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Robert Falconer by George MacDonald

Part 3 out of 13

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refuge of faith. He made many frantic efforts to believe that he
believed; took to keeping the Sabbath very carefully--that is, by
going to church three times, and to Sunday-school as well; by never
walking a step save to or from church; by never saying a word upon
any subject unconnected with religion, chiefly theoretical; by never
reading any but religious books; by never whistling; by never
thinking of his lost fiddle, and so on--all the time feeling that
God was ready to pounce upon him if he failed once; till again and
again the intensity of his efforts utterly defeated their object by
destroying for the time the desire to prosecute them with the power
to will them. But through the horrible vapours of these vain
endeavours, which denied God altogether as the maker of the world,
and the former of his soul and heart and brain, and sought to
worship him as a capricious demon, there broke a little light, a
little soothing, soft twilight, from the dim windows of such
literature as came in his way. Besides The Pilgrim's Progress there
were several books which shone moon-like on his darkness, and lifted
something of the weight of that Egyptian gloom off his spirit. One
of these, strange to say, was Defoe's Religious Courtship, and one,
Young's Night Thoughts. But there was another which deserves
particular notice, inasmuch as it did far more than merely interest
or amuse him, raising a deep question in his mind, and one worthy to
be asked. This book was the translation of Klopstock's Messiah, to
which I have already referred. It was not one of his grandmother's
books, but had probably belonged to his father: he had found it in
his little garret-room. But as often as she saw him reading it, she
seemed rather pleased, he thought. As to the book itself, its
florid expatiation could neither offend nor injure a boy like
Robert, while its representation of our Lord was to him a wonderful
relief from that given in the pulpit, and in all the religious books
he knew. But the point for the sake of which I refer to it in
particular is this: Amongst the rebel angels who are of the actors
in the story, one of the principal is a cherub who repents of making
his choice with Satan, mourns over his apostasy, haunts unseen the
steps of our Saviour, wheels lamenting about the cross, and would
gladly return to his lost duties in heaven, if only he might--a
doubt which I believe is left unsolved in the volume, and naturally
enough remained unsolved in Robert's mind:--Would poor Abaddon be
forgiven and taken home again? For although naturally, that is, to
judge by his own instincts, there could be no question of his
forgiveness, according to what he had been taught there could be no
question of his perdition. Having no one to talk to, he divided
himself and went to buffets on the subject, siding, of course, with
the better half of himself which supported the merciful view of the
matter; for all his efforts at keeping the Sabbath, had in his own
honest judgment failed so entirely, that he had no ground for
believing himself one of the elect. Had he succeeded in persuading
himself that he was, there is no saying to what lengths of
indifference about others the chosen prig might have advanced by
this time.

He made one attempt to open the subject with Shargar.

'Shargar, what think ye?' he said suddenly, one day. 'Gin a de'il
war to repent, wad God forgie him?'

'There's no sayin' what fowk wad du till ance they're tried,'
returned Shargar, cautiously.

Robert did not care to resume the question with one who so
circumspectly refused to take a metaphysical or a priori view of the

He made an attempt with his grandmother.

One Sunday, his thoughts, after trying for a time to revolve in due
orbit around the mind of the Rev. Hugh Maccleary, as projected in a
sermon which he had botched up out of a commentary, failed at last
and flew off into what the said gentleman would have pronounced
'very dangerous speculation, seeing no man is to go beyond what is
written in the Bible, which contains not only the truth, but the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth, for this time and for all
future time--both here and in the world to come.' Some such
sentence, at least, was in his sermon that day, and the preacher no
doubt supposed St. Matthew, not St. Matthew Henry, accountable for
its origination. In the Limbo into which Robert's then spirit flew,
it had been sorely exercised about the substitution of the
sufferings of Christ for those which humanity must else have endured
while ages rolled on--mere ripples on the ocean of eternity.

'Noo, be douce,' said Mrs. Falconer, solemnly, as Robert, a trifle
lighter at heart from the result of his cogitations than usual, sat
down to dinner: he had happened to smile across the table to
Shargar. And he was douce, and smiled no more.

They ate their broth, or, more properly, supped it, with horn
spoons, in absolute silence; after which Mrs. Falconer put a large
piece of meat on the plate of each, with the same formula:

'Hae. Ye s' get nae mair.'

The allowance was ample in the extreme, bearing a relation to her
words similar to that which her practice bore to her theology. A
piece of cheese, because it was the Sabbath, followed, and dinner
was over.

When the table had been cleared by Betty, they drew their chairs to
the fire, and Robert had to read to his grandmother, while Shargar
sat listening. He had not read long, however, before he looked up
from his Bible and began the following conversation:--

'Wasna it an ill trick o' Joseph, gran'mither, to put that cup, an'
a siller ane tu, into the mou' o' Benjamin's seck?'

'What for that, laddie? He wanted to gar them come back again, ye

'But he needna hae gane aboot it in sic a playactor-like gait. He
needna hae latten them awa' ohn tellt (without telling) them that he
was their brither.'

'They had behaved verra ill till him.'

'He used to clype (tell tales) upo' them, though.'

'Laddie, tak ye care what ye say aboot Joseph, for he was a teep o'

'Hoo was that, gran'mither?'

'They sellt him to the Ishmeleets for siller, as Judas did him.'

'Did he beir the sins o' them 'at sellt him?'

'Ye may say, in a mainner, 'at he did; for he was sair afflickit
afore he wan up to be the King's richt han'; an' syne he keepit a
hantle o' ill aff o' 's brithren.'

'Sae, gran'mither, ither fowk nor Christ micht suffer for the sins
o' their neebors?'

'Ay, laddie, mony a ane has to do that. But no to mak atonement, ye
ken. Naething but the sufferin' o' the spotless cud du that. The
Lord wadna be saitisfeet wi' less nor that. It maun be the innocent
to suffer for the guilty.'

'I unnerstan' that,' said Robert, who had heard it so often that he
had not yet thought of trying to understand it. 'But gin we gang to
the gude place, we'll be a' innocent, willna we, grannie?'

'Ay, that we will--washed spotless, and pure, and clean, and dressed
i' the weddin' garment, and set doon at the table wi' him and wi'
his Father. That's them 'at believes in him, ye ken.'

'Of coorse, grannie.--Weel, ye see, I hae been thinkin' o' a plan
for maist han' toomin' (almost emptying) hell.'

'What's i' the bairn's heid noo? Troth, ye're no blate, meddlin'
wi' sic subjecks, laddie!'

'I didna want to say onything to vex ye, grannie. I s' gang on wi'
the chapter.'

'Ow, say awa'. Ye sanna say muckle 'at's wrang afore I cry haud,'
said Mrs. Falconer, curious to know what had been moving in the
boy's mind, but watching him like a cat, ready to spring upon the
first visible hair of the old Adam.

And Robert, recalling the outbreak of terrible grief which he had
heard on that memorable night, really thought that his project would
bring comfort to a mind burdened with such care, and went on with
the exposition of his plan.

'A' them 'at sits doon to the supper o' the Lamb 'll sit there
because Christ suffert the punishment due to their sins--winna they,

'Doobtless, laddie.'

'But it'll he some sair upo' them to sit there aitin' an' drinkin'
an' talkin' awa', an' enjoyin' themsel's, whan ilka noo an' than
there'll come a sough o' wailin' up frae the ill place, an' a smell
o' burnin' ill to bide.'

'What put that i' yer heid, laddie? There's no rizzon to think 'at
hell's sae near haven as a' that. The Lord forbid it!'

'Weel, but, grannie, they'll ken 't a' the same, whether they smell
't or no. An' I canna help thinkin' that the farrer awa' I thoucht
they war, the waur I wad like to think upo' them. 'Deed it wad be

'What are ye drivin' at, laddie? I canna unnerstan' ye,' said Mrs.
Falconer, feeling very uncomfortable, and yet curious, almost
anxious, to hear what would come next. 'I trust we winna hae to
think muckle--'

But here, I presume, the thought of the added desolation of her
Andrew if she, too, were to forget him, as well as his Father in
heaven, checked the flow of her words. She paused, and Robert took
up his parable and went on, first with yet another question.

'Duv ye think, grannie, that a body wad be allooed to speik a word
i' public, like, there--at the lang table, like, I mean?'

'What for no, gin it was dune wi' moedesty, and for a guid rizzon?
But railly, laddie, I doobt ye're haverin' a'thegither. Ye hard
naething like that, I'm sure, the day, frae Mr. Maccleary.'

'Na, na; he said naething aboot it. But maybe I'll gang and speir
at him, though.'

'What aboot?'

'What I'm gaein' to tell ye, grannie.'

'Weel, tell awa', and hae dune wi' 't. I'm growin' tired o' 't.'

It was something else than tired she was growing.

'Weel, I'm gaein' to try a' that I can to win in there.'

'I houp ye will. Strive and pray. Resist the deevil. Walk in the
licht. Lippen not to yersel', but trust in Christ and his

'Ay, ay, grannie.--Weel--'

'Are ye no dune yet?'

'Na. I'm but jist beginnin'.'

'Beginnin', are ye? Humph!'

'Weel, gin I win in there, the verra first nicht I sit doon wi' the
lave o' them, I'm gaein' to rise up an' say--that is, gin the
Maister, at the heid o' the table, disna bid me sit doon--an' say:
"Brithers an' sisters, the haill o' ye, hearken to me for ae minute;
an', O Lord! gin I say wrang, jist tak the speech frae me, and I'll
sit doon dumb an' rebukit. We're a' here by grace and no by merit,
save his, as ye a' ken better nor I can tell ye, for ye hae been
langer here nor me. But it's jist ruggin' an' rivin' at my hert to
think o' them 'at's doon there. Maybe ye can hear them. I canna.
Noo, we hae nae merit, an' they hae nae merit, an' what for are we
here and them there? But we're washed clean and innocent noo; and
noo, whan there's no wyte lying upo' oursel's, it seems to me that
we micht beir some o' the sins o' them 'at hae ower mony. I call
upo' ilk ane o' ye 'at has a frien' or a neebor down yonner, to rise
up an' taste nor bite nor sup mair till we gang up a'thegither to
the fut o' the throne, and pray the Lord to lat's gang and du as the
Maister did afore 's, and beir their griefs, and cairry their
sorrows doon in hell there; gin it maybe that they may repent and
get remission o' their sins, an' come up here wi' us at the lang
last, and sit doon wi' 's at this table, a' throuw the merits o' oor
Saviour Jesus Christ, at the heid o' the table there. Amen."'

