burn,
as he called it, with his New Testament; every day tried yet again to
make out something more of what the Saviour meant. By the end of the
month it had dawned upon him, he hardly knew how, that the peace of
Jesus (although, of course, he could not know what it was like till he
had it) must have been a peace that came from the doing of the will of
his Father. From the account he gave of the discoveries he then made, I
venture to represent them in the driest and most exact form that I can
find they will admit of. When I use the word discoveries, I need hardly
say that I use it with reference to Falconer and his previous knowledge.
They were these:--that Jesus taught--

First,--That a man’s business is to do the will of God:

Second,--That God takes upon himself the care of the man:

Third,--Therefore, that a man must never be afraid of anything; and so,

Fourth,--be left free to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour
as himself.

But one day, his thoughts having cleared themselves a little upon these
points, a new set of questions arose with sudden inundation--comprised
in these two:--

‘How can I tell for certain that there ever was such a man? How am I to
be sure that such as he says is the mind of the maker of these glaciers
and butterflies?’

All this time he was in the wilderness as much as Moses at the back of
Horeb, or St. Paul when he vanishes in Arabia: and he did nothing
but read the four gospels and ponder over them. Therefore it is not
surprising that he should have already become so familiar with the
gospel story, that the moment these questions appeared, the following
words should dart to the forefront of his consciousness to meet them:--

‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it
be of God, or whether I speak of myself.’

Here was a word of Jesus himself, announcing the one means of arriving
at a conviction of the truth or falsehood of all that he said, namely,
the doing of the will of God by the man who would arrive at such

The next question naturally was: What is this will of God of which
Jesus speaks? Here he found himself in difficulty. The theology of
his grandmother rushed in upon him, threatening to overwhelm him with
demands as to feeling and inward action from which his soul turned
with sickness and fainting. That they were repulsive to him, that they
appeared unreal, and contradictory to the nature around him, was no
proof that they were not of God. But on the other hand, that they
demanded what seemed to him unjust,--that these demands were founded on
what seemed to him untruth attributed to God, on ways of thinking and
feeling which are certainly degrading in a man,--these were reasons of
the very highest nature for refusing to act upon them so long as, from
whatever defects it might be in himself, they bore to him this aspect.
He saw that while they appeared to be such, even though it might turn
out that he mistook them, to acknowledge them would be to wrong God. But
this conclusion left him in no better position for practice than before.

When at length he did see what the will of God was, he wondered, so
simple did it appear, that he had failed to discover it at once. Yet
not less than a fortnight had he been brooding and pondering over the
question, as he wandered up and down that burnside, or sat at the foot
of the heather-crowned stone and the silver-barked birch, when the light
began to dawn upon him. It was thus.

In trying to understand the words of Jesus by searching back, as it
were, for such thoughts and feelings in him as would account for the
words he spoke, the perception awoke that at least he could not have
meant by the will of God any such theological utterances as those which
troubled him. Next it grew plain that what he came to do, was just to
lead his life. That he should do the work, such as recorded, and much
besides, that the Father gave him to do--this was the will of God
concerning him. With this perception arose the conviction that unto
every man whom God had sent into the world, he had given a work to do in
that world. He had to lead the life God meant him to lead. The will of
God was to be found and done in the world. In seeking a true relation to
the world, would he find his relation to God?

The time for action was come.

He rose up from the stone of his meditation, took his staff in his hand,
and went down the mountain, not knowing whither he went. And these were
some of his thoughts as he went:

‘If it was the will of God who made me and her, my will shall not be set
against his. I cannot be happy, but I will bow my head and let his waves
and his billows go over me. If there is such a God, he knows what a pain
I bear. His will be done. Jesus thought it well that his will should
be done to the death. Even if there be no God, it will be grand to be a
disciple of such a man, to do as he says, think as he thought--perhaps
come to feel as he felt.’

My reader may wonder that one so young should have been able to think so
practically--to the one point of action. But he was in earnest, and what
lay at the root of his character, at the root of all that he did, felt,
and became, was childlike simplicity and purity of nature. If the sins
of his father were mercifully visited upon him, so likewise were the
grace and loveliness of his mother. And between the two, Falconer had
fared well.

As he descended the mountain, the one question was--his calling. With
the faintest track to follow, with the clue of a spider’s thread to
guide him, he would have known that his business was to set out at once
to find, and save his father. But never since the day when the hand
of that father smote him, and Mary St. John found him bleeding on the
floor, had he heard word or conjecture concerning him. If he were to set
out to find him now, it would be to search the earth for one who might
have vanished from it years ago. He might as well search the streets of
a great city for a lost jewel. When the time came for him to find his
father, if such an hour was written in the decrees of--I dare not say
Fate, for Falconer hated the word--if such was the will of God, some
sign would be given him--that is, some hint which he could follow with
action. As he thought and thought it became gradually plainer that he
must begin his obedience by getting ready for anything that God might
require of him. Therefore he must go on learning till the call came.

But he shivered at the thought of returning to Aberdeen. Might he not
continue his studies in Germany? Would that not be as good--possibly,
from the variety of the experience, better? But how was it to be
decided? By submitting the matter to the friend who made either
possible. Dr. Anderson had been to him as a father: he would be guided
by his pleasure.

He wrote, therefore, to Dr. Anderson, saying that he would return at
once if he wished it, but that he would greatly prefer going to a German
university for two years. The doctor replied that of course he would
rather have him at home, but that he was confident Robert knew best what
was best for himself; therefore he had only to settle where he thought
proper, and the next summer he would come and see him, for he was not
tied to Aberdeen any more than Robert.


Four years passed before Falconer returned to his native country, during
which period Dr. Anderson had visited him twice, and shown himself
well satisfied with his condition and pursuits. The doctor had likewise
visited Rothieden, and had comforted the heart of the grandmother with
regard to her Robert. From what he learned upon this visit, he had
arrived at a true conjecture, I believe, as to the cause of the great
change which had suddenly taken place in the youth. But he never asked
Robert a question leading in the direction of the grief which he saw the
healthy and earnest nature of the youth gradually assimilating into his
life. He had too much respect for sorrow to approach it with curiosity.
He had learned to put off his shoes when he drew nigh the burning bush
of human pain.

Robert had not settled at any of the universities, but had moved from
one to the other as he saw fit, report guiding him to the men who spoke
with authority. The time of doubt and anxious questioning was far
from over, but the time was long gone by--if in his case it had ever
been--when he could be like a wave of the sea, driven of the wind
and tossed. He had ever one anchor of the soul, and he found that it
held--the faith of Jesus (I say the faith of Jesus, not his own faith
in Jesus), the truth of Jesus, the life of Jesus. However his intellect
might be tossed on the waves of speculation and criticism, he found
that the word the Lord had spoken remained steadfast; for in doing
righteously, in loving mercy, in walking humbly, the conviction
increased that Jesus knew the very secret of human life. Now and then
some great vision gleamed across his soul of the working of all things
towards a far-off goal of simple obedience to a law of life, which God
knew, and which his son had justified through sorrow and pain. Again and
again the words of the Master gave him a peep into a region where all
was explicable, where all that was crooked might be made straight, where
every mountain of wrong might be made low, and every valley of suffering
exalted. Ever and again some one of the dark perplexities of humanity
began to glimmer with light in its inmost depth. Nor was he without
those moments of communion when the creature is lifted into the secret
place of the Creator.

Looking back to the time when it seemed that he cried and was not heard,
he saw that God had been hearing, had been answering, all the time; had
been making him capable of receiving the gift for which he prayed. He
saw that intellectual difficulty encompassing the highest operations of
harmonizing truth, can no more affect their reality than the dulness
of chaos disprove the motions of the wind of God over the face of its
waters. He saw that any true revelation must come out of the unknown in
God through the unknown in man. He saw that its truths must rise in the
man as powers of life, and that only as that life grows and unfolds can
the ever-lagging intellect gain glimpses of partial outlines fading away
into the infinite--that, indeed, only in material things and the laws
that belong to them, are outlines possible--even there, only in the
picture of them which the mind that analyzes them makes for itself, not
in the things themselves.

At the close of these four years, with his spirit calm and hopeful,
truth his passion, and music, which again he had resumed and diligently
cultivated, his pleasure, Falconer returned to Aberdeen. He was received
by Dr. Anderson as if he had in truth been his own son. In the
room stood a tall figure, with its back towards them, pocketing its
handkerchief. The next moment the figure turned, and--could it be?--yes,
it was Shargar. Doubt lingered only until he opened his mouth, and said
‘Eh, Robert!’ with which exclamation he threw himself upon him, and
after a very undignified fashion began crying heartily. Tall as he was,
Robert’s great black head towered above him, and his shoulders were like
a rock against which Shargar’s slight figure leaned. He looked down like
a compassionate mastiff upon a distressed Italian grayhound. His eyes
shimmered with feeling, but Robert’s tears, if he ever shed any, were
kept for very solemn occasions. He was more likely to weep for awful
joy than for any sufferings either in himself or others. ‘Shargar!’
pronounced in a tone full of a thousand memories, was all the greeting
he returned; but his great manly hand pressed Shargar’s delicate
long-fingered one with a grasp which must have satisfied his friend that
everything was as it had been between them, and that their friendship
from henceforth would take a new start. For with all that Robert had
seen, thought, and learned, now that the bitterness of loss had gone by,
the old times and the old friends were dearer. If there was any truth in
the religion of God’s will, in which he was a disciple, every moment
of life’s history which had brought soul in contact with soul, must be
sacred as a voice from behind the veil. Therefore he could not now rest
until he had gone to see his grandmother.

‘Will you come to Rothieden with me, Shargar? I beg your pardon--I
oughtn’t to keep up an old nickname,’ said Robert, as they sat that
evening with the doctor, over a tumbler of toddy.

‘If you call me anything else, I’ll cut my throat, Robert, as I told
you before. If any one else does,’ he added, laughing, ‘I’ll cut his

‘Can he go with me, doctor?’ asked Robert, turning to their host.

‘Certainly. He has not been to Rothieden since he took his degree. He’s
an A.M. now, and has distinguished himself besides. You’ll see him in
his uniform soon, I hope. Let’s drink his health, Robert. Fill your

The doctor filled his glass slowly and solemnly. He seldom drank
even wine, but this was a rare occasion. He then rose, and with equal
slowness, and a tremor in his voice which rendered it impossible to
imagine the presence of anything but seriousness, said,

‘Robert, my son, let’s drink the health of George Moray, Gentleman.
Stand up.’

Robert rose, and in his confusion Shargar rose too, and sat down again,
blushing till his red hair looked yellow beside his cheeks. The men
repeated the words, ‘George Moray, Gentleman,’ emptied their glasses,
and resumed their seats. Shargar rose trembling, and tried in vain
to speak. The reason in part was, that he sought to utter himself in

‘Hoots! Damn English!’ he broke out at last. ‘Gin I be a gentleman, Dr.
Anderson and Robert Falconer, it’s you twa ‘at’s made me ane, an’ God
bless ye, an’ I’m yer hoomble servant to a’ etairnity.’

So saying, Shargar resumed his seat, filled his glass with trembling
hand, emptied it to hide his feelings, but without success, rose once
more, and retreated to the hall for a space.

The next morning Robert and Shargar got on the coach and went to
Rothieden. Robert turned his head aside as they came near the bridge
and the old house of Bogbonnie. But, ashamed of his weakness, he turned
again and looked at the house. There it stood, all the same,--a thing
for the night winds to howl in, and follow each other in mad gambols
through its long passages and rooms, so empty from the first that not
even a ghost had any reason for going there--a place almost without a
history--dreary emblem of so many empty souls that have hidden their
talent in a napkin, and have nothing to return for it when the Master
calls them. Having looked this one in the face, he felt stronger to meet
those other places before which his heart quailed yet more. He knew that
Miss St. John had left soon after Ericson’s death: whether he was
sorry or glad that he should not see her he could not tell. He thought
Rothieden would look like Pompeii, a city buried and disinterred; but
when the coach drove into the long straggling street, he found the
old love revive, and although the blood rushed back to his heart when
Captain Forsyth’s house came in view, he did not turn away, but made his
eyes, and through them his heart, familiar with its desolation. He got
down at the corner, and leaving Shargar to go on to The Boar’s Head and
look after the luggage, walked into his grandmother’s house and straight
into her little parlour. She rose with her old stateliness when she saw
a stranger enter the room, and stood waiting his address.

‘Weel, grannie,’ said Robert, and took her in his arms.

‘The Lord’s name be praised!’ faltered she. ‘He’s ower guid to the likes
o’ me.’

And she lifted up her voice and wept.

She had been informed of his coming, but she had not expected him till
the evening; he was much altered, and old age is slow.

He had hardly placed her in her chair, when Betty came in. If she had
shown him respect before, it was reverence now.

‘Eh, sir!’ she said, ‘I didna ken it was you, or I wadna hae come into
the room ohn chappit at the door. I’ll awa’ back to my kitchie.’

So saying, she turned to leave the room.

‘Hoots! Betty,’ cried Robert, ‘dinna be a gowk. Gie ‘s a grip o yer

Betty stood staring and irresolute, overcome at sight of the manly bulk
before her.

‘Gin ye dinna behave yersel’, Betty, I’ll jist awa’ ower to Muckledrum,
an’ hae a caw (drive) throu the sessions-buik.’

Betty laughed for the first time at the awful threat, and the ice once
broken, things returned to somewhat of their old footing.

I must not linger on these days. The next morning Robert paid a visit
to Bodyfauld, and found that time had there flowed so gently that it had
left but few wrinkles and fewer gray hairs. The fields, too, had little
change to show; and the hill was all the same, save that its pines had
grown. His chief mission was to John Hewson and his wife. When he left
for the continent, he was not so utterly absorbed in his own griefs as
to forget Jessie. He told her story to Dr. Anderson, and the good man
had gone to see her the same day.

In the evening, when he knew he should find them both at home, he
walked into the cottage. They were seated by the fire, with the same pot
hanging on the same crook for their supper. They rose, and asked him
to sit down, but did not know him. When he told them who he was, they
greeted him warmly, and John Hewson smiled something of the old smile,
but only like it, for it had no ‘rays proportionately delivered’ from
his mouth over his face.

After a little indifferent chat, Robert said,

‘I came through Aberdeen yesterday, John.’

At the very mention of Aberdeen, John’s head sunk. He gave no answer,
but sat looking in the fire. His wife rose and went to the other end of
the room, busying herself quietly about the supper. Robert thought it
best to plunge into the matter at once.

‘I saw Jessie last nicht,’ he said.

Still there was no reply. John’s face had grown hard as a stone face,
but Robert thought rather from the determination to govern his feelings
than from resentment.

‘She’s been doin’ weel ever sin’ syne,’ he added.

Still no word from either; and Robert fearing some outburst of
indignation ere he had said his say, now made haste.

‘She’s been a servant wi’ Dr. Anderson for four year noo, an’ he’s sair
pleased wi’ her. She’s a fine woman. But her bairnie’s deid, an’ that
was a sair blow till her.’

He heard a sob from the mother, but still John made no sign.

‘It was a bonnie bairnie as ever ye saw. It luikit in her face, she
says, as gin it kent a’ aboot it, and had only come to help her throu
the warst o’ ‘t; for it gaed hame ‘maist as sune’s ever she was
richt able to thank God for sen’in’ her sic an angel to lead her to

‘John,’ said his wife, coming behind his chair, and laying her hand on
his shoulder, ‘what for dinna ye speyk? Ye hear what Maister Faukner
says.--Ye dinna think a thing’s clean useless ‘cause there may be a spot
upo’ ‘t?’ she added, wiping her eyes with her apron.

‘A spot upo’ ‘t?’ cried John, starting to his feet. ‘What ca’ ye a
spot?--Wuman, dinna drive me mad to hear ye lichtlie the glory o’

‘That’s a’ verra weel, John,’ interposed Robert quietly; ‘but there was
ane thocht as muckle o’ ‘t as ye do, an’ wad hae been ashamed to hear ye
speak that gait aboot yer ain dauchter.’

‘I dinna unnerstan’ ye,’ returned Hewson, looking raised-like at him.

‘Dinna ye ken, man, that amo’ them ‘at kent the Lord best whan he cam
frae haiven to luik efter his ain--to seek and to save, ye ken--amo’
them ‘at cam roon aboot him to hearken till ‘im, was lasses ‘at had gane
the wrang gait a’thegither,--no like your bonnie Jessie ‘at fell but
ance. Man, ye’re jist like Simon the Pharisee, ‘at was sae scunnert at
oor Lord ‘cause he loot the wuman ‘at was a sinner tak her wull o’ ‘s
feet--the feet ‘at they war gaein’ to tak their wull o’ efter anither
fashion afore lang. He wad hae shawn her the door--Simon wad--like you,
John; but the Lord tuik her pairt. An’ lat me tell you, John--an’ I
winna beg yer pardon for sayin’ ‘t, for it’s God’s trowth--lat me tell
you, ‘at gin ye gang on that gait ye’ll be sidin’ wi’ the Pharisee, an’
no wi’ oor Lord. Ye may lippen to yer wife, ay, an’ to Jessie hersel’,
that kens better nor eyther o’ ye, no to mak little o’ virginity. Faith!
they think mair o’ ‘t than ye do, I’m thinkin’, efter a’; only it’s no a
thing to say muckle aboot. An’ it’s no to stan’ for a’thing, efter a’.’

Silence followed. John sat down again, and buried his face in his hands.
At length he murmured from between them,

‘The lassie’s weel?’

‘Ay,’ answered Robert; and silence followed again.

‘What wad ye hae me do?’ asked John, lifting his head a little.

‘I wad hae ye sen’ a kin’ word till her. The lassie’s hert’s jist
longin’ efter ye. That’s a’. And that’s no ower muckle.’

‘’Deed no,’ assented the mother.

John said nothing. But when his visitor rose he bade him a warm

When Robert returned to Aberdeen he was the bearer of such a message
as made poor Jessie glad at heart. This was his first experience of the

When he left the cottage, he did not return to the house, but threaded
the little forest of pines, climbing the hill till he came out on its
bare crown, where nothing grew but heather and blaeberries. There he
threw himself down, and gazed into the heavens. The sun was below the
horizon; all the dazzle was gone out of the gold, and the roses were
fast fading; the downy blue of the sky was trembling into stars over
his head; the brown dusk was gathering in the air; and a wind full of
gentleness and peace came to him from the west. He let his thoughts go
where they would, and they went up into the abyss over his head.

‘Lord, come to me,’ he cried in his heart, ‘for I cannot go to thee.
If I were to go up and up through that awful space for ages and ages,
I should never find thee. Yet there thou art. The tenderness of thy
infinitude looks upon me from those heavens. Thou art in them and in me.
Because thou thinkest, I think. I am thine--all thine. I abandon
myself to thee. Fill me with thyself. When I am full of thee, my griefs
themselves will grow golden in thy sunlight. Thou holdest them and
their cause, and wilt find some nobler atonement between them than vile
forgetfulness and the death of love. Lord, let me help those that are
wretched because they do not know thee. Let me tell them that thou, the
Life, must needs suffer for and with them, that they may be partakers
of thy ineffable peace. My life is hid in thine: take me in thy hand as
Gideon bore the pitcher to the battle. Let me be broken if need be, that
thy light may shine upon the lies which men tell them in thy name, and
which eat away their hearts.’

Having persuaded Shargar to remain with Mrs. Falconer for a few days,
and thus remove the feeling of offence she still cherished because of
his ‘munelicht flittin’,’ he returned to Dr. Anderson, who now unfolded
his plans for him. These were, that he should attend the medical classes
common to the two universities, and at the same time accompany him in
his visits to the poor. He did not at all mean, he said, to determine
Robert’s life as that of a medical man, but from what he had learned
of his feelings, he was confident that a knowledge of medicine would be
invaluable to him. I think the good doctor must have foreseen the kind
of life which Falconer would at length choose to lead, and with true
and admirable wisdom, sought to prepare him for it. However this may be,
Robert entertained the proposal gladly, went into the scheme with his
whole heart, and began to widen that knowledge of and sympathy with the
poor which were the foundation of all his influence over them.

For a time, therefore, he gave a diligent and careful attendance upon
lectures, read sufficiently, took his rounds with Dr. Anderson, and
performed such duties as he delegated to his greater strength. Had the
healing art been far less of an enjoyment to him than it was, he could
yet hardly have failed of great progress therein; but seeing that it
accorded with his best feelings, profoundest theories, and loftiest
hopes, and that he received it as a work given him to do, it is not
surprising that a certain faculty of cure, almost partaking of the
instinctive, should have been rapidly developed in him, to the wonder
and delight of his friend and master.

In this labour he again spent about four years, during which time he
gathered much knowledge of human nature, learning especially to judge it
from no stand-point of his own, but in every individual case to take a
new position whence the nature and history of the man should appear
in true relation to the yet uncompleted result. He who cannot feel
the humanity of his neighbour because he is different from himself in
education, habits, opinions, morals, circumstances, objects, is unfit,
if not unworthy, to aid him.

Within this period Shargar had gone out to India, where he had
distinguished himself particularly on a certain harassing march. Towards
the close of the four years he had leave of absence, and was on his way
home. About the same time Robert, in consequence of a fever brought
on by over-fatigue, was in much need of a holiday; and Dr. Anderson
proposed that he should meet Moray at Southampton.

Shargar had no expectation of seeing him, and his delight, not greater
on that account, broke out more wildly. No thinnest film had grown over
his heart, though in all else he was considerably changed. The army
had done everything that was wanted for his outward show of man. The
drawling walk had vanished, and a firm step and soldierly stride had
taken its place; his bearing was free, yet dignified; his high descent
came out in the ease of his carriage and manners: there could be no
doubt that at last Shargar was a gentleman. His hair had changed to a
kind of red chestnut. His complexion was much darkened with the Indian
sun. His eyes, too, were darker, and no longer rolled slowly from one
object to another, but indicated by their quick glances a mind ready
to observe and as ready to resolve. His whole appearance was more than
prepossessing--it was even striking.

Robert was greatly delighted with the improvement in him, and far more
when he found that his mind’s growth had at least kept pace with his
body’s change. It would be more correct to say that it had preceded and
occasioned it; for however much the army may be able to do in that
way, it had certainly, in Moray’s case, only seconded the law of inward
growth working outward show.

The young men went up to London together, and great was the pleasure
they had in each other’s society, after so long a separation in which
their hearts had remained unchanged while their natures had grown both
worthy and capable of more honour and affection. They had both much to
tell; for Robert was naturally open save in regard to his grief; and
Shargar was proud of being able to communicate with Robert from a nearer
level, in virtue of now knowing many things that Robert could not know.
They went together to a hotel in St. Paul’s Churchyard.


At the close of a fortnight, Falconer thought it time to return to
his duties in Aberdeen. The day before the steamer sailed, they found
themselves, about six o’clock, in Gracechurch Street. It was a fine
summer evening. The street was less crowded than earlier in the
afternoon, although there was a continuous stream of waggons, omnibuses,
and cabs both ways. As they stood on the curbstone, a little way north
of Lombard Street, waiting to cross--

‘You see, Shargar,’ said Robert, ‘Nature will have her way. Not all the
hurry and confusion and roar can keep the shadows out. Look: wherever
a space is for a moment vacant, there falls a shadow, as grotesque, as
strange, as full of unutterable things as any shadow on a field of grass
and daisies.’

