Peggy Oglivie (2)

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CHAPTER IX.

DANGLING AND ANGLING.


AND the brothers did dangle after Peggy in a most unconscionable manner; and she being no idle young lady, but one of the busiest people in the parish, and having no mind to encourage idleness in others, they really and truly did the work which they made the pretext of their daily visits to Delaube.

    Peggy's hands had gradually become full from picking up what would, otherwise, have been left behind, and bearing the burdens which were daily dropped by her feeble servitors.  Money was a scarce commodity at Delaube; but then it was not the one thing needful that it is in some places.  True, everything was going to decay for lack of it; but there was firing in the wood and fish in the river, milk from the cow and vegetables from the garden.  They ground their own corn for bread, had as many chickens as they chose to eat, and procured other commodities, by the primitive process of barter, at the village shop; but all this demanded labour, and both Tammas and Jean were growing unequal to the demand.  The former worked the agricultural department, raising the corn for meal and the grass and turnips for the cow; but the duties of Jean were multifarious.  Her first breakdown was at the needlework.  She had mended her master's silk or woollen hose, and his fine ruffled shirts, till her old eyes ached again.  Thanks to her now disused wheel, which stood in a corner of the kitchen, there was ample material for most household needs, and here were a pair of bright eyes and helpful hands to knit, or sew in her stead.  So Peggy knitted her winter hose, and made and mended, through the long winter evenings, by the light of the tallow-candles set in ancient silver candlesticks, and with her grandfather's eyes fixed on her downcast face.  Then she took the chickens into her charge; and, lastly, the making up of the butter, and all the lighter work of the dairy fell into her hands.

    The only work of hers in which her grandfather would take a lively interest, though he watched her in all, was her fishing.  The details of her sport would rouse him from his lethargy as nothing else would.  He made Tammas bring down a rod and line of his own, and he himself, with trembling hands, put them in order for her.  He knew that Tammas was not to be trusted with a hook, for the sake of his own and his neighbours' flesh.  But Peggy could really bring home a dish of trout, though she never overcame a certain repugnance to kill the shining creatures as they quivered on the grass; and she continued to fish, not for the pleasure, but the profit of it, as it supplied an additional dish much prized by Jean on her own, but especially on her master's account.  Peggy would have to tell the old man the very stone where a fine one had been hooked, and the fly that had caught him, and which he himself had taught her how to dress and when to use.  The stream was famous for its salmon; and once, with the assistance of Tammas, Peggy had landed her fish; and more than once, but for the breaking of the line, which she ran and twisted round a tree for the purpose, the fish would have dragged her into the depths of the Strathie Pool.

    Now, if there were ruffles to be mended, there sat Archie and Sandie, in the summer-house, among the cabbages and gooseberries, chattering away, with those curved backs of theirs, and months and eyes of utter fascination.  If there was fruit to be picked, there were three pairs of hands at it in the hot afternoon, for Jean did not hold to gathering it with the dew for her jams and jellies.  She looked rather glum when they invaded the dairy, where they were a complete hindrance; but, on the other hand, Tammas profited largely by their help.  They would set to work and repair a fence in workman-like fashion, and their own mother would not have known them while they cut a field of grass, or dug out a great plot of potatoes, under Peggy's superintendence.

    Often, too, they brought their books into the wood, and would have made a mere pretence of reading, except for Peggy's presence; but she sat there, a silent monitress, busily engaged in drawing from Nature.  It had grown into a passion with her, to trace the minute and varied loveliness of every tender wilding that grew about her, and the visible progress of her skill was the most exciting stimulus to exertion they had ever felt.

    Of course they fished together, and these were the times of keenest enjoyment to all three.  On a cool, cloudy afternoon they would meet at Strathie Pool, where the water, having run its most rugged course, collected in a great granite basin to flow out smoothly into a clearer channel along the Strath.  Then they would pass down stream as far as they wished, and fish up to and beyond the pool.

    They had been at it for hours, on such an afternoon, and had been more than usually successful.  They were, indeed, about to leave off for the day, and were lazily fishing towards Delaube by way of seeing Peggy home.  Archie carried her basket, while Sandie bore the fruits of his own and his brother's labours on his back.  They came to a tempting spot, where the trout were leaping every minute, and Sandie lay down flat on the bank and took a last throw, while Archie and Peggy stepped out on a ledge of granite to have a better chance.  Peggy had been first on the ledge, and she sprang lightly to another, which took her nearly into the middle of the stream.  There she stood, mirrored in the glassy pool, which was dimpled by the leaping fish, and darkened by the fantastic cloud-shadows.  Suddenly she gave a little cry, her line tightened and began to run off the reel.

    "It's a salmon!" cried Archie, whisking in his own line, and flinging his rod and basket on the grass, then jumping into the water to Peggy's assistance.

    She gave up her rod into his hands, and followed him in his series of leaps to the bank.

    "We'll have a run for it before we land this fellow," he cried, as the line ran out rapidly, and he began to rush along the rugged bank, wooded at this part to the water's edge.

    Sandie drew in and prepared to follow.  "I would rather sit down and wait for you here," said Peggy, who had had several hours' scrambling already.  Don't come back if he takes you far.  I can go home if you are long of coming."

    With the last sentence, she had had to raise her voice after her companions, and their shouts in reply came from a growing distance as she threw herself on the bank to wait.

    She had scarcely seated herself, when she was startled by a voice from above, with the unusual accost—"Miss Oglivie, of Delaube, I believe?"

    She looked up, and close to her, on the slope above, stood a young man, leaning hand and foot against a tree to keep himself upright.  He was like no one she had ever seen before.  Grace and elegance were not native to the soil of that region, though there were nobler things that were.

    "That is my name," said Peggy, gravely, rising to her feet.

    "I have been looking on at your sport," he said, "and you see I have guessed rightly.  Miss Janet Oglivie told me I was sure to find you in the wood. If I had not, I was coming on to Delaube.  I have come to claim cousinship, which counts to the fortieth degree in this part of the country."  He held out his hand.

    In it Peggy placed hers frankly, but still gravely.

    "Why do you never go near the old ladies down yonder?" he went on; "they would be glad to see you now and then, I should think."

    The tears started to Peggy's eyes, and the colour deepened on her cheeks, as she answered, "I will never go there again."

    "Margery is rather terrible, I own," he said, "and I believe she frightened you.  She has a dreadful notion that we are a doomed race, we Oglivies, and must suffer for the sins of our fathers to the fourth generation.  We are only the third, you know.  And so she thinks she is working out the decrees of Providence by helping to keep us as miserable as possible."

    "But you don't believe in it," said Peggy, with a smile; "at least, not in that way?"

    "Not exactly," he replied; "and yet I've had my share of the punishment in being sent into the world a poor man.  I suspect we both suffer for the sins of our fathers in that respect."

    "But I do not suffer; I am not punished," she answered earnestly; "I am very happy, God is very good;" she lowered her voice at the close of her little speech, half in reverence, half as unused to give expression to such thoughts.  Her companion, in the meanwhile, perused her face with curiosity and interest, mingled with amusement.

    "Well, you may have escaped," he continued, "but it's more than I have.  I wonder you don't go and see the old ladies, though.  They've an awful time of it, shut up with an idiot in that dismal hole.  It would soon make an idiot of me, I know."

    "I cannot go to them," said Peggy, softly; "they do not want me, and they turned my mother from their doors.  I did not know that when I went before."

    "I did not know it either," he replied; "indeed, I know very little of the family history, or of the family either.  But we must be friends," he added, with emphasis on the we.

    Just then they caught a glimpse of the returning anglers, and Archie and Sandie, shouting, dolefully, "We've lost the game! he's got off with the hook!" came up breathless.  Shyness was not one of their faults—that generally belongs to quicker and more sensitive natures—but they hung back a little when they saw a fine gentleman talking to their companion.