Half ashamed of his long speech, half overcome by the feelings
fighting within him, and altogether bewildered, Robert burst out
crying like a baby, and ran out of the room--up to his own place of
meditation, where he threw himself on the floor. Shargar, who had
made neither head nor tail of it all, as he said afterwards, sat
staring at Mrs. Falconer. She rose, and going into Robert's little
bedroom, closed the door, and what she did there is not far to seek.

When she came out, she rang the bell for tea, and sent Shargar to
look for Robert. When he appeared, she was so gentle to him that it
woke quite a new sensation in him. But after tea was over, she

'Noo, Robert, lat's hae nae mair o' this. Ye ken as weel 's I du
that them 'at gangs there their doom is fixed, and noething can
alter 't. An' we're not to alloo oor ain fancies to cairry 's ayont
the Scripter. We hae oor ain salvation to work oot wi' fear an'
trimlin'. We hae naething to do wi' what's hidden. Luik ye till 't
'at ye win in yersel'. That's eneuch for you to min'.--Shargar, ye
can gang to the kirk. Robert's to bide wi' me the nicht.'

Mrs. Falconer very rarely went to church, for she could not hear a
word, and found it irksome.

When Robert and she were alone together,

'Laddie,' she said, 'be ye waure o' judgin' the Almichty. What
luiks to you a' wrang may be a' richt. But it's true eneuch 'at we
dinna ken a'thing; an' he's no deid yet--I dinna believe 'at he
is--and he'll maybe win in yet.'

Here her voice failed her. And Robert had nothing to say now. He
had said all his say before.

'Pray, Robert, pray for yer father, laddie,' she resumed; 'for we
hae muckle rizzon to be anxious aboot 'im. Pray while there's life
an' houp. Gie the Lord no rist. Pray till 'im day an' nicht, as I
du, that he wad lead 'im to see the error o' his ways, an' turn to
the Lord, wha's ready to pardon. Gin yer mother had lived, I wad
hae had mair houp, I confess, for she was a braw leddy and a bonny,
and that sweet-tongued! She cud hae wiled a maukin frae its lair
wi' her bonnie Hielan' speech. I never likit to hear nane o' them
speyk the Erse (Irish, that is, Gaelic), it was aye sae gloggie and
baneless; and I cudna unnerstan' ae word o' 't. Nae mair cud yer
father--hoot! yer gran'father, I mean--though his father cud speyk
it weel. But to hear yer mother--mamma, as ye used to ca' her aye,
efter the new fashion--to hear her speyk English, that was sweet to
the ear; for the braid Scotch she kent as little o' as I do o' the
Erse. It was hert's care aboot him that shortent her days. And a'
that'll be laid upo' him. He'll hae 't a' to beir an' accoont for.
Och hone! Och hone! Eh! Robert, my man, be a guid lad, an' serve
the Lord wi' a' yer hert, an' sowl, an' stren'th, an' min'; for gin
ye gang wrang, yer ain father 'll hae to beir naebody kens hoo
muckle o' the wyte o' 't, for he's dune naething to bring ye up i'
the way ye suld gang, an' haud ye oot o' the ill gait. For the sake
o' yer puir father, haud ye to the richt road. It may spare him a
pang or twa i' the ill place. Eh, gin the Lord wad only tak me, and
lat him gang!'

Involuntarily and unconsciously the mother's love was adopting the
hope which she had denounced in her grandson. And Robert saw it,
but he was never the man when I knew him to push a victory. He said
nothing. Only a tear or two at the memory of the wayworn man, his
recollection of whose visit I have already recorded, rolled down his
cheeks. He was at such a distance from him!--such an impassable
gulf yawned between them!--that was the grief! Not the gulf of
death, nor the gulf that divides hell from heaven, but the gulf of
abjuration by the good because of his evil ways. His grandmother,
herself weeping fast and silently, with scarce altered countenance,
took her neatly-folded handkerchief from her pocket, and wiped her
grandson's fresh cheeks, then wiped her own withered face; and from
that moment Robert knew that he loved her.

Then followed the Sabbath-evening prayer that she always offered
with the boy, whichever he was, who kept her company. They knelt
down together, side by side, in a certain corner of the room, the
same, I doubt not, in which she knelt at her private devotions,
before going to bed. There she uttered a long extempore prayer,
rapid in speech, full of divinity and Scripture-phrases, but not the
less earnest and simple, for it flowed from a heart of faith. Then
Robert had to pray after her, loud in her ear, that she might hear
him thoroughly, so that he often felt as if he were praying to her,
and not to God at all.

She had begun to teach him to pray so early that the custom reached
beyond the confines of his memory. At first he had had to repeat
the words after her; but soon she made him construct his own
utterances, now and then giving him a suggestion in the form of a
petition when he seemed likely to break down, or putting a phrase
into what she considered more suitable language. But all such
assistance she had given up long ago.

On the present occasion, after she had ended her petitions with
those for Jews and pagans, and especially for the 'Pop' o' Rom',' in
whom with a rare liberality she took the kindest interest, always
praying God to give him a good wife, though she knew perfectly well
the marriage-creed of the priesthood, for her faith in the hearer of
prayer scorned every theory but that in which she had herself been
born and bred, she turned to Robert with the usual 'Noo, Robert!'
and Robert began. But after he had gone on for some time with the
ordinary phrases, he turned all at once into a new track, and
instead of praying in general terms for 'those that would not walk
in the right way,' said,

'O Lord! save my father,' and there paused.

'If it be thy will,' suggested his grandmother.

But Robert continued silent. His grandmother repeated the
subjunctive clause.

'I'm tryin', grandmother,' said Robert, 'but I canna say 't. I
daurna say an if aboot it. It wad be like giein' in till 's
damnation. We maun hae him saved, grannie!'

'Laddie! laddie! haud yer tongue!' said Mrs. Falconer, in a tone of
distressed awe. 'O Lord, forgie 'im. He's young and disna ken
better yet. He canna unnerstan' thy ways, nor, for that maitter,
can I preten' to unnerstan' them mysel'. But thoo art a' licht, and
in thee is no darkness at all. And thy licht comes into oor blin'
een, and mak's them blinner yet. But, O Lord, gin it wad please
thee to hear oor prayer...eh! hoo we wad praise thee! And my Andrew
wad praise thee mair nor ninety and nine o' them 'at need nae

A long pause followed. And then the only words that would come
were: 'For Christ's sake. Amen.'

When she said that God was light, instead of concluding therefrom
that he could not do the deeds of darkness, she was driven, from a
faith in the teaching of Jonathan Edwards as implicit as that of
'any lay papist of Loretto,' to doubt whether the deeds of darkness
were not after all deeds of light, or at least to conclude that
their character depended not on their own nature, but on who did

They rose from their knees, and Mrs. Falconer sat down by her fire,
with her feet on her little wooden stool, and began, as was her wont
in that household twilight, ere the lamp was lighted, to review her
past life, and follow her lost son through all conditions and
circumstances to her imaginable. And when the world to come arose
before her, clad in all the glories which her fancy, chilled by
education and years, could supply, it was but to vanish in the gloom
of the remembrance of him with whom she dared not hope to share its
blessedness. This at least was how Falconer afterwards interpreted
the sudden changes from gladness to gloom which he saw at such times
on her countenance.

But while such a small portion of the universe of thought was
enlightened by the glowworm lamp of the theories she had been
taught, she was not limited for light to that feeble source. While
she walked on her way, the moon, unseen herself behind the clouds,
was illuminating the whole landscape so gently and evenly, that the
glowworm being the only visible point of radiance, to it she
attributed all the light. But she felt bound to go on believing as
she had been taught; for sometimes the most original mind has the
strongest sense of law upon it, and will, in default of a better,
obey a beggarly one--only till the higher law that swallows it up
manifests itself. Obedience was as essential an element of her
creed as of that of any purest-minded monk; neither being
sufficiently impressed with this: that, while obedience is the law
of the kingdom, it is of considerable importance that that which is
obeyed should be in very truth the will of God. It is one thing, and
a good thing, to do for God's sake that which is not his will: it is
another thing, and altogether a better thing--how much better, no
words can tell--to do for God's sake that which is his will. Mrs.
Falconer's submission and obedience led her to accept as the will of
God, lest she should be guilty of opposition to him, that which it
was anything but giving him honour to accept as such. Therefore her
love to God was too like the love of the slave or the dog; too
little like the love of the child, with whose obedience the Father
cannot be satisfied until he cares for his reason as the highest
form of his will. True, the child who most faithfully desires to
know the inward will or reason of the Father, will be the most ready
to obey without it; only for this obedience it is essential that the
apparent command at least be such as he can suppose attributable to
the Father. Of his own self he is bound to judge what is right, as
the Lord said. Had Abraham doubted whether it was in any case right
to slay his son, he would have been justified in doubting whether
God really required it of him, and would have been bound to delay
action until the arrival of more light. True, the will of God can
never be other than good; but I doubt if any man can ever be sure
that a thing is the will of God, save by seeing into its nature and
character, and beholding its goodness. Whatever God does must be
right, but are we sure that we know what he does? That which men
say he does may be very wrong indeed.

This burden she in her turn laid upon Robert--not unkindly, but as
needful for his training towards well-being. Her way with him was
shaped after that which she recognized as God's way with her. 'Speir
nae questons, but gang an' du as ye're tellt.' And it was anything
but a bad lesson for the boy. It was one of the best he could have
had--that of authority. It is a grand thing to obey without asking
questions, so long as there is nothing evil in what is commanded.
Only grannie concealed her reasons without reason; and God makes no
secrets. Hence she seemed more stern and less sympathetic than she
really was.

She sat with her feet on the little wooden stool, and Robert sat
beside her staring into the fire, till they heard the outer door
open, and Shargar and Betty come in from church.



Early on the following morning, while Mrs. Falconer, Robert, and
Shargar were at breakfast, Mr. Lammie came. He had delayed
communicating the intelligence he had received till he should be
more certain of its truth. Older than Andrew, he had been a great
friend of his father, and likewise of some of Mrs. Falconer's own
family. Therefore he was received with a kindly welcome. But there
was a cloud on his brow which in a moment revealed that his errand
was not a pleasant one.

'I haena seen ye for a lang time, Mr. Lammie. Gae butt the hoose,
lads. Or I'm thinkin' it maun be schule-time. Sit ye doon, Mr.
Lammie, and lat's hear yer news.'

'I cam frae Aberdeen last nicht, Mistress Faukner,' he began.

'Ye haena been hame sin' syne?' she rejoined.

'Na. I sleepit at The Boar's Heid.'

