Peggy Oglivie (5)

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CHAPTER XXXIII.

DEALING WITH WOMEN.


THERE was a certain revulsion of feeling in the heart of Margery Oglivie when she came to believe that her distrust of Horace had been unjust.  She, at least, had no faith in instincts, except in such as were wholly evil; as, indeed, were all the natural propensities of man, according to her belief.  When the wet and woe-begone figure of her poor brother had fled past her into the house, she had been ready to accuse the captain of the mischief that had been done, whatever its nature or extent might be.  She had no means of knowing that her brother had been exposed to danger; but she could see that he had suffered violence, and against the inflictor of that violence her heart had been hot.  She had already sent the poor creature to bed when the other two arrived, and it fell to Captain Oglivie to relate to her what had happened; for Peggy had suddenly fallen into her arms, sobbed out a few incoherent words, and hurried off to her own room.

    To do him justice, Horace Oglivie had related the simple truth of the story, as far as others were concerned; his own part in it had been more passive than active.  But at length Margery, noticing his dripping garments, had exclaimed, "Why, you have been in the water too!" and he had owned, with seeming reluctance, that he had helped to drag Sir Alexander out of the river.

    Afterwards, Peggy had said the same thing in nearly the same words, and had made so little mention of David Haldane, that Margery had very naturally come to the conclusion that Horace Oglivie had taken an active part in rescuing his witless cousin from self-destruction.

    Peggy had not been able to come down again that evening.  Margery was engaged in nursing her brother, and Captain Oglivie had had the long, dismal dining room all to himself.  There he had been so wretchedly uncomfortable—"the whole thing," he had said to himself, "was so nightmarish"—that he had better get away as fast as possible.  But his jealousy had been roused, and it was a much keener incentive to pursuit than the still somewhat distant prospect of the Oglivie inheritance.  It was not vulgar avarice that filled his heart with its selfish craving to enter into other people's possessions; it was desire for the good things of the world, for freedom and ease, and more or less refined enjoyment.  Peggy, penniless, had been one of the good things beyond his reach; Peggy, with a fortune, was something to be won.  But Peggy with a fortune, nearly won, and about to be lost, and to slip into another man's hands, was something to be secured at all hazards.  He resolved, therefore, to give her no chance of escape.  The mouse was not to be allowed to play any longer.

    Margery was present when they met at breakfast on the morrow.  Horace Oglivie put on the air of an injured man; he could see at a glance that Peggy was very ill at ease.  There was little said on the subject of yesterday's event, especially as its issue was doubtful.  Poor Sir Alexander was alarmingly ill.  The shock and chill had fevered the sickly frame, and it seemed already more than likely that the river might prove fatal to him after all.

    There were three letters that morning—two for Captain Oglivie and one for Miss Oglivie.  Concerning the latter there rose a little dispute as to who it was intended for; but Peggy, declaring that she had no correspondents in Bleaktown—nor, for that matter, anywhere else, handed it over to the elder lady.

    "This is for you, not for me," said Margery, at last, handing it back again; not, however, till she had made herself acquainted with its contents.

    It was the notification from the lawyer that Delaube had passed into other hands, and must be vacated forthwith.

    "What does it mean?" said Peggy, in painful bewilderment.

    "May I see the letter?" asked the captain, laying aside his injured tone.

    She put it into his hands.  "Can it be true?" she said, when he raised his head from the perusal of it.

    "I see no reason to doubt it," he answered.

    "But I am sure my grandfather did not know."

    "He must have forgotten," said the captain.

    She folded her hands, and sat for a few minutes quite motionless, looking straight before her into vacancy.  She was realizing her new position of homelessness and dependence.  "It is very hard to bear," she murmured,

    "There are harder things to be borne," said Margery, in an unsympathizing tone, which had the effect of checking the coming tears.  But the hardness of the tone came not so much from want of sympathy as from the keenness with which the speaker felt the truth she told herself: that the girl did not like the thought of dependence upon her.  It is never hard to be dependent on those we love.

    "If you only knew how I love the place!" Peggy said, in appeal.  "I have been so very happy there!"

    "I don't see what there was to make you happy," answered Margery.  She would have added, had she uttered all her mind, "You ought much rather to have been miserable."

    And neither could Peggy see any ground for happiness at that moment, for the gladness had been all her own, except what had come with the sunshine, and the breezes, and the birds.

    What was to be done was the next consideration; and Horace Oglivie had proposed, and Margery had seconded the proposal, that he should go into Bleaktown and call upon the lawyer that very day, when a gentleman wishing to see Captain Oglivie on business was announced.
 

One of the captain's letters that morning was a
request that he should take up a little bill, which
he had intended to renew

    One of the captain's letters that morning was from his mother; the other missive was of a much less pleasant nature: it was a request that he should take up a little bill, which he had intended to renew, and which ran its course at the end of the current month.  At that moment he had no more money in hand than would suffice to meet his expenses—the bare necessary expenses of his gentlemanly existence.

    A gentleman waiting to see him on business!  The gallant captain's heart sank within him.  He had no business on earth, save the getting and spending of money, and as he had none to get he concluded that the business related to that which had been spent, which is generally an unpleasant business.  In a word, he feared that one of his creditors had come down upon him, through an agent in that part of the country.  The thought flashed into his mind, as he once more read the reminder about his bill, that he might make a clean breast of it, and get Margery to assist him.  "She is not so hard as she looks," was his reflection, as he rose and went to meet the stranger, who had been shown into the drawing-room, and awaited him there.

    The clerk sent down by Mr. Haldane's agent had not expected any difficulty in executing the task assigned to him.  He had not anticipated having to take possession by main force, and he was therefore not prepared for the rather rude reception accorded to him by Jean.  He had been about to go to Mr. Haldane to complain of the obstruction, when he thought that perhaps, after all, it was only the ignorant opposition of a servant, and that he would find the mistress more reasonable; so he had spent the afternoon in enjoying himself in the neighbourhood, and the evening in enjoying himself at the inn; and in the course of these proceedings he had learned that Miss Oglivie might be considered a minor, and that a male relation was at present staying at the Forest House, under the same roof with her.  To him, therefore, he resolved to go.  "For," he said to himself, "it's no use dealing with women."

    This was the gentleman who had waited upon Captain Oglivie, and who certainly found him much easier to deal with than honest Jean.  The captain was, in fact, particularly gracious, as soon as his apprehensions as to the character of the visitor were removed.  He assured him that Miss Oglivie was not in the least responsible for the reception he had met with; that no obstruction whatever should be offered to him; but that it would be necessary, on Miss Oglivie's behalf, to examine the papers connected with the transaction, of which the family of Gilbert Oglivie had remained in ignorance.  The result of the conference, therefore, was that Captain Oglivie promised to come into town and examine the papers, and to come armed with the necessary authority to settle the matter.  With this the emissary was obliged to content himself.

    "May I know who is the purchaser of the property?" said the captain, as his visitor was about to depart.

    "It is not with him you have to deal," was the answer; "but, under the circumstances, perhaps, I had better tell you.  It is Mr. Haldane, of the print-works here; a highly respectable man.  You will find it is all right, sir, unless"—he hesitated—"unless you have any suspicion of forgery."

    The captain only smiled, and said, "I have no suspicion whatever," and bowed the man politely from the room.

    Then he returned to the two ladies, and repeated to them the substance of his interview; at the same time expressing a hope that he might be allowed to take the affair into his own hands, and save Miss Oglivie all trouble and anxiety in it.

    "Certainly; it is very kind of you," said Margery, answering for Peggy.

    "It is very kind of you," echoed the latter, not knowing what else to say.

    So Captain Oglivie took Peggy's affairs into his own hands; that the gentlemen concerned might not be driven to their wits' end, dealing with women.

    "I wouldn't wonder if he had forged his father's name," said Margery, when Peggy had gone out of the room.  She was going over to Delaube, without loss of time, to prepare herself, as well as her old servants, for the worst.

    "Who? her father!" said Horace Oglivie.  It was the second time the idea of forgery had been mooted to him.  "It is very unpleasant," he added; "but if it were so, I don't suppose we could do anything."

    "Nothing," she replied.


 
CHAPTER XXXIV.

UNDERSTANDING IT ALL.


