Part 9 out of 11
would try to raise it! That would want a crowbar! but having got so
far, he would not rest till he knew more! It must be very late and
the domestics all in bed; but what hour it was he could not tell,
for he had left his watch in his room. It might be midnight and he
burrowing like a mole about the roots of the old house, or like an
evil thing in the heart of a man! No matter! he would follow up his
search--after what, he did not know.
He crept up, and out of the castle by his own stair, so to the
tool-house. It was locked. But lying near was a half-worn shovel:
that might do! he would have a try with it! Like one in a dream of
ancient ruins, creeping through mouldy and low-browed places, he
went down once more into the entrails of the house.
Inserting the sharp edge of the worn shovel in the gap between the
stone and that next it, he raised it more readily than he had hoped,
and saw below it a small window, whose sill sloped steeply inward.
How deep the place might be, and whether it would be possible to get
out of it again, he must discover before entering. He took a letter
from his pocket, lighted it, and threw it in. It revealed a descent
of about seven feet, into what looked like a cellar. He blew his
candle out, put it in his pocket, got into the window, slid down the
slope, and reached his new level with ease. He then lighted his
candle, and looked about him.
His eye first fell on a large flat stone in the floor, like a
gravestone, but without any ornament or inscription. It was a
roughly vaulted place, unpaved, its floor of damp hard-beaten earth.
In the wall to the right of that through which he had entered, was
another opening, low down, like the crown of an arch the rest of
which was beneath the floor. As near as he could judge, it was right
under the built-up door in the passage above. He crept through it,
and found himself under the spiral of the great stair, in the small
space at the bottom of its well. On the floor lay a dust-pan and a
house-maid's-brush--and there was the tiny door at which they were
shoved in, after their morning's use upon the stair! It was
open--inwards; he crept through it: he was in the great hall of the
house--and there was one of its windows wide open! Afraid of being
by any chance discovered, he put out his light, and proceeded up the
stair in the dark.
He had gone but a few steps when he heard the sound of descending
feet. He stopped and listened: they turned into the half-way room.
When he reached it, he heard sounds which showed that the earl was
in the closet behind it. Things rushed together in his mind. He
hurried up to lady Arctura's room, thence descended, for the third
time that night--but no farther than the oak door, passed through
it, entered the little chamber, and hastening to the farther end of
it, laid his ear against the wall. Plainly enough he heard the
sounds he had expected--those of the dream-walking rather than
sleep-walking earl, moaning, and calling in a low voice of entreaty
after some one whose name did not grow audible to the listener.
"Ah!" thought Donal, "who would find it hard to believe in roaming
and haunting ghosts, that had once seen this poor man roaming his
own house, and haunting that chamber! How easily I could punish him
now, with a lightning blast of terror!"
It was but a thought; it did not amount to a temptation; Donal knew
he had no right. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, for he alone knows
how to use it.
I do not believe that mere punishment exists anywhere in the economy
of the highest; I think mere punishment a human idea, not a divine
one. But the consuming fire is more terrible than any punishment
invented by riotous and cruel imagination. Punishment indeed it
is--not mere punishment; a power of God for his creature. Love is
God's being; love is his creative energy; they are one: God's
punishments are for the casting out of the sin that uncreates, for
the recreating of the things his love made and sin has unmade.
He heard the lean hands of the earl go slowly sweeping, at the ends
of his long arms, over the wall: he had seen the thing, else he
could hardly have interpreted the sounds; and he heard him muttering
on and on, though much too low for his words to be distinguishable.
Had they been, Donal by this time was so convinced that he had to do
with an evil and dangerous man, that he would have had little
scruple in listening. It is only righteousness that has a right to
secrecy, and does not want it; evil has no right to secrecy, alone
intensely desires it, and rages at being foiled of it; for when its
deeds come to the light, even evil has righteousness enough left to
be ashamed of them. But he could remain no longer; his very soul
felt sick within him. He turned hastily away to leave the place. But
carrying his light too much in front, and forgetting the stool, he
came against it and knocked it over, not without noise. A loud cry
from the other side of the wall revealed the dismay he had caused.
It was followed by a stillness, and then a moaning.
He made haste to find Simmons, and send him to his master. He heard
nothing afterwards of the affair.
Tender over lady Arctura, Donal would ask a question or two of the
housekeeper before disclosing what further he had found. He sought
her room, therefore, while Arctura and Davie, much together now,
were reading in the library.
"Did you ever hear anything about that little room on the stair,
mistress Brookes?" he asked.
"I canna say," she answered--but thoughtfully, "--Bide a wee: auld
auntie did mention something ance aboot--bide a wee--I hae a wullin'
memory--maybe I'll min' upo' 't i' the noo!--It was something aboot
biggin' up an' takin' doon--something he was to do, an' something he
never did!--I'm sure I canna tell! But gie me time, an' I'll min'
upo' 't! Ance is aye wi' me--only I maun hae time!"
Donal waited, and said not a word.
"I min' this much," she said at length, "--that they used to be
thegither i' that room. I min' too that there was something aboot
buildin' up ae wa', an' pu'in' doon anither.--It's comin'--it's
comin' back to me!"
She paused again awhile, and then said:
"All I can recollec', Mr. Grant, is this: that efter her death, he
biggit up something no far frae that room!--what was't noo?--an'
there was something aboot makin' o' the room bigger! Hoo that could
be by buildin' up, I canna think! Yet I feel sure that was what he
"Would you mind coming to the place?" said Donal. "To see it might
help you to remember."
"I wull, sir. Come ye here aboot half efter ten, an' we s' gang
As soon as the house was quiet, they went. But Mistress Brookes
could recall nothing, and Donal gazed about him to no purpose.
"What's that?" he said at last, pointing to the wall on the other
side of which was the little chamber.
Two arches, in chalk, as it seemed, had attracted his gaze. Light
surely was about to draw nigh through the darkness! Chaos surely was
settling a little towards order!
The one arch was drawn opposite the hidden chamber; the other
against the earl's closet, as it had come to be called in the
house--most of the domestics thinking he there said his prayers. It
looked as if there had been an intention of piercing the wall with
such arches, to throw the two small rooms on the other side as
recesses into the larger. But if that had been the intent, what
could the building of a wall, vaguely recollected by mistress
Brookes, have been for? That a wall had been built he did not doubt,
for he believed he knew the wall, but why?
"What's that?" said Donal.
"What?" returned Mrs. Brookes.
"Those two arches."
The housekeeper looked at them thoughtfully for a few moments.
"I canna help fancyin'," she said slowly, "--yes, I'm sure that's
the varra thing my aunt told me aboot! That's the twa places whaur
he was goin' to tak the wall doon, to mak the room lairger. But I'm
sure she said something aboot buildin' a wall as weel!"
"Look here," said Donal; "I will measure the distance from the door
to the other side of this first arch.--Now come into the closet
behind. Look here! This same measurement takes us right up to the
end of the place! So you see if we were to open the other arch, it
would be into something behind this wall."
"Then this may be the varra wa' he biggit?"
"I don't doubt it; but what could he have had it built for, if he
was going to open the other wall? I must think it all over!--It was
after his wife's death, you say?"
"Yes, I believe so."
"One might have thought he would not care about enlarging the room
after she was gone!"
"But, sir, he wasna jist sic a pattren o' a guidman;" said the
housekeeper. "An' what for mak this room less?"
"May it not have been for the sake of shutting out, or hiding
something?" suggested Donal.
"I do remember a certain thing!--Curious!--But what then as to the
openin' o' 't efter?"
"He has never done it!" said Donal significantly. "The thing takes
shape to me in this way:--that he wanted to build something out of
sight--to annihilate it; but in order to prevent speculation, he
professed the intention of casting the one room into the other; then
built the wall across, on the pretence that it was necessary for
support when the other was broken through--or perhaps that two
recesses with arches would look better; but when he had got the wall
built, he put off opening the arches on one pretext or another, till
the thing should be forgotten altogether--as you see it is already,
almost entirely!--I have been at the back of that wall, and heard
the earl moaning and crying on this side of it!"
"God bless me!" cried the good woman. "I'm no easy scaret, but
that's fearfu' to think o'!"
"You would not care to come there with me?"
"No the nicht, sir. Come to my room again, an' I s' mak ye a cup o'
coffee, an' tell ye the story--it's a' come back to me noo--the
thing 'at made my aunt tell me aboot the buildin' o' this wa'.
'Deed, sir, I hae hardly a doobt the thing was jist as ye say!"
They went to her room: there was lady Arctura sitting by the fire!
"My lady!" cried the housekeeper. "I thoucht I left ye soon'
"So I was, I daresay," answered Arctura; "but I woke again, and
finding you had not come up, I thought I would go down to you. I was
certain you and Mr. Grant would be somewhere together! Have you been
discovering anything more?"
Mrs. Brookes gave Donal a look: he left her to tell as much or as
little as she pleased.
"We hae been prowlin' aboot the hoose, but no doon yon'er, my lady.
I think you an' me wad do weel to lea' that to Mr. Grant!"
"When your ladyship is quite ready to have everything set to
rights," said Donal, "and to have a resurrection of the chapel, then
I shall be glad to go with you again. But I would rather not even
talk more about it just at present."
"As you please, Mr. Grant," replied lady Arctura. "We will say
nothing more till I have made up my mind. I don't want to vex my
uncle, and I find the question rather a difficult one--and the more
difficult that he is worse than usual.--Will you not come to bed
now, mistress Brookes?"