'What for did ye that? What gart ye be at that expense, whan ye
kent I had a bed i' the ga'le-room?'

'Weel, ye see, they're auld frien's o' mine, and I like to gang to
them whan I'm i' the gait o' 't.'

'Weel, they're a fine faimily, the Miss Napers. And, I wat, sin'
they maun sell drink, they du 't wi' discretion. That's weel kent.'

Possibly Mr. Lammie, remembering what then occurred, may have
thought the discretion a little in excess of the drink, but he had
other matters to occupy him now. For a few moments both were

'There's been some ill news, they tell me, Mrs. Faukner,' he said at
length, when the silence had grown painful.

'Humph!' returned the old lady, her face becoming stony with the
effort to suppress all emotion. 'Nae aboot Anerew?'

''Deed is 't, mem. An' ill news, I'm sorry to say.'

'Is he ta'en?'

'Ay is he--by a jyler that winna tyne the grup.'

'He's no deid, John Lammie? Dinna say 't.'

'I maun say 't, Mrs. Faukner. I had it frae Dr. Anderson, yer ain
cousin. He hintit at it afore, but his last letter leaves nae room
to doobt upo' the subjeck. I'm unco sorry to be the beirer o' sic
ill news, Mrs. Faukner, but I had nae chice.'

'Ohone! Ohone! the day o' grace is by at last! My puir Anerew!'
exclaimed Mrs. Falconer, and sat dumb thereafter.

Mr. Lammie tried to comfort her with some of the usual comfortless
commonplaces. She neither wept nor replied, but sat with stony face
staring into her lap, till, seeing that she was as one that heareth
not, he rose and left her alone with her grief. A few minutes after
he was gone, she rang the bell, and told Betty in her usual voice to
send Robert to her.

'He's gane to the schule, mem.'

'Rin efter him, an' tell him to come hame.'

When Robert appeared, wondering what his grandmother could want with
him, she said:

'Close the door, Robert. I canna lat ye gang to the schule the day.
We maun lea' him oot noo.'

'Lea' wha oot, grannie?'

'Him, him--Anerew. Yer father, laddie. I think my hert 'll brak.'

'Lea' him oot o' what, grannie? I dinna unnerstan' ye.'

'Lea' him oot o' oor prayers, laddie, and I canna bide it.'

'What for that?'

'He's deid.'

'Are ye sure?'

'Ay, ower sure--ower sure, laddie.'

'Weel, I dinna believe 't.'

'What for that?'

''Cause I winna believe 't. I'm no bund to believe 't, am I?'

'What's the gude o' that? What for no believe 't? Dr. Anderson's
sent hame word o' 't to John Lammie. Och hone! och hone!'

'I tell ye I winna believe 't, grannie, 'cep' God himsel' tells me.
As lang 's I dinna believe 'at he's deid, I can keep him i' my
prayers. I'm no gaein' to lea' him oot, I tell ye, grannie.'

'Weel, laddie, I canna argue wi' ye. I hae nae hert til 't. I
doobt I maun greit! Come awa'.'

She took him by the hand and rose, then let him go again, saying,

'Sneck the door, laddie.'

Robert bolted the door, and his grandmother again taking his hand,
led him to the usual corner. There they knelt down together, and
the old woman's prayer was one great and bitter cry for submission
to the divine will. She rose a little strengthened, if not
comforted, saying,

'Ye maun pray yer lane, laddie. But oh be a guid lad, for ye're a'
that I hae left; and gin ye gang wrang tu, ye'll bring doon my gray
hairs wi' sorrow to the grave. They're gray eneuch, and they're
near eneuch to the grave, but gin ye turn oot weel, I'll maybe haud
up my heid a bit yet. But O Anerew! my son! my son! Would God I
had died for thee!'

And the words of her brother in grief, the king of Israel, opened
the floodgates of her heart, and she wept. Robert left her weeping,
and closed the door quietly as if his dead father had been lying in
the room.

He took his way up to his own garret, closed that door too, and sat
down upon the floor, with his back against the empty bedstead.

There were no more castles to build now. It was all very well to
say that he would not believe the news and would pray for his
father, but he did believe them--enough at least to spoil the
praying. His favourite employment, seated there, had hitherto been
to imagine how he would grow a great man, and set out to seek his
father, and find him, and stand by him, and be his son and servant.
Oh! to have the man stroke his head and pat his cheek, and love
him! One moment he imagined himself his indignant defender, the
next he would be climbing on his knee, as if he were still a little
child, and laying his head on his shoulder. For he had had no
fondling his life long, and his heart yearned for it. But all this
was gone now. A dreary time lay before him, with nobody to please,
nobody to serve; with nobody to praise him. Grannie never praised
him. She must have thought praise something wicked. And his father
was in misery, for ever and ever! Only somehow that thought was not
quite thinkable. It was more the vanishing of hope from his own
life than a sense of his father's fate that oppressed him.

He cast his eyes, as in a hungry despair, around the empty room--or,
rather, I should have said, in that faintness which makes food at
once essential and loathsome; for despair has no proper hunger in
it. The room seemed as empty as his life. There was nothing for
his eyes to rest upon but those bundles and bundles of dust-browned
papers on the shelves before him. What were they all about? He
understood that they were his father's: now that he was dead, it
would be no sacrilege to look at them. Nobody cared about them. He
would see at least what they were. It would be something to do in
this dreariness.

Bills and receipts, and everything ephemeral--to feel the interest
of which, a man must be a poet indeed--was all that met his view.
Bundle after bundle he tried, with no better success. But as he
drew near the middle of the second shelf, upon which they lay
several rows deep, he saw something dark behind, hurriedly displaced
the packets between, and drew forth a small workbox. His heart beat
like that of the prince in the fairy-tale, when he comes to the door
of the Sleeping Beauty. This at least must have been hers. It was
a common little thing, probably a childish possession, and kept to
hold trifles worth more than they looked to be. He opened it with
bated breath. The first thing he saw was a half-finished reel of
cotton--a pirn, he called it. Beside it was a gold thimble. He
lifted the tray. A lovely face in miniature, with dark hair and
blue eyes, lay looking earnestly upward. At the lid of this coffin
those eyes had looked for so many years! The picture was set all
round with pearls in an oval ring. How Robert knew them to be
pearls he could not tell, for he did not know that he had ever seen
any pearls before, but he knew they were pearls, and that pearls had
something to do with the New Jerusalem. But the sadness of it all
at length overpowered him, and he burst out crying. For it was
awfully sad that his mother's portrait should be in his own mother's

He took a bit of red tape off a bundle of the papers, put it through
the eye of the setting, and hung the picture round his neck, inside
his clothes, for grannie must not see it. She would take that away
as she had taken his fiddle. He had a nameless something now for
which he had been longing for years.

Looking again in the box, he found a little bit of paper,
discoloured with antiquity, as it seemed to him, though it was not
so old as himself. Unfolding it he found written upon it a
well-known hymn, and at the bottom of the hymn, the words: 'O Lord!
my heart is very sore.'--The treasure upon Robert's bosom was no
longer the symbol of a mother's love, but of a woman's sadness,
which he could not reach to comfort. In that hour, the boy made a
great stride towards manhood. Doubtless his mother's grief had been
the same as grannie's--the fear that she would lose her husband for
ever. The hourly fresh griefs from neglect and wrong did not occur
to him; only the never never more. He looked no farther, took the
portrait from his neck and replaced it with the paper, put the box
back, and walled it up in solitude once more with the dusty bundles.
Then he went down to his grandmother, sadder and more desolate than

He found her seated in her usual place. Her New Testament, a
large-print octavo, lay on the table beside her unopened; for where
within those boards could she find comfort for a grief like hers?
That it was the will of God might well comfort any suffering of her
own, but would it comfort Andrew? and if there was no comfort for
Andrew, how was Andrew's mother to be comforted?

Yet God had given his first-born to save his brethren: how could he
be pleased that she should dry her tears and be comforted? True,
some awful unknown force of a necessity with which God could not
cope came in to explain it; but this did not make God more kind, for
he knew it all every time he made a man; nor man less sorrowful, for
God would have his very mother forget him, or, worse still, remember
him and be happy.

'Read a chapter till me, laddie,' she said.

Robert opened and read till he came to the words: 'I pray not for
the world.'

'He was o' the world,' said the old woman; 'and gin Christ wadna
pray for him, what for suld I?'

Already, so soon after her son's death, would her theology begin to
harden her heart. The strife which results from believing that the
higher love demands the suppression of the lower, is the most
fearful of all discords, the absolute love slaying love--the house
divided against itself; one moment all given up for the will of Him,
the next the human tenderness rushing back in a flood. Mrs.
Falconer burst into a very agony of weeping. From that day, for
many years, the name of her lost Andrew never passed her lips in the
hearing of her grandson, and certainly in that of no one else.

But in a few weeks she was more cheerful. It is one of the
mysteries of humanity that mothers in her circumstances, and holding
her creed, do regain not merely the faculty of going on with the
business of life, but, in most cases, even cheerfulness. The
infinite Truth, the Love of the universe, supports them beyond their
consciousness, coming to them like sleep from the roots of their
being, and having nothing to do with their opinions or beliefs. And
hence spring those comforting subterfuges of hope to which they all
fly. Not being able to trust the Father entirely, they yet say:
'Who can tell what took place at the last moment? Who can tell
whether God did not please to grant them saving faith at the
eleventh hour?'--that so they might pass from the very gates of
hell, the only place for which their life had fitted them, into the
bosom of love and purity! This God could do for all: this for the
son beloved of his mother perhaps he might do!

O rebellious mother heart! dearer to God than that which beats
laboriously solemn under Genevan gown or Lutheran surplice! if thou
wouldst read by thine own large light, instead of the glimmer from
the phosphorescent brains of theologians, thou mightst even be able
to understand such a simple word as that of the Saviour, when,
wishing his disciples to know that he had a nearer regard for them
as his brethren in holier danger, than those who had not yet
partaken of his light, and therefore praying for them not merely as
human beings, but as the human beings they were, he said to his
Father in their hearing: 'I pray not for the world, but for
them,'--not for the world now, but for them--a meaningless
utterance, if he never prayed for the world; a word of small
meaning, if it was not his very wont and custom to pray for the
world--for men as men. Lord Christ! not alone from the pains of
hell, or of conscience--not alone from the outer darkness of self
and all that is mean and poor and low, do we fly to thee; but from
the anger that arises within us at the wretched words spoken in thy
name, at the degradation of thee and of thy Father in the mouths of
those that claim especially to have found thee, do we seek thy feet.
Pray thou for them also, for they know not what they do.



