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Robert Falconer by George MacDonald

Part 2 out of 13

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over all spaces of the earth with which his geography-book had made
him acquainted.

He was in the habit of leaving his closet and creeping through his
grandmother's room before she was awake--or at least before she had
given any signs to the small household that she was restored to
consciousness, and that the life of the house must proceed. He
therefore found no difficulty in liberating Shargar from his prison,
except what arose from the boy's own unwillingness to forsake his
comfortable quarters for the fierce encounter of the January blast
which awaited him. But Robert did not turn him out before the last
moment of safety had arrived; for, by the aid of signs known to
himself, he watched the progress of his grandmother's dressing--an
operation which did not consume much of the morning, scrupulous as
she was with regard to neatness and cleanliness--until Betty was
called in to give her careful assistance to the final disposition of
the mutch, when Shargar's exit could be delayed no longer. Then he
mounted to the foot of the second stair, and called in a keen

'Noo, Shargar, cut for the life o' ye.'

And down came the poor fellow, with long gliding steps, ragged and
reluctant, and, without a word or a look, launched himself out into
the cold, and sped away he knew not whither. As he left the door,
the only suspicion of light was the dull and doubtful shimmer of the
snow that covered the street, keen particles of which were blown in
his face by the wind, which, having been up all night, had grown
very cold, and seemed delighted to find one unprotected human being
whom it might badger at its own bitter will. Outcast Shargar!
Where he spent the interval between Mrs. Falconer's door and that
of the school, I do not know. There was a report amongst his
school-fellows that he had been found by Scroggie, the fish-cadger,
lying at full length upon the back of his old horse, which, either
from compassion or indifference, had not cared to rise up under the
burden. They said likewise that, when accused by Scroggie of
housebreaking, though nothing had to be broken to get in, only a
string with a peculiar knot, on the invention of which the cadger
prided himself, to be undone, all that Shargar had to say in his
self-defence was, that he had a terrible sair wame, and that the
horse was warmer nor the stanes i' the yard; and he had dune him nae
ill, nae even drawn a hair frae his tail--which would have been a
difficult feat, seeing the horse's tail was as bare as his hoof.



That Shargar was a parish scholar--which means that the parish paid
his fees, although, indeed, they were hardly worth paying--made very
little difference to his position amongst his school-fellows. Nor
did the fact of his being ragged and dirty affect his social
reception to his discomfort. But the accumulated facts of the
oddity of his personal appearance, his supposed imbecility, and the
bad character borne by his mother, placed him in a very unenviable
relation to the tyrannical and vulgar-minded amongst them.
Concerning his person, he was long, and, as his name implied, lean,
with pale-red hair, reddish eyes, no visible eyebrows or eyelashes,
and very pale face--in fact, he was half-way to an Albino. His arms
and legs seemed of equal length, both exceedingly long. The
handsomeness of his mother appeared only in his nose and mouth,
which were regular and good, though expressionless; and the birth of
his father only in his small delicate hands and feet, of which any
girl who cared only for smallness, and heeded neither character nor
strength, might have been proud. His feet, however, were supposed
to be enormous, from the difficulty with which he dragged after him
the huge shoes in which in winter they were generally encased.

The imbecility, like the large feet, was only imputed. He certainly
was not brilliant, but neither did he make a fool of himself in any
of the few branches of learning of which the parish-scholar came in
for a share. That which gained him the imputation was the fact that
his nature was without a particle of the aggressive, and all its
defensive of as purely negative a character as was possible. Had he
been a dog, he would never have thought of doing anything for his
own protection beyond turning up his four legs in silent appeal to
the mercy of the heavens. He was an absolute sepulchre in the
swallowing of oppression and ill-usage. It vanished in him. There
was no echo of complaint, no murmur of resentment from the hollows
of that soul. The blows that fell upon him resounded not, and no
one but God remembered them.

His mother made her living as she herself best knew, with occasional
well-begrudged assistance from the parish. Her chief resource was
no doubt begging from house to house for the handful of oatmeal
which was the recognized, and, in the court of custom-taught
conscience, the legalized dole upon which every beggar had a claim;
and if she picked up at the same time a chicken, or a boy's rabbit,
or any other stray luxury, she was only following the general rule
of society, that your first duty is to take care of yourself. She
was generally regarded as a gipsy, but I doubt if she had any gipsy
blood in her veins. She was simply a tramper, with occasional fits
of localization. Her worst fault was the way she treated her son,
whom she starved apparently that she might continue able to beat

The particular occasion which led to the recognition of the growing
relation between Robert and Shargar was the following. Upon a
certain Saturday--some sidereal power inimical to boys must have
been in the ascendant--a Saturday of brilliant but intermittent
sunshine, the white clouds seen from the school windows indicating
by their rapid transit across those fields of vision that fresh
breezes friendly to kites, or draigons, as they were called at
Rothieden, were frolicking in the upper regions--nearly a dozen boys
were kept in for not being able to pay down from memory the usual
instalment of Shorter Catechism always due at the close of the week.
Amongst these boys were Robert and Shargar. Sky-revealing windows
and locked door were too painful; and in proportion as the feeling
of having nothing to do increased, the more uneasy did the active
element in the boys become, and the more ready to break out into
some abnormal manifestation. Everything--sun, wind, clouds--was
busy out of doors, and calling to them to come and join the fun; and
activity at the same moment excited and restrained naturally turns
to mischief. Most of them had already learned the obnoxious
task--one quarter of an hour was enough for that--and now what
should they do next? The eyes of three or four of the eldest of
them fell simultaneously upon Shargar.

Robert was sitting plunged in one of his day-dreams, for he, too,
had learned his catechism, when he was roused from his reverie by a
question from a pale-faced little boy, who looked up to him as a
great authority.

'What for 's 't ca'd the Shorter Carritchis, Bob?'

''Cause it's no fully sae lang's the Bible,' answered Robert,
without giving the question the consideration due to it, and was
proceeding to turn the matter over in his mind, when the mental
process was arrested by a shout of laughter. The other boys had
tied Shargar's feet to the desk at which he sat--likewise his hands,
at full stretch; then, having attached about a dozen strings to as
many elf-locks of his pale-red hair, which was never cut or trimmed,
had tied them to various pegs in the wall behind him, so that the
poor fellow could not stir. They were now crushing up pieces of
waste-paper, not a few leaves of stray school-books being regarded
in that light, into bullets, dipping them in ink and aiming then at
Shargar's face.

For some time Shargar did not utter a word; and Robert, although
somewhat indignant at the treatment he was receiving, felt as yet no
impulse to interfere, for success was doubtful. But, indeed, he was
not very easily roused to action of any kind; for he was as yet
mostly in the larva-condition of character, when everything is
transacted inside. But the fun grew more furious, and spot after
spot of ink gloomed upon Shargar's white face. Still Robert took no
notice, for they did not seem to be hurting him much. But when he
saw the tears stealing down his patient cheeks, making channels
through the ink which now nearly covered them, he could bear it no
longer. He took out his knife, and under pretence of joining in the
sport, drew near to Shargar, and with rapid hand cut the cords--all
but those that bound his feet, which were less easy to reach without
exposing himself defenceless.

The boys of course turned upon Robert. But ere they came to more
than abusive words a diversion took place.

Mrs. Innes, the school-master's wife--a stout, kind-hearted woman,
the fine condition of whose temperament was clearly the result of
her physical prosperity--appeared at the door which led to the
dwelling-house above, bearing in her hands a huge tureen of
potato-soup, for her motherly heart could not longer endure the
thought of dinnerless boys. Her husband being engaged at a parish
meeting, she had a chance of interfering with success.

But ere Nancy, the servant, could follow with the spoons and plates,
Wattie Morrison had taken the tureen, and out of spite at Robert,
had emptied its contents on the head of Shargar, who was still tied
by the feet, with the words: 'Shargar, I anoint thee king over us,
and here is thy crown,' giving the tureen, as he said so, a push on
to his head, where it remained.

Shargar did not move, and for one moment could not speak, but the
next he gave a shriek that made Robert think he was far worse
scalded than turned out to be the case. He darted to him in rage,
took the tureen from his head, and, his blood being fairly up now,
flung it with all his force at Morrison, and felled him to the
earth. At the same moment the master entered by the street door and
his wife by the house door, which was directly opposite. In the
middle of the room the prisoners surrounded the fallen
tyrant--Robert, with the red face of wrath, and Shargar, with a
complexion the mingled result of tears, ink, and soup, which latter
clothed him from head to foot besides, standing on the outskirts of
the group. I need not follow the story farther. Both Robert and
Morrison got a lickin'; and if Mr. Innes had been like some
school-masters of those times, Shargar would not have escaped his
share of the evil things going.

>From that day Robert assumed the acknowledged position of Shargar's
defender. And if there was pride and a sense of propriety mingled
with his advocacy of Shargar's rights, nay, even if the relation was
not altogether free from some amount of show-off on Robert's part, I
cannot yet help thinking that it had its share in that development
of the character of Falconer which has chiefly attracted me to the
office of his biographer. There may have been in it the exercise of
some patronage; probably it was not pure from the pride of
beneficence; but at least it was a loving patronage and a vigorous
beneficence; and, under the reaction of these, the good which in
Robert's nature was as yet only in a state of solution, began to
crystallize into character.

But the effect of the new relation was far more remarkable on
Shargar. As incapable of self-defence as ever, he was yet in a
moment roused to fury by any attack upon the person or the dignity
of Robert: so that, indeed, it became a new and favourite mode of
teasing Shargar to heap abuse, real or pretended, upon his friend.
>From the day when Robert thus espoused his part, Shargar was
Robert's dog. That very evening, when she went to take a parting
peep at the external before locking the door for the night, Betty
found him sitting upon the door-step, only, however, to send him
off, as she described it, 'wi' a flech1 in 's lug (a flea in his
ear).' For the character of the mother was always associated with
the boy, and avenged upon him. I must, however, allow that those
delicate, dirty fingers of his could not with safety be warranted
from occasional picking and stealing.

At this period of my story, Robert himself was rather a
grotesque-looking animal, very tall and lanky, with especially long
arms, which excess of length they retained after he was full-grown.
In this respect Shargar and he were alike; but the long legs of
Shargar were unmatched in Robert, for at this time his body was
peculiarly long. He had large black eyes, deep sunk even then, and
a Roman nose, the size of which in a boy of his years looked
portentous. For the rest, he was dark-complexioned, with dark hair,
destined to grow darker still, with hands and feet well modelled,
but which would have made four feet and four hands such as

When his mind was not oppressed with the consideration of any
important metaphysical question, he learned his lessons well; when
such was present, the Latin grammar, with all its attendant
servilities, was driven from the presence of the lordly need. That
once satisfied in spite of pandies and imprisonments, he returned
with fresh zest, and, indeed, with some ephemeral ardour, to the
rules of syntax or prosody, though the latter, in the mode in which
it was then and there taught, was almost as useless as the task set
himself by a worthy lay-preacher in the neighbourhood--of learning
the first nine chapters of the first Book of the Chronicles, in
atonement for having, in an evil hour of freedom of spirit, ventured
to suggest that such lists of names, even although forming a portion
of Holy Writ, could scarcely be reckoned of equally divine authority
with St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans.



