Part 5 out of 6
had been with Jean to Edinburgh and Glasgow on shopping expeditions, and
Mrs. Hope was keen to hear all about them.
"I could hardly persuade her to go," Pamela said. "Her argument was,
'Why get clothes from Paris if you can get them in Priorsford?' She only
gave in to please me, but she enjoyed herself mightily. We went first to
Edinburgh--my first visit except just waiting a train."
"And weren't you charmed? Edinburgh is our own town, and we are
inordinately proud of it. It's full of steep streets and east winds and
high houses, and you can't move a step without treading on a W.S., but
it's a fine place for all that."
"It's a fairy-tale place to see," Pamela said. "The castle at sunset,
the sudden glimpses of the Forth, Holyrood dreaming in the mist--these
are pictures that will remain with one always. But Glasgow--"
"I know almost nothing of Glasgow," said Mrs. Hope, "but I like the
people that come from it. They are not so devoured by gentility as our
Edinburgh friends; they are more living, more human...."
"Are Edinburgh people very refined?"
"Oh, some of them can hardly see out of their eyes for gentility. I
delight in it myself, though I've never attained to it. I'm told you see
it in its finest flower in the suburbs. A friend of mine was going out
by train to Colinton, and she overheard two girls talking. One said, 'I
was at a dence lest night.' The other, rather condescendingly, replied,
'Oh, really! And who do you dence with out at Colinton?' 'It depends,'
said the first girl. 'Lest night, for instance, I was up to my neck in
advocates.' ... Priorsford's pretty genteel too. You know the really
genteel by the way they say 'Good-bai.' The rest of us who
pride ourselves on not being provincial say--you may have
Pamela laughed, and said she had noticed the superior accent of
"Jean and I were much interested in the difference between Edinburgh and
Glasgow shops. Not in the things they sell--the shops in both places are
most excellent--but in the manner of selling. The girls in the Edinburgh
shops are nice and obliging--the war-time manner doesn't seem to have
reached shop-assistants in Scotland, luckily--but quite Londonish with
their manners and their 'Moddom.' In Glasgow, they give one such a
feeling of personal interest. You would really think it mattered to them
what you chose. They delighted Jean by remarking as she tried on a hat,
'My, you look a treat in that!' We bought a great deal more than we
needed, for we hadn't the heart to refuse what was brought with such
enthusiasm. 'I don't know what it is about that hat, but it's awful nice
somehow Distinctive, if you know what I mean. I think when you get it
home you'll like it awful well--' Who would refuse a hat after such a
"Who indeed! Oh, they're a hearty people. Has Jean got the fur coat she
"She hasn't. It was a great disappointment, poor child. She was so
excited when she saw them being brought in rich profusion, but when she
tried them on all desire to possess one left her: they became her so
ill. They buried her, somehow. She said herself she looked like 'a mouse
under a divot,' whatever that may be, and they really did make her look
like five out of any six women one meets in the street. Fur coats are
very levelling things. Later on when I get her to London we'll see what
can be done. Jean needs careful dressing to bring out that very real but
elusive beauty of hers. I persuaded her in the meantime to get a soft
cloth coat made with a skunk collar and cuffs.... She was so funny about
under-things. I wanted her to get some sets of _crepe-de-Chine_ things,
but she was adamant. She didn't at all approve of them, and said she
liked under-things that would _boil_. She has always had very dainty
things made by herself; Great-aunt Alison taught her to do beautiful
fine sewing.... Jean is a delightful person to do things with; she
brings such a freshness to everything is never bored, never blase. I was
glad to see her so deeply interested in new clothes. I confess to having
a deep distrust of a woman who is above trying to make herself
attractive. She is an insufferable thing."
"I quite agree, my dear. A woman deliberately careless of her appearance
is an offence. But, on the other hand, the opposite can be carried too
far. Look at Mrs. Jowett!"
"Oh, dear Mrs. Jowett, with her lace and her delicate, faded tints; and
her tears of sentiment and her marvellous maids!"
"A good woman," said Mrs. Hope, "but silly. She fears a draught more
than she does the devil. I'm always reminded of her when I read _Weir of
Hermiston._ She has many points in common with Mrs. Weir--'a dwaibly
body.' Of the two, I really prefer Mrs. Duff-Whalley. _Her_ great
misfortune was being born a woman. With all that energy and perfect
health, that keen brain and the indomitable strain that never knows when
it is beaten, she might have done almost anything. She might have been a
Lipton or a Coats, or even gone out and discovered the South Pole, or
contested Lloyd George's Welsh seat in the Conservative interest. As a
woman she is cribbed and cabined. What she has set herself to do is to
force what she calls 'The County' to recognise her, and marry off her
girl as well as possible. She has accomplished the first part through
sheer perseverance, and I've no doubt she will accomplish the second;
the girl is pretty and well dowered. I have a liking for the woman,
especially if I haven't seen her for a little. There is some bite in her
conversation. Mrs. Jowett is a sweet woman, but to me she is like a
vacuum cleaner. When I've talked to her for ten minutes my head feels
like a cushion that has been cleaned--a sort of empty, yet swollen
feeling. I never can understand how Mr. Jowett has gone through life
with her and kept his reason. But there's no doubt men like sweet,
sentimental women, and I suppose they are restful in a house.... Shall
we have coffee in the drawing-room? It's cosier."
In the drawing-room they settled down before the fire very contentedly
silent. Pamela idly reached out for a book and read a little here and
there as she sipped her coffee, while her hostess looked into the fire.
The room seemed to dream in the spring sunshine. Generations of Hopes
had lived in it, and each mistress had set her mark on the room.
Beautiful old cabinets stood against the white walls, while beaded
ottomans worked in the early days of Victoria jostled slender
Chippendale chairs and tables. A large comfortable Chesterfield and
down-cushioned arm-chairs gave the comfort moderns ask for. Nothing
looked out of place, for the room with its gracious proportions took all
the incongruities--the family Raeburns, the Queen Anne cabinets, the
miniatures, the Victorian atrocities, the weak water-colour sketches,
the framed photographs of whiskered gentlemen and ladies with bustles,
and made them into one pleasing whole. There is no charm in a room
furnished from showrooms, though it be correct in every detail to the
period chosen. Much more human is the room that is full of things, ugly,
perhaps, in themselves but which link one generation to another. The
ottoman worked so laboriously by a ringleted great-aunt stood with its
ugly mahogany legs beside a Queen Anne chair, over whose faded wool-work
seat a far-off beauty had pricked her dainty fingers--and both of the
workers were Hopes: while by Pamela's side stood a fire-screen stitched
by Augusta, the last of the Hopes. "I wonder," said Mrs. Hope, breaking
the silence, "what has become of Lewis Elliot? I haven't heard from him
since he went away. Do you know where he is just now?"
Pamela shook her head.
"Why don't you marry him, Pamela?"
"For a very good reason--he hasn't asked me."
"Hoots!" said Mrs. Hope, "as if that mattered!"
Pamela lifted her eyebrows. "It is generally considered rather
necessary, isn't it?" she asked mildly.
"You know quite well that he would ask you to-morrow if you gave him the
slightest encouragement The man's afraid of you, that's what's wrong."
"Is that why you have remained Pamela Reston? My dear, men are fools,
and blind. And Lewis is modest as well. But ...forgive me blundering.
I've a long tongue, but you would think at my age I might keep it
"No, I don't mind your knowing. I don't think anyone else ever had a
suspicion of it. And I thought myself I had long since got over it.
Indeed when I came here I was contemplating marrying someone else."
"Tell me, did you know Lewis was here when you came to Priorsford?"
"No--I'd completely lost trace of him. I was too proud ever to inquire
after him when he suddenly gave up coming near us. Priorsford suggested
itself to me as a place to come to for a rest, chiefly, I suppose,
because I had heard of it from Lewis, but I had no thought of seeing
him. Indeed, I had no notion that he had still a connection with the
place. And then Jean suddenly said his name. I knew then I hadn't
forgotten; my heart leapt up in the old unreasonable way. I met him--and
thought he cared for Jean."
"Yes. I used sometimes to wonder why Lewis didn't fall in love with
Jean. Of course he was too old for her, but it would have been quite a
feasible match. Now I know that he cared for you all the time. Oh, I'm
not surprised that he looked at no one else. But that you should have
waited.... There must have been so many suitors...."
"A few. But some people are born faithful. Anyway, I'm so glad that when
I thought he cared for Jean it made no difference in my feelings to her.
I should have felt so humiliated if I had been petty enough to hate her
for what she couldn't help. My brother Biddy wants to marry Jean, and
I've great hopes that it may work out all right."
Mrs. Hope sat forward in her chair.
"I had my suspicions. Jean has changed lately; nothing to take hold of,
but I have felt a difference. It wasn't the money--that's an external
thing--the change was in Jean herself, a certain reticence where there
had been utter frankness; a laugh more frequent, but not quite so gay
and light-hearted. Has he spoken to her?"
"Yes, but Jean wouldn't hear of it."
"Dear me! I could have sworn she cared."
"I think she does, but Jean is proud. What a silly thing pride is!
However, Biddy is very tenacious, and he isn't at all down-hearted about
his rebuff. He's quite sure that Jean and he were meant for each other,
and he has great hopes of convincing Jean. I've never mentioned the
subject to her, she is so tremendously reticent and shy about such
things. I talk about Biddy in a casual way, but if I hadn't known from
Biddy I would have learned from Jean's averted eyes that something had
happened. The child gives herself away every time."
"This, I suppose, happened before the fortune came. What effect will the
money have, I wonder?"
"I wonder too," said Pamela. "Now that Jean feels she has something to
give it may make a difference. I wish she would speak to me about it,
but I can't force her confidence."
"No," said Mrs. Hope. "You can't do that. As you say, Jean is very
reticent. I think I'm rather hurt that she hasn't confided in me. She is
almost like my own.... She was a little child when the news came that
Sandy, my youngest boy, was gone.... I'm reticent too, and I couldn't
mention his name, or speak about my sorrow, and Jean seemed to
understand. She used to garden beside me, and chatter about her baby
affairs, and ask me questions, and I sometimes thought she saved my
Pamela sat silent. It was well known that no one dared mention her sons'
names to Mrs. Hope. Figuratively she removed her shoes from off her
feet, for she felt that it was holy ground.
Mrs. Hope went on. "I dare say you have heard about--my boys. They all
died within three years, and Augusta and I were left alone. Generally I
get along, but to-day--perhaps because it is the first spring day, and
they were so young and full of promise--it seems as if I must speak
about them. Do you mind?"
Pamela took the hand that lay on the black silk lap and kissed it. "Ah,
my dear," she said.
"Archie was my eldest son. His father and I dreamed dreams about him.