After this, day followed day in calm, dull progress. Robert did not
care for the games through which his school-fellows forgot the
little they had to forget, and had therefore few in any sense his
companions. So he passed his time out of school in the society of
his grandmother and Shargar, except that spent in the garret, and
the few hours a week occupied by the lessons of the shoemaker. For
he went on, though half-heartedly, with those lessons, given now
upon Sandy's redeemed violin which he called his old wife, and made
a little progress even, as we sometimes do when we least think it.

He took more and more to brooding in the garret; and as more
questions presented themselves for solution, he became more anxious
to arrive at the solution, and more uneasy as he failed in
satisfying himself that he had arrived at it; so that his brain,
which needed quiet for the true formation of its substance, as a
cooling liquefaction or an evaporating solution for the just
formation of its crystals, became in danger of settling into an
abnormal arrangement of the cellular deposits.

I believe that even the new-born infant is, in some of his moods,
already grappling with the deepest metaphysical problems, in forms
infinitely too rudimental for the understanding of the grown
philosopher--as far, in fact, removed from his ken on the one side,
that of intelligential beginning, the germinal subjective, as his
abstrusest speculations are from the final solutions of absolute
entity on the other. If this be the case, it is no wonder that at
Robert's age the deepest questions of his coming manhood should be
in active operation, although so surrounded with the yoke of common
belief and the shell of accredited authority, that the embryo faith,
which in minds like his always takes the form of doubt, could not be
defined any more than its existence could be disproved. I have
given a hint at the tendency of his mind already, in the fact that
one of the most definite inquiries to which he had yet turned his
thoughts was, whether God would have mercy upon a repentant devil.
An ordinary puzzle had been--if his father were to marry again, and
it should turn out after all that his mother was not dead, what was
his father to do? But this was over now. A third was, why, when he
came out of church, sunshine always made him miserable, and he felt
better able to be good when it rained or snowed hard. I might
mention the inquiry whether it was not possible somehow to elude the
omniscience of God; but that is a common question with thoughtful
children, and indicates little that is characteristic of the
individual. That he puzzled himself about the perpetual motion may
pass for little likewise; but one thing which is worth mentioning,
for indeed it caused him considerable distress, was, that in reading
the Paradise Lost he could not help sympathizing with Satan, and
feeling--I do not say thinking--that the Almighty was pompous,
scarcely reasonable, and somewhat revengeful.

He was recognized amongst his school-fellows as remarkable for his
love of fair-play; so much so, that he was their constant referee.
Add to this that, notwithstanding his sympathy with Satan, he
almost invariably sided with his master, in regard of any angry
reflection or seditious movement, and even when unjustly punished
himself, the occasional result of a certain backwardness in
self-defence, never showed any resentment--a most improbable
statement, I admit, but nevertheless true--and I think the rest of
his character may be left to the gradual dawn of its historical

He had long ere this discovered who the angel was that had appeared
to him at the top of the stair upon that memorable night; but he
could hardly yet say that he had seen her; for, except one dim
glimpse he had had of her at the window as he passed in the street,
she had not appeared to him save in the vision of that night.
During the whole winter she scarcely left the house, partly from
the state of her health, affected by the sudden change to a northern
climate, partly from the attention required by her aunt, to aid in
nursing whom she had left the warmer south. Indeed, it was only to
return the visits of a few of Mrs. Forsyth's chosen, that she had
crossed the threshold at all; and those visits were paid at a time
when all such half-grown inhabitants as Robert were gathered under
the leathery wing of Mr. Innes.

But long before the winter was over, Rothieden had discovered that
the stranger, the English lady, Mary St. John, outlandish, almost
heathenish as her lovely name sounded in its ears, had a power as
altogether strange and new as her name. For she was not only an
admirable performer on the pianoforte, but such a simple enthusiast
in music, that the man must have had no music or little heart in him
in whom her playing did not move all that there was of the deepest.

Occasionally there would be quite a small crowd gathered at night by
the window of Mrs. Forsyth's drawing-room, which was on the
ground-floor, listening to music such as had never before been heard
in Rothieden. More than once, when Robert had not found Sandy
Elshender at home on the lesson-night, and had gone to seek him, he
had discovered him lying in wait, like a fowler, to catch the sweet
sounds that flew from the opened cage of her instrument. He leaned
against the wall with his ear laid over the edge, and as near the
window as he dared to put it, his rough face, gnarled and blotched,
and hirsute with the stubble of neglected beard--his whole ursine
face transfigured by the passage of the sweet sounds through his
chaotic brain, which they swept like the wind of God, when of old it
moved on the face of the waters that clothed the void and formless

'Haud yer tongue!' he would say in a hoarse whisper, when Robert
sought to attract his attention; 'haud yer tongue, man, and hearken.
Gin yon bonny leddy 'at yer grannie keeps lockit up i' the aumry
war to tak to the piano, that's jist hoo she wad play. Lord, man!
pit yer sowl i' yer lugs, an' hearken.'

The soutar was all wrong in this; for if old Mr. Falconer's violin
had taken woman-shape, it would have been that of a slight, worn,
swarthy creature, with wild black eyes, great and restless, a voice
like a bird's, and thin fingers that clawed the music out of the
wires like the quills of the old harpsichord; not that of Mary St.
John, who was tall, and could not help being stately, was large and
well-fashioned, as full of repose as Handel's music, with a
contralto voice to make you weep, and eyes that would have seemed
but for their maidenliness to be always ready to fold you in their
lucid gray depths.

Robert stared at the soutar, doubting at first whether he had not
been drinking. But the intoxication of music produces such a
different expression from that of drink, that Robert saw at once
that if he had indeed been drinking, at least the music had got
above the drink. As long as the playing went on, Elshender was not
to be moved from the window.

But to many of the people of Rothieden the music did not recommend
the musician; for every sort of music, except the most unmusical of
psalm-singing, was in their minds of a piece with 'dancin' an'
play-actin', an' ither warldly vainities an' abominations.' And
Robert, being as yet more capable of melody than harmony, grudged to
lose a lesson on Sandy's 'auld wife o' a fiddle' for any amount of
Miss St. John's playing.



One gusty evening--it was of the last day in March--Robert well
remembered both the date and the day--a bleak wind was driving up
the long street of the town, and Robert was standing looking out of
one of the windows in the gable-room. The evening was closing into
night. He hardly knew how he came to he there, but when he thought
about it he found it was play-Wednesday, and that he had been all
the half-holiday trying one thing after another to interest himself
withhal, but in vain. He knew nothing about east winds; but not the
less did this dreary wind of the dreary March world prove itself
upon his soul. For such a wind has a shadow wind along with it,
that blows in the minds of men. There was nothing genial, no growth
in it. It killed, and killed most dogmatically. But it is an ill
wind that blows nobody good. Even an east wind must bear some
blessing on its ugly wings. And as Robert looked down from the
gable, the wind was blowing up the street before it half-a-dozen
footfaring students from Aberdeen, on their way home at the close of
the session, probably to the farm-labours of the spring.

This was a glad sight, as that of the returning storks in Denmark.
Robert knew where they would put up, sought his cap, and went out.
His grandmother never objected to his going to see Miss Napier; it
was in her house that the weary men would this night rest.

It was not without reason that Lord Rothie had teased his hostess
about receiving foot-passengers, for to such it was her invariable
custom to make some civil excuse, sending Meg or Peggy to show them
over the way to the hostelry next in rank, a proceeding recognized
by the inferior hostess as both just and friendly, for the good
woman never thought of measuring The Star against The Boar's Head.
More than one comical story had been the result of this law of The
Boar's Head, unalterable almost as that of the Medes and Persians.
I say almost, for to one class of the footfaring community the
official ice about the hearts of the three women did thaw, yielding
passage to a full river of hospitality and generosity; and that was
the class to which these wayfarers belonged.

Well may Scotland rejoice in her universities, for whatever may be
said against their system--I have no complaint to make--they are
divine in their freedom: men who follow the plough in the spring and
reap the harvest in the autumn, may, and often do, frequent their
sacred precincts when the winter comes--so fierce, yet so
welcome--so severe, yet so blessed--opening for them the doors to
yet harder toil and yet poorer fare. I fear, however, that of such
there will be fewer and fewer, seeing one class which supplied a
portion of them has almost vanished from the country--that class
which was its truest, simplest, and noblest strength--that class
which at one time rendered it something far other than ridicule to
say that Scotland was pre-eminently a God-fearing nation--I mean the
class of cottars.

Of this class were some of the footfaring company. But there were
others of more means than the men of this lowly origin, who either
could not afford to travel by the expensive coaches, or could find
none to accommodate them. Possibly some preferred to walk. However
this may have been, the various groups which at the beginning and
close of the session passed through Rothieden weary and footsore,
were sure of a hearty welcome at The Boar's Head. And much the men
needed it. Some of them would have walked between one and two
hundred miles before completing their journey.

Robert made a circuit, and, fleet of foot, was in Miss Napier's
parlour before the travellers made their appearance on the square.
When they knocked at the door, Miss Letty herself went and opened

'Can ye tak 's in, mem?' was on the lips of their spokesman, but
Miss Letty had the first word.

'Come in, come in, gentlemen. This is the first o' ye, and ye're
the mair welcome. It's like seein' the first o' the swallows. An'
sic a day as ye hae had for yer lang traivel!' she went on, leading
the way to her sister's parlour, and followed by all the students,
of whom the one that came hindmost was the most remarkable of the
group--at the same time the most weary and downcast.

Miss Napier gave them a similar welcome, shaking hands with every
one of them. She knew them all but the last. To him she
involuntarily showed a more formal respect, partly from his
appearance, and partly that she had never seen him before. The
whisky-bottle was brought out, and all partook, save still the last.
Miss Lizzie went to order their supper.

'Noo, gentlemen,' said Miss Letty, 'wad ony o' ye like to gang an'
change yer hose, and pit on a pair o' slippers?'

Several declined, saying they would wait until they had had their
supper; the roads had been quite dry, &c., &c. One said he would,
and another said his feet were blistered.

'Hoot awa'!'2 exclaimed Miss Letty.--'Here, Peggy!' she cried, going
to the door; 'tak a pail o' het watter up to the chackit room. Jist
ye gang up, Mr. Cameron, and Peggy 'll see to yer feet.--Noo, sir,
will ye gang to yer room an' mak yersel' comfortable?--jist as gin
ye war at hame, for sae ye are.'

She addressed the stranger thus. He replied in a low indifferent

'No, thank you; I must be off again directly.'

He was from Caithness, and talked no Scotch.