Although Betty seemed to hold little communication with the outer
world, she yet contrived somehow or other to bring home what gossip
was going to the ears of her mistress, who had very few visitors;
for, while her neighbours held Mrs. Falconer in great and evident
respect, she was not the sort of person to sit down and have a news
with. There was a certain sedate self-contained dignity about her
which the common mind felt to be chilling and repellant; and from
any gossip of a personal nature--what Betty brought her always
excepted--she would turn away, generally with the words, 'Hoots! I
canna bide clashes.'

On the evening following that of Shargar's introduction to Mrs.
Falconer's house, Betty came home from the butcher's--for it was
Saturday night, and she had gone to fetch the beef for their
Sunday's broth--with the news that the people next door, that is,
round the corner in the next street, had a visitor.

The house in question had been built by Robert's father, and was,
compared with Mrs. Falconer's one-storey house, large and handsome.
Robert had been born, and had spent a few years of his life in it,
but could recall nothing of the facts of those early days. Some
time before the period at which my history commences it had passed
into other hands, and it was now quite strange to him. It had been
bought by a retired naval officer, who lived in it with his
wife--the only Englishwoman in the place, until the arrival, at The
Boar's Head, of the lady so much admired by Dooble Sanny.

Robert was up-stairs when Betty emptied her news-bag, and so heard
nothing of this bit of gossip. He had just assured Shargar that as
soon as his grandmother was asleep he would look about for what he
could find, and carry it up to him in the garret. As yet he had
confined the expenditure out of Shargar's shilling to twopence.

The household always retired early--earlier on Saturday night in
preparation for the Sabbath--and by ten o'clock grannie and Betty
were in bed. Robert, indeed, was in bed too; but he had lain down
in his clothes, waiting for such time as might afford reasonable
hope of his grandmother being asleep, when he might both ease
Shargar's hunger and get to sleep himself. Several times he got up,
resolved to make his attempt; but as often his courage failed and he
lay down again, sure that grannie could not be asleep yet. When the
clock beside him struck eleven, he could bear it no longer, and
finally rose to do his endeavour.

Opening the door of the closet slowly and softly, he crept upon his
hands and knees into the middle of the parlour, feeling very much
like a thief, as, indeed, in a measure he was, though from a
blameless motive. But just as he had accomplished half the distance
to the door, he was arrested and fixed with terror; for a deep sigh
came from grannie's bed, followed by the voice of words. He thought
at first that she had heard him, but he soon found that he was
mistaken. Still, the fear of discovery held him there on all fours,
like a chained animal. A dull red gleam, faint and dull, from the
embers of the fire, was the sole light in the room. Everything so
common to his eyes in the daylight seemed now strange and eerie in
the dying coals, and at what was to the boy the unearthly hour of
the night.

He felt that he ought not to listen to grannie, but terror made him
unable to move.

'Och hone! och hone!' said grannie from the bed. 'I've a sair, sair
hert. I've a sair hert i' my breist, O Lord! thoo knowest. My ain
Anerew! To think o' my bairnie that I cairriet i' my ain body, that
sookit my breists, and leuch i' my face--to think o' 'im bein' a
reprobate! O Lord! cudna he be eleckit yet? Is there nae turnin'
o' thy decrees? Na, na; that wadna do at a'. But while there's
life there's houp. But wha kens whether he be alive or no? Naebody
can tell. Glaidly wad I luik upon 's deid face gin I cud believe
that his sowl wasna amang the lost. But eh! the torments o' that
place! and the reik that gangs up for ever an' ever, smorin'
(smothering) the stars! And my Anerew doon i' the hert o' 't
cryin'! And me no able to win till him! O Lord! I canna say thy
will be done. But dinna lay 't to my chairge; for gin ye was a
mither yersel' ye wadna pit him there. O Lord! I'm verra
ill-fashioned. I beg yer pardon. I'm near oot o' my min'. Forgie
me, O Lord! for I hardly ken what I'm sayin'. He was my ain babe,
my ain Anerew, and ye gae him to me yersel'. And noo he's for the
finger o' scorn to pint at; an ootcast an' a wan'erer frae his ain
country, an' daurna come within sicht o' 't for them 'at wad tak'
the law o' 'm. An' it's a' drink--drink an' ill company! He wad
hae dune weel eneuch gin they wad only hae latten him be. What for
maun men be aye drink-drinkin' at something or ither? I never want
it. Eh! gin I war as young as whan he was born, I wad be up an'
awa' this verra nicht to luik for him. But it's no use me tryin'
't. O God! ance mair I pray thee to turn him frae the error o' 's
ways afore he goes hence an' isna more. And O dinna lat Robert gang
efter him, as he's like eneuch to do. Gie me grace to haud him
ticht, that he may be to the praise o' thy glory for ever an' ever.

Whether it was that the weary woman here fell asleep, or that she
was too exhausted for further speech, Robert heard no more, though
he remained there frozen with horror for some minutes after his
grandmother had ceased. This, then, was the reason why she would
never speak about his father! She kept all her thoughts about him
for the silence of the night, and loneliness with the God who never
sleeps, but watches the wicked all through the dark. And his father
was one of the wicked! And God was against him! And when he died
he would go to hell! But he was not dead yet: Robert was sure of
that. And when he grew a man, he would go and seek him, and beg him
on his knees to repent and come back to God, who would forgive him
then, and take him to heaven when he died. And there he would be
good, and good people would love him.

Something like this passed through the boy's mind ere he moved to
creep from the room, for his was one of those natures which are
active in the generation of hope. He had almost forgotten what he
came there for; and had it not been that he had promised Shargar, he
would have crept back to his bed and left him to bear his hunger as
best he could. But now, first his right hand, then his left knee,
like any other quadruped, he crawled to the door, rose only to his
knees to open it, took almost a minute to the operation, then
dropped and crawled again, till he had passed out, turned, and drawn
the door to, leaving it slightly ajar. Then it struck him awfully
that the same terrible passage must be gone through again. But he
rose to his feet, for he had no shoes on, and there was little
danger of making any noise, although it was pitch dark--he knew the
house so well. With gathering courage, he felt his way to the
kitchen, and there groped about; but he could find nothing beyond a
few quarters of oat-cake, which, with a mug of water, he proceeded
to carry up to Shargar in the garret.

When he reached the kitchen door, he was struck with amazement and
for a moment with fresh fear. A light was shining into the transe
from the stair which went up at right angles from the end of it. He
knew it could not be grannie, and he heard Betty snoring in her own
den, which opened from the kitchen. He thought it must be Shargar
who had grown impatient; but how he had got hold of a light he could
not think. As soon as he turned the corner, however, the doubt was
changed into mystery. At the top of the broad low stair stood a
woman-form with a candle in her hand, gazing about her as if
wondering which way to go. The light fell full upon her face, the
beauty of which was such that, with her dress, which was
white--being, in fact, a nightgown--and her hair, which was hanging
loose about her shoulders and down to her waist, it led Robert at
once to the conclusion (his reasoning faculties already shaken by
the events of the night) that she was an angel come down to comfort
his grannie; and he kneeled involuntarily at the foot of the stair,
and gazed up at her, with the cakes in one hand, and the mug of
water in the other, like a meat-and-drink offering. Whether he had
closed his eyes or bowed his head, he could not say; but he became
suddenly aware that the angel had vanished--he knew not when, how,
or whither. This for a time confirmed his assurance that it was an
angel. And although he was undeceived before long, the impression
made upon him that night was never effaced. But, indeed, whatever
Falconer heard or saw was something more to him than it would have
been to anybody else.

Elated, though awed, by the vision, he felt his way up the stair in
the new darkness, as if walking in a holy dream, trod as if upon
sacred ground as he crossed the landing where the angel had
stood--went up and up, and found Shargar wide awake with expectant
hunger. He, too, had caught a glimmer of the light. But Robert did
not tell him what he had seen. That was too sacred a subject to
enter upon with Shargar, and he was intent enough upon his supper
not to be inquisitive.

Robert left him to finish it at his leisure, and returned to cross
his grandmother's room once more, half expecting to find the angel
standing by her bedside. But all was dark and still. Creeping back
as he had come, he heard her quiet, though deep, breathing, and his
mind was at ease about her for the night. What if the angel he had
surprised had only come to appear to grannie in her sleep? Why not?
There were such stories in the Bible, and grannie was certainly as
good as some of the people in the Bible that saw angels--Sarah, for
instance. And if the angels came to see grannie, why should they
not have some care over his father as well? It might be--who could

It is perhaps necessary to explain Robert's vision. The angel was
the owner of the boxes he had seen at The Bear's Head. Looking
around her room before going to bed, she had seen a trap in the
floor near the wall, and raising it, had discovered a few steps of a
stair leading down to a door. Curiosity naturally led her to
examine it. The key was in the lock. It opened outwards, and there
she found herself, to her surprise, in the heart of another
dwelling, of lowlier aspect. She never saw Robert; for while he
approached with shoeless feet, she had been glancing through the
open door of the gable-room, and when he knelt, the light which she
held in her hand had, I presume, hidden him from her. He, on his
part, had not observed that the moveless door stood open at last.

I have already said that the house adjoining had been built by
Robert's father. The lady's room was that which he had occupied
with his wife, and in it Robert had been born. The door, with its
trap-stair, was a natural invention for uniting the levels of the
two houses, and a desirable one in not a few of the forms which the
weather assumed in that region. When the larger house passed into
other hands, it had never entered the minds of the simple people who
occupied the contiguous dwellings, to build up the doorway between.



