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Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Part 8 out of 10

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air of a beggar who had contrived to give himself a Sunday look.
Perhaps he had come hoping to find it warmer in church than at
home. There he stood, motionless as the leech-gatherer, leaning on
his stick, disregarded of men -- it may have been only by innocent
accident, I do not know. But just ere the minister must rise for
the first prayer, he saw Gibbie, who had heard a feeble cough, cast
a glance round, rise as swiftly as noiselessly, open the door of the
pew, get out into the passage, take the old man by the hand, and
lead him to his place beside the satin-robed and sable-muffed
ministerial consort. Obedient to Gibbie's will, the old man took
the seat, with an air both of humility and respect, while happily
for Mrs. Sclater's remnant of ruffled composure, there was plenty of
room in the pew, so that she could move higher up. The old man, it
is true, followed, to make a place for Gibbie, but there was still
an interval between them sufficient to afford space to the hope that
none of the evils she dreaded would fall upon her to devour her.
Flushed, angry, uncomfortable, notwithstanding, her face glowed
like a bale-fire to the eyes of her husband, and, I fear, spoiled
the prayer -- but that did not matter much.

While the two thus involuntarily signalled each other, the boy who
had brought discomposure into both pulpit and pew, sat peaceful as a
summer morning, with the old man beside him quiet in the reverence
of being himself revered. And the minister, while he preached from
the words, Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,
for the first time in his life began to feel doubtful whether he
might not himself be a humbug. There was not much fear of his
falling, however, for he had not yet stood on his feet.

Not a word was said to Gibbie concerning the liberty he had taken:
the minister and his wife were in too much dread -- not of St. James
and the "poor man in vile raiment," for they were harmless enough in
themselves, but of Gibbie's pointing finger to back them. Three
distinct precautions, however, they took; the pew-opener on that
side was spoken to; Mrs. Sclater made Gibbie henceforth go into the
pew before her; and she removed the New Testament from the



It will be plain from what I have told, that Donal's imagination was
full of Ginevra, and his was not an economy whose imagination could
enjoy itself without calling the heart to share. At the same time,
his being in love, if already I may use concerning him that most
general and most indefinite of phrases, so far from obstructing his
study, was in reality an aid to his thinking and a spur to
excellence -- not excellence over others, but over himself. There
were moments, doubtless, long moments too, in which he forgot Homer
and Cicero and differential calculus and chemistry, for "the bonnie
lady-lassie," -- that was what he called her to himself; but it was
only, on emerging from the reverie, to attack his work with fresh
vigour. She was so young, so plainly girlish, that as yet there was
no room for dread or jealousy; the feeling in his heart was a kind
of gentle angel-worship; and he would have turned from the idea of
marrying her, if indeed it had ever presented itself, as an
irreverent thought, which he dared not for a moment be guilty of
entertaining. It was besides, an idea too absurd to be indulged in
by one who, in his wildest imaginations, always, through every
Protean embodiment, sought and loved and clung to the real. His
chief thought was simply to find favour in the eyes of the girl.
His ideas hovered about her image, but it was continually to burn
themselves in incense to her sweet ladyhood. As often as a song
came fluttering its wings at his casement, the next thought was
Ginevra -- and there would be something to give her! I wonder how
many loves of the poets have received their offerings in
correspondent fervour. I doubt if Ginevra, though she read them
with marvel, was capable of appreciating the worth of Donal's. She
was hardly yet woman enough to do them justice; for the heart of a
girl, in its very sweetness and vagueness, is ready to admire alike
the good and the indifferent, if their outer qualities be similar.
It would cause a collapse in many a swelling of poet's heart if,
while he heard lovely lips commending his verses, a voice were to
whisper in his ear what certain other verses the lady commended

On Saturday evenings, after Gibbie left him, Donal kept his own
private holiday, which consisted in making verses, or rather in
setting himself in the position for doing so, when sometimes verses
would be the result, sometimes not. When the moon was shining in at
the windows of the large room adjoining, he would put out his lamp,
open his door, and look from the little chamber, glowing with
fire-light, into the strange, eerie, silent waste, crowded with the
chaos of dis-created homes. There scores on scores of things, many
of them unco, that is uncouth, the first meaning of which is
unknown, to his eyes, stood huddled together in the dim light. The
light looked weary and faint, as if with having forced its way
through the dust of years on the windows; and Donal felt as if
gazing from a clear conscious present out into a faded dream.
Sometimes he would leave his nest, and walk up and down among
spider-legged tables, tall cabinets, secret-looking bureaus, worked
chairs -- yielding himself to his fancies. He was one who needed no
opium, or such-like demon-help, to set him dreaming; he could dream
at his will -- only his dreams were brief and of rapid
change -- probably not more so, after the clock, than those other
artificial ones, in which, to speculate on the testimony, the
feeling of their length appears to be produced by an infinite and
continuous subdivision of the subjective time. Now he was a ghost
come back to flit, hovering and gliding about sad old scenes, that
had gathered a new and a worse sadness from the drying up of the
sorrow which was the heart of them -- his doom, to live thus over
again the life he had made so little of in the body; his punishment,
to haunt the world and pace its streets, unable to influence by the
turn of a hair the goings on of its life, -- so to learn what a
useless being he had been, and repent of his self-embraced
insignificance. Now he was a prisoner, pining and longing for life
and air and human companionship; that was the sun outside, whose
rays shone thus feebly into his dungeon by repeated reflections.
Now he was a prince in disguise, meditating how to appear again and
defeat the machinations of his foes, especially of the enchanter who
made him seem to the eyes of his subjects that which he was not.
But ever his thoughts would turn again to Ginevra, and ever the
poems he devised were devised as in her presence and for her
hearing. Sometimes a dread would seize him -- as if the strange
things were all looking at him, and something was about to happen;
then he would stride hastily back to his own room, close the door
hurriedly, and sit down by the fire. Once or twice he was startled
by the soft entrance of his landlady's grand-daughter, come to
search for something in one of the cabinets they had made a
repository for small odds and ends of things. Once he told Gibbie
that something had looked at him, but he could not tell what or
whence or how, and laughed at himself, but persisted in his

He had not yet begun to read his New Testament in the way Gibbie
did, but he thought in the direction of light and freedom, and
looked towards some goal dimly seen in vague grandeur of betterness.
His condition was rather that of eyeless hunger after growth, than
of any conscious aspiration towards less undefined good. He had a
large and increasing delight in all forms of the generous, and
shrunk instinctively from the base, but had not yet concentrated his
efforts towards becoming that which he acknowledged the best, so
that he was hardly yet on the straight path to the goal of such
oneness with good as alone is a man's peace. I mention these things
not with the intent of here developing the character of Donal, but
with the desire that my readers should know him such as he then was.

Gibbie and he seldom talked about Ginevra. She was generally
understood between them -- only referred to upon needful occasion:
they had no right to talk about her, any more than to intrude on her
presence unseasonably.

Donal went to Mr. Sclater's church because Mr. Sclater required it,
in virtue of the position he assumed as his benefactor. Mr. Sclater
in the pulpit was a trial to Donal, but it consoled him to be near
Gibbie, also that he had found a seat in the opposite gallery,
whence he could see Ginevra when her place happened to be not far
from the door of one of the school-pews. He did not get much
benefit from Mr. Sclater's sermons: I confess he did not attend very
closely to his preaching -- often directed against doctrinal errors of
which, except from himself, not one of his congregation had ever
heard, or was likely ever to hear. But I cannot say he would have
been better employed in listening, for there was generally something
going on in his mind that had to go on, and make way for more. I
have said generally, for I must except the times when his thoughts
turned upon the preacher himself, and took forms such as the
following. But it might be a lesson to some preachers to know that
a decent lad like Donal may be making some such verses about one of
them while he is preaching. I have known not a few humble men in
the pulpit of whom rather than write such a thing Donal would have
lost the writing hand.

'Twas a sair sair day 'twas my hap till
Come under yer soon', Mr. Sclater;
But things maun he putten a tap till,
An' sae maun ye, seener or later!

For to hear ye rowtin' an' scornin',
Is no to hark to the river;
An' to sit here till brak trowth's mornin',
Wad be to be lost for ever.

I confess I have taken a liberty, and changed one word for another
in the last line. He did not show these verses to Gibbie; or indeed
ever find much fault with the preacher in his hearing; for he knew
that while he was himself more open-minded to the nonsense of the
professional gentleman, Gibbie was more open-hearted towards the
merits of the man, with whom he was far too closely associated on
week-days not to feel affection for him; while, on the other hand,
Gibbie made neither head nor tail of his sermons, not having been
instructed in the theological mess that goes with so many for a
theriac of the very essentials of religion; and therefore, for
anything he knew, they might be very wise and good. At first he
took refuge from the sermon in his New Testament; but when, for the
third time, the beautiful hand of the ministerial spouse appeared
between him and the book, and gently withdrew it, he saw that his
reading was an offence in her eyes, and contented himself thereafter
with thinking: listening to the absolutely unintelligible he found
impossible. What a delight it would have been to the boy to hear
Christ preached such as he showed himself, such as in no small
measure he had learned him -- instead of such as Mr. Sclater saw him
reflected from the tenth or twentieth distorting mirror! They who
speak against the Son of Man oppose mere distortions and mistakes of
him, having never beheld, neither being now capable of beholding,
him; but those who have transmitted to them these false impressions,
those, namely, who preach him without being themselves devoted to
him, and those who preach him having derived their notions of him
from other scources than himself, have to bear the blame that they
have such excuses for not seeking to know him. He submits to be
mis-preached, as he submitted to be lied against while visibly
walking the world, but his truth will appear at length to all: until
then until he is known as he is, our salvation tarrieth.

Mrs. Sclater showed herself sincere, after her kind, to Donal as
well as to Gibbie. She had by no means ceased to grow, and already
was slowly bettering under the influences of the New Testament in
Gibbie, notwithstanding she had removed the letter of it from her
public table. She told Gibbie that he must talk to Donal about his
dress and his speech. That he was a lad of no common gifts was
plain, she said, but were he ever so "talented" he could do little
in the world, certainly would never raise himself, so long as he
dressed and spoke ridiculously. The wisest and best of men would be
utterly disregarded, she said, if he did not look and speak like
other people. Gibbie thought with himself this could hardly hold,
for there was John the Baptist; he answered her, however, that Donal
could speak very good English if he chose, but that the affected
tone and would-be-fine pronunciation of Fergus Duff had given him
the notion that to speak anything but his mother-tongue would be
unmanly and false. As to his dress, Donal was poor, Gibbie said,
and could not give up wearing any clothes so long as there was any
wear in them. "If you had seen me once!" he added, with a merry
laugh to finish for his fingers.

Mrs. Sclater spoke to her husband, who said to Gibbie that, if he
chose to provide Donal with suitable garments, he would advance him
the money: -- that was the way he took credit for every little sum he
handed his ward, but in his accounts was correct to a farthing.

Gibbie would thereupon have dragged Donal at once to the tailor; but
Donal was obstinate.

"Na, na," he said; "the claes is guid eneuch for him 'at weirs them.
Ye dee eneuch for me, Sir Gilbert, a'ready; an' though I wad be
obleeged to you as I wad to my mither hersel', to cleed me gien I
warna dacent, I winna tak your siller nor naebody ither's to gang
fine. Na, na; I'll weir the claes oot, an' we s' dee better wi' the
neist. An' for that bonnie wuman, Mistress Scletter, ye can tell
her, 'at by the time I hae onything to say to the warl', it winna be
my claes 'at'll haud fowk ohn hearkent; an' gien she considers them
'at I hae noo, ower sair a disgrace till her gran' rooms, she maun
jist no inveet me, an' I'll no come; for I canna presently help
them. But the neist session, whan I hae better, for I'm sure to get
wark eneuch in atween, I'll come an' shaw mysel', an' syne she can
dee as she likes."