    Peggy lost no time in introducing them; only she hesitated at the word "cousin," and looked up for the name of her kinsman.

    "Captain Oglivie," he said, graciously, and both the youths made an awkward bow.

    Archie was proceeding to lift Peggy's basket and rod, when the captain interfered with a polite, "Allow me to carry them," which made the poor fellow stand back somewhat abashed.

    "Perhaps we had better go home;" said Sandie, and as there seemed to be a general acquiescence in the proposal, Peggy shook hands with her old friends and walked up the hill with the new one.  They spoke very little by the way, and at the garden gate the captain delivered up the rod and basket, and pleaded the lateness of the hour as a reason for not going up to the house.  He took Peggy's little hand at parting, and carried it gallantly to his lips, and repeating, "We must be friends," left her blushing and trembling at the gate.


 
CHAPTER X.

A DISH OF FISH.


AS Peggy turned into the garden walk she caught sight of Jean, standing with her straight old back against the doorpost.  Her blue checked apron was thrown over one red, wrinkled arm, so as to form a bag, in which revolved a ball of worsted, which she was rapidly transforming into strong winter hose.  She knitted quite mechanically, needing neither eyes nor brain for her work, so that she saw her young mistress as soon as she entered the path.  The old woman did not move; Peggy would have been ashamed if she had offered to come and carry the basket.

    She advanced up the walk slowly, and flung it down at the old woman's feet, who, seeing it look satisfactorily heavy, picked it up and carried it within.

    "You're late," she said, "but you hav'na come emptyhanded;" and she proceeded to take down a dish and count out the spoil.

    But Peggy stood abstracted, and as if she neither saw nor heard; then she said abruptly, "That was Captain Oglivie, Joan."

    "What was Captain Oglivie?" queried the old woman, looking up with an air of astonishment.

    "The gentleman who came to the gate with me," answered Peggie.

    "I saw nae gentleman!" said Jean, who looked as if her young mistress had lost her senses.

    "But he is a gentleman, and my cousin," said Peggy, still thinking she must have seen him, which she had not, for he had retreated just as she turned her head in his direction.

    "Where fell ye in wi' him?" asked Jean, with some asperity.

    "At the fishing," answered the girl, not in the least resenting the tone, which was habitual to that privileged person.

    "And the Grants were with you?" Jean put in.  Peggy assented, and the old woman entered on a keen cross-examination.

    "What was he like?" was her next question.

    Peggy tried to remember.  She had a vivid enough image in her own mind, but she found it difficult to convey it in detail to another.

    It flashed through Jean's mind that the girl's father might have wandered into the neighbourhood, and sought to see her in this way, so she went on with her catechism.  "Was he young?"

    "Not very."  Peggy meant not so young as herself or her companions.  In Jean's eyes Louis Oglivie would still have been young.

    "Was he fair?"

    "I am not sure," was the answer.

    "Has he blue eyes?"

    "I don't know in the least," said Peggy, laughing; "but he is tall—as tall as gran'papa must have been—and his face is clear, so clear that you do not notice the colour of his hair or his eyes."

    Jean knew at once that this could not be Mr. Louis, changed as might be the sunny curls and fruit-like tints of the face she had adored in its bright boyhood.

    "I ken nae such Captain Oglivie," she said, tartly, as she laid the trout, tenderly, side by side in the dish; "but if I were you I'd hae little to do with any Oglivie of them."

    She had dismissed the subject.  "They're bonnie beasties," she murmured, greatly mollified, as she contemplated the heap on the platter.

    But Peggy returned to the charge.  "I had better tell gran'papa about him," she said.

    "You had better no," was the reply.  "He's more than ordinar' ill.  He's been mutterin' to him sel' the whole afternoon; if ye were to say anything to mind him o' the old troubles, I would na answer for the consequences; another stroke would clean kill him, and ye might bring it on."

    "Oh, Jean! " cried the girl, reproachfully.

    "Weel, weel, lassie, gang and show him the bonnie creatures, and that'll please him," said the old woman, coaxingly.

    Peggy threw aside her hat, pushed back her clustered curls, and taking the dish in her two hands, went upstairs to present her offering to her grandfather.

    The old man was seated in his chair in the attitude of one who seeks warmth from a sinking fire; his stately figure was bent, his white locks, escaping from his black velvet cap, lay on his shoulders.  Something of awe and of desolation struck the girl with a sudden, sharp pang of pity, as she saw him thus.  He sat erect at her approach, looking sternly indifferent till he saw who it was.  She had often acted the little scene before; such acts of grace came quite naturally from her, due, perhaps, to the slight strain of French blood in her veins.  She went down on her knees on the hearth-rug and playfully held up the dish, but with a new, womanly tenderness in her smile and attitude, which unconsciously penetrated the old man's heart.

    "Very good sport, little one," he said, looking at her with a wan smile.

    "Yes," she answered; "and we nearly caught a salmon besides.  I had him, but Archie Grant let him off, after a short run.  I was tired and the ground was rough, so I did not follow.  There's Jean, waiting to take possession of them," she added, as the white cap of Mistress Jean appeared at the door.

    Peggy rose and handed out the fish to the old servant, and then, shutting the door, came back and sat down on a low stool at her grandfather's feet.

    If she had purposed to divert his mind from the madness of contemplating the misery of the past, she could not have done anything wiser than simply sit there in silence.  She did not know it; but he looked at her and was comforted.  Sitting there, helpless and alone, he devised experiments of torture for himself; no longer raving at the untimely death of his body, with the greater calmness which time had brought, he believed himself to be growing incapable of thought or feeling, condemned to die a living death mentally as well as bodily.  In order to test its progress it was that he inflicted these self-tortures.  He would call up the saddest and wildest scenes of his wild and disappointed life, wherewith to harrow his soul: the parting with the wife of his youth, whom he had loved with growing passion, and whom Peggy often reminded him of; the death of his wild kinsman; the desertion he had suffered; the evidence of baseness in the son he had reared; the terrible contrast between the power and promise of his youth, and the feebleness and helplessness of his age, from which had departed all strength and blessing, and love and honour.

    After he had looked at her a while, he broke the silence, saying, "You'll be leaving me some day, little one."

    Peggy started and drew nearer at the unusual speech.  Like all she did, the unconscious movement was quicker than speech in its expression of her thought.  She laid her head against his knee with a caressing touch.

    "You like me a little, I think," he said, laying a thin hand on her head, and speaking with the self-restraint of his race in matters of affection.

    "Oh, not a little, if you will only let me," cried Peggy, looking up in his face earnestly.

    Her more demonstrative nature craved for some utterance, and suffered from its repression.  At the same time it had too much depth to exhaust itself in the process, as shallow natures do.

    "No, no, little one, I don't want much from you," he answered, mournfully, "I did but waste what was mine, and I have nothing to give you in return.  No, no, I do not want too much from you.  You will leave me some day; if I go first, it's little enough you will have.  This place is all that's left of a wasted inheritance.  You'll give it, and your name some day, to a better man than ever owned either."

    "Dinna speak that way," said Peggy, weeping and taking to Scotch to express her emotion; "I'll never leave you!"

    Just then Joan entered with the silver candlesticks, and made the usual preparations for tea.  She left the door open and bustled in and out, and Peggy withdrew to a distance.  The smell of the trout came up from the kitchen; the little babble of meal-time talk began, and life seemed to divide itself in two.  Would there come a time to her, thought the eager-hearted girl, throbbing with all intense though vague emotion, when life would consist for the most part in caring for itself, and a dish of fish be more to her than beauty, and love, and joy?  Poor grandpapa!  Poor Jean!  Mournful and awful age!


 
CHAPTER XI.

REASONS FOR RETICENCE.


