A FATHER'S CLAIMS.
IT was dinner-time
before Peggy returned from posting her letter—indeed, she had kept the
meal waiting a little, and Margery was not patient in small matters, and
waited rather ostentatiously. And already she knew all about it, at
least, as far as its loss and recovery were concerned. The men had
related the story to the maids in the kitchen, and the one who waited on
Margery personally had related it to her; therefore Peggy was greeted with
it at once.
So far well; but Margery, when speaking of it, had noticed
her hearer's embarrassment, and attributing it to quite another than the
real cause, went on to say
"I know what the letter was about. As you were under my
roof, Horace naturally asked leave of me to pay his addresses to you.
I hope he may have an answer to his mind."
Her voice was unusually soft and womanly, as she said this.
Peggy thought that she actually saw the tears in her eyes. She
wanted to make confession easy to Peggy, and she was evidently glad for
"I have answered already," was the reply that reached her, in
a grave, low voice.
"You've been quick about it," she rejoined, in her usual
tone. Perhaps she had expected the girl to consult her, and was
disappointed that she had not.
She had paused, and evidently expected something more to be
said. It was better to get it over at once.
"I sent back Captain Oglivie's letter," said Peggy, hardly
knowing how it was to be got over, but making a beginning at least.
"Sent back his letter?" repeated Margery, as if she could not
have heard aright.
"Do you mean that you say him nay?" asked, with more than her
usual sternness of manner.
"Yes, that is what I mean—we could not be happy together,"
said Peggy, sadly.
"What's to hinder you?" Margery rejoined, harshly. "You
ought to have found that out before you gave him encouragement. No
man asks a woman to marry him unless he has been encouraged to do it," she
added, rashly generalizing, not from an isolated fact, but from no facts
"In that I did wrong," answered Peggy, bravely determined to
take blame to herself, rather than betray Horace, or injure him in
Margery's estimation; and she felt that in this she had somehow erred.
"I did not know my own mind, and it has changed towards him."
"Then you ought to have known, or ought never to have
changed," said Margery. "To be fickle in this is the greatest wrong
a woman can do. Many a man's ruin lies at a woman's door for work
"It is better that we understand each other now, than that
the knowledge should have come afterwards; as much better," Peggy
answered, softly, "as error is better than sin."
"If you understand each other, it's more than I can do to
understand you," replied Margery, grimly; "but as you've changed your mind
once, you may change at again."
She was as very severe, for she considered that Peggy had not
been open with her, and resented it.
And all this time the dinner waited, at when at length it
came to pass, it was a very comfortless dinner indeed.
When he got Peggy's note, enclosing his two unfortunate
letters, Captain Oglivie felt that "the luck" was against him, and that he
might as well give in. He had hastily jumped to the conclusion that
the letter had been drowned in the Strathie, when no trace of it had been
discovered. To recover it in this fashion was doubly disagreeable,
but it was only in the shock of that disagreeableness that he thought of
giving up in despair. "She is even queerer than I thought she was,"
he said to himself; "but I really like her, and why should I not persuade
her that I do? She would take a fellow in spite of all the faults in
the universe, if she only cared enough for him. I was a fool to let
her caring for me cool down as I did. There's one good thing,
however—she won't tell tales, even to save herself." And the
question in his own mind soon became, not, "Why should she not take me?"
but, "Why should she not have me?" by way of a reward for her good
qualities; for he thought himself a fine fellow after all, only "the luck"
was against him.
At any rate, he knew himself to be an adept in the art of
persuasion. He was subtle at subterfuge, clever at finding excuses
for himself to himself, and why not to this unworldly, out-of-the-world
girl, who was in many things little better than a child? Surely he
could persuade her, and for her own advantage too. For since her
father lived, there was not much chance of the inheritance coming her way.
It would depend upon Margery, however, and Margery was on his side.
He next questioned with himself as to whether he should write or go in
person to plead his cause, and he decided on the former course, as "it was
quite possible to trust to her discretion about the letters," so he said
Then there ensued between those two most dissimilar of human
beings a curious correspondence, which was carefully destroyed on both
"How am I to make you see," wrote Horace Oglivie, "that what
I said concerning you was not written seriously? A man does not tell
his mother everything like a child; and one may speak very lightly and
jesting of what lies very near one's heart."
And in this written dialogue Peggy made answer, that there
was that besides and beneath the words which was no jest, which had taken
away the veil not only from his heart, but from her own. "I think
you have loved me a little," she wrote. "I do not think you have
been wholly false; you have only been half-hearted. You care,
however much you may deceive yourself, as much for this inheritance as you
do for me. Do you think you could give me the other half of your
heart if you were disappointed in this, and, since my father lives, you
risk the disappointment?"
"I will risk it," wrote Horace, in reply, among other
"But I cannot," she answered. "If I loved you wholly I
would. But I have been half-hearted too. It seems almost as if
I had loved some one else in you—as if you had undergone some
transformation, such as we read of in fairy stories. What prospect
of happiness could there be for us, each knowing that the other was thus
half-hearted? You say our hearts would grow whole. The rift in
the young tree widens: it never heals. There would be distrust
between us from the first."
And Captain Oglivie, after this, thought to himself that,
after all, it had better be so. Her insight frightened him. It
would be a horrid thing to have a wife who didn't believe in him,
especially an awfully clever wife who was always looking through and
through a fellow, and with whom it would be impossible to keep up
appearances. A man, under such circumstances, could hardly remain on
good terms even with himself—a possibility more terrible than it seems on
the surface. As for her, she is quite right; I might get to hate
her. And yet he felt, when the feeling of his injuries came
uppermost, that if she had only loved him, he could easily have become the
man of his own and her best ideal; he felt too that, as it was, he might
be very bad indeed—might come into the condition of hate which she
described; and he shrank from it as he shrank from the idea of torture.
Peggy had prevailed, and he wrote to her a full and free
release, and immunity from any farther importunity; and, after all, he did
it gracefully—so gracefully that gratitude was the uppermost feeling in
her mind when their correspondence closed.
Margery had seen her receive several letters, and had held
her peace, though in high dudgeon at what she considered pure coquetry on
Peggy's part. But at length her silence gave way. "So you are
still corresponding with Horace," she said (they were both engaged in
reading letters). "I thought you had refused him."
"This is the last I am to have from him," replied Peggy.
Then Margery's pent-up wrath burst forth, and the coarse and
repellent part of her nature came out. She told her helpless inmate,
for the present depending on her for shelter and home, that she ought to
have thought herself highly honoured to be asked to be Captain Oglivie's
wife. What was to become of her? she asked, and her listener felt
bitterly the humiliation of the question.
"I mean to go to my father," was the answer.
"And I can tell you he does not want you," rejoined Margery,
in her anger, increased by the answer. With all her goodness—and she
could be heroically good—this woman was not fitted to win love; once
firmly won, she might have kept it. She had coveted this girl's, and
she was casting it from her thus. "He as good as sold you," she went
on; "I gave him a sum of money to part with you, to leave you where you
are, for your own good, and he hasn't kept to his bargain; he wants more.
See," and she flung her letter across the table.
"You are very cruel," said the girl, with trembling lips; and
Margery's wrath became remorse, as she looked in the sad young face, and
noticed, for the first time, the change that had been growing in it, the
look of desolateness in the far-off looking eyes, the gain which was yet a
loss; the change from the bright beauty of youth to the woman's beauty of
Margery would have taken back the letter, but Peggy was
already reading it. It was from her father, pleading poverty and
sickness in his home. And he had spoken to his wife about his only
daughter, and his wife had desired that she should come; she might be of
use to them; she had talents which might be cultivated. Would
Margery let her go?