All through the terrible time, the sense of help and comfort and
protection in the presence of the young tutor, went on growing in
the mind of Arctura. It was nothing to her--what could it be?--that
he was the son of a very humble pair; that he had been a shepherd,
and a cow-herd, and a farm labourer--less than nothing. She never
thought of the facts of his life except sympathetically, seeking to
enter into the feelings of his memorial childhood and youth; she
would never have known anything of those facts but for their lovely
intimacies of all sorts with Nature--nature divine, human, animal,
cosmical. By sharing with her his emotional history, Donal had made
its facts precious to her; through them he had gathered his best--by
home and by prayer, by mother and father, by sheep and mountains and
wind and sky. And now he was to her a tower of strength, a refuge, a
strong city, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. She trusted
him the more that he never invited her trust--never put himself
before her; for always before her he set Life, the perfect
heart-origin of her and his yet unperfected humanity, teaching her
to hunger and thirst after being righteous like God, with the
assurance of being filled. She had once trusted in Miss Carmichael,
not with her higher being, only with her judgment, and both her
judgment and her friend had misled her. Donal had taught her that
obedience, not to man but to God, was the only guide to holy
liberty, and so had helped her to break the bonds of those
traditions which, in the shape of authoritative utterances of this
or that church, lay burdens grievous to be borne upon the souls of
men. For Christ, against all the churches, seemed to her to express
Donal's mission. An air of peace, an atmosphere of summer twilight
after the going down of the sun, seemed to her to precede him and
announce his approach with a radiation felt as rest. She questioned
herself nowise about him. Falling in love was a thing unsuggested to
her; if she was in what is called danger, it was of a better thing.
The next day she did not appear: mistress Brookes had persuaded her
to keep her bed again for a day or two. There was nothing really the
matter with her, she said herself, but she was so tired she did not
care to lift her head from the pillow. She had slept well, and was
troubled about nothing. She sent to beg Mr. Grant to let Davie go
and read to her, and to give him something to read, good for him as
well as for her.
Donal did not see Davie again till the next morning.
"Oh, Mr. Grant!" he said, "you never saw anything so pretty as Arkie
is in bed! She is so white, and so sweet! and she speaks with a
voice so gentle and low! She was so kind to me for going to read to
her! I never saw anybody like her! She looks as if she had just said
her prayers, and God had told her she should have everything she
Donal wondered a little, but hoped more. Surely she must be finding
rest in the consciousness of God! But why was she so white? Was she
going to die? A pang shot to his heart: if she were to go from the
castle, it would be hard to stay in it, even for the sake of Davie!
Donal, no more than Arctura, imagined himself fallen in love: he had
loved once, and his heart had not yet done aching--though more with
the memory than the presence of pain! He was utterly satisfied with
what the Father of the children had decreed, and would never love
again! But he did not seek to hide from himself that the friendship
of lady Arctura, and the help she sought and he gave, had added a
fresh and strong interest to his life. At the first dawn of power in
his heart, when he began to make songs in the fields and on the
hills, he had felt that to brighten with true light the clouded
lives of despondent brothers and sisters was the one thing worthest
living for: it was what the Lord came into the world for; neither
had his trouble made him forget it--for more than one week or so:
while the pain was yet gnawing grievously, he woke to it again with
self-accusation--almost self-contempt. To have helped this lovely
creature, whose life had seemed lapt in an ever closer-clasping
shroud of perplexity, was a thing to be glad of--not to the day of
his death, but to the never-ending end of his life! was an honour
conferred upon him by the Father, to last for evermore! For he had
helped to open a human door for the Lord to enter! she within heard
him knock, but, trying, was unable to open! To be God's helper with
our fellows is the one high calling; the presence of God in the
house the one high condition.
At the end of a week Arctura was better, and able to see Donal. She
had had mistress Brookes's bed moved into the same room with her
own, and had made the dressing-room into a sitting-room. It was
sunny and pleasant--the very place, Donal thought, he would have
chosen for her. The bedroom too, which the housekeeper had persuaded
her to take when she left her own, was one of the largest in the
castle--the Garland-room--old-fashioned, of course, but as cheerful
as stateliness would permit, with gorgeous hangings and great
pictures--far from homely, but with sun in it half the day. Donal
congratulated her on the change. She had been prevented from making
one sooner, she said, by the dread of owing any comfort to
circumstance: it might deceive her as to her real condition!
"It could not deceive God, though," answered Donal, "who fills with
righteousness those who hunger after it. It is pride to refuse
anything that might help us to know him; and of all things his
sun-lit world speaks of the father of lights! If that makes us
happier, it makes us fitter to understand him, and he can easily
send what cloud may be needful to temper it. We must not make our
own world, inflict our own punishments, or order our own
instruction; we must simply obey the voice in our hearts, and take
lovingly what he sends."
The next day she told him she had had a beautiful night, full of the
loveliest dreams. One of them was, that a child came out of a grassy
hillock by the wayside, called her mamma, and said she was much
obliged to her for taking her off the cold stone, and making her a
butterfly; and with that the child spread out gorgeous and great
wings and soared up to a white cloud, and there sat laughing merrily
Every afternoon Davie read to her, and thence Donal gained a
duty--that of finding suitable pabulum for the two. He was not
widely read in light literature, and it made necessary not a little
exploration in the region of it.
On the day after the last triad in the housekeeper's parlour, as
Donal sat in the schoolroom with Davie--about noon it was--he became
aware that for some time he had been hearing laborious blows
apparently at a great distance: now that he attended, they seemed to
be in the castle itself, deadened by mass, not distance. With a fear
gradually becoming more definite, he sat listening for a few
"Davie," he said, "run and see what is going on."
The boy came rushing back in great excitement.
"Oh, Mr. Grant, what do you think!" he cried. "I do believe my
father is after the lost room! They are breaking down a wall!"
"Where?" asked Donal, half starting from his seat.
"In the little room behind the half-way room--on the stair, you
Donal was silent: what might not be the consequences!
"You may go and see them at work, Davie," he said. "We shall have no
more lessons this morning.--Was your papa with them?"
"No, sir--at least, I did not see him. Simmons told me he sent for
the masons this morning, and set them to take the wall down. Oh,
thank you, Mr. Grant! It is such fun! I do wonder what is behind it!
It may be a place you know quite well, or a place you never saw
Davie ran off, and Donal instantly sped to a corner where he had
hidden some tools, thence to lady Arctura's deserted room, and so to
the oak door. He remembered seeing another staple in the same post,
a little lower down: if he could get that out, he would drive it in
beside the remains of the other, so as to hold the bolt of the lock:
if the earl knew the way in, as doubtless he did, he must not learn
that another had found it--not yet at least! As he went down, every
blow of the masons pounding at the wall, seemed in his very ears.
He peeped through the press-door: they had not yet got through the
wall: no light was visible! He made haste to restore things--only a
stool and a few papers--to their exact positions when first he
entered. Close to him on the other side of the partition, shaking
the place, the huge blows were falling like those of a ram on the
wall of a besieged city, of which he was the whole garrison. He
stepped into the press and drew the door after him: with his last
glance behind him he saw, in the faint gleam of light that came with
it, a stone fall: he must make haste: the demolition would go on
much faster now; but before they had the opening large enough to
pass, he would have done what he wanted! With a strong piece of iron
for a lever, he drew the staple from the post, then drove it in
astride of the bolt, careful to time his blows to those of the
masons. That done, he ran down to the chapel, gathered what dust he
could sweep up from behind the altar and laid it on its top,
restored on the bed, with its own dust, a little of the outline of
what had lain there, dropped the slab to its place in the floor of
the passage, closed the door of the chapel with some difficulty
because of its broken hinge, and ascended.
The sounds of battering had ceased, and as he passed the oak door he
laid his ear to it: some one was in the place! the lid of the bureau
shut with a loud bang, and he heard a lock turned. The wall could
not be half down yet: the earl must have entered the moment he could
Donal hastened up, and out of the dreadful place, put the slab in
the opening, secured it with a strut against the opposite side of
the recess, and closed the shutters and drew the curtains of the
room; if the earl came up the stair in the wall, found the stone
immovable, and saw no light through any chink about its edges, he
would not suspect it had been displaced!
He went then to lady Arctura.
"I have a great deal to tell you," he said, "but at this moment I
cannot: I am afraid of the earl finding me with you!"
"Why should you mind that?" said Arctura.
"Because I think he is suspicious about the lost room. He has had a
wall taken down this morning. Please do not let him see you know
anything about it. Davie thinks he is set on finding the lost room:
I think he knew all about it long ago. You can ask him what he has
been doing: you must have heard the masons!"
"I hope I shall not stumble into anything like a story, for if I do
I must out with everything!"
In the afternoon, Davie was full of the curious little place his
father had discovered behind the wall; but, if that was the lost
room, he said, it was not at all worth making such a fuss about: it
was nothing but a big closet, with an old desk-kind of thing in it!
In the afternoon also, the earl went to see his niece. It was the
first time they met after his rude behaviour on her proposal to
search for the lost room.
"What were you doing this morning, uncle?" she said. "There was such
a thumping and banging somewhere in the castle! Davie said you were
determined, he thought, to find the lost room."
"Nothing of the kind, my love," answered the earl. "--I do hope they
will not spoil the stair carrying the stones and mortar down!"
"What was it then, uncle?"
"Simply this, my dear: my late wife, your aunt, and I, had a plan
for taking that closet behind my room on the stair into the room
itself. In preparation, I had a wall built across the middle of the
closet, so as to divide it and make two recesses of it, and act also
as a buttress to the weakened wall. Then your aunt died, and I
hadn't the heart to open the recesses or do anything more in the
matter. So one half of the closet was cut off, and remained
inaccessible. But there had been left in it an old bureau,
containing papers of some consequence, for it was heavy, and
intended to occupy the same position after the arches were opened.
Now, as it happens, I want one of those papers, so the wall has had
to come down again."
"But, uncle, what a pity!" said Arctura. "Why did you not open the
arches? The recesses would have been so pretty in that room!"
"I am sorry I did not think of asking you what you would like done
about it, my child! The fact is I never thought of your taking any
interest in the matter; I had naturally lost all mine. You will
please to observe, however, I have only restored what I had myself
disarranged--not meddled with anything belonging to the castle!"
"But now you have the masons here, why not go on, and make a little
search for the lost room?" said Arctura, venturing once more.