‘I remember feeling the same kind of thing in India,’ returned Shargar,
‘where nothing looked as if it belonged to the world I was born in, but
my own shadow. In such a street as this, however, all the shadows look
as if they belonged to another world, and had no business here.’

‘I quite feel that,’ returned Falconer. ‘They come like angels from the
lovely west and the pure air, to show that London cannot hurt them, for
it too is within the Kingdom of God--to teach the lovers of nature, like
the old orthodox Jew, St. Peter, that they must not call anything common
or unclean.’

Shargar made no reply, and Robert glanced round at him. He was staring
with wide eyes into, not at the crowd of vehicles that filled the
street. His face was pale, and strangely like the Shargar of old days.

‘What’s the matter with you?’ Robert asked in some bewilderment.

Receiving no answer, he followed Shargar’s gaze, and saw a strange sight
for London city.

In the middle of the crowd of vehicles, with an omnibus before them, and
a brewer’s dray behind them, came a line of three donkey-carts, heaped
high with bundles and articles of gipsy-gear. The foremost was conducted
by a middle-aged woman of tall, commanding aspect, and expression both
cunning and fierce. She walked by the donkey’s head carrying a short
stick, with which she struck him now and then, but which she oftener
waved over his head like the truncheon of an excited marshal on the
battle-field, accompanying its movements now with loud cries to the
animal, now with loud response to the chaff of the omnibus conductor,
the dray driver, and the tradesmen in carts about her. She was followed
by a very handsome, olive-complexioned, wild-looking young woman, with
her black hair done up in a red handkerchief, who conducted her donkey
more quietly. Both seemed as much at home in the roar of Gracechurch
Street as if they had been crossing a wild common. A loutish-looking
young man brought up the rear with the third donkey. From the bundles on
the foremost cart peeped a lovely, fair-haired, English-looking child.

Robert took all this in in a moment. The same moment Shargar’s spell was

‘Lord, it is my mither!’ he cried, and darted under a horse’s neck into
the middle of the ruck.

He needled his way through till he reached the woman. She was swearing
at a cabman whose wheel had caught the point of her donkey’s shaft, and
was hauling him round. Heedless of everything, Shargar threw his arms
about her, crying,

‘Mither! mither!’

‘Nane o’ yer blastit humbug!’ she exclaimed, as, with a vigorous throw
and a wriggle, she freed herself from his embrace and pushed him away.

The moment she had him at arm’s length, however, her hand closed upon
his arm, and her other hand went up to her brow. From underneath it her
eyes shot up and down him from head to foot, and he could feel her hand
closing and relaxing and closing again, as if she were trying to force
her long nails into his flesh. He stood motionless, waiting the result
of her scrutiny, utterly unconscious that he caused a congestion in the
veins of London, for every vehicle within sight of the pair had stopped.
Falconer said a strange silence fell upon the street, as if all the
things in it had been turned into shadows.

A rough voice, which sounded as if all London must have heard it, broke
the silence. It was the voice of the cabman who had been in altercation
with the woman. Bursting into an insulting laugh, he used words with
regard to her which it is better to leave unrecorded. The same instant
Shargar freed himself from her grasp, and stood by the fore wheel of the

‘Get down!’ he said, in a voice that was not the less impressive that it
was low and hoarse.

The fellow saw what he meant, and whipped his horse. Shargar sprung on
the box, and dragged him down all but headlong.

‘Now,’ he said, ‘beg my mother’s pardon.’

‘Be damned if I do, &c., &c.,’ said the cabman.

‘Then defend yourself,’ said Shargar. ‘Robert.’

Falconer was watching it all, and was by his side in a moment.

‘Come on, you, &c., &c.,’ cried the cabman, plucking up heart and
putting himself in fighting shape. He looked one of those insolent
fellows whom none see discomfited more gladly than the honest men of his
own class. The same moment he lay between his horse’s feet.

Shargar turned to Robert, and saying only, ‘There, Robert!’ turned again
towards the woman. The cabman rose bleeding, and, desiring no more of
the same, climbed on his box, and went off, belabouring his horse, and
pursued by a roar from the street, for the spectators were delighted at
his punishment.

‘Now, mother,’ said Shargar, panting with excitement.

‘What ca’ they ye?’ she asked, still doubtful, but as proud of being
defended as if the coarse words of her assailant had had no truth in
them. ‘Ye canna be my lang-leggit Geordie.’

‘What for no?’

‘Ye’re a gentleman, faith!’

‘An’ what for no, again?’ returned Shargar, beginning to smile.

‘Weel, it’s weel speired. Yer father was ane ony gait--gin sae be ‘at ye
are as ye say.’

Moray put his head close to hers, and whispered some words that nobody
heard but herself.

‘It’s ower lang syne to min’ upo’ that,’ she said in reply, with a look
of cunning consciousness ill settled upon her fine features. ‘But ye can
be naebody but my Geordie. Haith, man!’ she went on, regarding him once
more from head to foot, ‘but ye’re a credit to me, I maun alloo. Weel,
gie me a sovereign, an’ I s’ never come near ye.’

Poor Shargar in his despair turned half mechanically towards Robert. He
felt that it was time to interfere.

‘You forget, mother,’ said Shargar, turning again to her, and speaking
English now, ‘it was I that claimed you, and not you that claimed me.’

She seemed to have no idea of what he meant.

‘Come up the road here, to oor public, an’ tak a glaiss, wuman,’ said
Falconer. ‘Dinna haud the fowk luikin’ at ye.’

The temptation of a glass of something strong, and the hope of getting
money out of them, caused an instant acquiescence. She said a few words
to the young woman, who proceeded at once to tie her donkey’s head to
the tail of the other cart.

‘Shaw the gait than,’ said the elder, turning again to Falconer.

Shargar and he led the way to St. Paul’s Churchyard, and the woman
followed faithfully. The waiter stared when they entered.

‘Bring a glass of whisky,’ said Falconer, as he passed on to their
private room. When the whisky arrived, she tossed it off, and looked as
if she would like another glass.

‘Yer father ‘ill hae ta’en ye up, I’m thinkin’, laddie?’ she said,
turning to her son.

‘No,’ answered Shargar, gloomily. ‘There’s the man that took me up.’

‘An’ wha may ye be?’ she asked, turning to Falconer.

‘Mr. Falconer,’ said Shargar.

‘No a son o’ Anerew Faukner?’ she asked again, with evident interest.

‘The same,’ answered Robert.

‘Well, Geordie,’ she said, turning once more to her son, ‘it’s like
mither, like father to the twa o’ ye.’

‘Did you know my father?’ asked Robert, eagerly.

Instead of answering him she made another remark to her son.

‘He needna be ashamed o’ your company, ony gait--queer kin’ o’ a mither
‘at I am.’

‘He never was ashamed of my company,’ said Shargar, still gloomily.

‘Ay, I kent yer father weel eneuch,’ she said, now answering
Robert--‘mair by token ‘at I saw him last nicht. He was luikin’ nae that

Robert sprung from his seat, and caught her by the arm.

‘Ow! ye needna gang into sic a flurry. He’ll no come near ye, I s’

‘Tell me where he is,’ said Robert. ‘Where did you see him? I’ll gie ye
a’ ‘at I hae gin ye’ll tak me till him.’

‘Hooly! hooly! Wha’s to gang luikin’ for a thrum in a hay-sow?’ returned
she, coolly. ‘I only said ‘at I saw him.’

‘But are ye sure it was him?’ asked Falconer.

‘Ay, sure eneuch,’ she answered.

‘What maks ye sae sure?’

‘’Cause I never was vrang yet. Set a man ance atween my twa een, an’
that ‘ll be twa ‘at kens him whan ‘s ain mither ‘s forgotten ‘im.’

‘Did you speak to him?’

‘Maybe ay, an’ maybe no. I didna come here to be hecklet afore a jury.’

‘Tell me what he’s like,’ said Robert, agitated with eager hope.

‘Gin ye dinna ken what he’s like, what for suld ye tak the trouble to
speir? But ‘deed ye’ll ken what he’s like whan ye fa’ in wi’ him,’ she
added, with a vindictive laugh--vindictive because he had given her only
one glass of strong drink.

With the laugh she rose, and made for the door. They rose at the same
moment to detain her. Like one who knew at once to fight and flee, she
turned and stunned them as with a blow.

‘She’s a fine yoong thing, yon sister o’ yours, Geordie. She’ll be worth
siller by the time she’s had a while at the schuil.’

The men looked at each other aghast. When they turned their eyes she
had vanished. They rushed to the door, and, parting, searched in both
directions. But they were soon satisfied that it was of no use. Probably
she had found a back way into Paternoster Row, whence the outlets are


But now that Falconer had a ground, even thus shadowy, for hoping--I
cannot say believing--that his father might be in London, he could not
return to Aberdeen. Moray, who had no heart to hunt for his mother,
left the next day by the steamer. Falconer took to wandering about
the labyrinthine city, and in a couple of months knew more about the
metropolis--the west end excepted--than most people who had lived their
lives in it. The west end is no doubt a considerable exception to make,
but Falconer sought only his father, and the west end was the place
where he was least likely to find him. Day and night he wandered into
all sorts of places: the worse they looked the more attractive he found
them. It became almost a craze with him. He could not pass a dirty court
or low-browed archway. He might be there. Or he might have been there.
Or it was such a place as he would choose for shelter. He knew to what
such a life as his must have tended.

At first he was attracted only by tall elderly men. Such a man he would
sometimes follow till his following made him turn and demand his
object. If there was no suspicion of Scotch in his tone, Falconer easily
apologized. If there was, he made such replies as might lead to some
betrayal. He could not defend the course he was adopting: it had not the
shadow of probability upon its side. Still the greatest successes the
world has ever beheld had been at one time the greatest improbabilities!
He could not choose but go on, for as yet he could think of no other

Neither could a man like Falconer long confine his interest to this
immediate object, especially after he had, in following it, found
opportunity of being useful. While he still made it his main object
to find his father, that object became a centre from which radiated a
thousand influences upon those who were as sheep that had no shepherd.
He fell back into his old ways at Aberdeen, only with a boundless sphere
to work in, and with the hope of finding his father to hearten him. He
haunted the streets at night, went into all places of entertainment,
often to the disgust of senses and soul, and made his way into the
lowest forms of life without introduction or protection.

There was a certain stately air of the hills about him which was often
mistaken for country inexperience, and men thought in consequence to
make gain or game of him. But such found their mistake, and if not soon,
then the more completely. Far from provoking or even meeting hostility,
he soon satisfied those that persisted, that it was dangerous. In two
years he became well known to the poor of a large district, especially
on both sides of Shoreditch, for whose sake he made the exercise of his
profession though not an object yet a ready accident.

He lived in lodgings in John Street--the same in which I found him when
I came to know him. He made few acquaintances, and they were chiefly the
house-surgeons of hospitals--to which he paid frequent visits.

He always carried a book in his pocket, but did not read much. On
Sundays he generally went to some one of the many lonely heaths or
commons of Surrey with his New Testament. When weary in London, he would
go to the reading-room of the British Museum for an hour or two. He kept
up a regular correspondence with Dr. Anderson.

At length he received a letter from him, which occasioned his immediate
departure for Aberdeen. Until now, his friend, who was entirely
satisfied with his mode of life, and supplied him freely with money, had
not even expressed a wish to recall him, though he had often spoken of
visiting him in London. It now appeared that, unwilling to cause him
any needless anxiety, he had abstained from mentioning the fact that
his health had been declining. He had got suddenly worse, and Falconer
hastened to obey the summons he had sent him in consequence.

With a heavy heart he walked up to the hospitable door, recalling as he
ascended the steps how he had stood there a helpless youth, in want of a
few pounds to save his hopes, when this friend received him and bid
him God-speed on the path he desired to follow. In a moment more he
was shown into the study, and was passing through it to go to the
cottage-room, when Johnston laid his hand on his arm.

‘The maister’s no up yet, sir,’ he said, with a very solemn look. ‘He’s
been desperate efter seein’ ye, and I maun gang an’ lat him ken ‘at
ye’re here at last, for fear it suld be ower muckle for him, seein’ ye
a’ at ance. But eh, sir!’ he added, the tears gathering in his eyes,
‘ye’ll hardly ken ‘im. He’s that changed!’

Johnston left the study by the door to the cottage--Falconer had never
known the doctor sleep there--and returning a moment after, invited him
to enter. In the bed in the recess--the room unchanged, with its deal
table, and its sanded floor--lay the form of his friend. Falconer
hastened to the bedside, kneeled down, and took his hand speechless.
The doctor was silent too, but a smile overspread his countenance, and
revealed his inward satisfaction. Robert’s heart was full, and he could
only gaze on the worn face. At length he was able to speak.

‘What for didna ye sen’ for me?’ he said. ‘Ye never tellt me ye was

‘Because you were doing good, Robert, my boy; and I who had done so
little had no right to interrupt what you were doing. I wonder if God
will give me another chance. I would fain do better. I don’t think I
could sit singing psalms to all eternity,’ he added with a smile.

‘Whatever good I may do afore my turn comes, I hae you to thank for ‘t.
Eh, doctor, gin it hadna been for you!’

Robert’s feelings overcame him. He resumed, brokenly,

‘Ye gae me a man to believe in, whan my ain father had forsaken me, and
my frien’ was awa to God. Ye hae made me, doctor. Wi’ meat an’ drink an’
learnin’ an’ siller, an’ a’thing at ance, ye hae made me.’

‘Eh, Robert!’ said the dying man, half rising on his elbow, ‘to think
what God maks us a’ to ane anither! My father did ten times for me what
I hae dune for you. As I lie here thinkin’ I may see him afore a week’s
ower, I’m jist a bairn again.’

As he spoke, the polish of his speech was gone, and the social
refinement of his countenance with it. The face of his ancestors, the
noble, sensitive, heart-full, but rugged, bucolic, and weather-beaten
through centuries of windy ploughing, hail-stormed sheep-keeping,
long-paced seed-sowing, and multiform labour, surely not less honourable
in the sight of the working God than the fighting of the noble, came
back in the face of the dying physician. From that hour to his death he
spoke the rugged dialect of his fathers.

A day or two after this, Robert again sitting by his bedside,

‘I dinna ken,’ he said, ‘whether it’s richt--but I hae nae fear o’
deith, an’ yet I canna say I’m sure aboot onything. I hae seen mony a
ane dee that cud hae no faith i’ the Saviour; but I never saw that fear
that some gude fowk wud hae ye believe maun come at the last. I wadna
like to tak to ony papistry; but I never cud mak oot frae the Bible--and
I read mair at it i’ the jungle than maybe ye wad think--that it’s a’
ower wi’ a body at their deith. I never heard them bring foret ony text
but ane--the maist ridiculous hash ‘at ever ye heard--to justifee ‘t.’

‘I ken the text ye mean--“As the tree falleth so it shall lie,” or
something like that--‘at they say King Solomon wrote, though better
scholars say his tree had fa’en mony a lang year afore that text saw the
licht. I dinna believe sic a thocht was i’ the man’s heid when he wrote
it. It is as ye say--ower contemptible to ca’ an argument. I’ll read it
to ye ance mair.’

Robert got his Bible, and read the following portion from that wonderful
book, so little understood, because it is so full of wisdom--the Book of

‘Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

‘Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what
evil shall be upon the earth.

‘If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth:
and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place
where the tree falleth, there it shall be.

‘He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the
clouds shall not reap.

‘As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do
grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the
works of God who maketh all.

‘In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine
hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that,
or whether they both shall be alike good.’

‘Ay, ay; that’s it,’ said Dr. Anderson. ‘Weel, I maun say again that
they’re ill aff for an argument that taks that for ane upo’ sic a
momentous subjec’. I prefer to say, wi’ the same auld man, that I know
not the works of God who maketh all. But I wish I could say I believed
onything for certain sure. But whan I think aboot it--wad ye believe ‘t?
the faith o’ my father’s mair to me nor ony faith o’ my ain. That soonds
strange. But it’s this: I’m positeeve that that godly great auld man
kent mair aboot a’ thae things--I cud see ‘t i’ the face o’ ‘m--nor ony
ither man ‘at ever I kent. An’ it’s no by comparison only. I’m sure he
did ken. There was something atween God and him. An’ I think he wasna
likely to be wrang; an’ sae I tak courage to believe as muckle as I can,
though maybe no sae muckle as I fain wad.’

Robert, who from experience of himself, and the observations he had made
by the bedsides of not a few dying men and women, knew well that nothing
but the truth itself can carry its own conviction; that the words of our
Lord are a body as it were in which the spirit of our Lord dwells, or
rather the key to open the heart for the entrance of that spirit, turned
now from all argumentation to the words of Jesus. He himself had said
of them, ‘They are spirit and they are life;’ and what folly to buttress
life and spirit with other powers than their own! From that day to the
last, as often and as long as the dying man was able to listen to him,
he read from the glad news just the words of the Lord. As he read thus,
one fading afternoon, the doctor broke out with,

‘Eh, Robert, the patience o’ him! He didna quench the smokin’ flax.
There’s little fire aboot me, but surely I ken in my ain hert some o’
the risin’ smoke o’ the sacrifice. Eh! sic words as they are! An’ he was
gaein’ doon to the grave himsel’, no half my age, as peacefu’, though
the road was sae rouch, as gin he had been gaein’ hame till ‘s father.’

‘Sae he was,’ returned Robert.

‘Ay; but here am I lyin’ upo’ my bed, slippin’ easy awa. An’ there was

The old man ceased. The sacred story was too sacred for speech. Robert
sat with the New Testament open before him on the bed.

‘The mair the words o’ Jesus come into me,’ the doctor began again, ‘the
surer I am o’ seein’ my auld Brahmin frien’, Robert. It’s true I thought
his religion not only began but ended inside him. It was a’ a booin’
doon afore and an aspirin’ up into the bosom o’ the infinite God. I
dinna mean to say ‘at he wasna honourable to them aboot him. And I never
saw in him muckle o’ that pride to the lave (rest) that belangs to the
Brahmin. It was raither a stately kin’ness than that condescension which
is the vice o’ Christians. But he had naething to do wi’ them. The first
comman’ment was a’ he kent. He loved God--nae a God like Jesus
Christ, but the God he kent--and that was a’ he could. The second
comman’ment--that glorious recognition o’ the divine in humanity makin’
‘t fit and needfu’ to be loved, that claim o’ God upon and for his ain
bairns, that love o’ the neebour as yer’sel--he didna ken. Still there
was religion in him; and he who died for the sins o’ the whole world
has surely been revealed to him lang er’ noo, and throu the knowledge o’
him, he noo dwalls in that God efter whom he aspired.’

Here was the outcome of many talks which Robert and the doctor had had
together, as they laboured amongst the poor.

‘Did ye never try,’ Robert asked, ‘to lat him ken aboot the comin’ o’
God to his world in Jesus Christ?’

‘I couldna do muckle that way honestly, my ain faith was sae poor and
sma’. But I tellt him what Christians believed. I tellt him aboot the
character and history o’ Christ. But it didna seem to tak muckle hauld
o’ him. It wasna interesstin’ till him. Just ance whan I tellt him some
things he had said aboot his relation to God--sic as, “I and my Father
are one,”--and aboot the relation o’ a’ his disciples to God and
himsel’--“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in
one,” he said, wi’ a smile, “The man was a good Brahmin.”

‘It’s little,’ said Robert, ‘the one great commandment can do withoot
the other. It’s little we can ken what God to love, or hoo to love him,
withoot “thy neighbour as thyself.” Ony ane o’ them withoot the ither
stan’s like the ae factor o’ a multiplication, or ae wing upo’ a
laverock (lark).’

Towards the close of the week, he grew much feebler. Falconer scarcely
left his room. He woke one midnight, and murmured as follows, with many
pauses for breath and strength:

‘Robert, my time’s near, I’m thinkin’; for, wakin’ an’ sleepin’, I’m a
bairn again. I can hardly believe whiles ‘at my father hasna a grup o’
my han’. A meenute ago I was traivellin’ throu a terrible driftin’ o’
snaw--eh, hoo it whustled and sang! and the cauld o’ ‘t was stingin’;
but my father had a grup o’ me, an’ I jist despised it, an’ was
stampin’ ‘t doon wi’ my wee bit feet, for I was like saven year auld or
thereaboots. An’ syne I thocht I heard my mither singin’, and kent by
that that the ither was a dream. I’m thinkin’ a hantle ‘ill luik dreamy
afore lang. Eh! I wonner what the final waukin’ ‘ill be like.’

After a pause he resumed,

‘Robert, my dear boy, ye’re i’ the richt gait. Haud on an’ lat naething
turn ye aside. Man, it’s a great comfort to me to think that ye’re
my ain flesh and blude, an’ nae that far aff. My father an’ your
great-gran’father upo’ the gran’mither’s side war ain brithers. I wonner
hoo far doon it wad gang. Ye’re the only ane upo’ my father’s side, you
and yer father, gin he be alive, that I hae sib to me. My will’s i’ the
bottom drawer upo’ the left han’ i’ my writin’ table i’ the leebrary:--I
hae left ye ilka plack ‘at I possess. Only there’s ae thing that I want
ye to do. First o’ a’, ye maun gang on as yer doin’ in London for
ten year mair. Gin deein’ men hae ony o’ that foresicht that’s been
attreebuted to them in a’ ages, it’s borne in upo’ me that ye wull see
yer father again. At a’ events, ye’ll be helpin’ some ill-faured sowls
to a clean face and a bonny. But gin ye dinna fa’ in wi’ yer father
within ten year, ye maun behaud a wee, an’ jist pack up yer box, an’
gang awa’ ower the sea to Calcutta, an’ du what I hae tellt ye to do
i’ that wull. I bind ye by nae promise, Robert, an’ I winna hae nane.
Things micht happen to put ye in a terrible difficulty wi’ a promise.
I’m only tellin’ ye what I wad like. Especially gin ye hae fund yer
father, ye maun gang by yer ain jeedgment aboot it, for there ‘ll be a
hantle to do wi’ him efter ye hae gotten a grup o’ ‘im. An’ noo, I maun
lie still, an’ maybe sleep again, for I hae spoken ower muckle.’

Hoping that he would sleep and wake yet again, Robert sat still. After
an hour, he looked, and saw that, although hitherto much oppressed,
he was now breathing like a child. There was no sign save of past
suffering: his countenance was peaceful as if he had already entered
into his rest. Robert withdrew, and again seated himself. And the great
universe became to him as a bird brooding over the breaking shell of the
dying man.

On either hand we behold a birth, of which, as of the moon, we see but
half. We are outside the one, waiting for a life from the unknown; we
are inside the other, watching the departure of a spirit from the womb
of the world into the unknown. To the region whither he goes, the man
enters newly born. We forget that it is a birth, and call it a death.
The body he leaves behind is but the placenta by which he drew his
nourishment from his mother Earth. And as the child-bed is watched on
earth with anxious expectancy, so the couch of the dying, as we call
them, may be surrounded by the birth-watchers of the other world,
waiting like anxious servants to open the door to which this world is
but the wind-blown porch.

Extremes meet. As a man draws nigh to his second birth, his heart looks
back to his childhood. When Dr. Anderson knew that he was dying, he
retired into the simulacrum of his father’s benn end.

