Part 5 out of 6
own postillions, was only to be explained on the double hypothesis,
that he was a fool and no gentleman.
I have said they were man and woman. I should have said man and
child. She was certainly not more than seventeen, pretty as an
angel, just plump enough to damn a saint, and dressed in various
shades of blue, from her stockings to her saucy cap, in a kind of
taking gamut, the top note of which she flung me in a beam from her
too appreciative eye. There was no doubt about the case: I saw it
all. From a boarding-school, a black-board, a piano, and
Clementi's Sonatinas, the child had made a rash adventure upon life
in the company of a half-bred hawbuck; and she was already not only
regretting it, but expressing her regret with point and pungency.
As I alighted they both paused with that unmistakable air of being
interrupted in a scene. I uncovered to the lady and placed my
services at their disposal.
It was the man who answered. 'There's no use in shamming, sir,'
said he. 'This lady and I have run away, and her father's after
us: road to Gretna, sir. And here have these nincompoops spilt us
in the ditch and smashed the chaise!'
'Very provoking,' said I.
'I don't know when I've been so provoked!' cried he, with a glance
down the road, of mortal terror.
'The father is no doubt very much incensed?' I pursued civilly.
'O God!' cried the hawbuck. 'In short, you see, we must get out of
this. And I'll tell you what--it may seem cool, but necessity has
no law--if you would lend us your chaise to the next post-house, it
would be the very thing, sir.'
'I confess it seems cool,' I replied.
'What's that you say, sir?' he snapped.
'I was agreeing with you,' said I. 'Yes, it does seem cool; and
what is more to the point, it seems unnecessary. This thing can be
arranged in a more satisfactory manner otherwise, I think. You can
This opened a door on the matter of their previous dispute, and the
fellow appeared life-sized in his true colours. 'That's what I've
been telling her: that, damn her! she must ride!' he broke out.
'And if the gentleman's of the same mind, why, damme, you shall!'
As he said so, he made a snatch at her wrist, which she evaded with
I stepped between them.
'No, sir,' said I; 'the lady shall not.'
He turned on me raging. 'And who are you to interfere?' he roared.
'There is here no question of who I am,' I replied. 'I may be the
devil or the Archbishop of Canterbury for what you know, or need
know. The point is that I can help you--it appears that nobody
else can; and I will tell you how I propose to do it. I will give
the lady a seat in my chaise, if you will return the compliment by
allowing my servant to ride one of your horses.'
I thought he would have sprung at my throat.
'You have always the alternative before you: to wait here for the
arrival of papa,' I added.
And that settled him. He cast another haggard look down the road,
'I am sure, sir, the lady is very much obliged to you,' he said,
with an ill grace.
I gave her my hand; she mounted like a bird into the chaise;
Rowley, grinning from ear to ear, closed the door behind us; the
two impudent rascals of post-boys cheered and laughed aloud as we
drove off; and my own postillion urged his horses at once into a
rattling trot. It was plain I was supposed by all to have done a
very dashing act, and ravished the bride from the ravisher.
In the meantime I stole a look at the little lady. She was in a
state of pitiable discomposure, and her arms shook on her lap in
her black lace mittens.
'Madam--' I began.
And she, in the same moment, finding her voice: 'O, what you must
think of me!'
'Madam,' said I, 'what must any gentleman think when he sees youth,
beauty and innocence in distress? I wish I could tell you that I
was old enough to be your father; I think we must give that up,' I
continued, with a smile. 'But I will tell you something about
myself which ought to do as well, and to set that little heart at
rest in my society. I am a lover. May I say it of myself--for I
am not quite used to all the niceties of English--that I am a true
lover? There is one whom I admire, adore, obey; she is no less
good than she is beautiful; if she were here, she would take you to
her arms: conceive that she has sent me--that she has said to me,
"Go, be her knight!"'
'O, I know she must be sweet, I know she must be worthy of you!'
cried the little lady. 'She would never forget female decorum--nor
make the terrible erratum I've done!'
And at this she lifted up her voice and wept.
This did not forward matters: it was in vain that I begged her to
be more composed and to tell me a plain, consecutive tale of her
misadventures; but she continued instead to pour forth the most
extraordinary mixture of the correct school miss and the poor
untutored little piece of womanhood in a false position--of
engrafted pedantry and incoherent nature.
'I am certain it must have been judicial blindness,' she sobbed.
'I can't think how I didn't see it, but I didn't; and he isn't, is
he? And then a curtain rose . . . O, what a moment was that! But
I knew at once that YOU WERE; you had but to appear from your
carriage, and I knew it, O, she must be a fortunate young lady!
And I have no fear with you, none--a perfect confidence.'
'Madam,' said I, 'a gentleman.'
'That's what I mean--a gentleman,' she exclaimed. 'And he--and
that--HE isn't. O, how shall I dare meet father!' And disclosing
to me her tear-stained face, and opening her arms with a tragic
gesture: 'And I am quite disgraced before all the young ladies, my
school-companions!' she added.
'O, not so bad as that!' I cried. 'Come, come, you exaggerate, my
dear Miss--? Excuse me if I am too familiar: I have not yet heard
'My name is Dorothy Greensleeves, sir: why should I conceal it? I
fear it will only serve to point an adage to future generations,
and I had meant so differently! There was no young female in the
county more emulous to be thought well of than I. And what a fall
was there! O, dear me, what a wicked, piggish donkey of a girl I
have made of myself, to be sure! And there is no hope! O, Mr.--'
And at that she paused and asked my name.
I am not writing my eulogium for the Academy; I will admit it was
unpardonably imbecile, but I told it her. If you had been there--
and seen her, ravishingly pretty and little, a baby in years and
mind--and heard her talking like a book, with so much of schoolroom
propriety in her manner, with such an innocent despair in the
matter--you would probably have told her yours. She repeated it
'I shall pray for you all my life,' she said. 'Every night, when I
retire to rest, the last thing I shall do is to remember you by
Presently I succeeded in winning from her her tale, which was much
what I had anticipated: a tale of a schoolhouse, a walled garden,
a fruit-tree that concealed a bench, an impudent raff posturing in
church, an exchange of flowers and vows over the garden wall, a
silly schoolmate for a confidante, a chaise and four, and the most
immediate and perfect disenchantment on the part of the little
lady. 'And there is nothing to be done!' she wailed in conclusion.
'My error is irretrievable, I am quite forced to that conclusion.
O, Monsieur de Saint-Yves! who would have thought that I could have
been such a blind, wicked donkey!'
I should have said before--only that I really do not know when it
came in--that we had been overtaken by the two post-boys, Rowley
and Mr. Bellamy, which was the hawbuck's name, bestriding the four
post-horses; and that these formed a sort of cavalry escort, riding
now before, now behind the chaise, and Bellamy occasionally
posturing at the window and obliging us with some of his
conversation. He was so ill-received that I declare I was tempted
to pity him, remembering from what a height he had fallen, and how
few hours ago it was since the lady had herself fled to his arms,
all blushes and ardour. Well, these great strokes of fortune
usually befall the unworthy, and Bellamy was now the legitimate
object of my commiseration and the ridicule of his own post-boys!
'Miss Dorothy,' said I, 'you wish to be delivered from this man?'
'O, if it were possible!' she cried. 'But not by violence.'
'Not in the least, ma'am,' I replied. 'The simplest thing in life.
We are in a civilised country; the man's a malefactor--'
'O, never!' she cried. 'Do not even dream it! With all his
faults, I know he is not THAT.'
'Anyway, he's in the wrong in this affair--on the wrong side of the
law, call it what you please,' said I; and with that, our four
horsemen having for the moment headed us by a considerable
interval, I hailed my post-boy and inquired who was the nearest
magistrate and where he lived. Archdeacon Clitheroe, he told me, a
prodigious dignitary, and one who lived but a lane or two back, and
at the distance of only a mile or two out of the direct road. I
showed him the king's medallion.
'Take the lady there, and at full gallop,' I cried.
'Right, sir! Mind yourself,' says the postillion.
And before I could have thought it possible, he had turned the
carriage to the rightabout and we were galloping south.
Our outriders were quick to remark and imitate the manoeuvre, and
came flying after us with a vast deal of indiscriminate shouting;
so that the fine, sober picture of a carriage and escort, that we
had presented but a moment back, was transformed in the twinkling
of an eye into the image of a noisy fox-chase. The two postillions
and my own saucy rogue were, of course, disinterested actors in the
comedy; they rode for the mere sport, keeping in a body, their
mouths full of laughter, waving their hats as they came on, and
crying (as the fancy struck them) Tally-ho!' 'Stop, thief!' 'A
highwayman! A highwayman!' It was otherguess work with Bellamy.
That gentleman no sooner observed our change of direction than he
turned his horse with so much violence that the poor animal was
almost cast upon its side, and launched her in immediate and
desperate pursuit. As he approached I saw that his face was deadly
white and that he carried a drawn pistol in his hand. I turned at
once to the poor little bride that was to have been, and now was
not to be; she, upon her side, deserting the other window, turned
as if to meet me.
'O, O, don't let him kill me!' she screamed.
'Never fear,' I replied.
Her face was distorted with terror. Her hands took hold upon me
with the instinctive clutch of an infant. The chaise gave a flying
lurch, which took the feet from under me and tumbled us anyhow upon
the seat. And almost in the same moment the head of Bellamy
appeared in the window which Missy had left free for him.
Conceive the situation! The little lady and I were falling--or had
just fallen--backward on the seat, and offered to the eye a
somewhat ambiguous picture. The chaise was speeding at a furious
pace, and with the most violent leaps and lurches, along the
highway. Into this bounding receptacle Bellamy interjected his
head, his pistol arm, and his pistol; and since his own horse was
travelling still faster than the chaise, he must withdraw all of
them again in the inside of the fraction of a minute. He did so,
but he left the charge of the pistol behind him--whether by design
or accident I shall never know, and I dare say he has forgotten!
Probably he had only meant to threaten, in hopes of causing us to
arrest our flight. In the same moment came the explosion and a
pitiful cry from Missy; and my gentleman, making certain he had
struck her, went down the road pursued by the furies, turned at the
first corner, took a flying leap over the thorn hedge, and
disappeared across country in the least possible time.