This high tone of liberty, so free from offence either given or
taken, was thoroughly appreciated by both Mr. and Mrs. Sclater, and
they did not cease to invite him. A little talk with the latter
soon convinced him that there was neither assumption nor lack of
patriotism in speaking the language of the people among whom he
found himself; and as he made her his model in the pursuit of the
accomplishment, he very soon spoke a good deal better English than
Mr. Sclater. But with Gibbie, and even with the dainty Ginevra, he
could not yet bring himself to talk anything but his mother-tongue.

"I cannot mak my moo'," he would say, "to speyk onything but the
nat'ral tongue o' poetry till sic a bonnie cratur as Miss Galbraith;
an' for yersel', Gibbie -- man! I wad be ill willin' to bigg a stane
wa' atween me an' the bonnie days whan Angus Mac Pholp was the deil
we did fear, an' Hornie the deil we didna. -- Losh, man! what wad come
o' me gien I hed to say my prayers in English! I doobt gien 't wad
come oot prayin' at a'!"

I am well aware that most Scotch people of that date tried to say
their prayers in English, but not so Janet or Robert, and not so had
they taught their children. I fancy not a little unreality was thus
in their case avoided.

"What will you do when you are a minister?" asked Gibbie on his

"Me a minnister?" echoed Donal. "Me a minnister!" he repeated.
"Losh, man! gien I can save my ain sowl, it'll be a' 'at I'm fit
for, ohn lo'dent it wi' a haill congregation o' ither fowk's. Na,
na; gien I can be a schuilmaister, an' help the bairnies to be guid,
as my mither taucht mysel', an' hae time to read, an' a feow
shillin's to buy buiks aboot Aigypt an' the Holy Lan', an' a full
an' complete edition o' Plato, an' a Greek Lexicon -- a guid ane, an'
a Jamieson's Dictionar', haith, I'll be a hawpy man! An' gien I
dinna like the schuilmaisterin', I can jist tak to the wark again,
whilk I cudna dee sae weel gien I had tried the preachin': fowk wad
ca' me a stickit minister! Or maybe they'll gie me the sheep to
luik efter upo' Glashgar, whan they're ower muckle for my father,
an' that wad weel content me. Only I wad hae to bigg a bit mair to
the hoosie, to haud my buiks: I maun hae buiks. I wad get the
newspapers whiles, but no aften, for they're a sair loss o' precious
time. Ye see they tell ye things afore they're sure, an' ye hae to
spen' yer time the day readin' what ye'll hae to spen' yer time the
morn readin' oot again; an' ye may as weel bide till the thing's
sattled a wee. I wad jist lat them fecht things oot 'at thoucht
they saw hoo they oucht to gang; an' I wad gie them guid mutton to
haud them up to their dreary wark, an' maybe a sangy noo an' than
'at wad help them to drap it a'thegither."

"But wouldn't you like to have a wife, Donal, and children, like
your father and mother?" spelt Gibbie.

"Na, na; nae wife for me, Gibbie!" answered the philosopher. "Wha
wad hae aither a pure schuilmaister or a shepherd? -- 'cep' it was
maybe some lass like my sister Nicie, 'at wadna ken Euclid frae her
hose, or Burns frae a mill-dam, or conic sections frae the hole i'
the great peeramid."

"I don't like to hear you talk like that, Donal," said Gibbie. "What
do you say to mother?"

"The mither's no to be said aboot," answerd Donal. "She's ane by
hersel', no ane like ither fowk. Ye wadna think waur o' the angel
Gabriel 'at he hedna jist read Homer clean throu', wad ye?"

"If I did," answered Gibbie, "he would only tell me there was time
enough for that."

When they met on a Friday evening, and it was fine, they would rove
the streets, Gibbie taking Donal to the places he knew so well in
his childhood, and enjoying it the more that he could now tell him
so much better what he remembered. The only place he did not take
him to was Jink Lane, with the house that had been Mistress
Croale's. He did take him to the court in the Widdiehill, and show
him the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith, and the place under the stair where
his father had worked. The shed was now gone; the neighbours had by
degrees carried it away for firewood. The house was occupied still
as then by a number of poor people, and the door was never locked,
day or night, any more than when Gibbie used to bring his father
home. He took Donal to the garret where they had slept -- one could
hardly say lived, and where his father died. The door stood open,
and the place was just as they had left it. A year or two after,
Gibbie learned how it came to be thus untenanted: it was said to be
haunted. Every Sunday Sir George was heard at work, making boots
for his wee Gibbie from morning to night; after which, when it was
dark, came dreadful sounds of supplication, as of a soul praying in
hell-fire. For a while the house was almost deserted in

"Gien I was you, Sir Gilbert," said Donal, who now and then
remembered Mrs. Sclater's request -- they had come down, and looking
at the outside of the house, had espied a half-obliterated
stone-carving of the Galbraith arms -- "Gien I was you, Sir Gilbert, I
wad gar Maister Scletter keep a sherp luik oot for the first chance
o' buyin' back this hoose. It wad be a great peety it sud gang to
waur afore ye get it. Eh! sic tales as this hoose cud tell!"

"How am I to do that, Donal? Mr. Sclater would not mind me. The
money's not mine yet, you know," said Gibbie.

"The siller is yours, Gibbie," answered Donal; "it's yours as the
kingdom o' h'aven's yours; it's only 'at ye canna jist lay yer han's
upo' 't yet. The seener ye lat that Maister Scletter ken 'at ye ken
what ye're aboot, the better. An' believe me, whan he comes to
un'erstan' 'at ye want that hoose koft, he'll no be a day ohn gane
to somebody or anither aboot it."

Donal was right, for within a month the house was bought, and
certain necessary repairs commenced.

Sometimes on those evenings they took tea with Mistress Croale, and
it was a proud time with her when they went. That night at least
the whisky bottle did not make its appearance.

Mrs. Sclater continued to invite young ladies to the house for
Gibbie's sake, and when she gave a party, she took care there should
be a proportion of young people in it; but Gibbie, although of
course kind and polite to all, did not much enjoy these gatherings.
It began to trouble him a little that he seemed to care less for
his kind than before; but it was only a seeming, and the cause of it
was this: he was now capable of perceiving facts in nature and
character which prevented real contact, and must make advances
towards it appear as offensive as they were useless. But he did not
love the less that he had to content himself, until the kingdom
should come nearer, with loving at a more conscious distance; by
loving kindness and truth he continued doing all he could to bring
the kingdom whose end is unity. Hence he had come to restrain his
manner -- nothing could have constrained his manners, which now from
the conventional point of view were irreproachable; but if he did
not so often execute a wild dance, or stand upon one leg, the glow
in his eyes had deepened, and his response to any advance was as
ready and thorough, as frank and sweet as ever; his eagerness was
replaced by a stillness from which his eyes took all coldness, and
his smile was as the sun breaking out in a gray day of summer, and
turning all from doves to peacocks. In this matter there was one
thing worthy of note common to Donal and him, who had had the same
divine teaching from Janet: their manners to all classes were the
same, they showed the same respect to the poor, the same ease with
the rich.

I must confess, however, that before the session was over, Donal
found it required all his strength of mind to continue to go to Mrs.
Sclater's little parties -- from kindness she never asked him to her
larger ones; and the more to his praise it was that he did not
refuse one of her invitations. The cause was this: one bright
Sunday morning in February, coming out of his room to go to church,
and walking down the path through the furniture in a dreamy mood, he
suddenly saw a person meeting him straight in the face. "Sic a
queer-like chield!" he remarked inwardly, stepped on one side to let
him pass -- and perceived it was himself reflected from head to foot
in a large mirror, which had been placed while he was out the night
before. The courage with which he persisted, after such a painful
enlightenment, in going into company in those same garments, was
right admirable and enviable; but no one knew of it until its
exercise was long over.

The little pocket-money Mr. Sclater allowed Gibbie, was chiefly
spent at the shop of a certain secondhand bookseller, nearly
opposite Mistress Murkison's. The books they bought were carried to
Donal's room, there to be considered by Gibbie Donal's, and by Donal
Gibbie's. Among the rest was a reprint of Marlow's Faust, the
daring in the one grand passage of which both awed and delighted
them; there were also some of the Ettrick Shepherd's eerie stories,
alone in their kind; and above all there was a miniature copy of
Shelley, whose verse did much for the music of Donal's, while yet he
could not quite appreciate the truth for the iridescence of it: he
said it seemed to him to have been all composed in a balloon. I
have mentioned only works of imagination, but it must not be
supposed they had not a relish for stronger food: the books more
severe came afterwards, when they had liberty to choose their own
labours; now they had plenty of the harder work provided for them.

Somewhere about this time Fergus Duff received his license to
preach, and set himself to acquire what his soul thirsted after -- a
reputation, namely, for eloquence. This was all the flood-mark that
remained of the waters of verse with which he had at one time so
plentifully inundated his soul. He was the same as man he had been
as youth -- handsome, plausible, occupied with himself, determined to
succeed, not determined to labour. Praise was the very necessity of
his existence, but he had the instinct not to display his beggarly
hunger -- which reached even to the approbation of such to whom he
held himself vastly superior. He seemed generous, and was
niggardly, by turns; cultivated suavity; indulged in floridity both
of manners and speech; and signed his name so as nobody could read
it, though his handwriting was plain enough.

In the spring, summer, and autumn, Donal laboured all day with his
body, and in the evening as much as he could with his mind. Lover
of Nature as he was, however, more alive indeed than before to the
delights of the country, and the genial companionship of terrene
sights and sounds, scents and motions, he could not help longing for
the winter and the city, that his soul might be freer to follow its
paths. And yet what a season some of the labours of the field
afforded him for thought! To the student who cannot think without
books, the easiest of such labours are a dull burden, or a distress;
but for the man in whom the wells have been unsealed, in whom the
waters are flowing, the labour mingles gently and genially with the
thought, and the plough he holds with his hands lays open to the sun
and the air more soils than one. Mr. Sclater without his books
would speedily have sunk into the mere shrewd farmer; Donal, never
opening a book, would have followed theories and made verses to the
end of his days.

Every Saturday, as before, he went to see his father and mother.
Janet kept fresh and lively, although age told on her, she said,
more rapidly since Gibbie went away.

"But gien the Lord lat auld age wither me up," she said, "he'll luik
efter the cracks himsel'."

Six weeks of every summer between Donal's sessions, while the
minister and his wife took their holiday, Gibbie spent with Robert
and Janet. It was a blessed time for them all. He led then just
the life of the former days, with Robert and Oscar and the sheep,
and Janet and her cow and the New Testament -- only he had a good many
more things to think about now, and more ways of thinking about
them. With his own hands he built a neat little porch to the
cottage door, with close sides and a second door to keep the wind
off: Donal and he carried up the timber and the mortar. But
although he tried hard to make Janet say what he could do for her
more, he could not bring her to reveal any desire that belonged to
this world -- except, indeed, for two or three trifles for her
husband's warmth and convenience.

