Part 4 out of 6
dead and turned to clay," who really put out the fire by rolling on it
wrapped in an eiderdown quilt.
"Eh, ye ill callant," said Bella Bathgate.
"Ye wee deevil," said Mrs. M'Cosh, "ye micht hev had us a' burned where
we sat, and it Christmas too!"
"What made you do it, sonny?" Jean asked.
"It made it so real," Mhor explained, "and I knew we could always throw
them out of the window if they really blazed. What's the use of having a
funeral pyre if you don't light it?"
The actors departed to prepare for the next performance Jock coming back
to put his head in at the door to ask if they had guessed the first part
of the word.
Jean said she thought it must be incendiarism.
"Funeral," said Miss Watson brightly.
"Huch," said Jock; "it's a word of one syllable."
"I think," Jean said as the door shut on Jock--I think I know what the
"Oh, really," said Miss Watson, "I'm all shaking yet with the fright I
got. He's an awful bad wee boy that--sort of regardless. He needs a man
to look after him."
"I'll never forget," said Miss Teenie, "once I was staying with a friend
of ours, a doctor; his mother and our mother were cousins, you know, and
when I looked--I was doing my hair at the time--I found that the curtain
had blown across the gas and was blazing. If I had been in our own house
I would just have rushed out screaming, but when you're away from home
you've more feeling of responsibility and I just stood on a chair and
pulled at the curtain till I brought it down and stamped on it. My hands
were all scorched, and of course the curtain was beyond hope, but when
the doctor saw it, he said, 'Teenie,' he said--his mither and ours were
cousins, you know--'you're just a wee marvel.' That was what he said--'a
Jean said, "You _were_ brave," and one of the guests said that presence
of mind was a wonderful thing, and then the next act was ready.
The word had evidently something to do with eating, for the three actors
sat at a Barmecide feast and quaffed wine from empty goblets, and carved
imaginary haunches of venison. So far as could be judged from the
conversation, which was much obscured by the smothered laughter of the
actors, they seemed to belong to Robin Hood's merry men.
The third act took place on board ship--a ship flying the Jolly
Roger--and it was obvious to the meanest intelligence that the word was
"Very good," said Miss Teenie, clapping her hands; "but," addressing the
Mhor, "don't you go lighting any more funeral pyres. Boys who do that
have to go to jail."
Mhor looked coldly at her, but made no remark, while Jean said hastily:
"You must show everyone your wonderful present, Mhor. I think the hall
would be the best place to put it up in."
The second part of the programme was of a varied character. Jean led off
with the old carol:
"There comes a ship far sailing then,
St. Michael was the steersman,"
and Mhor followed with a poem, "In Time of Pestilence," which had
captivated his strange small boy's soul, and which he had learned for
the occasion. Everyone felt it to be singularly inappropriate, and Miss
Watson said it gave her quite a turn to hear the relish with which he
"Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death's bitterness:
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply!
I am sick, I must die--
God have mercy on us."
She regarded him with disapproving eyes as a thoroughly uncomfortable
One of the guests sang a drawing-room ballad in which the words "dear
heart" seemed to occur with astonishing frequency. Then the
entertainment took a distinctly lower turn.
David and Jock sang a song composed by themselves and set to a hymn
tune, a somewhat ribald production. Mhor then volunteered the
information that Mrs. M'Cosh could sing a song. Mrs. M'Cosh said, "Awa
wi' ye, laddie," and "Sic havers," but after much urging owned that she
knew a song which had been a favourite with her Andra. It was sung to
the tune of "When the kye come hame," and was obviously a parody on that
"Come a' ye Hieland pollismen
That whustle through the street,
An' A'll tell ye a' aboot a man
That's got triple expansion feet.
He's got braw, braw tartan whuskers
That defy the shears and kaim:
There's an awfu' row in Brigton
When M'Kay comes hame."
It went on to tell how:
"John M'Kay works down in Singers's,
He's a ceevil engineer,
But his wife's no verra ceevil
When she's had some ginger-beer.
When he missed the last Kilbowie train
And had to walk hame lame,
There wis Home Rule wi' the poker
When M'Kay cam hame."
Mrs. M'Cosh sang four verses and stopped, in spite of the rapturous
applause of a section of the audience.
"There's aboot nineteen mair verses," she explained "an' they get kinna
worse as they gang on, so I'd better stop," which she did, to Jean's
relief, for she saw that her guests were feeling that this was not an
entertainment such as the Best People indulged in.
"And now Miss Bathgate will sing," said Mhor.
"I will not sing," said Miss Bathgate. "I've mair pride than make a fool
o' mysel' to please folk."
"Oh, come on," Jock begged. "Look at Mrs. M'Cosh!"
Miss Bathgate snorted.
"Ay," said Mrs. M'Cosh, with imperturbable good-humour, "she seen me,
and she thinks yin auld fool is enough at a time. Never heed, Bella,
juist gie us a verse."
Miss Bathgate protested that she knew no songs, and had no voice, but
under persuasion she broke into a ditty, a sort of recitative:
"Gang further up the toon, Geordie Broon, Geordie Broon,
Gang further up the toon, Geordie Broon:
Gang further up the toon
Till ye's spent yer hale hauf-croon,
And then come singin' doon,
Geordie Broon, Geordie Broon."
"I remember that when I was a child," Jean said. "We used to be put to
sleep with it; it is very soothing. Thank you so much, Miss Bathgate
... Now I think we should have a game."
"Forfeits," Miss Teenie suggested.
"That's a silly game," said Mhor; "there's kissing in it."
"Perhaps we might have a quiet game," Jean said. "What was that one we
played with Pamela, you remember, Jock? We took a subject, and tried who
could say the most obvious thing about it."
"Oh, nothing clever, for goodness' sake," pleaded Miss Watson. "I've no
head for anything but fancy-work."
"'Up Jenkins' would be best," Jock decreed; so a table was got in, and
"up Jenkins" was played with much laughter until the clock struck ten,
and the guests all rose in a body to go.
"Well," said Miss Watson, "it's been a very pleasant evening, though I
wouldn't wonder if I had a nightmare about that funeral pyre ... I
always think, don't you, that there's something awful pathetic about
Christmas? You never know where you may be before another."
One of the guests, a little music-teacher, said:
"The worst of Christmas is that it brings back to one's mind all the
other Christmasses and the people who were with us then...."
Bella Bathgate's voice was heard talking to Mrs. M'Cosh at the door: "I
dinna believe in keeping Christmas; it's a popish festival. New Year's
the time. Ye can eat yer currant-bun wi' a relish then. Guid-nicht,
then, and see ye lick that ill laddie for near settin' the hoose on
fire. It's no' safe, I tell ye, to live onywhere near him noo that he's
begun thae tricks. Baith Peter an' him are fair Bolsheviks ... Did I
tell ye that Miss Reston sent me a grand feather-boa--grey, in a
present? I've aye had a notion o' a feather-boa, but I dinna ken how she
kent that. And this is no' yin o' the skimpy kind; it's fine and fussy
and soft ... Here, did the Lord send Miss Jean a present?... I doot he's
aff for guid. Weel, weel, guid-nicht."
With a heightened colour Jean said good-night to her guests, separated
Mhor from his train, and sent him with Jock to bed.
As she went upstairs, Bella Bathgate's words rang in her ears dismally:
"I doot he's aff for guid."
It was what she wanted, of course; she had told him so. But she had half
hoped that he might send her a letter or a little remembrance on
Better not, perhaps, but it would have been something to keep. She
sometimes wondered if she had not dreamt the scene in the Hopetoun
Woods, and only imagined the words that were constantly in her ears. It
was such a very improbable thing to happen to such a commonplace person.
Her room was very restful-looking that night to Jean, tired after a long
day's junketing. It was a plain little upper chamber, with white walls
and Indian rugs on the floor. A high south wind was blowing (it had been
another of poor Mhor's snow-less Christmasses!), making the curtains
billow out into the room, and she could hear through the open window
the sound of Tweed rushing between its banks. On the dressing-table lay
a new novel with a vivid paper cover. Jean gave it a little disgusted
push. Someone had lent it to her, and she had been reading it between
Christmas preparations, reading it with deep distaste. It was about a
duel for a man between a woman of forty-five and a girl of eighteen. The
girl was called Noel, and was "pale, languid, passionate." The older
woman gave up before the end, and said Time had "done her in." There
were pages describing how she looked in the mirror "studying with a
fearful interest the little hard lines and markings there beneath their
light coating of powder, fingered and smoothed the slight looseness and
fullness of the skin below her chin," and how she saw herself going down
the years, "powdering a little more, painting a little more, touching up
her hair till it was all artifice, holding on by every little
A man had written that. What a trade for a man, Jean thought.
She was glad she lived among people who had the decency to go on caring
for each other in spite of lines and wrinkles--comfortable couples whose
affection for each other was a shelter in the time of storm, a shelter
built of common joys, of "fireside talks and counsels in the dawn,"
cemented by tears shed over common sorrows.
She smiled to herself as she remembered a little woman who had told her
with great pride that, to celebrate their silver wedding, her husband
was giving her a complete set of artificial teeth. "And," she had
finished impressively, "you know what teeth cost now."
And why not? It was as much a token of love as a pearl necklace, and,
looked at in the right way, quite as romantic.
"I'd better see how it finishes," Jean said to herself opening the book
a few pages from the end.
Oh yes, there they were at it. Noel, "pale, languid passionate," and the
man "moved beyond control." "He drew her so close that he could feel the
throbbing of her heart ..." And the other poor woman with the hard lines
and marking beneath the light coating of powder, where had she gone?
Jean pushed the book away, and stood leaning on the dressing-table
studying her face in the glass. This was no heroine, "pale, languid,
passionate." She saw a fresh-coloured face with a pointed chin,
wide-apart eyes as frank and sunny as a moorland burn, an innocent
mouth. It seemed to Jean a very uninteresting face. She was young,
certainly, but that was all--not beautiful, or brilliant and witty. Lord
Bidborough must see scores of lovely girls. Jean seemed to see them
walking past her in a procession--girls who had maids to do their hair
in the most approved fashion, constantly renewed girls whose clothes
were a dream of daintiness all charming, all witty, all fitted to be
wife to a man like Lord Bidborough. What was he doing now, Jean
wondered. Perhaps dancing, or sitting out with someone. Jean could see
him so clearly, listening, smiling, with lazy, amused eyes. By now he
must be thankful that the penny-plain girl at Priorsford had not
snatched at the offer he had made her, but had had the sense to send him
away. It must have been a sudden madness on his part. He had never said
a word of love to her--then suddenly in the rain and mud, when she was
looking her very plainest, muffled up in a thick coat, clogged by
goloshes, to ask her to marry him!
Jean nodded at the girl in the glass.