"He only wants more money," said Margery, nervously, when she
saw that the letter was finished.
"I will try to believe the best," replied Peggy; "I will try
to think he wants me. He at least has claims upon me which cannot be
bought and sold. I will go to him in his sickness and poverty, and
try to help him."
"You will not succeed; no one ever yet succeeded in helping
Louis Oglivie," replied Margery. "He is a spendthrift and a gambler,
and who knows what this French wife of his may be? She is very
likely urging him to try and get something more out of his friends.
Give such people anything, and they immediately begin to wish for more.
I tell you Margaret Oglivie, that you will never repent going but once,
and that will be all your life. You can choose between him and me;
and I've meant better by you than maybe you think, though my words are
"I shall think nothing of the words," said Peggy, eagerly; "I
know you are good and kind. But do not hinder me from going. I
believe it will be best for all of us; for him and me, at least."
"You must take your own way," replied Margery; "of coarse, I
cannot hinder you. And if ever you want a home," she added, almost
humbly, "will you come to me?"
"I will," was the answer; and Peggy meant what she said.
She had recognized Margery's greatness of heart, under all her poverty of
expression, and she was not one who for pride's sake would baulk a
generous heart of its desire. But many things must be settled before
she would again seek a home in her native country. For the present,
there was only exile before her.
IN the meantime, the
necessary preparations had been made for quitting Delaube. There had
been a sale of the ancient furniture, attended by all the farmers' and
tradesmen's wives in the neighbourhood, and the things had fetched high
prices, for they were of the kind which age does not deteriorate—old oak
cabinets and presses, and tables of shining, dark mahogany, such as the
housewives in question coveted. But Louis Oglivie had taken an
afterthought, or had been prompted, as Jean shrewdly guessed, and had
written to his daughter to remit to him the proceeds of the sale.
The letter came close on the back of Margery's, and before Peggy had
announced her determination to come to him. It perplexed her
exceedingly, for she had just divided the sum, shilling for shilling, with
the old couple who were thus turned adrift in their infirm age, after
lifelong, faithful service. Then it struck her that she would make
Jean claim arrears of wages. The old woman could hardly be brought
to do it; but by this means a balance in her favour was shown, even after
the division aforesaid, and with what Peggy had retained Louis Oglivie was
obliged to be content.
And Jean had secured a cottage in the village of Burnside,
and was to open a little shop for the print workers, who were famous for
their consumption of sweets and pastry, in spite of their native virtue of
thrift. And Jean was to have the cow, as part of her share of the
effects; for when it had come to a question of selling her, the old woman
had lamented the necessity with tears in her eyes, and said, "If I had the
siller, I would buy her mysel'. She never kent what it was to have a
hard word flung at her, the bonnie leddy." Indeed, Jean considered
that there was more deference due to a cow than to any other creature, not
excepting either man or woman. So her young mistress had taken care
that Hawkie should be hers, and with Hawkie went the rest of the live
stock, consisting of cocks and hens and cats. There were three
generations of the latter, all personal friends of Peggy's, who had
sketched their various attitudes and expressions over and over again.
And all this work of "flitting" she had superintended in the midst of her
grave anxiety and distress, remembering the smallest detail that might add
to the comfort and happiness of her friends.
Then the house was left empty and bare and desolate, and the
day of Peggy's departure was drawing near. She was going to bid
farewell to her old friends and to her old home, and, as is always the
case in times of change, and movement, the days had flown so fast that
this had been left to the very last.
It was Saturday afternoon, her own old day at the manse, when
she went to say good-bye to the Grants. They were all in the
drawing-room, with the exception of Sandie, whose sofa had been removed to
his father's study, and who lay there often for hours alone. Dr.
Grant had found out that his son craved for solitude, and, anxious to
gratify him, had proposed the change, and had actually given up the study
for his use.
There was an unusual gravity among them now; even Archie's
welcome was subdued and quiet. Mrs. Grant had been displeased to
hear of Peggy's engagement from other lips than the girl's own; she was
gravely displeased that Peggy had not even mentioned it, and quite
determined that she should do so first. But her own trouble was at
the moment too heavy to allow her to think much of so light a matter.
Peggy's first inquiry was for the absent one. She
expected to hear that he was well and hearty, out of doors somewhere.
The one looked to the other to reply. It was Mrs. Grant
who did so. "He's as well as he'll ever be," she said, shortly.
"The doctor has only given his opinion to-day. He may
be wrong, you know—doctors often are," said Archie, pleadingly, and with
an evident disinclination to repeat the verdict.
Peggy looked alarmed.
"He is lame for life, poor fellow," said his father, gently.
"Does he know?" she asked, trying to realize the change it
might work in her old companion.
His father answered in the affirmative, and Mrs. Grant turned
the conversation from the subject.
It was sad and painful to Peggy to be thus, as it were,
thrust aloof from their trouble. They knew nothing of hers; they did
not even seek to know; they kept her outside the pale, in the region of
general conversation, and it was getting time for her to go. At last
"I came to say good-bye, for I am going away for a long time,
perhaps for ever," and she lowered her voice; "I am going to Paris."
"To Paris!" they all exclaimed in a breath.
"Yes," she replied, trying to speak lightly; "my father is
there." She crimsoned as she named him, and the fact of his neglect
rose up before her. "I am to become a travelled and accomplished
person after all."
"Why does she not speak out?" thought Mrs. Grant, and she
remembered her grievance against Peggy, and stiffened perceptibly.
She was resolved not to help her: she expected a simple matter-of-fact
statement of her engagement from the girl. She was one of those
people who would seem to have been born into the world the same wise,
sober-minded beings they are at mid-age; not only not possessing, but
never having possessed, any sympathy with the feelings, far less with the
follies, of youth. She had no matrimonial designs upon Miss
Oglivie—would have had none even if she had known how great her
expectations were. She thought the girl was marrying to please her
new relations, and that was quite right, only she was still rather young.
As for her sons having had a fancy to her, they had been very properly
kept out of mischief; and that was all she thought on the matter.
After a few more questions asked and answered, Peggy ventured
to ask if she could say good-bye to Sandie; but just then the peculiar
sound of a crutch was heard in the passage; the answer was prevented, and
Sandie himself opened the door and appeared among them.
Archie had been about to spring to the door, but hesitated,
and then resumed his seat: he would not do anything to suggest the sense
of helplessness to his brother.
Sandie was much paler, much older-looking, but cheerful and
cordial as ever. He seemed also to restore cheerfulness and
cordiality to the others; and questioning Peggy eagerly about her
movements, led her to give an account of her recent proceedings more in
detail; and the others showed their interest too. She never
mentioned the one great subject of interest; and Sandie never alluded to
his own misfortune.
Then came another, and Peggy could see, a most welcome
visitor. David Haldane was ushered into the room. Peggy had
not seen him, save in church, for many weeks. It would have been
easy for him to speak to her after service, if he had chosen, and she had
been more than once alone; but he had even, she thought, shunned her; and
she had felt shy of meeting him, and had resolved to also avoid him now
that she was going away. She was on her feet to go when he entered,
and he added to the restraint of the parting; but she shook hands all
round, and spoke her farewell unfalteringly till she came to Sandie, and
then her voice failed, and the tears would come.
