Part 8 out of 11
the long wasting years, but something of its old shape yet lingered
with the dust: that was a head that lay on the pillow; that was the
line of a long arm that pointed across the pillow to the post.--What
was that hanging from the bedpost and meeting the arm? God in
heaven! there was a staple in the post, and from the staple came a
chain!--and there at its other end a ring, lying on the pillow!--and
through it--yes through it, the dust-arm passed!--This was no mere
death-bed; it was a torture bed--most likely a murder-bed; and on it
yet lay the body that died on it--had lain for hundreds of years,
unlifted for kindly burial: the place of its decease had been made
its tomb--closed up and hidden away!
A bed in a chapel, and one dead thereon!--how could it be? Had the
woman--for Donal imagined the form yet showed it the body of a
woman--been carried thither of her own desire, to die in a holy
place? That could not be: there was the chain! Had she sought refuge
there from some persecutor? If so, he has found her! She was a
captive--mad perhaps, more likely hated and the victim of a terrible
revenge; left, probably enough, to die of hunger, or
disease--neglected or tended, who could tell? One thing, only was
clear--that there she died, and there she was buried!
Arctura was trembling. Donal drew her closer, and would have taken
her away. But she said in his ear, as if in dread of disturbing the
"I am not frightened--not very. It is only the cold, I think."
They went softly to the other end of the chapel, almost clinging
together as they went. They saw three narrow lancet windows on their
right, but no glimmer came through them.
They came to what had seemed an altar, and such it still seemed. But
on its marble-top lay the dust plainly of an infant--sight sad as
fearful, and full of agonizing suggestion! They turned away, nor
either looked at the other. The awful silence of the place seemed
settling on them like a weight. Donal made haste, nor did Arctura
seem less anxious to leave it.
When they reached the stair, he made her go first: he must be
between her and the terror! As they passed the door on the other
side of the little gallery--down whose spiracle had come no second
breath--Donal said to himself he must question that door, but to
Arctura he said nothing: she had had enough of inquiry for the
Slowly they ascended to Arctura's chamber. Donal replaced the slab,
and propped it in its position; gathered the plaster into the pail;
replaced the press, and put a screw through the bottom of it into
the floor. Arctura stood and watched him all the time.
"You must leave your room again, my lady!" said Donal.
"I will. I shall speak to mistress Brookes at once."
"Will you tell her all about it?"
"We must talk about that!"
"How will she bear it," thought Donal; "how after such an
experience, can she spend the rest of the day alone? There is all
the long afternoon and evening to be met!"
He gave the last turn to the screw in the floor, and rose. Then
first he saw that Arctura had turned very white.
"Do sit down, my lady!" he said. "I would run for mistress Brookes,
but I dare not leave you."
"No, no; we will go down together! Give me that bottle of eau de
Donal did not know either eau de Cologne or its bottle, but he
darted to the dressing-table and guessed correctly. It revived her,
and she began to take deep breaths. Then with a strong effort she
rose to go down.
The time for speech concerning what they had seen, was not come!
"Would you not like, my lady," said Donal, "to come to the
schoolroom this afternoon? You could sit beside while I give Davie
"Yes," she answered at once; "I should like it much!--Is there not
something you could give me to do?--Will you not teach me
"I should like to begin you with Greek, and teach you a little
mathematics--geometry first of all."
"You frighten me!"
"Your fright wouldn't outlast the beginning," said Donal. "Anyhow,
you will have Davie and me for company! You must be lonely
sometimes! You see little of Miss Carmichael now, I fancy."
"She has not been near me since that day in the avenue! We salute
now and then coming out of church. She will not come again except I
ask her; and I shall be in no haste: she would only assume I was
sorry, and could not do without her!"
"I should let her wait, my lady!" said Donal. "She sorely wants
"You do not know her, Mr. Grant, if you think anything I could do
would have that effect on her."
"Pardon me, my lady; I did not imagine it your task to humble her!
But you need not let her ride over you as she used to do; she knows
nothing really, and a great many things unreally. Unreal knowledge
is worse than ignorance.--Would not Miss Graeme be a better friend?"
"She is much more lovable; but she does not trouble her head about
the things I care for.--I mean religion," she added hesitatingly.
"So much the better,--"
"You did not let me finish, my lady!--So much the better, I was
going to say, till she begins to trouble her heart about it--or
rather to untrouble her heart with it! The pharisee troubled his
head, and no doubt his conscience too, and did not go away
justified; but the poor publican, as we with our stupid pity would
call him, troubled his heart about it; and that trouble once set a
going, there is no fear. Head and all must soon follow.--But how am
I to get rid of this plaster without being seen?"
"I will show you the way to your own stair without going down--the
way we came once, you may remember. You can take it to the top of
the house till it is dark.--But I do not feel comfortable about my
uncle's visit. Can it be that he suspects something? Perhaps he
knows all about the chapel--and that stair too!"
"He is a man to enjoy having a secret!--But our discovery bears out
what we were saying as to the likeness of house and man--does it
"You don't mean there is anything like that in me?" rejoined
Arctura, looking frightened.
"You!" he exclaimed. "--But I mean no individual application," he
added, "except as reflected from the general truth. This house is
like every human soul, and so, like me and you and all of us. We
have found the chapel of the house, the place they used to pray to
God in, built up, lost, forgotten, filled with dust and damp--and
the mouldering dead lying there before the Lord, waiting to be made
live again and praise him!"
"I said you meant me!" murmured Arctura, with a faint, sad smile.
"No; the time is past for that. It is long since first you were
aware of the dead self in the lost chapel; a hungry soul soon misses
both, and knows, without being sure of it, that they are somewhere.
You have kept searching for them in spite of all persuasion that the
quest was foolish."
Arctura's eyes shone in her pale face; but they shone with gathering
tears. Donal turned away, and took up the pail. She rose, and guided
him to his tower-stair, where he went up and she went down.
THE HOUSEKEEPER'S ROOM.
As the clock upon the schoolroom chimney-piece struck the hour,
Arctura entered, and at once took her seat at the table with
Davie--much to the boy's wonder and pleasure. Donal gave her a
Euclid, and set her a task: she began at once to learn it--and after
a while so brief that Davie stared incredulous, said,
"If you please, Mr. Grant, I think I could be questioned upon it
Less than a minute sufficed to show Donal that she thoroughly
understood what she had been learning, and he set her then a little
more. By the time their work was over he had not a doubt left that
suchlike intellectual occupation would greatly subserve all phases
of her health. With entireness she gave herself to the thing she had
to do; and Donal thought how strong must be her nature, to work so
calmly, and think so clearly, after what she had gone through that
School over, and Davie gone to his rabbits.
"Mistress Brookes invites us to supper with her," said lady Arctura.
"I asked her to ask us. I don't want to go to bed till I am quite
sleepy. You don't mind, do you?"
"I am very glad, my lady," responded Donal.
"Don't you think we had better tell her all about it?"
"As you think fit. The secret is in no sense mine; it is only yours;
and the sooner it ceases to be a secret the better for all of us!"
"I have but one reason for keeping it," she returned.
"Yes; I know he will be annoyed. But there may be other reasons why
I should reveal the thing."
"There may indeed!" said Donal.
"Still, I should be sorry to offend him more than I cannot help. If
he were a man like my father, I should never dream of going against
him; I should in fact leave everything to him he cared to attend to.
But seeing he is the man he is, it would be absurd. I dare not let
him manage my affairs for me much longer. I must understand for
myself how things are going."
"You will not, I hope, arrange anything without the presence of a
lawyer! I fear I have less confidence in your uncle than you have!"
Arctura made no reply, and Donal was afraid he had hurt her; but the
next moment she looked up with a sad smile, and said,
"Well, poor man! we will not compare our opinions of him: he is my
father's brother, and I shall be glad not to offend him. But my
father would have reason to be dissatisfied if I left everything to
my uncle as if he had not left everything to me. If he had been
another sort of man, my father would surely have left the estate to
At nine o'clock they met in the housekeeper's room--low-ceiled,
large, lined almost round with oak presses, which were mistress
Brookes's delight. She welcomed them as to her own house, and made
an excellent hostess.
But Donal would not mix the tumbler of toddy she would have had him
take. For one thing he did not like his higher to be operated upon
from his lower: it made him feel as if possessed by a not altogether
real self. But the root of his objection lay in the teaching of his
mother. The things he had learned of his parents were to him his
patent of nobility, vouchers that he was honourably descended: of
his birth he was as proud as any man. And hence this night he was
led to talk of his father and mother, and the things of his
childhood. He told Arctura all about the life he had led; how at one
time he kept cattle in the fields, at another sheep on the
mountains; how it came that he was sent to college, and all the
story of sir Gibbie. The night wore on. Arctura listened--did
nothing but listen; she was enchanted. And it surprised Donal
himself to find how calmly he could now look back upon what had
seemed to threaten an everlasting winter of the soul. It was indeed
the better thing that Ginevra should be Gibbie's wife!
A pause had come, and he had fallen into a brooding memory of things
gone by, when a sudden succession of quick knocks fell on his ear.
He started--strangely affected. Neither of his companions took
notice of it, though it was now past one o'clock. It was like a
knocking with knuckles against the other side of the wall of the
"What can that be?" he said, listening for more.
"H'ard ye never that 'afore, maister Grant?" said the housekeeper.
"I hae grown sae used til't my ears hardly tak notice o' 't!"
"What is it?" asked Donal.
"Ay, what is't? Tell ye me that gien ye can!" she returned "It's
jist a chappin', an' God's trowth it's a' I ken aboot the same! It
comes, I believe I'm safe to say, ilka nicht; but I couldna tak my
aith upo' 't, I hae sae entirely drappit peyin' ony attention til't.
There's things aboot mony an auld hoose, maister Grant, 'at'll tak
the day o' judgment to explain them. But sae lang as they keep to
their ain side o' the wa', I dinna see I need trible my heid aboot
them. Efter the experrience I had as a yoong lass, awa' doon in
Englan' yon'er, at a place my auntie got me intil--for she kenned a
heap o' gran' fowk throuw bein' hersel' sae near conneckit wi' them
as hoosekeeper i' the castel here--efter that, I'm sayin,' I wadna
need to be that easy scaret?"
"What was it?" said lady Arctura. "I don't think you ever told me."
"No, my dear lady; I wud never hae thocht o' tellin' ye ony sic
story sae lang as ye was ower yoong no to be frichtit at it; for
'deed I think they're muckle to blame 'at tells bairns the varra
things they're no fit to hear, an' fix the dreid 'afore the sense.
But I s' tell ye the noo, gien ye care to hear. It's a some awsome
story, but there's something unco fulish-like intil't as weel. I
canna say I think muckle 'o craturs 'at trible their heids aboot
their heids!--But that's tellin' 'aforehan'!"