Rowley was ready and eager to pursue; but I withheld him, thinking
we were excellently quit of Mr. Bellamy, at no more cost than a
scratch on the forearm and a bullet-hole in the left-hand claret-
coloured panel. And accordingly, but now at a more decent pace, we
proceeded on our way to Archdeacon Clitheroe's, Missy's gratitude
and admiration were aroused to a high pitch by this dramatic scene,
and what she was pleased to call my wound. She must dress it for
me with her handkerchief, a service which she rendered me even with
tears. I could well have spared them, not loving on the whole to
be made ridiculous, and the injury being in the nature of a cat's
scratch. Indeed, I would have suggested for her kind care rather
the cure of my coat-sleeve, which had suffered worse in the
encounter; but I was too wise to risk the anti-climax. That she
had been rescued by a hero, that the hero should have been wounded
in the affray, and his wound bandaged with her handkerchief (which
it could not even bloody), ministered incredibly to the recovery of
her self-respect; and I could hear her relate the incident to 'the
young ladies, my school-companions,' in the most approved manner of
Mrs. Radcliffe! To have insisted on the torn coat-sleeve would
have been unmannerly, if not inhuman.
Presently the residence of the archdeacon began to heave in sight.
A chaise and four smoking horses stood by the steps, and made way
for us on our approach; and even as we alighted there appeared from
the interior of the house a tall ecclesiastic, and beside him a
little, headstrong, ruddy man, in a towering passion, and
brandishing over his head a roll of paper. At sight of him Miss
Dorothy flung herself on her knees with the most moving
adjurations, calling him father, assuring him she was wholly cured
and entirely repentant of her disobedience, and entreating
forgiveness; and I soon saw that she need fear no great severity
from Mr. Greensleeves, who showed himself extraordinarily fond,
loud, greedy of caresses and prodigal of tears.
To give myself a countenance, as well as to have all ready for the
road when I should find occasion, I turned to quit scores with
Bellamy's two postillions. They had not the least claim on me, but
one of which they were quite ignorant--that I was a fugitive. It
is the worst feature of that false position that every gratuity
becomes a case of conscience. You must not leave behind you any
one discontented nor any one grateful. But the whole business had
been such a 'hurrah-boys' from the beginning, and had gone off in
the fifth act so like a melodrama, in explosions, reconciliations,
and the rape of a post-horse, that it was plainly impossible to
keep it covered. It was plain it would have to be talked over in
all the inn-kitchens for thirty miles about, and likely for six
months to come. It only remained for me, therefore, to settle on
that gratuity which should be least conspicuous--so large that
nobody could grumble, so small that nobody would be tempted to
boast. My decision was hastily and nor wisely taken. The one
fellow spat on his tip (so he called it) for luck; the other
developing a sudden streak of piety, prayed God bless me with
fervour. It seemed a demonstration was brewing, and I determined
to be off at once. Bidding my own post-boy and Rowley be in
readiness for an immediate start, I reascended the terrace and
presented myself, hat in hand, before Mr. Greensleeves and the
'You will excuse me, I trust,' said I. 'I think shame to interrupt
this agreeable scene of family effusion, which I have been
privileged in some small degree to bring about.'
And at these words the storm broke.
'Small degree! small degree, sir!' cries the father; 'that shall
not pass, Mr. St. Eaves! If I've got my darling back, and none the
worse for that vagabone rascal, I know whom I have to thank. Shake
hands with me--up to the elbows, sir! A Frenchman you may be, but
you're one of the right breed, by God! And, by God, sir, you may
have anything you care to ask of me, down to Dolly's hand, by God!'
All this he roared out in a voice surprisingly powerful from so
small a person. Every word was thus audible to the servants, who
had followed them out of the house and now congregated about us on
the terrace, as well as to Rowley and the five postillions on the
gravel sweep below. The sentiments expressed were popular; some
ass, whom the devil moved to be my enemy, proposed three cheers,
and they were given with a will. To hear my own name resounding
amid acclamations in the hills of Westmorland was flattering,
perhaps; but it was inconvenient at a moment when (as I was morally
persuaded) police handbills were already speeding after me at the
rate of a hundred miles a day.
Nor was that the end of it. The archdeacon must present his
compliments, and pressed upon me some of his West India sherry, and
I was carried into a vastly fine library, where I was presented to
his lady wife. While we were at sherry in the library, ale was
handed round upon the terrace. Speeches were made, hands were
shaken, Missy (at her father's request) kissed me farewell, and the
whole party reaccompanied me to the terrace, where they stood
waving hats and handkerchiefs, and crying farewells to all the
echoes of the mountains until the chaise had disappeared.
The echoes of the mountains were engaged in saying to me privately:
'You fool, you have done it now!'
'They do seem to have got 'old of your name, Mr. Anne,' said
Rowley. 'It weren't my fault this time.'
'It was one of those accidents that can never be foreseen,' said I,
affecting a dignity that I was far from feeling. 'Some one
'Which on 'em, Mr. Anne?' said the rascal.
'That is a senseless question; it can make no difference who it
was,' I returned.
'No, nor that it can't!' cried Rowley. 'I say, Mr. Anne, sir, it's
what you would call a jolly mess, ain't it? looks like "clean
bowled-out in the middle stump," don't it?'
'I fail to understand you, Rowley.'
'Well, what I mean is, what are we to do about this one?' pointing
to the postillion in front of us, as he alternately hid and
revealed his patched breeches to the trot of his horse. 'He see
you get in this morning under Mr. Ramornie--I was very piticular to
Mr. Ramornie you, if you remember, sir--and he see you get in again
under Mr. Saint Eaves, and whatever's he going to see you get out
under? that's what worries me, sir. It don't seem to me like as if
the position was what you call stratetegic!'
'Parrrbleu! will you let me be!' I cried. 'I have to think; you
cannot imagine how your constant idiotic prattle annoys me.'
'Beg pardon, Mr. Anne,' said he; and the next moment, 'You wouldn't
like for us to do our French now, would you, Mr. Anne?'
'Certainly not,' said I. 'Play upon your flageolet.'
The which he did with what seemed to me to be irony.
Conscience doth make cowards of us all! I was so downcast by my
pitiful mismanagement of the morning's business that I shrank from
the eye of my own hired infant, and read offensive meanings into
his idle tootling.
I took off my coat, and set to mending it, soldier-fashion, with a
needle and thread. There is nothing more conducive to thought,
above all in arduous circumstances; and as I sewed, I gradually
gained a clearness upon my affairs. I must be done with the
claret-coloured chaise at once. It should be sold at the next
stage for what it would bring. Rowley and I must take back to the
road on our four feet, and after a decent interval of trudging, get
places on some coach for Edinburgh again under new names! So much
trouble and toil, so much extra risk and expense and loss of time,
and all for a slip of the tongue to a little lady in blue!
CHAPTER XXIV--THE INN-KEEPER OF KIRKBY-LONSDALE
I had hitherto conceived and partly carried out an ideal that was
dear to my heart. Rowley and I descended from our claret-coloured
chaise, a couple of correctly dressed, brisk, bright-eyed young
fellows, like a pair of aristocratic mice; attending singly to our
own affairs, communicating solely with each other, and that with
the niceties and civilities of drill. We would pass through the
little crowd before the door with high-bred preoccupation,
inoffensively haughty, after the best English pattern; and
disappear within, followed by the envy and admiration of the
bystanders, a model master and servant, point-device in every part.
It was a heavy thought to me, as we drew up before the inn at
Kirkby-Lonsdale, that this scene was now to be enacted for the last
time. Alas! and had I known it, it was to go of with so inferior a
I had been injudiciously liberal to the post-boys of the chaise and
four. My own post-boy, he of the patched breeches, now stood
before me, his eyes glittering with greed, his hand advanced. It
was plain he anticipated something extraordinary by way of a
pourboire; and considering the marches and counter-marches by which
I had extended the stage, the military character of our affairs
with Mr. Bellamy, and the bad example I had set before him at the
archdeacon's, something exceptional was certainly to be done. But
these are always nice questions, to a foreigner above all: a shade
too little will suggest niggardliness, a shilling too much smells
of hush-money. Fresh from the scene at the archdeacon's, and
flushed by the idea that I was now nearly done with the
responsibilities of the claret-coloured chaise, I put into his
hands five guineas; and the amount served only to waken his
'O, come, sir, you ain't going to fob me of with this? Why, I seen
fire at your side!' he cried.
It would never do to give him more; I felt I should become the
fable of Kirkby-Lonsdale if I did; and I looked him in the face,
sternly but still smiling, and addressed him with a voice of
'If you do not like it, give it back,' said I.
He pocketed the guineas with the quickness of a conjurer, and, like
a base-born cockney as he was, fell instantly to casting dirt.
''Ave your own way of it, Mr. Ramornie--leastways Mr. St. Eaves, or
whatever your blessed name may be. Look 'ere'--turning for
sympathy to the stable-boys--'this is a blessed business. Blessed
'ard, I calls it. 'Ere I takes up a blessed son of a pop-gun what
calls hisself anything you care to mention, and turns out to be a
blessed mounseer at the end of it! 'Ere 'ave I been drivin' of him
up and down all day, a-carrying off of gals, a-shootin' of
pistyils, and a-drinkin' of sherry and hale; and wot does he up and
give me but a blank, blank, blanketing blank!'
The fellow's language had become too powerful for reproduction, and
I passed it by.
Meanwhile I observed Rowley fretting visibly at the bit; another
moment, and he would have added a last touch of the ridiculous to
our arrival by coming to his hands with the postillion.
'Rowley!' cried I reprovingly.
Strictly it should have been Gammon; but in the hurry of the
moment, my fault (I can only hope) passed unperceived. At the same
time I caught the eye of the postmaster. He was long and lean, and
brown and bilious; he had the drooping nose of the humourist, and
the quick attention of a man of parts. He read my embarrassment in
a glance, stepped instantly forward, sent the post-boy to the
rightabout with half a word, and was back next moment at my side.
'Dinner in a private room, sir? Very well. John, No. 4! What
wine would you care to mention? Very well, sir. Will you please
to order fresh horses? Not, sir? Very well.'
Each of these expressions was accompanied by something in the
nature of a bow, and all were prefaced by something in the nature
of a smile, which I could very well have done without. The man's
politeness was from the teeth outwards; behind and within, I was
conscious of a perpetual scrutiny: the scene at his doorstep, the
random confidences of the post-boy, had not been thrown away on
this observer; and it was under a strong fear of coming trouble
that I was shown at last into my private room. I was in half a
mind to have put off the whole business. But the truth is, now my
name had got abroad, my fear of the mail that was coming, and the
handbills it should contain, had waxed inordinately, and I felt I
could never eat a meal in peace till I had severed my connection
with the claret-coloured chaise.
Accordingly, as soon as I had done with dinner, I sent my
compliments to the landlord and requested he should take a glass of
wine with me. He came; we exchanged the necessary civilities, and
presently I approached my business.
'By the bye,' said I, 'we had a brush down the road to-day. I dare
say you may have heard of it?'
