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Full text of "The works of Robert Louis Stevenson"



■W^<.l-i ■)? 




^ 




National Library of Scotland 
*B000296878* 



This Edinburgh Edition consists of 

one thousand and thirty-Jive copies 

all numbered 

N0...1SSMU 



Vol. XXVI, of issue: December 1897 



THE WORKS OF 

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON 

EDINBURGH EDITION 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

National Library of Scotland 



http://www.archive.org/details/weirofhermOOstev 



THE WORKS OF 

ROBERT LOUIS 
STEVENSON 

ROMANCES 

VOLUME VII 




EDINBURGH 

PRINTED BY T. AND A. CONSTABLE FOR 

LONGMANS GREEN AND CO : CASSELL AND CO. 

SEELEY AND CO : CHAS. SCRIBNER'S SONS 

AND SOLD BY CHATTO AND WINDUS 

PICCADILLY: LONDON 

18 9T 



'iS«*^'i 



WEIR OF 
HERMISTON 



AND 



OTHER FRAGMENTS 



CONTENTS 

PA61 

THE GREAT NORTH ROAD ... 1 

THE YOUNG CHEVALIER . . . 63 

HEATHERCAT . . . . .87 

WEIR OF HERMISTON . . . .123 



Among the various fragments of romance, unprinted and 
tinfinished, which Mr. Stevenson left behind him, and which 
his family have entrusted to the present editor, were a few 
which seemed of too good a quality, or too interesting in the 
history of his life's work, to be lost. Of these, ' St. Ives ' 
will fill by itself the concluding volume of the Edinburgh 
edition. The present volume contains the remainder in 
chronological order. First comes the ' Great North Road,' a 
romance of the highway begun in 1884^ which the author 
laid aside after the eighth chapter on account of the pressure 
of other work — not, it would seem, from any dissatisfaction 
with what he had done— and never found time to take up 
again. The other three fragments all belong to the last three 
years of the writer's exile in the Pacific, and are inspired by 
the home-thoughts which at that time more than ever occu- 
pied his mind. The 'Young Chevalier' and ' Heathercat' 
{printed here for the first time) date from 1892 and 1893 
respectively. Both of these are mere beginnings, but help 
to show how many and what promising imaginative pro- 
jects were cut off with the author's life. The volume closes 
with the longer and more important fragment, ' Weir of 
Hermiston,' on which he was actually engaged during 
his last hours, and which has already been published in 
another form. 



GREAT NORTH ROAD 

A FIIAGMENT 



26— A 



Posthumounly published : 

Illustrated London News, Christmas iZ^S. 

Now reprinted for the first time. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER 

I. Nance at the Green Dragon 


PAGE 

5 


II. In which Mr. Archer is installed 


13 


III. Jonathan Holdaway 


22 


IV. Mingling Threads 


28 


V. Life in the Castle 


35 


VI. The Bad Half-Crown . 


41 


VII. The Bleaching- Green 


46 


VIII. The Mail Guard 


53 


Editorial Note 


61 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

CHAPTER I 
NANCE AT THE GREEN DRAGON 

Nance Hold away was on her knees before the fire 
blowing the green wood that voluminously smoked 
upon the dogs, and only now and then shot forth a 
smothered flame ; her knees already ached and her 
eyes smarted, for she had been some while at this 
ungrateful task, but her mind was gone far away to 
meet the coming stranger. Now she met him in 
the wood, now at the castle gate, now in the kitchen 
by candle-light ; each fresh presentment eclipsed the 
one b'efore ; a form so elegant, manners so sedate, a 
countenance so brave and comely, a voice so win- 
ning and resolute — sure such a man was never seen ! 
The thick- coming fancies poured and brightened in 
her head like the smoke and flames upon the hearth. 
Presently the heavy foot of her uncle Jonathan 
was heard upon the stair, and as he entered the 
room she bent the closer to her work. He glanced 
at the green fagots with a sneer, and looked 
askance at the bed and the white sheets, at the 
strip of carpet laid, like an island, on the great 

5 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

expanse of the stone floor, and at the broken 
glazing of the casement clumsily repaired with 
paper. 

' Leave that fire a-be,' he cried. * What, have 1 
toiled all my life to turn innkeeper at the hind end ? 
Leave it a-be, I say.' 

* La, uncle, it doesn't burn a bit ; it only smokes,' 
said Nance, looking up from her position. 

' You are come of decent people on both sides,' 
returned the old man. ' Who are you to blow the 
coals for any Robin-run-agate? Get up, get on 
your hood, make yourself useful, and be off to the 
Green Dragon.' 

' I thought you was to go yourself,' Nance 
faltered. 

' So did I,' quoth Jonathan ; "' but it appears I was 
mistook.' 

The very excess of her eagerness alarmed her, and 
she began to hang back. ' I think I would rather 
not, dear uncle,' she said. ' Night is at hand, and I 
think, dear, I would rather not. ' 

' Now you look here,' replied Jonathan, ' I have 
my Lord's orders, have I not ? Little he gives me, 
but it 's all my livelihood. And do you fancy, if I 
disobey my Lord, I 'm likely to turn round for a 
lass like you ? No, I 've that hell-fire of pain in my 
old knee, I wouldn't walk a mile, not for King 
George upon his bended knees.' And he walked to 
the window and looked .down the steep scarp to 
where the river foamed in the bottom of the dell. 

Nance stayed for no more bidding. In her own 
6 



NANCE AT THE GREEN DRAGON 

room, by the glimmer of the twilight, she washed 
her hands and pulled on her Sunday mittens; 
adjusted her black hood, and tied a dozen times its 
cherry ribbons ; and in less than ten minutes, with 
a fluttering heart and excellently bright eyes, she 
passed forth under the arch and over the bridge, 
into the thickening shadows of the groves. A well- 
marked wheel-track conducted her. The wood, 
which upon both sides of the river dell was a mere 
scrambling thicket of hazel, hawthorn, and holly, 
boasted on the level of more considerable timber. 
Beeches came to a good growth, with here and there 
an oak; and the track now passed under a high 
arcade of branches, and now ran under the open 
sky in glades. As the girl proceeded these glades 
became more frequent, the trees began again to 
dechne in size, and the wood to degenerate into 
furzy coverts. Last of all there was a fringe of 
elders ; and beyond that the track came forth upon 
an open, rolling moorland, dotted with wind-bowed 
and scanty bushes, and all golden -brown with the 
winter, like a grouse. Right over against the girl 
the last red embers of the sunset burned under 
horizontal clouds ; the night fell clear and still and 
frosty, and the track in low and marshy passages 
began to crackle under foot with ice. 

Some half a mile beyond the borders of the wood 
the lights of the Green Dragon hove in sight, and 
running close beside them, very faint in the dying 
dusk, the pale ribbon of the Great North Road. It 
was the back of the post-house that was presented 

7 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

to Nance Holdaway ; and as she continued to draw 
near and the night to fall more completely, she 
became aware of an unusual brightness and bustle. 
A post-chaise stood in the yard, its lamps already 
lighted : light shone hospitably in the windows and 
from the open door ; moving lights and shadows 
testified to the activity of servants bearing lanterns. 
The clank of pails, the stamping of hoofs on the 
firm causeway, the jingle of harness, and, last of all, 
the energetic hissing of a groom, began to fall upon 
her ear. By the stir you would have thought the 
mail was at the door, but it was still too early in 
the night. The down mail was not due at the 
Green Dragon for hard upon an hour ; the up 
mail from Scotland not before two in the black 
morning. 

Nance entered the yard somewhat dazzled. Sam, 
the tall ostler, was polishing a curb-chain with sand ; 
the lantern at his feet letting up spouts of candle- 
light through the holes with which its conical roof 
was peppered. 

* Hey, Miss,' said he jocularly, ' you won't look 
at me any more, now you have gentry at the 
castle.' 

Her cheeks burned with anger. 

' That 's my Lord's chay,' the man continued, 
nodding at the chaise, ' Lord Windermoor's. Came 
all in a fluster — dinner, bowl of punch, and put the 
horses to. For all the world like a runaway match, 
my dear — bar the bride. He brought Mr. Archer 
in the chay with him.' 
8 



NANCE AT THE GREEN DRAGON 

* Is that Holdaway ? ' cried the landlord from the 
lighted entry, where he stood shading his eyes. 

' Only me, sir,' answered Nance. 

' O, you, Miss Nance,' he said. * Well, come in 
quick, my pretty. My Lord is waiting for your 
uncle.' 

And he ushered Nance into a room cased with 
yellow wainscot and lighted by tall candles, where 
two gentlemen sat at a table finishing a bowl of 
punch. One of these was stout, elderly, and iras- 
cible, with a face like a full moon, well dyed with 
liquor, thick tremulous lips, a short, purple hand, in 
which he brandished a long pipe, and an abrupt and 
gobbling utterance. This was my Lord Winder- 
moor. In his companion Nance beheld a younger 
man, tall, quiet, grave, demurely dressed, and wear- 
ing his own hair. Her glance but lighted on him, 
and she flushed, for in that second she made sure 
that she had twice betrayed herself — betrayed by 
the involuntary flash of her black eyes her secret 
impatience to behold this new companion, and, 
what was far worse, betrayed her disappointment in 
the realisation of her dreams. He, meanwhile, as if 
unconscious, continued to regard her with unmoved 
decorum. 

' O, a man of wood,' thought Nance. 

'What — what?' said his Lordship. 'Who is 
this ? ' 

' If you please, my Lord, I am Holdaway 's niece,' 
replied Nance, with a curtsey. 

'Should have been here himself,' observed his 

9 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Lordship. ' Well, you tell Holdaway that I 'm 
aground, not a stiver — not a stiver. I 'm running 
from the beagles — going abroad, tell Holdaway. 
And he need look for no more wages : glad of 'em 
myself, if I could get 'em. He can live in the castle 
if he likes, or go to the devil. O, and here is Mr. 
Archer; and I recommend him to take him in — a 
friend of mine — and Mr. Archer will pay, as I 
wrote. And I regard that in the light of a precious 
good thing for Holdaway, let me tell you, and a 
set-off against the wages.' 

* But O, my Lord I ' cried Nance, * we live upon 
the wages, and what are we to do without ?' 

'What am I to do? — what am I to do?' replied 
Lord Windermoor with some exasperation. * I 
have no wages. And there is Mr. Archer. And if 
Holdaway doesn't like it, he can go to the devil, 
and you with him ! — and you with him !' 

*And yet, my Lord,' said Mr. Archer, 'these 
good people will have as keen a sense of loss as you 
or I ; keener, perhaps, since they have done nothing 
to deserve it.' 

'Deserve it?' cried the peer. 'What? what? 
If a rascally highwayman comes up to me with a 
confounded pistol, do you say that I 've deserved it ? 
How often am I to tell you, sir, that I was cheated 
— that I was cheated?' 

'You are happy in the belief,' returned Mr. 
Archer gravely. 

'Archer, you would be the death of me!' ex- 
claimed his Lordship. ' You know you 're drunk ; 

lO 



NANCE AT THE GREEN DRAGON 

you know it, sir ; and yet you can't get up a spark 
of animation.' 

' I have drunk fair, my Lord,' replied the younger 
man ; ' but I own I am conscious of no exhilara- 
tion.' 

* If you had as black a look-out as me, sir,' cried 
the peer, ' you would be very glad of a little inno- 
cent exhilaration, let me tell you. I am glad of it 
— glad of it, and I onsly wish I was drunker. For 
let me tell you it 's a cruel hard thing upon a man 
of my time of life and my position, to be brought 
down to beggary because the world is full of thieves 
and rascals — thieves and rascals. What? For all 
I know, you may be a thief and a rascal yourself; 
and I would fight you for a pinch of snuff — a pinch 
of snuff,' exclaimed his Lordship. 

Here Mr. Archer turned to Nance Holdaway 
with a pleasant smile, so full of sweetness, kindness, 
and composure that, at one bound, her dreams 
returned to her. 'My good Miss Holdaway,' said 
he, 'if you are willing to show me the road, I am 
even eager to be gone. As for his Lordship and 
myself, compose yourself; there is no fear; this is 
his Lordship's way.' 

' What ? what ? ' cried his Lordship. ' My way ? 
Ish no such a thing, my way.' 

' Come, my Lord,' cried Archer ; ' you and I very 
thoroughly understand each other ; and let me 
suggest, it is time that both of us were gone. The 
mail will soon be due. Here, then, my Lord, I take 
my leave of you, with the most earnest assurance 

II 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

of my gratitude for the past, and a sincere offer of 
any services I may be able to render in the future/ 

* Archer,' exclaimed Lord Windermoor, 'I love 
you like a son. Le' 's have another bowl.' 

*My Lord, for both our sakes, you will excuse 
me,' replied Mr. Archer. * We both require caution ; 
we must both, for some while at least, avoid the 
chance of a pursuit. ' 

' Archer,' quoth his Lordship, ' this is a rank 
ingratishood. What ? I 'm to go firing away in the 
dark in the cold po'chaise, and not so much as a 
game of ecarte possible, unless I stop and play with 
the postillion, the postillion ; and the whole country 
swarming with thieves and rascals and highway- 
men.' 

' I beg your Lordship's pardon,' put in the land- 
lord, who now appeared in the doorway to announce 
the chaise, 'but this part of the North Road is 
known for safety. There has not been a robbery, to 
call a robbery, this five years' time. Further south, 
of course, it 's nearer London, and another story,' 
he added. 

'Well, then, if that's so,' concluded my Lord, 
'le' 's have t'other bowl and a pack of cards.' 

' My Lord, you forget,' said Archer, ' I might still 
gain ; but it is hardly possible for me to lose.' 

'Think I 'm a sharper?' inquired the peer. 
' Gen'leman's parole's all I ask.' 

But Mr. Archer was proof against these blandish- 
ments, and said farewell gravely enough to I^ord 
Windermoor, shaking his hand and at the same time 

12 



NANCE AT THE GREEN DRAGON 

bowing very low. ' You will never know,' says he, 
'the service you have done me.' And with that, 
and before my Lord had finally taken up his mean- 
ing, he had slipped about the table, touched Nance 
lightly but imperiously on the arm, and left the 
room. In face of the outbreak of his Lordship's 
lamentations she made haste to follow the truant. 



CHAPTER II 

IN WHICH MR. ARCHER IS INSTALLED 

The chaise had been driven round to the front 
door ; the courtyard lay all deserted, and only lit by 
a lantern set upon a window-sill. Through this 
Nance rapidly led the way, and began to ascend the 
swellings of the moor with a heart that somewhat 
fluttered in her bosom. She was not afraid, but in 
the course of these last passages with Lord Winder- 
moor Mr. Archer had ascended to that pedestal on 
which her fancy waited to instal him. The reaUty, 
she felt, excelled her dreams, and this cold night 
walk was the first romantic incident in her expe- 
rience. 

It was the rule in these days to see gentlemen 
unsteady after dinner, yet Nance was both surprised 
and amused when her companion, who had spoken 
so soberly, began to stumble and waver by her side 
with the most airy divagations. Sometimes he 
would get so close to her that she must edge away ; 

13 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

and at others lurch clear out of the track and plough 
among deep heather. His courtesy and gravity 
meanwhile remained unaltered. He asked her how 
far they had to go ; whether the way lay all upon 
the moorland, and when he learned they had to pass 
a wood expressed his pleasure. ' For,' said he, ' I 
am passionately fond of trees. Trees and fair lawns, 
if you consider of it rightly, are the ornaments of 

nature, as palaces and fine approaches ' And 

here he stumbled into a patch of slough and nearly 
fell. The girl had hard work not to laugh, but at 
heart she was lost in admiration for one who talked 
so elegantly. 

They had got to about a quarter of a mile from 
the Green Dragon, and were near the summit of the 
rise, when a sudden rush of wheels arrested them. 
Turning and looking back, they saw the post-house, 
now much declined in brightness ; and speeding 
away northward the two tremulous bright dots of 
my Lord Windermoor's chaise-lamps. Mr. Archer 
followed these yellow and unsteady stars until they 
dwindled into points and disappeared. 

'There goes my only friend,' he said. 'Death 
has cut off those that loved me, and change of 
fortune estranged my flatterers ; and but for you, 
poor bankrupt, my life is as lonely as this moor.' 

The tone of his voice affected both of them. 
They stood there on the side of the moor, and 
became thrillingly conscious of the void waste of the 
night, without a feature for the eye, and except for 
the fainting whisper of the carriage- wheels without 



MR. ARCHER IS INSTALLED 

a murmur for the ear. And instantly, like a 
mockery, there broke out, very far away, but clear 
and jolly, the note of the mail-guard's horn. * Over 
the hills ' was his air. It rose to the two watchers 
on the moor with the most cheerful sentiment of 
human company and travel, and at the same time 
in and around the Green Dragon it woke up a great 
bustle of lights running to and fro and clattering 
hoofs. Presently after, out of the darkness to 
southward, the mail drew near with a growing 
rumble. Its lamps were very large and bright, and 
threw their radiance forward in overlapping cones ; 
the four cantering horses swarmed and steamed; 
the body of the coach followed like a great shadow ; 
and this lit picture slid with a sort of ineffectual 
swiftness over the black field of night, and was 
eclipsed by the buildings of the Green Dragon. 

Mr. Archer turned abruptly and resumed his 
former walk ; only that he was now more steady, 
kept better alongside his young conductor, and had 
fallen into a silence broken by sighs. Nance waxed 
very pitiful over his fate, contrasting an imaginary 
past of courts and great society, and perhaps the 
King himself, with the tumbledown ruin in a wood 
to which she was now conducting him. 

* You must try, sir, to keep your spirits up,' said 
she. * To be sure this is a great change for one like 
you ; but who knows the future ? ' 

Mr. Archer turned towards her in the darkness, 
and she could clearly perceive that he smiled upon 
her very kindly. * There spoke a sweet nature,' 

15 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

said he, ' and I must thank you for these words. 
But I would not have you fancy that I regret the 
past for any happiness found in it, or that I fear the 
simplicity and hardship of the country. I am a 
man that has been much tossed about in life ; now 
up, now down ; and do you think that I shall not 
be able to support what you support — you who are 
kind, and therefore know how to feel pain ; who are 
beautiful, and therefore hope ; who are young, and 
therefore (or am I the more mistaken ?) discon- 
tented f ' 

'Nay, sir, not that, at least,' said Nance; 'not 
discontented. If I were to be discontented, how 
should I look those that have real sorrows in the 
face? I have faults enough, but not that fault; 
and I have my merits too, for I have a good opinion 
of myself. But for beauty, I am not so simple but 
that I can tell a banter from a compliment.' 

' Nay, nay,' said Mr. Archer, * I had half for- 
gotten ; grief is selfish, and I was thinking of myself 
and not of you, or I had never blurted out so bold 
a piece of praise. 'Tis the best proof of my sin- 
cerity. But come, now, I would lay a wager you 
are no coward ? ' 

* Indeed, sir, I am not more afraid than another,' 
said Nance. 'None of my blood are given to fear.' 

' And you are honest ? ' he returned. 
' I will answer for that,' said she. 

* Well, then, to be brave, to be honest, to be kind, 
and to be contented, since you say you are so — is 
not that to fill up a great part of virtue ? ' 

i6 



MR. ARCHER IS INSTALLED 

*I fear you are but a flatterer,' said Nance, but 
she did not say it clearly, for what with be- 
wilderment and satisfaction, her heart was quite 
oppressed. 

There could be no harm, certainly, in these grave 
compliments ; but yet they charmed and frightened 
her, and to find favour, for reasons however obscure, 
in the eyes of this elegant, serious, and most un- 
fortunate young gentleman, was a giddy elevation, 
was almost an apotheosis, for a country maid. 

But she was to be no more exercised ; for Mr. 
Archer, disclaiming any thought of flattery, turned 
ofl" to other subjects, and held her all through the 
wood in conversation, addressing her with an air of 
perfect sincerity, and listening to her answers with 
every mark of interest. Had open flattery con- 
tinued, Nance would have soon found refuge in 
good sense ; but the more subtle lure she could not 
suspect, much less avoid. It was the first time she 
had ever taken part in a conversation illuminated 
by any ideas. All was then true that she had heard 
and dreamed of gentlemen ; they were a race apart, 
hke deities knowing good and evil. And then there 
burst upon her soul a divine thought, hope's glorious 
sunrise : since she could understand, since it seemed 
that she too, even she, could interest this sorrowful 
Apollo, might she not learn ? or was she not 
learning ? Would not her soul awake and put forth 
wings? Was she not, in fact, an enchanted prin- 
cess, waiting but a touch to become royal ? She 
saw herself transformed, radiantly attired, but in the 
26 — B 17 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

most exquisite taste : her face grown longer and 
more refined; her tint etherealised ; and she heard 
herself with delighted wonder talking like a book. 

Meanwhile they had arrived at where the track 
comes out above the river dell, and saw in front of 
them the castle, faintly shadowed on the night, 
covering with its broken battlements a bold projec- 
tion of the bank, and showing at the extreme end, 
where were the habitable tower and wing, some 
crevices of candle-light. Hence she called loudly 
upon her uncle, and he was seen to issue, lantern in 
hand, from the tower door, and, where the ruins did 
not intervene, to pick his way over the swarded 
courtyard, avoiding treacherous cellars and winding 
among blocks of fallen masonry. The arch of the 
great gate was still entire, flanked by two tottering 
bastions, and it was here that Jonathan met them, 
standing at the edge of the bridge, bent somewhat 
forward, and blinking at them through the glow of 
his own lantern. Mr. Archer greeted him with 
civility ; but the old man was in no humour of 
compliance. He guided the new-comer across the 
courtyard, looking sharply and quickly in his face, 
and grumbling all the time about the cold, and the 
discomfort and dilapidation of the castle. He was 
sure he hoped that Mr. Archer would like it ; but in 
truth he could not think what brought him there. 
Doubtless he had a good reason — this with a look 
of cunning scrutiny — but, indeed, the place was 
quite unfit for any person of repute ; he himself was 
eaten up with the rheumatics. It was the most 



MR. ARCHER IS INSTALLED 

rheumaticky place in England, and some fine day 
the whole habitable part (to call it habitable) would 
fetch away bodily and go down the slope into the 
river. He had seen the cracks widening ; there was 
a plaguy issue in the bank below ; he thought a 
spring was mining it ; it might be to-morrow, it 
might be next day ; but they were all sure of a 
come-down sooner or later. * And that is a poor 
death,' said he, 'for any one, let alone a gentleman, 
to have a whole old ruin dumped upon his belly. 
Have a care to your left there : these cellar vaults 
have all broke down, and the grass and hemlock 
hide 'em. Well, sir, here is welcome to you, such 
as it is, and wishing you well away.' 

And with that Jonathan ushered his guest through 
the tower door, and down three steps on the left 
hand into the kitchen or common room of the castle. 
It was a huge, low room, as large as a meadow, 
occupying the whole width of the habitable wing, 
with six barred windows looking on the court, and 
two into the river valley. A dresser, a table, and a 
few chairs stood dotted here and there upon the 
uneven flags. Under the great chimney a good fire 
burned in an iron fire-basket ; a high old settee, 
rudely carved with figures and Gothic lettering, 
flanked it on either side; there was a hinge table 
and a stone bench in the chimney corner, and above 
the arch hung guns, axes, lanterns, and great sheaves 
of rusty keys. 

Jonathan looked about him, holding up the 
lantern, and shrugged his shoulders, with a pitying 

19 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

grimace. ' Here it is,' he said. ' See the damp on 
the floor, look at the moss ; where there 's moss you 
may be sure that it's rheumaticky. Try and get 
near that fire for to warm yourself; it'll blow the 
coat off your back. And with a young gentleman 
with a face like yours, as pale as a tallow-candle, I 'd 
be afeard of a churchyard cough and a galloping 
decline,' says Jonathan, naming the maladies with 
gloomy gusto, 'or the cold might strike and turn 
your blood,' he added. 

Mr. Archer fairly laughed. ' My good Mr. Hold- 
away,' said he, ' I was born with that same tallow- 
candle face, and the only fear that you inspire me 
with is the fear that I intrude unwelcomely upon 
your private hours. But I think I can promise you 
that I am very little troublesome, and I am inclined 
to hope that the terms which I can offer may still 
pay you the derangement.' 

'Yes, the terms,' said Jonathan, 'T was thinking 
of that. As you say, they are very small,' and he 
shook his head. 

'Unhappily, I can afford no more,' said Mr. 
Archer. ' But this we have arranged already,' he 
added with a certain stiffness ; ' and as I am aware 
that Miss Holdaway has matter to communicate, I 
will, if you permit, retire at once. To-night I must 
bivouac ; to-morrow my trunk is to follow from the 
Dragon. So if you will show me to my room I shall 
wish you a good slumber and a better awakening.' 

Jonathan silently gave the lantern to Nance, and 
she, turning and curtseying in the doorway, pro- 
20 



MR. ARCHER IS INSTALLED 

ceeded to conduct their guest up the broad winding 
staircase of the tower. He followed with a very 
brooding face. 

'Alas!' cried Nance, as she entered the room, 
' your fire black out,' and, setting down the lantern, 
she clapped upon her knees before the chimney and 
began to rearrange the charred and still smouldering 
remains. Mr. Archer looked about the gaunt apart- 
ment with a sort of shudder. The great height, the 
bare stone, the shattered windows, the aspect of the 
uncurtained bed, with one of its four fluted columns 
broken short, all struck a chill upon his fancy. 
From this dismal survey his eyes returned to Nance 
crouching before the fire, the candle in one hand and 
artfully puffing at the embers ; the flames as they 
broke forth played upon the soft outline of her 
cheek — she was alive and young, coloured with the 
bright hues of life, and a woman. He looked upon 
her, softening ; and then sat down and continued to 
admire the picture. 

'There, sir,' said she, getting upon her feet, 'your 
fire is doing bravely now. Good-night.' 

He rose and held out his hand. ' Come,' said he, 
'you are my only friend in these parts, and you 
must shake hands.' 

She brushed her hand upon her skirt and offered 
it, blushing. 

' God bless you, my dear,' said he. 

And then, when he was alone, he opened one of 
the windows, and stared down into the dark valley. 
A gentle wimpling of the river among stones 

21 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

ascended to his ear ; the trees upon the other bank 
stood very black against the sky ; farther away an 
owl was hooting. It was dreary and cold, and as he 
turned back to the hearth and the fine glow of fire, 
' Heavens ! ' said he to himself, ' what an unfortunate 
destiny is mine ! ' 

He went to bed, but sleep only visited his pillow 
in uneasy snatches. Outbreaks of loud speech came 
up the staircase ; he heard the old stones of the 
castle crack in the frosty night with sharp rever- 
berations, and the bed complained under his tossings. 
Lastly, far on into the morning, he awakened from 
a doze to hear, very far off, in the extreme and 
breathless quiet, a wailing flourish on the horn. 
The down mail was drawing near to the Green 
Dragon. He sat up in bed ; the sound was tragical 
by distance, and the modulation appealed to his ear 
like human speech. It seemed to call upon him 
with a dreary insistence — ^to call him far away, to 
address him personally, and to have a meaning that 
he failed to seize. It was thus, at least, in this 
nodding castle, in a cold, miry woodland, and so far 
from men and society, that the traffic on the Great 
North Road spoke to him in the intervals of 
slumber. 

CHAPTER III 

JONATHAN HOLDAWAY 

Nance descended the tower stair, pausing at every 
step. She was in no hurry to confront her uncle 

22 



JONATHAN HOLDAWAY 

with bad news, and she must dwell a little longer on 
the rich note of Mr. Archer's voice, the charm of 
his kind words, and the beauty of his manner and 
person. But, once at the stair-foot, she threw aside 
the spell and recovered her sensible and workaday 
self 

Jonathan was seated in the middle of the settle, a 
mug of ale beside him, in the attitude of one pre- 
pared for trouble; but he did not speak, and 
suffered her to fetch her supper and eat of it, with a 
very excellent appetite, in silence. When she had 
done, she, too, drew a tankard of home-brewed, and 
came and planted herself in front of him upon the 
settle. 

'Well?' said Jonathan. 

* My Lord has run away,' said Nance. 

' What ? ' cried the old man. 

'Abroad,' she continued ; ' run away from creditors. 
He said he had not a stiver, but he was drunk 
enough. He said you might live on in the castle, 
and Mr. Archer would pay you ; but you was to 
look for no more wages, since he would be glad of 
them himself.' 

Jonathan's face contracted ; the flush of a black, 
bilious anger mounted to the roots of his hair ; he 
gave an inarticulate cry, leapt upon his feet, and 
began rapidly pacing the stone floor. At first he 
kept his hands behind his back in a tight knot ; then 
he began to gesticulate as he turned. 

' This man — this Lord,' he shouted, ' who is he ? 
He was born with a gold spoon in his mouth, and I 

23 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Avith a dirty straw. He rolled in his coach when he 
was a baby. I have dug and toiled and laboured 
since I was that high — that high.' And he shouted 
again. ' I 'm bent and broke, and full of pains. 
D'ye think I don't know the taste of sweat? 
Many 's the gallon I 've drunk of it — ay, in the 
midwinter, toiling like a slave. All through, what 
has my life been ? Bend, bend, bend my old creak- 
ing back till it would ache like breaking; wade 
about in the foul mire, never a dry stitch ; empty 
belly, sore hands, hat off to my Lord Redface ; kicks 
and ha'pence ; and now, here, at the hind end, when 
I 'm worn to my poor bones, a kick and done with 
it.' He walked a little while in silence, and then, 
extending his hand, ' Now, you Nance Holdaway,' 
says he, ' you come of my blood, and you 're a good 
girl. When that man was a boy, I used to carry 
his gun for him. I carried the gun all day on my 
two feet, and many a stitch I had, and chewed a 
bullet for. He rode upon a horse, with feathers in 
his hat ; but it was him that had the shots and took 
the game home. Did I complain ? Not I. I 
knew my station. What did I ask, but just the 
chance to live and die honest ? Nance Holdaway, 
don't let them deny it to me — don't let them do it. 
I 've been as poor as Job, and as honest as the day, 
but now, my girl, you mark these words of mine, 
I 'm getting tired of it.' 

' I wouldn't say such words, at least,' said Nance. 

' You wouldn't ?' said the old man grimly. ' Well, 
and did I when I was your age ? Wait till your 
24 



JONATHAN HOLDAWAY 

back 's broke and your hands tremble, and your eyes 
fail, and you 're weary of the battle and ask no more 
but to lie down in your bed and give the ghost up 
like an honest man ; and then let there up and come 
some insolent, ungodly fellow — ah ! if I had him in 
these hands ! " Where 's my money that you 
gambled?" I should say. "Where's my money 
that you drank and diced?" "Thief!' is what I 
would say; "Thief!"' he roared, '"Thief!"' 

* Mr. Archer will hear you if you don't take care,' 
said Nance, ' and I would be ashamed, for one, that 
he should hear a brave, old, honest, hard-working 
man like Jonathan Holdaway talk nonsense like a 
boy.' 

*D'ye think I mind for Mr. Archer?' he cried 
shrilly, with a clack of laughter ; and then he came 
close up to her, stooped down with his two palms 
upon his knees, and looked her in the eyes, with a 
strange hard expression, something like a smile. 
'Do I mind for God, my girl?' he said, 'that's 
what it 's come to be now, do I mind for God ? ' 

' Uncle Jonathan,' she said, getting up and taking 
him by the arm ; ' you sit down again, where you 
were sitting. There, sit still ; I '11 have no more of 
this ; you '11 do yourself a mischief Come, take a 
drink of this good ale, and I '11 warm a tankard for 
you. La, well ; we '11 pull through, you '11 see. 
I 'm young, as you say, and it 's my turn to carry 
the bundle ; and don't you worry your bile, or we '11 
have sickness, too, as well as sorrow.' 

'D'ye think that I'd forgotten you?' said 

25 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Jonathan, with something like a groan ; and there- 
upon his teeth clicked to, and he sat silent with the 
tankard in his hand and staring straight before 
him. 

'Why,' says Nance, setting on the ale to mull, 
* men are always children, they say, however old ; 
and if ever I heard a thing like this, to set to and 
make yourself sick, just when the money 's failing. 
Keep a good heart up ; you haven't kept a good 
heart these seventy years, nigh hand, to break down 
about a pound or two. Here 's this Mr. Archer 
come to lodge, that you disliked so much. Well, 
now you see it was a clear Providence. Come, let 's 
think upon our mercies. And here is the ale mull- 
ing lovely ; smell of it ; I '11 take a drop myself, it 
smells so sweet. And, Uncle Jonathan, you let me 
say one word. You Ve lost more than money before 
now; you lost my aunt, and bore it like a man. 
Bear this.' 

His face once more contracted ; his fist doubled, 
and shot forth into the air, and trembled. ' Let 
them look out !' he shouted. ' Here, I warn all men ; 
I 've done with this foul kennel of knaves. Let 
them look out' 

* Hush, hush ! for pity's sake,' cried Nance. 

And then all of a sudden he dropped his face into 
his hands, and broke out with a m-eat hiccouffhins: 
dry sob that was horrible to hear. 'O,' he cried, 
' my God, if my son hadn't left me, if my Dick was 
here !' and the sobs shook him ; Nance sitting still 
and watching him, with distress. *0, if he were 
26 



JONATHAN HOLDAWAY 

here to help his father I' lie went on again. ' If I 
had a son like other fathers, he would save me now, 
when all is breaking down ; O, he would save me ! 
Ay, but where is he ? Raking taverns, a thief per- 
haps. My curse be on him !' he added, rising again 
into wrath. 

' Hush !' cried Nance, springing to her feet : * your 
boy, your dead wife's boy — Aunt Susan's baby that 
she loved — would you curse him ? O, God forbid !' 

The energy of her address surprised him from his 
mood. He looked upon her, tearless and confused. 
' Let me go to my bed,' he said at last, and he rose, 
and, shaking as with ague, but quite silent, lighted 
his candle, and left the kitchen. 

Poor Nance ! the pleasant current of her dreams 
was all diverted. She beheld a golden city, where 
she aspired to dwell ; she had spoken with a deity, 
and had told herself that she might rise to be his 
equal ; and now the earthly ligaments that bound 
her down had been tightened. She was like a tree 
looking skyward, her roots were in the ground. It 
seemed to her a thing so coarse, so rustic, to be thus 
concerned about a loss in money ; when IMr. Archer, 
fallen from the sky-level of counts and nobles, faced 
his changed destiny with so immovable a courage. 
To weary of honesty ; that, at least, no one could 
do, but even to name it was already a disgrace ; and 
she beheld in fancy her uncle, and the young lad, all 
laced and feathered, hand upon hip, bestriding his 
small horse. The opposition seemed to perpetuate 
itself from generation to generation ; one side still 

27 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

doomed to the clumsy and the servile, the other 
born to beauty. 

She thought of the golden zones in which gentle- 
men were bred, and figured with so excellent a 
grace; zones in which wisdom and smooth words, 
white linen and slim hands, were the mark of the 
desired inhabitants ; where low temptations were 
unknown, and honesty no virtue, but a thing as 
natural as breathing. 



CHAPTER IV 

MINGLING THREADS 

It was nearly seven before Mr. Archer left his apart- 
ment. On the landing he found another door beside 
his own opening on a roofless corridor, and presently 
he was walking on the top of the ruins. On one 
hand he could look down a good depth into the 
green courtyard ; on the other his eye roved along 
the downward course of the river, the wet woods 
all smoking, the shadows long and blue, the mists 
golden and rosy in the sun, here and there the water 
flashing across an obstacle. His heart expanded and 
softened to a grateful melancholy, and with his eye 
fixed upon the distance, and no thought of present 
danger, he continued to stroll along the elevated and 
treacherous promenade. 

A terror-stricken cry rose to him from the court- 
yard. He looked down, and saw in a glimpse Nance 
standing below with hands clasped in horror and his 
28 



MINGLING THREADS 

own foot trembling on the margin of a gulf. He 
recoiled and leant against a pillar, quaking from head 
to foot, and covering his face with his hands ; and 
Nance had time to run round by the stair and rejoin 
him where he stood before he had changed a line of 
his position. 

* Ah ! ' he cried, and clutched her wrist ; ' don't 
leave me. The place rocks; I have no head for 
altitudes.' 

' Sit down against that pillar,' said Nance. ' Don't 
you be afraid ; I won't leave you, and don't look up 
or down : look straight at me. How white you are !' 

' The gulf,' he said, and closed his eyes again and 
shuddered. 

*Why,' said Nance, *what a poor climber you 
must be ! That was where my cousin Dick used to 
get out of the castle after Uncle Jonathan had shut 
the gate. I 've been down there myself with him 
helping me. I wouldn't try with you,' she said, and 
laughed merrily. 

The sound of her laughter was sincere and musical, 
and perhaps its beauty barbed the offence to Mr. 
Archer. The blood came into his face with a quick 
jet, and then left it paler than before. * It is a 
physical weakness,' he said harshly, * and very droll, 
no doubt, but one that I can conquer on necessity. 
See, I am still shaking. Well, I advance to the 
battlements and look down. Show me your cousin's 
path.' 

' He would go sure-foot along that little ledge,' 
said Nance, pointing as she spoke ; * then out through 

29 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

the breach and down by yonder buttress. It is 
easier coming back, of course, because you see where 
you are going. From the buttress foot a sheep-walk 
goes along the scarp — see, you can follow it from 
here in the dry grass. And now, sir,' she added, 
with a touch of womanly pity, ' I would come away 
from here if I were you, for indeed you are not fit.' 

Sure enough Mr. Archer's pallor and agitation had 
continued to increase ; his cheeks were deathly, his 
clenched fingers trembled pitifully. ' The weakness 
is physical,' he sighed, and had nearly fallen. Nance 
led him from the spot, and he was no sooner back in 
the tower-stair, than he fell heavily against the wall 
and put his arm across his eyes. A cup of brandy 
had to be brought him before he could descend 
to breakfast ; and the perfection of Nance's dream 
was for the first time troubled. 

Jonathan was waiting for them at table, with 
yellow, blood-shot eyes and a peculiar dusky com- 
plexion. He hardly waited till they found their 
seats, before, raising one hand, and stooping with his 
mouth above his plate, he put up a prayer for a 
blessing on the food and a spirit of gratitude in the 
eaters, and thereupon, and without more civility, 
fell to. But it was notable that he was no less 
speedily satisfied than he had been greedy to begin. 
He pushed his plate away and drummed upon the 
table. 

' These are silly prayers,' said he, ' that they teach 
us. Eat and be thankful, that's no such wonder. 
Speak to me of starving — there 's the touch. You 're 
30 



MINGLING THREADS 

a man, they tell me, Mr. Archer, that has met with 
some reverses V 

' I have met with many,' replied Mr. Archer. 

'Ha!' said Jonathan. 'None reckons but the 
last. Now, see ; I tried to make this girl here 
understand me.' 

' Uncle,' said Nance, ' what should Mr. Archer 
care for your concerns? He hath troubles of his 
own, and came to be at peace, I think.' 

' I tried to make her understand me,' repeated 
Jonathan doggedly ; ' and now I '11 try you. Do 
you think this world is fair ?' 

' Fair and false !' quoth Mr. Archer. 

The old man laughed immoderately. ' Good,' said 
he, ' very good, but what I mean is this : do you 
know what it is to get up early and go to bed late, 
and never take so much as a holiday but four : and 
one of these your own marriage day, and the other 
three the funerals of folk you loved, and all that, to 
have a quiet old age in shelter, and bread for your 
old belly, and a bed to lay your crazy bones upon, 
with a clear conscience?' 

'Sir,' said Mr. Archer with an inclination of his 
head, ' you portray a very brave existence.' 

' Well,' continued Jonathan, ' and in the end 
thieves deceive you, thieves rob and rook you, 
thieves turn you out in your old age and send you 
begging. What have you got for all your honesty ? 
A fine return ! You that might have stole scores of 
pounds, there you are out in the rain with your 
rheumatics !' 

31 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Mr. Archer had forgotten to eat ; with his hand 
upon his chin he was studying the old man's coun- 
tenance. 'And you conclude?' he asked. 

'Conclude!' cried Jonathan. 'I conclude I'll be 
upsides with them.' 

'Ay,' said the other, 'we are all tempted to 
revenge.' 

' You have lost money V asked Jonathan. 

' A great estate,' said Archer quietly. 

' See now !' says Jonathan, ' and where is it ?' 

' Nay, I sometimes think that every one has had 
his share of it but me,' was the reply. ' All England 
hath paid his taxes with my patrimony : I was a 
sheep that left my wool on every briar.' 

'And you sit down under that?' cried the old 
man. ' Come now, Mr. Archer, you and me belong 
to different stations ? and I know mine — no man 
better, — but since we have both been rooked, and are 
both sore with it, why, here 's my hand with a very 
good heart, and I ask for yours, and no offence, I 
hope.' 

' There is surely no offence, my friend,' returned 
Mr. Archer, as they shook hands across the table ; 
' for, beheve me, my sympathies are quite acquired 
to you. This life is an arena where we fight with 
beasts ; and, indeed,' he added, sighing, ' I sometimes 
marvel why we go down to it unarmed.' 

In the meanwhile a creaking of ungreased axles 

had been heard descending through the wood ; and 

presently after the door opened, and the tall ostler 

entered the kitchen carrying one end of Mr. Archer's 

32 



MINGLING THREADS 

trunk. The other was carried by an aged beggar 
man of that district, known and welcome for some 
twenty miles about under the name of' Old Cumber- 
land.' Each was soon perched upon a settle, with a 
cup of ale ; and the ostler, who valued himself upon 
his affability, began to entertain the company, still 
with half an eye on Nance, to whom in gallant terms 
he expressly dedicated every sip of ale. First he told 
of the trouble they had to get his Lordship started 
in the chaise ; and how he had dropped a rouleau of 
gold on the threshold, and the passage and doorstep 
had been strewn with guinea-pieces. At this old 
Jonathan looked at Mr. Archer. Next the visitor 
turned to news of a more thrilling character : how 
the down mail had been stopped again near Gran- 
tham by three men on horseback — a white and two 
bays ; how they had handkerchiefs on their faces ; 
how Tom the guard's blunderbuss missed fire, but 
he swore he had winged one of them with a pistol ; 
and how they had got clean away with seventy 
pounds in money, some valuable papers, and a watch 
or two. 

' Brave ! brave ! ' cried Jonathan in ecstasy. 
' Seventy pounds ! O, it 's brave !' 

' Well, I don't see the great bravery,' observed the 
ostler, misapprehending him, ' Three men, and you 
may call that three to one. I '11 call it brave when 
some one stops the mail single-handed ; that 's a risk.' 

'And why should they hesitate?' inquired Mr. 
Archer. ' The poor souls who are fallen to such a 
way of life, pray what have they to lose ? If they 
26— c 33 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

get the money, well ; but if a ball should put them 
from their troubles, why, so better.' 

' Well, sir,' said the ostler, ' I believe you '11 find 
they won't agree with you. They count on a good 
fling, you see ; or who would risk it ? — And here 's 
my best respects to you, Miss Nance.' 

'And I forgot the part of cowardice,' resumed 
Mr. Archer. * All men fear.' 

' O, surely not ! ' cried Nance. 

'All men,' reiterated Mr. Archer. 

' Ay, that 's a true word,' observed Old Cumber- 
land, 'and a thief, anyway, for it's a coward's trade.' 

'But these fellows, now,' said Jonathan, with a 
curious, appealing manner — ' these fellows with their 
seventy pounds ! Perhaps, Mr. Archer, they were 
no true thieves after all, but just people who had 
been robbed and tried to get their own again. What 
was that you said, about all England and the taxes ? 
One takes, another gives ; why, that 's almost fair. 
If I 've been rooked and robbed, and the coat taken 
off my back, I call it almost fair to take another's.' 

' Ask Old Cumberland,' observed the ostler ; ' you 
ask Old Cumberland, Miss Nance I ' and he bestowed 
a wink upon his favoured fair one. 

' Why that ? ' asked Jonathan. 

' He had his coat taken — ay, and his shirt too,' 
returned the ostler. 

' Is that so ? ' cried Jonathan eagerly. ' Was you 
robbed too ? ' 

' That was I,' replied Cumberland, ' with a warrant! 
I was a well-to-do man when I was young.' 
34 



MINGLING THREADS 

* Ay ! See that ! ' says Jonathan. * And you 
don't long for a revenge ? ' 

' Eh ! Not me !' answered the beggar. ' It 's too 
long ago. But if you'll give me another mug of 
your good ale, my pretty lady, I won't say no to 
that.' 

' And shalt have ! And shalt have ! ' cried Jona- 
than. ' Or brandy even, if you like it better.' 

And as Cumberland did like it better, and the 
ostler chimed in, the party pledged each other in a 
dram of brandy before separating. 

As for Nance, she slipped forth into the ruins, 
partly to avoid the ostler's gallantries, partly to 
lament over the defects of Mr. Archer. Plainly, he 
was no hero. She pitied him ; she began to feel a 
protecting interest mingle with and almost supersede 
her admiration, and was at the same time disappointed 
and yet drawn to him. She was, indeed, conscious 
of such unshaken fortitude in her own heart, that 
she was almost tempted by an occasion to be bold 
for two. She saw herself, in a brave attitude, shield- 
ing her imperfect hero from the world; and she 
saw, like a piece of Heaven, his gratitude for her 
protection. 



CHAPTER V 

LIFE IN THE CASTLE 

From that day forth the life of these three persons 
in the ruin ran very smoothly. Mr. Archer now sat 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

by the fire with a book, and now passed whole days 
abroad, returning late, dead weary. His manner 
was a mask ; but it was half transparent ; through 
the even tenor of his gravity and courtesy profound 
revolutions of feeling were betrayed, seasons of numb 
despair, of restlessness, of aching temper. For days 
he would say nothing beyond his usual courtesies 
and solemn compliments ; and then, all of a sudden, 
some fine evening beside the kitchen fire, he would 
fall into a vein of elegant gossip, tell of strange and 
interesting events, the secrets of families, brave deeds 
of war, the miraculous discovery of crime, the visita- 
tions of the dead. Nance and her uncle would sit 
till the small hours with eyes wide open : Jonathan 
applauding the unexpected incidents with many a 
slap of his big hand ; Nance, perhaps, more pleased 
with the narrator's eloquence and wise reflections ; 
and then, again, days would follow of abstraction, of 
listless humming, of frequent apologies and long 
hours of silence. Once only, and then after a week 
of unrelieved melancholy, he went over to the Green 
Dragon, spent the afternoon with the landlord and 
a bowl of punch, and returned as on the first night, 
devious in step but courteous and unperturbed of 
speech. 

If he seemed more natural and more at his ease it 
was when he found Nance alone ; and, laying by 
some of his reserve, talked before her rather than to 
her of his destiny, character, and hopes. To Nance 
these interviews were but a doubtful privilege. At 
times he would seem to take a pleasure in her 
36 



LIFE IN THE CASTLE 

presence, to consult her gravely, to hear and to dis- 
cuss her counsels ; at times even, but these were 
rare and brief, he would talk of herself, praise the 
qualities that she possessed, touch indulgently on her 
defects, and lend her books to read and even examine 
her upon her reading ; but far more often he would 
fall into a half unconsciousness, put her a question 
and then answer it himself, drop into the veiled 
tone of voice of one soliloquising, and leave her at 
last as though he had forgotten her existence. It 
was odd, too, that in all this random converse, not a 
fact of his past life, and scarce a name, should ever 
cross. his lips. A profound reserve kept watch upon 
his most unguarded moments. He spoke continu- 
ally of himself, indeed, but still in enigmas ; a veiled 
prophet of egoism. 

The base of Nance's feelings for Mr. Archer was 
admiration as for a superior being ; and with this, 
his treatment, consciously or not, accorded happily. 
When he forgot her, she took the blame upon her- 
self. His formal politeness was so exquisite that 
this essential brutality stood excused. His compli- 
ments, besides, were always grave and rational ; he 
would offer reason for his praise, convict her of 
merit, and thus disarm suspicion. Nay, and the 
very hours when he forgot and remembered her 
alternately could by the ardent fallacies of youth be 
read in the light of an attention. She might be far 
from his confidence ; but still she was nearer it than 
any one. He might ignore her presence, but yet he 
sought it. 

Z1 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Moreover, she, upon her side, was conscious of 
one point of superiority. Beside this rather dismal, 
rather effeminate man, who recoiled from a worm, 
who grew giddy on the castle wall, who bore so 
helplessly the weight of his misfortunes, she felt 
herself a head and shoulders taller in cheerful and 
sterling courage. She could walk head in air along 
the most precarious rafter ; her hand feared neither 
the grossness nor the harshness of life's web, but was 
thrust cheerfully, if need were, into the briar bush, 
and could take hold of any crawling horror. Ruin 
was mining the walls of her cottage, as already it had 
mined and subverted Mr. Archer's palace. Well, 
she faced it with a bright countenance and a busy 
hand. She had got some washing, some rough 
seamstress work from the Green Dragon, and from 
another neighbour ten miles away across the moor. 
At this she cheerfully laboured, and from that height 
she could afford to pity the useless talents and poor 
attitude of Mr. Archer. It did not change her 
admiration, but it made it bearable. He was above 
her in all ways ; but she was above him in one. She 
kept it to herself, and hugged it. When, like all 
young creatures, she made long stories to justify, to 
nourish, and to forecast the course of her affection, 
it was this private superiority that made all rosy, 
that cut the knot, and that, at last, in some great 
situation, fetched to her knees the dazzling but 
imperfect hero. With this pretty exercise she 
beguiled the hours of labour, and consoled herself 
for Mr. Archer's bearing. Pity was her weapon and 
38 



LIFE IN THE CASTLE 

her weakness. To accept the loved one's faults, 
although it has an air of freedom, is to kiss the 
chain, and this pity it was which, lying nearer to her 
heart, lent the one element of true emotion to a 
fanciful and merely brain-sick love. 

Thus it fell out one day that she had gone to the 
Green Dragon and brought back thence a letter 
to Mr. Archer. He, upon seeing it, winced like 
a man under the knife : pain, shame, sorrow, and 
the most trenchant edge of mortification cut into 
his heart and wrung the steady composure of his 
face. 

* Dear heart ! have you bad news ? ' she cried. 

But he only replied by a gesture and fled to his 
room, and when, later on, she ventured to refer to 
it, he stopped her on the threshold, as if with words 
prepared beforehand. * There are some pains,' said 
he, ' too acute for consolation, or I would bring them 
to my kind consoler. Let the memory of that letter, 
if you please, be buried.' And then as she continued 
to gaze at him, being, in spite of herself, pained by 
his elaborate phrase, doubtfully sincere in word and 
manner : ' Let it be enough,' he added haughtily, 
'that if this matter wring my heart, it doth not 
touch my conscience. I am a man, I would have 
you to know, who suffers undeservedly.' 

