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Robert Falconer by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 13

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she said,

'Now you had better go, or Betty will miss you.'

Then he made her a bow in which awkwardness and grace were curiously
mingled, and taking up his precious parcel, and holding it to his
bosom as if it had been a child for whom he felt an access of
tenderness, he slowly left the room and the house.

Not even to Shargar did he communicate his adventure. And he went
no more to the deserted factory to play there. Fate had again
interposed between him and his bonny leddy.

When he reached Bodyfauld he fancied his grandmother's eyes more
watchful of him than usual, and he strove the more to resist the
weariness, and even faintness, that urged him to go to bed. Whether
he was able to hide as well a certain trouble that clouded his
spirit I doubt. His wound he did manage to keep a secret, thanks to
the care of Miss St. John, who had dressed it with court-plaster.

When he woke the next morning, it was with the consciousness of
having seen something strange the night before, and only when he
found that he was not in his own room at his grandmother's, was he
convinced that it must have been a dream and no vision. For in the
night, he had awaked there as he thought, and the moon was shining
with such clearness, that although it did not shine into his room,
he could see the face of the clock, and that the hands were both
together at the top. Close by the clock stood the bureau, with its
end against the partition forming the head of his grannie's bed.

All at once he saw a tall man, in a blue coat and bright buttons,
about to open the lid of the bureau. The same moment he saw a
little elderly man in a brown coat and a brown wig, by his side, who
sought to remove his hand from the lock. Next appeared a huge
stalwart figure, in shabby old tartans, and laid his hand on the
head of each. But the wonder widened and grew; for now came a
stately Highlander with his broadsword by his side, and an eagle's
feather in his bonnet, who laid his hand on the other Highlander's

When Robert looked in the direction whence this last had appeared,
the head of his grannie's bed had vanished, and a wild hill-side,
covered with stones and heather, sloped away into the distance.
Over it passed man after man, each with an ancestral air, while on
the gray sea to the left, galleys covered with Norsemen tore up the
white foam, and dashed one after the other up to the strand. How
long he gazed, he did not know, but when he withdrew his eyes from
the extended scene, there stood the figure of his father, still
trying to open the lid of the bureau, his grandfather resisting him,
the blind piper with his hand on the head of both, and the stately
chief with his hand on the piper's arm. Then a mist of
forgetfulness gathered over the whole, till at last he awoke and
found himself in the little wooden chamber at Bodyfauld, and not in
the visioned room. Doubtless his loss of blood the day before had
something to do with the dream or vision, whichever the reader may
choose to consider it. He rose, and after a good breakfast, found
himself very little the worse, and forgot all about his dream, till
a circumstance which took place not long after recalled it vividly
to his mind.

The enchantment of Bodyfauld soon wore off. The boys had no time to
enter into the full enjoyment of country ways, because of those
weary lessons, over the getting of which Mrs. Falconer kept as
strict a watch as ever; while to Robert the evening journey, his
violin and Miss St. John left at Rothieden, grew more than tame.
The return was almost as happy an event to him as the first going.
Now he could resume his lessons with the soutar.

With Shargar it was otherwise. The freedom for so much longer from
Mrs. Falconer's eyes was in itself so much of a positive pleasure,
that the walk twice a day, the fresh air, and the scents and sounds
of the country, only came in as supplementary. But I do not believe
the boy even then had so much happiness as when he was beaten and
starved by his own mother. And Robert, growing more and more
absorbed in his own thoughts and pursuits, paid him less and less
attention as the weeks went on, till Shargar at length judged it for
a time an evil day on which he first had slept under old Ronald
Falconer's kilt.



Before the day of return arrived, Robert had taken care to remove
the violin from his bedroom, and carry it once more to its old
retreat in Shargar's garret. The very first evening, however, that
grannie again spent in her own arm-chair, he hied from the house as
soon as it grew dusk, and made his way with his brown-paper parcel
to Sandy Elshender's.

Entering the narrow passage from which his shop door opened, and
hearing him hammering away at a sole, he stood and unfolded his
treasure, then drew a low sigh from her with his bow, and awaited
the result. He heard the lap-stone fall thundering on the floor,
and, like a spider from his cavern, Dooble Sanny appeared in the
door, with the bend-leather in one hand, and the hammer in the

'Lordsake, man! hae ye gotten her again? Gie's a grup o' her!' he
cried, dropping leather and hammer.

'Na, na,' returned Robert, retreating towards the outer door. 'Ye
maun sweir upo' her that, whan I want her, I sall hae her ohn demur,
or I sanna lat ye lay roset upo' her.'

'I swear 't, Robert; I sweir 't upo' her,' said the soutar
hurriedly, stretching out both his hands as if to receive some human
being into his embrace.

Robert placed the violin in those grimy hands. A look of heavenly
delight dawned over the hirsute and dirt-besmeared countenance,
which drooped into tenderness as he drew the bow across the
instrument, and wiled from her a thin wail as of sorrow at their
long separation. He then retreated into his den, and was soon sunk
in a trance, deaf to everything but the violin, from which no
entreaties of Robert, who longed for a lesson, could rouse him; so
that he had to go home grievously disappointed, and unrewarded for
the risk he had run in venturing the stolen visit.

Next time, however, he fared better; and he contrived so well that,
from the middle of June to the end of August, he had two lessons a
week, mostly upon the afternoons of holidays. For these his master
thought himself well paid by the use of the instrument between. And
Robert made great progress.

Occasionally he saw Miss St. John in the garden, and once or twice
met her in the town; but her desire to find in him a pupil had been
greatly quenched by her unfortunate conjecture as to the cause of
his accident. She had, however, gone so far as to mention the
subject to her aunt, who assured her that old Mrs. Falconer would as
soon consent to his being taught gambling as music. The idea,
therefore, passed away; and beyond a kind word or two when she met
him, there was no further communication between them. But Robert
would often dream of waking from a swoon, and finding his head lying
on her lap, and her lovely face bending over him full of kindness
and concern.

By the way, Robert cared nothing for poetry. Virgil was too
troublesome to be enjoyed; and in English he had met with nothing
but the dried leaves and gum-flowers of the last century. Miss
Letty once lent him The Lady of the Lake; but before he had read the
first canto through, his grandmother laid her hands upon it, and,
without saying a word, dropped it behind a loose skirting-board in
the pantry, where the mice soon made it a ruin sad to behold. For
Miss Letty, having heard from the woful Robert of its strange
disappearance, and guessing its cause, applied to Mrs. Falconer for
the volume; who forthwith, the tongs aiding, extracted it from its
hole, and, without shade of embarrassment, held it up like a drowned
kitten before the eyes of Miss Letty, intending thereby, no doubt,
to impress her with the fate of all seducing spirits that should
attempt an entrance into her kingdom: Miss Letty only burst into
merry laughter over its fate. So the lode of poetry failed for the
present from Robert's life. Nor did it matter much; for had he not
his violin?

I have, I think, already indicated that his grandfather had been a
linen manufacturer. Although that trade had ceased, his family had
still retained the bleachery belonging to it, commonly called the
bleachfield, devoting it now to the service of those large calico
manufactures which had ruined the trade in linen, and to the
whitening of such yarn as the country housewives still spun at home,
and the webs they got woven of it in private looms. To Robert and
Shargar it was a wondrous pleasure when the pile of linen which the
week had accumulated at the office under the ga'le-room, was on
Saturday heaped high upon the base of a broad-wheeled cart, to get
up on it and be carried to the said bleachfield, which lay along the
bank of the river. Soft laid and high-borne, gazing into the blue
sky, they traversed the streets in a holiday triumph; and although,
once arrived, the manager did not fail to get some labour out of
them, yet the store of amusement was endless. The great wheel,
which drove the whole machinery; the plash-mill, or, more properly,
wauk-mill--a word Robert derived from the resemblance of the mallets
to two huge feet, and of their motion to walking--with the water
plashing and squirting from the blows of their heels; the beatles
thundering in arpeggio upon the huge cylinder round which the white
cloth was wound--each was haunted in its turn and season. The
pleasure of the water itself was inexhaustible. Here sweeping in a
mass along the race; there divided into branches and hurrying
through the walls of the various houses; here sliding through a
wooden channel across the floor to fall into the river in a
half-concealed cataract, there bubbling up through the bottom of a
huge wooden cave or vat, there resting placid in another; here
gurgling along a spout; there flowing in a narrow canal through the
green expanse of the well-mown bleaehfield, or lifted from it in
narrow curved wooden scoops, like fairy canoes with long handles,
and flung in showers over the outspread yarn--the water was an
endless delight.

It is strange how some individual broidery or figure upon Nature's
garment will delight a boy long before he has ever looked Nature in
the face, or begun to love herself. But Robert was soon to become
dimly conscious of a life within these things--a life not the less
real that its operations on his mind had been long unrecognized.

On the grassy bank of the gently-flowing river, at the other edge of
whose level the little canal squabbled along, and on the grassy brae
which rose immediately from the canal, were stretched, close beside
each other, with scarce a stripe of green betwixt, the long white
webs of linen, fastened down to the soft mossy ground with wooden
pegs, whose tops were twisted into their edges. Strangely would
they billow in the wind sometimes, like sea-waves, frozen and
enchanted flat, seeking to rise and wallow in the wind with
conscious depth and whelming mass. But generally they lay supine,
saturated with light and its cleansing power. Falconer's jubilation
in the white and green of a little boat, as we lay, one bright
morning, on the banks of the Thames between Richmond and Twickenham,
led to such a description of the bleachfield that I can write about
it as if I had known it myself.

One Saturday afternoon in the end of July, when the westering sun
was hotter than at midday, he went down to the lower end of the
field, where the river was confined by a dam, and plunged from the
bank into deep water. After a swim of half-an-hour, he ascended the
higher part of the field, and lay down upon a broad web to bask in
the sun. In his ears was the hush rather than rush of the water
over the dam, the occasional murmur of a belt of trees that skirted
the border of the field, and the dull continuous sound of the
beatles at their work below, like a persistent growl of thunder on
the horizon.

Had Robert possessed a copy of Robinson Crusoe, or had his
grandmother not cast The Lady of the Lake, mistaking it for an idol,
if not to the moles and the bats, yet to the mice and the
black-beetles, he might have been lying reading it, blind and deaf
to the face and the voice of Nature, and years might have passed
before a response awoke in his heart. It is good that children of
faculty, as distinguished from capacity, should not have too many
books to read, or too much of early lessoning. The increase of
examinations in our country will increase its capacity and diminish
its faculty. We shall have more compilers and reducers and fewer
thinkers; more modifiers and completers, and fewer inventors.