THE Grants were coming home with flying colours.  There was no need for them to remain and read after the session closed this year.  They had really worked hard, for the first time in their lives, and it didn't seem to agree with them.  They were longer and lanker than ever; they were somewhat pale, too, and had lost the last vestige of their boyhood.  They were carefully-attired young men, who evidently visited the barber, and paid some little attention to the tailor.

    It was a lovely April day, and no one could be induced to go inside the coach on the pretty bit of road between Bleaktown and Strathie.  Everybody insisted on a seat on the roof.  Three jovial old gentlemen, of whom the fattest was placed in the middle, because of his tendency to somnolency; a newly-married pair, distinctly recognisable, but who thought it quite marvellous that the jovial old gentlemen should know all about it, and begin to poke the mildest of fun at them, in the matter of sitting together—these and various units of society, climbed to their seats.  Among them Archie and Sandie Grant.  Sandie had an outside seat on the box, and Archie had one immediately behind him, with an air-cushion for his feet, he said, as his long legs, as much in the way as ever, dangled over the side of the coach.  It was a capital place for him, for it allowed him to pour an uninterrupted stream of nonsense into his brother's ear.  He had nick-named the fat old gentleman "Centre of Gravity:" unfortunately, he was on the top of the coach, instead of at the bottom of it, where he ought to have been.

    They had rolled along, top-heavy as they were, till the Grants were getting near the end of their journey.  There was no Peggy to hail them this time from the little hill.  Their mother had duly kept them informed of all the doings at Delaube; therefore, they knew that she would not be there to meet them; but they were looking none the less eagerly for some familiar sight or scene, at every turn of the road.  It was a very rough road, with many ups and downs—a bank here and a brae there; near the bed of the river strewn with great stones, and on its higher levels with blocks of granite, showing their teeth through the sod.

    They were passing a comparatively easy bit, and getting quickly over the ground.  The coachman was choking, somewhere under his huge cravat, at Archie as he rattled on behind his ear.  Suddenly the leader stumbled and started aside, and the heavy coach gave a great lurch over to the left.  It righted again in an instant, but not till three of the passengers found themselves standing, and one found himself sitting, on the turf at the side of the road, regarding the world around them with wonderfully scared faces.

    The young bride was in her husband's arms, not very sure whether she would like to laugh or to cry, and the fat old gentleman was seated on his right-hand crony's knee, who, being a very small man, was nearly annihilated under the burden.

    At the moment when the coach lurched, the four who occupied the outside seats on the left, had, as by one impulse, leapt clean off their seats; while the next row had instinctively thrown themselves towards the right side, and thus the coach had been saved from a disastrous overturn.

    At length the three who stood on their feet unhurt fell to laughing, and then the little bride laughed, and then everybody else laughed.  And Sandie Grant, who had looked very rueful, sitting on the ground, got upon his feet and laughed too, though it cost him an effort to do so.  Then they all got up into their places, and began congratulating themselves and each other that there had been no harm done.  The jovial old gentleman declared it was a pity that it had not taken place at the beginning of the journey, they had all become so sociable from being well shaken together.

    "You're not hurt, old fellow?" said Archie to his brother, who had not recovered his spirits like the rest of the party.  Sandie declared he was not hurt, only bruised a little by his fall; for he had not fallen on his feet, as the others had done.

    Then the coach stopped to set the brothers clown, and they shook hands all round; and there were the servants waiting to carry up the boxes, and Dr. and Mrs. Grant coming down from their post of observation in the garden, where they had caught a first glimpse of them.  And the coach rolled away and left them standing together.  The servants moved on before, but the little household found themselves standing still.  Poor Sandie had at last given in, acknowledging that he was in horrible pain, and unable to move a step without assistance.

    Between his father and Archie he was almost carried up the short brae to the house, Archie telling, on the way, how the thing had happened, and how innocent up to that moment it had appeared.

    The little bruise turned out to be a serious dislocation.  Sandie had been an instant longer in taking the leap—an instant later in getting the general impulse into his slower brain, and, consequently, he had come down heavily.  The doctor was called in, and poor Sandie found himself confined to an invalid's couch, and sentenced to weeks, if not months, of inaction.

    Sandie, always slow and thoughtful, had time now to become slower and more thoughtful still.  After the first pain was passed, it may be questioned whether he did not enjoy his invalid condition.  There had come to him that deep, patient, sustained thirst for truth that nothing can slake or satisfy—that never is satisfied on this side the grave; a thirst which finds the forms of sound words out of which other souls get sustenance and refreshment, as broken cisterns which can hold no water.  Thus, in his illness, there came to him thoughts which he could not communicate even to his brother, who had hitherto shared his whole life, and for the simple reason that he had not put them into words even to himself:

    As for Archie, if the accident had happened to himself it would hardly have sobered him so much as it had done.  In the course of a week he grew quite worn with watching by his brother, day and night, and the whole house missed his fun and frolic.

    In his own way Archie was unsettled too.  He had shared the same influences as his brother, and, both being destined for the sacred calling, these influences were, naturally; religious.  But unlike his brother, all that he wanted was a faith that would work.  He was not of a speculative turn.  The faith of the many would be enough for him, so long as it was real, and truly moved their hearts.

    "You'll be going to the kirk to-morrow," said Sandie.  It was their second Sunday at home, the first having been the day after their arrival.  "I can stay by myself now."

    "I don't want to go," Archie answered.

    "But father will be vexed if you don't.  He spoke about your taking notes of the sermon," rejoined his brother.  Archie pulled a long face.

    "I could do that just as well at home," he muttered; and when they're written already, what's the good?"

    It had come to be to Archie, as it is to every soul in which is the breath of life, simply intolerable to do that which there could be no manner of use in doing.  It made him feel like a prisoner who has to turn a crank to fetch up empty buckets.  It was something worse than intolerable to him, to listen to his father's sermons in his present state of feeling, in which he knew that they were no longer serving, even as bodily discipline—it was positively hurtful.  Loving his father as he did, Archie was in despair about this matter.

    "I want desperately to go over and hear Mr. Keith again," Archie continued, after a while.

    "I wish you would," said Sandie, unconscious of the struggle.

    "Do you think he would feel it though?"

    "Who—father?  Well, I don't know; I didn't think of that.  Half the parish is going, you see; even Tam Lane has taken to the kirk under Mr. Keith."

    "And he drinks worse than ever," put in Archie; "maybe he drinks to drown ill thoughts."

    "If you fall in with Peggy," said his brother, "I wish you would ask her to come and see a fellow."

    "She's a great lady now, mind," was the answer, "and mayn't care to come our way so often."

    "It won't make a bit of difference in her," said Sandie, impatiently.  "I'm sure ye ken that.  I would like to see her.  And, Archie, you understand, that was all nonsense."

    Archie understood the that to refer to their last year's love, and he laughed.  They were still at an age when they could afford to laugh at love, though life had grown more serious to them than it used to be.

    On Sunday morning Archie settled the matter with his father, for that day at least.  "Are you going to the kirk to-day?" Dr. Grant had said.  And his son had made answer—"If you have no objections, I would like to walk over to Burnside and hear Mr. Keith."

    "Are you going to desert me, too?" the father asked, with a touch of disappointment in his tone.  And Archie, because he could not tell him that this was true, stammered out several reasons at once for his wish, among others, his desire to see Miss Oglivie.

    Then Dr. Grant, always generous, sent him off with a good grace, saying, "Mr. Keith is a fine preacher, and it will do you good to go and hear him sometimes.  Mind, I shall expect you to bring back copious notes of the sermon."

    Sunday had intervened on the business which Captain Oglivie had undertaken on Peggy's behalf.  He had gone into Bleaktown, and had ascertained, from an examination of the papers in the lawyer's hands, that she was no longer mistress even of the small property of Delaube.  He had also arranged to meet Mr. Haldane for a settlement of minor matters.  For instance, it seemed that after the date of the deed which assigned the property to Louis Oglivie's creditor, on the death of his (Louis Oglivie's) father, the wood on the small estate ought to have been left untouched.  Peggy was eager to set this right, by the sale of whatever else she had a right to sell; but, as has been said, Sunday intervened, and she was very glad to lay aside her perplexing thoughts, and obey its call to rest.

    Margery was detained at home by her brother's illness, but she ordered Peggy and the captain off to church together, and there was no escape; but they could not go on longer as they were doing, at any rate.  Horace Oglivie was acute enough to perceive that the injured tone was the best he could take.  The walk to church was a longish one, and he went on quite silently beside her for some time, looking very miserable—not more so than he felt, perhaps, but he gave free expression to his feeling.  At last he said: "This must come to an end, for both our sakes, Peggy."