'And I was so unlucky as to get a pistol ball in the panel of my
chaise,' I continued, 'which makes it simply useless to me. Do you
know any one likely to buy?'
'I can well understand that,' said the landlord, 'I was looking at
it just now; it's as good as ruined, is that chaise. General rule,
people don't like chaises with bullet-holes.'
'Too much Romance of the Forest?' I suggested, recalling my little
friend of the morning, and what I was sure had been her favourite
reading--Mrs. Radcliffe's novels.
'Just so,' said he. 'They may be right, they may be wrong; I'm not
the judge. But I suppose it's natural, after all, for respectable
people to like things respectable about them; not bullet-holes, nor
puddles of blood, nor men with aliases.'
I took a glass of wine and held it up to the light to show that my
hand was steady.
'Yes,' said I, 'I suppose so.'
'You have papers, of course, showing you are the proper owner?' he
'There is the bill, stamped and receipted,' said I, tossing it
across to him.
He looked at it.
'This all you have?' he asked.
'It is enough, at least,' said I. 'It shows you where I bought and
what I paid for it.'
'Well, I don't know,' he said. 'You want some paper of
'To identify the chaise?' I inquired.
'Not at all: to identify YOU,' said he.
'My good sir, remember yourself!' said I. 'The title-deeds of my
estate are in that despatch-box; but you do not seriously suppose
that I should allow you to examine them?'
'Well, you see, this paper proves that some Mr. Ramornie paid
seventy guineas for a chaise,' said the fellow. 'That's all well
and good; but who's to prove to me that you are Mr. Ramornie?'
'Fellow!' cried I.
'O, fellow as much as you please!' said he. 'Fellow, with all my
heart! That changes nothing. I am fellow, of course--obtrusive
fellow, impudent fellow, if you like--but who are you? I hear of
you with two names; I hear of you running away with young ladies,
and getting cheered for a Frenchman, which seems odd; and one thing
I will go bail for, that you were in a blue fright when the post-
boy began to tell tales at my door. In short, sir, you may be a
very good gentleman; but I don't know enough about you, and I'll
trouble you for your papers, or to go before a magistrate. Take
your choice; if I'm not fine enough, I hope the magistrates are.'
'My good man,' I stammered, for though I had found my voice, I
could scarce be said to have recovered my wits, 'this is most
unusual, most rude. Is it the custom in Westmorland that gentlemen
should be insulted?'
'That depends,' said he. 'When it's suspected that gentlemen are
spies it IS the custom; and a good custom, too. No no,' he broke
out, perceiving me to make a movement. 'Both hands upon the table,
my gentleman! I want no pistol balls in my chaise panels.'
'Surely, sir, you do me strange injustice!' said I, now the master
of myself. 'You see me sitting here, a monument of tranquillity:
pray may I help myself to wine without umbraging you?'
I took this attitude in sheer despair. I had no plan, no hope.
The best I could imagine was to spin the business out some minutes
longer, then capitulate. At least, I would not capituatle one
moment too soon.
'Am I to take that for NO?' he asked.
'Referring to your former obliging proposal?' said I. 'My good
sir, you are to take it, as you say, for "No." Certainly I will
not show you my deeds; certainly I will not rise from table and
trundle out to see your magistrates. I have too much respect for
my digestion, and too little curiosity in justices of the peace.'
He leaned forward, looked me nearly in the face, and reached out
one hand to the bell-rope. 'See here, my fine fellow!' said he.
'Do you see that bell-rope? Let me tell you, there's a boy waiting
below: one jingle, and he goes to fetch the constable.'
'Do you tell me so?' said I. 'Well, there's no accounting for
tastes! I have a prejudice against the society of constables, but
if it is your fancy to have one in for the dessert--' I shrugged
my shoulders lightly. 'Really, you know,' I added, 'this is vastly
entertaining. I assure you, I am looking on, with all the interest
of a man of the world, at the development of your highly original
He continued to study my face without speech, his hand still on the
button of the bell-rope, his eyes in mine; this was the decisive
heat. My face seemed to myself to dislimn under his gaze, my
expression to change, the smile (with which I had began) to
degenerate into the grin of the man upon the rack. I was besides
harassed with doubts. An innocent man, I argued, would have
resented the fellow's impudence an hour ago; and by my continued
endurance of the ordeal, I was simply signing and sealing my
confession; in short, I had reached the end of my powers.
'Have you any objection to my putting my hands in my breeches
pockets?' I inquired. 'Excuse me mentioning it, but you showed
yourself so extremely nervous a moment back.' My voice was not all
I could have wished, but it sufficed. I could hear it tremble, but
the landlord apparently could not. He turned away and drew a long
breath, and you may be sure I was quick to follow his example.
'You're a cool hand at least, and that's the sort I like,' said he.
'Be you what you please, I'll deal square. I'll take the chaise
for a hundred pound down, and throw the dinner in.'
'I beg your pardon,' I cried, wholly mystified by this form of
'You pay me a hundred down,' he repeated, 'and I'll take the
chaise. It's very little more than it cost,' he added, with a
grin, 'and you know you must get it off your hands somehow.'
I do not know when I have been better entertained than by this
impudent proposal. It was broadly funny, and I suppose the least
tempting offer in the world. For all that, it came very welcome,
for it gave me the occasion to laugh. This I did with the most
complete abandonment, till the tears ran down my cheeks; and ever
and again, as the fit abated, I would get another view of the
landlord's face, and go off into another paroxysm.
'You droll creature, you will be the death of me yet!' I cried,
drying my eyes.
My friend was now wholly disconcerted; he knew not where to look,
nor yet what to say; and began for the first time to conceive it
possible he was mistaken.
'You seem rather to enjoy a laugh, sir,' said he.
'O, yes! I am quite an original,' I replied, and laughed again.
Presently, in a changed voice, he offered me twenty pounds for the
chaise; I ran him up to twenty-five, and closed with the offer:
indeed, I was glad to get anything; and if I haggled, it was not in
the desire of gain, but with the view at any price of securing a
safe retreat. For although hostilities were suspended, he was yet
far from satisfied; and I could read his continued suspicions in
the cloudy eye that still hovered about my face. At last they took
shape in words.
'This is all very well,' says he: 'you carry it off well; but for
all that, I must do my duty.'
I had my strong effect in reserve; it was to burn my ships with a
vengeance! I rose. 'Leave the room,' said I. 'This is
insuperable. Is the man mad?' And then, as if already half-
ashamed of my passion: 'I can take a joke as well as any one,' I
added; 'but this passes measure. Send my servant and the bill.'
When he had left me alone, I considered my own valour with
amazement. I had insulted him; I had sent him away alone; now, if
ever, he would take what was the only sensible resource, and fetch
the constable. But there was something instinctively treacherous
about the man which shrank from plain courses. And, with all his
cleverness, he missed the occasion of fame. Rowley and I were
suffered to walk out of his door, with all our baggage, on foot,
with no destination named, except in the vague statement that we
were come 'to view the lakes'; and my friend only watched our
departure with his chin in his hand, still moodily irresolute.
I think this one of my great successes. I was exposed, unmasked,
summoned to do a perfectly natural act, which must prove my doom
and which I had not the slightest pretext for refusing. I kept my
head, stuck to my guns, and, against all likelihood, here I was
once more at liberty and in the king's highway. This was a strong
lesson never to despair; and, at the same time, how many hints to
be cautious! and what a perplexed and dubious business the whole
question of my escape now appeared! That I should have risked
perishing upon a trumpery question of a pourboire, depicted in
lively colours the perils that perpetually surrounded us. Though,
to be sure, the initial mistake had been committed before that; and
if I had not suffered myself to be drawn a little deep in
confidences to the innocent Dolly, there need have been no tumble
at the inn of Kirkby-Lonsdale. I took the lesson to heart, and
promised myself in the future to be more reserved. It was none of
my business to attend to broken chaises or shipwrecked travellers.
I had my hands full of my own affairs; and my best defence would be
a little more natural selfishness and a trifle less imbecile good-
CHAPTER XXV--I MEET A CHEERFUL EXTRAVAGANT
I pass over the next fifty or sixty leagues of our journey without
comment. The reader must be growing weary of scenes of travel; and
for my own part I have no cause to recall these particular miles
with any pleasure. We were mainly occupied with attempts to
obliterate our trail, which (as the result showed) were far from
successful; for, on my cousin following, he was able to run me home
with the least possible loss of time, following the claret-coloured
chaise to Kirkby-Lonsdale, where I think the landlord must have
wept to learn what he had missed, and tracing us thereafter to the
doors of the coach-office in Edinburgh without a single check.
Fortune did not favour me, and why should I recapitulate the
details of futile precautions which deceived nobody, and wearisome
arts which proved to be artless?
The day was drawing to an end when Mr. Rowley and I bowled into
Edinburgh to the stirring sound of the guard's bugle and the
clattering team. I was here upon my field of battle; on the scene
of my former captivity, escape and exploits; and in the same city
with my love. My heart expanded; I have rarely felt more of a
hero. All down the Bridges I sat by the driver with my arms folded
and my face set, unflinchingly meeting every eye, and prepared
every moment for a cry of recognition. Hundreds of the population
were in the habit of visiting the Castle, where it was my practice
(before the days of Flora) to make myself conspicuous among the
prisoners; and I think it an extraordinary thing that I should have
encountered so few to recognise me. But doubtless a clean chin is
a disguise in itself; and the change is great from a suit of
sulphur-yellow to fine linen, a well-fitting mouse-coloured great-
coat furred in black, a pair of tight trousers of fashionable cut,
and a hat of inimitable curl. After all, it was more likely that I
should have recognised our visitors, than that they should have
identified the modish gentleman with the miserable prisoner in the
I was glad to set foot on the flagstones, and to escape from the
crowd that had assembled to receive the mail. Here we were, with
but little daylight before us, and that on Saturday afternoon, the
eve of the famous Scottish Sabbath, adrift in the New Town of
Edinburgh, and overladen with baggage. We carried it ourselves. I
would not take a cab, nor so much as hire a porter, who might
afterwards serve as a link between my lodgings and the mail, and
connect me again with the claret-coloured chaise and Aylesbury.
For I was resolved to break the chain of evidence for good, and to
begin life afresh (so far as regards caution) with a new character.
The first step was to find lodgings, and to find them quickly.
This was the more needful as Mr. Rowley and I, in our smart clothes
and with our cumbrous burthen, made a noticeable appearance in the
streets at that time of the day and in that quarter of the town,
which was largely given up to fine folk, bucks and dandies and
young ladies, or respectable professional men on their way home to
On the north side of St. James' Square I was so happy as to spy a
bill in a third-floor window. I was equally indifferent to cost
and convenience in my choice of a lodging--'any port in a storm'
was the principle on which I was prepared to act; and Rowley and I
made at once for the common entrance and sealed the stair.
