Part 2 out of 4
graceful maiden, skating hand in hand with a youth, on whom
she bestowed her bright eyes perhaps too patently; and it was
strange with what anger John beheld her. He could have
broken forth in curses; he could have stood there, like a
mortified tramp, and shaken his fist and vented his gall upon
her by the hour - or so he thought; and the next moment his
heart bled for the girl. 'Poor creature, it's little she
knows!' he sighed. 'Let her enjoy herself while she can!'
But was it possible, when Flora used to smile at him on the
Braid ponds, she could have looked so fulsome to a sick-
The thought of one quarry, in his frozen wits, suggested
another; and he plodded off toward Craigleith. A wind had
sprung up out of the north-west; it was cruel keen, it dried
him like a fire, and racked his finger-joints. It brought
clouds, too; pale, swift, hurrying clouds, that blotted
heaven and shed gloom upon the earth. He scrambled up among
the hazelled rubbish heaps that surround the caldron of the
quarry, and lay flat upon the stones. The wind searched
close along the earth, the stones were cutting and icy, the
bare hazels wailed about him; and soon the air of the
afternoon began to be vocal with those strange and dismal
harpings that herald snow. Pain and misery turned in John's
limbs to a harrowing impatience and blind desire of change;
now he would roll in his harsh lair, and when the flints
abraded him, was almost pleased; now he would crawl to the
edge of the huge pit and look dizzily down. He saw the
spiral of the descending roadway, the steep crags, the
clinging bushes, the peppering of snow-wreaths, and far down
in the bottom, the diminished crane. Here, no doubt, was a
way to end it. But it somehow did not take his fancy.
And suddenly he was aware that he was hungry; ay, even
through the tortures of the cold, even through the frosts of
despair, a gross, desperate longing after food, no matter
what, no matter how, began to wake and spur him. Suppose he
pawned his watch? But no, on Christmas-day - this was
Christmas-day! - the pawnshop would be closed. Suppose he
went to the public-house close by at Blackhall, and offered
the watch, which was worth ten pounds, in payment for a meal
of bread and cheese? The incongruity was too remarkable; the
good folks would either put him to the door, or only let him
in to send for the police. He turned his pockets out one
after another; some San Francisco tram-car checks, one cigar,
no lights, the pass-key to his father's house, a pocket-
handkerchief, with just a touch of scent: no, money could be
raised on none of these. There was nothing for it but to
starve; and after all, what mattered it? That also was a
door of exit.
He crept close among the bushes, the wind playing round him
like a lash; his clothes seemed thin as paper, his joints
burned, his skin curdled on his bones. He had a vision of a
high-lying cattle-drive in California, and the bed of a dried
stream with one muddy pool, by which the vaqueros had
encamped: splendid sun over all, the big bonfire blazing, the
strips of cow browning and smoking on a skewer of wood; how
warm it was, how savoury the steam of scorching meat! And
then again he remembered his manifold calamities, and
burrowed and wallowed in the sense of his disgrace and shame.
And next he was entering Frank's restaurant in Montgomery
Street, San Francisco; he had ordered a pan-stew and venison
chops, of which he was immoderately fond, and as he sat
waiting, Munroe, the good attendant, brought him a whisky
punch; he saw the strawberries float on the delectable cup,
he heard the ice chink about the straws. And then he woke
again to his detested fate, and found himself sitting, humped
together, in a windy combe of quarry refuse - darkness thick
about him, thin flakes of snow flying here and there like
rags of paper, and the strong shuddering of his body clashing
his teeth like a hiccough.
We have seen John in nothing but the stormiest condition; we
have seen him reckless, desperate, tried beyond his moderate
powers; of his daily self, cheerful, regular, not unthrifty,
we have seen nothing; and it may thus be a surprise to the
reader to learn that he was studiously careful of his health.
This favourite preoccupation now awoke. If he were to sit
there and die of cold, there would be mighty little gained;
better the police cell and the chances of a jury trial, than
the miserable certainty of death at a dyke-side before the
next winter's dawn, or death a little later in the gas-
lighted wards of an infirmary.
He rose on aching legs, and stumbled here and there among the
rubbish heaps, still circumvented by the yawning crater of
the quarry; or perhaps he only thought so, for the darkness
was already dense, the snow was growing thicker, and he moved
like a blind man, and with a blind man's terrors. At last he
climbed a fence, thinking to drop into the road, and found
himself staggering, instead, among the iron furrows of a
ploughland, endless, it seemed, as a whole county. And next
he was in a wood, beating among young trees; and then he was
aware of a house with many lighted windows, Christmas
carriages waiting at the doors, and Christmas drivers (for
Christmas has a double edge) becoming swiftly hooded with
snow. From this glimpse of human cheerfulness, he fled like
Cain; wandered in the night, unpiloted, careless of whither
he went; fell, and lay, and then rose again and wandered
further; and at last, like a transformation scene, behold him
in the lighted jaws of the city, staring at a lamp which had
already donned the tilted night-cap of the snow. It came
thickly now, a 'Feeding Storm'; and while he yet stood
blinking at the lamp, his feet were buried. He remembered
something like it in the past, a street-lamp crowned and
caked upon the windward side with snow, the wind uttering its
mournful hoot, himself looking on, even as now; but the cold
had struck too sharply on his wits, and memory failed him as
to the date and sequel of the reminiscence.
His next conscious moment was on the Dean Bridge; but whether
he was John Nicholson of a bank in a California street, or
some former John, a clerk in his father's office, he had now
clean forgotten. Another blank, and he was thrusting his
pass-key into the door-lock of his father's house.
Hours must have passed. Whether crouched on the cold stones
or wandering in the fields among the snow, was more than he
could tell; but hours had passed. The finger of the hall
clock was close on twelve; a narrow peep of gas in the hall-
lamp shed shadows; and the door of the back room - his
father's room - was open and emitted a warm light. At so
late an hour, all this was strange; the lights should have
been out, the doors locked, the good folk safe in bed. He
marvelled at the irregularity, leaning on the hall-table; and
marvelled to himself there; and thawed and grew once more
hungry, in the warmer air of the house.
The clock uttered its premonitory catch; in five minutes
Christmas-day would be among the days of the past -
Christmas! - what a Christmas! Well, there was no use
waiting; he had come into that house, he scarce knew how; if
they were to thrust him forth again, it had best be done at
once; and he moved to the door of the back room and entered.
Oh, well, then he was insane, as he had long believed.
There, in his father's room, at midnight, the fire was
roaring and the gas blazing; the papers, the sacred papers -
to lay a hand on which was criminal - had all been taken off
and piled along the floor; a cloth was spread, and a supper
laid, upon the business table; and in his father's chair a
woman, habited like a nun, sat eating. As he appeared in the
doorway, the nun rose, gave a low cry, and stood staring.
She was a large woman, strong, calm, a little masculine, her
features marked with courage and good sense; and as John
blinked back at her, a faint resemblance dodged about his
memory, as when a tune haunts us, and yet will not be
'Why, it's John!' cried the nun.
'I dare say I'm mad,' said John, unconsciously following King
Lear; 'but, upon my word, I do believe you're Flora.'
'Of course I am,' replied she.
And yet it is not Flora at all, thought John; Flora was
slender, and timid, and of changing colour, and dewy-eyed;
and had Flora such an Edinburgh accent? But he said none of
these things, which was perhaps as well. What he said was,
'Then why are you a nun?'
'Such nonsense!' said Flora. 'I'm a sick-nurse; and I am
here nursing your sister, with whom, between you and me,
there is precious little the matter. But that is not the
question. The point is: How do you come here? and are you
not ashamed to show yourself?'
'Flora,' said John, sepulchrally, 'I haven't eaten anything
for three days. Or, at least, I don't know what day it is;
but I guess I'm starving.'
'You unhappy man!' she cried. 'Here, sit down and eat my
supper; and I'll just run upstairs and see my patient; not
but what I doubt she's fast asleep, for Maria is a MALADE
With this specimen of the French, not of Stratford-atte-Bowe,
but of a finishing establishment in Moray Place, she left
John alone in his father's sanctum. He fell at once upon the
food; and it is to be supposed that Flora had found her
patient wakeful, and been detained with some details of
nursing, for he had time to make a full end of all there was
to eat, and not only to empty the teapot, but to fill it
again from a kettle that was fitfully singing on his father's
fire. Then he sat torpid, and pleased, and bewildered; his
misfortunes were then half forgotten; his mind considering,
not without regret, this unsentimental return to his old
He was thus engaged, when that bustling woman noiselessly re-
'Have you eaten?' said she. 'Then tell me all about it.'
It was a long and (as the reader knows) a pitiful story; but
Flora heard it with compressed lips. She was lost in none of
those questionings of human destiny that have, from time to
time, arrested the flight of my own pen; for women, such as
she, are no philosophers, and behold the concrete only. And
women, such as she, are very hard on the imperfect man.
'Very well,' said she, when he had done; 'then down upon your
knees at once, and beg God's forgiveness.'
And the great baby plumped upon his knees, and did as he was
bid; and none the worse for that! But while he was heartily
enough requesting forgiveness on general principles, the
rational side of him distinguished, and wondered if, perhaps,
the apology were not due upon the other part. And when he
rose again from that becoming exercise, he first eyed the
face of his old love doubtfully, and then, taking heart,
uttered his protest.
'I must say, Flora,' said he, 'in all this business, I can
see very little fault of mine.'
'If you had written home,' replied the lady, 'there would
have been none of it. If you had even gone to Murrayfield
reasonably sober, you would never have slept there, and the
worst would not have happened. Besides, the whole thing
began years ago. You got into trouble, and when your father,
honest man, was disappointed, you took the pet, or got
afraid, and ran away from punishment. Well, you've had your
own way of it, John, and I don't suppose you like it.'
