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Title: Son of the Soil
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. Margaret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                   A

                           SON OF THE SOIL.



                                   A

                           SON OF THE SOIL.


                                  BY

                            MRS. OLIPHANT.


                            _NEW EDITION._


                                London:

                           MACMILLAN AND CO.

                                 1872.

       _The Right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved._



                                LONDON:

                 R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR, PRINTERS,

                           BREAD STREET HILL



                          A SON OF THE SOIL.



_CHAPTER I._


“I say, you boy, it always rains here, doesn’t it?--or ‘whiles
snaws’--as the aborigines say. You’re a native, ar’nt you? When do you
think the rain will go off?--do you ever have any fine weather here? I
don’t see the good of a fine country when it rains for ever and ever!
What do you do with yourselves, you people, all the year round in such a
melancholy place?”

“You see we know no better”--said the farmer of Ramore, who came in at
this moment to the porch of his house, where the young gentleman was
standing, confronted by young Colin, who would have exploded in boyish
rage before now, if he had not been restrained by the knowledge that his
mother was within hearing--“and, wet or dry, the country-side comes
natural to them it belongs to. If it werena for a twinge o’ the
rheumatics noo and then--and my lads are ower young for that--it’s a
grand country. If it’s nae great comfort to the purse, it’s aye a
pleasure to the e’e. Come in to the fire, and take a seat till the rain
blows by. _My_ lads,” said Colin of Ramore, with a twinkle of
approbation in his eye, “take little heed whether it’s rain or shine.”

“I’m of a different opinion,” said the stranger, “I don’t like walking
up to the ankles in those filthy roads.” He was a boy of fifteen or so,
the same age as young Colin, who stood opposite him breathing hard with
opposition and natural enmity; but the smart Etonian considered himself
much more a man of the world and of experience than Colin the elder, and
looked on the boy with calm contempt. “I’ll be glad to dry my boots if
you’ll let me,” he said, holding up a foot which beside young Colin’s
sturdy hoof looked preternaturally small and dainty.

“A fit like a lassie’s!” the country boy said to himself with
responsive disdain. Young Colin laughed half aloud as his natural enemy
followed his father into the house.

“He’s feared to wet his feet,” said the lad, with a chuckle of mockery,
holding forth his own, which to his consciousness were never dry. Any
moralist, who had happened to be at hand, might have suggested to Colin
that a faculty for acquiring and keeping up wet feet during every hour
of the twenty-four which he did not spend in bed was no great matter to
brag of: but then moralists did not flourish at Ramore. The boy made a
rush out through the soft-falling incessant rain, dashed down upon the
shingly beach with an impetuosity which dispersed the wet pebbles on all
sides of him, and jumping into the boat, pushed out upon the loch, not
for any particular purpose, but to relieve a little his indignation and
boyish discomfiture. The boat was clumsy enough, and young Colin’s
“style” in rowing was not of a high order, but it caught the quick eye
of the Eton lad, as he glanced out from the window.

“That fellow can row,” he said to himself, but aloud, with the
_nonchalance_ of his race, as he went forward, passing the great cradle
which stood on one side of the fire, to the chair which the farmer’s
wife had placed for him. She received with many kindly homely
invitations and welcomes the serene young potentate as he approached her
fireside throne.

“Come awa--come in to the fire. The roads are past speaking o’ in this
soft weather. Maybe the young gentleman would like to change his feet,”
said the soft-voiced woman, who sat in a wicker-work easy chair, with a
very small baby, and cheeks still pale from its recent arrival. She had
soft, dark, beaming eyes, and the softest pink flush coming and going
over her face, and was wrapped in a shawl, and evidently considered an
invalid--which, for the mother of five or six children, and the mistress
of Ramore Farm, was an honourable but inconvenient luxury. “I could
bring you a pair of my Colin’s stockings in a moment. I dare say they’re
about your size--or if you would like to gang ben the house into the
spare room, and change them----”

“Oh, thanks; but there is no need for that,” said the visitor, with a
slight blush, being conscious, as even an Eton boy could not help being,
of the humorous observation of the farmer, who had come in behind him,
and in whose eyes it was evident the experienced “man” of the fifth form
was a less sublime personage than he gave himself credit for being. “I
am living down at the Castle,” he added, hastily; “I lost my way on the
hills, and got dreadfully wet; otherwise I don’t mind the rain.” And he
held the dainty boots, which steamed in the heat, to the fire.

“But you maunna gang out to the hills in such slight things again,” said
Mrs. Campbell, looking at them compassionately; “I’ll get you a pair of
my Colin’s strong shoes and stockings that’ll keep your feet warm. I’ll
just lay the wean in the cradle, and you can slip them off the time I’m
away,” said the good woman, with a passing thought for the boy’s
bashfulness. But the farmer caught her by the arm and kept her in her
chair.

“I suppose there’s mair folk than you about the house, Jeannie?” said
her husband, “though you’re so positive about doing everything yoursel’.
I’ll tell the lass; and I advise you, young gentleman, not to be
shamefaced, but take the wife’s advice. It’s a great quality o’ hers to
ken what’s good for other folk.”

“I ken by mysel’,” said the gentle-voiced wife, with a smile--and she
got up and went softly to the window, while the young stranger took her
counsel. “There’s Colin out in the boat again, in a perfect pour of
rain,” she said to herself, with a gentle sigh--“he’ll get his death o’
cauld; but, to be sure, if he had been to get his death that gate, it
would have come afore now. There’s a great deal of rain in this country,
you’ll be thinking?--a’ the strangers say sae; but I canna see that they
bide away for a’ that, though they’re aye grumbling. And if you’re fond
o’ the hills, you’ll get reconciled to the rain. I’ve seen mony an
afternoon when there was scarce an hour without two or three rainbows,
and the mist liftin’ and droppin’ again, as if it was set to music. I
canna say I have any experience mysel’, but so far as ane can imagine, a
clear sky and a shining sun, day after day, would be awfu’
monotonous--like a face wi’ a set smile. I tell the bairns it’s as guid
as a fairy-tale to watch the clouds--and it’s no common sunshine when it
does come, but a kind o’ wistful light, as if he couldna tell whether he
ever might see you again; but it’s awfu’ when the crops are out, as they
are the noo--the Lord forgive me for speaking as if I liked the rain!”

And by this time her boy-visitor, having succeeded, much to his comfort
and disgust, in replacing his wet _chaussures_ by Colin’s dry, warm
stockings and monstrous shoes, Mrs. Campbell came back to her seat and
lifted her baby again on her knee. The baby was of angelic disposition,
and perfectly disposed to make itself comfortable in its cradle, but the
usually active mother evidently made it a kind of excuse to herself for
her compulsory repose.

“The wife gets easy to her poetry,” said the farmer, with a smile,
“which is pleasant enough to hear, though it doesn’t keep the grain from
sprouting. You’re fond o’ the hills, you Southland folk? You’ll be from
level land yoursel’, I reckon?--where a’ the craps were safe housed
afore the weather broke? We have nae particular reason to complain yet,
if we could but make sure o’ a week or twa’s dry weather. It’ll be the
holidays still with you?”

“Yes,” said young Frankland, slightly disgusted at being so calmly set
down as a schoolboy.

“I hear there’s some grand schools in England,” said Mrs. Campbell; “no’
that they’re to compare wi’ Edinburgh, I suppose? Colin, there’s some
sherry wine in the press; I think a glass wouldna’ harm the young
gentleman after his wetting. He’ll take something any-way, if you would
tell Jess. It’s hungry work climbing our hills for a laddie like you--at
least if I may reckon by my ain laddies that are aye ready at meal
times,” said the farmer’s wife, with a gracious smile that would not
have misbecome a duchess. “You’ll be at ane o’ the great schools, I
suppose? I aye like to learn what I can when there’s ony opportunity. I
would like my Colin to get a’ the advantages, for he’s well worthy o’ a
good education, though we’re rather out of the way of it here.”

“I am at Eton,” said the English boy, who could scarcely refrain from a
little ridicule at the idea of sharing “a’ the advantages” of that
distinguished foundation with a colt like young Colin; “but I should
think you would find it too far off to send your son there,” he added,
all his good breeding being unable to smother a slight laugh as he
looked round the homely apartment, and wondered what “all the fellows”
would say to a schoolfellow from Ramore.

“Nae occasion to laugh, young gentleman,” said Colin the elder; “there’s
been Lord Chancellors o’ England, and generals o’ a’ the forces, that
have come out of houses nae better than this. I am just as ye find me,
but I wouldna’ say what might befall our Colin. In this country there’s
nae law to bind a man, to the same line o’ life as his fathers. Despise
naebody, my man, or you may live to be despised in your turn.”

“I beg your pardon,” said young Frankland, blushing hotly, and feeling
Colin’s shoes weigh upon his feet like lead; “I did not intend----”

“No, no,” said Mrs. Campbell, soothingly; “it’s the maister that takes
up fancies; but nae doubt Eton is far ower expensive for the like of us,
and a bit callant like you may laugh without ony offence. When Colin
comes to be a man he’ll make his ain company, or I’m mista’en; but I’ve
no wish to pit him amang lords and gentlemen’s sons that would jeer at
his homely ways. And they tell me there’s schules in Edinburgh far afore
onything that’s kent in England--besides the college,” said the mother,
with a little pride; “our Colin’s done with his schuling. Education
takes longer wi’ the like of you. After Martinmas he’s gaun in to
Glasgow to begin his _course_.”

To this proud intimation the young visitor listened in silence, not
being able to connect the roughshod lad in the boat with a University,
whatever might be its form. He addressed himself instead to the scones
and butter which Jess the servant, a handsome, powerful woman of five
feet eight or so, had set before him on the table. Jess lingered a
little, ere she left the room, to pinch the baby’s cheeks, and say,
“Bless the lamb! eh, what a guid bairn!” with patriarchal friendly
familiarity. Meanwhile the farmer sat down, with a thump which made it
creak, upon the large old haircloth sofa which filled up one end of the
room.

“I’ve heard there’s a great difference between our colleges and the
colleges in England,” said Colin. “Wi’ you they dinna train a lad to
onything in particular; wi’ us it’s a’ for a profession,--the kirk, or
the law, or physic, as it may be,--a far mair sensible system. I’m no
sure it’s just civil, though,” said the farmer, with a quaint mingling
of Scotch complacency and Scotch politeness, “to talk to a stranger of
naething but the inferiority o’ his ain country. It may be a’ true
enough, but there’s pleasanter topics o’ discourse. The Castle’s a
bonnie situation? and if you’re fond o’ the water, yachting, and
boating, and that kind o’ thing, there’s grand opportunity amang our
lochs.”

“We’ve got a yacht,” said the boy, who found the scones much to his
taste, and began to feel a glow of comfort diffusing itself through his
inner man--“the fastest sailer I know. We made a little run yesterday
down to the Kyles; but Sir Thomas prefers the grouse, though it’s
awfully hard work, I can tell you, going up those hills. It’s so beastly
wet,” said the young hero. “I never was down here before; but Sir Thomas
comes every year to the Highlands; he likes it--he’s as strong as a
horse--but I prefer the yacht, for my part.”

“And who’s Sir Thomas, if ane may speer--some friend?” said the farmer’s
wife.

“Oh--he’s my father!” said the Etonian; and a natural flush of
shamefacedness at acknowledging such a relationship rose upon the
countenance of the British boy.

“Your father?” said Mrs. Campbell, with some amazement, “that’s an awfu’
queer way to speak of your father; and have you ony brothers and sisters
that you’re this lang distance off your lane,--and your mamma maybe
anxious about you?” continued the kind mother, with a wistful look of
inquiry. She was prepared to be sorry for him, concluding that a boy who
spoke of his father in such terms, must be motherless, and a neglected
child. It was the most tender kind of curiosity which animated the good
woman. She formed a theory about the lad on the spot, as women do, and
concluded that his cruel father paid no regard to him, and that the
boy’s heart had been hardened by neglect and want of love. “Figure our
Colin ca’ing the maister Mr. Campbell!” she said to herself, and looked
very pitifully at young Frankland, who ate his scone without any
consciousness of her amiable imaginations.

“Oh, I’m not afraid,” said the calm youth. “She knows better; there’s
ten of us, and some one of the family comes to grief most days, you
know. She’s used to that. Besides, I’ll get home long before Sir Thomas.
It’s only four now, and I suppose one could walk down from here--how
soon?” All this time he went on so steadily at the scones and the milk,
that the heart of the farmer’s wife warmed to the possessor of such a
frank and appreciative appetite.

“You might put the horse in the gig and drive the young gentleman down,”
said the soft-hearted woman; “or Colin could row him in the boat as far
as the pier. It’s a lang walk for such a callant, and you’re no thrang.
It’s awfu’ to think o’ the rain, how it’s taking the bread out of us
poor folk’s mouths; but to be sure it’s the Lord’s will--if it be na,”
said the homely speculator, “that the weather’s ane of the things that
has been permitted, for wise reasons, to fa’ into Ither Hands; and I’m
sure, judging by the way it comes just when it’s no’ wanted, ane might
think so, mony a time, in this country side. But ah! it’s sinfu’ to
speak,--and look at yon bonnie rainbow,” she continued, turning to the
window with her baby in her arms.

Young Frankland got up slowly as he finished his scone. He was only
partially sensible of the extreme beauty of the scene before him; but
the farmer’s wife stood with her baby in her arms, with hidden lights
kindling in her soft eyes, expanding and beaming over the lovely
landscape. It did her good like a cordial; though even Colin, her
sensible husband, looked on, with a smile upon his good-humoured
countenance, and was a little amused and much puzzled, as he had been a
hundred times before--seeing his wife’s pleasure in those common and
every-day processes of nature, to know why.

Young Colin in the boat understood better,--he was lying on his oars
gazing at it the same moment; arrested in his petulant boyish thoughts,
as she had been in her anxieties, the lad came out of, and lost himself
in the scene. The sun had burst out suddenly upon the noble range of
hills which stretched across the upper end of the loch--that wistful
tender sun which shone out always, dazzling with pathetic gleams of
sudden love in this country, “as if he couldna tell whether he might
ever see you again,” as Mrs. Campbell said--and, just catching the
skirts of the rain, had flung a double rainbow across the sheltered
lovely curve of the upper banks. One side of the arch stooping over the
heathery hillside, lighted it up with an unearthly glory, and the other
came down in stately columns one grand shaft within the other, with
solid magnificence and steadiness, into the water. Young Frankland at
the window could not help thinking within himself, what a beautiful
picture it would make, “if any of those painter fellows could do a
rainbow;” but as for young Colin in the boat, the impulse in his heart
was to dash up to those heavenly archways, and embrace the shining
pillar, and swing himself aloft half-boy, half-poet, to that celestial
world, where fiery columns may stand fast upon moving waters--and all is
true, but nothing real. The hills, for their share, lay very quiet,
taking no part in the momentary drama of the elements; standing passive,
letting the sudden light search them over and over, as if seeking for
hidden treasure. Just in the midst of the blackness of the rain, never
was light and joy so sweet and sudden. The farmer’s wife came away from
the window with a sigh of pleasure, as the baby stirred in her arms;
“Eh, but the world’s bonnie, bonnie!” she said to herself, with a
feeling that some event of joyful importance had just been enacted
before her. As for the boy on the loch, who, being younger, was more
abstracted from common affairs, his dream was interrupted loudly by a
call from the door: “Come in wi’ the boat; I’ve a message to gie ye for
the pier,” cried the farmer, at the top of his voice; and the country
boy started back to himself, and made a dash at his oars, and pulled
inshore as violently and unhandsomely as if the nature of his dreams had
been found out, and he was ashamed of himself. Colin forgot all the
softening influences of the scene, and all the fine thoughts that had,
unconscious to himself, come into his head, when he found that the
commission his father meant to give him was that of rowing the
stranger-boy as far as the pier, which was about three miles farther
down the loch. If disobedience had been an offence understood at Ramore,
possibly he might have refused; but neither boy nor man, however
well-inclined, is likely to succeed in doing, the first time of trying,
a kind of sin with which he has no acquaintance. To give Colin justice,
he did his best, and showed a cordial inclination to make himself
disagreeable. He came in so clumsily that the boat grounded a yard or
two off shore, and would not by any coaxing be persuaded to approach
nearer. And when young Frankland, much to his amazement, leapt on board
without wetting his feet, as the country lad maliciously intended, and
came against Colin with such force as almost to knock him down, the
young boatman thrust his passenger forward very rudely, and was as near
capsizing the boat as pride would permit him. “Sit forrit in the stern,
sit forrit. Were ye never in a boat afore, that ye think I can row and
you sitting there?” said the unchristian Colin, bringing one of the oars
heavily against his adversary’s shins.

“What the deuce do you mean by that? Give me the oar! We don’t row like
that on the Thames, I can tell you,” said the stranger; and the brief
skirmish between them for the possession of the oar having terminated
abruptly by the intervention of Colin the elder, who was still within
hearing, the two boys set off, sullenly enough, down the loch. The
rainbow was dying off by this time, the clouds rolling out again over
the hills; and the celestial pillars and heavenly archways had no
longer, as may be supposed, since this rude invasion of the real and
disagreeable, the least remnant of ground to stand upon in the thoughts
of young Colin of Ramore.



CHAPTER II.


“Ye saw the young gentleman safe to the pier? He’s a bonnie lad, though
maybe no as weel-mannered as ane would like to see,” said Mrs. Campbell.
“Keep me! such a way to name his father--Bairns maun be awfu’ neglected
in such a grand house--aye left wi’ servants, and never trained to trust
their bits of secrets to father or mother. Laddies,” said the farmer’s
wife, with a little solemnity, looking across the sleeping baby upon the
four heads of different sizes which bent over their supper at the table
before her, “mind you aye, that, right or wrong, them that’s maist
interested in whatever befalls you is them that belongs to you--maist
ready to praise if ye’ve done weel, and excuse you if ye’ve done wrang.
I hope you were civil to the strange callant, Colin, my man?”

“Oh, ay,” said young Colin, not without a movement of conscience; but he
did not think it necessary to enter into details.

“When a callant like that is pridefu’, and looks as if he thought
himself better than other folk, I hope my laddies are no the ones to
mind,” said the mistress of Ramore. “It shows he hasna had the
advantages that might have been expected. It’s nae harm to you, but a
great deal o’ harm to him. Ye dinna ken how weel off you are, you boys,”
said the mother, making a little address to them as they sat over their
supper; Little Johnnie, whose porridge was too hot for him, turned
towards her the round, wondering black eyes, which beamed out like a
pair of stray stars from his little freckled face, and through his wisps
of flaxen hair, bleached white by rain and sun; but the three others
went on very steadily with their supper, and did not disturb themselves;
“there’s aye your father at hand ready to tell ye whatever you want to
ken--no like yon poor callant, that would have to gang to a tutor, or a
servant, or something worse; no that he’s an ill laddie; but I’m aye
keen to see ye behave yoursels like gentlemen, and yon wasna ony great
specimen, as it was very easy to see.”

After this there was a pause, for none of the boys were disposed to
enter into that topic of conversation. After a little period of silence,
during which the spoons made a diversion and filled up the vacancy, they
began to find their tongues again.

“It’s awfu’ wet up on the hill,” said Archie, the second boy, “and they
say the glass is aye falling, and the corn on the Barnton fields has
been out this three weeks, and Dugald Macfarlane, he says it’s
sprouting--and oh, mother!”

“What is it, Archie?”

“The new minister came by when I was down at the smiddy with the brown
mare. You never saw such a red head. It is red enough to set the kirk on
fire. They were saying at the smiddy that naebody would stand such a
colour of hair--it’s waur than no preaching weel--and I said I thought
that too,” said the enterprising Archie; “for I’m sure I never mind ony
o’ the sermon, but I couldna forget such red hair.”

“And I saw him too,” said little Johnnie; “he clapped me on the head,
and said how was my mammaw; and I said we never ca’ed onybody mammaw,
but just mother; and then he clapped me again, and said I was a good
boy. What for was I a good boy?” said Johnnie, who was of an inquiring
and philosophical frame of mind, “because I said we didna say mammaw? or
just because it was me?”

“Because he’s a kind man, and has a kind thought for even the little
bairns,” said Mrs. Campbell, “and it wasna’ like a boy o’ mine to say an
idle word against him. Do you think they know better at the smiddy,
Archie, than here? Poor gentleman,” said the good woman, “to be a’ this
time wearyin’ and waitin’, and his heart yearnin’ within him to get a
kirk, and do his Master’s work; and then to ha’e a parcel of haverels
set up and make a faction against him because he has a red head. It
makes ane think shame o’ human nature and Scotch folk baith.”

“But he canna preach, mother,” said Colin, breaking silence almost for
the first time; “the red head is only an excuse.”

“I dinna like excuses,” said his mother, “and I never kent before that
you were a judge o’ preaching. You may come to ken better about it
yoursel before a’ ’s done. I canna but think there’s something wrang
when the like o’ that can be,” said Mrs. Campbell; “he’s studied, and
he’s learned Latin and Greek, and found out a’ the ill that can be said
about Scripture, and a’ the lies that ever have been invented against
the truth; and he’s been brought up to be a minister a’ his days, and
knows what’s expected. But as soon as word gangs about that the Earl has
promised him our kirk, there’s opposition raised. No’ that onybody kens
ony ill of him; but there’s the smith, and the wright, and Thomas Scott
o’ Lintwearie, maun lay their heads thegether--and first they say he
canna preach, and then that he’ll no’ visit, and at least, if a’thing
else fails, that he has a red head. If it was a new doctor that was
coming, wha would be heeding about the colour o’ his hair? but it’s the
minister that’s to stand by our deathbeds, and baptize our bairns, and
guide us in the right way: and we’re no to let him come in peace, or sit
down in comfort. If we canna keep him from getting the kirk, we can make
him miserable when he does get it. Eh, bairns; I think shame! and I’m
no’ so sure as I am in maist things,” said the farmer’s wife, looking up
with a consciousness of her husband’s presence, “that the maister
himsel--”

“Weel, I’m aye for popular rights,” said Colin of Ramore. He had just
come in, and had been standing behind taking off his big coat, on which
the rain glistened, and listening to all that his wife said. “But if
Colin was a man and a minister,” said the farmer with a gleam of humour,
as he drew his chair towards the fire, “and had to fight his way to a
kirk like a’ the young men now-a-days, I wouldna say I would like it.
They might object to his big mouth; and you’ve ower muckle a mouth
yoursel’, Jeanie,” continued big Colin, looking admiringly at the comely
mother of his boys. “I might tell them wha he took it from, and that if
he had as grand a flow of language as his mother, there would be nae
fear o’ him. As for the red head, the Earl himsel’s a grand example, and
if red hair’s right in an earl it canna be immoral in a minister; but
Jeanie, though you’re an awfu’ revolutionary, ye maunna meddle with the
kirk, nor take away popular rights.”

“I’m no gaun to be led into an argument,” said the mistress, with a
slightly vexed expression; “but I’m far from sure about the kirk. After
you’ve opposed the minister’s coming in, and held committees upon him,
and offered objections, and done your best to worry the life out o’ him,
and make him disgusted baith at himsel’ and you, do you think after that
ye can attend to him when you’re weel, and send for him when you’re
sick, wi’ the right feelings? But I’m no gaun to speak ony mair about
the minister. Is the corn in yet, Colin, from the East Park? Eh, bless
me! and it was cut before this wean was born?”

“We’ll have but a poor harvest after a’,” said the farmer; “it’s a
disappointment, but it canna be helpit. It’s strange how something aye
comes in, to keep a man down when he thinks he’s to have a bit margin;
but we must jog on, Jeanie, my woman. As long as we have bread to eat,
let us be thankful. And as for Colin, it needna make ony difference.
Glasgow’s no so far off, but he can still get his parritch out of the
family meal; and as long as he’s careful and diligent we’ll try and fend
for him. It’s hard work getting bread out of our hillside,” said big
Colin; “but ye may have a different life from your father’s, lad, if you
take heed to the opportunities in your hands.”

“A’ the opportunities in the world,” said Colin the younger, in a burst,
“wouldna give me a chance like yon English fellow. Everything comes
ready to him. It’s no fair. I’ll have to make up wi’ him first, and then
beat him--and so I would,” said the boy, with a glow on his face, and a
happy unconsciousness of contradicting himself, “if I had the chance.”

“Well,” said big Colin, “that’s just ane o’ the things we have to count
upon in our way of living. It’s little credit to a man to be strong,”
said the farmer, stretching his great arms with a natural consciousness
of power, “unless he has that to do that tries it. It’s harder work to
me, you may be sure, to get a pickle corn off the hillside, than for the
English farmers down in yon callant’s country to draw wheat and fatness
out o’ their furrows. But I think mysel’ nane the worse a man,”
continued Colin of Ramore, with a smile; “Sir Thomas, as the laddie ca’s
him, gangs wading over the heather a’ day after the grouse and the
paitricks; he thinks he’s playing, himsel’, but he’s as hard at work as
I am. We’re a’ bluid relations, though the family likeness whiles lies
deep and is hard to find. A man maun be fighting wi’ something. If it’s
no the dour earth that refuses him bread, it’s the wet bog and the
heather that comes atween him and his sport, as he ca’s it. Never you
mind wha’s before you on the road. Make up to him, Colin. Many a day
he’ll stray out o’ the path gathering straws to divert himsel’, when
you’ve naething to do but to push on.”

“Eh, but I wouldna like a laddie o’ mine to think,” interrupted his
mother, eagerly, “that there’s nae guid but getting on in the world.
I’ll not have my bairns learn ony such lesson; laddies,” said the
farmer’s wife, in all the solemnity of her innocence, “mind you this
aboon a’. You might be princes the morn, and no as good men as your
father. There’s nae Sir Thomases, nor Earls, nor Lord Chancellors I ever
heard tell o’, that was mair thought upon nor wi’ better reason----”

At this moment Jess entered from the kitchen, to suggest that it was
bedtime.

“And lang enough for the mistress to be sitting up, and she so
delicate,” said the sole servant of the house. “If ye had been in your
ain room wi’ a fire and a book to read, it would have been wiser-like,
than among a’ thae noisy laddies, wi’ the wean and a seam as if ye were
as strong as me. Maister, I wish you would speak to Colin; he’s awfu’
masterfu’; instead of gaun to his bed, like a civilized lad, yonder he
is awa’ ben to the kitchen and down by the fire to read his book, till
his hair’s like a singed sheep’s-head, and his cheeks like burning
peats. Ane canna do a hand’s-turn wi’ a parcel o’ callants about the
place day and nicht,” said Jess, in an aggrieved tone.

“And just when Archie Candlish has suppered his horses and come in for
half an hour’s crack,” said the master. “I’ll send Colin to his bed; but
dinna have ower muckle to say to Archie, he’s a rover,” continued the
good-tempered farmer, who “made allowances” for a little love-making. He
raised himself out of his arm-chair with a little hesitation, like a
great mastiff uncoiling itself out of a position of comfort, and went
slowly away as he spoke, moving off through the dimly-lighted room like
an amiable giant as he was.

“Eh, keep me!--and Archie Candlish had just that very minute lookit in
at the door,” said Jess, lifting her apron to her cheeks, which were
glowing with blushes and laughter. “No that I wanted him; but he came in
wi’ the news aboot the new minister, and noo I’ll never hear an end o’t,
and the maister will think he’s aye there.”

“If he’s a decent lad and means weel, its nae great matter,” said the
mistress; “but I dinna approve of ower mony lads. Ye may gang through
the wood and through the wood and take but a crooked stick at the end.”

“There’s naebody I ken o’ that the mistress can mean, but Bowed Jacob,”
said Jess reflectively, “and are might do waur than take him though he’s
nae great figure of a man. The siller that body makes is a miracle, and
it would be grand to live in a twa-storied house, and keep a lass; but
he’s an awfu’ Establishment man, and he micht interfere wi’ my
convictions,” said the young woman with a glimmer of humour which found
no response in the mistress’s serious eyes; for Mrs. Campbell, being of
a poetical and imaginative temperament, took most things much in
earnest, and was slow to perceive a joke.

“You shouldna speak about convictions in that light way, Jess,” said the
farmer’s wife. “I wouldna meddle wi’ them mysel’, no for a’ the wealth
o’ the parish; but though the maister and me are strong Kirk folk, ye
ken ye never were molested here.”

“To hear Archie Candlish about the new minister!” cried Jess, whose
quick ear had already ascertained that her master had paused in the
kitchen to speak to her visitor, “ye would laugh; but though it’s grand
fun for the folk, maybe it’s no so pleasant for the poor man. We put
down our names for the man we like best, us Free Kirk folk, but it’s
different in the parish. There’s Tammas Scott, he vows he’ll object to
every presentee the Earl puts in. I’m no heeding for the Earl,” said
Jesse; “he’s a dour tory and can fecht for himsel’; but eh I wouldna be
that poor minister set up there for a’ the parish to object to. I’d
rather work at a weaver’s loom or sell herrings about the country-side,
if it was me!”

“Weel, weel, things that are hard for the flesh are guid for the
spirit--or at least folk say so,” cried the mistress of Ramore.

“I dinna believe in that for my part,” said the energetic Jess, as she
lifted the wooden cradle in her strong arms. “Leave the wean still,
mistress, and draw your shawl about ye. I could carry you too, for that
matter. Eh me, I’m no o’ that way o’ thinking; when ye’re happy and weel
likit, ye’re aye good in proportion. No to gang against the words o’
Scripture,” said Jess, setting down the big cradle with a bump in her
mistress’s bedroom, and looking anxiously at the sleeping baby, which
with a little start and gape, resisted this attempt to break its
slumbers; “but eh, mistress, it’s aye my opinion that the happier folk
are the better they are. I never was as happy as in this house,”
continued the grateful handmaiden, furtively pursuing a tear into the
corner of her eye, with a large forefinger, “no that I’m meaning to say
I’m guid; but yet--”

“You might be waur,” said the mistress, with a smile. “You’ve aye a kind
heart and a blythe look, and that gangs a far way wi’ the maister and
me. But it’s time Archie Candlish was hame to his mother. When there’s
nae moon and such heavy roads, you shouldna bring a decent man three
mile out of his way at this hour o’ the nicht to see you.”

“Me? as if _I_ was wanting him,” said Jess, “and him no a word to say to
me or ony lass, but about the beasts and the new minister. I’ll be back
in half a minute; I wouldna waste my time upon a gomeril like you.”

While Jess sallied forth through the chilly passages to which the
weeping atmosphere had communicated a sensation of universal damp, the
mistress knelt down to arrange her infant more commodiously in its
homely nest. The red firelight made harmless glimmers all over her
figure, catching now and then a sidelong glance out of her eyes as she
smoothed the little pillow, and laid the tiny coverlet over the small
unconscious creature wrapt closely in webs and bands of sleep. When she
had done, she still knelt watching it as mothers will, with a smile upon
her face. After a while the beaming soft dark eyes turned to the light
with a natural attraction, to the glimmers of the fire shooting
accidental rays into all the corners, and to the steady little candle on
the mantel-shelf. The mistress looked round on all the familiar objects
of the homely low-roofed chamber. Outside, the rain fell heavily still
upon the damp and sodden country, soaking silently in the dark into the
forlorn wheat-sheaves, which had been standing in the fields to dry in
ineffectual hopefulness for past weeks. Matters did not look promising
on the farm of Ramore, and nothing had occurred to add any particular
happiness to its mistress’s lot. But happiness is perverse and follows
no rule, and Jess’s sentiment found an echo in Mrs. Campbell’s mind. As
she knelt by the cradle, her heart suddenly swelled with a consciousness
of the perfection of life and joy in her and around her. It was in
homely words enough that she gave it expression--“A’ weel, and under ae
roof,” she said to herself with exquisite dews of thankfulness in her
eyes. “And the Lord have pity on lone folk and sorrowful,” added the
tender woman, with a compassion beyond words, a yearning that all might
be glad like herself; the pity of happiness, which is of all pity, the
most divine. Her boys were saying abrupt prayers, one by one, as they
sank in succession into dreamless slumber. The master had gone out in
the rain to take one last look over his kyne and his farmyard, and see
that all was safe for the night, and Archie Candlish had just been
dismissed with a stinging jest from the kitchen door, which Jess bolted
and barred with cheerful din, singing softly to herself as she went
about the house putting up the innocent shutters, which could not have
resisted the first touch of a skilful hand. The rain was falling all
over the wet silent country; the Holy Loch gleamed like a kind of
twilight spot in the darkness, and the house of Ramore stood shut up and
hushed, no light at all to be seen but that from the open door, which
the farmer suddenly extinguished as he came in. But when that solitary
light died out from the invisible hillside, and the darkness and the
rain and the whispering night took undisturbed possession, was just the
moment when the mother within, kneeling over her cradle in the
firelight, was surprised by that sudden conscious touch of
happiness.--“Happiness? oh, ay, weel enough; we’ve a great deal to be
thankfu’ for,” said big Colin, with a little sleepy surprise; “if it
werna for the sprouting corn and the broken weather; but I dinna see
onything particular to be happy about at this minute, and I’m gaun to my
bed.”

For the prose and the poetry did not exactly understand each other at
all times, even in the primitive farm-house of Ramore.



CHAPTER III.


The internal economy of a Scotch parish is not so clearly comprehensible
now-a-days as it was in former times. Civilization itself has made
countless inroads upon the original unities everywhere, and the changes
that have come to pass within the recollection of the living generation
are almost as great though very different from those which made Scotland
during last century so picturesque in its state of transition. When
Sunday morning dawned upon the Holy Loch, it did not shine upon that
pretty rural picture of unanimous church-going so well-known to the
history of the past. The groups from the cottages took different
ways--the carriage from the Castle swept round the hill to the other
side of the parish, where there was an “English Chapel.” The reign of
opinion and liking was established in the once primitive community. Half
of the people ascended the hillside to the Free Church, while the others
wound down the side of the loch to the Kirk, which had once accommodated
the whole parish. This state of affairs had become so usual that even
polemical feeling had ceased to a great extent, and the two streams of
church-going people crossed each other placidly without recriminations.
This day, for a wonder, the sun was shining brightly, notwithstanding a
cloudy stormy sky, which now and then heaved forward a rolling mass of
vapour, and dispersed it sharply over the hills in a flying mist and
shower.

The parish church lay at the lower end of the loch, a pretty little
church built since the days when architecture had penetrated even into
Scotland. Colin of Ramore and his family were there in their pew, the
boys arranged in order of seniority between Mrs. Campbell, who sat at
the head, and the farmer himself who kept the seat at the door.
Black-eyed Johnnie, with his hair bleached white by constant exposure,
and his round eyes wandering over the walls and the pews and the pulpit
and the people, sat by his mother’s side, and the younger Colin occupied
his post of seniority by his father. They were all seated, in this
disposition, when the present occupant of the Castle, Sir Thomas
Frankland, lounged up the little aisle, with his son after him. Sir
Thomas was quite devout and respectable, a man who knew how to conduct
himself even in such a novel scene--and after all a Presbyterian church
was no novelty to the sportsman--but to Harry the aspect of everything
was new, and his curiosity was excited. It was a critical moment in the
history of the parish. The former minister had been transferred only a
few weeks before to a more important station, and the Earl, the patron,
had, according to Scotch phraseology, “presented” a new incumbent to the
living. This unhappy man was ascending the pulpit when the Franklands,
father and son, entered the church. For the Earl’s presentation by no
means implied the peaceable entrance of the new minister; he had to
preach, to give the people an opportunity of deciding whether they liked
him or not; and if they did not like him, they had the power of
“objecting,” that is, of urging special reasons for their dislike before
the Presbytery, with a certainty of making a little noise in the
district, and a reasonable probability of disgusting and mortifying the
unlucky presentee, to the point of throwing up his appointment. All this
was well known to the unfortunate man, who rose up in the pulpit as Sir
Thomas found a seat, and proceeded to read the psalm with a somewhat
embarrassed and faltering voice. He was moderately young and
well-looking, with a face, at the present moment, more agitated than was
quite harmonious with the position in which he stood: for he was quite
aware that everybody was criticizing him, and that the inflections of
his voice and the fiery tint of his hair were being noted by eager
commentators bent upon finding ground for an “objection” in everything
he said. Such a consciousness naturally does not promote ease or
comfort. His hair looked redder than ever, as a stray ray of sunshine
gleamed in upon him, and his voice took a nervous break as he looked
over the many hard unsympathetic faces which were regarding him with the
sharp curiosity and inspection of excited wits.

But while Harry Frankland made, as he thought, “an ass of himself” on
every occasion that offered--standing bolt upright when the congregation
began to sing, which they did at their leisure, seated in the usual
way--and kicking his heels in an attempt to kneel when everybody round
him rose up for the prayer, and feeling terribly red and ashamed at each
mistake, Colin the younger, of Ramore, occupied himself, like a
heartless young critic as he was, in making observations on the
minister. Colin, like his father, had a high opinion of “popular
rights.” It was his idea, somehow drawn in with the damp Highland air he
breathed, that the right of objecting to a presentee was one of the most
important privileges of a Scotch Churchman. Then, he was to be a
minister himself, and the consciousness of this fact intensified the
natural opposition which prompted the boy’s mind to resist anything and
everything that threatened to be imposed on him. Colin even listened to
the prayer, which was a thing not usual with him, that he might find out
the objectionable phrases. And to be sure there were plenty of
objectionable phrases to mar the real devotion; the vainest of vain
repetitions, well-known and familiar as household words to every Scotch
ear, demonstrated how little effect the absence of a liturgy has in
promoting fervent and individual supplications. The congregation in
general listened, like young Colin, standing up in easy attitudes, and
observing everything that passed around them with open-eyed composure.
It did not look much like common supplication, nor did it pretend to
be--for the people were but _listening_ to the minister’s prayer, which,
to tell the truth, contained various expository and remonstrative
paragraphs, which were clearly addressed to the congregation; and they
were all very glad to sit down when it was over, and clear their
throats, and prepare for the sermon, which was the real business of the
day.

“I dinna like a’ that new-fangled nonsense to begin with,” said Eben
Campbell, of Barnton, as he walked home after church, with the party
from Ramore; “naebody wants twa chapters read at one diet of worship.
The Bible’s grand at hame, but that’s no what a man gangs to the kirk
for; that, and so mony prayers--it’s naething but a great offput of
time.”

“But we never can have ower muckle o’ the word of God,” said Colin of
Ramore’s wife.

“I’m of Eben’s opinion,” said another neighbour. “We have the word o’
God at hame, and I hope we make a good use o’ it; but that’s no what we
gang to the kirk to hear. When ye see a man that’s set up in the pulpit
for anither purpose a’thegether, spending half his time in reading
chapters and ither preliminaries, I aye consider it’s a sure sign that
he hasna muckle o’ his ain to say.”

They were all walking abreast in a leisurely Sunday fashion up the loch;
the children roaming about the skirts of the older party, some in front
and some behind, occasionally making furtive investigations into the
condition of the brambles, an anti-Sabbatical occupation which was
sharply interrupted when found out--the women picking their steps along
the edges of the muddy road, with now and then a word of pleasant
gossip, while the men trudged on sturdily through the puddles,
discussing the great subject of the day.

“Some of the new folk from the Castle were in the kirk to-day,” said one
of the party,--“which is a respect to the parish the Earl doesna pay
himself. Things are terrible changed in that way since my young days.
The auld Earl, this ane’s father, was an elder in the Kirk; and gentle
and simple, we a’ said our prayers thegether--”

“I dinna approve of that expression,” said Eben of Barnton. “To speak of
saying your prayers in the kirk is pure papistry. Say your prayers at
hame, as I hope we a’ do, at the family altar, no to speak of private
devotions,” said this defender of the faith, with a glance at the
unlucky individual who had just spoken, and who was understood not to be
so regular in the article of family prayer as he ought to have been. “We
gang to the kirk to have our minds stirred up and put in remembrance. I
dinna approve of the English fashion of putting everything into the
prayers.”

“Weel, weel, I meant nae harm,” said the previous speaker. “We a’ gaed
to the Kirk, was what I meant to say; and there’s the Queen, she aye
sets a grand example. You’ll no find her driving off three or four miles
to an English Chapel. I consider it’s a great respect to the parish to
see Sir Thomas in the Castle pew.”

“I would rather see him respect the Sabbath day,” said Eben Campbell,
pointing out a little pleasure-boat, a tiny little cockleshell, with a
morsel of snow-white sail, which just then appeared in the middle of the
loch, rushing up beautifully before the wind, through the placid waters,
and lighting up the landscape with a touch of life and motion. Young
Colin was at Eben’s elbow, and followed the movement of his hand with
keen eyes. A spark of jealousy had kindled in the boy’s breast--he could
not have told why. He was not so horrified as he ought to have been at
the sight of the boat disturbing the Sunday quiet; but, with a swell of
indignation and resentment in his boyish heart, he thought of the
difference between himself and the young visitor at the Castle. It
looked symbolical to Colin. He, trudging heavily over the muddy, lengthy
road; the other, flying along in that dainty, little, bird-like boat,
with those white wings of sail, which pleased Colin’s eye in spite of
himself, carrying him on as lightly and swiftly as heart could desire.
Why should one boy have such a wonderful advantage over another? It was
the first grand problem which had puzzled and embittered Colin’s
thoughts.

“There they go!” said the boy. “It’s fine and easy, running like that
before the wind. They’ll get to the end o’ the loch before we’ve got
over a mile. That makes an awfu’ difference,” said Colin, with subdued
wrath; he was thinking of other things besides the long walk from church
and the muddy road.

“We’ll may be get home as soon, for all that,” said his father, who
guessed the boy’s thoughts; for the elder Colin’s experienced eye had
already seen that mists were rising among the hills, and that the fair
breeze would soon be fair no longer. The scene changed as if by
enchantment while the farmer spoke. Such changes come and go like breath
over the Holy Loch. The sunshine which had been making the whole
landscape into a visible paradise, vanished suddenly off the hills and
waters like a frightened thing, and a visible darkness came brooding
over the mountains, dropping lower every moment like a pall of gloom
over the lower banks and the suddenly paled and shivering loch. The
joyous little boat, which had been careering on as if by a natural
impulse of delight, suddenly changed its character along with all the
other details of the picture. The spectators saw its white sail,
fluttering like an alarmed seabird, against the black background of
cloud. Then it began to tack and waver and make awkward tremulous darts
across the darkened water. The party of pedestrians stood still to watch
it, as the position became dangerous. They knew the loch and the winds
too well to look on with composure. As for young Colin of Ramore, his
heart began to leap and swell in his boyish bosom. Was that his
adversary, the favoured rival whom he had recognised by instinct, who
was fighting for his life out there in midwater, with the storm gaining
on him, and his little vessel staggering in the wind? Colin did not hear
the remarks of the other spectators. He felt in his heart that he was
looking on at a struggle which was for life or death, and his contempt
for the skill of the amateur sailor, whose unused hands were so
manifestly unable to manage the boat, was mingled with a kind of despair
lest a stronger power should snatch this opponent of his own out of the
future strife, in which Colin had vowed to himself to be victorious.

“You fool! take in the sail,” he shouted, putting both his hands to his
mouth, forgetting how impossible it was that the sound could reach; and
then scarcely knowing what he was about, the boy rushed down to the
beach, and jumped into the nearest boat. The sound of his oars furiously
plashing through the silence was the first indication to his companions
of what he had done. And he did not even see nor hear the calls and
gestures with which he was summoned back again. His oars, and how to
get there at a flight like a bird, occupied his mind entirely. Yet even
in his anxiety he scorned to ask for help which would have carried him
so much sooner to the spot he aimed at. As this sudden sound echoed
through the profound silence, various outcries came from the group on
the bank.

“It’s tempting Providence,” cried Eben Campbell. “Yon’s a judgment on
the Sabbath-breaker,--and what can the laddie do? Come back, sir, this
moment, come back! Ye’ll never win there in time.”

As for the boy’s mother, after his first start she clasped her hands
together, and watched the boat with an interest too intense for words.
“He’s in nae danger,” she said to herself softly; and it would have been
hard to tell whether she was sorry or glad that her boy’s enterprise was
attended by no personal peril.

“Let him be,” said the farmer of Ramore, pushing aside his anxious
neighbour, who was calling Colin ineffectually but without intermission.
Colin Campbell’s face had taken a sudden crimson flush which nobody
could account for. He went off up the beach with heavy rapid steps,
scattering the shingle round his feet, to a spot exactly opposite the
struggling boat, and stood there watching with wonderful eagerness. The
little white sail was still fluttering and struggling like a distressed
bird upon the black overclouded water. Now it lurched over till the very
mast seemed to touch the loch--now recovered itself for a tremulous
moment--and finally, shivering like a living creature, gave one wild
sudden stagger, and disappeared. When the speck of white vanished out of
the black landscape, a cry came out of all their hearts; and hopeless as
it was, the very man who had been calling Colin back, rushed in his turn
to a boat, and pushed off violently into the loch. The women stood
huddled together, helpless with terror and grief. “The bit laddie! the
bit laddie!” cried one of them--“some poor woman’s bairn.” As for Mrs.
Campbell, the world grew dark round her as she strained her eyes after
Colin’s boat. She did not faint, for such was not the habit of the Holy
Loch; but she sank down suddenly on the wet green bank, and put up her
hand over her eyes as if to shade them from some imaginary sunshine, and
gazed, not seeing anything, after her boy. To see her, delicate as she
was, with the woman weakness which they all understood, seating herself
in this wild way on the wet bank, distracted the attention of her kindly
female neighbours, even from the terrible event which had just taken
place before their eyes.

“Maybe the lad can swim,” said Eben Campbell’s wife--“onyway yonder’s
your Colin running races with death to save him. But you maunna sit
here--come into Dugald Macfarlane’s house. There’s my man away in
another boat and some mair. But we canna let you sit here.”

“Eh, my Colin, I canna see my Colin,” said the mistress of Ramore; but
they led her away into the nearest cottage, notwithstanding her
reluctance. There they all stood clustering at the window, aiding the
eyes which had failed her in her weakness. Colin’s mother sat silent in
the chair where they had placed her, trembling and rocking herself to
and fro. Her heart within her was praying and crying for the boys--the
two boys whom in this moment of confused anxiety she could not
separate--her own first-born, and the stranger who was “another woman’s
bairn.” God help all women and mothers!--though Colin was safe, what
could her heart do but break at the thought of the sudden calamity which
had shut out the sunshine from another. She rocked herself to and fro,
ceasing at last to hear what they said to her, and scarcely aware of
anything except the dull clank of the oars against the boat’s side;
somebody coming or going, she knew not which--always coming or
going--never bringing certain news which was lost and which saved.

The mistress of Ramore was still in this stupor of anxiety, when young
Harry Frankland, dripping and all but insensible, was carried into
Dugald Macfarlane’s cottage. The little room became dark instantly with
such a cloud of men that it was difficult to make out how he had been
saved, or if there was indeed any life left in the lad. But Dugald
Macfarlane’s wife, who had the ferry-boat at Struan, and understood
about drowning, had bestirred herself in the meantime, and had hot
blankets and other necessaries in the inner room where big Colin
Campbell carried the boy. Then all the men about burst at once into the
narrative. “If it hadna been for little Colin o’ Ramore”--was about all
Mrs. Campbell made out of the tale. The cottage was so thronged that
there was scarcely an entrance left for the doctor and Sir Thomas who
had both been summoned by anxious messengers. By this time the storm had
come down upon the loch, and a wild sudden tempest of rain was sweeping
black across hill and water, obliterating every line of the landscape.
Half-way across, playing on the surface of the water was a bit of spar
with a scarlet rag attached to it, which made a great show glistening
over the black waves. This was all that was visible of the pleasure-boat
in which the young stranger had been bounding along so pleasantly an
hour before. The neighbours dropped off gradually, dispersing to other
adjacent houses to talk over the incident, or pushing homeward with an
indifference to the storm that was natural to the dwellers on the Holy
Loch; and it was only when she was left alone, waiting for her husband,
who was in the inner room with Sir Thomas and the saved boy, that Mrs.
Campbell perceived Colin’s bashful face gleaming in furtively at the
open door.

“It’s no so wet as it was; come away, mother, now,” said Colin, “there’s
nae fears o’ _him_?” And the lad pointed half with an assertion, half
with an inquiry, towards the inner room. It was an unlucky moment for
the shy hero, for just then big Colin of Ramore appeared with Sir Thomas
at the door.

“This is the boy that saved my son,” said Harry’s father. “You are a
brave fellow; neither he nor I will ever forget it. Let me know if there
is anything I can serve you in, and to the best of my power I will help
you as you have helped me. What does he say?”

“I say,” said Colin the younger, with fierce blushes, “that it wasna me.
I’ve done naething to be thanked for. Yon fellow swims like a fish, and
he saved himsel.”

And then there came an answering voice from the inner room--a boy’s
voice subdued out of its natural falsetto into feminine tones of
weakness, “He’s telling a lie, that fellow there,” cried the other from
his bed; “he picked me up when I was about done for. I’ll fight him if
he likes as soon as I’m able. But that’s a lie he tells you; that’s
him--that Campbell fellow there.”

Upon which young Colin of Ramore clenched his fists in his wet pockets
and faced towards the door, which Dugald Macfarlane’s wife closed
softly, looking out upon him, shaking her head and holding up a finger
to impose silence; the two fathers meanwhile looked in each other’s
faces. The English baronet and the Scotch farmer both broke into a low,
unsteady laugh, and then with an impulse of fellowship, mutually
extended their hands.

“We have nae reason to think shame of our sons,” said Colin Campbell
with his Scotch dignity; “as for service or reward that is neither here
nor there; what my boy did your boy would do if he had the chance, and
there’s nae mair to be said that I can see.”

“There’s a great deal more to be said,” said Sir Thomas; “Lady Frankland
will call on Mrs. Campbell, and thank that brave boy of yours; and if
you think I can forget such a service,--I tell you there’s a great deal
more to be said,” said the sportsman, breaking down suddenly with a
little effusion, of which he was half ashamed.

“The gentleman’s right, Colin,” said the mistress of Ramore. “God be
thanked for the two laddies! My heart was breaking for the English lady.
God be thanked! That’s a’ there is to say. But I’ll be real glad to see
that open-hearted callant when he’s well, and his mother too,” said the
farmer’s wife, turning her soft eyes upon Sir Thomas, with a gracious
response to the overflowing of his heart. Sir Thomas took off his hat to
her as respectfully as he would have done to the Queen, when she took
her husband’s strong arm, and followed Colin, who by this time, with his
hands in his pockets and his heart beating loudly, was half way to
Ramore; and now they had other topics besides that unfailing one of the
new minister to talk of on the way.



CHAPTER IV.


November weather is not cheerful on the Holy Loch. The dazzling snow on
the hills when there is sunshine, the sharp cold blue of the water, the
withered ferns and heather on the banks, give it, it is true, a new tone
of colour unknown to its placid summer beauty; but, when there is no
sunshine, as is more usual, when the mountains are folded in dark mists,
and the rain falls cold, and the trees rain down a still heavier and
more melancholy shower of perpetually falling leaves, there is little in
the landscape to cheer the spirits of the inhabitants, who, fortunately
for themselves, take it very calmly, like most people accustomed to such
a climate. The farmer’s wife of Ramore, however, was not of that equable
mind. When she looked out from her homely parlour-window, it oppressed
her heart to miss her mountains, and to see the heavy atmosphere closing
in over her own little stretch of hill-side. She was busy, to be sure,
and had not much time to think of it; but, when she paused for a moment
in her many occupations, and looked wistfully for signs of “clearing,”
the poetic soul in her homely bosom fell subdued into an unconscious
harmony with the heavy sky. If the baby looked pale by chance, the
mother took gloomy views of the matter on such days, and was subject to
little momentary failures of hope and courage, which amazed, and at the
same time amused, big Colin, who by this time knew all about it.

“You were blythe enough about us a’ yesterday, Jeanie,” he would say
with a smile, “and nothing’s happened to change the prospect but the
rain. It’s just as weel for the wean that the doctor’s a dozen miles
off; for it’s your e’en that want physic, and a glint o’ sunshine would
set a’ right.” He was standing by her, hovering like a great
good-humoured cloud, his eyes dwelling upon her with that tender
perception of her sacred weakness, and admiring pride in her more
delicate faculties, which are of the highest essence of love.

“I hope you dinna think me a fool altogether,” the mistress would
answer, with momentary offence; “as if I was thinking of the rain, or as
if there was onything but rain to be lookit for! but when I mind that my
Colin gangs away the morn--”

And then she took up her basket of mended stockings, and, with a little
impatience, to hide a chance drop on her eyelash, carried them away to
Colin’s room, where his chest stood open and was being packed for the
journey. It was not a very long journey, but it was the boy’s first
outset into independent life; and very independent life was that which
awaited the country lad in Glasgow, where he was going to the
University. On such a day dark shadows of many a melancholy story
floated somehow upon the darkened atmosphere into Mrs. Campbell’s mind.

“If we could but have boarded him in a decent family,” she said to
herself, as she packed her boy’s stockings. But it had been “a bad year”
at Ramore, and no decent family would have received young Colin for so
small a sum as that on which he himself and various more wise advisers
considered it possible for him to live, by the help of an occasional
hamper of home produce, in a little lodging of his own. Mrs. Campbell
had acceded to this arrangement as the best; but it occurred to her to
remember various wrecks she had encountered even in her innocent life;
and her heart failed her a little as she leaned over Colin’s big “kist.”

Colin himself said very little on the subject, though he thought of
nothing else; but he was a taciturn Scotch boy, totally unused to
disclose his feelings. He was strolling round and round the place with
his hands in his pockets, gradually getting soaked by the persistent
rain, and rather liking it than otherwise. As he strayed about--having
nothing to do that day in consideration of its being his last day at
home--Colin’s presence was by no means welcomed by the other people
about the farm. Of course, being unoccupied himself, he had the
sharpest eyes for every blunder that was going on in the stable or the
byre, and announced his little discoveries with a charming candour. But
in his heart, even at the moment when he was driving Jess to frenzy by
uncalled-for remarks touching the dinner of the pigs, Colin was all
a-blaze with anticipation of the new life that was to begin to-morrow.
He thought of it as something grand and complete, not made up of petty
details like this life he was leaving. It was a mist of learning, daily
stimulation and encounter of wits, with glorious prizes and honours
hanging in the hazy distance, which Colin saw as he went strolling about
the farm-yard in the rain, with his hands in his pockets. If he said
anything articulate to himself on the subject, it was comprised in one
succinct, but seemingly inapplicable, statement. “Eton’s no a college,”
he said once, under his breath, with a dark glow of satisfaction on his
face as he stopped opposite the door, and cast a glance upon the loch
and the boat, which latter was now drawn up high and dry out of reach of
the wintry water; and then a cloud suddenly lowered over Colin’s face,
as a sudden doubt of his own accuracy seized him--a torturing thought
which drove him indoors instantly to resolve his doubt by reference to a
wonderful old Gazetteer which was believed in at Ramore. Colin found it
recorded there, to his great mental disturbance, that Eton _was_ a
college; but, on further inquiry, derived great comfort from knowing
that it certainly was not a university, after which he felt himself
again at liberty to issue forth and superintend and aggravate all the
busy people about the farm.

That night the family supper-table was somewhat dull, notwithstanding
the excitement of the boys, for Archie was to accompany his father and
brother to Glasgow, and was in great glee over that unusual delight.
Mrs. Campbell, for her part, was full of thoughts natural enough to the
mother of so many sons. She kept looking at her boys as they sat round
the table, absorbed in their supper. “This is the beginning, but wha can
tell what may be the end?” she said half to herself; “they’ll a’ be gane
afore we ken what we’re doing.” Little Johnnie, to be sure, was but six
years old; but the mother’s imagination leapt over ten years, and saw
the house empty, and all the young lives out in the world. “Eh me!” said
the reflective woman, “that’s what we bring up our bairns for, and
rejoice over them as if they were treasure; and then by the time we’re
auld they’re a’ gane;” and, as she spoke, not the present shadow only,
but legions of vague desolations in the time to come came rolling up
like mists upon her tender soul.

“As lang as there’s you and me, we’ll fend, Jeanie,” said the farmer,
with a smile; “twa’s very good company to my way o’ thinking; but
there’s plenty of time to think about the dispersion which canna take
place yet for a year or twa. The boys came into the world to live their
ain lives and serve their Maker, and no’ just to pleasure you and me. If
you’ve a’ done, ye can cry on Jess, and bring out the big Bible, Colin.
We maunna miss our prayers to-night.”

To tell the truth, Colin of Ramore was not quite so regular in his
discharge of this duty as his next neighbour, Eben Campbell of Barnton,
thought necessary, and was disapproved of accordingly by that virtuous
critic; but the homely little service was perhaps all the more touching
on this special occasion, and marked the “night before Colin went first
to the college,” as a night to be remembered. When his brothers trooped
off to bed, Colin remained behind as a special distinction. His mother
was sitting by the fire without even her knitting, with her hands
crossed in her lap, and clouds of troubled, tender thought veiling her
soft eyes. As for the farmer, he sat looking on with a faint gleam of
humour in his face. He knew that his wife was going to speak out her
anxious heart to her boy, and big Colin’s respect for her judgment was
just touched by a man’s smile at her womanish solemnity, and the great
unlikelihood that her innocent advices would have the effect she
imagined upon her son’s career. But, notwithstanding the smile, big
Colin, too, listened with interest to all that his wife had to say.

“Come here and sit down,” said Mrs. Campbell; “you needna’ think shame
of my hand on your head, though you _are_ gaun to the college the morn.
Eh! Colin, you dinna ken a’ the temptations nor the trials. Ye’ve aye
had your ain way at hame--”

Here Colin made a little movement of irrepressible dissent. “I’ve aye
done what I was bidden,” said the honest boy. He could not accept that
gentle fiction even when his heart was touched by his mother’s farewell.

“Weel, weel,” said the farmer’s wife, with a little sigh; “you’ve had
your ain way as far as it was good for you. But its awfu’ different,
living among strangers, and living in your father’s house. Ye’ll have to
think for yoursel’ and take care of yoursel’ now. I’m no one to give
many advices,” said the mother, putting up her hand furtively to her
eyes, and looking into the fire till the tears should be re-absorbed
which had gathered there. “But I wouldna like my firstborn to leave
Ramore and think a’ was as fair in the world as appears to the common
e’e. I’ve been real weel off a’ my days,” said the mistress, slowly,
letting the tears which she had restrained before drop freely at this
reminiscence of happiness; “a guid father and mother to bring me up, and
then _him_ there, that’s the kindest man!--But you and me needna praise
your father, Colin; we can leave that to them that dinna ken,” she went
on, recovering herself; “but I’ve had ae trouble for a’ so weel as I’ve
been, and I mean to tell you what that is afore you set out in the world
for yoursel’.”

“Nothing about poor George,” said the farmer, breaking in--

“Oh, ay, Colin, just about poor George; I maun speak,” said the
mistress. “He was far the bonniest o’ our family, and the best-likit;
and he was to be a minister, laddie, like you. He used to come hame with
his prizes, and bring the very sunshine to the auld house. Eh! but my
mother was proud; and for me, I thought there was nothing in this world
he mightna’ do if he likit. Colin,” said Mrs. Campbell, with solemn
looks, “are ye listening? The last time I saw my brother was in a puir
place at Liverpool, a’ in rags and dirt, with an auld coat buttoned to
his throat, that it mightna’ be seen what was wantin’, and a’ his wild
hair hangin’ about his face, and his feet out o’ his shoon, and hunger
in his eye--”

“Jeanie, Jeanie, nae mair,” said big Colin from the other side of the
fire.

“But I maun say mair; I maun tell a’,” cried his wife, with tears.
“Hunger in his bonnie face, that was ance the blythest in the
country-side--no hunger for honest meat as nature might crave, but for
a’ thing that was unlawfu’, and evil, and killin’ to soul and body. He
had to be watched for fear he should spend the hard-won silver that we
had a’ scraped together to send him away. Him that had been our pride,
we couldna trust him, Colin, no ten minutes out o’ our sight but he was
in some new trouble. It was to Australia we sent him, where a’ the
unfortunates go. Eh, me! the like o’ that ship sailing! If there was a
kind o’ hope in our breasts it was the hope o’ despair. It wasna’ my
will, for what is there in a new place to make a man reform his ways?
And that was how your Uncle George went away.”

“And then?” cried the boy, whose interest was raised, and who had heard
mysteriously of this Uncle George before.

“We’ve heard no word from that day to this,” said Mrs. Campbell, drying
her eyes. “Listen till I tell you a’ that his pleasurings brought him
to. First, and greatest, to say what was not true, Colin--to deceive
them that trusted him. If the day should ever dawn that I couldna trust
a bairn o’ mine--if it should ever come sickening to my heart that e’e
or tongue was false that belonged to me--if I had to watch my laddies,
and to stand in doubt at every word they said--eh! Colin, God send I may
be in my grave afore such an awfu’ fate should come to me.”

Young Colin of Ramore answered not a word; he stared into the fire
instead, making horrible faces unawares. He could not have denied, had
he been taxed with it, that tears were in his eyes; but rather than shed
them he would have endured tortures; and any expression of his feelings
in words was more impossible still.

“No as if I was a better woman than my mother, or worthy o’ a better
fate,” said the thoughtful mistress of Ramore; “for she was ane o’ the
excellent of the earth, as a’body kens; and if ever a woman won to her
rest through great tribulations, she was ane; and, if the Lord sent the
cross, He would send the strength to bear it. But oh! Colin, my man, it
would be kind to drown your mother in the loch, or fell her on the hill,
sooner than bring upon her such great anguish and trouble as I have told
you of this night.”

“Now, wife,” said the farmer, interfering, “you’ve said your part. Nae
such thought is in Colin’s head. Gang you and look after his kist, and
see that a’ thing’s right; and him and me will have our crack the time
you’re away. Your mother’s an innocent woman,” said big Colin, after a
pause, when she had gone away; “she kens nae mair of the world than the
bairn on her knee. When you’re a man you’ll ken the benefit of taking
your first notions from a woman like that. No an imagination in her mind
but what’s good and true. It’s hard work fechting through this world
without marks o’ the battle,” said big Colin with a little pathos; “but
a man wi’ the like o’ _her_ by his side maun be ill indeed if he gangs
very far wrang. It mightna’ be a’ to the purpose,” continued the farmer,
with a little of his half-conscious common-sense superiority, “as
appeals to the feelings seldom are; but, Colin, if you take my advice,
you’ll mind every word of what your mother says.”

Colin said not a syllable in reply. He had got rid of the tears safely,
which was a great deal gained: they must have fallen had the mistress
remained two seconds longer looking at him with her soft beaming eyes;
but he had not quite gulped down yet that climbing sorrow which had him
by the throat. Anyhow, even if his voice had been at his own command, he
was very unlikely to have made any reply.

“Ye’ll find a’ strange when ye gang to Glasgow,” continued the farmer.
“I’m no feared for any great temptation, except idleness, besetting a
callant like you; but a man that has his ain bread and his ain way to
make in the world, has nae time for idleness. You’ve guid abilities,
Colin, and if they dinna come to something you’ll have but yoursel’ to
blame: and I wouldna’ put the reproach on my Maker of having brought a
useless soul into the world, if I were you,” said big Colin. “There’s
never ony failures that I can see among the lower creation, without some
guid reason; but it’s the privilege o’ men to fail without ony cause o’
failure except want o’ will to do weel. When ye see the like of George,
for instance, ye ask what the Lord took the trouble to make such a
ne’er-do-weel for?” said the homely philosopher; “I never could help
thinking, for my part, that it was labour lost--though nae doubt
Providence kent better; but I wouldna’ be like _that_ if I could help
it. There’s no a silly sheep on the hill, nor horse in the stable, that
isna’ a credit to Him that made it. I would take good heed no to put
mysel’ beneath the brute beasts, if I were you.”

“I’m no meaning,” cried Colin, with ungrammatical abruptness and a
little offence; for he was pricked in his pride by this address, which
was not, according to his father’s ideas, any “appeal to his feelings,”
but a calm and common-sense way of putting an argument before the boy.

“I never said you were,” said the farmer. “It’ll cost us hard work to
keep ye at your studies, and I put it to your honour no to waste your
time; and you’ll write regular, and mind what kind o’ thoughts your
mother’s thinking at home in Ramore; and I may tell you, Colin, I put
confidence in you,” said the father, laying his big hand with a heavy
momentary pressure upon the lad’s shoulder. “Now, good night, and go to
your bed, and prepare for the morn.”

Such were the parting advices with which the boy was sent out into the
world. His mother was in his room, kneeling before his chest, adding the
last particulars to its store, when Colin entered the homely little
chamber--but what they said to each other before they parted was for
nobody’s ear; and the morning was blazing with a wintry brightness, and
all the hills standing white against the sky, and the heart of the
mistress hopeful as the day, when she wiped off her tears with her
apron, and waved her farewell to her boy, as he went off in the little
steamer which twice a day thrilled the loch with communications from the
world. “He’ll come back in the spring,” she said to herself, as she went
about her homely work, and ordered her household. And so young Colin
went forth, all dauntless and courageous, into the great battlefield, to
encounter whatsoever conflicts might come to him, and to conquer the big
world and all that was therein, in the victorious dreams of his youth.



CHAPTER V.


The first disappointment encountered by the young hero was the wonderful
shock of finding out that it was not an abstract world he had to
encounter and fight with, but that life was an affair of days and hours
exactly as at Ramore, which was about his first real mental experience
and discovery. It was a strange mortification to Colin, who was, like
his mother, a poet in his soul, to find out that there was nothing
abstract in his new existence, but that a perpetually recurring round of
lessons to learn, and classes to attend, and meals to eat, made up the
days, which were noways changed in their character from those days which
he had already known for all the fifteen years of his life. After the
first shock, however, he went on with undiminished courage--for at
fifteen it is so easy to think that those great hours are waiting for us
somewhere in the undisclosed orb of existence. Certainly a time would
come when every day, of itself a radiant whole and complete unity, would
roll forth majestic like the earth in the mystic atmosphere. He had
missed it this time, but after a while it must come; for the future,
like the past, works wonders upon the aspect of time; and still it is
true of the commonest hours that they--

                  ----“win
    A glory from their being far,
    And orb into the perfect star
    We saw not when we walked therein.”

So thought Colin, looking at them from the other side, and seeing a
perfection which nobody ever reached in this world. But of course he did
not know that--so he postponed those grand days, and barred them up with
shining doors, on which was written the name and probable date of the
next great change in his existence; and, contenting himself for the
present with the ordinary hours, went light-hearted enough upon his
boyish way.

A little adventure which occurred to the neophyte on his first entrance
upon this new scene, produced results for him, however, which are too
important to be omitted from his history. Everybody who has been in that
dingiest of cities knows that the students at the University of Glasgow,
small as their influence is otherwise upon the character of the town,
are bound to do it one superficial service at least. Custom has ordained
that they should wear red gowns; and the fatigued traveller, weary of
the universal leaden grey, can alone appreciate fully the sense of
gratitude and relief occasioned by the sudden gleam of scarlet
fluttering up the long unlovely street on a November day. But that
artistic sense which penetrates but slowly into barbarous regions has
certainly not yet reached the students of Glasgow. So far from
considering themselves public benefactors through the medium of their
red gowns, there is no expedient of boyish ingenuity to which the
ignorant youths will not resort to quench the splendid tint, and reduce
its glory as nearly as possible to the sombre hue of everything around.
Big Colin, of Ramore was unacquainted with the tradition which made a
new and brilliant specimen of the academic robe of Glasgow as irritating
to the students as the colour is supposed to be to other animals of
excitable temper; and the good farmer naturally arrayed his son in a new
gown, glorious as any new ensign in the first delight of his uniform. As
for Colin, he was far from being delighted. The terrible thought of
walking through the streets in that blazing costume seriously
counterbalanced all the pleasure of independence, and the pride of being
“at college.” The poor boy slunk along by the least frequented way, and
stole into his place the first morning like a criminal. And it was not
long before Colin perceived that his new companions were of a similar
opinion. There was not another gown so brilliant as his own among them
all. The greater part were in the last stage of tatters and dinginess;
though among a company, which included a number of lads of Colin’s own
age, it was evident that there must be many who wore the unvenerated
costume for the first time. Dreams of rushing to the loch, which had
been his immediate resource all his life hitherto, and soaking the
obnoxious wrapper in the saltwater, confused his mind; but he was not
prepared for the summary measures which were in contemplation. As soon
as Colin emerged out of the shelter of the class-room, his persecution
commenced. He was mobbed, hustled, pelted, until his spirit was roused.
The gown was odious enough; but Colin was not the lad to have even the
thing he most wanted imposed upon him by force. As soon as he was aware
of the meaning of his tormentors, the country boy stood up for his
costume. He gathered the glowing folds round him, and struck out
fiercely, bringing down two or three of his adversaries. Colin, however,
was alone against a multitude; and what might have happened either to
himself or his dress it would have been difficult to predict, had not an
unexpected defender come in to the rescue. Next to Colin in the
classroom a man of about twice his age had been seated--a man of thirty,
whose gaunt shoulders brushed the boy’s fair locks, and whose mature and
thoughtful head rose strangely over the young heads around. It was he
who strode through the ring and dispersed Colin’s adversaries.

“For shame o’ yourselves,” he said in a deep bass voice, which
contrasted wonderfully with the young falsettos round him. “Leave the
laddie alone; he knows no better. I’ll lick ye a’ for a set of
schoolboys, if you don’t let him be. Here, boy, take off the red rag and
throw it to me,” said Colin’s new champion; but the Campbell blood was
up.

“I’ll no take it off,” cried Colin; “it’s my ain, and I’ll wear it if I
like; and I’ll fell anybody that meddles with me!”

Upon which, as was natural, a wonderful scuffle ensued. Colin never knew
perfectly how he was extricated from this alarming situation; but, when
he came to himself, he was in the streets on his way home, with his new
friend by his side--very stiff, and aching in every limb, with one
sleeve of his gown torn out, and its glory minished by the mud which had
been thrown at it, but still held tightly as he had gathered it round
him at the first affray. When he recovered so far as to hear some other
sound besides his own panting breath, Colin discovered that the gaunt
giant by his side was preaching at him in a leisurely reflective way
from his eminence of six feet two or three. Big Colin of Ramore was but
six feet, and at that altitude two or three inches tell. The stranger
looked gigantic in his lean length as the boy looked up, half wondering,
half-defiant, to hear what he was saying. What he said sounded
wonderfully like preaching, so high up and so composed was the voice
which kept on arguing over Colin’s head, with an indifference to whether
he listened or not, which, in ordinary conversation, is somewhat rare to
see.

“It might be right to stand up for your gown; I’ll no commit myself to
say,” was the first sentence of the discourse which fell on Colin’s ear;
“for there’s no denying it was your own, and a man, or even a callant,
according to the case in point, has a right to wear what he likes, if
he’s no under lawful authority, nor the garment offensive to decency;
but it would have been more prudent on the present occasion to have
taken off the red rag as I advised. It’s a remnant of superstition in
itself, and I’m no altogether sure that my conscience, if it was put to
the question, would approve of wearing gowns at all, unless, indeed, it
had ceased to be customary to wear other garments; but that’s an
unlikely case, and I would not ask you to take it into consideration,”
said the calm voice, half a mile over Colin’s head. “It’s a kind of
relic of the monastic system, which is out of accordance with modern
ideas; but, as you’re no old enough to have any opinions--”

“I have as good a right to have opinions as you,” exclaimed Colin,
promptly, glad of an opportunity to contradict and defy somebody, and
get rid of the fumes of his excitement.

“That’s no the subject under discussion,” said the stranger. “I never
said any man had a right to opinions; I incline to the other side of
that question mysel’. The thing we were arguing was the gown. A new red
gown is as aggravating to the students of Glasgow University as if they
were so many bulls--no that I mean to imply that they’re anything so
forcible. You’ll have to yield to the popular superstition if you would
live in peace.”

“I’m no heeding about living in peace,” interrupted Colin. “I’m no
feared. It’s naebody’s business but my ain. My gown is my gown, and I’ll
no change it if--”

“Let me speak,” said his new friend; “you’re terrible talkative for a
callant. Where do you live? I’ll go home with ye and argue the question.
Besides, you’ve got a knock on the head there that wants looking to, and
I suppose you’re in Glasgow by yourself? You needna’ thank me, it’s no
necessary,” said the stranger, with a bland movement of the hand.

“I wasna’ meaning to thank you. I’m living in Donaldson’s Land, and I
can take care of myself,” said Colin. But the boy was no match for his
experienced classfellow, who went on calmly preaching as before, arguing
all kinds of questions, till the two arrived at the foot of the stairs
which led to Colin’s humble lodging. The stair was long, narrow, and not
very clean. It bore stains of spilt milk on one flight, and long
droppings of water on another; and all the miscellaneous smells of half
a dozen different households, none of them particularly dainty in their
habits, were caught and concentrated in the deep well of a staircase,
into which they all opened. Colin’s abode was at the very top. His
landlady was a poor widow, who had but three rooms, and a host of
children. The smallest of the three rooms was let to Colin, and in the
other two she put up somehow her own sons and daughters, and did her
mantua-making, and accomplished her humble cookery. The rooms had
sloping roofs and attic windows; and two chairs and a slip of carpet
made Colin’s apartment splendid. Colin led the way for his “friend,” not
without a slight sentiment of pride, which had taken the place of his
first annoyance. After all, it was imposing to his imagination to have
his society sought by another student, a man so much older than himself;
and Colin was not unaware of the worship which it would gain him in the
eyes of his hostess, who had looked on him dubiously on the day of his
arrival, and designated him “little mair than a bairn.” Colin was very
gracious in doing the honours of his room to his unsolicited visitor,
and spoke loud out that Mrs. Fergus might hear. “You’ll have to stoop
when you go in at _that_ door,” said the boy, already learning with
natural art to shine in reflected glory. But Colin was less complacent
when they had entered the room, half from natural shyness, half from an
equally natural defiance and opposition to the grown-up and experienced
person who had escorted him home.

“Well,” said this strange personage, stooping grimly to contemplate
himself in the little square of looking-glass which hung over Colin’s
table; “you and me are no very like classfellows; but I like a laddie
that has some spirit and stands up for his rights. Of course you come
from the country; but first come here, my boy, before you answer any
questions, and let me see that knock on your head.”

“I had nae intention of answering any questions; and I can take care of
myself,” answered Colin, hanging back and declining the invitation. The
stranger, however, only smiled, stretched out his long arm, and drew the
boy towards him. And certainly he had received a cut on the head which
required to be attended to. Reluctant as he was, the lad was too shy to
make any active resistance, even if he had possessed moral courage
enough to oppose successfully the will of a man so much older than
himself. He submitted to have the cut bathed and plastered up, which his
new friend did with the utmost tenderness, delivering a slow and
lengthy address all the while over his head. When the operation was
over, Colin was more and more perplexed what to do with his visitor;
though a little faint after his fight and excitement, he was still well
enough to be very hungry, but the idea of asking this unknown friend to
share his dinner did not occur to him. He had never done anything beyond
launching the boat, or mounting the horses on his own responsibility
before, and he could not tell what Mrs. Fergus would think of his wound
or his visitor. Altogether, Colin was highly perplexed and not over
civil, and sat down upon the edge of a chair facing the intruder with an
expression of countenance very plainly intimating that he thought him
much in the way.

But the stranger was much above any consideration of Colin’s
countenance. He was very tall, as we have said, very gaunt and meagre,
with a long, pale face surmounted by black locks, thin and dishevelled.
He had a black beard, too--a thing much less common at that time than
now--which increased his general aspect of dishevelment. His eyes were
large, and looked larger in the great sockets hollowed out by something
more than years, from which they looked out as from two pale caverns;
yet, with all this gauntness of aspect, his smile, when he smiled, which
was seldom, threw a wonderful light over his face, and reminded Colin
somehow, he could not tell how, of the sudden gleam of the sun over the
Holy Loch when the clouds were at the darkest, and melted the boy’s
heart in spite of himself.

“I was saying we were not very like classfellows,” said the stranger;
“that’s a queer feature in our Scotch colleges; there’s you, a great
deal too young, and me, a great deal too old; and here we meet for the
same purpose, to learn two dead languages and some sciences that are
only half living; and that’s the only way for either you or me to get
ourselves made ministers. The English system’s an awful deal better, I’m
meaning in theory;--as for the practice, that’s neither here nor there.
Nothing’s right in practice. It’s a great thing to have a right idea at
the bottom if you can.”

“Are you to be a minister?” said Colin, not well knowing what to say.

“When I was like you I thought so,” said his new friend; “it’s a long
time since then; but, when I get a good grip of an idea, it’s no’ easy
to get it out of my head again. This is my second session only, for all
that,” he said, after a momentary pause; “many a thing I little thought
of has stood in my way. I’m little further on than you, though I suppose
I’m twice your age; but to be sure you’re far too young for the
college; that’s what the Greek professor in Edinburgh is aye havering
about; he might turn to the other side of the question if he knew me.”
And the stranger interrupted his own monologue to give vent to a
long-drawn breath, by way of a sigh, which agitated the atmosphere in
Colin’s little room, as if it had been a sudden breeze.

“Mr. Hardie’s son was only thirteen when he went to the college; and
that’s two years younger than me,” said Colin, with some indignation.
The lad heard a sound, as of knives and plates outside, and pricked up
his ears. He was hungry, and his strange visitor seemed rooted upon his
hard rush-bottomed chair. But, just as Colin’s mind was framing this
thought, his companion suddenly gathered himself up, rising in folds, as
if there was never to be an end of him.

“You want your dinner?” he said; “come with me, it will do you good.
What you were to have will keep till to-morrow; tell the decent woman
so, and come with me. I’m poor, but you shall have something you can
eat, and I’ll show you what to do when you are tired of _her_
provisions; so come along.”

“I would rather stay at home,” said Colin; “I don’t know you, I don’t
know even your name,” he added a minute after, feeling that he was about
to yield to the strong influence which was upon him, and doing what he
could to save himself.

“My name’s Lauderdale; that’s easy settled,” said the stranger; “tell
the honest woman; what’s her name?--I’ll do it for you. Mrs. Fergus, my
young friend here is going to dinner with me. He’ll be back, by-and-by,
to his studies; and, in the meantime,” said Colin’s self-constituted
guardian, putting the lad before him, and pausing in the passage to
speak to the widow, who regarded his great height and strange appearance
with a little curiosity, “take you charge of his gown; put it up the
chimney, or give it a good wash out with soap and soda; it’s too grand
for Glasgow College; the sooner it comes to be like this,” said the
gigantic visitor, holding up his own, which was of a dingy portwine
colour, “the better for the boy.”

And then Colin found himself again walking along the Glasgow streets, in
the murky, early twilight of that November afternoon, with this strange
unknown figure which was leading him he knew not whither. Was it a good
or a bad angel which had thus taken possession of the fresh life and
unoccupied mind? Colin could not resist the fascination which was half
dislike and half admiration. He went along quietly by the side of the
tall student, who kept delivering over his head that flood of
monotonous talk. The boy grew interested even in the talk before they
had gone far, and went on, a little anxious about his dinner, but still
more curious concerning the companion with whom Fate had provided him so
soon.



CHAPTER VI.


“No that I mean to say I believe in fate,” said Lauderdale, when they
had finished their meal; “though there is little doubt in my mind that
what happens is ordained. I couldna tell why, for my part, though I
believe in the fact--for most things in life come to nothing, and the
grandest train of causes produce nae effect whatsoever; that’s my
experience. Indeed, it’s often a wonder to me,” said the homely
philosopher, who was not addressing himself particularly to Colin, “what
the Almighty took the trouble to make man for at a’. He’s a poor
creature at the best, and gives an awfu’ deal of trouble for very little
good. Considering all things, I’m of opinion that we’re little better
than an experiment,--and very likely we’ve been greatly improved upon in
mair recent creations. Are you pleased with your dinner? You’re young
now, and canna’ have much standing against you in the great books. Do
you ever think, laddie, of what you mean to be?”

“I mean to be a minister,” said Colin, with a furious blush. His
thoughts on the subject, if he could but have expressed them, were
magnificent enough, but nothing was more impossible to the shy country
lad, than to explain the ambition which glowed in his eager, visionary
mind. He would have sacrificed a finger at any time, rather than talk of
the vague but splendid intentions which were fermenting secretly in
absolute silence within his reserved Scotch bosom. His new friend looked
with a little curiosity at the subdued brightness of the boy’s eyes,
which spoke more emphatically than his words.

“They a’ mean to be ministers,” said Lauderdale, in his reflective way;
“half of them would do far better to be cobblers; but nae fool could
ever be persuaded. As for you, I think there’s something in you, or I
wouldna have fashed my head about you and your gown. You’ve got a fair
start, and nae drawbacks. I would like to see you go straight forward,
and be good for something in your generation. You needna look glum at
me; I’ll never be good for much mysel’. You see I’ve learnt to be fond
of talking,” he said, philosophically; “and a man that takes up that
line early in life seldom comes to much good; though I grant you there’s
exceptions, like Macaulay, for example. I was just entered at college,
when my father died,” he continued, falling into a historical strain, “I
was only a laddie like yoursel’, but I had to give up that thought, and
work to help the rest. Now they are all scattered, and my mother dead,
and I’m my own master. No that I’m much the better for that; but, you
see, after I got this situation”----

“What situation?” said Colin, quickly.

“Oh, an honourable occupation,” said his tall friend, with a gradually
brightening smile. “There’s ane of the same trade mentioned with
commendation in the Acts of the Apostles. Him and St. Paul were great
friends. But you see I’m free for the most part of the day; and, it
being a fixed idea in my mind that I was to go to the college some time
or other, it was but natural that I should enter mysel’ as soon as I was
able. I may go forward, and I may not; it depends on the world more than
on me. So your name’s Colin Campbell?--the same as Sir Colin; but, if
you’re to be a minister, you can never be anything mair than a minister.
In any other line of life a lad can rise if he likes, but there’s nae
promotion possible to _that_. If I were you, and fifteen, I would choose
another trade.”

“To this Colin answered nothing; the suggestion staggered him
considerably, and he was not prepared with anything to say. He looked
round the shabby room, and watched the shabby tavern-waiter carrying his
dinner to some other customer; and Colin’s new and unaccustomed eyes saw
something imposing even in the aspect of this poor place. He thought of
the great world which seemed to surge outside in a ceaseless roar,
coming and going--the world in which all sorts of honours and powers
seemed to go begging, seeking owners worthy to possess them: and he was
pursuing this splendid chain of possibilities, when Lauderdale resumed
his monologue:--

“The Kirk’s in a queer kind of condition a’thegither,” said the tall
student; “so are most Kirks. Whenever you hit upon a man that kens what
he wants, all’s well; but that happens seldom. It’s no my case for one.
And as for you, you’re no at the age to trouble your head about
doctrine. You’re a young prince at your years--you don’t know your
privileges; you believe everything you’ve been brought up to believe,
and are far more sure in your own mind what’s false and what’s true
than a college of doctors. I would rather be you than a’ the
philosophers in the world.”

“I’m no a fool to believe everything,” said Colin, angrily, rousing
himself up from his dreams.

“No,” said his companion, “far from a fool; it’s true wisdom if you
could but keep it. But the present temper of the world,” said the
philosopher calmly, “is to conclude that there’s nothing a’thegither
false, and few things particularly true. When you’re tired of the
dinners in Donaldson’s Land,” he continued, without any change of tone,
“and from the looks of the honest woman I would not say much for the
cookery, you can come and get your dinner here. In the meantime, I’ll
take ye up to Buchanan Street, if you like. It’s five o’clock, and the
shop-windows are lighted by this time. I’m very fond of the lights in
the shop-windows mysel’. When I’ve been a poor laddie about the streets,
the lights aye looked friendly, which is more than the folk within do
when you’ve no siller. Come along; it’s no trouble to me, and I like to
have somebody to talk to,” said Lauderdale.

Colin got up very reluctantly, feeling himself unable to resist the
strange personal fascination thus exercised over him. The idea of being
only somebody to talk to mortified the boy’s pride, but he could not
shake himself free from the influence which had taken possession of him.
He was only fifteen, and his companion was thirty; and he had no power
to enfranchise himself. He went after the tall figure into the street
with very mingled feelings. The stream of talk, which kept flowing on
above him, stimulated Colin’s mind into the most vigorous action. Such
talk was not incomprehensible to a boy who had been trained at Ramore;
but the philosophers of the Holy Loch were orthodox, and this specimen
of impartial thoughtfulness roused all the fire of youthful polemics in
Colin’s bosom. He set down his companion unhesitatingly, of course, as a
“sceptic,” perhaps an infidel; and was already longing to rush in upon
him, with arbitrary boyish zeal and disdain, to make an end on the spot
of his mistaken opinions. As for Colin himself, he was very sure of
everything, as was natural to his years, and had never entertained any
doubts that the Shorter Catechism was as infallible a standard of truth,
as it was a terrible infliction upon the youthful memory. Colin went
along the murky streets, by his companion’s side, thinking within
himself that, perhaps, his own better arguments and higher reason might
convert this mistaken man, and listened to him eagerly as they
proceeded together along the long line of the Trongate, much excited by
his own intentions, and feeling somehow, in his boyish heart, that this
universal stimulation of everything, within and without, was a real
beginning of life. For everything was new to the country boy, who had
never in his life before been out of doors at night, anywhere, save in
the silent country roads, through darkness lighted by the moon, or, when
there was no moon, by the pale glimmer of the loch. Now his eyes were
dazzled by the lights, and all his senses kept in exercise by the
necessity of holding his own way, and resisting the pressure of the
human current which flowed past him; while Lauderdale kept talking of a
hundred things which were opposed to his boyish belief, and which, amid
all this unaccustomed hubbub, he had to listen to with all his might
lest he should lose the thread of the argument--a loose thread enough,
certainly, but still with some coherence and connexion. All this made
Colin’s heart thrill with a warmer consciousness of life. He was only in
Glasgow, among floods of dusky craftsmen going home from their work; but
it appeared to his young eyes that he had suddenly fallen upon the most
frequented ways of life and into the heart of the vast world.

“I’m fond of a walk in the Trongate mysel’, especially when the lamps
are lighted,” said Lauderdale; “I never heard of a philosopher but was.
No that I am much of a philosopher, but--. It’s here ye see the real
aspect of human affairs. Here, take the shopwindows, or take the
passengers, there’s little to be seen but what’s necessary to life; but
yonder,” said the reflective student, pointing over Colin’s head to the
street they were approaching, “there’s nothing but luxury. We spend a
great deal of siller in Glasgow--we’re terrible rich, some of us, and
like the best of everything--but there’s no so much difference as you
would think. I have no pleasure in that side of wealth for my part;
there’s an awful suggestion of eating and drinking in everything about
there. Even the grand furniture and the pictures have a kind of haze
about them, as if ye could only see them through a dinner. I don’t
pretend to have any knowledge for my own part of rich men’s feasts; but
it’s no think pleasant to that Genius and Art, no to speak of a great
deal of skilful workmanship, should be all subservient to a man’s
pleasure in his dinner, and that _that’s_ what they’re here for. Hallo,
laddie, I thought you had no friends in Glasgow? there’s somebody yonder
waving their hands to you. What do you hang back for? it’s a lady in a
carriage. Have you no respect for yoursel’ that you’re so slow to
answer?” cried Colin’s monitor, indignantly. Colin would gladly have
sunk through the pavement, or darted up a friendly dark alley which
presented itself close by, but such an escape was not possible. It was
Lady Frankland who was making signals to him out of the carriage-window,
and with all his awkwardness, he was obliged to obey them.

As for Lauderdale, whose curiosity was considerably excited, he betook
himself to the window of a printshop to await his _protégé_, not without
some surprise in his mind. He knew pretty nearly as much about Colin by
this time as the boy himself did, though Colin was quite unaware of
having opened up his personal history to his new friend; but he had
heard nothing about young Frankland, that being an episode in his life
of which the country lad was not proud. Lauderdale stood at the
printshop-window with a curious kind of half-pathetic egotism mingling
with his kindly observation. No fair vision of women ever gleamed across
_his_ firmament. He was just about shaking hands with youth, and no
lady’s face had ever bent over him like a star out of the firmament, as
the gracious countenance of the English lady was just then bending over
the farmer’s son from Ramore. “It’s maybe the Duchess,” said Lauderdale
to himself, thinking of the natural feudal princess of the lochs; and he
looked with greater interest still, withdrawn out of hearing, but near
enough to see all that passed. Colin for his part did not know in the
least what to say or to do. He stood before the carriage looking sulky
in the excess of his embarrassment, and did not even take off his cap to
salute the lady, as country politeness and his anxious mother had taught
him. And, to aggravate the matter, there was a bewildering little girl
in the carriage with Lady Frankland--a creature with glorious curls over
her shoulders, and a wonderful perfection of juvenile toilette, which
somehow dazzled Colin’s unused and ignorant eyes. In the midst of his
awkwardness it occurred to the boy to note this little lady’s dress,
which was a strange thing enough for him, who did not know one article
of feminine attire from another. It was not her beauty so much as the
delicacy of all her little equipments which amazed Colin, and prevented
him from hearing what Lady Frankland had to say.

“So you have gone to the University?” said that gracious lady. “You are
ever so much further advanced than Harry, who is only a schoolboy as
yet; but the Scotch are so clever. You will be glad to hear that dear
Harry is quite well, and enjoying himself very much at Eton,” continued
Harry’s mother, who meant to be very kind to the boy who had saved her
son’s life. Now the very name of Harry Frankland had, he could not have
told how, a certain exasperating effect upon Colin. He said nothing in
answer to this satisfactory intelligence, but unconsciously gave a
little frown of natural opposition, which Lady Frankland’s eyes were not
sufficiently interested to see.

“He doesn’t care for Harry, aunt,” said the miniature woman by Lady
Frankland’s side, darting out of the dusky twilight a sudden flash of
perception, under which Colin stood convicted. She was about his own
age, but a world in advance of him in every other respect. A little
amusement and a little offence were in the voice, which seemed to Colin,
with its high-bred accent and wonderful “English,” like the voice of
another kind of creature from any he had encountered before. Was she a
little witch, to know what he was thinking? And then a little laugh of
triumph rounded off the sentence, and the unfortunate boy stood more
speechless, more awkward, more incapable than before.

“Nonsense, Matty; when you know we owe Harry’s life to him,” said bland
Lady Frankland. “You must come and dine with us to-morrow; indeed you
must. Sir Thomas and I are both so anxious to know more of you. Sir
Thomas would be so pleased to forward your views in any way; but the
Scotch are so independent,” she said, with her most flattering smile.
“Was that your tutor who was walking with you, that very tall man? I am
sure we should be delighted to see him too. I suppose he is something in
the University. Oh! here comes my husband. Sir Thomas, this is--Oh! I am
sure I beg your pardon; I forget your name--the dear, brave, excellent
boy who saved Harry’s life.”

Upon which Sir Thomas, coming out of one of the shops, in that radiance
of cleanness and neatness, perfectly brushed whiskers, and fresh face,
which distinguishes his class, shook hands heartily with the reluctant
Colin.

“To be sure, he must dine with us to-morrow,” said the good-humoured
baronet, “and bring his tutor if he likes; but I thought you had no
tutors at the Scotch Universities. I want to know what you’re about, and
what your ideas are on a great many subjects, my fine fellow. Your
father is tremendously proud, and so are you, I suppose; but he’s a
capital specimen of a man; and I hope you allow that I have a right to
recollect such an obligation. Good-bye, my boy,” said Sir Thomas.
“Seven to-morrow--but I’ll probably be at your college and see you in
the morning. And mind you bring the tutor,” he cried, as the carriage
drove off. Lady Frankland shed a perfect blaze of smiles upon Colin, as
she waved her hand to him, and the creature with the curls on the other
side gave the boy a little nod in a friendly condescending way. He made
a spring back into the shade the minute after, wonderfully glad to
escape, but dazzled and excited in spite of himself; and, as he retired
rapidly from the scene of this unexpected encounter, he came sharp up
against Lauderdale, who was coming to meet him, with his curiosity
largely excited.

“It was me he took for the tutor, I suppose?” said the strange Mentor
who had thus taken possession of Colin; and the tall student laughed
with a kind of quaint gratification. “And so I might have been if I had
been bred up at Oxford or Cambridge,” he added, after a moment; “that is
to say, if it had been my lot to be bred up anywhere; but they’ve a
grand system in these English universities. _That_ was not the Duke,” he
said interrogatively, looking at Colin, whose blood of clansman boiled
at the idea.

“_That_ the Duke!” exclaimed the boy with great disdain; “no more than I
am. It’s one of the English that are aye coming and making their jokes
about the rain; as if anybody wanted them to come,” said Colin, with an
outbreak of scorn; and then the boy remembered that Archie Candlish had
just bought a house in expectation of such visitors, and stopped
abruptly in full career. “I suppose the English are awfu’ fond of
grouse, or they wouldna’ come so far for two or three birds,” he
continued, in a tone of milder sarcasm. But his companion was not to be
so easily diverted from his questions.

“Grouse is a grand institution, and helps in the good government of this
country,” said Lauderdale, “and, through this country, of the
world--which is a fine thought for a bit winged creature, if it had the
sense to ken. Yon’s another world,” he said, after a little pause, “no
Paradise to be sure, but something as far removed from this as Heaven
itself; farther, you might say, for there’s many a poor man down below
here that’s hovering on the edge of heaven. And how came you to have
such grand friends?” asked the self-constituted guardian, stooping from
his lofty height to look straight into Colin’s eyes. After a time, he
extracted the baldest narrative that ever was uttered by a hero ashamed
of his prowess from the half-indignant boy, and managed to guess as
clearly as the wonderful little lady in the carriage the nature of
Colin’s sentiments towards the young antagonist and rival whom he had
saved.

“I wouldna have let a dog drown,” said the aggrieved Colin; “there was
nothing to make a work about. But you would have laughed to see that
fellow, with his boots like a lassie’s and feared to wet his feet. He
could swim, though,” added the boy, candidly; “and I would like to beat
him,” he said, after a moment; “I’d like to run races with him for
something, and win the prize over his head.”

This was all Colin permitted himself to say; but the vehement sentiment
thus recalled to his mind made him, for the moment, less attentive to
Lauderdale, who, for his part, was considerably moved by his young
companion’s excitement. “I’m not going to see your fine friends,” he
said, as he parted from the boy at the “stairfoot” which led to Colin’s
lodging; “but there’s many a true word spoken in jest, and, my boy, you
shall not want a tutor, though there’s no such thing in our Scotch
colleges.”

When he had said so much, hastily, as a man does who is conscious of
having shown a little emotion in his words, Colin’s new friend went
away, disappearing through the misty night, gaunt and lean as another
Quixote. “I should like to have something to do with the making of a new
life,” he said to himself, muttering high up in the air over the
ordinary passengers’ heads, as he mused on upon his way. And Colin and
his story had struck the rock in the heart of the lonely man, and drawn
forth fresh streams in that wilderness. He was more moved in his
imaginative, reflective soul, than he could have told any one, with,
half-consciously to himself, a sense of contrast, which was natural
enough, considering all things, and which coloured all his thoughts,
more or less, for that night.

As for Colin--naturally, too--he thought no more of Lauderdale, nor of
his parting words, and found himself in no need of any tutor or guide,
but fell asleep in the midst of his Greek, as was to be expected, and
dreamt of that creature with the curls nodding at him out of gorgeous
Lord Mayor’s coaches, in endless procession. And it was with this
wonderful little vision dancing about his fancy that the Scotch boy
ended his first day at the University, knowing no more what was to come
of it all than the saucy sparrow which woke him next morning by loud
chirping in the Glasgow dialect at his quaint little attic window. The
sparrow had his crumbs, and Colin had another exciting day before him,
and went out quite calmly to lay his innocent hands upon the edge-tools
which were to carve out his life.



CHAPTER VII.


Wonders come natural at fifteen; the farmer’s son of Ramore, though a
little dazzled at the moment, was by no means thrown off his balance by
the flattering attentions of Lady Frankland, who said everything that
was agreeable and forgot that she had said it, and went over the same
ground again half a dozen times, somewhat to the contempt of Colin, who
knew nothing about fine ladies, but had all a boy’s disdain for a silly
woman. Thanks to his faculty of silence, and his intense pride, Colin
conducted himself with great external propriety when he dined with his
new friends. Nobody knew the fright he was in, nor the strain of
determination not to commit himself, which was worthy of something more
important than a dinner. But after all, though it shed a reflected glory
over his path for a short time, Sir Thomas Frankland’s dinner and all
its bewildering accessories was but an affair of a day, and the only
real result it left behind was a conviction in the mind of Lauderdale
that his young _protégé_ was born to better fortune. From that day the
tall student hovered, benignly reflective, like a tall genie over
Colin’s boyish career. He was the boy’s tutor so far as that was
possible where the teacher was himself but one step in advance of the
pupil; and as to matters speculative and philosophical, Lauderdale’s
monologue, delivered high up in the air over his head, became the
accompaniment and perpetual stimulation of all Colin’s thoughts. The
training was strange, but by no means unnatural, nor out of harmony with
the habits of the boy’s previous life, for much homely philosophy was
current at Ramore, and Colin had been used to receive all kinds of
comments upon human affairs with his daily bread. Naturally enough,
however, the sentiments of thirty and those of fifteen were not always
harmonious, and the impartial and tolerant thoughtfulness of his tall
friend much exasperated Colin in the absolutism of his youth.

“I’m a man of the age,” Lauderdale would say as they traversed the
crowded streets together; “by which I am claiming no superiority over
you, callant, but far the contrary, if you were but wise enough to ken.
I’ve fallen into the groove like the rest of mankind, and think in
limits as belongs to my century--which is but a poor half-and-half kind
of century, to say the best of it--but you are of all the ages, and know
nothing about limits or possibilities. Don’t interrupt me,” said the
placid giant; “you are far too talkative for a laddie, as I have said
before. I tell you I’m a man of the age: I’ve no very particular faith
in anything. In a kind of a way, everything’s true; but you needna tell
me that a man that believes like _that_ will never make much mark in
this world or any other world I ever heard tell of. I know that, a great
deal better than you do. The best thing you can do is to contradict me;
it’s good for you, and it does me no harm.”

Colin acted upon this permission to the full extent of all his youthful
prowess and prejudices, and went on learning his Latin and Greek, and
discussing all manner of questions in heaven and earth, with the fervour
of a boy and a Scotsman. They kept together, this strange pair, for the
greater part of the short winter days, taking long walks, when they left
the University, through the noisy dirty streets, upon which Lauderdale
moralized; and sometimes through the duller squares and crescents of
respectability which formed the frame of the picture. Sometimes their
peregrinations concluded in Colin’s little room, where they renewed
their arguments over the oatcakes and cheese which came in periodical
hampers from Ramore; and sometimes Lauderdale gave his friend a cheap
and homely dinner at the tavern where they had first broken bread
together. But not even Colin, much less any of his less familiar
acquaintances, knew where the tall Mentor lived, or how he managed to
maintain himself at college. He said he had his lodging provided for
him, when any inquiry was made, and added, with an odd humourous look,
that his was an honourable occupation; but Lauderdale afforded no
further clue to his own means or dwelling-place. He smiled, but he was
secret and gave no sign. As for his studies, he made but such moderate
progress in them as was natural to his age and his character. No
particular spur of ambition seemed to stimulate the man whose habits
were formed by this time, and who found enjoyment enough, it appeared,
in universal speculation. When he failed, his reflections as to the
effect of failure upon the mind of man, and the secondary importance
after all of mere material success, “which always turns out more
disappointing to a reflective spirit than an actual break-down,” the
philosopher would say, “being aye another evidence how far reality falls
short of the idea,” became more piquant than usual; and when he
succeeded, the same sentiments moderated his satisfaction. “Oh ay, I’ve
got the prize,” he said, holding it on a level with Colin’s head, and
regarding its resplendent binding with a smile; “which is to say, I’ve
found out that it’s only a book with the college arms stamped upon it,
and no a palpable satisfaction to the soul as I might have imagined it
to be, had it been yours, boy, instead of mine.”

But with all this composure of feeling as respected his own success,
Lauderdale was as eager as a boy about the progress of his pupil. When
the prize lay in Colin’s way, his friend spared no pains to stimulate
and encourage and help him on; and as the years passed, and the personal
pride of the elder became involved in the success of the younger,
Lauderdale’s anxieties awoke a certain impatience in the bosom of his
_protégé_. Colin was ambitious enough in his own person, but he turned
naturally with sensitive boyish pride against the arguments and
inducements which had so little influence upon the speaker himself.

“You urge _me_ on,” he would say, “but you think it does not matter for
yourself.” And though it was Colin’s third session, and he reckoned
himself a man when he said this, he was jealous to think that Lauderdale
urged upon him what he did not think it worth his while to practise in
his own person.

“When a thing’s spoilt in the making, it matters less what use ye put it
to,” said the philosopher. It was a bright day in March, and they were
seated on the grass together in a corner of the Green, looking at the
pretty groups about, of women and children--children and women, perhaps
not over tidy, if you looked closely into the matter, but picturesque to
look at--some watching the patches of white linen bleaching on the
grass, and some busily engaged over their needlework. The tall student
stretched his long limbs on the grass, and watched the people about with
reflective eyes. “There’s nothing in this world so important to a man as
a right beginning,” he went on. “As for me, I’m all astray, and can
never win to any certain end--no that I’m complaining, or taking a
gloomy view of things in general; I’m just as happy in my way as other
folk are in theirs--but that’s no the question under discussion. When a
man reaches my years without coming to anything he’ll never come to much
all his days; but you’re only a callant, and have all the world before
you, said Lauderdale.” He did not look at Colin as he spoke, but went on
in his usual monotone, looking into the blue air, in which he saw much
that was not visible to the eager young eyes which kept gazing at him.
“When I was like you,” he continued, with a half-pathetic,
half-humourous smile, “it looked like misery and despair to feel that I
was not to get my own way in this world. I’m terrible indifferent
now-a-days--one kind of life is just as good as another as long as a man
has something to do that he can think to be his duty; but such thoughts
are no for you,” said Colin’s tutor, waking up suddenly. “For you,
laddie, there’s nothing grand in the world that should not be possible.
The lot that’s accomplished is aye more or less a failure; but there’s
always something splendid in the life that is to come.”