"The sicht o' my Lord's face," she said once, when he was pressing
her, "is a' 'at I want, Sir Gibbie. For this life it jist blecks me
to think o' onything I wad hae or wad lowse. This boady o' mine's
growin' some heavy-like, I maun confess, but I wadna hae't ta'en aff
o' me afore the time. It wad be an ill thing for the seed to be
shal't ower sune."

They almost always called him Sir Gibbie, and he never objected, or
seemed either annoyed or amused at it; he took it just as the name
that was his, the same way as his hair or his hands were his; he had
been called wee Sir Gibbie for so long.



The minister kept Gibbie hard at work, and by the time Donal's last
winter came, Gibbie was ready for college also. To please Mr.
Sclater he competed for a bursary, and gained a tolerably good one,
but declined accepting it. His guardian was annoyed, he could not
see why he should refuse what he had "earned." Gibbie asked him
whether it was the design of the founder of those bursaries that
rich boys should have them. Were they not for the like of Donal?
Whereupon Mr. Sclater could not help remembering what a difference
it would have made to him in his early struggles, if some rich
bursar above him had yielded a place -- and held his peace.

Daur-street being too far from Elphinstone College for a student to
live there, Mr. Sclater consented to Gibbie's lodging with Donal,
but would have insisted on their taking rooms in some part of the
town -- more suitable to the young baronet's position, he said; but as
there was another room to be had at Mistress Murkison's, Gibbie
insisted that one who had shown them so much kindness must not be
forsaken; and by this time he seldom found difficulty in having his
way with his guardian. Both he and his wife had come to understand
him better, and nobody could understand Gibbie better without also
understanding better all that was good and true and right: although
they hardly knew the fact themselves, the standard of both of them
had been heightened by not a few degrees since Gibbie came to them;
and although he soon ceased to take direct notice of what in their
conduct distressed him, I cannot help thinking it was not amiss that
he uttered himself as he did at the first; knowing a little his ways
of thinking they came to feel his judgment unexpressed. For Mrs.
Sclater, when she bethought herself that she had said or done
something he must count worldly, the very silence of the dumb boy
was a reproof to her.

One night the youths had been out for a long walk and came back to
the city late, after the shops were shut. Only here and there a
light glimmered in some low-browed little place, probably used in
part by the family. Not a soul was visible in the dingy region
through which they now approached their lodging, when round a
corner, moving like a shadow, came, soft-pacing, a ghostly woman in
rags, with a white, worn face, and the largest black eyes, it seemed
to the youths that they had ever seen -- an apparition of awe and
grief and wonder. To compare a great thing to a small, she was to
their eyes as a ruined, desecrated shrine to the eyes of the saint's
own peculiar worshipper. I may compare her to what I please, great
or small -- to a sapphire set in tin, to an angel with draggled
feathers; for far beyond all comparison is that temple of the holy
ghost in the desert -- a woman in wretchedness and rags. She carried
her puny baby rolled hard in the corner of her scrap of black shawl.
To the youths a sea of trouble looked out of those wild eyes. As
she drew near them, she hesitated, half-stopped, and put out a hand
from under the shawl -- stretched out no arm, held out only a hand
from the wrist, white against the night. Donal had no money.
Gibbie had a shilling. The hand closed upon it, a gleam crossed
the sad face, and a murmur of thanks fluttered from the thin lips as
she walked on her way. The youths breathed deep, and felt a little
relieved, but only a little. The thought of the woman wandering in
the dark and the fog and the night, was a sickness at their hearts.
Was it impossible to gather such under the wings of any
night-brooding hen? That Gibbie had gone through so much of the
same kind of thing himself, and had found it endurable enough, did
not make her case a whit the less pitiful in his eyes, and indeed it
was widely, sadly different from his. Along the deserted street,
which looked to Donal like a waterless canal banked by mounds of
death, and lighted by phosphorescent grave-damps, they followed her
with their eyes, the one living thing, fading away from lamp to
lamp; and when they could see her no farther, followed her with
their feet; they could not bear to lose sight of her. But they kept
just on the verge of vision, for they did not want her to know the
espial of their love. Suddenly she disappeared, and keeping their
eyes on the spot as well as they could, they found when they reached
it a little shop, with a red curtain, half torn down, across the
glass door of it. A dim oil lamp was burning within. It looked
like a rag-shop, dirty and dreadful. There she stood, while a woman
with a bloated face, looking to Donal like a feeder of hell-swine,
took from some secret hole underneath, a bottle which seemed to
Gibbie the very one his father used to drink from. He would have
rushed in and dashed it from her hand, but Donal withheld him.

"Hoots!" he said, "we canna follow her a' nicht; an' gien we did,
what better wad she be i' the mornin'? Lat her be, puir thing!"

She received the whisky in a broken tea-cup, swallowed some of it
eagerly, then, to the horror of the youths, put some of it into the
mouth of her child from her own. Draining the last drops from the
cup, she set it quietly down, turned, and without a word spoken, for
she had paid beforehand, came out, her face looking just as white
and thin as before, but having another expression in the eyes of it.
At the sight Donal's wisdom forsook him.

"Eh, wuman," he cried, "yon wasna what ye hed the shillin' for!"

"Ye said naething," answered the poor creature, humbly, and walked
on, hanging her head, and pressing her baby to her bosom.

The boys looked at each other.

"That wasna the gait yer shillin' sud hae gane, Gibbie," said Donal.
"It's clear it winna dee to gie shillin's to sic like as her. Wha
kens but the hunger an' the caul', an' the want o' whisky may be the
wuman's evil things here, 'at she may 'scape the hellfire o' the
Rich Man hereafter?"

He stopped, for Gibbie was weeping. The woman and her child he
would have taken to his very heart, and could do nothing for them.
Love seemed helpless, for money was useless. It set him thinking
much, and the result appeared. From that hour the case of the
homeless haunted his heart and brain and imagination; and as his
natural affections found themselves repelled and chilled in what is
called Society, they took refuge more and more with the houseless
and hungry and shivering. Through them, also, he now, for the first
time, began to find grave and troublous questions mingling with his
faith and hope; so that already he began to be rewarded for his
love: to the true heart every doubt is a door. I will not follow
and describe the opening of these doors to Gibbie, but, as what he
discovered found always its first utterance in action, wait until I
can show the result.

For the time the youths were again a little relieved about the
woman: following her still, to a yet more wretched part of the city,
they saw her knock at a door, pay something, and be admitted. It
looked a dreadful refuge, but she was at least under cover, and
shelter, in such a climate as ours in winter, must be the first
rudimentary notion of salvation. No longer haunted with the idea of
her wandering all night about the comfortless streets, "like a ghost
awake in Memphis," Donal said, they went home. But it was long
before they got to sleep, and in the morning their first words were
about the woman.

"Gien only we hed my mither here!" said Donal.

"Mightn't you try Mr. Sclater?" suggested Gibbie.

Donal answered with a great roar of laughter.

"He wad tell her she oucht to tak shame till hersel'," he said, "an'
I'm thinkin' she's lang brunt a' her stock o' that firin'. He wud
tell her she sud work for her livin', an' maybe there isna ae turn
the puir thing can dee 'at onybody wad gie her a bawbee for a day
o'! -- But what say ye to takin' advice o' Miss Galbraith?"

It was strange how, with the marked distinctions between them, Donal
and Gibbie would every now and then, like the daughters of the Vicar
of Wakefield, seem to change places and parts.

"God can make praise-pipes of babes and sucklings," answered Gibbie;
"but it does not follow that they can give advice. Don't you
remember your mother saying that the stripling David was enough to
kill a braggart giant, but a sore-tried man was wanted to rule the

It ended in their going to Mistress Croale. They did not lay bare
to her their perplexities, but they asked her to find out who the
woman was, and see if anything could be done for her. They said to
themselves she would know the condition of such a woman, and what
would be moving in her mind, after the experience she had herself
had, better at least than the minister or his lady-wife. Nor were
they disappointed. To be thus taken into counsel revived for
Mistress Croale the time of her dignity while yet she shepherded her
little flock of drunkards. She undertook the task with hearty good
will, and carried it out with some success. Its reaction on herself
to her own good was remarkable. There can be no better auxiliary
against our own sins than to help our neighbour in the encounter
with his. Merely to contemplate our neighbour will recoil upon us
in quite another way: we shall see his faults so black, that we will
not consent to believe ours so bad, and will immediately begin to
excuse, which is the same as to cherish them, instead of casting
them from us with abhorrence.

One day early in the session, as the youths were approaching the
gate of Miss Kimble's school, a thin, care-worn man, in shabby
clothes, came out, and walked along meeting them. Every now and
then he bowed his shoulders, as if something invisible had leaped
upon them from behind, and as often seemed to throw it off and with
effort walk erect. It was the laird. They lifted their caps, but
in return he only stared, or rather tried to stare, for his eyes
seemed able to fix themselves on nothing. He was now at length a
thoroughly ruined man, and had come to the city to end his days in a
cottage belonging to his daughter. Already Mr. Sclater, who was
unweariedly on the watch over the material interests of his ward,
had, through his lawyer, and without permitting his name to appear,
purchased the whole of the Glashruach property. For the present,
however, he kept Sir Gilbert in ignorance of the fact.



The cottage to which Mr. Galbraith had taken Ginevra, stood in a
suburban street -- one of those small, well-built stone houses common,
I fancy, throughout Scotland, with three rooms and a kitchen on its
one floor, and a large attic with dormer windows. It was low and
wide-roofed, and had a tiny garden between it and the quiet street.
This garden was full of flowers in summer and autumn, but the tops
of a few gaunt stems of hollyhocks, and the wiry straggling creepers
of the honeysuckle about the eaves, was all that now showed from the
pavement. It had a dwarf wall of granite, with an iron railing on
the top, through which, in the season, its glorious colours used to
attract many eyes, but Mr. Galbraith had had the railing and the
gate lined to the very spikes with boards: the first day of his
abode he had discovered that the passers-by -- not to say those who
stood to stare admiringly at the flowers, came much too near his
faded but none the less conscious dignity. He had also put a lock
on the gate, and so made of the garden a sort of propylon to the
house. For he had of late developed a tendency towards taking to
earth, like the creatures that seem to have been created ashamed of
themselves, and are always burrowing. But it was not that the late
laird was ashamed of himself in any proper sense. Of the dishonesty
of his doings he was as yet scarcely half conscious, for the proud
man shrinks from repentance, regarding it as disgrace. To wash is
to acknowledge the need of washing. He avoided the eyes of men for
the mean reason that he could no longer appear in dignity as laird
of Glashruach and chairman of a grand company; while he felt as if
something must have gone wrong with the laws of nature that it had
become possible for Thomas Galbraith, of Glashruach, Esq., to live
in a dumpy cottage. He had thought seriously of resuming his
patronymic of Durrant, but reflected that he was too well known to
don that cloak of transparent darkness without giving currency to
the idea that he had soiled the other past longer wearing. It would
be imagined, he said, picking out one dishonesty of which he had not
been guilty, that he had settled money on his wife, and retired to
enjoy it.