"We might pull down the castle and be none the wiser! Bah! the
building up of half the closet may have given rise to the whole
"Surely, uncle, the legend is older than that!"
"It may be; you cannot be sure. Once a going, it would immediately
cry back to a remote age. Prove that any one ever spoke of it before
the building of that foolish wall."
"Surely some remember hearing it long before that!"
"Nothing is more treacherous than a memory confronted with a general
belief," said the earl, and took his leave.
The next morning Arctura went to see the alteration. She opened the
door of the little room: it was twice its former size, and two
bureaus were standing against the wall! She peeped into the cupboard
at the end of it, but saw nothing there.
That same morning she made up her mind that she would go no farther
at present in regard to the chapel: it would be to break with her
In the evening, she acquainted Donal with her resolve, and he could
not say she was wrong. There was no necessity for opposing her
uncle--there might soon come one! He told her how he had entered the
closet from behind, and of the noise he had made the night before,
which had perhaps led to the opening of the place; but he did not
tell her of what he had found on the bureau. The time might come
when he must do so, but now he dared not render her relations with
her uncle yet more uncomfortable; neither was it likely such a woman
would consent to marry such a man as her cousin had shown himself;
when that danger appeared, it would be time to interpose; for the
mere succession to an empty title, he was not sure that he was bound
to speak. The branch which could produce such scions, might well be
itself a false graft on the true stem of the family!--if not, what
was the family worth? He must at all events be sure it was his
business before he moved in the matter!
PROGRESS AND CHANGE.
Things went on very quietly for a time. Arctura grew better, resumed
her studies, and made excellent progress. She would have worked
harder, but Donal would not let her. He hated forcing--even with the
good will of the plant itself. He believed in a holy, unhasting
growth. God's ways want God's time.
Long after, people would sometimes say to him--
"That is very well in the abstract; but in these days of hurry a
young fellow would that way be left ages behind!"
"With God," would Donal say.
"Tut, tut! the thing would never work!"
"For your ends," Donal would answer, "it certainly would never work;
but your ends are not those of the universe!"
"I do not pretend they are; but they are the success of the boy."
"That is one of the ends of the universe; and your reward will be to
thwart it for a season. I decline to make one in a conspiracy
against the design of our creator: I would fain die loyal!"
He was of course laughed at, and not a little despised, as an
extravagant enthusiast. But those who laughed found it hard to say
for what he was enthusiastic. It seemed hardly for education, when
he would even do what he could sometimes to keep a pupil back! He
did not care to make the best of any one! The truth was, Donal's
best was so many miles a-head of theirs, that it was below their
horizon altogether. If there be any relation between time and the
human mind, every forcing of human process, whether in spirit or
intellect, is hurtful, a retarding of God's plan.
Lady Arctura's old troubles were gradually fading into the limbo of
vanities. At times, however, mostly when unwell, they would come in
upon her like a flood: what if, after all, God were the self-loving
being theology presented--a being from whom no loving human heart
could but recoil with a holy dislike! what if it was because of a
nature specially evil that she could not accept the God in whom the
priests and elders of her people believed! But again and again, in
the midst of profoundest wretchedness from such doubt, had a sudden
flush of the world's beauty--that beauty which Jesus has told us to
consider and the modern pharisee to avoid, broken like gentlest
mightiest sunrise through the hellish fog, and she had felt a power
upon her as from the heart of a very God--a God such as she would
give her life to believe in--one before whom she would cast herself
in speechless adoration--not of his greatness--of that she felt
little, but of his lovingkindness, the gentleness that was making
her great. Then would she care utterly for God and his Christ,
nothing for what men said about them: the Lord never meant his lambs
to be under the tyranny of any, least of all the tyranny of his own
most imperfect church! its work is to teach; where it cannot teach,
it must not rule! Then would God appear to her not only true, but
real--the heart of the human, to which she could cling, and so rest.
The corruption of all religion comes of leaving the human, and God
as the causing Human, for something imagined holier. Men who do not
see the loveliness of the Truth, search till they find a lie they
can call lovely. What but a human reality could the heart of man
ever love! what else are we offered in Jesus but the absolutely
human? That Jesus has two natures is of the most mischievous
fictions of theology. The divine and the human are not two.
Suddenly, after an absence of months, reappeared lord
Forgue--cheerful, manly, on the best terms with his father, and
plainly willing to be on still better terms with his cousin! He had
left the place a mooning youth; he came back a man of the
world--easy in carriage, courteous in manners, serene in temper,
abounding in what seemed the results of observation, attentive but
not too attentive, jolly with Davie, distant with Donal, polite to
all. Donal could hardly receive the evidence of his senses: he would
have wondered more had he known every factor in the change. All
about him seemed to say it should not be his fault if the follies of
his youth remained unforgotten; and his airy carriage sat well upon
him. None the less Donal felt there was no restoration of the charm
which had at first attracted him; that was utterly vanished. He felt
certain he had been going down hill, and was now, instead of
negatively, consciously and positively untrue.
With gradations undefined, but not unmarked of Donal, as if the man
found himself under influences of which the youth had been unaware,
he began to show himself not indifferent to the attractions of his
cousin. He expressed concern that her health was not what it had
been; sought her in her room when she did not appear; professed an
interest in knowing what books she was reading, and what were her
studies with Donal; behaved like a good brother-cousin, who would
not be sorry to be something more.
And now the earl, to the astonishment of the household, began to
appear at table; and, apparently as a consequence of this, Donal was
requested rather than invited to take his meals with the family--not
altogether to his satisfaction, seeing he could not only read while
he ate alone, but could get through more quickly, and have the time
thus saved, for things of greater consequence. His presence made it
easier for lord Forgue to act his part, and the manners he brought
to the front left little to be desired. He bowed to the judgment of
Arctura, and seemed to welcome that of his father, to whom he was
now as respectful as moralist could desire. Yet he sometimes faced a
card he did not mean to show: who that is not absolutely true can
escape the mishap!--there was condescension in his politeness to
Donal! and this, had there been nothing else, would have been enough
to revolt Arctura. But in truth he impressed her altogether as a man
of outsides; she felt that she did not see the man he was, but the
nearest approach he could make to the man he would be taken for. He
was gracious, dignified, responsive, kind, amusing, accurate,
ready--everything but true. He would make of his outer man all but
what it was meant for--a revelation of the inner. It was that
notwithstanding. He was a man dressed in a man, and his dress was a
revelation of much that he was, while he intended it only to show
much that he was not. No man can help unveiling himself, however
long he may escape even his own detection. There is nothing covered
that shall not be revealed. Things were meant to come out, and be
read, and understood, in the face of the universe. The soul of every
man is as a secret book, whose content is yet written on its cover
for the reading of the wise. How differently is it read by the fool,
whose very understanding is a misunderstanding! He takes a man for a
God when on the point of being eaten up of worms! he buys for thirty
pieces of silver him whom the sepulchre cannot hold! Well for those
in the world of revelation, who give their sins no quarter in this!
Forgue had been in Edinburgh a part of the time, in England another
part. He had many things to tell of the people he had seen, and the
sports he had shared in. He had developed and enlarged a vein of
gentlemanly satire, which he kept supplied by the observation and
analysis of the peculiarities, generally weaknesses, of others.
These, as a matter of course, he judged merely by the poor standard
of society: questioned concerning any upon the larger human scale,
he could give no account of them. To Donal's eyes, the man was a
shallow pool whose surface brightness concealed the muddy bottom.
Two years before, lady Arctura had been in the habit of riding a
good deal, but after an accident to a favourite horse for which she
blamed herself, she had scarcely ridden at all. It was quite as
much, however, from the influence of Miss Carmichael upon her
spirits, that she had forsaken the exercise. Partly because her
uncle was neither much respected nor much liked, she had visited
very little; and after mental trouble assailed her, growing under
the false prescriptions of the soul-doctor she had called in, she
withdrew more and more, avoiding even company she would have
enjoyed, and which would before now have led her to resume it.
For a time she persisted in refusing to ride with Forgue. In vain he
offered his horse, assuring her that Davie's pony was quite able to
carry him; she had no inclination to ride, she said. But at last one
day, lest she should be guilty of unkindness, she consented, and so
enjoyed the ride--felt, indeed, so much the better for it, that she
did not thereafter so positively as before decline to allow her
cousin to look out for a horse fit to carry her; and Forgue, taking
her consent for granted, succeeded, with the help of the factor, in
finding for her a beautiful creature, just of the sort to please
her. Almost at sight of him she agreed to his purchase.
This put Forgue in great spirits, and much contentment with himself.
He did not doubt that, gaining thus opportunity so excellent, he
would quickly succeed in withdrawing her from the absurd influence
which, to his dismay, he discovered his enemy had in his absence
gained over her. He ought not to have been such a fool, he said to
himself, as to leave the poor child to the temptations naturally
arising in such a dreary solitude! He noted with satisfaction,
however, that the parson's daughter seemed to have forsaken the
house. And now at last, having got rid of the folly that a while
possessed him, he was prepared to do his duty by the family, and, to
that end, would make unfaltering use of the fascinations experience
had taught him he was, in a most exceptional degree, gifted with! He
would at once take Arctura's education in his own hands, and give
his full energy to it! She should speedily learn the difference
between the assistance of a gentleman and that of a clotpoll!
He had in England improved in his riding as well as his manners, and
knew at least how a gentleman, if not how a man, ought to behave to
the beast that carried him. Also, having ridden a good deal with
ladies, he was now able to give Arctura not a few hints to the
improvement of her seat, her hand, her courage; nor was there any
nearer road, he judged from what he knew of his cousin, to her
confidence and gratitude, than showing her a better way in a thing.
But thinking that in teaching her to ride he could make her forget
the man who had been teaching her to live, he was not a little
mistaken in the woman he desired to captivate.
He did not yet love her even in the way he called loving, else he
might have been less confident; but he found her very pleasing.