We were admitted by a very sour-looking female in bombazine. I
gathered she had all her life been depressed by a series of
bereavements, the last of which might very well have befallen her
the day before; and I instinctively lowered my voice when I
addressed her. She admitted she had rooms to let--even showed them
to us--a sitting-room and bedroom in a suite, commanding a fine
prospect to the Firth and Fifeshire, and in themselves well
proportioned and comfortably furnished, with pictures on the wall,
shells on the mantelpiece, and several books upon the table which I
found afterwards to be all of a devotional character, and all
presentation copies, 'to my Christian friend,' or 'to my devout
acquaintance in the Lord, Bethiah McRankine.' Beyond this my
'Christian friend' could not be made to advance: no, not even to
do that which seemed the most natural and pleasing thing in the
world--I mean to name her price--but stood before us shaking her
head, and at times mourning like the dove, the picture of
depression and defence. She had a voice the most querulous I have
ever heard, and with this she produced a whole regiment of
difficulties and criticisms.
She could not promise an attendance.
'Well, madam,' said I, 'and what is my servant for?'
'Him?' she asked. 'Be gude to us! Is HE your servant?'
'I am sorry, ma'am, he meets with your disapproval.'
'Na, I never said that. But he's young. He'll be a great breaker,
I'm thinkin'. Ay! he'll be a great responsibeelity to ye, like.
Does he attend to his releegion?'
'Yes, m'm,' returned Rowley, with admirable promptitude, and,
immediately closing his eyes, as if from habit, repeated the
following distich with more celerity than fervour:-
'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
Bless the bed that I lie on!'
'Nhm!' said the lady, and maintained an awful silence.
'Well, ma'am,' said I, 'it seems we are never to hear the beginning
of your terms, let alone the end of them. Come--a good movement!
and let us be either off or on.'
She opened her lips slowly. 'Ony raferences?' she inquired, in a
voice like a bell.
I opened my pocket-book and showed her a handful of bank bills. 'I
think, madam, that these are unexceptionable,' said I.
'Ye'll be wantin' breakfast late?' was her reply.
'Madam, we want breakfast at whatever hour it suits you to give it,
from four in the morning till four in the afternoon!' I cried.
'Only tell us your figure, if your mouth be large enough to let it
'I couldnae give ye supper the nicht,' came the echo.
'We shall go out to supper, you incorrigible female!' I vowed,
between laughter and tears. 'Here--this is going to end! I want
you for a landlady--let me tell you that!--and I am going to have
my way. You won't tell me what you charge? Very well; I will do
without! I can trust you! You don't seem to know when you have a
good lodger; but I know perfectly when I have an honest landlady!
Rowley, unstrap the valises!'
Will it be credited? The monomaniac fell to rating me for my
indiscretion! But the battle was over; these were her last guns,
and more in the nature of a salute than of renewed hostilities.
And presently she condescended on very moderate terms, and Rowley
and I were able to escape in quest of supper. Much time had,
however, been lost; the sun was long down, the lamps glimmered
along the streets, and the voice of a watchman already resounded in
the neighbouring Leith Road. On our first arrival I had observed a
place of entertainment not far off, in a street behind the Register
House. Thither we found our way, and sat down to a late dinner
alone. But we had scarce given our orders before the door opened,
and a tall young fellow entered with something of a lurch, looked
about him, and approached the same table.
'Give you good evening, most grave and reverend seniors!' said he.
'Will you permit a wanderer, a pilgrim--the pilgrim of love, in
short--to come to temporary anchor under your lee? I care not who
knows it, but I have a passionate aversion from the bestial
practice of solitary feeding!'
'You are welcome, sir,' said I, 'if I may take upon me so far to
play the host in a public place.'
He looked startled, and fixed a hazy eye on me, as he sat down.
'Sir,' said he, 'you are a man not without some tincture of
letters, I perceive! What shall we drink, sir?'
I mentioned I had already called for a pot of porter.
'A modest pot--the seasonable quencher?' said he. 'Well, I do not
know but what I could look at a modest pot myself! I am, for the
moment, in precarious health. Much study hath heated my brain,
much walking wearied my--well, it seems to be more my eyes!'
'You have walked far, I dare say?' I suggested.
'Not so much far as often,' he replied. 'There is in this city--to
which, I think, you are a stranger? Sir, to your very good health
and our better acquaintance!--there is, in this city of Dunedin, a
certain implication of streets which reflects the utmost credit on
the designer and the publicans--at every hundred yards is seated
the Judicious Tavern, so that persons of contemplative mind are
secure, at moderate distances, of refreshment. I have been doing a
trot in that favoured quarter, favoured by art and nature. A few
chosen comrades--enemies of publicity and friends to wit and wine--
obliged me with their society. "Along the cool, sequestered vale
of Register Street we kept the uneven tenor of our way," sir.'
'It struck me, as you came in--' I began.
'O, don't make any bones about it!' he interrupted. 'Of course it
struck you! and let me tell you I was devilish lucky not to strike
myself. When I entered this apartment I shone "with all the pomp
and prodigality of brandy and water," as the poet Gray has in
another place expressed it. Powerful bard, Gray! but a niminy-
piminy creature, afraid of a petticoat and a bottle--not a man,
sir, not a man! Excuse me for being so troublesome, but what the
devil have I done with my fork? Thank you, I am sure. Temulentia,
quoad me ipsum, brevis colligo est. I sit and eat, sir, in a
London fog. I should bring a link-boy to table with me; and I
would too, if the little brutes were only washed! I intend to
found a Philanthropical Society for Washing the Deserving Poor and
Shaving Soldiers. I am pleased to observe that, although not of an
unmilitary bearing, you are apparently shaved. In my calendar of
the virtues shaving comes next to drinking. A gentleman may be a
low-minded ruffian without sixpence, but he will always be close
shaved. See me, with the eye of fancy, in the chill hours of the
morning, say about a quarter to twelve, noon--see me awake! First
thing of all, without one thought of the plausible but
unsatisfactory small beer, or the healthful though insipid soda-
water, I take the deadly razor in my vacillating grasp; I proceed
to skate upon the margin of eternity. Stimulating thought! I
bleed, perhaps, but with medicable wounds. The stubble reaped, I
pass out of my chamber, calm but triumphant. To employ a hackneyed
phrase, I would not call Lord Wellington my uncle! I, too, have
dared, perhaps bled, before the imminent deadly shaving-table.'
In this manner the bombastic fellow continued to entertain me all
through dinner, and by a common error of drunkards, because he had
been extremely talkative himself, leaped to the conclusion that he
had chanced on very genial company. He told me his name, his
address; he begged we should meet again; finally he proposed that I
should dine with him in the country at an early date.
'The dinner is official,' he explained. 'The office-bearers and
Senatus of the University of Cramond--an educational institution in
which I have the honour to be Professor of Nonsense--meet to do
honour to our friend Icarus, at the old-established howff, Cramond
Bridge. One place is vacant, fascinating stranger,--I offer it to
'And who is your friend Icarus?' I asked,
'The aspiring son of Daedalus!' said he. 'Is it possible that you
have never heard the name of Byfield?'
'Possible and true,' said I.
'And is fame so small a thing?' cried he. 'Byfield, sir, is an
aeronaut. He apes the fame of a Lunardi, and is on the point of
offering to the inhabitants--I beg your pardon, to the nobility and
gentry of our neighbourhood--the spectacle of an ascension. As one
of the gentry concerned I may be permitted to remark that I am
unmoved. I care not a Tinker's Damn for his ascension. No more--I
breathe it in your ear--does anybody else. The business is stale,
sir, stale. Lunardi did it, and overdid it. A whimsical,
fiddling, vain fellow, by all accounts--for I was at that time
rocking in my cradle. But once was enough. If Lunardi went up and
came down, there was the matter settled. We prefer to grant the
point. We do not want to see the experiment repeated ad nauseam by
Byfield, and Brown, and Butler, and Brodie, and Bottomley. Ah! if
they would go up and NOT come down again! But this is by the
question. The University of Cramond delights to honour merit in
the man, sir, rather than utility in the profession; and Byfield,
though an ignorant dog, is a sound reliable drinker, and really not
amiss over his cups. Under the radiance of the kindly jar
partiality might even credit him with wit.'
It will be seen afterwards that this was more my business than I
thought it at the time. Indeed, I was impatient to be gone. Even
as my friend maundered ahead a squall burst, the jaws of the rain
were opened against the coffee-house windows, and at that inclement
signal I remembered I was due elsewhere.
CHAPTER XXVI--THE COTTAGE AT NIGHT
At the door I was nearly blown back by the unbridled violence of
the squall, and Rowley and I must shout our parting words. All the
way along Princes Street (whither my way led) the wind hunted me
behind and screamed in my ears. The city was flushed with
bucketfuls of rain that tasted salt from the neighbouring ocean.
It seemed to darken and lighten again in the vicissitudes of the
gusts. Now you would say the lamps had been blown out from end to
end of the long thoroughfare; now, in a lull, they would revive,
re-multiply, shine again on the wet pavements, and make darkness
By the time I had got to the corner of the Lothian Road there was a
distinct improvement. For one thing, I had now my shoulder to the
wind; for a second, I came in the lee of my old prison-house, the
Castle; and, at any rate, the excessive fury of the blast was
itself moderating. The thought of what errand I was on re-awoke
within me, and I seemed to breast the rough weather with increasing
ease. With such a destination, what mattered a little buffeting of
wind or a sprinkle of cold water? I recalled Flora's image, I took
her in fancy to my arms, and my heart throbbed. And the next
moment I had recognised the inanity of that fool's paradise. If I
could spy her taper as she went to bed, I might count myself lucky.
I had about two leagues before me of a road mostly uphill, and now
deep in mire. So soon as I was clear of the last street lamp,
darkness received me--a darkness only pointed by the lights of
occasional rustic farms, where the dogs howled with uplifted heads
as I went by. The wind continued to decline: it had been but a
squall, not a tempest. The rain, on the other hand, settled into a
steady deluge, which had soon drenched me thoroughly. I continued
to tramp forward in the night, contending with gloomy thoughts and
accompanied by the dismal ululation of the dogs. What ailed them
that they should have been thus wakeful, and perceived the small
sound of my steps amid the general reverberation of the rain, was
more than I could fancy. I remembered tales with which I had been
entertained in childhood. I told myself some murderer was going
by, and the brutes perceived upon him the faint smell of blood; and
the next moment, with a physical shock, I had applied the words to
my own case!