“You talk to me as if I were a child,” said Colin, with a little
indignation; “you see things in their true light yourself, but you treat
me like a baby. What can there be that is splendid in my life?--a
farmer’s son, with perhaps the chance of a country church for my highest
hope--after all kinds of signings, and confessions, and calls, and
presbyteries. It would be splendid, indeed,” said the lad, with boyish
contempt, “to be plucked by a country presbytery that don’t know six
words of Greek, or objected to by a congregation of ploughmen--that’s
all a man has to look for in the Church of Scotland, and you know it,
Lauderdale, as well as I do.”

Colin broke off suddenly, with a considerable show of heat and
impatience. He was eighteen, and he was of the advanced party, the Young
Scotland of his time. The dogmatic Old Scotland, which loved to bind,
and limit, and make confessions, and sign the same, belonged to the past
centuries. As for Colin’s set, they were “viewy” as the young men at
Oxford used to be in the days of Froude and Newman. Colin’s own “views”
were of a vague description enough, but of the most revolutionary
tendency. He did not believe in Presbytery, nor in that rule of Church
government which in Scotland is known as Lord Aberdeen’s Act; and his
ideas respecting extempore worship and common prayer were much
unsettled. But as neither Colin nor his set had any distinct model to
fall back upon, nor any clear perception of what they wanted, the
present result of their enlightenment was simply the unpleasant one of
general discontent with existing things, and a restless contempt for the
necessary accessories of their lot.

“Plucked is no a word in use in Scotland,” said Lauderdale; “it smacks
of the English universities, which are altogether a different matter. As
for the Westminster Confession, I’m no clear that I could put my name to
that myself as my act and deed--but you are but a callant, and don’t
know your own mind as yet. Meaning no offence to you,” he continued,
waving his hand to Colin, who showed signs of impatience, “I was once a
laddie myself. Between eighteen and eight-and-twenty you’ll change your
ways of thinking, and neither you nor me can prophesy what they’ll end
in. As for the congregation of ploughmen, I would be very easy about you
if that was the worst danger. Men that are about day and night in the
fields when all’s still, cannot but have thoughts in their minds now and
then. But it’s no what you are going to be, I’m thinking of,” said
Colin’s counsellor, raising himself from the grass with a spark of
unusual light in his eyes, “but what you _might_ be, laddie. It’s no a
great preacher, far less what they call a popular minister, that would
please me. What I’m thinking of is, the Man that is aye to be looked
for, but never comes. I’m speaking like a woman, and thinking like a
woman,” he said, with a smile; “they have a kind of privilege to keep
their ideal. For my part, I ought to have more sense, if experience
counted for anything; but I’ve no faith in experience. And, speaking of
that,” said the philosopher, dropping back again softly on the
greensward, “what a grand outlet for what I’m calling the ideal was that
old promise of the Messias who was to come! It may still be so for
anything I can tell, though I cannot say that I put much trust in the
Jews. But aye to be able to hope that the next new soul might be the One
that was above failure, must have been a wonderful solace to them that
had failed and lost heart. To be sure, they missed Him when He came,”
continued Lauderdale; “that was natural. Human nature is aye defective
in action; but a grand idea like that makes all the difference between
us and the beasts, and would do, if there were a hundred theories of
development--which I would not have you put faith in, laddie,” continued
the volunteer tutor. “Steam and iron make awful progress, but no man--”

“That is one of your favourite theories,” said Colin, who was ready for
any amount of argument; “though iron and steam are dead and stationary,
but for the mind which is always developing. What you say is a kind of
paradox; but you like paradoxes, Lauderdale.”

“Everything’s a paradox,” said the reflective giant, getting up slowly
from the turf; “and the grass is damp, and the wind’s cold, and I don’t
mean to sit here and haver nonsense any longer. Come along, and I’ll see
you home. What I like women for is, that they’re seldom subject to the
real, or convinced by what you callants call reason. Reason and reality
are terrible fictions at the bottom. I never believe in facts, for my
part. The worst of it is, that a woman’s ideal is apt to look a terrible
idiot when she sets it up before the world,” continued Lauderdale, his
face brightening gradually with one of his slow smiles. “The ladies’
novels are instructive on that point. But there’s few things in this
world so pleasant as to have a woman at hand that believes in you,” he
said, suddenly breaking off in his discourse at an utterly unexpected
moment. Colin was startled by the unlooked-for silence, and by the sound
of something like a sigh which disturbed the air over his head; and
being still but a boy, and not superior to mischief, looked up, with a
little laughter.

“You must have once had a woman who believed in you, or you would not
speak so feelingly,” said the lad, in his youthful amusement; and then
Colin, too, stopped short, having encountered quite an unaccustomed look
in his companion’s face.

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, and then there was a pause. “If it were not that
life is aye a failure, there would be some cases harder than could be
borne,” he continued, after a moment; “no that I’m complaining; but if I
were you, laddie, I would set my face dead against fortune, and make up
my mind to win. And speaking of winning, when did you hear of your grand
English friends, and the callant you picked out of the loch? Have they
ever been here in Glasgow again?”

At which question Colin drew himself to his full height, as he always
did at Harry Frankland’s name; he was ashamed now to express his natural
antagonism to the English lad in frank speech as he had been used to do,
but he insensibly elevated his head, which, when he did not stoop, as he
had a habit of doing, began to approach much more nearly than of old to
the altitude of his friend’s.

“I know nothing about their movements,” he said, shortly. “As for
winning, I don’t see what connexion there can be between the Franklands
and any victory of mine. You don’t suppose Miss Matilda believes in me,
do you?” said Colin, with an uneasy laugh; “for that would be a
mistake,” he continued, a moment after. “She believes in her cousin.”

“Maybe,” said Lauderdale, in his oracular way, “it’s an uncanny kind of
relationship upon the whole; but I would not be the one to answer for
it, especially if it’s him she’s expected to believe in. But there were
no Miss Matildas in my mind,” he added, with a smile. “I’ll no ask what
she had to do in yours, for you’re but a callant, as I have to remind
you twenty times in a day. But such lodgers are no to be encouraged,”
said Colin’s adviser, with seriousness; “when they get into a young head
it’s hard to get them out again; and the worst of them is, that they
take more room than their fair share. Have you got your essay well in
hand for the Principal? That’s more to the purpose than Miss Matilda;
and now the end of the session’s drawing near, and I’m a thought anxious
about the philosophy class. Yon Highland colt with the red hair will run
you close, if you don’t take heed. It’s no prizes I’m thinking upon,”
said Lauderdale; “it’s the whole plan of the campaign. I’ll come up and
talk it all over again, if you want advice; but I’ve great confidence in
your own genius.” As he said this, he laid his hand upon the lad’s
shoulder and looked down into his eyes. “Summer’s the time to dream,”
said the tall student, with a smile and a sigh. Perhaps he had given
undue importance to the name of Miss Matilda. He looked into the fresh
young face with that mixture of affection and pathos--ambition for the
lad, mingled with a generous, tender envy of him--which all along had
moved the elder man in his intercourse with Colin. The look for once
penetrated through the mists of custom and touched the boy’s heart.

“You are very good to me, Lauderdale,” he said, with a little effusion;
at the sound of which words his friend grasped his shoulder
affectionately and went off, without saying anything more, into the
dingy Glasgow streets. Colin himself paused a minute to watch the tall,
retreating figure before he climbed his own tedious stair. “Summer’s the
time to dream,” he repeated to himself, with a certain brightness in his
face, and went up the darkling staircase three steps at a time,
stimulated most probably by some thoughts more exciting than anything
connected with college prizes or essays. It was the end of March, and
already now and then a chance breeze whispered to Colin that the
primroses had begun to peep out about the roots of the trees in all the
soft glens of the Holy Loch. It had only been in the previous spring
that primroses became anything more to Colin than they were to Peter
Bell; but now the youth’s eyes were anointed--he had begun to write
poetry, and to taste the delights of life. Though he had already learned
to throw a very transparent vein of pretended sadness upon his verses,
it did not occur to Colin as possible that the life which was so sweet
one year might not be equally delightful the next, or that anything
could occur to deprive him of the companionship he was looking forward
to. He had never received any shock yet in his youthful certainty of
pleasure, and did not stop to think that the chance which brought Sir
Thomas Frankland’s nursery, and with it his pretty niece, to the Castle,
for all the long spring and summer, might never recur again. So he went
upstairs three steps at a time, in the dingy twilight, and sat down to
his essay, raising now and then triumphant, youthful eyes, which
surveyed the mean walls and poor little room without seeing anything of
their poverty, and making all his young, arrogant, absolute philosophy
sweet with thoughts of the primroses, and the awaking waters, and the
other human creature, the child-Eve of the boy’s Paradise. This was how
Colin managed to compose the essay, which drew tears of mingled laughter
and emotion from Lauderdale’s eyes, and dazzled the professor himself
with its promise of eloquence, and secured the prize in the philosophy
class. The Highland colt with the red hair, who was Colin’s rival, was
very much sounder in his views, and had twenty times more logic in his
composition; but the professor was dazzled, and the class itself could
scarcely forbear its applause. Colin went home accordingly covered with
glory. He was nearly nineteen; he was one of the most promising students
of the year; he had already distinguished himself sufficiently to
attract the attention of people interested in college successes; and he
had all the long summer before him, and no one could tell how many
rambles about the glens, how many voyages across the loch, how many
researches into the wonders of the hills. He bade farewell to Lauderdale
with a momentary seriousness, but forgot before the smoke of Glasgow was
out of sight that he had ever parted from anybody, or that all his
friends were not awaiting him in this summer of delight.



CHAPTER VIII.


“Come away into the fire; it’s bonnie weather, but it’s sharp on the
hillside,” said the mistress of Ramore. “I never wearied for you, Colin,
so much as I’ve done this year. No that there was ony particular
occasion, for we’ve a’ been real weel, and a good season, and baith
bairns and beasts keeping their health; but the heart’s awfu’
capricious, and canna hear reason. Come in bye to the fire.”

“There’s been three days of east wind,” said the farmer, who had gone
across the loch to meet his son, and bring him home in triumph, “which
accounts for your mother’s anxiety, Colin. When there’s plenty of blue
sky, and the sun shining, there’s naething she hasna courage for. What’s
doing in Glasgow? or rather what’s doing at the college? or maybe, if
you insist upon it, what are you doing? for that’s the most important to
us.”

To which Colin, who was almost as shy of talking of his own achievements
as of old, gave for answer some bald account of the winding up of the
session, and of his own honours. “I told you all about it in my last
letter,” he said, hurrying over the narrative; “there was nothing out of
the common. Tell me rather all the news of the parish. Who is at home
and who is away, and if any of the visitors have come yet?” said the
lad, with a conscious tremor in his voice. Most likely his mother
understood what he meant.

“It’s ower early for visitors yet,” she said, “though I think for my
part there’s nothing like the spring, with the days lengthening, and the
light aye eking and eking itself out. To be sure, there’s the east
winds, which are a sore drawback, but they have nae great effect on the
west coast. The castle woods are wonderful bonnie, Colin; near as bonnie
as they were last year, when a’ thae bright English bairnies made the
place look cheerful. I wonder the Earl bides there so seldom himself.
He’s no rich, to be sure, but it’s a moderate kind of a place. If I had
enough money I would rather live there than in the Queen’s palace, and
so the minister says. You’ll have to go down to the manse the morn, and
tell him a’ about your prizes, Colin,” said his proud mother, looking at
him with beaming eyes. She put her hand upon her boy’s shoulder, and
patted him softly as he stood beside her. “He takes a great interest in
what you’re doing at the college,” she continued; “he says you’re a
credit to the parish, and so I hope you’ll aye be,” said Mrs. Campbell.
She had not any doubt on the subject so far as her own convictions went.

“He does not know me,” said the impatient Colin; “but I’ll go to the
manse to-morrow if you like. It’s halfway to the castle,” he said, under
his breath, and then felt himself colour, much to his annoyance, under
his mother’s eyes.

“There’s plenty folk to visit,” said the farmer. “As for the castle,
it’s out of our way, no to say it looked awfu’ doleful the last time I
was by. The factor would get it but for the name of the thing. We’ve had
a wonderful year, take it a’thegither, and the weather is promising for
the season. If you’re no over-grand with all your honours, I would be
glad of your advice, as soon as you’ve rested, about the Easter fields.
I’m thinking of some changes, and there’s nae time to lose.”

“If you would but let the laddie take breath!” said the farmer’s wife.
“New out of all his toils and his troubles, and you canna refrain from
the Easter fields. It’s my belief,” said the mistress, with a little
solemnity, “that prosperity is awfu’ trying to the soul. I dinna think
you ever cared for siller, Colin, till now; but instead of rejoicing in
your heart over the Almighty’s blessing, I hear nothing, from morning to
night, but about mair profit. It’s no what I’ve been used to,” said
Colin’s mother, “and there’s mony a thing mair important that I want to
hear about. Eh! Colin, it’s my hope you’ll no get to be over-fond of
this world!”

“If this world meant no more than a fifty pound or so in the bank,” said
big Colin, with a smile; “but there’s no denying it’s a wonderful
comfort to have a bit margin, and no be aye from hand to mouth. As soon
as your mother’s satisfied with looking at you, you can come out to me,
Colin, and have a look at the beasts. It’s a pleasure to see them. Apart
from profit, Jeanie,” said the farmer, with his humorous look, “if you
object to that, it’s grand to see such an improvement in a breed of
living creatures that you and me spend so much of our time among. Next
to bonnie bairns, bonnie cattle’s a reasonable pride for a farmer, no to
say but that making siller in any honest way is as laudable an
occupation as I ken for a man with a family like me.”

“If it doesna take up your heart,” said the mistress. “But it’s awfu’ to
hear folk how they crave siller for siller’s sake; especially in a place
like this, where there’s aye strangers coming and going, and a’ body’s
aye trying how much is to be got for everything. I promised the laddies
a holiday the morn to hear a’ Colin’s news, and you’re no to take him
off to byres and ploughed land the very first day;--though I dinna say
but I would like him to see Gowan’s calf,” said the farmer’s wife,
yielding a little in her superior virtue. As for Colin, he sat very
impatiently through this conversation, vainly attempting to bring in the
question which he longed, yet did not like, to ask.

“I suppose the visitors will come early, as the weather is so fine?” he
ventured to say as soon as there was a pause.

“Oh, ay, the Glasgow folk,” said Mrs. Campbell; and she gave a curious
inquiring glance at her son, who was looking out of the window with
every appearance of abstraction. “Do you know anybody that’s coming,
Colin?” said the anxious mother; “some of your new friends?” And Colin
was so sensible of her look, though his eyes were turned in exactly the
opposite direction, that his face grew crimson up to the great waves of
brown hair which were always tumbling about his forehead. He thrust his
heavy lovelocks off his temples with an impatient hand, and got up and
went to the window that his confusion might not be visible. Big Colin of
Ramore was at the window too, darkening the apartment with his great
bulk, and the farmer laid his hand on his son’s shoulder with a homely
roughness, partly assumed to conceal his real feeling.

“How tall are you, laddie? no much short of me now,” he said. “Look
here, Jeanie, at your son.” Then the mistress put down her work, and
came up to them, defeating all Colin’s attempts to escape her look; but
in the meantime she, too, forgot the blushes of her boy in the pleasant
sight before her. She was but a little woman herself, considered in the
countryside rather too soft and delicate for a farmer’s wife; and with
all the delicious confidence of love and weakness, the tender woman
looked up at her husband and her son.

“Young Mr. Frankland’s no half so tall as Colin,” said the proud mother;
“no that height is anything to brag about unless a’ things else is
conformable. He’s weel enough, and a strong-built callant, but there’s a
great difference; though, to be sure, his mother is just as proud,” said
the mistress, bearing her conscious superiority with meekness; “it’s a
grand thing that we’re a’ best pleased with our ain.”

“When did you see young Frankland?” said Colin, hastily. The two boys
had scarcely met since the encounter which had made a link between the
families without awaking very friendly sentiments in the bosoms of the
two persons principally concerned.

“That’s a thing to be discussed hereafter,” said the farmer of Ramore.
“I didna mean to say onything about it till I saw what your inclinations
were, but women-folk are aye hasty Sir Thomas has made me a proposition,
Colin. He would like to send you to Oxford with his own son if you and
me were to consent. We’re to gie him an answer when we’ve made up our
minds. Nae doubt he has heard that you were like enough to be a
creditable protejee,” said Big Colin, with natural complacency. “A lad
of genius gies distinction to his patron--if ye can put up with a
patron, Colin.”

“Can _you_?” cried his son. The lad was greatly agitated by the
question. Ambitious Scotch youths of Colin’s type, in the state of
discontent which was common to the race, had come to look upon the
English universities as the goal of all possible hopes. Not that Colin
would have confessed as much had his fate depended on it--but such was
the fact notwithstanding. Oxford, to his mind, meant any or every
possibility under heaven, without any limit to the splendour of the
hopes involved. A different kind of flush, the glow of eagerness and
ambition, suddenly covered his face. But joined with this came a tumult
of vague but burning offence and contradiction. While he recognised the
glorious chance thus opened to him, pride started up to bolt and bar
those gates of hope. He turned upon his father with something like anger
in his voice, with a tantalizing sense of all the advantages thus
flourished wantonly, as he thought, before his eyes. “Could _you_ put up
with a patron?” he repeated, looking almost fiercely in the farmer’s
face; “and if not, why do you ask me such a question?” When he came to
think of it, Colin felt injured by the suggestion. To be offered the
thing of all others he most desired in the world, by means which made it
impossible to accept the offer would have been galling enough under any
circumstances; but just now, at this crisis of his youthful ambition and
excitement, such a tantalizing glimpse of the possible and the
impossible was beyond bearing. “Are we his dependents that he makes such
an offer to me?” said the exasperated youth; and Big Colin himself
looked on with a little surprise at his son’s excitement, comprehending
only partially what it meant.

“I’ll no say I’m fond of patronage,” said the farmer, slowly; “neither
in the kirk nor out of the kirk. It’s my opinion a man does aye best
that fights his own way; but there’s aye exceptions, Colin. I wouldna
have you make up your mind in any arbitrary way. As for Sir Thomas, he
has aye been real civil and friendly--no one of your condescending fine
gentlemen--and the son--”

“What right have I to any favour from Sir Thomas?” cried Colin. “He is
nothing to me. I did no more for young Frankland than I would have done
for any dog on the hillside,” he continued, with a contemptuous tone;
and then his conscience reproved him. “I don’t mean to say anything
against _him_. He behaved like a man, and saved himself,” said Colin,
with haughty candour. “As for all this pretence of rewarding me, it
feels like an insult. I want nothing at their hands.”

“There’s no occasion to be violent,” said the farmer. “I dinna expect
that he’ll use force to make you accept his offer, which is weel meant
and kind, whatever else it may be. I canna say I understand a’ this fury
on your part; and there’s no good that I can see in deciding this very
moment and no other. I would like you to sleep upon it and turn it over
in your mind. Such an offer doesna come every day to the Holy Loch. I’m
no the man to seek help,” said Big Colin, “but there’s times when it’s
more generous to receive than to give.”

The mistress had followed her son wistfully with her eyes through all
his changes of countenance and gesture. She was not simply surprised
like her husband, but looked at him with unconscious insight,
discovering by intuition what was in his heart--something, at least, of
what was in his heart--for the anxious mother too was mistaken, and
rushed at conclusions which Colin himself was far from having reached.

“There’s plenty of time to decide,” said the farmer’s wife; “and I’ve
that confidence in my laddie that I ken he’ll do nothing from a poor
motive, nor out of a jealous heart. There never were ony sulky ways,
that ever I saw, in ony bairn of mine,” said Mrs. Campbell; “and if
there was one in the world that was mair fortunate than me, I wouldna
show a poor spirit towards him, because he had won. Whiles it’s mair
generous to receive than to give, as the maister says; and whiles it’s
mair noble to lose than to win,” said the mistress, with a momentary
faltering of emotion in her voice. She thought the bitterness of
hopeless love was in her boy’s heart, and that he was tempted to turn
fiercely from the friendship of his successful rival. And she lifted her
soft eyes, which were beaming with all the magnanimous impulses of
nature, to Colin’s face, who did not comprehend the tenderness of pity
with which his mother regarded him. But, at least, he perceived that
something much higher and profounder than anything he was thinking of
was in the mistress’s thoughts; and he turned away somewhat abashed from
her anxious look.

“I am not jealous that I am aware of,” said Colin; “but I have never
done anything to deserve this, and I should prefer not to accept any
favours from--any man,” he concluded abruptly. That was how they left
the discussion for that time at least. When the farmer went out to look
after his necessary business, his wife remained with Colin, looking at
him often, as she glanced up from her knitting, with eyes of wistful
wonder. Had she been right in her guess, or was it merely a vague
sentiment of repulsion which kept him apart from young Frankland? But
all the mother’s anxiety could not break through the veil which
separates one mysterious individuality from another. She read his looks
with eager attention, half right and half wrong, as people make out an
unfamiliar language. He had drifted off somehow from the plain
vernacular of his boyish thoughts, and she had not the key to the new
complications. So it was with a mixed and doubtful joy that the mistress
of Ramore, on the first night of his return, regarded her son.

“And I suppose,” said Colin, with a smile dancing about his lips, “that
I am to answer this proposal when they come to the castle? And they are
coming soon as they expected last year? or, perhaps, they are there
now?” he said, getting up from his chair again and walking away towards
the door that his mother might not see the gleam of expectation in his
face.

“But, Colin, my man,” said the mistress, who did not perceive the blow
she was about to administer, “they’re no coming to the castle this year.
The young lady that was delicate has got well, and they’re a’ in London
and in an awfu’ whirl o’ gaiety like the rest of their kind; and Lady
Mary, the earl’s sister, is to have the castle with her bairns; and
that’s the way Sir Thomas wants our answer in a letter, for there’s none
of the family to be here this year.”

It did not strike the mistress as strange that Colin made no answer. He
was standing at the door looking out, and she could not see his face.
And when he went out of doors presently, she was not surprised--it was
natural he should want to see everything about the familiar place; and
she called after him to say that, if he would wait a moment, she would
go herself and show him Gowan’s calf. But he either did not hear her,
or, at least, did not wait the necessary moment; and when she had
glanced out in her turn, and had perceived with delight that the wind
had changed, and that the sun was going down in glorious crimson and
gold behind the hills, the mistress returned with a relieved heart to
prepare the family tea. “It’ll be a fine day to-morrow,” she said to
herself, rejoicing over it for Colin’s sake; and so went in to her
domestic duties with a lightened heart.

At that moment Colin had just pushed forth into the loch, flinging
himself into the boat anyhow, disgusted with the world and himself and
everything that surrounded him. In a moment, in the drawing of a breath,
an utter blank and darkness had replaced all the lovely summer landscape
that was glowing by anticipation in his heart. In the sudden pang of
disappointment, the lad’s first impulse was to fling himself forth into
the solitude, and escape the voices and looks which were hateful to him
at that moment. Nor was it simple disappointment that moved him; his
feelings were complicated by many additional shades of aggravation. It
had seemed so natural that everything should happen this year as last
year, and now it seemed such blind folly to imagine that it could have
been possible. Not only were his dreams all frustrated and turned to
nothing, but he fell ever so many degrees in his own esteem, and felt so
foolish and vain and blind, as he turned upon himself with the acute
mortification and sudden disgust of youth. What an idiot he had been! To
think she would again leave all the brilliant world for the loch and the
primroses, and those other childish delights on which he had been
dwelling like a fool! Very bitter were Colin’s thoughts, as he dashed
out into the middle of the loch, and there laid up his oars and
abandoned himself to the buffetings of excited fancy. What right had he
to imagine that she had ever thought of him again, or to hope that such
a thread of gold could be woven into his rustic and homely web of fate?
He scoffed at himself, as he remembered, with acute pangs of
self-contempt, the joyous rose-coloured dreams that had occupied him
only a few hours ago. What a fool he was to entertain such vain,
complacent fancies! He, a farmer’s son, whose highest hope must be,
after countless aggravations and exasperations, to get “placed” in a
country church in some rural corner of Scotland. And then Colin recalled
Sir Thomas Frankland’s proposal, and took to his oars again in a kind of
fury, feeling it impossible to keep still. The baronet’s kind offer
looked like an intentional insult to the excited lad. He thought to
himself that they wanted to reward him somehow by rude, tangible means,
as if he were a servant, for what Colin proudly and indignantly declared
to himself was no service--certainly no intentional service. On the
whole, he had never been so wretched, so downcast, so fierce and angry
and miserable, in all his life. If he could but, by any means, by any
toil, or self-denial, or sacrifice, get to Oxford, on his own account,
and show the rich man and his son how little the Campbells of Ramore
stood in need of patronage! All the glory had faded off the hills before
Colin bethought himself of the necessity of returning to the homely
house which he had greeted with so much natural pleasure a few hours
before. His mother was standing at the door looking out for him as he
drew towards the beach, looking at him with eyes full of startled and
anxious half-comprehension. She knew he was disturbed somehow, and made
guesses, right in the main, but all wrong in the particulars, which
were, though he tried hard to repress all signs of it, another
exasperation to Colin. This was how the first evening of his return
closed upon the student of Ramore. He could not take any pleasure just
then in the fact of being at home, nor in the homely love and respect
and admiration that surrounded him. Like all the rest of the world, he
neglected the true gold lying close at hand for the longing he had after
the false diamonds that glittered at a distance. It was hard work for
him to preserve an ordinary appearance of affection and interest in all
that was going on, as he sat, absent and preoccupied, at his father’s
table. “Colin’s no like you idle laddies; he has ower much to think of
to laugh and make a noise, like you,” the mistress said with dignity, as
she consoled the younger brothers, who were disappointed in Colin. And
she half believed what she said, though she spoke with the base
intention of deluding “the laddies,” who knew no better. The house, on
the whole, was rather disturbed than brightened by the return of the
firstborn, who had thus brought a foreign element into the household
life. Such was the inauspicious beginning of the holidays, which had
been to Colin, for months back, the subject of so many dreams.



CHAPTER IX.


It was some time before Colin recovered his composure, or found it
possible to console himself for the failure of his hopes. He wrote a
great deal of poetry in the meantime--or rather of verses which looked
wonderfully like poetry, such as young men of genius are apt to produce
under such circumstances. The chances are, that if he had confided them
to any critic of a sympathetic mind, attempts would have been made to
persuade Colin that he was a poet. But luckily Lauderdale was not at
hand, and there was no one else to whom the shy young dreamer would have
disclosed himself. He sent some of his musings to the magazines, and so
added a little excitement and anxiety to his life. But nobody knew Colin
in that little world where, as in other worlds, most things go by
favour, and impartial appreciation is comparatively unknown. The editors
most probably would have treated their unknown correspondent in exactly
the same manner had he been a young Tennyson. As it was, Colin did not
quite know what to think about his repeated failures in this respect.
When he was despondent he became disgusted with his own productions, and
said to himself that of course such maudlin verse could be procured by
the bushel, and was not worthy of paper and print. But in other moods
the lad imagined he must have some enemy who prejudiced the editorial
world, and shut against him the gates of literary fame. In books all the
heroes, who could do nothing else, found so ready a subsistence by means
of magazines, that the poor boy was naturally puzzled to find that all
his efforts could not gain him a hearing. And it began to be rather
important to him to find something to do. During the previous summers
Colin had not disdained the farm and its labours, but had worked with
his father and brothers without any sense of incongruity. But now
matters were changed. Miss Matty, with her curls and her smiles, had
bewitched the boy out of his simple innocent life. It did not seem
natural that the hand which she consented to touch with her delicate
fingers should hold the plough or the reaping hook, or that her
companion in so many celestial rambles should plod through the furrows
at other times, or go into the rough drolleries of the harvest field.

Colin began to think that the life of a farmer’s son at Ramore was
inconsistent with his future hopes, and there was nothing else for it
but teaching, since so little was to be made of the magazines. When he
had come to himself and began to see the surrounding circumstances with
clearer eyes, Colin, who had no mind to be dependent, but meant to make
his own way as was natural to a Scotch lad of his class, bethought
himself of the most natural expedient. He had distinguished himself at
college, and it was not difficult to find the occupation he wanted.
Perhaps he was glad to escape from the primitive home, from the mother’s
penetrating looks, and all the homely ways of which the ambitious boy
began to be a little impatient. He had come to the age of discontent. He
had begun to look forward no longer to the vague splendours of boyish
imagination, but to elevation in the social scale, and what he heard
people call success in life. A year or two before it had not occurred to
Colin to consider the circumstances of his own lot;--his ambition
pointed only to ideal grandeur, unembarrassed by particulars--and it was
very possible for the boy to be happy, thinking of some incoherent
greatness to come, while engaged in the humblest work, and living in the
homeliest fashion. But the time had arrived when the pure ideal had to
take to itself some human garments, and when the farmer’s son became
aware that a scholar and a gentleman required a greater degree of
external refinement in his surroundings. His young heart was wounded by
this new sense, and his visionary pride offended by the thought that
these external matters could count for anything in the dignity of a man.
But Colin had to yield like every other. He loved his family no less,
but he was less at home among them. The inevitable disruption was
commencing, and already, with the quick insight of her susceptible
nature, the mistress of Ramore had discovered that the new current was
setting in, that the individual stream of Colin’s life was about to
disengage itself, and that her proud hopes for her boy were to be sealed
by his separation from her. The tender-hearted woman said nothing of it,
except by an occasional pathetic reflection upon things in general,
which went to Colin’s heart, and which he understood perfectly; but
perhaps, though no one would have confessed as much, it was a relief to
all when the scholar-son, of whom everybody at Ramore was so proud, went
off across the loch, rowed by two of his brothers, with his portmanteau
and the first evening coat he had ever possessed, to Ardmartin, the fine
house on the opposite bank, where he was to be tutor to Mr. Jordan’s
boys, and eat among strangers the bread of his own toil.

The mistress stood at the door shading her eyes with her hand, and
looking after the boat as it shot across the bright water. Never at its
height of beauty had the Holy Loch looked more fair. The sun was
expanding and exulting over all the hills, searching into every hollow,
throwing up unthought-of tints, heaps of moss, and masses of rock, that
no one knew of till that moment; and with the sunshine went flying
shadows that rose and fell like the lifting of an eyelid. The gleam of
the sun before she put up her hand to shade her face fell upon the tear
in the mistress’s eye, and hung a rainbow upon the long lash, which was
wet with that tender dew. She looked at her boys gliding over the loch
through this veil of fairy colours, all made out of a tear, and the
heart in her tender bosom beat with a corresponding conjunction of pain
and happiness. “He’ll never more come back to bide at home like his
father’s son,” she said to herself, softly, with a pang of natural
mortification; “but, eh, I’m a thankless woman to complain, and him so
weel and so good, and naething in fant but nature,” added the mother,
with all the compunction of true love; and so stood gazing till the boat
had gone out of hearing, and had begun to enter that sweet shadow of the
opposite bank, projected far into the loch, which plunged the whole
landscape into a dazzling uncertainty, and made it a doubtful matter
which was land and which was water. Colin himself, touched by the
loveliness of the scene, had paused just then to look down the shining
line to where this beatified paradise of water opened out into the
heaven of Clyde. And to his mother’s eyes gazing after him, the boat
seemed to hang suspended among the sweet spring foliage of the Lady’s
Glen, which lay reflected, every leaf and twig, in the sweeter loch.
When somebody called her indoors she went away with a sigh. Was it
earth, or a vision of Paradise, or “some unsubstantial fairy place?” The
sense of all this loveliness struck intense, with almost a feeling of
pain, upon the gentle woman’s poetic heart.

And it was in such a scene that Colin wrote the verses which borrowed
from the sun and the rain prismatic colours like those of his mother’s
tears, and were as near poetry as they could possibly be to miss that
glory. Luckily for him he had no favourite confidant at hand to persuade
him that he was a poet; so the verse-making did him nothing but good,
providing a safety-valve for that somewhat stormy period of his
existence.

Mr. Jordan was very rich and very liberal, and, indeed, lavish of the
money which had elevated him above all his early friends and
associations. He had travelled, he bought pictures, he prided himself
upon his library, and he was very good to his young tutor, who, he told
everybody, was “a lad of genius;” and though naturally, even with all
this, Colin’s existence was not one of unmingled bliss, the change was
good for him. As soon as he had left Ramore he began to look back to it
with longing, as was natural to his years. The sense that he had that
home behind him, with everybody ready to stand by him whatever trouble
he might fall into, and every heart open to hear and sympathize in all
the particulars of his life, restored the young man all at once to
content and satisfaction with the homely household that loved him. When
he was there life looked gray and sombre in all its sober-coloured
garments; but when he looked across the loch at the white house on the
hillside, that little habitation had regained its ideal character. He
had some things to endure, as was natural, that galled his high spirit,
but, on the whole, he was happier than if he had still been at Ramore.

And so the summer passed on. He had sent his answer to Sir Thomas
without any delay--an answer in which, on the whole, his father
concurred--written in a strain of lofty politeness which would not have
misbecome a young prince. “He was destined for the Church of Scotland,”
Colin wrote, “and such being the case, it was best that he should
content himself with the training of a Scotch university. Less perfect,
no doubt,” the boy had said, with a kind of haughty humility; “but,
perhaps, better adapted to the future occupations of a Scotch
clergyman.” And then he went on to offer thanks in a magnificent way,
calculated to overwhelm utterly the good-natured baronet, who had never
once imagined that the pride of the farmer’s son would be wounded by his
proposal. The answer had been sent, and no notice had been taken of it.
It was months since then, and not a word of Sir Thomas Frankland or his
family had been heard about the Holy Loch. They seemed to have
disappeared altogether back again into their native firmament, never
more to dazzle the eyes of beholders in the west country. It was hard
upon Colin thus to lose, at a stroke, not only the hope on which he had
built so securely, but at the same time a great part of the general
stimulation of his life. Not only the visionary budding love which had
filled him with so many sweet thoughts, but even the secret rivalry and
opposition which no one knew of, had given strength and animation to his
life--and now both seemed to have departed together. He mused over it
often with wonder, asking himself if Lauderdale was right; if it was
true that most things come to nothing; and whether meetings and
partings, which looked as if they must tell upon life for ever and ever,
were, after all, of not half so much account as the steady routine of
existence? The youth perplexed himself daily with such questions, and
wrote to Lauderdale many a long mysterious epistle which puzzled his
anxious friend, who could not make out what had set Colin’s brains
astray out of all the confident philosophies of his years. When the
young man, in his hours of leisure, climbed up the woody ravine close
by, to where the burn took long leaps over the rocks, flinging itself
down in diamonds and showers of spray into the heart of the deep summer
foliage in the Lady’s Glen, and from that height looked down upon the
castle on the other side, seated among its lawns and trees on the soft
promontory which narrowed the entrance of the loch, Colin could not but
feel the unexpected void which was suddenly made in his life. The
Frankland family had been prominent objects on his horizon for a number
of years. In disliking or liking, they had been always before him; and
even at his most belligerent period, there was something not
disagreeable to the lad’s fancy, at least, in this link of connexion
with a world so different from his own--a world in which, however
commonplace might be the majority of the actors, such great persons as
were to be had in the age might still be found. And now they had gone
altogether away out of Colin’s reach or ken; and he was left in his
natural position nowise affected by his connexion with them. It was a
strange feeling, and notwithstanding the scorn with which he rejected
the baronet’s kindness and declined his patronage, much disappointment
and mortification mingled with the sense of surprise in Colin’s mind.
“It is all as it ought to be,” he said to himself many times as he
pondered over it; but, perhaps, if it had been quite as he expected, he
would not have needed to impress that sentiment on his mind by so many
repetitions. These reflections still recurred to him all the summer
through whenever he had any time to himself. But Colin’s time was not
much at his own disposal. Nature had given to this country lad a
countenance which propitiated the world. Not that it was handsome in the
abstract, or could bear examination feature by feature; but there were
few people who could resist the mingled shyness and frankness of the
eyes with which Colin looked out upon the miraculous universe,
perceiving perpetual wonders. The surprise of existence was still in his
face, indignant though he would have been had anybody told him so; and
tired people of the world, who knew better than they practised, took
comfort in talking to the youth, who, whatever he might choose to say,
was still looking as might be seen, with fresh eyes at the dewy earth,
and saw everything through the atmosphere of the morning. This
unconscious charm of his told greatly upon women, and most of all upon
women who were older than himself. The young ladies were not so sure of
him, for his fancy was preoccupied; but he gained many friends among the
matrons whom he encountered, and generally was a popular individual. And
then hospitality reigns paramount on those sweet shores of the Holy
Loch. Mr. Jordan filled his handsome house with a continual succession
of guests from all quarters; and as neither the host nor hostess was in
the least degree amusing, Colin’s services were in constant requisition.
Sometimes the company was good, often indifferent; but, at all events,
it occupied the youth, and kept him from too much inquisition into the
early troubles of his own career.

His life went on in this fashion until September brought sportsmen in
flocks to the heathery braes of the loch. Colin, whose engagement was
but a temporary one, was beginning to look forward once again to his old
life in Glasgow--to the close little room in Donaldson’s Land, and the
long walks and longer talks with Lauderdale, which were almost his only
recreation. Perhaps the idea was not so agreeable to him as in former
years. Somehow, he was going back with a duller idea of existence, with
no radiance of variable light upon his horizon; and in the absence of
that fairy illumination the natural circumstances became more palpable,
and struck him with a sense of their poverty and meanness such as he had
never felt before. He had to gulp down a little disgust as he thought of
his attic, and even, in the involuntary fickleness of his youth, was not
quite so sure of enjoying Lauderdale’s philosophy as he had been for all
those bygone years.

He was in this state of mind when he heard of a new party of visitors
who were to arrive the day after at Ardmartin--a distinguished party of
visitors, fine people, whom Mr. Jordan had met somewhere in the world,
and who had deigned to forget his lack of rank, and even of interest, in
his wealth, and his grouse, and the convenient situation of his house;
for Colin’s employer was not moderately rich--a condition which does a
man no good in society--but had heaps upon heaps of money, or was
supposed to have it, which comes to about the same, and was respected
accordingly. Colin listened but languidly to the scraps of talk he heard
about these fine people. There was a dowager countess among them, whose
name abstracted the lady of the house from all other considerations. As
for Colin, he was still too young to care for dowagers; he heard without
hearing of all the preparations that were to be made, and the exertions
that were thought necessary in order to make Ardmartin agreeable to so
illustrious a party, and paid very little attention to anything that was
going on, hoping within himself to make his escape from the fuss of the
reception, and have a little time to himself. On the afternoon on which
they were expected he betook himself to the hills, as soon as his work
with his pupils was over. It had been raining as usual, and everything
shone and glistened in the sun, which blazed all over the braes with a
brightness that did not neutralize the chill of the season. The air was
so still that Colin heard the crack of the sportsmen’s guns from
different points around him, miles apart from each other, and could
even, on the height where he stood, make out the throb of the little
steamer which was progressing through the loch at his feet, reflected to
the minutest touch, from its pennon of white steam at the funnel to the
patches of colour among its passengers on the deck, in the clear water
over which it glided. The young man pursued his walk till the shadows
began to gather, and the big bell of Ardmartin pealed out its summons to
dress into all the echoes as he reached the gate. The house looked
crowded to the very door, where it had overflowed in a margin of
servants, some of whom were still unloading the last carriage as Colin
entered. He pursued his way to his own room languidly enough, for he was
tired, and he was not much interested in anything he personally was
likely to hear or see.

But as he went up the grand staircase, he passed a door which was ajar,
and from which came the sound of an animated conversation. Colin started
as if he had received a blow, as one of these voices fell on his ear. He
came to a dead pause in the gallery upon which this room opened, and
stood listening, unconscious of the surprised looks of somebody’s maid,
who passed him with her lady’s dress in her arms, and looked very
curiously at the tutor. Colin stopped short and listened, suddenly
roused up to a degree of interest which brought the colour to his cheek
and the light to his eye. He thought all the ladies of the party must be
there, so varied was the pleasant din and so many the voices; but he had
been standing breathless, in the most eager pose of listening, for
nearly half the time allowed for dressing, before he heard again the
voice which had arrested him. Then, when he began to imagine that it
must have been a dream, the sound struck his ear once more--a few brief
syllables, a sweet, sudden laugh, and again silence. Was it _her_ voice?
or was it only a trick of fancy? While he stood lingering, wondering,
straining his ear for a repetition of the sound, the door opened softly,
and various white figures in dressing-gowns flitted off upstairs and
downstairs, some of them uttering little exclamations of fright at sight
of the alarming apparition of a man. It was pretty to see them
dispersing, like so many white doves, from that momentary confabulation;
but _she_ was not among them. Colin went up to his room and dressed with
lightning speed, chafing within himself at the humble place which he was
expected to take at the table. When he went into the dining-room, as
usual, all the rest of the party were taking their places. The only
womankind distinctly within Colin’s sight was a lady of fifty, large
enough to make six Matildas. He could not see _her_ though he strained
his eyes up and down through the long alley of fruits and flowers.
Though he was not twenty, and had walked about ten miles that afternoon
over the wholesome heather, the poor young fellow could not eat any
dinner. He had been placed beside a heavy old man to amuse him, whom
his employer thought might be useful to the young student; but Colin had
not half a dozen words to spend upon any one. Was _she_ here? or was it
mere imagination which brought down to him now and then, through the
pauses of the conversation, a momentary tone that was like hers? When
the ladies left the room the young man rushed, though it was not his
office, to open the door for them. Another moment and Colin was in
paradise--the paradise of fools. How was it possible that he could have
been deceived? The little start with which she recognised him, the
movement of surprise which made her drop her handkerchief and brought
the colour to her cheek, rapt the lad into a feeling more exquisite than
any he had known all his life. She smiled; she gave him a rapid, sweet
look of recognition, which was made complete by that start of surprise.
She was here, under the same roof--she whom he had never hoped to see
again. Colin fell headlong into the unintended snare. He sat pondering
over her look and her startled gesture all the tedious time, while the
other men drank their wine, without being at all aware what divine
elixir was in _his_ cup. Her look of sweet wonder kept shining ever
brighter and brighter before his imagination. Was it wonder only, or
some dawning of another sentiment? If she had spoken, the spell might
have been less powerful. A crowd of fairy voices kept whispering all
manner of delicious follies in Colin’s ear, as he sat waiting for the
moment when he could follow her. Imagination did everything for him in
that moment of expectation and unlooked-for delight.



CHAPTER X.


Mr. Jordan had invited a large party of people to meet the Dowager
Countess; but the greatness of the leading light, which was to
illustrate his house, had blinded him to the companion stars that were
to twinkle in her company. The principal people about had consented
graciously to be reviewed by her ladyship, who, once upon a time, had
been a very great lady and fashionable potentate. A very little fashion
counts for much on the shores of the Holy Loch, and the population was
moved accordingly. But the young ladies, who accompanied the dowager,
were less carefully provided for. When Miss Frankland, who was
unquestionably the beauty of the party, cast a glance of careless but
acute observation round her, after all the gentlemen had returned to the
drawing-room, she saw nobody whom she cared to distinguish by her
notice. Most of the men about had a flavour of commerciality in their
talk, or their manner, or their whiskers. Most of them were rich, some
of them were very well bred and well educated, though the saucy beauty
could not perceive it; but there was not an individual among them who
moved her curiosity or her interest, except one who stood rather in the
background, and whose eyes kept seeking her with wistful devotion.

Colin had improved during the last year. He was younger than Miss
Frankland, a fact of which she was aware, and he was at the age upon
which a year tells mightily. Looking at him in the background, through
clouds of complacent people who felt themselves Colin’s superiors, even
an indifferent spectator might have distinguished the tall youth, with
those heaps of brown hair overshadowing the forehead which might have
been apostrophized as “domed for thought” if anybody could have seen it;
and in his eyes that gleam of things miraculous, that unconscious
surprise and admiration which would have given a touch of poetry to the
most commonplace countenance. But Miss Matty was not an indifferent
spectator. She was fond of him in her way as women are fond of a man
whom they never mean to love--fond of him as one is fond of the victim
who consents to glorify one’s triumph. As she looked at him, and saw how
he had improved, and perceived the faithful allegiance with which he
watched every movement she made, the heart of the beauty was touched.
Worship is sweet, even when it is only a country boy who bestows it--and
perhaps this country boy might turn out a genius or a poet. Not that
Matilda cared much for genius or poetry, but she liked everything which
bestows distinction, and was aware that in the lack of other titles, a
little notability, even in society, might be obtained if one was wise,
and knew how to manage it, even by such means. And besides all this,
honestly and at the foundation, she was fond of Colin. When she had
surveyed all the company, and had made up her mind that there was nobody
there in the least degree interesting, she held up her fan with a pretty
gesture, calling him to her. The lad made his way through the assembly
at that call with a smile and glow of exultation which it is impossible
to describe. His face was lighted up with a kind of celestial
intoxication. “Who is that very handsome young man?” the Dowager
Countess was moved to remark as he passed within her ladyship’s range of
vision, which was limited, for Lady Hallamshire was, like most other
people, shortsighted. “Oh, he is not a handsome young man, he is only
the tutor,” said one of the ladies of the Holy Loch; but,
notwithstanding, she too looked after Colin, with aroused curiosity. “I
suppose Matty Frankland must have met him in society,” said the Dowager,
who was the most comfortable of _chaperones_, and went on with her talk,
turning her eyeglass towards her pretty charge. As for the young men,
they stared at Colin with mingled consternation and wrath. What was he?
a fellow who had not a penny, a mere Scotch student, to be distinguished
by the prettiest girl in the room? for the aspiring people about the
Holy Loch, as well as in the other parts of Scotland, had come to
entertain that contempt for the national universities and national
scholarship which is so curious a feature in the present transition
state of the country. If Colin had been an Oxford man the west-country
people would have thought it quite natural, but a Scotch student did not
impress them with any particular respect.

“I am so glad to meet you again!” said Matty, with the warmest
cordiality, “but so surprised to see you here. What are you doing here?
why have you come away from that delicious Ramore, where I am sure I
should live for ever and ever if it were mine? What have you been doing
with yourself all this time? Come and tell me all about it; and I do so
want to know how everything is looking at that dear castle and in our
favourite glen. Don’t you remember that darling glen behind the church,
where we used to gather basketfuls of primroses--and all the lovely
mosses? I am dying to hear about everything and everybody. Do come and
sit down here, and tell me all.”

“Where shall I begin?” said Colin, who, utterly forgetful of his
position, and all the humilities incumbent on him in such an exalted
company, had instantly taken possession of the seat she pointed out to
him, and had placed himself according to her orders directly between her
and the company, shutting her into a corner. Miss Matty could see very
well all that was going on in the drawing-room, but Colin had his back
to the company, and had forgotten everything in the world except her
face.

“Oh, with yourself, of course,” said Matty. “I want to know all about
it; and, first of all, what are you doing among these sort of people?”
the young lady continued, with a little nod of her head towards the
assembled multitude, some of whom were quite within hearing.

“These sort of people have very little to say to me,” said Colin, who
suddenly felt himself elevated over their heads; “I am only the tutor;”
and the two foolish young creatures looked at each other, and laughed,
as if Colin of Ramore had been a prince in disguise, and his tutorship
an excellent joke.

“Oh, you are only the tutor?” said Miss Matty--“that is charming. Then
one will be able to make all sorts of use of you. Everybody is allowed
to maltreat a tutor. You will have to row us on the loch, and walk with
us to the glen, and carry our cloaks, and generally conduct yourself as
becomes a slave and vassal. As for me, I shall order you about with the
greatest freedom, and expect perfect obedience,” said the beauty,
looking with her eyes full of laughter into Colin’s face.

“All that goes without saying,” said Colin, who did not like to commit
himself to the French. “I almost think I have already proved my perfect
allegiance.”

“Oh, you were only a boy last year,” said Miss Matty, with some
evanescent change of colour, which looked like a blush to Colin’s
delighted eyes. “Now you are a man and a tutor, and we shall behave to
you accordingly. How lovely that glen was last spring, to be sure,”
continued the girl, with a little quite unconscious natural feeling; “do
you remember the day when it rained, and we had to wait under the
beeches, and when you imagined all sorts of things in the pattering of
the shower? Do you ever write any poetry now? I want so much to see what
you have been doing--since--” said the siren, who, half-touched by
nature in her own person, was still perfectly conscious of her power.

“Since!” Colin repeated the word over to himself with a flush of
happiness which, perhaps, no real good in existence could have equalled.
Poor boy! if he could but have known what had happened “since” in Miss
Matty’s experience--but, fortunately, he had not the smallest idea what
was involved in the season which the young lady had lately terminated,
or in the brilliant winter campaign in the country, which had brought
adorers in plenty, but nothing worthy of the beauty’s acceptance, to
Miss Matty’s feet. Colin thought only of the beatific dreams, the
faithful follies which had occupied his own juvenile imagination
“since.” As for the heroine herself, she looked slightly confused to
hear him repeat the word. She had meant it to produce its effect, but
then she was thinking solely of a male creature of her own species, and
not of a primitive, innocent soul like that which looked at her in a
glow of young delight out of Colin’s eyes. She was used to be admired
and complimented, and humoured to the top of her bent, but she did not
understand being believed in, and the new sensation somewhat flattered
and embarrassed the young woman of the world. She watched his look, as
he replied to her, and thereby added doubly, though she did not mean it,
to the effect of what she had said.

“I never write poetry,” said Colin, “I wish I could--I know how I should
use the gift; but I have a few verses about somewhere, I suppose, like
everybody else. Last spring I was almost persuaded I could do something
better; but that feeling lasts only so long as one’s inspiration lasts,”
said the youth, looking down, in his turn, lest his meaning might be
discovered too quickly in his eye.

And then there ensued a pause--a pause which was more dangerous than the
talk, and which Miss Matty made haste to break.

“Do you know you are very much changed?” she said. “You never did any of
this society-talk last year. You have been making friends with some
ladies somewhere, and they have taught you conversation. But, as for me,
I am your early friend, and I preferred you when you did not talk like
other people,” said Miss Matty, with a slight pout. “Tell me who has
been forming your mind?”

Perhaps it was fortunate for Colin at this moment that Lady Hallamshire
had become much bored by the group which had gathered round her sofa.
The dowager was clever in her way, and had written a novel or two, and
was accustomed to be amused by the people who had the honour of talking
to her. Though she was no longer a leader of fashion, she kept up the
manners and customs of that remarkable species of the human race, and
when she was bored, permitted her sentiments to be plainly visible in
her expressive countenance. Though it was the member for the county who
was enlightening her at that moment in the statistics of the West
Highlands, and though she had been in a state of great anxiety five
minutes before about the emigration which was depopulating the moors,
her ladyship broke in quite abruptly in the midst of the poor-rates with
a totally irrelevant observation--

“It appears to me that Matty Frankland has got into another flirtation;
I must go and look after her,” said the Dowager; and she smiled
graciously upon the explanatory member, and left him talking, to the
utter consternation of their hostess. Lady Hallamshire thought it
probable that the young man was amusing as well as handsome, or Matty
Frankland, who was a girl of discretion, would not have received him
into such marked favour. “Though I daresay there is nobody here worth
her trouble,” her chaperone thought as she looked round the room; but
anyhow a change was desirable. “Matty, mignonne, I want to know what you
are talking about,” she said, suddenly coming to anchor opposite the two
young people; and a considerable fuss ensued to find her ladyship a
seat, during which time Colin had a hundred minds to run away. The
company took a new centre after this performance on the part of the
great lady, and poor Colin, all at once, began to feel that he was doing
exactly the reverse of what was expected of him. He got up with a
painful blush as he met Mr. Jordan’s astonished eye. The poor boy did
not know that he had been much more remarked before: “flirting openly
with that dreadful little coquette Miss Frankland, and turning his back
upon his superiors,” as some of the indignant bystanders said. Even
Colin’s matronly friends, who pitied him and formed his mind,
disapproved of his behaviour. “She only means to make a fool of you, and
you ought not to allow yourself to be taken in by it,” said one of these
patronesses in his ear, calling him aside. But Fate had determined
otherwise.

“Don’t go away,” said Lady Hallamshire. “I like Matty to introduce all
her friends to me; and you two look as if you had known each other a
long time,” said the dowager, graciously; for she was pleased, like most
women, by Colin’s looks. “One would know him again if one met him,” she
added, in an audible aside; “he doesn’t look exactly like everybody
else, as most young men do. Who is he, Matty?” And Miss Frankland’s
_chaperone_ turned the light of her countenance full upon Colin, quite
indifferent to the fact that he had heard one part of her speech quite
as well as the other. When a fine lady consents to enter the outer
world, it is to be expected that she should behave herself as civilized
people do among savages, and the English among the other nations of the
world.

“Oh, yes! we have known each other a long time,” said Matty, partly with
a generous, partly with a mischievous, instinct. “My uncle knows Mr.
Campbell’s father very well, and Harry and he and I made acquaintance
when we were children. I am sure you must have heard how nearly Harry
was drowned once when we were at Kilchurn Castle. It was Mr. Campbell
who saved his life.”

“Oh!” said Lady Hallamshire; “but I thought that was”--and then she
stopped short. Looking at Colin again, her ladyship’s experienced eye
perceived that he was not arrayed with that perfection of apparel to
which she was accustomed; but at the same moment her eye caught his
glowing face, half pleased, half haughty with that pride of lowliness
which is of all pride the most defiant. “I am very glad to make Mr.
Campbell’s acquaintance,”--she went on so graciously that everybody
forgot the pause. “Harry Frankland is a very dear young friend of mine,
and we are all very much indebted to his deliverer.”

It was just what a distinguished matron would have said in the
circumstances in one of Lady Hallamshire’s novels; but, instead of
remaining overcome with grateful confusion, as the hero ought to have
done, Colin made an immediate reply.

“I cannot take the credit people give me,” said the lad, with a little
heat. “He happened to get into my boat when he was nearly
exhausted--that is the whole business. There has been much more talk
about it than was necessary. I cannot pretend even to be a friend of Mr.
Frankland,” said Colin, with the unnecessary explanatoriness of youth,
“and I certainly did not save his life.”

With which speech the young man disappeared out of sight amid the
wondering assembly, which privately designated him a young puppy and a
young prig, and by various other epithets, according to the individual
mind of the speaker. As for Lady Hallamshire, she was considerably
disgusted. “Your friend is original, I dare say; but I am not sure that
he is quite civil,” she said to Matty, who did not quite know whether to
be vexed or pleased by Colin’s abrupt withdrawal. Perhaps on the whole
the young lady liked him better for having a mind of his own,
notwithstanding his devotion, and for preferring to bestow his worship
without the assistance of spectators. If he had been a man in the least
eligible as a lover, Miss Frankland might have been of a different
opinion; but, as that was totally out of possibility, Matty liked, on
the whole, that he should do what was ideally right, and keep up her
conception of him. She gave her head a pretty toss of semi-defiance, and
went across the room to Mrs. Jordan, to whom she was very amiable and
caressing all the rest of the evening. But she still continued to watch
with the corner of her eye the tall boyish figure which was now and then
to be discerned in the distance, with those masses of brown hair heaped
like clouds upon the forehead, which Colin’s height made visible over
the heads of many very superior people. She knew he was watching her
and noted every movement she made, and she felt a little proud of the
slave, who, though he was only the tutor and a poor farmer’s son, had
something in his eyes which nobody else within sight had any inkling of.
Matty was rather clever in her way, which was as much different from
Colin’s as light from darkness. No man of a mental calibre like hers
could have found him out; but she had a little insight, as a woman,
which enabled her to perceive the greater height when she came within
sight of it. And then poor Colin, all unconsciously, had given her such
an advantage over him. He had laid his boy’s heart at her feet, and,
half in love, half in imagination, had made her the goddess of his
youth. If she had thought it likely to do him any serious damage,
perhaps Matty, who was a good girl enough, and was of some use to the
rector and very popular among the poor in her own parish, might have
done her duty by Colin, and crushed this pleasant folly in the bud. But
then it did not occur to her that a “friendship” of which it was so very
evident nothing could ever come, could harm anybody. It did not occur to
her that an ambitious Scotch boy, who knew no more of the world than a
baby, and who had been fed upon all the tales of riches achieved and
glories won which are the common fare of many a homely household, might
possibly entertain a different opinion. So Matty asked all kinds of
questions about him of Mrs. Jordan, and gave him now and then a little
nod when she met his eye, and generally kept up a kind of special
intercourse far more flattering to the youth than ordinary conversation.
Poor Colin neither attempted nor wished to defend himself. He put his
head under the yoke, and hugged his chains. He collected his verses,
poor boy! when he went to his own room that night--verses which he knew
very well were true to her, but in which it would be rather difficult to
explain the fatal stroke--the grievous blow on which he had expatiated
so vaguely that it might be taken to mean the death of his lady rather
than the simple fact that she did not come to Kilchurn Castle when he
expected her. How to make her understand that this was the object of his
lamentations puzzled him a little; for Colin knew enough of romance to
be aware that the true lover does not venture to address the princess
until he has so far conquered fortune as to make his suit with honour to
her and fitness in the eyes of the world.

It was thus that the young tutor sat in his bare little room out of the
way, and, with eyes that glowed over his midnight candle, looked into
the future, and calculated visionary dates at which, if all went with
him as he hoped, he might lay his trophies at his lady’s feet. It is
true that Matty herself fully intended by that time to have daughters
ready to enter upon the round of conquest from which she should have
retired into matron dignity; but no such profanity ever occurred to
Colin. Thus the two thought of each other as they went to their
rest--the one with all the delusions of heroic youthful love, the other
with no delusions at all, but a half gratitude, half affection--a
woman’s compassionate fondness for the man who had touched her heart a
little by giving her his, but whom it was out of the question ever to
think of loving. And so the coils of Fate began to throw themselves
around the free-born feet of young Colin of Ramore.



CHAPTER XI.


Lady Hallamshire was a woman very accessible to a little judicious
flattery, and very sensible of good living. She liked Mr. Jordan’s
liberal house, and she liked the court that was paid to her; and was not
averse to lengthening out her visit, and converting three days into a
fortnight, especially as her ladyship’s youngest son, Horace
Fitz-Gibbon, who was a lieutenant in the navy, was expected daily in the
Clyde--at least his ship was, which comes to the same thing. Horace was
a dashing young fellow enough, with nothing but his handsome face (he
had his mother’s nose, as everybody acknowledged, and, although now a
dowager, she had been a great beauty in her day), and the honourable
prefix to his name to help him on in the world. Lady Hallamshire had
heard of an heiress or two about, and her maternal ambition was
stimulated; and, at the same time, the grouse were bewitching, and the
cookery most creditable. The only thing she was sorry for was Matty
Frankland, her ladyship said, who never could stay more than a week
anywhere, unless she was flirting with somebody, without being bored.
Perhaps the necessary conditions had been obtained even at Ardmartin,
for Matty bore up very well on the whole. She fulfilled the threat of
making use of the tutor to the fullest extent; and Colin gave himself up
to the enjoyment of his fool’s paradise without a thought of flying from
the dangerous felicity. They climbed the hills together, keeping far in
advance of their companions, who overtook them only to find the mood
change, and to leave behind in the descent the pair of loiterers, whose
pace no calls nor advices, nor even the frequent shower, could quicken;
and they rowed together over the lovely loch, about which Matty, having
much fluency of language, and the adroitness of a little woman of the
world in appropriating other people’s sentiments, showed even more
enthusiasm than Colin. Perhaps she too enjoyed this wonderful holiday in
the life which already she knew by heart, and found no novelty in. To be
adored, to be invested with all the celestial attributes, to feel
herself the one grand object in somebody’s world, is pleasant to a
woman. Matty almost felt as if she was in love, without the
responsibility of the thing, or any need for troubling herself about
what it was going to come to. It could come to nothing--except an
expression of gratitude and kindness to the young man who had saved her
cousin’s life. When everything was so perfectly safe, there could be no
harm in the enjoyment; and the conclusion Matty came to, as an
experimental philosopher, was, that to fall in love really, and to
accept its responsibilities, would be an exciting but highly troublesome
amusement. She could not help thinking to herself how anxious she should
be about Colin if such a thing were possible. How those mistakes which
he could not help making, and which at present did not disturb her in
the least, would make her glow and burn with shame, if he were really
anything to her. And yet he was a great deal to her. She was as good as
if she had been really possessed by that love on which she speculated,
and almost as happy; and Colin was in her mind most of the hours of the
day, when she was awake, and a few of those in which she slept. The
difference was, that Matty contemplated quite calmly the inevitable fact
of leaving Ardmartin on Monday, and did not think it in the least likely
that she would break her heart over the parting; and that, even in
imagination, she never for a moment connected her fate with that of her
young adorer.

But as for the poor youth himself, he went deeper and deeper into the
enchanted land. He went without any resistance, giving himself up to the
sweet fate. She had read the poems of course, and had inquired eagerly
into that calamity which occupied so great a part in them, and had found
out what it was, and had blushed (as Colin thought), but was not angry.
What could a shy young lover, whose lips were sealed by honour, but who
knew his eyes, his actions, his productions to be alike eloquent, desire
more? Sometimes Lady Hallamshire consented to weigh down the boat,
which dipped hugely at the stern under her, and made Colin’s task a hard
one. Sometimes the tutor, who counted for nobody, was allowed to conduct
a cluster of girls, of whom he saw but one, over the peaceful water.
Lessons did not count for much in those paradisaical days. Miss
Frankland begged holidays for the boys; begged that they might go
excursions with her, and make pic-nics on the hill-side, and accompany
her to all sorts of places, till Mrs. Jordan was entirely captivated
with Matty. She never saw a young lady so taken up with children, the
excellent woman said; and prophesied that Miss Matty would make a
wonderful mother of a family when her time came. As for the tutor, Mrs.
Jordan too took him for a cipher, and explained to him how improving it
was for the boys to be in good society, by way of apologizing to Colin.
At length there occurred one blessed day in which Colin and his boys
embarked with Miss Frankland alone, to row across to Ramore. “My uncle
has so high an opinion of Mr. Campbell,” Matty said very demurely; “I
know he would never forgive me if I did not go to see him.” As for
Colin, his blessedness was tempered on that particular occasion by a
less worthy feeling. He felt, if not ashamed of Ramore, at least,
apologetic of it and its accessories, which apology took, as was natural
to a Scotch lad of his years, an argumentative and defiant tone.

“It is a poor house enough,” said Colin, as he pointed it out, gleaming
white upon the hill-side, to Miss Matty, who pretended to remember it
perfectly, but who after all had not the least idea which was
Ramore--“but I would not change with anybody I know. We are better off
in the cottages than you in the palaces. Comfort is a poor sort of
heathen deity to be worshipped as you worship him in England. As for us,
we have a higher standard,” said the lad, half in sport and more than
half in earnest. The two young Jordans after a little gaping at the talk
which went over their heads (for Miss Matty was wonderfully taken up
with the children only when their mother was present), had betaken
themselves to the occupation of sailing a little yacht from the bows of
their boat, and were very well-behaved and disturbed nobody.

“Yes,” said Matty, in an absent tone. “By the way, I wish very much you
would tell me why you rejected my uncle’s proposal about going to
Oxford. I suppose you _have_ a higher standard; but then they say you
don’t have such good scholars in Scotland. I am sure I beg your pardon
if I am wrong.”

“But I did not say you were wrong,” said Colin, who, however, grew fiery
red, and burned to prove his scholarship equal to that of any Eton lad
or Christ-church man. “They say, on the other side, that a man may get
through without disgrace, in Oxford or Cambridge, who doesn’t know how
to spell English,” said the youth, with natural exasperation--and took a
few long strokes which sent the boat flying across the summer ripples,
and consumed his angry energy. He was quite ready to sneer at Scotch
scholarship in his own person, when he and his fellows were together,
and even to sigh over the completer order and profounder studies of the
great Universities of England; but to acknowledge the inferiority of his
country in any particular to the lady of his wishes, was beyond the
virtue of a Scotchman and a lover.

“I did not speak of stupid people,” said Miss Matty; “and I am sure I
did not mean to vex you. Of course I know you are so very clever in
Scotland; everybody allows _that_. I love Scotland so much,” said the
politic little woman; “but then every country has its weak points and
its strong points; and you have not told me yet why you rejected my
uncle’s proposal. He wished you very much to accept it; and so did I,”
said the siren, after a little pause, lifting upon Colin the
half-subdued light of her blue eyes.

“Why did you wish it?” the lad asked, as was to be expected, bending
forward to hear the answer to his question.

“Oh, look there! little Ben will be overboard in another minute,” said
Matty, and then she continued lower, “I can’t tell you, I’m sure;
because I thought you were going to turn out a great genius, I suppose.”

“But you don’t believe _that_?” said Colin; “you say so only to make the
Holy Loch a little more like Paradise; and that is unnecessary to-day,”
the lad went on, glancing round him with eyes full of the light that
never was on sea or land. Though he was not a poet, he had what was
almost better, a poetic soul. The great world moved for him always amid
everlasting melodies, the morning and the evening stars singing together
even through the common day. Just now his cup was about running over.
What if, to crown all, God, not content with giving him life and love,
had indeed visibly to the sight of others, if not to his own, bestowed
genius also, the other gift most prized of youth. Somehow, he could not
contradict that divine peradventure, “If it were so,” he said under his
breath, “if it were so!” and the other little soul opposite, who had
lost sight of Colin at that moment, and did not know through what
bright mists he was wandering, strained her limited vision after him,
and wondered and asked what he meant.

“If it were so,” said Matty, “what then?” Most likely she expected a
compliment--and Colin’s compliments being made only by inference, and
with a shyness and an emotion unknown to habitual manufacturers of such
articles, were far from being unpleasant offerings to Miss Matty, who
was slightly _blasé_ of the common coin.

But Colin only shook his head, and bent his strong young frame to the
oars, and shook back the clouds of brown hair from his half-visible
forehead. The boat flew like a swallow along the crisp bosom of the
loch. Miss Matty did not quite know what to make of the silence, not
being in love. She took off her glove and held her pretty hand in the
water over the side of the boat, but the loch was cold, and she withdrew
it presently. What was he thinking of, she wondered? Having lost sight
of him thus, she was reluctant to begin the conversation anew, lest she
might perhaps say something which would betray her non-comprehension,
and bring her down from that pedestal which, after all, it was pleasant
to occupy. Feminine instinct at last suggested to Matty what was the
very best thing to do in the circumstances. She had a pretty voice, and
perfect ease in the use of it, and knew exactly what she could do, as
people of limited powers generally can. So she began to sing, murmuring
to herself at first as she stooped over the water, and then rising into
full voice. As for Colin, that last touch was almost too much for him;
he had never heard her sing before, and he could not help marvelling as
he looked at her why Providence should have lavished such endowments
upon one, and left so many others unprovided--and fell to rowing softly,
dropping his oars into the sunshine with as little sound as possible, to
do full justice to the song. When Matty had come to the end she turned
on him quite abruptly, and, almost before the last note had died from
her lips, repeated her question. “Now tell me why did you refuse to go
to Oxford?” said the little siren, looking full into Colin’s face.

“Because I can’t be dependent upon any man, and because I had done
nothing to entitle me to such a recompense,” said Colin, who was taken
by surprise; “you all make a mistake about that business,” he said, with
a slight sudden flush of colour, and immediately fell to his oars again
with all his might.

“It is very odd,” said Miss Matilda. “Why don’t you like Harry? He is
nothing particular, but he is a very good sort of boy, and it is so
strange that you should have such a hatred to each other--I mean to say,
_he_ is not at all fond of _you_,” she continued, with a laugh. “I
believe he is jealous because we all talk of you so much; and it must be
rather hard upon a boy after all to have his life _saved_, and to be
expected to be grateful; for I don’t believe a word you say,” said Miss
Matty. “I know the rights of it better than you do--you _did_ save his
life.”

“I hope you will quite release him from the duty of being grateful,”
said Colin; “I don’t suppose there is either love or hatred between us.
We don’t know each other to speak of, and I don’t see any reason why we
should be fond of each other;” and again Colin sent the boat forward
with long, rapid strokes, getting rid of the superfluous energy which
was roused within by hearing Frankland’s name.

“It is very odd,” said Matty again. “I wonder if you are fated to be
rivals, and come in each other’s way. If I knew any girl that Harry was
in love with, I should not like to introduce you to her,” said Miss
Matty, and she stopped and laughed a little, evidently at something in
her own mind. “How odd it would be if you were to be rivals through
life,” she continued; “I am sure I can’t tell which I should most wish
to win--my cousin, who is a very good boy in his way, or you, who puzzle
me so often,” said the little witch, looking suddenly up into Colin’s
eyes.

“How is it possible I can puzzle you?” he said; but the innocent youth
was flattered by the sense of superiority involved. “There can be very
little rivalry between an English baronet and a Scotch minister,”
continued Colin. “We shall never come in each other’s way.”

“And _must_ you be a Scotch minister?” said Miss Matty, softly. There
was a regretful tone in her voice, and she gave an appealing glance at
him, as if she were remonstrating against that necessity. Perhaps it was
well for Colin that they were so near the shore, and that he had to give
all his attention to the boat, to secure the best landing for those
delicate little feet. As he leaped ashore himself, ankle-deep into the
bright but cold water, Colin could not but remember his boyish scorn of
Henry Frankland, and that dislike of wet feet which was so amusing and
wonderful to the country boy. Matters were wonderfully changed
now-a-days for Colin; but still he plunged into the water with a certain
relish, and pulled the boat ashore with a sense of his strength and
delight in it which at such a moment it was sweet to experience. As for
Miss Matty, she found the hill very steep, and accepted the assistance
of Colin’s arm to get over the sharp pebbles of the beach. “One ought to
wear strong boots,” she said, holding out the prettiest little foot,
which indeed had been perfectly revealed before by the festooned dress,
which Miss Matty found so convenient on the hills. When Colin’s mother
saw from her window this pair approaching alone (for the Jordan boys
were ever so far behind, still coquetting with their toy yacht), it was
not wonderful if her heart beat more quickly than usual. She jumped,
with her womanish imagination, at all kinds of incredible results, and
saw her Colin happy and great, by some wonderful conjunction of his own
genius and the favour of others, which it would have been hopeless to
attempt any comprehension of. The mistress altogether puzzled and
overwhelmed Miss Matty by the greeting she gave her. The little woman of
the world looked in utter amazement at the poor farmer’s wife, whom she
meant to be very kind and amiable to, but who to her consternation, took
the superior part by right of nature; for Mrs. Campbell, being possessed
by her own idea, was altogether obtuse to her visitor’s condescensions.
The parlour at Ramore looked dingy certainly after the drawing-rooms of
Ardmartin, and all the business of the farm was manifestly going on as
usual; but even Colin, sensitive as he had become to all the differences
of circumstances, was puzzled, like Matty, and felt his mother to have
suddenly developed into a kind of primitive princess. Perhaps the poor
boy guessed why, and felt that his love was elevating not only himself
but everybody who belonged to him; but Miss Matty, who did not
understand how profound emotion could affect anybody’s manners, nor how
her young admirer’s mother could be influenced by his sentiments, was
entirely in the dark, and could not help being immensely impressed by
the bearing and demeanour of the mistress of Ramore.

“I’m glad it’s such a bonny day,” said Colin’s mother; “it looks natural
and seemly to see you here on a day like this. As for Colin, he aye
brings the light with him, but no often such sunshine as you. I canna
lay any great feast before you,” said the farmer’s wife with a smile,
“but young things like you are aye near enough heaven to be pleased with
the common mercies. After a’, if I was a queen I couldna offer you
anything better than the white bread and the fresh milk,” said the
mistress; and she set down on the table, with her own tender hands, the
scones for which Ramore was famous, and the abundant over-running jug
of milk, which was not to be surpassed anywhere, as she said. Matty sat
down with an odd involuntary conviction that Mr. Jordan’s magnificent
table on the other side of the loch offered but a poor hospitality in
comparison. Though she laughed at herself an hour after, it was quite
impossible at that moment to feel otherwise than respectful. “I never
saw anybody with such beautiful manners,” she said to Colin as they went
back to the boat. She did not take his arm this time, but walked very
demurely after him down the narrow path, feeling upon her the eyes of
the mistress, who was standing at her door as usual to see her son go
away. Matty could not help a little natural awe of the woman whose soft
eyes were watching her. She could manage her aunt perfectly, and did not
care in the least for Lady Hallamshire, who was the most accommodating
of chaperones, but Mrs. Campbell’s sweet looks, and generous reception
of her son’s enslaver somehow overwhelmed Matty. The mistress looked at
the girl as if she considered her capable of all the grand and simple
emotions which were in her own heart, and Matty was half-ashamed and
half-frightened, and did not feel able at the moment to pursue her usual
amusement. The row back, to which Colin had been looking with a thrill
of expectation, was silent and grave, in comparison with all their
former expeditions, notwithstanding that this was the last time they
were likely to see each other alone. Poor Colin thought of Lauderdale
and his philosophy, for the first time for many days, when he had to
stop behind to place the boat in safety on the beach, while Matty, who
generally waited for him, skipped up the avenue as fast as she could go,
with the little Jordans beside her. Never yet was reality which came
truly up to the expectation. Here was an end of his fool’s paradise; he
vexed himself by going over and over all that had passed, wondering if
anything had offended her; and then thought of Ramore with a pang at his
heart--a pang of something nobler than the mere bitterness of contrast,
which sometimes makes a poor man ashamed of his home. But all this time
the true reason for her new-born reserve--which Miss Matty kept up
victoriously until about the close of the evening, when, being utterly
bored, she forgot her good resolution and called him to her side
again--was quite unsuspected by Colin. He could not divine how
susceptible to the opinion of women was the heart of a woman, even when
it retained but little of its first freshness. Matty was not startled by
Colin’s love, but she was by his mother’s belief in it and herself; it
stopped her short in her careless career, and suggested endings that
were not pleasant to think of. If she had been kept in amusement for a
day or two after, it might have been well for Colin--but being bored she
returned to her natural sport, and this interruption did him no good in
the end.



CHAPTER XII.


The parting of the two who had been thrown so much together, who had
thought so much of each other, and who had, notwithstanding, so few
things in common, was as near an absolute parting as is practicable in
this world of constant commotion, where everybody meets everybody else
in the most unlikely regions. Colin dared not propose to write to her;
dared not, indeed--being withheld by the highest impulses of
honour--venture to say to her what was in his heart; and Miss Matty
herself was a little silent--perhaps a little moved--and could not utter
any commonplaces about meeting again, as she had intended to do. So they
said good-bye to each other in a kind of absolute way, as if it might be
for ever and ever. As for Matty, who was not in love, but whose heart
was touched, and who had a vague, instinctive sense that she might never
more meet anybody in her life like this country lad--perhaps she had
enough generosity left in her to feel that it would be best they should
not meet again. But Colin had no such thoughts. He felt in his heart
that one time--how or when he knew not--he should yet go to her feet and
offer what he had to offer: everything else in the world except that one
thing was doubtful to Colin, but concerning that he was confident, and
entertained no fear. And so they parted; she, perhaps, for half an hour
or so, the most deeply moved of the two. Miss Matty, however, was just
as captivating as usual in the next house they went to, where there were
one or two people worth looking at, and the company in general was more
interesting than at Ardmartin; but Colin, for his part, spent most of
the evening on the hillside, revolving in the silence a hundred
tumultuous thoughts. It was the end of September, and the nights were
cold on the Holy Loch. There was not even a moon to enliven the
landscape, and all that could be seen was the cold, blue glimmer of the
water, upon which Colin looked down with a kind of desolate sense of
elevation--elevation of the mind and of the heart, which made the grief
of parting look like a grand moral agent, quickening all his powers, and
concentrating his strength. Henceforward the strongest of personal
motives was to inspire him in all his conflicts. He was going into the
battle of life with his lady’s colours on his helmet, like a knight of
romance, and failure was not to be thought of as a possibility. As he
set his face to the wind, going back to Ardmartin, the pale sky
lightened over the other side of the loch, and underneath the breaking
clouds, which lay so black on the hills, Colin saw the distant glimmer
of a light, which looked like the light in the parlour window at Ramore.
Just then a sudden gust swept across the hill-side, throwing over him a
shower of falling leaves, and big rain-drops from the last shower. There
was not a soul on the road but Colin himself, nor anything to be seen
far or near, except the dark tree-tops in the Lady’s Glen, which were
sighing in the night wind, and the dark side of Ardmartin, where all the
shutters are closed, and one soft star hanging among the clouds just
over the spot where that little friendly light in the farmhouse of
Ramore held up its glimmer of human consolation in the darkness. It was
not Hero’s torch to light her love--was it, perhaps, a sober gleam of
truth and wisdom to call the young Leander back from those bitter waters
in which he could but perish? All kinds of fancies were in Colin’s mind
as he went back, facing the wind, to the dull, closed up house, from
which the enchantment had departed; but among them there occurred no
thought of discouragement from this pursuit upon which now his heart was
set. He would have drowned himself cauld he have imagined it possible
that he could cease to love--and so long as he loved how was it possible
to fail?

“And _must_ you be a Scotch minister?” When Colin went home a fortnight
later to make his preparations for returning to the University, he was
occupied, to the exclusion of almost all other questions, by revolving
this. It is true that at his age, and with his inexperience, it was
possible to imagine that even a Scotch minister, totally unfavoured by
fortune, might, by mere dint of genius, raise himself to heights of fame
sufficient to bring Sir Thomas Frankland’s niece within his reach--but
the thing was unlikely, even to the lively imagination of twenty. And it
was the fact that Colin had no special “vocation” towards the profession
for which he was being trained. He had been educated and destined for it
all his life, and his thoughts had a natural bias that way. But
otherwise there was no personal impulse in his mind towards what Mrs.
Jordan called “the work of the ministry.” Hitherto his personal impulses
had been neither for nor against. Luckily for Colin, and many of his
contemporaries, there were so many things to object to in the Church of
Scotland, so many defects of order and external matters which required
reformation, that they were less strongly tempted to become sceptical in
matters of faith than their fellows elsewhere. As for Colin himself, he
had fallen off no doubt from the certainty of his boyhood upon many
important matters; but the lad, though he was a Scotchman, was happily
illogical, and suffered very little by his doubts. Nothing could have
made him sceptical, in any real sense of the word, and accordingly there
was no repulsion in Colin’s mind against his future profession. But now!
He turned it over in his mind night and day in the interval between
Matty’s departure and his own return to Ramore. What if, instead of a
Scotch minister, incapable of promotion, and to whom ambition itself was
unlawful, he were to address himself to the Bar, where there were at
least chances and possibilities of fame? He was occupied with this
question, to the exclusion of every other, as he crossed the loch in the
little steamer, and landed on the pier near Ramore, where his young
brothers met him, eager to carry his travelling-bag, and convey him home
in triumph. Colin was aware that such a proposal on his part would
occasion grievous disappointment at home, and he did not know how to
introduce the subject, or disclose his wavering wishes. It was a
wonderful relief, as well as confusion to him, when he entered the
Ramore parlour, to find Lauderdale in possession of the second
arm-chair, opposite the mistress’s, which was sacred to visitors. He had
arrived only the evening before, having left Glasgow “for a holiday,
like everybody else, in the saut-water season; the first I ever mind of
having in my life,” he said, with a certain boyish satisfaction,
stretching out his long limbs by the parlour fire.

“It’s ower cauld to have much good of the water,” said the mistress;
“the boat’s no laid up yet, waiting for Colin, but the weather’s awfu’
winterly--no to say soft,” she added, with a little sigh, “for its aye
soft weather among the lochs, though we’ve had less rain than common
this year.”

And as the mistress spoke, the familiar, well-known rain came sweeping
down over the hills. It had the usual effect upon the mind of the
sensitive woman. “We maun take a’ the good we can of you, laddie,” she
said, laying her kind hand on her boy’s shoulder, “it’s only a sight we
get now in passing. He’s owre much thought of, and made of, to spend his
time at hame,” the mistress added, turning, with a half-reproachful
pride to Lauderdale; “I’ll be awfu’ sorry if the rain lasts, on your
account. But, for myself, I could put up with a little soft weather, to
see mair of Colin; no that I want him to stay at hame when he might be
enjoying himself,” she continued, with a compunction. Soft weather on
the Holy Loch signified rain and mist, and everything that was most
discouraging to Mrs. Campbell’s soul, but she was ready to undergo
anything the skies could inflict upon her, if fortified by the society
of her son.

It was the second night after his return before Colin could make up his
mind to introduce the subject of which his thoughts were full. Tea was
over by that time, and all the household assembled in the parlour. The
farmer himself had just laid down his newspaper, from which he had been
reading scraps of county gossip aloud, somewhat to the indignation of
the mistress, who, for her part, liked to hear what was going on in the
world, and took a great interest in Parliament and the foreign
intelligence. “I canna say that I’m heeding about the muckle apple
that’s been grown in Clydesdale, nor the new bailies in Greenock,” said
the farmer’s wife. “If you would read us something wise-like about thae
poor oppressed Italians, or what Louiss Napoleon is thinking about--I
canna excuse him for what they ca’ the _coo-detaw_,” said Mrs. Campbell;
“but for a’ that, I take a great interest in him;” and with this the
mistress took up her knitting with a pleasant anticipation of more
important news to come.

“There’s naething in the _Herald_ about Louiss Napoleon,” said the
farmer, “nor the Italians neither--no that I put much faith in thae
Italians; they’ll quarrel amang themselves when there’s naebody else to
quarrel wi’--though I’m no saying onything against Cavour and Garibaldi.
The paper’s filled full o’ something mair immediately interesting--at
least, it ought to have mair interest to you wi’ a son that’s to be a
minister. Here’s three columns mair about that Dreepdaily case. It may
be a grand thing for popular rights, but it’s an awfu’ ordeal for a man
to gang through,” said big Colin, looking ruefully at his son.

“I was looking at that,” said Lauderdale. “It’s his prayers the folk
seem to object to most--and no wonder. I’ve heard the man mysel’, and
his sermon was not bad reasoning, if anybody wanted reasoning; but it’s
a wonderful thing to me the way that new preachers take upon them to
explain matters to the Almighty,” said Colin’s friend reflectively. “So
far as I can see, we’ve little to ask in our worship; but we have an
awfu’ quantity of things to explain.”

“It is an ordeal I could never submit to,” said Colin, with perhaps a
little more heat than was necessary. “I’d rather starve than be set up
as a target for a parish. It is quite enough to make a cultivated clergy
impossible for Scotland. Who would submit to expose one’s life, all
one’s antecedents, all one’s qualities of mind and language to the
stupid criticism of a set of boors? It is a thing I never could submit
to,” said the lad, meaning to introduce his doubts upon the general
subject by this violent means.

“I dinna approve of such large talking,” said the farmer, laying down
his newspaper. “It’s a great protection to popular rights. I would
sooner run the risk of disgusting a fastidious lad now and then, than
put in a minister that gives nae satisfaction; and if you canna submit
to it, Colin, you’ll never get a kirk, which would be worse than
criticism,” said his father, looking full into his face. The look
brought a conscious colour to Colin’s cheeks.

“Well,” said the young man, feeling himself driven into a corner, and
taking what courage he could from the emergency, “one might choose
another profession;” and then there was a pause, and everybody in the
room looked with alarm and amazement on the bold speaker. “After all,
the Church is not the only thing in Scotland,” said Colin, feeling the
greatness of his temerity. “Nobody ventures to say it is in a
satisfactory state. How often do I hear you criticising the sermon and
finding fault with the prayers? and, as for Lauderdale, he finds fault
with everything. Then, look how much a man has to bear before he gets a
church as you say. As soon as he has his presentation the Presbytery
comes together and asks if there are any objections; and then the parish
sits upon the unhappy man; and, when everybody has had a turn at him,
and all his peculiarities and personal defects and family history have
been discussed before the Presbytery--and put in the newspapers, if they
happen to be amusing--then the poor wretch has to sign a confession
which nobody--”

“Stop you there, Colin, my man,” said the farmer, “that’s enough at one
time. I wouldna say that you were a’thegither wrong as touching the
sermon and the prayers. It’s awfu’ to go in from the like of this
hill-side and weary the very heart out of you in a close kirk, listening
to a man preaching that has nothing in this world to say. I am whiles
inclined to think--” said big Colin, thoughtfully--“laddies, you may as
well go to your beds. You’ll see Colin the morn, and ye canna understand
what we’re talking about. I am whiles disposed to think,” he continued
after a pause, during which the younger members of the family had left
the room, after a little gentle persuasion on the part of the mistress,
“when I go into the kirk on a bonnie day, such as we have by times on
the lock baith in summer and winter, that it’s an awfu’ waste of time.
You lose a’ the bonnie prospect, and you get naething but weariness for
your pains. I’ve aye been awfu’ against set prayers read out of a book;
but I canna but allow the English chapel has a kind of advantage in
that, for nae fool can spoil your devotion there, as I’ve heard it done
many and many’s the time. I ken our minister’s prayers very near as well
as if they were written down,” said the farmer of Ramore, “and the maist
part of them is great nonsense. Ony little scraps o’ real supplication
there may be in them, you could get through in five minutes; the rest is
a’ remarks, that I never can discriminate if they’re meant for me or for
the Almighty; but my next neibor would think me an awfu’ heathen if he
heard what I’m saying,” he continued, with a smile; “and I’m far from
sure that I would get a mair merciful judgment from the wife herself.”

The mistress had been very busy with her knitting while her husband was
speaking; but, notwithstanding her devotion to her work, she was uneasy
and could not help showing it. “If we had been our lane it would have
been naething,” she said to Colin, privately; “but afore yon man that’s
a stranger and doesna ken!” With which sentiment she sat listening, much
disturbed in her mind. “It’s no a thing to say before the bairns,” she
said, when she was thus appealed to, “nor before folk that dinna ken
you. A stranger might think you were a careless man to hear you speak,”
said Mrs. Campbell, turning to Lauderdale with bitter vexation, “for a’
that you havena missed the kirk half a dozen times a’ the years I have
kent you--and that’s a long time,” said the mother, lifting hers soft
eyes to her boy. When she looked at him she remembered that he too had
been rash in his talk. “You’re turning awfu’ like your father, Colin,”
said the mistress, “taking up the same thoughtless way of talking. But I
think different for a’ you say. Our ain kirk is aye our ain kirk to you
as well as to me, in spite o’ your speaking. I’m well accustomed to
their ways,” she said, with a smile, to Lauderdale, who, so far from
being the dangerous observer she thought him, had gone off at a tangent
into his own thoughts.

“The Confession of Faith is a real respectable historical document,”
said Lauderdale. “I might not like to commit myself to a’ it says, if
you were to ask me; but then I’m not the kind o’ man that has a heart to
commit myself to anything in the way of intellectual truth. I wouldna
bind myself to say that I would stand by any document a year after it
was put forth, far less a hundred years. There’s things in it naebody
believes--for example, about the earth being made in six days; but I
would not advise a man to quarrel with his kirk and his profession for
the like of that. I put no dependence on geology for my part, nor any of
the sciences. How can I tell but somebody might make a discovery the
morn that would upset all their fine stories? But, on the whole, I’ve
very little to say against the Confession. It’s far more guarded about
predestination and so forth than might have been expected. Every man of
common sense believes in predestination; though I would not be the man
to commit myself to any statement on the subject. The like of me is good
for little,” said Colin’s friend, stretching his long limbs towards the
fire, “but I’ve great ambition for that callant. He’s not a common
callant, though I’m speaking before his face,” said Lauderdale; “it
would be terrible mortifying to me to see him put himself in a corner
and refuse the yoke.”

“If I cannot bear the yoke conscientiously, I cannot bear it at all,”
said Colin, with a little heat. “If _you_ can’t put your name to what
you don’t believe, why should I?--and as for ambition,” said the lad,
“ambition! what does it mean?--a country church, and two or three
hundred ploughmen to criticise me, and the old wives to keep in good
humour, and the young ones to drink tea with--is that work for a man?”
cried the youth, whose mind was agitated, and who naturally had said a
good deal more than he intended to say. He looked round in a little
alarm after this rash utterance, not knowing whether he had been right
or wrong in such a disclosure of his sentiments. The father and mother
looked at each other, and then turned their eyes simultaneously upon
their son. Perhaps the mistress had a glimmering of the correct meaning
which Colin would not have betrayed wittingly had it cost him his life.

“Eh, Colin, sometime ye’ll think better,” she cried under her
breath--“after a’ our pride in you and our hopes!” The tears came into
her eyes as she looked at him. “It’s mair honour to serve God than to
get on in this world,” said the mistress. The disappointment went to her
heart, as Colin could see; she put her hands hastily to her eyes to
clear away the moisture which dimmed them. “It’s maybe naething but a
passing fancy--but it’s no what I expected to hear from any bairn of
mine,” she said with momentary bitterness. As for the farmer, he looked
on with a surprised and inquiring countenance.

“There has some change come over you, Colin--what has happened?” said
his father. “I’m no a man that despises money, nor thinks it a sin to
get on in the world, but it’s only fools that quarrel wi’ what’s within
their reach for envy of what they can never win to. If ye had displayed
a strong bent any other way I wouldna have minded,” said big Colin. “But
it’s the new-fangled dishes at Ardmartin that have spoiled the callant’s
digestion; he’ll come back to his natural inclination when he’s been at
home for a day or two,” the farmer added, laying his large hand on his
son’s shoulder with a pressure which meant more than his words; but the
youth was vexed, and impatient, and imagined himself laughed at, which
is the most dreadful of insults at Colin’s age, and in his
circumstances. He paid no attention to his father’s looks, but plunged
straightway into vehement declaration of his sentiments, to which the
elder people around him listened with many complications of feeling
unknown to Colin. The lad thought, as was natural at his years, that
nobody had ever felt before him the same bondage of circumstance and
perplexities of soul, and that it was a new revelation he was making to
his little audience. If he could have imagined that both the men were
looking at him with the half sympathy, half pity, half envy of their
maturer years, remembering as vividly as if it had occurred but
yesterday similar outbreaks of impatience and ambition and natural
resistance to all the obstacles of life, Colin would have felt deeply
humiliated in his youthful fervour; or, if he could but have penetrated
the film of softening dew in his mother’s eyes, and beheld there the
woman’s perennial spectatorship of that conflict which goes on for ever.
Instead of that, he thought he was making a new revelation to his
hearers; he thought he was cruel to them, tearing asunder their pleasant
mists of illusion, and disenchanting their eyes; he had not an idea that
they knew all about it better than he did, and were watching him as he
rushed along the familiar path which they all had trod in different
ways, and of which they knew the inevitable ending. Colin, in the heat
and impatience of his youth, took full advantage of his moment of
utterance. He poured forth in his turn that flood of immeasurable
discontent with all conditions and restrictions, which is the privilege
of his years. To be sure, the restrictions and conditions surrounding
himself were, so far as he knew, the sole objects of that indignation
and scorn and defiance which came to his lips by force of nature. As for
his mother, she listened, for her part, with that mortification which is
always the woman’s share. She understood him, sympathised with him, and
yet did not understand nor could tolerate his dissent from all that in
her better judgment she had decided upon on his behalf. She was far more
tender, but she was lest tolerant than the other spectators of Colin’s
outburst; and mingled with all her personal feeling was a sense of
wounded pride and mortification, that her boy had thus betrayed himself
“before a stranger.” “If we had been our lane, it would have been less
matter,” she said to herself, as she wiped the furtive tears hurriedly
from the corners of her eyes.

When Colin had come to an end there was a pause. The boy himself thought
it was a pause of horror and consternation, and perhaps was rather
pleased to produce an effect in some degree corresponding to his own
excitement. After that moment of silence, however, the farmer got up
from his chair. “It’s very near time we were a’ gaun to our beds,” said
big Colin. “I’ll take a look round to see that the beasts are
comfortable, and then we’ll have in the hot water. You and me can have a
talk the morn,” said the farmer to his son. This was all the reply which
the youth received from the parental authorities. When the master went
out to look after the beasts, Lauderdale followed to the door, where
Colin in another moment strayed after him, considerably mortified, to
tell the truth; for even his mother addressed herself to the question of
“hot water,” which implied various other accessories of the homely
supper-table; and the young man, in his excitement and elevation of
feeling, felt as if he had suddenly tumbled down out of the stormy but
lofty firmament, into which he was soaring--down, with a shock, into the
embraces of the homely tenacious earth. He went after his friend, and
stood by Lauderdale’s side, looking out into a darkness so profound that
it made his eyes ache and confused his very mind. The only gleam of
light visible in earth or heaven was big Colin’s lantern, which showed a
tiny gleam from the door of the byre where the farmer was standing. All
the lovely landscape round, the loch and the hills, the sky and the
clouds, lay unseen--hidden in the night. “Which is an awfu’ grand moral
lesson, if we had but sense to discern it,” said the voice of Lauderdale
ascending half-way up to the clouds; “for the loch hasna’ vanished, as
might be supposed, but only the light. As for you, callant, you ken
neither the light nor the darkness as yet, but are aye seeing miraculous
effects like yon man Turner’s pictures, Northern Streamers, or Aurora
Borealis, or whatever ye may call it. And it’s but just you should have
your day;” with which words Lauderdale heaved a great sigh, which moved
the clouds of hair upon Colin’s forehead, and even seemed to disturb,
for a moment, the profound gloom of the night.

“What do you mean by having my day?” said Colin, who was affronted by
the suggestion. “You know I have said nothing that is not true. Can I
help it if I see the difficulties of my own position more clearly than
you do, who are not in my circumstances?” cried the lad with a little
indignation. Lauderdale, who was watching the lantern gliding out and in
through the darkness, was some time before he made any reply.

“I’m no surprised at yon callant Leander, when one comes to think of
it,” he said in his reflective way; “it’s a fine symbol, that Hero in
her tower. May be she took the lamp from the domestic altar and left the
household god in darkness,” said the calm philosopher; “but that makes
no difference to the story. I wouldna’ say but I would swim the
Hellespont myself for such an inducement--or the Holy Loch--it’s little
matter which; but whiles she lets fall the torch before you get to the
end--”

“What do you mean? or what has Hero to do with me?” cried Colin, with a
secret flush of shame and rage, which the darkness concealed but which
he could scarcely restrain.

“I was not speaking of you--and after all, it’s but a fable,” said
Lauderdale; “most history is fable, you know; it’s no actual events,
(which I never believe in, for my part,) but the instincts o’ the human
mind that make history--and that’s how the Heros and Leanders are aye to
be accounted for. He was drowned in the end like most people,” said
Lauderdale, turning back to the parlour where the mistress was seated,
pondering with a troubled countenance upon this new aspect of her boy’s
life. Amid the darkness of the world outside this tender woman sat in
the sober radiance of her domestic hearth, surrounded and enshrined by
light; but she was not like Hero on the tower. Colin, too, came back,
following his friend with a flush of excitement upon his youthful
countenance. After all, the idea was not displeasing to the young man.
The Hellespont, or the Holy Loch, were nothing to the bitter waters
which he was prepared to breast by the light of the imaginary torch held
up in the hand of that imaginary woman who was beckoning Colin, as he
thought, into the unknown world. Life was beginning anew in his person,
and all the fables had to be enacted over again; and what did it matter
to the boy’s heroic fancy, if he too should go to swell the record of
the ancient martyrs, and be drowned, as Lauderdale said--like most
people--in the end?

There was no further conversation upon this important subject until next
morning, when the household of Ramore got up early, and sat down to
breakfast before it was perfect daylight; but Colin’s heart jumped to
his mouth, and a visible thrill went through the whole family, when the
farmer came in from his early inspection of all the byres and stables,
with another letter from Sir Thomas Frankland conspicuous in his hand.



CHAPTER XIII.


“The question is, will ye go or will ye stay?” said big Colin of Ramore;
“but for this, you and me might have had a mair serious question to
discuss. I see a providence in it for my part. You’re but a callant; it
will do you nae harm to wait; and you’ll be in the way of seeing the
world at--what do they call the place? If your mother has nae
objections, and ye see your ain way to accepting, I’ll be very well
content. It’s awfu’ kind o’ Sir Thomas after the way ye’ve rejected a’
his advances--but, no doubt he’s heard that you got on gey weel, on the
whole, at your ain college,” said the farmer, with a little complacency.
They were sitting late over the breakfast table, the younger boys
looking on with eager eyes, wondering over Colin’s wonderful chances,
and feeling severely the contrast of their own lot, who had to take up
the ready satchel and the “piece,” which was to occupy their healthful
appetites till the evening, and hurry off three miles down the loch to
school. As for Archie, he had been long gone to his hard labour on the
farm, and the mother and father and the visitor were now sitting, a
little committee upon Colin’s prospects, which the lad himself
contemplated with a mixture of delight and defiance wonderful to see.

“It’s time for the school, bairns,” said the farmer’s wife; “be good
laddies, and dinna linger on the road either coming or going. Ye’ll get
apples a-piece in the press. I couldna give ony advice, if you ask me,”
said the Mistress, looking at her son with her tender eyes: “Colin, my
man, it’s no for me nor your father either to say one thing or
another--it’s you that must decide--it’s your ain well-being and comfort
and happiness----.” Here the Mistress stopped short with an emotion
which nobody could explain; and at which even Colin, who had the only
clue to it, looked up out of his own thoughts, with a momentary
surprise.

“Hoot,” said the farmer; “you’re aye thinking of happiness, you women. I
hope the laddie’s happiness doesna lie in the power of a year’s change
one way or another. I canna see that it will do him any harm--especially
after what he was saying last night--to pause awhile and take a little
thought; and here’s the best opportunity he could well have. But he
doesna say anything himself--and if you’re against it, Colin, speak out.
It’s your concern, most of all, as your mother says.”

“The callant’s in a terrible swither,” said Lauderdale, with a smile;
“he’ll have it, and he’ll no have it. For one thing, it’s an awfu’
disappointment to get your ain way just after you’ve made up your mind
that you’re an injured man; and he’s but a callant after all, and kens
no better. For my part, I’m no fond of changing when you’ve once laid
your plans. No man can tell what terrible difference a turn in the road
may make. It’s aye best to go straight on. But there’s exceptions,”
continued Lauderdale, laying his hand on Colin’s shoulder. “So far as I
can see, there’s no reason in this world why the callant should not
stand still a moment and taste the sweetness of his lot. He’s come to
man’s estate, and the heavens have never gloomed on him yet. There’s no
evil in him, that I can see,” said Colin’s friend, with an unusual
trembling in his voice; “but for human weakness, it might have been the
lad Michael or Gabriel, out of heaven, that’s been my companion these
gladsome years. It may be but more sweetness and blessing that’s in
store for him. I know no reason why he shouldna pause while the sun’s
shining, and see God’s meaning. It cannot be but good.”

The lad’s friend who understood him best stopped short, like his mother,
with something in his throat that marred his utterance. Why was it?
Colin looked up with the sunshine in his eyes, and laughed with a little
annoyance, a little impatience. He was no more afraid of his lot, nor of
what the next turn in the path would bring, than a child is who knows no
evil. Life was not solemn, but glorious, a thing to be conquered and
made beautiful, to his eyes. He did not understand what they meant by
their faltering and their fears.

“I feel, on the whole, disposed to accept Sir Thomas’s offer,” said the
young prince. “It is no favour, for I am quite able to be his boy’s
tutor, as he says; and I see nothing particularly serious in it either;
most Scotch students stop short sometime and have a spell of teaching. I
have been tutor at Ardmartin; I don’t mind being tutor at Wodensbourne.
I would not be dependent on Sir Thomas Frankland or any man,” said
Colin; “but I am glad to work for myself, and free you, father. I know
you are willing to keep me at college, but you have plenty to do for
Archie and the rest; and now it is my turn; I may help myself and them
too,” cried the youth, glad to disguise in that view of the matter the
thrill of delight at his new prospects, which came from a very different
source. “It will give us a little time, as you say, to think it all
over,” he continued, after a momentary pause, and turned upon his mother
with a smile. “Is there anything to look melancholy about?” said Colin,
tossing back from his forehead the clouds of his brown hair.

“Oh, no, no, God forbid!” said the Mistress--“nothing but hope and the
blessing of God;” but she turned aside from the table, and began to put
away the things by way of concealing the tears that welled up to her
tender eyes; though neither she nor any one for her could have told why.

“Never mind your mother,” said the farmer, “though it’s out of the
common to see a cloud on her face when there’s no cloud to speak of on
the sky. But women are aye having freits and fancies. I think mysel’
it’s the wisest thing ye can do to close with Sir Thomas’s proposal. I
wouldna say but you’ll see a good deal o’ the world,” said the farmer,
shrewd but ignorant; “not that I’m so simple as to suppose that an
English gentleman’s country-seat will bring you to onything very
extraordinary in the way of company; but still, that class of folk is
wonderfully connected, and ye might see mair there in a season than you
could here in a lifetime. It’s time I were looking after Archie and the
men,” said big Colin; “it’s no often I’m so late in the morning. I
suppose you’ll write to Sir Thomas yourself, and make a’ the
arrangements. Ye can say we’re quite content, and pleased at his
thoughtfulness. If that’s no to your mind, Colin, I’m sorry for it; for
a man should be aye man enough to give thanks where thanks are due.”
With this last admonition big Colin of Ramore took up his hat and went
off to his fields. “I wish the callant didna keep a grudge,” he said to
himself, as he went upon his cheerful way. “If he were to set up in
rivalry wi’ young Frankland!” but with the thought a certain smile came
upon the father’s face. He too could not refrain from a certain contempt
of the baronet’s dainty son; and there was scarcely any limit to his
pride and confidence in his boy.

The Mistress occupied herself in putting things to rights in the parlour
long after her husband had gone to the fields. She thought Lauderdale
too wanted to be alone with Colin; and, with natural jealousy, could not
permit the first word of counsel to come from any lips but her own. The
mistress had no baby to occupy her in these days; the little one whom
she had on her bosom at the opening of our history, who bore her own
name and her own smile, and was the one maiden blossom of her life, had
gone back to God who gave her; and, when her boys were at school, the
gentle woman was alone. There was little doing in the dairy just then,
and Mrs. Campbell had planned her occupations so as to have all the time
that was possible to enjoy her son’s society. So she had no special call
upon her at that moment, and lingered over her little business, till
Lauderdale, who would fain have said his say, strayed out in despair,
finding no room for him. “When you’ve finished your letter, Colin,
you’ll find me on the hill,” he said, as he went out; and could not
refrain from a murmur in his own mind at the troublesome cares of “thae
women.” “They’re sweet to see about a house, and the place is hame where
they are,” said the philosopher to himself with a sigh; “but, oh, such
fykes as they ware their hearts on!” The mistress’s “fykes,” however,
were over when the stranger left the house. She came softly to Colin’s
table, where he was writing, and sat down beside him. As for Colin, he
was so much absorbed in his letter that he did not observe his mother;
and it was only when he lifted his head to consider a sentence, and
found her before him, that he woke up, with a little start, out of that
more agreeable occupation, and asked, “Do you want me?” with a look of
annoyance which went to the mistress’s heart.