Here the good woman paused thoughtful.
"I am longing to hear your story, mistress Brookes," said Donal,
supposing she needed encouragement.
"I'm but thinkin' hoo to begin," she returned, "sae as to gie ye a
richt haud o' the thing.--I'm thinkin' I canna do better nor jist
tell 't as it cam to mysel'!--Weel, ye see, I was but a yoong lass,
aboot--weel, I micht be twenty, mair or less, whan I gaed til the
place I speak o'. It was awa' upo' the borders o' Wales, like as
gien folk ower there i' Perth war doobtfu' whether sic or sic a
place was i' the hielan's or the lowlan's. The maister o' the hoose
was a yoong man awa' upo' 's traivels, I kenna whaur--somewhaur upo'
the continent, but that's a mickle word; an' as he had the intention
o' bein' awa' for some time to come, no carin' to settle doon aff
han' an' luik efter his ain, there was but ane gey auld wuman to
hoosekeep, an' me to help her, an' a man or twa aboot the place to
luik efter the gairden--an' that was a'. Hoose an' gairden was to
let, an' was intil the han's o' ane o' thae agents, as they ca'
them, for that same purpose--to let, that is, for a term o' years.
Weel, ae day there cam a gentleman to luik at the place, an' he was
sae weel pleased wi' 't--as weel he micht, for eh, it was a bonny
place!--aye lauchin' like, whaur this place is aye i' the
sulks!--na, no aye! I dinna mean that, my lady, forgettin' at it's
yours!--but ye maun own it taks a heap o' sun to gar this auld hoose
here luik onything but some dour--an' I beg yer pardon, my lady!"
"You are quite right, mistress Brookes!" said Arctura with a smile.
"If it were not for you it would be dour dour.--You do not know, Mr.
Grant--mistress Brookes herself does not know how much I owe her! I
should have gone out of my mind for very dreariness a hundred times
but for her."
"The short an' the lang o' 't was," resumed mistress Brookes, "that
the place was let an' the place was ta'en, mickle to the
satisfaction o' a' pairties concernt. The auld hoosekeeper, she
bein' a fixtur like, was to bide, an' I was to bide as weel, under
the hoosekeeper, an' haein' nothing to do wi' the stranger servan's.
"They cam. There was a gentleman o' a middle age, an' his leddy some
yoonger nor himsel', han'some but no bonnie--but that has naething
to do wi' my tale 'at I should tak up yer time wi' 't, an' it
growin' some late."
"Never mind the time, mistress Brookes," said Arctura; we can do
just as we please about that! One time is as good as another--isn't
it, Mr. Grant?"
"I sometimes sit up half the night myself," said Donal. "I like to
know God's night. Only it won't do often, lest we make the brain,
which is God's too, like a watch that won't go."
"It's sair upsettin' to the wark!" said the housekeeper. "What would
the house be like if I was to do that!"
"Do go on, please, mistress Brookes," said Arctura.
"Please do," echoed Donal.
"Sir, an' my lady, I'm ready to sit till the cock's be dune crawin',
an' the day dune dawin', to pleasur the ane or the twa o' ye!--an'
sae for my true tale!--They war varra dacent, weel-behavet fowk, wi'
a fine faimly, some grown an' some growin'. It was jist a fawvour to
see sic a halesome clan--frae auchteen or thereawa' doon tu the wee
toddlin' lassie was the varra aipple o' the e'e to a' the e'en aboot
the place! But that's naither here nor yet there! A' gaed on as a'
should gang on whaur the servan's are no ower gran' for their ain
wark, nor ower meddlesome wi' the wark o' their neebours; naething
was negleckit, nor onything girned aboot; but a' was peace an'
hermony, as quo' the auld sang about out bonny Kilmeny--that is,
till ae nicht.--You see I'm tellin' ye as it cam' to mysel' an' no
"As I lay i' my bed that nicht--an' ye may be sure at my age I lay
nae langer nor jist to turn me ower ance, an' in general no that
ance--jist as I was fa'in' asleep, up gat sic a romage i' the
servan' ha', straucht 'aneth whaur I was lyin', that I thoucht to
mysel', what upo' earth's come to the place!--'Gien it bena the day
o' judgment, troth it's no the day o' sma' things!' I said. It was
as gien a' the cheirs an' tables thegither war bein' routit oot o'
their places, an' syne set back again, an' the tables turnt heels
ower heid, an' a' the glaiss an' a' the plate for the denner knockit
aboot as gien they had been sae mony hailstanes that warna wantit
ony mair, but micht jist lie whaur they fell. I couldna for the life
o' me think what it micht betoken, save an' excep' a general frenzy
had seized upo' man an' wuman i' the hoose! I got up in a hurry:
whatever was gaein' on, I wudna wullin'ly gang wantin' my share o'
the sicht! An' jist as I opened my door, wha should I hear but the
maister cryin' at the heid o' the stair,--'What, i' the name o' a'
that's holy,' says he, 'is the meanin' o' this?' An' I ran til him,
oot o' the passage, an' through the swing-door, into the great
corridor; an' says I,--''Deed, sir, I was won'erin'! an' wi' yer
leave, sir, I'll gang an' see,' I said, gaitherin' my shawl aboot me
as weel as I could to hide what was 'aneth it, or raither what wasna
'aneth it, for I hadna that mickle on. But says he, 'No, no, you
must not go; who knows what it may be? I'll go myself. They may be
robbers, and the men fighting them. You stop where you are.' Sayin'
that, he was half-ways doon the stair. I stood whaur I was, lookin'
doon an' hearkenin', an' the noise still goin' on. But he could but
hae won the len'th o' the hall, whan it stoppit a' at ance an'
a'thegither. Ye may think what a din it maun hae been, whan I tell
ye the quaiet that cam upo' the heels o' 't jist seemed to sting my
twa lugs. The same moment I h'ard the maister cryin' til me to come
doon. I ran, an' whan I reached the servan's ha', whaur he stood
jist inside the door, I stood aside him an' glowered. For, wad ye
believe me! the place was as dacent an' still as ony kirkyard i' the
munelicht! There wasna a thing oot o' it's place, nor an air o'
dist, nor the sma'est disorder to be seen! A' the things luikit as
gien they had sattlet themsel's to sleep as usual, an' had sleepit
till we cam an' waukit them. The maister glowert at me, an' I
glowert at the maister. But a' he said was,--'A false alarm, ye see,
Rose!' What he thoucht I canna tell, but withoot anither word we
turnt, an' gaed up the stair again thegither.
"At the tap o' the stair, the lang corridor ran awa' intil the dark
afore 's, for the can'le the maister carried flangna licht half to
the en' o' 't; an' frae oot o' the mirk on a suddent cam to meet 's
a rampaugin' an' a rattlin' like o' a score o' nowt rinnin' awa' wi'
their iron tethers aboot their necks--sic a rattlin' o' iron chains
as ye never h'ard! an' a groanin' an' a gruntin' jist fearsome.
Again we stood an' luikit at ane anither; an' my word! but the
maister's face was eneuch to fricht a body o' 'tsel', lat alane the
thing we h'ard an' saw naething til accoont for! 'Gang awa' back to
yer bed, Rose,' he said; 'this'll never do!' 'An' hoo are ye to help
it, sir?' said I. 'That I cannot tell,' answered he; but I wouldn't
for the world your mistress heard it! I left her fast asleep, and I
hope she'll sleep through it.--Did you ever hear anything strange
about the house before we came?' 'Never, sir,' said I, 'as sure as I
stan' here shiverin'!'--for the nicht was i' the simmer, an' warm to
that degree! an' yet I was shiverin' as i' the cauld fit o' a
fivver; an' my moo' wud hardly consent to mak the words I soucht to
"We stood like mice 'afore the cat for a minute or twa, but there
cam naething mair; an' by degrees we grew a kin' o' ashamet, like as
gien we had been doobtfu' as to whether we had h'ard onything; an'
whan again he said to me gang to my bed, I gaed to my bed, an' wasna
lang upo' the ro'd, for fear I wud hear onything mair--an' intil my
bed, an' my heid 'aneth the claes, an' lay trim'lin'. But there was
nane mair o' 't that nicht, an' I wasna ower sair owercome to fa'
"I' the mornin' I tellt the hoosekeeper a' aboot it; but she held
her tongue in a mainner that was, to say the least o' 't, varra
strange. She didna lauch, nor she didna grue nor yet glower, nor yet
she didna say the thing was nonsense, but she jist h'ard an' h'ard
an' saidna a word. I thoucht wi' mysel', is't possible she disna
believe me? but I couldna mak that oot aither. Sae as she heild her
tongue, I jist pu'd the bridle o' mine, an' vooed there should be
never anither word said by me till ance she spak hersel'. An' I wud
sune hae had eneuch o' haudin' my tongue, but I hadna to haud it to
onybody but her; an' I cam to the conclusion that she was feart o'
bein' speirt questons by them 'at had a richt to speir them, for
that she had h'ard o' something 'afore, an' kenned mair nor she was
at leeberty to speak aboot.
"But that was only the beginnin', an' little to what followed! For
frae that nicht there was na ae nicht passed but some ane or twa
disturbit, an' whiles it was past a' bidin.' The noises, an' the
rum'lin's, an' abune a' the clankin' o' chains, that gaed on i' that
hoose, an' the groans, an' the cries, an' whiles the whustlin', an'
what was 'maist waur nor a', the lauchin', was something dreidfu',
an' 'ayont believin' to ony but them 'at was intil't. I sometimes
think maybe the terror o' 't maks it luik waur i' the recollection
nor it was; but I canna keep my senses an' no believe there was
something a'thegither by ord'nar i' the affair. An' whan, or lang,
it cam to the knowledge o' the lady, an' she was waukit up at nicht,
an' h'ard the thing, whatever it was, an' syne whan the bairns war
waukit up, an' aye the romage, noo i' this room, noo i' that, sae
that the leevin' wud be cryin' as lood as the deid, though they
could ill mak sic a din, it was beyond a' beirin', an' the maister
made up his min' to flit at ance, come o' 't what micht!
"For, as I oucht to hae tellt ye, he had written to the owner o' the
hoose, that was my ain maister--for it wasna a hair o' use sayin'
onything further to the agent; he only leuch, an' declaret it maun
be some o' his ain folk was playin' tricks upon him--which it angert
him to hear, bein' as impossible as it was fause; sae straucht awa'
to his lan'lord he wrote, as I say; but as he was travellin' aboot
on the continent, he supposed either the letter had not reached him,
an' never wud reach him or he was shelterin' himsel' under the idea
they wud think he had never had it, no wantin' to move in the
matter. But the varra day he had made up his min' that nothing
should make him spend another week in the house, for Monday nights
were always the worst, there cam a letter from the gentleman, sayin'
that only that same hoor that he was writin' had he received the
maister's letter; an' he was sorry he had not had it before, but
prayed him to put up with things till he got to him, and he would
start at the farthest in two days more, and would set the thing
right in less time than it would take to tell him what was amiss.--A
strange enough letter to be sure! Mr. Harper, that was their butler,
told me he had read every word of it! And so, as, not to mention the
terrors of the nicht, the want of rest was like to ruin us
altogether, we were all on the outlook for the appearance of oor
promised deliverer, sae cock-sure o' settin' things straucht again!