    "I know it," she answered, wistfully.

    She was very unselfish, and it was easy for her to look at it from his point of view, and to consider him more than herself.  Such unselfishness is very rare in the world, and the few who possess it are not often fortunate in exercising it.

    "I must go away," he said, "for I cannot endure it longer.  Not that I shall be the happier for going away from you, but it will be easier to bear my fate like a man.  You make me wish that I had never seen you.  I would have been a better man if I never had," he added, with the energy of truth.

    "Oh! do not say that," she said, in a pleading voice.  "And yet you have a right to say it.  I have used you ill, Horace."

    "Did you ever care for me at all?" he asked, bitterly.  "Yes—oh, yes," she answered.

    "Then why have you been false to me?"

    "These are cruel words, Horace," she said, quietly, though with quivering lips.  "I was true to you then, I am trying to be true to you now."

    "What do you mean?" he said.

    "I mean," she answered, struggling to express herself, "that I loved you then as well as I knew how, and now I know that I ought to love you more before I can be your wife; yet I feel it is very hard for you to understand this; indeed—indeed, I hardly understand myself."

    "But you can tell me if that other man has come between us or not."

    "He has not," she answered; "but I do not think I would have felt thus but for him."

    He turned away, and walked on in silence.  Her transparent truthfulness mirrored his deceit, so that for a moment he saw himself as he really was.

    "And you compared us together, and found me wanting," he said.  "Peggy, I don't mind telling you that I think I am wanting in some things—that I think I deserve the treatment I have had from you; but if you will only love me, darling, I shall not deserve it again.  Think, this time, before you answer me.  I am ready to throw away my whole life as utterly spoiled, if you refuse."

    And she did think, and thought of nothing else, as might have been supposed, all through the service, only that every time she raised her eyes they met those of Archie Grant honestly fixed on her face.  And David Haldane noticed how much graver and manlier the youth had grown, but he could not understand either his look or Peggy's.  Their looks were not those of youthful lovers.  Then he turned steadily to the business in hand.

    At the church door Archie found himself side by side with David Haldane, with Peggy and Captain Oglivie a little before them.

    "I want to speak to her," said Archie, pressing forward; "but she has that fellow with her.  He is marching her off as if she belonged to him."

    "Do you know him?" asked David Haldane.

    "I saw him last summer," said Archie, discontentedly, "and he took possession of her at once.  I will come back to you presently;" and so saying he hurried after the pair.

    Just then, however, as if by concert, Peggy turned, saw him, and advanced a few steps to meet him, leaving her companion standing alone.  She was looking very grave and sad, and as David Haldane passed she was already parting with Archie, who was holding her hand, and saying eagerly, "You will be sure to come."

    Then David thought he understood it all, and gave up hope on the spot.  Her heart belonged to the youth at his side, and she was bound, probably by some domestic treaty, to marry Captain Oglivie.  "She is doubly bound," he said to himself; and he thought that she had even shunned him, for as he advanced she had barely acknowledged his distant salutation, and hastily retreated to the captain's side, who bore her off in triumph.

    From that day Archie and David Haldane were fast friends.


 
CHAPTER XXXV.

TURNING USURER.


ACCORDING to appointment, Captain Oglivie went to the print-works to meet old David Haldane.  He had that morning been commissioned by Margery to buy back Delaube, if possible.  The land was sacred in her eyes.  It was sacred also in the eyes of Horace Oglivie.  They had the true aristocratic feeling for it.  Its passing out of the family gave them a pang.  It was something to be handed down intact, and maintained as kings maintain their kingdoms.  The feeling was as different as possible from Peggy's simple attachment to the place of her birth; but then Peggy was not an Oglivie; she had neither the Oglivie spirit nor the Oglivie face, owing to that wretched plebeian mother of hers, whose blood dominated in her veins.  Margery's Puritanism had not lessened her pride, when she could think and feel thus; it had only increased her inconsistency, for she was ready to acknowledge that the Oglivie spirit had shown itself chiefly in pure unadulterated selfishness.  However, she certainly did not want Delaube for herself—it was only an outlying portion of the Oglivie possessions—and she could scarcely want to keep it for the family.  She had made Peggy very happy by the proposal to re-purchase it, but her object in doing so she did not explain.  She did explain that it would take all her ready money, and the captain thought ruefully of his little bill, as she pointedly told him to bid for it as great an advance on the price paid by Mr. Haldane as might be necessary to induce him to part with it.  It never occurred to them that he could wish to keep it when it was possible for him to make a profit by it.  People are apt to think motives so different in different ranks from their own; whereas human motives are pretty nearly alike in all ranks.

    Having entered in at the print-works gate, Captain Oglivie was looking about him for the particular door which might lead him to the presence of the owner of the heap of confused buildings before him, when young David Haldane issued from one entrance, and, on seeing him, stopped on his way to another on the opposite side of the court.  David had on the close-fitting Scotch cap, and was in his working dress, while the captain was elegantly attired; and in place of the perfectly-fitting and spotless gloves which the latter wore, David's hands were dyed up to the wrists a beautiful blue.

    Both men were slightly embarrassed at meeting.  David was rather slow of speech on first acquaintance, and the captain, who would have been exceedingly cordial and gracious to an acknowledged inferior, did not somehow seem able to express the easy superiority which he ought to have felt towards this man.  Perhaps it was because he had seen him do a brave deed with those big, blue hands of his, a deed of which it behoved him to take notice.  Accordingly he began to speak of their former meeting; but he overdid his part, and was conscious of having his vain words of praise flung back at him with something akin to scorn; for David, as if he had not heard them, interrupted with a simple question as to how the poor fellow was, looking straight at Horace Oglivie with his penetrating eyes and tossing back his brown locks from a slightly frowning brow, exactly as a Newfoundland shakes the water from his ears.  "Here!" he shouted to a boy, who crossed the court at the moment, "show this gentleman the way to Mr. Haldane's room—the private room, and find him if he is not there.  Good morning.  You see I am busy," and he held forth the obnoxious hands, and with a curt bow passed on.



    "Boorish, certainly," thought the captain, following his guide.  "It is not possible that she could care for this man.  But then he remembered that she was not perfect in her tastes, according to his standard, and might easily have admired that singularly handsome face, without feeling that its owner could not be a gentleman.  As for him, his assurance was simply unbounded, in the captain's eyes, and he longed for an opportunity to teach him his proper place.

    With the old man he was much better satisfied—there was greater deference in his manner; and when the due amount of deference was conceded, Captain Oglivie at once condescended; and the shrewd old man had already taken his measure.  Young David had not despised his rival—that rival's grace and elegance had rather imposed upon him; but they did not impose upon old David, who regarded Horace Oglivie with considerable contempt before he had been ten minutes in his company, and was prepared to humour him to the top of his bent, yet without the slightest exaggeration which might lead an observer to discover that he was doing so.

    Captain Oglivie was a little astonished when his offer to buy back the little property, at a fair advance, was declined.

    "You may name your own price," he said.  Surely that was enough to tempt the ex-packman.

    But no; he wanted the land, and nothing would tempt him to part with what he had laid hold of.  He wanted to lay hold of more, if it was to be had in that part of the country.  He would not buy land at all, if he looked to profit.  Ten times as much was to be made by works like his; and the works were still capable of absorbing more money and returning more interest.  But for all that, he wanted land.

    The captain, still going upon the ground that an ex-packman's notions must be very different from his own, wondered what anybody could want with land in that part of the country—it wasn't civilized enough for one thing, or wild enough for another.



    "But if you fell heir to any in this part of the country, as you may some day," said the old man, watching him keenly, "you would not sell it, would you?"

    Captain Oglivie thought that would be a very different thing.  "In that case it would belong to the family," he said, " and of course I should not part with it.  No one likes to sell family property."

    "This Mr. Louis Oglivie does not seem to have cared.  He parted with his before it belonged to him," said Haldane, still watching his visitor.

    "So it seems," answered the captain, carelessly.

    "He borrowed money on his expectations," Haldane continued.

    "I wish anybody would lend me some on mine," exclaimed the captain.  His pride was quite above feeling any disgrace in impecuniosity.  The honour that could be touched by that was the honour of a tradesman, not the honour of a gentleman.