He had never spoken so directly : never with so 
convincing an emotion ; and her heart thrilled for 
him. She could have taken his pains and died of 
them with joy. 

Meanwhile she was left without support. Jona- 

39 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

than now swore by his lodger, and hved for him. 
He was a fine talker. He knew the finest sight of 
stories ; he was a man and a gentleman, take him 
for all in all, and a perfect credit to Old England. 
Such were the old man's declared sentiments, and 
sure enough he .clung to Mr. Archer's side, hung 
upon his utterance when he spoke, and watched him 
with unwearying interest when he was silent. And 
yet his feeling was not clear ; in the partial wreck of 
his mind, which was leaning to decay, some after- 
thought was strongly present. As he gazed in Mr. 
Archer's face a sudden brightness would kindle in 
his rheumy eyes, his eyebrows would lift as with a 
sudden thought, his mouth would open as though 
to speak, and close again on silence. Once or twice 
he even called Mr. Archer mysteriously forth into 
the dark courtyard, took him by the button, and 
laid a demonstrative finger on his chest ; but there 
his ideas or his courage failed him ; he would 
shufflingly excuse himself and return to his posi- 
tion by the fire without a word of explanation. 
'The good man was growing old,' said Mr. Archer 
with a suspicion of a shrug. But the good man 
had his idea, and even Avhen he was alone the 
name of IMr. Archer fell from his lips continually 
in the course of mumbled and gesticulative conver- 
sation. 



40 



THE BAD HALF-CROWN 
CHAPTER VI 

THE BAD HALF-CROWN 

However early Nance arose, and she was no 
sluggard, the old man, who had begun to outlive the 
earthly habit of slumber, would usually have been 
up long before, the fire would be burning brightly, 
and she would see him wandering among the ruins, 
lantern in hand, and talking assiduously to himself. 
One day, however, after he had returned late from 
the market town, she found that she had stolen 
a march upon that indefatigable early riser. The 
kitchen was all blackness. She crossed the castle- 
yard to the wood- cellar, her steps printing the 
thick hoar-frost. A scathing breeze blew out of the 
north-east and slowly carried a regiment of black 
and tattered clouds over the face of heaven, which 
was already kindled with the wild light of morning, 
but where she walked, in shelter of the ruins, the 
flame of her candle burned steady. The extreme 
cold smote upon her conscience. She could not 
bear to think this bitter business fell usually to the 
lot of one so old as Jonathan, and made desperate 
resolutions to be earlier in the future. 

The fire was a good blaze before he entered, limp- 
ing dismally into the kitchen. ' Nance,' said he, ' I 
be all knotted up with the rheumatics ; will you rub 
me a bit ? ' She came and rubbed him where and 
how he bade her. 'This is a cruel thing that old 

41 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

age should be rheumaticky,' said he. * When I was 
young I stood my turn of the teethache like a man ! 
for why ? because it couldn't last for ever ; but 
these rheumatics come to live and die with you. 
Your aunt was took before the time came ; never 
had an ache to mention. Now I lie all night in my 
single bed and the blood never warms in me ; this 
knee of mine it seems like lighted up with rheu- 
matics ; it seems as though you could see to sew by 
it ; and all the strings of my old body ache, as if 
devils was pulling 'em. Thank you kindly ; that 's 
someways easier now, but an old man, my dear, has 
little to look for ; it 's pain, pain, pain to the end of 
the business, and I '11 never be rightly warm again 
till I get under the sod,' he said, and looked down 
at her with a face so aged and weary that she had 
nearly wept. 

' I lay awake all night,' he continued ; ' I do so 
mostly, and a long walk kills me. Eh, deary me, to 
think that life should run to such a puddle ! And I 
remember long syne when I was strong, and the 
blood all hot and good about me, and I loved to run, 
too — deary me, to run ! Well, that 's all by. You 'd 
better pray to be took early, Nance, and not live on 
till you get to be like me, and are robbed in your 
grey old age, your cold, shivering, dark old age, 
that 's like a winter's morning ' ; and he bitterly 
shuddered, spreading his hands before the fire. 

' Come now,' said Nance, * the more you say the 
less you '11 like it, Uncle Jonathan ; but if I were 
you I would be proud for to have lived all your days 
42 



THE BAD HALF-CROWN 

honest and beloved, and come near the end with 
your good name : isn't that a fine thing to be proud 
of? Mr. Archer was telhng me in some strange 
land they used to run races each with a lighted 
candle, and the art was to keep the candle burning. 
Well, now, I thought that was like life : a man's 
good conscience is the flame he gets to carry, and if 
he comes to the winning-post Avith that still burning, 
why, take it how you will, the man 's a hero — even 
if he was low-born like you and me.' 

'Did Mr. Archer tell you that?' asked Jonathan. 

*No, dear,' said she, 'that's my own thought 
about it. He told me of the race. But see, now,' 
she continued, putting on the porridge, ' you say old 
age is a hard season, but so is youth. You 're half 
out of the battle, I would say ; you loved my aunt 
and got her, and buried her, and some of these days 
soon you '11 go to meet her ; and take her my love 
and tell her I tried to take good care of you ; for so 
I do. Uncle Jonathan.' 

Jonathan struck with his fist upon the settle. 
'D'ye think I want to die, ye vixen !' he shouted. 
' I want to live ten hundred years.' 

This was a mystery beyond Nance's penetration, 
and she stared in wonder as she made the porridge. 

' I want to live,' he continued, ' I want to live and 
to grow rich. I want to drive my carriage and to 
dice in hells and see the ring, I do. Is this a life 
that I lived ? I want to be a rake, d' ye understand ? 
I want to know what things are like. I don't want 
to die like a blind kitten, and me seventy-six.' 

43 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

* O fie ! ' said Nance. 

The old man thrust out his jaw at her, with the 
grimace of an irreverent schoolboy. Upon that aged 
face it seemed a blasphemy. Then he took out 
of his bosom a long leather purse, and emptying its 
contents on the settle, began to count and recount 
the pieces, ringing and examining each, and suddenly 
he leapt like a young man. ' What ! ' he screamed. 
' Bad ? O Lord ! I 'm robbed again ! ' And falling 
on his knees before the settle he began to pour forth 
the most dreadful curses on the head of his deceiver. 
His eyes were shut, for to him this vile solemnity 
was prayer. He held up the bad half-crown in his 
right hand, as though he were displaying it to 
Heaven, and what increased the horror of the scene, 
the curses he invoked were those whose efficacy he 
had tasted — old age and poverty, rheumatism and 
an ungrateful son. Nance listened appalled ; then 
she sprang forward and dragged down his arm and 
laid her hand upon his mouth. 

' Whist ! ' she cried. ' Whist ye, for God's sake ! 
O my man, whist ye ! If Heaven were to hear ; if 
poor Aunt Susan were to hear! Think, she may 
be listening.' And with the histrionism of strong 
emotion she pointed to a corner of the kitchen. 

His eyes followed her finger. He looked there 
for a little, thinking, blinking ; then he got stiffly to 
his feet and resumed his place upon the settle, the 
bad piece still in his hand. So he sat for some time, 
looking upon the half-crown, and now wondering 
to himself on the injustice and partiality of the law, 
44 



THE BAD HALF-CROWN 

now computing again and again the nature of his 
loss. So he was still sitting when Mr. Archer 
entered the kitchen. At this a light came into his 
face, and after some seconds of rumination he de- 
spatched Nance upon an errand. 

'Mr. Archer,' said he, as soon as they were alone 
together, 'would you give me a guinea-piece for 
silver ? ' 

' Why, sir, I believe I can,' said Mr. Archer. 
And the exchange was just effected when Nance 
re-entered the apartment. The blood shot into her 
face. 

' What 's to do here ? ' she asked rudely. 
'Nothing, my dearie,' said old Jonathan, with a 
touch of whine. 

' What 's to do ? ' she said again. 
' Your uncle was but changing me a piece of gold,' 
returned Mr. Archer. 

' Let me see what he hath given you, Mr. Archer,' 
replied the girl. ' I had a bad piece, and I fear it is 
mixed up among the good.' 

' Well, well,' replied Mr. Archer, smiling, ' I must 
take the merchant's risk of it. The money is now 
mixed.' 

' I know my piece,' quoth Nance. ' Come, let 
me see your silver, Mr. Archer. If I have to get 
it by a theft I '11 see that money,' she cried. 

'Nay, child, if you put as much passion to be 
honest as the world to steal, I must give way, though 
I betray myself,' said Mr. Archer. ' There it is as I 
received it.' 

45 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Nance quicldy found the bad half-crown. 

* Give hhn another,' she said, looking Jonathan in 
the face ; and when that had been done, she walked 
over to the chimney and flung the guilty piece into 
the reddest of the fire. Its base constituents began 
immediately to run ; even as she watched it the disc 
crumbled, and the lineaments of the King became 
confused. Jonathan, who had followed close behind, 
beheld these changes from over her shoulder, and his 
face darkened sorely. 

'Now,' said she, 'come back to table, and to-day 
it is I that shall say grace, as I used to do in the 
old times, day about with Dick ' ; and covering her 
eyes with one hand, 'O Lord,' said she with deep 
emotion, ' make us thankful ; and, O Lord, deliver 
us from evil ! For the love of the poor souls that 
watch for us in heaven, O deliver us from evil.' 



CHAPTER VII 
THE BLEACHING-GREEX 

The year moved on to March ; and March, though 
it blew bitter keen from the North Sea, yet blinked 
kindly between whiles on the river dell. The mire 
dried up in the closest covert ; life ran in the bare 
branches, and the air of the afternoon would be 
suddenly sweet with the fragrance of new grass. 

Above and below the castle the river crooked like 
the letter ' S.' The lower loop was to the left, and 
46 



THE BLEACHING-GREEN 

embraced the high and steep projection which was 
crowned by the ruins ; the upper loop enclosed a 
lawny promontory, fringed by thorn and willow. 
It was easy to reach it from the castle side, for the 
river ran in this part very quietly among innumer- 
able boulders and over dam-like walls of rock. The 
place was all enclosed, the wind a stranger, the turf 
smooth and solid ; so it was chosen by Nance to be 
her bleaching-green. 

One day she brought a bucketful of linen, and 
had but begun to wring and lay them out when Mr. 
Archer stepped from the thicket on the far side, 
drew very deliberately near, and sat down in silence 
on the grass. Nance looked up to greet him with a 
smile, but finding her smile was not returned, she 
fell into embarrassment and stuck the more busily 
to her employment. Man or woman, the whole 
world looks well at any work to which they are 
accustomed ; but the girl was ashamed of what she 
did. She was ashamed, besides, of the sun-bonnet 
that so well became her, and ashamed of her bare 
arms, which were her greatest beauty. 

' Nausicaa,' said Mr. Archer at last, ' I find you 
like Nausicaa.' 

' And who was she ? ' asked Nance, and laughed 
in spite of herself, an empty and embarrassed laugh, 
that sounded in Mr. Archer's ears, indeed, like music, 
but to her own like the last grossness of rusticity. 

'She was a princess of the Grecian islands,' he 
replied. 'A king, being shipwrecked, found her 
washing by the shore. Certainly I, too, was ship- 

47 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

wrecked,' he continued, plucking at the grass. 'There 
was never a more desperate castaway — to fall from 
polite life, fortune, a shrine of honour, a grateful 
conscience, duties willingly taken up and faithfully 
discharged; and to fall to this — idleness, poverty, 
inutility, remorse.' He seemed to have forgotten 
her presence, but here he remembered her again. 
' Nance,' said he, ' would you have a man sit down 
and suffer or rise up and strive?' 

* Nay,' she said. ' I would always rather see him 
doing.' 

* Ha ! ' said Mr. Archer, ' but yet you speak from 
an imperfect knowledge. Conceive a man damned 
to a choice of only evil — misconduct upon either 
side, not a fault behind him, and yet naught before 
him but this choice of sins. How would you say 
then ? ' 

'I would say that he was much deceived, Mr. 
Archer,' returned Nance. ' I would say there was 
a third choice, and that the right one.' 

' I tell you,' said Mr. Archer, ' the man I have in 
view hath two ways open, and no more. One to 
wait, like a poor mewling baby, till Fate save or 
ruin him ; the other to take his troubles in his hand, 
and to perish or be saved at once. It is no point of 
morals ; both are wrong. Either way this step-child 
of Providence must fall ; which shall he choose, by 
doing or not doing ? ' 

' Fall, then, is what I would say,' replied Nance. 
' Fall where you will, but do it ! For O, Mr. 
Archer,' she continued, stooping to her work, 'you 
48 



THE BLEACHING-GREEN 

that are good and kind, and so wise, it doth some- 
times go against my heart to see you live on 
here like a sheep in a turnip-field ! If you were 

braver ' and here she paused, conscience-smitten. 

*Do I, indeed, lack courage?' inquired Mr. 
Archer of himself. ' Courage, the footstool of the 
virtues, upon which they stand? Courage, that a 
poor private carrying a musket has to spare of; that 
does not fail a weasel or a rat ; that is a brutish 
faculty? I to fail there, I wonder? But what is 
courage, then ? The constancy to endure oneself or 
to see others suffer ? The itch of ill-advised activity : 
mere shuttle- wittedness, or to be still and patient ? 
To inquire of the significance of words is to rob 
ourselves of what we seem to know, and yet, of all 
things, certainly to stand still is the least heroic. 
Nance,' he said, * did you ever hear of Hamlet ? ' 

* Never,' said Nance. 

*'Tis an old play,' returned Mr. Archer, *and 
frequently enacted. This while I have been talking 
Hamlet. You must know this Hamlet was a Prince 
among the Danes,' and he told her the play in a 
very good style, here and there quoting a verse or 
two with solemn emphasis. 

' It is strange,' said Nance ; ' he was then a very 
poor creature ? ' 

* That was what he could not tell,' said Mr. Archer. 
* Look at me, am I as poor a creature ? ' 

She looked, and what she saw was the familiar 
thought of all her hours ; the tall figure very plainly 
habited in black, the spotless ruffles, the slim hands ; 
26— D 49 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

the long, well-shapen, serious, shaven face, the wide 
and somewhat thin-lipped mouth, the dark eyes that 
were so full of depth and change and colour. He 
was gazing at her with his brows a little knit, his 
chin upon one hand and that elbow resting on his 
knee. 

'Ye look a man!' she cried, 'ay, and should be 
a great one ! The more shame to you to lie here 
idle like a dog before the fire.' 

' My fair Holdaway,' quoth Mr. Archer, ' you are 
much set on action. I cannot dig, to beg I am 
ashamed.' He continued, looking at her with a 
half-absent fixity, ' 'Tis a strange thing, certainly, 
that in my years of fortune I should never taste 
happiness, and now when I am broke, enjoy so much 
of it, for was I ever happier than to-day? Was 
the grass softer, the stream pleasanter in sound, the 
air milder, the heart more at peace ? Why should I 
not sink ? To dig — why, after all, it should be easy. 
To take a mate, too ? Love is of all grades since 
Jupiter ; love fails to none ; and children ' — but here 
he passed his hand suddenly over his eyes. ' O 
fool and coward, fool and coward !' he said bitterly ; 
' can you forget your fetters ? You did not know 
that I was fettered, Nance?' he asked, again 
addressing her. 

But Nance was somewhat sore. 'I know you 
keep talking,' she said, and, turning half away from 
him, began to wring out a sheet across her shoulder. 
' I wonder you are not wearied of your voice. When 
the hands lie abed the tongue takes a walk.' 



50 



THE BLEACHING-GREEN 

Mr. Archer laughed unpleasantly, rose and moved 
to the water's edge. In this part the body of the 
river poured across a little narrow fell, ran some ten 
feet very smoothly over a bed of pebbles, then get- 
ting wind, as it were, of another shelf of rock which 
barred the channel, began, by imperceptible degrees, 
to separate towards either shore in dancing currents, 
and to leave the middle clear and stagnant. The 
set towards either side was nearly equal ; about one 
half of the whole water plunged on the side of the 
castle, through a narrow gullet ; about one half ran 
lipping past the margin of the green and slipped 
across a babbling rapid. 

' Here,' said Mr. Archer, after he had looked for 
some time at the fine and shifting demarcation of 
these currents, 'come here and see me try my 
fortune.' 

*I am not like a man,' said Nance; *I have no 
time to waste.* 

' Come here,' he said again. * I ask you seriously, 
Nance. We are not always childish when we seem 
so.' 

She drew a little nearer. 

'Now,' said he, 'you see these two channels — 
choose one.' 

' I '11 choose the nearest, to save time,' said Nance. 

'Well, that shall be for action,' returned Mr. 
Archer. 'And since I wish to have the odds 
against me, not only the other channel but yon 
stagnant water in the midst shall be for lying still. 
You see this?' he continued, puUing up a withered 

51 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

rush. * I break it in three. I shall put each 
separately at the top of the upper fall, and according 
as they go by your way or by the other I shall guide 
my life.' 

* This is very silly,' said Nance, with a movement 
of her shoulders. 

* I do not think it so,' said Mr. Archer. 

' And then,' she resumed, * if you are to try your 
fortune, why not evenly ? ' 

* Nay,' returned Mr. Archer with a smile, * no man 
can put complete reliance in blind fate; he must 
still cog the dice.' 

By this time he had got upon the rock beside the 
upper fall, and, bidding her look out, dropped a piece 
of rush into the middle of the intake. The rusty 
fragment was sucked at once over the fall, came up 
again far on the right hand, leaned ever more and 
more in the same direction, and disappeared under 
the hanging grasses on the castle side. 

*One,' said Mr. Archer, 'one for standing still.' 
But the next launch had a different fate, and after 
hanging for a while about the edge of the stagnant 
water, steadily approached the bleaching-green and 
danced down the rapid under Nance's eyes. 

* One for me,' she cried with some exultation ; 
and then she observed that Mr. Archer had grown 
pale, and was kneeling on the rock, with his hand 
raised like a person petrified. *Why,' said she, 
' you do not mind it, do you ? ' 

* Does a man not mind a throw of dice by which 
a fortune hangs ? ' said Mr. Archer, rather hoarsely. 

52 



THE BLEACHING-GREEN 

* And this is more than fortune. Nance, if you have 
any kindness for my fate, put up a prayer before I 
launch the next one.' 

'A prayer,' she cried, 'about a game like this? 
I would not be so heathen.' 

*Well,' said he, * then without,' and he closed his 
eyes and dropped the piece of rush. This time there 
was no doubt. It went for the rapid as straight as 
any arrow. 

' Action then ! ' said Mr. Archer, getting to his 
feet ; ' and then God forgive us,' he added, almost to 
himself. 

* God forgive us, indeed,' cried Nance, ' for wasting 
the good daylight ! But come, Mr. Archer, if I see 
you look so serious I shall begin to think you was 
in earnest.' 

' Nay,' he said, turning upon her suddenly, with a 
full smile ; ' but is not this good advice ? I have 
consulted God and demigod ; the nymph of the 
river, and what I far more admire and trust, my 
blue-eyed Minerva. Both have said the same. My 
own heart was telling it already. Action, then, be 
mine ; and into the deep sea with all this paralysing 
casuistry. I am happy to-day for the first time.' 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE MAIL GUARD 

S OMEWHERE about two in the morning a squall had 
burst upon the castle, a clap of screaming wind that 

53 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

made the towers rock, and a copious drift of rain 
that streamed from the windows. The wind soon 
blew itself out, but the day broke cloudy and drip- 
ping, and when the little party assembled at break- 
fast their humours appeared to have changed with 
the change of weather. Nance had been brooding 
on the scene at the river-side, applying it in various 
ways to her particular aspirations, and the result, 
which was hardly to her mind, had taken the colour 
out of her cheeks. Mr. Archer, too, was somewhat 
absent, his thoughts were of a mingled strain ; and 
even upon his usually impassive countenance there 
were betrayed successive depths of depression and 
starts of exultation, which the girl translated in 
terms of her own hopes and fears. But Jonathan 
was the most altered : he was strangely silent, hardly 
passing a word, and watched Mr. Archer with an 
eager and furtive eye. It seemed as if the idea that 
had so long hovered before him had now taken a 
more solid shape, and, while it still attracted, some- 
what alarmed his imagination. 

At this rate, conversation languished into a silence 
which was only broken by the gentle and ghostly 
noises of the rain on the stone roof and about all 
that field of ruins ; and they were all relieved when 
the note of a man whistling and the sound of 
approaching footsteps in the grassy court announced 
a visitor. It was the ostler from the Green Dragon 
bringing a letter for Mr. Archer. Nance saw her 
hero's face contract and then relax again at sight of 
it ; and she thought that she knew why, for the 
54 



THE MAIL GUARD 

sprawling, gross black characters of the address were 
easily distinguishable from the fine writing on the 
former letter that had so much disturbed him. He 
opened it and began to read ; while the ostler sat 
down to table with a pot of ale, and proceeded to 
make himself agreeable after his fashion. 

' Fine doings down our way. Miss Nance,' said he. 
' I haven't been abed this blessed night.' 

Nance expressed a polite interest, but her eye was 
on Mr. Archer, who was reading his letter with a 
face of such extreme indifference that she was 
tempted to suspect him of assumption. 

' Yes,' continued the ostler, ' not been the like of 
it this fifteen years : the North Mail stopped at the 
three stones.' 

Jonathan's cup was at his lip, but at this moment 
he choked with a great splutter ; and Mr. Archer, as 
if startled by the noise, made so sudden a movement 
that one corner of the sheet tore off and stayed 
between his finger and thumb. It was some little 
time before the old man was sufficiently recovered 
to beg the ostler to go on, and he still kept coughing 
and crying and rubbing his eyes. Mr. Archer, on 
his side, laid the letter down, and, putting his hands 
in his pocket, listened gravely to the tale. 

' Yes,' resumed Sam, * the North Mail was stopped 
by a single horseman ; dash my wig, but I admire 
him ! There were four insides and two out, and 
poor Tom Oglethorpe, the guard. Tom showed 
himself a man ; let fly his blunderbuss at him ; had 
him covered, too, and could swear to that ; but the 

55 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

Captain never let on, up with a pistol and fetched 
poor Tom a bullet through the body. Tom, he 
squelched upon the seat, all over blood. Up comes 
the Captain to the window. " Oblige me," says he, 
"with what you have." Would you beUeve it? 
Not a man says cheep !— not them. " Thy hands 
over thy head." Four watches, rings, snufF-boxes, 
seven-and-forty pounds overhead in gold. One 
Dicksee, a grazier, tries it on : gives him a guinea. 
" Beg your pardon," says the Captain, " I think too 
highly of you to take it at your hand. I will not 
take less than ten from such a gentleman." This 
Dicksee had his money in his stocking, but there 
was the pistol at his eye. Down he goes, ofFs with 
his stocking, and there was thirty golden guineas. 
"Now," says the Captain, "you 've tried it on with 
me, but I scorns the advantage. Ten I said," he 
says, "and ten I take." So, dash my buttons, I call 
that man a man 1 ' cried Sam in cordial admiration. 

* Well, and then ? ' says Mr. Archer. 

' Then,' resumed Sam, * that old fat fagot Engle- 
ton, him as held the ribbons and drew up hke a 
lamb when he was told to, picks up his cattle, and 
drives off again. Down they came to the Dragon, 
all singing like as if they was scalded, and poor Tom 
saying nothing. You would 'a' thought they had 
all lost the King's crown to hear them. Down gets 
this Dicksee. " Postmaster," he says, taking him 
by the arm, " this is a most abominable thing," he 
says. Down gets a Major Clayton, and gets the old 
man by the other arm. "We've been robbed," he 
56 



THE MAIL GUARD 

cries, "robbed!" Down gets the others, and all 
around the old man telling their story, and what 
they had lost, and how they was all as good as 
ruined ; till at last old Engleton says, says he, 
" How about Oglethorpe ? " says he. " Ay," says 
the others, "how about the guard?" Well, with 
that we bousted him down, as white as a rag and all 
blooded like a sop. I thought he was dead. Well, 
he ain't dead ; but he 's dying, I fancy.' 

* Did you say four watches ?' said Jonathan. 

* Four, I think. I wish it had been forty,' cried 
Sam. * Such a party of soused herrings I never did 
see — not a man among them bar poor Tom. But 
us that are the servants on the road have all the 
risk and none of the profit.' 

*And this brave fellow,' asked Mr. Archer, very, 
quietly, ' this Oglethorpe — how is he now ? ' 

*Well, sir, with my respects, I take it he has a 
hole bang through him,' said Sam. *The doctor 
hasn't been yet. He 'd 'a' been bright and early if it 
had been a passenger. But, doctor or no, I '11 make 
a good guess that Tom won't see to-morrow. He '11 
die on a Sunday, will poor Tom ; and they do say 
that 's fortunate.' 

* Did Tom see him that did it ? ' asked Jonathan. 
*Well, he saw him,' replied Sam, 'bat not to 

swear by. Said he was a very tall man, and very 
big, and had a 'ankerchief about his face, and a very 
quick shot, and sat his horse like a thorough gentle- 
man, as he is.' 

* A gentleman ! ' cried Nance. * The dirty knave I ' 

57 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

* Well, I calls a man like that a gentleman,' 
returned the ostler ; ' that 's what I mean by a 
gentleman.' 

' You don't know much of them, then,' said Nance. 
* A gentleman would scorn to stoop to such a thing. 
I call my uncle a better gentleman than any thief.' 

'And you would be right,' said Mr. Archer. 

' How many snuff-boxes did he get ? ' asked 
Jonathan. 

' O, dang me if I know,' said Sam ; * I didn't take 
an inventory.' 

' I will go back with you, if you please,' said Mr. 
Archer. * I should like to see poor Oglethorpe. 
He has behaved well.' 

*At your service, sir,' said Sam, jumping to his 
feet. * I dare to say a gentleman like you would 
not forget a poor fellow like Tom — no, nor a plain 
man like me, sir, that went without his sleep to 
nurse him. And excuse me, sir,' added Sam, * you 
won't forget about the letter neither ? ' 

* Surely not,' said Mr. Archer. 

Oglethorpe lay in a low bed, one of several in a 
long garret of the inn. The rain soaked in places 
through the roof and fell in minute drops ; there 
was but one small window ; the beds were occupied 
by servants, the air of the garret was both close and 
chilly. Mr. Archer's heart sank at the threshold to 
see a man lying perhaps mortally hurt in so poor a 
sick-room, and as he drew near the low bed he took 
his hat off. The guard was a big, blowsy, innocent- 
looking soul with a thick lip and a broad nose, 
58 



THE MAIL GUARD 

comically turned up ; his cheeks were crimson, and 
when Mr. Archer laid a finger on his brow he found 
him burning with fever. 

* I fear you suffer much,' he said, with a catch in 
his voice, as he sat down on the bedside. 

* I suppose I do, sir,' returned Oglethorpe ; * it is 
main sore.' 

'I am used to wounds and wounded men,' re- 
turned the visitor. 'I have been in the wars and 
nursed brave fellows before now ; and, if you will 
suffer me, I propose to stay beside you till the 
doctor comes.' 

* It is very good of you, sir, I am sure,' said Ogle- 
thorpe. ' The trouble is they won't none of them 
let me drink.' 

' If you will not tell the doctor,' said Mr. Archer, 
* I will give you some water. They say it is bad for 
a green wound, but in the Low Countries we all 
drank water when we found the chance, and I could 
never perceive we were the worse for it.' 

*Been wounded yourself, sir, perhaps?' called 
Oglethorpe. 

'Twice,' said Mr. Archer, * and was as proud of 
these hurts as any lady of her bracelets. 'Tis a fine 
thing to smart for one's duty ; even in the pangs of 
it there is contentment' 

' Ah, well ! ' replied the guard, ' if you 've been 
shot yourself, that explains. But as for content- 
ment, why, sir, you see, it smarts, as you say. And 
then, I have a good wife, you see, and a bit of a 
brat — a little thing, so high.' 

59 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

' Don't move,' said Mr. Archer. 

*No, sir, I will not, and thank you kindly,' said 
Oglethorpe. * At York they are. A very good lass 
is my wife — far too good for me. And the little 
rascal — well, I don't know how to say it, but he sort 
of comes round you. If I were to go, sir, it would 
be hard on my poor girl — main hard on her I ' 

'Ay, you must feel bitter hardly to the rogue 
that laid you here,' said Archer. 

'Why, no, sir, more against Engleton and the 
passengers,' replied the guard. ' He played his 
hand, if you come to look at it ; and I wish he had 
shot worse, or me better. And yet I '11 go to my 
grave but what I covered him,' he cried. ' It looks 
like witchcraft. I '11 go to my grave but what he 
was drove full of slugs like a pepper-box.' 

' Quietly,' said Mr. Archer, ' you must not excite 
yourself These deceptions are very usual in war ; 
the eye, in a moment of alert, is hardly to be trusted, 
and when the smoke blows away you see the man 
you fired at, taking aim, it may be, at yourself. 
You should observe, too, that you were in the dark 
night, and somewhat dazzled by the lamps, and that 
the sudden stopping of the mail had jolted you. In 
such circumstances a man may miss, ay, even with 
a blunderbuss, and no blame attach to his marksman- 
ship.' . . . 



60 



EDITORIAL NOTE 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

The Editor is unable to furnish any information as to the 
intended plot of the story which breaks off thus abruptly. 
From very early days Mr. Stevenson had purposed to write 
(since circumstances did not allow him to enact) a romance of 
the highway. The purpose seems to have ripened after his 
recovery from the acute attack of illness which interrupted his 
work from about Christmas 1883 to September 1884. The 
chapters above printed were written at Bournemouth soon 
after the latter date : but neither Mr. Henley nor I, though 
we remember many conversations with the writer on highway 
themes in general, can recall the origin or intended course of 
this particular story. Its plot can hardly be forecast from 
these opening chapters : nor do the writer's own words in a 
letter written at the time to Mr. Henley take us much further ; 
except in so far as they show that it was growing under his 
hands to be a more serious effort than he first contemplated. 
' The Great North Road,'' he writes, ' which I thought to rattle 
off, like Treasure Island, for coin, has turned into my most 
ambitious design and will take piles of writing and thinking ; 
so that is what my highwayman has turned to ! The ways of 
Providence are inscrutable. Mr. Archer and Jonathan Hold- 
away are both grand premier parts of unusual difficulty ; and 
Nance and the Sergeant — the first very delicate, and the second 
demanding great geniality. I quail before the gale, but so 

6l 



THE GREAT NORTH ROAD 

help me, it shall be done. It is highly picturesque, most 
dramatic, and if it can be made, as human as man. Besides, 
it is a true story, and not, like Otto, one half story and one 
half play/ Soon after the date of this letter, the author laid 
aside the tale in order to finish for press the second half of 
More New Arabian Nights — the Dynamiter, and never took it 
up again. 



62 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

A FRAGMENT 



Now printed for the first time. 



CONTENTS 



Prologue — The Wine-Seller's Wife 

CHAPTER 

I. The Prince 
Editorial Note 



PAGE 

67 



79 
84 



26— E 



65 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 
PROLOGUE 

THE wine-seller's WIFE 

There was a wine-seller's shop, as you went down 
to the river in the city of the Anti-popes. There a 
man was served with good wine of the country and 
plain country fare ; and the place being clean and 
quiet, with a prospect on the river, certain gentle- 
men who dwelt in that city in attendance on a 
great personage made it a practice (when they had 
any silver in their purses) to come and eat there and 
be private. 

They called the wine-seller Paradou. He was 
built more like a bullock than a man, huge in bone 
and brawn, high in colour, and with a hand like 
a baby for size. Marie-Madeleine was the name 
of his wife ; she was of Marseilles, a city of entranc- 
ing women, nor was any fairer than herself. She 
was tall, being almost of a height with Paradou ; 
full-girdled, point-device in every form, with an ex- 
quisite delicacy in the face ; her nose and nostrils 
a delight to look at from the fineness of the sculp- 
ture, her eyes inclined a hair's-breadth inward, her 

67 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

colour between dark and fair, and laid on even like 
a flower's. A faint rose dwelt in it, as though she 
had been found unawares bathing, and had blushed 
from head to foot. She was of a grave countenance, 
rarely smiling; yet it seemed to be written upon 
every part of her that she rejoiced in life. Her hus- 
band loved the heels of her feet and the knuckles of 
her fingers ; he loved her like a glutton and a brute ; 
his love hung about her like an atmosphere ; one 
that came by chance into the wine-shop was aware of 
that passion ; and it might be said that by the 
strength of it the woman had been drugged or 
spell-bound. She knew not if she loved or loathed 
him ; he was always in her eyes like something 
monstrous, — monstrous in his love, monstrous in his 
person, horrific but imposing in his violence ; and 
her sentiment swung back and forward from desire 
to sickness. But the mean, where it dwelt chiefly, 
was an apathetic fascination, partly of horror ; as of 
Europa in mid ocean with her bull. 

On the 10th November 1749 there sat two of the 
foreign gentlemen in the wine-seller's shop. They 
were both handsome men of a good presence, richly 
dressed. The first was swarthy and long and lean, 
with an alert, black look, and a mole upon his cheek. 
The other was more fair. He seemed very easy and 
sedate, and a Httle melancholy for so young a man, 
but his smile was charming. In his grey eyes there 
was much abstraction, as of one recalling fondly that 
which was past and lost. Yet there was strength 
and swiftness in his limbs ; and his mouth set straight 
68 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

across his face, the under lip a thought upon side, 
like that of a man accustomed to resolve. These 
two talked together in a rude outlandish speech that 
no frequenter of that wine-shop understood. The 
swarthy man answered to the name of Ballantrae ; 
he of the dreamy eyes was sometimes called Balmile, 
and sometimes my Lord, or my Lord Gladsmuir; 
but when the title was given him, he seemed to 
put it by as if in jesting, not without bitterness. 

The mistral blew in the city. The first day of 
that wind, they say in the countries where its voice 
is heard, it blows away all the dust, the second all 
the stones, and the third it blows back others from 
the mountains. It was now come to the third day ; 
outside the pebbles flew like hail, and the face of the 
river was puckered, and the very building-stones in 
the walls of houses seemed to be curdled, with the 
savage cold and fury of that continuous blast. It 
could be heard to hoot in all the chimneys of the 
city ; it swept about the wine-shop, filling the room 
with eddies ; the chill and gritty touch of it passed 
between the nearest clothes and the bare flesh ; and 
the two gentlemen at the far table kept their 
mantles loose about their shoulders. The roughness 
of these outer hulls, for they were plain travellers' 
cloaks that had seen service, set the greater mark of 
richness on what showed below of their laced clothes ; 
for the one was in scarlet and the other in violet and 
white, like men come from a scene of ceremony ; as 
indeed they were. 

It chanced that these fine clothes were not with- 

69 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

out their influence on the scene which followed, and 
which makes the prologue of our tale. For a long 
time Balmile was in the habit to come to the wine- 
shop and eat a meal or drink a measure of wine ; 
sometimes with a comrade ; more often alone, when 
he would sit and dream and drum upon the table, 
and the thoughts would show in the man's face in 
little glooms and lightenings, like the sun and the 
clouds upon a water. For a long time Marie-Made- 
leine had observed him apart. His sadness, the 
beauty of his smile when by any chance he remem- 
bered her existence and addressed her, the changes 
of his mind signalled forth by an abstruse play of 
feature, the mere fact that he was foreign and a 
thing detached from the local and the accustomed, 
insensibly attracted and affected her. Kindness was 
ready in her mind ; it but lacked the touch of an 
occasion to effervesce and crystallise. Now Balmile 
had come hitherto in a very poor plain habit ; and this 
day of the mistral, when his mantle was just open, 
and she saw beneath it the glancing of the violet 
and the velvet and the silver, and the clustering fine- 
ness of the lace, it seemed to set the man in a new 
light, with which he shone resplendent to her fancy. 
The high inhuman note of the wind, the violence 
and continuity of its outpouring, and the fierce 
touch of it upon man's whole periphery, accelerated 
the functions of the mind. It set thoughts whirl- 
ing, as it whirled the trees of the forest ; it stirred 
them up in flights, as it stirred up the dust in 
chambers. As brief as sparks, the fancies glittered 
70 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

and succeeded each other in the mind of Marie- 
Madeleine ; and the grave man with the smile, and 
the bright clothes under the plain mantle, haunted 
her with incongruous explanations. She considered 
him, the unknown, the speaker of an unknown 
tongue, the hero (as she placed him) of an unknown 
romance, the dweller upon unknown memories. She 
recalled him sitting there alone, so immersed, so 
stupefied ; yet she was sure he was not stupid. She 
recalled one day when he had remained a long time 
motionless, with parted lips, like one in the act of 
starting up, his eyes fixed on vacancy. Any one 
else must have looked foolish ; but not he. She 
tried to conceive what manner of memory had thus 
entranced him ; she forged for him a past ; she 
showed him to herself in every light of heroism 
and greatness and misfortune ; she brooded with 
petulant intensity on all she knew and guessed of 
him. Yet, though she was already gone so deep, she 
was still unashamed, still unalarmed ; her thoughts 
were still disinterested ; she had still to reach the 
stage at which — beside the image of that other whom 
we love to contemplate and to adorn — we place the 
image of ourself and behold them together with 
delight. 

She stood within the counter, her hands clasped 
behind her back, her shoulders pressed against the 
wall, her feet braced out. Her face was bright with 
the wind and her own thoughts ; as a fire in a similar 
day of tempest glows and brightens on a hearth, so 
she seemed to glow, standing there, and to breathe 

71 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

oat energy. It was the first time Ballantrae had 
visited that wine-seller's, the first time he had seen 
the wife ; and his eyes were true to her. 

* I perceive your reason for carrying me to this 
very draughty tavern,' he said at last. 

* I believe it is propinquity,' returned Balmile. 

* You play dark,' said Ballantrae, ' but have a care ! 
Be more frank with me, or I will cut you out. I go 
through no form of qualifying my threat, which 
would be commonplace and not conscientious. 
There is only one point in these campaigns : that is 
the degree of admiration offered by the man ; and to 
our hostess I am in a posture to make victorious 
love.' 

* If you think you have the time, or the game 
worth the candle,' replied the other with a shrug. 

*One would suppose you were never at the pains 
to observe her,' said Ballantrae. 

'I am not very observant,' said Balmile. 'She 
seems comely.' 

'You very dear and dull dog!' cried Ballantrae; 
' chastity is the most besotting of the virtues. Why, 
she has a look in her face beyond singing ! I believe, 
if you was to push me hard, I might trace it home 
to a trifle of a squint. What matters ? The height 
of beauty is in the touch that 's wrong, that 's the 
modulation in a tune. 'Tis the devil we all love ; I 
owe many a conquest to my mole ' — he touched it 
as he spoke with a smile, and his eyes glittered ; — 
' we are all hunchbacks, and beauty is only that kind 
of deformity that I happen to admire. But come I 
72 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

Because you are chaste, for which I am sure I pay 
you my respects, that is no reason why you should 
be blind. Look at her, look at the delicious nose of 
her, look at her cheek, look at her ear, look at her 
hand and wrist — look at the whole baggage from 
heels to crown, and tell me if she wouldn't melt on 
a man's tongue.' 

As Ballantrae spoke, half jesting, half enthusiastic, 
Balmile was constrained to do as he was bidden. 
He looked at the woman, admired her excellences, 
and was at the same time ashamed for himself and 
his companion. So it befell that when Marie-Made- 
leine raised her eyes, she met those of the subject of 
her contemplations fixed directly on herself with 
a look that is unmistakable, the look of a person 
measuring and valuing another, — and, to clench the 
false impression, that his glance w^as instantly and 
guiltily withdrawn. The blood beat back upon her 
heart and leaped again ; her obscure thoughts flashed 
clear before her ; she flew in fancy straight to his 
arms like a wanton, and fled again on the instant 
like a nymph. And at that moment there chanced 
an interruption, which not only spared her embar- 
rassment, but set the last consecration on her now 
articulate love. 

Into the Avine-shop there came a French gentle- 
man, arrayed in the last refinement of the fashion, 
though a little tumbled by his passage in the wind. 
It was to be judged he had come from the same 
formal gathering at which the others had preceded 
him : and perhaps that he had gone there in the 

n 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

hope to meet with them, for he came up to Bal- 
lantrae with unceremonious eagerness. 

' At last, here you are ! ' he cried in French. * I 
thought I was to miss you altogether.' 

The Scotsmen rose, and Ballantrae, after the 
first greetings, laid his hand on his companion's 
shoulder. 

* My lord,' said he, * allow me to present to you 
one of my best friends and one of our best soldiers, 
the Lord Viscount Gladsmuir.' 

The two bowed with the elaborate elegance of the 
period. 

' Monseigneur,' said Balmile, ^je nai pas la preten- 
tion de viqffubler d'un titre que la mauvaise fortune 
de 7)1071 roi ne me permet pas de porter comme il sied. 
Je mappelle, pour vous servir, Blair de Balmile tout 
court' [My lord, I have not the effrontery to 
cumber myself with a title which the ill fortunes of 
my king will not suffer me to bear the way it should 
be. I call myself, at your service, plain Blair of 
Balmile.] 

' Monsieur le Vicomte ou monsieur Bier de Bal- 
mdil,' replied the new comer, ' le nom ny fait rien, 
et Von connait vos beaux f aits' [The name matters 
nothing, your gallant actions are known.] 

A few more ceremonies, and these three, sitting 
down together to the table, called for wine. It was 
the happiness of Marie Madeleine to wait unobserved 
upon the prince of her desires. She poured the 
wine, he drank of it ; and that link between them 
seemed to her, for the moment, close as a caress. 
74 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

Though they lowered their tones, she surprised great 
names passing in their conversation, names of kings, 
the names of de Gesvre and Belle-Isle ; and the man 
who dealt in these high matters, and she who was 
now coupled with him in her own thoughts, seemed 
to swim in mid air in a transfiguration. Love is a 
crude core, but it has singular and far-reaching 
fringes ; in that passionate attraction for the stranger 
that now swayed and mastered her, his harsh incom- 
prehensible language, and these names of grandees 
in his talk, were each an element. 

The Frenchman stayed not long, but it was plain 
he left behind him matter of much interest to his 
companions ; they spoke together earnestly, their 
heads down, the woman of the wine-shop totally 
forgotten; and they were still so occupied when 
Paradou returned. 

This man's love was unsleeping. The even 
bluster of the mistral, with which he had been com- 
bating some hours, had not suspended, though it 
had embittered, that predominant passion. His 
first look was for his wife, a look of hope and 
suspicion, menace and humility and love, that 
made the over-blooming brute appear for the 
moment almost beautiful. She returned his glance, 
at first as though she knew him not, then with a 
swiftly waxing coldness of intent; and at last, 
without changing their direction, she had closed 
her eyes. 

There passed across her mind during that period 
much that Paradou could not have understood had 

75 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

it been told to him in words : chiefly the sense of an 
enlightening contrast betwixt the man who talked 
of kings and the man who kept a wine-shop, 
betwixt the love she yearned for and that to which 
she had been long exposed like a victim bound upon 
the altar. There swelled upon her, swifter than 
the Rhone, a tide of abhorrence and disgust. She 
had succumbed to the monster, humbling herself 
below animals ; and now she loved a hero, aspiring 
to the semi-divine. It was in the pang of that 
humiliating thought that she had closed her eyes. 

Paradou— quick, as beasts are quick, to translate 
silence — felt the insult through his blood ; his in- 
articulate soul bellowed within him for revenge. 
He glanced about the shop. He saw the two 
indifferent gentlemen deep in talk, and passed them 
over : his fancy flying not so high. There was 
but one other present, a country lout who stood 
swallowing his wine, equally unobserved by all and 
unobserving ; to him he dealt a glance of murderous 
suspicion, and turned direct upon his wife. The 
wine-shop had lain hitherto, a space of shelter, the 
scene of a few ceremonial passages and some whis- 
pered conversation, in the howling river of the 
wind ; the clock had not yet ticked a score of 
times since Paradou's appearance ; and now, as he 
suddenly gave tongue, it seemed as though the 
mistral had entered at his heels. 

*What ails you, woman?' he cried, smiting on 
the counter. 

* Nothing ails me,' she replied. It was strange ; 
76 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

but she spoke and stood at that moment like a lady 
of degree, drawn upward by her aspirations. 

' You speak to me, by God, as though you 
scorned me !' cried the husband. 

The man's passion was always formidable ; she 
had often looked on upon its violence with a thrill, 
it had been one ingredient in her fascination ; and 
she was now surprised to behold him, as from afar 
off, gesticulating but impotent. His fury might 
be dangerous like a torrent or a gust of wind, but 
it was inhuman ; it might be feared or braved, it 
should never be respected. And with that there 
came in her a sudden glow of courage and that 
readiness to die which attends so closely upon all 
strong passions. 

' I do scorn you,' she said. 

' What is that ? ' he cried. 

*I scorn you,' she repeated, smiling. 

' You love another man !' said he. 

' With all my soul,' was her reply. 

The wine-seller roared aloud so that the house 
rang and shook with it. 

*Is this the ?' he cried, using a foul word, 

common in the South; and he seized the young 
countryman and dashed him to the ground. There 
he lay for the least interval of time insensible ; thence 
fled from the house, the most terrified person in the 
county. The heavy measure had escaped from his 
hands, splashing the wine high upon the wall. 
Paradou caught it. 'And you?' he roared to his 
wife, giving her the same name in the feminine, 

77 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

and he aimed at her the deadly missile. She ex- 
pected it, motionless, with radiant eyes. 

But before it sped, Paradou was met by another 
adversary, and the unconscious rivals stood con- 
fronted. It was hard to say at that moment which 
appeared the more formidable. In Paradou, the 
whole muddy and truculent depths of the half-man 
were stirred to frenzy ; the lust of destruction raged 
in him ; there was not a feature in his face but it 
talked murder. Balmile had dropped his cloak : he 
shone out at once in his finery, and stood to his full 
stature ; girt in mind and body ; all his resources, 
all his temper, perfectly in command ; in his face 
the light of battle. Neither spoke ; there was no 
blow nor threat of one ; it was war reduced to its 
last element, the spiritual ; and the huge wine-seller 
slowly lowered his weapon. Balmile was a noble, 
he a commoner ; Balmile exulted in an honourable 
cause. Paradou already perhaps began to be 
ashamed of his violence. Of a sudden, at least, 
the tortured brute turned and fled from the shop 
in the footsteps of his former victim, to whose 
continued flight his reappearance added wings. 

So soon as Balmile appeared between her husband 
and herself, Marie-Madeleine transferred to him 
her eyes. It might be her last moment, and she 
fed upon that face ; reading there inimitable courage 
and illimitable valour to protect. And when the 
momentary peril was gone by, and the champion 
turned a little awkwardly towards her whom he 
had rescued, it was to meet, and quail before, a gaze 
78 



THE WINE-SELLER'S WIFE 

of admiration more distinct than words. He bowed, 
he stammered, his words failed him ; he who had 
crossed the floor a moment ago, hke a young god, 
to smite, returned like one discomfited ; got some- 
how to his place by the table, muffled himself again 
in his discarded cloak, and for a last touch of the 
ridiculous, seeking for anything to restore his 
countenance, drank of the wine before him, deep 
as a porter after a heavy lift. It was little wonder if 
Ballantrae, reading the scene with malevolent eyes, 
laughed out loud and brief, and drank with raised 
glass, ' To the champion of the Fair.' 

Marie-Madeleine stood in her old place within 
the counter ; she disdained the mocking laughter ; 
it fell on her ears, but it did not reach her spirit. 
For her, the world of living persons was all resumed 
again into one pair, as in the days of Eden ; there 
was but the one end in Ufe, the one hope before 
her, the one thing needful, the one thing possible, 
— to be his. 



CHAPTER I 

THE PRINCE 

That same night there was in the city of Avignon 
a young man in distress of mind. Now he sat, 
now walked in a high apartment, full of draughts 
and shadows. A single candle made the darkness 
visible ; and the light scarce sufficed to show upon 
the wall, where they had been recently and rudely 

79 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

nailed, a few miniatures and a copper medal of the 
young man's head. The same was being sold that 
year in London, to admiring thousands. The 
original was fair; he had beautiful brown eyes, a 
beautiful bright open face; a little feminine, a 
little hard, a little weak; still full of the light 
of youth, but already beginning to be vulgarised ; a 
sordid bloom come upon it, the lines coarsened with 
a touch of puffiness. He was dressed, as for a gala, 
in peach-colour and silver ; his breast sparkled with 
stars and was bright with ribbons ; for he had held 
a levee in the afternoon and received a distinguished 
personage incognito. Now he sat with a bowed 
head, now walked precipitately to and fro, now 
went and gazed from the uncurtained window, 
where the wind was still blowing, and the lights 
winked in the darkness. 

The bells of Avignon rose into song as he was 
gazing ; and the high notes and the deep tossed and 
drowned, boomed suddenly near or were suddenly 
swallowed up, in the current of the mistral. Tears 
sprang in the pale blue eyes ; the expression of his 
face was changed to that of a more active misery ; 
it seemed as if the voices of the bells reached, and 
touched and pained him, in a waste of vacancy 
where even pain was welcome. Outside in the 
night they continued to sound on, swelling and 
fainting ; and the listener heard in his memory, as 
it were their harmonies, joy-bells clashing in a 
northern city, and the acclamations of a multitude, 
the cries of battle, the gross voices of cannon, the 
80 



THE PRINCE 

stridor of an animated life. And then all died 
away, and he stood face to face with himself in the 
waste of vacancy, and a horror came upon his mind, 
and a faintness on his brain, such as seizes men upon 
the brink of cliffs. 

On the table, by the side of the candle, stood 
a tray of glasses, a bottle, and a silver bell. He 
went thither swiftly, then his hand lowered first 
above the bell, then settled on the bottle. Slowly 
he filled a glass, slowly drank it out ; and, as a tide 
of animal warmth recomforted the recesses of his 
nature, stood there smiling at himself He remem- 
bered he was young ; the funeral curtains rose, and 
he saw his life shine and broaden and flow out 
majestically, like a river sunward. The smile still 
on his lips, he lit a second candle and a third ; a 
fire stood ready built in a chimney, he lit that also ; 
and the fir-cones and the gnarled olive billets were 
swift to break in flame and to crackle on the hearth, 
and the room brightened and enlarged about him 
like his hopes. To and fro, to and fro, he went, 
his hands lightly clasped, his breath deeply and 
pleasurably taken. Victory walked with him ; he 
marched to crowns and empires among shouting 
followers ; glory was his dress. And presently again 
the shadows closed upon the solitary. Under the 
gilt of flame and candle-light, the stone walls of 
the apartment showed down bare and cold; behind 
the depicted triumph loomed up the actual failure : 
defeat, the long distress of the flight, exile, despair, 
broken followers, mourning faces, empty pockets, 
26— F 81 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

friends estranged. The memory of his father rose 
in his mind : he too, estranged and defied ; despair 
sharpened into wrath. There was one who had 
led armies in the field, who had staked his life upon 
the family enterprise, a man of action and experi- 
ence, of the open air, the camp, the court, the 
council-room ; and he was to accept direction from 
an old, pompous gentleman in a home in Italy, 
and buzzed about by priests ? A pretty king, if he 
had not a martial son to lean upon ! A king at 
all? 