And Sandie, to the amazement of all present, swung himself up
on his crutch, and kissed her cheek, and said, "That's for auld times,
Peggy." He wanted to put a cheerful face on the matter, but he did
not succeed, for Peggy could not second him in his effort. She
turned away her face from David Haldane as she gave him her hand, and, in
the little stir which her going made, he only noticed how cold and distant
was her voice. He, did not know till she was gone that the parting
was for any lengthened period.
Dr. Grant accompanied her to the door.
"Tell them all how often and often I shall think of them,"
"God bless you, my dear," be made answer, "and give you every
happiness. I wish you had not been going so far away, but anywhere
in the world may good go with you." And so the kindly man dismissed
her, and she knew that he blessed her from the heart.
Then, though it was late in the afternoon, she bent her steps
toward the deserted house. It was hers no longer, and she might not
even gain admittance, but she would look upon the place once more, and
gather into one focus of memory all the inanimate objects that were so
dear to her.
There is something very melancholy in a deserted house.
The stare of the blank, curtainless windows puts one out of countenance.
The fireless hearths, with the ashes of old fires still upon them, make
one shiver. The echo of one's steps in the empty chambers seems to
call up the ghosts of the past. It has altogether an uncannie feel
to be alone in it. One tries, if possible, to escape from it before
the evening falls; and the evening was falling as Peggy wandered from room
to room, for the door was on the latch, and she had found ready access to
her old home. Then she sat down on a favourite seat of hers, the
seat to be found in the embrasure of old-fashioned windows, and leaned her
head upon her hand, looking out into the deserted garden.
How long she would have sat thus in reverie there is no
knowing, for she was dreaming of the future as well as of the past,
imagining the old place with its new inmates—thinking how David Haldane
would bring his wife there. What she would be like, she did not
depict to herself, but she saw him sitting in her grandfather's place by
the hearth, with the happy look of home on his face, and his grandly
beautiful head bent towards a child at his feet.
It was impossible to say how long she might have dreamed on,
but a soft thing was rubbed against the hand that rested by her side, and
a little purring sound reached her ear. She started, looked down,
and saw the "little cat," the very same little cat she had herself carried
to Jean's cottage, when its staid elders had gone in the cart. She
understood in a moment that the tiny creature, with a curious instinct,
had returned to its old home. "So you are here too," she said, and
her voice sounded weirdly: and the creature looked up in her face, and
mewed with an expression of such entire, and yet ludicrous, sympathy, that
Peggy, half laughing, half crying, snatched it to her bosom."
But it had roused her, and she must go; and she could not
leave it there, mewing piteously in her face and rubbing against her feet
beseechingly; so she took it up in her arms and hastened to leave the
place, beguiled somewhat of her sadness by the senseless thing.
At the foot of the hill she met old Mr. Haldane, and stopped
to speak to him, still carrying her little friend clinging desperately to
her cloak, with which she had vainly endeavoured to cover it up. She
went up to him frankly.
"I have been to the old house to say good-bye," she said;
and, seeing him look a little puzzled, she added, sadly, "only to the bare
walls, Mr. Haldane." Then she went on to speak to the intent that
had struck her on seeing him. He might have it in his power to
befriend Jean. She told him of her life-long fidelity, adding, "You
may be sure I would never have parted with her if I could have done
otherwise. She has been all the mother I have ever known."
"I'll look in upon her," he said, kindly enough; "the cottage
she has taken belongs to me. For that matter, if I had kent about
her, she might have stayed and looked after the place a bit, while it's
Then he bade her good-bye, and looked after her—actually
stood and looked after her—with a mixture of admiration and contempt.
In the latter he tried to harden himself. "And she preferred yon
Jackanapes to David," he thought. "And to see her, as if she were a
bairn yet, wi' a kitten in her airms; but there's neither common sense nor
common honesty in ony o' her kind."
TWO years had passed
away, years during which David Haldane, as managing partner at the print
works had laboured with an energy of hand and brain which is the rare
possession of a few great leaders of industry. It was now the spring
of 1830, a year which may be taken as a sort of tide-mark of the progress
of manufacturing industry in England. About that time the marvellous
series of mechanical inventions which had signalized the preceding fifty
years, culminated, and combined to develop the cotton trade in all its
The art of cotton-printing was only introduced into England
in 1696, by a French Protestant refugee, who established a small
print-work on the banks of the Thames; and when David Haldane had erected
his on the banks of the Strathie, three- quarters of a century later, the
art was still in its infancy, and mainly the work of the hand. Now,
there was machinery for every successive part of the process. There
were machines for washing, and machines for wringing, and machines for
drying; and the roller had, to a great extent, superseded the clumsy
block. No further back than 1720, an absurd law, in order to foster
the linen and woollen trades, prohibited the wearing of all printed
calicoes whatsoever, whether of home or foreign manufacture; and now more
than three hundred millions of yards were being printed within the bounds
of Great Britain.
And the organizers of this vast industry, represented in
lengths of cotton that would swathe the globe ever so many hundred times
(let those who are fond of calculation say how many), were realizing
enormous fortune, but at enormous risks. Among these were the
Haldanes, though, indeed, the management had been lately left entirely to
the younger man. The old man now occupied a house in the
neighbourhood, which had been built by a retired West Indian, and vacated
in disgust, because of its dulness—a disgust which is apt to occur to
people with disordered livers. Old David Haldane did not find it
dull, but then his liver was as sound as ever, and he visited the works
every day of his life.
And the works had been greatly enlarged. There rose
from the new and more regular building a tall chimney, vomiting the
blackest of smoke; and within, the engines groaned and the power-loom
rattled almost day and night. The cotton-mill had been added to the
print-works, that the latter might feed the former, and that both might
compete with the great centres of the industry for the West Indian trade
of Bleaktown, as well as for the home market. All over the country
the race of competition and production was going on, and the human
machines were suffering in the strain to keep up with those nerves of
iron—that brain of fire. That which should have lightened human
labour seemed only to have increased it,
"With grind and groan,
With clank and moan,
Their task the prisoned forces ply;
The great wheels fly,
As if they wove the web of fate;
"And to and fro, amid the roar,
Squalid creatures pace the floor;
Slaves of those iron wheels are they,
Bound their impluse to obey,
And upon their bidding wait;
"While to their service dumb,
Not only men are given,
But childish troops are driven,
And women come ;
And every heart with weariness is numb."
The people at Haldane's new mill were working almost clay and
night, in order that the costly new machines might not remain idle, and so
stand, as it were, consuming the capital they had absorbed.
Elsewhere—in the English manufacturing districts—the
sufferings of women and children, from overwork, were extreme. "The
cry of the children" was being echoed through the land. But here the
system had not been long enough in operation to tell upon the far robuster
race of workers—at least, to the extent of disfigurement and death.
But one day, while "the manager," as David was still called, was passing
through the spinning-room, there was a cry and a slight commotion; several
machines were stopped, while the girls who waited on them ran to the help
of one who had fallen.
David Haldane was on the spot in a moment. The girl had
fainted at her work and fallen—it was feared, injuring herself in her
fall. The room was, of course, oppressively warm. They were
manufacturing the lightest fabrics, for which the thread must be spun at a
high temperature, and the first thing was to remove her into the cooler
air. She was a slight girl, with an exquisite, pale face, the
daughter of one of the Highland immigrants. David lifted her in his
arms, and bore her out into the air as easily as if she had been a child.
As he did so, her face struck him, with its pathos of stilled suffering;
its transparent thinness, and the blue circles under the closed eyes,
telling their tale of delicate and fading health. He had kept one of
her companions by her side; the others were at their work again, as soon
as the door had swung back upon its hinges. He held her, with her
dark silkey hair falling over his arm, till her companion brought water.