    "Perhaps I could accommodate you," said the old man, smiling, but with a gleam of eagerness in his grey eyes.  His conscience pricked him, as soon as the words were out of his lips.  The verse of the psalm came into his head, which blesses the man who puts not his coin to usury.  But he resolutely swept the words away with, "I suppose you could only offer personal security?"

    "Nothing else at present," the captain replied; "but to tell you the truth I am hard pressed for money at this moment, and would be glad to give a good percentage for it.  I need not say that the risk is very small," he went on, speaking eagerly, now that the feasibility of obtaining relief in this way had presented itself to him.  "I suppose I shall be rich some day; but a man can't afford to wait half a lifetime for the means of living."

    "Nobody could have expected the present Sir Alexander to live as long as he has done," remarked old Haldane.



    "He is indebted to your nephew for being alive at this moment; but he is not likely to last very long now," replied the captain, in a tone of decorous indifference.

    The old man looked at the speaker with a questioning glance and word, and Horace Oglivie told him briefly of the accident which had befallen Sir Alexander, from the immediate consequence of which his nephew had rescued him.

    "David said never a word about it," he observed.  "And you say he's not likely to live," he added; "then there's only this young lady and her father between you and the estates?"

    "Her father is dead, I am assured," replied the captain.

    "Well, but the young lady has an interest, I believe."

    "I hope our interests will be one and the same some day," said the captain significantly.

    "In that case, your expectations are worth a good deal," replied the old man, with a sudden increase of warmth in his manner, which his visitor attributed to pleasure in prospect of a good investment; "and I have no objection to lending you as much as you require."

    It was as if a mine of wealth had suddenly opened at the feet of Horace Oglivie, and without hesitation he plunged into it.

    "Can you let me have as much as five hundred before the end of the week?" he asked.

    Yes, he could have that, and more if he desired it.  Then they fell to settling the rate of interest, which was fixed at the then high figure of ten per cent.  The borrower insisted that his personal security was worth a great deal, as it was not likely that he, an officer and a gentleman, would allow himself to be thrown into prison; and the lender knew that it was worth very little, for the reason that it might be already pledged for as much as it was worth; but he did not insist.  He had his own private views on the matter, and was very accommodating indeed.

    David Haldane the younger, as he went to and fro, keeping an eye on the way of exit, could not help wondering what these two could have to say to each other for such a length of time.  At length they came to the end of their conference, and old Haldane ventured to ask, assuming his jocose vein, when the wedding was likely to take place.



    "As soon as possible, you may be sure," said the captain, hurriedly; "but she is still very young."  And as he went his way, he rejoiced that Peggy was now penniless and dependant, and he resolved to speak to Margery that very day.

    "His coin puts not to usury," kept ringing in Mr. Haldane's mental ear; but, holding a colloquy with conscience, he answered that the interest he was charging was not so great as he could make in his legitimate business.  But then it was legitimate business, conscience replied, business representing labour, and foresight, and thought, and energy, while this was taking advantage of another man's folly and weakness.  He could not get the best in the argument, and he knew it, and resolutely refused to listen.

    That afternoon he again attacked his nephew on the subject of their removal to Delaube; but the latter was evidently determined to remain where he was in the mean time.  The old man was eager to communicate the piece of information he had received, and he hardly knew how to do it.  At last he said, "Captain Oglivie won't care to remain here after he's married; he's to be married to that Miss Oglivie soon, he tells me."

    David knew well what Miss Oglivie was meant, and as grateful to his uncle for marching away so rapidly after discharging his shot.

    It is "holy George Herbert" who says somewhere in "The Temple," "A sad, wise valour is the best complexion;" and no words could so well describe the complexion of David Haldane's thoughts, now that he dared not even allow himself to dream of his first, and only love.


 
CHAPTER XXXVI.

WORSE THAN DEATH.


THE long life-watch of Margery Oglivie was now intensified.  Her poor brother lay in the first stage of fever, and she kept her place beside him night and day.  She would accept of no help whatever.  In vain Peggy pleaded to be allowed to sit with her, and share her office of nurse.  She would not listen to her plea.  With a strange unselfish selfishness she clung to her heavy burden.  Others might say that it would be well that he, the poor afflicted one, should die.  She, too, could contemplate his death, at a distance, as "a happy release;" but when it drew near, she only longed that he might live.  All her life had been devoted to the preservation of that life—to the saving of every feeble spark of it, when threatened with destruction on every side, and when the least neglect would have seen it extinguished for ever.  It was an awful devotion, not of the body only, but of the spirit, for every conscious act of love was given to an unconscious being, by whom it could neither be appreciated nor returned.  There was only one thing she did not do.  She did not pray that he might live.  She did not dare to pray for this, lest it might not be the will of God.  And she daily said, "Thy will he done," with a stern patience, not because she thought that will was the one all-wise and all-loving will in the universe, but simply because it was the one all-powerful, which must and would be obeyed.  Great are the desolations sometimes wrought by misunderstanding between mortal creatures, but infinitely greater and more terrible are those wrought by misunderstanding the mind and will of God.

    Margery Oglivie had been tempted into trying to alleviate the burden of her life-trial.  She had been about to shift some portion of it on to other shoulders, which would bear it more lightly, perhaps not feel it at all; and the Lord had threatened to remove it altogether, she told herself, and to give her another, far more grievous to be borne.  Sad as her life had been with it, she could not imagine what it would be without it, with nothing to care for, nothing to love.  Sterner than ever, she took her post by her brother's bed, and would suffer none to help her in the crisis of his fate.

    He had tossed about all the night, and towards the morning had fallen into a sleep that grew less uneasy with the day; and the watcher had a respite.  She breakfasted downstairs; and Peggy would have had her seek some rest, but she would not.  After breakfast she returned to her post, leaving Captain Oglivie to his own devices, and Peggy to go over to Delaube, to consult with the old couple there about their future movements.  Mr. Haldane had said there need be no hurry in removing, and this would be some consolation to them.  He had named the end of May as early enough for him.

    "I would offer to go with you, but I must stay and write some business letters," said Horace, as Peggy prepared to depart; and she felt quite grateful to him for not pressing his company upon her.  She felt quite grateful to him, and yet it was of him chiefly that she thought as she went on her way.  He was looking worn and anxious—changed altogether, and not for the better, since she had walked with him in that midsummer dream.  How much was she to blame for it?

    These were her thoughts as she went upon her errand to her old home—hers no longer.  It seemed, indeed, as if it had already shut its doors upon her, for when she tried the little garden gate leading to the kitchen entrance, she found it fastened, and on going round to the front, admittance there was equally denied.  Had Jean gone out?  It was unlikely in the present state of affairs; besides, she remembered that, among other dilapidations, the locks were gone, and the doors only fastened on the inside.  The house was rather distant, and the inmates rather deaf, but she took up a stone and knocked with all her might, smiling as she did so, in remembering that the probable reason of the lock-out was the desire to obstruct the forcible entry of the new possessors.

    But no sooner had she knocked than the door was opened by Tammas, who appeared to be keeping sentry by pacing up and down behind it.

    "It's you," said the old fellow, with a military salute.  "Come in, missy, and lat me shut the door again.  Ye'll find Jean at hame."

    She asked after the rheumatics, and getting a briefer reply than was at all usual from Tammas, who loved to dilate upon his pains, she left him refastening the door.

    When she entered the house Jean was busy cooking some kind of savoury mess over the fire, and preparations were going on as if for a very late and rather elaborate breakfast; and, more mysterious still, as soon as she saw Peggy, Jean left off cooking, and began to cry.  "Eh, my bairn, he's come home at last!" and she sobbed.

    But still Peggy did not comprehend, till Jean told her plainly that her father had come back—was in the house at that moment—had slept beneath the roof all night.  She sank into a chair faint and trembling, overpowered by the shock—she knew not whether of gladness or of fear.  "Oh, Jean, take me to him," was the voice of the former.  It was the latter that whispered, "What is he like?"

    "He's sair changed," said Jean, wiping away the tears with her apron.  "Let me gang and tell him that you're here."

    Jean left her for the purpose, while she rose and stood at the door to listen—to listen with clasped hands and breathless lips for the intelligence which even a tone of his voice might bring her.  Yes, the voice at least conveyed the assurance that it was indeed her father—the voice at least had something of dearness in it.  It had a familiar sound—the strange family likeness which comes out even in the unlike, and which the voice as often carries as the face.