'There was a weaver (of all people) joined me 
at St. Ninians ; he was more of a man than my 
papa ! ' he thought. ' I saw him lie doubled in his 
blood and a grenadier below him — and he died for 
my papa ! All died for him, or risked the dying, 
and I lay for him all those months in the rain and 
skulked in heather like a fox ; and now he writes 
me his advice ! calls me Carluccio — me, the man 
of the house, the only king in that king's race.' He 
ground his teeth. * The only king in Europe ! ' 
Who else ? Who has done and suffered except me ? 
who has lain and run and hidden with his faithful 
subjects, like a second Bruce? Not my accursed 
cousin, Louis of France at least, the lewd effemi- 
nate traitor ! ' And filling the glass to the brim, 
he drank a king's damnation. Ah, if he had the 
power of Louis, what a king were here ! 

The minutes followed each other into the past, 
and still he persevered in this debilitating cycle 
of emotions, still fed the fire of his excitement with 
82 



THE PRINCE 

driblets of Rhine wine : a boy at odds with life, a 
boy with a spark of the heroic, which he was now 
burning out and drowning down in futile reverie 
and solitary excess. 

From two rooms beyond, the sudden sound of a 
raised voice attracted him. 

* By . . . 



83 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

The first suggestion for the story of which the above is the open- 
ing was received by the author from Mr. Andrew Lang. It is 
mentioned in Vailima Letters (p. 124 of this edition) under date 
January 3, 1892. Writing of the subject again on March 25 
of the same year (p. 146), Mr. Stevenson speculates on the title 
to be chosen and the turn the plot is to take : and later again 
(towards the end of May, pp. 164-166,) announces that he has 
written the first ' prologuial episode ' ; that, namely, which 
the reader has now before him. ' There are only four charac- 
ters,' he observes ; ' Francis Blair of Balmile (Jacobite Lord 
Gladsmuir), my hero ; the Master of Ballantrae ; Paradou, a 
wine-seller of Avignon ; Marie-Madeleine his wife. These 
last two I am now done with, and I think they are successful, 
and I hope I have Balmile on his feet ; and the style seems to 
be found. It is a little charged and violent ; sins on the side 
of violence ; but I think will carry the tale. I think it is a 
good idea so to introduce my hero, being made love to by an 
episodic woman.' If the reader will turn to the passage, he 
will find more about the intended developments of the story, 
which was to hinge on the rescue by the Prince of a young lady 
from a fire at an inn, and to bring back upon the scene not 
only the Master of Ballantrae, but one of the author's and his 
readers' favourite characters, Alan Breck. Mr. Lang has been 
good enough to furnish the following interesting notes as to 
its origin : — 

' The novel of The Young Chevalier,'' writes Mr. Lang, ' of 

which only the fragment here given exists, was based on a 

suggestion of my own. But it is plain that Mr. Stevenson's 

purpose differed widely from my crude idea. In reading the 

84 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

curious Tales of the Century (1847), by " John Sobieski Hol- 
berg Stuart and Charles Edward Stuart," I had been struck 
by a long essay on Prince Charles's mysterious incognito. 
Expelled from France after the treaty of Aix la Chapelle, 
His Royal Highness, in December 1748, sought refuge in the 
papal city of Avignon, whence, annoyed by English remon- 
strances with the Vatican, he vanished in the last days of 
February 1749. The Jacobite account of his secret adventures 
is given in a little romance, purporting to be a " Letter from 
Henry Goring," his equerry, brother of Sir Charles Goring. I 
had a transcript made from this rather scarce old pamphlet, 
and sent it to Mr. Stevenson, in Samoa. According to the 
pamphlet (which is perfectly untrustworthy) a mysterious 
stranger, probably meant for the Earl Marischal, came to 
Avignon. There came, too, an equally mysterious Scottish 
exile. Charles eloped in company with Henry Goring (which 
is true), joined the stranger, travelled to a place near Lyons, 
and thence to Strasbourg, which is probable. Here he rescued 
from a fire a lovely girl, travelling alone, and disdained to 
profit by her sudden passion for " le Comte d'Espoir," his 
travelling name. Moving into Germany, he was attacked by 
assassins, headed by the second mysterious stranger, a Scottish 
spy : he performs prodigies of valour. He then visits foreign 
Courts, Berlin being indicated, and wins the heart of a lady, 
probably the Princess Radziwill, whom he is to marry when his 
prospects improve. All or much of this is false ; Charles 
really visited Paris, by way of Dijon, and Madame de Tal- 
mont : thence he went to Venice. But the stories about 
Berlin and the Polish marriage were current at the time 
among bewildered diplomatists.^ 

' My idea was to make the narrator a young Scottish Jacobite 
at Avignon. He was to be sent by Charles to seek an actual 
hidden treasure, — the fatal gold of the hoard buried at Loch 
Arkaig a few days after Culloden. He was to be a lover of 

^ The real facts, as far as known, are given in Pickle the Spy. — [A. L.] 

85 



THE YOUNG CHEVALIER 

Miss Clementina Walkinshaw, who, later, played the part of 
Beatrix Esmond to the Prince. 

* Mr. Stevenson liked something in the notion, to which he 
refers in his Vailima Letters. He told me that Alan Breck 
and the Master of Ballantrae were to appear in the tale. I 
sent him such books about Avignon as I could collect, and he 
also made inquiries about Mandrin, the famous French brigand. 
Shortly before his death, I sent him transcripts of the unpub- 
lished letters of his old friend, James More Macgregor, and of 
Pickle the Spy, from the Pelham mss. in the British Museum. 
But these, I think, arrived too late for his perusal. In Pickle 
he would have found some one not very unlike his Ballantrae. 
The fragment, as it stands, looks as if the Scottish assassin 
and the other mysterious stranger were not to appear, or not so 
early as one had supposed. The beautiful woman of the inn 
and her surly husband (Mandrin ?) were inventions of his own. 
Other projects superseded his interest in this tale, and deprived 
us of a fresh view of Alan Breck. His dates, as indicated in 
the fragment, are not exact ; and there is no reason to believe 
that Charles's house at Avignon (that of the de Rochefort 
family) was dismantled and comfortless as here represented. 

' Mr. Stevenson made, as was his habit, a list of chapter 
headings, which I unluckily did not keep. One, I remember, 
was " Ballantrae to the Rescue," of whom or of what did not 
appear. It is impossible to guess how the story would have 
finally shaped itself in his fancy. One naturally regrets what 
we have lost, however great the compensation in the works 
which took the place of the sketch. Our Prince Charles of 
romance must remain the Prince of Wavej-ley and the King of 
Redgauntlet. No other hand now can paint him in the adven- 
turous and mysterious years of 1749-1759. Often, since Mr. 
Stevenson's death, in reading Jacobite mss. unknown to me 
or to any one when the story Was planned, I have thought, 
" He could have done something with this,"" or " This would 
have interested him." Eheu ! ' 
86 



HEATHERCAT 

A FRAGMENT 



Now published for the first time. 



CONTENTS 
PART I : THE KILLING-TIME 

JHAPTEB PAGE 

I. Traquairs of Montroymont . . 91 

II. Francie ..... 97 

III. The Hill-End of Drumlowe . . 112 

Editorial Note . . . .119 



HEATHERCAT 

PART I : THE KILLING-TIME 

CHAPTER I 

TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYIVIONT 

The period of this tale is in the heat of the killing- 
time; the scene laid for the most part in solitary 
hills and morasses, haunted only by the so-called 
Mountain Wanderers, the dragoons that came in 
chase of them, the women that wept on their dead 
bodies, and the wild birds of the moorland that have 
cried there since the beginning. It is a land of 
many rain-clouds ; a land of much mute history, 
written there in pre-historic symbols. Strange 
green raths are to be seen commonly in the country, 
above all by the kirkyards ; barrows of the dead, 
standing stones ; beside these, the faint, durable 
footprints and handmarks of the Roman ; and an 
antiquity older perhaps than any, and still living 
and active — a complete Celtic nomenclature and 
a scarce-mingled Celtic population. These rugged 
and grey hills were once included in the boundaries 
of the Caledonian Forest. Merlin sat here below 
his apple-tree and lamented Gwendolen ; here spoke 

91 



HEATHERCAT 

with Kentigern ; here fell into his enchanted trance. 
And the legend of his slumber seems to body forth 
the story of that Celtic race, deprived for so many 
centuries of their authentic speech, surviving with 
their ancestral inheritance of melancholy perversity 
and patient, unfortunate courage. 

The Traquairs of Montroymont {Mo7is Romanus, 
as the erudite expound it) had long held their seat 
about the head-waters of the Dule and in the back 
parts of the moorland parish of Balweary. For two 
hundred years they had enjoyed in these upland 
quarters a certain decency (almost to be named 
distinction) of repute ; and the annals of their house, 
or what is remembered of them, were obscure and 
bloody. Ninian Traquair was 'cruallie slochtered' 
by the Crozers at the kirk-door of Balweary, anno 
1482. Francis killed Simon Ruthven of Drum- 
shoreland, anno 1540 ; bought letters of slayers at 
the widow and heir, and, by a barbarous form of 
compounding, married (without tocher) Simon's 
daughter Grizzel, which is the way the Traquairs 
and Ruthvens came first to an intermarriage. 
About the last Traquair and Ruthven marriage, it 
is the business of this book, among many other 
things, to tell. 

The Traquairs were always strong for the Cove- 
nant ; for the King also, but the Covenant first ; and 
it began to be ill days for Montroymont when the 
Bishops came in and the dragoons at the heels of 
them. Ninian (then laird) was an anxious husband 
of himself and the property, as the times required, 
92 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

and it may be said of him, that he lost both. He 
was heavily suspected of the Pentland Hills re- 
bellion. When it came the length of Bothwell Brig, 
he stood his trial before the Secret Council, and was 
convicted of talking with some insurgents by the 
wayside, the subject of the conversation not very 
clearly appearing, and of the reset and maintenance 
of one Gale, a gardener man, who was seen before 
Bothwell with a musket, and afterwards, for a con- 
tinuance of months, delved the garden at Montroy- 
mont. Matters went very ill with Ninian at the 
Council ; some of the lords were clear for treason ; 
and even the boot was talked of But he was 
spared that torture ; and at last, having pretty good 
friendship among great men, he came off with a fine 
of seven thousand marks, that caused the estate to 
groan. In this case, as in so many others, it was 
the wife that made the trouble. She was a great 
keeper of conventicles ; would ride ten miles to one, 
and when she was fined, rejoiced greatly to suffer 
for the Kirk; but it was rather her husband that 
suffered. She had their only son, Francis, baptized 
privately by the hands of Mr. Kidd ; there was that 
much the more to pay for ! She could neither be 
driven nor wiled into the parish kirk ; as for taking 
the sacrament at the hands of any Episcopalian 
curate, and tenfold more at those of Curate Haddo, 
there was nothing further from her purposes ; and 
Montroymont had to put his hand in his pocket 
month by month and year by year. Once, indeed, 
the little lady was cast in prison, and the laird, 

93 



HEATHERCAT 

worthy, heavy, uninterested man, had to ride up and 
take her place ; from which he was not discharged 
under nine months and a sharp fine. It scarce 
seemed she had any gratitude to him ; she came out 
of jail herself, and plunged immediately deeper in 
conventicles, resetting recusants, and all her old, 
expensive folly, only with greater vigour and open- 
ness, because Montroymont was safe in the Tol- 
booth and she had no witness to consider. When 
he was liberated and came back, with his fingers 
singed, in December 1680, and late in the black night, 
my lady was from home. He came into the house 
at his alighting, with a riding-rod yet in his hand ; 
and, on the servant-maid telling him, caught her by 
the scruff of the neck, beat her violently, flung her 
down in the passage-way, and went up-stairs to his 
bed fasting and without a light. It was three in 
the morning when my lady returned from that con- 
venticle, and, hearing of the assault (because the 
maid had sat up for her, weeping), went to their 
common chamber with a lantern in hand and stamp- 
ing with her shoes so as to wake the dead ; it was 
supposed, by those that heard her, from a design to 
have it out with the goodman at once. The house- 
servants gathered on the stair, because it was a main 
interest with them to know which of these two was 
the better horse ; and for the space of two hours 
they were heard to go at the matter, hammer and 
tongs. Montroymont alleged he was at the end of 
possibilities ; it was no longer within his power to 
pay the annual rents ; she had served him basely by 

94 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

keeping conventicles while he lay in prison for her 
sake ; his friends were weary, and there was nothing 
else before him but the entire loss of the family 
lands, and to begin life again by the wayside as a 
common beggar. She took him up very sharp and 
high : called upon him, if he were a Christian ? and 
which he most considered, the loss of a few dirty, 
miry glebes, or of his soul ? Presently he was 
heard to weep, and my lady's voice to go on con- 
tinually like a running burn, only the words indis- 
tinguishable ; whereupon it was supposed a victory 
for her ladyship, and the domestics took themselves 
to bed. The next day Traquair appeared like a 
man who had gone under the harrows ; and his lady 
wife thenceforward continued in her old course 
without the least deflection. 

Thenceforward Ninian went on his way without 
complaint, and suffered his wife to go on hers with- 
out remonstrance. He still minded his estate, of 
which it might be said he took daily a fresh farewell, 
and counted it already lost ; looking ruefully on the 
acres and the graves of his fathers, on the moor- 
lands where the wildfowl consorted, the low, gurgling 
pool of the trout, and the high, windy place of the 
calling curlews — things that were yet his for the day 
and would be another's to-morrow ; coming back 
again, and sitting ciphering till the dusk at his 
approaching ruin, which no device of arithmetic 
could postpone beyond a year or two. He was 
essentially the simple ancient man, the farmer and 
landholder ; he would have been content to watch 

95 



HEATHERCAT 

the seasons come and go, and his cattle increase, 
until the limit of age ; he would have been content 
at any time to die, if he could have left the estates 
undiminished to an heir-male of his ancestors, that 
duty standing first in his instinctive calendar. And 
now he saw everywhere the image of the new pro- 
prietor come to meet him, and go sowing and reap- 
ing, or fowling for his pleasure on the red moors, or 
eating the very gooseberries in the Place garden ; 
and saw always, on the other hand, the figure of 
Francis go forth, a beggar, into the broad world. 

It was in vain the poor gentleman sought to 
moderate ; took every test and took advantage of 
every indulgence ; went and drank with the dragoons 
in Bal weary ; attended the communion and came 
regularly to the church to Curate Haddo, with his 
son beside him. The mad, raging, Presbyterian 
zealot of a wife at home made all of no avail ; and 
indeed the house must have fallen years before if it 
had not been for the secret indulgence of the curate, 
who had a great sympathy with the laird, and 
winked hard at the doings in Montroymont. This 
curate was a man very ill reputed in the countryside, 
and indeed in all Scotland. * Infamous Haddo ' is 
Shield's expression. But Patrick Walker is more 
copious. 'Curate Hall Haddo,' says he, sub voce 
Peden, 'or Hell Haddo, as he was more justly to be 
called, a pokeful of old condemned errors and the 
filthy vile lusts of the flesh, a published whore- 
monger, a common gross drunkard, continually and 
godlessly scraping and skirling on a fiddle, con- 
96 



TRAQUAIRS OF MONTROYMONT 

tinually breathing flames against the remnant of 
Israel. But the Lord put an end to his piping, and 
all these offences were composed into one bloody 
grave.' No doubt this was written to excuse his 
slaughter ; and I have never heard it claimed for 
Walker that he was either a just witness or an indul- 
gent judge. At least, in a merely human character, 
Haddo comes off not wholly amiss in the matter of 
these Traquairs : not that he showed any graces of 
the Christian, but had a sort of Pagan decency, 
which might almost tempt one to be concerned 
about his sudden, violent, and unprepared fate. 

CHAPTER II 

FRANCIE 

Francie was eleven years old, shy, secret, and 
rather childish of his age, though not backward in 
schoohng, which had been pushed on far by a private 
governor, one M'Brair, a forfeited minister harboured 
in that capacity at Montroymont. The boy, already 
much employed in secret by his mother, was the 
most apt hand conceivable to run upon a message, 
to carry food to lurking fugitives, or to stand sentry 
on the skyline above a conventicle. It seemed no 
place on the moorlands was so naked but what he 
would find cover there ; and as he knew every hag, 
boulder, and heather-bush in a circuit of seven miles 
about Montroymont, there was scarce any spot but 
what he could leave or approach it unseen. This 
26— G 97 



HEATHERCAT 

dexterity had won him a reputation in that part of 
the country ; and among the many children em- 
ployed in these dangerous affairs, he passed under 
the by-name of Heathercat. 

How much his father knew of this employment 
might be doubted. He took much forethought for 
the boy's future, seeing he was like to be left so 
poorly, and would sometimes assist at his lessons, 
sighing heavily, yawning deep, and now and again 
patting Francie on the shoulder if he seemed to be 
doing ill, by way of a private, kind encouragement. 
But a great part of the day was passed in aimless 
wanderings with his eyes sealed, or in his cabinet 
sitting bemused over the particulars of the coming 
bankruptcy ; and the boy would be absent a dozen 
times for once that his father would observe it. 

On 2nd of July 1682 the boy had an errand from 
his mother, which must be kept private from all, the 
father included in the first of them. Crossing the 
braes, he hears the clatter of a horse's shoes, and 
claps down incontinent in a hag by the wayside. 
And presently he spied his father come riding from 
one direction, and Curate Haddo walking from 
another; and Montroymont leaning down from the 
saddle, and Haddo getting on his toes (for he was a 
little, ruddy, bald-pated man, more like a dwarf), 
they greeted kindly, and came to a halt within two 
fathoms of the child. 

' Montroymont,' the curate said, ' the deil 's in 't 
but I '11 have to denunciate your leddy again.' 

' Deil 's in 't indeed ! ' says the laird. 
98 



FRANCIE 

' Man ! can ye no induce her to come to the kirk ? ' 
pursues Haddo ; ' or to a communion at the least 
of it ? For the conventicles, let be ! and the same 
for yon solemn fule, M'Brair : I can blink at them. 
But she's got to come to the kirk, Montroymont' 

' Dinna speak of it,' says the laird. ' I can do 
nothing with her.' 

' Couldn't ye try the stick to her ? it works 
wonders whiles,' suggested Haddo. * No ? I 'm wae 
to hear it. And I suppose ye ken where you 're 
going?' 

'Fine!' said Montroymont. 'Fine do I ken 
where : bankrup'cy and the Bass Rock !' 

'Praise to my bones that I never married !' cried 
the curate. 'Well, it 's a grievous thing to me to see 
an auld house dung down that was here before 
Flodden Field. But naebody can say it was with 
my wish.' 

'No more they can, Haddo !' says the laird. 'A 
good friend ye 've been to me, first and last. I can 
give you that character with a clear conscience.' 

Whereupon they separated, and Montroymont 
rode briskly down into the Dule Valley. But of the 
curate Francis was not to be quit so easily. He 
went on with his little, brisk steps to the corner of 
a dyke, and stopped and whistled and waved upon a 
lassie that was herding cattle there. This Janet 
M 'Clour was a big lass, being taller than the curate ; 
and what made her look the more so, she was kilted 
very high. It seemed for a while she would not 
come, and Francie heard her calling Haddo a ' daft 

99 



HEATHERCAT 

auld fule,' and saw her running and dodging him 
among the whins and hags till he was fairly blown. 
But at the last he gets a bottle from his plaid-neuk 
and holds it up to her ; whereupon she came at once 
into a composition, and the pair sat, drinking of the 
bottle, and daffing and laughing together, on a 
mound of heather. The boy had scarce heard of 
these vanities, or he might have been minded of a 
nymph and satyr, if anybody could have taken long- 
leggit Janet for a nymph. But they seemed to be 
huge friends, he thought; and was the more sur- 
prised, when the curate had taken his leave, to see 
the lassie fling stones after him with screeches of 
laughter, and Haddo turn about and caper, and 
shake his staff at her, and laugh louder than herself 
A wonderful merry pair, they seemed; and when 
Francie had crawled out of the hag, he had a great 
deal to consider in his mind. It was possible they 
were all fallen in error about Mr. Haddo, he 
reflected, — having seen him so tender with Montroy- 
mont, and so kind and playful with the lass Janet ; 
and he had a temptation to go out of his road and 
question her herself upon the matter. But he had a 
strong spirit of duty on him ; and plodded on instead 
over the braes till he came near the House of Cairn- 
gorm. There, in a hollow place by the burn side that 
was shaded by some birks, he was aware of a bare- 
foot boy, perhaps a matter of three years older than 
himself. The two approached with the precautions 
of a pair of strange dogs, looking at each other 
queerly. 

lOO 



FRANCIE 

'It's ill weather on the hills,' said the stranger, 
giving the watchword. 

' For a season,' said Francie, ' but the Lord will 
appear.' 

' Richt,' said the barefoot boy ; ' wha 're ye frae ?' 

' The Leddy Montroymont,' says Francie. 

*Ha'e, then!' says the stranger, and handed him 
a folded paper, and they stood and looked at each 
other again. ' It 's unco het,' said the boy. 

* Dooms het,' says Francie. 

* What do they ca' ye V says the other. 

* Francie,' says he. *I'm young Montroymont. 
They ca' me Heathercat.' 

' I 'm Jock Crozer,' said the boy. And there was 
another pause, while each rolled a stone under his foot. 

' Cast your jaiket and I '11 fecht ye for a bawbee,' 
cried the elder boy with sudden violence, and 
dramatically throwing back his jacket. 

' Na, I have nae time the now,' said Francie, with 
a sharp thrill of alarm, because Crozer was much the 
heavier boy. 

'Ye 're feared. Heathercat indeed!' said Crozer, 
for among this infantile army of spies and messengers, 
the fame of Crozer had gone forth and was resented 
by his rivals. And with that they separated. 

On his way home Francie was a good deal 
occupied with the recollection of this untoward 
incident. The challenge had been fairly offered and 
basely refused : the tale would be carried all over the 
country, and the lustre of the name of Heathercat 
be dimmed. But the scene between Curate Haddo 

lOI 






HEATHERCAT 

and Janet M 'Clour had also given him much to 
think of : and he was still puzzling over the case of 
the curate, and why such ill words were said of him, 
and why, if he were so merry-spirited, he should yet 
preach so dry, when coming over a knowe, whom 
should he see but Janet, sitting with her back to him, 
minding her cattle ! He was always a great child 
for secret, stealthy ways, having been employed by 
his mother on errands when the same was necessary; 
and he came behind the lass without her hearing. 

* Jennet,' says he. 

' Keep me ! ' cries Janet, springing up. * O, it's 
you, Maister Francie ! Save us, what a fricht ye 
gied me.' 

' Ay, it 's me,' said Francie. ' I 've been think- 
ing. Jennet; I saw you and the curate a while 
back ' 

'Brat!' cried Janet, and coloured up crimson; 
and the one moment made as if she would have 
stricken him with a ragged stick she had to chase 
her bestial with, and the next was begging and 
praying that he would mention it to none. It was 
' naebody's business, whatever,' she said ; ' it would 
just start a clash in the country ' ; and there would 
be nothing left for her but to drown herself in Dule 
Water. ^ 

' AVhy V says Francie. 

The girl looked at him and grew scarlet again. 

'And it isna that, anyway,' continued Francie. 
' It was just that he seemed so good to ye — Hke our 
Father in heaven, I thought; and I thought that 

I02 



FRANCIE 

mebbe, perhaps, we had all been wrong about him 
from the first. But I '11 have to tell Mr. M'Brair ; 
I 'm under a kind of a bargain to him to tell him all.' 

'Tell it to the divil if ye like for me!' cried the 
lass. 'I've naething to be ashamed of Tell 
M'Brair to mind his ain affairs,' she cried again : 
'they'll be hot eneugh for him, if Haddie likes!' 
And so strode off, shoving her beasts before her, 
and ever and again looking back and crying angry 
words to the boy, where he stood mystified. 

By the time he had got home his mind was made 
up that he would say nothing to his mother. My 
Lady Montroymont was in the keeping-room, read- 
ing a godly book ; she was a wonderful frail little 
wife to make so much noise in the world and be able 
to steer about that patient sheep her husband ; her 
eyes were like sloes, the fingers of her hands were 
like tobacco-pipe shanks, her mouth shut tight like a 
trap ; and even when she was the most serious, and 
still more when she was angry, there hung about her 
face the terrifying semblance of a smile. 

'Have ye gotten the billet, Francie?' said she; 
and when he had handed it over, and she had read 
and burned it, 'Did you see anybody V she asked 

' I saw the laird,' said Francie. 

' He didna see you, though V asked his mother. 

' Deil a fear,' from Francie. 

'Francie!' she cried. 'What's that I hear? an 
aith ? The Lord forgive me, have I broughten forth 
a brand for the burning, a fagot for hell-fire V 

I 'm very sorry, ma'am,' said Francie. ' I humbly 

103 



HEATHERCAT 

beg the Lord's pardon, and yours, for my wicked- 
ness.' 

*H'm,' grunted the lady. 'Did ye see nobody 
else ? ' 

'No, ma'am,' said Francie, with the face of an 
angel, ' except Jock Crozer, that gied me the billet.' 

' Jock Crozer I' cried the lady. 'I '11 Crozer them ! 
Crozers indeed ! What next ? Are we to repose 
the lives of a suffering remnant in Crozers ? The 
whole clan of them wants hanging, and if I had my 
way of it, they wouldna want it long. Are you 
aware, sir, that these Crozers killed your forebear at 
the kirk-door ? ' 

* You see, he was bigger 'n me,' said Francie. 

'Jock Crozer!' continued the lady. 'That '11 be 
Clement's son, the biggest thief and reiver in the 
country-side. To trust a note to him I But I '11 
give the benefit of my opinions to Lady Whitecross 
when we two forgather. Let her look to herself ! 
I have no patience with half-hearted carlines, that 
complies on the Lord's day morning with the kirk, 
and comes taigling the same night to the conventicle. 
The one or the other ! is what I say : Hell or 
Heaven— Haddie's abominations or the pure word 
of God dreeping from the lips of Mr. Arnot, 

Like honey from the honeycomb 
That dreepeth, sweeter far.' 

My lady was now fairly launched, and that upon 
two congenial subjects : the deficiencies of the Lady 
Whitecross, and the turpitudes of the whole Crozer 
104 



FRANCIE 

race — which, indeed, had never been conspicuous for 
respectability. She pursued the pair of them for 
twenty minutes on the clock with wonderful anima- 
tion and detail, something of the pulpit manner, and 
the spirit of one possessed. * O hellish compliance !' 
she exclaimed. ' I would not suffer a complier to 
break bread with Christian folk. Of all the sins of 
this day there is not one so God-defying, so Christ- 
humiliating, as damnable compliance ' : the boy 
standing before her meanwhile, and brokenly pursu- 
ing other thoughts, mainly of Haddo and Janet, and 
Jock Crozer stripping off his jacket. And yet, with 
all his distraction, it might be argued that he heard 
too much : his father and himself being * compilers ' 
— that is to say, attending the church of the parish 
as the law required. 

Presently, the lady's passion beginning to decline, or 
her flux of ill words to be exhausted, she dismissed 
her audience. Francie bowed low, left the room, 
closed the door behind him : and then turned him 
about in the passage-way, and with a low voice, but 
a prodigious deal of sentiment, repeated the name of 
the evil one twenty times over, to the end of which, 
for the greater efficacy, he tacked on * damnable ' and 
' hellish.' Fas est ah hoste doceri — disrespect is made 
more pungent by quotation ; and there is no doubt 
but he felt relieved, and went up-stairs into his 
tutor's chamber with a quiet mind. M'Brair sat by 
the cheek of the peat-fire and shivered, for he had a 
quartan ague and this was his day. The great night- 
cap and plaid, the dark unshaven cheeks of the man, 

105 



HEATHERCAT 

and the white, thin hands that held the plaid about 
his chittering body, made a sorrowful picture. But 
Francie knew and loved him ; came straight in, 
nestled close to the refugee, and told his story. 
M'Brair had been at the College with Haddo ; the 
Presbytery had licensed both on the same day ; and 
at this tale, told with so much innocency by the boy, 
the heart of the tutor was commoved. 

' Woe upon him ! Woe upon that man ! ' he cried. 
' O the unfaithful shepherd ! O the hireling and 
apostate minister ! Make my matters hot for me ? 
quo' she ! the shameless limmer I And true it is, 
that he could repose me in that nasty, stinking hole, 
the Canongate Tolbooth, from which your mother 
drew me out — the Lord reward her for it! — or to 
that cold, unbieldy, marine place of the Bass 
Rock, which, with my delicate kist, would be fair 
ruin to me. But I will be valiant in my Master's 
service. I have a duty here : a duty to my God, 
to myself, and to Haddo : in His strength, I will 
perform it.' 

Then he straitly discharged Francie to repeat the 
tale, and bade him in the future to avert his very 
eyes from the doings of the curate. ' You must go 
to his place of idolatry ; look upon him there !' says 
he, ' but nowhere else. Avert your eyes, close your 
ears, pass him by like a three days' corp. He is like 
that damnable monster Basiliscus, which defiles — 
yea, poisons ! — by the sight.' — All which was hardly 
claratory to the boy's mind. 

Presently Montroymont came home, and called up 
io6 



FRANCIE 

the stairs to Fraiicie. Traquair was a good shot and 
swordsman ; and it was his pleasure to walk with his 
son over the braes of the moorfowl, or to teach him 
arms in the back court, when they made a mighty 
comely pair, the child being so lean, and light, and 
active, and the laird himself a man of a manly, pretty 
stature, his hair (the periwig being laid aside) show- 
ing already white with many anxieties, and his face 
of an even, flaccid red. But this day Francie's heart 
was not in the fencing. 

' Sir,' says he, suddenly lowering his point, ' will ye 
tell me a thing if I was to ask it ?' 

' Ask away,' says the father. 

' Well, it 's this,' said Francie : ' Why do you and 
me comply if it 's so wicked ?' 

* Ay, ye have the cant of it too 1' cries Montroy- 
mont. ' But I '11 tell ye for all that. It 's to try and 
see if we can keep the rigging on this house, Francie. 
If she had her way, we would be beggar-folk, and 
hold our hands out by the wayside. When ye hear 
her — when ye hear folk,' he corrected himself briskly, 
' call me a coward, and one that betrayed the Lord, 
and I kenna what else, just mind it was to keep a 
bed to ye to sleep in and a bite for ye to eat. — On 
guard ! ' he cried, and the lesson proceeded again till 
they were called to supper. 

* There 's another thing yet,' said Francie, stopping 
his father. ' There 's another thing that I am not sure 
that I am very caring for. She — she sends me errands. ' 

'Obey her, then, as is your bounden duty,' said 
Traquair. 

107 



HEATHERCAT 

' Ay, but wait till I tell ye,' says the boy. ' If I 
was to see you I was to hide.' 

Montroymont sighed. * Well, and that 's good of 
her too,' said he. 'The less that I ken of thir 
doings the better for me ; and the best thing you 
can do is just to obey her, and see and be a good son 
to her, the same as ye are to me, Francie.' 

At the tenderness of this expression the heart of 
Francie swelled within his bosom, and his remorse 
was poured out. ' Faither !' he cried, ' I said " deil " 
to-day ; many 's the time I said it, and damnable too, 
and hellitsh. I ken they're all right; they're 
beeblical. But I didna say them beeblically ; I 
said them for sweir words — that's the truth of it.' 

*Hout, ye silly bairn!' said the father, 'dinna do 
it nae mair, and come in by to your supper.' And 
he took the boy, and drew him close to him a 
moment, as they went through the door, with some- 
thing very fond and secret, like a caress between a 
pair of lovers. 

The next day M'Brair was abroad in the after- 
noon, and had a long advising with Janet on the 
braes where she herded cattle. What passed was 
never wholly known ; but the lass wept bitterly, and 
fell on her knees to him among the whins. The 
same night, as soon as it was dark, he took the road 
again for Balweary. In the Kirkton, where the 
dragoons quartered, he saw many lights, and heard 
the noise of a ranting song and people laughing 
grossly, which was highly offensive to his mind. He 
gave it the wider berth, keeping among fields ; and 
1 08 



FRANCIE 

came down at last by the water-side, where the manse 
stands solitary between the river and the road. He 
tapped at the back door, and the old woman called 
upon him to come in, and guided him through the 
house to the study, as they still called it, though 
there was little enough study there in Haddo's days, 
and more song-books than theology. 

* Here's yin to speak wi' ye, Mr. Haddie!' cries 
the old wife. 

And M'Brair, opening the door and entering, 
found the little, round, red man seated in one chair 
and his feet upon another. A clear fire and a tallow 
dip lighted him barely. He was taking tobacco in a 
pipe, and smiling to himself; and a brandy-bottle 
and glass, and his fiddle and bow, were beside him 
on the table. 

*Hech, Patey M'Brair, is this you?' said he, a 
trifle tipsily. 'Step in by, man, and have a drop 
brandy : for the stomach's sake ! Even the deil can 
quote Scripture — eh, Patey V 

' I will neither eat nor drink with you,' replied 
M'Brair. ' I am come upon my Master's errand : 
woe be upon me if I should anyways mince the 
same. Hall Haddo, I summon you to quit this kirk 
which you encumber.' 

' Muckle obleeged !' says Haddo, winking. 

'You and me have been to kirk and market 
together,' pursued M'Brair; 'we have had blessed 
seasons in the kirk, we have sat in the same teaching- 
rooms and read in the same book ; and I know you 
still retain for me some carnal kindness. It would 

109 



HEATHERCAT 

be my shame if I denied it; I live here at yom* 
mercy and by your favour, and glory to acknowledge 
it. You have pity on my wretched body, which is 
but grass, and must soon be trodden under : but O, 
Haddo ! how much greater is the yearning with 
which I yearn after and pity your immortal soul! 
Come now, let us reason together! I drop all points 
of controversy, weighty though these be ; I take 
your defaced and damnified kirk on your own terms ; 
and I ask you. Are you a worthy minister? The 
communion season approaches ; how can you pro- 
nounce thir solemn words, "The elders will now 
bring forrit the elements," and not quail. A 
parishioner may be summoned to-night ; you may 
have to rise from your miserable orgies ; and I ask 
you, Haddo, what does your conscience tell you ? 
Are you fit ? Are you fit to smooth the pillow of 
a parting Christian ? And if the summons should 
be for yourself, how then ? ' 

Haddo was startled out of all composure and the 
better part of his temper. ' What 's this of it ? ' he 
cried. ' I 'm no waur than my neebours. I never set 
up to be speeritual ; I never did. I 'm a plain, canty 
creature ; godliness is cheerfulness, says I ; give me 
my fiddle and a dram, and I wouldna hairm a flee.' 

' And I repeat my question,' said M'Brair : ' Are 
you fit — fit for this great charge? fiit to carry and 
save souls ? 

* Fit ? Blethers I As fit 's yoursel',' cried Haddo. 

* Are you so great a self-deceiver ?' said M'Brair. 
' Wretched man, trampler upon God's covenants, 

no 



FRANCIE 

crucifier of your Lord afresh. I will ding you to the 
earth with one word : How about the young woman, 
Janet M'Clour?' 

'Weel, what about her? what do I ken?' cries 
Haddo. 'M'Brair, ye daft auld wife, I tell ye as 
true 's truth, I never meddled her. It was just daff- 
ing, I tell ye : daffing, and nae mair : a piece of fun, 
like ! I 'm no denying but what I 'm fond of fun, 
sma' blame to me ! But for onything sarious — hout, 
man, it might come to a deposeetion ! I '11 sweir 
it to ye. Where 's a Bible, till you hear me sweir?' 

' There is nae Bible in your study,' said M'Brair 
severely. 

And Haddo, after a few distracted turns, was con- 
strained to accept the fact. 

' Weel, and suppose there isna?' he cried, stamp- 
ing. * What mair can ye say of us, but just that I'm 
fond of my joke, and so 's she ? I declare to God, by 
what I ken, she might be the Virgin Mary — if she 
would just keep clear of the dragoons. But me ! 
na, deil haet o' me ! ' 

' She is penitent at least,' says M'Brair. 

* Do you mean to actually up and tell me to my 
face that she accused me ?' cried the curate. 

' I canna just say that,' replied M'Brair. ' But I 
rebuked her in the name of God, and she repented 
before me on her bended knees.' 

'Weel, I daursay she's been ower far wi' the 
dragoons,' said Haddo. ' I never denied that. I ken 
nae thing by it.' 

'Man, you but show your nakedness the more 

III 



HEATHERCAT 

plainly,' said M'Brair. 'Poor, blind, besotted crea- 
ture — and I see you stoytering on the brink of disso- 
lution : your light out, and your hours numbered. 
Awake, man ! ' he shouted with a formidable voice, 
* awake, or it be ower late. ' 

* Be damned if I stand this ! ' exclaimed Haddo, 
casting his tobacco-pipe violently on the table, where 
it was smashed in pieces. * Out of my house with 
ye, or I '11 call for the dragoons.' 

' The speerit of the Lord is upon me,' said M'Brair 
with solemn ecstasy. * I sist you to compear before 
the Great White Throne, and I warn you the 
summons shall be bloody and sudden.' 

And at this, with more agility than could have 
been expected, he got clear of the room and slammed 
the door behind him in the face of the pursuing 
curate. The next Lord's day the curate was ill, and 
the kirk closed, but for all his ill words, Mr. 
M'Brair abode unmolested in the house of Montroy- 
mont. 



CHAPTER III 

THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

This was a bit of a steep broken hill that over- 
looked upon the west a moorish valley, full of ink- 
black pools. These presently drained into a burn 
that made off, with little noise and no celerity of 
pace, about the corner of the hill. On the far side 
the ground swelled into a bare heath, black with 

112 



THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

junipers, and spotted with the presence of the stand- 
ing stones for which the place was famous. They 
were many in that part, shapeless, white with lichen 
— you would have said with age : and had made their 
abode there for untold centuries, since first the 
heathens shouted for their installation. The ancients 
had hallowed them to some ill religion, and their 
neighbourhood had long been avoided by the prudent 
before the fall of day ; but of late, on the upspring- 
ing of new requirements, these lonely stones on the 
moor had again become a place of assembly. A 
watchful picket on the Hill-end commanded all 
the northern and eastern approaches ; and such 
was the disposition of the ground, that by certain 
cunningly posted sentries the west also could be 
made secure against surprise : there was no place in 
the country where a conventicle could meet with 
more quiet of mind or a more certain retreat open, 
in the case of interference from the dragoons. The 
minister spoke from a knowe close to the edge of 
the ring, and poured out the words God gave him on 
the very threshold of the devils of yore. When they 
pitched a tent (which was often in wet weather, upon 
a communion occasion) it was rigged over the huge 
isolated pillar that had the name of Anes-Errand, 
none knew why. And the congregation sat partly 
clustered on the slope below, and partly among the 
idolatrous monoliths and on the turfy soil of the Ring 
itself. In truth the situation was well qualified to 
give a zest to Christian doctrines, had there been any 
wanted. But these congregations assembled under 

26 — H 113 



HEATHERCAT 

conditions at once so formidable and romantic as 
made a zealot of the most cold. They were the last 
of the faithful ; God, who had averted his face from 
all other countries of the world, still leaned from 
heaven to observe, with swelling sympathy, the 
doings of his moorland remnant ; Christ was by them 
with his eternal wounds, with dropping tears ; the 
Holy Ghost (never perfectly realised nor firmly 
adopted by Protestant imaginations) was dimly 
supposed to be in the heart of each and on the lips 
of the minister. And over against them was the 
army of the hierarchies, from the men Charles and 
James Stuart, on to King Lewie and the Emperor ; 
and the scarlet Pope, and the muckle black devil 
himself, peering out the red mouth of hell in an 
ecstasy of hate and hope. 'One pull more!' he 
seemed to cry ; * one pull more, and it 's done. 
There 's only Clydesdale and the Stewartry, and the 
three Bailiaries of Ayr, left for God.' And with 
such an august assistance of powers and principalities 
looking on at the last conflict of good and evil, it 
was scarce possible to spare a thought to those old, 
infirm, debile, ab agendo devils whose holy place 
they were now violating. 

There might have been three hundred to four 
hundred present. At least there were three hundred 
horse tethered for the most part in the ring ; though 
some of the hearers on the outskirts of the crowd 
stood with their bridles in their hand, ready to 
mount at the first signal. The circle of faces 
was strangely characteristic ; long, serious, strongly 
114 



THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

marked, the tackle standing out in the lean brown 
cheeks, the mouth set and the eyes shining with a 
fierce enthusiasm ; the shepherd, the labouring man, 
and the rarer laird, stood there in their broad blue 
bonnets or laced hats, and presenting an essential 
identity of type. From time to time a long-drawn 
groan of adhesion rose in this audience, and was 
propagated like a wave to the outskirts, and died 
away among the keepers of the horses. It had a 
name ; it was called ' a holy groan.' 

A squall came up ; a great volley of flying mist 
went out before it and whelmed the scene ; the wind 
stormed with a sudden fierceness that carried away 
the minister's voice and twitched his tails and made 
him stagger, and turned the congregation for a 
moment into a mere pother of blowing plaid-ends 
and prancing horses ; and the rain followed and was 
dashed straight into their faces. Men and women 
panted aloud in the shock of that violent shower- 
bath ; the teeth were bared along all the line in an 
involuntary grimace; plaids, mantles, and riding- 
coats were proved vain, and the worshippers felt the 
water stream on their naked flesh. The minister, 
reinforcing his great and shrill voice, continued to 
contend against and triumph over the rising of the 
squall and the dashing of the rain. 

* In that day ye may go thirty mile and not hear 
a crawing cock,' he said ; * and fifty mile and not get 
a light to your pipe ; and an hundred mile and not 
see a smoking house. For there'll be naething in 
all Scotland but deid men's banes and blackness, 

115 



HEATHERCAT 

and the living anger of the Lord. O, where to find 
a bield — O sirs, where to find a bield from the wind 
of the Lord's anger ? Do ye call this a wind ? 
Bethankit ! Sirs, this is but a temporary dispensa- 
tion ; this is but a puff of wind, this is but a spit 
of rain and by with it. Already there 's a blue bow 
in the west, and the sun will take the crown of the 
causeway again, and your things '11 be dried upon 
ye, and your flesh will be warm upon your bones. 
But O, sirs, sirs ! for the day of the Lord's anger ! ' 

His rhetoric was set forth with an ear-piercing 
elocution, and a voice that sometimes crashed like 
cannon. Such as it was, it was the gift of all hill- 
preachers, to a singular degree of likeness or identity. 
Their images scarce ranged beyond the red horizon of 
the moor and the rainy hill-top, the shepherd and his 
sheep, a fowling-piece, a spade, a pipe, a dunghill, 
a crowing cock, the shining and the withdrawal of the 
sun. An occasional pathos of simple humanity, 
and frequent patches of big Biblical words, relieved 
the homely tissue. It was a poetry apart ; bleak, 
austere, but genuine, and redolent of the soil. 

A little before the coming of the squall there was 
a different scene enacting at the outposts. For the 
most part, the sentinels were faithful to their im- 
portant duty ; the Hill-end of Drumlowe was known 
to be a safe meeting-place ; and the out-pickets on 
this particular day had been somewhat lax from the 
beginning, and grew laxer during the inordinate 
length of the discourse. Francie lay there in his 
appointed hiding-hole, looking abroad between two 
ii6 



THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE 

whin-bushes. His view was across the course of the 
burn, then over a piece of plain moorland, to a gap 
between two hills ; nothing moved but grouse, and 
some cattle who slowly traversed his field of view, 
heading northward : he heard the psalms, and sang 
words of his own to the savage and melancholy 
music ; for he had his own design in hand, and 
terror and cowardice prevailed in his bosom alter- 
nately, like the hot and the cold fit of an ague. 
Courage was uppermost during the singing, which 
he accompanied through all its length, with this 
impromptu strain : 

' And I will ding Jock Crozer down 
No later than the day.' 

Presently the voice of the preacher came to him 
in wafts, at the wind's will, as by the opening and 
shutting of a door; wild spasms of screaming, as 
of some undiscerned gigantic hill-bird stirred with 
inordinate passion, succeeded to intervals of silence ; 
and Francie heard them with a critical ear. 'Ay,' 
he thought at last, ' he '11 do ; he has the bit in his 
mou' fairly.' 

He had observed that his friend, or rather his 
enemy, Jock Crozer, had been established at a very 
critical part of the line of outposts ; namely, where 
the burn issues by an abrupt gorge from the semi- 
circle of high moors. If anything was calculated 
to nerve him to battle it was this. The post was 
important ; next to the Hill-end itself, it might be 
called the key to the position ; and it was where the 
cover was bad, and in which it was most natural to 

117 



HEATHERCAT 

place a child. It should have been Heathercat's ; 
why had it been given to Crozer? An exquisite 
fear of what should be the answer passed through 
his marrow every time he faced the question. Was 
it possible that Crozer could have boasted? that 
there were rumours abroad to his — Heathercat's — 
discredit ? that his honour was publicly sullied ? 
All the world went dark about him at the thought ; 
he sank without a struggle into the midnight pool 
of despair ; and every time he so sank, he brought 
back with him — not drowned heroism indeed, but 
half-drowned courage by the locks. His heart beat 
very slowly as he deserted his station, and began to 
crawl towards that of Crozer. Something pulled 
him back, and it was not the sense of duty, but a 
remembrance of Crozer's build and hateful readiness 
of fist. Duty, as he conceived it, pointed him for- 
ward on the rueful path that he was travelling. Duty 
bade him redeem his name if he were able, at the 
risk of broken bones ; and his bones and every tooth 
in his head ached by anticipation. An awful sub- 
sidiary fear whispered him that if he were hurt, he 
should disgrace himself by weeping. He consoled 
himself, boy-like, with the consideration that he was 
not yet committed ; he could easily steal over unseen 
to Crozer's post, and he had a continuous private idea 
that he would very probably steal back again. His 
course took him so near the minister that he could 
hear some of his words : ' What news, minister, of 
Claver'se ? He 's going round like a roaring ram- 
paging lion. . . . 
ii8 



EDITORIAL NOTE 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

The story, which opens with these scenes of covenanting life 
and character in Scotland, was intended to shift presently 
across the Atlantic, first to the Carolina plantations and 
next to the ill-fated Scotch settlement in Darien. Practically 
all that we know of it is contained in one or two passages of 
letters from the author to Mr. Charles Baxter and Mr. S. R. 
Crockett. To Mr. Baxter he writes as follows : — 

' 6 Deer. 1893. 
' " Oct. 25, 1685, at Privy Council, George Murray, Lieu- 
tenant of the King's Guard, and others, did, on the 21 of 
September last, obtain a clandestine order of Privy Council to 
apprehend the person of Janet Pringle, daughter to the late 
Clifton, and she having retired out of the way upon informa- 
tion, he got an order against Andrew Pringle, her uncle, to 
produce her. . . . But she having married Andrew Pringle 
her uncle's son (to disappoint all their designs of selling her) 

a boy of 13 years old" but my boy is 14, so I extract no 

farther (Fountainhall, i. 320). May 6, 1685, Wappus Pringle 
of Clifton was still alive after all,^ and in prison for debt, and 
transacts with Lieut. Murray, giving security for 7000 marks 
(i. 320). 

1 No, it seems to have been her brother who had succeeded. 

' My dear Charles, the above is my story, and I wonder if 
any light can be thrown on it. I prefer the girl's father dead ; 
and the question is how in that case could Lieut. George 
Murray get his order to apprehend and his power to sell her 

• 119 



HEATHERCAT 

in marriage ? Or . . . might Lieutenant G. be her tutor, and 
the fugitive to the Pringles, and on the discovery of her 
whereabouts hastily married? A good legal note on these 
points is very ardently desired by me ; it will be the corner- 
stone of my novel. 

' This is for — I am quite wrong to tell you, for you will tell 
others — and nothing will teach you that all my schemes are in 
the air, and vanish and re-appear again like shapes in the 
clouds — it is for Heathercat : whereof the first volume will be 
called the Killing Time; and I believe I have authorities 
ample for that. But the second volume is to be called (I 
believe) Darien, and for that I want, I fear, a good deal of 
truck, 

Darien papers, 

Carstairs papers, 

Marchmont papers, 

Jerviswood correspondence — 
I hope may do me ; some sort of general history of the Darien 
affair (if there is a decent one, which I misdoubt) it would also 
be well to have ; the one with most details, if possible. It 
is singular how obscure to me this decade of Scots History 
remains, 1690-1700 : a deuce of a want of light and grouping 
to it ! However, I believe I shall be mostly out of Scotland 
in my tale ; first in Carolina and next in Darien.' 

The place of Andrew Pringle, in the historical extract above 
quoted, was evidently to be taken in Stevenson's story by 
Ninian Traquair of Montroymont. In a rough draft of chapter- 
headings. Chap. vi. bears the title ' The Ward comes home ' : 
another chapter shows that her name was to have been Jean 
Ruthven : plainly Francie Traquair was to be the boy-husband 
to whom this Jean was to be united in order to frustrate the 
designs of those who hoped to control her person and traffic 
in her marriage. 

The references in the author's letters to Mr. Crockett date 
from June 30, 1893, and afterwards. His correspondent was 
I20 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

about this time engaged in preparing a covenanting romance 
of his own — 'The Men of the Moss-Hags.' On the first- 
named date Stevenson writes, ' It may interest you to know 
that " Weir of Hermiston " or " the Hanging Judge,"" or what- 
ever the mischief the thing is to be called, centres about the 
grave of the Praying Weaver of Balweary. And when 
Heathercat is written, if it ever is, O then there will be 
another chance for the Societies ' [i.e. the United Societies, 
generally known in history as the Cameronians]. A little 
later Stevenson received from the same correspondent, at his 
own request, materials for his work in the shape of extracts 
collected from the Earlston papers by the Rev, John Anderson, 
Assistant Curator of the Historical Department, Register 
House, Edinburgh; the minutes of the Societies, edited by the 
Rev. John Howie of Lochgoin, entitled 'Faithful Contend- 
ings;' etc., etc. Later, sends a humorous sketch of a trespass- 
board and gallows, with R. L. S, in the act of hanging S. R. C, 
and on the board the words 'Notice — The Cameronians are 
the proppaty of me, R. L. S. — trespassers and Raiders will be 
hung.' In the letter accompanying this, he says, ' I have made 
many notes for Heathercat^ but do not get much forrader. 
For one thing I am not inside these people yet. Wait three 
years and I ^11 race you. For another thing I am not a keen 
partisan, and to write a good book you must be. The Society 
men were brave, dour-headed, strong-hearted men fighting a 
hard battle and fighting it hardly. That is about all the use 
I have for them.' Finally, in a letter written shortly before 
his death, he mentions having laid the story on the shelf, 
whether permanently or only for a while he does not know. 