Invigorated by the bright frosty air, the life of the animal under
her, and the exultation of rapid motion, she seemed better in
health, more merry and full of life, than he had ever seen her: he
put all down to his success with her. He was incapable of suspecting
how little of it was owing to him; incapable of believing how much
to the fact that she now turned to the father of spirits without
fear, almost without doubt; thought of him as the root of every
delight of the world--at the heart of the horse she rode, in the
wind that blew joy into hers as she swept through its yielding
bosom; knew him as altogether loving and true, the father of Jesus
Christ, as like him as like could be like--more like him than any
one else in the universe could be like another--like him as only
eternal son can be like eternal father.
It was no wonder that with such a well of living water in her heart
she should be glad--merry even, and ready for anything her horse
could do! Flying across a field in the very wildness of pleasure,
her hair streaming behind her, and her pale face glowing, she would
now and then take a jump Forgue declared he could not face in cold
blood: he did not know how far from cold her blood was! He began to
wonder he had been such a fool as neglect her for--well, never
mind!--and to feel something that was like love, and was indeed
admiration. But for the searing brand of his past, he might have
loved her truly--as a man may, without being the most exalted of
mortals; for in love we are beyond our ordinary selves; the deep
thing in us peers up into the human air, and is of God--therefore
cannot live long in the mephitic air of a selfish and low nature,
but sinks again out of sight.
He was not at his ease with Arctura; he was afraid of her. When a
man is conscious of wrong, knows in his history what would draw a
hideous smudge over the portrait he would present to the eyes of her
he would please, he may well be afraid of her. He makes liberal
allowance for himself, but is not sure she will! And before Forgue
lay a social gulf which he could pass only on the narrow plank of
her favour! The more he was with her, the more he admired her, the
more he desired to marry her; the more satisfied he grew with his
own improvement, the more determined he became that for no poor,
unjust scruples would he forgo his happiness. There was but one
trifle to be kept from the world; it might know everything else
about him! and once in possession of the property, who would dispute
the title? Then again he was not certain that his father had not
merely invented a threat! Surely if the fact were such, he would,
even in rage diabolic, have kept it to himself!
Impetuous, and accustomed to what he counted success, he soon began
to make plainer advance toward the end on which his self-love and
cupidity at least were set. But, knowing in a vague manner how he
had carried himself before he went, Arctura, uninfluenced by the
ways of the world, her judgment unwarped, her perception undimmed,
her instincts nice, her personal delicacy exacting, had never
imagined he could approach her on any ground but that of cousinship
and a childhood of shared sports. She had seen that Donal was far
from pleased with him, and believed Forgue knew that she knew he had
been behaving badly. Her behaviour to him was indeed largely based
on the fact that he was in disgrace: she was sorry for him.
By and by, however, she perceived that she had been allowing too
much freedom where she was not prepared to allow more, and so one
day declined to go with him. They had not had a ride for a
fortnight, the weather having been unfavourable; and now when a
morning broke into the season like a smile from an estranged friend,
she would not go! He was annoyed--then alarmed, fearing adverse
influence. They were alone in the breakfast-room.
"Why will you not, Arctura?" he asked reproachfully: "do you not
"I am quite well," she answered.
"It is such a lovely day!" he pleaded.
"I am not in the mood. There are other things in the world besides
riding, and I have been wasting my time--riding too much. I have
learnt next to nothing since Larkie came."
"Oh, bother! what have you to do with learning! Health is the first
"I don't think so--and learning is good for the health. Besides, I
would not be a mere animal for perfect health!"
"Let me help you then with your studies."
"Thank you," she answered, laughing a little, "but I have a good
master already! We, that is Davie and I, are reading Greek and
mathematics with Mr. Grant."
Forgue's face flushed.
"I ought to know as much of both as he does!" he said.
"Ought perhaps! But you know you do not."
"I know enough to be your tutor."
"Yes, but I know enough not to be your pupil!"
"What do you mean?"
"That you can't teach."
"How do you know that?"
"Because you do not love either Greek or mathematics, and no one who
does not love can teach."
"That is nonsense! If I don't love Greek enough to teach it, I love
you enough to teach you," said Forgue.
"You are my riding-master," said Arctura; "Mr. Grant is my master in
Forgue strangled an imprecation on Mr. Grant, and tried to laugh,
but there was not a laugh inside him.
"Then you won't ride to-day?" he said.
"I think not," replied Arctura.
She ought to have said she would not. It is a pity to let doubt
alight on decision. Her reply re-opened the whole question.
"I cannot see what should induce you to allow that fellow the honour
of reading with you!" said Forgue. "He's a long-winded, pedantic,
"Mr. Grant is my friend!" said Arctura, and raising her head looked
him in the eyes.
"Take my word for it, you are mistaken in him," he said.
"I neither value nor ask your opinion of him," returned Arctura. "I
merely acquaint you with the fact that he is my friend."
"Here's the devil and all to pay!" thought Forgue.
"I beg your pardon," he said: "you do not know him as I do!"
"Not?--and with so much better opportunity of judging!"
"He has never played the dominie with you!" said Forgue foolishly.
"Indeed he has!"
"He has! Confound his insolence! How?"
"He won't let me study as I want.--How has he interfered with you?"
"We won't quarrel about him," rejoined Forgue, attempting a tone of
gaiety, but instantly growing serious. "We who ought to be so much
to each other--"
Something told him he had already gone too far.
"I do not know what you mean--or rather, I am not willing to think I
know what you mean," said Arctura. "After what took place--"
In her turn she ceased: he had said nothing!
"Jealous!" concluded Forgue; "--a good sign!"
"I see he has been talking against me!" he said.
"If you mean Mr. Grant, you mistake. He never, so far as I remember,
once mentioned you to me."
"I know better!"
"You are rude. He never spoke of it; but I have seen enough with my
"If you mean that silly fancy--why, Arctura!--you know it was but a
"And since then you have grown a man!--How many months has it
"I assure you, on the word of a gentleman, there is nothing in it
now. It is all over, and I am heartily ashamed of it."
A pause of a few seconds followed: it seemed as many minutes, and
"You will come out with me?" said Forgue: she might be relenting,
though she did not look like it!
"No," she said; "I will not."
"Well," he returned, with simulated coolness, "this is rather
cavalier treatment, I must say!--To throw a man over who has loved
you so long--and for the sake of a lesson in Greek!"
"How long, pray, have you loved me?" said Arctura, growing angry. "I
was willing to be friendly with you, so much so that I am sorry it
is no longer possible!"
"You punish me pretty sharply, my lady, for a trifle of which I told
you I was ashamed!" said Forgue, biting his lip. "It was the
"I do not wish to hear anything about it!" said Arctura sternly.
Then, afraid she had been unkind, she added in altered tone: "You
had better go and have a gallop. You may have Larkie if you like."
He turned and left the room. She only meant to pique him, he said to
himself. She had been cherishing her displeasure, and now she had
had her revenge would feel better and be sorry next! It was a very
good morning's work after all! It was absurd to think she preferred
a Greek lesson from a clown to a ride with lord Forgue! Was not she
too a Graeme!
Partly to make reconciliation the easier, partly because the horse
was superior to his own, he would ride Larkie!
But his reasoning was not so satisfactory to him as to put him in a
good temper, and poor Larkie had to suffer for his ill-humour. His
least movement that displeased him put him in a rage, and he rode
him so foolishly as well as tyrannically that he brought him home
quite lame, thus putting an end for a time to all hope of riding
again with Arctura.
Instead of going and telling her what he had done, he sent for the
farrier, and gave orders that the mishap should not be mentioned.
A week passed, and then another; and as he could say nothing about
riding, he was in a measure self-banished from Arctura's company. A
furious jealousy began to master him. He scorned to give place to it
because of the insult to himself if he allowed a true ground for it.
But it gradually gained power. This country bumpkin, this cow-herd,
this man of spelling-books and grammars, to come between his cousin
and him! Of course he was not so silly as imagine for a moment she
cared for him!--that she would disgrace herself by falling in love
with a fellow just loosed from the plough-tail! She was a Graeme,
and could never be a traitor to her blood! If only he had not been
such an infernal fool! A vulgar little thing without an idea in her
head! So unpleasant--so disgusting at last with her love-making!
Nothing pleased her but hugging and kissing!--That was how he spoke
to himself of the girl he had been in love with!
Damn that schoolmaster! She would never fall in love with him, but
he might prevent her from falling in love with another! No
attractions could make way against certain prepossessions! The girl
had a fancy for being a saint, and the lout burned incense to her!
So much he gathered from Davie. His father must get rid of the
fellow! If he thought he was doing so well with Davie, why not send
the two away together till things were settled?
But the earl thought it would be better to win Donal. He counselled
him that every Grant was lord Seafield's cousin, and every
highlander an implacable enemy where his pride was hurt. His
lordship did not reflect that, if what he said were true of Donal,
he must have left the castle long ago. There was but one thing would
have made it impossible for Donal to remain--interference, namely,
between him and his pupil.
Forgue did not argue with his father. He had given that up. At the
same time, if he had told all that had passed between him and Donal,
the earl would have confessed he had advised an impossibility.
Forgue took a step in a very different direction: he began to draw
to himself the good graces of Miss Carmichael: he did not know how
little she could serve him. Without being consciously insincere, she
flattered him, and speedily gained his confidence. Well descended on
the mother-side, she had grown up fit, her father said, to adorn any
society: with a keen appreciation of the claims and dignities of the
aristocracy, she was well able to flatter the prejudices she
honoured and shared in. Careful not to say a word against his
cousin, she made him feel more and more that his chief danger lay in
the influence of Donal. She fanned thus his hatred of the man who
first came between him and his wrath; next, between him and his
"love;" and last, between him and his fortunes.
If only Davie would fall ill, and require change of air! But Davie
was always in splendid health!