His condition was far more pitiful than his situation. Having no
faculty for mental occupation except with affairs, finding nothing
to do but cleave, like a spent sailor, with hands and feet to the
slippery rock of what was once his rectitude, such as it was, trying
to hold it still his own, he would sit for hours without moving -- a
perfect creature, temple, god, and worshipper, all in one -- only that
the worshipper was hardly content with his god, and that a worm was
gnawing on at the foundation of the temple. Nearly as motionless,
her hands excepted, would Ginevra sit opposite to him, not quieter
but more peaceful than when a girl, partly because now she was less
afraid of him. He called her, in his thoughts as he sat there,
heartless and cold, but not only was she not so, but it was his
fault that she appeared to him such. In his moral stupidity he
would rather have seen her manifest concern at the poverty to which
he had reduced her, than show the stillness of a contented mind.
She was not much given to books, but what she read was worth
reading, and such as turned into thought while she sat. They are
not the best students who are most dependent on books. What can be
got out of them is at best only material: a man must build his house
for himself. She would have read more, but with her father beside
her doing nothing, she felt that to take a book would be like going
into a warm house, and leaving him out in the cold. It was very sad
to her to see him thus shrunk and withered, and lost in thought that
plainly was not thinking. Nothing interested him; he never looked
at the papers, never cared to hear a word of news. His eyes more
unsteady, his lips looser, his neck thinner and longer, he looked
more than ever like a puppet whose strings hung slack. How often
would Ginevra have cast herself on his bosom if she could have even
hoped he would not repel her! Now and then his eyes did wander to
her in a dazed sort of animal-like appeal, but the moment she
attempted response, he turned into a corpse. Still, when it came,
that look was a comfort, for it seemed to witness some bond between
them after all. And another comfort was, that now, in his misery,
she was able, if not to forget those painful thoughts about him
which had all these years haunted her, at least to dismiss them when
they came, in the hope that, as already such a change had passed
upon him, further and better change might follow.

She was still the same brown bird as of old -- a bird of the twilight,
or rather a twilight itself, with a whole night of stars behind it,
of whose existence she scarcely knew, having but just started on the
voyage of discovery which life is. She had the sweetest, rarest
smile -- not frequent and flashing like Gibbie's, but stealing up from
below, like the shadowy reflection of a greater light, gently
deepening, permeating her countenance until it reached her eyes,
thence issuing in soft flame. Always however, an soon as her eyes
began to glow duskily, down went their lids, and down dropt her head
like the frond of a sensitive plant, Her atmosphere was an embodied
stillness; she made a quiet wherever she entered; she was not
beautiful, but she was lovely; and her presence at once made a place
such as one would desire to be in.

The most pleasant of her thoughts were of necessity those with which
the two youths were associated. How dreary but for them and theirs
would the retrospect of her life have been! Several times every
winter they had met at the minister's, and every summer she had
again and again seen Gibbie with Mrs. Sclater, and once or twice had
had a walk with them, and every time Gibbie had something of Donal's
to give her. Twice Gibbie had gone to see her at the school, but
the second time she asked him not to come again, as Miss Kimble did
not like it. He gave a big stare of wonder, and thought of Angus
and the laird; but followed the stare with a swift smile, for he saw
she was troubled, and asked no question, but waited for the
understanding of all things that must come. But now, when or where
was she ever to see them more? Gibbie was no longer at the
minister's, and perhaps she would never be invited to meet them
there again. She dared not ask Donal to call: her father would be
indignant; and for her father's sake she would not ask Gibbie; it
might give him pain; while the thought that he would of a certainty
behave so differently to him now that he was well-dressed, and
mannered like a gentleman, was almost more unendurable to her than
the memory of his past treatment of him.

Mr. and Mrs. Sclater had called upon them the moment they were
settled in the cottage; but Mr. Galbraith would see nobody. When
the gate-bell rang, he always looked out, and if a visitor appeared,
withdrew to his bedroom.

One brilliant Saturday morning, the second in the session, the
ground hard with an early frost, the filmy ice making fairy caverns
and grottos in the cart-ruts, and the air so condensed with cold
that every breath, to those who ate and slept well, had the life of
two, Mrs. Sclater rang the said bell. Mr. Galbraith peeping from
the window, saw a lady's bonnet, and went. She walked in, followed
by Gibbie, and would have Ginevra go with them for a long walk.
Pleased enough with the proposal, for the outsides of life had been
dull as well as painful of late, she went and asked her father. If
she did not tell him that Sir Gilbert was with Mrs. Sclater, perhaps
she ought to have told him; but I am not sure, and therefore am not
going to blame her. When parents are not fathers and mothers, but
something that has no name in the kingdom of heaven, they place the
purest and most honest of daughters in the midst of perplexities.

"Why do you ask me?" returned her father. "My wishes are nothing to
any one now; to you they never were anything."

"I will stay at home, if you wish it, papa, -- with pleasure," she
replied, as cheerfully as she could after such a reproach.

"By no means. If you do, I shall go and dine at the Red Hart," he
answered -- not having money enough in his possession to pay for a
dinner there.

I fancy he meant to be kind, but, like not a few, alas! took no
pains to look as kind as he was. There are many, however, who seem
to delight in planting a sting where conscience or heart will not
let them deny. It made her miserable for a while of course, but she
had got so used to his way of breaking a gift as he handed it, that
she answered only with a sigh. When she was a child, his
ungraciousness had power to darken the sunlight, but by repetition
it had lost force. In haste she put on her little brown-ribboned
bonnet, took the moth-eaten muff that had been her mother's, and
rejoined Mrs. Sclater and Gibbie, beaming with troubled pleasure.
Life in her was strong, and their society soon enabled her to
forget, not her father's sadness, but his treatment of her.

At the end of the street, they found Donal waiting them -- without
greatcoat or muffler, the picture of such health as suffices to its
own warmth, not a mark of the midnight student about him, and
looking very different, in town-made clothes, from the Donal of the
mirror. He approached and saluted her with such an air of homely
grace as one might imagine that of the Red Cross Knight, when,
having just put on the armour of a Christian man, from a clownish
fellow he straightway appeared the goodliest knight in the company.
Away they walked together westward, then turned southward. Mrs.
Sclater and Gibbie led, and Ginevra followed with Donal. And they
had not walked far, before something of the delight of old times on
Glashruach began to revive in the bosom of the too sober girl. In
vain she reminded herself that her father sat miserable at home,
thinking of her probably as the most heartless of girls; the sun,
and the bright air like wine in her veins, were too much for her,
Donal had soon made her cheerful, and now and then she answered his
talk with even a little flash of merriment. They crossed the
bridge, high-hung over the Daur, by which on that black morning
Gibbie fled; and here for the first time, with his three friends
about him, he told on his fingers the dire deed of the night, and
heard from Mrs. Sclater that the murderers had been hanged. Ginevra
grew white and faint as she read his fingers and gestures, but it
was more at the thought of what the child had come through, than
from the horror of his narrative. They then turned eastward to the
sea, and came to the top of the rock-border of the coast, with its
cliffs rent into gullies, eerie places to look down into, ending in
caverns into which the waves rushed with bellow and boom. Although
so nigh the city, this was always a solitary place, yet, rounding a
rock, they came upon a young man, who hurried a book into his
pocket, and would have gone by the other side, but perceiving
himself recognized, came to meet them, and saluted Mrs. Sclater, who
presented him to Ginevra as the Rev. Mr. Duff.

"I have not had the pleasure of seeing you since you were quite a
little girl, Miss Galbraith," said Fergus.

Ginevra said coldly she did not remember him. The youths greeted
him in careless student fashion: they had met now and then for a
moment about the college; and a little meaningless talk followed.

He was to preach the next day -- and for several Sundays following -- at
a certain large church in the city, at the time without a minister;
and when they came upon him he was studying his sermon -- I do not
mean the truths he intended to press upon his audience -- those he had
mastered long ago -- but his manuscript, studying it in the sense in
which actors use the word, learning it, that is, by heart
laboriously, that the words might come from his lips as much like an
extemporaneous utterance as possible, consistently with not being
mistaken for one, which, were it true as the Bible, would have no
merit in the ears of those who counted themselves judges of the
craft. The kind of thing suited Fergus, whose highest idea of life
was seeming. Naturally capable, he had already made of himself
rather a dull fellow; for when a man spends his energy on appearing
to have, he is all the time destroying what he has, and therein the
very means of becoming what he desires to seem. If he gains his end
his success is his punishment.

Fergus never forgot that he was a clergyman, always carrying himself
according to his idea of the calling; therefore when the interchange
of commonplaces flagged, he began to look about him for some remark
sufficiently tinged with his profession to be suitable for him to
make, and for the ladies to hear as his. The wind was a thoroughly
wintry one from the north-east, and had been blowing all night, so
that the waves were shouldering the rocks with huge assault. Now
Fergus's sermon, which he meant to use as a spade for the casting of
the first turf of the first parallel in the siege of the pulpit of
the North parish, was upon the vanity of human ambition, his text
being the grand verse -- And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come
and gone from the place of the holy; there was no small amount of
fine writing in the manuscript he had thrust into his pocket; and
his sermon was in his head when he remarked, with the wafture of a
neatly-gloved hand seawards --

"I was watching these waves when you found me: they seem to me such
a picture of the vanity of human endeavour! But just as little as
those waves would mind me, if I told them they were wasting their
labour on these rocks, will men mind me, when I tell them to-morrow
of the emptiness of their ambitions."

"A present enstance o' the vainity o' human endeevour!" said Donal.
"What for sud ye, in that case, gang on preachin', sae settin' them
an ill exemple?"

Duff gave him a high-lidded glance, vouchsafing no reply.

"Just as those waves," he continued, "waste themselves in effort, as
often foiled as renewed, to tear down these rocks, so do the men of
this world go on and on, spending their strength for nought."

"Hoots, Fergus!" said Donal again, in broadest speech, as if with
its bray he would rebuke not the madness but the silliness of the
prophet, "ye dinna mean to tell me yon jaws (billows) disna ken
their business better nor imaigine they hae to caw doon the rocks?"

Duff cast a second glance of scorn at what he took for the prosaic
stupidity or poverty-stricken logomachy of Donal, while Ginevra
opened on him big brown eyes, as much as to say, "Donal, who was it
set me down for saying a man couldn't be a burn?" But Gibbie's face
was expectant: he knew Donal. Mrs. Sclater also looked interested:
she did not much like Duff, and by this time she suspected Donal of
genius. Donal turned to Ginevra with a smile, and said, in the best
English he could command --

"Bear with me a moment, Miss Galbraith. If Mr. Duff will oblige me
by answering my question, I trust I shall satisfy you I am no

Fergus stared. What did his father's herd-boy mean by talking such
English to the ladies, and such vulgar Scotch to him? Although now
a magistrand -- that is, one about to take his degree of Master of
Arts -- Donal was still to Fergus the cleaner-out of his father's
byres -- an upstart, whose former position was his real one -- towards
him at least, who knew him. And did the fellow challenge him to a
discussion? Or did he presume on the familiarity of their boyhood,
and wish to sport his acquaintance with the popular preacher? On
either supposition, he was impertinent.

"I spoke poetically," he said, with cold dignity.

"Ye'll excuse me, Fergus," replied Donal, " -- for the sake o' auld
langsyne, whan I was, as I ever will be, sair obligatit till ye -- but
i' that ye say noo, ye're sair wrang: ye wasna speykin' poetically,
though I ken weel ye think it, or ye wadna say 't; an' that's what
garred me tak ye up. For the verra essence o' poetry is trowth, an'
as sune's a word's no true, it's no poetry, though it may hae on the
cast claes o' 't. It's nane but them 'at kens na what poetry is,
'at blethers aboot poetic license, an' that kin' o' hen-scraich, as
gien a poet was sic a gowk 'at naebody eedit hoo he lee'd, or
whether he gaed wi' 's cwite (coat) hin' side afore or no."