121 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

A FRAGMENT 



First edition : Chaito and Windus, London, 1896. 
Originally published, Cosmopolis, January — April 1 896. 



TO MY WIFE 

I saw rain falling and the rainbow drawn 
On Lammermuir. Hearkening I heard again 
In my precipitous city beaten bells 
Winnow the keen sea wind. And here afar, 
Intent on my oion race and place, I wrote. 

Take thou the writing : thine it is. For who 
Burnished the sword, blew on the drowsy coal. 
Held still the taj\qet higher, chary of praise 
And prodigal of counsel — who but thou ? 
So now in the end, if this the least be good. 
If any deed be done, if any fire 
Burn in the imperfect page, the praise be thine. 

R. L. S. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Dedication ..... 125 
Introductory . . . . .129 

CHAPTER 

I. Life and Death of Mrs. Weir . . 131 

II. Father and Son . . . .149 

III. In the Matter of the Hanging of Duncan 

Jopp . . . .157 

IV. Opinions of the Bench . . . 177 

V. Winter on the Moors — 

1. At Hermiston . . . 188 



2. Kirstie 

3- A Border Family 
VI. A Leaf from Christina's Psalm-Book 
VII. Enter Mephistopheles . 



193 
198 
219 
251 



127 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

CHAPTER PAGE 

VIII. A Nocturnal Visit . . . 274 

IX. At the Weaver's Stone . . 283 

Editorial Note . . . .292 

Glossary of Scots Words . . . 305 



128 



INTRODUCTORY 

In the wild end of a moorland parish, far out of the 
sight of any house, there stands a cairn among the 
heather, and a little by east of it, in the going down 
of the braeside, a monument with some verses half 
defaced. It was here that Claverhouse shot with his 
own hand the Praying Weaver of Balweary, and the 
chisel of Old Mortality has clinked on that lonely 
gravestone. Public and domestic history have thus 
marked with a bloody finger this hollow among the 
hills ; and since the Cameronian gave his life there, 
two hundred years ago, in a glorious folly, and with- 
out comprehension or regret, the silence of the moss 
has been broken once again by the report of firearms 
and the cry of the dying. 

The Deil's Hags was the old name. But the 
place is now called Francie's Cairn. For a while it 
was told that Francie walked. Aggie Hogg met 
him in the gloaming by the cairnside, and he spoke 
to her, with chattering teeth, so that his words were 
lost. He pursued Rob Todd (if any one could have 
believed Robbie) for the space of half a mile with 
pitiful entreaties. But the age is one of incredulity ; 
these superstitious decorations speedily fell off; and 
26 — I 129 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the facts of the story itself, like the bones of a giant 
buried there and half dug up, survived, naked and 
imperfect, in the memory of the scattered neigh- 
bours. To this day, of winter nights, when the 
sleet is on the window and the cattle are quiet in 
the byre, there will be told again, amid the silence 
of the young and the additions and corrections of the 
old, the tale of the Justice-Clerk and of his son, 
young Hermiston, that vanished from men's know- 
ledge ; of the Two Kirsties and the four Black 
Brothers of the Cauldstaneslap ; and of Frank Innes, 
'the young fool advocate,' that came into these 
moorland parts to find his destiny. 



130 



CHAPTER I 

LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS WEIR 

The Lord Justice-Clerk was a stranger in that part 
of the country ; but his lady wife was known there 
from a child, as her race had been before her. The 
old * riding Rutherfords of Hermiston,' of whom she 
was the last descendant, had been famous men of 
yore, ill neighbours, ill subjects, and ill husbands to 
their wives, though not their properties. Tales of 
them were rife for twenty miles about ; and their 
name was even printed in the page of our Scots 
histories, not always to their credit. One bit the 
dust at Flodden ; one was hanged at his peel door 
by James the Fifth ; another fell dead in a carouse 
with Tom Dalyell ; while a fourth (and that was 
Jean's own father) died presiding at a Hell-Fire 
Club, of which he was the founder. There were 
many heads shaken in Crossmichael at that judg- 
ment ; the more so as the man had a villainous repu- 
tation among high and low, and both with the godly 
and the worldly. At that very hour of his demise 
he had ten going pleas before the Session, eight 
of them oppressive. And the same doom extended 
even to his agents ; his grieve, that had been his 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

right hand in many a left-hand business, being cast 
from his horse one night and drowned in a peat-hag 
on the Kye-skairs ; and his very doer (although 
lawyers have long spoons) surviving him not long, 
and dying on a sudden in a bloody flux. 

In all these generations, while a male Rutherford 
was in the saddle with his lads, or brawling in a 
change-house, there would be always a white-faced 
wife immured at home in the old peel or the later 
mansion-house. It seemed this succession of mar- 
tyrs bided long, but took their vengeance in the 
end, and that was in the person of the last descen- 
dant, Jean. She bore the name of the Rutherfords, 
but she was the daughter of their trembling wives. 
At the first she was not wholly without charm. 
Neighbours recalled in her, as a child, a strain of 
elfin wilfulness, gentle little mutinies, sad little 
gaieties, even a morning gleam of beauty that was 
not to be fulfilled. She withered in the growing, 
and (whether it was the sins of her sires or the 
sorrows of her mothers) came to her maturity de- 
pressed, and, as it were, defaced ; no blood of life 
in her, no grasp or gaiety ; pious, anxious, tender, 
tearful, and incompetent. 

It was a wonder to many that she had married — 
seeming so wholly of the stuff that makes old maids. 
But chance cast her in the path of Adam Weir, 
then the new Lord Advocate, a recognised, risen 
man, the conqueror of many obstacles, and thus late 
in the day beginning to think upon a wife. He was 
one who looked rather to obedience than beauty, 

1^2 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIU 

yet it would seem he was struck with her at the first 
look. * Wha 's she ? ' he said, turning to his host ; 
and, when he had been told, ' Ay,' says he, * she 

looks menseful. She minds me ' ; and then, after 

a pause (which some have been daring enough to set 
down to sentimental recollections), ' Is she relee- 
gious ? ' he asked, and was shortly after, at his 
own request, presented. The acquaintance, which it 
seems profane to call a courtship, was pursued with 
Mr. Weir's accustomed industry, and was long a 
legend, or rather a source of legends, in the Parlia- 
ment House. He was described coming, rosy with 
much port, into the drawing-ixDom, walking direct 
up to the lady, and assailing her with pleasantries 
to which the embarrassed fair one responded, in what 
seemed a kind of agony, ' Eh, Mr. Weir ! ' or * O, 
Mr. Weir ! ' or ' Keep me, Mr, Weir ! ' On the very 
eve of their engagement, it was related that one had 
drawn near to the tender couple, and had overheard 
the lady cry out, with the tones of one who talked 
for the sake of talking, ' Keep me, Mr. Weir, and 
what became of him ? ' and the profound accents of 
the suitor reply, ' Haangit, mem, haangit.' The 
motives upon either side were much debated. Mr. 
Weir must have supposed his bride to be somewhat 
suitable ; perhaps he belonged to that class of men 
who think a weak head the ornament of women — an 
opinion invariably punished in this life. Her descent 
and her estate were beyond question. Her wayfar- 
ing ancestors and her litigious father had done well 
by Jean. There was ready money and there were 

133 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

broad acres, ready to fall wholly to the husband, to 
lend dignity to his descendants, and to himself a 
title, when he should be called upon the Bench. On 
the side of Jean, there was perhaps some fascination 
of curiosity as to this unknown male animal that 
approached her with the roughness of a ploughman 
and the aplomb of an advocate. Being so trench- 
antly opposed to all she knew, loved, or understood, 
he may well have seemed to her the extreme, if 
scarcely the ideal, of his sex. And besides, he was 
an ill man to refuse. A little over forty at the 
period of his marriage, he looked already older, and 
to the force of manhood added the senatorial dignity 
of years ; it was, perhaps, with an unreverend awe, 
but he was awful. The Bench, the Bar, and the 
most experienced and reluctant witness, bowed to 
his authority — and why not Jeannie Rutherford ? 

The heresy about foolish women is always pun- 
ished, I have said, and Lord Hermiston began to 
pay the penalty at once. His house in George 
Square was wretchedly ill-guided ; nothing answer- 
able to the expense of maintenance but the cellar, 
which was his own private care. When things went 
wrong at dinner, as they continually did, my lord 
would look up the table at his wife : ' I think these 
broth would be better to sweem in than to sup.' 
Or else to the butler : ' Here, M'Killop, awa' wi' this 
Raadical gigot — tak' it to the French, man, and 
bring me some puddocks ! It seems rather a sore 
kind of business that I should be all day in Court ij 
haanging Raadicals, and get nawthing to my denner.' ' 
134 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

Of course this was but a manner of speaking, and he 
had never hanged a man for being a Radical in his 
life ; the law, of which he was the faithful minister, 
directing otherwise. And of course these growls 
were in the nature of pleasantry, but it was of a 
recondite sort; and uttered as they were in his 
resounding voice, and commented on by that expres- 
sion which they called in the Parliament House 
' Hermiston's hanging face ' — they struck mere dis- 
may into the wife. She sat before him speechless and 
fluttering ; at each dish, as at a fresh ordeal, her eye 
hovered toward my lord's countenance and fell again ; 
if he but ate in silence, unspeakable relief was her 
portion ; if there were complaint, the world was 
darkened. She would seek out the cook, who was 
always her sister in the Lord. ' O, my dear, this is 
the most dreidful thing that my lord can never be 
contented in his own house ! ' she would begin ; and 
weep and pray with the cook ; and then the cook 
would pray with Mrs. Weir; and the next day's 
meal would never be a penny the better — and the 
next cook (when she came) would be worse, if any- 
thing, but just as pious. It was often wondered 
that Lord Hermiston bore it as he did ; indeed, he 
was a stoical old voluptuary, contented with sound 
wine and plenty of it. But there were moments 
when he overflowed. Perhaps half a dozen times in 
the history of his married life — * Here ! tak' it awa', 
and bring me a piece of bread and kebbuck ! ' he had 
exclaimed, with an appalling explosion of his voice 
and rare gestures. None thought to dispute or to 

135 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

make excuses ; the service was arrested ; Mrs. Weir 
sat at the head of the table whimpering without 
disguise ; and his lordship opposite munched his 
bread and cheese in ostentatious disregard. Once 
only Mrs. Weir had ventured to appeal. He was 
passing her chair on his way into the study. 

' O, Edom ! ' she wailed, in a voice tragic with 
tears, and reaching out to him both hands, in one 
of which she held a sopping pocket-handkerchief. 

He paused and looked upon her with a face of 
wrath, into which there stole, as he looked, a twinkle 
of humour. 

' Noansense ! ' he said. ' You and your noan- 
sense ! What do I want with a Christian faim'ly ? 
I want Christian broth ! Get me a lass that can 
plain-boil a potato, if she was a whlireofFthe streets.' 
And with these words, which echoed in her tender 
ears like blasphemy, he had passed on to his study 
and shut the door behind him. 

Such was the housewifery in George Square. It 
was better at Hermiston, where Kirstie Elliott, 
the sister of a neighbouring bonnet-laird, and an 
eighteenth cousin of the lady's, bore the charge of 
all, and kept a trim house and a good country table. 
Kirstie was a woman in a thousand, clean, capable, 
notable; once a moorland Helen, and still comely 
as a blood horse and healthy as the hill wind. High 
in flesh and voice and colour, she ran the house with 
her whole intemperate soul, in a bustle, not without 
buffets. Scarce more pious than decency in those 
days required, she was the cause of many an anxious 
136 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

thought and many a tearful prayer to Mrs. Weir. 
Housekeeper and mistress renewed the parts of 
Martha and Mary; and though with a pricking 
conscience, Mary reposed on Martha's strength as on 
a rock. Even Lord Hermiston held Kirstie in a 
particular regard. There were few with whom he 
unbent so gladly, few whom he favoured with so 
many pleasantries. ' Kirstie and me maun have our 
joke,' he would declare, in high good-humour, as he 
buttered Kirstie's scones, and she waited at table. 
A man who had no need either of love or of popu- 
larity, a keen reader of men and of events, there was 
perhaps only one truth for which he was quite un- 
prepared : he would have been quite unprepared to 
learn that Kirstie hated him. He thought maid 
and master were well matched ; hard, handy, healthy, 
broad Scots folk, without a hair of nonsense to the 
pair of them. And the fact was that she made a 
goddess and an only child of the effete and tearful 
lady ; and even as she waited at table her hands 
would sometimes itch for my lord's ears. 

Thus, at least, when the family were at Hermiston, 
not only my lord, but Mrs. Weir too, enjoyed a 
holiday. Free from the dreadful looking-for of the 
miscarried dinner, she would mind her seam, read 
her piety books, and take her walk (which was my 
lord's orders), sometimes by herself, sometimes with 
Archie, the only child of that scarce natural union. 
The child was her next bond to life. Her frosted 
sentiment bloomed again, she breathed deep of life, 
she let loose her heart, in that society. The miracle 

137 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of her motherhood was ever new to her. The sight 
of the little man at her skirt intoxicated her with 
the sense of power, and froze her with the conscious- 
ness of her responsibility. She looked forward, and, 
seeing him in fancy grow up and play his diverse 
part on the world's theatre, caught in her breath and 
lifted up her courage with a lively effort. It was 
only with the child that she forgot herself and was 
at moments natural ; yet it was only with the child 
that she had conceived and managed to pursue a 
scheme of conduct. Archie was to be a great man 
and a good ; a minister if possible, a saint for certain. 
She tried to engage his mind upon her favourite 
books, Rutherford's Letters, Scougal's Grace Abound- 
ing, and the like. It was a common practice of hers 
(and strange to remember now) that she would carry 
the child to the Deil's Hags, sit with him on the 
Praying Weaver's stone, and talk of the Covenan- 
ters till their tears ran down. Her view of history 
was wholly artless, a design in snow and ink ; upon 
the one side, tender innocents with psalms upon 
their lips ; upon the other, the persecutors, booted, 
bloody-minded, flushed with wine : a suffering Christ, 
a raging Beelzebub. Persecutor was a word that 
knocked upon the woman's heart ; it was her highest 
thought of wickedness, and the mark of it was on 
her house. Her great-great-grandfather had drawn 
the sword against the Lord's anointed on the field 
of Rullion Green, and breathed his last (tradition 
said) in the arms of the detestable Dalyell. Nor 
could she blind herself to this, that had they lived in 
138 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

those old days, Hermiston himself would have been 
numbered alongside of Bloody Mackenzie and the 
politic Lauderdale and Rothes, in the band of God's 
immediate enemies. The sense of this moved her to 
the more fervour ; she had a voice for that name of 
persecutor that thrilled in the child's marrow ; and 
when one day the mob hooted and hissed them all 
in my lord's travelling carriage, and cried, 'Down 
with the persecutor ! down with Hanging Her- 
miston ! ' and mamma covered her eyes and wept, 
and papa let down the glass and looked out upon 
the rabble with his droll formidable face, bitter and 
smiling, as they said he sometimes looked when he 
gave sentence, Archie was for the moment too much 
amazed to be alarmed, but he had scarce got his 
mother by herself before his shrill voice was raised 
demanding an explanation : Why had they called 
papa a persecutor ? 

' Keep me, my precious ! ' she exclaimed. ' Keep 
me, my dear ! this is poleetical. Ye must never 
ask me anything poleetical, Erchie. Your faither is 
a great man, my dear, and it 's no for me or you to 
be judging him. It would be telling us all, if we 
behaved ourselves in our several stations the way 
your faither does in his high office ; and let me hear 
no more of any such disrespectful and undutiful 
questions ! No that you meant to be undutiful, my 
lamb ; your mother kens that — she kens it well, 
dearie ! ' And so slid off to safer topics, and left on 
the mind of the child an obscure but ineradicable 
sense of something wrong. 

139 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Mrs. Weir's philosophy of life was summed in one 
expression — tenderness. In her view of the universe, 
which was all lighted up with a glow out of the 
doors of hell, good people must walk there in a kind 
of ecstasy of tenderness. The beasts and plants had 
no souls ; they were here but for a day, and let their 
day pass gently ! And as for the immortal men, on 
what black, downward path were many of them 
wending, and to what a horror of an immortality ! 
' Are not two sparrows,' ' Whosoever shall smite 
thee,' ' God sendeth His rain,' ' Judge not, that ye be 
not judged ' — these texts made her body of divinity ; 
she put them on in the morning with her clothes and 
lay down to sleep with them at night ; they haunted 
her like a favourite air, they clung about her like a 
favourite perfume. Their minister was a marrowy 
expounder of the law, and my lord sat under him 
with relish ; but Mrs. Weir respected him from far 
off; heard him (like the cannon of a beleaguered 
city) usefully booming outside on the dogmatic ram- 
parts ; and meanwhile, within and out of shot, dwelt 
in her private garden which she watered with grate- 
ful tears. It seems strange to say of this colourless 
and ineffectual woman, but she was a true enthusiast, 
and might have made the sunshine and the glory of 
a cloister. Perhaps none but Archie knew she could 
be eloquent ; perhaps none but he had seen her — 
her colour raised, her hands clasped or quivering — 
glow with gentle ardour. There is a corner of the 
policy of Hermiston, where you come suddenly in 
view of the summit of Black Fell, sometimes like 
140 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

the mere grass top of a hill, sometimes (and this is 
her own expression) like a precious jewel in the 
heavens. On such days, upon the sudden view 
of it, her hand would tighten on the child's 
fingers, her voice rise like a song. ' / to the hills ! ' 
she would repeat. *And O, Erchie, arena these 
like the hills of Naphtali?' and her tears would 
flow. 

Upon an impressionable child the effect of this 
continual and pretty accompaniment to life was 
deep. The woman's quietism and piety passed on 
to his different nature undiminished ; but whereas in 
her it was a native sentiment, in him it was only an 
implanted dogma. Nature and the child's pugnacity 
at times revolted. A cad from the Potterrow once 
struck him in the mouth ; he struck back, the pair 
fought it out in the back stable lane towards the 
Meadows, and Archie returned with a considerable 
decline in the number of his front teeth, and unre- 
generately boasting of the losses of the foe. It was 
a sore day for Mrs. Weir ; she wept and prayed over 
the infant backslider until my lord was due from 
Court, and she must resume that air of tremulous 
composure with which she always greeted him. The 
judge was that day in an observant mood, and 
remarked upon the absent teeth. 

' I am afraid Erchie will have been fechting with 
some of thae blagyard lads,' said Mrs. Weir. 

My lord's voice rang out as it did seldom in the 
privacy of his own house. * I '11 have nonn of that, 
sir ! ' he cried. * Do you hear me ? — nonn of that ! 

141 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

No son of mine shall be speldering in the glaur with 
any dirty raibble.' 

The anxious mother was grateful for so much 
support ; she had even feared the contrary. And 
that night when she put the child to bed — ' Now, 
my dear, ye see!' she said, 'I told you what your 
faither would think of it, if he heard ye had fallen 
into this dreidful sin ; and let you and me pray to 
God that ye may be keepit from the like temptation, 
or stren'thened to resist it ! ' 

The womanly falsity of this was thrown away. 
Ice and iron cannot be welded ; and the points of 
view of the Justice-Clerk and Mrs. Weir were not 
less unassimilable. The character and position of his 
father had long been a stumbling-block to Archie, 
and with every year of his age the difficulty grew 
more instant. The man was mostly silent; when he 
spoke at all, it was to speak of the things of the 
world, always in a worldly spirit, often in language 
that the child had been schooled to think coarse, 
and sometimes with words that he knew to be sins 
in themselves. Tenderness was the first duty, and 
my lord was invariably harsh. God was love ; the 
name of my lord (to all who knew him) was fear. 
In the world, as schematised for Archie by his 
mother, the place was marked for such a creature. 
There were some whom it was good to pity and well 
(though very likely useless) to pray for ; they were 
named reprobates, goats, God's enemies, brands for 
the burning; and Archie tallied every mark of 
identification, and drew the inevitable private infer- 
142 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

ence that the Lord Justice-Clerk was the cliief of 
sinners. 

The mother's honesty was scarce complete. 
There was one influence she feared for the child and 
still secretly combated ; that was my lord's ; and 
half unconsciously, half in a wilful blindness, she 
continued to undermine her husband with his son. 
As long as Archie remained silent, she did so ruth- 
lessly, with a single eye to heaven and the child's 
salvation ; but the day came when Archie spoke. 
It was 1801, and Archie was seven, and beyond his 
years for curiosity and logic, when he brought the 
case up openly. If judging were sinful and for- 
bidden, how came papa to be a judge ? to have that 
sin for a trade ? to bear the name of it for a distinc- 
tion? 

* I can't see it,' said the little Rabbi, and wagged 
his head. 

Mrs. Weir abounded in commonplace replies. 

'No, I canna see it,' reiterated Archie. 'And 
I '11 tell you what, mamma, I don't think you and 
me 's justifeed in staying with him.' 

The woman awoke to remorse ; she saw herself 
disloyal to her man, her sovereign and bread-winner, 
in whom (with what she had of worldliness) she took 
a certain subdued pride. She expatiated in reply on 
my lord's honour and greatness ; his useful services 
in this world of sorrow and wrong, and the place in 
which he stood, far above where babes and innocents 
could hope to see or criticise. But she had builded 
too well — Archie had his answers pat : Were not 

143 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

babes and innocents the type of the kingdom of 
heaven ? Were not honour and greatness the 
badges of the world ? And at any rate, how 
about the mob that had once seethed about the 
carriage ? 

*It's all very fine,' he concluded, 'but in my 
opinion, papa has no right to be it. And it seems 
that 's not the worst yet of it. It seems he 's called 
" the Hanging Judge " — it seems he 's crooool. I '11 
tell you what it is, mamma, there 's a tex' borne in 
upon me : It were better for that man if a mile-stone 
were bound upon his back and him flung into the 
deepestmost pairts of the sea.' 

' O my lamb, ye must never say the like of that ! ' 
she cried. ' Ye 're to honour faither and mother, 
dear, that your days may be long in the land. It 's 
Atheists that cry out against him — French Atheists, 
Erchie ! Ye would never surely even yourself down 
to be saying the same thing as French Atheists ? 
It would break my heart to think that of you. And 
O, Erchie, here arena you setting up to judge ? 
And have ye no forgot God's plain command — the 
First with Promise, dear ? Mind you upon the 
beam and the mote ! ' 

Having thus carried the war into the enemy's 
camp, the terrified lady breathed again. And no 
doubt it is easy thus to circumvent a child with 
catchwords, but it may be questioned how far it is 
effectual. An instinct in his breast detects the 
quibble, and a voice condemns it. He will instantly 
submit, privately hold the same opinion. For even 
144 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

in this simple and antique relation of the mother 
and the child, hypocrisies are multiplied. 

When the Court rose that year and the family 
returned to Hermiston, it was a common remark in 
all the country that the lady was sore failed. She 
seemed to lose and seize again her touch with life, 
now sitting inert in a sort of durable bewilderment, 
anon waking to feverish and weak activity. She 
dawdled about the lasses at their work, looking 
stupidly on ; she fell to rummaging in old cabinets 
and presses, and desisted when half through ; she 
would begin remarks with an air of animation 
and drop them without a struggle. Her common 
appearance was of one who has forgotten some- 
thing and is trying to remember; and when she over- 
hauled, one after another, the worthless and touching 
mementoes of her youth, she might have been seek- 
ing the clue to that lost thought. During this 
period she gave many gifts to the neighbours and 
house lasses, giving them with a manner of regret 
that embarrassed the recipients. 

The last night of all she was busy on some female 
work, and toiled upon it with so manifest and pain- 
ful a devotion that my lord (who was not often 
curious) inquired as to its nature. 

She blushed to the eyes. 'O, Edom, it's for you!' 
she said. ' It 's slippers. I — I ha'e never made ye 
any.' 

'Ye daft auld wife!' returned his lordship. *A 
bonny figure I would be, palmering about in 
bauchles !' 

26— K 145 



WEIK OF HERMISTON 

The next day, at the hour of her walk, Kirstie 
interfered. Kirstie took this decay of her mistress 
very hard ; bore her a grudge, quarrelled with and 
railed upon her, the anxiety of a genuine love wear- 
ing the disguise of temper. This day of all days she 
insisted disrespectfully, with rustic fury, that Mrs. 
Weir should stay at home. But, ' No, no,' she said, 
'it's my lord's orders,' and set forth as usual. 
Archie was visible in the acre bog, engaged upon 
some childish enterprise, the instrument of which 
was mire ; and she stood and looked at him a while 
like one about to call ; then thought otherwise, 
sighed, and shook her head, and proceeded on her 
rounds alone. The house lasses were at the burn- 
side washing, and saw her pass with her loose, weary, 
dowdy gait. 

* She 's a terrible feckless wife the mistress ! ' said 
the one. 

'Tut,' said the other, 'the wumman's seeck.' 

' Weel, I canna see nae differ in her,' returned the 
first. 'A fiishionless quean, a feckless carline.' 

The poor creature thus discussed rambled a while 
in the grounds without a purpose. Tides in her 
mind ebbed and flowed, and carried her to and fro 
like seaweed. She tried a path, paused, returned, 
and tried another ; questing, forgetting her quest ; 
the spirit of choice extinct in her bosom, or devoid 
of sequency. On a sudden, it appeared as though 
she had remembered, or had formed a resolution, 
wheeled about, returned with hurried steps, and 
appeared in the dining-room, where Kirstie was at 
146 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

the cleaning, like one charged with an important 
errand. 

' Kirstie ! ' she began., and paused ; and then with 
conviction, 'Mr. Weir isna speeritually minded, but 
he has been a good man to me.' 

It was perhaps the first time since her husband's 
elevation that she had forgotten the handle to his 
name, of which the tender, inconsistent woman was 
not a little proud. And when Kirstie looked up at 
the speaker's face, she was aware of a change. 

' Godsake, what 's the maitter wi' ye, mem ? ' cried 
the housekeeper, starting from the rug. 

'I do not ken,' answered her mistress, shaking 
her head. ' But he is not speeritually minded, 
my dear.' 

' Here, sit down with ye ! Godsake, what ails the 
wife V cried Kirstie, and helped and forced her into 
my lord's own chair by the cheek of the hearth. 

'Keep me, what's this?' she gasped. 'Kirstie, 
what 's this? I 'm frich'ened.' 

They were her last words. 

It was the lowering nightfall when my lord 
returned. He had the sunset in his back, all clouds 
and glory; and before him, by the wayside, spied 
Kirstie Elliott waiting. She was dissolved in tears, 
and addressed him in the high, false note of barbar- 
ous mourning, such as still lingers modified among 
Scots heather. 

' The Lord peety ye, Hermiston ! the Lord prepare 
ye!' she keened out. 'Weary upon me, that I 
should have to tell it !' 

147 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

He reined in his horse and looked upon her with 
the hanging face. 

* Has the French landit ? ' cried he. 

'Man, man,' she said, 'is that a' ye can think of? 
The Lord prepare ye : the Lord comfort and support 
ye !' 

*Is onybody deid?' says his lordship. 'It's no 
Erchie?' 

'Bethankit, no!' exclaimed the woman, startled 
into a more natural tone. 'Na, na, it's no sae bad as 
that. It's the mistress, my lord; she just fairflittit 
before my e'en. She just gi'ed a sab and was by wi' 
it. Eh, my bonny Miss Jeannie, that I mind sae 
weel!' And forth again upon that pouring tide of 
lamentation in which women of her class excel and 
over-abound. 

Lord Hermiston sat in the saddle beholding her. 
Then he seemed to recover command upon himself. 

'Weel, it's something of the suddenest,' said he. 
' But she was a dwaibly body from the first.' 

And he rode home at a precipitate amble with 
Kirstie at his horse's heels. 

Dressed as she was for her last walk, they had laid 
the dead lady on her bed. She was never interest- 
ing in Hfe ; in death she was not impressive ; and 
as her husband stood before her, with his hands 
crossed behind his powerful back, that which he 
looked upon was the very image of the insignificant. 

* Her and me were never cut out for one another,' 
he remarked at last. ' It was a daft-like marriage.' 
And then, with a most unusual gentleness of tone, 

148 



LIFE AND DEATH OF MRS. WEIR 

' Puir bitch,' said he, ' puir bitch ! ' Then suddenly : 
' Where 'sErchie?' 

Kirstie had decoyed him to her room and given 
him * a jeely-piece.' 

* Ye have some kind of gumption, too,' observed 
the judge, and considered his housekeeper grimly. 
*When all's said,' he added, 'I micht have done 
waur — I micht have been marriet upon a skirling 
Jezebel like you ! ' 

' There 's naebody thinking of you, Hermiston ! ' 
cried the offended woman. ' We think of her that 's 
out of her sorrows. And could she have done waur ? 
Tell me that, Hermiston — tell me that before her 
clay-cauld corp ! ' 

* Weel, there 's some of them gey an' ill to please,' 
observed his lordship. 



CHAPTER II 

FATHER AND SON 

My Lord Justice-Clerk was known to many; the 
man Adam Weir perhaps to none. He had nothing 
to explain or to conceal; he sufficed wholly and 
silently to himself; and that part of our nature 
which goes out (too often with false coin) to acquire 
glory or love, seemed in him to be omitted. He 
did not try to be loved, he did not care to be ; it is 
probable the very thought of it was a stranger to 
his mind. He was an admired lawyer, a highly 
unpopular judge ; and he looked down upon those 

149 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

who were his inferiors in either distinction, who 
were lawyers of less grasp or judges not so much 
detested. In all the rest of his days and doings, not 
one trace of vanity appeared ; and he went on 
through life with a mechanical movement, as of the 
unconscious, that was almost august. 

He saw little of his son. In the childish maladies 
with which the boy was troubled, he would make 
daily inquiries and daily pay him a visit, entering 
the sick-room with a facetious and appalling coun- 
tenance, letting off a few perfunctory jests, and 
going again swiftly, to the patient's relief. Once, a 
Court holiday falling opportunely, my lord had his 
carriage, and drove the child himself to Hermiston, 
the customary place of convalescence. It is con- 
ceivable he had been more than usually anxious, for 
that journey always remained in Archie's memory 
as a thing apart, his father having related to him 
from beginning to end, and with much detail, three 
authentic murder cases. Archie went the usual 
round of other Edinburgh boys, the High School and 
the College ; and Hermiston looked on, or rather 
looked away ,** with scarce an affectation of interest in 
his progress. Daily, indeed, upon a signal after 
dinner, he was brought in, given nuts and a glass of 
port, regarded sardonically, sarcastically questioned. 
' Well, sir, and what have you donn with your book 
to-day?' my lord might begin, and set him posers 
in law Latin. To a child just stumbhng into Cor- 
derius, Papinian and Paul proved quite invincible. 
But papa had memory of no other. He was not 
150 



FATHER AND SON 

harsh to the little scholar, having a vast fund of 
patience learned upon the bench, and was at no 
pains whether to conceal or to express his disappoint- 
ment. ' Well, ye have a long jaunt before ye yet ! ' 
he might observe, yawning, and fall back on his own 
thoughts (as like as not) until the time came for 
separation, and my lord would take the decanter 
and the glass, and be off to the back chamber look- 
ing on the Meadows, where he toiled on his cases 
till the hours were small. There was no 'fuller 
man ' on the bench ; his memory was marvellous, 
though wholly legal ; if he had to ' advise ' extem- 
pore, none did it better; yet there was none who 
more earnestly prepared. As he thus watched in 
the night, or sat at table and forgot the presence of 
his son, no doubt but he tasted deeply of recondite 
pleasures. To be wholly devoted to some intel- 
lectual exercise is to have succeeded in life; and 
perhaps only in law and the higher mathematics 
may this devotion be maintained, suffice to itself 
without reaction, and find continual rewards without 
excitement This atmosphere of his father's sterling 
industry was the best of Archie's education. As- 
suredly it did not attract him ; assuredly it rather 
rebutted and depressed. Yet it was still present, 
unobserved like the ticking of a clock, an arid ideal, 
a tasteless stimulant in the boy's life. 

But Hermiston was not all of one piece. He was, 
besides, a mighty toper ; he could sit at wine until the 
day dawned, and pass directly from the table to the 
bench with a steady hand and a clear head. Beyond 

151 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the third bottle he showed the plebeian in a larger 
print; the low, gross accent, the low, foul mirth, 
grew broader and commoner ; he became less formid- 
able, and infinitely more disgusting. Now, the boy 
had inherited from Jean Rutherford a shivering 
delicacy, unequally mated with potential violence. 
In the playing-fields, and amongst his own com- 
panions, he repaid a coarse expression with a blow ; 
at his father's table (when the time came for him 
to join these revels) he turned pale and sickened in 
silence. Of all the guests whom he there encoun- 
tered, he had toleration for only one : David Keith 
Carnegie, Lord Glenalmond. Lord Glenalmond was 
tall and emaciated, with long features and long 
delicate hands. He was often compared with the 
statue of Forbes of Culloden in the Parliament 
House; and his blue eye, at more than sixty, pre- 
served some of the fire of youth. His exquisite 
disparity with any of his fellow-guests, his appear- 
ance as of an artist and an aristocrat stranded in 
rude company, riveted the boy's attention ; and as 
curiosity and interest are the things in the world 
that are the most immediately and certainly re- 
warded. Lord Glenalmond was attracted by the boy. 

* And so this is your son, Hermiston ? ' he asked, 
laying his hand on Archie's shoulder. ' He 's getting 
a big lad.' 

' Hout !' said the gracious father, 'just his mother 
over again — daurna say boo to a goose !' 

But the stranger retained the boy, talked to him, 
drew him out, found in him a taste for letters, and a 
152 



FATHER AND SON 

fine, ardent, modest, youthful soul ; and encouraged 
him to be a visitor on Sunday evenings in his bare, 
cold, lonely dining-room, where he sat and read in 
the isolation of a bachelor grown old in refinement. 
The beautiful gentleness and grace of the old judge, 
and the delicacy of his person, thoughts, and lan- 
guage, spoke to Archie's heart in its own tongue. 
He conceived the ambition to be such another; and, 
when the day came for him to choose a profession, it 
was in emulation of Lord Glenalmond, not of Lord 
Hermiston, that he chose the Bar. Hermiston looked 
on at this friendship with some secret pride, but 
openly with the intolerance of scorn. He scarce 
lost an opportunity to put them down with a rough 
jape ; and, to say truth, it was not difficult, for they 
were neither of them quick. He had a word of con- 
tempt for the whole crowd of poets, painters, fiddlers, 
and their admirers, the bastard race of amateurs, 
which was continually on his lips. ' Signor Feedle- 
eerie ! ' he would say. * O, for Goad's sake, no more 
of the Signor ! ' 

'You and my father are great friends, are you 
not ? ' asked Archie once. 

' There is no man that I more respect, Archie,' 
replied Lord Glenalmond. ' He is two things of 
price : he is a great lawyer, and he is upright as 
the day.' 

'You and he are so different,' said the boy, his 
eyes dwelling on those of his old friend, like a lover's 
on his mistress's. 

' Indeed so,' replied the judge ; ' very different. 

153 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

And so I fear are you and he. Yet I would like it 
very ill if my young friend were to misjudge his 
father. He has all the Roman virtues: Cato and 
Brutus were such ; I think a son's heart might well 
be proud of such an ancestry of one.' 

' And I would sooner he were a plaided herd,' cried 
Archie, with sudden bitterness. 

'And that is neither very wise, nor I believe en- 
tirely true,' returned Glenalmond. ' Before you are 
done you will find some of these expressions rise on 
you like a remorse. They are merely literary and 
decorative ; they do not aptly express your thought, 
nor is your thought clearly apprehended, and no 
doubt your father (if he were here) would say, 
" Signor Feedle-eerie ! " ' 

With the infinitely delicate sense of youth, Archie 
avoided the subject from that hour. It was perhaps 
a pity. Had he but talked— talked freely— let him- 
self gush out in words (the way youth loves to do, 
and should), there might have been no tale to write 
upon the Weirs of Hermiston. But the shadow of 
a threat of ridicule sufficed ; in the slight tartness of 
these words he read a prohibition ; and it is likely 
that Glenalmond meant it so. 

Besides the veteran, the boy was without confi- 
dant or friend. Serious and eager, he came through 
schoo] and college, and moved among a crowd of the 
indifferent, in the seclusion of his shyness. He grew 
up handsome, with an open, speaking countenance, 
with graceful, youthful ways ; he was clever, he 
took prizes, he shone in the Speculative Society. It 
154 



FATHER AND SON 

should seem he must become the centre of a crowd 
of friends ; but something that was in part the deli- 
cacy of his mother, in part the austerity of his father, 
held him aloof from all. It is a fact, and a strange 
one, that among his contemporaries Hermiston's son 
was thought to be a chip of the old block. ' You 're 
a friend of Archie Weir's ? ' said one to Frank Innes ; 
and Innes replied, with his usual flippancy and more 
than his usual insight : ' I know Weir, but I never 
met Archie.' No one had met Archie, a malady 
most incident to only sons. He flew his private 
signal, and none heeded it ; it seemed he was abroad 
in a world from which the very hope of intimacy was 
banished ; and he looked round about him on the 
concourse of his fellow-students, and forward to the 
trivial days and acquaintances that were to come, 
without hope or interest. 

As time went on, the tough and rough old sinner 
felt himself drawn to the son of his loins and sole 
continuator of his new family, with softnesses of 
sentiment that he could hardly credit and was wholly 
impotent to express. With a face, voice, and manner 
trained through forty years to terrify and repel, 
Khadamanthus may be great, but he will scarce be 
engaging. It is a fact that he tried to propitiate 
Archie, but a fact that cannot be too lightly taken ; 
the attempt was so unconspicuously made, the failure 
so stoically supported. Sympathy is not due to 
these steadfast iron natures. If he failed to gain his 
son's friendship, or even his son's toleration, on he 
went up the great, bare staircase of his duty, un- 

155 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

cheered and undepressed. There might have been 
more pleasure in his relations with Archie, so much 
he may have recognised at moments ; but pleasure 
was a by-product of the singular chemistry of life, 
which only fools expected. 

An idea of Archie's attitude, since we are all 
grown up and have forgotten the days of our youth, 
it is more difficult to convey. He made no attempt 
whatsoever to understand the man with whom he 
dined and breakfasted. Parsimony of pain, glut 
of pleasure, these are the two alternating ends of 
youth ; and Archie was of the parsimonious. The 
wind blew cold out of a certain quarter — he turned 
his back upon it ; stayed as little as was possible in 
his father's presence ; and when there, averted his 
eyes as much as was decent from his father's face. 
The lamp shone for many hundred days upon these 
two at table — my lord ruddy, gloomy, and un- 
reverend; Archie with a potential brightness that 
was always dimmed and veiled in that society ; and 
there were not, perhaps, in Christendom two men 
more radically strangers. The father, with a grand 
simplicity, either spoke of what interested himself, 
or maintained an unaffected silence. The son 
turned in his head for some topic that should be 
quite safe, that would spare him fresh evidences 
either of my lord's inherent grossness or of the inno- 
cence of his inhumanity ; treading gingerly the ways 
of intercourse, like a lady gathering up her skirts in 
a by-path. If he made a mistake, and my lord 
began to abound in matter of offence, Archie drew 
156 



FATHER AND SON 

himself up, his brow grew dark, his share of the talk 
expired ; but my lord would faithfully and cheer- 
fully continue to pour out the worst of himself 
before his silent and offended son. 

* Well, it's a poor hert that never rejoices!' he 
would say, at the conclusion of such a nightmare 
interview. *But I must get to my plew-stilts.' 
And he would seclude himself as usual in the back 
room, and Archie go forth into the night and the 
city quivering with animosity and scorn. 



CHAPTER III 

IN THE MATTER OF THE HANGING OF 
DUNCAN JOPP 

It chanced in the year 1813 that Archie strayed one 
day into the Justiciary Court. The macer made 
room for the son of the presiding judge. In the 
dock, the centre of men's eyes, there stood a whey- 
coloured, misbegotten caitiff, Duncan Jopp, on 
trial for his life. His story, as it was raked out 
before him in that public scene, was one of disgrace 
and vice and cowardice, the very nakedness of 
crime ; and the creature heard, and it seemed at 
times as though he understood — as if at times he 
forgot the horror of the place he stood in, and re- 
membered the shame of what had brought him there. 
He kept his head bowed and his hands clutched 
upon the rail ; his hair dropped in his eyes and at 
times he flung it back ; and now he glanced about 

157 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the audience in a sudden fellness of terror, and now 
looked in the face of his judge and gulped. There 
was pinned about his throat a piece of dingy flannel ; 
and this it was perhaps that turned the scale in 
Archie's mind between disgust and pity. The 
creature stood in a vanishing point ; yet a little 
while, and he was still a man, and had eyes and 
apprehension ; yet a little longer, and with a last 
sordid piece of pageantry, he would cease to be. 
And here, in the meantime, with a trait of human 
nature that caught at the beholder's breath, he was 
tending a sore throat. 

Over against him, my Lord Hermiston occupied 
the bench in the red robes of criminal jurisdiction, 
his face framed in the white wig. Honest all 
through, he did not affect the virtue of impartiality ; 
this was no case for refinement ; there was a man to 
be hanged, he would have said, and he was hanging 
him. Nor was it possible to see his lordship, and 
acquit him of gusto in the task. It was plain he 
gloried in the exercise of his trained faculties, in the 
clear sight which pierced at once into the joint of 
fact, in the rude, unvarnished gibes with which he 
demolished every figment of defence. He took his 
ease and jested, unbending in that solemn place 
with some of the freedom of the tavern ; and the 
rag of man with the flannel round his neck was 
hunted gallows ward with jeers. 

Duncan had a mistress, scarce less forlorn and 
greatly older than himself, who came up, whimpering 
and curtseying, to add the weight of her betrayal. 
158 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

My lord gave her the oath in his most roaring voice, 
and added an intolerant warning. 

' Mind what ye say now, Janet,' said he. ' I have 
an e'e upon ye, I 'm ill to jest with.' 

Presently, after she was tremblingly embarked on 
her story, 'And what made ye do this, ye auld runt?' 
the Court interposed. ' Do ye mean to tell me ye 
was the panel's mistress ? ' 

* If you please, ma loard,' whined the female. 

' Godsake ! ye made a bonny couple,' observed his 
lordship ; and there was something so formidable 
and ferocious in his scorn that not even the galleries 
thought to laugh. 

The summing up contained some jewels : — 

' These two peetiable creatures seem to have made 
up thegither, it's not for us to explain why.' — 'The 
panel, who (whatever else he may be) appears to be 
equally ill set-out in mind and boady.' — ' Neither 
the panel nor yet the old wife appears to have had 
so much common sense as even to tell a lie when it 
was necessary.' And in the course of sentencing, 
my lord had this obiter dictum : * I have been the 
means, under God, of haanging a great number, but 
never just such a disjaskit rascal as yourself The 
words were strong in themselves ; the light and heat 
and detonation of their delivery, and the savage 
pleasure of the speaker in his task, made them tingle 
in the ears. 

When all was over, Archie came forth again into a 
changed world. Had there been the least redeeming 
greatness in the crime, any obscurity, any dubiety, 

159 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

perhaps he might have understood. But the culprit 
stood, with his sore throat, in the sweat of his mortal 
agony, without defence or excuse : a thing to cover 
up with blushes : a being so much sunk beneath the 
zones of sympathy that pity might seem harmless. 
And the judge had pursued him with a monstrous, 
relishing gaiety, horrible to be conceived, a trait for 
nightmares. It is one thing to spear a tiger, another 
to crush a toad ; there are aesthetics even of the 
slaughter-house ; and the loathsomeness of Duncan 
Jopp enveloped and infected the image of his judge. 

Archie passed by his friends in the High Street 
with incoherent words and gestures. He saw Holy- 
rood in a dream, remembrance of its romance awoke 
in him and faded ; he had a vision of the old radiant 
stories, of Queen Mary and Prince Charlie, of the 
hooded stag, of the splendour and crime, the velvet 
and bright iron of the past ; and dismissed them with 
a cry of pain. He lay and moaned in the Hunter's 
Bog, and the heavens were dark above him and the 
grass of the field an offence. ' This is my father,' he 
said. * I draw my life from him ; the flesh upon my 
bones is his, the bread I am fed with is the wages of 
these horrors.' He recalled his mother, and ground 
his forehead in the earth. He thought of flight, and 
where was he to flee to ? of other lives, but was there 
any life worth living in this den of savage and jeer- 
ing animals ? 

The interval before the execution was like a 
violent dream. He met his father; he would not 
look at him, he could not speak to him. It seemed 
1 60 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

there was no living creature but must have been 
swift to recognise that imminent animosity ; but the 
hide of the Justice-Clerk remained impenetrable. 
Had my lord been talkative, the truce could never 
have subsisted ; but he was by fortune in one of his 
humours of sour silence ; and under the very guns 
of his broadside, Archie nursed the enthusiasm of 
rebellion. It seemed to him, from the top of his 
nineteen years' experience, as if he were marked at 
birth to be the perpetrator of some signal action, to 
set back fallen Mercy, to overthrow the usurping 
devil that sat, horned and hoofed, on her throne. 
Seductive Jacobin figments, which he had often 
refuted at the Speculative, swam up in his mind and 
startled him as with voices : and he seemed to him- 
self to walk accompanied by an almost tangible 
presence of new beliefs and duties. 

On the named morning he was at the place of 
execution. He saw the fleering rabble, the flinching 
wretch produced. He looked on for a while at a 
certain parody of devotion, which seemed to strip 
the wretch of his last claim to manhood. Then fol- 
lowed the brutal instant of extinction, and the paltry 
dangling of the remains like a broken jumping-jack. 
He had been prepared for something terrible, not 
for this tragic meanness. He stood a moment silent, 
and then — ' I denounce this God-defying murder,' 
he shouted ; and his father, if he must have disclaimed 
the sentiment, might have owned the stentorian 
voice with which it was uttered. 

Frank Innes dragged him from the spot. The 
26— L 161 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

two handsome lads followed the same course of study 
and recreation, and felt a certain mutual attraction, 
founded mainly on good looks. It had never gone 
deep ; Frank was by nature a thin, jeering creature, 
not truly susceptible whether of feeling or inspiring 
friendship ; and the relation between the pair was 
altogether on the outside, a thing of common know- 
ledge and the pleasantries that spring from a common 
acquaintance. The more credit to Frank that he 
was appalled by Archie's outburst, and at least con- 
ceived the design of keeping him in sight, and, if 
possible, in hand for the day. But Archie, who had 
just defied — was it God or Satan ? — would not listen 
to the word of a college companion. 

' I will not go with you,' he said. ' I do not desire 
your company, sir ; I would be alone.' 

' Here, Weir, man, don't be absurd,' said Innes, 
keeping a tight hold upon his sleeve. ' I will not let 
you go until I know what you mean to do with 
yourself; it's no use brandishing that staff.' For 
indeed at that moment Archie had made a sudden — 
perhaps a warlike — movement. ' This has been the 
most insane affair; you know it has. You know 
very well that I'm playing the good Samaritan. 
All I wish is to keep you quiet.' 

* If quietness is what you wish, Mr. Innes,' said 
Archie, ' and you will promise to leave me entirely 
to myself, I will tell you so much, that I am going 
to walk in the country and admire the beauties of 
nature.' 

' Honour bright ? ' asked Frank. 
162 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

* I am not in the habit of lying, Mr. Innes,' retorted 
Archie. ' I have the honour of wishing you good- 
day.' 

* You won't forget the Spec. ? ' asked Innes. 

' The Spec. ? ' said Archie. ' O no, I won't forget 
the Spec' 

And the one young man carried his tortured spirit 
forth of the city and all the day long, by one road 
and another, in an endless pilgrimage of misery ; 
while the other hastened smilingly to spread the 
news of Weir's access of insanity, and to drum up 
for that night a full attendance at the Speculative, 
where further eccentric developments might certainly 
be looked for. I doubt if Innes had the least belief 
in his prediction ; I think it flowed rather from a 
wish to make the story as good and the scandal as 
great as possible ; not from any ill-will to Archie — 
from the mere pleasure of beholding interested faces. 
But for all that his words were prophetic. Archie 
did not forget the Spec. ; he put in an appearance 
there at the due time, and, before the evening was 
over, had dealt a memorable shock to his companions. 
It chanced he was the president of the night. He 
sat in the same room where the Society still meets 
— only the portraits were not there : the men who 
afterwards sat for them were then but beginning 
their careers. The same lustre of many tapers shed 
its light over the meeting ; the same chair, perhaps, 
supported him that so many of us have sat in since. 
At times he seemed to forget the business of the 
evening, but even in these periods he sat with a 

163 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

great air of energy and determination. At times he 
meddled bitterly, and launched with defiance those 
fines which are the precious and rarely used artillery 
of the president. He little thought, as he did so, 
how he resembled his father, but his friends remarked 
upon it, chuckling. So far, in his high place above 
his fellow-students, he seemed set beyond the possi- 
bility of any scandal ; but his mind was made up — 
he was determined to fulfil the sphere of his oflTence. 
He signed to Innes (whom he had just fined, and 
who had just impeached his ruling) to succeed him 
in the chair, stepped down from the platform, and 
took his place by the chimney-piece, the shine of 
many wax tapers from above illuminating his pale 
face, the glow of the great red fire relieving from 
behind his slim figure. He had to propose, as an 
amendment to the next subject in the case-book, 
' Whether capital punishment be consistent with 
God's will or man's policy ? ' 

A breath of embarrassment, of something like 
alarm, passed round the room, so daring did these 
words appear upon the lips of Hermiston's only son. 
But the amendment was not seconded ; the previous 
question was promptly moved and unanimously 
voted, and the momentary scandal smuggled by. 
Innes triumphed in the fulfilment of his prophecy. 
He and Archie were now become the heroes of the 
night ; but whereas every one crowded about Innes, 
when the meeting broke up, but one of all his com- 
panions came to speak to Archie. 

' Weir, man ! That was an extraordinary raid of 
164 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

yours ! ' observed this courageous member, taking 
him confidentially by the arm as they went out. 