“Yes, Colin, I want you just for a moment,” said his mother. “I want to
speak to you of this new change in your life. Your father thinks nothing
but it’s Sir Thomas Frankland you’re going to, to be tutor to his boys;
but, oh, Colin, I ken better! It’s no the fine house and the new life
that lights such light in my laddie’s eye. Colin, listen to me. She’s
far above you in this world, though it’s no to be looked for that I
could think ony woman was above you; but she’s a lady with mony wooers,
and you’re but a poor man’s son. Oh, Colin, my man! dinna gang near that
place, nor put yourself in the way of evil, if you havena confidence
both in her and yoursel’. Do you think you can see her day by day and no
break your heart? or do you think she’s worthy of a heart to be thrown
away under her feet? Or, oh, my laddie! tell me this first of a’--do you
think you could ask her, or she could consent, to lose fortune and
grandeur for your sake? Colin, I’m no joking; it’s awfu’ earnest,
whatever you may think. Tell me--if you’ve ony regard for your mother,
or wish her ony kind of comfort the time you’re away.”

This Mrs. Campbell said with tears shining in her eyes, and a look of
entreaty in her face, which Colin had hard ado to meet. But the lad was
full of his own thoughts, and impatient of the interruption which
detained him.

“I wish I knew what you meant,” he said pettishly. “I wish you would not
talk of--people who have nothing to do with my poor little concerns.
Surely, I may be suffered to engage in ordinary work like other people,”
said Colin. “As for the lady you speak of--”

And here the youth paused with a natural smile lurking at the corners of
his lips--a smile of youthful confidence and self-gratulation. Not for a
kingdom would the young hero have boasted of any look or word she had
ever bestowed upon him; but he could not deny himself the delicious
consciousness that she must have had something to do with this
proposal--that it must have been her suggestion, or at least supported,
seconded by her. Only through her could her uncle have known that he was
tutor at Ardmartin; and the thought that it was she herself who was
taking what maidenly means she could for their speedy reunion was too
sweet to Colin’s heart to be breathed in words, even if he could have
done it without a betrayal of his hopes.

“Ay, Colin, the lady--” said his mother; “you say no more in words, but
your eye smiles, and your mouth, and I see the flush on your cheek.
She’s bonnie and sweet and fair-spoken, and I canna think she means ony
harm; but, oh, Colin, my man, mind what a difference in this world!
You’ve nothing to offer her like what she’s been used to,” said the
innocent woman, “and if I was to see my son come back breaking his heart
for ane that was above his reach, and maybe no worthy!--” She could not
say any more, partly because she had exhausted herself, partly because
Colin rose from the table with a flush of excitement, which made his
mother tremble.

“Worthy of me!” said the young man, with a kind of groan, “worthy of me!
Mother, I don’t think you know what you are saying. I am going to
Wodensbourne whatever happens. It may be for good or for evil; I can’t
tell; but I am going, and you must ask me no further questions--not on
this point. I am to be tutor to Sir Thomas Frankland’s boy,” said Colin,
sitting down, with the smile again in his eyes. “Nothing more--and what
could happen better to a poor Scotch student? He might have had a
Cambridge man, and he chooses me. Let me finish my letter, mother dear.”

“He wouldna get many Cambridge men, or ony other men, like my boy,” said
the mother half reassured; and she rearranged with her hands, that
trembled a little, the writing-desk, which Colin’s hasty movements had
thrust out of the way.

“Ah, mother, but a Scotch University does not count for the same as an
English one,” said Colin, with a smile and a sigh; “it is not for my
gifts Sir Thomas has chosen me,” he added, somewhat impatiently, taking
up his pen again. What was it for? That old obligation of Harry
Frankland’s life saved, which Colin had always treated as a fiction? or
the sweet influence of some one who knew that Colin loved her? Which was
it? If the youth determined it should be the last, could anybody wonder?
He bent his head again over his paper, and wrote, with his heart beating
high, that acceptance which was to restore him to her society. As for
the Mistress, she left her son, and went about her homely business,
wiping some tears from her eyes. “I kenna what woman could close her
heart,” she said to herself, with a little sob, in her ignorance and
innocence. “Oh, if she’s only worthy!” but, for all that, the mother’s
heart was heavy within her, though she could not have told why.

The letter was finished and sealed up before Colin joined his friend on
the hillside, where Lauderdale was straying about with his hands in his
pockets, breathing long sighs into the fresh air, and unable to
restrain, or account for, his own restlessness and uneasiness. One of
those great dramas of sunshine and shadow, which are familiar to the
Holy Loch, was going on just then among the hills, and the philosopher
had made various attempts to interest himself in those wonderful
alternations of gloom and light, but without avail. Nature, which is so
full of interest when the heart is unoccupied, dwindles and grows pale
in presence of the poorest human creature who throws a shadow into her
sunshine. Not all those wonderful gleams of light--not all those clouds,
driven wildly like so many gigantic phantoms into the solemn hollows,
could touch the heart of the man who was trembling for his friend.
Lauderdale roused himself up when Colin came to him, and met him
cheerfully. “So you’ve written your letter?” he said, “and accepted the
offer? I thought as much, by your eye.”

“You did not need to consult my eye,” said Colin, gaily. “I said as
much. But I must walk down the loch a mile or two to meet the postman.
Will you come? Let us take the good of the hills,” said the youth, with
his heart running over. “Who can tell when we may be here again
together? I like this autumn weather, with its stormy colours; and I
suppose now my fortune, as you call it, will lead me to a flat
country--that is, for a year or two at least.”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, with a kind of groan; “that is how the world
appears at your years. Who can tell when we may be here again together?
Who can tell, laddie, what thoughts may be in our hearts when we _are_
here again? I never have any security myself, when I leave a place, that
I’ll ever dare to come back,” said the meditative man. “The innocent
fields might have a cruel aspect, as if God had cursed them, and, for
anything I know, I might hate the flowers that could bloom, and the sun
that could shine, and had no heart for my trouble. No that you
understand what I’m meaning; but that’s the way it affects a man like
me.”

“What are you thinking of?” cried Colin, with a little dismay; “one
would fancy you saw some terrible evil approaching. Of course the future
is uncertain, but I am not particularly alarmed by anything that appears
to me. What are you thinking of, Lauderdale? Your own career?”

“Oh, ay, just my ain career,” said Lauderdale, with a smile; “such a
career to make a work about! though I am just as content as most men. I
mind when my ain spirit was whiles uplifted as yours is, laddie; it’s
_that_ that makes a man think. It comes natural to the time of life,
like the bright eye and the bloom on the cheek; and there’s no sentence
of death in it either, if you come to that,” he went on to himself after
a pause. “Life holds on--it aye holds on; a hope mair or less makes
little count. And without the struggle, never man that was worth
calling man came to his full stature.” All this Lauderdale kept saying
to himself as he descended the hillside, leaping here and there over a
half-concealed streamlet, and making his way through the withered ferns
and the long tangled streamers of the bramble, which caught at him as he
passed. He was not so skilful in overcoming these obstacles as Colin,
who was to the manner born; and he got a little out of breath as he
followed the lad, who, catching his monologue by intervals in the
descent, looked at the melancholy philosopher with his young eyes, which
laughed, and did not understand.

“I wonder what you are thinking of,” said Colin. “Not of me, certainly;
but I see you are afraid of something, as if I were going to encounter a
great danger. Lauderdale,” said the lad, stopping and laying his hand on
his friend’s arm for one confidential moment, “whatever danger there is,
I _have_ encountered it. Don’t be afraid for me.”

“I was saying nothing about you, callant,” said Lauderdale, pettishly.
“Why should I aye be thinking of you? A man has more things to consider
in this life than the vagaries of a slip of a laddie, that doesna see
where he’s bound for. I’m thinking of things far out of your way,” said
the philosopher; “of disappointments and heart-breaks, and a’ the
eclipses that are invisible to common e’en. I’ve seen many in my day.
I’ve seen a trifling change that made no difference to the world quench
a’ the light and a’ the comfort out of life. There’s more things in
heaven or earth than were ever dreamt of at your years. And whiles a man
wonders how, for very pity, God can stay still in His heavens and look
on--”

Colin could not say anything to the groan with which his friend broke
off. He was troubled and puzzled, and could not make it out. They went
on together along the white line of road, on which, far off in the
distance, the youth already saw the postman whom he was hastening to
meet; and, busy as he was with his own thoughts, Colin had already
forgotten to inquire what his companion referred to, when his attention,
which had wandered completely away, was suddenly recalled again by the
voice at his side.

“I’m speaking like a man that cannot see the end,” said Lauderdale,
“which is clear to Him, if there’s any meaning in life. You’re for
taking your chance and posting your letter, laddie! and you ken nothing
about any nonsense that an old fool like me may be maundering. For one
thing, there’s aye plenty to divert the mind in this country,” said the
philosopher, with a sigh; and stood still at the foot of the long slope
they had just descended, looking with a wistful abstracted look upon the
loch and the hills; at which change of mood Colin could not restrain
himself, but with ready boyish mirth laughed aloud.

“What has this country to do with it all? You are in a very queer mood
to-day, Lauderdale--one moment as solemn and mysterious as if you knew
of some great calamity, and the next talking of the country. What do you
mean I wonder?” But his wonder was not very deep, and stirred lightly in
the heart which was full of so many wishes and ambitions of its own.
With that letter in his hand, and that new life before him, how could he
help but look at the lonely man by his side with a half-divine
compassion?--a man to whom life offered no prizes, and scarcely any
hopes. He was aware in his heart that Lauderdale was anxious about
himself, and the thought of that unnecessary solicitude moved Colin half
to laughter. Poor Lauderdale--upon whom he looked down from the
elevation of his young life with the tenderest pity! He smiled upon his
friend in his exaltation and superiority. “You are more inexplicable
than usual to-day. I wonder what you mean?” said Colin with all the
sunshine of youth and joy, defying evil forebodings, in his eyes.

“It would take a wise man to tell,” said Lauderdale; “I would not
pretend, for my own part, to fathom what any fool might mean--much less
what I mean myself, that have glimmerings of sense at times. Yon
sunshine’s awfu’ prying about the hills. Light’s aye inquisitive, and
would fain be at the bottom of every mystery--which is, maybe, the
reason,” said the speculative observer, “why there’s nae grandeur to
speak of, nor meaning, according to mortal notions, without clouds and
darkness. Yonder’s your postman, callant. Give him the letter and be
done with it. I whiles find myself wondering how it is that we take so
little thought to God’s meanings--what ye might call His lighter
meanings--His easy verses and such-like, that are thrown about the
world, in the winds and the sky. To be sure, I ken just as well as you
do that it’s currents of air, and masses of vapour, and electricity, and
all the rest of it. It’s awfu’ easy learning the words--but will you
tell me there’s no meaning to a man’s heart and soul in the like of
that?” said Colin’s companion, stopping suddenly with a sigh of
impatience and vexation, which had to do with something more vital than
the clouds. Just then, nature truly seemed to have come to a pause, and
to be standing still, like themselves, looking on. The sky that was so
blue and broad a moment since had contracted to a black vault over the
Holy Loch. Blackness that was positive and not a mere negation frowned
out of all the half-disclosed mysterious hollows of the hills. The
leaves that remained on the trees thrilled with a spasmodic shiver, and
the little ripples came crowding up on the beach with a sighing
suppressed moan of suspense and apprehension. So, at least, it seemed to
one if not both of the spectators standing by.

“It means a thunderstorm, in the first place,” said Colin; “look how it
begins to come down in a torrent of gloom over Loch Goil. We have just
time to get under shelter. It is very well for us we are so near
Ramore.”

“Ay--” said Lauderdale. He repeated the syllable over again and again as
they hurried back. “But the time will come, when we’ll no be near
Ramore,” he said to himself as the storm reached him and dashed in his
face not twenty yards from the open door. Colin’s laugh, as he reached
with a bound the kindly portal, was all the answer which youth and hope
gave to experience. The boy was not to be discouraged on that sweet
threshold of his life.



CHAPTER XIV.


Wodensbourne was as different from any house that Colin had ever seen
before, as the low flat country, rich and damp and monotonous, was
unlike the infinitely varied landscape to which his eye had been
accustomed all his life. The florid upholstery of Ardmartin contrasted
almost as strangely with the sober magnificence of the old family-house,
in which the Franklands had lived and died for generations, as did the
simple little rooms to which Colin had been accustomed in his father’s
house. Perhaps, on the whole, Ramore, where everything was for use and
nothing for show, was less unharmonious with all he saw about him than
the equipments of the bran new castle, all built out of new money, and
gilded and lackered to a climax of domestic finery. Colin’s pupil was
the invalid of the family; a boy of twelve, who could not go to Eton
like his brothers, but whom the good-natured baronet thought, as was
natural, the cleverest of his family.--“That’s why I wanted you so
much, Campbell,” Sir Thomas said, by way of setting Colin at ease in
his new occupation; “he’s not a boy to be kept to classics isn’t
Charley--there’s nothing that boy wouldn’t master--and shut up as he has
to be, with his wretched health, he wants a little variety. I’ve always
heard you took a wider range in Scotland; that’s what I want for my
boy.” It was with this exposition of his patron’s wishes that the new
tutor was introduced to his duties at Wodensbourne. But a terrible
disappointment awaited the young man, a disappointment utterly
unforeseen. There was nobody there but Sir Thomas himself, and Charley,
and some little ones still in the nursery. “We’re all by ourselves, but
you won’t mind,” said the baronet, who seemed to think it all the better
for Colin; “my lady and Matty will be home before Christmas, and you can
get yourself settled comfortably in the meantime. Lady Frankland is with
her sister, who is in very bad health. I don’t know what people mean by
getting into bad health--women, too, that can’t go in for free living
and that sort of thing,” said Sir Thomas. “The place looks dreary
without the ladies, but they’ll be back before Christmas,” and he went
to sleep after dinner as usual, and left the young tutor at the other
side of the table sitting in a kind of stupefied amazement and
mortification, in the silence, wondering what he came here for, and
where all his hopes and brilliant auguries had gone.

Perhaps Colin did not know what he himself meant when he accepted Sir
Thomas Frankland’s proposal. He thought he was coming to live in Matty’s
society, to be her companion, to walk with her and talk with her, as he
had done at Ardmartin; but, when he arrived to find Wodensbourne
deserted, with nothing to be seen but Sir Thomas and a nursery
governess, who sometimes emerged with her little pupils from the unknown
regions upstairs, and was very civil to the new tutor, Colin’s
disappointment was overwhelming. He despised himself with a bitterness
only to be equalled by the brilliancy of those vain expectations over
which he laughed in youthful rage and scorn. It was not to be Matty’s
companion he had come; it was not to see, however far off, any portion
of the great world which he could not help imagining sometimes must be
visible from such an elevation. It was only to train Charley’s
precocious intellect, and amuse the baronet a little at dinner. After
dinner Sir Thomas went to sleep, and even Charley was out of the way,
and the short winter days closed down early over the great house, over
the damp woods and silent park, which kept repeating themselves, day by
day, upon Colin’s wearied brain. There was not even an undulation
within sight, nothing higher than the dull line of trees, which after a
while it made him sick to look at. To be sure, the sunshine now and then
caught upon the lofty lantern of Earie Cathedral, and by that means woke
up a gleam of light on the flat country; but that, and the daily
conflict with Charley’s sharp invalid understanding, and the sight of
Sir Thomas sleeping after dinner, conveyed no exhilaration to speak of
to lighten the dismal revulsion of poor Colin’s thoughts. His heart rose
indignant sometimes, which did him more good. This was the gulf of
dismay he tumbled into without defence or preparation after the burst of
hope and foolish youthful delight with which he left Ramore.

As for the society at Wodensbourne, it was at the present moment of the
most limited description. Colin, who was inexperienced, roused up out of
his dullness a little when he heard that two of the canons of Earie were
coming to dinner one evening. The innocent Scotch lad woke himself up,
with a little curiosity about the clerical dignitaries, of whom he knew
nothing, and a good deal of anxiety to comport himself as became the
representative of a Scotch University, about whom he did not doubt the
visitors would be a little curious. It struck Colin with the oddest
surprise and disappointment, to find that the canons of Earie were
perfectly indifferent about the Scotch student. The curate of the
parish, indeed, who was also dining at Wodensbourne that day, was
wonderfully civil to the new tutor. He told him that he understood the
Scotch mountains were very near as fine as Switzerland, and that he
hoped to see them some day, though the curious prejudices about Sunday
and the whisky-drinking must come very much in the way of closer
intercourse; at which speech Colin’s indignation and amusement would
have been wonderful to see, had any one been there who cared to notice
how the lad was looking. On the Sundays, Colin and his pupil went along
the level ways to the quaint old mossy church, to which this same curate
was devoting all his time and thoughts by way of restoration. The Scotch
youth had never seen anything at once so homely and so noble as this
little church in the fen-country. He thought it nothing less than a poem
in stone, a pathetic old psalm of human life and death, joining in for
ever and ever, with the tenderest, sad responses, in the worship of
heaven. Never anywhere had he felt so clearly how the dead were waiting
for the great Easter to come, nor seen Christianity standing so plainly
between the beginning and the end; but when Colin, with his Scotch
ideas, heard the curious little sermons to which his curate gave
utterance under that roof, all consecrated and holy with the sorrows and
hopes of ages, it made the strangest anti-climax in the youth’s
thoughts. He laughed to himself when he came out, not because he was
disposed to laughter, but because it was the only alternative he had;
and Sir Thomas, who had a glimmering perception that this must be
something new to his inexperienced guest, gave a doubtful sort of smile,
not knowing how to take Colin’s strange looks.

“You don’t believe in saints’ days, and such like, in Scotland?” said
the perplexed baronet; “and of course the sermon does not count for so
much with us.”

“No, it does not count for much,” said Colin; and they did not enter
further into the subject.

As for the young man himself, who had still upon his mind the feeling
that he was to be a Scotch minister, the lesson was the strangest
possible; for, being Scotch, he could not help listening to the sermon
according to the usage of his nation. The curate, after he had said
those prayers which are all but divine in their comprehension of the
wants of humanity, told his people how wonderfully their beloved Church
had provided for all their wants; how sweet it was to recollect that
this was the day which had been appointed the Twentieth Sunday after
Trinity--and how it was their duty to meditate a fact so touching and so
important. Colin thought of the Holy Loch, and the minister’s critics
there, and laughed to himself, perhaps a little bitterly. He felt as if
he had given up his own career--the natural life to which he was born;
and at this distance the usual enchantments of nature began to work, and
in his heart he asked himself what he was to gain by transferring his
lot and hopes to this wealthy country, where so many things were fairer,
and after which he had been hankering so long. The curate’s sermons
struck him as a kind of comical climax to his disappointments--and the
curate himself who looked at Colin much as he might have looked at a
South-Sea Islander, and spoke of the Scotch whisky and Scotch Sabbaths.
Poor curate! He knew a great deal more than Colin did about some things,
and, if he did not understand how to preach, that was not the fault of
his college; neither did they convey much information at that seat of
learning about the northern half of the British island--no more than
they did at Glasgow about the curious specimen of humanity which is
known as a curate on the brighter side of the Tweed.

All these things went through Colin’s mind as he sat in the dining-room
after dinner contemplating Sir Thomas’s nap, which was not of itself an
elevating spectacle. He thought to himself at that moment that he was
but fulfilling the office of a drudge at Wodensbourne, which anybody
could fill. It did not require those abilities which had won with
acclamation the prize in the philosophy class to teach Charley Frankland
the elements of science; and all the emulations and glories of his
college career came back to Colin’s mind. The little public of the
University had begun to think of him--to predict what he would do, and
anticipate his success, at home; but here, who knew anything about him?
These thoughts disturbed him much as he sat watching the fire gleam in
the wainscot, and calculating the recurrence of that next great snore
which would wake Sir Thomas, and make him sit up of a sudden and look
fiercely at his companion before he murmured out a “Beg your pardon,”
and went to sleep again. Not an interesting prospect certainly. Should
he go home? should he represent to the baronet, when he woke up for the
night, that it had all been a mistake, and that his present office was
perfectly unsuited to his ambition and his hopes? But then what could he
say? for after all it was as Charley Frankland’s tutor simply, and with
his eyes open, that he came to Wodensbourne, and Sir Thomas had said
nothing about the society of his niece, or any other society, to tempt
him thither. Colin sat in a bitterness of discontent, which would have
been incredible to him a few weeks before, pondering these questions.
There was not a sound to be heard, but the dropping of the ashes on the
hearth, and Sir Thomas’s heavy breathing as he slept. Life went on
velvet slippers in the great house from which Colin would gladly have
escaped (he thought) to the poorest cottage on the Holy Loch. He could
not help recalling his shabby little room in Glasgow, and Lauderdale’s
long comments upon life, and all the talk and the thoughts that made
existence bright in that miserable little place, which Sir Thomas
Frankland’s grooms would not have condescended to live in, but which the
unfortunate young tutor thought of with longing as he sat dreary in the
great dining-room. What did it matter to him that the floor was soft
with Turkey carpets, that the wine on the table was of the most renowned
vintages, and that his slumbering companion in the great easy-chair was
the head of one of the oldest commoner families in England--a baronet
and a county member? Colin after all was only a son of the soil; he
longed for his Glasgow attic, and his companions who spoke the dialect
of that remarkable but unlovely city, and felt bitterly in his heart
that he had been cheated. Yet it was hard to say to any one--hard even
to put in words to himself--what the cheat was. It was a deception he
had practised on himself, and in the bitterness of his disappointment
the youth refused to admit that anybody’s absence was the secret of his
mortification. What was she to him?--a great lady as far out of his
reach as the moon or the stars, and who no doubt had forgotten his very
name.

These were not pleasant thoughts to season the solitude, and he sat
hugging them for a great many evenings before Sir Thomas awoke, and
addressed, as he generally did, a few good-humoured, stupid observations
to the lad whom, to be sure, the baronet found a considerable bore, and
did not know what to do with. Sir Thomas could not forget his
obligations to the young man who had saved Harry’s life; and thus it
was, from pure gratitude, that he made Colin miserable--though there was
no gratitude at all, nor even much respect, in the summary judgment
which the youth formed of the heavy ’squire.

This was how matters were going on when Wodensbourne and the world, and
everything human, suddenly, all at once, sustained again a change to
Colin. He had been living thus, for six weary weeks--during which time
he felt himself getting morose, ill-tempered, and miserable--writing
sharp letters home, in which he would not confess to any special
disappointment, but expressed himself in general terms of bitterness
like a young misanthrope, and in every respect making himself, and those
who cared for him, unhappy. Even the verses, which did very well to
express the tender griefs of sentiment, had been thrown aside at this
crisis; for there was nothing melodious in his feelings, and he could
not say in sweet rhymes and musical cadences how angry and wretched he
was. He was sitting in such a mood one dreary December evening when it
was raining fast outside and everything was silent within--as was
natural in a well-regulated household where the servants knew their
duty, and the nursery was half a mile away through worlds of complicated
passages. Sir Thomas was asleep as usual, and, with his eyes shut and
his mouth open, the excellent baronet was not, as we have already said,
an elevating spectacle; and, at the other end of the table, sat Colin,
chafing out his young soul with such thoughts of what was not, but might
have been, as youth does not know how to avoid. It was just then, when
he was going over his long succession of miseries--thinking of his
natural career cut short for the sake of this dreary penance of which
nothing could ever come--that Colin was startled by the sound of wheels
coming up the wintry avenue. He could not venture to imagine to himself
what it might be, though he listened as if for life and death; he heard
the sounds of an arrival and the indistinct hum of voices which he could
not distinguish, without feeling that he had any right to stir from the
table to inquire what it meant; and there he sat accordingly, with his
hair thrust back from his forehead and his great eyes gleaming out from
the noiseless atmosphere, when the door opened and a pretty figure, all
eager and glowing with life, looked into the room. Colin was too much
absorbed, too anxious, and felt too deeply how much was involved, to be
capable even of rising up to greet her as an indifferent man would have
done. He sat and gazed at her as she darted in like a fairy creature,
bringing every kind of radiance in her train.

“Here they are, aunty!” cried Miss Matty; and she came in flying in her
cloak, with the hood still over her head and great raindrops on it,
which she had caught as she jumped out of the carriage. While Colin sat
gazing at her, wondering if it was some deluding apparition, or, in
reality, the new revelation of life and love that it seemed to be, Matty
had thrown herself upon Sir Thomas and woke the worthy baronet by
kissing him, which was a pretty sight to behold. “Here we are, uncle;
wake up!” cried Matty; “my lady ran to the nursery first, but I came to
you, as I always do.” And the little witch looked up at Colin, with a
glance under which heaven and earth changed to the lad. He stumbled to
his feet, while Sir Thomas rubbed his astonished eyes. What could Colin
say? He stood waiting for a word, seeing the little figure in a halo of
light and fanciful glory. “How do you do? I knew you were here,” said
Miss Matty, putting out two fingers to him while she still hung over her
uncle. And presently Lady Frankland came in, and the room became full of
pleasant din and commotion as was inevitable. When Colin made a move as
if to leave them, fearful of being in the way, Miss Matty called to him,
“Oh, don’t go, please; we are going to have tea, and my lady must be
served without giving her any trouble, and I want you to help me,” said
Matty; and so the evening that had begun in gloom ended in a kind of
subdued glory too sweet to be real; surely too good to be true.

Lady Frankland sat talking to her husband of their reason for coming
back so suddenly (which was sad enough, being an unexpected death in
the house: but that did not make much difference to the two women who
were coming home); Matty kept coming and going between the tea-table and
the fire, sending Colin on all sorts of errands, and making comments to
him aside on what her aunt was saying. “Only fancy the long dreary drive
we have had, and my uncle and Mr. Campbell making themselves so cozy,”
the little siren said, kneeling down before the fire with still one drop
of rain sparkling on her bright locks. And the effect was such that
Colin lost his head altogether, and could not have affirmed, had he been
questioned on his oath, that he had not enjoyed himself greatly all the
time. He took Lady Frankland her tea, and listened to all the domestic
chatter as if it had been the talk of angels; and was as pleased when
the mistress of the house thanked him for his kindness to Charley, as if
he had not thought Charley a wretched little nuisance a few hours ago.
He did not in the least know who the people were about whom the two
ladies kept up such an unceasing talk, and, perhaps, under other
circumstances would have laughed at this sweet-toned gossip, with all
its lively comments upon nothing, and incessant personalities; but, at
the present moment, Colin had said good-bye to reason, and could not
anyhow defend himself against the sudden happiness which seized upon him
without any notice. While Sir Thomas and his wife sat on either side of
the great fire, and Matty kept darting in and out between them, Colin
sat behind near the impromptu tea-table, and listened and felt that the
world was changed. If he could have had time to think, he might have
been ashamed of himself; but then he had no time to think, and in the
meantime he was happy, a sensation not to be gainsaid or rejected; and
so fled the few blessed hours of the first evening of Matty’s return.

When he had gone up stairs, and had heard, at a distance, the sound of
the last good-night, and was fairly shut up again in the silence of his
own room, the youth, for the first time, began to realize what he was
doing. He paused, with a little consternation, a little fright, to
question himself. For the first time, he saw clearly, without any
possibility of self-delusion, what it was which had brought him here,
and which made all the difference to him between happiness and misery.
It was hard to realize now the state of mind he had been in a few hours
before; but he did it, by dint of a great exertion, and saw, with a
distinctness which alarmed him, how it was that everything had altered
in his eyes. It was Matty’s presence that made all the difference
between this subdued thrill of happiness and that blank of impatient and
mortified misery. The young man tried to stand still and consider the
reality of his position. He had stopped in his career, made a voluntary
pause in his life, entered upon a species of existence which he felt in
his heart was not more, but less, noble (for him) than his previous
course--and what was it for? All for the uncertain smile, for the
society--which might fail him at any time--of a woman so far out of his
way, so utterly removed from his reach, as Matilda Frankland? For a
moment, the youth was dismayed, and stopped short, Wisdom and Truth
whispering in his ear. Love might be fair, but he knew enough to know
that life must not be subservient to that witchery; and Colin’s good
angel spoke to him in the silence, and bade him flee. Better to go back,
and at once, to the grey and sombre world, where all his duties awaited
him, than to stay here in this fool’s paradise. As he thought so he got
up, and began to pace about his room, as though it had been a cage. Best
to flee--it might take all the light out of his life and break his
heart, but what else had he to look for sooner or later? He sat up half
the night, still pacing about his room, hesitating over his fate, while
the December storm raged outside. What was he to do? When he dropped to
sleep at last, his heart betrayed him, and strayed away into celestial
worlds of dreaming. He woke, still undecided, as he thought, to see the
earliest wintry gleam of sunshine stealing in through his shutters. What
was he to do? But already the daylight made him feel his terrors as so
many shadows. His heart was a traitor, and he was glad to find it so;
and that moment of indecision settled more surely than ever the bondage
in which he seemed to have entangled his life.



CHAPTER XV.


From that day life flew upon celestial wings for Charley Frankland’s
tutor. It was not that love-making proved possible, or that existence at
Wodensbourne became at all what it had been at Ardmartin. The difference
was in the atmosphere, which was now bright with all kinds of gladsome
chances, and pervaded by anticipations--a charm which, at Colin’s age,
was more than reality. He never knew what moment of delight might come
to him any day--what words might be said, or smiles shed upon him. Such
an enchantment could not, indeed, have lasted very long; but, in the
meantime, it was infinitely sweet, and made his life like a romance to
the young man. There was nobody at Wodensbourne to occupy Miss Matty, or
withdraw her attention from her young worshipper; and Colin, with his
poetic temperament, and his youthful genius, and all the simplicities
and inexperience which rendered him so different from the other clever
young men who had been seen or heard of in that region, was very
delightful company, even when he was not engaged in any acts of worship.
Lady Frankland herself acknowledged that Mr. Campbell was a great
acquisition. “He is not the least like other people,” said the lady of
the house; “but you must take care not to let him fall in love with you,
Matty;” and both the ladies laughed softly as they sat over their cup of
tea. As for Matty, when she went to dress for dinner, after that
admonition, she put on tartan ribbons over her white dress, partly, to
be sure, because they were the fashion; but chiefly to please Colin, who
knew rather less about tartan than she did, and had not the remotest
idea that the many-coloured sash had any reference to himself.

“I love Scotland,” the little witch said to him, when he came into the
drawing-room, to which he was now admitted during Sir Thomas’s nap--and,
to tell the truth, Lady Frankland herself had just closed her eyes in a
gentle doze, in her easy chair--“but, though you are a Scotchman, you
don’t take the least notice of my ribbons; I am very fond of Scotland,”
said Matty;--“and the Scotch,” the wicked little girl added, with a
glance at him, which made Colin’s heart leap in his deluded breast.

“Then I am very glad to be Scotch,” said the youth, and stooped down
over the end of the sash till Matty thought he meant to kiss it, which
was a more decided act of homage than it would be expedient, under the
circumstances, to permit.

“Don’t talk like everybody else,” said Miss Matty; “that does not make
any difference--you were always glad to be Scotch. I know you all think
you are so much better and cleverer than we are in England. But, tell
me, do you still mean to be a Scotch minister? I wish you would not,”
said Matty, with a little pout. And then Colin laughed--half with
pleasure at what he thought her interest in him, and half with a quaint
recollection which belonged only to himself.

“I don’t think I could preach about the twentieth Sunday after
Trinity,” he said with a smile; which, however, was a speech Miss Matty
did not understand.

“People here don’t preach as you do in Scotland,” said the English girl,
with a little offence. “You are always preaching, and that is what makes
it so dull. But what is the good of being a minister? There are plenty
of dull people to be ministers; you who are so clever--”

“Am I clever?” said Colin. “I am Charley’s tutor--it does not require a
great deal of genius--” but while he spoke, his eyes--which Matty did
not comprehend, which always went leagues further than she could
follow--kindled up a little. He looked a long way beyond her, and no
doubt he saw something; but it piqued her not to be able to follow him,
and find out what he meant.

“If you had done what I wished, and gone to Oxford, Campbell,” said Sir
Thomas, whose repose had been interrupted earlier than usual; “I can’t
say much about what I could have done myself, for I have heaps of boys
of my own to provide for; but, if you’re bent on going into the Church,
something would certainly have turned up for you. I don’t say there’s
much of a career in the Church for an ambitious young fellow, but still,
if you do work well and have a few friends--. As for your Scotch Church,
I don’t know very much about it,” said the baronet, candidly. “I never
knew any one who did. What a bore it used to be a dozen years ago, when
there was all that row; and now, I suppose, you’re all at sixes and
sevens, ain’t you?” asked the ingenuous legislator. “I suppose whisky
and controversy go together somehow.” Sir Thomas got himself packed into
the corner of a sofa very comfortably, as he spoke, and took no notice
of the lightning in Colin’s eyes.

“Oh, uncle! don’t,” said Miss Matty; “don’t you know that the
Presbyterians are all going to give up and join the Church? and it’s all
to be the same both in England and Scotland? You need not laugh. I
assure you I know quite well what I am saying,” said the little beauty,
with a look of dignity. “I have seen it in the papers; such funny
papers!--with little paragraphs about accidents, and about people
getting silver snuff-boxes!--but all the same, they say what I tell you.
There’s to be no Presbyterians and no precentors, and none of their
wicked ways, coming into church with their hats on, and staring all
round instead of saying their prayers; and all the ministers are to be
made into clergymen--priests and deacons, you know; and they are going
to have bishops and proper service like other people. Mr. Campbell,”
said Matty, looking up at him with a little emphasis, to mark that, for
once, she was calling him formally by his name--“knows it is quite
true.”

“Humph,” said Sir Thomas, “I know better; I know how Campbell, there,
looked the other day when he came out of church. I know the Scotch and
their ways of thinking. Go and make the tea, and don’t talk of what you
don’t understand. But, as for you, Campbell, if you have a mind for the
University and to go in for the Church--”

But this was more than Colin, being twenty, and a Scotchman, could bear.

“I _am_ going in for the Church,” said the lad, doing all he could to
keep down the excitement at which Sir Thomas would have laughed, “but it
did not in the least touch my heart the other day to know that it was
the twentieth Sunday after Trinity. Devotion is a great matter,” said
the young Scotchman, “I grant you have the advantage over us there; but
it would not do in Scotland to preach about the Church’s goodness, and
what she had appointed for such or such a day. We preach very stupid
sermons, I dare say; but at least we mean to teach somebody
something--what God looks for at their hands, or what they may look for
at His. It is more an occupation for a man,” cried the young
revolutionary, “than reading the sublimest of prayers. I am going in for
the Church--but it is the Church of Scotland,” said Colin. He drew
himself up with a grand youthful dignity, which was much lost on Sir
Thomas, who, for his part, looked at his new tutor with eyes of sober
wonderment, and did not understand what this emotion meant.

“There is no occasion for excitement,” said the baronet; “nobody
now-a-days meddles with a man’s convictions; indeed, Harry would say,
it’s a great thing to have any convictions. That is how the young men
talk now-a-days,” said Sir Thomas; and he moved off the sofa again, and
yawned, though not uncivilly. As for Miss Matty, she came stealing up
when she had made the tea, with her cup in her hand.

“So you do mean to be a minister?” she said, in a half whisper, with a
deprecating look. Lady Frankland had roused up, like her husband, and
the two were talking, and did not take any notice of Matty’s proceedings
with the harmless tutor. The young lady was quite free to play with her
mouse a little, and entered upon the amusement with zest, as was
natural. “You mean to shut yourself up in a square house, with five
windows in front, like the poor gentleman who has such red hair; and
never see anybody but the old women in the parish, and have your life
made miserable every Sunday by _that_ precentor--”

“I hope I have a soul above precentors,” said Colin, with a little
laugh, which was unsteady still, however, with excitement; “and one
might mend all that,” he added a minute after, looking at her with a
kind of wistful inquiry which he could not have put into words. What was
it he meant to ask with his anxious eye? But he did not himself know.

“Oh yes,” said Matty, “I know what you could do: you could get a little
organ and marry somebody who would play it, and teach the people better;
I know exactly what you could do,” said the young lady with a piquant
little touch of spite, and a look that startled Colin; and then she
paused, and hung her head for a moment and blushed, or looked as if she
blushed. “But you would not?” said Matty, softly, with a sidelong glance
at her victim. “Don’t marry anybody; no one is of any use after that. I
don’t approve of marrying, for my part, especially for a priest. Priests
should always be detached, you know, from the world.”

“Why?” said Colin. He was quite content to go on talking on such a
subject for any length of time. “As for marrying, it is only your rich
squires and great people who can marry when they please; we who have to
make our own way in the world--” said the young man, with a touch of
grandeur, but was stopped by Miss Matty’s sudden laughter.

“Oh, how simple you are! As if rich squires and great people, as you
say, could marry when they pleased--as if any man could marry when he
pleased!” cried Miss Matty, scornfully. “After all, we do count for
something, we poor women; now and then, we can put even an eldest son
out in his calculations. It is great fun too,” said the young lady, and
she laughed, and so did Colin, who could not help wondering what special
case she might have in her eye, and listened with all the eagerness of a
lover. “There is poor Harry--” said Miss Matty under her breath, and
stopped short and laughed to herself and sipped her tea, while Colin
lent an anxious ear. But nothing further followed that soft laughter.
Colin sat on thorns, gazing at her with a world of questions in his
face, but the siren looked at him no more. Poor Harry! Harry’s natural
rival was sensible of a thrill of jealous curiosity mingled with
anxiety. What had she done to Harry, this witch who had beguiled
Colin?--or was it not she who had done anything to him, but some other
as pretty and as mischievous? Colin had no clue to the puzzle, but it
gave him a new _accès_ of half-conscious enmity to the heir of
Wodensbourne.

After that talk there elapsed a few days during which Colin saw but
little of Matty, who had visits to pay, and some solemn dinner-parties
to attend in Lady Frankland’s train. He had to spend the evenings by
himself on these occasions after dining with Charley, who was not a very
agreeable companion; and, when this invalid went to his room, as he did
early, the young tutor found himself desolate enough in the great house,
where no human bond existed between him and the little community within
its walls. He was not in a state of mind to take kindly to abstract
study at that moment of his existence, for Colin had passed out of the
unconscious stage in which he had been at Ardmartin. There, however much
he might have wished to be out of temptation, he could not help himself,
which was a wonderful consolation; but now he had come wilfully and
knowingly into danger, and had become aware of it; and far more
distinctly than ever before had become aware of the difference between
himself and the object of his thoughts. Though he found it very possible
at times to comfort himself with the thought that this was an ordinary
interruption of a Scotch student’s work, and noways represented the
Armida’s garden in which the knight lost both his vocation and his life,
there were other moments and moods which were less easily manageable;
and, on the whole, he wanted the stimulus of perpetual excitement to
keep him from feeling the false position he was in, and the inexpediency
of continuing it. Though this feeling haunted him all day, at night, in
the drawing-room--which was brightened and made sweet by the fair
English matron who was kind to Colin, and the fairer maiden who was the
centre of all his thoughts--it vanished like an evil spirit, and left
him with a sense that nowhere in the world could he have been so well;
but, when the stimulus was withdrawn, the youth was left in a very
woeful plight, conscious, to the bottom of his heart, that he ought to
be elsewhere, and here was consuming his strength and life. He went out
in the darkness of the December nights through the gloomy silent park
into the little village with its feeble lights, where everybody and
everything was unknown to him; and all the time his demon sat on his
shoulder and asked what he did there. One evening while he strayed
through the broken, irregular village-street, to all appearance looking
at the dim cottage-windows and listening to the rude songs from the
little ale-house, the curate encountered the tutor. Most probably the
young priest, who was not remarkable for wisdom, imagined the Scotch lad
to be in some danger; for he laid a kindly hand upon his arm and turned
him away from the vociferous little tavern, which was a vexation to the
curate’s soul. “I should like you to go up to the Parsonage with me, if
you will only wait till I have seen this sick woman,” he said; and Colin
went in very willingly within the cottage porch to wait for his
acquaintance, who had his prayer-book under his arm. The young Scotchman
looked on with wondering eyes while the village priest knelt down by his
parishioner’s bedside and opened his book. Naturally there was a
comparison always going on in Colin’s mind. He was like a passive
experimentalist, seeing all kinds of trials made before his eyes, and
watching the result. “I wonder if they all think it is a spell,” said
Colin to himself; but he was rebuked and was silent when he heard the
responses which the cottage folk made on their knees. When the curate
had read his prayer he got up and said good-night, and went back to
Colin; and this visitation of the sick was a very strange experience to
the young Scotch observer, who stood revolving everything, with an eye
to Scotland, at the cottage-door.

“You don’t make use of our Common Prayer in Scotland?” said the curate;
“pardon me for referring to it. One cannot help being sorry for people
who shut themselves out from such an inestimable advantage. How did it
come about?”

“I don’t know,” said Colin. “I suppose because Laud was a fool, and King
Charles a ----”

“Hush, for goodness sake,” said the curate, with a shiver. “What do you
mean? such language is painful to listen to. The saints and martyrs
should be spoken of in a different tone. You think that was the reason?
Oh, no; it was your horrible Calvinism, and John Knox, and the mad
influences of that unfortunate Reformation which has done us all so much
harm; though I suppose you think differently in Scotland,” he said with
a little sigh, steering his young companion, of whose morality he felt
uncertain, past the alehouse door.

“Did you never hear of John Knox’s liturgy?” said the indignant Colin;
“the saddest, passionate service! You always had time to say your
prayers in England, but we had to snatch them as we could. And your
prayers would not do for us now,” said the Scotch experimentalist; “I
wish they could; but it would be impossible. A Scotch peasant would have
thought _that_ an incantation you were reading. When you go to see a
sick man, shouldn’t you like to say, God save him, God forgive him,
straight out of your heart without a book?” said the eager lad; at which
question the curate looked up with wonder in the young man’s face.

“I hope I do say it out of my heart,” said the English priest, and
stopped short, with a gravity that had a great effect upon Colin;--“but
in words more sound than any words of mine,” the curate added a moment
after, which dispersed the reverential impression from the Scotch mind
of the eager boy.

“I can’t see that,” said Colin, quickly, “in the church for common
prayer, yes; at a bedside in a cottage, no. At least, I mean that’s how
we feel in Scotland--though I suppose you don’t care much for our
opinion,” he added with some heat, thinking he saw a smile on his
companion’s face.

“Oh, yes, certainly; I have always understood that there is a great deal
of intelligence in Scotland,” said the curate, courteous as to a
South-Sea Islander. “But people who have never known this inestimable
advantage--I believe preaching is considered the great thing in the
North?” he said with a little curiosity. “I wish society were a little
more impressed by it among ourselves; but mere _information_ even about
spiritual matters is of so much less importance! though that, I daresay,
is another point on which we don’t agree?” the curate continued,
pleasantly. He was just opening the gate into his own garden, which was
invisible in the darkness, but which enclosed and surrounded a homely
house with some lights in the windows, which, it was a little comfort to
Colin to perceive, was not much handsomer nor more imposing in
appearance than the familiar manse on the borders of the Holy Loch.

“It depends on what you call spiritual matters,” said the polemical
youth. “I don’t think a man can possibly get too much information about
his relations with God, if only anybody could tell him anything; but
certainly about ecclesiastical arrangements and the Christian year,”
said the irreverent young Scotchman, “a little might suffice;” and Colin
spoke with the slightest inflection of contempt, always thinking of the
twentieth Sunday after Trinity, and scorning what he did not understand,
as was natural to his years.

“Ah, you don’t know what you are saying,” said the devout curate. “After
you have spent a Christian Year, you will see what comfort and beauty
there is in it. You say, ‘if anybody could tell him anything.’ I hope
you have not got into a sceptical way of thinking. I should like very
much to have a long talk with you,” said the village priest, who was
very good and very much in earnest, though the earnestness was after a
pattern different from anything known to Colin; and, before the youth
perceived what was going to happen, he found himself in the curate’s
study, placed on a kind of moral platform, as the emblem of Doubt and
that pious unbelief which is the favourite of modern theology. Now, to
tell the truth, Colin, though it may lower him in the opinion of many
readers of his history, was not by nature given to doubting. He had, to
be sure, followed the fashion of the time enough to be aware of a
wonderful amount of unsettled questions, and questions which it did not
appear possible ever to settle. But somehow these elements of scepticism
did not give him much trouble. His heart was full of natural piety, and
his instincts all fresh and strong as a child’s. He could not help
believing, any more than he could help breathing, his nature being such;
and he was half-amused and half-irritated by the position in which he
found himself, notwithstanding the curate’s respect for the ideal
sceptic, whom he had thus pounced upon. The commonplace character of
Colin’s mind was such, that he was very glad when his new friend relaxed
into gossip, and asked him who was expected at the Hall for Christmas;
to which the tutor answered by such names as he had heard in the ladies’
talk, and remembered with friendliness or with jealousy, according to
the feeling with which Miss Matty pronounced them--which was Colin’s
only guide amid this crowd of the unknown.

“I wonder if it is to be a match,” said the curate, who, recovering from
his dread concerning the possible habits of his Scotch guest, had taken
heart to share his scholarly potations of beer with his new friend. “It
was said Lady Frankland did not like it, but I never believed that.
After all, it was such a natural arrangement. I wonder if it is to be a
match?”

“Is what to be a match?” said Colin, who all at once felt his heart
stand still and grow cold, though he sat by the cheerful fire which
threw its light even into the dark garden outside. “I have heard nothing
about any match,” he added, with a little effort. It dawned upon him
instantly what it must be, and his impulse was to rush out of the house
or do something rash and sudden that would prevent him from hearing it
said in words.

“Between Henry Frankland and his cousin,” said the calm curate; “they
looked as if they were perfectly devoted to each other at one time. That
has died off, for she is rather a flirt, I fear; but all the people
hereabouts had made up their minds on the subject. It would be a very
suitable match on the whole. But why do you get up? you are not going
away?”

“Yes; I have something to do when I go home,” said Colin, “something to
prepare,” which he said out of habit, thinking of his old work, at home,
without remembering what he was saying or whether it meant anything. The
curate put down the poker which he had lifted to poke the fire, and
looked at Colin with a touch of envy.

“Ah! something literary, I suppose?” said the young priest, and went
with his new friend to the door thinking how lucky he was, at his age,
to have a literary connexion; a thought very natural to a young priest
in a country curacy with a very small endowment. The curate wrote
verses, as Colin himself did, though on very different subjects, and
took some of them out of his desk and looked at them, after he had shut
the door, with affectionate eyes, and a half intention of asking the
tutor what was the best way to get admission to the magazines; and on
the whole he was pleased with what he had seen of the young Scotchman,
though he was so ignorant of church matters; an opinion which Colin
perfectly reciprocated, with a more distinct sentiment of compassion for
the English curate, who knew about as much of Scotland as if it had lain
in the South Seas.

Meanwhile Colin walked home to Wodensbourne with fire and passion in his
heart. “It would be a very suitable match on the whole,” he kept saying
to himself, and then tried to take a little comfort from Matty’s sweet
laughter over “Poor Harry!” Poor Harry was rich and fortunate, and
independent, and Colin was only the tutor; were these two to meet this
Christmas time and contend over again on this new ground? He went along
past the black trees as if he were walking for a wager; but, quick as he
walked, a dog-cart dashed past him with lighted lamps gleaming up the
avenue. When he reached the Hall-door, one of the servants was
disappearing up stairs with a portmanteau, and a heap of coats and
wrappers lay in the Hall.

“Mr. Harry just come, sir--a week sooner than was expected,” said the
butler, who was an old servant and shared in the joys of the family.
Colin went to his room without a word, and shut himself up there with
feelings which he could not have explained to any one. He had not seen
Harry Frankland since they were both boys; but he had never got over the
youthful sense of rivalry and opposition which had sent him skimming
over the waters of the Holy Loch to save the boy who was his born rival
and antagonist. Was this the day of their encounter and conflict which
had come at last?



CHAPTER XVI.


Harry Frankland’s return made a great difference to the tutor, between
whom and the heir of the house there existed that vague sense of
jealousy and rivalship which was embittered on the part of young
Frankland by a certain consciousness of obligation. He was a
good-natured fellow enough, and above the meanness of treating unkindly
anybody who was in a dependent position; but the circumstances were
awkward, and he did not know how to comport himself towards the
stranger. “The fellow looks like a gentleman,” he said privately in
confidence to his mother; “if I had never seen him before we might have
got on, you know; but it’s a horrible nuisance to feel that you’re
obliged to a fellow in that kind of position--neither your equal, you
know, nor your inferior, nor--. What on earth induced the governor to
have him here? If it hadn’t been for these cheap Scotch universities and
stuff, he’d have been a ploughman that one could have given ten pounds
to and been done with him. It’s a confounded nuisance having him here.”

“Hush, Harry,” said Lady Frankland. “He is very nice and very
gentlemanly, I think. He used to be very amusing before you came home.
Papa, you know, is not entertaining after dinner; and really Mr.
Campbell was quite an acquisition, especially to Matty, who can’t live
without a slave,” said the lady of the house, with an indulgent,
matronly smile.

“Oh, confound it, why did the governor have him here?” cried the
discontented heir. “As for Matty, it appears to me she had better begin
to think of doing without slaves,” he said moodily, with a cloud on his
face; a speech which made his mother look up with a quick movement of
anxiety, though she still smiled.

“I can’t make out either you or Matty,” said Lady Frankland. “I wish you
would be either off or on. With such an appearance of indifference as
you show to each other--”

“Oh, indifference, by Jove!” said Harry, breaking in upon his mother’s
words; and the young man gave a short whistle, and, jumping up abruptly,
went off without waiting for any more. Lady Frankland was not in the
habit of disturbing herself about things in general. She looked after
her son with a serious look, which, however, lasted but a moment. Then
she returned immediately to her placidity and her needlework. “I daresay
it will come all right,” she said to herself, with serene philosophy,
which perhaps accounted for the absence of wrinkles in her comely,
middle-aged countenance. Harry, on the contrary, went off in anything
but a serene state of mind. It was a foggy day, and the clouds lay very
low and heavy over the fen-country, where there was nothing to relieve
the dulness of nature. And it was afternoon--the very time of the day
when all hopes and attempts at clearing up are over--and dinner was
still too far off to throw its genial glow upon the dusky house. There
had been nothing going on for a day or two at Wodensbourne. Harry was
before his time, and the expected guests had not yet arrived, and the
weather was as troublesome and hindersome of every kind of recreation as
weather could possibly be. Young Frankland went out in a little fit of
impatience, and was met at the hall-door by a mouthful of dense white
steaming air, through which even the jovial trees of holly, all glowing
with Christmas berries, loomed like two prickly ghosts. He uttered an
exclamation of disgust as he stood on the broad stone steps, not quite
sure what to do with himself--whether to face the chill misery of the
air outside, or to hunt up Matty and Charley, and betake himself to the
billiard-room within. But then the tutor--confound the fellow! Just at
that moment Harry Frankland heard a laugh, a provoking little peal of
silver bells. He had an odd sort of affection--half love, half
dislike--for his cousin. But of all Matty’s charms, there was none which
so tantalized and bewitched him as this laugh, which was generally
acknowledged to be charming. “Much there is to laugh about, by Jove!” he
muttered to himself, with an angry flush; but he grew grimly furious
when he heard her voice.

“You won’t give in,” said Matty; “the Scotch never will, I know; you are
all so dreadfully argumentative and quarrelsome. But you are beaten,
though you won’t acknowledge it; you know you are. I like talking to
you,” continued the little witch, dropping her voice a little,
“because--hush! I thought I heard some one calling me from the house.”

“Because why?” said Colin. They were a good way off, behind one of those
great holly trees; but young Frankland, with his quickened ears,
discerned in an instant the softness, the tender admiration, the music
of the tutor’s voice. “By Jove!” said the heir to himself; and then he
shouted out, “Matty, look here! come here!” in tones as different from
those of Colin as discord is from harmony. It did not occur to him that
Miss Matty’s ear, being perfectly cool and unexcited, was quite able to
discriminate between the two voices which thus claimed her regard.

“What do you want?” said Matty. “Don’t stand there in the fog like a
ghost; if you have anything to say, come here. I am taking my
constitutional; one’s first duty is the care of one’s health,” said the
wicked little creature, with her ring of laughter; and she turned back
again under his very eyes along the terrace without looking at him
again. As for Harry Frankland, the words which escaped from his excited
lips were not adapted for publication. If he had been a little less
angry he would have joined them, and so made an end of the tutor; but,
being furious, and not understanding anything about it, he burst for a
moment into profane language, and then went off to the stables, where
all the people had a bad time of it until the dressing-bell rang.

“What a savage he is,” said Matty, confidentially. “That is the bore of
cousins; they can’t bear to see one happy, and yet they won’t take the
trouble of making themselves agreeable. How nice it used to be down at
Kilchurn _that_ summer--you remember? And what quantities of poetry you
used to write. I suppose Wodensbourne is not favourable to poetry? You
have never shown me anything since you came here.”

“Poetry is only for one’s youth,” said Colin; “that is, if you dignify
my verses with the name--for one’s extreme youth, when one believes in
everything that is impossible; and for Kilchurn, and the Lady’s Glen,
and the Holy Loch,” said the youth, after a pause, with a fervour which
disconcerted Matty. “_That_ summer was not summer, but a bit of
paradise--and life is real at Wodensbourne.”

“I wish you would not speak in riddles,” said Miss Matty, who was in the
humour to have a little more of this inferred worship. “I should have
thought life was a great deal more real at Ramore than here. Here we
have luxuries and things--and--and--and books and--.” She meant to have
implied that the homely life was hard, and to have delicately intimated
to Colin the advantage of living under the roof of Sir Thomas Frankland;
but, catching his eye at the outset of her sentence, Matty had suddenly
perceived her mistake, and broke down in a way most unusual to her. As
she floundered, the young man looked at her with a full unhesitating
gaze, and an incomprehensible smile.

“Pardon me,” he said--he had scarcely ever attempted before to take the
superiority out of her hands, little trifler and fine lady as she
was--he had been quite content to lay himself down in the dust and
suffer her to march over him in airy triumph. But, while she was only a
little tricksy coquette, taking from his imagination all her higher
charms, Colin was a true man, a man full of young genius, and faculties
a world beyond anything known to Matty; and, when he was roused for the
moment, it was so easy for him to confound her paltry pretensions.
“Pardon me,” he said, with the smile which piqued her, which she did not
understand; “I think you mistake. At Ramore I was a poor farmer’s son,
but we had other things to think of than the difference between wealth
and poverty. At Ramore we think nothing impossible; but here--” said
Colin, looking round him with a mixture of contempt and admiration,
which Matty could not comprehend. “That, you perceive, was the age of
poetry, the age of romance, the golden age,” said the young man, with a
smile. “The true knight required nothing but his sword, and was more
than a match for all kinds of ugly kings and wicked enchanters; but
Wodensbourne is prose, hard prose--fine English if you like, and much to
be applauded for its style,” the tutor ran on, delivering himself up to
his fancy. “Not Miltonian, to be sure; more like Macaulay--fine vigorous
English, not destitute of appropriate ornament; but still prose, plain
prose, Miss Frankland--only prose!”

“It appears to me that you are cross, Mr. Campbell,” said Matty, with a
little spite; for her young vassal showed signs of enfranchisement when
he called her by her name. “You like your rainy loch better than
anything else in the world; and you are sorry,” said the siren, dropping
her voice, “you are even so unkind as to be sorry that you have come
here?”

“Sometimes, yes,” said Colin, suddenly clouding over. “It is true.”

“Always,” said Matty; “though you cannot deny that we freed you from the
delightful duty of listening to Sir Thomas after dinner,” she went on,
with a laugh. “Dear old uncle, why does he snore? So you are really
sorry you came? I do so wish you would tell me why. Wodensbourne, at
least, is better than Ardmartin,” said Miss Matty, with a look of pique.
She was rather relieved and yet horribly disappointed at the thought
that Colin might perhaps be coming to his senses, in so far as she
herself was concerned. It would save her a good deal of embarrassment,
it was true, but she was intent upon preventing it all the same.

“I will tell you why I am sorry, if you will tell me why I ought to be
glad,” said Colin, who was wise enough, for once, to see that he had the
best of the argument.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Matty; “if you don’t see yourself--if you don’t
care about the advantages--if you don’t mind living in the same--I mean,
if you don’t see the good--”

“I don’t see any good,” said Colin, with suppressed passion, “except one
which, if I stated it plainly, you would not permit me to name. I see no
advantages that I can venture to put in words. On the other hand,
Wodensbourne has taught me a great deal. This fine perspicuous English
prose points an argument a great deal better than all the Highland
rhymings in existence,” said the young man, bitterly; “I’ll give you a
professional example, as I’m a tutor. At the Holy Loch we conjugate all
our verbs affirmatively, interrogatively. Charley and I are getting them
up in the negative form here, and it’s hard work,” said Charley’s tutor.
He broke off with a laugh which sounded strange and harsh, an unusual
effect, to his companion’s ear.

“Affirmatively? Interrogatively?” said Miss Matty, with a pretty puzzled
look; “I hate long words. How do you suppose I can know what you mean?
It is such a long time since I learnt my verbs--and then one always
hated them so. Look here, what a lovely holly-leaf! _Il m’aime, il ne
m’aime pas?_” said Miss Matty, pricking her fingers on the verdant
spikes and casting a glance at Colin. When their eyes met they both
laughed, and blushed a little in their several ways--that is to say,
Miss Matty’s sweet complexion grew a little, a very little, brighter for
one moment, or Colin at least thought it did; whereas the blood flushed
all over his face, and went dancing back like so many streams of new
life and joy to exhilarate his foolish youthful heart.

“By the bye, I wonder if that foolish Harry came from my aunt; perhaps
she wants me,” said Miss Matty, who had gone as far as she meant to go.
“Besides, the fog gets heavier; though, to be sure, I have seen it
twenty times worse at Kilchurn. Perhaps it is the fog and the rain that
makes it poetical there? I prefer reality, if that means a little
sunshine, or even the fire in my lady’s dressing-room,” she cried, with
a shiver. “Go indoors and write me some pretty verses: it is the only
thing you can do after being such a savage. _Au revoir_--there are no
half-partings in English; and it’s so ridiculous to say good-bye for an
hour or two,” said Miss Matty. She made him a little mock curtsey as she
went away, to which, out of the fulness of her grace, the little witch
added a smile and a pretty wave of her hand as she disappeared round the
corner of the great holly, which were meant to leave Colin in a state of
ecstasy. He stayed on the foggy terrace a long time after she had left
him, but the young man’s thoughts were not ecstatic. So long as she was
present, so long as the strongest spell of natural magic occupied his
eyes in watching and his ears in listening to her, he was still carried
along and kept up by the witchery of young love. But in the intervals
when her presence was withdrawn, matters grew to be rather serious with
Colin. He was not like a love-sick girl, able to exist upon these
occasional sweetnesses; he was a man, and required something more to
satisfy his mind than the tantalizing enchantments and disappointments
of this intercourse, which was fascinating enough in its way, but had no
substance or reality in it. He had spoken truly--it had been entire
romance, sweet as a morning dream at the Holy Loch. There the two young
creatures, wandering by the glens and streams, were the ideal youth and
maiden entering upon their natural inheritance of beauty and love and
mutual admiration; and at homely Ramore, where the world to which Matty
belonged was utterly unknown, it was not difficult either for Colin
himself, or for those around him; to believe that--with his endowments,
his talents, and genius--he could do anything, or win any woman.
Wodensbourne was a most sobering, disenchanting reality after this
wonderful delusion. The Franklands were all so kind to the young tutor,
and their sense of obligation towards him made his position so much
better than any other tutor’s of his pretensions could have been, that
the lesson came with all the more overwhelming force upon his awakening
faculties. The morning and its dreams were gliding away--or, at least,
Colin thought so; and this clear daylight, which began to come in,
dissipating all the magical effects of sunshine and mist and dew, had to
be faced as he best could. He was not a young prince, independent of
ordinary requirements; he was truly a poor man’s son, and possessed by
an ideal of life and labour such as has inspired many a young Scotchman.
He wanted not only to get on in the world, to acquire an income and
marry Matty, but also to be good for something in his generation. If the
course of true love had been quite smooth with him, if Matty had been
his natural mate, Colin could not have contented himself with that
personal felicity. He was doubtful of all his surroundings, like most
young men of his period--doubtful what to do and how to do it--more
than doubtful of all the local ways and fashions of the profession to
which he had been trained. But underneath this uncertainty lay something
of which Colin had no doubt. He had not been brought into the world
without an object; he did not mean to leave it without leaving some mark
that he had been here. To get through life easily and secure as much
pleasure as possible by the way was not the theory of existence known at
Ramore. _There_ it was understood to be a man’s, a son’s duty to better
his position, to make his way upwards in the world; and this philosophy
of life had been enlarged and elevated in the poetic soul of Colin’s
mother. He had something to do in his own country, in his own
generation. This was the master-idea of the young man’s mind.

But how it was to be reconciled with this aimless, dependent life in the
rich English household--with this rivalry, which could never come to
anything, with Sir Thomas Frankland’s heir--with this vain love, which,
it began to be apparent to Colin, must, like the rivalry, end in
nothing--it was hard to see. He remained on the terrace for about an
hour, walking up and down in the fog. All that he could see before him
were some indistinct outlines of trees, looking black through the
steaming white air, and, behind, the great ghost of the house, with its
long front and wings receding into the mist--the great, wealthy,
stranger house, to which he and his life had so little relationship.
Many were the thoughts in Colin’s mind during this hour; and they were
far from satisfactory. Even the object of his love began to be clouded
over with fogs, which looked very different, breathing over those low,
rich, English levels, from the fairy mists of the Lady’s Glen. He began
to perceive dimly that his devotion was a toy and plaything to this
little woman of the world. He began to perceive what an amount of love
would be necessary to make such a creature as Matty place herself
consciously by the side of such a man as himself. Love!--and as yet all
that he could say certainly of Matty was that she liked a little
love-making, and had afforded him a great many facilities for that
agreeable but unproductive occupation. Colin’s heart lost itself in an
uncertainty darker than the fog. His own position galled him profoundly.
He was Charley’s tutor. They were all very kind to him; but, supposing
he were to ask the child of the house to descend from her eminence and
be his wife--not even his wife, indeed, but his betrothed; to wait years
and years for him until he should be able to claim her--what would
everybody think of him? Colin’s heart beat against his breast in loud
throbs of wounded love and pride. At Wodensbourne everything seemed
impossible. He had not the heart to go away and end abruptly his first
love and all his dreams; and how could he stay to consume his heart and
his life? How go back to the old existence, which would now be so much
harder? How begin anew and try another life apart from all his training
and traditions, for the sake of that wildest of incredible hopes? Colin
had lived for some time in this state of struggle and argument with
himself, and it was only Matty’s presence which at times delivered him
from it. Now, as before, he took refuge in the thought that he could not
immediately free himself; that, having accepted his position as
Charley’s tutor, he could not relinquish it immediately; that honour
bound him to remain for the winter at least. When he had come, for the
fiftieth time, to this conclusion, he went indoors, and upstairs to his
room. It was a good way up, but yet it was more luxurious than anything
in Ramore, and on the table there were some flowers which she had given
him the night before. Poor Colin! after his serious reflections he owed
himself a little holiday. It was an odd enough conclusion, certainly, to
his thoughts, but he had an hour to himself and his writing-desk was
open on the table, and involuntarily he bethought himself of Miss
Matty’s parting words. The end of it was that he occupied his hour
writing and re-writing and polishing into smooth couplets the pretty
verses which that young lady had asked for. Colin’s verses were as
follows; from which it will be seen that, though he had a great deal of
poetical sentiment, he was right in refusing to consider himself a
poet:--

    “In English speech, my lady said,
     There are no sweet half-partings made--
     Words half regret, half joy, that tell
     We meet again and all is well.
     Ah, not for sunny hours or days
     Its grave ‘Farewell’ our England says;
     Nor for a moment’s absence, true,
     Utters its prayer, ‘God be with you.’
     Other the thoughts that Love may reach,
     In the grave tones of English speech;
     Deeper than Fancy’s passing breath,
     The blessing stands for life or death.
     If Heaven in wrath should rule it so,
     If earth were capable of woe
     So bitter as that this might be
     The last dear word ’twixt thee and me--
     Thus Love in English speech, above
     All lighter thoughts, breathes: ‘Farewell, Love;
     For hours or ages if we part,
     God be with thee, where’er thou art.
     To no less hands than His alone
     I trust thy soul out of mine own.’
     Thus speaks the love that, grave and strong
     Can master death, neglect, and wrong,
     Yet ne’er can learn, long as it lives,
     To limit the full soul it gives,
     Or cheat the parting of its pain
     With light words ’Till we meet again.’
     Ah, no, while on a moment’s breath
     Love holds the poise ’twixt life and death,
     He cannot leave who loves thee, sweet,
     With light postponement ’Till we meet;’
     But rather prays, ‘Whate’er may be
     My life or death, God be with _thee_!
     Though one brief hour my course may tell,
     Ever and ever Fare _thou_ well.’”

Probably the readers of this history will think that Colin deserved his
fate.

He gave them to her in the evening, when he found her alone in the
drawing-room--alone, at least, in so far that Lady Frankland was nodding
over the newspaper, and taking no notice of Miss Matty’s proceedings.
“Oh, thank you; how nice of you!” cried the young lady; but she crumpled
the little billet in her hand, and put it, not into her bosom as young
ladies do in novels, but into her pocket, glancing at the door as she
did so. “I do believe you are right in saying that there is nothing but
prose here,” said Matty. “I can’t read it just now. It would only make
them laugh, you know;” and she went away forthwith to the other end of
the room, and began to occupy herself in arranging some music. She was
thus employed when Harry came in, looking black enough. Colin was left
to himself all that evening. He had, moreover, the gratification of
witnessing all the privileges once accorded to himself given to his
rival. Even in matters less urgent than love, it is disenchanting to see
the same attentions lavished on another of which one has imagined one’s
self the only possessor. It was in vain that Colin attempted a grim
smile to himself at this transference of Matty’s wiles and witcheries.
The lively table-talk--more lively than it could be with him, for the
two knew all each other’s friends and occupations; the little services
about the tea-table which he himself had so often rendered to Matty, but
which her cousin could render with a freedom impossible to Colin; the
pleased, amused looks of the elders, who evidently imagined matters to
be going on as they wished;--would have been enough of themselves to
drive the unfortunate youth half wild as he sat in the background and
witnessed it all. But, as Colin’s evil genius would have it, the curate
was that evening dining at Wodensbourne. And, in pursuance of his
benevolent intention of cultivating and influencing the young Scotchman,
this excellent ecclesiastic devoted himself to Colin. He asked a great
many questions about Scotland and the Sabbath question, and the immoral
habits of the peasantry, to which the catechumen replied with varying
temper, sometimes giving wild answers, quite wide of the mark, as he
applied his jealous ear to hear rather the conversation going on at a
little distance than the interrogatory addressed to himself. Most people
have experienced something of the difficulty of keeping up an
indifferent conversation while watching and straining to catch such
scraps as may be audible of something more interesting going on close
by; but the difficulty was aggravated in Colin’s case by the fact that
his own private interlocutor was doing everything in his power to
exasperate him in a well-meaning and friendly way, and that the words
which fell on his ear close at hand were scarcely less irritating than
the half-heard words, the but too distinctly seen combinations at the
other end of the room, where Matty was making tea, with her cousin
hanging over her chair. After he had borne it as long as he could, Colin
turned to bay.

“Scotland is not in the South Seas,” said the young Scotchman; “a day’s
journey any time will take you there. As for our Universities, they are
not rich like yours, but they have been heard of from time to time,”
said Colin, with indignation. His eyes had caught fire from long
provocation, and they were fixed at this moment upon Matty, who was
showing her cousin something which she half drew out of her pocket under
cover of her handkerchief. Was it his foolish offering that the two were
about to laugh over? In the bitterness of the moment, he could have
taken the most summary vengeance on the irreproachable young clergyman.
“We don’t tattoo ourselves now-a-days, and no Englishman has been eaten
in my district within the memory of man,” said the young savage, who
looked quite inclined to swallow somebody, though it was doubtful who
was the immediate object of the passion which played in his brown eyes.
Perhaps Colin had never been so much excited in his life.

“I beg your pardon,” said the wondering curate. “I tire you, I fear--”
and he followed Colin’s eyes, after his first movement of offence was
over, and perhaps comprehended the mystery, for the curate himself had
been in his day the subject of experiments. “They seem to have come to a
very good understanding, these two,” he said, with a gentle clerical
leaning towards inevitable gossip. “I told you how it was likely to be.
I wish you would come to the vicarage oftener,” continued the young
priest. “If Frankland and you don’t get on--”

“Why should not we get on?” said Colin, who was half mad with
excitement; he had just seen some paper, wonderfully like his own
verses, handed from one to another of the pair who were so mutually
engrossed--and, if he could have tossed the curate or anybody else who
might happen to be at hand out of window, it would have been a relief to
his feelings. “He and I are in very different circumstances,” said the
young man, with his eyes aflame. “I am not aware that it is of the least
importance to any one whether we get on or not. You forget that I am
only the tutor.” It occurred to him, as he spoke, that he had said the
same words to Matty at Ardmartin, and how they had laughed together over
his position. It was not any laughing matter now; and to see the two
heads bending over that bit of paper was more than he could bear.

“I wish you would come oftener to the parsonage,” said the benevolent
curate. “I might be--we might be--of--of some use to each other. I am
very much interested in your opinions. I wish I could bring you to see
the beauty of all the Church’s arrangements and the happiness of
those--”

Here Colin rose to his feet without being aware of it, and the curate
stopped speaking. He was a man of placid temper himself, and the young
stranger’s aspect alarmed him. Harry Frankland was coming forward with
the bit of paper in his hand.

“Look here,” said Frankland, instinctively turning his back on the
tutor, “here’s a little drawing my cousin has been making for some
schools you want in the village. She says they must be looked after
directly. It’s only a scratch, but I think it’s pretty--a woman is
always shaky in her outlines, you know; but the idea ain’t bad, is it?
She says I am to talk to you on the subject,” said the heir; and he
spread out the sketch on the table and began to discuss it with the
pleased curate. Harry was pleased too, in a modified way; he thought he
was gratifying Matty, and he thought it was good of such a wayward
little thing to think about the village children; and, finally, he
thought if she had been indifferent to the young lord of the manor she
would not have taken so much trouble--which were all agreeable and
consolatory imaginations. As for Colin, standing up by the table, his
eyes suddenly glowed and melted into a mist of sweet compunctions; he
stood quite still for a moment, and then he caught the smallest possible
gesture, the movement of a finger, the scarce-perceptible lifting of an
eyelash, which called him to her side. When he went up to Matty he found
her reading very demurely, with her book held in both her hands, and his
little poem placed above the printed page. “It is charming!” said the
little witch; “I could not look at it till I had got rid of Harry. It is
quite delightful, and it is the greatest shame in the world not to print
it; but I can’t conceive how you can possibly remember the trumpery
little things I say.” The conclusion was, that sweeter dreams than usual
visited Colin’s sleep that night. Miss Matty had not yet done with her
interesting victim.



CHAPTER XVII.


Colin found a letter on the breakfast-table next morning, which gave a
new development to his mental struggle. It was from the Professor in
Glasgow in whose class he had won his greatest laurels. He was not a
correspondent nor even a friend of Colin’s, and the effect of his letter
was increased accordingly. “One of our exhibitions to Balliol is to be
competed for immediately after Christmas,” wrote the Professor. “I am
very anxious that you should be a candidate. From all I have seen of
you, I am inclined to augur a brilliant career for your talents if they
are fully cultivated; and for the credit of our University, as well as
for your own sake, I should be glad to see you the holder of this
scholarship. Macdonald, your old rival, is a very satisfactory scholar,
and has unbounded perseverance and steadiness--doggedness, I might
almost say; but he is not the kind of man--I speak to you frankly--to
do us any credit at Oxford, nor indeed to do himself any
particular advantage. His is the commonly received type of Scotch
intelligence--hard, keen, and unsympathetic--a form as little true to
the character of the nation as conventional types usually are. I don’t
want, to speak the truth, to send him to my old college as a specimen of
what we can produce here. It would be much more satisfactory to myself
to send you, and I think you could make better use of the opportunities
thus opened to you. Lauderdale informs me that Sir Thomas Frankland is
an old friend and one under obligations to you or your family: probably,
in the circumstances, he would not object to release you from your
engagement. The matter is so important, that I don’t think you should
allow any false delicacy in respect to your present occupation to deter
you from attending to your own interests. You are now just at the age to
benefit in the highest degree by such an opportunity of prosecuting your
studies.”

This was the letter which woke all the slumbering forces of Colin’s mind
to renew the struggle against his heart and his fancy which he had
already waged unsuccessfully. He was not of much use to Charley for that
day at least; their conjugations, negative or affirmative, made but
small progress, and the sharp-witted boy gave his tutor credit for being
occupied with Matty, and scorned him accordingly--of which fact the
young man was fortunately quite unaware. When it became possible for
Colin to speak to Sir Thomas on the subject, he had again lost himself
in a maze of conflicting inclinations. Should he leave this false
position, and betake himself again, in improved and altered
circumstances, to the business of his life? But Colin saw very clearly
that to leave his present position was to leave Matty--to relinquish his
first dream; to give up the illusion which, notwithstanding all its
drawbacks, had made life lovely to him for the past year at least.
Already he had so far recovered his senses as to feel that, if he left
her now, he left her for ever, and that no new tie could be woven
between his humble fortunes and those of the little siren of
Wodensbourne. Knowing this, yet all the while subject to her
witcheries--hearing the song that lured him on--how was he to take a
strenuous resolution, and leap back into the disenchanted existence,
full of duty but deprived of delights, which awaited him in his proper
sphere? He had gone out to the terrace again in the afternoon to argue
it out with himself, when he encountered Sir Thomas, who had a cold, and
was taking his constitutional discreetly for his health’s sake, not
without an eye to the garden in which Lady Frankland intended sundry
alterations which were not quite satisfactory to her lord. “Of course I
don’t mean to interfere with my lady’s fancies,” said the baronet, who
was pleased to find some one to whom he could confide his griefs; “a
flower-garden is a woman’s department, certainly, if anything is; but I
won’t have this terrace disturbed. It used to be my mother’s favourite
walk,” said Sir Thomas. The good man went on, a little moved by this
particular recollection, meditating his grievance. Sir Thomas had got
very nearly to the other end of that table-land of existence which lies
between the ascent and the descent--that interval in which the suns burn
hottest, the winds blow coldest, but upon which, when it is fair
weather, the best part of life may be spent. By right of his extended
prospect, he was naturally a little contemptuous of those griefs and
struggles of youth which cloud over the ascending way. Had any one told
him of the real conflict which was going on in Colin’s mind, the
excellent middle-aged man would but have laughed at the boy’s folly--a
laughter softened yet confirmed by the recollection of similar clouds in
his own experience which had long dispersed into thin air. He was a
little serious at the present moment, about my lady’s caprice, which
aimed at altering the smooth stretch of lawn to which his eyes had been
accustomed for years--and turned to listen to Colin, when the young man
addressed him, with a slight air of impatience, not knowing anything of
importance which the youth could have to say.

“I should be glad to know,” said Colin, with hesitation, “how long you
think Charley will want my services. Lady Frankland was speaking the
other day of the improvement in his health--”

“Yes,” said the baronet, brightening up a little, for his invalid boy
was his favourite. “We are greatly obliged to you, Campbell. Charley has
brightened and improved amazingly since you came here.”

This was an embarrassing way of receiving Colin’s attempt at disengaging
himself from Charley. The youth hesitated and stammered, and could not
well make up his mind what to say next. In his perplexity he took out
the letter which had stimulated him to this attempt. Sir Thomas, who was
still a little impatient, took it out of his hands and read it. The
baronet whistled under his breath with puzzled astonishment as he read.
“What does it mean?” said Sir Thomas. “You declined to go to Oxford
under my auspices, and now here is something about a scholarship and a
competition. You want to go to the University after all--but why then
reject my proposal when I made it?” said Colin’s patron, who thought his
_protégé_ had chosen a most unlucky moment for changing his mind.

“I beg your pardon,” said Colin, “but I could not accept your offer at
any time. I could not accept such a favour from any man; and I know no
claim I have upon you to warrant--”

“Oh, stuff!” said Sir Thomas; “I know very well what are the obligations
I am under to you, Campbell. You saved my son Harry’s life--we are all
very sensible of your claims. I should certainly have expected you to
help Harry as far as was possible--for he is like myself--he is more in
the way of cricket and boating, and a day with the hounds when he can
get it, than Greek; but I should have felt real pleasure,” said the
baronet blandly, “in helping so deserving a young man, and one to whom
we all feel so much indebted--”

“Thank you,” said Colin, who at that moment would have felt real
pleasure in punching the head, or maltreating the person of the heir of
Wodensbourne--“I suppose we have all some pride in one way or another. I
am obliged to you, Sir Thomas, but I could not accept such a favour from
you; whereas, a prize won at my own university,” said the young man,
with a little elevation, “is no discredit, but--

“Discredit!” said Sir Thomas; “you must have a very strange idea of me,
Mr. Campbell, if you imagine it discreditable to accept a kindness at my
hands.”

“I beg your pardon,” again said Colin, who was at his wit’s end; “I did
not mean to say anything uncivil; but I am Scotch. I dislike receiving
favours. I prefer--”

Sir Thomas rubbed his hands. The apology of nationality went a long way
with him, and restored his temper. “Yes, yes; I understand,” he said,
with good-humoured superiority: “you prefer conferring favours--you like
to keep the upper hand. I know a great deal of you Scotchmen; I flatter
myself I understand your national character. I should like to know now,”
said the baronet, confidentially, “if you are set upon becoming a Scotch
minister, as you once told me, what good it will do you going to Oxford?
Supposing you were to distinguish yourself, which I think very possible;
supposing you were to take a--a second-class, or even a first-class, for
example, what would be the good? The reputation and the--the _prestige_
and that sort of thing would be altogether lost in Scotland. All the
upper classes you know have gone from the old Kirk, and you would not
please the peasants a bit better for that--indeed, the idea of an Oxford
first-class man spending his life preaching to a set of peasants is
absurd,” said Sir Thomas. “I know more about Scotland than most men: I
paid a great deal of attention to that Kirk question. If you go to
Oxford I shall expect you to change your mind about your profession. If
you don’t take to something more ambitious, at least you’ll go in for
the Church.”

“I have always intended so,” said Colin, with his grand air, ignoring
the baronet’s meaning. “To preach, if it is only to peasants, is more
worth a man’s while than leading prayers for ever, like your curate
here. I am only Scotch; I know no better,” said Colin. “We want changes
in Scotland, it is true; but it is as good to work for Scotland as for
England--better for me--and I should not grudge my first-class to the
service of my native Church,” said the youth, with a movement of his
head which tossed his heavy brown locks from his concealed forehead. Sir
Thomas looked at him with a blank amazement, not knowing in the least
what he meant. He thought the young fellow had been piqued somehow, most
probably by Matty, and was in a heroical mood, which mood Colin’s patron
did not pretend to understand.

“Well, well,” he said, with some impatience, “I suppose you will take
your own way; but I must say it would seem very odd to see an Oxford
first-class man in a queer little kirk in the Highlands, preaching a
sermon an hour long. Of course, if you like it, that’s another matter;
and the Scotch certainly do seem to like preaching,” said Sir Thomas,
with natural wonder; “but we flattered ourselves you were comfortable
here. I am sorry you want to go away.”

This was taking Colin on his undefended side. The words brought colour
to his cheeks and moisture to his eye. “Indeed, I don’t want to go
away,” he said, and paused, and faltered, and grew still more deeply
crimson. “I can never forget; I can never think otherwise than
with--with gratitude of Wodensbourne.” He was going to have said
tenderness, but stopped himself in time; and even Sir Thomas, though his
eyes were noway anointed with any special chrism of insight, saw the
emotion in his face.

“Then don’t go,” said the straightforward baronet; “why should you go if
you don’t want to? We are all most anxious that you should stay. Indeed,
it would upset my plans dreadfully if you were to leave Charley at
present. He’s a wonderful fellow, is Charley. He has twice as much
brains as the rest of my boys, sir; and you understand him, Campbell. He
is happier, he is stronger, he is even a better fellow--poor lad, when
he’s ill he can’t be blamed for a bit of temper--since you came. Indeed,
now I think it over,” said Sir Thomas, “you will mortify and disappoint
me very much if you go away. I quite considered you had accepted
Charley’s tutorship for a year at least. My dear, here’s a pretty
business,” he said, turning round at the sound of steps and voices,
which Colin had already discerned from afar with a feeling that he was
now finally vanquished, and could yield with a good grace; “here’s
Campbell threatening to go away.”

“To go away!” said Lady Frankland. “Dear me, he can’t mean it. Why, he
only came the other day; and Charley, you know”--said the anxious
mother; but she recollected Harry’s objection to the tutor, and did not
make any very warm opposition. Colin, however, was totally unconscious
of the lukewarmness of the lady of the house. The little scream of
dismay with which Miss Matty received the intelligence might have
deluded a wiser man than he.

“Going away! I call it downright treachery,” said Miss Matty. “I think
it is using you very unkindly, uncle; when he knows you put such
dependence on him about Charley; and when _we_ know the house has been
quite a different thing since Mr. Campbell came,” said the little witch,
with a double meaning, of which Colin, poor boy, swallowed the sweeter
sense, without a moment’s hesitation. _He_ knew it was not the
improvement in Charley’s temper which had made the house different to
Matty; but Lady Frankland, who was not a woman of imagination, took up
seriously what seemed to be the obvious meaning of the words.

“It is quite true. I am sure we are much obliged to Mr. Campbell,” she
said; “Charley is quite an altered boy; and I had hoped, you were liking
Wodensbourne. If we could do anything to make it more agreeable to you,”
said Lady Frankland, graciously, remembering how Charley’s “temper” was
the horror of the house. “I am sure Sir Thomas would not grudge--”

“Pray do not say any more,” said Colin, confused and blushing; “no house
could be more--no house could be _so_ agreeable to me. You are all very
kind. It was only my--my own--”

What he was going to say is beyond the reach of discovery. He was
interrupted by a simultaneous utterance from all the three persons
present, of which Colin heard only the soft tones of Matty. “He does not
mean it,” she said; “he only means to alarm us. I shall not say
good-bye, nor farewell either. You shall have no good wishes if you
_think_ of going away. False as a Campbell,” said the siren under her
breath, with a look which overpowered Colin. He never was quite sure
what words followed from the elder people; but even Lady Frankland
became fervent when she recalled what Charley had been before the advent
of the tutor. “What we should do with him now, if Mr. Campbell was to
leave and the house full of people, I tremble to think,” said the
alarmed mother. When Colin returned to the house it was with a slightly
flattered sense of his own value and importance new to him--with a
sense too that duty had fully acquitted and justified inclination, and
that he could not at the present moment leave his post. This delicious
unction he laid to his soul while it was still thrilling with the glance
and with the words which Matty, in her alarm, had used to prevent her
slave’s escape. Whatever happened, he could not, he would not, go;
better to perish with such a hope, than to thrive without it; and, after
all, there was no need for perishing, and next year Oxford might still
be practicable. So Colin said to himself, as he made his simple toilette
for the evening, with a face which was radiant with secret sunshine, “It
was only my--my own--.” How had he intended to complete that sentence
which the Franklands took out of his mouth? Was he going to say
interest, advantage, peace? The unfinished words came to his mind
involuntarily when he was alone. They kept flitting in and out,
disturbing him with vague touches of uneasiness, asking to be completed.
“My own--only my own,” Colin said to himself as he went downstairs. He
was saying over the words softly as he came to a landing, upon which
there was a great blank staircase-window reaching down to the floor, and
darkly filled at this present moment with a grey waste of sky and
tumbling clouds, with a wild wind visibly surging through the vacant
atmosphere, and conveying almost to the eye in palpable vision the same
demonstration of its presence as it did to the ear. “My own--only my
own. I wonder what you mean; the words sound quite sentimental,” said
Miss Matty, suddenly appearing at Colin’s side, with a light in her
hand. The young man was moved strangely; he could not tell why. “I meant
my own life, I believe,” he said with a sudden impulse, unawares; “only
my own life,” and went down the next flight of stairs before the young
lady, not knowing what he was about. When he came to himself, and stood
back, blushing with hot shame, to let her pass, the words came back in a
dreary whirl, as if the wind had taken them up and tossed them at him,
but of that wild windowful of night. His life--only his life; was that
what he had put in comparison with Charley’s temper and Matty’s vanity,
and given up with enthusiasm? Something chill, like a sudden cold
current through his veins, ran to Colin’s heart for a moment. Next
minute he was in the room, where bright lights, and lively talk, and all
the superficial cordiality of prosperity and good-humour filled the
atmosphere round him. Whatever the stake had been, the cast was over and
the decision made.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The Christmas guests began to arrive at Wodensbourne on the same day
that Colin concluded this sacrifice; and for some days the tutor had
scant measure of that society which had lured him to the relinquishment
even of his “life.” When the house was full of people, Matty found a
thousand occupations in which of necessity Colin had no share,--not to
say that the young lady felt it a matter of prudence, after she had
accepted his sacrifice, to be as little as possible in his society. It
was pleasant enough to feel her power, and to know that for her
invaluable smile the boy had bartered his independent career; but to put
him in the way of claiming any reward for his offering would have been
exceedingly inconvenient to Matty. He paid the full penalty accordingly
for at least a week thereafter, and had abundant opportunity of counting
the cost and seeing what he had done. It was not exhilarating to spend
the mornings with Charley, to answer his sharp questions, to satisfy his
acute but superficial mind--in which curiosity was everything, and
thought scarcely existed--and to feel that for this he had given up all
that was individual in his life. He had left his own University, he had
given up the chance of going to Oxford, he had separated himself from
his companions and given up his occupations--all for the pleasure of
teaching Charley, of standing in a corner of the Wodensbourne
drawing-room, and feeling acutely through every fibre of his sensitive
Scotch frame that he was the tutor, and stood accordingly in about as
much relationship to the society in which he found himself as if he had
been a New Zealand chief. Colin, however, had made up his mind, and
there was nothing for it now but to consent and accept his fate. But it
was astonishing how different things looked from that corner of the
drawing-room--unspeakably different from the aspect they bore when Colin
himself was the only stranger present, and even different from the state
of affairs after Harry came home, when he had been thrown into the
shade, and a fever of excitement and jealousy had taken possession of
Colin’s breast. He was very young, and was not used to society. When
Matty addressed to her cousin the same witcheries which she had expended
on her worshipper, the young man was profoundly wretched and jealous
beyond description. But when he saw her use the same wiles with others,
lavishing freely the smiles which had been so precious to his deluded
fancy upon one and another, a painful wonder seized the mind of Colin.
To stand in that corner possessed by one object was to be behind the
scenes. Colin was mortal; he had made a great sacrifice, and he was glad
to have made it; but he could not forget it, nor stand at his ease,
accepting the civilities that might be offered to him as to another. At
first he expected the equivalent which he imagined had been pledged to
him, and when he found out his mistake in that, he discovered also how
impossible it was to refrain from a feeling of injury, a jealous
consciousness of inadequate appreciation. He himself knew, if nobody
else did, the price at which he had bought those siren smiles, and under
these circumstances to stand by and see them bestowed upon others, was
an experience which conveyed wonderful insight to Colin’s inexperienced
eyes. If Miss Matty saw him at all, she saw him in the corner, and gave
him a nod and a smile in passing, which she thought quite enough to keep
him happy for the time being. For, unluckily, the professors of this art
of fascination, both male and female, are apt now and then to deceive
themselves as to the extent of their own powers. While Matty was so
perfectly easy in her mind about the tall figure in the corner, he, for
his part, was watching her with feelings which it would be very hard to
describe. His very admiration, the sincerity of his love, intensified
the smouldering germs of disappointment and disgust of which he became
uneasily conscious as he stood and watched. He saw by glimpses “the very
heart of the machine” from that unnoticed observatory. He saw how she
distributed and divided her bright looks, her playful talk; he perceived
how she exerted herself to be more and more charming if any victim
proved refractory, and was slow to yield. Had Colin been kept more
perfectly in hand himself, had she devoted a little more time, a little
more pains to him, it is probable that the sweet flattery would have
prevailed, and that he might have forgiven her the too great readiness
she showed to please others. But, as it was, the glamour died out of
Colin’s eyes ray by ray, and bitter in the consciousness of all he had
sacrificed, he began to find out how little the reward, even could he
have obtained it, was worth the price. The process was slow, but it went
on night by night--and night by night, as the disenchantment progressed,
Colin became more and more unhappy. It was wretchedto see the sweet
illusion which had made life so beautiful disappearing under his very
eyes, and to feel that the enchantment, which had to him been so
irresistible, was a conscious and studied art, which could be used just
when the possessor pleased, with as much coolness as if it had bean the
art of embroidery or any other feminine handicraft. A wise spectator
might, and probably would, have said, that to learn this lesson was the
best thing possible for Colin; but that did not make it the less cruel,
the less bitter. In his corner the young man gradually drew nearer and
nearer to the fierce misanthropy of outraged youth, that misanthropy
which is as warm a protest against common worldliness as the first
enthusiasm. But his heart was not yet released, though his eyes were
becoming enlightened; reason works slowly against love--and bitter at
the bottom of all lay the sense of the sacrifice, which was only his
life.

A few days after Christmas, a party of the young men staying at
Wodensbourne were bound upon a boating expedition, to decide some bet
which bore remotely upon one of the greatest events of the University
year--the great match between Oxford and Cambridge. Harry Frankland, who
was an Oxford man, though the spires of Cambridge might almost have been
visible from his father’s park, had there been any eminence high enough
to afford a view, was deeply interested on the side of his own
University; and some unfortunate youths belated at Cambridge during the
holidays for want of friends, or money, or some other needful adjunct of
festival-keeping, were but too glad to seize the opportunity of a day’s
pleasure. Colin never knew how it was that he came to be asked to join
the party. Though Harry’s jealousy was gone, for the moment at least,
there was not even a pretence of friendship between the tutor and the
heir. Nor could Colin ever explain how it was that he consented to go,
for scores of objections naturally presented themselves at the first
proposal. He was sensitive, affronted, feeling deeply his false
position, and ready to receive with suspicion any overtures of
friendliness from any man possessed by a benevolent wish to be kind to
the tutor. It was, however, his fate to go, and the preliminaries
arranged themselves somehow. They started on a frosty bright morning,
when the trees of the park were still only emerging from mists tinted
red by the sunshine, a joyous, rather noisy party; they were to walk to
the river, which was about six miles off, and when their business was
decided, to lunch at a favourite haunt of the Cambridge undergraduates.
Lady Frankland, who did not much approve of the expedition, gave them
many counsels about the way. “I wish you would drive and get back by
daylight,” she said; “otherwise I know you will be taking _that_ path
across the fields.”

“What path?” said some one present; “if there is one specially
objectionable we will be sure to take it.”

“I would not if I were you,” said Miss Matty. “There is a nasty canal in
the way; if you pass it after dark, some of you will certainly fall in.
It would be a pity to be drowned in such a slimy, shabby way. Much
better have all sorts of dog-carts and things, and drive back in time
for a cup of tea.”

At which speech there was a general laugh. “Matty would give her soul
for a cup of tea,” said her cousin. “What a precious fright you’ll all
be in if we’re late for dinner. I ought to know all about the canal by
this time. Come along. It’s too cold to think of drowning,” said Harry
Frankland, with a filial nod of leave-taking to his mother. As for
Matty, she went to the door with them to see them go off, as did some
others of the ladies. Matty lifted her pretty cheek sideways and
stretched out her hand into the frosty atmosphere as if to feel for
rain.

“I thought I saw some drops,” she said; “it would be frightful if it
came on to rain now, and spoiled our chances of skating. Good morning,
and, whatever you do, I beg of you don’t get drowned in the canal. It
would be such a shabby way of making an end of one’s self,” said Matty.
When she looked up she caught Colin’s eye, who was the last to leave the
house. She was in the humour to be kind to him at that moment. “Shall I
say good-bye, or farewell?” she said softly, with that confidential air
which Colin, notwithstanding his new enlightenment, had no heart to
resist.

“You shall say what you please,” said Colin, lingering on the step
beside her. The young man was in a kind of desperate mood. Perhaps he
liked to show his companions that he too could have his turn.

“Good-bye--farewell,” said Matty, “but then that implies shaking hands,”
and she gave him her pretty hand with a little laugh, making it appear
to the group outside that the clownish tutor had insisted upon that
unnecessary ceremony. “But whatever you please to say, I like _au
revoir_ best,” said Miss Matty; “it does not even suggest parting.” And
she waved her hand as she turned away. “Till we meet again,” said the
little enchantress. It might be to him especially, or it might be to
all, that she made this little gesture of farewell. Anyhow, Colin
followed the others with indescribable sensations. He no longer believed
in her, but her presence, her looks, her words, had still mastery over
him. Ha had walked half the way before the fumes of that leave-taking
had gone out of his brain; though most part of the time he was keeping
up a conversation about things in general with the stupidest of the
party, who kept pertinaciously by the tutor’s side.

The day went off with considerable satisfaction to all the party, and,
as Colin and Frankland did not come much in contact, there was little
opportunity for displaying the spirit of opposition and contradiction
which existed between them. Fortunately, Colin was not at hand to hear
Harry’s strictures upon his method of handling the oars, nor did
Frankland perceive the smile of contemptuous recollection which came
upon the tutor’s face as he observed how tenderly the heir of
Wodensbourne stepped into the boat, keeping clear of the wet as of old.
“That fellow has not a bit of science,” said young Frankland; “he
expects mere strength to do everything. Look how he holds his oar. It
never occurs to him that he is in anything lighter than a Highland
fishing cobble. What on earth, I wonder, made us bring him here?”

“Science goes a great way,” said the most skilled oarsman of the party,
“but I’d like to have the training of Campbell all the same. He talks of
going to Balliol, and I shall write to Cox about him. What a chest the
fellow has,” said the admiring spectator. Meanwhile Colin had not
hesitated to explain his smile.

“I smile because I recollect smiling years ago,” said Colin. “See how
Frankland steps into the boat. When he was a boy he did the same. I
remember it, and it amused me; for wet feet were a new idea to me in
those days;” and Colin laughed outright, and the eyes of the two met.
Neither knew what the other had been saying, but the spectators
perceived without more words that the young men were not perfectly safe
companions for each other, and took precautions, with instinctive
comprehension of the case.

“Those two don’t get on,” said one of the party, under his breath. “It
_is_ hard upon a fellow, you know, to have another fellow stuck up at
his side who saved his life, and that sort of thing. I shouldn’t like it
myself. Somebody keep an eye on Frankland--and on the Scotch fellow,
too,” said the impartial peace-maker. Luckily, neither of the two who
were thus put under friendly surveillance was at all aware of the fact,
and Colin submitted with as good a grace as possible to the constant
companionship of the stupidest and best-humoured of the party, who had
already bestowed his attentions and society upon the tutor. This state
of things, however, did not endure after the luncheon, at which it was
not possible for Colin to remain a merely humble spectator and sharer of
the young men’s entertainment. He had not been broken in to such duty;
and, excited by exercise and the freedom round him, Colin could no more
help talking than he could help the subsequent discovery made by his
companions that “the Scotch fellow” was very good company. The young men
spent--as was to be expected--a much longer time over their lunch than
was at all necessary; and the short winter day was just over when they
set out on their way home through the evening mists, which soon deepened
into darkness, very faintly lighted by a few doubtful stars. Everybody
declared, it is true, that there was to be a moon; indeed, it was with
the distinct understanding that there was to be a moon that the party
had started on foot from Wodensbourne. But the moon showed herself
lamentably indifferent to the arrangements which depended on her. She
gave not the least sign of appearing anywhere in that vast, windy vault
of sky, which indeed had a little light in itself, but could spare
scarcely any to show the wayfarers where they were going through the
dreary wintry road and between the rustling leafless hedges. When they
got into the fields matters grew rather worse. It was hard to keep the
path, harder still to find the stiles and steer through gaps and
ditches. The high road made a round which would lead them three or four
miles out of their way, and Frankland insisted upon his own perfect
knowledge of the by-way by which they could reach Wodensbourne in an
hour. “Mind the canal we were warned of this morning,” suggested one of
the party, as they paused in the dark at the corner of a black field to
decide which way they should go. “Oh, confound the canal; as if I didn’t
know every step of the way,” said young Frankland. “It’s a settled
principle in the female mind that one is bent upon walking into canals
whenever one has an opportunity. Come along; if you’re afraid, perhaps
Campbell will show you the other way.”

“Certainly,” said Colin, without the least hesitation. “I have no wish
to walk into the canal, for my part;” upon which there was a universal
protest against parting company. “Come along,” said one, who thrust his
arm through Colin’s as he spoke, but who was no longer the stupid member
of the party, “we’ll all take our chance together;” but he kept the
tutor as far as possible from the heir of Wodensbourne. “Frankland and
you don’t seem to get on,” said Colin’s companion; “yet he’s a very nice
fellow when you come to know him. I suppose you most have had some
misunderstanding, eh? Wasn’t it you who saved his life?”

“I never saved any one’s life,” said Colin, a little sharply; “and we
get on well enough--as well as is necessary. We have no call to see much
of each other.” After this they all went on through the dark as well as
they could, getting into difficulties now and then, sometimes collecting
together in a bewildered group at a stile or turning, and afterwards
streaming on in single file--a succession of black figures which it was
impossible to identify except by their voices. Certainly they made noise
enough. What with shouts from the beginning to the end of the file, what
with bursts of song which came occasionally from one or another or were
taken up in uproarious chorus, the profound stillness which enveloped
and surrounded them was compelled to own their human presence to the ear
at least. In the natural course of their progress Colin and his
immediate companion had got nearly to the front, when the laughter and
noise was suddenly interrupted. “I don’t quite see where we are going,”
said Harry. “Stop a bit; I shouldn’t mind going on myself, but I don’t
want to risk you fellows who are frightened for canals. Look here; the
road ought to have gone on at this corner, but here’s nothing but a
hedge. Keep where you are till I look out. There’s a light over there,
but I can’t tell what’s between.”

“Perhaps it’s the canal,” said some one behind.

“Oh, yes, of course it’s the canal,” said Frankland, with irritation.
“You stand back till I try; if I fall in, it’s my own fault, which will
be a consolation to my friends,” cried the angry guide. He started
forward impatiently, not, however, without being closely followed by two
or three, among whom was Colin.

“Don’t be foolish, Frankland,” said one voice in the darkness; “let us
all go together--let us be cautious. I feel something like gravel under
my feet. Steady, steady; feel with your foot before you put it down. Oh!
good heavens, what is it?” The voice broke off abruptly; a loud splash
and a cry ensued, and the young men behind saw the figures in advance of
them suddenly drop and disappear. It _was_ the canal, upon which they
had been making unawares. Two out of the four had only stumbled on the
bank, and rose up again immediately; and as those behind, afraid to
press forward, not knowing what to do, stood watching appalled, another
and another figure scrambled up with difficulty, calling for help, out
of the water, into which they had not, however, plunged deeply enough
to peril their lives. Then there was a terrible momentary pause.

“Are we all here?” said Colin. His voice sounded like a funeral bell
pealing through the darkness. Hehe knew they were not all there. He,
with his keen eyes, rendered keener by opposition and enmity, had seen
beyond mistake that the first of all went down and had not risen again.
The consciousness made his voice tragic as it rang through the darkness.
Somebody shouted, “Yes, yes, thank God!” in reply. It was only a second,
but years of life rolled up upon Colin in that moment of time--years of
sweet troublous existence behind; years of fair life before. Should he
let him die? It was not his fault; nobody could blame him. And what
right had _he_ to risk his life a second time for Harry Frankland? All
that a murderer, all that a martyr could feel rushed through Colin’s
mind in that instant of horrible indecision. Then somebody said,
“Frankland, Frankland! where is Frankland?” That voice was the touch of
fate. With a strange shout, of which he was unconscious, Colin plunged
into the black invisible stream. By this time the others of the party
saw with unspeakable relief lights approaching, and heard through the
darkness voices of men coming to their assistance. They were close by
one of the locks of the canal; and it was the keeper of it, not unused
to such accidents, who came hurrying to give what help was possible. His
lantern and some torches which the anxious young men managed to light
threw a wild illumination over the muddy, motionless stream, in which
two of their number, lately as gay and light-hearted as any, were now
struggling for their life. The same light flared horribly over the two
motionless figures, which, after an interval which seemed like years to
the bystanders, were at length brought out of the blackness; one of them
still retaining strength and consciousness to drag the other with him up
the stony margin before his senses failed. They lay silent both, with
pallid faces, upon the hard path; one as like death as the other, with a
kind of stony, ghostly resemblance in their white insensibility, except
that there was blood on the lips of one, who must have struck, the
lockman said, upon some part of the lock. They were carried into the
cottage, and hurried messengers sent to the nearest doctor and to
Wodensbourne. Meanwhile the two lay together, pallid and motionless,
nobody knowing which was living and which dead.



CHAPTER XIX.


Colin never ascertained what were the events immediately succeeding his
plunge into the canal; all he could recall dimly of that strange crisis
in his life was a sense of slow motion in which he himself was passive,
and of looking up at the stars in a dark-blue, frosty, winterly sky,
with a vague wonder in his mind how it was that he saw them so clearly,
and whether it was they or he that moved. Afterwards, when his mind
became clear, it grew apparent to him that he must have opened his eyes
for a moment while he was being carried home; but there intervened a
period during which he heard nothing distinctly, and in which the only
clear point to him was this gleam of starlight, and the accompanying
sense of motion, which perplexed his faculties in his weakness. While he
lay feverish and unconscious he kept repeating, to the amazement of the
bystanders, two stray lines which had no apparent connexion with any of
the circumstances surrounding him.