WHEN Archie and Sandie Grant parted reluctantly from Peggy and her new-found friend, instead of turning their faces steadily homeward, they began perversely to loiter by the way.  Archie took to whistling and thrashing the stream in a meaningless fashion, and Sandie pulled his book out of his pocket and began to read.  They knew it was high time to be home, for the last red streak had died out of the sky and from the river, and yet they lingered, and neither said one word to the other on the subject of their thoughts.  Star after star began to glimmer in the pools.  It was dusk among the trees, and the moths and bats were flitting and fluttering.

    "We're dreadful late," said Sandie, breaking silence at length, and looking full in his brother's face with a comical expression of chagrin.

    Archie burst out laughing.  He saw his own mood reflected there, and its ridiculous aspect struck him; the other smiled.  "Come on," he said, and with his hand on Sandie's shoulder quickened his pace.

    It seemed as though the brothers understood each other perfectly, without the help of words, for they reached home, walking very fast at last, without further colloquy.  The evening meal—a sort of heavy tea, to which the lads had been expected—had been long disposed of, and had not been suffered to remain on the table, in comfortable discomfort, as easy-going Mr. Grant suggested.  It had been duly cleared off, and had to be duly brought in again, with an amount of delay and trouble calculated to dismay and deter a delinquent.  This would have been the case had the delinquency extended to minutes instead of hours, as in the present instance.  It had been the doctor's own lot to realize the solemnity of such a meal, and Mrs. Grant had just been talking to him very seriously about the necessity for maintaining discipline in his family; but as the second edition of tea was ordered, he judiciously made his escape—certainly an unfair proceeding on his part.

    "What has kept you so late?" was their mother's greeting.  "We waited for you as long as we possibly could.  I wonder hunger did not drive you home.  I'm sure you're impatient enough when you're here.  It was anything but right," she added, in a tone of vexation, "for Peggy Oglivie to be out till this time, and I mean to tell her so."

    This little sentence, in the tail of her speech, carried the sting, as she meant it to do; but she was not quite prepared for the result.

    "Mother," said Archie, resentfully—more resentfully than ever she had heard one of her sweet-blooded lads speak in his life—"you're no right to say that; it was no blame of hers."

    "No!  If she bade you jump into Strathie Pool, and you were fool enough to get drowned for your pains, it would be no fault of hers."

    "Mother," interposed Sandie, mildly, but in an injured tone, "Peggy went home long ago, and we've been idling down the water all the time."

    At this point the doctor thought fit to re-enter, and make a diversion in order to restore the good humour of the party, never very difficult, under the most aggravated circumstances.  He did not know that it was more difficult than it had ever been before.

    "What have you been about, youngsters?" he said; "caught half the trout in the river, eh?"

    Amid unwonted and puzzling gloom, Sandie answered, "caught plenty, papa, but lost a salmon."

    "Ha! ha!" broke out the misled man, "lost a salmon! is that it? lost what ye never found.  Most men lose in that way, and think themselves ill used mortals enough.  He led you a pretty chase, I dare say," he added, willing to open the way for what seemed a valid excuse.

    "That wasn't what kept us," said scrupulous Sandie.  "Peggy hooked him, and he only took us on about half a mile, and then gave us the slip."

    The erratic doctor again departed, rubbing his hands, and not inclined for further investigation.  Mrs. Grant took up her needlework in silent displeasure, and the lads, notwithstanding the discomfort which they felt, fell to work voraciously on the oaten cake, the fresh butter, and newlaid eggs of the repast.  Not a word, however, was said about the stranger.

    After the meal came family worship, and nothing was ever discussed after that.  The doors were locked, and the household retired to rest.


 
CHAPTER XII.

A DULL PARTY.


UP in the big bare attic, which was their bedroom, study, and sanctum, the lads put out their candle, flaring in the light wind that came in, scent-laden, from the garden, and prepared to undress by the light of the moon.

    "I'm not a bit sleepy," said Archie, sitting down on the window-sill overlooking the garden.  "I would like to go out again.  Wouldn't it be glorious to hook a chap like yon in the moonlight, and run down with him—down, down all the way to the sea, and him turning up his silver sides in the shallows!"

    Archie's imagination was running away with him at a rapid rate.  "I could jump out here into the apple-tree," he went on, "and be down in a moment," and as if to suit the action to the word he swung his legs outside the casement.

    A great unrest had stirred and troubled the youth, and he was really not very far from acting on his sudden impulse and dropping into the garden below, when he must have wandered about all night or have taken the not very agreeable alternative of rousing the whole household, in order to get in again.

    "Archie, man, are ye daft?" (half mad, half foolish) cried his sober-minded brother; "that comes of whistling after prayers."

    "What's a fellow to do, if he daurna whistle, or even stretch himself straight?" said Archie, ruefully; at the same time bringing in his legs and rising till his head touched the ceiling.

    "Sleep on't," said Sandie, laconically.

    "I say, what for did ye say nothing about that gran' captain?" said Archie, who did not seem inclined to "sleep on't."

    "I waited for you to speak," replied his brother.

    "And I didn't because mother was so down upon Peggy.  If I had been her, I wouldn't have gone off with him, like yon though."

    "Like what?" said Sandie.

    "So ready like, as if she had known him all her life."  "He never speered (asked) her leave," retorted Sandie, becoming champion in his turn.

    "He looked down on us—that was plain enough."  "He thought we were only loons" (boys).

    This was the head and front of his offending evidently.

    "I would like to be a soldier," broke in Archie, abruptly.

    "You would do no such thing," replied his brother.  "How would you like to stand as straight as a poker, strapped up in stays and a stock, and no daurin to put one foot by the other till ye were ordered?  As for that Captain Oglivie, he's a puir pipeclay-faced creature, looking as if he would break in twa in the mids."

    Thus it came to pass that nothing whatever concerning Captain Oglivie transpired at the manse.  Archie and Sandie felt that Peggy's star was somehow not in the ascendant with their worthy mother, and they held their tongues about her, having once had their confidence checked.

    So, to the girl's great astonishment, not a word was said on the subject when she went over as usual to spend the Saturday afternoon with the minister's wife.  She had anticipated a perfect catechism, and though she did not expect to find it pleasant to be closely questioned when she knew so little, the absence of all comment chilled and disappointed her; moreover, she was made to feel that she had somehow incurred Mrs. Grant's displeasure.

    On these Saturday afternoons the manse garden had been the resort of the entire family, and the busy idleness which reigned there had been fully appreciated by Archie and Sandie, who had inherited the indolent temperament of their father; but on this particular Saturday, their mother had determined to drive them forth.

    "It's quite impossible for your father to study with such a clatter going on under his window," she had said.

    The doctor could not have been very intensely absorbed at the moment, for he thrust his red face and shiny head most opportunely out of the window and beamed upon them.

    "They're not disturbing me in the least, my dear," he said, addressing his wife.

    "My dear," replied the lady, "it's time that a stop were put to the idle habit of lying about here for a whole day;" and she pointed to Archie and Sandie, whose legs were certainly "lying about" in various directions, indicative of ease; while Peggy's position as she sketched, with a book on her lap, was not conducive to serious activity.  "You had better go and take a brisk walk," she added, turning to the lads, who had drawn in their legs a bit, "or take your books into the wood, and rouse yourselves to read, instead of lying there."

    "I'll go too," said Peggy, "and we'll really work."  She knew that it would be a considerable effort to her companions to rouse themselves, and she was anxious to help them to make it, as she had often done before.  The doctor began to rub his hands at the window, and to go through the process of washing his head.

    "I thought you had come to spend the afternoon with me," said Mrs. Grant, austerely.  "What is good for them is not necessarily good for yon," she added, slightly softening the asperity of her tone.

    Now, though Peggy was perfectly unconscious of any cause of offence, she was keenly sensitive; and the expression of her face was utterly beyond her control.  She felt the tone, indeed, more than the words.  The same words from the doctor would have had the effect of a pat on the cheek; from Mrs. Grant they fell like a rude blow, and the crimson rushed over her face in consequence, as if she had been guilty of the grossest fault.