The friendship of Robert had gained Shargar the favourable notice of
others of the school-public. These were chiefly of those who came
from the country, ready to follow an example set them by a town boy.
When his desertion was known, moved both by their compassion for
him, and their respect for Robert, they began to give him some
portion of the dinner they brought with them; and never in his life
had Shargar fared so well as for the first week after he had been
cast upon the world. But in proportion as their interest faded with
the novelty, so their appetites reasserted former claims of use and
wont, and Shargar began once more to feel the pangs of hunger. For
all that Robert could manage to procure for him without attracting
the attention he was so anxious to avoid, was little more than
sufficient to keep his hunger alive, Shargar being gifted with a
great appetite, and Robert having no allowance of pocket-money from
his grandmother. The threepence he had been able to spend on him
were what remained of sixpence Mr. Innes had given him for an
exercise which he wrote in blank verse instead of in prose--an
achievement of which the school-master was proud, both from his
reverence for Milton, and from his inability to compose a metrical
line himself. And how and when he should ever possess another penny
was even unimaginable. Shargar's shilling was likewise spent. So
Robert could but go on pocketing instead of eating all that he
dared, watching anxiously for opportunity of evading the eyes of his
grandmother. On her dimness of sight, however, he depended too
confidently after all; for either she was not so blind as he thought
she was, or she made up for the defect of her vision by the keenness
of her observation. She saw enough to cause her considerable
annoyance, though it suggested nothing inconsistent with rectitude
on the part of the boy, further than that there was something
underhand going on. One supposition after another arose in the old
lady's brain, and one after another was dismissed as improbable.
First, she tried to persuade herself that he wanted to take the
provisions to school with him, and eat them there--a proceeding of
which she certainly did not approve, but for the reproof of which
she was unwilling to betray the loopholes of her eyes. Next she
concluded, for half a day, that he must have a pair of rabbits
hidden away in some nook or other--possibly in the little strip of
garden belonging to the house. And so conjecture followed
conjecture for a whole week, during which, strange to say, not even
Betty knew that Shargar slept in the house. For so careful and
watchful were the two boys, that although she could not help
suspecting something from the expression and behaviour of Robert,
what that something might be she could not imagine; nor had she and
her mistress as yet exchanged confidences on the subject. Her
observation coincided with that of her mistress as to the
disappearance of odds and ends of eatables--potatoes, cold porridge,
bits of oat-cake; and even, on one occasion, when Shargar happened
to be especially ravenous, a yellow, or cured and half-dried,
haddock, which the lad devoured raw, vanished from her domain. He
went to school in the morning smelling so strong in consequence,
that they told him he must have been passing the night in Scroggie's
cart, and not on his horse's back this time.

The boys kept their secret well.

One evening, towards the end of the week, Robert, after seeing
Shargar disposed of for the night, proceeded to carry out a project
which had grown in his brain within the last two days in consequence
of an occurrence with which his relation to Shargar had had
something to do. It was this:

The housing of Shargar in the garret had led Robert to make a close
acquaintance with the place. He was familiar with all the outs and
ins of the little room which he considered his own, for that was a
civilized, being a plastered, ceiled, and comparatively well-lighted
little room, but not with the other, which was three times its size,
very badly lighted, and showing the naked couples from roof-tree to
floor. Besides, it contained no end of dark corners, with which his
childish imagination had associated undefined horrors, assuming now
one shape, now another. Also there were several closets in it,
constructed in the angles of the place, and several chests--two of
which he had ventured to peep into. But although he had found them
filled, not with bones, as he had expected, but one with papers, and
one with garments, he had yet dared to carry his researches no
further. One evening, however, when Betty was out, and he had got
hold of her candle, and gone up to keep Shargar company for a few
minutes, a sudden impulse seized him to have a peep into all the
closets. One of them he knew a little about, as containing, amongst
other things, his father's coat with the gilt buttons, and his
great-grandfather's kilt, as well as other garments useful to
Shargar: now he would see what was in the rest. He did not find
anything very interesting, however, till he arrived at the last.
Out of it he drew a long queer-shaped box into the light of Betty's

'Luik here, Shargar!' he said under his breath, for they never dared
to speak aloud in these precincts--'luik here! What can there be in
this box? Is't a bairnie's coffin, duv ye think? Luik at it.'

In this case Shargar, having roamed the country a good deal more
than Robert, and having been present at some merry-makings with his
mother, of which there were comparatively few in that country-side,
was better informed than his friend.

'Eh! Bob, duvna ye ken what that is? I thocht ye kent a' thing.
That's a fiddle.'

'That's buff an' styte (stuff and nonsense), Shargar. Do ye think I
dinna ken a fiddle whan I see ane, wi' its guts ootside o' 'ts wame,
an' the thoomacks to screw them up wi' an' gar't skirl?'

'Buff an' styte yersel'!' cried Shargar, in indignation, from the
bed. 'Gie's a haud o' 't.'

Robert handed him the case. Shargar undid the hooks in a moment,
and revealed the creature lying in its shell like a boiled bivalve.

'I tellt ye sae!' he exclaimed triumphantly. 'Maybe ye'll lippen to
me (trust me) neist time.'

'An' I tellt you,' retorted Robert, with an equivocation altogether
unworthy of his growing honesty. 'I was cocksure that cudna be a
fiddle. There's the fiddle i' the hert o' 't! Losh! I min' noo.
It maun be my grandfather's fiddle 'at I hae heard tell o'.'

'No to ken a fiddle-case!' reflected Shargar, with as much of
contempt as it was possible for him to show.

'I tell ye what, Shargar,' returned Robert, indignantly; 'ye may ken
the box o' a fiddle better nor I do, but de'il hae me gin I dinna
ken the fiddle itsel' raither better nor ye do in a fortnicht frae
this time. I s' tak' it to Dooble Sanny; he can play the fiddle
fine. An' I'll play 't too, or the de'il s' be in't.'

'Eh, man, that 'll be gran'!' cried Shargar, incapable of jealousy.
'We can gang to a' the markets thegither and gaither baubees

To this anticipation Robert returned no reply, for, hearing Betty
come in, he judged it time to restore the violin to its case, and
Betty's candle to the kitchen, lest she should invade the upper
regions in search of it. But that very night he managed to have an
interview with Dooble Sanny, the shoemaker, and it was arranged
between them that Robert should bring his violin on the evening at
which my story has now arrived.

Whatever motive he had for seeking to commence the study of music,
it holds even in more important matters that, if the thing pursued
be good, there is a hope of the pursuit purifying the motive. And
Robert no sooner heard the fiddle utter a few mournful sounds in the
hands of the soutar, who was no contemptible performer, than he
longed to establish such a relation between himself and the strange
instrument, that, dumb and deaf as it had been to him hitherto, it
would respond to his touch also, and tell him the secrets of its
queerly-twisted skull, full of sweet sounds instead of brains. From
that moment he would be a musician for music's own sake, and forgot
utterly what had appeared to him, though I doubt if it was, the sole
motive of his desire to learn--namely, the necessity of retaining
his superiority over Shargar.

What added considerably to the excitement of his feelings on the
occasion, was the expression of reverence, almost of awe, with which
the shoemaker took the instrument from its case, and the tenderness
with which he handled it. The fact was that he had not had a violin
in his hands for nearly a year, having been compelled to pawn his
own in order to alleviate the sickness brought on his wife by his
own ill-treatment of her, once that he came home drunk from a
wedding. It was strange to think that such dirty hands should be
able to bring such sounds out of the instrument the moment he got it
safely cuddled under his cheek. So dirty were they, that it was
said Dooble Sanny never required to carry any rosin with him for
fiddler's need, his own fingers having always enough upon them for
one bow at least. Yet the points of those fingers never lost the
delicacy of their touch. Some people thought this was in virtue of
their being washed only once a week--a custom Alexander justified on
the ground that, in a trade like his, it was of no use to wash
oftener, for he would be just as dirty again before night.

The moment he began to play, the face of the soutar grew ecstatic.
He stopped at the very first note, notwithstanding, let fall his
arms, the one with the bow, the other with the violin, at his sides,
and said, with a deep-drawn respiration and lengthened utterance:


Then after a pause, during which he stood motionless:

'The crater maun be a Cry Moany! Hear till her!' he added, drawing
another long note.

Then, after another pause:

'She's a Straddle Vawrious at least! Hear till her. I never had
sic a combination o' timmer and catgut atween my cleuks (claws)

As to its being a Stradivarius, or even a Cremona at all, the
testimony of Dooble Sanny was not worth much on the point. But the
shoemaker's admiration roused in the boy's mind a reverence for the
individual instrument which he never lost.

>From that day the two were friends.

Suddenly the soutar started off at full speed in a strathspey, which
was soon lost in the wail of a Highland psalm-tune, giving place in
its turn to 'Sic a wife as Willie had!' And on he went without
pause, till Robert dared not stop any longer. The fiddle had
bewitched the fiddler.

'Come as aften 's ye like, Robert, gin ye fess this leddy wi' ye,'
said the soutar.

And he stroked the back of the violin tenderly with his open palm.

'But wad ye hae ony objection to lat it lie aside ye, and lat me
come whan I can?'

'Objection, laddie? I wad as sune objeck to lattin' my ain wife lie
aside me.'

'Ay,' said Robert, seized with some anxiety about the violin as he
remembered the fate of the wife, 'but ye ken Elspet comes aff a' the
waur sometimes.'

Softened by the proximity of the wonderful violin, and stung afresh
by the boy's words as his conscience had often stung him before, for
he loved his wife dearly save when the demon of drink possessed him,
the tears rose in Elshender's eyes. He held out the violin to
Robert, saying, with unsteady voice:

'Hae, tak her awa'. I dinna deserve to hae sic a thing i' my hoose.
But hear me, Robert, and lat hearin' be believin'. I never was sae
drunk but I cud tune my fiddle. Mair by token, ance they fand me
lyin' o' my back i' the Corrie, an' the watter, they say, was ower
a' but the mou' o' me; but I was haudin' my fiddle up abune my heid,
and de'il a spark o' watter was upo' her.'

'It's a pity yer wife wasna yer fiddle, than, Sanny,' said Robert,
with more presumption than wit.

''Deed ye're i' the richt, there, Robert. Hae, tak' yer fiddle.'

''Deed no,' returned Robert. 'I maun jist lippen (trust) to ye,
Sanders. I canna bide langer the nicht; but maybe ye'll tell me hoo
to haud her the neist time 'at I come--will ye?'

'That I wull, Robert, come whan ye like. An' gin ye come o' ane 'at
cud play this fiddle as this fiddle deserves to be playt, ye'll do
me credit.'

'Ye min' what that sumph Lumley said to me the ither nicht, Sanders,
aboot my grandfather?'

'Ay, weel eneuch. A dish o' drucken havers!'

'It was true eneuch aboot my great-grandfather, though.'

'No! Was't railly?'

'Ay. He was the best piper in 's regiment at Culloden. Gin they had
a' fouchten as he pipit, there wad hae been anither tale to tell.
And he was toon-piper forby, jist like you, Sanders, efter they
took frae him a' 'at he had.'

'Na! heard ye ever the like o' that! Weel, wha wad hae thocht it?
Faith! we maun hae you fiddle as weel as yer lucky-daiddy
pipit.--But here's the King o' Bashan comin' efter his butes, an'
them no half dune yet!' exclaimed Dooble Sanny, settling in haste to
his awl and his lingel (Fr. ligneul). 'He'll be roarin' mair like a
bull o' the country than the king o' 't.'

As Robert departed, Peter Ogg came in, and as he passed the window,
he heard the shoemaker averring:

'I haena risen frae my stule sin' ane o'clock; but there's a sicht
to be dune to them, Mr. Ogg.'

Indeed, Alexander ab Alexandro, as Mr. Innes facetiously styled him,
was in more ways than one worthy of the name of Dooble. There
seemed to be two natures in the man, which all his music had not yet
been able to blend.



Little did Robert dream of the reception that awaited him at home.
Almost as soon as he had left the house, the following events began
to take place.

The mistress's bell rang, and Betty 'gaed benn the hoose to see what
she cud be wantin',' whereupon a conversation ensued.