''Deed, sir, ye'll do naething o' the kin'. Here ye s' bide, tho' I
suld lock the door.'

'Come, come, Ericson, none o' your nonsense!' said one of his
fellows. 'Ye ken yer feet are sae blistered ye can hardly put ane by
the ither.--It was a' we cud du, mem, to get him alang the last

'That s' be my business, than,' concluded Miss Letty.

She left the room, and returning in a few minutes, said, as a matter
of course, but with authority,

'Mr. Ericson, ye maun come wi' me.'

Then she hesitated a little. Was it maidenliness in the waning
woman of five-and-forty? It was, I believe; for how can a woman
always remember how old she is? If ever there was a young soul in
God's world, it was Letty Napier. And the young man was tall and
stately as a Scandinavian chief, with a look of command, tempered
with patient endurance, in his eagle face, for he was more like an
eagle than any other creature, and in his countenance signs of
suffering. Miss Letty seeing this, was moved, and her heart
swelled, and she grew conscious and shy, and turning to Robert,

'Come up the stair wi' 's, Robert; I may want ye.'

Robert jumped to his feet. His heart too had been yearning towards
the stranger.

As if yielding to the inevitable, Ericson rose and followed Miss
Letty. But when they had reached the room, and the door was shut
behind them, and Miss Letty pointed to a chair beside which stood a
little wooden tub full of hot water, saying, 'Sit ye doon there, Mr.
Ericson,' he drew himself up, all but his graciously-bowed head, and

'Ma'am, I must tell you that I followed the rest in here from the
very stupidity of weariness. I have not a shilling in my pocket.'

'God bless me!' said Miss Letty--and God did bless her, I am
sure--'we maun see to the feet first. What wad ye du wi' a shillin'
gin ye had it? Wad ye clap ane upo' ilka blister?'

Ericson burst out laughing, and sat down. But still he hesitated.

'Aff wi' yer shune, sir. Duv ye think I can wash yer feet throu
ben' leather?' said Miss Letty, not disdaining to advance her
fingers to a shoe-tie.

'But I'm ashamed. My stockings are all in holes.'

'Weel, ye s' get a clean pair to put on the morn, an' I'll darn them
'at ye hae on, gin they be worth darnin', afore ye gang--an' what
are ye sae camstairie (unmanageable) for? A body wad think ye had a
clo'en fit in ilk ane o' thae bits o' shune o' yours. I winna
promise to please yer mither wi' my darnin' though.'

'I have no mother to find fault with it,' said Ericson.

'Weel, a sister's waur.'

'I have no sister, either.'

This was too much for Miss Letty. She could keep up the bravado of
humour no longer. She fairly burst out crying. In a moment more
the shoes and stockings were off, and the blisters in the hot water.
Miss Letty's tears dropped into the tub, and the salt in them did
not hurt the feet with which she busied herself, more than was
necessary, to hide them.

But no sooner had she recovered herself than she resumed her former

'A shillin'! said ye? An' a' thae greedy gleds (kites) o'
professors to pay, that live upo' the verra blude and banes o'
sair-vroucht students! Hoo cud ye hae a shillin' ower? Troth, it's
nae wonner ye haena ane left. An' a' the merchan's there jist
leevin' upo' ye! Lord hae a care o' 's! sic bonnie feet!--Wi'
blisters I mean. I never saw sic a sicht o' raw puddin's in my
life. Ye're no fit to come doon the stair again.'

All the time she was tenderly washing and bathing the weary feet.
When she had dressed them and tied them up, she took the tub of
water and carried it away, but turned at the door.

'Ye'll jist mak up yer min' to bide a twa three days,' she said;
'for thae feet cudna bide to be carried, no to say to carry a weicht
like you. There's naebody to luik for ye, ye ken. An' ye're no to
come doon the nicht. I'll sen' up yer supper. And Robert there 'll
bide and keep ye company.'

She vanished; and a moment after, Peggy appeared with a
salamander--that is a huge poker, ending not in a point, but a
red-hot ace of spades--which she thrust between the bars of the
grate, into the heart of a nest of brushwood. Presently a cheerful
fire illuminated the room.

Ericson was seated on one chair, with his feet on another, his head
sunk on his bosom, and his eyes thinking. There was something about
him almost as powerfully attractive to Robert as it had been to Miss
Letty. So he sat gazing at him, and longing for a chance of doing
something for him. He had reverence already, and some love, but he
had never felt at all as he felt towards this man. Nor was it as
the Chinese puzzlers called Scotch metaphysicians, might have
represented it--a combination of love and reverence. It was the
recognition of the eternal brotherhood between him and one nobler
than himself--hence a lovely eager worship.

Seeing Ericson look about him as if he wanted something, Robert
started to his feet.

'Is there onything ye want, Mr. Ericson?' he said, with service
standing in his eyes.

'A small bundle I think I brought up with me,' replied the youth.

It was not there. Robert rushed down-stairs, and returned with
it--a nightshirt and a hairbrush or so, tied up in a blue cotton
handkerchief. This was all that Robert was able to do for Ericson
that evening.

He went home and dreamed about him. He called at The Boar's Head
the next morning before going to school, but Ericson was not yet up.
When he called again as soon as morning school was over, he found
that they had persuaded him to keep his bed, but Miss Letty took him
up to his room. He looked better, was pleased to see Robert, and
spoke to him kindly. Twice yet Robert called to inquire after him
that day, and once more he saw him, for he took his tea up to him.

The next day Ericson was much better, received Robert with a smile,
and went out with him for a stroll, for all his companions were
gone, and of some students who had arrived since he did not know
any. Robert took him to his grandmother, who received him with
stately kindness. Then they went out again, and passed the windows
of Captain Forsyth's house. Mary St. John was playing. They stood
for a moment, almost involuntarily, to listen. She ceased.

'That's the music of the spheres,' said Ericson, in a low voice, as
they moved on.

'Will you tell me what that means?' asked Robert. 'I've come upon 't
ower an' ower in Milton.'

Thereupon Ericson explained to him what Pythagoras had taught about
the stars moving in their great orbits with sounds of awful harmony,
too grandly loud for the human organ to vibrate in response to their
music--hence unheard of men. And Ericson spoke as if he believed
it. But after he had spoken, his face grew sadder than ever; and,
as if to change the subject, he said, abruptly,

'What a fine old lady your grandmother is, Robert!'

'Is she?' returned Robert.

'I don't mean to say she's like Miss Letty,' said Ericson. 'She's an

A long pause followed. Robert's thoughts went roaming in their
usual haunts.

'Do you think, Mr. Ericson,' he said, at length, taking up the old
question still floating unanswered in his mind, 'do you think if a
devil was to repent God would forgive him?'

Ericson turned and looked at him. Their eyes met. The youth
wondered at the boy. He had recognized in him a younger brother,
one who had begun to ask questions, calling them out into the deaf
and dumb abyss of the universe.

'If God was as good as I would like him to be, the devils themselves
would repent,' he said, turning away.

Then he turned again, and looking down upon Robert like a sorrowful
eagle from a crag over its harried nest, said,

'If I only knew that God was as good as--that woman, I should die

Robert heard words of blasphemy from the mouth of an angel, but his
respect for Ericson compelled a reply.

'What woman, Mr. Ericson?' he asked.

'I mean Miss Letty, of course.'

'But surely ye dinna think God's nae as guid as she is? Surely he's
as good as he can be. He is good, ye ken.'

'Oh, yes. They say so. And then they tell you something about him
that isn't good, and go on calling him good all the same. But
calling anybody good doesn't make him good, you know.'

'Then ye dinna believe 'at God is good, Mr. Ericson?' said Robert,
choking with a strange mingling of horror and hope.

'I didn't say that, my boy. But to know that God was good, and
fair, and kind--heartily, I mean, not half-ways, and with ifs and
buts--my boy, there would be nothing left to be miserable about.'

In a momentary flash of thought, Robert wondered whether this might
not be his old friend, the repentant angel, sent to earth as a man,
that he might have a share in the redemption, and work out his own
salvation. And from this very moment the thoughts about God that
had hitherto been moving in formless solution in his mind began
slowly to crystallize.

The next day, Eric Ericson, not without a piece in ae pouch and
money in another, took his way home, if home it could be called
where neither father, mother, brother, nor sister awaited his
return. For a season Robert saw him no more.

As often as his name was mentioned, Miss Letty's eyes would grow
hazy, and as often she would make some comical remark.

'Puir fallow!' she would say, 'he was ower lang-leggit for this

Or again:

'Ay, he was a braw chield. But he canna live. His feet's ower

Or yet again:

'Saw ye ever sic a gowk, to mak sic a wark aboot sittin' doon an'
haein' his feet washed, as gin that cost a body onything!'



One of the first warm mornings in the beginning of summer, the boy
woke early, and lay awake, as was his custom, thinking. The sun, in
all the indescribable purity of its morning light, had kindled a
spot of brilliance just about where his grannie's head must be lying
asleep in its sad thoughts, on the opposite side of the partition.

He lay looking at the light. There came a gentle tapping at his
window. A long streamer of honeysuckle, not yet in blossom, but
alive with the life of the summer, was blown by the air of the
morning against his window-pane, as if calling him to get up and
look out. He did get up and look out.

But he started back in such haste that he fell against the side of
his bed. Within a few yards of his window, bending over a bush, was
the loveliest face he had ever seen--the only face, in fact, he had
ever yet felt to be beautiful. For the window looked directly into
the garden of the next house: its honeysuckle tapped at his window,
its sweet-peas grew against his window-sill. It was the face of the
angel of that night; but how different when illuminated by the
morning sun from then, when lighted up by a chamber-candle! The
first thought that came to him was the half-ludicrous, all-fantastic
idea of the shoemaker about his grandfather's violin being a woman.
A vaguest dream-vision of her having escaped from his grandmother's
aumrie (store-closet), and wandering free amidst the wind and among
the flowers, crossed his mind before he had recovered sufficiently
from his surprise to prevent Fancy from cutting any more of those
too ridiculous capers in which she indulged at will in sleep, and as
often besides as she can get away from the spectacles of old Grannie

But the music of her revelation was not that of the violin; and
Robert vaguely felt this, though he searched no further for a
fitting instrument to represent her. If he had heard the organ
indeed!--but he knew no instrument save the violin: the piano he had
only heard through the window. For a few moments her face brooded
over the bush, and her long, finely-modelled fingers travelled about
it as if they were creating a flower upon it--probably they were
assisting the birth or blowing of some beauty--and then she raised
herself with a lingering look, and vanished from the field of the

But ever after this, when the evening grew dark, Robert would steal
out of the house, leaving his book open by his grannie's lamp, that
its patient expansion might seem to say, 'He will come back
presently,' and dart round the corner with quick quiet step, to hear
if Miss St. John was playing. If she was not, he would return to
the Sabbath stillness of the parlour, where his grandmother sat
meditating or reading, and Shargar sat brooding over the freedom of
the old days ere Mrs. Falconer had begun to reclaim him. There he
would seat himself once more at his book--to rise again ere another
hour had gone by, and hearken yet again at her window whether the
stream might not be flowing now. If he found her at her instrument
he would stand listening in earnest delight, until the fear of being
missed drove him in: this secret too might be discovered, and this
enchantress too sent, by the decree of his grandmother, into the
limbo of vanities. Thus strangely did his evening life oscillate
between the two peaceful negations of grannie's parlour and the
vital gladness of the unknown lady's window. And skilfully did he
manage his retreats and returns, curtailing his absences with such
moderation that, for a long time, they awoke no suspicion in the
mind of his grandmother.