"I am at a loss to understand you -- Donal? -- yes, Donal Grant. I
remember you very well; and from the trouble I used to take with you
to make you distinguish between the work of the poet and that of the
rhymester, I should have thought by this time you would have known a
little more about the nature of poetry. Personification is a figure
of speech in constant use by all poets."

"Ow ay! but there's true and there's fause personification; an' it's
no ilka poet 'at kens the differ. Ow, I ken! ye'll be doon upo' me
wi' yer Byron," -- Fergus shook his head as at a false impeachment,
but Donal went on -- "but even a poet canna mak lees poetry. An' a
man 'at in ane o' his gran'est verses cud haiver aboot the birth o'
a yoong airthquack! -- losh! to think o' 't growin' an auld
airthquack! -- haith, to me it's no up till a deuk-quack! -- sic a poet
micht weel, I grant ye, be he ever sic a guid poet whan he tuik heed
to what he said, he micht weel, I say, blether nonsense aboot the
sea warrin' again' the rocks, an' sic stuff."

"But don't you see them?" said Fergus, pointing to a great billow
that fell back at the moment, and lay churning in the gulf beneath
them. "Are they not in fact wasting the rocks away by slow degrees?"

"What comes o' yer seemile than, anent the vainity o' their
endeevour? But that's no what I'm carin' aboot. What I mainteen
is, 'at though they div weir awa' the rocks, that's nae mair their
design nor it's the design o' a yewky owse to kill the tree whan he
rubs hit's skin an' his ain aff thegither."

"Tut! nobody ever means, when he personifies the powers of nature,
that they know what they are about."

"The mair necessar' till attreebute till them naething but their
rale design."

"If they don't know what they are about, how can you be so foolish
as talk of their design?"

"Ilka thing has a design, -- an' gien it dinna ken't itsel', that's
jist whaur yer true an' lawfu' personification comes in. There's no
rizon 'at a poet sudna attreebute till a thing as a conscious design
that which lies at the verra heart o' 'ts bein', the design for
which it's there. That an' no ither sud determine the
personification ye gie a thing -- for that's the trowth o' the thing.
Eh, man, Fergus! the jaws is fechtin' wi' nae rocks. They're jist
at their pairt in a gran' cleansin' hermony. They're at their
hoosemaid's wark, day an' nicht, to haud the warl' clean, an' gran'
an' bonnie they sing at it. Gien I was you, I wadna tell fowk any
sic nonsense as yon; I wad tell them 'at ilk ane 'at disna dee his
wark i' the warl', an' dee 't the richt gait, 's no the worth o' a
minnin, no to say a whaul, for ilk ane o' thae wee craturs dis the
wull o' him 'at made 'im wi' ilka whisk o' his bit tailie, fa'in' in
wi' a' the jabble o' the jaws again' the rocks, for it's a' ae
thing -- an' a' to haud the muckle sea clean. An' sae whan I lie i'
my bed, an' a' at ance there comes a wee soughie o' win' i' my face,
an' I luik up an' see it was naething but the wings o' a flittin'
flee, I think wi' mysel' hoo a' the curses are but blessin's 'at ye
dinna see intill, an' hoo ilka midge, an' flee, an' muckle dronin'
thing 'at gangs aboot singin' bass, no to mention the doos an' the
mairtins an' the craws an' the kites an' the oolets an' the muckle
aigles an' the butterflees, is a' jist haudin' the air gauin' 'at
ilka defilin' thing may be weel turnt ower, an' brunt clean. That's
the best I got oot o' my cheemistry last session. An' fain wad I
haud air an' watter in motion aboot me, an' sae serve my
en' -- whether by waggin' wi' my wings or whiskin' wi' my tail. Eh!
it's jist won'erfu'. Its a' ae gran' consortit confusion o' hermony
an' order; an' what maks the confusion is only jist 'at a' thing's
workin' an' naething sits idle. But awa! wi' the nonsense o' ae
thing worryin' an' fechtin' at anither! -- no till ye come to beasts
an' fowk, an' syne ye hae eneuch o' 't."

All the time Fergus had been poking the point of his stick into the
ground, a smile of superiority curling his lip.

"I hope, ladies, our wits are not quite swept away in this flood of
Doric," he said.

"You have a poor opinion of the stability of our brains, Mr. Duff,"
said Mrs. Sclater.

"I was only judging by myself," he replied, a little put out. "I
can't say I understood our friend here. Did you?"

"Perfectly," answered Mrs. Sclater.

At that moment came a thunderous wave with a great bowff into the
hollow at the end of the gully on whose edge they stood.

"There's your housemaid's broom, Donal!" said Ginevra.

They all laughed.

"Everything depends on how you look at a thing," said Fergus, and
said no more -- inwardly resolving, however, to omit from his sermon a
certain sentence about the idle waves dashing themselves to ruin on
the rocks they would destroy, and to work in something instead about
the winds of the winter tossing the snow. A pause followed.

"Well, this is Saturday, and tomorrow is my work-day, you know,
ladies," he said. "If you would oblige me with your address, Miss
Galbraith, I should do myself the honour of calling on Mr.

Ginevra told him where they lived, but added she was afraid he must
not expect to see her father, for he had been out of health lately,
and would see nobody.

"At all events I shall give myself the chance," he rejoined, and
bidding the ladies good-bye, and nodding to the youths, turned and
walked away.

For some time there was silence. At length Donal spoke.

"Poor Fergus!" he said with a little sigh. "He's a good-natured
creature, and was a great help to me; but when I think of him a
preacher, I seem to see an Egyptian priest standing on the threshold
of the great door at Ipsambul, blowing with all his might to keep
out the Libyan desert; and the four great stone gods, sitting behind
the altar, far back in the gloom, laughing at him."

Then Ginevra asked him something which led to a good deal of talk
about the true and false in poetry, and made Mrs. Sclater feel it
was not for nothing she had befriended the lad from the hills in the
strange garments. And she began to think whether her husband might
not be brought to take a higher view of his calling.

On Monday Fergus went to pay his visit to Mr. Galbraith. As Ginevra
had said, her father did not appear, but Fergus was far from
disappointed. He had taken it into his head that Miss Galbraith
sided with him when that ill-bred fellow made his rude, not to say
ungrateful, attack upon him, and was much pleased to have a talk
with her. Ginevra thought it would not be right to cherish against
him the memory of the one sin of his youth in her eyes, but she
could not like him. She did not know why, but the truth was, she
felt, without being able to identify, his unreality: she thought it
was because, both in manners and in dress, so far as the custom of
his calling would permit, he was that unpleasant phenomenon, a fine
gentleman. She had never heard him preach, or she would have liked
him still less; for he was an orator wilful and prepense, choice of
long words, fond of climaxes, and always aware of the points at
which he must wave his arm, throw forward his hands, wipe his eyes
with the finest of large cambric handkerchiefs. As it was, she was
heartily tired of him before he went, and when he was gone, found,
as she sat with her father, that she could not recall a word he had
said. As to what had made the fellow stay so long, she was
therefore positively unable to give her father an answer; the
consequence of which was, that, the next time he called, Mr.
Galbraith, much to her relief, stood the brunt of his approach, and
received him. The ice thus broken, his ingratiating manners, and
the full-blown respect he showed Mr. Galbraith, enabling the weak
man to feel himself, as of old, every inch a laird, so won upon him
that, when he took his leave, he gave him a cordial invitation to
repeat his visit.

He did so, in the evening this time, and remembering a predilection
of the laird's, begged for a game of backgammon. The result of his
policy was, that, of many weeks that followed, every Monday evening
at least he spent with the laird. Ginevra was so grateful to him
for his attention to her father, and his efforts to draw him out of
his gloom, that she came gradually to let a little light of favour
shine upon him. And if the heart of Fergus Duff was drawn to her,
that is not to be counted to him a fault -- neither that, his heart
thus drawn, he should wish to marry her. Had she been still heiress
of Glashruach, he dared not have dreamed of such a thing, but,
noting the humble condition to which they were reduced, the growing
familiarity of the father, and the friendliness of the daughter, he
grew very hopeful, and more anxious than ever to secure the
presentation to the North church, which was in the gift of the city.
He could easily have got a rich wife, but he was more greedy of
distinction than of money, and to marry the daughter of the man to
whom he had been accustomed in childhood to look up as the greatest
in the known world, was in his eyes like a patent of nobility, would
be a ratification of his fitness to mingle with the choice of the



It was a cold night in March, cloudy and blowing. Every human body
was turned into a fortress for bare defence of life. There was no
snow on the ground, but it seemed as if there must be snow
everywhere else. There was snow in the clouds overhead, and there
was snow in the mind of man beneath. The very air felt like the
quarry out of which the snow had been dug which was being ground
above. The wind felt black, the sky was black, and the lamps were
blowing about as if they wanted to escape for the darkness was after
them. It was the Sunday following the induction of Fergus, and this
was the meteoric condition through which Donal and Gibbie passed on
their way to the North church, to hear him preach in the pulpit that
was now his own.

The people had been gathering since long before the hour, and the
youths could find only standing room near the door. Cold as was the
weather, and keen as blew the wind into the church every time a door
was opened, the instant it was shut again it was warm, for the place
was crowded from the very height of the great steep-sloping
galleries, at the back of which the people were standing on the
window sills, down to the double swing-doors, which were constantly
cracking open as if the house was literally too full to hold the
congregation. The aisles also were crowded with people standing,
all eager yet solemn, with granite faces and live eyes. One who did
not know better might well have imagined them gathered in hunger
after good tidings from the kingdom of truth and hope, whereby they
might hasten the coming of that kingdom in their souls and the souls
they loved. But it was hardly that; it was indeed a long way from
it, and no such thing: the eagerness was, in the mass, doubtless
with exceptions, to hear the new preacher, the pyrotechnist of human
logic and eloquence, who was about to burn his halfpenny blue lights
over the abyss of truth, and throw his yelping crackers into it.

The eyes of the young men went wandering over the crowd, looking for
any of their few acquaintances, but below they mostly fell of course
on the backs of heads. There was, however, no mistaking either
Ginevra's bonnet or the occiput perched like a capital on the long
neck of her father. They sat a good way in front, about the middle
of the great church. At the sight of them Gibbie's face brightened,
Donal's turned pale as death. For, only the last week but one, he
had heard of the frequent visits of the young preacher to the
cottage, and of the favour in which he was held by both father and
daughter; and his state of mind since, had not, with all his
philosophy to rectify and support it, been an enviable one. That he
could not for a moment regard himself as a fit husband for the
lady-lass, or dream of exposing himself or her to the insult which
the offer of himself as a son-in-law would bring on them both from
the laird, was not a reflection to render the thought of such a bag
of wind as Fergus Duff marrying her, one whit the less horribly
unendurable. Had the laird been in the same social position as
before, Donal would have had no fear of his accepting Fergus; but
misfortune alters many relations. Fergus's father was a man of
considerable property, Fergus himself almost a man of influence, and
already in possession of a comfortable income: it was possible to
imagine that the impoverished Thomas Galbraith, late of Glashruach,
Esq., might contrive to swallow what annoyance there could not but
in any case be in wedding his daughter to the son of John Duff, late
his own tenant of the Mains. Altogether Donal's thoughts were not
of the kind to put him in fit mood -- I do not say to gather benefit
from the prophesying of Fergus, but to give fair play to the peddler
who now rose to display his loaded calico and beggarly shoddy over
the book-board of the pulpit. But the congregation listened rapt.
I dare not say there was no divine reality concerned in his
utterance, for Gibbie saw many a glimmer through the rents in his
logic, and the thin-worn patches of his philosophy; but it was not
such glimmers that fettered the regards of the audience, but the
noisy flow and false eloquence of the preacher. In proportion to
the falsehood in us are we exposed to the falsehood in others. The
false plays upon the false without discord; comes to the false, and
is welcomed as the true; there is no jar, for the false to the false
look the true; darkness takes darkness for light, and great is the
darkness. I will not attempt an account of the sermon; even
admirably rendered, it would be worthless as the best of copies of a
bad wall-paper. There was in it, to be sure, such a glowing
description of the city of God as might have served to attract
thither all the diamond-merchants of Amsterdam; but why a Christian
should care to go to such a place, let him tell who knows; while, on
the other hand, the audience appeared equally interested in his
equiponderating description of the place of misery. Not once {did
he even} attempt to give, or indeed could have given, the feeblest
idea, to a single soul present, of the one terror of the
universe -- the peril of being cast from the arms of essential Love
and Life into the bosom of living Death. For this teacher of men
knew nothing whatever but by hearsay, had not in himself experienced
one of the joys or one of the horrors he endeavoured to embody.