    “Each with its little span of sky,
     And little lot of stars,”

poor Colin said to himself over and over, without knowing it. It had
been only for a moment that he opened his eyes out of the torpor which
was all but death, but that moment was enough to colour all the
wanderings of his mind while still the weakness of the body dominated
and overpowered it. Like a picture or a dream, he kept in his
recollection the sharp frosty glimmer, the cold twinkling of those
passionless, distant lights, and with it a sense of rushing air and
universal chill, and a sound and consciousness of wending his way
between rustling hedges, though all the while he was immovable. That
feeling remained with him till he woke from a long sleep one afternoon
when the twilight was setting in, and found himself in a room which was
not his own room, lying in a great bed hung with crimson curtains, which
were made still more crimson by a ruddy glow of fire-light which flashed
reflections out of the great mirror opposite the end of the bed. Colin
lay a while in a pause of wonder and confusion when he woke. The
starlight went out of his eyes and the chill out of his frame, and a
certain sense of languid comfort came over him. When he said, “Where am
I?” faintly, in a voice which he could scarcely recognise for his own,
two women rose hastily and approached him. One of these was Lady
Frankland, the other a nurse. While the attendant hurried forward to see
if he wanted anything, Lady Frankland took his hand and pressed it
warmly in both hers.

“You shall hear all about it to-morrow,” she said, with the tears in her
eyes; “you will do well now, but you must not exert yourself to-night.
We have all been so anxious about you. Hush, hush! You must take this;
you must not ask any more questions to-night.”

What he had to take was some warm jelly, of which he swallowed a little,
with wonder and difficulty. He did not understand what had befallen him,
or how he had been reduced to this invalid condition. “Hush, hush! you
must not ask any questions to-night,” said Lady Frankland; and she went
to the door as if to leave the room, and then came back again and bent
over Colin and kissed his forehead, with her eyes shining through tears.
“God bless you and reward you!” she said, smiling and crying over him;
“you will do well now--you have a mother’s blessing and a mother’s
prayers,” and with these strange words she went away hastily, as if not
trusting herself to say more.

Colin lay back on his pillow with his mind full of wonder, and, catching
at the clue she had given him, made desperate feeble efforts to piece it
out, and get back again into his life. He found it so hard fighting
through that moment of starlight which still haunted him, that he had to
go to sleep upon it, but by-and-by woke up again when all was
silent--when the light was shaded, and the nurse reclining in an easy
chair, and everything betokened night--and lying awake for an hour or
two, at last began to gather himself up, and recollect what had
happened. He had almost leaped from his bed when he recalled the scene
by the canal--his conviction that Frankland had gone down, his own
desperate plunge. But Colin was past leaping from his bed, for that time
at least. He followed out this recollection, painfully trying to think
what had occurred. Was Harry Frankland alive or dead? Had he himself
paused too long on the brink, and was the heir of Wodensbourne gone, out
of all his privileges and superiorities? This was the interpretation
that appeared most likely to Colin. It seemed to him to explain Lady
Frankland’s tears and pathos of gratitude. The tutor had suffered in his
attempt to save the son, and the parents, moved by the tenderness of
grief, were thankful for his ineffectual efforts. As he lay awake in the
silence, it appeared to him that this was the explanation; and he too
thought with a certain pathos and compunction of Harry--his instinctive
rival, his natural opponent. Was it thus he had fallen, so near the
beginning of the way--snatched out of the life which had so many charms,
so many advantages for him? As Colin lay alone in the silence, his
thoughts went out to that unknown life into which he could not but
imagine the other young man, who was yesterday--was it yesterday?--as
strong and life-like as himself, had passed so suddenly. Life had never
seemed so fair, so bright, so hopeful to himself as while he thus
followed with wistful eyes the imaginary path of Harry into the unknown
awe and darkness. The thought touched him deeply, profoundly, with
wistful pity, with wonder and inquiry. Where was he now, this youth who
had so lately been by his side? Had he found out those problems that
trouble men for their life long? Had existence grown already clear and
intelligible to the eyes which in this world had cared but little to
investigate its mysteries?

While Colin’s mind was thus occupied, it occurred to him suddenly to
wonder why he himself was so ill and so feeble. He had no inclination to
get up from the bed on which he lay. Sometimes he coughed, and the cough
pained him; his very breathing was a fatigue to him now and then. As he
lay pondering this new thought, curious half-recollections, as of things
that had happened in a dream, came into Colin’s mind; visions of doctors
examining some one--he scarcely knew whether it was himself or
another--and of conversations that had been held over his bed. As he
struggled through these confusing mazes of recollection or imagination,
his head began to ache and his heart to beat; and finally his uneasy
movements woke the nurse, who was alarmed and would not listen to any of
the questions he addressed to her. “My lady told you as you’d hear
everything to-morrow,” said Colin’s attendant; “for goodness gracious
sake take your draught, do, and lie still; and don’t go a-moidering and
a-bothering, and take away a poor woman’s character, as was never known
to fall asleep before, nor wouldn’t but for thinking you was better and
didn’t want nothing.” It was strange to the vigorous young man, who had
never been in the hands of a nurse in his life, to feel himself
constrained to obey--to feel, indeed, that he had no power to resist,
but was reduced to utter humiliation and dependence, he could not tell
how. He fell asleep afterwards, and dreamed of Harry Frankland drowning,
and of himself going down, down through the muddy, black water--always
down, in giddy circles of descent, as if it were bottomless. When he
woke again it was morning, and his attendant was putting his room to
rights, and disposed to regard himself with more friendly eyes. “Don’t
you go disturbing of yourself,” said the nurse, “and persuading of the
doctor as you ain’t no better. You’re a deal better, if he did but know
it. What’s come to you? It’s all along of falling in the canal that
night along of Mr. Harry. If you takes care, and don’t get no more cold,
you’ll do well.”

“Along with Mr. Harry--poor Harry!--and he--?” said Colin. His own voice
sounded very strange to him, thin and far-off, like a shadow of its
former self. When he asked this question, the profoundest wistful pity
filled the young man’s heart. He was sorry to the depths of his soul for
the other life which had, he supposed, gone out in darkness. “Poor
Frankland!” he repeated to himself, with an action of mournful regret.
_He_ had been saved, and the other lost. So he thought, and the thought
went to his heart.

“Mr. Harry was saved, sir, when you was drownded,” said the nurse, who
was totally unconscious of Colin’s feelings; “he’s fine and hearty
again, is Mr. Harry. Bless you, a ducking ain’t nothing to him. As for
you,” continued the woman, going calmly about her occupations--“they say
it wasn’t the drowning, it was the striking against----”

“I understand,” said Colin. He stopped her further explanations with a
curious sharpness which he was not responsible for, and at which he
himself wondered. Was not he glad that Harry Frankland lived? But then,
to be sure, there came upon him the everlasting contrast--the good
fortune and unfailing luck of his rival, who was well and hearty, while
Colin, who would have been in no danger but for him, lay helpless in
bed! He began to chafe at himself, as he lay, angry and impotent,
submitting to the nurse’s attentions. What a poor weakling anybody must
think him, to fall ill of the ducking which had done no harm to Harry!
He felt ridiculous, contemptible, weak--which was the worst of
all--thinking with impatience of the thanks which presently Lady
Frankland would come to pay him, and the renewed obligations of which
the family would be conscious. If he only could get up, and get back to
his own room! But, when he made the attempt, Colin was glad enough to
fall back again upon his pillows, wondering and dismayed. Harry was
well, and had taken no harm; what could be the meaning of _his_ sudden
and unlooked-for weakness?

Lady Frankland came into the room, as he had foreseen, while it was
still little more than daylight of the winter morning. She had always
been kind to Colin--indifferently, amiably kind, for the most part, with
a goodness which bore no particular reference to him, but sprang from
her own disposition solely. This time there was a change. She sat down
by his side with nervous, wistful looks, with an anxious, almost
frightened expression. She asked him how he was with a kind of tremulous
tenderness, and questioned the nurse as to how he had slept. “I am so
glad to hear you have had a refreshing sleep,” she said, with an anxious
smile, and even laid her soft white hand upon Colin’s and caressed it as
his own mother might have done, whilst she questioned his face, his
aspect, his looks, with the speechless scrutiny of an anxious woman.
Somehow these looks, which were so solicitous and wistful, made Colin
more impatient than ever.

“I am at a loss to understand why I am lying here,” he said, with a
forced smile; “I used to think I could stand a ducking as well as most
people. It is humiliating to find myself laid up like a child by a touch
of cold water----”

“Oh, Mr. Campbell, pray don’t say so,” said Lady Frankland; “it was not
the cold water; you know you struck against---- Oh, how can we thank you
enough!--how can I ever express my gratitude!” said the poor lady,
grasping his hands in both hers, while her eye filled unawares with
tears.

“There is no need for gratitude,” said Colin, drawing away his hand with
an impatience which he could not have explained. “I am sorry to find
myself such a poor creature that I have to be nursed, and give you
trouble. Your son is all right, I hear.” This he said with an effort at
friendliness which cost him some trouble. He scorned to seem to envy the
young favourite of fortune, but it was annoying to feel that the
strength he was secretly proud of had given way at so slight a trial. He
turned his face a little more towards the wall, and away from Harry’s
mother, as he spoke.

“Oh, yes,” said Lady Frankland, “he is quite well, and he is very, very
grateful to you, dear Mr. Campbell. Believe me, we are all very
grateful. Harry is so shy; and he has never once had an opportunity to
pay you that--that attention which you deserve at his hands; and it
showed such noble and disinterested regard on your part----”

“Pray don’t say so,” said Colin, abruptly; “you make me uncomfortable;
there was no regard whatever in the case.”

“Ah, yes! you say so to lighten our sense of obligation,” said Lady
Frankland. “It is so good, so kind of you. And when I think what it has
made you suffer--but I am sure you will believe that there is nothing we
would not do to show our gratitude. If you were our own son neither Sir
Thomas nor I could be more anxious. We have sent for Sir Apsley Wendown,
and I hope he will arrive to-day; and we have sent for your dear Mother,
Mr. Campbell----”

“My mother?” said Colin. He was so much startled that he raised himself
up on his pillows without thinking, and as he did so was seized by a
horrible pain which took away his breath. “Sir Apsley Wendown and my
mother? What does it mean?” the young man said gasping, as he managed to
slide down again into his former recumbent position. “Am I ill? or does
all this commotion arise simply from an unlooked-for ducking and a knock
against the side of the canal.” He got this out with difficulty, though
he strove with all his might to conceal the trouble it gave him; then he
turned his eyes to Lady Frankland, who sat wringing her hands and full
of agitation by his bedside. The poor lady had altogether lost her
good-natured and amiable composure. Whatever she had to say to him,
whatever the character of the communication might be, it disturbed her
greatly. She wrung her hands, and gave him a painful hurried glance, and
then withdrew her eyes from his inquiring looks. All this time Colin lay
impatient, looking at her, wondering, with a sharp sensation of anger,
what she could have to say.

“Dear Mr. Campbell,” she said at length, “you are ill; you have been
wandering and insensible. Oh, it is hard to think you are suffering for
your goodness, suffering for us! We could not trust you to our doctor
here after we knew; we thought it best to have the best advice, and we
thought you would prefer to have your mother. I would have nursed you
myself and tended you night and day,” said Lady Frankland, with
enthusiasm; “I owe you that and a great deal more; you who have saved my
dear boy.”

“What is the matter with me?” said Colin. It appeared to him as if a
great cloud was rolling up over the sky, throwing upon him a strange and
ominous shadow. He scarcely heard what she said. He did not pay any
attention to her. What was Henry Frankland’s mother to him, or her
thanks, or the things she was willing to do to show her gratitude? He
wanted to know why he was lying there powerless, unable to move himself.
That was the first thing to be thought of. As for Lady Frankland, she
wrung her hands again, and hesitated more and more.

“I hope God will reward you,” said the agitated woman; “I would give
everything I have in the world to see you well and strong as you were
when you came here. Oh, Mr. Campbell, if you only could know the feeling
that is in all our hearts!” It was her kindness, her reluctance to give
him pain, her unfeigned distress, that made her prolong Colin’s
suspense, and drive him frantic with these exasperating professions of
regard, for which, true as they doubtless were, he did not care.

“I suppose I’ve broken some of my bones,” said Colin; “it would be real
kindness if you would tell me what is the matter. Will it take a long
time to mend me? I should be glad to know, at least, what it is.”

Impelled by his looks and his tone, Lady Frankland burst into her
statement at last. “You have broken some of your ribs,” she said, “but I
don’t think that is of so much importance; Sir Apsley, when he comes,
will tell us. He is coming to-day and you are looking so much better. It
was old Mr. Eyre who gave us such a fright yesterday. He said your lungs
had been injured somehow, and that you might never--that it might be a
long time--that it might keep you delicate; but even if that were the
case, with care and a warm climate--oh, Mr. Campbell! I think he is
mistaken; he is always such a croaker. I think--I hope--I am almost sure
Sir Apsley will set you all right.”

Again Colin had risen in his bed with a little start. This time he was
scarcely sensible of the pain which every motion caused him. He fancied
afterwards that for that moment his heart stood still in his bosom, and
the pulses in his veins stopped beating. The shock was so strange, so
sudden, so unlooked-for. He sat up--struggled up--upon his pillows, and
instinctively and unawares faced and confronted the new Thing which
approached him. In that moment of strange consciousness and revelation
he felt as if the intimation was true--as if his doom was sealed and his
days numbered. He did not look at the anxious woman who was wringing her
arms by his bedside, nor at any external object; but with an
irresistible impulse confronted dumbly the new world--the changed
existence. When he laid himself down again it seemed to Colin as if
years had passed over his head. He said some vague words of thanks,
without being very well aware what he was saying, to Lady Frankland, and
then lay silent, stunned and bewildered, like a man who had received a
blow. What she said to him afterwards, or how long she remained in the
room, he was scarcely aware of. Colin belonged to a race which had no
weak members; he had been used to nothing but strength and
health--wholesome rural life and vigour--all his days. He had even
learned, without knowing it, to take a certain pride in his own physical
gifts, and in those of his family, and to look with compassionate
contempt on people who were “delicate” and obliged to take care of
themselves. The idea that such a fate might by any possibility fall to
himself had never once occurred to him. It was an impossible contingency
at which, even a week ago, the strong young man, just entering upon the
full possession of his powers, would have laughed, as beyond the range
of imagination. He might die, no doubt, like any other man--might be
snatched out of the world by violent disease or sudden fever, as other
strong men had been; but to have his strength stolen from him while
still his life remained, had appeared a thing beyond the bounds of
possibility until now.

But as Colin lay helpless, stunned by this unlooked-for downfall, there
came before his eyes, as vividly as if he saw them in actual presence,
the sick people of his native district--the young men and the young
women who now and then paid, even on the sweet shores of the Holy Loch,
the terrible toll which consumption takes of all the nations of the
north. One of them, a young man about his own age, who like himself had
been in training for the Scotch Church, whom Colin had pitied with all
his kind heart--with the deepest half-remorseful sense of his own
superior happiness--came before him with intense distinctness as he lay
struck silent by the cold shadow of fate. He could almost have thought
that he saw the spectral attenuated form, with its hectic cheeks, its
thin, long, wasted hands, its preternatural length of limb, seated in
the old, high-backed easy-chair in the farmhouse parlour. All the
invalid’s life appeared to him in a sudden flash of recollection; the
kindly neighbours’ visits; the books and papers which were lent him; the
soup and jellies which the minister’s wife and the other ladies of the
parish, few in number as they were, kept him provided with. Colin could
even remember his own periodical visits; his efforts to think what would
interest the sick man; his pity, and wonder, and almost contempt, for
the patience which could endure, and even take a pleasure in, the poor
comforts of the fading life. God help him! was this what he himself was
coming to? was this all he had to anticipate? Colin’s heart gave a
strange leap in his breast at the thought. A sudden wild throb, a sense
of something intolerable, a cry against the fate which was too hard,
which could not be borne, rose within him, and produced a momentary
sickness which took the light out of his eyes, and made everything swim
round him in a kind of dizzy gloom. Had he been standing he would have
fallen down, and the bystanders would have said he had fainted. But he
had not fainted; he was bitterly, painfully conscious of everything. It
was only his heart that fluttered in his breast like a wounded bird; it
was only his mind that had been struck, and reeled. So much absorbed was
he that he did not hear the voice of the nurse, who brought him some
invalid nourishment, and who became frightened when she got no answer,
and shook him violently by the arm. “Lord bless us, he’s gone,”
exclaimed the woman; and she was but little reassured when her patient
turned upon her with dry lips and a glittering eye. “I am not gone yet,”
said Colin; “there is no such luck for me;” and then he began once more
to picture out to himself the sick man at the Holy Loch, with the little
tray on the table beside him, and his little basin of soup. God help
him! was this how he was to be for all the rest of his life?

This was how he sustained the first physical shock of the intimation
which poor Lady Frankland had made to him with so much distress and
compunction. It is hard enough at any time to receive a sentence of
death; yet Colin could have died bravely had that been all that was
required of him. It was the life in death thus suddenly presented before
his eyes that appalled his soul and made his heart sick. And after that,
Heaven knows, there were other considerations still more hard to
encounter. If we were to say that the young man thus stopped short in
the heyday of his life bethought himself immediately of what is called
preparation for dying, it would be false and foolish. Colin had a
desperate passage to make before he came to that. As these moments,
which were like hours, passed on, he came to consider the matter in its
larger aspects. But for Harry Frankland he would have been in no danger,
and now Harry Frankland was safe, strong, and in the full enjoyment of
his life, while Colin lay broken and helpless, shipwrecked at the
beginning of his career. Why was it? Had God ordained this horrible
injustice, this cruel fate? As Colin looked at it, out of the clouds
that were closing round him, that fair career which was never to be
accomplished stretched bright before him, as noble a future as ever was
contemplated by man. It had its drawbacks and disadvantages when he
looked at it a week before, and might, perhaps, have turned out a
common-place life enough had it come to its daily fulfilment; but now,
when it had suddenly become impossible, what a career it seemed! Not of
selfish profit, of money-making, or personal advantage--a life which was
to be for the use of his country, for the service of his Church, for the
furtherance of everything that was honest and lovely, and of good
report. He stood here, stayed upon the threshold of his life, and looked
at it with wonder and despair. This existence God had cut short and put
an end to. Why? That another man might live and enjoy his common-place
pleasures--might come into possession of all the comforts of the world,
might fill a high position without knowing, without caring for it; might
hunt, and shoot, and fall asleep after dinner as his father had done
before him. In the great darkness Colin’s heart cried out with a cry of
anguish and terrible surprise to the invisible, inexorable God, “Why?
Why?” Was one of His creatures less dear, less precious to Him than
another, that He should make this terrible difference? The pure life,
the high hopes, the human purpose and human happiness, were they as
nothing to the great Creator who had brought them into being and
suffered them to bud and blossom only that He might crush them with His
hands? Colin lay still in his bed, with his lips set close and his eyes
straining into that unfathomable darkness. The bitterness of death took
possession of his soul--a bitterness heavier, more terrible than that of
death. His trust, his faith, had given way. God sat veiled upon his
awful throne, concealed by a horrible cloud of disappointment and
incomprehension. Neither love nor justice, neither mercy nor equal
dealing, was in this strange, unintelligible contrast of one man’s loss
and another man’s gain. As the young man lay struggling in this hour of
darkness, the God of his youth disappeared from him, the Saviour of his
childhood withdrew, a sorrowful shadow, into the angry heavens. What was
left? Was it a capricious Deity, ruled by incomprehensible impulses of
favour and of scorn? Was it a blind and hideous Chance, indifferent
alike to happiness and misery? Was it some impious power, owning no
everlasting rule of right and wrong, of good and evil, who trampled at
its will upon the hearts and hopes of men? Colin was asking himself
these terrible questions when the curtain was softly drawn, and a face
looked down upon him, in which tenderness and grief and pity had come to
such a climax as no words could convey any impression of. It was his
mother who stood beside him, stretching out her arms like a pitying
angel, yearning over him with the anguish and the impatience of love.
Sometimes, surely, the Master gives us in the fellowship of His
sufferings a human pang beyond His own--the will to suffer in the stead
of those we love, without the power.



CHAPTER XX.


“They’re awfu’ grateful, Colin--I canna but say that for them,” said
Mrs. Campbell; “and as anxious as if you were their own son. I’ll no
undertake to say that I havena an unchristian feeling myself to Harry
Frankland; but, when you’re a’ weel and strong, Colin,”--

“And what if I am never well and strong?” said the young man. His
mother’s presence had subdued and silenced, at least, for a time, the
wild questions in his heart. She had taken them upon herself, though he
did not know it. So far human love can stretch its fellowship in the
sufferings of its Master,--not to the extent of substitution, of
salvation temporal or spiritual, but, at least, to a modified
deliverance. She had soothed her son and eased him of his burden, but in
so doing had taken it to herself. The eagle that had been gnawing his
heart had gone to fix its talons in hers; but she carried it like the
Spartan, under her mantle, and smiled while it rent her in twain.

“Whisht, whisht!” she said, in her martyrdom of composure and calm
looks, and took her boy’s hand and held it between hers--God only could
tell how fondly--with a firm, warm grasp that seemed to hold him fast to
life. “Colin, my man, it’s a’ in God’s hands,” said the Mistress of
Ramore; “whiles His ways are awfu’ mysterious. I’m no one that pretends
to read them, or see a’thing plain, like some folk; but I canna think He
ever makes a mistake or lets anything go by hazard. We’ll bide His time,
Colin; and who can tell what mercy and goodness he may have in His
hand?”

“Mercy and goodness, or, perhaps, the contrary,” said Colin. If he had
not been a little comforted and eased in his heart, he would not have
given utterance to words which he felt to be unchristian. But now, with
his longing to be soothed and to accept the softening influence which
surrounded him, came an impulse to speak,--to use words which were even
more strong than his feelings. As for his mother, she was too
thoughtful a woman, and had in her own heart too heavy a burden, to be
shocked by what he said.

“Maybe what appears to us the contrary,” she said, “though that maun be
but an appearance, like most things in this life. I’m no one to deny my
ain heart, or make a show as if I understood the ways of the Lord, or
could, aye, in my poor way, approve of them, if a mortal creature might
daur to say so, Colin. There’s things He does that appear a’ wrang to
me--I canna but say it. I’m no doubting His wisdom nor yet His love, but
there’s mony a thing He does that I canna follow, nor see onything in
but loss and misery. But oh, Colin, my bonnie man, that’s nae cause for
doubting Him! He maun have His ain reasons, and they maun be better
reasons than ours. If you’ll close your eyes, and try and get a sleep,
I’ll take a breath of air to myself before night sets in. I was aye an
awfu’ woman for the air; and eh, laddie! I think ye’ll be thankful to
get back to Ramore after this dreary country, where there’s neither hill
nor glen--though maybe it might be cauld for you in the spring, when
there’s so much soft weather,” said the tender woman, smoothing his
pillows, and bending over him with her anxious smile. “It minds me o’
the time when you were my baby, Colin, to get you into my hands again.
They say a woman’s aye a queen in a sick room,” said the Mistress. Her
smile was such that tears would have been less sad; and she was
impatient to be gone--to leave her son’s bedside--because she felt
herself at the furthest stretch of endurance, and knew that her strained
powers must soon give way. Perhaps Colin, too, understood what it was
that made his mother so anxious to leave him, for he turned his face to
the waning evening light, and closed his eyes, and after a while seemed
to sleep. When he had lain thus quietly for some time, the poor mother
stole downstairs and out into the wintry twilight. Her heart was
breaking in her tender bosom; her strength had been strained to the
utmost bounds of possibility; and nature demanded at least the relief of
tears.

Two days before the Mistress had been tranquil and content in her
peaceful life at home. When Sir Thomas Frankland’s telegram came late at
night, like a sudden thunderbolt into the quiet house, the Holy Loch was
asleep and at rest, cradled in sweet darkness, and watched by fitful
glances of that moon for which Colin and his friends had looked to guide
them on the night of the accident; and no means of communicating with
the world until the morning was possible to the inhabitants of Ramore.
The anxious mother, whose eyes had not been visited with sleep through
all the lingering winter night, set off by dawn to thread her weary
unaccustomed way through all the mazes of the railways which were to
convey her to Wodensbourne. She had neither servant nor friend to manage
for her; and no fine lady, accustomed to the most careful guardianship,
could be more unused to the responsibilities of travelling than Mrs.
Campbell. When she arrived, it was to find her boy, her firstborn,
stretched helpless upon his bed, to see the examination made by the
great doctor from London, to hear his guarded statements, his
feebly-expressed hopes, which conveyed only despair--and with that
sudden arrow quivering in her heart to undertake the duties of a
cheerful nurse--to keep smiling upon Colin, telling him the news of the
parish, and the events of the countryside, as if her coming here had
been a holiday. All this, put together--though so many women have borne
it, and though the Mistress of Ramore was able to bear it, and more, for
her boy’s sake--was a hard strain upon her. When she got downstairs into
the air, the first thing she did was to sit down on the steps of the
glass door which led into the terrace and cry bitterly and silently. She
was alone among strangers, with scarcely even a friendly feature of
familiar nature to give her a little confidence. The aspect of the great
house, stretching its long wings and solemn front into the twilight,
containing a whole community of people unknown to her, whose very voices
were strange and sounded like a foreign tongue, completed the forlorn
sense she had of absence from everything that could help or console; and
when, in the restlessness of her musing, she got up and began to walk
about upon that deserted terrace which Colin had paced so often, all
Colin’s questions, all his doubts, rushed with double force and feminine
passion into his mother’s mind.

As she pursued her uncertain way, her eye was attracted by the lights in
the windows. One of them was large and low, and so close upon the
terrace that she could not help seeing the interior, and what was
passing there. Harry Frankland was standing by the fire with his cousin.
The long billiard-table behind them, and the cue which Miss Matty still
held in her hand, did not enlighten Mrs. Campbell as to what they had
been doing. Matty had laid her disengaged hand on her cousin’s shoulder,
and was looking up, as if pleading for something, into his face; and the
fire-light which gleamed upon them both, gave colour and brightness to
the two young faces, which seemed to the sorrowful woman outside to be
glowing with health and love and happiness. When Mrs. Campbell looked
upon this scene her heart cried out in her breast. It was Colin’s
question that came to her lips as she hurried past in the cold and the
gathering darkness--“Why? Oh God! why?” Her son struck to the earth in
the bloom of his young life--rooted up like a young tree, or a silly
flower--and this youth, this other woman’s son, taking the happiness
which should have been for Colin. Why was it? The poor woman called in
her misery upon the heavens and the earth to answer her. One deprived of
all, another possessed of everything that soul of man could desire; one
heart smitten and rent asunder, and another filled to overflowing with
safety and happiness.

As she went on in her haste, without knowing where she went, another
window caught the Mistress’s eye. It was the nursery window where all
the little ones were holding high carnival. Little boys and little
girls, the younger branches of the large happy family, with again the
light gleaming rosy over their childish faces. One of them was having
her toilette made for presentation in the drawing-room, and at sight of
her another blow, keen and poignant, went to Mrs. Campbell’s heart. Just
such a child had been the little maiden, the little daughter who once
made sunshine in the homely house of Ramore. It came upon the poor
mother in the darkness to think what that child would have been to her
now had she lived--how her woman child would have suffered with her,
wept with her, helped to bear the burden of her woe. Her heart yearned
and longed in her new grief over the little one who had been gone so
many years. She turned away hastily from the bright window and the gay
group and sank down upon her knees on the ground with a sob that came
from her heart--“Why? oh why?” God had His reasons, but what were they?
The agony of loss, in which there seemed no possible gain; the
bitterness of suffering, without knowing any reason for it, overpowered
her. The contrast of her own trouble with the happiness, the full
possession, the universal prosperity and comfort which she saw, struck
her sharply with something which was not envy of her neighbour, but the
appeal of an amazed anguish to God. “The ways of the Lord are not
equal,” she was saying in her soul. Was it, as Nature suggested, with
natural groans, because He loved her less--or, as the minister said,
because He loved her more, that God sent upon her those pangs, and
demanded from her those sacrifices? Thus she cried out of the depths,
not knowing what she said. “If I had but had my Jeanie!” the poor woman
moaned to herself, with a vision of a consoling angel, a daughter,
another dearer, fairer self, who would have helped to bear all her
burdens. But God had not afforded her that comfort, the dearest
consolation to a woman. When she had wept out those few bitter tears,
that are all of which the heart is capable when it is no longer young,
she gathered herself up out of the darkness and prepared to go back
again to Colin’s bedside. Though she had received no answer to her
question--though neither God Himself nor His angels, nor any celestial
creature, had gleamed through the everlasting veil, and given her a
glimpse of that Divine meaning which it is so hard to read--there was a
certain relief in the question itself, and in the tears that had been
wrung out of her heart. And so it was that, when Matty Frankland came
lightly out of the billiard-room, on her way to dress for dinner, Mrs.
Campbell, whom she met coming in from the terrace, did not appear to her
to bear a different aspect from that which the Mistress of Ramore had
borne in other days.

Matty did not lose a minute in making her advances to Colin’s mother.
She was, indeed, extremely sorry, and had even been conscious of a
passing thought similar to that which had struggled passionately into
being, both in Colin’s mind and in his mother’s--a passing sense of
wonder why Harry, who was good for nothing in particular, should have
been saved, and Colin, who was what Miss Matty called “so very clever,”
should have been the sufferer. Such a doubt, had it gone deep
enough--had it become an outcry of the soul, as it was with the
others--would have made an infidel of that little woman of the world.
She ran to Mrs. Campbell, and took her hand, and led her into the
billiard-room, the door of which stood open. “Oh, dear Mrs. Campbell,
come and tell me about him,” she said; and, as it had been the
conjunction of a little real feeling with her habitual wiles that
brought Colin under her influence, the same thing moved his mother at
least to tolerate the inquiry. She drew away her hand with some
impatience from the little enchantress, but her tender heart smote her
when she saw an involuntary tear in Matty’s eye. Perhaps, after all, it
was less her fault than her misfortune; and the Mistress followed the
girl into the room with less dislike, and more toleration, than she
could have supposed possible. It might be, after all, the older
people--to whom worldliness came by nature, as she was disposed to
think--who were to blame.

“Oh, Mrs. Campbell, I am so sorry; I cannot tell you how sorry I am,”
cried Matty--- and she spoke only the truth, and had real tears in her
eyes--“to think that he should save my cousin again, and suffer so for
his goodness. Don’t be angry with us--though, indeed, I should not
wonder if you could not bear our very name--I am sure I could not, if I
were you.”

“Na, God forbid,” said the Mistress. She was but half-satisfied of the
reality of the young lady’s professions, and this suspicion, so unusual
to her, gave dignity to her speech. “It wasna you nor ony mortal person,
but his own heart that moved my Colin. You could do an awfu’ deal,” said
Colin’s mother, looking with a woman’s look of disapproving admiration
on Matty’s pretty face, “but you couldna move my son like his ain
generous will. He never was one to think of his ain--comfort--”
continued Mrs. Campbell with a little shudder, for something in her
throat prevented her from saying his life--“when a fellow creature was
in danger. It was his ain heart that was to blame--if anything was to
blame--and not you.”

And the homely woman’s eyes went beyond her questioner with that same
look which in Colin had so often baffled Miss Matty, showing that the
higher spirit had gone past the lesser into its own element, where only
its equals could follow. The girl was awed for the moment and humbled.
Not for her poor sake, not for Harry Frankland, who was of no great
account to anybody out of his immediate family--but because of his own
nature, which would not permit him to see another perish, had Colin
suffered. This thought, imperfectly as she understood it, stopped the
voluble sympathy, pity and distress on Matty’s lips. She no longer knew
what to say, and, after an awkward pause, could only stammer over her
old common-places. “Oh, dear Mrs. Campbell, I am so sorry; I would give
anything in the world to make him well again; and I only hope you won’t
be angry with us,” said Matty, with a suppressed sob, which was partly
fright and partly feeling. The Mistress came to herself at the sound of
the girl’s voice.

“I’m no angry,” she said--“God forbid; though I might have something to
say to _you_ if my heart could speak. The like of you whiles do mair
harm in this world, Miss Frankland, than greater sinners. I’m no saying
you kent what you were doing; but, if it had not been for you, my Colin
would never have come near this place. You beguiled my son with your
pleasant words and your bonnie face. He had nae mair need to come here
to be tutor to yon bit crooked callant,” said the Mistress, with
involuntary bitterness, “than Maister Frankland himself. But he thought
to be near you, that had beguiled him and made him give mair heed to
your fables than to anything that was true in life. I’m no blaming my
Colin,” said the Mistress, with an unconscious elevation of her head;
“he never had kent onything but truth a’ his days, and, if he wasna to
believe in a woman that smiled on him and enticed him to her, what was
he to believe in at his years? Nor I’m no to call angry at you,” said
Colin’s mother, looking from the elevation of age and nature upon Miss
Matty, who drooped instinctively, and became conscious what a trifling
little soul she was. “We a’ act according to our ain nature, and you
wasna capable of perceiving what harm you could do; but, if you should
ever encounter again one that was true himself and believed in you----”

Here Matty, who had never been destitute of feeling, and who, in her
heart, was fond of Colin in her way, and had a kind of understanding of
him, so far as she could go, fell into such an outburst of natural tears
as disarmed the Mistress, who faltered and stopped short, and had hard
ado to retain some appearance of severity in sight of this weeping, for
which she was not prepared. Colin’s mother understood truth, and in an
abhorring, indignant, resentful way, believed that there was falsehood
in the world. But how truth and falsehood were mingled--how the impulses
of nature might have a little room to work even under the fictions of
art or the falseness of society--was a knowledge unimagined by the
simple woman. She began to think she had done Matty injustice when she
saw her tears.

“Oh, Mrs. Campbell, I know how good he is! I--I never knew any one like
him. How could I help----? But, indeed--indeed, I never meant any harm!”
cried Matty, ingeniously taking advantage of the truth of her own
feelings, so far as they went, to disarm her unconscious and
singleminded judge. The Mistress looked at her with puzzled, but pitiful
eyes.

“It would be poor comfort to him to say you never meant it,” she said;
and in the pause that followed Matty had begun to recollect that it was
a long time since the dressing-bell rang, though she still had her face
hid on the table, and the tears were not dried from her cheeks. “And
things may turn out more merciful than they look like,” said the
Mistress, with a sigh and a wistful smile. Perhaps it occurred to her
that the gratitude of the Franklands might go so far as to bestow upon
Colin the woman he loved. “I’ll no keep you longer,” she continued,
laying her tender hand for a moment on Matty’s head. “God bless you for
every kind thought you ever had to my Colin. He’s weel worthy of them
all,” said the wistful mother.

Matty, who did not know what to say, and who, under this touch, felt her
own artifice, and was for a moment disgusted with herself, sprang up in
a little agony of shame and remorse, and kissed Mrs. Campbell as she
went away. And Colin’s mother went back to her son’s room to find him
asleep, and sat down by his side, to ponder in herself whether this and
that might not still be possible. Love and happiness were physicians in
whom the simple woman had a confidence unbounded. If they came smiling
hand in hand to Colin’s pillow, who could tell what miracle of gladness
might yet fall from the tender heavens?



CHAPTER XXI.


But, though Mrs. Campbell’s heart relented towards Matty, and was filled
with vague hopes which centred in her, it was very hard to find out what
Colin’s thoughts were on the same subject. He scarcely spoke of the
Franklands at all, and never named or referred to the ladies of the
house. When his mother spoke, with natural female wiles to tempt him
into confidence, of special inquiries made for him, Colin took no notice
of the inference. She even went so far as to refer specially to Miss
Matty with no greater effect. “There’s one in the house as anxious as
me,” said the Mistress, with tender exaggeration, as she smoothed his
pillow and made her morning inquiries; but her son only smiled faintly,
and shook his head with an almost imperceptible movement of incredulity.
He asked no questions, showed no pleasure at the thought, but lay most
of the day in a silence which his mother could find no means of
breaking.

The first horror, the first resistance, had gone out of Colin’s mind;
but he lay asking himself inevitable questions, facing the great problem
for which he could find no solution, which no man has been able to
explain. Had the thoughts of his mind been put into words, the chances
are that to most people who have never themselves come to such a trial
Colin would have seemed a blasphemer or an infidel. But he was neither
the one nor the other, and was indeed incapable by nature either of
scepticism or of profanity. The youth had been born of a
sternly-believing race, which recognised in all God’s doings an eternal
right, beyond justice and beyond reason, a right to deal with them and
theirs as he might please; but Colin himself was of the present age, and
was fully possessed by all those cravings after understanding and
explanation which belong to the time. Without any doubt of God, he was
arrested by the wonderful mystery of Providence, and stood questioning,
in the face of the unanswering silence, “Why?” The good God, the God of
the Gospels, the Father of our Lord, was the Divine Ruler whom Colin
recognised in his heart; but the young man longed and struggled to find
reasonableness, coherence, any recognisable, comprehensible cause, for
the baffling arrangements and disarrangements, the mysterious
inequalities and injustices of life. He wanted to trace the thread of
reason which God kept in His own hand; he wanted to make out why the
Father who loved all should dispense so unequally, so differently, His
gifts to one and another. This awful question kept him silent for days
and nights; he could not make anything of it. Social inequalities, which
speculatists fret at, had not much disturbed Colin. It had not yet
occurred to him that wealth or poverty made much difference; but why the
life of one should be broken off incomplete and that of another go
on--why the purposes of one should end in nothing, why his hopes should
be crushed and his powers made useless, while another flourished and
prospered, confounded him, in the inexperience of his youth. And neither
heaven nor earth gave him any answer. The Bible itself seemed to append
moral causes, which were wanting in his case, to the perennial
inequalities of existence. It spoke of the wicked great in power,
nourishing like the green bay-tree, and of the righteous oppressed and
suffering for righteousness’ sake; which was, in its way, a
comprehensible statement of the matter. But the facts did not agree in
Colin’s case. Harry Frankland could not, by any exertion of dislike, be
made to represent the wicked, nor was Colin, in his own thinking, better
than his neighbour. They were two sons of one Father, to whom that
Father was behaving with the most woeful, the most extraordinary
partiality; and nothing in heaven or earth was of half so much
importance as to prove the proceedings of the Father of all to be
everlastingly just and of sublime reason. What did it mean? This was
what Colin was discussing with himself as he lay on his bed. It was not
wonderful that such thoughts should obliterate the image of Miss Matty.
When she came into his mind at all, he looked back upon her with a
pensive sweetness as on somebody he had known a lifetime before.
Sterner matters had now taken the place of the light love and hopes of
bountiful and lavish youth. The hopes had grown few, and the abundance
changed into poverty. If the author of the change had chosen to reveal
the cause for it, the young soul thus stopped short in his way could
have consented that all was well.

And then Lady Frankland came every day to pay him a visit of sympathy,
and to express her gratitude. “It is such a comfort to see him looking
so much better,” Lady Frankland said; “Harry would like so much to come
and sit with you, dear Mr. Campbell. He could read to you, you know,
when you feel tired; I am sure nothing he could do would be too much to
show his sense of your regard----”

At which words Colin raised himself up.

“I should be much better pleased,” said Colin, “if you would not impute
to me feelings which I don’t pretend to. It was no regard for Mr.
Frankland that induced me----”

“Oh, indeed! I know how good you are,” said Harry’s mother, pressing his
hand, “always so generous and disposed to make light of your own
kindness; but we all know very well, and Harry knows, that there is many
a brother who would not have done so much. I am sure I cannot express to
you a tenth part of what I feel. Harry’s life is so precious,” said my
Lady, with a natural human appreciation of her own concerns, and
unconscious, unintentional indifference to those of others. “The eldest
son; and Sir Thomas has quite commenced to rely upon him for many
things--and I am sure I don’t know what I should do without Harry to
refer to,” Lady Frankland continued, with a little smile of maternal
pride and triumph. When she came to this point, it chanced to her to
catch a side glimpse of Mrs. Campbell’s face. The Mistress sat by her
son’s bedside, pale, with her lips set close, and her eyes fixed upon
the hem of her apron, which she was folding and refolding in her hands.
She did not say anything, nor give utterance in any way to the dumb
remonstrance and reproach with which her heart was bursting; but there
was something in her face which imposed silence upon the triumphant,
prosperous woman beside her. Lady Frankland gave a little gasp of
mingled fright and compunction. She did not know what to say to express
her full sense of the service which Colin had done her; and there was
nothing strange in her instinctive feeling, that she, a woman used to be
petted and tended all her life, had a natural claim upon other people’s
services. She was very sorry, of course, about Mr. Campbell; if any
exertion of hers could have cured him, he would have been well in
half-an-hour. But, as it was, it appeared to her rather natural than
otherwise that the tutor should suffer and that her own son should be
saved.

“I felt always secure about Harry when you were with him,” she said,
with an involuntary artifice. “He was so fond of you, Mr. Campbell--and
I always felt that you knew how important his safety was, and how much
depended--”

“Pardon me,” said Colin; he was angry in his weakness at her
pertinacity. “I have no right to your gratitude. Your son and I have no
love for each other, Lady Frankland. I picked him out of the canal, not
because I thought of the importance of his life, but because I had seen
him go down, and should have felt myself a kind of murderer had I not
tried to save him. That is the whole. Why should I be supposed to have
any special regard for him? Perhaps,” said Colin, whose words came
slowly and whose voice was interrupted by his weakness--“I would have
given my life with more comfort for any other man.”

“Oh Mr. Campbell! don’t be so angry and bitter. After all, it was not
our fault,” said Lady Frankland, with a wondering offence and
disappointment--and then she hurriedly changed her tone, and began to
congratulate his mother on his improved looks. “I am so glad to see him
looking so much better. There were some people coming here,” said my
lady, faltering a little; “we would not have them come so long as he was
so ill. Neither Harry nor any of us could have suffered it. We had sent
to put them off; but, now that he is so much better--” said Lady
Frankland, with a voice which was half complaint and half appeal. She
thought it was rather ill-tempered of the mother and son to make so
little response. “When I almost asked their permission!” she said, with
a little indignation, when she had gone downstairs; “but they seem to
think they should be quite masters, and look as black as if we had done
them an injury. Send to everybody, and say it is to be on Wednesday,
Matty; for Henry’s interests must not be neglected.” _It_ was a ball,
for which Lady Frankland had sent out her invitations some time before
the accident; for Harry Frankland was to ask the suffrages of the
electors of Earie at the approaching election. “I don’t mean to be
ungrateful to Mr. Campbell,” said the Lady of Wodensbourne, smoothing
her ruffled plumes. “I am sure nobody can say I have not been grateful;
but, at the same time, I can’t be expected to sacrifice my own son.”
Such were the sentiments with which Lady Frankland came downstairs. As
for the other mother, it would be hard to describe what was in her mind.
In the bitterness of her heart she was angry with the God who had no
pity upon her. If Harry Frankland’s life was precious, what was Colin’s?
and the Mistress, in her anguish, made bitter comparisons, and cried out
wildly with a woman’s passion. Downstairs, in the fine rooms which her
simple imagination filled with splendour, they would dance and sing
unconcerned, though her boy’s existence hung trembling in the balance:
and was not Heaven itself indifferent, taking no notice? She was glad
that twilight was coming on to conceal her face, and that Colin, who lay
very silent, did not observe her. And so, while Lady Frankland, feeling
repulsed and injured, managed to escape partially from the burden of an
obligation which was too vast to be borne, and returned to the
consideration of her ball, the two strangers kept silence in the
twilight chamber, each dumbly contending with doubts that would not be
overcome, and questions which could not be answered. What did God mean
by permitting this wonderful, this incomprehensible difference between
the two? But the great Father remained silent and made no reply. The
days of revelation, of explanation were over. For one, joy and
prosperity; for another, darkness and the shadow of death--plain facts
not to be misconceived or contested--and in all the dumb heavens and
silent observant earth no wisdom nor knowledge which could tell the
reason why.



CHAPTER XXII.


“Ay, I heard of the accident. No that I thought anything particular of
that. You’re no the kind of callant, nor come of the kind of race, to
give in to an accident. I came for my own pleasure. I hope I’m old
enough to ken what pleases myself. Take your dinner, callant, and leave
me to mind my business. I could do that much before you were born.”

It was Lauderdale who made this answer to Colin’s half-pleased,
half-impatient questioning. The new comer sat, gaunt and strange,
throwing a long shadow over the sick-bed, and looking, with a suppressed
emotion, more pathetic than tears, upon the tray which was placed on a
little table by Colin’s side. It was a sad sight enough. The young man,
in the flush and beauty of his youth, with his noble physical
development, and the eager soul that shone in his eyes, laid helpless,
with an invalid’s repast before him, for which he put out his hand with
a languid movement like a sick child. Lauderdale himself looked haggard
and careworn. He had travelled by night, and was unshaven and untrimmed,
with a wild gleam, of exhaustion and hungry anxiety in his eyes.

“Whatever the reason may be, we’re real glad to see you,” said Mrs.
Campbell. “If I could have wished for anything to do Colin good more
than he’s getting, it would have been you. But he’s a great deal
better--a wonderful deal better; you would not know him for the same
creature that he was when I came here; and I’m in great hopes he’ll no
need to be sent away for the rest of the winter, as the doctor said,”
said the sanguine mother, who had reasoned herself into hope. She looked
with wistful inquiry as she spoke into Lauderdale’s eyes, trying hard to
read there what was the opinion of the new comer. “It would be an awfu’
hard thing for me to send him away by himsel’, and him no strong,” said
the Mistress, with a hope that his friend would say that Colin’s looks
did not demand such a proceeding, but that health would come back to him
with the sweet air of the Holy Loch.

“I heard of that,” said Lauderdale, “and, to tell the truth, I’m tired
of staying in one place all my life mysel’. If a man is to have no more
good of his ain legs than if he were a vegetable, I see no good in being
a man; it would save an awfu’ deal of trouble to turn a cabbage at once.
So I’m thinking of taking a turn about the world as long as I’m able;
and, if Colin likes to go with me--”

“Which means, mother, that he has come to be my nurse,” said Colin,
whose heart was climbing into his throat; “and here I lie like a log,
and will never be able to do more than say thanks. Lauderdale--”

“Whisht, callant,” said the tender giant, who stood looking down upon
Colin with eyes which would not trust themselves to answer the mother’s
appealing glances; “I’m terrible fatigued with my life, and no able to
take the trouble of arguing the question. Not that I consent to your
proposition, which has a fallacy on the face of it; for it would be a
bonnie-like thing to hear you say thanks either to your mother or me.
Since I’ve been in my situation--which, maybe, I’ll tell you more about
by-and-bye, now that my mouth’s opened--I’ve saved a little siller, a
hundred pounds--or maybe mair,” said the philosopher, with a momentary
smile, “and I see no reason why I shouldna have my bit holiday as well
as other folk. I’ve worked long for it.” He turned away just then,
attracted by a gleam of sunshine at the window, his companion thought,
and stood looking out disposing as he best could of a little bitter
moisture that had gathered in the deep corners of his eyes. “It’ll no be
very joyful when it comes,” he said to himself, with a pang of which
nobody was aware, and stood forming his lips into an inaudible whistle
to conceal how they quivered. He, too, had built high hopes upon this
young head which was now lying low. He had said to himself, with the
involuntary bitterness of a mind disappointed and forlorn, that here at
least was a life free from all shadows--free from the fate that seemed
to follow all who belonged to himself--through which he might again
reconcile himself to Providence, and re-connect himself with existence.
As he stood now, with his back to Colin, Lauderdale was again going over
the burning ploughshares, enduring the fiery ordeal. Once more his
unselfish hope was going out in darkness. When he turned round again his
lips had steadied into the doleful turn of a familiar air, which was
connected in Colin’s mind with many an amusing and many a tender
recollection. Between the two people who were regarding him with love
and anguish so intense, the sick youth burst into pleasant
laughter--laughter which had almost surprised the bystanders into
helpless tears--and repeated, with firmer breath than Lauderdale’s, the
fragment of his favourite air.

“He never gets beyond that bar,” said Colin. “It carries me back to
Glasgow and all the old days. We used to call it Lauderdale’s pibroch.
Give me my dinner, mother. I don’t see what I should grumble about as
long as you and he are by me. Help me to get up, old fellow,” the young
man said, holding out his hands; and he ate his invalid meal cheerfully,
with eager questions about all his old companions, and bursts of passing
laughter, which to the ears of his friend were more terrible than so
many groans. As for the Mistress, she had got used by this time to
connect together those two ideas of Colin and a sick-bed, the
conjunction of which was as yet misery to Lauderdale; and she was glad
in her boy’s pleasure, and took trembling hope from every new evidence
of his unbroken spirit. Before long the old current of talk had flowed
into its usual channel; and, but for the strange, novel circumstances
which surrounded them, one at least of the party might have forgotten
for the moment that they were not in the pleasant parlour of Ramore; but
that one did not see his own countenance, its eloquent brightness, its
flashes of sudden colour, and the shining of its too brilliant eyes. But
there could not be any doubt that Colin improved from that moment.
Lauderdale had secured a little lodging in the village, from which he
came every morning to the “callant,” in whom his disappointed spirit,
too careless of personal good, too meditative and speculative for any
further ambition on his own account, had fixed its last hopes. He even
came, in time, after he had accustomed himself to the young man’s
illness, to share, by moments, in the Mistress’s hopes. When Colin at
last got up from his bed, it was Lauderdale’s arm he leant on. That was
an eventful day to the little anxious group in the sick chamber, whose
hopes sometimes leapt to certainty, but whose fears, with an intuition
deeper still, sometimes fell to the other extreme, and were hushed in
the silence of an anguish too deep to be fathomed, from which thought
itself drew back. It was a bright winter day, with symptoms of spring in
the air, when the young patient got up from his weary bed. Colin made
very light of his weakness in the rising tide of his spirits. He
faultered across the room upon Lauderdale’s arm, to look out again, as
he said, upon the world. It was an unfortunate moment for his first
renewal of acquaintance with the bright outside sphere of ordinary life,
which had passed on long ago, and forgotten Colin. The room in which
they had placed him when his illness began was one of the best rooms in
the house, and looked out upon the terrace and the big holly-trees which
Colin knew so well. It was the morning of the day on which Lady
Frankland’s ball was to take place, and symptoms of excitement and
preparation were apparent. Immediately in front of the window, when
Colin looked out, Miss Matty was standing in animated talk with her
cousin. They had been loitering about, as people do in the morning about
a country house, with no particular occupation--for the sun was warm,
though it was still only the end of January--and Matty was at the moment
engaged in indicating some special designs of her own which were
involved in Lady Frankland’s alterations in the flower-garden, for
Harry’s approval. She had, indeed, just led him by the sleeve into the
midst of the half-completed design, and was describing circles round him
with the walking-stick which she had taken out of his hand for the
purpose, as Colin stood tremulous and uncertain by the window, looking
out. Nobody could look brighter than Miss Matty; nobody more happy than
the heir of Wodensbourne. If the sick man had entertained any hope that
his misfortune threw a sympathetic shadow over them, he must now have
been undeceived very summarily. Colin, however, bore the trial without
flinching. He looked at them as if they were miles or ages away, with a
strange smile, which did not seem to the anxious spectators to have any
bitterness in it. But he made no remark until he had left the window,
and taken his place on the sofa which had been arranged for him by the
fire. Then he smiled again, without looking at any one, with abstract
eyes, which went to the hearts of his attendants. “How far off the world
seems,” said Colin. “I feel as if I ought to be vexed by that pretty
scene on the terrace. Don’t you think so, mother? But I am not vexed, no
more than if it was a picture. I wonder what it means?”

“Eh, Colin, my man, it means you’re getting strong and no heeding about
them and their vanities,” cried the Mistress, whose indignant eyes were
full of tears; but Colin only shook his head and smiled, and made no
reply. _He_ was not indignant. He did not seem to care or be interested
one way or other; but, as a spectator might have done, mused on the
wonderful contrast, and asked himself what God could mean by it?--a
question which there was no one to answer. Later the curate came to
visit him, as indeed he had done several times before, praying out of
his well-worn prayer-book by Colin’s bedside in a way which at first
scandalized the Mistress, who had, however, become used to him by this
time. “It’s better to speak out of a book than to speak nonsense,” Mrs.
Campbell had said; “but eh, Colin, it’s awfu’ to think that a man like
that hasna a word out of his ain heart to make intercession for his
fellow-creatures when they’re in trouble.” However, the curate was kind,
and the mother was speedily mollified. As for that excellent clergyman
himself, he did not at all understand the odd company in which he found
himself when he looked from Colin, of whom he knew most, to the mother
with her thoughtful eyes, and to the gaunt gigantic friend who looked
upon everything in a speculative way, of which the curate had an
instinctive suspicion. To-day Colin’s visitor was more instructive and
hortatory than was at all usual for him. He spoke of the mercy of God,
which had so far brought the patient towards recovery, and of the
motives for thankfulness; to which Mrs. Campbell assented with silent
tears.

“Yes,” said Colin; and there was a little pause that surprised the
curate. “It is comfortable to be better,” said the patient; “but it
would be more than comfortable if one could but know, if one could but
guess, what meaning God has in it all. There is Frankland downstairs
with his cousin, quite well,” said Colin. “I wonder does he ever ask
himself why? When one is on the wrong side of the contrast, one feels it
more, I suppose.” The curate had passed Harry Frankland before he came
upstairs, and had, perhaps, been conscious in his own mind of a
momentary personal comparison and passing wonder, even at the difference
between his own lot and that of the heir of Wodensbourne. But he had
thought the idea a bad one, and crushed it at once; and Colin’s fancy,
though more justifiable, was of the same description, and demanded
instant extinction.

“You don’t grudge him his good fortune, I am sure; and then we know
there must be inequalities in this life,” said the curate. “It is very
mysterious, but nothing goes without compensation; and then we must
always remember that ‘whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,’” said the
good clergyman. “You are young to have so much suffering; but you can
always take comfort in that.”

“Then you mean me to think that God does not love Harry Frankland,” said
Colin, “and makes a favourite of me in this gloomy way? Do you really
think so?--for I cannot be of that opinion, for my part.”

“My dear Mr. Campbell,” said the curate, “I am very much grieved to hear
you speaking like this. Did not God give up His own Son to sufferings of
which we have no conception? Did not He endure----”

“It was for a cause,” said Colin. The young man’s voice fell, and the
former bitterness came back upon him. “He suffered for the best reason,
and knew why; but we are in the dark, and know nothing; why is it? One
with all the blessings of life--another stripped, impoverished, brought
to the depths, and no reason in it, no cause, no good,” said Colin, in
the momentary outcry of his wonder and passion. He was interrupted, but
not by words of sacred consolation. Lauderdale was sitting behind, out
of the way, humming to himself, in a kind of rude chant, out of a book
he held in his hand. Nobody had been taking any notice of him, for it
was his way. Now his voice rose and broke in, in an uncouth swell of
sound, not unharmonious with the rude verse--

    “Theirs not to reason why,
     Theirs not to make reply,
     Theirs but to do and die,”

said Lauderdale, with a break of strong emotion in his voice; and he got
up and threw down the book, and came forward into the little circle. It
was the first time that he had intimated by so much as a look his
knowledge of anything perilous in Colin’s illness. Now he came and stood
opposite him, leaning his back against the wall. “Callant,” he said,
with a voice that sounded as if it were blown about and interrupted by a
strong wind, “if I were on a campaign, the man I would envy would be him
that was chosen by his general for the forlorn hope--him that went
first, and met the wildest of the battle. Do you mean to tell me you’re
no ready to follow when He puts the colours in your hand?”



CHAPTER XXIII.


It was for about six weeks altogether that the Mistress of Ramore
remained Sir Thomas Frankland’s guest. For half of that time Lauderdale,
too, tall, and gaunt, and grim, strode daily over the threshold of
Wodensbourne. He never broke bread, as he himself expressed it, nor made
the slightest claim upon the hospitality of the stranger’s house. On the
contrary, he declined steadily every advance of friendship that was made
to him with a curious Scotch pride, extremely natural to him, but odd to
contemplate from the point of view at which the Franklands stood. They
asked him to dinner or to lunch as they would have asked any other
stranger who happened to come in their way; but Lauderdale was far too
self-conscious to accept such overtures. He had come uninvited, an
undesired, perhaps unwelcome, visitor; but not for the world would the
philosopher have taken advantage of his position, as Colin’s friend, to
procure himself even the comfort of a meal. Not if he had been starving
would he have shared Colin’s dinner or accepted the seat offered him at
the luxurious table below. “Na, na! I came without asking,” said
Lauderdale; “when they bid me to their feasts it’s no for your sake,
callant, or for my sake, but for their own sakes--for good breeding, and
good manners, and not to be uncivil. To force a man to give you your
dinner out of civility is every bit as shabby an action as to steal it.
I’m no the man to sorn on Sir Thomas for short time or long.” And, in
pursuance of this whimsical idea of independence, Lauderdale went back
every evening along the dark country lanes to the little room he had
rented in the village, and subdued his reluctant Scotch appetite to the
messes of bacon and beans he found there--which was as severe a test of
friendship as could have been imposed upon him. He was not accustomed to
fare very sumptuously at home; but the fare of an English cottager is,
if more costly, at least as distasteful to an untravelled Scotch
appetite as the native porridge and broth of a Scotch peasant could be
to his neighbour over the Tweed. The greasy meal filled Lauderdale with
disgust, but it did not change his resolution. He lived like a Spartan
on the bread which he could eat, and came back daily to his faithful
tendance of the young companion who now represented to him almost all
that he loved in the world. Colin grew better during these weeks. The
air of home which his mother brought with her, the familiar discussions
and philosophies with which Lauderdale filled the weary time, gave him a
connecting link once more with the old life. And the new life again rose
before Colin, fresh, and solemn, and glorious. Painfully and sharply he
had been delivered from his delusions--those innocent delusions which
were virtues. He began to see that, if indeed there ever was a woman in
the world for whom it was worth a man’s while to sacrifice his existence
and individuality, Miss Matty, of all women, was not she. And after this
divergence out of his true path, after this cloud that had come over
him, and which once looked as though it might swallow him up, it is not
to be described how beautiful his own young life looked to Colin, when
it seemed to himself that he was coming back to it, and was about to
enter once more upon his natural career.

“I wonder how Macdonald will get on at Baliol,” he said; “of course
he’ll get the scholarship. It’s no use regretting what cannot be helped;
but when a man takes the wrong turning once in his life, do you think he
can get into the right road again?” said Colin. He had scarcely spoken
the words when a smile gradually stealing over his face, faint and soft
like the rising of the moon, intimated to his companions that he had
already answered himself. Not only so, but that the elasticity of his
youth had delivered Colin from all heavier apprehensions. He was not
afraid of the wrong turning he had taken. He was but playing with the
question in a kind of tender wantonness. Neither his health nor his lost
opportunity gave him much trouble. The tide of life had risen in his
heart, and again everything seemed possible; and, such being the case,
he trifled pleasantly with the dead doubts which existed no longer.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,” Colin said to himself, smiling
over it; and the two people who were looking at him, whose hearts and
whose eyes were studying every change in his face, saw that a new era
had begun, and did not know whether to exchange looks of gratulation or
to betake themselves to the silence and darkness to shed tears of
despair over the false hope.

“When a callant goes a step astray, you mean,” said Lauderdale, with a
harshness in his voice which sounded contemptuous to Colin--“goes out of
his way a step to gather a flower or the like,--a man that takes a wrong
turn is altogether a false eemage. Everything in this world is awfu’
mysterious,” said the philosopher. “I’m no clear in my mind about that
wrong turning. According to some theories there’s no such thing in
existence. ‘All things work together for good.’ I would like to know
what was in Paul’s head when he wrote down that. No to enter into the
question of inspiration, the opinion of a man like him is aye worth
having; but it’s an awfu’ mysterious saying to me.”

“Eh, but it’s true,” said the Mistress; “you’re no to throw ony of your
doubts upon Providence. I’ll no say but what it’s a hard struggle
whiles; but, if God doesna ken best--if He’s not the wisest and the
kindest--I would rather, for my part, come to an end without ony more
ado about it. I’m no wanting to live, either in earth or heaven, if
there’s ony doubts about Him.”

“That’s aye the way with women,” said Lauderdale, reflectively. “They’ve
nae patience for a philosophical question. But the practical argument is
no doubt awfu’ powerful, and I can say nothing against it. I’m greatly
of the same way o’ thinking myself. Life’s no worth having on less
terms; but at the same time--”

“I was speaking only of the Baliol Scholarship,” said Colin, with a
momentary pettishness; “you are more abstruse than ever, Lauderdale. If
there should happen to be another vacancy next year, do you think I’ve
injured myself by neglecting this one? I never felt more disposed for
work,” said the young man, raising himself out of his chair. It said a
great deal for his returning strength that the two anxious spectators
allowed him to get up and walk to the window without offering any
assistance. The evening was just falling, and Colin looked out upon a
grey landscape of leafless trees and misty flats, over which the shadows
were gathering. He came back again with a little exclamation of
impatience. “I hate these dull levels,” said the restless invalid; “the
earth, and the skies are silent here, and have nothing to say. Mother,
why do we not go home?” He stood before her for a moment in the twilight
looking, in his diminished bulk and apparently increased height, like a
shadow of what he was. Then he threw himself back in his chair with an
impatience partly assumed to conceal the weakness of which he was
painfully sensible. “Let us go to-morrow,” said Colin, closing his eyes.
He was in the state of weakness which feels every contradiction an
injury, and already had been more ruffled in spirit than he cared to
acknowledge, by the diversion of the talk from his own individual
concerns to a general question so large and so serious. He lay back in
his chair, with his eyes closed, and those clouds of brown hair of which
his mother was so proud hanging heavily over the forehead which, when it
was visible, looked so pale and worn out of its glory of youth. The
colour of day had all gone out of the whispering, solemn twilight; and,
when the Mistress looked at the face before her, pale, with all its
outlines rigid in the grey light, and its eyes closed, it was not
wonderful that a shiver went through her heart.

“That was just what I had to speak about, Colin, my man,” said Mrs.
Campbell, nerving herself for the task before her. “I see no reason
myself against it, for I’ve aye had a great confidence in native air;
but your grand doctor that was brought down from London--”

“Do not say anything more. I shall not stay here, mother; it is
impossible. I am throwing away my life,” cried Colin, hastily, not
waiting to hear her out. “Anybody can teach that boy. As for the
Franklands, I have done enough for them. They have no right to detain
me. We will go to-morrow,” the young man repeated with the petulance of
his weakness; to which Mrs. Campbell did not know how to reply.

“But, Colin, my man,” said the Mistress, after a pause of perplexity,
“it’s no _that_ I’m meaning. Spring’s aye sweet, and its sweet aboon a’
in your ain place, when ye ken every corner to look for a primrose in. I
said that to the doctor, Colin, but he wasna of my opinion. A’ that was
in his mind was the east wind (no that there’s much o’ that in our
countryside, but thae English canna tell one airt from another) and the
soft weather; and I couldna say but what it was whiles damp,” said the
candid woman; “and the short and the long is, that he said you were to
gang south and no north. If it wasna for your health’s sake, which keeps
folk anxious, it would sound ower grand to be possible,” she continued,
with a wistful smile, “and awfu’ proud I would be to think of my laddie
in Italy--”

“In Italy!” said Colin, with a cry of excitement and surprise; and then
they both stopped short, and he looked in his mother’s eyes, which would
not meet his, and which he could see, hard as she struggled to keep them
unseen, were wet and shining with tears. “People are sent to Italy to
die,” said the young man. “I suppose that is what the doctor
thinks?--and that is your opinion, my poor mother?--and Lauderdale
thinks so too? Don’t say No, no; I can see it in your eyes.”

“Oh, Colin, dinna say that! dinna break my heart!” cried the Mistress.
“I’m telling you every word the doctor said. He said it would be better
for you in the future; better for your strength, and for getting free of
danger in the many hard winters--dour Scotch winters, frost, and snow,
and stormy weather, and you your duty to mind night and day--” She made
a little pause to get her breath, and smiled upon Colin, and went on
hastily, lest she should break down before all was said. “In the mony
hard winters that you have to look forward to--the lang life that’s to
come--”

“Lauderdale,” said Colin, out of the darkness, “do you hear her saying
what she thinks is deception and falsehood. My mother is obliged to tell
me the doctor’s lie; but it stumbles on her lips. That is not how she
would speak of herself. She would say--”

“Callant, hold your peace,” said Lauderdale. His voice was so harsh and
strange, that it jarred in the air, and he rose up with a sudden
movement, rising like a tower into the twilight, through which the
pleasant reflections from the fire sparkled and played as lightly as if
the talk had been all of pleasure. “Be silent, sir,” cried Colin’s
friend. “How dare you say to me that any word but truth can come out of
the Mistress’s lips? How dare ye--” But here Lauderdale himself came to
a sudden pause. He went to the window, as Colin had done, and then came
quickly back again. “Because we’re a wee concerned and anxious about
him, he thinks he may say what he likes,” said the philosopher, with a
strange, short laugh. “It’s the way with such callants. They’re kings,
and give the laws to us that ken better. You may say what you like,
Colin, but you must not name anything that’s no true with your mother’s
name.”

It is strange to feel that you are going to die. It is stranger still to
see your friends profoundly conscious of the awful news they have to
convey, painfully making light of it, and trying to look as if they
meant nothing. Colin perceived the signification of his mother’s
pathetic smiles, of his friend’s impatience, of the vigilant watch they
kept upon him. He saw that, if perhaps her love kept a desperate spark
of hope alight in the Mistress’s heart, it _was_ desperate, and she put
no confidence in it. All this he perceived, with the rapid and sudden
perception which comes at such a crisis. Perhaps for a moment the blood
went back upon his heart with a suffocating sense of danger, against
which he could make no stand, and of an inevitable approaching fate
which he could not avoid or flee from. The next minute he laughed aloud.
The sound of his laughter was strange and terrible to his companions.
The Mistress took her boy’s hand and caressed it, and spoke to him in
the soothing words of his childhood. “Colin, my man--Colin, my bonnie
man!” said the mother whose heart was breaking. She thought his laugh
sounded like defiance of God, defiance of the approaching doom; and such
a fear was worse even than the dread of losing him. She kept his
reluctant fingers in hers, holding him fast to the faith and resignation
of his home. As for Lauderdale, he went away out of sight, struggling
with a hard sob which all his strength could not restrain; and it was in
the silence of this moment that Colin’s laugh, more faintly, more
softly, with a playful sound that went to their hearts, echoed again
into the room.

“Don’t hold me, mother,” he said; “I could not run away from you if I
would. You think I don’t take my discovery as I ought to do? If it is
true,” said Colin, grasping his mother’s hand, “you will have time
enough to be miserable about me after; let us be happy as long as we
can. But I don’t think it is true. I have died and come alive again. I
am not going to die any more just now,” said Colin, with a smile which
was more than his mother could bear; and his eyes were so fixed upon
her, that her efforts to swallow the climbing sorrow in her throat were
such as consumed her strength. But even then it was of him and not
herself that she thought. “I wasna meaning--I wasna saying--” she tried
to articulate in her broken voice; and then at intervals, “A’ can be
borne--a’ can be borne--that doesna go against the will of God. Oh
Colin, my ain laddie! we maun a’ die; but we must not rebel against
Him,” cried the Mistress. A little more, and even she, though
long-enduring as love could make her, must have reached the limits of
her strength; but Colin, strangely enough, was no way disposed for
solemnity, nor for seriousness. He was at the height of the rebound,
and disposed to carry his nurses with him to that smiling mountain-top
from which death and sorrow had dispersed like so many mists and clouds.

“Come to the window, and look out,” said Colin; “take my arm, mother; it
feels natural to have you on my arm. Look here--there are neither hills
nor water, but there are always stars about. I don’t mean to be
discouraged,” said the young man. He had to lean against the window to
support himself; but, all the same, he supported her, keeping fast hold
of the hand on his arm. “I don’t mean to be discouraged,” said Colin,
“nor to let you be discouraged. I have been in the valley of the shadow
of death, but I have come out again. It does not matter to me what the
doctor says, or what Lauderdale says, or any other of my natural
enemies. You and I, mother, know better,” he said; “I am not going to
die.”

The two stood at the window, looking up to the faint stars, two faces
cast in the same mould--one distraught with a struggling of hope against
knowledge, against experience; the other radiant with a smile of youth.
“I am not quite able to walk over the Alps, at present,” said Colin,
leading the Mistress back to her chair; “but, for all that, let us go to
Italy since the doctor says so. And, Lauderdale, come out of the dark,
and light the candles, and don’t talk any more nonsense. We are going to
have a consultation about the ways and means. I don’t know how it is to
be done,” said Colin, gaily, “since we have not a penny, nor has anybody
belonging to us; but still, since you say so, mother, and the doctor,
and Lauderdale----”

The Mistress, all trembling and agitated, rose at this moment to help
Lauderdale, who had come forward without saying anything, to do the
patient’s bidding. “You’ll no be angry?” said Mrs. Campbell, under her
breath; “it’s a’ his spirits; he means nothing but love and kindness.”
Lauderdale met her eye with a countenance almost as much disturbed as
her own.

“Me angry?” said Colin’s friend; “he might have my head for a football,
if that would please him.” The words were said in an undertone which
sounded like a suppressed growl; and as such Colin took this little
clandestine exchange of confidence.

“Is he grumbling, mother?” said the object of their cares. “Never mind;
he likes to grumble. Now come to the fire, both of you, and talk. They
are oracles, these great doctors; they tell you what you are to do
without telling you how to do it. Must I go to Italy in a balloon?” said
Colin. “After all, if it were possible, it would be worth being ill
for,” said the young man, with a sudden illumination in his eyes. He
took the management of affairs into his own hands for the evening, and
pointed out to them where they were to sit with the despotism of an
invalid. “Now we look comfortable,” said Colin, “and are prepared to
listen to suggestions. Lauderdale, your mind is speculative; do you
begin.”

It was thus that Colin defeated the gathering dread and anguish which,
even in the face of his apparent recovery, closed more and more darkly
round him; and, as what he did and said did not arise from any set
purpose or conscious intention, but was a mere outburst of instinctive
feeling, it had a certain inevitable effect upon his auditors, who
brightened up, in spite of themselves and their convictions, under his
influence. When Colin laughed, instead of feeling inclined to sob or
groan over him, even Lauderdale, after a while, cleared up too into a
doubtful smile; and, as for the Mistress, her boy’s confidence came to
her like a special revelation. She saw it was not assumed, and her heart
rose. “When a young creature’s appointed to be taken, the Lord gives him
warning,” she said in secret; “but my Colin has nae message in himself,”
and her tender soul was cheered by the visionary consolation. It was
under the same exhilarating influence that Lauderdale spoke.

“I’ve given up my situation,” he said. “No but what it was a very
honourable situation, and no badly remunerated, but a man tires of
everything that’s aye the same day by day. I’ve been working hard a’ my
life; and it’s in the nature of man to be craving. I’m going to Eetaly
for my own hand,” said Lauderdale; “no on your account, callant. I’ve
had enough of the prose, and now’s the time for a bit poetry. No that I
undertake to write verses, like you. If he has not me to take care of
him, he’ll flee into print,” said the philosopher, reflectively. “It
would be a terrible shock to me to see our first prizeman, the most
distinguished student, as the Principal himself said, coming out in a
book with lines to Eetaly, and verses about vineyards and oranges. That
kind of thing is a’ very well for the callants at Oxford and Cambridge,
but there’s something more expected from one of _us_,” said Lauderdale.
“I’m going to Eetaly, as I tell you, callant, as long as there’s a
glimmer of something like youth left in me, to get a bit poetry into my
life. You and me will take our knapsacks on our backs and go off
together. I have a trifle in the bank; a hundred pounds--or maybe mair:
I couldn’t say as to a shilling or two. If I’m speculative, as you say,
I’m no without a turn for the practical,” he continued with some pride;
“and everything’s awfu’ cheap when you know how to manage. This curate
callant--he has not a great deal of sense, nor ony philosophical
judgment, that I can see; and, as for theology, he doesna understand
what it means; but he does not seem to me to be deficient in other
organs,” said the impartial observer, “such as the heart, for example;
and he’s been about the world, and understands about inns and things.
Every living creature has its use in this life. I wouldna say he was
good for very much in the way of direct teaching from the pulpit, but
he’s been awfu’ instructive to me.”

“And you mean me to save my life at your cost?” said Colin. “This is
what I have come to; at your cost or at my father’s, or by somebody’s
charity? No; I’ll go home and sit in an easy-chair, like poor Hugh
Carlyle; and, mother, you’ll take care----”

When the sick man’s fitful spirits thus yielded again his mother was
near to soothe him into steadier courage. Again she held his hands, and
said, “Colin, my man--Colin, my bonnie man!” with the voice of his
childhood. “You’ll come back hale and strong to pay a’body back the
trouble,” said the Mistress, while Lauderdale proceeded unmoved, without
seeming to hear what Colin said.

“They’re a mystery to me, thae English priests,” said the meditative
Scotchman. “They’re not to call ignorant, in the general sense, but
they’re awfu’ simple in their ways. To think of a man in possession of
his faculties reading a verse or maybe a chapter out of the Bible, which
is very near as mysterious as life itself to the like of me, and then
discoursing about the Church and the Lessons appointed for this day or
that. It’s a grand tether, that Prayer-Book, though. Yon kind of
callant, so long as he keeps by that, he’s safe in a kind of a way; but
he knows nothing about what’s doing outside his printed walls, and, when
he hears suddenly a’ the stir that’s in the world, he loses his head,
and invents a’ the old heresies over again. But he’s awful instructive,
as I was saying, in the article of inns and steamboats. Not to say that
he’s a grand Italian scholar, as far as I can understand, and reads
Dante in the original. It’s a wonderful thought to realize the like of
that innocent reading Dante. You and me, Colin,” said Lauderdale, with a
sudden glow in his eyes, “will take the poets by the hand for once in
our lives. What you were saying about cost was a wonderful sensible
saying for you. When the siller’s done we’ll work our way home; it’s a
pity you have no voice to speak of, and I canna play the--guitar is’t
they call it?” said the philosopher, with a quaint grimace. He was
contemptuous of the lighter arts, as was natural to his race and habits,
and once more Colin’s laugh sounded gaily through the room, which, for
many weeks, had known little laughter. They discussed the whole matter,
half playfully, half seriously, as they sat over the fire, growing eager
about it as they went on. Lauderdale’s hundred pounds “or maybe mair”
was the careful hoarding of years. He had saved it as poor Scotchmen are
reported to save, by minute economies, unsuspected by richer men. But he
was ready to spend his little fortune with the composure of a
millionaire. “And myself after it, if that would make it more
effectual,” he said to himself, as he went back in the darkness to his
little lodging in the village. Let it not be supposed, however, that any
idea of self-sacrifice was in the mind of Lauderdale. On the contrary,
he contemplated this one possible magnificence of his life with a glow
of secret satisfaction and delight. He was willing to expend it all upon
Colin, if not to save him, at least to please him. That was _his_
pleasure, the highest gratification of which he was capable in the
circumstances. He made his plans with the liberality of a prince,
without thinking twice about the matter--though it was all the wealth he
had in the world which he was about to lavish freely for Colin’s sake.

“I don’t mean to take Lauderdale’s money, but we’ll arrange it somehow,”
said Colin; “and then for the hard winters you speak of, mother, and the
labour night and day.” He sent her away with a smile; but, when he had
closed the door of his own apartment, which now at length he was well
enough to have to himself without the attendance of any nurse, the light
went out of the young man’s face. After his kind attendants were both
gone, he sat down and began to think; things did not look so serene, so
certain, so infallible when he was alone. He began to think, What if
after all the doctor might be right? What if it were death and not life
that was written against his name? The thought brought a little thrill
to Colin’s heart, and then he set himself to contemplate the
possibility. His faith was shadowy in details, like that of most people;
his ideas about heaven had shifted and grown confused from the first
vague vision of beatitude, the crowns, and palms, and celestial harps of
childhood. What was that other existence into which, in the fulness of
his youth, he might be transported ere he was aware? _There_ at least
must be the solution of all the difficulties that crazed the minds of
men; _there_ at least, nearer to God, there must be increase of faculty,
elevation of soul. Colin looked it in the face, and the Unknown did not
appal him; but through the silence he seemed already to hear the cry of
anguish which would go up from one homely house under the unanswering
skies. It had been his home all his life: what would it be to him in the
event of that change, which was death, but not destruction? Must he look
down from afar off, from some cold, cruel distance, upon the sorrow of
his friends, himself being happy beyond reach, bearing no share in the
burden? Or might he, according to a still more painful imagination, be
with them, beside them, but unable by word or look, by breath or touch,
to lift aside even for a moment the awful veil, transparent to him, but
to them heavy and dark as night, which drops between the living and the
dead? It was when his thoughts came to this point, that Colin withdrew,
faint and sick at heart, from the hopeless inquiry. He went to rest,
saying his prayers as he said them at his mother’s knee, for Jesus’
sake. Heaven and earth swam in confused visions round the brain which
was dizzy with the encounter of things too mysterious, too dark to be
fathomed. The only thing in Earth or Heaven of which there seemed to be
any certainty was the sole Existence which united both, in whose name
Colin said his prayers.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Miss Matty Frankland all this time had not been without her trials. They
were trials as unlike Colin’s as possible, but not without some weight
and poignancy of their own, such as might naturally belong to the
secondary heartaches of a woman who was far from being destitute either
of sense or feeling, and yet was at the same time a little woman of the
world. In the first place, she was greatly aggravated that Harry, who on
the whole seemed to be her fate, an inevitable necessity, should allow
himself to be picked out of a canal at the hazard of another man’s life.
Harry was, on the whole, a very good fellow, and was not apt to fall
into an inferior place among his equals, or show himself less manful,
courageous, or fortunate than other people. But it wounded Matty’s
pride intensely to think that she might have to marry a man whose life
had been twice saved, all the more as it was not a fault with which he
could be reasonably upbraided. And then, being a woman, it was
impossible for her to refrain from a little natural involuntary
hero-worship of the other; who was not only the hero of these
adventures, but her own chivalrous adorer to boot--perhaps the only man
in the world who had suffered his life to be seriously affected by her
influence. Not only so; but at bottom Miss Matty was fond of Colin, and
looked upon him with an affectionate, caressing regard, which was not
love, but might very easily have borne the aspect of love by moments,
especially when its object was in a position of special interest.
Between these two sentiments the young lady was kept in a state of
harass and worry, disadvantageous both to her looks and her temper--a
consciousness of which re-acted in its turn upon her feelings. She put
it all down to Harry’s score when, looking in her glass, she found
herself paler than usual. “I wonder how he could be such an ass,” she
said to herself at such periods, with a form of expression unsuitable
for a boudoir; and then her heart would melt towards his rival. There
were even some moments in which she felt, or imagined she felt, the
thraldom of society, and uttered to herself sighs and sneers, half false
and half true, about the “gilded chains,” &c. which bound her to make
her appearance at Sir Thomas’s dinner-party, and to take an active part
in Lady Frankland’s ball.

All this conflict of sentiment was conscious, which made matters worse:
for all the time Matty was never quite clear of the idea that she was a
humbug, and even in her truest impulse of feeling kept perpetually
finding herself out. If Colin had been able to appear downstairs, her
position would have been more and more embarrassing; as it was, she saw,
as clearly as any one, that the intercourse which she had hitherto kept
up with the tutor must absolutely come to an end now, when he had a
claim so much stronger and more urgent upon the gratitude of the family.
And, the more closely she perceived this, the more did Matty grudge the
necessity of throwing aside the most graceful of all her playthings.
Things might have gone on in the old way for long enough but for this
most unnecessary and perplexing accident, which was entirely Harry’s
fault. Now she dared not any longer play with Colin’s devotion, and yet
was very reluctant to give up the young worshipper, who amused and
interested and affected her more than any other in her train. With this
in her mind, Miss Matty, as may be supposed, was a little fitful in her
spirits, and felt herself, on the whole, an injured woman. The ordinary
homage of the drawing-room felt stale and unprofitable after Colin’s
poetic worship; and the wooing of Harry, who felt he had a right to her,
and conducted himself accordingly, made the contrast all the more
distinct. And in her heart, deep down beyond all impulses of vanity,
there lay a woman’s pity for the sufferer, a woman’s grateful but
remorseful admiration for the man who had given in exchange for all her
false coin a most unquestionable heart.

It will thus be apparent that Matty did not suspect the change that had
come over Colin’s sentiments; perhaps she could not by any effort of her
understanding have realized the sudden revolution which these few weeks
had worked in his mind. She would have been humbled, wounded, perhaps
angry, had she known of his disenchantment. But, in her ignorance, a
certain yearning was in the young lady’s mind. She was not reconciled to
give him up; she wanted to see him again--even, so mingled were her
sentiments, to try her power upon him again, though it could only be to
give him pain. Altogether, the business was complicated to an incredible
extent in the mind of Matty, and she had not an idea of the simple
manner in which Colin had cut the knot and escaped out of all its
entanglements. When the accident was discussed downstairs the remarks of
the general company were insufferable to the girl who knew more about
Colin than any one else did; and the sharpness of her criticism upon
their talk confounded even Lady Frankland, whose powers of observation
were not rapid. “My dear, you seem to be losing your temper,” said the
astonished aunt; and the idea gave Lady Frankland a little trouble. “A
woman who loses her temper will never do for Harry,” she said in
confidence to Sir Thomas. “And, poor fellow, he is very ready to take
offence since this unfortunate accident. I am sure I am quite willing to
acknowledge how much we owe to Mr. Campbell; but it is very odd that
nothing has ever happened to Harry except in his company,” said the
aggrieved mother. Sir Thomas, for his part, was more reasonable.

“A very lucky thing for Harry,” said the baronet. “Nobody else would
have gone into that canal after him. I can’t conceive how Harry could be
such a confounded ass,” Sir Thomas added, with a mortified air. “But as
for Campbell, poor fellow, anything that I can do for him--. By Jove,
Mary, if he were to die I should never forgive myself.” On the whole, it
will be seen that the agitations occasioned by Colin were not confined
to his own chamber. As for Harry, he kept silence on the subject, but
did not the less feel the inferior position in which his misfortune had
left him. He was grateful so far, that, if he could have persuaded Colin
to accept any recompense, or done him any overwhelming favour, he would
have gladly given that evidence of thankfulness. But, after the first
shock of horror with which he heard of the tutor’s danger, it is certain
that the mortification of feeling that his life had been saved at the
risk of another man’s life, produced in young Frankland anything but a
friendly sentiment. To accept so vast an obligation requires an amount
of generosity of which Harry was not capable. The two young men were,
indeed, placed in this singular relationship to each other, without the
existence of a spark of sympathy between them. Not only was the mind of
the saved in a sore and resentful, rather than a grateful and
affectionate, state; but even the other, from whom more magnanimity
might have been expected, had absolutely no pleasure in thinking that he
had saved the life of a fellow-creature. That sweet satisfaction and
approval of conscience which is said to attend acts of benevolence did
not make itself felt in the bosom of Colin. He was rather irritated than
gratified by the consciousness of having preserved Harry Frankland from
a watery grave, as the apothecary said. The entire household was
possessed by sensations utterly unlike those which it ought to have felt
when, on the day succeeding his consultation with Lauderdale, Colin for
the first time came down stairs. There were still some people in the
house giving full occupation to Lady Frankland’s powers of hospitality,
and Matty’s of entertainment; but both the ladies heard in a minute or
two after his appearance that Mr. Campbell had been seen going into the
library. “Perhaps it would be best if you were to go and speak to him,
Matty,” said Lady Frankland. “There is no occasion for being too
enthusiastic; but you may say that I am very much occupied, or I would
have come myself to welcome him. Say anything that is proper, my dear,
and I will try and induce Harry to go and shake hands, and make his
acknowledgments. Men have such a horror of making a fuss,” said the
perplexed mother. As for Matty, she went upon her errand with eagerness
and a little agitation. Colin was in the library, seated at the table
beside Sir Thomas, when she went in. The light was shining full upon
him, and it did not subdue the beatings of Matty’s contradictory little
heart to see how changed he was, and out of caves how deep those eyes
looked which had taken new meanings unintelligible to her. She had
been, in her secret heart, a little proud of understanding Colin’s eyes;
and it was humiliating to see the new significations which they had come
to during his sickness, and to which she had no clue. Sir Thomas was
speaking when she came in; so Matty said nothing, but came and stood by
him for a moment, and gave her hand to Colin. When their eyes met, they
were both somewhat excited by it, though they were not in love with each
other; and then Matty drew a chair to the other side of the table, and
looked remorsefully, pitifully, tenderly, on the man whom she supposed
her lover. She was surprised that he did not seek her eye, or show
himself alive to all her movements, as he used to do; and at that
moment, for the first time, it occurred to Matty to wonder whether the
absolute possession of Colin’s heart might not be worth a sacrifice. She
was tired of Harry, and, to tell the truth, of most other people just
then. And the sight of this youth--who was younger than she was, who was
so much more ignorant and less experienced than she, and who had not an
idea in his head about settlements and establishments, but entertained
visions of an impossible life, with incomprehensible aims and meanings
in it,--had a wonderfully sudden effect upon her. For that instant Matty
was violently tempted;--that is to say, she took it into consideration
as actually a question worth thinking of, whether it might not be
practicable to accept Colin’s devotion, and push him on in the world,
and make something of him. She entertained the idea all the more,
strangely enough, because she saw none of the old pleadings in Colin’s
eyes.

“I hope you will never doubt our gratitude, Campbell,” said Sir Thomas.
“I understand that the doctor has said you must not remain in this
climate. Of course you must spend the spring in Nice, or somewhere. It’s
charming scenery thereabouts. You’ll get better directly you get into
the air. And in summer, you know, there’s no place so good as
England--you must come back here. As for expenses, you shall have a
travelling allowance over your salary. Don’t say anything; money can
never repay----”

“As long as I was Charley’s tutor,” said Colin, “money was natural.
Pardon me--I can’t help the change of circumstances; there is no bond
between us now--only kindness,” said the young man with an effort. “You
have all been very good to me since I fell ill. I came to thank you, and
to say I must give up----”

“Yes, yes,” said Sir Thomas; “but you can’t imagine that I will let you
suffer for your exertions on my son’s behalf, and for the regard you
have shown to my family?”

“I wish you would understand,” said Colin, with vexation. “I have
explained to Lady Frankland more than once. It may seem rude to say so,
but there was no regard for your family involved in that act, at least.
I was the only one of the party who saw that your son had gone down. I
had no wish to go down after him--I can’t say I had any impulse, even;
but I had seen him, and I should have felt like his murderer if I had
not attempted to save him. I am aware it is an ungracious thing to say,
but I cannot accept praise which I don’t deserve,” said Colin, his
weakness bringing a hot sudden colour over his face; and then he stopped
short, and looked at Sir Thomas, who was perplexed by this interruption,
and did not quite know how to shape his reply.

“Well, well,” said the baronet; “I don’t exactly understand you, and I
daresay you don’t understand yourself. Most people that are capable of
doing a brave action give queer explanations of it. That’s what you
mean, I suppose. No fellow that’s worth anything pretends to fine
motives, and so forth. You did it because you could not help it. But
that does not interfere with my gratitude. When you are ready to go, you
will find a credit opened for you at my bankers, and we must see about
letters of introduction, and all that; and I advise you, if you’re going
to Italy, to begin the language at once if you don’t know it. Miss Matty
used to chatter enough for six when we were there. I daresay she’d like
nothing better than to teach you,” said Sir Thomas. He was so much
relieved by the possibility of turning over his difficult visitor upon
Matty, that he forgot the disadvantages of such a proposal. He got up,
delighted to escape and to avoid any further remonstrance, and held out
his hand to Colin. “Delighted to see you downstairs again,” said the
baronet; “and I hope you’ll bring your friend to dinner with you
to-night. Good-bye just now; I have, unfortunately, an engagement--”

“Good-bye,” said Colin. “I will write to you all about it.” And so the
good-hearted Squire went away, thinking everything was settled. After
that it was very strange for the two who had been so much together to
find themselves again in the same room, and alone. As for Colin, he did
not well know what to say. Almost the last time he had been by Matty’s
side without any witnesses, was the time when he concluded that it was
only his life that he was throwing away for her sake. Since that time
what a wonderful change had passed over him! The idea that he had
thought her smile, a glance of her eye, worth such a costly sacrifice,
annoyed Colin. But still her presence sent a little thrill through him
when they were left alone together. And, as for Miss Matty, there was
some anxiety in her face as she looked at him. What did he mean? was he
taking a desperate resolution to declare his sentiments? or what other
reason could there be for his unusual silence? for it never occurred to
her to attribute it to its true cause.

“My uncle thinks you have consented to his plan,” said Matty; “but I
suppose I know what your face means better than he does. Why are you so
hard upon us, I wonder? I know well enough that Harry and you never took
to each other; but you used to like the rest of us--or, at least, I
thought so,” said the little siren. She gave one of her pretty glances
at him under her eyelashes, and Colin looked at her across the table
candidly, without any disguise. Alas! he had seen her throw that same
glance at various other persons, while he stood in the corner of the
drawing-room observing everything; and the familiar artillery this time
had no effect.

“I have the greatest respect for everybody at Wodensbourne,” said Colin;
“you did me only justice in thinking so. You have all been very good to
me.”

“I did not say anything about respect,” said Miss Matty, with pouting
lips. “We used to be friends, or, at least, I thought so. I never
imagined we were to break off into respect so suddenly. I am sure I wish
Harry had been a hundred miles away when he came to disturb us all,”
said the disarmed enchantress. She saw affairs were in the most critical
state, and her words were so far true that she could have expressed her
feelings best at that moment by an honest fit of crying. As this was
impracticable, Miss Matty tried less urgent measures. “We have caused
you nothing but suffering and vexation,” said the young lady, dropping
her voice and fixing her eyes upon the pattern of the table-cover, which
she began to trace with her finger. “I do not wonder that we have become
disagreeable to you. But you should not condemn the innocent with the
guilty,” said Miss Matty, looking suddenly up into his eyes. A touch of
agitation, the slightest possible, gave interest to the face on which
Colin was looking; and perhaps all the time he had known her she had
never so nearly approached being beautiful; as certainly, all the time,
she had never so narrowly escaped being true. If things had been with
Colin as they once were, the probability is that, moved by her emotion,
the whole story of his love would have poured forth at this emergency;
and, had it done so, there is a possibility that Matty, carried away by
the impulse of the moment, might have awoke next morning the affianced
wife of the farmer’s son of Ramore.

Providence, however, was kinder to the pair. Colin sat on the other side
of the table, and perceived that she was putting her little delicate
probe into his wound. He thought he saw all the asides and stage
directions, and looked at her with a curious, vicarious sense of shame.
Colin, indeed, in his new enlightenment, was hard upon Matty. He thought
it was all because she would not give up her power over the victim, whom
she intended only to torture, that she had thus taken the trouble to
re-open the ended intercourse. He could no more have believed that at
this moment, while he was looking at her, such a thing was possible as
that Matty might have accepted his love, and pledged her life to him,
than he could have believed the wildest nonsense that was ever written
in a fairy tale. So the moments passed, while the ignorant mortal sat on
the opposite side of the table--which was a very fortunate thing for
both parties. Nevertheless, it was with a certain sense of contempt for
him, as, after all, only an ordinary blind male creature, unconscious of
his opportunities, mingled with a thrill of excitement, on her own part,
natural to a woman who had just escaped a great danger, that Miss Matty
listened to what Colin had to say.

“There is neither guilty nor innocent that I know of,” said Colin; “you
have all been very kind to me. It is very good of you to take the pains
to understand me. I don’t mean to take advantage of Sir Thomas
Frankland’s kindness; but I am not such a churl as to fling it back in
his teeth as if it was pride alone that made me refuse it. It is not
pride alone,” said Colin, growing red, “but a sense of justice; for what
I have done has been done by accident. I will write and explain to Sir
Thomas what I mean.”

“Write and explain?” said Matty. “You have twice said you would write.
Do you mean that you are going away?”

“As soon as it is possible,” said Colin; and then he perceived that he
was speaking with rude distinctness. “Indeed, I have been taking
advantage of your uncle’s kindness too long. I have been a useless
member of the household for six weeks at least. Yes, I must go away.”

“You speak very calmly,” said Matty. She was a little flushed, and
there were tears in her eyes. If they had been real tears she would have
hidden them carefully, but as they were only half real she had no
objection to let Colin see that she was concealing them. “You are very
composed about it, Mr. Campbell. One would think you were going away
from a place distasteful to you; or, at least, which you were totally
indifferent about. I daresay that is all very right and proper; but I
have a good memory, and it appears rather strange to me.”

It was altogether a trying situation for Colin. If she had been able to
seduce him into a little recrimination she might have succeeded in
dragging the reluctant captive back again into her toils; which, having
by this time entirely recovered her senses, was all Miss Matty wanted.
Her downcast, tearful eyes, the faltering in her voice, were wonderfully
powerful weapons, which the young man was unable to combat by means of
mere indifference. Colin, however, being a man of impulses, was never to
be calculated on beforehand for any particular line of conduct; and, on
the present occasion, he entirely overleaped Miss Matty’s bounds.

“Yes, it is strange,” said Colin. “Perhaps nothing but the sight of
death, who has been staring into my eyes for some time, could have shown
me the true state of affairs. I have uttered a great deal of nonsense
since I came to Wodensbourne, and you--have listened to it, Miss
Frankland; and, perhaps, rather enjoyed seeing my tortures and my
delights. But nothing could come of that; and when death hangs on behind
everything but love flies before him,” said Colin. “It was pleasant
sport while it lasted; but everything, except love, comes to an end.”

“Except love,” said Miss Matty. She was terribly piqued and mortified on
the surface, and a little humbled and sorrowful within. She had a sense,
too, that, for one moment, at the beginning of this interview, she had
almost been capable of that sentiment which Colin exalted so highly: and
that, consequently, he did her injustice in speaking of it as something
with which she had nothing to do. “I remember hearing you talk of _that_
sometimes, in the midst of what you call nonsense now. If you did not
understand yourself, you can’t expect that I should have understood
you,” she went on. To tell the truth, Miss Matty was very near crying.
She had experienced the usual injustice of human affairs, and been
punished for her vanity just at the moment when she was inclined to do
better; and her heart cried out against such cruel usage. This time,
however, she kept her tears quite in subjection and did not show them,
but only repeated, “You could not expect that I should understand you,
if you did not understand yourself!”

“No; that is true at least,” said Colin, with eyes that strayed beyond
her, and had gone off into other regions unknown to Matty. This which
had piqued her even at the height of their alliance gave her an excuse
for her anger now.

“And when you go off into sentiment I never understand you,” said the
young lady. “I will _levo l’incomodo_, as the Italians say. That shall
be your first lesson in the language which my uncle says I am to teach
you,” and she turned away with a glance half-spiteful, half-wistful,
which had more effect upon Colin than a world of words. He got up to
open the door for her, weak as he was, and took her hand and kissed it
as she went away. Then Colin took himself laboriously upstairs, having
done his day’s work. And so unreasonable was the young man, that Matty’s
last glance filled his heart with gentler thoughts of the world in
general, though he was not in love any longer. “I was not such a fool
after all,” he said to himself; which was a great consolation. As for
Matty, she cried heartily when she got to her room, and felt as if she
had lost something. Nor did she recover until after luncheon, when some
people came to call, and it was her duty to be entertaining, and relieve
Lady Frankland. “I hope you said everything that was proper to Mr.
Campbell, my dear,” said the lady of the house when lunch was over. And
so that chapter came to an end.



CHAPTER XXV.


After this interview it was strange to meet again the little committee
upstairs, and resume the consideration of ways and means, which Sir
Thomas would have settled so summarily. Colin could not help thinking of
the difference with a little amusement. He was young enough to be able
to dismiss entirely the grave thoughts of the previous night, feeling in
his elastic, youthful mind, something of the fresh influence of the
morning, or at least--for Colin had found out that the wind was
easterly, a thing totally indifferent to him in old times--of the
sentiment of the morning, which, so long as heart and courage are
unbroken, renews the thoughts and hopes. Money was a necessary evil, to
Colin’s thinking. So long as there happened to be enough of it for
necessary purposes, he was capable of laughing at the contrast between
his own utter impecuniosity and the wealth which was only important for
sake of the things that could be done with it. Though he was Scotch, and
of a careful, money-making race, this was as yet the aspect which money
bore to the young man. He laughed as he leaned back in his easy chair.

“What Lauderdale makes up by working for years, and what we can’t make
up by any amount of working, Sir Thomas does with a scrape of his pen,”
said Colin. “Downstairs they need to take little thought about these
matters, and up here a great deal of thought serves very little purpose.
On the whole, it seems to me that it would be very good for our tempers
and for our minds in general if we all had plenty of money,” said the
young philosopher, still laughing. He was tolerably indifferent on the
subject, and able to take it easily. While he spoke, his eye lighted on
his mother’s face, who was not regarding the matter by any means so
lightly. Mrs. Campbell on the contrary was suffering under one of the
greatest minor trials of a woman. She thought her son’s life depended on
this going to Italy, and to procure the means for it there was nothing
on earth his mother would not have done. She would have undertaken
joyfully the rudest and hardest labour that ever was undertaken by man.
She would have put her hands, which indeed were not unaccustomed to
work, to any kind of toil; but with this eager, longing in her heart she
knew at the same time that it was quite impossible for her to do
anything by which she could earn those sacred and precious coins on
which her boy’s life depended. While Colin spoke, his mother was making
painful calculations what she could save and spare, at least, if she
could not earn. Colin stopped short when he looked at her; he could not
laugh any longer. What was to him a matter of amusing speculation was to
her life or death.

“There canna but be inequalities in this world,” said the Mistress, her
tender brows still puckered with their baffling calculations. “I’m no
envious of ony grandeur, nor of taking my ease, nor of the pleasures of
this life. We’re awfu’ happy at hame in our sma’ way when a’s weel with
the bairns; but it’s for their sakes, to get them a’ that’s good for
them! Money’s precious when it means health and life,” said Mrs.
Campbell, with a sigh; “and it’s awfu’ hard upon a woman when she can do
nothing for her ain, and them in need.”

“I’ve known it hard upon mony a man,” said Lauderdale; “there’s little
difference when it comes to that. But a hundred pounds,” he continued,
with a delightful consciousness of power and magnificence, “is not a bad
sum to begin upon; before that’s done, there will be time to think of
more. It’s none of your business, callant, that I can see. If you’ll no
come with me, you must even stay behind. I’ve set my heart on a holiday.
A man has little good of his existence when he does nothing but work and
eat, and eat and work again, as I’ve been doing. I would like to take
the play a while, and feel that I’m alive.”

When the Mistress saw how Lauderdale stretched his long limbs on his
chair, and how Colin’s face brightened with the look, half sympathetic,
half provocative, which usually marked the beginning of a long
discussion, she went to the other end of the room for her work. It was
Colin’s linen which his mother was putting in order, and she was rather
glad to withdraw to a distance, and retire within that refuge of
needlework, which is a kind of sanctuary for a woman, and in which she
could pursue undisturbed her own thoughts. After a while, though these
discussions were much in Mrs. Campbell’s way, and she was not
disinclined in general to take part in them, she lost the thread of the
conversation. The voices came to her in a kind of murmur, now and then
chiming in with a chance word or two in the current of her own
reflections. The atmosphere which surrounded the convalescent had never
felt so hopeful as to-day, and the heart of the mother swelled with a
sense of restoration, a trust in God’s mercy which recently had been
dull and faint within her. Restoration, recovery, deliverance--Nature
grows humble, tender, and sweet under these influences of heaven. The
Mistress’s heart melted within her, repenting of all the hard thoughts
she had been thinking, of all the complaints she had uttered. “It is
good for me that I was afflicted,” said the Psalmist; but it was not
until his affliction was past that he could say so. Anguish and loss
make no such confession. The heart, when it is breaking, has enough ado
to refrain from accusing God of its misery, and it is only the
inhumanity of human advisers that adjure it to make spiritual
merchandize out of the hopelessness of its pain.

Matters were going on thus in Colin’s chamber, where he and his friend
sat talking; and the mother at the other end of the room carefully
sewing on Colin’s buttons, began to descend out of her heaven of
thankfulness, and to be troubled with a pang of apprehension lest her
husband should not see things in the same light as she did, but might,
perhaps, demur to Colin’s journey as an unwarrantable expense. People at
Ramore did not seek such desperate remedies for failing health. Whenever
a cherished one was ill, they were content to get “the best doctors,”
and do everything for him that household care and pains could do; but,
failing that, the invalid succumbed into the easy chair, and, when
domestic cherishing would serve the purpose no longer, into a submissive
grave, without dreaming of those resources of the rich which might still
have prolonged the fading life. Colin of Ramore was a kind father, but
he was only a man, as the Mistress recollected, and apt to come to
different conclusions from an anxious and trembling mother. Possibly he
might think this great expense unnecessary, not to be thought of, an
injustice to his other children; and the thought disturbed her
reflections terribly, as she sat behind backs examining Colin’s
wardrobe. At all events, present duty prompted her to make everything
sound and comfortable, that he might be ready to encounter the journey
without any difficulty on that score; and, absorbed in these mingled
cares and labours, she was folding up carefully the garments she had
done with, and laying them before her in a snowy heap upon the table,
when the curate knocked softly at the door. It was rather an odd scene
for the young clergyman, who grew more and more puzzled by his Scotch
acquaintances the more he saw of them, not knowing how to account for
their quaint mixture of homeliness and intelligence, nor whether to
address them politely as equals, or familiarly as inferiors. Mrs.
Campbell came forward, when he opened the door, with her cordial smile
and looks as gracious as if she had been a duchess. “Come away, sir,”
said the farmer’s wife; “we are aye real glad to see you,” and then the
Mistress stopped short, for Henry Frankland was behind the curate, and
somehow the heir of Wodensbourne was not a favourite with Colin’s
mother. But her discontent lasted only a moment. “I canna bid ye
welcome, Mr. Frankland, to your own house,” said the diplomatical woman;
“but if it was mine I would say I was glad to see you.” This was how she
got over the difficulty. But she followed the two young men towards the
fire, where Colin had risen from his easy chair. She could but judge
according to her knowledge, like other people; and she was a little
afraid that the man who had taken his love from him, who had hazarded
his health and, probably, his life, would find little favour in Colin’s
eyes; and to be anything but courteous to a man who came to pay her a
visit, even had he been her greatest enemy, was repugnant to her
barbaric-princely Scotch ideas. She followed accordingly, to be at hand
and put things straight, if they went wrong.