"Weel, at last, an' that was in a varra feow days, though they
luikit lang to some i' that hoose, he appearit--a nice luikin'
gentleman, wi' sae sweet a smile it wasna hard to believe whate'er
he tellt ye. An' he had a licht airy w'y wi' him, that was to us
oppresst craturs strangely comfortin', ill as it was to believe he
could ken what had been goin' on, an' treat it i' that fashion!
Hooever,--an' noo, my lady, an' Mr. Grant, I hae to tell ye what the
butler told me, for I wasna present to hear for mysel'. Maybe he
wouldn't have told me, but that he wasn't an old man, though twice
my age, an' seemt to have taken a likin' to me, though it never came
to anything; an' as I was always ceevil to any person that was
ceevil to me, an' never went farther than was becomin', he made me
the return o' talkin' to me at times, an' tellin' me what he knew.
"The young gentleman was to stop an' lunch with the master, an' i'
the meantime would have a glass o' wine an' a biscuit; an' pullin' a
bunch o' keys from his pocket, he desired Mr. Harper to take a
certain one and go to the door that was locked inside the
wine-cellar, and bring a bottle from a certain bin. Harper took the
key, an' was just goin' from the room, when he h'ard the
visitor--though in truth he was more at hame there than any of
us--h'ard him say, 'I'll tell you what you've been doing, sir, and
you'll tell me whether I'm not right!' Hearin' that, the butler drew
the door to, but not that close, and made no haste to leave it, and
so h'ard what followed.
"'I'll tell you what you've been doin',' says he. 'Didn't you find a
man's head--a skull, I mean, upon the premises?' 'Well, yes, I
believe we did, when I think of it!' says the master; 'for my
butler'--an' there was the butler outside a listenin' to the whole
tale!--'my butler came to me one mornin', sayin', "Look here, sir!
that is what I found in a little box, close by the door of the
wine-cellar! It's a skull!" "Oh," said I '--it was the master that
was speakin'--'"it'll be some medical student has brought it home to
the house!" So he asked me what he had better do with it.' 'And you
told him,' interrupted the gentleman, 'to bury it!' 'I did; it
seemed the proper thing to do.' 'I hadn't a doubt of it!' said the
gentleman: 'that is the cause of all the disturbance.' 'That?' says
the master. 'That, and nothing else!' answers the gentleman. And
with that, as Harper confessed when he told me, there cam ower him
such a horror, that he daured nae longer stan' at the door; but for
goin' doon to the cellar to fetch the bottle o' wine, that was
merely beyond his human faculty. As it happed, I met him on the
stair, as white as a sheet, an' ready to drop. 'What's the matter,
Mr. Harper?' said I; and he told me all about it. 'Come along,' I
said; 'we'll go to the cellar together! It's broad daylight, an'
there's nothing to hurt us!' So he went down.
"'There, that's the box the thing was lyin' in!' said he, as we cam
oot o' the wine-cellar. An' wi' that cam a groan oot o' the varra
ground at oor feet! We both h'ard it, an' stood shakin' an' dumb,
grippin' ane anither. 'I'm sure I don't know what in the name o'
heaven it can all mean!' said he--but that was when we were on the
way up again. 'Did ye show 't ony disrespec'?' said I. 'No,' said
he; 'I but buried it, as I would anything else that had to be putten
out o' sight,' An' as we wur talkin' together--that was at the top
o' the cellar-stair--there cam a great ringin' at the bell, an' said
he, 'They're won'erin' what's come o' me an' their wine, an' weel
they may! I maun rin.' As soon as he entered the room--an' this
again, ye may see, my leddy an' maister Grant, he tellt me
efterwards--'Whaur did ye bury the heid ye tuik frae the cellar?'
said his master til him, an' speiredna a word as to hoo he had been
sae lang gane for the wine. 'I buried it i' the garden,' answered
he. 'I hope you know the spot!' said the strange gentleman. 'Yes,
sir, I do,' said Harper. 'Then come and show me,' said he.
"So the three of them went oot thegither, an' got a spade; an'
luckily the butler was able to show them at once the varra spot. An'
the gentleman he howkit up the skull wi' his ain han's, carefu' not
to touch it with the spade, an' broucht it back in his han' to the
hoose, knockin' the earth aff it with his rouch traivellin' gluves.
But whan Harper lookit to be told to take it back to the place where
he found it, an' trembled at the thoucht, wonderin' hoo he was to
get haud o' me an' naebody the wiser, for he didna want to show
fricht i' the day-time, to his grit surprise an' no sma' pleesur,
the gentleman set the skull on the chimley-piece. An' as lunch had
been laid i' the meantime, for Mr. Heywood--I hae jist gotten a grup
o' his name--had to be awa' again direckly, he h'ard the whole story
as he waitit upo' them. I suppose they thoucht it better he should
hear an' tell the rest, the sooner to gar them forget the terrors we
had come throuw.
"Said the gentleman, 'Now you'll have no more trouble. If you do,
write to me, to the care o'--so an' so--an' I'll release you from
your agreement. But please to remember that you brought it on
yourself by interfering, I can't exackly say with my property, but
with the property of one who knows how to defend it without calling
in the aid of the law--which indeed would probably give him little
satisfaction.--It was the burying of that skull that brought on you
all the annoyance.' 'I always thought,' said the master, 'the dead
preferred having their bones buried. Their ghosts indeed, according
to Cocker, either wouldna or couldna lie quiet until their bodies
were properly buried: where then could be our offence?' 'You may say
what you will,' answered Mr. Heywood, 'and I cannot answer you, or
preten' to explain the thing; I only know that when that head is
buried, these same disagreeables always begin.' 'Then is the head in
the way of being buried and dug up again?' asked the master. 'I will
tell you the whole story, if you like,' answered his landlord. 'I
would gladly hear it,' says he, 'for I would fain see daylight on
the affair!' 'That I cannot promise you,' he said; 'but the story,
as it is handed down in the family, you shall hear.'
"You may be sure, my leddy, Harper was wide awake to hearken, an'
the more that he might tell it again in the hall!
"'Somewhere about a hundred and fifty years ago,' Mr. Heywood began,
'on a cold, stormy night, there came to the hall-door a poor
pedlar,'--a travelling merchant, you know, my leddy--'with his pack
on his back, and would fain have parted with some of his goods to
the folk of the hall. The butler, who must have been a rough sort of
man--they were rough times those--told him they wanted nothing he
could give them, and to go about his business. But the man, who was
something obstinate, I dare say, and, it may weel be, anxious to get
shelter, as much for the nicht bein' gurly as to sell his goods,
keepit on beggin' an' implorin' to lat the women-folk at the least
luik at what he had broucht. At last the butler, oot o' a' patience
wi' the man, ga'e him a great shove awa' frae the door, sae that the
poor man fell doon the steps, an' bangt the door to, nor ever lookit
to see whether the man gat up again or no.
"'I' the mornin' the pedlar they faund him lyin' deid in a little
wud or shaw, no far frae the hoose. An' wi' that up got the cry, an'
what said they but that the butler had murdert him! Sae up he was
ta'en an' put upo' 's trial for't. An' whether the man was not likit
i' the country-side, I cannot tell,' said the gentleman, 'but the
cry was against him, and things went the wrong way for him--and that
though no one aboot the hoose believed he had done the deed, more
than he micht hae caused his death by pushin' him doon the steps.
An' even that he could hardly have intendit, but only to get quit o'
him; an' likely enough the man was weak, perhaps ill, an' the weicht
o' his pack on his back pulled him as he pushed.' Still, efter an'
a'--an' its mysel' 'at's sayin' this, no the gentleman, my lady--in
a pairt o' the country like that, gey an' lanely, it was not the
nicht to turn a fallow cratur oot in! 'The butler was, at the same
time, an old and trusty servan',' said Mr. Heywood, 'an' his master
was greatly concernt aboot the thing. It is impossible at this time
o' day,' he said, 'to un'erstan' hoo such a thing could be--i' the
total absence o' direc' evidence, but the short an' the weary lang
o' 't was, that the man was hangt, an' hung in irons for the deed.
"'An' noo ye may be thinkin' the ghaist o' the puir pedlar began to
haunt the hoose; but naething o' the kin'! There was nae disturbance
o' that, or ony ither sort. The man was deid an' buried, whaever did
or didna kill him, an' the body o' him that was said to hae killed
him, hung danglin' i' the win', an' naither o' them said a word for
or again the thing.
"'But the hert o' the man's maister was sair. He couldna help aye
thinkin' that maybe he was to blame, an' micht hae done something
mair nor he thoucht o' at the time to get the puir man aff; for he
was absolutely certain that, hooever rouch he micht hae been; an'
hooever he micht hae been the cause o' deith to the troublesome
pedlar, he hadna meant to kill him; it was, in pairt at least, an
accident, an' he thoucht the hangin' o' 'im for 't was hard lines.
The maister was an auld man, nearhan' auchty, an' tuik things the
mair seriously, I daursay, that he wasna that far frae the grave
they had sent the puir butler til afore his time--gien that could be
said o' ane whause grave was wi' the weather-cock! An' aye he tuik
himsel' to task as to whether he ouchtna to hae dune something
mair--gane to the king maybe--for he couldna bide the thoucht o' the
puir man that had waitit upon him sae lang an' faithfu', hingin' an'
swingin' up there, an' the flesh drappin' aff the banes o' 'im, an'
still the banes hingin' there, an' swingin' an' creakin' an' cryin'!
The thoucht, I say, was sair upo' the auld man. But the time passed,
an' I kenna hoo lang or hoo short it may tak for a body in sic a
position to come asun'er, but at last the banes began to drap, an'
as they drappit, there they lay--at the fut o' the gallows, for
naebody caret to meddle wi' them. An' whan that cam to the knowledge
o' the auld gentleman, he sent his fowk to gether them up an' bury
them oot o' sicht. An' what was left o' the body, the upper pairt,
hauden thegither wi' the irons, maybe--I kenna weel hoo, hung an'
swung there still, in ilk win' that blew. But at the last, oot o'
sorrow, an' respec' for the deid, hooever he dee'd, his auld maister
sent quaietly ae mirk nicht, an' had the lave o' the banes taen doon
an' laid i' the earth.
