Part 2 out of 4
she had suffered conviction at a revival and been converted. All His
followers must give their lives to His service. Give their lives!
These were words which to the poor little girl had always been
terribly real, never a hackneyed form. Now the time had come, there
was a dreadful wrenching at her heart.
"Oh, God! oh, my God! I want to do what's right!" cried Kitty
silently, looking away to the farthest horizon.
Mr. Muller remembered by this time some of his long-planned endearing
speeches, and used them. But he could not bring a blush to her cheek.
She did presently look straight at him, her eye passing quickly and
critically over the neat paunchy little figure in its fashionably-cut
coat and tight-fitting trowsers. When she was a girl of ten she had
fancied that Dr. Brownlee would be her future husband--the actual
Sir Guy. She would listen Sunday after Sunday to the gray-bearded old
fellow dealing the thunders of Sinai from the pulpit overhead, in a
rapt delight, thinking how sweet it would be to be guided step by step
by so holy and great a man. Long after she grew out of that, indeed
only a year or two ago, she used to tremble and grow hot to her
finger-tips when young Herr Bluhm, the music-master, went by the gate.
A nod of his curly bullet head or the tramp of his sturdy cowskin
boots along the road made her nerves tingle as never before. "What was
this that ailed her?" she had asked herself a dozen times a day. All
Mr. Muller's love-making did not move her now as one note of Bluhm's
voluntaries on the organ had done. She had thought him Mendelssohn and
Mozart in one: the tears came now, thinking of that divine music. But
one day Mrs. Guinness had brought him in, being a phrenologist, to
"feel Kitty's head." She felt the astonished indignation yet which
stunned her from his thick thumb and fore finger as they gripped and
fumbled over her head as if she had been a log of wood. But what could
poor Bluhm know of the delicate fancies about himself in her brain as
he measured it, which his heavy paws, smelling of garlic and tobacco,
were putting to flight? "Philoprogenitiveness--whew! this little girl
will be fond of children, madam. Tune, time!--has no more notion of
music than a frog."
"At least," thought Catharine now, "Mr. Muller is a gentleman. I shall
never feel disgust for him."
They had reached the gate now. He waited. "I shall not come in. I've
confused and startled you, Catharine. You want time to think," he said
"I understand, oh, I quite understand. But I never thought of myself
as your wife," she said quietly. "It would be better you gave me
"Good-bye, then, my--my darling."
She stood looking over the gate, the walnut branches dark overhead, a
level ray of sunlight on her strange alluring eyes and full bosom. Mr.
Muller lingered, smoothing his hat before he put it on.
"She has not at all the intellectual power of Maria," he thought.
"Maria's the sort of woman I ought to have chosen, I suppose," being
a reformer, first of all, in the very grain. But the silly thought of
holding her hand or kissing her lips came to him at the moment, and
tormented him thereafter with a feverish desire.
Catharine stood a long time by the gate.
"Don't question the child," said Peter to her mother. He would not
even look at her when she came in, but fidgeted about, his leathery
jaws red as a girl's at the thought that Kitty loved and was beloved.
"Is supper over? I'm hungry," was all she said. They watched her
furtively as she ate.
"It's prayer-meeting night, Catharine," said Mrs. Guinness when she
was through, taking her bonnet from the closet.
"I'm not going."
"Mr. Muller will miss you, my dear."
"Mr. Muller never has enough of prayer-meetings," recklessly, "but I
have. I prefer going to bed to-night;" and she went up stairs.
Before her mother was gone, however, she began to change her dress,
putting on one which, when the cape was not worn, left her shoulders
and arms bare. She shook down her hair after the fashion of a portrait
in the book-shop of Kitty Clive, Peg Woffington or some other ancient
beauty more amiable than discreet. There was a delicious flavor of
wickedness in the taking out of every hairpin. Then she came down to
Peter where he sat smoking.
"In the dark, father? I'll light the candles;" which she did, scolding
Jane savagely between-times. "We'll have some old plays to-night,
father," bringing a book which her mother had forbidden, and then
bringing his sheepskin-lined chair up to the table. Peter eyed her
furtively as he puffed out his cigar to the last ash. On the stage
or in the ball-room he had never seen, he thought, a finer woman than
Catharine; and the old man's taste in beauty or dress or wine had been
keen enough when he was a young blood on the town. He was annoyed and
"Catharine," he said sharply "bring your shawl: the night is chilly."
But he read the plays with outward good-humor, and with an inward
delight and gusto, which he would not betray. All his youth--that
old Peter Guinness, for whom each day's bumpers had been frothed so
high--came back in the familiar exits and entrances. The words were
innocent enough as he altered them in reading for Kitty, though a
good deal disjointed as to meaning; but she was not critical--forced
herself to take an interest in his stories of Burton and Kean, and how
he first saw old Jefferson.
"I suppose," moving uneasily on her stool at his feet, "that this now
is 'the world, the flesh and the devil!' But," viciously snapping her
eyes, "I like it, I like it! I wish I could think of something else to
In the middle of Peter's croaking of "Poor Yarico," to show her how
Catalani sang it on the London boards, she jumped up and went to the
window. People were coming home from prayer-meeting, husbands and
"I suppose every woman must marry, father?" she said.
Peter looked doubtfully at her over his spectacles, opened his mouth
and shut it once or twice. "I judge that is the highest lot for a
woman," he said slowly, "to be the wife of a good man."
"A good man? Oh yes, good enough!" and with that she flung herself
down on the floor, and, putting her head on Peter's knee, cried as if
her heart would break. For Kitty was never in the habit of carrying
her pain off into solitary places: when she cried it must be with her
head on somebody's knee.
* * * * *
This chapter of Catharine's history every wide-awake young woman
among our readers has doubtless finished for herself: she knows the
closing-in process by which society, expediency, propinquity, even
moral obligations, hedge many a man and woman and drive them into
In the weeks that followed she saw but one path open to her: in it lay
her work for Christ and her woman's birthright to be a wife and mother
(for Kitty, ever since she was a baby nursing dolls, had meant to be
She spent most of her time shut up with her Bible and hymn-book,
sometimes praying over them, sometimes sticking in her forefinger and
opening at chance verses to try her fortune about this affair. During
this time she was usually unnaturally humble and meek, but there were
days when her temper was intolerable.
"Don't come complaining to me," said Peter testily to her mother. "The
child's a good child enough. But when you force her to stretch her
heart over three hundred vicious little imps, no wonder it breaks."
"Kitty's a free agent," she replied calmly.
Kitty was a free agent, and at the end of two weeks she accepted Mr.
REBECCA HARDING DAVIS.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
THE GLACIERS OF PARADISE.
Spring is waking, and the Yokul lifts on high his glittering shield,
Far and wide in sunny splendor gleams the ice-engirded field,
And the swelling freshet murmurs gay spring-ditties as it flows,
Till its noisy life it mingles in the ocean's grand repose;
And in silence,
O'er its course the billows close.
On the strand they gayly played, where the trembling birch trees grow,
Children both with golden ringlets and with cheeks like maiden snow,
Wherein blushed fresh spring-like roses--blushed and hid, and blushed again,
While they plucked the shining pebbles, smooth-worn by the stormy main;
And in silence,
Chants the sea its old refrain.
She, the fair and gladsome maiden, raised her head and called his name:
He was deep-eyed, light and slender, shy of mien and slight of frame.
Like a laughing brook she skipped to and fro along the strand;
He was grave, like nodding fern-leaf, gently by the breezes fanned,
Which in silence,
Grows upon the brooklet's sand,
"Ragnas," said she, "when God's angels visit will this world of ours,
They descend, so mother told me, on the Yokul's shining towers.
Now, if I should die, then promise thou wilt climb the peaks of ice,
And my hand I'll reach to help thee up to God's bright paradise."
But in silence,
Gazed he in her innocent eyes.
It was summer: thrush and linnet sung their gladsome summer-lay;
Through the fir trees' cooling vista rose the cataract's white spray;
And the light blue smoke of even o'er the darksome forests fell--
Rose and lingered like a lover loath to bid his love farewell;
And in silence,
Shed its peace o'er sunlit dell.
On the pleasant hillside sat they, where the silvery birches grow,
And th' eternal sun of midnight bathed them in its fitful glow--
She a maid of eighteen summers, fresh and fair as Norway's spring;
Tall and dark-browed he, like pine-woods in whose gloom the Hulders sing,
When in silence,
Night lets droop her dusky wing.
It was now that he must leave her, and the waves and tempest breast:
Heavy-hearted sat they, gazing on the Yokul's flaming crest;
And she spoke: "O Ragnas, never, while yon airy peak shall gleam
O'er our home, shall I forget thee or our childhood's blissful dream,
Death and silence,
Freeze my heart and memory's stream."
Up he sprang, and boldly looked he toward the midnight-lighted west,
Seized her white, soft hand and pressed it closely to his throbbing breast,
And the love his childhood fostered, and in youth made warm his blood,
Trembled on his lips as trembles bursting flower in freezing bud:
Ah, but silence,
Held the mighty feeling's flood.
Years had passed with autumn's splendor, like a glistening shower of gems;
Doubly rich the sunlight streamed from the Yokul's diadems;
Once again in joyful rapture he his native vale beheld,
For the love long years had fostered whispered still of faith unquelled,
Spite of silence,
That the timid tongue had spelled.
And his boat shot swiftly onward: well the rowers plied their oar,
Till a heavy tolling reached them from the church-tower on the shore;
And a solemn train of barges slowly wound their pensive way
Through the hushed waves that glittered o'er their image in the bay;
And the silence,
Dimmed the splendor of the day.
O'er the barge that now drew nearer countless virgin lilies wept,
Telling that some white-souled maiden in the snowy bower slept.
Dumb he stood, and gazed in terror on the shroud and lilies sweet,
And a dread foreboding filled him, and his heart forgot to beat;
And in silence,
Fell he at the boatman's feet.
So the parish-people told me; and as years went rolling by
Oft they saw him sadly staring on the flaming sunset sky;
Watched the purple-stained Yokul, half in joy and half in pain,
As if hoped he there to see her coming back to earth again;
Mourned his silence,
That had rent two lives atwain.
Till at length one Sabbath morning--deep-voiced church-bells shook the air--
While in festal garb the church-folk wandered to their house of prayer,
Reached their ears a hollow thunder from the glaciers overhead,
And huge blocks of ice came crashing downward to the river's bed,
And in silence,
Down the seething stream they sped.
Ah, the breathless hush that followed! for amid the icy waste
They a human shape discerned, madly, as by demons chased,
Up the crystal ledges climbing, pausing now where ice-walls screen
From the blast, then upward springing o'er abyss and dread ravine,
Reigned amid the icebergs' sheen.
They have searched for him, they told me, sought him far and sought him near:
Ne'er a trace was found to tell them of his grave so lone and drear;
But the legend goes that angels swift the shining ether clove,
And with them his youth's beloved bore him up to God above,
Where shall silence,
Never sunder hearts that love.
HJALMAR HJARTH BOYESEN.