    "Let the bairns have a holiday," interposed the doctor; "I feel restless myself this hot afternoon, and would like a walk in the wood;" and he actually flung himself out of the open window, exactly as Archie would have done; but with more detriment to his dignity.

    "Hot weather makes us ill-behaved: eh, Mistress Peggy!  Archie, run in for my hat!  Now come along."

    The last words were addressed to Peggy, who stood still, hesitating painfully.

    "Let me stay," she said, sweetly; but her sweetness was of no avail.

    "Oh no, you need not stay," was the reply, uttered with exceeding stiffness.  No nature that is not generous can always be just, in spite of the time-honoured maxim
which tells us to be just before we are generous.  Mrs. Grant at that moment was unjust to her husband, unjust to her sons, and most unjust to the innocent cause of their present misdemeanours.

    So the doctor marched off with Peggy, and the other two followed.  They did not go far, because of the heat.  They turned aside into the wood, and lay down in the shade, but their pleasure had sensibly decreased without any corresponding increase of work.  The doctor found his little party unusually dull.  The lads strolled away, and came back again and resumed their objectionable attitudes.  Peggy sketched in silence at the foot of a tree.

    At length they went in to tea, rather wearily.  Mrs, Grant still looked stately and displeased.  The doctor gently bade his sons withdraw for the purpose of study, and was gently obeyed; and earlier than usual Peggy took her leave.

    Mrs. Grant gave her husband to understand that she thought the young folks wanted looking after.

    "My dear wife," said he, "regulation is all very well in its way, but if you have to move the hands of your watch with your finger constantly, it will be of but little use to you.  The works must be in order—the moving-springs of conduct must be right within.  And I think with our two lads the works are in order, only they're a little slow.  As for Peggy, I see no fault in the lassie."

    "Dangerous! pooh, pooh, wife!  You can't keep the lads in your pocket.  As for her, she's in no danger from any such twelve feet of awkward bone and muscle."


 
CHAPTER XIII.

THE CAPTAIN ON HIS GOOD BEHAVIOUR.


CAPTAIN HORACE OGLIVIE had been brought up on expectations; about the worst fare on which any young soul can be fed.  Some of these expectations had come to pass, some had altogether failed, and some yet remained to be realized.  Among these last was the expectation that a goodly inheritance would sooner or later fall to him from the decay of the elder branch of his father's family.  His mother had nourished this expectation, as soon as the death of Sir Alexander and the hopeless condition of his heir was known to her.  She was a widow, and her son was dependent on her, and on sundry smaller expectations from her side of the house.  As a boy he had been delicate, and, in the hands of a weak and indulgent woman, self had become the centre of the universe to him.  He had got into debt more than once, and just at the right time had one of his expectations fallen due, and he had been extricated from his embarrassment by a windfall of a legacy.  It would have been better for him if he had been left to extricate himself, had that been possible, for he learnt to build his hopes on the extremity of others.

    Such was Horace Oglivie—no fool, but a man of considerable intellect and taste; of cold but elegant exterior; with a good deal of soft, superficial sentiment, but, in reality, hard as a flint.  Under another discipline he might possibly have been another sort of man.  It seemed conceivable that the flinty rock of selfishness might be fused by some ennobling passion, and turned into crystal in the fire.  Was there in him the possibility of such a passion?—that was the question.

    Having at present exhausted his resources, and nothing more falling in, he had come northward among his Scottish relations—his mother was an Englishwoman—to see how matters stood, to spy out the land, in fact.  The Oglivie inheritance was well worth looking after, having been in the hands of excellent trustees during the long minority which, of course, would continue during the lifetime of the present possessor.

    He had gone straight to head-quarters, and had met with a favourable reception from his elderly cousins.  Years were beginning somewhat to relax the rigidity of Margery Oglivie.  She was nearer to what she had been in her youth, in some respects, than she had been during those intervening years.  In the autumn of life, Nature seems to make a last effort to ripen and sweeten some characters of real worth, which have been hardened and soured by sunless gloom.  She was not going to make the mistake of driving away a friendly face, with the stamp of kindred upon it, as she thought she had driven away one whose brightness haunted her.  So Horace Oglivie's welcome at "the Forest House" was a good deal warmer than he deserved.

    It was an altogether new phase of life to which that gentleman was introduced, and many a mental shrug and grimace he made in accepting a share of it, even for the shortest possible tine.  It was utterly unpalatable to him in its narrowness, and rigidity, and gloom; and not without an element of horror and repulsiveness, from which he shrank physically as well as mentally.

    His stay would have been very short indeed, but that he fully comprehended the situation, and resolved to be upon his good behaviour.  A barren title would be his on the death of his wretched cousin, but for the goodwill of these old women, who appeared to him to be nearly as foolish as their brother.  They were bound to provide for him, no doubt; but people did not always do as much for Captain Oglivie as he considered they were bound to do: moreover, he could hardly take a hasty leave of them, as he had given as the reason for his visit the present unoccupied condition of his existence.

    He felt that Miss Margery was watching him keenly; but he did not guess how shrewdly.  He could feel her cold blue eyes on his face, as he sat opposite to her in that dreary dining-room, which she affected so much.  They glanced harmlessly enough from the handsome mask before her, where neither colour nor motion played; but he did not know what power they had to pierce the surface, or how vigilant was their scrutiny.

    To Miss Margery, Captain Oglivie was deferential, without a shade of obsequiousness; to her sister, he was confidential.  It was from the latter that he learnt the existence of Louis Oglivie's daughter—a fact of which he had been in ignorance.  Here, indeed, might be a formidable rival; nearness in point of situation might make up for his own greater nearness in point of relationship.

    He could make out very little from Miss Janet's narrative, save the regret of both the sisters that a pretty, timid child had fled from them in fear, which did not, all things considered, appear to him remarkable.  There was, he could see, a soreness about it in the woman's mind, which was quite as closely allied to kindness as to displeasure.  She had evidently been at pains to gather little bits of gossip about the girl—about her beauty, which was certainly exaggerated; and her sweetness and brightness, which were winning all who came near her.  He was partly reassured by the resentful tone in which Miss Margery spoke of Gilbert Oglivie, and all belonging to him; though, on the subject of the girl, on which he ventured to sound her, she maintained the grimmest silence.

    Toward the close of the week the captain's patience was quite exhausted, and he would have taken his departure; but it was not Miss Margery's intention to let him off so easily: she had not seen through him yet.  She felt very much inclined to like him.  She had a woman's quick appreciation of his good taste and good manners, and a proper degree of deference is always pleasing.

    When she first saw him, she could have found it in her heart to say, "So you're come to look after us, and see how long we're likely to keep you out of your own!" such was her shrewdness in guessing.  If she had spoken her mind, as she usually did, it was thus she would have spoken; but something, probably the softening influence that has been mentioned, restrained her, and she had not uttered the thought.  Now she urged his stay with a peremptoriness from which there was no escape, and he was obliged to postpone his departure indefinitely for the present.

    One change in their mode of life the sisters made: at each meal one or other of them joined their guest alone, each taking it in turn to act as their brother's keeper.  At other times their superintendence was less vigilant, though they seldom allowed him to be out of their sight.  He was to be seen wandering all about the place, muttering inarticulate sounds, and gathering up all the bits of paper and other rubbish which came in his way.  He set an especial value on any pieces of written paper, and had a magpie-like habit of concealing them about his person and his room.

    One morning that gentleman found himself first in the dining-room, when, turning to the window which stood open, he saw the very apparition that had frightened Peggy.  This time it did not retreat, but stood gibbering at him across the barrier.  An ugly frown of mingled disgust and impatience came upon the captain's face, and with an angry gesture he warned the idiot off.  The result was a hideous yell which rang through the house, and brought both the sisters to the spot.  Under their protection, the poor creature continued to make frantic demonstrations of dislike to the captain; while the latter found it impossible to conceal his repugnance and horror.