'I sometimes fancy I'm not much better than a fool,' sighed
'My dear John,' said she, 'not much!'
He looked at her, and his eye fell. A certain anger rose
within him; here was a Flora he disowned; she was hard; she
was of a set colour; a settled, mature, undecorative manner;
plain of speech, plain of habit - he had come near saying,
plain of face. And this changeling called herself by the
same name as the many-coloured, clinging maid of yore; she of
the frequent laughter, and the many sighs, and the kind,
stolen glances. And to make all worse, she took the upper
hand with him, which (as John well knew) was not the true
relation of the sexes. He steeled his heart against this
'And how do you come to be here?' he asked.
She told him how she had nursed her father in his long
illness, and when he died, and she was left alone, had taken
to nurse others, partly from habit, partly to be of some
service in the world; partly, it might be, for amusement.
'There's no accounting for taste,' said she. And she told
him how she went largely to the houses of old friends, as the
need arose; and how she was thus doubly welcome as an old
friend first, and then as an experienced nurse, to whom
doctors would confide the gravest cases.
'And, indeed, it's a mere farce my being here for poor
Maria,' she continued; 'but your father takes her ailments to
heart, and I cannot always be refusing him. We are great
friends, your father and I; he was very kind to me long ago -
ten years ago.
A strange stir came in John's heart. All this while had he
been thinking only of himself? All this while, why had he
not written to Flora? In penitential tenderness, he took her
hand, and, to his awe and trouble, it remained in his,
compliant. A voice told him this was Flora, after all - told
him so quietly, yet with a thrill of singing.
'And you never married?' said he.
'No, John; I never married,' she replied.
The hall clock striking two recalled them to the sense of
'And now,' said she, 'you have been fed and warmed, and I
have heard your story, and now it's high time to call your
'Oh!' cried John, chap-fallen; 'do you think that absolutely
'I can't keep you here; I am a stranger,' said she. 'Do you
want to run away again? I thought you had enough of that.'
He bowed his head under the reproof. She despised him, he
reflected, as he sat once more alone; a monstrous thing for a
woman to despise a man; and strangest of all, she seemed to
like him. Would his brother despise him, too? And would his
brother like him?
And presently the brother appeared, under Flora's escort;
and, standing afar off beside the doorway, eyed the hero of
'So this is you?' he said, at length.
'Yes, Alick, it's me - it's John,' replied the elder brother,
'And how did you get in here?' inquired the younger.
'Oh, I had my pass-key,' says John.
'The deuce you had!' said Alexander. 'Ah, you lived in a
better world! There are no pass-keys going now.'
'Well, father was always averse to them,' sighed John. And
the conversation then broke down, and the brothers looked
askance at one another in silence.
'Well, and what the devil are we to do?' said Alexander. 'I
suppose if the authorities got wind of you, you would be
'It depends on whether they've found the body or not,'
returned John. 'And then there's that cabman, to be sure!'
'Oh, bother the body!' said Alexander. 'I mean about the
other thing. That's serious.'
'Is that what my father spoke about?' asked John. 'I don't
even know what it is.'
'About your robbing your bank in California, of course,'
It was plain, from Flora's face, that this was the first she
had heard of it; it was plainer still, from John's, that he
'I!' he exclaimed. 'I rob my bank! My God! Flora, this is
too much; even you must allow that.'
'Meaning you didn't?' asked Alexander.
'I never robbed a soul in all my days,' cried John: 'except
my father, if you call that robbery; and I brought him back
the money in this room, and he wouldn't even take it!'
'Look here, John,' said his brother, 'let us have no
misunderstanding upon this. Macewen saw my father; he told
him a bank you had worked for in San Francisco was wiring
over the habitable globe to have you collared - that it was
supposed you had nailed thousands; and it was dead certain
you had nailed three hundred. So Macewen said, and I wish
you would be careful how you answer. I may tell you also,
that your father paid the three hundred on the spot.'
'Three hundred?' repeated John. 'Three hundred pounds, you
mean? That's fifteen hundred dollars. Why, then, it's
Kirkman!' he broke out. 'Thank Heaven! I can explain all
that. I gave them to Kirkman to pay for me the night before
I left - fifteen hundred dollars, and a letter to the
manager. What do they suppose I would steal fifteen hundred
dollars for? I'm rich; I struck it rich in stocks. It's the
silliest stuff I ever heard of. All that's needful is to
cable to the manager: Kirkman has the fifteen hundred - find
Kirkman. He was a fellow-clerk of mine, and a hard case; but
to do him justice, I didn't think he was as hard as this.'
'And what do you say to that, Alick?' asked Flora.
'I say the cablegram shall go to-night!' cried Alexander,
with energy. 'Answer prepaid, too. If this can be cleared
away - and upon my word I do believe it can - we shall all be
able to hold up our heads again. Here, you John, you stick
down the address of your bank manager. You, Flora, you can
pack John into my bed, for which I have no further use to-
night. As for me, I am off to the post-office, and thence to
the High Street about the dead body. The police ought to
know, you see, and they ought to know through John; and I can
tell them some rigmarole about my brother being a man of
highly nervous organisation, and the rest of it. And then,
I'll tell you what, John - did you notice the name upon the
John gave the name of the driver, which, as I have not been
able to command the vehicle, I here suppress.
'Well,' resumed Alexander, 'I'll call round at their place
before I come back, and pay your shot for you. In that way,
before breakfast-time, you'll be as good as new.'
John murmured inarticulate thanks. To see his brother thus
energetic in his service moved him beyond expression; if he
could not utter what he felt, he showed it legibly in his
face; and Alexander read it there, and liked it the better in
that dumb delivery.
'But there's one thing,' said the latter, 'cablegrams are
dear; and I dare say you remember enough of the governor to
guess the state of my finances.'
'The trouble is,' said John, 'that all my stamps are in that
'All your what?' asked Alexander.
'Stamps - money,' explained John. 'It's an American
expression; I'm afraid I contracted one or two.'
'I have some,' said Flora. 'I have a pound note upstairs.'
'My dear Flora,' returned Alexander, 'a pound note won't see
us very far; and besides, this is my father's business, and I
shall be very much surprised if it isn't my father who pays
'I would not apply to him yet; I do not think that can be
wise,' objected Flora.
'You have a very imperfect idea of my resources, and not at
all of my effrontery,' replied Alexander. 'Please observe.'
He put John from his way, chose a stout knife among the
supper things, and with surprising quickness broke into his
'There's nothing easier when you come to try,' he observed,
pocketing the money.
'I wish you had not done that,' said Flora. 'You will never
hear the last of it.'
'Oh, I don't know,' returned the young man; 'the governor is
human after all. And now, John, let me see your famous pass-
key. Get into bed, and don't move for any one till I come
back. They won't mind you not answering when they knock; I
generally don't myself.'
CHAPTER IX - IN WHICH MR. NICHOLSON ACCEPTS THE PRINCIPLE OF
IN spite of the horrors of the day and the tea-drinking of
the night, John slept the sleep of infancy. He was awakened
by the maid, as it might have been ten years ago, tapping at
the door. The winter sunrise was painting the east; and as
the window was to the back of the house, it shone into the
room with many strange colours of refracted light. Without,
the houses were all cleanly roofed with snow; the garden
walls were coped with it a foot in height; the greens lay
glittering. Yet strange as snow had grown to John during his
years upon the Bay of San Francisco, it was what he saw
within that most affected him. For it was to his own room
that Alexander had been promoted; there was the old paper
with the device of flowers, in which a cunning fancy might
yet detect the face of Skinny Jim, of the Academy, John's
former dominie; there was the old chest of drawers; there
were the chairs - one, two, three - three as before. Only
the carpet was new, and the litter of Alexander's clothes and
books and drawing materials, and a pencil-drawing on the
wall, which (in John's eyes) appeared a marvel of
He was thus lying, and looking, and dreaming, hanging, as it
were, between two epochs of his life, when Alexander came to
the door, and made his presence known in a loud whisper.
John let him in, and jumped back into the warm bed.
'Well, John,' said Alexander, 'the cablegram is sent in your
name, and twenty words of answer paid. I have been to the
cab office and paid your cab, even saw the old gentleman
himself, and properly apologised. He was mighty placable,
and indicated his belief you had been drinking. Then I
knocked up old Macewen out of bed, and explained affairs to
him as he sat and shivered in a dressing-gown. And before
that I had been to the High Street, where they have heard
nothing of your dead body, so that I incline to the idea that
you dreamed it.'
'Catch me!' said John.
'Well, the police never do know anything,' assented
Alexander; 'and at any rate, they have despatched a man to
inquire and to recover your trousers and your money, so that
really your bill is now fairly clean; and I see but one lion
in your path - the governor.'
'I'll be turned out again, you'll see,' said John, dismally.
'I don't imagine so,' returned the other; 'not if you do what
Flora and I have arranged; and your business now is to dress,
and lose no time about it. Is your watch right? Well, you
have a quarter of an hour. By five minutes before the half-
hour you must be at table, in your old seat, under Uncle
Duthie's picture. Flora will be there to keep you
countenance; and we shall see what we shall see.'
'Wouldn't it be wiser for me to stay in bed?' said John.
'If you mean to manage your own concerns, you can do
precisely what you like,' replied Alexander; 'but if you are
not in your place five minutes before the half-hour I wash my
hands of you, for one.'
And thereupon he departed. He had spoken warmly, but the
truth is, his heart was somewhat troubled. And as he hung
over the balusters, watching for his father to appear, he had
hard ado to keep himself braced for the encounter that must
'If he takes it well, I shall be lucky,' he reflected.
'If he takes it ill, why it'll be a herring across John's
tracks, and perhaps all for the best. He's a confounded
muff, this brother of mine, but he seems a decent soul.'