Now that he saw himself in such danger of failing, he fancied
himself far more in love with Arctura than he was. And as he got
familiarized with the idea of his illegitimacy, although he would
not assent to it, he made less and less of it--which would have been
a proof to any other than himself that he believed it. In further
sign of the same, he made no inquiry into the matter--did not once
even question his father about it. If it was true, he did not want
to know it: he would treat his lack of proof as ignorance, and act
as with the innocence of ignorance! A fellow must take for granted
what was commonly believed! At last, and the last was not long in
arriving, he almost ceased to trouble himself about it.
His father laughed at his fear of failure with Arctura, but at times
contemplated the thing as an awful possibility--not that he loved
Forgue much. The only way fathers in sight of the grave can fancy
themselves holding on to the things they must leave, is in their
children; but lord Morven had a stronger and better reason for his
unrighteousness: in a troubled, self-reproachful way, he loved the
memory of their mother, and through her cared even for Forgue more
than he knew. They were also his own as much as if he had been
legally married to her! For the relation in which they stood to
society, he cared little so long as it continued undiscovered. He
enjoyed the idea of stealing a march on society, and seeing the sons
he had left at such a disadvantage behind him, ruffling it, in spite
of absurd law, with the foolish best. From the grave he would so
have his foot on the neck of his enemy Law!--he was one of the many
who can rejoice in even a stolen victory. Nor would he ever have
been the fool to let the truth fly, except under the reaction of
evil drugs, and the rush of fierce wrath at the threatened ruin of
his cherished scheme.
Arctura thenceforth avoided her cousin as much as she could--only
remembering that the house was hers, and she must not make him feel
he was not welcome to use it. They met at meals, and she tried to
behave as if nothing unpleasant had happened and things were as
before he went away.
"You are very cruel, Arctura," he said one morning he met her in the
"Cruel?" returned Arctura coldly; "I am not cruel. I would not
willingly hurt anyone."
"You hurt me much; you give me not a morsel, not a crumb of your
"Percy," said Arctura, "if you will be content to be my cousin, we
shall get on well enough; but if you are set on what cannot be--once
for all, believe me, it is of no use. You care for none of the
things I live for! I feel as if we belonged to different worlds, so
little have we in common. You may think me hard, but it is better we
should understand each other. If you imagine that, because I have
the property, you have a claim on me, be sure I will never
acknowledge it. I would a thousand times rather you had the property
and I were in my grave!"
"I will be anything, do anything, learn anything you please!" cried
Forgue, his heart aching with disappointment.
"I know what such submission is worth!" said Arctura. "I should be
everything till we were married, and then nothing! You dissemble,
you hide even from yourself, but you are not hard to read."
Perhaps she would not have spoken just so severely, had she not been
that morning unusually annoyed with his behaviour to Donal, and at
the same time specially pleased with the calm, unconsciously
dignified way in which Donal took it, casting it from him as the
rock throws aside the sea-wave: it did not concern him! The dull
world has got the wrong phrase: it is he who resents an affront who
pockets it! he who takes no notice, lets it lie in the dirt.
It was a lovely day in spring.
"Please, Mr. Grant," said Davie, "may I have a holiday?"
Donal looked at him with a little wonder: the boy had never before
made such a request! But he answered him at once.
"Yes, certainly, Davie. But I should like to know what you want it
"Arkie wants very much to have a ride to-day. She says Larkie--I
gave him his name, to rime with Arkie--she says Larkie will forget
her, and she does not wish to go out with Forgue, so she wants me to
go with her on my pony."
"You will take good care of her, Davie?"
"I will take care of her, but you need not be anxious about us, Mr.
Grant. Arkie is a splendid rider, and much pluckier than she used to
Donal did, however--he could not have said why--feel a little
anxiety. He repressed it as unfaithfulness, but it kept returning.
He could not go with them--there was no horse for him, and to go on
foot, would, he feared, spoil their ride. He was so much afraid also
of presuming on lady Arctura's regard for him, that he would have
shrunk from offering had it been more feasible. He got a book, and
strolled into the park, not even going to see them off: Forgue might
be about the stable, and make things unpleasant!
Had Forgue been about the stable, he would, I think, have somehow
managed to prevent the ride, for Larkie, though much better, was not
yet cured of his lameness. Arctura did not know he had been lame, or
that he had therefore been very little exercised, and was now rather
wild, with a pastern-joint far from equal to his spirit. There was
but a boy about the stable, who either did not understand, or was
afraid to speak: she rode in a danger of which she knew nothing. The
consequence was that, jumping the merest little ditch in a field
outside the park, they had a fall. The horse got up and trotted
limping to the stable; his mistress lay where she fell. Davie, wild
with misery, galloped home. From the height of the park Donal saw
him tearing along, and knew something was amiss. He ran, got over
the wall, found the pony's track, and following it, came where
There was a little clear water in the ditch: he wet his
handkerchief, and bathed her face. She came to herself, opened her
eyes with a faint smile, and tried to raise herself, but fell back
helpless, and closed her eyes again.
"I believe I am hurt!" she murmurmed. "I think Larkie must have
Donal would have carried her, but she moaned so, that he gave up the
idea at once. Davie was gone for help; it would be better to wait!
He pulled off his coat and laid it over her, then kneeling, raised
her head a little from the damp ground upon his arm. She let him do
as he pleased, but did not open her eyes.
They had not long to wait. Several came running, among them lord
Forgue. He fell beside his cousin on his knees, and took her hand in
his. She neither moved nor spoke. As instead of doing anything he
merely persisted in claiming her attention, Donal saw it was for him
to give orders.
"My lady is much hurt," he said: "one of you go at once for the
doctor; the others bring a hand-barrow--I know there is one about
the place. Lay the squab of a sofa on it, and make haste. Let
mistress Brookes know."
"Mind your own business," said Forgue.
"Do as Mr. Grant tells you," said lady Arctura, without opening her
The men departed running. Forgue rose from his knees, and walked
slowly to a little distance, where he stood gnawing his lip.
"My lord," said Donal, "please run and fetch a little brandy for her
ladyship. She has fainted."
What could Forgue do but obey! He started at once, and with
tolerable speed. Then Arctura opened her eyes, and smiled.
"Are you suffering much, my lady?" asked Donal.
"A good deal," she answered, "but I don't mind it.--Thank you for
not leaving me.--It is no more than I can bear, only bad when I try
"They will not be long now," he said.
Again she closed her eyes, and was silent. Donal watched the sweet
face, which a cloud of suffering would every now and then cross, and
lifted up his heart to the saviour of men.
He saw them coming with the extemporized litter, behind them
mistress Brookes, with Forgue and one of the maids.
When she came up, she addressed herself in silence to Donal. He told
her he feared her ladyship's spine was hurt, After his direction she
put her hands under her and the maid took her feet, while he,
placing his other arm under her shoulders, and gently rising, raised
her body. Being all strong and gentle, they managed the moving well,
and laid her slowly on the litter. Except a moan or two, and a
gathering of the brows, she gave no sign of suffering; nothing to be
called a cry escaped her.
Donal at the head and a groom at the foot, lifted the litter, and
with ordered step, started for the house. Once or twice she opened
her eyes and looked up at Donal, then, as if satisfied, closed them
again. Before they reach the house the doctor met them, for they had
to walk slowly.
Forgue came behind in a devilish humour. He knew that first his ill
usage of Larkie, and then his preventing anything being said about
it, must have been the cause of the accident; but he felt with some
satisfaction--for self simply makes devils of us--that if she had
not refused to go out with him, it would not have happened; he would
not have allowed her to mount Larkie. "Served her right!" he caught
himself saying once, and was ashamed--but presently said it again.
Self is as full of worms as it can hold; God deliver us from it!
She was carried to her room and laid on her bed. The doctor
requested Mrs. Brookes and Donal to remain, and dismissed the rest,
then proceeded to examine her. There were no bones broken, he said,
but she must be kept very quiet. The windows must be darkened, and
she must if possible sleep. She gave Donal a faint smile, and a
pitiful glance, but did not speak. As he was following the doctor
from the room, she made a sign to Mrs. Brookes with her eyes that
she wanted to speak to him.
He came, and bent over to hear, for she spoke very feebly.
"You will come and see me, Mr. Grant?"
"I will, indeed, my lady."
"Yes, most certainly," he replied.
She smiled, and so dismissed him. He went with his heart full.
A little way from the door stood Forgue, waiting for him to come
out. He had sent the doctor to his father. Donal passed him with a
bend of the head. He followed him to the schoolroom.
"It is time this farce was over, Grant!" he said.
"Farce, my lord!" repeated Donal indignantly.
"These attentions to my lady."
"I have paid her no more attention than I would your lordship, had
you required it," answered Donal sternly.
"That would have been convenient doubtless! But there has been
enough of humbug, and now for an end to it! Ever since you came
here, you have been at work on the mind of that inexperienced
girl--with your damned religion!--for what end you know best! and
now you've half killed her by persuading her to go out with you
instead of me! The brute was lame and not fit to ride! Any fool
might have seen that!"
"I had nothing to do with her going, my lord. She asked Davie to go
with her, and he had a holiday on purpose."
"All very fine, but--"
"My lord, I have told you the truth, but not to justify myself: you
must be aware your opinion is of no value in my eyes! But tell me
one thing, my lord: if my lady's horse was lame, how was it she did
not know? You did!"
Forgue thought Donal knew more than he did, and was taken aback.
"It is time the place was clear of you!" he said.
"I am your father's servant, not yours," answered Donal, "and do not
trouble myself as to your pleasure concerning me. But I think it is
only fair to warn you that, though you cannot hurt me, nothing but
honesty can take you out of my power."
Forgue turned on his heel, went to his father, and told him he knew
now that Donal was prejudicing the mind of lady Arctura against him;
but not until it came in the course of the conversation, did he
mention the accident she had had.
The earl professed himself greatly shocked, got up with something
almost like alacrity from his sofa, and went down to inquire after
his niece. He would have compelled Mrs. Brookes to admit him, but
she was determined her lady should not be waked from a sleep
invaluable to her, for the sake of receiving his condolements, and
he had to return to his room without gaining anything.