They came true, though not in the way we would have chosen. He went into
the Indian Civil Service--the Hopes were always a far-wandering
race--and he gave his life fighting famine in his district.... And Jock
would be nothing but a soldier--_my_ Jock with his warm heart and his
sudden rages and his passion for animals! (Jock Jardine reminds me of
him just a little.) There never was anyone more lovable and he was
killed in a Frontier raid--two in a year. Their father was gone, and for
that I was, thankful; one can bear sorrow oneself, but it is terrible to
see others suffer. Augusta was a rock in a weary land to me; nobody
knows what Augusta is but her mother. We had Sandy, our baby, left, and
we managed to go on. But Sandy was a soldier too, and when the Boer War
broke out, of course he had to go. I knew when I said good-bye to him
that whoever came back it wouldn't be my laddie. He was too
shining-eyed, too much all that was young and innocent and brave to win
through.... Archie and Jock were men, capable, well equipped to fight
the world, but Sandy was our baby--he was only twenty.... Of all the
things the dead possessed it is the thought of their gentleness that
breaks the heart. You can think of their qualities of brain and heart
and be proud, but when you think of their gentleness and their youth you
can only weep and weep. I think our hearts broke--Augusta's and
mine--when Sandy went.... He had been, they told us later, the life of
his company. His spirits never went down. It was early morning, and he
was singing 'Annie Laurie' when the bullet killed him--like a lark shot
down in the sun-rising.... His great friend came to see us when
everything was over. He was a very honest fellow, and couldn't have made
up things to tell us if he had tried. He sat and racked his brains for
details, for he saw that we hungered and thirsted for anything. At last
he said, 'Sandy was a funny fellow. If you left a cake near him he ate
all the currants out of it.' ... My little boy, my little, _little_ boy!
I don't know why I should cry. We had him for twenty years. Stir the
fire, will you, Pamela, and put on a log--I don't like it when it gets
dull. Old people need a blaze even when the sun is outside."
"You mustn't say you are old," Pamela said, as she threw on a log and
swept the hearth, shading her eyes, smarting with tears, from the blaze.
"You must stay with Augusta for a long time. Think how everyone would
miss you. Priorsford wouldn't be Priorsford without you."
"Priorsford would never look over its shoulder. Augusta would miss me,
yes, and some of the poor folk, but I've too ill-scrapit a tongue to be
much liked. Sorrow ought to make people more tender, but it made my
tongue bitter. To an unregenerate person with an aching heart like
myself it is a relief to slash out at the people who annoy one by being
too correct, or too consciously virtuous. I admit it's wrong, but there
it is. I've prayed for charity and discretion, but my tongue always runs
away with me. And I really can't be bothered with those people who never
say an ill word of anyone. It makes conversation as savourless as
porridge without salt. One needn't talk scandal. I hate scandal--but
there is no harm in remarking on the queer ways of your neighbours:
anyone who likes can remark on mine. Even when you are old and done and
waiting for the summons it isn't wrong surely to get amusement out of
the other pilgrims--if you can. Do you know your _Pilgrim's Progress_,
Pamela? Do you remember where Christiana and the others reach the Land
of Beulah? It is the end of the journey, and they have nothing to do but
to wait, while the children go into the King's gardens and gather there
sweet flowers.... It is all true. I know, for I have reached the Land of
Beulah. 'How welcome is death,' says Bunyan, 'to them that have nothing
to do but to die.' For the last twenty-five years the way has been
pretty hard. I've stumbled along very lamely, followed my Lord on
crutches like Mr. Fearing, but now the end is in sight and I can be at
ease. All these years I have never been able to read the letters and
diaries of my boys--they tore my very heart--but now I can read them
without tears, and rejoice in having had such sons to give. I used to be
tortured by dreams of them, when I thought I held them and spoke to
them, and woke to weep in agony, but now when they come to me I can wake
and smile, satisfied that very soon they will be mine again. Sorrow is a
wonderful thing. It shatters this old earth, but it makes a new heaven.
I can thank God now for taking my boys. Augusta is a saint and
acquiesced from the first, but I was rebellious. I see that Heaven and
myself had part in my boys; now Heaven has all, and all the better is it
for the boys. I hope God will forgive my bitterness, and all the grief I
have given with words. 'No suffering is for the present joyous
... nevertheless afterwards....' When the Great War broke out and the
terrible casualty lists became longer and longer, and 'with rue our
hearts were laden,' I found some of the 'peaceable fruits' we are
promised. I found I could go without impertinence into the house of
mourning, even when I hardly knew the people, and ask them to let me
share their grief, and I think sometimes I was able to help just a
"I know how you helped," said Pamela; "the Macdonalds told me. Do you
know, I think I envy you. You have suffered much, but you have loved
much. Your life has meant something. Looking back I've nothing to think
on but social successes that now seem very small and foolish, and years
of dressing and talking and dancing and laughing. My life seems like a
brightly coloured bubble--as light and as useless."
"Not useless. We need the flowers and the butterflies and the things
that adorn.... I wish Jean would give herself over to pleasure for a
little. Her poor little head is full of schemes--quite practical schemes
they are too, she has a shrewd head--about helping others. I tell her
she will do it all in good time, but I want her to forget the woes of
the world for a little and rejoice in her youth."
"I know," said Pamela. "I was astonished to find how responsible she
felt for the misery in the world. She is determined to build a heaven in
hell's despair! It reminds one of Saint Theresa setting out holding her
little brother's hand to convert the Moors!... Now I've stayed too long
and tired you, and Augusta will have me assassinated. Thank you, my very
dear lady, for letting me come to see you, and for--telling me about
your sons. Bless you...."
"For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it."
_As You Like It_.
The lot of the conscientious philanthropist is not an easy one. The kind
but unthinking rich can strew their benefits about, careless of their
effect on the recipients, but the path of the earnest lover of his
fellows is thorny and difficult, and dark with disappointment.
To Jean in her innocence it had seemed that money was the one thing
necessary to make bright the lives of her poorer neighbours. She
pictured herself as a sort of fairy godmother going from house to house
carrying sunshine and leaving smiles and happiness in her wake. She soon
found that her dreams had been rosy delusions. Far otherwise was the
result of her efforts.
"It's like something in a fairy-tale," she complained to Pamela. "You
are given a fairy palace, but when you try to go to it mountains of
glass are set before you and you can't reach it. You can't think how
different the people are to me now. The very poor whom I thought I could
help don't treat me any longer like a friend to whom they can tell
their troubles in a friendly way. The poor-spirited ones whine, with an
eye on my pocket, and where I used to get welcoming smiles I now only
get expectant grins. And the high-spirited ones are so afraid that I'll
offer them help that their time is spent in snubbing me and keeping me
in my place."
"It's no use getting down about it," Pamela told her. "You are only
finding what thousands have found before you, that's it the most
difficult thing in the world to be wisely charitable. You will never
remove mountains. If you can smooth a step here and there for people and
make your small corner of the world as pleasant as possible you do very
Jean agreed with a sigh. "If I don't finish by doing harm. I have awful
thoughts sometimes about the dire effects money may have on the boys--on
Mhor especially. In any case it will change their lives entirely. It's a
solemnising thought," and she laughed ruefully.
Jean plodded on her well-doing way, and knocked her head against many
posts, and blundered into pitfalls, and perhaps did more good and earned
more real gratitude than she had any idea of.
"It doesn't matter if I'm cheated ninety-nine times if I'm some real
help the hundredth time," she told herself. "Puir thing," said the
recipients of her bounty, in kindly tolerance, "she means weel, and it's
a kindness to help her awa' wi' some o' her siller. A' she gies us is
juist like tippence frae you or me."
One woman, at any rate, blessed Jean in her heart, though her stiff,
ungracious lips could not utter a word of thanks. Mary Abbot lived in a
neat cottage surrounded by a neat garden. She was a dressmaker in a
small way, and had supported her mother till her death. She had been
very happy with her work and her bright, tidy house and her garden and
her friends, but for more than a year a black fear had brooded over her.
Her sight, which was her living, was going. She saw nothing before her
but the workhouse. Death she would have welcomed, but this was shame.
For months she had fought it out, as her eyes grew dimmer, letting no
one know of the anxiety that gnawed at her heart. No one suspected
anything wrong. She was always neatly dressed at church, she always had
her small contribution ready for collectors, her house shone with
rubbing, and as she did not seem to want to take in sewing now, people
thought that she must have made a competency and did not need to work so
Jean knew Miss Abbot well by sight. She had sat behind her in church all
the Sundays of her life, and had often admired the tidy appearance of
the dressmaker, and thought that she was an excellent advertisement of
her own wares. Lately she had noticed her thin and ill-coloured, and
Mrs. Macdonald had said one day, "I wonder if Miss Abbot is all right.
She used to be such a help at the sewing meeting, and now she doesn't
come at all, and her excuses are lame. When I go to see her she always
says she is perfectly well, but I am not at ease about her. She's the
sort of woman who would drop before she made a word of complaint...."
One morning when passing the door Jean saw Miss Abbot polishing her
brass knocker. She stopped to say good morning.
"Are you keeping well, Miss Abbot? There is so much illness about."
"I'm in my usual, thank you," said Miss Abbot stiffly.
"I always admire the flowers in your window," said Jean. "How do you
manage to keep them so fresh looking? Ours get so mangy. May I come in
for a second and look at them?"
Miss Abbot stood aside and said coldly that Jean might come in if she
liked, but her flowers were nothing extra.
It was the tidiest of kitchens she entered. Everything shone that could
be made to shine. A hearthrug made by Miss Abbot's mother lay before the
fireplace, in which a mere handful of fire was burning. An arm-chair
with cheerful red cushions stood beside the fire. It was quite
comfortable, but Jean felt a bareness. There were no pots on the
fire--nothing seemed to be cooking for dinner.
She admired the flowers and got instructions from their owner when to
water and when to refrain from watering, and then, seating herself in a
chair with an assurance she was far from feeling, she proceeded to try
to make Miss Abbot talk. That lady stood bolt upright waiting for her
visitor to go, but Jean, having got a footing, was determined to remain.
"Are you very busy just now?" she asked. "I was wondering if you could
do some sewing for me? I don't know whether you ever go out by the day?"
"No," said Miss Abbot.
"We could bring it you here if you would do it at your leisure."
"I can't take in any more work just now. I'm sorry."
"Oh, well, it doesn't matter. Perhaps later on.... I'm keeping you. It's
Saturday morning, and you'll want to get on with your work."
There was a silence, and Jean reluctantly rose to go. Miss Abbot had
turned her back and was looking into the fire.
"Good morning, Miss Abbot. Thank you so much for letting me know about
the flowers." Then she saw that Miss Abbot was crying--crying in a
hopeless, helpless way that made Jean's heart ache. She went to her and
put her hand on her arm. "Won't you tell me what's wrong? Do sit down
here in the arm-chair. I'm sure you're not well."
Miss Abbot allowed herself to be led to the arm-chair Having once given
way she was finding it no easy matter to regain control of herself.
"Is it that you aren't well?" Jean asked. "I know it's a wretched
business trying to go on working when one is seedy."