"'But frae that moment, think ye there was ony peace i' the hoose? A
clankin' o' chains got up, an' a howlin', an' a compleenin' an' a
creakin' like i' the win'--sic a stramash a'thegither, that the
hoose was no fit to be leevit in whiles, though it was sometimes
waur nor ither times, an' some thoucht it had to do wi' the airt the
win' blew: aboot that I ken naething. But it gaed on like that for
months, maybe years,'--Mr. Harper wasna sure hoo lang the gentleman
said--'till the auld man 'maist wished himsel' in o' the grave an'
oot o' the trouble.
"'At last ae day cam an auld man to see him--no sae auld as himsel',
but ane he had kenned whan they wur at the college thegither. An'
this was a man that had travelled greatly, an' was weel learnt in a
heap o' things ordinar' fowk, that gies themsel's to the lan', an'
the growin' o' corn, an' beasts, ir no likely to ken mickle aboot.
He saw his auld freen' was in trouble, an' didna carry his age
calm-like as was nat'ral, an' sae speirt him what was the matter.
An' he told him the whole story, frae the hangin' to the bangin'.
"Weel," said the learnit man, whan he had h'ard a', "gien ye'll tak
my advice, ye'll jist sen' an' howk up the heid, an' tak it intil
the hoose wi' ye, an' lat it bide there whaur it was used sae lang
to be;--do that, an' it's my opinion ye'll hear nae mair o' sic
unruly gangin's on." The auld gentleman tuik the advice, kennin' no
better. But it was the richt advice, for frae that moment the romour
was ower, they had nae mair o' 't. They laid the heid in a decent
bit box i' the cellar, an' there it remaint, weel content there to
abide the day o' that jeedgment that'll set mony anither jeedgment
to the richt-aboot; though what pleesur could be intil that cellar
mair nor intil a hole i' the earth, is a thing no for me to say! So
wi' that generation there was nae mair trouble.
"'But i' the coorse o' time cam first ane an' syne anither, wha
forgot, maybe leuch at, the haill affair, an' didna believe a word
o' the same. But they're but fules that gang again the experrience
o' their forbeirs!--what wud ye hae but they wud beery the heid! An'
what wud come o' that but an auld dismay het up again! Up gat the
din, the rampaugin', the clankin', an' a', jist the same as 'afore!
But the minute that, frichtit at the consequences o' their folly,
they acknowledged the property o' the ghaist in his ain heid, an'
tuik it oot o' the earth an' intil the hoose again, a' was quaiet
direc'ly--quaiet as hert could desire.'
"Sae that was the story!
"An' whan the lunch was ower, an' Mr. Harper was thinkin' the moment
come whan they would order him to tak the heid, an' him trimlin' at
the thoucht o' touchin' 't, an' lay't whaur it was--an' whaur it had
sae aften been whan it had a sowl intil 't, the gentleman got up,
an' says he til him, 'Be so good,' says he, 'as fetch me my hat-box
from the hall.' Harper went an' got it as desired, an' the gentleman
took an' unlockit it, an' roon' he turnt whaur he stood, an' up he
tuik the skull frae the chimley-piece, neither as gien he lo'ed it
nor feared it--as what reason had he to do either?--an' han'let it
neither rouchly, nor wi' ony show o' mickle care, but intil the
hat-box it gaed, willy, nilly, an' the lid shutten doon upo' 't, an'
the key turnt i' the lock o' 't; an' as gien he wad mak the thing
richt sure o' no bein' putten again whaur it had sic an objection to
gang, up he tuik in his han' the hat-box, an' the contrairy heid i'
the inside o' 't, an' awa' wi' him on his traivels, here awa' an'
there awa' ower the face o' the globe: he was on his w'y to Spain,
he said, at the moment; an' we saw nae mair o' him nor the heid, nor
h'ard ever a soon' mair o' clankin', nor girnin', nor ony ither
"An' that's the trowth, mak o' 't what ye like, my leddy an' maister
Mistress Brookes was silent, and for some time not a syllable was
uttered by either listener. At last Donal spoke.
"It is a strange story, mistress Brookes," he said; "and the
stranger that it would show some of the inhabitants of the other
world apparently as silly after a hundred and fifty years as when
first they arrived there."
"I can say naething anent that, sir," answered mistress Brookes;
"I'm no accoontable for ony inference 'at's to be drawn frae my ower
true tale; an' doobtless, sir, ye ken far better nor me;--but whaur
ye see sae mony folk draw oot the threid o' a lang life, an' never
ae sensible thing, that they could help, done or said, what for
should ye won'er gien noo an' than ane i' the ither warl' shaw
himsel' siclike. Whan ye consider the heap o' folk that dees, an'
hoo there maun be sae mony mair i' the ither warl' nor i' this, I
confess for my pairt I won'er mair 'at we're left at peace at a',
an' that they comena swarmin' aboot 's i' the nicht, like black
doos. Ye'll maybe say they canna, an' ye'll maybe say they come; but
sae lang as they plague me nae waur nor oor freen' upo' the tither
side o' the wa', I canna say I care that mickle. But I think whiles
hoo thae ghaists maun lauch at them that lauchs as gien there was
nae sic craturs i' the warl'! For my pairt I naither fear them nor
seek til them: I'll be ane wi' them mysel' afore lang!--only I wad
sair wuss an' houp to gang in amo' better behavet anes nor them 'at
gangs aboot plaguin' folk."
"You speak the best of sense, mistress Brookes," said Donal; "but I
should like to understand why the poor hanged fellow should have
such an objection to having his skull laid in the ground! Why had he
such a fancy for his old bones? Could he be so closely associated
with them that he could not get on without the plenty of fresh air
they got him used to when they hung on the gallows? And why did it
content him to have only his head above ground? It is bewildering!
We couldn't believe our bones rise again, even if Paul hadn't as
good as told us they don't! Why should the dead haunt their bones as
if to make sure of having their own again?"
"But," said mistress Brookes, "beggin' yer pardon, sir, what ken ye
as to what they think? Ye may ken better, but maybe they dinna; for
haena ye jist allooed that sic conduc' as I hae describit is no fit,
whaever be guilty o' the same, whether rowdy laddies i' the streets,
or craturs ye canna see i' the hoose? They may think they'll want
their banes by an' by though ye ken better; an' whatever you wise
folk may think the noo, ye ken it's no that lang sin' a' body, ay,
the best o' folk, thoucht the same; an' there's no a doobt they a'
did at the time that man was hangt. An' ye maun min' 'at i' the
hoose the heid o' 'im wudna waste as it wud i' the yerd!"
"But why bother about his heid more than the rest of his bones?"
"Weel, sir, I'm thinking a ghaist, ghaist though he be, canna surely
be i' twa places at ance. He could never think to plague til ilk
bane o' finger an' tae was gethert i' the cellar! That wud be
houpless! An' thinkin' onything o' his banes, he micht weel think
maist o' 's heid, an' keep an e'e upo' that. Nae mony ghaists hae
the chance o' seein' sae muckle o' their banes as this ane, or
sayin' to themsel's, 'Yon's mine, whaur it swings!' Some ghaists hae
a cat-like natur for places, an' what for no for banes? Mony's the
story that hoosekeeper, honest wuman, telled me: whan what had come
was gane, it set her openin' oot her pack! I could haud ye there a'
nicht tellin' ye ane efter anither o' them. But it's time to gang to
"It is our turn to tell you something," said lady Arctura; "--only
you must not mention it just yet: Mr. Grant has found the lost
For a moment Mrs. Brookes said nothing, but neither paled nor looked
incredulous; her face was only fixed and still, as if she were
finding explanation in the discovery.
"I was aye o' the min' it was," she said, "an' mony's the time I
thoucht I wud luik for't to please mysel'! It's sma' won'er--the
soon's, an' the raps, an' siclike!"
"You will not change your mind when you hear all," said Arctura. "I
asked you to give us our supper because I was afraid to go to bed."
"You shouldn't have told her, sir!"
"I've seen it with my own eyes!"
"You've been into it, my lady?--What--what--?"
"It is a chapel--the old castle-chapel--mentioned, I know, somewhere
in the history of the place, though no one, I suppose, ever dreamed
the missing room could be that!--And in the chapel," continued
Arctura, hardly able to bring out the words, for a kind of cramping
of the muscles of speech, "there was a bed! and in the bed the
crumbling dust of a woman! and on the altar what was hardly more
than the dusty shadow of a baby?"
"The Lord be aboot us!" cried the housekeeper, her well-seasoned
composure giving way; "ye saw that wi' yer ain e'en, my lady!--Mr.
Grant! hoo could ye lat her leddyship luik upo' sic things!"
"I am her ladyship's servant," answered Donal.
"That's varra true! But eh, my bonny bairn, sic sichts is no for
"I ought to know what is in the house!" said Arctura, with a
shudder. "But already I feel more comfortable that you know too. Mr.
Grant would like to have your advice as to what--.--You'll come and
see them, won't you?"
"When you please, my lady.--To-night?"
"No, no! not to-night.--Was that the knocking again?--Some ghosts
want their bodies to be buried, though your butler--"
"I wouldna wonder!" responded mistress Brookes, thoughtfully.
"Where shall we bury them?" asked Donal.
"In Englan'," said the housekeeper, "I used to hear a heap aboot
consecrated ground; but to my min' it was the bodies o' God's
handiwark, no the bishop, that consecrated the ground. Whaur the
Lord lays doon what he has done wi', wad aye be a sacred place to
me. I daursay Moses, whan he cam upo' 't again i' the desert, luikit
upo' the ground whaur stood the buss that had burned, as a sacred
place though the fire was lang oot!--Thinkna ye, Mr. Grant?"
"I do," answered Donal. "But I do not believe the Lord Jesus thought
one spot on the face of the earth more holy than another: every dust
of it was his father's, neither more nor less, existing only by the
thought of that father! and I think that is what we must come
to.--But where shall we bury them?--where they lie, or in the
"Some wud doobtless hae dist laid to dist i' the kirkyard; but I
wudna wullin'ly raise a clash i' the country-side. Them that did it
was yer ain forbeirs, my leddy; an' sic things are weel forgotten.
An' syne what wud the earl say? It micht upset him mair nor a bit!
I'll consider o' 't."
Donal accompanied them to the door of the chamber which again they
shared, and then betook himself to his own high nest. There more
than once in what remained of the night, he woke, fancying he heard
the ghost-music sounding its coronach over the dead below.
A SOUL DISEASED.
"Papa is very ill to-day, Simmons tells me," said Davie, as Donal
entered the schoolroom. "He says he has never seen him so ill. Oh,
Mr. Grant, I hope he is not going to die!"
"I hope not," returned Donal--not very sure, he saw when he thought
about it, what he meant; for if there was so little hope of his
becoming a true man on this side of some awful doom, why should he
hope for his life here?
