LEWIS AND MARY.
Baird was consuming her own heart in the solitude of Edenhaugh, on
Mary Olrig in the crowd of London during these later months there
had settled a great calm.
The work which Lewis Crawford had procured for her had never
failed her. Where she needed instruction he found her an apt
pupil. She gave great satisfaction to her employers, as those
always do who can bring brains and interest to what is often called
"mere mechanical work."
Advised by Miss Kerr, Mary put advertisements into one or two
well-selected newspapers, and so secured for herself other work
similar in kind, and which, though much less profitable, was also
less pressing and could be done at her leisure. Solitary as
all this occupation was, it was but as a cell with doors opening
into many quaint by-paths of the outer world. The people with
whom it brought her in contact were not often quite common people.
Even most of the old law-stationers had a fine flavour or tone about
them such as gathers on wine, stained glass, and human character, if
left undisturbed in still and shady places. As for her other
employers, they numbered people with hobbies and crazes,—one, a dear
old lady, sweet and gracious as spring lilac, who had strong
convictions that the Isle of Man had been peopled by the lost Ten
Tribes; another, of high rank, who accepted Mary's help in arranging
valuable papers, to which her own position gave her access, and in
whose mansion Mary went happily up and down—now taking tea with the
marchioness in her boudoir, and then with the housekeeper and the
ladies' maids in their little room downstairs. Mary was, like
her grandmother, old Mrs Haldane, as little troubled by such
transitions "as a collie dog." But her practical experience of them
convinced her for ever of the ease with which many of those theories
which people pronounce "too fine for real life" could be worked, if
in the hands of the right people. "The right people" became, indeed,
Mary's general desideratum; and she and Clementina Kerr joined
heartily in the creed that the only reform worth mentioning was
first to find the "right people," and then to set them to help
making others to be like themselves.
In those days Mary's mind was brought in contact with one or
two other minds which afterwards had great power in moulding the
world. She deciphered the crabbed caligraphy of the early
writings of a young barrister, who, in due time, became one of the
rulers of the Empire, and a leader in philosophy and poetic form.
In years to come, countesses might contend for a few minutes
conventional chat with the great man amid the confusions of crowded
conversaziones. But Mary had had her quiet interviews with him
before he was jaded by contact with official antagonism. When,
amid fame and fortune, all sorts of accusations and insinuations
were hurled against him, Mary remembered how courteous he had been
to the nameless girl who worked for him, how considerate in his
requirements, how prompt in those payments which were ever sweetened
by thanks for intelligent interest and co-operation that "were not
in the bond."
Then, henceforth, Mary always had Clementina Kerr. Not
that they spent much time together; but Mary proved the truth of
something Lewis Crawford remarked to her, that after one once knew
Miss Kerr one never felt lonely, for she always seemed to be
everywhere! Certainly, it made a great difference to know,
when one's hand could scribble no more, and one's recollections
began to grow a little too pathetic, that there was a bright room
downstairs where one would be made gladly welcome, and somebody
sitting there who would give one something fresh to think about
within the first five minutes.
Further, Mary Olrig was no longer weary with a vague unrest,
haunted by a lost face.
She and Lewis Crawford were friends—friends by a common
knowledge of the very foundations of each other's lives; friends by
mutual succour. Nobody can tell what a wholesome comfort it
was to Mary to encounter one whom she had welcomed to the vanished
home on the Edenlaw. Our past remains as present while we find
it in another's memory.
Yet Mary had not lost her old aims because they no longer
tormented her; but she had a strange feeling that she had lost her
old standpoint, and that the loss was all gain. Her thoughts
no longer came to her as her own, as the fancies and sentiments of
girlhood and youth. It seemed to her as if the voices of
others began to speak through her,—voices of the sad or the sinful,
the agèd or the weary—voices of stunted lives like Rebekah Putnam's,
or of stultified souls like Kate Joyce's. It seemed to be
given her to tell how the world looked to such, and that her own
part was only so to present these sayings and outlooks that they
should rouse in others the same sympathy or pity or indignation
which they had awakened in her. Mary often felt as if she
should hate herself for having escaped into such peace and freedom,
while others remained in confusion and bondage, but for some hope
that she might be as a voice to plead that wiser thoughts should
search out wiser ways of life, since human souls do not live by
bread alone, nor by mere wages, weekly or otherwise. Mary
found that her former ambition for literary success was transformed
into this hope of "opening her mouth for the dumb, in the cause of
all such as are left desolate."
She soon began to feel that it was this hope which made her
present life satisfactory. It suited her; and if it helped her
to render her fellow-creatures any true service, then all was well
and good. Otherwise she felt, as she copied long bills of
costs or big briefs on wearisome legal technicalities, that she was
not producing anything for which the world was really the richer,
and for which "the labourer is worthy of his hire." And she
was acute enough soon to detect that it was this fact which underlay
the uncertainties even then impending over work of the class she was
doing. The old law stationers often shook their heads and told
her "times were always growing worse." Old trade customs,
which had brought great profit to middlemen, were falling into
desuetude; ancient circumlocutions, useful only to make useless work
which would earn wages, were being gradually dispensed with.
The law printer, too, was supplanting the law scribe.
"And as soon as the law printer has got the whole field to
himself, I expect common-sense will bring in sound laws to gradually
supplant him in his turn," said Lewis Crawford; "and transactions
which now entail endless parchments and vain repetitions will be
carried through as easily as the purchase of a book or a loaf."
Mary Olrig was the first person to whom Lewis Crawford had
ever opened out his mind, which he had hitherto used only as a
receptacle for all sorts of experiences and reflections.
Clementina Kerr had seen into his heart. But he had inherited
from his mother the humble and reverent nature common to simple
races, and their habit of silence and attention in the presence of
seniors and superiors. The very few people whom he had
hitherto come across who were at all likely to appreciate his
cogitations had always been seniors and superiors. There had
been his first patron, the old schoolmaster; then the spectacled and
learned (though needy) "doctors" and professors who had taught the
evening classes of an " Institute," which he had found time and
means to attend; then the old Italian physician; and lastly,
With Mary Olrig all was different. Over her, for him,
there would ever rest that magic halo with which we always invest
those to whom we first give out ourselves. It is as though
they had opened for us a new sense.
Mary Olrig pondered over Lewis Crawford's remark.
"There seems to be something unwholesome and unsatisfactory
in depending for one's living on anything that is not in its very
nature useful, and therefore necessary," she said. "It seems
to me that the work of our life should be an end in itself, and not
a mere means to an end, and that end but our own sustenance.
Don't you think the most satisfactory ways of earning a livelihood
are by doing things which we should do in any case, out of love, or
"For instance?" asked Lewis as she paused.
"In the case of women, preparing food or making clothes," she
"You would not like to be a dressmaker?" said Lewis, with a
smile. He had lived close to the simplest realities of life,
and Mary was a poet. This enabled them to be quite direct in
their communications. It is the artificial and the vulgar who
must deal in euphemism.
Mary looked up at him with humorous eyes.
"No," she said. "I should like to make clothes, for
comfort, warmth, and beauty. I should not like to make dresses
at the dictation of folly, vanity, and fashion. So I should
like to prepare food for wholesome appetites, not entrees and
dainties to tempt jaded gluttony."
"But the sewing woman who makes neat linen and snug woollens
can earn but a very few shillings a week," said Lewis. "It is
the Court milliner who makes her thousands. Something has gone
wrong somewhere. It is not the worthiest work which earns most
money, but rather those employments which involve some sort of
personal degradation, because they serve, not necessities, but
fancies, or vices. The jockey can earn more than the mason;
the comic-singer leaves the schoolmaster far behind. The poor
seem to me to be almost as much the slaves of the rich as they were
when they were called slaves. If they are to eat bread, they
must do what the rich bid. I have puzzled over it for a long
while. So does everybody who begins to think about it.
Your poet Burns was struck by the painful spectacle of one mortal
standing before another and begging for 'leave to toil.' I can
see the pain and the perplexity; but I can't see any way out of it.
Our old friend the Italian doctor fancies that it is all in bad
government, and that he and his party could set up governments that
would put all these things straight. But I fancy it goes
deeper than governments."
"If we could only do without money!" said Mary, reflectively.
"Well, the next best thing is to do with as little money as
possible," she persisted. "Every want we can abolish must be a
link struck off our fetters. At any rate, that's the point at
which we can begin without delay. The less I want, the less
afraid I shall be lest my work should fail, and the more ready to
begin any better work, though it may not be paid so well. It
must be a great comfort to be you—earning money by doing an
undeniably good work."
"Do you know, I am not so sure about that," returned Lewis.
"What! when you are righting wrongs, and getting people their
just dues?" cried Mary.
Lewis shook his head, slowly and thoughtfully.
"The more I see of these poor people whose cause Mr Hedges
has taken up," he said, "the more I doubt whether their good fortune
will be a real blessing to them. When we began our enquiry,
they were all living happily together and doing honest work.
Already most of them are idle. One has taken to drinking.
One of the girls has broken off from her old sweetheart, a
ploughman, and is engaged to an idle vagabond whom she thinks a
gentleman. Two of the families have ceased to be on speaking
terms, each believing its own rightful share of this wealth should
be larger than the other's. All this moral destruction and
disunion is the price to be paid for one or two large houses and
some fine clothes. Out of it I have gained my increased salary
and securer position. And the thought destroys my pleasure."
"Yet justice is justice," pleaded Mary, "and these people had
a right to their own."
"But is it necessary for anybody to give up something good
for something not so good, simply because they have a 'right' to
it?" asked Lewis. "I am beginning to wonder whether the root
of all the perplexity we have been discussing does not lie in our
regard of money, of good, of gold." He paused,—and went on in
a low, deep voice: "I shall have a fair income henceforth, and very
soon I shall have no mother. Shall I be richer or poorer than
in the old days? And what if it had been my increased income
which had cost me my mother? It is so in many cases. It
is so in the case I have been speaking about. Labour, love,
and peace are bartered for a few thousands."
"Somehow, all that is best in my own life has come to me
through poverty and pain," he went on. "So I can scarcely help
glorifying them. I know I have had no 'rights' to give up,
except so far as there may be giving up in cheerful submission to
God's will in deprivation. And I have not cheerfully
submitted. I have bitterly rebelled. But of late, I
begin to wonder whether, from the highest point of view, a struggle
such as mine has been does not give one a better chance of the best
things, than is enjoyed by such as my—," he checked himself—"as Rab
His eyes and Mary's met as he uttered that name, softly.
It was the first time it had come into their conversation in London.
"Have you heard that he is going to marry Miss Ben Matthew?"
"I have," he answered. "I saw it in a newspaper."
"I knew it from my grandmother," said Mary. "I did not
tell you, because I cannot bear to speak about the family after the
cruel way in which you were treated."
"They did me no harm," he replied. "If they had
fulfilled my hopes, I should never have known Miss Kerr or you.
"It was my poor mother I was sorry for," he went on, in a
very quiet tone. "She had trusted my father. She
believes in him still. And if his own people had shown a
little pity for her, it would have soothed and comforted her after
all her wrongs and trials. I cannot understand why they were
so angry and so fierce. It was not as if I had made any claim
on them. From the first, I had feared the truth. I only
asked for a little help that she who had always believed herself my
father's wife, might end her life in peace. If they had
thought very highly of my father, I could understand their resenting
such an aspersion on his character, because, you see, it meant
deception and desertion on his part. But they called him
villain, fool, and every opprobrious epithet. They said they
knew nothing of him, and wanted to know nothing. They would
not even assure me that he was dead!"
Mary looked up quickly. In the cottage on the Edenlaw,
Lewis had not chanced to mention this detail of his interview with
the Bethunes. "Certainly he must be dead," she said; "for the
laird had no younger brother. If your father was living, the
estate would belong to him."
This aspect of the case did not seem to strike the young man
with any particular force. "I went to the graveyard," he said,
"to see if I could find any memorial of him. When I failed, I
could scarcely help hoping he might still live; for if so, he might
yet be sorry for my mother."
"Does she speak of him still?" asked Mary, very gently.
"Yes," he answered. "Lately, since she has failed so
much, she mistakes me for him, and tells me she has never mistrusted
me; she was always sure I would come back."
"When she went through what she thought was the ceremony of
marriage," asked Mary, "was it the name of Crawford or Bethune which
Lewis shook his head. "She does not know," he said.
At that time she spoke very little English. She thought the
man whom she calls 'them minister' belonged to one of the English
ships. But she is sure my father was never generally known on
the island by any other name than Crawford."
"How, then, did you come to connect him with the Bethunes at
all?" asked Mary.
"It is very singular, and yet simple enough," Lewis
explained. "When he parted from her, leaving her in Australia,
he left an address with her which he said would find him. It
was 'Lewis Crawford Bethune, of Bethune Towers,' care of some firm
of solicitors in the City of London. Actually, she never
thought this was his own name, but rather that of some relative who
would always know his whereabouts. Therefore before she left
Australia to follow him (I was not born then) she caused a letter to
be written to him as 'Mr Lewis Crawford, care of Lewis Crawford
Bethune.' When she arrived in London and went to the lawyer's
office, it was 'Mr Lewis Crawford' she asked for, and though they
put a great many questions to her, and bade her call again, yet, in
the end, they declared they knew no such person. As I grew up
she used to tell me about these things, but I think she forgot the
name of 'Bethune.' Remember how very foreign and untaught she
was! I never knew this name till after her illness began,
when, in desperation, turning over all our little properties in
search of some clue to guide us to help, I came across the identical
scrap of paper on which my father had written the London address.