At that stage a door opened below with a certain emphasis,
and Mr. Nicholson was seen solemnly to descend the stairs,
and pass into his own apartment. Alexander followed, quaking
inwardly, but with a steady face. He knocked, was bidden to
enter, and found his father standing in front of the forced
drawer, to which he pointed as he spoke.
'This is a most extraordinary thing,' said he; 'I have been
'I was afraid you would notice it,' observed his son; 'it
made such a beastly hash of the table.'
'You were afraid I would notice it?' repeated Mr. Nicholson.
'And, pray, what may that mean?'
'That I was a thief, sir,' returned Alexander. 'I took all
the money in case the servants should get hold of it; and
here is the change, and a note of my expenditure. You were
gone to bed, you see, and I did not feel at liberty to knock
you up; but I think when you have heard the circumstances,
you will do me justice. The fact is, I have reason to
believe there has been some dreadful error about my brother
John; the sooner it can be cleared up the better for all
parties; it was a piece of business, sir - and so I took it,
and decided, on my own responsibility, to send a telegram to
San Francisco. Thanks to my quickness we may hear to-night.
There appears to be no doubt, sir, that John has been
'When did this take place?' asked the father.
'Last night, sir, after you were asleep,' was the reply.
'It's most extraordinary,' said Mr. Nicholson. 'Do you mean
to say you have been out all night?'
'All night, as you say, sir. I have been to the telegraph
and the police office, and Mr. Macewen's. Oh, I had my hands
full,' said Alexander.
'Very irregular,' said the father. 'You think of no one but
'I do not see that I have much to gain in bringing back my
elder brother,' returned Alexander, shrewdly.
The answer pleased the old man; he smiled. 'Well, well, I
will go into this after breakfast,' said he.
'I'm sorry about the table,' said the son.
'The table is a small matter; I think nothing of that,' said
'It's another example,' continued the son, 'of the
awkwardness of a man having no money of his own. If I had a
proper allowance, like other fellows of my age, this would
have been quite unnecessary.'
'A proper allowance!' repeated his father, in tones of
blighting sarcasm, for the expression was not new to him. 'I
have never grudged you money for any proper purpose.'
'No doubt, no doubt,' said Alexander, 'but then you see you
aren't always on the spot to have the thing explained to you.
Last night, for instance - '
'You could have wakened me last night,' interrupted his
'Was it not some similar affair that first got John into a
mess?' asked the son, skilfully evading the point.
But the father was not less adroit. 'And pray, sir, how did
you come and go out of the house?' he asked.
'I forgot to lock the door, it seems,' replied Alexander.
'I have had cause to complain of that too often,' said Mr.
Nicholson. 'But still I do not understand. Did you keep the
'I propose to go into all that at length after breakfast,'
returned Alexander. 'There is the half-hour going; we must
not keep Miss Mackenzie waiting.'
And greatly daring, he opened the door.
Even Alexander, who, it must have been perceived was on terms
of comparative freedom with his parent - even Alexander had
never before dared to cut short an interview in this high-
handed fashion. But the truth is, the very mass of his son's
delinquencies daunted the old gentleman. He was like the man
with the cart of apples - this was beyond him! That
Alexander should have spoiled his table, taken his money,
stayed out all night, and then coolly acknowledged all, was
something undreamed of in the Nicholsonian philosophy, and
transcended comment. The return of the change, which the old
gentleman still carried in his hand, had been a feature of
imposing impudence; it had dealt him a staggering blow. Then
there was the reference to John's original flight - a subject
which he always kept resolutely curtained in his own mind;
for he was a man who loved to have made no mistakes, and when
he feared he might have made one kept the papers sealed. In
view of all these surprises and reminders, and of his son's
composed and masterful demeanour, there began to creep on Mr.
Nicholson a sickly misgiving. He seemed beyond his depth; if
he did or said anything, he might come to regret it. The
young man, besides, as he had pointed out himself, was
playing a generous part. And if wrong had been done - and
done to one who was, after, and in spite of, all, a Nicholson
- it should certainly be righted.
All things considered, monstrous as it was to be cut short in
his inquiries, the old gentleman submitted, pocketed the
change, and followed his son into the dining-room. During
these few steps he once more mentally revolted, and once
more, and this time finally, laid down his arms: a still,
small voice in his bosom having informed him authentically of
a piece of news; that he was afraid of Alexander. The
strange thing was that he was pleased to be afraid of him.
He was proud of his son; he might be proud of him; the boy
had character and grit, and knew what he was doing.
These were his reflections as he turned the corner of the
dining-room door. Miss Mackenzie was in the place of honour,
conjuring with a tea-pot and a cosy; and, behold! there was
another person present, a large, portly, whiskered man of a
very comfortable and respectable air, who now rose from his
seat and came forward, holding out his hand.
'Good-morning, father,' said he.
Of the contention of feeling that ran high in Mr. Nicholson's
starched bosom, no outward sign was visible; nor did he delay
long to make a choice of conduct. Yet in that interval he
had reviewed a great field of possibilities both past and
future; whether it was possible he had not been perfectly
wise in his treatment of John; whether it was possible that
John was innocent; whether, if he turned John out a second
time, as his outraged authority suggested, it was possible to
avoid a scandal; and whether, if he went to that extremity,
it was possible that Alexander might rebel.
'Hum!' said Mr. Nicholson, and put his hand, limp and dead,
And then, in an embarrassed silence, all took their places;
and even the paper - from which it was the old gentleman's
habit to suck mortification daily, as he marked the decline
of our institutions - even the paper lay furled by his side.
But presently Flora came to the rescue. She slid into the
silence with a technicality, asking if John still took his
old inordinate amount of sugar. Thence it was but a step to
the burning question of the day; and in tones a little
shaken, she commented on the interval since she had last made
tea for the prodigal, and congratulated him on his return.
And then addressing Mr. Nicholson, she congratulated him also
in a manner that defied his ill-humour; and from that
launched into the tale of John's misadventures, not without
some suitable suppressions.
Gradually Alexander joined; between them, whether he would or
no, they forced a word or two from John; and these fell so
tremulously, and spoke so eloquently of a mind oppressed with
dread, that Mr. Nicholson relented. At length even he
contributed a question: and before the meal was at an end all
four were talking even freely.
Prayers followed, with the servants gaping at this new-comer
whom no one had admitted; and after prayers there came that
moment on the clock which was the signal for Mr. Nicholson's
'John,' said he, 'of course you will stay here. Be very
careful not to excite Maria, if Miss Mackenzie thinks it
desirable that you should see her. Alexander, I wish to
speak with you alone.' And then, when they were both in the
back room: 'You need not come to the office to-day,' said he;
'you can stay and amuse your brother, and I think it would be
respectful to call on Uncle Greig. And by the bye' (this
spoken with a certain- dare we say? - bashfulness), 'I agree
to concede the principle of an allowance; and I will consult
with Doctor Durie, who is quite a man of the world and has
sons of his own, as to the amount. And, my fine fellow, you
may consider yourself in luck!' he added, with a smile.
'Thank you,' said Alexander.
Before noon a detective had restored to John his money, and
brought news, sad enough in truth, but perhaps the least sad
possible. Alan had been found in his own house in Regent
Terrace, under care of the terrified butler. He was quite
mad, and instead of going to prison, had gone to Morningside
Asylum. The murdered man, it appeared, was an evicted tenant
who had for nearly a year pursued his late landlord with
threats and insults; and beyond this, the cause and details
of the tragedy were lost.
When Mr. Nicholson returned from dinner they were able to put
a despatch into his hands: 'John V. Nicholson, Randolph
Crescent, Edinburgh. - Kirkham has disappeared; police
looking for him. All understood. Keep mind quite easy. -
Austin.' Having had this explained to him, the old gentleman
took down the cellar key and departed for two bottles of the
1820 port. Uncle Greig dined there that day, and Cousin
Robina, and, by an odd chance, Mr. Macewen; and the presence
of these strangers relieved what might have been otherwise a
somewhat strained relation. Ere they departed, the family
was welded once more into a fair semblance of unity.
In the end of April John led Flora - or, as more descriptive,
Flora led John - to the altar, if altar that may be called
which was indeed the drawing-room mantel-piece in Mr.
Nicholson's house, with the Reverend Dr. Durie posted on the
hearthrug in the guise of Hymen's priest.
The last I saw of them, on a recent visit to the north, was
at a dinner-party in the house of my old friend Gellatly
Macbride; and after we had, in classic phrase, 'rejoined the
ladies,' I had an opportunity to overhear Flora conversing
with another married woman on the much canvassed matter of a
'Oh yes!' said she; 'I only allow Mr. Nicholson four cigars a
day. Three he smokes at fixed times - after a meal, you
know, my dear; and the fourth he can take when he likes with
'Bravo!' thought I to myself; 'this is the wife for my friend
EVERY night in the year, four of us sat in the small parlour
of the George at Debenham - the undertaker, and the landlord,
and Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but
blow high, blow low, come rain or snow or frost, we four
would be each planted in his own particular arm-chair.
Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education
obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in
idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still
young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an
adopted townsman. His blue camlet cloak was a local
antiquity, like the church-spire. His place in the parlour
at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous,
disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham.
He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting
infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and
emphasise with tottering slaps upon the table. He drank rum
- five glasses regularly every evening; and for the greater
portion of his nightly visit to the George sat, with his
glass in his right hand, in a state of melancholy alcoholic
saturation. We called him the Doctor, for he was supposed to
have some special knowledge of medicine, and had been known,
upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation; but
beyond these slight particulars, we had no knowledge of his
character and antecedents.
One dark winter night - it had struck nine some time before
the landlord joined us - there was a sick man in the George,
a great neighbouring proprietor suddenly struck down with
apoplexy on his way to Parliament; and the great man's still
greater London doctor had been telegraphed to his bedside.