I suspect myself that the old lady thought he had gone to his
prayers in the garret. And I believe she thought that he was
praying for his dead father; with which most papistical, and,
therefore, most unchristian observance, she yet dared not interfere,
because she expected Robert to defend himself triumphantly with the
simple assertion that he did not believe his father was dead.
Possibly the mother was not sorry that her poor son should be
prayed for, in case he might be alive after all, though she could no
longer do so herself--not merely dared not, but persuaded herself
that she would not. Robert, however, was convinced enough, and
hopeless enough, by this time, and had even less temptation to break
the twentieth commandment by praying for the dead, than his
grandmother had; for with all his imaginative outgoings after his
father, his love to him was as yet, compared to that father's
mother's, 'as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.'

Shargar would glance up at him with a queer look as he came in from
these excursions, drop his head over his task again, look busy and
miserable, and all would glide on as before.

When the first really summer weather came, Mr. Lammie one day paid
Mrs. Falconer a second visit. He had not been able to get over the
remembrance of the desolation in which he had left her. But he
could do nothing for her, he thought, till it was warm weather. He
was accompanied by his daughter, a woman approaching the further
verge of youth, bulky and florid, and as full of tenderness as her
large frame could hold. After much, and, for a long time,
apparently useless persuasion, they at last believed they had
prevailed upon her to pay them a visit for a fortnight. But she had
only retreated within another of her defences.

'I canna leave thae twa laddies alane. They wad be up to a'

'There's Betty to luik efter them,' suggested Miss Lammie.

'Betty!' returned Mrs. Falconer, with scorn. 'Betty's naething but a
bairn hersel'--muckler and waur faured (worse favoured).'

'But what for shouldna ye fess the lads wi' ye?' suggested Mr.

'I hae no richt to burden you wi' them.'

'Weel, I hae aften wonnert what gart ye burden yersel' wi' that
Shargar, as I understan' they ca' him,' said Mr. Lammie.

'Jist naething but a bit o' greed,' returned the old lady, with the
nearest approach to a smile that had shown itself upon her face
since Mr. Lammie's last visit.

'I dinna understan' that, Mistress Faukner,' said Miss Lammie.

'I'm sae sure o' haein' 't back again, ye ken,--wi' interest,'
returned Mrs. Falconer.

'Hoo's that? His father winna con ye ony thanks for haudin' him in

'He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord, ye ken, Miss

'Atweel, gin ye like to lippen to that bank, nae doobt ae way or
anither it'll gang to yer accoont,' said Miss Lammie.

'It wad ill become us, ony gait,' said her father, 'nae to gie him
shelter for your sake, Mrs. Faukner, no to mention ither names, sin'
it's yer wull to mak the puir lad ane o' the family.--They say his
ain mither's run awa' an' left him.'

''Deed she's dune that.'

'Can ye mak onything o' 'im?'

'He's douce eneuch. An' Robert says he does nae that ill at the

'Weel, jist fess him wi' ye. We'll hae some place or ither to put
him intil, gin it suld be only a shak'-doon upo' the flure.'

'Na, na. There's the schuilin'--what's to be dune wi' that?'

'They can gang i' the mornin', and get their denner wi' Betty here;
and syne come hame to their fower-hoors (four o'clock tea) whan the
schule's ower i' the efternune. 'Deed, mem, ye maun jist come for
the sake o' the auld frien'ship atween the faimilies.'

'Weel, gin it maun be sae, it maun be sae,' yielded Mrs. Falconer,
with a sigh.

She had not left her own house for a single night for ten years.
Nor is it likely she would have now given in, for immovableness was
one of the most marked of her characteristics, had she not been so
broken by mental suffering, that she did not care much about
anything, least of all about herself.

Innumerable were the instructions in propriety of behaviour which
she gave the boys in prospect of this visit. The probability being
that they would behave just as well as at home, these instructions
were considerably unnecessary, for Mrs. Falconer was a strict
enforcer of all social rules. Scarcely less unnecessary were the
directions she gave as to the conduct of Betty, who received them
all in erect submission, with her hands under her apron. She ought
to have been a young girl instead of an elderly woman, if there was
any propriety in the way her mistress spoke to her. It proved at
least her own belief in the description she had given of her to Miss

'Noo, Betty, ye maun be dooce. An' dinna stan' at the door i' the
gloamin'. An' dinna stan' claikin' an' jawin' wi' the ither lasses
whan ye gang to the wall for watter. An' whan ye gang intil a chop,
dinna hae them sayin' ahint yer back, as sune's yer oot again,
"She's her ain mistress by way o'," or sic like. An' min' ye hae
worship wi' yersel', whan I'm nae here to hae 't wi' ye. Ye can
come benn to the parlour gin ye like. An' there's my muckle
Testament. And dinna gie the lads a' thing they want. Gie them
plenty to ait, but no ower muckle. Fowk suld aye lea' aff wi' an

Mr. Lammie brought his gig at last, and took grannie away to
Bodyfauld. When the boys returned from school at the dinner-hour,
it was to exult in a freedom which Robert had never imagined before.
But even he could not know what a relief it was to Shargar to eat
without the awfully calm eyes of Mrs. Falconer watching, as it
seemed to him, the progress of every mouthful down that capacious
throat of his. The old lady would have been shocked to learn how
the imagination of the ill-mothered lad interpreted her care over
him, but she would not have been surprised to know that the two were
merry in her absence. She knew that, in some of her own moods, it
would be a relief to think that that awful eye of God was not upon
her. But she little thought that even in the lawless proceedings
about to follow, her Robert, who now felt such a relief in her
absence, would be walking straight on, though blindly, towards a
sunrise of faith, in which he would know that for the eye of his God
to turn away from him for one moment would be the horror of the
outer darkness.

Merriment, however, was not in Robert's thoughts, and still less was
mischief. For the latter, whatever his grandmother might think, he
had no capacity. The world was already too serious, and was soon to
be too beautiful for mischief. After that, it would be too sad, and
then, finally, until death, too solemn glad. The moment he heard of
his grandmother's intended visit, one wild hope and desire and
intent had arisen within him.

When Betty came to the parlour door to lay the cloth for their
dinner, she found it locked.

'Open the door!' she cried, but cried in vain. From impatience she
passed to passion; but it was of no avail: there came no more
response than from the shrine of the deaf Baal. For to the boys it
was an opportunity not at any risk to be lost. Dull Betty never
suspected what they were about. They were ranging the place like
two tiger-cats whose whelps had been carried off in their
absence--questing, with nose to earth and tail in air, for the scent
of their enemy. My simile has carried me too far: it was only a
dead old gentleman's violin that a couple of boys was after--but
with what eagerness, and, on the part of Robert, what alternations
of hope and fear! And Shargar was always the reflex of Robert, so
far as Shargar could reflect Robert. Sometimes Robert would stop,
stand still in the middle of the room, cast a mathematical glance of
survey over its cubic contents, and then dart off in another
inwardly suggested direction of search. Shargar, on the other hand,
appeared to rummage blindly without a notion of casting the
illumination of thought upon the field of search. Yet to him fell
the success. When hope was growing dim, after an hour and a half of
vain endeavour, a scream of utter discordance heralded the
resurrection of the lady of harmony. Taught by his experience of
his wild mother's habits to guess at those of douce Mrs. Falconer,
Shargar had found the instrument in her bed at the foot, between the
feathers and the mattress. For one happy moment Shargar was the
benefactor, and Robert the grateful recipient of favour. Nor, I do
believe, was this thread of the still thickening cable that bound
them ever forgotten: broken it could not be.

Robert drew the recovered treasure from its concealment, opened the
case with trembling eagerness, and was stooping, with one hand on
the neck of the violin, and the other on the bow, to lift them from
it, when Shargar stopped him.

His success had given him such dignity, that for once he dared to
act from himself.

'Betty 'll hear ye,' he said.

'What care I for Betty? She daurna tell. I ken hoo to manage her.'

'But wadna 't be better 'at she didna ken?'

'She's sure to fin' oot whan she mak's the bed. She turns 't ower
and ower jist like a muckle tyke (dog) worryin' a rottan (rat).'

'De'il a bit o' her s' be a hair wiser! Ye dinna play tunes upo'
the boxie, man.'

Robert caught at the idea. He lifted the 'bonny leddy' from her
coffin; and while he was absorbed in the contemplation of her risen
beauty, Shargar laid his hands on Boston's Four-fold State, the
torment of his life on the Sunday evenings which it was his turn to
spend with Mrs. Falconer, and threw it as an offering to the powers
of Hades into the case, which he then buried carefully, with the
feather-bed for mould, the blankets for sod, and the counterpane
studiously arranged for stone, over it. He took heed, however, not
to let Robert know of the substitution of Boston for the fiddle,
because he knew Robert could not tell a lie. Therefore, when he
murmured over the volume some of its own words which he had read the
preceding Sunday, it was in a quite inaudible whisper: 'Now is it
good for nothing but to cumber the ground, and furnish fuel for

Robert must now hide the violin better than his grannie had done,
while at the same time it was a more delicate necessity, seeing it
had lost its shell, and he shrunk from putting her in the power of
the shoemaker again. It cost him much trouble to fix on the place
that was least unsuitable. First he put it into the well of the
clock-case, but instantly bethought him what the awful consequence
would be if one of the weights should fall from the gradual decay of
its cord. He had heard of such a thing happening. Then he would
put it into his own place of dreams and meditations. But what if
Betty should take a fancy to change her bed? or some friend of his
grannie's should come to spend the night? How would the bonny leddy
like it? What a risk she would run! If he put her under the bed,
the mice would get at her strings--nay, perhaps, knaw a hole right
through her beautiful body. On the top of the clock, the brass
eagle with outspread wings might scratch her, and there was not
space to conceal her. At length he concluded--wrapped her in a
piece of paper, and placed her on the top of the chintz tester of
his bed, where there was just room between it and the ceiling: that
would serve till he bore her to some better sanctuary. In the
meantime she was safe, and the boy was the blessedest boy in

These things done, they were just in the humour to have a lark with
Betty. So they unbolted the door, rang the bell, and when Betty
appeared, red-faced and wrathful, asked her very gravely and
politely whether they were not going to have some dinner before they
went back to school: they had now but twenty minutes left. Betty
was so dumfoundered with their impudence that she could not say a
word. She did make haste with the dinner, though, and revealed her
indignation only in her manner of putting the things on the table.
As the boys left her, Robert contented himself with the single

'Betty, Bodyfauld 's i' the perris o' Kettledrum. Min' ye that.'