    At length the idiot's burst of passion ended in miserable weeping, and he was led away by Miss Janet, who exercised over him a more soothing influence than did his sister.

    A man of tender heart, as well as nervous susceptibility, would have been deeply moved to see the tall though stooping figure led away, weeping like a child, soothed by the foolish words women lavish upon infants.


 
CHAPTER XIV.

A PASTIME.


MISS MARGERY'S eye was on the captain; but, amid his evident pain, she could discern no trace of feeling for the unhappy cause of the unpleasant scene which had ushered in the peaceful, sunny Sunday morning.  She had not seen the expression and gesture which had created the disturbance; but she divined something very near the truth concerning it.

    "He will not do that if you show him kindness," she said, rather coldly.  "He is in the habit of doing it to any one he takes a dislike to—to servants who, we afterwards found, had made faces at him, or otherwise offended him,"

    "I fear I was startled by his sudden appearance," said the captain, with a great self-possession, adding, impolitically, "I wonder how you are able to manage him; would it not be better if you sent him away?"

    "Yes," said Margery Oglivie, in her hardest tone, and looking sternly at the young man: "hide him away! let the whole punishment fall on him—the innocent.  Horace Oglivie! if we try to escape the judgment of God in one way, it will reach us in another.  It will come in hard hearts and sinful lives, and that's worse than sorrowful ones.  My sister and I have lived under this sore burden the best part of our lives, and we are likely enough to die under it.  We've accepted the heavy punishment of the Almighty, for the evil lives of them that went before us, and he has been pleased to keep us back from their sins."

    Her words carried no sort of conviction of reasonableness to Horace Oglivie; but he bent his head with grave reverence while she was speaking; and it was with perfect truth that he intimated his respect for the feeling she had expressed.

    Still the captain felt that he had lost ground with his relative, and that to regain it he must be more upon his good behaviour than ever.

    "It's a mysterious dispensation," she continued, "that the wrath of the Almighty should fall upon the guiltless; but I'll take care that he does not suffer from the cruelty of men."

    Margery Oglivie knew that the sacrifice of her life had not been made for nothing, for even in those days the treatment given to such as her afflicted brother made their lives lives of suffering as well as of deprivation.  There were no such alleviations of their misfortune as the noble intellect and gentle heart of Dr. Conolly were about to devise.

    In due time the captain was under orders to attend Miss Margery to church—the sisters enjoying that privilege in turn.  It was not the church of Strathie which they frequented, though that was their parish kirk.  They had been brought up Episcopalians; but though there was a small chapel in the neighbourhood of Oglivie Castle, there was none near enough "the Forest House," and they had—or rather Miss Margery had—exercised the privilege of choice in the matter, and had selected the Presbyterian preacher most to their mind.  The church was distant a mile or two, on the other side of Delaube, and thither the captain was marched accordingly.

    When there, the captain could not help looking round upon the audience, and wondering what manner of men and women these might be.  There was one whom he noted particularly: a young man about his own age, whose face even he, fastidious as he was, pronounced strikingly handsome, only that, instead of being "sicklied o'er," it wore the livery of perfect health.  He found himself turning to this face, to read the effect of the sermon.  A grave, intellectual fervour sat there from beginning to end of it.

    By the time it was over Horace Oglivie was very uncomfortable.  "These people would drive me mad in no time," was his mental ejaculation.  He satisfied Miss Margery, unintentionally this time, with the gravity, not to say solemnity, of his demeanour.  Had she known of his discomfort, she would have been still better content, and have considered him in a very promising state of mind.  On the way back he quietly declined discussion, but showed that he fully appreciated the points of the preacher.

    But he also declined to accompany Miss Janet to the evening sederunt, which was the fashion at Mr. Keith's church, and broke through his bondage by wandering out at his will.

    For reasons of his own he had kept his recent interview with Peggy Oglivie to himself.  It would have been difficult to account to Miss Margery for that interview—impossible to disclose the motive which had led him to seek it: namely, to satisfy, himself as to what chance there existed of her cutting him out through near neighbourhood.

    He had not been greatly struck, or particularly charmed, by Peggy.  He thought her a nice little thing enough, but no great beauty; not likely at all to be dangerous by reason of spirit or worldly wisdom: on the whole, rather childish.  Still, he could not help wishing he might meet her.  He was wretchedly dull, and he wanted to speak to some one who was sane at least.  He could not help taking the way toward Delaube, "though doubtless," he thought, "the poor little thing is cooped up in one of these dreadful kirks."
 

    He wandered on in the direction he had before taken, crossed the stream and got into the wood of Delaube.  He was rewarded sooner than he had expected by catching a glimpse of a white dress among the trees.  He felt inspirited by the promised pastime, and sprang eagerly up the slope that still lay between them.  On a little platform, half-way up the hill, on which rose a separate grove of firs, Peggy sat at the foot of a tree.  She did look wonderfully like a mere pretty child in her frilled frock and clustering curls, as she came forward to meet him, for she had heard some one coming, and had looked out in the direction of his approach.

    He was really glad of this second chance meeting, and said so, frankly.  "I have followed the right track, after all," he said, "only I do not remember this particular spot."

    "No, we did not pass here the other night," she answered, and proceeded to point out the position of the place to him.

    They were at ease at once.  His assumption of a right to a friendly footing accomplished this.

    "Coming here is pleasanter than going to the kirk, at any rate," and he was proceeding to caricature the sermon of the morning, to avenge himself for the discomfort it had given him; but seeing the girl look grave, he desisted, and recounted the experience of the morning instead.

    Peggy had a very lively recollection of her own, and gave him ready sympathy.  She was certainly very winning, and it was a very pleasant pastime to sit there and see the admiration deepen in those clear eyes as he talked of himself, a theme of which he did not soon weary.  He hated the life of inaction to which the profession of a soldier in time of peace condemned him.  He wished he had been called to the bar, where he would have had an opportunity of distinguishing himself.  He enlarged his aspirations as his listener enlarged her belief in them, and, what is more, he believed in them himself.  That was certainly pleasant.  It was curious that, with a chit of a girl, evidently reared like a rustic, he should feel a greater amount of satisfaction with himself than he had ever done even in securing the flattery of a really fine woman.


 
CHAPTER XV.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.


IT being such a pleasant pastime to meet Peggy, Captain Oglivie found means to indulge it pretty freely, and Fortune, in the shape of Mrs. Grant, favoured him in this.  She contrived that by an exchange of churches, the family should enjoy the benefit of mountain air for a season; and she left Peggy somewhat chilled, through the process which is called "turning the cold shoulder," on the eve of their rather sudden departure.

    Peggy had frankly informed her new friend that she had not yet mentioned his name to her grandfather; upon which he had taken occasion to say that it was better not to do so, for the present; indeed, it would be better that his stay in the neighbourhood should not be mentioned at all.

    The girl had been brought up in the bracing atmosphere of freedom, not in the sickly air of constant surveillance exercised in some classes of society, which seems to take it for granted that if a girl goes out unattended she must get into mischief.  Anything like concealment was foreign to her; but she had been accustomed to consider her goings and comings of no moment to any one, and her childish confidences had been ruthlessly repressed.

    Still at first she longed for some one to confide in.  She could not have sat beside slightly ungenial Mrs. Grant had she been with her as usual, without speaking; and when she went away without giving her an opportunity for doing so, the girl found herself longing for her dead mother more intensely than she had ever done before.

    But she had to lead her life apart, always dangerous, and especially dangerous to the dreamer, who loses the power of testing the realities of things.  Any one with experience of life could have guessed how these meetings would end; and even rough but honest Jean, by simply awakening her to the truth, would have held her back; but there had already crept over her the fatal shy tenderness which shrunk from exposing itself to such an ordeal.

    So she met her cousin, as she now called him, almost daily, and her active life turned into a beautiful and bewitching dream.