Miss Abbot shook her head. "It's far worse than that. I have to refuse
work for I can't see to do it. I'm losing my sight and ...and there is
nothing before me but the workhouse."
Over and over again in the silence of the night she had said those
words to herself: she had seen them written in letters of fire on the
walls of her little room: they had seemed seared into her brain, but she
had never meant to tell a soul, not even the minister, and here she was
telling this slip of a girl.
Jean gave a cry and caught her hands. "Oh no, no! Never that!"
"I've no relations," said Miss Abbot. She was quiet now and calm, and
hopeless. "And if I had I couldn't be a burden on them. Nobody wants a
penniless, half-blind woman. I've had to use up all my savings this
winter ...it will just have to be the workhouse."
"But it shan't be," said Jean. "What's the use of me if I'm not to help?
No. Don't stiffen and look at me like that. I'm not offering you
charity. Perhaps you may have heard that I've been left a lot of
money--in trust. It's your money as much as mine; if it's anybody's it's
God's money. I felt I just couldn't pass your door this morning, and I
spoke to you, though I was frightfully scared--you looked so
stand-offish.... Now listen. All I've got to do is to send your name to
my lawyer--he's in London, and he knows nothing about anybody in
Priorsford, so you needn't worry about him--and he will arrange that you
get a sufficient income all your life. No, it isn't charity. You've
fought hard all your life for others, and it's high time you got a rest.
Everyone should get a rest and a competency when they are sixty. (Not
that you are nearly that, of course.) Some day that happy state of
affairs will be. Now the kettle's almost boiling, and I'm going to make
you a cup of tea. Where's the caddy?"
There was a spoonful of tea in the caddy, but in the cupboard there was
only the heel of a loaf--no butter, no cheese, no jam.
"I'm at the end of my tether," Miss Abbot admitted. "And unless I touch
the money laid away for my rent, I haven't a penny in the house."
"Then," said Jean, "it was high time I turned up." She heated the teapot
and poked the bit of coal into a blaze. "Now here's your tea"--she
reached for her bag that lay on the table--"and here's some money to go
on with. Oh, please don't let's go over it all again. Do, my dear, be
"I doubt it's charity," said poor Miss Abbot, "but I cannot refuse.
Indeed, I don't seem to take it in.... I've whiles dreamed something
like this, and cried when I wakened. This last year has been something
awful--trying to hide my failing eye-sight and pretending I didn't need
sewing when I was near starving, and always seeing the workhouse before
me. When I got up this morning there seemed to be a high wall in front
of me, and I knew I had come to the end. I thought God had forgotten
"Not a bit of it," said Jean. "Put away that money like a sensible body,
and I'll write to my lawyer to-day. And the next thing to do is to go
with me to an oculist, for your eyes may not be as bad as you think.
You know, Miss Abbot, you haven't treated your friends well, keeping
them all at arm's length because you were in trouble. Friends do like to
be given the chance of being useful.... Now I'll tell you what to do.
This is a nice fresh day. You go and do some shopping, and be sure and
get something nice for your supper, and fresh butter and marmalade and
things, and then go for a walk along Tweedside and let the wind blow on
you, and then drop in and have a cup of tea and a gossip with one of the
friends you've been neglecting lately, and you see if you don't feel
heaps better.... Remember nobody knows anything about this but you and
me. I shan't even tell Mr. Macdonald.... You will get papers and things
to sign, I expect, from the lawyer, and if you want anything explained
you will come to The Rigs, won't you? Perhaps you would rather I didn't
come here much. Good morning, Miss Abbot," and Jean went away. "For all
the world," as Miss Abbot said to herself, "as if lifting folk from the
miry clay and setting their feet on a rock was all in the day's work."
* * * * *
The days slipped away and March came and David was home again; such a
smart David in new clothes and (like Shakespeare's Town Clerk)
"everything handsome about him."
He immediately began to entice Jean into spending money. It was absurd,
he said, to have no one but Mrs. M'Cosh: a smart housemaid must be got.
"She would only worry Mrs. M'Cosh," Jean protested "and there isn't
room for another maid, and I hate smart maids anyway. I like to help in
the house myself."
"But that's so absurd," said David, "with all your money. You should
enjoy life now."
"Yes," said Jean meekly, "but smart maids wouldn't help me to--quite the
opposite.... And don't you get ideas into your head about smartness,
Davie. The Rigs could never be smart: you must go to The Towers for
that. So long as we live at The Rigs we must be small plain people. And
I hope I shall live here all my life--and so that's that!"
David, greatly exasperated, bounded from his chair the better to
harangue his sister.
"Jean, anybody would think you were a hundred to hear you talk! You'll
get nothing out of life except perhaps a text on your tombstone, 'She
hath done what she could,' and that's a dull prospect.... Why aren't you
more like other girls? Why don't you do your hair the new way, all sort
of--oh, I don't know, and wear earrings ... you know you don't dress
"No," said Jean.
"And you haven't any tricks. I mean you don't try and attract attention
"No," said Jean.
"You don't talk like other girls, and you're not keen on the new dances.
I think you like being old-fashioned."
"I'm afraid I'm a failure as a girl," Jean confessed, "but perhaps I'll
get more charming as I get older. Look at Pamela!"
"Oh, _Miss Reston_," said David, in the tone that he might have said
"Helen of Troy." ... "But seriously, Jean, I think you are using your
money in a very dull way. You see, you're so dashed _helpful_. What
makes you want to think all the time about slum children?... I think
you'd better present your money all in a lump to the Government as a
drop in the ocean of the National Debt."
"I'll not give it to the Government," said Jean, "but we may count
ourselves lucky if they don't thieve it from us. I'm at one with Bella
Bathgate when she says, 'I'm no verra sure aboot thae politicians
Liberal _or_ Tory.' I think she fears that any day they may grab
Hillview from her."
"Anyway," David persisted, "we might have a car. I learned to drive at
Oxford. It would be frightfully useful, you know, a little car."
"Useful!" laughed Jean. "Have you written any more, Davie?"
David explained that the term had been a very busy one, and that his
time had been too much occupied for any outside work, and Jean
understood that the stimulus of poverty having been removed David had
fallen into easier ways. And why not--at nineteen?
"We must think about a car. Do you know all about the different makes?
We mustn't be rash."
David assured her that he would make all inquiries and went out of the
room whistling blithely. Jean, left alone, sat thinking. Was the money
to be a treasure to her or the reverse? It was fine to give David what
he wanted, to know that Jock and Mhor could have the best of everything,
but their wants would grow and grow; simple tastes and habits were
easily shed, and luxurious ways easily learned. Would the possession of
money spoil the boys? She sighed, and then smiled rather ruefully as she
thought of David and his smart maids and motors and his desire to turn
her into a modern girl. It was very natural and very boyish of him.
"He'll have the face ett off me," said Jean, quoting the Irish R.M....
Richard Plantagenet hadn't minded her being old-fashioned.
It was odd how empty her life felt when it ought to feel so rich. She
had the three boys beside her, Pamela was next door, she had all manner
of schemes in hand to keep her thoughts occupied--but there was a great
want somewhere. Jean owned to herself that the blank had been there ever
since Lord Bidborough went away. It was frightfully silly, but there it
was. And probably by this time he had quite forgotten her. It had amused
him to imagine himself in love, something to pass the time in a dull
little town. She knew from books that men had a roving fancy--but even
as she said it to herself her heart rebuked her for disloyalty Richard
Plantagenet's eyes, laughing, full of kindness and honest--oh, honest,
she was sure!--looked into hers. She thrilled again as she seemed to
feel the touch of his hand and heard his voice saying, "Oh,
Penny-plain, are you going to send me away?" Why hadn't he written to
congratulate her on the fortune? He might have done that, surely.... And
Pamela hardly spoke of him. Didn't seem to think Jean would be
interested. Jean, whose heart leapt into her throat at the mere casual
mention of his name.
Jean looked up quickly, hearing a step on the gravel. It was Pamela
sauntering in, smiling over her shoulder at Mhor, who was swinging on
the gate with Peter by his side.
"Oh, Pamela, I am glad to see you. David says I am using the money in
such a stuffy way. Do you think I am?"
"What does David want you to do?" Pamela asked, as she threw off her
coat and knelt before the fire to warm her hands.
"'To eat your supper in a room
Blazing with lights, four Titians on the wall
And twenty naked girls to change your plate?'"
Jean laughed. "Something like that, I suppose. Anyway he wants a smart
parlour-maid at once, and a motor-car. Also he wants me to wear
earrings, and talk slang, and wear the newest sort of clothes."
"Poor Penny-plain, are you going to be forced into being twopence
coloured? But I think you should get another maid; you have too much to
do. And a car would be a great interest to you. Jock and Mhor would love
it too: you could go touring all round in it. You must begin to see the
world now. I think, perhaps, David is right. It is rather stuffy to
stick in the same place (even if that place is Priorsford) when the
whole wide world is waiting to be looked at.... I remember a dear old
cure in Switzerland who, when he retired from his living at the age of
eighty, set off to see the world. He told me he did it because he was
quite sure when he entered heaven's gate the first question God would
put to him would be, 'And what did you think of My world?' and he wanted
to be in a position to answer intelligently.... He was an old dear. When
you come to think of it, it is a little ungrateful of you, Jean, not to
want to taste all the pleasures provided for the inhabitants of this
earth. There is no sense in useless extravagance, but there is a certain
fitness in things. A cottage is a delicious thing, but it is meant for
the lucky people with small means; the big houses have their uses too.
That's why so many rich people have discontented faces. It's because to
them L200 a year and a cottage is 'paradise enow' and they are doomed to
the many mansions and the many servants."
Jean nodded. "Mrs. M'Cosh often says, 'There's mony a lang gant in a
cairriage,' and I dare say it's true. I don't want to be ungrateful,
Pamela. I think it's about the worst sin one can commit--ingratitude.
And I don't want to be stuffy, either, but I think I was meant for small
"Poor Penny-plain! Never mind. I'm not going to preach any more. You
shall do just as you please with your life. I was remembering, Jean,
your desire to go to the Shakespeare Festival at Stratford in April. Why
not motor there? It is a lovely run. I meant to take you myself, but I
expect you would enjoy it much better if you went with the boys. It
would be great fun for you all, and take you away from your
philanthropic efforts and let you see round everything clearly."
Jean's eyes lit with interest, and Pamela, seeing the light in them,
"Everybody should make a pilgrimage in spring: it's the correct thing to
do. Imagine starting on an April morning, through new roads, among
singing birds and cowslips and green new leaves, and stopping at little
inns for the night--lovely, Jean."
Jean gave a great sigh.
"Lovely," she echoed. Lovely, indeed, to be away from housekeeping and
poor people and known paths for a little, and into leafy Warwick lanes
and the rich English country which she had never seen.