"She'll soon come to hersel'," said the girl. "It's no the first
time she's ta'en a dwam (faint). She's no fit for the wark, puir
thing. It takes a stout kimmer like me," she added, looking at her
strong, red arms; "and some as strong as me hae gane like this wi' the
Whether or not it was a fancied resemblance, the girl,
opening her dim blue eyes, and coming back to life as she lay upon his
supporting arm, put David in mind of Peggy Oglivie, and a pang smote him
as he looked at her. He remembered what Peggy had said about the
works—how terrible she had thought the incessant toil and din and heat.
"And it must be terrible to such a creature as this," he thought.
"Work is for the strong, not for the weak," he said to himself. "But
even the strong seem to suffer. You must look to this," said the
heart of the man, filled with the memory of one sweet woman, and for her
sake tender to all.
The girl revived, but in extreme pain, and David Haldane
speedily ascertained that her arm was broken, and, sending for help, had
her removed to her mother's cottage, while the doctor was sent for—he
himself taking care that every alleviation should be provided for her
suffering that money would purchase. But the incident set him
pondering more deeply on the condition of the workers than he had ever
done before. He felt how great was the responsibility incurred by
the masters of industry, in using their human material as they were doing.
Their power for good or evil—his power—was greater than that of any
territorial lord could be. The wicked Oglivies of old times might
oppress their scattered tenants, but they could hardly wring gold out of
the life blood of thousands, as men like him might do. And yet the
position was a difficult one. He could not stop the machines—the
last hour's work might be the only hour that paid—yet the more he
meditated and examined, the more sure he was that the work was too hard,
the hours too long, especially for women and children.
And the manager taxed his brain to prevent it. "They
shall rust rather," he cried, one midnight, as he sat in his room still
thinking, still working his active brain; the real motive power of all the
energies at work around him. The alternative present to his mind was
the sixteen hours a day which the people were then working; for precious
things were perishing in the atmosphere of constant toil: the evening
psalm was no longer heard in the cottages, and the school was empty, while
the young ones played no truant.
And it was not without opposition that he carried out his
purpose of shortening the hours of the workers, by providing relays, and
by other measures of organization which he projected and enforced.
There are always a vast number of people with whom present gain outweighs
all future loss, though that loss should be their own lives and the lives
of their children. But having once put his hand to the plough David
Haldane was not the man to draw back. As he cured one evil, another
would spring up. For instance; if he brought workpeople from a
distance, he over-crowded the villages; but he was ever vigilant, ever
active, and neither escaped his notice nor was allowed to gain head before
it was put down.
"You are working like a slave," said his friend Mr. Keith to
him; "you must take some rest."
And David replied, "I will run over to Paris for a week in
July, to freshen myself up a bit for the winter."
THE CANNER OF COVETOUSNESS.
THE atmosphere in which
David Haldane worked was one of high pressure at every point. With
the minister of Burnside had originated one of those mysterious religions
movements which, under the name of revivals, have been a mark for the
shallow scoffer, who can see no deeper than the surface-eccentricities of
lives stirred to their hidden depths. So called "culture" sneers at
some of the manifestations of profound feeling among the ignorant and
uncultivated; but, hypocrisy and self-delusion aside, the great wave of
emotion which strikes human hearts at such a time, is a mighty power for
good. Hypocrisy and self-delusion may mingle with it; those
twin-children of falsehood are to be found following the standard of every
cause that is noble and holy, precisely because it is so; but as far as
the influence at work is truly felt by the spirits of men, so far is it a
Divine influence. Minds of a higher class than that of the scorner,
who yet stand aloof from the movement, see and acknowledge this.
They see it exalt the most degraded, and almost transfigure, for a time at
least, the most rude of human beings, and they own that it purifies the
springs of action as no mere intellectual conviction can do.
The attitude of reverent observation was that which David
Haldane assumed. The movement was most active among the print-work
hands, and the people were holding meetings, for exhortation and prayer,
at all possible and impossible hours of the day and night; and at all
times, in season and out of season, Mr. Keith was at his post among them,
keeping down weak excitement by the weight of his solemn enthusiasm,
obeying every call to added labour, as the call of the Spirit of God, till
his face was haggard with watching, and his clothes hung loose upon his
gaunt and stooping frame.
For it seemed as if the more prayer there was in the parish,
there was also the more drunkenness and blasphemy; the more good, the more
evil; the more holiness, the more sin. That this is generally the
case, is a strange fact connected with such movements. None within
the sphere of their influence remain entirely unmoved; and their influence
resisted for good, seems to become a stimulant to evil.
It is true that some good men stand aloof, even as David
Haldane did. He appeared once or twice in the midst of the
gatherings, but he made no sign; and it shows how he was regarded by his
people, that the impressed among them held special meetings on his behalf,
and did not scruple to tell him that they did so. And he did not
resent the interference, as many in his place would have done, but met
them on the simple ground of the equality of souls, and gained over them,
in return, a spiritual influence of another kind—gained the right to
interfere in their more immediate concerns, to reason down their
prejudices and rebuke their follies.
His efforts at social regeneration were deeper and wise, for
all this. "From what I see," he would say to Mr. Keith, "I think the
spiritual regeneration is at the root of the matter after all.
Somewhere or other the Spirit must be at work in order to produce the
outward results even of civilized life and social order; but all good
moves in a circle, and if I can make way for the higher work by doing the
lower—if I can, at least, sweep away the hindrances, the brutalities, and
disorders which obstruct the higher work, it is something."
And his friend would answer, "Ah, you want to be greatest
among us by being servant of all. And you may, in God's good time."
That last utterance was the noble part of his Calvinism, which rendered
him infinitely tolerant of what he would have called non-wilful error.
And the other persons of our story, moved in this atmosphere
too, and were influenced by it in their several ways. The movement
had begun before the Grants went up to their last term at college.
On Sandie it had only the effect of deepening his doubts and increasing
his difficulties, both being mainly intellectual; but it had given Archie
the impulse he needed, in order to make him an earnest and impassioned
man. Before he went, he had decided on going in for the course of
divinity necessary for a candidate for the Church of Scotland; whereas
Sandie had sorrowfully given his decision against the same course, which
had been proposed to him also. "You won't think me a reprobate,"
said the latter to David Haldane, "for you are somewhat of my way of
thinking yourself; but I can't understand any of it, except the Sermon on
the Mount, and it will take me all my time, I'm thinking, to learn that by
Margery Oglivie had been living all her life under a sense of
the judgments of God, which no "awakening could deepen. What she
needed far more was an awakening to the sense of the mercy underlying all
judgments, but she spent her money freely in what she considered the work
of evangelization, and was, if possible, stricter than ever in her life
and gloomier in her views. She frightened poor Mrs. Oglivie, the
mother of Horace—a vain, worldly old woman enough—nearly out of her wits,
by her denunciations of the love of the world, and the things of the
world, which the poor little woman felt in her heart she could not cease
to love. As for Captain Oglivie, his soul became bitter with an
exceeding bitterness against Margery and her favourite minister, and all
who thought with them.
Captain Oglivie, though still a young man, had retired on
half-pay, and had brought his mother to live with him at Delaube, in order
that they might be near Margery. He found old Haldane willing to let
the place—though he would not part with it—for a rent which Margery
generously paid on the old lady's behalf. But the Captain by no
means confined himself to the quiet pleasures of a country life. He
had frequent absences. He made acquaintance with the fastest men in
the neighbourhood, visited with them, sported with them, and, in a general
way, lived far above his means. He had had to apply to old Haldane
more than once for money for his private pleasures, and the old man
silenced his conscience and helped the young one on the way to ruin.