Here was a dismal disposition for a lover. 'Was ever lady in this
humour wooed?' I asked myself, and came near turning back. It is
never wise to risk a critical interview when your spirits are
depressed, your clothes muddy, and your hands wet! But the
boisterous night was in itself favourable to my enterprise: now,
or perhaps never, I might find some way to have an interview with
Flora; and if I had one interview (wet clothes, low spirits and
all), I told myself there would certainly be another.
Arrived in the cottage-garden I found the circumstances mighty
inclement. From the round holes in the shutters of the parlour,
shafts of candle-light streamed forth; elsewhere the darkness was
complete. The trees, the thickets, were saturated; the lower parts
of the garden turned into a morass. At intervals, when the wind
broke forth again, there passed overhead a wild coil of clashing
branches; and between whiles the whole enclosure continuously and
stridently resounded with the rain. I advanced close to the window
and contrived to read the face of my watch. It was half-past
seven; they would not retire before ten, they might not before
midnight, and the prospect was unpleasant. In a lull of the wind I
could hear from the inside the voice of Flora reading aloud; the
words of course inaudible--only a flow of undecipherable speech,
quiet, cordial, colourless, more intimate and winning, more
eloquent of her personality, but not less beautiful than song. And
the next moment the clamour of a fresh squall broke out about the
cottage; the voice was drowned in its bellowing, and I was glad to
retreat from my dangerous post.
For three egregious hours I must now suffer the elements to do
their worst upon me, and continue to hold my ground in patience. I
recalled the least fortunate of my services in the field: being
out-sentry of the pickets in weather no less vile, sometimes
unsuppered and with nothing to look forward to by way of breakfast
but musket-balls; and they seemed light in comparison. So
strangely are we built: so much more strong is the love of woman
than the mere love of life.
At last my patience was rewarded. The light disappeared from the
parlour and reappeared a moment after in the room above. I was
pretty well informed for the enterprise that lay before me. I knew
the lair of the dragon--that which was just illuminated. I knew
the bower of my Rosamond, and how excellently it was placed on the
ground-level, round the flank of the cottage and out of earshot of
her formidable aunt. Nothing was left but to apply my knowledge.
I was then at the bottom of the garden, whether I had gone (Heaven
save the mark!) for warmth, that I might walk to and fro unheard
and keep myself from perishing. The night had fallen still, the
wind ceased; the noise of the rain had much lightened, if it had
not stopped, and was succeeded by the dripping of the garden trees.
In the midst of this lull, and as I was already drawing near to the
cottage, I was startled by the sound of a window-sash screaming in
its channels; and a step or two beyond I became aware of a gush of
light upon the darkness. It fell from Flora's window, which she
had flung open on the night, and where she now sat, roseate and
pensive, in the shine of two candles falling from behind, her
tresses deeply embowering and shading her; the suspended comb still
in one hand, the other idly clinging to the iron stanchions with
which the window was barred.
Keeping to the turf, and favoured by the darkness of the night and
the patter of the rain which was now returning, though without
wind, I approached until I could almost have touched her. It
seemed a grossness of which I was incapable to break up her reverie
by speech. I stood and drank her in with my eyes; how the light
made a glory in her hair, and (what I have always thought the most
ravishing thing in nature) how the planes ran into each other, and
were distinguished, and how the hues blended and varied, and were
shaded off, between the cheek and neck. At first I was abashed:
she wore her beauty like an immediate halo of refinement; she
discouraged me like an angel, or what I suspect to be the next most
discouraging, a modern lady. But as I continued to gaze, hope and
life returned to me; I forgot my timidity, I forgot the sickening
pack of wet clothes with which I stood burdened, I tingled with new
Still unconscious of my presence, still gazing before her upon the
illuminated image of the window, the straight shadows of the bars,
the glinting of pebbles on the path, and the impenetrable night on
the garden and the hills beyond it, she heaved a deep breath that
struck upon my heart like an appeal.
'Why does Miss Gilchrist sigh?' I whispered. 'Does she recall
She turned her head swiftly in my direction; it was the only sign
of surprise she deigned to make. At the same time I stepped into
the light and bowed profoundly.
'You!' she said. 'Here?'
'Yes, I am here,' I replied. 'I have come very far, it may be a
hundred and fifty leagues, to see you. I have waited all this
night in your garden. Will Miss Gilchrist not offer her hand--to a
friend in trouble?'
She extended it between the bars, and I dropped upon one knee on
the wet path and kissed it twice. At the second it was withdrawn
suddenly, methought with more of a start than she had hitherto
displayed. I regained my former attitude, and we were both silent
awhile. My timidity returned on me tenfold. I looked in her face
for any signals of anger, and seeing her eyes to waver and fall
aside from mine, augured that all was well.
'You must have been mad to come here!' she broke out. 'Of all
places under heaven this is no place for you to come. And I was
just thinking you were safe in France!'
'You were thinking of me!' I cried.
'Mr. St. Ives, you cannot understand your danger,' she replied. 'I
am sure of it, and yet I cannot find it in my heart to tell you.
O, be persuaded, and go!'
'I believe I know the worst. But I was never one to set an undue
value on life, the life that we share with beasts. My university
has been in the wars, not a famous place of education, but one
where a man learns to carry his life in his hand as lightly as a
glove, and for his lady or his honour to lay it as lightly down.
You appeal to my fears, and you do wrong. I have come to Scotland
with my eyes quite open to see you and to speak with you--it may be
for the last time. With my eyes quite open, I say; and if I did
not hesitate at the beginning do you think that I would draw back
'You do not know!' she cried, with rising agitation. 'This
country, even this garden, is death to you. They all believe it; I
am the only one that does not. If they hear you now, if they heard
a whisper--I dread to think of it. O, go, go this instant. It is
'Dear lady, do not refuse me what I have come so far to seek; and
remember that out of all the millions in England there is no other
but yourself in whom I can dare confide. I have all the world
against me; you are my only ally; and as I have to speak, you have
to listen. All is true that they say of me, and all of it false at
the same time. I did kill this man Goguelat--it was that you
She mutely signed to me that it was; she had become deadly pale.
'But I killed him in fair fight. Till then, I had never taken a
life unless in battle, which is my trade. But I was grateful, I
was on fire with gratitude, to one who had been good to me, who had
been better to me than I could have dreamed of an angel, who had
come into the darkness of my prison like sunrise. The man Goguelat
insulted her. O, he had insulted me often, it was his favourite
pastime, and he might insult me as he pleased--for who was I? But
with that lady it was different. I could never forgive myself if I
had let it pass. And we fought, and he fell, and I have no
I waited anxiously for some reply. The worst was now out, and I
knew that she had heard of it before; but it was impossible for me
to go on with my narrative without some shadow of encouragement.
'You blame me?'
'No, not at all. It is a point I cannot speak on--I am only a
girl. I am sure you were in the right: I have always said so--to
Ronald. Not, of course, to my aunt. I am afraid I let her speak
as she will. You must not think me a disloyal friend; and even
with the Major--I did not tell you he had become quite a friend of
ours--Major Chevenix, I mean--he has taken such a fancy to Ronald!
It was he that brought the news to us of that hateful Clausel being
captured, and all that he was saying. I was indignant with him. I
said--I dare say I said too much--and I must say he was very good-
natured. He said, "You and I, who are his friends, KNOW that
Champdivers is innocent. But what is the use of saying it?" All
this was in the corner of the room in what they call an aside. And
then he said, "Give me a chance to speak to you in private, I have
much to tell you." And he did. And told me just what you did--
that it was an affair of honour, and no blame attached to you. O,
I must say I like that Major Chevenix!'
At this I was seized with a great pang of jealousy. I remembered
the first time that he had seen her, the interest that he seemed
immediately to conceive; and I could not but admire the dog for the
use he had been ingenious enough to make of our acquaintance in
order to supplant me. All is fair in love and war. For all that,
I was now no less anxious to do the speaking myself than I had been
before to hear Flora. At least, I could keep clear of the hateful
image of Major Chevenix. Accordingly I burst at once on the
narrative of my adventures. It was the same as you have read, but
briefer, and told with a very different purpose. Now every
incident had a particular bearing, every by-way branched off to
Rome--and that was Flora.
When I had begun to speak I had kneeled upon the gravel withoutside
the low window, rested my arms upon the sill, and lowered my voice
to the most confidential whisper. Flora herself must kneel upon
the other side, and this brought our heads upon a level with only
the bars between us. So placed, so separated, it seemed that our
proximity, and the continuous and low sounds of my pleading voice,
worked progressively and powerfully on her heart, and perhaps not
less so on my own. For these spells are double-edged. The silly
birds may be charmed with the pipe of the fowler, which is but a
tube of reeds. Not so with a bird of our own feather! As I went
on, and my resolve strengthened, and my voice found new
modulations, and our faces were drawn closer to the bars and to
each other, not only she, but I, succumbed to the fascination, and
were kindled by the charm. We make love, and thereby ourselves
fall the deeper in it. It is with the heart only that one captures
'And now,' I continued, 'I will tell you what you can still do for
me. I run a little risk just now, and you see for yourself how
unavoidable it is for any man of honour. But if--but in case of
the worst I do not choose to enrich either my enemies or the Prince
Regent. I have here the bulk of what my uncle gave me. Eight
thousand odd pounds. Will you take care of it for me? Do not
think of it merely as money; take and keep it as a relic of your
friend or some precious piece of him. I may have bitter need of it
ere long. Do you know the old country story of the giant who gave
his heart to his wife to keep for him, thinking it safer to repose
on her loyalty than his own strength? Flora, I am the giant--a
very little one: will you be the keeper of my life? It is my
heart I offer you in this symbol. In the sight of God, if you will
have it, I give you my name, I endow you with my money. If the
worst come, if I may never hope to call you wife, let me at least
think that you will use my uncle's legacy as my widow.'
'No, not that,' she said. 'Never that.'
'What then?' I said. 'What else, my angel? What are words to me?
There is but one name that I care to know you by. Flora, my love!'
'Anne!' she said.
What sound is so full of music as one's own name uttered for the
first time in the voice of her we love!
'My darling!' said I.
The jealous bars, set at the top and bottom in stone and lime,
obstructed the rapture of the moment; but I took her to myself as
wholly as they allowed. She did not shun my lips. My arms were
wound round her body, which yielded itself generously to my
embrace. As we so remained, entwined and yet severed, bruising our
faces unconsciously on the cold bars, the irony of the universe--or
as I prefer to say, envy of some of the gods--again stirred up the
elements of that stormy night. The wind blew again in the tree-
tops; a volley of cold sea-rain deluged the garden, and, as the
deuce would have it, a gutter which had been hitherto choked up
began suddenly to play upon my head and shoulders with the vivacity
of a fountain. We parted with a shock; I sprang to my feet, and
she to hers, as though we had been discovered. A moment after, but
now both standing, we had again approached the window on either
'Flora,' I said, 'this is but a poor offer I can make you.'