[Footnote 1: The Hulder is the spirit of the forest, and is
represented as a virgin of wonderful beauty. She plays her loor, a
long birch-bark horn, at evening, and is the protecting genius of the
THACKERAY'S "GRAY FRIARS."
There is an eloquent passage in one of Victor Hugo's novels in which
the writer affectionately apostrophizes the Paris of his youth--those
quaint old streets of the _Quartier Latin_ so redolent of the happy
associations which cling to the springtide of life. Were Thackeray
living now, he would, we fancy, experience emotions very similar to
those of his French _confrere_ should he try to find his beloved "Gray
Friars," which lives enshrined in the most pathetic scene he ever
penned, and is ever and anon coming before us in the pages of his
several stories. It is but a few years since the author of _Vanity
Fair_ passed away, yet already Gray Friars' surroundings are no longer
those with which he was familiar.
Descending Holborn Hill five years ago, you found yourself, when at
the foot of that celebrated thoroughfare, at Snow Hill, just at that
point where the words, "Here he is, father!" struck upon the parental
ears of Mr. Squeers as his son and heir manfully "went for" Smike.
Turning to the left, instead of proceeding up Newgate street, a
circuitous street took you to Smithfield, so long associated with
stakes and steaks. Thence, when half-way through the forest of pens,
you turned sharp off to the left, and then, after another hundred
yards by a turn to the right, found yourself in a long narrow lane,
called Charter-House lane. This brought you presently to some iron
gates admitting you to a quaint and not very mathematical quadrangle,
such as you would never have dreamed of stumbling upon there. This
is Charter-House Square, which, still intensely respectable, was once
eminently fashionable. At one corner of it is a little recess known as
Rutland Square, for on this site once stood the abode of the dukes of
that ilk, and near to it is a stately mansion with a high pitched roof
which was in days long gone the residence of the Venetian ambassador.
A garden occupies the centre of the square. Everything is neat,
orderly and severely dull, the most dissipated tenants of the square
being boarding-house keepers of a highly sedate description. The
secret of all this tremendous respectability is to be found in the
contiguity to the Charter-House itself, a portion of whose buildings
abut on the square, which, with many of the streets adjoining, belongs
to this wealthy institution. Four years ago the place was so secluded
that a stranger to London might have walked around the spot a dozen
times without suspecting its existence, and living in one of its
comfortable old mansions supposed himself in the cathedral close of
a provincial city. The entrance to the Charter-House itself is under
an archway through venerable oaken portals, which are said--and there
seems no reason to question the statement--to be the identical gates
of the monastery which occupied the ground in the time of Henry VIII.
This monastery had been a religious house of the Carthusians. The
order first came to England in 1180, and was seated at a place called
Witham Priory in Somersetshire, to this day known as Charter-House
Witham. There Henry II. founded and endowed a monastery. The London
branch of the establishment at Witham was founded by Sir Walter de
Manni, seigneur de Manni in Cambrai, France, who was made a knight
of the Garter by Edward III., in reward for gallant services. Manni
founded the house in pious commemoration of a decimating pestilence,
on which occasion not fewer than fifty thousand persons are said
to have been buried within the thirteen acres which he bought
and enclosed, and a gentle eminence known as the "hill" in the
play-ground, separating what was called "Upper Green" from "Under
Green," is said to owe its shape to the thousands of bodies buried
there. Manni died in 1371: his funeral was conducted with the utmost
pomp, and attended by the king and the princes of the blood.
A hundred and fifty years rolled on without aught very momentous to
interrupt the daily routine of the monks of Charter-House, who, had
there not been a woman in the case, might possibly be the occupants of
the ground to this day. When, however, Henry's fancy for Anne Boleyn
led him to look with favor on the Reformation, the Charter-House, in
common with other such establishments, came in for an ample share of
Thomas Cromwell's scrutinizing inquiries. And a sad fate its occupants
had. Required to take the oath of allegiance to Henry VIII., they
refused. Froude, who gives them an extended notice, says: "In general,
the house was perhaps the best ordered in England. The hospitality
was well sustained, the charities were profuse. Among many good, the
prior, John Haughton, was the best. He was of an old English family,
and had been educated at Cambridge. He had been twenty years a
Carthusian at the opening of the troubles of the Reformation. He is
described as small of stature, in figure graceful, in countenance
dignified: in manner he was most modest, in eloquence most sweet, in
chastity without stain."
On the 4th of May, 1535, Haughton was executed with all the horrors
attending the punishment of death for high treason in those barbarous
times. He and his companions, certain monks of Sion Priory, died
without a murmur, and Haughton's arm was hung up under the archway of
the Charter-House beneath which the visitor drives to-day, to awe his
brethren. The remnant never gave in. Some were executed; ten died of
filth and fever in Newgate; and thus the noblest band of monks in the
country was broken up by Henry's ruthless hand.
The Charter-House was then granted to two men, by name Bridges and
Hall, for their lives, after which it was bestowed in 1545 on Sir E.
North. North's son sold it to the duke of Norfolk, who resided there,
on and off, until decapitated in 1572. The duke was beheaded by
Elizabeth for intriguing with Mary queen of Scots, and the papers
proving his offence are said to have been found concealed beneath
the roof of the stately mansion he had erected for himself at the
Before the duke came to grief that most erratic of sovereigns was a
visitor at his house--as indeed where was she not?--coming thence
from Hampton Court in 1568, and remaining a day with him; and when her
successor, James I., came to take up her English sceptre, he, mindful
of what the Howards had suffered for their sympathy with his mother's
cause, came straight thither from Theobalds, his halting-place next to
London, and remained on a visit of four days.
From the duke of Norfolk the Charter-House passed to his eldest son by
his second wife, Lord Thomas Howard, who was created by James I. earl
of Suffolk; and he about 1609 sold it to Mr. Thomas Sutton.
Sutton's career was remarkable. It was said of the late earl of Derby
that even had he been born in a shepherd's cot on Salisbury Plain,
instead of in the purple at Knowsley, he would still have proved
himself a remarkable man. In local phraseology, he was "bound to get
on," and so was Thomas Sutton. The son of a country gentleman at a
place called Knaith in Lincolnshire, he inherited early in life a good
property from his father, and spent some time in traveling abroad.
Then he became attached to the household of the duke of Norfolk,
probably as surveyor and manager of that great peer's vast estates,
and in 1569, when a serious disturbance broke out in the north of
England, he repaired thither, and greatly distinguished himself in
aiding to quell it. He then received the appointment of master-general
of ordnance for the North for life.
Whilst in the North he found another mode of making hay whilst the
sun shone. Soon after his arrival he bought a lease of the bishop
of Durham of the manors of Gateshead and Wickham, and worked the
collieries on these properties to such good purpose that, on coming
up to London in 1580 he brought with him two horse-loads of money, and
was reputed to be worth fifty thousand pounds--a great sum in those
About 1582 he increased his wealth by marriage, and commenced business
as a merchant in London. His large amount of ready money--a commodity
especially scarce in those days--soon enabled him to carry on very
large commercial operations; and amongst other sources of wealth he
probably derived considerable profit from his office of victualer of
the navy. In 1590, finding himself without prospect of children, he
withdrew from business, and retired to the country, having already
invested largely in real estate. Although very frugal, there are
sufficient evidences of his liberality to the poor on his property;
and it seems not improbable that his charitable schemes now began to
take definite form, for after his death a credible witness stated that
Sutton was in the habit of repairing to a summer-house in his garden
for private devotion, and on one of these occasions he heard him utter
the words: "Lord, Thou hast given me a large and liberal estate: give
me also a heart to make use thereof."
About 1608, when he had quite retired from the world, he was greatly
exercised by a rumor that he was to be raised to the peerage--an honor
which it was contemplated to bestow with the understanding that he
would make Prince Charles, subsequently Charles I., his heir. This
was a court intrigue to get his money, but an urgent appeal to Lord
Chancellor Ellesmere and the earl of Salisbury, prime minister,
appears to have put an end to trouble in the matter. He died on the
12th of December, 1611, at the age of seventy-nine, leaving immense
wealth, and on the 12th of December, 1614, his body was brought on the
shoulders of his pensioners to Charter-House Chapel, and interred in
a vault ready for it there, beneath the huge monument erected to his
"The death-day of the founder is still kept solemnly by Cistercians.
In their chapel, where assemble the boys of the school and the
fourscore old men of the hospital, the founder's tomb stands, a
huge edifice emblazoned with heraldic decorations and clumsy,
carved allegories. There is an old hall, a beautiful specimen of
the architecture of James's time. An old hall? Many old halls, old
staircases, old passages, old chambers decorated with old portraits,
walking in the midst of which we walk as it were in the early
seventeenth century. To others than Cistercians, Gray Friars is a
dreary place possibly. Nevertheless, the pupils educated there love to
revisit it, and the oldest of us grow young again for an hour or two
as we come back into those scenes of childhood.
"The custom of the school is that on the 12th of December, the
Founder's Day, the head gown-boy shall recite a Latin oration in
praise _Fundatoris Nostri_, and upon other subjects; and a goodly
company of old Cistercians is generally brought together to attend
this oration; after which ... we adjourn to a great dinner, where
old condisciples meet, old toasts are given and speeches are made.
Before marching from the oration-hall to chapel the stewards of the
day's dinner, according to old-fashioned rite, have wands put into
their hands, walk to church at the head of the procession, and sit
there in places of honor. The boys are already in their seats, with
smug fresh faces and shining white collars; the old black-gowned
pensioners are on their benches; the chapel is lighted, and Founder's
tomb, with its grotesque carvings, monsters, heraldries, darkles and
shines with the most wonderful shadows and lights. There he lies,
Fundator Noster, in his ruff and gown, awaiting the great Examination
Day. We oldsters, be we ever so old, become boys again as we look at
that familiar old tomb, and think how the seats are altered since we
were here; and how the doctor--not the present doctor, the doctor of
_our_ time--used to sit yonder, and his awful eye used to frighten us
shuddering boys on whom it lighted; and how the boy next us _would_
kick our shins during service-time; and how the monitor would cane us
afterward because our shins were kicked....
"The service for Founder's Day is a special one. How solemn the
well-remembered prayers are!... how beautiful and decorous the rite!
how noble the ancient words of the supplication which the priest
utters, and to which generations of fresh children and troops of
bygone seniors have cried Amen under those arches!"
Having resolved to found a charity which should provide both for
young and old, Sutton, who had ample reason fully to appreciate the
unprincipled and grasping character of the court, proceeded to take
every precaution that sagacity and ingenuity could suggest to keep his
money secure from the hands of such harpies as Carr and "Steenie,"
and hedge it round with every bulwark possible. Perhaps he consulted
"Jingling Geordie," then planning his own singular scheme, on
the point, and got him to persuade the king, always vain of his
scholarship, that it would well become him to become patron of an
institution having for one of its main objects the education of youth
in sound learning. Be this as it may, the fact is certain that a
degree of royal and other powerful protection was somehow secured
for the institution which for all time prevented its funds from being
diverted to other purposes.
