Part 2 out of 5
[Illustrations: INTERIOR OF THE GREAT SHAITYA OF KARLI.]
Bhima Gandharva looked me full in the face, and, smiling gently, said,
"They would if they could."
The Jains are considered to have been the architects _par excellence_
of India, and there are many monuments, in all styles, of their skill
in this kind. The strange statues of the Tirthankars in the gorge
called the Ourwhai of Gwalior were (until injured by the "march of
improvement") among the most notable of the forms of rock-cutting.
These vary in size from statuettes of a foot in height to colossal
figures of sixty feet, and nothing can be more striking than these
great forms, hewn from the solid rock, represented entirely nude,
with their impassive countenances, which remind every traveler of
the Sphinx, their grotesque ears hanging down to their shoulders, and
their heads, about which plays a ring of serpents for a halo, or out
of which grows the mystical three-branched _Kalpa Vrich_, or Tree of
The sacred hill of Sunaghur, lying a few miles to the south of
Gwalior, is one of the Meccas of the Jains, and is covered with
temples in many styles, which display the fertility of their
architectural invention: there are over eighty of these structures in
"And now," said Bhima Gandharva next day, "while you are thinking upon
temples, and wondering if the Hindus have all been fools, you should
complete your collection of mental materials by adding to the sight
you have had of a Hindu temple proper, and to the description you have
had of Jain temples proper, a sight of those marvelous subterranean
works of the Buddhists proper which remain to us. We might select
our examples of these either at Ellora or at Ajunta (which are on the
mainland a short distance to the north-east of Bombay), the latter
of which contains the most complete series of purely Buddhistic caves
known in the country; or, indeed, we could find Buddhistic caves just
yonder on Salsette. But let us go and see Karli at once: it is the
largest _shaitya_ (or cave-temple) in India."
Accordingly, we took railway at Bombay, sped along the isle, over the
bridge to the island of Salsette, along Salsette to Tannah, then
over the bridge which connects Salsette with the mainland, across the
narrow head of Bombay harbor, and so on to the station at Khandalla,
about halfway between Bombay and Poonah, where we disembarked. The
caves of Karli are situated but a few miles from Khandalla, and in
a short time we were standing in front of a talus at the foot of a
sloping hill whose summit was probably five to six hundred feet high.
A flight of steps cut in the hillside led up to a ledge running out
from an escarpment which was something above sixty feet high before
giving off into the slope of the mountain. From the narrow and
picturesque valley a flight of steps cut in the hillside led up to the
platform. We could not see the facade of the shaitya on account of
the concealing boscage of trees. On ascending the steps, however, and
passing a small square Brahmanic chapel, where we paid a trifling
fee to the priests who reside there for the purpose of protecting the
place, the entire front of the excavation revealed itself, and with
every moment of gazing grew in strangeness and solemn mystery.
The shaitya is hewn in the solid rock of the mountain. Just to the
left of the entrance stands a heavy pillar (_Silasthamba_) completely
detached from the temple, with a capital upon whose top stand four
lions back to back. On this pillar is an inscription in Pali, which
has been deciphered, and which is now considered to fix the date
of the excavation conclusively at not later than the second century
before the Christian era. The eye took in at first only the vague
confusion of windows and pillars cut in the rock. It is supposed
that originally a music-gallery stood here in front, consisting of
a balcony supported out from the two octagonal pillars, and probably
roofed or having a second balcony above. But the woodwork is now gone.
One soon felt one's attention becoming concentrated, however, upon a
great arched window cut in the form of a horseshoe, through which one
could look down what was very much like the nave of a church running
straight back into the depths of the hill. Certainly, at first, as one
passes into the strange vestibule which intervenes still between the
front and the interior of the shaitya, one does not think at all--one
only _feels_ the dim sense of mildness raying out from the great
faces of the elephants, and of mysterious far-awayness conveyed by the
bizarre postures of the sculptured figures on the walls.
Entering the interior, a central nave stretches back between two
lines of pillars, each of whose capitals supports upon its abacus two
kneeling elephants: upon each elephant are seated two figures, most
of which are male and female pairs. The nave extends eighty-one feet
three inches back, the whole length of the temple being one hundred
and two feet three inches. There are fifteen pillars on each side
the nave, which thus enclose between themselves and the wall two
side-aisles, each about half the width of the nave, the latter being
twenty-five feet and seven inches in width, while the whole width from
wall to wall is forty-five feet and seven inches. At the rear, in a
sort of apse, are seven plain octagonal pillars--the other thirty are
sculptured. Just in front of these seven pillars is the _Daghaba_--a
domed structure covered by a wooden parasol. The Daghaba is the
reliquary in which or under which some relic of Gotama Buddha
is enshrined. The roof of the shaitya is vaulted, and ribs of
teak-wood--which could serve no possible architectural purpose--reveal
themselves, strangely enough, running down the sides.
As I took in all these details, pacing round the dark aisles, and
finally resuming my stand near the entrance, from which I perceived
the aisles, dark between the close pillars and the wall, while the
light streamed through the great horseshoe window full upon the
Daghaba at the other end, I exclaimed to Bhima Gandharva, "Why, it is
the very copy of a Gothic church--the aisles, the nave, the vaulted
roof, and all--and yet you tell me it was excavated two thousand years
"The resemblance has struck every traveler," he replied. "And, strange
to say, all the Buddhist cave-temples are designed upon the same
general plan. There is always the organ-loft, as you see there; always
the three doors, the largest one opening on the nave, the smaller ones
each on its side-aisle; always the window throwing its light directly
on the Daghaba at the other end; always, in short, the general
arrangement of the choir of a Gothic round or polygonal apse
cathedral. It is supposed that the devotees were confined to the front
part of the temple, and that the great window through which the light
comes was hidden from view, both outside by the music-galleries and
screens, and inside through the disposition of the worshipers in
front. The gloom of the interior was thus available to the priests for
the production of effects which may be imagined."
Emerging from the temple, we saw the Buddhist monastery (_Vihara_),
which is a series of halls and cells rising one above the other in
stories connected by flights of steps, all hewn in the face of the
hill at the side of the temple. We sat down on a fragment of rock near
a stream of water with which a spring in the hillside fills a little
pool at the entrance of the Vihara. "Tell me something of Gotama
Buddha," I said. "Recite some of his deliverances, O Bhima
Gandharva!--you who know everything."
"I will recite to you from the _Sutta Nipata_, which is supposed by
many pundits of Ceylon to contain several of the oldest examples of
the Pali language. It professes to give the conversation of Buddha,
who died five hundred and forty-three years before Christ lived on
earth; and these utterances are believed by scholars to have been
brought together at least more than two hundred years before the
Christian era. The _Mahamangala Sutta_, of the _Nipata Sutta_, says,
for example: 'Thus it was heard by me. At a certain time Bhagava
(Gotama Buddha) lived at Savatthi in Jetavana, in the garden of
Anathupindika. Then, the night being far advanced, a certain god,
endowed with a radiant color illuminating Jetavana completely, came to
where Bhagava was, [and] making obeisance to him, stood on one side.
And, standing on one side, the god addressed Bhagava in [these]
"1. Many gods and men, longing after what is good, have
considered many things as blessings. Tell us what is the
"2. Buddha said: Not serving fools, but serving the wise, and
honoring those worthy of being honored: this is the greatest
"3. The living in a fit country, meritorious deeds done in a
former existence, the righteous establishment of one's self:
this is the greatest blessing.
"4. Extensive knowledge and science, well-regulated discipline
and well-spoken speech: this is the greatest blessing.
"5. The helping of father and mother, the cherishing of child
and wife, and the following of a lawful calling: this is the
"6. The giving alms, a religious life, aid rendered to
relatives, blameless acts: this is the greatest blessing.
"7. The abstaining from sins and the avoiding them, the
eschewing of intoxicating drink, diligence in good deeds: this
is the greatest blessing.
"8. Reverence and humility, contentment and gratefulness, the
hearing of the law in the right time: this is the greatest
"9. Patience and mild speech, the association with those
who have subdued their passions, the holding of religious
discourse in the right time: this is the greatest blessing.
"10. Temperance and charity, the discernment of holy truth, the
perception of Nibbana: this is the greatest blessing.
"11. The mind of any one unshaken by the ways of the world,
exemption from sorrow, freedom from passion, and security:
this is the greatest blessing.
"12. Those who having done these things become invincible on
all sides, attain happiness on all sides: this is the greatest
"At another time also Gotama Buddha was discoursing on caste. You know
that the Hindus are divided into the Brahmans, or the priestly
caste, which is the highest; next the Kshatriyas, or the warrior and
statesman caste; next the Vaishyas, or the herdsman and farmer caste;
lastly, the Sudras, or the menial caste. Now, once upon a time the two
youths Vasettha and Bharadvaja had a discussion as to what constitutes
a Brahman. Thus, Vasettha and Bharadvaja went to the place where
Bhagava was, and having approached him were well pleased with him; and
having finished a pleasing and complimentary conversation, they sat
down on one side. Vasettha, who sat down on one side, addressed Buddha
in verse: ...
"3. O Gotama! we have a controversy regarding [the distinctions
of] birth. Thus know, O wise one! the point of difference
between us: Bharadvaja says that a Brahman is such by reason
of his birth.
"4. But I affirm that he is such by reason of his conduct....
"7. Bhagava replied: ...
"53. I call him alone a Brahman who is fearless, eminent,
heroic, a great sage, a conqueror, freed from attachments--one
who has bathed in the waters of wisdom, and is a Buddha.
"54. I call him alone a Brahman who knows his former abode, who
sees both heaven and hell, and has reached the extinction of
"55. What is called 'name' or 'tribe' in the world arises from
usage only. It is adopted here and there by common consent.
"56. It comes from long and uninterrupted usage, and from the
false belief of the ignorant. Hence the ignorant assert that a
Brahman is such from birth.
"57. One is not a Brahman nor a non-Brahman by birth: by his
conduct alone is he a Brahman, and by his conduct alone is he
"58. By his conduct he is a husbandman, an artisan, a merchant,
"59. By his conduct he is a thief, a warrior, a sacrificer, a
"62. One is a Brahman from penance, charity, observance of the
moral precepts and the subjugation of the passions. Such is
the best kind of Brahmanism."