"What you've got to do is to put him out of your head, and be thankful
that you have lots to do, and a house to keep, and boys to make happy,
and aren't a heroine writhing about in a novel."
But she sighed as she turned away. Doing one's duty is a dreary business
for three-and-twenty. It goes on for such a long time.
"It was told me I should be rich by the fairies."--_A Winter's
January is always a long, flat month: the Christmas festivities are
over, the bills are waiting to be paid, the weather is very often of the
dreariest, spring is yet far distant. With February, hope and the
snowdrops begin to spring, but January is a month to be _warstled_
through as best we can.
This January of which I write Jean felt to be a peculiarly long, dull
month. She could not understand why, for David was at home, and she had
always thought that to have the three boys with her made up the sum of
her happiness. She told herself that it was Pamela she missed. It made
such a difference knowing that the door would not open to admit that
tall figure; the want of the embroidery frame seemed to take a
brightness from the room, and the lack of that little gay laugh of
Pamela's left a dullness that the loudest voices did nothing to dispel.
Pamela wrote that the visit to Champertoun had been a signal success.
The hitherto unknown cousins were delightful people, and she and her
brother were prolonging their stay till the middle of January. Then,
she said, she hoped to come back to Priorsford for a little, while Biddy
went on to London.
How easy it all sounded, Jean thought. Historic houses full of all
things lovely, leisured, delightful people, the money, and the freedom
to go where one listed: no pinching, no striving, no sordid cares.
David's vacation was slipping past; and Jean was deep in preparations
for his departure. She longed vehemently for some money to spend. There
were so many things that David really needed and was doing without, so
many of the things he had were so woefully shabby. Jean understood
better now what a young man wanted; she had studied Lord Bidborough's
clothes. Not that the young man was anything of a dandy, but he had
always looked right for every occasion. And Jean thought that probably
all the young men at Oxford looked like that--poor David! David himself
never grumbled. He meant to make money by his pen in spare moments, and
his mind was too full of plans to worry much about his shabby clothes.
He sometimes worried about his sister, and thought it hard that she
should have the cares of a household on her shoulders at an age when
other girls were having the time of their lives, but he solaced himself
with the thought that some day he would make it up to Jean, that some
day she should have everything that now she was missing, full measure
pressed down and running over. It never occurred to the boy that Jean's
youth would pass, and whatever he might be able to give her later, he
could never give her that back.
Pamela returned to Hillview in the middle of the month, just before
Bella Bathgate owned that she was glad to have her back. That
indomitable spinster had actually missed her lodger. She was surprised
at her own pleasure in seeing the boxes carried upstairs again, in
hearing the soft voice talking to Mawson, in sniffing the faint sweet
scent that seemed to hang about the house when Miss Reston was in it,
conquering the grimmer odour of naphtha and boiled cabbage which
generally held sway.
Bella had missed Mawson too. It was fine to have her back again in her
cosy kitchen, enjoying her supper and full of tales of the glories of
Champertoun. Bella's face grew even longer than it was naturally as she
heard of the magnificence of that ancient house, of the chapel, of the
ballroom, of the number of bedrooms, of the man-servants and
maid-servants, of the motors and horses.
"Forty bedrooms!" she said, in scandalised tones. "The thing's
rideeclous. Mair like an institution than a private hoose."
"Oh, it's a _gentleman's_ 'ouse," said Mawson proudly--"the sort of
thing Miss Reston's accustomed to. At Bidborough, I'm told, there's
bedrooms to 'old a regiment, and the same at Mintern Abbas, but I've
never been there yet. It was all the talk in the servants' 'all at
Champertoun 'oo would be Lady Bidborough. There were several likely
young ladies there, but 'e didn't seem partial to any of them."
"Whaur's he awa to the noo?"
"Back to London for a bit, I 'eard, and later on we're joining 'im at
Bidborough. Beller, I was thinking to myself when they were h'all
talking, what if Lady B. should be a Priorsford lady? His lordship did
seem h'attentive in at The Rigs. Wouldn't it be a fine thing for Miss
Miss Bathgate suddenly had a recollection of Jean as she had seen her
pass that morning--a wistful face under a shabby hat.
"Hut," she said, tossing her head and lying glibly. "It's ma opeenion
that the Lord askit Miss Jean when he was in Priorsford, and she simply
sent him to the right about."
She took a drink of tea, with a defiant twirl of her little finger, and
pretended not to see the shocked expression on Mawson's face. To Mawson
it sounded like sacrilege for anyone to refuse anything to his lordship.
"Oh, Beller! Miss Jean would 'ave jumped at 'im!"
"Naething o' the kind," said Miss Bathgate fiercely, forgetting all
about her former pessimism as to Jean's chance of getting a man, and
desiring greatly to champion her cause. "D'ye think Miss Jean's sitting
here waitin' to jump at a man like a cock at a grossit? Na! He'll be a
lucky man that gets her, and weel his lordship kens it. She's no pented
up to the een-holes like thae London Jezebels. Her looks'll stand wind
and water. She's a kind, wise lassie, and if she condescends to the
Lord, I'm sure I hope he'll be guid to her. For ma ain pairt I wud faur
rather see her marry a dacent, ordinary man like a minister or a
doctor--but we've nane o' thae kind needin' wives in Priorsford the noo,
so Miss Jean 'll mebbe hev to fa' back on a lord...."
On the afternoon of the day this conversation took place in Hillview
kitchen, Jean sat in the living-room of The Rigs, a very depressed
little figure. It was one of those days in which things seem to take a
positive pleasure in going wrong. To start with, the kitchen range could
not go on, as something had happened to the boiler, and that had
shattered Mrs. M'Cosh's placid temper. Also the bill for mending it
would be large, and probably the landlord would make a fuss about paying
it. Then Mhor had put a newly-soled boot right on the hot bar of the
fire and burned it across, and Jock had thrown a ball and broken a
precious Spode dish that had been their mother's. But the worst thing of
all was that Peter was lost, had been lost for three days, and now they
felt they must give up hope. Jock and Mhor were in despair (which may
have accounted for their abandoned conduct in burning boots and breaking
old china), and in their hearts felt miserably guilty. Peter had wanted
to go with them that morning three days ago; he had stood patiently
waiting before the front door, and they had sneaked quietly out at the
back without him. It was really for his own good, Jock told Mhor; it was
because the gamekeeper had said if he got Peter in the Peel woods again
he would shoot him, and they had been going to the Peel woods that
morning--but nothing brought any comfort either to Jock or Mhor. For two
nights Mhor had sobbed himself to sleep openly, and Jock had lain awake
and cried when everyone else was sleeping.
They scoured the country in the daytime, helped by David and Mr. Jowett
and other interested friends, but all to no purpose.
"If I knew God had him I wouldn't mind," said Mhor, "but I keep seeing
him in a trap watching for us to come and let him out. Oh, Peter,
So Jean felt completely demoralised this January afternoon and sat in
her most unbecoming dress, with the fire drearily, if economically,
banked up with dross, hoping that no one would come near her. And Mrs.
Duff-Whalley and her daughter arrived to call.
It was at once evident that Mrs. Duff-Whalley was on a very high horse
indeed. Her accent was at its most superior--not at all the accent she
used on ordinary occasions--and her manner was an excellent imitation of
that of a lady she had met at one of the neighbouring houses and greatly
admired. Her sharp eyes were all over the place, taking in Jean's poor
little home-made frock, the shabby slippers, the dull fire, the
depressed droop of her hostess's shoulders.
Jean was sincerely sorry to see her visitors. To cope with Mrs.
Duff-Whalley and her daughter one had to be in a state of robust health
and high spirits.
"We ran in, Jean--positively one has time for nothing these days--just
to wish you a Happy New-Year though a fortnight of it is gone. And how
are you? I do hope you had a very gay Christmas, and loads of presents.
Muriel quite passed all limits. I told her I was quite ashamed of the
shoals of presents, but of course the child has so many friends. The
Towers was full for Christmas. Dear Gordon brought several Cambridge
friends, and they were so useful at all the festivities. Lady Tweedie
said to me, 'Mrs. Duff-Whalley, you really are a godsend with all these
young men in this unmanned neighbourhood.' Always so witty, isn't she?
dear woman. By the way, Jean, I didn't see you at the Tweedies' dance,
or the Olivers' theatricals."
"No, I wasn't there. I hadn't a dress that was good enough, and I didn't
want to be at the expense of hiring a carriage."
"Oh, really! We had a small dance at The Towers on Christmas night--just
a tiny affair, you know, really just our own house-party and such old
friends as the Tweedies and the Olivers. We would have liked to ask you
and your brother--I hear he's home from Oxford--but you know what it is
to live in a place like Priorsford: if you ask one you have to ask
everybody--and we decided to keep it entirely County--you know what I
"Oh, quite," said Jean; "I'm sure you were wise."
"We were so sorry," went on Mrs. Duff-Whalley, "that dear Lord
Bidborough and his charming sister couldn't come. We have got so fond of
both of them. Muriel and Lord Bidborough have so much in common--music,
you know, and other things. I simply couldn't tear them away from the
piano at The Towers. Isn't it wonderful how simple and pleasant they are
considering their lineage? Actually living in that little dog-hole of a
Hillview. I always think Miss Bathgate's such an insolent woman; no
notion of her proper place. She looks at me as if she actually thought
she was my equal, and wasn't she positively rude to you, Muriel, when
you called with some message?"
"Oh, frightful woman!" said Muriel airily. "She was most awfully rude to
me. You would have thought that I wanted to burgle something." She gave
an affected laugh. "I simply stared through her. I find that irritates
that class of person frightfully ... How do you like my sables, Jean?
"They are beautiful," said Jean serenely, but to herself she muttered
bitterly, "Opulent _lumps_!"
"David goes back to Oxford next week," she said aloud, the thought of
money recalling David's lack of it.
"Oh, really! How exciting for him," Mrs. Duff-Whalley said. "I suppose
you won't have heard from Miss Reston since she went away?"
"I had a letter from her a few days ago."
Mrs. Duff-Whalley waited expectantly for a moment, but as Jean said
nothing more she continued:
"Did she talk of future plans? We simply must fix them both up for a
week at The Towers. Lord Bidborough told us he had quite fallen in love
with Priorsford and would be sure to come back. I thought it was so
sweet of him. Priorsford is such a dull little place."
"Yes," said Jean; "it was very condescending of him."
Then she remembered Richard Plantagenet, her friend, his appreciation of
everything, his love for the Tweed, his passion for the hills, his
kindness to herself and the boys--and her conscience pricked her. "But I
think he meant it," she added.
"Well," Muriel said, "I fail to see what he could find to admire in
Priorsford. Of all the provincial little holes! I'm constantly
upbraiding Mother for letting my father build a house here. If they had
gone two or three miles out, but to plant themselves in a little dull
town, always knocking up against the dull little inhabitants! Positively
it gets on my nerves. One can't go out without having to talk to Mrs.