Sutton's bequest of the bulk of his estate to charitable uses was not
unnaturally viewed with strong disapprobation by his nephew, one
Simon Baxter, for whom he had, however, not neglected to provide, who
brought a suit to set aside the will. However, notwithstanding that
he had Bacon for his counsel, he failed to interfere with his uncle's
disposition of his estate; the court holding that the claims of
kinship had been sufficiently recognized.
In the same year, 1614, the institution opened. The rules and orders
for its government may yet be seen, bearing the autograph signature
of Charles I., then prince of Wales. From that time almost every man
in the country, of the first rank of eminence by birth or fortune,
has been a governor, and the name of Cromwell may be seen not far
from that of Charles on the roll. Up to about 1850 the patronage
was vested exclusively in the governors. Amongst these were always
included--though not necessarily--the sovereign, the archbishop of
Canterbury and the bishop of London. The remainder were men eminent
in Church or State, "the master of the hospital," who must not be
confounded with the school-master, being the only official member. The
sovereign had two nominations to the other governors' one. Thackeray
makes the great marquis of Steyne a governor, and shows how little
Rawdon Crawley benefited by that august personage's patronage: "When
Lord Steyne was benevolently disposed he did nothing by halves, and
his kindness toward the Crawley family did the greatest honor to
his benevolent discrimination. His lordship extended his goodness
to little Rawdon: he pointed out to the boy's parents the necessity
of sending him to a public school; that he was of an age now when
emulation, the first principles of the Latin language, pugilistic
exercises and the society of his fellow-boys would be of the greatest
benefit to the boy.... All objections disappeared before the generous
perseverance of the marquis. His lordship was one of the governors of
that famous old collegiate institution called the White Friars. It
had been a Cistercian convent in old days, when Smithfield, which is
contiguous to it, was a tournament-ground. Obstinate heretics used to
be brought thither, convenient for burning hard by. Harry VIII., the
Defender of the Faith, seized upon the monastery and its possessions,
and hanged and tortured some of the monks who could not accommodate
themselves to the pace of his reform. Finally, a great merchant bought
the house and land adjoining, in which, and with the help of other
wealthy endowments of land and money, he established a famous
foundation hospital for old men and children. An extern school grew
round the old almost monastic foundation, which subsists still with
its Middle-Age costume and usages; and all Cistercians pray that it
may long flourish. Of this famous house some of the greatest noblemen,
prelates and dignitaries of the land are governors; and as the boys
are very comfortably lodged, fed and educated, and subsequently
inducted to good scholarships at the university and livings in the
Church, many little gentlemen are devoted to the ecclesiastical
profession from their tenderest years, and there is considerable
emulation to procure nominations for the foundation.
"It was originally intended for the sons of poor and deserving clerics
and laics, but many of the noble governors of the institution, with
an enlarged and rather capricious benevolence, selected all sorts
of objects for their bounty. To get an education for nothing, and a
future livelihood and profession assured, was so excellent a scheme
that some of the richest people did not disdain it, and not only great
men's relations, but great men themselves, sent their sons to profit
by the chance."
A boy on the foundation received his education entirely free. Whilst
within the walls he was clothed in black cloth at the expense of
the house, and even had shirts and shoes provided for him. His only
expenses were a fee to the matron of twenty-five dollars a year, and
the cost of books, stationery, etc., the whole amounting to a sum
less than one hundred dollars a year. On leaving school for college he
received an allowance--four hundred dollars for three years, and five
hundred dollars for the fourth.
There may have been a time when much of the patronage was improperly
bestowed, but this certainly was not the case in our day. The majority
of the boys on the foundation were the sons of well-born and often
distinguished gentlemen of small means, and the sort of perversion
of patronage to which Thackeray alludes had ceased to take place.
When some of the places on the foundation were thrown open, it
was a subject of general remark that several of the boys who got
scholarships were those whose parents could perfectly have afforded
to give them a first-class education.
Probably there will some day be a reaction in England in this matter.
The prevalent present plan is to give every advantage to the clever
boy (which means a boy who has a faculty for acquirement, but often
lacks those qualities most needed to make him a valuable citizen), and
to let those who are not so bright at book-learning, and need every
aid, scramble along as they can. It was certainly not the system which
Sutton designed, and there are not a few who, without being by any
means bigoted conservatives, consider that the utter indifference
displayed of late years to the intentions of founders is quite
unjustifiable, and offers little encouragement to those who would
be disposed to make similar bequests.
At Oxford, for instance, nearly every scholarship is now thrown
open to general competition. This sounds very fine, but is in utter
disregard of the fact that the founder in most instances was induced
to bequeath his money with the view that those who came from the part
of the country to which he himself belonged should benefit. Of course,
time had rendered necessary certain changes, but these have been
sweeping to a degree which is inconsistent with a due regard to the
wills of the dead, and meanwhile no one seems disposed to admit that
the public schools or universities turn out men one whit better than
in days gone by, or indeed do more for the general education of the
Recently a sweeping change has been made at the Charter-House, which
had seemed to be almost proof against innovation. So far as nominating
boys to the foundation, the governors' patronage will, after one
more term apiece, be at an end, and the privilege of participating
in Button's benefits will be open to all boys who have been for some
months members of the school, and are clever enough to beat their
fellows in competition. The governors reserve, however, their right of
nominating aged or disabled men, whose number now, we believe, amounts
to one hundred.
A school-day at Charter-House began at eight, with what we called
"first school." Prayers, lasting about five minutes, took place in
the large school-room. These were read by a "gown-boy" monitor. The
lessons at first school consisted entirely of repetition--repeating
Latin poetry, and occasionally prose. As each boy finished his
repetition--the boys being taken up in the order in which they were
numbered the previous day--he left the school and went to breakfast.
Breakfast consisted of an almost unlimited supply of hot rolls and
butter and milk, but this was supplemented in the case of almost every
boy by edibles purchased with his pocket-money. For those who had the
privilege of fagging this was recognized and allowed, and in regard
to the rest it was connived at, and marmalades, potted meats and
such-like relishes freely circulated, being supplied for the most part
by the servants, who drove a lively trade in such comestibles.
Toasting was brought to the very highest perfection. Never before or
since have we tasted anything of its kind so good as a buttered roll
toasted. It was a French roll buttered all over outside, and then
skillfully grilled until the outside was a rich crisp brown. This was
brought by the fag to his master "hot and hot," and, being cut open,
eaten with butter. The rooms were warmed by immense open fireplaces,
there being no limit to the expenditure of coal, which was prodigious.
In our time (1847-1853) there was an immense deal of fagging, which
has been, we believe very properly, much diminished. Under boys were
called in to perform many menial offices which should have been done
by servants. The task-work which by "gown-boys" was most disliked was
what was called being basonite. This duty devolved upon the twelve
junior boys occupying what was known as "the under bedroom." To this
hour we recall with horror how on a gloomy, foggy, wintry Monday
morning we remembered on waking that it was our basonite week--for a
fresh set of three went to work each Monday morning--and that we must
get up and call the monitors. This basonite duty consisted of the most
elaborate valeting. Each monitor's clothes were brushed, warm water
was fetched and poured out for him, and everything so arranged that
he might lie in bed up to the last possible moment, and then one small
boy being ready with his coat, another with his waistcoat, and a third
with his cap--be able to dress in five minutes and rush into school.
At midday, when the monitors washed their hands for dinner, similar
work had to be done, and again in the evening, when they washed their
hands for supper. The only set-off to all this was that each monitor
had been a basonite, and each basonite had a very good chance of
becoming a monitor. But it was carrying the fagging system to far too
great an extent, and the practice is now greatly modified.
The domestic arrangements were in many respects rough and comfortless,
and so intensely conservative were the ruling powers in these respects
that complaint or remonstrance scarcely received any attention. On
the other hand, the utmost liberality prevailed in most matters. The
foundation scholars' dinner, for instance, was provided in a long,
low, old-fashioned, oak-paneled hall, admirably adapted for the
purpose. The food was excellent in quality, unlimited in quantity, and
very comfortably served. The only drawback was want of variety, and
the perennial reappearance of raspberry tartlets every Wednesday at
length provoked a mutiny against that form of pastry, the order being
passed down that no one was to touch it.
An upper boy had two fags, the inferior of the two being called his
tea-fag. A good feeling nearly always subsisted between master and
fag, inasmuch as the former generally selected a boy he liked; and
indeed in many cases the connection engendered a warm and lasting
regard between the parties. The fag had access to his master's study,
could retreat there to do his lessons in quiet, and not unfrequently
was assisted in them by his master.
Those who came off worst were dirty boys: no mercy was shown them.
One such we can recall--now a very spruce, well-appointed government
official--whose obstinate adherence to dirt was marvelous, seeing what
it cost him.
There are always some bullies among a lot of boys, but serious
bullying was uncommon, and not unfrequently a hideous retribution
befell a bully through some "big fellow" resolving to wreak on him
what he inflicted on others. We can recall one very bright, brilliant
youth, now high in the Indian civil service, whose drollery when
bullying was irresistible, even to those who knew their turn might
come next. "Come here, F----," we remember his saying to a fat youth
of reputed uncleanness: then dropping his voice to a tone of subdued
horror and solemnity, "I was shocked to hear you use a bad word just
now." "No indeed, B----," protested the trembling F----. "Ah, well,
I'm certain that you are now thinking it; and, besides, at any rate,
you look fat and disgusting; so hold down your hands;" and poor F----
retired howling after a tremendous "swinger"--i.e. swinging box on the
The school was divided into six forms, the sixth being the highest.
Below the first form were two classes called upper and lower petties.
Up to 1850, classics were the almost exclusive study, but the changes
then made in the curriculum of studies at Oxford rendered attention to
mathematics absolutely necessary. Much less stress was laid upon Latin
verses at Charter-House than at Eton, and a Latin prose composition
was regarded as the most important part of scholarship, inasmuch as
a certain proficiency in it is a _sine qua non_ at Oxford. French was
taught twice a week by a master of celebrity, who, however, did not
understand the art of dinning learning into unwilling boys. It rarely
happens in England that boys acquire any real knowledge of French at
school: those who gain the prizes are almost invariably boys who have
resided abroad and picked up the language in childhood. Music was
taught by Mr. Hullah, and attendance on the part of gown-boys was
compulsory. Drawing and fencing were extras.
Very great importance was attached to the annual examination, which
was conducted by examiners specially appointed by the governors. The
result, which was kept a close secret until "Prize Saturday," was as
eagerly looked forward to as the Derby by a betting man. The different
forms were divided into classes, as at Oxford, according to merit, and
the names printed along with the examination papers in pamphlet form.
After this examination boys went up to the form above them, each boy
usually remaining a year in each form. The system of punishment was as
follows. A book called the "Black Book" was kept by the school monitor
of the week, there being four gown-boy--that is, foundation--monitors
who took the duty of school monitor in rotation. A boy put down for
three offences during the same week was flogged, but the end of each
week cleared off old scores. The entries were in this wise:
_Name of Boy._ _Offence._ _By whom put down._
Robinson 1 Idle Dr. Saunders.
Smith 1, 2 Talking in School Mr. Curtis.