"I wish you would talk to him as you do to me, Mr. Grant!" resumed
Davie, who thought what had been good for himself must be good for
Of late the boy had been more than usual with his father, and he may
have dropped some word that turned his father's thoughts toward
Donal and his ways of thinking: however weak the earl's will, and
however dull his conscience, his mind was far from being inactive.
In the afternoon the butler brought a message that his lordship
would be glad to see Mr. Grant when school was over.
Donal found the earl very weak, but more like a live man, he
thought, than he had yet seen him. He pointed to a seat, and began
to talk in a way that considerably astonished the tutor.
"Mr. Grant," he began, with not a little formality, "I have known
you long enough to believe I know you really. Now I find myself,
partly from the peculiarity of my constitution, partly from the
state of my health, partly from the fact that my views do not
coincide with those of the church of Scotland, and there is no
episcopal clergyman within reach of the castle--I find myself, I
say, for these reasons, desirous of some conversation with you, more
for the sake of identifying my own opinions, than in the hope of
receiving from you what it would be unreasonable to expect from one
of your years."
Donal held his peace; the very power of speech seemed taken from
him: he had no confidence in the man, and nothing so quenches speech
as lack of faith. But the earl had no idea of this distrust, never a
doubt of his listener's readiness to take any position he required
him to take. Experience had taught him as little about Donal as
about his own real self.
"I have long been troubled," continued his lordship after a
momentary pause, "with a question of which one might think the world
must by this time be weary--which yet has, and always will have,
extraordinary fascination for minds of a certain sort--of which my
own is one: it is the question of the freedom of the will:--how far
is the will free? or how far can it be called free, consistently
with the notion of a God over all?"
He paused, and Donal sat silent--so long that his lordship opened
the eyes which, the better to enjoy the process of sentence-making,
he had kept shut, and half turned his head towards him: he had begun
to doubt whether he was really by his bedside, or but one of his
many visions undistinguishable by him from realities. Re-assured by
the glance, he resumed.
"I cannot, of course, expect from you such an exhaustive and formed
opinion as from an older man who had made metaphysics his business,
and acquainted himself with all that had been said upon the subject;
at the same time you must have expended a considerable amount of
thought on these matters!"
He talked in a quiet, level manner, almost without inflection, and
with his eyes again closed--very much as if he were reading a book
"I have had a good deal," he went on, "to shake my belief in the
common ideas on such points.--Do you believe there is such a thing
as free will?"
He ceased, awaiting the answer which Donal felt far from prepared to
"My lord," he said at length, "what I believe, I do not feel
capable, at a moment's notice, of setting forth; neither do I think,
however unavoidable such discussions may be in the forum of one's
own thoughts, that they are profitable between men. I think such
questions, if they are to be treated at all between man and man, and
not between God and man only, had better be discussed in print,
where what is said is in some measure fixed, and can with a glance
be considered afresh. But not so either do I think they can be
discussed to any profit."
"What do you mean? Surely this question is of the first importance
"I grant it, my lord, if by humanity you mean the human individual.
But my meaning is, that there are many questions, and this one, that
can be tested better than argued."
"You seem fond of paradox!"
"I will speak as directly as I can: such questions are to be
answered only by the moral nature, which first and almost only they
concern; and the moral nature operates in action, not discussion."
"Do I not then," said his lordship, the faintest shadow of
indignation in his tone, "bring my moral nature to bear on a
question which I consider from the ground of duty?"
"No, my lord," answered Donal, with decision; "you bring nothing but
your intellectual nature to bear on it so; the moral nature, I
repeat, operates only in action. To come to the point in hand: the
sole way for a man to know he has freedom is to do something he
ought to do, which he would rather not do. He may strive to acquaint
himself with the facts concerning will, and spend himself imagining
its mode of working, yet all the time not know whether he has any
"But how am I to put a force in operation, while I do not know
whether I possess it or not?"
"By putting it in operation--that alone; by being alive; by doing
the next thing you ought to do, or abstaining from the next thing
you are tempted to, knowing you ought not to do it. It sounds
childish; and most people set action aside as what will do any time,
and try first to settle questions which never can be settled but in
just this divinely childish way. For not merely is it the only way
in which a man can know whether he has a free will, but the man has
in fact no will at all unless it comes into being in such action."
"Suppose he found he had no will, for he could not do what he
"What he ought, I said, my lord."
"Well, what he ought," yielded the earl almost angrily.
"He could not find it proved that he had no faculty for generating a
free will. He might indeed doubt it the more; but the positive only,
not the negative, can be proved."
"Where would be the satisfaction if he could only prove the one
thing and not the other."
"The truth alone can be proved, my lord; how should a lie be proved?
The man that wanted to prove he had no freedom of will, would find
no satisfaction from his test--and the less the more honest he was;
but the man anxious about the dignity of the nature given him, would
find every needful satisfaction in the progress of his obedience."
"How can there be free will where the first thing demanded for its
existence or knowledge of itself is obedience?"
"There is no free will save in resisting what one would like, and
doing what the Truth would have him do. It is true the man's liking
and the truth may coincide, but therein he will not learn his
freedom, though in such coincidence he will always thereafter find
it, and in such coincidence alone, for freedom is harmony with the
originating law of one's existence."
"That's dreary doctrine."
"My lord, I have spent no little time and thought on the subject,
and the result is some sort of practical clearness to myself; but,
were it possible, I should not care to make it clear to another save
by persuading him to arrive at the same conviction by the same
path--that, namely, of doing the thing required of him."
"Required of him by what?"
"By any one, any thing, any thought, with which can go the word
required by--anything that carries right in its demand. If a man
does not do the thing which the very notion of a free will requires,
what in earth, heaven, or hell, would be the use of his knowing all
about the will? But it is impossible he should know anything."
"You are a bold preacher!" said the earl. "--Suppose now a man was
unconscious of any ability to do the thing required of him?"
"I should say there was the more need he should do the thing."
"That is nonsense."
"If it be nonsense, the nonsense lies in the supposition that a man
can be conscious of not possessing a power; he can only be not
conscious of possessing it, and that is a very different thing. How
is a power to be known but by being a power, and how is it to be a
power but in its own exercise of itself? There is more in man than
he can at any given moment be conscious of; there is life, the power
of the eternal behind his consciousness, which only in action can he
make his own; of which, therefore, only in action, that is
obedience, can he become conscious, for then only is it his."
"You are splitting a hair!"
"If the only way to life lay through a hair, what must you do but
split it? The fact, however, is, that he who takes the live sphere
of truth for a flat intellectual disc, may well take the disc's edge
for a hair."
"Come, come! how does all this apply to me--a man who would really
like to make up his mind about the thing, and is not at the moment
aware of any very pressing duty that he is neglecting to do?"
"Is your lordship not aware of some not very pressing duty that you
are neglecting to do? Some duties need but to be acknowledged by the
smallest amount of action, to become paramount in their demands upon
"That is the worst of it!" murmured the earl. "I refuse, I avoid
such acknowledgment! Who knows whither it might carry me, or what it
might not go on to demand of me!"
He spoke like one unaware that he spoke.
"Yes, my lord," said Donal, "that is how most men treat the greatest
things! The devil blinds us that he may guide us!"
"The devil!--bah!" cried his lordship, glad to turn at right angles
from the path of the conversation; "you don't surely believe in that
"He who does what the devil would have him do, is the man who
believes in him, not he who does not care whether he is or not, so
long as he avoids doing his works. If there be such a one, his last
thought must be to persuade men of his existence! He is a subject I
do not care to discuss; he is not very interesting to me. But if
your lordship now would but overcome the habit of depending on
medicine, you would soon find out that you had a free will."
His lordship scowled like a thunder-cloud.
"I am certain, my lord," added Donal, "that the least question asked
by the will itself, will bring an answer; a thousand asked by the
intellect, will bring nothing."
"I did not send for you to act the part of father confessor, Mr.
Grant," said his lordship, in a tone which rather perplexed Donal;
"but as you have taken upon you the office, I may as well allow you
keep it; the matter to which you refer, that of my medical treatment
of myself, is precisely what has brought me into my present
difficulty. It would be too long a story to tell you how, like poor
Coleridge, I was first decoyed, then enticed from one stage to
another; the desire to escape from pain is a natural instinct; and
that, and the necessity also for escaping my past self, especially
in its relations to certain others, have brought me by degrees into
far too great a dependence on the use of drugs. And now that, from
certain symptoms, I have ground to fear a change of some kind not so
far off--I do not of course mean to-morrow, or next year, but
somewhere nearer than it was this time, I won't say last year, but
say ten years ago--why, then, one begins to think about things one
has been too ready to forget. I suppose, however, if the will be a
natural possession of the human being, and if a man should, through
actions on the tissue of his brain, have ceased to be conscious of
any will, it must return to him the moment he is free from the body,
that is from the dilapidated brain!"
"My lord, I would not have you count too much upon that. We know
very little about these things; but what if the brain give the
opportunity for the action which is to result in freedom? What if
there should, without the brain, be no means of working our liberty?
What if we are here like birds in a cage, with wings, able to fly
but not flying about the cage; and what if, when we are dead, we
shall indeed be out of the cage, but without wings, having never
made use of such as we had while we had them? Think for a moment
what we should be without the senses!"
"We shall be able at least to see and hear, else where were the use
of believing in another world?"
"I suspect, my lord, the other world does not need our believing in
it to make a fact of it. But if a man were never to teach his soul
to see, if he were obstinately to close his eyes upon this world,
and look at nothing all the time he was in it, I should be very
doubtful whether the mere fact of going a little more dead, would
make him see. The soul never having learned to see, its sense of
seeing, correspondent to and higher than that of the body, never
having been developed, how should it expand and impower itself by
mere deliverance from the one best schoolmaster to whom it would
give no heed? The senses are, I suspect, only the husks under which
are ripening the deeper, keener, better senses belonging to the next
stage of our life; and so, my lord, I cannot think that, if the will
has not been developed through the means and occasions given in, the
mere passing into another condition will set it free. For freedom is
the unclosing of the idea which lies at our root, and is the vital
power of our existence. The rose is the freedom of the rose tree. I
should think, having lost his brain, and got nothing instead, a man
would find himself a mere centre of unanswerable questions."
"You go too far for me," said his lordship, looking a little
uncomfortable, "but I think it is time to try and break myself a
little of the habit--or almost time. By degrees one might, you
"I have little faith in doing things by degrees, my lord--except
such indeed as by their very nature cannot be done at once. It is
true a bad habit can only be contracted by degrees; and I will not
say, because I do not know, whether anyone has ever cured himself of
one by degrees; but it cannot be the best way. What is bad ought to
be got rid of at once."
"Ah, but, don't you know? that might cost you your life!"
"What of that, my lord! Life, the life you mean, is not the first
"Not the first thing! Why, the Bible says, 'All that a man hath will
he give for his life'!"
"That is in the Bible; but whether the Bible says it, is another
"I do not understand silly distinctions."