I hurried off to the city lawyers', only to find that their offices
had vanished before a new railway station, and their very firm had
actually ceased to exist in the 'Law Directory.' My only
chance remained in tracing out 'Bethune Towers,' which I did without
difficulty, and I must own I started off in a wild hope that there I
might find my father himself. Instead, I found only kinsmen,
who repudiated all knowledge of him or his doings. I myself
had realised the deception which must have been practised upon my
poor mother. But, oh! it was hard to hear that hard old man
laugh to scorn the idea that any deception had been necessary with
'a mere savage.'"
"Do not think about it," said Mary, proudly, as one might
shake off any chance defilement. "And I used to think Rab
Bethune looked so bright and kind! I know the Bairds liked him
too,—and they knew him very well."
"I felt I could have liked the young man myself," admitted
Lewis, cordially. "He did not say one harsh word of his own
accord; he only echoed, 'As my father says.'"
"Nobody could see you two and doubt a blood relationship
between you," said Mary. And then she told him how the glen
had been mystified and horrified by the story of Rab's "double."
"Well," decided Lewis, "if they had given me a night's
shelter, I should not have known you. If they had given me a
little money, I should not have met Miss Kerr. Do you wonder
that I glorify poverty and pain for myself? We must all speak
of things as we find them! Only I am so sorry for my poor
mother. What can set things right for her?"
"Only God Himself!" said Mary; "and we can't guess yet all
the blessing that means!"
MOETIA, THE MOTHER OF LEWIS.
patient life of Lewis Crawford's mother was rapidly drawing to an
During those days Miss Kerr almost lived in Soho Court.
This dying woman, whose nature had been expressed in no mere words,
but wholly in how she had borne and what she had done, seemed to
have a strange inspiring influence on strenuous, militant
Clementina. Here was one who had accepted wrong as if it was
but her right, and who had lived the life of a saint under the
stigma of a sinner's shame, who had endured in the strength of the
love which had brought her over the seas in search of him she called
her husband, who had trusted in God as she earned her poor bread day
by day, and who had never glorified herself as a martyr or a
heroine, but had ever humbly sat in the lowest place.
"It seems to me to be a life fulfilling the Christian law,"
mused Clementina. "Do you know, Mary, sometimes lately I have
been pondering over the parable of the king who gave a great supper,
and whose invited guests would not come. I have been wondering
whether those in the highways and hedges whom he finally 'compelled'
to come in, may not typify those whom hereditary influence, and
circumstance, and necessity have wrought to that self-denial and
self-abnegation which so few of us make our own by choice. And
as even among those was found one without a wedding-garment, so even
among these there may be some who fail to accept the blessed
compelling with the hands of humility and submission."
And Clementina Kerr sighed.
Clementina would have liked to take Mrs Crawford into the
country, where the dying eyes might rest on green fields and blue
distances, and where the sweet sounds of Nature might soothe the
clouded brain. But the invalid showed something like terror at
the thought of being stirred from her shadowy chambers. And
her old friend, the Italian doctor, upheld her in the feeling.
"You would like to go into your country places, signora," he
said, "and they would do you good, because they would bring back
your childhood to you and thoughts of happy days. For you,
troops of angels would be going up and down your mountains, but not
for her. They would only make her sick with longing for the
islands with the palm-trees to which you cannot take her. I
know, signora," he added with a wistful dignity, "for I too am an
exile! Let her stay where she has worked and loved.
These make any place into home."
Clementina yielded. She soon found that the sick woman
had pleasure in what she would have thought disturbing. In the
early morning she liked to hear the slamming door which announced
that such a one had started to work. The warning bark of the
butcher's dog was to her as the voice of a friendly guardian.
The song of the sempstress's caged linnet hanging opposite her
window was more to her than the warble of a myriad unknown
Her thoughts were always of the love in the life surrounding
her. When she heard the men going out very early: "They must
be in full work: how pleased they would be for the wives and the
little ones!" When the poor drinking shoemaker opposite came
home sober on Saturday evening—"What a happy hour his wife will
have!" Did the postman leave a letter for the sewing girl
across the way―"That will be good news from abroad; she has dear
brothers in Australia." Even when the dog barked―"There he is,
faithful to his master's charge"; while, as for the linnet, it was
always "singing to cheer up its dear little mistress."
She did not like anything to be removed that something better
might be substituted for it. "Let it last while it can," she
said. "Somebody liked to make it to get bread for his little
ones: it seems a shame to spurn what his love made."
"A sweet fancy,—the growth of a gentle mind," observed
The old Italian bent upon her the eagle eyes under the
beetling white brows.
"Is it only a fancy?" he asked. "I thought the signora
believed in God, and that God made all things; that God is love, and
that God is our Father. Therefore surely we too must be love
at the bottom of us, however badly we may be sometimes spoiled.
It is not I who say this: it is the signora herself."
Clementina stood gazing out thoughtfully on the crowds of
shabby people going so cheerfully to and fro in the narrow places.
It seemed to her as if a radiance illuminated the sordid scene, a
radiance which the Father Himself may see there always. For
were not all these feet going on the errands of love? And were
not the homely wares, the cheap crocks, the nice brown loaves, the
rough clothing, and the simple groceries, all made and sold for the
sake of love, household love, family love, neighbourly love?
The people might not know it if one asked them; they might answer
that they worked for money. But what do they want money for?
Just to buy household food, to keep up household fire, and to
discharge all the obligations which bind families into communities.
On what a solid mass of love the world really rests! By what a
force of love it moves! Never mind that at the moment the
sounds of a matrimonial squabble came up on the air, or that a
toil-worn mother gave her peevish child a sharp slap and left it
crying. These were but accidents raised by passing
circumstances, like the breezes that ruffle the ears of the rooted
corn, or the winds that raise the waves on the breast of the ocean's
depth of calm. Yes, Clementina Kerr felt that God and Nature
are too strong for the evil in us, and can secure their balance even
in those lives which seem most vicious and worthless.
How had the dying woman reached this greatest of those
secrets which are so constantly hidden from the wise and prudent, to
be revealed unto babes? Surely she had learned it in those
dreadful days, when a stranger in the bleak foreign land, with her
inarticulate babe at her breast, and so her life had been lapped in
peace and joy, though outwardly it had been so wronged and sad.
Love had made all things lovely to her, so that naught seemed common
and unclean. And now, those who wanted to bless her parting
soul could find nothing meet to offer it save the consolations of
Clementina found that other hearts besides her own bad also
been strangely drawn to this pathetic woman. When it was found
that Miss Kerr and Miss Olrig had taken the invalid in charge,
homely women, with house-key on finger and milk-jug in hand, used to
"venture" to stop them in the street to ask "how the poor foreign
lady was," saying "she always looked so pleasant," and never "passed
without a smile, just as if she was an old friend." "She
always nodded up to my window," said the little sempstress who owned
the linnet. "An' it used to make me feel as if I'd got a
sister across the way, though I reckon she'd been quite the lady in
her own land." The baker's child brought over her kitten,
saying she thought "it might amuse the lady, who'd always taken
notice of the cat when she came to the shop."
Mrs Crawford slept during the greater part of two or three
days before she died. A strange greyness, an indescribable
expression, would sweep across her face sometimes, and the watchers
would sit breathless, thinking she was passing away. Yet again
and again she awoke smiling and whispering, once with a strange,
"I knew I should see Lewis again. I always said so!"
"He has never been away; he will never leave you," responded
Clementina. But the invalid heard her with a puzzled look.
And her son said quietly:
"It is not of me she is thinking now."
Her mind had turned back to the lover of her youth.
There were no parting words. There had never seemed,
with her, one thought of parting. Only Miss Kerr and Lewis
were with her at the end. It came at last in a sleep on which
she had fallen, with her son's hands clasped in both of hers.
Lewis rose with one low, bitter cry, and vanished into the
inner apartment. At that moment the door bell rang.
Clementina did not heed it. But the Italian doctor answered
its summons, and Mary Olrig softly entered the room.
"So it is over?" she whispered.
"Over,—" echoed the old physician. "Gone where the
wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest." He
had heard those words in Clementina's readings, and had kept
repeating them ever since. For the wicked had troubled his
life very sorely, and he was an old man now, and tired out in body
"I think she has had the best of life, and has made the best
of it," cried Clementina. "She has loved and been loved—and
has learned her lesson. I have had the best of life too; but I
have not made the best of it, and I did not even see the lesson till
The fiery little woman sat down on a chair and wept aloud.
She forgot in the pang of humility, that God's North wind does His
errands of mercy as well as His sunbeams, for whom it clears the
way. Even tempests and volcanoes are all His ministers that do
His bidding. And the fiery hearts burn up the dross of evil
for Him, and the strong hands fight His battles!
The mourners' peaceful grief was not broken up by any of the
pumps and parade of death. The son and Clementina with Mary
and the old Italian, would be the only mourners. It struck
Lewis, whose heart was often secretly sore with the sense of his
mother's life of unmerited humiliation, that, after all, the funeral
train of many a queen does not number two women of so rare a quality
as these two friends of his.
Next morning Mr Hedges, the solicitor, found a black-edged
letter among his business correspondence. It was the
intimation of Mrs Crawford's death, in Mary Olrig's handwriting.
"Departed this life, yesterday evening, Moetia, mother of Mr
"So the poor woman's gone, and the young fellow will be free
to come back in a few days," mused the lawyer. "She had an
outlandish name. Of course she was a foreigner—one sees traces
of that in her son. 'Moetia.' Why! That is it!
So it is! Now I see why I seemed to know the name of 'Lewis
Crawford.' This is a very small world, after all."
MR HEDGES' MEMORY.
THE day after his
mother's funeral Lewis Crawford returned to his post in Mr Hedges'
He had lost the one natural tie he had on earth—the one
presence which had pervaded the whole of his existence hitherto.
Yet he was conscious rather of peaceful exaltation of mind than of
rending pain of loss. Between his mother and himself love had
never been wounded: there were no old scars to prick and burn under
the falling of tears; his sorrow only writhed against submission in
the solitary pang of remembering the wrongs which had been heaped on
the meek head of the dead woman. "The sting of death is sin,"
the sin of somebody, somewhere. His mother could never now
receive justice on earth, and this, and this only, made him realise
that the great change had actually passed over his home.
Otherwise she seemed to be still with him—her brooding love merely
raised a little higher, and raising him with it. Perhaps the
singular quietness which had enveloped her of late years helped the
feeling: her love had so rarely been in word, but ever in presence
Lewis had no intention of making any outward changes in his
life. The two simple rooms, little more than a room and a
closet, which had sufficed for his mother and himself in their
poverty, would amply suffice for him in his competence, and they
were the best outward semblance of home which remained to him in
this world. He had those self-helpful habits of a hermit or a
pioneer, which are necessary to all who determine never to be driven
by circumstances into mere conventional relations. When Lewis
Crawford should choose a wife, it would be because he sought a
companion for mind and a solace for heart, and not merely a somebody
to keep his accounts and look after his larder and linen. He
was unwilling to leave the old ways laid down by love in the past,
until he should find new ways led into by love for the future.
After all, it is seldom your clinging, leaning people who can afford
to live poetry. It takes a great many self-dependent habits
before we can dare to be faithful to our own hearts, or pitiful to
the needs of others.
Mr Hedges met his young clerk with such signs of sympathy as
might be shown by a good-natured dumb animal. The emotional
part of the worthy lawyer's nature was mostly dumb, but was none the
less sterling for being so, and was in far less danger of jarring on
The ordinary morning work of the office went on as usual.
Clients came and went, and attendances were made at those mysterious
tribunals known as judges' chambers or vice-chancellors' courts.
It was only when the business of the day was nearly done, that Mr
Hedges sauntered out of his private sanctum and sat down sideways on
the tall stool opposite young Crawford's desk.
He did not speak for a few minutes. Then he asked Lewis
if he meant to remain in his old quarters. The affirmative
answer was followed by another silence, broken by the remark―
"Your mother's was an uncommon name. I think Miss Kerr
must have told me she was a foreigner. There is something in
your appearance out of keeping with your Scotch surname. But I
don't think I was ever told of your mother's nationality."
"She was a native of Tahiti," Lewis answered.
"Ah!" said Mr Hedges. "And your father was Scotch?
And she had been long a widow?"
"She lost my father before I was born," returned Lewis, with
sternness audible in his voice.
"Ah!" reiterated the lawyer, turning on the stool and fully
facing the youth. "And where did he die?"
"We never knew when he died," said Lewis coldly.
"Were not you born at sea—between Australia and Great
Britain?" asked Mr Hedges.
"Yes," Lewis answered, with cold brevity.
"Miss Kerr did not tell me that," observed the lawyer, with a
significance which Lewis would have noticed, had not these inquiries
set all sorts of wrung chords a-jarring in his soul.
"Have you any knowledge of your father's people?" asked Mr
Hedges, after another pause.
"I know to what family he belonged," answered Lewis.
His spirit chafed against these questions.
"Do you know any person of the name of Beaman?" asked Mr
Hedges. He spoke carelessly, with that change of voice which
generally implies a change of subject. Lewis was grateful, and
hastened to reply, also with a change of tone:
"No; at least I do not think so. Do you mean in
connection with any work in this office?"
"No," said Mr Hedges, with a sudden brisk determination.
"No; I mean in connection with your own affairs. I thought you
might know the name. Let me help your memory,—Francis
Beaman—the Rev. Francis Beaman—a man who had travelled, who had been
chaplain, I think, on some ship."
Lewis reflected. "No," he repeated; "I am sure I have
not heard the name. How do you connect it with my affairs,
"In this way," said Mr Hedges, settling himself on his stool,
and holding up the indicator finger of his left hand in his regular
professional manner,—"in this way, Crawford. When I started in
life I started as articled clerk to a firm named Crewdson and
Lewis's dark face paled slightly. This was the legal
firm whose name his father had left with his mother when they
parted—the firm to which she had subsequently made her fruitless
application, and for which he himself had sought in vain before his
despairing journey to Bethune Towers.