"That would pass for very good republican doctrine in Jonesville," I
said. "What a pity you have all so backslidden from your orthodoxies
here in India, Bhima Gandharva! In my native land there is a region
where many orange trees grow. Sometimes, when a tree is too heavily
fertilized, it suddenly shoots out in great luxuriance, and looks as
if it were going to make oranges enough for the whole world, so to
speak. But somehow, no fruit comes: it proves to be all wood and no
oranges, and presently the whole tree changes and gets sick and good
for nothing. It is a disease which the natives call 'the dieback.'
Now, it seems to me that when you old Aryans came from--from--well,
from wherever you _did_ come from--you branched out at first into a
superb magnificence of religions and sentiments and imaginations and
other boscage. But it looks now as if you were really bad off with the
It was, however, impossible to perceive that Bhima Gandharva's smile
was like anything other than the same plain full of ripe corn.
LADY ARTHUR EILDON'S DYING LETTER.
Lady Arthur Eildon was a widow: she was a remarkable woman, and her
husband, Lord Arthur Eildon, had been a remarkable man. He was a
brother of the duke of Eildon, and was very remarkable in his day for
his love of horses and dogs. But this passion did not lead him into
any evil ways: he was a thoroughly upright, genial man, with a frank
word for every one, and was of course a general favorite. "He'll just
come in and crack away as if he was ane o' oorsels," was a remark
often made concerning him by the people on his estates; for he had
estates which had been left to him by an uncle, and which, with
the portion that fell to him as a younger son, yielded him an ample
revenue, so that he had no need to do anything.
What talents he might have developed in the army or navy, or even
in the Church, no one knows, for he never did anything in this world
except enjoy himself; which was entirely natural to him, and not the
hard work it is to many people who try it. He was in Parliament for
a number of years, but contented himself with giving his vote. He
did not distinguish himself. He was not an able or intellectual man:
people said he would never set the Thames on fire, which was true;
but if an open heart and hand and a frank tongue are desirable things,
these he had. As he took in food, and it nourished him without further
intervention on his part, so he took in enjoyment and gave it out to
the people round him with equal unconsciousness. Let it not be said
that such a man as this is of no value in a world like ours: he is at
once an anodyne and a stimulant of the healthiest and most innocent
As was meet, he first saw the lady who was to be his wife in the
hunting-field. She was Miss Garscube of Garscube, an only child and
an heiress. She was a fast young lady when as yet fastness was a rare
development:--a harbinger of the fast period, the one swallow that
presages summer, but does not make it--and as such much in the mouths
of the public.
Miss Garscube was said to be clever--she was certainly eccentric--and
she was no beauty, but community of tastes in the matter of horses and
dogs drew her and Lord Arthur together.
On one of the choicest of October days, when she was following the
hounds, and her horse had taken the fences like a creature with wings,
he came to one which he also flew over, but fell on the other side,
throwing off his rider--on soft grass, luckily. But almost before an
exclamation of alarm could leave the mouths of the hunters behind,
Miss Garscube was on her feet and in the saddle, and her horse away
again, as if both had been ignorant of the little mishap that had
occurred. Lord Arthur was immediately behind, and witnessed this bit
of presence of mind and pluck with unfeigned admiration: it won his
heart completely; and on her part she enjoyed the genuineness of his
homage as she had never enjoyed anything before, and from that day
things went on and prospered between them.
People who knew both parties regretted this, and shook their heads
over it, prophesying that no good could come of it. Miss Garscube's
will had never been crossed in her life, and she was a "clever" woman:
Lord Arthur would not submit to her domineering ways, and she would
wince under and be ashamed of his want of intellect. All this was
foretold and thoroughly believed by people having the most perfect
confidence in their own judgment, so that Lord Arthur and his wife
ought to have been, in the very nature of things, a most wretched
pair. But, as it turned out, no happier couple existed in Great
Britain. Their qualities must have been complementary, for they
dovetailed into each other as few people do; and the wise persons
who had predicted the contrary were entirely thrown out in their
calculations--a fact which they speedily forgot; nor did it diminish
their faith in their own wisdom, as, indeed, how could one slight
mistake stand against an array of instances in which their predictions
had been verified to the letter?
Lord Arthur might not have the intellect which fixes the attention of
a nation, but he had plenty for his own fireside--at least, his wife
never discovered any want of it--and as for her strong will, they
had only one strong will between them, so that there could be no
collision. Being thus thoroughly attached and thoroughly happy, what
could occur to break up this happiness? A terrible thing came to
pass. Having had perfect health up to middle life, an acutely painful
disease seized Lord Arthur, and after tormenting him for more than a
year it changed his face and sent him away.
There is nothing more striking than the calmness and dignity with
which people will meet death--even people from whom this could not
have been expected. No one who did not know it would have guessed how
Lord Arthur was suffering, and he never spoke of it, least of all to
his wife; while she, acutely aware of it and vibrating with sympathy,
never spoke of it to him; and they were happy as those are who know
that they are drinking the last drops of earthly happiness. He died
with his wife's hand in his grasp: she gave the face--dead, but with
the appearance of life not vanished from it--one long, passionate
kiss, and left him, nor ever looked on it again.
Lady Arthur secluded herself for some weeks in her own room, seeing no
one but the servants who attended her; and when she came forth it was
found that her eccentricity had taken a curious turn: she steadily
ignored the death of her husband, acting always as if he had gone on a
journey and might at any moment return, but never naming him unless it
was absolutely necessary. She found comfort in this simulated delusion
no doubt, just as a child enjoys a fairy-tale, knowing perfectly well
all the time that it is not true. People in her own sphere said
her mind was touched: the common people about her affirmed without
hesitation that she was "daft." She rode no more, but she kept all
the horses and dogs as usual. She cultivated a taste she had for
antiquities; she wrote poetry--- ballad poetry--which people who were
considered judges thought well of; and flinging these and other things
into the awful chasm that had been made in her life, she tried her
best to fill it up. She set herself to consider the poor man's case,
and made experiments and gave advice which confirmed her poorer
brethren in their opinion that she was daft; but as her hand was
always very wide open, and they pitied her sorrow, she was much loved,
although they laughed at her zeal in preserving old ruins and her
wrath if an old stone was moved, and told, and firmly believed, that
she wrote and posted letters to Lord Arthur. What was perhaps more to
the purpose of filling the chasm than any of these things, Lady Arthur
adopted a daughter, an orphan child of a cousin of her own, who came
to her two years after her husband's death, a little girl of nine.
Alice Garscube's education was not of the stereotyped kind. When
she came to Garscube Hall, Lady Arthur wrote to the head-master of
a normal school asking if he knew of a healthy, sagacious,
good-tempered, clever girl who had a thorough knowledge of the
elementary branches of education and a natural taste for teaching. Mr.
Boyton, the head-master, replied that he knew of such a person whom he
could entirely recommend, having all the qualities mentioned; but
when he found that it was not a teacher for a village school that her
ladyship wanted, but for her own relation, he wrote to say that he
doubted the party he had in view would hardly be suitable: her father,
who had been dead for some years, was a workingman, and her mother,
who had died quite recently, supported herself by keeping a little
shop, and she herself was in appearance and manner scarcely enough
of the lady for such a situation. Now, Lady Arthur, though a firm
believer in birth and race, and by habit and prejudice an aristocrat
and a Tory, was, we know, eccentric by nature, and Nature will always
assert itself. She wrote to Mr. Boyton that if the girl he recommended
was all he said, she was a lady inside, and they would leave the
outside to shift for itself. Her ladyship had considered the matter.
She could get decayed gentlewomen and clergymen and officers'
daughters by the dozen, but she did not want a girl with a sickly
knowledge of everything, and very sickly ideas of her own merits and
place and work in the world: she wanted a girl of natural sagacity,
who from her cradle had known that she came into the world to do
something, and had learned how to do it.
Miss Adamson, the normal-school young lady recommended, wrote thus to
"MADAM: I am very much tempted to take the situation you offer
me. If I were teacher of a village school, as I had intended,
when my work in the school was over I should have had my time
to myself; and I wish to stipulate that when the hours of
teaching Miss Garscube are over I may have the same privilege.
If you engage me, I think, so far as I know myself, you will
not be disappointed.
"I am," etc. etc.
To which Lady Arthur:
"So far as I can judge, you are the very thing I want. Come,
and we shall not disagree about terms," etc. etc.
Thus it came about that Miss Garscube was unusually lucky in the
matter of her education and Miss Adamson in her engagement. Although
eccentric to the pitch of getting credit for being daft, Lady Arthur
had a strong vein of masculine sense, which in all essential things
kept her in the right path. Miss Adamson and she suited each other
thoroughly, and the education of the two ladies and the child may be
said to have gone on simultaneously. Miss Adamson had an absorbing
pursuit: she was an embryo artist, and she roused a kindred taste in
her pupil; so that, instead of carrying on her work in solitude, as
she had expected to do, she had the intense pleasure of sympathy
and companionship. Lady Arthur often paid them long visits in their
studio; she herself sketched a little, but she had never excelled in
any single pursuit except horsemanship, and that she had given up at
her husband's death, as she had given up keeping much company or going
often into society.
In this quiet, unexciting, regular life Lady Arthur's antiquarian
tastes grew on her, and she went on writing poetry, the quantity of
which was more remarkable than the quality, although here and there in
the mass of ore there was an occasional sparkle from fine gold (there
are few voluminous writers in which this accident does not occur). She
superintended excavations, and made prizes of old dust and stones
and coins and jewelry (or what was called ancient jewelry: it looked
ancient enough, but more like rusty iron to the untrained eye than
jewelry) and cooking utensils supposed to have been used by some noble
savages or other. Of these and such like she had a museum, and she
visited old monuments and cairns and Roman camps and Druidical remains
and old castles, and all old things, with increasing interest. There
were a number of places near or remote to which she was in the habit
of making periodical pilgrimages--places probably dear to her from
whim or association or natural beauty or antiquity. When she fixed a
time for such an excursion, no weather changed her purpose: it might
pour rain or deep snow might be on the ground: she only put four
horses to her carriage instead of two, and went on her way. She was
generally accompanied in these expeditions by her two young friends,
who got into the spirit of the thing and enjoyed them amazingly. They
were in the habit of driving to some farm-house, where they left the
carriage and on foot ascended the hill they had come to call on, most
probably a hill with the marks of a Roman camp on it--there are many
such in the south of Scotland--hills called "the rings" by the people,
from the way in which the entrenchments circle round them like rings.