"Go and put your name down," a master would say. "Oh please, sir,
I'm down twice." "Then put it down a third time." Then would follow
entreaties, which, unless the delinquent had been previously privately
marked down for execution, would probably avail. When a flogging
offence was committed a boy was put down thus:
Robinson 1, 2, 3 Impertinent Mr. ----.
The flogging varied much in severity according to the crime. The
process was precisely the same as at Eton. Partially denuded of his
nether garments, the victim knelt upon the block, the monitor standing
at his head. The birches were kept in a long box which served as a
settee, and were furnished periodically by the man who brought the
fire fagots. Now and again the box would, by the carelessness of the
functionary called "the school-groom," be left open, and it was then
considered a point of honor on the part of an under boy to promptly
avail himself of the opportunity to "skin" the rods--i.e. draw them
through a piece of stuff in such a way as to take the buds off, after
which they hurt very much less.
Serious offences, such as insubordination and gross disobedience,
were punished by a flogging with two birches, which was too severe
a punishment. The degree of pain varied very much according to the
delicacy of skin, and no doubt some boys--one of our comrades had
been flogged about twenty-five times--did not feel much after many
floggings, becoming literally case-hardened; whereas, we have known a
boy compelled to stay in bed two or three days from the effects of a
flogging which would have left little mark upon the "twenty-fiver."
When a victim issued from the flogging-room the questions from an
eager throng were, "How many cuts, old fellow? Did it _take_ much? You
howled like the devil!"
The monitors were furnished with small canes, which they were
permitted to use with moderation, but nothing like the horrible
process of "tunding," as at Winchester, was known. The theory of
entrusting this power to monitors is, that if you do not give certain
boys the right to punish, might will be right, whilst the monitors,
being duly made to feel their responsibility, will only punish where
punishment is properly due, and will serve as a protection to the
There was a half-holiday every Wednesday and Saturday. Every Saturday
upper boys who had friends might go out from Saturday till Sunday
night, and lower boys were allowed to do the same every other
Saturday. These events were of course greatly looked forward to
from week to week. Not the least agreeable feature was the probable
addition to pocket-money, for in England it is the custom to "tip"
school-boys, and we have ourselves come back joyous on a Sunday
evening with six sovereigns chinking in our pockets. Alas, no one tips
us now! Then there was the delight of comparing notes of the doings
during the delightful preceding twenty-four hours. Thus, whilst Brown
detailed the delights of the pantomime to which Uncle John had taken
him on Saturday night, Robinson descanted on the marvels of the
Zoological Gardens, with special reference to the free-and-easy life
of monkeydom, and Smith never wearied of enlarging on the terrors and
glories of the Tower of London. Altogether, there were fourteen weeks'
holiday in the year--six weeks in August, five at Christmas and three
at Whitsuntide, with two days at Easter.
There were several beds in each bedroom, and there was a very strict
rule that the most perfect order should prevail--in fact, lower boys
were forbidden to talk; but talk they always did, and long stories,
often protracted for nights, were told; and for our part, we must
confess that we have never enjoyed any fictions more than those.
Evening prayers took place in the several houses at nine, after which
the lower boys went to bed. A junior master--there was one to each
house--always attended at prayers, which were read by a monitor.
Before prayers names were called over and every boy accounted for.
Although in the midst of brick and mortar, two large spaces,
containing several acres, were available for cricket, whilst
foot-ball--and very fierce games of it, too--was usually played in the
curious old cloisters of the Chartreuse monks which opened on "Upper
Green." The grass-plot of Upper Green was kept sacred from the feet
of under boys except in "cricket quarter," as the summer quarter was
termed. It was rolled, watered and attended to with an assiduity
such as befalls few spots of ground in the world. The roof of the
cloisters was a terrace flagged with stone, and on the occasion of
cricket-matches a gay bevy of ladies assembled here to look at the
exploits of the young Rawdon Crawleys and Pendennises of the day.
Immediately opposite the terrace, across the green, on the immensely
high blank wall, was the word "Crown" rudely painted, and above it
what was intended as a representation of that sign of sovereignty.
This had a history. It was said to have been written there originally
by "the bold and strong-minded Law," commemorated by Macaulay in his
Warren Hastings article, who became Lord Ellenborough, and the last
lord chief-justice who had the honor of a seat in the cabinet. It was
probably put up originally as a goal for boys running races, and for
nearly a century was regularly repainted as commemorative of a famous
alumnus who was so fondly attached to the place of his early education
that he desired to be buried in its chapel, and an imposing monument
to his memory may be seen on its walls. Between Upper and Under
Greens, on the slight eminence to which we have alluded, stood
"School," a large ugly edifice of brick mounted with stone, which
derived an interest in the eyes of those educated there from the fact
that the names of hundreds of old Carthusians were engraven on its
face; for it was the custom of boys leaving school to have their names
bracketed with those of friends; and when Brown took his departure his
name was duly cut, with a space left for Robinson's name when the time
of his departure came.
These stones have now exchanged the murky air of London for that of
one of the pleasantest sites in Surrey. Charter-House School has,
after passing two hundred and sixty years in the metropolis, changed
its location, and must be looked for now on a delightful spot near
Godalming in Surrey. The governors very wisely determined about five
years ago that boys were much better in country than in town, and,
having ample funds, took measures accordingly. Last October the new
buildings were ready for the boys' reception, and they met there for
the first time. The stones, however, were, with a sentiment most will
appreciate, removed, in order to connect the past with the present,
for the Charter-House must ever have many tender ties binding it to
the site of the old monastery with its rich historic memories; and
however famous may be the men who go forth from the new ground which
Sutton's famous foundation occupies, it must derive a great part of
its fame for a long time to come from the place which sent out into
the world Addison, Steele, Thirlwall, Grote, Leech and Thackeray, not
to mention a host of names of those who in arms and arts have done
credit to the place of their education.
The home for aged and infirm or disabled men will remain where it has
always been. This establishment has indeed been a welcome refuge to
thousands who have known better days. Men of all ranks and conditions,
who have experienced in the afternoon of life contrary winds too
powerful for them to encounter, have here found a haven for the
remnant of their days. Some have held most important positions, and
a lord mayor of London, who had received emperors at his table, was
a few years ago one of Sutton's "poor brethren." The pensioners were
always called _cods_ by the boys, probably short for codgers. Each had
a room plainly furnished, about one hundred and fifty dollars a year,
rations, and a dinner every day in the great hall. The boys, who did
not often know their names, gave them nicknames by which they became
generally known. Thus three were called "Battle," "Murder" and
"Sudden Death;" another "Larky," in consequence of a certain levity
of demeanor at divine service. These old gentlemen were expected to
attend chapel daily. Every evening at nine o'clock the chapel bell
tolled the exact number of them, just as Great Tom at Christ Church,
Oxford, nightly rings out the number of the students. Being for
the most part aged men, soured by misfortune and failure, they are
naturally enough often hard to please and difficult to deal with.
No passage in Thackeray's writings is more deeply pathetic than
that in which he records the last scene of one "poor brother," that
Bayard of fiction, Colonel Newcome: "At the usual evening hour the
chapel-bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands outside the bed
feebly beat time. And just as the last bell struck, a peculiar sweet
smile shone over his face, and he lifted up his head a little, and
quickly said, 'Adsum!' and fell back. It was the word he used at
school when names, were called; and lo, he whose heart was as that of
a little child had answered to his name and stood in the presence of
AN OLD "GOWN-BOY."
[Footnote 2: The original seat of the Carthusian order was at
Chartreux in Dauphiny, where it was founded by Saint Bruno.]
[Footnote 3: Witham, which is not far from Fonthill, became in 1763
the property of Alderman Beckford, the millionaire father of the
celebrated author of _Vathek_.]
[Footnote 4: Lord Suffolk probably applied the purchase-money
(thirteen thousand pounds) to help build the palace, called Audley End
or Inn, he raised in Essex. It stands on abbey-land granted by Henry
VIII. to his wife's father, Lord Audley of Walden, near Saffron-Walden
in Essex, and was generally regarded as the most magnificent structure
of its period, although Evelyn gives the preference to Clarendon
House, that grand mansion of the chancellor's which provoked so much
jealousy against him, and came to be called Dunkirk House, from the
insinuation that it was built out of the funds paid by the French for
Dunkirk. Abbey-lands are supposed by many to carry ill-luck with them,
and quickly to change hands. Audley End has proved no exception to
this hypothetical fate. Only a portion of it now remains, but this,
though much marred by injudicious alterations, is amply sufficient to
show how grand it was. It has long since passed out of the hands of
the Howards, and now belongs to Lord Braybrooke, whose family name
is Nevill. A relation of his, a former peer of the name, edited the
best edition of _Pepys' Diary_, in which and in Evelyn is frequent
reference to Audley End.]
[Footnote 5: The order of proceedings was subsequently inverted.]
[Footnote 6: _The Newcomers_: "Founder's Day at Gray Friars." On one
of the last Founder's Days of his life Thackeray came with a friend
early in the day, and scattered half sovereigns to the little
gown-boys in "Gown-boys' Hall."]
[Footnote 7: Heriot's Hospital at Edinburgh.]
[Footnote 8: Simon Baxter was his only sister's son. Sutton had
left him an estate which in 1615 he sold to the ancestor of the
present earl of Sefton for fifteen thousand pounds--equal to about
seventy-five thousand pounds now--and a legacy of three hundred
[Footnote 9: This was a post which Thackeray coveted, and had he lived
might possibly have filled. The master's lodge, a spacious antique
residence, lined with portraits of governors in their robes of estate,
by Lely, Kneller, etc., would in his hands have become a resort of
rare interest and hospitality.]
[Footnote 10: In what is known as "The Charter-House Play," which
describes some boyish orgies and their subsequent punishment, the
latter is described in the pathetic lines:
Now the victim low is bending,
Now the fearful rod descending,
Hark a blow! Again, again
Sounds the instrument of pain.
Goddess of mercy! oh impart
Thy kindness to the doctor's heart:
Bid him words of pardon say--
Cast the blood-stained scourge away.
In vain, in vain! he will not hear:
Mercy is a stranger there.
Justice, unrelenting dame,
First asserts her lawful claim.
This is aye her maxim true:
"They who sin must suffer too."
When of fun we've had our fill,
Justice then sends in her bill,
And as soon as we have read it,
Pay we must: she gives no credit.
There is some rather fine doggerel too, in which the doctor--the Dr.
Portman _Pendennis_--apostrophizes a monitor in whom he had believed,
but finds to have been as bad as the rest. _The Doctor_ (with voice
indicative of tears and indignation):
Oh, Simon Steady! Simon Steady, oh!
What would your father say to see you so?--
You whom I always trusted, whom I deemed
As really good and honest as you seemed.
Are you the leader of this lawless throng,
The chief of all that's dissolute and wrong?
_Then with awful emphasis_:
Bad is the drunkard, shameless is the youth
Who dares desert the sacred paths of truth;
But he who hides himself 'neath Virtue's pall,
The painted hypocrite, is worse than all!
In acting this play the manner of the real doctor (Mr. Gladstone's old
tutor, now dean of Peterborough) was often imitated to the life, which
of course brought down the house.]