* I don't think it a raid,' said Archie grimly. ' More 
like a war. I saw that poor brute hanged this morn- 
ing, and my gorge rises at it yet' 

' Hut-tut,' returned his companion, and, dropping 
his arm like something hot, he sought the less tense 
society of others. 

Archie found himself alone. The last of the faith- 
ful — or was it only the boldest of the curious ? — had 
fled. He watched the black huddle of his fellow- 
students draw off down and up the street, in whis- 
pering or boisterous gangs. And the isolation of 
the moment weighed upon him like an omen and an 
emblem of his destiny in life. Bred up in un- 
broken fear himself, among trembling servants, and 
in a house which (at the least ruffle in the master's 
voice) shuddered into silence, he saw himself on the 
brink of the red valley of war, and measured the 
danger and length of it with awe. He made a detour 
in the glimmer and shadow of the streets, came into 
the back stable lane, and watched for a long while 
the light burn steady in the Judge's room. The 
longer he gazed upon that illuminated window-blind, 
the more blank became the picture of the man who 
sat behind it, endlessly turning over sheets of pro- 
cess, pausing to sip a glass of port, or rising and 
passing heavily about his book-lined walls to verify 
some reference. He could not combine the brutal 
judge and the industrious, dispassionate student; 
the connecting link escaped him ; from such a dual 

165 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

nature, it was impossible he should predict be- 
haviour ; and he asked himself if he had done well 
to plunge into a business of which the end could not 
be foreseen ? and presently after, with a sickening 
decline of confidence, if he had done loyally to strike 
his father? For he had struck him — defied him 
twice over and before a cloud of witnesses — struck 
him a public buffet before crowds. Who had called 
him to judge his father in these precarious and high 
questions ? The office was usurped. It might have 
become a stranger ; in a son — there was no blinking 
it — in a son, it was disloyal. And now, between 
these two natures so antipathetic, so hateful to each 
other, there was depending an unpardonable affront : 
and the providence of God alone might foresee 
the manner in which it would be resented by Lord 
Hermiston. 

These misgivings tortured him all night and arose 
with him in the winter's morning; they followed 
him from class to class, they made him shrinkingly 
sensitive to every shade of manner in his companions, 
they sounded in his ears through the current voice of 
the professor ; and he brought them home with him 
at night unabated and indeed increased. The cause 
of this increase lay in a chance encounter with 
the celebrated Dr. Gregory. Archie stood looking 
vaguely in the lighted window of a book-shop, trying 
to nerve himself for the approaching ordeal. My 
lord and he had met and parted in the morning as 
they had now done for long, with scarcely the 
ordinary civilities of life ; and it was plain to the son 
1 66 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

that nothing had yet reached the father's ears. 
Indeed, when he recalled the awful countenance of 
my lord, a timid hope sprang up in him that perhaps 
there would be found no one bold enough to carry 
tales. If this were so, he asked himself, would he 
begin again ? and he found no answer. It was at 
this moment that a hand was laid upon his arm, and 
a voice said in his ear, ' My dear Mr. Archie, you had 
better come and see me.' 

He started, turned round, and found himself face 
to face with Dr. Gregory. 'And why should I come 
to see you ? ' he asked, with the defiance of the 
miserable. 

' Because you are looking exceeding ill,' said the 
doctor, ' and you very evidently want looking after, 
my young friend. Good folk are scarce, you know ; 
and it is not every one that would be quite so much 
missed as yourself It is not every one that Her- 
miston would miss.' 

And with a nod and a smile, the doctor passed on. 

A moment after, Archie was in pursuit, and had in 
turn, but more roughly, seized him by the arm. 

' What do you mean ? what did you mean by say- 
ing that? What makes you think that Hermis — 
my father would have missed me ? ' 

The doctor turned about and looked him all over 
with a clinical eye. A far more stupid man than Dr. 
Gregory might have guessed the truth ; but ninety- 
nine out of a hundred, even if they had been equally 
inclined to kindness, would have blundered by some 
touch of charitable exaggeration. The doctor was 

167 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

better inspired. He knew the father well ; in that 
white face of intelligence and suffering, he divined 
something of the son ; and he told, without apology 
or adornment, the plain truth. 

' When you had the measles, Mr. Archibald, you 
had them gey and ill ; and I thought you were 
going to slip between my fingers,' he said. 'Well, 
your father was anxious. How did I know it ? says 
you. Simply because I am a trained observer. The 
sign that I saw him make, ten thousand would have 
missed ; and perhaps — perhaps, I say, because he 's a 
hard man to judge of — but perhaps he never made 
another. A strange thing to consider ! It was this. 
One day I came to him : " Hermiston," said I, 
"there's a change." He never said a word, just 
glowered at me (if ye '11 pardon the phrase) like a 
wild beast. "A change for the better," said I. 
And I distinctly heard him take his breath. ' 

The doctor left no opportunity for anti-climax ; 
nodding his cocked hat (a piece of antiquity to which 
he clung) and repeating ' Distinctly ' with raised eye- 
brows, he took his departure, and left Archie speech- 
less in the street. 

The anecdote might be called infinitely Uttle, and 
yet its meaning for Archie was immense. ' I did 
not know the old man had so much blood in him.' 
He had never dreamed this sire of his, this aboriginal 
antique, this adamantine Adam, had even so much of 
a heart as to be moved in the least degree for 
another — and that other himself, who had insulted 
him ! With the generosity of youth, Archie was 
i68 • 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

instantly under arms upon the other side : had 
instantly created a new image of Lord Hermiston, 
that of a man who was all iron without and all 
sensibility within. The mind of the vile jester, the 
tongue that had pursued Duncan Jopp with un- 
manly insults, the unbeloved countenance that he 
had known and feared for so long, were all forgotten ; 
and he hastened home, impatient to confess his mis- 
deeds, impatient to throw himself on the mercy of 
this imaginary character. 

He was not to be long without a rude awakening. 
It was in the gloaming when he drew near the door- 
step of the lighted house, and was aware of the 
figure of his father approaching from the opposite 
side. Little daylight lingered ; but on the door 
being opened, the strong yellow shine of the lamp 
gushed out upon the landing and shone full on 
Archie, as he stood, in the old-fashioned observance 
of respect, to yield precedence. The Judge came 
without haste, stepping stately and firm ; his chin 
raised, his face (as he entered the lamplight) strongly 
illumined, his mouth set hard. There was never a 
wink of change in his expression ; without looking 
to the right or left, he mounted the stair, passed 
close to Archie, and entered the house. Instinc- 
tively, the boy, upon his first coming, had made a 
movement to meet him ; instinctively, he recoiled 
against the railing, as the old man swept by him in a 
pomp of indignation. Words were needless ; he 
knew all — perhaps more than all — and the hour of 
judgment was at hand. 

169 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

It is possible that, in this sudden revulsion of hope, 
and before these symptoms of impending danger, 
Archie might have fled. But not even that was left 
to him. My lord, after hanging up his cloak and hat, 
turned round in the lighted entry, and made him an 
imperative and silent gesture with his thumb, and 
with the strange instinct of obedience, Archie 
followed him into the house. 

All dinner-time there reigned over the Judge's 
table a palpable silence, and as soon as the solids 
were despatched he rose to his feet. 

'M'Killop, tak' the wine into my room,' said he; 
and then to his son : ' Archie, you and me has to 
have a talk.' 

It was at this sickening moment that Archie's 
courage, for the first and last time, entirely deserted 
him. ' I have an appointment,' said he. 

' It '11 have to be broken, then,' said Hermiston, 
and led the way into his study. 

The lamp was shaded, the fire trimmed to a nicety, 
the table covered deep with orderly documents, the 
backs of law-books made a frame upon all sides that 
was only broken by the window and the doors. 

For a moment Hermiston warmed his hands at 
the fire, presenting his back to Archie ; then suddenly 
disclosed on him the terrors of the Hanging Face. 

' What 's this I hear of ye ? ' he asked. 

There was no answer possible to Archie. 

' I '11 have to tell ye, then,' pursued Hermiston. 
' It seems ye 've been skirling against the father that 
begot ye, and one of his Maijesty's Judges in this 
170 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

land ; and that in the public street, and while an 
order of the Court was being executit. Forbye 
which, it would appear that ye 've been airing your 
opeenions in a Coallege Debatin' Society ' ; he paused 
a moment : and then, with extraordinary bitterness, 
added : * Ye damned eediot.' 

' I had meant to tell you,' stammered Archie. ' I 
see you are well informed.' 

'Muckle obleeged to ye,' said his lordship, and 
took his usual seat. 'And so you disapprove of 
Caapital Punishment ? ' he added. 

* I am sorry, sir, I do,' said Archie. 

*I am sorry, too,' said his lordship. 'And now, 
if you please, we shall approach this business with a 
little more parteecularity. I hear that at the hang- 
ing of Duncan Jopp — and, man ! ye had a fine chent 
there— in the middle of all the riffrafF of the ceety, 
ye thought fit to cry out, " This is a damned murder, 
and my gorge rises at the man that haangit him." ' 

' No, sir, these were not my words,' cried 
Archie. 

' What were yer words, then ? ' asked the Judge. 

' I believe I said, " I denounce it as a murder ! " ' 
said the son. ' I beg your pardon — a God-defying 
murder. I have no wish to conceal the truth,' he 
added, and looked his father for a moment in the 
face. 

' God, it would only need that of it next ! ' cried 
Hermiston. ' There was nothing about your gorge 
rising, then ? ' 

' That was afterwards, my lord, as I was leaving 

171 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the Speculative. I said I had been to see the miser- 
able creature hanged, and my gorge rose at it.' 

* Did ye, though ? ' said Hermiston. * And I 
suppose ye knew who haangit him ? ' 

' I was present at the trial ; I ought to tell you 
that, I ought to explain. I ask your pardon before- 
hand for any expression that may seem undutiful. 
The position in which I stand is wretched,' said the 
unhappy hero, now fairly face to face with the 
business he had chosen. ' I have been reading some 
of your cases. I was present while Jopp was tried. 
It was a hideous business. Father, it was a hideous 
thing! Grant he was vile, why should you hunt 
him with a vileness equal to his own? It was 
done with glee — that is the word — you did it 
with glee ; and I looked on, God help me ! with 
horror.' 

* You 're a young gentleman that doesna approve 
of Caapital Punishment,' said Hermiston. ' Weel, 
I 'm an auld man that does. I was glad to get Jopp 
haangit, and what for would I pretend I wasna ? 
You 're all for honesty, it seems ; you couldn't even 
steik your mouth on the public street. What for 
should I steik mines upon the bench, the King's 
officer, bearing the sword, a dreid to evil-doers, as I 
was from the beginning, and as I will be to the end ! 
Mair than enough of it ! Heedious ! I never gave 
twa thoughts to heediousness, I have no call to be 
bonny. I 'm a man that gets through with my day's 
business, and let that suffice.' 

The ring of sarcasm had died out of his voice as 
172 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

he went on ; the plain words became invested with 
some of the dignity of the Justice-seat. 

' It would be telling you if you could say as much,' 
the speaker resumed. * But ye cannot. Ye 've been 
reading some of my cases, ye say. But it was not 
for the law in them, it was to spy out your faither's 
nakedness, a fine employment in a son. You're 
splairging; you're running at lairge in life like a 
wild nowt. It's impossible you should think any 
longer of coming to the Bar. You 're not fit for it ; 
no splairger is. And another thing : son of mines 
or no son of mines, you have flung fylement in public 
on one of the Senators of the Coallege of Justice, 
and I would make it my business to see that ye were 
never admitted there yourself There is a kind of a 
decency to be observit. Then comes the next of it 
—what am I to do with ye next? Ye '11 have to 
find some kind of a trade, for I '11 never support ye 
in idleset What do ye fancy ye '11 be fit for ? The 
pulpit ? Na, they could never get diveenity into that 
bloackhead. Him that the law of man whammles is 
no hkely to do muckle better by the law of God. 
What would ye make of hell ? Wouldna your gorge 
rise at that? Na, there's no room for splairgers 
under the fower quarters of John Calvin. What else 
is there ? Speak up. Have ye got nothing of your 
own?' 

* Father, let me go to the Peninsula,' said Archie. 
' That's all I 'm fit for— to fight' 

'All? quo' he!' returned the Judge. 'And it 
would be enough too, if I thought it. But I'll 

173 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

never trust ye so near the French, you that's so 
Frenchifeed.' 

* You do me mjustice there, sir,' said Archie. 'I 
am loyal ; I will not boast ; but any interest I may 
have ever felt in the French ' 

' Have ye been so loyal to me ? ' interrupted his 
father. 

There came no reply. 

' I think not,' continued Hermiston. ' And I 
would send no man to be a servant to the King, God 
bless him ! that has proved such a shauchling son to 
his own faither. You can splairge here on Edin- 
burgh street, and where 's the hairm? It doesna 
play buff on me ! And if there were twenty thou- 
sand eediots like yourself, sorrow a Duncan Jopp 
would hang the fewer. But there's no splairging 
possible in a camp ; and if you were to go to it, 
you would find out for yourself whether Lord Wel- 
I'n'ton approves of caapital punishment or not. You 
a sodger ! ' he cried, with a sudden burst of scorn. 
' Ye auld wife, the sodgers would bray at ye like 
cuddies ! ' 

As at the drawing of a curtain, Archie was aware 
of some illogicality in his position, and stood abashed. 
He had a strong impression, besides, of the essential 
valour of the old gentleman before him, how con- 
veyed it would be hard to say. 

' Well, have ye no other proposeetion ? ' said my 
lord again. 

* You have taken this so calmly, sir, that I cannot 
but stand ashamed,' began Archie. 

174 



HANGING OF DUNCAN JOPP 

* I 'm nearer voamiting, though, than you would 
fancy,' said my lord. 

The blood rose to Archie's brow. 

' I beg your pardon, I should have said that you 
had accepted my affront. ... I admit it was an 
affront; I did not think to apologise, but I do, I 
ask your pardon ; it will not be so again, I pass you 
my word of honour. ... I should have said that I 
admired your magnanimity with — this — offender,' 
Archie concluded with a gulp. 

*I have no other son, ye see,' said Hermiston. 
* A bonny one I have gotten ! But I must just do 
the best I can wi' him, and what am I to do ? If ye 
had been younger, I would have wheepit ye for this 
rideeculous exhibeetion. The way it is, I have just 
to grin and bear. But one thing is to be clearly 
understood. As a faither, I must grin and bear it ; 
but if I had been the Lord Advocate instead of the 
Lord Justice- Clerk, son or no son, Mr. Erchibald 
Weir would have been in a jyle the night' 

Archie was now dominated. Lord Hermiston was 
coarse and cruel ; and yet the son was aware of a 
bloomless nobility, an ungracious abnegation of the 
man's self in the man's office. At every word, this 
sense of the greatness of Lord Hermiston's spirit 
struck more home ; and along with it that of his own 
impotence, who had struck — and perhaps basely 
struck — at his own father, and not reached so far as 
to have even nettled him. 

' I place myself in your hands without reserve,' he 
said. 

175 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

* That 's the first sensible word I 've had of ye the 
night,' said Hermiston. * I can tell ye, that would 
have been the end of it, the one way or the other ; 
but it's better ye should come there yourself, than 
what I would have had to hirstle ye. Weel, by my 
way of it — and my way is the best — there's just the 
one thing it's possible that ye might be with decency, 
and that's a laird. Ye'll be out of hairm's way at 
the least of it. If ye have to rowt, ye can rowt 
amang the kye ; and the maist feck of the caapital 
punishment ye 're like to come across '11 be guddling 
trouts. Now, I 'm for no idle lairdies ; every man 
has to work, if it's only at peddling ballants ; to 
work, or to be wheeped, or to be haangit. If I set 
ye down at Hermiston, I'll have to see you work 
that place the way it has never been workit yet ; ye 
must ken about the sheep like a herd ; ye must be 
my grieve there, and I'll see that I gain by ye. Is 
that understood ? ' 

' I will do my best,' said Archie. 

* Well, then, I'll send Kirstie word the morn, and 
ye can go yourself the day after,' said Hermiston. 
* And just try to be less of an eediot !' he concluded, 
with a freezing smile, and turned immediately to the 
papers on his desk. 



176 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 
CHAPTER IV 

OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

Late the same night, after a disordered walk, 
Archie was admitted into Lord Glenahiiond's dining- 
room, where he sat, with a book upon his knee, 
beside three frugal coals of fire. In his robes upon 
the bench, Glenalmond had a certain air of burliness : 
plucked of these, it was a may-pole of a man that 
rose unsteadily from his chair to give his visitor 
welcome. Archie had suffered much in the last 
days, he had suffered again that evening; his face 
was white and drawn, his eyes wild and dark. But 
Lord Glenalmond greeted him without the least 
mark of surprise or curiosity. 

* Come in, come in,' said he. ' Come in and take a 
seat. Carstairs' (to his servant), 'make up the fire, 
and then you can bring a bit of supper,' and again to 
Archie, with a very trivial accent: 'I was half 
expecting you,' he added. 

' No supper,' said Archie. * It is impossible that I 
should eat.' 

'Not impossible,' said the tall old man, laying his 
hand upon his shoulder, ' and, if you will believe me, 
necessary.' 

' You know what brings me ? ' said Archie, as soon 
as the servant had left the room. 

'I have a guess, I have a guess,' replied Glen- 
almond. 'We will talk of it presently— when 

26— M 177 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Carstairs has come and gone, and you have had a 
piece of my good Cheddar cheese and a pull at the 
porter tankard : not before.' 

' It is impossible I should eat,' repeated Archie. 

' Tut, tut ! ' said Lord Glenalmond. ' You have 
eaten nothing to-day, and I venture to add, nothing 
yesterday. There is no case that may not be made 
worse : this may be a very disagreeable business, 
but if you were to fall sick and die, it would be 
still more so, and for all concerned — for all con- 
cerned.' 

' I see you must know all,' said Archie. ' Where 
did you hear it ? ' 

' In the mart of scandal, in the Parliament House,' 
said Glenalmond. 'It runs riot below among the 
bar and the public, but it sifts up to us upon the 
bench, and rumour has some of her voices even in 
the divisions.' 

Carstairs returned at this moment, and rapidly 
laid out a little supper ; during which Lord Glen- 
almond spoke at large and a little vaguely on in- 
different subjects, so that it might be rather said of 
him that he made a cheerful noise, than that he con- 
tributed to human conversation ; and Archie sat 
upon the other side, not heeding him, brooding over 
his wrongs and errors. 

But so soon as the servant was gone, he broke 
forth again at once : ' Who told my father ? Who 
dared to tell him ? Could it have been you ? ' 

' No, it was not me,' said the Judge ; ' although — 
to be quite frank with you, and after I had seen and 
178 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

warned you — it might have been me. I believe it 
was Glenkindie.' 

' That shrimp ! ' cried Archie. 

'As you say, that shrimp,' returned my lord ; 
* although really it is scarce a fitting mode of expres- 
sion for one of the senators of the College of Justice. 
We were hearing the parties in a long, crucial case, 
before the fifteen ; Creech was moving at some length 
for an infeftment ; when I saw Glenkindie lean for- 
ward to Hermiston with his hand over his mouth and 
make him a secret communication. No one could 
have guessed its nature from your father; from 
Glenkindie, yes, his malice sparked out of him a little 
grossly. But your father, no. A man of granite. 
The next moment he pounced upon Creech. " Mr. 
Creech," says he, "I'll take a look of that sasine," 
and for thirty minutes after,' said Glenalmond, with 
a smile, ' Messrs. Creech and Co. were fighting a 
pretty uphill battle, which resulted, I need hardly 
add, in their total rout. The case was dismissed. 
No, I doubt if ever I heard Hermiston better in- 
spired. He was Hterally rejoicing in apicibus juris.' 

Archie was able to endure no longer. He thrust 
his plate away and interrupted the deliberate and 
insignificant stream of talk. ' Here,' he said, ' I have 
made a fool of myself, if I have not made something 
worse. Do you judge between us — judge between a 
father and a son. I can speak to you ; it is not like 
... I will tell you what I feel and what I mean to 
do ; and you shall be the judge,' he repeated. 

'I decline jurisdiction,' said Glenalmond, with 

179 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

extreme seriousness. ' But, my dear boy, if it will 
do you any good to talk, and if it will interest you at 
all to hear what I may choose to say when I have 
heard you, I am quite at your command. Let an 
old man say it, for once, and not need to blush : I love 
you like a son.' 

There came a sudden sharp sound in Archie's 
throat. * Ay,' he cried, ' and there it is ! Love ! 
Like a son ! And how do you think I love my 
father ? ' 

' Quietly, quietly,' says my lord. 

* I will be very quiet,' replied Archie. ' And I 
will be baldly frank. I do not love my father; I 
wonder sometimes if I do not hate him. There 's 
my shame ; perhaps my sin ; at least, and in the 
sight of God, not my fault. How was I to love 
him? He has never spoken to me, never smiled 
upon me ; I do not think he ever touched me. You 
know the way he talks ? You do not talk so, yet 
you can sit and hear him without shuddering, and I 
cannot. My soul is sick when he begins with it ; I 
could smite him in the mouth. And all that's 
nothing. I was at the trial of this Jopp. You were 
not there, but you must have heard him often ; the 
man 's notorious for it, for being — look at my position ! 
he 's my father and this is how I have to speak of him 
— notorious for being a brute and cruel and a coward. 
Lord Glenalmond, I give you my word, when I 
came out of that Court, I longed to die — the shame 
of it was beyond my strength : but I — I — ' he rose 
from his seat and began to pace the room in a dis- 
i8o 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

order. * Well, who am I ? A boy, who have never 
been tried, have never done anything except this 
twopenny impotent folly with my father. But I tell 
you, my lord, and I know myself, I am at least that 
kind of a man — or that kind of a boy, if you prefer it 
— that I could die in torments rather than that any 
one should suffer as that scoundrel suffered. Well, 
and what have I done ? I see it now. I have made 
a fool of myself, as I said in the beginning ; and I 
have gone back, and asked my father's pardon, and 
placed myself wholly in his hands — and he has sent 
me to Hermiston,' with a wretched smile, ' for life, I 
suppose — and what can I say ? he strikes me as 
having done quite right, and let me off better than 
I had deserved.' 

' My poor, dear boy ! ' observed Glenalmond. ' My 
poor dear and, if you will allow me to say so, very 
foolish boy ! You are only discovering where you 
are ; to one of your temperament, or of mine, a 
painful discovery. The world was not made for us ; 
it was made for ten hundred millions of men, all 
different from each other and from us ; there 's no 
royal road there, we just have to sclamber and 
tumble. Don't think that I am at all disposed to be 
surprised ; don't suppose that I ever think of blaming 
you ; indeed I rather admire ! But there fall to be 
offered one or two observations on the case which 
occur to me and which (if you will listen to them 
dispassionately) may be the means of inducing you 
to view the matter more calmly. First of all, I can- 
not acquit you of a good deal of what is called in- 

i8i 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

tolerance. You seem to have been very much 
offended because your father talks a little scul- 
duddery after dinner, which it is perfectly licit for 
him to do, and which (although I am not very fond 
of it myself) appears to be entirely an affair of taste. 
Your father, I scarcely like to remind you, since it is 
so trite a commonplace, is older than yourself. At 
least, he is major and sui juris, and may please him- 
self in the matter of his conversation. And, do you 
know, I wonder if he might not have as good an 
answer against you and me ? We say we sometimes 
find him coarse, but I suspect he might retort that he 
finds us always dull. Perhaps a relevant exception.' 

He beamed on Archie, but no smile could be 
elicited. 

' And now,' proceeded the Judge, ' for " Archibald 
on Capital Punishment." This is a very plausible 
academic opinion ; of course I do not and I cannot 
hold it ; but that 's not to say that many able and 
excellent persons have not done so in the past. 
Possibly, in the past also, I may have a little dipped 
myself in the same heresy. My third client, or 
possibly my fourth, was the means of a return in my 
opinions. I never saw the man I more believed in ; 
I would have put my hand in the fire, I would have 
gone to the cross for him ; and when it came to trial 
he was gradually pictured before me, by undeniable 
probation, in the light of so gross, so cold-blooded, 
and so black-hearted a villain, that I had a mind to 
have cast my brief upon the table. I was then boil- 
ing against the man with even a more tropical tem- 
182 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

perature than I had been boiling for him. But I 
said to myself : " No, you have taken up his case ; 
and because you have changed your mind it must 
not be suffered to let drop. All that rich tide of 
eloquence that you prepared last night with so much 
enthusiasm is out of place, and yet you must not 
desert him, you must say something." So I said 
something, and I got him off. It made my reputa- 
tion. But an experience of that kind is formative. 
A man must not bring his passions to the bar — or to 
the bench,' he added. 

The story had slightly rekindled Archie's interest. 
* I could never deny,' he began — ' I mean I can con- 
ceive that some men would be better dead. But 
who are we to know all the springs of God's unfor- 
tunate creatures ? Who are we to trust ourselves 
where it seems that God Himself must think twice 
before He treads, and to do it with delight ? Yes, 
with dehght. Tigris ut aspera' 

'Perhaps not a pleasant spectacle,' said Glen- 
almond. * And yet, do you know, I think somehow 
a great one.' 

' I 've had a long talk with him to-night,' said 
Archie. 

' I was supposing so,' said Glenalmond. 

' And he struck me — I cannot deny that he struck 
me as something very big,' pursued the son. * Yes, 
he is big. He never spoke about himself; only 
about me. I suppose I admired him. The dreadful 
part ' 

' Suppose we did not talk about that,' interrupted 

183 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Glenalmond. ' You know it very well, it cannot in 
any way help that you should brood upon it, and I 
sometimes wonder whether you and I — who are a 
pair of sentimentalists — are quite good judges of 
plain men.' 

' How do you mean ? ' asked Archie. 

' Fair judges, I mean,' replied Glenalmond. ' Can 
we be just to them ? Do we not ask too much ? 
There was a word of yours just now that impressed 
me a little when you asked me who we were to know 
all the springs of God's unfortunate creatures. You 
applied that, as I understood, to capital cases only. 
But does it — I ask myself — does it not apply all 
through? Is it any less difficult to judge of a good 
man or of a half-good man, than of the worst crimi- 
nal at the bar? And may not each have relevant 
excuses V 

' Ah, but we do not talk of punishing the good,' 
cried Archie. 

*No, we do not talk of it,' said Glenalmond. 
' But I think we do it. Your father, for instance.' 

' You think I have punished him ? ' cried Archie. 

Lord Glenalmond bowed his head. 

' I think I have,' said Archie. ' And the worst is, 
I think he feels it ! How much, who can tell, with 
such a being ? But I think he does.' 

' And I am sure of it,' said Glenalmond. 

* Has he spoken to you, then ? ' cried Archie. 

* O no,' replied the Judge. 

* I tell you honestly,' said Archie, ' I want to 
make it up to him. I will go, I have already 

184 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

pledged myself to go, to Hermiston. That was to 
him. And now I pledge myself to you, in the sight 
of God, that I will close my mouth on capital 
punishment and all other subjects where our views 
may clash, for — how long shall I say ? when shall I 
have sense enough ? — ten years. Is that well ? ' 
' It is well,' said my lord. 

* As far as it goes,' said Archie. ' It is enough as 
regards myself, it is to lay down enough of my con- 
ceit. But as regards him, whom I have publicly 
insulted ? What am I to do to him ? How do you 
pay attentions to a — an Alp like that ? ' 

* Only in one way,' replied Glenalmond. * Only 
by obedience, punctual, prompt, and scrupulous.' 

*And I promise that he shall have it,' answered 
Archie. ' I offer you my hand in pledge of it' 

* And I take your hand as a solemnity,' replied the 
judge. * God bless you, my dear, and enable you to 
keep your promise. God guide you in the true way, 
and spare your days, and preserve to you your honest 
heart.' At that, he kissed the young man upon the 
forehead in a gracious, distant, antiquated way ; and 
instantly launched, with a marked change of voice, 
into another subject. ' And now, let us replenish the 
tankard ; and I believe, if you will try my Cheddar 
again, you would find you had a better appetite. 
The Court has spoken, and the case is dismissed.' 

' No, there is one thing I must say,' cried Archie. 
*I must say it in justice to himself. I know — I 
believe faithfully, slavishly, after our talk — he will 
never ask me anything unjust. I am proud to feel 

185 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

it, that we have that much in common, I am 
proud to say it to you.' 

The Judge, with shining eyes, raised his tankard. 
'And I think perhaps that we might permit our- 
selves a toast,' said he. 'I should like to propose 
the health of a man very different from me and very 
much my superior — a man from whom I have often 
differed, who has often (in the trivial expression) 
rubbed me the wrong way, but whom I have never 
ceased to respect and, I may add, to be not a little 
afraid of. Shall I give you his name ? ' 

' The Lord Justice-Clerk, Lord Hermiston,' said 
Archie, almost with gaiety ; and the pair drank the 
toast deeply. 

It was not precisely easy to re-establish, after 
these emotional passages, the natural flow of 
conversation. But the Judge eked out what was 
wanting with kind looks, produced his snuff-box 
(which was very rarely seen) to fill in a pause, and at 
last, despairing of any further social success, was 
upon the point of getting down a book to read a 
favourite passage, when there came a rather startling- 
summons at the front door, and Carstairs ushered in 
my Lord Glenkindie, hot from a midnight supper. 
I am not aware that Glenkindie was ever a beautiful 
object, being short, and gross-bodied, and with an 
expression of sensuality comparable to a bear's. At 
that moment, coming in hissing from many potations, 
with a flushed countenance and blurred eyes, he was 
strikingly contrasted with the tall, pale, kingly figure 
of Glenalmond. A rush of confused thought came 
i86 



OPINIONS OF THE BENCH 

over Archie — of shame that this was one of his 
father's elect friends ; of pride, that at the least of it 
Hermiston could carry his liquor ; and last of all, of 
rage, that he should have here under his eyes the 
man that had betrayed him. And then that too 
passed away; and he sat quiet, biding his opportunity. 

The tipsy senator plunged at once into an explana- 
tion with Glenalmond. There was a point reserved 
yesterday, he had been able to make neither head 
nor tail of it, and seeing lights in the house, he had 
just dropped in for a glass of porter — and at this 
point he became aware of the third person. Archie 
saw the cod's mouth and the blunt lips of Glenkindie 
gape at him for a moment, and the recognition 
twinkle in his eyes. 

' Who 's this ? ' said he. ' What ? is this possibly 
you, Don Quickshot ? And how are ye? And 
how 's your father ? And what 's all this we hear of 
you ? It seems you 're a most extraordinary leveller, 
by all tales. No king, no parliaments, and your 
gorge rises at the macers, worthy men ! Hoot, toot ! 
Dear, dear me ! Your father's son too ! Most 
rideeculous ! ' 

Archie was on his feet, flushing a little at the re- 
appearance of his unhappy figure of speech, but 
perfectly self-possessed. ' My lord — and you, Lord 
Glenalmond, my dear friend,' he began, 'this is a 
happy chance for me, that I can make my confession 
and offer my apologies to two of you at once.' 

' Ah, but I don't know about that. Confession ? 
It'll be judeecial, my young friend,' cried the jocular 

187 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Glenkindie. ' And I 'm afraid to listen to ye. 
Think if ye were to make me a coanvert !' 

' If you would allow me, my lord,' returned Archie, 
' what I have to say is very serious to me ; and be 
pleased to be humorous after I am gone ! ' 

' Remember, I '11 hear nothing against the macers!' 
put in the incorrigible Glenkindie. 

But Archie continued as though he had not spoken. 
'I have played, both yesterday and to-day, a part 
for which I can only offer the excuse of youth. I 
was so unwise as to go to an execution ; it seems I 
made a scene at the gallows ; not content with which, 
I spoke the same night in a college society against 
capital punishment. This is the extent of what I 
have done, and in case you hear more alleged against 
me, I protest my innocence. I have expressed my 
regret already to my father, who is so good as to 
pass my conduct over — in a degree, and upon the 
condition that I am to leave my law studies.' . . . 



CHAPTER V 

WINTER ON THE MOORS 

1. At Hermisto7i 

The road to Hermiston runs for a great part of the 
way up the valley of a stream, a favourite with 
anglers and with midges, full of falls and pools, and 
shaded by willows and natural woods of birch. 
Here and there, but at great distances, a byway 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

branches off, and a gaunt farmhouse may be descried 
above in a fold of the hill ; but the more part of the 
time, the road would be quite empty of passage and 
the hills of habitation. Hermiston parish is one of 
the least populous in Scotland ; and, by the time 
you came that length, you would scarce be surprised 
at the inimitable smallness of the kirk, a dwarfish, 
ancient place seated for fifty, and standing in a green 
by the burn-side among two-score gravestones. The 
manse close by, although no more than a cottage, is 
surrounded by the brightness of a fiower-garden and 
the straw roofs of bees ; and the whole colony, kirk 
and manse, garden and graveyard, finds harbourage 
in a grove of rowans, and is all the year round in a 
great silence broken only by the drone of the bees, 
the tinkle of the burn, and the bell on Sundays. A 
mile beyond the kirk the road leaves the valley by a 
precipitous ascent, and brings you a little after to 
the place of Hermiston, where it comes to an end in 
the back-yard before the coach-house. All beyond 
and about is the great field of the hills ; the plover, 
the curlew, and the lark cry there ; the wind blows 
as it blows in a ship's rigging, hard and cold and 
pure ; and the hill-tops huddle one behind another, 
like a herd of cattle, into the sunset. 

The house was sixty years old, unsightly, comfort- 
able ; a farmyard and a kitchen -garden on the left, 
with a fruit wall where little hard green pears came 
to their maturity about the end of October. 

The policy (as who should say the park) was of 
some extent, but very ill reclaimed; heather and 

i8q 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

moorfowl had crossed the boundary wall and spread 
and roosted within ; and it would have tasked a land- 
scape gardener to say where policy ended and 
unpolicied nature began. My lord had been led by 
the influence of Mr. Sheriff Scott into a considerable 
design of planting ; many acres were accordingly set 
out with fir, and the little feathery besoms gave a 
false scale and lent a strange air of a toy-shop to the 
moors. A great, rooty sweetness of bogs was in the 
air, and at all seasons an infinite melancholy piping 
of hill birds. Standing so high and with so little 
shelter, it was a cold, exposed house, splashed by 
showers, drenched by continuous rains that made the 
gutters to spout, beaten upon and buffeted by all 
the winds of heaven ; and the prospect would be 
often black with tempest, and often white with the 
snows of winter. But the house was wind and 
weather proof, the hearths were kept bright, and the 
rooms pleasant with live fires of peat ; and Archie 
might sit of an evening and hear the squalls bugle 
on the moorland, and watch the fire prosper in the 
earthy fuel, and the smoke winding up the chimney, 
and drink deep of the pleasures of shelter. 

Solitary as the place was, Archie did not want 
neighbours. Every night, if he chose, he might go 
down to the manse and share a ' brewst ' of toddy 
with the minister — a hare-brained ancient gentle- 
man, long and light and still active, though his knees 
were loosened with age, and his voice broke continu- 
ally in childish trebles — and his lady wife, a heavy, 
comely dame, without a word to say for herself 
190 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

beyond good-even and good-day. Harum-scarum, 
clodpole young lairds of the neighbourhood paid him 
the compliment of a visit. Young Hay of Romanes 
rode down to call, on his crop-eared pony ; young 
Pringle of Drumanno came up on his bony grey. 
Hay remained on the hospitable field, and must be 
carried to bed; Pringle got somehow to his saddle 
about 3 A.M., and (as Archie stood with the lamp on 
the upper doorstep) lurched, uttered a senseless 
view-holloa, and vanished out of the small circle of 
illumination like a wraith. Yet a minute or two 
longer the clatter of his break-neck flight was aud- 
ible, then it was cut off by the intervening steepness 
of the hill ; and again, a great while after, the renewed 
beating of phantom horse-hoofs, far in the valley of 
the Hermiston, showed that the horse at least, if not 
his rider, was still on the homeward way. 

There was a Tuesday club at the ' Crosskeys ' in 
Crossmichael, where the young bloods of the country- 
side congregated and drank deep on a percentage of 
the expense, so that he was left gainer who should 
have drunk the most. Archie had no great mind to 
this diversion, but he took it like a duty laid upon 
him, went with a decent regularity, did his manful- 
lest with the liquor, held up his head in the local 
jests, and got home again and was able to put up 
his horse, to the admiration of Kirstie and the lass 
that helped her. He dined at Driffel, supped at 
Windielaws. He went to the New Year's ball at 
Huntsfield and was made welcome, and thereafter 
rode to hounds with my Lord Muirfell, upon whose 

191 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

name, as that of a legitimate Lord of Parliament, in 
a work so full of Lords of Session, my pen should 
pause reverently. Yet the same fate attended him 
here as in Edinburgh. The habit of solitude tends 
to perpetuate itself, and an austerity of which he 
was quite unconscious, and a pride which seemed 
arrogance, and perhaps was chiefly shyness, dis- 
couraged and offended his new companions. Hay 
did not return more than twice, Pringle never at 
all, and there came a time when Archie even desisted 
from the Tuesday Club, and became in all things 
— what he had had the name of almost from the 
first — the Recluse of Hermiston. High-nosed Miss 
Pringle of Drumanno and high-stepping Miss Mar- 
shall of the Mains were understood to have had a 
difference of opinion about him the day after the 
ball — he was none the wiser, he could not suppose 
himself to be remarked by these entrancing ladies. 
At the ball itself my Lord Muirfell's daughter, the 
Lady Flora, spoke to him twice, and the second 
time with a touch of appeal, so that her colour rose 
and her voice trembled a little in his ear, like a 
passing grace in music. He stepped back with a 
heart on fire, coldly and not ungracefully excused 
himself, and a little after watched her dancing with 
young Drumanno of the empty laugh, and was har- 
rowed at the sight, and raged to himself that this 
was a world in which it was given to Drumanno to 
please, and to himself only to stand aside and envy. 
He seemed excluded, as of right, from the favour of 
such society — seemed to extinguish mirth wherever 
192 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

he came, and was quick to feel the wound, and 
desist, and retire into solitude. If he had but under- 
stood the figure he presented, and the impression he 
made on these bright eyes and tender hearts ; if he 
had but guessed that the Recluse of Hermiston, 
young, graceful, well spoken, but always cold, stirred 
the maidens of the county with the charm of Byron- 
ism when Byronism was new, it may be questioned 
whether his destiny might not even yet have been 
modified. It may be questioned, and I think it 
should be doubted. It was in his horoscope to be 
parsimonious of pain to himself, or of the chance of 
pain, even to the avoidance of any opportunity of 
pleasure ; to have a Roman sense of duty, an instinc- 
tive aristocracy of manners and taste ; to be the son 
of Adam Weir and Jean Rutherford. 

2. Kirstie 

Kirstie was now over fifty, and might have sat 
to a sculptor. Long of limb, and still light of foot, 
deep-breasted, robust-loined, her golden hair not yet 
mingled with any trace of silver, the years had but 
caressed and embellished her. By the lines of a rich 
and vigorous maternity, she seemed destined to be 
the bride of heroes and the mother of their chil- 
dren ; and behold, by the iniquity of fate, she had 
passed through her youth alone, and drew near to 
the confines of age, a childless woman. The tender 
ambitions that she had received at birth had been, 
by time and disappointment, diverted into a certain 
26 — N 193 



weir:of hermiston 

barren zeal of industry and fury of interference. She 
carried her thwarted ardours into house-work, she 
washed floors with her empty heart. If she could 
not win the love of one with love, she must dominate 
all by her temper. Hasty, wordy, and wrathful, she 
had a drawn quarrel with most of her neighbours, 
and with the others not much more than armed 
neutrality. The grieve's wife had been ' sneisty ' ; 
the sister of the gardener who kept house for him 
had shown herself * upsitten ' ; and she wrote to Lord 
Hermiston about once a year demanding the dis- 
charge of the offenders, and justifying the demand 
by much wealth of detail. For it must not be sup- 
posed that the quarrel rested with the wife and did 
not take in the husband also — or with the gardener's 
sister, and did not speedily include the gardener 
himself As the upshot of all this petty quarrelling 
and intemperate speech, she was practically excluded 
(like a lightkeeper on his tower) from the comforts 
of human association ; except with her own indoor 
drudge, who, being but a lassie and entirely at her 
mercy, must submit to the shifty weather of ' the 
mistress's ' moods without complaint, and be willing 
to take buffets or caresses according to the temper 
of the hour. To Kirstie, thus situate and in the 
Indian summer of her heart, which was slow to 
submit to age, the gods sent this equivocal good 
thing of Archie's presence. She had known him in 
the cradle and paddled him when he misbehaved ; 
and yet, as she had not so much as set eyes on him 
since he was eleven and had his last serious illness, 
194 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

the tall, slender, refined, and rather melancholy 
young gentleman of twenty came upon her with 
the shock of a new acquaintance. He was * Young 
Hermiston,' ' the laird himsel' ' : he had an air of 
distinctive superiority, a cold straight glance of his 
black eyes, that abashed the woman's tantrums in 
the beginning, and therefore the possibility of any 
quarrel was excluded. He was new, and therefore 
immediately aroused her curiosity ; he was reticent, 
and kept it awake. And lastly he was dark and she 
fair, and he was male and she female, the everlasting 
fountains of interest. 

Her feeling partook of the loyalty of a clans - 
woman, the hero-worship of a maiden aunt, and the 
idolatry due to a god. No matter what he had asked 
of her, ridiculous or tragic, she would have done it 
and joyed to do it. Her passion, for it was nothing 
less, entirely filled her. It was a rich physical plea- 
sure to make his bed or light his lamp for him when 
he was absent, to pull off his wet boots or wait on 
him at dinner when he returned. A young man 
who should have so doted on the idea, moral and 
physical, of any woman, might be properly described 
as being in love, head and heels, and would have 
behaved himself accordingly. But Kirstie — though 
her heart leaped at his coming footsteps — though, 
when he patted her shoulder, her face brightened for 
the day — had not a hope or thought beyond the 
present moment and its perpetuation to the end of 
time. Till the end of time she would have had 
nothing altered, but still continue delightedly to 

195 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

serve her idol, and be repaid (say twice in the month) 
with a clap on the shoulder. 

I have said her heart leaped — it is the accepted 
phrase. But rather, when she was alone in any 
chamber of the house, and heard his foot passing on 
the corridors, something in her bosom rose slowly 
until her breath was suspended, and as slowly fell 
again with a deep sigh, when the steps had passed 
and she was disappointed of her eyes' desire. This 
perpetual hunger and thirst of his presence kept her 
all day on the alert. When he went forth at morn- 
ing, she would stand and follow him with admiring 
looks. As it grew late and drew to the time of his 
return, she would steal forth to a corner of the policy 
wall and be seen standing there sometimes by the 
hour together, gazing with shaded eyes, waiting the 
exquisite and barren pleasure of his view a mile oif 
on the mountains. When at night she had trimmed 
and gathered the fire, turned down his bed, and laid 
out his night-gear — when there was no more to be 
done for the king's pleasure, but to remember him 
fervently in her usually very tepid prayers, and go 
to bed brooding upon his perfections, his future 
career, and what she should give him the next day 
for dinner — there still remained before her one more 
opportunity; she was still to take in the tray and 
say good-night. Sometimes Archie would glance up 
from his book with a preoccupied nod and a per- 
functory salutation which was in truth a dismissal ; 
sometimes — and by degrees more often — the volume 
would be laid aside, he would meet her coming with 
196 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

a look of relief; and the conversation would be en- 
gaged, last out the supper, and be prolonged till the 
small hours by the waning fire. It was no wonder 
that Archie was fond of company after his solitary 
days ; and Kirstie, upon her side, exerted all the 
arts of her vigorous nature to ensnare his attention. 
She would keep back some piece of news during 
dinner to be fired off with the entrance of the supper 
tray, and form as it were the lever de rideau of the 
evening's entertainment. Once he had heard her 
tongue wag, she made sure of the result. From one 
subject to another she moved by insidious transi- 
tions, fearing the least silence, fearing almost to give 
him time for an answer lest it should slip into a hint 
of separation. Like so many people of her class, she 
was a brave narrator ; her place was on the hearth- 
rug and she made it a rostrum, mimeing her stories 
as she told them, fitting them with vital detail, spin- 
ning them out with endless ' quo' he's ' and ' quo' 
she's,' her voice sinking into a whisper over the 
supernatural or the horrific; until she would sud- 
denly spring up in affected surprise, and pointing to 
the clock, ' Mercy, Mr. Archie ! ' she would say, 
* whatten a time o' night is this of it ! God forgive 
me for a daft wife ! ' So it befell, by good manage- 
ment, that she was not only the first to begin these 
nocturnal conversations, but invariably the first to 
break them off; so she managed to retire and not to 
be dismissed. 



197 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

3. A Border Family. 

Such an unequal intimacy has never been un- 
common in Scotland, where the clan spirit survives ; 
where the servant tends to spend her life in the same 
service, a helpmeet at first, then a tyrant, and at last 
a pensioner ; where, besides, she is not necessarily 
destitute of the pride of birth, but is, perhaps, like 
Kirstie, a connection of her master's, and at least 
knows the legend of her own family, and may count 
kinship with some illustrious dead. For that is the 
mark of the Scot of all classes : that he stands in an 
attitude towards the past unthinkable to English- 
men, and remembers and cherishes the memory of 
his forebears, good or bad ; and there burns alive 
in him a sense of identity with the dead even to 
the twentieth generation. No more characteristic 
instance could be found than in the family of Kirstie 
Elliott. They were all, and Kirstie the first of all, 
ready and eager to pour forth the particulars of 
their genealogy, embellished with every detail that 
memory had handed down or fancy fabricated ; and, 
behold ! from every ramification of that tree there 
dangled a halter. The Elliotts themselves have had 
a chequered history; but these Elliotts deduced, 
besides, from three of the most unfortunate of the 
border clans — the Nicksons, the EUwalds, and the 
Crozers. One ancestor after another might be seen 
appearing a moment out of the rain and the hill mist 
upon his furtive business, speeding home, perhaps, 
with a paltry booty of lame horses and lean kine, or 
198 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

squealing and dealing death in some moorland feud 
of the ferrets and the wild cats. One after another 
closed his obscure adventures in mid-air, triced up to 
the arm of the royal gibbet or the Baron's dule-tree. 
For the rusty blunderbuss of Scots criminal justice, 
which usually hurt nobody but jurymen, became a 
weapon of precision for the Nicksons, the Ellwalds, 
and the Crozers. The exhilaration of their exploits 
seemed to haunt the memories of their descen- 
dants alone, and the shame to be forgotten. Pride 
glowed in their bosoms to publish their relationship 
to * Andrew Ellwald of the Laverockstanes, called 
"Unchancy Dand," who was justifeed wi' seeven 
mair of the same name at Jeddart in the days of 
King James the Sax.' In all this tissue of crime and 
misfortune, the Elliotts of Cauldstaneslap had one 
boast which must appear legitimate : the males were 
gallows-birds, born outlaws, petty thieves, and deadly 
brawlers ; but, according to the same tradition, the 
females were all chaste and faithful. The power of 
ancestry on the character is not limited to the inheri- 
tance of cells. If I buy ancestors by the gross from 
the benevolence of Lyon King of Arms, my grand- 
son (if he is Scottish) will feel a quickening emulation 
of their deeds. The men of the Elliotts were proud, 
lawless, violent as of right, cherishing and prolonging 
a tradition. In like manner with the women. And 
the woman, essentially passionate and reckless, who 
crouched on the rug, in the shine of the peat fire, 
telling these tales, had cherished through life a wild 
integrity of virtue. 