Jowett, or a Dawson, or some of the villa dwellers. As I said to Lady
Tweedie yesterday when I met her in the Eastgate, 'Positively,' I said,
'I shall _scream_ if I have to say to anyone else, "Yes, isn't it a nice
quiet day for the time of year?"' I'm just going to pretend I don't see
"Muriel, darling, you mustn't make yourself unpopular. It's not like
London, you know, where you can pick and choose. I quite agree that the
Priorsford people need to be kept in their places, but one needn't be
rude. And some of the people, the aborigines, as dear Gordon calls them,
are really quite nice. There are about half a dozen men one can ask to
dinner, and that new doctor--I forget his name--is really quite a
gentleman. Plays bridge."
Jean laughed suddenly and Mrs. Duff-Whalley looked inquiringly at her.
"Oh," she said, blushing, "I remembered the definition of a gentleman in
the _Irish R.M._--'a man who has late dinner and takes in the London
_Times_.' ... Won't you stay to tea?"
"Oh no, thank you, the car is at the gate. We are going on to tea with
Lady Tweedie. 'You simply must spare me an afternoon, Mrs.
Duff-Whalley,' she said to me the other day, and I rang her up and said
we would come to-day. Life is really such a rush. And we are going
abroad in February and March. We must have some sunshine. Not that we
need it for our health, for we're both as strong as ponies. I haven't
been a day in bed for years, and Muriel the same, I'm thankful to say.
We've never had to waste money on doctors. And the War kept us so cooped
up, it's really pleasant to feel we can get about again. I thought on
our way south we would make a tour of the battlefields. I think one owes
it to the men who fought for us to go and visit their graves--poor
fellows! I saw Mrs. Macdonald--you go to their church, don't you?--at a
meeting yesterday, and I said if she would give me particulars I'd try
and see her boy's grave. They won't be able to go themselves, poor
souls, and I thought it would be a certain consolation to them to know
that a friend had gone. I must say, I think she might have shown more
gratitude. She was really quite off-hand. I think ministers' wives have
often bad manners; they deal so much with the working classes...."
Jean thought of a saying she had read of Dr. Johnson's: "He talked to me
at the Club one day concerning Catiline's conspiracy--so I withdrew my
attention and thought about Tom Thumb." When she came back to Mrs.
Duff-Whalley that lady was saying:
"Did you say, Jean, that Miss Reston is coming back to Priorsford soon?"
"Yes, any day."
"Fancy! And her brother too?"
Jean said she thought not: Lord Bidborough was going to London.
"Ah! then we shall see him there. I don't know when I met anyone with
whom I felt so instantly at home. He has such easy manners. It really is
a pleasure to meet a gentleman. I do wish my boy Gordon had seen more of
him. I'm sure they would have been friends. So good for a boy, you know,
to have a man of the world to go about with. Well, good-bye, Jean. You
really look very washed out. What you really need is a thorough holiday
and change of scene. Why, you haven't been away for years. Two months in
London would do wonders for you--"
The handle of the door turned and a voice said, "May I come in?" and
without waiting for permission Pamela Reston walked in, bare-headed,
wrapped in a cloak, and with her embroidery-frame under her arm, as she
had come many times to The Rigs during her stay at Hillview.
When Jean heard the voice it seemed to her as if everything was
transformed. Mrs. Duff-Whalley and Muriel, their sables and their
Rolls-Royce, ceased to be great weights crushing life and light out of
her, and became small, ordinary, rather vulgar figures; she forgot her
own home-made frock and shabby slippers; and even the fire seemed to
feel that things were brightening, for a flame struggled through the
backing and gave promise of future cheerfulness.
"Oh, Pamela!" cried Jean. There was more of relief and appeal in her
voice than she knew, and Pamela, seeing the visitors, prepared to do
"I thought I should surprise you, Jean, girl. I came by the two train,
for I was determined to be here in time for tea." She slipped off her
coat and took Jean in her arms. "It is good to be back.... Ah, Mrs.
Duff-Whalley, how are you? Have you kept Priorsford lively through the
Christmas-time, you and your daughter?"
"Well, I was just telling Jean we've done our best. My son Gordon, and
his Cambridge friends, delightful young fellows, you know, _perfect_
gentlemen. But we did miss you and your brother. Is dear Lord Bidborough
not with you?"
"My brother has gone to London."
"Naturally," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley, nodding her head knowingly. "All
young men like London, so gay, you know, restaurants and theatres and
"Oh, I hope not," laughed Pamela. "My brother's rather extraordinary;
he cares very little for London pleasures. The open road is all he
asks--a born gipsy."
"Fancy! Well, it's a nice taste too. But I would rather ride in my car
than tramp the roads. I like my comforts. Muriel and I are going to
London shortly, on our way to the Continent. Will you be there, Miss
"Probably, and if I am Jean will be with me. Do you hear that, Jean?"
and paying no attention to the dubious shake of Jean's head she went on:
"We must give Jean a very good time and have lots of parties. Perhaps,
Mrs. Duff-Whalley, you will bring your daughter to one of Jean's parties
when you are in London? You have been so very kind to us that we should
greatly like to have an opportunity of showing you some hospitality. Do
let us know your whereabouts. It would be fun--wouldn't it, Jean?--to
entertain Priorsford friends in London."
For a moment Mrs. Duff-Whalley looked very like a ferret that wanted to
bite; then she smiled and said:
"Well, really, it's most kind of you. I'm sure Jean should be very
grateful to you. You're a kind of fairy godmother to this little
Cinderella. Only Jean must remember that it isn't very nice to come back
to drudgery after an hour or two at the ball," and she gave an
"Ah, but you forget your fairy tale," said Pamela. "Cinderella had a
happy ending. She wasn't left to the drudgery, but reigned with the
prince in the palace."
"It's hardly polite surely," Muriel put in, "to liken poor little Jean
to a cinder-witch."
Jean laughed and held out a foot in a shabby slipper. "I've felt like
one all day. It's been such a grubby day, no kitchen range on, no hot
water, and Mrs. M'Cosh actually out of temper. Now you've come, Pamela,
it will be all right--but it has been wretched. I hadn't the spirit to
change my frock or put on decent slippers, that's why I've reminded you
all of Cinderella.... Are you going, Mrs. Duff-Whalley? Good-bye."
Mrs. Duff-Whalley had, with an effort, regained her temper, and was now
"We must see you often at The Towers while you are in Priorsford, dear
Miss Reston. Muriel and I are on our way to tea with Lady Tweedie. She
will be so excited to hear you are back. You have made quite a _place_
for yourself in our little circle. Good-bye, Jean, we shall be seeing
you some time. Come, Muriel. Well--t'ta."
When the visitors had rolled away in their car Jean told Pamela about
"I couldn't tell you before those opulent, well-pleased people. It's
absolutely breaking our hearts. Mrs. M'Cosh looks ten years older, and
Jock and Mhor go about quite silent thinking out wicked things to do to
relieve their feelings. David has gone over all the hills looking for
him, but he may be lying trapped in some wood. Come and speak to Mrs.
M'Cosh for a minute. Between Peter and the boiler she is in despair."
They found Mrs. M'Cosh baking with the gas oven.
"It's a scone for the tea. When I seen Miss Reston it kinna cheered me
up. Hae ye tell't her aboot Peter?"
"He will turn up yet, Mrs. M'Cosh," Pamela assured her. "Peter's such a
clever dog, he won't let himself be beat. Even if he is trapped I
believe he will manage to get out."
"It's to be hoped so, for the want o' him is something awful."
A knock came to the back door and a boy's voice said, "Is Peter in?" It
was a message boy who knew all Peter's tricks--knew that however
friendly Peter was with a message boy on the road, he felt constrained
to jump out at him when he appeared at the back door with a basket. The
innocent question was too much for Mrs. M'Cosh.
"Na," she said bitterly. "Peter's no' in, so ye needna hold on to the
door. Peter's lost. Deid, as likely as not." She turned away in
bitterness of heart, leaving Jean to take the parcels from the boy.
The boys came in quietly after another fruitless search. They did not
ask hopefully, as they had done at first, if Peter had come home, and
Jean did not ask how they had fared.
The sight of Pamela cheered them a good deal.
"Does she know?" Jock asked, and Jean nodded.
Pamela kept the talk going through tea, and told them so many funny
stories that they had to laugh.
"If only," said Mhor, "Peter was here now the Honourable's back we
would be happy."
"There's a big box of hard chocolates behind that cushion," Pamela said,
pointing to the sofa.
It was at that moment that the door opened, and Mrs. M'Cosh put her head
in. Her face wore a broad smile.
"The wanderer has returned," she said.
At that moment Jean thought the Glasgow accent the most delightful thing
on earth and the smile on Mrs. M'Cosh's face the most beautiful. With a
shout they all made for the kitchen.
There was Peter, thin and dirty, but in excellent spirits, wagging his
tail so violently that his whole body wagged.
"See," said Mrs. M'Cosh, "he's been in a trap, but he's gotten out.
Peter's a cliver lad."
Jock and Mhor had no words. They lay on the linoleum-covered floor while
Mrs. M'Cosh fetched hot milk, and crushed their faces against the little
black-and-white body they had thought they might never see again, while
Peter licked his own torn paw and their faces in turn.
* * * * *
It was wonderfully comfortable to see Pamela settle down in the corner
of the sofa with her embroidery and ask news of all her friends. Jean
had been a little shy of meeting Pamela, wondering if Lord Bidborough
had told her anything, wondering if she were angry that Jean should have
had such an offer, or resentful that she had refused it. But Pamela
talked quite naturally about her brother, and gave no hint that she
knew of any reason why Jean should blush when his name was mentioned.
"And how are all the people--the Jowetts and the Watsons and the
Dawsons? And the dear Macdonalds? I picked up a book in Edinburgh that I
think Mr. Macdonald will like. And Lewis Elliot--have you seen him
"He's away. Didn't you know? He went just after you did. He was in
London at Christmas--at least, that was the postmark on the parcels, but
he has never written a word. He was always a bad correspondent, but
he'll turn up one of these days."
Mrs. M'Cosh came in with the letters from the evening post.
"Actually a letter for me," said Jean, "from London. I expect it's from
that landlord of ours. Surely he won't be giving us notice to leave The
Rigs. Pamela, I'm afraid to open it. It looks like a lawyer's letter."
"Open it then."
Jean opened it slowly and read the enclosure with a puzzled frown; then
she dropped it with a cry.
Pamela looked up from her work to see Jean with tears running down her
face. Jock and Mhor stopped what they were doing and came to look at
her. Peter rubbed himself against her legs by way of comfort.
"My dear," said Pamela, "is there anything wrong?"
"Oh, do you remember the little old man who came one day to look at the
house and stayed to tea and I sang 'Strathairlie' to him? He's dead."