[Footnote 11: In his curious _London and the Country, Carbonadoed and
Quartered into severall Characters_ (1632), Lupton writes under the
"This place is well described by three things--magnificence,
munificence and religious government. The first shows the wealth
of the founder; the second, the means to make the good thing done
durable; the third demonstrates his intent that thus established
it.... This one place hath sent many a famous member to the
universities, and not a few to the wars. The deed of this man that so
ordered this house is much spoken of and commended; but there's none
(except only one--Sion College) that hath as yet either striven to
equal or imitate that, and I fear never will."]
A PRINCESS OF THULE
BY WILLIAM BLACK, AUTHOR OF "THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON."
Early morning at Borva, fresh, luminous and rare; the mountains in the
south grown pale and cloud-like under a sapphire sky; the sea ruffled
into a darker blue by a light breeze from the west: and the sunlight
lying hot on the red gravel and white shells around Mackenzie's house.
There is an odor of sweetbrier about, hovering in the warm, still air,
except at such times as the breeze freshens a bit, and brings round
the shoulder of the hill the cold, strange scent of the rocks and the
And on this fresh and pleasant morning Sheila sat in the big garden
seat in front of the house, talking to the stranger to whom she had
been introduced the day before. He was no more a stranger, however, to
all appearance, for what could be more frank and friendly than their
conversation, or more bright and winning than the smile with which
she frequently turned to speak or to listen? Of course this stranger
could not be her friend as Mr. Ingram was--that was impossible. But
he talked a great deal more than Mr. Ingram, and was apparently more
anxious to please and be pleased; and indeed was altogether very
winning and courteous and pleasant in his ways. Beyond this vague
impression, Sheila ventured upon no further comparison between the
two men. If her older friend had been down, she would doubtless have
preferred talking to him about all that had happened in the island
since his last visit; but here was this newer friend thrown, as it
were, upon her hospitality, and eager, with a most respectful and yet
simple and friendly interest, to be taught all that Ingram already
knew. Was he not, too, in mere appearance like one of the princes
she had read of in many an ancient ballad--tall and handsome and
yellow-haired, fit to have come sailing over the sea, with a dozen
merry comrades, to carry off some sea-king's daughter to be his bride?
Sheila began to regret that the young man knew so little about the sea
and the northern islands and those old-time stories; but then he was
very anxious to learn.
"You must say _Mach-Klyoda_ instead of Macleod," she was saying
to him, "if you like _Styornoway_ better than Stornoway. It is the
Gaelic, that is all."
"Oh, it is ever so much prettier," said young Lavender with a quite
genuine enthusiasm in his face, not altogether begotten of the letter
_y_; "and indeed I don't think you can possibly tell how singularly
pleasant and quaint it is to an English ear to hear just that little
softening of the vowels that the people have here. I suppose you don't
notice that they say _gyarden_ for garden--"
"They!" As if he had paid attention to the pronunciation of any one
except Sheila herself!
"--but not quite so hard as I pronounce it. And so with a great many
other words, that are softened and sweetened, and made almost poetical
in their sound by the least bit of inflection. How surprised and
pleased English ladies would be to hear you speak! Oh, I beg your
pardon--I did not mean to--I--I beg your pardon--"
Sheila seemed a little astonished by her companion's evident
mortification, and said with a smile, "If others speak so in the
island, of course I must too; and you say it does not shock you."
His distress at his own rudeness now found an easy vent. He protested
that no people could talk English like the people of Lewis. He gave
Sheila to understand that the speech of English folks was as the
croaking of ravens compared with the sweet tones of the northern
isles; and this drew him on to speak of his friends in the South and
of London, and of the chances of Sheila ever going thither.
"It must be so strange never to have seen London," he said. "Don't you
ever dream of what it is like? Don't you ever try to think of a great
space, nearly as big as this island, all covered over with large
houses, the roads between the houses all made of stone, and great
bridges going over the rivers, with railway-trains standing? By the
way, you have never seen a railway-engine!"
He looked at her for a moment in astonishment, as if he had not
hitherto realized to himself the absolute ignorance of the remote
princess. Sheila, with some little touch of humor appearing in her
calm eyes, said, "But I am not quite ignorant of all these things. I
have seen pictures of them, and my papa has described them to me so
often that I will feel as if I had seen them all; and I do not think
I should be surprised, except, perhaps, by the noise of the big towns.
It was many a time my papa told me of that; but he says I cannot
understand it, nor the great distance of land you travel over to get
to London. That is what I do not wish to see. I was often thinking of
it, and that to pass so many places that you do not know would make
you very sad."
"That can be easily avoided," he said lightly. "When you go to London,
you must go from Glasgow or Edinburgh in a night-train, and fall fast
asleep, and in the morning you will find yourself in London, without
having seen anything."
"Just as if one had gone across a great distance of sea, and come
to another island you will never see before," said Sheila, with the
gray-blue eyes under the black eyelashes grown strange and distant.
"But you must not think of it as a melancholy thing," he said, almost
anxiously. "You will find yourself among all sorts of gayeties and
amusements; you will have cheerful people around you, and plenty of
things to see; you will drive in beautiful parks, and go to theatres,
and meet people in large and brilliant rooms, filled with flowers and
silver and light. And all through the winter, that must be so cold and
dark up here, you will find abundance of warmth and light, and plenty
of flowers, and every sort of pleasant thing. You will hear no more of
those songs of drowned people; and you will be afraid no longer of the
storms, or listen to the waves at night; and by and by, when you have
got quite accustomed to London, and got a great many friends, you
might be disposed to stay there altogether; and you would grow to
think of this island as a desolate and melancholy place, and never
seek to come back."
The girl rose suddenly and turned to a fuchsia tree, pretending to
pick some of its flowers. Tears had sprung to her eyes unbidden, and
it was in rather an uncertain voice that she said, still managing to
conceal her face, "I like to hear you talk of those places, but--but I
will never leave Borva."
What possible interest could he have in combating this decision so
anxiously, almost so imploringly? He renewed his complaints against
the melancholy of the sea and the dreariness of the northern winters.
He described again and again the brilliant lights and colors of
town-life in the South. As a mere matter of experience and education
she ought to go to London; and had not her papa as good as intimated
his intention of taking her?
In the midst of these representations a step was heard in the hall,
and then the girl looked round with a bright light on her face.
"Well, Sheila?" said Ingram, according to his custom, and both the
girl's hands were in his the next minute. "You are down early. What
have you been about? Have you been telling Mr. Lavender of the Black
Horse of Loch Suainabhal?"
"No: Mr. Lavender has been telling me of London."
"And I have been trying to induce Miss Mackenzie to pay us a visit,
so that we may show her the difference between a city and an island.
But all to no purpose. Miss Mackenzie seems to like hard winters and
darkness and cold; and as for that perpetual and melancholy and cruel
sea, that in the winter-time I should fancy might drive anybody into a
"Ah, you must not talk badly of the sea," said the girl, with all
her courage and brightness returned to her face: "it is our very good
friend. It gives us food, and keeps many people alive. It carries the
lads away to other places, and brings them back with money in their
"And sometimes it smashes a few of them on the rocks, or swallows up
a dozen families, and the next morning it is as smooth and treacherous
and fair as if nothing had happened."
"But that is not the sea at all," said Sheila: "that is the storms
that will wreck the boats; and how can the sea help that? When the sea
is let alone the sea is very good to us."
Ingram laughed aloud and patted the girl's head fondly; and Lavender,
blushing a little, confessed he was beaten, and that he would never
again, in Miss Mackenzie's presence, say anything against the sea.
The King of Borva now appearing, they all went in to breakfast; and
Sheila sat opposite the window, so that all the light coming in from
the clear sky and the sea was reflected upon her face, and lit up
every varying expression that crossed it or that shone up in the
beautiful deeps of her eyes. Lavender, his own face in shadow, could
look at her from time to time, himself unseen; and as he sat in almost
absolute silence, and noticed how she talked with Ingram, and what
deference she paid him, and how anxious she was to please him, he
began to wonder if he should ever be admitted to a like friendship
with her. It was so strange, too, that this handsome, proud-featured,
proud-spirited girl should so devote herself to the amusement of a
man like Ingram, and, forgetting all the court that should have been
paid to a pretty woman, seem determined to persuade him that he
was conferring a favor upon her by every word and look. Of course,
Lavender admitted to himself, Ingram was a very good sort of fellow--a
very good sort of fellow indeed. If any one was in a scrape about
money, Ingram would come to the rescue without a moment's hesitation,
although the salary of a clerk in the Board of Trade might have been
made the excuse, by any other man, for a very justifiable refusal.
He was very clever too--had read much, and all that kind of thing.
But he was not the sort of man you might expect to get on well with
women. Unless with very intimate friends, he was a trifle silent and
reserved. Often he was inclined to be pragmatic and sententious, and
had a habit of saying unpleasantly bitter things when some careless
joke was being made. He was a little dingy in appearance; and a
man who had a somewhat cold manner, who was sallow of face, who
was obviously getting gray, and who was generally insignificant in
appearance, was not the sort of man, one would think, to fascinate
an exceptionally handsome girl, who had brains enough to know the
fineness of her own face. But here was this princess paying attentions
to him such as must have driven a more impressionable man out of his
senses, while Ingram sat quiet and pleased, sometimes making fun of
her, and generally talking to her as if she were a child. Sheila had
chatted very pleasantly with him, Lavender, in the morning, but it was
evident that her relations with Ingram were of a very different kind,
such as he could not well understand. For it was scarcely possible
that she could be in love with Ingram, and yet surely the pleasure
that dwelt in her expressive face when she spoke to him or listened to
him was not the result of a mere friendship.
If Lavender had been told at that moment that these two were lovers,
and that they were looking forward to an early marriage, he would
have rejoiced with an enthusiasm of joy. He would have honestly and
cordially shaken Ingram by the hand; he would have made plans for
introducing the young bride to all the people he knew; and he would
have gone straight off, on reaching London, to buy Sheila a diamond
necklace even if he had to borrow the money from Ingram himself.
"And have you got rid yet of the _Airgiod-cearc_ Sheila?" said
Ingram, suddenly breaking in upon these dreams; "or does every owner
of hens still pay his annual shilling to the Lord of Lewis?"
"It is not away yet," said the girl, "but when Sir James comes in the
autumn I will go over to Stornoway and ask him to take away the tax;
and I know he will do it, for what is the shilling worth to him, when
he has spent thousands and thousands of pounds on the Lewis? But it
will be very hard on some of the poor people that only keep one or two
hens; and I will tell Sir James of all that--"
"You will do nothing of the kind, Sheila," said her father
impatiently. "What is the _Airgiod-cearc_ to you, that you will go
over to Stornoway only to be laughed at and make a fool of yourself?"
"That is nothing, not anything at all," said the girl, "if Sir James
will only take away the tax."
"Why, Sheila, they would treat you as another Lady Godiva!" said
Ingram, with a good-humored smile.
"But Miss Mackenzie is quite right," exclaimed Lavender, with a sudden
flush of color leaping into his handsome face and an honest glow of
admiration into his eyes. "I think it is a very noble thing for her to
do, and nobody, either in Stornoway or anywhere else, would be such
a brute as to laugh at her for trying to help those poor people, who
have not too many friends and defenders, God knows!"