199 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Her father Gilbert had been deeply pious, a savage 
disciplinarian in the antique style, and withal a 
notorious smuggler. ' I mind when I was a bairn 
getting mony a skelp and being shoo'd to bed like 
pou'try,' she would say. ' That would be when the 
lads and their bit kegs were on the road. We've 
had the rifFrafF of two-three counties in our kitchen, 
mony 's the time, betwix' the twelve and the three ; 
and their lanterns would be standing in the forecourt, 
ay, a score o' them at once. But there was nae un- 
godly talk permitted at Cauldstaneslap ; my faither 
was a consistent man in walk and conversation ; just 
let slip an aith, and there was the door to ye ! He 
had that zeal for the Lord, it was a fair wonder to 
hear him pray, but the faim'ly has aye had a gift that 
way.' This father was twice married, once to a dark 
woman of the old Ellwald stock, by whom he had 
Gilbert, presently of Cauldstaneslap ; and, secondly, 
to the mother of Kirstie. * He was an auld man 
when he married her, a fell auld man wi' a muckle 
voice — you could hear him rowting from the top o' 
the Kye-skairs,' she said ; ' but for her, it appears she 
was a perfit wonder. It was gentle blood she had, 
Mr. Archie, for it was your ain. The country-side 
gaed gyte about her and her gowden hair. Mines is 
no to be mentioned wi' it, and there 's few weemen 
has mair hair than what I have, or yet a bonnier 
colour. Often would I tell my dear Miss Jeannie — 
that was your mother, dear, she was cruel ta'en up 
about her hair, it was unco tender, ye see — " Hoots, 
Miss Jeannie," I would say, "just fling your washes 
200 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

and your French dentifrishes in the back o' the fire, 
for that 's the place for them ; and awa' down to a 
burn side, and wash yersel' in cauld hill water, 
and dry your bonny hair in the caller wind o' the 
muirs, the way that my mother aye washed hers, and 
that I have aye made it a practice to have wishen 
mines — ^just you do what I tell ye, my dear, and 
ye '11 give me news of it ! Ye 11 have hair, and 
routh of hair, a pigtail as thick 's my arm," I said, 
"and the bonniest colour like the clear gowden 
guineas, so as the lads in kirk '11 no can keep their 
eyes off it!" Weel, it lasted out her time, puir 
thing ! I cuttit a lock of it upon her corp that 
was lying there sae cauld. I '11 show it ye some of 
thir days if ye 're good. But, as I was sayin', my 

mither ' 

On the death of the father there remained golden- 
haired Kirstie, who took service with her distant 
kinsfolk, the Rutherfords, and black-a-vised Gilbert, 
twenty years older, who farmed the Cauldstaneslap, 
married, and begot four sons between 1773 and 1784, 
and a daughter, like a postscript, in '97, the year of 
Camperdown and Cape St. Vincent. It seemed it 
was a tradition in the family to wind up with a 
belated girl. In 1804, at the age of sixty, Gilbert 
met an end that might be called heroic. He was 
due home from market any time from eight at night 
till five in the morning, and in any condition from 
the quarrelsome to the speechless, for he maintained 
to that age the goodly customs of the Scots farmer. 
It was known on this occasion that he had a good bit 

20I 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

of money to bring home ; the word had gone round 
loosely. The laird had shown his guineas, and if 
anybody had but noticed it, there was an ill-looking, 
vagabond crew, the scum of Edinburgh, that drew 
out of the market long ere it was dusk and took 
the hill-road by Hermiston, where it was not to be 
believed that they had lawful business. One of the 
country-side, one Dickieson, they took with them to 
be their guide, and dear he paid for it I Of a sudden, 
in the ford of the Broken Dykes, this vermin clan fell 
on the laird, six to one, and him three parts asleep, 
having drunk hard. But it is ill to catch an Elliott. 
For a while, in the night and the black water that 
was deep as to his saddle-girths, he wrought with 
his staff like a smith at his stithy, and great was 
the sound of oaths and blows. With that the 
ambuscade was burst, and he rode for home with 
a pistol-ball in him, three knife wounds, the loss of 
his front teeth, a broken rib and bridle, and a dying- 
horse. That was a race with death that the laird 
rode ! In the mirk night, with his broken bridle and 
his head swimming, he dug his spurs to the rowels in 
the horse's side, and the horse, that was even worse 
off than himself, the poor creature I screamed out 
loud like a person as he went, so that the hills echoed 
with it, and the folks at Cauldstaneslap got to their 
feet about the table and looked at each other with 
white faces. The horse fell dead at the yard gate, 
the laird won the length of the house and fell there 
on the threshold. To the son that raised him he 
gave the bag of money. ' Hae,' said he. All the 
202 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

way up the thieves had seemed to him to be at his 
heels, but now the hallucination left him — he saw 
them again in the place of the ambuscade — and 
the thirst of vengeance seized on his dying mind. 
Raising himself and pointing with an imperious 
finger into the black night from which he had come, 
he uttered the single command, ' Brocken Dykes,' 
and fainted. He had never been loved, but he had 
been feared in honour. At that sight, at that word, 
gasped out at them from a toothless and bleeding 
mouth, the old Elliott spirit awoke with a shout in 
the four sons. * Wanting the hat,' continues my 
author, Kirstie, whom I but haltingly follow, for she 
told this tale like one inspired, 'wanting guns, for 
there wasna twa grains o' pouder in the house, wi' 
nae mair weepons than their sticks into their hands, 
the fower o' them took the road. Only Hob, and 
that was the eldest, hunkered at the door-sill where 
the blood had rin, fyled his hand wi' it, and haddit 
it up to Heeven in the way o' the auld Border 
aith. " Hell shall have her ain again this nichtl" he 
raired, and rode forth upon his earrand.' It was three 
miles to Broken Dykes, down hill, and a sore road. 
Kirstie had seen men from Edinburgh dismounting 
there in plain day to lead their horses. But the four 
brothers rode it as if Auld Hornie were behind and 
Heaven in front. Come to the ford, and there was 
Dickieson. By all tales, he was not dead, but 
breathed and reared upon his elbow, and cried out 
to them for help. It was at a graceless face that he 
asked mercy. As soon as Hob saw, by the glint of 

203 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the lantern, the eyes shining and the whiteness of the 
teeth in the man's face, ' Damn you I ' says he ; 'ye 
hae your teeth, hae ye ? ' and rode his horse to and 
fro upon that human remnant. Beyond that, Dandie 
must dismount with the lantern to be their guide ; 
he was the youngest son, scarce twenty at the time. 
'A' nicht long they gaed in the wet heath and jen- 
nipers, and whaur they gaed they neither knew 
nor cared, but just followed the bluid-stains and the 
footprints o' their faither's murderers. And a' nicht 
Dandie had his nose to the grund like a tyke, and 
the ithers followed and spak' naething, neither black 
nor white. There was nae noise to be heard, but 
just the sough of the swalled burns, and Hob, the 
dour yin, risping his teeth as he gaed.' With the 
first glint of the morning they saw they were on the 
drove-road, and at that the four stopped and had a 
dram to their breakfasts, for they knew that Dand 
must have guided them right, and the rogues could 
be but little ahead, hot foot for Edinburgh by the 
way of the Pentland Hills. By eight o'clock they 
had word of them — a shepherd had seen four men 
* uncoly mishandled ' go by in the last hour. * That 's 
yin a piece,' says Clem, and swung his cudgel. *Five 
o' them ! ' says Hob. ' God's death, but the faither 
was a man ! And him drunk ! ' And then there 
befell them what my author termed 'a sair mis- 
begowk,' for they were overtaken by a posse of 
mounted neighbours come to aid in the pursuit. 
Four sour faces looked on the reinforcement. ' The 
Deil 's broughten you ! ' said Clem, and they rode 
204 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

thenceforward in the rear of the party with hanging 
heads. Before ten they had found and secured the 
rogues, and by three of the afternoon, as they rode 
up the Vennel with their prisoners, they were aware 
of a concourse of people bearing in their midst some- 
thing that dripped. 'For the boady of the saxt,' 
pursued Kirstie, * wi' his head smashed like a hazel-nit, 
had been a' that nicht in the chairge o' Hermiston 
Water, and it dunting in on the stanes, and grunding 
it on the shallows, and flinging the deid thing heels- 
ower-hurdie at the Fa's o' Spango ; and in the first o' 
the day, Tweed had got a hold o' him and carried 
him off like a wind, for it was uncoly swalled, and 
raced wi' him, bobbing under brae-sides, and was long 
playing with the creature in the drumlie lynns under 
the castle, and at the hinder end of all cuist him up 
on the sterling of Crossmichael brig. Sae there they 
were a'thegither at last (for Dickieson had been 
brought in on a cart long syne), and folk could see 
what mainner o' man my brither had been that had 
held his head again sax and saved the siller, and him 
drunk ! ' Thus died of honourable injuries and in 
the savour of fame Gilbert Elliott of the Cauldstane- 
slap ; but his sons had scarce less glory out of the 
business. Their savage haste, the skill with which 
Dand had found and followed the trail, the barbarity 
to the wounded Dickieson (which was like an open 
secret in the county), and the doom which it was 
currently supposed they had intended for the others, 
struck and stirred popular imagination. Some cen- 
tury earlier the last of the minstrels might have 

205 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

fashioned the last of the ballads out of that Homeric 
fight and chase ; but the spirit was dead, or had been 
re-incarnated already in Mr. Sheriff Scott, and the 
degenerate moorsmen must be content to tell the 
tale in prose, and to make of the 'Four Black 
Brothers ' a unit after the fashion of the ' Twelve 
Apostles ' or the ' Three Musketeers.' 

Robert, Gilbert, Clement, and Andrew — in the 
proper Border diminutives. Hob, Gib, Clem, and 
Dand Elliott — these ballad heroes, had much in 
common ; in particular, their high sense of the family 
and the family honour ; but they went diverse ways, 
and prospered and failed in different businesses. 
According to Kirstie, ' they had a' bees in their 
bonnets but Hob.' Hob the laird was, indeed, 
essentially a decent man. An elder of the Kirk, 
nobody had heard an oath upon his lips, save, 
perhaps, thrice or so at the sheep-washing, since 
the chase of his father's murderers. The figure he 
had shown on that eventful night disappeared as 
if swallowed by a trap. He who had ecstatically 
dipped his hand in the red blood, he who had ridden 
down Dickieson, became, from that moment on, a 
stiff and rather graceless model of the rustic pro- 
prieties ; cannily profiting by the high war prices, 
and yearly stowing away a little nest-egg in the bank 
against calamity ; approved of and sometimes con- 
sulted by the greater lairds for the massive and 
placid sense of what he said, when he could be 
induced to say anything ; and particularly valued by 
the minister, Mr. Torrance, as a right-hand man in 
206 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

the parish, and a model to parents. The transfigura- 
tion had been for the moment only ; some Barbarossa, 
some old Adam of our ancestors, sleeps in all of us 
till the fit circumstance shall call it into action ; and, 
for as sober as he now seemed, Hob had given once 
for all the measure of the devil that haunted him. 
He was married, and, by reason of the effulgence of 
that legendary night, was adored by his wife. He 
had a mob of little lusty, barefoot children who 
marched in a caravan the long miles to school, the 
stages of whose pilgrimage were marked by acts of 
spoliation and mischief, and who were qualified in 
the country-side as ' fair pests.' But in the house, if 
* faither was in,' they were quiet as mice. In short, 
Hob moved through life in a great peace — the 
reward of any one who shall have killed his man, 
with any formidable and figurative circumstance, in 
the midst of a country gagged and swaddled with 
civilisation. 

It was a current remark that the Elliotts were 
' guid and bad, like sanguishes * ; and certainly 
there was a curious distinction, the men of business 
coming alternately with the dreamers. The second 
brother, Gib, was a weaver by trade, had gone out 
early into the world to Edinburgh, and come home 
again with his wings singed. There was an exalta- 
tion in his nature which had led him to embrace 
with enthusiasm the principles of the French 
Revolution, and had ended by bringing him under 
the hawse of my Lord Hermiston in that furious 
onslaught of his upon the Liberals, which sent Muir 

207 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and Palmer into exile and dashed the party into 
chaff. It was whispered that my lord, in his great 
scorn for the movement, and prevailed upon a little 
by a sense of neighbourliness, had given Gib a hint. 
Meeting him one day in the Potterrow, my lord had 
stopped in front of him : ' Gib, ye eediot,' he had 
said, ' what 's this I hear of you ? Poalitics, poalitics, 
poalitics, weaver's poalitics, is the way of it, I hear. 
If ye arena a'thegither dozened with eediocy, ye '11 
gang your ways back to Cauldstaneslap, and ca' 
your loom, and ca' your loom, man ! ' And Gilbert 
had taken him at the word and returned, with an 
expedition almost to be called flight, to the house 
of his father. The clearest of his inheritance was 
that family gift of prayer of which Kirstie had 
boasted; and the baffled politician now turned his 
attention to religious matters — or, as others said, to 
heresy and schism. Every Sunday morning he was 
in Crossmichael, where he had gathered together, 
one by one, a sect of about a dozen persons, who 
called themselves 'God's Remnant of the True 
Faithful,' or, for short, ' God's Remnant.' To the 
profane they were known as ' Gib's Deils.' Bailie 
Sweedie, a noted humorist in the town, vowed 
that the proceedings always opened to the tune 
of ' The Deil Fly Away with the Exciseman,' and 
that the sacrament was dispensed in the form of hot 
whisky -toddy ; both wicked hits at the evangehst, 
who had been suspected of smuggling in his youth, 
and had been overtaken (as the phrase went) on the 
streets of Crossmichael one Fair day. It was known 
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WINTER ON THE MOORS 

that every Sunday they prayed for a blessing on 
the arms of Bonaparte. For this, ' God's Remnant,' 
as they were * skailing ' from the cottage that did 
duty for a temple, had been repeatedly stoned by 
the bairns, and Gib himself hooted by a squadron 
of Border volunteers in which his own brother, 
Dand, rode in a uniform and with a drawn sword. 
The ' Remnant ' were believed, besides, to be * anti- 
nomian in principle,' which might otherwise have 
been a serious charge, but the way public opinion 
then blew it was quite swallowed up and forgotten 
in the scandal about Bonaparte. For the rest, 
Gilbert had set up his loom in an outhouse at 
Cauldstaneslap, where he laboured assiduously six 
days of the week. His brothers, appalled by his 
political opinions, and willing to avoid dissension in 
the household, spoke but little to him ; he less to 
them, remaining absorbed in the study of the Bible 
and almost constant prayer. The gaunt weaver 
was dry-nurse at Cauldstaneslap, and the bairns 
loved him dearly. Except when he was carrying 
an infant in his arms, he was rarely seen to smile — 
as, indeed, there were few smilers in that family. 
When his sister-in-law rallied him, and proposed 
that he should get a wife and bairns of his own, 
since he was so fond of them, ' I have no clearness 
of mind upon that point,' he would reply. If 
nobody called him in to dinner, he stayed out. 
Mrs. Hob, a hard, unsympathetic woman, once 
tried the experiment. He went without food all 
day, but at dusk, as the light began to fail him, he 
26 — o 209 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

came into the house of his own accord, looking 
puzzled. 'I've had a great gale of prayer upon 
my speerit,' said he. ' I canna mind sae muckle 's 
what I had for denner.' The creed of God's 
Remnant was justified in the life of its founder. 
* And yet I dinna ken,' said Kirstie. ' He 's maybe 
no more stockfish than his neeghbours ! He rode 
wi' the rest o' them, and had a good stamach to the 
work, by a' that I hear! God's Remnant! The 
deil's clavers! There wasna muckle Christianity 
in the way Hob guided Johnny Dickieson, at the 
least of it; but Guid kens! Is he a Christian 
even? He might be a Mahommedan or a Deevil 
or a Fireworshipper, for what I ken.' 

The third brother had his name on a door-plate, 
no less, in the city of Glasgow, 'Mr. Clement 
Elliott,' as long as your arm. In his case, that 
spirit of innovation which had shown itself timidly 
in the case of Hob by the admission of new 
manures, and which had run to waste with Gilbert 
in subversive politics and heretical religions, bore 
useful fruit in many ingenious mechanical improve- 
ments. In boyhood, from his addiction to strange 
devices of sticks and string, he had been counted 
the most eccentric of the family. But that was all 
by now ; and he was a partner of his firm, and 
looked to die a bailie. He too had married, and 
was rearing a plentiful family in the smoke and 
din of Glasgow ; he was wealthy, and could have 
bought out his brother, the cock-laird, six times 
over, it was whispered ; and when he slipped away 

2IO 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

to Cauldstaneslap for a well-earned holiday, which 
he did as often as he was able, he astonished the 
neighbours with his broadcloth, his beaver hat, 
and the ample plies of his neckcloth. Though an 
eminently solid man at bottom, after the pattern of 
Hob, he had contracted a certain Glasgow brisk- 
ness and aplomb which set him off. All the other 
Elliotts were as lean as a rake, but Clement was 
laying on fat, and he panted sorely when he must 
get into his boots. Dand said, chuckling : ' Ay, 
Clem has the elements of a corporation.' ' A pro- 
vost and corporation,' returned Clem. And his 
readiness was much admired. 

The fourth brother, Dand, was a shepherd to his 
trade, and by starts, when he could bring his mind 
to it, excelled in the business. Nobody could train 
a dog like Dandie ; nobody, through the peril of 
great storms in the winter time, could do more 
gallantly. But if his dexterity were exquisite, his 
diligence was but fitful ; and he served his brother 
for bed and board, and a trifle of pocket-money 
when he asked for it. He loved money well 
enough, knew very well how to spend it, and could 
make a shrewd bargain when he liked. But he 
preferred a vague knowledge that he was well to 
windward to any counted coins in the pocket ; he 
felt himself richer so. Hob would expostulate : 
* I 'm an amature herd.' Dand would reply, * I '11 
keep your sheep to you when I 'm so minded, but 
I '11 keep my liberty too. Thir 's no man can 
coandescend on what I 'm worth.' Clem would 

211 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

expound to him the miraculous results of com- 
pound interest, and recommend investments. ' Ay, 
man ? ' Dand would say ; * and do you think, if I 
took Hob's siller, that I wouldna drink it or wear 
it on the lassies? And, anyway, my kingdom is 
no of this world. Either I 'm a poet or else I 'm 
nothing.' Clem would remind him of old age. 
*I'll die young, like Robbie Burns,' he would say 
stoutly. No question but he had a certain accom- 
plishment in minor verse. His * Hermiston Burn,' 
with its pretty refrain — 

' I love to gang thinking whaiir ye gang linking, 
Hermiston burn, in the howe ' ; 

his 'Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-cauld Elliotts, dour, 
bauld Elliotts of auld,' and his really fascinating 
piece about the Praying Weaver's Stone, had gained 
him in the neighbourhood the reputation, still 
possible in Scotland, of a local bard; and, though 
not printed himself, he was recognised by others 
who were and who had become famous. Walter 
Scott owed to Dandie the text of the 'Raid of 
Wearie ' in the Minstrelsy ; and made him welcome 
at his house, and appreciated his talents, such as 
they were, with all his usual generosity. The 
Ettrick Shepherd was his sworn crony ; they would 
meet, drink to excess, roar out their lyrics in each 
other's faces, and quarrel and make it up again till 
bedtime. And besides these recognitions, almost 
to be called official, Dandie was made welcome for 
the sake of his gift through the farmhouses of 
several contiguous dales, and was thus exposed to 

212 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

manifold temptations which he rather sought than 
fled. He had figured on the stool of repentance, 
for once fulfilling to the letter the tradition of his 
hero and model. His humorous verses to Mr. 
Torrance on that occasion — *Kenspeckle here my 
lane I stand' — unfortunately too indelicate for 
further citation, ran through the country like a 
fiery cross ; they were recited, quoted, paraphrased, 
and laughed over as far away as Dumfries on the 
one hand and Dunbar on the other. 

These four brothers were united by a close bond, 
the bond of that mutual admiration — or rather 
mutual hero-worship — which is so strong among 
the members of secluded families who have much 
ability and little culture. Even the extremes ad- 
mired each other. Hob, who had as much poetry 
as the tongs, professed to find pleasure in Dand's 
verses ; Clem, who had no more religion than 
Claverhouse, nourished a heartfelt, at least an open- 
mouthed, admiration of Gib's prayers ; and Dandie 
followed with relish the rise of Clem's fortunes. 
Indulgence followed hard on the heels of admira- 
tion. The laird, Clem, and Dand, who were Tories 
and patriots of the hottest quality, excused to them- 
selves, with a certain bashfulness, the radical and 
revolutionary heresies of Gib. By another division 
of the family, the laird, Clem, and Gib, who were 
men exactly virtuous, swallowed the dose of Dand's 
irregularities as a kind of clog or drawback in the 
mysterious providence of God affixed to bards, 
and distinctly probative of poetical genius. To 

213 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

appreciate the simplicity of their mutual admiration 
it was necessary to hear Clem, arrived upon one of 
his visits, and dealing in a spirit of continuous irony 
with the affairs and personalities of that great city 
of Glasgow where he lived and transacted business. 
The various personages, ministers of the Church, 
municipal officers, mercantile big-wigs, whom he 
had occasion to introduce, were all alike denigrated, 
all served but as reflectors to cast back a flattering 
side-light on the house of Cauldstaneslap. The 
Provost, for whom Clem by exception entertained 
a measure of respect, he would liken to Hob. ' He 
minds me o' the laird there,' he would say. * He has 
some of Hob's grand, whunstane sense, and the 
same way with him of steiking his mouth when 
he's no very pleased.' And Hob, all unconscious, 
would draw down his upper lip and produce, as 
if for comparison, the formidable grimace referred 
to. The unsatisfactory incumbent of St. Enoch's 
Kirk was thus briefly dismissed : ' If he had but twa 
fingers o' Gib's, he would waken them up.' And 
Gib, honest man ! would look down and secretly 
smile. Clem was a spy whom they had sent out 
into the world of men. He had come back with 
the good news that there was nobody to compare 
with the Four Black Brothers, no position that they 
would not adorn, no official that it would not be 
well they should replace, no interest of mankind, 
secular or spiritual, which would not immediately 
bloom under their supervision. The excuse of their 
folly is in two words : scarce the breadth of a hair 
214 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

divided them from the peasantry. The measure of 
their sense is this: that these symposia of rustic 
vanity were kept entirely within the family, like 
some secret ancestral practice. To the world their 
serious faces were never deformed by the suspicion 
of any simper of self-contentment. Yet it was 
known. ' They hae a guid pride o' themsel's ! ' was 
the word in the country-side. 

Lastly, in a Border story, there should be added 
their * to-names.' Hob was The Laird. 'Roy ne 
puis, prince ne daigne' ; he was the laird of Cauld- 
staneslap — say fifty acres — ipsissimus. Clement was 
Mr. Elliott, as upon his door-plate, the earlier Dafty 
having been discarded as no longer applicable, and 
indeed only a reminder of misjudgment and the 
imbecility of the pubhc; and the youngest, in 
honour of his perpetual wanderings, was known by 
the sobriquet of Randy Dand. 

It will be understood that not all this informa- 
tion was communicated by the aunt, who had too 
much of the family failing herself to appreciate it 
thoroughly in others. But as time went on, Archie 
began to observe an omission in the family 
chronicle. 

' Is there not a girl too ? ' he asked. 

'Ay: Kirstie. She was named for me, or my 
grandmother at least — it 's the same thing,' returned 
the aunt, and went on again about Dand, whom 
she secretly preferred by reason of his gallantries. 

' But what is your niece like ? ' said Archie at 
the next opportunity. 

215 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

* Her ? As black 's your hat ! But I dinna 
suppose she would maybe be what you would ca' 
ill-looked a'thegither. Na, she 's a kind of a hand- 
some jaud — a kind o' gipsy,' said the aunt, who had 
two sets of scales for men and women — or perhaps 
it would be more fair to say that she had three, 
and the third and the most loaded was for girls. 

* How comes it that I never see her in church ? ' 
said Archie. 

' 'Deed, and I believe she 's in Glesgie with Clem 
and his wife. A heap good she 's like to get of it ! 
I dinna say for men folk, but where weemen folk 
are born, there let them bide. Glory to God, I 
was never far'er from here than Crossmichael.' 

In the meanwhile it began to strike Archie as 
strange, that while she thus sang the praises of her 
kinsfolk, and manifestly relished their virtues and 
(I may say) their vices like a thing creditable to 
herself, there should appear not the least sign of 
cordiality between the house of Hermiston and that 
of Cauldstaneslap. Going to church of a Sunday, 
as the lady housekeeper stepped with her skirts 
kilted, three tucks of her white petticoat showing 
below, and her best India shawl upon her back (if 
the day were fine) in a pattern of radiant dyes, she 
would sometimes overtake her relatives preceding 
her more leisurely in the same direction. Gib of 
course was absent : by skreigh of day he had been 
gone to Crossmichael and his fellow-heretics ; but 
the rest of the family would be seen marching in 
open order : Hob and Dand, stiff-necked, straight- 
216 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

backed six-footers, with severe dark faces, and their 
plaids about their shoulders ; the convoy of children 
scattering (in a state of high polish) on the wayside, 
and every now and again collected by the shrill 
summons of the mother; and the mother herself, 
by a suggestive circumstance which might have 
afforded matter of thought to a more experienced 
observer than Archie, wrapped in a shawl nearly 
identical with Kirstie's, but a thought more gaudy 
and conspicuously newer. At the sight, Kirstie 
grew more tall — Kirstie showed her classical profile, 
nose in air and nostril spread, the pure blood came 
in her cheek evenly in a delicate living pink. 

* A braw day to ye, Mistress Elliott,' said she, and 
hostility and gentility were nicely mingled in her 
tones. ' A fine day, mem,' tlfie laird's wife would 
reply with a miraculous curtsey, spreading the 
while her plumage — setting off, in other words, and 
with arts unknown to the mere man, the pattern 
of her India shawl. Behind her, the whole Cauld- 
staneslap contingent marched in closer order, and 
with an indescribable air of being in the presence 
of the foe ; and while Dandie saluted his aunt with 
a certain familiarity as of one who was well in 
court. Hob marched on in awful immobility. There 
appeared upon the face of this attitude in the family 
the consequences of some dreadful feud. Presumably 
the two women had been principals in the original 
encounter, and the laird had probably been drawn 
into the quarrel by the ears, too late to be included 
in the present skin-deep reconciliation. 

217 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

' Kirstie,' said Archie one day, ' what is this you 
have against your family ? ' 

' I dinna complean,' said Kirstie, with a flush. ' I 
say naething.' 

'I see you do not — not even good-day to your 
own nephew,' said he. 

' I hae naething to be ashamed of,' said she. ' I 
can say the Lord's Prayer with a good grace. If 
Hob was ill, or in preeson or poverty, I would see to 
him blithely. But for curtchying and complimenting 
and colloguing, thank ye kindly ! ' 

Archie had a bit of a smile : he leaned back in his 
chair. ' I think you and Mrs. Robert are not very 
good friends,' says he slyly, 'when you have your 
India shawls on ?' 

She looked upon him in silence, with a sparkling 
eye but an indecipherable expression ; and that was 
all that Archie was ever destined to learn of the 
battle of the India shawls. 

* Do none of them ever come here to see you ? ' he 
inquired. 

'Mr. Archie,' said she, 'I hope that I ken my 
place better. It would be a queer thing, I think, if 
I was to clamjamfry up your faither's house — that I 
should say it ! — wi' a dirty, black-a-vised clan, no 
ane o' them it was worth while to mar soap upon 
but just mysel' ! Na, they 're all damnifeed wi' the 
black Ellwalds. I have nae patience wi' black folk.' 
Then, with a sudden consciousness of the case of 
Archie, 'No that it maitters for men sae muckle,' 
she made haste to add, ' but there 's naebody can 
218 



WINTER ON THE MOORS 

deny that it 's unwomanly. Long hair is the orna- 
ment o' woman ony way ; we Ve good warrandise for 
that — it 's in the Bible — and wha can doubt that the 
Apostle had some gowden-haired lassie in his mind 
— Apostle and all, for what was he but just a man 
like yersel' ? ' 

CHAPTER VI 

A LEAF FROM CHRISTINa's PSALM-BOOK 

Archie was sedulous at church. Sunday after Sun- 
day he sat down and stood up with that small 
company, heard the voice of Mr. Torrance leaping 
like an ill-played clarionet from key to key, and had 
an opportunity to study his moth-eaten gown and 
the black thread mittens that he joined together in 
prayer, and lifted up with a reverent solemnity in 
the act of benediction. Hermiston pew was a little 
square box, dwarfish in proportion with the kirk 
itself, and enclosing a table not much bigger than 
a footstool. There sat Archie, an apparent prince, 
the only undeniable gentleman and the only great 
heritor in the parish, taking his ease in the only pew, 
for no other in the kirk had doors. Thence he 
might command an undisturbed view of that congre- 
gation of solid plaided men, strapping wives and 
daughters, oppressed children, and uneasy sheep- 
dogs. It was strange how Archie missed the look 
of race; except the dogs, with their refined foxy 
faces and inimitably curling tails, there was no one 

219 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

present with the least claim to gentility. The Cauld- 
staneslap party was scarcely an exception ; Dandie 
perhaps, as he amused himself making verses through 
the interminable burden of the service, stood out a 
little by the glow in his eye and a certain superior 
animation of face and alertness of body ; but even 
Dandie slouched hke a rustic. The rest of the con- 
gregation, like so many sheep, oppressed him with a 
sense of hob-nailed routine, day following day — of 
physical labour in the open air, oatmeal porridge, 
peas bannock, the somnolent fireside in the evening, 
and the night-long nasal slumbers in a box-bed. 
Yet he knew many of them to be shrewd and 
humorous, men of character, notable women, 
making a bustle in the world and radiating an 
influence from their low-browed doors. He knew 
besides they were like other men ; below the crust of 
custom, rapture found a way; he had heard them 
beat the timbrel before Bacchus — had heard them 
shout and carouse over their whisky-toddy ; and not 
the most Dutch-bottomed and severe faces among 
them all, not even the solemn elders themselves, but 
were capable of singular gambols at the voice of love. 
Men drawing near to an end of life's adventurous 
journey — maids thrilling with fear and curiosity on 
the threshold of entrance — women who had borne 
and perhaps buried children, who could remember 
the clinging of the small dead hands and the patter 
of the little feet now silent — he marvelled that 
among all those faces there should be no face of 
expectation, none that was mobile, none into which 
220 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

the rhythm and poetry of life had entered. ' O for a 
live face,' he thought ; and at times he had a memory 
of Lady Flora; and at times he would study the 
living gallery before him with despair, and would 
see himself go on to waste his days in that joyless, 
pastoral place, and death come to him, and his grave 
be dug under the rowans, and the Spirit of the Earth 
laugh out in a thunder-peal at the huge fiasco. 

On this particular Sunday, there was no doubt but 
that the spring had come at last. It was warm, with 
a latent shiver in the air that made the warmth only 
the more welcome. The shallows of the stream 
glittered and tinkled among bunches of primrose. 
Vagrant scents of the earth arrested Archie by the 
way with moments of ethereal intoxication. The 
grey, Quakerish dale was still only awakened in 
places and patches from the sobriety of its winter 
colouring ; and he wondered at its beauty ; an essen- 
tial beauty of the old earth it seemed to him, not 
resident in particulars but breathing to him from the 
whole. He surprised himself by a sudden impulse 
to write poetry — he did so sometimes, loose, gallop- 
ing octosyllabics in the vein of Scott — and when he 
had taken his place on a boulder, near some fairy 
falls and shaded by a whip of a tree that was 
already radiant with new leaves, it still more surprised 
him that he should find nothing to write. His heart 
perhaps beat in time to some vast indwelling rhythm 
of the universe. By the time he came to a corner of 
the valley and could see the kirk, he had so lingered 
by the way that the first psalm was finishing. The 

221 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

nasal psalmody, full of turns and trills and graceless 
graces, seemed the essential voice of the kirk itself 
upraised in thanksgiving. 'Everything's alive,' he 
said ; and again cries it aloud, * thank God, every- 
thing 's alive ! ' He lingered yet a while in the kirk- 
yard. A tuft of primroses was blooming hard by the 
leg of an old, black table tombstone, and he stopped 
to contemplate the random apologue. They stood 
forth on the cold earth with a tren chancy of contrast; 
and he was struck with a sense of incompleteness in 
the day, the season, and the beauty that surrounded 
him — the chill there was in the warmth, the gross 
black clods about the opening primroses, the damp 
earthy smell that was everywhere intermingled with 
the scents. The voice of the aged Torrance within 
rose in an ecstasy. And he wondered if Torrance 
also felt in his old bones the joyous influence of the 
spring morning ; Torrance, or the shadow of what 
once was Torrance, that must come so soon to lie 
outside here in the sun and rain with all his rheuma- 
tisms, while a new minister stood in his room and 
thundered from his own familiar pulpit ? The 
pity of it, and something of the chill of the 
grave, shook him for a moment as he made haste 
to enter. 

He went up the aisle reverently, and took his 
place in the pew with lowered eyes, for he feared he 
had already offended the kind old gentleman in the 
pulpit, and was sedulous to offend no further. He 
could not follow the prayer, not even the heads of it. 
Brightnesses of azure, clouds of fragrance, a tinkle of 

222 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

falling water and singing birds, rose like exhalations 
from some deeper, aboriginal memory, that was not 
his, but belonged to the flesh on his bones. His 
body remembered; and it seemed to him that his 
body was in no way gross, but ethereal and perish- 
able like a strain of music ; and he felt for it an 
exquisite tenderness as for a child, an innocent, full 
of beautiful instincts and destined to an early death. 
And he felt for old Torrance — of the many supplica- 
tions, of the few days — a pity that was near to tears. 
The prayer ended. Right over him was a tablet in 
the wall, the only ornament in the roughly masoned 
chapel — for it was no more ; the tablet commemo- 
rated, I was about to say the virtues, but rather the 
existence of a former Rutherford of Hermiston ; 
and Archie, under that trophy of his long descent 
and local greatness, leaned back in the pew and 
contemplated vacancy with the shadow of a smile 
between playful and sad, that became him strangely. 
Dandie's sister, sitting by the side of Clem in her 
new Glasgow finery, chose that moment to observe 
the young laird. Aware of the stir of his entrance, 
the little formalist had kept her eyes fastened and 
her face prettily composed during the prayer. It 
was not hypocrisy, there was no one further from a 
hypocrite. The girl had been taught to behave : to 
look up, to look down, to look unconscious, to look 
seriously impressed in church, and in every con- 
juncture to look her best. That was the game of 
female life, and she played it frankly. Archie was 
the one person in church who was of interest, who 

223 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

was somebody new, reputed eccentric, known to be 
young, and a laird, and still unseen by Christina. 
Small wonder that, as she stood there in her attitude 
of pretty decency, her mind should run upon him ! If 
he spared a glance in her direction, he should know 
she was a well-behaved young lady who had been to 
Glasgow. In reason he must admire her clothes, 
and it was possible that he should think her pretty. 
At that her heart beat the least thing in the world ; 
and she proceeded, by way of a corrective, to call up 
and dismiss a series of fancied pictures of the young 
man who should now, by rights, be looking at her. 
She settled on the plainest of them — a pink short 
young man with a dish face and no figure, at whose 
admiration she could afford to smile ; but for all 
that, the consciousness of his gaze (which was really 
fixed on Torrance and his mittens) kept her in some- 
thing of a flutter till the word Amen. Even then, 
she was far too well-bred to gratify her curiosity with 
any impatience. She resumed her seat languidly — 
this was a Glasgow touch — she composed her dress, 
rearranged her nosegay of primroses, looked first in 
front, then behind upon the other side, and at last 
allowed her eyes to move, without hurry, in the 
direction of the Hermiston pew. For a moment, 
they were riveted. Next she had plucked her gaze 
home again like a tame bird who should have 
meditated flight. Possibilities crowded on her ; she 
hung over the future and grew dizzy; the image of 
this young man, slim, graceful, dark, with the 
inscrutable half-smile, attracted and repelled her like 
224 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

a chasm. * I wonder, will I have met my fate ? ' she 
thought, and her heart swelled. 

Torrance was got some way into his first exposi- 
tion, positing a deep layer of texts as he went along, 
laying the foundations of his discourse, which was 
to deal with a nice point in divinity, before Archie 
suffered his eyes to wander. They fell first of all 
on Clem, looking insupportably prosperous, and 
patronising Torrance with the favour of a modified 
attention, as of one who was used to better things in 
Glasgow. Though he had never before set eyes on 
him, Archie had no difficulty in identifying him, and 
no hesitation in pronouncing him vulgar, the worst 
of the family. Clem was leaning lazily forward when 
Archie first saw him. Presently he leaned non- 
chalantly back; and that deadly instrument, the 
maiden, was suddenly unmasked in profile. Though 
not quite in the front of the fashion (had anybody 
cared !), certain artful Glasgow man tua- makers, and 
her own inherent taste, had arrayed her to great 
advantage. Her accoutrement was, indeed, a cause 
of heart-burning, and almost of scandal, in that 
infinitesimal kirk company. Mrs. Hob had said her 
say at Cauldstaneslap. ' Daftlike ! ' she had pro- 
nounced it. 'A jaiket that'll no meet! Whaur's 
the sense of a jaiket that '11 no button upon you, if it 
should come to be weet? What do ye ca' thir 
things? Demmy brokens, d'ye say? They'll be 
brokens wi' a vengeance or ye can win back ! Weel, 
I have naething to do wi' it — it's no good taste.' 
Clem, whose purse had thus metamorphosed his 
26 — p 225 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

sister, and who was not insensible to/ the advertise- 
ment, had come to the rescue with a ' Hoot, woman ! 
What do you ken of good taste that has never been 
to the ceety ? ' And Hob, looking on the girl with 
pleased smiles, as she timidly displayed her finery in 
the midst of the dark kitchen, had thus ended the 
dispute : ' The cutty looks weel,' he had said, ' and 
it 's no very like rain. Wear them the day, hizzie ; 
but it 's no a thing to make a practice o'.' In the 
breasts of her rivals, coming to the kirk very con- 
scious of white under-linen, and their faces splendid 
with much soap, the sight of the toilet had raised a 
storm of varying emotion, from the mere unenvious 
admiration that was expressed in a long-drawn ' Eh!' 
to the angrier feeling that found vent in an emphatic 
' Set her up ! ' Her frock was of straw-coloured 
jaconet muslin, cut low at the bosom and short at 
the ankle, so as to display her demi-hroquins of 
Regency violet, crossing with many straps upon a 
yellow cobweb stocking. According to the pretty 
fashion in which our grandmothers did not hesitate 
to appear, and our great-aunts went forth armed for 
the pursuit and capture of our great-uncles, the dress 
was drawn up so as to mould the contour of both 
breasts, and in the nook between, a cairngorm brooch 
maintained it. Here, too, surely in a very enviable 
position, trembled the nosegay of primroses. She 
wore on her shoulders — or rather, on her back and 
not her shoulders, which it scarcely passed — a French 
coat of sarsenet, tied in front with Margate braces, 
and of the same colour with her violet shoes. About 
226 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

her face clustered a disorder of dark ringlets, a little 
garland of yellow French roses surmounted her brow, 
and the whole was crowned by a village hat of 
chipped straw. Amongst all the rosy and all the 
weathered faces that surrounded her in church, she 
glowed like an open flower — girl and raiment, and 
the cairngorm that caught the daylight and returned 
it in a fiery flash, and the threads of bronze and gold 
that played in her hair. 

Archie was attracted by the bright thing like a 
child. He looked at her again and yet again, and 
their looks crossed. The lip was lifted from her 
little teeth. He saw the red blood work vividly 
under her tawny skin. Her eye, which was great as 
a stag's, struck and held his gaze. He knew who 
she must be — Kirstie, she of the harsh diminutive, 
his housekeeper's niece, the sister of the rustic pro- 
phet, Gib — and he found in her the answer to his 
wishes. 

Christina felt the shock of their encountering 
glances, and seemed to rise, clothed in smiles, into 
a region of the vague and bright. But the gratifica- 
tion was not more exquisite than it was brief She 
looked away abruptly, and immediately began to 
blame herself for that abruptness. She knew what 
she should have done, too late — turned slowly with 
her nose in the air. And meantime his look was 
not removed, but continued to play upon her like a 
battery of cannon constantly aimed, and now seemed 
to isolate her alone with him, and now seemed to 
uplift her, as on a pillory, before the congregation. 

227 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

For Archie continued to drink her in with his eyes, 
even as a wayfarer comes to a well-head on a moun- 
tain, and stoops his face, and drinks with thirst 
unassuageable. In the cleft of her little breasts the 
fiery eye of the topaz and the pale florets of primrose 
fascinated him. He saw the breasts heave, and the 
flowers shake with the heaving, and marvelled what 
should so much discompose the girl. And Christina 
was conscious of his gaze — saw it, perhaps, with the 
dainty plaything of an ear that peeped among her 
ringlets ; she was conscious of changing colour, con- 
scious of her unsteady breath. Like a creature 
tracked, run down, surrounded, she sought in a 
dozen ways to give herself a countenance. She 
used her handkerchief — it was a really fine one — 
then she desisted in a panic : ' He would only think I 
was too warm.' She took to reading in the metrical 
psalms, and then remembered it was sermon-time. 
Last she put a * sugar-bool ' in her mouth, and the 
next moment' repented of the step. It was such a 
homely-like thing! Mr. Archie would never be 
eating sweeties in kirk ; and, with a palpable effort, 
she swallowed it whole, and her colour flamed high. 
At this signal of distress Archie awoke to a sense of 
his ill-behaviour. What had he been doing? He 
had been exquisitely rude in church to the niece of 
his housekeeper ; he had stared like a lackey and a 
libertine at a beautiful and modest girl. It was 
possible, it was even likely, he would be presented 
to her after service in the kirkyard, and then how 
was he to look? And there was no excuse. He 
228 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

had marked the tokens of her shame, of her increas- 
ing indignation, and he was such a fool that he had 
not understood them. Shame bowed him down, and 
he looked resolutely at Mr. Torrance ; who little 
supposed, good, worthy man, as he continued to 
expound justification by faith, what was his true 
business : to play the part of derivative to a pair of 
children at the old game of falling in love. 

Christina was greatly relieved at first. It seemed 
to her that she was clothed again. She looked back 
on what had passed. All would have been right if 
she had not blushed, a silly fool ! There was nothing 
to blush at, if she had taken a sugar-bool. Mrs. 
MacTaggart, the elder's wife in St. Enoch's, took 
them often. And if he had looked at her, what was 
more natural than that a young gentleman should 
look at the best-dressed girl in church ? And at 
the same time, she knew far otherwise, she knew 
there was nothing casual or ordinary in the look, 
and valued herself on its memory like a decoration. 
Well, it was a blessing he had found something else 
to look at ! And presently she began to have other 
thoughts. It was necessary, she fancied, that she 
should put herself right by a repetition of the inci- 
dent, better managed. If the wish was father to 
the thought, she did not know or she would not 
recognise it. It was simply as a manoeuvre of pro- 
priety, as something called for to lessen the signifi- 
cance of what had gone before, that she should a 
second time meet his eyes, and this time without 
blushing. And at the memory of the blush, she 

229 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

blushed again, and became one general blush burning 
from head to foot. Was ever anything so indelicate, 
so forward, done by a girl before? And here she 
was, making an exhibition of herself before the con- 
gregation about nothing I She stole a glance upon 
her neighbours, and behold ! they were steadily 
indifferent, and Clem had gone to sleep. And still 
the one idea was becoming more and more potent 
with her, that in common prudence she must look 
again before the service ended. Something of the 
same sort was going forward in the mind of Archie, 
as he struggled with the load of penitence. So it 
chanced that, in the flutter of the moment when 
the last psalm was given out, and Torrance was 
reading the verse, and the leaves of every psalm- 
book in church were rustling under busy fingers, 
two stealthy glances were sent out like antennas 
among the pews and on the indifferent and absorbed 
occupants, and drew timidly nearer to the straight 
line between Archie and Christina. They met, they 
lingered together for the least fraction of time, and 
that was enough. A charge as of electricity passed 
through Christina, and behold ! the leaf of her psalm- 
book was torn across. 

Archie was outside by the gate of the graveyard, 
conversing with Hob and the minister and shaking 
hands all round with the scattering congregation, 
when Clem and Christina were brought up to be 
presented. The laird took off his hat and bowed 
to her with grace and respect. Christina made her 
Glasgow curtsey to the laird, and went on again 
230 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

up the road for Hermiston and Cauldstaneslap, 
walking fast, breathing hurriedly with a heightened 
colour, and in this strange frame of mind, that when 
she was alone she seemed in high happiness, and 
when any one addressed her she resented it like a 
contradiction. A part of the way she had the com- 
pany of some neighbour girls and a loutish young 
man ; never had they seemed so insipid, never had 
she made herself so disagreeable. But these struck 
aside to their various destinations or were out- 
walked and left behind ; and when she had driven 
off with sharp words the proffered convoy of some 
of her nephews and nieces, she was free to go on 
alone up Hermiston brae, walking on air, dwelling 
intoxicated among clouds of happiness. Near to 
the summit she heard steps behind her, a man's 
steps, light and very rapid. She knew the foot at 
once and walked the faster. ' If it 's me he 's want- 
ing, he can run for it,' she thought, smiling. 

Archie overtook her like a man whose mind was 
made up. 

' Miss Kirstie,' he began. " 

' Miss Christina, if you please, Mr. Weir,' she 
interrupted, ' I canna bear the contraction.' 

* You forget it has a friendly sound for me. Your 
aunt is an old friend of mine, and a very good one. 
I hope we shall see much of you at Hermiston ? ' 

* My aunt and my sister-in-law doesna agree very 
well. Not that I have much ado with it. But still 
when I 'm stopping in the house, if I was to be visit- 
ing my aunt, it would not look considerate-like.' 

231 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

* I am sorry,' said Archie. 

' I thank you kindly, Mr. Weir,' she said. 'I whiles 
think myself it 's a great peety.' 

' Ah, I am sure your voice would always be for 
peace ! ' he cried. 

* I wouldna be too sure of th^t,' she said. * I have 
my days like other folk, I suppose.' 

' Do you know, in our old kirk, among our good 
old grey dames, you made an effect like sunshine.' 

* Ah, but that would be my Glasgow clothes ! ' 

* I did not think I was so much under the influ- 
ence of pretty frocks.' 

She smiled with a half look at him. ' There 's more 
than you ! ' she said. ' But you see I 'm only Cin- 
derella. I '11 have to put all these things by in my 
trunk ; next Sunday I '11 be as grey as the rest. 
They're Glasgow clothes, you see, and it would 
never do to make a practice of it. It would seem 
terrible conspicuous.' 

By that they were come to the place where their 
ways severed. The old grey moors were all about 
them ; in the midst a few sheep wandered ; and they 
could see on the one hand the straggling caravan 
scaling the braes in front of them for Cauldstaneslap, 
and on the other, the contingent from Hermiston 
bending off and beginning to disappear by de- 
tachments into the policy gate. It was in these 
circumstances that they turned to say farewell, and 
deliberately exchanged a glance as they shook hands. 
All passed as it should, genteelly ; and in Christina's 
mind, as she mounted the first steep ascent for 
232 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

Cauldstaneslap, a gratifying sense of triumph pre- 
vailed over the recollection of minor lapses and 
mistakes. She had kilted her gown, as she did 
usually at that rugged pass; but when she spied 
Archie still standing and gazing after her, the skirts 
came down again as if by enchantment. Here was 
a piece of nicety for that upland parish, where the 
matrons marched with their coats kilted in the rain, 
and the lasses walked barefoot to kirk through the 
dust of summer, and went bravely down by the 
burn-side, and sat on stones to make a public toilet 
before entering ! It was perhaps an air wafted from 
Glasgow ; or perhaps it marked a stage of that dizzi- 
ness of gratified vanity, in which the instinctive act 
passed unperceived. He was looking after ! She 
unloaded her bosom of a prodigious sigh that was 
all pleasure, and betook herself to run. When she 
had overtaken the stragglers of her family, she 
caught up the niece whom she had so recently 
repulsed, and kissed and slapped her, and drove her 
away again, and ran after her with pretty cries and 
laughter. Perhaps she thought the laird might still 
be looking ! But it chanced the little scene came 
under the view of eyes less favourable ; for she over- 
took Mrs. Hob marching with Clem and Dand. 

' You 're shiirely fey, lass ! ' quoth Dandie. 

' Think shame to yersel', miss ! ' said the strident 
Mrs. Hob. * Is this the gait to guide yersel' on the 
way hame frae kirk ? You 're shiirely no sponsible 
the day ! And anyway I would mind my guid claes.' 

' Hoot ! ' said Christina, and went on before them, 

233 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

head in air, treading the rough track with the tread 
of a wild doe. 

She was in love with herself, her destiny, the air 
of the hills, the benediction of the sun. All the 
way home, she continued under the intoxication of 
these sky-scraping spirits. At table she could talk 
freely of young Hermiston ; gave her opinion of him 
off-hand and with a loud voice, that he was a hand- 
some young gentleman, real well-mannered and 
sensible-like, but it was a pity he looked doleful. 
Only — the moment after — a memory of his eyes in 
church embarrassed her. But for this inconsiderable 
check, all through meal-time she had a good appe- 
tite, and she kept them laughing at table, until Gib 
(who had returned before them from Crossmichael 
and his separative worship) reproved the whole of 
them for their levity. 

Singing 'in to herself as she went, her mind still 
in the turmoil of a glad confusion, she rose and 
tripped up-stairs to a little loft, lighted by four panes 
in the gable, where she slept with one of her nieces. 
The niece, who followed her, presuming on 'Auntie's ' 
high spirits, was flounced out of the apartment with 
small ceremony, and retired, smarting and half tear- 
ful, to bury her woes in the byre among the hay. 
Still humming, Christina divested herself of her 
finery, and put her treasures one by one in her great 
green trunk. The last of these was the psalm-book ; 
it was a fine piece, the gift of Mistress Clem, in dis- 
tinct old-faced type, on paper that had begun to 
grow foxy in the warehouse — not by service — and she 

234 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

was used to wrap it in a handkerchief every Sunday 
after its period of service was over, and bury it end- 
wise at the head of her trunk. As she now took it in 
hand the book fell open where the leaf was torn, and 
she stood and gazed upon that evidence of her by- 
gone discomposure. There returned again the vision 
of the two brown eyes staring at her, intent and 
bright, out of that dark corner of the kirk. The 
whole appearance and attitude, the smile, the sug- 
gested gesture of young Hermiston came before her 
in a flash at the sight of the torn page. ' I was surely 
fey ! ' she said, echoing the words of Dandie, and at 
the suggested doom her high spirits deserted her. 
She flung herself prone upon the bed, and lay there, 
holding the psalm-book in her hands for hours, for 
the more part in a mere stupor of unconsenting 
pleasure and unreasoning fear. The fear was super- 
stitious ; there came up again and again in her 
memory Dandies ill-omened words, and a hundred 
grisly and black tales out of the immediate neigh- 
bourhood read her a commentary on their force. 
The pleasure was never realised. You might say 
the joints of her body thought and remembered, 
and were gladdened, but her essential self, in the 
immediate theatre of consciousness, talked feverishly 
of something else, like a nervous person at a fire. 
The image that she most complacently dwelt on 
was that of Miss Christina in her character of the 
Fair Lass of Cauldstaneslap, carrying all before her 
in the straw-coloured frock, the violet mantle, and 
the yellow cobweb stockings. Archie's image, on 

235 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the other hand, when it presented itself was never 
welcomed — far less welcomed with any ardour, and 
it was exposed at times to merciless criticism. In 
the long vague dialogues she held in her mind, often 
with imaginary, often with unrealised interlocutors, 
Archie, if he were referred to at all, came in for 
savage handling. He was described as ' looking like 
a stirk,' * staring like a caulf,' 'a face like a ghaist's.' 
' Do you call that manners ? ' she said ; or, ' I soon 
put him in his place.' ' " Miss Christina, if you 
please, Mr. Weirf" says I, and just flyped up my 
skirt tails.' With gabble like this she would entertain 
herself long whiles together, and then her eye would 
perhaps fall on the torn leaf, and the eyes of Archie 
would appear again from the darkness of the wall, 
and the voluble words deserted her, and she would 
lie still and stupid, and think upon nothing with 
devotion, and be sometimes raised by a quiet sigh. 
Had a doctor of medicine come into that loft, he 
would have diagnosed a healthy, well-developed, 
eminently vivacious lass lying on her face in a fit of 
the sulks ; not one who had just contracted, or was 
just contracting, a mortal sickness of the mind which 
should yet carry her towards death and despair. 
Had it been a doctor of psychology, he might have 
been pardoned for divining in the girl a passion of 
childish vanity, self-love in excelsis, and no more. 
It is to be understood that I have been painting 
chaos and describing the inarticulate. Every linea- 
ment that appears is too precise, almost every word 
used too strong. Take a finger-post in the moun- 
236 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

tains on a day of rolling mists ; I have but copied 
the names that appear upon the pointers, the names 
of definite and famous cities far distant, and now 
perhaps basking in sunshine ; but Christina remained 
all these hours, as it were, at the foot of the post 
itself, not moving, and enveloped in mutable and 
blinding wreaths of haze. 