    She could not wait.  The voice drew her irresistibly.  She stole up the short stair, and stood in his presence, her paleness flushed with an eager flush, her rosy lips apart with expectation.  She did not stop to think of her forsaken mother, of her own fatherless childhood.  He was her father, that was all.  She stood before him with all the lovely reverence of filial awe in her beautiful face.  And he rose to meet her—a small, but still graceful man, whose silken hair was prematurely grey, but whose colourless face was unlined and smooth; the features faultless, but slightly swollen; the eyes—the eyes were dead, no light of love nor any sign of living sorrow had been in those eyes for years and years.

    He rose to meet her, and extended to her a chilly little hand; she noticed, as one notices the merest trifles in moments of intense life, how small it was as it held hers
slackly.  There was no embrace for her, no kiss, no blessing.  Yes, surely the race had a curse upon it, in the soil of whose hearts not even the commonest human affection could live unwithered.

    He was looking at her, and for a few minutes she neither raised her eyes nor spoke.  The word "father" had died upon her lips.  A chill fell upon her heart.

    "We're not very well acquainted with each other, for father and daughter," he said, with a short laugh, which jarred on her ear.  "I could never stay at this beastly place.  If it does not rain, it snows, and if it does not snow, it hails.  I fear we won't see much of each other yet.  I've only run over to look how the land lay, but I can't stay long.  Indeed I did not think I would see you, I have such a short time to stay, but I'm glad I have seen you.  You've grown up very like your mother.  She was even prettier at your age—more life and colour."  He made his speech with little pauses.

    She lifted her eyes to his face when he had finished, the tears standing on their long, dark lashes, "Oh, father! is this all you have to say to me?"

    "Of course I am very happy to see you," he said, answering the reproach in her tone; "but I can't afford happiness.  I never could.  It's an expensive luxury.  A man can't live here unless he could live on fir cones."

    "Did you come to take me away?" she said, catching at the idea that he might have heard of his father's death, and have come to offer her a home, if he had found her homeless.

    "I think you are much better where you are," he replied.  "I should be very sorry to mar your good fortune.  You are very well provided for, and if Margery gets the estates—and I thought they would have been hers long ago—she may leave them to you, if you play your cards well.  There are not many she can choose from, and she won't will them out of the family."

    "I would rather go with you," she pleaded.  "Oh, I would so gladly go with you!"

    "I am so poor," he answered, in a tone of more feeling; "I am so poor that I could not afford to have you with me.  It would be very pleasant if I could."

    "But I would not burden you—indeed I would not; I could wait on you and serve you."

    He thought, as he looked at her, it would really be pleasant to be served and waited upon by a lovely daughter, and he said so.

    "But, Margaret"—he did not call her by the familiar diminutive—"I have a wife."

    This, then, was the reason that he did not want her.  Perhaps he had other daughters.  She spoke her thought.

    No; he had only a wife.

    "Then I will serve you both," she said; "I know so many things!  I can do so many things: you don't know how clever I am," and she made an attempt to smile, though she was pleading in terrible earnest.  "I do not care for being poor," she went on; "we were poor enough here, but I never felt it.  I can even make money; I have made some already at drawing designs for a print-works.  You will take me, will you not?"

    But he seemed to shrink from her, instead of drawing nearer to her.  He was, in truth, troubled by her eagerness—her importunity.  It touched what little of heart was left in him, and what there was could not be touched without a feeling of regret and shame.  He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, and then retreated to his chair.  It was the act of a stranger, and of one who meant to remain at a distance from her, and she could not help feeling it.  Still she was about to speak again; but he stopped her.  "Don't say anything more about it at present," he said; "I can't bear it—indeed I can't.  I won't be able to eat a bit of breakfast as it is;" and with a deprecating gesture he pointed to a chair.

    When she was seated, he began to ask her a number of questions about her new home and its inmates.  "I should think he would go this time," he said, after hearing an account of the condition in which poor Sir Alexander lay.  "It's a pity since he has lived so long, that he can't live a little longer.  It's rather hard to see such a good thing as the Oglivie inheritance must be by this time go by with only one life in the way.  The other sister's dead, and if Margery were to die, nothing could keep me out of it.  None of it will come my way if she can help it, except what she might give a beggar for the asking.  It will all go to that fellow" (meaning Horace), "unless she has taken a fancy to you, which I shouldn't wonder if she had.  It would be a good thing," he added, quickly, "if you two could make it up together."

    He looked at her.  She was crimson with indignant shame.

    "Perhaps you have?" he said, eagerly.

    She was about to silence him, but she remembered that he was her father, and covered her burning face with her hands.  "Well, well, I won't trouble you about it," he resumed, dreading an outburst of emotion.  This daughter of his seemed dangerous in that respect; she had evidently very little self-control.

    Jean now re-appeared, opportunely, with the breakfast which she had been preparing, and Peggy stole back with her into the kitchen, on the slight pretext of helping her.  Once there, she shut the door, took the old woman's wrinkled hand in both of hers, and said, in a whisper of tearless agony, "Oh, Jean! there are things far worse than death."  And Jean did not trust herself to speak, except to say, "Whist, bairn, whist!" as she had been wont to do when hushing the sorrows of the motherless child.


 
CHAPTER XXXVII.

MATCH-MAKING.


IF marriages are made in heaven, they must be very often marred on earth by the intervention of the match-maker.  The person who sets up as a special providence in this particular province of human affairs, has need of something more than human wisdom, when one thinks of all the consequences that may flow from matching the wrong people.  If two people who were happily made for a true marriage, and all the blessedness it brings, are divided by such intervention, and allotted each to somebody who was never intended for them, who knows where the mischief of mis-matching is to stop?  It is the slightest possible chance if it is bounded by the first four concerned.  In all likelihood it is the efficient cause of a long list of matrimonial disasters.  One can fancy a whole world thrown out of gear by a single couple going astray in this fashion.

    Margery Oglivie was to all appearance the last person in the world to turn match-maker.  She was neither stupid nor good-natured.  She was, however, essentially an arbitrary woman; and the arbitrary will desire to arbitrate in the chief matter affecting human destiny.  She was also a woman of few ideas, and with a strong tendency to act upon the few that took possession of her: and she was possessed with the idea that it would be the best thing in the world to make a match between Peggy and Horace Oglivie, and for no other reason had she brought the distant cousins together under the same roof, and made the former appear so very desirable an object to the latter.  She was at once more delicate and more clumsy than the practised match-maker, for she had never mentioned the one to the other, and had been content to see what she thought a mutual friendliness spring up between them.

    The vast wealth in the course of accumulating for the heir of the Oglivies was at the root of her desire.  It may seem strange that the more there was to divide, the less willing she was to have it divided.  But this is a common feeling.  A man is much more likely to divide a moderate fortune than a colossal one.  The latter lays hold of the imagination with a unity of its own, and the possessor is taken possession of by a passion to transmit it entire.  If it fell to her to transmit, Margery longed to transmit the lands and the accumulated wealth which they had produced, together; she would not divide them between these two claimants; and Peggy had become a claimant as soon as her parentage was established.  If it fell to her legally, it would fall entire, and in that case it could only be kept in the family by her marriage with an Oglivie.



    Then she longed to keep Peggy near her, with her beauty, and her goodness, and her winning sweetness; and, above all, she longed, if her life should not be spared, that the natural guardians of her brother should owe it to her to guard him tenderly.  She really meant to promote Peggy's happiness.  She saw how dreary her life would become if she took Janet's place at her side; even Janet had confessed at last her secret rebellion.  She had too little knowledge of the world, and in some ways of the human heart, though she had sounded some of its most awful depths, to know the possibilities of misery she might create; but she knew enough to watch for and to welcome every sign and token of goodness in Horace Oglivie: and what she desired to see she saw.  His devotion to his mother, and the evident refinement of his tastes and habits, were to her evidences of enormous weight.  And if she had doubted the goodness of his heart, she acknowledged that she had done so unreasonably, especially after the part she conceived he had taken in saving her brother's life.

    She was, therefore, prepared to do more than acquiesce when Horace Oglivie seized his opportunity to ask her to favour his suit.  He had had to wait for the chance of speaking to her on the subject; for she did not leave her post by her brother's bed for more than a few minutes at a time, to take her hasty meals, or to snatch a breath of fresh air in the rapidly greening garden; and while he waited, he had time to reflect on the desperate condition in which he would find himself if he failed in gaining his object.  His honour was pledged to win; and men like him think of their honour long after they have ceased to regard that humble and useful virtue—common honesty.