Jean's tears flowed afresh as she said the words. "How I wish I had
been kinder to him. I somehow felt he was ill."
"And why have they written to tell you?" Pamela asked.
Jean picked up the letter which had fallen on the floor.
"It's from his lawyer, and he says he has left me money.... Read it,
Pamela. I don't seem able to see the words."
So Pamela read aloud the letter that converted poverty-stricken Jean
into a very wealthy woman.
Jean's face was dead white, and she lay back as if stunned, while Jock
gave solemn utterance to the most complicated ejaculation he had yet
Mhor said nothing, but stared with grave green eyes at the stricken
figure of the heiress.
"It's awful," Jean moaned.
"But, my dear," said Pamela, "I thought you wanted to be rich."
"Oh--rich in a gentle way, a few hundreds a year--but this--"
"Poor Jean, buried under bullion."
"You're all looking at me differently already," cried poor Jean. "Mhor,
it's just the same me. Money can't make any real difference. Don't stare
at me like that."
"Will Peter have a diamond collar now?" Mhor asked.
"Awful effect of sudden riches," said Pamela.
"Bear up, Jean--I've no doubt you'll be able to get rid of your money.
Just think of all the people you will be able to help. You needn't spend
it on yourself you know."
"No, but suppose it's the ruin of the boys! I've often heard of sudden
fortunes making people go all wrong."
"Now, Jean, does Jock look as if anything so small as a fortune could
put him wrong? And David--by the way, where is David?"
"Out," said Jock, "getting something at the stationer's. Let me tell him
when he comes in."
"Then I'll tell Mrs. M'Cosh," cried Mhor, and, followed by Peter, he
rushed from the room.
The colour was beginning to come back to Jean's face, and the stunned
look to go out of her eyes.
"Why in the world has he left it to me?" she asked Pamela.
"You see the lawyer suggests coming to see you. He will explain it all.
It's a wonderful stroke of luck, Jean. No wonder you can't take it in."
"I feel like the little old woman in the nursery-rhyme who said, 'This
is none of I.' I'm bound to wake up and find I've dreamt it.... Oh, Mrs.
"It's the wee laddie Scott to say his mother canna come and wash the
morn's mornin'; she's no weel. It's juist as weel, seein' the biler's
gone wrang. I suppose I'd better gie the laddie a piece?"
"Yes, and a penny." Then Jean remembered her new possessions. "No, give
him this, please, Mrs. M'Cosh."
Mrs. M'Cosh received the coin and gasped. "Hauf a croon!" she said.
"Silver," said Pamela, "is to be no more accounted of than it was in the
days of Solomon!"
"D'ye ken whit ye'll dae?" demanded Mrs. M'Cosh. "Ye'll get the laddie
taen up by the pollis. Gie him thruppence--it's mair wise-like."
"Oh, very well," said Jean, thwarted at the very beginning of her
efforts in philanthropy. "I'll go and see his mother to-morrow and find
out what she needs. Have you heard the news, Mrs. M'Cosh?"
Mrs. M'Cosh came farther into the room and folded her hands on her
"Weel, Mhor came in and tell't me some kinna story aboot a lot o' money,
but I thocht he was juist bletherin'. Is't a fac'?"
"It would seem to be. The lawyer in London writes that Mr. Peter
Reid--d'you perhaps remember an old man who came here to tea one day in
October?--he came from London and lived at the Temperance--has left me
all his fortune, which is a large one. I can't think why.... And I
thought he was so poor, I wanted to have him here to stay, to save him
paying hotel bills. Poor man, he must have been very friendless when he
left his money to a stranger."
"It's a queer turn up onyway. I juist hope it's a' richt. But I would
see it afore ye spend it. I wis readin' a bit in the papers the ither
day aboot a wumman who got word o' a fortune sent her, and went and got
a' sorts o' braw claes and things ower the heid o't, and here it wis a'
a begunk. And a freend o' mine hed a husband oot aboot Canada somewhere,
and she got word o' his death, and she claimed the insurance, and got
verra braw blacks, and here wha should turn up but his lordship, as
leevin' as you or me! Eh, puir thing, she wis awfu' annoyed.... You be
carefu', Miss Jean, and see the colour o' yer money afore ye begin
giein' awa' hauf-croons instead o' pennies."
"O, I wad like to ken--to the beggar-wife says I--
Why chops are guid to brander and nane sae guid to fry,
An' siller, that's sae braw to get, is brawer still to gie.
--_It's gey an' easy speirin'_, says the beggar-wife to me."
It is always easier for poor human nature to weep with those who weep
than to rejoice with those who rejoice. Into our congratulations to our
more fortunate neighbour we often manage to squeeze something of the
"hateful rind of resentment," forgetting that the cup of life is none
too sweet for any of us, and needs nothing of our bitterness added.
Jean had not an enemy in the world, almost everyone wished her well, but
in very few cases was there any marked enthusiasm about her inheritance.
"Ridiculous," was the most frequent comment: or "Fancy that little
thing!" It seemed absurd that such an unimportant person should have had
such a large thing happen to her.
Pamela was frankly disgusted with the turn things had taken. She had
intended giving Jean such a good time; she had meant to dress her and
amuse her and settle her in life. Peter Reid had destroyed all her
plans, and Jean would never now be dependent on her for the pleasures of
She wrote to her brother:
"Jean seems to be one of the people that all sorts of odd things happen
to, and now fortune has played one of her impish tricks and Jean has
become a very considerable heiress. And I was there, oddly enough, when
the god in the car alighted, so to speak, at The Rigs.
"One afternoon, just after I came to Priorsford, I went in after tea and
found the Jardines entertaining a shabby-looking elderly man. They were
all so very nice to him that I thought he must be some old family
friend, but it turned out that none of them had seen him before that
afternoon. He had asked to look over the house, and told Jean that he
had lived in it as a boy, and Jean, remarking his rather shabby clothes
and frail appearance, jumped to the conclusion that he had failed in
life and--you know Jean--was at once full of tenderness and compassion.
At his request she sang to him a song he had heard his mother sing, and
finished by presenting him with the song-book containing it--a somewhat
rare collection which she valued.
"This shabby old man, it seems, was one Peter Reid, a wealthy London
business man, and owner of The Rigs, born and bred in Priorsford, who
had just heard from his doctor that he had not long to live, and had
come back to his childhood's home meaning to die there. He had no
relations and few friends, and had made up his mind to leave his money
to the first person who did anything for him without thought of payment.
(He seems to have been a hard, suspicious type of man who had not
attracted kindness.) So Fate guided his steps to Jean, and this is the
result. Yes, rather far-fetched, I agree, but Fate is often like a
"Mr. Peter Reid had meant to ask the Jardines to leave The Rigs and let
him settle there, but--there must have been a soft part somewhere in the
hard little man--he hadn't the heart to do it when he found how attached
they were to the place.
"I was at The Rigs when the lawyer's letter came. Jean as an heiress is
very funny and, at the same time, horribly touching. At first she could
think of nothing but that the lonely old man she had tried to be kind to
was dead, and wept bitterly. Then as she began to realise the fact of
the money she was aghast, suffocated with the thought of her own wealth.
She told us piteously that it wouldn't change her at all. I think the
poor child already felt the golden barrier that wealth builds round its
owners. I don't think Mr. Peter Reid was kind, though perhaps he meant
to be. Jean is such a conscientious, anxious pilgrim at any time, and
I'm afraid the wealth will hang round her neck like the Ancient
" ... I have been wondering, Biddy, how this will affect your chances. I
know you felt as I did how nice it would be to give Jean all the things
that she has never had and which money can buy. I admit I am horribly
disappointed about it, but I'm not at all sure that this odd trick of
fortune's won't help you. Her attitude was that marriage with you was
unthinkable; you had so much and she had so little. Well, this evens
things up. _Don't come. Don't write._ Leave her alone to try her wings.
She will want to try all sorts of schemes for helping people, and I'm
afraid the poor child will get many bad falls. So long as she remains in
Priorsford with people like Mrs. Hope and the Macdonalds to watch over
her she can't come to any harm. Don't be anxious. Honestly, Biddy, I
think she cares for you. I'm glad you asked her when she was poor."
* * * * *
When the news of Jean's fortune broke over Priorsford, tea-parties had
no lack of material for conversation.
Miss Watson and Miss Teenie, much more excited than Jean herself, ranged
gaily round the circle of their acquaintances, drank innumerable cups of
tea, and discussed the matter in all its bearings.
"Isn't it strange to think of Miss Jean as an heiress? Such a plain
little thing--in her clothes, I mean, for she has a bit sweet wee face.
I don't know how she'll ever do in a great big house with butlers and
things. I expect she'll leave The Rigs now. It's no place for an
heiress. Perhaps she'll build a house like The Towers. No; you're right:
she'll look for an old house; she always had such queer ideas about
liking old things and plain things.... Well, when she had a wee house it
had a wide door. I hope when she gets a big house it won't have a
narrow door. Money sometimes changes people's very natures.... It's a
funny business; you never really know what'll happen to you in this
world. Anyway, I don't grudge it to Miss Jean, though, mind you, I don't
think myself that she'll carry off money well. She hasn't presence
enough, if you know what I mean. She'll never look the thing in a big
motor, and you can't imagine her being haughty to people poorer than
herself. She has such a way of putting herself beside folk--even a
tinker-body on the road!"
Miss Bathgate heard the news with sardonic laughter.
"So that's the latest! Miss Jean's gaun to be upsides wi' the best o'
them! Puir lamb, puir lamb! I hope the siller 'll bring her happiness,
but I doot it ... I yince kent some folk that got a fortune left them.
He was a beadle in the U.F. Kirk at Kirkcaple, a dacent man wi' a wife
and dochter, an' by some queer chance they came into a heap o' siller,
an' a hoose--a mansion hoose, ye ken. They never did mair guid, puir
bodies. The hoose was that big that the only kinda cosy place they could
see to sit in was the butler's pantry, an' they took to drink, fair for
want o' anything else to dae. I've heard tell that they took whisky to
their porridges, but that's mebbe a lee. Onyway, the faither and mither
sune died off, and the dochter went to board wi' the minister an' his
wife, to see if they could dae onything wi' her. I mind seein' her
yince. She was sittin' horn-idle, an' I said to her, 'D'ye niver tak' up
a stockin'?' and she says, 'I dinna _need_ to dae naething.' 'But,' I
says, 'a stockin' keeps your hands busy, an' keeps ye frae wearyin','
but she juist said, 'I tell ye I dinna need to dae naething. I whiles
taks a ride in a carriage.' ... It was a sorry sicht, I can tell ye, to
see a dacent lass ruined wi' siller.... Weel, Miss Jean 'll get a man
noo. Nae fear o' that," and Miss Bathgate repeated her cynical lines
about the lass "on Tintock tap."