If she were to go, the property would be his, and he could will it
as he pleased--that was, if she left no will. He sent for his son
and cautioned him over and over to do nothing to offend her, but
wait: what might come, who could tell! It might prove a serious
Forgue tried to feel shocked at the coolness of his father's
speculation, but allowed that, if she was determined not to receive
him as her husband, the next best thing, in the exigence of affairs,
would certainly be that she should leave a world for whose uses she
was ill fitted, and go where she would be happier. The things she
would then have no farther need of, would be welcome to those to
whom by right they belonged more really than to her! She was a
pleasant thing to look upon, and if she had loved him he would
rather have had the property with than without her; but there was
this advantage, he would be left free to choose!
Lady Arctura lay suffering, feverish, and restless. Mrs. Brookes
would let no one sit up with her but herself. The earl would have
sent for "a suitable nurse!" a friend of his in London would find
one! but she would not hear of it. And before the night was over she
had greater reason still for refusing to yield her post: it was
evident her young mistress was more occupied with Donal Grant than
with the pain she was suffering! In her delirium she was constantly
desiring his presence. "I know he can help me," she would say; "he
is a shepherd, like the Lord himself!" And mistress Brookes, though
by no means devoid of the prejudices of the rank with which her life
had been so much associated, could not but allow that a nobler life
must be possible with one like Donal Grant than with one like lord
In the middle of the night Arctura became so unquiet, that her
nurse, calling the maid she had in a room near, flew like a bird to
Donal, and asked him to come down. He had but partially undressed,
thinking his help might be wanted, and was down almost as soon as
she. Ere he came, however, she had dismissed the maid.
Donal went to the bedside. Arctura was moaning and starting,
sometimes opening her eyes, but distinguishing nothing. Her hand lay
on the counterpane: he laid his upon it. She gave a sigh as of one
relieved; a smile came flickering over her face, and she lay still
for some time. Donal sat down beside her, and watched. The moment he
saw her begin to be restless or look distressed, he laid his hand
upon hers; she was immediately quiet, and lay for a time as if she
knew herself safe. When she seemed about to wake, he withdrew.
So things went on for many nights. Donal slept instead of working
when his duties with Davie were over, and lay at night in the
corridor, wrapt in his plaid. For even after Arctura began to
recover, her nights were sorely troubled, and her restoration would
have been much retarded, had not Donal been near to make her feel
she was not abandoned to the terrors she passed through.
One night the earl, wandering about in the anomalous condition of
neither ghost nor genuine mortal, came suddenly upon what he took
for a huge animal in wait to devour. He was not terrified, for he
was accustomed to such things, and thought at first it was not of
this world: he had no doubt of the reality of his visions, even when
he knew they were invisible to others, and even in his waking
moments had begun to believe in them as much as in the things then
evident to him--or rather, perhaps, to disbelieve equally in both.
He approached to see what it was, and stood staring down upon the
mass. Gently it rose and confronted him--if confronting that may be
called where the face remained so undefined--for Donal took care to
keep his plaid over his head: he had hope in the probable condition
of the earl! He turned from him and walked away.
But his lordship had his suspicions, and took measures to confirm or
set them at rest--with the result that he concluded Donal madly in
love with his niece, and unable, while she was ill, to rest anywhere
but, with the devotion of a savage, outside her door: if he did not
take precautions, the lout would oust the lord! Ever since Donal
spoke so plainly against his self-indulgence, he had not merely
hated but feared the country lad. He recognized that Donal feared
nothing, had no respect of persons, would speak out before the
world. He was doubtful also whether he had not allowed him to know
more than it was well he should know. It was time to get rid of
him--only it must be done cautiously, with the appearance of a good
understanding! If he had him out of the house before she was able to
see him again, that would do! And if in the meantime she should die,
all would be well! His distrust, once roused, went farther than that
of his son. He had not the same confidence in blue blood; he knew a
few things more than Forgue--believed it quite possible that the
daughter of a long descent of lords and ladies should fall in love
with a shepherd-lad. And as no one could tell what might have to be
done if the legal owner of the property persisted in refusing her
hand to the rightful owner of it, the fellow might be seriously in
Arctura slowly recovered. She had not yet left her room, but had
been a few hours on the couch every day for a fortnight, and the
doctor, now sanguine of her final recovery, began to talk of
carrying her to the library. The earl, who never suspected that Mrs.
Brookes, having hitherto kept himself from her room, would admit the
tutor, the moment he learned that the library was in view for her,
decided that there must be no more delay. He had by this time
contrived a neat little plan.
He sent for Donal. He had been thinking, the earl said, that he must
want a holiday: he had not seen his parents since he came to the
castle! and he had been thinking besides, how desirable it was that
Davie should see some other phases of life than those to which he
had hitherto been accustomed. There was great danger of boys brought
up in his position getting narrow, and careless of the lives and
feelings of their fellowmen! He would take it as a great kindness if
Donal, who had a regard to the real education of his pupil, would
take him to his home, and let him understand the ways of life among
the humbler classes of the nation--so that, if ever he went into
parliament, he might have the advantage of knowing the heart of the
people for whom he would have to legislate.
Donal listened, and could not but agree with the remarks of his
lordship. In himself he had not the least faith--wondered indeed
which of them thought the other the greater fool to imagine that
after all that had passed Donal would place any confidence in what
the earl said; but he listened. What lord Morven really had in his
mind, he could not surmise; but not the less to take Davie to his
father and mother was a delightful idea. The boy was growing fast,
and had revealed a faculty quite rare in one so young, for looking
to the heart of things, and seeing the relation of man to man;
therefore such a lesson as the earl proposed would indeed be
invaluable to him! Then again, this faculty had been opened in him
through a willing perception of those eternal truths, in a still
higher relation of persons, which are open only to the childlike
nature; whence he would be especially fitted for such company as
that of his father and mother, who could now easily receive the boy
as well as himself, since their house and their general worldly
condition had been so much bettered by their friend, sir Gibbie!
With them Davie would see genuine life, simplicity, dignity, and
unselfishness--the very embodiment of the things he held constantly
before him! There might be some other reason behind the earl's
request which it would be well for him to know; but he would sooner
discover that by a free consent than by hanging back: anything bad
it could hardly be! He shrank indeed from leaving lady Arctura while
she was yet so far from well, but she was getting well much faster
now: for a fortnight there had been no necessity for his presence to
soothe her while she slept. Neither did she yet know, so far, at
least, as he or mistress Brookes was aware, that he had ever been
near her in the night! It was well also because of the position of
things between him and lord Forgue, that he should be away for a
while: it would give a chance for that foolish soul to settle down,
and let common sense assume the reins, while yet the better coachman
was not allowed to mount the box! He had, of course, heard nothing
of the strained relations between him and lady Arctura; he might
otherwise have been a little more anxious. For the earl, Davie, he
thought, would be a kind of pledge or hostage--in regard of what, he
could not specify; but, though he little suspected what such a man
was capable of sacrificing to gain a cherished end, some security
for him, some hold over him, seemed to Donal not undesirable.
When Davie heard the proposal, he was wild with joy. Actually to see
the mountains, and the sheep, and the colleys, of which Donal had
told him such wonderful things! To be out all night, perhaps, with
Donal and the dogs and the stars and the winds! Perhaps a storm
would come, and he would lie in Donal's plaid under some great rock,
and hear the wind roaring around them, but not able to get at them!
And the sheep would come and huddle close up to them, and keep them
warm with their woolly sides! and he would stroke their heads and
love them! Davie was no longer a mere child--far from it; but what
is loveliest in the child's heart was only the stronger in him; and
the prospect of going with Donal was a thing to be dreamed of day
and night till it came! Nor were the days many before their
departure was definitely settled.
The earl would have Mr. Grant treat his pupil precisely as one of
his own standing: he might take him on foot if he pleased!
The suggestion was eagerly accepted by both. They got their boxes
ready for the carrier, packed their wallets, and one lovely morning
late in spring, just as summer was showing her womanly face through
its smiles and tears, they set out together.
It was with no small dismay that Arctura heard of the proposal. She
said nothing, however--only when Donal came to take his leave she
broke down a little.
"We shall often wish, Davie and I, that you were with us, my lady,"
"Why?" she asked, unable to say more.
"Because we shall often feel happy, and what then can we do but wish
you shared our happiness!"
She burst into tears, and presently was able to speak.
"Don't think me silly," she said. "I know God is with me, and as
soon as you are gone I will go to him to comfort me. But I cannot
help feeling as if you were leaving me like a lamb among wolves. I
can give no reason for it; I only feel as if some danger were near
me. But I have you yet, mistress Brookes: God and you will take care
of me!--Indeed, if I hadn't you," she added, laughing through her
tears, "I should run away with Mr. Grant and Davie!"
"If I had known you felt like that," said Donal, "I would not have
gone. Yet I hardly see how I could have avoided it, being Davie's
tutor, and bound to do as his father wishes with him. Only, dear
lady Arctura, there is no chance in this or in anything! We will not
forget you, and in three weeks or a month we shall be back."
"That is a long time," said Arctura, ready to weep again.
Is it necessary to say she was not a weak woman? It is not betrayal
of feeling, but avoidance of duty, that constitutes weakness. After
an illness he has borne like a hero, a strong man may be ready to
weep like a child. What the common people of society think about
strength and weakness, is poor stuff, like the rest of their wisdom.
She speedily recovered her composure, and with the gentlest smile
bade Donal good-bye. She was in her sitting-room next the
state-chamber where she now slept; the sun was shining in at the
open window, and with it came the song of a little bird, clear and
"You hear him," said Donal. "--how he trusts God without knowing it!
We are made able to trust him knowing in whom we believe! Ah, dear
lady Arctura! no heart even yet can tell what things God has in
store for them who will just let him have his way with them.
Good-bye. Write to me if anything comes to you that I can help you
in. And be sure I will make haste to you the moment you let me know
you want me."