Gibbie was not at home listening to such a sermon; he was
distressed, and said afterwards to Donal he would far rather be
subjected to Mr. Sclater's isms than Fergus's ations. It caused him
pain too to see Donal look so scornful, so contemptuous even; while
it added to Donal's unrest, and swelled his evil mood, to see Mr.
Galbraith absorbed. For Ginevra's bonnet, it did not once move -- but
then it was not set at an angle to indicate either eyes upturned in
listening, or cast down in emotion. Donal would have sacrificed not
a few songs, the only wealth he possessed, for one peep round the
corner of that bonnet. He had become painfully aware, that, much as
he had seen of Ginevra, he knew scarcely anything of her thoughts;
he had always talked so much more to her than she to him, that now,
when he longed to know, he could not even guess what she might be
thinking, or what effect such "an arrangement" of red and yellow
would have upon her imagination and judgment. She could not think
or receive what was not true, he felt sure, but she might easily
enough attribute truth where it did not exist.

At length the rockets, Roman candles, and squibs were all burnt out,
the would-be "eternal blazon" was over, and the preacher sunk back
exhausted in his seat. The people sang; a prayer, fit pendent to
such a sermon, followed, and the congregation was dismissed -- it
could not be with much additional strength to meet the sorrows,
temptations, sophisms, commonplaces, disappointments, dulnesses,
stupidities, and general devilries of the week, although not a few
paid the preacher welcome compliments on his "gran' discoorse."

The young men were out among the first, and going round to another
door, in the church-yard, by which they judged Ginevra and her
father must issue, there stood waiting. The night was utterly
changed. The wind had gone about, and the vapours were high in
heaven, broken all into cloud-masses of sombre grandeur. Now from
behind, now upon their sides, they were made glorious by the full
moon, while through their rents appeared the sky and the ever
marvellous stars. Gibbie's eyes went climbing up the spire that
shot skyward over their heads. Around its point the clouds and the
moon seemed to gather, grouping themselves in grand carelessness;
and he thought of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven; to
us mere heaps of watery vapour, ever ready to fall, drowning the
earth in rain, or burying it in snow, to angel-feet they might be
solid masses whereon to tread attendant upon him, who, although with
his word he ruled winds and seas, loved to be waited on by the
multitude of his own! He was yet gazing, forgetful of the human
tide about him, watching the glory dominant over storm, when his
companion pinched his arm: he looked, and was aware that Fergus,
muffled to the eyes, was standing beside them. He seemed not to see
them, and they were nowise inclined to attract his attention, but
gazed motionless on the church door, an unsealed fountain of souls.
What a curious thing it is to watch an issuing crowd of faces for
one loved one -- all so unattractive, provoking, blamable, as they
come rolling round corners, dividing, and flowing away -- not one of
them the right one! But at last out she did come -- Ginevra, like a
daisy among mown grass! It was really she! -- but with her father.
She saw Donal, glanced from him to Gibbie, cast down her sweet
eyes, and made no sign. Fergus had already advanced and addressed
the laird.

"Ah, Mr. Duff!" said Mr. Galbraith; "excuse me, but would you oblige
me by giving your arm to my daughter? I see a friend waiting to
speak to me. I shall overtake you in a moment."

Fergus murmured his pleasure, and Ginevra and he moved away
together. The youths for a moment watched the father. He
dawdled -- evidently wanted to speak to no one. They then followed
the two, walking some yards behind them. Every other moment Fergus
would bend his head towards Ginevra; once or twice they saw the
little bonnet turn upwards in response or question. Poor Donal was
burning with lawless and foolish indignation: why should the
minister muffle himself up like an old woman in the crowd, and take
off the great handkerchief when talking with the lady? When the
youths reached the street where the cottage stood, they turned the
corner after them, and walked quickly up to them where they stood at
the gate waiting for it to be opened.

"Sic a gran' nicht!" said Donal, after the usual greetings. "Sir
Gibbie an' me 's haein' a dauner wi' the mune. Ye wad think she had
licht eneuch to haud the cloods aff o' her, wad ye no, mem? But na!
they'll be upon her, an' I'm feart there's ae unco black ane
yon'er -- dinna ye see 't -- wi' a straik o' white, aboot the thrapple
o' 't? -- There -- dinna ye see 't?" he went on pointing to the clouds
about the moon, " -- that ane, I'm doobtin', 'ill hae the better o'
her or lang -- tak her intill 'ts airms, an' bray a' the licht oot o'
her. Guid nicht, mem. -- Guid nicht, Fergus. You ministers sudna mak
yersels sae like cloods. Ye sud be cled in white an' gowd, an' a'
colours o' stanes, like the new Jerooslem ye tell sic tales aboot,
an' syne naebody wad mistak the news ye bring."

Therewith Donal walked on, doubtless for the moment a little
relieved. But before they had walked far, he broke down altogether.

"Gibbie," he said, "yon rascal's gauin' to merry the leddy-lass! an'
it drives me mad to think it. Gien I cud but ance see an' speyk
till her -- ance -- jist ance! Lord! what 'll come o' a' the gowans
upo' the Mains, an' the heather upo' Glashgar!"

He burst out crying, but instantly dashed away his tears with
indignation at his weakness.

"I maun dree my weird," (undergo my doom), he said, and said no

Gibbie's face had grown white in the moon-gleams, and his lips
trembled. He put his arm through Donal's and clung to him, and in
silence they went home. When they reached Donal's room, Donal
entering shut the door behind him and shut out Gibbie. He stood for
a moment like one dazed, then suddenly coming to himself, turned
away, left the house, and ran straight to Daur-street.

When the minister's door was opened to him, he went to that of the
dining-room, knowing Mr. and Mrs. Sclater would then be at supper.
Happily for his intent, the minister was at the moment having his
tumbler of toddy after the labours of the day, an indulgence which,
so long as Gibbie was in the house, he had, ever since that first
dinner-party, taken in private, out of regard, as he pretended to
himself, for the boy's painful associations with it, but in reality,
to his credit be it told if it may, from a little shame of the thing
itself; and his wife therefore, when she saw Gibbie, rose, and,
meeting him, took him with her to her own little sitting-room, where
they had a long talk, of which the result appeared the next night in
a note from Mrs. Sclater to Gibbie, asking him and Donal to spend
the evening of Tuesday with her.



Donal threw everything aside, careless of possible disgrace in the
class the next morning, and, trembling with hope, accompanied
Gibbie: she would be there -- surely! It was one of those clear
nights in which a gleam of straw-colour in the west, with
light-thinned gray-green deepening into blue above it, is like the
very edge of the axe of the cold -- the edge that reaches the soul.
But the youths were warm enough: they had health and hope. The
hospitable crimson room, with its round table set out for a Scotch
tea, and its fire blazing hugely, received them. And there sat
Ginevra by the fire! with her pretty feet on a footstool before it:
in those days ladies wore open shoes, and showed dainty stockings.
Her face looked rosy, but it was from the firelight, for when she
turned it towards them, it showed pale as usual. She received them,
as always, with the same simple sincerity that had been hers on the
bank of the Lorrie burn. But Gibbie read some trouble in her eyes,
for his soul was all touch, and, like a delicate spiritual
seismograph, responded at once to the least tremble of a
neighbouring soul. The minister was not present, and Mrs. Sclater
had both to be the blazing coal, and keep blowing herself, else,
however hot it might be at the smouldering hearth, the little
company would have sent up no flame of talk.

When tea was over, Gibbie went to the window, got within the red
curtains, and peeped out. Returning presently, he spelled with
fingers and signed with hands to Ginevra that it was a glorious
night: would she not come for a walk? Ginevra looked to Mrs.

"Gibbie wants me to go for a walk," she said.

"Certainly, my dear -- if you are well enough to go with him," replied
her friend.

"I am always well," answered Ginevra.

"I can't go with you," said Mrs. Sclater, "for I expect my husband
every moment; but what occasion is there, with two such knights to
protect you?"

She was straining hard on the bit of propriety; but she knew them
all so well? she said to herself. Then first perceiving Gibbie's
design, Donal cast him a grateful glance, while Ginevra rose
hastily, and ran to put on her outer garments. Plainly to Donal,
she was pleased to go.

When they stood on the pavement, there was the moon, the very cream
of light, ladying it in a blue heaven. It was not all her own, but
the clouds about her were white and attendant, and ever when they
came near her took on her livery -- the poor paled-rainbow colours,
which are all her reflected light can divide into: that strange
brown we see so often on her cloudy people must, I suppose, be what
the red or the orange fades to. There was a majesty and peace about
her airy domination, which Donal himself would have found difficult,
had he known her state, to bring into harmony with her aeonian
death. Strange that the light of lovers should be the coldest of
all cold things within human ken -- dead with cold, millions of years
before our first father and mother appeared each to the other on the
earth! The air was keen but dry. Nothing could fall but snow; and
of anything like it there was nothing but those few frozen vapours
that came softly out of the deeps to wait on the moon. Between them
and behind them lay depth absolute, expressed in the perfection of
nocturnal blues, deep as gentle, the very home of the dwelling
stars. The steps of the youths rang on the pavements, and Donal's
voice seemed to him so loud and clear that he muffled it all in
gentler meaning. He spoke low, and Ginevra answered him softly.
They walked close together, and Gibbie flitted to and fro, now on
this side, now on that, now in front of them, now behind.

"Hoo likit ye the sermon, mem?" asked Donal.

"Papa thought it a grand sermon," answered Ginevra.

"An' yersel'?" persisted Donal.

"Papa tells me I am no judge," she replied.

"That's as muckle as to say ye didna like it sae weel as he did!"
returned Donal, in a tone expressing some relief.

"Mr. Duff is very good to my father, Donal," she rejoined, "and I
don't like to say anything against his sermon; but all the time I
could not help thinking whether your mother would like this and
that; for you know, Donal, any good there is in me I have got from
her, and from Gibbie -- and from you, Donal."