Mrs. Hope was much excited when she heard, more especially when she
found who Jean's benefactor was.
"Reids who lived in The Rigs thirty years ago? But I knew them. I know
all about them. It was I who suggested to Alison Jardine that the
cottage would suit her. She had lost a lot of money and wanted a small
place.... Why, bless me, Augusta, Mrs. Reid, this man's mother, came
from Corlaw; her people were tenants of my father's. What was the name?
I used to be taken to their house by my nurse and get an oatcake with
sugar sprinkled on it--a great luxury, I thought. Yes, of course,
Laidlaw. She was Jeannie Laidlaw. When I married and came to Hopetoun I
often went to see Mrs. Reid. She reminded me of Corlaw, and could talk
of my father, and I liked that.... Her husband was James Reid. He must
have had some money, and I think he was retired. He had a beard and came
from Fife. I remember the east-country tone in his voice. They went to
the Free Kirk, and I overheard, one day, a man say to him as we came out
of church (where a retiring collection for the next Sunday had been
announced), 'There's an awfu' heap o' collections in oor kirk,' and
James Reid replied, 'Ou ay, but ma way is to pay no attention.' When I
told your father he was delighted and said that he must take that for
his motto through life--'Ma way is to pay no attention.'"
Mrs. Hope took off her glasses and smiled to herself over her
recollections.... "Mrs. Reid was a nice creature, 'fair bigoted,' as
they say here, on her son Peter. He was her chief topic of conversation.
Peter's cleverness, Peter's kindness to his mother, Peter's good looks,
Peter's fine voice: when I saw him--well, I thought we should all thank
God for our mothers, for no one else will ever see us with such kind
eyes.... And it's this Peter Reid--Jeannie Laidlaw's son--who has
enriched Jean. Well, Augusta, I must say I consider it rather a
Augusta looked at her mother with an amused smile.
"Yes, Augusta, it was a pushing, interfering sort of thing to do. What
is the child to do with a great fortune? I'm not afraid of her being
spoiled. Money won't vulgarise Jean as it does so many people, but it
may turn her into a very burdened, anxious pilgrim. She is happier poor.
The pinch of too little money is a small thing compared to the burden of
too much. The doing without is good for both body and soul, but the
great possessions are apt to harden our hearts and make our souls small
and meagre. Who would have thought that little Jean would have had the
hard hap to become heir to them. But she has a high heart. She may make
a success of being a rich woman! She has certainly made a success of
being a poor one."
"I think," said Augusta, in her gentle voice, "that Peter Reid was a
wise man to leave his money to Jean. Only the people who have been poor
know how to give, and Jean has imagination and an understanding heart.
Haven't you noticed what a wonderful way she has with the poor people?
She is always welcome in the cottages.... And think what a delight she
will have in spending money on the boys! But I hope Pamela Reston will
do as she had planned and carry Jean off for a real holiday. I should
like to see her for a little while spend money like water, buy all
manner of useless lovely things, and dine and dance and go to plays."
Mrs. Hope put up her glasses to regard her daughter.
"Dear me, Augusta, am I hearing right? Who is more severe than you on
the mad women who dance, and sup, and frivol their money away? But
there's something in what you say. The bairn needs a playtime.... To
think that Jeannie Laidlaw's son should change the whole of Jean's life.
* * * * *
Mrs. Duff-Whalley was having tea with Mrs. Jowett when the news was
broken to her. It was a party, but only, as Mrs. Duff-Whalley herself
would have put it, "a purely local affair," meaning some people on the
Mrs. Jowett sat in her soft-toned room, pouring out tea into fragile
cups with hands that seemed to demand lace ruffles, so white were they
and transparent. The room was like herself, exquisitely fresh and
dainty; white walls hung with pale water-colours in gilt frames, Indian
rugs of soft pinks and blues and greys, plump cushions in worked muslin
covers that looked as if they were put on fresh every morning.
Photographs stood about of women looking sweetly into vacancy over the
heads of pretty children, and books of verses, bound daintily in white
and gold, lay on carved tables.
Mrs. Duff-Whalley did not care for Mrs. Jowett's tea-parties, and she
always felt irritated by her drawing-room. The gentle voice of her
hostess made her want to speak louder than usual, and she thought the
conversation insipid to a degree. How could it be anything but insipid
with Mrs. Jowett saying only "How nice," or "What a pity" at intervals?
She did not even seem to care to hear Mrs. Duff-Whalley's news of "the
County," and "dear Lady Tweedie," merely murmuring, "Oh, really," when
told the most interesting and even startling facts.
"Uninterested idiot," thought Mrs. Duff-Whalley to herself as she turned
from her hostess to Miss Mary Duncan, who at least had some sense,
though both she and her sisters had a lamentable lack of style.
Miss Duncan's kind face beamed pleasantly. She was quite willing to
listen to Mrs. Duff-Whalley as long as that lady pleased. She thought
she needed soothing, so she agreed with everything she said, and made
sensible little remarks at intervals. Mrs. Jowett was pouring out a
second cup of tea for Mrs. Duff-Whalley when she said, "And have you
heard about dear little Jean Jardine?"
"Has anything happened to her? I saw her the other day and she was all
"She's quite well, but haven't you heard? She has inherited a large
Mrs. Duff-Whalley said nothing for a minute. She could not trust herself
to speak. Despised Jean, whom she had not troubled to ask to her
parties, whom she had always felt she could treat anyhow, so poor was
she and of no account. It had been bad enough to know that she was on
terms of intimacy with Pamela Reston and her brother: to hear Miss
Reston say that she meant to take her to London and entertain for her
and to hear her suggest that Muriel might go to Jean's parties had been
galling, but she had thrust the recollection from her, reflecting that
fine ladies said much that they did not mean, and that probably the
promised visit to London would never materialise. And now to be told
this! A fortune: Jean--it was too absurd!
When she spoke, her voice was shrill with anger in spite of her efforts
to control it.
"It can't be true. The Jardines have no relations that could leave them
"This isn't a relation," Mrs. Jowett explained. "It's someone Jean was
kind to quite by chance. I think it is _so_ sweet. It quite makes one
want to cry. _Dear_ Jean!"
Mrs. Duff-Whalley looked at the sentimental woman before her with bitter
"It would take more than that to make me cry," she snorted. "I wonder
what fool wanted to leave Jean money. Such an unpractical creature!
She'll simply make ducks and drakes of it, give it away to all and
sundry, pauperise the whole neighbourhood."
"Oh, I don't think so," Miss Duncan broke in. "She has had a hard
training, poor child. Such a pathetic mite she was when her great-aunt
died and left her with David and Jock and the little Gervase Taunton! No
one thought she could manage, but she did, and she has been so plucky,
she deserves all the good fortune that life can bring her. I'm longing
to hear what Jock says about this. I do like that boy."
"They are, all three, dear boys," said Mrs. Jowett. "Tim and I quite
feel as if they were our own. Tim, dear," to that gentleman, who had
bounced suddenly and violently into the room, "we are talking about the
great news--Jean's fortune--"
"Ah yes, yes," said Mr. Jowett, distributing brusque nods to the women
present. "What I want is a bit of thick string." (His wife's delicate
drawing-room hardly seemed the place to look for such a thing.) "No, no
tea, my dear. I told you I wanted a bit of _thick string_.... Yes,
let's hope it won't spoil Jean, but I think it's almost sure to. Fortune
hunters, too. Bad thing for a girl to have money.... Yes, yes, I asked
the servants and Chart brought me the string basket, but it was all thin
stuff. I'll lose the post, but it's always the way. Every day more
rushed than another. Remind me, Janetta, to get some thick string
to-morrow. I've no time to go down to the town to-day. Why, bless me, my
morning letters are hardly looked at yet," and he fussed himself out of
Mrs. Duff-Whalley rose to go.
"Then, Mrs. Jowett, I can depend on you to look after that collecting?
And please be firm. I find that collectors are apt to be very lazy and
unconscientious. Indeed, one told me frankly that in her district she
only went to the people she knew. That isn't the way to collect. The
only way is to get into each house--to stand on the doorstep is no use,
they can so easily send a maid to refuse--and sit there till they give a
subscription. Every year since I took it on there has been an increase,
and I'll be frightfully disappointed if you let it go back."
Mrs. Jowett looked depressed. She knew herself to be one of the worst
collectors on record. She was guiltily aware that she often advised
people not to give; that is, if she thought their circumstances
"I don't know," she began, "I'm afraid I could never sit in a stranger's
house and insist on being given money. It's so--so high-handed, like a
highwayman or something."
"Think of the cause," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley, "not of your own
"Yes, of course, but ... well, if there is a deficit, I can always raise
my own subscription to cover it." She smiled happily at this solution of
Mrs. Duff-Whalley sniffed.
"'The conies are a feeble folk,'" she quoted rudely. "Well, good-bye. I
shall send over all the papers and collecting books to-morrow. Muriel
and I go off to London on Friday _en route_ for the south. It will be
pleasant to have a change and meet some interesting people. Muriel was
just saying it's a cabbage's life we live in Priorsford. I often wonder
we stay here...."
Mrs. Duff-Whalley went home a very angry woman. After dinner, sitting
with Muriel before the fire in the glittering drawing-room, she
discussed the matter.
"I know what'll be the end of it," she said. "You saw what a fuss Miss
Reston made of Jean the other day when we called? Depend upon it, she
knew the money was coming. I dare say she and her brother are as poor as
church mice--those aristocrats usually are--and Jean's money will come
in useful. Oh, we'll see her Lady Bidborough yet.... I tell you what it
is, Muriel, the way this world's managed is past speaking about."
Mrs. Duff-Whalley was knitting a stocking for her son Gordon (her hands
were seldom idle), and she waved it in her exasperation as she talked.
"Here are you, meant, as anyone can see, for the highest position, and
instead that absurd little Jean is to be cocked up, a girl with no more
dignity than a sparrow, who couldn't keep her place with a washerwoman.
I've heard her talking to these cottage women as if they were her
Muriel leant back in her chair and seemed absorbed in balancing her
slipper on her toe.
"My dear mother," she said, "why excite yourself? It isn't clever of you
to be so openly annoyed. People will laugh. I don't say I like it any
better than you do, but I hope I have the sense to purr congratulations.
We can't help it anyway. You and I aren't attracted to Jean, but there's
no use denying most people are. And what's more, they keep on liking
her. She isn't a person people get easily tired of. I wish I knew her
secret. I suppose it is charm--a thing that can't be acquired."
"What nonsense, Muriel! I wonder to hear you. I'd like to know who has
charm if you haven't. It is a silly word anyway."