As Falconer sat thinking, the doctor spoke. They were low, faint,
murmurous sounds, for the lips were nearly at rest. Wanted no more for
utterance, they were going back to the holy dust, which is God’s yet.

‘Father, father!’ he cried quickly, in the tone and speech of a Scotch
laddie, ‘I’m gaein’ doon. Haud a grup o’ my han’.’

When Robert hurried to the bedside, he found that the last breath had
gone in the words. The thin right hand lay partly closed, as if it had
been grasping a larger hand. On the face lay confidence just ruffled
with apprehension: the latter melted away, and nothing remained but
that awful and beautiful peace which is the farewell of the soul to its

Robert knelt and thanked God for the noble man.


Dr. Anderson’s body was, according to the fine custom of many of the
people of Aberdeen, borne to the grave by twelve stalwart men in black,
with broad round bonnets on their heads, the one-half relieving the
other--a privilege of the company of shore-porters. Their exequies are
thus freed from the artificial, grotesque, and pagan horror given by
obscene mutes, frightful hearse, horses, and feathers. As soon as,
in the beautiful phrase of the Old Testament, John Anderson was thus
gathered to his fathers, Robert went to pay a visit to his grandmother.

Dressed to a point in the same costume in which he had known her from
childhood, he found her little altered in appearance. She was one of
those who instead of stooping with age, settle downwards: she was still
as erect as ever, though shorter. Her step was feebler, and when she
prayed, her voice quavered more. On her face sat the same settled,
almost hard repose, as ever; but her behaviour was still more gentle
than when he had seen her last. Notwithstanding, however, that time had
wrought so little change in her appearance, Robert felt that somehow the
mist of a separation between her world and his was gathering; that
she was, as it were, fading from his sight and presence, like the moon
towards ‘her interlunar cave.’ Her face was gradually turning from him
towards the land of light.

‘I hae buried my best frien’ but yersel’, grannie,’ he said, as he took
a chair close by her side, where he used to sit when he read the Bible
and Boston to her.

‘I trust he’s happy. He was a douce and a weel-behaved man; and ye hae
rizzon to respec’ his memory. Did he dee the deith o’ the richteous,
think ye, laddie?’

‘I do think that, grannie. He loved God and his Saviour.’

‘The Lord be praised!’ said Mrs. Falconer. ‘I had guid houps o’ ‘im in
‘s latter days. And fowk says he’s made a rich man o’ ye, Robert?’

‘He’s left me ilka thing, excep’ something till ‘s servan’s--wha hae
weel deserved it.’

‘Eh, Robert! but it’s a terrible snare. Siller ‘s an awfu’ thing. My
puir Anerew never begud to gang the ill gait, till he began to hae ower
muckle siller. But it badena lang wi’ ‘im.’

‘But it’s no an ill thing itsel’, grannie; for God made siller as weel
‘s ither things.’

‘He thinksna muckle o’ ‘t, though, or he wad gie mair o’ ‘t to some
fowk. But as ye say, it’s his, and gin ye hae grace to use ‘t aricht, it
may be made a great blessin’ to yersel’ and ither fowk. But eh, laddie!
tak guid tent ‘at ye ride upo’ the tap o’ ‘t, an’ no lat it rise like a
muckle jaw (billow) ower yer heid; for it’s an awfu’ thing to be droont
in riches.’

‘Them ‘at prays no to be led into temptation hae a chance--haena they,

‘That hae they, Robert. And to be plain wi’ ye, I haena that muckle fear
o’ ye; for I hae heard the kin’ o’ life ‘at ye hae been leadin’. God’s
hearkent to my prayers for you; and gin ye gang on as ye hae begun, my
prayers, like them o’ David the son o’ Jesse, are endit. Gang on, my
dear lad, gang on to pluck brands frae the burnin’. Haud oot a helpin’
han’ to ilka son and dauchter o’ Adam ‘at will tak a grip o’ ‘t. Be a
burnin’ an’ a shinin’ licht, that men may praise, no you, for ye’re
but clay i’ the han’s o’ the potter, but yer Father in heaven. Tak the
drunkard frae his whusky, the deboshed frae his debosh, the sweirer frae
his aiths, the leear frae his lees; and giena ony o’ them ower muckle o’
yer siller at ance, for fear ‘at they grow fat an’ kick an’ defy God and
you. That’s my advice to ye, Robert.’

‘And I houp I’ll be able to haud gey and near till ‘t, grannie, for it’s
o’ the best. But wha tellt ye what I was aboot in Lonnon?’


‘Dr. Anderson?’

‘Ay, jist himsel’. I hae had letter upo’ letter frae ‘im aboot you and
a’ ‘at ye was aboot. He keepit me acquant wi’ ‘t a’.’

This fresh proof of his friend’s affection touched Robert deeply. He had
himself written often to his grandmother, but he had never entered into
any detail of his doings, although the thought of her was ever at hand
beside the thought of his father.

‘Do ye ken, grannie, what’s at the hert o’ my houps i’ the meesery an’
degradation that I see frae mornin’ to nicht, and aftener yet frae nicht
to mornin’ i’ the back closes and wynds o’ the great city?’

‘I trust it’s the glory o’ God, laddie.’

‘I houp that’s no a’thegither wantin’, grannie. For I love God wi’ a’ my
hert. But I doobt it’s aftener the savin’ o’ my earthly father nor the
glory o’ my heavenly ane that I’m thinkin’ o’.’

Mrs. Falconer heaved a deep sigh.

‘God grant ye success, Robert,’ she said. ‘But that canna be richt.’

‘What canna be richt?’

‘No to put the glory o’ God first and foremost.’

‘Weel, grannie; but a body canna rise to the heicht o’ grace a’ at ance,
nor yet in ten, or twenty year. Maybe gin I do richt, I may be able to
come to that or a’ be dune. An’ efter a’, I’m sure I love God mair nor
my father. But I canna help thinkin’ this, that gin God heardna ae sang
o’ glory frae this ill-doin’ earth o’ his, he wadna be nane the waur;

‘Hoo ken ye that?’ interrupted his grandmother.

‘Because he wad be as gude and great and grand as ever.’

‘Ow ay.’

‘But what wad come o’ my father wantin’ his salvation? He can waur want
that, remainin’ the slave o’ iniquity, than God can want his glory.
Forby, ye ken there’s nae glory to God like the repentin’ o’ a sinner,
justifeein’ God, an’ sayin’ till him--“Father, ye’re a’ richt, an’ I’m
a’ wrang.” What greater glory can God hae nor that?’

‘It’s a’ true ‘at ye say. But still gin God cares for that same glory,
ye oucht to think o’ that first, afore even the salvation o’ yer

‘Maybe ye’re richt, grannie. An’ gin it be as ye say--he’s promised
to lead us into a’ trowth, an’ he’ll lead me into that trowth. But I’m
thinkin’ it’s mair for oor sakes than his ain ‘at he cares aboot his
glory. I dinna believe ‘at he thinks aboot his glory excep’ for the sake
o’ the trowth an’ men’s herts deein’ for want o’ ‘t.’

Mrs. Falconer thought for a moment.

‘It may be ‘at ye’re richt, laddie; but ye hae a way o’ sayin’ things
‘at ‘s some fearsome.’

‘God’s nae like a prood man to tak offence, grannie. There’s naething
pleases him like the trowth, an’ there’s naething displeases him like
leein’, particularly whan it’s by way o’ uphaudin’ him. He wants nae
sic uphaudin’. Noo, ye say things aboot him whiles ‘at soun’s to me

‘What kin’ o’ things are they, laddie?’ asked the old lady, with offence
glooming in the background.

‘Sic like as whan ye speyk aboot him as gin he was a puir prood
bailey-like body, fu’ o’ his ain importance, an’ ready to be doon upo’
onybody ‘at didna ca’ him by the name o’ ‘s office--ay think-thinkin’
aboot ‘s ain glory; in place o’ the quaiet, michty, gran’,
self-forgettin’, a’-creatin’, a’-uphaudin’, eternal bein’, wha took the
form o’ man in Christ Jesus, jist that he micht hae ‘t in ‘s pooer to
beir and be humblet for oor sakes. Eh, grannie! think o’ the face o’
that man o’ sorrows, that never said a hard word till a sinfu’ wuman, or
a despised publican: was he thinkin’ aboot ‘s ain glory, think ye? An’
we hae no richt to say we ken God save in the face o’ Christ Jesus.
Whatever ‘s no like Christ is no like God.’

‘But, laddie, he cam to saitisfee God’s justice by sufferin’ the
punishment due to oor sins; to turn aside his wrath an’ curse; to
reconcile him to us. Sae he cudna be a’thegither like God.’

‘He did naething o’ the kin’, grannie. It’s a’ a lee that. He cam to
saitisfee God’s justice by giein’ him back his bairns; by garrin’ them
see that God was just; by sendin’ them greetin’ hame to fa’ at his feet,
an’ grip his knees an’ say, “Father, ye’re i’ the richt.” He cam to lift
the weicht o’ the sins that God had curst aff o’ the shoothers o’ them
‘at did them, by makin’ them turn agen them, an’ be for God an’ no
for sin. And there isna a word o’ reconceelin’ God till ‘s in a’ the
Testament, for there was no need o’ that: it was us that he needed to be
reconcilet to him. An’ sae he bore oor sins and carried oor sorrows; for
those sins comin’ oot in the multitudes--ay and in his ain disciples
as weel, caused him no en’ o’ grief o’ mind an’ pain o’ body, as a’body
kens. It wasna his ain sins, for he had nane, but oors, that caused him
sufferin’; and he took them awa’--they’re vainishin’ even noo frae the
earth, though it doesna luik like it in Rag-fair or Petticoat-lane.
An’ for oor sorrows--they jist garred him greit. His richteousness
jist annihilates oor guilt, for it’s a great gulf that swallows up and
destroys ‘t. And sae he gae his life a ransom for us: and he is the life
o’ the world. He took oor sins upo’ him, for he cam into the middle o’
them an’ took them up--by no sleicht o’ han’, by no quibblin’ o’ the
lawyers, aboot imputin’ his richteousness to us, and sic like, which is
no to be found i’ the Bible at a’, though I dinna say that there’s no
possible meanin’ i’ the phrase, but he took them and took them awa’; and
here am I, grannie, growin’ oot o’ my sins in consequennce, and there
are ye, grannie, growin’ oot o’ yours in consequennce, an’ haein’
nearhan’ dune wi’ them a’thegither er this time.’

‘I wis that may be true, laddie. But I carena hoo ye put it,’ returned
his grandmother, bewildered no doubt with this outburst, ‘sae be that ye
put him first an’ last an’ i’ the mids’ o’ a’ thing, an’ say wi’ a’ yer
hert, “His will be dune!”’

‘Wi’ a’ my hert, “His will be dune,” grannie,’ responded Robert.

‘Amen, amen. And noo, laddie, duv ye think there’s ony likliheid that
yer father ‘s still i’ the body? I dream aboot him whiles sae lifelike
that I canna believe him deid. But that’s a’ freits (superstitions).’

‘Weel, grannie, I haena the least assurance. But I hae the mair houp.
Wad ye ken him gin ye saw him?’

‘Ken him!’ she cried; ‘I wad ken him gin he had been no to say four,
but forty days i’ the sepulchre! My ain Anerew! Hoo cud ye speir sic a
queston, laddie?’

‘He maun be sair changed, grannie. He maun be turnin’ auld by this

‘Auld! Sic like ‘s yersel, laddie.--Hoots, hoots! ye’re richt. I am
forgettin’. But nanetheless wad I ken him.’

‘I wis I kent what he was like. I saw him ance--hardly twise, but a’
that I min’ upo’ wad stan’ me in ill stead amo’ the streets o’ Lonnon.’

‘I doobt that,’ returned Mrs. Falconer--a form of expression rather
oddly indicating sympathetic and somewhat regretful agreement with what
has been said. ‘But,’ she went on, ‘I can lat ye see a pictur’ o’ ‘im,
though I doobt it winna shaw sae muckle to you as to me. He had it
paintit to gie to yer mother upo’ their weddin’ day. Och hone! She did
the like for him; but what cam o’ that ane, I dinna ken.’

Mrs. Falconer went into the little closet to the old bureau, and
bringing out the miniature, gave it to Robert. It was the portrait of a
young man in antiquated blue coat and white waistcoat, looking innocent,
and, it must be confessed, dull and uninteresting. It had been painted
by a travelling artist, and probably his skill did not reach to
expression. It brought to Robert’s mind no faintest shadow of
recollection. It did not correspond in the smallest degree to what
seemed his vague memory, perhaps half imagination, of the tall worn man
whom he had seen that Sunday. He could not have a hope that this would
give him the slightest aid in finding him of whom it had once been a
shadowy resemblance at least.

‘Is ‘t like him, grannie?’ he asked.

As if to satisfy herself once more ere she replied, she took the
miniature, and gazed at it for some time. Then with a deep hopeless
sigh, she answered,

‘Ay, it’s like him; but it’s no himsel’. Eh, the bonny broo, an’ the
smilin’ een o’ him!--smilin’ upon a’body, an’ upo’ her maist o’ a’, till
he took to the drink, and waur gin waur can be. It was a’ siller an’
company--company ‘at cudna be merry ohn drunken. Verity their lauchter
was like the cracklin’ o’ thorns aneath a pot. Het watter and whusky
was aye the cry efter their denner an’ efter their supper, till my puir
Anerew tuik till the bare whusky i’ the mornin’ to fill the ebb o’ the
toddy. He wad never hae dune as he did but for the whusky. It jist drave
oot a’ gude and loot in a’ ill.’

‘Wull ye lat me tak this wi’ me, grannie?’ said Robert; for though
the portrait was useless for identification, it might serve a further

‘Ow, ay, tak it. I dinna want it. I can see him weel wantin’ that. But I
hae nae houp left ‘at ye’ll ever fa’ in wi’ him.’

‘God’s aye doin’ unlikly things, grannie,’ said Robert, solemnly.

‘He’s dune a’ ‘at he can for him, I doobt, already.’

‘Duv ye think ‘at God cudna save a man gin he liket, than, grannie?’

‘God can do a’thing. There’s nae doobt but by the gift o’ his speerit he
cud save a’body.’

‘An’ ye think he’s no mercifu’ eneuch to do ‘t?’

‘It winna do to meddle wi’ fowk’s free wull. To gar fowk be gude wad be
nae gudeness.’

‘But gin God could actually create the free wull, dinna ye think he cud
help it to gang richt, withoot ony garrin’? We ken sae little aboot it,
grannie! Hoo does his speerit help onybody? Does he gar them ‘at accep’s
the offer o’ salvation?’

‘Na, I canna think that. But he shaws them the trowth in sic a way that
they jist canna bide themsel’s, but maun turn to him for verra peace an’

‘Weel, that’s something as I think. An’ until I’m sure that a man has
had the trowth shawn till him in sic a way ‘s that, I canna alloo mysel’
to think that hooever he may hae sinned, he has finally rejeckit the
trowth. Gin I kent that a man had seen the trowth as I hae seen ‘t
whiles, and had deleeberately turned his back upo’ ‘t and said, “I’ll
nane o’ ‘t,” than I doobt I wad be maist compelled to alloo that there
was nae mair salvation for him, but a certain and fearfu’ luikin’ for
o’ judgment and fiery indignation. But I dinna believe that ever man did
sae. But even than, I dinna ken.’

‘I did a’ for him that I kent hoo to do,’ said Mrs. Falconer,
reflectingly. ‘Nicht an’ mornin’ an’ aften midday prayin’ for an’ wi’

‘Maybe ye scunnert him at it, grannie.’

She gave a stifled cry of despair.

‘Dinna say that, laddie, or ye’ll drive me oot o’ my min’. God forgie
me, gin that be true. I deserve hell mair nor my Anerew.’

‘But, ye see, grannie, supposin’ it war sae, that wadna be laid to your
accoont, seein’ ye did the best ye kent. Nor wad it be forgotten to him.
It wad mak a hantle difference to his sin; it wad be a great excuse
for him. An’ jist think, gin it be fair for ae human being to influence
anither a’ ‘at they can, and that’s nae interferin’ wi’ their free
wull--it’s impossible to measure what God cud do wi’ his speerit winnin’
at them frae a’ sides, and able to put sic thouchts an’ sic pictures
into them as we canna think. It wad a’ be true that he tellt them, and
the trowth can never be a meddlin’ wi’ the free wull.’

Mrs. Falconer made no reply, but evidently went on thinking.

She was, though not a great reader, yet a good reader. Any book that was
devout and thoughtful she read gladly. Through some one or other of this
sort she must have been instructed concerning free will, for I do
not think such notions could have formed any portion of the religious
teaching she had heard. Men in that part of Scotland then believed that
the free will of man was only exercised in rejecting--never in accepting
the truth; and that men were saved by the gift of the Spirit, given
to some and not to others, according to the free will of God, in the
exercise of which no reason appreciable by men, or having anything to do
with their notions of love or justice, had any share. In the recognition
of will and choice in the acceptance of the mercy of God, Mrs. Falconer
was then in advance of her time. And it is no wonder if her notions did
not all hang logically together.

‘At ony rate, grannie,’ resumed her grandson, ‘I haena dune a’ for him
‘at I can yet; and I’m no gaein’ to believe onything that wad mak me
remiss in my endeavour. Houp for mysel’, for my father, for a’body, is
what’s savin’ me, an’ garrin’ me work. An’ gin ye tell me that I’m no
workin’ wi’ God, that God’s no the best an’ the greatest worker aboon
a’, ye tak the verra hert oot o’ my breist, and I dinna believe in God
nae mair, an’ my han’s drap doon by my sides, an’ my legs winna gang.
No,’ said Robert, rising, ‘God ‘ill gie me my father sometime, grannie;
for what man can do wantin’ a father? Human bein’ canna win at the hert
o’ things, canna ken a’ the oots an’ ins, a’ the sides o’ love, excep’
he has a father amo’ the lave to love; an’ I hae had nane, grannie. An’
that God kens.’

She made him no answer. She dared not say that he expected too much from
God. Is it likely that Jesus will say so of any man or woman when he
looks for faith in the earth?

Robert went out to see some of his old friends, and when he returned it
was time for supper and worship. These were the same as of old: a plate
of porridge, and a wooden bowl of milk for the former; a chapter and a
hymn, both read, and a prayer from grannie, and then from Robert for the
latter. And so they went to bed.

But Robert could not sleep. He rose and dressed himself, went up to the
empty garret, looked at the stars through the skylight, knelt and
prayed for his father and for all men to the Father of all, then softly
descended the stairs, and went out into the street.


It was a warm still night in July--moonless but not dark. There is no
night there in the summer--only a long ethereal twilight. He walked
through the sleeping town so full of memories, all quiet in his mind
now--quiet as the air that ever broods over the house where a friend has
dwelt. He left the town behind, and walked--through the odours of grass
and of clover and of the yellow flowers on the old earthwalls that
divided the fields--sweet scents to which the darkness is friendly, and
which, mingling with the smell of the earth itself, reach the founts of
memory sooner than even words or tones--down to the brink of the river
that flowed scarcely murmuring through the night, itself dark and brown
as the night from its far-off birthplace in the peaty hills. He
crossed the footbridge and turned into the bleachfield. Its houses were
desolate, for that trade too had died away. The machinery stood rotting
and rusting. The wheel gave no answering motion to the flow of the water
that glided away beneath it. The thundering beatles were still. The huge
legs of the wauk-mill took no more seven-leagued strides nowhither. The
rubbing-boards with their thickly-fluted surfaces no longer frothed the
soap from every side, tormenting the web of linen into a brightness to
gladden the heart of the housewife whose hands had spun the yarn.
The terrible boiler that used to send up from its depths bubbling and
boiling spouts and peaks and ridges, lay empty and cold. The little
house behind, where its awful furnace used to glow, and which the
pungent chlorine used to fill with its fumes, stood open to the wind
and the rain: he could see the slow river through its unglazed window
beyond. The water still went slipping and sliding through the deserted
places, a power whose use had departed. The canal, the delight of his
childhood, was nearly choked with weeds; it went flowing over long
grasses that drooped into it from its edges, giving a faint gurgle once
and again in its flow, as if it feared to speak in the presence of the
stars, and escaped silently into the river far below. The grass was no
longer mown like a lawn, but was long and deep and thick. He climbed to
the place where he had once lain and listened to the sounds of the belt
of fir-trees behind him, hearing the voice of Nature that whispered
God in his ears, and there he threw himself down once more. All the old
things, the old ways, the old glories of childhood--were they gone? No.
Over them all, in them all, was God still. There is no past with him.
An eternal present, He filled his soul and all that his soul had ever
filled. His history was taken up into God: it had not vanished: his life
was hid with Christ in God. To the God of the human heart nothing that
has ever been a joy, a grief, a passing interest, can ever cease to be
what it has been; there is no fading at the breath of time, no passing
away of fashion, no dimming of old memories in the heart of him whose
being creates time. Falconer’s heart rose up to him as to his own deeper
life, his indwelling deepest spirit--above and beyond him as the heavens
are above and beyond the earth, and yet nearer and homelier than his own
most familiar thought. ‘As the light fills the earth,’ thought he, ‘so
God fills what we call life. My sorrows, O God, my hopes, my joys, the
upliftings of my life are with thee, my root, my life. Thy comfortings,
my perfect God, are strength indeed!’

He rose and looked around him. While he lay, the waning, fading moon had
risen, weak and bleared and dull. She brightened and brightened until at
last she lighted up the night with a wan, forgetful gleam. ‘So should I
feel,’ he thought, ‘about the past on which I am now gazing, were it not
that I believe in the God who forgets nothing. That which has been, is.’
His eye fell on something bright in the field beyond. He would see what
it was, and crossed the earthen dyke. It shone like a little moon in the
grass. By humouring the reflection he reached it. It was only a cutting
of white iron, left by some tinker. He walked on over the field,
thinking of Shargar’s mother. If he could but find her! He walked on and
on. He had no inclination to go home. The solitariness of the night, the
uncanniness of the moon, prevents most people from wandering far: Robert
had learned long ago to love the night, and to feel at home with every
aspect of God’s world. How this peace contrasted with the nights in
London streets! this grass with the dark flow of the Thames! these hills
and those clouds half melted into moonlight with the lanes blazing with
gas! He thought of the child who, taken from London for the first time,
sent home the message: ‘Tell mother that it’s dark in the country at
night.’ Then his thoughts turned again to Shargar’s mother! Was it
not possible, being a wanderer far and wide, that she might be now in
Rothieden? Such people have a love for their old haunts, stronger than
that of orderly members of society for their old homes. He turned back,
and did not know where he was. But the lines of the hill-tops directed
him. He hastened to the town, and went straight through the sleeping
streets to the back wynd where he had found Shargar sitting on the
doorstep. Could he believe his eyes? A feeble light was burning in the
shed. Some other poverty-stricken bird of the night, however, might
be there, and not she who could perhaps guide him to the goal of his
earthly life. He drew near, and peeped in at the broken window. A heap
of something lay in a corner, watched only by a long-snuffed candle.

The heap moved, and a voice called out querulously,

‘Is that you, Shargar, ye shochlin deevil?’

Falconer’s heart leaped. He hesitated no longer, but lifted the latch
and entered. He took up the candle, snuffed it as he best could, and
approached the woman. When the light fell on her face she sat up,
staring wildly with eyes that shunned and sought it.