"Thank you, Mr. Grant: I know you mean every word you say! If I need
you, I will not hesitate to send for you--only if you come, it will
be as my friend, and not--"
"It will be as your servant, not lord Morven's," said Donal. "I
quite understand. Good bye. The father of Jesus Christ, who was so
sure of him, will take care of you: do not be afraid."
He turned and went; he could no longer bear the look of her eyes.
Out of Arctura's sight Donal had his turn of so-called weakness!
The day was a glorious one, and Davie, full of spirits, could not
understand why he seemed so unlike himself.
"Arkie would scold you, Mr. Grant!" he said.
Donal avoided the town, and walked a long way round to get into the
road beyond it, his head bent as if he were pondering a pain. At
moments he felt as if he must return at once, and refuse to leave
the castle for any reason. But he could not see that it was the will
of God he should do so. A presentiment is not a command. A prophecy
may fail of the least indication of duty. Hamlet defying augury is
the consistent religious man Shakspere takes pains to show him. A
presentiment may be true, may be from God himself, yet involve no
reason why a man should change his way, should turn a step aside
from the path before him. St. Paul received warning after warning on
his road to Jerusalem that bonds and imprisonment awaited him, and
these warnings he knew came from the spirit of prophecy, but he
heeded them only to set his face like a flint. He knew better than
imagine duty determined by consequences, or take foresight for
direction. There is a higher guide, and he followed that. So did
Donal now. Moved to go back, he did not go back--neither afterwards
repented that he did not.
I will not describe the journey. Suffice it to say that, after a few
days of such walking as befitted an unaccustomed boy, they climbed
the last hill, crossed the threshold of Robert Grant's cottage, and
were both clasped in the embrace of Janet. For Davie rushed into the
arms of Donal's mother, and she took him to the same heart to which
she had taken wee sir Gibbie: the bosom of the peasant woman was
indeed one to fee to.
Then followed delights which more than equalled the expectations of
Davie. One of them was seeing how Donal was loved. Another was a new
sense of freedom: he had never imagined such liberty as he now
enjoyed. It was as if God were giving it to him. fresh out of his
sky, his mountains, his winds. Then there was the twilight on the
hill-side, with the sheep growing dusky around him; when Donal would
talk about the shepherd of the human sheep; and hearing him Davie
felt not only that there was once, but that there is now a man
altogether lovely--the heart of all beauty everywhere--a man who
gave himself up to his perfect father and his father's most
imperfect children, that he might bring his brothers and sisters
home to their father; for all his delight is in his father and his
father's children. He showed him how the heart of Jesus was, all
through, the heart of a son, a son that adored his perfect father;
and how if he had not had his perfect son to help him, God could not
have made any of us, could never have got us to be his little sons
and daughters, loving him with all our might. Then Davie's heart
would glow, and he would feel ready to do whatever that son might
want him to do; and Donal hoped, and had good ground for hoping,
that, when the hour of trial came, the youth would be able to hold,
not merely by the unseen, but by the seemingly unpresent and unfelt,
in the name of the eternally true.
Donal's youth began to seem far behind him. All bitterness was gone
out of his memories of lady Galbraith. He loved her tenderly, but
was pleased she should be Gibbie's.
How much of this happy change was owing to his interest in lady
Arctura he did not inquire: greatly interested in her--more in very
important ways than he had ever been in lady Galbraith--he was so
jealous of his heart, shrank so much from the danger of folly, knew
so well how small an amount of yielding might unfit him for the
manly and fresh performance of his duties--among which came first a
due regard for her well-being lest he should himself fail or mislead
her--that he often turned his thoughts into another channel, lest in
that they should run too swiftly, deepen it too fast, and go far to
imprison themselves in another agony.
To lady Galbraith he confided his uneasiness about lady Arctura--not
that he could explain--he could only confess himself infected with
her uneasiness, and the rather that he knew better than she the
nature of those with whom she might have to cope. If Mrs. Brookes
had not been there, he dared not have come away, he said, leaving
her with such a dread upon her.
Sir Gibbie listened open-mouthed to the tale of the finding of the
lost chapel, hidden away because it held the dust of the dead, and
perhaps sometimes their wandering ghosts.
They assured him that, if he would bring lady Arctura to them, they
would take care of her: had she not better give up the weary
property, they said, and come and live with them, and be free as the
lark? But Donal said, that, if God had given her a property, he
would not have her forsake her post, but wait for him to relieve
her. She must administer her own kingdom ere she could have an
abundant entrance into his! Only he wished he were near her again to
SENT, NOT CALLED.
He had been at home about ten days, during which not a word had come
to Davie or himself from the castle, and was beginning to grow, not
perhaps anxious, but hungry for news of lady Arctura, when from a
sound sleep he started suddenly awake one midnight to find his
mother by his bedside: she had roused him with difficulty.
"Laddie," she said, "I'm thinkin ye're wantit."
"Whaur am I wantit, mother?" he asked, rubbing his eyes, but with
anxiety already throbbing at his heart.
"At the castle," she replied.
"Hoo ken ye that?" he asked.
"It wad be ill tellin' ye," she answered. "But gien I was you,
Donal, I wad be aff afore the day brak, to see what they're duin'
wi' yon puir leddy at the muckle place ye left. My hert's that sair
aboot her, I canna rest a moment till I hae ye awa' upo' the ro'd
Long before his mother had ended, Donal was out of bed, and hurrying
on his clothes. He had the profoundest faith in whatever his mother
said. Was it a vision she had had? He had never been told she had
the second sight! It might have been only a dream, or an impression
so deep she must heed it! One thing was plain: there was no time to
ask questions! It was enough that his mother said "Go;" more than
enough that it was for lady Arctura! How quickest could he go? There
were horses at sir Gibbie's: he would make free with one! He put a
crust of bread in his pocket, and set out running. There was a
little moonlight, enough for one who knew every foot of the way; and
in half an hour of swift descent, he was at the stable door of
Finding himself unable to rouse anyone, he crept through a way he
knew, opened the door, without a moment's hesitation saddled and
bridled sir Gibbie's favourite mare, led her out, and mounted her.
Safe in the saddle, with four legs busy under him, he had time to
think, and began to turn over in his mind what he must do. But he
soon saw there was no planning anything till he knew what was the
matter--of which he had dreadful forebodings. His imagination
started and spurred by fear, he thought of many dread possibilities
concerning which he wondered that he had never thought of them
before: if he had he could not have left the castle! What might not
a man in the mental and moral condition of the earl, unrestrained by
law or conscience, risk to secure the property for his son? Might he
not poison her, smother her, kill her somehow, anyhow that was
safest? Then rushed into his mind what the housekeeper had told him
of his cruelty to his wife: a man like that, no longer feeling,
however knowing the difference between right and wrong, hardly
knowing the difference between dreaming a thing and doing the thing,
was no fitter member of a family than any devil in or out of hell!
He would have blamed himself bitterly had he not been sure he was
not following his own will in going away. If there were a better way
it had not been intended he should take it, else it would have been
shown him! But now he would be restrained by no delicacy towards the
earl: whatever his hand found to do he would do, regardless of
appearances! If he could not reach lady Arctura, he would seek the
help of the law, tell what he knew, and get a warrant of search. He
dared not think what he dreaded, but he would trust nothing but
seeing her with his own eyes, and hearing from her own mouth that
all was well--which could not be, else why should his mother have
sent him to her? Doubtless the way would unfold before him as he
went on; but if everything should seem to go against him, he would
yet say with sir Philip Sidney that, "since a man is bound no
farther to himself than to do wisely, chance is only to trouble them
that stand upon chance." If his plans or attempts should one after
the other fail, "there's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew
them how we will"! So he rode on, careful over his mare, lest much
haste should be little speed. The animal was strong and in good
condition, and by the time Donal had seen the sun rise, ascend the
heavens, and go half-way down their western slope, and had stopped
three times to refresh the mare, he found himself, after much
climbing and descent, on a good level road that promised by
nightfall to bring him to the place of his desire.
But the mare was now getting tired, and no wonder, for she had had
more than a hard day's work. Donal dismounted every now and then to
relieve her, that he might go the faster when he mounted again,
comforting himself that in the true path the delays are as important
as the speed; for the hour is the point, not the swiftness: an hour
too soon may even be more disastrous than an hour too late! He would
arrive at the right time for him whose ways are not as our ways
inasmuch as they are greatly better! The sun went down and the stars
came out, and the long twilight began. But before he was a mile
farther he became aware that the sky had clouded over, the stars had
vanished, and rain was at hand. The day had been sultry, and relief
was come. Lightning flamed out, and darkness full of thunder
followed. The storm was drawing nearer, but his mare, though young
and high-spirited, was too weary to be frightened; the rain
refreshed both, and they made a little more speed. But it was dark
night, with now grumbling now raging storm, before they came where,
had it been light, Donal would have looked to see the castle.
IN THE NIGHT.
When he reached the town, he rode into the yard of the Morven Arms,
and having found a sleepy ostler, gave up his mare: he would be
better without her at the castle!--whither he was setting out to
walk when the landlord appeared.
"We didna luik to see you, sir, at this time!" he said.
"Why not?" returned Donal.
"We thoucht ye was awa' for the simmer, seein' ye tuik the yoong
gentleman wi' ye, an' the yerl himsel' followt!"
"Where is he gone?" asked Donal.
"Oh! dinna ye ken, sir? hae na ye h'ard?"
"Not a word."
"That's verra strange, sir!--There's a clean clearance at the
castel. First gaed my lord Forgue, an' syne my lord himsel' an' my
lady, an' syne gaed the hoosekeeper--her mither was deein', they
said. I'm thinkin' there maun be a weddin' to the fore. There was
some word o' fittin' up the auld hoose i' the toon, 'cause lord
Forgue didna care aboot bein' at the castel ony langer. It's strange
ye haena h'ard, sir!"
Donal stood absorbed in awful hearing. Surely some letter must have
miscarried! The sure and firm-set earth seemed giving way under his
"I will run up to the castle, and hear all about it," he said. "Look
after my mare, will you?"