Dear to Lady Arthur's heart was such a place as this. Even when the
ground was covered with snow or ice she would ascend with the help of
a stick or umbrella, a faint adumbration of the Alpine Club when as
yet the Alpine Club lurked in the future and had given no hint of its
existence. On the top of such a hill she would eat luncheon, thinking
of the dust of legions beneath her foot, and drink wine to the memory
of the immortals. The coachman and the footman who toiled up the hill
bearing the luncheon-basket, and slipping back two steps for every one
they took forward, had by no means the same respect for the immortal
heroes. The coachman was an old servant, and had a great regard for
Lady Arthur both as his mistress and as a lady of rank, besides being
accustomed to and familiar with her whims, and knowing, as he said,
"the best and the warst o' her;" but the footman was a new acquisition
and young, and he had not the wisdom to see at all times the duty of
giving honor to whom honor is due, nor yet had he the spirit of the
born flunkey; and his intercourse with the nobility, unfortunately,
had not impressed him with any other idea than that they were mortals
like himself; so he remarked to his fellow-servant, "Od! ye wad think,
if she likes to eat her lunch amang snawy slush, she might get enough
of it at the fut o' the hill, without gaun to the tap."
"Weel, I'll no deny," said the older man, "but what it's daftlike, but
if it is her leddyship's pleasure, it's nae business o' oors."
"Pleasure!" said the youth: "if she ca's this pleasure, her friends
should see about shutting her up: it's time."
"She says the Romans once lived here," said John.
"If they did," Thomas said, "I daur say _they_ had mair sinse than sit
down to eat their dinner in the middle o' snaw if they had a house to
tak it in."
"Her leddyship does na' tak the cauld easy," said John.
"She has the constitution o' a horse," Thomas remarked.
"Man," said John, "that shows a' that ye ken about horses: there's no
a mair delicate beast on the face o' the earth than the horse. They
tell me a' the horses in London hae the influenza the now."
"Weel, it'll be our turn next," said Thomas, "if we dinna tak
When luncheon was over her ladyship as often as not ordered her
servants to take the carriage round by the turnpike-road to a given
point, where she arranged to meet it, while she herself struck right
over the hills as the crow flies, crossing the burns on her way in the
same manner as the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, only the water did
not stand up on each side and leave dry ground for her to tread on;
but she ignored the water altogether, and walked straight through.
The young ladies, knowing this, took an extra supply of stockings and
shoes with them, but Lady Arthur despised such effeminate ways and
drove home in the footgear she set out in. She was a woman of robust
health, and having grown stout and elderly and red-faced, when out
on the tramp and divested of externals she might very well have been
taken for the eccentric landlady of a roadside inn or the mistress
of a luncheon-bar; and probably her young footman did not think she
answered to her own name at all.
There is a divinity that doth hedge a king, but it is the king's
wisdom to keep the hedge close and well trimmed and allow no gaps: if
there are gaps, people see through them and the illusion is destroyed.
Lady Arthur was not a heroine to her footman; and when she traversed
the snow-slush and walked right through the burns, he merely endorsed
the received opinion that she wanted "twopence of the shilling." If
she had been a poor woman and compelled to take such a journey in such
weather, people would have felt sorry for her, and have been ready to
subscribe to help her to a more comfortable mode of traveling; but
in Lady Arthur's case of course there was nothing to be done but to
wonder at her eccentricity.
But her ladyship knew what she was about. The sleep as well as the
food of the laboring man is sweet, and if nobility likes to labor, it
will partake of the poor man's blessing. The party arrived back among
the luxurious appointments of Garscube Hall (which were apt to pall on
them at times) legitimately and bodily _tired_, and that in itself
was a sensation worth working for. They had braved difficulty and
discomfort, and not for a nonsensical and fruitless end, either: it
can never be fruitless or nonsensical to get face to face with Nature
in any of her moods. The ice-locked streams, the driven snow, the
sleep of vegetation, a burst of sunshine over the snow, the sough of
the winter wind, Earth waiting to feel the breath of spring on her
face to waken up in youth and beauty again, like the sleeping princess
at the touch of the young prince,--all these are things richly to
be enjoyed, especially by strong, healthy people: let chilly and
shivering mortals sing about cozy fires and drawn curtains if they
like. Besides, Miss Adamson had the eye of an artist, upon which
nothing, be it what it may, is thrown away.
But an expedition to a hill with "rings" undertaken on a long
midsummer day looked fully more enjoyable to the common mind: John,
and even the footman approved of that, and another individual, who
had become a frequent visitor at the hall, approved of it very highly
indeed, and joined such a party as often as he could.
This was George Eildon, the only son of a brother of the late Lord
Now comes the tug--well, not of war, certainly, but, to change the
figure--now comes the cloud no bigger than a man's hand which is to
obscure the quiet sunshine of the regular and exemplary life of these
Having been eight years at Garscube Hall, as a matter of necessity
and in the ordinary course of Nature, Alice Garscube had grown up to
womanhood. With accustomed eccentricity, Lady Arthur entirely
ignored this. As for bringing her "out," as the phrase is, she had
no intention of it, considering that one of the follies of life: Lady
Arthur was always a law to herself. Alice was a shy, amiable girl, who
loved her guardian fervently (her ladyship had the knack of gaining
love, and also of gaining the opposite in pretty decisive measure),
and was entirely swayed by her; indeed, it never occurred to her
to have a will of her own, for her nature was peculiarly sweet and
Lady Arthur thought George Eildon a good-natured, rattling lad, with
very little head. This was precisely the general estimate that had
been formed of her late husband, and people who had known both thought
George the very fac-simile of his uncle Arthur. If her ladyship had
been aware of this, it would have made her very indignant: she had
thought her husband perfect while living, and thought of him as very
much more than perfect now that he lived only in her memory. But she
made George very welcome as often as he came: she liked to have him in
the house, and she simply never thought of Alice and him in connection
with each other. She always had a feeling of pity for George.
"You know," she would say to Miss Adamson and Alice--"you know, George
was of consequence for the first ten years of his life: it was thought
that his uncle the duke might never marry, and he was the heir;
but when the duke married late in life and had two sons, George was
extinguished, poor fellow! and it was hard, I allow."
"It is not pleasant to be a poor gentleman," said Miss Adamson.
"It is not only not pleasant," said Lady Arthur, "but it is a
false position, which is very trying, and what few men can fill to
advantage. If George had great abilities, it might be different, with
his connection, but I doubt he is doomed to be always as poor as a
"He may get on in his profession perhaps," said Alice, sharing in
Lady Arthur's pity for him. (George Eildon had been an attache to some
"Never," said Lady Arthur decisively. "Besides, it is a profession
that is out of date now. Men don't go wilily to work in these days;
but if they did, the notion of poor George, who could not keep a
secret or tell a lie with easy grace if it were to save his life--the
notion of making him a diplomatist is very absurd. No doubt statesmen
are better without original ideas--their business is to pick out the
practical ideas of other men and work them well--but George wants
ability, poor fellow! They ought to have put him into the Church: he
reads well, he could have read other men's sermons very effectively,
and the duke has some good livings in his gift."
Now, Miss Adamson had been brought up a Presbyterian of the
Presbyterians, and among people to whom "the paper" was abhorrent:
to read a sermon was a sin--to read another man's sermon was a sin
of double-dyed blackness. However, either her opinions were being
corrupted or enlightened, either she was growing lax in principle or
she was learning the lesson of toleration, for she allowed the remarks
of Lady Arthur to pass unnoticed, so that that lady did not need to
advance the well-known opinion and practice of Sir Roger de Coverley
to prop her own.
Miss Adamson merely said, "Do you not underrate Mr. Eildon's
"I think not. If he had abilities, he would have been showing them by
this time. But of course I don't blame him: few of the Eildons have
been men of mark--none in recent times except Lord Arthur--but they
have all been respectable men, whose lives would stand inspection; and
George is the equal of any of them in that respect. As a clergyman he
would have set a good example."
Hearing a person always pitied and spoken slightingly of does not
predispose any one to fall in love with that person. Miss Garscube's
feelings of this nature still lay very closely folded up in the bud,
and the early spring did not come at this time to develop them in the
shape of George Eildon; but Mr. Eildon was sufficiently foolish and
indiscreet to fall in love with her. Miss Adamson was the only one of
the three ladies cognizant of this state of affairs, but as her creed
was that no one had any right to make or meddle in a thing of this
kind, she saw as if she saw not, though very much interested. She saw
that Miss Garscube was as innocent of the knowledge that she had made
a conquest as it was possible to be, and she felt surprised that Lady
Arthur's sight was not sharper. But Lady Arthur was--or at least had
been--a woman of the world, and the idea of a penniless man allowing
himself to fall in love seriously with a penniless girl in actual
life could not find admission into her mind: if she had been writing
a ballad it would have been different; indeed, if you had only known
Lady Arthur through her poetry, you might have believed her to be a
very, romantic, sentimental, unworldly person, for she really was all
Mr. Eildon was very frequently in the studio where Miss Adamson and
her pupil worked, and he was always ready to accompany them in their
excursions, and, Lady Arthur said, "really made himself very useful."
It has been said that John and Thomas both approved of her ladyship's
summer expeditions in search of the picturesque, or whatever else she
might take it into her head to look for; and when she issued orders
for a day among the hills in a certain month of August, which had been
a specially fine month in point of weather, every one was pleased.
But John and Thomas found it nearly as hard work climbing with the
luncheon-basket in the heat of the midsummer sun as it was when they
climbed to the same elevation in midwinter; only they did not slip
back so fast, nor did they feel that they were art and part in a
"Here," said Lady Arthur, raising her glass to her lips--"here is to
the memory of the Romans, on whose dust we are resting."
"Amen!" said Mr. Eildon; "but I am afraid you don't find their dust a
very soft resting-place: they were always a hard people, the Romans."
"They were a people I admire," said Lady Arthur. "If they had not been
called away by bad news from home, if they had been able to stay, our
civilization might have been a much older thing than it is.--What do
_you_ think, John?" she said, addressing her faithful servitor. "Less
than a thousand years ago all that stretch of country that we see so
richly cultivated and studded with cozy farm-houses was brushwood
and swamp, with a handful of savage inhabitants living in wigwams and
dressing in skins."