Mr Hedges had paused. "I see you know that firm," he
said. "When I saw your mother's peculiar name, all the story
came back to me. I suppose you know she had once visited the
office of Crewdson and Field? I remember her visit, though I
never saw her. The clerks who did see her spoke of her.
We knew our principals had an interview with her. Here was a
young woman, a foreigner, speaking English imperfectly, asking for a
Mr Lewis Crawford. We knew nothing of such a person; but the
coincidence of the name with part of that of a client of ours, then
lately dead, made the firm pause on the matter for enquiries.
She was questioned as to being quite sure of the gentleman's name.
She was absolutely sure. What made her come to us? She
wanted to see a Mr Crawford Bethune, who would know all about Mr
Lewis Crawford. Then she showed us a piece of paper with the
name of our client, Lewis Crawford Bethune, of Bethune Towers, care
of our firm, written upon it――"
"I have that piece of paper still," observed Lewis.
"This made our principal still more inclined to hesitate," Mr
Hedges went on, "especially as she persisted that she only wanted to
communicate with this gentleman (whose real existence and death were
facts known to us), that she might hear of the 'Mr Lewis
Crawford'—who was to us wholly apocryphal. At last, the
principal persuaded her to say what she wanted with this person,
whoever he might be. She said she was his wife, married to him
in some outlandish place in the South Seas. Knowing that our
real client had died on his return voyage from Australia, our
principal thought his only course was to tell her to come back in a
few days, that he might have time to communicate with the gentleman
who had succeeded to the estate of Lewis Crawford Bethune, childless
Mr Hedges paused for a moment. "Of course, the matter
was spoken of with interest in our office," he went on, in a
deprecating tone. "I must confess that the general feeling was
that probably our client had been a villain, and that the poor young
foreigner, whose earnest, simple manner raised considerable
sympathy, was much to be pitied."
Lewis raised his head loftily. "I know," he said—"I
know. It was scarcely possible for you to think otherwise."
Mr Hedges resumed: "Our principal's letter to Lewis Crawford
Bethune's successor brought an immediate telegram that no parley was
to be had with the applicant; and this was promptly followed by a
letter saying that Mr Bethune had had a hint given him that he was
likely to be troubled by impostors of this sort. If the woman
came again she was to be told that no such person as Lewis Crawford
was known, and if she had any claim concerning such a person she had
better advertise, taking care, in her own interest, that she was
first armed with her marriage certificate. We all talked it
over in the office, and our feeling was that Mr Bethune might have
shown some pity for the poor girl who had undoubtedly been deceived
by his kinsman, but that probably he feared to do so, lest she had
friends who might be inclined to levy blackmail and give trouble."
"Friends!" echoed Lewis, bitterly. "She had no friends
on earth, except the second mate and the stewardess of the ship in
which she travelled from Australia. They helped to settle her
into a living in London, and never lost sight of her till the mate
was drowned, and the stewardess had a paralytic stroke, and was
forced to go to the workhouse of her native place!"
It had indeed been a helpless combination against rank and
"Gently, gently, Mr Crawford," said the lawyer, kindly.
"Our principal had nothing else to do but to follow out his client's
instructions. He did not like his task. The girl herself
was a perfect picture of simplicity and bewilderment. I
remember hearing that she spoke English very imperfectly, and said
nothing except in answer to questions. Our principal told her
that nobody knew anything of any 'Mr Lewis Crawford' and that the
'Mr Lewis Crawford Bethune' of whom she had hoped to make inquiries
was dead. Then I think he exceeded his commission by asking
her a few questions. She said she had been married in Tahiti,
in the cabin of a ship in harbour,—did not know the minister's name
nor the date! The firm gave her Mr Bethune's advice about
advertising, and sent her away. We were all more than ever
convinced that she was the victim of a Briton's villainy. And
there are plenty of them in all our colonies, Mr Crawford,—the more
is the pity of it! But wait,—"
Lewis was scarcely listening. He knew all this before.
But the recital from a stranger's lips brought back with renewed
vividness the thought of all his mother must have suffered in those
days. Oh, if she could but have seen the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
"It was nearly four years afterwards," Mr Hedges went on,
pointing the ruler significantly,—"I remember well, for by that time
I was just out of my articles, and our old principal was dead, and
his name was already removed from the firm,—when a Reverend Francis
Beaman came to the offices asking for him."
Lewis was all attention now.
"Our head clerk saw him. This Mr Beaman also wanted to
know about a Mr Lewis Crawford Bethune. He too was told he was
dead. Upon which he seemed much taken aback, and said he had
married the gentleman to a young foreign woman some years before,
when a ship in which he was travelling had touched at a remote port
in the South Sea Islands. He gave the name of the ship, in
whose log he said there was a formal entry of the event, as well as
in his own diary, and further that he had written a sort of
certificate to the same effect on the fly-leaf of Mr Bethune's
prayer-book, witnessed by the ship's captain and another of her
officers. The bridegroom had given him as a permanent British
address the name of our lately deceased principal. Therefore,
as Mr Beaman was in our neighbourhood, he thought he would call and
"And did you tell him about my mother's visit?" asked Lewis,
"It was not I, remember," pleaded Mr Hedges; "it was our head
clerk. And 'remember it was no part of his professional duty
to open our own client's skeleton cupboard to every stranger.
This reverend gentleman might have proved but a colleague in an
imposture. No; our head clerk told him nothing, but got out of
him all that he could. He related all afterwards to our new
principal, and it was agreed there was nothing to be done. We
were agents for the Bethune Towers people, and it was not our place
to enquire after a claimant to oust them. It seemed only too
likely, under all circumstances, that by that time your poor mother
"Only too likely!" echoed Lewis, bitterly.
"And we had not heard one word of your birth," said the
lawyer. "Your mother, not being questioned on that point, had
Lewis's face was absolutely cynical. "No possibly
rising sun being visible, nobody could be tempted to follow it!" he
Mr Hedges shook his head gently. "It was none of our
business," he persisted mildly. "A lawyer cannot take up both
sides of any suit. Our professional duty was to consult our
client and consider his interests. I believe Mr Beaman's call
and enquiry were duly reported to our client. He took no
notice, so far as I recollect. He regarded it, we supposed, as
but a fresh cropping up of the old affair. But there was one
junior clerk in our office who was not altogether inclined to let
the matter drop so easily."
"Heaven bless him for that!" exclaimed Lewis.
Mr Hedges looked at him mildly. Should he leave this
impetuous youth in this illusion of philanthropy, or should he
disabuse him of it? Truth is truth. "I am not sure that
he was interested from the highest motives," he said. "I
daresay there was an amount of self interest—which underlies much.
Be said there was often a great deal of money in these cases, and it
might be the making of a man to get hold of one! But the
difficulty was, how to find out the poor lady again, for he had only
his memory to go upon, and could not recall her name or the place
she came from; and by the time things had got thus far, one might as
well have put a question to the grave as to our head clerk. My
young friend tried a few vague advertisements in certain newspapers,
but they brought no answer. He succeeded in getting on the
track of the Rev. Francis Beaman, only to find that he had once more
started off across the world. So he comforted himself by
deciding that if there was a great deal of money in the case, it
would probably take a great deal of money to get it out, which he
had not got;—and that speculative legal business has a bad odour
about it,―especially if it happens to fail. Lawyers seldom
meddle with penniless wrongs."
Lewis raised his serious eyes to his principal's face.
"You are doing it," he said. "From all I have done since I
came to the office, I think you engaged me for that very purpose.
And I had many a fruitless quest—and might have had many more—before
we got this genuine Chancery suit started. I see some people
are better than their professions, sir. And I think those are
the people who keep the world going."
Never before had Mr Hedges felt it so hard to keep Clementina
Kerr's secret. "I am false to her if I speak, and false to
myself if I remain silent," was the thought which flitted across the
solicitor's brain. "To be credited with generous actions one
does not deserve, makes one feel like a cur; and to have to keep
silence under the credit makes one feel like a mangy cur." But
the silence had to be kept.
"I daresay you wonder, Crawford," he resumed, "that I did not
remember your name at once. But such hundreds of names have
passed through my mind since those days! It struck me as
somehow familiar, but I dismissed the idea as a fancy, till your
mother's peculiar name brought it all back. Whereupon I
instantly sought out our old chief clerk. The original firm
has not really ceased to exist, though as partner after partner
died, it gradually changed its name entirely, as also its offices.
They still have the Bethune business. But the old head clerk
is no longer with them. They dismissed him very shabbily, by
making his place so uncomfortable that he was obliged to resign,
whereby they avoided having to pension him, and filled his place by
a cheaper man. I found him quite ready to give me all
information—in a professional way. I learned all he knew about
the Reverend Francis Beaman,—the name of the ship, the port, &c.
Whether that man is still living or dead, we have yet to ascertain.
Of course, you will take this up, Crawford?"
Lewis had risen from his seat. He looked pale, proud,
"It is due to the family at Bethune Towers to let them know
that their relative was not wholly a scoundrel," he said, "and also
to give them an opportunity of acknowledging that they did my mother
an injustice. But the whole matter, and how to proceed in it,
will require my deliberate consideration."
"Crawford," said the lawyer, "you don't seem to see what all
this signifies! Why, man, you have only to prove your mother's
marriage—as I feel almost sure you can—and then you are the master
of Bethune Towers; not of a very great fortune, but certainly of
place and power, which mean something."
"I see it. I know it," Lewis answered. "But many
thoughts have arisen in my mind lately. And at present I can
only remember my poor mother. Coming now, this comes almost
like a blow. If you can spare me, Mr Hedges, I should like to
go home at once."
"Certainly, my dear fellow," said the lawyer. "And if
for a few days you would like to give your whole attention to this
matter, I will arrange for you to do so."
He actually conducted Lewis through the offices and let him
out with his regulation bow. He did not notice it of himself;
nor did Lewis observe it. The valuable clerk was already
transformed into the important client.
When Lewis reached his solitary home, he found that kind
hands had been busy there. There were no startling changes;
there was absolutely nothing new. Only the two rooms which had
been the whole home for two were now parlour and bed-chamber for
one. Everything of his mother's remained,—only her couch,
tucked under her own bright counterpane, with a lace slip over the
pillow, had become a sofa, and the same change (in every instance
promoting each article to daintier use) had passed over all.
Lewis threw himself on his bed. The old doctor came
upstairs and knocked, but got no answer. Clementina Kerr and
Mary Olrig sat together in Clementina's room, and talked over the
last days, and wondered whether Lewis would walk over to seek
comfort with them. But he came not. Yet the neighbours
in the little court, looking up, said that poor Mrs Crawford's son
could not be at home, for there was no light in the windows where a
light had not failed for years.
Lewis Crawford slept at last. When he awoke the dawn
was beautiful, even in that dim city room. His soul felt calm
and free. And a voice seemed sounding in his ears—"As one whom
his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you."
THE MADNESS OF LEWIS CRAWFORD.
LEWIS went back
to Mr Hedges' office next day; but he availed himself of that
gentleman's permission to devote his immediate time and attention to
his own affairs.
Lewis already possessed his own birth certificate.
Though he had been born at sea, his mother's humble friends, the
engineer and the stewardess, had taken care to get this, with all
due formality, immediately on the arrival of the ship in the port of
London. His mother had told him so, and Lewis had looked up
his certificate and had armed himself with it before his despairing
journey to Tweedside.
The next object was to trace out the Rev. Mr Beaman; and,
considering that the latest information concerning him was at least
twenty years old, and had left him travelling to remote countries,
this might easily be a long and complicated quest! Mr Hedges
himself accompanied Lewis to wait on the old ex-head clerk of
Crewdson & Field. That gentleman was now seventy years of age,
but his memory on business matters remained wonderfully fresh and
accurate. Since Mr Hedges' first interview with him on this
matter, he had been refreshing it by reference to ancient memoranda
and diaries, his own property, which he had brought away from the
office when it had discarded him.
From these it appeared that the Rev. Mr Beaman was of the
Church of England, somewhat of an a clergyman invalid, and obliged,
therefore, to travel a great deal. The ship on which he had
been voyaging when he had performed this marriage ceremony had
started from the port of London, and was owned by a great shipping
firm still in business there. The old head-clerk gave some
further particulars which the Rev. Francis Beaman had furnished in
the course of his conversation. The clergyman had said that at
the date in question the island of Tahiti was in an exceedingly
disturbed state, for it was the period when France had assumed its
forcible occupation. It was circumstances connected with this
change which had entailed Mr Crawford Bethune's hasty departure for
Australia. The British Consul, in whose presence the marriage
ceremony would otherwise have been performed, was in prison, and Mr
Crawford Bethune seemed mistrustful lest in such a state of
confusion and apprehension the existing missions might prove unable
to secure records of marriages performed in them. Under these
circumstances he had thought of the British ship with her officers
and the clergyman aboard, and the Rev. Mr Beaman had seen that it
was right to comply with his request. The bridegroom had been
terribly anxious to get everything done as correctly as possible,
saying that there should have been no difficulty or haste over his
wedding, but for the misery of the island and his enforced
departure. Mr Beaman had added that Mr Crawford Bethune spoke
the native language like a native, but that the bride, who was quite
a girl, and seemed to worship him, did not know much English; so
that the bridegroom was very careful to interpret to her the mutual
"My mother has often told me that," was Lewis's solitary
comment, as he prepared to take his legal friend's advice, and
resort to the shipping firm to whom the vessel had belonged, and try
through them to trace her log-book, her officers, and her clerical
That gentleman was found quite easily through the shipping
agents, of whom he had never lost sight, since they constantly did
him little favours in the matter of his health voyages.