"And then," Pamela went on, "you would come back appreciating Priorsford
more than you have ever done. You would come back to Tweed and Peel
Tower and the Hopetoun Woods with a new understanding. There's nothing
so makes you appreciate your home as leaving it.... Bother! That's the
It was only one visitor--Lewis Elliot.
"Cousin Lewis!" cried Jean. "Where in the world have you been? Three
whole months since you went away and never a word from you. You didn't
even write to Mrs. Hope."
"No," said Lewis; "I was rather busy." He greeted Pamela and sat down.
"Were you so very busy that you couldn't write so much as a post card?
And I don't believe you know that I'm an heiress?"
"Yes; I heard that, but only the other day. It was a most unexpected
windfall. I was delighted to hear about it." Jean looked at him and
wondered if he were well. His long holiday did not seem to have improved
his spirits; he was more absent-minded than usual and disappointingly
"I didn't know you were back in Priorsford," he said, addressing Pamela,
"till I met your brother in London. I called on you just now, and Miss
Bathgate sent me over here."
"Is Biddy amusing himself well?" Pamela asked.
"I should think excellently well. I dined with him one night and he
seemed in great spirits. He seemed to be very much in request. He wanted
to take me about a bit, but I've got out of London ways. I don't seem to
know what to talk about to this new generation and I yawn. I'm better at
home at Laverlaw among the sheep."
Mrs. M'Cosh came in to lay the tea, and Jean said: "You'll have tea
here, Cousin Lewis, though this isn't my visit, and then you can go over
to Hillview with Pamela and pay your visit to her. You mustn't miss the
opportunity of killing two birds with one stone. Besides, Pamela's time
in Priorsford is so short now, you mayn't have another chance of paying
a visit of ceremony."
"Well, if I may--"
"Yes, do come. I expect Jean has had enough of me for one day. I've been
lecturing her.... By the way, where are the boys to-day? Mhor was
swinging on the gate as I came in. He told me he was going somewhere,
but his speech was obstructed by a large piece of toffee, and I couldn't
make out what he said."
"He was waiting for Jock," said Jean. "Did you notice that he was very
clean, and that his hair was sleeked down with brilliantine? They are
invited to bring Peter to tea at the Miss Watsons', and are in great
spirits about it. They generally hate going out to tea, but Jock
discovered recently that the Watsons had a father who was a sea captain.
That fact has thrown such a halo round the two ladies that he can't keep
away from them. They have allowed him to go to the attic and rummage in
the big sea-chests which, he says, are chockful of treasures like
ostrich eggs and lumps of coral and Chinese idols. It seems the Miss
Watsons won't have these treasures downstairs as they don't look genteel
among the 'new art' ornaments admired in Balmoral. All the treasures are
to be on view to-day (Jock has great hopes of persuading the dear ladies
to give him one to bring home, what he calls a 'Chinese scratcher'--it
certainly sounds far from genteel) and a gorgeous spread as well--Jock
confided to me that he thought there might even be sandwiches; and Peter
being invited has filled Mhor's cup of happiness to the brim. So few
people welcome that marauder."
"I wish I could be there to hear the conversation," said Pamela. "Jock
with his company manners is a joy."
An hour later Lewis Elliot accompanied Pamela back to Hillview.
"It's rather absurd," he protested. "I'm afraid I'm inflicting myself on
you, but if you will give me half an hour I shall be grateful."
"You must tell me about Biddy," Pamela said, as she sat down in her
favourite chair. "Draw up that basket chair, won't you? and be
comfortable. You look as if you were just going to dart away again. Did
Biddy say anything in particular?"
"He told me to come and see you.... I won't take a chair, thanks. I
would rather stand. ....Pamela, I know it's the most frightful cheek,
but I've cared for you exactly twenty-five years. You never had a notion
of it, I know, and of course I never said anything, for to think of your
marrying a penniless, dreamy sort of idiot was absurd--you who might
have married anybody! I couldn't stay near you loving you as I did, so I
went right out of your life. I don't suppose you ever noticed I had
gone, you had always so many round you waiting for a smile.... I used to
read the lists of engagements in the _Times_, dreading to see your name.
No, that's not the right word, because I loved you well enough to wish
happiness for you whoever brought it. I sometimes heard of you from one
and another, and I never forgot--never for a day. Then my uncle died and
my cousin was killed, and I came back to Priorsford and settled down at
Laverlaw, and was content and quite fairly happy. The War came, and of
course I offered my services. I wasn't much use but, thank goodness, I
got out to France, and got some fighting--a second-lieutenant at forty!
It was the first time I had ever felt myself of some real use.... Then
that finished and I was back at Laverlaw among my sheep--and you came to
Priorsford The moment I saw you I knew that my love for you was as
strong and young as it was twenty years ago...."
Pamela sat fingering a fan she had taken up to protect her face from the
blaze and looking into the fire.
"Pamela. Have you nothing to say to me?"
"Twenty-five years is a long time," Pamela said slowly. "I was fifteen
then and you were twenty. Twenty years ago I was twenty and you were
twenty-five--why didn't you speak then, Lewis? You went away and I
thought you didn't care. Does a man never think how awful it is for a
woman who has to wait without speaking? You thought you were noble to go
away.... I suppose it must have been for some wise reason that the good
God made men blind, but it's hard on the women. You might at least have
given me the chance to say No."
"I was a coward. But it was unbelievable that you could care. You never
showed me by word or look."
"Was it likely? I was proud and you were blind, so we missed the best.
We lost our youth and I very nearly lost my soul. After you left,
nothing seemed to matter but enjoying myself as best I could. I hated
the thought of growing old, and I looked at the painted, restless faces
round me and wondered if they were afraid too. Then I thought I would
marry and have more of a reason for living. A man offered himself--a man
with a great position--and I accepted him and it was worse than ever, so
I fled from it all--to Priorsford. I loved it from the first, the little
town and the river and the hills, and Bella Bathgate's grim honesty and
poor cookery! And you came into my life again and I found I couldn't
marry the other man and his position...."
"Pamela, can you really marry a fool like me? ... It's my fault that
we've missed so much, but thank God we haven't missed everything. I
think I could make you happy. I wouldn't ask you to stay at Laverlaw for
more than a month or two at a time. We would live in London if you
wanted to. I could stick even London if I had you."
Pamela looked at him with laughter in her eyes.
"And you couldn't say fairer than that, my dear. No, no, Lewis. If I
marry you we'll live at Laverlaw I love your green glen already; it's a
place after my own heart. We won't trouble London much, but spend our
declining years among the sheep--unless you become suddenly ambitious
for public honours and, as Mrs. Hope desires, enter Parliament."
"There's no saying what I may do now. Already I feel twice the man I
They talked in the firelight and Pamela said: "I'm not sure that our
happiness won't be the greater because it has come twenty years late.
Twenty years ago we would have taken it pretty much as a matter of
course. We would have rushed at our happiness and swallowed it whole, so
to speak. Now, with twenty lonely, restless years behind us we shall go
slowly, and taste every moment and be grateful. Years bring their
compensation.... It's a funny world. It's a _nice,_ funny world."
"I think," said Lewis, "I know something of what Jacob must have felt
after he had served all the years and at last took Rachel by the hand--"
"'Served' is good," said Pamela in mocking tones.
But her eyes were tender.
"It was high spring, and, all the way
Primrosed and hung with shade...."
"There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so
well as at a capital tavern.... No, Sir, there is nothing which has
yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as
by a good tavern or inn."--DR. JOHNSON.
Pamela and David between them carried the day, and a motor-car was
bought. It was not the small useful car talked about at first, but one
which had greatly taken the fancy of the Jardine family in the
showroom--a large landaulette of a well-known make, upholstered in
palest fawn, fitted with every newest device, very sumptuous and very
They described it minutely to Pamela before she went with them to see it
and fix definitely.
"It runs beautifully," said David.
"It's about fifty horse-power," said Jock.
"And, Honourable," said Mhor, "it's got electric light inside, just like
a little house, and all sorts of lovely things--a clock and--"
"And, I suppose, hot and cold water laid on," said Pamela.
"The worst thing about it," Jean said, "is that it looks _horribly_
rich--big and fat and purring--just as if it were saying, 'Out of the
way, groundlings' You know what an insolent look big cars have."
"Your small deprecating face inside will take away from the effect,"
Pamela assured her; "and you need a comfortable car to tour about in.
When do you go exactly?"
"On the twentieth," Jean told her. "We take David first to Oxford, or
rather he takes us, for he understands maps and can find the road; then
we go on to Stratford. I wrote for rooms as you told me, and for seats
for the plays, and I have heard from the people that we can have both. I
do wish you were coming, Pamela--won't you think better of it?"
"My dear, I would love it--but it can't be done. I must go to London
this week. If we are to be married on first June there are simply
multitudes of things to arrange. But I'll tell you what, Jean. I shall
come to Stratford for a day or two when you are there. I shouldn't be a
bit surprised if Biddy were there too. If he happened to be in England
in April he always made a pilgrimage to the Shakespeare Festival.
Mintern Abbas isn't very far from Stratford, and Mintern Abbas in spring
is heavenly. _That's_ what we must arrange--a party at Mintern Abbas.
You would like that, wouldn't you, Jock?"
"Would Richard Plantagenet be there? I would like awfully to see him
again. It's been so dull without him."
Mhor asked if there were any railways near Mintern Abbas, and was
rather cast down when told that the nearest railway station was seven
miles distant. It amazed him that anyone should, of choice, live away
from railways. The skirl of an engine was sweeter to his ears than horns
of elf-land faintly blowing, and the dream of his life was to be allowed
to live in a small whitewashed shanty which he knew of, on the
railway-side, where he could spend ecstatic days watching every
"passenger" and every "goods" that rushed shrieking, or dawdled
shunting, along the permanent way. To him each different train had its
own features. "I think," he told Jean, "that the nine train is the most
good-natured of the trains; he doesn't care how many carriages and
horse-boxes they stick on to him. The twelve train has always a cross,
snorty look, but the five train"--his voice took the fondling note that
it held for Peter and Barrie, the cat--"that little five train goes much
the fastest; he's the hero of the day!"
Pamela's engagement to Lewis Elliot had made, what Mrs. M'Cosh called,
"a great speak" in Priorsford. On the whole, it was felt that she had
done well for herself. The Elliots were an old and honoured family, and
the present laird, though shy and retiring, was much liked by his
tenants, and respected by everyone. Pamela had made herself very popular
in Priorsford, and people were pleased that she should remain as lady of
"Ay," said Mrs. M'Cosh, "he's waited lang, but he's waled weel in the
end. He's gotten a braw leddy, and she'll no' be as flighty as a young
yin, for Mr. Elliot likes quiet ways. An' then she has plenty siller,
an' that's a help. A rale sensible marriage!"