‘Wha are ye that winna lat me dee in peace and quaietness?’

‘I’m Robert Falconer.’

‘Come to speir efter yer ne’er-do-weel o’ a father, I reckon,’ she said.

‘Yes,’ he answered.

‘Wha’s that ahin’ ye?’

‘Naebody’s ahin’ me,’ answered Robert.

‘Dinna lee. Wha’s that ahin’ the door?’

‘Naebody. I never tell lees.’

‘Whaur’s Shargar? What for doesna he come till ‘s mither?’

‘He’s hynd awa’ ower the seas--a captain o’ sodgers.’

‘It’s a lee. He’s an ill-faured scoonrel no to come till ‘s mither an’
bid her gude-bye, an’ her gaein’ to hell.’

‘Gin ye speir at Christ, he’ll tak ye oot o’ the verra mou’ o’ hell,

‘Christ! wha’s that? Ow, ay! It’s him ‘at they preach aboot i’ the
kirks. Na, na. There’s nae gude o’ that. There’s nae time to repent noo.
I doobt sic repentance as mine wadna gang for muckle wi’ the likes o’

‘The likes o’ him ‘s no to be gotten. He cam to save the likes o’ you
an’ me.’

‘The likes o’ you an’ me! said ye, laddie? There’s no like atween you
and me. He’ll hae naething to say to me, but gang to hell wi’ ye for a

‘He never said sic a word in ‘s life. He wad say, “Poor thing! she was
ill-used. Ye maunna sin ony mair. Come, and I’ll help ye.” He wad say
something like that. He’ll save a body whan she wadna think it.’

‘An’ I hae gien my bonnie bairn to the deevil wi’ my ain han’s! She’ll
come to hell efter me to girn at me, an’ set them on me wi’ their reid
het taings, and curse me. Och hone! och hone!’

‘Hearken to me,’ said Falconer, with as much authority as he could
assume. But she rolled herself over again in the corner, and lay

‘Tell me whaur she is,’ said Falconer, ‘and I’ll tak her oot o’ their
grup, whaever they be.’

She sat up again, and stared at him for a few moments without speaking.

‘I left her wi’ a wuman waur nor mysel’,’ she said at length. ‘God
forgie me.’

‘He will forgie ye, gin ye tell me whaur she is.’

‘Do ye think he will? Eh, Maister Faukner! The wuman bides in a coort
off o’ Clare Market. I dinna min’ upo’ the name o’ ‘t, though I cud
gang till ‘t wi’ my een steekit. Her name’s Widow Walker--an auld
rowdie--damn her sowl!’

‘Na, na, ye maunna say that gin ye want to be forgien yersel’. I’ll fin’
her oot. An’ I’m thinkin’ it winna be lang or I hae a grup o’ her. I’m
gaein’ back to Lonnon in twa days or three.’

‘Dinna gang till I’m deid. Bide an’ haud the deevil aff o’ me. He has a
grup o’ my hert noo, rivin’ at it wi’ his lang nails--as lang ‘s birds’

‘I’ll bide wi’ ye till we see what can be dune for ye. What’s the
maitter wi’ ye? I’m a doctor noo.’

There was not a chair or box or stool on which to sit down. He therefore
kneeled beside her. He felt her pulse, questioned her, and learned that
she had long been suffering from an internal complaint, which had within
the last week grown rapidly worse. He saw that there was no hope of her
recovery, but while she lived he gave himself to her service as to that
of a living soul capable of justice and love. The night was more than
warm, but she had fits of shivering. He wrapped his coat round her,
and wiped from the poor degraded face the damps of suffering. The
woman-heart was alive still, for she took the hand that ministered to
her and kissed it with a moan. When the morning came she fell asleep.
He crept out and went to his grandmother’s, where he roused Betty, and
asked her to get him some peat and coals. Finding his grandmother awake,
he told her all, and taking the coals and the peat, carried them to
the hut, where he managed, with some difficulty, to light a fire on the
hearth; after which he sat on the doorstep till Betty appeared with two
men carrying a mattress and some bedding. The noise they made awoke her.

‘Dinna tak me,’ she cried. ‘I winna do ‘t again, an’ I’m deein’, I tell
ye I’m deein’, and that’ll clear a’ scores--o’ this side ony gait,’ she

They lifted her upon the mattress, and made her more comfortable than
perhaps she had ever been in her life. But it was only her illness that
made her capable of prizing such comfort. In health, the heather on a
hill-side was far more to her taste than bed and blankets. She had
a wild, roving, savage nature, and the wind was dearer to her than
house-walls. She had come of ancestors--and it was a poor little atom of
truth that a soul bred like this woman could have been born capable of
entertaining. But she too was eternal--and surely not to be fixed for
ever in a bewilderment of sin and ignorance--a wild-eyed soul staring
about in hell-fire for want of something it could not understand and had
never beheld--by the changeless mandate of the God of love! She was in
less pain than during the night, and lay quietly gazing at the fire.
Things awful to another would no doubt cross her memory without any
accompanying sense of dismay; tender things would return without moving
her heart; but Falconer had a hold of her now. Nothing could be done for
her body except to render its death as easy as might be; but something
might be done for herself. He made no attempt to produce this or that
condition of mind in the poor creature. He never made such attempts.
‘How can I tell the next lesson a soul is capable of learning?’ he would
say. ‘The Spirit of God is the teacher. My part is to tell the good
news. Let that work as it ought, as it can, as it will.’ He knew that
pain is with some the only harbinger that can prepare the way for the
entrance of kindness: it is not understood till then. In the lulls of
her pain he told her about the man Christ Jesus--what he did for the
poor creatures who came to him--how kindly he spoke to them--how he
cured them. He told her how gentle he was with the sinning women, how he
forgave them and told them to do so no more. He left the story without
comment to work that faith which alone can redeem from selfishness and
bring into contact with all that is living and productive of life,
for to believe in him is to lay hold of eternal life: he is the
Life--therefore the life of men. She gave him but little encouragement:
he did not need it, for he believed in the Life. But her outcries were
no longer accompanied with that fierce and dreadful language in which
she sought relief at first. He said to himself, ‘What matter if I see no
sign? I am doing my part. Who can tell, when the soul is free from the
distress of the body, when sights and sounds have vanished from her,
and she is silent in the eternal, with the terrible past behind her, and
clear to her consciousness, how the words I have spoken to her may yet
live and grow in her; how the kindness God has given me to show her may
help her to believe in the root of all kindness, in the everlasting love
of her Father in heaven? That she can feel at all is as sure a sign of
life as the adoration of an ecstatic saint.’

He had no difficulty now in getting from her what information she could
give him about his father. It seemed to him of the greatest import,
though it amounted only to this, that when he was in London, he used to
lodge at the house of an old Scotchwoman of the name of Macallister,
who lived in Paradise Gardens, somewhere between Bethnal Green and
Spitalfields. Whether he had been in London lately, she did not
know; but if anybody could tell him where he was, it would be Mrs.

His heart filled with gratitude and hope and the surging desire for the
renewal of his London labours. But he could not leave the dying woman
till she was beyond the reach of his comfort: he was her keeper now. And
‘he that believeth shall not make haste.’ Labour without perturbation,
readiness without hurry, no haste, and no hesitation, was the divine law
of his activity.

Shargar’s mother breathed her last holding his hand. They were alone. He
kneeled by the bed, and prayed to God, saying,

‘Father, this woman is in thy hands. Take thou care of her, as thou hast
taken care of her hitherto. Let the light go up in her soul, that she
may love and trust thee, O light, O gladness. I thank thee that thou
hast blessed me with this ministration. Now lead me to my father. Thine
is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.’

He rose and went to his grandmother and told her all. She put her arms
round his neck, and kissed him, and said,

‘God bless ye, my bonny lad. And he will bless ye. He will; he will. Noo
gang yer wa’s, and do the wark he gies ye to do. Only min’, it’s no you;
it’s him.’

The next morning, the sweet winds of his childhood wooing him to remain
yet a day among their fields, he sat on the top of the Aberdeen coach,
on his way back to the horrors of court and alley in the terrible


When he arrived he made it his first business to find ‘Widow Walker.’
She was evidently one of the worst of her class; and could it have been
accomplished without scandal, and without interfering with the quietness
upon which he believed that the true effect of his labours in a large
measure depended, he would not have scrupled simply to carry off the
child. With much difficulty, for the woman was suspicious, he contrived
to see her, and was at once reminded of the child he had seen in the
cart on the occasion of Shargar’s recognition of his mother. He fancied
he saw in her some resemblance to his friend Shargar. The affair ended
in his paying the woman a hundred and fifty pounds to give up the girl.
Within six months she had drunk herself to death. He took little Nancy
Kennedy home with him, and gave her in charge to his housekeeper. She
cried a good deal at first, and wanted to go back to Mother Walker, but
he had no great trouble with her after a time. She began to take a share
in the house-work, and at length to wait upon him. Then Falconer began
to see that he must cultivate relations with other people in order
to enlarge his means of helping the poor. He nowise abandoned his
conviction that whatever good he sought to do or lent himself to aid
must be effected entirely by individual influence. He had little faith
in societies, regarding them chiefly as a wretched substitute, just
better than nothing, for that help which the neighbour is to give to
his neighbour. Finding how the unbelief of the best of the poor is
occasioned by hopelessness in privation, and the sufferings of those
dear to them, he was confident that only the personal communion of
friendship could make it possible for them to believe in God. Christians
must be in the world as He was in the world; and in proportion as the
truth radiated from them, the world would be able to believe in Him.
Money he saw to be worse than useless, except as a gracious outcome of
human feelings and brotherly love. He always insisted that the Saviour
healed only those on whom his humanity had laid hold; that he demanded
faith of them in order to make them regard him, that so his personal
being might enter into their hearts. Healing without faith in its source
would have done them harm instead of good--would have been to them a
windfall, not a Godsend; at best the gift of magic, even sometimes the
power of Satan casting out Satan. But he must not therefore act as if
he were the only one who could render this individual aid, or as if
men influencing the poor individually could not aid each other in their
individual labours. He soon found, I say, that there were things he
could not do without help, and Nancy was his first perplexity. From this
he was delivered in a wonderful way.

One afternoon he was prowling about Spitalfields, where he had made many
acquaintances amongst the silk-weavers and their families. Hearing a
loud voice as he passed down a stair from the visit he had been paying
further up the house, he went into the room whence the sound came,
for he knew a little of the occupant. He was one De Fleuri, or as
the neighbours called him, Diffleery, in whose countenance, after
generations of want and debasement, the delicate lines and noble cast of
his ancient race were yet emergent. This man had lost his wife and
three children, his whole family except a daughter now sick, by a
slow-consuming hunger; and he did not believe there was a God that ruled
in the earth. But he supported his unbelief by no other argument than
a hopeless bitter glance at his empty loom. At this moment he sat
silent--a rock against which the noisy waves of a combative Bible-reader
were breaking in rude foam. His silence and apparent impassiveness
angered the irreverent little worthy. To Falconer’s humour he looked a
vulgar bull-terrier barking at a noble, sad-faced staghound. His foolish
arguments against infidelity, drawn from Paley’s Natural Theology, and
tracts about the inspiration of the Bible, touched the sore-hearted
unbelief of the man no nearer than the clangour of negro kettles affects
the eclipse of the sun. Falconer stood watching his opportunity. Nor
was the eager disputant long in affording him one. Socratic fashion,
Falconer asked him a question, and was answered; followed it with
another, which, after a little hesitation, was likewise answered;
then asked a third, the ready answer to which involved such a flagrant
contradiction of the first, that the poor sorrowful weaver burst into
a laugh of delight at the discomfiture of his tormentor. After some
stammering, and a confused attempt to recover the line of argument, the
would-be partizan of Deity roared out, ‘The fool hath said in his heart
there is no God;’ and with this triumphant discharge of his swivel,
turned and ran down the stairs precipitately.

Both laughed while the sound of his footsteps lasted. Then Falconer

‘My. De Fleuri, I believe in God with all my heart, and soul, and
strength, and mind; though not in that poor creature’s arguments. I
don’t know that your unbelief is not better than his faith.’

‘I am greatly obliged to you, Mr. Falconer. I haven’t laughed so for
years. What right has he to come pestering me?’

‘None whatever. But you must forgive him, because he is well-meaning,
and because his conceit has made a fool of him. They’re not all like
him. But how is your daughter?’

‘Very poorly, sir. She’s going after the rest. A Spitalfields weaver
ought to be like the cats: they don’t mind how many of their kittens are

‘I beg your pardon. They don’t like it. Only they forget it sooner than
we do.’

‘Why do you say we, sir? You don’t know anything of that sort.’

‘The heart knows its own bitterness, De Fleuri--and finds it enough, I
dare say.’

The weaver was silent for a moment. When he spoke again, there was a
touch of tenderness in his respect.

‘Will you go and see my poor Katey, sir?’

‘Would she like to see me?’

‘It does her good to see you. I never let that fellow go near her. He
may worry me as he pleases; but she shall die in peace. That is all I
can do for her.’

‘Do you still persist in refusing help--for your daughter--I don’t mean
for yourself?’

Not believing in God, De Fleuri would not be obliged to his fellow.
Falconer had never met with a similar instance.

‘I do. I won’t kill her, and I won’t kill myself: I am not bound to
accept charity. It’s all right. I only want to leave the whole affair
behind; and I sincerely hope there’s nothing to come after. If I were
God, I should be ashamed of such a mess of a world.’

‘Well, no doubt you would have made something more to your mind--and
better, too, if all you see were all there is to be seen. But I didn’t
send that bore away to bore you myself. I’m going to see Katey.’

‘Very well, sir. I won’t go up with you, for I won’t interfere with what
you think proper to say to her.’

‘That’s rather like faith somewhere!’ thought Falconer. ‘Could that man
fail to believe in Jesus Christ if he only saw him--anything like as he

Katey lay in a room overhead; for though he lacked food, this man
contrived to pay for a separate room for his daughter, whom he treated
with far more respect than many gentlemen treat their wives. Falconer
found her lying on a wretched bed. Still it was a bed; and many in the
same house had no bed to lie on. He had just come from a room overhead
where lived a widow with four children. All of them lay on a floor
whence issued at night, by many holes, awful rats. The children could
not sleep for horror. They did not mind the little ones, they said, but
when the big ones came, they were awake all night.

‘Well, Katey, how are you?’

‘No better, thank God.’

She spoke as her father had taught her. Her face was worn and thin, but
hardly death-like. Only extremes met in it--the hopelessness had turned
through quietude into comfort. Her hopelessness affected him more than
her father’s. But there was nothing he could do for her.

There came a tap at the door.

‘Come in,’ said Falconer, involuntarily.

A lady in the dress of a Sister of Mercy entered with a large basket on
her arm. She started, and hesitated for a moment when she saw him. He
rose, thinking it better to go. She advanced to the bedside. He turned
at the door, and said,

‘I won’t say good-bye yet, Katey, for I’m going to have a chat with your
father, and if you will let me, I will look in again.’

As he turned he saw the lady kiss her on the forehead. At the sound
of his voice she started again, left the bedside and came towards him.
Whether he knew her by her face or her voice first, he could not tell.

‘Robert,’ she said, holding out her hand.

It was Mary St. John. Their hands met, joined fast, and lingered, as
they gazed each in the other’s face. It was nearly fourteen years since
they had parted. The freshness of youth was gone from her cheek, and the
signs of middle age were present on her forehead. But she was statelier,
nobler, and gentler than ever. Falconer looked at her calmly, with
only a still swelling at the heart, as if they met on the threshold of
heaven. All the selfishness of passion was gone, and the old earlier
adoration, elevated and glorified, had returned. He was a boy once more
in the presence of a woman-angel. She did not shrink from his gaze, she
did not withdraw her hand from his clasp.

‘I am so glad, Robert!’ was all she said.

‘So am I,’ he answered quietly. ‘We may meet sometimes then?’

‘Yes. Perhaps we can help each other.’

‘You can help me,’ said Falconer. ‘I have a girl I don’t know what to do

‘Send her to me. I will take care of her.’

‘I will bring her. But I must come and see you first.’

‘That will tell you where I live,’ she said, giving him a card.

‘Till to-morrow,’ said Falconer.

‘She’s not like that Bible fellow,’ said De Fleuri, as he entered his
room again. ‘She don’t walk into your house as if it was her own.’

He was leaning against his idle loom, which, like a dead thing, filled
the place with the mournfulness of death. Falconer took a broken chair,
the only one, and sat down.

‘I am going to take a liberty with you, Mr. De Fleuri,’ he said.

‘As you please, Mr. Falconer.’

‘I want to tell you the only fault I have to you.’


‘You don’t do anything for the people in the house. Whether you believe
in God or not, you ought to do what you can for your neighbour.’

He held that to help a neighbour is the strongest antidote to unbelief,
and an open door out of the bad air of one’s own troubles, as well.

De Fleuri laughed bitterly, and rubbed his hand up and down his empty
pocket. It was a pitiable action. Falconer understood it.

‘There are better things than money: sympathy, for instance. You could
talk to them a little.’

‘I have no sympathy, sir.’

‘You would find you had, if you would let it out.’

‘I should only make them more miserable. If I believed as you do, now,
there might be some use.’

‘There’s that widow with her four children in the garret. The poor
little things are tormented by the rats: couldn’t you nail bits of wood
over their holes?’

De Fleuri laughed again.

‘Where am I to get the bits of wood, except I pull down some of those
laths. And they wouldn’t keep them out a night.’

‘Couldn’t you ask some carpenter?’

‘I won’t ask a favour.’

‘I shouldn’t mind asking, now.’

‘That’s because you don’t know the bitterness of needing.’

‘Fortunately, however, there’s no occasion for it. You have no right to
refuse for another what you wouldn’t accept for yourself. Of course I
could send in a man to do it; but if you would do it, that would do her
heart good. And that’s what most wants doing good to--isn’t it, now?’

‘I believe you’re right there, sir. If it wasn’t for the misery of it, I
shouldn’t mind the hunger.’

‘I should like to tell you how I came to go poking my nose into other
people’s affairs. Would you like to hear my story now?’

‘If you please, sir.’

A little pallid curiosity seemed to rouse itself in the heart of the
hopeless man. So Falconer began at once to tell him how he had been
brought up, describing the country and their ways of life, not excluding
his adventures with Shargar, until he saw that the man was thoroughly
interested. Then all at once, pulling out his watch, he said,

‘But it’s time I had my tea, and I haven’t half done yet. I am not fond
of being hungry, like you, Mr. De Fleuri.’

The poor fellow could only manage a very dubious smile.

‘I’ll tell you what,’ said Falconer, as if the thought had only just
struck him--‘come home with me, and I’ll give you the rest of it at my
own place.’

‘You must excuse me, sir.’

‘Bless my soul, the man’s as proud as Lucifer! He won’t accept a
neighbour’s invitation to a cup of tea--for fear it should put him under
obligations, I suppose.’

‘It’s very kind of you, sir, to put it in that way; but I don’t choose
to be taken in. You know very well it’s not as one equal asks another
you ask me. It’s charity.’

‘Do I not behave to you as an equal?’

‘But you know that don’t make us equals.’

‘But isn’t there something better than being equals? Supposing, as you
will have it, that we’re not equals, can’t we be friends?’

‘I hope so, sir.’

‘Do you think now, Mr. De Fleuri, if you weren’t something more to me
than a mere equal, I would go telling you my own history? But I forgot:
I have told you hardly anything yet. I have to tell you how much nearer
I am to your level than you think. I had the design too of getting you
to help me in the main object of my life. Come, don’t be a fool. I want

‘I can’t leave Katey,’ said the weaver, hesitatingly.

‘Miss St. John is there still. I will ask her to stop till you come

Without waiting for an answer, he ran up the stairs, and had speedily
arranged with Miss St. John. Then taking his consent for granted, he
hurried De Fleuri away with him, and knowing how unfit a man of his
trade was for walking, irrespective of feebleness from want, he called
the first cab, and took him home. Here, over their tea, which he judged
the safest meal for a stomach unaccustomed to food, he told him about
his grandmother, and about Dr. Anderson, and how he came to give himself
to the work he was at, partly for its own sake, partly in the hope of
finding his father. He told him his only clue to finding him; and that
he had called on Mrs. Macallister twice every week for two years, but
had heard nothing of him. De Fleuri listened with what rose to great
interest before the story was finished. And one of its ends at least was
gained: the weaver was at home with him. The poor fellow felt that such
close relation to an outcast, did indeed bring Falconer nearer to his
own level.

‘Do you want it kept a secret, sir?’ he asked.

‘I don’t want it made a matter of gossip. But I do not mind how many
respectable people like yourself know of it.’

He said this with a vague hope of assistance.

Before they parted, the unaccustomed tears had visited the eyes of
De Fleuri, and he had consented not only to repair Mrs. Chisholm’s
garret-floor, but to take in hand the expenditure of a certain sum
weekly, as he should judge expedient, for the people who lived in that
and the neighbouring houses--in no case, however, except of sickness,
or actual want of bread from want of work. Thus did Falconer appoint a
sorrow-made infidel to be the almoner of his christian charity, knowing
well that the nature of the Son of Man was in him, and that to get him
to do as the Son of Man did, in ever so small a degree, was the readiest
means of bringing his higher nature to the birth. Nor did he ever repent
the choice he had made.

When he waited upon Miss St. John the next day, he found her in the
ordinary dress of a lady. She received him with perfect confidence and
kindness, but there was no reference made to the past. She told him that
she had belonged to a sisterhood, but had left it a few days before,
believing she could do better without its restrictions.

‘It was an act of cowardice,’ she said,--‘wearing the dress yesterday.
I had got used to it, and did not feel safe without it; but I shall not
wear it any more.’

‘I think you are right,’ said Falconer. ‘The nearer any friendly act is
associated with the individual heart, without intervention of class or
creed, the more the humanity, which is the divinity of it, will appear.’

He then told her about Nancy.

‘I will keep her about myself for a while,’ said Miss St. John, ‘till
I see what can be done with her. I know a good many people who without
being prepared, or perhaps able to take any trouble, are yet ready to do
a kindness when it is put in their way.’

‘I feel more and more that I ought to make some friends,’ said Falconer;
‘for I find my means of help reach but a little way. What had I better
do? I suppose I could get some introductions.--I hardly know how.’

‘That will easily be managed. I will take that in hand. If you will
accept invitations, you will soon know a good many people--of all
sorts,’ she added with a smile.

About this time Falconer, having often felt the pressure of his
ignorance of legal affairs, and reflected whether it would not add to
his efficiency to rescue himself from it, began such a course of study
as would fit him for the profession of the law. Gifted with splendid
health, and if with a slow strength of grasping, yet with a great power
of holding, he set himself to work, and regularly read for the bar.


It was after this that my own acquaintance with Falconer commenced. I
had just come out of one of the theatres in the neighbourhood of the
Strand, unable to endure any longer the dreary combination of false
magnanimity and real meanness, imported from Paris in the shape of
a melodrama, for the delectation of the London public. I had turned
northwards, and was walking up one of the streets near Covent Garden,
when my attention was attracted to a woman who came out of a gin-shop,
carrying a baby. She went to the kennel, and bent her head over, ill
with the poisonous stuff she had been drinking. And while the woman
stood in this degrading posture, the poor, white, wasted baby was
looking over her shoulder with the smile of a seraph, perfectly
unconscious of the hell around her.