"It may be so," said John--"no doubt yer leddyship kens best--but I
have this to say: if they were savages they had the makin' o' men in
them. Naebody'll gar me believe that the stock yer leddyship and me
cam o' was na a capital gude stock."
"All right, John," said Mr. Eildon, "if you include me."
"It was a long time to take, surely," said Alice--"a thousand years to
bring the country from brushwood and swamp to corn and burns confined
to their beds,"
"Nature is never in a hurry, Alice," replied Lady Arthur.
"But she is always busy in a wonderfully quiet way," said Miss
Adamson. "Whenever man begins to work he makes a noise, but no one
hears the corn grow or the leaves burst their sheaths: even the clouds
move with noiseless grace."
"The clouds are what no one can understand yet, I suppose," said Mr.
Eildon, "but they don't always look as if butter wouldn't melt in
their mouths, as they are doing to-day. What do you say to thunder?"
"That is an exception: Nature does all her best work quietly."
"So does man," remarked George Eildon.
"Well, I dare say you are right, after all," said Miss Adamson, who
was sketching. "I wish I could paint in the glitter on the blade of
that reaping-machine down in the haugh there: see, it gleams every
time the sun's rays hit it. It is curious how Nature makes the most
of everything to heighten her picture, and yet never makes her bright
points too plentiful."
Just at that moment the sun's rays seized a small pane of glass in the
roof of a house two or three miles off down the valley, and it shot
out light and sparkles that dazzled the eye to look at.
"That is a fine effect," cried Alice: "it looks like the eye of an
archangel kindling up,"
"What a flight of fancy, Alice!" Lady Arthur said. "That
reaping-machine does its work very well, but it will be a long time
before it gathers a crust of poetry about it: stopping to clear
a stone out of its way is different from a lad and a lass on the
harvest-rig, the one stopping to take a thorn out of the finger of the
"There are so many wonderful things," said Alice, "that one gets
always lost among them. How the clouds float is wonderful, and that
with the same earth below and the same heaven above, the heather
should be purple, and the corn yellow, and the ferns green, is
wonderful; but not so wonderful, I think, as that a man by the touch
of genius should have made every one interested in a field-laborer
taking a thorn out of the hand of another field-laborer. Catch your
poet, and he'll soon make the machine interesting."
"Get a thorn into your finger, Alice," said George Eildon, "and I'll
take it out if it is so interesting."
"You could not make it interesting," said she.
"Just try," he said.
"But trying won't do. You know as well as I that there are things no
trying will ever do. I am trying to paint, for instance, and in time I
shall copy pretty well, but I shall never do more."
"Hush, hush!" said Miss Adamson. "I'm often enough in despair myself,
and hearing you say that makes me worse. I rebel at having got just so
much brain and no more; but I suppose," she said with a sigh, "if
we make the best of what we have, it's all right, and if we had
well-balanced minds we should be contented."
"Would you like to stay here longer among the hills and the sheep?"
said Lady Arthur. "I have just remembered that I want silks for my
embroidery, and I have time to go to town: I can catch the afternoon
train. Do any of you care to go?"
"It is good to be here," said Mr. Eildon, "but as we can't stay
always, we may as well go now. I suppose."
And John, accustomed to sudden orders, hurried off to get his horses
put to the carriage.
Lady Arthur, upon the whole, approved of railways, but did not use
them much except upon occasion; and it was only by taking the train
she could reach town and be home for dinner on this day.
They reached the station in time, and no more. Mr. Eildon ran and got
tickets, and John was ordered to be at the station nearest Garscube
Hall to meet them when they returned.
Embroidery, being an art which high-born dames have practiced from the
earliest ages, was an employment that had always found favor in the
sight of Lady Arthur, and to which she turned when she wanted change
of occupation. She took a very short time to select her materials, and
they were back and seated in the railway carriage fully ten minutes
before the train started. They beguiled the time by looking about the
station: it was rather a different scene from that where they had been
in the fore part of the day.
"There's surely a mistake," said Mr. Eildon, pointing to a large
picture hanging on the wall of three sewing-machines worked by three
ladies, the one in the middle being Queen Elizabeth in her ruff, the
one on the right Queen Victoria in her widow's cap: the princess
of Wales was very busy at the third. "Is not that what is called an
anachronism, Miss Adamson? Are not sewing-machines a recent invention?
There were none in Elizabeth's time, I think?"
"There are people," said Lady Arthur, "who have neither common sense
nor a sense of the ridiculous."
"But they have a sense of what will pay," answered her nephew. "That
appeals to the heart of the nation--that is, to the masculine heart.
If Queen Bess had been handling a lancet, and Queen Vic pounding in a
mortar with a pestle, assisted by her daughter-in-law, the case would
have been different; but they are at useful womanly work, and the
machines will sell. They have fixed themselves in our memories
already: that's the object the advertiser had when he pressed the
passion of loyalty into his service."
"How will the strong-minded Tudor lady like to see herself revived in
that fashion, if she can see it?" asked Miss Garscube.
"She'll like it well, judging by myself," said George: "that's true
fame. I should be content to sit cross-legged on a board, stitching
pulpit-robes, in a picture, if I were sure it would be hung up three
hundred years after this at all the balloon-stations and have the then
Miss Garscubes making remarks about me."
"They might not make very complimentary remarks, perhaps," said Alice.
"If they thought of me at all I should be satisfied," said he.
"Couldn't you invent an iron bed, then?" said Miss Adamson, looking at
a representation of these articles hanging alongside the three royal
ladies. "Perhaps they'll last three hundred years, and if you could
bind yourself up with the idea of sweet repose--"
"They won't last three hundred years," said Lady Arthur--"cheap and
nasty, new-fangled things!"
"They maybe cheap and nasty," said George, "but new-fangled they are
not: they must be some thousands of years old. I am afraid, my dear
aunt, you don't read your Bible."
"Don't drag the Bible in among your nonsense. What has it to do with
iron beds?" said Lady Arthur.
"If you look into Deuteronomy, third chapter and eleventh verse,"
said he "you'll find that Og, king of Bashar used an iron bed. It is
probably in existence yet, and it must be quite old enough to make it
worth your while to look after it: perhaps Mr. Cook would personally
conduct you, or if not I should be glad to be your escort."
"Thank you," she said: "when I go in search of Og's bed I'll take you
"You could not do better: I have the scent of a sleuth-hound for
As they were speaking a man came and hung up beside the queens and
the iron beds a big white board on which were printed in large black
letters the words, "My Mother and I"--nothing more.
"What _can_ the meaning of that be?" asked Lady Arthur.
"To make you ask the meaning of it," said Mr. Eildon. "I who am
skilled in these matters have no doubt that it is the herald of some
soothing syrup for the human race under the trials of teething." He
was standing at the carriage-door till the train would start, and he
stood aside to let a young lady and a boy in deep mourning enter. The
pair were hardly seated when the girl's eye fell on the great white
board and its announcement. She bent her head and hid her face in her
handkerchief: it was not difficult to guess that she had very recently
parted with her mother for ever, and the words on the board were more
than she could stand unmoved.
Miss Adamson too had been thinking of her mother, the hard-working
woman who had toiled in her little shop to support her sickly husband
and educate her daughter--the kindly patient face, the hands that had
never spared themselves, the footsteps that had plodded so incessantly
to and fro. The all that had been gone so long came back to her, and
she felt almost the pang of first separation, when it seemed as if the
end of her life had been extinguished and the motive-power for work
had gone. But she carried her mother in her heart: with her it was
still "my mother and I."
Lady Arthur did not think of her mother: she had lost her early,
and besides, her thoughts and feelings had been all absorbed by her
Alice Garscube had never known her mother, and as she looked gravely
at the girl who was crying behind her handkerchief, she envied
her--she had known her mother.
As for Mr. Eildon, he had none but bright and happy thoughts connected
with his mother. It was true, she was a widow, but she was a kind and
stately lady, round whom her family moved as round a sun and centre,
giving light and heat and all good cheer; he could afford to joke
about "my mother and I."
What a vast deal of varied emotion these words must have stirred in
the multitudes of travelers coming and going in all directions!
In jumping into the carriage when the last bell rang, Mr. Eildon
missed his footing and fell back, with no greater injury, fortunately,
than grazing the skin, of his hand.
"Is it much hurt?" Lady Arthur asked.
He held it up and said, "'Who ran to help me when I fell?'"
"The guard," said Miss Garscube.
"'Who kissed the place to make it well?'" he continued.
"You might have been killed," said Miss Adamson.
"That would not have been a pretty story to tell," he said. "I shall
need to wait till I get home for the means of cure: 'my mother and I'
will manage it. You're not of a pitiful nature, Miss Garscube."
"I keep my pity for a pitiful occasion," she said.
"If you had grazed your hand, I would have applied the prescribed
"Well, but I'm very glad I have not grazed my hand,"
"So am I," he said.
"Let me see it," she said. He held it out. "Would something not need
to be done for it?" she asked.
"Yes. Is it interesting--as interesting as the thorn?"
"It is nothing," said Lady Arthur: "a little lukewarm water is all
that it needs;" and she thought, "That lad will never do anything
either for himself or to add to the prestige of the family. I hope his
cousins have more ability."
But what these cousins were to turn out no one knew. They had that
rank which gives a man what is equivalent to a start of half a
lifetime over his fellows, and they promised well; but they were only
boys as yet, and Nature puts forth many a choice blossom and bud that
never comes to maturity, or, meeting with blight or canker on the way,
turns out poor fruit. The eldest, a lad in his teens, was traveling
on the Continent with a tutor: the second, a boy who had been always
delicate, was at home on account of his health. George Eildon was
intimate with both, and loved them with a love as true as that he bore
to Alice Garscube: it never occurred to him that they had come into
the world to keep him out of his inheritance. He would have laughed at
such an idea. Many people would have said that he was laughing on
the wrong side of his mouth: the worldly never can understand the
Mr. Eildon gave Miss Garscube credit for being at least as unworldly
as himself: he believed thoroughly in her genuineness, her fresh,
unspotted nature; and, the wish being very strong, he believed that
she had a kindness for him.
When he and his hand got home he found it quite able to write her
a letter, or rather not so much a letter as a burst of enthusiastic
aspiration, asking her to marry him.