Muriel shook her head. "It's no good posing when we are by ourselves. As
a family we totally lack charm. Minnie tries to make up for it by a
great deal of manner and a loud voice. Gordon--well, it doesn't matter
so much for a man, but you can see his friends don't really care about
him much. They take his hospitality and say he isn't a bad sort. They
know he is a snob, and when he tries to be funny he is often offensive,
poor Gordon! I've got a pretty face, and I play games well, so I am
tolerated, but I have hardly one real friend. The worst of it is I know
all the time where I am falling short, and I can't help it. I feel
myself jar on people. I once heard old Mrs. Hope say that it doesn't
matter how vulgar we are, so long as we know we are being vulgar. But
that isn't true. It's not much fun to know you are being vulgar and not
be able to help it."
Mrs. Duff-Whalley gave a convulsed ejaculation, but her daughter went
"Sometimes I've gone in of an afternoon to see Jean, and found her
darning stockings in her shabby frock, with a look on her face as if she
knew some happy secret; a sort of contented, brooding look--and I've
envied her. And so I talked of all the gaieties I was going to, of the
new clothes I was getting, of the smart people we know, and all the time
I was despising myself for a fool, for what did Jean care! She sat there
with her mind full of books and poetry and those boys she is so absurdly
devoted to; it was nothing to her how much I bucked; and this fortune
won't change her. Money is nothing--"
Mrs. Duff-Whalley gasped despairingly to hear her cherished daughter
talking, as she thought, rank treason.
"Oh, Muriel, how you can! And your poor father working so hard to make a
pile so that we could all be nice and comfortable. And you were his
favourite, and I've often thought how proud he would have been to see
his little girl so smart and pretty and able to hold her own with the
best of them. And I've worked too. Goodness knows I've worked hard. It
isn't as easy as it looks to keep your end up in Priorsford and keep the
villa-people in their places, and force the County to notice you. If I
had been like Mrs. Jowett you would just have had to be content with the
people on the Hill. Do you suppose I haven't known they didn't want to
come here and visit us? Oh, I knew, but I _made_ them. And it was all
for you. What did I care for them and their daft-like ways and their
uninteresting talk about dogs and books and things! It would have been
far nicer for me to have made friends with the people in the little
villas. My! I've often thought how I would relish a tea-party at the
Watsons'! Your father used to have a saying about it being better to be
at the head of the commonalty than at the tail of the gentry, and I know
it's true. Mrs. Duff-Whalley of The Towers would be a big body at the
Miss Watsons' tea-parties, and I know fine I'm only tolerated at the
Tweedies' and the Olivers' and all the others."
"Poor Mother! You've been splendid!"
"If you aren't happy, what does anything matter? I'm fair disheartened,
I tell you. I believe you're right. Money isn't much of a blessing. I've
never said it to you because you seemed so much a part of all the new
life, with your accent and your manners and your little dogs, but over
and over when people snubbed me, and I had to talk loud and brazen
because I felt so ill at ease, I've thought of the old days when I
helped your father in the shop. Those were my happiest days--before the
money came. I had a girl to look after the house and you children, and I
went between the house and the shop, and I never had a dull minute. Then
we came into some money, and that helped your father to extend and
extend. First we had a house in Murrayfield--and, my word, we thought we
were fine. But I aimed at Drumsheugh Gardens, and we got there. Your
father always gave in to me. Eh, he was a hearty man, your father. If
it's true what you say that none of you have charm, though I'm sure I
don't know what you mean by it, it's my blame, for your father was
popular with everyone. He used to laugh at me and my ambition, for, mind
you, I was always ambitious, but his was kindly laughter. Often and
often when I've been sitting all dressed up at some dinner-party, like
to yawn my head off with the dull talk, I've thought of the happy days
when I helped in the shop and did my own washing--eh, I little thought I
would ever live in a house where we never even know when it's washing
day--and went to bed tired and happy, and fell asleep behind your
father's broad back...."
"Oh, Mother, don't cry. It's beastly of me to discourage you when you've
been the best of mothers to me. I wish I had known my father better, and
I do wish I could remember when we were all happy in the little house.
You've never been so very happy in The Towers, have you, Mother?"
"No, but I wouldn't leave it for the world. Your father was so proud of
it. 'It's as like a hydro as a private house can be,' he often said, in
such a contented voice. He just liked to walk round and look at all the
contrivances he had planned, all the hot-rails and things in the
bathrooms and cloakrooms, and radiators in every room, and the wonderful
pantries--'tippy,' he called them. He couldn't understand people making
a fuss about old houses, and old furniture, grey walls half tumbling
down and mouldy rooms. He liked the new look of The Towers, and he said
to me, 'Mind, Aggie, I'm not going to let you grow any nonsense like ivy
or creepers up this fine new house. They're all very well for holding
together tumbledown old places, but The Towers doesn't need them. And
I'm sure he would be pleased to-day if he saw it. The times people have
advised me to grow ivy--even Lady Tweedie, the last time she came to
tea--but I never would. It's as new-looking as the day he left it....
You don't want to leave The Towers, Muriel?"
"No--o, but--don't you think, Mother, we needn't work quite so hard for
our social existence? I mean, let's be more friendly with the people
round us, and not strive so hard to keep in with the County set. If Miss
Reston can do it, surely we can."
"But don't you see," her mother said, "Miss Reston can do it just
because she is Miss Reston. If you're a Lord's daughter you can be as
eccentric as you like, and make friends with anyone you choose. If we
did it, they would just say, 'Oh, so they've come off their perch!' and
once we let ourselves down we would never raise ourselves again. I
couldn't do it, Muriel. Don't ask me."
"No. But we've got to be happier somehow. Climbing is exhausting work."
She stooped and picked up the two small dogs that lay on a cushion
beside her. "Isn't it, Bing? Isn't it, Toutou? You're happy, aren't you?
A warm fire and a cushion and some mutton-chop bones are good enough for
you. Well, we've got all these and we want more.... Mother, perhaps Jean
would tell us the secret of happiness."
"As if I'd ask her," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley.
"Marvell, who had both pleasure and success, who must have enjoyed
life if ever man did, ... found his happiness in the garden where he
was."--From an article in _The Times Literary Supplement._
Mrs. M'Cosh remained extremely sceptical about the reality of the
fortune until the lawyer came from London, "yin's errand to see Miss
Jean," as she explained importantly to Miss Bathgate, and he was such an
eminently solid, safe-looking man that her doubts vanished.
"I wud say he wis an elder in the kirk, if they've onything as
respectable as an elder in England," was her summing up of the lawyer.
Mr. Dickson (of Dickson, Staines, & Dickson), though a lawyer, was a
human being, and was able to meet Jean with sympathy and understanding
when she tried to explain to him her wishes.
First of all, she was very anxious to know if Mr. Dickson thought it
quite fair that she should have the money. Was he _quite_ sure that
there were no relations, no one who had a real claim?
Mr. Dickson explained to her what a singularly lonely, self-sufficing
man Peter Reid had been, a man without friends, almost without
interests--except the piling up of money.
"I don't say he was unhappy; I believe he was very content, absolutely
absorbed in his game of money-making. But when he couldn't ignore any
longer the fact that there was something wrong with his health, and went
to the specialist and was told to give up work at once, he was
completely bowled over. Life held nothing more for him. I was very sorry
for the poor man ... he had only one thought--to go back to Priorsford,
his boyhood's home."
"And I didn't know," said Jean, "or we would all have turned out there
and then and sat on our boxes in the middle of the road, or roosted in
the trees like crows, rather than keep him for an hour out of his own
house. He came and asked to see The Rigs and I was afraid he meant to
buy it: it was always our nightmare that the landlord in London would
turn us out.... He looked frail and shabby, and I jumped to the
conclusion that he was poor. Oh, I do wish I had known...."
"He told me," Mr. Dickson went on, "when he came to see me on his
return, that he had come with the intention of asking the tenants to
leave The Rigs, but that he hadn't the heart to do it when he saw how
attached you were to the place. He added that you had been kind to him.
He was rather gruff and ashamed about his weakness, but I could see that
he had been touched to receive kindness from utter strangers. He was
amused in a sardonic way that you had thought him a poor man and had
yet been kind to him; he had an unhappy notion that in this world
kindness is always bought.... He had no heir, and I think I explained to
you in my letter that he had made up his mind to leave his whole fortune
to the first person who did anything for him without expecting payment.
You turned out to be that person, and I congratulate you, Miss Jardine,
most heartily. I would like to tell you that Mr. Reid planned everything
so that it would be as easy as possible for you, and asked me to come
and see you and explain in person. He seemed very satisfied when all was
in order. I saw him a few days before he died and I thought he looked
better, and told him so. But he only said, 'It's a great load off my
mind to get everything settled, and it's a blessing not to have an heir
longing to step into my shoes, and grudging me a few years longer on the
earth.' Two days later he passed away in his sleep. He was a curious,
hard man, whom few cared about, but at the end there was something
simple and rather pathetic about him. I think he died content."
"Thank you for telling me about him," Jean said, and there was silence
for a minute.
"And now may I hear your wishes?" said Mr. Dickson.
"Can I do just as I like with the money? Well, will you please divide it
into four parts? That will be a quarter for each of us--David, Jock,
Jean spoke as if the fortune was a lump of dough and Mr. Dickson the
baker, but the lawyer did not smile.
"I understood you had only two brothers?"
"Yes, David and Jock, but Mhor is an adopted brother. His name's Gervase
"But--has he any claim on you?"
Jean's face got pink. "I should think he has. He's _exactly_ like our
"Then you want him to have a full share?"
"Of course. It's odd how people will assume one is a cad! When Mhor's
mother died (his father had died before) he came to us--his mother
_trusted him_ to us--and people kept saying, 'Why should you take him?
He has no claim on you.' As if Mhor wasn't the best gift we ever got....
And when you have divided it, I wonder if you would take a tenth off
each share? We were brought up to give a tenth of any money we had to
God. I'm almost sure the boys would give it themselves. I _think_ they
would, but perhaps it would be safer to take it off first and put it
Jean looked very straight at the lawyer. "I wouldn't like any of us to
be unjust stewards," she said.
"No," said the lawyer--"no."
"And perhaps," Jean went on, "the boys had better not get their shares
until they are twenty-five David could have it now, so far as sense
goes, but it's the responsibility I'm thinking about."
"I would certainly let them wait until they are twenty-five. Their
shares will accumulate, of course, and be very much larger when they get
"But I don't want that," said Jean. "I want the interest on the money
to be added to the tenths that are laid away. It's better to give more
than the strict tenth. It's so horrid to be shabby about giving."
"And what are the 'tenths,' to be used for?"