‘Children will see things as God sees them,’ murmured a voice beside me.

I turned and saw a tall man with whose form I had already become a
little familiar, although I knew nothing of him, standing almost at my
elbow, with his eyes fixed on the woman and the child, and a strange
smile of tenderness about his mouth, as if he were blessing the little
creature in his heart.

He too saw the wonder of the show, typical of so much in the world,
indeed of the world itself--the seemingly vile upholding and ministering
to the life of the pure, the gracious, the fearless. Aware from his
tone more than from his pronunciation that he was a fellow-countryman, I
ventured to speak to him, and in a home-dialect.

‘It’s a wonnerfu’ sicht. It’s the cake o’ Ezekiel ower again.’

He looked at me sharply, thought a moment, and said,

‘You were going my way when you stopped. I will walk with you, if you

‘But what’s to be done about it?’ I said.

‘About what?’ he returned.

‘About the child there,’ I answered.

‘Oh! she is its mother,’ he replied, walking on.

‘What difference does that make?’ I said.

‘All the difference in the world. If God has given her that child, what
right have you or I to interfere?’

‘But I verily believe from the look of the child she gives it gin.’

‘God saves the world by the new blood, the children. To take her child
from her, would be to do what you could to damn her.’

‘It doesn’t look much like salvation there.’

‘You mustn’t interfere with God’s thousand years any more than his one

‘Are you sure she is the mother?’ I asked.

‘Yes. I would not have left the child with her otherwise.’

‘What would you have done with it? Got it into some orphan asylum?--or
the Foundling perhaps?’

‘Never,’ he answered. ‘All those societies are wretched inventions for
escape from the right way. There ought not to be an orphan asylum in the

‘What! Would you put them all down then?’

‘God forbid. But I would, if I could, make them all useless.’

‘How could you do that?’

‘I would merely enlighten the hearts of childless people as to their

‘Which are?’

‘To be fathers and mothers to the fatherless and motherless.’

‘I have often wondered why more of them did not adopt children. Why
don’t they?’

‘For various reasons which a real love to child nature would blow to the
winds--all comprised in this, that such a child would not be their own
child. As if ever a child could be their own! That a child is God’s
is of rather more consequence than whether it is born of this or that
couple. Their hearts would surely be glad when they went into heaven to
have the angels of the little ones that always behold the face of their
Father coming round them, though they were not exactly their father and

‘I don’t know what the passage you refer to means.’

‘Neither do I. But it must mean something, if He said it. Are you a

‘No. I am only a poor teacher of mathematics and poetry, shown up the
back stairs into the nurseries of great houses.’

‘A grand chance, if I may use the word.’

‘I do try to wake a little enthusiasm in the sons and daughters--without
much success, I fear.’

‘Will you come and see me?’ he said.

‘With much pleasure. But, as I have given you an answer, you owe me

‘I do.’

‘Have you adopted a child?’


‘Then you have some of your own?’


‘Then, excuse me, but why the warmth of your remarks on those who--’

‘I think I shall be able to satisfy you on that point, if we draw
to each other. Meantime I must leave you. Could you come to-morrow

‘With pleasure.’

We arranged the hour and parted. I saw him walk into a low public-house,
and went home.

At the time appointed, I rang the bell, and was led by an elderly woman
up the stair, and shown into a large room on the first-floor--poorly
furnished, and with many signs of bachelor-carelessness. Mr. Falconer
rose from an old hair-covered sofa to meet me as I entered. I will first
tell my reader something of his personal appearance.

He was considerably above six feet in height, square-shouldered,
remarkably long in the arms, and his hands were uncommonly large and
powerful. His head was large, and covered with dark wavy hair, lightly
streaked with gray. His broad forehead projected over deep-sunk eyes,
that shone like black fire. His features, especially his Roman nose,
were large, and finely, though not delicately, modelled. His nostrils
were remarkably large and flexile, with a tendency to slight motion: I
found on further acquaintance that when he was excited, they expanded in
a wild equine manner. The expression of his mouth was of tender power,
crossed with humour. He kept his lips a little compressed, which gave a
certain sternness to his countenance: but when this sternness dissolved
in a smile, it was something enchanting. He was plainly, rather shabbily
clothed. No one could have guessed at his profession or social position.
He came forward and received me cordially. After a little indifferent
talk, he asked me if I had any other engagement for the evening.

‘I never have any engagements,’ I answered--‘at least, of a social kind.
I am burd alane. I know next to nobody.’

‘Then perhaps you would not mind going out with me for a stroll?’

‘I shall be most happy,’ I answered.

There was something about the man I found exceedingly attractive; I had
very few friends; and there was besides something odd, almost romantic,
in this beginning of an intercourse: I would see what would come of it.

‘Then we’ll have some supper first,’ said Mr. Falconer, and rang the

While we ate our chops--

‘I dare say you think it strange,’ my host said, ‘that without the least
claim on your acquaintance, I should have asked you to come and see me,

He stopped, smiling.

‘My name is Gordon--Archie Gordon,’ I said.

‘Well, then, Mr. Gordon, I confess I have a design upon you. But you
will remember that you addressed me first.’

‘You spoke first,’ I said.

‘Did I?’

‘I did not say you spoke to me, but you spoke.--I should not have
ventured to make the remark I did make, if I had not heard your voice
first. What design have you on me?’

‘That will appear in due course. Now take a glass of wine, and we’ll set

We soon found ourselves in Holborn, and my companion led the way towards
the City. The evening was sultry and close.

‘Nothing excites me more,’ said Mr. Falconer, ‘than a walk in the
twilight through a crowded street. Do you find it affect you so?’

‘I cannot speak as strongly as you do,’ I replied. ‘But I perfectly
understand what you mean. Why is it, do you think?’

‘Partly, I fancy, because it is like the primordial chaos, a
concentrated tumult of undetermined possibilities. The germs of infinite
adventure and result are floating around you like a snow-storm. You do
not know what may arise in a moment and colour all your future. Out
of this mass may suddenly start something marvellous, or, it may be,
something you have been looking for for years.’

The same moment, a fierce flash of lightning, like a blue sword-blade
a thousand times shattered, quivered and palpitated about us, leaving a
thick darkness on the sense. I heard my companion give a suppressed cry,
and saw him run up against a heavy drayman who was on the edge of the
path, guiding his horses with his long whip. He begged the man’s pardon,
put his hand to his head, and murmured, ‘I shall know him now.’ I was
afraid for a moment that the lightning had struck him, but he assured
me there was nothing amiss. He looked a little excited and confused,

I should have forgotten the incident, had he not told me
afterwards--when I had come to know him intimately--that in the moment
of that lightning flash, he had had a strange experience: he had seen
the form of his father, as he had seen him that Sunday afternoon, in the
midst of the surrounding light. He was as certain of the truth of the
presentation as if a gradual revival of memory had brought with it the
clear conviction of its own accuracy. His explanation of the phenomenon
was, that, in some cases, all that prevents a vivid conception from
assuming objectivity, is the self-assertion of external objects. The
gradual approach of darkness cannot surprise and isolate the phantasm;
but the suddenness of the lightning could and did, obliterating
everything without, and leaving that over which it had no power standing
alone, and therefore visible.

‘But,’ I ventured to ask, ‘whence the minuteness of detail, surpassing,
you say, all that your memory could supply?’

‘That I think was a quickening of the memory by the realism of the
presentation. Excited by the vision, it caught at its own past, as it
were, and suddenly recalled that which it had forgotten. In the rapidity
of all pure mental action, this at once took its part in the apparent

To return to the narrative of my first evening in Falconer’s company.

It was strange how insensible the street population was to the grandeur
of the storm. While the thunder was billowing and bellowing over and
around us--

‘A hundred pins for one ha’penny,’ bawled a man from the gutter, with
the importance of a Cagliostro.

‘Evening Star! Telegrauwff!’ roared an ear-splitting urchin in my very
face. I gave him a shove off the pavement.

‘Ah! don’t do that,’ said Falconer. ‘It only widens the crack between
him and his fellows--not much, but a little.’

‘You are right,’ I said. ‘I won’t do it again.’

The same moment we heard a tumult in a neighbouring street. A crowd
was execrating a policeman, who had taken a woman into custody, and was
treating her with unnecessary rudeness. Falconer looked on for a few

‘Come, policeman!’ he said at length, in a tone of expostulation.
‘You’re rather rough, are you not? She’s a woman, you know.’

‘Hold your blasted humbug,’ answered the man, an exceptional specimen of
the force at that time at all events, and shook the tattered wretch, as
if he would shake her out of her rags.

Falconer gently parted the crowd, and stood beside the two.

‘I will help you,’ he said, ‘to take her to the station, if you like,
but you must not treat her that way.’

‘I don’t want your help,’ said the policeman; ‘I know you, and all the
damned lot of you.’

‘Then I shall be compelled to give you a lesson,’ said Falconer.

The man’s only answer was a shake that made the woman cry out.

‘I shall get into trouble if you get off,’ said Falconer to her. ‘Will
you promise me, on your word, to go with me to the station, if I rid you
of the fellow?’

‘I will, I will,’ said the woman.

‘Then, look out,’ said Falconer to the policeman; ‘for I’m going to give
you that lesson.’

The officer let the woman go, took his baton, and made a blow at
Falconer. In another moment--I could hardly see how--he lay in the

‘Now, my poor woman, come along,’ said Falconer.

She obeyed, crying gently. Two other policemen came up.

‘Do you want to give that woman in charge, Mr. Falconer?’ asked one of

‘I give that man in charge,’ cried his late antagonist, who had just
scrambled to his feet. ‘Assaulting the police in discharge of their

‘Very well,’ said the other. ‘But you’re in the wrong box, and that
you’ll find. You had better come along to the station, sir.’

‘Keep that fellow from getting hold of the woman--you two, and we’ll go
together,’ said Falconer.

Bewildered with the rapid sequence of events, I was following in the
crowd. Falconer looked about till he saw me, and gave me a nod which
meant come along. Before we reached Bow Street, however, the offending
policeman, who had been walking a little behind in conversation with
one of the others, advanced to Falconer, touched his hat, and said
something, to which Falconer replied.

‘Remember, I have my eye upon you,’ was all I heard, however, as he left
the crowd and rejoined me. We turned and walked eastward again.

The storm kept on intermittently, but the streets were rather more
crowded than usual notwithstanding.

‘Look at that man in the woollen jacket,’ said Falconer. ‘What a
beautiful outline of face! There must be something noble in that man.’

‘I did not see him,’ I answered, ‘I was taken up with a woman’s face,
like that of a beautiful corpse. It’s eyes were bright. There was gin in
its brain.’

The streets swarmed with human faces gleaming past. It was a night of

There stood a man who had lost one arm, earnestly pumping bilge-music
out of an accordion with the other, holding it to his body with the
stump. There was a woman, pale with hunger and gin, three match-boxes
in one extended hand, and the other holding a baby to her breast. As
we looked, the poor baby let go its hold, turned its little head, and
smiled a wan, shrivelled, old-fashioned smile in our faces.

Another happy baby, you see, Mr. Gordon,’ said Falconer. ‘A child, fresh
from God, finds its heaven where no one else would. The devil could
drive woman out of Paradise; but the devil himself cannot drive the
Paradise out of a woman.’

‘What can be done for them?’ I said, and at the moment, my eye fell upon
a row of little children, from two to five years of age, seated upon the

They were chattering fast, and apparently carrying on some game, as
happy as if they had been in the fields.

‘Wouldn’t you like to take all those little grubby things, and put them
in a great tub and wash them clean?’ I said.

‘They’d fight like spiders,’ rejoined Falconer.

‘They’re not fighting now.’

‘Then don’t make them. It would be all useless. The probability is that
you would only change the forms of the various evils, and possibly
for worse. You would buy all that man’s glue-lizards, and that man’s
three-foot rules, and that man’s dog-collars and chains, at three times
their value, that they might get more drink than usual, and do nothing
at all for their living to-morrow.--What a happy London you would make
if you were Sultan Haroun!’ he added, laughing. ‘You would put an end to
poverty altogether, would you not?’

I did not reply at once.

‘But I beg your pardon,’ he resumed; ‘I am very rude.’

‘Not at all,’ I returned. ‘I was only thinking how to answer you. They
would be no worse after all than those who inherit property and lead
idle lives.’

‘True; but they would be no better. Would you be content that your
quondam poor should be no better off than the rich? What would be gained
thereby? Is there no truth in the words “Blessed are the poor”? A deeper
truth than most Christians dare to see.--Did you ever observe that there
is not one word about the vices of the poor in the Bible--from beginning
to end?’

‘But they have their vices.’

‘Indubitably. I am only stating a fact. The Bible is full enough of the
vices of the rich. I make no comment.’

‘But don’t you care for their sufferings?’

‘They are of secondary importance quite. But if you had been as much
amongst them as I, perhaps you would be of my opinion, that the poor are
not, cannot possibly feel so wretched as they seem to us. They live in a
climate, as it were, which is their own, by natural law comply with it,
and find it not altogether unfriendly. The Laplander will prefer his
wastes to the rich fields of England, not merely from ignorance, but for
the sake of certain blessings amongst which he has been born and brought
up. The blessedness of life depends far more on its interest than upon
its comfort. The need of exertion and the doubt of success, renders life
much more interesting to the poor than it is to those who, unblessed
with anxiety for the bread that perisheth, waste their poor hearts about
rank and reputation.’

‘I thought such anxiety was represented as an evil in the New

‘Yes. But it is a still greater evil to lose it in any other way than by
faith in God. You would remove the anxiety by destroying its cause: God
would remove it by lifting them above it, by teaching them to trust in
him, and thus making them partakers of the divine nature. Poverty is a
blessing when it makes a man look up.’

‘But you cannot say it does so always.’

‘I cannot determine when, where, and how much; but I am sure it does.
And I am confident that to free those hearts from it by any deed of
yours would be to do them the greatest injury you could. Probably their
want of foresight would prove the natural remedy, speedily reducing them
to their former condition--not however without serious loss.’

‘But will not this theory prove at last an anæsthetic rather than an
anodyne? I mean that, although you may adopt it at first for refuge from
the misery the sight of their condition occasions you, there is surely a
danger of its rendering you at last indifferent to it.’

‘Am I indifferent? But you do not know me yet. Pardon my egotism. There
may be such danger. Every truth has its own danger or shadow. Assuredly
I would have no less labour spent upon them. But there can be no true
labour done, save in as far as we are fellow-labourers with God. We must
work with him, not against him. Every one who works without believing
that God is doing the best, the absolute good for them, is, must be,
more or less, thwarting God. He would take the poor out of God’s hands.
For others, as for ourselves, we must trust him. If we could thoroughly
understand anything, that would be enough to prove it undivine; and that
which is but one step beyond our understanding must be in some of its
relations as mysterious as if it were a hundred. But through all this
darkness about the poor, at least I can see wonderful veins and fields
of light, and with the help of this partial vision, I trust for the
rest. The only and the greatest thing man is capable of is Trust in

‘What then is a man to do for the poor? How is he to work with God?’ I

‘He must be a man amongst them--a man breathing the air of a higher
life, and therefore in all natural ways fulfilling his endless human
relations to them. Whatever you do for them, let your own being, that
is you in relation to them, be the background, that so you may be a
link between them and God, or rather I should say, between them and the
knowledge of God.’

While Falconer spoke, his face grew grander and grander, till at last
it absolutely shone. I felt that I walked with a man whose faith was his

‘Of one thing I am pretty sure,’ he resumed, ‘that the same recipe
Goethe gave for the enjoyment of life, applies equally to all work: “Do
the thing that lies next you.” That is all our business. Hurried results
are worse than none. We must force nothing, but be partakers of the
divine patience. How long it took to make the cradle! and we fret that
the baby Humanity is not reading Euclid and Plato, even that it is not
understanding the Gospel of St. John! If there is one thing evident in
the world’s history, it is that God hasteneth not. All haste implies
weakness. Time is as cheap as space and matter. What they call the
church militant is only at drill yet, and a good many of the officers
too not out of the awkward squad. I am sure I, for a private, am not.
In the drill a man has to conquer himself, and move with the rest by
individual attention to his own duty: to what mighty battlefields the
recruit may yet be led, he does not know. Meantime he has nearly enough
to do with his goose-step, while there is plenty of single combat,
skirmish, and light cavalry work generally, to get him ready for
whatever is to follow. I beg your pardon: I am preaching.’

‘Eloquently,’ I answered.

Of some of the places into which Falconer led me that night I will
attempt no description--places blazing with lights and mirrors, crowded
with dancers, billowing with music, close and hot, and full of the
saddest of all sights, the uninteresting faces of commonplace women.

‘There is a passion,’ I said, as we came out of one of these dreadful
places, ‘that lingers about the heart like the odour of violets, like a
glimmering twilight on the borders of moonrise; and there is a passion
that wraps itself in the vapours of patchouli and coffins, and streams
from the eyes like gaslight from a tavern. And yet the line is ill to
draw between them. It is very dreadful. These are women.’

‘They are in God’s hands,’ answered Falconer. ‘He hasn’t done with them
yet. Shall it take less time to make a woman than to make a world? Is
not the woman the greater? She may have her ages of chaos, her centuries
of crawling slime, yet rise a woman at last.’

‘How much alike all those women were!’

‘A family likeness, alas! which always strikes you first.’

‘Some of them looked quite modest.’

‘There are great differences. I do not know anything more touching than
to see how a woman will sometimes wrap around her the last remnants of a
soiled and ragged modesty. It has moved me almost to tears to see such
a one hanging her head in shame during the singing of a detestable song.
That poor thing’s shame was precious in the eyes of the Master, surely.’

‘Could nothing be done for her?’

‘I contrived to let her know where she would find a friend if she wanted
to be good: that is all you can do in such cases. If the horrors of
their life do not drive them out at such an open door, you can do
nothing else, I fear--for the time.’

‘Where are you going now, may I ask?’

‘Into the city--on business,’ he added with a smile.

‘There will be nobody there so late.’

‘Nobody! One would think you were the beadle of a city church, Mr.

We came into a very narrow, dirty street. I do not know where it is. A
slatternly woman advanced from an open door, and said,

‘Mr. Falconer.’

He looked at her for a moment.

‘Why, Sarah, have you come to this already?’ he said.

‘Never mind me, sir. It’s no more than you told me to expect. You knowed
him better than I did. Leastways I’m an honest woman.’

‘Stick to that, Sarah; and be good-tempered.’

‘I’ll have a try anyhow, sir. But there’s a poor cretur a dyin’
up-stairs; and I’m afeard it’ll go hard with her, for she throwed a
Bible out o’ window this very morning, sir.’

‘Would she like to see me? I’m afraid not.’

‘She’s got Lilywhite, what’s a sort of a reader, readin’ that same Bible
to her now.’

‘There can be no great harm in just looking in,’ he said, turning to me.

‘I shall be happy to follow you--anywhere,’ I returned.

‘She’s awful ill, sir; cholerer or summat,’ said Sarah, as she led the
way up the creaking stair.

We half entered the room softly. Two or three women sat by the chimney,
and another by a low bed, covered with a torn patchwork counterpane,
spelling out a chapter in the Bible. We paused for a moment to hear what
she was reading. Had the book been opened by chance, or by design? It
was the story of David and Bathsheba. Moans came from the bed, but the
candle in a bottle, by which the woman was reading, was so placed that
we could not see the sufferer.

We stood still and did not interrupt the reading.

‘Ha! ha! ha!’ laughed a coarse voice from the side of the chimney: ‘the
saint, you see, was no better than some of the rest of us!’

‘I think he was a good deal worse just then,’ said Falconer, stepping

‘Gracious! there’s Mr. Falconer,’ said another woman, rising, and
speaking in a flattering tone.

‘Then,’ remarked the former speaker, ‘there’s a chance for old Moll and
me yet. King David was a saint, wasn’t he? Ha! ha!’

‘Yes, and you might be one too, if you were as sorry for your faults as
he was for his.’

‘Sorry, indeed! I’ll be damned if I be sorry. What have I to be sorry
for? Where’s the harm in turning an honest penny? I ha’ took no man’s
wife, nor murdered himself neither. There’s yer saints! He was a rum
‘un. Ha! ha!’

Falconer approached her, bent down and whispered something no one could
hear but herself. She gave a smothered cry, and was silent.

‘Give me the book,’ he said, turning towards the bed. ‘I’ll read you
something better than that. I’ll read about some one that never did
anything wrong.’

‘I don’t believe there never was no sich a man,’ said the previous
reader, as she handed him the book, grudgingly.

‘Not Jesus Christ himself?’ said Falconer.

‘Oh! I didn’t know as you meant him.’

‘Of course I meant him. There never was another.’

‘I have heard tell--p’raps it was yourself, sir--as how he didn’t come
down upon us over hard after all, bless him!’

Falconer sat down on the side of the bed, and read the story of Simon
the Pharisee and the woman that was a sinner. When he ceased, the
silence that followed was broken by a sob from somewhere in the room.
The sick woman stopped her moaning, and said,

‘Turn down the leaf there, please, sir. Lilywhite will read it to me
when you’re gone.’

The some one sobbed again. It was a young slender girl, with a face
disfigured by the small-pox, and, save for the tearful look it wore,
poor and expressionless. Falconer said something gentle to her.

‘Will he ever come again?’ she sobbed.

‘Who?’ asked Falconer.

‘Him--Jesus Christ. I’ve heard tell, I think, that he was to come again
some day.’

‘Why do you ask?’

‘Because--’ she said, with a fresh burst of tears, which rendered the
words that followed unintelligible. But she recovered herself in a few
moments, and, as if finishing her sentence, put her hand up to her poor,
thin, colourless hair, and said,

‘My hair ain’t long enough to wipe his feet.’

‘Do you know what he would say to you, my girl?’ Falconer asked.

‘No. What would he say to me? He would speak to me, would he?’

‘He would say: Thy sins are forgiven thee.’

‘Would he, though? Would he?’ she cried, starting up. ‘Take me to
him--take me to him. Oh! I forgot. He’s dead. But he will come again,
won’t he? He was crucified four times, you know, and he must ha’ come
four times for that. Would they crucify him again, sir?’

‘No, they wouldn’t crucify him now--in England at least. They would only
laugh at him, shake their heads at what he told them, as much as to say
it wasn’t true, and sneer and mock at him in some of the newspapers.’

‘Oh dear! I’ve been very wicked.’

‘But you won’t be so any more.’

‘No, no, no. I won’t, I won’t, I won’t.’

She talked hurriedly, almost wildly. The coarse old woman tapped her
forehead with her finger. Falconer took the girl’s hand.

‘What is your name?’ he said.


‘What more?’

‘Nothing more.’

‘Well, Nelly,’ said Falconer.

‘How kind of you to call me Nelly!’ interrupted the poor girl. ‘They
always calls me Nell, just.’

‘Nelly,’ repeated Falconer, ‘I will send a lady here to-morrow to take
you away with her, if you like, and tell you how you must do to find
Jesus.--People always find him that want to find him.’

The elderly woman with the rough voice, who had not spoken since he
whispered to her, now interposed with a kind of cowed fierceness.