'Wha was that at the door, Betty?' asked Mrs. Falconer; for Robert
had not shut the door so carefully as he ought, seeing that the
deafness of his grandmother was of much the same faculty as her

Had Robert not had a hold of Betty by the forelock of her years, he
would have been unable to steal any liberty at all. Still Betty had
a conscience, and although she would not offend Robert if she could
help it, yet she would not lie.

''Deed, mem, I canna jist distinckly say 'at I heard the door,' she

'Whaur's Robert?' was her next question.

'He's generally up the stair aboot this hoor, mem--that is, whan
he's no i' the parlour at 's lessons.'

'What gangs he sae muckle up the stair for, Betty, do ye ken? It's
something by ordinar' wi' 'm.'

''Deed I dinna ken, mem. I never tuik it into my heid to gang
considerin' aboot it. He'll hae some ploy o' 's ain, nae doobt.
Laddies will be laddies, ye ken, mem.'

'I doobt, Betty, ye'll be aidin' an' abettin'. An' it disna become
yer years, Betty.'

'My years are no to fin' faut wi', mem. They're weel eneuch.'

'That's naething to the pint, Betty. What's the laddie aboot?'

'Do ye mean whan he gangs up the stair, mem?'

'Ay. Ye ken weel eneuch what I mean.'

'Weel, mem, I tell ye I dinna ken. An' ye never heard me tell ye a
lee sin' ever I was i' yer service, mem.'

'Na, nae doonricht. Ye gang aboot it an' aboot it, an' at last ye
come sae near leein' that gin ye spak anither word, ye wad be at it;
and it jist fleys (frights) me frae speirin' ae ither question at
ye. An' that's hoo ye win oot o' 't. But noo 'at it's aboot my ain
oye (grandson), I'm no gaein' to tyne (lose) him to save a woman o'
your years, wha oucht to ken better; an sae I'll speir at ye, though
ye suld be driven to lee like Sawtan himsel'.--What's he aboot whan
he gangs up the stair? Noo!'

'Weel, as sure's deith, I dinna ken. Ye drive me to sweirin', mem,
an' no to leein'.'

'I carena. Hae ye no idea aboot it, than, Betty?'

'Weel, mem, I think sometimes he canna be weel, and maun hae a tod
(fox) in 's stamack, or something o' that nater. For what he eats
is awfu'. An' I think whiles he jist gangs up the stair to eat at
's ain wull.'

'That jumps wi' my ain observations, Betty. Do ye think he micht
hae a rabbit, or maybe a pair o' them, in some boxie i' the garret,

'And what for no, gin he had, mem?'

'What for no? Nesty stinkin' things! But that's no the pint. I
aye hae to haud ye to the pint, Betty. The pint is, whether he has
rabbits or no?'

'Or guinea-pigs,' suggested Betty.


'Or maybe a pup or twa. Or I kent a laddie ance 'at keepit a haill
faimily o' kittlins. Or maybe he micht hae a bit lammie. There was
an uncle o' min' ain--'

'Haud yer tongue, Betty! Ye hae ower muckle to say for a' the sense
there's intil 't.'

'Weel, mem, ye speirt questions at me.'

'Weel, I hae had eneuch o' yer answers, Betty. Gang and tell Robert
to come here direckly.'

Betty went, knowing perfectly that Robert had gone out, and returned
with the information. Her mistress searched her face with a keen

'That maun hae been himsel' efter a' whan ye thocht ye hard the door
gang,' said Betty.

'It's a strange thing that I suld hear him benn here wi' the door
steekit, an' your door open at the verra door-cheek o' the ither,
an' you no hear him, Betty. And me sae deif as weel!'

''Deed, mem,' retorted Betty, losing her temper a little, 'I can be
as deif 's ither fowk mysel' whiles.'

When Betty grew angry, Mrs. Falconer invariably grew calm, or, at
least, put her temper out of sight. She was silent now, and
continued silent till Betty moved to return to her kitchen, when she
said, in a tone of one who had just arrived at an important

'Betty, we'll jist awa' up the stair an' luik.'

'Weel, mem, I hae nae objections.'

'Nae objections! What for suld you or ony ither body hae ony
objections to me gaein' whaur I like i' my ain hoose? Umph!'
exclaimed Mrs. Falconer, turning and facing her maid.

'In coorse, mem. I only meant I had nae objections to gang wi' ye.'

'And what for suld you or ony ither woman that I paid twa pun' five
i' the half-year till, daur to hae objections to gaein' whaur I
wantit ye to gang i' my ain hoose?'

'Hoot, mem! it was but a slip o' the tongue--naething mair.'

'Slip me nae sic slips, or ye'll come by a fa' at last, I doobt,
Betty,' concluded Mrs. Falconer, in a mollified tone, as she turned
and led the way from the room.

They got a candle in the kitchen and proceeded up-stairs, Mrs.
Falconer still leading, and Betty following. They did not even look
into the ga'le-room, not doubting that the dignity of the best
bed-room was in no danger of being violated even by Robert, but took
their way upwards to the room in which he kept his
school-books--almost the only articles of property which the boy
possessed. Here they found nothing suspicious. All was even in the
best possible order--not a very wonderful fact, seeing a few books
and a slate were the only things there besides the papers on the

What the feelings of Shargar must have been when he heard the steps
and voices, and saw the light approaching his place of refuge, we
will not change our point of view to inquire. He certainly was as
little to be envied at that moment as at any moment during the whole
of his existence.

The first sense Mrs. Falconer made use of in the search after
possible animals lay in her nose. She kept snuffing constantly,
but, beyond the usual musty smell of neglected apartments, had as
yet discovered nothing. The moment she entered the upper garret,

'There's an ill-faured smell here, Betty,' she said, believing that
they had at last found the trail of the mystery; 'but it's no like
the smell o' rabbits. Jist luik i' the nuik there ahin' the door.'

'There's naething here,' responded Betty.

'Roon the en' o' that kist there. I s' luik into the press.'

As Betty rose from her search behind the chest and turned towards
her mistress, her eyes crossed the cavernous opening of the bed.
There, to her horror, she beheld a face like that of a galvanised
corpse staring at her from the darkness. Shargar was in a sitting
posture, paralysed with terror, waiting, like a fascinated bird,
till Mrs. Falconer and Betty should make the final spring upon him,
and do whatever was equivalent to devouring him upon the spot. He
had sat up to listen to the noise of their ascending footsteps, and
fear had so overmastered him, that he either could not, or forgot
that he could lie down and cover his head with some of the many
garments scattered around him.

'I didna say whusky, did I?' he kept repeating to himself, in utter
imbecility of fear.

'The Lord preserve 's!' exclaimed Betty, the moment she could speak;
for during the first few seconds, having caught the infection of
Shargar's expression, she stood equally paralysed. 'The Lord
preserve 's!' she repeated.

'Ance is eneuch,' said Mrs. Falconer, sharply, turning round to see
what the cause of Betty's ejaculation might be.

I have said that she was dim-sighted. The candle they had was
little better than a penny dip. The bed was darker than the rest of
the room. Shargar's face had none of the more distinctive
characteristics of manhood upon it.

'Gude preserve 's!' exclaimed Mrs. Falconer in her turn: 'it's a

Poor deluded Shargar, thinking himself safer under any form than
that which he actually bore, attempted no protest against the
mistake. But, indeed, he was incapable of speech. The two women
flew upon him to drag him out of bed. Then first recovering his
powers of motion, he sprung up in an agony of terror, and darted out
between them, overturning Betty in his course.

'Ye rouch limmer!' cried Betty, from the floor. 'Ye lang-leggit
jaud!' she added, as she rose--and at the same moment Shargar banged
the street-door behind him in his terror--'I wat ye dinna carry yer
coats ower syde (too long)!'

For Shargar, having discovered that the way to get the most warmth
from Robert's great-grandfather's kilt was to wear it in the manner
for which it had been fabricated, was in the habit of fastening it
round his waist before he got into bed; and the eye of Betty, as she
fell, had caught the swing of this portion of his attire.

But poor Mrs. Falconer, with sunken head, walked out of the garret
in the silence of despair. She went slowly down the steep stair,
supporting herself against the wall, her round-toed shoes creaking
solemnly as she went, took refuge in the ga'le-room, and burst into
a violent fit of weeping. For such depravity she was not prepared.
What a terrible curse hung over her family! Surely they were all
reprobate from the womb, not one elected for salvation from the
guilt of Adam's fall, and therefore abandoned to Satan as his
natural prey, to be led captive of him at his will. She threw
herself on her knees at the side of the bed, and prayed
heart-brokenly. Betty heard her as she limped past the door on her
way back to her kitchen.

Meantime Shargar had rushed across the next street on his bare feet
into the Crookit Wynd, terrifying poor old Kirstan Peerie, the
divisions betwixt the compartments of whose memory had broken down,
into the exclamation to her next neighbour, Tam Rhin, with whom she
was trying to gossip:

'Eh, Tammas! that'll be ane o' the slauchtert at Culloden.'

He never stopped till he reached his mother's deserted
abode--strange instinct! There he ran to earth like a hunted fox.
Rushing at the door, forgetful of everything but refuge, he found
it unlocked, and closing it behind him, stood panting like the hart
that has found the water-brooks. The owner had looked in one day to
see whether the place was worth repairing, for it was a mere
outhouse, and had forgotten to turn the key when he left it. Poor
Shargar! Was it more or less of a refuge that the mother that bore
him was not there either to curse or welcome his return? Less--if
we may judge from a remark he once made in my hearing many long
years after:

'For, ye see,' he said, 'a mither's a mither, be she the verra

Searching about in the dark, he found the one article unsold by the
landlord, a stool, with but two of its natural three legs. On this
he balanced himself and waited--simply for what Robert would do; for
his faith in Robert was unbounded, and he had no other hope on
earth. But Shargar was not miserable. In that wretched hovel, his
bare feet clasping the clay floor in constant search of a wavering
equilibrium, with pitch darkness around him, and incapable of the
simplest philosophical or religious reflection, he yet found life
good. For it had interest. Nay, more, it had hope. I doubt,
however, whether there is any interest at all without hope.

While he sat there, Robert, thinking him snug in the garret, was
walking quietly home from the shoemaker's; and his first impulse on
entering was to run up and recount the particulars of his interview
with Alexander. Arrived in the dark garret, he called Shargar, as
usual, in a whisper--received no reply--thought he was
asleep--called louder (for he had had a penny from his grandmother
that day for bringing home two pails of water for Betty, and had
just spent it upon a loaf for him)--but no Shargar replied.
Thereupon he went to the bed to lay hold of him and shake him. But
his searching hands found no Shargar. Becoming alarmed, he ran
down-stairs to beg a light from Betty.

When he reached the kitchen, he found Betty's nose as much in the
air as its construction would permit. For a hook-nosed animal, she
certainly was the most harmless and ovine creature in the world, but
this was a case in which feminine modesty was both concerned and
aggrieved. She showed her resentment no further, however, than by
simply returning no answer in syllable, or sound, or motion, to
Robert's request. She was washing up the tea-things, and went on
with her work as if she had been in absolute solitude, saving that
her countenance could hardly have kept up that expression of injured
dignity had such been the case. Robert plainly saw, to his great
concern, that his secret had been discovered in his absence, and
that Shargar had been expelled with contumely. But, with an
instinct of facing the worst at once which accompanied him through
life, he went straight to his grandmother's parlour.