He lay gazing up into the depth of the sky, rendered deeper and
bluer by the masses of white cloud that hung almost motionless below
it, until he felt a kind of bodily fear lest he should fall off the
face of the round earth into the abyss. A gentle wind, laden with
pine odours from the sun-heated trees behind him, flapped its light
wing in his face: the humanity of the world smote his heart; the
great sky towered up over him, and its divinity entered his soul; a
strange longing after something 'he knew not nor could name' awoke
within him, followed by the pang of a sudden fear that there was no
such thing as that which he sought, that it was all a fancy of his
own spirit; and then the voice of Shargar broke the spell, calling
to him from afar to come and see a great salmon that lay by a stone
in the water. But once aroused, the feeling was never stilled; the
desire never left him; sometimes growing even to a passion that was
relieved only by a flood of tears.

Strange as it may sound to those who have never thought of such
things save in connection with Sundays and Bibles and churches and
sermons, that which was now working in Falconer's mind was the first
dull and faint movement of the greatest need that the human heart
possesses--the need of the God-Man. There must be truth in the scent
of that pine-wood: some one must mean it. There must be a glory in
those heavens that depends not upon our imagination: some power
greater than they must dwell in them. Some spirit must move in that
wind that haunts us with a kind of human sorrow; some soul must look
up to us from the eye of that starry flower. It must be something
human, else not to us divine.

Little did Robert think that such was his need--that his soul was
searching after One whose form was constantly presented to him, but
as constantly obscured and made unlovely by the words without
knowledge spoken in the religious assemblies of the land; that he
was longing without knowing it on the Saturday for that from which
on the Sunday he would be repelled without knowing it. Years passed
before he drew nigh to the knowledge of what he sought.

For weeks the mood broken by the voice of his companion did not
return, though the forms of Nature were henceforth full of a
pleasure he had never known before. He loved the grass; the water
was more gracious to him; he would leave his bed early, that he
might gaze on the clouds of the east, with their borders
gold-blasted with sunrise; he would linger in the fields that the
amber and purple, and green and red, of the sunset, might not escape
after the sun unseen. And as long as he felt the mystery, the
revelation of the mystery lay before and not behind him.

And Shargar--had he any soul for such things? Doubtless; but how
could he be other than lives behind Robert? For the latter had
ancestors--that is, he came of people with a mental and spiritual
history; while the former had been born the birth of an animal; of a
noble sire, whose family had for generations filled the earth with
fire, famine, slaughter, and licentiousness; and of a wandering
outcast mother, who blindly loved the fields and woods, but retained
her affection for her offspring scarcely beyond the period while she
suckled them. The love of freedom and of wild animals that she had
given him, however, was far more precious than any share his male
ancestor had borne in his mental constitution. After his fashion he
as well as Robert enjoyed the sun and the wind and the water and the
sky; but he had sympathies with the salmon and the rooks and the
wild rabbits even stronger than those of Robert.



The period of the hairst-play, that is, of the harvest holiday time,
drew near, and over the north of Scotland thousands of half-grown
hearts were beating with glad anticipation. Of the usual devices of
boys to cheat themselves into the half-belief of expediting a
blessed approach by marking its rate, Robert knew nothing: even the
notching of sticks was unknown at Rothieden; but he had a mode
notwithstanding. Although indifferent to the games of his
school-fellows, there was one amusement, a solitary one nearly, and
therein not so good as most amusements, into which he entered with
the whole energy of his nature: it was kite-flying. The moment that
the hairst-play approached near enough to strike its image through
the eyes of his mind, Robert proceeded to make his kite, or draigon,
as he called it. Of how many pleasures does pocket-money deprive
the unfortunate possessor! What is the going into a shop and buying
what you want, compared with the gentle delight of hours and days
filled with gaining effort after the attainment of your end? Never
boy that bought his kite, even if the adornment thereafter lay in
his own hands, and the pictures were gorgeous with colour and
gilding, could have half the enjoyment of Robert from the moment he
went to the cooper's to ask for an old gird or hoop, to the moment
when he said 'Noo, Shargar!' and the kite rose slowly from the depth
of the aŽrial flood. The hoop was carefully examined, the best
portion cut away from it, that pared to a light strength, its ends
confined to the proper curve by a string, and then away went Robert
to the wright's shop. There a slip of wood, of proper length and
thickness, was readily granted to his request, free as the daisies
of the field. Oh! those horrid town conditions, where nothing is
given for the asking, but all sold for money! In Robert's kite the
only thing that cost money was the string to fly it with, and that
the grandmother willingly provided, for not even her ingenuity could
discover any evil, direct or implicated, in kite-flying. Indeed, I
believe the old lady felt not a little sympathy with the exultation
of the boy when he saw his kite far aloft, diminished to a speck in
the vast blue; a sympathy, it may be, rooted in the religious
aspirations which she did so much at once to rouse and to suppress
in the bosom of her grandchild. But I have not yet reached the
kite-flying, for I have said nothing of the kite's tail, for the
sake of which principally I began to describe the process of its

As soon as the body of the dragon was completed, Robert attached to
its spine the string which was to take the place of its caudal
elongation, and at a proper distance from the body joined to the
string the first of the cross-pieces of folded paper which in this
animal represent the continued vertebral processes. Every morning,
the moment he issued from his chamber, he proceeded to the garret
where the monster lay, to add yet another joint to his tail, until
at length the day should arrive when, the lessons over for a blessed
eternity of five or six weeks, he would tip the whole with a piece
of wood, to which grass, quantum suff., might be added from the
happy fields.

Upon this occasion the dragon was a monster one. With a little help
from Shargar, he had laid the skeleton of a six-foot specimen, and
had carried the body to a satisfactory completion.

The tail was still growing, having as yet only sixteen joints, when
Mr. Lammie called with an invitation for the boys to spend their
holidays with him. It was fortunate for Robert that he was in the
room when Mr. Lammie presented his petition, otherwise he would
never have heard of it till the day of departure arrived, and would
thus have lost all the delights of anticipation. In frantic effort
to control his ecstasy, he sped to the garret, and with trembling
hands tied the second joint of the day to the tail of the
dragon--the first time he had ever broken the law of its accretion.
Once broken, that law was henceforth an object of scorn, and the
tail grew with frightful rapidity. It was indeed a great dragon.
And none of the paltry fields about Rothieden should be honoured
with its first flight, but from Bodyfauld should the majestic child
of earth ascend into the regions of upper air.

My reader may here be tempted to remind me that Robert had been only
too glad to return to Rothieden from his former visit. But I must
in my turn remind him that the circumstances were changed. In the
first place, the fiddle was substituted for grannie; and in the
second, the dragon for the school.

The making of this dragon was a happy thing for Shargar, and a yet
happier thing for Robert, in that it introduced again for a time
some community of interest between them. Shargar was happier than
he had been for many a day because Robert used him; and Robert was
yet happier than Shargar in that his conscience, which had
reproached him for his neglect of him, was now silent. But not even
his dragon had turned aside his attentions from his violin; and many
were the consultations between the boys as to how best she might be
transported to Bodyfauld, where endless opportunities of holding
communion with her would not be wanting. The difficulty was only
how to get her clear of Rothieden.

The play commenced on a Saturday; but not till the Monday were they
to be set at liberty. Wearily the hours of mental labour and bodily
torpidity which the Scotch called the Sabbath passed away, and at
length the millennial morning dawned. Robert and Shargar were up
before the sun. But strenuous were the efforts they made to
suppress all indications of excitement, lest grannie, fearing the
immoral influence of gladness, should give orders to delay their
departure for an awfully indefinite period, which might be an hour,
a day, or even a week. Horrible conception! Their behaviour was so
decorous that not even a hinted threat escaped the lips of Mrs.

They set out three hours before noon, carrying the great kite, and
Robert's school bag, of green baize, full of sundries: a cart from
Bodyfauld was to fetch their luggage later in the day. As soon as
they were clear of the houses, Shargar lay down behind a dyke with
the kite, and Robert set off at full speed for Dooble Sanny's shop,
making a half-circuit of the town to avoid the chance of being seen
by grannie or Betty. Having given due warning before, he found the
brown-paper parcel ready for him, and carried it off in fearful
triumph. He joined Shargar in safety, and they set out on their
journey as rich and happy a pair of tramps as ever tramped, having
six weeks of their own in their pockets to spend and not spare.

A hearty welcome awaited them, and they were soon revelling in the
glories of the place, the first instalment of which was in the shape
of curds and cream, with oatcake and butter, as much as they liked.
After this they would 'e'en to it like French falconers' with their
kite, for the wind had been blowing bravely all the morning, having
business to do with the harvest. The season of stubble not yet
arrived, they were limited to the pasturage and moorland, which,
however, large as their kite was, were spacious enough. Slowly the
great-headed creature arose from the hands of Shargar, and ascended
about twenty feet, when, as if seized with a sudden fit of wrath or
fierce indignation, it turned right round and dashed itself with
headlong fury to the earth, as if sooner than submit to such
influences a moment longer it would beat out its brains at once.

'It hasna half tail eneuch,' cried Robert. 'It's queer 'at things
winna gang up ohn hauden them doon. Pu' a guid han'fu' o' clover,
Shargar. She's had her fa', an' noo she'll gang up a' richt. She's
nane the waur o' 't.'

Upon the next attempt, the kite rose triumphantly. But just as it
reached the length of the string it shot into a faster current of
air, and Robert found himself first dragged along in spite of his
efforts, and then lifted from his feet. After carrying him a few
yards, the dragon broke its string, dropped him in a ditch, and,
drifting away, went fluttering and waggling downwards in the

'Luik whaur she gangs, Shargar,' cried Robert, from the ditch.

Experience coming to his aid, Shargar took landmarks of the
direction in which it went; and ere long they found it with its tail
entangled in the topmost branches of a hawthorn tree, and its head
beating the ground at its foot. It was at once agreed that they
would not fly it again till they got some stronger string.

Having heard the adventure, Mr. Lammie produced a shilling from the
pocket of his corduroys, and gave it to Robert to spend upon the
needful string. He resolved to go to the town the next morning and
make a grand purchase of the same. During the afternoon he roamed
about the farm with his hands in his pockets, revolving if not many
memories, yet many questions, while Shargar followed like a pup at
the heels of Miss Lammie, to whom, during his former visit, he had
become greatly attached.

In the evening, resolved to make a confidant of Mr. Lammie, and
indeed to cast himself upon the kindness of the household generally,
Robert went up to his room to release his violin from its prison of
brown paper. What was his dismay to find--not his bonny leddy, but
her poor cousin, the soutar's auld wife! It was too bad. Dooble
Sanny indeed!