The youth's heart beat with a pleasure that rose to physical pain.
Had he been a winged creature he would have flown straight up; but
being a sober wingless animal, he stumped on with his two happy
legs. Gladly would he have shown her the unreality of Fergus -- that
he was a poor shallow creature, with only substance enough to carry
show and seeming, but he felt, just because he had reason to fear
him, that it would be unmanly to speak the truth of him behind his
back, except in the absolute necessity of rectitude. He felt also
that, if Ginevra owed her father's friend such delicacy, he owed him
at least a little silence; for was he not under more obligation to
this same shallow-pated orator, than to all eternity he could wipe
out, even if eternity carried in it the possibility of wiping out an
obligation? Few men understand, but Donal did, that he who would
cancel an obligation is a dishonest man. I cannot help it that many
a good man -- good, that is, because he is growing better -- must then
be reckoned in the list of the dishonest: he is in their number
until he leaves it.

Donal remaining silent, Ginevra presently returned him his own

"How did you like the sermon, Donal?"

"Div ye want me to say, mem?" he asked.

"I do, Donal," she answered.

"Weel, I wad jist say, in a general w'y, 'at I canna think muckle o'
ony sermon 'at micht gar a body think mair o' the precher nor o' him
'at he comes to prech aboot. I mean, 'at I dinna see hoo onybody
was to lo'e God or his neebour ae jot the mair for hearin' yon
sermon last nicht."

"But might not some be frightened by it, and brought to repentance,
Donal?" suggested the girl.

"Ou ay; I daur say; I dinna ken. But I canna help thinkin' 'at what
disna gie God onything like fair play, canna dee muckle guid to men,
an' may, I doobt, dee a heap o' ill. It's a pagan kin' o' a thing

"That's just what I was feeling -- I don't say thinking, you know -- for
you say we must not say think when we have taken no trouble about
it. I am sorry for Mr. Duff, if he has taken to teaching where he
does not understand."

They had left the city behind them, and were walking a wide open
road, with a great sky above it. On its borders were small fenced
fields, and a house here and there with a garden. It was a
plain-featured, slightly undulating country, with hardly any
trees -- not at all beautiful, except as every place under the heaven
which man has not defiled is beautiful to him who can see what is
there. But this night the earth was nothing: what was in them and
over them was all. Donal felt -- as so many will feel, before the
earth, like a hen set to hatch the eggs of a soaring bird, shall
have done rearing broods for heaven -- that, with this essential love
and wonder by his side, to be doomed to go on walking to all
eternity would be a blissful fate, were the landscape turned to a
brick-field, and the sky to persistent gray.

"Wad ye no tak my airm, mem?" he said at length, summoning courage.
"I jist fin' mysel' like a horse wi' a reyn brocken, gaein' by
mysel' throu' the air this gait."

Before he had finished the sentence Ginevra had accepted the offer.
It was the first time. His arm trembled. He thought it was her

"Ye're no cauld, are ye, mem?" he said.

"Not the least," she answered.

"Eh, mem! gien fowk was but a' made oot o' the same clay, like, 'at
ane micht say till anither -- 'Ye hae me as ye hae yersel''!"

"Yes, Donal," rejoined Ginevra; "I wish we were all made of the
poet-clay like you! What it would be to have a well inside, out of
which to draw songs and ballads as I pleased! That's what you have,
Donal -- or, rather, you're just a draw-well of music yourself."

Donal laughed merrily. A moment more and he broke out singing:

My thoughts are like fireflies, pulsing in moonlight;
My heart is a silver cup, full of red wine;
My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light
Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.

"What's that, Donal?" cried Ginevra.

"Ow, naething," answered Donal. "It was only my hert lauchin'."

"Say the words," said Ginevra.

"I canna -- I dinna ken them noo," replied Donal.

"Oh, Donal! are those lovely words gone -- altogether -- for ever?
Shall I not hear them again?"

"I'll try to min' upo' them whan I gang hame," he said. "I canna the
noo. I can think o' naething but ae thing."

"And what is that, Donal?"

"Yersel'," answered Donal.

Ginevra's hand lifted just a half of its weight from Donal's arm,
like a bird that had thought of flying, then settled again.

"It is very pleasant to be together once more as in the old time,
Donal -- though there are no daisies and green fields. -- But what place
is that, Donal?"

Instinctively, almost unconsciously, she wanted to turn the
conversation. The place she pointed to was an opening immediately
on the roadside, through a high bank -- narrow and dark, with one side
half lighted by the moon. She had often passed it, walking with her
school-fellows, but had never thought of asking what it was. In the
shining dusk it looked strange and a little dreadful.

"It's the muckle quarry, mem," answered Donal: "div ye no ken that?
That's whaur maist the haill toon cam oot o'. It's a some eerie
kin' o' a place to luik at i' this licht. I won'er at ye never

"I have seen the opening there, but never took much notice of it
before," said Ginevra.

"Come an' I'll lat ye see't," rejoined Donal. "It's weel worth
luikin' intill. Ye hae nae notion sic a place as 'tis. It micht be
amo' the grenite muntains o' Aigypt, though they takna freely sic
fine blocks oot o' this ane as they tuik oot o' that at Syene. Ye
wadna be fleyt to come an' see what the meen maks o' 't, wad ye,

"No, Donal. I would not be frightened to go anywhere with you.
But -- "

"Eh, mem! it maks me richt prood to hear ye say that. Come awa'

So saying, he turned aside, and led her into the narrow passage, cut
through a friable sort of granite. Gibbie, thinking they had gone
to have but a peep and return, stood in the road, looking at the
clouds and the moon, and crooning to himself. By and by, when he
found they did not return, he followed them.

When they reached the end of the cutting, Ginevra started at sight
of the vast gulf, the moon showing the one wall a ghastly gray, and
from the other throwing a shadow half across the bottom. But a
winding road went down into it, and Donal led her on. She shrunk at
first, drawing back from the profound, mysterious-looking abyss, so
awfully still; but when Donal looked at her, she was ashamed to
refuse to go farther, and indeed almost afraid to take her hand from
his arm; so he led her down the terrace road. The side of the
quarry was on one hand, and on the other she could see only into the

"Oh, Donal!" she said at length, almost in a whisper, "this is like
a dream I once had, of going down and down a long roundabout road,
inside the earth, down and down, to the heart of a place full of the
dead -- the ground black with death, and between horrible walls."

Donal looked at her; his face was in the light reflected from the
opposite gray precipice: she thought it looked white and strange,
and grew more frightened, but dared not speak. Presently Donal
again began to sing, and this is something like what he sang: --

"Death! whaur do ye bide, auld Death?"
"I bide in ilka breath,"
Quo' Death.
"No i' the pyramids,
An' no the worms amids,
'Neth coffin-lids;
I bidena whaur life has been,
An' whaur's nae mair to be dune."

"Death! whaur do ye bide, auld Death?"
"Wi' the leevin', to dee 'at's laith,"
Quo' Death.
"Wi' the man an' the wife
'At lo'e like life,
But strife; (without)
Wi' the bairns 'at hing to their mither,
An' a' 'at lo'e ane anither."

"Death! whaur do ye bide, auld Death?"
"Abune an' aboot an' aneath,"
Quo' Death.
"But o' a' the airts,
An' o' a' the pairts,
In herts,
Whan the tane to the tither says na,
An' the north win' begins to blaw."

"What a terrible song, Donal!" said Ginevra.

He made no reply, but went on, leading her down into the pit: he had
been afraid she was going to draw back, and sang the first words her
words suggested, knowing she would not interrupt him. The aspect of
the place grew frightful to her.

"Are you sure there are no holes -- full of water, down there?" she

"Ay, there's ane or twa," replied Donal, "but we'll haud oot o'

Ginevra shuddered, but was determined to show no fear: Donal should
not reproach her with lack of faith! They stepped at last on the
level below, covered with granite chips and stones and great blocks.
In the middle rose a confused heap of all sorts. To this, and
round to the other side of it, Donal led her. There shone the moon
on the corner of a pool, the rest of which crept away in blackness
under an overhanging mass. She caught his arm with both hands. He
told her to look up. Steep granite rock was above them all round,
on one side dark, on the other mottled with the moon and the
thousand shadows of its own roughness; over the gulf hung vaulted
the blue, cloud-blotted sky, whence the moon seemed to look straight
down upon her, asking what they were about, away from their kind, in
such a place of terror.

Suddenly Donal caught her hand. She looked in his face. It was not
the moon that could make it so white.

"Ginevra!" he said, with trembling voice.

"Yes, Donal," she answered.

"Ye're no angry at me for ca'in ye by yer name? I never did it

"I always call you Donal," she answered.

"That's nait'ral. Ye're a gran' leddy, an' I'm naething abune a

"You're a great poet, Donal, and that's much more than being a lady
or a gentleman."

"Ay, maybe," answered Donal listlessly, as if he were thinking of
something far away; "but it winna mak up for the tither; they're no
upo' the same side o' the watter, like. A puir lad like me daurna
lift an ee till a gran' leddy like you, mem. A' the warl' wad but
scorn him, an' lauch at the verra notion. My time's near ower at
the college, an' I see naething for 't but gang hame an' fee (hire
myself). I'll be better workin' wi' my han's nor wi' my heid whan I
hae nae houp left o' ever seein' yer face again. I winna lowse a
day aboot it. Gien I lowse time I may lowse my rizon. Hae patience
wi' me ae meenute, mem; I'm jist driven to tell ye the trowth. It's
mony a lang sin' I hae kent mysel' wantin' you. Ye're the boady,
an' I'm the shaidow. I dinna mean nae hyperbolics -- that's the w'y
the thing luiks to me i' my ain thouchts. Eh, mem, but ye're
bonnie! Ye dinna ken yersel' hoo bonnie ye are, nor what a
subversion you mak i' my hert an' my heid. I cud jist cut my heid
aff, an' lay 't aneth yer feet to haud them aff o' the cauld flure."

Still she looked him in the eyes, like one bewildered, unable to
withdraw her eyes from his. Her face too had grown white.

"Tell me to haud my tongue, mem, an' I'll haud it," he said.

Her lips moved, but no sound came.

"I ken weel," he went on, "ye can never luik upo' me as onything
mair nor a kin' o' a human bird, 'at ye wad hing in a cage, an' gie
seeds an' bits o' sugar till, an' hearken till whan he sang. I'll
never trouble ye nae mair, an' whether ye grant me my prayer or no,
ye'll never see me again. The only differ 'ill be 'at I'll aither
hing my heid or haud it up for the rest o' my days. I wad fain ken
'at I wasna despised, an' 'at maybe gien things had been
different, -- but na, I dinna mean that; I mean naething 'at wad
fricht ye frae what I wad hae. It sudna mean a hair mair nor lies
in itsel'."

"What is it, Donal?" said Ginevra, half inaudibly, and with effort:
she could scarcely speak for a fluttering in her throat.

"I cud beseech ye upo' my k-nees," he went on, as if she had not
spoken, "to lat me kiss yer bonnie fut; but that ye micht grant for
bare peety, an' that wad dee me little guid; sae for ance an' for
a', till maybe efter we're a' ayont the muckle sea, I beseech at the
fauvour o' yer sweet sowl, to lay upo' me, as upo' the lips o' the
sowl 'at sang ye the sangs ye likit sae weel to hear whan ye was but
a leddy-lassie -- ae solitary kiss. It shall be holy to me as the
licht; an' I sweir by the Trowth I'll think o' 't but as ye think,
an' man nor wuman nor bairn, no even Gibbie himsel', sall ken -- "

The last word broke the spell upon Ginevra.

"But, Donal," she said, as quietly as when years ago they talked by
the Lorrie side, "would it be right? -- a secret with you I could not
tell to any one? -- not even if afterwards -- "

Donal's face grew so ghastly with utter despair that absolute terror
seized her; she turned from him and fled, calling "Gibbie! Gibbie!"