She was startled; and never having decided on anything in her life,
she carried this letter direct to Lady Arthur.
"Here's a thing," she said, "that I don't know what to think of."
"What kind of thing, Alice?"
"Who is it from?"
"Indeed! I should not think a letter from him would be a complicated
affair or difficult to understand."
"Neither is it: perhaps you would read it?"
"Certainly, if you wish it." When she had read the document she said,
"Well I never gave George credit for much wisdom, but I did not think
he was foolish enough for a thing like this; and I never suspected it.
Are you in love too?" and Lady Arthur laughed heartily: it seemed to
strike her in a comic light.
"No. I never thought of it or of him either," Alice said, feeling
queer and uncomfortable.
"Then that simplifies matters. I always thought George's only chance
in life was to marry a wealthy woman, and how many good, accomplished
women there are, positively made of money, who would give anything to
marry into our family!"
"Are there?" said Alice.
"To be sure there are. Only the other day I read in a newspaper that
people are all so rich now money is no distinction: rank is, however.
You can't make a lawyer or a shipowner or an ironmaster into a peer of
several hundred years' descent."
"No, you can't," said Alice; "but Mr. Eildon is not a peer, you know."
"No, but he is the grandson of one duke and the nephew of another; and
if he could work for it he might have a peerage of his own, or if he
had great wealth he would probably get one. For my own part, I don't
count much on rank or wealth" (she believed this), "but they are
privileges people have no right to throw away."
"Not even if they don't care for them?" asked Alice,
"No: whatever you have it is your duty to care for and make the best
"Then, what am I to say to Mr. Eildon?"
"Tell him it is absurd; and whatever you say, put it strongly, that
there may be no more of it. Why, he must know that you would be
Acting up to her instructions, Alice wrote thus to Mr. Eildon:
"DEAR MR. EILDON: Your letter surprised me. Lady Arthur says
it is absurd; besides, I don't care for you a bit. I don't
mean that I dislike you, for I don't dislike any one. We
wonder you could be so foolish, and Lady Arthur says there
must be no more of it; and she is right. I hope you will
forget all about this, and believe me to be your true friend,
"P.S. Lady Arthur says you haven't got anything to live on;
but if you had all the wealth in the world, it wouldn't make
This note fell into George Eildon's mind like molten lead dropped on
living flesh. "She is not what I took her to be," he said to
himself, "or she never could have written that, even at Lady Arthur's
suggestion; and Lady Arthur ought to have known better."
And she certainly ought to have known better; yet he might have found
some excuse for Alice if he had allowed himself to think, but he did
not: he only felt, and felt very keenly.
In saying that Mr. Eildon and Miss Garscube were penniless, the remark
is not to be taken literally, for he had an income of fifteen hundred
pounds, and she had five hundred a year of her own; but in the eyes of
people moving in ducal circles matrimony on two thousand pounds seems
as improvident a step as that of the Irishman who marries when he has
accumulated sixpence appears to ordinary beings.
Mr. Eildon spent six weeks at a shooting-box belonging to his uncle
the duke, after which he went to London, where he got a post under
government--a place which was by no means a sinecure, but where there
was plenty of work not over-paid. Before leaving he called for a few
minutes at Garscube Hall to say good-bye, and that was all they saw of
Alice missed him: a very good thing, of which she had been as
unconscious as she was of the atmosphere, had been withdrawn from her
life. George's letter had nailed him to her memory: she thought of him
very often, and that is a dangerous thing for a young lady to do if
she means to keep herself entirely fancy free. She wondered if his
work was very hard work, and if he was shut in an office all day; she
did not think he was made for that; it seemed as unnatural as putting
a bird into a cage. She made some remark of this kind to Lady Arthur,
who laughed and said, "Oh, George won't kill himself with hard work."
From that time forth Alice was shy of speaking of him to his aunt.
But she had kept his letter, and indulged herself with a reading of it
occasionally; and every time she read it she seemed to understand it
better. It was a mystery to her how she had been so intensely stupid
as not to understand it at first. And when she found a copy of her own
answer to it among her papers--one she had thrown aside on account of
a big blot--she wondered if it was possible she had sent such a thing,
and tears of shame and regret stood in her eyes. "How frightfully
blind I was!" she said to herself. But there was no help for it: the
thing was done, and could not be undone. She had grown in wisdom since
then, but most people reach wisdom through ignorance and folly.
In these circumstances she found Miss Adamson a very valuable friend.
Miss Adamson had never shared Lady Arthur's low estimate of Mr.
Eildon: she liked his sweet, unworldly nature, and she had a regard
for him as having aims both lower and higher than a "career." That
he should love Miss Garscube seemed to her natural and good, and
that happiness might be possible even to a duke's grandson on such a
pittance as two thousand pounds a year was an article of her belief:
she pitied people who go through life sacrificing the substance for
the shadow. Yes, Miss Garscube could speak of Mr. Eildon to her friend
and teacher, and be sure of some remark that gave her comfort.
A year sped round again, and they heard of Mr. Eildon being in
Scotland at the shooting, and as he was not very far off, they
expected to see him any time. But it was getting to the end of
September, and he had paid no visit, when one day, as the ladies were
sitting at luncheon, he came in, looking very white and agitated. They
were all startled: Miss Garscube grew white also, and felt herself
trembling. Lady Arthur rose hurriedly and said, "What is it, George?
what's the matter?"
"A strange thing has happened," he said. "I only heard of it a
few minutes ago: a man rode after me with the telegram. My cousin
George--Lord Eildon--has fallen down a crevasse in the Alps and been
killed. Only a week ago I parted with him full of life and spirit,
and I loved him as if he had been my brother;" and he bent his head to
They were all silent for some moments: then in a low voice Lady Arthur
said, "I am sorry for his father."
"I am sorry for them all," George said. "It is terrible;" then after a
little he said, "You'll excuse my leaving you: I am going to Eildon at
once: I may be of some service to them. I don't know how Frank will be
able to bear this."
After he had gone away Alice felt how thoroughly she was nothing to
him now: there had been no sign in his manner that he had ever thought
of her at all, more than of any other ordinary acquaintance. If he had
only looked to her for the least sympathy! But he had not. "If he only
knew how well I understand him now!" she thought.
"It is a dreadful accident," said Lady Arthur, "and I am sorry for the
duke and duchess." She said this in a calm way. It had always been her
opinion that Lord Arthur's relations had never seen the magnitude of
_her_ loss, and this feeling lowered the temperature of her sympathy,
as a wind blowing over ice cools the atmosphere. "I think George's
grief very genuine," she continued: "at the same time he can't but see
that there is only that delicate lad's life, that has been hanging so
long by a hair, between him and the title."
"Lady Arthur!" exclaimed Alice in warm tones.
"I know, my dear, you are thinking me very unfeeling, but I am not: I
am only a good deal older than you. George's position to-day is very
different from what it was a year ago. If he were to write to you
again, I would advise another kind of answer."
"He'll never write again," said Alice in a tone which struck the ear
of Lady Arthur, so that when the young girl left the room she turned
to Miss Adamson and said, "Do you think she really cares about him?"
"She has not made me her confidante," that lady answered, "but my own
opinion is that she does care a good deal for Mr. Eildon."
"Do you really think so?" exclaimed Lady Arthur. "She said she did not
at the time, and I thought then, and think still, that it would not
signify much to George whom he married; and you know he would be so
much the better for money. But if he is to be his uncle's successor,
that alters the case entirely. I'll go to Eildon myself, and bring him
back with me."
Lady Arthur went to Eildon and mingled her tears with those of the
stricken parents, whose grief might have moved a very much harder
heart than hers. But they did not see the state of their only
remaining son as Lady Arthur and others saw it; for, while it was
commonly thought that he would hardly reach maturity, they were
sanguine enough to believe that he was outgrowing the delicacy of his
Lady Arthur asked George to return with her to Garscube Hall, but
he said he could not possibly do so. Then she said she had told Miss
Adamson and Alice that she would bring him with her, and they would be
"Tell them," he said, "that I have very little time to spare, and I
must spend it with Frank, when I am sure they will excuse me."
They excused him, but they were not the less disappointed, all the
three ladies; indeed, they were so much disappointed that they did not
speak of the thing to each other, as people chatter over and thereby
evaporate a trifling defeat of hopes.
Mr. Eildon left his cousin only to visit his mother and sisters for a
day, and then returned to London; from which it appeared that he was
not excessively anxious to visit Garscube Hall.
But everything there went on as usual. The ladies painted, they went
excursions, they wrote ballads; still, there was a sense of something
being amiss--the heart of their lives seemed dull in its beat.
The more Lady Arthur thought of having sent away such a matrimonial
prize from her house, the more she was chagrined; the more Miss
Garscube tried not to think of Mr. Eildon, the more her thoughts would
run upon him; and even Miss Adamson, who had nothing to regret or
reproach herself with, could not help being influenced by the change
Lady Arthur's thoughts issued in the resolution to re-enter society
once more; which resolution she imparted to Miss Adamson in the first
instance by saying that she meant to go to London next season.
"Then our plan of life here will be quite broken up," said Miss A.
"Yes, for a time."
"I thought you disliked society?"
"I don't much like it: it is on account of Alice I am going. I may
just as well tell you: I want to bring her and George together again
"Will she go if she knows that is your end?"
"She need not know."
"It is not a very dignified course," Miss Adamson said.
"No, and if it were an ordinary case I should not think of it."
"But you think him a very ordinary man?"
"A duke is different. Consider what an amount of influence Alice
would have, and how well she would use it; and he may marry a vain,
frivolous, senseless woman, incapable of a good action. Indeed, most
likely, for such people are sure to hunt him."
"I would not join in the hunt," said Miss Adamson. "If he is the man
you suppose him to be, the wound his self-love got will have killed
his love; and if he is the man I think, no hunters will make him their
prey. A small man would know instantly why you went to London, and
enjoy his triumph."
"I don't think George would: he is too simple; but if I did not think
it a positive duty, I would not go. However, we shall see: I don't
think of going before the middle of January."
Positive duties can be like the animals that change color with what
they feed on.