He first stared, then went into a rage, and then came out of it to
go into a resolution. He replaced the unwelcome fiddle in the
parcel, and came down-stairs gloomy and still wrathful, but silent.
The evening passed over, and the inhabitants of the farmhouse went
early to bed. Robert tossed about fuming on his. He had not

About eleven o'clock, after all had been still for more than an
hour, he took his shoes in one hand and the brown parcel in the
other, and descending the stairs like a thief, undid the quiet
wooden bar that secured the door, and let himself out. All was
darkness, for the moon was not yet up, and he felt a strange
sensation of ghostliness in himself--awake and out of doors, when he
ought to be asleep and unconscious in bed. He had never been out so
late before, and felt as if walking in the region of the dead,
existing when and where he had no business to exist. For it was the
time Nature kept for her own quiet, and having once put her children
to bed--hidden them away with the world wiped out of them--enclosed
them in her ebony box, as George Herbert says--she did not expect to
have her hours of undress and meditation intruded upon by a
venturesome school-boy. Yet she let him pass. He put on his shoes
and hurried to the road. He heard a horse stamp in the stable, and
saw a cat dart across the corn-yard as he went through. Those were
all the signs of life about the place.

It was a cloudy night and still. Nothing was to be heard but his
own footsteps. The cattle in the fields were all asleep. The larch
and spruce trees on the top of the hill by the foot of which his
road wound were still as clouds. He could just see the sky through
their stems. It was washed with the faintest of light, for the
moon, far below, was yet climbing towards the horizon. A star or
two sparkled where the clouds broke, but so little light was there,
that, until he had passed the moorland on the hill, he could not get
the horror of moss-holes, and deep springs covered with treacherous
green, out of his head. But he never thought of turning. When the
fears of the way at length fell back and allowed his own thoughts to
rise, the sense of a presence, or of something that might grow to a
presence, was the first to awake in him. The stillness seemed to be
thinking all around his head. But the way grew so dark, where it
lay through a corner of the pine-wood, that he had to feel the edge
of the road with his foot to make sure that he was keeping upon it,
and the sense of the silence vanished. Then he passed a farm, and
the motions of horses came through the dark, and a doubtful crow
from a young inexperienced cock, who did not yet know the moon from
the sun. Then a sleepy low in his ear startled him, and made him
quicken his pace involuntarily.

By the time he reached Rothieden all the lights were out, and this
was just what he wanted.

The economy of Dooble Sanny's abode was this: the outer door was
always left on the latch at night, because several families lived in
the house; the soutar's workshop opened from the passage, close to
the outer door, therefore its door was locked; but the key hung on a
nail just inside the soutar's bedroom. All this Robert knew.

Arrived at the house, he lifted the latch, closed the door behind
him, took off his shoes once more, like a housebreaker, as indeed he
was, although a righteous one, and felt his way to and up the stair
to the bedroom. There was a sound of snoring within. The door was
a little ajar. He reached the key and descended, his heart beating
more and more wildly as he approached the realization of his hopes.
Gently as he could he turned it in the lock. In a moment more he
had his hands on the spot where the shoemaker always laid his
violin. But his heart sank within him: there was no violin there.
A blank of dismay held him both motionless and thoughtless; nor had
he recovered his senses before he heard footsteps, which he well
knew, approaching in the street. He slunk at once into a corner.
Elshender entered, feeling his way carefully, and muttering at his
wife. He was tipsy, most likely, but that had never yet interfered
with the safety of his fiddle: Robert heard its faint echo as he
laid it gently down. Nor was he too tipsy to lock the door behind
him, leaving Robert incarcerated amongst the old boots and leather
and rosin.

For one moment only did the boy's heart fail him. The next he was
in action, for a happy thought had already struck him. Hastily,
that he might forestall sleep in the brain of the soutar, he undid
his parcel, and after carefully enveloping his own violin in the
paper, took the old wife of the soutar, and proceeded to perform
upon her a trick which in a merry moment his master had taught him,
and which, not without some feeling of irreverence, he had
occasionally practised upon his own bonny lady.

The shoemaker's room was overhead; its thin floor of planks was the
ceiling of the workshop. Ere Dooble Sanny was well laid by the side
of his sleeping wife, he heard a frightful sound from below, as of
some one tearing his beloved violin to pieces. No sound of rending
coffin-planks or rising dead would have been so horrible in the ears
of the soutar. He sprang from his bed with a haste that shook the
crazy tenement to its foundation.

The moment Robert heard that, he put the violin in its place, and
took his station by the door-cheek. The soutar came tumbling down
the stair, and rushed at the door, but found that he had to go back
for the key. When, with uncertain hand, he had opened at length, he
went straight to the nest of his treasure, and Robert slipping out
noiselessly, was in the next street before Dooble Sanny, having
found the fiddle uninjured, and not discovering the substitution,
had finished concluding that the whisky and his imagination had
played him a very discourteous trick between them, and retired once
more to bed. And not till Robert had cut his foot badly with a
piece of glass, did he discover that he had left his shoes behind
him. He tied it up with his handkerchief, and limped home the three
miles, too happy to think of consequences.

Before he had gone far, the moon floated up on the horizon, large,
and shaped like the broadside of a barrel. She stared at him in
amazement to see him out at such a time of the night. But he
grasped his violin and went on. He had no fear now, even when he
passed again over the desolate moss, although he saw the stagnant
pools glimmering about him in the moonlight. And ever after this he
had a fancy for roaming at night. He reached home in safety, found
the door as he had left it, and ascended to his bed, triumphant in
his fiddle.

In the morning bloody prints were discovered on the stair, and
traced to the door of his room. Miss Lammie entered in some alarm,
and found him fast asleep on his bed, still dressed, with a
brown-paper parcel in his arms, and one of his feet evidently enough
the source of the frightful stain. She was too kind to wake him,
and inquiry was postponed till they met at breakfast, to which he
descended bare-footed, save for a handkerchief on the injured foot.

'Robert, my lad,' said Mr. Lammie, kindly, 'hoo cam ye by that
bluidy fut?'

Robert began the story, and, guided by a few questions from his
host, at length told the tale of the violin from beginning to end,
omitting only his adventure in the factory. Many a guffaw from Mr.
Lammie greeted its progress, and Miss Lammie laughed till the tears
rolled unheeded down her cheeks, especially when Shargar, emboldened
by the admiration Robert had awakened, imparted his private share in
the comedy, namely, the entombment of Boston in a fifth-fold state;
for the Lammies were none of the unco guid to be censorious upon
such exploits. The whole business advanced the boys in favour at
Bodyfauld; and the entreaties of Robert that nothing, should reach
his grandmother's ears were entirely unnecessary.

After breakfast Miss Lammie dressed the wounded foot. But what was
to be done for shoes, for Robert's Sunday pair had been left at
home? Under ordinary circumstances it would have been no great
hardship to him to go barefoot for the rest of the autumn, but the
cut was rather a serious one. So his feet were cased in a pair of
Mr. Lammie's Sunday boots, which, from their size, made it so
difficult for him to get along, that he did not go far from the
doors, but revelled in the company of his violin in the corn-yard
amongst last year's ricks, in the barn, and in the hayloft, playing
all the tunes he knew, and trying over one or two more from a very
dirty old book of Scotch airs, which his teacher had lent him.

In the evening, as they sat together after supper, Mr. Lammie said,

'Weel, Robert, hoo's the fiddle?'

'Fine, I thank ye, sir,' answered Robert.

'Lat's hear what ye can do wi' 't.'

Robert fetched the instrument and complied.

'That's no that ill,' remarked the farmer. 'But eh! man, ye suld hae
heard yer gran'father han'le the bow. That was something to
hear--ance in a body's life. Ye wad hae jist thoucht the strings
had been drawn frae his ain inside, he kent them sae weel, and
han'led them sae fine. He jist fan' (felt) them like wi' 's fingers
throu' the bow an' the horsehair an' a', an' a' the time he was
drawin' the soun' like the sowl frae them, an' they jist did
onything 'at he likit. Eh! to hear him play the Flooers o' the
Forest wad hae garred ye greit.'

'Cud my father play?' asked Robert.

'Ay, weel eneuch for him. He could do onything he likit to try,
better nor middlin'. I never saw sic a man. He played upo' the
bagpipes, an' the flute, an' the bugle, an' I kenna what a'; but
a'thegither they cam' na within sicht o' his father upo' the auld
fiddle. Lat's hae a luik at her.'

He took the instrument in his hands reverently, turned it over and
over, and said,

'Ay, ay; it's the same auld mill, an' I wat it grun' (ground) bonny
meal.--That sma' crater noo 'ill be worth a hunner poun', I s'
warran',' he added, as he restored it carefully into Robert's hands,
to whom it was honey and spice to hear his bonny lady paid her due
honours. 'Can ye play the Flooers o' the Forest, no?' he added yet

'Ay can I,' answered Robert, with some pride, and laid the bow on
the violin, and played the air through without blundering a single

'Weel, that's verra weel,' said Mr. Lammie. 'But it's nae mair like
as yer gran'father played it, than gin there war twa sawyers at it,
ane at ilka lug o' the bow, wi' the fiddle atween them in a

Robert's heart sank within him; but Mr. Lammie went on:

'To hear the bow croudin' (cooing), and wailin', an' greitin' ower
the strings, wad hae jist garred ye see the lands o' braid Scotlan'
wi' a' the lasses greitin' for the lads that lay upo' reid Flodden
side; lasses to cut, and lasses to gether, and lasses to bin', and
lasses to stook, and lasses to lead, and no a lad amo' them a'.
It's just the murnin' o' women, doin' men's wark as weel 's their
ain, for the men that suld hae been there to du 't; and I s' warran'
ye, no a word to the orra (exceptional, over-all) lad that didna
gang wi' the lave (rest).'

Robert had not hitherto understood it--this wail of a pastoral and
ploughing people over those who had left their side to return no
more from the field of battle. But Mr. Lammie's description of his
grandfather's rendering laid hold of his heart.

'I wad raither be grutten for nor kissed,' said he, simply.

'Haud ye to that, my lad,' returned Mr. Lammie. 'Lat the lasses
greit for ye gin they like; but haud oot ower frae the kissin'. I
wadna mell wi' 't.'

'Hoot, father, dinna put sic nonsense i' the bairns' heids,' said
Miss Lammie.

'Whilk 's the nonsense, Aggy?' asked her father, slily. 'But I
doobt,' he added, 'he'll never play the Flooers o' the Forest as it
suld be playt, till he's had a taste o' the kissin', lass.'

'Weel, it's a queer instructor o' yowth, 'at says an' onsays i' the
same breith.'