    As for him, he took no thought for her.  Her evident liking for him was more and more gratifying.  She made his life down there quite endurable, flavouring it with a spice of adventure besides.  She was growing prettier every day, blooming like a wild rose, with a child-like, flower-like grace.  She was very good and very happy: he was really getting very fond of her.  What could a kiss or two matter; or a longer look into the eyes that drooped under his ever more and more tenderly; or a more thrilling pressure of the little hand, that lingered in his own ever more and more lovingly?  If he had searched his heart he might have found there a latent suspicion that he was a great rascal; but then he would have consoled himself by thinking that she was a little fool, if she broke her heart.

    The late summer of the north was still at its height, though the August moon was at the fall, and the evenings were shortening rapidly.  Captain Oglivie's stay had come to an end at last.  His mother required—so he said—his presence in England.  He was to say good-bye in in the little wood by moonlight.

    It was not at all an unusual thing for her to steal out into the moonlight, beyond the precincts of the garden.  Jean did not deign to notice a proceeding so foolish.  What good any mortal could get wandering among black ghostly trees, soughing (the sigh of the wind in a tree) ad creakin', she could not comprehend.  The night air was unwholesome, and though she had parted with a hereditary belief in witches and warlocks, she still felt that it was "no quite cannie"—not altogether safe, in fact.

    And when her young mistress came back through the kitchen, with her face a little paler, as if it had drunk the moonlight, Jean would forbear remark till she was gone.  When she would say to Tammas, "She's a strange lassie; she aye looks as if she had been sayin' her prayers when she comes in that gate, and I dinna like to speak, but it's no like a Christian to gang out there, instead o' sayin' them at her ain bedside."

    "Ay, ay!" Tammas would answer, "let her alane; we're a set o' godless auld folk, and she'll, maybe, bring a blessing on us."

    The moon was up, and Peggy went out by the garden gate and made her way to the Horse-shoe Clump.  Once or twice she stood still; a sigh rose among the trees and died away again.  It seemed as of a wind that came from nowhere, or rather like the breathing of the trees themselves.  There was a sense of mystery among them; a feeling not of daylight loneliness, but of mysterious companionship,—a feeling which most people sedulously shut their doors against, closing their shutters and lighting their lamps to keep out its strange illusions.

    But instead of shutting it out, Peggy Oglivie threw open her whole soul to its influence.  The feeling has nothing of romance in it.  She was not a romantic; she had a keen dislike to the sentimental.  She was not superstitious; superstition is only a degradation of it.  It had come to her even in the daylight, a kind of second sight, a seeing of things in their essential beauty and glory.

    It was upon her to-night.  There stood the clump, every tree and pillar of ebony overarched by fretwork of silver.  Through the fretted roof the moonlight fell upon the ground in fantastic patterns.  She crossed them with her shadow, and another shadow fell there without startling her.  She felt a little shiver, such as she imagined the trees feeling when a shower of moonlight streamed upon them, as the figure came into the light.

    Some dry twigs crackled under her feet, and Horace Oglivie started from his leaning posture and advanced to meet her.  She was coming along a track of moonlight.  A soft black hood surrounded her face, which was altogether pale, and did not show as by day the soft wild rose and the browning of the summer sun.  It was really pale with the exaltation of her mood, and not only with the effect of the light.

    She loosened her hand from her dark cloak as she came near, and it fell away, and let the rays stream down her dress and clothe her in white.  He took her hand in silence.  He had never seen her look like this.  He had intended to part warmly and gallantly, and he felt at once that it would be a graver matter than he wished.  The cold little hand that rested in his awed him.  He dared not carry it to his lips.

    "I am ready to believe in fairies here," he said, in a low tone, "and to think that you are one of them: you have a kind of glimmer over you."  (Jean would have called it glamour, which means witchery besides.)

    "It is the way of the wood," said the girl, smiling, and also speaking low.  She looked mistress of the ceremonies as she spoke.

    Horace Oglivie felt rather uncomfortable.  He tried another jest about the ghostliness of the place, but she did not laugh; she could not have done anything so out of sympathy with the solemn beauty of the scene.

    For him, he had come to enjoy a parting interview with a pretty girl whom he almost loved, and over whom he felt he had considerable power.  But this was a creature over whom he had no power at all, a creature of another sphere.  This was not the laughing, blushing girl of yesterday; and, strangely lovely as she looked, he was disappointed, and hardly knew what to say.

    He had no power over her, but her own dream had power.  It held her spell-bound.  She did not heed his silence; his presence was enough.  She could not discern that they two, walking there side by side, were walking in different worlds, so far apart that neither by voice nor touch was the one within reach of the other.

    They walked round the platform for some time in a silence which Horace Oglivie felt to be oppressive, all the more oppressive that he vainly tried to break through it into a vein of either sentiment or gaiety.  They turned, and came again into the centre of the clump: the moon fully illuminated it.  Peggy pointed to what she had called the window of her chapel; it was a perfect Gothic work of ebony and silver.

    "It is very like a chapel," he said.  "What a delightful place to get married in, according to the Scotch system!"  In utter recklessness he stood by her side, and took her unresisting hand, saying, with mock solemnity, "I, Horace Oglivie, take thee, Margaret Oglivie, to be my wedded wife."

    "That is enough, you know, in Scotland, to bind us together for life," he added, in a tone of tenderness.  The next minute, the girl was weeping on his breast.

    What could he do but soothe her, as he led her homeward, with promises of affection, false enough to her hope as they were;—but tell her, vainly enough, he might have known, to think as little as she could him in the meantime, and to look forward to his return sooner or later?  As he parted from her at the garden gate, which was the exit from her short-lived paradise, that latent suspicion which has been indicated did rise in his heart, and he did try to console himself with the thought, that she was, after all, a little fool.


 
CHAPTER XVI.

THE MUSIC OF THE PINES.


THEY were not bitter tears that Peggy Oglivie had wept at that last interview with her cousin; they had little of the anguish of parting in them.  They had, in truth, more of tenderness than trouble in their flow.  Neither doubt nor misgiving entered into her mind with regard to the captain's sincerity.  The natural language of love had never been falsified to her, as it is to some, in wanton folly, or worse, and she did not question the truth it conveyed in look and touch and tone.  No warning voice had ever whispered in her ears concerning the faithlessness of man.

    She sat in the wood, in her chosen haunt, day after day, when he was gone, feeding her heart on the remembered sweetness of his presence, till her life lapsed into a dream; and the music of the wood wore itself into her dream, and floated her away, on its sighing waves of sound, farther and farther from the actual world.

    A look came into the girl's face which made Jean more than once ask her what she was listening for; and when, standing looking down among the trees, she answered, with a smile, "The music of the pines," the old woman gave a grunt of disapprobation, and added, "Ye look just as if ye expected somebody."

    Jean was a shrewd observer.  Peggy might have answered truly that she expected nobody, but there was expectation at the bottom of her heart, the awakened expectation of eventful life, the expectation of something not anything in particular, but something to happen; and when she listened to the music of the pines it was with a vague yearning for some message from the future.  Sometimes through their soft sighing murmurs of content there went something like a wail of lamentation.  By habit and by nature the solitary girl was a dreamer.  But it is a mistake to suppose that the dreamer is always weak, and, lapped in unreality, loses the power of sober action.  There is a power in dreams, not only to lift the dreamers out of the actual present—which may be a doubtful gain—but to get themselves realized in the future.  The dream in which man or woman lives is usually richer, nobler, and sweeter than the life in which he or she moves; for who, with the unlimited power of choice which dreamland offers, would choose the poor, the mean, and the bitter?  Of itself, it will tend to enrich and ennoble and sweeten the actual life, and if the active powers are equal to the task, they will consciously and unconsciously strive to assimilate the lower to the higher.  If not, the individual is all the better for his unsubstantial happiness; the world none the worse.