It was the first time that such a thing had happened in
Debenham, for the railway was but newly open, and we were all
proportionately moved by the occurrence.
'He's come,' said the landlord, after he had filled and
lighted his pipe.
'He?' said I. 'Who? - not the doctor?'
'Himself,' replied our host.
'What is his name?'
'Doctor Macfarlane,' said the landlord.
Fettes was far through his third tumbler, stupidly fuddled,
now nodding over, now staring mazily around him; but at the
last word he seemed to awaken, and repeated the name
'Macfarlane' twice, quietly enough the first time, but with
sudden emotion at the second.
'Yes,' said the landlord, 'that's his name, Doctor Wolfe
Fettes became instantly sober; his eyes awoke, his voice
became clear, loud, and steady, his language forcible and
earnest. We were all startled by the transformation, as if a
man had risen from the dead.
'I beg your pardon,' he said, 'I am afraid I have not been
paying much attention to your talk. Who is this Wolfe
Macfarlane?' And then, when he had heard the landlord out,
'It cannot be, it cannot be,' he added; 'and yet I would like
well to see him face to face.'
'Do you know him, Doctor?' asked the undertaker, with a gasp.
'God forbid!' was the reply. 'And yet the name is a strange
one; it were too much to fancy two. Tell me, landlord, is he
'Well,' said the host, 'he's not a young man, to be sure, and
his hair is white; but he looks younger than you.'
'He is older, though; years older. But,' with a slap upon
the table, 'it's the rum you see in my face - rum and sin.
This man, perhaps, may have an easy conscience and a good
digestion. Conscience! Hear me speak. You would think I
was some good, old, decent Christian, would you not? But no,
not I; I never canted. Voltaire might have canted if he'd
stood in my shoes; but the brains' - with a rattling fillip
on his bald head - 'the brains were clear and active, and I
saw and made no deductions.'
'If you know this doctor,' I ventured to remark, after a
somewhat awful pause, 'I should gather that you do not share
the landlord's good opinion.'
Fettes paid no regard to me.
'Yes,' he said, with sudden decision, 'I must see him face to
There was another pause, and then a door was closed rather
sharply on the first floor, and a step was heard upon the
'That's the doctor,' cried the landlord. 'Look sharp, and
you can catch him.'
It was but two steps from the small parlour to the door of
the old George Inn; the wide oak staircase landed almost in
the street; there was room for a Turkey rug and nothing more
between the threshold and the last round of the descent; but
this little space was every evening brilliantly lit up, not
only by the light upon the stair and the great signal-lamp
below the sign, but by the warm radiance of the bar-room
window. The George thus brightly advertised itself to
passers-by in the cold street. Fettes walked steadily to the
spot, and we, who were hanging behind, beheld the two men
meet, as one of them had phrased it, face to face. Dr.
Macfarlane was alert and vigorous. His white hair set off
his pale and placid, although energetic, countenance. He was
richly dressed in the finest of broadcloth and the whitest of
linen, with a great gold watch-chain, and studs and
spectacles of the same precious material. He wore a broad-
folded tie, white and speckled with lilac, and he carried on
his arm a comfortable driving-coat of fur. There was no
doubt but he became his years, breathing, as he did, of
wealth and consideration; and it was a surprising contrast to
see our parlour sot - bald, dirty, pimpled, and robed in his
old camlet cloak - confront him at the bottom of the stairs.
'Macfarlane!' he said somewhat loudly, more like a herald
than a friend.
The great doctor pulled up short on the fourth step, as
though the familiarity of the address surprised and somewhat
shocked his dignity.
'Toddy Macfarlane!' repeated Fettes.
The London man almost staggered. He stared for the swiftest
of seconds at the man before him, glanced behind him with a
sort of scare, and then in a startled whisper, 'Fettes!' he
'Ay,' said the other, 'me! Did you think I was dead too? We
are not so easy shut of our acquaintance.'
'Hush, hush!' exclaimed the doctor. 'Hush, hush! this
meeting is so unexpected - I can see you are unmanned. I
hardly knew you, I confess, at first; but I am overjoyed -
overjoyed to have this opportunity. For the present it must
be how-d'ye-do and good-bye in one, for my fly is waiting,
and I must not fail the train; but you shall - let me see -
yes - you shall give me your address, and you can count on
early news of me. We must do something for you, Fettes. I
fear you are out at elbows; but we must see to that for auld
lang syne, as once we sang at suppers.'
'Money!' cried Fettes; 'money from you! The money that I had
from you is lying where I cast it in the rain.'
Dr. Macfarlane had talked himself into some measure of
superiority and confidence, but the uncommon energy of this
refusal cast him back into his first confusion.
A horrible, ugly look came and went across his almost
venerable countenance. 'My dear fellow,' he said, 'be it as
you please; my last thought is to offend you. I would
intrude on none. I will leave you my address, however - '
'I do not wish it - I do not wish to know the roof that
shelters you,' interrupted the other. 'I heard your name; I
feared it might be you; I wished to know if, after all, there
were a God; I know now that there is none. Begone!'
He still stood in the middle of the rug, between the stair
and doorway; and the great London physician, in order to
escape, would be forced to step to one side. It was plain
that he hesitated before the thought of this humiliation.
White as he was, there was a dangerous glitter in his
spectacles; but while he still paused uncertain, he became
aware that the driver of his fly was peering in from the
street at this unusual scene and caught a glimpse at the same
time of our little body from the parlour, huddled by the
corner of the bar. The presence of so many witnesses decided
him at once to flee. He crouched together, brushing on the
wainscot, and made a dart like a serpent, striking for the
door. But his tribulation was not yet entirely at an end,
for even as he was passing Fettes clutched him by the arm and
these words came in a whisper, and yet painfully distinct,
'Have you seen it again?'
The great rich London doctor cried out aloud with a sharp,
throttling cry; he dashed his questioner across the open
space, and, with his hands over his head, fled out of the
door like a detected thief. Before it had occurred to one of
us to make a movement the fly was already rattling toward the
station. The scene was over like a dream, but the dream had
left proofs and traces of its passage. Next day the servant
found the fine gold spectacles broken on the threshold, and
that very night we were all standing breathless by the bar-
room window, and Fettes at our side, sober, pale, and
resolute in look.
'God protect us, Mr. Fettes!' said the landlord, coming first
into possession of his customary senses. 'What in the
universe is all this? These are strange things you have been
Fettes turned toward us; he looked us each in succession in
the face. 'See if you can hold your tongues,' said he.
'That man Macfarlane is not safe to cross; those that have
done so already have repented it too late.'
And then, without so much as finishing his third glass, far
less waiting for the other two, he bade us good-bye and went
forth, under the lamp of the hotel, into the black night.
We three turned to our places in the parlour, with the big
red fire and four clear candles; and as we recapitulated what
had passed, the first chill of our surprise soon changed into
a glow of curiosity. We sat late; it was the latest session
I have known in the old George. Each man, before we parted,
had his theory that he was bound to prove; and none of us had
any nearer business in this world than to track out the past
of our condemned companion, and surprise the secret that he
shared with the great London doctor. It is no great boast,
but I believe I was a better hand at worming out a story than
either of my fellows at the George; and perhaps there is now
no other man alive who could narrate to you the following
foul and unnatural events.
In his young days Fettes studied medicine in the schools of
Edinburgh. He had talent of a kind, the talent that picks up
swiftly what it hears and readily retails it for its own. He
worked little at home; but he was civil, attentive, and
intelligent in the presence of his masters. They soon picked
him out as a lad who listened closely and remembered well;
nay, strange as it seemed to me when I first heard it, he was
in those days well favoured, and pleased by his exterior.
There was, at that period, a certain extramural teacher of
anatomy, whom I shall here designate by the letter K. His
name was subsequently too well known. The man who bore it
skulked through the streets of Edinburgh in disguise, while
the mob that applauded at the execution of Burke called
loudly for the blood of his employer. But Mr. K- was then at
the top of his vogue; he enjoyed a popularity due partly to
his own talent and address, partly to the incapacity of his
rival, the university professor. The students, at least,
swore by his name, and Fettes believed himself, and was
believed by others, to have laid the foundations of success
when he had acquired the favour of this meteorically famous
man. Mr. K- was a BON VIVANT as well as an accomplished
teacher; he liked a sly illusion no less than a careful
preparation. In both capacities Fettes enjoyed and deserved
his notice, and by the second year of his attendance he held
the half-regular position of second demonstrator or sub-
assistant in his class.
In this capacity the charge of the theatre and lecture-room
devolved in particular upon his shoulders. He had to answer
for the cleanliness of the premises and the conduct of the
other students, and it was a part of his duty to supply,
receive, and divide the various subjects. It was with a view
to this last - at that time very delicate - affair that he
was lodged by Mr. K- in the same wynd, and at last in the
same building, with the dissecting-rooms. Here, after a
night of turbulent pleasures, his hand still tottering, his
sight still misty and confused, he would be called out of bed
in the black hours before the winter dawn by the unclean and
desperate interlopers who supplied the table. He would open
the door to these men, since infamous throughout the land.
He would help them with their tragic burden, pay them their
sordid price, and remain alone, when they were gone, with the
unfriendly relics of humanity. From such a scene he would
return to snatch another hour or two of slumber, to repair
the abuses of the night, and refresh himself for the labours
of the day.
Few lads could have been more insensible to the impressions
of a life thus passed among the ensigns of mortality. His
mind was closed against all general considerations. He was
incapable of interest in the fate and fortunes of another,
the slave of his own desires and low ambitions. Cold, light,
and selfish in the last resort, he had that modicum of
prudence, miscalled morality, which keeps a man from
inconvenient drunkenness or punishable theft. He coveted,
besides, a measure of consideration from his masters and his
fellow-pupils, and he had no desire to fail conspicuously in
the external parts of life. Thus he made it his pleasure to
gain some distinction in his studies, and day after day
rendered unimpeachable eye-service to his employer, Mr. K-.