'Never ye min'. I haena contradickit mysel' yet; for I hae said
naething. But, Robert, my man, ye maun pit mair sowl into yer
fiddlin'. Ye canna play the fiddle till ye can gar 't greit. It's
unco ready to that o' 'ts ain sel'; an' it's my opingon that there's
no anither instrument but the fiddle fit to play the Flooers o' the
Forest upo', for that very rizzon, in a' his Maijesty's
dominions.--My father playt the fiddle, but no like your

Robert was silent. He spent the whole of the next morning in
reiterated attempts to alter his style of playing the air in
question, but in vain--as far at least as any satisfaction to
himself was the result. He laid the instrument down in despair, and
sat for an hour disconsolate upon the bedside. His visit had not as
yet been at all so fertile in pleasure as he had anticipated. He
could not fly his kite; he could not walk; he had lost his shoes;
Mr. Lammie had not approved of his playing; and, although he had his
will of the fiddle, he could not get his will out of it. He could
never play so as to please Miss St. John. Nothing but manly pride
kept him from crying. He was sorely disappointed and dissatisfied;
and the world might be dreary even at Bodyfauld.

Few men can wait upon the bright day in the midst of the dull one.
Nor can many men even wait for it.



The wound on Robert's foot festered, and had not yet healed when the
sickle was first put to the barley. He hobbled out, however, to the
reapers, for he could not bear to be left alone with his violin, so
dreadfully oppressive was the knowledge that he could not use it
after its nature. He began to think whether his incapacity was not
a judgment upon him for taking it away from the soutar, who could do
so much more with it, and to whom, consequently, it was so much more
valuable. The pain in his foot, likewise, had been very depressing;
and but for the kindness of his friends, especially of Miss Lammie,
he would have been altogether 'a weary wight forlorn.'

Shargar was happier than ever he had been in his life. His white
face hung on Miss Lammie's looks, and haunted her steps from spence
(store-room, as in Devonshire) to milk-house, and from milk-house to
chessel, surmounted by the glory of his red hair, which a
farm-servant declared he had once mistaken for a fun-buss
(whin-bush) on fire. This day she had gone to the field to see the
first handful of barley cut, and Shargar was there, of course.

It was a glorious day of blue and gold, with just wind enough to set
the barley-heads a-talking. But, whether from the heat of the sun,
or the pain of his foot operating on the general discouragement
under which he laboured, Robert turned faint all at once, and
dragged himself away to a cottage on the edge of the field.

It was the dwelling of a cottar, whose family had been settled upon
the farm of Bodyfauld from time immemorial. They were, indeed, like
other cottars, a kind of feudal dependents, occupying an acre or two
of the land, in return for which they performed certain stipulated
labour, called cottar-wark. The greater part of the family was
employed in the work of the farm, at the regular wages.

Alas for Scotland that such families are now to seek! Would that
the parliaments of our country held such a proportion of
noble-minded men as was once to be found in the clay huts on a
hill-side, or grouped about a central farm, huts whose wretched look
would move the pity of many a man as inferior to their occupants as
a King Charles's lap-dog is to a shepherd's colley. The utensils of
their life were mean enough: the life itself was often elixir
vitae--a true family life, looking up to the high, divine life. But
well for the world that such life has been scattered over it, east
and west, the seed of fresh growth in new lands. Out of offence to
the individual, God brings good to the whole; for he pets no nation,
but trains it for the perfect globular life of all nations--of his
world--of his universe. As he makes families mingle, to redeem each
from its family selfishness, so will he make nations mingle, and
love and correct and reform and develop each other, till the
planet-world shall go singing through space one harmony to the God
of the whole earth. The excellence must vanish from one portion,
that it may be diffused through the whole. The seed ripens on one
favoured mound, and is scattered over the plain. We console
ourselves with the higher thought, that if Scotland is worse, the
world is better. Yea, even they by whom the offence came, and who
have first to reap the woe of that offence, because they did the
will of God to satisfy their own avarice in laying land to land and
house to house, shall not reap their punishment in having their own
will, and standing therefore alone in the earth when the good of
their evil deeds returns upon it; but the tears of men that ascended
to heaven in the heat of their burning dwellings shall descend in
the dew of blessing even on the hearts of them that kindled the
fire.--'Something too much of this.'

Robert lifted the latch, and walked into the cottage. It was not
quite so strange to him as it would be to most of my readers; still,
he had not been in such a place before. A girl who was stooping by
the small peat fire on the hearth looked up, and seeing that he was
lame, came across the heights and hollows of the clay floor to meet
him. Robert spoke so faintly that she could not hear.

'What's yer wull?' she asked; then, changing her tone,--'Eh! ye're
no weel,' she said. 'Come in to the fire. Tak a haud o' me, and
come yer wa's butt.'

She was a pretty, indeed graceful girl of about eighteen, with the
elasticity rather than undulation of movement which distinguishes
the peasant from the city girl. She led him to the chimla-lug (the
ear of the chimney), carefully levelled a wooden chair to the
inequalities of the floor, and said,

'Sit ye doon. Will I fess a drappy o' milk?'

'Gie me a drink o' water, gin ye please,' said Robert.

She brought it. He drank, and felt better. A baby woke in a cradle
on the other side of the fire, and began to cry. The girl went and
took him up; and then Robert saw what she was like. Light-brown
hair clustered about a delicately-coloured face and hazel eyes.
Later in the harvest her cheeks would be ruddy--now they were
peach-coloured. A white neck rose above a pink print jacket, called
a wrapper; and the rest of her visible dress was a blue petticoat.
She ended in pretty, brown bare feet. Robert liked her, and began
to talk. If his imagination had not been already filled, he would
have fallen in love with her, I dare say, at once; for, except Miss
St. John, he had never seen anything he thought so beautiful. The
baby cried now and then.

'What ails the bairnie?' he asked.

'Ow, it's jist cuttin' its teeth. Gin it greits muckle, I maun jist
tak it oot to my mither. She'll sune quaiet it. Are ye haudin'

'Hoot, ay. I'm a' richt noo. Is yer mither shearin'?'

'Na. She's gatherin'. The shearin' 's some sair wark for her e'en
noo. I suld hae been shearin', but my mither wad fain hae a day o'
the hairst. She thocht it wud du her gude. But I s' warran' a day
o' 't 'll sair (satisfy) her, and I s' be at it the morn. She's
been unco dowie (ailing) a' the summer; and sae has the bairnie.'

'Ye maun hae had a sair time o' 't, than.'

'Ay, some. But I aye got some sleep. I jist tuik the towie
(string) into the bed wi' me, and whan the bairnie grat, I waukit,
an' rockit it till 't fell asleep again. But whiles naething wad du
but tak him till 's mammie.'

All the time she was hushing and fondling the child, who went on
fretting when not actually crying.

'Is he yer brither, than?' asked Robert.

'Ay, what ither? I maun tak him, I see. But ye can sit there as
lang 's ye like; and gin ye gang afore I come back, jist turn the
key 'i the door to lat onybody ken that there's naebody i' the

Robert thanked her, and remained in the shadow by the chimney, which
was formed of two smoke-browned planks fastened up the wall, one on
each side, and an inverted wooden funnel above to conduct the smoke
through the roof. He sat for some time gloomily gazing at a spot of
sunlight which burned on the brown clay floor. All was still as
death. And he felt the white-washed walls even more desolate than
if they had been smoke-begrimed.

Looking about him, he found over his head something which he did not
understand. It was as big as the stump of a great tree. Apparently
it belonged to the structure of the cottage, but he could not, in
the imperfect light, and the dazzling of the sun-spot at which he
had been staring, make out what it was, or how it came to be up
there--unsupported as far as he could see. He rose to examine it,
lifted a bit of tarpaulin which hung before it, and found a rickety
box, suspended by a rope from a great nail in the wall. It had two
shelves in it full of books.

Now, although there were more books in Mr. Lammie's house than in
his grandmother's, the only one he had found that in the least
enticed him to read, was a translation of George Buchanan's History
of Scotland. This he had begun to read faithfully, believing every
word of it, but had at last broken down at the fiftieth king or so.
Imagine, then, the moon that arose on the boy when, having pulled a
ragged and thumb-worn book from among those of James Hewson the
cottar, he, for the first time, found himself in the midst of The
Arabian Nights. I shrink from all attempt to set forth in words the
rainbow-coloured delight that coruscated in his brain. When Jessie
Hewson returned, she found him seated where she had left him, so
buried in his volume that he did not lift his head when she entered.

'Ye hae gotten a buik,' she said.

'Ay have I,' answered Robert, decisively.

'It's a fine buik, that. Did ye ever see 't afore?'

'Na, never.'

'There's three wolums o' 't about, here and there,' said Jessie; and
with the child on one arm, she proceeded with the other hand to
search for them in the crap o' the wa', that is, on the top of the
wall where the rafters rest.

There she found two or three books, which, after examining them, she
placed on the dresser beside Robert.

'There's nane o' them there,' she said; 'but maybe ye wad like to
luik at that anes.'

Robert thanked her, but was too busy to feel the least curiosity
about any book in the world but the one he was reading. He read on,
heart and soul and mind absorbed in the marvels of the eastern
skald; the stories told in the streets of Cairo, amidst gorgeous
costumes, and camels, and white-veiled women, vibrating here in the
heart of a Scotch boy, in the darkest corner of a mud cottage, at
the foot of a hill of cold-loving pines, with a barefooted girl and
a baby for his companions.

But the pleasure he had been having was of a sort rather to expedite
than to delay the subjective arrival of dinner-time. There was,
however, happily no occasion to go home in order to appease his
hunger; he had but to join the men and women in the barley-field:
there was sure to be enough, for Miss Lammie was at the head of the

When he had had as much milk-porridge as he could eat, and a good
slice of swack (elastic) cheese, with a cap (wooden bowl) of ale,
all of which he consumed as if the good of them lay in the haste of
their appropriation, he hurried back to the cottage, and sat there
reading The Arabian Nights, till the sun went down in the
orange-hued west, and the gloamin' came, and with it the reapers,
John and Elspet Hewson, and their son George, to their supper and
early bed.

John was a cheerful, rough, Roman-nosed, black-eyed man, who took
snuff largely, and was not careful to remove the traces of the
habit. He had a loud voice, and an original way of regarding
things, which, with his vivacity, made every remark sound like the
proclamation of a discovery.

'Are ye there, Robert?' said he, as he entered. Robert rose,
absorbed and silent.

'He's been here a' day, readin' like a colliginer,' said Jessie.

'What are ye readin' sae eident (diligent), man?' asked John.

'A buik o' stories, here,' answered Robert, carelessly, shy of being
supposed so much engrossed with them as he really was.

I should never expect much of a young poet who was not rather
ashamed of the distinction which yet he chiefly coveted. There is a
modesty in all young delight. It is wild and shy, and would hide
itself, like a boy's or maiden's first love, from the gaze of the
people. Something like this was Robert's feeling over The Arabian

'Ay,' said John, taking snuff from a small bone spoon, 'it's a gran'
buik that. But my son Charley, him 'at 's deid an' gane hame, wad
hae tell't ye it was idle time readin' that, wi' sic a buik as that
ither lyin' at yer elbuck.'