'Well, grandmamma,' he said, trying to speak as cheerfully as he

Grannie's prayers had softened her a little, else she would have
been as silent as Betty; for it was from her mistress that Betty had
learned this mode of torturing a criminal. So she was just able to
return his greeting in the words, 'Weel, Robert,' pronounced in a
finality of tone that indicated she had done her utmost, and had
nothing to add.

'Here's a browst (brewage)!' thought Robert to himself; and, still
on the principle of flying at the first of mischief he saw--the best
mode of meeting it, no doubt--addressed his grandmother at once.
The effort necessary gave a tone of defiance to his words.

'What for willna ye speik to me, grannie?' he said. 'I'm no a
haithen, nor yet a papist.'

'Ye're waur nor baith in ane, Robert.'

'Hoots! ye winna say baith, grannie,' returned Robert, who, even at
the age of fourteen, when once compelled to assert himself, assumed
a modest superiority.

'Nane o' sic impidence!' retorted Mrs. Falconer. 'I wonner whaur ye
learn that. But it's nae wonner. Evil communications corrupt gude
mainners. Ye're a lost prodigal, Robert, like yer father afore ye.
I hae jist been sittin' here thinkin' wi' mysel' whether it wadna
be better for baith o' 's to lat ye gang an' reap the fruit o' yer
doin's at ance; for the hard ways is the best road for
transgressors. I'm no bund to keep ye.'

'Weel, weel, I s' awa' to Shargar. Him and me 'ill haud on
thegither better nor you an' me, grannie. He's a puir cratur, but
he can stick till a body.'

'What are ye haverin' aboot Shargar for, ye heepocreet loon? Ye'll
no gang to Shargar, I s' warran'! Ye'll be efter that vile limmer
that's turnt my honest hoose intil a sty this last fortnicht.'

'Grannie, I dinna ken what ye mean.'

'She kens, than. I sent her aff like ane o' Samson's foxes, wi' a
firebrand at her tail. It's a pity it wasna tied atween the twa o'

'Preserve 's, grannie! Is't possible ye hae ta'en Shargar for ane
o' wumman-kin'?'

'I ken naething aboot Shargar, I tell ye. I ken that Betty an' me
tuik an ill-faured dame i' the bed i' the garret.'

'Cud it be his mither?' thought Robert in bewilderment; but he
recovered himself in a moment, and answered,

'Shargar may be a quean efter a', for onything 'at I ken to the
contrairy; but I aye tuik him for a loon. Faith, sic a quean as
he'd mak!'

And careless to resist the ludicrousness of the idea, he burst into
a loud fit of laughter, which did more to reassure his grannie than
any amount of protestation could have done, however she pretended to
take offence at his ill-timed merriment.

Seeing his grandmother staggered, Robert gathered courage to assume
the offensive.

'But, granny! hoo ever Betty, no to say you, cud hae driven oot a
puir half-stervit cratur like Shargar, even supposin' he oucht to
hae been in coaties, and no in troosers--and the mither o' him run
awa' an' left him--it's mair nor I can unnerstan.' I misdoobt me
sair but he's gane and droont himsel'.'

Robert knew well enough that Shargar would not drown himself without
at least bidding him good-bye; but he knew too that his grandmother
could be wrought upon. Her conscience was more tender than her
feelings; and this peculiarity occasioned part of the mutual
non-understanding rather than misunderstanding between her grandson
and herself. The first relation she bore to most that came near her
was one of severity and rebuke; but underneath her cold outside lay
a warm heart, to which conscience acted the part of a somewhat
capricious stoker, now quenching its heat with the cold water of
duty, now stirring it up with the poker of reproach, and ever
treating it as an inferior and a slave. But her conscience was, on
the whole, a better friend to her race than her heart; and, indeed,
the conscience is always a better friend than a heart whose motions
are undirected by it. From Falconer's account of her, however, I
cannot help thinking that she not unfrequently took refuge in
severity of tone and manner from the threatened ebullition of a
feeling which she could not otherwise control, and which she was
ashamed to manifest. Possibly conscience had spoken more and more
gently as its behests were more and more readily obeyed, until the
heart began to gather courage, and at last, as in many old people,
took the upper hand, which was outwardly inconvenient to one of Mrs.
Falconer's temperament. Hence, in doing the kindest thing in the
world, she would speak in a tone of command, even of rebuke, as if
she were compelling the performance of the most unpleasant duty in
the person who received the kindness. But the human heart is hard
to analyze, and, indeed, will not submit quietly to the operation,
however gently performed. Nor is the result at all easy to put into
words. It is best shown in actions.

Again, it may appear rather strange that Robert should be able to
talk in such an easy manner to his grandmother, seeing he had been
guilty of concealment, if not of deception. But she had never been
so actively severe towards Robert as she had been towards her own
children. To him she was wonderfully gentle for her nature, and
sought to exercise the saving harshness which she still believed
necessary, solely in keeping from him every enjoyment of life which
the narrowest theories as to the rule and will of God could set down
as worldly. Frivolity, of which there was little in this sober boy,
was in her eyes a vice; loud laughter almost a crime; cards, and
novelles, as she called them, were such in her estimation, as to be
beyond my powers of characterization. Her commonest injunction was,
'Noo be douce,'--that is sober--uttered to the soberest boy she
could ever have known. But Robert was a large-hearted boy, else
this life would never have had to be written; and so, through all
this, his deepest nature came into unconscious contact with that of
his noble old grandmother. There was nothing small about either of
them. Hence Robert was not afraid of her. He had got more of her
nature in him than of her son's. She and his own mother had more
share in him than his father, though from him he inherited good
qualities likewise.

He had concealed his doings with Shargar simply because he believed
they could not be done if his grandmother knew of his plans. Herein
he did her less than justice. But so unpleasant was concealment to
his nature, and so much did the dread of discovery press upon him,
that the moment he saw the thing had come out into the daylight of
her knowledge, such a reaction of relief took place as, operating
along with his deep natural humour and the comical circumstance of
the case, gave him an ease and freedom of communication which he had
never before enjoyed with her. Likewise there was a certain courage
in the boy which, if his own natural disposition had not been so
quiet that he felt the negations of her rule the less, might have
resulted in underhand doings of a very different kind, possibly,
from those of benevolence.

He must have been a strange being to look at, I always think, at
this point of his development, with his huge nose, his black eyes,
his lanky figure, and his sober countenance, on which a smile was
rarely visible, but from which burst occasional guffaws of laughter.

At the words 'droont himsel',' Mrs. Falconer started.

'Rin, laddie, rin,' she said, 'an' fess him back direckly! Betty!
Betty! gang wi' Robert and help him to luik for Shargar. Ye auld,
blin', doited body, 'at says ye can see, and canna tell a lad frae a

'Na, na, grannie. I'm no gaein' oot wi' a dame like her trailin' at
my fut. She wad be a sair hinnerance to me. Gin Shargar be to be
gotten--that is, gin he be in life--I s' get him wantin' Betty. And
gin ye dinna ken him for the crater ye fand i' the garret, he maun
be sair changed sin' I left him there.'

'Weel, weel, Robert, gang yer wa's. But gin ye be deceivin' me, may
the Lord--forgie ye, Robert, for sair ye'll need it.'

'Nae fear o' that, grannie,' returned Robert, from the street door,
and vanished.

Mrs. Falconer stalked--No, I will not use that word of the gait of a
woman like my friend's grandmother. 'Stately stept she butt the
hoose' to Betty. She felt strangely soft at the heart, Robert not
being yet proved a reprobate; but she was not therefore prepared to
drop one atom of the dignity of her relation to her servant.

'Betty,' she said, 'ye hae made a mistak.'

'What's that, mem?' returned Betty.

'It wasna a lass ava; it was that crater Shargar.'

'Ye said it was a lass yersel' first, mem.'

'Ye ken weel eneuch that I'm short sichtit, an' hae been frae the
day o' my birth.'

'I'm no auld eneuch to min' upo' that, mem,' returned Betty
revengefully, but in an undertone, as if she did not intend her
mistress to hear, And although she heard well enough, her mistress
adopted the subterfuge. 'But I'll sweir the crater I saw was in
cwytes (petticoats).'

'Sweir not at all, Betty. Ye hae made a mistak ony gait.'

'Wha says that, mem?'


'Aweel, gin he be tellin' the trowth--'

'Daur ye mint (insinuate) to me that a son o' mine wad tell onything
but the trowth?'

'Na, na, mem. But gin that wasna a quean, ye canna deny but she
luikit unco like ane, and no a blate (bashful) ane eyther.'

'Gin he was a loon, he wadna luik like a blate lass, ony gait,
Betty. And there ye're wrang.'

'Weel, weel, mem, hae 't yer ain gait,' muttered Betty.

'I wull hae 't my ain gait,' retorted her mistress, 'because it's
the richt gait, Betty. An' noo ye maun jist gang up the stair, an'
get the place cleant oot an' put in order.'

'I wull do that, mem.'

'Ay wull ye. An' luik weel aboot, Betty, you that can see sae weel,
in case there suld be ony cattle aboot; for he's nane o' the
cleanest, yon dame!'

'I wull do that, mem.'

'An' gang direckly, afore he comes back.'

'Wha comes back?'

'Robert, of course.'

'What for that?'

''Cause he's comin' wi' 'im.'

'What he 's comin' wi' 'im?'

'Ca' 't she, gin ye like. It's Shargar.'

'Wha says that?' exclaimed Betty, sniffing and starting at once.

'I say that. An' ye gang an' du what I tell ye, this minute.'

Betty obeyed instantly; for the tone in which the last words were
spoken was one she was not accustomed to dispute. She only muttered
as she went, 'It 'll a' come upo' me as usual.'

Betty's job was long ended before Robert returned. Never dreaming
that Shargar could have gone back to the old haunt, he had looked
for him everywhere before that occurred to him as a last chance.
Nor would he have found him even then, for he would not have
thought of his being inside the deserted house, had not Shargar
heard his footsteps in the street.

He started up from his stool saying, 'That's Bob!' but was not sure
enough to go to the door: he might be mistaken; it might be the
landlord! He heard the feet stop and did not move; but when he
heard them begin to go away again, he rushed to the door, and bawled
on the chance at the top of his voice, 'Bob! Bob!'

'Eh! ye crater!' said Robert, 'ir ye there efter a'?

'Eh! Bob,' exclaimed Shargar, and burst into tears. 'I thocht ye
wad come efter me.'

'Of coorse,' answered Robert, coolly. 'Come awa' hame.'

'Whaur til?' asked Shargar in dismay.

'Hame to yer ain bed at my grannie's.'