For his day of work he indemnified himself by nights of
roaring, blackguardly enjoyment; and when that balance had
been struck, the organ that he called his conscience declared
The supply of subjects was a continual trouble to him as well
as to his master. In that large and busy class, the raw
material of the anatomists kept perpetually running out; and
the business thus rendered necessary was not only unpleasant
in itself, but threatened dangerous consequences to all who
were concerned. It was the policy of Mr. K- to ask no
questions in his dealings with the trade. 'They bring the
body, and we pay the price,' he used to say, dwelling on the
alliteration - 'QUID PRO QUO.' And, again, and somewhat
profanely, 'Ask no questions,' he would tell his assistants,
'for conscience' sake.' There was no understanding that the
subjects were provided by the crime of murder. Had that idea
been broached to him in words, he would have recoiled in
horror; but the lightness of his speech upon so grave a
matter was, in itself, an offence against good manners, and a
temptation to the men with whom he dealt. Fettes, for
instance, had often remarked to himself upon the singular
freshness of the bodies. He had been struck again and again
by the hang-dog, abominable looks of the ruffians who came to
him before the dawn; and putting things together clearly in
his private thoughts, he perhaps attributed a meaning too
immoral and too categorical to the unguarded counsels of his
master. He understood his duty, in short, to have three
branches: to take what was brought, to pay the price, and to
avert the eye from any evidence of crime.
One November morning this policy of silence was put sharply
to the test. He had been awake all night with a racking
toothache - pacing his room like a caged beast or throwing
himself in fury on his bed - and had fallen at last into that
profound, uneasy slumber that so often follows on a night of
pain, when he was awakened by the third or fourth angry
repetition of the concerted signal. There was a thin, bright
moonshine; it was bitter cold, windy, and frosty; the town
had not yet awakened, but an indefinable stir already
preluded the noise and business of the day. The ghouls had
come later than usual, and they seemed more than usually
eager to be gone. Fettes, sick with sleep, lighted them
upstairs. He heard their grumbling Irish voices through a
dream; and as they stripped the sack from their sad
merchandise he leaned dozing, with his shoulder propped
against the wall; he had to shake himself to find the men
their money. As he did so his eyes lighted on the dead face.
He started; he took two steps nearer, with the candle raised.
'God Almighty!' he cried. 'That is Jane Galbraith!'
The men answered nothing, but they shuffled nearer the door.
'I know her, I tell you,' he continued. 'She was alive and
hearty yesterday. It's impossible she can be dead; it's
impossible you should have got this body fairly.'
'Sure, sir, you're mistaken entirely,' said one of the men.
But the other looked Fettes darkly in the eyes, and demanded
the money on the spot.
It was impossible to misconceive the threat or to exaggerate
the danger. The lad's heart failed him. He stammered some
excuses, counted out the sum, and saw his hateful visitors
depart. No sooner were they gone than he hastened to confirm
his doubts. By a dozen unquestionable marks he identified
the girl he had jested with the day before. He saw, with
horror, marks upon her body that might well betoken violence.
A panic seized him, and he took refuge in his room. There he
reflected at length over the discovery that he had made;
considered soberly the bearing of Mr. K-'s instructions and
the danger to himself of interference in so serious a
business, and at last, in sore perplexity, determined to wait
for the advice of his immediate superior, the class
This was a young doctor, Wolfe Macfarlane, a high favourite
among all the reckless students, clever, dissipated, and
unscrupulous to the last degree. He had travelled and
studied abroad. His manners were agreeable and a little
forward. He was an authority on the stage, skilful on the
ice or the links with skate or golf-club; he dressed with
nice audacity, and, to put the finishing touch upon his
glory, he kept a gig and a strong trotting-horse. With
Fettes he was on terms of intimacy; indeed, their relative
positions called for some community of life; and when
subjects were scarce the pair would drive far into the
country in Macfarlane's gig, visit and desecrate some lonely
graveyard, and return before dawn with their booty to the
door of the dissecting-room.
On that particular morning Macfarlane arrived somewhat
earlier than his wont. Fettes heard him, and met him on the
stairs, told him his story, and showed him the cause of his
alarm. Macfarlane examined the marks on her body.
'Yes,' he said with a nod, 'it looks fishy.'
'Well, what should I do?' asked Fettes.
'Do?' repeated the other. 'Do you want to do anything?
Least said soonest mended, I should say.'
'Some one else might recognise her,' objected Fettes. 'She
was as well known as the Castle Rock.'
'We'll hope not,' said Macfarlane, 'and if anybody does -
well, you didn't, don't you see, and there's an end. The
fact is, this has been going on too long. Stir up the mud,
and you'll get K- into the most unholy trouble; you'll be in
a shocking box yourself. So will I, if you come to that. I
should like to know how any one of us would look, or what the
devil we should have to say for ourselves, in any Christian
witness-box. For me, you know there's one thing certain -
that, practically speaking, all our subjects have been
'Macfarlane!' cried Fettes.
'Come now!' sneered the other. 'As if you hadn't suspected
'Suspecting is one thing - '
'And proof another. Yes, I know; and I'm as sorry as you are
this should have come here,' tapping the body with his cane.
'The next best thing for me is not to recognise it; and,' he
added coolly, 'I don't. You may, if you please. I don't
dictate, but I think a man of the world would do as I do; and
I may add, I fancy that is what K- would look for at our
hands. The question is, Why did he choose us two for his
assistants? And I answer, because he didn't want old wives.'
This was the tone of all others to affect the mind of a lad
like Fettes. He agreed to imitate Macfarlane. The body of
the unfortunate girl was duly dissected, and no one remarked
or appeared to recognise her.
One afternoon, when his day's work was over, Fettes dropped
into a popular tavern and found Macfarlane sitting with a
stranger. This was a small man, very pale and dark, with
coal-black eyes. The cut of his features gave a promise of
intellect and refinement which was but feebly realised in his
manners, for he proved, upon a nearer acquaintance, coarse,
vulgar, and stupid. He exercised, however, a very remarkable
control over Macfarlane; issued orders like the Great Bashaw;
became inflamed at the least discussion or delay, and
commented rudely on the servility with which he was obeyed.
This most offensive person took a fancy to Fettes on the
spot, plied him with drinks, and honoured him with unusual
confidences on his past career. If a tenth part of what he
confessed were true, he was a very loathsome rogue; and the
lad's vanity was tickled by the attention of so experienced a
'I'm a pretty bad fellow myself,' the stranger remarked, 'but
Macfarlane is the boy - Toddy Macfarlane I call him. Toddy,
order your friend another glass.' Or it might be, 'Toddy,
you jump up and shut the door.' 'Toddy hates me,' he said
again. 'Oh yes, Toddy, you do!'
'Don't you call me that confounded name,' growled Macfarlane.
'Hear him! Did you ever see the lads play knife? He would
like to do that all over my body,' remarked the stranger.
'We medicals have a better way than that,' said Fettes.
'When we dislike a dead friend of ours, we dissect him.'
Macfarlane looked up sharply, as though this jest were
scarcely to his mind.
The afternoon passed. Gray, for that was the stranger's
name, invited Fettes to join them at dinner, ordered a feast
so sumptuous that the tavern was thrown into commotion, and
when all was done commanded Macfarlane to settle the bill.
It was late before they separated; the man Gray was incapably
drunk. Macfarlane, sobered by his fury, chewed the cud of
the money he had been forced to squander and the slights he
had been obliged to swallow. Fettes, with various liquors
singing in his head, returned home with devious footsteps and
a mind entirely in abeyance. Next day Macfarlane was absent
from the class, and Fettes smiled to himself as he imagined
him still squiring the intolerable Gray from tavern to
tavern. As soon as the hour of liberty had struck he posted
from place to place in quest of his last night's companions.
He could find them, however, nowhere; so returned early to
his rooms, went early to bed, and slept the sleep of the
At four in the morning he was awakened by the well-known
signal. Descending to the door, he was filled with
astonishment to find Macfarlane with his gig, and in the gig
one of those long and ghastly packages with which he was so
'What?' he cried. 'Have you been out alone? How did you
But Macfarlane silenced him roughly, bidding him turn to
business. When they had got the body upstairs and laid it on
the table, Macfarlane made at first as if he were going away.
Then he paused and seemed to hesitate; and then, 'You had
better look at the face,' said he, in tones of some
constraint. 'You had better,' he repeated, as Fettes only
stared at him in wonder.
'But where, and how, and when did you come by it?' cried the
'Look at the face,' was the only answer.
Fettes was staggered; strange doubts assailed him. He looked
from the young doctor to the body, and then back again. At
last, with a start, he did as he was bidden. He had almost
expected the sight that met his eyes, and yet the shock was
cruel. To see, fixed in the rigidity of death and naked on
that coarse layer of sackcloth, the man whom he had left well
clad and full of meat and sin upon the threshold of a tavern,
awoke, even in the thoughtless Fettes, some of the terrors of
the conscience. It was a CRAS TIBI which re-echoed in his
soul, that two whom he had known should have come to lie upon
these icy tables. Yet these were only secondary thoughts.
His first concern regarded Wolfe. Unprepared for a challenge
so momentous, he knew not how to look his comrade in the
face. He durst not meet his eye, and he had neither words
nor voice at his command.
It was Macfarlane himself who made the first advance. He
came up quietly behind and laid his hand gently but firmly on
the other's shoulder.
'Richardson,' said he, 'may have the head.'