He pointed to one of the books Jessie had taken from the crap o' the
wa' and laid down beside him on the well-scoured dresser. Robert
took up the volume and opened it. There was no title-page.

'The Tempest?' he said. 'What is 't? Poetry?'

'Ay is 't. It's Shackspear.'

'I hae heard o' him,' said Robert. 'What was he?'

'A player kin' o' a chiel', wi' an unco sicht o' brains,' answered
John. 'He cudna hae had muckle time to gang skelpin' and sornin'
aboot the country like maist o' thae cattle, gin he vrote a' that,
I'm thinkin'.'

'Whaur did he bide?'

'Awa' in Englan'--maistly aboot Lonnon, I'm thinkin'. That's the
place for a' by-ordinar fowk, they tell me.'

'Hoo lang is 't sin he deid?'

'I dinna ken. A hunner year or twa, I s' warran'. It's a lang
time. But I'm thinkin' fowk than was jist something like what they
are noo. But I ken unco little aboot him, for the prent 's some
sma', and I'm some ill for losin' my characters, and sae I dinna win
that far benn wi' him. Geordie there 'll tell ye mair aboot him.'

But George Hewson had not much to communicate, for he had but lately
landed in Shakspere's country, and had got but a little way inland
yet. Nor did Robert much care, for his head was full of The Arabian
Nights. This, however, was his first introduction to Shakspere.

Finding himself much at home, he stopped yet a while, shared in the
supper, and resumed his seat in the corner when the book was brought
out for worship. The iron lamp, with its wick of rush-pith, which
hung against the side of the chimney, was lighted, and John sat down
to read. But as his eyes and the print, too, had grown a little dim
with years, the lamp was not enough, and he asked for a
'fir-can'le.' A splint of fir dug from the peat-bog was handed to
him. He lighted it at the lamp, and held it in his hand over the
page. Its clear resinous flame enabled him to read a short psalm.
Then they sang a most wailful tune, and John prayed. If I were to
give the prayer as he uttered it, I might make my reader laugh,
therefore I abstain, assuring him only that, although full of long
words--amongst the rest, aspiration and ravishment--the prayer of
the cheerful, joke-loving cottar contained evidence of a degree of
religious development rare, I doubt, amongst bishops.

When Robert left the cottage, he found the sky partly clouded and
the air cold. The nearest way home was across the barley-stubble of
the day's reaping, which lay under a little hill covered with
various species of the pine. His own soul, after the restful day he
had spent, and under the reaction from the new excitement of the
stories he had been reading, was like a quiet, moonless night. The
thought of his mother came back upon him, and her written words, 'O
Lord, my heart is very sore'; and the thought of his father followed
that, and he limped slowly home, laden with mournfulness. As he
reached the middle of the field, the wind was suddenly there with a
low sough from out of the north-west. The heads of barley in the
sheaves leaned away with a soft rustling from before it; and Robert
felt for the first time the sadness of a harvest-field. Then the
wind swept away to the pine-covered hill, and raised a rushing and a
wailing amongst its thin-clad branches, and to the ear of Robert the
trees were singing over again in their night solitudes the air sung
by the cottar's family. When he looked to the north-west, whence
the wind came, he saw nothing but a pale cleft in the sky. The
meaning, the music of the night awoke in his soul; he forgot his
lame foot, and the weight of Mr. Lammie's great boots, ran home and
up the stair to his own room, seized his violin with eager haste,
nor laid it down again till he could draw from it, at will, a sound
like the moaning of the wind over the stubble-field. Then he knew
that he could play the Flowers of the Forest. The Wind that Shakes
the Barley cannot have been named from the barley after it was cut,
but while it stood in the field: the Flowers of the Forest was of
the gathered harvest.

He tried the air once over in the dark, and then carried his violin
down to the room where Mr. and Miss Lammie sat.

'I think I can play 't noo, Mr. Lammie,' he said abruptly.

'Play what, callant?' asked his host.

'The Flooers o' the Forest.'

'Play awa' than.'

And Robert played--not so well as he had hoped. I dare say it was a
humble enough performance, but he gave something at least of the
expression Mr. Lammie desired. For, the moment the tune was over,
he exclaimed,

'Weel dune, Robert man! ye'll be a fiddler some day yet!'

And Robert was well satisfied with the praise.

'I wish yer mother had been alive,' the farmer went on. 'She wad hae
been rael prood to hear ye play like that. Eh! she likit the fiddle
weel. And she culd play bonny upo' the piana hersel'. It was
something to hear the twa o' them playing thegither, him on the
fiddle--that verra fiddle o' 's father's 'at ye hae i' yer han'--and
her on the piana. Eh! but she was a bonnie wuman as ever I saw, an'
that quaiet! It's my belief she never thocht aboot her ain beowty
frae week's en' to week's en', and that's no sayin' little--is 't,

'I never preten't ony richt to think aboot sic,' returned Miss
Lammie, with a mild indignation.

'That's richt, lass. Od, ye're aye i' the richt--though I say 't
'at sudna.'

Miss Lammie must indeed have been good-natured, to answer only with
a genuine laugh. Shargar looked explosive with anger. But Robert
would fain hear more of his mother.

'What was my mother like, Mr. Lammie?' he asked.

'Eh, my man! ye suld hae seen her upon a bonnie bay mere that yer
father gae her. Faith! she sat as straught as a rash, wi' jist a
hing i' the heid o' her, like the heid o' a halm o' wild aits.'

'My father wasna that ill till her than?' suggested Robert.

'Wha ever daured say sic a thing?' returned Mr. Lammie, but in a
tone so far from satisfactory to Robert, that he inquired no more in
that direction.

I need hardly say that from that night Robert was more than ever
diligent with his violin.



Next day, his foot was so much better that he sent Shargar to
Rothieden to buy the string, taking with him Robert's school-bag, in
which to carry off his Sunday shoes; for as to those left at Dooble
Sanny's, they judged it unsafe to go in quest of them: the soutar
could hardly be in a humour fit to be intruded upon.

Having procured the string, Shargar went to Mrs. Falconer's.
Anxious not to encounter her, but, if possible, to bag the boots
quietly, he opened the door, peeped in, and seeing no one, made his
way towards the kitchen. He was arrested, however, as he crossed
the passage by the voice of Mrs. Falconer calling, 'Wha's that?'
There she was at the parlour door. It paralyzed him. His first
impulse was to make a rush and escape. But the boots--he could not
go without at least an attempt upon them. So he turned and faced
her with inward trembling.

'Wha's that?' repeated the old lady, regarding him fixedly. 'Ow,
it's you! What duv ye want? Ye camna to see me, I'm thinkin'!
What hae ye i' that bag?'

'I cam to coff (buy) twine for the draigon,' answered Shargar.

'Ye had twine eneuch afore!'

'It bruik. It wasna strang eneuch.'

'Whaur got ye the siller to buy mair? Lat's see 't?'

Shargar took the string from the bag.

'Sic a sicht o' twine! What paid ye for 't?'

'A shillin'.'

'Whaur got ye the shillin'?'

'Mr. Lammie gae 't to Robert.'

'I winna hae ye tak siller frae naebody. It's ill mainners. Hae!'
said the old lady, putting her hand in her pocket, and taking out a
shilling. 'Hae,' she said. 'Gie Mr. Lammie back his shillin', an'
tell 'im 'at I wadna hae ye learn sic ill customs as tak siller.
It's eneuch to gang sornin' upon 'im (exacting free quarters) as ye
du, ohn beggit for siller. Are they a' weel?'

'Ay, brawly,' answered Shargar, putting the shilling in his pocket.

In another moment Shargar had, without a word of adieu, embezzled
the shoes, and escaped from the house without seeing Betty. He went
straight to the shop he had just left, and bought another shilling's
worth of string.

When he got home, he concealed nothing from Robert, whom he found
seated in the barn, with his fiddle, waiting his return.

Robert started to his feet. He could appropriate his grandfather's
violin, to which, possibly, he might have shown as good a right as
his grandmother--certainly his grandfather would have accorded it
him--but her money was sacred.

'Shargar, ye vratch!' he cried, 'fess that shillin' here direckly.
Tak the twine wi' ye, and gar them gie ye back the shillin'.'

'They winna brak the bargain,' cried Shargar, beginning almost to
whimper, for a savoury smell of dinner was coming across the yard.

'Tell them it's stown siller, and they'll be in het watter aboot it
gin they dinna gie ye 't back.'

'I maun hae my denner first,' remonstrated Shargar.

But the spirit of his grandmother was strong in Robert, and in a
matter of rectitude there must be no temporizing. Therein he could
be as tyrannical as the old lady herself.

'De'il a bite or a sup s' gang ower your thrapple till I see that

There was no help for it. Six hungry miles must be trudged by
Shargar ere he got a morsel to eat. Two hours and a half passed
before he reappeared. But he brought the shilling. As to how he
recovered it, Robert questioned him in vain. Shargar, in his turn,
was obstinate.

'She's a some camstairy (unmanageable) wife, that grannie o' yours,'
said Mr. Lammie, when Robert returned the shilling with Mrs.
Falconer's message, 'but I reckon I maun pit it i' my pooch, for she
will hae her ain gait, an' I dinna want to strive wi' her. But gin
ony o' ye be in want o' a shillin' ony day, lads, as lang 's I'm
abune the yird--this ane 'll be grown twa, or maybe mair, 'gen that

So saying, the farmer put the shilling into his pocket, and buttoned
it up.

The dragon flew splendidly now, and its strength was mighty. It was
Robert's custom to drive a stake in the ground, slanting against the
wind, and thereby tether the animal, as if it were up there grazing
in its own natural region. Then he would lie down by the stake and
read The Arabian Nights, every now and then casting a glance upward
at the creature alone in the waste air, yet all in his power by the
string at his side. Somehow the high-flown dragon was a bond
between him and the blue; he seemed nearer to the sky while it flew,
or at least the heaven seemed less far away and inaccessible. While
he lay there gazing, all at once he would find that his soul was up
with the dragon, feeling as it felt, tossing about with it in the
torrents of the air. Out at his eyes it would go, traverse the dim
stairless space, and sport with the wind-blown monster. Sometimes,
to aid his aspiration, he would take a bit of paper, make a hole in
it, pass the end of the string through the hole, and send the
messenger scudding along the line athwart the depth of the wind. If
it stuck by the way, he would get a telescope of Mr. Lammie's, and
therewith watch its struggles till it broke loose, then follow it
careering up to the kite. Away with each successive paper his
imagination would fly, and a sense of air, and height, and freedom
settled from his play into his very soul, a germ to sprout
hereafter, and enrich the forms of his aspirations. And all his
after-memories of kite-flying were mingled with pictures of eastern
magnificence, for from the airy height of the dragon his eyes always
came down upon the enchanted pages of John Hewson's book.