“Frankland was too late to see you to-day when you were downstairs; so
he thought he would come up with me,” said the curate, giving this
graceful version of the fact that, dragged by himself and pursued by
Lady Frankland, Harry had most reluctantly ascended the stair. “I am
very glad indeed to hear that you were down to-day. You are
looking--ah--better already,” said the kind young man. As for Harry
Frankland, he came forward and offered his hand, putting down at the
same time on the table a pile of books with which he was loaded.

“My cousin told me you wanted to learn Italian,” said Harry; “so I
brought you the books. It’s a very easy language; though people talk
great nonsense about its being musical. It is not a bit sweeter than
English. If you only go to Nice, French will answer quite well.” He sat
down suddenly and uncomfortably as he delivered himself of this
utterance; and Colin, for his part, took up the grammar, and looked at
it as if he had no other interest under the sun.

“I don’t agree with Frankland there,” said the curate; “everything is
harmonious in Italy except the churches. I know you are a keen observer,
and I am sure you will be struck with the fine spirit of devotion in the
people; but the churches are the most impious edifices in existence,”
said the Anglican, with warmth--which was said, not because the curate
was thinking of ecclesiastical art at the moment, but by way of making
conversation, and conducting the interview between the saved man and his
deliverer comfortably to an end.

“I think you said you had never been in Scotland?” said Lauderdale. “For
my part I’m no heeding much about the churches; but I’m curious to see
the workings of an irrational system where it has no limit. It’s an
awfu’ interesting subject of inquiry; and there is little doubt in my
mind that a real popular system must aye be more or less irrational----”

“I beg your pardon,” said the curate. “Of course there are many errors
in the Church of Rome; but I don’t see that such a word as
irrational----”

“It’s a very good word,” said Lauderdale. “I’m no using it in a
contemptuous sense. Man’s an irrational being, take him at his best. I’m
not saying if it’s above reason or below reason, but out of reason;
which makes it none the worse to me. All religion’s out of reason for
that matter--which is a thing we never can be got to allow in Scotland.
You understand it better here,” said the philosopher; but the curate’s
attention was too much distracted to leave him any time for
self-defence.

During this pause, however, Colin and Harry were eyeing each other over
the Italian books. “You won’t find it at all difficult,” said young
Frankland; “if you had been staying longer we might have helped you. I
say--look here; I am much obliged to you,” Harry added suddenly: “a
fellow does not know what to say in such circumstances. I am horribly
vexed to think of your being ill. I’d be very glad to do as much for you
as you have done for me.”

“Which is simply nothing at all,” said Colin, hastily; and then he
became conscious of the effort the other had made. “Thank you for saying
so much. I wish you could, and then nobody would think any more about
it,” he said, laughing; and they regarded each other for another half
minute across the table while Lauderdale and the curate kept on talking
heresy. Then Colin suddenly held out his hand.

“It seems my fate to go away without a grudge against anybody,” said the
young man; “which is hard enough when one has a certain right to a
grievance. Good-bye. I daresay after this your path and mine will
scarcely cross again.”

“Good-bye,” said Harry Frankland, rising up--and he made a step or two
to the door, but came back again, swallowing a lump in his throat.
“Good-bye,” he repeated, holding out his hand another time. “I hope
you’ll soon get well! God bless you, old fellow! I never knew you till
now;” and so disappeared very suddenly, closing the door after him with
a little unconscious violence. Colin lay back in his chair with a smile
on his face. The two who were talking beside him had their ears intently
open to this bye-play, but they went on with their talk, and left the
principal actors in the little drama alone.

“I wonder if I am going to die?” said Colin, softly, to himself; and
then he caught the glance of terror, almost of anger, with which his
mother stopped short and looked at him, with her lips apart, as if her
breathing had stopped for the moment. “Mother, dear, I have no such
intention,” said the young man; “only that I am leaving Wodensbourne
with feelings so amicable and amiable to everybody, that it looks
alarming. Even Harry Frankland, you see--and this morning his
cousin----”

“What about his cousin, Colin?” said the Mistress, with bated breath.

Upon which Colin laughed--not harshly or in mockery--softly, with a
sound of tenderness, as if somewhere not far off there lay a certain
fountain of tears.

“She is very pretty, mother,” he said, “very sweet, and kind, and
charming. I daresay she will be a leader of fashion a few years hence,
when she is married; and I shall have great pleasure in paying my
respects to her when I go up from the Assembly in black silk stockings,
with a deputation, to present an address to the Queen.”

Mrs. Campbell never heard any more of what had been or had not been
between her son and the little siren whom she herself, in the bitterness
of her heart, had taken upon herself to reprove; and this was how Colin,
without, as he said, a grudge against anybody, concluded the episode of
Wodensbourne.

Some time, however, elapsed before it was possible for Colin and his
companion to leave England. Colin of Ramore was, as his wife had
imagined, slow to perceive the necessity for so expensive a proceeding.
The father’s alarm by this time had come to a conclusion. The favourable
bulletins which the Mistress had sent from time to time by way of
calming the anxiety of the family, had appeared to the farmer the
natural indications of a complete recovery; and so thought Archie, who
was his father’s chief adviser in the absence of the mistress of the
house.

“The wife’s gone crazy,” said big Colin. “She thinks this laddie of hers
should be humoured and made of as if he was Sir Thomas Frankland’s son.”
And the farmer treated with a little carelessness his wife’s assurances
that a warmer climate was necessary for Colin.

“Naebody would ever have thought of such a thing had he been at hame
when the accident happened,” said Archie; which was, indeed, very true:
and the father and son, who were the money-makers of the family, thought
the idea altogether fantastical. The matter came to be mentioned to the
minister, who was, like everybody else on the Holy Loch, interested
about Colin, and, as it happened, finally reached the ears of the same
Professor who had urged him to compete for the Baliol scholarship. Now,
it would be hard in this age of competitive examinations to say anything
in praise of a university prize awarded by favour--not to say that the
prizes in Scotch universities are so few as to make such patronage
specially invidious. Matters are differently managed now-a-days, and it
is to be hoped that pure merit always wins the tiny rewards which
Scotch learning has at its disposal; but in Colin’s day the interest of
a popular professor was worth something. The little conclave was again
gathered round the fire in Colin’s room at Wodensbourne, reading, with
mingled feelings, a letter from Ramore, when another communication from
Glasgow was put into Colin’s hand. The farmer’s letter had been a little
impatient, and showed a household disarranged and out of temper. One of
the cows was ill, and the maid-servant of the period had not proved
herself equal to the emergency. “I don’t want to hurry you, or to make
Colin move before he is able,” wrote the head of the house; “but it
appears to me that he would be far more likely to recover his health and
strength at home.” The Mistress had turned aside, apparently to look out
at the window, from which was visible a white blast of rain sweeping
over the dreary plain which surrounded Wodensbourne, though in reality
it was to hide the gush of tears that had come to her eyes. Big Colin
and his wife were what people call “a very united couple,” and had kept
the love of their youth wonderfully fresh in their hearts; but still
there were times when the man was impatient and dull of understanding,
and could not comprehend the woman, just as, perhaps, though Mrs.
Campbell was not so clearly aware of that side of the question, there
might be times when, on her side, the woman was equally a hindrance to
the man. She looked out upon the sweeping rain, and thought of the “soft
weather” on the Holy Loch, which had so depressing an effect upon
herself, notwithstanding her sound health and many duties, and of the
winds of March which were approaching, and of Colin’s life,--the most
precious thing on earth, because the most in peril. What was she to do,
a poor woman who had nothing, who could earn nothing, who had only
useless yearnings and cares of love to give her son?

While Mrs. Campbell was thus contemplating her impotence, and wringing
her hands in secret over the adverse decision from home, Lauderdale was
walking about the room in a state of high good-humour and content,
radiant with the consciousness of that hundred pounds, “or maybe mair,”
with which it was to be his unshared, exclusive privilege to succour
Colin. “I see no reason why we should wait longer. The Mistress is
wanted at home, and the east winds are coming on; and, when our siller
is spent we’ll make more,” said the exultant philosopher. And it was at
this moment of all others that the professor’s letter was put into the
invalid’s hands. He read it in silence, while the Mistress remained at
the window, concocting in her mind another appeal to her husband, and
wondering in her tender heart how it was that men were so dull of
comprehension and so hard to manage. “If Colin should turn ill
again”--for she dared not even think the word she meant--“his father
would never forgive himsel’,” said the Mistress to herself; and, as for
Lauderdale, he had returned to the contemplation of a Continental
Bradshaw, which was all the literature of which at this crisis Colin’s
friend was capable. They were both surprised when Colin rose up, flushed
and excited, with this letter which nobody had attached any importance
to in his hands. “They have given me one of the new scholarships,” said
Colin without any preface, “to travel and complete my studies. It is a
hundred pounds a year; and I think, as Lauderdale says, we can start
to-morrow,” said the young man, who in his weakness and excitement was
moved almost to tears.

“Eh, Colin, the Lord bless them!” said the Mistress, sitting down
suddenly in the nearest chair. She did not know who it was upon whom she
was bestowing that benediction, which came from the depths of her heart;
but she had to sit still after she had uttered it, blinded by two great
tears that made even her son’s face invisible, and with a trembling in
her frame, which rendered her incapable of any movement. She was
inconsistent, like other human creatures. When she had attained to this
sudden deliverance, and had thanked God for it, it instantly darted
through her mind that her boy was going to leave her on a solemn and
doubtful journey, now to be delayed no longer; and it was some time
before she was able to get up and arrange for the last time the
carefully-mended linen, which was all ready for him now. She packed it,
shedding a few tears over it, and saying prayers in her tender heart for
her firstborn; and God only knows the difficulty with which she
preserved her smile and cheerful looks, and the sinking of her heart
when all her arrangements were completed. Would he ever come back again
to make her glad? “You’ll take awfu’ care of my laddie?” she said to
Lauderdale, who, for his part, was not delighted with the scholarship;
and that misanthrope answered, “Ay, I’ll take care of him.” This was all
that passed between the two guardians, who knew, in their inmost hearts,
that the object of their care might never come back again. All the
household of Wodensbourne turned out to wish Colin a good journey next
morning when he went away; and the Mistress put down her old-fashioned
veil when the express was gone which carried him to London, and went
home again humbly by the night-train. Fortunately there was in the same
carriage with her a harassed young mother with little children, whose
necessities speedily demanded the lifting up of Mrs. Campbell’s veil.
And the day was clear on the Holy Loch, and all her native hills held
out their arms to her, when the good woman reached her home. She was
able to see the sick cows that afternoon, and her experience suggested a
means of relieving the speechless creatures which filled the house with
admiration. “She may be a foolish woman about her bairns,” said big
Colin, who was half pleased and half angry to hear her story; “but it’s
a different-looking house when the wife comes hame.” And thus the
natural sunshine came back again to the Mistress’s eyes.



CHAPTER XXVI.


Colin and his guardian went on their way in a direction opposite to that
in which the Mistress travelled sadly alone. They made all the haste
possible out of the cold and boisterous weather, to get to sea; which
was at once, according to all their hopes, to bring health to the
invalid. Lauderdale, who carried his little fortune about him, had been
at great pains in dispersing it over his person; so that, in case of
falling among thieves--which, to a man venturing into foreign parts for
the first time, seemed but too probable--he might, at least, have a
chance of saving some portion of his store. But he was not prepared for
the dire and dreadful malady which seized him unawares, and made him
equally incapable of taking care of his money and of taking care of
Colin. He could not even make out how many days he had lain helpless and
useless in what was called the second cabin of the steamer--where the
arrangements and the provisions were less luxurious than in the more
expensive quarters. But Lauderdale, under the circumstances, did not
believe in comfort; he gave it up as a thing impossible. He fell into a
state of utter scepticism as he lay in agonies of sea-sickness on the
shelf which represented a bed. “Say nothing to me about getting there,”
he said, with as much indignation as he was capable of. “What do you
mean by _there_, callant? As for land, I’m far from sure that there’s
such a thing in existence. If there is, we’ll never get to it. It’s an
awful thing for a man in his senses to deliver himself up to this idiot
of a sea, to be played with like a bairn’s ball. It’s very easy to
laugh; if you had been standing on your head, like me, for twenty days
in succession--”

“Only four days,” said Colin, laughing, “and the gale is over. You’ll be
better to-morrow.”

“To-morrow!” said Lauderdale, with a contemptuous groan; “I’ve no faith
in to-morrow. I’m no equal to reckoning time according to ordinary
methods, and I’m no conscious of ever having existed in a more agreeable
position. As for the chances of ever coming head uppermost again, I
would not give sixpence for them. It’s all very well for the like of
you. Let me alone, callant; if this infernal machine of a ship would but
go down without more ado, and leave a man in peace--that’s the
pleasantest thing I can think of. Don’t speak to me about Italy. It’s
all a snare and delusion to get honest folk off firm ground. Let me get
to the bottom in peace and quiet. Life’s no worth having at such a
price,” sighed the sufferer; to whom his undutiful charge answered only
by laughter and jibes, which, under the circumstances, were hard to
bear.

“You are better now,” said the heartless youth, “or you could not go
into the philosophy of the subject. To-morrow morning you’ll eat a good
breakfast, and--”

“Dinna insult my understanding,” said Colin’s victim. “Go away, and look
out for your Italy, or whatever you call it. A callant like you believes
in everything. Go away and enjoy yourself. If you don’t go peaceably,
I’ll put you out,” cried the miserable man, lifting himself up from his
pillow, and seizing a book which Colin had laid there, to throw at his
tormentor. A sudden lurch, however, made an end of the discomfited
philosopher. He fell back, groaning, as Colin escaped out of the little
cabin. “It’s quite intolerable, and I’ll no put up with it any longer,”
said Lauderdale to himself. And he recalled, with a sense of injury,
Colin’s freedom from the overpowering malady under which he was himself
suffering. “It’s me that’s ill, and no him,” he thought, with surprise,
and the thought prevailed even over sea-sickness. By-and-by it warmed
with a delicious glow of hope and consolation the heart of the sufferer.
“If it sets the callant right, I’m no heeding for myself,” he said in
his own mind, with renewed heroism. Perhaps it was because, as Colin
said, Lauderdale was already beginning to be better that he was capable
of such generosity. Certainly the ship lurched less and less as the
evening went on, and the moonlight stole in at the port-hole and
caressed the sufferer, widening his horizon a little before he was
aware. He had begun to wonder whether Colin had his great coat on before
long, and fell asleep in that thought, and worked out his remaining
spell of misery in gigantic efforts--continued all through the night--to
get into Colin’s coat, or to get Colin into his coat, he was not quite
sure which. Meanwhile, the object of Lauderdale’s cares was on deck,
enjoying the moonlight, and the sense of improving health, and all the
excitement and novelty of his new life.

They had been four days at sea, and Colin, who had not been ill, had
become acquainted with the aspect of all his fellow passengers who were
as good sailors as himself. They were going to Leghorn, as the easiest
way of reaching Italy; and there were several invalids on board, though
none whose means made necessary a passage in the second cabin, of which
Colin himself and Lauderdale were the sole occupants. Of the few groups
on the quarter-deck who were able to face the gale, Colin had already
distinguished one, a young man, a little older than himself, exceedingly
pale and worn with illness, accompanied by a girl a year or two younger.
The two were so like each other as to leave no doubt that they must be
brother and sister, and so unlike as to call forth the compassionate
observation of everybody who looked at them. The young lady’s blooming
face, delicately round and full, with the perfect outline of health and
youth, had been paled at first by the struggle between incipient
sea-sickness and the determination not to leave her brother; but by this
time--at the cost of whatever private agonies--she had apparently
surmounted the common weakness, and was throwing into fuller and fuller
certainty, without knowing it, by the contrast of her own bloom, the
sentence of death written on his face. When they were on deck, which was
the only time that they were visible to Colin, she never left him;
holding fast by his arm with an anxious tenacity, not receiving, but
giving support; and watching him with incessant, breathless anxiety, as
if afraid that he might suddenly drop away from her side. The brother,
for his part, had those hollow eyes, set in wide pathetic niches, which
are never to be mistaken by those who have once watched beloved eyes
widening out into that terrible breadth and calm. He was as pale as if
the warm blood of life had already been wrung out of him drop by drop;
but, notwithstanding this aspect of death, he was still possessed by a
kind of feverish activity, the remains of strength, and seemed less
disturbed by the gale than any other passenger. He was on deck at all
hours, holding conversations with such of the sailors as he could get
at--talking to the captain, who seemed to eschew his society, and to
such of his fellow-travellers as were visible there.

What the subject of this sick traveller’s talk might be, Colin from his
point of observation could not tell; but there was no mistaking the
evidences of natural eloquence and the eagerness of the speaker. “He
ought to be a preacher by his looks,” Colin said to himself, as he stood
within the limits to which, as a second-class passenger, he was
confined, and saw at a little distance from him, the worn figure of the
sick man, upon whose face the moonlight was shining. As usual, the
sister was clinging to his arm and listening to him with a rapt
countenance; not so much concerned about what he said, it seemed, as
absorbed in anxious investigation of his looks. It was one of the
sailors this time who formed the audience which the invalid addressed--a
man whom he had stopped in the midst of something he was doing, and who
was listening with great evident embarrassment, anxious to escape, but
more anxious still, like a good-hearted fellow as he was, not to disturb
or irritate the suffering man. Colin drew a step nearer, feeling that
the matter under discussion could be no private one, and the sound of
the little advance he made caught the invalid’s nervous ear. He turned
round upon Colin before he could go back, and suddenly fixed him with
those wonderful dying eyes. “I shall see you again another time, my
friend,” he said to the released seaman, who hastened off with an
evident sense of having escaped. When the stranger turned round he had
to move back his companion, so that in the change of position she came
to be exactly in front of Colin, so near that the two could not help
seeing, could not help observing each other. The girl withdrew her eyes
a moment from her brother to look at the new face thus presented to her.
She did not look at Colin as a young woman usually looks at a young man.
She was neither indifferent, nor did she attempt to seem so. She looked
at him eagerly, with a question in her eyes. The question was a strange
one to be addressed, even from the eyes, by one stranger to another. It
said as plain as words, “Are you a man to whom I can appeal--are you a
man who will understand _him_? Shall I be able to trust you, and ask
your help?” That and nothing else was in the wistful anxious look. If
Colin’s face had not been one which said “Yes” to all such questions,
she would have turned away, and thought of him no more; as it was, she
looked a second time with a touch of interest, a gleam of hope. The
brother took no more apparent notice of her than if she had been a
cloak on his arm, except that from time to time he put out his thin
white hand to make sure that she was still there. He fixed his eyes on
Colin with a kind of solemn steadfastness, which had a wonderful effect
upon the young man, and said something hasty and brief, a most summary
preface, about the beautiful night. “Are you ill?” he added, in the same
hasty, breathless way, as if impatient of wasting time on such
preliminaries. “Are you going abroad for your health?”

Colin, who was surprised by the question, felt almost disinclined to
answer it--for in spite of himself it vexed him to think that anybody
could read that necessity in his face. He said, “I think so,” with a
smile which was not quite spontaneous; “my friends at least have that
meaning,” he added more naturally a moment afterwards, with the
intention of returning the question; but that possibility was taken
rapidly out of his hands.

“Have you ever thought of death?” said the stranger. “Don’t start--I am
dying, or I would not ask you. When a man is dying he has privileges. Do
you know that you are standing on the brink of a precipice? Have you
ever thought of death?”

“Yes, a great deal,” said Colin. It would be wrong to say that the
question did not startle him; but, after the first strange shock of such
an address, an impulse of response and sympathy filled his mind. It
might have been difficult to get into acquaintance by means of the
chit-chat of society, which requires a certain initiation; but such a
grand subject was common ground. He answered as very few of the people
interrogated by the sick man did answer. He did not show either alarm or
horror--he started slightly, it is true, but he answered without much
hesitation:

“Yes, I have thought often of death,” said Colin. Though he was only a
second-class passenger, this was a question which put all on an
equality; and now it was not difficult to understand why the captain
eschewed his troublesome questioner, and how the people looked
embarrassed to whom he spoke.

“Ah, I am glad to hear such an answer,” said the stranger; “so few
people can say so. You have found out, then, the true aim of life. Let
us walk about, for it is cold, and I must not shorten my working-days by
any devices of my own. My friend, give me a little hope that, at last, I
have found a brother in Christ.”

“I hope so,” said Colin, gravely. He was still more startled by the
strain in which his new companion proceeded; but a dying man _had_
privileges. “I hope so,” Colin repeated; “one of many here.”

“Ah, no, not of many,” said the invalid; “if you can feel certain of
being a child of God, it is what but few are permitted to do. My dear
friend, it is not a subject to deceive ourselves upon. It is terribly
important for you and me. Are you sure that you are fleeing from the
wrath to come? Are you sure that you are prepared to meet your God?”

They had turned into the full moonlight, which streamed upon their
faces. The ship was rushing along through a sea still agitated by the
heavings of the past storm, and there was nothing moving on deck except
some scattered seamen busy in their mysterious occupations. Colin was
slow to answer the new question thus addressed to him. He was still very
young; delicate, and reticent about all the secrets of his soul; not
wearing his heart upon his sleeve even in particulars less intimate and
momentous than this. “I am not afraid of my God,” he said, after a
minute’s pause; “pardon me, I am not used to speak much on such
subjects. I cannot imagine that to meet God can be less than the
greatest joy of which the soul is capable. He is our Father. I am not
afraid.”

“Oh, my friend!” said the eager stranger; his voice sounded in Colin’s
ear like the voice of a desperate man in a lifeboat, calling to somebody
who was drowning in a storm,--“don’t deceive yourself; don’t take up a
sentimental view of such an important matter. There is no escape except
through one way. The great object of our lives is to know how to
die--and to die is despair, without Christ.”

“What is it to live without Him?” said Colin. “I think the great object
of our lives is to live. Sometimes it is very hard work. And, when one
sees what is going on in the world, one does not know how it is possible
to keep living without Him,” said the young man, whose mind had taken a
profound impression from the events of the last three months. “I don’t
see any meaning in the world otherwise. So far we are agreed. Death,
which interests you so much, will clear up all the rest.”

“Which interests me?” said his new friend; “if we were indeed rational
creatures, would it not interest every one? Beyond every other subject,
beyond every kind of ambition and occupation--think what it is to go out
of this life, with which we are familiar, to stand alone before God, to
answer for the deeds done in the body----”

“Then, if you are so afraid of God,” said Colin, “what account do you
make of Christ?”

A gleam of strange light went over the gaunt eager face. He put out his
hand with his habitual movement, and laid it upon his sister’s hand,
which was clinging to his arm. “Alice, hush!” said the sick man; “don’t
interrupt me. He speaks as if he knew what I mean; he speaks as if he
too had something to do with it. I may be able to do him good or he me.
I have not the pleasure of knowing your name,” he said, suddenly turning
again to Colin with the strangest difference of manner. “Mine is
Meredith. My sister and I will be glad if you will come to our cabin. I
should like to have a little conversation with you. Will you come?”

Colin would have said No; but the word was stayed on his lips by a
sudden look from the girl who had been drawn on along with them, without
any apparent will of her own. It was only in her eyes that any
indication of individual meaning on her part was visible. She did not
speak, nor appear to think it necessary that she should second her
brother’s invitation; but she gave Colin a hasty look, conveying such an
appeal as went to his heart. He did not understand it; if he had been
asked to save a man’s life the petition could not have been addressed to
him more imploringly. His own wish gave way instantly before the eager
supplication of those eyes: not that he was charmed or attracted by her,
for she was too much absorbed, and her existence too much wrapt up in
that of her brother, to exercise any personal influence. A woman so
preoccupied had given up her privileges of woman. Accordingly, there was
no embarrassment in the direct appeal she made. The vainest man in
existence could not have imagined that she cared for his visit on her
own account. Yet it was at her instance that Colin changed his original
intention, and followed them down below to the cabin. His mind was
sufficiently free to leave him at liberty to be interested in others,
and his curiosity was already roused.

The pair did not look less interesting when Colin sat with them at the
table below, in the little cabin, which did not seem big enough to hold
anything else except the lamp. There, however, the sister exerted
herself to make tea, for which she had all the materials. She boiled her
little kettle over a spirit-lamp in a corner apart, and set everything
before them with a silent rapidity very wonderful to Colin, who
perceived at the same time that the sick man was impatient even of those
soft and noiseless movements. He called to her to sit down two or three
times before she was ready, and visibly fumed over the slight commotion,
gentle as it was. He had seated himself in a corner of the hard little
sofa which occupied one side of the cabin, and where there already lay a
pile of cushions for his comfort. His thoughts were fixed on eternity,
as he said and believed; but his body was profoundly sensitive to all
the little annoyances of time. The light tread of his sister’s foot on
the floor seemed to send a cruel vibration through him, and he glanced
round at her with a momentary glance of anger, which called forth an
answering sentiment in the mind of Colin, who was looking on.

“Forgive me, Arthur,” said the girl, “I am so clumsy; I can’t help
it”--an apology which Arthur answered with a melancholy frown.

“It is not you who are clumsy; it is the evil one who tempts me
perpetually, even by your means,” he said. “Tell me what your experience
is,” he continued, turning to Colin with more eagerness than ever; “I
find some people who are embarrassed when I speak to them about the
state of their souls; some who assent to everything I say, by way of
getting done with it; some who are shocked and frightened, as if
speaking of death would make them die the sooner. You alone have spoken
to me like a man who knows something about the matter. Tell me how you
have grown familiar with the subject--tell me what your experiences
are.”

Perhaps no request that could possibly have been made to Colin would
have embarrassed him so much. He was interested and touched by the
strange pair in whose company he found himself, and could not but regard
with a pity, which had some fellow-feeling in it, the conscious state of
life-in-death in which his questioner stood, who was not, at the same
time, much older than himself, and still in what ought to be the flower
of his youth. Though his own thoughts were of a very different
complexion, Colin could not but be impressed by the aspect of the other
youth, who was occupying the solemn position from which he himself
seemed to have escaped.

“Neither of us can have much experience one way or another,” he said,
feeling somehow his own limitations in the person of his new companion;
“I have been near dying; that is all.”

“Have been!” said Meredith. “Are you not--are not we all, near dying
now? A gale more or less, a spark of fire, a wrong turn of the helm, and
we are all in eternity! How can any reasonable creature be indifferent
for a moment to such a terrible thought?”

“It would be terrible, indeed, if God had nothing to do with it,” said
Colin; “and, no doubt, death is terrible when one looks at it far off. I
don’t think, however, that his face carries such terror when he is near.
The only thing is the entire ignorance we are in. What it is--where it
carries us--what is the extent of the separation it makes; all these
questions are so hard to answer.” Colin’s eyes went away as he spoke;
and his new friend, like Matty Frankland, was puzzled and irritated by
the look which he could not follow. He broke in hastily with a degree of
passion totally unlike Colin’s calm.

“You think of it as a speculative question,” he said; “I think of it as
a dreadful reality. You seem at leisure to consider when and how; but
have you ever considered the dreadful alternative? Have you never
imagined yourself one of the lost--in outer darkness--shut out and
separated from all good--condemned to sink lower and lower? Have you
ever contemplated the possibility--?”

“No,” said Colin, rising; “I have never contemplated that possibility,
and I have no wish to do so now. Let us postpone the discussion. Nothing
anybody can say,” the young man continued, holding out his hand to meet
the feverish, thin fingers which were stretched towards him, “can make
me afraid of God.”

“Not if you had to meet Him this night in judgment?” said the solemn
voice of the young prophet, who would not lose a last opportunity. The
words and the look sent a strange chill through Colin’s veins. His hand
was held tight in the feverish hand of the sick man--the dark hollow
eyes were looking him through and through. Death himself, could he have
taken shape and form, could scarcely have confronted life in a more
solemn guise. “Not if you had to meet Him in judgment this night?”

“You put the case very strongly,” said Colin, who grew a little pale in
spite of himself. “But I answer, No--no. The Gospel has come for very
little purpose if it leaves any of His children in fear of the Heavenly
Father. No more to-night. You look tired, as you may well be, with all
your exertions, and after this rough weather--”

“The rough weather is nothing to me,” said Meredith; “I must work while
it is day--the night cometh in which no man can work.”

“The night has come,” said Colin, doing the best he could to smile;
“the human night, in which men do not attempt to work. Don’t you think
you should obey the natural ordinances as well as the spiritual?
To-morrow we will meet, better qualified to discuss the question.”

“To-morrow we may meet in eternity,” said the dying man.

“Amen; the question will be clear then, and we shall have no need to
discuss it,” said Colin. This time he managed better to smile. “But,
wherever we meet to-morrow, good-bye for to-night--good-bye. You know
what the word means,” he said. He smiled to himself even at the thoughts
suggested to him by his own words. He too was pale, and had no great
appearance of strength. If he himself felt the current of life flowing
back into his veins, the world and even his friends were scarcely of his
opinion. He looked but a little way farther off from the solemn verge
than his new acquaintance did, as he stood at the door of the little
cabin, his face lit up with the vague, sweet, brightening of a smile,
which was not called forth by anything external, but came out of the
musings and memories of his own heart. Such a smile could not be
counterfeit. When he had turned towards the narrow stair which led to
the deck, he felt a touch upon his arm, like the touch of a bird, it was
so light and momentary. “Come again,” said a voice in his ear, “come
again.” He knew it was the sister who spoke; but the voice did not sound
in Colin’s ears as the voice of a woman to a man. It was impersonal,
disembodied, independent of all common restrictions. She had merged her
identity altogether in that of her brother. All the light, all the
warmth, all the human influence she had, she was pouring into him, like
a lantern, bright only for the bearer, turning a dark side to the world.

Colin’s head throbbed and felt giddy when he emerged into the open air
above, into the cold moonlight, to which the heaving of the sea gave a
look of disturbance and agitation which almost reached the length of
pain. There was nothing akin in that passionless light to the tumult of
the great chafing ocean, the element most like humanity. True, it was
not real storm, but only the long pantings of the vast bosom, after one
of those anger-fits to which the giant is prone; but a fanciful
spectator could not but link all kinds of imaginations to the night, and
Colin was pre-eminently a fanciful spectator. It looked like the man
storming, the woman watching with looks of powerless anguish; or like
the world heaving and struggling, and some angel of heaven grieving and
looking on. Colin lingered on the deck, though it was cold, and rest was
needful. What could there be in the future existence more dark, more
hopeless than the terrible enigmas which built up their dead walls
around a man in this world, and passed interpretation. Even the darkest
hell of poetic invention comprehended itself and knew why it was; but
this life, who comprehended, who could explain?

The thought was very different from those with which Arthur Meredith
resigned himself reluctantly to rest. He could not consent to sleep till
he had written a page or two of the book which he meant to leave as a
legacy to the world, and which was to be called “A Voice from the
Grave.” This poor young fellow had forgotten that God Himself was likely
to take some pains about the world which had cost so much. After the
“unspeakable gift” once for all, it appeared to young Meredith that the
rest of the work was left on _his_ shoulders, and on the shoulders of
such as he; and, accordingly he wore his dying strength out, addressing
everybody in season and out of season, and working at “A Voice from the
Grave.” A strange voice it was--saying little that was consolatory; yet,
in its way, true, as everything is true in a certain limited sense which
comes from the heart. The name of the Redeemer was named a great many
times therein, but the spirit of it was as if no Redeemer had ever come.
A world, dark, confused, and full of judgments and punishments--a world
in which men would not believe though one rose from the grave--was the
world into which he looked, and for which he was working. His sister
Alice, watching by his side, noting with keen anxiety every time the pen
slipped from his fingers, every time it went vaguely over the paper in
starts which told he had gone half to sleep over his work, sat with her
intelligence unawakened, and her whole being slumbering, thinking of
nothing but him. After all, Colin was not so fanciful when in his heart
it occurred to him to connect these two with the appearance of the moon
and the sea. They had opened the book of their life to him fortuitously,
without any explanations, and he did not know what to make of it. When
he descended to his own cabin and found Lauderdale fast asleep, the
young man could not but give a little time to the consideration of this
new scene which had opened in his life. It was natural to Colin’s age
and temperament to expect that something would come of such a strange,
accidental meeting; and so he lay and pondered it, looking out at the
troubled moonlight on the water, till that disturbed guardian of the
night had left her big troublesome charge to himself. The ship ploughed
along its lonely road with tolerable composure and quietness, for the
first time since it set out, and permitted to some of its weary
passengers unwonted comfort and repose; but, as for Colin, a sense of
having set out upon a new voyage came into his mind, he could not tell
why.



CHAPTER XXVII.


“I’m no saying if I’m well or ill,” said Lauderdale; “I’m saying it’s
grand for you to leave your friends in a suffering condition, and go off
and make up to other folk. It’s well to be off with the old love--for my
own part, however,” said Colin’s Mentor, “I’m no for having a great deal
to do with women. They’re awfu’ doubtful creatures, you may take my word
for it; some seem about as good as the angels--no that I have any
personal acquaintance with the angels, but it’s aye an intelligible
metaphor--some just as far on the other side. Besides, it’s a poor thing
for a man to fritter away what little capability of a true feeling there
may be in him. I’ve no fancy for the kind of friendships that are
carried on after the manner of flirtations. For my part, I’m a believer
in _love_,” said the philosopher, with a sudden fervour of reproof which
brought an unusual amount of colour to his face.

“You are absurd all the same,” said Colin, laughing; “here is no
question either of love, or flirtation, or even of friendship. I know
what you mean,” he added with a slightly heightened colour; “you think
that, having once imagined I admired Miss Frankland, I ought to have
continued in the same mind all my life. You don’t appreciate my good
sense, Lauderdale; but, at all events, the young lady has nothing to do
with my interest here.”

“I was saying nothing about Miss Frankland,” said Lauderdale; “I was
making a confession of faith on my own part, which has naething to do
with you that I can see. As for the young leddy, as you say, if it
doesna begin with her, it’s a’ the more likely to end with her,
according to my experience. To be sure, there’s no great amount of time;
but a boat like this is provocative of intimacy. You’re aye in the
second cabin, which is a kind of safeguard; but, as for your good
sense--”

“Don’t associate that poor fellow’s name with anything ridiculous,” said
Colin, “but come up on deck, like a reasonable man, and judge for
yourself.”

“Ay, ay,” said Lauderdale, slowly; “I understand the kind of thing. I’ve
seen it many a day myself. Partly youthfulness, that thinks the thing
that is happening to itself more important than anything else in the
world; partly a kind of self-regard; partly a wish to take compensation
out of the world for what has to be given up. I’m no saying but there’s
something better at the bottom, but it’s awfu’ hard to separate the
physical and the spiritual. I wouldna say but even you, your own
self--but it took a different form with you,” said Lauderdale, stopping
short abruptly. Looking at Colin, and seeing that still there was not
much bloom on his worn cheeks, it occurred to his careful guardian that
it might be as well not to recall the distempered thoughts of the
sick-room at Wodensbourne to his patient’s mind too soon.

“I suppose you are right,” said Colin; “it took a different form with
me. A more undutiful, unbelieving form; for Meredith makes no question
what it means, as I used to do.”

“I’m no so clear of that,” said Lauderdale. “It’s seldom unbelief that
asks a reason. I would not say, now I’m on my feet, but what there may
be a place known among men by the name of Italy. Come, callant, and let
me see if the skies are aught like what they are at hame.”

Everything was changed when Colin and his friend stood again on deck.
The calm weather had restored to life the crowd of sea-sick passengers
who, like Lauderdale, had, up to this moment, kept themselves and their
miseries under cover below. The universal scepticism and doubt of ever
being better had given way to a cheerful confidence. Everybody
believed--happy in his delusion--that for himself he had mastered the
demon, and would be sea-sick no more. Among so many, it was not so easy
to distinguish Meredith as Colin had expected; and he had time to
discuss several matters with Lauderdale, showing a certain acrid feeling
on his side of the question which surprised his interlocutor, before his
new friends appeared. Colin had taken his second-class berth gladly
enough, without thinking of any drawback; but, when he saw the limit
clearly before his eyes, and perceived within reach, and indeed within
hearing, the little “society” which he was not able to join, the fact of
this momentary inferiority chafed him a little. Like most other people,
he had a dislike to the second place--not that he cared about society,
as he took pains to convince himself. But the truth was, that Colin did
care for society, and, though too proud to confess such a thought, even
to himself, secretly longed to join those new groups which were
gradually growing into acquaintance before his eyes.

When he saw the two figures approaching which had attracted him so
strongly on the previous night, his heart gave a little jump, though his
eyes were fixed in another direction. They were not only two curious
human creatures whom it was hard to comprehend, but, at the same time,
they represented the world to Colin, who was at this present moment shut
out from intercourse with everybody but Lauderdale, whose manner of
musing he knew by heart. He did not look round, but he heard the
footsteps approaching, and would have been equally disappointed and
irritated had they turned back. This danger, however, speedily
terminated. Meredith came up hastily, drawing along with him, as usual,
the sister who had not any being except in him, and laid his thin hand
on Colin’s shoulder. The sunshine and the brightened skies did not
change the strain of the young preacher’s thoughts. He laid his hand on
Colin, pressing the young man’s shoulder with an emphatic touch. “We
meet again in the land of living men, in the place of hope,” he said,
turning his sister with him as he turned. She clung to him so closely
that they moved like one, without any apparent volition on her part; and
even Colin’s salutation seemed to disturb her, as if it had been
something unnecessary and unexpected. Her little hurried bow, her lips
that just parted in an anxious momentary smile, had a certain surprise
in them; and there was even a little impatience, as if she had said,
“Answer _him_; why should you mind me?” in the turn of her head.

“Yes, we meet on a bright morning, which looks like life and hope,” said
Colin; “and everybody seems disposed to enjoy it; even my friend here,
who has been helpless since we started, has come to life at last.”

Thus directed, Meredith’s eager eyes turned to Lauderdale, upon whom
they paused with their usual solemn inquiring look. “I hope he has come
to life in a higher sense,” said the sick man, who thought it his duty
to speak in season and out of season; “but for that true life, existence
is only the payment of a terrible penalty. I hope, like you, he has
thought on the great subject.”

When he stopped short, and looked straight in Lauderdale’s face, there
was a wonderful silence over the little group. The dying prophet said
nothing more, but looked down, awful and abstracted, from the heights of
death on which he was standing, to receive an answer, which Lauderdale
was too much taken by surprise, and Colin too much alarmed for the
result of the inquiry, to give at once.

“I’ve thought on an awfu’ quantity of subjects,” said Lauderdale, after
a moment; “a hundred or two more than can have gone through your mind at
your age; and I’m no averse to unfolding my experiences, as this callant
will tell you,” he added, with a smile, which, however, was lost upon
his questioner.

“Your experiences!” said Meredith. He put his thin arm eagerly, before
any one was aware what he intended to do, through Lauderdale’s arm. “I
frighten and horrify many,” said the invalid, not without a gleam of
satisfaction; “but there are so few, so miserably few, with whom it is
possible to have true communion. Let me share your experiences--there
must be instruction in them.”

The philosopher, thus seized, made a comical grimace, unseen by anybody
but Colin; but the sick man was far too much in earnest to observe any
reluctance on the part of his new acquaintance, and Lauderdale submitted
to be swept on in the strange wind of haste and anxiety and eagerness
which surrounded the dying youth, to whom a world lying in wickedness,
and “I, I alone” left to maintain the knowledge of God among men, was
the one great truth. There was not much room to move about upon the
deck; and, as Meredith turned and went on, with his arm in Lauderdale’s,
his sister, who was sharply turned round also by his movement, found it
hard enough to maintain her position by his side. Though he was more
attached to her than to any other living creature, it was not his habit,
as it might have been in happier circumstances, to care for her comfort,
or to concern himself about her personal convenience. He swept her along
with him over the hampered deck, through passages which were barely wide
enough for two, but through which she crushed herself as long as
possible, catching her dress on all the corners, and losing her breath
in the effort. As for Colin, he found himself left behind with a
half-amazed, half-mortified sensation.

    Not his the form, not his the eye,
    That youthful maidens wont to fly;

and though he was not truly open to Lauderdale’s jibe concerning
flirtations, the very name of that agreeable but dangerous amusement had
roused him into making the discovery that Meredith’s sister was very
pretty, and that there was something extremely interesting in the rapt
devotion to her brother, which at first had prevented him from observing
her. It seemed only natural that, when the sick man seized upon
Lauderdale, the young lady should have fallen to Colin’s share; and he
kept standing where they had left him, as has been described, half
amused and half mortified, thinking to himself that, after all, he was
not an ogre, nor a person whom ladies in general are apt to avoid.

After poor little Alice had hurt herself and torn her dress in two or
three rapid turns through the limited space, she gave up her brother’s
arm with a pained, surprised look, which went to Colin’s heart, and
withdrew to the nearest bench, gathering up her torn dress in her hand,
and still keeping her eyes upon him. What good she thought she could do
by her watching it was difficult to tell, but it evidently was the
entire occupation and object of her life. She scarcely turned her eyes
upon Colin when he approached; and, as the eyes were like a
fawn’s--brown, wistful, and appealing (whereas Miss Matty’s were blue,
and addicted to laughter)--it is not to be wondered at that Colin, in
whom his youth was dimly reawaking, with all its happier
susceptibilities, should feel a little pique at her neglect. The shadow
of death had floated away from the young man’s horizon. He believed
himself, whether truly or not, to have come to a new beginning of life.
He had been dead and was alive again; and the solemn interval of
suffering, during which he questioned earth and heaven, had made the
rebound all the sweeter, and restored with a freshness almost more
delightful than the first, the dews and blossoms to the new world. Thus
he approached Alice Meredith, who had no attention to spare to him--not
with any idea that he had fallen in love with her, or that love was
likely, but only with that vague sense that Paradise still exists
somewhere, not entirely out of reach, and that the sweet Eve, who alone
can reveal it, might meet him unawares at any turn of his path--which is
one of the sweetest privileges of youth. But he did not know what to say
to the other youthful creature, who ought to have been as conscious of
such possibilities as he. No thought was in _her_ mind that she ever
could be the Eve of any paradise; and the world to her was a confused
and darkling universe, in which death lay lurking somewhere, she could
not tell how close at hand--death, not for herself, which could be
borne, but for one far dearer than herself. The more she felt the
nearness of this adversary, the more she contradicted herself and would
not believe it; and so darkness spread all round the beginning path of
the poor girl, who was not much more than a child. She would not have
understood the meaning of any pretty speeches had Colin been so far left
to himself as to think of making them. As it was, she looked up at him
wistfully as he sat down beside her. She thought in her mind that he
would be a good friend for Arthur, and might cheer him; which was the
chief thing she cared for in this world.

“Has your brother been long ill?” said Colin. It seemed the only subject
on which the two could speak.

“Ill?” said Alice; “he is not very ill--he takes a great deal of
exercise. You must have observed that; and his appetite is very good.”
The question roused her to contradict her own fears, and doing so out
loud to another was more effectual somehow than anything she could say
to herself. “The storm which made everybody else so ill had no effect
upon Arthur,” she went on, almost with a little irritation. “He is thin
to be sure, but then many people are thin who are quite well; and I am
sure you do not look very strong yourself.”

“No,” said Colin, who possessed the instinct rare among men of divining
what his companion wished him to say; “my people had given me up a few
weeks ago. I gave myself a poke somewhere in the lungs which very nearly
made an end of me; but I mean to get better if I can,” he said, with a
smile, which for the moment brought a doubtful look upon the girl’s
face.

“You don’t think it wrong to talk like that,” she said; “that was what
made me wish so much you should come to see Arthur. Perhaps if he were
more cheerful it would do him good. Not that he is very ill, you know,
but still--we are going to Italy,” she went on with a little abruptness,
“to a place near Rome--not to Rome itself, because I am a little afraid
of that--but into the country. Are you going there?”

“I suppose so,” said Colin; “it is the most interesting place in the
world. Do you not think so? But everything will be new to me.”

“If you were to come where we are going,” said his companion with a
composure which was wonderful to Colin, “you would find it cheaper, and
you could see things almost as easily, and it would not be so hot when
summer comes. I think it would do Arthur a great deal of good. It is so
hard to know what to do with a man,” she went on, unconsciously yielding
to that inexpressible influence of a sympathetic listener which few
people can resist; “they cannot occupy themselves, you know, as we women
can, and they get tired of _our_ society. I have so longed to find some
man who would understand him, and whom he could talk to,” cried the
poor girl, with tears in her eyes. She made a pause when she had said so
much--not that it occurred to her that any one could misunderstand her,
but because the tears were getting into her voice, which was a weakness
not to be yielded to. “I don’t know why I should cry,” she added a
minute after, with a faint smile; “it is talking about Italy I suppose;
but you will like it when you get there.”

“Yet you do not seem to like it,” said Colin, with a little curiosity.

This time she made him no direct answer. Her eyes were following her
brother and Lauderdale as they walked about the deck. “Is _he_ nice?”
she asked, with a little timidity, pointing at Lauderdale, and giving
another hasty wistful look at Colin’s face.

“I don’t know if you would think so,” said Colin; “he is very Scotch,
and a little odd sometimes; but kinder and better, and more truly a
friend than words can describe. He is tender and true,” said the young
man, with a little enthusiasm which woke up the palest ghost of an
answering light in his young companion’s face.

“Being Scotch is a recommendation to me,” she said; “the only person I
ever loved, except Arthur, of course,--and those who are gone--was
Scotch.” After this quaint intimation, which woke in Colin’s mind an
incipient spark of the earliest stage of jealousy--not jealousy proper,
but only a lively and contemptuous curiosity to know “who the fellow
was”--she dropped back again into her habitual silence. When Colin tried
to bring her back by ordinary remarks about the voyage and their
destination, she answered him simply by “Yes,” or “No.” She was of one
idea, incapable apparently of exerting her mind on any other subject.
When they had been thus sitting silent for some time, she began again
abruptly at the point where she had left off.

“If you were to come to the same place,” she said--“Arthur can speak
Italian very well, and I know it a little--we might be able to help you,
and you would have very good air--pure air off the sea. If he had
society he would soon be better.” This was said softly to herself; and
then she went on, drawn farther and farther by the sympathy which she
felt in her listener. “There are only us two in the world.”

“If I can do anything,” said Colin, “as long as we are here at least;
but there is no lack of society,” he said, pointing to the groups on
the quarter-deck, at which Alice Meredith shook her head.

“He frightens them,” she said; “they prefer to go out of his way; they
don’t want to answer his questions. I don’t know why he does it. When he
was young he was fond of society, and went out a great deal, but he has
changed so much of late,” said the anxious sister, with a certain look
of doubt and wonder on her face. She was not quite sure whether the
change was an improvement. “I don’t understand it very well myself,” she
went on, with a sigh; “perhaps I have not thought enough about it. And
then he does not mind what I say to him--men never do; I suppose it is
natural. But, if he had society, and you would talk and keep him from
writing--”

“Does he write?” said Colin, with new interest. It was a bond of
sympathy he had not expected to hear of; and here again the tears, in
spite of all her exertions, got into Alice’s voice.

“At night, when he ought to be sleeping,” said the poor girl. “I don’t
mean to say he is very ill; but, oh! Mr. Campbell, is it not enough to
make any man ill to sit up when he is so tired he cannot keep awake,
writing that dreadful book? He is going to call it “A Voice from the
Grave.” I sometimes think he wants to break my heart; for what has the
grave to do with it? He is rather delicate, but so are you. Most people
are delicate,” said poor Alice, “when they sit up at night, and don’t
take care of themselves. If you could only get him to give up that book,
I would bless you all my life.”

Such an appeal from sweet lips quivering with suppressed anguish, from
beautiful eyes full of heavy tears, was not likely to be without effect;
and, when Colin went to his own cabin in the evening, hearing but
imperfectly the criticisms of Lauderdale on his new friend and his
affairs, he was more and more impressed by the conviction that something
must come of an encounter so singular and unexpected. The young man
immediately set himself to wind new threads of fate about his feet, and
while he was doing so, thought with a little thrill of the wonderful way
in which things came about, and the possible purposes of Providence in
this new change. It roused and excited him to see the new scenery coming
into its place, and the ground preparing for another act of his life.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


“What for?” said Lauderdale. “I’ll no say but what it’s an interesting
study, if life was long enough to allow such indulgences; but--take you
my word for it, callant--it’s awfu’ hard to see a life wearing out like
that, drop by drop. It’s not only that you might get to be fond of the
poor lad himself, and miss him sair when he was gone,” said the
philosopher, who had not just then perfect command of himself; “but it
raises awfu’ questions, and you are not one of those that can take
things as they come and ask no reason. What should you bind yourself
for! I see a’ that would happen as clear as day. You would go into a bit
country place with him, only to watch him die; and, when he was gone,
you would be left with the bit bonnie sister, two bairns together--and
then--but you’re no destitute of imagination,” said Lauderdale, grimly;
“and I leave you to figure that part of the business to yoursel’.”

“This is foolish talk,” said Colin. “The sister, except that I am very
sorry for her, has nothing in the world to do with it. If we could
manage as well beside them as anywhere else, one should be glad to be of
some use to one’s fellow-creatures. I am not afraid of anything that
might happen,” the young man added, with a slight additional colour. “As
for responsibility, it is strange to hear you warning me against
that--you who were willing to take upon yourself all the responsibility
of travelling with me when you thought I was dying--”

“No such thing,” said Lauderdale, hotly. “I’m fool enough, no doubt, but
no such a fool as that. Callants of your age canna keep a medium. When
you have a sore finger you take thoughts of dying; but I’m a man of some
experience in this world. I’m travelling for my own pleasure and no for
you, nor no man. As for this lad, I’ve seen the like before. He’s no
singular, though I’ve little doubt he thinks he is. It’s awfu’ hard work
to stop short just when you’ve come to the brow of the hill, and see a’
the fair prospect before you,” said Colin’s guardian, whose countenance
was overcast and cloudy. “When the mind’s no very strong, the like of
that sets it off its balance. I’ve seen them that came out of the trial
as calm as the angels of God,” he went on, after a little pause, with a
strain in his voice which showed unusual emotion; “and I have seen them
that battled with Him that made them, to make Him render a reason; and I
have seen them that took it with a high hand, and turned into preachers
like this one. ‘A Voice from the Grave,’ did she say? But you’re a’
babies that ken no better. How are the like of you to know that there’s
men like me--ay, and women more than men--that would give a’ their
living, and would not grudge life itself, no for a voice only, but for
two or three words--for one word and no more.” He put down his face in
his hands for a moment as he spoke, though not to conceal tears; for
Lauderdale’s sorrows, whatever they might have been, were wrapped in the
deadly stillness of that past grief with which no stranger intermeddles;
and his young companion watched him sorrowfully, sympathetically, but in
ignorance, and with the timidity of youth, not knowing what to say.

“Him, and the like of him,” said Lauderdale, going on more softly when
he found that Colin made no reply, “their voice from the grave is like a
Halloween ghost to frighten the unwary. Whisht, callant! I’m no laughing
at the poor dying lad. There’s nae laughing in my head one way or
another; but it’s so little you know. You never think, with your
warnings and your terrors, of us that have sat by our graves for years,
and been confounded by the awfu’ silence. Why can they no speak nor we
hear? You’ll no tell me that Heaven and the presence of God can take the
love out of a living soul. I wish you would not disturb my mind with
your vain thoughts; it’s no a question I dare go into. If love’s no
everlasting, I’ve no desire to be everlasting myself; and, if I’m to be
no more hereafter to them that belong to me, than to legions of strange
angels, or a haill nation of fremd folk!--Whisht, callant! you’re no to
say such things to me.”

Colin said nothing at all to interrupt this monologue. He let his friend
wear himself out, pacing up and down the narrow little cabin, which it
required but two of Lauderdale’s strides to traverse from end to end. He
had known a chance word to produce similar results before, but had never
been made acquainted with the real history of his friend’s life. He
waited now till this excitement was over, knowing by experience that it
was the best way; and, after a while, Lauderdale calmed down and came
back to his seat, and resumed the conversation where he had left it,
before his heart within him was roused to make brief utterance of its
unknown burden.

“The short and the long of it is,” said Lauderdale, “that you’re making
up your mind, by some process of your own--I’m no saying what it is--to
give up our own plan and tack yourself on to a poor failing callant
that has not above a month or two to live?”

“How do you know he has not above a month or two to live?” said Colin.
“You thought the same of me a few weeks ago. One hears of the climate
working wonders; and, if he had some one by him to amuse and interest
him, and keep him off that book, as--as Miss Meredith says--”

“Oh, ay, no doubt, no doubt,” said Lauderdale, drily. “He has one nurse
already bound to him body and soul, and maybe, if he had another to
undertake the spiritual department--! But you’re no old enough, callant,
to take him in hand, and you’re no strong enough, and I cannot say, for
my own part, that I see any special qualification for such an office in
ye,” said the merciless critic, looking at Colin in a seriously
contemplative way, with his head a little on one side. After he had
shown any deep emotion, Lauderdale, like a true Briton, despised
himself, and made as great a leap as was practicable on the other side.

“No,” said Colin, who was a little piqued in spite of himself; “I don’t
suppose I am good for much; and I never thought of being his nurse. It
is out of the question to imagine that I could be for Meredith, or any
other man, what you have been for me.”

“I’ve kent ye longer than two days,” said Colin’s guardian, without
showing any signs of propitiation, “which to be sure makes a little
difference. Though them that are destined to come together need little
time to make it up--I’ve aye been a believer, for my part, not only in
love, but in friendship, at first sight.”

“There’s no question of either love or friendship,” said Colin, with
prompt irritation. “Surely one may feel pity, sympathy, fellow-feeling,
with a man of one’s own age without being misunderstood.”

“I understand you an awfu’ deal better than you understand yourself,”
said Lauderdale; “and, as I was saying, I am a great believer in first
impressions. It’s a mercenary kind of thing to be friends with a man for
his good qualities--there’s a kind of barter in it that goes against my
instincts; but, when you take to a man for nae reason, but out of pure
election and choice, that’s real friendship--or love, as it might be,”
he went on, without pity, enjoying the heightened colour and air of
embarrassment on Colin’s face.

“You say all this to make me lose my temper,” said Colin. “Don’t let us
talk of it any more to-night; I will think it all over again, since you
oppose it, and to-morrow--”

“Ay, to-morrow,” said Lauderdale--“it’s a bonnie new world, and we’ll no
interfere with it. Good-night, callant; I’m no a man that can be
quarrelled with if you tried ever so hard; to-morrow you’ll take your
own way.”

Colin did not sleep till the night was far advanced. He lay awake,
watching the moonlight, and pondering over this matter, which looked
very important as he contemplated it. By thinking was meant, in his
mind, as in most minds of his age, not any complicated course of
reasoning, but a rapid framing of pictures on one side and the other. On
one side he saw Meredith beguiled from his book, persuaded to moderate
his words in season and out of season, and induced to take a little
interest in ordinary human affairs, gradually recovering his health, and
returning to a life which should no longer appear to him a near
preparation for dying; and it cannot be denied that there did come into
Colin’s mind a certain consciousness of grateful looks and sweet-voiced
thanks attending this restoration, which made the picture wonderfully
pleasant. Then, on the other side, there was Lauderdale’s sketch of the
sadder possibilities filled in by Colin’s imagination:--poor Meredith
dying slowly, looking death in the face for long days and lonely nights,
sorely wanting all the succour that human compassion could give him; and
the forlorn and solitary mourner that would be left, so young and
friendless, by the stranger’s grave. Perhaps, on the whole, this
suggestion of Lauderdale’s decided the matter. The thought was too
pitiful, too sad to be borne. She was nothing in the world to him; but
she was a woman, and Colin thought indignantly of the unchristian
cowardice which, for fear of responsibility, would desert a friendless
creature exposed to such dangers. Notwithstanding, he was prudent, very
prudent, as was natural. It was not Alice, but Arthur Meredith who was
to be his friend. She had nothing to do with this decision whatever. If
such a melancholy necessity should happen, Colin felt it was in him,
respectfully, sympathetically, to take the poor girl home; and if,
somehow, the word “home” suggested to him his mother, who that knew
anything of the Mistress, could wonder at that thought?

Thus he went on drawing the meshes closer about his feet, while the
moonlight shone on the sea, and poor Meredith wrote his book, and
Lauderdale, as sleepless as his charge, anxiously pondered the new state
of affairs. At home that same moon suggested Colin to more minds than
one in the peaceful country over which the March winds were blowing.
Miss Matty thought of him, looking out over the Wodensbourne avenue,
where the great trees stood stately in the moonlight with a glory on
their heads. She was so late because she had been at a ball, where her
cousin Harry had made himself highly disagreeable, and where, prompted
by his sulky looks, she had carried a little flirtation a hair’s-breadth
too far--which was not a comfortable consciousness. Why she should think
of Colin under such circumstances it would be hard to say; but the
thoughts of a young woman at three o’clock in the morning are not
expected to be logical. She thought of him with a shadow of the same
feeling that made the Psalmist long for the wings of a dove; though, if
Miss Matty had but known it, her reception--could she have made her
escape to her former worshipper at that moment--would have been of a
disappointing character. And about the same time the Mistress woke out
of her quiet sleep, and saw the broad, white flood of light streaming
through the little square window of the room in which Colin was born.
Her fancy was busy enough about him night and day; and she fancied she
could see, as clear as in a picture, the ship speeding on, with perhaps
its white wings spread over the glistening sea, and the moon stealing in
at the cabin window, and caressing her boy, who must be fast asleep,
resting and gathering strength, with new life breathing in upon him in
every breath of favourable wind that crisped the sleeping sea. Such was
the vision that came to the mind of the Mistress when she woke in the
“dead of night,” and saw the moonlight at her window. “God bless my
Colin,” she said to herself, as she closed her tender eyes; and in the
meantime Colin, thinking nothing of his old love, and not very much of
his home, was busily engaged in weaving for himself another tangle in
the varied web of existence--although none of the people most interested
in him--except Lauderdale, who saw a faint shadow of the future--had the
least idea that this night at sea was of any moment in his life. He did
not know it himself, though he was conscious of a certain thrill of
pleasant excitement and youthful awe, half voluntary, half real. And so
the new scene got arranged for this new act of the wonderful drama; and
all the marvellous, delicate influences of Providence and will, poising
and balancing each other, began to form and shape the further outlines
of his life.



CHAPTER XXIX.


The place which the Merediths had chosen for their residence was
Frascati, where everything was quieter, and most things cheaper, than in
Rome--to which, besides, the brother and sister had objections, founded
on former passages in their family history, of which their new friends
were but partially aware; and to Frascati, accordingly, the two Scotch
pilgrims were drawn with them. Colin had, as usual, persevered in his
own way, as Lauderdale prophesied, and the arrangement came about,
naturally enough, after the ten days’ close company on board ship, where
young Meredith, whom most people were either contemptuous of, or
inclined to avoid, found refuge with his new friends, who, though they
did not agree with him, at least understood what he meant. He slackened
nothing of those exertions which he thought to be his duty--and on
which, perhaps unconsciously, the young invalid rather prided himself,
as belonging to his _rôle_ of dying man,--during the remainder of the
voyage; but, finding one of the sailors ill, succeeded in making such an
impression upon the poor fellow’s uninstructed and uncertain mind as
repaid him, he said, for all the exertions he had made. After that
event, he went very often to the forecastle to pray with his convert,
being, perhaps, disposed to the opinion that they two were the salt of
the earth to their small community; for which proceeding he was called
fool, and fanatic, and Methodist, and a great many other hard names by
the majority of his fellow-passengers--some of whom, indeed, being, like
most ordinary people, totally unable to discriminate between things that
differ, confidently expected to hear of some secret vice on the part of
Meredith; such things being always found out, as they maintained, of
people who considered themselves better than their neighbours. “After a
while, it will be found out what he’s up to,” said a comfortable
passenger, who knew the world; “such fellows always have their private
peccadilloes. I daresay he doesn’t go so often to the forecastle for
nothing. The stewardess ain’t bad looking, and I’ve seen our saint
engaged in private conversation when he didn’t know I was there,” said
the large-minded Christian who denounced poor Meredith’s
uncharitableness. And, to be sure, he was uncharitable, poor fellow. As
for Colin, and, indeed, Lauderdale also, who had been attracted, in
spite of himself, they looked on with a wonderful interest, from
amid-ships, knowing better. They saw him dragging his sister after him,
as far as she could go, along the crowded deck, when he went to visit
his patient--neither he, whose thoughts were occupied solely with
matters of life and death, nor she, who was thinking entirely of him,
having any idea that the dark dormitory below, among the sailors’
hammocks, was an unfit place for her. It was Colin who stepped forward
to rescue the girl from this unnecessary trial: and Meredith gave her up
to him, with as little idea that this, too, was a doubtful expedient as
he had of anything unsuitable in his original intention. “It is a
privilege, if she but knew it,” the invalid would say, fixing his hollow
eyes on her, as if half doubtful whether he approved of her or not; and
poor Alice stayed behind him with a bad grace, without feeling much
indebted on her own account to her new friends. “It does not matter
where I go, so long as I am with him,” she said, following him with her
anxious looks; and she remained there seated patiently upon her bench,
with her eyes fixed on the spot where he had disappeared, until he
rejoined her. When Arthur’s little prayer-meeting was ended, he came
with a severe, and yet serene countenance towards the sister he had left
behind, and the two friends who did not propose to accompany him. “He is
a child of God,” said the sick man; “his experiences are a great comfort
to me”--and he looked with a little defiance at the companions, who, to
be sure, so far as the carnal mind was concerned, could not but be more
congenial to an educated man.

His new companions were indeed so interesting to Meredith, that the new
chapter of the “Voice from the Grave” was all about Lauderdale and
Colin. They were described under the initials L. and C., with a
heightening of all their valuable qualities, which was intended to make
more and more apparent their want of “the one thing needful.” They were
like the rich young man whom Jesus loved, but who had not the heart to
give up all and follow Him--they were like “him who, through cowardice,
made the great refusal--” the sick man wrote without, however, quoting
Dante; and he contrasted with their virtuous and thoughtful worldliness
the condition of his convert, who knew nothing but the love of God, poor
Meredith said. Perhaps it was true that the sick sailor knew the love of
God, and certainly the prayers of the volunteer missionary were not less
likely to reach the ear of the Divine Majesty for being uttered by the
poor fellow’s bedside. But, though he wrote a chapter in his book about
them, Meredith still clung to his friends. The unseen and unknown were
familiar to their thoughts--perhaps even too familiar, being considered
by them as reasonably and naturally interesting; and poor Meredith was
disposed to think that anything natural must be more or less wicked. But
still he considered them interesting, and thought he might be able to do
them good, and, for his own part, found all the human comfort he was
capable of in their society. Thus it was that, with mutual compassions
and sympathy, he sorry for them and they for him, and mutual good
offices, the three grew into friendship hour by hour.

As for Alice, her brother was fond of her, but had never had his
attention specially attracted to her, nor been led to think of her as a
companion for himself. She was his tender little nurse and attendant--a
creature with loving watchful eyes, and anxious little noiseless cares.
He would have missed her terribly had she failed him, without quite
knowing what it was he missed. But, though he was in the habit of
instructing her now and then, it did not occur to him to talk to his
sister. She was a creature of another species--an awakened soul, with
few thoughts or feelings worth speaking of. At least such was the
estimate her brother had formed of her, and in which Alice herself
agreed to a great extent. It was not exactly humility that kept the
anxious girl in this mind, but an undisturbed habit and custom, out of
which no personal impulse had delivered her. The women of her kindred
had never been remarkable one way or another. They were good women,
perfectly virtuous and a little tiresome, as even Alice was sensible;
and it had not been the custom of the men of the house to consult or
confide in their partners. Her mother and aunts had found quite enough
to occupy them in housekeeping and needlework, and had accepted it as a
matter of faith that men, except, perhaps, when in love, or in “a
passion,” did not care to talk to women--a family creed from which so
young and submissive a girl had not dreamt of enfranchising herself.
Accordingly she accepted quite calmly Arthur’s low estimate of her
powers of companionship, and was moved by no injured feeling when he
sought the company of his new friends, and gave himself up to the
pleasure of conversation. It was the most natural thing in the world to
Alice. She kept by him, holding by his arm when he and his companions
walked about the deck together, as long as there was room for her; and,
when there was no room, she withdrew and sat down on the nearest seat,
and took out a little bit of needlework which never made any progress;
for, though her intellect could not do Arthur any good, the anxious
scrutiny of her eyes could, or at least so she seemed to think.

Very often, it was true, she was joined in her watch by Colin; of whom,
however, it never occurred to her to think under any other possible
aspect than that of Arthur’s friend. It might as well have been
Lauderdale who shared her anxieties, so far as that went--for,
notwithstanding a certain proclivity on the part of Colin to female
friendship, Alice was too entirely unconscious, too utterly devoid of
any sense or feeling of self, to be interesting to the young man.
Perhaps a certain amount of self-regard is necessary to attract the
regard of others. Alice was not conscious of herself at all, and her
insensibility communicated itself to her companion. He sometimes even
wondered if her intelligence was up to the ordinary level, and then felt
ashamed of himself when by chance she lifted upon him her wistful eyes;
not that those eyes were astonishingly bright, or conveyed any
intimations of hidden power--but they looked, as they were, unawakened,
suggestive eyes, which might wake up at any moment and develop
unthought-of lights. But, on the whole, this twilight was too dim to
interest Colin, except by moments; and it was incomprehensible and to
some extent provoking and vexatious to the young man, to see by his side
a creature so young, and with so many natural graces, who neutralized
them all by her utter indifference to herself.

So that after all it came to be a very natural and reasonable step to
accompany the Merediths, to whose knowledge of the country and language
even Lauderdale found himself indebted when suddenly thrown without
warning upon the tumultuous crowd of Leghorn boatmen, which was his
first foreign experience. “They all understand French,” a benevolent
fellow-passenger said, as he went on before them; which did not give the
consolation it was intended to convey to the two Scotch travellers, who
only looked at each other sheepishly, and laughed with a very mixed and
doubtful sort of mirth, not liking to commit themselves. They had to
give themselves up blindly into the hands of Meredith and his
sister--for Alice felt herself of some importance in a country where she
“knew the language”--and it was accordingly in the train of those two
that Colin and Lauderdale were dragged along, like a pair of English
captives, through the very gates of Rome itself, and across the solemn
Campagna to the little city set upon a hill, to which the sick man was
bound. They made their way to it in a spring afternoon when the sun was
inclining towards the west, throwing long shadows of those long, weird,
endless arches of the Claudian aqueduct across the green wastes, and
shining full upon the white specks of scattered villages on the Alban
hills. The landscape would have been impressive even had it conveyed no
associations to the minds of the spectators. But, as the reluctant
strangers left Rome, they saw unfold before them a noble semicircle of
hills--the Sabines, blue and mysterious, on one side, the Latin range
breaking bluntly into the centre of the ring, and towards the right hand
the softer Alban heights with their lakes hidden in the hollows, and the
sunshine falling full upon their crest of towns. When they had mounted
the steep ascent to Frascati, it was still more wonderful to look back
and see the sunset arranging itself over that great Campagna, falling
into broad radiant bands of colour with inconceivable tints and
shadings, betraying in a sudden flash the distant sea, and shining all
misty and golden over the dwarfed dome of St. Peter’s, which rose up by
itself upon the distant plain with a wonderful insignificance of
grandeur--all Rome around being blotted into oblivion. That would have
been a sight to linger over had not Meredith been weary and worn out,
and eager to get to his journey’s end.

“You will see it often enough,” he said, with a little petulance;
“neither the sunset nor St. Peter’s can run away:” for it was to himself
a sufficiently familiar sight. They went in accordingly to a large
house, which, a little to the disappointment of Colin, was just as
square and ugly as anything he could have found at home, though it stood
all the days and nights gazing with many eyes over that Campagna which
looked like a thing to dream over for ever. It was the third storey of
this house--- the upper floor--to which Meredith and his sister directed
their steps; Colin and Lauderdale following them--not without a little
expectation, natural enough under the circumstances. It was cold, and
they were tired, though not so much as the invalid; and they looked for
a bright fire, a comfortable room, and a good meal--with a little
curiosity, it is true, about the manner of it, but none as to the
blazing hearth and spread board, and all the other items indispensable
to comfort, according to English ideas. The room, when they got
admittance, was very large, and full of windows, letting in a flood of
light, which, as the sunshine was now too low to enter, was cold
light--white, colourless, and chilling. Not a vestige of carpet was on
the tiled floor, except before the fire-place, where a square piece of a
curious coarse fabric and wonderful pattern had been laid down. A few
logs were burning on the wide hearth, and close by was a little stack of
wood intended to replenish the fire. The great desert room contained a
world of tables and hard uncushioned chairs, but the tired travellers
looked in vain for the spread board which had pleased their imagination.
If Colin had thought the house too like an ordinary ugly English house
outside to satisfy him, he found this abundantly made up for now by the
interior, so unlike anything English; for the walls were painted with a
brilliant landscape set in a frame of still more brilliant scarlet
curtains, which the simple-minded artist had looped across his sky
without any hesitation; and underneath this gorgeous bit of fresco was
set a table against the wall, upon which were spread out a humble store
of little brown rolls, a square slice of butter, a basin full of eggs,
and a flask of oil--the humble provisions laid in by the attendant
Maria, who had rushed forward to kiss the young lady’s hand when she
opened the door. While the two inexperienced Scotch travellers stood
horror-stricken, their companions, who were aware of what they were
coming to, threw down their wraps and began to take possession, and to
settle themselves in this extraordinary wilderness.

Meredith for his part threw himself into a large primitive easy-chair
which stood by the fire. “This is a comfort I did not look for,” he
said; “and, thank heaven, here we are at last.” He drew a long breath of
satisfaction as he stretched out his long meagre limbs before the fire.
“Come in and make yourselves comfortable. Alice will attend to
everything else,” he said, looking back at his amazed companions, who,
finding themselves in some degree his guests, had to subdue their
feelings. They came and sat by him, exchanging looks of dismay--looks
which, perhaps, he perceived, for he drew in his long languid limbs, and
made a little room for the others. “Many things, of course, that are
necessary in our severe climate are unnecessary here,” he said, with a
slight shiver; and, as he spoke, he reached out his hand for one of the
wraps he had thrown off, and drew it round his shoulders. This movement
gave a climax to the universal discomfort. Colin and Lauderdale once
more looked at each other with mutual comments that could find no
utterance in words--the only audible expression of their mutual
sentiment being an exclamation of “Climate!” from the latter in an
undertone of unspeakable surprise and consternation. This, then, was the
Italy of which they had dreamed! The Mistress’s parlour on the Holy Loch
was, words could not tell how much warmer and more genial. The tired
travellers turned towards the fire as the only possible gleam of
consolation, and Meredith put out his long thin arm to seize another log
and place it on the hearth; even he felt the difference. He had done
nothing to help himself till he came here; but habits of indulgence
dropped off on the threshold of this Spartan dwelling. Colin repeated
within himself Lauderdale’s exclamation, “Climate!” as he shivered in
his chair. No doubt the invalid chair by the fire-side on the banks of
the Holy Loch was a very different thing, so far as comfort was
concerned.

In the meantime Alice found herself mistress of the position. Humble
little woman as she was, there came by moments, even to her, a
compassionate contempt for the male creatures who got hungry and sulky
after this fashion, and could only sit down ill-tempered and
disconsolate before the fire. Alice for her part sent off Maria to the
trattoria, and cheerfully prepared to feed the creatures who did not
know how to set about it for themselves. When she had done her utmost,
however, there was still a look of dismay on Colin’s face. The dinner
from the trattoria was a thing altogether foreign to the experiences of
the two Scotchmen. They suspected it while they ate, making secret wry
faces to each other across the equivocal board. This was the land of
poets into which they had come--the land of the ideal, where, according
to their inexperienced imagination, everything was to share the general
refinement! But, alas, there was nothing refined about the dinner from
the trattoria, which was altogether a native production, and with which
the Merediths, being accustomed, and knowing what they had to expect,
contented themselves well enough. When Lauderdale and his charge
retired, chilled to the bone, to their stony, chilly bedrooms, where
everything seemed to convey not warmth but a sensation of freezing, they
looked at each other with amazement and disgust on their faces.
“Callant, you would have been twenty times better at home,” said
Lauderdale with a remorseful groan; “and as for thae poor innocents, who
have nobody to look after them--But they kent what they were coming to,”
he continued, with a flash of momentary anger. Altogether it was as
unsuccessful a beginning as could well be imagined of the ideal poetic
Italian life.



CHAPTER XXX.


It is impossible to deny that, except in hotels which are cosmopolitan,
and adapted to the many wants of the rich English, life in Italy is hard
business enough for the inexperienced traveller, who knows the strange
country into which he has suddenly dropped rather by means of poetical
legends than by the facts of actual existence. A country of vineyards
and orange-groves, of everlasting verdure and sunshine, is indeed, in
its way, a true enough description of one aspect of that many-sided
country: but these words of course convey no intimation of the terrors
of an Italian palace in the depth of winter, where everything is
stone-cold, and the possibilities of artificial warmth are of the most
limited description; where the idea of doors and windows closely fitting
has never entered the primitive mind, and where the cardinal virtue of
patience and endurance of necessary evils wraps the contented native
sufferer like the cloak which he hugs round him. Yet, notwithstanding,
even Lauderdale relaxed out of the settled gloom on his face when he
went to the window of the great bare sitting-room, and gazed out upon
the grand expanse of the Campagna, lighted up with morning sunshine. The
silence of that depopulated plain, with its pathetic bits of ruin here
and there--ruins, to be sure, identified and written down in books, but
speaking for themselves with a more woeful and suggestive voice than can
be uttered by any mere historical associations, through the very depths
of their dumbness and loss of all distinction--went to the spectator’s
heart. What they were or had been, what human hands had erected, or
human hearts rejoiced in them, these lingering remains had ceased to
tell; and it was only with that vagueness which is sadder than any story
that they indicated a former forgotten existence, a past too far away to
be deciphered now.

Lauderdale laid his hand on Colin’s shoulder, and drew him away. “Ay,
ay,” he said, with an unusual thrill in his voice, “it’s grand to hear
that yon’s Soracte, and thereaway is the Sabine country, and that’s Rome
lying away among the clouds. It’s no Rome, callant; it’s a big kirk, or
heathen temple, or whatever you like to call it. I’m no heeding about
Rome. It’s the awfu’ presence of the dead, and the skies smiling at
them--that’s a’ I see. Come away with me, and let’s see if there’s ony
living creatures left. It’s an awfu’ thought to come into a man’s head
in connexion with that bonnie innocent sky,” the philosopher continued,
with a slight shudder, as he drew his charge with him down the chilly
staircase; “but it’s aye bewildering to me to see the indifference of
Nature. It’s terrible like as if she was a senseless heathen hersel’,
and cared nothing about nobody. No that I’m asserting that to be the
case; but it’s gruesome to look at her smiles and her wiles, as if she
kent no better. I’m no addicted to little bairns in a general way,” said
Lauderdale, drawing a long breath, as he emerged from the great door,
and suddenly found himself in the midst of a group of ragged little
picturesque savages; “but it’s aye a comfort to see that there’s still
living creatures left in the world.”

“It is not for the living creatures, however, that people come to
Italy,” said Colin. “Stop here, and have another look at the Campagna. I
am not of your opinion about Nature. Sometimes tears themselves are less
pathetic than a smile.”

“Where did _you_ learn that, callant?” said his friend. “But there’s
plenty of time for the Campagna, and I have aye an awfu’ interest in
human folk. What do the little animals mean, raging like a set of little
furies? Laddies, if you’ve quarrelled fight it out like men, instead of
scolding like a parcel of fishwives,” said the indignant stranger,
addressing himself to a knot of boys who were playing morra. When he
found his remonstrance disregarded, Lauderdale seized what appeared to
him the two ringleaders, and held them, one in each hand, with the
apparent intention of knocking their heads together, entirely
undisturbed by the outcries and struggles of his victims, as well as by
the voluble explanations of the rest of the party. “It’s no use talking
nonsense to me,” said the inexorable judge; “they shall either hold
their tongues, the little cowardly wretches, or they shall fight.”

It was, luckily, at this moment that Alice Meredith made her appearance,
going out to provide for the wants of her family like a careful little
housewife. Her explanation filled Lauderdale with unbounded shame and
dismay. “It’s an awful drawback no to understand the language,” said the
philosopher, with a rush of burning colour to his face, for Lauderdale,
like various other people, could not help entertaining an idea, in spite
of his better knowledge, that English (or what he was pleased to call
English), spoken with due force and emphasis, was sure in the end to be
perfectly intelligible. Having received this painful lesson, he shrank
out of sight with the utmost discomfiture, holding Colin fast, who
betrayed an inclination to accompany Alice. “This will never do; we’ll
have to put to our hands and learn,” said Colin’s guardian. “I never put
much faith before in that Babel business. It’s awfu’ humbling to be made
a fool of by a parcel of bairns.” Lauderdale did not recover this
humiliating defeat during the lengthened survey which followed of the
little town and its dependencies, where now and then they encountered
the slight little figure of Alice walking alone, with a freedom
permitted (and wondered at) to the Signorina Inglese, who thus declared
her independence. They met her at the baker’s, where strings of
biscuits, made in the shape of rings, hung like garlands about the door,
and where the little Englishwoman was using all her powers of persuasion
to seduce the master of the shop into the manufacture of _pane Inglese_,
bread made with yeast instead of leaven; and they met her again in the
dark vicinity of the trattoria, consulting with a dingy _traiteur_ about
dinner; though, fortunately for the success of the meal, the strangers
were unaware that it was out of these dingy shades that their repast was
to come.

Thus the two rambled about, recovering their spirits a little as the
first glow of the Italian sunshine stole over them, and finding summer
in the bright piazza, though winter and gloom lingered in the narrow
streets. Last of all they entered the cathedral, which was a place the
two friends approached with different feelings--Colin’s mind being full
of the curiosity of a man who was himself to be a priest, and who felt
to a certain degree that the future devotions and even government of his
country was in his hands. He was consequently quick to observe, and
even, notwithstanding the prejudices of education, not disinclined to
learn, if anything worth learning was to be seen in the quiet country
church, where at present nothing beyond the ordinary services were going
on. Lauderdale, in whose mind a lively and animated army of prejudices
was in full operation, though met and crossed at every turn by an
equally lively belief in the truth of his fellow-creatures--which was a
sad drawback to his philosophy--went into the Frascati Cathedral with a
curious mixture of open criticism and concealed respect, not unusual in
a Scotchman. He was even ashamed of himself for his own alacrity in
taking off his hat, as if one place could be holier than another; yet,
nevertheless, stowed his gaunt gigantic figure away behind the pillars,
and did what he could to walk softly, lest he should disturb the
devotions of one or two kneeling women, who, however, paused with
perfect composure to look at the strangers without apparently being
conscious of any interruption. As for Colin, he was inspecting the
arrangements of the cathedral at his leisure, when a sudden exclamation
from Lauderdale attracted his attention. He thought his friend had got
into some new bewilderment, and hastened to join him, looking round
first, with the helplessness of a speechless stranger in a foreign
country, to see if there was anyone near who could explain for them in
case of necessity. When, however, Colin had rejoined his companion, he
found him standing rapt and silent before a tombstone covered with
lettering, which was placed against the wall of the church. Lauderdale
made a curious unsteady sign, pointing to it, as Colin approached. It
was a pompous Latin inscription, recording imaginary grandeurs which had
never existed, and bearing the names of three British kings who never
reigned. Neither of the spectators who thus stood moved and speechless
before it had been brought up with any Jacobite tendencies--indeed,
Jacobite ideas had died out of all reality before either of them was
born,--but Lauderdale, Whig and sceptic as he was, uttered hoarsely out
of his throat the two words, “Prince Chairlie!” and then stood silent,
gazing at the stone with its pompous Latin lies and its sorrowful human
story, as if it had been not an extinct family, but something of his own
blood and kindred which had lain underneath. Thus the two strangers went
out, subdued and silenced, from their first sight-seeing. It was not in
man, nor in Scotchman, to see the names and not remember all the
wonderful vain devotion, all the blind heroic efforts that had been made
for these extinct Stuarts; and, with a certain instinctive loyalty,
reverential yet protesting, Colin and his friend turned away from
Charles Edward’s grave.

“Well,” said Lauderdale, after a long pause, “they were little to brag
of, either for wisdom or honesty, and no credit to _us_ that I can see;
but it comes over a man with an awfu’ strange sensation to fall suddenly
without any warning on the grave of a race that was once in such active
connexion with his own. ‘Jacobus III., Carolus III., Henricus IX.’--is
that how it goes? It’s terrible real, that inscription, though it’s a’ a
fiction. They might be a feckless race; but, for a’ that, it was awfu’
hard, when you think of it, upon Prince Chairlie. He was neither a fool
nor a liar, so far as I ever heard--which is more than you can say for
other members of the family; and he had to give way, and give up his
birthright for thae miserable little wretches from Hanover. I dinna so
much wonder, when I think of it, at the ’45. It was a pleasant
alternative for a country, callant, to choose between a bit Dutch idiot
that knew nothing, and the son of her auld kings. I’m no speaking of
William of Orange--he’s awfu’ overrated, and a cold-blooded devil, but
aye a kind of a _man_ notwithstanding--but thae Hanover fellows-- And so
yon’s Prince Chairlie’s grave!”

Just then Meredith, who had come out to bask in the sunshine, came up to
them, and took, as he had learned to do, by way of supporting himself,
Lauderdale’s vigorous arm.

“I forgot to tell you,” he said, “that the Pretender’s grave was there.
I never enter these churches of Antichrist if I can help it. Life is too
short to be wasted even in looking on at the wiles of the destroyer. Oh
that we could do something to deliver these dying souls!”

“I saw little of the wiles of the destroyer for my part,” said
Lauderdale, abruptly; “and, as for the Pretender, there’s many
pretenders, and it’s awfu’ hard to tell which is the true. I know no
harm of Prince Chairlie, the little I do know of him. If it had been
mysel’, I’m no free in my mind to say that I would have let go my
father’s inheritance without striking a blow.”

“These are the ideas of the carnal mind,” said Meredith. “Oh, my friend,
if you would but be more serious! Does not your arrival in this country
suggest to you another arrival which cannot be long delayed--which
indeed, for some of us at least, may happen any day,” the sick man
continued, putting out his long thin hand to clasp that of Colin, who
was on his other side. Lauderdale, who saw this gesture, started aside
with a degree of violence which prevented the meeting of the two invalid
hands.

“I know little about this country,” he said, almost with sullenness;
“but I know still less about the other. It’s easy for you, callants, to
speak. I’m real willing to make experiment of it, if that were
possible,” he continued, softening; “but there’s no an ignorant soul
hereabouts that is more ignorant than me.”

“Let us read together--let us consider it together,” said Meredith; “it
is all set down very plain, you know. He that runneth may read. In all
the world there is nothing so important. My friend, you took pains to
understand about Italy--”

“And a bonnie business I made of it,” said Lauderdale; “deluded by the
very bairns; set right by one that’s little more than a bairn, that
little sister of yours; and now letting myself be drawn into
discussions! I’m twenty years, or near it, older than you are,” he went
on, “and I’ve walked with them that have gone away _yonder_, as far as
flesh and blood would let me. I’m no misdoubting anything that’s
written, callant, if that will satisfy you. It’s a’ an awfu’ darkness,
with visions of white angels here and there; but the angels dinna
belong to me. Whisht--whisht--I’m no profane; I’m wanting more--more
than what’s written; and, as I cannot get that, I must even wait till I
see for myself.--Here’s a grand spot for looking at your Campagna now,”
he said, breaking abruptly off; but poor Meredith, who had so little
time to spare, and whose words had to be in season and out of season,
could not consent to follow, as a man without so great a mission might
have done, the leading of his companion’s thoughts.

“The Campagna is very interesting,” he said, “but it is nothing to the
safety of your soul. Oh, my dear friend!--and here is Campbell, too, who
is not far from the kingdom of heaven. Promise me that you will come
with me,” said the dying man. “I shall not be able to stay long with
you. Promise me that you will come and join me _there_!” He put out his
thin arm, and raised it towards the sky, which kept smiling in its sunny
calm, and took no note of these outbursts of human passion. “I will wait
for you at the golden gates,” the invalid went on, fixing his hollow
eyes first on one and then on another. “You will be my joy and crown of
rejoicing! You cannot refuse the prayer of a dying man.”

Colin, who was young, and upon whom the shadow of these golden gates was
hovering, held out his hand this time, touched to the heart. “I am
coming,” he said, softly, almost under his breath, but yet loud enough
to catch the quick ear of Lauderdale, whose sudden movement displaced
Meredith’s arm, which was clinging almost like a woman’s to his own.

“It’s no for man to make any such unfounded promises,” said Lauderdale,
hoarsely; “though you read till your heart’s sick, there’s nothing
written like _that_. It’s a’ imaginations, and yearnings, and dreams.
I’m no saying that it cannot be, or that it will not be, but I tell you
there’s no such thing written; and, as far as I ken, or you ken, it may
be a’ delusion and disappointment. Whisht, whisht, callants! Dinna
entice each other out of this world, where there’s aye plenty to do for
the like of you. I’m saying, Silence, sir!” cried the philosopher, with
sudden desperation. And then he became aware that he had withdrawn the
support which Meredith stood so much in need of. “A sober-minded man
like me should have other company than a couple of laddies, with their
fancies,” he said, in a hurried, apologetic tone; “but, as long as we’re
together, you may as well take the good of me,” he added, holding out
his arm, with a rare, momentary smile. As for Meredith, for once in his
life--partly because of a little more emotion than usual, partly because
his weakness felt instantly the withdrawal of a support which had become
habitual to him--he felt beyond a possibility of doubt that further
words would be out of season just at that moment: and they resumed their
way a little more silently than usual. The road, like other Italian
roads, was marked by here and there a rude shrine in a niche in the
wall, or a cross erected by the wayside--neither of which objects
possessed in the smallest degree the recommendation of picturesqueness
which sentimental travellers attribute to them; for the crosses were of
the rudest construction, as rude as if meant for actual use, and the
poor little niches, each with its red-eyed Madonna daubed on the wall,
suggested no more idea of beauty than the most arbitrary symbol could
have done. But Meredith’s soul awoke within him when he saw the looks
with which Colin regarded those shabby emblems of religious feeling. The
Protestant paused to regain his breath, and could keep silence no more.

“You look with interest at these devices of Antichrist,” said the sick
man. “You think they promote a love of beauty, I suppose, or you think
them picturesque. You don’t think how they ruin the souls of those who
trust in them,” he said, eagerly and loudly; for they were passing
another English party at that moment, and already the young missionary
longed to accost them, and put his solemn questions about life and death
to their (presumably) careless souls.

“They don’t appear to me at all picturesque,” said Colin; “and nobody
looks at them that I can see except ourselves; so they can’t ruin many
souls. But you and I don’t agree in all things, Meredith. The cross does
not seem to me to come amiss anywhere. Perhaps the uglier and ruder it
is it becomes the more suggestive,” the young man added, with a little
emotion. “I should like to build a few crosses along our Scotch roads;
if anybody was moved to pray, I can’t see what harm would be done; or,
if anybody was surprised by a sudden thought, it might be all the
better; even--one has heard of such a thing,” said Colin, whose heart
was still a little out of its usual balance--“a stray gleam of sunshine
might come out of it here and there. If I was rich like some of your
Glasgow merchants, Lauderdale,” he said, laughing a little, “I think,
instead of a few fine dinners, I’d build a cross somewhere. I don’t see
that it would come amiss on a Scotch road--”

“I wish you would think of something else than Scotch roads,” said
Meredith, with a little vexation; “when I speak of things that concern
immortal souls, you answer me with something about Scotland. What is
Scotland to the salvation of a fellow-creature? I would rather that
Scotland, or England either, was sunk to the bottom of the sea than
stand by and see a man dying in his sins.”

The two Scotchmen looked at each other as he spoke; they smiled to each
other with a perfect community of feeling and motive, which conveyed
another pang of irritation to the invalid who by nature had a spirit
which insisted upon being first and best beloved.

“I think we had better go home,” he said abruptly, after a pause. “I
know Scotch pretty well, but I can’t quite follow when you speak on
these subjects. I want to have a talk with Maria about her brother, who
used to be very religiously disposed. Poor fellow, he’s ill now, and
I’ve got something for him,” said the young man. Here he paused, and
drew forth from his pocket a sheet folded like a map, which he opened
out carefully, looking first to see that there was nobody on the road.
“They took them for maps at the dogana,” said Meredith; “and geography
is not prohibited--to the English at least; but this is better than
geography. I mean to send it to poor Antonio, who can read, poor
fellow.” The map, which was no map, consisted of a large sheet of paper,
intended apparently to be hung upon a wall, and containing the words,
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden,” translated into
Italian. It was not without a little triumph that Meredith exhibited
this effort at clandestine instruction. “He has to lie in bed,” he said,
with a softened inflection of his voice; “this will console him and bear
him company. It is a map of his future inheritance,” the young
missionary concluded, putting it back fondly into its deceitful
folds;--and after this there was an uneasy pause, no one quite knowing
what to say.

“You fight Antichrist with his own weapons, then,” said Colin, “and do
evil that good may come,”--and Lauderdale added his comment almost in
the same breath--

“That’s an awfu’ fruitful principle if you once adopt it,” he said;
“there’s no telling where it may end. I would sooner leave the poor lad
in God’s hands, as no doubt he is, than smuggle in light to him after
that fashion. I’m no fond of maps that are no maps,” said the
dissatisfied critic; by which time Colin had reloaded his guns, and was
ready to fire.

“It is only a few words,” said Colin; “a man might keep such an
utterance in his memory without any necessity for double dealing. Do you
think, for all the good it will do your patient to look at that text, it
is worth your while to risk him and yourself?”

“For myself I am perfectly indifferent,” said Meredith, glad of an
opportunity to defend himself. “I hope I could take imprisonment
joyfully for the saving of a soul.”

“Imprisonment would be death to you,” said Colin, with a touch of
compunction, “and would make an end of all further possibilities of use.
To be thrown into a stony Italian prison at this season--”

“Hush,” said Meredith; “for my Master’s sake could I not bear more than
that? If not, I am not worthy to call myself a Christian. I am ready to
be offered,” said the young enthusiast. “It would be an end beyond my
hopes to die like my Lord for the salvation of my brother. Such a
prophecy is no terror to me.”

“If you two would but hold your tongues for five minutes at a time,”
said Lauderdale, with vexation, “it would be a comfort. No doubt you’re
both ready enough to fling away your lives for any nonsensical idea that
comes into your heads. But suppose we take the case of the other
innocent callant, the Italian lad that a’ this martyrdom’s to be for. No
to say that it’s awfu’ cheating--which my soul loathes,” said the
emphatic Scotchman--“figure to yourselves a wheen senseless women maybe,
or a wheen frightened priests, getting on the scent o’ this heresy of
yours. I’m real reluctant to think that he would not get the same words,
poor callant, in his ain books without being torn to pieces for the sake
of a map that was not a map. It’s getting a wee chilly,” said the
philosopher, “and there’s a fire to be had in the house if nothing else.
Come in, callant, and no expose yourself; and you would put your grand
map in the fire if you were to be guided by me.”

“With these words of consolation on it!” said Meredith, “Never, if it
should cost me my life.”

“Nae fear of its costing you your life; but I wouldna use even the
weapons of God after the devil’s manner of fighting,” said Lauderdale,
with a little impatience. “Allowing you had a’ the charge of saving
souls, as you call it, and the Almighty Himself took no trouble on the
subject, I’m no for using the sword o’ the Spirit to give stabs in the
dark.”

Just then, fortunately, there came a seasonable diversion, which stayed
the answer on Meredith’s lips.

“Arthur, we are going to dine early,” said the voice of Alice just
behind them; “the doctor said you were to dine early. Come and rest a
little before dinner. I met some people just now who were talking of Mr.
Campbell. They were wondering where he lived, and saying they had seen
him somewhere. I told them you were with us,” the girl went on, with the
air of a woman who might be Colin’s mother. “Will you please come home
in case they should call?”

This unexpected intimation ended the ramble and the talk, which was of a
kind rather different from the tourist talk which Colin had shortly to
experience from the lips of his visitors, who were people who had seen
him at Wodensbourne, and had been commissioned by the Franklands to look
for him, and report upon his condition. Little Alice received the ample
English visitors still with the air of being Colin’s mother, or mature
protecting female friend, and talked to the young lady daughter, who was
about half as old again as herself, with an indulgent elderly kindness
which was beautiful to behold. There were a mother, father, daughter,
and two sons, moving about in a compact body, all of whom were
exceedingly curious about the quaint little brotherhood which, with
Alice for its protecting angel, had taken possession of the upper floor
of the Palazzo Savvielli. They were full of a flutter of talk about the
places they had visited, and of questions as to whether their new
acquaintances had been here or there. “I promised Matty to write, and I
shall be sure to tell her I have seen you, and all about it,” the young
lady said, playfully, not without a glance at Alice. Was it possible
that this remark brought a little colour to Alice’s cheek, or was it a
mere reflection from his own thoughts, throwing a momentary gleam across
her unimpassioned face? Anyhow, it occurred to Colin that the little
abstract Alice looked more like an ordinary girl of her years for the
five minutes after the tourist party, leaving a wonderful silence and
sense of relief behind them, had disappeared down the chilly stone
stairs.



CHAPTER XXXI.


It is not to be inferred from what has just been said that it had become
a matter of importance to Colin how Alice Meredith looked. On the
contrary, the relations between the two young people grew more distant,
instead of becoming closer. It was Lauderdale with whom she talked
about the domestic arrangements, which he and she managed together; and
indeed it was apparent that Alice, on the whole, had come to regard
Colin, in a modified degree, as she regarded her brother--as something
to be taken care of, watched, fed, tended, and generally deferred to,
without any great possibility of comprehension or fellowship.
Lauderdale, like herself, was the nurse and guardian of his invalid.
Though she lost sight of him altogether in the discussions which
perpetually arose among the three (which was not so much from being
unable to understand these discussions as from the conclusion made
beforehand that she had nothing to do with them), it was quite a
different matter when they fell into the background to consult what
would be best for their two charges. There Alice was the superior, and
felt her power. She talked to her tall companion with all the freedom of
her age, accepting his as that of a grandfather at least, to the
amusement of the philosopher, to whom her chatter was very pleasant. All
the history of her family (as he imagined) came unawares to Lauderdale’s
ears in this simple fashion, and more of Alice’s own mind and thoughts
than she had the least idea of. He walked about with her as the lion
might have done with Una, with a certain mixture of superiority and
inferiority, amusement and admiration. She was only a little girl to
Lauderdale, but a delightsome thing in her innocent way; and, so far
from approving of Colin’s indifference, there were times when he became
indignant at it, speculating impatiently on the youthful folly which did
not recognise good fortune when it saw it. “Of all women in the world
the wife for the callant, if he only would make use of his een,”
Lauderdale said to himself; but so far from making use of his eyes, it
pleased Colin, with the impertinence of youth, to turn the tables on his
Mentor, and to indulge in unseasonable laughter, which sometimes had all
but offended the graver and older man.

Alice, however, whose mind was bent upon other things, was none the
wiser for this; and for her own part found “Mr. Lauderdale” of wonderful
service to her. When they sat making up their accounts at the end of the
week, Alice with her little pencil putting everything down in pauls and
scudi, which Lauderdale elaborately did into English money, as a
preliminary to the exact division of expenses which the two careful
housekeepers made, the sight was pleasant enough. By times it occurred
that Alice, dreadfully puzzled by her companion’s Scotch, but bound in
chains of iron by her good breeding, which coming direct from the heart
was of the most exquisite type, came stealing up to Colin, after a long
interview with his friend, to ask the meaning of a word or two preserved
by painful mnemonic exercises in her memory; and she took to reading the
Waverley novels by way of assisting her in the new language; but, as the
only available copies of these works were in the shape of an Italian
translation, it may be imagined that her progress was limited, and that
the oral teaching was the most instructive.

Meanwhile, Meredith lived on as best he could, poor fellow, basking in
the sun in the middle of the day, and the rest of his time sitting close
to the fire with as many pillows and cloaks in his hard, old-fashioned
easy chair as might have sufficed for Siberia; and, indeed, it was a
kind of Siberian refuge which they had set up in the top floor of the
empty cold palace, which was used for a residence only during the hot
season, and was adapted solely to the necessities of a blazing Italian
summer. For the Italian winter--often so keen and penetrating, with its
cutting winds that come from the mountains, and those rapid and violent
transitions which form the shadow to its sunshine--there, as elsewhere,
little provision had been made; and the surprise of the inexperienced
travellers, who had come there for warmth and genial atmosphere, and
found themselves suddenly plunged into a life of Spartan endurance--of
deadly chill and iciness indescribable--has been already described. Yet
neither of them would consent to go into Rome, where comfort might be
had by paying for it, and leave the brother and sister alone in this
chilly nest of theirs. So they remained together on their lofty perch,
looking over the great Campagna, witnessing such sunsets and grandeurs
of cloud and wind as few people are privy to all their lifetime;
watching the gleams of snow appear and disappear over the glorious
purple depths of the Sabine hills, and the sun shooting golden arrows
into the sea; and gloom more wonderful still than the light, rolling on
like an army in full march over that plain which has no equal. All these
things they watched and witnessed, with comments of every description,
and with silence better than any comment. In themselves they were a
strange little varied company; one of them, still in the middle of life,
but to his own consciousness done with it, and watching the present
actors as he watched the sunsets; two of them full of undeveloped
prospects beginning the world which was so familiar and yet so unknown;
the last of all making his way steadily with few delays into a world
still more unknown--a world which they all by times turned to
investigate, with speculations, with questions, with enthusiastic
anticipation, with profound, child-like faith. Such was their life up
among the breezes, on the soft slopes of the Alban hills; and in the
midst of everything more serious, of opening life and approaching death,
Lauderdale and Alice sat down together weekly to reckon up their
expenses in Italian and English money, and keep their accounts straight,
as the little housewife termed it, with the world.

During this wintry weather, however, the occupations of the party were
not altogether limited to these weekly accounts. Meredith, though a
little startled by the surprise shown by his companions at the too
ingenious device of the map--which, after all, was not his device, but
that of some Tract Society, or other body more zealous than
scrupulous--had not ceased his warnings, in season and out of season. He
talked to Maria about dying in a way which inspired that simple woman to
the unusual exertion of a pilgrimage to Vicovaro, where the kind Madonna
had just been proved upon ample testimony to have moved her eyes, to the
great comfort and edification of the faithful. “No doubt it would be
much better to be walking about all day among the blessed saints in
heaven, as the Signor Arturo gives himself the trouble of telling me,”
Maria said, with some anxiety in her face, “but _vedi, cara Signorina
mia_, it would be very inconvenient at the beginning of the season;”
and, indeed, the same opinion was commonly expressed by Arthur’s Italian
auditors, who had, for the most part, affairs on hand which did not
admit of immediate attention to such a topic. Even the good-natured
friars at Capo Croce declined to tackle the young Englishman after the
first accost; for they were all of opinion that dying was a business to
be got over in the most expeditious manner possible, not to be dwelt on
either by unnecessary anxiousness before or lingering regret after; and,
as for the inevitable event itself, there were the last sacraments to
make all right--though, indeed, the English invalid, _povero infelice_,
might well make a fuss about a matter which must be so hopeless to him.
This was all the fruit he had of his labours, there being at that time
no enterprising priest at hand to put a stop to the discussions of the
heretic. But, at the same time, he had Colin and Lauderdale close by,
and was using every means in his power to “do them good,” as he said;
and still, in the quiet nights, when the cold and the silence had taken
entire possession of the great, vacant house and the half-frozen
village, poor Meredith, dragged his chair and his table closet to the
fire, and drew his cloak over his shoulders, and added yet another and
another chapter to his “Voice from the Grave.”

As for Colin, if he had been a _littèrateur_ by profession, it is likely
that, by this time, he would have began to compile “Letters from Italy,”
like others of the trade; but, being only a Scotch scholar, the happy
holder of a Glasgow bursary, he felt himself superior to such
temptations; though, indeed, after a week’s residence at Frascati, Colin
secretly felt himself in a condition to let loose his opinion about
Italian affairs in general. In the meantime, however, he occupied
himself in another fashion. Together, he and his watchful guardian made
pilgrimages into Rome. They went to see everything that it was right to
go to see; but, over and above that, they went into the churches--into
all manner of churches out of the way, where there were no grand
functions going on, but only every-day worship. Colin was not a watchful
English divine spying upon the superstition of Rome, nor a rampant
Protestant finding out her errors and idolatries. He was the destined
priest of a nation in a state of transition and renaissance, which had
come to feel itself wanting in the balance after a long period of
self-complacency. With the instinct of a budding legislator and the
eagerness of youth, he watched the wonderful scene before him--not the
Pope, with his peacock feathers, and purple and scarlet followers, and
wonderful audience of heretics--not high masses in great basilicas, nor
fine processions, nor sweet music. The two Scotsmen made part of very
different assemblies in those Lenten days, and even in the joyful time
of Easter, when carriagefulls of English visitors, rushing to the
ceremonies of the week, made the narrow Roman streets almost impassable.
Perhaps it was a feeling of a different kind which drew the two
strangers for the first time to the awful and solemn temple, where once
the heathen gods were worshipped, and where Raphael rests; but let
artists pardon Colin, whose own profession has associations still more
lofty than theirs, if, on his second visit, he forgot Raphael, and even
the austere nobility of the place. A humble congregation of the
commonest people about--people not even picturesque--women with shawls
over their heads, and a few of the dreamy poor old men who seem to spend
their lives about Italian churches, were dotted over the vast floor,
kneeling on those broken marbles which are as old as Christianity; some
dropped at random in the middle, beneath the wonderful blue breadth of
sky which looked in upon their devotions; some about the steps of the
little altars round, and a little group at the special shrine where
vespers were being sung. A lover of music would not have found a voice
worth listening to in the place, and perhaps neither time nor tune was
much attended to; but there was not a soul there, from the faint old men
to the little children, who did not, according to his capabilities, take
up the response, which was to every one, apparently, matter as familiar
as an every-day utterance. These worshippers had no books, and did not
need any. It might be words in a dead language--it might be but
partially understood, or not understood at all; but at least it was
known and familiar as no religious service is in England,
notwithstanding all our national vaunt of the prayer-book, and as
nothing could possibly be in Scotland, where we have no guide (save “the
minister”) to our devotion. When Colin, still weak and easily fatigued,
withdrew a little, and sat down upon the steps of the high altar to
listen, with a kind of shame in his heart at being unable to join those
universal devotions, there came to his ear a wonderful chime of echoes
from the great dome, which sent his poetic heart astray in spite of
itself--for it sounded to the young dreamer like another unseen choir up
there, who could tell of what spectators and assistants?--wistful voices
of the past, coming back to echo the Name which was greater than that of
Jove or Apollo. And then he returned to his legislative thoughts; to his
dreams, patriotic and priestly: to his wondering, incredulous question
with himself whether worship so familiar and so general, so absolutely a
part of their daily existence, could ever be known to his own people.
Such a thought, no doubt, had it been known, would almost have warranted
the withdrawal of the scholarship, and certainly would have deferred
indefinitely Colin’s chances of obtaining licence from any Scotch
Presbytery. But, fortunately, Presbyterians are little interested in
investigating what takes place in the Pantheon at Rome;--whether old
Agrippa breathes a far-off Amen out of the dome of his dead magnificence
to the worship of the Nazarene, as Colin thought in his dreams; or what
vain imaginations may possess the soul of a wandering student there. He
was roused abruptly out of these visions by the English party who had
visited him at Frascati, and who came up to salute him now with that
frank indifference to other people for which our nation is said to be
pre-eminent. They shook hands with him all round, for they were
acquainted with his story, and Colin was of the kind of man to make
people interested in him; and then they began to talk.