Bella Bathgate agreed. "It'll mak' a big differ at Laverlaw," she said,
"for she's the kind o' body that makes hersel' felt in a hoose. I didna
want her at Hillview wi' a' her trunks and her maid and her fal-lals an'
her fykey ways, but, d'ye ken, I'll miss her something horrid. She was
an awfu' miss in the hoose when she was awa' at Christmas-time; I was
fair kinna lost wi'out her. It'll be rale nice for Maister Elliot havin'
her aye there. It's mebbe a wakeness on ma pairt, but I whiles mak'
messages into the room juist to see her sittin' pittin' stitches into
that embroidery, as they ca' it, an' hear her gie that little lauch o'
hers! She has me fair bewitched. There's a kinna _glawmour_ aboot her.
An' I tell ye I culdna stand her by onything at the first.... I even
think her bonnie noo--an' she's no' that auld. I saw a pictur in a paper
the ither day of a new-mairit couple, an' _baith o' them had the
Jean looked on rather wistfully at her friend's happiness. She was most
sincerely glad that the wooing--so long delayed--should end like an old
play and Jack have his Jill, but it seemed to add to the empty feeling
in her own heart. Pamela's casual remark about her brother perhaps being
at Stratford had filled her for the moment with wild joy, but hearts
after leaps ache, and she had quickly reminded herself that Richard
Plantagenet had most evidently accepted the refusal as final and would
never be anything more to her than Pamela's brother. It was quite as it
should be, but life in spite of April and a motor-car was, what Mhor
called a minister's life, "a dullsome job."
That year spring came, not reluctantly, as it often does in the uplands,
but generously, lavishly, scattering buds and leaves and flowers and
lambs, and putting a spirit of youth into everything. The days were as
warm as June, and fresh as only April days can be. The Jardines
anxiously watched the sun-filled days pass, wishing they had arranged to
go earlier, fearful lest they should miss all the good weather. It
seemed impossible that it could go on being so wonderful, but day
followed day in golden succession and there was no sign of a break.
David spent most of his days at the depot that held the car, there being
no garage at The Rigs, and Jock and Mhor worshipped with him. A
chauffeur had been engaged, one Stark, a Priorsford youth, a steady
young man and an excellent driver. He had never been farther than
The 20th came at last. Jock and Mhor were up at an unearthly hour,
parading the house, banging at Mrs. M'Cosh's door, and imploring her to
rise in case breakfast was late, and thumping the barometer to see if it
showed any inclination to fall. The car was ordered for nine o'clock,
but they were down the road looking for it at least half an hour before
it was due, feverishly anxious in case something had happened either to
it or to Stark.
The road before The Rigs was quite crowded that April morning. Mrs.
M'Cosh stood at the gate beside the dancing daffodils and the tulips and
the opening wallflowers in the border, her hands folded on her spotless
white apron, her face beaming with its accustomed kind smile, and
watched her family depart.
"Keep a haud o' Peter, Mhor," she cautioned. "Ye needna come back here
if ye lose him." The safety of the rest of the party did not seem to
Mr. and Mrs. Jowett were there, having breakfasted an hour earlier than
usual, thus risking the wrath of their cherished domestics. Mrs. Jowett
was carrying a large box of chocolates as a parting gift to the boys,
while Mr. Jowett had a bottle of lavender water for Jean.
Augusta Hope had walked up from Hopetoun with her mother's love to the
travellers, a basket of fruit for the boys, and a book for Jean.
The little Miss Watsons hopped forth from their dwelling with an
offering of a home-baked cake, "just in case you get hungry on the road,
Bella Bathgate was there, looking very saturnine, and counselling Mhor
as to his behaviour. "Dinna lean oot o' the caur. Mony a body has lost
their heid stickin' it oot of a caur. Here's some tea-biscuits for
Peter. You'll be ower prood for onything but curranty-cake, I suppose."
Mhor assured her he was not, and gratefully accepted the biscuits.
"Isn't it fun Peter's going? I couldn't have gone either if he hadn't
been allowed, but I expect I'll have to hold him in my arms a lot.
He'll want to jump out at dogs."
And Mr. and Mrs. Macdonald were there--Mrs. Macdonald absolutely weighed
down with gifts. "It's just a trifle for each of you," she explained.
"No, no, don't thank me; it's nothing."
"I've brought you nothing but my blessing, Jean," the minister said.
"You'll never be better than I wish you."
"Don't talk as if I were going away for good," said Jean, with a lump in
her throat. "It's only a little holiday."
"Who can tell?" sighed Mrs. Macdonald. "It's an uncertain world. But
we'll hope that you'll come back to us, Jean. Are you sure you are
warmly clad? Remember it's only April, and the evenings are cold."
David packed Jean, Jock, and Mhor into the car. Peter was poised on one
of the seats that let down, a cushion under him to protect the pale fawn
cloth from his paws. All the presents found places, the luggage was put
on the top, Stark took his seat, David, his coat pocket bulging with
maps, got in beside him; and amid a chorus of good-byes they were off.
Jean, looking back rather wistfully at The Rigs, got a last sight of
Mrs. M'Cosh shaking her head dubiously at the departing car.
One of the best things in life is to start on a spring morning for a
holiday. To Jock and Mhor at least life seemed a very perfect thing as
the car slid down the hill, over Tweed Bridge, over Cuddy Bridge, and
turned sharp to the left up the Old Town. Soon they were out of the
little grey town that looked so clean and fresh with its shining morning
face, and running through the deep woods above Peel Tower. Small
children creeping unwillingly to school stopped to watch them, and Mhor
looked at them pityingly. School seemed a thing so far removed from his
present happy state as not to be worth remembering. Somewhere,
doubtless, unhappy little people were learning the multiplication table,
and struggling with the spelling of uncouth words, but Mhor, sitting in
state in "Wilfred the Gazelle" (for so David had christened the new
car), could only spare them a passing thought.
He looked at Peter sitting self-consciously virtuous on the seat
opposite, he leaned across Jean to send a glance of profound
satisfaction to Jock, then he raked from his pocket a cake of
butter-scotch and sank back in his seat to crunch in comfort.
They followed Tweed as it ran by wood and field and hamlet, and as they
reached the moorlands of the upper reaches Jean began to notice that
Wilfred the Gazelle was not running as smoothly as usual. Perhaps it was
imagination, Jean thought, or perhaps it was the effect of having
luggage on the top, but in her inmost heart she knew it was more than
that, and she was not surprised.
Jean was filled with a deep-seated distrust of motors. She felt that
every motor was just waiting its chance to do its owner harm. She had
started with no real hope of reaching any destination, and expected
nothing less than to spend the night camping inside the car in some
lonely spot. She had all provisions made for such an occurrence.
Jock said suddenly, "We're not going more than ten miles an hour," and
then the car stopped altogether and David and Stark got down. Jean
leaned out and asked what was wrong, and David said shortly that there
was nothing wrong.
Presently he and Stark got back into their places and the car was
started again. But it went slowly, haltingly, like a bird with a broken
wing. They made up on a man driving a brown horse in a wagonette--a man
with a brown beard and a cheerful eye--and passed him.
The car stopped again.
Again David and Stark got out and stared and poked and consulted
together. Again Jean's head went out, and again she received the same
short and unsatisfactory answer.
The brown-bearded man and his wagonette made up on them, looked at the
car in an interested way, and passed on.
Again the car started, passed the wagonette, and went on for about a
mile and stopped.
Again Jean's head went out.
"David," she said, "what _is_ the matter?" and it goes far to show how
harassed that polished Oxonian was when he replied, "If you don't take
your face out of that I'll slap it."
Jean withdrew at once, feeling that she had been tactless and David had
been unnecessarily rude--David who had never been rude to her since they
were children, and had told each other home-truths without heat and
without ill-feeling on either side. If this was to be the effect of
owning a car--
"Wilfred the Gazelle's dead," said Mhor, and got out, followed by Jock,
and in a minute or two by Jean.
They all sat down in the heather by the road-side.
Dead car nowithstanding, it was delicious sitting there in the spring
sunshine. Tweed was nearing its source and was now only a trickling
burn. A lark was singing high up in the blue. The air was like new wine.
The lambs were very young, for spring comes slowly up that way, and one
tottering little fellow was found by Mhor, and carried rapturously to
"Take it; it's just born," he said. "Jock, hold Peter tight in case he
"Did you ever see anything quite so new?" Jean said as she stroked the
little head, "and yet so independent? Sheep are far before mortals. Its
eyes look so perplexed, Mhor. It's quite strange to the world and
doesn't know what to make of it. That's its mother over there. Take it
to her; she's crying for it."
David came up and stood looking gloomily at the lamb. Perhaps he envied
it being so young and careless and motor-less.
"Stark's busy with the car," he announced, rather needlessly, as the
fact was apparent to all. "I'm dashed if I know what's the matter with
the old bus.... Here's that man again...."
Jean burst into helpless laughter as the wagonette again overtook them.
The driver flourished his whip and the horse broke into a canter--it
looked like derision.
There was a long silence--then Jean said:
"If it won't go, it's too big to move. We shall have to train ivy on it
and make it a feature of the landscape."
"Or else," said David, savagely and irreverently--"or else hew it in
pieces before the Lord."
Stark got up and straightened himself, wiped his hands and his forehead,
and came up to David.
"I've found out what's wrong," he said. "She'll manage to Moffat, but
we'll have to get her put right there. It's...." He went into technical
details incomprehensible to Jean.
They got back into the car and it sprang away as if suddenly endowed
with new life. In a trice they had passed the wagonette, leaving it in a
whirl of scornful dust. They ate the miles as a giant devours sheep.
They passed the Devil's Beef Tub--Jock would have liked to tarry there
and investigate, but Jean dared not ask Stark to stop in case they could
not start again--and soon went sliding down the hill to Moffat. Hot
puffs of scented air rose from the valley, they had left the moorlands
and the winds, and the town was holding out arms to welcome them. They
drove along the sunny, sleepy, midday High Street and stopped at a
Except David, no member of the Jardine family had ever been inside a
hotel, and it was quite an adventure for them to go up the steps from
the street, enter the swinging doors, and ask a polite woman with
elaborately done hair if they might have luncheon. Yes, they might, and
Peter, at present held tightly in Mhor's arms, could be fed in the
kitchen if that would suit.
Stark had meantime taken the car to a motor-repairing place.
It was half-past three before the car came swooping up to the hotel
doors. Jean gazed at it with a sort of fearful pride. It looked very
well if only it didn't play them false. Stark, too, looked well--a fine,
"Will it be all right, Stark?" she ventured to inquire, but Stark, who
rarely committed himself, merely said, "Mebbe."
Stark had no manners, Jean reflected, but he had a nice face and was a
teetotaller, and one can't have everything.
To Mhor's joy the road now ran for a bit by the side of the railway line
where thundered great express trains such as there never were in
Priorsford. They were spinning along the fine level road, making up for
lost time, when a sharp report startled them and made Mhor, who was
watching a train, lose his balance and fall forward on to Peter, who was
taking a sleep on the rug at their feet.