Sometimes, again, he would throw down his book, and sitting up with
his back against the stake, lift his bonny leddy from his side, and
play as he had never played in Rothieden, playing to the dragon
aloft, to keep him strong in his soaring, and fierce in his battling
with the winds of heaven. Then he fancied that the monster swooped
and swept in arcs, and swayed curving to and fro, in rhythmic
response to the music floating up through the wind.

What a full globated symbolism lay then around the heart of the boy
in his book, his violin, his kite!



One afternoon, as they were sitting at their tea, a footstep in the
garden approached the house, and then a figure passed the window.
Mr. Lammie started to his feet.

'Bless my sowl, Aggy! that's Anderson!' he cried, and hurried to the

His daughter followed. The boys kept their seats. A loud and
hearty salutation reached their ears; but the voice of the farmer
was all they heard. Presently he returned, bringing with him the
tallest and slenderest man Robert had ever seen. He was
considerably over six feet, with a small head, and delicate, if not
fine features, a gentle look in his blue eyes, and a slow clear
voice, which sounded as if it were thinking about every word it
uttered. The hot sun of India seemed to have burned out everything
self-assertive, leaving him quietly and rather sadly contemplative.

'Come in, come in,' repeated Mr. Lammie, overflowing with glad
welcome. 'What'll ye hae? There's a frien' o' yer ain,' he
continued, pointing to Robert, 'an' a fine lad.' Then lowering his
voice, he added: 'A son o' poor Anerew's, ye ken, doctor.'

The boys rose, and Dr. Anderson, stretching his long arms across the
table, shook hands kindly with Robert and Shargar. Then he sat down
and began to help himself to the cakes (oat-cake), at which Robert
wondered, seeing there was 'white breid' on the table. Miss Lammie
presently came in with the teapot and some additional dainties, and
the boys took the opportunity of beginning at the beginning again.

Dr. Anderson remained for a few days at Bodyfauld, sending Shargar
to Rothieden for some necessaries from The Boar's Head, where he had
left his servant and luggage. During this time Mr. Lammie was much
occupied with his farm affairs, anxious to get his harvest in as
quickly as possible, because a change of weather was to be dreaded;
so the doctor was left a good deal to himself. He was fond of
wandering about, but, thoughtful as he was, did not object to the
companionship which Robert implicitly offered him: before many hours
were over, the two were friends.

Various things attracted Robert to the doctor. First, he was a
relation of his own, older than himself, the first he had known
except his father, and Robert's heart was one of the most dutiful.
Second, or perhaps I ought to have put this first, he was the only
gentleman, except Eric Ericson, whose acquaintance he had yet made.
Third, he was kind to him, and gentle to him, and, above all,
respectful to him; and to be respected was a new sensation to Robert
altogether. And lastly, he could tell stories of elephants and
tiger hunts, and all The Arabian Nights of India. He did not
volunteer much talk, but Robert soon found that he could draw him

But what attracted the man to the boy?

'Ah! Robert,' said the doctor one day, sadly, 'it's a sore thing to
come home after being thirty years away.'

He looked up at the sky, then all around at the hills: the face of
Nature alone remained the same. Then his glance fell on Robert, and
he saw a pair of black eyes looking up at him, brimful of tears.
And thus the man was drawn to the boy.

Robert worshipped Dr. Anderson. As long as he remained their
visitor, kite and violin and all were forgotten, and he followed him
like a dog. To have such a gentleman for a relation, was grand
indeed. What could he do for him? He ministered to him in all
manner of trifles--a little to the amusement of Dr. Anderson, but
more to his pleasure, for he saw that the boy was both large-hearted
and lowly-minded: Dr. Anderson had learned to read character, else
he would never have been the honour to his profession that he was.

But all the time Robert could not get him to speak about his father.
He steadily avoided the subject.

When he went away, the two boys walked with him to The Boar's Head,
caught a glimpse of his Hindoo attendant, much to their wonderment,
received from the doctor a sovereign apiece and a kind good-bye, and
returned to Bodyfauld.

Dr. Anderson remained a few days longer at Rothieden, and amongst
others visited Mrs. Falconer, who was his first cousin. What passed
between them Robert never heard, nor did his grandmother even allude
to the visit. He went by the mail-coach from Rothieden to Aberdeen,
and whether he should ever see him again Robert did not know.

He flew his kite no more for a while, but betook himself to the work
of the harvest-field, in which he was now able for a share. But his
violin was no longer neglected.

Day after day passed in the delights of labour, broken for Robert by
The Arabian Nights and the violin, and for Shargar by attendance
upon Miss Lammie, till the fields lay bare of their harvest, and the
night-wind of autumn moaned everywhere over the vanished glory of
the country, and it was time to go back to school.



The morning at length arrived when Robert and Shargar must return to
Rothieden. A keen autumnal wind was blowing far-off feathery clouds
across a sky of pale blue; the cold freshened the spirits of the
boys, and tightened their nerves and muscles, till they were like
bow-strings. No doubt the winter was coming, but the sun, although
his day's work was short and slack, was still as clear as ever. So
gladsome was the world, that the boys received the day as a fresh
holiday, and strenuously forgot to-morrow. The wind blew straight
from Rothieden, and between sun and wind a bright thought awoke in
Robert. The dragon should not be carried--he should fly home.

After they had said farewell, in which Shargar seemed to suffer more
than Robert, and had turned the corner of the stable, they heard the
good farmer shouting after them,

'There'll be anither hairst neist year, boys,' which wonderfully
restored their spirits. When they reached the open road, Robert
laid his violin carefully into a broom-bush. Then the tail was
unrolled, and the dragon ascended steady as an angel whose work is
done. Shargar took the stick at the end of the string, and Robert
resumed his violin. But the creature was hard to lead in such a
wind; so they made a loop on the string, and passed it round
Shargar's chest, and he tugged the dragon home. Robert longed to
take his share in the struggle, but he could not trust his violin to
Shargar, and so had to walk beside ingloriously. On the way they
laid their plans for the accommodation of the dragon. But the
violin was the greater difficulty. Robert would not hear of the
factory, for reasons best known to himself, and there were serious
objections to taking it to Dooble Sanny. It was resolved that the
only way was to seize the right moment, and creep upstairs with it
before presenting themselves to Mrs. Falconer. Their intended
manúuvres with the kite would favour the concealment of this stroke.

Before they entered the town they drew in the kite a little way, and
cut off a dozen yards of the string, which Robert put in his pocket,
with a stone tied to the end. When they reached the house, Shargar
went into the little garden and tied the string of the kite to the
paling between that and Captain Forsyth's. Robert opened the street
door, and having turned his head on all sides like a thief, darted
with his violin up the stairs. Having laid his treasure in one of
the presses in Shargar's garret, he went to his own, and from the
skylight threw the stone down into the captain's garden, fastening
the other end of the string to the bedstead. Escaping as cautiously
as he had entered, he passed hurriedly into their neighbour's
garden, found the stone, and joined Shargar. The ends were soon
united, and the kite let go. It sunk for a moment, then, arrested
by the bedstead, towered again to its former 'pride of place,'
sailing over Rothieden, grand and unconcerned, in the wastes of air.

But the end of its tether was in Robert's garret. And that was to
him a sense of power, a thought of glad mystery. There was
henceforth, while the dragon flew, a relation between the desolate
little chamber, in that lowly house buried among so many more
aspiring abodes, and the unmeasured depths and spaces, the stars,
and the unknown heavens. And in the next chamber lay the fiddle
free once more,--yet another magical power whereby his spirit could
forsake the earth and mount heavenwards.

All that night, all the next day, all the next night, the dragon

Not one smile broke over the face of the old lady as she received
them. Was it because she did not know what acts of disobedience,
what breaches of the moral law, the two children of possible
perdition might have committed while they were beyond her care, and
she must not run the risk of smiling upon iniquity? I think it was
rather that there was no smile in her religion, which, while it
developed the power of a darkened conscience, overlaid and
half-smothered all the lovelier impulses of her grand nature. How
could she smile? Did not the world lie under the wrath and curse of
God? Was not her own son in hell for ever? Had not the blood of
the Son of God been shed for him in vain? Had not God meant that it
should be in vain? For by the gift of his Spirit could he not have
enabled him to accept the offered pardon? And for anything she
knew, was not Robert going after him to the place of misery? How
could she smile?

'Noo be dooce,' she said, the moment she had shaken hands with them,
with her cold hands, so clean and soft and smooth. With a volcanic
heart of love, her outside was always so still and cold!--snow on
the mountain sides, hot vein-coursing lava within. For her highest
duty was submission to the will of God. Ah! if she had only known
the God who claimed her submission! But there is time enough for
every heart to know him.

'Noo be dooce,' she repeated, 'an' sit doon, and tell me aboot the
fowk at Bodyfauld. I houpe ye thankit them, or ye left, for their
muckle kindness to ye.'

The boys were silent.

'Didna ye thank them?'

'No, grannie; I dinna think 'at we did.'

'Weel, that was ill-faured o' ye. Eh! but the hert is deceitfu'
aboon a' thing, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? Come
awa'. Come awa'. Robert, festen the door.'

And she led them to the corner for prayer, and poured forth a
confession of sin for them and for herself, such as left little that
could have been added by her own profligate son, had he joined in
the prayer. Either there are no degrees in guilt, or the Scotch
language was equal only to the confession of children and holy
women, and could provide no more awful words for the contrition of
the prodigal or the hypocrite. But the words did little harm, for
Robert's mind was full of the kite and the violin, and was probably
nearer God thereby than if he had been trying to feel as wicked as
his grandmother told God that he was. Shargar was even more
divinely employed at the time than either; for though he had not had
the manners to thank his benefactor, his heart had all the way home
been full of tender thoughts of Miss Lammie's kindness; and now,
instead of confessing sins that were not his, he was loving her over
and over, and wishing to be back with her instead of with this
awfully good woman, in whose presence there was no peace, for all
the atmosphere of silence and calm in which she sat.

Confession over, and the boys at liberty again, a new anxiety seized
them. Grannie must find out that Robert's shoes were missing, and
what account was to be given of the misfortune, for Robert would
not, or could not lie? In the midst of their discussion a bright
idea flashed upon Shargar, which, however, he kept to himself: he
would steal them, and bring them home in triumph, emulating thus
Robert's exploit in delivering his bonny leddy.

The shoemaker sat behind his door to be out of the draught: Shargar
might see a great part of the workshop without being seen, and he
could pick Robert's shoes from among a hundred. Probably they lay
just where Robert had laid them, for Dooble Sanny paid attention to
any job only in proportion to the persecution accompanying it.