Lewis had actually no more difficulties! The one
obstacle to the full clearing up of the whole matter had been the
blank denials of Crawford Bethune's brother, the professional
secrecy of his lawyers, and the easy-going supineness of Mr Beaman
The Rev. Mr Beaman was living in a snug villa, a very
flourishing valetudinarian, who did not seem at all self-convicted
of heartless carelessness, even when he confronted Lewis's dark
accusing eyes, and heard the full story of his mother's wrongs.
"You see, I did everything that I was asked," he said, quite
sunnily. "All was en régle, and the poor gentleman had
the copy certificate in his prayer-book. I was very sorry to
hear of his death when I called at the lawyer's office. I have
often wondered what would become of the poor girl. Such a
marriage was rather risky. Forgive me for saying so. I
suppose the bride, or at any rate her grandmother, must have been a
cannibal,—all the more likely that I believe she belonged to a
chief's family. Very proud, probably, but scarcely likely to
have our ideas about some matters. I don't see that I could
have done more than I did. When the lawyers said the poor
gentleman was dead, and that they knew nothing of any wife, what
could I think but that the marriage had ended sadly, as seemed so
likely? How could I make enquiries? It is a thankless
task to open the skeleton doors of well-reputed families,—one is
likely only to get one's own fingers pinched therein. You'll
find that out yourself, young gentleman. And, besides, my
medical men have always told me to avoid excitement. I have a
weak heart, and am apt to turn faint if I am involved in any
unpleasantness. I do hope you don't want to draw me into any
legal business. It you want to produce a witness, can't you
find the captain?—a strong, rough man, sure to be living,—could go
through anything,—set my nerves on edge with his loud voice. I
think you can do without me quite well. The evidence is all
But Mr Hedges found one detail on which this indolent and
irresponsible gentleman was still valuable. This was that he
could prove that Mr Lewis Crawford Bethune had done business and
been known in Tahiti only as Mr Crawford. He had explained his
dropped patronymic by saying that he had been the scapegrace son,
and had not wished still to infuriate his people by imposing on
their family pride the disgrace which they held all trade to be.
It was easy to understand how the shy, frightened, foreign-speaking
bride had failed to grasp that an additional name was brought
forward when precise accuracy was legally desirable. Mr Hedges
inexorably drew up an affidavit for Mr Beaman, and he and Lewis left
the reverend gentleman bitterly lamenting that there seems no
effectual way to keep the wrongs of others from disturbing
"It is almost a pity I did not look more deeply into the
matter at the time I heard of the wretched man's death," be
bewailed. "For I must have been stronger then—twenty years
ago. Things neglected always turn up at the wrong time."
As for the ship's log-book, it was found in the office of the
shipping firm—an unconscious custodian of a secret whose value it
needed human voices to interpret. The old captain was dead―had
gone down with his ship in a great storm. But the partners of
the firm which he had served could prove his witnessing signature.
The other witness, they said, had been the second mate, and he was
still living, though he had lost an arm and a leg, and was
maintained by his wife keeping a coffee-house near Victoria Basin.
To him the gentlemen resorted. His memory was sound and
clear. He shook Lewis heartily by the hand, told him "he
favoured his father," of whose honourable conduct he had often
thought when at other foreign ports he had noticed cruel traces of
"what villains Englishmen can be." He professed himself in
hearty readiness to "hirple away" on his crutches to give evidence
whenever and wherever it might be required.
There was one question which was ever present in Lewis's mind
during this investigation, and which also occurred to Mr Hedges.
How far did the Bethunes of the Towers know that they were
repudiating a lawful right when they had spurned Lewis's plea for
mercy? Was it likely that Lewis Crawford Bethune, so sedulous
in planning to assure his marriage, had failed to apprise his people
of it? What had become of his effects, which must have
included that prayer-book with the copy marriage certificate?
Without saying one word to Lewis, Mr Hedges took it upon
himself to investigate in this direction. From his friend the
ancient head-clerk, he easily discovered the vessel in which Lewis
Crawford Bethune had sailed on that fatal voyage, in whose course
his restless life had ended. The lawyer's next step was to
find out somebody who had been a fellow-traveller on that vessel.
The old head-clerk knew that a hamper and one or two boxes belonging
to the dead man had passed from the ship through the offices of
Crewdson & Field to Bethune Towers. But nobody in these
offices had touched the contents of these packages, or had any
reason to know what they contained.
Search in the ships' books presently unearthed an old man who
had been steward upon the vessel. Mr Hedges and Lewis went
together to visit this person.
The old man was living with his old wife in a room in
Ratcliffe Highway. She did washing and charring, and he minded
barrows and stalls and picked up any jobs he could find,—a clean,
cheery old couple, though their tiny room was close and dismal.
"Ay, I remember the gentleman who died," said the old man.
"Didn't know there was anything the matter with him at first.
But he got rapid wuss. An' there wan't nobody to nuss him—not
a woman aboard. Didn't he fret after his wife, poor chap!
Not so much to have her with him as because he'd left her behind,
thinking soon to go back. He didn't bring her, because he'd
had to start in a jiffey, hearin' his father was dying and leavin'
some business for him to look arter; and she was goin' to have a
babby, and the doctor said it might kill her, or it, to have it on
the sea." [Ah, thought Lewis, my poor mother went through but
greater hardships because my father had sought to spare her!]
"And when he felt he couldn't reach land,—though he wouldn't give up
hope to the last,—he wrote a letter. I held him up to do it,
an' it wan't many lines, but ten times he had to lay down while he
did it, he was that weak. Eh, he was weak!"
And the broken old man spoke with the caressing pity which he
had probably felt when the weight of the dying sufferer lay on his
"I saw what he wrote—he asked me to read it to see if it was
right; for though his hand moved, his own eyes could scarce see.
It were just that he was married to a poor foreign girl, and he had
left her in Australia; but she had his London lawyer's address.
And then he said something about a book which would show everything
was all right. And he made me get out a prayer-book, and pack
it up an address it to the same place as the letter; but I don't
remember the address. I couldn't help thinking he was
wandering then; for what good could a prayer-book do in a land where
there's such a lot of them? He would have me make up a package
and post the letter at the first port we put into—he was so feared
they might be forgotten if they weren't started while he was livin'.
But I reckon news of his death got in long before they did; for we
put in at another port a few days after he was gone, and our
captain, he telegraphed from there. Of course, the poor
gentleman was buried at sea."
Again Mr Hedges drew up an affidavit, and secured the old
man's promise to be in readiness to give further testimony.
Lewis came away from this interview very stern and silent.
It was on that evening when he first told his new tidings to
Miss Clementina Kerr and Mary Olrig.
He related his story in his own quiet, reserved way.
Miss Clementina said suddenly—
"Do you think your mother herself ever for one moment doubted
your father's feeling of love and truth towards her? Have you
the least reason to fancy that others' doubts thereof ever shook her
faith even for a secret moment?"
"No," answered Lewis, almost with vehemence. "No:
never! Not even my doubts, which—God forgive me—I could not
help having after I had learned the evil of the world; but I had
never known father!"
His voice lingered on the last word. Miss Clementina
noticed that he used it for the first time without prefixed
possessive pronoun. It is a curious thing that what we truly
possess we are least apt to claim by any formulary of words.
Henceforth for Lewis there was no longer "my father " or "your
father," but the blessed rest beneath true fatherhood—the human
shadow of the living God.
"Then all this explanation would not have mattered a whit to
your mother," said Miss Clementina. "I think it might even
have hurt her. It might have seemed hard that the word of a
few strangers and the sight of a bit of paper could give you and the
rest of us more satisfaction than all her assurances."
Miss Clementina paused suddenly. A thought came into
her mind,—one of those which we may rarely speak aloud since those
who have ears to hear will have the thought themselves, and to
others it is not yet given. She thought: "What of the new
stage of life on which Moetia Crawford has entered? and what of the
bond which her boundless love and faith must have wrought between
herself and their object? Something almost like a vision
flashed on Clementina's mind. It seemed as if she saw Moetia
herself—no longer sweet, silent, patient, fading, but sweet and
strong, and full of a strange youthfulness, which yet had not thrown
aside, but rather absorbed, all the pain and the fading, and had
reared a wondrous bloom out of them. Miss Clementina must have
surely made the other figure of her vision out of the face and form
of Lewis Crawford. And yet it was not he. And she seemed
to see the rapt meeting of the two, and to feel that they were
joined in union over which neither absence nor change, neither life
nor death, had power! "Not marrying nor giving in
marriage,"—not dowries, nor furnishings, nor settlements, nor family
convenience, nor personal frenzy, nor outward ceremonies, nor bonds
of any kind,—but wholly the affinity of love and faith, "as the
angels of God in Heaven." Vision or no vision, a strange
thrill swept over Miss Clementina; and for half a moment she seemed
to catch a glimpse of the ways of God, and to understand that it was
well worth all Moetia's loneliness and pain to earn this treasure of
perfected love wherewith to enrich her beloved. Oh, if one
could only hold this fast—this faith—then does not the whole world
become one's easy prey, and all its conflicts, and trials, and
losses, only the banners and badges of one's victory
Mary Olrig and Lewis were left together for a few minutes.
"I see this will mean great changes for you," said the girl,
in a subdued tone. Her imaginative faculty helped her at once
to realise all the changes involved,—all the dividing lines between
this homely life of daily bread-winning, this fraternal intercourse,
unregulated by etiquette and unchecked by convention, and the ways
of existence in the Towers, with its late dinners and county
ceremonials, its ever present servants, and conventional manners.
She had a curious feeling as of one who stands on the quay beside a
ship in which a friend has just embarked, and who knows that though
hands can still clasp yet the anchor is already lifting!
People with less imagination do not see so quickly all that is
involved in change. To them it only means that "to-morrow
shall be as this day, and much more abundant." They are like
those who do not unclasp their hands though the boat is unmoored.
But it moves out, notwithstanding. And the hands must part.
Yet here the imaginative faculty fails sometimes. For
if imagination be wholesome and true, its tendency is towards the
probable and the normal; and it is inclined reverently to leave the
"possible," the "too-good-to-be-expected," to the higher spiritual
regions. Yet if earthly hopes often fail, so fears are
sometimes disappointed. Truth is even richer than imagination,
or imagination would have nothing to live and thrive upon.
There are developments of humanity and of circumstance which, like
His other holy mysteries, God keeps
"Just on the outside of man's dream!"
Lewis turned to Mary Olrig. "Great changes!" he echoed.
"Why? There may be great changes coming to me. I think
there must be. I hope so. But not through this.
No; my decision is made. All the best of life has come to me
in my poverty, and through my poverty. Shall I instantly
desert so good a friend? I have no fear of not being able to
earn my own bread. Have I not seen that even my poor mother
could do that? God's will set aside my father's efforts and my
mother's prayers to secure me my rights. Shall my will snatch
There was a wild feeling of pride and joy in Mary Olrig's
poet soul. But she was too honest to let the other side pass
"May it not be God's will that has put them into your power
at last?" she asked, trembling.
He looked at her, with the light of enthusiastic
determination shining strong in his resolute face. "May it not
rather be that God puts them into my power that I may have power to
put them aside?" he said. "He gives me my choice. One
was asked to sell all that he had, and take up his cross and follow
the Master, and by his decision he made what Dante calls 'them great
refusal.' I think God gives me my easier choice to-day."
"But that rich man was bidden to give up all to distribute to
the poor," observed Mary. There was an active command."
"And I am within a command, too," said Lewis. "'Resist
not evil,'—perhaps because man's evil toward us is often but the
shell enclosing God's goodness to us."
"And if old Mr Bethune got your father's letter (and it was
bad enough if he only failed to investigate your mother's story, but
far worse if he ignored your father's letter), is he to be left in
triumph with his ill-gotten gains?" Mary enquired. The sense
of justice was always strong within her.
Lewis pondered. "No," be said; "it would be unfair not
to show him his sin or mistake, whichever it was. Some people
see the truth first through other eyes. I must make him, as he
is living, give some acknowledgment to my parents' memory, for his
own sake. If he were dead, I should not trouble my cousins in
the matter at all, for they may be quite innocent of all the wrong."
"Lesley Baird and her uncle used to think very highly of
Rab," mused Mary. "He had an open, pleasant face.
Somehow, lately, I fancy they have been a little disappointed in
him. I think so only because they have never even mentioned
him. Lesley has not written one word about this marriage of
his. I should not think he can be very nice if he likes people
of the stamp of the Ben Matthieus. At least he is not likely
to remain nice very long. But oh, Mr Crawford, if you do what
you say, and let everything pass you by, people will think you are
Lewis smiled down on her. She did not quite interpret
that smile. She saw only kind amusement in it. There was
also ineffable tenderness.
"Nobody but you and one or two lawyers will ever know that I
have strict legal rights to what I resign," he said. "I told
you because one must think aloud with somebody before one can be
sure of one's own thoughts!"
"Yet how much good you might do with this money!" sighed
"How much more good, and how much less harm, I may do without
it!" said he.
AT Edenhaugh the
days had "gone by." The Misses Gibson had duly departed for
their Assembly dissipations, bringing to Lesley a sense of relief
tempered only by the thought of their speedy re-visit.
"For we should like to see the home-coming of the bride and
bridegroom, Lesley," said Miss Helen, "and we have no other good
friends in the near neighbourhood whom we could ask to take us in
except you and your uncle, whose hospitalities never fail."
"'Bread's house skailed never,' as the auld proverb says,"
laughed Miss Bell. Both the sisters knew how to plead in formâ
pauperise, when that appeal was likely to be the effective one.
At other times they took favours as if they granted them, which
saved them the trouble of being grateful!
Lesley recoiled from the prospect. At such a time the
Gibsons' presence and talk would be well-nigh unbearable! But
she felt the two pairs of keen eyes watching her, and there was
enough of human pride in the girl to make her shrink from repelling
their encroachments for the first time on this occasion.