The day was growing late and the sunbeams long 
and level, when she sat suddenly up, and wrapped 
in its handkerchief and put by that psalm-book 
which had already played a part so decisive in the 
first chapter of her love-story. In the absence of 
the mesmerist's eye, we are told nowadays that the 
head of a bright nail may fill his place, if it be stead- 
fastly regarded. So that torn page had riveted 
her attention on what might else have been but 
little, and perhaps soon forgotten ; while the ominous 
words of Dandie — heard, not heeded, and still re- 
membered — had lent to her thoughts, or rather to 
her mood, a cast of solemnity, and that idea of 
Fate — a pagan Fate, uncontrolled by any Christian 
deity, obscure, lawless, and august — moving un- 
dissuadably in the affairs of Christian men. Thus 
even that phenomenon of love at first sight, which 
is so rare and seems so simple and violent, like a 
disruption of life's tissue, may be decomposed into 
a sequence of accidents happily concurring. 

She put on a grey frock and a pink kerchief, 
looked at herself a moment with approval in the small 
square of glass that served her for a toilet mirror, and 
went softly down-stairs through the sleeping house 

237 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

that resounded with the sound of afternoon snoring. 
Just outside the door, Dandie was sitting with a 
book in his hand, not reading, only honouring the 
Sabbath by a sacred vacancy of mind. She came 
near him and stood still. 

* I 'm for off up the muirs, Dandie,' she said. 
There was something unusually soft in her tones 

that made him look up. She was pale, her eyes 
dark and bright; no trace remained of the levity 
of the morning. 

' Ay, lass ? Ye '11 have yer ups and downs like 
me, I 'm thinkin',' he observed. 

* What for do ye say that ? ' she asked. 

* O, for naething,' says Dand. * Only I think 
ye 're mair like me than the lave of them. Ye 've 
mair of the poetic temper, tho' Guid kens little 
enough of the poetic taalent. It's an ill gift at 
the best. Look at yoursel'. At denner you were 
all sunshine and flowers and laughter, and now 
you 're like the star of evening on a lake.' 

She drank in this hackneyed compliment like 
wine, and it glowed in her veins. 

' But I 'm saying, Dand ' — she came nearer him 
— ' I 'm for the muirs. I must have a braith of air. 
If Clem was to be speiring for me, try and quaiet 
him, will ye no ? ' 

* What way ? ' said Dandie. ' I ken but the ae 
way, and that 's leein'. I '11 say ye had a sair heed, 
if ye like.' 

* But I havena,' she objected. 

' I daursay no',' he returned. ' I said I would 
238 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

say ye had ; and if ye like to nay-say me when ye 
come back, it'll no mateerially maitter, for my 
chara'ter 's clean gane a'ready past reca'.' 

' O, Dand, are ye a leear ? ' she asked, lingering. 

' Folks say sae,' replied the bard. 

' Wha says sae ? ' she pursued. 

*Them that should ken the best,' he responded. 
' The lassies, for ane. ' 

' But, Dand, you would never lee to me?' she asked. 

' I '11 leave that for your pairt of it, ye girzie,' 
said he. ' Ye '11 lee to me fast eneuch, when ye hae 
gotten a jo. I 'm tellin' ye and it 's true ; when you 
have a jo. Miss Kirstie, it '11 be for guid and ill. 
I ken : I was made that way mysel', but the deil 
was in my luck ! Here, gang awa' wi' ye to your 
muirs, and let me be ; I 'm in an hour of in- 
spiraution, ye upsetting tawpie ! ' 

But she clung to her brother's neighbourhood, 
she knew not why. 

' Will ye no gie 's a kiss, Dand ? ' she said. * I 
aye likit ye fine.' 

He kissed her and considered her a moment; 
he found something strange in her. But he was 
a libertine through and through, nourished equal 
contempt and suspicion of all womankind, and paid 
his way among them habitually with idle compliments. 

* Gae wa' wi' ye ! ' said he. ' Ye 're a dentie 
baby, and be content wi' that ! ' 

That was Dandie's way ; a kiss and a comfit to 
Jenny — a bawbee and my blessing to Jill — and 
good-night to the whole clan of ye, my dears ! 

239 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

When anything approached the serious, it became 
a matter for men, he both thought and said. 
Women, when they did not absorb, were only 
children to be shoo'd away. Merely in his character 
of connoisseur, however, Dandie glanced carelessly 
after his sister as she crossed the meadow. 'The 
brat 's no that bad ! ' he thought with surprise, for 
though he had just been paying her compliments, 
he had not really looked at her. ' Hey ! what 's 
yon ? ' For the grey dress was cut with short 
sleeves and skirts, and displayed her trim strong 
legs clad in pink stockings of the same shade as the 
kerchief she wore round her shoulders, and that 
shimmered as she went. This was not her way in 
undress ; he knew her ways and the ways of the 
whole sex in the country-side, no one better ; when 
they did not go barefoot, they wore stout 'rig and 
ftyrow ' woollen hose of an invisible blue mostly, 
when they were not black outright; and Dandie, 
at sight of this daintiness, put two and two together. 
It was a silk handkerchief, then they would be silken 
hose ; they matched — then the whole outfit was a 
present of Clem's, a costly present, and not some- 
thing to be worn through bog and briar, or on a 
late afternoon of Sunday. He whistled. 'My 
denty May, either your heid 's fair turned, or there 's 
some ongoings ! ' he observed, and dismissed the 
subject. 

She went slowly at first, but ever straighter and 
faster for the Cauldstaneslap, a pass among the 
hills to which the farm owed its name. The Slap 
240 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

opened like a doorway between two rounded hil- 
locks; and through this ran the short cut to 
Hermiston. Immediately on the other side it 
went down through the Deil's Hags, a considerable 
marshy hollow of the hill tops, full of springs, and 
crouching junipers, and pools where the black peat- 
water slumbered. There was no view from here. A 
man might have sat upon the Praying Weaver's stone 
a half century, and seen none but the Cauldstane- 
slap children twice in the twenty-four hours on 
their way to the school and back again, an occasional 
shepherd, the irruption of a clan of sheep, or the 
birds who haunted about the springs, drinking and 
shrilly piping. So, when she had once passed the 
Slap, Kirstie was received into seclusion. She 
looked back a last time at the farm. It still lay 
deserted except for the figure of Dandie, who was 
now seen to be scribbling in his lap, the hour of 
expected inspiration having come to him at last. 
Thence she passed rapidly through the morass, and 
came to the farther end of it, where a sluggish 
burn discharges, and the path for Hermiston accom- 
panies it on the beginning of its downward way. 
From this corner a wide view was opened to her 
of the whole stretch of braes upon the other side, 
still sallow and in places rusty with the winter, 
with the path marked boldly, here and there by the 
burn-side a tuft of birches, and — two miles off as the 
crow flies — from its enclosures and young planta- 
tions, the windows of Hermiston glittering in the 
western sun. 

26 — Q 241 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Here she sat down and waited, and looked for a 
long time at these far-away bright panes of glass. 
It amused her to have so extended a view, she 
thought. It amused her to see the house of 
Hermiston— to see ' folk ' ; and there was an in- 
distinguishable human unit, perhaps the gardener, 
visibly sauntering on the gravel paths. 

By the time the sun was down and all the easterly 
braes lay plunged in clear shadow, she was aware 
of another figure coming up the path at a most 
unequal rate of approach, now half running, now 
pausing and seeming to hesitate. She watched him 
at first with a total suspension of thought. She 
held her thought as a person holds his breathing. 
Then she consented to recognise him. ' He '11 no be 
coming here, he canna be ; it 's no possible.' And 
there began to grow upon her a subdued choking 
suspense. He was coming ; his hesitations had 
quite ceased, his step grew firm and swift ; no doubt 
remained ; and the question loomed up before her 
instant : what was she to do ? It was all very well 
to say that her brother was a laird himself; it was all 
very well to speak of casual intermarriages and to 
count cousinship, like Auntie Kirstie. The differ- 
ence in their social station was trenchant ; propriety, 
prudence, all that she had ever learned, all that she 
knew, bade her flee. But on the other hand the 
cup of life now offered to her was too enchanting. 
For one moment, she saw the question clearly, 
and definitely made her choice. She stood up and 
showed herself an instant in the gap relieved upon 
242 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

the sky line ; and the next, fled trembling and sat 
down glowing with excitement on the Weaver's 
stone. She shut her eyes, seeking, praying for com- 
posure. Her hand shook in her lap, and her mind 
was full of incongruous and futile speeches. What 
was there to make a work about ? She could take 
care of herself, she supposed ! There was no harm 
in seeing the laird. It was the best thing that 
could happen. She would mark a proper distance 
to him once and for all. Gradually the wheels of 
her nature ceased to go round so madly, and she 
sat in passive expectation, a quiet, solitary figure 
in the midst of the grey moss. I have said she was 
no hypocrite, but here I am at fault. She never 
admitted to herself that she had come up the hill 
to look for Archie. And perhaps after all she did 
not know, perhaps came as a stone falls. For the 
steps of love in the young, and especially in girls, 
are instinctive and unconscious. 

In the meantime Archie was drawing rapidly 
near, and he at least was consciously seeking* her 
neighbourhood. The afternoon had turned to ashes 
in his mouth ; the memory of the girl had kept him 
from reading and drawn him as with cords ; and at 
last, as the cool of the evening began to come on, 
he had taken his hat and set forth, with a smothered 
ejaculation, by the moor path to Cauldstaneslap. 
He had no hope to find her ; he took the off chance 
without expectation of result and to relieve his 
uneasiness. The greater was his surprise, as he 
surmounted the slope and came into the hollow of 

243 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the Deil's Hags, to see there, like an answer to his 
wishes, the little womanly figure in the grey dress 
and the pink kerchief sitting little, and low, and lost, 
and acutely solitary, in these desolate surroundings 
and on the weather-beaten stone of the dead weaver. 
Those things that still smacked of winter were all 
rusty about her, and those things that already 
relished of the spring had put forth the tender 
and lively colours of the season. Even in the un- 
changing face of the death-stone, changes were to 
be remarked; and in the channeled lettering, the 
moss began to renew itself in jewels of green. By 
an afterthought that was a stroke of art, she had 
turned up over her head the back of the kerchief ; 
so that it now framed becomingly her vivacious and 
yet pensive face. Her feet were gathered under 
her on the one side, and she leaned on her bare 
arm, which showed out strong and round, tapered 
to a slim wrist, and shimmered in the fading light. 

Young Hermiston was struck with a certain 
chill. He was reminded that he now dealt in serious 
matters of life and death. This was a grown woman 
he was approaching, endowed with her mysterious 
potencies and attractions, the treasury of the con- 
tinued race, and he was neither better nor worse 
than the average of his sex and age. He had a 
certain delicacy which had preserved him hitherto 
unspotted, and which (had either of them guessed 
it) made him a more dangerous companion when 
his heart should be really stirred. His throat was 
dry as he came near; but the appealing sweetness 
244 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

of her smile stood between them like a guardian 
angel. 

For she turned to him and smiled, though without 
rising. There was a shade in this cavalier greeting 
that neither of them perceived; neither he, who 
simply thought it gracious and charming as herself ; 
nor yet she, who did not observe (quick as she was) 
the difference between rising to meet the laird, and 
remaining seated to receive the expected admirer. 

*Are ye stepping west, Hermiston?' said she, 
giving him his territorial name after the fashion of 
the country-side. 

* I was,' said he, a little hoarsely, ' but I think I 
will be about the end of my stroll now. Are you 
like me, Miss Christina ? The house would not 
hold me. I came here seeking air.' 

He took his seat at the other end of the tomb- 
stone and studied her, wondering what was she. 
There was infinite import in the question alike for 
her and him. 

* Ay,' she said. ' I couldna bear the roof either. 
It's a habit of mine to come up here about the 
gloaming when it 's quaiet and caller.' 

'It was a habit of my mother's also,' he said gravely. 
The recollection half startled him as he expressed it. 
He looked around. ' I have scarce been here since. 
It 's peaceful,' he said, with a long breath. 

* It 's no like Glasgow,' she replied. * A weary 
place, yon Glasgow ! But what a day have I had 
for my hame-coming, and what a bonny evening!' 

' Indeed, it was a wonderful day,' said Archie. ' I 

245 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

think I will remember it years and years until 
I come to die. On days like this — I do not know 
if you feel as I do — but everything appears so brief, 
and fragile, and exquisite, that I am afraid to touch 
life. We are here for so short a time ; and all the 
old people before us — Rutherfords of Hermiston, 
Elliotts of the Cauldstaneslap — that were here but 
a while since riding about and keeping up a great 
noise in this quiet corner — making love too, and 
marrying — why, where are they now ? It 's deadly 
commonplace, but, after all, the commonplaces are 
the great poetic truths.' 

He was sounding her, semi-consciously, to see 
if she could understand him ; to learn if she were 
only an animal the colour of flowers, or had a soul 
in her to keep her sweet. She, on her part, her 
means well in hand, watched, womanlike, for any 
opportunity to shine, to abound in his humour, 
whatever that might be. The dramatic artist, that 
lies dormant or only half awake in most human 
beings, had in her sprung to his feet in a divine 
fury, and chance had served her well. She looked 
upon him with a subdued twilight look that became 
the hour of the day and the train of thought ; 
earnestness shone through her like stars in the purple 
west; and from the great but controlled upheaval 
of her whole nature there passed into her voice, and 
rang in her lightest words, a thrill of emotion. 

* Have you mind of Dand's song ? ' she answered. 
* I think he '11 have been trying to say what you 
have been thinking.' 
246 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

* No, I never heard it,' he said. ' Repeat it to me, 
can you ? ' 

' It 's nothing wanting the tune,' said Kirstie. 
' Then sing it me,' said he. 

* On the Lord's Day ? That would never do, Mr. 
Weir ! ' 

' I am afraid I am not so strict a keeper of the 
Sabbath, and there is no one in this place to hear 
us unless the poor old ancient under the stone.' 

' No that I'm thinking that really,' she said. * By 
my way of thinking, it 's just as serious as a psalm. 
Will I sooth it to ye, then ? ' 

* If you please,' said he, and, drawing near to her 
on the tombstone, prepared to listen. 

She sat up as if to sing. * I '11 only can sooth it to 
ye,' she explained. ' I wouldna like to sing out loud 
on the Sabbath. I think the birds would carry news 
of it to Gilbert,' and she smiled. ' It 's about the 
Elliotts,' she continued, *and I think there's few 
bonnier bits in the book-poets, though Dand has 
never got printed yet.' 

And she began, in the low, clear tones of her half 
voice, now sinking almost to a whisper, now rising 
to a particular note which was her best, and which 
Archie learned to wait for with growing emotion : — 

' O they rade in the rain, in the days that are gane. 

In the rain and the wind and the lave. 
They shoutit in the ha' and they routit on the hill, 
But they 're a' quaitit noo in the grave. 
Auld, auld Elliotts, clay-eauld Elliotts, dour, bauld Elliotts of 
auld!' 

247 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

All the time she sang she looked steadfastly before 
her, her knees straight, her hands upon her knee, her 
head cast back and up. The expression was admir- 
able throughout, for had she not learned it from the 
lips and under the criticism of the author ? When 
it was done, she turned upon Archie a face softly 
bright, and eyes gently suffused and shining in the 
twilight, and his heart rose and went out to her with 
boundless pity and sympathy. His question was 
answered. She was a human being tuned to a sense 
of the tragedy of life ; there were pathos and music 
and a great heart in the girl. 

He arose instinctively, she also ; for she saw she 
had gained a point, and scored the impression 
deeper, and she had wit enough left to flee upon 
a victory. They were but commonplaces that re- 
mained to be exchanged, but the low, moved voices 
in which they passed made them sacred in the 
memory. In the falling greyness of the evening he 
watched her figure winding through the morass, saw 
it turn a last time and wave a hand, and then pass 
through the Slap ; and it seemed to him as if some- 
thing went along with her out of the deepest of his 
heart. And something surely had come, and come 
to dwell there. He had retained from childhood a 
picture, now half obliterated by the passage of time 
and the multitude of fresh impressions, of his mother 
telling him, with the fluttered earnestness of her 
voice, and often with dropping tears, the tale of the 
' Praying Weaver,' on the very scene of his brief 
tragedy and long repose. And now there was a 
248 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

companion piece ; and he beheld, and he should 
behold for ever, Christina perched on the same 
tomb, in the grey colours of the evening, gracious, 
dainty, perfect as a flower, and she also singing — 

' Of old, unhappy far oiF things. 
And battles long ago,' 

of their common ancestors now dead, of their rude 
wars composed, their weapons buried with them, and 
of these strange changelings, their descendants, who 
lingered a little in their places, and would soon be 
gone also, and perhaps sung of by others at the 
gloaming hour. By one of the unconscious arts of 
tenderness the two women were enshrined together 
in his memory. Tears, in that hour of sensibility, 
came into his eyes indifferently at the thought of 
either; and the girl, from being something merely 
bright and shapely, was caught up into the zone of 
things serious as life and death and his dead mother. 
So that in all ways and on either side, Fate played 
his game artfully with this poor pair of children. 
The generations were prepared, the pangs were made 
ready, before the curtain rose on the dark drama. 

In the same moment of time that she disappeared 
from Archie, there opened before Kirstie's eyes the 
cup-like hollow in which the farm lay. She saw, 
some five hundred feet below her, the house making 
itself bright with candles, and this was a broad hint 
to her to hurry. For they were only kindled on a 
Sabbath night with a view to that family wor- 
ship which rounded in the incomparable tedium of 

249 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

the day and brought on the relaxation of supper. 
Abeady she knew that Robert must be withinsides 
at the head of the table, ' waling the portions ' ; for it 
was Robert in his quality of family priest and judge, 
not the gifted Gilbert, who officiated. She made 
good time accordingly down the steep ascent, and 
came up to the door panting as the three younger 
brothers, all roused at last from slumber, stood to- 
gether in the cool and the dark of the evening with 
a fry of nephews and nieces about them, chatting 
and awaiting the expected signal. She stood back ; 
she had no mind to direct attention to her late 
arrival or to her labouring breath. 

' Kirstie, ye have shaved it this time, my lass,' 
said Clem. ' Whaur were ye ? ' 

* O, just taking a dander by mysel',' said Kirstie. 

And the talk continued on the subject of the 
American War, without further reference to the 
truant who stood by them in the covert of the 
dusk, thrilling with happiness and the sense of guilt. 

The signal was given, and the brothers began to 
go in one after another, amid the jostle and throng 
of Hob's children. 

Only Dandie, waiting till the last, caught Kirstie 
by the arm. ' When did ye begin to dander in pink 
hosen. Mistress Elliott ? ' he whispered slyly. 

She looked down ; she was one blush. ' I maun 
have forgotten to change them,' said she ; and went 
in to prayers in her turn with a troubled mind, 
between anxiety as to whether Dand should have 
observed her yellow stockings at church, and should 
250 



CHRISTINA'S PSALM-BOOK 

thus detect her in a palpable falsehood, and shame 
that she had already made good his prophecy. She 
remembered the words of it, how it was to be when 
she had gotten a jo, and that that would be for good 
and evil. *Will I have gotten my jo now?' she 
thought with a secret rapture. 

And all through prayers, where it was her prin- 
cipal business to conceal the pink stockings from 
the eyes of the indifferent Mrs. Hob — and all 
through supper, as she made a feint of eating and 
sat at the table radiant and constrained — and again 
when she had left them and come into her chamber, 
and was alone with her sleeping niece, and could 
at last lay aside the armour of society — the same 
words sounded within her, the same profound note 
of happiness, of a world all changed and renewed, of a 
day that had been passed in Paradise, and of a night 
that was to be heaven opened. All night she seemed 
to be conveyed smoothly upon a shallow stream of 
sleep and waking, and through the bowers of Beulah; 
all night she cherished to her heart that exquisite 
hope ; and if, towards morning, she forgot it a while 
in a more profound unconsciousness, it was to catch 
again the rainbow thought with her first moment of 
awaking. 

CHAPTER VII 

ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Two days later a gig from Crossmichael deposited 
Frank Innes at the doors of Hermiston. Once in a 

251 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

way, during the past winter, Archie, in some acute 
phase of boredom, had written him a letter. It had 
contained something in the nature of an invitation, 
or a reference to an invitation — precisely what, 
neither of them now remembered. When Innes 
had received it, there had been nothing further from 
his mind than to bury himself in the moors with 
Archie ; but not even the most acute political heads 
are guided through the steps of life with unerring 
directness. That would require a gift of prophecy 
which has been denied to man. For instance, who 
could have imagined that, not a month after he had 
received the letter, and turned it into mockery, and 
put off answering it, and in the end lost it, mis- 
fortunes of a gloomy cast should begin to thicken 
over Frank's career? His case may be briefly 
stated. His father, a small Morayshire laird with 
a large family, became recalcitrant and cut off the 
supplies ; he had fitted himself out with the begin- 
nings of quite a good law library, which, upon some 
sudden losses on the turf, he had been obliged to 
sell before they were paid for ; and his bookseller, 
hearing some rumour of the event, took out a 
warrant for his arrest. Innes had early word of it, 
and was able to take precautions. In this immediate 
welter of his affairs, with an unpleasant charge hang- 
ing over him, he had judged it the part of prudence 
to be off instantly, had written a fervid letter to his 
father at Inverauld, and put himself in the coach for 
Crossmichael. Any port in a storm ! He was man- 
fully turning his back on the Parliament House and 
252 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

its gay babble, on porter and oysters, the racecourse 
and the ring; and manfully prepared, until these 
clouds should have blown by, to share a living grave 
with Archie Weir at Hermiston. 

To do him justice, he was no less surprised to be 
going than Archie was to see him come ; and he 
carried off his wonder with an infinitely better grace. 

* Well, here I am ! ' said he, as he alighted. 
' Pylades has come to Orestes at last. By the way, 
did you get my answer ? No ? How very provok- 
ing! Well, here I am to answer for myself, and 
that's better still.' 

* I am very glad to see you, of course,' said Archie. 
* I make you heartily welcome, of course. But you 
surely have not come to stay, with the Courts still 
sitting ; is that not most unwise ? ' 

* Damn the Courts ! ' says Frank. * What are the 
Courts to friendship and a little fishing V 

And so it was agreed that he was to stay, with no 
term to the visit but the term which he had privily 
set to it himself — the day, namely, when his father 
should have come down with the dust, and he should 
be able to pacify the bookseller. On such vague con- 
. ditions there began for these two young men (who 
were not even friends) a life of great familiarity 
and, as the days drew on, less and less intimacy. 
They were together at meal-times, together o' nights 
when the hour had come for whisky-toddy ; but it 
might have been noticed (had there been any one to 
pay heed) that they were rarely so much together by 
day. Archie had Hermiston to attend to, multi- 

253 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

farious activities in the hills, in which he did not 
require, and had even refused, Frank's escort. He 
would be off sometimes in the morning and leave 
only a note on the breakfast-table to announce the 
fact ; and sometimes, with no notice at all, he would 
not return for dinner until the hour was long past. 
Innes groaned under these desertions; it required 
all his philosophy to sit down to a solitary breakfast 
with composure, and all his unaffected good-nature 
to be able to greet Archie with friendliness on the 
more rare occasions when he came home late for 
dinner. 

' I wonder what on earth he finds to do, Mrs. 
Elliott ? ' said he one morning, after he had just read 
the hasty billet and sat down to table. 

' I suppose it will be business, sir,' replied the 
housekeeper dryly, measuring his distance off to 
him by an indicated curtsey. 

' But I can't imagine what business ! ' he reiterated. 

'I suppose it will be his business,' retorted the 
austere Kirstie. 

He turned to her with that happy brightness that 
made the charm of his disposition, and broke into a 
peal of healthy and natural laughter. 

'Well played, Mrs. Elliott!' he cried; and the 
housekeeper's face relaxed into the shadow of an 
iron smile. ' Well played indeed ! ' said he. * But 
you must not be making a stranger of me like that. 
Why, Archie and I were at the High School to- 
gether, and we 've been to College together, and we 
were going to the Bar together, when — you know ! 
254 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

Dear, dear me ! what a pity that was ! A life 
spoiled, a fine young fellow as good as buried here 
in the wilderness with rustics ; and all for what ? A 
frolic, silly, if you like, but no more. God, how 
good your scones are, Mrs. Elliott ! ' 

' They 're no mines, it was the lassie made them,' 
said Kirstie ; * and, saving your presence, there 's 
little sense in taking the Lord's name in vain about 
idle vivers that you fill your kyte wi'.' 

' I dare say you 're perfectly right, ma'am,' quoth 
the imperturbable Frank. ' But as I was saying, 
this is a pitiable business, this about poor Archie ; 
and you and I might do worse than put our heads 
together, like a couple of sensible people, and bring 
it to an end. Let me tell you, ma'am, that Archie 
is really quite a promising young man, and in my 
opinion he would do well at the Bar. As for his 
father, no one can deny his ability, and I don't fancy 
any one would care to deny that he has the deil's 
own temper ' 

' If you '11 excuse me, Mr. Innes, I think the lass 
is crying on me,' said Kirstie, and flounced from the 
room. 

' The damned, cross-grained, old broom-stick ! ' 
ejaculated Innes. 

In the meantime, Kirstie had escaped into the 
kitchen, and before her vassal gave vent to her 
feelings. 

' Here, ettercap ! Ye '11 have to wait on yon 
Innes ! I canna baud myself in. " Puir Erchie ! " 
I 'd " puir Erchie " him, if I had my way ! And 

255 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Hermiston with the deil's ain temper! God, let 
him take Hermiston 's scones out of his mouth first. 
There 's no a hair on ayther o' the Weirs that hasna 
mair spunk and dirdum to it than what he has in 
his hale dwaibly body ! Settin' up his snash to me ! 
Let him gang to the black toon where he 's mebbe 
wantit — birling on a curricle — wi' pimatum on his 
heid — making a mess o' himsel' wi' nesty hizzies — a 
fair disgrace ! ' It was impossible to hear without 
admiration Kirstie's graduated disgust, as she brought 
forth, one after another, these somewhat baseless 
charges. Then she remembered her immediate pur- 
pose, and turned again on her fascinated auditor. 
* Do ye no hear me, tawpie ? Do ye no hear what 
I 'm tellin' ye ? Will I have to shoo ye in to him ? 
If I come to attend to ye, mistress ! ' And the maid 
fled the kitchen, which had become practically 
dangerous, to attend on Innes's wants in the front 
parlour. 

Tantaene irae? Has the reader perceived the 
reason ? Since Frank's coming there were no more 
hours of gossip over the supper-tray ! All his 
blandishments were in vain ; he had started handi- 
capped on the race for Mrs. Elliott's favour. 

But it was a strange thing how misfortune dogged 
him in his efforts to be genial. I must guard the 
reader against accepting Kirstie's epithets as evi- 
dence ; she was more concerned for their vigour than 
for their accuracy. Dwaibly, for instance ; nothing 
could be more calumnious. Frank was the very 
picture of good looks, good humour, and manly 
256 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

youth. He had bright eyes with a sparkle and a 
dance to them, curly hair, a charming smile, brilliant 
teeth, an admirable carriage of the head, the look of 
a gentleman, the address of one accustomed to please 
at first sight and to improve the impression. And 
with all these advantages, he failed with every one 
about Hermiston ; with the silent shepherd, with the 
obsequious grieve, with the groom who was also the 
ploughman, with the gardener and the gardener's 
sister — a pious, down-hearted woman with a shawl 
over her ears — he failed equally and flatly. They 
did not like him, and they showed it. The little 
maid, indeed, was an exception ; she admired him 
devoutly, probably dreamed of him in her private 
hours ; but she was accustomed to play the part of 
silent auditor to Kirstie's tirades and silent recipient 
of Kirstie's buffets, and she had learned not only tq 
be a very capable girl of her years, but a very secret 
and prudent one besides. Frank was thus conscious 
that he had one ally and sympathiser in the midst 
of that general union of disfavour that surrounded, 
watched, and waited on him in the house of Her- 
miston ; but he had little comfort or society from 
that alliance, and the demure little maid (twelve on 
her last birthday) preserved her own counsel, and 
tripped on his service, brisk, dumbly responsive, but 
inexorably unconversational. For the others, they 
were beyond hope and beyond endurance. Never 
had a young Apollo been cast among such rustic 
barbarians. But perhaps the cause of his ill-success 
lay in one trait which was habitual and unconscious 
26— R 257 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

with him, yet diagnostic of the man. It was his 
practice to approach any one person at the expense 
of some one else. He offered you an alliance against 
the some one else; he flattered you by slighting 
him ; you were drawn into a small intrigue against 
him before you knew how. Wonderful are the 
virtues of this process generally ; but Frank's mis- 
take was in the choice of the some one else. He was 
not politic in that ; he listened to the voice of irrita- 
tion. Archie had offended him at first by what he 
had felt to be rather a dry reception, had offended 
him since by his frequent absences. He was besides 
the one figure continually present in Frank's eye ; 
and it was to his immediate dependants that Frank 
could offer the snare of his sympathy. Now the 
truth is that the Weirs, father and son, were sur- 
rounded by a posse of strenuous loyalists. Of my 
lord they were vastly proud. It was a distinction in 
itself to be one of the vassals of the ' Hanging Judge,' 
and his gross, formidable joviality was far from un- 
popular in the neighbourhood of his home. For 
Archie they had, one and all, a sensitive affection 
and respect which recoiled from a word of belittle- 
ment. 

Nor was Frank more successful when he went 
farther afield. To the Four Black Brothers, for 
instance, he was antipathetic in the highest degree. 
Hob thought him too Ught, Gib too profane. Clem, 
who saw him but for a day or two before he went to 
Glasgow, wanted to know what the fule's business 
was, and whether he meant to stay here all session- 
258 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

time ! ' Yon 's a drone,' he pronounced. As for 
Dand, it will be enough to describe their first meet- 
ing, when Frank had been whipping a river and the 
rustic celebrity chanced to come along the path. 
' I 'm told you 're quite a poet,' Frank had said. 

* Wha tell't ye that, mannie ? ' had been the un- 
conciliating answer. 

* O, everybody ! ' says Frank. 

* God ! Here 's fame ! ' said the sardonic poet, and 
he had passed on his way. 

Come to think of it, we have here perhaps a truer 
explanation of Frank's failures. Had he met Mr. 
Sheriff Scott he could have turned a neater compli- 
ment, because Mr. Scott would have been a friend 
worth making. Dand, on the other hand, he did not 
value sixpence, and he showed it even while he tried 
to flatter. Condescension is an excellent thing, but 
it is strange how one-sided the pleasure of it is ! He 
who goes fishing among the Scots peasantry with 
condescension for a bait will have an empty basket 
by evening. 

In proof of this theory Frank made a great success 
of it at the Crossmichael Club, to which Archie took 
him immediately on his arrival ; his own last appear- 
ance on that scene of gaiety. Frank was made wel- 
come there at once, continued to go regularly, and 
had attended a meeting (as the members ever after 
loved to tell) on the evening before his death. 
Young Hay and young Pringle appeared again. 
There was another supper at Windielaws, another 
dinner at DrifFel ; and it resulted in Frank being 

259 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

taken to the bosom of the county people as unre- 
servedly as he had been repudiated by the country 
folk. He occupied Hermiston after the manner of 
an invader in a conquered capital. He was per- 
petually issuing from it, as from a base, to toddy 
parties, fishing parties, and dinner parties, to which 
Archie was not invited, or to which Archie would 
not go. It was now that the name of The Recluse 
became general for the young man. Some say that 
Innes invented it ; Innes, at least, spread it abroad. 

' How 's all with your Recluse to-day ? ' people 
would ask. 

* O, reclusing away ! ' Innes would declare, with 
his bright air of saying something witty ; and imme- 
diately interrupt the general laughter which he 
had provoked much more by his air than his words, 
' Mind you, it 's all very well laughing, but I 'm not 
very well pleased. Poor Archie is a good fellow, an 
excellent fellow, a fellow I always liked. I think it 
small of him to take his little disgrace so hard and 
shut himself up. " Grant that it is a ridiculous story, 
painfully ridiculous," I keep telling him. "Be a 
man ! Live it down, man ! " But not he. Of 
course it's just solitude, and shame, and all that. 
But I confess I 'm beginning to fear the result. It 
would be all the pities in the world if a really promis- 
ing fellow like Weir was to end ill, I 'm seriously 
tempted to write to Lord Hermiston, and put it 
plainly to him.' 

' I would if I were you,' some of his auditors 
would say, shaking the head, sitting bewildered and 
260 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

confused at this new view of the matter, so deftly 
indicated by a single word. * A capital idea I ' they 
would add, and wonder at the aplomb and position of 
this young man, who talked as a matter of course of 
writing to Hermiston and correcting him upon his 
private affairs. 

And Frank would proceed, sweetly confidential : 
' I '11 give you an idea, now. He 's actually sore 
about the way that I'm received and he 's left out in 
the county — actually jealous and sore. I 've rallied 
him and I 've reasoned with him, told him that every 
one was most kindly inclined towards him, told him 
even that / was received merely because I was his 
guest. But it 's no use. He will neither accept the 
invitations he gets, nor stop brooding about the ones 
where he 's left out. What I 'm afraid of is that the 
wound 's ulcerating. He had always one of those 
dark, secret, angry natures — a little underhand and 
plenty of bile — you know the sort. He must have 
inherited it from the Weirs, whom I suspect to have 
been a worthy family of weavers somewhere ; what 's 
the cant phrase? — sedentary occupation. It's pre- 
cisely the kind of character to go wrong in a false 
position like what his father 's made for him, or he 's 
making for himself, whichever you like to call it. 
And for my part, I think it a disgrace,' Frank would 
say generously. 

Presently tlie sorrow and anxiety of this disin- 
terested friend took shape. He began in private, in 
conversations of two, to talk vaguely of bad habits 
and low habits. ' I must say I 'm afraid he 's going 

261 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

wrong altogether,' he would say. ' I '11 tell you 
plainly, and between ourselves, I scarcely like to 
stay there any longer ; only, man, I 'm positively 
afraid to leave him alone. You '11 see, I shall be 
blamed for it later on. I 'm staying at a great sacri- 
fice. I 'm hindering my chances at the Bar, and I 
can't blind my eyes to it. And what I 'm afraid of 
is, that I 'm going to get kicked for it all round 
before all's done. You see, nobody believes in 
friendship nowadays.' 

' Well, Innes,' his interlocutor would reply, * it 's 
very good of you, I must say that. If there 's any 
blame going, you 'U always be sure of viy good word, 
for one thing.' 

* Well,' Frank would continue, ' candidly, I don't 
say it's pleasant. He has a very rough way with 
him ; his father's son, you know. I don't say he 's 
rude — of course, I couldn't be expected to stand that 
— but he steers very near the wind. No, it 's not 
pleasant ; but I tell ye, man, in conscience I don't 
think it would be fair to leave him. Mind you, I 
don't say there 's anything actually wrong. What I 
say is that I don't like the looks of it, man ! ' and he 
would press the arm of his momentary confidant. 

In the early stages I am persuaded there was no 
malice. He talked but for the pleasure of airing 
himself. He was essentially glib, as becomes the 
young advocate, and essentially careless of the truth, 
which is the mark of the young ass ; and so he talked 
at random. There was no particular bias, but that 
one which is indigenous and universal, to flatter him- 
262 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

self and to please and interest the present friend. 
And by thus milling air out of his mouth, he had 
presently built up a presentation of Archie which 
was known and talked of in all corners of the county. 
Wherever there was a residential house and a walled 
garden, wherever there was a dwarfish castle and a 
park, wherever a quadruple cottage by the ruins of 
a peel-tower showed an old family going down, and 
wherever a handsome villa with a carriage approach 
and a shrubbery marked the coming up of a new 
one — probably on the wheels of machinery — Archie 
began to be regarded in the light of a dark, perhaps 
a vicious mystery, and the future developments of 
his career to be looked for with uneasiness and confi- 
dential whispering. He had done something dis- 
graceful, my dear. What, was not precisely known, 
and that good kind young man, Mr. Innes, did his 
best to make light of it. But there it was. And 
Mr. Innes was very anxious about him now ; he was 
really uneasy, my dear ; he was positively wrecking 
his own prospects because he dared not leave him 
alone. How wholly we all lie at the mercy of a 
single prater, not needfully with any malign purpose ! 
And if a man but talks of himself in the right spirit, 
refers to his virtuous actions by the way, and never 
applies to them the name of virtue, how easily his 
evidence is accepted in the court of public opinion ! 

All this while, however, there was a more 
poisonous ferment at work between the two lads, 
which came late indeed to the surface, but had 
modified and magnified their dissensions from the 

263 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

first. To an idle, shallow, easy-going customer like 
Frank, the smell of a mystery was attractive. It 
gave his mind something to play with, like a new 
toy to a child ; and it took him on the weak side, 
for like many young men coming to the Bar, and 
before they have been tried and found wanting, he 
flattered himself he was a fellow of unusual quick- 
ness and penetration. They knew nothing of Sher- 
lock Holmes in those days, but there was a good 
deal said of Talleyrand. And if you could have 
caught Frank off his guard, he would have con- 
fessed with a smirk that, if he resembled any one, 
it was the Marquis de Talleyrand-Perigord. It was 
on the occasion of Archie's first absence that this 
interest took root. It was vastly deepened when 
Kirstie resented his curiosity at breakfast, and that 
same afternoon there occurred another scene which 
clinched the business. He was fishing Swingleburn, 
Archie accompanying him, when the latter looked 
at his watch. 

' Well, good-bye,' said he. ' I have something to 
do. See you at dinner.' 

'Don't be in such a hurry,' cries Frank. * Hold 
on till I get my rod up. I 'II go with you ; I 'm 
sick of flogging this ditch.' 

And he began to reel up his line. 

Archie stood speechless. He took a long while to 
recover his wits under this direct attack ; but by the 
time he was ready with his answer, and the angle 
was almost packed up, he had become completely 
Weir, and the hanging face gloomed on his young 
264 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

shoulders. He spoke with a laboured composure, a 
laboured kindness even ; but a child could see that 
his mind was made up. 

* I beg your pardon, Innes ; I don't want to be 
disagreeable, but let us understand one another from 
the beginning. When I want your company, I '11 
let you know.' 

*0 I' cries Frank, 'you don't want my company, 
don't you ?' 

* Apparently not just now,' replied Archie. ' I 
even indicated to you when I did, if you '11 remem- 
ber — and that was at dinner. If we two fellows are 
to live together pleasantly — and I see no reason why 
we should not — it can only be by respecting each 
other's privacy. If we begin intruding ' 

' O, come ! I '11 take this at no man's hands. Is 
this the way you treat a guest and an old friend?' 
cried Innes. 

'Just go home and think over what I said by 
yourself,' continued Archie, 'whether it's reasonable, 
or whether it 's really offensive or not ; and let 's 
meet at dinner as though nothing had happened. 
I'll put it this way, if you like — that I know my 
own character, that I 'm looking forward (with great 
pleasure, I assure you) to a long visit from you, and 
that I 'm taking precautions at the first. I see the 
thing that we — that I, if you like — might fall out 
upon, and I step in and obsto principiis. I wager 
you five pounds you '11 end by seeing that I mean 
friendliness, and I assure you, Francie, I do,' he 
added, relenting. 

265 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

Bursting with anger, but incapable of speech, 
Innes shouldered his rod, made a gesture of farewell, 
and strode off down the burn-side. Archie watched 
him go without moving. He was sorry, but quite 
unashamed. He hated to be inhospitable, but in 
one thing he was his father's son. He had a strong 
sense that his house was his own and no man else's ; 
and to lie at a guest's mercy was what he refused. 
He hated to seem harsh. But that was Frank's 
look-out. If Frank had been commonly discreet, 
he would have been decently courteous. And 
there was another consideration. The secret he 
was protecting was not his own merely; it was 
hers : it belonged to that inexpressible she who 
was fast taking possession of his soul, and whom he 
would soon have defended at the cost of burning 
cities. By the time he had watched Frank as far 
as the Swingleburnfoot, appearing and disappearing 
in the tarnished heather, still stalking at a fierce 
gait, but already dwindled in the distance into less 
than the smallness of LiUiput, he could afford to 
smile at the occurrence. Either Frank would go, 
and that would be a relief — or he would continue 
to stay, and his host must continue to endure him. 
And Archie was now free — by devious paths, behind 
hillocks and in the hollow of burns — to make for 
the trysting-place where Kirstie, cried about by the 
curlew and the plover, waited and burned for his 
coming by the Covenanter's stone. 

Innes went off down-hill in a passion of resent- 
ment, easy to be understood, but which yielded 
266 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

progressively to the needs of his situation. He 
cursed Archie for a cold-hearted, unfriendly, rude, 
rude dog; and himself still more passionately for 
a fool in having come to Hermiston when he 
might have sought refuge in almost any other 
house in Scotland. But the step, once taken, was 
practically irretrievable. He had no more ready 
money to go anywhere else ; he would have to 
borrow from Archie the next club-night; and ill 
as he thought of his host's manners, he was sure 
of his practical generosity. Frank's resemblance 
to Talleyrand strikes me as imaginary ; but at 
least not Talleyrand himself could have more 
obediently taken his lesson from the facts. He 
met Archie at dinner without resentment, almost 
with cordiality. You must take your friends as you 
find them, he would have said. Archie couldn't 
help being his father's son, or his grandfather's, the 
hypothetical weaver's, grandson. The son of a 
hunks, he was still a hunks at heart, incapable of 
true generosity and consideration ; but he had 
other qualities with which Frank could divert him- 
self in the meanwhile, and to enjoy which it was 
necessary that Frank should keep his temper. 

So excellently was it controlled that he awoke 
next morning with his head full of a different, 
though a cognate subject. What was Archie's 
little game ? Why did he shun Frank's company ? 
What was he keeping secret? Was he keeping 
tryst with somebody, and was it a woman ? It 
would be a good joke and a fair revenge to discover. 

267 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

To that task he set himself with a great deal of 
patience, which might have surprised his friends, 
for he had been always credited not with patience 
so much as brilliancy ; and little by little, from 
one point to another, he at last succeeded in 
piecing out the situation. First he remarked that, 
although Archie set out in all the directions of 
the compass, he always came home again from 
some point between the south and west. From 
the study of a map, and in consideration of the 
great expanse of untenanted moorland running in 
that direction towards the sources of the Clyde, he 
laid his finger on Cauldstaneslap and two other 
neighbouring farms, Kingsmuirs and Polintarf 
But it was difficult to advance farther. With his 
rod for a pretext, he vainly visited each of them 
in turn ; nothing was to be seen suspicious about 
this trinity of moorland settlements. He would 
have tried to follow Archie, had it been the least 
possible, but the nature of the land precluded the 
idea. He did the next best, ensconced himself in 
a quiet corner, and pursued his movements with a 
telescope. It was equally in vain, and he soon 
wearied of his futile vigilance, left the telescope 
at home, and had almost given the matter up in 
despair, when, on the twenty-seventh day of his 
visit, he was suddenly confronted with the person 
whom he sought. The first Sunday Kirstie had 
managed to stay away from kirk on some pretext 
of indisposition, which was more truly modesty ; the 
pleasure of beholding Archie seeming too sacred, 
268 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

too vivid for that public place. On the two follow- 
ing, Frank had himself been absent on some of 
his excursions among the neighbouring families. It 
was not until the fourth, accordingly, that Frank 
had occasion to set eyes on the enchantress. With 
the first look, all hesitation was over. She came 
with the Cauldstaneslap party ; then she lived at 
Cauldstaneslap. Here was Archie's secret, here 
was the woman, and more than that — though I 
have need here of every manageable attenuation of 
language — with the first look, he had already en- 
tered himself as rival. It was a good deal in pique, 
it was a little in revenge, it was much in genuine 
admiration : the devil may decide the proportions ! 
I cannot, and it is very likely that Frank could 
not. 

' Mighty attractive milkmaid,' he observed, on the 
way home. 

' Who ? ' said Archie. 

* O, the girl you 're looking at — aren't you ? 
Forward there on the road. She came attended 
by the rustic bard ; presumably, therefore, belongs 
to his exalted family. The single objection ! for 
the four Black Brothers are awkward customers. If 
anything were to go wrong, Gib would gibber, and 
Clem would prove inclement ; and Dand fly in 
danders, and Hob blow up in gobbets. It would 
be a Helliott of a business !' 

* Very humorous, I am sure,' said Archie. 

* Well, I am trying to be so,' said Frank. ' It 's 
none too easy in this place, and with your solemn 

269 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

society, my dear fellow. But confess that the 
milkmaid has found favour in your eyes, or resign 
all claim to be a man of taste.' 

' It is no matter,' returned Archie. 

But the other continued to look at him, steadily 
and quizzically, and his colour slowly rose and 
deepened under the glance, until not impudence 
itself could have denied that he was blushing. And 
at this Archie lost some of his control. He 
changed his stick from one hand to the other, 
and — ' O, for God's sake, don't be an ass !' he 
cried. 

' Ass ? That 's the retort delicate without doubt,' 
says Frank. ' Beware of the home-spun brothers, 
dear. If they come into the dance, you'll see 
who 's an ass. Think now, if they only applied 
(say) a quarter as much talent as I have applied 
to the question of what Mr. Archie does with his 
evening hours, and why he is so unaffectedly nasty 
when the subject 's touched on ' 

' You are touching on it now,' interrupted Archie, 
with a wince. 

' Thank you. That was all I wanted, an articu- 
late confession,' said Frank. 

* I beg to remind you ' began Archie. 

But he was interrupted in turn. ' My dear fellow, 
don't. It 's quite needless. The subject 's dead and 
buried.' 

And Frank began to talk hastily on other 
matters, an art in which he was an adept, for it 
was his gift to be fluent on anything or nothing. 
270 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

But although Archie had the grace or the timidity 
to suffer him to rattle on, he was by no means 
done with the subject. When he came home to 
dinner, he was greeted with a sly demand, how 
things were looking ' Cauldstaneslap ways.' Frank 
took his first glass of port out after dinner to the 
toast of Kirstie, and later in the evening he returned 
to the charge again. 

* I say. Weir, you '11 excuse me for returning 
again to this affair. I 've been thinking it over, 
and I wish to beg you very seriously to be more 
careful. It's not a safe business. Not safe, my 
boy,' said he. 

'What?' said Archie. 

' Well, it 's your own fault if I must put a name 
on the thing ; but really, as a friend, I cannot stand 
by and see you rushing head down into these 
dangers. My dear boy,' said he, holding up a 
warning cigar, ' consider ! What is to be the end 
of it?' 

'The end of what?' — Archie, helpless with irrita- 
tion, persisted in this dangerous and ungracious 
guard. 

* Well, the end of the milkmaid ; or, to speak 
more by the card, the end of Miss Christina Elliott 
of the Cauldstaneslap.' 

'I assure you,' Archie broke out, 'this is all a 
figment of your imagination. There is nothing to 
be said against that young lady ; you have no right 
to introduce her name into the conversation.' 

' I '11 make a note of it,' said Frank. * She shall 

271 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

henceforth be nameless, nameless, nameless, Grega- 
rach ! I make a note besides of your valuable 
testimony to her character. I only want to look at 
this thing as a man of the world. Admitted she 's 
an angel — but, my good fellow, is she a lady?' 

This was torture to Archie. ' I beg your pardon,' 
he said, struggling to be composed, *but because 
you have wormed yourself into my confidence ' 

' O, come I' cried Frank. ' Your confidence ? 
It was rosy but unconsenting. Your confidence, 
indeed ? Now, look ! This is what I must say. 
Weir, for it concerns your safety and good character, 
and therefore my honour as your friend. You say 
I wormed myself into your confidence. Wormed 
is good. But what have I done ? I have put two 
and two together, just as the parish will be doing 
to-morrow, and the whole of Tweeddale in two 
weeks, and the Black Brothers — well, I won't put 
a date on that ; it will be a dark and stormy morn- 
ing ! Your secret, in other words, is poor Poll's. 
And I want to ask of you as a friend whether you 
like the prospect ? There are two horns to your 
dilemma, and I must say for myself I should look 
mighty ruefully on either. Do you see yourself 
explaining to the four black brothers ? or do you 
see yourself presenting the milkmaid to papa as 
the future lady of Hermiston ? Do you ? I tell 
you plainly, I don't!' 

Archie rose. * I will hear no more of this,' he 
said, in a trembling voice. 

But Frank again held up his cigar. 'Tell me 
272 



ENTER MEPHISTOPHELES 

one thing first. Tell me if this is not a friend's part 
that I am playing ? ' 

* I believe you think it so,' replied Archie. ' I 
can go as far as that. I can do so much justice 
to your motives. But I will hear no more of it. I 
am going to bed. ' 

'That's right, Weir,' said Frank heartily. 'Go 
to bed and think over it; and I say, man, don't 
forget your prayers ! I don't often do the moral — 
don't go in for that sort of thing — but when I do, 
there's one thing sure, that I mean it' 

So Archie marched off to bed, and Frank sat 
alone by the table for another hour or so, smiling 
to himself richly. There was nothing vindictive 
in his nature ; but, if revenge came in his way, it 
might as well be good, and the thought of Archie's 
pillow reflections that night was indescribably sweet 
to him. He felt a pleasant sense of power. He 
looked down on Archie as on a very little boy 
whose strings he pulled — as on a horse whom he 
had backed and bridled by sheer power of intelli- 
gence, and whom he might ride to glory or the 
grave at pleasure. Which was it to be ? He 
lingered long, relishing the details of schemes that 
he was too idle to pursue. Poor cork upon a 
torrent, he tasted that night the sweets of omnipo- 
tence, and brooded like a deity over the strands of 
that intrigue which was to shatter him before the 
summer waned. 



26— s 273 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

CHAPTER VIII 

A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

KiRSTiE had many causes of distress. More and 
more as we grow old — and yet more and more as 
we grow old and are women, frozen by the fear 
of age — we come to rely on the voice as the single 
outlet of the soul. Only thus, in the curtailment 
of our means, can we relieve the straitened cry of 
the passion within us ; only thus, in the bitter and 
sensitive shyness of advancing years, can we main- 
tain relations with those vivacious figures of the 
young that still show before us and tend daily to 
become no more than the moving wall-paper of 
life. Talk is the last link, the last relation. But 
with the end of the conversation, when the voice 
stops and the bright face of the listener is turned 
away, solitude falls again on the bruised heart. 
Kirstie had lost her ' cannie hour at e'en ' ; she 
could no more wander with Archie, a ghost if you 
will, but a happy ghost, in fields Elysian. And to 
her it was as if the whole world had fallen silent ; 
to him, but an unremarkable change of amusements. 
And she raged to know it. The effervescency of 
her passionate and irritable nature rose within her 
at times to bursting point. 