So the next day Shargar contrived to slip out of school just as the
writing lesson began, for he had great skill in conveying himself
unseen, and, with his book-bag, slunk barefooted into the soutar's

The shop door was a little way open, and the red eyes of Shargar had
only the corner next it to go peering about in. But there he saw
the shoes. He got down on his hands and knees, and crept nearer.
Yes, they were beyond a doubt Robert's shoes. He made a long arm,
like a beast of prey, seized them, and, losing his presence of mind
upon possession, drew them too hastily towards him. The shoemaker
saw them as they vanished through the door, and darted after them.
Shargar was off at full speed, and Sandy followed with hue and cry.
Every idle person in the street joined in the pursuit, and all who
were too busy or too respectable to run crowded to door and windows.
Shargar made instinctively for his mother's old lair; but
bethinking himself when he reached the door, he turned, and, knowing
nowhere else to go, fled in terror to Mrs. Falconer's, still,
however, holding fast by the shoes, for they were Robert's.

As Robert came home from school, wondering what could have become of
his companion, he saw a crowd about his grandmother's door, and
pushing his way through it in some dismay, found Dooble Sanny and
Shargar confronting each other before the stern justice of Mrs.

'Ye're a leear,' the soutar was panting out. 'I haena had a pair o'
shune o' Robert's i' my han's this three month. Thae shune--lat me
see them--they're--Here's Robert himsel'. Are thae shune yours,
noo, Robert?'

'Ay are they. Ye made them yersel'.'

'Hoo cam they in my chop, than?'

'Speir nae mair quest'ons nor's worth answerin',' said Robert, with
a look meant to be significant. 'They're my shune, and I'll keep
them. Aiblins ye dinna aye ken wha's shune ye hae, or whan they cam
in to ye.'

'What for didna Shargar come an' speir efter them, than, in place o'
makin' a thief o' himsel' that gait?'

'Ye may haud yer tongue,' returned Robert, with yet more

'I was aye a gowk (idiot),' said Shargar, in apologetic reflection,
looking awfully white, and afraid to lift an eye to Mrs. Falconer,
yet reassured a little by Robert's presence.

Some glimmering seemed now to have dawned upon the soutar, for he
began to prepare a retreat. Meantime Mrs. Falconer sat silent,
allowing no word that passed to escape her. She wanted to be at the
bottom of the mysterious affair, and therefore held her peace.

'Weel, I'm sure, Robert, ye never tellt me aboot the shune,' said
Alexander. 'I s' jist tak them back wi' me, and du what's wantit to
them. And I'm sorry that I hae gien ye this tribble, Mistress
Faukner; but it was a' that fule's wite there. I didna even ken it
was him, till we war near-han' the hoose.'

'Lat me see the shune,' said Mrs. Falconer, speaking almost for the
first time. 'What's the maitter wi' them?'

Examining the shoes, she saw they were in a perfectly sound state,
and this confirmed her suspicion that there was more in the affair
than had yet come out. Had she taken the straightforward measure of
examining Robert, she would soon have arrived at the truth. But she
had such a dread of causing a lie to be told, that she would adopt
any roundabout way rather than ask a plain question of a suspected
culprit. So she laid the shoes down beside her, saying to the

'There's naething amiss wi' the shune. Ye can lea' them.'

Thereupon Alexander went away, and Robert and Shargar would have
given more than their dinner to follow him. Grannie neither asked
any questions, however, nor made a single remark on what had passed.
Dinner was served and eaten, and the boys returned to their
afternoon school.

No sooner was she certain that they were safe under the
school-master's eye than the old lady put on her black silk bonnet
and her black woollen shawl, took her green cotton umbrella, which
served her for a staff, and, refusing Betty's proffered assistance,
set out for Dooble Sanny's shop.

As she drew near she heard the sounds of his violin. When she
entered, he laid his auld wife carefully aside, and stood in an
expectant attitude.

'Mr. Elshender, I want to be at the boddom o' this,' said Mrs.

'Weel, mem, gang to the boddom o' 't,' returned Dooble Sanny,
dropping on his stool, and taking his stone upon his lap and
stroking it, as if it had been some quadrupedal pet. Full of rough
but real politeness to women when in good humour, he lost all his
manners along with his temper upon the slightest provocation, and
her tone irritated him.

'Hoo cam Robert's shune to be i' your shop?'

'Somebody bude till hae brocht them, mem. In a' my expairience, and
that's no sma', I never kent pair o' shune gang ohn a pair o' feet
i' the wame o' them.'

'Hoots! what kin' o' gait 's that to speyk till a body? Whase feet
was inside the shune?'

'De'il a bit o' me kens, mem.'

'Dinna sweir, whatever ye du.'

'De'il but I will sweir, mem; an' gin ye anger me, I'll jist sweir

'I'm sure I hae nae wuss to anger ye, man! Canna ye help a body to
win at the boddom o' a thing ohn angert an' sworn?'

'Weel, I kenna wha brocht the shune, as I tellt ye a'ready.'

'But they wantit nae men'in'.'

'I micht hae men't them an' forgotten 't, mem.'

'Noo ye're leein'.'

'Gin ye gang on that gait, mem, I winna speyk a word o' trowth frae
this moment foret.'

'Jist tell me what ye ken aboot thae shune, an' I'll no say anither

'Weel, mem, I'll tell ye the trowth. The de'il brocht them in ae
day in a lang taings; and says he, "Elshender, men' thae shune for
puir Robby Faukner; an' dooble-sole them for the life o' ye; for
that auld luckie-minnie o' his 'ill sune hae him doon oor gait, and
the grun' 's het i' the noo; an' I dinna want to be ower sair upon
him, for he's a fine chield, an' 'll mak a fine fiddler gin he live
lang eneuch."'

Mrs. Falconer left the shop without another word, but with an awful
suspicion which the last heedless words of the shoemaker had aroused
in her bosom. She left him bursting with laughter over his
lapstone. He caught up his fiddle and played The De'il's i' the
Women lustily and with expression. But he little thought what he
had done.

As soon as she reached her own room, she went straight to her bed
and disinterred the bonny leddy's coffin. She was gone; and in her
stead, horror of horrors! lay in the unhallowed chest that body of
divinity known as Boston's Fourfold State. Vexation, anger,
disappointment, and grief possessed themselves of the old woman's
mind. She ranged the house like the 'questing beast' of the Round
Table, but failed in finding the violin before the return of the
boys. Not a word did she say all that evening, and their oppressed
hearts foreboded ill. They felt that there was thunder in the
clouds, a sleeping storm in the air; but how or when it would break
they had no idea.

Robert came home to dinner the next day a few minutes before
Shargar. As he entered his grandmother's parlour, a strange odour
greeted his sense. A moment more, and he stood rooted with horror,
and his hair began to rise on his head. His violin lay on its back
on the fire, and a yellow tongue of flame was licking the red lips
of a hole in its belly. All its strings were shrivelled up save
one, which burst as he gazed. And beside, stern as a Druidess, sat
his grandmother in her chair, feeding her eyes with grim
satisfaction on the detestable sacrifice. At length the rigidity of
Robert's whole being relaxed in an involuntary howl like that of a
wild beast, and he turned and rushed from the house in a helpless
agony of horror. Where he was going he knew not, only a blind
instinct of modesty drove him to hide his passion from the eyes of

>From her window Miss St. John saw him tearing like one demented
along the top walk of the captain's garden, and watched for his
return. He came far sooner than she expected.

Before he arrived at the factory, Robert began to hear strange
sounds in the desolate place. When he reached the upper floor, he
found men with axe and hammer destroying the old woodwork, breaking
the old jennies, pitching the balls of lead into baskets, and
throwing the spools into crates. Was there nothing but destruction
in the world? There, most horrible! his 'bonny leddy' dying of
flames, and here, the temple of his refuge torn to pieces by
unhallowed hands! What could it mean? Was his grandmother's
vengeance here too? But he did not care. He only felt like the
dove sent from the ark, that there was no rest for the sole of his
foot, that there was no place to hide his head in his agony--that he
was naked to the universe; and like a heartless wild thing hunted
till its brain is of no more use, he turned and rushed back again
upon his track. At one end was the burning idol, at the other the
desecrated temple.

No sooner had he entered the captain's garden than Miss St. John met

'What is the matter with you, Robert?' she asked, kindly.

'Oh, mem!' gasped Robert, and burst into a very storm of weeping.

It was long before he could speak. He cowered before Miss St. John
as if conscious of an unfriendly presence, and seeking to shelter
himself by her tall figure from his grandmother's eyes. For who
could tell but at the moment she might be gazing upon him from some
window, or even from the blue vault above? There was no escaping
her. She was the all-seeing eye personified--the eye of the God of
the theologians of his country, always searching out the evil, and
refusing to acknowledge the good. Yet so gentle and faithful was
the heart of Robert, that he never thought of her as cruel. He took
it for granted that somehow or other she must be right. Only what a
terrible thing such righteousness was! He stood and wept before the

Her heart was sore for the despairing boy. She drew him to a little
summer-seat. He entered with her, and sat down, weeping still. She
did her best to soothe him. At last, sorely interrupted by sobs, he
managed to let her know the fate of his 'bonnie leddy.' But when he
came to the words, 'She's burnin' in there upo' granny's fire,' he
broke out once more with that wild howl of despair, and then,
ashamed of himself, ceased weeping altogether, though he could not
help the intrusion of certain chokes and sobs upon his otherwise
even, though low and sad speech.

Knowing nothing of Mrs. Falconer's character, Miss St. John set her
down as a cruel and heartless as well as tyrannical and bigoted old
woman, and took the mental position of enmity towards her. In a
gush of motherly indignation she kissed Robert on the forehead.

>From that chrism he arose a king.

He dried his eyes; not another sob even broke from him; he gave one
look, but no word of gratitude, to Miss St. John; bade her good-bye;
and walked composedly into his grandmother's parlour, where the neck
of the violin yet lay upon the fire only half consumed. The rest
had vanished utterly.

'What are they duin' doon at the fact'ry, grannie?' he asked.

'What's wha duin', laddie?' returned his grandmother, curtly.

'They're takin' 't doon.'

'Takin' what doon?' she returned, with raised voice.

'Takin' doon the hoose.'

The old woman rose.

'Robert, ye may hae spite in yer hert for what I hae dune this
mornin', but I cud do no ither. An' it's an ill thing to tak sic
amen's o' me, as gin I had dune wrang, by garrin' me troo 'at yer
grandfather's property was to gang the gait o' 's auld, useless,
ill-mainnert scraich o' a fiddle.'

'She was the bonniest fiddle i' the country-side, grannie. And she
never gae a scraich in her life 'cep' whan she was han'let in a
mainner unbecomin'. But we s' say nae mair aboot her, for she's
gane, an' no by a fair strae-deith (death on one's own straw)
either. She had nae blude to cry for vengeance; but the snappin' o'
her strings an' the crackin' o' her banes may hae made a cry to gang
far eneuch notwithstandin'.'