"I'll tell you about that later, if I may. I'm not quite sure myself. I
shall have to ask Mr. Macdonald, our minister. He'll know. I'm never
quite certain whether the Bible means the tenth to be given in charity,
or kept entirely for churches and missions.... And I want to buy some
annuities, if you will tell me how to do it. Mrs. M'Cosh, our
servant--perhaps you noticed her when you came in? I want to make her
absolutely secure and comfortable in her old age. I hope she will stay
with us for a long time yet, but it will be nice for her to feel that
she can have a home of her own whenever she likes. And there are others
... but I won't worry you with them just now. It was most awfully kind
of you to come all the way from London to explain things to me, when you
must be very busy."
"Coming to see you is part of my business," Mr. Dickson explained, "but
it has been a great pleasure too.... By the way, will you use the house
in Prince's Gate or shall we let it?"
"Oh, do anything you like with it. I shouldn't think we would ever want
to live in London, it's such a noisy, overcrowded place, and there are
always hotels.... I'm quite content with The Rigs. It's such a comfort
to feel that it is our own."
"It's a charming cottage," Mr. Dickson said, "but won't you want
something roomier? Something more imposing for an heiress?"
"I hate imposing things," Jean said, very earnestly "I want to go on
just as we were doing, only with no scrimping, and more treats for the
boys. We've only got L350 a year now, and the thought of all this money
dazes me. It doesn't really mean anything to me yet."
"It will soon. I hope your fortune is going to bring you much happiness,
though I doubt if you will keep much of it to yourself."
"Oh yes," Jean assured him. "I'm going to buy myself a musquash coat
with a skunk collar. I've always wanted one frightfully. You'll stay and
have luncheon with us, won't you?"
Mr. Dickson stayed to luncheon, and was treated with great respect by
Jock and Mhor. The latter had a notion that somewhere the lawyer had a
cave in which he kept Jean's fortune, great casks of gold pieces and
trunks of precious stones, and that any lack of manners on his part
might lose Jean her inheritance. He was disappointed to find him dressed
like any ordinary man. He had had a dim hope that he would look like Ali
Baba and wear a turban.
After Mr. Dickson had finished saying all he had come to say, and had
gone to catch his train, Jean started out to call on her minister.
Pamela met her at the gate.
"Well, Jean, and whither away? You look very grave. Are you going to
tell the King the sky's falling?"
"Something of that kind. I'm going to see Mr. Macdonald. I've got
something I want to ask him."
"I suppose you don't want me to go with you? I love an excuse to go and
see the Macdonalds. Oh, but I have one. Just wait a moment, Jean, while
I run back and fetch something."
She joined Jean after a short delay, and they walked on together. Jean
explained that she was going to ask Mr. Macdonald's advice how best to
use her money.
"Has the lawyer been?" Pamela asked, "Do you understand about things?"
Jean told of Mr. Dickson's visit.
"It's a fearful lot of money, Pamela. But when it's divided into four,
that's four people to share the responsibility."
"And what are you going to do with your share?"
"I'll tell you what I'm not going to do. I'm not going to take a house
and fill it with guests who will be consistently unpleasant, as the
Benefactress did. And I'm not going to build a sort of fairy palace and
commit suicide from the roof like the millionaire in that book _Midas_
something or other. And I _hope_ I'm not going to lose my imagination
and forget what it feels like to be poor, and send a girl with a small
dress allowance half a dozen muslin handkerchiefs at Christmas."
"I suppose you know, Jean--I don't want to be discouraging--that you
will get very little gratitude, that the people you try to help will
smarm to your face and blackguard you behind your back? You will be
hurt and disappointed times without number.... You see, my dear, I've
had money for quite a lot of years, and I know."
They were crossing the wide bridge over Tweed and she stopped and,
leaning her arms on the parapet, gazed up at Peel Tower.
"Let's look at Peel for a little," she said. "It's been there such a
long time and must have seen so many people trying to do their best and
only succeeding in making mischief. It seems to say, 'Nothing really
matters: you'll all be in the tod's hole in less than a hundred years. I
remain, and the river and the hills.'"
"Yes," said Pamela, "they are a great comfort, the unchanging
things--these placid round-backed hills, and the river and the grey
town--to us restless mortals.... Look, Jean, I want you to tell me if
you think this miniature is at all like Duncan Macdonald. You remember I
asked you to let me have that snapshot of him that you said was so
characteristic and I sent it to London to a woman I know who does
miniatures well. I thought his mother would like to have it. But you
must tell me if you think it good enough."
Jean took the miniature and looked at the pictured face, a laughing
boy's face, fresh-coloured, frank, with flaxen hair falling over a broad
When, after a minute, she handed it back she assured Pamela that the
likeness was wonderful.
"She has caught it exactly, that look in his eyes as if he were telling
you it was 'fair time of day' with him. Oh, dear Duncan! It's fair time
of day with him now, I am sure, wherever he is.... He was twenty-two
when he fell three years ago.... You've often heard Mrs. Macdonald speak
of her sons. Duncan was the youngest by a lot of years--the baby. The
others are frighteningly clever, but Duncan was a lamb. They all adored
him, but he wasn't spoiled.... Life was such a joke to Duncan. I can't
even now think of him as dead. He was so full of abounding life one
can't imagine him lying still--quenched. You know that odd little poem:
"'And Mary's the one that never liked angel stories,
And Mary's the one that's dead....'
Death and Duncan seem such a long way apart. Many people are so dull and
apathetic that they never seem more than half alive, so they don't leave
much of a gap when they go. But Duncan--The Macdonalds are brave, but I
think living to them is just a matter of getting through now. The end of
the day will mean Duncan. I am glad you thought about getting the
miniature done. You do have such nice thoughts, Pamela."
The Macdonalds' manse stood on the banks of Tweed, a hundred yards or so
below Peel Tower, a square house of grey stone in a charming garden.
Mr. Macdonald loved his garden and worked in it diligently. It was his
doctor, he said. When his mind got stale and sermon-writing difficult,
when his head ached and people became a burden, he put on an old coat
and went out to dig, or plant or mow the grass. He grew wonderful
flowers, and in July, when his lupins were at their best, he took a
particular pleasure in enticing people out to see the effect of their
royal blue against the silver of Tweed.
He had been a minister in Priorsford for close on forty years and had
never had more than L250 of a salary, and on this he and his wife had
brought up four sons who looked, as an old woman in the church said, "as
if they'd aye got their meat." There had always been a spare place at
every meal for any casual guest, and a spare bedroom looking over Tweed
that was seldom empty. And there had been no lowering of the dignity of
a manse. A fresh, wise-like, middle-aged woman opened the door to
visitors, and if you had asked her she would have told you she had been
in service with the Macdonalds since she was fifteen, and Mrs. Macdonald
would have added that she never could have managed without Agnes.
The sons had worked their way with bursaries and scholarships through
school and college, and now three of them were in positions of trust in
the government of their country. One was in London, two in India--and
Duncan lay in France, that Holy Land of our people.
It was a nice question his wife used to say before the War (when hearts
were lighter and laughter easier) whether Mr. Macdonald was prouder of
his sons or his flowers, and when, as sometimes happened he had them all
with him in the garden, his cup of content had been full.
And now it seemed to him that when he was in the garden Duncan was
nearer him. He could see the little figure in a blue jersey marching
along the paths with a wheelbarrow, very important because he was
helping his father. He had called the big clump of azaleas "the burning
bush." ... He had always been a funny little chap.
And it was in the garden that he had said good-bye to him that last
time. He had been twice wounded, and it was hard to go back again. There
was no novelty about it now, no eagerness or burning zeal, nothing but a
dogged determination to see the thing through. They had stood together
looking over Tweed to the blue ridge of Cademuir and Duncan had broken
the silence with a question:
"What's the psalm, Father, about the man 'who going forth doth mourn'?"
And with his eyes fixed on the hills the old minister had repeated:
"'That man who bearing precious seed
In going forth doth mourn,
He, doubtless, bringing back the sheaves
Rejoicing will return.'"
And Duncan had nodded his head and said, "That's it. 'Rejoicing will
return.'" And he had taken another long look at Cademuir.
Many wondered what had kept such a man as John Macdonald all his life in
a small town like Priorsford. He did more good, he said, in a little
place; he would be of no use in a city; but the real reason was he knew
his health would not stand the strain. For many years he had been a
martyr to a particularly painful kind of rheumatism. He never spoke of
it if he could help it, and tried never to let it interfere with his
work, but his eyes had the patient look that suffering brings, and his
face often wore a twisted, humorous smile, as if he were laughing at his
own pain. He was now sixty-four. His sons, so far as they were allowed,
had smoothed the way for their parents, but they could not induce their
father to retire from the ministry. "I'll give up when I begin to feel
myself a nuisance," he would say. "I can still preach and visit my
people, and perhaps God will let me die in harness, with the sound of
Tweed in my ears."
Mrs. Macdonald was, in Bible words, a "succourer of many." She was a
little stout woman with the merry heart that goes all the way, combined
with heavy-lidded, sad eyes, and a habit of sighing deeply. She affected
to take a sad view of everything, breaking into irrepressible laughter
in the middle of the most pessimistic utterances, for she was able to
see the humorous side of her own gloom. Mrs. Macdonald was a born giver;
everything she possessed she had to share. She was miserable if she had
nothing to bestow on a parting guest, small gifts like a few new-laid
eggs or a pot of home-made jam.
"You know yourself," she would say, "what a satisfied feeling it gives
you to come away from a place with even the tiniest gift."
Her popularity was immense. Sad people came to her because she sighed
with them and never tried to cheer them; dull people came to her
because she was never in offensive high spirits or in a boastful
mood--not even when her sons had done something particularly
striking--and happy people came to her, for, though she sighed and
warned them that nothing lasted in this world, her eyes shone with
pleasure, and her interest was so keen that every detail could be told
and discussed and gloated over with the comfortable knowledge that Mrs.
Macdonald would not say to her next visitor that she had been simply
_deaved_ with talk about So-and-so's engagement.
Mrs. Macdonald believed in speaking her mind--if she had anything
pleasant to say, and she was sometimes rather startling in her frankness
to strangers. "My dear, how pretty you are," she would say to a girl
visitor, or, "Forgive me, but I must tell you I don't think I ever saw a
The women in the congregation had no comfort in their new clothes until
Mrs. Macdonald had pronounced on them. A word was enough. Perhaps at the
church door some congregational matter would be discussed; then, at
parting, a quick touch on the arm and--"Most successful bonnet I ever
saw you get," or, "The coat's worth all the money," or, "Everything new,
and you look as young as your daughter."
Pamela and Jean found the minister and his wife in the garden. Mr.
Macdonald was pacing up and down the path overlooking the river, with
his next Sunday's sermon in his hand, while Mrs. Macdonald raked the
gravel before the front door (she liked the place kept so tidy that her
sons had been wont to say bitterly, as they spent an hour of their
precious Saturdays helping, that she dusted the branches and wiped the
faces of the flowers with a handkerchief) and carried on a conversation
with her husband which was of little profit, as the rake on the stones
dimmed the sense of her words.
