household was astir even earlier than usual. Hugh M'Ewen was to
start by a train going south which passed the nearest station at
seven in the morning. By Rab's advice he wrote a few lines to his
father and mother, telling them why he went, and promising they
should hear from him. This Rab himself engaged to deliver into the
hands of the redoubtable bully or his virago of a wife.
Rab found Mrs. MacAlister herself in the kitchen. While the maid was
preparing a bounteous breakfast, the widow was putting up, with her
own hands, sundry long-stored garments, which might enable Hugh to
cut a more respectable figure among his new neighbours. Whether it
was the re-opening of memories folded away with these, or the
influence of an act of personal kindliness, one could not say, but
as Rab entered the kitchen he caught sight of his landlady's face,
wearing an expression which let him know how she might have looked
in those days when, as other gossips had told him, she had been
called "the beauty of Carrich." He was so delighted by the
revelation that he thanked her heartily for what she was doing.
"What am I doing?" she said dryly. "Just packing up some old breeks
and a half-worn coat that are well out of the road."
Rab took Hugh to the railway station in his hired chaise, and saw
him off with many a good wish and kindly word of simple counsel. There was no use in driving again to and from Carrich before the
coming of the train from the south which he hoped would bring Miss
Morag and Barby. Indeed, there would scarcely have been time to do
so, though the waiting seemed weary enough.
As the train drew slowly up, the two expected ones got out—the only
passengers who alighted there. For a second, for one quick
heart-beat, as it were, Rab forgot all the circumstances of the case
in the sheer joy of once more seeing Barby's rugged, familiar face;
but that was only for a second.
Morag Carrich was perfectly calm. In a few quiet words she inquired
for further particulars. She had telegraphed to Rab at Mrs.
MacAlister's that she was coming, and regretted that this must have
missed him, and thanked him for coming to meet her on the mere
chance of her arrival. With the grip of an iron destiny hard upon
her heart, with her face white and her lip set, she still remembered
that she was receiving kindness, and rendered the graceful
courtesies therefore due.
Rab would at once drive them straight to Carrich House. Only he
thought it might be well to stop at Mrs. MacAlister's door, and
inquire whether the M'Ewens had offered any disturbance, and whether
any message had come from Kenneth that morning. "Yes; the father M'Ewens had been up pulling the bell, and the policeman had warned
him that it would be to his interest to keep himself quiet; and also
a man-servant from Carrich had brought two notes." Rab hastily read
that addressed to himself. Kenneth wrote that his brother had never
rallied; that the doctor now pronounced him sinking, though he
seemed to think his danger less imminent than Rab supposed; that the
laird had heard of the summons to his daughter and her companion,
and had acquiesced in it; and that, from explanations Kenneth had
been able to give, the laird expressed himself desirous that Dr.
Farquhar should join the other medical man in professional
attendance. And Kenneth added a few warm words of thanks on his own
Rab handed Morag the envelope addressed to her. The letter enclosed
was far longer than his had been, and had been written irregularly,
in the variable handwriting of a boy, probably during snatches of
quiet through his last night's vigil. Morag read it through, put it
in her pocket, pulled down her veil, and spoke no more during the
remainder of the drive.
The laird himself came out to receive them when the chaise drew up. He had been sober for some hours now, and the news of his son
Hamish's condition was still fresh upon him, so that he was seen at
his best. He was a man of handsome exterior, and as under all his
excesses his own splendid constitution had scarcely reeled, few
outward signs of his true character would have been visible to those
who did not know its facts. He certainly was not a man whose
physiognomy would at once repel a stranger, though on closer
observation his eye and mouth bore sinister witness of their own.
How much or how little of the family history Barby had been told by
Miss Morag, Rab, of course, could not tell. The laird helped the old
lady down from her seat with great civility, and insisted on her and
his daughter going at once to one of the side parlours, where hot
coffee and new-laid eggs awaited them. It was the same room in which
Kenneth and Rab had conferred on the previous day, but the whisky
bottles had vanished from the sideboard.
The laird scarcely spoke to Rab, until Morag and Barby, having
hastily finished their refreshment, were led off to the sick-room by
Kenneth. Then he turned to the young doctor and suggested that
something stronger than coffee would be good for him after his long
drive in the keen morning air.