Whatever came afterwards, the Gibsons must be allowed this one more
Lesley had not been left long in ignorance of the change that
was to be made in Gowan Brae, and the check which it was to put to
her intercourse with the boy Jamie. Logan brought home his
bride with all speed. News of her coming had scarcely passed
down the dale before she was on the scene herself. Perhaps the
master of Gowan Brae was anxious that his bridal should receive its
due share of local attention before it could be eclipsed by the
grander nuptials at The Towers.
The new Mrs Logan made her first appearance at church so
gorgeous and so bedecked with unaccountable and novel fineries, that
it is to be feared the minister might as well have omitted his
sermon that day, so far as the greater part of his female hearers
Gowan Brae was an open house for the following week.
Poor Lesley, with her secret concerning its master, was obliged to
accompany her uncle to pay their neighbourly civilities. Mr
Baird, never dreaming that Logan had ever come out of his place,
would not have omitted this courtesy in such a case. This was
exactly what was due where nothing more could be paid. But
sweet Lesley would have sacrificed a great deal to avoid meeting the
woman who had accepted what she had declined, and whose probable
ignorance of that fact made Lesley feel as if she had suffered a
covert injury at Lesley's hands. When she was introduced to
the new wife—squat, voluble, and overdressed—she felt ready to sink
through the floor with a humiliation which she could scarcely have
explained. It was not that Mrs Logan was inferior to her
husband: she was not so, not one whit. But she was a final
revelation of him. Without her, one might have imagined that,
despite his own coarse reality, he yet cherished ideals. "What
must there be, then, in me," cried Lesley's sore heart, "which could
tempt an offer from the man who could pass on to woo this!
Little need I wonder that Rah Bethune forgot me!"
It would be hard to say exactly what Logan himself or
somebody else had told the new wife concerning Lesley Baird.
The bride at once singled her out for attentions and speeches which
were fawning and fulsome, as all spurious politeness tends to be.
Lesley seemed to feel a cloven foot beneath the flowers, though she
hated herself for the suspicion. Mrs Logan thanked her
effusively for all her kindness to "poor little Jamie." Yet,
somehow, these thanks only made Lesley quite aware that this was the
stepmother, with legal rights conferred on her by the boy's father,
while she herself was but "a stranger," with no rights at all in the
Yet when Mrs Logan returned the call only a day or two
afterwards, coming to Edenhaugh alone, as she said, expressly that
she might take counsel with Lesley about Jamie, Lesley felt that she
had been unjust in her suspicions, and sought to make amends by
answering all Mrs Logan's questions with the utmost frankness.
Mrs Logan reiterated her thanks for Lesley's past kindness in terms
of disproportionate flattery. But Lesley tried to think this
was only her way, and might be quite honest. Mrs Logan wound
up her thanks by remarking that it was her bounden duty to put a
stop to Jamie's daily visit to Edenhaugh, since she could not allow
him to be troublesome to other people; overruling Lesley's eager
contradiction of this plea by adding that Jamie must be made to
understand that now he had a mother of his own to make a home for
him, and need depend for nothing upon anybody else; begging Lesley
not to take much notice of Jamie for a while, "to give his
stepmother a chance with him." Still, Lesley tried to think
that the feeling was natural, and might even be laudable. So,
to prove her docile submission to the new position, Lesley packed up
Jamie's drawing materials and sent them home in the chaise with his
stepmother, who, on her part, presented them to him, with the
remark, —"There, child: Miss Baird does not want anything more to do
with you now. You must get on as well as you can for the
future without her." Observations which, with all their subtle
emphasis, were overheard by the servant lass and the stableman, who
drew their own shrewd inferences therefrom.
Within a fortnight of her arrival, Mrs Logan knew everybody
in the dale, and had discovered congenial souls with whom she could
hope to carry on that freemasonry of gossip which works chiefly by
nods, winks, tones, sudden pauses, and harmless questions, and
which, while injurious enough to other people, can thus scarcely
recoil on the heads of its originators. How can you prove
malice in a sigh, or convict a lie in a mere pause?
Thus it came to pass that it was swiftly whispered
round the dale that poor Mrs Logan "would have a hard bit with her
step-son, thanks to the interference and influence of certain
people. Ah, it was a terrible trial and an overwhelming
responsibility to be a stepmother!" (One might have imagined
from the manner of talk that a poor woman could be thrust against
her will into such a post, and that the spiteful election was with
the stepchildren!) "It was such a pity Mr Logan had ever
looked in any direction except towards his present wife, who was
exactly suited to him. Not but what a great deal of attraction
had been held out to him in 'certain' quarters. Ah, there were
some people who wanted to be too clever. Those who tried to
sit on two stools were generally left standing at last!"
Meantime, Jamie, withdrawn from his wonted routine, and
neglected in the general gala and excitement maintained at Gowan
Brae, lapsed into the society of the ploughman, the horse-man, and
the maid: the two former pitied him in their rough way; the latter
speedily hated her mistress. Their only idea of kindness was
indulgence—indulgence in idleness, in mischief, and in food.
Consequently, Jamie's demoralisation was rapid. Of course, he
had his father's nature in him. This is not saying that his
father's habits of drinking and outbursts of un-reason were
hereditary. The farmer had acquired those for himself by
yielding to the weakness of his thoughtless and sensuous nature.
It was this nature which was his son's heritage,—capable, therefore,
either of developing his father's vices or of being disciplined into
yielding the nobler fruits of ready adaptation to circumstances and
perennial capacity for enjoyment. Lesley had seemed to herself
to see the sprouting of these merits. She had had high hopes
and aims for little Jamie. He had been the first on whom she
had bestowed love for loving's sake, simply because it was needed.
Thus his childish hand had opened that spring of maternal love which
is latent in all women, sometimes flowing forth most copiously and
freely where it cannot settle into any stagnation about "one's own."
Alas for Lesley's hopes for Jamie!—wheat grows only with time and
labour: but weeds spring of themselves in a single night. It
took but a few days of running wild to obliterate all trace of
Lesley's efforts from Jamie's conduct, though they might linger in
his memory. And when she, in loyal fulfilment of her promise,
mortified her own inclinations, and strove to abbreviate and
regulate her greetings when she met him, he only thought she somehow
"knew that he was naughty," and so slunk hastily away, and shirked
seeing her whenever he could.
It was all so sad; and only the more sad because Lesley
herself could not see all as it really was, but simply felt her life
stripped of almost its last delight. How had she forfeited
everything? Her uncle remained. Life would never
separate him from her. But if his hair seemed a little whiter
one day, or if his face wore a tired expression, Lesley trembled.
As the middle-aged sigh at the passing of the youth of the young,
knowing that when their boys and girls go forth they can come back
no more, but are replaced by strange men and women,—so the young,
under the first strokes of loss and sorrow, quake at the advancing
years of their elders, and make pathetic reckoning of how long they
may be spared to them.
Meanwhile there was the house to keep, the stores to
replenish, the poultry and small live-stock to consider, and the
flowers to tend. There were the old pleasures of a new book,
of the monthly magazines: all the same, but with the sap gone out—a
dead body, instead of a living soul. At such seasons, restless
and undutiful spirits drop the reins of duty, and let the team of
daily life run wildly. It was not so with Lesley. She
redoubled every care, hoping, if possible, to supply the place of
the old glad eagerness by strenuous earnestness.
How much did Mr Baird know of the battle which was being
silently fought at his side? Lesley never knew. We never
do know how much our best and kindest guess concerning these
What Lesley did know was, that though she and her uncle often
now sat silent in the gloaming when once they would have mingled in
merry chat and brisk debate, yet, sitting so, a strange peace would
come over her, so that she could look back on the past and forward
to the future with calmness and trust, could even feel assured that
somewhere beyond the dark valley through which her soul was passing,
she would regain sunshine, possibly even softer and sweeter than
that of earlier days.
It was at this time that Lesley first considered how little
she really knew of her uncle. What were the facts of his life?
Born at Edenhaugh, and living there ever since, except for a few
years at Edinburgh High School. But this could not be all.
No man's true history is in its bare dates and names. In what
fires had his soul been softened into its wide and tender sympathy?
In what great anguish had he gained a standpoint from which most
things presented to him an aspect different from that turned to the
common world? Lesley realised that she did not know, and that
it did not matter in the least; only, however costly the process had
been, it was justified in the result. And Lesley began to
understand those blessed silent ministries of Divine Providence
which gradually clothe with forgetfulness all cruel forms of wrong
and sin and suffering, leaving behind only the chastened wisdom of
saintly character which has grown up amid their rough buffetings.
There were hours in those days when Lesley felt as if she
could have cried out for somebody to help her to pour forth her woes
upon a kind human heart. Yet in after years she made
thanksgiving for the silence which her uncle had never allowed her
When neighbours came in, Lesley grew apt to slip from the
parlour to the retirement of her own chamber. So much of the
local talk of the period, even when it had no covert significance of
tone or emphasis, dealt mainly with the preparations going forward
at The Towers—the new carpets, the consignments of exotics, and so
forth. Lesley could never hear of these matters without
wondering how Rab really felt about them, and what could be the
meaning of his mysterious silence and alienation,—as mysterious, had
he been but her uncle's friend and favourite, as if he had really
been what she had mistaken him for, her own lover.
These were questions over which Lesley strove not to ponder.
She never now sat dreaming in the twilight or the moonlight.
She was always actively employed. So, on one occasion—the
evening but one before Rab Bethune and Miss Ben Matthieu were to be
married—when she had retreated from a visitor in such haste that she
forgot to take her knitting with her, she at once looked about her
room to see something wherewith to occupy herself
There was one of her drawers not quite orderly: a drawer
assigned to those little feminine properties which will get into
disorder from time to time. Laces, ties, gloves not in present
wear, one or two books, a few of those letters which are not private
treasures, yet which one does not burn immediately they come in.
Lesley bethought herself that she would set these things straight,
and destroy whatever was found useless.
A pair of gloves was condemned. Two or three
handkerchiefs and collars were examined, and put aside as of
possible use to the little daughters of a shepherd's widow. A
note from Miss Bell Gibson was burned.
Then Lesley lighted on something which made her heart give a
great bound and brought the colour to her face. It was but an
empty envelope with her own name and address written on it in a
business hand. But then it brought back the mood, the dreams,
the expectancy, the conjectures, the very atmosphere of the sweet
summer Sabbath when it was first put into her hand.
For it was the empty envelope of unknown caligraphy which the
post had brought her the morning after Rab Bethune had gone away.
She sat for a moment, holding it, a flood of helpless regret
and misery surging over her. But this would not do. This
envelope must be now destroyed.
She took her lighted candle and holding it over the fender,
thrust the paltry paper into its flame, until it was consumed into a
few black ashes. It was utterly gone!
At that moment she heard her uncle's voice in the hall, and
then the outer door closed. The casual guest had departed.
Lesley went downstairs straightway.
If we knew everything, we should know of many strange
coincidences which now escape human ken.
For on that very night, Rab Bethune's valet (he had a valet
now) made a careful examination of the garments which his master had
made over to him, in view of the stylish and extensive outfit with
which he had provided himself as a bridegroom. The valet meant
to sell most of the things, yet he turned them over carefully; for
there was no reason why the second-hand clothes dealer should
acquire unexpected sixpences or pencil-cases. But there was
one coat which attracted his attention—a heavy travelling coat,
still handsome and little worn. He put that aside, thinking he
would keep it for himself.
MARRIAGE A LA MODE.
OF course, after
Rab Bethune's engagement with Mr Ben Matthieu's daughters was
acknowledged by the two families, the young man lived in a whirl
which carried him on without impulse or effort of his own.
Life does this perpetually. We are launched on its
stream, and our aspirations or inclinations draw us this way or
that, upward or downward, until a current seizes us, and carries us
in either direction farther and faster than we had reckoned on.
For the first time, Rab found himself free to spend money,
not only without any prick of compunction, but even with a sense of
duty. Hitherto he had always been conscious of
limits—naturally none the less conscious because he had always
overleaped them. Yet nevertheless, he had ever had to set
aside something, to forego that height of perfection and delicacy of
finish which aristocratic shopkeepers had coolly recommended to him
as the truly right thing. All this was over now. The
Bethune purse-strings were widely loosened. Nothing must be
grudged to the heir who had won a bride so dowered as Leah Ben
His duties as the Earl's secretary were almost suspended
during this time, as that nobleman was himself on a round of visits
among his own kinsfolk, preparatory to his long absence in foreign
countries. Rab spent his mornings in shopping, his afternoons
in rides and drives and concerts, and his evenings in dinner parties
The Ben Matthieus were a great feature in London Society that
season. The head of the family had a huge enterprise in hand,
which absorbed the attention of the financial world and provoked
attention and excited interest even in those political circles which
are, presumably, on a higher plane. Abram Ben Matthieu, the
only son, not only possessed magnificent horses and was prepared to
accept monetary risks which made dukes wince, but also had a marked
share of the musical faculty of his ancient race, and when he could
be wiled from billiard table or smoking-room, could hold
drawing-rooms entranced by weird performances on violin or zither.
Adah, the younger daughter, possessed the marvellous beauty which
often distinguishes the daughters of Israel in early youth.
Leah, with her strong features and stronger temper, kept people in a
state of shock or amusement, by always saying and doing exactly what
seemed right in her own eyes. If Mr Ben Matthieu spoke bad
English, like any other uneducated Londoner, that was let pass under
his foreign name. The whole family were outrageous according
to all the rules of the society which nevertheless welcomed them and
fêted them and followed them. They were discussed
and accepted in much the same category as those foreign potentates
who tie up their horses' tails with strings of diamonds and cut off
their near relations' heads when they return to their own country.