"Wasn't that right, John?" she was saying as her husband came near her.
"Dear me, woman, how can I tell? I haven't heard a word you've been
saying. Here are callers. I'll get away to my visiting. Why! It's Jean
and Miss Reston--this is very pleasant."
Mrs. Macdonald waved her hand to her visitors as she hurried away to put
the rake in the shed, reappearing in a moment like a stout little
"Come away, my dears. Up to the study, Jean; that's where the fire is
to-day. I'm delighted to see you both. What a blessing Agnes is baking
pancakes It seemed almost a waste, for neither John nor I eat them, but,
you see, they had just been meant for you.... I wouldn't go just now,
John. We'll have an early tea and that will give you a long evening."
Jean explained that she specially wanted to see Mr. Macdonald.
"And would you like me to go away?" Mrs. Macdonald asked. "Miss Reston
and I can go to the dining-room."
"But I want you as much as Mr. Macdonald," said Jean. "It's your advice
I want--about the money, you know."
Mrs. Macdonald gave a deep sigh. "Ah, money," she said--"the root of all
"Not at all, my dear," her husband corrected. "The love of money is the
root of all evil--a very different thing. Money can be a very fine
"Oh," said Jean, "that's what I want you to tell me. How can I make this
money a blessing?"
Mr. Macdonald gave his twisted smile.
"And am I to answer you in one word, Jean? I fear it's a word too wide
for a mouth of this age's size. You will have to make mistakes and learn
by them and gradually feel your way."
"The most depressing thing about money," put in his wife, "is that the
Bible should say so definitely that a rich man can hardly get into
heaven. Oh, I know all about a needle's eye being a gate, but I've
always a picture in my own mind of a camel and an ordinary
darning-needle, and anything more hopeless could hardly be imagined."
Mrs. Macdonald had taken up a half-finished sock, and, as she disposed
of the chances of all the unfortunate owners of wealth, she briskly
turned the heel. Jean knew her hostess too well to be depressed by her,
so she smiled at the minister, who said, "Heaven's gate is too narrow
for a man and his money; that goes without saying, Jean."
Jean leant forward and said eagerly, "What I really want to know is
about the tenth we are to put away as not being our own. Does it count
if it is given in charity, or ought it to be given to Church things and
"Whatever is given to God will 'count,' as you put it--lighting, where
you can, candles of kindness to cheer and warm and lighten."
"I see," said Jean. "Of course, there are heaps of things one could
slump money away on, hospitals and institutions and missions, but these
are all so impersonal. I wonder, would it be pushing and _furritsome_,
do you think, if I tried to help ministers a little?--ministers, I mean,
with wives and families and small incomes shut away in country places
and in the poor parts of big towns? It would be such pleasant helping to
"Now," said Mrs. Macdonald, "that's a really sensible idea, Jean.
There's no manner of doubt that the small salaries of the clergy are a
crying scandal. I don't like ministers to wail in the papers about it,
but the laymen should wail until things are changed. Ministers don't
enter the Church for the loaves and fishes, but the labourer is worthy
of his hire, and they must have enough to live on decently. Living has
doubled. I couldn't manage as things are now, and I'm a good manager,
though I says it as shouldn't.... The fight I've had all my life nobody
will ever know. Now that we have plenty, I can talk about it. I never
hinted it to anybody when we were struggling through; indeed, we washed
our faces and anointed our heads and appeared not unto men to fast! The
clothes and the boots and the butcher's bills! It's pleasant to think of
now, just as it's pleasant to look from the hilltop at the steep road
you've come. The boys sometimes tell me that they are glad we were too
poor to have a nurse, for it meant that they were brought up with their
father and me. We had our meals together, and their father helped them
with their lessons. Indeed, it's only now I realise how happy I was to
have them all under one roof."
She stopped and sighed, and went on again with a laugh. "I remember one
time a week before the Sustentation Fund was due, I was down to one
six-pence And of course a collector arrived! D'you remember that,
John?... And the boys worked so hard to educate themselves. All except
Duncan. Oh, but I am glad that my little laddie had an easy time--when
it was to be such a short one."
"He always wanted to be a soldier," Mr. Macdonald said. "You remember,
Anne, when you tried to get him to say he would be a minister? He was
about six then, I think. He said, 'No, it's not a white man's job,' and
then looked at me apologetically afraid that he had hurt my feelings.
When the War came he went 'most jocund, apt, and willingly,' but without
any ill-will in his heart to the Germans.
"'He left no will but good will
And that to all mankind....'"
Mrs. Macdonald stared into the fire with tear-blurred eyes and said: "I
sometimes wonder if they died in vain. If this is the new world it's a
far worse one than the old. Class hatred, discontent, wild extravagance
in some places, children starving in others, women mad for pleasure,
and the dead forgotten already except by the mothers--the mothers who
never to their dying day will see a fresh-faced boy without a sword
piercing their hearts and a cry rising to their lips, 'My son! My son!'"
"It's all true, Anne," said her husband, "but the sacrifice of love and
innocence can never be in vain. Nothing can ever dim that sacrifice. The
country's dead will save the country as they saved it before. Those
young lives have gone in front to light the way for us."
Mrs. Macdonald took up her sock again with a long sigh.
"I wish I could comfort myself with thoughts as you can, John, but I
never had any mind. No, Jean, you needn't protest so politely. I'm a
good house-wife and I admit my shortbread is 'extra,' as Duncan used to
say. Duncan was very sorry as a small boy that he had left heaven and
come to stay with us. He used to say with a sigh, 'You see, heaven's
extra.' I don't know where he picked up the expression. But what I was
going to say is that people are so wretchedly provoking. This morning I
was really badly provoked. For one thing, I was very busy doing the
accounts of the Girls' Club (you know I have no head for figures), and
Mrs. Morton strolled in to see me, to cheer me up, she said. Cheer me
up! She maddened me. I haven't been forty years a minister's wife
without learning patience, but it would have done me all the good in the
world to take that woman by her expensive fur coat and walk her rapidly
out of the room. She sat there breathing opulence, and told me how hard
it was for her to live--she, a lone woman with six servants to wait on
her and a car and a chauffeur! 'I am not going to give to this War
Memorial,' she said. 'At this time it seems rather a wasteful
proceeding, and it won't do the men who have fallen any good.' ... I
could have told her that surely it wasn't _waste_ the men were thinking
about when they poured out their youth like wine that she and her like
might live and hug their bank books."
Mr. Macdonald had moved from his chair in the window, and now stood with
one hand on the mantelshelf looking into the fire. "Do you remember," he
said, "that evening in Bethany when Mary took a box of spikenard, very
costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, so that the odour of the
ointment filled the house? Judas--that same Judas who carried the bag
and was a robber--was much concerned about the waste. He said that the
box might have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor.
And Jesus, rebuking him, said, 'The poor always ye have with you, but Me
ye have not always.'"
He stopped abruptly and went over to his writing-table and made as
though he were arranging papers. Presently he said, "Anne, you've been
here." His tone was accusing.
"Only writing a post card," said his wife quickly. "I can't have made
much of a mess." She turned to her visitors and explained: "John is a
regular old maid about his writing-table; everything must be so tidy
"Well, I can't understand," said her husband, "why anyone so neat handed
as you are should be such a filthy creature with ink. You seem
positively to sling it about."
"Well," said Mrs. Macdonald, changing the subject "I like your idea of
helping ministers, Jean. I've often thought if I had the means I would
know how to help. A cheque to a minister in a city-charge for a holiday;
a cheque to pay a doctor's bill and ease things a little for a worn-out
wife. You've a great chance, Jean."
"I know," said Jean, "if you will only tell me how to begin."
"I'll soon do that," said practical Mrs. Macdonald "I've got several in
my mind this moment that I just ache to give a hand to. But only the
very rich can help. You can't in decency take from people who have only
enough to go on with.... Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll see if Agnes is
getting the tea. I want you to taste my rowan and crab-apple jelly, Miss
Reston, and if you like it you will take some home with you."
* * * * *
As they left the Manse an hour later, laden with gifts, Pamela said to
Jean, "I would rather be Mrs. Macdonald than anyone else I know. She is
a practising Christian. If I had done a day's work such as she has done
I think I would go out of the world pretty well pleased with myself."
"Yes," Jean agreed. "If life is merely a chance of gaining love she
will come out with high marks. Did you give her the miniature?"
"Yes, just as we left, when you had walked on to the gate with Mr.
Macdonald. She was so absurdly grateful she made me cry. You would have
thought no one had ever given her a gift before."
"The world," said Jean, "is divided into two classes, the givers and the
takers. Nothing so touches and pleases and surprises a 'giver' as to
receive a gift. The 'takers' are too busy standing on their hind legs
(like Peter at tea-time) looking wistfully for the next bit of cake to
be very appreciative of the biscuit of the moment."
"Bless me!" said Pamela, "Jean among the cynics!"
"The soul's dark cottage, batter'd and decay'd,
Lets in the light through chinks that time has made:
Stronger by weakness wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home:
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new."
One day Pamela walked down to Hopetoun to lunch with Mrs. Hope. Augusta
had gone away on a short visit and Pamela had promised to spend as much
time as possible with her mother.
"You won't be here much longer," Mrs. Hope had said, "so spend as much
time with me as you can spare, and we'll talk books and quote poetry,
and," she had finished defiantly, "I'll miscall my neighbours if I feel
It was February now, and there was a hint of spring in the air. The sun
was shining as if trying to make up for the days it had missed, the
green shoots were pushing daringly forth, and a mavis in a holly-bush
was chirping loudly and cheerfully. To-morrow they might be plunged back
into winter, the green things nipped and discouraged, the birds
silent--but to-day it was spring.
Pamela lingered by Tweedside listening to the mavis, looking back at
the bridge spanning the river, the church steeple high against the pale
blue sky, the little town pouring its houses down to the water's edge.
Hopetoun Woods were still bare and brown, but soon the larches would get
their pencils, the beeches would unfurl tiny leaves of living green, and
the celandines begin to poke their yellow heads through the carpet of
last year's leaves.
Mrs. Hope was sitting close to the window that looked out on the
Hopetoun Woods. The spring sunshine and the notes of the mavis had
brought to her a rush of memories.
"For what can spring renew
More fiercely for us than the need of you."
Her knitting lay on her lap, a pile of new books stood on the table
beside her, but her hands were idly folded, and she did not look at the
books, did not even notice the sunshine; her eyes were with her heart,
and that was far away across the black dividing sea in the last
resting-places of her three sons. Wild laddies they had been, never at
rest, never out of mischief, and now--"a' quaitit noo in the grave."
She turned to greet her visitor with her usual whimsical smile. She had
grown very fond of Pamela; they were absolutely at ease with each other,
and could enjoy talking, or sitting together in silence.
To-day the conversation was brisk between the two at luncheon. Pamela