And still living, still dying, the unconscious possessor of
the inheritance, held the—to him—worthless possession. A terrible
cough seemed to hack and hew at the fibres of his life, but still he did
not die. Horace Oglivie longed for his death with a longing which
would not be stilled, which would not be hidden from himself any longer,
but which cried aloud in his heart. When he was on the spot he
watched him from day to dap, watched for the signs of disease and death
with a horrible eagerness—an eagerness which was horrible even to himself.
The canker of covetousness was eating into his soul; and as no soul
corrupts, even as no flesh that has life in it corrupts, without ain
sometimes the torture was so great that he could no longer endure it, and
he would rush away, to get rid of the presence of the desire in scenes of
A closer analysis of that corrupting heart would be too
terrible, but another feeling had arisen in it of equal force—a feeling
which rose into a passion, and intensified the murderous desire which
enthralled him: that feeling was hatred of the religious movement going on
around him. He was compelled, in order to keep well with Margery, to
treat it with a certain amount of respect—to show himself, for instance,
in the kirk on Sunday, when Mr. Keith's sermons were more rousing than
ever. He felt this becoming an intolerable bondage to him.
Even his mother was freer than he was. She had openly rebelled, and
gone over to Dr. Grant, whose church was almost deserted in these days.
And because he could not show it openly, the hatred rankled the more in
his heart, and, as has been said, intensified his desire for the death of
Sir Alexander, though then but half the battle would be won, and another
life would still stand between him and the coveted inheritance.
More than one ancestor of his would have committed murder—ay,
murders—under the same circumstances; but he was not the man to soil his
dainty hands with blood; he was not going to commit a crime; the idea
never entered into his mind. If it had, he would have laughed at it.
He did not think that the desire within him was murder. Does the
murderer ever think so, till he sees his hate, or malice, or covetousness,
translated into act? Something of the kind had flashed into his
mind, on the occasion when he had pursued Sir Alexander to the brink of
the river. But his conscience had been hardening since then, for
when the circumstances recurred to his memory, he only considered it
unlucky that that stupid, plodding youg Haldane had been so prompt to
rescue the drowning man.
Margery had not only promised, but performed. She had
openly made her will, bequeathing all the property of which she might die
possessed to Horace Oglivie and his heirs for ever. Peggy's name was
not so much as mentioned. She had chosen her own lot: and the
letters between Margery and her had passed at longer and longer intervals,
and latterly had altogether ceased.
FIRST AND SECOND LOVE.
had done a heavy day's business in Bleaktown, and was returning to his
hotel in the afternoon, when he met his friends Archie and Sandie,
swinging along side by side, for Sandie could now wield his crutch so
nimbly that it scarcely—if at all—impeded his progress. David was
often in town; but as it was usually only for the day, and as he was under
the necessity of catching the afternoon coach, while the young men were
still at their classes, he had never had an opportunity for calling on
them at their lodgings. Now, however, their classes were over, and
they insisted on bearing him off then and there, or else on his promising
to come and spend the evening with them: and as on this occasion he had
not finished his business, and must remain another day in town, he
consented to the latter.
The young men lodged with two widow ladies in a dull old
street. David Haldane had the impression—as people will have
impressions concerning those whose names they have often heard—that the
ladies were old too, and also dull. The young men were boarded with
them, and pursued their studies in the evenings in a room devoted to their
special use. They had found themselves comfortable, for they had
twice returned to the same temporary roost. Now they were about to
come home, having taken their degrees, and only one was henceforth to
return to the halls of learning. Sandie was already a candidate for
the parish school of Strathie, about to be vacated by its old master, who
had grown infirm, and was, happily, independent.
When the evening came, David found himself in a
well-furnished, well-lighted room with two remarkably pretty women,
concerning whom he was in considerable perplexity. The elder lady
did not look above five or six-and-thirty, while the younger might not be
more than half that age, though she looked older from her heavy black
dress, and the widow's cap that framed her fair, young face. He
would have come to the conclusion that she was a visitor, but that she
called the elder lady, also in a widow's cap, "mamma." Could there
be three generations of widows? and where was the old lady?
It was very like a family party. Archie had still
retained what is called, in the vernacular, "the gift o' the gab"—viz.,
the gift of conversational ability, or agility rather. His talk was
soberer than it used to be, and a little sententious perhaps, for he was
still young, and the fire of enthusiasm had not yet consumed the straw and
stubble of his intellectual fabric. He would probably, at this
period of his life, have disappointed any one who had known him as a
frank, open-hearted boy. He was still frank and open-hearted, but
somewhat conscious. The authority of the vocation to which he was
called was making its mark on him, and the burden of it had not yet been
borne with its weight of terrible, humbling responsibility. Sandie
had gained in the real dignity and humility which comes from earnest,
patient thought. "I think, if Miss Oglivie had been their companion
still, Sandie would have been her favourite now, as I am sure Archie used
to be", was what David Haldane said to himself on this occasion.
The evening was passing very pleasantly. They had tea,
with the wonderful variety of cakes known only at a Scotch tea-table; and
during its progress, Archie awkwardly upset the contents of his teacup
into the younger lady's lap—an accident which she took most sweetly,
getting up and gliding away to repair it, saying that her soft black dress
could not possibly be spoilt, and blushing with a deeper blush than the
occasion seemed to require, as Sandie said that the accident was a lucky
one, alluding to an old "fret" that it forebodes a wedding. When she
came back again to the seat next Archie, David thought the proximity
After tea, Archie begged her to sing, and, without any
pressing, she complied, not accompanying herself, though there was a piano
in the room, but clasping her fair hands in her lap, and warbling her
national ditties, pure and simple, with a voice of no great power but of
exquisite sweetness. Then the insatiable Archie, after a very short
pause, began begging again—this time, for the favourite ballad of "Auld
Robin Gray;" and David Haldane joined in the request, for she seemed a
little reluctant, perhaps from the fear that the rest of the company might
have had enough. Before she had ended that saddest, sweetest story
of love sacrificed to duty, her audience were all more or less deeply
affected; and the rising in her white throat, towards its close, showed
that she herself was under the influence of its plaintive spell.
David Haldane was deeply interested in the two women. The mother was
looking so sad—looking as if she had done with life, and all that made it
sweet, though her heart was still young enough to agonize over the loss,
only that the agony was so unavailing. She seemed pleading her
sorrow against her youth, while her daughter seemed pleading her own sweet
youth against her sorrow, and trying to put it away from her if possible.
But their visitor could hardly believe his ears when he heard, or thought
he heard, Archie whisper, "Thank you, Rose."
He had heard quite right, as Archie afterwards explained.
He had introduced her as Mrs. Rose; but she bore the name doubly, for she
had formerly been Rose Macdonald, now she was Rose Rose. Mother and
daughter were more like sisters than anything else—they were, indeed,
sisters in misfortune. Both their husbands had been lost in the same
disastrous wreck. The one was master, the other mate, in a ship
trading with "the Indies," and both had shares in her. The mate had
married the master's daughter, a girl of seventeen; and it was the
father's last trip, before giving up his post to his tried and trusted
son-in-law, and retiring to enjoy the little fortune he had made, when the
good ship foundered in a gale, and all hands perished. The little
fortune had not all been swept away, but the disaster, besides taking from
the two women their earthly dearest and best, had left them in somewhat
reduced circumstances; and this was all their history.