To own the truth, Mr Ben Matthieu himself had other reasons
for accepting impecunious Rab Bethune as a son-in-law than the mere
desire to escape Leah's wrath if her beautiful but inane sister
should wed before her plain and bitter self. He had a secret
hankering after the stately dignity which all his wealth had failed
to bring. He had grave doubts concerning the titled
spendthrifts who came fluttering round his girls, though he could
not help being dazzled by their rank and prestige. Adah, with
her beauty and docility, might choose among these and secure the
best or rather the least bad, and then make the most of him.
Adah would always remain amenable to her father's advice. But
poor Leah, with her acid temper, was likely only to win one who
would take anything sufficiently gilded, and then she would not make
the best of him, but rather the very worst! Mr Ben Matthieu
had a wholesome horror of domestic scandals. Both his Hebrew
instincts and his humble burgher training made him revolt from the
household exposures from which many of those who laughed at his
grammar did not shrink. He had chosen his daughters'
chaperones himself, and had made the crucial point of his selection
lie in the propriety with which the ladies offering themselves had
filled such domestic functions as had fallen into their own lives.
Mr Ben Matthieu's prejudices were not delicate nor discriminative.
The chaperone finally chosen was a perfect dragon of conventional
propriety, whose life became a torture to her through the
unconventional freedoms of her charges. But Ben Matthieu was
satisfied. In his own words, "he had put up a good high paling
with a 'chevoo de freese,' and the gals might frisk as they liked
inside, and yet come to no harm."
His sense of the superior alacrity and unimpugnable personal
history of the lady appointed to "duenna the gals" had succeeded in
finally reconciling the millionare to that seclusion on the part of
his wife which Miss Lucy Bethune had euphemistically attributed to
the lady's "very delicate health."
The plain truth was, that Ben Matthieu had fallen deeply in
love with a beautiful face when he had been but a lad in a banking
house, going home at night to a cavernous old house in a reduced
street near Spital Square. He had not been deterred from
honourable marriage even by the fact that the beloved was of neither
his race nor his faith, and of a weakness and impulsiveness of
character which might easily have succumbed to less worthy proposals
than his, could she have mustered energy to break the spidery
boarding-school proprieties which were her sole protection.
But such disadvantages on her side had sufficed to make him keep his
marriage secret, until he was in a position where he lost little by
outraging the prejudices of his own people.
By this temporary suppression poor Mrs Ben Matthieu had
suffered somewhat in reputation, and still more in character.
There had been nobody to represent to her husband that the heavy end
of the arrangement rested on her. The poor lady—known in her
girlhood as Sophia Augusta Leroy (one may as well choose a fine name
when one is about it)—had been the nameless offspring of a
distinguished Indian officer and one of those luckless Hindoo girls
whom a pseudo-Christian government has been wont to provide,
together with forage and horses, along the march of its regiments.
The father—the distinguished officer—less reckless than most of his
fellows, did not leave his child to follow her mother's fate.
He brought her to this country, and placed her, with a liberal
payment, in a shabby-smart boarding-school. Then he went back
to India, and was presently killed in conflict with the men of his
child's mother's race.
The girl had been brought up to say her Catechism and Creed,
and to go to church. That was all. It was dull at the
boarding-school, and before she met the ardent young Jew they had
made her into a pupil-governess--and she did so hate
teaching! Were not these quite sufficient reasons for marrying
anybody? And she had never regretted her marriage. She
would certainly have liked to see people in the early days; but Mr
Ben Matthieu had always taken her to the theatres, and by the time
society would have been permitted, it had grown distasteful and
burdensome to her. She could have easily made the entry.
The embargo was taken off Mrs Ben Matthieu at the time when city
stockbrokers and attorneys could refuse her husband nothing.
These would have graded off imperceptibly into the bankers and
directors of great companies, from whose ranks of immaculate
respectability the far more indulgent aristocrats would have
received her without question. But this all came too late.
The beauty of face and the air of distinction which had really
graced her youth had been long since buried under a load of adipose
tissue. So her indulgent husband did not press the point.
Ben Matthieu had never even spoken to her unkindly, though he had
often stamped and sworn in her presence when other people provoked
him—an exhibition of violence which had made her quake, and kept her
tremulously anxious to do nothing to excite it against herself
It can be seen from the foregoing narrative that Miss Lucy
Bethune's bold assertion that "the children of the Ben Matthieu
family had been brought up in their mother's religion" might be
regarded as either true or false, since the mother had no religion
at all! There was no day of rest, either Christian or Jewish,
in the Ben Matthieus' house. Church and Synagogue, New
Testament or Old, were equally neglected. No Levitical code
regulated the luxuries beneath which the Ben Matthieu tables
groaned; nor was any "Mesusah" fastened on the doors of their
palatial residences. Almost the only lingering sign of race
lay in those names of the children—Abram, Leah, and Adah—bestowed by
the father, with Jewish reverence for age and custom. It was a
slight propitiation to ancient relatives on his side of the house,
still surviving somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Hebrew
burial-place at Mile End, trying to reconcile their pride in Ben
Matthieu as a financier and a diplomat with their shame over his
"mixed" marriage and their grief over his atheism. Ben
Matthieu himself always looked grave when be thought of those old
folks. He visited them once or twice every year—gratifying
them by displaying his gorgeous equipage to their neighbours, and
evading all danger of inflammatory or painful discussion by never
going alone, but always accompanied by one or two satellites.
The old people occupied a great part of the remainder of the year in
waiting for these flying visits.
At Viscountess Taxo's party it had been Ben Matthieu himself
whose quick eye had singled out Rab Bethune's fresh countenance
among the jaded visages of older stagers in London society. He
had bidden the Viscount introduce the young man to him. He
himself had introduced him to his daughter. He had caught
Rab's stultified conscience and rebounding heart in the strong
meshes of his own strong will—such game being never hard to sweep
off in the direction of wealth and luxury and the kind of power
which these can confer.
It can readily be imagined that the unceasing round of novel
excitements, and the entirely new atmosphere of his whole life, had
the effect of almost destroying Rab's identity to his own
consciousness. Mr Ben Matthieu, instead of Mr Baird!
Leah, in place of Lesley! What was not involved in that
change? The old brown parlour at Edenhaugh, with the sweet
portrait of its ancient mistress on the wall, and every detail of
furniture or decoration organically connected with the humanity that
had lived within it—was it in the same world with the Ben Matthieu
saloons, with the white and gold drawing-room, or the tapestry
chamber, or the Watteau boudoir, all furnished and ornamented
according to the last dictate of upholstering fashion! And was
Rab himself, sitting with Ben Matthieu, smoking the choicest cigars
and listening to the millionaire's forecasts, or deferentially
following him through the story of the intricate mazes in which the
Jew had followed Fortune,—was he the same Rab who had wandered among
the old green hedges of the Edenhaugh garden with Mr Baird, in
homeliest chat, which, nevertheless, had a curious way of involving
high philosophy? Rab could hardly think so. He did not
seem to recognise himself, but rather to remember himself. The
memory came with a pang, only allayed by a weak consideration that
the past was past, —and that no surrender of the present could bring
it back. He had made up his mind that it was through no
accident that no letter came from Lesley Baird. It even seemed
to soothe him to say to himself that if he never became what he
might have been—if, indeed, he became something quite different, the
blame lay at Lesley's door. It never occurred to him to
remember the hesitancy with which he had written that letter which
remained unanswered, nor how often he had wished he had not sent it,
long before he found that it was to win no reply!
Anyhow, Lesley had drifted away before Leah came on the
scene; and if Leah vanished, that would not restore Lesley. At
which thought Rab used to hum―
Take the goods the gods provide thee
"If she be not fair for me,
What care I how fair she be!"
or other rhymes of cynical philosophy.
It was strange how little the bride herself bulked on the
bridegroom's thoughts. She was to bring him wealth in one hand
and power in the other, by reason of her father's boundless
influence, which, if exerted in his behalf, might easily make his
own fortune equal to hers. But he failed to realise that
behind these endowing hands there was a woman with a will and ways
of her own,—and a temper to back them! To him, Leah seemed but
a casual accessory. Her father absorbed much more of his
interest and attention. The young man felt quite at his ease
in the presence of one who candidly avowed that a man was a fool if
he did not grasp all he could, and hold fast all he could grasp.
Rab laughed lightly, and said that the lords of the soil had
certainly set that very example to their successors, the lords of
finance. But the laugh died on his lips, as laughter will
suddenly die, when we utter a home truth which has a sharp edge for
The exact date of the Ben Matthew marriage was not made
public very long beforehand, and it did not reach the knowledge of
Lewis Crawford. Nevertheless, he knew it was imminent.
And it seemed to him that it would be not only just, but kind, that
Rab Bethune should hear of his cousin's rights, and of his
determined abnegation of them, before Rab made the great step of his
life. Little did Lewis dream that it was actually the
knowledge of his wrongs and the fear of his vengeance which had
spurred Rab on to this step! Rather Lewis judged Rab by
himself, and so considered that he would like to have a clear
knowledge of all the truths of his life before he began to share it
with another. Lewis was quite ready to absolve Rab from any
guilty participation in the injustice which had been perpetrated in
his infancy. Therefore, when it was found that the old laird
of Bethune had joined his son in London, it was at once decided that
Lewis Crawford himself, with his legal advisers and all their
documentary evidence of his claim, and his formal renunciation
thereof, should straightway wait upon him.
Mr Hedges and the other lawyers interested in the transaction
were bewildered, and indeed indignant, at the course Lewis had
chosen. Possibly they felt that it upset the whole reason for
the being of their profession. Mr Hedges plied him with every
argument to reconsider his decision. He appealed to Miss Kerr
to add her influence. But Miss Kerr was obstinately silent.
She would throw her weight into neither scale.
Lewis bore himself very mercifully towards the Bethunes.
He sought first to see the old laird, his uncle, alone, so that he
might, if possible, ascertain the extent of his conscious
wrong-doing without humiliating him in the eyes of his son, and then
leave him to make his own explanations. But the old laird
peremptorily refused this interview. Rab's wealthy marriage,
and the refreshment of the gaping Bethune coffers, had restored to
the old man some of the hard and arbitrary spirit of his youth.
His tactics of professed ignorance and blank denial had seemed to
serve him well hitherto, and with selfish fatuity he refused to see
that they did not keep this troublesome claim from repeating
itself—each time in a higher key than before.
The old laird also refused to see the lawyers alone on Lewis
This necessitated that another appointment should be
requested, to include Rab himself and any legal advisers whom he and
his father chose to name,—or the lawyers on both sides might meet
each other alone, if the Bethunes so preferred. Along with the
formal business-like letter, Lewis wrote a brief note to his cousin.
He addressed him in the third person, explained that the desired
interview was in their common interests, and that, so far from any
unpleasantness being anticipated, general satisfaction might be
This letter made Rab feel terribly nervous. It reached
him only a day or two before his wedding; and to be addressed in
friendly and dignified terms by one whom he had regarded as an enemy
and an interloper, to be beaten off at any cost, made the young man
feel as if some unexpected mine were about to explode beneath his
feet. Again Rab and his father had one of those closeted and
stormy discussions which had so dismayed Miss Lucy before her
brother's first journey to London. Again the laird aged years
in a single day—the change in his appearance being so marked that
Ben Matthieu confided to his son Abram that he thought "the old boy
was going to have a stroke."
In this discussion with his father Rab turned at bay, and
declared that he would grant this interview on exactly the terms
which were asked. He knew that nothing could rob him of the
prestige of his ancient birth and territorial possessions, and that
these were all Ben Matthieu cared for. Such fortune as he had
was less than a bagatelle in the eyes of a millionaire who had
already spoken of the Towers as "that old ruin," and had suggested
leaving it to fall into picturesque decay, and building a mansion of
the Italian style on a neighbouring site, more approved by modern
notions. But there were certain uncomfortable regrets and
doubts which Rab would be only too glad if he could leave behind for
ever, along with the straitnesses of fortune, and the moral
weaknesses which had bred them. If he could live the last few
months over again, he said to himself, he would do differently.
He could repent of the errors for which he saw no longer any
In the end, the appointment was made between the lawyers on
both sides and Rab Bethune. The old laird took to his bed on
the occasion, and Lewis, not forewarned of this, stayed away, to
spare his uncle the pain of personally confronting him.
The Bethune lawyers were nervous, and pretended to be
indifferent—almost insolent. They had been made aware of the
full weight of evidence against their clients, though, by Lewis's
instructions, as little emphasis as could be consistent with truth
had been laid on the course old Mr Bethune had pursued after his
Rab sat silent and gloomy while the certificates and
affidavits were read to him. He did not ask one question, or
volunteer one remark, even when the last piece of the documentary
evidence was folded up.
Mr Hedges was nettled. The whole business was going
forward in a way irritating to his professional instincts.
There seemed to him something quite disorderly, quite revolutionary,
in getting over a great wrong, a grand transposition of things,
without the orthodox legal ritual of injunctions, judges sitting in
chambers, and so forth.
"Doubtless it would be more satisfactory to you if a formal
suit were commenced, and you were put in a position to fight for
yourself in an open field?" he said, turning to Rab, with a slight
"Our clients must consider the matter fully," said the
Bethunes' solicitor, who felt their position was untenable, and that
the only hope was to secure dignified retreat rather than mere rout.
"My father will only desire justice," observed Rab, coldly.
Mr Hedges grew more irritated in heart, and therefore still
more insinuatingly calm in demeanour. "We are quite sure of
that," he said, suavely, "when the case is clearly put before him.
We are quite sure he will make no difficulty over producing the late
Mr Crawford-Bethune's letter to him, and the prayer-book which
"Which were sent to him," interposed the Bethune solicitor,
with a marked emphasis. "Being sent to him is another matter
from being received by him."
Rab Bethune felt Mr Hedges' keen eyes fixed on his face.
It glowed beneath them. He could bear it no more.