'Na, na,' said Shargar, hurriedly, retreating within the door of the
hovel. 'Na, na, Bob, lad, I s' no du that. She's an awfu' wuman,
that grannie o' yours. I canna think hoo ye can bide wi' her. I'm
weel oot o' her grups, I can tell ye.'

It required a good deal of persuasion, but at last Robert prevailed
upon Shargar to return. For was not Robert his tower of strength?
And if Robert was not frightened at his grannie, or at Betty, why
should he be? At length they entered Mrs. Falconer's parlour,
Robert dragging in Shargar after him, having failed altogether in
encouraging him to enter after a more dignified fashion.

It must be remembered that although Shargar was still kilted, he was
not the less trowsered, such as the trowsers were. It makes my
heart ache to think of those trowsers--not believing trowsers
essential to blessedness either, but knowing the superiority of the
old Roman costume of the kilt.

No sooner had Mrs. Falconer cast her eyes upon him than she could
not but be convinced of the truth of Robert's averment.

'Here he is, grannie; and gin ye bena saitisfeed yet--'

'Haud yer tongue, laddie. Ye hae gi'en me nae cause to doobt yer

Indeed, during Robert's absence, his grandmother had had leisure to
perceive of what an absurd folly she had been guilty. She had also
had time to make up her mind as to her duty with regard to Shargar;
and the more she thought about it, the more she admired the conduct
of her grandson, and the better she saw that it would be right to
follow his example. No doubt she was the more inclined to this
benevolence that she had as it were received her grandson back from
the jaws of death.

When the two lads entered, from her arm-chair Mrs. Falconer examined
Shargar from head to foot with the eye of a queen on her throne, and
a countenance immovable in stern gentleness, till Shargar would
gladly have sunk into the shelter of the voluminous kilt from the
gaze of those quiet hazel eyes.

At length she spoke:

'Robert, tak him awa'.'

'Whaur'll I tak him till, grannie?'

'Tak him up to the garret. Betty 'ill ha' ta'en a tub o' het water
up there 'gen this time, and ye maun see that he washes himsel' frae
heid to fut, or he s' no bide an 'oor i' my hoose. Gang awa' an'
see till 't this minute.'

But she detained them yet awhile with various directions in regard
of cleansing, for the carrying out of which Robert was only too glad
to give his word. She dismissed them at last, and Shargar by and by
found himself in bed, clean, and, for the first time in his life,
between a pair of linen sheets--not altogether to his satisfaction,
for mere order and comfort were substituted for adventure and

But greater trials awaited him. In the morning he was visited by
Brodie, the tailor, and Elshender, the shoemaker, both of whom he
held in awe as his superiors in the social scale, and by them
handled and measured from head to feet, the latter included; after
which he had to lie in bed for three days, till his clothes came
home; for Betty had carefully committed every article of his former
dress to the kitchen fire, not without a sense of pollution to the
bottom of her kettle. Nor would he have got them for double the
time, had not Robert haunted the tailor, as well as the soutar, like
an evil conscience, till they had finished them. Thus grievous was
Shargar's introduction to the comforts of respectability. Nor did
he like it much better when he was dressed, and able to go about;
for not only was he uncomfortable in his new clothes, which, after
the very easy fit of the old ones, felt like a suit of plate-armour,
but he was liable to be sent for at any moment by the awful
sovereignty in whose dominions he found himself, and which, of
course, proceeded to instruct him not merely in his own religious
duties, but in the religious theories of his ancestors, if, indeed,
Shargar's ancestors ever had any. And now the Shorter Catechism
seemed likely to be changed into the Longer Catechism; for he had it
Sundays as we'll as Saturdays, besides Alleine's Alarm to the
Unconverted, Baxter's Saint's Rest, Erskine's Gospel Sonnets, and
other books of a like kind. Nor was it any relief to Shargar that
the gloom was broken by the incomparable Pilgrim's Progress and the
Holy War, for he cared for none of these things. Indeed, so dreary
did he find it all, that his love to Robert was never put to such a
severe test. But for that, he would have run for it. Twenty times
a day was he so tempted.

At school, though it was better, yet it was bad. For he was ten
times as much laughed at for his new clothes, though they were of
the plainest, as he had been for his old rags. Still he bore all
the pangs of unwelcome advancement without a grumble, for the sake
of his friend alone, whose dog he remained as much as ever. But his
past life of cold and neglect, and hunger and blows, and
homelessness and rags, began to glimmer as in the distance of a
vaporous sunset, and the loveless freedom he had then enjoyed gave
it a bloom as of summer-roses.

I wonder whether there may not have been in some unknown corner of
the old lady's mind this lingering remnant of paganism, that, in
reclaiming the outcast from the error of his ways, she was making an
offering acceptable to that God whom her mere prayers could not move
to look with favour upon her prodigal son Andrew. Nor from her own
acknowledged religious belief as a background would it have stuck so
fiery off either. Indeed, it might have been a partial corrective
of some yet more dreadful articles of her creed,--which she held, be
it remembered, because she could not help it.



The winter passed slowly away. Robert and Shargar went to school
together, and learned their lessons together at Mrs. Falconer's
table. Shargar soon learned to behave with tolerable propriety; was
obedient, as far as eye-service went; looked as queer as ever; did
what he pleased, which was nowise very wicked, the moment he was out
of the old lady's sight; was well fed and well cared for; and when
he was asked how he was, gave the invariable answer: 'Middlin'.' He
was not very happy.

There was little communication in words between the two boys, for
the one had not much to say, and the pondering fits of the other
grew rather than relaxed in frequency and intensity. Yet amongst
chance acquaintances in the town Robert had the character of a wag,
of which he was totally unaware himself. Indeed, although he had
more than the ordinary share of humour, I suspect it was not so much
his fun as his earnest that got him the character; for he would say
such altogether unheard-of and strange things, that the only way
they were capable of accounting for him was as a humorist.

'Eh!' he said once to Elshender, during a pause common to a
thunder-storm and a lesson on the violin 'eh! wadna ye like to be up
in that clood wi' a spaud, turnin' ower the divots and catchin' the
flashes lyin' aneath them like lang reid fiery worms?'

'Ay, man, but gin ye luik up to the cloods that gait, ye'll never be
muckle o' a fiddler.'

This was merely an outbreak of that insolence of advice so often
shown to the young from no vantage-ground but that of age and
faithlessness, reminding one of the 'jigging fool' who interfered
between Brutus and Cassius on the sole ground that he had seen more
years than they. As if ever a fiddler that did not look up to the
clouds would be anything but a catgut-scraper! Even Elshender's
fiddle was the one angel that held back the heavy curtain of his
gross nature, and let the sky shine through. He ought to have been
set fiddling every Sunday morning, and from his fiddling dragged
straight to church. It was the only thing man could have done for
his conversion, for then his heart was open, But I fear the prayers
would have closed it before the sermon came. He should rather have
been compelled to take his fiddle to church with him, and have a
gentle scrape at it in the pauses of the service; only there are no
such pauses in the service, alas! And Dooble Sanny, though not too
religious to get drunk occasionally, was a great deal too religious
to play his fiddle on the Sabbath: he would not willingly anger the
powers above; but it was sometimes a sore temptation, especially
after he got possession of old Mr. Falconer's wonderful instrument.

'Hoots, man!' he would say to Robert; 'dinna han'le, her as gin she
war an egg-box. Tak haud o' her as gin she war a leevin' crater.
Ye maun jist straik her canny, an' wile the music oot o' her; for
she's like ither women: gin ye be rouch wi' her, ye winna get a word
oot o' her. An' dinna han'le her that gait. She canna bide to be
contred an' pu'd this gait and that gait.--Come to me, my bonny
leddy. Ye'll tell me yer story, winna ye, my dauty (pet)?'

And with every gesture as if he were humouring a shy and invalid
girl, he would, as he said, wile the music out of her in sobs and
wailing, till the instrument, gathering courage in his embrace, grew
gently merry in its confidence, and broke at last into airy
laughter. He always spoke, and apparently thought, of his violin as
a woman, just as a sailor does of his craft. But there was nothing
about him, except his love for music and its instruments, to suggest
other than a most uncivilized nature. That which was fine in him
was constantly checked and held down by the gross; the merely animal
overpowered the spiritual; and it was only upon occasion that his
heavenly companion, the violin, could raise him a few feet above the
mire and the clay. She never succeeded in setting his feet on a
rock; while, on the contrary, he often dragged her with him into the
mire of questionable company and circumstances. Worthy Mr. Falconer
would have been horrified to see his umquhile modest companion in
such society as that into which she was now introduced at times.
But nevertheless the soutar was a good and patient teacher; and
although it took Robert rather more than a fortnight to redeem his
pledge to Shargar, he did make progress. It could not, however, be
rapid, seeing that an hour at a time, two evenings in the week, was
all that he could give to the violin. Even with this moderation,
the risk of his absence exciting his grandmother's suspicion and
inquiry was far from small.

And now, were those really faded old memories of his grandfather and
his merry kindness, all so different from the solemn benevolence of
his grandmother, which seemed to revive in his bosom with the
revivification of the violin? The instrument had surely laid up a
story in its hollow breast, had been dreaming over it all the time
it lay hidden away in the closet, and was now telling out its dreams
about the old times in the ear of the listening boy. To him also it
began to assume something of that mystery and life which had such a
softening, and, for the moment at least, elevating influence on his

At length the love of the violin had grown upon him so, that he
could not but cast about how he might enjoy more of its company. It
would not do, for many reasons, to go oftener to the shoemaker's,
especially now that the days were getting longer. Nor was that what
he wanted. He wanted opportunity for practice. He wanted to be
alone with the creature, to see if she would not say something more
to him than she had ever said yet. Wafts and odours of melodies
began to steal upon him ere he was aware in the half lights between
sleeping and waking: if he could only entice them to creep out of
the violin, and once 'bless his humble ears' with the bodily hearing
of them! Perhaps he might--who could tell? But how? But where?

There was a building in Rothieden not old, yet so deserted that its
very history seemed to have come to a standstill, and the dust that
filled it to have fallen from the plumes of passing centuries. It
was the property of Mrs. Falconer, left her by her husband. Trade
had gradually ebbed away from the town till the thread-factory stood
unoccupied, with all its machinery rusting and mouldering, just as
the work-people had risen and left it one hot, midsummer day, when
they were told that their services were no longer required. Some of
the thread even remained upon the spools, and in the hollows of some
of the sockets the oil had as yet dried only into a paste; although
to Robert the desertion of the place appeared immemorial. It stood
at a furlong's distance from the house, on the outskirt of the town.
There was a large, neglected garden behind it, with some good
fruit-trees, and plenty of the bushes which boys love for the sake
of their berries. After grannie's jam-pots were properly filled,
the remnant of these, a gleaning far greater than the gathering, was
at the disposal of Robert, and, philosopher although in some measure
he was already, he appreciated the privilege. Haunting this garden
in the previous summer, he had for the first time made acquaintance
with the interior of the deserted factory. The door to the road was
always kept locked, and the key of it lay in one of grannie's
drawers; but he had then discovered a back entrance less securely
fastened, and with a strange mingling of fear and curiosity had from
time to time extended his rambles over what seemed to him the huge
desolation of the place. Half of it was well built of stone and
lime, but of the other half the upper part was built of wood, which
now showed signs of considerable decay. One room opened into
another through the length of the place, revealing a vista of
machines, standing with an air of the last folding of the wings of
silence over them, and the sense of a deeper and deeper sinking into
the soundless abyss. But their activity was not so far vanished but
that by degrees Robert came to fancy that he had some time or other
seen a woman seated at each of those silent powers, whose single
hand set the whole frame in motion, with its numberless spindles and
spools rapidly revolving--a vague mystery of endless threads in
orderly complication, out of which came some desired, to him
unknown, result, so that the whole place was full of a bewildering
tumult of work, every little reel contributing its share, as the
water-drops clashing together make the roar of a tempest. Now all
was still as the church on a week-day, still as the school on a
Saturday afternoon. Nay, the silence seemed to have settled down
like the dust, and grown old and thick, so dead and old that the
ghost of the ancient noise had arisen to haunt the place.