‘Don’t go putting humbug into my child’s head now, Mr. Falconer--‘ticing
her away from her home. Everybody knows my Nell’s been an idiot since
ever she was born. Poor child!’

‘I ain’t your child,’ cried the girl, passionately. ‘I ain’t nobody’s

‘You are God’s child,’ said Falconer, who stood looking on with his eyes
shining, but otherwise in a state of absolute composure.

‘Am I? Am I? You won’t forget to send for me, sir?’

‘That I won’t,’ he answered.

She turned instantly towards the woman, and snapped her fingers in her

‘I don’t care that for you,’ she cried. ‘You dare to touch me now, and
I’ll bite you.’

‘Come, come, Nelly, you mustn’t be rude,’ said Falconer.

‘No, sir, I won’t no more, leastways to nobody but she. It’s she makes
me do all the wicked things, it is.’

She snapped her fingers in her face again, and then burst out crying.

‘She will leave you alone now, I think,’ said Falconer. ‘She knows it
will be quite as well for her not to cross me.’

This he said very significantly, as he turned to the door, where he
bade them a general good-night. When we reached the street, I was too
bewildered to offer any remark. Falconer was the first to speak.

‘It always comes back upon me, as if I had never known it before, that
women like some of those were of the first to understand our Lord.’

‘Some of them wouldn’t have understood him any more than the Pharisee,

‘I’m not so sure of that. Of course there are great differences. There
are good and bad amongst them as in every class. But one thing is clear
to me, that no indulgence of passion destroys the spiritual nature so
much as respectable selfishness.’

‘I am afraid you will not get society to agree with you,’ I said,

‘I have no wish that society should agree with me; for if it did, it
would be sure to do so upon the worst of principles. It is better that
society should be cruel, than that it should call the horrible thing a
trifle: it would know nothing between.’

Through the city--though it was only when we crossed one of the main
thoroughfares that I knew where we were--we came into the region of
Bethnal Green. From house to house till it grew very late, Falconer
went, and I went with him. I will not linger on this part of our
wanderings. Where I saw only dreadful darkness, Falconer always would
see some glimmer of light. All the people into whose houses we went
knew him. They were all in the depths of poverty. Many of them were
respectable. With some of them he had long talks in private, while I
waited near. At length he said,

‘I think we had better be going home, Mr. Gordon. You must be tired.’

‘I am, rather,’ I answered. ‘But it doesn’t matter, for I have nothing
to do to-morrow.’

‘We shall get a cab, I dare say, before we go far.’

‘Not for me. I am not so tired, but that I would rather walk,’ I said.

‘Very well,’ he returned. ‘Where do you live?’

I told him.

‘I will take you the nearest way.’

‘You know London marvellously.’

‘Pretty well now,’ he answered.

We were somewhere near Leather Lane about one o’clock. Suddenly we came
upon two tiny children standing on the pavement, one on each side of
the door of a public-house. They could not have been more than two and
three. They were sobbing a little--not much. The tiny creatures stood
there awfully awake in sleeping London, while even their own playmates
were far off in the fairyland of dreams.

‘This is the kind of thing,’ I said, ‘that makes me doubt whether there
be a God in heaven.’

‘That is only because he is down here,’ answered Falconer, ‘taking such
good care of us all that you can’t see him. There is not a gin-palace,
or yet lower hell in London, in which a man or woman can be out of God.
The whole being love, there is nothing for you to set it against and
judge it by. So you are driven to fancies.’

The house was closed, but there was light above the door. We went up
to the children, and spoke to them, but all we could make out was
that mammie was in there. One of them could not speak at all. Falconer
knocked at the door. A good-natured-looking Irishwoman opened it a
little way and peeped out.

‘Here are two children crying at your door, ma’am,’ said Falconer.

‘Och, the darlin’s! they want their mother.’

‘Do you know her, then?’

‘True for you, and I do. She’s a mighty dacent woman in her way when the
drink’s out uv her, and very kind to the childher; but oncet she smells
the dhrop o’ gin, her head’s gone intirely. The purty craytures have
waked up, an’ she not come home, and they’ve run out to look after her.’

Falconer stood a moment as if thinking what would be best. The shriek of
a woman rang through the night.

‘There she is!’ said the Irishwoman. ‘For God’s sake don’t let her get
a hould o’ the darlints. She’s ravin’ mad. I seen her try to kill them

The shrieks came nearer and nearer, and after a few moments the woman
appeared in the moonlight, tossing her arms over her head, and screaming
with a despair for which she yet sought a defiant expression. Her head
was uncovered, and her hair flying in tangles; her sleeves were torn,
and her gaunt arms looked awful in the moonlight. She stood in the
middle of the street, crying again and again, with shrill laughter
between, ‘Nobody cares for me, and I care for nobody! Ha! ha! ha!’

‘Mammie! mammie!’ cried the elder of the children, and ran towards her.

The woman heard, and rushed like a fury towards the child. Falconer too
ran, and caught up the child. The woman gave a howl and rushed towards
the other. I caught up that one. With a last shriek, she dashed her head
against the wall of the public-house, dropped on the pavement, and lay

Falconer set the child down, lifted the wasted form in his arms, and
carried it into the house. The face was blue as that of a strangled
corpse. She was dead.

‘Was she a married woman?’ Falconer asked.

‘It’s myself can’t tell you sir,’ the Irishwoman answered. ‘I never saw
any boy with her.’

‘Do you know where she lived?’

‘No, sir. Somewhere not far off, though. The children will know.’

But they stood staring at their mother, and we could get nothing out of
them. They would not move from the corpse.

‘I think we may appropriate this treasure-trove,’ said Falconer, turning
at last to me; and as he spoke, he took the eldest in his arms. Then,
turning to the woman, he gave her a card, saying, ‘If any inquiry is
made about them, there is my address.--Will you take the other, Mr.

I obeyed. The children cried no more. After traversing a few streets, we
found a cab, and drove to a house in Queen Square, Bloomsbury.

Falconer got out at the door of a large house, and rung the bell; then
got the children out, and dismissed the cab. There we stood in the
middle of the night, in a silent, empty square, each with a child in
his arms. In a few minutes we heard the bolts being withdrawn. The door
opened, and a tall graceful form wrapped in a dressing-gown, appeared.

‘I have brought you two babies, Miss St. John,’ said Falconer. ‘Can you
take them?’

‘To be sure I can,’ she answered, and turned to lead the way. ‘Bring
them in.’

We followed her into a little back room. She put down her candle, and
went straight to the cupboard, whence she brought a sponge-cake, from
which she cut a large piece for each of the children.

‘What a mercy they are, Robert,--those little gates in the face! Red
Lane leads direct to the heart,’ she said, smiling, as if she rejoiced
in the idea of taming the little wild angelets. ‘Don’t you stop. You are
tired enough, I am sure. I will wake my maid, and we’ll get them washed
and put to bed at once.’

She was closing the door, when Falconer turned.

‘Oh! Miss St. John,’ he said, ‘I was forgetting. Could you go down to
No. 13 in Soap Lane--you know it, don’t you?’

‘Yes. Quite well.’

‘Ask for a girl called Nell--a plain, pock-marked young girl--and take
her away with you.’

‘When shall I go?’

‘To-morrow morning. But I shall be in. Don’t go till you see me.

We took our leave without more ado.

‘What a lady-like woman to be the matron of an asylum!’ I said.

Falconer gave a little laugh.

‘That is no asylum. It is a private house.’

‘And the lady?’

‘Is a lady of private means,’ he answered, ‘who prefers Bloomsbury to
Belgravia, because it is easier to do noble work in it. Her heaven is on
the confines of hell.’

‘What will she do with those children?’

‘Kiss them and wash them and put them to bed.’

‘And after that?’

‘Give them bread and milk in the morning.’

‘And after that?’

‘Oh! there’s time enough. We’ll see. There’s only one thing she won’t

‘What is that?’

‘Turn them out again.’

A pause followed, I cogitating.

‘Are you a society, then?’ I asked at length.

‘No. At least we don’t use the word. And certainly no other society
would acknowledge us.’

‘What are you, then?’

‘Why should we be anything, so long as we do our work?’

‘Don’t you think there is some affectation in refusing a name?’

‘Yes, if the name belongs to you? Not otherwise.’

‘Do you lay claim to no epithet of any sort?’

‘We are a church, if you like. There!’

‘Who is your clergyman?’


‘Where do you meet?’


‘What are your rules, then?’

‘We have none.’

‘What makes you a church?’

‘Divine Service.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘The sort of thing you have seen to-night.’

‘What is your creed?’

‘Christ Jesus.’

‘But what do you believe about him?’

‘What we can. We count any belief in him--the smallest--better than any
belief about him--the greatest--or about anything else besides. But we
exclude no one.’

‘How do you manage without?’

‘By admitting no one.’

‘I cannot understand you.’

‘Well, then: we are an undefined company of people, who have grown
into human relations with each other naturally, through one attractive
force--love for human beings, regarding them as human beings only in
virtue of the divine in them.’

‘But you must have some rules,’ I insisted.

‘None whatever. They would cause us only trouble. We have nothing
to take us from our work. Those that are most in earnest, draw most
together; those that are on the outskirts have only to do nothing, and
they are free of us. But we do sometimes ask people to help us--not with

‘But who are the we?’

‘Why you, if you will do anything, and I and Miss St. John and twenty
others--and a great many more I don’t know, for every one is a centre to
others. It is our work that binds us together.’

‘Then when that stops you drop to pieces.’

‘Yes, thank God. We shall then die. There will be no corporate
body--which means a bodied body, or an unsouled body, left behind to
simulate life, and corrupt, and work no end of disease. We go to ashes
at once, and leave no corpse for a ghoul to inhabit and make a vampire
of. When our spirit is dead, our body is vanished.’

‘Then you won’t last long.’

‘Then we oughtn’t to last long.’

‘But the work of the world could not go on so.’

‘We are not the life of the world. God is. And when we fail, he can and
will send out more and better labourers into his harvest-field. It is a
divine accident by which we are thus associated.’

‘But surely the church must be otherwise constituted.’

‘My dear sir, you forget: I said we were a church, not the church.’

‘Do you belong to the Church of England?’

‘Yes, some of us. Why should we not? In as much as she has faithfully
preserved the holy records and traditions, our obligations to her are
infinite. And to leave her would be to quarrel, and start a thousand
vermiculate questions, as Lord Bacon calls them, for which life is too
serious in my eyes. I have no time for that.’

‘Then you count the Church of England the Church?’

‘Of England, yes; of the universe, no: that is constituted just like
ours, with the living working Lord for the heart of it.’

‘Will you take me for a member?’


‘Will you not, if--?’

‘You may make yourself one if you will. I will not speak a word to
gain you. I have shown you work. Do something, and you are of Christ’s

We were almost at the door of my lodging, and I was getting very weary
in body, and indeed in mind, though I hope not in heart. Before we
separated, I ventured to say,

‘Will you tell me why you invited me to come and see you? Forgive my
presumption, but you seemed to seek acquaintance with me, although you
did make me address you first.’

He laughed gently, and answered in the words of the ancient mariner:--

     ‘The moment that his face I see,
     I know the man that must hear me:
     To him my tale I teach.’

Without another word, he shook hands with me, and left me. Weary as I
was, I stood in the street until I could hear his footsteps no longer.


One day, as Falconer sat at a late breakfast, Shargar burst into his
room. Falconer had not even known that he was coming home, for he had
outstripped the letter he had sent. He had his arm in a sling, which
accounted for his leave.

‘Shargar!’ cried Falconer, starting up in delight.

‘Major Shargar, if you please. Give me all my honours, Robert,’ said
Moray, presenting his left hand.

‘I congratulate you, my boy. Well, this is delightful! But you are

‘Bullet--broken--that’s all. It’s nearly right again. I’ll tell you
about it by and by. I am too full of something else to talk about
trifles of that sort. I want you to help me.’

He then rushed into the announcement that he had fallen desperately in
love with a lady who had come on board with her maid at Malta, where she
had been spending the winter. She was not very young, about his own
age, but very beautiful, and of enchanting address. How she could have
remained so long unmarried he could not think. It could not be but that
she had had many offers. She was an heiress, too, but that Shargar felt
to be a disadvantage for him. All the progress he could yet boast of was
that his attentions had not been, so far as he could judge, disagreeable
to her. Robert thought even less of the latter fact than Shargar
himself, for he did not believe there were many women to whom Shargar’s
attentions would be disagreeable: they must always be simple and manly.
What was more to the point, she had given him her address in London, and
he was going to call upon her the next day. She was on a visit to Lady
Janet Gordon, an elderly spinster, who lived in Park-street.

‘Are you quite sure she’s not an adventuress, Shargar?’

‘It’s o’ no mainner o’ use to tell ye what I’m sure or no sure o’,
Robert, in sic a case. But I’ll manage, somehoo, ‘at ye sall see her
yersel’, an’ syne I’ll speir back yer ain queston at ye.’

‘Weel, hae ye tauld her a’ aboot yersel’?’

‘No!’ answered Shargar, growing suddenly pale. ‘I never thocht aboot
that. But I had no richt, for a’ that passed, to intrude mysel’ upo’ her
to that extent.’

‘Weel, I reckon ye’re richt. Yer wounds an’ yer medals ought to weigh
weel against a’ that. There’s this comfort in ‘t, that gin she bena
richt weel worthy o’ ye, auld frien’, she winna tak ye.’

Shargar did not seem to see the comfort of it. He was depressed for the
remainder of the day. In the morning he was in wild spirits again. Just
before he started, however, he said, with an expression of tremulous

‘Oucht I to tell her a’ at ance--already--aboot--aboot my mither?’

‘I dinna say that. Maybe it wad be equally fair to her and to yersel’
to lat her ken ye a bit better afore ye do that.--We’ll think that
ower.--Whan ye gang doon the stair, ye’ll see a bit brougham at the door
waitin’ for ye. Gie the coachman ony orders ye like. He’s your servant
as lang ‘s ye’re in London. Commit yer way to the Lord, my boy.’

Though Shargar did not say much, he felt strengthened by Robert’s truth
to meet his fate with something of composure. But it was not to be
decided that day. Therein lay some comfort.

He returned in high spirits still. He had been graciously received both
by Miss Hamilton and her hostess--a kind-hearted old lady, who spoke
Scotch with the pure tone of a gentlewoman, he said--a treat not to
be had once in a twelvemonth. She had asked him to go to dinner in the
evening, and to bring his friend with him. Robert, however, begged him
to make his excuse, as he had an engagement in--a very different sort of

When Shargar returned, Robert had not come in. He was too excited to
go to bed, and waited for him. It was two o’clock before he came home.
Shargar told him there was to be a large party at Lady Patterdale’s
the next evening but one, and Lady Janet had promised to procure him an

The next morning Robert went to see Mary St. John, and asked if she
knew anything of Lady Patterdale, and whether she could get him an
invitation. Miss St. John did not know her, but she thought she could
manage it for him. He told her all about Shargar, for whose sake he
wished to see Miss Hamilton before consenting to be introduced to her.
Miss St. John set out at once, and Falconer received a card the next
day. When the evening came, he allowed Shargar to set out alone in his
brougham, and followed an hour later in a hansom.

When he reached the house, the rooms were tolerably filled, and as
several parties had arrived just before him, he managed to enter without
being announced. After a little while he caught sight of Shargar.
He stood alone, almost in a corner, with a strange, rather raised
expression in his eyes. Falconer could not see the object to which they
were directed. Certainly, their look was not that of love. He made his
way up to him and laid his hand on his arm. Shargar betrayed no little
astonishment when he saw him.

‘You here, Robert!’ he said.

‘Yes, I’m here. Have you seen her yet? Is she here?’

‘Wha do ye think ‘s speakin’ till her this verra minute? Look there!’
Shargar said in a low voice, suppressed yet more to hide his excitement.

Following his directions, Robert saw, amidst a little group of gentlemen
surrounding a seated lady, of whose face he could not get a peep,
a handsome elderly man, who looked more fashionable than his years
justified, and whose countenance had an expression which he felt
repulsive. He thought he had seen him before, but Shargar gave him no
time to come to a conclusion of himself.

‘It’s my brither Sandy, as sure ‘s deith!’ he said; ‘and he’s been
hingin’ aboot her ever sin’ she cam in. But I dinna think she likes him
a’thegither by the leuk o’ her.’

‘What for dinna ye gang up till her yersel’, man? I wadna stan’ that gin
‘twas me.’

‘I’m feared ‘at he ken me. He’s terrible gleg. A’ the Morays are gleg,
and yon marquis has an ee like a hawk.’

‘What does ‘t maitter? Ye hae dune naething to be ashamed o’ like him.’

‘Ay; but it’s this. I wadna hae her hear the trowth aboot me frae that
boar’s mou’ o’ his first. I wad hae her hear ‘t frae my ain, an’ syne
she canna think I meant to tak her in.’

At this moment there was a movement in the group. Shargar, receiving no
reply, looked round at Robert. It was now Shargar’s turn to be surprised
at his expression.

‘Are ye seein’ a vraith, Robert?’ he said. ‘What gars ye leuk like that,

‘Oh!’ answered Robert, recovering himself, ‘I thought I saw some one I
knew. But I’m not sure. I’ll tell you afterwards. We’ve been talking too
earnestly. People are beginning to look at us.’

So saying, he moved away towards the group of which the marquis still
formed one. As he drew near he saw a piano behind Miss Hamilton. A
sudden impulse seized him, and he yielded to it. He made his way to the
piano, and seating himself, began to play very softly--so softly that
the sounds could scarcely be heard beyond the immediate neighbourhood of
the instrument. There was no change on the storm of talk that filled
the room. But in a few minutes a face white as a shroud was turned round
upon him from the group in front, like the moon dawning out of a cloud.
He stopped at once, saying to himself, ‘I was right;’ and rising,
mingled again with the crowd. A few minutes after, he saw Shargar
leading Miss Hamilton out of the room, and Lady Janet following. He did
not intend to wait his return, but got near the door, that he might slip
out when he should re-enter. But Shargar did not return. For, the moment
she reached the fresh air, Miss Hamilton was so much better that Lady
Janet, whose heart was as young towards young people as if she had never
had the unfortunate love affair tradition assigned her, asked him to see
them home, and he followed them into her carriage. Falconer left a few
minutes after, anxious for quiet that he might make up his mind as to
what he ought to do. Before he had walked home, he had resolved on the
next step. But not wishing to see Shargar yet, and at the same time
wanting to have a night’s rest, he went home only to change his clothes,
and betook himself to a hotel in Covent Garden.

He was at Lady Janet’s door by ten o’clock the next morning, and sent in
his card to Miss Hamilton. He was shown into the drawing-room, where she
came to him.

‘May I presume on old acquaintance?’ he asked, holding out his hand.

She looked in his face quietly, took his hand, pressed it warmly, and

‘No one has so good a right, Mr. Falconer. Do sit down.’

He placed a chair for her, and obeyed.

After a moment’s silence on both sides:

‘Are you aware, Miss--?’ he said and hesitated.

‘Miss Hamilton,’ she said with a smile. ‘I was Miss Lindsay when you
knew me so many years ago. I will explain presently.’

Then with an air of expectation she awaited the finish of his sentence.

‘Are you aware, Miss Hamilton, that I am Major Moray’s oldest friend?’

‘I am quite aware of it, and delighted to know it. He told me so last

Somewhat dismayed at this answer, Falconer resumed,

‘Did Major Moray likewise communicate with you concerning his own

‘He did. He told me all.’

Falconer was again silent for some moments.

‘Shall I be presuming too far if I venture to conclude that my friend
will not continue his visits?’

‘On the contrary,’ she answered, with the same delicate blush that in
old times used to overspread the lovely whiteness of her face, ‘I expect
him within half-an-hour.’

‘Then there is no time to be lost,’ thought Falconer.

‘Without presuming to express any opinion of my own,’ he said quietly,
‘a social code far less severe than that which prevails in England,
would take for granted that an impassable barrier existed between Major
Moray and Miss Hamilton.’

‘Do not suppose, Mr. Falconer, that I could not meet Major Moray’s
honesty with equal openness on my side.’

Falconer, for the first time almost in his life, was incapable of speech
from bewilderment. But Miss Hamilton did not in the least enjoy his
perplexity, and made haste to rescue both him and herself. With a blush
that was now deep as any rose, she resumed,

‘But I owe you equal frankness, Mr. Falconer. There is no barrier
between Major Moray and myself but the foolish--no, wicked--indiscretion
of an otherwise innocent and ignorant girl. Listen, Mr. Falconer: under
the necessity of the circumstances you will not misjudge me if I compel
myself to speak calmly. This, I trust, will be my final penance. I
thought Lord Rothie was going to marry me. To do him justice, he never
said so. Make what excuse for my folly you can. I was lost in a mist
of vain imaginations. I had had no mother to teach me anything, Mr.
Falconer, and my father never suspected the necessity of teaching me
anything. I was very ill on the passage to Antwerp, and when I began to
recover a little, I found myself beginning to doubt both my own conduct
and his lordship’s intentions. Possibly the fact that he was not quite
so kind to me in my illness as I had expected, and that I felt hurt in
consequence, aided the doubt. Then the thought of my father returning
and finding that I had left him, came and burned in my heart like fire.
But what was I to do? I had never been out of Aberdeen before. I did not
know even a word of French. I was altogether in Lord Rothie’s power. I
thought I loved him, but it was not much of love that sea-sickness could
get the better of. With a heart full of despair I went on shore. The
captain slipped a note into my hand. I put it in my pocket, but pulled
it out with my handkerchief in the street. Lord Rothie picked it up. I
begged him to give it me, but he read it, and then tore it in pieces. I
entered the hotel, as wretched as girl could well be. I began to dislike
him. But during dinner he was so kind and attentive that I tried to
persuade myself that my fears were fanciful. After dinner he took me
out. On the stairs we met a lady whose speech was Scotch. Her maid
called her Lady Janet. She looked kindly at me as I passed. I thought
she could read my face. I remembered afterwards that Lord Rothie turned
his head away when we met her. We went into the cathedral. We were
standing under that curious dome, and I was looking up at its strange
lights, when down came a rain of bell-notes on the roof over my head.
Before the first tune was over, I seemed to expect the second, and then
the third, without thinking how I could know what was coming; but when
they ended with the ballad of the Witch Lady, and I lifted up my head
and saw that I was not by my father’s fireside, but in Antwerp Cathedral
with Lord Rothie, despair filled me with a half-insane resolution.
Happily Lord Rothie was at some little distance talking to a priest
about one of Rubens’s pictures. I slipped unseen behind the nearest
pillar, and then flew from the church. How I got to the hotel I do not
know, but I did reach it. ‘Lady Janet,’ was all I could say. The waiter
knew the name, and led me to her room. I threw myself on my knees, and
begged her to save me. She assured me no one should touch me. I gasped
‘Lord Rothie,’ and fainted. When I came to myself--but I need not tell
you all the particulars. Lady Janet did take care of me. Till last
night I never saw Lord Rothie again. I did not acknowledge him, but he
persisted in talking to me, behave as I would, and I saw well enough
that he knew me.’

Falconer took her hand and kissed it.

‘Thank God,’ he said. ‘That spire was indeed the haunt of angels as I
fancied while I played upon those bells.’