"But I'm tellin' ye, sir, ye'll fin' naebody there!" said the man.
"They're a' gane frae the hoose ony gait. There's no a sowl aboot
that but deif Betty Lobban, wha wadna hear the angel wi' the last
trump. Mair by token, she's that feart for robbers she gangs til her
bed the minute it begins to grow dark, an' sticks her heid 'aneth
the bed-claes--no 'at that maks her ony deifer!"
"Then you think there is no use in going up?"
"Not the smallest," answered the inn-keeper.
"Get me some supper then. I will take a look at my mare."
He went and saw that she was attended to--then set off for the
castle as fast as his legs would carry him. There was foul play
beyond a doubt!--of what sort he could not tell! If the man's report
was correct, he would go straight to the police! Then first he
remembered, in addition to the other reported absences, that before
he left with Davie, the factor and his sister had gone together for
a holiday: had this been contrived?
He mounted the hill and drew near the castle. A terrible gloom fell
upon him: there was not a light in the sullen pile! It was darksome
even to terror! He went to the main entrance, and rang the great
bell as loud as he could ring it, but there was no answer to the
summons, which echoed and yelled horribly, as if the house were
actually empty. He rang again, and again came the horrible yelling
echo, but no more answer than if it had been a mausoleum. He had
been told what to expect, yet his heart sank within him. Once more
he rang and waited; but there was no sound of hearing. The place
grew terrible to him. But his mother had sent him there, and into it
he must go! He must at least learn whether it was indeed abandoned!
There was false play! he kept repeating to himself; but what was it?
where and how was it to be met?
As to getting into the house there was no difficulty. He had but to
climb two walls to get to the door of Baliol's tower, and the key of
that he always carried. If he had not had it, he would yet soon have
got in; he knew the place better than any one else about it. Happily
he had left the door locked when he went away, else probably they
would have secured it otherwise. He entered softly, and, with a
strange feeling of dread, went winding up the stair to his
room--slowly, because he did not yet know at all what he was to do.
If there were no false play, surely at least Mrs. Brookes would have
written to tell him they were going! If only he could learn where
she was! Before he reached the top he found himself very weary. He
staggered in, and fell on his bed in the dark.
But he could not rest. The air seemed stifling. The storm had
lulled, but the atmosphere was full of thunder. He got up and opened
the window. A little breath came in and revived him; then came a
little wind, and in the wind the moan of its harp. It woke many
memories. There again was the lightning! The thunder broke with a
great bellowing roar among the roofs and chimneys. It was to his
mind! He went out on the roof, and mechanically took his way toward
the nest of the music. At the base of the chimneys he sat down, and
stared into the darkness. The lightning came; he saw the sea lie
watching like a perfect peace to take up drift souls, and the land
bordering it like a waste of dread; then the darkness swallowed
both; and the thunder came so loud that it not only deafened but
seemed to blind him beyond the darkness, that his brain turned to a
lump of clay. Then came a silence, and the silence was like a deeper
deafness. But from the deafness burst and trickled a faint doubtful
stream: could it be a voice, calling, calling, from a great
distance? Was he the fool of weariness and excitement, or did he
actually hear his own name? Whose voice could it be but lady
Arctura's, calling to him from the spirit world! They had killed
her, and she was calling to let him know she was in the land of
liberty! With that came another flash and another roar of
thunder--and there was the voice again: "Mr. Grant! Mr. Grant! come,
come! You promised!" Did he actually hear the words? They sounded so
far away that it seemed as if he ought not to hear them. But could
the voice be from the spirit-land? Would she claim his promise
thence, tempting him thither? She would not! And she knew he would
not go before his hour, if all the spirits on the other side were
calling him. But he had heard of voices from far away, while those
who called were yet in the body! If she would but say whither, he
would follow her that moment! Once more it came, but very faint; he
could not tell what it said. A wail of the ghost-music followed
close.--God in heaven! could she be down in the chapel? He sprang to
his feet. With superhuman energy he leapt up and caught the edge of
the cleft, drew himself up till his mouth reached it, and cried
aloud, "Lady Arctura!"
There came no answer.
"I am stupid as death!" he said to himself: "I have let her call me
"I am coming!" he cried again, revived with sudden joy. He dropped
on the roof, and sped down the stair to the door that opened on the
second floor. All was dark as underground, but he knew the way so
well he needed but a little guidance from his hands. He hurried to
lady Arctura's chamber, and the spot where the press stood, ready
with one shove to send it yards out of his way. There was no press
there!--nothing but a smooth, cold, damp wall! His heart sank within
him. Was he in a terrible dream? No, no! he had but made a
mistake--had trusted too much to his knowledge of the house, and was
not where he thought he was! He struck a light. Alas! alas! he was
where he had intended! It was her room! There was the wardrobe, but
nearer the door! Where it had stood was no recess!--nothing but a
great patch of fresh plaster! It was no dream, but a true horror!
Instinctively clutching his skene dhu, he darted to the great stair.
It must have been the voice of Arctura he had heard! She was walled
up in the chapel!
Down the stair, with swift noiseless foot he sped, and stopped at
the door of the half-way room. It was locked!
There was but one way left! To the foot of the stair he shot. Good
heavens! if that way also should have been known to the earl! He
crept through the little door underneath the stair, feeling with his
hands ere his body was through: the arch was open! In an instant he
was in the crypt.
But now to get up through the opening into the passage
above--stopped with a heavy slab! He sprang at the steep slope of
the window-sill, but there was no hold, and as often as he sprang he
slipped down again. He tried and tried until he was worn out and
almost in despair. She might be dying! he was close to her! he could
not reach her! He stood still for a moment to think. To his mind
came the word, "He that believeth shall not make haste." He thought
with himself, "God cannot help men with wisdom when their minds are
in too great a tumult to hear what he says!" He tried to lift up his
heart and make a silence in his soul.
As he stood he seemed to see, through the dark, the gloomy place as
it first appeared when he threw in the lighted letter. All at once
he started from his quiescence, dropped on his hands and knees, and
crawled until he found the flat stone like a gravestone. Out came
his knife, and he dug away the earth at one end, until he could get
both hands under it. Then he heaved it from the floor, and shifting
it along, got it under the opening in the wall.
A MORAL FUNGUS.
Spiritual insanity, cupidity, cruelty, and possibly immediate
demoniacal temptation had long been working in and on a mind that
had now ceased almost to distinguish between the real and the
unreal. Every man who bends the energies of an immortal spirit to
further the ends and objects of his lower being, fails so to
distinguish; but with the earl the blindness had wrought outward as
well as inwardly, so that he was even unable, during considerable
portions of his life, to tell whether things took place outside or
inside him. Nor did this trouble him--he was past caring. He would
argue that what equally affected him had an equal right to be by him
regarded as existent. He paid no heed to the different natures of
the two kinds of existence, their different laws, and the different
demands they made upon the two consciousnesses; he had in fact, by a
long course of disobedience growing to utter disuse of conscience,
arrived nearly at non-individuality. In regard to what was outside
him he was but a mirror, in regard to what was inside him a mere
vessel of imperfectly interacting forces. And now his capacities and
incapacities together had culminated in a hideous plot, in which it
would be hard to say whether the folly, the crime, or the cunning
predominated: he had made up his mind that, if the daughter of his
brother refused to wed her cousin, and so carry out what he asserted
to have been the declared wish of her father, she should go after
her father, and leave her property to the next heir, so that if not
in one way then in another the law of nature might be fulfilled, and
title and property united without the intervention of a marriage. As
to any evil that therein might be imagined to befall his niece, he
quoted the words of Hamlet--"Since no man has ought of what he
leaves, what is't to leave betimes?"--she would be no worse than she
must have been when the few years of her natural pilgrimage were of
necessity over: the difference to her was not worth thinking of
beside the difference to the family! At the same time perhaps a
scare might serve, and she would consent to marry Forgue to escape a
The moment Donal was gone, he sent Forgue to London, and set himself
to overcome the distrust of him which he could not but see had for
some time been growing in her. With the sweet prejudices of a loving
nature to assist him, he soon prevailed so far that, without much
entreaty, she consented to accompany him to London--for a month or
so, he said, while Davie was gone. The proposal had charms for her:
she had been there with her father when a mere child, and never
since. She wrote to Donal to let him know: how it was that her
letter never reached him, it is hardly needful to inquire.
The earl, in order, he said, to show his recognition of her sweet
compliance, made arrangements for posting it all the way. He would
take her by the road he used to travel himself when he was a young
man: she should judge whether more had not been lost than gained by
rapidity! Whatever shortened any natural process, he said, simply
shortened life itself. Simmons should go before, and find a suitable
place for them!
They were hardly gone when Mrs. Brookes received a letter
pretendedly from the clergyman of the parish, in a remote part of
the south, where her mother, now a very old woman, lived, saying she
was at the point of death, and could not die in peace without seeing
her daughter. She went at once.
The scheme was a madman's, excellently contrived for the instant
object, but with no outlook for immediately resulting perils.
After the first night on the road, he turned across country, and a
little towards home; after the next night, he drove straight back,
but as it was by a different road, Arctura suspected nothing. When
they came within a few hours of the castle, they stopped at a little
inn for tea; there he contrived to give her a certain dose. At the
next place where they stopped, he represented her as his daughter
taken suddenly ill: he must go straight home with her, however late
they might be. Giving an imaginary name to their destination, and
keeping on the last post-boy who knew nothing of the country, he
directed him so as completely to bewilder him, with the result that
he set them down at the castle supposing it a different place, and
in a different part of the country. The thing was after the earl's
own heart; he delighted in making a fool of a fellow-mortal. He sent
him away so as not to enter the town: it was of importance his
return should not be known.
It is a marvel he could effect what followed; but he had the
remnants of great strength, and when under influences he knew too
well how to manage, was for the time almost as powerful as ever: he
got his victim to his room on the stair, and thence through the oak