Rab politely but very decidedly declined, and changed the subject by
inquiring after the invalid. Then Carrichmore's true colours began
to show. He was beginning to crave as usual for stimulant. The
presence of Rab, who he knew had first suspected Hamish's danger,
seemed somehow to reassure him against its imminence. And the sight
of Morag and Barby, despite his outward courtesy, had fretted him. The sight of Morag alone always did this. He grudged her to his
wife's kindred, though he did not value her enough to keep his home
pure for her sake, and so prevent them having any excuse for
detaining her from him. Perhaps the irritation had even a deeper
source than this. Morag, separated from her father, growing up noble
and good and beautiful, seemed a perpetual witness against him.
Ancient inspiration has shown us the Power of Evil as restlessness
personified in a roaring lion going to and fro, seeking whom he may
devour. And as is the Power of Evil in the world, so is it in the
spirit of each evil man. The Hebrew prophet, in summing up the lot
of such, could find nothing more characteristic than, "There is no
peace to the wicked." And the full force of this Rab learned during
that interview with Carrichmore as he had never learned it before.
At first the laird only grumbled and chafed. One might have thought
that Hamish was dying to spite and annoy him. From that he wandered
on to family affairs, speaking as if Rab knew all as a matter of
course, and adding to the dark picture many a little touch of brutal
realism which expressed much and revealed more. And with matters
which should have broken his heart with remorse and shame he
mingled commonplace ordinary troubles,—the defalcations of tenants,
a lingering lawsuit, the neighbourly bickerings concerning rights of
way and peat-cutting. Presently his craving for drink grew quite
beyond his control, and he went away to another room and tossed off
a bumper of raw spirit. It was a moderate potation for him: somehow
or another he did not want to stagger or hiccup before this young
doctor, so he only took what he knew would have no effect on him;
for he accounted as nothing the effect which Rab presently
noted,—the savagery of temper, waxing hotter and hotter, he scarcely
knew why, until he grew furious, and raged almost as poor Hamish had
done in his paroxysm, and, as Rab found to his cost, with an even
more exhausting effect upon his hearer.
Out of pity for poor Morag and her dismal home-coming, Rab
persuaded the laird that he would be all the better for a turn among
the heather with his dogs. The other doctor had now come in, and he
seconded Rab in the suggestion, partly because he wanted to get the
laird and his tempers out of the way, partly because he himself
would be therefore more safe from the temptation to the
whisky-bottle in the presence of this young professional brother,
for whose solid character and budding repute he already felt a
They went together to the sick-room, where they found Kenneth,
Barby, and Morag. There was nothing to be done, and therefore little
to be said. There would probably be a few more paroxysms and
frenzies, each weaker than the last, but with briefer intervals
between them, and then the end would come. Rab had a few hints to
give about the arrangement and management of the chamber, and, above
all, to issue the command that the three nurses need not waste their
strength at once, but that Barby could keep watch alone, relieved by
the brother and sister together. He had a few private words with Barby. She had been familiar with sickness in her younger years, and
her strong, reliable character had pointed her out as a fit person
to be called to many a scene of suffering and dismay. During his
student days, Rab had discovered how much practical knowledge she
had, and he had not reckoned without his host in sending for her,
nor assumed that common sense and strong will, valuable as they are,
are enough without skill and training. He instructed that she was to
be sent for by the others, if any of the acute attacks came on
during their watch, and if such should begin during her watch, she
was to retire to rest as soon as they were over, since such would be
the very safest time for the poor sufferer to be left to weaker
hands. The hard end of the work was to be Barby's share. It had
always been so all her life. To tell the truth, now-a-days Barby
might have rebelled a little had it been otherwise.
And then Rab went back to his regular work, and felt the Carrich
pulses, and looked down the Carrich throats, and prescribed for the
Carrich indigestions as usual. Was it quite as usual? There seemed
something in the air. He could not wrench his heart from thought of
that wide low room at Carrich House, and the awful physical torture
and sad soul agonies that were going on there. The stream of life
might flow on, clear and soft, but Rab had just ascended from the
death-pit that lies beneath it, and it still over-mastered his
Late in the evening, when it was almost night, he went up again to
Carrich House. He only saw Barby, who had then just entered on her
second watch. She knew the worst of her patient now. Rab could guess
the scene she had already been through.