Betty glowered and said nothing.

But the delight of the walk of three miles over hill and dale and
moor and farm to Mr. Lammie's! The boys, if not as wild as
colts--that is, as wild as most boys would have been--were only the
more deeply excited. That first summer walk, with a goal before
them, in all the freshness of the perfecting year, was something
which to remember in after days was to Falconer nothing short of
ecstasy. The westering sun threw long shadows before them as they
trudged away eastward, lightly laden with the books needful for the
morrow's lessons. Once beyond the immediate purlieus of the town
and the various plots of land occupied by its inhabitants, they
crossed a small river, and entered upon a region of little hills,
some covered to the top with trees, chiefly larch, others
cultivated, and some bearing only heather, now nursing in secret its
purple flame for the outburst of the autumn. The road wound
between, now swampy and worn into deep ruts, now sandy and broken
with large stones. Down to its edge would come the dwarfed oak, or
the mountain ash, or the silver birch, single and small, but lovely
and fresh; and now green fields, fenced with walls of earth as green
as themselves, or of stones overgrown with moss, would stretch away
on both sides, sprinkled with busily-feeding cattle. Now they would
pass through a farm-steading, perfumed with the breath of cows, and
the odour of burning peat--so fragrant! though not yet so grateful
to the inner sense as it would be when encountered in after years
and in foreign lands. For the smell of burning and the smell of
earth are the deepest underlying sensuous bonds of the earth's
unity, and the common brotherhood of them that dwell thereon. Now
the scent of the larches would steal from the hill, or the wind
would waft the odour of the white clover, beloved of his
grandmother, to Robert's nostrils, and he would turn aside to pull
her a handful. Then they clomb a high ridge, on the top of which
spread a moorland, dreary and desolate, brightened by nothing save
'the canna's hoary beard' waving in the wind, and making it look
even more desolate from the sympathy they felt with the forsaken
grass. This crossed, they descended between young plantations of
firs and rowan-trees and birches, till they reached a warm house on
the side of the slope, with farm-offices and ricks of corn and hay
all about it, the front overgrown with roses and honeysuckle, and a
white-flowering plant unseen of their eyes hitherto, and therefore
full of mystery. From the open kitchen door came the smell of
something good. But beyond all to Robert was the welcome of Miss
Lammie, whose small fat hand closed upon his like a very
love-pudding, after partaking of which even his grandmother's
stately reception, followed immediately by the words 'Noo be dooce,'
could not chill the warmth in his bosom.

I know but one writer whose pen would have been able worthily to set
forth the delights of the first few days at Bodyfauld--Jean Paul.
Nor would he have disdained to make the gladness of a country
school-boy the theme of that pen. Indeed, often has he done so. If
the writer has any higher purpose than the amusement of other boys,
he will find the life of a country boy richer for his ends than that
of a town boy. For example, he has a deeper sense of the marvel of
Nature, a tenderer feeling of her feminality. I do not mean that
the other cannot develop this sense, but it is generally feeble, and
there is consequently less chance of its surviving. As far as my
experience goes, town girls and country boys love Nature most. I
have known town girls love her as passionately as country boys.
Town boys have too many books and pictures. They see Nature in
mirrors--invaluable privilege after they know herself, not before.
They have greater opportunity of observing human nature; but here
also the books are too many and various. They are cleverer than
country boys, but they are less profound; their observation may be
quicker; their perception is shallower. They know better what to do
on an emergency; they know worse how to order their ways. Of
course, in this, as in a thousand other matters, Nature will burst
out laughing in the face of the would-be philosopher, and bringing
forward her town boy, will say, 'Look here!' For the town boys are
Nature's boys after all, at least so long as doctrines of
self-preservation and ambition have not turned them from children of
the kingdom into dirt-worms. But I must stop, for I am getting up
to the neck in a bog of discrimination. As if I did not know the
nobility of some townspeople, compared with the worldliness of some
country folk. I give it up. We are all good and all bad. God mend
all. Nothing will do for Jew or Gentile, Frenchman or Englishman,
Negro or Circassian, town boy or country boy, but the kingdom of
heaven which is within him, and must come thence to the outside of

To a boy like Robert the changes of every day, from country to town
with the gay morning, from town to country with the sober
evening--for country as Rothieden might be to Edinburgh, much more
was Bodyfauld country to Rothieden--were a source of boundless
delight. Instead of houses, he saw the horizon; instead of streets
or walled gardens, he roamed over fields bathed in sunlight and
wind. Here it was good to get up before the sun, for then he could
see the sun get up. And of all things those evening shadows
lengthening out over the grassy wildernesses--for fields of a very
moderate size appeared such to an imagination ever ready at the
smallest hint to ascend its solemn throne--were a deepening marvel.
Town to country is what a ceiling is to a clum.



Grannie's first action every evening, the moment the boys entered
the room, was to glance up at the clock, that she might see whether
they had arrived in reasonable time. This was not pleasant, because
it admonished Robert how impossible it was for him to have a lesson
on his own violin so long as the visit to Bodyfauld lasted. If they
had only been allowed to sleep at Rothieden, what a universe of
freedom would have been theirs! As it was, he had but two hours to
himself, pared at both ends, in the middle of the day. Dooble Sanny
might have given him a lesson at that time, but he did not dare to
carry his instrument through the streets of Rothieden, for the
proceeding would be certain to come to his grandmother's ears.
Several days passed indeed before he made up his mind as to how he
was to reap any immediate benefit from the recovery of the violin.
For after he had made up his mind to run the risk of successive
mid-day solos in the old factory--he was not prepared to carry the
instrument through the streets, or be seen entering the place with

But the factory lay at the opposite corner of a quadrangle of
gardens, the largest of which belonged to itself; and the corner of
this garden touched the corner of Captain Forsyth's, which had
formerly belonged to Andrew Falconer: he had had a door made in the
walls at the point of junction, so that he could go from his house
to his business across his own property: if this door were not
locked, and Robert could pass without offence, what a north-west
passage it would be for him! The little garden belonging to his
grandmother's house had only a slight wooden fence to divide it from
the other, and even in this fence there was a little gate: he would
only have to run along Captain Forsyth's top walk to reach the door.
The blessed thought came to him as he lay in bed at Bodyfauld: he
would attempt the passage the very next day.

With his violin in its paper under his arm, he sped like a hare from
gate to door, found it not even latched, only pushed to and rusted
into such rest as it was dangerous to the hinges to disturb. He
opened it, however, without any accident, and passed through; then
closing it behind him, took his way more leisurely through the
tangled grass of his grandmother's property. When he reached the
factory, he judged it prudent to search out a more secret nook, one
more full of silence, that is, whence the sounds would be less
certain to reach the ears of the passers by, and came upon a small
room, near the top, which had been the manager's bedroom, and which,
as he judged from what seemed the signs of ancient occupation, a
cloak hanging on the wall, and the ashes of a fire lying in the
grate, nobody had entered for years: it was the safest place in the
world. He undid his instrument carefully, tuned its strings
tenderly, and soon found that his former facility, such as it was,
had not ebbed away beyond recovery. Hastening back as he came, he
was just in time for his dinner, and narrowly escaped encountering
Betty in the transe. He had been tempted to leave the instrument,
but no one could tell what might happen, and to doubt would be to be
miserable with anxiety.

He did the same for several days without interruption--not, however,
without observation. When, returning from his fourth visit, he
opened the door between the gardens, he started back in dismay, for
there stood the beautiful lady.

Robert hesitated for a moment whether to fly or speak. He was a
Lowland country boy, and therefore rude of speech, but he was three
parts a Celt, and those who know the address of the Irish or of the
Highlanders, know how much that involves as to manners and bearing.
He advanced the next instant and spoke.

'I beg yer pardon, mem. I thoucht naebody wad see me. I haena dune
nae ill.'

'I had not the least suspicion of it, I assure you,' returned Miss
St. John. 'But, tell me, what makes you go through here always at
the same hour with the same parcel under your arm?'

'Ye winna tell naebody--will ye, mem, gin I tell you?'

Miss St. John, amused, and interested besides in the contrast
between the boy's oddly noble face and good bearing on the one hand,
and on the other the drawl of his bluntly articulated speech and the
coarseness of his tone, both seeming to her in the extreme of
provincialism, promised; and Robert, entranced by all the qualities
of her voice and speech, and nothing disenchanted by the nearer view
of her lovely face, confided in her at once.

'Ye see, mem,' he said, 'I cam' upo' my grandfather's fiddle. But
my grandmither thinks the fiddle's no gude. And sae she tuik and
she hed it. But I faun't it again. An' I daurna play i' the hoose,
though my grannie's i' the country, for Betty hearin' me and tellin'
her. And sae I gang to the auld fact'ry there. It belangs to my
grannie, and sae does the yaird (garden). An' this hoose and yaird
was ance my father's, and sae he had that door throu, they tell me.
An' I thocht gin it suld be open, it wad be a fine thing for me, to
haud fowk ohn seen me. But it was verra ill-bred to you, mem, I
ken, to come throu your yaird ohn speirt leave. I beg yer pardon,
mem, an' I'll jist gang back, and roon' by the ro'd. This is my
fiddle I hae aneath my airm. We bude to pit back the case o' 't
whaur it was afore, i' my grannie's bed, to haud her ohn kent 'at
she had tint the grup o' 't.'