This is the price paid by age for unseasonable 
ardours of feeling. It must have been so for 
Kirstie at any time when the occasion chanced ; but 
274 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

it so fell out that she was deprived of this delight 
in the hour when she had most need of it, when 
she had most to say, most to ask, and when she 
trembled to recognise her sovereignty not merely 
in abeyance but annulled. For, with the clairvoy- 
ance of a genuine love, she had pierced the mystery 
that had so long embarrassed Frank. She was con- 
scious, even before it was carried out, even on that 
Sunday night when it began, of an invasion of her 
rights ; and a voice told her the invader's name. 
Since then, by arts, by accident, by small things 
observed, and by the general drift of Archie's 
humour, she had passed beyond all possibility of 
doubt. With a sense of justice that Lord Hermiston 
might have envied, she had that day in church con- 
sidered and admitted the attractions of the younger 
Kirstie ; and with the profound humanity and senti- 
mentality of her nature, she had recognised the 
coming of fate. Not thus would she have chosen. 
She had seen, in imagination, Archie wedded to 
some tall, powerful, and rosy heroine of the golden 
locks, made in her own image, for whom she would 
have strewed the bride-bed with delight; and now 
she could have wept to see the ambition falsified. 
But the gods had pronounced, and her doom was 
otherwise. 

She lay tossing in bed that night, besieged with 
feverish thoughts. There were dangerous matters 
pending, a battle was toward, over the fate of which 
she hung in jealousy, sympathy, fear, and alternate 
loyalty and disloyalty to either side. Now she was 

275 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

reincarnated in her niece, and now in Archie. Now 
she saw, through the girl's eyes, the youth on his 
knees to her, heard his persuasive instances with a 
deadly weakness, and received his overmastering 
caresses. Anon, with a revulsion, her temper raged 
to see such utmost favours of fortune and love 
squandered on a brat of a girl, one of her own house, 
using her own name — a deadly ingredient — and that 
* didna ken her ain mind an' was as black 's your 
hat.' Now she trembled lest her deity should plead 
in vain, loving the idea of success for him like a 
triumph of nature ; anon, with returning loyalty to 
her own family and sex, she trembled for Kirstie 
and the credit of the Elliotts. And again she had a 
vision of herself, the day over for her old-world tales 
and local gossip, bidding farewell to her last link with 
life and brightness and love ; and behind and beyond, 
she saw but the blank butt-end where she must crawl 
to die. Had she then come to the lees ? she, so 
great, so beautiful, with a heart as fresh as a girl's 
and strong as womanhood ? It could not be, and yet 
it was so ; and for a moment her bed was horrible to 
her as the sides of the grave. And she looked for- 
ward over a waste of hours, and saw herself go on to 
rage, and tremble, and be softened, and rage again, 
until the day came and the labours of the day must 
be renewed. 

Suddenly she heard feet on the stairs — his feet, 

and soon after the sound of a window-sash flung 

open. She sat up with her heart beating. He had 

gone to his room alone, and he had not gone to bed. 

276 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

She might again have one of her night cracks ; and 
at the entrancing prospect a change came over her 
mind ; with the approach of this hope of pleasure, 
all the baser metal became immediately obliterated 
from her thoughts. Slie rose, all woman, and all the 
best of woman, tender, pitiful, hating the wrong, 
loyal to her own sex — and all the weakest of that 
dear miscellany, nourishing, cherishing next her soft 
heart, voicelessly flattering, hopes that she would 
have died sooner than have acknowledged. She 
tore off her nightcap, and her hair fell about her 
shoulders in profusion. Undying coquetry awoke. 
By the faint light of her nocturnal rush, she stood 
before the looking-glass, carried her shapely arms 
above her head, and gathered up the treasures of her 
tresses. She was never backward to admire herself ; 
that kind of modesty was a stranger to her nature ; 
and she paused, struck with a pleased wonder at the 
sight. ' Ye daft auld wife ! ' she said, answering a 
thought that was not; and she blushed with the 
innocent consciousness of a child. Hastily she did 
up the massive and shining coils, hastily donned a 
wrapper, and with the rushlight in her hand, stole into 
the hall. Below stairs she heard the clock ticking 
the deliberate seconds, and Frank jingling with the 
decanters in the dining-room. Aversion rose in her, 
bitter and momentary. ' Nesty, tippling puggy I ' she 
thought; and the next moment she had knocked 
guardedly at Archie's door and was bidden enter. 

Archie had been looking out into the ancient black- 
ness, pierced here and there with a rayless star ; 

277 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

taking the sweet air of the moors and the night into 
his bosom deeply; seeking, perhaps finding, peace 
after the manner of the unhappy. He turned round 
as she came in, and showed her a pale face against 
the window-frame. 

' Is that you, Kirstie ? ' he asked. ' Come in ! ' 

* It 's unco late, my dear,' said Kirstie, affecting 
unwillingness. 

' No, no,' he answered, ' not at all. Come in, if 
you want a crack. I am not sleepy, God knows ! ' 

She advanced, took a chair by the toilet-table and 
the candle, and set the rushlight at her foot. Some- 
thing — it might be in the comparative disorder of 
her dress, it might be the emotion that now welled 
in her bosom — had touched her with a wand of trans- 
formation, and she seemed young with the youth of 
goddesses. 

' Mr. Erchie,' she began, ' what 's this that 's come 
to ye?' 

' I am not aware of anything that has come,' said 
Archie, and blushed, and repented bitterly that he 
had let her in. 

* O, my dear, that '11 no dae ! ' said Kirstie. ' It 's 
ill to blend the eyes of love. O, Mr. Erchie, tak' a 
thocht ere it 's ower late. Ye shouldna be impatient 
o' the braws o' life, they '11 a' come in their saison, 
like the sun and the rain. Ye 're young yet ; ye 've 
mony cantie years afore ye. See and dinna wreck 
yersel' at the outset like sae mony ithers ! Hae 
patience — they telled me aye that was the owercome 
o' life — hae patience, there 's a braw day coming yet. 

278 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

Gude kens it never cam' to me ; and here I am, wi' 
nayther man nor bairn to ca' my ain, wearying a' 
folks wi' my ill tongue, and you just the first, Mr. 
Erehie ! ' 

' I have a difficulty in knowing what you mean,' 
said Archie. 

' Weel, and I '11 tell ye,' she said. 'It's just this, 
that I 'm feared. I 'm feared for ye, my dear. Re- 
member, your faither is a hard man, reaping where he 
hasna sowed and gaithering where he hasna strawed. 
It's easy speakin', but mind ! Ye '11 have to look in 
the gurly face o'm, where it 's ill to look, and vain to 
look for mercy. Ye mind me o' a bonny ship pitten 
oot into the black and gowsty seas — ye 're a' safe 
still, sittin' quait and crackin' wi' Kirstie in your 
lown chalmer ; but whaur will ye be the morn, and 
in whatten horror o' the fearsome tempest, cryin' on 
the hills to cover ye ? ' 

* Why, Kirstie, you 're very enigmatical to-night 
— and very eloquent,' Archie put in. 

* And, my dear Mr. Erehie,' she continued, with a 
change of voice, ' ye maunna think that I canna sym- 
pathise wi' ye. Ye maunna think that I havena been 
young mysel'. Lang syne, when I was a bit lassie, 

no twenty yet ' She paused and sighed. ' Clean 

and caller, wi' a fit like the hinney bee,' she con- 
tinued. ' I was aye big and buirdly, ye maun under- 
stand ; a bonny figure o' a woman, though I say it 
that suldna — built to rear bairns — braw bairns they 
suld hae been, and grand I would hae likit it ! But 
I was young, dear, wi' the bonny glint o' youth in 

279 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

my e'en, and little I dreamed I 'd ever be tellin' ye 
this, an auld, lanely, rudas wife ! Weel, Mr. Erchie, 
there was a lad cam' courtin' me, as was but naetural. 
Mony had come before, and I would nane o' them. 
But this yin had a tongue to wile the birds frae the 
lift and the bees frae the foxglove bells. Deary me, 
but it's lang syne. Folk have dee'd sinsyne and 
been buried, and are forgotten, and bairns been born 
and got merrit and got bairns o' their ain. Sinsyne 
woods have been plantit, and have grawn up and are 
bonny trees, and the joes sit in their shadow ; and 
sinsyne auld estates have changed hands, and there 
have been wars and rumours of wars on the face of 
the earth. And here I 'm still — like an auld droopit 
craw — lookin' on and craikin' ! But, Mr. Erchie, do 
ye no' think that I have mind o' it a' still ? I was 
dwaUing then in my faither's house; and it's a 
curious thing that we were whiles trysted in the 
Deil's Hags. And do ye no' think that I have mind 
of the bonny simmer days, the lang miles o' the 
bluid-red heather, the cryin' o' the whaups, and the 
lad and the lassie that was trysted ? Do ye no' think 
that I mind how the hilly sweetness ran about my 
hairt? Ay, Mr. Erchie, I ken the way o' it — fine 
do I ken the way — how the grace o' God takes them, 
like Paul of Tarsus, when they think it least, and 
drives the pair o' them into a land which is like a 
dream, and the world and the folks in 't are nae mair 
than clouds to the puir lassie, and heeven nae mair 
than windle-straes, if she can but pleesure him ! 
Until Tarn dee'd — that was my story,' she broke off 
280 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

to say, ' he dee'd, and I wasna at the buryin'. But 
while he was here, I could take care o' mysel'. And 
can yon puir lassie ? ' 

Kirstie, her eyes shining with unshed tears, 
stretched out her hand towards him appealingly ; 
the bright and the dull gold of her hair flashed and 
smouldered in the coils behind her comely head, 
like the rays of an eternal youth ; the pure colour 
had risen in her face ; and Archie was abashed alike 
by her beauty and her story. He came towards 
her slowly from the window, took up her hand in 
his and kissed it. 

' Kirstie,' he said hoarsely, ' you have misjudged 
me sorely. I have always thought of her, I wouldna 
harm her for the universe, my woman ! ' 

*Eh, lad, and that's easy sayin',' cried Kirstie, 
' but it 's nane sae easy doin' ! Man, do ye no' com- 
prehend that it 's God's wull we should be blendit 
and glamoured, and have nae command: over our ain 
members at a time like that ? My bairn,' she cried, 
still holding his hand, ' think o' the puir lass ! have 
pity upon her, Erchie ! and O, be wise for twa ! 
Think o' the risk she rins ! I have seen ye, and 
what 's to prevent ithers ! I saw ye once in the 
Hags, in my ain howf, and I was wae to see ye 
there — in pairt for the omen, for I think there's a 
weird on the place — and in pairt for pure nakit envy 
and bitterness o' hairt. It 's strange ye should for- 
gather there tae ! God ! but yon puir, thrawn, auld 
Covenanter 's seen a heap o' human natur' since he 
lookit his last on the musket-barrels, if he never saw 

281 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

nane afore,' she added, with a kind of wonder in her 
eyes. 

' I swear by my honour I have done her no wrong,' 
said Archie. * I swear by my honour and the re- 
demption of my soul that there shall none be done 
her. I have heard of this before. I have been 
foolish, Kirstie, but not unkind, and, above all, not 
base.' 

' There 's my bairn ! ' said Kirstie, rising. ' I '11 
can trust ye noo, I '11 can gang to my bed wi' an 
easy hairt.' And then she saw in a flash how barren 
had been her triumph. Archie had promised to 
spare the girl, and he would keep it ; but who had 
promised to spare Archie ? What was to be the 
end of it ? Over a maze of difficulties she glanced, 
and saw, at the end of every passage, the flinty 
countenance of Hermiston. And a kind of horror 
fell upon her at what she had done. She wore a 
tragic mask. ' Erchie, the Lord peety you, dear, 
and peety me ! I have buildit on this foundation ' — 
laying her hand heavily on his shoulder — ' and buildit 
hie, and pit my hairt in the buildin' of it. If the 
hale hypothec were to fa', I think, laddie, I would 
dee ! Excuse a daft wife that loves ye, and that 
kenned your mither. And for His name's sake keep 
yersel' frae inordinate desires ; baud your heart in 
baith your hands, carry it canny and laigh; dinna 
send it up like a bairn's kite into the coUieshangie 
o' the wunds ! Mind, Maister Erchie dear, that this 
life 's a' disappointment, and a mouthfu' o' mools is 
the appointed end.' 
282 



A NOCTURNAL VISIT 

'Ay, but Kirstie, my woman, you're asking me 
ower much at last,' said Archie, profoundly moved, 
and lapsing into the broad Scots. 'Ye 're asking 
what nae man can grant ye, what only the Lord of 
heaven can grant ye if He see fit. Ay 1 And can 
even He ? I can promise ye what I shall do, and 
you can depend on that. But how I shall feel — my 
woman, that is long past thinking of ! ' 

They were both standing by now opposite each 
other. The face of Archie wore the wretched sem- 
blance of a smile ; hers was convulsed for a moment. 

' Promise me ae thing,' she cried, in a sharp voice. 
' Promise me ye '11 never do naething without telling 
me.' 

' No, Kirstie, I canna promise ye that,' he replied. 
* I have promised enough, God kens ! ' 

' May the blessing of God lift and rest upon ye, 
dear ! ' she said. 

' God bless ye, my old friend,' said he. 



CHAPTER IX 

AT THE weaver's STONE 

It was late in the afternoon when Archie drew near 
by the hill path to the Praying Weaver's stone. 
The Hags were in shadow. But still, through the 
gate of the Slap, the sun shot a last arrow, which 
sped far and straight across the surface of the moss, 
here and there touching and shining on a tussock, 
and lighted at length on the gravestone and the 

283 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

small figure awaiting him there. The emptiness and 
solitude of the great moors seemed to be concentred 
there, and Kirstie pointed out by that finger of sun- 
shine for the only inhabitant. His first sight of her 
was thus excruciatingly sad, like a glimpse of a world 
from which all light, comfort, and society were on 
the point of vanishing. And the next moment, 
when she had turned her face to him and the quick 
smile had enlightened it, the whole face of nature 
smiled upon him in her smile of welcome. Archie's 
slow pace was quickened; his legs hasted to her 
though his heart was hanging back. The girl, upon 
her side, drew herself together slowly and stood up, 
expectant ; she was all languor, her face was gone 
white ; her arms ached for him, her soul was on 
tip-toes. But he deceived her, pausing a few steps 
away, not less white than herself, and holding up 
his hand with a gesture of denial. 

'No, Christina, not to-day,' he said. * To-day I 
have to talk to you seriously. Sit ye down, please, 
there where you were. Please ! ' he repeated. 

The revulsion of feeling in Christina's heart was 
violent. To have longed and waited these weary 
hours for him, rehearsing her endearments — to have 
seen him at last come — to have been ready there, 
breathless, wholly passive, his to do what he would 
with — and suddenly to have found herself confronted 
with a grey-faced, harsh schoolmaster — it was too 
rude a shock. She could have wept, but pride with- 
held her. She sat down on the stone, from which 
she had arisen, part with the instinct of obedience, 
284 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

part as though she had been thrust there. .What 
was this ? Why was she rejected ? Had she ceased 
to please? She stood here offering her wares, and 
he would none of them ! And yet they were all his ! 
His to take and keep, not his to refuse though ! 
In her quick petulant nature, a moment ago on 
fire with hope, thwarted love and wounded vanity 
wrought. The schoolmaster that there is in all men, 
to the despair of all girls and most women, was now 
completely in possession of Archie. He had passed 
a night of sermons, a day of reflection ; he had come 
wound up to do his duty ; and the set mouth, which 
in him only betrayed the effort of his will, to her 
seemed the expression of an averted heart. It was 
the same with his constrained voice and embarrassed 
utterance ; and if so — if it was all over — the pang 
of the thought took away from her the power of 
thinking. 

He stood before her some way off. *Kirstie, 
there 's been too much of this. We 've seen too 
much of each other.' She looked up quickly and 
her eyes contracted. * There 's no good ever comes 
of these secret meetings. They 're not frank, not 
honest truly, and 1 ought to have seen it. People 
have begun to talk ; and it 's not right of me. Do 
you see ?' 

*I see somebody will have been talking to ye,' 
she said sullenly. 

*They have — more than one of them,' replied 
Archie. 

' And whae were they ? ' she cried. ' And what 

285 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

kind o' love do ye ca' that, that 's ready to gang 
round like a whirligig at folk talking ? Do ye think 
they havena talked to me ? ' 

'Have they indeed?' said Archie, with a quick 
breath. ' That is what T feared. Who were they ? 
Who has dared V 

Archie was on the point of losing his temper. 

As a matter of fact, not any one had talked to 
Christina on the matter ; and she strenuously re- 
peated her own first question in a panic of self- 
defence. 

* Ah, well ! what does it matter ?' he said. ' They 
were good folk that wished well to us, and the 
great affair is that there are people talking. My 
dear girl, we have to be wise. We must not wreck 
our lives at the outset. They may be long and 
^appy yet, and we must see to it, Kirstie, like God's 
rational creatures and not like fool children. There 
is one thing we must see to before all. You 're 
worth waiting for, Kirstie ! worth waiting for a 
generation ; it would be enough reward.' — And here 
he remembered the schoolmaster again, and very 
unwisely took to following wisdom. ' The first 
thing that we must see to is that there shall be no 
scandal about for my father's sake. That would 
ruin all ; do ye no see that V 

Kirstie was a little pleased, there had been some 
show of warmth of sentiment in what Archie had 
said last. But the dull irritation still persisted in 
her bosom; with the aboriginal instinct, having 
suffered herself, she wished to make Archie suffer. 
286 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

And besides, there had come out the word she 
had always feared to hear from his Ups, the name of 
his father. It is not to be supposed that, during so 
many days with a love avowed between them, some 
reference had not been made to their conjoint future. 
It had in fact been often touched upon, and from the 
first had been the sore point. Kirstie had wilfully 
closed the eye of thought ; she would not argue 
even with herself; gallant, desperate little heart, 
she had accepted the command of that supreme 
attraction like the call of fate, and marched blind- 
fold on her doom. But Archie, with his mascu- 
line sense of responsibility, must reason ; he must 
dwell on some future good, when the present good 
was all in all to Kirstie ; he must talk — and talk 
lamely, as necessity drove him — of what was to be. 
Again and again he had touched on marriage ; 
again and again been driven back into indistinct- 
ness by a memory of Lord Hermiston. And Kirstie 
had been swift to understand and quick to choke 
down and smother the understanding ; swift to leap 
up in flame at a mention of that hope, which spoke 
volumes to her vanity and her love, that she might 
one day be Mrs. Weir of Hermiston ; swift, also, 
to recognise in his stumbling or throttled utterance 
the death-knell of these expectations, and constant, 
poor girl ! in her large-minded madness, to go on 
and to reck nothing of the future. But these un- 
finished references, these blinks in which his heart 
spoke, and his memory and reason rose up to silence 
it before the words were well uttered, gave her 

287 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

uiiqualifiable agony. She was raised up and dashed 
down again bleeding. The recurrence of the subject 
forced her, for however short a time, to open her 
eyes on what she did not wish to see ; and it had 
invariably ended in another disappointment. So 
now again, at the mere wind of its coming, at the 
mere mention of his father's name — who might 
seem indeed to have accompanied them in their 
whole moorland courtship, an awful figure in a wig 
with an ironical and bitter smile, present to guilty 
consciousness — she fled from it head down. 

' Ye havena told me yet,' she said, ' who was it 
spoke V 

* Your aunt for one,' said Archie. 

* Auntie Kirstie?' she cried. 'And what do I 
care for my Auntie Kirstie?' 

' She cares a great deal for her niece,' replied 
Archie, in kind reproof, 

'Troth, and it's the first I've heard of it,' re- 
torted the girl. 

' The question here is not who it is, but what 
they say, what they have noticed,' pursued the 
lucid schoolmaster. ' That is what we have to think 
of in self-defence.' 

' Auntie Kirstie, indeed 1 A bitter, thrawn auld 
maid that 's fomented trouble in the country before 
I was born, and v^^ill be doing it still, I daur say, 
when I 'm deid ! It 's in her nature ; it 's as natural 
for her as it 's for a sheep to eat.' 

' Pardon me, Kirstie, she was not the only one,' 
interposed Archie. 'I had two warnings, two 
288 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

sermons, last night, both most kind and considerate. 
Had you been there, I promise you you would have 
grat, my dear ! And they opened my eyes. I 
saw we were going a wrong way.' 

' Who was the other one ?' Kirstie demanded. 

By this time Archie was in the condition of a 
hunted beast. He had come, braced and resolute ; 
he was to trace out a line of conduct for the 
pair of them in a few cold, convincing sentences ; 
he had now been there some time, and he was 
still staggering round the outworks and under- 
going what he felt to be a savage cross-examina- 
tion. 

*Mr. Frank!' she cried. 'What nex', I would 
like to ken V 

' He spoke most kindly and truly.' 

'What like did he say?' 

' 1 am not going to tell you ; you have nothing 
to do with that,' cried Archie, startled to find he 
had admitted so much. 

' O, I have naething to do with it !' she repeated, 
springing to her feet. ' A'body at Hermiston 's free 
to pass their opinions upon me, but I have naething 
to do wi' it ! Was this at prayers like ? Did ye 
ca' the grieve into the consultation ? Little wonder 
if a'body 's talking, when ye make a'body yer 
confidants ! But as you say, Mr. Weir — most 
kindly, most considerately, most truly, I 'm sure — I 
have naething to do with it. And I think I '11 better 
be going. I '11 be wishing you good-evening, Mr. 
Weir.' And she made him a stately curtsey, 

26 T 289 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

shaking as she did so from head to foot, with the 
barren ecstasy of temper. 

Poor Archie stood dumbfounded. She had 
moved some steps away from him before he re- 
covered the gift of articulate speech. 

'Kirstie !' he cried. ' O, Kirstie woman !' 
There was in his voice a ring of appeal, a clang 
of mere astonishment that showed the schoolmaster 
was vanquished. 

She turned round on him. 'What do ye Kirstie 
me for ? ' she retorted. ' What have ye to do wi' 
me ? Gang to your ain freends and deave them !' 
He could only repeat the appealing ' Kirstie !' 
'Kirstie, indeed!' cried the girl, her eyes blazing 
in her white face. 'My name is Miss Christina 
Elliott, I would have ye to ken, and I daur ye to ca' 
me out of it. If I canna get love, 1 11 have inspect, 
Mr. Weir. I 'm come of decent people, and I '11 
have respect. What have I done that ye should 
lightly me ? What have I done ? What have I 
done ? O, what have I done ? ' and her voice rose 
upon the third repetition. 'I thocht — I thocht — I 
thocht I was sae happy!' and the first sob broke 
from her like the paroxysm of some mortal sickness. 
Archie ran to her. He took the poor child in 
his arms, and she nestled to his breast as to a 
mothers, and clasped him in hands that were strong 
like vices. He felt her whole body shaken by the 
throes of distress, and had pity upon her beyond 
speech. Pity, and at the same time a bewildered 
fear of this explosive engine in his arms, whose 
290 



AT THE WEAVER'S STONE 

works he did not understand, and yet had been 
tampering with. There arose from before him the 
curtains of boyhood, and he saw for the first time 
the ambiguous face of woman as she is. In vain he 
looked back over the interview ; he saw not where 
he had offended. It seemed unprovoked, a wilful 
convulsion of brute nature. ... 



291 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

With the words last printed, ' a wilful convulsion of brute 
nature/ the romance of Weir of Hermiston breaks off. They 
were dictated, I believe, on the very morning of the writer*'s 
sudden seizure and death. Weir of Hermiston thus remains in 
the work of Stevenson what Edwin Drood is in the work of 
Dickens or Denis Duval in that of Thackeray : or rather it 
remains relatively more, for if each of those fragments holds 
an honourable place among its author's writings, among 
Stevenson's the fragment of Weir holds, at least to my mind, 
certainly the highest. 

Readers may be divided in opinion on the question whether 
they would or they would not wish to hear more of the intended 
course of the story and destinies of the characters. To some, 
silence may seem best, and that the mind should be left to its 
own conjectures as to the sequel, with the help of such indica- 
tions as the text affords. I confess that this is the view which 
has my sympathy. But since others, and those almost cer- 
tainly a majority, are anxious to be told all they can, and 
since editors and publishers join in the request, I can scarce 
do otherwise than comply. The intended argument, then, so 
far as it was known at the time of the writer's death to his 
step-daughter and devoted amanuensis, Mrs Strong, was nearly 
as follows : — 

Archie persists in his good resolution of avoiding further 
conduct compromising to young Kirstie's good name. Taking 
292 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

advantage of the situation thus created, and of the girl's 
unhappiness and wounded vanity, Frank Innes pursues his 
purpose of seduction ; and Kirstie, though still caring for 
Archie in her heart, allows herself to become Frank's victim. 
Old Kirstie is the first to perceive something amiss with her, 
and believing Archie to be the culprit, accuses him, thus 
making him aware for the first time that mischief has 
happened. He does not at once deny the charge, but seeks 
out and questions young Kirstie, who confesses the truth to 
him ; and he, still loving her, promises to protect and defend 
her in her trouble. He then has an interview with Frank Innes 
on the moor, which ends in a quarrel, and in Archie killing- 
Frank beside the Weaver's Stone. Meanwhile the Four Black 
Brothers, having become aware of their sister's betrayal, are 
bent on vengeance against Archie as her supposed seducer. 
But their vengeance is forestalled by his arrest for the murder 
of Frank. He is tried before his own father, the Lord Justice- 
Clerk, found guilty, and condemned to death. Meanwhile the 
elder Kirstie, having discovered from the girl how matters 
really stand, informs her nephews of the truth ; and they, in a 
great revulsion of feeling in Archie's favour, determine on an 
action after the ancient manner of their house. They gather 
a following, and after a great fight break the prison where 
Archie lies confined, and rescue him. He and young Kirstie 
thereafter escape to America. But the ordeal of taking part 
in the trial of his own son has been too much for the Lord 
Justice-Clerk, who dies of the shock. ' I do not know,' 
adds the amanuensis, ' what becomes of old Kirstie, but that 
character grew and strengthened so in the writing that I am 
sure he had some dramatic destiny for her.' 

The plan of every imaginative work is subject, of course, to 
change under the artist's hand as he carries it out; and not 
merely the character of the elder Kirstie, but other elements 
of the design no less, might well have deviated from the lines 

293 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

originally traced. It seems certain, however, that the next 
stage in the relations of Archie and the younger Kirstie would 
have been as above foreshadowed ; and this conception of the 
lover's unconventional chivalry and unshaken devotion to his 
mistress after her fault is very characteristic of the writer's 
mind. The vengeance to be taken on the seducer beside the 
Weaver's Stone is prepared for in the first words of the Intro- 
duction ; and in the spring of 1894 the author rehearsed in 
conversation with a visitor (Mr. Sidney Lysaght) a scene 
where the girl was to confess to her lover in prison that she 
was with child by the man he had killed. The situation and 
fate of the judge, confronting like a Brutus, but unable to 
survive, the duty of sending his own son to the gallows, 
seem clearly to have been destined to furnish the climax and 
essential tragedy of the tale. 

How this last circumstance was to have been brought about, 
within the limits of legal usage and possibility, seems hard 
to conjecture; but it was a point to which the author had 
evidently given careful consideration. Mrs. Strong says simply 
that the Lord Justice-Clerk, like an old Roman, condemns his 
son to death. But I am assured on the best legal authority of 
Scotland that no judge, however powerful either by character 
or office, could have insisted on presiding at the trial of a near 
kinsman of his own. The Lord Justice-Clerk was head of the 
criminal j usticiary of the country ; he might have insisted on 
his right of being present on the bench when his son was 
tried; but he would never have been allowed to preside or to 
pass sentence. Now in a letter of Stevenson's to Mr. Baxter, 
of October 1892, I find him asking for materials in terms 
which seem to indicate that he knew this quite well : — ' I wish 
Pitcairn's " Criminal Trials," quam 'primum. Also an abso- 
lutely correct text of the Scots judiciary oath. Also, in case 
Pitcairn does not come down late enough, I wish as full a 
report as possible of a Scots murder trial between 1790-1820. 
Understand, thejullest possible. Is there any book which would 

294 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

guide me to the following facts? The Justice-Clerk tries 
some people capitally on circuit. Certain evidence cropping 
up, the charge is transferred to the Justice- Clerk's own son. 
Of course in the next trial the Justice-Clerk is excluded, and 
the case is called before the Lord Justice-General. Where 
would this trial have to be ? I fear in Edinburgh, which would 
not suit my view. Could it be again at the circuit town.?' 
The point was referred to a quondam fellow-member with 
Stevenson of the Edinburgh Speculative Society, Mr. Graham 
Murray, the present Lord Advocate for Scotland, whose reply 
was to the effect that there would be no difficulty in making 
the new trial take place at the circuit town; that it would 
have to be held there in spring or autumn, before two Lords 
of Justiciary ; and that the Lord Justice- General would have 
nothing to do with it, this title being at the date in question 
only a nominal one held by a layman (which is no longer the 
case). On this Stevenson writes, ' Graham Murray's note re 
the venue was highly satisfactory, and did me all the good in 
the world.' The terms of his inquiry imply clearly that he 
intended other persons before Archie to have fallen under 
suspicion of the murder (what other persons.?); and also — 
doubtless in order to make the rescue by the Black Brothers 
possible — that he wanted Archie to be imprisoned, not in Edin- 
burgh but in the circuit town. Can it have been that Lord 
Hermiston's part was to have been limited to presiding at the 
Jirst trial, where the persons wrongly suspected were to have 
been judged, and to directing that the law should take its 
course when evidence incriminating his own son was unex- 
pectedly brought forward ? 

Whether the final escape and union of Archie and Christina 
would have proved equally essential to the plot may perhaps 
to most readers seem questionable. They may rather feel that 
a tragic destiny is foreshadowed from the beginning for all 
concerned, and is inherent in the very conditions of the tale. 
But on this point, and other matters of general criticism 

295 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

connected with it, I find an interesting discussion by- the 
author himself in his correspondence. Writing to Mr. J. M. 
Barrie, under date November 1, 1892, and criticising that 
author's famous story of The Little Minister, Stevenson 
says : — 

' Your descriptions of your dealings with Lord Rintoul are 
frightfully unconscientious. . . . The Little Minister ought to 
have ended badly ; we all know it did, and we are infinitely 
grateful to you for the grace and good feeling with which you 
have lied about it. If you had told the truth, I for one could 
never have forgiven you. As you had conceived and written 
the earlier parts, the truth about the end, though indisputably 
true to fact, would have been a lie, or what is worse, a discord, 
in art. If you are going to make a book end badly, it must 
end badly from the beginning. Now, your book began to end 
well. You let yourself fall in love with, and fondle, and smile 
at your puppets. Once you had done that, your honour was 
committed : at the cost of truth to life you were bound to 
save them. It is the blot on Richard Fever el, for instance, that 
it begins to end well ; and then tricks you and ends ill. But 
in this case, there is worse behind, for the ill ending does not 
inherently issue from the plot— the story had, in fact, ended 
well after the great last interview between Richard and Lucy 
— and the blind, illogical bullet which smashes all has no more 
to do between the boards than a fly has to do with a room 
into whose open window it comes buzzing. It might have so 
happened; it needed not; and unless needs must, we have 
no right to pain our readers. I have had a heavy case of 
conscience of the same kind about my Braxfield story. Brax- 
field — only his name is Hermiston — has a son who is condemned 
to death ; plainly there is a fine tempting fitness about this ; 
and I meant he was to hang. But on considering my minor 
characters, I saw there were five people who would — in a sense 
who must — break prison and attempt his rescue. They are 
capable hardy folks too, who might very well succeed. Why 
296 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

should they not then ? Why should not young Hermiston 
escape clear out of the country ? and be happy, if he could, 
with his — but soft ! I will not betray my secret nor my 
heroine. . . .' 

To pass, now, from the question how the story would have 
ended to the question how it originated and grew in the writer's 
mind. The character of the hero. Weir of Hermiston, is 
avowedly suggested by the historical personality of Robert 
Macqueen, Lord Braxfield. This famous judge has been for 
generations the subject of a hundred Edinburgh tales and 
anecdotes. Readers of Stevenson's essay on the Raeburn 
Exhibition, in Virginibus Puerisque, will remember how he 
is fascinated by Raeburn's portrait of Braxfield, even as 
Lockhart had been fascinated by a different portrait of the 
same worthy sixty years before (see Peter's Letters to His 
Kinsfolk); nor did his interest in the character diminish in 
later life. 

Again, the case of a judge involved by the exigencies of his 
office in a strong conflict between public duty and private 
interest or affection, was one which had always attracted and 
exercised Stevenson's imagination. In the days when he and 
Mr. Henley were collaborating with a view to the stage, 
Mr. Henley once proposed a plot founded on the story of 
Mr. Justice Harbottle in Sheridan Le Fanu's In a Glass Darliy, 
in which the wicked judge goes headlong p^r y^* et ne/as to 
his object of getting the husband of his mistress hanged. 
Some time later Stevenson and his wife together drafted a play 
called The Hanging Judge. In this, the title character is 
tempted for the first time in his life to tamper with the course 
of justice, in order to shield his wife from persecution by a 
former husband who reappears after being supposed dead. 
Bulwer's novel of Paul Clifford, with its final situation of the 
worldly-minded judge. Sir William Brandon, learning that the 
highwayman whom he is in the act of sentencing is his own son, 
and dying of the knowledge, was also well known to Stevenson, 

297 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and probably counted for something in the suggestion of the 
present story. 

Once more, the difSculties often attending the relation of 
father and son in actual life had pressed heavily on Stevenson's 
mind and conscience from the days of his youth, when in 
obeying the law of his own nature he had been constrained 
to disappoint, distress, and for a time to be much misunder- 
stood by, a father whom he justly loved and admired 
with all his heart. Difficulties of this kind he had already 
handled in a lighter vein once or twice in fiction — as for 
instance in the Story of a Lie^ the Misadventures of John 
Nicholson, and The Wrecker — before he grappled with them 
in the acute and tragic phase in which they occur in the pre- 
sent story. 

These three elements, then, the interest of the historical 
personality of Lord Braxfield, the problems and emotions 
arising from a violent conflict between duty and nature in a 
judge, and the difficulties due to incompatibility and misunder- 
standing between father and son, lie at the foundations of the 
present story. To touch on minor matters, it is perhaps worth 
notice, as Mr. Henley reminds me, that the name of Weir had 
from of old a special significance for Stevenson's imagination, 
from the horrible and true tale of the burning in Edinburgh of 
Major Weir, the warlock, and his sister. Another name, that 
of the episodical personage of Mr. Torrance the minister, is 
borrowed direct from life, as indeed are the whole figure and 
its surroundings — kirkyard, kirk, and manse — down even to 
the black thread mittens : witness the following passage from 
a letter of the early seventies : — ' I 've been to church and am 
not depressed — a great step. It was at that beautiful church ' 
[of Glencorse in the Pentlands, three miles from his father's 
country house at Swanston]. 'It is a little cruciform place, 
with a steep slate roof. The small kirkyard is full of old 
gravestones ; one of a Frenchman from Dunkerque, I suppose 
he died prisoner in the military prison hard by. And one, the 
298 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

most pathetic memorial I ever saw : a poor school-slate, in a 
wooden frame, with the inscription cut into it evidently by the 
father's own hand. In church, old Mr. Torrance preached, over 
eighty and a relic of times forgotten, with his black thread 
gloves and mild old face.' A side hint for a particular trait 
in the character of Mrs. Weir we can trace in some family 
traditions concerning the writer's own grandmother, who is 
reported to have valued piety much more than efficiency in her 
domestic servants. I know of no original for that new and 
admirable incarnation of the eternal feminine in the elder 
Kirstie. The little that Stevenson says about her himself is 
in a letter written a few days before his death to Mr. Gosse. 
The allusions are to the various views and attitudes of people 
in regard to middle age, and are suggested by Mr. Gosse's 
volume of poems, In Russet and Silvei'. ' It seems rather 
funny,' he writes, ' that this matter should come up just now, as 
I am at present engaged in treating a severe case of middle age 
in one of my stories, The Justice- Clerli. The case is that of a 
woman, and I think I am doing her justice. You will be 
interested, I believe, to see the difference in our treatments. 
Secreta Vitae [the title of one of Mr. Gosse's poems] comes 
nearer to the case of my poor Kirstie.' From the quality of 
the midnight scene between her and Archie, we may j udge 
what we have lost in those later scenes where she was to have 
taxed him with the fault that was not his — to have presently 
learned his innocence from the lips of his supposed victim — to 
have then vindicated him to her kinsmen and fired them to the 
action of his rescue. The scene of the prison-breaking here 
planned by Stevenson would have gained interest (as will 
already have occurred to readers) from comparison with the 
two famous precedents in Scott, the Porteous mob and the 
breaking of Portanferry jail. 

The best account of Stevenson's methods of imaginative work 
is in the following sentences from a letter of his own to 
Mr. W. Craibe Angus of Glasgow : — ' I am still " a slow study," 

299 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

and sit for a long while silent on my eggs. Unconscious 
thought, there is the only method: macerate your subject, let 
it boil slow, then take the lid off and look in — and there your 
stuff is — good or bad.' The several elements above noted 
having been left to work for many years in his mind, it was in 
the autumn of 1892 that he was moved to ' take the lid off and 
look in,' — under the influence, it would seem, of a special and 
overmastering wave of that feeling for the romance of Scottish 
scenery and character which was at all times so strong in him, 
and which his exile did so much to intensify. I quote again 
from his letter to Mr. Barrie on November 1st in that year : — 
' It is a singular thing that I should live here in the South Seas 
under conditions so new and so striking, and yet my imagination 
so continually inhabit the cold old huddle of grey hills from 
which we come, I have finished David Balfour, I have another 
book on the stocks. The Young Chevalier, which is to be part 
in France and part in Scotland, and to deal with Prince Charlie 
about the year 1749 ; and now what have I done but begun a 
third, which is to be all moorland together, and is to have for 
a centre-piece a figure that I think you will appreciate — that 
of the immortal Braxfield. Braxfield himself is my grand 
premier — or since you are so much involved in the British 
drama, let me say my heavy lead.' 

Writing to me at the same date he makes the same announce- 
ment more briefly, with a list of the characters and an indication 
of the scene and date of the story. To Mr. Baxter he writes a 
month later, ' I have a novel on the stocks to be called The 
Justice -Cleric. It is pretty Scotch ; the grand premier is taken 
from Braxfield (O, by the by, send me Cockburn's Memorials), 
and some of the story is, well, queer. The heroine is seduced 
by one man, and finally disappears Avith the other man who 
shot him. . . . Mind you, I expect The Justice- Cleric to be 
my masterpiece. My Braxfield is already a thing of beauty 
and a joy for ever, and so far as he has gone far my best 
character.' From the last extract it appears that he had 
300 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

already at this date drafted some of the earlier chapters of the 
book. He also about the same time composed the dedication 
to his wife, who found it pinned to her bed-curtains one 
morning on awaking. It was always his habit to keep several 
books in progress at the same time, turning from one to another 
as the fancy took him, and finding relief in the change of 
labour; and for many months after the date of this letter, 
first illness, — then a voyage to Auckland, — then work on the 
Ebb-Tide, on a new tale called St. Ives, which was begun dur- 
ing an attack of influenza, and on his projected book of family 
history, — prevented his making any continuous progress with 
Weir. In August 1893 he says he has been recasting the begin- 
ning. A year later, still only the first four or five chapters had 
been drafted. Then, in the last weeks of his life, he attacked 
the task again, in a sudden heat of inspiration, and worked at 
it ardently and without interruption until the end came. No 
wonder if during these weeks he was sometimes aware of a 
tension of the spirit difficult to sustain. ' How can I keep 
this pitch.?' he is reported to have said after finishing one 
of the chapters ; and all the world knows how that frail 
organism, overtaxed so long, in fact betrayed him in mid 
effort. 

With reference to the speech and manners of the Hanging 
Judge himself: that they are not a whit exaggerated, in 
comparison with what is recorded of his historic prototype. 
Lord Braxfield, is certain. The locus classicus in regard to 
this personage is in Lord Cockburn's Memorials of his Time. 
' Strong built and dark, with rough eyebrows, powerful eyes, 
threatening lips, and a low growling voice, he was like a 
formidable blacksmith. His accent and dialect were exaggerated 
Scotch; his language, like his thoughts, short, strong, and 
conclusive. Illiterate and without any taste for any refined 
enjoyment, strength of understanding, which gave him power 
without cultivation, only encouraged him to a more con- 
temptuous disdain of all natures less coarse than his own. It 

301 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

may be doubted if he was ever so much in his element as when 
tauntingly repelling the last despairing claim of a wretched 
culprit, and sending him to Botany Bay or the gallows with 
an insulting jest. Yet this was not from cruelty, for which he 
was too strong and too jovial, but from cherished coarseness/ 
Readers, nevertheless, who are at all acquainted with the social 
history of Scotland will hardly have failed to make the observa- 
tion that Braxfield's is an extreme case of eighteenth-century 
manners, as he himself was an eighteenth-century personage 
(he died in 1799, in his seventy- eighth year) ; and that for the 
date in which the story is cast (1814) such manners are some- 
what of an anachronism. During the generation contemporary 
with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars — or, to 
put it another way, the generation that elapsed between the 
days when Scott roamed the country as a High School and 
University student and those when he settled in the fulness of 
fame and prosperity at Abbotsford, — or again (the allusions 
will appeal to readers of the admirable Gait) during the 
interval between the first and the last provostry of Bailie 
Pawkie in the borough of Gudetown, or between the earlier 
and final ministrations of Mr. Balwhidder in the parish of 
Dalmailing, — during this period a great softening had taken 
place in Scottish manners generally, and in those of the Bar 
and Bench not least, ' Since the death of Lord Justice-Clerk 
Macqueen of Braxfield,' says Lockhart, writing about 1817, 
'the whole exterior of judicial deportment has been quite 
altered.' A similar criticism may probably hold good on the 
picture of border life contained in the chapter concerning 
the Four Black Brothers of Cauldstaneslap, namely, that it 
rather suggests the ways of an earlier generation; nor have 
I any clue to the reasons which led Stevenson to choose 
this particular date, in the year preceding Waterloo, for a 
story which, in regard to some of its features at least, 
might seem more naturally placed some quarter or even half 
a century earlier. 
302 



EDITORIAL NOTE 

If the reader seeks, further, to know whether the scenery of 
Hermiston can be identified with any one special place familiar 
to the writer's early experience, the answer, I think, must be 
in the negative. Rather it is distilled from a number of 
different haunts and associations among the moorlands of 
southern Scotland. In the dedication and in a letter to me 
he indicates the Lammermuirs as the scene of his tragedy; 
and Mrs. Stevenson (his mother) told me that she thought he 
was inspired by recollections of a visit paid in boyhood to an 
uncle living at a remote farmhouse in that district called 
Overshiels, in the parish of Stow. But though he may have 
thought of the Lammermuirs in the first instance, we have 
already found him drawing his description of the kirk and 
manse from another haunt of his youth, namely, Glencorse 
in the Pentlands ; while passages in chapters v. and viii. point 
explicitly to a third district, that is. Upper Tweeddale, with 
the country stretching thence towards the wells of Clyde. 
With this country also holiday rides and excursions from 
Peebles had made him familiar as a boy : and on the whole 
it is this which best answers the geographical indications of 
the story. Some of the place-names are clearly not meant 
to furnish literal indications. The Spango, for instance, is a 
water running, I believe, not into the Tweed but into the 
Nith. Crossmichael as the name of a town is borrowed from 
Galloway ; but it may be taken to all intents and purposes as 
standing for Peebles, where I am told by Sir George Douglas 
there existed in the early years of the century a well-known 
club of the same character as that described in the story. 
Lastly, the name Hermiston itself is taken from a farm on 
the Water of Ale, between Ettrick and Teviotdale, and close 
to the proper country of the Elliots. 

But it is with the general and essential that the artist deals, 
and questions of strict historical perspective or local definition 
are beside the mark in considering his work. Nor will any 
reader expect, or be grateful for, comment in this place on 

303 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 

matters which are more properly to the point — on the seizing 
and penetrating power of the author's ripened art as exhibited 
in the foregoing pages, his vital poetry of vision and magic of 
presentment. Surely no son of Scotland has died leaving with 
his last breath a worthier tribute to the land he loved. 

[S. C] 



304 



GLOSSARY 



ae, one. 

antiuomian, one of a sect which holds 

that under the gospel dispensation 

the moral law is not obligatory. 
Auld Hornie, the Devil. 
ballaut, ballad. 
bauchles^ brogues, old shoes. 
bauld^ bold. 

bees in their bonnet^ eccentt-icities. 
birlingj whirling. 
black-a-vised, dark-complexioned. 
bonnet-laird,cock-laird,*7?2a/^/«w<:?erf 

proprietor, yeoman. 
bool^ ball, technically marble, here 

— sugar-plum. 
brae, rising ground. 
brig, bridge. 
buff, play buff on, to make a fool of, 

to deceive. 
burn, stream. 
butt end, end of a cottage. 
byre, cow-house. 
ca', drive. 
caller, fresh. 
canna, cannot. 
canny, careful, shrewd. 
cantie, cheerful. 
carline, old woman. 
cauld, cold. 
chalmer, chamber. 
claes, clothes. 
clamjamfry, crowd. 
claverSj idle talk. 
cock-laird. See bonnet-laird. 
coUieshangie, turmoil. 
crack, to converse. 

26— U 



cuist, cast. 

cuddy, donkey. 

cutty, jade, also used playjully = brat. 

daft, mad, frolicsome. 

dander, to saunter. 

danders, cinders. 

daurna, dure not. 

deave, to deafen. 

denty, dainty. 

dirdum, vigour. 

disjaskit, worn-out, disreputable- 
looking. 

doer, law agent. 

dour, hard. 

drumlie, dark. 

dunting, knocking. 

dwaibly, infirm, rickety. 

dule-tree, the tree of lamentation, the 
hanging tree. 

earraud, errand. 

ettercap, vixen. 

fechting, fighting. 

feck, quantity, portion. 

feckless, feeble, powerless. 

fell, strong and fiery. 

fey, unlike yourself, strange, as if 
urged on by fate, or as persons are 
observed to be in the hour of 
approaching death or disaster. 

fit, foot. 

flit, to depart. 

flyped, turned up, turned inside out. 

forbye, in addition to. 

forgather, to fall in with. 

fower, four. 

fiishionless, pithless, weak. 



WEIR OF HERMISTON 



fyle^, to soil, to defile. 

fylementj obloquy, defilement. 

gaed, went. 

gang, to go. 

gey an, very. 

gigotj leg of mutton. 

girzie, lit. diminutive of Grizel, here 
a playful nickname. 

glaur, mud. 

glint, glance, sparkle. 

gloaming, twilight. 

glower, to scowl. 

gobbets, small lumps. 

gowden, golden. 

gowsty, gusty. 

grat, wept. 

grieve, land-steward. 

guddle, to catch fish with the hands by 
groping under the stones or banks. 

gumption, common-sense, judgment. 

guid, good. 

gurley, stormy, surly. 

gyte, beside itself. 

hae, have, take. 

haddit, held. 

hale, whole. 

heels-ower-hurdie, heels over head. 

hinney, honey. 

hirstle, to bustle. 

hizzie, wench. 

howe, hollow. 

howf, haunt. 

hunkered, crouched. 

hypothec, lit. in Scots law thefurnish- 
ings of a house, and formerly the 
produce and stock of a farm hypo- 
thecated by law to the landlord as 
security for rent ; colloquially ' the 
whole structure,' 'the whole concern.' 

idleset, idleness. 

infeftment, a term in Scots law origin- 
ally synonymous with investiture. 
.■^06 



jaud, jade. 

jeely-piece, a slice of bread and jelly. 

jennipers, juniper. 

jo, sweetheart. 

justifeed, executed, made the victim 
of justice. 

jyle, jail. 

kebbuck, cheese. 

ken, to know. 

kenspeckle, cojispicuous. 

kilted, tucked up. 

kyte, belly. 

laigh, low. 

laird, landed proprietor. 

lane, alone. 

lave, rest, remainder. 

linking, tripping. 

lowu, lonely, still. 

lynn, cataract. 

Lyon King of Arms, the chief of the 
Court of Heraldry in Scotland. 

macers, officers of the supreme court. 
[Cf. Guy Mannering, last chapter.] 

maun, must. 

menseful, of good manners. 

mirk, dark. 

misbegowk, deception, disappoint- 
ment. 

mools, mould, earth. 

muckle, much, great, big. 

my lane, by myself. 

nowt, black cattle. 

palmering, walking infirmly. 

panel, in Scots law, the accused person 
in a criminal action, the prisoner. 

peel, fortified watchr-tower. 

plew-stilts, plough-handles. 

policy, ornamental grounds of a 
country mansion. 

puddock, frog. 

quean, wench. 

rair, to roar. 



GLOSSARY 



riff-raff, rabble. 

risping^ grating. 

YOVit, rowtj to roar, to rant. 

rowth, abundance. 

rudas, haggard old woman. 

runt, an old cow past breeding; 

opprobriously, an old woman. 
sabj sob. 

sanguishes, sandwiches. 
sasiue, in Scots law, the act of giving 

legal possession of feudal property, 

or, colloquially, the deed by which 

that possession is proved. 
sclamber, to scramble. 
sculduddery, impropriety, grossness. 
session, the Court of Session, the 

supreme court of Scotland. 
shauchling, shuffling, slipshod. 
shoo, to chase gently. 
siller, money. 
sinsyne, since then. 
skailing, dispersing. 
skelp, slap. 
skirling, screaming. 
skriegh-o'-day, daybreak. 
snash, abuse. 
sneisty, supercilious. 
sooth, to hum. 
sough, sound, murmur. 
Spec, The Speculative Society, a 

debating society connected with 

Edinburgh University. 
speir, to ask. 
speldering, sprawling. 



splairge, to splash. 

spunk, spirit, fire. 

steik, to shut. 

stirk, a young bullock, 

stockfish, hard, savourless. 

sugar-bool, sugar-plum. 

syne, since, then. 

tawpie, a slow foolish slut, also used 

playfully = monkey. 
telling you, a good thing for you. 
thir, these. 

thrawn, cross-grained, 
toon, farm, town. 
two-names, local sobriquets in 

addition to patronymic. 
tyke, dog. 
unchancy, unlucky. 
unco, strange, extraordinary, very. 
upsitten, impertinent. 
vennel, alley, lane. The Venuel, a 

narrow lane in Edinburgh running 

out of the Grassmarket. 
vivers, victuals. 
wae, sad, unhappy. 
waling, choosing. 
warrandise, warranty. 
waur, worse. 
weird, destiny. 
whammle, to upset. 
whaup, curlew. 
whiles, sometimes. 
windlestrae, crested dog's-tail grass. 
wund, wind. 
yin, one. 



507 











ROMANCES 
VOL. VII 


WEIR OF 

HERMISTON 

AND OTHER 

FRAGMENTS 


THE WORKS OF 
R. L.STEVENSON 













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