‘I knew it was you--that is, I was sure of it when I came to think about
it; but at the time I took it for a direct message from heaven, which
nobody heard but myself.’

‘It was such none the less that I was sent to deliver it,’ said
Falconer. ‘I little thought during my imprisonment because of it, that
the end of my journey was already accomplished.’

Mysie put her hand in his.

‘You have saved me, Mr. Falconer.’

‘For Ericson’s sake, who was dying and could not,’ returned Falconer.

‘Ah!’ said Mysie, her large eyes opening with wonder. It was evident she
had had no suspicion of his attachment to her.

‘But,’ said Falconer, ‘there was another in it, without whom I could
have done nothing.’

‘Who was that?’

‘George Moray.’

‘Did he know me then?’

‘No. Fortunately not. You would not have looked at him then. It was
all done for love of me. He is the truest fellow in the world, and
altogether worthy of you, Miss Hamilton. I will tell you the whole story
some day, lest he should not do himself justice.’

‘Ah, that reminds me. Hamilton sounds strange in your voice. You
suspected me of having changed my name to hide my history?’

It was so, and Falconer’s silence acknowledged the fact.

‘Lady Janet brought me home, and told my father all. When he died a few
years after, she took me to live with her, and never rested till she
had brought me acquainted with Sir John Hamilton, in favour of whom my
father had renounced his claim to some disputed estates. Sir John had
lost his only son, and he had no daughter. He was a kind-hearted old
man, rather like my own father. He took to me, as they say, and made me
change my name to his, leaving me the property that might have been my
father’s, on condition that whoever I married should take the same name.
I don’t think your friend will mind making the exchange,’ said Mysie in
conclusion, as the door opened and Shargar came in.

‘Robert, ye’re a’ gait (everywhere)!’ he exclaimed as he entered. Then,
stopping to ask no questions, ‘Ye see I’m to hae a name o’ my ain efter
a’,’ he said, with a face which looked even handsome in the light of his

Robert shook hands with him, and wished him joy heartily.

‘Wha wad hae thocht it, Shargar,’ he added, ‘that day ‘at ye pat bonnets
for hose upo’ Black Geordie’s huves?’

The butler announced the Marquis of Boarshead. Mysie’s eyes flashed. She
rose from her seat, and advanced to meet the marquis, who entered behind
the servant. He bowed and held out his hand. Mysie retreated one step,
and stood.

‘Your lordship has no right to force yourself upon me. You must have
seen that I had no wish to renew the acquaintance I was unhappy enough
to form--now, thank God, many years ago.’

‘Forgive me, Miss Hamilton. One word in private,’ said the marquis.

‘Not a word,’ returned Mysie.

‘Before these gentlemen, then, whom I have not the honour of knowing, I
offer you my hand.’

‘To accept that offer would be to wrong myself even more than your
lordship has done.’

She went back to where Moray was standing, and stood beside him. The
evil spirit in the marquis looked out at its windows.

‘You are aware, madam,’ he said, ‘that your reputation is in the hand I
offer you?’

‘The worse for it, my lord,’ returned Mysie, with a scornful smile. ‘But
your lordship’s brother will protect it.’

‘My brother!’ said the marquis. ‘What do you mean? I have no brother!’

‘Ye hae mair brithers than ye ken o’, Lord Sandy, and I’m ane o’ them,’
said Shargar.

‘You are either a liar or a bastard, then,’ said the marquis, who
had not been brought up in a school of which either self-restraint or
respect for women were prominent characteristics.

Falconer forgot himself for a moment, and made a stride forward.

‘Dinna hit him, Robert,’ cried Shargar. ‘He ance gae me a shillin’, an’
it helpit, as ye ken, to haud me alive to face him this day.--No liar,
my lord, but a bastard, thank heaven.’ Then, with a laugh, he instantly
added, ‘Gin I had been ain brither to you, my lord, God only knows what
a rascal I micht hae been.’

‘By God, you shall answer for your damned insolence,’ said the marquis,
and, lifting his riding-whip from the table where he had laid it, he
approached his brother.

Mysie rang the bell.

‘Haud yer han’, Sandy,’ cried Shargar. ‘I hae faced mair fearsome foes
than you. But I hae some faimily-feelin’, though ye hae nane: I wadna
willin’ly strike my brither.’

As he spoke, he retreated a little. The marquis came on with raised
whip. But Falconer stepped between, laid one of his great hands on the
marquis’s chest, and flung him to the other end of the room, where he
fell over an ottoman. The same moment the servant entered.

‘Ask your mistress to oblige me by coming to the drawing-room,’ said

The marquis had risen, but had not recovered his presence of mind when
Lady Janet entered. She looked inquiringly from one to the other.

‘Please, Lady Janet, will you ask the Marquis of Boarshead to leave the
house,’ said Mysie.

‘With all my hert,’ answered Lady Janet; ‘and the mair that he’s a kin’
o’ a cousin o’ my ain. Gang yer wa’s, Sandy. Ye’re no fit company for
decent fowk; an’ that ye wad ken yersel’, gin ye had ony idea left o’
what decency means.’

Without heeding her, the marquis went up to Falconer.

‘Your card, sir.’

Lady Janet followed him.

‘’Deed ye s’ get nae cairds here,’ she said, pushing him aside.

‘So you allow your friends to insult me in your own house as they
please, cousin Janet?’ said the marquis, who probably felt her
opposition the most formidable of all.

‘’Deed they canna say waur o’ ye nor I think. Gang awa’, an’ repent.
Consider yer gray hairs, man.’

This was the severest blow he had yet received. He left the room,
‘swearing at large.’

Falconer followed him; but what came of it nobody ever heard.

Major and Miss Hamilton were married within three months, and went out
to India together, taking Nancy Kennedy with them.


Before many months had passed, without the slightest approach to any
formal recognition, I found myself one of the church of labour of which
Falconer was clearly the bishop. As he is the subject, or rather object
of my book, I will now record a fact which may serve to set forth his
views more clearly. I gained a knowledge of some of the circumstances,
not merely from the friendly confidences of Miss St. John and Falconer,
but from being a kind of a Scotch cousin of Lady Janet Gordon, whom
I had taken an opportunity of acquainting with the relation. She was
old-fashioned enough to acknowledge it even with some eagerness. The
ancient clan-feeling is good in this, that it opens a channel whose very
existence is a justification for the flow of simply human feelings along
all possible levels of social position. And I would there were more of
it. Only something better is coming instead of it--a recognition of the
infinite brotherhood in Christ. All other relations, all attempts
by churches, by associations, by secret societies--of Freemasons and
others, are good merely as they tend to destroy themselves in the wider
truth; as they teach men to be dissatisfied with their limitations. But
I wander; for I mentioned Lady Janet now, merely to account for some of
the information I possess concerning Lady Georgina Betterton.

I met her once at my so-called cousin’s, whom she patronized as a dear
old thing. To my mind, she was worth twenty of her, though she was
wrinkled and Scottishly sententious. ‘A sweet old bat,’ was another
epithet of Lady Georgina’s. But she came to see her, notwithstanding,
and did not refuse to share in her nice little dinners, and least of
all, when Falconer was of the party, who had been so much taken with
Lady Janet’s behaviour to the Marquis of Boarshead, just recorded, that
he positively cultivated her acquaintance thereafter.

Lady Georgina was of an old family--an aged family, indeed; so old, in
fact, that some envious people professed to think it decrepit with age.
This, however, may well be questioned if any argument bearing on the
point may be drawn from the person of Lady Georgina. She was at least as
tall as Mary St. John, and very handsome--only with somewhat masculine
features and expression. She had very sloping shoulders and a long
neck, which took its finest curves when she was talking to inferiors:
condescension was her forte. Of the admiration of the men, she had had
more than enough, although either they were afraid to go farther, or she
was hard to please.

She had never contemplated anything admirable long enough to comprehend
it; she had never looked up to man or woman with anything like
reverence; she saw too quickly and too keenly into the foibles of all
who came near her to care to look farther for their virtues. If she had
ever been humbled, and thence taught to look up, she might by this time
have been a grand woman, worthy of a great man’s worship. She patronized
Miss St. John, considerably to her amusement, and nothing to her
indignation. Of course she could not understand her. She had a vague
notion of how she spent her time; and believing a certain amount of
fanaticism essential to religion, wondered how so sensible and ladylike
a person as Miss St. John could go in for it.

Meeting Falconer at Lady Janet’s, she was taken with him. Possibly she
recognized in him a strength that would have made him her master, if he
had cared for such a distinction; but nothing she could say attracted
more than a passing attention on his part. Falconer was out of her
sphere, and her influences were powerless to reach him.

At length she began to have a glimmering of the relation of labour
between Miss St. John and him, and applied to the former for some
enlightenment. But Miss St. John was far from explicit, for she had no
desire for such assistance as Lady Georgina’s. What motives next led her
to seek the interview I am now about to record, I cannot satisfactorily
explain, but I will hazard a conjecture or two, although I doubt if she
understood them thoroughly herself.

She was, if not blasée, at least ennuyée, and began to miss excitement,
and feel blindly about her for something to make life interesting. She
was gifted with far more capacity than had ever been exercised, and was
of a large enough nature to have grown sooner weary of trifles than most
women of her class. She might have been an artist, but she drew like a
young lady; she might have been a prophetess, and Byron was her greatest
poet. It is no wonder that she wanted something she had not got.

Since she had been foiled in her attempt on Miss St. John, which she
attributed to jealousy, she had, in quite another circle, heard strange,
wonderful, even romantic stories about Falconer and his doings among the
poor. A new world seemed to open before her longing gaze--a world, or a
calenture, a mirage? for would she cross the ‘wandering fields of barren
foam,’ to reach the green grass that did wave on the far shore? the
dewless desert to reach the fair water that did lie leagues beyond its
pictured sweetness? But I think, mingled with whatever motives she may
have had, there must have been some desire to be a nobler, that is a
more useful woman than she had been.

She had not any superabundance of feminine delicacy, though she had
plenty of good-breeding, and she trusted to her position in society to
cover the eccentricity of her present undertaking.

One morning after breakfast she called upon Falconer; and accustomed
to visits from all sorts of people, Mrs. Ashton showed her into his
sitting-room without even asking her name. She found him at his piano,
apologized, in her fashionable drawl, for interrupting his music, and
accepted his offer of a chair without a shade of embarrassment. Falconer
seated himself and sat waiting.

‘I fear the step I have taken will appear strange to you, Mr. Falconer.
Indeed it appears strange to myself. I am afraid it may appear stranger

‘It is easy for me to leave all judgment in the matter to yourself,
Miss--I beg your pardon; I know we have met; but for the moment I cannot
recall your name.’

‘Lady Georgina Betterton,’ drawled the visitor carelessly, hiding
whatever annoyance she may have felt.

Falconer bowed. Lady Georgina resumed.

‘Of course it only affects myself; and I am willing to take the risk,
notwithstanding the natural desire to stand well in the opinion of any
one with whom even my boldness could venture such a step.’

A smile, intended to be playful, covered the retreat of the sentence.
Falconer bowed again. Lady Georgina had yet again to resume.

‘From the little I have seen, and the much I have heard of you--excuse
me, Mr. Falconer--I cannot help thinking that you know more of the
secret of life than other people--if indeed it has any secret.’

‘Life certainly is no burden to me,’ returned Falconer. ‘If that implies
the possession of any secret which is not common property, I fear it
also involves a natural doubt whether such secret be communicable.’

‘Of course I mean only some secret everybody ought to know.’

‘I do not misunderstand you.’

‘I want to live. You know the world, Mr. Falconer. I need not tell
you what kind of life a girl like myself leads. I am not old, but the
gilding is worn off. Life looks bare, ugly, uninteresting. I ask you to
tell me whether there is any reality in it or not; whether its past glow
was only gilt; whether the best that can be done is to get through with
it as fast as possible?’

‘Surely your ladyship must know some persons whose very countenances
prove that they have found a reality at the heart of life.’

‘Yes. But none whose judgment I could trust. I cannot tell how soon they
may find reason to change their minds on the subject. Their satisfaction
may only be that they have not tried to rub the varnish off the gilding
so much as I, and therefore the gilding itself still shines a little in
their eyes.’

‘If it be only gilding, it is better it should be rubbed off.’

‘But I am unwilling to think it is. I am not willing to sign a bond of
farewell to hope. Life seemed good once. It is bad enough that it seems
such no longer, without consenting that it must and shall be so. Allow
me to add, for my own sake, that I speak from the bitterness of no
chagrin. I have had all I ever cared--or condescended to wish for. I
never had anything worth the name of a disappointment in my life.’

‘I cannot congratulate you upon that,’ said Falconer, seriously. ‘But
if there be a truth or a heart in life, assurance of the fact can only
spring from harmony with that truth. It is not to be known save by
absolute contact with it; and the sole guide in the direction of it must
be duty: I can imagine no other possible conductor. We must do before we
can know.’

‘Yes, yes,’ replied Lady Georgina, hastily, in a tone that implied, ‘Of
course, of course: we know all about that.’ But aware at once, with the
fine instinct belonging to her mental organization, that she was
thus shutting the door against all further communication, she added
instantly: ‘But what is one’s duty? There is the question.’

‘The thing that lies next you, of course. You are, and must remain, the
sole judge of that. Another cannot help you.’

‘But that is just what I do not know.’

I interrupt Lady Georgina to remark--for I too have been a pupil of
Falconer--that I believe she must have suspected what her duty was, and
would not look firmly at her own suspicion. She added:

‘I want direction.’

But the same moment she proceeded to indicate the direction in which she
wanted to be directed; for she went on:

‘You know that now-a-days there are so many modes in which to employ
one’s time and money that one does not know which to choose. The lower
strata of society, you know, Mr. Falconer--so many channels! I want the
advice of a man of experience, as to the best investment, if I may use
the expression: I do not mean of money only, but of time as well.’

‘I am not fitted to give advice in such a matter.’

‘Mr. Falconer!’

‘I assure you I am not. I subscribe to no society myself--not one.’

‘Excuse me, but I can hardly believe the rumours I hear of you--people
will talk, you know--are all inventions. They say you are for ever
burrowing amongst the poor. Excuse the phrase.’

‘I excuse or accept it, whichever you please. Whatever I do, I am my own

‘Then you are just the person to help me! I have a fortune, not very
limited, at my own disposal: a gentleman who is his own steward, would
find his labours merely facilitated by administering for another as
well--such labours, I mean.’

‘I must beg to be excused, Lady Georgina. I am accountable only for my
own, and of that I have quite as much as I can properly manage. It
is far more difficult to use money for others than to spend it for

‘Ah!’ said Lady Georgina, thoughtfully, and cast an involuntary glance
round the untidy room, with its horse-hair furniture, its ragged array
of books on the wall, its side-table littered with pamphlets he never
read, with papers he never printed, with pipes he smoked by chance
turns. He saw the glance and understood it.

‘I am accustomed,’ he said, ‘to be in such sad places for human beings
to live in, that I sometimes think even this dingy old room an absolute
palace of comfort.--But,’ he added, checking himself, as it were, ‘I
do not see in the least how your proposal would facilitate an answer to
your question.’

‘You seem hardly inclined to do me justice,’ said Lady Georgina, with,
for the first time, a perceptible, though slight shadow crossing the
disc of her resolution. ‘I only meant it,’ she went on, ‘as a step
towards a further proposal, which I think you will allow looks at least
in the direction you have been indicating.’

She paused.

‘May I beg of you to state the proposal?’ said Falconer.

But Lady Georgina was apparently in some little difficulty as to the
proper form in which to express her object. At last it appeared in the
cloak of a question.

‘Do you require no assistance in your efforts for the elevation of the
lower classes?’ she asked.

‘I don’t make any such efforts,’ said Falconer.

Some of my lady-readers will probably be remarking to themselves, ‘How
disagreeable of him! I can’t endure the man.’ If they knew how Falconer
had to beware of the forwardness and annoyance of well-meaning women,
they would not dislike him so much. But Falconer could be indifferent to
much dislike, and therein I know some men that envy him.

When he saw, however, that Lady Georgina was trying to swallow a lump in
her throat, he hastened to add,

‘I have only relations with individuals--none with classes.’

Lady Georgina gathered her failing courage. ‘Then there is the more hope
for me,’ she said. ‘Surely there are things a woman might be useful
in that a man cannot do so well--especially if she would do as she was
told, Mr. Falconer?’

He looked at her, inquiring of her whole person what numen abode in the
fane. She misunderstood the look.

‘I could dress very differently, you know. I will be a sister of
charity, if you like.’

‘And wear a uniform?--as if the god of another world wanted to make
proselytes or traitors in this! No, Lady Georgina, it was not of a dress
so easily altered that I was thinking; it was of the habit, the dress of
mind, of thought, of feeling. When you laid aside your beautiful dress,
could you avoid putting on the garment of condescension, the most
unchristian virtue attributed to Deity or saint? Could you--I must be
plain with you, Lady Georgina, for this has nothing to do with the forms
of so-called society--could your temper endure the mortifications of
low opposition and misrepresentation of motive and end--which, avoid
intrusion as you might, would yet force themselves on your perception?
Could you be rudely, impudently thwarted by the very persons for whom
you were spending your strength and means, and show no resentment? Could
you make allowances for them as for your own brothers and sisters, your
own children?’

Lady Georgina was silent.

‘I shall seem to glorify myself, but at that risk I must put the reality
before you.--Could you endure the ugliness both moral and physical which
you must meet at every turn? Could you look upon loathsomeness, not
merely without turning away in disgust, and thus wounding the very heart
you would heal, but without losing your belief in the Fatherhood of God,
by losing your faith in the actual blood-relationship to yourself of
these wretched beings? Could you believe in the immortal essence
hidden under all this garbage--God at the root of it all? How would the
delicate senses you probably inherit receive the intrusions from which
they could not protect themselves? Would you be in no danger of finding
personal refuge in the horrid fancy, that these are but the slimy
borders of humanity where it slides into, and is one with bestiality? I
could show you one fearful baboon-like woman, whose very face makes
my nerves shudder: could you believe that woman might one day become a
lady, beautiful as yourself, and therefore minister to her? Would you
not be tempted, for the sake of your own comfort, if not for the pride
of your own humanity, to believe that, like untimely blossoms, these
must fall from off the boughs of the tree of life, and come to nothing
at all--a theory that may do for the preacher, but will not do for the
worker: him it would paralyze?--or, still worse, infinitely worse, that
they were doomed, from their birth, to endless ages of a damnation,
filthy as that in which you now found them, and must probably leave
them? If you could come to this, you had better withhold your hand; for
no desire for the betterment of the masses, as they are stupidly called,
can make up for a lack of faith in the individual. If you cannot hope
for them in your heart, your hands cannot reach them to do them good.
They will only hurt them.’

Lady Georgina was still silent. Falconer’s eloquence had perhaps made
her ashamed.

‘I want you to sit down and count the cost, before you do any mischief
by beginning what you are unfit for. Last week I was compelled more than
once to leave the house where my duty led me, and to sit down upon a
stone in the street, so ill that I was in danger of being led away as
intoxicated, only the policeman happened to know me. Twice I went back
to the room I had left, crowded with human animals, and one of them
at least dying. It was all I could do, and I have tolerable nerve and
tolerable experience.’

A mist was gathering over Lady Georgina’s eyes. She confessed it
afterwards to Miss St. John. And through the mist he looked larger than

‘And then the time you must spend before you can lay hold upon them
at all, that is with the personal relation which alone is of any real
influence! Our Saviour himself had to be thirty years in the world
before he had footing enough in it to justify him in beginning to teach
publicly: he had been laying the needful foundations all the time. Not
under any circumstances could I consent to make use of you before you
had brought yourself into genuine relations with some of them first.’

‘Do you count societies, then, of no use whatever?’ Lady Georgina asked,
more to break the awkwardness of her prolonged silence than for any
other reason.

‘In as far as any of the persons they employ fulfil the conditions of
which I have spoken, they are useful--that is, just in as far as they
come into genuine human relations with those whom they would help. In as
far as their servants are incapable of this, the societies are hurtful.
The chief good which societies might effect would be the procuring of
simple justice for the poor. That is what they need at the hands of
the nation, and what they do not receive. But though few can have the
knowledge of the poor I have, many could do something, if they would
only set about it simply, and not be too anxious to convert them; if
they would only be their friends after a common-sense fashion. I know,
say, a hundred wretched men and women far better than a man in general
knows him with whom he claims an ordinary intimacy. I know many more by
sight whose names in the natural course of events I shall probably know
soon. I know many of their relations to each other, and they talk about
each other to me as if I were one of themselves, which I hope in God I
am. I have been amongst them a good many years now, and shall probably
spend my life amongst them. When I went first, I was repeatedly robbed;
now I should hardly fear to carry another man’s property. Two years ago
I had my purse taken, but next morning it was returned, I do not know by
whom: in fact it was put into my pocket again--every coin, as far as I
could judge, as it left me. I seldom pretend to teach them--only now and
then drop a word of advice. But possibly, before I die, I may speak to
them in public. At present I avoid all attempt at organization of any
sort, and as far as I see, am likely of all things to avoid it. What I
want is first to be their friend, and then to be at length recognized
as such. It is only in rare cases that I seek the acquaintance of any of
them: I let it come naturally. I bide my time. Almost never do I offer
assistance. I wait till they ask it, and then often refuse the sort they
want. The worst thing you can do for them is to attempt to save them
from the natural consequences of wrong: you may sometimes help them out
of them. But it is right to do many things for them when you know them,
which it would not be right to do for them until you know them. I am
amongst them; they know me; their children know me; and something is
always occurring that makes this or that one come to me. Once I have a
footing, I seldom lose it. So you see, in this my labour I am content to
do the thing that lies next me. I wait events. You have had no training,
no blundering to fit you for such work. There are many other modes of
being useful; but none in which I could undertake to direct you. I am
not in the habit of talking so much about my ways--but that is of no
consequence. I think I am right in doing so in this instance.’

‘I cannot misunderstand you,’ faltered Lady Georgina.

Falconer was silent. Without looking up from the floor on which her eyes
had rested all the time he spoke, Lady Georgina said at last,

‘Then what is my next duty? What is the thing that lies nearest to me?’

‘That, I repeat, belongs to your every-day history. No one can answer
that question but yourself. Your next duty is just to determine what
your next duty is.--Is there nothing you neglect? Is there nothing you
know you ought not to do?--You would know your duty, if you thought in
earnest about it, and were not ambitious of great things.’

‘Ah then,’ responded Lady Georgina, with an abandoning sigh, ‘I suppose
it is something very commonplace, which will make life more dreary than
ever. That cannot help me.’

‘It will, if it be as dreary as reading the newspapers to an old deaf
aunt. It will soon lead you to something more. Your duty will begin to
comfort you at once, but will at length open the unknown fountain of
life in your heart.’

Lady Georgina lifted up her head in despair, looked at Falconer through
eyes full of tears, and said vehemently,

‘Mr. Falconer, you can have no conception how wretched a life like mine
is. And the futility of everything is embittered by the consciousness
that it is from no superiority to such things that I do not care for

‘It is from superiority to such things that you do not care for them.
You were not made for such things. They cannot fill your heart. It has
whole regions with which they have no relation.’

‘The very thought of music makes me feel ill. I used to be passionately
fond of it.’