“A sad exhibition this, is it not, Mr. Campbell?” said the mother; “one
forgets how dreadful it is, you know, when one sees it in all its
grandeur--with fine music, and silver trumpets, and so forth; but it is
terrible to see all these poor creatures, and to think they know no
better. Such singing! There is not a charity school at home that would
do so badly; and they speak of music in Italy!” said the English matron,
who indeed in her last observation had some truth on her side.

“Hush,” said Colin, who was young, and not above saying a fine thing
when he could; “listen to the echo. Are there some kind angels in the
dome, do you think, to mend the music? or is it the poor old heathens
who hang about for very wistfulness, and say as good an Amen as they
can, poor souls? Listen; I have heard no music like it in Rome.”

“Oh, Mr. Campbell, what a beautiful idea!” said the young lady; and
then, the service being ended, they walked about a little, and looked up
from the centre of the place to the blue wintry sky, which forms the
living centre of that vault of ages--an occupation which Lauderdale
interrupted hurriedly enough by reminding Colin that they had still to
get out to Frascati, and were already after time.

“Oh! you still live in Frascati,” said Colin’s acquaintance, “with that
very strange young man? I never spoke to anybody in my life who startled
me so much. Do you happen to know if he is a son of that very strange
Mr. Meredith, whom there was so much talk of last year? that man, you
know, who pretended to be so very good, and ran away with somebody. Dear
me, I thought everybody knew that story. His son was ill, I know, and
lived abroad. I wonder if it is the same.”

“I don’t think my friend has any father,” said Colin, who, stimulated by
the knowledge that the last train would start in half an hour, was
anxious to get away.

“Ah, well, I hope so, I am sure, for your sake; for _that_ Mr. Meredith
was a dreadful man, and pretended to be _so_ good till he was found
out,” said the lady. “Something Hall was the name of his place. Let me
recollect. Dear me, does nobody know the name?”

“Good-bye; it is our time,” said Colin, and he obeyed the gesture of
Lauderdale, and rushed after his already distant figure; but, before he
had turned the corner of the square, one of the sons overtook him. “I
beg your pardon, but my mother wishes you to know that it was Meredith
of Maltby she was talking of just now,” said the young man out of
breath. Colin laughed to himself as he hastened after his friend. What
had he to do with Meredith of Maltby? But, as he dashed along, he began
to recollect an ugly story in the papers, and to bethink himself of a
certain odd prejudice which he had been conscious of on first hearing
the name of the brother and sister. When he got near enough to
Lauderdale to lay hold of his arm, Colin could not help uttering, as was
usual to him, what was at present on the surface of his mind.

“You know all about them,” he said; “do you think they have a father?”
which simple words were said with a few gasps, as he was out of breath.

“What’s the use of coming after me like a steam-engine?” said
Lauderdale; “did you think I would run away? and you’ve need of a’ your
breath for that weary brae. How should I ken all about them? They’re
your friends, and not mine.”

“All very well, Lauderdale; but she never makes _me_ her confidant,”
said the young man, with his usual laugh.

“It’s no canny to speak of _she_,” said Lauderdale; “it’s awfu’
suggestive, and no a word for either you or me. She has an aunt in
India, and two uncles that died in the Crimea, if you want to know
exactly. That is all she has ever told to me.”

And with this they dismissed the subject from their minds, and,
arm-in-arm, addressed themselves to the arduous task of getting to the
station through the narrow crowded streets in time for the train.



CHAPTER XXXII.


The fatigue of sight-seeing, wound up by a frantic rush to the railway
to be in time for the train, which after all was a train quite at
leisure, as most passengers are in Italy, was too much for the early
budding of Colin’s strength, and laid him up for a day or two, as was
only natural; an occurrence which had a curious effect upon the little
household. To Lauderdale it was a temporary return into those mists of
despair which, partly produced by the philosopher’s own sad experience,
had made him at first come to so abrupt a conclusion touching Colin’s
chances of life. When he saw him once more prostrated, Lauderdale’s
patience and courage alike gave way. He became like a man in a sinking
ship, who has not composure to await the end which is naturally at hand,
but flings himself into the sea to meet it. He talked wildly of going
home, and bitterly of the utter privation of comfort to which his
invalid was exposed; and his heart was closed for the moment even to the
approaches of Alice. “If it hadna been for you!” he said within his
clenched teeth, turning away from her; and was not safe to speak to for
the moment. But, oddly enough, the effect of Colin’s illness upon the
others was of an entirely different character. Instead of distressing
Meredith and his sister, it produced, by some wonderful subtle action
which we do not pretend to explain, an exhilarating effect upon them. It
seemed to prove somehow, to Alice especially, that illness was a general
evil distributed over all the world; that it was a usual thing for young
men to be reduced to weakness and obliged to be careful of themselves.
“Mr. Campbell, you see, is just the same as Arthur. It is a great deal
commoner than one thinks,” the poor little girl said to Sora Antonia,
who had charge of the house; and though her feelings towards Colin were
of the most benevolent and even affectionate description, this thought
was a sensible consolation to her. Meredith regarded the matter from a
different point of view. “I have always hoped that he was one of the
chosen,” the invalid said when he heard of Colin’s illness; “but I
feared that God was leaving him alone. We always judge His ways
prematurely even when we least intend it. We ought to thank God that our
dear friend is feeling His hand, and is subject to chastisements which
may lead him to Christ.”

“Callant,” said Lauderdale fiercely, “speak of things ye understand;
it’s not for you to interfere between a man and his Maker. A soul more
like Him of whom you dare to speak never came out of the Almighty’s
hands. Do you think God is like a restless woman and never can be done
meddling?” said Colin’s guardian, betrayed out of his usual
self-restraint; but his own heart was trembling for his charge, and he
had not composure enough to watch over his words. As for the sick man,
whose own malady went steadily on without any great pauses or sudden
increase, he lifted his dying eyes and addressed himself eagerly, as he
was wont, to his usual argument.

“If any man can understand it, I should,” said Meredith. “Cannot I trace
the way by which He has led _me_?--a hard way to flesh and blood. Cannot
I see how He has driven me from one stronghold after another, leaving me
no refuge but in Christ? And, such being the case, can you wonder that I
should wish the same discipline for my friend? The only thing I should
fear for myself is restoration to health; and are you surprised that I
should fear it for him?”

“I am not surprised at anything but my ain idiocy in having my hand in
the matter,” said Lauderdale; and he went away abruptly to Colin’s room
with a horrible sense of calamity and helplessness. There was something
in Meredith’s confident explanation of God’s dealings which drove him
half frantic, and filled him with an unreasonable panic. Perhaps it was
true; perhaps those lightnings in the clouds had been but momentary--a
false hope. When, however, with his agitation so painfully compressed
and kept under that it produced a morose expression upon his grave face,
he went into Colin’s room, he found his patient sitting up in bed, with
his great-coat over his shoulders, writing with a pencil on the fly-leaf
of the book which his faithful attendant had given him to “keep him
quiet.”

“Never mind,” said the disorderly invalid. “I am all right, Lauderdale.
Give us pen and ink, like a kind soul. You don’t imagine I am ill,
surely, because I am lazy after last night?”

“I’ve given up imagining anything on the subject,” said Colin’s grim
guardian. “When a man in his senses sets up house with a parcel of
lunatics it’s easy to divine what will come of it, lie down in your bed
and keep quiet, and get well again; or else get up,” said Lauderdale,
giving vent to a sharp acrid sound as if he had gnashed his teeth, “and
let us be done with it all, and go home.”

At this Colin opened his great brown eyes, which were as far from being
anxious or depressed as could well be conceived, and laughed softly in
his companion’s face.

“This comes of Meredith’s talk, I suppose,” he said; “and of course it
has been about me, or it would not have riled you. How often have you
told me that you understood the state of mind which produced all that?
He is very good at the bottom, Lauderdale,” said Colin. “There’s a good
fellow, give me my little writing-case. I want to write it out.”

“You want to write what out?” asked Lauderdale. “Some of your nonsense
verses? I’ll give you no writing-case. Lie down in your bed and keep
yourself warm.” “You’re awfu’ fond of looking at your ain productions.
I’ve no doubt its terrible rubbish if a man could read it. Let’s see the
thing. Do you think a parcel of verses in that halting _In Memoriam_
metre--I’m no saying anything against _In Memoriam_--but if _I_ set up
for a poet, I would make a measure for mysel’--are worth an illness?
and the cold of this wretched place is enough to kill ony rational man.
Eetaly! I wouldna send a dog here, to be perished with cold and hunger.
Do what I tell you, callant, and lie down. It shows an awfu’ poverty of
invention, that desire to copy everything out.”

“Stuff!” said Colin; “you don’t suppose it is for myself. I want to give
it to somebody,” said the young man with a conscious smile. And to look
at him with his countenance all a-glow, pleasure and fun and affection
brightening his eyes, and his face lighted up with the gentle commotion
of thought which had ended in that writing of verses, it was hard to
think of him as a man whom God for a solemn purpose had weighted with
affliction--as he had appeared in Meredith’s eyes. Rather he looked,
what he was, one of God’s most joyful and gifted creatures; glad without
knowing why; glad because the sweet imaginations of youth had possession
of him, and filled heaven and earth with brave apparitions. Love and
anxiety had introduced into the heart of Lauderdale, so far as Colin was
concerned, a certain feminine element--and he laughed unsteadily out of
a poignant thrill of relief and consolation, as he took the book from
his patient’s hands.

“He’s no a callant that can do without an audience,” said Lauderdale;
“and, seeing it’s poetry that’s in question, no doubt it’s a female
audience that’s contemplated. You may spare yourself the trouble, Colin.
She’s bonnie, and she’s good; and I’m no free to say that I don’t like
her all the better for caring for none of these things; but I see no
token that she’ll ever get beyond Watts’s hymns all her days. You needna
trouble your head about writing out things for her.”

Upon which Colin reddened a little, and said “Stuff!” and made a long
grasp at the writing-case--which exertion cost him a fit of coughing.
Lauderdale sat by his side gloomily enough all day, asking himself
whether the colour was hectic that brightened Colin’s cheeks, and
listening to the sound of his breathing and the ring of his voice with
indescribable pangs of anxiety. When evening came the watcher had
considerably more fever than the patient, and turned his eyes abroad
over the Campagna, with a gaze which saw nothing glorious in the scene.
At that moment, the sun going down in grandeur over the misty distance,
which was Rome--the wonderful belts and zones of colour in the vault of
sky which covered in that melancholy waste with its specks of ruin--were
nothing in Lauderdale’s eyes in comparison with the vision that haunted
him of a cosy homely room in a Scotch farmhouse, full of warm glimmers
of fire light and humble comforts. “He would mend if he were but at
home,” he said to himself almost with bitterness, turning his eyes from
the landscape without, to which he was indifferent, to the bare white
stony walls within. He was so cold sitting there, he who was well and
strong, that he had put on his great-coat. And it was for this he had
brought the youth whom he loved so far away from those “who belonged to
him!” Lauderdale thought with a pang of the Mistress, and what she would
say if she could see the comfortless place to which she had sent her
boy. Meanwhile the patient who caused so much anxiety, was, for his own
part, very comfortable, and copied out his verses with a care that made
it very apparent he had no intention of coming to a speedy end, either
of life or its enjoyments. He had not written anything for a long time,
and the exercise was pleasant to him--and when it was done he lay back
on his pillows, and took the trouble to remark to Lauderdale upon the
decorations of the poor bare stony chamber which the philosopher was
cursing in his heart.--“We are before them in some things,” said Colin,
reflectively, “but they beat us in a great many. See how simply that
effect is obtained--just a line or two of colour, and yet nothing could
be more perfect in its way.” To which observation Lauderdale responded
only by an indescribable growl, which provoked the laughter of his
unruly patient. The next remark Colin made was, however, received with
greater favour, for he asked plaintively if it was not time for
dinner--a question more soothing to Lauderdale’s feelings than volumes
of remonstrances. He carried Colin’s portion into the room when that
meal arrived from the Trattoria, scorning female assistance, and
arranging everything with that exquisite uncouth tenderness which,
perhaps, only a woman could do full justice to; for the fact is, that
Colin, though ravenously hungry, and fully disposed to approve of the
repast, had a momentary thought that it would have been ever so much
pleasanter to have been served by the little housekeeper herself.

When the darkness had hushed and covered up the Campagna, and stilled
all the village sounds, Lauderdale himself, a little flushed from an
address he had just been delivering to Meredith, went in and looked at
the sleeping face which was so precious to him, and tortured himself
once more with questions whether it might be fever which gave colour to
the young man’s cheek. But Colin, notwithstanding his cold, was
breathing full long breaths, with life in every inspiration, and his
friend went not uncomforted to bed.

But while Colin lay thus at rest, Meredith had resumed his writing, and
was working into his current chapter the conversation which had just
taken place. “The worldly man asks if the afflictions of the just are
signs of favouritism on God’s part,” wrote the young author, “and
appeals to us whether a happy man is less beloved of his Father than I
am who suffer. He virtually contradicts scripture, and tells me that the
Lord does _not_ scourge every son whom He receiveth. But I say, and the
Holy Bible says with me, Tremble, oh ye who are happy--our troubles are
God’s tokens of love and mercy to our souls.” As he wrote this, the
young eyes, which were so soon to close upon life, brightened and
expanded with a wonderful glow. His mind was not broad nor catholic, nor
capable of perceiving the manifold diversity of those ways of God which
are beyond the comprehension of men. He could not understand how, upon
the last and lightest labourer, the Master of the vineyard might bestow
the equal hire; and--taking that as the hardest labour which fell to his
own share--was bent at least on making up for it by the most supreme
compensation. And, indeed, it was hard to blame him for claiming, by way
of balance to his afflictions, a warmer and closer share in the love of
God. At least, that was no vulgar recompense. As for the “worldly man”
of Arthur’s paragraph, he, too, sat a long while in his chamber, not
writing, but pondering--gazing into the flame of the tall Roman lamp on
his table as if some solution of the mysteries in his thoughts was to be
found in its smoky light. To identify Lauderdale in the character of a
worldly man would have been difficult enough to any one who knew him;
yet, to Meredith, he had afforded a perfect example of “carnal
reasoning,” and the disposition which is according to the flesh, and not
according to the Spirit. This worldly-minded individual sat staring into
the lamp, even after his young critic had ceased to write--revolving
things that he could see were about to happen, and things which he
dreaded without being able to see; and more than all wondering over that
awful mystery of Providence to which the young invalid gave so easy a
solution. “It wouldna be so hard to make out if a man could think he was
less loved than his fellows, as they thought lang-syne,” said Lauderdale
to himself, “or more loved, as, twisting certain scriptures, it’s the
fashion to say now; but its awfu’ ill to understand such dealings in Him
that is the Father of all, and makes nae favourites. Poor Callant! it’s
like he’ll be the first to find the secret out.” And, as he pondered, he
could not restrain a groan over the impending fate which threatened
Meredith, and on the complications that were soon to follow. To be sure,
he had nothing particular to do with it, however it might happen; but
every kind of Christian tenderness and charity lurked in the heart of
the homely Scotch philosopher who stood in Arthur Meredith’s last
chapter as the impersonation of the worldly man.

Next day Colin reappeared, to the astonishment of the brother and
sister. Let us not say, to their disappointment--and yet poor little
Alice, underneath her congratulations, said to herself with a pang, “He
has got well--they all get well but Arthur;” and, when she was aware of
the thought, hated herself, and wondered wistfully whether it was
because of her wickedness that her prayers for Arthur were not heard.
Anxiety and even grief are not the improving influences they are
sometimes thought to be--and it is hard upon human nature to be really
thankful for the benefits which God gives to others, passing over one’s
self. Meredith, who was the sufferer in his own person, could afford to
be more generous. He said, “I am glad you are better” with all his
heart; and then he added--“The Lord does not mean to leave you alone,
Campbell. Though He has spared you, He still continues His warnings. Do
not neglect them, I beseech you, my dear friend”--before he returned to
his writing. He was occupied now day and night with his “Voice from the
Grave.” He was less able to walk, less able to talk, than he had been,
and now, as the night came fast in which no man can work, was devoting
all his time and all his feeble strength to this last message to the
world.

It would have been pitiful enough to any indifferent spectator to note
the contrast between the sick man’s solemn labour apart, and the glow of
subdued pleasure in Colin’s face as he drew his seat in the evening
towards the table which Alice had chosen for herself. The great bare
room had so much space and so many tables, and there was so large a
stock of lamps among the movables of the house, that each of the party
had a corner for himself, to which (with his great-coat on or otherwise)
he could retire when he chose. The table of Alice was the central point;
and as she sat with the tall antique lamp throwing its primitive
unshaded light upon her, still and graceful with her needlework, the
sight of her was like that of a supreme _objet de luxe_ in the otherwise
bare apartment. Perhaps, under due protection and control, the presence
of womankind, thus calm, thus silent--letting itself, as the old maxim
commanded, be seen and not heard--is to men of sober mind and middle
age--such as Lauderdale, for example--the most agreeable ornament with
which a room could be provided. Younger individuals might prefer that
the tableau should dissolve, and the impersonation of womankind melt
into an ordinary woman. Such at least was the feeling of Colin. She was
very sweet to look at; but, if she had descended from her pedestal, and
talked a little and laughed a little, and even perhaps--but the idea of
anything like flirtation on the part of Alice Meredith was too absurd an
idea to be entertained for a moment. However, abstracted and preoccupied
as she was; she was still a woman young and fair--and Colin’s voice
softened and his eyes brightened as he drew his chair to the other side
of the lamp, and looked across the table at her soft, downcast face. “I
have something here I want you to look at,” said the young poet, who had
been used to Matty Frankland’s sympathy and curiosity; “not that it is
much worth your while; but Lauderdale told you that writing verses was a
weakness of mine,” he went on, with, a youthful blush and smile. As for
Alice, she took the paper he gave her, looking a little frightened, and
held it for a moment in her hand.

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Campbell; am I to read it?” she said, with puzzled,
uncertain looks. Naturally enough she was perplexed and even frightened
by such an address; for, as Lauderdale said, her knowledge of poetry was
confined to hymns, over which hung an awful shadow from the “Paradise
Lost.” She opened Colin’s “copy of verses” timorously as she spoke, and
glanced at them, and stumbled at his handwriting, which, like most other
people’s in these, scribbling days, was careless and indistinct. “I am
sure it is very pretty,” faltered Alice as she got to the end of the
page; and then, more timidly still, “What am I to do with it, Mr.
Campbell?” asked the poor girl. When she saw the sudden flush that
covered his face, Alice’s slumbering faculties were wakened up by the
sharp shock of having given pain--which was a fault which she had very
seldom consciously committed in the course of her innocent life.

Colin was too much a gentleman to lose his temper; but it is impossible
to deny that the effort which he made to keep it was a violent one, and
required all his manhood. “Keep it if you like it,” he said, with a
smile which thinly covered his mortification; “or put it in the fire if
you don’t.” He said this as philosophically as was possible under the
circumstances. And then he tried a little conversation by way of proving
his perfect composure and command of his feelings, during which poor
Alice sat fluttered and uncomfortable and self-conscious as she had
never been before. Her work was at an end for that night at least. She
held Colin’s little poem in her hand, and kept her eyes upon it, and
tried with all her might to invent something gracious and complimentary
which could be said without offence; for, of course, carefully as he
imagined himself to have concealed it, and utterly unconscious of the
fact as Lauderdale remained, who was watching them, Alice was as
entirely aware of the state of Colin’s mind and temper at the moment as
he was himself. After a while he got up and went to Meredith’s table by
the fire; and the two began to talk, as Alice imagined, of matters much
too serious and momentous to leave either at leisure to remark her
movements. When she saw them thus occupied she left the room almost
stealthily, carrying with her the tall lamp with its four tongues of
flame. She set down her light in her own room when she reached that
sanctuary, and once more read and pored over Colin’s poem. There was
nothing about love in it, and consequently nothing improper or alarming
to Alice. It was all about the Pantheon and its vespers, and the echoes
in the dome. But then why did he give it to her? why did he look so much
disturbed when she in her surprise and unreadiness hesitated over it?
Such an offering was totally new to Alice: how could she be expected to
understand exactly how it ought to be received? But it is impossible to
describe how vexed and mortified she was to find she had failed of what
was expected of her, and inflicted pain when she might have given
pleasure. She had been rude, and to be rude was criminal in her code of
manners; and a flutter of other questions, other curiosities, awoke
without any will of her own in the young creature’s maiden bosom; for,
indeed, she was still very young, not nineteen, and so preoccupied by
one class of thoughts that her mind had been absolutely barred against
all others until now.

The end was that Alice put away Colin’s poem in the private pocket of
her writing-case, the very innermost of her sanctuaries. “How clever he
is,” she thought to herself; “how odd that such things should come into
any one’s head; and to think I had not even the civility to say that it
was beautiful poetry!” Then she went back very humbly into the
sitting-room, and served Colin with the last cup of tea, which was the
most excellent. “For I know you like strong tea, Mr. Campbell,” she
said, looking at him with appealing eyes. “It feels quite strange to
think that we should know you so well--you who can write such beautiful
poetry,”[1] she managed to say later in the evening. “I have always
supposed a poet so different.”

“With wings, perhaps?” said Colin, who was not displeased even with this
simple testimony.

“Oh no,” said Alice, “that is impossible, you know--but certainly very
different; and it was so very kind to think of giving it to me.”

Thus she made her peace with the young man--but it is doubtful how far
she promoted her own by so doing. It introduced a new element of wonder
and curiosity, if nothing more, into her watching life.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


“It would be a great satisfaction to me,” said Lauderdale, “to have some
understanding about their relations. There’s few folk so lonely in this
world but what they have some kin, be they kind or not. It’s awfu’ to
look at this poor bit thing, and think how forlorn she’ll be by and by,
when----”

“When?” said Colin--“what do you mean? Meredith is not worse that I can
see. Is _that_ what you are thinking of?”

“It’s an awfu’ gradual descent,” said Lauderdale; “nae precipices
there--and pitiful to behold; but he’s making progress on his way. I’m
no mistaken, callant; a man like me has seen such sights before. It
looks as if it could go on for ever, and nae great difference
perceptible from day to day; but the wheel’s aye turning and the thread
spinning off, and nobody can say for certain what moment it may break,
like glass, and the spinning come to an end. Ay, it’s an awfu’ mystery.
You may break your heart thinking, but you’ll come to no solution. I’ve
tried it as much as most men, and should ken;--but that’s no the matter
under consideration. I would be glad to know something about their
friends.”

“I don’t suppose they have any friends,” said Colin, who had by this
time forgotten the suggestion of his English acquaintances. “He would
never have brought his sister here with him if he had had anyone to
leave her with--that is, if he believed, as he says he does, that he was
going to die,” said the young man, with a pang of fellow-feeling and
natural pity, “which are terrible words to say.”

“I’m no so sure about either of your propositions,” said Lauderdale;
“I’ve very little objection to die, for my part. No to speak of hopes a
man has as a Christian--though I maybe canna see them as clear as that
poor callant thinks he does--it would be an awfu’ satisfaction to ken
what was the meaning of it all, which is my grand difficulty in this
life. And I cannot say I am satisfied, for that matter, that he brought
his sister here for want of somebody to leave her with; she’s a kind of
property that he wouldna like to leave behind. He was not thinking of
her when they started, but of himsel’; nor can I see that his mind’s
awakening to any thought of her even now, though he’s awfu’ anxious, no
doubt, about her soul, and yours, and mine. Whisht! it’s temperament,
callant. I’m no blaming the poor dying lad. It’s hard upon a man if he
cannot be permitted to take some bit female creature that belongs to him
as far as the grave’s mouth. She maun find her way back from there the
best way she can. It’s human nature, Colin, for a’ you look like a
glaring lion at me.”

“I prefer your ordinary manner of expounding human nature,” said Colin.
“Don’t talk like this; if Miss Meredith is left so helpless and
solitary, at all events, Lauderdale, she can rely on you and me.”

“Ay,” said the philosopher shortly; “and grand protectors we would be
for the like of her. Two men no her equals in the eye of the world--I’m
no heeding your indignant looks, my freend; I’m a better judge than you
of some things--and one of us no of an age to be over and above
trusted. A lad like you can take care of a bit thing like her only in
one way; and that’s out of the question under present
circumstances--even if either of you were thinking of such vanities, of
which I see no sign.”

“None whatever,” said Colin, with momentary heat. “She is not in my way;
and, besides, she is greatly too much occupied to think of any such
vanities, as you say.”

Lauderdale cast a half-amused, suspicious look at his companion, whose
face was flushed a little. Colin was thinking only of Alice’s want of
comprehension and sympathy on the previous night; but the touch of
offence and mortification was as evident as if she had been unkind to
him in more important particulars.

“Being agreed on that point, it’s easier to manage the rest,” Lauderdale
resumed, with the ghost of a smile; “and I dinna pretend, for my own
part, to be a fit guardian for a young leddy. It’s a’ very well for
Telle-machus to wander about the world like this, but I’m no qualified
to keep watch and ward over the princess. Poor thing!” said the
philosopher, “it’s awfu’ early to begin her troubles; but I would be
easy in my mind, comparatively, if we could find out about their
friends. She’s no so very communicative in that particular; and she has
her bit woman’s whiles, innocent as she looks. She’ll give me no
satisfaction, though I’m awfu’ cunning in my questions. What was it yon
silly woman said about some Meredith of some place? I’m no without
suspicions in my own mind.”

“What sort of suspicions?” said Colin. “She said Meredith of Maltby. I
wrote it down somewhere. There was a row about him in the papers--don’t
you remember--a few years ago.”

“Oh ay, I remember,” said Lauderdale; “one of them that consume widows’
houses, and for a pretence make long prayers. The wonder to me is how
this callant, if he should happen to be such a man’s son, did not take a
sickening at religion altogether. That’s the consequence in a common
mind. It gives me a higher notion of this poor lad. He has his faults,
like most folk I ken,” said Lauderdale. “He’s awfu’ young, which is the
chief of all, and it’s one that will never mend in his case in this
life; but, if he’s yon man’s son, no to have abandoned a’ religion, no
to have scorned the very name of preaching and prayer, is a clear token
to me that the root of the matter’s in him; though he may be a wee
unrighteous to his ain flesh and blood”--the philosopher went on
philosophically--“that’s neither here nor there.”

“If religion does not make us righteous to our own flesh and blood, what
is the good of it?” said Colin. “To care for souls, as you say, but not
to care for leaving his sister so helpless and desolate, would be to me
as bad as his father’s wickedness. Bah! his father!--what am I saying?
He is no more his father than the Duke is mine. It is only a coincidence
of name.”

“I’m making no assertions,” said Lauderdale. “It may be or it may not
be; I’m no saying: but you should aye bear in mind that there’s an awfu’
difference between practice and theory. To have a good theory--or, if ye
like, a grand ideal--o’ existence, is about as much as a man can attain
to in this world. To put it into full practice is reserved, let us aye
hope, for the life to come. However, I wouldna say,” said Colin’s
guardian, changing his tone, “but that kind of practical paradox might
run in the blood. Our friend Arthur, poor man! has no meaning of neglect
to his sister. Do no man injustice. Maybe the other had as little
intention of cheating them that turned out his victims. An awfu’
practical accident like that might be accompanied by a beautiful theory.
Just as in the case of his son--”

“Stuff!” said Colin, who thought his friend prosy. “Why will you insist
on saying ‘his son?’ Meredith is not an uncommon name. You might as well
say Owen Meredith was his brother.”

“There’s nothing more likely,” said the philosopher, composedly;
“brothers aye take different roads, especially when they come out of
such a nest; but listen now to what I’ve got to say----”

What Lauderdale had to say was still upon the subject of which Colin by
this time had got tired--the supposed connexion of the brother and
sister with the famous, or rather notorious Meredith of Maltby, who was
one of the great leaders of that fashion of swindling so prevalent a few
years ago, by means of which directors of banks and joint-stock
companies brought so many people to ruin. Of these practitioners Mr.
Meredith of Maltby had been one of the most successful. He had passed
through one or two disagreeable examinations, it is true, in Insolvent
Courts and elsewhere; but he had managed to steer clear of the law, and
to retain a comfortable portion of his ill-gotten gains. He was a pious
man, who subscribed to all the societies, and had, of course, since
these unpleasant accidents occurred, been held up to public admiration
by half the newspapers of Great Britain as an instance of the natural
effect produced upon the human mind by an assumption of superior piety;
and more than one clever leading article, intended to prove that lavish
subscriptions to benevolent purposes, and attendance at prayer meetings,
were the natural evidences of a mind disposed to prey on its
fellow-creatures, had been made pointed and emphatic by his name.
Lauderdale’s “case” was subtle enough, and showed that he, at least, had
not forgotten the hint given in the Pantheon. He told Colin that all his
cunning inquiries could elicit no information about the father of the
forlorn pair. Their mother was dead, and, so far as she was concerned,
Alice was sufficiently communicative; and she had an aunt in India whom
Lauderdale knew by heart. “A’ that is so easy to draw out that the other
is all the more remarkable,” said the inquisitor; “and it’s awfu’
instructive to see the way she doubles out when I think I’ve got her in
a corner--no saying what’s no true, but fencing like a little Jesuit;
that is, speaking proverbially, and no vouching for my premises, for I
ken nothing about Jesuits in my ain person. I would like to be at the
bottom of a woman’s notions on such subjects. The way that bit thing
will lift up her innocent face, and give me to understand a lee without
saying it--”

“Be civil,” interrupted Colin; “a lie is strong language, especially as
you have no right whatever to question her so closely.”

“I said nothing about lies,” said Lauderdale; “I say she gives me to
understand a _lee_ without saying a word that’s no true; which is not
only an awfu’ civil form of expression on my part, but a gift of
womankind that, so far as I ken, is just unparalleled. If it werna
instinct it would be genius. She went so far as once to say, in her bit
fine way, that they were not quite happy in a’ their connexions--‘There
are some of our friends that Arthur can’t approve of,’ said she, which
was enough to make a man laugh or cry--whichever he might be most
disposed to. A bonnie judge Arthur is, to be believed in like that. But
the end of the whole matter is that I’m convinced the hot-headed callant
has carried her off from her home without anybody’s knowledge, and that
it’s an angry father you and me will have to answer to when we are left
her protectors, as you say.”

“I hope I am not afraid to meet anybody when I have justice on my side,”
said Colin, loftily. “She is nothing more to me than any other helpless
woman; but I will do my best to take care of her against any man
whatsoever, if she is trusted to me.”

Lauderdale laughed with mingled exasperation and amusement. “Bravo,” he
said; “the like of that’s grand talking; but I’ll have no hand, for my
part, in aiding and abetting domestic treason. I’m far from easy in my
mind on the subject altogether. It’s ill to vex a dying man, but it’s
worse to let a spirit go out of the world with guilt on its head. I’m in
an awfu’ difficulty whether to speak to him or no. If you would but come
down off your high horse and give me a little assistance. It’s a braw
business, take it all together. A young woman, both bonnie and good, but
abject to what her brother bids her, even now when he’s living--and us
two single men, with nae justification for meddling, and an indignant
father, no doubt, to make an account to. It’s no a position I admire,
for my part.”

“It was I that drew you into it,” said Colin, with some resentment.
“After all, they were my friends to begin with. Don’t let me bring you
into a responsibility which is properly mine.”

“Ay, ay,” said Lauderdale, calmly, “that’s aye the way with you
callants. If a man sees a difficulty in anything concerning you, off you
fling, and will have no more to do with him. I’m no one to be dismissed
in that fashion--no to say that it would be more becoming to consider
the difficulty, like reasonable creatures, and make up our minds how it
is to be met.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Colin, repentant; “only, to be sure, the
imprudence, if there was any imprudence, was mine. But it is hard to be
talking in this manner, as if all was over, while Meredith lives, poor
fellow. Such invalids live for ever, sometimes. There he is, for a
miracle, riding! When summer comes he may be all right.”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, “I make no doubt of that; but no in your way.
He’ll be better off when summer comes.” Meredith turned a corner close
upon them as he spoke. He was riding, it is true, but only on a mule,
jogging along at a funeral pace, with Alice walking by his side. He
smiled when he met them; but the smile was accompanied by a momentary
flush, as of shame or pain.

“The last step but one,” he said. “I have given up walking for ever. I
did not think I should ever have come to this; but my spirit is proud,
and needs to be mortified. Campbell, come here. It is long since we have
had any conversation. I thought God was dealing with your soul when I
last talked to you. Tell me, if you were as far gone as I am--if you
were reduced to _this_”--and the sick man laid his thin white hand upon
the neck of the animal he was riding--“what consolation would you have
to keep you from sinking? It may come sooner than you think.”

“It is not easy to imagine how one would conduct oneself under such
circumstances,” said Colin; “let us talk of something else. If it were
coming--and it may be, for anything I can tell--I think I should prefer
not to give it too much importance. Look at that low blaze of sunshine,
how it catches St. Peter’s. These sunsets are like dramas--but nobody
plans the grouping beforehand,” said the young man, with an involuntary
allusion which he was sorry for the next moment, but could not recall.

“That is an unkind speech,” said Meredith; “but I forgive you. If I
could plan the grouping, as you say, I should like to collect all the
world to see me die. Heathens, papists, Mahometans, Christians of every
description--I would call them to see with what confidence a Christian
could traverse the dark valley, knowing Him who can sustain, and who has
preceded him there.”

“Yes, that was Addison’s idea; but his was an age when people did things
for effect,” said Colin: “and everything I have heard makes me believe
that people generally die very composedly upon the whole. The best and
wisest are scarcely superior in that respect to the ignorant and
stupid--scarcely even to the wicked. Either people have an infinite
confidence in themselves and their good fortune; or else absolute faith
in God is a great deal more general than you think it. I should like to
believe that last was the case. Pardon me for what I said. You who
realize so strongly what you are going to, should certainly die, when
that time comes, a glorious and joyful death.”

At these words a cloud passed over the eager, hectic countenance which
Meredith had turned to his friend. “Ah, you don’t know,” he said, with a
sudden depression which Colin had never seen in him before. “Sometimes
God sees fit to abandon His servants even in that hour; what, if after
preaching to others I should myself be a castaway?” This conversation
was going on while Alice talked to Lauderdale of the housekeeping, and
how the man at the Trattoria had charged a scudo too much in the last
weekly bill.

“Meredith,” said Colin, laying his hand on his friend’s arm, and
forgetting all the discussion with Lauderdale which had occupied the
afternoon, “when you say such words as Father and Saviour you put some
meaning in them, do you not? You don’t think it depends upon how you
feel to-day or to-morrow whether God will stand by his children or not?
I don’t believe in the castaway as you understand it.”

“Ah, my dear friend, I am afraid you don’t believe in any castaways;
don’t fall into that deadly error and snare of the devil,” said the sick
man.

“We must not discuss mysteries,” said Colin. “There are men for whom no
punishment is bad enough, and whom no amount of mercy seems to benefit.
I don’t know what is to become of them. For my own part I prefer not to
inquire. But this I _know_, that my father, much less my mother, would
not altogether abandon their son for any crime; and does not God love us
better than our fathers and our mothers?” said Colin, with a moisture
gathering in his brown eyes and brightening his smile. As for Meredith,
he snatched his hand away, and pushed forward with a feverish impulse. A
sound, half sigh, half groan, burst from him, and Colin could see that
this inarticulate complaint had private references of which he knew
nothing. Then Lauderdale’s suggestion returned to his mind with singular
force; but it was not a time to make any inquiries, even if such had
been possible. Instinctively, without knowing it, Meredith turned from
that subject to the only other which could mutually interest men so
unlike each other; and what he said betrayed distinctly enough what had
been the tenor of his thoughts.

“_She_ has no mother,” said Meredith, with a little wave of his hand
towards his sister. “Poor Alice! But I have no doubt God has gracious
purposes towards her,” he continued, recovering himself. “_This_ is in
the family, and I don’t doubt she will follow me soon.”

It was thus he disposed of the matter which for the strangers to whose
care he was about to leave her, was a matter of so much anxious thought.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


After this Meredith’s malady made gradual but rapid progress. When Colin
and his friend returned from Rome in the evenings, after their
expeditions there, they thought they could see a difference in his looks
even from the morning. He ceased to move about; he ceased to go out;
finally he ceased to get up from his bed. All these changes were
accomplished very gradually, with a heart-breaking regularity of
succession. Alice, who was constantly engaged about him, doing every
kind of office for him, was fortunately too much occupied to take full
cognizance of that remorseless progress of decay; but the two friends,
who watched it with eyes less urgent than those of love, yet almost more
painfully pitiful, could trace all the little advances of the malady.
Then there came the time, the last stage of all, when it was necessary
to sit up with him all night--an office which Colin and Lauderdale
shared between them, to let the poor little sister have a little
reluctant rest.

The season had warmed into May, of all seasons the sweetest in Italy. To
see the sun shine, it seemed impossible to think that he would not shine
for ever; and, when the window of the sick room was opened in the early
morning, such a breath of life and happiness came in--such a sweet gust
of air, wild from the great breadth of the Campagna, breathing of dews
and blossoms--as felt to Colin’s lips like an elixir of life. But that
breathing balm imparted no refreshment to the dying man. He was not
suffering much; he was only weary to the bottom of his soul--languid and
yet restless, eager to be moved, yet unable to bear any motion. While
Alice withdrew behind them by times to shed the tears that kept always
gathering, and say a prayer in her heart for her dying brother--a prayer
in which, with a child’s simplicity, she still left room for his
restoration, and called it possible--the two others watched with the
profoundest interest that which was not only the dying of a friend, but
the waning of a life. To see him so individual and characteristic, with
all the notable features and even faults of his mind as distinct and
apparent as if he had been in the strongest health, and yet so near the
end, was the strangest spectacle. What was it the end of? He directed
them all from his deathbed, and, indeed, controlled them all, with a
will stronger than ever before, securing his own way in face of all
their remonstrances, and, indeed, seemed to grow more and more strong,
absolute, and important, as he approached the final stage of
weakness--which is a sight always wonderful to see. He kept on writing
his book, propped up upon pillows, as long as he had strength enough to
hold the pen; but, when that power too failed him, the unyielding soul
coerced itself into accepting the pen of another, and dictated the last
chapter, at which Alice laboured during the day, and which occasionally,
to beguile the tedium of the long night-watches, his other attendants
were permitted to carry on.

The nights grew shorter and shorter as the season advanced, and
sometimes it was by the lovely light of the dawning morning, instead of
the glimmer of the lamp, that these solemn sentences were written. At
other moments, when the patient could not sleep, but was content to
rest, wonderful scraps of conversation went on in that chamber of death.
Meredith lay gaunt and wasted among his pillows--his great eyes filling
the room, as the spectators sometimes thought; and by his bedside rose,
sometimes the gigantic figure of Lauderdale, dimly visible by means of
the faint night-light--sometimes Colin’s young softened face and air of
tender compassion. It did not occur to any of the three to ask by what
right they came together in relations so near and sacred. The sick man’s
brothers, had he possessed them, could not have watched him with more
care, or with less doubt about his claim upon all their ministrations:
but they talked with him as perhaps no brother could have
talked--recognising the reality of his position, and even discussing it
as a matter in which they too had the profoundest interest. The room was
bare enough, and contained little comfort to English eyes--uncarpeted,
with bare tiles underneath the feet, and scantily furnished with an old
sofa, a chair or two, and a table. There were two windows, which looked
out upon the Campagna which the dying man was to see no more, nor cared
to see. But that great living picture, of no benefit to him, was the
only one there; for poor Meredith had himself caused to be taken down
from the wall a print of the Madonna, and the little cross with its
basin for holy water underneath, which had hung at the head of his bed.
He had even sent away a picture of the Crucifixion--a bad, yet not
unimpressive copy. “I want no outward symbols,” said the sick man;
“there will be none where I am going,” and this was the beginning of one
of those strange talks by night.

“It’s awfu’ difficult to ken,” said Lauderdale. “For my part it’s a
great wonder to me that there has never been any revelation worthy of
credit out of that darkness. That poor fellow Dives, in the parable, is
the only man I mind of that takes a Christian view of the subject. He
would have sent one to tell. The miracle is, that nae man was ever
permitted to come.”

“Don’t say so,” said Meredith. “Oh, my dear friend! if you could but
know the joy it would give me to bring you to Christ before I die--to
see you accept and receive Him. Has not He come to seek and to save?”

“Callant,” said the watcher, with a long drawn breath, “I’ve longer
acquaintance with Him than you can have; and if I dinna believe in Him I
would hang myself, and get to an explanation of all things. If it was
not for Him, wherefore should I, that have nobody dependent on me,
endure the mystery? But that’s no answer to my question. He came to put
a meaning in the world that has little enough signification without Him,
but no to answer a’ the questions that a human spirit can put to heaven
and earth. I’ve heard of bargains made between them that were to die and
them that had to live--”

“You put it in a strange way, Lauderdale,” said the dying man; “most
people would say, those who had to die. But what can any one want beyond
what is revealed--Jerusalem the golden? How strange it is to think that
a worm like me shall so soon be treading those shining streets, while
you--you whom the world thinks so much better off--”

“Whisht,” said Lauderdale, with a husky voice. “Do you no think it would
be an awfu’ satisfaction to us that stay behind if we could have but a
glint of the shining streets you speak of? Many a long day we’ll strain
our eyes and try hard to see you there, but a’ to little purpose. I’m no
saying I would not take it on trust for myself, and be content with what
God pleased; but it’s hard to part with them that belong to us, and ken
nothing about them--where they are, or how they are--”

“They are in Heaven! If they were children of God they are with Him,”
said the sick man, anxiously. “Lauderdale, I cannot bear to think that
you do not believe--that perhaps I may not meet you there.”

“Maybe no,” said the philosopher; “there’s the awfu’ question. A man
might go ranging about the shining streets (as you say) for ever, and
never find them that belonged to him; or, if there’s no geographical
limits, there may be others harder to pass. It’s awfu’ little comfort I
can get for my own mind out of shining streets. How am I to picture you
to myself, callant, when I take thoughts of you? I have the fancy in my
mind to give you messages to friends I have away yonder; but how can I
tell if you’ll ever see them? It’s no a question of believing or not
believing; I put little faith in Milton, and none in the good books,
from which two sources we draw a great part of our talk about Heaven.
It’s no even to ken if they’re happy or no happy that troubles me. I’ve
nae hesitation to speak of in leaving _that_ in God’s hand. It’s but to
have an inkling ever so slight where ye are, and how you are,” said
Lauderdale, unconsciously changing his pronouns, “and that ye keep
thought of us that spend so many thoughts on you.”

After this there was a little pause, which fell into the perfect
stillness of the night outside, and held the little dim-lighted chamber
in the midst of all the darkness, like the picture of a shadowy
“interior,” with two motionless figures, the living and the dying,
painted upon the great gloom of night. Meredith, who, notwithstanding
the superior intensity of his own thoughts, had been moved by
Lauderdale’s--and who, used as he was to think himself dying, yet
perhaps heard himself thus unconsciously reckoned among the dead with a
momentary thrill--was the first to speak.

“In all this I find you too vague,” said the patient. “You speak about
Heaven as if you were uncertain only of its aspect; you have no anxiety
about the way to get there. My friend, you are very good to me--you are
excellent, so far as this world goes; I know you are. But, oh,
Lauderdale, think! Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Before you
speculate about Heaven, ask yourself are you sure to get there?”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, vaguely, “it’s maybe a wee like the question of
the Sadducees--I’m no saying; and it’s awfu’, the dead blank of wisdom
and knowledge that’s put forth for a response--no any information to
you; nothing but a quenching of your flippant questions and impudent
pretensions. No marrying nor giving in marriage there, and the curious
fools baffled, but nae light thrown upon the darkness! I’ll have to wait
like other folk for my answer; but, if it’s according to your new nature
and faculties--which surely it must be--you’ll not forget to give us a
thought at times? If you feel a wee lonely at the first--I’m no profane,
callant; you’re but a man when a’s done, or rather a laddie, and you’ll
surely miss your friends--dinna forget how long and how often we’ll
think of you.”

“Shall you?” said the dying man. “I have given you nothing but trouble
ever since I knew you, and it is more than I deserve. But there is One
who is worthy of all your thoughts. When you think of me, O love Him, my
dear friend, and so there will be a bond between us still.”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale once more. It was a word he used when his voice
could not be trusted, and his heart was full. “Ay,” he repeated, after a
long pause, “I’ll no neglect that grand bond. It’s a bargain between you
and me no to be broken. If ye were free for such an act, it would be
awfu’ friendly to bring me word how things are”--he continued, in a low
tone, “though it’s folly to ask, for if it had been possible it would
have been done before now.”

“It is God who must teach and not me,” said the dying man. “He has other
instruments--and you must seek Him for yourself, and let Him reveal His
will to you. If you are faithful to God’s service, He will relieve you
of your doubts,” said Arthur, who did not understand his friend’s mind,
but even at that solemn moment looked at him with a perplexed mixture of
disapproval and compassion. And thus the silence fell again like a
curtain over the room, and once more it became a picture faintly painted
on the darkness, faintly relieved and lighted up by touches of growing
light, till at length the morning came in full and fair, finding out as
with a sudden surprise the ghostly face on the pillow, with its great
eyes closed in disturbed sleep, and by the bedside another face scarcely
less motionless, the face of the man who was no unbeliever, but whose
heart longed to know and see what others were content, in vague
generalities to tell of, and say they believed.

This was one of the conversations held in the dead of night in
Meredith’s room. Next evening it was Colin, reluctantly permitted by his
faithful guardian to share this labour, who took the watcher’s place;
and then the two young men, who were so near of an age, but whose
prospects were so strangely different, talked to each other after a
different fashion. Both at the beginning of their career, and with
incalculable futures before them, it was natural they should discuss the
objects and purposes of life, upon which Meredith, who thought himself
matured by the approach of death, had, as he imagined, so much advantage
over his friend, who was not going to die.

“I remember once thinking as you do,” said the dying man. “The world
looked so beautiful! No man ever loved its vanities and its pomp more
than I. I shudder sometimes to think what would have become of me if God
had left me to myself--but He was more merciful. I see things in their
true light now.”

“You will have a great advantage over us,” said Colin, trying to smile;
“for you will always know the nature of our occupations, while yours
will be a mystery to us. But we can be friends all the same. As for me,
I shall not have many pomps and vanities to distract me; a poor man’s
son, and a Scotch minister does not fall in the way of such
temptations.”

“There are temptations to worldliness in every sphere,” said Meredith.
“You once spoke eagerly about going to Oxford, and taking honours. My
dear friend, trust a dying man. There are no honours worth thinking of
but the crown and the palm, which Christ bestows on them that love Him.”

“Yes,” said Colin; “but we are not all chosen for these. If I have to
live, I must qualify myself the best I can for my work. I should like to
be of a little use to Scotland, if that was possible. When I hear the
poor people here singing their vespers----”

“Ah, Campbell! one word--let me speak,” said his friend. “Alice showed
me the poem you gave her. You don’t mean it, I know; but let me beg you
not to utter such sentiments. You seem to consent to the doctrine of
purgatory, one of the worst delusions of the Church of Rome. There are
no spirits in prison, my dear, dear friend. When I leave you, I shall be
with my Saviour. Don’t give your countenance to such inventions of the
devil.”

“That was not what I intended to say,” said Colin, who had no heart for
argument. “I meant that to see the habit of devotion of all these
people, whom we call so ignorant, and to remember how little we have of
that among our own people, whom we think enlightened, goes to my heart.
I should like to do a priest’s duty----”

“Again!” said Meredith. “Dear Campbell, you will be a minister; there is
but one great High Priest.”

“Yes,” said Colin, “most true, and the greatest of all consolations. But
yet I believe in priests inferior--priests who need be nothing more than
men. I am not so much for teaching as you are, you know; I have so
little to teach any man. With you who are going to the Fount of all
knowledge it will be different. I can conceive, I can imagine how
magnificent may be _your_ work,” the young man said, with a faltering
voice, as he laid his warm young hand upon the fingers which were almost
dead.

Meredith closed his hand upon that of his friend, and looked at him with
his eyes so clear and awful, enlarged and lighted up with the prescience
of what was to come. “If you do your work faithfully it will be the same
work,” he said. “Our Master alone knows the particulars. If I might have
perhaps to supplement and complete what you do on earth!--Ah, but I must
not be tempted into vain speculations! Enough that I shall know His will
and see Him as He is. I desire no more.”

“Amen,” said Colin; “and, when you are in your new career, think of me
sometimes, worried and vexed as I know I shall be. We shall not be able
to communicate then, but I know now beforehand what I shall have to go
through. You don’t know Scotland, Meredith. A man who tries for any new
reformation in the Church will have to fight for trifles of detail which
are not worth fighting for, and perhaps get both himself and his work
degraded in consequence. You can know no such cares. Think of me
sometimes when you are doing your work ‘with thunders of acclaim.’ I
wonder--but you would think it a profanity if I said what I was going to
say.”

“What was it?” said Meredith, who, indeed, would not have been sorry had
his friend uttered a profanity which might give him occasion to speak,
for perhaps the last time, “faithfully” to his soul.

“I wonder,” said Colin, whose voice was low, “whether our Master, who
sees us both, though we cannot see each other, might tell you sometimes
what your friend was doing. He, too, is a man. I mean no irreverence,
Meredith. There were men for whom, above His tenderness for all, He had
a special love. I should like to think it. I can know nothing of you;
but then I am less likely to forget you, staying behind in this familiar
world.”

And the two youths again clasped hands, tears filling the eyes of the
living one, but no moisture in the clear orbs of him who was about to
die.

“Let us be content to leave it all in His hands,” said Meredith. “God
bless you, Colin, for your love; but think nothing of me; think of Him
who is our first and greatest Friend.”

And then again came silence and sleep, and the night throbbed silently
round the lighted chamber and the human creatures full of thought; and
again there took place the perennial transformation, the gradual rising
of the morning light, the noiseless entrance of the day, finding out,
with surprised and awful looks, the face of the dying. This is how the
last nights were spent. Down below in the convent there was a good
friar, who watched the light in the window, and pondered much in his
mind whether he should not go thither with his crucifix, and save the
poor young heretic in spite of himself; but the Frate was well aware
that the English resented such interruptions, and did better for Arthur;
for he carried the thought of him through all his devotions, and
muttered under his breath the absolution, with his eyes fixed upon the
lighted window, and prayed, if he had any credit in heaven, through the
compassionate saints, the Blessed Virgin, and by the aid of Him whose
image he held up towards the unseen sufferer, that the sins which God’s
servant had thus remitted on earth might be, even without the knowledge
of the penitent, remitted in heaven. Thus Colin’s belief in priests was
justified without his knowing it; and perhaps God judged the
intercession of Father Francisco more tenderly than poor Arthur would
have done. And with these private proceedings, which the world was
unaware of, night after night passed on until the night came which was
to have no day.

They had all assembled in the room, in which it seemed before morning so
great an event was to happen--all worn and tired out with watching; the
evidences of which appeared upon Colin and Alice, though Lauderdale,
more used to exertion, wore his usual aspect. As usual, Meredith lay
very solemnly in a kind of pathetic youthful state in his bed;
struggling for every breath, yet never forgetting that he lay there
before heaven and earth, a monument as he said of God’s grace, and an
example of how a Christian could die. He called Alice, and the others
would have withdrawn; but this he would not permit. “We have no secrets
to discuss,” he said. “I am not able to say much now. Let my last words
be for Christ. Alice, you are the last. We have all died of it. It is
not very hard; but you cannot die in peace, as I do, unless you give
yourself to Christ. These are my last words to my sister. You may not
live long--you have not a moment to spare. Give yourself to Christ, my
little Alice, and then your death-bed will be as peaceful as mine.”

“Yes,” said the docile sister, through her sobs, “I will never, never
forget what you have said to me. Oh, Arthur, you are going to them all!”

“I am going to God,” said the dying man; “I am going to my Lord and
Saviour--that is all I desire to think of now.”

And there was a momentary breathless pause. She had his hand in both of
hers, and was crying with an utter despair and abandonment to which she
had never given herself up before. “Oh, Arthur--papa!” the poor girl
said, under her breath. If they had been less interested, or if the
stillness had been a degree less intense, the voice was so low that the
two other watchers could not have heard her. But the answer was spoken
aloud.

“Tell him I forgive him, Alice. I can say so now. Tell him to repent
while there is time. If you wish it, you can tell Colin and
Lauderdale--they have been brothers to us. Come here, all of you,” said
Meredith. “Hear my last words. Nothing is of any importance but the love
of Christ. I have tried everything in the world--its pleasures and its
ambitions--and--But everything except Christ is vanity. Come to Him
while it is called to-day. And now come and kiss me, Alice, for I am
going to die.”

“Oh, no, Arthur. Oh, Arthur, do not leave me yet!” cried the poor girl.
Lauderdale drew her gently away, and signed to Colin to take the place
by the bed. He drew her hand through his arm and led her softly into the
great empty _salone_, where there was no light except that of the moon,
which came in in broad white bars at the side windows. “Whisht! it’ll no
be yet,” said the kind guardian who had taken possession of Alice. No
mother or lover could have been tenderer with the little forlorn
creature in this hour which was the most terrible of all. He made her
walk softly about with him, beguiling her awful suspense a little with
that movement. “A little more strength, for his sake,” said Lauderdale;
“another trial--and then nobody shall stop your tears. It’s for his
sake; the last thing you can do for him.”

And then the poor little sister gave utterance to a bitter cry, “If he
would say something kind for papa, I could bear it,” she said,
smothering her painful sobs; and Lauderdale drew her closer on his arm,
supporting and soothing her, and led her about, slowly and noiselessly,
in the great empty room, lighted with those broad bars of moonlight,
waiting till she had regained a little composure to return to the
chamber of death.

Meredith lay silent for some time, with his great eyes gazing into the
vacancy before him, and the last thrill of fever in his frame. He
thought he was thus coming with all his faculties alert and vivid to a
direct conscious encounter with the unknown might of death. “Get the
book, Colin,” he said, with a voice which yet possessed a certain
nervous strength; “it is now time to write the conclusion”--and
he dictated with a steady voice the date of his last
postscript:--“Frascati, midnight, May 16th.--The last hour of my
life----”



CHAPTER XXXV.


Meredith died the next day, after a struggle longer and harder than
could have been anticipated, and very differently from the manner in
which, when he dictated his last message to the world, he expected to
die. Few human creatures are strong enough, except in books, to march
thus solemnly and statelily to the edge of the grave. The last event
itself was twenty-four hours later than the anxious watchers expected
it to be, and wore them all out more utterly than any previous part of
their patient’s lingering illness. He dictated his postscript, lying in
great exhaustion, but solemn calm, not without a certain pomp of
conscious grandeur, victorious over death and the grave. “That great
angel whom men call the last enemy is standing by my bedside,” the dying
man said, giving forth his last utterance slowly word by word. “In an
hour I shall be clay and ashes. I send you, friends, this last message.
Death is not terrible to those who love Christ. I feel a strength in me
that is not my own. I had fears and doubts, but I have them no longer.
The gates of heaven are opening. I close my eyes, for I can no longer
see the lights of this world; when I open them again it will be to
behold the face of my Lord. Amen. This I say to all the world with my
last breath. For those who love Christ it is not hard to die.”

Colin, who wrote the words, trembled over them with a weakness like a
woman’s; but Meredith’s broken and interrupted voice was shaken only by
the last pangs of mortality, not by any faltering of the spirit. “I tell
you, Colin, it is not hard,” he said, and smiled upon his friend, and
composed himself to meet the last encounter; but such was not the end.
The long night lingered on, and the dying man dozed a little, and woke
again less dignified and composed. Then came the weary morning, with its
dreadful daylight which made the heart sick, and then a long day of
dying, terrible to behold, perhaps not so hard to bear. The two who were
his brothers at this dreadful moment exercised all their power to keep
Alice out of the room where this struggle was going on, but the gentle
little girl was a faithful woman, and kept her place. He had had his
moment of conscious victory, but now in its turn the human soul was
vanquished. He became unconscious of their consoling presence, conscious
of nothing but the awful restlessness, the intolerable languor and yet
more intolerable nervous strength which kept him alive in spite of
himself; and then the veiled and abstracted spirit awoke to matters of
which, when in full possession of his faculties, Arthur had made no
mention. He began to murmur strange words as he lay tossing in that last
struggle. “Tell my father,” he said once or twice, but never finished
the message. That death so clear and conscious, for which he had hoped,
was not granted to him; and, when at last the deliverance came, even
Alice, on her knees by the bedside, felt in her desolation a moment’s
relief. It was almost dawn of the second morning when they raised her
up and led her tenderly away to Sora Antonia, the kind Italian woman,
who waited outside. Colin was scarcely less overwhelmed than she. The
young man sank down by the table where, on the previous night, he had
been Arthur’s secretary, and almost fainting dropped his head upon the
book which still lay open there. Twenty-four hours only of additional
hard labour added on to the ending life; but it looked as many years to
the young inexperienced spirit which had thus, for the first time,
followed another, so far as a spectator can, through the valley of the
shadow of death.

Lauderdale, who knew better, and upon whose greater strength this
dreadful strain of watching had made a less visible impression, had to
do for Colin what the kind peasant woman was doing for the desolate
sister--to take him away from the chamber of death, and make him lie
down, and put aside altogether his own sensations on behalf of the
younger and more susceptible sufferer. All that had to be done fell on
Lauderdale; he made the necessary arrangements with a self-command which
nothing disturbed, and, when he could satisfy himself that both the
young worn-out creatures, who were his children for the moment, had got
the momentary solace of sleep, as was natural, he threw himself into
poor Arthur’s arm-chair and pondered with a troubled countenance on all
that might follow. There he too slept and dozed, as Sora Antonia went
softly to and fro, moved with pity. She had said her rosary for Arthur
many a morning, and had done all she could to interest in his behalf
that good St. Antonio of Padua, who was so charitable, and perhaps might
not be so particular about a matter of doctrine as St. Paul or St.
Peter; for Sora Antonia was kind to the bottom of her heart, and could
not bear to think of more than a thousand years or so of Purgatory for
the poor young heretic. “The Signorino was English and knew no better,”
she said to her patron saint--and comforted herself with the thought
that the blessed Antonio would not fail to attend to her recommendation,
and that she had done the best she could for her lodger. From the room
where Alice slept the deep sleep of exhaustion the good woman made many
voyages into the silent _salone_, where the shutters were closed upon
the bare windows, though the triumphant sun streamed in at every
crevice. She looked at Lauderdale, who dozed in the great chair, with
curious looks of speculation and inquiry. He looked old and grey, thus
sleeping in the daylight, and the traces of exhaustion in such a face as
his were less touching than the lines in Alice’s gentle countenance or
the fading of Colin’s brightness. He was the only member of the party
who looked responsible to the eyes of Sora Antonia; and already she had
a little romance in hand, and wondered much whether this uncle, or elder
brother, or guardian, would be favourable to her young people. Thus,
while the three watchers found a moment’s sad rest after their long
vigil, new hopes and thoughts of life already began to play about them
unawares. The world will not stand still even to see the act of death
accomplished; and the act of death itself, if Arthur was right in his
hopes, had not that already opened its brighter side upon the solitary
soul which had gone forth alone?

The day after everything was finally over was Sunday--the gayest and
brightest of summer festal days. Colin and Lauderdale, who had on the
day before carried their friend to his grave, met each other sadly at
the table, where it was so strange to take up again the common thread of
life as though Arthur Meredith had never had any share in it. It was
Sunday under its brightest aspect; the village was very gay outside, and
neither of them felt capable of introducing their sombre shadows into
the flowery and sunny festa, the gaiety of which jarred upon their
sadness; and they had no heart to go about their usual occupations
within. When they had swallowed their coffee together, they withdrew
from each other into different corners, and tried to read, which was the
only employment possible. Lauderdale, for his part, in his listlessness
and fatigue, went to rummage among some books which a former occupant
had left, and brought from among them--the strangest choice for him to
make--a French novel, a kind of production utterly unknown to him. The
chances are, he had forgotten it was Sunday; for his Scotch prejudices,
though he held them lightly in theory, still held him fast in practice.
When, however, he had pored over it vaguely for half an hour (for
reading French was a laborious amusement to the imperfectly instructed
scholar), Colin was roused out of studies which he, too, pursued with a
very divided attention, by a sudden noise, and saw the little yellow
volume spin through the air out of his friend’s vigorous fingers, and
drop ignominiously in a corner. “Me to be reading stuff like that!” said
Lauderdale, with grim accents of self disgust; “and him maybe near to
see what a fool is doing!” As he said this, he got up from his chair,
and began to pace about the quiet, lonely room, violently endeavouring
to recover the composure which he had not been able to preserve. Though
he was older and stronger than the others, watching and grief had told
upon his strength also; and, in the glory of the summer morning which
blazed all round and about, the soul of this wayfaring man grew sick
within him. Something like a sob sounded into the silence. “I’m no
asking if he’s happy,” Lauderdale burst forth; “I cannot feel as if I
would esteem him the same if he felt nothing but joy to get away. You’re
a’ infidels and unbelievers alike, with your happiness and your heaven.
I’m no saying that it’s less than the supreme joy to see the face he
hoped to see--but joy’s no inconsistent with pain. Will you tell me the
callant, having a heart as you know he had, can think of us mourning for
him and no care? Dinna speak of such inhuman imaginations to me.”

“No,” said Colin, softly. “But worst of all would be to think he was
here,” the young man continued, after a pause, “unable to communicate
with us anyhow, by whatsoever effort. Don’t think so, Lauderdale; that
is the most inhuman imagination of all.”

“I’m no so clear of that,” said the philosopher, subduing his hasty
steps; “nae doubt there would be a pang in it, especially when there was
information like that to bestow; but it’s hard to tell, in our leemited
condition, a’ the capabilities of a soul. It might be a friend close by,
and no yoursel’, that put your best thought in your head, though you saw
him not. I wouldna say that I would object to that. It’s all a question
of temperament, and, maybe, age,” he continued, calming himself entirely
down, and taking a seat beside Colin in the window. “The like of you
expects response, and has no conception of life without it; but the like
of me can be content without response,” said Colin’s guardian; and then
he regarded his companion with eyes in which the love was veiled by a
grave mist of meditation. “I would not object to take the charge of you
in such a manner,” he said, slowly. “But it’s awfu’ easy to dream
dreams,--if anything on this earth could but make a man _know_;”--and
then there followed another pause. “He was awfu’ pleased to teach,”
Lauderdale resumed, with an unsteady smile. “It’s strange to think what
should hinder him speaking now, when he has such news to tell. I never
could make it out, for my part. Whiles my mind inclines to the thought
that it must be a peaceable sleep that wraps them a’ till the great day,
which would account for the awfu’ silence; but there’s some things that
go against that. This is what makes me most indignant at thae idiots
with their spirit-rapping and gibberish. Does ony mortal with a heart
within his bosom dare to think that, if Love doesna open their sealed
lips, any power in the world can?” cried the philosopher, whose emotion
again got beyond his control. He got up again, and resumed his
melancholy march up and down the room. “It’s an awfu’ marvel, beyond my
reach,” he said, “when a word of communication would make a’ the
difference, why it’s no permitted--if it were but to keep a heart from
breaking here and there.”

“Perhaps it is our own fault,” said Colin; “perhaps flesh and blood
shrinks more than we are aware of from such a possibility; and
perhaps--” here the young man paused a little, “indeed, it is not
perhaps. Does not God Himself choose to be our comforter?” said the
youthful pre-destined priest; upon which the older and sadder man once
more composed himself with a groan.

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, “I can say nothing against that argument. I’m no
denying it’s the last and the greatest. I speak the voice of a man’s
yearning--but I’ve no intention of contravening the truth. He’s gone
like many a one before him. You and me must bide our time. I’ll say no
more of Arthur. The best thing you can do is to read a chapter. If we
canna hear of him direct, which is no to be hoped for, we can take as
good a grip as possible of the Friend that stands between us. It’s
little use trying to forget--or trying no to think and inquire and
question. There is but one thing in the world, so far as I can see, that
a man can feel a kind of sure of. Callant, read a chapter,” said
Lauderdale, with a long sigh. He threw himself back, as he spoke, in the
nearest chair, and Colin took his Bible dutifully to obey. The contrast
between this request, expressed as any Scotch peasant would have
expressed it, and the speculations which preceded it, did not startle
Colin, and he had opened the book by instinct in the latter part of St.
John’s Gospel, when he was disturbed by the entrance of Alice, who came
in softly from her room without any warning. Her long attendance on her
brother had withdrawn the colour from her cheeks and the fulness from
her figure so gradually, that it was only now in her mourning dress that
her companions saw how pale and thin she had grown. Alice was not
speculative, nor fanciful, nor addicted to undue exercise of the
faculties of her own mind in any way. She was a dutiful woman, young and
simple, and accepted God’s will without inquiry or remonstrance. Though
she had struggled long against the thought of Arthur’s death, now that
he _was_ dead she recognized and submitted to the event which it was no
longer possible to avert or change, with a tender and sweet resignation
of which some women are capable. A more forlorn and desolate creature
than Alice Meredith did not exist on the earth, to all ordinary
appearance, at this moment; but, as she was not at all thinking of
herself, that aspect of the case did not occur to her.

She came out of her room very softly, with a faint smile on her face,
holding some Prayer-books in her hands. Up to this sad day it had been
their custom to read prayers together on the Sundays, being too far off
Rome to make it practicable even for the stronger members of the party
to go to church. Alice came up to Colin with her books in her hands--she
said to him in a wistful whisper, “You will take his place,” and pointed
out to him silently the marks she had placed at the lessons and psalms.
Then she knelt down between the two awed and astonished men, to say the
familiar prayers which only a week ago Arthur himself had read with his
dying voice. Though at times articulation was almost impossible to
Colin, and Lauderdale breathed out of his deep chest an Amen which
sounded like a groan, Alice did not falter in her profound and still
devotions. She went over the well-known prayers word by word, with eye
and voice steadfast and rapt in the duty which was at the same time a
consolation. There are women of such sweet loyalty and submission of
spirit, but neither Lauderdale nor Colin had met with them before.
Perhaps a certain passiveness of intellect had to do with it, as well as
Alice’s steady English training and custom of self-suppression; but it
made a wonderful impression upon the two who were now the sole
companions and guardians of the friendless young woman, and gave her
indeed for the moment an absolute empire over them, of which Alice was
altogether unconscious, and of which, even had she known it, she could
have made no further use. When the Morning Prayer was almost concluded
it was she who indicated to Colin another mark in the Prayer-book, at
the prayer for Christ’s Church militant on earth; and they could even
hear the whisper of her voice broken by an irrestrainable sob at the
thanksgiving for all “Thy servants departed this life in Thy faith and
fear,” which Colin read with agitation and faltering. When they rose
from their knees, she turned from one to the other with her countenance
for the first time disturbed. “You were very very good to him,” she
said, softly. “God will bless you for it,” and so sank into sobbing and
tears, which were not to be subdued any longer, yet were not passionate
nor out of accordance with her docile looks. After that, Alice recovered
her calm, and began to occupy herself with them as if she had been their
mother. “Have you been out?” she said. “You must not stay in and make
yourself ill.” This was addressed specially to Colin. “Please go out
and take a walk; it will do you a great deal of good. If it had not have
been a great festa it would not have been so bad; but, if you go up to
the Villa Conti, you will find nobody there. Go up behind the terrace,
into the alleys where it is shady. There is one on the way to the
Aldobrandini; you know it, Mr. Campbell. Oh go, please; it is such a
beautiful day, it will do you good.”

“And you?” said Colin, who felt in his heart an inclination to kneel to
her as if she had been a queen.

“I shall stay at home to-day,” said Alice. “I could not go out to-day;
but I shall do very well. Sora Antonia will come in from mass presently.
Oh, go out, please, and take a walk. Mr. Lauderdale, he will go if you
tell him to go--you are both looking so pale.”

“Come, Colin,” said Lauderdale, “she shall have her pleasure done this
day, at least, whatsoever she commands. If there was anything within my
power or his--” said the philosopher, with a strange discord that
sounded like tears in his voice; but Alice stopped him short.

“Oh yes,” she said, softly, “it is very good of you to do it because I
ask you. Mr. Campbell, you did not read the right lesson,” she added,
turning her worn face to Colin with a slight reproach.

“I read what I thought was better for us all, mourning as we are,” said
Colin, startled; upon which the sad little representative of law and
order did her best to smile.

“I have always heard it said how wonderful it was how the lesson for the
day always suited everybody’s case,” said Alice. “Arthur never would
make any change for circumstances. He--he said it was as if God could
ever be wanting,” the faithful sister said, through her sobs; and then,
again, put force upon herself:--“I shall be here when you come back,”
she said, with her faint smile; and so, like a little princess, sent
them away. The two men went their way up the slope and through the
little town, in their black coats, casting two tall, sombre shadows into
the sunshine and gaiety of the bright piazza. There had been a
procession that morning, and the rough pavement was strewed with sprigs
of myrtle and box, and the air still retained a flavour of the candles,
not quite obliterated by the whiff of incense which came from the open
doors of the Cathedral, where even the heavy leathern curtain, generally
suspended across the entrance, had been removed by reason of the crowd.
People were kneeling even on the steps; peasants in their laced
buskins, and Frascati women, made into countesses or duchesses, at the
least, by the long white veils which streamed to their feet. The windows
were all hung with brilliant draperies in honour of the morning’s
procession and the afternoon’s Tombola. It was one of the very chief of
Italian holydays, a festal Sunday in May, the month of Mary. No wonder
the two sad Protestant Scotchmen, with mourning in their dress and in
their hearts, felt themselves grow sick and faint as they went dutifully
to the gardens of the Villa Conti, as they had been commanded. They did
not so much as exchange a word with each other till they had passed
through all that sunshine and reached the identical alley, a close
arcade, overarched and shut in by the dense foliage of ilex-trees, to
which their little sovereign had directed them. There was not a soul
there as she had prophesied. A tunnel scooped out of the damp, dewy soil
could scarcely have been more absolutely shut in from the sunshine,
scarcely could have been stiller or cooler, or more withdrawn from the
blazing noonday, with its noises and rejoicings, than this narrow sombre
avenue. They strayed down its entire length, from one blue arch of
daylight to the other, before they spoke; and then it was Lauderdale who
broke the silence, as if his thoughts, generally so busy and so vagrant,
had never got beyond Alice Meredith’s last words.

“Another time, Colin,” said the philosopher, “you’ll no make ony changes
in the lesson for the day. Whiles it’s awfu’ hard to put up with the
conditions o’ a leemited intellect; but whiles they’re half divine. I’m
no pretending to be reasonable. She kens no more about reason than--the
angels, maybe--I admit it’s a new development to me; but a woman like
yon, callant, would keep a man awfu’ steady in the course of his life.”

“Yes,” said Colin; and then with a strange premonition, for which he
himself could not account, he added--“She would keep a man steady, as
you say; but he would find little response in her--not that I regard her
less respectfully, less reverentially than you do, Lauderdale,” he went
on, hurriedly, “but--”

“It wasna your opinion I was asking for,” said the philosopher somewhat
morosely. “She’s like none of the women you and me ken. I’m doubtful in
my own mind whether that dutiful and obedient spirit has ever been our
ideal in our country. Intellect’s a grand gift, callant, baith to man
and woman; but you’ll no fly in my face and assert that it’s more than
second best.”

“I am not up to argument to-day,” said Colin; and they walked back
again the whole length of the avenue in silence. Perhaps a certain
irritability, torn of their mutual grief, was at the bottom of this
momentary difference; but somehow, in the stillness, in the subdued
leafy shade, which at first sight had been so congenial to his feelings,
an indescribable shadow stole over Colin’s mind--a kind of indistinct
fear and reluctance, which took no definite shape, but only crept over
him like a mist over the face of the sun. His heart was profoundly
touched at once by the grief and by the self command of Alice, and by
her utter helplessness and dependence upon himself and his friend. Never
before had he been so attracted towards her, nor felt so much that
dangerous softening sentiment of pity and admiration, which leads to
love. And yet--; the two walked back silently under the dark ilex-trees,
and across the piazza, which was now thronged with a gay and
many-coloured crowd. The brighter the scene grew around them, the more
they shut themselves up in their own silence and sorrow, as was natural;
and Colin at length began to recognise a new element, which filled him
with vague uneasiness--an element not in the least new to the perplexed
cogitations of his guardian and anxious friend.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


When they entered the _salone_ on their return, the first object which
met their eyes was the stately figure of Sora Antonia in full holiday
costume, lately returned from mass. She had still her fan and her rosary
depending from her wrist--adjuncts almost equally necessary to devotion,
as that is understood at Frascati--and was still arrayed in the full
splendours of the veil, which, fastened over her hair, fell almost to
her feet behind, and gave grace and dignity to her tall and stately
person. Sora Antonia was a dependent of the family Savvelli; scarcely a
servant, though she had once belonged to the prince’s household. She had
charge of the palace at Frascati, which was never occupied except by a
solitary ecclesiastic, the prince’s brother, for whom the first-floor
was kept sacred. Even this sanctity, however, was sometimes invaded when
a good chance offered of letting the _piano nobile_ to some rich
foreigner, which was the fate of all the other apartments in the house.
Sora Antonia had charge of all the interests of the Savvelli in their
deserted mansion. When the tenants did any damage she made careful note
of it, and did not in any respect neglect the interests of her master;
nor was she inconsiderate of her own, but regarded it as a natural duty,
when it proved expedient, to make a little money out of the Forestieri.
“They give one trouble enough, the blessed Madonna knows,” the good
woman said piously. But, notwithstanding these prudent cares, Sora
Antonia was not only a very sensible woman according to her lights, but
had a heart, and understood her duty to her neighbours. She made her
salutations to the two friends when they entered with equal suavity, but
addressed her explanations to Colin, who was not only her favourite in
right of his youth and good looks, but made out her meaning more easily
than his companion. The crisis was an important one, and Sora Antonia
conducted herself accordingly; as soon as she had made her salutations
she resumed her seat, which in itself was an act requiring explanation,
especially as the table had been already arranged for dinner, and this
was the last day in the world on which the strangers were likely to
desire society. Sora Antonia took matters with a high hand, and in case
of opposition secured for herself at least the first word.

“Pardon, caro Signore mio,” she said, “you are surprised to find me
here. Very well; I am sorry to incommode the gentlemen, but I have to do
my duty. The Signorina is very young, and she has no one to take care of
her. The Signori are very good, very excellent, and kind. Ah yes, I know
it--never was there such devotion to the poor sick friend; nevertheless,
the Signori are but men, _senza complimenti_, and I am a woman who has
been married and had children of my own, and know my duty. Until some
proper person comes to take charge of the poor dear young lady, the
Signori will pardon me, but I must remain here.”

“Does the Signorina wish it?” asked Colin, with wondering looks, for the
idea of another protector for Alice confounded him, he scarcely knew
why.

“The Signorina is not much more than a child,” said Sora Antonia,
loftily. “Besides, she has not been brought up like an Italian young
lady, to know what is proper. Poverina! she does not understand anything
about it; but the Signori will excuse me--I know my duty, and that is
enough.”

“Oh yes, certainly,” said Colin; “but then, in England, as you say, we
have different ideas; and if the Signorina does not wish----”

Here, however, he was interrupted by Lauderdale, who, having tardily
apprehended the purport of Sora Antonia’s communication, took it upon
himself to make instant response in the best Italian he could muster.
“_Avete molto buono, molto buono!_” cried Lauderdale, intending to say
that she was very kind, and that he highly approved, though a chronic
confusion in his mind, as to which was which of the auxiliary verbs,
made his meaning cloudy. “_Grazie, Abbiamo contento! Grazie_,” he added,
with a little excitement and enthusiasm. Though he had used the wrong
verb, Sora Antonia graciously comprehended his meaning. She was used to
such little eccentricities of diction on the part of the Forestieri. She
bowed her stately head to him with a look of approbation; and it would
be vain to deny that the sense of having thus expressed himself clearly
and eloquently in a foreign language conveyed a certain satisfaction to
the mind of the philosopher.

“Bravo! The Signore will talk very well if he perseveres,” said Sora
Antonia, graciously; “not to say that his Excellency is a man of
experience, and perceives the justice of what I but propose. No doubt,
it will occupy a great deal of my time, but the other Forestieri have
not arrived yet, and how can one expect the Madonna Santissima and the
blessed St. Antonio to take so much trouble in one’s concerns if one
will not exert one’s self a little for one’s fellow-creatures? As the
Signorina has not left her room yet, I will take away the
inconvenience[2] for a few minutes. Scusa Signori,” said Sora Antonia,
and she went away with stately bearing and firm steps which resounded
through the house, to take off her veil and put aside her rosary. She
had seated herself again in her indoor aspect, with the “Garden of the
Soul” in her hand, before Alice came into the room; and, without doubt,
she made a striking addition to the party. She was a Frascati woman
born, and her costume consequently, was perfect--a costume not so
brilliant in any of its details as that scarlet jacket of Albano, which
is the most generally known of contadina dresses; but not less
calculated to do justice to the ample bust and stately head of the Roman
peasant. The dress itself, the actual gown, in this as in other Italian
costumes, was an indifferent matter. The important particulars were the
long and delicate apron of embroidered muslin, the _busto_ made of rich
brocade and shaped to the exact Frascati model, and the large, soft,
snowy kerchief with embroidered corners, which covered her full
shoulders--not to speak of the long heavy gold ear-rings and coral
necklace which completed and enriched the dress. She sat apart and
contemplated, if not the “Garden of the Soul,” at least the little
pictures in borders of lace-paper which were placed thickly between the
leaves, while the melancholy meal was eaten at the table--for Sora
Antonia had _educazione_, and had not come to intrude upon the privacy
of her lodgers. Alice, for her part, made no remark upon the presence of
this new guardian; she accepted it as she accepted everything else, as a
matter of course, without even showing any painful sense of the
circumstances which in Sora Antonia’s opinion made this last precaution
necessary. Her two companions, the only friends she seemed to have in
the world, bore vicariously on her account the pain of such a visible
reminder that she was here in a false position and had no legitimate
protector; but Alice had not yet awaked to any such sense on her own
behalf. She took her place at the table and tried to swallow a morsel,
and interested herself in the appetite of the others as if she had been
their mother. “Try to eat something; it will make you ill if you do
not,” poor Alice said, in the abstraction and dead calm of her grief.
Her own feeling was that she had been lifted far away from them into an
atmosphere of age and distance and a kind of sad superiority; and to
minister to some one was the grand condition under which Alice Meredith
lived. As to the personal suffering, which was confined to herself, that
did not so much matter; she had not been used to much sympathy, and it
did not occur to her to look for it. Consequently, the only natural
business which remained to her was to take a motherly charge of her two
companions, and urge them to eat.

“You are not to mind me,” she said, with an attempt at a smile, after
dinner. “This is Sunday, to be sure; but, after to-day, you are just to
go on as you used to do, and never mind. Thank you, I should like it
better. I shall always be here, you know, when you come back from Rome,
or wherever you wish to go. But you must not mind for me.”

Lauderdale and Colin exchanged looks almost without being aware of it.
“But you would like--somebody to be sent for--or something done?” said
Lauderdale. He was a great deal more confused in having to suggest this
than Alice was, who kept looking at him, her eyes dilated with weariness
and tears, yet soft and clear as the eyes of a child. He could not say
to her, in so many words, “It is impossible for you to remain with us.”
All he could do was to falter and hesitate, and grow confused, under
the limpid, sorrowful look which she bent upon him from the distant
heaven of her resignation and innocence. “You would like your
friends--somebody to be written to,” said Lauderdale; and then, afraid
to have given her pain by the suggestion, went on hurriedly: “I’m old
enough to be your father, and no a thought in my mind but to do you
service,” he said. “Tell me what you would like best. Colin, thank God!
is strong, and has little need of me. I’ll take you home, or do whatever
you please; for I’m old enough to be your father, my poor bairn!” said
the tender-hearted philosopher, and drew near to her, and put out his
hand with an impulse of pitiful and protecting kindness which touched
the heart of Alice, and yet filled her with momentary surprise. She, on
her own side, was roused a little, not to think of herself, but to
remember what appeared to her a duty unfulfilled.

“Oh, Mr. Lauderdale, Arthur said I might tell you,” said Alice. “Papa!
you heard what he said about papa? I ought to write and tell him what
has happened. Perhaps I ought to tell you from the beginning,” she
continued, after composing herself a little. “We left home without his
consent--indeed, he did not know. For dear Arthur,” said the poor girl,
turning her appealing eyes from one to the other, could not approve of
his ways. “He did something that Arthur thought was wrong. I cannot tell
you about it,” said Alice through her tears; “it did not make so much
difference to me. I think I ought to write and tell him, and that Arthur
forgave him at the last. Oh, tell me, please, what do you think I should
do?”

“If you would like to go home, I’ll take you home,” said Lauderdale. “He
did not mean ony harm, poor callant, but he’s left an awfu’ burden on
you.”

“Go home!” said Alice, with a slight shudder. “Do you think I ought--do
you think I must? I do not care for myself; but Mrs. Meredith, you
know--” she added with a momentary blush; and then the friends began to
perceive another unforeseen lion in the way.

“Out of my own head,” said Lauderdale, who took the whole charge of this
business on himself, and would not permit Colin to interfere, “I wrote
your father a kind of a letter. If you are able to hear the--the
event--which has left us a’ mourning--named in common words, I’ll read
you what I have written. Poor bairn, you’re awfu’ young and awfu’ tender
to have such affairs in hand! Are you sure you are able to bear it, and
can listen to what I have said?”

“Ah, I have borne it,” said poor Alice. “I cannot deceive myself, nor
think Arthur is still here. What does it matter then about saying it?
Oh, yes, I can bear anything--there is only me to be hurt now, and it
doesn’t matter. It was very kind of you to write. I should like to know
what you have said.”

Colin, who could do nothing else for her, put forward the arm-chair with
the cushions towards the table, and Sora Antonia put down the “Garden of
the Soul” and drew a little nearer with her heavy, firm step, which
shook the house. She comprehended that something was going on which
would tax the Signorina’s strength, and brought her solid, steady
succour to be in readiness. The pale little girl turned and smiled upon
them both, as she took the chair Colin had brought her. She was herself
quite steady in her weakness and grief and loneliness. Sora Antonia was
not wanted there; and Colin drew her aside to the window, where she told
him all about the fireworks that were to be in the evening, and her
hopes that after a while the Signorina would be able to “distract
herself” a little and recover her spirits; to which Colin assented
dutifully, watching from where he stood the pale looks of the friendless
young woman--friendless beyond disguise or possible self-deception, with
a stepmother whom she blushed to mention reigning in her father’s house.
Colin’s thoughts were many and tumultuous as he stood behind in the
window, watching Alice and listening to Sora Antonia’s description of
the fireworks. Was it possible that perhaps his duty to his neighbour
required from him the most costly of all offerings, the rashest of all
possible actions? He stood behind, growing more and more excited in the
utter quiet. The thought that had dawned upon him under the ilex-trees
came nearer and grew more familiar, and as he looked at it he seemed to
recognise all that visible machinery of Providence bringing about the
great event which youth decides upon so easily. While this vision grew
before his mind, Alice was wiping off the tears which obliterated
Lauderdale’s letter even to her patient eyes; for, docile and dutiful as
she was, it was yet terrible to read in calm distinct words, which put
the matter beyond all doubt, the announcement of “what had happened.”
This is what Lauderdale had said:--

     “SIR,--It is a great grief to me to inform you of an event for
     which I have no way of knowing whether you are prepared or not.
     Your son, Arthur Meredith, has been living here for the last three
     months in declining health, and on Thursday last died in great
     comfort and constancy of mind. It is not for me, a stranger, to
     offer vain words of consolation, but his end was such as any man
     might be well content to have, and he entered upon his new life
     joyfully, without any shadow on his mind. As far as love and
     friendship could soothe the sufferings that were inevitable, he had
     both; for his sister never left his bedside, and myself and my
     friend Colin Campbell were with him constantly, to his
     satisfaction. His sister remains under our care. I who write am no
     longer a young man, and know what is due to a young creature of her
     tender years; so that you may satisfy yourself she is safe until
     such time as you can communicate with me, which I will look for as
     soon as a reply is practicable, and in the meantime remain,

                               “Your son’s faithful friend and mourner,

                                                       “W. LAUDERDALE.”

Alice lingered over this letter, reading it, and crying, and whispering
to Lauderdale a long time, as Colin thought. She found it easier,
somehow, to tell her story fully to the elder man. She told him that
Mrs. Meredith had “come home suddenly,” which was her gentle version of
a sad domestic history,--that nobody had known of her father’s second
marriage until the stepmother arrived, without any warning, with a train
of children. Alice’s mild words did not give Lauderdale any very lively
picture of the dismay of the household at the unlooked-for apparition,
but he understood enough to condemn Arthur less severely than he had
been disposed to do. This sudden catastrophe had happened just after the
other misery of the bank failure, which had ruined so many; and poor
Meredith had no alternative between leaving his sister to the tender
mercies of an underbred and possibly disreputable stepmother, or
bringing her with him when he retired to die; and Alice, though she
still cried for “poor papa,” recoiled a little from the conclusion of
Lauderdale’s letter. “I have enough to live upon,” she said, softly,
with an appealing glance at her companion. “If you were to say that I
was quite safe, would not that be enough?” and it was very hard for
Lauderdale to convince her that her father’s judgment must be appealed
to in such a matter. When she saw he was not to be moved on this point,
she sighed and submitted; but it was clearly apparent that as yet,
occupied as she was by her grief, the idea that her situation here was
embarrassing to her companions or unsuitable for herself had not
occurred to Alice. When she retired, under the escort of Sora Antonia,
the two friends had a consultation over this perplexing matter; and
Lauderdale’s sketch--filled in, perhaps, a little from his
imagination--of the home she had left, plunged Colin into deeper and
deeper thought. “No doubt he’ll send some answer,” the philosopher said.
“He may not be worthy to have the charge of her, but he’s aye her
father. It’s hard to ken whether it’s better or worse that she should be
so unconscious of anything embarrassing in her position; which is a’ the
more wonderful, as she’s a real honest woman, and no way intellectual
nor exalted. You and me, Colin,” said Lauderdale, looking up in his
young companion’s face, “must take good care that she does not find it
out from us.”

“Of course,” said Colin, with involuntary testiness; “but I do not see
what her father has to do with it,” continued the young man. “She cannot
possibly return to such a home.”

“Her father is the best judge of that,” said Lauderdale; “she canna
remain with you and me.”

And there the conversation dropped--but not the subject. Colin was not
in love with Alice; he had, indeed, vague but bright in the clouds
before him, an altogether different ideal woman; and his heart was in
the career which he again saw opening before him--the life in which he
meant to serve God and his country, and which at the present moment
would admit of no rashly formed ties. Was it in consequence of these
hindrances that this new thing loomed so large before Colin’s
inexperienced eyes? If he had longed for it with youthful passion, he
would have put force on himself and restrained his longing; but the
temptation took another shape. It was as if a maiden knight at the
outset of his career had been tempted to pass by a helpless creature and
leave her wrongs unredressed. The young Bayard could do anything but
this.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


In the meantime at least a fortnight must pass before they could expect
an answer to Lauderdale’s letter. During that time they returned to all
their old habits, with the strange and melancholy difference, that
Arthur, once the centre of all, was no longer there. Every day of this
time increased the development of Colin’s new thoughts, until the
unknown father of Alice had grown, in his eyes, into a cruel and
profligate tyrant, ready to drag his daughter home and plunge her into
depraved society without any regard for either her happiness or her
honour. Colin had, indeed, in his own mind, in strictest privacy and
seclusion of thought, indited an imaginary letter, eloquent with
youthful indignation, to inform this unworthy parent that his deserted
daughter had found a better protector; but he was very silent about
these cogitations of his, and did not share them even with Lauderdale.
And there were moments when Colin felt the seriousness of the position,
and thought it very hard that such a necessity should meet him in the
face at the beginning of his career. Sometimes in the sudden darkening,
out of the rosy clouds which hung over the Campagna, the face of the
impossible woman, the ideal creature--she who could have divined the
thoughts in his mind and the movements in his heart before they came
into being, would glance suddenly out upon him for an instant, and then
disappear, waving a shadowy farewell, and leaving in his mind a strange
blank, which the sight of Alice rather increased than removed. That
ineffable mate and companion was never to be his, the young man thought.
True, he had never met her, nor come upon any trace of her footsteps,
for Matty Frankland at her best never could have been she. But yet, as
long as he was unbound by other tie or affection, this vision was the
“not impossible She” to Colin as to all men; and this he had to give
up--for Alice, dutiful and sweet Alice, forsaken by all friends and yet
so steadfast in her gentle self-possession, whom it was not in the heart
of man to be otherwise than tender of; she who had need of him, and whom
his very nature bound him to protect and cherish--was not that woman. At
other moments he thought of his own life, for which still so much
training was necessary, and which he should have entered in the full
freedom of his youth; and was profoundly aware of the incumbered and
helpless trim in which he must go into the battle, obliged to take
thought not of his work only, and the best means of doing it, but of
those cares of living which lie so lightly on a young man alone.

There may be some of Colin’s friends who will think the less of him for
this struggle in his mind; and there may be many who will think with
justice that, unless he could have offered love to Alice, he had no
right to offer her himself and his life--an opinion in which his
historian fully agrees. But then this gift though less than the best,
was a long way superior to anything else which, at the present moment,
was likely to be offered to the friendless girl. If he could have laid
at her feet the full heart, which is the only true offering under such
circumstances, the chances are that Alice, in her simplicity and
gentleness, would have been sadly puzzled what to do with that
passionate and ungovernable thing. What he really could offer
her--affection, tenderness, protection--was clearly comprehensible to
her. She had no other idea of love than was included in those attributes
and phases of it. These considerations justified Colin in the step which
he contemplated--or rather in the step which he did not contemplate, but
felt to be necessary and incumbent upon him. It sometimes occurred to
him how--if he had been prudent and taken Lauderdale’s advice, and
eschewed at the beginning that close connexion with Meredith and his
sister, which he had entered into with his eyes open, and with a
consciousness even that it might affect his life--this embarrassing
situation might never have come into being; and then he smiled to
himself, with youthful superiority, contemplating what seemed so plainly
the meaning of Providence, and asking himself how he, by a momentary
exercise of his own will, could have overthrown that distinct celestial
intention? On the whole, it was comforting to think that everything had
been arranged beforehand by agencies so very clear and traceable; and
with this conclusion of the argument he left off, as near contented as
possible, and not indisposed to enjoy the advantages which were palpably
before him; for, though they were not the eyes he had dreamed of, there
was a sweetness very well worthy of close study in Alice Meredith’s
eyes.

The days passed very quietly in this time of suspense. The society of
the two strangers, who were more to her in her sorrow than all her
kindred, supported the lonely girl more than she was aware of--more than
any one could have believed. They were absent during the greater part of
the day, and left her unmolested to the tears that would come,
notwithstanding all her patience; and they returned to her in the
evening with attention and cares to which she had never been accustomed,
devoting two original and powerful minds, of an order at once higher and
more homely than any which she had ever encountered, to her amusement
and consolation. Alice had never known before what it was to have
ordinary life and daily occurrences brightened by the thick-coming
fancies, the tender play of word and thought, which now surrounded her.
She had heard clever talk afar off, “in society,” and been awe-stricken
by the sound of it; and she had heard Arthur and his friends uttering
much fine-sounding language upon subjects not generally in her way; but
she was utterly unused to that action of uncommon minds upon common
things which gives so much charm to the ordinary intercourse of life.
All they could think of to lighten the atmosphere of the house in which
she sat in her deep mourning, absorbed for hours together in those
thoughts of the dead to which her needlework afforded little relief,
they did with devotion, suspending their own talk and occupations to
occupy themselves with her. Colin read _In Memoriam_ to her till her
heart melted and relieved itself in sweet abundant tears; and Lauderdale
talked and told her many a homely history of that common course of
humanity, full of sorrows sorer than her own, which fills young minds
with awe. Between them they roused Alice to a higher platform, a
different atmosphere, than she had known before; and she raised herself
up after them with a half-bewildered sense of elevation, not
understanding how it was; and so the long days which were so hard, and
which nothing in the world could save from being hard, brightened
towards the end, not certainly into anything that could be called
pleasure, but into a sad expansion and elevation of heart, in which
faintly appeared those beginnings of profound and deep happiness which
are not incompatible with grief, and yet are stronger and more inspiring
than joy.

While this was going on, unconsciously to any one concerned, Sora
Antonia, in her white kerchief and apron, sometimes knitting, sometimes
with her distaff like a buxom Fate, sat and twisted her thread and
turned her spindle a little behind yet not out of reach, keeping a wary
eye upon her charge. She too interposed, sometimes with her own comments
upon life and things in general, and took part in the conversation; and,
whether it was that Sora Antonia’s mind was really of a superior order,
or that the stately Roman speech threw a refining colour upon her
narratives, it is certain that the interpellations of the Italian
peasant fell without any sensible derogation into the strain of lofty
yet familiar talk which was meant to wean Alice from her special grief.
Sora Antonia told them of the other Forestieri who had lived like
themselves in the Savelli palace; who had come for health and yet had
died, leaving the saddest mourners--helpless widows and little children,
heart-broken fathers and mothers, perhaps the least consolable of all.
Life was such, she said solemnly, bowing her stately head. She herself,
of a hardy race, and strong, as the Signori saw, had not she buried her
children, for whom she would have gladly died? But the good God had not
permitted her to die. Alice cried silently as she heard all this; she
kissed Sora Antonia, who, for her part, had outlived her tears, and with
a natural impulse turned to Colin, who was young, and in whose heart, as
in her own, there must live a natural protest against this awful
necessity of separation and misery; and thus it came to be Colin’s turn
to interpose, and he came on the field once more with _In memoriam_, and
with other poems which were sweet to hear, and soothed her even when she
only partially entered into their meaning. A woman has an advantage
under such circumstances. By means of her sympathy and gratitude, and
the still deeper feeling which grew unconsciously in her heart towards
him who read, she came to believe that she too understood and
appreciated what was to him so clear and so touching. A kind of
spiritual magnetism worked upon Alice, and, to all visible appearance,
expanded and enlarged her mind. It was not that her intellect itself
grew, or that she understood all the beautiful imaginations, all the
tender philosophies thus unfolded to her; but she was united in a
singular union of affectionate companionship with those who did
understand, and even to herself she appeared able to see, if not with
her own eyes, at least with theirs, the new beauties and solemnities of
which she had not dreamt before.

This strange process went on day by day without any one being aware of
it; and even Lauderdale had almost forgotten that their guardianship of
Alice was only for the moment, and that the state of affairs altogether
was provisionary and could not possibly continue, when an answer reached
him to his letter. He was alone when he received it, and all that
evening said nothing on the subject until Alice had retired with her
watchful attendant; then, without a word of comment, he put it into
Colin’s hand. It was written in a stilted hand, like that of one
unaccustomed to writing, and was not quite irreproachable even in its
spelling. This was what Lauderdale’s correspondent said:--

     “SIR,--Your letter has had such a bad effect upon the health of my
     dear husband, that I beg you won’t trouble him with any more such
     communications. If it’s meant to get money, that’s vain--for
     neither him nor me knows anything about the friends Arthur may have
     picked up. If he had stayed at home he would have received every
     attention. As for his ungrateful sister, I won’t have anything to
     say to her. Mr. Meredith is very ill, and, for anything I know, may
     never rise from a bed of sickness, where he has been thrown by
     hearing this news so sudden; but I take upon me to let her know as
     he will have nothing to say to one that could behave so badly as
     she has done. I am always for making friends, but she knows she
     cannot expect much kindness from me after all that has happened.
     She has money enough to live on, and she can do as she pleases.
     Considering what her ingratitude has brought her dear father to,
     and that I may be left alone to manage everything before many days
     are past, you will please to consider that here is an end of it,
     and not write any more begging letters to me.

                                                      “JULIA MEREDITH.”



This communication Colin read with a beating heart. It was so different
from what he expected, and left him so free to carry out the dawning
resolution which he had imagined himself executing in the face of
tyrannical resistance, that he felt at first like a man who has been
straining hard at a rope and is suddenly thrown down by the
instantaneous stoppage of the pressure on the other side. When he had
picked himself up, the facts of the case rushed on him distinct and
unmistakeable. The time had now come when the lost and friendless maiden
stood in the path of the true knight. Was he to leave her there to fight
her way in the hard world by herself, without defence or protection,
because, sweet and fair and pure as she was, she was not the lady of his
dreams? He made up his mind at once with a thrill of generous warmth;
but at the same time felt himself saying for ever and ever farewell to
that ideal lady who henceforward, in earth or heaven, could never be
his. All this passed through his mind while he was looking at the letter
which already his rapid eye had read and his mind comprehended. “So
there is an end of your hopes,” said Colin. “Now we are the only friends
she has in the world--as I have always thought.”

“Softly,” said Lauderdale. “Callants like you aye run away with the half
of an idea. This is an ignorant woman’s letter, that is glad to get rid
of her. The father will mend, and then he’ll take her out of our hands.”

“He shall do nothing of the kind,” said Colin, hotly. “You speak as if
she was a piece of furniture; I look upon her as a sacred charge. We are
responsible to Meredith for his sister’s comfort and--happiness,” said
the young man, who during this conversation preferred not to meet his
companion’s eye.

“Ay!” said Lauderdale drily, “that’s an awfu’ charge for the like of you
and me. It’s more that I ever calculated on, Colin. To see her safe
home, and in the hands of her friends----”

“Lauderdale, do not be so heartless; cannot you see that she has no
friends?” cried Colin; “not a protector in the world except----”

“Callant, dinna deceive yourself,” said Lauderdale; “it’s no a matter
for hasty judgment; we have nae right to pass sentence on a man’s
character. He’s her father, and it’s her duty to obey him. I’m no
heeding about that silly woman’s letter. Mr. Meredith will mend. I’m
here to take care of you,” said Colin’s guardian. “Colin, hold your
peace. You’re no to do for a moment’s excitement, for pity and ruth and
your own tender heart, what you may regret all your life. Sit down and
keep still. You are only a callant, too young to take burdens on
yourself; there is but one way that the like of you can protect the like
of her--and that is no to be thought of, as you consented with your own
mouth.”

“I am aware of that,” said Colin, who had risen up in his excitement.
“There is but one way. Matters have changed since we spoke of it first.”

“I would like to know how far they have changed,” said Lauderdale.
“Colin, take heed to what I say; if it’s love I’ll no speak a word; I
may disapprove a’ the circumstances, and find fault with every step ye
take; but if it’s love----”

“Hush!” said Colin, standing upright, and meeting his friend’s eye; “if
it should happen to be my future wife we are speaking of, my feelings
towards her are not to be discussed with any man in the world.”

They looked at each other thus for a moment, the one anxious and
scrutinizing, the other facing him with blank brightness, and a smile
which afforded no information. Perhaps Lauderdale understood all that
was implied in that blank; at all events, his own delicate sense of
honour could not refuse to admit Colin’s plea. He turned away, shaking
his head, and groaning privately under his breath; while Colin, struck
with compunction, having shut himself up for an instant, unfolded again,
that crisis being over, with all the happy grace of apology natural to
his disposition. “You are not ‘any man in the world,’” he said with a
short laugh, which implied emotion. “Forgive me, Lauderdale; and now you
know very well what I am going to do.”

“Oh ay, I ken what you are going to do; I kent three months ago, for
that matter,” said the philosopher. “A man acts no from circumstances,
as is generally supposed, but from his ain nature.” When he had given
forth this oracular utterance, Lauderdale went straight off to his room
without exchanging another word with Colin. He was satisfied to a
certain extent with such a mate for his friend, and belonged to too
lowly a level of society to give profound importance to the inexpediency
of early marriages--and he was fond of Alice, and admired her sweet
looks and sweet ways, and respected her self-command and patience;
nevertheless, he too sighed, and recognised the departure of the ideal
woman, who to him as little as to Colin resembled Alice;--and thus it
was understood between them how it was to be.