Archie, when his friend rose to take leave, insisted on
accompanying him to his hotel; but when they got into the street, the
night was so fine that they turned to the shore instead, and paced up and
down by the moon-lighted waves. It was there that Archie gave him
the history of Rose and her mother above recorded. He had dragged
him out upon the granite pier, and after some pacing to fro, he suddenly
"Do you believe in first love, Haldane?"
"I have no great practical experience," laughed David.
"Why do you ask?"
"Oh, because I haven't the least faith in it," answered
Archie, stoutly. "I think a man may be desperately in love
half-a-dozen times before he gets at the true love that will suffice him
all his life."
"Have you been experimenting on this extensive scale?"
inquired his companion, still laughingly.
But Archie was in deadly earnest, and he replied—
"Jesting aside, Haldane, I am over head and ears in love with
Rose there. I never loved any human being so well as I love her."
"At present," David put in; "but you would like to prove that
some day you may love somebody else better. Is that what you want a
theory of love for?"
"Don't tease me just now, Haldane, like a good fellow, but
listen to me. I shall never love anybody better. I know what
you mean by that incredulous look, but there never was anything in my
liking for Miss Oglivie; you know she never cared for me, and that makes
all the difference."
"Does it?" said David, in an absent voice; then, coming back
to himself, he added, "Mrs. Rose cares for you then?"
"We are engaged," said Archie.
"Have you not been hasty about it?" said his companion, very
grave now. "Does your father know?"
"He ought to have known."
"That's what Sandie says; but we are going back so soon, and
it's so much better to tell than to write, and my father is so good,"
answered Archie, heaping one reason on another, conscious that none of
them were valid. "And, besides, I could not help it," he added; "the
opportunity was there, and out it came; before I knew hardly what I was
"But she did not accept you quite so suddenly?" said David,
who would have been somehow disappointed in an affirmative.
"No. At first she would not accept me at all, because
she said she could never love another as she had loved him she had lost;
and now she says that I must let the engagement be all on her side.
We have four years, at least, to wait before I get a kirk, and she seems
to think I may change my mind. And then I'm afraid she may draw back
altogether, if my father and mother object; not that there's anything to
object to, except her being a widow, and if she hadn't been a widow I
couldn't have married her."
Here Archie went off into a rhapsody on the virtues and
graces of Mrs. Rose, which only ended with his arrival at his lodgings
again. David had escorted him, instead of his escorting David.
As they were parting, the latter said—
"Have you heard anything of Miss Oglivie lately?"
"She has not written to my mother for ever so long," Archie
answered, with perfect calmness; "but Jean—you know old Jean—says she is
working as an artist. I believe the old woman cried over it
bitterly, holding the very name of artist in abhorrence. I fancy she
must be rather poorly off, however. We must have been mistaken about
the marriage, I suppose. By the way, it was you that told us of it,
"I had it from my uncle," said David, thoughtfully: "and he
had it from Captain Oglivie's own lips."
"But it may have been broken off," suggested Archie. "I
never liked the fellow's looks."
"Very likely," was David's answer, either to the first or
second statement, or perhaps to both. He was meditating as to
whether his uncle knew the truth of the matter, and whether he had
concealed it wilfully from him.
He bade Archie "good night," looking up at the still lighted
windows of the home-like house, and thinking how happy the young man was
under the same roof with her he loved. His own lot was hard and
lonely by comparison. His evening with the two women had stirred his
heart—stirred it till he felt its greatness and its emptiness. He
could not yet go back to his hotel, so he turned again to the shore and
walked once more to the end of the granite pier, and stood looking far out
into the restless sea, feeling his heart drawn toward the unseen, far
distant shore, like its great heaving, moaning tides. He stood,
thinking of Archie's second love; how fair she was, in her youth and her
sorrow!—one of the fairest, sweetest women he had seen. She came
before him like a lovely picture now. But the face of the first rose
up on his memory like a living presence, and he knew that for him there
could be no second. In that hour all that he had won seemed
worthless, all that he had done fruitless and void. And then Hope
whispered, "There may be yet another chance for life." And he
answered, resolutely, "I will try."
TWICE in the course of
his worthless life had Louis Oglivie made what the world would call a mésalliance.
Once, with one whose goodness was a better inheritance than had ever
fallen to any of his race; whose blood was purer in the truest sense, in
freedom from the hereditary taint of physical or moral disease; who was
the flower and blossom of generations of strenuous, hardy, God-fearing,
labour-loving men and women; and who, if she had lived, might have done
something toward raising him to her level, when, in the eyes of the world,
she was being elevated to his. But the second time, he mated himself
with one whose moral nature was on a par with his own, while in birth and
breeding she was far beneath him.
Louis Oglivie's present wife was the daughter of a Paris
bourgeois, who had amassed an exceedingly modest little fortune in a
glove-shop of the Faubourg St. Denis. He had retired early from
business, and was possessed with the insane desire which pervades a
portion of the respectable class to which he belonged, to affect a higher
social position than that to which he was entitled, either by nature or
fortune, an affectation which has afforded the richest field for the
keen-witted satirists of his nation,
The only son of M. Latel, therefore, instead of stretching
gloves, stretched his own and other people's consciences as an avocat;
and his daughter, instead of serving in the shop, an able and efficient
book-keeper and saleswoman, as her mother had been, sat in a
highly-ornamental and highly-artificial boudoir, in which every article
was an imitation of something grander than itself, and did or pretended to
be doing, nothing. In spite of sundry domestic matters, performed in
the strictest privacy by mother and daughter, such as making of beds and
dusting of rooms, Clementine Sophie Latel was sufficiently idle to be
The son, who was the mother's favourite, and who was endowed
by nature with a double portion of her spirit of getting and sparing, had
married a good dot, and was very comfortably off; but the dot
of Clementine Sophie was very small, and, in spite of her black eyes and
her fine figure, she did not go off early.
Her father's ambition and her mother's parsimony were both
against her. If her father had been less ambitions, she might have
married well in the circle they had quitted. If her mother had been
less parsimonious she would have married, well or ill, in the circle into
which they had moved. She herself inherited both qualities, and
loved to shine and loved to save at one and the same time. She was
gay with a Frenchwoman's peculiar gaiety, and vain with her peculiar
vanity. She considered herself ill-used if she was not taken to the
theatre two or three times a week. She loved to dress, and
promenade, and take excursions, and on these things she was willing to
spend to her utmost; but then she would have the utmost pleasure that the
expenditure would bring, and would have compassed Paris to save a franc
to-day, to be spent in folly on the morrow.
So with her black eyes, and her fine figure, and her voluble
French tongue—French etiquette to the contrary—Clementine Sophie Latel
courted the English gentleman who lived in furnished apartments on the
second étage. She constantly
met him on those convenient stairs, well dressed—and she dressed
remarkably well, and made her own dresses too; then she walked with him,
and talked to him, and made herself agreeable to the chill-blooded,
lonely, and already sickly man, as a good fire is to the shiverer in an
easterly wind. And her friends thought she was doing a very good
thing for herself, for Louis Oglivie had not then sunk so low as he was
afterwards destined to do, and paid his way in the family as a wealthy
Briton was expected to do. And the boudoir was opened to him
on state occasions, all satin, and gilding, and lace and china, until
Clementine Sophie Latel became Clementine Sophie Oglivie.
And for some time the newly-married pair modestly occupied
the same second étage that had
been occupied by the husband alone; but shortly Madame Oglivie and mère,
who had led a cat-and-dog life in the house together, desired a further
separation. Instead of moving into smaller apartments, as they ought
to have done, they moved into larger and finer ones. This was hardly
the wife's fault. Louis Oglivie was one of those men who never will
be open about money matters, and at this time she did not know his means.