‘I presume you got so far in it that you asked, “Is there nothing more?”
 Concluding there was nothing more, and yet needing more, you turned from
it with disappointment?’

‘It is the same,’ she went on hurriedly, ‘with painting, modelling,
reading--whatever I have tried. I am sick of them all. They do nothing
for me.’

‘How can you enjoy music, Lady Georgina, if you are not in harmony with
the heart and source of music?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Until the human heart knows the divine heart, it must sigh and complain
like a petulant child, who flings his toys from him because his mother
is not at home. When his mother comes back to him he finds his toys are
good still. When we find Him in our own hearts, we shall find him in
everything, and music will be deep enough then, Lady Georgina. It is
this that the Brahmin and the Platonist seek; it is this that the mystic
and the anchorite sigh for; towards this the teaching of the greatest of
men would lead us: Lord Bacon himself says, “Nothing can fill, much less
extend the soul of man, but God, and the contemplation of God.” It is
Life you want. If you will look in your New Testament, and find out
all that our Lord says about Life, you will find the only cure for your
malady. I know what such talk looks like; but depend upon it, what I am
talking about is something very different from what you fancy it. Anyhow
to this you must come, one day or other.’

‘But how am I to gain this indescribable good, which so many seek, and
so few find?’

‘Those are not my words,’ said Falconer emphatically. ‘I should have
said--“which so few yet seek; but so many shall at length find.”’

‘Do not quarrel with my foolish words, but tell me how I am to find
it; for I suppose there must be something in what so many good people

‘You thought I could give you help?’

‘Yes. That is why I came to you.’

‘Just so. I cannot give you help. Go and ask it of one who can.’

‘Speak more plainly.’

‘Well then: if there be a God, he must hear you if you call to him.
If there be a father, he will listen to his child. He will teach you

‘But I don’t know what I want.’

‘He does: ask him to tell you what you want. It all comes back to the
old story: “If ye then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your
children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the holy Spirit
to them that ask him!” But I wish you would read your New Testament--the
Gospels I mean: you are not in the least fit to understand the Epistles
yet. Read the story of our Saviour as if you had never read it before.
He at least was a man who seemed to have that secret of life after the
knowledge of which your heart is longing.’

Lady Georgina rose. Her eyes were again full of tears. Falconer too was
moved. She held out her hand to him, and without another word left the
room. She never came there again.

Her manner towards Falconer was thereafter much altered. People said
she was in love with him: if she was, it did her no harm. Her whole
character certainly was changed. She sought the friendship of Miss St.
John, who came at length to like her so much, that she took her with
her in some of her walks among the poor. By degrees she began to do
something herself after a quiet modest fashion. But within a few years,
probably while so engaged, she caught a fever from which she did not
recover. It was not till after her death that Falconer told any one of
the interview he had had with her. And by that time I had the honour of
being very intimate with him. When she knew that she was dying, she sent
for him. Mary St. John was with her. She left them together. When he
came out, he was weeping.


Falconer lived on and laboured on in London. Wherever he found a man
fitted for the work, he placed him in such office as De Fleuri already
occupied. At the same time he went more into society, and gained the
friendship of many influential people. Besides the use he made of this
to carry out plans for individual rescue, it enabled him to bestir
himself for the first and chief good which he believed it was in
the power of the government to effect for the class amongst which he
laboured. As I have shown, he did not believe in any positive good
being effected save through individual contact--through faith, in a
word--faith in the human helper--which might become a stepping-stone
through the chaotic misery towards faith in the Lord and in his Father.
All that association could do, as such, was only, in his judgment, to
remove obstructions from the way of individual growth and education--to
put better conditions within reach--first of all, to provide that the
people should be able, if they would, to live decently. He had no notion
of domestic inspection, or of offering prizes for cleanliness and order.
He knew that misery and wretchedness are the right and best condition
of those who live so that misery and wretchedness are the natural
consequences of their life. But there ought always to be the possibility
of emerging from these; and as things were, over the whole country, for
many who would if they could, it was impossible to breathe fresh air, to
be clean, to live like human beings. And he saw this difficulty ever
on the increase, through the rapacity of the holders of small
house-property, and the utter wickedness of railway companies, who
pulled down every house that stood in their way, and did nothing to
provide room for those who were thus ejected--most probably from a
wretched place, but only, to be driven into a more wretched still. To
provide suitable dwellings for the poor he considered the most pressing
of all necessary reforms. His own fortune was not sufficient for doing
much in this way, but he set about doing what he could by purchasing
houses in which the poor lived, and putting them into the hands of
persons whom he could trust, and who were immediately responsible to him
for their proceedings: they had to make them fit for human abodes,
and let them to those who desired better accommodation, giving the
preference to those already tenants, so long as they paid their
reasonable rent, which he considered far more necessary for them to do
than for him to have done.

One day he met by appointment the owner of a small block, of which
he contemplated the purchase. They were in a dreadfully dilapidated
condition, a shame that belonged more to the owner than the inhabitants.
The man wanted to sell the houses, or at least was willing to sell them,
but put an exorbitant price upon them. Falconer expostulated.

‘I know the whole of the rent these houses could bring you in,’ he said,
‘without making any deduction for vacancies and defalcations: what you
ask is twice as much as they would fetch if the full rent were certain.’

The poor wretch looked up at him with the leer of a ghoul. He was
dressed like a broken-down clergyman, in rusty black, with a neck-cloth
of whitey-brown.

‘I admit it,’ he said in good English, and a rather educated tone. ‘Your
arguments are indisputable. I confess besides that so far short does
the yield come of the amount on paper, that it would pay me to give them
away. But it’s the funerals, sir, that make it worth my while. I’m an
undertaker, as you may judge from my costume. I count back-rent in
the burying. People may cheat their landlord, but they can’t cheat the
undertaker. They must be buried. That’s the one indispensable--ain’t it,

Falconer had let him run on that he might have the measure of him. Now
he was prepared with his reply.

‘You’ve told me your profession,’ he said: ‘I’ll tell you mine. I am a
lawyer. If you don’t let me have those houses for five hundred, which is
the full market value, I’ll prosecute you. It’ll take a good penny from
the profits of your coffins to put those houses in a state to satisfy
the inspector.’

The wretched creature was struck dumb. Falconer resumed.

‘You’re the sort of man that ought to be kept to your pound of filthy
flesh. I know what I say; and I’ll do it. The law costs me nothing. You
won’t find it so.’

The undertaker sold the houses, and no longer in that quarter killed the
people he wanted to bury.

I give this as a specimen of the kind of thing Falconer did. But he took
none of the business part in his own hands, on the same principle on
which Paul the Apostle said it was unmeet for him to leave the preaching
of the word in order to serve tables--not that the thing was beneath
him, but that it was not his work so long as he could be doing more
important service still.

De Fleuri was one of his chief supports. The whole nature of the man
mellowed under the sun of Falconer, and over the work that Falconer
gave him to do. His daughter recovered, and devoted herself to the same
labour that had rescued her. Miss St. John was her superior. By degrees,
without any laws or regulations, a little company was gathered, not of
ladies and gentlemen, but of men and women, who aided each other, and
without once meeting as a whole, laboured not the less as one body in
the work of the Lord, bound in one by bonds that had nothing to do with
cobweb committee meetings or public dinners, chairmen or wine-flushed
subscriptions. They worked like the leaven of which the Lord spoke.

But De Fleuri, like almost every one in the community I believe, had his
own private schemes subserving the general good. He knew the best men of
his own class and his own trade, and with them his superior intellectual
gifts gave him influence. To them he told the story of Falconer’s
behaviour to him, of Falconer’s own need, and of his hungry-hearted
search. An enthusiasm of help seized upon the men. To aid your superior
is such a rousing gladness!--Was anything of this in St. Paul’s mind
when he spoke of our being fellow-workers with God? I only put the
question.--Each one of these had his own trustworthy acquaintances, or
neighbours, rather--for like finds out like all the world through, as
well as over--and to them he told the story of Falconer and his father,
so that in all that region of London it became known that the man who
loved the poor was himself needy, and looked to the poor for their help.
Without them he could not be made perfect.

Some of my readers may be inclined to say that it was dishonourable in
Falconer to have occasioned the publishing of his father’s disgrace.
Such may recall to their minds that concealment is no law of the
universe; that, on the contrary, the Lord of the Universe said once:
‘There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed.’ Was the disgrace
of Andrew Falconer greater because a thousand men knew it, instead of
forty, who could not help knowing it? Hope lies in light and knowledge.
Andrew would be none the worse that honest men knew of his vice: they
would be the first to honour him if he should overcome it. If he would
not--the disgrace was just, and would fall upon his son only in sorrow,
not in dishonour. The grace of God--the making of humanity by his
beautiful hand--no, heart--is such, that disgrace clings to no man after
repentance, any more than the feet defiled with the mud of the world
come yet defiled from the bath. Even the things that proceed out of the
man, and do terribly defile him, can be cast off like the pollution of
the leper by a grace that goes deeper than they; and the man who
says, ‘I have sinned: I will sin no more,’ is even by the voice of his
brothers crowned as a conqueror, and by their hearts loved as one who
has suffered and overcome. Blessing on the God-born human heart! Let the
hounds of God, not of Satan, loose upon sin;--God only can rule the dogs
of the devil;--let them hunt it to the earth; let them drag forth the
demoniac to the feet of the Man who loved the people while he let the
devil take their swine; and do not talk about disgrace from a thing
being known when the disgrace is that the thing should exist.

One night I was returning home from some poor attempts of my own. I had
now been a pupil of Falconer for a considerable time, but having my own
livelihood to make, I could not do so much as I would.

It was late, nearly twelve o’clock, as I passed through the region of
Seven Dials. Here and there stood three or four brutal-looking men, and
now and then a squalid woman with a starveling baby in her arms, in
the light of the gin-shops. The babies were the saddest to
see--nursery-plants already in training for the places these men and
women now held, then to fill a pauper’s grave, or perhaps a perpetual
cell--say rather, for the awful spaces of silence, where the railway
director can no longer be guilty of a worse sin than house-breaking,
and his miserable brother will have no need of the shelter of which
he deprived him. Now and then a flaunting woman wavered past--a
night-shade, as our old dramatists would have called her. I could hardly
keep down an evil disgust that would have conquered my pity, when a
scanty white dress would stop beneath a lamp, and the gay dirty bonnet,
turning round, reveal a painted face, from which shone little more than
an animal intelligence, not brightened by the gin she had been drinking.
Vague noises of strife and of drunken wrath flitted around me as I
passed an alley, or an opening door let out its evil secret. Once I
thought I heard the dull thud of a blow on the head. The noisome vapours
were fit for any of Swedenborg’s hells. There were few sounds, but the
very quiet seemed infernal. The night was hot and sultry. A skinned cat,
possibly still alive, fell on the street before me. Under one of the
gas-lamps lay something long: it was a tress of dark hair, torn perhaps
from some woman’s head: she had beautiful hair at least. Once I heard
the cry of murder, but where, in that chaos of humanity, right or left,
before or behind me, I could not even guess. Home to such regions,
from gorgeous stage-scenery and dresses, from splendid, mirror-beladen
casinos, from singing-halls, and places of private and prolonged
revelry, trail the daughters of men at all hours from midnight till
morning. Next day they drink hell-fire that they may forget. Sleep
brings an hour or two of oblivion, hardly of peace; but they must wake,
worn and miserable, and the waking brings no hope: their only known help
lies in the gin-shop. What can be done with them? But the secrets God
keeps must be as good as those he tells.

But no sights of the night ever affected me so much as walking through
this same St. Giles’s on a summer Sunday morning, when church-goers
were in church. Oh! the faces that creep out into the sunshine then,
and haunt their doors! Some of them but skins drawn over skulls, living
Death’s-heads, grotesque in their hideousness.

I was not very far from Falconer’s abode. My mind was oppressed with sad
thoughts and a sense of helplessness. I began to wonder what Falconer
might at that moment be about. I had not seen him for a long time--a
whole fortnight. He might be at home: I would go and see, and if there
were light in his windows I would ring his bell.

I went. There was light in his windows. He opened the door himself, and
welcomed me. I went up with him, and we began to talk. I told him of my
sad thoughts, and my feelings of helplessness.

‘He that believeth shall not make haste,’ he said. ‘There is plenty of
time. You must not imagine that the result depends on you, or that a
single human soul can be lost because you may fail. The question, as
far as you are concerned, is, whether you are to be honoured in having a
hand in the work that God is doing, and will do, whether you help him
or not. Some will be honoured: shall it be me? And this honour gained
excludes no one: there is work, as there is bread in his house, enough
and to spare. It shows no faith in God to make frantic efforts or
frantic lamentations. Besides, we ought to teach ourselves to see, as
much as we may, the good that is in the condition of the poor.’

‘Teach me to see that, then,’ I said. ‘Show me something.’

‘The best thing is their kindness to each other. There is an absolute
divinity in their self-denial for those who are poorer than themselves.
I know one man and woman, married people, who pawned their very
furniture and wearing apparel to procure cod-liver oil for a girl dying
in consumption. She was not even a relative, only an acquaintance of
former years. They had found her destitute and taken her to their own
poor home. There are fathers and mothers who will work hard all the
morning, and when dinner-time comes “don’t want any,” that there may be
enough for their children--or half enough, more likely. Children will
take the bread out of their own mouths to put in that of their sick
brother, or to stick in the fist of baby crying for a crust--giving only
a queer little helpless grin, half of hungry sympathy, half of pleasure,
as they see it disappear. The marvel to me is that the children turn
out so well as they do; but that applies to the children in all ranks
of life. Have you ever watched a group of poor children, half-a-dozen of
them with babies in their arms?’

‘I have, a little, and have seen such a strange mixture of carelessness
and devotion.’

‘Yes. I was once stopped in the street by a child of ten, with face
absolutely swollen with weeping, asking me to go and see baby who was
very ill. She had dropped him four times that morning, but had no idea
that could have done him any harm. The carelessness is ignorance.
Their form of it is not half so shocking as that of the mother who will
tremble at the slightest sign of suffering in her child, but will hear
him lie against his brother without the smallest discomfort. Ah! we
shall all find, I fear, some day, that we have differed from each other,
where we have done best, only in mode--perhaps not even in degree. A
grinding tradesman takes advantage of the over supply of labour to
get his work done at starvation prices: I owe him love, and have never
thought of paying my debt except in boundless indignation.’

‘I wish I had your faith and courage, Mr. Falconer,’ I said.

‘You are in a fair way of having far more,’ he returned. ‘You are not so
old as I am, by a long way. But I fear you are getting out of spirits.
Is to-morrow a hard day with you?’

‘I have next to nothing to do to-morrow.’

‘Then will you come to me in the evening? We will go out together.’

Of course I was only too glad to accept the proposal. But our talk did
not end here. The morning began to shine before I rose to leave him; and
before I reached my abode it was broad daylight. But what a different
heart I carried within me! And what a different London it was outside of
me! The scent of the hayfields came on the hardly-moving air. It was a
strange morning--a new day of unknown history--in whose young light the
very streets were transformed, looking clear and clean, and wondrously
transparent in perspective, with unknown shadows lying in unexpected
nooks, with projection and recess, line and bend, as I had never seen
them before. The light was coming as if for the first time since the
city sprang into being--as if a thousand years had rolled over it in
darkness and lamplight, and now, now, after the prayers and longings of
ages, the sun of God was ascending the awful east, and the spirit-voice
had gone forth: ‘Arise, shine, for thy light is come.’

It was a well-behaved, proper London through which I walked home. Here
and there, it is true, a debauched-looking man, with pale face, and
red sleepy eyes, or a weary, withered girl, like a half-moon in the
daylight, straggled somewhither. But they looked strange to the London
of the morning. They were not of it. Alas for those who creep to their
dens, like the wild beasts when the sun arises, because the light has
shaken them out of the world. All the horrid phantasms of the Valley of
the Shadow of Death that had risen from the pit with the vaporous night
had sunk to escape the arrows of the sun, once more into its bottomless
depth. If any horrid deed was doing now, how much more horrid in the
awful still light of this first hour of a summer morn! How many evil
passions now lay sunk under the holy waves of sleep! How many heartaches
were gnawing only in dreams, to wake with the brain, and gnaw in earnest
again! And over all brooded the love of the Lord Christ, who is Lord
over all blessed for ever, and shall yet cast death and hell into the
lake of fire--the holy purifying Fate.

I got through my sole engagement--a very dreary one, for surely never
were there stupider young people in the whole region of rank than those
to whom duty and necessity sent me on the Wednesday mornings of that
London season--even with some enjoyment. For the lessons Falconer had
been giving me clung to me and grew on me until I said thus to myself:
‘Am I to believe only for the poor, and not for the rich? Am I not to
bear with conceit even, hard as it is to teach? for is not this conceit
itself the measure as the consequence of incapacity and ignorance? They
cannot help being born stupid, any more than some of those children in
St. Giles’s can help being born preternaturally, unhealthily clever.
I am going with my friend this evening: that hope is enough to make
me strong for one day at least.’ So I set myself to my task, and that
morning wiled the first gleam of intelligent delight out of the eyes
of one poor little washed-out ladyship. I could have kissed her from
positive thankfulness.

The day did wear over. The evening did come. I was with my friend--for
friend I could call him none the less and all the more that I worshipped

‘I have business in Westminster,’ he said, ‘and then on the other side
of the water.’

‘I am more and more astonished at your knowledge of London, Mr.
Falconer,’ I said. ‘You must have a great faculty for places.’

‘I think rather the contrary,’ he answered. ‘But there is no end to
the growth of a faculty, if one only uses it--especially when his whole
nature is interested in its efficiency, and makes demands upon it.
The will applies to the intellect; the intellect communicates its
necessities to the brain; the brain bestirs itself, and grows more
active; the eyes lend their aid; the memory tries not to be behind; and
at length you have a man gifted in localities.’

‘How is it that people generally can live in such quiet ignorance of the
regions that surround them, and the kind of humanity so near them?’ I
said after a pause.

‘It does seem strange. It is as if a man should not know who were in his
own house. Would-be civilization has for the very centre of its citadel,
for the citizens of its innermost city, for the heart around which
the gay and fashionable, the learned, the artistic, the virtuous, the
religious are gathered, a people some of whom are barbarous, some cruel,
many miserable, many unhappy, save for brief moments not of hope, but
of defiance, distilled in the alembic of the brain from gin: what better
life could steam up from such a Phlegethon! Look there: “Cream of the
Valley!” As if the mocking serpent must with sweet words of Paradise
deepen the horrors of the hellish compound, to which so many of our
brothers and sisters made in the image of God, fly as to their only
Saviour from the misery of feeling alive.’

‘How is it that the civilized people of London do not make a
simultaneous inroad upon the haunts of the demons and drive them out?’

‘It is a mercy they do not. They would only do infinite mischief. The
best notion civilization seems to have is--not to drive out the demons,
but to drive out the possessed; to take from them the poor refuges they
have, and crowd them into deeper and more fetid hells--to make room for
what?--more and more temples in which Mammon may be worshipped. The
good people on the other hand invade them with foolish tracts, that lie
against God; or give their money to build churches, where there is
as yet no people that will go to them. Why, the other day, a young
clergyman bored me, and would have been boring me till now, I think, if
I would have let him, to part with a block of my houses, where I know
every man, woman, and child, and keep them in comparative comfort and
cleanliness and decency, to say no more, that he might pull them down
and build a church upon the site--not quite five minutes’ walk from the
church where he now officiates.’

It was a blowing, moon-lit night. The gaslights flickered and wavered in
the gusts of wind. It was cold, very cold for the season. Even Falconer
buttoned his coat over his chest. He got a few paces in advance of me
sometimes, when I saw him towering black and tall and somewhat gaunt,
like a walking shadow. The wind increased in violence. It was a
north-easter, laden with dust, and a sense of frozen Siberian steppes.
We had to stoop and head it at the corners of streets. Not many people
were out, and those who were, seemed to be hurrying home. A few little
provision-shops, and a few inferior butchers’ stalls were still open.
Their great jets of gas, which looked as if they must poison the meat,
were flaming fierce and horizontal, roaring like fiery flags, and anon
dying into a blue hiss. Discordant singing, more like the howling of
wild beasts, came from the corner houses, which blazed like the gates
of hell. Their doors were ever on the swing, and the hot odours of death
rushed out, and the cold blast of life rushed in. We paused a little
before one of them--over the door, upon the sign, was in very deed the
name Death. There were ragged women within who took their half-dead
babies from their bare, cold, cheerless bosoms, and gave them of the
poison of which they themselves drank renewed despair in the name of
comfort. They say that most of the gin consumed in London is drunk by
women. And the little clay-coloured baby-faces made a grimace or two,
and sank to sleep on the thin tawny breasts of the mothers, who having
gathered courage from the essence of despair, faced the scowling night
once more, and with bare necks and hopeless hearts went--whither? Where
do they all go when the gin-hells close their yawning jaws? Where do
they lie down at night? They vanish like unlawfully risen corpses in
the graves of cellars and garrets, in the charnel-vaults of
pestiferously-crowded lodging-houses, in the prisons of police-stations,
under dry arches, within hoardings; or they make vain attempts to rest
the night out upon door-steps or curbstones. All their life long man
denies them the one right in the soil which yet is so much theirs, that
once that life is over, he can no longer deny it--the right of room
to lie down. Space itself is not allowed to be theirs by any right of
existence: the voice of the night-guardian commanding them to move on,
is as the howling of a death-hound hunting them out of the air into
their graves.

In St. James’s we came upon a group around the gates of a great house.
Visitors were coming and going, and it was a show to be had for nothing
by those who had nothing to pay. Oh! the children with clothes too
ragged to hold pockets for their chilled hands, that stared at the
childless duchess descending from her lordly carriage! Oh! the wan
faces, once lovely as theirs, it may be, that gazed meagre and pinched
and hungry on the young maidens in rose-colour and blue, tripping
lightly through the avenue of their eager eyes--not yet too envious of
unattainable felicity to gaze with admiring sympathy on those who seemed
to them the angels, the goddesses of their kind. ‘O God!’ I thought, but
dared not speak, ‘and thou couldst make all these girls so lovely! Thou
couldst give them all the gracious garments of rose and blue and white
if thou wouldst! Why should these not be like those? They are hungry
even, and wan and torn. These too are thy children. There is wealth
enough in thy mines and in thy green fields, room enough in thy starry
spaces, O God!’ But a voice--the echo of Falconer’s teaching, awoke in
my heart--‘Because I would have these more blessed than those, and those
more blessed with them, for they are all my children.’

By the Mall we came into Whitehall, and so to Westminster Bridge.
Falconer had changed his mind, and would cross at once. The present
bridge was not then finished, and the old bridge alongside of it was
still in use for pedestrians. We went upon it to reach the other side.
Its centre rose high above the other, for the line of the new bridge
ran like a chord across the arc of the old. Through chance gaps in the
boarding between, we looked down on the new portion which was as
yet used by carriages alone. The moon had, throughout the evening,
alternately shone in brilliance from amidst a lake of blue sky, and been
overwhelmed in billowy heaps of wind-tormented clouds. As we stood on
the apex of the bridge, looking at the night, the dark river, and
the mass of human effort about us, the clouds gathered and closed and
tumbled upon her in crowded layers. The wind howled through the arches
beneath, swept along the boarded fences, and whistled in their