All this, it may be imagined, was little compatible with that
reverential regard for womankind in general which both the friends
entertained, and evidenced a security in respect to Alice’s inclinations
which was not altogether complimentary to her. And yet it was highly
complimentary in a sense; for their security arose from their
appreciation of the spotless unawakened heart with which they had to do.
If Colin entertained little doubt of being accepted when he made his
proposal, it was not because he had an overweening idea of himself, or
imagined Alice “in love” with him according to the vulgar expression. A
certain chivalrous, primitive sense of righteous and natural necessity
was in his confidence. The forlorn maiden, knowing the knight to be
honest and true, would accept his protection loyally and simply, without
bewildering herself with dreams of choice where no choice was; and
having accepted would love and cleave as was her nature. To be sure
there were types of woman less acquiescent; and we have already said
that Alice did not bear the features of that ideal of which Colin had
dreamed; but such was the explanation of his confidence. Alice showed
little distress when she saw her stepmother’s letter except on account
of her father’s illness; though even that seemed rather consolatory to
her than otherwise, as a proof of his love for Arthur. As for Mrs.
Meredith’s refusal to interfere on her behalf, she was clearly relieved
by the intimation; and things went on as before for another week or two,
until Sora Antonia, who had now other tenants arriving and many
occupations in hand, began to murmur a little over the watch which she
would not relinquish. “Is it thus young ladies are left in England?” she
asked, with a little indignation, “without any one to take care of them
except the Signori, who, though amiable and excellent, are only men? or
when may the lady be expected from England who is to take charge of the
Signorina?” It was after this question, had been put to him with some
force one evening, that Colin proposed to Alice, who was beginning to
lift her head again like a flower after a storm, and to show symptoms of
awaking from the first heaviness of grief, to go out with him and visit
those ilex avenues, which had now so many associations for the
strangers. She went with a faint sense of pleasure in her heart through
the slanting sunshine, looking wistfully through her black veil at the
many cheerful groups on the way, and clinging to Colin’s arm when a kind
neighbour spoke to her in pity and condolence. She put up her veil when
they came to the favourite avenue, where Lauderdale and Colin walked so
often. Nothing could be more silent, more cool and secluded than this
verdant cloister, where, with the sunshine still blazing everywhere
around, the shade and quiet were profound and unbroken. They walked once
or twice up and down, remarking now and then upon the curious network of
branches, which, out of reach of the sun, were all bare and stripped of
their foliage--and upon the blue blaze of daylight at either opening,
where the low arch of dark verdure framed in a span of brilliant Italian
sky. Then they both became silent, and grew conscious of it; and it was
at that moment, just as Alice for the first time began to remember the
privileges and penalties of her womanhood, that Colin spoke,--

“I brought you here to speak to you,” he said. “I have a great deal to
say. That letter that Lauderdale showed you did not grieve you, did it?
You must tell me frankly. Arthur made me one of your guardians, and,
whatever you may decide upon, that is a sacred bond.”

“Yes, oh yes,” said Alice, with tears, “I know how kind you both are.
No, it did not grieve me, except about papa. I was rather glad, if I may
say so, that she did not send for me home. It is not--a--home--like what
it used to be,” said Alice; and then, perhaps because something in
Colin’s looks had advertised her of what was coming; perhaps because of
the awakening sense of her position sprang up in a moment, after long
torpor--a sudden change came upon her face. “I have given you a great
deal of trouble,” she said; “I am like somebody who has had a terrible
fall--as soon as I come to myself I will go away. It is very wrong of me
to detain you here.”

“You are not detaining us,” said Colin, who, notwithstanding, was a
little startled and alarmed; “and you must not talk of going away.
Where would you go? Are not we your friends--the friends you know best
in Italy? You must not _think_ of going away.”

But even these very words thus repeated acted like an awakening spell
upon Alice. “I cannot tell what I have been thinking of,” she said. “I
suppose it is staying indoors and forgetting everything. I do not seem
to know even how long it is. Oh yes, you are my kindest friends. Nobody
ever was so good to me; but, then, you are only--gentlemen!” said Alice,
suddenly withdrawing her hand from Colin’s arm, and blushing over all
her pallid face. “Ah! I see now how stupid I have been to put off so
long. And I am sure I must have detained you here.”

“No,” said Colin, “do not say so; but I have something more to say to
you. You are too young and too delicate to face the world alone, and
your people at home are not going to claim you. I am a poor man now, and
I never can be rich, but I would protect you and support you if you
would have me. Will you trust me to take care of you, Alice, not for
this moment, but always? I think it would be the best thing for us
both.”

“Mr. Campbell, I don’t understand you,” said Alice, trembling and
casting a glance up at him of wistful surprise and uncertainty. There
was an eager, timid inquiry in her eyes beside the bewilderment. She
seemed to say, “What is it you mean? Is _that_ what you mean?” and Colin
answered by taking her hand again and drawing it through his arm.

“Whether you will have me or not,” he said, “there is always the bond
between us which Arthur has made sacred, and you must lean on me all the
same. I think you will see what I mean if you consider it. There is only
one way that I can be your true protector and guardian, and that is if
you will consent to marry me, Alice. Will you? You know I have nothing
to offer you; but I can work for you, and take care of you, and with me
you would not be alone.”

It was a strange way of putting it, certainly--very different from what
Colin had intended to say, strangely different from the love-tale that
had glided through his imagination by times since he became a man; but
he was very earnest and sincere in what he said, and the innocent girl
beside him was no critic in such matters. She trembled more and more,
but she leaned upon him and heard him out with anxious attention. When
he had ended, there was a pause, during which Colin, who had not
hitherto been doubtful, began himself to feel anxious; and then Alice
once more gave a wistful, inquiring look at his face.

“Don’t be angry with me,” she said; “it is so hard to know what to
answer. If you would tell me one thing quite truly and frankly--Would it
not do you a great deal of harm if this was to happen as you say?----”

“No,” said Colin. When he said the word he could not help remembering,
in spite of himself, the change it would make in his young prospects,
but the result was only that he repeated his negative with more warmth.
“It can do me only good,” said Colin, yielding to the natural
temptations of the moment, “and I think I might do something for your
happiness too. It is for you to decide--do not decide against me,
Alice,” said the young man; “I cannot part with you now.”

“Ah!--” said Alice with a long breath. “If it only would not do you any
harm,” she added a moment after, once more with that inquiring look. The
inquiry was one which could be answered but in one way, and Colin was
not a man to remain unmoved by the wistful, sweet eyes thus raised to
him, and by the tender dependence of the clinging arm. He set her doubts
at rest almost as eloquently, and quite as warmly, as if she had indeed
been that woman who had disappeared among the clouds for ever; and led
her home to Sora Antonia with a fond care, which was very sweet to the
forlorn little maiden, and not irksome by any means to the magnanimous
knight. Thus the decisive step was taken in obedience to the necessities
of the position, and the arrangements (as Colin had decided upon them)
of Providence. When he met Lauderdale and informed him of the new event,
the young man looked flushed and happy, as was natural in the
circumstances, and disposed of all the objections of prudence with great
facility and satisfaction to himself. It was a moonlight night, and
Colin and his friend went out to the _loggia_ on the roof of the house,
and plunged into a sea of discussion, through which the young lover
steered triumphantly the frailest bark of argument that ever held water.
But, when the talk was over, and Colin, before he followed Lauderdale
downstairs, turned round to take a parting look at the Campagna, which
lay under them like a great map in the moonlight, the old apparition
looked out once more from the clouds, pale and distant, and again seemed
to wave to him a shadowy farewell. “Farewell! farewell! not in heaven
nor in earth shall you ever find me,” sighed the woman of Colin’s
imagination, dispersing into thin white mists and specks of clouds; and
the young man went to rest with a vague sense of loss in his heart. The
sleep of Alice was sweeter than that of Colin on this first night of
their betrothal; but at that one period of existence, it often happens
that the woman, for once in her life, has the advantage. And thus it was
that the event, foreseen by Lauderdale on board the steamer at the
beginning of their acquaintance, actually came to pass.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


This important decision, when at last finally settled, necessitated
other steps more embarrassing and difficult than anything that could be
discussed in the ilex avenue. Even Sora Antonia’s protection ceased to
be altogether satisfactory to the suddenly-awakened mind of Alice, who
at the same time was so unaccustomed to think or act for herself that
she knew not what to do in the emergency. If Colin had been the kind of
man who would have decided for her at once, and indicated what he
thought she ought to do, Alice was the kind of woman to act steadily and
bravely upon the indication. But, unfortunately, Colin did not
understand how to dictate to a woman, having known most intimately of
all womankind his mother, who was treated after an altogether different
fashion; and Lauderdale, though sufficiently aware of the embarrassing
nature of their position, belonged, notwithstanding his natural
refinement, to a class which sets no great store by punctilio. Now that
everything was settled between the “young folk,” Alice’s unprotected
state did not distress him so much as formerly. The marriage, which must
take place immediately, was already in his eyes a sufficient shelter for
the solitary girl; and the indecorum of the whole business no longer
occurred to him. As for Colin, he, as was natural, regarded with a
certain excitement the strange step he was about to take, not knowing
what anybody would think of it, nor how he was to live with his bride,
nor what influence an act so unsuitable to his circumstances would have
upon his prospects and position. It was of a piece with the rashness and
visionary character of the whole transaction, that Alice’s money, which
she had herself recurred to as “enough to live upon,” never entered into
the calculations of the young man who was going to marry on his
scholarship, without being at all convinced in his own mind that his
scholarship could be held by a married man. A married man!--the title
had an absurd sound as applied to himself, even in his own ears. He was
just over one-and-twenty, and had not a penny in the world. But these
considerations, after all, had not half so much effect upon him as the
thought of his mother’s grave countenance when she should read his next
letter, and the displeasure of his father, who perhaps already regarded
with a not altogether satisfied eye the spectacle of a son of his gone
abroad for his health. If Colin could but have made sure of the nature
of the reception he was likely to meet with at Ramore, prudential
considerations of any other character would have had but a momentary
weight; but at present, amid his other perplexities, the young man felt
a certain boyish confusion at the thought of asking his mother to
receive and recognise his wife. However, the important letter had been
written, and was on its way, and he could only hope that his previous
letters had prepared the household for that startling intimation. Apart
from Ramore, the matter had a less serious aspect; for Colin, who had
been poor all his life, no more believed in poverty than if he had been
a prince, and had a certain instinctive certainty of getting what he
needed, which belonged to his youth. Besides, he was not a poor
gentleman, hampered, and helpless, but knew, at the worst, that he could
always work for his wife.

At the same time, in the midst of all the seriousness of the
position--with all his tender affection for Alice, and reverence for her
helplessness, and even notwithstanding that inexpressible blank and
sense of disappointment in his heart which even his affection could not
quite neutralize,--a curious sense of humour, and feeling that the whole
matter was a kind of practical joke on a grand scale, intruded into
Colin’s ideas from time to time, and made him laugh, and then made him
furious with himself; for Alice, to be sure, saw no joke in the matter.
She was, indeed, altogether wanting in a sense of humour, if even her
grief would have permitted her to exercise it, and was sufficiently
occupied by the real difficulties of her position, secluding herself in
Sora Antonia’s apartments, and wavering in an agony of timidity and
uncertainty over the idea of leaving that kind protector and going
somewhere else, even though among strangers, in order to obey the
necessary proprieties. She had not a soul to consult about what she
should do except Sora Antonia herself and Lauderdale, neither of whom
now thought it necessary to suggest a removal on the part of either of
the young people; and though thoughts of going into Rome, and finding
somebody who would give her shelter for a week or two till Colin’s
arrangements were complete, hovered in the mind of Alice, she had no
courage to carry out such an idea, being still in her first grief, poor
child, although this new excitement had entered into her life.

As for Colin, affairs went much less easily with him when he betook
himself to the English clergyman to ask his services. The inquiries
instituted by this new judge were of a kind altogether unforeseen by the
thoughtless young man. To be sure, a mourning sister is not usually
married a few weeks after her brother’s death, and the questioner was
justified in thinking the circumstance strange. Nor was it at all
difficult to elicit from Colin a story which, viewed by suspicious and
ignorant eyes, threw quite a different colour on the business. The young
lady was the daughter of Mr. Meredith of Maltby, as the clergyman, who
had laid Arthur in his grave, was already aware. She was young, under
age, and her father had not been consulted about her proposed marriage;
and she was at present entirely in the hands and under the influence of
this young Scotchman, who, though his manners were considered
irreproachable by Miss Matty Frankland, who was a critic in manners,
still lacked certain particulars in his general demeanour by which the
higher class of Englishmen are distinguished. He took more interest in
things in general, and was more transparent, more expressive than he
would probably have been had he been entirely Alice’s equal; and he was
slightly wanting in calmness and that soft haze of impertinence which
sets off good breeding--in short, he had not the full ring of the
genuine metal; and a man who lived in Rome, and was used to stories of
adventurers and interested marriages, not unnaturally jumped at the
conclusion that Colin (being a Scotchman beside, and consequently the
impersonation, save the mark! of money-getting) was bent upon securing
to himself the poor little girl’s fortune. Before the cross-examination
was done Colin began somehow to feel himself a suspicious character; for
it is astonishing what an effect there is in that bland look of superior
penetration and air of seeing through a subject, however well aware the
person under examination may be that his judge knows nothing about it.
Then the investigator turned the discussion upon pecuniary matters,
which after all was the branch of examination for which Colin was least
prepared.

“Miss Meredith has some fortune, I presume?” he said. “Is it at her own
disposal? for on this, as well as on other matters, it appears to me
absolutely necessary that her father should be consulted.”

“I have already told you that her father has been consulted,” said
Colin, with a little vexation, “and you have seen the answer to my
friend’s letter. I have not the least idea what her fortune is, or if
she has any. Yes, I recollect she said she had enough to live upon; but
it did not occur to me to make any inquiries on the subject,” said the
young man; which more than ever confirmed his questioner that this was
not a member of the higher class with whom he had to deal.

“And you?” he said. “Your friends are aware, I presume--and your means
are sufficient to maintain--”

“I?” said Colin, who with difficulty restrained a smile, “I have not
very much; but I am quite able to work for my wife. It seems to me,
however, that this examination is more than I bargained for. If Miss
Meredith is satisfied on these points, that is surely enough--seeing,
unfortunately, that she has no one to stand by her--”

“I beg your pardon,” said the clergyman, “it is the duty of my office to
stand by her. I do not see that I can carry out your wishes--certainly
not without having a conversation with the young lady. I cannot say that
I feel satisfied;--not that I blame you, of course,--but you are a very
young man, and your feelings, you know, being involved--however, my wife
and myself will see Miss Meredith, and you can call on me again.”

“Very well,” said Colin, getting up; and then, after making a step or
two to the door, he returned. “I am anxious to have everything concluded
the earliest possible moment,” he said. “Pray do not lose any time. She
is very solitary, and has no proper protector,” Colin continued, with an
ingenuous flush on his face. He looked so young, so honest and earnest,
that even experience was shaken for the moment by the sight of Truth.
But then it is the business of experience to fence off Truth, and defy
the impressions of Nature,--and so the representative of authority,
though shaken for a moment, did not give in.

“By the bye, I fear I did not understand you,” he said. “You are not
living in the same house? Considering all the circumstances, I cannot
think that proper. Either she should find another home, or you should
leave the house,--any gentleman would have thought of that,” said the
priest severely, perhaps by way of indemnifying himself for the passing
sentiment of kindness which had moved him. Colon’s face grew crimson at
these words. The idea flashed upon himself for the first time, and
filled him with shame and confusion; but the young man had so far
attained that perfection of good breeding which is only developed by
contact with men, that the reproof, which was just, did not irritate
him,--a fact which once more made the clergyman waver in his opinion.

“It is very true,” said Colin, confused, yet impulsive; “though I am
ashamed to say I never thought of it before. We have all been so much
occupied with poor Arthur. But what you say is perfectly just, and I am
obliged to you for the suggestion. I shall take rooms in Rome to-night.”

Upon which the two parted with more amity than could have been expected;
for Colin’s clerical judge was pleased to have his advice taken so
readily, as was natural, and began to incline towards the opinion that a
young man who did not resent the imputation of having failed in a point
which “any gentleman would have thought of,” but confessed without
hesitation that it had not occurred to him, could be nothing less than a
gentleman. Notwithstanding, the first step taken by this sensible and
experienced man was to write a letter by that day’s post to Mr. Meredith
of Maltby, informing him of the application Colin had just made. He knew
nothing against the young man, the reverend gentleman was good enough to
say,--he was very young and well-looking, and had a good expression, and
might be unexceptionable; but still, without her father’s consent, Mr.
Meredith might rest assured _he_ would take no steps in the business.
When he had written this letter, the clergyman summoned his wife and
took the trouble of going out to Frascati to see Alice, which he would
not have done had he not been a just and kind man; while at the same
time his heart was relenting to Colin, whom the clerical couple met in
the street, and who took off his hat when he encountered them, without
the least shadow of resentment. It is so long since all this happened
that the name of the clergyman thus temporarily occupying the place of
the chaplain at Rome has escaped recollection, and Colin’s historian has
no desire to coin names or confuse identities. The gentleman in question
was, it is supposed, an English rector taking his holiday. He went out
to Frascati, like an honourable and just person as he was, to see what
the solitary girl was about, thus left to the chances of the world, and
found Alice in the great _salone_ in her black dress, under charge of
Sora Antonia, who sat with her white handkerchief on her ample
shoulders, twirling her spindle, and spinning, along with her thread,
many a tale of chequered human existence, for the amusement of her
charge; who, however, for the first time in her life, had begun to be
unconscious of what was said to her, and to spend her days in strains of
reverie all unusual to Alice--mingled dreams and intentions, dim
pictures of the life that was to be, and purposes which were to be
carried out therein. Sora Antonia’s stories, which required no answer,
were very congenial to Alice’s state of mind; and now and then, a word
from the narrative fell into and gave a new direction to her thoughts.

From all this she woke up with a little start when the English visitors
entered, and it was with difficulty she restrained the tears which came
in a choking flood when she recognised the clergyman. He had seen Arthur
repeatedly during his illness, and had given him the sacrament, and laid
him in his grave, and all the associations connected with him were too
much for her, although after Arthur’s death the good man had forgotten
the poor little mourning sister. When she recovered, however, Alice was
much more able to cope with her reverend questioner than Colin had
been--perhaps because she was a woman; perhaps because she had more of
the ease of society; perhaps because in this matter at least her own
feelings were more profound and unmixed than those of her young
_fiancé_. She composed herself with an effort when he told her the
object of his visit, recognising the necessity of explanation, and ready
to give all that was in her power.

“No; papa does not know,” said Alice, “but it is because he has taken no
charge of me--he has left me to myself. I should not have minded so much
if you had been of our county, for then you would have understood; but
you are a clergyman, and Mrs. ----”

“I am a clergyman’s wife,” the lady said, kindly; “anything you say will
be sacred to me.”

“Ah,” said Alice, with a little impatient sigh; and she could not help
looking at the door, and longing for Colin, who was coming no more,
though she did not know that; for the girl, though she was not clever,
had a perception within her, such as never would have come to Colin,
that, notwithstanding this solemn assurance, the fact that her visitor
was a clergyman’s wife would not prevent her story from oozing out into
the common current of English talk in Rome;--but, notwithstanding,
Alice, whose ideas of her duty to the world were very clear, knew that
the story must be told. She went on accordingly very steadily, though
with thrills and flushes of colour coming and going--and the chances are
that Colin’s ideal woman, could she have been placed in the same
position, would not have acquitted herself half so well.

“It will be necessary to tell you everything from the beginning, or you
will not understand it,” said Alice. “Papa did not do exactly as Arthur
thought right in some things; and though I did not think myself a judge,
I--I took Arthur’s side; and then Mrs. Meredith came to Maltby suddenly
with the children. It was a great surprise to us, for we did not know
till that moment that papa had married again. I would rather not say
anything about Mrs. Meredith,” said Alice, showing a little agitation,
“but Arthur did not think she was a person whom I could stay with; and,
when he had to leave himself he brought me with him. Indeed, I wanted
very much to come. I could not bear that he should go away by himself;
and I should have died had I been left there with papa, and everything
so changed. I wrote after we left, but papa would not answer my letter,
nor take any notice of us. I am very sorry, but I cannot help it. That
is all. I suppose you heard of Mrs. Meredith’s letter to Mr. Lauderdale.
My aunt is in India--so I could not go to her; and all the rest are
dead; that is why I have stayed here.”

“It is very sad to think you should be so lonely,” said the clergyman,
“and it is a very trying position for one so young. Still there are
families in Rome that would have received you; and I think, my dear Miss
Meredith--you must not suppose me harsh--it is only your good I am
thinking of; I think you should yourself have communicated with your
father.”

“I wrote to Aunt Mary,” said Alice. “I told her everything. I thought
she would be sure to advise me for the best. But papa would not answer
the letter I wrote him after we left home, and he refuses to have
anything to do with me in Mr. Lauderdale’s letter. I do not understand
what I can do more.”

“But you have not waited to be advised,” said the English priest, whose
wife had taken the poor little culprit’s hand, and was whispering to
her, “Compose yourself, my dear,” and “We are your friends,” and
“Mr. ---- only means it for your good,” with other such scraps of
consolation. Alice scarcely needed the first exhortation, having, in a
large degree, that steady power of self-control which is one of the most
valuable endowments in the world. “You have not waited for your Aunt’s
advice,” continued the clergyman. “Indeed, I confess it is very hard to
blame you; but still it is a very serious step to take, and one that a
young creature like you should not venture upon without the advice of
her friends. Mr. Campbell also is very young, and you cannot have known
each other very long.”

“All the winter,” said Alice, with a faint colour, for affairs were too
serious for ordinary blushing; “at least all the spring, ever since we
left England. And it has not been common knowing,” she added, with a
deepening flush. “He and Mr. Lauderdale were like brothers to
Arthur--they nursed him night and day; they nursed him better than I
did,” said the poor sister, bursting forth into natural tears. “The
people we have known all our lives were never so good to us. He said at
the very last that they were to take care of me; and they have taken
care of me,” said Alice, among her sobs, raised for a moment beyond
herself by her sense of the chivalrous guardianship which had surrounded
her, “as if I had been a queen.”

“My dear child, lean upon me,” said the lady sitting by; “don’t be
afraid of us; don’t mind crying, it will be a relief to you. Mr. ----
only means it for your good; he does not intend to vex you, dear.”

“Certainly not, certainly not,” said the clergyman, taking a little walk
to the window, as men do in perplexity; and then he came back and drew
his seat closer, as Alice regained the mastery over herself. “My dear
young lady, have confidence in me. Am I to understand that it is from
gratitude you have made up your mind to accept Mr. Campbell? Don’t
hesitate. I beg of you to let me know the truth.”

The downcast face of Alice grew crimson suddenly to the hair; and then
she lifted her eyes, not to the man who was questioning her, but to the
woman who sat beside her. Those eyes were full of indignant complaint
and appeal. “Can you, a woman, stand by and see the heart of another
woman searched for its secret?” That was the utterance of Alice’s look;
and she made no further answer, but turned her head partly away, with an
offended pride which sat strangely and yet not unbecomingly upon her.
The change was so marked that the reverend questioner got up from his
chair again almost as confused as Alice, and his wife, instinctively
replying to the appeal made to her, took the matter into her own hands.

“If you will wait for me below, George, I will join you by-and-by,” said
this good woman. “Men must not spy into women’s secrets.” And “I have
daughters of my own,” she added softly in Alice’s ear. Let us thank
heaven, that, though the number of those be few who are able or disposed
to do great things for their fellows, the number is many who are ready
to respond to an actual call for sympathy when it is made to them, and
to own the universal kindred. It was not an everlasting friendship that
these two English women, left alone in the bare Italian chamber, formed
for each other. The one who was a mother did not receive the orphan
permanently into her breast, neither did the girl find a parent in her
new friend. Yet for the moment nature found relief for itself; they were
mother and child, though strangers to each other. The elder woman heard
with tears, and sympathy, and comprehension, the other’s interrupted
tale, and gave her the kiss which in its way was more precious than a
lover’s. “You have done nothing wrong, my poor child,” the pitying woman
said, affording an absolution more valuable than any priest’s to the
girl’s female soul; and as she spoke there passed momentarily through
the mind of the visitor a rapid, troubled enumeration of the rooms in
her “apartment,” which involved the possibility of carrying this
friendless creature home with her. But that idea was found impracticable
almost as soon as conceived. “I wish I could take you home with me, my
dear,” the good woman said, with a sigh; “but our rooms are so small;
but I will talk it all over with Mr. ----, and see what can be done; and
I should like to know more of Mr. Campbell after all you tell me; he
must be a very superior young man. You may be sure we shall be your
friends, _both your friends_, whatever happens. I should just like to
say a word to the woman of the house, and tell her to take good care of
you, my dear, before I go.”

“Sora Antonia is very kind,” said Alice.

“Yes, my dear, I am sure of it; still she will be all the more attentive
when she sees you have friends to take care of you,” said the
experienced woman; which was all the more kind on her part as her
Italian was very limited, and a personal encounter of this description
was one which she would have shrunk from in ordinary circumstances. But
when she joined her husband it was with a glow of warmth and kindness
about her heart, and a consciousness of having comforted the friendless.
“If it ever could be right to do such a thing, I almost think it would
be in such a case as this,” she said with a woman’s natural leaning to
the romantic side; but the clergyman only shook his head. “We must wait,
at all events, for an answer from Mr. Meredith,” he said; and the
fortnight which ensued was not a cheerful one for Alice.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


There can be no doubt that the clergyman was right in suggesting that
Colin should leave Frascati, and that the strange little household which
had kept together since Arthur’s death, under the supervision of Sora
Antonia, was in its innocence in utter contradiction of all decorum and
the usages of society. It was true besides that Alice had begun to be
uneasy upon this very point, and to feel herself in a false position;
nevertheless, when Lauderdale returned alone with a note from Colin, and
informed her that they had found rooms in Rome, and were to leave her
with Sora Antonia until the arrangements were made for the marriage, it
is inconceivable how blank and flat the evening felt to Alice without
her two knights. As she sat over her needlework her sorrow came more
frequently home to her than it had ever done before--her sorrow, her
friendlessness, and a vague dread that this great happiness, which had
come in tears, and which even now could scarcely be separated from the
grief which accompanied it, might again fly away from her like a passing
angel. Sora Antonia was indifferent company under these circumstances;
she was very kind, but it was not in nature that an elderly peasant
woman could watch the changing expressions of a girl’s face, and
forestall her tears, and beguile her weariness like the two chivalrous
men who had devoted themselves to her amusement and occupation. Now that
this rare morsel of time, during which she had been tended “like a
queen,” was over, it seemed impossible to Alice that it ever could be
again. She who was not clever, who was nothing but Arthur’s sister, how
could she ever expect again to be watched over and served like an
enchanted princess? Though, indeed, if she were Colin’s wife--! but
since Colin’s departure and the visit of the clergyman, that possibility
seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer--she could not tell why. She believed
in it when her lover came to see her, which was often enough; but, when
he was absent, doubt returned, and the bright prospect glided away,
growing more and more dim and distant. She had never indulged in
imagination, to speak of, before, and the few dreams that had possessed
her heart had been dreams of Arthur’s recovery--fantastic hopeless
visions of those wondrous doctors and impossible medicines sometimes to
be met with in books. But now, when her own position began to occupy
her, and she found herself standing between hopes and fears, with such
a sweet world of tenderness and consolation on one side, and so unlovely
a prospect on the other, the dormant imagination woke up, and made wild
work with Alice. Even in the face of her stepmother’s refusal to have
anything to do with her, the spectre of Mrs. Meredith coming to take her
home was the nightmare of the poor girl’s existence. This was what she
gained by the clergyman’s attention to the proprieties of the situation;
but there was at least the comfort of thinking that in respect to
decorum all was now perfectly right.

As for Colin, he, it must be confessed, bore the separation better; for
he was not at all afraid of Mrs. Meredith, and he had a great many
things to learn and do, and, when he paid his betrothed a visit, it was
sweet to see the flush of unmistakeable joy in her face, and to feel
that so fair a creature sat thinking of him in the silence, referring
everything to him, ready to crown him with all the hopes and blossoms of
her youth. And then, but for her sake, Colin, to tell the truth, was in
no such hurry to be married as his clerical censor supposed. The weeks
that might have to elapse before that event could be concluded were not
nearly so irksome to him as they ought to have been; and, even though he
began to be irritated by the ambiguous responses of the clergyman, he
was not impatient of the delay itself, but found the days very
interesting, and, on the whole, enjoyed himself; which, to be sure, may
give some people an unfavourable impression of Colin’s heart, and want
of sympathy with the emotions of her he looked upon as his bride. At the
same time, it is but just to say that he was not aware of these
emotions--for Alice said nothing about her fears; and his love for her,
which was genuine enough in its way, was not of the nature of that love
which divines everything, and reads the eye and the heart with
infallible perception. He did not suffer, like Alice, from fears that
his dawning happiness was too great, and could never come true; for,
though he had fully accepted his position, and even with the facility of
youth had found pleasure in it, and found himself growing fonder every
day of the sweet and tranquil creature to whom he became day by day more
completely all in all, this kind of calm domestic love was
unimpassioned, and not subject to the hopes and fears, the despairs and
exultations of more spontaneous and enthusiastic devotion. So, to tell
the truth, he endured the separation with philosophy, and roamed about
all day long with many a thought in his mind, through that town which is
of all towns in the world most full of memories, most exciting and most
sorrowful. Colin, being Scotch, was not classical to speak of, and the
Cæsars had but a limited interest for him; but, if the ancient tutelary
deities were worn out and faded, the shrine to which pilgrims had come
for so many ages was musical with all the echoes of history, and
affecting beyond description or comparison. And in Papal Rome the young
priest had an interest altogether different from that of a polemical
Protestant or a reverential High-Churchman. Colin was a man of his age,
tolerant and indulgent to other people’s opinions, and apt to follow out
his own special study without pausing to consider whether the people
among whom he pursued it were without spot or blemish in matters of
doctrine. The two friends spent a great deal of time in the churches;
not at the high mass, or sweet-voiced vespers, where irreverent crowds
assembled, as in a concert-room, to hear Mustafa sing, but in
out-of-the-way chapels, where there were no signs of _festa_; in the
Pantheon, in churches where there were no great pictures nor celebrated
images, but where the common people went and came unconscious of any
spectators; and many and strange were the discussions held by the two
Scotchmen over the devotions they witnessed--devotions ignorant enough,
no doubt, but real, and full of personal meaning. It was Rome without
her glorious apparel, without her grandeur and melodies,--Rome in very
poor vestments, not always clean, singing out of tune, and regarding
with eyes of intensest supplication such poor daubs of saints and
weak-eyed Madonnas as would have found no place in the meanest
exhibition anywhere in the world. Strangely enough, this was the aspect
in which she had most interest for the two friends.

“It would be awfu’ curious to hear the real thoughts these honest folk
have in their minds,” said Lauderdale. “I’m no much of the idolatry way
of thinking mysel’. It may come a wee that way in respect to Mary. The
rest of them are little more than friends at court so far as I can see,
and it’s no unnatural feeling. If you take the view that a’ natural
feelings are like to be wrong to start with, that settles the question;
but if, on the other hand--”

“I don’t believe in idolatry under any circumstances,” said Colin,
hotly; “nobody worships a bad picture. It is the something represented
by it, never to be fully expressed, and of which, indeed, a bad picture
is almost more touching than a good one--”

“Keep quiet, callant, and let other folk have a chance to speak,” said
Lauderdale; “I’m saying there’s an awfu’ deal of reasonableness in
nature if you take her in the right way. I’m far from being above that
feeling mysel’. No that I have ony acquaintance with St. Cosmo and St.
Damian and the rest; but I wouldna say if there was ony rational way of
getting at the ear of one of them that’s gone--even if it was Arthur,
poor callant--that I wouldna be awfu’ tempted to bid him mind upon me
when he was near the Presence Cha’amer. I’m no saying he had much wisdom
to speak of, or was more enlightened than myself; and there’s no
distinct evidence that at this moment he’s nearer God than I am; but I
tell you, callant, nature’s strong--and, if I kent ony way of
communication, there’s nae philosophy in the world would keep me from
asking, if he was nigh the palace gates and could see Him that sits upon
the throne, that he should mind upon me.”

“You may be sure he does it without asking,” said Colin--and then, after
a moment’s pause, “Your illustration comes too close for criticism. I
know what you mean; but then the saints as they flourish in Rome have
nothing to do with Scotland,” said the young man. “It would be something
to get the people to have a little respect for the saints; but, as to
saying their prayers to them, there is little danger of that.”

“The callant’s crazy about Scotland,” said Lauderdale; “a man that heard
you and kent no better might think ye were the king of Scotland in
disguise, with a scheme of Church reform in your hand. If you’re ever a
minister you’ll be in hot water before you’re well placed. But, Colin,
it’s an awfu’ descent from all your grand thoughts. You’ll have to fight
with the presbytery about organs and such like rubbish--and when you’re
to stand, and when you’re to sit; that’s what ambitious callants come to
in our kirk. You were like enough for such a fate at any time, but
you’re certain of it now with your English wife.”

“Well,” said Colin, “it is no worse than the fight about candles and
surplices in England; better, indeed, for it means something; and, if I
fight on that point, at least I’ll fight at the same time for better
things.”

“It’s aye best no to fight at all,” said the philosopher, “though that’s
no a doctrine palatable to human nature so far as I have ever seen. But
it’s aye awfu’ easy talking; you’re no ready for your profession yet;
and how you are ever to be ready, and you a married man----”

“Stuff!” said Colin; “most men are married; but I don’t see that _that_
fact hinders the business of the world. I don’t mean to spend all my
time with my wife.”

“No,” said Lauderdale with a momentary touch of deeper seriousness--and
he paused and cast a side glance at his companion as if longing to say
something; but it happened at that moment, either by chance or
intention, that Colin turned the full glow of his brown eyes upon his
friend’s face, looking at him with that bright but blank smile which he
had seen before, and which imposed silence more absolutely than any
prohibition. “No,” said Lauderdale, slowly changing his tone; “I’ll no
say it was that I was thinking of. The generality of callants studying
for the kirk in our country are no in your position. I’m no clear in my
own mind how it’s come to pass--for a young man that’s the head of a
family has a different class of subjects to occupy his mind; and as for
the Balliol scholarship”--said the philosopher regretfully; “but that’s
no what I’m meaning. You’ll have to provide for your own house, callant,
before you think of the kirk.”

“Yes, I have thought of all that,” said Colin. “I think Alice will get
on with my mother. She must stay there, you know, and I will go down as
often as I can during the winter. What do you mean by making no answer?
Do you think she will not like Ramore? My mother is fit company for a
queen,” said the young man with momentary irritation; for, indeed, he
was a little doubtful in his own mind how this plan would work.

“I’ve little acquaintance with queens,” said Lauderdale; “but I’m
thinking history would tell different tales if the half of them were fit
to be let within the door where the Mistress was. That’s no the
question. It’s clear to me that your wife will rather have your company
than your mother’s--which is according to nature, though you and me may
be of a different opinion. If you listen to me, Colin, you’ll think a’
that over again. It’s an awfu’ serious question. I’m no saying a word
against the kirk; whatever fools may say, it’s a grand profession;
there’s nae profession so grand that I ken of; but a man shouldna begin
a race with burdens on his back and chains on his limbs. You’ll have to
make your choice between love and it, Colin; and since in the first
place you’ve made choice of love----”

“Stuff!” said Colin; but it was not said with his usual lightness of
tone, and he turned upon his friend with a subdued exasperation which
meant more than it expressed. “Why do you speak to me of love and----
nonsense,” cried Colin, “what choice is there?” and then he recollected
himself, and grew red and angry. “My love has Providence itself for a
second,” he said; “if it were mere fancy you might speak; but, as for
giving up my profession, nothing shall induce me to do that. Alice is
not like a fanciful fool to hamper and constrain me. She will stay with
my mother. Two years more will complete my studies, and then----” here
Colin paused of himself, and did not well know what to add; for, indeed,
it was then chiefly that the uttermost uncertainty commenced.

“And then--” said Lauderdale, meditatively. “It’s an awfu’ serious
question. It’s ill to say what may happen then. What I’m saying is no
pleasure to me. I’ve put mair hope on your head than any man’s justified
in putting on another man. Ye were the ransom of my soul, callant,” said
the philosopher, with momentary emotion. “It was you that was to _be_;
nothing but talk will ever come out of a man like me--and it’s an awfu’
consolation to contemplate a soul that means to live. But there’s more
ways of living--ay, and of serving God and Scotland--than in the kirk.
No man in the world can fight altogether in the face of circumstance. I
would think it a’ well over again, if I were you.”

“No more,” said Colin, with all the more impatience that he felt the
truth of what his friend was saying. “No more; I am not to be moved on
that subject. No, no, it is too much; I cannot give up my profession,”
he said, half under his breath, to himself; and, perhaps, at the bottom
of his soul, a momentary grudge, a momentary pang, arose within him at
thought of the woman who could accept such a sacrifice without even
knowing it, or feeling how great it was. Such, alas, was not the woman
of Colin’s dreams; yet so inconsistent was the young man in his youth,
that ten minutes after, when the two walked past the Colosseum on their
way to the railway, being bound to Frascati (for this was before the
days when the vulgar highway of commerce had entered within the walls of
Rome), a certain wavering smile on his lip, a certain colour on his
cheeks, betrayed as plainly that he was bound on a lover’s errand, as if
it had been said in words. Lauderdale, whose youthful days were past,
and who was at all times more a man of one idea, more absolute and fixed
in his affections, than Colin, could understand him less on this point
than on any other; but he saw how it was, though he did not attempt to
explain how it could be, and the two friends grew silent, one of them
delivered by sheer force of youthfulness and natural vigour from the
anxieties that clouded the other. As they approached the gate, a
carriage, which had been stopped there by the watchful ministers of the
Dogana, made a sudden start, and dashed past them. It was gone in a
moment, flashing on in the sunshine at the utmost speed which a reckless
Italian coachman could get out of horses which did not belong to him;
but in that instant, both the bystanders started, and came to a sudden
pause in their walk. “Did you hear anything?” said Colin. “What was it?”
and the young man turned round, and made a few rapid strides after the
carriage; but then Colin stopped short, with an uneasy laugh at himself.
“Absurd,” he said; “all English voices sound something alike,” which was
an unlover-like remark. And then he turned to his friend, who looked
almost as much excited as himself.

“I suppose that’s it,” said Lauderdale, but he was less easily satisfied
than Colin. “I cannot see how it could be her,” he said, slowly;
“but----. Yon’s an awfu’ speed if there’s no reason for it. I’m terrible
tempted to jump into that machine there, and follow,” the philosopher
added, with a stride towards a crazy little one-horse carriage which was
waiting empty at the gate.

“It is I who should do that,” said Colin; and then he laughed, shaking
off his fears. “It is altogether impossible and absurd,” the young man
said. “Nonsense! there are scores of English girls who have voices
sufficiently like her’s to startle one. I have thought it was she
half-a-dozen times since I came to Rome. Come along, or we shall lose
the train. Nothing could possibly bring her into Rome without our
knowledge; and nothing, I hope,” said the young lover, who was in little
doubt on that branch of the subject, “could make her pass by _me_.”

“Except her father,” said Lauderdale, to which Colin only replied by an
impatient exclamation as they went on to the train. But, though it was
only a momentary sound, the tone of a voice, that had startled them, it
was with extreme impatience and an uneasiness which they had tried to
hide from each other that they made their way to Frascati. To be sure
Colin amused himself for a little by the thought of a pretty speech with
which he could flatter and flutter his gentle _fiancée_, telling her her
voice was in the air, and he heard it everywhere; and then he burst
forth into “Airy tongues that syllable men’s names,” to the
consternation of Lauderdale. “But then she did not syllable any name,”
he added, laughing; “which is a proof positive that it can have been
nothing.” His laugh and voice were, however, full of excitement and
uneasiness, and betrayed to Lauderdale that the suggestion he had made
began to work. The two mounted the hill to Frascati from the station
with a swiftness and silence natural to two Scotchmen at such a moment,
leaving everything in the shape of carriage behind them. When they
reached the Palazzo Savvelli, Colin cleared the long staircase at a
bound for anything his companion saw who followed him more slowly, more
and more certainly prescient of something having happened. When
Lauderdale reached the _salone_, he found nobody there save Sora
Antonia, with her apron at her eyes, and Colin, sunk into Arthur’s
chair, reading a letter which he held in both his hands. Colin’s face
was crimson, his hands trembling with excitement and passion. The next
moment he had started to his feet and was ready for action. “Read it,
Lauderdale,” he said, with a choking voice; “you may read it; it has all
come true; and in the meantime I’m off to get a vettura,” said the young
man, rushing to the door. Before his friend could say a word, Colin was
gone, tearing frantically down the stairs which he had come up like
lightning; and in this bewildering moment, after the thunderbolt had
fallen, with Sora Antonia’s voice ringing in his ear as loudly and
scarce more intelligibly than the rain which accompanies a storm,
Lauderdale picked up poor Alice’s letter, which was blotted with tears.

     “Papa has come to fetch me,” wrote Alice. “Oh, Colin, my heart is
     broken! He says we are to go instantly, without a moment’s delay;
     and he would not let me write even this if he knew. Oh, Colin,
     after all your goodness and kindness, and love that I was not
     worthy of!--oh, why did anybody ever interfere? I do not know what
     I am writing, and I am sure you will never be able to read it.
     Never so long as I live shall I think one thought of anybody but
     you; but papa would not let me speak to you--would not wait to see
     you, though I told him you were coming. Oh Colin, good-bye, and do
     not think it is me--and tell Mr. Lauderdale I shall never forget
     his kindness. I would rather, far rather, die than go away. Always,
     always, whatever any one may say, your own poor Alice, who is not
     half nor quarter good enough for you.”

Such was the hurried utterance of her disappointment and despair which
Alice had left behind her ere she was forced away; but Sora Antonia held
another document of a more formal description, which she delivered to
Lauderdale with a long preface, of which he did not understand a word.
He opened it carelessly; for, the fact being apparent, Lauderdale, who
had no hand in the business on his own account, was sufficiently
indifferent to any compliments which the father of Alice might have to
pay to himself.

     “Mr. Meredith regrets to have the sentiments of gratitude with
     which he was prepared to meet Mr. Lauderdale, on account of
     services rendered to his son, turned into contempt and indignation
     by the base attempt on the part of Mr. Lauderdale’s companion to
     ensnare the affections of his daughter. Having no doubt whatever
     that when removed from the personal coercion in which she has been
     held, Miss Meredith will see the base character of the connexion
     which it has been attempted to force upon her, Mr. Meredith will,
     in consideration of the services above mentioned, take no legal
     steps for the exposure of the conspiracy which he has fortunately
     found out in time to defeat its nefarious object; but begs that it
     may be fully understood that his leniency is only to be purchased
     by an utter abstinence from any attempt to disturb Miss Meredith,
     or bring forward the ridiculous pretensions of which she is too
     young to see the utterly interested and mercenary character.”

A man does not generally preserve his composure unabated after reading
such an epistle, and Lauderdale was no more capable than other men of
dissembling his indignation. His face flushed with a dark glow, more
burning and violent than anything that had disturbed his blood for
years; and it was as well for the character of the grave and
sober-minded Scotsman that nobody but Sora Antonia was present to listen
to the first exclamation that rose to his lips. Sora Antonia herself was
in a state of natural excitement, pouring forth her account of all that
had happened with tears and maledictions, which were only stopped by
Colin’s shout from the foot of the staircase for his friend. The
impatient youth came rushing upstairs when he found no immediate
response, and swept the older man with him like a whirlwind. “Another
time, another time,” he cried to Sora Antonia, “I must go first and
bring the Signorina back,” and Colin picked up both the letters, and
rushed down, driving Lauderdale before him to the carriage which he had
already brought to the door; and they were driving off again, whirling
down hill towards the Campagna, before either had recovered the first
shock of this unlooked-for change in all their plans. Then it was
Lauderdale who was the first to speak.

“You are going to bring the Signorina back,” he said with a long breath.
“It’s a fool’s errand, but I’ll no say but I’ll go with you. Colin,
it’s happened as was only natural. The father has got better, as I said
he would. I’m no blaming the father”--

“Not after _this_?” said Colin, who had just read in a blaze of
indignation Mr. Meredith’s letter.

“Hout,” said the philosopher, “certainly not after that;” and he took it
out of Colin’s hand and folded it up and tore it into a dozen pieces.
“The man kens nothing of me. Callant,” said Lauderdale, warming
suddenly, “there is but one person to be considered in this business.
You and me can fend for ourselves. Pain and sorrow cannot but come on
her as things are, but nothing is to be done or said that can aggravate
them, or give her more to bear. You’re no heeding what I say. Where are
you going now, if a man might ask?”

“I am going to claim my bride,” said Colin, shortly. “Do you imagine I
am likely to abandon her now?”

“Colin,” said his friend anxiously, “you’ll no get her. I’m no
forbidding you to try, but I warn you not to hope. She’s in the hands of
her natural guardian, and at this moment there’s nae power on earth that
would induce him to give her to you. He’s to be blamed for ill speaking,
but I’m no clear that he’s to be blamed for this.”

“I wish you would not talk,” said Colin roughly, and opened Alice’s
little letter again, and read it and put it to his lips. If he had never
been impassioned before he was so now; and so they went on, dashing
across the long level Campagna roads, where there was nothing to break
the sunshine but here and there a nameless pile of ruins.

The sunshine began to fall low and level on the plain before they
reached the gates. “One thing at least is certain--he cannot take her
out of Rome to-night,” said Colin. It was almost the only word that was
spoken between them until they began their doubtful progress from one
hotel to another, through the noisy resounding streets.



CHAPTER XL.


“Now we have found them let me face them by myself,” said Colin, to whom
the interval of silence and consideration had been of use. They were
both waiting in the hall of one of the hotels facing towards the Piazza
del Popolo, to which they had at last tracked Mr. Meredith, and
Lauderdale acquiesced silently in Colin’s decision. The young man had
already sent up his card, with a request that he might see not Alice but
her father. After a considerable time, the servant who had taken it
returned with an abrupt message that Mr. Meredith was engaged. When he
had sent up a second time, explaining that his business was urgent, but
with the same effect, Colin accompanied his third message with a note,
and went with his messenger to the door of the room in which his
adversary was. There could be no doubt of the commotion produced within
by this third application. Colin could hear some one pacing about the
room with disturbed steps, and the sound of a controversy going on,
which, though he was too far off to hear anything that was said, still
reached him vaguely in sound at least. When he had waited for about five
minutes, the clergyman, whom he had not in the least thought of or
expected to see, made his appearance cautiously at the door. He did not
attempt to admit the young man, but came up to him on tiptoe, and took
him persuasively, almost caressingly, by the arm. “My good friend, my
excellent young friend,” said the puzzled priest, with a mixture of
compunction and expostulation which in other circumstances would have
amused Colin, “let us have a little conversation. I am sure you are much
too generous and considerate to add to the distress of--of----” But here
the good man recollected just in time that he had pledged himself not to
speak of Alice, and made a sudden pause. “There in that room,” he went
on, changing his tone, and assuming a little solemnity, “is a sorrowful
father, mourning for his only son, and driven almost out of his senses
by illness and weakness, and a sense of the shameful way in which his
daughter has been neglected--not his fault, my dear Mr Campbell. You
cannot have the heart to increase his sufferings by claims, however well
founded, which have been formed at a time----”

“Stop,” said Colin, “it is not my fault if he has not done his duty to
his children; I have no right to bear the penalty. He has cast the
vilest imputations upon me--”

“Hush, hush, I beg of you,” said the clergyman, “my excellent young
friend--”

Colin laughed in spite of himself. “If I am your excellent friend,” he
said, “why do you not procure me admission to tell my own story? Why
should the sight of me distress your sorrowing father? I am not an ogre,
nor an enemy, but his son’s friend; and up to this day, I need not
remind you,” said the young man with a rising colour, “the only
protector, along with my friend Lauderdale, whom his daughter has had. I
do not say that he may not have natural objections to give her to a poor
man,” said Colin, with natural pride; “but, at all events, he has no
reason to hurry her away by stealth, as if I had not a right to be told
why our engagement is interrupted so summarily. I will do nothing to
distress Alice,” the young man went on, involuntarily lingering by the
door, which was not entirely closed; “but I protest against being
treated like a villain or an adventurer--”

“Hush, hush, hush,” cried the unlucky peacemaker, putting out his hand
to close the unfastened door; and before he could do so, Mr. Meredith
appeared on the threshold, flushed and furious. “What are you else, sir,
I should like to know,” cried the angry British father, “to drag an
unprotected girl into such an entanglement without even a pretence of
consulting her friends; to take advantage of a deathbed for your
detestable fortune-hunting schemes? Don’t answer me, sir! Have you a
penny of your own? have you anything to live on? That’s the question. If
it was not for other considerations, I’d indict you. I’d charge you with
conspiracy; and even now, if you come here to disturb my poor girl----.
But I promise you, you shall see her no more,” the angry man continued.
“Go, sir, and let me hear no more of you. She has a protector now.”

Colin stood a moment without speaking after Mr. Meredith has
disappeared, closing the door violently after him.

“I have not come to distress Alice,” said the young man. He had to
repeat it to himself to keep down the hot blood that was burning in his
veins; and as for the unfortunate clergyman, who was the immediate cause
of all this, he kept his position by the door in a state of mind far
from enviable, sorry for the young man, and ashamed of the old one, and
making inarticulate efforts to speak and mediate between them. But the
conference did not last very long outside the closed door. Though it did
not fortunately occur to Colin that it was the interference of his
present companion which had originated this scene, the young man did not
feel the insult the less from the deprecatory half-sympathy offered to
him. “It is a mistake--it is a mistake,” said the clergyman, “Mr.
Meredith will discover his error. I said I thought you were imprudent,
and indeed wrong; but I have never suspected you of interested
motives--never since my first interview with the young lady;--but think
of her sufferings, my dear young friend; think of her,” said the
mediator, who was driven to his wits’ end. As for Colin, he calmed
himself down a little by means of pacing about the corridor--the common
resource of men in trouble.

“Poor Alice,” he said, “if I did not think of her, do you think I should
have stood quietly to be insulted? But look here--the abuse of such a
man can do no harm to me, but he may kill her. If I could see her it
might do some good.--Impossible? Do you suppose I mean to see her
clandestinely, or to run away with her, perhaps? I mean,” said Colin,
with youthful sternness, “that if I were permitted to see her I might be
able to reconcile her a little to what is inevitable. Of course he is
her father. I wish her father were a chimney-sweep instead;--but it is
she I have to think of. Will you try to get me permission to see
her?--only for ten minutes, if you like--in your presence, if that is
necessary; but I must say one word to her before she is carried away.”

“Yes, yes, it is very natural--very natural,” said the peace-maker; “I
will do all I can for you. Be here at eleven o’clock to-morrow morning;
the poor dear young lady must have rest after her agitation. Don’t be
afraid; I am not a man to deceive you; they do not leave till the
afternoon for Civita Vecchia. You shall see her; I think I can promise
that. I will take the responsibility on myself.”

Thus ended Colin’s attempt to bring back the Signorina, as he said. In
the morning he had reached the hotel long before the hour mentioned, in
case of an earlier departure; but everything was quiet there, and the
young man hovered about, looking up at the windows, and wondering which
might be the one which inclosed his little love, with sentiments more
entirely lover-like than he had ever experienced before. But, when the
hour of his appointment came, and he hurried into the hotel, he was met
by the indignant clergyman, who felt his own honour compromised, and was
wroth beyond measure. Mr. Meredith had left Rome at dawn of day,
certainly not for Civita Vecchia, leaving no message for any one. He had
pretended, after hot resistance, to yield to the kind-hearted priest’s
petition, that the lovers might say farewell to each other, and this was
the way he had taken of balking them. It was now the author of the
original mischief who felt himself insulted and scorned, and his
resentment and indignation were louder than Colin’s, whose mind at first
lost itself in schemes of following, and vain attempts to ascertain the
route the party had taken. Lauderdale, coming anxious but steady to the
scene of action half an hour afterwards, found his friend absorbed in
this inquiry, and balancing all the chances between the road by Perugia
and the road by Orvieto, with the full intention of going off in
pursuit.

It was then his careful guardian’s turn to interfere. He led the youth
away, and pointed out to him the utter vanity of such an undertaking.
Not distance or uncertainty of road, but her father’s will, which was
likely to be made all the more rigorous by pursuit, parted Alice from
her young protector and bridegroom; and if he followed her to the end of
the world, this obstacle would still remain as unremoveable as ever.
Though he was hot-headed and young, and moved by excitement, and
indignation, and pity, to a height of passion which his love for Alice
by itself would never have produced, Colin still could not help being
reasonable, and he saw the truth of what was said to him. At the same
time, it was not natural that the shock which was so great and sudden
should be got over in a moment. He felt himself insulted and outraged,
in the first place; and the other side of the question was almost
equally mortifying; for he knew the relief that would be felt by all his
friends when the sudden end of his unwelcome project was made known to
them. The Ramore household had given a kind of passive acquiescence in
what seemed inevitable--but Colin was aware they would all be very glad
at home when the failure was known--and it was a failure, howsoever the
tale might be told. Thus the original disappointment was aggravated by
stings of apprehended ridicule and jocular sympathy, for to no living
soul, not even to his mother, would Colin have confessed how great a
share in his original decision Alice’s helpless and friendless position
had, nor the sense of loss and bondage with which he had often in his
secret heart regarded the premature and imprudent marriage which he had
lived to hear stigmatised as the scheme of a fortune-hunter. It was thus
that the very generosity of his intentions gave an additional sting at
once to the insult and the sympathy. After a day or two, his thoughts of
Alice as the first person to be considered, and the deep sense of the
terrible calamity it was to her, yielded a little to those thoughts of
himself and all the humiliating accompaniments of a change so unlooked
for. During this period his temper became, even by Lauderdale,
unbearable; and he threw aside everything he was doing, and took to
silence and solitary rambles, in utter disgust with the shortsightedness
and injustice of the world.

But after that unhappy interval it has to be confessed that the skies
suddenly cleared for Colin. The first symptom of revival that happened
to him came to pass on a starry, lovely May night, when he had plunged
into the darkness of the lonely quarter about the Colosseum alone, and
in a state of mind to which an encounter with the robbers supposed to
haunt these silent places would have been highly beneficial. But it
chanced that Colin raised his moody eyes to the sky, suddenly and
without any premeditation, and saw the moon struggling up through a maze
of soft white clouds, parting them with her hands as they threw
themselves into baffling airy masses always in her way; and suddenly,
without a moment of preface, a face--the face--the image of the veiled
woman, who was not Alice, and to whom he had bidden farewell, gleamed
out once more through the clouds, and looked Colin in the eyes,
thrilling him through and through with a guilty astonishment. The moment
after was the hardest of all Colin’s struggle; and he rushed home after
it tingling all over with self-contempt and burning indignation, and
plunged into a torrent of talk when he found his friend, by way of
forgetting himself, which struck Lauderdale with the utmost surprise.
But next day Colin felt himself somehow comforted without knowing how;
and then he took to thinking of his life, and work which now, even for
the sake of Alice, if nothing else, he must pursue with determined
energy; and then it seemed to him as if every moment was lost that kept
him away from home. Was it for Alice? Was it that he might offer her
again the perfected mind and settled existence to which his labours were
to lead him? He said so to himself as he made his plans; but yet
unawares a vision of deeper eyes came gleaming upon him out of the
clouds. And it was with the half-conscious thrill of another existence,
a feeling as of new and sweeter air in the sails, and a widening ocean
under the keel, that Colin rose up after all those varying changes of
sentiment were over, and set his face to the north once more.

“It’s awfu’ strange to think it’s the last time,” said Lauderdale, as
they stood together on the Pincian Hill, and watched the glowing colours
of the Roman sunset. “It’s little likely that you and me will ever see
St. Peter yonder start up black into the sun like that, another time in
our lives. It’s grander than a’ their illuminations, though it’s more
like another kind of spirit than an angel. And this is Rome! I dinna
seem ever to have realized the thought before. It’s awfu’ living and
life-like, callant, but it’s the graves we’ll mind it by. I’m no meaning
kings and Cæsars. I’m meaning them that come and never return.
Testaccio’s hidden out of sight, and the cypress trees,” said the
philosopher; “but there’s mony an eye that will never lose sight of them
even at the other end of the world. I might have been going my ways with
an awfu’ different heart, if it hadna been for the mercy of God.”

“Then you thought I should die?” said Colin, to whom, in the stir of his
young life, and the words were solemn and strange to say; “and God _is_
merciful--yet Meredith is lying yonder, though not me.”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, and then there was a long pause. “I’m no offering
ony explanation,” said the philosopher. “It’s a question between a man
and his Maker--spirit to spirit. It’s an awfu’ mystery to us, but it
maun be made clear and satisfying to them that go away. For me, I’ll
praise God,” he said abruptly, with a harsh ring in his voice; and Colin
for the first time knew assuredly that his faithful guardian had thought
nothing better than to bring him here to die. They went into the church
on the hill, where the nuns were singing their sweet vespers, as they
descended for the last time through the dusky avenues, listening as they
went to the bells ringing the Ave Maria over all the crowded town; and
there came upon Colin and his friend in different degrees that
compunction of happiness which is the soul of thanksgiving. Others,--how
many!--have stood speechless in dumb submission on that same spot and
found no thanks to say; and it was thus that Colin, after all the events
that made these four months so important in his life, entered upon a new
period of his history, and took his farewell of Rome.



CHAPTER XLI.


“It’s hard to ken what to say,” said the Mistress, going to the window
for the hundredth time, and looking out wistfully upon the sky which
shone dazzling over the Holy Loch with the excessive pathetic brightness
of exceptional sunshine. “I canna make out for my part if he’s
broken-hearted or no, and a word wrong just at a moment like this would
be hard on the callant. It’s a wonderful mercy it’s such a bonnie day.
That’s aye a blessing both to the body and the mind.”

“Well, it’s you that Colin takes after,” said the farmer of Ramore,
with an undertone of dissatisfaction; “so there’s no saying but what the
weather may count for something. I’ve lost understanding for my part of
a lad that gangs abroad for his health, and gets himself engaged to be
married. In my days, when marriage came into a man’s head, he went
through with it, and there was an end of the subject. For my part, I
dinna pretend to understand your newfangled ways.”

“Eh, Colin, dinna be so unfeeling,” said the Mistress, roused to
remonstrance. “You were like to gang out of your mind about the marriage
when you thought it was to be; and now you’re ready to sneer at the poor
laddie, as if he could help it. It’s hard when his ain friends turn
against him after the ingratitude he’s met wi’, and the disappointment
he’s had to bear.”

“You may trust a woman for uphaudin’ her son in such like nonsense,”
said big Colin. “The only man o’ sense among them that I can see was yon
Mr. Meredith that took the lassie away. What the deevil had Colin to do
with a wife, and him no a penny in his pouch? But in the meantime
yonder’s the steamboat, and’ I’m gaun down to meet them. If I were you I
would stop still here. You’re no that strong,” said the farmer, looking
upon his wife with a certain secret tenderness. “I would stop still at
hame if I were you. It’s aye the best welcome for a callant to see his
mother at her ain door.”

With which big Colin of Ramore strode down to the beach, where his sons
were launching their own boat to meet the little steamer by which Colin
was coming home. His wife looked after him with mingled feelings as he
went down the brae. He had been a little hard upon Colin for these six
months past, and had directed many a covert sarcasm at the young man who
had gone so far out of the ordinary course as to seek health in Italy.
The farmer did not believe in any son of his needing such an expedient;
and, in proportion as it seemed unnecessary to his own vigorous
strength, and ignorance of weakness, he took opportunity for jeers and
jests which were to the mother’s keen ears much less good-natured than
they seemed to be. And then he had been very angry on the receipt of
Colin’s letter announcing his intended marriage, and it was with
difficulty Mrs. Campbell had prevented her husband from sending in
return such an answer as might have banished Colin for ever from his
father’s house. Now all these clouds had blown past, and no harm had
come of them, and he was coming home as of old. His brothers were
launching the boat on the beach, and his father had gone down to meet
the stranger. The Mistress stood at her door, restraining her eagerness
and anxiety as best she could, and obeying her husband’s suggestion, as
women do so often, by way of propitiating him, and bespeaking tenderness
and forbearance for her boy. For indeed the old times had passed away,
with all their natural family gladness, and union clouded by no sense of
difference. Now it was a man of independent thoughts, with projects and
pursuits of his own differing from theirs, and with a mind no doubt
altered and matured by those advantages of travel which the Mistress
regarded in her ignorance with a certain awe, who was coming back to
Ramore. Colin had made so many changes, while so few had occurred at
home; and even a bystander, less anxious than his mother, might have had
reason to inquire and wonder how the matured and travelled son would
look upon his unprogressive home.

It was now the end of September, though Colin had left Rome in May; but
then his Scholarship was intended to give him the advantage of travel,
and specially that peculiar advantage of attendance at a German
University which is so much prized in Scotland. He had accordingly
passed the intervening months in a little German town, getting up the
language and listening to lectures made doubly misty by imperfect
understanding of the tongue. The process left Colin’s theological ideas
very much where it found them--which is to say, in a state of general
vagueness and uncertainty; but then he had always the advantage of being
able to say that he studied at Dickofptenberg. Lauderdale had left his
friend, after spending, not without satisfaction, his hundred pounds,
and was happily re-established in the “honourable situation” which he
had quitted on Colin’s account; and the young man was now returning home
alone, to spend a little time with his family before he returned to his
studies. The Mistress watched him land from the boat, with her heart
beating so loudly in her ears that no other sound was audible; and Colin
did not lose much time in ascending the brae where she stood awaiting
him. “But you should not have left your father,” Mrs. Campbell said,
even in the height of her happiness. “He’s awfu’ proud to see you home,
Colin, my man!” Big Colin, however, was no way displeased in his own
person by his son’s desertion. He came up leisurely after him, not
without a thrill of conscious satisfaction. The farmer was sufficiently
disposed to scoff aloud at his son’s improved looks, at his beard, and
his dress, and all the little particulars which made a visible
difference between the present Colin and the awkward country lad of two
years ago; but in his heart he made involuntary comparisons, and
privately concluded that the minister’s son was far from being Colin’s
equal, and that even the heir and pride of the Duke would have little to
boast of in presence of the farmer’s son of Ramore. This--though big
Colin would not for any earthly inducement have owned the
sentiment--made him regard his son’s actions and intentions unawares
with eyes more lenient and gracious. No contemptible weakness of health
or delicacy of appearance appeared in the sunburnt countenance, so
unexpectedly garnished by a light-brown, crisp, abundant beard--a beard
of which, to tell the truth, Colin himself was rather proud, all the
more as it had by rare fortune escaped that intensification of colour
which is common to men of his complexion. The golden glitter which
lighted up the great waves of brown hair over his forehead had not
deepened into red on his chin, as it had done in Archie’s young but
vigorous whiskers. His complexion, though not so ruddy as his brother’s,
had the tone of perfect health and vigour, untouched by any shade of
fatigue, or weakness. He was not going to be the “delicate” member of
the family, as the farmer, with a certain contempt, had foreboded; for,
naturally, to be delicate included a certain weakness of mind as well as
of body to the healthful dwellers in Ramore.

“You’ll find but little to amuse you here after a’ your travels,” the
farmer said. “We’re aye busy about the beasts, Archie and me. I’ll no
say it’s an elevating study, like yours; but it’s awfu’ necessary in our
occupation. For my part, I’m no above a kind o’ pride in my cattle; and
there’s your mother, she’s set her shoulder to the wheel and won a
prize.”

“Ay, Colin,” said the Mistress, hastening to take up her part in the
conversation, “it’s aye grand to be doing something. And it’s no’ me but
Gowan that’s won the prize. She was aye a weel-conditioned creature,
that it was a pleasure to have onything to do with; but there’s plenty
of time to speak about the beasts. You’re sure you’re weel and strong
yourself, Colin, my man? for that’s the first thing now we’ve got you
hame.”

“There doesna look much amiss with him,” said the farmer, with an
articulate growl. “Your mother’s awfu’ keen for somebody to pet and play
wi’; but there’s a time for a’ thing; and a callant, even, though he’s
brought up for a minister, maun find out when he’s a man.”

“I should hope there was no doubt of that,” said Colin. “I’m getting on
for two-and-twenty, mother, and strong enough for anything. Thanks to
Harry Frankland for a splendid holiday; and now I mean to settle down to
work.”

Here big Colin again interjected an inarticulate exclamation. “I ken
little about your kind of work,” said the discontented father; “but, if
I were you, when I wanted a bit exercise I would take a hand at the
plough, or some wise-like occupation, instead of picking fools out of
canals--or even out of lochs, for that matter,” he added, with a subdued
thrill of pride. “Sir Thomas is aye awfu’ civil when he comes here; and,
as for that bonnie little creature that’s aye with him, she comes
chirping about the place with her fine English, as if she belonged to
it. I never can make out what she and your mother have such long cracks
about.”

“Miss Frankland?” said Colin, with a bright look of interest. The
Mistress had been so much startled by this unexpected speech of her
husband, that she turned round upon Colin with an anxious face, eager to
know what effect an intimation so sudden might have upon him. For the
farmer’s wife believed in true love and in first love with all her
heart, and had never been able to divest herself of the idea that it was
partly pique and disappointment in respect to Miss Matty which had
driven her son into so hasty an engagement. “Is she still Miss
Frankland?” continued the unsuspicious Colin. “I thought she would have
been married by this time. She is a little witch,” the young man said
with a conscious smile--“but I owe her a great many pleasant hours. She
was always the life of Wodensbourne. Were they here this year?” he
asked; and then another thought struck him. “Hollo! it’s only
September,” said Colin; “I ought to ask, Are they here now?”

“Oh, ay, Colin, they’re here now,” said the Mistress, “and couldna be
more your friends if you were one of the family. I’m no clear in my mind
that thae two will ever be married. No that I ken of any obstacle--but,
so far as I can see, a bright bonny creature like that, aye full of life
and spirit, is nae match for the like of him.”

“I do not see that,” said the young man who once was Matty Frankland’s
worshipper. “She is very bright, as you say; but he is the more honest
of the two. I used to be jealous of Harry Frankland,” said Colin,
laughing; “he seemed to have everything that was lacking to me; but I
have changed my mind since then. One gets to believe in compensations,”
said the young man; and he shut his hand softly where it rested on the
table, as if he felt in it the tools which a dozen Harry Franklands
could have made no use of. But this thought was but dimly intelligible
to his hearers, to one of whom, at least, the word “jealous” was limited
in its meaning; and, viewed in this light, the sentiment just expressed
by Colin was hard to understand.

“I’m no fond of what folk call compensations,” said the Mistress. “A
loss is aye a loss, whatever onybody can say. Siller that’s lost may be
made up for, but naething more precious. It’s aye an awful marvel to me
that chapter about Job getting other bairns to fill the place o’ the
first. I would rather have the dead loss and the vacant place,” said the
tender woman, with tears in her eyes, “than a’ your compensations. One
can never stand for another--it’s awfu’ infidelity to think it. If I
canna have happiness, I’ll be content with sorrow; but you’re no to
speak of compensations to me.”

“No,” said Colin, laying his hand caressingly on his mother’s; “but I
was not speaking of either love or loss. I meant only that for Harry
Frankland’s advantages over me, I might, perhaps, have a little balance
on my side. For example, I picked him out of the canal, as my father
says,” the young man went on laughing; “but never mind the Franklands; I
suppose I shall have to see them, as they are here.”

“Weel, Colin, you can please yourself,” said his father. “I’m no a man
to court the great, but an English baronet, like Sir Thomas, is aye a
creditable acquaintance for a callant like you; and he’s aye awfu’ civil
as I was saying; but the first thing to be sure of is what you mean to
do. You have had the play for near a year, and it doesna appear to me
that tutorships, and that kind of thing, are the right training for a
minister. You’ll go back to your studies, and go through with them
without more interruptions, if you’ll be guided by me.”

But at this point Colin paused, and had a good many explanations to
give. His heart was set on the Balliol scholarship, which he had once
given up for Matty’s sake; and now there was another chance for him,
which had arisen unexpectedly. This it was which had hastened his return
home. As for his father, the farmer yielded with but little demur to
this proposal. A clear Scotch head, even when it begins to lose its
sense of the ideal, and to become absorbed in “the beasts,” seldom
deceives itself as to the benefits of education; and big Colin had an
intense secret confidence in the powers of his son. Honours at Oxford,
in the imagination of the Scotch farmer, were a visionary avenue leading
to any impossible altitude. He made a little resistance for appearance
sake, but he was in reality more excited by the idea of the
conflict--first, for the scholarship itself; then for all possible
prizes and honours to the glory of Scotland and Ramore--than was Colin
himself.

“But after a year’s play you’re no qualified,” he said, with a sense of
speaking ironically, which was very pleasant to his humour. “A
competition’s an awfu’ business; your rivals that have aye been keeping
at it will be better qualified than you.”

At which Colin smiled, as his father meant him to smile, and answered,
“I am not afraid,” more modestly a great deal than the farmer in his
heart was answering for him; but then an unexpected antagonist arose.

“I dinna pretend to ken a great deal about Oxford,” said the Mistress,
whose brow was clouded; “but it’s an awfu’ put-off of time as far as I
can see. I’m no fond of spending the best of life in idle learning.
Weel, weel, maybe its no idle learning for them that can spare the time;
but for a lad that’s no out of the thought of settling for himself and
doing his duty to his fellow-creatures--I was reading in a book no that
long ago,” said Colin’s mother, “about thae fellowships and things; and
of men so misguided as to stay on and live to be poor bachelor bodies,
with their Greek and their Latin, and no mortal use in this world. Eh,
Colin, laddie, if that was a’ that was to come of you!--”

“You’re keen to see your son in a pulpit, like the rest of the silly
women,” said the farmer; “for my part, I’m no that bigoted to the kirk;
if he could do better for himsel’----”

But at this juncture the Mistress got up with a severe countenance,
laying aside the stocking she was knitting. “Oh, Colin, if you wouldn’t
be so worldly!” cried the anxious mother. “I’m no one that’s aye
thinking of a callant bettering himself. If he’s taken arles in one
service, would you have him desert and gang over to another? I canna
bear for my part to see broken threads; be one thing or be another, but
dinna melt away and be nothing at a’,” the indignant woman concluded
abruptly, moving away to set things in order in the room before they all
retired for the night. It was the faint, far-off, and impossible idea of
her son settling down into one of the Fellowships of which Mrs. Campbell
had been reading which moved her to this little outburst. Her authority
probably was some disrespectful novel or magazine article, and this was
all the respect she had, in her ignorance, for the nurseries of
learning.

Her husband got up in his turn with mingled complacency and derision, as
came natural to him. “Leave the callant to himself, Jeanie. He kens
what he’s doing; that’s to say, he has an awfu’ ambition considering
that he’s only your son, and mine,” said big Colin of Ramore; and he
went out to take a last look at his beasts with a thrill of secret pride
which he would not for any reward have expressed in words. He was only a
humble Westland farmer looking after his beasts, and she was but his
true wife, a helpmeet no way above her natural occupations; but there
was no telling what the boy might be, though he was only “your son and
mine.” As for Colin the younger, he went up to his room half an hour
later, after the family had made their homely thanksgiving for his
return, smiling in himself at the unaccountable contraction of that
little chamber, which he had once shared with Archie without finding it
too small. Many changes and many thoughts had come and gone since he
last lay down under its shelving roof. Miss Matty who had danced away
like a will-o’-the-wisp, leaving no trace behind her; and Alice who had
won no such devotion, yet whose soft shadow lay upon him still; and then
there was the death-bed of Meredith, and his own almost death-bed at
Wodensbourne, and all the thoughts that belonged to these. Such
influences and imaginations mature a man unawares. While he sat
recalling all that had passed since he left this nest of his childhood,
the Mistress tapped softly at his door, and came in upon him with
wistful eyes. She would have given all she had in the world for the
power of reading her son’s heart at that moment, and, indeed, there was
little in it which Colin would have objected to reveal to his mother.
But the two human creatures were constrained to stand apart from each in
the bonds of their individual nature--to question timidly and answer
vaguely, and make guesses which were all astray from the truth. The
Mistress came behind her son and laid one hand on his shoulder, and with
the other caressed and smoothed back the waves of brown hair of which
she had always been so proud. “Your hair is just as long as ever,
Colin,” said the admiring mother; “but it’s no a’ your mother’s now,”
she said with a soft, little sigh. She was standing behind him that her
eyes might not disconcert her boy, meaning to woo him into confidence
and the opening of his heart.

“I don’t know who else cares for it,” said Colin; and then he too was
glad to respond to the unasked question. “My poor Alice,” he said; “if I
could but have brought her to you, mother--She would have been a
daughter to you.”

Mrs. Campbell sighed. “Eh, Colin, I’m awfu’ hard-hearted,” she said; “I
canna believe in ony woman ever taking _that_ place; I’m awfu’ bigoted
to my ain. But she would have been dearly welcome for my laddie’s sake;
and I’m real anxious to hear how it a’ was. It was but little you said
in your letters; and a’ this night I’ve been wanting to have you to
mysel’, and to hear all that there was to say.”

“I don’t know what there is to say,” said Colin; “I must have written
all about it. Her position, of course, made no difference to my
feelings,” he went on, rather hotly, like a man who in his own
consciousness stands somewhat on his defence; “but it made us hasten
matters. I thought if I could only have brought her home to you----”

“It was aye you for a kind thought,” said the Mistress; “but she would
have had little need of the auld mother when she had the son; and Colin,
my man, is it a’ ended now?”

“Heaven knows!” said Colin with a little impatience. “I have written to
her through her father, and I have written to her direct, and all that I
have had from her is one little letter, saying that her father had
forbidden all further intercourse between us, and bidding me farewell;
but----”

“But,” said the Mistress, “it no of her own will; she’s faithful in her
heart? And if she’s true to you, you’ll be true to her? Isna that what
you mean?”

“I suppose so,” said Colin; and then he made a little pause. “There
never was any one so patient and so dutiful,” he said. “When poor Arthur
died, it was she who forgot herself to think of us. Perhaps even this is
not so hard upon her as one thinks.”

“Eh, but I was thinking first of my ain, like a heartless woman as I
am,” said his mother. “I was thinking it was hard on _you_.”

He did not turn round his face to her as she had hoped; but her keen
eyes could see the heightened colour which tinged even his neck and his
forehead. “Yes,” said Colin; “but for my part,” he added, with a little
effort, “it is chiefly Alice I have been thinking of. It may seem vain
to say so--but she will have less to occupy her thoughts than I shall
have, and--and the time may hang heavier. You don’t like me to go to
Oxford, mother?” This question was said with a little jerk, as of a man
who was pleased to plunge into a new subject; and the Mistress was far
too close an observer not to understand what her son meant.

“I like whatever is good for you, Colin,” she said; “but it was aye in
the thought of losing time. I’m no meaning real loss of time. I’m
meaning I was thinking of mair hurry than there is. But you’re both
awfu’ young, and I like whatever is for your good, Colin,” said the
tender mother. She kept folding back his heavy locks as she spoke,
altogether disconcerted and at a loss, poor soul; for Colin’s calmness
did not seem to his mother quite consistent with his love; and the
possibility of a marriage without that foundation was to Mrs. Campbell
the most hideous of all suppositions. And then, like a true woman as she
was, she went back to her little original romance, and grew more
confused than ever.

“I’m maybe an awfu’ foolish woman,” she said, with an attempt at a
smile, which Colin was somehow conscious of, though he did not see it,
“but, even if I am, you’ll no be angry at your mother. Colin, my man,
maybe it’s no the best thing for you that thae folk at the castle should
be here?”

“Which folk at the castle?” said Colin, who had honestly forgotten for
the moment. “Oh, the Franklands! What should it matter to me?”

This time he turned round upon her with eyes of unabashed surprise,
which the Mistress found herself totally unprepared to meet. It was now
her turn to falter, and stammer, and break down.

“Eh, Colin, it’s so hard to ken,” said the Mistress. “The heart’s awfu’
deceitful. I’m no saying one thing or another; for I canna read what
you’re thinking, though you are my ain laddie; but if you were to think
it best no to enter into temptation--”

“Meaning Miss Matty?” said Colin; and he laughed with such entire
freedom that his mother was first silenced and then offended by his
levity. “No fear of that, mother; and then she has Harry, I suppose, to
keep her right.”

“I’m no so clear about that,” said Mrs. Campbell, nettled,
notwithstanding her satisfaction, by her son’s indifference; “he’s away
abroad somewhere; but I would not say but what there might be another,”
she continued, with natural _esprit du corps_, which was still more
irritated by Colin’s calm response,--

“Or two or three others,” said the young man; “but, for all that, you
are quite right to stand up for her, mother; only I am not in the least
danger. No, I must get to work,” said Colin; “hard work, without any
more nonsense; but I’d like to show those fellows that a man may choose
to be a Scotch minister though he is Fellow of an English college--”

The Mistress interrupted her son with the nearest approach to a scream
which her Scotch self-control would admit of. “A Fellow of an English
college,” she said in dismay, “and you troth-plighted to an innocent
young woman that trusts in you, Colin! That I should ever live to hear
such words out of the mouth of a son of mine!”

And, notwithstanding his explanations, the Mistress retired to her own
room, ill at ease, and with a sense of coming trouble. “A man that’s
engaged to be married shouldna be thinking of such an awfu’ off-put of
time,” she said to herself; “and ah, if the poor lassie is aye trusting
to his coming, and looking for him day by day!” This thought took away
from his mother half the joy of Colin’s return. Perhaps her cherished
son, too, was growing “worldly,” like his father, who thought of the
“beasts” even in his dreams. And, as for Colin himself, he, too, felt
the invisible curb upon his free actions, and chafed at it in the depths
of his heart when he was alone. With all this world of work and ambition
before him, it was hard to feel upon his proud neck that visionary rein.
Though Alice had set him free in her little letter, it was still in her
soft fingers that this shadowy bond remained. He had not repudiated it,
even in his most secret thoughts; but, as soon as he began to act
independently, he became conscious of the bondage, and in his heart
resented it. If he had brought her home, as he had intended, to his
father’s house, his young dependent wife, he probably would have felt
much less clearly this sense of having forestalled the future, and
mortgaged his very life.



CHAPTER XLII.


The Balliol Scholarship was, however, too important a reality to leave
the young candidate much time to consider his position--and Colin’s
history would be too long, even for the patience of his friends, if we
were to enter into this part of his life in detail. Everybody knows he
won the scholarship; and, indeed, neither that, nor his subsequent
career at Balliol, are matters to be recorded, since the chronicle has
been already made in those popular University records which give their
heroes a reputation, no doubt temporary, but while it lasts of the
highest possible flavour. He had so warm a greeting from Sir Thomas
Frankland that it would have been churlish on Colin’s part had he
declined the invitations he received to the Castle, where, indeed, Miss
Matty did not want him just at that moment. Though she was not the least
in the world in love with him, it is certain that between the intervals
of her other amusements in that _genre_, the thought of Colin had often
occurred to her mind. She thought of him with a wonderful gratitude and
tenderness sometimes, as of a man who had actually loved her with the
impossible love--and sometimes with a ring of pleasant laughter, not far
removed from tears. Anything “between them” was utterly impossible, of
course--but, perhaps, all the more for that, Miss Matty’s heart, so much
as there was remaining of it, went back to Colin in its vacant moments,
as to a green spot upon which she could repose herself, and set down her
burden of vanities for the time. This very sentiment, however, made her
little inclined to have him at the Castle, where there was at present a
party staying, including, at least, one man of qualifications worthy a
lady’s regard. Harry and his cousin had quarrelled so often that their
quarrel at last was serious, and the new man was cleverer than Harry,
and not so hard to amuse; but it was difficult to go over the well-known
ground with which Miss Frankland was so familiar in presence of one whom
she had put through the process in a still more captivating fashion, and
who was still sufficiently interested to note what she was doing, and to
betray that he noted it. Colin, himself, was not so conscious of
observing his old love in her new love-making as she was conscious of
his observation; and, though it was only a glance now and then, a turn
of the head, or raising of the eyes, it was enough to make her awkward
by moments, an evidence of feeling for which Miss Matty could not
forgive herself.

Thus it happened that Colin was not thrown into temptation in the way
his mother dreaded. The temptation he was thrown into was one of a much
more subtle character. He rushed at his work, and the preparations for
his work, with all the energy of his character; he felt himself free to
follow out the highest visions of life that had formed themselves among
his youthful dreams. He thought of the new study on which he was about
to enter, and the honours upon which he already calculated in his
imagination, as but stepping stones to what lay after, and offered
himself up with a certain youthful effusion and super-abundance to his
Church and his country, for which he had assuredly something to do more
than other men. And then, when Colin had got so far as this, and was
tossing his young head proudly in the glory of his intentions, there
came a little start and shiver, and that sense of the curb, which had
struck him first after his confidence with his mother, returned to his
mind. But the bondage seemed to grow more and more visionary as he went
on. Alice had given him up, so to speak; she was debarred by her father
from any correspondence with him, and might, for anything Colin knew,
gentle and yielding as she was, be made to marry some one else by the
same authority; and, though he did not discuss the question with himself
in words, it became more and more hard to Colin to contemplate the
possibility of having to abridge his studies and sacrifice his higher
aims to the necessity of getting “settled in life.” If he were “settled
in life” to-morrow, it could only be as an undistinguished Scotch
minister, poor, so far as money was concerned, and with no higher
channel either to use or fame; and, at his age, to be only like his
neighbours was of all things the most irksome to him.

Those neighbours, or at least the greater part of them, were good
fellows enough in their way. So far as a vague general conception of
life and its meaning went, they were superior as a class in Colin’s
opinion to that other clerical class represented by the gentle curate of
Wodensbourne, whose soul was absorbed in the restoration of his Church,
and the fit states of mind for the Sundays after Trinity; but there were
also particulars in which, as a class, they were wonderfully inferior to
that mild and gentlemanly Anglican. As for Colin, he had not formed his
ideal on any curate, or even bishop, of the wealthier Church. Like other
fervent young men, an eager discontent with everything he saw lay at the
bottom of his imaginations; and it was the development of
Christianity--“more chivalrous, more magnanimous, than that of modern
times”--that he thought of. A dangerous condition of mind, no doubt; and
the people round him would have sneered much at Colin and his ambition
had he put it into words; but, after all, it was an ideal worth
contemplating which he presented to himself.

In the midst of such thoughts, and of all the future possibilities of
life, it was a little hard to be suddenly stopped short, and reminded of
Mariana in her moated grange, sighing, “He does not come.” If he did
come, making all the unspeakable sacrifices necessary to that end, as
his mother seemed to think he should, the probabilities were that the
door of the grange would be closed upon him; and who could tell but that
Alice, always so docile, might be diverted even from the thought of him
by some other suitor presented to her by her father? Were Colin’s hopes
to be sacrificed to her possible faith, and the possible relenting of
Mr. Meredith? And, alas! amid all the new impulses that were rising
within him, there came again the vision of that woman in the clouds,
whom as yet, though he had been in love with Matty Frankland, and had
all but married Alice Meredith, Colin had never seen. She kissed her
shadowy hand to him by times out of those rosy vapours that floated
among the hills when the sun had gone down, and twilight lay sweet over
the Holy Loch--and beckoned him on, on, to the future and the distance
where she was. When the apparition had glanced out upon him after this
old fashion, Colin felt all at once the jerk of the invisible bridle on
his neck, and chafed at it; and then he shut his eyes wilfully, and
rushed on faster than before, and did his best to ignore the curb. After
all, it was no curb if it were rightly regarded. Alice had released, and
her father had rejected him, and he had been accused of fortune-hunting,
and treated like a man unworthy of consideration. So far as external
circumstances went, no one could blame him for inconstancy, no one could
imagine that the engagement thus broken was, according to any code of
honour, binding upon Colin; but yet--

This was the uncomfortable state of mind in which he was when he finally
committed himself to the Balliol Scholarship, and thus put off that
“settling in life” which the Mistress thought due to Alice. When the
matter was concluded, however, the young man became more comfortable. At
all events, until the termination of his studies, no decision, one way
or other, could be expected from him; and it would still be two years
before Alice was of the age to decide for herself. He discussed the
matter--so far as he ever permitted himself to discuss it with any
one--with Lauderdale, who managed to spend the last Sunday with him at
Ramore. It was still only October but winter had begun betimes, and a
sprinkling of snow lay on the hills at the head of the loch. The water
itself, all crisped and brightened by a slight breeze and a frosty sun,
lay dazzling between its banks, reflecting every shade of colour upon
them--the russet lines of wood with which their little glens were
outlined, and the yellow patches of stubble, or late corn, still
unreaped, that made lights of the landscape, and relieved the hazy green
of the pastures, and the brown waste of withered bracken and heather
above. The wintry day, the clearness of the frosty air, and the touch of
snow on the hills, gave to the Holy Loch that touch of colour which is
the only thing ever wanting to its loveliness; a colour cold, it is
true, but in accordance with the scene. The waves came up with a lively
cadence on the beach, and the wind blew showers of yellow leaves in the
faces of the two friends as they walked home together from church. Sir
Thomas had detained them in the first place, and after him the minister,
who had emerged from his little vestry in time for half an hour’s
conversation with his young parishioner, who was something of a hero on
the Holy Loch--a hero, and yet subject to the inevitable touch of
familiar depreciation which belongs to a prophet in his own country. The
crowd of church-goers had dispersed from the roads when the two turned
their faces towards Ramore. Perhaps by reason of the yew-trees under
which they had to pass, perhaps because this Sunday, too, marked a
crisis, it occurred to both of them to think of their walk through the
long ilex avenues of the Frascati villa, the Sunday after Meredith’s
death. It was Lauderdale, as was natural, who returned to that subject
the first.

“It’s a wee hard to believe that it’s the same world,” he said, “and
that you and me are making our way to Ramore, and not to yon painted
cha’amer, and our friend, with her distaff in her hand. I’m whiles no
clear in my mind that we were ever there.”

At which Colin was a little impatient, as was natural. “Don’t be
fantastic,” he said. “It does not matter about Sora Antonia; but there
are other things not so easily dropped;” and here the young man paused
and uttered a sigh, which arose half from a certain momentary longing
for the gentle creature to whom his faith was plighted, and half from an
irksome sense of the disadvantages of having plighted his faith.

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, “I’m no fond myself of dropping threads like
that. There’s nae telling when they may be joined again, or how; but if
it’s ony comfort to you, Colin, I’m a great believer in sequences. I
never put ony faith in things breaking off clean in an arbitrary way.
Thae two didna enter your life to be put out again by the will of an old
fool of a father. I’ll no say that I saw the requirements of Providence
just as clear as you thought you did, but I canna put faith in an ending
like what’s happened. You and her are awfu’ young. You have time to
wait.”

“Time to wait,” repeated Colin in his impatience; “there is something
more needed than time. Mr. Meredith has returned me my last letter with
a request that I should not trouble his daughter again. You do not
think a man can go on in the face of that?”

“He’s naething but a jailor,” said Lauderdale; “you may be sure that
_she_ is neither art nor part in that. When the time comes we’ll a’ ken
better; and here, in the meantime, you are making another beginning of
your life.”

“It appears to me I am always making beginnings,” said Colin. “It was
much such a day as this when Harry Frankland fell into the loch--that
was a kind of beginning in its way. Wodensbourne was a beginning, and so
was Italy--and now--It appears life is made up of such.”

“You’re no so far wrong there,” said Lauderdale; “but it’s grand to make
the new start like you, with a’ heaven and earth on your side. I’ve kent
them that had to set their face to the brae with baith earth and heaven
against them--or so it seemed. It’s ill getting new images,” said the
philosopher meditatively. “I wonder who it was first found out that life
was a journey. It’s no an original idea nowadays, but its aye awfu’
true. A man sets out with a hantle mair things than he needs,
_impedimenta_ of a’ kinds; but he leaves the maist of them behind afore
he’s reached the middle of the road. You’ve an awfu’ body of opinions,
callant, besides other things to dispose of. I’m thinking Oxford will do
you good for that. You’re no likely to take up with their superfluities,
and you’ll get rid of some of your ain.”

“I don’t know what you call superfluities,” said Colin. “I don’t think I
am a man of many opinions. A few things are vital and cannot be
dispensed with--and these you are quite as distinct upon as I can be.
However, I don’t go to Oxford to learn that.”

“I’m awfu’ curious to ken in a general way,” said Lauderdale, “what you
are going to Oxford to learn. You’re no a bad hand at the classics,
callant. I would like to ken what it was that you were meaning to pay
three good years of life to learn.”

Upon which Colin laughed, and felt without knowing why, a flush come to
his cheek. “If I should prefer to win my spurs somewhere else than at
home,” said the young man lightly, “should you wonder at that? Beside,
the English universities have a greater reputation than ours--and in
short----”

“For idle learning,” said Lauderdale with a little heat; “not for the
science of guiding men, which, so far as I can see, is what you’re
aiming at. No that I’m the man to speak ony blasphemy against the dead
languages, if the like of that was to be your trade; but for a Scotch
parish, or maybe a Scotch presbytery--or in the course of time, if a’
goes well, an Assembly of the Kirk----”

“Stuff!” cried Colin; “What has that to do with it? Besides,” the young
man said with a laugh, half of pride, half of shame, “I want to show
these fellows that a man may win their honours and carry them back to
the old Church, which they talk about in a benevolent way, as if it was
in the South Sea Islands. Well, that is my weakness. I want to bring
their prizes back here, and wear them at home.”

“The callant’s crazy,” said Lauderdale, but the idea was sufficiently in
accord with his national sentiments to be treated with indulgence; “it
might maybe be spoiling the Egyptians,” he added grimly, “but, as for
ony good to us--You’re like a’ young creatures, callant; you’re awfu’
fond of the _impedimenta_. But you may change your mind two or three
times over between this and that.”

“You have very little respect for my constancy, Lauderdale,” said Colin;
and then he felt irritated with himself for the word he had used. “In
what respect do you suppose I can change my mind?” he asked with a
little impatience; and Colin lifted his eyes full upon his friend’s
face, as he had learned to do when there was question of Alice--though
certainly it could not be supposed that there was any question of Alice
in the present case.

“Whisht, callant,” said Lauderdale; “I’ve an awfu’ trust in your
constancy. It’s one o’ the words I like best in the English language, or
in the Scotch either for that matter. It’s a kind of word that canna be
slipped over among a crowd, but craves full saying and a’ its letters
sounded. As I was saying,” he continued, changing his tone, “I’m a great
believer in sequences; there’s mony new beginnings, but there’s nae
absolute end short of dying, which is aye an end for this world, so far
as a man can see. And, next to God and Christ, which are the grand
primitive necessities, without which no man can take his journey, I’m
aye for counting true love and good faith. I wouldna say but what a’ the
rest were more or less _impedimenta_,” said Lauderdale; “but that’s no
the question under discussion. You might change your mind upon a’ the
minor matters, and no be inconstant. For example, you might be drawn to
the English kirk after three years; or you might come to think you were
destined for nae kirk at all, but for other occupations in this world;
and, as for me, I wouldna blame you. As long as you’re true to your
Master--and next to yoursel’--and next to them that trust you,” said
Colin’s faithful counsellor; “and of that I’ve no fear.”

“I did not think of setting the question on such a solemn basis,” said
Colin with an amount of irritation which annoyed himself, and which he
could not subdue; “however, time will show; and here we are at Ramore.”
Indeed he was rather glad to be so near Ramore. This talk of constancy
exasperated him, he could not tell how; for, to be sure, he meant no
inconstancy. Yet, when the sunset came again, detaching rosy cloudlets
from the great masses of vapour, and shedding a mist of gold and purple
over the hills--and when those wistful stretches of “daffodil sky”
opened out over the western ramparts of the Holy Loch--Colin turned his
eyes from the wonderful heavens as if from a visible enemy. Was not she
there as always, that impossible woman, wooing him on into the future,
into the unimaginable distance where somewhere she might be found any
day waiting him? He turned his back upon the west, and went down of his
own will to the dark shade of the yew-trees, which were somehow like the
ilex alleys of the sweet Alban hills; but even there he carried his
impatience with him, and found it best on the whole to go home and give
himself up to the home talk of Ramore, in which many matters were
discussed unconnected with the beasts, but where this one fundamental
question was for the present named no more.



CHAPTER XLIII.


Colin’s career at Oxford does not lie in the way of his present
historian, though, to be sure, a few piquant particulars might be
selected of the way in which a pair of young Scotch eyes, with a light
in them somewhat akin to genius, but trained to see the realities of
homely life on the Holy Loch, regarded the peculiar existence of the
steady, artificial old world, and the riotous but submissive new world,
which between them form a university. Colin who, like most of his
countrymen, found a great deal of the “wit” of the community around him
to be sheer nonsense, sometimes agreeable, sometimes much the reverse,
had also like his nation a latent but powerful sense of humour, which,
backed by a few prejudices, and stimulated a little by the different
manners current in the class to which he himself belonged, revealed to
him many wonderful absurdities in the unconscious microcosm which felt
itself a universe;--a revelation which restored any inequality in the
balance of affairs, and made the Scotch undergraduate at his ease in his
new circumstances. For his own part, he stood in quite a different
position from the host of young men, most of them younger than himself,
by whom he found himself surrounded. They were accomplishing without any
very definite object the natural and usual course of their education--a
process which everybody had to go through, and which, with more or less
credit, their fathers, brothers, friends, and relatives had passed
through before them. Life beyond the walls of the University had
doubtless objects more interesting than the present routine; but there
was no such immediate connexion between those objects and that routine
as Colin had been accustomed to see in his Scotch college.

As for Colin himself, he was aiming at a special end, which made his
course distinct for him among his more careless companions; he was bent
on the highest honours attainable by hard work and powers much above the
average; and this determination would have acted as a moral shield to
him against the meaner temptations of the place, even if he had not
already been by disposition and habits impervious to them. The higher
danger--the many temptations to which Colin, like other young men, was
exposed, of contenting himself with a brilliant unproductive social
reputation--was warded off from him by the settled determination with
which he entered upon his work. For Scotch sentiment is very distinct on
this question; and Colin understood perfectly that, if he returned with
only a moderate success, his _Alma Mater_ would be utterly disgusted
with her pet student, and his reputation would fall to a considerably
lower ebb than if he had been content to stay at home. He came upon that
tranquil academic scene in the true spirit of an invader; not
unfriendly--on the contrary, a keen observer of everything, an eager and
interested spectator of all the peculiar habitudes of the foreign
country--but chiefly bent upon snatching the laurel, as soon as that
should be possible, and carrying home his spoil in triumph. He entered
Oxford, in short, as the Czar Peter, had he been less a savage, might
have been supposed to establish himself in the bosom of the homely
English society of his time, seeing, with eyes brightened by curiosity
and the novelty of the spectacle, various matters in a ridiculous light
which were performed with the utmost gravity and unconsciousness by the
accustomed inhabitants; and, on the other hand, discovering as many
particulars from which he might borrow some advantage to his own people.
Certainly, Czar Peter, who was at once an absolute monarch and the most
enlightened man of his nation, stood in a somewhat different position
from the nameless Scotch student, between whom and other Scotch students
no ordinary observer could have discovered much difference; but the
aspirations of young men of Colin’s age are fortunately unlimited by
reason, and the plan he had conceived of working a revolution in his
native Church and country, or, at least, aiming at that to the highest
extent of his powers, was as legitimate, to say the least, as the
determination to make a great fortune, with which other young men of his
nation have often confronted the world.

Colin frequented the Oxford churches as he had frequented those in Rome,
with his paramount idea in his mind, and listened to the sermons in them
with that prevailing reference to the audience which he himself looked
forward to, which gave so strange an aspect to much that he heard. To be
sure, it was not the best way to draw religious advantage for himself
from the teachings he listened to; but yet the process was not without
its benefits to the predestined priest. He seemed to himself to be
looking on while the University preacher delivered his dignified
periods, not to the actual assembly, but to a shrewd and steady Scotch
congregation, not easily moved either to reverence or enthusiasm, and
with a national sense of logic. He could not help smiling to himself
when, in the midst of some elaborate piece of reasoning, the least
little step aside landed the speaker upon that quagmire of
ecclesiastical authority which with Colin’s audience would go far to
neutralize all the argument. The young man fancied he could see the
elders shake their heads, and the rural philosophers remark to each
other, “He maun have been awfu’ ill off for an argument afore he landed
upon yon.” And, when the preacher proceeded to “our Church’s admirable
arrangements,” and displayed with calm distinctness the final certainty
that perfection had been absolutely attained by that venerated mother,
the young Scotchman felt a prick of contradiction in his heart on his
own account as well as that of his imaginary audience. He thought to
himself that the same arguments employed on behalf of the Church of
Scotland would go a long way towards unsettling the national faith, and
smiled within himself at the undoubting assumption which his
contradictory northern soul was so far from accepting. He was not a bad
emblem of his nation in this particular, at least. He consented without
a remonstrance to matters of detail, such as were supposed, by anybody
who had curiosity enough to inquire into the singular semi-savage
religious practices of Scotland, to be specially discordant to the ideas
of his country; but he laughed at “our Church’s admirable arrangements”
in such a manner as to set the hair of the University on end. The
principles of apostolic succession and unbroken ecclesiastical descent
produced in this daring young sceptic, not indignation nor argument,
which might have been tolerated, but an amused disregard which was
unbearable. He was always so conscious of what his Scotch audience,
buried somewhere among the hills in the seclusion of a country parish,
would think of such pretensions, and laughed not at the doctrine so much
as at the thought of their reception of it. In this respect the young
Scotchman, embodying his country, was the most contradictory of men.

He was not very much more satisfactory in the other region, where the
best of Anglicans occasionally wander, and where men who hold with the
firmest conviction the doctrine of apostolic succession sometimes show a
strange degree of uncertainly about things more important. Colin’s
convictions were vague enough on a great many matters which were
considered vital on the Holy Loch; and perhaps he was not a much more
satisfactory bearer in his parish church at home than he was in Oxford
when there was question of the descendants of the apostles. But amidst
this sea of vague and undeveloped thought, which was not so much doubt
as uncertainty, there stood up several rocks of absolute faith which
were utterly impervious to assault. His mind was so far conformed to his
age that he could hear even these ultimate and fundamental matters
canvassed by the calm philosophers about him, without any undue
theological heat or passion of defence; but it soon became evident that
on these points the young Scotchman was immovable, a certainty which
made him an interesting study to some of his companions and teachers. It
would be foolish to say that his faith procured for him that awe and
respect which the popular mind takes it for granted a company of
sceptics must always feel for the one among them who retains his
religious convictions. On the contrary, Colin’s world was amused by his
belief. It was, itself to start with, a perfectly pious, well-conducted
world, saying its prayers like everybody else, and containing nothing
within its placid bosom which in the least resembled the free-thinkers
of ancient days. The Church was not the least in the world in danger
from that mild fraternity, to which every kind of faith was a thing to
be talked about, to evolve lines of thought upon, and give rise to the
most refined, and acute, and charming conversation. But, as for Colin,
they regarded him with amused observation as a rare specimen of the
semi-cultivated, semi-savage intelligence which is always so refreshing
to a society which has refined itself to a point somewhat beyond nature.
He was “a most interesting young man,” and they found in him “a
beautiful enthusiasm,” an “engaging simplicity.” As for Colin, he was
quite aware of the somewhat unfounded admiration with which he was
regarded, and smiled in his turn at his observers with a truer
consciousness of the humour of the position than they could possibly
have who saw only half of it; but he kept his shrewd Scotch eyes open
all the time, and half unconsciously made himself acquainted with a
great many new developments of that humanity which was to be the
material of all the labours of his life. He had it in his power to
remark the exact and delicate points at which Anglicanism joined on to
the newer fashion of intellectualism, and to note how a morsel of faith
the less might be now and then conciliated and made up for by a morsel
of observance the more. And, at the same time, he became aware of the
convenient possibility of dividing a man, and making him into two or
three different “beings,” as occasion required; so that the emotional
being--having sundry natural weaknesses, such as old association and
youthful habit, and a regard to the feelings of others, not to speak of
the affectionate prejudices of a good Churchman--was quite free to do
his daily service at chapel, and say his prayers, even at the very
moment when the intellectual being was busy with the most delicate
demonstration that prayer in a universe governed by absolute law was an
evident absurdity and contradiction of all reason. Colin for his part
looked on at this partition, and smiled in his turn. He was not shocked,
as perhaps he ought to have been; but then, as has been said, he too was
a man of his age, and found many things which were required by absolute
orthodoxy unnecessary _impedimenta_, as Lauderdale had called them.

But, with all this, the young man had never been able to cut himself in
half, and he could not learn to regard the process as one either
advantageous or even honourable now.

Such, apart from the work which was necessary in obedience to his grand
original impulse, were the studies he pursued in Oxford. At the same
time he had another occupation in hand, strangely out of accord at once
with those studies and with his own thoughts. This was the publication
of poor Meredith’s book, the “Voice from the Grave,” at which he had
laboured to the latest moment of his life. In it was represented another
world, an altogether contradictory type of existence. Between Colin’s
intellectual friends, to whom the “Hereafter” was a curious and
interesting but altogether baffling subject of investigation, and the
dying youth who had gone out of this world in a dauntless primitive
confidence of finding himself at once in the shining streets and endless
sunshine of the New Jerusalem, the difference was so great as to be past
counting. As for the young editor, his view of life was as different
from Meredith’s as it was from that of his present companions. The great
light of heaven was to Colin, as to many others, as impenetrable as the
profoundest darkness; he could neither see into it, nor permit himself
to make guesses of what was going on beyond; and, consequently, he had
little sympathy with the kind of piety which regards life as a
preparation for death. Sometimes he smiled, sometimes he sighed over the
proofs as he corrected them; sometimes, but for knowing as he did the
utter truthfulness with which the dead writer had set forth his
one-sided and narrow conception of the world, Colin would have been
disposed to toss into the fire those strange warnings and exhortations.
But when he thought of the young author, dead in his youth, and of all
the doings and sayings of those months in which they lived together,
and, more touching still, of those conversations that were held on the
very brink of the grave, and at the gate of heaven, his heart smote him.
And then his new friends broke in upon him, and discussed the book with
opinions so various that Colin could but admire and wonder. One
considered them a curious study of the internal consciousness, quite
worthy the attention of a student of mental phenomena. Another was of
opinion that such stuff was the kind of nutriment fit for the uneducated
classes, who had strong religious prejudices, and no brains to speak of.
When Colin found his own sentiments thrown back to him in this careless
fashion, he began to see for the first time the conceit and
self-importance of his judgment; and many discussions followed, as might
be supposed.