Ingram looked surprised. Since when had the young gentleman across
the table acquired such a singular interest in the poorer classes, of
whose very existence he had for the most part seemed unaware? But the
enthusiasm in his face was quite honest: there could be no doubt of
that. As for Sheila, with a beating heart she ventured to send to her
champion a brief and timid glance of gratitude, which the young man
observed, and never forgot.
"You will not know what it is all about," said the King of Borva
with a peevish air, as though it were too bad that a person of his
authority should have to descend to petty details about a hen-tax.
"It is many and many a tax and a due Sir James will take away from his
tenants in the Lewis, and he will spend more money a thousand times
than ever he will get back; and it was this _Airgiod-cearc_, it will
stand in the place of a great many other things taken away, just to
remind the folk that they have not their land all in their own right.
It is many things you will have to do in managing the poor people, not
to let them get too proud, or forgetful of what they owe to you; and
now there is no more tacksmen to be the masters of the small crofters,
and the crofters they would think they were landlords themselves if
there were no dues for them to pay."
"I have heard of those middlemen: they were dreadful tyrants and
thieves, weren't they?" said Lavender. Ingram kicked his foot under
the table. "I mean, that was the popular impression of them--a vulgar
error, I presume," continued the young man in the coolest manner. "And
so you have got rid of them? Well, I dare say many of them were honest
men, and suffered very unjustly in common report."
Mackenzie answered nothing, but his daughter said quickly, "But, you
know, Mr. Lavender, they have not gone away merely because they cease
to have the letting of the land to the crofters. They have still their
old holdings, and so have the crofters in most cases. Every one now
holds direct from the proprietor, that is all."
"So that there is no difference between the former tacksman and his
serf except the relative size of their farms?"
"Well, the crofters have no leases, but the tacksmen have," said the
girl somewhat timidly; and then she added, "But you have not decided
yet, Mr. Ingram, what you will do to-day. It is too clear for the
salmon-fishing. Will you go over to Meavig, and show Mr. Lavender the
Bay of Uig and the Seven Hunters?"
"Surely we must show him Borvabost first, Sheila," said Ingram. "He
saw nothing of it last night in the dark; and I think, if you offered
to take Mr. Lavender round in your boat and show him what a clever
sailor you are, he would prefer that to walking over the hill."
"I can take you all round in the boat, certainly," said the girl with
a quick blush of pleasure; and forthwith a message was sent to Duncan
that cushions should be taken down to the Maighdean-mhara, the little
vessel of which Sheila was both skipper and pilot.
How beautiful was the fair sea-picture that lay around them as the
Maighdean-mhara stood out to the mouth of Loch Roag on this bright
summer morning! Sheila sat in the stern of the small boat, her hand
on the filler. Lufrath lay at her feet, his nose between the long and
shaggy paws. Duncan, grave and watchful as to the wind and the points
of the coast, sat amidships, with the sheets of the mainsail held
fast, and superintended the seamanship of his young mistress with a
respectful but most evident pride. And as Ingram had gone off with
Mackenzie to walk over to the White Water before going down to
Borvabost, Frank Lavender was Sheila's sole companion out in this
wonderland of rock and sea and blue sky.
He did not talk much to her, and she was so well occupied with the
boat that he could regard with impunity the shifting lights and graces
of her face and all the wonder and winning depths of her eyes. The sea
was blue around them; the sky overhead had not a speck of cloud in it;
the white sand-bays, the green stretches of pasture and the far and
spectral mountains trembled in a haze of sunlight. Then there was all
the delight of the fresh and cool wind, the hissing of the water along
the boat, and the joyous rapidity with which the small vessel, lying
over a little, ran through the crisply curling waters, and brought
into view the newer wonders of the opening sea.
Was it not all a dream, that he should be sitting by the side of this
sea-princess, who was attended only by her deerhound and the tall
keeper? And if a dream, why should it not go on for ever? To live for
ever in this magic land--to have the princess herself carry him in
this little boat into the quiet bays of the islands, or out at night,
in moonlight, on the open sea--to forget for ever the godless South
and its social phantasmagoria, and live in this beautiful and distant
solitude, with the solemn secrets of the hills and the moving deep for
ever present to the imagination, might not that be a nobler life? And
some day or other he would take this island-princess up to London,
and he would bid the women that he knew--the scheming mothers and the
doll-like daughters--stand aside from before this perfect work of God.
She would carry with her the mystery of the sea in the deeps of her
eyes, and the music of the far hills would be heard in her voice, and
all the sweetness and purity and brightness of the clear summer skies
would be mirrored in her innocent soul. She would appear in London as
some wild-plumaged bird hailing from distant climes, and before she
had lived there long enough to grow sad, and have the weight of the
city clouding the brightness of her eyes, she would be spirited
away again into this strange sea-kingdom, where there seemed to be
perpetual sunshine and the light music of the waves.
Poor Sheila! She little knew what was expected of her, or the sort of
drama into which she was being thrown as a central figure. She little
knew that she, a simple Highland girl, was being transformed into
a wonderful creature of romance, who was to put to shame the gentle
dames and maidens of London society, and do many other extraordinary
things. But what would have appeared the most extraordinary of all
these speculations, if she had only known of them, was the assumption
that she would marry Frank Lavender. _That_ the young man had quite
naturally taken for granted, but perhaps only as a basis for his
imaginative scenes. In order to do these fine things she would have
to be married to somebody, and why not to himself? Think of the pride
he would have in leading this beautiful girl, with her quaint manners
and fashion of speech, into a London drawing-room! Would not every
one wish to know her? Would not every one listen to her singing of
those Gaelic songs? for of course she must sing well. Would not all
his artist friends be anxious to paint her? and she would go to the
Academy to convince the loungers there how utterly the canvas had
failed to catch the light and dignity and sweetness of her face.
When Sheila spoke he started.
"Did you not see it?"
"The seal: it rose for a moment just over there," said the girl, with
a great interest visible in her eyes.
The beautiful dreams he had been dreaming were considerably shattered
by this interruption. How could a fairy princess be so interested in
some common animal showing its head out of the sea? It also occurred
to him, just at this moment, that if Sheila and Mairi went out in
this boat by themselves, they must be in the habit of hoisting up the
mainsail; and was such rude and coarse work befitting the character of
"He looks very like a black man in the water when his head comes up,"
said Sheila--"when the water is smooth so that you will see him
look at you. But I have not told you yet about the Black Horse that
Alister-nan-Each saw at Loch Suainabhal one night. Loch Suainabhal,
that is inland and fresh water, so it was not a seal; but Alister
was going along the shore, and he saw it lying up by the road, and he
looked at it for a long time. It was quite black, and he thought it
was a boat; but when he came near he saw it begin to move, and then
it went down across the shore and splashed into the loch. And it had
a head bigger than a horse, and quite black, and it made a noise as it
went down the shore to the loch."
"Don't you think Alister must have been taking a little whisky, Miss
"No, not that, for he came to me just after he will see the beast."
"And do you really believe he saw such an animal?" said Lavender with
"I do not know," said the girl gravely. "Perhaps it was only a fright,
and he imagined he saw it; but I do not know it is impossible there
can be such an animal at Loch Suainabhal. But that is nothing: it
is of no consequence. But I have seen stranger things than the Black
Horse, that many people will not believe."
"May I ask what they are?" he said gently.
"Some other time, perhaps, I will tell you; but there is much
explanation about it, and, you see, we are going in to Borvabost."
Was this, then, the capital of the small empire over which the
princess ruled? He saw before him but a long row of small huts or
hovels resembling bee-hives, which stood above the curve of a white
bay, and at one portion of the bay was a small creek, near which
a number of large boats, bottom upward, lay on the beach. What odd
little dwellings those were! The walls, a few feet high, were built
of rude blocks of stone or slices of turf, and from those low supports
rose a rounded roof of straw, which was thatched over by a further
layer of turf. There were few windows, and no chimneys at all--not
even a hole in the roof. And what was meant by the two men who,
standing on one of the turf walls, were busily engaged in digging into
the rich brown and black thatch and heaving it into a cart? Sheila had
to explain to him that while she was doing everything in her power to
get the people to suffer the introduction of windows, it was hopeless
to think of chimneys; for by carefully guarding against the egress of
the peat-smoke, it slowly saturated the thatch of the roof, which at
certain periods of the year was then taken off to dress the fields,
and a new roof of straw put on.
By this time they had run the Maighdean-mhara--the "Sea Maiden"--into
a creek, and were climbing up the steep beach of shingle that had been
worn smooth by the unquiet waters of the Atlantic.
"And will you want to speak to me, Ailasa?" said Sheila, turning to a
small girl who had approached her somewhat diffidently.
She was a pretty little thing, with a round fair face tanned by the
sun, brown hair and soft dark eyes. She was bare-headed, bare-footed
and bare-armed, but she was otherwise smartly dressed, and she held
in her hand an enormous flounder, apparently about half as heavy as
"Will ye hef the fesh, Miss Sheila?" said the small Ailasa, holding
out the flounder, but looking down all the same.
"Did you catch it yourself, Ailasa?"
"Yes, it wass Donald and me: we wass out in a boat, and Donald had a
"And it is a present for me?" said Sheila, patting the small head and
its wild and soft hair. "Thank you, Ailasa. But you must ask Donald to
carry it up to the house and give it to Mairi. I cannot take it with
me just now, you know."
There was a small boy cowering behind one of the upturned boats, and
by his furtive peepings showing that he was in league with his sister.
Ailasa, not thinking that she was discovering his whereabouts, turned
quite naturally in that direction, until she was suddenly stopped by
Lavender, who called to her and put his hand in his pocket. But he was
too late. Sheila had stepped in, and with a quick look, which was all
the protest that was needed, shut her hand over the half crown he had
in his fingers.
"Never mind, Ailasa," she said. "Go away and get Donald, and bid him
carry the fish up to Mairi."
Lavender put up the half crown in his pocket in a somewhat dazed
fashion: what he chiefly knew was that Sheila had for a moment held
his hand in hers and that her eyes had met his.
Well, that little incident of Ailasa and the flounder was rather
pleasant to him. It did not shock the romantic associations he had
begun to weave around his fair companion. But when they had gone up
to the cottages--Mackenzie and Ingram not yet having arrived--and
when Sheila proceeded to tell him about the circumstances of the
fishermen's lives, and to explain how such and such things were done
in the fields and in the pickling-houses, and so forth, Lavender was
a little disappointed. Sheila took him into some of the cottages, or
rather hovels, and he vaguely knew in the darkness that she sat down
by the low glow of the peat-fire, and began to ask the women about all
sorts of improvements in the walls and windows and gardens, and what
not. Surely it was not for a princess to go advising people about
particular sorts of soap, or offering to pay for a pane of glass if
the husband of the woman would make the necessary aperture in the
stone wall. The picture of Sheila appearing as a sea-princess in a
London drawing-room was all very beautiful in its way, but here she
was discussing as to the quality given to broth by the addition of a
certain vegetable which she offered to send down from her own garden
if the cottager in question would try to grow it.