She took my hand in hers and clasped it to her bosom.
'Rich enough for a queen!' she said, with a lift in her breathing
that was more eloquent than words. 'Anne, my brave Anne! I would
be glad to be your maidservant; I could envy that boy Rowley. But,
no!' she broke off, 'I envy no one--I need not--I am yours.'
'Mine,' said I, 'for ever! By this and this, mine!'
'All of me,' she repeated. 'Altogether and forever!'
And if the god were envious, he must have seen with mortification
how little he could do to mar the happiness of mortals. I stood in
a mere waterspout; she herself was wet, not from my embrace only,
but from the splashing of the storm. The candles had guttered out;
we were in darkness. I could scarce see anything but the shining
of her eyes in the dark room. To her I must have appeared as a
silhouette, haloed by rain and the spouting of the ancient Gothic
gutter above my head.
Presently we became more calm and confidential; and when that
squall, which proved to be the last of the storm, had blown by,
fell into a talk of ways and means. It seemed she knew Mr. Robbie,
to whom I had been so slenderly accredited by Romaine--was even
invited to his house for the evening of Monday, and gave me a
sketch of the old gentleman's character which implied a great deal
of penetration in herself, and proved of great use to me in the
immediate sequel. It seemed he was an enthusiastic antiquary, and
in particular a fanatic of heraldry. I heard it with delight, for
I was myself, thanks to M. de Culemberg, fairly grounded in that
science, and acquainted with the blazons of most families of note
in Europe. And I had made up my mind--even as she spoke, it was my
fixed determination, though I was a hundred miles from saying it--
to meet Flora on Monday night as a fellow-guest in Mr. Robbie's
I gave her my money--it was, of course, only paper I had brought.
I gave it her, to be her marriage-portion, I declared.
'Not so bad a marriage-portion for a private soldier,' I told her,
laughing, as I passed it through the bars.
'O, Anne, and where am I to keep it?' she cried. 'If my aunt
should find it! What would I say!'
'Next your heart,' I suggested.
'Then you will always be near your treasure,' she cried, 'for you
are always there!'
We were interrupted by a sudden clearness that fell upon the night.
The clouds dispersed; the stars shone in every part of the heavens;
and, consulting my watch, I was startled to find it already hard on
five in the morning.
CHAPTER XXVII--THE SABBATH DAY
It was indeed high time I should be gone from Swanston; but what I
was to do in the meanwhile was another question. Rowley had
received his orders last night: he was to say that I had met a
friend, and Mrs. McRankine was not to expect me before morning. A
good enough tale in itself; but the dreadful pickle I was in made
it out of the question. I could not go home till I had found
harbourage, a fire to dry my clothes at, and a bed where I might
lie till they were ready.
Fortune favoured me again. I had scarce got to the top of the
first hill when I spied a light on my left, about a furlong away.
It might be a case of sickness; what else it was likely to be--in
so rustic a neighbourhood, and at such an ungodly time of the
morning--was beyond my fancy. A faint sound of singing became
audible, and gradually swelled as I drew near, until at last I
could make out the words, which were singularly appropriate both to
the hour and to the condition of the singers. 'The cock may craw,
the day may daw,' they sang; and sang it with such laxity both in
time and tune, and such sentimental complaisance in the expression,
as assured me they had got far into the third bottle at least.
I found a plain rustic cottage by the wayside, of the sort called
double, with a signboard over the door; and, the lights within
streaming forth and somewhat mitigating the darkness of the
morning, I was enabled to decipher the inscription: 'The Hunters'
Tryst, by Alexander Hendry. Porter Ales, and British Spirits.
My first knock put a period to the music, and a voice challenged
tipsily from within.
'Who goes there?' it said; and I replied, 'A lawful traveller.'
Immediately after, the door was unbarred by a company of the
tallest lads my eyes had ever rested on, all astonishingly drunk
and very decently dressed, and one (who was perhaps the drunkest of
the lot) carrying a tallow candle, from which he impartially
bedewed the clothes of the whole company. As soon as I saw them I
could not help smiling to myself to remember the anxiety with which
I had approached. They received me and my hastily-concocted story,
that I had been walking from Peebles and had lost my way, with
incoherent benignity; jostled me among them into the room where
they had been sitting, a plain hedgerow alehouse parlour, with a
roaring fire in the chimney and a prodigious number of empty
bottles on the floor; and informed me that I was made, by this
reception, a temporary member of the Six-Feet-High Club, an
athletic society of young men in a good station, who made of the
Hunters' Tryst a frequent resort. They told me I had intruded on
an 'all-night sitting,' following upon an 'all-day Saturday tramp'
of forty miles; and that the members would all be up and 'as right
as ninepence' for the noonday service at some neighbouring church--
Collingwood, if memory serves me right. At this I could have
laughed, but the moment seemed ill-chosen. For, though six feet
was their standard, they all exceeded that measurement
considerably; and I tasted again some of the sensations of
childhood, as I looked up to all these lads from a lower plane, and
wondered what they would do next. But the Six-Footers, if they
were very drunk, proved no less kind. The landlord and servants of
the Hunters' Tryst were in bed and asleep long ago. Whether by
natural gift or acquired habit they could suffer pandemonium to
reign all over the house, and yet lie ranked in the kitchen like
Egyptian mummies, only that the sound of their snoring rose and
fell ceaselessly like the drone of a bagpipe. Here the Six-Footers
invaded them--in their citadel, so to speak; counted the bunks and
the sleepers; proposed to put me in bed to one of the lasses,
proposed to have one of the lasses out to make room for me, fell
over chairs, and made noise enough to waken the dead: the whole
illuminated by the same young torch-bearer, but now with two
candles, and rapidly beginning to look like a man in a snowstorm.
At last a bed was found for me, my clothes were hung out to dry
before the parlour fire, and I was mercifully left to my repose.
I awoke about nine with the sun shining in my eyes. The landlord
came at my summons, brought me my clothes dried and decently
brushed, and gave me the good news that the Six-Feet-High Club were
all abed and sleeping off their excesses. Where they were bestowed
was a puzzle to me until (as I was strolling about the garden patch
waiting for breakfast) I came on a barn door, and, looking in, saw
all the red face mixed in the straw like plums in a cake. Quoth
the stalwart maid who brought me my porridge and bade me 'eat them
while they were hot,' 'Ay, they were a' on the ran-dan last nicht!
Hout! they're fine lads, and they'll be nane the waur of it. Forby
Farbes's coat. I dinna see wha's to get the creish off that!' she
added, with a sigh; in which, identifying Forbes as the torch-
bearer, I mentally joined.
It was a brave morning when I took the road; the sun shone, spring
seemed in the air, it smelt like April or May, and some over-
venturous birds sang in the coppices as I went by. I had plenty to
think of, plenty to be grateful for, that gallant morning; and yet
I had a twitter at my heart. To enter the city by daylight might
be compared to marching on a battery; every face that I confronted
would threaten me like the muzzle of a gun; and it came into my
head suddenly with how much better a countenance I should be able
to do it if I could but improvise a companion. Hard by Merchiston
I was so fortunate as to observe a bulky gentleman in broadcloth
and gaiters, stooping with his head almost between his knees,
before a stone wall. Seizing occasion by the forelock, I drew up
as I came alongside and inquired what he had found to interest him.
He turned upon me a countenance not much less broad than his back.
'Why, sir,' he replied, 'I was even marvelling at my own
indefeasible stupeedity: that I should walk this way every week of
my life, weather permitting, and should never before have NOTTICED
that stone,' touching it at the same time with a goodly oak staff.
I followed the indication. The stone, which had been built
sideways into the wall, offered traces of heraldic sculpture. At
once there came a wild idea into my mind: his appearance tallied
with Flora's description of Mr. Robbie; a knowledge of heraldry
would go far to clinch the proof; and what could be more desirable
than to scrape an informal acquaintance with the man whom I must
approach next day with my tale of the drovers, and whom I yet
wished to please? I stooped in turn.
'A chevron,' I said; 'on a chief three mullets? Looks like
Douglas, does it not?'
'Yes, sir, it does; you are right,' said he: 'it DOES look like
Douglas; though, without the tinctures, and the whole thing being
so battered and broken up, who shall venture an opinion? But allow
me to be more personal, sir. In these degenerate days I am
astonished you should display so much proficiency.'
'O, I was well grounded in my youth by an old gentleman, a friend
of my family, and I may say my guardian,' said I; 'but I have
forgotten it since. God forbid I should delude you into thinking
me a herald, sir! I am only an ungrammatical amateur.'
'And a little modesty does no harm even in a herald,' says my new
In short, we fell together on our onward way, and maintained very
amicable discourse along what remained of the country road, past
the suburbs, and on into the streets of the New Town, which was as
deserted and silent as a city of the dead. The shops were closed,
no vehicle ran, cats sported in the midst of the sunny causeway;
and our steps and voices re-echoed from the quiet houses. It was
the high-water, full and strange, of that weekly trance to which
the city of Edinburgh is subjected: the apotheosis of the Sawbath;
and I confess the spectacle wanted not grandeur, however much it
may have lacked cheerfulness. There are few religious ceremonies
more imposing. As we thus walked and talked in a public seclusion
the bells broke out ringing through all the bounds of the city, and
the streets began immediately to be thronged with decent church-
'Ah!' said my companion, 'there are the bells! Now, sir, as you
are a stranger I must offer you the hospitality of my pew. I do
not know whether you are at all used with our Scottish form; but in
case you are not I will find your places for you; and Dr. Henry
Gray, of St. Mary's (under whom I sit), is as good a preacher as we
have to show you.'
This put me in a quandary. It was a degree of risk I was scarce
prepared for. Dozens of people, who might pass me by in the street
with no more than a second look, would go on from the second to the
third, and from that to a final recognition, if I were set before
them, immobilised in a pew, during the whole time of service. An
unlucky turn of the head would suffice to arrest their attention.
'Who is that?' they would think: 'surely I should know him!' and,
a church being the place in all the world where one has least to
think of, it was ten to one they would end by remembering me before
the benediction. However, my mind was made up: I thanked my
obliging friend, and placed myself at his disposal.
Our way now led us into the north-east quarter of the town, among
pleasant new faubourgs, to a decent new church of a good size,
where I was soon seated by the side of my good Samaritan, and
looked upon by a whole congregation of menacing faces. At first
the possibility of danger kept me awake; but by the time I had
assured myself there was none to be apprehended, and the service
was not in the least likely to be enlivened by the arrest of a
French spy, I had to resign myself to the task of listening to Dr.