The old woman seemed for one moment rebuked under her grandson's
eloquence. He had made a great stride towards manhood since the

'The fiddle's my ain,' she said, in a defensive tone. 'And sae is
the fact'ry,' she added, as if she had not quite reassured herself
concerning it.

'The fiddle's yours nae mair, grannie. And for the fact'ry--ye
winna believe me: gang and see yersel'.'

Therewith Robert retreated to his garret.

When he opened the door of it, the first thing he saw was the string
of his kite, which, strange to tell, so steady had been the wind,
was still up in the air--still tugging at the bedpost. Whether it
was from the stinging thought that the true sky-soarer, the violin,
having been devoured by the jaws of the fire-devil, there was no
longer any significance in the outward and visible sign of the
dragon, or from a dim feeling that the time of kites was gone by and
manhood on the threshold, I cannot tell; but he drew his knife from
his pocket, and with one down-stroke cut the string in twain. Away
went the dragon, free, like a prodigal, to his ruin. And with the
dragon, afar into the past, flew the childhood of Robert Falconer.
He made one remorseful dart after the string as it swept out of the
skylight, but it was gone beyond remeid. And never more, save in
twilight dreams, did he lay hold on his childhood again. But he
knew better and better, as the years rolled on, that he approached a
deeper and holier childhood, of which that had been but the feeble
and necessarily vanishing type.

As the kite sank in the distance, Mrs. Falconer issued from the
house, and went down the street towards the factory.

Before she came back the cloth was laid for dinner, and Robert and
Shargar were both in the parlour awaiting her return. She entered
heated and dismayed, went into Robert's bedroom, and shut the door
hastily. They heard her open the old bureau. In a moment after she
came out with a more luminous expression upon her face than Robert
had ever seen it bear. It was as still as ever, but there was a
strange light in her eyes, which was not confined to her eyes, but
shone in a measure from her colourless forehead and cheeks as well.
It was long before Robert was able to interpret that change in her
look, and that increase of kindness towards himself and Shargar,
apparently such a contrast with the holocaust of the morning. Had
they both been Benjamins they could not have had more abundant
platefuls than she gave them that day. And when they left her to
return to school, instead of the usual 'Noo be douce,' she said, in
gentle, almost loving tones, 'Noo, be good lads, baith o' ye.'

The conclusion at which Falconer did arrive was that his grandmother
had hurried home to see whether the title-deeds of the factory were
still in her possession, and had found that they were gone--taken,
doubtless, by her son Andrew. At whatever period he had
appropriated them, he must have parted with them but recently. And
the hope rose luminous that her son had not yet passed into the
region 'where all life dies, death lives.' Terrible consolation!
Terrible creed, which made the hope that he was still on this side
of the grave working wickedness, light up the face of the mother,
and open her hand in kindness. Is it suffering, or is it
wickedness, that is the awful thing? 'Ah! but they are both combined
in the other world.' And in this world too, I answer; only,
according to Mrs. Falconer's creed, in the other world God, for the
sake of the suffering, renders the wickedness eternal!

The old factory was in part pulled down, and out of its remains a
granary constructed. Nor did the old lady interpose a word to
arrest the alienation of her property.



Mary St. John was the orphan daughter of an English clergyman, who
had left her money enough to make her at least independent. Mrs.
Forsyth, hearing that her niece was left alone in the world, had
concluded that her society would be a pleasure to herself and a
relief to the housekeeping. Even before her father's death, Miss
St. John, having met with a disappointment, and concluded herself
dead to the world, had been looking about for some way of doing
good. The prospect of retirement, therefore, and of being useful to
her sick aunt, had drawn her northwards.

She was now about six-and-twenty, filled with two passions--one for
justice, the other for music. Her griefs had not made her selfish,
nor had her music degenerated into sentiment. The gentle style of
the instruction she had received had never begotten a diseased
self-consciousness; and if her religion lacked something of the
intensity without which a character like hers could not be evenly
balanced, its force was not spent on the combating of unholy doubts
and selfish fears, but rose on the wings of her music in gentle
thanksgiving. Tears had changed her bright-hued hopes into a
dove-coloured submission, through which her mind was passing towards
a rainbow dawn such as she had never dreamed of. To her as yet the
Book of Common Prayer contained all the prayers that human heart had
need to offer; what things lay beyond its scope must lie beyond the
scope of religion. All such things must be parted with one day, and
if they had been taken from her very soon, she was the sooner free
from the painful necessity of watching lest earthly love should
remove any of the old landmarks dividing what was God's from what
was only man's. She had now retired within the pale of religion,
and left the rest of her being, as she thought, 'to dull
forgetfulness a prey.'

She had little comfort in the society of her aunt. Indeed, she felt
strongly tempted to return again to England the same month, and seek
a divine service elsewhere. But it was not at all so easy then as
it is now for a woman to find the opportunity of being helpful in
the world of suffering.

Mrs. Forsyth was one of those women who get their own way by the
very vis inertiae of their silliness. No argument could tell upon
her. She was so incapable of seeing anything noble that her perfect
satisfaction with everything she herself thought, said, or did,
remained unchallenged. She had just illness enough to swell her
feeling of importance. She looked down upon Mrs. Falconer from such
an immeasurable height that she could not be indignant with her for
anything; she only vouchsafed a laugh now and then at her oddities,
holding no further communication with her than a condescending bend
of the neck when they happened to meet, which was not once a year.
But, indeed, she would have patronized the angel Gabriel, if she
had had a chance, and no doubt given him a hint or two upon the
proper way of praising God. For the rest, she was good-tempered,
looked comfortable, and quarrelled with nobody but her rough honest
old bear of a husband, whom, in his seventieth year, she was always
trying to teach good manners, with the frequent result of a storm of

But now Mary St. John was thoroughly interested in the strange boy
whose growing musical pinions were ever being clipped by the shears
of unsympathetic age and crabbed religion, and the idea of doing
something for him to make up for the injustice of his grandmother
awoke in her a slight glow of that interest in life which she sought
only in doing good. But although ere long she came to love the boy
very truly, and although Shargar's life was bound up in the favour
of Robert, yet neither stooping angel nor foot-following dog ever
loved the lad with the love of that old grandmother, who would for
him have given herself to the fire to which she had doomed his
greatest delight.

For some days Robert worked hard at his lessons, for he had nothing
else to do. Life was very gloomy now. If he could only go to sea,
or away to keep sheep on the stormy mountains! If there were only
some war going on, that he might list! Any fighting with the
elements, or with the oppressors of the nations, would make life
worth having, a man worth being. But God did not heed. He leaned
over the world, a dark care, an immovable fate, bearing down with
the weight of his presence all aspiration, all budding delights of
children and young persons: all must crouch before him, and uphold
his glory with the sacrificial death of every impulse, every
admiration, every lightness of heart, every bubble of laughter.
Or--which to a mind like Robert's was as bad--if he did not punish
for these things, it was because they came not within the sphere of
his condescension, were not worth his notice: of sympathy could be
no question.

But this gloom did not last long. When souls like Robert's have
been ill-taught about God, the true God will not let them gaze too
long upon the Moloch which men have set up to represent him. He
will turn away their minds from that which men call him, and fill
them with some of his own lovely thoughts or works, such as may by
degrees prepare the way for a vision of the Father.

One afternoon Robert was passing the soutar's shop. He had never
gone near him since his return. But now, almost mechanically, he
went in at the open door.

'Weel, Robert, ye are a stranger. But what's the maitter wi' ye?
Faith! yon was an ill plisky ye played me to brak into my chop an'
steal the bonnie leddy.'

'Sandy,' said Robert, solemnly, 'ye dinna ken what ye hae dune by
that trick ye played me. Dinna ever mention her again i' my

'The auld witch hasna gotten a grup o' her again?' cried the
shoemaker, starting half up in alarm. 'She cam here to me aboot the
shune, but I reckon I sortit her!'

'I winna speir what ye said,' returned Robert. 'It's no maitter

And the tears rose to his eyes. His bonny lady!

'The Lord guide 's!' exclaimed the soutar. 'What is the maitter wi'
the bonnie leddy?'

'There's nae bonnie leddy ony mair. I saw her brunt to death afore
my verra ain een.'

The shoemaker sprang to his feet and caught up his paring knife.

'For God's sake, say 'at yer leein'!' he cried.

'I wish I war leein',' returned Robert.

The soutar uttered a terrible oath, and swore--

'I'll murder the auld--.' The epithet he ended with is too ugly to

'Daur to say sic a word in ae breath wi' my grannie,' cried Robert,
snatching up the lapstone, 'an' I'll brain ye upo' yer ain

Sandy threw the knife on his stool, and sat down beside it. Robert
dropped the lapstone. Sandy took it up and burst into tears, which
before they were half down his face, turned into tar with the
blackness of the same.

'I'm an awfu' sinner,' he said, 'and vengeance has owerta'en me.
Gang oot o' my chop! I wasna worthy o' her. Gang oot, I say, or
I'll kill ye.'

Robert went. Close by the door he met Miss St. John. He pulled off
his cap, and would have passed her. But she stopped him.

'I am going for a walk a little way,' she said. 'Will you go with

She had come out in the hope of finding him, for she had seen him go
up the street.

'That I wull,' returned Robert, and they walked on together.

When they were beyond the last house, Miss St. John said,

'Would you like to play on the piano, Robert?'

'Eh, mem!' said Robert, with a deep suspiration. Then, after a
pause: 'But duv ye think I cud?'

'There's no fear of that. Let me see your hands.'

'They're some black, I doobt, mem,' he remarked, rubbing them hard
upon his trowsers before he showed them; 'for I was amaist cawin'
oot the brains o' Dooble Sanny wi' his ain lapstane. He's an
ill-tongued chield. But eh! mem, ye suld hear him play upo' the
fiddle! He's greitin' his een oot e'en noo for the bonnie leddy.'

Not discouraged by her inspection of his hands, black as they were,
Miss St. John continued,

'But what would your grandmother say?' she asked.

'She maun ken naething aboot it, mem. I can-not tell her a'thing.
She wad greit an' pray awfu', an' lock me up, I daursay. Ye see,
she thinks a' kin' o' music 'cep' psalm-singin' comes o' the deevil
himsel'. An' I canna believe that. For aye whan I see onything by
ordinar bonnie, sic like as the mune was last nicht, it aye gars me
greit for my brunt fiddle.'

'Well, you must come to me every day for half-an-hour at least, and
I will give you a lesson on my piano. But you can't learn by that.
And my aunt could never bear to hear you practising. So I'll tell
you what you must do. I have a small piano in my own room. Do you
know there is a door from your house into my room?'

'Ay,' said Robert. 'That hoose was my father's afore your uncle
bought it. My father biggit it.'

'Is it long since your father died?'

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