When the middle of January came, Lady Arthur, who had never had an
illness in her life, was measuring her strength in a hand-to-hand
struggle with fever. The water was blamed, the drainage was blamed,
various things were blamed. Whether it came in the water or out of the
drains, gastric fever had arrived at Garscube Hall: the gardener took
it, his daughter took it, also Thomas the footman, and others of the
inhabitants, as well as Lady Arthur. The doctor of the place came and
lived In the house; besides that, two of the chief medical men from
town paid almost daily visits. Bottles of the water supplied to the
hall were sent to eminent chemists for analysis: the drainage was
thoroughly examined, and men were set to make it as perfect and
innocuous as it is in the nature of drainage to be.
Lady Arthur wished Miss Adamson and Alice to leave the place for a
time, but they would not do so: neither of them was afraid, and they
stayed and nursed her ladyship well, relieving each other as it was
At one point of her illness Lady Arthur said to Miss Adamson, who was
alone with her, "Well, I never counted on this. Our family have all
had a trick of living to extreme old age, never dying till they could
not help it; but it will be grand to get away so soon."
Miss Adamson looked at her. "Yes," she said, "it's a poor thing,
life, after the glory of it is gone, and I have always had an intense
curiosity to see what is beyond. I never could see the sense of making
a great ado to keep people alive after they are fifty. Don't look
surprised. How are the rest of the people that are ill?" She often
asked for them, and expressed great satisfaction when told they were
recovering. "It will be all right," she said, "if I am the only death
in the place; but there is one thing I want you to do. Send off a
telegram to George Eildon and tell him I want to see him immediately:
a dying person can say what a living one can't, and I'll make it all
right between Alice and him before I go."
Miss Adamson despatched the telegram to Mr. Eildon, knowing that she
could not refuse to do Lady Arthur's bidding at such a time, although
her feeling was against it. The answer came: Mr. Eildon had just
sailed for Australia.
When Lady Arthur heard this she said, "I'll write to him." When she
had finished writing she said, "You'll send this to him whenever you
get his address. I wish we could have sent it off at once, for it will
be provoking if I don't die, after all; and I positively begin to feel
as if that were not going to be my luck at this time."
Although she spoke in this way, Miss Adamson knew it was not from
foolish irreverence. She recovered, and all who had had the fever
recovered, which was remarkable, for in other places it had been very
With Lady Arthur's returning strength things at the hall wore into
their old channels again. When it was considered safe many visits
of congratulation were paid, and among others who came were George
Eildon's mother and some of his sisters. They were constantly having
letters from George: he had gone off very suddenly, and it was not
certain when he might return.
Alice heard of George Eildon with interest, but not with the vital
interest she had felt in him for a time: that had worn away. She had
done her best to this end by keeping herself always occupied, and many
things had happened in the interval; besides, she had grown a woman,
with all the good sense and right feeling belonging to womanhood, and
she would have been ashamed to cherish a love for one who had entirely
forgotten her. She dismissed her childish letter, which had given her
so much vexation, from her memory, feeling sure that George Eildon had
also forgotten it long ago. She did not know of the letter Lady Arthur
had written when she believed herself to be dying, and it was well she
Every one who watched the sun rise on New Year's morning, 1875, will
bear witness to the beauty of the sight. Snow had been lying all over
the country for some time, and a fortnight of frost had made it hard
and dry and crisp. The streams must have felt very queer when they
were dropping off into the mesmeric trance, and found themselves
stopped in the very act of running, their supple limbs growing stiff
and heavy and their voices dying in their throats, till they were
thrown into a deep sleep, and a strange white, still, glassy beauty
stole over them by the magic power of frost. The sun got up rather
late, no doubt--between eight and nine o'clock--probably saying to
himself, "These people think I have lost my power--that the Ice King
has it all his own way. I'll let them see: I'll make his glory pale
Lady Arthur was standing at her window when she saw him look over the
shoulder of a hill and throw a brilliant deep gold light all over the
land covered with snow as with a garment, and every minute crystal
glittered as if multitudes of little eyes had suddenly opened and were
gleaming and winking under his gaze. To say that the bosom of Mother
Earth was crusted with diamonds is to give the impression of dullness
unless each diamond could be endowed with life and emotion. Then he
threw out shaft after shaft of color--scarlet and crimson and blue and
amber and green--which gleamed along the heavens, kindling the cold
white snow below them into a passion of beauty: the colors floated and
changed form, and mingled and died away. Then the sun drew his thick
winter clouds about him, disappeared, and was no more seen that day.
He had vindicated his majesty.
Lady Arthur thought it was going to be a bright winter day, and at
breakfast she proposed a drive to Cockhoolet Castle, an old place
within driving distance to which she paid periodical visits: they
would take luncheon on the battlements and see all over the country,
which must be looking grand in its bridal attire.
John was called in and asked if he did not think it was going to be
a fine day. He glanced through the windows at the dark,
suspicious-looking clouds and said, "Weel, my leddy, I'll no uphaud
it." This was the answer of a courtier and an oracle, not to mention
a Scotchman. It did not contradict Lady Arthur, it did not commit
himself, and it was cautious.
"I think it will be a fine day of its kind," said the lady, "and we'll
drive to Cockhoolet. Have the carriage ready at ten."
"If we dinna wun a' the gate, we can but turn again," John thought as
he retired to execute his orders.
"It is not looking so well as it did in the morning," said Miss
Adamson as they entered the carriage, "but if we have an adventure we
shall be the better for it."
"We shall have no such luck," said Lady Arthur: "what ever happens out
of the usual way now? There used to be glorious snowstorms long ago,
but the winters have lost their rigor, and there are no such long
summer days now as there were when I was young. Neither persons nor
things have that spirit in them they used to have;" and she smiled,
catching in thought the fact that to the young the world is still as
fresh and fair as it has appeared to all the successive generations it
has carried on its surface.
"This is a wiselike expedition," said Thomas to John.
"Ay," said John, "I'm mista'en if this is no a day that'll be heard
tell o' yet;" and they mounted to their respective places and started.
The sky was very grim and the wind had been gradually rising. The
three ladies sat each in her corner, saying little, and feeling that
this drive was certainly a means to an end, and not an end in itself.
Their pace had not been very quick from the first, but it became
gradually slower, and the hard dry snow was drifting past the windows
in clouds. At last they came to a stand altogether, and John appeared
at the window like a white column and said, "My leddy, we'll hae to
"Because it's impossible to wun ony farrer."
"Nonsense! There's no such word as impossible."
"The beasts might maybe get through, but they wad leave the carriage
"Let me out to look about," said Lady Arthur.
"Ye had better bide where ye are," said John: "there's naething to be
seen, and ye wad but get yersel' a' snaw. We might try to gang back
the road we cam."
"Decidedly not," said Lady Arthur, whose spirits were rising to the
occasion: "we can't be far from Cockhoolet here?"
"Between twa and three mile," said John dryly.
"We'll get out and walk," said her ladyship, looking at the other
"Wi' the wind in yer teeth, and sinking up to yer cuits at every step?
Ye wad either be blawn ower the muir like a feather, or planted amang
the snaw like Lot's wife. I might maybe force my way through, but I
canna leave the horses," said John.
Lady Arthur was fully more concerned for her horses than herself: she
said, "Take out the horses and go to Cockhoolet: leave them to rest
and feed, and tell Mr. Ormiston to send for us. We'll sit here very
comfortably till you come back: it won't take you long. Thomas will go
too, but give us in the luncheon-basket first."
The men, being refreshed from the basket, set off with the horses,
leaving the ladies getting rapidly snowed up in the carriage. As the
wind rose almost to a gale, Lady Arthur remarked "that it was at least
better to be stuck firm among the snow than to be blown away."
It is a grand thing to suffer in a great cause, but if you suffer
merely because you have done a "daftlike" thing, the satisfaction is
not the same.
The snow sifted into the carriage at the minutest crevice like fine
dust, and, melting, became cold, clammy and uncomfortable. To be set
down in a glass case on a moor without shelter in the height of a
snowstorm has only one recommendation: it is an uncommon situation,
a novel experience. The ladies--at least Lady Arthur--must, one would
think, have felt foolish, but it is a chief qualification in a leader
that he never acknowledges that he is in the wrong: if he once does
that, his prestige is gone.
The first hour of isolation wore away pretty well, owing to the
novelty of the the position; the second also, being devoted to
luncheon; the third dragged a good deal; but when it came to the
fourth; with light beginning to fail and no word of rescue, matters
looked serious. The cold was becoming intense--a chill, damp cold that
struck every living thing through and through. What could be keeping
the men? Had they lost their way, or what could possibly have
"This is something like an adventure," said Lady Arthur cheerily.
"It might pass for one," said Miss Adamson, "if we could see our way
out of it. I wonder if we shall have to sit here all night?"
"If we do," said Lady Arthur, "we can have no hope of wild beasts
scenting us out or of being attacked by banditti."
"Nor of any enamored gentleman coming to the rescue," said Miss
Adamson: "it will end tamely enough. I remember reading a story of
travel among savages, in which at the close of the monthly instalment
the travelers were left buried alive except their heads, which were
above ground, but set on fire. That was a very striking situation, yet
it all came right; so there is hope for us, I think."
"Oh, don't make me laugh," said Alice: "I really can't laugh, I am so
stiff with cold."
"It's a fine discipline to our patience to sit here," said Lady
Arthur. "If I had thought we should have to wait so long, I would have
tried what I could do while it was light."
At length they heard a movement among the snow, and voices, and
immediately a light appeared at the window, shining through the
snow-blind, which was swept down by an arm and the carriage-door
"Are you all safe?" were the first words they heard.
"In the name of wonder, George, how are you here? Where are John and
Thomas?" cried Lady Arthur.
"I'll tell you all about it after," said George Eildon: "the thing is
to get you out of this scrape. I have a farm-cart and pair, and two
men to help me: you must just put up with roughing it a little."
"Oh, I am so thankful!" said Alice.
The ladies were assisted out of the carriage into the cart, and
settled among plenty of straw and rugs and shawls, with their backs to
the blast. Mr. Eildon shut the door of the carriage, which was left
to its fate, and then got in and sat at the feet of the ladies. Mr.
Ormiston's servant mounted the trace-horse and Thomas sat on the front
of the cart, and the cavalcade started to toil through the snow.
"Do tell us, George, how you are here. I thought it was only heroes of
romance that turned up when their services were desperately needed."
"There have been a good many heroes of romance to-day," said Mr.