Now Richardson was a student who had long been anxious for
that portion of the human subject to dissect. There was no
answer, and the murderer resumed: 'Talking of business, you
must pay me; your accounts, you see, must tally.'
Fettes found a voice, the ghost of his own: 'Pay you!' he
cried. 'Pay you for that?'
'Why, yes, of course you must. By all means and on every
possible account, you must,' returned the other. 'I dare not
give it for nothing, you dare not take it for nothing; it
would compromise us both. This is another case like Jane
Galbraith's. The more things are wrong the more we must act
as if all were right. Where does old K- keep his money?'
'There,' answered Fettes hoarsely, pointing to a cupboard in
'Give me the key, then,' said the other, calmly, holding out
There was an instant's hesitation, and the die was cast.
Macfarlane could not suppress a nervous twitch, the
infinitesimal mark of an immense relief, as he felt the key
between his fingers. He opened the cupboard, brought out pen
and ink and a paper-book that stood in one compartment, and
separated from the funds in a drawer a sum suitable to the
'Now, look here,' he said, 'there is the payment made - first
proof of your good faith: first step to your security. You
have now to clinch it by a second. Enter the payment in your
book, and then you for your part may defy the devil.'
The next few seconds were for Fettes an agony of thought; but
in balancing his terrors it was the most immediate that
triumphed. Any future difficulty seemed almost welcome if he
could avoid a present quarrel with Macfarlane. He set down
the candle which he had been carrying all this time, and with
a steady hand entered the date, the nature, and the amount of
'And now,' said Macfarlane, 'it's only fair that you should
pocket the lucre. I've had my share already. By the bye,
when a man of the world falls into a bit of luck, has a few
shillings extra in his pocket - I'm ashamed to speak of it,
but there's a rule of conduct in the case. No treating, no
purchase of expensive class-books, no squaring of old debts;
borrow, don't lend.'
'Macfarlane,' began Fettes, still somewhat hoarsely, 'I have
put my neck in a halter to oblige you.'
'To oblige me?' cried Wolfe. 'Oh, come! You did, as near as
I can see the matter, what you downright had to do in self-
defence. Suppose I got into trouble, where would you be?
This second little matter flows clearly from the first. Mr.
Gray is the continuation of Miss Galbraith. You can't begin
and then stop. If you begin, you must keep on beginning;
that's the truth. No rest for the wicked.'
A horrible sense of blackness and the treachery of fate
seized hold upon the soul of the unhappy student.
'My God!' he cried, 'but what have I done? and when did I
begin? To be made a class assistant - in the name of reason,
where's the harm in that? Service wanted the position;
Service might have got it. Would HE have been where I am
'My dear fellow,' said Macfarlane, 'what a boy you are! What
harm HAS come to you? What harm CAN come to you if you hold
your tongue? Why, man, do you know what this life is? There
are two squads of us - the lions and the lambs. If you're a
lamb, you'll come to lie upon these tables like Gray or Jane
Galbraith; if you're a lion, you'll live and drive a horse
like me, like K-, like all the world with any wit or courage.
You're staggered at the first. But look at K-! My dear
fellow, you're clever, you have pluck. I like you, and K-
likes you. You were born to lead the hunt; and I tell you,
on my honour and my experience of life, three days from now
you'll laugh at all these scarecrows like a High School boy
at a farce.'
And with that Macfarlane took his departure and drove off up
the wynd in his gig to get under cover before daylight.
Fettes was thus left alone with his regrets. He saw the
miserable peril in which he stood involved. He saw, with
inexpressible dismay, that there was no limit to his
weakness, and that, from concession to concession, he had
fallen from the arbiter of Macfarlane's destiny to his paid
and helpless accomplice. He would have given the world to
have been a little braver at the time, but it did not occur
to him that he might still be brave. The secret of Jane
Galbraith and the cursed entry in the day-book closed his
Hours passed; the class began to arrive; the members of the
unhappy Gray were dealt out to one and to another, and
received without remark. Richardson was made happy with the
head; and before the hour of freedom rang Fettes trembled
with exultation to perceive how far they had already gone
For two days he continued to watch, with increasing joy, the
dreadful process of disguise.
On the third day Macfarlane made his appearance. He had been
ill, he said; but he made up for lost time by the energy with
which he directed the students. To Richardson in particular
he extended the most valuable assistance and advice, and that
student, encouraged by the praise of the demonstrator, burned
high with ambitious hopes, and saw the medal already in his
Before the week was out Macfarlane's prophecy had been
fulfilled. Fettes had outlived his terrors and had forgotten
his baseness. He began to plume himself upon his courage,
and had so arranged the story in his mind that he could look
back on these events with an unhealthy pride. Of his
accomplice he saw but little. They met, of course, in the
business of the class; they received their orders together
from Mr. K-. At times they had a word or two in private, and
Macfarlane was from first to last particularly kind and
jovial. But it was plain that he avoided any reference to
their common secret; and even when Fettes whispered to him
that he had cast in his lot with the lions and foresworn the
lambs, he only signed to him smilingly to hold his peace.
At length an occasion arose which threw the pair once more
into a closer union. Mr. K- was again short of subjects;
pupils were eager, and it was a part of this teacher's
pretensions to be always well supplied. At the same time
there came the news of a burial in the rustic graveyard of
Glencorse. Time has little changed the place in question.
It stood then, as now, upon a cross road, out of call of
human habitations, and buried fathom deep in the foliage of
six cedar trees. The cries of the sheep upon the
neighbouring hills, the streamlets upon either hand, one
loudly singing among pebbles, the other dripping furtively
from pond to pond, the stir of the wind in mountainous old
flowering chestnuts, and once in seven days the voice of the
bell and the old tunes of the precentor, were the only sounds
that disturbed the silence around the rural church. The
Resurrection Man - to use a byname of the period - was not to
be deterred by any of the sanctities of customary piety. It
was part of his trade to despise and desecrate the scrolls
and trumpets of old tombs, the paths worn by the feet of
worshippers and mourners, and the offerings and the
inscriptions of bereaved affection. To rustic
neighbourhoods, where love is more than commonly tenacious,
and where some bonds of blood or fellowship unite the entire
society of a parish, the body-snatcher, far from being
repelled by natural respect, was attracted by the ease and
safety of the task. To bodies that had been laid in earth,
in joyful expectation of a far different awakening, there
came that hasty, lamp-lit, terror-haunted resurrection of the
spade and mattock. The coffin was forced, the cerements
torn, and the melancholy relics, clad in sackcloth, after
being rattled for hours on moonless byways, were at length
exposed to uttermost indignities before a class of gaping
Somewhat as two vultures may swoop upon a dying lamb, Fettes
and Macfarlane were to be let loose upon a grave in that
green and quiet resting-place. The wife of a farmer, a woman
who had lived for sixty years, and been known for nothing but
good butter and a godly conversation, was to be rooted from
her grave at midnight and carried, dead and naked, to that
far-away city that she had always honoured with her Sunday's
best; the place beside her family was to be empty till the
crack of doom; her innocent and almost venerable members to
be exposed to that last curiosity of the anatomist.
Late one afternoon the pair set forth, well wrapped in cloaks
and furnished with a formidable bottle. It rained without
remission - a cold, dense, lashing rain. Now and again there
blew a puff of wind, but these sheets of falling water kept
it down. Bottle and all, it was a sad and silent drive as
far as Penicuik, where they were to spend the evening. They
stopped once, to hide their implements in a thick bush not
far from the churchyard, and once again at the Fisher's
Tryst, to have a toast before the kitchen fire and vary their
nips of whisky with a glass of ale. When they reached their
journey's end the gig was housed, the horse was fed and
comforted, and the two young doctors in a private room sat
down to the best dinner and the best wine the house afforded.
The lights, the fire, the beating rain upon the window, the
cold, incongruous work that lay before them, added zest to
their enjoyment of the meal. With every glass their
cordiality increased. Soon Macfarlane handed a little pile
of gold to his companion.
'A compliment,' he said. 'Between friends these little d-d
accommodations ought to fly like pipe-lights.'
Fettes pocketed the money, and applauded the sentiment to the
echo. 'You are a philosopher,' he cried. 'I was an ass till
I knew you. You and K- between you, by the Lord Harry! but
you'll make a man of me.'
'Of course we shall,' applauded Macfarlane. 'A man? I tell
you, it required a man to back me up the other morning.
There are some big, brawling, forty-year-old cowards who
would have turned sick at the look of the d-d thing; but not
you - you kept your head. I watched you.'
'Well, and why not?' Fettes thus vaunted himself. 'It was no
affair of mine. There was nothing to gain on the one side
but disturbance, and on the other I could count on your
gratitude, don't you see?' And he slapped his pocket till
the gold pieces rang.