Thither would Robert carry his violin, and there would he woo her.

'I'm thinkin' I maun tak her wi' me the nicht, Sanders,' he said,
holding the fiddle lovingly to his bosom, after he had finished his
next lesson.

The shoemaker looked blank.

'Ye're no gaein' to desert me, are ye?'

'Na, weel I wat!' returned Robert. 'But I want to try her at hame.
I maun get used till her a bittie, ye ken, afore I can du onything
wi' her.'

'I wiss ye had na brought her here ava. What I am to du wantin'

'What for dinna ye get yer ain back?'

'I haena the siller, man. And, forbye, I doobt I wadna be that sair
content wi' her noo gin I had her. I used to think her gran'. But
I'm clean oot o' conceit o' her. That bonnie leddy's ta'en 't clean
oot o' me.'

'But ye canna hae her aye, ye ken, Sanders. She's no mine. She's
my grannie's, ye ken.'

'What's the use o' her to her? She pits nae vailue upon her. Eh,
man, gin she wad gie her to me, I wad haud her i' the best o' shune
a' the lave o' her days.'

'That wadna be muckle, Sanders, for she hasna had a new pair sin'
ever I mind.'

'But I wad haud Betty in shune as weel.'

'Betty pays for her ain shune, I reckon.'

'Weel, I wad haud you in shune, and yer bairns, and yer bairns'
bairns,' cried the soutar, with enthusiasm.

'Hoot, toot, man! Lang or that ye'll be fiddlin' i' the new

'Eh, man!' said Alexander, looking up--he had just cracked the
roset-ends off his hands, for he had the upper leather of a boot in
the grasp of the clams, and his right hand hung arrested on its
blind way to the awl--'duv ye think there'll be fiddles there? I
thocht they war a' hairps, a thing 'at I never saw, but it canna be
up till a fiddle.'

'I dinna ken,' answered Robert; 'but ye suld mak a pint o' seein'
for yersel'.'

'Gin I thoucht there wad be fiddles there, faith I wad hae a try.
It wadna be muckle o' a Jeroozlem to me wantin' my fiddle. But gin
there be fiddles, I daursay they'll be gran' anes. I daursay they
wad gi' me a new ane--I mean ane as auld as Noah's 'at he played i'
the ark whan the de'il cam' in by to hearken. I wad fain hae a try.
Ye ken a' aboot it wi' that grannie o' yours: hoo's a body to

'By giein' up the drink, man.'

'Ay--ay--ay--I reckon ye're richt. Weel, I'll think aboot it whan
ance I'm throu wi' this job. That'll be neist ook, or thereabouts,
or aiblins twa days efter. I'll hae some leiser than.'

Before he had finished speaking he had caught up his awl and begun
to work vigorously, boring his holes as if the nerves of feeling
were continued to the point of the tool, inserting the bristles that
served him for needles with a delicacy worthy of soft-skinned
fingers, drawing through the rosined threads with a whisk, and
untwining them with a crack from the leather that guarded his hands.

'Gude nicht to ye,' said Robert, with the fiddle-case under his arm.

The shoemaker looked up, with his hands bound in his threads.

'Ye're no gaein' to tak her frae me the nicht?'

'Ay am I, but I'll fess her back again. I'm no gaein' to Jericho
wi' her.'

'Gang to Hecklebirnie wi' her, and that's three mile ayont hell.'

'Na; we maun win farther nor that. There canna, be muckle fiddlin'

'Weel, tak her to the new Jeroozlem. I s' gang doon to Lucky
Leary's, and fill mysel' roarin' fou, an' it'll be a' your wyte

'I doobt ye'll get the straiks (blows) though. Or maybe ye think
Bell 'ill tak them for ye.'

Dooble Sanny caught up a huge boot, the sole of which was filled
with broad-headed nails as thick as they could be driven, and, in a
rage, threw it at Robert as he darted out. Through its clang
against the door-cheek, the shoemaker heard a cry from the
instrument. He cast everything from him and sprang after Robert.
But Robert was down the wynd like a long-legged grayhound, and
Elshender could only follow like a fierce mastiff. It was love and
grief, though, and apprehension and remorse, not vengeance, that
winged his heels. He soon saw that pursuit was vain.

'Robert! Robert!' he cried; 'I canna win up wi' ye. Stop, for
God's sake! Is she hurtit?'

Robert stopped at once.

'Ye hae made a bonny leddy o' her--a lameter (cripple) I doobt, like
yer wife,' he answered, with indignation.

'Dinna be aye flingin' a man's fau'ts in 's face. It jist maks him
'at he canna, bide himsel' or you eyther. Lat's see the bonny

Robert complied, for he too was anxious. They were now standing in
the space in front of Shargar's old abode, and there was no one to
be seen. Elshender took the box, opened it carefully, and peeped in
with a face of great apprehension.

'I thocht that was a'!' he said with some satisfaction. 'I kent the
string whan I heard it. But we'll sune get a new thairm till her,'
he added, in a tone of sorrowful commiseration and condolence, as he
took the violin from the case, tenderly as if it had been a hurt

One touch of the bow, drawing out a goul of grief, satisfied him
that she was uninjured. Next a hurried inspection showed him that
there was enough of the catgut twisted round the peg to make up for
the part that was broken off. In a moment he had fastened it to the
tail-piece, tightened and tuned it. Forthwith he took the bow from
the case-lid, and in jubilant guise he expatiated upon the wrong he
had done his bonny leddy, till the doors and windows around were
crowded with heads peering through the dark to see whence the sounds
came, and a little child toddled across from one of the lowliest
houses with a ha'penny for the fiddler. Gladly would Robert have
restored it with interest, but, alas! there was no interest in his
bank, for not a ha'penny had he in the world. The incident recalled
Sandy to Rothieden and its cares. He restored the violin to its
case, and while Robert was fearing he would take it under his arm
and walk away with it, handed it back with a humble sigh and a
'Praise be thankit;' then, without another word, turned and went to
his lonely stool and home 'untreasured of its mistress.' Robert
went home too, and stole like a thief to his room.

The next day was a Saturday, which, indeed, was the real old
Sabbath, or at least the half of it, to the schoolboys of Rothieden.
Even Robert's grannie was Jew enough, or rather Christian enough,
to respect this remnant of the fourth commandment--divine antidote
to the rest of the godless money-making and soul-saving week--and he
had the half-day to himself. So as soon as he had had his dinner,
he managed to give Shargar the slip, left him to the inroads of a
desolate despondency, and stole away to the old factory-garden. The
key of that he had managed to purloin from the kitchen where it
hung; nor was there much danger of its absence being discovered,
seeing that in winter no one thought of the garden. The smuggling
of the violin out of the house was the 'dearest danger'--the more so
that he would not run the risk of carrying her out unprotected, and
it was altogether a bulky venture with the case. But by spying and
speeding he managed it, and soon found himself safe within the high
walls of the garden.

It was early spring. There had been a heavy fall of sleet in the
morning, and now the wind blew gustfully about the place. The
neglected trees shook showers upon him as he passed under them,
trampling down the rank growth of the grass-walks. The long twigs
of the wall-trees, which had never been nailed up, or had been torn
down by the snow and the blasts of winter, went trailing away in the
moan of the fitful wind, and swung back as it sunk to a sigh. The
currant and gooseberry bushes, bare and leafless, and 'shivering all
for cold,' neither reminded him of the feasts of the past summer,
nor gave him any hope for the next. He strode careless through it
all to gain the door at the bottom. It yielded to a push, and the
long grass streamed in over the threshold as he entered. He mounted
by a broad stair in the main part of the house, passing the silent
clock in one of its corners, now expiating in motionlessness the
false accusations it had brought against the work-people, and turned
into the chaos of machinery.

I fear that my readers will expect, from the minuteness with which I
recount these particulars, that, after all, I am going to describe a
rendezvous with a lady, or a ghost at least. I will not plead in
excuse that I, too, have been infected with Sandy's mode of
regarding her, but I plead that in the mind of Robert the proceeding
was involved in something of that awe and mystery with which a youth
approaches the woman he loves. He had not yet arrived at the period
when the feminine assumes its paramount influence, combining in
itself all that music, colour, form, odour, can suggest, with
something infinitely higher and more divine; but he had begun to be
haunted with some vague aspirations towards the infinite, of which
his attempts on the violin were the outcome. And now that he was to
be alone, for the first time, with this wonderful realizer of dreams
and awakener of visions, to do with her as he would, to hint by
gentle touches at the thoughts that were fluttering in his soul, and
listen for her voice that by the echoes in which she strove to
respond he might know that she understood him, it was no wonder if
he felt an ethereal foretaste of the expectation that haunts the
approach of souls.

But I am not even going to describe his first tête-à-tête with his
violin. Perhaps he returned from it somewhat disappointed.
Probably he found her coy, unready to acknowledge his demands on
her attention. But not the less willingly did he return with her to
the solitude of the ruinous factory. On every safe occasion,
becoming more and more frequent as the days grew longer, he repaired
thither, and every time returned more capable of drawing the
coherence of melody from that matrix of sweet sounds.