As we moved out, after this ordeal was over, my friend was at once
surrounded and claimed by his acquaintances of the congregation;
and I was rejoiced to hear him addressed by the expected name of
So soon as we were clear of the crowd--'Mr. Robbie?' said I,
'The very same, sir,' said he.
'If I mistake not, a lawyer?'
'A writer to His Majesty's Signet, at your service.'
'It seems we were predestined to be acquaintances!' I exclaimed.
'I have here a card in my pocket intended for you. It is from my
family lawyer. It was his last word, as I was leaving, to ask to
be remembered kindly, and to trust you would pass over so informal
And I offered him the card.
'Ay, ay, my old friend Daniel!' says he, looking on the card. 'And
how does my old friend Daniel?'
I gave a favourable view of Mr. Romaine's health.
'Well, this is certainly a whimsical incident,' he continued. 'And
since we are thus met already--and so much to my advantage!--the
simplest thing will be to prosecute the acquaintance instantly.
Let me propose a snack between sermons, a bottle of my particular
green seal--and when nobody is looking we can talk blazons, Mr.
Ducie!'--which was the name I then used and had already
incidentally mentioned, in the vain hope of provoking a return in
'I beg your pardon, sir: do I understand you to invite me to your
house?' said I.
'That was the idea I was trying to convey,' said he. 'We have the
name of hospitable people up here, and I would like you to try
'Mr. Robbie, I shall hope to try it some day, but not yet,' I
replied. 'I hope you will not misunderstand me. My business,
which brings me to your city, is of a peculiar kind. Till you
shall have heard it, and, indeed, till its issue is known, I should
feel as if I had stolen your invitation.'
'Well, well,' said he, a little sobered, 'it must be as you wish,
though you would hardly speak otherwise if you had committed
homicide! Mine is the loss. I must eat alone; a very pernicious
thing for a person of my habit of body, content myself with a pint
of skinking claret, and meditate the discourse. But about this
business of yours: if it is so particular as all that, it will
doubtless admit of no delay.'
'I must confess, sir, it presses,' I acknowledged.
'Then, let us say to-morrow at half-past eight in the morning,'
said he; 'and I hope, when your mind is at rest (and it does you
much honour to take it as you do), that you will sit down with me
to the postponed meal, not forgetting the bottle. You have my
address?' he added, and gave it me--which was the only thing I
At last, at the level of York Place, we parted with mutual
civilities, and I was free to pursue my way, through the mobs of
people returning from church, to my lodgings in St. James' Square.
Almost at the house door whom should I overtake but my landlady in
a dress of gorgeous severity, and dragging a prize in her wake: no
less than Rowley, with the cockade in his hat, and a smart pair of
tops to his boots! When I said he was in the lady's wake I spoke
but in metaphor. As a matter of fact he was squiring her, with the
utmost dignity, on his arm; and I followed them up the stairs,
smiling to myself.
Both were quick to salute me as soon as I was perceived, and Mrs.
McRankine inquired where I had been. I told her boastfully, giving
her the name of the church and the divine, and ignorantly supposing
I should have gained caste. But she soon opened my eyes. In the
roots of the Scottish character there are knots and contortions
that not only no stranger can understand, but no stranger can
follow; he walks among explosives; and his best course is to throw
himself upon their mercy--'Just as I am, without one plea,' a
citation from one of the lady's favourite hymns.
The sound she made was unmistakable in meaning, though it was
impossible to be written down; and I at once executed the manoeuvre
I have recommended.
'You must remember I am a perfect stranger in your city,' said I.
'If I have done wrong, it was in mere ignorance, my dear lady; and
this afternoon, if you will be so good as to take me, I shall
But she was not to be pacified at the moment, and departed to her
own quarters murmuring.
'Well, Rowley,' said I; 'and have you been to church?'
'If you please, sir,' he said.
'Well, you have not been any less unlucky than I have,' I returned.
'And how did you get on with the Scottish form?'
'Well, sir, it was pretty 'ard, the form was, and reether narrow,'
he replied. 'I don't know w'y it is, but it seems to me like as if
things were a good bit changed since William Wallace! That was a
main queer church she took me to, Mr. Anne! I don't know as I
could have sat it out, if she 'adn't 'a' give me peppermints. She
ain't a bad one at bottom, the old girl; she do pounce a bit, and
she do worry, but, law bless you, Mr. Anne, it ain't nothink
really--she don't MEAN it. W'y, she was down on me like a
'undredweight of bricks this morning. You see, last night she 'ad
me in to supper, and, I beg your pardon, sir, but I took the
freedom of playing her a chune or two. She didn't mind a bit; so
this morning I began to play to myself, and she flounced in, and
flew up, and carried on no end about Sunday!'
'You see, Rowley,' said I, 'they're all mad up here, and you have
to humour them. See and don't quarrel with Mrs. McRankine; and,
above all, don't argue with her, or you'll get the worst of it.
Whatever she says, touch your forelock and say, "If you please!" or
"I beg pardon, ma'am." And let me tell you one thing: I am sorry,
but you have to go to church with her again this afternoon. That's
duty, my boy!'
As I had foreseen, the bells had scarce begun before Mrs. McRankine
presented herself to be our escort, upon which I sprang up with
readiness and offered her my arm. Rowley followed behind. I was
beginning to grow accustomed to the risks of my stay in Edinburgh,
and it even amused me to confront a new churchful. I confess the
amusement did not last until the end; for if Dr. Gray were long,
Mr. McCraw was not only longer, but more incoherent, and the matter
of his sermon (which was a direct attack, apparently, on all the
Churches of the world, my own among the number), where it had not
the tonic quality of personal insult, rather inclined me to
slumber. But I braced myself for my life, kept up Rowley with the
end of a pin, and came through it awake, but no more.
Bethiah was quite conquered by this 'mark of grace,' though, I am
afraid, she was also moved by more worldly considerations. The
first is, the lady had not the least objection to go to church on
the arm of an elegantly dressed young gentleman, and be followed by
a spruce servant with a cockade in his hat. I could see it by the
way she took possession of us, found us the places in the Bible,
whispered to me the name of the minister, passed us lozenges, which
I (for my part) handed on to Rowley, and at each fresh attention
stole a little glance about the church to make sure she was
observed. Rowley was a pretty boy; you will pardon me if I also
remembered that I was a favourable-looking young man. When we grow
elderly, how the room brightens, and begins to look as it ought to
look, on the entrance of youth, grace, health, and comeliness! You
do not want them for yourself, perhaps not even for your son, but
you look on smiling; and when you recall their images--again, it is
with a smile. I defy you to see or think of them and not smile
with an infinite and intimate, but quite impersonal, pleasure.
Well, either I know nothing of women, or that was the case with
Bethiah McRankine. She had been to church with a cockade behind
her, on the one hand; on the other, her house was brightened by the
presence of a pair of good-looking young fellows of the other sex,
who were always pleased and deferential in her society and accepted
her views as final.
These were sentiments to be encouraged; and, on the way home from
church--if church it could be called--I adopted a most insidious
device to magnify her interest. I took her into the confidence,
that is, of my love affair, and I had no sooner mentioned a young
lady with whom my affections were engaged than she turned upon me a
face of awful gravity.
'Is she bonny?' she inquired.
I gave her full assurances upon that.
'To what denoamination does she beloang?' came next, and was so
unexpected as almost to deprive me of breath.
'Upon my word, ma'am, I have never inquired,' cried I; 'I only know
that she is a heartfelt Christian, and that is enough.'
'Ay!' she sighed, 'if she has the root of the maitter! There's a
remnant practically in most of the denoaminations. There's some in
the McGlashanites, and some in the Glassites, and mony in the
McMillanites, and there's a leeven even in the Estayblishment.'
'I have known some very good Papists even, if you go to that,' said
'Mr. Ducie, think shame to yoursel'!' she cried.
'Why, my dear madam! I only--' I began.
'You shouldnae jest in sairious maitters,' she interrupted.
On the whole, she entered into what I chose to tell her of our
idyll with avidity, like a cat licking her whiskers over a dish of
cream; and, strange to say--and so expansive a passion is that of
love!--that I derived a perhaps equal satisfaction from confiding
in that breast of iron. It made an immediate bond: from that hour
we seemed to be welded into a family-party; and I had little
difficulty in persuading her to join us and to preside over our
tea-table. Surely there was never so ill-matched a trio as Rowley,
Mrs. McRankine, and the Viscount Anne! But I am of the Apostle's
way, with a difference: all things to all women! When I cannot
please a woman, hang me in my cravat!
CHAPTER XXVIII--EVENTS OF MONDAY: THE LAWYER'S PARTY
By half-past eight o'clock on the next morning, I was ringing the
bell of the lawyer's office in Castle Street, where I found him
ensconced at a business table, in a room surrounded by several
tiers of green tin cases. He greeted me like an old friend.
'Come away, sir, come away!' said he. 'Here is the dentist ready
for you, and I think I can promise you that the operation will be
'I am not so sure of that, Mr. Robbie,' I replied, as I shook hands
with him. 'But at least there shall be no time lost with me.'
I had to confess to having gone a-roving with a pair of drovers and
their cattle, to having used a false name, to having murdered or
half-murdered a fellow-creature in a scuffle on the moors, and to
having suffered a couple of quite innocent men to lie some time in
prison on a charge from which I could have immediately freed them.
All this I gave him first of all, to be done with the worst of it;
and all this he took with gravity, but without the least appearance
'Now, sir,' I continued, 'I expect to have to pay for my unhappy
frolic, but I would like very well if it could be managed without
my personal appearance or even the mention of my real name. I had
so much wisdom as to sail under false colours in this foolish jaunt
of mine; my family would be extremely concerned if they had wind of
it; but at the same time, if the case of this Faa has terminated
fatally, and there are proceedings against Todd and Candlish, I am
not going to stand by and see them vexed, far less punished; and I
authorise you to give me up for trial if you think that best--or,
if you think it unnecessary, in the meanwhile to make preparations
for their defence. I hope, sir, that I am as little anxious to be
Quixotic, as I am determined to be just.'
'Very fairly spoken,' said Mr. Robbie. 'It is not much in my line,
as doubtless your friend, Mr. Romaine, will have told you. I
rarely mix myself up with anything on the criminal side, or
approaching it. However, for a young gentleman like you, I may
stretch a point, and I dare say I may be able to accomplish more
than perhaps another. I will go at once to the Procurator Fiscal's
office and inquire.'