Macfarlane somehow felt a certain touch of alarm at these
unpleasant words. He may have regretted that he had taught
his young companion so successfully, but he had no time to
interfere, for the other noisily continued in this boastful
'The great thing is not to be afraid. Now, between you and
me, I don't want to hang - that's practical; but for all
cant, Macfarlane, I was born with a contempt. Hell, God,
Devil, right, wrong, sin, crime, and all the old gallery of
curiosities - they may frighten boys, but men of the world,
like you and me, despise them. Here's to the memory of
It was by this time growing somewhat late. The gig,
according to order, was brought round to the door with both
lamps brightly shining, and the young men had to pay their
bill and take the road. They announced that they were bound
for Peebles, and drove in that direction till they were clear
of the last houses of the town; then, extinguishing the
lamps, returned upon their course, and followed a by-road
toward Glencorse. There was no sound but that of their own
passage, and the incessant, strident pouring of the rain. It
was pitch dark; here and there a white gate or a white stone
in the wall guided them for a short space across the night;
but for the most part it was at a foot pace, and almost
groping, that they picked their way through that resonant
blackness to their solemn and isolated destination. In the
sunken woods that traverse the neighbourhood of the burying-
ground the last glimmer failed them, and it became necessary
to kindle a match and re-illumine one of the lanterns of the
gig. Thus, under the dripping trees, and environed by huge
and moving shadows, they reached the scene of their
They were both experienced in such affairs, and powerful with
the spade; and they had scarce been twenty minutes at their
task before they were rewarded by a dull rattle on the coffin
lid. At the same moment Macfarlane, having hurt his hand
upon a stone, flung it carelessly above his head. The grave,
in which they now stood almost to the shoulders, was close to
the edge of the plateau of the graveyard; and the gig lamp
had been propped, the better to illuminate their labours,
against a tree, and on the immediate verge of the steep bank
descending to the stream. Chance had taken a sure aim with
the stone. Then came a clang of broken glass; night fell
upon them; sounds alternately dull and ringing announced the
bounding of the lantern down the bank, and its occasional
collision with the trees. A stone or two, which it had
dislodged in its descent, rattled behind it into the
profundities of the glen; and then silence, like night,
resumed its sway; and they might bend their hearing to its
utmost pitch, but naught was to be heard except the rain, now
marching to the wind, now steadily falling over miles of open
They were so nearly at an end of their abhorred task that
they judged it wisest to complete it in the dark. The coffin
was exhumed and broken open; the body inserted in the
dripping sack and carried between them to the gig; one
mounted to keep it in its place, and the other, taking the
horse by the mouth, groped along by wall and bush until they
reached the wider road by the Fisher's Tryst. Here was a
faint, diffused radiancy, which they hailed like daylight; by
that they pushed the horse to a good pace and began to rattle
along merrily in the direction of the town.
They had both been wetted to the skin during their
operations, and now, as the gig jumped among the deep ruts,
the thing that stood propped between them fell now upon one
and now upon the other. At every repetition of the horrid
contact each instinctively repelled it with the greater
haste; and the process, natural although it was, began to
tell upon the nerves of the companions. Macfarlane made some
ill-favoured jest about the farmer's wife, but it came
hollowly from his lips, and was allowed to drop in silence.
Still their unnatural burden bumped from side to side; and
now the head would be laid, as if in confidence, upon their
shoulders, and now the drenching sack-cloth would flap icily
about their faces. A creeping chill began to possess the
soul of Fettes. He peered at the bundle, and it seemed
somehow larger than at first. All over the country-side, and
from every degree of distance, the farm dogs accompanied
their passage with tragic ululations; and it grew and grew
upon his mind that some unnatural miracle had been
accomplished, that some nameless change had befallen the dead
body, and that it was in fear of their unholy burden that the
dogs were howling.
'For God's sake,' said he, making a great effort to arrive at
speech, 'for God's sake, let's have a light!'
Seemingly Macfarlane was affected in the same direction; for,
though he made no reply, he stopped the horse, passed the
reins to his companion, got down, and proceeded to kindle the
remaining lamp. They had by that time got no farther than
the cross-road down to Auchenclinny. The rain still poured
as though the deluge were returning, and it was no easy
matter to make a light in such a world of wet and darkness.
When at last the flickering blue flame had been transferred
to the wick and began to expand and clarify, and shed a wide
circle of misty brightness round the gig, it became possible
for the two young men to see each other and the thing they
had along with them. The rain had moulded the rough sacking
to the outlines of the body underneath; the head was distinct
from the trunk, the shoulders plainly modelled; something at
once spectral and human riveted their eyes upon the ghastly
comrade of their drive.
For some time Macfarlane stood motionless, holding up the
lamp. A nameless dread was swathed, like a wet sheet, about
the body, and tightened the white skin upon the face of
Fettes; a fear that was meaningless, a horror of what could
not be, kept mounting to his brain. Another beat of the
watch, and he had spoken. But his comrade forestalled him.
'That is not a woman,' said Macfarlane, in a hushed voice.
'It was a woman when we put her in,' whispered Fettes.
'Hold that lamp,' said the other. 'I must see her face.'
And as Fettes took the lamp his companion untied the
fastenings of the sack and drew down the cover from the head.
The light fell very clear upon the dark, well-moulded
features and smooth-shaven cheeks of a too familiar
countenance, often beheld in dreams of both of these young
men. A wild yell rang up into the night; each leaped from
his own side into the roadway: the lamp fell, broke, and was
extinguished; and the horse, terrified by this unusual
commotion, bounded and went off toward Edinburgh at a gallop,
bearing along with it, sole occupant of the gig, the body of
the dead and long-dissected Gray.
THE STORY OF A LIE
CHAPTER I - INTRODUCES THE ADMIRAL
WHEN Dick Naseby was in Paris he made some odd acquaintances;
for he was one of those who have ears to hear, and can use
their eyes no less than their intelligence. He made as many
thoughts as Stuart Mill; but his philosophy concerned flesh
and blood, and was experimental as to its method. He was a
type-hunter among mankind. He despised small game and
insignificant personalities, whether in the shape of dukes or
bagmen, letting them go by like sea-weed; but show him a
refined or powerful face, let him hear a plangent or a
penetrating voice, fish for him with a living look in some
one's eye, a passionate gesture, a meaning and ambiguous
smile, and his mind was instantaneously awakened. 'There was
a man, there was a woman,' he seemed to say, and he stood up
to the task of comprehension with the delight of an artist in
And indeed, rightly considered, this interest of his was an
artistic interest. There is no science in the personal study
of human nature. All comprehension is creation; the woman I
love is somewhat of my handiwork; and the great lover, like
the great painter, is he that can so embellish his subject as
to make her more than human, whilst yet by a cunning art he
has so based his apotheosis on the nature of the case that
the woman can go on being a true woman, and give her
character free play, and show littleness, or cherish spite,
or be greedy of common pleasures, and he continue to worship
without a thought of incongruity. To love a character is
only the heroic way of understanding it. When we love, by
some noble method of our own or some nobility of mien or
nature in the other, we apprehend the loved one by what is
noblest in ourselves. When we are merely studying an
eccentricity, the method of our study is but a series of
allowances. To begin to understand is to begin to
sympathise; for comprehension comes only when we have stated
another's faults and virtues in terms of our own. Hence the
proverbial toleration of artists for their own evil
creations. Hence, too, it came about that Dick Naseby, a
high-minded creature, and as scrupulous and brave a gentleman
as you would want to meet, held in a sort of affection the
various human creeping things whom he had met and studied.
One of these was Mr. Peter Van Tromp, an English-speaking,
two-legged animal of the international genus, and by
profession of general and more than equivocal utility. Years
before he had been a painter of some standing in a colony,
and portraits signed 'Van Tromp' had celebrated the greatness
of colonial governors and judges. In those days he had been
married, and driven his wife and infant daughter in a pony
trap. What were the steps of his declension? No one exactly
knew. Here he was at least, and had been any time these past
ten years, a sort of dismal parasite upon the foreigner in
It would be hazardous to specify his exact industry.
Coarsely followed, it would have merited a name grown
somewhat unfamiliar to our ears. Followed as he followed it,
with a skilful reticence, in a kind of social chiaroscuro, it
was still possible for the polite to call him a professional
painter. His lair was in the Grand Hotel and the gaudiest
cafes. There he might be seen jotting off a sketch with an
air of some inspiration; and he was always affable, and one
of the easiest of men to fall in talk withal. A conversation
usually ripened into a peculiar sort of intimacy, and it was
extraordinary how many little services Van Tromp contrived to
render in the course of six-and-thirty hours. He occupied a
position between a friend and a courier, which made him worse
than embarrassing to repay. But those whom he obliged could
always buy one of his villainous little pictures, or, where
the favours had been prolonged and more than usually
delicate, might order and pay for a large canvas, with
perfect certainty that they would hear no more of the
Among resident artists he enjoyed celebrity of a non-
professional sort. He had spent more money - no less than
three individual fortunes, it was whispered - than any of his
associates could ever hope to gain. Apart from his colonial
career, he had been to Greece in a brigantine with four brass
carronades; he had travelled Europe in a chaise and four,
drawing bridle at the palace-doors of German princes; queens
of song and dance had followed him like sheep and paid his
tailor's bills. And to behold him now, seeking small loans
with plaintive condescension, sponging for breakfast on an
art-student of nineteen, a fallen Don Juan who had neglected
to die at the propitious hour, had a colour of romance for
young imaginations. His name and his bright past, seen
through the prism of whispered gossip, had gained him the
nickname of THE ADMIRAL.
Dick found him one day at the receipt of custom, rapidly
painting a pair of hens and a cock in a little water-colour
sketching box, and now and then glancing at the ceiling like
a man who should seek inspiration from the muse. Dick
thought it remarkable that a painter should choose to work
over an absinthe in a public cafe, and looked the man over.
The aged rakishness of his appearance was set off by a
youthful costume; he had disreputable grey hair and a
disreputable sore, red nose; but the coat and the gesture,
the outworks of the man, were still designed for show. Dick
came up to his table and inquired if he might look at what
the gentleman was doing. No one was so delighted as the
'A bit of a thing,' said he. 'I just dash them off like
that. I - I dash them off,' he added with a gesture.
'Quite so,' said Dick, who was appalled by the feebleness of
'Understand me,' continued Van Tromp; 'I am a man of the
world. And yet - once an artist always an artist. All of a
sudden a thought takes me in the street; I become its prey:
it's like a pretty woman; no use to struggle; I must - dash
'I see,' said Dick.
'Yes,' pursued the painter; 'it all comes easily, easily to
me; it is not my business; it's a pleasure. Life is my
business - life - this great city, Paris - Paris after dark -
its lights, its gardens, its odd corners. Aha!' he cried,
'to be young again! The heart is young, but the heels are
leaden. A poor, mean business, to grow old! Nothing remains
but the COUP D'OEIL, the contemplative man's enjoyment, Mr. -
,' and he paused for the name.