    With Margery on his side, however, he could hardly fail; but he was still in the dark with regard to her views, and, fearful that she might oppose the marriage for some crotchet or other, it was with some trepidation that he approached her on the subject.  He was greatly relieved, therefore, to find that she not only approved, but was likely to help him in his purpose, and to help him in the most needful matter of an income.  She was ready to bestow on Peggy, as a marriage portion, the money which was to have bought back Delaube—the savings of a quarter of a century, from the liberal allowance granted to the sisters on behalf of their brother, by the factor appointed to take care of the estate during his perpetual minority.  This, and the mine of wealth which he had stumbled on in the accommodating Mr. Haldane, would surely suffice until the inheritance should be theirs.  Nay, he had reason to believe that Margery, once in possession, would be more liberal still—would not allow them to wait for her decease to enter into the enjoyment of the splendour in store for them.



    Their brief conference thus ended in mutual gratification.  Margery was inclined to regard Horace with greater favour than ever, seeing that his views not only coincided with her own, but that he had confided them to her, and implored her assistance.

    Meantime Peggy was making further acquaintance with her new-found father.  He was restless; irritable, peevish.  He asked innumerable questions; some of which his daughter could not answer, but which served to give her an insight into his character.  He showed considerable anxiety as to the transfer of the little property, and a still greater desire that she should not allow the fact of his return to be bruited abroad.  He had "enemies."  He was one of those people who are always having enemies; that is to say, they have once had friends, and have made use of them rather too much and too often.  He seemed also anxious that Peggy should find out how Margery was affected towards him, and in this he grew so urgent as the day advanced, that he almost hurried Peggy away; making her promise to send him a message that night if possible.

    What the daughter thought of the father it would be difficult to define.  With her natural reverence, she tried to cover over what would not remain hidden from her clear, true sight.  Then pity strove with what, but for this filial reverence, would have been dislike.  She tried to think of what he might have been, instead of what he was.  She found herself tracing in his features a resemblance to Captain Oglivie; but the resemblance was a painful one.  They both had the Oglivie face, with more or less of manly beauty, but with its hint of a beast of prey about the mouth and in the long, white teeth.

    Louis Oglivie was destitute of principle, and bankrupt in affection.  He had no faith, either human or divine.  To "eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," was evidently his entire creed.  His moral nature was as much paralyzed as his father's limbs had been, and, to his daughter's thinking, he was the sadder spectacle of the two.  When she saw how feeble was his health, her heart yearned over him with a boundless pity—a passionate desire to heal and help him.  She was sure, whatever might once have been, that he did not love his wife.  Of his way of living he said nothing, and of her he would not be tempted to speak, and seemed uneasy when Peggy spoke of her.  All the piety of the girl's character woke in the desire to devote herself to this poor blighted life: the Spirit of the living God alone could quicken the equally blighted soul.

    The news she carried back with her was received with astonishment, quite unmixed with pleasure.  Margery and the captain were both equally chagrined, and they did not quite conceal the feeling.  Peggy had to bear up bravely to hide the bitter disappointment swelling her own heart.  She could ask for no sympathy in such a sorrow as this: that she had found her father, and in finding him had lost out of her life the very idea of fatherhood—who could understand or comfort her in this?



A few days ago the event might have deranged the plans both of Margery and of Horace Oglivie.  Now it could scarcely matter.  For poor Sir Alexander the end seemed near at hand, and in that event Margery became sole arbitress of the family fortunes.  Louis Oglivie was of no account at all, and would hardly wish to interfere between his daughter and her.  Indeed, Margery confided to the captain that she would not be long in getting rid of him.  She had always found him more tolerable than his father.  She had known him in his early youth, in the bloom of his boyish beauty, and considering what his life had been, she wondered that he was not worse.  The negation of goodness in his character would not strike her at all, as it struck his daughter, as something almost more deadly than positive badness.

    Therefore Margery proposed that she herself should drive over and see him, as soon as it was possible for her to do so.  With this message, which was carried by Peggy herself on the morrow, he was obliged to content himself.  And it seemed now as if all his desires centred in seeing Margery, while she was detained, day after day, by her brother's side.

    And while Sir Alexander lingered on the brink of death, and Peggy was going to and fro between the houses, Horace Oglivie was suddenly called away.  He had got the money from Mr. Haldane, and leaving his cause safe in Margery's hands, he was by no means averse to going, in order to recreate himself a little.  His attitude towards Peggy during those days had been tender and deprecating, like that of a still undeclared lover, and she was powerless to do aught but accept the silent homage.  He gave her no opportunity of rejecting it or him; and yet she felt that every hour which passed over her, while that attitude was maintained, narrowed her chance of escape.  She had indeed come to feel that there was but one way of escape open to her, and that lay with her father.  She had not given up the hope that he might take her away with him still.

    Then Horace departed, saying, "Farewell for the present," in Margery's presence, and not attempting to see Peggy alone.  He simply promised to write, and to write to her, as if she was the one to whom he owed allegiance and who would expect such consideration.  And he promised to return speedily—to return immediately, if wanted and the latter part of this promise had reference to the end which seemed so near, and which had solemnized and toned down their present parting.

    But the end was not to be death, after all; at least, not soon.  The weakling had bent in the blast, but the blast had gone over him, and left him still rooted in the earth.  In a day or two the fever left him.  The doctor had pronounced the verdict, that if he could live through that, he could live through anything: and he had lived.



    Then Margery had felt herself, to a certain extent, released, and, true to her word, she hastened at once to Louis Oglivie.  She refused Peggy's company on the occasion, stating with her accustomed plainness that she would much rather go alone; so that on that day Peggy did not see her father.  What transpired between Margery and him, the former did not say, and Peggy was glad to know simply that the interview had been a friendly one.

    The next day she went early to Delaube, where the precautions against entrance had, for some reason or other, relaxed.  Tammas was afield, and she found Jean, not bustling about as usual, but sitting, weary and depressed, by the kitchen hearth, where no preparations for Mr. Louis's late breakfast were being made.

    "He's not up yet, I suppose?" said Peggy.

    "Up!" repeated the old woman.  But she quickly dropped her usual testy tone, and fell into a low complaining key.  "He can rise when he likes.  He's been up hours ago, and awa' wi' the early coach."

    "To Bleaktown?  He'll be back in the evening then," said his daughter.

    "Na, na," said Jean, sadly; "he'll no be back again.  He's gane for good an' aye" (for ever).

    "Without saying good-bye?" said Peggy, with a sinking heart, yet speaking quietly, as she had already learned to speak of him to Jean.  "Did he leave no message?"

    "He said he was sorry not to see you again, but I tell'd him I didna believe him.  He had no call to hurry away like that.  I've seen the last o' Louis Oglivie," said the old woman, thinking more of herself, and her own grievance against him, than of his sorrowful child.  "Wha' could ha' thocht the bonnie boy I nursed on my knee, wi' his golden hair and saft kisses, would turn to that grey, cauld-hearted man!"

    "Jean!  Jean!" said Peggy, trying to hide her grief.  "Had her coming anything to do with his going away?" she added, alluding to Margery's visit.

    "She may have helped him wi' siller," answered Jean— "the weary siller!"

    Peggy could bear up no longer. She moved toward the door.  She would go up to her own old room, with the burden of her care and grief.

    "Ye'll maybe miss some things," said Jean, stopping her, and speaking in another tone.  "He's ta'en a' that he could tak' awa' wi' him.  I fancy be would ha' left little but the bare wa's, but that he couldna help himsel'.  He couldna carry a coo (cow) a' the way to France wi' him, nor yet a meal girnel."

    Louis Oglivie had packed up all the valuables that remained in the house, even to the old silver candlesticks, and had taken them with him, thereby exciting Jean's utmost wrath and grief.


 
CHAPTER XXXVIII.

SANDIE'S SOFA.


ALL this time Peggy had been forced to neglect her old friends.  She had only once visited the Grants since Sandie had been laid up with his accident, and then her visit had been short and unsatisfactory.  The extent of her old playfellow's suffering had not been made known to her, and she had also been deceived into the idea that it was only a slight matter, by the cheerfulness which was maintained in his presence by all the family, especially by Archie.