“When religion becomes a matter of self-interest,” said one of the young
men met in his rooms on one such occasion, “I don’t see any attraction
in it. I don’t understand what you can see in this rubbish, Campbell.
Inflated humbug and sordid calculations----”

“Hush!” said Colin, with a sparkle in his eyes, “the writer was of the
kind of man that saints were once made of--and I believe in saints for
my part.”

“Well, yes,” said his interlocutor; “I don’t mean to be vulgar: one
can’t help to a certain extent believing in saints--though our wise
fathers you know thought otherwise.” Perhaps the young speaker would not
have thought it necessary to be civil to them, if it had not been that a
former generation had made fun of the saints.

“And as for self-interest,” said Colin, “I don’t see how a man can have
an altogether generous and patronizing love for God. A child’s love for
his father is always interested in a kind of way. The love that has no
self-regard in it, is pity or patronage rather than love.”

“Oh, love!” said Colin’s friend, who had not been altogether thinking of
that; and then another speaker broke in.

“For my part, it is the emotional aspect of religion that chiefly
interests me,” he said; “in a philosophical point of view, you know. But
the only way you can influence the masses is by working on their
feelings. It would be different, of course, with a set of fellows like
you.”

“We are superior to that sort of thing,” said Colin. “Perhaps we have no
feelings. When a man becomes a Don, I don’t see what use he has for such
superfluities.”

“You are going to be a Don yourself, I suppose,” said some one. “You are
sure of your Fellowship, of course.”

Upon which Colin smiled with the pleasant arrogance of his age.
“Something better than that,” he said. “I am not the kind of stuff that
Dons are made of. I am going home to Scotland to the Kirk.”

Though his friends were all aware of this magnanimous intention, they
could not but open their eyes at every new repetition of it.

“If you have set your heart on being a parson,” one of his companions
said, “go into the Church, at least. Hang it! Campbell, don’t go and
bind yourself to a conventicle,” said his anxious acquaintance; “a man
has always a chance of doing something in the Church.”

“That is precisely my idea,” said Colin, “though you fellows seem to
think it the last possibility. And, besides, it is the only thing I can
do. I can’t be a statesman, as you have the chance of being, and I have
not an estate to manage. What else would you have me do?”

“My dear fellow,” said another of his friends, “you are as sure of your
Fellowship as any man ever was. Go in for literature, and send your old
Kirk to Jericho--a fellow like you has nothing to do in such a place.
One knows the sort of thing precisely; any blockhead that can thump his
pulpit, and drone out long prayers--”

“Many thanks for your advice,” said Colin; “but I prefer my own
profession, literature is all very well when a man is born to it, but
life is better than literature at its best; and my own trade should be
good for something, if any profession ever was.”

“Well, now, taking it at the very best, how much do you think you are
likely to have a-year?--a hundred and fifty perhaps? No, I don’t mean to
say that’s final;--but, of course, a thoughtful fellow like you takes it
into consideration,” said Colin’s adviser; “everything is badly paid
now-a-days--but, at all events, there are chances. If a man is made of
iron and brass, and has the resolution of an elephant, he may get to be
something at the Bar, you know, and make a mint of money. And, even in
the Church, to be sure, if he’s harmless and civil, something worth
having may come in his way; but you are neither civil nor harmless,
Campbell. And, by Jove! it’s not the Church you are thinking of, but the
Kirk, which is totally different. I’ve been in Scotland,” continued the
Mentor, with animation; “it’s not even one Kirk, which would be
something. But there’s one at the top of the hill and one at the bottom,
and I defy any man to tell which is which. Come, Campbell, don’t be a
Quixote--give it up!”

“You might as well have told my namesake to give up the Queen’s service
after he had lost a battle,” said Colin. “Though I don’t suppose Sir
Colin ever did lose a battle, by the way. I tell you I am not the sort
of stuff for a Don--the atmosphere is too much rarified up here--I can’t
breathe in it. Men who come of my race must work or die.”

“I can’t say that I feel the force of the alternative,” said Colin’s
friend. “A man must think; it is the first condition of existence; but
as for the other two-- What have you in common with the unreasoning
multitude?” asked the young philosopher. There were plenty of voices to
take the other side of the question, but Colin’s mind was not political
to speak of, and he had no inclination to take the democratic side.

“A few things,” Colin said, with a smile, “that don’t exist among the
Illuminati. For instance, ignorance and want and some other human
attributes; and we can help each other on down below, while you are
thinking it all out above. The worst is that we will probably find time
to live and die before you come to any conclusion. Let us talk it over
ten years hence,” said this young prince of the future, with royal
confidence. And this was how a great many such conversations came to an
end.

Ten years was like to be an eventful period to the young men who were
standing on the verge of life; but they all made very light of it, as
was natural. As for Colin, he did not attempt to make out to himself any
clear plan of what he attempted to do and to be in ten years. Certainly,
he calculated upon having by that time reached the highest culmination
of which life was capable. He meant to be a prince in his own country
without, at the same time, following anything for his own glory or
advantage; for in reality, the highest projects that could move the
spirit of a man were in Colin’s mind. He had no thought of becoming a
popular preacher, or the oracle of a coterie. What he truly intended
indeed was not quite known to himself, in the vague but magnificent
stirrings of his ambition. He meant to take possession of some certain
corner of his native country, and make of it an ideal Scotland, manful
in works and steadfast in belief; and he meant from that corner to
influence and move all the land in some mystical method known only to
the imagination. Such are the splendid colours in which fancy, when
sufficiently lively, can dress up even such a sober reality as the life
of a Scotch minister. While he planned this he seemed to himself so
entirely a man of experience, ready to smile at the notions of
undisciplined youth, that he succeeded in altogether checking and
deceiving his own inevitable good sense--that watchful monitor which
warns even an imaginative mind of its extravagance. This was the great
dream which, interrupted now and then by lighter fancies, had
accompanied Colin more or less clearly through all his life. And now the
hour of trial was about to come, and the young man’s ambition was ready
to accomplish itself as best it might.



CHAPTER XLIV.


It is unnecessary to say that Colin won the prize on which he had set
his heart. The record is extant in the University, to save his historian
trouble; and, to be sure, nobody can be supposed to be ignorant on so
important a point--at least nobody who is anybody and has a character
to support. He took a double first-class--as he had set his heart on
doing--and thereby obtained, as some great man once said in a speech, an
equal standing to that of a duke in English society. It is to be feared
that Colin did not experience the full benefits of his elevation; for,
to be sure, such a dukedom is of a temporary character, and was scarcely
likely to survive beyond his year. But the prize when it was won, and
all the long details of the process of winning it, were not without
their effect upon him. Colin, being still young and inexperienced, had,
indeed, the idea that the possessor of such a distinction needed but to
signify his august will, and straightway every possible avenue of
advancement would open before him. But for that idea, the pride of
carrying home his honours, and laying them at the feet of his native
church and country, would have been much lessened; and, to tell the
truth, when the moment of triumph came, Colin yielded a little to the
intoxication, and lent his thoughts, in spite of himself, to those
charmed voices of ambition which, in every allegory that ever was
invented, exercise their siren influence on the young man at the
beginning of his career. He waited to be wooed at that eventful moment.
He had a vague idea at the bottom of his heart that the State and the
Church, and the Bar and the Press, would all come forward open-armed to
tempt the hero of the year; and he had nobly determined to turn a deaf
ear to all their temptations, and cling to his natural vocation, the
profession to which he had been destined from his cradle with a
constancy to which the world could not fail to do honour. Colin
accordingly took possession of his honours with a little expectation,
and waited for the siren-voices. When they did not come, the young man
was a little astonished, a little mortified and cast down for the
moment. But after that, happily, the absurdity of the position struck
him. He burst into sudden laughter in his rooms, where he sat in all the
new gloss of his fame and dignity, with much congratulations from his
friends, but no particular excitement on the part of the world. Great
Britain, as it appeared, for the moment, was not so urgently in want of
a new Secretary of State as to contest the matter with the anonymous
Scotch parish which had a claim upon the young man as its minister; and
neither the _Times_ nor the _Quarterly Review_ put forth any pretensions
to him. And University life, to which he might have had a successful
_entrée_, did not exercise any charm upon Colin. A tutorship, though
with unlimited prospect of pupils, or even a final hope of reaching the
august elevation of Master, was not the vocation on which he had set
his heart. The consequence was, as we have said, that the new Fellow of
Balliol remained expectant for some time, then began to feel mortified
and disappointed, and finally arose, with a storm of half-indignant
laughter, to find that, after all, his position was not vitally changed
by his success.

This was a strange, and perhaps in some respects a painful, discovery
for a young man to make. He had distinguished himself among his fellows
as much as a young soldier who had made himself the hero of a campaign
would have distinguished himself among his; but this fact had very
little effect upon his entry into the world. If he had been the Duke’s
son, his first-class glories would have been a graceful addition to the
natural honours of his name, and perhaps might have turned towards him
with favour the eyes of some of those great persons who hold the keys of
office in their hands. But Colin was only the farmer of Ramore’s son,
and his prize did him no more good than any other useless laurel--except
indeed that it might have helped him to advancement in the way of
pupils, had that been Colin’s _rôle_. But, considering how honourable a
task it is to rear the new generation, it is astonishing how little
enthusiasm generally exists among young men for that fine and worthy
office. Colin had not the least desire to devote himself henceforward to
the production of other first-class men--though, doubtless, that would
have been a very laudable object of ambition; and, notwithstanding his
known devotion to the “Kirk,” as his Oxford friends liked to call it,
the young man was, no doubt, a little disappointed to find himself
entirely at liberty to pursue his vocation. To be sure, Colin’s “set”
still remonstrated against his self-immolation, and assured him that
with his advantages fabulous things might be done. But the young
Scotsman was too clear-sighted not to see that a great many of his
congratulating friends had a very faint idea what to do with themselves,
though some of them were but a step or two beneath him in honours. And,
in the meantime, Colin felt quite conscious that the world gave no sign
of wanting him, nor even availed itself of the commonest opportunities
of seeking his invaluable services. A man who takes such a discovery in
good part, and can turn back without bitterness upon his original
intentions, is generally a man good for something; and this is precisely
what, with much less flourish of trumpets than at the beginning, Colin
found it necessary to do.

But he was not sorry to pay a visit to Wodensbourne, where he was
invited after his victory, and to take a little time to think it all
over. Wodensbourne had always been a kind of half-way house. It stood
between him and his youthful life, with its limited external
circumstances and unlimited expectations--and that other _real_
life--the life of the man, wonderfully enlarged in outward detail, and
miraculously shrunk and confined in expectation--which, by the force of
contrast, young as he was, seemed to make two men of Colin. It was there
first that he had learned to distinguish between the brilliant peasant
firmament of Ramore, full of indistinct mists of glory, underneath which
everything was possible--an atmosphere in which poor men rose to the
steps of the throne, and princesses married pages, and the world was
still young and fresh and primitive; and that more real sky in which the
planets shone fixed and unapproachable, and where everything was bound
by bonds of law and order, forbidding miracle. The more Colin had
advanced, the more had he found advancement impossible according to the
ideas entertained of it in his original sphere; and it was at
Wodensbourne that he had first made this grand discovery. It was there
he had learned the impossibility of the fundamental romance which at the
bottom of their hearts most people like to believe in;--of that love
which can leap over half a world to unite two people and to make them
happy ever after, in spite not only of differences of fortune but of the
far larger and greater differences by which society is regulated. Colin
was on perfectly pleasant terms with Miss Matty by this time, and did
not hide from himself how much he owed to her,--though perhaps she, who
owed to him a momentary perception of the possibility which she had
proved to his heart and understanding to be impossible, would have been
but little grateful had she been made aware of the nature of his
indebtedness. But now, having made still another discovery in his life,
the young man was pleased to come to Wodensbourne to think over it, and
make out what it meant. And the Franklands were, as always, very kind to
Colin. Miss Matty, who had had a great many nibbles in the interval, was
at length on the eve of being married. And Harry, who had nothing
particular to do, and who found Wodensbourne stupid now that he was not
to marry his cousin, was abroad, nobody seemed exactly to know where;
and various things, not altogether joyful, had happened in the family,
since the far-distant age when Colin was the tutor, and had been willing
for Miss Matty’s sake to resign everything, if it should even be his
life.

“It will be a very nice marriage,” said Lady Frankland. “I will not
conceal from you, Mr. Campbell, that Matty has been very thoughtless,
and given us a great deal of anxiety. It is always so much more
difficult, you know, when you have the charge of a girl who is not your
own child. One can say anything to one’s own child; but your niece, you
know--and, indeed, not even your own, but your husband’s niece----”

“But I am sure Miss Frankland is as much attached to you,” said Colin,
who did not like to hear Matty blamed, “as if----”

“Oh yes,” said Lady Frankland; “but still it is different. You must not
think I am the least vexed about Harry. I never thought her the proper
person for Harry. He has so much feeling, though strangers do not see
it; and if he had been disappointed in his wife after they were married,
fancy what my feelings would have been, Mr. Campbell. I was always sure
they never would have got on together; and you know, when that is the
case, it is so much better to break off at once.”

“What is that you are saying about breaking off at once?” said Miss
Matty, who came into the room at that moment. “It must be Mr. Campbell
who is consulting you, aunt. I thought he would have asked _my_ advice
in such a case. I do believe my lady has forgotten that there ever was a
time when she was not married and settled, and that is why she gives you
such cruel advice. Mr. Campbell, I am much the best counsellor, and I
beg of you, don’t break it off at once!” said Miss Matty, looking up in
his face with eyes that were half mocking and half pathetic. She knew
very well it was herself whom my lady had been talking of--which made
her the more disposed to send back the arrow upon Colin. But Matty,
after all, was a good deal disconcerted--more disconcerted than he was,
when she saw the sudden flush that came to Colin’s face. Naturally, no
woman likes to make the discovery that a man who has once been her
worshipper has learned to transfer his affections to somebody else. When
she saw that this chance shaft had touched him, she herself was
conscious of a sudden flush--a flush which had nothing whatever to do
with love, but proceeded from the indescribable momentary vexation and
irritation with which she regarded Colin’s desertion. That he was her
adorer no longer was a fact which she had consented to; but Miss Matty
experienced a natural movement of indignation when she perceived that he
had elevated some one else to the vacant place. “Oh, if you look like
that, I shall think it quite unnecessary to advise,” she said, with a
little spitefulness, lowering her voice.

“What do I look like?” said Colin with a smile; for Lady Frankland had
withdrawn to the other end of the room, and the young man was perfectly
disposed to enter upon one of the half-mocking, half-tender
conversations which had given such a charm to his life of old.

“What do you look like?” said Miss Matty. “Well, I think you look a
great deal more like other people than you used to do; and I hate men
who look like everybody else. One can generally tell a woman by her
dress,” said the young lady pensively; “but most men that one meets in
society want to have little labels with their names on them. I never can
tell any difference between one and another for my part.”

“Then perhaps it would clear the haze a little if I were to name
myself,” said Colin. “I am Colin Campbell of Ramore, at your ladyship’s
service--once tutor to the learned and witty Charley, that hope of the
house of Wodensbourne--and once also your ladyship’s humble boatman and
attendant on the Holy Loch.”

“Fellow of Balliol, double-first--Coming man, and reformer of Scotland,”
said Miss Matty with a laugh. “Yes, I recognise you; but I am not my
ladyship just yet. I am only Matty Frankland for the moment, Sir
Thomas’s niece, who has given my lady a great deal of trouble. Oh, yes;
I know what she was saying to you. Girls who live in other people’s
houses know by instinct what is being said about them. Oh, to be sure,
it is quite true; they have been very, very kind to me; but, don’t you
know, it is dreadful always to feel that people are kind. Ah! how sweet
it used to be on the Holy Loch. But you have forgotten one of your
qualifications, Mr. Campbell; you used to be a poet as well as tutor. I
think, so far as I was concerned, it was the former capacity which you
exercised with most applause. I have a drawer in my desk full of certain
effusions; but, I suppose, now you are a Fellow of Balliol you are too
dignified for that.”

“I don’t see any reason why I should be,” said Colin; “I was a great
deal more dignified, for that matter, when I was eighteen, and a student
at Glasgow College, and had very much more lofty expectations than now.”

“Oh, you always were devoted to the Kirk,” said Miss Matty; “which was a
thing I never could understand--and now less than ever, when everybody
knows that a man who has taken such honours as you have, has everything
open to him.”

“Yes,” said Colin; “but then what everybody knows is a little vague. I
should like to hear of any one thing that really is open to me except
taking pupils. Of course,” said the young man, with dignity, “my mind is
made up long ago, and my profession fixed; but for the good of other
people in my position--and for my own good as well,” Colin added with a
laugh--“for you know it is pleasant to feel one’s-self a martyr,
rejecting every sort of advantage for duty’s sake.”

“Oh, but of course it is quite true,” said Matty; “you _are_ giving up
everything--of course it is true. You know you might go into Parliament,
or you might go into the Church, or you might--I wish you would speak to
my uncle about it; I suppose he knows. For my part, I think you should
go into Parliament; I should read all your speeches faithfully, and
always be on your side.”

“That is a great inducement,” said Colin. “With that certainty one could
face a great many obstacles. But, on the other hand, when I have settled
down somewhere in my own parish, you can come and hear me preach.”

“That will not be half so interesting,” said Miss Matty, making a little
_moue_ of disdain; “but, now, tell me,” she continued, sinking her voice
to its most confidential tone, “what it was that made you look so?--you
know we are _very_ old friends,” said Miss Matty, with the least little
tender touch or pathos; “we have done such quantities of things
together--rowed on the Holy Loch, and walked in the woods, and discussed
Tennyson, and amused Sir Thomas--you _ought_ to tell me your secrets;
you don’t know what a good _confidante_ I should be; and if I know the
lady---- But, at all events, you must tell me what made you look so?”
she said, with her sweetest tone of inquisitive sympathy, the siren of
Colin’s youth.

“Perhaps--when you have explained to me what it means to look _so_,”
said Colin; “after being buried for three years one forgets that little
language. And then I am disposed to deny ever having looked _so_,” he
went on, laughing; but, notwithstanding his laugh, Colin was much more
annoyed than became his reasonable years and new dignities to feel once
more that absurd crimson rising to his hair. The more he laughed the
higher rose that guilty and conscious colour; and, as for Miss Matty,
she pointed her little pink finger at him with an air of triumph.

“There!” she said, “and you dare to pretend that you never looked _so_!
I shall be quite vexed if you don’t tell me. If it was not something
very serious,” said Miss Matty, “you would not change like _that_.”

“Here is Sir Thomas; he will never accuse me of looking _so_, or
changing like _that_--and it is a guest’s first duty to make himself
agreeable to his host, is it not?” said Colin, who was rather glad of
Sir Thomas’s arrival. As for Matty, she was conscious that Lady
Frankland had given her what she would have called “a look” before
leaving the room, and that her uncle regarded her with a little anxiety
as he approached. Decidedly, though she liked talking to Colin, it was
necessary to be less confidential. “I won’t say _au revoir_,” she said,
shrugging her pretty shoulders; “you know what you said about that once
upon a time, when you were a poet.” And then Matty felt a little sorry
for herself as she went away. “They might know, if they had any sense,
that it does not matter in the least what I say to _him_,” the young
lady said to herself; but then she was only suffering the natural
penalty of a long course of conquest, and several good matches
sacrificed, and matters were serious this time, and not to be trifled
with. Miss Matty accordingly gave up her researches into Colin’s secret;
but not the less regarded with a certain degree of lively despite, the
revelation out of the clouds of that unknown woman at thought of which
Colin blushed. “I daresay it is somebody quite stupid, who does not
understand him a bit,” she said to herself, taking a little comfort from
the thought--for Matty Frankland was not a model woman, desiring only
the hero’s happiness; and a man who is sufficiently insensible to
console himself under such circumstances with another attachment,
deserves to have his inconstancy punished, as everybody will allow.

To tell the truth, Colin, though guiltless of any breach of allegiance
towards Matty, was punished sufficiently for his second attempt at love.
He had heard nothing of Alice all these three years, but,
notwithstanding, had never ceased to feel upon his neck that invisible
bridle which restrained him against his will. Perhaps, if the woman of
his imagination had ever fairly revealed herself, the sight would have
given him courage to break for ever such a visionary bond, and to take
possession of his natural liberty; but she contented herself with waving
to him those airy salutations out of the clouds, and with now and then
throwing a glance at him out of the eyes of some passer-by, who either
disappeared at once from his sight, or turned out upon examination to be
utterly unlike that not impossible She; and Colin had two sentinels to
keep watch upon his honour in the forms of his mother and Lauderdale,
both of whom believed in Love, and did not know what inconstancy meant.
He said to himself often enough that the struggle in his heart was not
inconstancy; but then he was not a man who could admit to them, or even
to himself, that the bond between him and Alice was a great and tender
pity, and not love. She had been on the eve of becoming his wife--she
might be his wife still for anything he knew to the contrary--and Colin,
who in this respect was spotless as any Bayard, would not, even to his
dearest friends, humiliate by such a confession the woman whose love he
had once sought.

And now the time had almost come when he could in reality “settle in
life.” His Scotch parish came nearer and nearer, in the natural course
of affairs, without any dazzling obstacles and temptations between it
and himself, as he had once hoped; and Alice was of age by this time;
and honour seemed to demand that, now when his proposal really meant
something, he should offer to her the possibility of confirming her
early choice. But somehow Colin was not at all anxious to take this
step; he hung back, and nursed the liberty which still remained to him,
and longed, in spite of himself, towards the visionary creature of his
dreams, who was not Alice. Accordingly, he had two rather troublesome
matters to think over at Wodensbourne, and occupied a position which was
made all the more vexatious because it was at the same time amusing and
absurd. His mind had been made up from the beginning as to his future
life, as he truly said; but then he had quite intended it to be a
sacrifice which he made out of his supreme love for his Church and his
country. He meant to have fought his way back to the venerable mother
through every sort of brilliant temptation; and to carry his honours to
her with a disinterested love which he should prove by leaving behind
him still higher honours and ambitions; whereas, in reality, the world
was permitting him to return very quietly to his native country as if it
was the most natural thing in the world. The disappointment was perhaps
harsher in its way than if Colin had meant to avail himself of those
splendid imaginary chances; and it did not make it any the less hard to
bear that he himself saw the humour of the situation, and could not but
laugh grimly at himself.

Perhaps Colin will suffer in the opinion of the readers of this history
when we add that, notwithstanding the perplexing and critical character
of the conjuncture, and notwithstanding the other complication in his
history in regard to Alice, he employed his leisure at Wodensbourne,
after the interview we have recorded, in writing[3] verses for Miss
Matty. It was true she had challenged him to some such task, but still
it was undoubtedly a weakness on the part of a man with so much to think
of. Truth, however, compels his historian to confess to this frivolity.
As he strayed about the flat country, and through the park, the leisure
in which he had intended to think over his position only betrayed him
into this preposterous idleness; for, to be sure, life generally
arranges itself in its own way without much help from thinking--but one
cannot succeed in writing a farewell to a first love, for which one
retains a certain kindness, without a due attention to one’s rhymes:
and this was the sole result, as far as anybody was aware, of Colin’s
brief but pleasant holiday at Wodensbourne.



CHAPTER XLV.


It is so difficult a matter to tell the story of a man’s life without
wearying the audience, that we will make a leap over all the
circumstances of Colin’s probation in Scotland, though they were
sufficiently amusing. For, naturally, the presbytery of Glen-Diarmid--in
which district the Holy Loch, Colin’s native parish, is situated--were a
little at a loss what to make of a Fellow of Balliol when he offered
himself for licence. To be sure, they made a long pause over the fact of
his Fellowship, which implied that he was a member of the Church of
England; but the presbytery permitted Colin to be heard in defence, and
he had friends among them, and had sufficient skill with his weapons to
perplex and defeat any rising antagonist. Besides, it was not in the
nature of a country presbytery in this tolerant age to be otherwise than
a little proud of the academical honours which the young neophyte bore.
“If we accept any lout who comes up for licence, and refuse a lad of his
attainments, what do you suppose the world will think of us?” said one
of the more enlightened members of the clerical court, forgetting, as
was natural, that the world concerned itself very little with the doings
of the presbytery of Glen-Diarmid. “It’s safe to leave all that to the
objectors when he comes to be placed,” said another of Colin’s judges,
more wary than his brother; “if he’s not sound, you may trust it to them
to find that out,”--and the young man was accordingly endued with the
preliminary privileges of preacher, and licensed to exercise his gift.
Colin had made friends all along the road of his life, as some men are
happy enough to do, and had many who would have been pleased to do him a
service, and one, as it happened, who at this juncture could; and so it
befell, that, a very short time after, the second and more serious trial
to which the prudent presbyter had referred, came into the life of the
young preacher. He was presented, as people say in Scotland, to the
parish of Afton, in the county, or, as the natives prefer to call it,
the kingdom of Fife. It was a good living enough, making up, when the
harvest was of average productiveness, and wheat steady, rather more
than three hundred pounds a year--and more than that when the harvest
was bad, and the price of com high; and there was an excellent manse,
not much inferior to an English parsonage, and a compact little
comfortable glebe, of which a minister of agricultural tastes might make
something if he chose; and, above all, there were “heritors” of good
conditions, and a university town, of small dimensions, but wealthy in
point of society, within reach--all of which points seemed to Colin’s
English friends a fabulous combination of advantages to be found in a
Scotch parish.

Colin, however, did not fully describe the horrible gulf which lay
between him and his benefice to anybody out of Scotland; for he was not
the man to betray the imperfections of his beloved country, even while
he suffered from them. His historian, however, does not require to
exercise so much delicacy; and, as Colin’s case was exactly the same as
that of any other young clergyman in the Church of Scotland, there is no
betrayal of confidence involved. Between him and that haven there was a
channel to cross before which the boldest might have quailed. The parish
of Alton was a large parish, and there were seven hundred and fifty
people in it who had a right to “object” to Colin. They had a right to
object, if they liked, to his looks, or his manners, or his doctrines,
or the colour of his hair; they had a right to investigate all his life,
and make a complaint at “the bar of the presbytery”--which meant, at the
same time, in all the local newspapers, eager for any kind of
gossip--that he had once been guilty of bird’s-nesting, or had heard the
midnight chimes at some unguarded moment of his youth. When Colin
entered the pulpit for the first time in the parish to which he was
presented, he made his appearance there not to instruct the
congregation, but to be inspected, watched, judged, and finally objected
to--and all the process was vigorously enforced in his case. For, to be
sure, there were several things to be remarked in this young man--or, as
the people of Afton expressed it, “this new laud”--which were out of the
way, and unlike other people. He was a lad that had not found Scotch
education good enough for him, but had gone to England for at least part
of his training. To be sure, he had partly made up for this by taking
the highest honours possible, and coming out of the contest in a manner
creditable to Scotland--which was a point in his favour. And then his
prayers (which was odd, as Colin was decidedly a liturgist) were
wanting in those stock expressions which, more pertinacious than any
liturgy, haunt the public prayers of the ordinary ministers of the
Church of Scotland; and his sermons were short and innocent of
divisions, and of a tenor totally unlike what the respectable
parishioners had been used to hear. Some of the shrewder elders were of
opinion that this or that expression “might mean onything”--a conclusion
in which there was a certain truth; for Colin, as we have said, was not
perfectly clear on all points as to what he believed. If he was not
altogether heterodox on the subject of eternal punishment, for example,
he was, to say the least, extremely vague; and, indeed, he deserted
doctrinal ground altogether as often as he could, and took refuge in
life and its necessities in a way which, doubtless, had its effect on
the uninstructed multitude, but was felt to be meagre and unsatisfactory
by the theologians of the parish. Two or three public meetings were held
on the subject before it was time to lodge the final objections against
the “presentee;” and Colin himself, who was living at St. Rule’s, within
a few miles of the theatre of war, naturally found those meetings, and
the speeches thereat, which appeared in the _Fife Argus_, much less
amusing than an impartial spectator might have done.

And then the same enlightened journal contained all sorts of letters on
the subject--letters in which “An Onlooker” asked whether the Rev. Mr.
Campbell, who was presentee to the parish of Afton, was the same Mr.
Campbell who had passed a spring at Rome three or four years before, and
had been noted for his leaning to the Papacy and its superstitious
observances; while, on the other hand, “A Fife Elder” implored the
parishioners to take notice that the man whom an Erastian patron--not
himself a member of the Church, and perhaps unaware how dearly the
spiritual privileges purchased by the blood of their martyred
forefathers are regarded by Scotsmen--thus endeavoured to force upon
them, was notoriously a disciple of Heward, and belonged to the most
insidious school of modern infidelity. It was the main body of the
opposing army which made such attacks; but there was no lack of
skirmishers, who treated the subject in a lighter manner, and addressed
the obliging editor in a familiar and playful fashion:--“Sir,--Having
nothing better to do last Sunday morning, I strayed into the parish
church of Afton, with the intention of worshipping with the
congregation; but you may judge of my surprise when I observed ascending
the pulpit-stairs a young gentleman presenting all the appearance of a
London swell or a cavalry officer, with a beard upon which it was
evident he had spent more time than on his sermon”--wrote a witty
correspondent; while another indignant Scot demanded solemnly, “Is it to
be tolerated that our very pulpits should be invaded by the scum of the
English Universities, inexperienced lads that make a hash of the
Prayer-book, and preach sermons that may do very well on the other side
of the Tweed, but won’t go down here?”

Such were the pleasant effusions with which Colin’s friend at St. Rule’s
amused his guest at breakfast. They were very amusing to a spectator
safely established in the Elysian fields of a Scotch professorship, and
beyond the reach of objections; but they were not amusing, to speak of,
to Colin; and the effect they produced upon the household at Ramore may
be faintly imagined by the general public, as it will be vividly
realized by such Scotch families as have sons in the Church. The
Mistress had said to herself, with a certain placid thankfulness, “It’s
little they can have to say about my Colin, that has been aye the best
and the kindest.” But when she saw how much could be made of nothing,
the indignation of Colin’s mother did not prevent her from being wounded
to the heart. “I will never mair believe either in justice or charity,”
she said, with a thrill of wrath in her voice which had never before
been heard at Ramore; “him that was aye so true and faithful--him that
has aye served his Master first, and made no account of this world!”
And, indeed, though his mother’s estimation of him might be a little too
favourable, it is certain that few men more entirely devoted to their
work than Colin had ever taken upon them the cure of souls. That,
however, was a matter beyond the ken of the congregation and parish of
Afton. There were seven hundred and fifty communicants, and they had
been well trained in doctrine under their late minister, and had a high
character for intelligence; and, when an opportunity thus happily
arrived for distinguishing themselves, it was not in human nature to
neglect it. Had not West Port worried to the point of extinction three
unhappy men whom the Crown itself had successively elevated to the
unenviable distinction of presentee? The Afton case now occupied the
newspapers as the West Port case had once occupied them. It combined all
the attractions of a theological controversy and a personal
investigation; and, indeed, there could have been few better points of
view for observing the humours of Scotch character and the peculiarities
of rural Scotch society of the humbler levels; only that, as we have
before said, the process was not so amusing as it might have been to
Colin and his friends.

“Me ken, Mr. Heward?” said the leading weaver of Afton; “no, I ken
nothing about him. I’m no prepared to say what he believes. For that
matter (but this was drawn out by cross-examination), I’m no just
prepared to say at a moment’s notice what I believe myself. I believe in
the Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism. No, I cannot just say
that I’ve ever read the Confession of Faith--but eh, man, you ken little
about parish schools if you think I dinna ken the Catechism. Can I say
‘What is Effectual Calling?’ I would like to know what right you have to
ask me. I’ll say it at a proper time, to them that have a title to ask.
I’m here to put in my objections against the presentee. I’m no here to
say my questions. If I was, may be I would ken them better than you.”

“Very well; but I want to understand what you know about Mr. Heward,”
said the counsel for the defence.

“I’ve said already I ken naething about Mr. Heward. Lord bless me! it’s
no a man, it’s a principle we’re thinking of. No, I deny that; it’s no
an oath. ‘Lord bless me!’ is a prayer, if you will be at the bottom o’t.
We’ve a’ muckle need to say that. I say the presentee is of the Heward
school of infidelity; that’s the objection I’m here to support.”

“But, my friend,” said a member of the presbytery, “it is necessary that
you should be more precise. It is necessary to say, you know, that Mr.
Heward rejects revelation; that he----”

“Moderator, I call my reverend brother to order,” said another minister;
“the witness is here to give evidence about Mr. Campbell. No doubt he is
prepared to show us how the presentee has proved himself to belong to
the Heward school.”

“Oh ay,” said the witness; “there’s plenty evidence of that. I took
notes mysel’ of a’ the sermons. Here’s one of them. It’s maybe a wee in
my ain words, but there’s nae change in the sense,--‘My freends, it’s
aye best to look after your ain business: it’s awfu’ easy to condemn
others. We’re all the children of the Heavenly Father. I have seen
devotion among a wheen poor uninstructed Papists that would put the best
of you to shame’--No, that’s no what I was looking for; that’s the
latitudinarian bit.”

“I think it has been said, among other things,” said another member of
the presbytery, “that Mr. Campbell had a leaning towards papal error; it
appears to me that the witness’s note is almost a proof of that.”

“Moderator,” said Colin’s counsel, “I beg to call your attention to the
fact that we are not discussing the presentee’s leaning towards papal
error, but his adherence to the Heward school of infidelity, whatever
that may be. If the witness will inform us, or if any of the members of
the court will inform us, what Mr. Heward believes, we will then be able
to make some reply to this part of the case.”

“I dinna ken naething about Mr. Heward,” said the cautious witness. “I’m
no prepared to enter into ony personal question. It’s no the man but the
principle that we’re heeding, the rest of the objectors and me.”

“The witness is perfectly right,” said a conscientious presbyter; “if we
were tempted to enter into personal questions there would be no end to
the process. My friend, the thing for you to do in this delicate matter
is to lead proof. No doubt the presentee has made some statement which
has led you to identify him with Mr. Heward. He has expressed some
doubts, for example, about the origin of Christianity or the truth of
revelation--”

“Order, order,” cried the enlightened member; “I protest against such
leading questions. Indeed, it appears to me, Moderator, that it is
impossible to proceed with this part of the case unless it has been made
clearly apparent to the court what Mr. Heward believes.”

Upon which there naturally ensued a lively discussion in the presbytery,
in which the witness was with difficulty prevented from joining. The
subject was without doubt sufficiently unfathomable to keep half-a-dozen
presbyteries occupied; but there were at that period in the kingdom of
Fife, men of sufficient temerity to pronounce authoritatively even upon
a matter so mysterious and indefinite. The court, however, adjourned
that day without coming to any decision; and even the Edinburgh papers
published a report of the Afton case, which involved so many important
interests; although so far as concerned the great Heward heresy, the
objections could not be held to be proved.

Colin was saved on the other counts of his indictment also, as it
happened, but more by accident than by any effect which he produced on
his reluctant parishioners. By dint of repeated examinations on the
model of that which we have quoted above, the presbytery came to the
decision that the presentee’s leaning to papal error was, like his
adherence to the Heward school of theology, not proven; and they
even--for presbyteries also march to a certain extent with the
age--declined to consider the milder accusation brought against him, of
favouring the errors of a less fatal heretic. By this time, it is true,
Colin was on the point of abandoning for ever the Church to which at a
distance he had been willing to give up all his ambitions, and the
Mistress was wound up to such a pitch of indignant excitement as to
threaten a serious illness, and Lauderdale had publicly demonstrated his
wrath by attending “the English chapel,” as he said, “two Sundays
running.” As for Colin, in the quiet of St. Rule’s, feeling like a
culprit on his trial, and relishing not at all the notion of being taken
to pieces by the papers, even though they were merely papers of Fife, he
had begun to regard with some relief the idea of going back to Balliol
and reposing on his Fellowship, and even taking pupils, if nothing
better came in his way. If he could have gone into Parliament, as Matty
Frankland suggested, the indignant young man would have seized violently
on that means of exposing to the House and the world the miseries of a
Scotch presentee and the horrors of Lord Aberdeen’s Act. But,
fortunately, he had no means of getting into Parliament, and a certain
sense at the bottom of his heart, that this priesthood which had to be
entered by a channel so painful and humiliating was in reality his true
vocation, retained him as by a silken thread. If he had been less
convinced on this point, no doubt he would have abandoned the mortifying
struggle, and the parish of Afton, having whetted its appetite upon him,
would have gone freshly to work upon another unhappy young preacher, and
crunched his bones with equal satisfaction; and, what is still more
important to us, this history would have broken off abruptly short of
its fit and necessary period. None of those misfortunes happened,
because Colin had at heart a determination to make himself heard, and
enter upon his natural vocation, and because, in the second place, he
was independent, and did not at the present moment concern himself in
the smallest degree about the stipend of the parish, whether corn was at
five pounds the chaldron or five shillings. To be sure, it is contrary
to the ordinary habit of biography to represent a young clergyman as
entering a parish against the will or with the dislike of the
inhabitants; as a general rule it is at worst, an interested curiosity,
if not a lively enthusiasm, which the young parish priests of literature
find in their village churches; but then it is not England or Arcadia of
which we are writing, nor of an ideal curate or spotless primitive
vicar, but only of Colin Campbell and the parish of Afton, in the
kingdom of Fife, in the country of Scotland, under the beneficent
operation of Lord Aberdeen’s Act.

However, at last the undignified combat terminated. After the objections
were all disposed of, the seven hundred and fifty communicants received
their minister, it is to be hoped, with the respect due to a victor.
Perhaps it was a touch of disdain on Colin’s part--proving how faulty
the young man remained, notwithstanding, as the Mistress said, “all he
had come through”--that prompted him to ascend the pulpit, after the
struggle was over, with his scarlet hood glaring on his black gown to
the consternation of his parishioners. It cannot be denied that this
little movement of despite was an action somewhat unworthy of Colin at
such a moment and in such a place; but then he was young, and it is
difficult for a young man to do under all circumstances exactly what he
ought. When he had got there and opened his mouth, Colin forgot all
about his scarlet hood--he forgot they had all objected to him and put
him in the papers. He saw only before him a certain corner of the world
in which he had to perform the highest office that is confided to man.
He preached without thinking he was preaching, forgetting all about
doctrines, and only remembering the wonderful bewildering life in which
every soul before him had its share, the human mysteries and agonies,
the heaven, so vague and distant, the need so urgent and so near. In
sight of these, which had nothing to do with Lord Aberdeen’s Act, Colin
forgot that he had been put innocently on his trial, and taken to
pieces; and, what was still more strange, when two or three harmless
weeks had passed, the seven hundred and fifty communicants had clean
forgotten it too.



CHAPTER XLVI.


But, after all, there are few trials to which a man of lofty intentions
and an elevated ideal can be exposed, more severe than the entirely
unexpected one which comes upon him when he has had his way, and finds
himself for the first time in the much desired position in which he can
carry out all the plans of his youth. Perhaps few people arrive so
completely at this point as to acknowledge it distinctly to themselves;
for, to be sure, human projects and devices have a knack of expanding
and undergoing a gradual change from moment to moment. Something of the
kind, however, must accompany, for example, every happy marriage; though
perhaps it is the woman more than the man who comes under its influence.
The beautiful new world of love and goodness into which the happy bride
supposes herself to be entering comes to bear after a while so
extraordinary a resemblance to the ordinary mediocre world which she has
quitted that the young woman stands aghast and bewildered. The happiness
which has come has made a more subtle happiness, that ideal perfection
of being to which she has been more or less looking forward all her
life. Colin, when he had gone through all his trials, and had fairly
reached the point at which the heroic and magnificent existence which he
meant to live should commence, found himself very much in the same
position. The young man was still in the fantastic age. To preach his
sermons every Sunday, and do his necessary duty, and take advantage of
the good society at St. Rule’s, did not seem a life sufficient for the
new minister. What he had thought of was something impossible, a work
for his country, an elevation of the national firmament, an influence
which should mellow the rude goodness of Scotland, and link her again to
all the solemn past, to all the good and gracious present, to all the
tender lights and dawns of hope.

Colin had derived from all the religious influences with which he had
been brought in contact a character which was perhaps only possible to a
young Scotchman and Presbyterian, strongly anchored to his hereditary
creed, and yet feeling all its practical deficiencies. He was High
Church, though he smiled at Apostolic succession; he was Catholic,
though the most gorgeous High Mass that ever was celebrated would have
moved him no more than one of Verdi’s operas. When other enlightened
British spectators regarded with lofty superiority the poor Papist
people coming and going into all the tawdry little churches, and singing
unintelligible Latin, horribly out of tune, Colin for his part looked at
them with a sigh for his own country, which had ceased to recognise any
good in such devotion. And all through his education, from the moment
when he smiled at the prayer-book under the curate’s arm at
Wodensbourne, and wondered what a Scotch peasant would think of it, to
the time when he studied in the same light the prelections of the
University preacher in St. Mary’s, Colin’s thought had been, “Would I
were in the field!” It appeared to him that if he were but there, in all
his profusion of strength and youth, he could breathe a new breath into
the country he loved. What he meant to do was to untie the horrible
bands of logic and knit fair links of devotion around that corner of the
universe which it has always seemed possible to Scotsmen to make into a
Utopia; to persuade his nation to join hands again with Christendom, to
take back again the festivals and memories of Christianity, to rejoice
in Christmas and sing lauds at Easter, and say common prayers with a
universal voice. These were to be the outward signs; but the fact was
that it was a religious revolution in Scotland at which Colin aimed. He
meant to dethrone the pragmatic and arrogant preacher, whose reign has
lasted so long. He meant to introduce a more humble self-estimate, and a
more gracious temper into the world he swayed in imagination. From this
dream Colin woke up, after the rude experience of the objectors, to find
himself at the head of his seven hundred and fifty communicants, with
authority to say anything he liked to them (always limited by the
knowledge that they might at any time “libel” him before the presbytery,
and that the presbytery might at any time prosecute, judge, and condemn
him), and to a certain extent spiritual ruler of the parish, with a
right to do anything he liked in it, always subject to the approval of
the Kirk-Session, which could contravent him in many ingenious ways. The
young man was at last in the position to which he had looked forward for
years--at last his career was begun, and the course of his ambition lay
clear before him. Nothing now remained but to realize all these
magnificent projects, and carry out his dreams.

But the fact is that Colin, instead of plunging into his great work,
stood on the threshold struck dumb and bewildered, much as a bride might
do on the threshold of the new home which she had looked forward to as
something superior to Paradise. The position of his dreams was obtained,
but these dreams had never till now seemed actually hopeless and
preposterous. When he took his place up aloft in his high pulpit, from
which he regarded his people much as a man at a first-floor window might
regard the passers-by below, and watched the ruddy countrymen pouring in
with their hats on their heads and a noise like thunder, the first
terrible blow was struck at his palace of fancy. They were altogether
different from the gaping rustics at Wodensbourne, to whom that good
little curate preached harmless sermons out of his low desk, about the
twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, and the admirable arrangements of the
Church. Colin upstairs at his first-floor window was in no harmless
position. He was put up there for a certain business, which the
audience down below understood as well as he did. As for prayers and
psalm-singing, they were necessary preliminaries to be got over as
quickly as possible. The congregation listened and made internal
criticisms as the young minister said his prayers. “He’s awfu’ limited
in his confessions,” one of the elders whispered to another. “I canna
think he’s fathomed the nature o’ sin, for my part;” and Colin was
conscious by something in the atmosphere, by a certain hum and stir,
that, though his people were a little grateful to find his first attempt
at devotion shorter than usual, a second call upon them was regarded
with a certain displeased surprise; for, to be sure, the late minister
of Afton had been of the old school. And then, this inevitable preface
having been disposed of, the congregation settled down quietly to the
business of the day. Colin was young, and had kept his youthful awe of
the great mysteries of faith, though he was a minister. It struck him
with a sort of panic, when he looked down upon all those attentive
faces, and recalled to himself the idea that he was expected to teach
them, to throw new light upon all manner of doctrines, and open up the
Bible, and add additional surety to the assurance already possessed by
the audience that it was a very well-instructed congregation and knew
all about the system of Christian theology. It gleamed upon Colin in
that terrible moment that, instead of being a predestined reformer, he
was a very poor pretender indeed, and totally inadequate to the duties
of the post which he had taken upon him thus rashly; for, indeed, he was
not by any means so clear as most of his hearers were about the system
of theology. This sudden sense of incapacity, which came upon him at the
very moment when he ought to have been strongest, was a terrible waking
up for Colin. He preached his sermon--but with pale lips and a heart out
of which all the courage seemed to have died for the moment; and betook
himself to his manse afterwards to think it all over, with a horrible
sense that, after all, he was a sham and impostor, and utterly unworthy
of exercising influence upon any reasonable creature. For, to be sure,
though a lofty ideal is the best thing in the world, according to its
elevation is the pain and misery of the fall.

The consequence was that Colin stopped short in a kind of fright after
he had made this first discovery, and that, after all his great
projects, nothing in the world was heard all that winter of the young
reformer. To return to our metaphor, he was silent as a young wife
sometimes finds herself among the relics of her absurd youthful
fancies, contemplating the ruin ruefully, and not yet fully awakened to
the real possibilities of the position. During this little interval he
came gradually down out of his too lofty ideas to consider the actual
circumstances. When Lauderdale came to see him, which he did on the
occasion of the national new-year holiday, Colin took his friend to see
his church with a certain comic despair. “I have a finer chancel than
that at Wodensbourne, which was the curate’s object in life,” said
Colin; “but, if I make any fuss about it, I should be set down as an
idiot; and, if any man has an imagination sufficiently lively to
conceive of my ploughmen entering my church as our poor friends went
into the Pantheon----”

“Dinna be unreasonable,” said Lauderdale. “You were aye awfu’ fantastic
in your notions; what should the honest men ken about a chancel? I
wouldna say that I’m just clear on the subject mysel’. As for the
Pantheon, that was aye an awfu’ delusion on your part. Our cathedral at
Glasgow is an awfu’ deal mair Christian-like than the Pantheon, as far
as I can judge; but I wouldna say that it’s an idea that ever enters my
head to go there for my ain hand to say my prayers; and, as for a
country kirk with naked pews and cauld stone----”

“Look at it,” said Colin with an air of disgust which was comprehensible
enough in a Fellow of Balliol. The church of Afton was worth looking at.
It illustrated with the most wonderful, almost comic, exactness, two
distinct historic periods. At one end of it was a wonderful Norman
chancel, gloomy but magnificent, with its heavy and solemn arches almost
as perfect as when they were completed. This chancel had been united to
a church of later date (long since demolished) by a lighter and loftier
pointed arch, which, however, under Colin’s incumbency, was filled up
with a partition of wood, in which there was a little door giving
admission to the church proper, the native and modern expression of
ecclesiastical necessities in Scotland. This edifice was like nothing so
much as a square box, encircled by a level row of windows high up in the
wall, so many on each side; and there it was that Colin’s lofty pulpit,
up two pairs of stairs, rigidly and nakedly surveyed the rigorous lines
of naked pews which traversed the unlovely area. Colin regarded this
scene of his labours with a disgust so melancholy, yet so comical, that
his companion, though not much given to mirth, gave forth a laugh which
rang into the amazed and sombre echoes. “Yes, it is easy enough to
laugh,” said Colin, who was not without a sense of the comic side of his
position; “but if it was your own church----”

“Whisht, callant,” said Lauderdale, whose amusement was momentary; “if I
had ever come to onything in this world, and had a kirk, I wouldna have
been so fanciful. It’s well for you to get your lesson written out so
plain. There’s nae place to speak of here for the prayers and the
thanksgivings. I’m no saying but what they are the best, but that’s no
our manner of regarding things in Scotland. Even the man that has maist
set his heart on a revolution must aye begin with things as they are.
This is no a place open at a’ times to every man that has a word to say
to God in quietness, like yon Catholic chapels. It’s a place for
preaching; and you maun preach.”

“Preach!” said Colin; “what am I to preach? What I have learned here and
there, in Dickopftenburg for example, or in the Divinity Hall? and much
the better they would be for all that. Besides, I don’t believe in
preaching, Lauderdale. Preaching never did me the least service. As for
that beastly pulpit perched up there, all wood and noise as it is----”
but here Colin paused, overcome by the weight of his discontent, and the
giddiness natural to his terrible fall.

“Well,” said Lauderdale, after a pause, “I’m no saying but what there’s
some justice in what you say; but I would like to hear, with your ideas,
what you’re meaning to do.”

To which Colin answered with a groan. “Preach,” he said gloomily; “there
is nothing else I can do: preach them to death, I suppose: preach about
everything in heaven and earth; it is all a priest is good for here.”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale; “and then the worst o’t is that you’re no a
priest, but only a minister. I wouldna say, however, but what you might
pluck up a heart and go into the singing business, and maybe have a
process in the presbytery about an organ; that’s the form that
reformation takes in our kirk, especially with young ministers that have
travelled and cultivated their minds, like you. But, Colin,” said the
philosopher, “you’ve been in more places than the Divinity Hall. There
was once a time when you were awfu’ near dying, if a man daur say the
truth now it’s past; and there was once a bit little cham’er out yonder,
between heaven and earth----”

Out yonder--Lauderdale gave a little jerk with his hand, as he stood at
the open door, across the grey, level country which lay between the
parish church of Afton and the sea; and the words and the gesture
conveyed Colin suddenly to the lighted window that shone feebly over the
Campagna, and to the talk within over Meredith’s deathbed. The
recollection brought a wonderful change over his thoughts. He took his
friend’s arm in silence, when he had locked the door. “I wonder what he
is doing,” said Colin. “I wonder whether the reality has fallen short of
the expectation there. If there should be no golden gates or shining
streets as yet, but only another kind of life with other hopes and
trials! If one could but know!”

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, in the tone that Colin knew so well; and then
there was a long pause. “I’m no saying but what it’s natural,” he went
on afterwards with some vagueness. “It’s aye awfu’ hard upon a man to
get his ain way; but once in a while there’s one arises that can take
the good out of even that. You’ll no make Scotland of your way of
thinking, Colin; but you’ll make it worth her while to have brought ye
forth for a’ that. As for Arthur, poor callant, I wouldna say but his
ideal may have changed a wee on the road there. I’m awfu’ indifferent to
the shining streets for my part; but I’m no indifferent to them that
bide yonder in the silence. There was one now that wasna in your case,”
continued Lauderdale; “_he_ was aye pleased to teach in season and out
of season. For the sake of the like of him, I’m whiles moved to hope
that a’s no so awfu’ perfect in the other world as we think. I canna see
ony ground for it in the Bible. Naething ever comes to an end in this
world, callant;--and that was just what I was meaning to ask in respect
to other things.”

“I don’t know what you mean by other things,” said Colin; “that is, if
you mean Miss Meredith, Lauderdale, I have heard nothing of her for
years. That must be concluded to have come to an end if anything ever
did. It is not for me to subject myself to rejection any more.”

Upon which Lauderdale breathed out a long breath which sounded like a
sigh, and was visible as well as audible in the frosty air. “It’s aye
weel to have your lesson written so plain,” he said after a minute, with
that want of apparent sequence which was sometimes amusing and sometimes
irritating to Colin; “it’s nae disgrace to a man to do his work under
strange conditions. When a lad like you has no place to work in but a
pulpit, it’s clear to me that God intends him to preach whether he likes
it or no.”

And this was all the comfort Colin received, in the midst of his
disenchantment and discouragement, from his dearest friend.

But before the winter was over, life had naturally asserted its rights
in the mind of the young minister. He had begun to stretch out his hands
for his tools almost without knowing it, and to find that after all, a
man in a pulpit, although he has two flights of stairs to ascend to it,
has a certain power in his hand. Colin found eventually, that he had
after all a great deal to say, and that even in one hour in a week it
was possible to convey sundry new ideas into the rude, but not stupid,
minds of his parishioners. A great many of them had that impracticable
and hopeless amount of intelligence natural to a well brought-up Scotch
peasant, with opinions upon theological matters and a lofty estimate of
his own powers; but withal there were many minds open and thoughtful as
silence, and the fields, and much observation of the operations of
nature could make them. True, there were all the disadvantages to be
encountered in Afton which usually exist in Scotch parishes of the
present generation. There was a Free church at the other end of the
parish very well filled, and served by a minister who was much more
clear in a doctrinal point of view than Colin; and the heritors, for the
most part--that is to say, the land-owners of the parish--though they
were pleased to ask a Fellow of Balliol to dinner, and to show him a
great deal of attention, yet drove placidly past his church every Sunday
to the English chapel in St. Rule’s; which is unhappily the general
fortune of the National Church in Scotland. It was on this divided world
that Colin looked from his high pulpit, where, at least for his hour, he
had the privilege of saying what he pleased without any contradiction;
and it is not to be denied that after a while the kingdom of Fife grew
conscious to its other extremity that in the eastern corner a man had
arrived who had undoubtedly something to say. As his popularity began to
rise, Colin’s ambitions crept back to his heart one by one. He preached
the strangest sort of baffling, unorthodox sermons, in which, however,
when an adverse critic took notes, there was found to be nothing upon
which in these days he could be brought to the bar of the presbytery.
Thirty years ago, indeed, matters were otherwise regulated; but even
presbyteries have this advantage over popes, that they do take a step
forward occasionally to keep in time with their age.

This would be the proper point at which to leave Colin, if there did not
exist certain natural, human prejudices on the subject which require a
distinct conclusion of one kind or another. Until a man is dead, it is
impossible to say what he has done, or to make any real estimate of his
work; and Colin, so far from being dead, is only as yet at the
commencement of his career, having taken the first steps with some
success and _éclat_, and having recovered the greater part of his
enthusiasm. There was, indeed, a time when his friends expected nothing
else for him than that early and lovely ending which makes a biography
perfect. There is only one other ending in life, which is equally
satisfactory, and, at least on the face of it, more cheerful than dying;
and that, we need not say, is marriage. Accordingly, as it is impossible
to pursue his course to the one end, all that we can do is to turn to
the other, which, though the hero himself was not aware of it, was at
that moment shadowing slowly out of the morning clouds.

It is accordingly with a feeling of relief that we turn from the little
ecclesiastical world of Scotland, where we dare not put ourselves in too
rigorous contact with reality, or reveal indiscreetly, without regard to
the sanctity of individual confidence, what Colin is doing, to the
common open air and daylight, in which he set out, all innocent and
unfearing, on a summer morning, accompanied as of old by Lauderdale,
upon a holiday journey. He had not the remotest idea, any more than the
readers of his history have at this moment, what was to happen to him
before he came back again. He set out with all his revolutionary ideas
in his mind, without pausing to think that circumstances might occur
which would soften down all insurrectionary impulses on his part, and
present him to the alarmed Church, not under the aspect of an
irresistible agitator and reformer, but in the subdued character of a
man who has given hostages to society. Colin had no thought of this
downfall in his imagination when he set out. He had even amused himself
with the idea of a new series of “Tracts for the Times,” which might
peradventure work as much commotion in the Church of Scotland as the
former series had done in the Anglican communion. He went off in full
force and energy with the draft of the first of these revolutionary
documents in the writing-case in which he had once copied out his verses
for Alice Meredith. Poor Alice Meredith! The bridle which Colin had once
felt on his neck had worn by this time to such an impalpable thread that
he was no longer aware of its existence; and even the woman in the
clouds had passed out of his recollection for the moment, so much was he
absorbed with the great work he had embarked on. Thus he set out on a
pedestrian excursion, meaning to go to the English lakes, and it is hard
to say where besides, in his month’s holiday; and nothing in the air or
in the skies gave any notice to Colin of the great event that was to
befall him before he could return.



CHAPTER XLVII.


It was, as we have said, a lovely summer morning when Colin set out on
his excursion, after the fatigues of the winter and spring. His first
stage was naturally Ramore, where he arrived the same evening, having
picked up Lauderdale at Glasgow on his way. A more beautiful evening had
never shone over the Holy Loch; and, as the two friends approached
Ramore, all the western sky was flaming behind the dark hills, which
stood up in austere shadow, shutting out from the loch and its immediate
banks the later glories of the sunset. To leave the eastern shore, where
the light still lingered, and steal up under the shadow into the soft
beginning of the twilight, with Ramore, that “shines where it stands,”
looking out hospitably from the brae, was like leaving the world of
noise and commotion for the primitive life, with its silence and its
thoughts; and so, indeed, Colin felt it, though his world was but
another country parish, primitive enough in its ways. But then it must
not be forgotten that there is a difference between the kingdom of Fife,
where wheat grows golden on the broad fields, and where the herrings
come up to the shore to be salted and packed in barrels, and the sweet
Loch half hidden among the hills, where the cornfields are scant and
few, and where grouse and heather divide the country with the beasts and
the pastures, and where, in short, Gaelic was spoken within the memory
of man. Perhaps there was something of the vanity of youth in that look
of observation and half amused, half curious criticism which the young
man cast upon the peaceful manse, where it did not seem as if anything
could ever happen, and where the minister, who had red hair, had
painfully begun his career when Colin himself was a boy. The manse of
Afton was not nearly so lovely, but--it was different; though perhaps he
could not have told how. And the same thought was in his mind as he went
on past all the tranquil houses. How did they manage to keep existing,
those people for whom life was over, who had ceased to look beyond the
day, or to anticipate either good or evil? To be sure all this was very
unreasonable; for Colin was aware that things did happen now and then on
the Holy Loch. Somebody died occasionally, when it was impossible to
help it, and by turns somebody was born, and there even occurred, at
rare intervals a marriage, with its suggestion of life beginning; but
these domestic incidents were not what he was thinking of. Life seemed
to be in its quiet evening over all that twilight coast; and then it was
the morning with Colin, and it did not seem possible for him to exist
without the hopes, and motives, and excitements which made ceaseless
movement and commotion in his soul. He was so full of what had to be
done, even of what he himself had to do, that the silence seemed to
recede before him, and to rustle and murmur round him as he carried into
it his conscious and restless life.

Colin had even such a wealth of existence to dispose of that it kept
flowing on in two or three distinct channels, a thing which amused him
when he thought of it. For underneath all this sense of contrast, and
Lauderdale’s talk, and his own watch for the Ramore boat, No. 1 of the
“Tracts for the Times” was at the same time shaping itself in Colin’s
brain; and there are moments when a man can stand apart from himself,
and note what is going on in his own mind. He was greeting the old
friends who recognised him in the steamboat, and looking out for home,
and planning his tract, and making that contrast between the evening and
the morning all at the same moment. And at the same time he had taken
off the front of his mental habitation, and was looking at all those
different processes going on in its different compartments with a
curious sense of amusement. Such were the occupations of his mind as he
went up to the Loch, to that spot where the Ramore boat lay waiting on
the rippled surface. It was a different homecoming from any that he had
ever made before. Formerly his prospects were vague, and it never was
quite certain what he might make of himself. Now he had fulfilled all
the ambitions of his family, as far as his position went. There was
nothing more to hope for or to desire in that particular; and,
naturally, Colin felt that his influence with his father and brothers at
least would be enhanced by the realization of those hopes, which, up to
this time, had always been mingled with a little uncertainty. He forgot
all about that, it is true, when he grasped the hands of Archie and of
the farmer, and dashed up the brae to where the Mistress stood wistful
at the door; but, notwithstanding, there was a difference, and it was
one which was sufficiently apparent to all. As for his mother, she
smoothed down the sleeve of his black coat with her kind hand, and
examined with a tender smile the cut of the waistcoat which Colin had
brought from Oxford--though, to tell the truth, he had still a stolen
inclination for “mufti,” and wore his uniform only when a solemn
occasion occurred like this and on grand parade; but, for all her joy
and satisfaction at sight of him, the Mistress still looked a little
shattered and broken, and had never forgotten--though Colin had
forgotten it long ago--the “objections” of the parish of Afton, and all
that her son had had “to come through,” as she said, “before he was
placed.”

“I’m awfu’ shaken in my mind about a’ that,” said the Mistress; “there’s
the Free Kirk folk--though I’m no for making an example of
them--fighting among themselves about their new minister, like thae puir
senseless creatures in America. Thamas, at the Millhead, is for the ae
candidate, and his brother Dugald for the tither; and they’re like to
tear each other’s een out when they meet. That’s ill enough, but Afton’s
waur. I’m no for setting up priests, nor making them a sacerdotal caste
as some folk say; but will you tell me,” said Mrs. Campbell,
indignantly, “that a wheen ignorant weavers and canailye like that can
judge my Colin? ay, or even if it was thae Fife farmers driving in their
gigs. I would like to ken what he studied for and took a’ thae honours,
and gave baith time and siller, if he wasna to ken better than the like
of them? I’m no pretending to meddle with politics that are out of my
way--but I canna shut my een,” the Mistress said, emphatically. “The
awfu’ thing is that we’ve nae respect to speak of for onything but
ourselves; we’re so awfu’ fond of our ain bit poor opinions, and the
little we ken. If there was ony change in our parish--and the minister’s
far from weel, by a’ I can hear--and that man round the point at the
English chapel wasna such an awfu’ haveril--I would be tempted to flee
away out of their fechts and their objections, and get a quiet Sabbath
day there.”

“I’m no for buying peace so dear, for my part,” said Lauderdale;
“they’re terrible haverils, most of the English ministers in our pairts,
as the Mistress says. We’re a’ in a kind of dissenting way now-a-days,
the mair’s the pity. Whisht a moment, callant, and let a man speak.--I’m
no saying onything against dissent; it’s a wee hard in its ways, and it
has an awfu’ opinion of itsel’, and there’s nae beauty in it; but, when
your mind’s made up to have popular rights and your ain way in
everything, I canna see onything else for it, for my part.”

“Weel, we’ll a’ see,” said big Colin, who in his heart could not defend
an order of ecclesiastical economy which permitted his son to be
assaulted by the parish of Afton, or any other parish, “if it’s the
will of God. We’re none of us so awfu’ auld; but the world’s aye near
its ending to a woman that sees her son slighted; there’s nae penitence
can make up for that--no that he’s suffered much that I can see,” the
farmer said with a laugh. “There’s enough of the Kirk for one night.”

“Eh, Colin, dinna be so worldly,” said his wife; “I think whiles it
would be an awfu’ blessing if the world was to end as you say; and a
thing be cleared up, and them joined again that had been parted, and the
bonnie earth safe through the fire--if it’s to be by fire,” she added
with a questioning glance towards her son; “I canna think but it’s ower
good to be true. When I mind upon a’ we’ve to go through in this life,
and a’ that is so hard to mend;--eh, if He would but take it in His ain
hand!” said the Mistress with tears in her eyes. No one was so
hard-hearted as to preach to her at that moment, or to enlarge upon the
fact that everything was in His hand, as indeed she knew as well as her
companions; but it happens sometimes that the prayers and the wishes
which are out of reason, are those that come warmest, and touch deepest,
to the heart.

But, meanwhile, awaiting the end of the world, Colin, when he was
settled for the night in his old room, with its shelving roof, took out
and elaborated his _Tract for the Times_. It was discontent as great as
that of his mother’s which breathed out of it; but then hers was the
discontent of a life which had nothing to do or to look for, and which
had found out by experience how little progress can be made in a
lifetime, and how difficult it is to change evil into good. Colin’s
discontent, on the contrary, was that exhilarating sentiment which
stimulates youth, and opens an endless field of combat and conquest. At
his end of the road it looked only natural that the obstacles should
move of themselves out of the way, and that what was just and best
should have the inevitable victory. When he had done, he thought with a
tenderness which brought tears to his eyes, yet at the same moment a
smile to his lips, of the woman’s impatience that would hasten the
wheels of fate, and call upon God to take matters, as she said, in His
own hand. That did not, as yet, seem a step necessary to Colin. He
thought there was still time to work by the natural means, and that
things were not arrived as such a pass that it was needful to appeal to
miracle. It could only be when human means had failed that such a
resource could be necessary; and the human means had certainly not
failed entirely so long as he stood there in the bloom of his young
strength, with his weapons in his hand.

He preached in his native church on the following Sunday, as was to be
expected; and from up the Loch and down the Loch all the world came to
hear young Colin of Ramore. And big Colin the farmer sat glorious at the
end of his pew, and in the pride of his heart listened, and noted, and
made inexorable criticisms, and commented on his son’s novel ideas with
a severe irony which it was difficult to understand in its true sense.
The Duke himself came to hear Colin’s sermon, which was a wonderful
honour to the young man, and all the parish criticised him with a zest
which it was exhilarating to hear. “I mind when he couldna say his
Questions,” said Evan of Barnton; “I wouldna like to come under ony
engagement that he kens them noo. He was aye a callant awfu’ fond of his
ain opinion, and for my part I’m no for Presbyteries passing ower
objections so easy. Either he’s of Heward’s school or he’s no; but I
never saw that there was ony right decision come to. There were some
awfu’ suspicious expressions under his second head--if you could ca’ yon
a head,” said the spiritual ruler, with natural contempt; for indeed
Colin’s divisions were not what they ought to have been, and he was
perfectly open to criticism so far as that was concerned.

“A lot of that was out of Dennistoun,” said another thoughtful
spectator. “I’m aye doubtful of thae misty phrases. If it wasna for
hurting a’ their feelings, I would be awfu’ tempted to say a word. He’s
no’ that auld, and he might mend.”

“He’ll never mend,” said Evan. “I’m no’ one that ever approved of the
upbringing of thae laddies. They have ower much opinion of themselves.
There’s Archie, that thinks he kens the price of cattle better than a
man of twice his age. She’s an awfu’ fanciful woman, that mother of
theirs--and then they’ve a’ been a wee spoiled with that business about
the English callant; but I’ll no say but what he has abilities,” the
critic added, with a national sense of clanship. The parish might not
approve of the upbringing of the young Campbells, nor of their opinions,
but still it had a national share in any reputation that the family or
any of its members might attain.

Colin continued his course on the Monday with his friend. He had stayed
but a few days at home, but it was enough, and all the party were
sensible of the fact. Henceforward that home, precious as it was, could
not count for much in his life. It was a hard thing to think of, but it
was a necessity of nature. Archie and the younger sons greeted with
enthusiasm the elder brother, who shared with them his better fortunes
and higher place; but, when the greeting was given on both sides, there
did not remain very much to say; for, to be sure, seen by Colin’s side,
the young Campbells,--still _gauche_, and shamefaced, and with the pride
of a Scotch peasant in arms, looked inferior to what they really were,
and felt so--and the mother felt it for them, though Colin was her own
immediate heir and the pride of her heart. She bade him farewell with
suppressed tears, and a sense of loss which was not to be suppressed.
“He has his ain hame, and his ain place, and little need of us now, the
Lord be praised,” the Mistress said to herself as she watched him going
down to the boat; “I think I would be real content if he had but a good
wife.” But still it was with a sigh that she went in again and closed
the door upon the departing boat that carried her son back to the world.



CHAPTER XLVIII.


As for Colin and his friend, they went upon their way steadily, with
that rare sympathy in difference which is the closest bond of
friendship. Lauderdale by this time had lost almost all the lingerings
of youth which had hung long about him, perhaps by right of his union
with the fresh and exuberant youth of his brother-in-arms. His gaunt
person was gaunter than ever, though, by an impulse of the tenderest
pride--not for himself but for his companion--his dress fitted him
better, and was more carefully put on than it had even been during all
his life; but his long hair, once so black and wild, was now grey, and
hung in thin locks, and his beard, that relic of Italy, which Lauderdale
preserved religiously, and had ceased to be ashamed of, was grey also,
and added to the somewhat solemn aspect of his long thoughtful face. He
was still an inch or two taller than Colin, whose great waves of brown
hair, tossed up like clouds upon his forehead, and shining brown eyes,
which even now had not quite lost the soft shade of surprise and
admiration which had given them such a charm in their earlier years,
contrasted strangely with the worn looks of his friend. They were not
like father and son; for Lauderdale preserved in his appearance an
indefinable air of solitude and of a life apart, which made it
impossible to think of him in any such relationship; but perhaps their
union was more close and real than even that tie could have made it,
since the unwedded childless man was at once young and old, and had kept
in his heart a virgin freshness more visionary, and perhaps even more
spotless, than that of Colin’s untarnished youth; for, to be sure, the
young man not only was conscious of that visionary woman in the clouds,
but had already solaced himself with more than one love, and still meant
to marry a wife like other men, though that was not at present the
foremost idea in his mind; whereas, whatever love Lauderdale might have
had in that past from which he never drew the veil, it had never been
replaced by another, nor involved any earthly hope.

As they crossed the borders, and found themselves among the Cumberland
hills, Lauderdale began to make gradual advances to a subject which had
been for a long time left in silence between them. Perhaps it required
that refinement of ear natural to a born citizen of Glasgow to recognise
that it was “English” which was being spoken round them as they
advanced--but the philosopher supposed himself to have made that
discovery. He recurred to it with a certain pathetic meaning as they
went upon their way. They had set out on foot from Carlisle, each with
his knapsack, to make their leisurely way to the Lakes; and, when they
stopped to refresh themselves at the humble roadside inn which was their
first resting-place, the plaintive cadence of his friend’s voice struck
Colin with a certain amusement. “They’re a’ English here,” Lauderdale
said, with a tone of sad recollection, as a man might have said in
Norway or Russia, hearing for the first time the foreign tongue, and
bethinking himself of all the dreary seas and long tracts of country
that lay between him and home. It might have been pathetic under such
circumstances, though the chances are that even then Colin, graceless
and fearless, would have laughed; but at present, when the absence was
only half a day’s march, and the difference of tongue, as we have said,
only to be distinguished by an ear fine and native, the sigh was too
absurd to be passed over lightly. “I never knew you have the _mal du
pays_ before,” Colin said with a burst of laughter:--and the patriot
himself did not refuse to smile.

“Speak English,” he said, with a quaint self-contradiction; “though I
should say speak Scotch if I was consistent;--you needna make your jokes
at me. Oh ay, it’s awfu’ easy laughing. It’s no _that_ I’m thinking of;
there’s nothing out of the way in the association of ideas this time,
though they play bonnie pranks whiles. I’m thinking of the first time I
was in England, and how awfu’ queer it sounded to hear the bits of
callants on the road, and the poor bodies at the cottage doors.”

“The first time you were in England--that was when you came to nurse
me,” said Colin; “I should have died that time but for my mother and
you.”

“I’m not saying that,” said Lauderdale; “you’re one of the kind that’s
awfu’ hard to kill--but it’s no that I’m thinking of. There are other
things that come to my mind with the sound of the English tongue. Hold
your peace, callant, and listen; is there nothing comes back to your ain
mind when you hear the like of _that_?”

“I hear a woman talking very broad Cumberland,” said Colin, who
notwithstanding began to feel an uncomfortable heat mounting upwards in
his face; “you may call it English, if you have a mind. There is some
imperceptible difference between that and the Dumfriesshire, I suppose;
but I should not like to have to discriminate where the difference
lies.”

As for Lauderdale, he sighed; but without intending it, as it appeared,
for he made a great effort to cover his sigh with a yawn, for which
latter indulgence he had evidently no occasion; and then he tried a
faint little unnecessary laugh. “I’m an awfu’ man for associations,” he
said; “I’m no to be held to account for the things that come into my
head. You may say it’s Cumberland, and I’m no disputing; but for a’ that
there’s something in the sound of the voice----”

“Look here,” said Colin impatiently; “listen to my tract. I want you to
give me your opinion now it is finished; turn this way, with your face
to the hills, and never mind the voice.”

“Oh, ay,” said Lauderdale, with another sigh; “there’s nae voice like
his ain voice to this callant’s ear; it’s an awfu’ thing to be an
author, and above a’ a reformer; for you may be sure it’s for the sake
of the cause, and no because he’s written a’ that himsel’. Let’s hear
this grand tract of yours; no that I’ve any particular faith, in that
way of working,” he added impartially. It was not encouraging perhaps to
the young author; but Colin was sufficiently used by this time to his
friend’s predilections, and for his own part was very well pleased to
escape from memories more perplexing and difficult to manage. It was
with this intention that he had taken out No. I. of the _Tracts for the
Times_. If any of the writers of the original series of these renowned
compositions could but have looked over the shoulder of the young Scotch
minister, and beheld the different fashion of thoughts, the curious
fundamental difference which lay underneath, and yet the apparent
similarity of intention on the face of it! Rome and the Pope were about
as far off as Mecca and the prophet from Colin’s ideas. He was not in
the least urgent for any infallible standard, nor at all concerned to
trace a direct line of descent for himself or his Church; and yet withal
his notions were as high and absolute and arbitrary on some points as if
he had been a member of the most potent of hierarchies. It would,
however, be doing Colin injustice to reproduce here this revolutionary
document: to tell the truth, circumstances occurred very soon after to
retard the continuation of the series, and, so far as his historian is
aware, the publication of this preliminary[4] address was only partial.
For, to be sure, the young man had still abundance of time before him,
and the first and most important thing, as Lauderdale suggested, was the
preparation of an audience--an object which was on the whole better
carried out by partial and private circulation than by coming
prematurely before the public, and giving the adversary occasion to
blaspheme, and perhaps frightening the Kirk herself out of her wits.

Having said so much, we may return to the more private and individual
aspect of affairs. The two friends were seated, while all this was going
on, out of doors, on a stone bench by the grey wall of the cottage inn,
in which they had just refreshed themselves with a nondescript meal. The
Cumberland hills--at that moment bleaching under the sunshine, showing
all their scars and stains in the fulness of the light--stretched far
away into the distance, hiding religiously in their depths the sacred
woods and waters that were the end of the pilgrimage on which the two
friends were bound. Lauderdale sat at leisure and listened, shading the
sunshine from his face, and watching the shadows play on the woods and
hills; and the same force of imagination which persuaded the
unaccustomed traveller that he could detect a difference of tone in the
rude talk he heard in the distance, and that that which was only the
dialect of Cumberland was _English_, persuaded him also that the
sunshine in which he was sitting was warmer than the sunshine at home,
and that he was really, as he himself would have described it, “going
south.” He was vaguely following out these ideas, notwithstanding that
he also listened to Colin, and gave him the fullest attention.
Lauderdale had not travelled much in his life, nor enjoyed many
holidays; and, consequently, the very sense of leisure and novelty
recalled to him the one great recreation of his life--the spring he had
spent in Italy, with all its vicissitudes, prefaced by the mournful days
at Wodensbourne. All this came before Lauderdale’s mind more strongly a
great deal than it did before that of Colin, because it was to the elder
man the one sole and clearly marked escape out of the monotony of a long
life--a thing that had occurred but once, and never could occur again.
How the Cumberland hills, and the peasant voices in their rude dialect,
and the rough stone bench outside the door of a grey lime-stone cottage,
could recall to Lauderdale the olive slopes of Frascati, the tall houses
shut up and guarded against the sunshine, and the far-off solemn waste
of the Campagna, would have been something unintelligible to Colin. But
in the meantime these recollections were coming to a climax in his
companion’s mind. He gave a great start in the midst of Colin’s most
eloquent paragraph, and jumped to his feet, crying, “Do you hear that?”
with a thrill of excitement utterly inexplicable to the astonished young
man: and then Lauderdale grew suddenly ashamed of himself, and took his
seat again, abashed, and felt that it was needful to explain.

“Do I hear what?” said Colin; and, as this interruption occurred just at
the moment when he supposed he had roused his hearer to a certain pitch
of excitement and anxiety, by his account of the religious deficiencies
of Scotland, which he was on the point of relieving by an able
exposition of the possibilities of reform, it may be forgiven to him if
he spoke with a little asperity. Such a disappointment is a trying
experience to the best of men. “What is it, for Heaven’s sake?” said the
young man, forgetting he was a minister; and, to tell the truth,
Lauderdale was so much ashamed of himself that he felt almost unable to
explain.

“She’s singing something, that’s a’,” said the confused philosopher.
“I’m an awfu’ haveril, Colin. There’s some things I canna get out of my
head. Never you mind; a’ that’s admirable,” said the culprit, with a
certain deprecatory eagerness. “I’m awfu’ anxious to see how you get us
out of the scrape. Go on.”

Colin was angry, but he was human, and he could not but laugh at the
discomfiture and conciliatory devices of his disarmed critic. “I am not
going to throw away my pearls,” he said; “since your mind is in such a
deplorable state you shall hear no more to-day. Oh, no. I understand the
extent of your anxiety. And so here’s Lauderdale going the way of all
flesh. Who is _she_? and what is she singing? The best policy is to make
a clean breast of it,” said the young man, laughing; “and then, perhaps
I may look over the insult you have been guilty of to myself.”

But Lauderdale was in no mood for laughing. “It would be the best plan
to go on,” he said; “for I’ve been giving my best attention; and maybe
if I was to speak out what was in my heart--”

“Speak it out,” said Colin. He was a little affronted, but he kept his
composure. As he folded up his papers and put them away in his
pocket-book, he too heard the song which Lauderdale had been listening
to. It was only a countrywoman singing as she went about her work, and
there was no marked resemblance in the voice to anything he had heard
before. Yet he knew what was coming when he put up his papers in his
pocket-book, and it occurred to him that perhaps it would be well to
have the explanation over and be done with it, for he knew how
persistent his companion was.

“It’s no that there’s much to say,” said Lauderdale, changing his tone;
“a man like me, that’s little used to change, get’s awfu’ like a fool in
his associations. There’s naething that ony reasonable creature could
see in thae hills, and a’ the sheep on them, that should bring _that_ to
my mind; and, as you say, callant, it’s Cumberland they’re a’ speaking,
and no English. It’s just a kind of folly that men are subject to that
live their lane. I canna but go a’ through again, from the beginning
to---- Well, I suppose,” said Lauderdale with a sigh, “what you and me
would call the end.”

“What any man in his senses would call the end,” said Colin, beginning
to cut his pencil with some ferocity, which was the only occupation that
presented itself to him for the moment; “I don’t suppose there can be
any question as to what you mean. Was it to be expected that I should
court rejection over again for the mere pleasure of being rejected?--as
you know I have been, both by letter and in person; and then, as if even
that was not enough, accused of fortune-hunting; when Heaven knows----”
Here Colin stopped short, and cut his pencil so violently that he cut
his finger, an act which convicted him of using unnecessary force, and
of which accordingly he was ashamed.

“It is no _that_ I was thinking of,” said Lauderdale, “I was minding of
the time when we a’ met first, and the bit soft English voice--it’s no
that I’m fond of the English, or their ways,” continued the philosopher.
“We’re maybe no so well in our ain country, and maybe we’re better; I’ll
no say. It’s a question awfu’ hard to settle. But, if ever we a’
foregather again, I cannot think there will be that difference. It wasna
to say musical that I ken of, but it was aye soft and pleasant--maybe
ower soft, Colin, for the like of you--and with a bit yielding tone in
it, as if the heart would break sooner than make a stand for its own
way. I mind it real weel,” said Lauderdale, with a sigh. “As for the
father, no doubt there was little to be said in his favour. But, after
a’, it wasna him that you had any intention to marry. And yon
Sabbath-day after he was gone, poor man!--when you and me didna ken what
to do with ourselves till the soft thing came out of her painted
cha’amer, and took the guiding of us into her hands. It’s _that_ I was
thinking of,” said Lauderdale, fixing his eyes on a far-off point upon
the hills, and ending his musings with a sigh.

Colin sighed, too, for sympathy--he could not help it. The scene came
before him as his friend spoke. He thought he could see Alice, in her
pallor and exhaustion, worn to a shadow, in her black dress, coming into
the bare Italian room in the glorious summer day, which all the
precautions possible could not shut out from the house of mourning--with
her prayer-book in her hand; and then he remembered how she had chidden
him for reading another lesson than that appointed for the day. It was
in the height of his own revolutionary impulses that this thought struck
him; and he smiled to himself in the midst of his sigh, with a tender
thought for Alice, and a passing wonder for himself, what change might
have been wrought upon him if that dutiful little soul had actually
become the companion of his life. Colin was not the kind of man who can
propose to himself to form his wife’s mind, and rule her thoughts, and
influence her without being sensible of her influence in return. That
was not the order of domestic affairs in Ramore; and naturally he judged
the life that might have been, and even yet might be, by that standard.
The Mistress’s son did not understand having a nullity, or a shadow of
himself, for a wife; and insensibly he made his way back from the
_attendrissement_ into which Lauderdale’s musings had led him, into
half-amused speculation as to the effect Alice and her influence might
have had upon him by this time. “If _that_ had happened,” he said with a
smile, bursting out, as was usual to him when Lauderdale was his
companion, at that particular point of his thoughts which required
expression, without troubling himself to explain how he came there--“if
_that_ had happened,” said Colin, with the conscious smile of old, “I
wonder what sort of fellow I should have been by this time? I doubt if I
should have had any idea of disturbing the constituted order of affairs.
Things are always for the best, you perceive, as everybody says. A man
who has any revolutionary work to do must be free and alone. But don’t
let us talk any more of this--I don’t like turning back upon the road.
But for that feeling I should have settled the business before now about
poor Arthur’s ‘Voice from the Grave.’”

“I was aye against that title,” said Lauderdale, “if he would have paid
any attention; but you’re a’ the same, you young callants; it’s nae more
a voice from the grave than mine is. It’s a voice from an awfu’ real
life, that had nae intention to lose a minute that was permitted. It
would be awfu’ agreeable to ken if he was permitted to have any pleasure
in his book; but then, so far as I can judge, he maun ken an awfu’ deal
better by this time--and maybe up there they’re no heeding about a third
edition. It’s hard to say; he was so terrible like himself up to the
last moment; I canna imagine, in my own mind, that he’s no like himself
still. There should be a heap of siller,” said Lauderdale, “by this
time; and sooner or later you’ll have to open communication, and let
them ken.”

“Yes,” said Colin, with a momentary look of sullenness and repugnance;
and then he added, in a lighter tone, “heaps of money never came out of
a religious publisher’s hands. A third edition does not mean the same
thing with them as with other people. Of course, it must be set right
some time or other. We had better set off, I can tell you, and not talk
idle talk like this, if we mean to get to our journey’s end to-night.”

“Oh, ay,” said Lauderdale, “you’re aye in a hurry, you young
callants. Is it the father that makes you so unwilling for any
correspondence?--but it’s awfu’ easy to settle a thing like that.”

“I think you want to try how far my patience can go,” said Colin, who
had grown crimson up to the hair. “Do you think a man has no feeling,
Lauderdale? Do you think it is possible to be treated as I have been,
and yet go back again with humility, hat in hand? I don’t feel myself
capable of that.”

“If you’re asking me my opinion,” said Lauderdale, calmly, “I’ve nae
objection to tell you what I think. You’re no vindictive, and you’ve nae
pride to speak of--I’m meaning pride of _that_ kind. It’s no in you to
bear a grudge at onybody, beyond, maybe, the hour or the day. So I’m no
heeding much about that question, for my part. If you had an awfu’
regard for the man, he might affront you; but no being indifferent. I’m
telling you just my opinion, with my partial knowledge of the premises;
and for _her_, I cannot but say what is in my ain mind. I’ve a kind of
longing to see her again; we used to be awfu’ good friends, her and me.
I had you to take care of, callant, and she had _him_; and whiles she
had a moment of envy, and grudged terrible in her heart to see the air
and the sun, that are for baith the good and the evil, so hard upon him,
and so sweet to you. There was little in her mind to hide, and her and
me were good friends. I’ll never forget our counts and our reckonings.
It’s awfu’ hard for the like o’ me to divine wherefore it is that a’
that has come to an end, and her and you dropped out of one another’s
life.”

“Lauderdale,” said Colin, with a little choking in his voice, “I will
tell you what I never told you before----” and then the young man
stopped short, as if he had received a blow. What was it that came over
him like an imperious sudden prohibition, stopping the words upon his
lips the first time he had ever dreamt of uttering them to mortal ear?
He had a feeling somehow as if one of those flying shadows that kept
coming and going over the mountains had taken visible shape and stepped
before him, and put a cold hand on his lips. He was about to have
confessed that his love had been no more than tender compassion and
kindness; he was about to have said what Lauderdale perhaps might have
guessed before, what Colin had kept secret and hidden in his
breast--that Alice never was nor could be the ideal woman of his
thoughts, the true love who waited for him somewhere in the future. But
perhaps, after all, it was no shadow nor unseen influence, but only the
young man’s magnanimous heart that spared that humiliation to the name
of Alice--solely to her name; for, now that all was over between them,
it was only that abstract representation of her that was concerned.

“Ay,” said Lauderdale, after a moment, “you were going to tell me----”
and then he rose as Colin had done, and threw his knapsack on his
shoulder, and prepared to resume his march.

“We shall have an hour’s walking in the dark, if we don’t make all the
better progress,” said Colin; “which is uncomfortable when one does not
know the way. And now to return to No I.” he said with a laugh, as they
went on along the dusty road. There was not another word said between
them of the confession thus abruptly stopped. Perhaps Lauderdale in his
heart had a perception of what it meant; but, however that might be,
both fell at once with eagerness, as if they had never digressed for a
moment, upon the first number of Colin’s _Tracts for the Times_.



CHAPTER XLIX.


This conversation, however, as was natural, had a certain effect upon
both the friends. It threw Colin, who, to be sure, was chiefly
concerned, into a world of confused imaginations, which influenced even
his dreams, and through his dreams reacted upon himself. When he was
alone at night, instead of going to sleep at once, as would have been
natural after his day’s journey, he kept falling into absurd little
dozes, and waking up suddenly with the idea that Alice was standing by
him, that she was calling him, that it was the marriage-day, and that
somebody had found him out, and was about to tell his bride that he did
not love her; and at last, when he went to sleep in good earnest, the
fantastic _mélange_ of recollection and imagination carried him back to
Frascati, where he found Arthur and Alice, as of old, in the great
_salone_, with its frescoed walls, and talked to them as in former days.
He thought Meredith told him of an important journey upon which he was
setting out, and made arrangements in the meantime for his sister with
an anxiety which the real Arthur had never dreamt of exhibiting. “She
will be safe with you at present,” the visionary Arthur seemed to say,
“and by-and-by you can send her to me----” And when Colin woke it was
hard for him to convince himself at first that he had not been in actual
communication with his friend. He accounted for it, of course, as it is
very easy to account for dreams, and made up his mind how it came about,
and yet left behind in some crevice of his heart a dumb certainty which
hid itself out of sight that it might not be argued with, that after all
Arthur and he in the dark had passed by each other, and exchanged a word
or thought in passing. Colin took care not to betray even to himself
the existence of this conviction; but deep down in the silence it
influenced him unawares.

As for Lauderdale, his thoughts, as might have been expected, had taken
another direction. Perhaps he was past the age of dreaming. Colin’s
revelation which he did not make had possibly told his friend more than
if it had been said out in words; and the two began their second day’s
journey with but little talk, and that of a vague and general kind. They
had not gone far upon the white and dusty road when Lauderdale drew
aside a little, and stepped across the boundary of furze and wild thorn
and bramble bushes which separated it from the hillside.

“No, I’m no tired at this hour of the morning,” he said, “but I’ve an
awfu’ objection to dust, and the road is as powdery as a mill. My
intention is to take a seat on this brae and let that carriage pass.”

“Wait a little, then; it comes on very slowly; there must be some
invalid in it, for the horses look good enough,” said Colin; and he
turned his back to the approaching carriage, about which he was
altogether indifferent, and faced round to the green slope, covered with
trees and brushwood, upon which Lauderdale meant to rest. They were
separated a little when the carriage came up, and neither of them paid
much attention to it. Lauderdale was already half way up the slope, and
Colin was standing by the side of the road, looking after him. Then all
at once there was a sudden cry, and the horses made a dash forward, and
rolled the equipage along at such a pace that its occupants were quite
out of Colin’s sight when he turned round. This he did with a start so
violent that the stones under his feet seemed suddenly to get in his way
and trip him up: and Lauderdale for his part came down from the brae
with a long leap and strange exclamation. “What was that?” they said to
each other, in the same breath, and paused for a moment, and looked into
each other’s faces, and listened. The carriage went on faster, raising a
cloud of dust, and nothing was to be heard except the sound of the
horses’ hoofs and the wheels. It was Colin who was the first to break
the silence. He detached himself from among the stones and bushes, where
he had got entangled in that moment of agitation, and sprang back again
to the high road which lay before him, veiled in a cloud of dust. “It is
simply absurd,” said Colin. “Lauderdale, I cannot imagine what you mean;
you are enough to drive a man mad. Some one gives a chance outcry in
passing, and you make up your mind that it is---- Good heavens! I never
knew such folly!” cried the young man. He took off his hat without
knowing it, and thrust his hair up over his forehead, and made an effort
to take courage and regain his composure as he took breath. But it was
very clear that Lauderdale had nothing to do with Colin’s excitement. He
had himself heard the cry, and felt in his heart that it was no
imagination. As he stood there in his pretended indignation the impulse
of flight came upon him, mingled with a terror, which he could not
explain nor comprehend. There was not a man in existence before whom he
would have flown; but that little cry of recognition took away all his
courage. He did not feel in himself the strength to go forward, to
venture upon a possible meeting. The blood which had rushed to his face
for the first moment seemed to go back upon his heart and stifle it. He
had made a step or two forward without thinking; but then he stopped
himself, and wavered, and looked upon the road which lay quite tranquil
behind him in the shadow of the hills. It seemed to him for the moment
as if his only safety was in flight.

As for Lauderdale, it took him all the time which Colin had occupied in
these thoughts to get down from his elevation and return to his friend’s
side. He for his part was animated and eager. “This is no _her_
country,” said Lauderdale; “she’s a traveller, as we are. The carriage
will stop at our next stage, but there’s no time to be lost;” and as he
said these words he resumed his march with that long steady step which
got over so much ground without remarking the hesitation of Colin, or
what he had said. The young man himself felt that saving impulse fail
him after the first minute. Afterwards, all the secondary motives came
into his mind, and urged him to go on. Had he allowed that he was afraid
to meet or to renew his relationships with Alice Meredith, supposing
that by any extraordinary chance this should be she, it would be to
betray the secret which he had guarded so long, and to betray himself;
and he knew no reason that he could give for such a cowardly retreat. He
could not say, “If I see her again, and find that she has been thinking
of me, I shall be compelled to carry out my original mistake, and give
up my brighter hopes,”--for no one knew that he had made any mistake, or
that she was not to his eyes the type of all that was dearest in woman.
“The chances are that it is all a piece of folly--a deception of the
senses,” he said to himself instead--“something like what people have
when they think they see ghosts. We have talked of her, and I have
dreamed of her, and now, to be sore, necessity requires that I should
hear her. It should have been seeing, to make all perfect;” and, after
that little piece of self-contempt, he went on again with Lauderdale
without making any objection. The dust which had been raised by the
carriage came towards them like a moving pillar; but the carriage itself
went rapidly on and turned the corner and went out of sight. And then
Colin did his best to comfort and strengthen himself by other means.

“Don’t put yourself out of breath,” he said to Lauderdale; “the whole
thing is quite explainable. That absurd imagination of yours yesterday
has got into both our heads. I don’t mind saying I dreamt of it all last
night. Anything so wild was never put into a novel. It’s an optical
illusion, or, rather I should say, it’s an ocular illusion. Things don’t
happen in real life in this kind of promiscuous way. Don’t walk so quick
and put yourself out of breath.”

“Did you no hear?” said Lauderdale. “If you hadna heard I could
understand. As for me, I canna say but what I saw as well. I’m no
minding at this moment about my breath.”

“What did you see?” cried Colin, with a sudden thrill at his heart.

“I’ll no say it was _her_,” said Lauderdale; “no but what I am as sure
as I am of life that she was there. I saw something white laid back in
the carriage, somebody that was ill; it might be her or it might be
another. I’ve an awfu’ strong conviction that it was her. It’s been
borne in on my mind that she was ill and wearying. We mightna ken _her_,
but she kent you and me.”

“What you say makes it more and more unlikely,” said Colin. “I confess
that I was a little excited myself by those dreams and stuff; but
nothing could be more improbable than that she should recognise you and
me. Bah! it is absurd to be talking of _her_ in this ridiculous way, as
if we had the slightest reason to suppose it was she. Any little
movement might make a sick lady cry out; and, as for recognising a
voice!--All this makes me feel like a fool,” said Colin. “I am more
disposed to go back than to go on. I wish you would dismiss this
nonsense from your thoughts.”

“If I was to do that same, do you think you could join me?” said
Lauderdale. “There’s voices I would ken after thirty years instead of
after three; and I’m no likely to forget the bit English tone of it. I’m
a wee slow about some things, and I’ll no pretend to fathom your
meaning; but, whether it’s daftlike or no, this I’m sure of, that if
you make up to that carriage that’s away out of our sight at this
moment, you’ll find Alice Meredith there.”

“I don’t believe anything of the kind. Your imagination has deceived
you,” said Colin, and they went on for a long time in silence; but at
the bottom of his heart Colin felt that his own imagination had not
deceived him. The only thing that had deceived him was that foolish
feeling of liberty, that sense that he had escaped fate, and that the
rash engagements of his youth were to have no consequences, into which
he had deluded himself for some time past. Even while he professed his
utter disbelief in this encounter, he was asking himself how in his
changed circumstances he should bear the old bridle, the rein upon his
own proud neck? If it had been a curb upon his freedom, even at the
moment when he had formed it--if it had become a painful bondage
afterwards while still the impression of Alice’s gentle tenderness had
not quite worn off his mind--what would it be now when he had
emancipated himself from those soft prejudices of recollection, and when
he had acknowledged so fully to himself that his heart never had been
really touched? He marched on by Lauderdale’s side, and paid no
attention to what his friend said to him; and nothing could be more
difficult to describe than the state of Colin’s mind during this walk.
Perhaps the only right thing, the only sensible thing he could have done
in the circumstances, would have been to turn back and decline
altogether this reawakening of the past. But then at six-and-twenty the
mind is still so adverse to turning back, and has so much confidence in
its own power of surmounting difficulty, and in its good star, and in
the favour and assistance of all powers and influences in heaven and
earth; and his pride was up in arms against such a mode of extricating
himself from the apparent difficulty, and all the delicacy of his nature
revolted from the idea of thus throwing the wrong and humiliation upon
the woman, upon Alice, a creature who had loved him and trusted him, and
whom he had never owned he did not love.

Underneath all these complications there was, to be sure, a faint,
sustaining hope that an encounter of this kind was incredible--that it
might turn out not to be Alice at all, and that all these fears and
embarrassments might come to nothing. With all this in his mind he
marched on, feeling the sweet air and fresh winds and sunshine to be all
so many spectators accompanying him perhaps to the turning-point of his
life, where, for all he knew, things might go against him, and his
wings be clipped, and his future limited for ever and ever. Perhaps some
of Colin’s friends may think that he exhibited great weakness of mind on
this occasion--and, indeed, it is certain that there are many people who
believe, with great reason, that it is next thing to a sin to put honour
in the place of love, or to give to constancy the rights of passion. But
then, whatever a man’s principles may be, it is his character in most
cases that carries the day. Every man must act according to his own
nature, as says the Arabian sage. Sir Bayard, even, thinking it all
over, might not approve of himself, and might see a great deal of folly
in what he was doing; but, as for a man’s opinion of himself, that
counts for very little; and he could only go on and follow out his
career in his own way.

Lauderdale, on his side, had less comprehension of his friend at this
point of his character than at any other. He had discouraged, as far as
he was able, the earlier steps of the engagement between Colin and
Alice; but when things “had gone so far” the philosopher understood no
compromise. He hastened on through the dust, for his part, with a tender
anxiety in his heart, concerned for the girl who had approached him more
nearly than any woman had done since the days of his youth; who had been
to him that mingled type of sister, daughter, dependent, and ruler,
which a very young, very innocent, woman sometimes is to a man too old
to fall in love with her, or even to think of such a weakness. Such love
as had been possible to Lauderdale had been given early in his
life--given once and done with; and Colin had filled up all the place in
his heart which might have been left vacant as a prey to vagrant
affections. At present, he was occupied with the thought that Alice was
ill, and that the little cry she had uttered had a tone of appeal in it,
and was in reality a cry for help to those who had succoured her in her
loneliness, and been more to her for one little period of her life than
father or family. And Colin’s friend and guardian pursued his way with
great strides, going to the rescue of the tender little suffering
creature, the mournful, yet dutiful little woman, who had borne her
grief so courageously at Frascati, where they two were all the
protectors, all the comforters she had. Thus the friends went on with
their different sentiments, saying little to each other, and not a word
upon this particular subject. They had meant to pause at a village which
was on their way to Windermere to rest during the heat of the day and
refresh themselves; and it was here, according to all likelihood, that
the carriage which had passed with the invalid would also stop, to
repose the sick lady if she was a stranger--to await the approach of the
two pedestrians if it was Alice, and if she was free to take such a
step. Lauderdale had no doubt either of the one or the other of these
facts; and, to tell the truth, Colin, regarding the matter under an
altogether different aspect, had little doubt on his part that the
crisis of his fate had arrived.

Nevertheless, when he saw the first straggling houses of the
hamlet--rude little Westmoreland houses, grey and simple, with a
moorland air, and no great proprietor near at hand to trim them into
model cottages---- It is so hard to believe what goes against one’s
wishes. After all, perhaps, the end would be a laugh, an exclamation of
surprise, a blessed sense of relief; and no dreadful apparition of old
ties and old vows to bind the freedman over again in cold blood and
without any illusion. Such feverish hopes came into Colin’s mind against
his will, as they drew nearer. The road was as dusty as ever, but he did
not see the broad mark of the carriage wheels; and with a great throb of
relief found when they came in sight of the little inn that there was no
carriage, nothing but a farmer’s gig before the door. He began to
breathe again, throwing off his burden. “It might be one of my farmers
for anything one could tell to the contrary,” said Colin, with a short
laugh, and a sense of relief past describing. “You see now what fools we
were to suppose----”

At that moment, however, he stopped short in the midst of his sentence.
A man was coming to meet them, who might have been, for anything, as
Colin said, that one could say to the contrary, the farmer to whom the
gig belonged. He was at present but a black figure against the sunshine,
with his face shaded by his hat; but notwithstanding Colin stopped short
when he came in sight of him, and his heart stopped beating,--or at
least he thought so. He had seen this man once in his life before,--but
once, and no more. But there are some circumstances which sharpen and
intensify the senses. Colin recognised him the moment his eyes rested on
him. He stopped short, because what he was saying was proved to be
folly, and worse than folly. It was a denial of the certainty which had
suddenly appeared before his eyes. He stopped without explaining why he
stopped, and made a step onwards in a confused and bewildered way.
Henceforward Lauderdale had nothing to do with it. It was Colin himself
as the principal and contracting party who was concerned.

And the stranger, for his part, who had also seen the young man but once
in his life, recognised Colin. It had only been for a moment, and it was
nearly four years ago, but still Mr. Meredith knew, when he saw him, the
young man whom he had bidden to begone for a fortune-hunter; who had
closed his son’s eyes, and laid Arthur in his grave; and given to Alice
in her desolation the tenderest guardianship. He did not know
Lauderdale, who had his share in all but the last act of that sad little
domestic drama; but he recognised Colin by intuition. He came forward to
him with the courtesy of a man whom necessity compels to change all his
tactics. “Mr. Campbell, I think?” he said. “I feel that I cannot be
mistaken. Alice was sure she saw you on the road. I came back after I
had taken her home, to try whether I could meet you. Will you do me the
favour to introduce me to your friend. I believe I am almost as much
indebted to him as to you.”

“There’s no debt on one side or the other,” said Lauderdale,
interposing, for Colin found it difficult to speak. “Tell us how she is,
which is far more important. We heard her give a cry, and since then
we’ve been hurrying on to see.”

“She is not strong,” said Mr. Meredith. “I hope you will consent to
gratify Alice by going back with me. My house is close by here, and I
came on purpose. Mr. Campbell, you may think you have a just grievance
against me. I hope you will overlook it at present, and hear my
explanation afterwards. We can never be sufficiently grateful for all
you have done for my son, both before his death and after. It was a
terrible dispensation of Providence; but I cannot be thankful enough
that my poor boy lived to produce a work which has been of value to so
many; and but for you it never could have been successfully published.
My dear sir, I hope you will not suffer any personal feeling to me---- I
beg you to believe that what I said was said in ignorance--I mean, I
trust that you will not refuse to gratify Alice. She is almost all I
have left,” Mr. Meredith said, with a faltering voice. “I have had great
losses in my family. She has not been so much interested about anything
for a long time. You will come with me, will you not, for Arthur’s and
for my daughter’s sake?”

If any man could have said No to that appeal, Colin was not the man. He
made little answer except a bow, and Mr. Meredith turned with them, and
they all got into the country vehicle at the door of the little inn,
and drove off in silence to the house where Alice was awaiting them.
Colin had scarcely a word to say as he drove along by her father’s side.
The gaiety, and freedom, and happy thoughts with which he had set out on
his journey seemed to detach themselves from his mind, and abandon him
one by one. His fate had encountered him where he had least expectation
of meeting it. And yet at the same time a compunction awoke in his heart
to think that it was in this way, like a captive brought back to her
presence, that the man whom Alice loved was going to her. He could have
felt aggrieved and angry for her sake, if the claim of his own
reluctance and dread had not been nearer, and gained upon the more
generous feeling. And yet withal he had a longing to see her, a kind of
inclination to carry her off from this man, who had but a secondary
claim upon her, and heal and cherish the wounded dove. Such was the
singular medley of emotion, with which Colin was led back out of the
free ways of his own choosing into the beaten path of life.



CHAPTER L.


“Holmby is not my house,” said Mr. Meredith as they drove up the avenue;
“I took it to please Alice. She has a fancy for the north now, as she
used to have for the south.” As he said this he gave a wistful
side-glance at Colin, who had scarcely spoken during all the drive; and
even to this speech the young man made little response. The house was a
pale grey house, of rough limestone, like the humbler houses, surrounded
by woods, and bearing anything but a cheerful aspect. The avenue was
long and straight, and the cold commonplace outline of this secluded
dwelling-place filled up the vista between the two dark lines of trees,
growing gradually more distinct as they approached. Everything had a
certain visionary aspect to Colin at the moment, and the look of the
house irritated him, as if it had been a type of the commonplace
existence which he was henceforward to lead. He could not keep the cloud
that was on his mind from appearing also on his countenance, though, at
the same time, he could not help observing that Mr. Meredith looked at
him often with a regard that was almost pathetic. To be sure, there was
nothing very elevated in the aspect of this man, whose history was not
one which Colin liked to think of; but still it was evident that his
heart was trembling for his child, and that he was conveying to her the
lover whom he had once rejected and insu