    But for a time the dream suffices for itself.  And so it was with Peggy Oglivie.  She did not even long for the presence of her lover—was he not with her always? she had but to close her eyes, with the murmur of the wood about her, to be visited by his look, his smile grown more radiant and more tender in that "light that never was on sea or land," though to her it seemed only that of a summer moon.  Would the time come when it would "fade into the light of common day?"—would there be an awakening, which might turn the dream into a torment of self-pity and self-scorn?

    So the days went past, some of them wet and windy, though harvest-time was drawing near.  And the summer had been brief, for the spring was late and cold, only it had been very bright while it lasted.  Jean heard from the kirk-door gossip that the Grants were coming back at last.  They had already long exceeded their purposed stay.  The truth was, the more inclination the two youngsters showed to get home again, the more determined was their mother that they should remain where they were.  They read and roamed with their father, or roamed and did not read; and enjoyed themselves, truth to tell, more or less.  Archie was troubled, now and then, with a longing to leap out of his bedroom window and take a moonlight march across the country—it was only some thirty miles to Delaube, but prudence and Sandie, and a love of sound sleep, prevailed to the contrary.

    Both Sandie and Archie, however, openly rebelled against the proposal that they should go up to town without returning home, in order to begin their studies before the ensuing session, and make a little way by means of thorough preparation under the direction of a friend of their father's.  Accordingly, a compromise was effected, at which they could not murmur, when they were duly reminded of the idleness which made extra exertion necessary.  They were to spend three days at home, when Mrs. Grant, who had business to transact there, would herself accompany them to town.

    It was the afternoon of Saturday before they reached the manse, and as they were to leave on the afternoon of Monday, it appeared that the three days would be very short indeed.  Nothing is so favourable to mental explosions as hurry, it exercises the requisite amount of compression, without which the fumes of love or folly would quietly escape.  The encroachment on these three days caused our heroes to explode—happily, only in mutual confidences,

    On the evening before their return they had climbed the summit of a hill, to watch the sun go down.  Not a creature was in sight, except two horses that stood on the edge of a cliff, the one a head in advance of the other, listening with all their might.  The brothers lay on their backs, looking at the world upside down, as it were—a process that has its advantages, in imparting new views of things.  What they saw was a heaving multitude of hill-tops, swimming in a blood red sky.  Down behind some black bars went around sun, and gradually sunk from sight into a second chaos.  It was a startling, not a soothing, sunset.

    Archie was the first to jump to his feet.  "Come along, old boy," he said; "we'll be late again, only little Peg can't get the blame to-night, so it doesn't matter so much."

    "We won't see much more of her this time," said Sandie.

    "Mother might have asked her up here for a week," murmured Archie.

    "She thinks we waste our time," returned Sandie.

    "If it hadn't been for her," said Archie, vaulting over a huge stone in the descent, "I would have cut the college, and run away to sea.  I'll, maybe, do it yet."

    "Do you mean that you care that much for her?" said Sandie, with a look into his brother's face which made the latter exclaim, instead of answering, "And you too!" which meant a hinging back of the question already answered.  "She would never look at me," said Sandie, despondingly, "so it doesn't matter."

    "Try," said his brother.

    Sandie shook his head.  "Try you."

    "I would like well enough to leave the country and make my fortune abroad," said Archie, "if they," indicating the abode of his father and mother, "would give consent.  I would come back as rich as a Jew, and as yellow as a guinea, and leave my money to you and Peg."

    They said nothing more then.  As usual, they seemed to understand each other.

    So it had come to this; and here were Mrs. Grant's worst fears realized, her utmost precautions justified, and vain.

    It was somewhat late on Saturday before any opportunity for action occurred to Archie, who had set his mind on something active—he hardly knew what.  He knew by that time that unless he made it for himself, he would not have an opportunity of even saying good-bye, except in his mother's presence.

    What he would ask of Peggy he did not well know except that she should remain at his disposal till he was ready for her.  He had vigorous twinges of self-reproach, at taking—though Sandie had resolutely refused—the first chance; and, finally, he almost made up his mind to speak for his brother, instead of for himself.

    Thus it came to pass that in the evening the brothers set out together, and that when they reached. the river where it could be crossed into the wood at the foot of Delaube, Archie took the way over, while Sandie marched, a rather rueful sentinel, on the other side.

    Archie had not long been gone when Dr. Grant made his appearance, and came up to Sandie as he paced along.  It was such an unusual thing to find the one apart from the other, that, very naturally, the doctor asked, "Where is Archie?"

    "He's gone to speak to Peggy," said that ingenuous youth, with some hesitation, and blushing all over.

    "What's he got to say to her?" asked his father, with a penetrating glance, and an elevation of the eyebrows, in which there was some wonder, and no little perplexity.

    Even to equivocate was beyond Sandie's power, so he answered, simply, "To say good-bye."

    "And why don't you go and say good-bye too?" was the very obvious rejoinder.

    Sandie preserved total silence, and the man was too delicate,—-with a delicacy rare in the relationship of father and son—to press the youth further.

    But that it would have involved his brother, whose confession he had no right to make, the doctor would have been rewarded on the spot by a complete revelation of his son's sentiments.  As it was, Sandie resolved to urge his brother to make a clean breast of it at the earliest opportunity.

    "I don't think I'll ever do any good at college," he said, dolefully.

    His father was sorely perplexed at this new phase of things.  He drew his son's arm within his own and walked with him, speaking encouragement in the vague way in which that stimulant is usually applied.  "Of course," he added, "if you find that it is impossible for you to succeed in the career we would choose for you, a change must be made; but it will be a great disappointment to your mother and me."

    With this Dr. Grant shook his son's hand and left him, saying as he departed, "Whatever lot they choose, I hope and believe that my sons will be always honourable, upright, and sincere."

    And Sandie, as he looks after him, thinks it will go hard with him indeed if he disappoints his father in that.

    No long time elapsed before his brother again appeared; striding down to the river-side.  A dozen dextrous leaps, and he was at his side.

    Almost before he reached the shore Sandie had communicated the intelligence of his meeting with his father.  "Let's tell him as soon as we get home," he added.

    "Tell him what?" said Archie, provokingly; "there's nothing to tell."

    "Ye haven't seen her?"

    "I'll tell you what it is, Sandie: it's big nonsense.  I stood still in the middle o' the wood, to think what I would say, and I saw her sittin' there; but she looked ever so far away, and the very trees in the wood seemed laughin' at me.  I was glad she never noticed me, and I stole away again without once lookin' back.  It's your turn, next time."

    "Fair play's a jewel," said Sandie, laughing; "but I'll wait a bit and work a bit, first."

    "Let's go in for a regular burst of hard work," rejoined Archie, beginning at once by starting homeward at a rapid pace.


 
CHAPTER XVII.

A SCOTCH COMMUNION.


WELL, have you said good bye?" asked Dr. Grant, addressing Archie, as his sons entered the sitting-room, Mrs. Grant looking on severely.

    "No," answered he, making a desperate effort; "it's time enough on Sunday."

    The doctor was rather more perplexed than before; the doctor's wife rather more severe.  "I thought they were going over to Burnside with you tomorrow," she said, addressing her husband.

    "Oh, ay, I forgot.  I should like you to go," he said, turning to the pair, "but not if you prefer staying at home with your mother.  I am going to assist Mr. Keith."

    Mrs. Grant thought they ought to go, but was surprised at the readiness with which they accepted the proposal, and, inconsistently enough, rather vexed thereby, though she wished them out of the way on that particular Sunday, when she had made up her mind to take Peggy to task, after a motherly fashion, for suffering idle young men like her sons to dangle after her.

    But in this she was doomed to disappointment, for on Sunday, when she occupied her pew in solitary state, Peggy did not put in her appearance at Strathie kirk.