    The truth was that he had suffered severely, but it was still hoped that nothing worse would come of it than a term of suffering; and he was very patient, and seemingly very cheerful, in the midst of his protracted pain.  His father would have it that he enjoyed suffering, because it saved him the more troublesome necessity of doing; and there was a grain of truth at the bottom of the affectionate fiction: in his present state of existence, Sandie had simply to be.  But the poor young fellow had enjoyed the use of those lithe limbs of his; they had been, indeed, the most active part of him, and there were times when his heart was very heavy with the foreboding that he might never be able to use them so actively again: for the injury was even more serious than had been at first supposed, and so diseased had the injured limb become, that the doctor had whispered the dreadful word "amputation."  This, however, Dr. and Mrs. Grant had, kept to themselves, that in the meantime their son might have all the support which youthful hope can give, and that Archie might be the better able to cheer his brother.

    Then it mended a little, and the doctor, fearing for his general health, had ordered a temporary crutch, that he might move from room to room, and, if possible, get into the garden on sunny days.  So the crutch had been procured, and a grand commotion it made in "the boys"' room while it was being tried—Archie hopping about on one leg, to prove its sufficiency, and Sandie seriously practising, and seriously failing.

    "Lean on me, old follow," said the former, when the latter was almost ready to give it up in despair; and, leaning with one hand on his brother's shoulder, and using the crutch with the other, Sandie at last made his appearance in his mother's drawing-room.

    After that, the sofa was set in the sunniest window, and he came down thus every day, and lay there when he was tired of moving about, which was very speedily—a visit to his father's study, and a turn or two in the garden, sufficing to weary him of his new and difficult mode of locomotion.  And Sandie's sofa soon became the family centre.  Round it they all gathered, at all times of family meeting—at mealtimes, and at prayers, and for readings and discussions.  By it the doctor paced up and down in meditation, and Mrs. Grant sat and worked, and Archie lounged and chattered.  In it, stuffed into all the corners, were to be found the newest books and papers, and the last copy of Blackwood or the Edinburgh Review.  And David Haldane was often to be found there now; Archie had not rested till his new friend was his brother's also.  With him he would ever share the best he had.

    It was generally on Saturday afternoons, or on Sunday evenings, that David Haldane managed to come and spend an hour or two by Sandie's sofa, thus showing that he had already become a privileged friend whom the parents gladly welcomed, for the sake of their sick son.

    One evening Mr. Haldane had Sandie all to himself; the others had gone to a meeting in the school-house.  They would hardly have left him, if they could have imagined the depths of despondency into which he was now apt to fall.  Yet, if at any moment they had returned upon him, he would have made an attempt at cheerfulness, and readily have succeeded, not only in imposing on them, but in restoring himself.  But the black gulf was in his soul, however he might turn his back upon it, and avoid gazing down into the darkness which drew and fascinated him.

    But with David Haldane he was less on his guard, less solicitous to hide his trouble, and he had not been long with him before, in the desire to unburden his heart, he had opened up the subject of his doubts and difficulties.

    He was as usual surrounded with books of the lighter sort, for it was an understood thing in the house that all sorts of indulgences were to be granted to him; therefore, even on Sunday, his books were not banished, as they might otherwise have been, even by a man so little strict in such matters as Dr. Grant; but Sandie had not been taking advantage of his indulgences.  From behind the sofa pillow he pulled out an old volume, which had the venerable appearance of a lengthy theological treatise.  Despite its age, it seemed to have been very little used. It was evidently not of the light order of literature.  It was, in fact, "The Confession of Faith."

    "I have been reading this," he said.  "Have you ever seen it?"

    It may seem strange that he should ask this, but, indeed, that venerable work is very seldom even seen by those who profess to believe what it contains.  David took it, examined, and shook his head over it.

    "I should think very few read it through," he replied.  "We are bound to believe it, though," said Sandie.  David demurred to this.

    "A minister of the church is, at least, bound to believe it," continued the young man, "and I can't agree with it on a good many points.  What ought I to do?" he asked earnestly.

    "I don't think you can swallow all this at once, and I don't think it would do you any good, if you could.  If a child could digest a man's food, even that wouldn't make a man of him in a minute.  It takes time to grow in the body, and I fancy it does the same in the spirit.  I wouldn't advise you to take in all this at once.  It would go against my stomach, I know," said David, as he turned over the yellow, closely-printed leaves, and scanned their contents.  "I would advise you simply to believe as much as you can."

    "Take up one doctrine and reject another? is that what you mean?"

    "No; I don't mean that you should reject anything, unless you find it utterly unbelievable, and contradicting something which you do really believe.  Simply believe as much as you can, and let the rest alone."

    "But it all hangs together, you know—it's all part of a grand scheme, and I can't give up a part of it, without giving it up altogether."

    "Giving up this, you mean," said David, touching the volume.  "But that's not giving up faith.  I think true faith is very like a tree, Sandie; it all grows from a single root: a man's beliefs all hang together, but not like the propositions here—any man can take them asunder and arrange them differently—more like the branches that have grown out of a seed.  True faith will grow into the same kind of tree in you and in me, if we have the root of it in our hearts, but there may not be two branches exactly the same between us.  No man can think a thing, any more than do a thing, exactly like another man, except in the mathematics, and we have not been able to get a creed done into theorems."

    "But then a minister is bound to teach the doctrines of the 'Confession,'" urged Sandie; "and how can he do that if he does not believe them?"

    "That's a different matter," confessed David.

    "Yes," said Sandie, vehemently.  "You can't undertake to teach what you don't know, and you don't know what you can't believe.  Man, a minister must take this " (lifting the book) "word for word, and I can't take it, and so I can't be a minister."

    "Wait a bit, Sandie," said his companion.  "I don't know all that may be in the book, nor how it may be worded, but you may come to believe a great deal more than is there, if you begin with ever so little.  There's no question of your having to enter the ministry for a year or two."

    "I would like to be a schoolmaster," said Sandie.  "You're always beginning at the beginning there.  There's no need for going far into things.  I can't help doing that for myself, but I wouldn't like to lead others, and land them where there was nothing to stand on, and maybe no room to turn.  And, do you know, I think this leg will never be sound again.  I'll be a cripple dominie," he went on, smiling with pathetic sweetness—"a lame old bachelor: I'll never marry."

    "What puts that in your head?" said David, smiling too at the sad fancies of his companion.

    "Why, you see," he answered, "to speak in a parable, if Archie and I couldn't both have a thing, we'd neither of us have it.  Many's the coveted treasure mother's had to put away for that very reason; or we'd agree to have it time about, if we couldn't have it both at once.  But we can't do that with some things, you know—a wife, for instance," he added, archly.

    Soon after, the family returned, and David took his leave.  Archie accompanied him part of the way.  They were speaking of Sandie.  David kept his counsel, but Archie said, "Don't you think he looks better to-night?" and when David assented, he added, "But you should see how dismal he is sometimes, when he thinks nobody notices.  I think you do him more good than any of us, and I wish Peggy—that's Miss Oglivie," he explained "would come; that would cheer him best of all."

    "But I thought it was you who had lost your heart in that quarter," said David, trying to speak in an unconcerned tone.

    "So I had," he said, bravely, "but I wouldn't have her when Sandie had set his heart on her; and it doesn't matter," he added, "for she's for none o' us, I fancy."

    "You're a pair of as fine creatures as ever God made," said David Haldane to himself.  But for all that, he thought that his friend Archie might possibly change his mind if he had the chance.  Then he considered that it would be well to tell him, and through him, Sandie, what he knew of Peggy's engagement.  It was soon told, and, with little more said on either side, they separated for the night.  Archie forgot that it was Sunday, and went back whistling to himself the tune of an old ditty of luckless love.


 
CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE LETTER IS FOUND


THE month of May was drawing to a close, and Alexander Oglivie was improving rapidly.  Peggy was once more allowed to visit and amuse him, and he was beginning to crawl out into the sunshine and sit on a garden chair, on the spot where the rays rested longest in front of the gloomy house.  Peggy, who loved the sunshine and rejoiced in flowers, had had some of her favourites planted here and there about the house, and they, as well as she, wanted more light and warmth.  She had, therefore, suggested that some of the little thicket of evergreens that closed round the house should be cleared away, and that the elder-trees over shadowing some of the walks should be removed.  And Margery had given her consent, for the doctor had seconded the proposal, and pointed out that it would give the invalid what he needed most—sunshine and fresh air.