Eildon. "The railways have been blocked in all directions; three
trains with about six hundred passengers have been brought to a stand
at the Drumhead Station near this; many of the people have been half
frozen and sick and fainting. I was in the train going south, and very
anxious to get on, but it was impossible. I got to Cockhoolet with a
number of exhausted travelers just as your man arrived, and we came
off as soon as we could to look for you. You have stood the thing much
better than many of my fellow-travelers."
"Indeed!" said Lady Arthur, "and have all the poor people got housed?"
"Most of them are at the station-house and various farm-houses. Mr.
Forester, Mr. Ormiston's son-in-law, started to bring up the last of
them just as I started for you."
"Well, I must say I have enjoyed it," Lady Arthur said, "but how are
we to get home to-night?"
"You'll not get home to-night: you'll have to stay at Cockhoolet, and
be glad if you can get home to-morrow."
"And where have you come from, and where are you going to?" she asked.
"I came from London--I have only been a week home from Australia--and
I am on my way to Eildon. But here we are."
And the hospitable doors of Cockhoolet were thrown wide, sending out a
glow of light to welcome the belated travelers.
Mrs. Ormiston and her daughter, Mrs. Forester--who with her husband
was on a visit at Cockhoolet--received them and took them to
rooms where fires made what seemed tropical heat compared with the
atmosphere in the glass case on the moor.
Miss Garscube was able for nothing but to go to bed, and Miss Adamson
stayed with her in the room called Queen Mary's, being the room that
unfortunate lady occupied when she visited Cockhoolet.
On this night the castle must have thought old times had come back
again, there was such a large and miscellaneous company beneath its
roof. But where were the knights in armor, the courtiers in velvet and
satin, the boars' heads, the venison pasties, the wassail-bowls? Where
were the stately dames in stiff brocade, the shaven priests, the
fool in motley, the vassals, the yeomen in hodden gray and broad blue
bonnet? Not there, certainly.
No doubt, Lady Arthur Eildon was a direct descendant of one of "the
queen's Maries," but in her rusty black gown, her old black bonnet set
awry on her head, her red face, her stout figure, made stouter by a
sealskin jacket, you could not at a glance see the connection. The
house of Eildon was pretty closely connected with the house of Stuart,
but George Eildon in his tweed suit, waterproof and wideawake looked
neither royal nor romantic. We may be almost sure that there was a
fool or fools in the company, but they did not wear motley. In short,
as yet it is difficult to connect the idea of romance with railway
rugs, waterproofs, India-rubbers and wide-awakes and the steam of tea
and coffee: three hundred years hence perhaps it may be possible.
Who knows? But for all that, romances go on, we may be sure, whether
people are clad in velvet or hodden gray.
Lady Arthur was framing a romance--a romance which had as much of the
purely worldly in it as a romance can hold. She found that George was
on his way to see his cousin, Lord Eildon, who within two days had
had a severe access of illness. It seemed to her a matter of certainty
that George would be duke of Eildon some day. If she had only had
the capacity to have despatched that letter she had written when she
believed she was dying, after him to Australia! Could she send it to
him yet? She hesitated: she could hardly bring herself to compromise
the dignity of Alice, and her own. She had a short talk with him
before they separated for the night.
"I think you should go home by railway to-morrow," he said. "It is
blowing fresh now, and the trains will all be running to-morrow. I am
sorry I have to go by the first in the morning, so I shall probably
not see you then,"
"I don't know," she said: "it is a question if Alice will be able to
travel at all to-morrow."
"She is not ill, is she?" he said. "It is only a little fatigue from
exposure that ails her, isn't it?"
"But it may have bad consequences," said Lady Arthur: "one never can
tell;" and she spoke in an injured way, for George's tones were not
encouraging. "And John, my coachman--I haven't seen him--he ought to
have been at hand at least: if I could depend on any one, I thought it
"Why, he was overcome in the drift to-day: your other man had to leave
him behind and ride forward for help. It was digging him out of the
snow that kept us so long in getting to you. He has been in bed ever
since, but he is getting round quite well."
"I ought to have known that sooner," she said.
"I did not want to alarm you unnecessarily."
"I must go and see him;" and she held out her hand to say good-night.
"But you'll come to Garscube Hall soon: I shall be anxious to hear
what you think of Frank. When will you come?"
"I'll write," he said.
Lady Arthur felt that opportunity was slipping from her, and she grew
desperate. "Speaking of writing," she said, "I wrote to you when I
had the fever last year and thought I was dying: would you like to see
"No," he said: "I prefer you living."
"Have you no curiosity? People can say things dying that they couldn't
say living, perhaps."
"Well, they have no business to do so," he said. "It is taking an
unfair advantage, which a generous nature never does; besides, it is
more solemn to live than die."
"Then you don't want the letter?"
"Oh yes, if you like."
"Very well: I'll think of it. Can you show me the way to John's place
They found John sitting up in bed, and Mrs, Ormiston ministering to
him: the remains of a fowl were on a plate beside him, and he was
lifting a glass of something comfortable to his lips.
"I never knew of this, John," said his mistress, "till just a few
minutes ago. This is sad."
"Weel, it doesna look very sad," said John, eying the plate and the
glass. "Yer leddyship and me hae gang mony a daftlike road, but I
think we fairly catched it the day."
"I don't know how we can be grateful enough to you, Mrs. Ormiston,"
said Lady Arthur, turning to their hostess.
"Well, you know we could hardly be so churlish as to shut our doors on
storm-stayed travelers: we are very glad that we had it in our power
to help them a little."
"It's by ordinar' gude quarters," said John: "I've railly enjoyed that
hen. Is 't no time yer leddyship was in yer bed, after siccan a day's
"We'll take the hint, John," said Lady Arthur; and in a little while
longer most of Mr. Ormiston's unexpected guests had lost sight of the
day's adventure in sleep.
By dawn of the winter's morning all the company, the railway pilgrims,
were astir again--not to visit a shrine, or attend a tournament, or to
go hunting or hawking, or to engage in a foray or rieving expedition,
as guests of former days at the castle may have done, but quietly to
make their way to the station as the different trains came up, the
fresh wind having done more to clear the way than the army of men
that had been set to work with pickaxe and shovel. But although the
railways and the tweeds and the India-rubbers were modern, the castle
and the snow and the hospitality were all very old-fashioned--the snow
as old as that lying round the North Pole, and as unadulterated; the
hospitality old as when Eve entertained Raphael in Eden, and as true,
blessing those that give and those that take.
Mr. Eildon left with the first party that went to the station; Lady
Arthur and the young ladies went away at midday; John was left to
take care of himself and his carriage till both should be more fit for
Of the three ladies, Alice had suffered most from the severe cold, and
it was some time before she entirely recovered from the effects of it.
Lady Arthur convinced herself that it was not merely the effects
of cold she was suffering from, and talked the case over with Miss
Adamson, but that lady stoutly rejected Lady Arthur's idea. "Miss
Garscube has got over that long ago, and so has Mr. Eildon," she said
dryly. "Alice has far more sense than to nurse a feeling for a man
evidently indifferent to her." These two ladies had exchanged opinions
exactly. George Eildon had only called once, and on a day when they
were all from home: he had written several times to his aunt regarding
Lord Eildon's health, and Lady Arthur had written to him and had told
him her anxiety about the health of Alice. He expressed sympathy and
concern, as his mother might have done, but Lady Arthur would not
allow herself to see that the case was desperate.
She had a note from her sister-in-law, Lady George, who said "that she
had just been at Eildon, and in her opinion Frank was going, but his
parents either can't or won't see this, or George either. It is a sad
case--so young a man and with such prospects--but the world abounds in
sad things," etc., etc. But sad as the world is, it is shrewd with a
wisdom of its own, and it hardly believed in the grief of Lady George
for an event which would place her own son in a position of honor and
affluence. But many a time George Eildon recoiled from the people who
did not conceal their opinion that he might not be broken-hearted
at the death of his cousin. There is nothing that true, honorable,
unworldly natures shrink from more than having low, unworthy feelings
and motives attributed to them.
Lady Arthur Eildon made up her mind. "I am supposed," she said to
herself, "to be eccentric: why not get the good of such a character?"
She enclosed her dying letter to her nephew, which was nothing less
than an appeal to him on behalf of Alice, assuring him of her belief
that Alice bitterly regretted the answer she had given his letter, and
that if she had it to do over again it would be very different. When
Lady Arthur did this she felt that she was not doing as she would be
done by, but the stake was too great not to try a last throw for it.
In an accompanying note she said, "I believe that the statements in
this letter still hold true. I blamed myself afterward for having
influenced Alice when she wrote to you, and now I have absolved my
conscience." (Lady Arthur put it thus, but she hardly succeeded
in making herself believe it was a case of conscience: she was too
sharp-witted. It is self-complacent stupidity that is morally small.)
"If this letter is of no interest to you, I am sure I am trusting it
to honorable hands."
She got an answer immediately. "I thank you," Mr. Eildon said, "for
your letters, ancient and modern: they are both in the fire, and so
far as I am concerned shall be as if they had never been."
It was in vain, then, all in vain, that she had humbled herself before
George Eildon. Not only had her scheme failed, but her pride suffered,
as your finger suffers when the point of it is shut by accident in the
hinge of a door. The pain was terrible. She forgot her conscience, how
she had dealt treacherously--for her good, as she believed, but still
treacherously--with Alice Garscube: she forgot everything but her
own pain, and those about her thought that decidedly she was very
eccentric at this time. She snubbed her people, she gave orders and
countermanded them, so that her servants did not know what to do or
leave undone, and they shook their heads among themselves and remarked
that the moon was at the full.
But of course the moon waned, and things calmed down a little. In the
next note she received from her sister-in-law, among other items
of news she was told that her nephew meant to visit her
shortly--"Probably," said his mother, "this week, but I think it will
only be a call. He says Lord Eildon is rather better, which has put us
all in good spirits," etc.
Now, Lady Arthur did not wish to see George Eildon at this time--not
that she could not keep a perfect and dignified composure in any
circumstances, but her pride was still in the hinge of the door--and
she went from home every day. Three days she had business in town: the
other days she drove to call on people living in the next county. As
she did not care for going about alone, she took Miss Adamson always
with her, but Alice only once or twice: she was hardly able for
extra fatigue every day. But Miss Garscube was recovering health and
spirits, and looks also, and when Lady Arthur left her behind she
thought, "Well, if George calls to-day, he'll see that he is not a
necessary of life at least." She felt very grateful that it was so,
and had no objections that George should see it.