He was not many yards off, approaching the mound as she came from
behind it. He ran to meet her. She darted to him like a dove
pursued by a hawk, threw herself into his arms, laid her head on his
shoulder, and wept. Gibbie held her fast, and with all the ways in
his poor power sought to comfort her. She raised her face at
length. It was all wet with tears which glistened in the moonlight.
Hurriedly Gibbie asked on his fingers:

"Was Donal not good to you?"

"He's beautiful," she sobbed; "but I couldn't, you know, Gibbie, I
couldn't. I don't care a straw about position and all that -- who
would with a poet? -- but I couldn't, you know, Gibbie. I couldn't
let him think I might have married him -- in any case: could I now,

She laid her head again on his shoulder and sobbed. Gibbie did not
well understand her. Donal, where he had thrown himself on a heap
of granite chips, heard and understood, felt and knew and resolved
all in one. The moon shone, and the clouds went flitting like
ice-floe about the sky, now gray in distance, now near the moon and
white, now in her very presence and adorned with her favour on their
bosoms, now drifting again into the gray; and still the two, Ginevra
and Gibbie, stood motionless -- Gibbie with the tears in his eyes, and
Ginevra weeping as if her heart would break; and behind the granite
blocks lay Donal.

Again Ginevra raised her head.

"Gibbie, you must go and look after poor Donal," she said.

Gibbie went, but Donal was nowhere to be seen. To escape the two he
loved so well, and be alone as he felt, he had crept away softly
into one of the many recesses of the place. Again and again Gibbie
made the noise with which he was accustomed to call him, but he gave
back no answer, and they understood that wherever he was he wanted
to be left to himself. They climbed again the winding way out of
the gulf, and left him the heart of its desolation.

"Take me home, Gibbie," said Ginevra, when they reached the high

As they went, not a word more passed between them. Ginevra was as
dumb as Gibbie, and Gibbie was sadder than he had ever been in his
life -- not only for Donal's sake, but because, in his inexperienced
heart, he feared that Ginevra would not listen to Donal because she
could not -- because she had already promised herself to Fergus Duff;
and with all his love to his kind, he could not think it well that
Fergus should be made happy at such a price. He left her at her own
door, and went home, hoping to find Donal there before him.

He was not there. Hour after hour passed, and he did not appear.
At eleven o'clock, Gibbie set out to look for him, but with little
hope of finding him. He went all the way back to the quarry,
thinking it possible he might be waiting there, expecting him to
return without Ginevra. The moon was now low, and her light reached
but a little way into it, so that the look of the place was quite
altered, and the bottom of it almost dark. But Gibbie had no fear.
He went down to the spot, almost feeling his way, where they had
stood, got upon the heap, and called and whistled many times. But
no answer came. Donal was away, he did not himself know where,
wandering wherever the feet in his spirit led him. Gibbie went home
again, and sat up all night, keeping the kettle boiling, ready to
make tea for him the moment he should come in. But even in the
morning Donal did not appear. Gibbie was anxious -- for Donal was

He might hear of him at the college, he thought, and went at the
usual hour. Sure enough, as he entered the quadrangle, there was
Donal going in at the door leading to the moral philosophy
class-room. For hours, neglecting his own class, he watched about
the court, but Donal never showed himself. Gibbie concluded he had
watched to avoid him, and had gone home by Crown-street, and himself
returned the usual and shorter way, sure almost of now finding him
in his room -- although probably with the door locked. The room was
empty, and Mistress Murkison had not seen him.

Donal's final examination, upon which alone his degree now depended,
came on the next day: Gibbie watched at a certain corner, and unseen
saw him pass -- with a face pale but strong, eyes that seemed not to
have slept, and lips that looked the inexorable warders of many
sighs. After that he did not see him once till the last day of the
session arrived. Then in the public room he saw him go up to
receive his degree. Never before had he seen him look grand; and
Gibbie knew that there was not any evil in the world, except wrong.
But it had been the dreariest week he had ever passed. As they
came from the public room, he lay in wait for him once more, but
again in vain: he must have gone through the sacristan's garden

When he reached his lodging, he found a note from Donal waiting him,
in which he bade him good-bye, said he was gone to his mother, and
asked him to pack up his things for him: he would write to Mistress
Murkison and tell her what to do with the chest.



A sense of loneliness, such as in all his forsaken times he had
never felt, overshadowed Gibbie when he read this letter. He was
altogether perplexed by Donal's persistent avoidance of him. He had
done nothing to hurt him, and knew himself his friend in his sorrow
as well as in his joy. He sat down in the room that had been his,
and wrote to him. As often as he raised his eyes -- for he had not
shut the door -- he saw the dusty sunshine on the old furniture. It
was a bright day, one of the poursuivants of the yet distant summer,
but how dreary everything looked! how miserable and heartless now
Donal was gone, and would never regard those things any more! When
he had ended his letter, almost for the first time in his life, he
sat thinking what he should do next. It was as if he were suddenly
becalmed on the high seas; one wind had ceased to blow, and another
had not begun. It troubled him a little that he must now return to
Mr. Sclater, and once more feel the pressure of a nature not
homogeneous with his own. But it would not be for long.

Mr. Sclater had thought of making a movement towards gaining an
extension of his tutelage beyond the ordinary legal period, on the
ground of unfitness in his ward for the management of his property;
but Gibbie's character and scholarship, and the opinion of the world
which would follow failure, had deterred him from the attempt. In
the month of May, therefore, when, according to the registry of his
birth in the parish book, he would be of age, he would also be, as
he expected, his own master, so far as other mortals were concerned.
As to what he would then do, he had thought much, and had plans,
but no one knew anything of them except Donal -- who had forsaken him.

He was in no haste to return to Daur-street. He packed Donal's
things, with all the books they had bought together, and committed
the chest to Mistress Murkison. He then told her he would rather
not give up his room just yet, but would like to keep it on for a
while, and come and go as he pleased; to which the old woman

"As ye wull, Sir Gibbie. Come an' gang as free as the win'. Mak o'
my hoose as gien it war yer ain."

He told her he would sleep there that night, and she got him his
dinner as usual; after which, putting a Greek book in his pocket, he
went out, thinking to go to the end of the pier and sit there a
while. He would gladly have gone to Ginevra, but she had prevented
him when she was at school, and had never asked him since she left
it. But Gibbie was not ennuy‚: the pleasure of his life came from
the very roots of his being, and would therefore run into any
channel of his consciousness; neither was he greatly troubled;
nothing could "put rancours in the vessel of" his "peace;" he was
only very hungry after the real presence of the human; and scarcely
had he set his foot on the pavement, when he resolved to go and see
Mistress Croale. The sun, still bright, was sinking towards the
west, and a cold wind was blowing. He walked to the market, up to
the gallery of it, and on to the farther end, greeting one and
another of the keepers of the little shops, until he reached that of
Mistress Croale. She was overjoyed at sight of him, and proud the
neighbours saw the terms they were on. She understood his signs and
finger-speech tolerably, and held her part of the conversation in
audible utterance. She told him that for the week past Donal had
occupied her garret -- she did not know why, she said, and hoped
nothing had gone wrong between them. Gibbie signed that he could
not tell her about it there, but would go and take tea with her in
the evening.

"I'm sorry I canna be hame sae ear'," she replied. "I promised to
tak my dish o' tay wi' auld Mistress Green -- the kail-wife, ye ken,
Sir Gibbie." -- Gibbie nodded and she resumed: -- "But gien ye wad tak a
lug o' a Fin'on haddie wi' me at nine o'clock, I wad be prood."

Gibbie nodded again, and left her.

All this time he had not happened to discover that the lady who
stood at the next counter, not more than a couple of yards from him,
was Miss Kimble -- which was the less surprising in that the lady took
some trouble to hide the fact. She extended her purchasing when she
saw who was shaking hands with the next stall-keeper, but kept her
face turned from him, heard all Mrs. Croale said to him, and went
away asking herself what possible relations except objectionable
ones could exist between such a pair. She knew little or nothing of
Gibbie's early history, for she had not been a dweller in the city
when Gibbie was known as well as the town-cross to almost every man,
woman, and child in it, else perhaps she might, but I doubt it, have
modified her conclusion. Her instinct was in the right, she said,
with self-gratulation; he was a lad of low character and tastes,
just what she had taken him for the first moment she saw him: his
friends could not know what he was; she was bound to acquaint them
with his conduct; and first of all, in duty to her old pupil, she
must let Mr. Galbraith know what sort of friendships this Sir
Gilbert, his nephew, cultivated. She went therefore straight to the

Fergus was there when she rang the bell. Mr. Galbraith looked out,
and seeing who it was, retreated -- the more hurriedly that he owed
her money, and imagined she had come to dun him. But when she found
to her disappointment that she could not see him, Miss Kimble did
not therefore attempt to restrain a little longer the pent-up waters
of her secret. Mr. Duff was a minister, and the intimate friend of
the family: she would say what she had seen and heard. Having then
first abjured all love of gossip, she told her tale, appealing to
the minister whether she had not been right in desiring to let Sir
Gilbert's uncle know how he was going on.

"I was not aware that Sir Gilbert was a cousin of yours, Miss
Galbraith," said Fergus.

Ginevra's face was rosy red, but it was now dusk, and the fire-light
had friendly retainer-shadows about it.

"He is not my cousin," she answered.

"Why, Ginevra! you told me he was your cousin," said Miss Kimble,
with keen moral reproach.

"I beg your pardon; I never did," said Ginevra.

"I must see your father instantly," cried Miss Kimble, rising in
anger. "He must be informed at once how much he is mistaken in the
young gentleman he permits to be on such friendly terms with his

"My father does not know him," rejoined Ginevra; "and I should
prefer they were not brought together just at present."

Her words sounded strange even in her own ears, but she knew no way
but the straight one.

"You quite shock me, Ginevra!" said the school-mistress, resuming
her seat: "you cannot mean to say you cherish acquaintance with a
young man of whom your father knows nothing, and whom you dare not
introduce to him?"

To explain would have been to expose her father to blame.

"I have known Sir Gilbert from my childhood," she said.

"Is it possible your duplicity reaches so far?" cried Miss Kimble,
assured in her own mind that Ginevra had said he was her cousin.

Fergus thought it was time to interfere.

"I know something of the circumstances that led to the acquaintance
of Miss Galbraith with Sir Gilbert," he said, "and I am sure it
would only annoy her father to have any allusion made to it by
one -- excuse me, Miss Kimble -- who is comparatively a stranger. I beg
you will leave the matter to me."

Fergus regarded Gibbie as a half witted fellow, and had no fear of
him. He knew nothing of the commencement of his acquaintance with
Ginevra, but imagined it had come about through Donal; for,
studiously as Mr. Galbraith had avoided mention of his quarrel with
Ginevra because of the lads, something of it had crept out, and
reached the Mains; and in now venturing allusion to that old story,
Fergus was feeling after a nerve whose vibration, he thought, might
afford him some influence over Ginevra.

He spoke authoritatively, and Miss Kimble, though convinced it was a
mere pretence of her graceless pupil that her father would not see
her, had to yield, and rose. Mr. Duff rose also, saying he would
walk with her. He returned to the cottage, dined with them, and
left about eight o'clock.

Already well enough acquainted in the city to learn without
difficulty where Mistress Croale lived, and having nothing very

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