"My father did receive them. He has mentioned them to
me," Rab blurted out roughly. "I don't think they could be
found now; I fear they have been destroyed."
He knew they had been destroyed. Pity him! pity him!
For this was the wretched confession the old laird had made to his
son on the day when Lewis Crawford's despairing face had darkened
the June sunshine for Bethune Towers. Rab swore to himself
that he had kept silence for his father's sake only, and that it had
not seemed so very cruel to withhold Lewis's legal rights while
Lewis did not dream he had them, but pleaded only for mercy and
moral consideration. And these had been withheld because to
have given them might have paved the way to a knowledge of the real
rights! But all this had been his father's affair! Rab
declared to his own accusing conscience, that aught he had done was
for his father's sake. He spoke out now, still for his
father's sake, he was sure. To do otherwise might be worse
than futile. For this lawyer with the keen eyes, what more
might he not know—what further evidence might he not bring forward?
A puzzled thought of the possible registration of letters or
insurance of packets—a wonder how long receipts or records of such
transactions are preserved—actually flitted over Rab's fevered mind
as he sat. He might still have told a lie to save what he
called "the family honour," to secure that smooth sailing in outward
prosperity without which life seemed to him to be impossible.
He might have chosen to regard such an action as demanded by filial
duty. There are many people whose "honour" does not lie safe
within the broad circle of truth, but in quite another direction.
It touched even the implacable Mr Hedges to note the detected
look on Rab's handsome face—the curious relaxation and degradation
of its aristocratic lines. He went on in the same suave tones.
"My client himself does not desire a lawsuit―" and paused.
"He can hardly expect that we would yield in such a matter
without a struggle," said the Bethune lawyer. "My clients
desire only justice, but in its interests there must be delay,
"If your clients compel a lawsuit, so it must be," returned
Mr Hedges, pushing back his chair. "I advise it myself—I think
it is the right thing. But my client has other views. A
clever young man—a decidedly superior and remarkable young man,"
bowing to Rab, as complimenting him on the merits of a kinsman—"but
who, having had very special experiences, has developed unusual ways
of looking at things. My client desires to make known that if
his claim is acknowledged, and his lawful position recognised, he is
willing to make formal renunciation, and to allow Mr Robert Bethune
to succeed his father as in due course."
The Bethune lawyers exchanged glances. Did not this
show that the claimant was aware of some weak point in his case,
though they themselves certainly could not detect any?
"This is very magnanimous of him," said Rab, scarcely able to
repress a sneer as he thought of the forlorn fugitive who had been
spurned from Bethune Towers.
"It may be wise and well-considered," said the Bethune
lawyer. "Law is proverbially uncertain; and to this gentleman,
who has hitherto had no expectations whatever, a bird in the hand
will be possibly more―"
Mr Hedges interrupted. "You will observe that by a
lawsuit my client may gain everything—according to the opinions of
the best counsel, must do so. By his own desire he resigns
all. He burdens his action with no consideration, and hampers
it with only one condition, and that a very small one."
"What is it?" asked Rab, looking straight at Mr Hedges, shame
overcome by an eager expectancy.
"That he shall be allowed to erect a tablet in the Bethune
burial-place to the memory of his father,—Lewis Crawford Bethune,
who died at sea, and of his father's wife, Moetia, recently deceased
in London. This done, my client will execute a deed of gift,
as the most irrevocable and indubitable document in law, making over
to you, Mr Rab Bethune, all his own rights, charged only with a fit
provision for your father and sister."
The lawyers were silent. They could not disabuse
themselves of the notion that this must be a concession to some
secret weak point in the claim. But even if so, had they not
said that law was proverbially uncertain, and that a bird in the
hand was worth more than two in the bush?—adages which applied to
their own client as much as to this unknown fanatic, who would take
so little rather than show fight for so much.
"I think my father would be disposed to grant these terms,
even though you may have some flaw in your evidence, which, in case
of a suit, might end in judgment wholly in our favour," said Rab,
with a not unsuccessful attempt at a noble indifference. "My
father could only desire justice. Law, we know, is not always
justice," he added, with a pale smile. "But, flaw or no flaw,
all you set before us puts an entirely different complexion on my
late uncle's connection with this poor woman."
"It confirms the witness of your uncle's letter and his
prayer-book," observed Mr Hedges, in a quietly significant tone,
which brought the flush back to Rab's brow.
"Of course, my father must be consulted," said Rab.
"That must be, certainly. And my client would desire
it," returned Mr Hedges, with continued significance.
"If this can be done, then the less delay the better," said
"Certainly," assented the lawyer.
"Everything that has passed at this interview must be without
prejudice till the deed of gift is executed," observed the Bethune
"When can that be done?" Rab asked.
Mr Hedges named an imminent date. It was the date fixed
for Rab's wedding, but he did not say so, only asked if the business
could be got through before ten o'clock in the morning. The
Bethune lawyers agreed to this appointment, and went off about their
business, asking Mr Hedges but one question—if he was quite sure of
his client's sanity—otherwise there might be future difficulties on
As soon as the lawyers departed, Rab went to his sideboard,
took out the brandy, and drank off two glasses, raw. It was
the first time that he had ever sought support from a stimulant.
He had a brief interview with his father—a terrible interview
in a dark bedroom, smelling of all sorts of medicaments. The
old laird gave up all—everything. He would sign anything Rab
brought. His only wail was, "Need Lucy know? Don't let
Lucy hear! Keep it from Lucy!"
Was this a piteous remnant of fatherly love? No.
Rab knew better. The old man did not want to have his sin ever
before him, in the consciousness of the daughter on whose dry, and
yet devoted ministrations all the comfort of his last miserable
years must depend. Leave her in her bewilderment, in her misty
sense that something had gone wrong! That was all that Lucy
Bethune's hard life had won for her. She had sown but the poor
seeds of family pride, and the best she could reap was but delusion!
That night, when Ben Matthieu was smoking with his future
son-in-law, Rab told him something of the morning's strange piece of
business. He did not see any reason for concealment of all he
chose to tell, to wit, that a stranger had appeared with indubitable
claims to the Bethune property, which, nevertheless, he had agreed
to give up forever. There was no need to tell of the old
laird's share in the long suppression of the truth, though, after
all, Rab knew that it was not more "shady" than many of the
transactions of which Ben Matthieu boasted, only that these had been
made in more remunerative materials than "an old ruin" and a few
sterile acres, and had been conducted to more prosperous issue!
Ben Matthieu smoked in silence for a few minutes after the
recital. He took a new point of view. It did not seem to
him that the unknown had made such a wonderful sacrifice. That
morning, by a fall in stocks, he had lost more than the whole value
of the Bethune estate, yet he had not "turned a hair." But he
wanted to find the motive.
"This fellow must be coming into some good thing, which he
could not get if he had this," he decided. "Perhaps there's
some old lady would cut him out of her will if she did not think he
was a penniless orphan."
(Oh! if Ben Matthieu had only known about Clementina Kerr, he
would have felt quite sure he had hit the right nail on the head!)
"Did not you offer him anything?" he asked, presently.
"No, I did not," said Rab. "His lawyer took a very high
tone. And when a man declares he can claim all and will claim
nothing, it might be taken as an insult to offer him something.
If I could but have offered him the whole of the mere money value of
the Bethune estate!" Rab added, faltering. "Of course he can't
feel about the old place itself as I do, and as our children will!"
He had a wild hope that Ben Matthieu might take the matter
up. The required sum would be but a trifle to him. At
that moment Rab thought he would rather stand further in the debt of
his father-in-law, from whom he was already receiving so much, than
be beholden to this stranger, whom his own father had so cruelly
wronged. (Perhaps in after years he thought otherwise!)
But Ben Matthieu felt no such inclination. Ben Matthieu
had made his own money, and as it is not by generous impulsiveness
that people make fortunes, therefore it is not wise to expect them
to be generously impulsive with them when it is made! He did
do lavish things sometimes, but always for an object. A secret
purchase of a future son-in-law's poverty-stricken estate is but a
poor speculation. He smoked on serenely.
"But if the fellow didn't want anything," he persisted, "why
the dickens did he make a row at all?"
"He wants a memorial stone to the memory of his father and
his father's wife, his mother, put up in the Bethune burial-place,"
said Rab. "That, you see, acknowledges her as a married woman,
and attests his own legitimacy."
Still Ben Matthieu smoked, reflective. Somehow this
appealed to the best of his Hebrew instincts.
"He must be a fine young fellow," he decided. "And
though I would not say he may not know he is doing the best for
himself somehow, still I'm not one to think that sentiment does not
go far. It goes farther than people think. You've often
got to reckon with it, even in money matters. And with
superstition, too. You don't know what it is, nor where it
comes from, nor why you have it. Some of the 'cutest' people
are superstitious. Now, I'd not say this to everybody, but as
you've just made such a good thing out of a fellow's sentiment, I
don't mind telling you that I'd not like my old auntie to move out
of her old place in the Bow Road. That's where my father was
born and his father before him—and we've crept up. But I feel
as if the luck of the Ben Matthieus roots there. And while
there's an old maiden body in one's family, it doesn't matter where
she lives—she might as well stay there and keep up the luck.
So auntie does. I think I'll go to see her to-morrow.
She'll not be so bitter about us having the Church service for the
wedding if I tell her all about the gowns. And I'll look in at
our burial-place too. It's the right thing—that young chap
must be a fine fellow—and I daresay he knows he won't suffer for
The deed of gift was duly executed on the morning of the
marriage, an item of the day's programme which did not appear in the
fashionable reports thereof. They duly recorded, however, that
"a serious indisposition prevented the bridegroom's father from
being present at the ceremony, which he would not permit to be
The old laird never returned to the North. Was
Tweedside too bracing? Or did he fear that the situation of
The Towers was damp? It might have been either, or neither.
Only, somehow, he and Miss Lucy went to Bath, and stayed there.
THE ENVELOPE WHICH WAS NOT EMPTY.
THE marriage festivities were over. The first days of the honeymoon
had been spent at the Ben Matthieus' "pavilion by the sea" at
Scarborough, and then Bethune Towers was put en fête, with a gaiety
of flags, and bunting, and brass bands, which the grim old place had
not known for many a long day.
The marriage presents were brought down to The Towers, and set out
in the great hall for the delectation of the tenants, who little
guessed that two among the new men-servants from London were
detectives mounting guard over the treasures! Diamonds, and pearls,
and precious stones sparkled in stray sunbeams, almost as brightly
and sweetly as the dew which hasty steps brushed from the grass
There was a garden party; there was a tenants' dinner; a treat to
the school children; a grand display of fireworks; speeches,
deputations, compliments on all sides. The bride became the
patroness of everything—of the cattle show, of the flower show, of
the archery club, of the coal and clothing society, and of all the
church schemes,—"including the missions to the Jews," giggled Miss
Bell Gibson, who did not know the detail as a fact, but judged it so
picturesque that it ought to be true!
According to the speeches, everybody was worthy, respected,
intelligent or gracious, beautiful, and well-reported. Then the
tenants went away, commenting on the lavish splendour, and grumbling
that this was the fashion in which their hard-earned rents
went—forgetful that though this might be true enough, yet it
certainly was not in their direct payments to the Bethunes, but
rather as their means might be filtered away through the thousand
and one suckers which draw wealth to such as Mr Ben Matthieu. For
all the splendour they saw was certainly paid for by his gold. The
tenants' wives and daughters said that the bride was not much to
look at, and must be a great deal older than Mr Rab, from whom she
evidently expected a great deal of attention.
The bride herself retired to her private chambers, mimicked the
local dialect, scoffed at the local finery, gave vent to witticisms
on the old-fashioned family furniture, and entertained Rab by
explaining the improving changes she should make.
As for Lesley Baird, to her the very sunshine of those days seemed
garish. Her uncle went up to The Towers on one or two semi-public
occasions—the cattle show and the flower show. She went herself to
the school children's treat, as one of the teachers. She saw Rab in
the distance, smiling and talking, and she knew that there was a
great gulf fixed between them—wider, far wider, than all the world. She saw the bride, and, in a file of local young ladies, was even
introduced to her. If there was one person in all the world who felt
a touch of tender pity for the little, pert, black-avised Jewess,
that person was actually Lesley Baird! For Lesley knew that Leah
had not married her Rab: the bright brave boy who had won Lesley's
love was gone, not as the dead go, taking our living hearts with
them; but as fairies vanish, leaving little circles of dust behind
The Gowan Brae people were very much to the fore in these galas, but
only the farmer and his new wife. Jamie was always in disgrace at
home, and it was said that at the next term he was to be sent away
to a boarding-school near London, where he would spend his holidays
between the house of his father's relative, the rich stockbroker,
and sundry distant connections of his stepmother's.
Yet it was in the very dreariest of these days that Lesley received
her first sign from Heaven that while life goes on love goes on, and
with it duties and interests and hopes. For a poor young widow in
the dale died suddenly, leaving two tiny children absolutely
friendless. They were brought to Edenhaugh, as an immediate and
present refuge; and when Lesley began to make her little attempts
to secure them some permanent shelter in school or orphanage, her
uncle said to her very quietly:
"Let them stay, lassie. God has got to board them somewhere, and it
might as well be here as anywhere else. The little feet pattering
about will be cheery in the winter time."
She had some other visitors too, actually Miss Clementina Kerr and
Mary Olrig. Lewis Crawford himself was coming a few days later. He
would bring with him from London his parents' memorial tablet; but
this was not to be fixed to the wall of the Bethune burial-ground
till he should have gone away again, taking Miss Clementine and Mary
with him. Nobody in the glen save the Bairds and old Mrs Haldane
were to have the least inkling of the true state of the case, or of
who Lewis really was.
Mary had come to the glen to say good-bye to her grandmother. For
Mary was going with Miss Clementina Kerr for a long, long
journey—even to the other side of the world.