It was a tyre gone, and there was no time to mend it if they were to be
at Carlisle in time for tea. Stark put on the spare wheel and they
Fortune seemed to have got tired of persecuting them, and there were no
further mishaps. They ran without a pause through village after village,
snatching glimpses of lovely places where they would fain have
lingered, forgetting them as each place offered new beauties.
The great excitement to Jock and Mhor was the crossing of the Border.
"I did it once," said Mhor, "when I came from India, but I didn't notice
"Rather not," said Jock; "you were only two. I was four, wasn't I, Jean?
when I came from India, and I didn't notice it."
"Is there a line across the road?" Mhor asked. "And do the people speak
Scots on one side and English on the other? I suppose we'll go over with
"There's nothing to show," Jock told him, "but there's a difference in
the air. It's warmer in England."
"It's very uninterested of Peter to go on sleeping," Mhor said in a
disgusted tone. "You would think he would feel there was something
happening. And he's a Scots dog, too."
The Border was safely crossed, and Jock professed to notice at once a
striking difference in air and landscape.
"There's an English feel about things now," he insisted, sniffing and
looking all round him; "and I hear the English voices.... Mhor, this is
how the Scots came over to fight the English, only at night and on
horseback--into Carlisle Castle."
"And I was English," said Mhor dreamily, "and I had a big black horse
and I pranced on the Castle wall and killed everyone that came."
"You needn't boast about being English," Jock said, looking at Mhor
coldly. "I don't blame you, for you can't help it, but it's a pity."
Mhor's face got very pink and there was a tremble in his voice, though
he said in a bragging tone, "I'm glad I'm English. The English are as
"Of course they are," said Jean, holding Mhor's hand tight under the
rug. She knew how it hurt him to be, even for a moment, at variance with
Jock, his idol. "Mhor has every right to be proud of being English,
Jock. His father was a soldier and he has ancestors who were great
fighting men. And you know very well that it doesn't matter what side
you belong to so long as you are loyal to that side. You two would have
had some great fights if you had lived a few hundred years ago."
"Yes," said Mhor. "I'd have killed a great many Scots--but not Jock."
"Ho," said Jock, "a great many Scots would have killed you first."
"Well, it's all past," said Jean; "and England and Scotland are one and
fight together now. This is Carlisle. Not much romance about it now, is
there? We're going to the Station Hotel for tea, so you will see the
train, Mhor, old man."
"Mhor," said Jock, "that's one thing you would have missed if you'd
lived long ago--trains."
The car had to have a tyre repaired and that took some time, so after
tea the Jardines stood in the station and watched trains for what was,
to Mhor at least, a blissful hour. It was thrilling to stand in the
half-light of the big station and see great trains come in, and the
passengers jump out and tramp about the platform and buy books and
papers from the bookstall, or fruit, or chocolate, or tea and buns from
the boys in uniform, who went about crying their wares. And then the
wild scurrying of the passengers--like hens before a motor, Jock
said--when the flag was waved and the train about to start. Mhor hoped
fervently, and a little unkindly, that at least one might be left
behind, but they all got in, though with some it was the last second of
the eleventh hour. There seemed to be hundreds of porters wheeling
luggage on trolleys, guards walked about looking splendid fellows, and
Mhor's eyes as he beheld them were the eyes of a lover on his mistress.
He could hardly be torn away when David came to say that Stark was
waiting with the car and that they could not hope to get farther than
Penrith that night.
The dusk was falling and the vesper-bell ringing as they drove into the
town and stopped before a very comfortable-looking inn.
It was past Mhor's bedtime, and it seemed to that youth a fit ending for
the most exciting day of his whole seven years of life, to sit up and
partake of mutton chops and apple-tart at an hour when he should have
been sound asleep.
He saw Peter safely away in charge of a sympathetic "boots" before he
and Jock ascended to a bedroom with three small windows in the most
unexpected places, a bright, cheery paper, and two small white beds.
Next morning the sun peeped in at all the odd-shaped windows on the two
boys sprawled over their beds in the attitudes in which they said they
best enjoyed slumber.
It was another crystal-clear morning, with mist in the hollows and the
hilltops sharp against the sky. When Stark, taciturn as ever, came to
the door at nine o'clock, he found his party impatiently awaiting him on
the doorstep, eager for another day of new roads and fresh scenes.
Jean asked him laughingly if Wilfred the Gazelle would live up to its
name this run, but Stark received the pleasantry coldly, having no use
for archness in any form.
It was wonderful to rush through the morning air still sharp from a
touch of frost in the night, ascending higher and higher into the hills.
Mhor sang to himself in sheer joy of heart, and though no one knew what
were the words he sang, and Jock thought poorly of the tune, Peter
snuggled up to him and seemed to understand and like it.
The day grew hot and dusty as they ran down from the Lake district, and
they were glad to have their lunch beside a noisy little burn in a green
meadow, from the well-stocked luncheon-basket provided by the Penrith
inn. Then they dipped into the black country, where tall chimneys
belched out smoke, and car-lines ran along the streets, and pale-faced,
hurrying people looked enviously at the big car with its load of youth
and good looks. Everything was grim and dirty and spoiled. Mhor looked
at the grimy place and said solemnly:
"It reminds me of hell."
"Haw, haw!" laughed Jock. "When did you see hell last?"
"In the _Pilgrim's Progress_," said Mhor.
One of the black towns provided tea in a cafe which purported to be
Japanese, but the only things about it that recalled that sunny island
overseas were the paper napkins, the china, and two fans nailed on the
wall; the linoleum-covered floor, the hard wooden chairs, the fly-blown
buns being peculiarly and bleakly British.
Before evening the grim country was left behind. In the soft April
twilight they crossed wide moorlands (which Jock was inclined to resent
as being "too Scots to be English") until, as it was beginning to get
dark, they slid softly into Shrewsbury.
The next day was as fine as ever. "Really," said Jean, as they strolled
before breakfast, watching the shops being opened and studying the old
timbered houses, "it's getting almost absurd: like Father's story of the
soldier who greeted his master every morning in India with 'Another hot
day, sirr.' We thought if we got one good day out of the three we were
to be on the road we wouldn't grumble, and here it goes on and on.... We
must come back to Shrewsbury, Davie. It deserves more than just to be
"Aren't English breakfasts the best you ever tasted?" David asked as
they sat down to rashers of home-cured ham, corpulent brown sausages,
and eggs poached to a nicety.
So far David had made an excellent guide. They had never once diverged
from the road they meant to take, but this third day of the run turned
out to be somewhat confused. They started off almost at once on the
wrong road and found themselves riding up a deep green lane into a
farmyard. Out again on the highway David found the number of cross-roads
terribly perplexing. Once he urged Stark to ask directions from a
cottage. Stark did so and leapt back into his seat.
"Which road do we take?" David asked, as five offered themselves.
"Didna catch what they said," Stark remarked as he chose a road at
"Didna catch it," was Stark's favourite response to everything. Later on
they came to the top of a steep hill ornamented by an enormous
warning-post with this alarming notice--"Cyclists dismount. Many
accidents. Some fatal." Stark went on unconcernedly, and Jean shouted at
him, holding desperately to the side of the car, as if her feeble
strength would help the brakes. "Stark! Stark! Didn't you see that
"Didna catch it," said Stark, as he swung light-heartedly down an almost
perpendicular hill into the valley of the Severn.
"I do think Stark's a fool," said Jean bitterly, wrathful in the
reaction from her fright. "He does no damage on the road, and of course
I'm glad of that. I've seen him stop dead for a hen, and the wayfaring
man, though a fool, is safe from him; but he cares nothing for what
happens to the poor wretched people _inside_ the car. As nearly as
possible he had us over the parapet of that bridge."
And later, when they found from the bill at lunch-time that Stark's
luncheon had consisted of "one mineral," she thought that the way he had
risked all their lives must have taken away his appetite.
The car ran splendidly that day--David said it was getting into its
stride--and they got to Oxford for tea and had time to go and see
David's rooms before they left for Stratford. But David would let them
see nothing else. "No," he said; "it would be a shame to hurry over your
first sight. You must come here after Stratford. I'll take rooms for you
at the Mitre. I want to show you Oxford on a May morning."
It was quite dark when they reached Stratford. To Jean it seemed strange
and delicious thus to enter Shakespeare's own town, the Avon a-glimmer
under the moon, the kingcups and the daisies asleep in the meadows.
The lights of the Shakespeare Hotel shone cheerily as they came forward.
A "boots" with a wrinkled, whimsical face came out to help them in.
Shaded lights and fires (for the evenings were chilly) made a bright
welcome, and they were led across the stone-paved hall with its oaken
rafters, gate-legged tables, and bowls of spring flowers, up a steep
little staircase hung with old prints of the plays, down winding
passages to the rooms allotted to them. Jean looked eagerly at the name
on her door.
"Hurrah! I've got 'Rosalind.' I wanted her most of all."
Jock and Mhor had a room with two beds, rather incongruously called
"Anthony and Cleopatra." Jock was inclined to be affronted, and said it
was a silly-looking thing to put him in a room called after such an
amorous couple. If it had been Touchstone or Mercutio, or even Shylock,
he would not have minded, but the pilgrims of love got scant sympathy
from that sturdy misogynist.
"It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o'er the green corn-fields did pass,
In the spring-time, the only pretty ring time...."
_As You Like It_.
Next morning Jean's eyes wandered round the dining-room as if looking
for someone, but there was no one she had ever seen before among the
breakfasters at the little round tables in the pretty room with its low
ceiling and black oak beams. To Jean, unused to hotel life and greatly
interested in her kind, it was like a peep into some thrilling book. She
could hardly eat her breakfast for studying the faces of her neighbours
and trying to place them.
Were they all Shakespeare lovers? she wondered.
The people at the next table certainly looked as if they might be: a
high-browed, thin-faced clergyman with a sister who was clever (from her
eye-glasses and the way her hair was done, Jean decided she must be very
clever), and a friend with them who looked literary--at least he had a
large pile of letters and a clean-shaven face; and they seemed, all
three, like Lord Lilac, to be "remembering him like anything."
There were several clergymen in the room; one, rather fat, with a smug
look and a smartly dressed wife, Jean decided must have married an
heiress; another, with very prominent teeth and kind eyes, was
accompanied by an extremely aged mother and two lean sisters.
One family party attracted Jean very much: a young-looking father and
mother, with two girls, very pretty and newly grown up, and a boy like
Davie. They were making plans for the day, deciding what to see and what
to leave unseen, laughing a great deal, and chaffing each other, parents
and children together. They looked so jolly and happy, as if they had
always found the world a comfortable place. They seemed rather amused to
find themselves at Stratford among the worshippers. Jean concluded that
they were of those "not bad of heart" who "remembered Shakespeare with a
Jock and Mhor were in the highest spirits. It seemed to them enormous
fun to be staying in a hotel, and not an ordinary square up-and-down
hotel, but a rambling place with little stairs in unexpected places, and
old parts and new parts, and bedrooms owning names, and a long,
low-roofed drawing-room with a window at the far end that opened right
out to the stable-yard through which pleasantries could be exchanged
with grooms and chauffeurs. There was a parlour, too, off the hall--the
cosiest of parlours with cream walls and black oak beams and supports,
two fireplaces round which were grouped inviting arm-chairs, tables with
books and papers, many bowls of daffodils. And all over the house hung
old prints of scenes in the plays; glorious pictures, some of
them--ghosts and murders over which Mhor gloated.