'Naseby,' returned Dick.
The other treated him at once to an exciting beverage, and
expatiated on the pleasure of meeting a compatriot in a
foreign land; to hear him, you would have thought they had
encountered in Central Africa. Dick had never found any one
take a fancy to him so readily, nor show it in an easier or
less offensive manner. He seemed tickled with him as an
elderly fellow about town might be tickled by a pleasant and
witty lad; he indicated that he was no precision, but in his
wildest times had never been such a blade as he thought Dick.
Dick protested, but in vain. This manner of carrying an
intimacy at the bayonet's point was Van Tromp's stock-in-
trade. With an older man he insinuated himself; with youth
he imposed himself, and in the same breath imposed an ideal
on his victim, who saw that he must work up to it or lose the
esteem of this old and vicious patron. And what young man
can bear to lose a character for vice?
At last, as it grew towards dinner-time, 'Do you know Paris?'
asked Van Tromp.
'Not so well as you, I am convinced,' said Dick.
'And so am I,' returned Van Tromp gaily. 'Paris! My young
friend - you will allow me? - when you know Paris as I do,
you will have seen Strange Things. I say no more; all I say
is, Strange Things. We are men of the world, you and I, and
in Paris, in the heart of civilised existence. This is an
opportunity, Mr. Naseby. Let us dine. Let me show you where
Dick consented. On the way to dinner the Admiral showed him
where to buy gloves, and made him buy them; where to buy
cigars, and made him buy a vast store, some of which he
obligingly accepted. At the restaurant he showed him what to
order, with surprising consequences in the bill. What he
made that night by his percentages it would be hard to
estimate. And all the while Dick smilingly consented,
understanding well that he was being done, but taking his
losses in the pursuit of character as a hunter sacrifices his
dogs. As for the Strange Things, the reader will be relieved
to hear that they were no stranger than might have been
expected, and he may find things quite as strange without the
expense of a Van Tromp for guide. Yet he was a guide of no
mean order, who made up for the poverty of what he had to
show by a copious, imaginative commentary.
'And such,' said he, with a hiccup, 'such is Paris.'
'Pooh!' said Dick, who was tired of the performance.
The Admiral hung an ear, and looked up sidelong with a
glimmer of suspicion.
'Good night,' said Dick; 'I'm tired.'
'So English!' cried Van Tromp, clutching him by the hand.
'So English! So BLASE! Such a charming companion! Let me
see you home.'
'Look here,' returned Dick, 'I have said good night, and now
I'm going. You're an amusing old boy: I like you, in a
sense; but here's an end of it for to-night. Not another
cigar, not another grog, not another percentage out of me.'
'I beg your pardon!' cried the Admiral with dignity.
'Tut, man!' said Dick; 'you're not offended; you're a man of
the world, I thought. I've been studying you, and it's over.
Have I not paid for the lesson? AU REVOIR.'
Van Tromp laughed gaily, shook hands up to the elbows, hoped
cordially they would meet again and that often, but looked
after Dick as he departed with a tremor of indignation.
After that they two not unfrequently fell in each other's
way, and Dick would often treat the old boy to breakfast on a
moderate scale and in a restaurant of his own selection.
Often, too, he would lend Van Tromp the matter of a pound, in
view of that gentleman's contemplated departure for
Australia; there would be a scene of farewell almost touching
in character, and a week or a month later they would meet on
the same boulevard without surprise or embarrassment. And in
the meantime Dick learned more about his acquaintance on all
sides: heard of his yacht, his chaise and four, his brief
season of celebrity amid a more confiding population, his
daughter, of whom he loved to whimper in his cups, his
sponging, parasitical, nameless way of life; and with each
new detail something that was not merely interest nor yet
altogether affection grew up in his mind towards this
disreputable stepson of the arts. Ere he left Paris Van
Tromp was one of those whom he entertained to a farewell
supper; and the old gentleman made the speech of the evening,
and then fell below the table, weeping, smiling, paralysed.
CHAPTER II - A LETTER TO THE PAPERS
OLD Mr. Naseby had the sturdy, untutored nature of the upper
middle class. The universe seemed plain to him. 'The
thing's right,' he would say, or 'the thing's wrong'; and
there was an end of it. There was a contained, prophetic
energy in his utterances, even on the slightest affairs; he
SAW the damned thing; if you did not, it must be from
perversity of will; and this sent the blood to his head.
Apart from this, which made him an exacting companion, he was
one of the most upright, hot-tempered, hot-headed old
gentlemen in England. Florid, with white hair, the face of
an old Jupiter, and the figure of an old fox-hunter, he
enlivened the vale of Thyme from end to end on his big,
He had a hearty respect for Dick as a lad of parts. Dick had
a respect for his father as the best of men, tempered by the
politic revolt of a youth who has to see to his own
independence. Whenever the pair argued, they came to an open
rupture; and arguments were frequent, for they were both
positive, and both loved the work of the intelligence. It
was a treat to hear Mr. Naseby defending the Church of
England in a volley of oaths, or supporting ascetic morals
with an enthusiasm not entirely innocent of port wine. Dick
used to wax indignant, and none the less so because, as his
father was a skilful disputant, he found himself not seldom
in the wrong. On these occasions, he would redouble in
energy, and declare that black was white, and blue yellow,
with much conviction and heat of manner; but in the morning
such a licence of debate weighed upon him like a crime, and
he would seek out his father, where he walked before
breakfast on a terrace overlooking all the vale of Thyme.
'I have to apologise, sir, for last night - ' he would begin.
'Of course you have,' the old gentleman would cut in
cheerfully. 'You spoke like a fool. Say no more about it.'
'You do not understand me, sir. I refer to a particular
point. I confess there is much force in your argument from
the doctrine of possibilities.'
'Of course there is,' returned his father. 'Come down and
look at the stables. Only,' he would add, 'bear this in
mind, and do remember that a man of my age and experience
knows more about what he is saying than a raw boy.'
He would utter the word 'boy' even more offensively than the
average of fathers, and the light way in which he accepted
these apologies cut Richard to the heart. The latter drew
slighting comparisons, and remembered that he was the only
one who ever apologised. This gave him a high station in his
own esteem, and thus contributed indirectly to his better
behaviour; for he was scrupulous as well as high-spirited,
and prided himself on nothing more than on a just submission.
So things went on until the famous occasion when Mr. Naseby,
becoming engrossed in securing the election of a sound party
candidate to Parliament, wrote a flaming letter to the
papers. The letter had about every demerit of party letters
in general; it was expressed with the energy of a believer;
it was personal; it was a little more than half unfair, and
about a quarter untrue. The old man did not mean to say what
was untrue, you may be sure; but he had rashly picked up
gossip, as his prejudice suggested, and now rashly launched
it on the public with the sanction of his name.
'The Liberal candidate,' he concluded, 'is thus a public
turncoat. Is that the sort of man we want? He has been
given the lie, and has swallowed the insult. Is that the
sort of man we want? I answer No! With all the force of my
conviction, I answer, NO!'
And then he signed and dated the letter with an amateur's
pride, and looked to be famous by the morrow.
Dick, who had heard nothing of the matter, was up first on
that inauspicious day, and took the journal to an arbour in
the garden. He found his father's manifesto in one column;
and in another a leading article. 'No one that we are aware
of,' ran the article, 'had consulted Mr. Naseby on the
subject, but if he had been appealed to by the whole body of
electors, his letter would be none the less ungenerous and
unjust to Mr. Dalton. We do not choose to give the lie to
Mr. Naseby, for we are too well aware of the consequences;
but we shall venture instead to print the facts of both cases
referred to by this red-hot partisan in another portion of
our issue. Mr. Naseby is of course a large proprietor in our
neighbourhood; but fidelity to facts, decent feeling, and
English grammar, are all of them qualities more important
than the possession of land. Mr. - is doubtless a great man;
in his large gardens and that half-mile of greenhouses, where
he has probably ripened his intellect and temper, he may say
what he will to his hired vassals, but (as the Scotch say) -
He mauna think to domineer.
'Liberalism,' continued the anonymous journalist, 'is of too
free and sound a growth,' etc.
Richard Naseby read the whole thing from beginning to end;
and a crushing shame fell upon his spirit. His father had
played the fool; he had gone out noisily to war, and come
back with confusion. The moment that his trumpets sounded,
he had been disgracefully unhorsed. There was no question as
to the facts; they were one and all against the Squire.
Richard would have given his ears to have suppressed the
issue; but as that could not be done, he had his horse
saddled, and furnishing himself with a convenient staff, rode
off at once to Thymebury.
The editor was at breakfast in a large, sad apartment. The
absence of furniture, the extreme meanness of the meal, and
the haggard, bright-eyed, consumptive look of the culprit,
unmanned our hero; but he clung to his stick, and was stout
'You wrote the article in this morning's paper?' he demanded.
'You are young Mr. Naseby? I PUBLISHED it,' replied the
'My father is an old man,' said Richard; and then with an
outburst, 'And a damned sight finer fellow than either you or
Dalton!' He stopped and swallowed; he was determined that
all should go with regularity. 'I have but one question to
put to you, sir,' he resumed. 'Granted that my father was
misinformed, would it not have been more decent to withhold
the letter and communicate with him in private?'
'Believe me,' returned the editor, 'that alternative was not
open to me. Mr. Naseby told me in a note that he had sent
his letter to three other journals, and in fact threatened me
with what he called exposure if I kept it back from mine. I
am really concerned at what has happened; I sympathise and
approve of your emotion, young gentleman; but the attack on
Mr. Dalton was gross, very gross, and I had no choice but to
offer him my columns to reply. Party has its duties, sir,'