'Wait a moment, Mr. Robbie,' said I. 'You forget the chapter of
expenses. I had thought, for a beginning, of placing a thousand
pounds in your hands.'
'My dear sir, you will kindly wait until I render you my bill,'
said Mr. Robbie severely.'
'It seemed to me,' I protested, 'that coming to you almost as a
stranger, and placing in your hands a piece of business so contrary
to your habits, some substantial guarantee of my good faith--'
'Not the way that we do business in Scotland, sir,' he interrupted,
with an air of closing the dispute.
'And yet, Mr. Robbie,' I continued, 'I must ask you to allow me to
proceed. I do not merely refer to the expenses of the case. I
have my eye besides on Todd and Candlish. They are thoroughly
deserving fellows; they have been subjected through me to a
considerable term of imprisonment; and I suggest, sir, that you
should not spare money for their indemnification. This will
explain,' I added smiling, 'my offer of the thousand pounds. It
was in the nature of a measure by which you should judge the scale
on which I can afford to have this business carried through.'
'I take you perfectly, Mr. Ducie,' said he. 'But the sooner I am
off, the better this affair is like to be guided. My clerk will
show you into the waiting-room and give you the day's Caledonian
Mercury and the last Register to amuse yourself with in the
I believe Mr. Robbie was at least three hours gone. I saw him
descend from a cab at the door, and almost immediately after I was
shown again into his study, where the solemnity of his manner led
me to augur the worst. For some time he had the inhumanity to read
me a lecture as to the incredible silliness, 'not to say
immorality,' of my behaviour. 'I have the satisfaction in telling
you my opinion, because it appears that you are going to get off
scot free,' he continued, where, indeed, I thought he might have
'The man, Faa, has been discharged cured; and the two men, Todd and
Candlish, would have been leeberated lone ago if it had not been
for their extraordinary loyalty to yourself, Mr. Ducie--or Mr. St.
Ivey, as I believe I should now call you. Never a word would
either of the two old fools volunteer that in any manner pointed at
the existence of such a person; and when they were confronted with
Faa's version of the affair, they gave accounts so entirely
discrepant with their own former declarations, as well as with each
other, that the Fiscal was quite nonplussed, and imaigined there
was something behind it. You may believe I soon laughed him out of
that! And I had the satisfaction of seeing your two friends set
free, and very glad to be on the causeway again.'
'Oh, sir,' I cried, 'you should have brought them here.'
'No instructions, Mr. Ducie!' said he. 'How did I know you wished
to renew an acquaintance which you had just terminated so
fortunately? And, indeed, to be frank with you, I should have set
my face against it, if you had! Let them go! They are paid and
contented, and have the highest possible opinion of Mr. St. Ivey!
When I gave them fifty pounds apiece--which was rather more than
enough, Mr. Ducie, whatever you may think--the man Todd, who has
the only tongue of the party, struck his staff on the ground.
"Weel," says he, "I aye said he was a gentleman!" "Man, Todd,"
said I, "that was just what Mr St. Ivey said of yourself!"'
'So it was a case of "Compliments fly when gentlefolk meet."'
'No, no, Mr. Ducie, man Todd and man Candlish are gone out of your
life, and a good riddance! They are fine fellows in their way, but
no proper associates for the like of yourself; and do you finally
agree to be done with all eccentricity--take up with no more
drovers, or tinkers, but enjoy the naitural pleesures for which
your age, your wealth, your intelligence, and (if I may be allowed
to say it) your appearance so completely fit you. And the first of
these,' quoth he, looking at his watch, 'will be to step through to
my dining-room and share a bachelor's luncheon.'
Over the meal, which was good, Mr. Robbie continued to develop the
same theme. 'You're, no doubt, what they call a dancing-man?' said
he. 'Well, on Thursday night there is the Assembly Ball. You must
certainly go there, and you must permit me besides to do the
honours of the ceety and send you a ticket. I am a thorough
believer in a young man being a young man--but no more drovers or
rovers, if you love me! Talking of which puts me in mind that you
may be short of partners at the Assembly--oh, I have been young
myself!--and if ye care to come to anything so portentiously
tedious as a tea-party at the house of a bachelor lawyer,
consisting mainly of his nieces and nephews, and his grand-nieces
and grand-nephews, and his wards, and generally the whole clan of
the descendants of his clients, you might drop in to-night towards
seven o'clock. I think I can show you one or two that are worth
looking at, and you can dance with them later on at the Assembly.'
He proceeded to give me a sketch of one or two eligible young
ladies' whom I might expect to meet. 'And then there's my
parteecular friend, Miss Flora,' said he. 'But I'll make no
attempt of a description. You shall see her for yourself.'
It will be readily supposed that I accepted his invitation; and
returned home to make a toilette worthy of her I was to meet and
the good news of which I was the bearer. The toilette, I have
reason to believe, was a success. Mr. Rowley dismissed me with a
farewell: 'Crikey! Mr. Anne, but you do look prime!' Even the
stony Bethiah was--how shall I say?--dazzled, but scandalised, by
my appearance; and while, of course, she deplored the vanity that
led to it, she could not wholly prevent herself from admiring the
'Ay, Mr. Ducie, this is a poor employment for a wayfaring Christian
man!' she said. 'Wi' Christ despised and rejectit in all pairts of
the world and the flag of the Covenant flung doon, you will be
muckle better on your knees! However, I'll have to confess that it
sets you weel. And if it's the lassie ye're gaun to see the nicht,
I suppose I'll just have to excuse ye! Bairns maun be bairns!' she
said, with a sigh. 'I mind when Mr. McRankine came courtin', and
that's lang by-gane--I mind I had a green gown, passementit, that
was thocht to become me to admiration. I was nae just exactly what
ye would ca' bonny; but I was pale, penetratin', and interestin'.'
And she leaned over the stair-rail with a candle to watch my
descent as long as it should be possible.
It was but a little party at Mr. Robbie's--by which, I do not so
much mean that there were few people, for the rooms were crowded,
as that there was very little attempted to entertain them. In one
apartment there were tables set out, where the elders were solemnly
engaged upon whist; in the other and larger one, a great number of
youth of both sexes entertained themselves languidly, the ladies
sitting upon chairs to be courted, the gentlemen standing about in
various attitudes of insinuation or indifference. Conversation
appeared the sole resource, except in so far as it was modified by
a number of keepsakes and annuals which lay dispersed upon the
tables, and of which the young beaux displayed the illustrations to
the ladies. Mr. Robbie himself was customarily in the card-room;
only now and again, when he cut out, he made an incursion among the
young folks, and rolled about jovially from one to another, the
very picture of the general uncle.
It chanced that Flora had met Mr. Robbie in the course of the
afternoon. 'Now, Miss Flora,' he had said, 'come early, for I have
a Phoenix to show you--one Mr. Ducie, a new client of mine that, I
vow, I have fallen in love with'; and he was so good as to add a
word or two on my appearance, from which Flora conceived a
suspicion of the truth. She had come to the party, in consequence,
on the knife-edge of anticipation and alarm; had chosen a place by
the door, where I found her, on my arrival, surrounded by a posse
of vapid youths; and, when I drew near, sprang up to meet me in the
most natural manner in the world, and, obviously, with a prepared
form of words.
'How do you do, Mr. Ducie?' she said. 'It is quite an age since I
have seen you!'
'I have much to tell you, Miss Gilchrist,' I replied. 'May I sit
For the artful girl, by sitting near the door, and the judicious
use of her shawl, had contrived to keep a chair empty by her side.
She made room for me, as a matter of course, and the youths had the
discretion to melt before us. As soon as I was once seated her fan
flew out, and she whispered behind it:
'Are you mad?'
'Madly in love,' I replied; 'but in no other sense.'
'I have no patience! You cannot understand what I am suffering!'
she said. 'What are you to say to Ronald, to Major Chevenix, to my
Your aunt?' I cried, with a start. 'Peccavi! is she here?'
'She is in the card-room at whist,' said Flora.
'Where she will probably stay all the evening?' I suggested.
'She may,' she admitted; 'she generally does!'
'Well, then, I must avoid the card-room,' said I, 'which is very
much what I had counted upon doing. I did not come here to play
cards, but to contemplate a certain young lady to my heart's
content--if it can ever be contented!--and to tell her some good
'But there are still Ronald and the Major!' she persisted. 'They
are not card-room fixtures! Ronald will be coming and going. And
as for Mr. Chevenix, he--'
'Always sits with Miss Flora?' I interrupted. 'And they talk of
poor St. Ives? I had gathered as much, my dear; and Mr. Ducie has
come to prevent it! But pray dismiss these fears! I mind no one
but your aunt.'
'Why my aunt?'
'Because your aunt is a lady, my dear, and a very clever lady, and,
like all clever ladies, a very rash lady,' said I. 'You can never
count upon them, unless you are sure of getting them in a corner,
as I have got you, and talking them over rationally, as I am just
engaged on with yourself! It would be quite the same to your aunt
to make the worst kind of a scandal, with an equal indifference to
my danger and to the feelings of our good host!'
'Well,' she said, 'and what of Ronald, then? Do you think HE is
above making a scandal? You must know him very little!'
'On the other hand, it is my pretension that I know him very well!'
I replied. 'I must speak to Ronald first--not Ronald to me--that
'Then, please, go and speak to him at once!' she pleaded. He is
there--do you see?--at the upper end of the room, talking to that
girl in pink.'
'And so lose this seat before I have told you my good news?' I
exclaimed. 'Catch me! And, besides, my dear one, think a little
of me and my good news! I thought the bearer of good news was
always welcome! I hoped he might be a little welcome for himself!
Consider! I have but one friend; and let me stay by her! And
there is only one thing I care to hear; and let me hear it!'
'Oh, Anne,' she sighed, 'if I did not love you, why should I be so
uneasy? I am turned into a coward, dear! Think, if it were the
other way round--if you were quite safe and I was in, oh, such
She had no sooner said it than I was convicted of being a dullard.
'God forgive me, dear!' I made haste to reply. 'I never saw
before that there were two sides to this!' And I told her my tale
as briefly as I could, and rose to seek Ronald. 'You see, my dear,
you are obeyed,' I said.
She gave me a look that was a reward in itself; and as I turned
away from her, with a strong sense of turning away from the sun, I
carried that look in my bosom like a caress. The girl in pink was
an arch, ogling person, with a good deal of eyes and teeth, and a
great play of shoulders and rattle of conversation. There could be
no doubt, from Mr. Ronald's attitude, that he worshipped the very
chair she sat on. But I was quite ruthless. I laid my hand on his
shoulder, as he was stooping over her like a hen over a chicken.
'Excuse me for one moment, Mr. Gilchrist!' said I.