They went before luncheon to the river and sailed up and down in a small
steam-launch named _The Swan of Avon_. Jean thought privately that the
presence of such things as steam-launches were a blot on Shakespeare's
river, but the boys were delighted with them, and at once began to plan
how one might be got to adorn Tweed.
In the afternoon they walked over the fields to Shottery to see Anne
Jean walked in a dream. On just such an April day, when shepherds pipe
on oaten straws, Shakespeare himself must have walked here. It would be
different, of course; there would be no streets of little mean houses,
only a few thatched cottages. But the larks would be singing as they
were to-day, and the hawthorn coming out, and the spring flowers abloom
in Anne Hathaway's garden.
She caught her breath as they went out of the sunshine into the dim
interior of the cottage.
This ingle-nook ... Shakespeare must have sat here on winter evenings
and talked. Did he tell Anne Hathaway wonderful tales? Perhaps, when he
was not writing and weaving for himself a garment of immortality, he was
just an everyday man, genial with his neighbours, interested in all the
small events of his own town, just Master Shakespeare whom the children
looked up from their play to smile at as he passed.
"Oh, Jock," Jean said, clutching her brother's sleeve. "Can you really
believe that _he_ sat here?--actually in this little room? Looked out of
the window--isn't it _wonderful_, Jock?"
Jock, like Mr. Fearing, ever wakeful on the enchanted ground, rolled his
head uncomfortably, sniffed, and said, "It smells musty!" Both he and
Mhor were frankly much more interested in the fact that ginger-beer and
biscuits were to be had in the cottage next door.
They mooned about all afternoon vastly content, and had tea in the
garden of a sort of enchanted cottage (with a card in the window which
bore the legend, "_We sell home-made lemonade, lavender, and pot-pourri
_"), among apple trees and spring flowers and singing birds, and ate
home-made bread and honey, and cakes with orange icing on them. A girl
in a blue gown, who might have been Sweet Anne Page, waited on them, and
Jean was so distressed at the amount they had eaten and at the smallness
of the bill presented that she slipped an extra large tip under a plate,
and fled before it could be discovered.
It was a red-letter day for all three, for they were going to the
theatre that night for the first time. Jean had once been at a play with
her father, but it was so long ago as to be the dimmest memory, and she
was as excited as the boys. Their first play was to be _As You Like It_.
Oh, lucky young people to see, for the first time on an April evening,
in Shakespeare's own town, the youngest, gayest play that ever was
They ran up to their rooms to dress, talking and laughing. They could
not be silent, their hearts were so light. Jean sang softly to herself
as she laid out what she meant to wear that evening. Pamela had made her
promise to wear a white frock, the merest wisp of a frock made of lace
and georgette, with a touch of vivid green, and a wreath of green leaves
for the golden-brown head. Jean had protested. She was afraid she would
look overdressed: a black frock would be more suitable; but Pamela had
insisted and Jean had promised.
As she looked in the glass she smiled at the picture she made. It was a
pity Pamela couldn't see how successful the frock was, for she had
designed it.... Lord Bidborough had never seen her prettily dressed. Why
did Pamela never mention him? Jean realised the truth of the old saying,
"Speak weel o' ma love, speak ill o' ma love, but aye speak o' him."
She looked into the boys' room when she was ready and found them only
half dressed and engaged in a game of cock-fighting. Having admonished
them she went down alone. She went very slowly down the last flight of
stairs (she was shy of going into the dining-room)--a slip of a girl
crowned with green leaves. Suddenly she stopped. There, in the hall
watching her, alone but for the "boots" with the wrinkled, humorous face
and eyes of amused tolerance, was Richard Plantagenet.
Behind her where she stood hung a print of _Lear_--the hovel on the
heath, the storm-bent trees, the figure of the old man, the shivering
Fool with his "Poor Tom's a-cold." Beside her, fastened to the wall,
was a letter-box with a glass front full of letters and picture-cards
waiting to be taken to the evening post. Tragedy and the commonplace
things of life--but Jean, for the moment, was lifted far from either.
She was seeing a new heaven and a new earth. Words were not needed. She
looked into Richard Plantagenet's eyes and knew that he wanted her, and
she put her hands out to him like a trusting child.
* * * * *
When Jock and Mhor reached the dining-room and found Richard Plantagenet
seated beside Jean they were rapturous in their greetings, pouring
questions on him, demanding to know how long he meant to stay.
"As long as you stay," he told them.
"Oh, good," Jock said. "Are you _fearfully_ keen on Shakespeare? Jean's
something awful. It gives me a sort of hate at him to hear her."
"Oh, Jock," Jean protested, "surely not. I'm not nearly as bad as some
of the people here. I don't haver quite so much.... I was in the
drawing-room this morning and heard two women talking, an English woman
and an American. The English woman remarked casually that Shakespeare
wasn't a Christian, and the American protested, 'Oh, don't say. He had a
great White Soul.'"
"Gosh, Maggie!" said Jock. "What a beastly thing to say about anybody!
If Shakespeare could see Stratford now I expect he'd laugh--all the
shops full of little heads, and pictures of his house, and models of his
birthplace ... it's enough to put anybody off being a genius."
"I was dreadfully snubbed in a shop to-day," said Jean, smiling at her
lover. "It was a very nice mixed-up shop with cakes and crucifixes and
little stucco figures, presided over by a dignified lady with black lace
on her head. I remembered Mrs. Jowett's passion for stucco saints in her
bedroom, and picked one up, remarking that it would be a nice
remembrance of Stratford. 'Oh, surely not, madam,' said the shocked
voice of the shop-lady, 'surely a nobler memory'--and I found _it was a
figure of Christ_."
"Jean simply rushed out of the shop," said Jock, "and she hadn't paid,
and I had to go in again with the money."
"See what I've got," Mhor said, producing a parcel from his pocket. He
unwrapped it, revealing a small bust of Shakespeare.
"It's a wee Shakespeare to send to Mrs. M'Cosh--and I've got a card for
Bella Bathgate--a funny one, a pig. Read it."
He handed the card to Lord Bidborough, who read aloud the words issuing
from the mouth of the pig:
"You may push me,
You may shove,
But I never will be druv
"Excellent sentiment, Mhor--Miss Bathgate will be pleased."
"Yes," said Mhor complacently. "I thought she'd like a pig better than
a Shakespeare one. She said she wondered Jean would go and make a fuss
about the place a play-actor was born in. She says she wouldn't read a
word he wrote, and she didn't seem to like the bits I said to her....
This isn't the first time, Richard Plantagenet, I've sat up for dinner."
"No. I did it at Penrith and Shrewsbury and last night here."
"By Jove, you're a man of the world now, Mhor."
"It mustn't go on," said Jean, "but once in a while...."
"And d'you know where I'm going to-night?" Mhor went on. "To a theatre
to see a play. Yes. And I shan't be in bed till at least eleven o'clock.
It's the first time in my life I've ever been outside after ten o'clock,
and I've always wanted to see what it was like then."
"No different from any other time," Jock told him. But Mhor shook his
head. He knew better. After-ten-o'clock Land _must_ be different....
"This is a great night for us all," Jean said. "Our first play. You have
seen it often, I expect. Are you going?"
"Of course I'm going. I wouldn't miss Jock's face at a play for
anything.... Or yours," he added, leaning towards her. "No, Mhor.
There's no hurry. It doesn't begin for another half-hour ... we'll have
coffee in the other room."
Mhor was in a fever of impatience, and quite ten minutes before the
hour they were in their seats in the front row of the balcony. Oddly
enough, Lord Bidborough's seat happened to be adjoining the seats taken
by the Jardines, and Jean and he sat together.
It was a crowded house, for the play was being played by a new company
for the first time that night. Jean sat silent, much too content to
talk, watching the people round her, and listening idly to snatches of
conversation. Two women, evidently inhabitants of the town, were talking
"Yes," one woman was saying; "I said to my sister only to-day, 'What
would we do if there was a sudden alarm in the night?' If we needed a
doctor or a policeman? You know, my dear, the servants are all as old as
we are. I don't really believe there is anyone in our road that can
The other laughed comfortably and agreed, but Jean felt chilled a
little, as if a cloud had obscured for a second the sun of her
happiness. In this gloriously young world of unfolding leaves and
budding hawthorns and lambs and singing birds and lovers, there were
people old and done who could only walk slowly in the sunshine, in whom
the spring could no longer put a spirit of youth, who could not run
without being weary. How ugly age was! Grim, menacing: Age, I do abhor
The curtain went up.
The youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, the young Orlando, "a youth
unschooled and yet learned, full of noble device, of all sorts
enchantingly beloved," talked to old Adam, and then to his own most
unnatural brother. The scene changed to the lawn before the Duke's
palace. Lord Bidborough bade Jean observe the scenery and dresses. "You
see how simple it is, and vivid, rather like Noah's Ark scenery? And the
dresses are a revolt against the stuffy tradition that made Rosalind a
sort of principal boy.... Those dresses are all copied from old
missals.... I rather like it. Do you approve?"
Jean was not in a position to judge, but said she certainly approved.
Rosalind and Celia were saying the words she knew so well. Touchstone
had come in--that witty knave; Monsieur le Beau, with his mouth full of
news; and again, the young Orlando o'er-throwing more than his enemies.
And now Rosalind and Celia are planning their flight.... It is the
Forest of Arden. Again Orlando and Adam speak together, and Adam, with
all his years brave upon him, assures his master, "My age is as a lusty
winter, frosty but kindly."
The words came to Jean with a new significance. How Shakespeare _knew_
... why should she mourn because Age must come? Age was beautiful and
calm, for the seas are quiet when the winds give o'er. Age is done with
passions and discontents and strivings. Probably those women behind her
who had sighed comfortably because nobody in their road could run, whom
she pitied, wouldn't change with her to-night. They had had their life.
It wasn't sad to be old, Jean told herself, for as the physical sight
dims, the soul sees more clearly, and the light from the world to come
illumines the last dark bit of the way....
They went out between the acts and walked by the river in the moonlight
and talked of the play.
Jock and Mhor were loud in their approval, only regretting that
Touchstone couldn't be all the time on the stage. Lord Bidborough asked
Jean if it came up to her expectations.
"I don't know what I expected.... I never imagined any play could be so
vivid and gay and alive.... I've always loved Rosalind, and I didn't
think any actress could be quite my idea of her, but this girl is. I
thought at first she wasn't nearly pretty enough, but she has the kind
of face that becomes more charming the more you look at it, and she is
so graceful and witty and impertinent."