The conversation between Lewis and Mary concerning his resignation
of his birthright, had led them into many conferences as to the life
best worth living. Lewis was resolved that he would not earn his
bread in meddling to redress wrongs and evils by measures which ever
bred fresh wrongs and evils. Mary, in her turn, began to realise
that it takes a great deal of living before one can hope to know
anything worth writing, and that the poem must be poor indeed if the
poet is not better than his song.
"I should like to earn my place in the world by doing the work that
keeps the world really going on," cried the girl, in her womanly
enthusiasm. "Keeping a house bright and clean, preparing wholesome
food, making honest clothing, 'to cover from the cold.' If there is
any song in me, let me sing it as I go about my work. People may
say—'then go into domestic service.' But I say No! I want to try to
do these things for those who need them; for those I love; for
those who are strenuously working at other real tasks; for those
who are tired out with work they have finished. I do not want to be
hired to work for women who ought to be doing the work themselves,
instead of spending their lives in mischief-making, and who would
order me to make meringues for them while the people in the next
street had no bread to eat—or to sew flounces for themselves and
frills for their babies while hard-working folk can scarcely earn a
new shirt, and fatherless children lack shoes."
"The only way to do this is to go to some land where nobody has yet
thought it grand to be busy-idle, and where the devil has not yet
introduced méringués and flounces," observed Miss Kerr.
"And I," said Lewis, "would like to dig and delve in Mother Earth. I
find everything so complicated. In our present state of civilisation
you cannot do anything—you cannot even try to do what seems a good
deed—without setting in motion social machinery so elaborate that
you cannot guess where its action will cease. You may see something
very terrible going forward somewhere, and you may be very shocked;
yet all the while you yourself may be working its very spring! Think of the sweating and grinding of the poor, which wrings out the
dividends on which the philanthropic ladies live! The fiends may
laugh when they see a tithe of the money made in their service
finally handed over to God. I want first to be quiet, and to feel
tolerably sure that I am doing no harm. I think there is no
beginning to do well till we have first made a study of ceasing to
do evil. And I think nobody can be injured by one's cultivating
potatoes or wheat. I think I must go out to the West, and hire
myself to a farmer till I have learned enough of agriculture to take
up a Government grant of land for myself."
"Do you really mean it?" Miss Kerr had asked. And there had been a
general consultation of maps and encyclopædias. They were soon
quite sure where they would like to go. But, alas! they easily
ascertained that there was no free land in that neighbourhood—though
plenty for comparatively easy purchase from the Colonial Government.
Then Miss Clementine made another mysterious visit to Mr Hedges, and
sent him almost wild with glee by announcing that she was at last
going to do something with her sixty thousand pounds. But when he
heard her scheme, he was speedily reduced to his normal state of
depression on that subject. Her proposal was, that she should buy
from the State as much of this new land as could be got for the
sum—(and sixty thousand pounds went far in that virgin soil!)—and
then grant free leases of it to suit settlers, exactly as the State
did in less favoured localities. Her name was not to appear in the
matter at all, except that she would reserve one location for
herself to keep for Lewis till such time as he should be fitly
trained to occupy it. And the trustees in whose hands the partition
of the estate would lie were to accept her rules for the choice of
settlers as if these rules were issued by themselves. No men were to
be accepted save those who knew something of agriculture, and also
of some useful trade; and the adult women accompanying them must
each be able honestly to describe herself as cook, dairy-woman, sempstress, house-servant, or poultry-keeper. All were to be total
abstainers. That was best for the commonweal, said Miss Kerr; and
if decent folk could not waive an occasional festive glass to secure
substantial advantage, she feared such were sunk too low in
self-indulgence to be very valuable in a new country.
This was all very fine, retorted Mr Hedges. He must say that it
showed much more practical wisdom than had been shown in peopling
the fairest regions with convicts, or in spoiling agricultural
labourers by driving them up to great towns and then shipping away
their enfeebled offspring to suffer and perish under stern physical
conditions which their more stalwart parents could have accepted
quite easily. But why should Miss Kerr give up her money? She might
let people have the land on easy conditions of repayment, and with
very light interest meanwhile. That would be disinterested enough,
Miss Clementine made reply that this money must not be idle any
longer while people were starving, and yet that it must not be so
employed as to save ten from starving to-day that a hundred may
starve to-morrow. She wanted to restore it to humanity, and she
could see no more harmless use to which it could be put than to set
land free for the wholesome labour of honest people. "Besides," she
added, with a touch of her own quaint humour, "the wishes of the
dead should be respected. My kinsman left me this, expecting that I
should keep carriages and horses, and give dinner parties, and run
long milliners' bills to do honour to his memory. I cannot follow
these wishes. So the next best thing I can do is to hand it back to
him—to bury it as it were in the earth, which is his grave!"
"Why, between you and our friend Lewis, I feel as if everything is
coming to an end," said the lawyer. "Here, in a very short space of
time, two people have done two actions which I believe nobody else
would do in all the wide world."
"Well, suppose so," assented Miss Kerr. "Aren't you always saying
that the world is a bad world, and a mad world, and all the rest of
it? And yet if anybody goes contrary to the world, you are
astonished! Yet the contrary to bad is good, Mr Hedges; and the
opposite of mad is sane!"
And so she had her way.
Thus she and Mary came to be guests at Edenhaugh. Mrs Haldane was
quite reconciled to her granddaughter's plans. The old lady was a
philosopher, in her curt, stern, way.
"Mary's got to live, God willing, forty or fifty years after I'm in
my grave," she said; "an' the best places for her to get a living
in are not the best places for me to die in; and when people have
come to my time, they've lost so much o' their own, that so long as
there's some young thing about that's kind to them, it doesn't mak'
much differ wha it is. An' Mr Baird says I'm to bide here, and it's
real cheery noo he's taken the little lassies too. For I'm teaching
them to knit. That's all. I can do that. For a' the rest, I tell
them to mind Miss Lesley."
"I doubt you've owre mony visitors noo, Lesley," said Miss Bell
Gibson, rather wistfully, a day or two after the appearance of the
new arrivals. "Helen's thinking it's time we should be o' the
wing—though the country's bonnie, and Edinburgh will be baith hot
Out of all her trials Lesley had come stronger of will and braver of
aspect. The sweetness had not passed, but perhaps a little sternness
had grown under it. She would not let these hints pass as she would
once have done. She would be resolutely true; and she judged it
would be for everybody's happiness if the Gibsons were gone before
Lewis arrived. So she said, calmly―
"You see, Miss Bell, these are Mary's last days with her
grandmother, and they give our only chance of making friends with
Miss Kerr, to whom Mary, in a way, belongs henceforth; and the less
hurry and bustle there is at these opportunities the more they are
"Weel, weel," sighed Miss Bell, "Helen tauld me to just sound ye, to
see how ye felt aboot it. It's strange, Lesley, but I think Helen's
some frighted o' ye. I never knew her wince at speaking oot hersel'
to onybody before. Sae I'll just tell her that we had better be
There was still some interrogation in the lady's tone. But Lesley
would not notice it, and smiled a quiet assent.
"That's it," said Miss Helen, as the sisters sat in their bedroom,
with spread stores and open portmanteau, "We've held ourselves
honourable and respectable; we've laid ourselves out to be sociable
to our friends; we've stayed here in the dulness of the winter
time; we've tried our best to make Lesley see her own interests—and
this is all the thanks we get—set tramping back to our close flat in
the midst of this beautiful summer weather, because, forsooth, the
house is full with an old poacher's widow and her granddaughter, two
pauper brats, and a stranger that nobody knows anything about! And
I gather there's somebody else coming, and I should not wonder but
it's that young man whom old Jean let hang about her house till the
laird knocked it down. Baird will find he can go too far even for
the Bethunes' patience! They won't be so dependent on their very
best tenant now they've got the Ben Matthieus' money. Mr and Mrs Rab
have never been near Edenhaugh, though I'm told they've called twice
at Gowan Brae. Mrs Rab may not be a beauty, but she has got sense
and will keep people in their proper places!"
(What would Miss Helen have said had she known that the bride
described her and her sister as "two of Macbeth's witches, washed
"Eh, it's a wearie warld!" sighed Miss Bell. "I'm sure I've taken
your advice, Helen, and tried to keep from mixing myself up with the
world's cares and troubles; but its aggravations seem to come all
That very night there was a scene of packing and confusion at The
Towers. There had been a tiff between the newly married pair; for Rab had been accustomed to Lucy's making all arrangements of every
kind for everybody, and he resented the irritability which Leah
displayed when, accustomed to the crisp generalship of her father,
she found every movement left in a state of indefiniteness and
chaos. He had met her first reproach with the grand air of superior
indifference with which he had always confronted blame; and this
had provoked Leah to one of her most cutting remarks, which was also
too true to bear any explanation. Accordingly, Rab had retired to
his dressing-room in high dudgeon, and began to issue personal
orders with great precision and severity. Perhaps his valet was not
sorry to find something likely to divert his master's mood even for
a minute. In sorting out the general wraps of the party, the man had
also brought forward that old coat of Rab's which he had taken for
his own use, and proceeded to roll it up with sundry other little
comforts with which he was wont to solace lengthened journeys. As he
did so, his hand came in contact with something of firmer texture
than the coat itself. He felt again. Yes, there was something stiffish, but readily bendable—it seemed like paper. He
investigated. Nothing in any of the pockets. No; but a slight,
straight slit inside one of these, down which it was clear something
had unwarily slipped. The man manipulated it until it re-appeared at
the opening. It was a letter fastened up as if ready for the post. It had kept fresh and clean in its hiding place. It bore the
superscription in Mr Bethune's hand-writing―
Miss LESLEY BAIRD,
With his manner of conciliatory deference, the servant approached
his fuming master.
"Sir," he said, "I have just found something which I fear you must
Rab took the paper with an impatient gesture. He expected it to be
some trifle. The observant valet noticed the portentous change in
his countenance. Rab put out his hand in a blinded, groping fashion,
and grasped the back of a chair.
"Where did you find this?" he gasped.
"In the lining of your discarded travelling cloak, sir," said the
man, with his civil propriety of speech.
"Very well," said Rab, summoning all his self-control; "thank you
for bringing it promptly. But it does not matter now. Its occasion
is past. It is of no consequence."
He tore open the envelope while the man stood there. There was his
unanswered letter, revealing his family secret to Lesley, and
throwing himself on her sympathy and counsel, as "the one whom in
all the world he held dearest and best." He rent it across and
across, and threw it into the fire, which the chilly Oriental Leah
had caused to be lit to cheer the cool of the evening.
He understood it all. He remembered his own hesitancy—his expedient
of getting an envelope addressed by the railway clerk, his
subsequent dislike of the disguise, and his restoration of his
epistle to its original cover. He had simply ended in posting the
wrong envelope: that was all!
Once more Lesley rose upon his memory, true and tender-hearted, free
from the cloud of mistrust and suspicion with which his own
vacillation and guilty consciousness had surrounded her. And how
unnecessary it had all been!
He heard Leah's sharp voice in the next room. It seemed to cut
through his very heart. What had the future to keep for him?
That night they were talking of him in the London clubs, and they
called him "a lucky beggar!"
BEFORE the leaves
had fallen from the trees that autumn, Lesley Baird had taken up her
life with determined cheerfulness. She had not yet got into the
sunshine. She was still cleaving to old Alison's remembered advice:
"Ask if you're sure you are in the Lord's way, and then shut your e'en, and gang." She was acquiring that practical philosophy which
withdraws its gaze from the wide horizon of future years and fixes
it on the little duties and delights of every day.
If she could have had partial vision of her future life, what would
it have shown her? It would have shown her what she could scarcely
have dared to think of living through. She would have seen Rab
Bethune, a demoralised idler, skirting the edge of the worst
dissipations, living with his wife in legal unity, but taking no
trouble to conciliate the wilful, bitter woman, or to conceal his
own chafing under the bondage in which she held him. Lesley would
have seen Jamie Logan, growing up without home influences—a wild,
careless boy, over whom duty had no sway, unamenable to reason,
falling into disgrace, and finally vanishing from sight. She would
have seen herself, not bound by any sentimental vow, yet simply
never able to feel again that type of love which had perished in
such bitter doubt and pain.
But could she have seen the future with perfect vision, she would
also have seen herself strong, and helpful, and tender, a woman on
whom many hearts leaned, the solace of old age, the refuge of
defenceless youth. She would have seen a crowd of little children
gathering round the hearth of Edenhaugh, some orphaned, some worse
than orphans, who owed all they would ever know of mother love to
the childless woman, and never found that they lacked aught. She
would have heard her uncle's last blessing. She would have felt her
own heart rise to that high faith which can be at rest even about
Rab Bethune and James Logan, because assured that God's love for
them was greater than hers, and that His everlasting arms can hold
what her mortal hands must let fall.
Sunset on the wide Atlantic.
Lewis and Mary are walking to and fro on the deck of their steamer. They are not far from the new land which is to be their future home. There, for a while at least, their duties must divide them. They can
scarcely bear to think of it. Each feels that the other has grown a
part of deepest self. They had walked in silence for awhile. But
Lewis has made up his mind that this is the time to speak.
"It will be hard to go apart, Mary," he says.
He has never called her by her name before. She notices it. She
looks straight before her, a beautiful flush deepening on her finely
chiselled cheek. She replies:
"Yes, it will."
"Do you really care for me?" he asks, lowering his voice.
"Of course I do," says Mary, frankly
"Do you think you care for me enough to marry me in the end?"
"Yes, I know I do."
They came to a sudden pause. He took her hand in his. They both
turned towards Clementina Kerr, who was watching the sunset; but
they could scarcely discern even her form, for the dazzling radiance
towards which her face was turned.