"I wonder, Miss Mackenzie," he said at length, when they got outside,
his eyes dazed with the light and smarting with the peat-smoke--"I
wonder you can trouble yourself with such little matters that those
people should find out for themselves."
The girl looked up with some surprise: "That is the work I have to do.
My papa cannot do everything in the island."
"But what is the necessity for your bothering yourself about such
things? Surely they ought to be able to look after their own gardens
and houses. It is no degradation--certainly not, for anything you
interested yourself in would become worthy of attention by the very
fact--but, after all, it seems such a pity you should give up your
time to these commonplace details."
"But some one must do it," said the girl quite innocently, "and my
papa has no time. And they will be very good in doing what I ask
them--every one in the island."
Was this a willful affectation? he said to himself. Or was she really
incapable of understanding that there was anything incongruous in a
young lady of her position, education and refinement busying herself
with the curing of fish and the cost of lime? He had himself marked
the incongruity long ago, when Ingram had been telling him of the
remote and beautiful maiden whose only notions of the world had been
derived from literature--who was more familiar with the magic land
in which Endymion wandered than with any other--and that at the same
time she was about as good as her father at planning a wooden bridge
over a stream. When Lavender had got outside again--when he found
himself walking with her along the white beach in front of the blue
Atlantic--she was again the princess of his dreams. He looked at her
face, and he saw in her eyes that she must be familiar with all the
romantic nooks and glades of English poetry. The plashing of the waves
down there and the music of her voice recalled the sad legends of the
fishermen he hoped to hear her sing. But ever and anon there occurred
a jarring recollection--whether arising from a contradiction between
his notion of Sheila and the actual Sheila, or whether from some
incongruity in himself, he did not stop to consider. He only knew that
a beautiful maiden who had lived by the sea all her life, and who had
followed the wanderings of Endymion in the enchanted forest, need not
have been so particular about a method of boiling potatoes, or have
shown so much interest in a pattern for children's frocks.
Mackenzie and Ingram met them. There was the usual "Well, Sheila?"
followed by a thousand questions about the very things she had been
inquiring into. That was one of the odd points about Ingram that
puzzled and sometimes vexed Lavender; for if you are walking home at
night it is inconvenient to be accompanied by a friend who would stop
to ask about the circumstances of some old crone hobbling along the
pavement, or who could, on his own doorstep, stop to have a chat with
a garrulous policeman. Ingram was about as odd as Sheila herself in
the attention he paid to those wretched cotters and their doings.
He could not advise on the important subject of broth, but he would
have tasted it by way of discovery, even if it had been presented to
him in a tea-cup. He had already been prowling round the place with
Mackenzie. He had inspected the apparatus in the creek for hauling up
the boats. He had visited the curing-houses. He had examined the heaps
of fish drying on the beach. He had drunk whisky with John the Piper
and shaken hands with Alister-nan-Each. And now he had come to tell
Sheila that the piper was bringing down luncheon from Mackenzie's
house, and that after they had eaten and drunk on the white beach they
would put out the Maighdean-mhara once more to sea, and sail over to
Mevaig, that the stranger might see the wondrous sands of the Bay of
But it was not in consonance with the dignity of a king that his
guests should eat from off the pebbles, like so many fishermen, and
when Mairi and another girl brought down the baskets, luncheon was
placed in the stern of the small vessel, while Duncan got up the
sails and put out from the stone quay. As for John the Piper, was he
insulted at having been sent on a menial errand? They had scarcely got
away from the shore when the sounds of the pipes was wafted to them
from the hillside above, and it was the "Lament of Mackrimmon" that
followed them out to sea:
Mackrimmon shall no more return,
Oh never, never more return!
That was the wild and ominous air that was skirling up on the
hillside; and Mackenzie's face, as he heard it, grew wroth. "That
teffle of a piper John!" he said with an involuntary stamp of his
foot. "What for will he be playing _Cha till mi tuilich?_"
"It is out of mischief, papa," said Sheila--"that is all."
"It will be more than mischief if I burn his pipes and drive him out
of Borva. Then there will be no more of mischief."
"It is very bad of John to do that," said Sheila to Lavender,
apparently in explanation of her father's anger, "for we have given
him shelter here when there will be no more pipes in all the Lewis.
It wass the Free Church ministers, they put down the pipes, for there
wass too much wildness at the marriages when the pipes would play."
"And what do the people dance to now?" asked the young gentleman, who
seemed to resent this piece of paternal government.
Sheila laughed in an embarrassed way.
"Miss Mackenzie would rather not tell you," said Ingram. "The fact is,
the noble mountaineers of these districts have had to fall back on the
Jew's harp. The ministers allow that instrument to be used--I suppose
because there is a look of piety in the name. But the dancing doesn't
get very mad when you have two or three young fellows playing a
strathspey on a bit of trembling wire."
"That teffle of a piper John!" growled Mackenzie under his breath;
and so the Maighdean-mhara lightly sped on her way, opening out the
various headlands of the islands, until at last she got into the
narrows by Eilean-Aird-Meinish, and ran up the long arm of the sea
They landed and went up the rocks. They passed two or three small
white houses overlooking the still, green waters of the sea, and then,
following the line of a river, plunged into the heart of a strange
and lonely district, in which there appeared to be no life. The
river-track took them up a great glen, the sides of which were about
as sheer as a railway-cutting. There were no trees or bushes about,
but the green pasture along the bed of the valley wore its brightest
colors in the warm sunlight, and far up on the hillsides the browns
and crimsons of the heather and the silver-gray of the rocks trembled
in the white haze of the heat. Over that again the blue sky, as still
and silent as the world below.
They wandered on, content with idleness and a fine day. Mr. Mackenzie
was talking with some little loudness, so that Lavender might hear,
of Mr. John Stuart Mill, and was anxious to convey to Ted Ingram
that a wise man, who is responsible for the well-being of his
fellow-creatures, will study all sides of all questions, however
dangerous. Sheila was doing her best to entertain the stranger, and
he, in a dream of his own, was listening to the information she gave
him. How much of it did he carry away? He was told that the gray goose
built its nest in the rushes at the edge of lakes: Sheila knew several
nests in Borva. Sheila also caught the young of the wild-duck when
the mother was guiding them down the hill-rivulets to the sea. She
had tamed many of them, catching them thus before they could fly. The
names of most of the mountains about here ended in _bhal_, which was
a Gaelic corruption of the Norse _fiall_, a mountain. There were many
Norse names all through the Lewis, but more particularly toward the
Butt. The termination _bost_, for example, at the end of many words,
meant an inhabited place, but she fancied _bost_ was Danish. And did
Mr. Lavender know of the legend connected with the air of _Cha till,
cha till mi tuille_?
Lavender started as from a trance, with an impression that he had
been desperately rude. He was about to say that the gray gosling in
the legend could not speak Scandinavian, when he was interrupted by
Mr. Mackenzie turning and asking him if he knew from what ports the
English smacks hailed that came up hither to the cod and the ling
fishing for a couple of months in the autumn. The young man said he
did not know. There were many fishermen at Brighton. And when the King
of Borva turned to Ingram, to see why he was shouting with laughter,
Sheila suddenly announced to the party that before them lay the great
Bay of Uig.
It was certainly a strange and impressive scene. They stood on the top
of a lofty range of hill, and, underneath them lay a vast semicircle,
miles in extent, of gleaming white sand, that had in bygone ages been
washed in by the Atlantic. Into this vast plain of silver whiteness
the sea, entering by a somewhat narrow portal, stretched in long arms
of a pale blue. Elsewhere, the great crescent of sand was surrounded
by a low line of rocky hill, showing a thousand tints of olive-green
and gray and heather-purple; and beyond that again rose the giant bulk
of Mealasabhal, grown pale in the heat, into the southern sky. There
was not a ship visible along the blue plain of the Atlantic. The only
human habitation to be seen in the strange world beneath them was a
solitary manse. But away toward the summit of Mealasabhal two specks
slowly circled in the air, which Sheila thought were eagles; and far
out on the western sea, lying like dusky whales in the vague blue,
were the Pladda Islands--the remote and unvisited Seven Hunters--whose
only inhabitants are certain flocks of sheep belonging to dwellers on
the mainland of Lewis.
The travelers sat down on a low block of gneiss to rest themselves,
and then and there did the King of Borva recite his grievances and
rage against the English smacks. Was it not enough that they should
in passing steal the sheep, but that they should also, in mere
wantonness, stalk them as deer, wounding them with rifle-bullets, and
leaving them to die among the rocks? Sheila said bravely that no one
could tell that it was the English fishermen who did that. Why not the
crews of merchant-vessels, who might be of any nation? It was unfair
to charge upon any body of men such a despicable act, when there was
no proof of it whatever.
"Why, Sheila," said Ingram with some surprise, "you never doubted
before that it was the English smacks that killed the sheep."
Sheila cast down her eyes and said nothing.
Was the sinister prophecy of John the Piper to be fulfilled? Mackenzie
was so much engaged in expounding politics to Ingram, and Sheila was
so proud to show her companion all the wonders of Uig, that when they
returned to Mevaig in the evening the wind had altogether gone down
and the sea was as a sea of glass. But if John the Piper had been
ready to foretell for Mackenzie the fate of Mackrimmon, he had taken
means to defeat destiny by bringing over from Borvabost a large
and heavy boat pulled by six rowers. These were not strapping young
fellows, clad in the best blue cloth to be got in Stornoway, but
elderly men, gray, wrinkled, weather-beaten and hard of face, who sat
stolidly in the boat and listened with a sort of bovine gaze to the
old hunchback's wicked stories and jokes. John was in a mischievous
mood, but Lavender, in a confidential whisper, informed Sheila that
her father would speedily be avenged on the inconsiderate piper.
"Come, men, sing us a song, quick!" said Mackenzie as the party took
their seats in the stern and the great oars splashed into the sea of
gold. "Look sharp, John, and no teffle of a drowning song!"
In a shrill, high, querulous voice the piper, who was himself pulling
one of the two stroke oars, began to sing, and then the men behind
him, gathering courage, joined in an octave lower, their voices being
even more uncertain and lugubrious than his own. These poor fishermen
had not had the musical education of Clan-Alpine's warriors. The
performance was not enlivening, and as the monotonous and melancholy
sing-song that kept time to the oars told its story in Gaelic, all
that the English strangers could make out was an occasional reference
to Jura or Scarba or Isla. It was, indeed, the song of an exile shut
up in "sea-worn Mull," who was complaining of the wearisome look of
the neighboring islands.
"But why do you sing such Gaelic as that, John?" said young Lavender
confidently. "I should have thought a man in your position--the last
of the Hebridean bards--would have known the classical Gaelic. Don't
you know the classical Gaelic?"
"There iss only the wan sort of Kallic, and it is a ferry goot sort of
Kallic," said the piper with some show of petulance.
"Do you mean to tell me you don't know your own tongue? Do you
not know what the greatest of all the bards wrote about your own
island?--'O et praesidium et dulce decus meum, _agus_, Tityre tu patulae
recubans sub tegmine _Styornoway_, Arma virumque cano, _Macklyoda_ et
_Borvabost_ sub tegmine fagi?'"