    Captain Oglivie had written once, but the letter was addressed to Margery, and contained only the ordinary affectionate remembrance to Peggy.  But she had been called upon to answer the letter in Margery's behalf, and this she found a very difficult task, for it was the task of writing something which should, express nothing—an undertaking apt to stultify the brightest intellect.  At last, however, she succeeded in producing one of those objectionable epistles of which people say with such truth, "There is nothing in it," and in which the writer has so carefully avoided any egotistic expression, that he or she—it is generally the latter—might as well be a writing automaton, as a living being with motives, and interests, and affections.  Such as it was, Captain Oglivie set store by that little letter; and, showing that he was not wholly an interested schemer, not wholly corrupt at heart, he still keeps it among the relics of better days.  It ran:—


DEAR HORACE,—Margery has asked me to answer your letter, and to say that she is happy to hear of your safe arrival.  You will be glad to hear that Alexander is mending every day.  We are going to get him out a little into the garden.  I wonder if he will notice the flowers I have had transplanted here.  I have quite a show of yellow primroses scattered about under the trees, and looking like drops of sunshine that have fallen through the boughs.  The wood is beginning to look lovely, too. [She did not say that, wandering in it yesterday, her heart had relented towards him, thinking that if his love were warm and true, the world was so hard and cold, that she might bask in the warmth, till love again would blossom.] Margery hopes that you will do as you say, and bring your mother with you when you come again.  She sends her love to her and to you.
                                                I remain your affectionate cousin,
                                                                                                  P
EGGY OGLIVIE.


    The walks were being cleared from the over-crowding greenery.  Two men were working there, wheeling away the branches in loads, and even removing entire trees.  They had come up quite close to the house, where Peggy was walking with Sir Alexander, moving up and down at a snail's pace in the sunshine.  A chair was placed for the invalid when he required to rest; and, after a little, he was coaxed to sit in it and watch the gardening operations.  While they were thus occupied, the postman came up the walk and gave Peggy a letter, folded as letters usually were in those days, and sealed with a large square of led wax, on which was imprinted the Oglivie arms.  She knew at a glance from whom the letter came, and, needing the refuge of her room to read it in, she held it unopened in her hand, till such time as they should go indoors again.  But Alexander Oglivie had caught sight of the paper and its glowing seal, and had evidently set his heart upon obtaining it.  He was usually so docile with Peggy, that, after striving to pacify him with something else, she yielded it into his hands.  She would be able to redeem it, as soon as they reached the house, with something he was sure to consider more than equivalent.

    The poor creature was delighted with his prize, and sat chuckling and crowing over it, and handling it with care.  Then he got up, and was moving away, when one of the men drew Peggy's attention for an instant, and the other, leaning on the spade with which he was digging round the root of an ancient elder, uttered a hasty exclamation.  Close to where they were standing, the elder-bushes had concealed the stump of a tree more ancient than themselves.  The bole was short and thick, and it was leafless and branchless, as one of those broken monumental shafts one sees in burying-grounds.  Near the top there was a great rift, revealing the rottenness within.  In the instant during which Peggy's attention was diverted from him, Alexander Oglivie had suddenly stepped up to the tree.  He was standing before it when she looked round at the gardener's exclamation.  But the letter was no longer in his hands.  He had put it into the cleft of the tree, exactly as one deposits a letter in a pillar letter-box; and it might very well have stood for one, though it was before the date of that useful invention, for the letter had duly disappeared.  How it was to be recovered again was another matter.

    Peggy caught the broad grin on the men's faces, and laughed herself in spite of her embarrassment.

    "I suppose, we can get it out again without much difficulty," she said.

    "Oh, ay, miss, we'se get it oot again, though we should fell the auld stump," said the foremost gardener, proceeding to thrust his bare arm into the rift.  "It's no that easy, faix," he added, bringing up a scrap of paper, which Peggy at once recognized as one of her own slight sketches.  "It's hollow to the very root, and there's a heap o' bits o' paper doon."  He brought up two or three more scraps, and then making a desperate effort, he cried, "I've gotten a grip o't noo," and brought up the letter between his fingers.

    Hastily smuggling it away, lest Sir Alexander should seek to take possession of it again, she got back to the house with her charge, and went to her own room to read her letter.  As she broke the seal, she noticed how soiled and stained it was.  It was Captain Oglivie's lost letter to his mother which, first in utter bewilderment, and then in a sort of fascination, she was reading from beginning to end.

    It will be remembered how heartless that letter was; how it gave an account of Peggy's prospects of the great inheritance having become secure in any event, whether Margery or Alexander should be the last survivor; how it mentioned her as an encumbrance, though a light one, which he would rather dispense with, but didn't mind going in for along with the estates; and how it finished with a cruel expression of hate towards him whom the kindly country phrase, acknowledging his irresponsibility, called distinctively, "The Innocent."

    How long she sat with the letter in her hand she did hot know, but it was some time before the act of reflection took the place of simple comprehension of the facts it expressed—namely, that its writer was mercenary, deceitful, cruel.  Then she saw it all.  He had made of her a plaything, and now he would purchase with her the inheritance he coveted.  The inheritance—was it this that turned the hearts around her into stone?  Her father had spoken of it in just the same way, as a thing to be won at the expense of life and happiness.  Human love and faithfulness seemed to perish under its shadow, or if they lived, as they had done in Margery, they lived in lifelong agony.  The possibility of one day possessing it roused the evil spirit of covetousness, and those who had possessed it had sinned above other men; and she thought of the Scripture which denounces covetousness as idolatry, and then of that commandment which forbids idolatry, and to which the awful warning to transgressors is attached, that the sins of the father shall be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations.

    And thus the innocent must suffer for the guilty, and God is unmerciful!  But her spirit, though almost blinded by anguish, cried out, "No, no, no!"  She uttered the words aloud in unconscious pleading.  It was the God of love she had loved, and the life he had given had been glad and beautiful to her.  Her heart longed for gladness and beauty, but let it all perish, let all be dark and unlovely, and full of suffering, only let him still be the God of love, "who afflicteth not willingly," "who will not keep his anger for ever."

    And it was better that the children of evil parents should suffer, than that they should sin.  Margery had been right to take up that post of hers, and seek no happiness for herself.  She might have sought it with a covetousness which might have made her heart like these others; and heartlessness and cruelty, supposing them to be cureless, Peggy in that moment felt to be worse than any suffering, any other death in life, such as she had had before her eyes in her grandfather, and now in Alexander Oglivie.  Yes, as there was an inheritance of nature of far closer and deeper import than any outward inheritance of houses and lands, it was better to inherit the suffering than the sin.

    Then Peggy became conscious that she had thought long enough, and that there was something to be done.  The first thing was to recover the letter intended for her, and for that purpose she went out again.

    The men had gone in to dinner, and for a minute she was puzzled how to act.  Then she got a small garden rake, and inserting it in the rift, easily succeeded in fishing out with it the remaining contents of the strange letter-box, among which was what she sought.

    And now what to do with it? how to dispose of it?  She went back with it to her own room, and was about to break the seal.  Then, with a true and deep-seated delicacy, she refrained.  She had read that which was not intended for her, and he must know that she had read it (and remember she had a right to know the heart that was offered to her); but she would not read that which was intended for her, lest its contradiction should put the writer to the blush.  She was ashamed for his shame, and would not curiously unveil his deformity.  She would send back his letter unread, enclosed with that other.

    And this was what she did.  Her letter, with its enclosures, was very brief; but this time there was much in it.  She told him how she had found the letter to his mother, and had begun to read it as her own, and how she had gone on to the end after she found it was not in tended for her.  "After this," she wrote, "I could not open the other.  You would not have liked me to read them together."  She did not say that there must be an end to everything between them, that she could neither love nor marry him now; this he must know of himself—this she need not tell him; but she did say, "Do not come here until I go away.  I will go to my father, or find a home among strangers.  And I will try and not think hardly of you, Horace, for you have been brought up to expect this inheritance.  As for me, I have not, and I would rather earn my bread than long in my heart that others should die.  It might come to this with me, as it has with others, but now it feels like murder in the soul; therefore I will go away."  She ought to have added—"and leave to you, as far as I am concerned, that which you have coveted."

    The post-office was in the village, and, in haste to send away her letter, about which there could be no second thoughts, Peggy took it thither herself.



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