    The pulpit there had been filled for several Sundays past by "probationers"—young men licensed to preach, but not yet ordained to any charge; and the flock, not expecting much from such inexperienced guides, took the liberty of wandering, in the absence of their proper pastor.

    Mr. Keith's praises were in the mouths of the more serious portion of the congregation, and Jean expressed a desire to hear him.  As for Peggy, ever since Captain Oglivie had spoken of him in terms of admiration, she had longed to listen to his gloomy eloquence; but she had felt that it would be impossible to gratify her wish so long as there was a chance of meeting her cousin there in the company of her long-estranged and unrelenting relatives.  Now, she was eager in seconding Jean's desire.

    It was the half-yearly communion at Burnside.  In the country kirks of Scotland this is held at different seasons, in order to allow the necessary assistance of neighbouring ministers to be obtained.  It also affords an opportunity for those who desire to "communicate" more frequently, to do so.

    The kirk of Burnside had originally stood solitary, in the midst of its kirkyard, by the side of a bright little "burn," or stream, that ran into the Strathie.  The old village had been but a row of thatched cottages; but, with the rise of a new industry, a new Burnside had grown up, and stretched out till it lay half in the adjoining parish of Strathie, forming a kind of debatable land between the two ministers.

    The print-works stood a little beyond the village, at the bottom of the strath, and drew its workers from both places, and from the scattered houses of the poor for miles on every side.  Burnside was, however, their head-quarters, where, at the sound of the early bell, men, women, and children hurried out into the chill, wet darkness, or the rosy, pearly dawn, for a couple of hours' work before breakfast, to which they would return with rare appetite and relish for the smoking porridge, which awaited them on every thrifty board.  Many a poor pair, to whom it was a heartbreak to send their lassie out from the door of their moorland cot in the storm and the darkness for a three miles' walk to the works, with her little can of milk and her little bag of meal for the whole day's fare, coveted one of the snug "tiled hooses" of Burnside.

    The pastoral care of the soils of the dwellers in that favoured place was divided, as has been said, between the two ministers, but the bulk of the workpeople preferred the ministrations of Mr. Keith.  Perhaps his gloomy doctrine appealed more strongly to the stern experiences of the lives of the poor.

    The smallness of Mr. Keith's kirk saved it from extreme ugliness.  It was a mere barn in shape, and utterly destitute of ornament, except what Nature had achieved by means of moss and ivy without; and within, its unpretending poverty made, perhaps, a loftier appeal to the imagination than earthly grandeur could have done.

    On the present occasion, and on all such occasions, the central area of the little church underwent a change.  Several rows of benches in front of the pulpit were turned into tables, with seats on each side, and covered with clean linen, white and pure as snow.  Close under the pulpit was similarly arrayed a smaller table, for the elders of the congregation and the officiating ministers.  The rest of the area was set apart for "members," while the "sitters," including all the younger portion of the congregation, were banished for the day to the little wooden gallery.  Early communion, as a rule, is not encouraged in the kirk of Scotland.

    Jean was an old woman, but she had never "come to the table," so it was to this little gallery that she and her young mistress repaired, and it was there that Archie and Sandie Grant likewise seated themselves.

    Mr. Keith chose for his text a passage from the Song of Solomon.  Addressing himself to believers only, he led them, in a sort of ecstatic rhapsody, to meditate on the entrancing mysteries of divine communion.

    At length the sermon (and also the forenoon) was over, yet, no one stirred.  There had been some little restlessness among the youngsters in the gallery, and some of the very little ones had been removed; but now all was still.

    The day was grey, with broken gleams of sunshine, and the face of the minister darkened and lightened upon the breathless people.  He had come down from the pulpit, and was what is called "fencing the table"—that is, defending it from the approach of those who are living in unbelief and sin.

    One woman rose and hurried trembling away; and such was the power of the preacher that those in his immediate presence could not have told who was the owner of that stricken conscience.

    Meanwhile the elders—grave, white-haired men for the most part—had been noiselessly collecting the "tokens"—small metal tickets distributed to the intending communicants during the previous week, as tokens of their title to be partakers of the sacraments, and which may be withheld at the discretion of the minister or elder of whom they are sought.

    At the close of the address takes place what, in England, would be called the consecration, but which is only a rehearsal of the institution of the sacrament, which the officiating minister does not receive himself, but hands to the elders and assisting clergymen, one of whom will serve him in his turn.  The bread and cup are then carried by the elders to the people seated at the tables, and the bread is broken and the cup is passed from hand to hand.  While this proceeded the silence was intense.  The youngest child in the little kirk seemed to hold its breath.

    When all were served who sat at the tables, they were dismissed with a fervent exhortation to a life worthy of their profession, and with a solemn warning of the tenfold condemnation incurred by the unworthy.  Mr. Keith then gave out the 103rd Psalm.

    It was between four and five in the afternoon before the congregation was duly dismissed, though some had gone away at the close of each table service.  Those who had remained throughout the day were faint when thus released, not so much with fasting as with the sustained emotion.

    Among these, though but a spectator of the solemnity, was Peggy Oglivie.  The colour had fled from her face, and she looked, as Jean said, "dazed"—that is, like one who has looked on the sun, or some intolerable brightness, till dazzled almost to blindness.

    Various little groups were gathered in the churchyard to exchange greetings in a subdued manner, and Jean, who had also remained all day, was engaged in this way, when the two Grants came up to Peggy.  They had, it is true, availed themselves of an interval to stretch their long limbs in the kirkyard, but they, too, had been attentive and reverent on-lookers, and their mood was grave and earnest.

    "We're off to-morrow, Peggy," said Archie; "won't you say good-bye?"

    She had not quite comprehended, as she knew nothing of the arrangement which had been made for them, and had failed to hold out her hand a second time for the youth's farewell grasp.

    "We winna see you again till next simmer," said Sandie, speaking Scotch, as every Scottish person is apt to do when feeling is uppermost, and be explained the plan chalked out for them.

    Peggy gave a hand to each in turn.  "And you're going to work hard and make up for loss of time?" she said, appealingly.

    "I promise you that," Said Archie, eagerly; whereupon they shook hands again.

    "No rash promises, Archie," said his father, coming up behind the group, and laying his hand on his son's shoulder and then holding it out affectionately to Peggy.

    "I was only promising to stick to work," replied Archie; "and I mean to do it."

    Mr. Keith, a younger man, stood beside and smiled, and the former invited the little group to come into the manse and partake of some refreshment.

    Upon this the doctor gave Peggy a formal introduction to both.

    "You must be exhausted," said Mr. Keith, holding her hand, "for you have not stirred since morning, and rest and refreshment are needful for the body."

    The grave tenderness of the voice touched her, drew her to the man, and she would gladly have accepted the offer, but there stood Jean waiting, and at home her grandfather would be waiting too, so she declined, with a grateful look, and said truly that she was not weary.  She was in that condition in which bodily want and weariness is, for the time, unfelt.

    So there was another round of handshaking, in which Archie and Sandie came in for a share.  They were in grave company, and did not speak again, but the three companions looked wistfully at one another, parting with one another, and with their happy youth—for somehow, standing there, the knowledge came to them that they were so parting.

    "Good-bye again," Peggy murmured, her eyes filling with tears.  "You won't forget your promise?" and she left the group looking after her, Mr. Keith presently asking who she was.

    "A great favourite of mine," answered the doctor; "a pet and plaything, who has, all of a sudden, grown into a woman."

    "And a woman of the inspiring order," said Mr. Keith.  "I mean," he explained, "one who inspires a man to the love of things beyond and above herself."

    "That's just her," said Archie, impulsively.  "You never think about her till you're away from her."

    Mr. Keith and their father smiled as they moved away.  Mr. Haldane stood beside the lads, and raised his hat and bowed when Peggy looked back towards them from the churchyard gate.

    "That's young Haldane," said Jean; "I can tell by the set o' his head.  Just like his uncle, and I knew him well in my young days."



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