Not only John the Piper, but all the men behind him, began to look
amazed and sorely troubled; and all the more so that Ingram--who had
picked up more Gaelic words than his friend--came to his assistance,
and began to talk to him in this unknown tongue. They heard references
in the conversation to persons and things with which they were
familiar in their own language, but still accompanied by much more
they could not understand.
The men now began to whisper awe-stricken questions to each other; and
at last John the Piper could not restrain his curiosity. "What in ta
name of Kott is tat sort of Kallic?" he asked, with some look of fear
in his eyes.
"You are not much of a student, John," said Lavender carelessly,
"but still, a man in your position should know something of your own
language. A bard, a poet, and not know the classical form of your own
"Is it, ta Welsh Kallic?" cried John in desperation, for he knew that
the men behind him would carry the story of his ignorance all over
"The Welsh Gaelic? No. I see you will have to go to school again."
"There iss no more Kallic in ta schools," said the piper, eagerly
seizing the excuse. "It iss Miss Sheila, she will hef put away all ta
Kallic from ta schools."
"But you were born half a century before Miss Sheila: how is it you
neglected to learn that form of Gaelic that has been sacred to the use
of the bards and poets since the time of Ossian?"
There were no more quips or cranks for John the Piper during the rest
of the pull home. The wretched man relapsed into a moody silence
and worked mechanically at his oar, brooding over this mysterious
language of which he had not even heard. As for Lavender, he turned to
Mackenzie and begged to know what he thought of affairs in France.
And so they sailed back to Borvabost over the smooth water that lay
like a lake of gold. Was it not a strange sight to see the Atlantic
one vast and smooth yellow plain under the great glow of saffron that
spread across the regions of the sunset? It was a world of light,
unbroken but by the presence of a heavy coaster that had anchored
in the bay, and that sent a long line of trembling black down on the
perfect mirror of the sea. As they got near the shore the portions
that were in shadow showed with a strange distinctness the dark green
of the pasture and the sharp outlines of the rocks; and there was a
cold scent of seaweed in the evening air. The six heavy oars plashed
into the smooth bay. The big boat was moored to the quay, and its
passengers landed once more in Borva. And when they turned, on their
way home, to look from the brow of the hill, on which Sheila had
placed a garden-seat, lo! all the west was on fire, the mountains in
the south had grown dark on their eastern side, and the plain of the
sea was like a lake of blood, with the heavy hull and masts of the
coaster grown large and solemn and distant. There was scarcely a
ripple around the rocks at their feet to break the stillness of the
So another day had passed, devoid of adventure or incident. Lavender
had not rescued his wonderful princess from an angry sea, nor had he
shown prowess in slaying a dozen stags, nor in any way distinguished
himself. To all outward appearance the relations of the party were the
same at night as they had been in the morning. But the greatest crises
of life steal on us imperceptibly, and have sometimes occurred and
wound us in their consequences before we know. The memorable things
in a man's career are not always marked by some sharp convulsion. The
youth does not necessarily marry the girl whom he happens to fish out
of a mill-pond: his future life may be far more definitely shaped for
him at a prosaic dinner-table, where he fancies he is only thinking
of the wines. We are indeed but as children seated on the shore,
watching the ripples that come on to our feet; and while the ripples
unceasingly repeat themselves, and while the hour that passes is but
as the hour before it, constellation after constellation has gone by
over our heads unheeded and unseen, and we awake with a start to find
ourselves in a new day, with all our former life cut off from us and
become as a dream.
A knocking at Ingram's door.
"Well, what's the matter?"
"Will ye be goin' to ta fishin', Mr. Ingram?"
"Is that you, Duncan? How the devil have you got over from Mevaig at
this hour of the morning?"
"Oh, there wass a bit breeze tis morning, and I hef prought over ta
Maighdean-mhara. And there iss a very goot ripple on ta watter, if you
will tek ta other gentleman to try for ta salmon."
"All right! Hammer at his door until he gets up. I shall be ready in
About half an hour thereafter the two young men were standing at the
front of Mackenzie's house, examining the enormous rod that Duncan had
placed against the porch. It was still early morning, and there was a
cold wind blowing in from the sea, but there was not a speck of cloud
in the sky, and the day promised to be hot. The plain of the Atlantic
was no longer a sheet of glass: it was rough and gray, and far out an
occasional quiver of white showed where a wave was hissing over. There
was not much of a sea on, but the heavy wash of the water round the
rocks and sandy bays could be distinctly heard in the silence of the
And what was this moving object down there by the shore where the
Maighdean-mhara lay at anchor? Both the young men at once recognized
the glimmer of the small white feather and the tightly-fitting blue
dress of the sea-princess.
"Why, there is Sheila!" cried Ingram. "What in all the world is she
about at such an hour?"
At this moment Duncan came out with a book of flies in his hand, and
he said in rather a petulant way, "And it iss no wonder Miss Sheila
will be out. And it wass Miss Sheila herself will tell me to see if
you will go to ta White Water and try for a salmon."
"And she is bringing up something from the boat: I must go and carry
it for her," said Lavender, making down the path to the shore with the
speed of a deer.
When Sheila and he came up the hill there was a fine color in the
girl's face from her morning's exertions, but she was not disposed to
go indoors to rest. On the contrary, she was soon engaged in helping
Mairi to bring in some coffee to the parlor, while Duncan cut slices
of ham and cold beef big enough to have provisioned a fishing-boat
bound for Caithness. Sheila had had her breakfast; so she devoted all
her time to waiting upon her two guests, until Lavender could scarcely
eat through the embarrassment produced by her noble servitude. Ingram
was not so sensitive, and made a very good meal indeed.
"Where's your father, Sheila?" said Ingram when the last of their
preparations had been made and they were about to start for the river,
"Isn't he up yet?"
"My father?" said the girl, with the least possible elevation of her
eyebrows--"he will be down at Borvabost an hour ago. And I hope that
John the Piper will not see him this morning. But we must make haste,
Mr. Ingram, for the wind will fall when the sun gets stronger, and
then your friend will have no more of the fishing."
So they set out, and Ingram put Sheila's hand on his arm, and took her
along with him in that fashion, while the tall gillie walked behind
with Lavender, who was or was not pleased with the arrangement. The
young man, indeed, was a trifle silent, but Duncan was in an amiable
and communicative mood, and passed the time in telling him stories
of the salmon he had caught, and of the people who had tried to catch
them and failed. Sheila and Ingram certainly went a good pace up the
hill and round the summit of it, and down again into the valley of the
White Water. The light step of the girl seemed to be as full of spring
as the heather on which she trod; and as for her feet getting wet,
the dew must have soaked them long ago. She was in the brightest of
spirits. Lavender could hear her laughing in a low pleased fashion,
and then presently her head would be turned up toward her companion,
and all the light of some humorous anecdote would appear in her face
and in her eloquent eyes, and it would be Ingram's turn to break out
into one of those short abrupt laughs that had something sardonic in
But hark! From the other side of the valley comes another sound, the
faint and distant skirl of the pipes, and yonder is the white-haired
hunchback, a mere speck in a waste of brown and green morass. What is
he playing to himself now?
"He is a foolish fellow, that John," said the tall keeper, "for if
he comes down to Borvabost this morning it iss Mr. Mackenzie will
fling his pipes in ta sea, and he will hef to go away and work in ta
steamboat. He iss a ferry foolish fellow; and it wass him tat wass
goin' into ta steamboat before, and he went to a tailor in Styornoway,
and he said to him, 'I want a pair o' troosers.' And the tailor said
to him, 'What sort o' troosers iss it you will want?' And he said to
him, 'I want a pair o' troosers for a steamboat.' A pair o' troosers
for a steamboat!--he is a teffle of a foolish fellow. And it wass him
that went in ta steamboat with a lot o' freens o' his, that wass a'
goin' to Skye to a big weddin' there; and it wass a very bad passage,
and when tey got into Portree the captain said to him, 'John, where
iss all your freens that tey do not come ashore?' And he said to him,
'I hef peen down below, sir, and four-thirds o' ta whole o' them are
a' half-trooned and sick and tead.' Four-thirds o' ta whole o' them!
And he iss just the ferry man to laugh at every other pody when it iss
a mistake you will make in ta English."
"I suppose," said Lavender, "you found it rather difficult to learn
"Well, sir, I hefna got ta goot English yet. But Miss Sheila she has
put away all the Gaelic from the schools, and the young ones they will
learn more of ta good English after that."
"I wish I knew as much Gaelic as you know English," said the young
"Oh, you will soon learn. It iss very easy if you will only stay in ta
"It would take me several months to pick it up, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes--nine or six--that will do," said Duncan. "You will begin to
learn ta names o' ta islands and ta places. There now, as far as you
can see is ta Seann Bheinn; and it means ta old hill. And there is a
rock there: it is Stac-nan Balg--"
Here Duncan looked rather perplexed.
"Yes," said Lavender: "what does that mean?"
"It means--it means," said Duncan in still greater perplexity, and
getting a little impatient, "it means--_stac_, tat iss a steep rock:
Stac-nan-Balg--it means--well, sir, _it is ower deep for ta English_"
The tone of mortification in which Duncan uttered these words warned
Lavender that his philological studies might as well cease; and indeed
Sheila and Ingram had by this time reached the banks of the White
Water, and were waiting Duncan and the majestic rod.
It was much too bright and pleasant a morning for good fishing, but
there was a fair ripple on the pools of the stream, where ever and
anon a salmon fresh run from the sea would leap into the air, showing
a gleaming curve of silver to the sunlight. The splash of the big
fish seemed an invitation, and Duncan was all anxiety to teach the
stranger, who, as he fancied, knew nothing about throwing a fly.
Ingram lay down on a rock some little distance back from the banks,
and put his hands beneath his head and watched the operations going
forward. But was it really Duncan who was to teach the stranger? It
was Sheila who picked out flies for him. It was Sheila who held the
rod while he put them on the line. It was Sheila who told him where
the bigger salmon usually lay--under the opposite bank of the broad
and almost lake-like pool into which the small but rapid White Water
came tumbling and foaming down its narrow channel of rocks and stones.
Then Sheila waited to see her pupil begin. He had evidently a little
difficulty about the big double-handed rod, a somewhat more formidable
engine of destruction than the supple little thing with which he had
whipped the streams of Devonshire and Cornwall.
The first cast sent both flies and a lump of line tumbling on to the
pool, and would have driven the boldest of salmon out of its wits. The
second pretty nearly took a piece out of Ingram's ear, and made him
shift his quarters with rapidity. Duncan gave him up in despair. The
third cast dropped both flies with the lightness of a feather in the
running waters of the other side of the pool; and the next second
there was a slight wave along the surface, a dexterous jerk with the
butt, and presently the line was whirled out into the middle of the
pool, running rapidly off the reel from the straining rod.
"Plenty o' line, sir, plenty o' line!" shouted Duncan in a wild fever
of anxiety, for the fish had plunged suddenly.
Ingram had come running down to the bank. Sheila was all excitement