"Why, my lord, who said that?"
"What does it matter who said it?"
"Much always; everything sometimes."
"Who said it then?"
"The devil he did! And who ought to know better, I should like to
"Every man ought to know better. And besides, it is not what a man
will or will not do, but what a man ought or ought not to do!"
"Ah, there you have me, I suppose! But there are some things so
damned difficult, that a man must be very sure of his danger before
he can bring himself to do them!"
"That may be, my lord: in the present case, however, you must be
aware that the danger is not to the bodily health alone; these drugs
undermine the moral nature as well!"
"I know it: I cannot be counted guilty of many things; they were
done under the influence of hellish concoctions. It was not I, but
these things working in me--on my brain, making me see things in a
false light! This will be taken into account when I come to be
judged--if there be such a thing as a day of judgment."
"One thing I am sure of," said Donal, "that your lordship will have
fair play. At first, not quite knowing what you were about, you may
not have been much to blame; but afterwards, when you knew that you
were putting yourself in danger of doing you did not know what, you
were as much to blame as if you made a Frankenstein-demon, and
turned him loose on the earth, knowing yourself utterly unable to
"And is not that what the God you believe in does every day?"
"My lord, the God I believe in has not lost his control over either
"Then let him set the thing right! Why should we draw his plough?"
"He will set it right, my lord,--but probably in a way your lordship
will not like. He is compelled to do terrible things sometimes."
"Compelled!--what should compel him?"
"The love that is in him, the love that he is. He cannot let us have
our own way to the ruin of everything in us he cares for!"
Then the spirit awoke in Donal--or came upon him--and he spoke.
"My lord," he said, "if you would ever again be able to thank God;
if there be one in the other world to whom you would go; if you
would make up for any wrong you have ever done; if you would ever
feel in your soul once more the innocence of a child; if you care to
call God your father; if you would fall asleep in peace and wake to
a new life; I conjure you to resist the devil, to give up the evil
habit that is dragging you lower and lower every hour. It will be
very hard, I know! Anything I can do, watching with you night and
day, giving myself to help you, I am ready for. I will do all that
lies in me to deliver you from the weariness and sickness of the
endeavour. I will give my life to strengthen yours, and count it
well spent and myself honoured: I shall then have lived a life worth
living! Resolve, my lord--in God's name resolve at once to be free.
Then you shall know you have a free will, for your will will have
made itself free by doing the will of God against all disinclination
of your own. It will be a glorious victory, and will set you high on
the hill whose peak is the throne of God."
"I will begin to-morrow," said the earl feebly, and with a strange
look in his eyes. "--But now you must leave me. I need solitude to
strengthen my resolve. Come to me again to-morrow. I am weary, and
must rest awhile. Send Simmons."
Donal was nowise misled by the easy, postponed consent, but he could
not prolong the interview. He rose and went. In the act of shutting
the door behind him, something, he did not know what, made him turn
his head: the earl was leaning over the little table by his bedside,
and pouring something from a bottle into a glass. Donal stood
transfixed. The earl turned and saw him, cast on him a look of
almost demoniacal hate, put the glass to his lips and drank off its
contents, then threw himself back on his pillows. Donal shut the
door--not so softly as he intended, for he was agitated; a loud
curse at the noise came after him. He went down the stair not only
with a sense of failure, but with an exhaustion such as he had never
There are men of natures so inactive that they cannot even enjoy the
sight of activity around them: men with schemes and desires are in
their presence intrusive. Their existence is a sleepy lake, which
would not be troubled even with the wind of far-off labour. Such
lord Morven was not by nature; up to manhood he had led even a
stormy life. But when his passions began to yield, his
self-indulgence began to take the form of laziness; and it was not
many years before he lay with never a struggle in the chains of the
evil power which had now reduced him to moral poltroonery. The
tyranny of this last wickedness grew worse after the death of his
wife. The one object of his life, if life it could be called, was
only and ever to make it a life of his own, not the life which God
had meant it to be, and had made possible to him. On first
acquaintance with the moral phenomenon, it had seemed to Donal an
inhuman and strangely exceptional one; but reflecting, he came
presently to see that it was only a more pronounced form of the
universal human disease--a disease so deep-seated that he who has it
worst, least knows or can believe that he has any disease,
attributing all his discomfort to the condition of things outside
him; whereas his refusal to accept them as they are, is one most
prominent symptom of the disease. Whether by stimulants or
narcotics, whether by company or ambition, whether by grasping or
study, whether by self-indulgence, by art, by books, by religion, by
love, by benevolence, we endeavour after another life than that
which God means for us--a life of truth, namely, of obedience,
humility, and self-forgetfulness, we walk equally in a vain show.
For God alone is, and without him we are not. This is not the mere
clang of a tinkling metaphysical cymbal; he that endeavours to live
apart from God must at length find--not merely that he has been
walking in a vain show, but that he has been himself but the phantom
of a dream. But for the life of the living God, making him be, and
keeping him being, he must fade even out of the limbo of vanities!
He more and more seldom went out of the house, more and more seldom
left his apartment. At times he would read a great deal, then for
days would not open a book, but seem absorbed in meditation--a
meditation which had nothing in it worthy of the name. In his
communications with Donal, he did not seem in the least aware that
he had made him the holder of a secret by which he could frustrate
his plans for his family. These plans he clung to, partly from
paternity, partly from contempt for society, and partly in the fancy
of repairing the wrong he had done his children's mother. The
morally diseased will atone for wrong by fresh wrong--in its turn to
demand like reparation! He would do anything now to secure his sons
in the position of which in law he had deprived them by the wrong he
had done the woman whom all had believed his wife. Through the
marriage of the eldest with the heiress, he would make him the head
of the house in power as in dignity, and this was now almost the
only tie that bound him to the reality of things. He cared little
enough about Forgue, but his conscience was haunted with his
cruelties to the youth's mother. These were often such as I dare not
put on record: they came all of the pride of self-love and
self-worship--as evil demons as ever raged in the fiercest fire of
Moloch. In the madness with which they possessed him, he had
inflicted upon her not only sorest humiliations, but bodily
tortures: he would see, he said, what she would bear for his sake!
In the horrible presentments of his drug-procured dreams they
returned upon him in terrible forms of righteous retaliation. And
now, though to himself he was constantly denying a life beyond, the
conviction had begun to visit and overwhelm him that he must one day
meet her again: fain then would he be armed with something which for
her sake he had done for her children! One of the horrible laws of
the false existence he led was that, for the deadening of the mind
to any evil, there was no necessity it should be done and done
again; it had but to be presented in the form of a thing done, or a
thing going to be done, to seem a thing reasonable and doable. In
his being, a world of false appearances had taken the place of
reality; a creation of his own had displaced the creation of the
essential Life, by whose power alone he himself falsely created; and
in this world he was the dupe of his own home-born phantoms. Out of
this conspiracy of marsh and mirage, what vile things might not
issue! Over such a chaos the devil has power all but creative. He
cannot in truth create, but he can with the degenerate created work
moral horrors too hideous to be analogized by any of the horrors of
the unperfected animal world. Such are being constantly produced in
human society; many of them die in the darkness in which they are
generated; now and then one issues, blasting the public day with its
hideous glare. Because they are seldom seen, many deny they exist,
or need be spoken of if they do. But to terrify a man at the
possibilities of his neglected nature, is to do something towards
the redemption of that nature.
School-hours were over, but Davie was seated where he had left him,
still working. At sight of him Donal, feeling as if he had just come
from the presence of the damned, almost burst into tears. A moment
more and Arctura entered: it was as if the roof of hell gave way,
and the blue sky of the eternal came pouring in heavenly deluge
through the ruined vault.
"I have been to call upon Sophia," she said.
"I am glad to hear it," answered Donal: any news from an outer world
of yet salvable humanity was welcome as summer to a land of ice.
"Yes," she said; "I am able to go and see her now, because I am no
longer afraid of her--partly, I think, because I no longer care what
she thinks of me. Her power over me is gone."
"And will never return," said Donal, "while you keep close to the
master. With him you need no human being to set you right, and will
allow no human being to set you wrong; you will need neither friend
nor minister nor church, though all will help you. I am very glad,
for something seems to tell me I shall not be long here."
Arctura dropped on a chair--pale as rosy before.
"Has anything fresh happened?" she asked, in a low voice that did
not sound like hers. "Surely you will not leave me while--.--I
thought--I thought--.--What is it?"
"It is only a feeling I have," he answered. "I believe I am out of
"I never saw you so before!" said Arctura. "I hope you are not going
to be ill."
"Oh, no; it is not that! I will tell you some day, but I cannot now.
All is in God's hands!"
She looked anxiously at him, but did not ask him any question more.
She proposed they should take a turn in the park, and his gloom wore
DUST TO DUST.
The next night, as if by a common understanding, for it was without
word spoken, the three met again in the housekeeper's room, where
she had supper waiting. Of business nothing was said until that was
over. Mistress Brookes told them two or three of the stories of
which she had so many, and Donal recounted one or two of those that
floated about his country-side.
"I've been thinkin'," said mistress Brookes at length, "seein' it's
a bonny starry nicht, we couldna do better than lift an' lay doon
this varra nicht. The hoose is asleep."
"What do you say to that place in the park where was once a
mausoleum?" said Donal.
"It's the varra place!--an' the sooner the better--dinna ye think,
Arctura with a look referred the question to Donal.
"Surely," he answered. "But will there not be some preparations to
"There's no need o' mony!" returned the housekeeper. "I'll get a
fine auld sheet, an' intil 't we'll put the remains, an' row them
up, an' carry them to their hame. I'll go an' get it, my lady.--But
wouldna 't be better for you and me, sir, to get a' that dune by
oorsel's? My leddy could j'in us whan we cam up."
"She wouldn't like to be left here alone. There is nothing to be
"Nothing at all," said Arctura.
"The forces of nature," said Donal, "are constantly at work to
destroy the dreadful, and restore the wholesome. It is but a few
handfuls of clean dust."
The housekeeper went to one of her presses, and brought out a sheet.
Donal put a plaid round lady Arctura. They went up to her room, and
so down to the chapel. Half-way down the narrow descent mistress
Brookes murmured, "Eh, sirs!" and said no more.
Each carried a light, and the two could see the chapel better. A
stately little place it was: when the windows were unmasked, it
would be beautiful!
They stood for some moments by the side of the bed, regarding in
silence. Seldom sure had bed borne one who slept so long!--one who,
never waking might lie there still! When they spoke it was in
"How are we to manage it, mistress Brookes?" said Donal.
"Lay the sheet handy, alang the side o' the bed, maister Grant, an'
I s' lay in the dist, han'fu' by han'fu'. I hae that respec' for the
deid, I hae no difficlety aboot han'lin' onything belongin' to
"Gien it hadna been that he tuik it again," said Donal, "the Lord's
ain body wad hae come to this."