In the years that followed they had sometimes been forced to
economise—that is, not to spend when there was no more to be spent, which
a good many people take, or rather mistake, for economy. Then they
would go into retirement in a mysterious way—sometimes pretending to be
out of town, in reality lodging in some meaner quarter. And again
they would as mysteriously re-appear, and live as grandly as before.
In these periods of retirement Madame Oglivie neither visited, nor was
visited by her relations. They knew only one side of her life.
She could not bear them to see the reverse.
Then her father died, and another small portion fell to her,
while her mother took what was hers, and went to live with her son.
This portion had set them on their feet again, at a time when they had
fallen low. Once before, when they were thus sunk, Louis Oglivie had
applied to Margery, and her purse had furnished the means for another cast
of the gambler's dice. It was the wife who urged the husband to
gamble, and she would spend thriftily as ever the money thus recklessly
won. She would still make her own dresses and cook her own dinner,
if need was, and there often was need; but she had entered into the
gambler's spirit, and was eager for every day's run of luck. As a
last resource she could live on the interest of her dot, the
principal of which she would not allow to be touched, though shortly after
their marriage she had persuaded her husband to sell his commission.
She knew, also, that he had expectations, and, having
convinced herself that they were realities and not mere shams, she had
learnt to share them. Her heart, too, had gone hankering
after the inheritance of the Oglivies. In the course of their twelve
years of married life, Louis Oglivie had twice returned from England with
a considerable sum of money. England was in her eyes an El Dorado,
and it had been a great source of disquiet and separation between her and
her husband, that he would never take her there, and allow her to
influence his relatives, as she thought she was certain to do if allowed a
chance. But on this last occasion she more than once suspected that
the sum he had received was larger than he had stated: and she was right.
Margery Oglivie, like many who are strictly economical in their own
concerns, gave like a princess when she had to give. She had given
Louis five hundred pounds with less thought about it, probably, than she
would take in expending the next five shillings. Part of it he had
contrived to dissipate by the way, and another part he kept back for his
own uses. And in this he treated his wife unfairly, and she knew and
resented it, almost to hatred.
The clash of these two selfish natures was all the more
terrible, because the one was vulgar and the other refined. When
Louis Oglivie lost at play, or kept back part of what he had won, his wife
would come down upon him like a dark-eyed fury, getting more and more
terrible to him as she grew older, from her increasing unloveliness under
the phase. And he would shrink from her with jarred nerves, and an
unconcealed loathing, which was worse to bear than violence in return, and
which roused her almost to madness. These conditions were, of
course, only temporary, otherwise they would have been too intolerable,
and the bond between them would have been broken: but selfishness secured
as well as strained it. And Louis Oglivie would give up at times
what he had withheld; and she, on her side, would dress herself and
prepare a delicious little supper, and peace would be restored. But
Louis Oglivie feared the outbreaks with a fear which grew upon him daily.
Vain and boastful, as well as selfish, he had boasted to his
wife of his daughter's beauty and future fortune, and even of her wish to
accompany him to Paris; till, between the restless desire for novelty of
situation in her poor and barren life, and a wish to establish some hold
upon the probable heiress, nothing would satisfy her till Peggy was sent
On her arrival Peggy found them living in what seemed
affluence. There was no sign of the poverty which her father had
pleaded, though the sickness was real enough. He had been made ill
by the constant scenes between him and his wife, on the subject of sending
for his daughter. But her speedy acquiescence had restored peace,
and the surface of their lives looked smiling enough to the newcomer, who
had, however, a keen trembling sense that all was not right beneath.
Her step-mother insisted on her seeing all that was to be
seen in Paris, on condition of her companionship. She was never loft
alone with her father by any chance, though he often left her with his
wife. Her love of gaiety seemed childish and absurd to the grave
Scotch girl, whose gladness was unstirred by garish crowds; though the
same gift of gladness lay deep in her heart, ready to well up in
overflowing streams at the touch of natural joy. It seemed strange,
too, that wherever they went, it was she who had to pay and her purse was
very slender, for she had not taken advantage of Margery's proffered
bounty, as many another would have done.
At last, when she was getting tired of sight-seeing, though
she was full of delight at the treasures of memory which she had amassed
by it, she was left one day alone, and her father, who had been watching
the opportunity, came to her. He was looking more haggard and
wretched than she had yet seen him.
"Did you bring any money with you he asked, anxiously.
"I thought Margery might have given you some, you know."
Peggy frankly stated how much she had brought with her, and,
taking out her purse, reckoned before him the little all that remained.
It was only a few sovereigns and some change in francs and cents.
"You had better keep it," he said, looking wistfully at the
gold. "You need not let her know you have it."
"Do you want it? " she asked, divining his look, and holding
out the gold.
He took it eagerly, but with a muttered apology. In
exchange, she gradually and gently drew from him the knowledge of the
precarious life he led—gathered from his weak complaints that his wife was
urging him on in the wretched career of the gambler, and that often, very
often, the luck was against him. And she knew then that she was
standing on thin ice, which might give way at any moment and precipitate
her into unknown depths. She besought him to retreat at any cost of
effort; but he only shook his head and became irritable under her
entreaties. For herself, she was resolved to act.
SUR LE TOUT.
WITHOUT loss of time,
Louis Oglivie's daughter began to carry out her plan of action. With
her father's help—and she was glad that he entailed into her plans, though
he exaggerated her powers in a way that was painful to her—she took
advantage of the aids which Paris affords, and has always afforded, to the
art-student. Close to the house in which they lived she managed, for
a small weekly sum, to hire a little empty garret in which she could
pursue her labours; and she had not been a fortnight in Paris before the
grey dawn of the summer morning saw her stealing forth to her attic
studio. It was only by a special arrangement with the concierge that
she accomplished this; and very soon she found it more convenient to sleep
there, and so had a little bed put up in it, which, with a single chair
and table, and the materials of her art, completed its furniture.
Her father, with great exultation, had returned to her the value of her
few sovereigns, telling her that they had brought him more luck than he
had had for many a day; and she did not tell him, in return, that she
almost shuddered to touch the gold, knowing how miserably it had been
Her little room was five storeys high; but then the light
came from the north, clear and bright, and unobstructed. Her window
opened on a little square bit of flat roof, about the size of a
table-cloth, surrounded by her own and her neighbour's chimney-pots; but
her neighbours were, happily, great economists of fuel, especially in the
summer-time, and she could sit out there, sur le toit, even in a
white dress, without much fear of blacks. But for this out-of-door,
or rather out-of-window, work, and for her walks to and fro to the
galleries and the school, she adopted a black gown, a sort of costume
almost like that of a Sister of Charity; and in this in nun-like dress she
would be out on her roof in the summer mornings, working out her latest
sketch in the fresh, still air, when the great city lay at her feet
unawakened, like "a dream in stone," with its spires and towers catching
the mystic lights of the dawn.
It was her favourite place of resort, that little nest on the
house-top, screened on both sides by chimney-stacks, and in front by a
parapet almost breast high, where she could sit unobserved, save by the
sparrows, the outlook of her opposite neighbours being to the other side.
She was not, however, so lonely as she at first imagined, and she often
wondered what her neighbour on the other side of the chimney-stack could
be about, to create, at periodical intervals, such mysterious and
appalling noises. More than once there was an explosion, which
threatened to bring down the partition between them, and which covered her
with a shower of dust and mortar. Every variety of squeaking, and
squealing, and barking was to be heard occasionally; at other times there
was the most perfect silence.