At length the people about began to say that the factory was
haunted; that the ghost of old Mr. Falconer, unable to repose while
neglect was ruining the precious results of his industry, visited
the place night after night, and solaced his disappointment by
renewing on his favourite violin strains not yet forgotten by him in
his grave, and remembered well by those who had been in his service,
not a few of whom lived in the neighbourhood of the forsaken

One gusty afternoon, like the first, but late in the spring, Robert
repaired as usual to this his secret haunt. He had played for some
time, and now, from a sudden pause of impulse, had ceased, and begun
to look around him. The only light came from two long pale cracks
in the rain-clouds of the west. The wind was blowing through the
broken windows, which stretched away on either hand. A dreary,
windy gloom, therefore, pervaded the desolate place; and in the
dusk, and their settled order, the machines looked multitudinous.
An eerie sense of discomfort came over him as he gazed, and he
lifted his violin to dispel the strange unpleasant feeling that grew
upon him. But at the first long stroke across the strings, an awful
sound arose in the further room; a sound that made him all but drop
the bow, and cling to his violin. It went on. It was the old, all
but forgotten whirr of bobbins, mingled with the gentle groans of
the revolving horizontal wheel, but magnified in the silence of the
place, and the echoing imagination of the boy, into something
preternaturally awful. Yielding for a moment to the growth of
goose-skin, and the insurrection of hair, he recovered himself by a
violent effort, and walked to the door that connected the two
compartments. Was it more or less fearful that the jenny was not
going of itself? that the figure of an old woman sat solemnly
turning and turning the hand-wheel? Not without calling in the jury
of his senses, however, would he yield to the special plea of his
imagination, but went nearer, half expecting to find that the mutch,
with its big flapping borders, glimmering white in the gloom across
many a machine, surrounded the face of a skull. But he was soon
satisfied that it was only a blind woman everybody knew--so old that
she had become childish. She had heard the reports of the factory
being haunted, and groping about with her half-withered brain full
of them, had found the garden and the back door open, and had
climbed to the first-floor by a farther stair, well known to her
when she used to work that very machine. She had seated herself
instinctively, according to ancient wont, and had set it in motion
once more.

Yielding to an impulse of experiment, Robert began to play again.
Thereupon her disordered ideas broke out in words. And Robert soon
began to feel that it could hardly be more ghastly to look upon a
ghost than to be taken for one.

'Ay, ay, sir,' said the old woman, in a tone of commiseration, 'it
maun be sair to bide. I dinna wonner 'at ye canna lie still. But
what gars ye gang daunerin' aboot this place? It's no yours ony
langer. Ye ken whan fowk's deid, they tyne the grip (loose hold).
Ye suld gang hame to yer wife. She micht say a word to quaiet yer
auld banes, for she's a douce an' a wice woman--the mistress.'

Then followed a pause. There was a horror about the old woman's
voice, already half dissolved by death, in the desolate place, that
almost took from Robert the power of motion. But his violin sent
forth an accidental twang, and that set her going again.

'Ye was aye a douce honest gentleman yersel', an' I dinna wonner ye
canna bide it. But I wad hae thoucht glory micht hae hauden ye in.
But yer ain son! Eh ay! And a braw lad and a bonnie! It's a sod
thing he bude to gang the wrang gait; and it's no wonner, as I say,
that ye lea' the worms to come an' luik efter him. I doobt--I doobt
it winna be to you he'll gang at the lang last. There winna be room
for him aside ye in Awbrahawm's boasom. And syne to behave sae ill
to that winsome wife o' his! I dinna wonner 'at ye maun be up! Eh
na! But, sir, sin ye are up, I wish ye wad speyk to John Thamson no
to tak aff the day 'at I was awa' last ook, for 'deed I was verra
unweel, and bude to keep my bed.'

Robert was beginning to feel uneasy as to how he should get rid of
her, when she rose, and saying, 'Ay, ay, I ken it's sax o'clock,'
went out as she had come in. Robert followed, and saw her safe out
of the garden, but did not return to the factory.

So his father had behaved ill to his mother too!

'But what for hearken to the havers o' a dottled auld wife?' he said
to himself, pondering as he walked home.

Old Janet told a strange story of how she had seen the ghost, and
had had a long talk with him, and of what he said, and of how he
groaned and played the fiddle between. And finding that the report
had reached his grandmother's ears, Robert thought it prudent, much
to his discontent, to intermit his visits to the factory. Mrs.
Falconer, of course, received the rumour with indignant scorn, and
peremptorily refused to allow any examination of the premises.

But how have the violin by him and not hear her speak? One evening
the longing after her voice grow upon him till he could resist it no
longer. He shut the door of his garret-room, and, with Shargar by
him, took her out and began to play softly, gently--oh so softly, so
gently! Shargar was enraptured. Robert went on playing.

Suddenly the door opened, and his grannie stood awfully revealed
before them. Betty had heard the violin, and had flown to the
parlour in the belief that, unable to get any one to heed him at the
factory, the ghost had taken Janet's advice, and come home. But his
wife smiled a smile of contempt, went with Betty to the
kitchen--over which Robert's room lay--heard the sounds, put off her
creaking shoes, stole up-stairs on her soft white lambswool
stockings, and caught the pair. The violin was seized, put in its
case, and carried off; and Mrs. Falconer rejoiced to think she had
broken a gin set by Satan for the unwary feet of her poor Robert.
Little she knew the wonder of that violin--how it had kept the soul
of her husband alive! Little she knew how dangerous it is to shut
an open door, with ever so narrow a peep into the eternal, in the
face of a son of Adam! And little she knew how determinedly and
restlessly a nature like Robert's would search for another, to open
one possibly which she might consider ten times more dangerous than
that which she had closed.

When Alexander heard of the affair, he was at first overwhelmed with
the misfortune; but gathering a little heart at last, he set to
'working,' as he said himself, 'like a verra deevil'; and as he was
the best shoemaker in the town, and for the time abstained utterly
from whisky, and all sorts of drink but well-water, he soon managed
to save the money necessary, and redeem the old fiddle. But whether
it was from fancy, or habit, or what, even Robert's inexperienced
ear could not accommodate itself, save under protest, to the
instrument which once his teacher had considered all but perfect;
and it needed the master's finest touch to make its tone other than
painful to the sense of the neophyte.

No one can estimate too highly the value of such a resource to a man
like the shoemaker, or a boy like Robert. Whatever it be that keeps
the finer faculties of the mind awake, wonder alive, and the
interest above mere eating and drinking, money-making and
money-saving; whatever it be that gives gladness, or sorrow, or
hope--this, be it violin, pencil, pen, or, highest of all, the love
of woman, is simply a divine gift of holy influence for the
salvation of that being to whom it comes, for the lifting of him out
of the mire and up on the rock. For it keeps a way open for the
entrance of deeper, holier, grander influences, emanating from the
same riches of the Godhead. And though many have genius that have
no grace, they will only be so much the worse, so much the nearer to
the brute, if you take from them that which corresponds to Dooble
Sanny's fiddle.



For some time after the loss of his friend, Robert went loitering
and mooning about, quite neglecting the lessons to which he had not,
it must be confessed, paid much attention for many weeks. Even when
seated at his grannie's table, he could do no more than fix his eyes
on his book: to learn was impossible; it was even disgusting to him.
But his was a nature which, foiled in one direction, must,
absolutely helpless against its own vitality, straightway send out
its searching roots in another. Of all forces, that of growth is
the one irresistible, for it is the creating power of God, the law
of life and of being. Therefore no accumulation of refusals, and
checks, and turnings, and forbiddings, from all the good old
grannies in the world, could have prevented Robert from striking
root downward, and bearing fruit upward, though, as in all higher
natures, the fruit was a long way off yet. But his soul was only
sad and hungry. He was not unhappy, for he had been guilty of
nothing that weighed on his conscience. He had been doing many
things of late, it is true, without asking leave of his grandmother,
but wherever prayer is felt to be of no avail, there cannot be the
sense of obligation save on compulsion. Even direct disobedience in
such case will generally leave little soreness, except the thing
forbidden should be in its own nature wrong, and then, indeed, 'Don
Worm, the conscience,' may begin to bite. But Robert felt nothing
immoral in playing upon his grandfather's violin, nor even in taking
liberties with a piece of lumber for which nobody cared but possibly
the dead; therefore he was not unhappy, only much disappointed, very
empty, and somewhat gloomy. There was nothing to look forward to
now, no secret full of riches and endless in hope--in short, no

To feel the full force of his loss, my reader must remember that
around the childhood of Robert, which he was fast leaving behind
him, there had gathered no tenderness--none at least by him
recognizable as such. All the women he came in contact with were
his grandmother and Betty. He had no recollection of having ever
been kissed. From the darkness and negation of such an
embryo-existence, his nature had been unconsciously striving to
escape--struggling to get from below ground into the sunlit
air--sighing after a freedom he could not have defined, the freedom
that comes, not of independence, but of love--not of lawlessness,
but of the perfection of law. Of this beauty of life, with its
wonder and its deepness, this unknown glory, his fiddle had been the
type. It had been the ark that held, if not the tables of the
covenant, yet the golden pot of angel's food, and the rod that
budded in death. And now that it was gone, the gloomier aspect of
things began to lay hold upon him; his soul turned itself away from
the sun, and entered into the shadow of the under-world. Like the
white-horsed twins of lake Regillus, like Phoebe, the queen of skyey
plain and earthly forest, every boy and girl, every man and woman,
that lives at all, has to divide many a year between Tartarus and

For now arose within him, not without ultimate good, the evil
phantasms of a theology which would explain all God's doings by low
conceptions, low I mean for humanity even, of right, and law, and
justice, then only taking refuge in the fact of the incapacity of
the human understanding when its own inventions are impugned as
undivine. In such a system, hell is invariably the deepest truth,
and the love of God is not so deep as hell. Hence, as foundations
must be laid in the deepest, the system is founded in hell, and the
first article in the creed that Robert Falconer learned was, 'I
believe in hell.' Practically, I mean, it was so; else how should
it be that as often as a thought of religious duty arose in his
mind, it appeared in the form of escaping hell, of fleeing from the
wrath to come? For his very nature was hell, being not born in sin
and brought forth in iniquity, but born sin and brought forth
iniquity. And yet God made him. He must believe that. And he must
believe, too, that God was just, awfully just, punishing with
fearful pains those who did not go through a certain process of mind
which it was utterly impossible they should go through without a
help which he would give to some, and withhold from others, the
reason of the difference not being such, to say the least of it, as
to come within the reach of the persons concerned. And this God
they said was love. It was logically absurd, of course, yet, thank
God, they did say that God was love; and many of them succeeded in
believing it, too, and in ordering their ways as if the first
article of their creed had been 'I believe in God'; whence, in
truth, we are bound to say it was the first in power and reality, if
not in order; for what are we to say a man believes, if not what he
acts upon? Still the former article was the one they brought
chiefly to bear upon their children. This mortar, probably they
thought, threw the shell straighter than any of the other
field-pieces of the church-militant. Hence it was even in
justification of God himself that a party arose to say that a man
could believe without the help of God at all, and after believing
only began to receive God's help--a heresy all but as dreary and
barren as the former. No one dreamed of saying--at least such a
glad word of prophecy never reached Rothieden--that, while nobody
can do without the help of the Father any more than a new-born babe
could of itself live and grow to a man, yet that in the giving of
that help the very fatherhood of the Father finds its one gladsome
labour; that for that the Lord came; for that the world was made;
for that we were born into it; for that God lives and loves like the
most loving man or woman on earth, only infinitely more, and in
other ways and kinds besides, which we cannot understand; and that
therefore to be a man is the soul of eternal jubilation.

Robert consequently began to take fits of soul-saving, a most
rational exercise, worldly wise and prudent--right too on the
principles he had received, but not in the least Christian in its
nature, or even God-fearing. His imagination began to busy itself
in representing the dire consequences of not entering into the one

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