Certainly Miss St. John could not have understood the half of the
words Robert used, but she understood his story notwithstanding.
Herself an enthusiast in music, her sympathies were at once engaged
for the awkward boy who was thus trying to steal an entrance into
the fairy halls of sound. But she forbore any further allusion to
the violin for the present, and contented herself with assuring
Robert that he was heartily welcome to go through the garden as
often as he pleased. She accompanied her words with a smile that
made Robert feel not only that she was the most beautiful of all
princesses in fairy-tales, but that she had presented him with
something beyond price in the most self-denying manner. He took off
his cap, thanked her with much heartiness, if not with much polish,
and hastened to the gate of his grandmother's little garden. A few
years later such an encounter might have spoiled his dinner: I have
to record no such evil result of the adventure.

With Miss St. John, music was the highest form of human expression,
as must often be the case with those whose feeling is much in
advance of their thought, and to whom, therefore, may be called
mental sensation is the highest known condition. Music to such is
poetry in solution, and generates that infinite atmosphere, common
to both musician and poet, which the latter fills with shining
worlds.--But if my reader wishes to follow out for himself the idea
herein suggested, he must be careful to make no confusion between
those who feel musically or think poetically, and the musician or
the poet. One who can only play the music of others, however
exquisitely, is not a musician, any more than one who can read verse
to the satisfaction, or even expound it to the enlightenment of the
poet himself, is therefore a poet.--When Miss St. John would worship
God, it was in music that she found the chariot of fire in which to
ascend heavenward. Hence music was the divine thing in the world
for her; and to find any one loving music humbly and faithfully was
to find a brother or sister believer. But she had been so often
disappointed in her expectations from those she took to be such,
that of late she had become less sanguine. Still there was
something about this boy that roused once more her musical hopes;
and, however she may have restrained herself from the full
indulgence of them, certain it is that the next day, when she saw
Robert pass, this time leisurely, along the top of the garden, she
put on her bonnet and shawl, and, allowing him time to reach his
den, followed him, in the hope of finding out whether or not he
could play. I do not know what proficiency the boy had attained,
very likely not much, for a man can feel the music of his own bow,
or of his own lines, long before any one else can discover it. He
had already made a path, not exactly worn one, but trampled one,
through the neglected grass, and Miss St. John had no difficulty in
finding his entrance to the factory.

She felt a little eerie, as Robert would have called it, when she
passed into the waste silent place; for besides the wasteness and
the silence, motionless machines have a look of death about them, at
least when they bear such signs of disuse as those that filled these
rooms. Hearing no violin, she waited for a while in the
ground-floor of the building; but still hearing nothing, she
ascended to the first floor. Here, likewise, all was silence. She
hesitated, but at length ventured up the next stair, beginning,
however, to feel a little troubled as well as eerie, the silence was
so obstinately persistent. Was it possible that there was no violin
in that brown paper? But that boy could not be a liar. Passing
shelves piled-up with stores of old thread, she still went on, led
by a curiosity stronger than her gathering fear. At last she came
to a little room, the door of which was open, and there she saw
Robert lying on the floor with his head in a pool of blood.

Now Mary St. John was both brave and kind; and, therefore, though
not insensible to the fact that she too must be in danger where
violence had been used to a boy, she set about assisting him at
once. His face was deathlike, but she did not think he was dead.
She drew him out into the passage, for the room was close, and did
all she could to recover him; but for some time he did not even
breathe. At last his lips moved, and he murmured,

'Sandy, Sandy, ye've broken my bonnie leddy.'

Then he opened his eyes, and seeing a face to dream about bending in
kind consternation over him, closed them again with a smile and a
sigh, as if to prolong his dream.

The blood now came fast into his forsaken cheeks, and began to flow
again from the wound in his head. The lady bound it up with her
handkerchief. After a little he rose, though with difficulty, and
stared wildly about him, saying, with imperfect articulation,
'Father! father!' Then he looked at Miss St. John with a kind of
dazed inquiry in his eyes, tried several times to speak, and could

'Can you walk at all?' asked Miss St. John, supporting him, for she
was anxious to leave the place.

'Yes, mem, weel eneuch,' he answered.

'Come along, then. I will help you home.'

'Na, na,' he said, as if he had just recalled something. 'Dinna min'
me. Rin hame, mem, or he'll see ye!'

'Who will see me?'

Robert stared more wildly, put his hand to his head, and made no
reply. She half led, half supported him down the stair, as far as
the first landing, when he cried out in a tone of anguish,

'My bonny leddy!'

'What is it?' asked Miss St. John, thinking he meant her.

'My fiddle! my fiddle! She 'll be a' in bits,' he answered, and
turned to go up again.

'Sit down here,' said Miss St. John, 'and I'll fetch it.'

Though not without some tremor, she darted back to the room. Then
she turned faint for the first time, but determinedly supporting
herself, she looked about, saw a brown-paper parcel on a shelf, took
it, and hurried out with a shudder.

Robert stood leaning against the wall. He stretched out his hands

'Gie me her. Gie me her.'

'You had better let me carry it. You are not able.'

'Na, na, mem. Ye dinna ken hoo easy she is to hurt.'

'Oh, yes, I do!' returned Miss St. John, smiling, and Robert could
not withstand the smile.

'Weel, tak care o' her, as ye wad o' yer ain sel', mem,' he said,

He was now much better, and before he had been two minutes in the
open air, insisted that he was quite well. When they reached
Captain Forsyth's garden he again held out his hands for his violin.

'No, no,' said his new friend. 'You wouldn't have Betty see you like
that, would you?'

'No, mem; but I'll put in the fiddle at my ain window, and she sanna
hae a chance o' seein' 't,' answered Robert, not understanding her;
for though he felt a good deal of pain, he had no idea what a
dreadful appearance he presented.

'Don't you know that you have a wound on your head?' asked Miss St.

'Na! hev I?' said Robert, putting up his hand. 'But I maun
gang--there's nae help for 't,' he added.--'Gin I cud only win to my
ain room ohn Betty seen me!--Eh! mem, I hae blaudit (spoiled) a' yer
bonny goon. That's a sair vex.'

'Never mind it,' returned Miss St. John, smiling. 'It is of no
consequence. But you must come with me. I must see what I can do
for your head. Poor boy!'

'Eh, mem! but ye are kin'! Gin ye speik like that ye'll gar me
greit. Naebody ever spak' to me like that afore. Maybe ye kent my
mamma. Ye're sae like her.'

This word mamma was the only remnant of her that lingered in his
speech. Had she lived he would have spoken very differently. They
were now walking towards the house.

'No, I did not know your mamma. Is she dead?'

'Lang syne, mem. And sae they tell me is yours.'

'Yes; and my father too. Your father is alive, I hope?'

Robert made no answer. Miss St. John turned.

The boy had a strange look, and seemed struggling with something in
his throat. She thought he was going to faint again, and hurried
him into the drawing-room. Her aunt had not yet left her room, and
her uncle was out.

'Sit down,' she said--so kindly--and Robert sat down on the edge of
a chair. Then she left the room, but presently returned with a
little brandy. 'There,' she said, offering the glass, 'that will do
you good.'

'What is 't, mem?'

'Brandy. There's water in it, of course.'

'I daurna touch 't. Grannie cudna bide me to touch 't,'

So determined was he, that Miss St. John was forced to yield.
Perhaps she wondered that the boy who would deceive his grandmother
about a violin should be so immovable in regarding her pleasure in
the matter of a needful medicine. But in this fact I begin to see
the very Falconer of my manhood's worship.

'Eh, mem! gin ye wad play something upo' her,' he resumed, pointing
to the piano, which, although he had never seen one before, he at
once recognized, by some hidden mental operation, as the source of
the sweet sounds heard at the window, 'it wad du me mair guid than a
haill bottle o' brandy, or whusky either.'

'How do you know that?' asked Miss St. John, proceeding to sponge
the wound.

''Cause mony's the time I hae stud oot there i' the street,
hearkenin'. Dooble Sanny says 'at ye play jist as gin ye war my
gran'father's fiddle hersel', turned into the bonniest cratur ever
God made.'

'How did you get such a terrible cut?'

She had removed the hair, and found that the injury was severe.

The boy was silent. She glanced round in his face. He was staring
as if he saw nothing, heard nothing. She would try again.

'Did you fall? Or how did you cut your head?'

'Yes, yes, mem, I fell,' he answered, hastily, with an air of
relief, and possibly with some tone of gratitude for the suggestion
of a true answer.

'What made you fall?'

Utter silence again. She felt a kind of turn--I do not know another
word to express what I mean: the boy must have fits, and either
could not tell, or was ashamed to tell, what had befallen him.
Thereafter she too was silent, and Robert thought she was offended.
Possibly he felt a change in the touch of her fingers.

'Mem, I wad like to tell ye,' he said, 'but I daurna.'

'Oh! never mind,' she returned kindly.

'Wad ye promise nae to tell naebody?'

'I don't want to know,' she answered, confirmed in her suspicion,
and at the same time ashamed of the alteration of feeling which the
discovery had occasioned.

An uncomfortable silence followed, broken by Robert.

'Gin ye binna pleased wi' me, mem,' he said, 'I canna bide ye to
gang on wi' siccan a job 's that.'

How Miss St. John could have understood him, I cannot think; but she

'Oh! very well,' she answered, smiling. 'Just as you please.
Perhaps you had better take this piece of plaster to Betty, and ask
her to finish the dressing for you.'

Robert took the plaster mechanically, and, sick at heart and
speechless, rose to go, forgetting even his bonny leddy in his

'You had better take your violin with you,' said Miss St. John,
urged to the cruel experiment by a strong desire to see what the
strange boy would do.

He turned. The tears were streaming down his odd face. They went
to her heart, and she was bitterly ashamed of herself.

'Come along. Do sit down again. I only wanted to see what you
would do. I am very sorry,' she said, in a tone of kindness such as
Robert had never imagined.

He sat down instantly, saying,

'Eh, mem! it's sair to bide;' meaning, no doubt, the conflict
between his inclination to tell her all, and his duty to be silent.

The dressing was soon finished, his hair combed down over it, and
Robert looking once more respectable.

'Now, I think that will do,' said his nurse.

'Eh, thank ye, mem!' answered Robert, rising. 'Whan I'm able to play
upo' the fiddle as weel 's ye play upo' the piana, I'll come and
play at yer window ilka nicht, as lang 's ye like to hearken.'

She smiled, and he was satisfied. He did not dare again ask her to
play to him. But she said of herself, 'Now I will play something to
you, if you like,' and he resumed his seat devoutly.

When she had finished a lovely little air, which sounded to Robert
like the touch of her hands, and her breath on his forehead, she
looked round, and was satisfied, from the rapt expression of the
boy's countenance, that at least he had plenty of musical
sensibility. As if despoiled of volition, he stood motionless till

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