On the occasion of the second explosion she had uttered a
little scream of dismay, and then retreated into her room, having almost
made up her mind to remonstrance. After listening for some time, and
hearing nothing, she stepped out again to reconnoitre, and looking up,
there peered over the chimney-pots a childish, almost girlish, boy's face.
It was about to disappear again, grinning and begrimed, but Peggy saw it
all now, and called her young tormentor to a parley. She understood
boy-nature, and begged humorously, in her very, imperfect French, for she
was only beginning to talk the language, that she might not be blown up
into the air.
"Shall I show you what you have done?" she said, and stepped
in and brought her drawing-paper covered with sooty stains.
The little gentleman apologized with evident sincerity, and
seemed greatly to enjoy talking to mademoiselle, standing, as he affirmed,
"upon nothing" and hanging by one arm round the neck of a chimney-pot.
He informed her that he was a student at the École
Polytechnique, and that he spent his holidays there with his uncle and
aunt, and, finally, he made her a proffer of a guinea-pig, an explanation
of one of the mysterious noises. Peggy did not understand
guinea-pigs, and declined, because the little creature, which he produced
by a dive to terra firma, might die on her hands.
"Oh, never mind," he said, "I will get you another.
Mine are often dead when I come back, because no one has fed them."
"Then they suffer," she answered, in dismay. "It is
dreadful! I would rather climb over the chimney-pots and feed them
myself." After this she had many a chat with her young neighbour,
and took charge of a cageful of white-mice for him, six days out of the
Most lives have their periods of monotony, whether of doing
or of suffering; and it is in such seasons that the life-work of man or
woman is accomplished, or the spirit shaped for its accomplishment.
Two laborious years passed thus over the head of Peggy Oglivie in her new
home, if home it could be called, for the Oglivies had no fixed place of
habitation in the great gay city. They moved from street to street,
and from quarter to quarter, while she kept on her little garret studio,
and lived with her father and step-mother, except in the hours devoted to
work and sleep.
From the first her aim was to earn money, and to earn it
immediately; and, therefore, she quietly laid aside any dream of ambition
if it came to her. She worked steadily, even when studying higher
things, at the fairy little flower-pieces which she was mistress of
sufficient skill to make saleable at once; and for these she found a
steady market in the print-shops. Her aim was not a lofty one and
there is always danger to the artist in taking a low aim; and if she had
tried to please by copying conventional prettinesses, she might indeed
have lowered her art, and have ended in producing those hideous staring
groups of artificial flowers, which almost put one out of love with the
fairest things in nature. But something within her kept her true to
herself, and true to nature; kept her painting the things she had seen and
loved, just as she herself saw and loved them; and because her heart was
in them, her little water-colour paintings became dear to many, who never
asked the artist's name, nor thought that fame should follow the
representation of such simple and common things. But in truth the
heavenly purpose of saving by pure unselfishness one who was wholly
absorbed in self, shone out of the eyes of her flowers—out of the "little
speedwell's darling blue," or the white-frilled daisy's baby-face.
She had often to paint the same things over and over again, as they were
in demand, but she always did it with a difference.
It was one set of pictures that made her early success.
They were called "The Seasons," and consisted of four circular paintings.
Spring represented by a nest of primroses; summer, by a group of the
speedwell and the daisy, overhung by sprays of the pink dog rose and a
tangle of woodbine blossoms; autumn, by the bramble, blossom and berry at
once; and winter by a bit of bank covered with soft, white snow,
overarched with holly, out of which peered the bright eyes of a robin.
But through those simple subjects shone a rare spirit of truth and
tenderness. A little bit of sky and background would let in all the
season to the soul, and this hidden harmony of touch and tone gave them a
charm even beyond their intrinsic beauty.
Her studies in crayon took a wider range, but were less
successful in a money point of view. They were as yet imperfect in
drawing, though full of genius in conception. A favourite subject
was the old fir-wood at home, with sunset effects taken from her housetop
The money which she earned she made over in great part to the
step-mother for the household expenses. Her father was not to be
trusted; to this extent her stepmother was; only she began to look upon it
as a right that she should receive the whole of her step-daughter's
earnings, except what she might require for her own simple needs. It
all went for the support of her father, murmured the step-mother—all, and
more than all; for there came no other turn in the steadily-ebbing tide of
Louis Oglivie's fortune. And his daughter saw with mournful
commiseration that in his misfortune he was less and less considered by
his wife, sometimes even treated with a rude contempt which galled and
then depressed him.
When he came to her with the request, growing more and more
timid and pitiful, for a little money, concerning which nothing was to be
said at home, Peggy could not find it in her heart to refuse, though she
knew how unavailing was her prayer that he should spend it on some needed
comfort. More and more he took refuge with her in her studio, while
his wife stormed or murmured through the domestic duties, which once more
fell to her lot with the straitening of the common purse. And more
and more Peggy noticed with alarm a certain strangeness in his manner
which was new to her—a dreary fixedness in the eye, and an inclination to
unnatural and startled slumber. Once he sat staring at her so wildly
that she rose and went to him, asking tenderly if he felt ill. And
he burst into tears at her touch, and answered, "I don't deserve it!
I don't deserve it!"
"What is it?" she asked, half thinking it was some
self-reproach at her kindness that had touched him.
"I don't deserve to be such an unlucky dog!" he answered, and
laughed, looking at her with eyes in which there was no sight, no outlook
of a reasonable soul. Then he would call her by her name, not by the
familiar Peggy, which he never used, but by her own stately name of
Margaret, which suited her better than the other now, and when she went to
him he had nothing to say. And she began really to tremble for his
One day she was out visiting some of the shops where she had
found such a ready sale for her little pictures, and had been told by more
than one master, though with perfect kindness and politeness, that there
was a great slackening of the demand for such things at present, owing,
perhaps, to the unsettled state of the public mind. There was just
then growing that dissatisfaction with the ministers and the policy of
Charles X., which, as every body knows, ended in the revolution of 1830.
All sorts of rumours were afloat, occupying people to the extent of
causing a stoppage of trade. Indeed, many, either quicker-sighted or
better informed than their neighbours, were already leaving Paris for the
More dispirited than she had ever felt before, even at the
first failures she had encountered, she turned to go home, having left a
fresh drawing, which a shopkeeper kindly consented to put in his window.
On the way she had to pass a church, into which she had often turned
before, and now carried the burden of anxiety which was weighing upon her
so heavily. "If I fail," she thought, "what is to become of us?—what
is to become of him?" and just then failure seemed so easy, success so
difficult, so unattainable.
When she rose from her knees, she started to see, standing
cap in hand, as if in attendance on her, her young friend of the
École Polytechnique. He saw that
she had finished her devotions, and, without word or sign, he turned and
went out before her. When they stood on the steps outside he turned
again, and said, "I came to seek mademoiselle: will she come with me
"How did you find me? " she asked, in astonishment.
"I am fond of tracking," he answered; "pardon me for finding
out where you go; it is of much use—you cannot think how much. There
is to-day—I never could have known where to find you if I had not tracked
you, and the poor gentleman is so ill. I found him sitting on the stair,
and I thought he was dead!"
From the lad's description, she knew it was her father who
had been found nearly dead.
"I think I know what's the matter," he added, as she hurried
on by his side; "he will come all right again, but he must be looked after
She looked up inquiringly.
Yes, this was the explanation of his mysterious malady; Louis
Oglivie had become an opium-eater.