As he spoke he laid the sheet on the bed, and began to lay in it the
dry dust and air-wasted bones, handling them as reverently as if the
spirit had but just departed. Mistress Brookes would have prevented
Arctura, but she insisted on having her share in the burying of her
own: who they were God knew, but they should be hers anyhow, and one
day she would know! For to fancy we go into the other world a set of
spiritual moles burrowing in the dark of a new and unknown
existence, is worthy only of such as have a lifeless Law to their
sire. We shall enter it as children with a history, as children
going home to a long line of living ancestors, to develop closest
relations with them. She would yet talk, live face to face, with
those whose dust she was now lifting in her two hands to restore it
to its dust. Then they carried the sheet to the altar, and thence
swept into it every little particle, back to its mother dust. That
done, Donal knotted the sheet together, and they began to look
Desirous of discovering where the main entrance to the chapel had
been, Donal spied under the windows a second door, and opened it
with difficulty. It disclosed a passage below the stair, three steps
lower than the floor of the chapel, parallel with the wall, and
turning, at right angles under the gallery. Here he saw signs of an
obliterated door in the outer wall, but could examine no farther for
In the meantime his companions had made another sort of discovery:
near the foot of the bed was a little table, on which were two
drinking vessels, apparently of pewter, and a mouldering pack of
cards! Card-playing and the hidden room did hold some relation with
each other! The cards and the devil were real!
Donal took up the sheet--a light burden, and Arctura led the way.
Arrived at her room, they went softly across to the door opening on
Donal's stair--not without fear of the earl, whom indeed they might
meet anywhere--and by that descending, reached the open air, and
took their way down the terraces and through the park to the place
It was a frosty night, with the waning sickle of a moon low in the
heaven, and many brilliant stars above it. Followed by faint
ethereal shadows, they passed over the grass, through the ghostly
luminous dusk--of funereal processions one of the strangest that
ever sought a tomb.
The ruin was in a hollow, surrounded by trees. Donal removed a
number of fallen stones and dug a grave. They lowered into it the
knotted sheet, threw in the earth again, heaped the stones above,
and left the dust with its dust. Then silent they went back,
straight along the green, moon-regarded rather than moon-lit grass:
if any one had seen them through the pale starry night, he would
surely have taken them for a procession of the dead themselves!
No dream of death sought Arctura that night, but in the morning she
woke suddenly from one of disembodied delight.
A LESSON ABOUT DEATH.
WHATEVER lady Arctura might decide concerning the restoration of the
chapel to the light of day, Donal thought it would not be amiss to
find, without troubling her, what he could of its relation to the
rest of the house: and it favoured his wish that Arctura was
prevailed upon by the housekeeper to remain in bed the next day. Her
strong will, good courage, and trusting heart, had made severe
demands upon an organization as delicate as responsive. It was now
Saturday: he resolved to go alone in the afternoon to explore--and
first of all would try the door beside the little gallery.
As soon as he was free, he got the tools he judged necessary, and
The door was of strong sound oak, with ornate iron hinges right
across it. He was on the better side for opening it, that is, the
inside, but though the ends of the hinges were exposed, the door was
so well within the frame that it was useless to think of heaving
them off the bearing-pins. The huge lock and its bolt were likewise
before him, but the key was in the lock from the other side, so that
it could not be picked; while the nails that fastened it to the door
were probably riveted through a plate. But there was the socket into
which the bolt shot! that was merely an iron staple! he might either
force it out with a lever, or file it through! Having removed the
roughest of the rust with which it was caked, and so reduced its
thickness considerably, he set himself to the task of filing it
through, first at the top then at the bottom. It was a slow but a
sure process, and would make no great noise.
Although it was broad daylight outside, so like midnight was it here
and the season that belongs to the dead, that he was haunted with
the idea of a presence behind him. But not once did he turn his head
to see, for he knew that if he yielded to the inclination, it would
but return the stronger. Old experience had taught him that the way
to meet the horrors of the fancy is to refuse them a single
hair's-breadth of obedience. And as he worked the conviction grew
that the only protection against the terrors of alien presence is
the consciousness of the home presence of the eternal: if a man felt
that presence, how could he fear any other? But for those who are
not one with the source of being, every manifestation of that being
in a life other than their own, must be more or less a terror to
them; it is alien, antipathous, other,--it may be unappeasable,
implacable. The time must even come when to such their own being
will be a horror of repugnant consciousness; for God not self is
ours--his being, not our own, is our home; he is our kind.
The work was slow--the impression on the hard iron of the worn file
so weak that he was often on the point of giving up the attempt.
Fatigue at length began to invade him, and therewith the sense of
his situation grew more keen: great weariness overcomes terror; the
beginnings of weariness enhance it. Every now and then he would
stop, thinking he heard the cry of a child, only to recognize it as
the noise of his file. He resolved at last to stop for the night,
and after tea go to the town to buy a new and fitter file.
The next day was Sunday, and in the afternoon Donal and Davie were
walking in the old avenue together. They had been to church, and had
heard a dull sermon on the most stirring fact next to the
resurrection of the Lord himself--his raising of Lazarus. The whole
aspect of the thing, as presented by the preaching man, was so dull
and unreal, that not a word on the subject had passed between them
on the way home.
"Mr. Grant, how could anybody make a dead man live again?" said
"I don't know, Davie," answered Donal. "If I could know how, I
should probably be able to do it myself."
"It is very hard to believe."
"Yes, very hard--that is, if you do not know anything about the
person said to have done it, to account for his being able to do it
though another could not. But just think of this: if one had never
seen or heard about death, it would be as hard, perhaps harder, to
believe that anything could bring about that change. The one seems
to us easy to understand, because we are familiar with it; if we had
seen the other take place a few times, we should see in it nothing
too strange, nothing indeed but what was to be expected in certain
"But that is not enough to prove it ever did take place."
"Assuredly not. It cannot even make it look in the least probable."
"Tell me, please, anything that would make it look probable."
"I will not answer your question directly, but I will answer it.
"In all ages men have longed to see God--some men in a grand way. At
last, according to the story of the gospel, the time came when it
was fit that the Father of men should show himself to them in his
son, the one perfect man, who was his very image. So Jesus came to
them. But many would not believe he was the son of God, for they
knew God so little that they did not see how like he was to his
Father. Others, who were more like God themselves, and so knew God
better, did think him the son of God, though they were not pleased
that he did not make more show. His object was, not to rule over
them, but to make them know, and trust, and obey his Father, who was
everything to him. Now when anyone died, his friends were so
miserable over him that they hardly thought about God, and took no
comfort from him. They said the dead man would rise again at the
last day, but that was so far off, the dead was gone to such a
distance, that they did not care for that. Jesus wanted to make them
know and feel that the dead were alive all the time, and could not
be far away, seeing they were all with God in whom we live; that
they had not lost them though they could not see them, for they were
quite within his reach--as much so as ever; that they were just as
safe with, and as well looked after by his father and their father,
as they had ever been in all their lives. It was no doubt a
dreadful-looking thing to have them put in a hole, and waste away to
dust, but they were not therefore gone out--they were only gone in!
To teach them all this he did not say much, but just called one or
two of them back for a while. Of course Lazarus was going to die
again, but can you think his two sisters either loved him less, or
wept as much over him the next time he died?"
"No; it would have been foolish."
"Well, if you think about it, you will see that no one who believes
that story, and weeps as they did the first time, can escape
reproof. Where Jesus called Lazarus from, there are his friends, and
there are they waiting for him! Now, I ask you, Davie, was it worth
while for Jesus to do this for us? Is not the great misery of our
life, that those dear to us die? Was it, I say, a thing worth doing,
to let us see that they are alive with God all the time, and can be
produced any moment he pleases?"
"Surely it was, sir! It ought to take away all the misery!"
"Then it was a natural thing to do; and it is a reasonable thing to
think that it was done. It was natural that God should want to let
his children see him; and natural he should let them know that he
still saw and cared for those they had lost sight of. The whole
thing seems to me reasonable; I can believe it. It implies indeed a
world of things of which we know nothing; but that is for, not
against it, seeing such a world we need; and if anyone insists on
believing nothing but what he has seen something like, I leave him
to his misery and the mercy of God."
If the world had been so made that men could easily believe in the
maker of it, it would not have been a world worth any man's living
in, neither would the God that made such a world, and so revealed
himself to such people, be worth believing in. God alone knows what
life is enough for us to live--what life is worth his and our while;
we may be sure he is labouring to make it ours. He would have it as
full, as lovely, as grand, as the sparing of nothing, not even his
own son, can render it. If we would only let him have his own way
with us! If we do not trust him, will not work with him, are always
thwarting his endeavours to make us alive, then we must be
miserable; there is no help for it. As to death, we know next to
nothing about it. "Do we not!" say the faithless. "Do we not know
the darkness, the emptiness, the tears, the sinkings of heart, the
desolation!" Yes, you know those; but those are your things, not
death's. About death you know nothing. God has told us only that the
dead are alive to him, and that one day they will be alive again to
us. The world beyond the gates of death is, I suspect, a far more
homelike place to those that enter it, than this world is to us.
"I don't like death," said Davie, after a silence.
"I don't want you to like, what you call death, for that is not the
thing itself--it is only your fancy about it. You need not think
about it at all. The way to get ready for it is to live, that is, to
do what you have to do."
"But I do not want to get ready for it. I don't want to go to it;
and to prepare for it is like going straight into it!"
"You have to go to it whether you prepare for it or not. You cannot
help going to it. But it must be like this world, seeing the only
way to prepare for it is to do the thing God gives us to do."
"Aren't you afraid of death, Mr. Grant?"
"No, I am not. Why should I fear the best thing that, in its time,
can come to me? Neither will you be afraid when it comes. It is not
the dreadful thing it looks."
"Why should it look dreadful if it is not dreadful?"
"That is a very proper question. It looks dreadful, and must look
dreadful, to everyone who cannot see in it that which alone makes
life not dreadful. If you saw a great dark cloak coming along the
road as if it were round somebody, but nobody inside it, you would
be frightened--would you not?"
"Indeed I should. It would be awful!"
"It would. But if you spied inside the cloak, and making it come
towards you, the most beautiful loving face you ever saw--of a man
carrying in his arms a little child--and saw the child clinging to
him, and looking in his face with a blessed smile, would you be
frightened at the black cloak?"
"No; that would be silly."
"You have your answer! The thing that makes death look so fearful is
that we do not see inside it. Those who see only the black cloak,
and think it is moving along of itself, may well be frightened; but
those who see the face inside the cloak, would be fools indeed to be
frightened! Before Jesus came, people lived in great misery about
death; but after he rose again, those who believed in him always
talked of dying as falling asleep; and I daresay the story of
Lazarus, though it was not such a great thing after the rising of
the Lord himself, had a large share in enabling them to think that
way about it."