He did see it, for he called that day, but he had not the least
feeling of mortification: he was unfeignedly glad to see Alice looking
so well, and he had never, he thought, seen her look better. After
they had spoken in the most quiet and friendly way for a little she
said, "And how is your cousin, Lord Eildon?"
"Nearly well: his constitution seems at last fairly to have taken
a turn in the right direction. The doctors say that not only is he
likely to live as long as any of us, but that the probability is he
will be a robust man yet."
"Oh, I am glad of it--I am heartily glad of it!"
"Why are you so very glad?"
"Because you are: it has made you very happy--you look so."
"I am excessively happy because you believe I am happy. Many people
don't: many people think I am disappointed. My own mother thinks so,
and yet she is a good woman. People will believe that you wish the
death of your dearest friend if he stands between you and material
good. It is horrible, and I have been courted and worshiped as the
rising sun;" and he laughed. "One can afford to laugh at it now, but
it was very sickening at the time. I can afford anything, Alice: I
believe I can even afford to marry, if you'll marry a hard-working man
instead of a duke."
"Oh, George," she said, "I have been so ashamed of that letter I
"It was a wicked little letter," he said, "but I suppose it was the
truth at the time: say it is not true now."
"It is not true now," she repeated, "but I have not loved you very
dearly all the time; and if you had married I should have been very
happy if you had been happy. But oh," she said, and her eyes filled
with tears, "this is far better."
"You love me now?"
"I have loved you all the time, all the time. I should not have been
happy if I had heard of your marriage."
"Then how were you so cold and distant the day we stuck on the moor?"
"Because it was excessively cold weather: I was not going to warm
myself up to be frozen again. I have never been in delicate health,
but I can't stand heats and chills."
"I do believe you are not a bit wiser than I am. I hear the carriage:
that's Lady Arthur come back. How surprised she will be!"
"I am not so sure of that," George said. "I'll go and meet her."
When he appeared Lady Arthur shook hands tranquilly and said, "How do
"Very well," he said. "I have been testing the value of certain
documents you sent me, and find they are worth their weight in gold."
She looked in his face.
"Alice is mine," he said, "and we are going to Bashan for our
wedding-tour. If you'll seize the opportunity of our escort, you may
hunt up Og's bed."
"Thank you," she said: "I fear I should be _de trop_."
"Not a bit; but even if you were a great nuisance, we are in the humor
to put up with anything."
"I'll think of it. I have never traveled in the character of a
nuisance yet--at least, so far as I know--and it would be a new
sensation: that is a great inducement."
Lady Arthur rushed to Miss Adamson's room with the news, and the
two ladies had first a cry and then a laugh over it. "Alice will be
duchess yet," said Lady Arthur: "that boy's life has hung so long by a
thread that he must be prepared to go, and he would be far better away
from the cares and trials of this world, I am sure;" which might be
the truth, but it was hard to grudge the boy his life.
Lady Arthur was in brilliant spirits at dinner that evening. "I
suppose you are going to live on love," she said.
"I am going to work for my living," said George.
"Very right," she said; "but, although I got better last year, I can't
live for ever, and when I'm gone Alice will have the Garscube estates:
I have always intended it."
"Madam," said George, "do you not know that the great lexicographer
has said in one of his admirable works, 'Let no man suffer his
felicity to depend upon the death of his aunt'?"
It is said that whenever a Liberal ministry comes in Mr. Eildon will
be offered the governorship of one of the colonies. Lady Arthur may
yet live to be astonished by his "career," and at least she is not
likely to regret her dying letter.
THE AUTHOR OF "BLINDPITS."
THE HOUSE ON THE BEACH.
"What is that black mass yonder, far up the beach, just at the edge of
The fisherman to whom we put the question drew in his squid-line, hand
over hand, without turning his head, having given the same answer for
half a dozen years to summer tourists: "Wreck. Steamer. Creole."
"Were there many lives lost?"
"It's likely. This is the worst bit of coast in the country, The
Creole was a three-decker," looking at it reflectively, "Lot of good
As we turned our field-glasses to the black lump hunched out of the
water, like a great sea-monster creeping up on the sand, we saw still
farther up the coast a small house perched on a headland, with a flag
flying in the gray mist, and pointed it out to the Jerseyman, who
nodded: "That there wooden shed is the United States signal station;"
adding, after a pause, "Life-saving service down stairs."
"Old Probabilities! The house he lives in!"
Visions of the mysterious old prophet who utters his oracles through
the morning paper, of wrecks and storms, and of heroic men carrying
lines through the night to sinking ships, filled our brains.
Townspeople out for their summer holiday have keen appetites for the
romantic and extraordinary, and manufacture them (as sugar from beets)
out of the scantiest materials. We turned our backs on the fisherman
and his squid-line. The signal station and the hull of the lost vessel
were only a shed and timber to him. How can any man be alive to the
significance of a wreck and fluttering flag which he sees twenty times
a day? Noah, no doubt, after a year in the ark, came to look upon it
as so much gopher-wood, and appreciated it as a good job of joinery
rather than a divine symbol.
We believe, however, that our readers will find in the wrecked Creole
and the wooden shed, and the practical facts concerning them, matter
suggestive enough to hold them a little space. They fill a yet
unwritten page in the history of our government, and of great and
admirable work done by it, of which the nation at large has been
given but partial knowledge. Or, if we choose to look more deeply into
things, we may find in the old hulk and commonplace building hints as
significant of the Infinite Order and Power underlying all ordinary
things, and of our relations to it, as in the long-ago Deluge and the
ark riding over it.
The little wooden house stands upon a lonely stretch of coast in Ocean
county, New Jersey. Several miles of low barren marshes and sands gray
with poverty-grass on the north separate it from Manasquan Inlet and
the pine woods and scattered farm-houses which lie along its shore,
while half a mile below, on the south, is the head of Barnegat Bay,
a deep, narrow estuary which runs into and along the Jersey coast for
more than half its extent, leaving outside a strip of sandy beach,
never more than a mile wide. All kinds of sea fish and fowl take
refuge in this bay and the interminable reedy marshes, and for a few
weeks in the snipe-and duck-season sportsmen from New York find their
way to "Shattuck's" and the houses of other old water-dogs along the
bay. But during the rest of the year the wooden shed and its occupants
are left to the companionship of the sea and the winds.
The little building (with a gigantic "No. 10" whitewashed outside)
stands close to the breakers, just above high-water mark in winter. It
is divided into two large rooms, upper and lower, with a tiny kitchen
in the rear and an equally comfortless bedroom overhead. The doors of
the lower room (which, like those of a barn, fill the whole end of the
house) being closed, we sought for Old Probabilities up stairs, and
found very little at first sight to gratify curiosity or any craving
for mystery. There was a large wooden room, with walls and floor of
unpainted boards, the ceiling hung with brilliantly colored flags, a
telegraphic apparatus, one or two desks, books, writing materials--a
scientific working-room, in short, with its implements in that order
which implied that only men had used them.
There were in 1874 one hundred and eight such signal stations as
this, modest, inexpensive little offices, established over the United
States, from the low sea-coast plains to the topmost peak of the Rocky
If we were accurate chroniclers, we should have to go back to
Aristotle and the Chaldeans to show the origin and purpose of these
little offices, just as Carlyle has to unearth Ulfila the Moesogoth to
explain a word he uses to his butter-man. The world is so new, after
all, and things so inextricably tangled up in it! In this case, as
it is the sun and wind and rain which are the connecting links, it is
easy enough to bring past ages close to us. The Chaldeans, building
their great embankments or raiding upon Job's herds, are no longer a
myth to us when we remember that they were wet by the rain and anxious
about the weather and their crops, just as we are; in fact, they felt
such matters so keenly, and were so little able to cope with these
unknown forces, that they made gods of them, and then, beyond prayers
and sacrifices, troubled themselves no further about the matter.
Even the shrewd, observant Hebrews, living out of doors, a race of
shepherds and herdsmen, never looked for any rational cause for wind
or storm, but regarded them, if not as gods, as the messengers of God,
subject to no rules. It was He who at His will covered the heavens
with clouds, who prepared rain, who cast forth hoar-frost like ashes:
the stormy wind fulfilled His word. Men searched into the construction
of their own minds, busied themselves with subtle philosophies, with
arts and sciences, conquered the principles of Form and Color, and
made not wholly unsuccessful efforts to solve the mystery of the sun
and stars; but it was not until 340 B.C. that any notice was taken of
the every-day matters of wind and heat and rain.
Aristotle, the Gradgrind of philosophers, first noted down the known
facts on this subject in his work _On Meteors_. His theories and
deductions were necessarily erroneous, but he struck the foundation of
all science, the collection of known facts. Theophrastus, one of his
pupils, made a compilation of prognostics concerning rain, wind
and storm, and there investigation ceased for ages. For nearly two
thousand years the citizens of the world rose every morning to rejoice
in fair weather or be wet by showers, to see their crops destroyed
by frost or their ships by winds, and never made a single attempt to
discover any scientific reason or rules in the matter--apparently
did not suspect that there was any cause or effect behind these daily
occurrences. They accounted for wind or rain as our grandfathers did
for a sudden death, by the "visitation of God." In fact, Nature--which
is the expression of Law most inexorable and minute--was the very last
place where mankind looked to find law at all.
About two hundred and thirty years ago Torricelli discovered that
the atmosphere, the space surrounding the earth, which seemed more
intangible than a dream, had weight and substance, and invented the
barometer, the tiny tube and drop of mercury by which it could be
seized and held and weighed as accurately as a pound of lead. As soon
as this invisible air was proved to be matter, the whole force of
scientific inquiry was directed toward it. The thermometer, by which
its heat or cold could be measured--the hygrometer, which weighed,
literally by a hair, its moisture or dryness--were the results of the
research of comparatively a few years. Somewhat later came the curious
instrument which measures its velocity. As soon as it was thus made
practicable for any intelligent observer to handle, weigh and test
every quality of the air, it became evident that wind and storm, even
the terrible cyclone, were not irresponsible forces, carrying health
or death to and fro where they listed, but the result of plain,