"And Rabelaisian," added her companion. "It really is a very good show.
There is a sort of youthful freshness about the acting that is very
engaging. And every part is so competently filled. Jaques is
astonishingly good, don't you think? I never heard the 'seven ages'
speech so well said."
"It sounded," Jean said, "as if he were saying the words for the first
time, thinking them as he went along."
"I know what you mean. When the great lines come on it's a temptation to
the actor to draw himself together and clear his throat, and rather
address them to the audience. This fellow leaned against a tree and, as
you say, seemed to be thinking them as he went along. He's an uncommonly
good actor ... I don't know when I enjoyed a show so much."
The play wore on to its merry conclusion; all too short the Jardines
found it. Jock's wrath at the love-sick shepherd knew no bounds, but he
highly approved of Rosalind because, he said, she had such an impudent
"Who did you like best, Richard Plantagenet?" Mhor asked as they came
down the steps.
"Well, I think, perhaps the most worthy character was 'the old religious
man' who converted so opportunely the Duke Frederick."
"Yes," Jean laughed. "I like that way of getting rid of an objectionable
character and enriching a deserving one. But Jaques went off to throw in
his lot with the converted Duke. I rather grudged that."
"To-morrow," said Mhor, who was skipping along, very wide awake and
happy in After-ten-o'clock Land--"to-morrow I'm going to take Peter to
the river and let him snowk after water-rats. I think he's feeling
lonely--a Scots dog among so many English people."
"Stark's lonely too," said Jock. "He says the other chauffeurs have an
awful queer accent and it's all he can do to understand them."
"Oh, poor Stark!" said Jean. "I don't suppose he would care much to see
"He told me," Jock went on, "that one of the other chauffeurs had asked
him to go with him to a concert called _Macbeth_. When I told him what
it was he said he'd had an escape. He says he sees enough of
Shakespeare in this place without going to hear him. He's at the
Pictures to-night, and there's a circus coming--"
"And oh, Jean," cried Mhor, "it's the _very one_ that came to
"Take a start, Mhor," said Jock, "and I'll race you back."
Lord Bidborough and Jean walked on in silence.
At the garden where once had stood New Place--that "pretty house in
brick and timber"--the shadow of the Norman church lay black on the
white street and beyond it was the velvet darkness of the old trees.
"This," Jean said softly, "must be almost exactly as it was in
Shakespeare's time. He must have seen the shadow of the tower falling
like that, and the trees, and his garden. Perhaps it was on an April
night like this that he wrote:
On such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea-banks and waft her lover
To come again to Carthage."
They had both stopped, and Jean, after a glance at her companion's face,
edged away. He caught her hands and held her there in the shadow.
"The last time we were together, Jean, it was December, dripping rain
and mud, and you would have none of me. To-night--in such a night, Jean,
I come again to you. I love you. Will you marry me?"
"Yes," said Jean--"for I am yours."
For a moment they stood caught up to the seventh heaven, knowing
nothing except that they were together, hearing nothing but the beating
of their own hearts.
Jean was the first to come to herself.
"Everyone's gone home. The boys'll think we are lost.... Oh, Biddy, have
I done right? Are you sure you want me? Can I make you happy?"
"_Can you make me happy_? My blessed child, what a question! Don't you
know that you seem to me almost too dear for my possessing? You are far
too good for me, but I won't give you up now. No, not though all the
King's horses and all the King's men come in array against me. My Jean
... my little Jean."
Jock's comment on hearing of his sister's engagement was that he did
think Richard Plantagenet was above that sort of thing. Later on, when
he had got more used to the idea, he said that, seeing he had to marry
somebody, it was better to be Jean than anybody else.
Mhor, like Gallio, cared for none of these things.
He merely said, "Oh, and will you be married and have a bridescake? What
fun!... You might go with Peter and me to the station and see the London
trains pass. Jock went yesterday and he says he won't go again for three
days. Will you, Jean? Oh, _please_--"
David, at Oxford, sent his sister a letter which she put away among her
chiefest treasures. Safely in his room, with a pen in his hand, he would
write what he was too shy and awkward to say: he could call down
blessings on his sister in a letter, when face to face with her he would
have been dumb.
Pamela, on hearing the news, rushed down from London to congratulate
Jean and her Biddy in person. She was looking what Jean called
"fearfully London," and seemed in high spirits.
"Of course I'm in high spirits," she told Jean. "The very nicest thing
in the world has come to pass. I didn't think there was a girl living
that I could give Biddy to without a grudge till I saw you, and then it
seemed much too good to be true that you should fall in love with each
"But," said Jean, "how could you want him to marry me, an ordinary girl
in a little provincial town?--he could have married _anybody_."
"Lots of girls would have married Biddy, but I wanted him to have the
best, and when I found it for him he had the sense to recognise it.
Well, it's all rather like a fairy-tale. And I have Lewis! Jean, you
can't think how different life in London seems now--I can enjoy it
whole-heartedly, fling myself into it in a way I never could before, not
even when I was at my most butterfly stage, because now it isn't my
life, it doesn't really matter, I'm only a stranger within the gates. My
real life is Lewis, and the thought of the green glen and the little
town beside the Tweed."
"You mean," said Jean, "that you can enjoy all the gaieties tremendously
because they are only an episode; if it was your life-work making a
success of them you would be bored to death."
"Yes. Before I came to Priorsford they were all I had to live for, and
I got to hate them. When are you two babes in the wood going to be
married? You haven't talked about it yet? Dear me!"
"You see," Jean said, "there's been such a lot to talk about."
"Philanthropic schemes, I suppose?"
Jean started guiltily.
"I'm afraid not. I'd forgotten about the money."
"Then I'm sorry I reminded you of it. Let all the schemes alone for a
little, Jean. Biddy will help you when the time comes. I see the two of
you reforming the world, losing all your money, probably, and ending up
at Laverlaw with Lewis and me. I don't want to know what you talked
about, my dear, but whatever it was it has done you both good. Biddy
looks now as he looked before the War, and you have lost your anxious
look, and your curls have got more yellow in them, and your eyes aren't
like moss-agates now; they are almost quite golden. You are infinitely
prettier than you were, Jean, girl.... Now, I'm afraid I must fly back
to London. Jock and Mhor will chaperone you two excellently, and we'll
all meet at Mintern Abbas in the middle of May."
One sunshine day followed another. Wilfred the Gazelle and the excellent
Stark carried the party on exploring expeditions all over the
countryside. In one delicious village they wandered, after lunch at the
inn, into the little church which stood embowered among blossoming
trees. The old vicar left his garden and offered to show them its
beauties, and Jean fell in love with the simplicity and the feeling of
homeliness that was about it.
"Biddy," she whispered, "what a delicious church to be married in. You
could hardly help being happy ever after if you were married here."
Later in the day, when they were alone, he reminded her of her words.
"Why shouldn't we, Penny-plain? Why shouldn't we? I know you hate a
fussy marriage and dread all the letters and presents and meeting crowds
of people who are strangers to you. Of course, it's frightfully good of
Mrs. Hope to offer to have it at Hopetoun, but that means waiting, and
this is the spring-time, the real 'pretty ring-time.' I would rush up to
London and get a special licence. I don't know how in the world it's
done, but I can find out, and Pam would come, and David, and we'd be
married in the little church among the blossoms. Let's say the
thirtieth. That gives us four days to arrange things...."
"Four days," said Jean, "to prepare for one's wedding!"
"But you don't need to prepare. You've got lovely clothes, and we'll go
straight to Mintern Abbas, where it doesn't matter what we wear. I tell
you what, we'll go to London to-morrow and see lawyers and things--do
you realise you haven't even got an engagement ring, you neglected
child? And tell Pam--Mad? Of course, it's mad. It's the way they did in
the Golden World. It's Rosalind and Orlando. Be persuaded, Penny-plain."
"Priorsford will be horrified," said Jean. "They aren't used to such
indecorous haste, and oh, Biddy, I _couldn't_ be married without Mr.
"I was thinking about that. He certainly has the right to be at your
wedding. If I wired to-day, do you think they would come? Mrs.
Macdonald's such a sportsman, I believe she would hustle the minister
and herself off at once."
"I believe she would," said Jean, "and having them would make all the
difference. It would be almost like having my own father and mother...."
So it was arranged. They spent a hectic day in London which almost
reduced Jean to idiocy, and got back at night to the peace of Stratford.
Pamela said she would bring everything that was needed, and would arrive
on the evening of the 29th with Lewis and David. The Macdonalds wired
that they were coming, and Lord Bidborough interviewed the vicar of the
little church among the blossoms and explained everything to him. The
vicar was old and wise and tolerant, and he said he would feel honoured
if the Scots minister would officiate with him. He would, he said, be
pleased to arrange things exactly as Jean and her minister wanted them.
By the 29th they had all assembled.
Pamela arriving with Lewis Elliot and Mawson and a motor full of
pasteboard boxes found Jean just home from a picnic at Broadway, flushed
with the sun and glowing with health and happiness.
"Well," said Pamela as she kissed her, "this is a new type of bride. Not
the nerve-shattered, milliner-ridden creature with writer's cramp in
her hand from thanking people for useless presents! You don't look as if
you were worrying at all."
"I'm not," said Jean. "Why should I? There will be nobody there to
criticise me. There are no preparations to make, so I needn't fuss.
Biddy's right. It's the best way to be married."
"I needn't ask if you are happy, my Jean girl?"
Jean flung her arms round Pamela's neck.
"After having Biddy for my own, the next best thing is having you for a
sister. I owe you more than I can ever repay."
"Ah, my dear," said Pamela, "the debt is all on my side. You set the
solitary in families...."
Mhor here entered, shouting that the car was waiting to take them to the
station to meet the Macdonalds, and Jean hurried away.
An hour later the whole party met round the dinner-table. Mhor had been
allowed to sit up. Other nights he consumed milk and bread and butter
and eggs at 5.30, and went to bed an hour later, leaving Jock to change
his clothes and descend to dinner and the play, an arrangement that
caused a good deal of friction. But to-night all bitterness was
forgotten, and Mhor beamed on everyone.
Mrs. Macdonald was in great form. She had come away, she told them,
leaving the spring cleaning half done. "All the study chairs in the
garden and Agnes rubbing down the walls, and Allan's men beating the
carpet.... In came the telegram, and after I got over the shock--I
always expect the worst when I see a telegraph boy--I said to John, 'My
best dress is not what it was, but I'm going,' and John was delighted,
partly because he was driven out of his study, and he's never happy in
any other room, but most of all because it was Jean. English Church or
no English Church he'll help to marry Jean. But," turning to the bride
to be, "I can hardly believe it, Jean. It's only ten days since you left
Priorsford, and to-morrow you're to be married. I think it was the War
that taught us such hurried ways...." She sighed, and then went on
briskly: "I went to see Mrs. M'Cosh before I left. She had had your