When they went home, Davie, running up to lady Arctura's room,
recounted to her as well as he could the conversation he had just
had with Mr. Grant.
"Oh, Arkie!" he said, "to hear him talk, you would think Death
hadn't a leg to stand upon!"
Arctura smiled; but it was a smile through a cloud of unshed tears.
Lovely as death might be, she would like to get the good of this
world before going to the next!--As if God would deny us any
good!--At one time she had been willing to go, she thought, but she
was not now!--The world had of late grown very beautiful to her!
On the Monday night Donal again went down into the hidden parts of
the castle. Arctura had come to the schoolroom, but seemed ill able
for her work, and he did not tell her what he was doing farther.
They were rather the ghosts of fears than fears themselves that had
assailed him, and this time they hardly came near him as he wrought.
With his new file he made better work than before, and soon finished
cutting through the top of the staple. Trying it then with a poker
as a lever, he broke the bottom part across; so there was nothing to
hold the bolt, and with a creaking noise of rusty hinges the door
slowly opened to his steady pull. Nothing appeared but a wall of
plank! He gave it a push; it yielded: another door, close-fitting,
and without any fastening, flew open, revealing a small closet or
press, and on the opposite side of it a third door. This he could
not at once open. It was secured, however, with a common lock, which
cost him scarcely any trouble. It opened on a little room, of about
nine feet by seven. He went in. It contained nothing but an
old-fashioned secretary or bureau, and a seat like a low
"It may have been a vestry for the priest!" thought Donal; "but it
must have been used later than the chapel, for this desk is not
older than the one at The Mains, which mistress Jean said was made
for her grandmother!"
Then how did it get into the place? There was no other door! Above
the bureau was a small window, or what seemed a window doubtful with
dirt; but door there was not! It was not too large to enter by the
oak door, but it could not have got to it along any of the passages
he had come through! It followed that there must, and that not so
very long ago, have been another entrance to the place in which he
He turned to look at the way he had himself come: it was through a
common press of painted deal, filling the end of the little room,
there narrowed to about five feet. When the door in the back of it
was shut, it looked merely a part of the back of the press.
He turned again to the bureau, with a strange feeling at his heart.
The cover was down, and on it lay some sheets of paper, discoloured
with dust and age. A pen lay with them, and beside was an ink-bottle
of the commonest type, the ink in powder and flakes. He took up one
of the sheets. It had a great stain on it. The bottle must have been
overturned! But was it ink? No; it stood too thick on the paper.
With a gruesome shiver Donal wetted his finger and tried the surface
of it: a little came off, a tinge of suspicious brown. There was
writing on the paper! What was it? He held the faded lines close to
the candle. They were not difficult to decipher. He sat down on the
stool, and read thus--his reading broken by the stain: there was no
"My husband for such I will--blot--are in the sight of
God--blot--men why are you so cruel what--blot--deserve these
terrors--blot--in thought have I--blot--hard upon me to think of
Here the writing came below the blot, and went on unbroken.
"My little one is gone and I am left lonely oh so lonely. I cannot
but think that if you had loved me as you once did I should yet be
clasping my little one to my bosom and you would have a daughter to
comfort you after I am gone. I feel sure I cannot long survive
this--ah there my hand has burst out bleeding again, but do not
think I mind it, I know it was only an accident, you never meant to
do it, though you teased me by refusing to say so--besides it is
nothing. You might draw ever drop of blood from my body and I would
not care if only you would not make my heart bleed so. Oh, it is
gone all over my paper and you will think I have done it to let you
see how it bleeds--but I cannot write it all over again it is too
great a labour and too painful to write, so you must see it just as
it is. I dare not think where my baby is, for if I should be doomed
never to see her because of the love I have borne to you and
consented to be as you wished if I am cast out from God because I
loved you more than him I shall never see you again--for to be where
I could see you would never be punishment enough for my sins."
Here the writing stopped: the bleeding of the hand had probably
brought it to a close. The letter had never been folded, but lying
there, had lain there. He looked if he could find a date; there was
none. He held the sheet up to the light, and saw a paper mark; while
close by lay another sheet with merely a date--in the same hand, as
if the writer had been about to commence another in lieu of the
"Strange!" thought Donal with himself; "an old withered grief looks
almost as pitiful as an old withered joy!--But who is to say either
is withered? Those who look upon death as an evil, yet regard it as
the healer of sorrows! Is it such? No one can tell how long a grief
may last unwithered! Surely till the life heals it! He is a coward
who would be cured of his sorrow by mere lapse of time, by the mere
forgetting of a brain that grows musty with age. It is God alone who
can heal--the God of the dead and of the living! and the dead must
find him, or be miserable for evermore!"
He had not a doubt that the letter he had read was in the writing of
the mother of the present earl's children.
What was he to do? He had thought he was looking into matters much
older--things over which the permission of lady Arctura extended;
and in truth what he had discovered, or seen corroborated, was a
thing she had a right to know! but whether he ought to tell her at
once he did not yet see. He took up his candle, and with a feeling
of helpless dismay, withdrew to his chamber. But when he reached the
door of it, yielding to a sudden impulse, he turned away, and went
farther up the stair, and out upon the bartizan.
It was a frosty night, and the stars were brilliant. He looked up
"Oh Saviour of men, thy house is vaulted with light; thy secret
places are secret from excess of light; in thee is no darkness at
all; thou hast no terrible crypts and built-up places; thy light is
the terror of those who love the darkness! Fill my heart with thy
light; let me never hunger or thirst after anything but thy
will--that I may walk in the light, and light not darkness may go
forth from me."
As he turned to go in, came a faint chord from the aeolian harp.
"It sings, brooding over the very nest of evil deeds!" he thought.
"The light eternal, with keen arrows of radiant victory, will yet at
last rout from the souls of his creatures the demons that haunt
"But if there be creatures of God that have turned to demons, may
not human souls themselves turn to demons? Would they then be
victorious over God, too strong for him to overcome--beyond the
reach of repentance?
"How would they live? By their own power? Then were they Gods!--But
they did not make themselves, and could not live of themselves. If
not, then they must live by God's power. How then should they be
beyond his reach?
"If the demons can never be brought back, then the life of God, the
all-pure, goes out to keep alive, in and for evil, that which is
essentially bad; for that which is irredeemable is essentially bad."
Thus reasoned Donal with himself, and his reasoning, instead of
troubling his faith, caused him to cling the more to the only One,
the sole hope and saviour of the hearts of his men and women,
without whom the whole universe were but a charnel house in which
the ghosts of the dead went about crying, not over the life that was
gone from them, but its sorrows.
He stood and gazed out over the cold sea. And as he gazed, a
shivering surge of doubt, a chill wave of negation, came rolling
over him. He knew that in a moment he would strike out with the
energy of a strong swimmer, and rise to the top of it; but now it
was tumbling him about at its evil will. He stood and gazed--with a
dull sense that he was waiting for his will. Suddenly came the
consciousness that he and his will were one; that he had not to wait
for his will, but had to wake--to will, that is, and do, and so be.
And therewith he said to himself:--
"It is neither time, nor eternity, nor human consolation, nor
everlasting sleep, nor the satisfied judgment, nor attained
ambition, even in love itself, that is the cure for things; it is
the heart, the will, the being of the Father. While that remains,
the irremediable, the irredeemable cannot be. If there arose a grief
in the heart of one of his creatures not otherwise to be destroyed,
he would take it into himself, there consume it in his own creative
fire--himself bearing the grief, carrying the sorrow. Christ
died--and would die again rather than leave one heart-ache in the
realms of his love--that is, of his creation. 'Blessed are they who
have not seen and yet have believed!'"
Over his head the sky was full of shining worlds--mansions in the
Father's house, built or building.
"We are not at the end of things," he thought, "but in the
beginnings and on the threshold of creation! The Father is as young
as when first the stars of the morning sang--the Ancient of Days who
can never grow old! He who has ever filled the dull unbelieving
nations with food and gladness, has a splendour of delight for the
souls that believe, ever as by their obedience they become capable
of receiving it."
"When are you going down again to the chapel, Mr. Grant?" said lady
Arctura: she was better now, and able to work.
"I was down last night, and want to go again this evening by
myself--if you don't mind, my lady," he answered. "I am sure it will
be better for you not to go down till you are ready to give your
orders to have everything cleared away for the light and air to
enter. The damp and closeness of the place are too much for you."
"I think it was rather the want of sleep that made me ill," she
answered; "but you can do just as you please."
"I thank you for your confidence, my lady," returned Donal. "I do
not think you will repent it."
"I know I shall not."
Having some things to do first, it was late before Donal went
down--intent on learning the former main entrance, and verifying the
position of the chapel in the castle.
He betook himself to the end of the passage under the little
gallery, and there examined the signs he had observed: those must be
the outer ends of two of the steps of the great staircase! they came
through, resting on the wall. That end of the chapel, then, adjoined
the main stair. Evidently, too, a door had been built up in the
process of constructing the stair. The chapel then had not been
entered from that level since the building of the stair. Originally
there had, most likely, been an outside stair to this door, in an
After a little more examination, partial of necessity, from lack of
light, he was on his way out, and already near the top of the mural
stair, thinking of the fresh observations he would take outside in
the morning, when behind, overtaking him from the regions he had
left, came a blast of air, and blew out his candle. He shivered--not
with the cold of it, though it did breathe of underground damps and
doubtful growths, but from a feeling of its having been sent after
him to make him go down again--for did it not indicate some opening
to the outer air? He relighted his candle and descended, carefully
guarding it with one hand. The cold sigh seemed to linger about him
as he went--gruesome as from a closed depth, the secret bosom of the
castle, into which the light never entered. But, wherever it came
from last, however earthy and fearful, it came first from the open
regions of life, and had but passed through a gloom that life itself
must pass! Could it have been a draught down the pipe of the
music-chords? No, for they would have loosed some light-winged
messenger with it! He must search till he found its entrance below!
He crossed the little gallery, descended, and went again into the
chapel: it lay as still as the tomb which it was no more. He seemed
to miss the presence of the dead, and feel the place deserted. All
round its walls, as far as he could reach or see, he searched
carefully, but could perceive no sign of possible entrance for the
messenger blast. It came again!--plainly through the open door under
the windows. He went again into the passage outside the wall, and
the moment he turned into it, the draught seemed to come from
beneath, blowing upwards. He stooped to examine; his candle was
again extinguished. Once more he relighted it. Searching then along
the floor and the foot of the walls, he presently found, in the wall
of the chapel itself, close to the ground, a narrow horizontal
opening: it must pass under the floor of the chapel! All he saw was
a mere slit, but the opening might be larger, and partially covered
by the flooring-slab, which went all the length of the slit! He