"An' yet there's some people say they dinna believe in hell!" she
ejaculated. "Wae's me! they needna gang far to see't."
She bent tenderly over the poor lad, who was sleeping during Rab's
visit. There was infinite motherly yearning in her hard old rugged
face—the old maid's face, that no little child of her own had ever
stroked and petted.
"Sic a bairn, too!" she said gently. "A' that waesome, awful' life
has been lived sin' I was an elderly woman! It's strange, it is, how
we auld folks canna help feelin' o' young folks' crimes as one does
o' bairns' naughtiness. They wadna do it gin they kenned better, and
whiles it seems it maun be oor fault that they dinna ken better."
For three days and nights that vigil went on. There were secrets of
those weary watching-hours which Barby did not tell either then or
afterwards to any human being. Only Morag noticed how more and more
Hamish's dark eyes— almost the only part of him where the motion of
life remained—followed after and dwelt upon Barby, that vision of
homely goodness and unselfish devotion which had entered his life
too late for its redemption in this world.
Hamish had learned plenty of scientific theology in his day. It only
availed him now in furnishing a terminology for his despair. But
almost as strange to him as to any heathen was the living form of
the God-man, who spent His sinless life for the love of those who
were yet sinners, and who ever recognized in the vilest and worst,
in the degraded woman and the desperate man, one of His Father's
great family, made in His Father's likeness, however it might be
stained and defaced.
"Gin you could see Him come into this room the noo," pleaded Barby,
with her awed face, which looked as if she herself almost did see
Him, "do you think He would say anything to you except, 'Son, thy
sins be forgiven thee'?"
"Would He go on to say, 'Take up thy bed, and go thy way'?" cried the
invalid. The words, even the tones, were hard and mocking, but Barby
could feel the agony from which they were wrung. How could he
the hope of the wider help while the nearer help was withheld?
She scarcely knew whence her answer came, for she did not seem to
know what she was going to say. "Ay " she said, "for ye maun soon be
freed frae your puir shackled body; and gin ye've first heard those
blessed words i' your heirt, an' felt your ain will gang up an' up to
join wi' your Father's will to wark your ain gude, then the end will
be a blessed release for you—ay, a mair blessed release than the
pair soul got i' the chapter, for ye will na need to be burdened ava;
body an' bed ye will leave behint alike."
"But you wouldn't make me out fit to go to heaven?" said Hamish.
"Ye can be fit to be whaur God is, this minute," returned Barby
confidently; "an', indeed, ye're there already, though ye dinna ken
it. An' I dinna see hoo ye're to get away frae there; for king David
says to the Lord, 'If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.' Ye canna ha' a better image o' God, either, than David gies when he
ca's him the Sun, which ye ken shines on a' the world, only in some
places his beams fa' warm and soft, callin' oot the bonnie flowers
and the rich craps, while in ithers they are hot and dreigh, parchin'
up a', and leavin' naething but their ain licht on a desert. Gin ye
feel the Sun o' Righteousness is owre muckle for ye whaur ye are,
puir laddie, your soul has just got to up an' awa', and seek na rest
till ye find it i' the love o' Him wha is likened to the shadow o'
a great rock in a weary land."
"You love God, Barby?" said Hamish once, suddenly, when he had been
long lying so quietly that she thought he was asleep.
"Ay," she answered, reverently; "I love Him as far as my
understanding o' Him goes, an' that's as far as He shows Himsel' to
me i' the face o' Jesus."
"And do you love me, Barby?" he asked again presently.
"Ay, that I do," she answered, with a strange gush of tears in her
keen gray eyes.
"How can you? why should you?" he asked again, with his eyes closed.
"You scarcely know me, and you know no good of me."
"I dinna ken," she cried, "I dinna ken, only I do. If I could lie doon i' your place and let you gang free to do weel, I think I'd do
it. It wadna be sae hard for me, ye ken."
There was a glitter beneath the dark lashes pressed down on
Hamish's wasted cheeks. Perhaps something grew clear to his mind
then; but he said nothing, though he drew one long sigh.
In a few minutes he spoke again—only three short words:—"Kiss me,
After that he scarcely uttered anything. No paroxysm returned, and
he lay quite quietly. Morag and Kenneth entered in due season;
greeted their footsteps with a faint smile, but did not even open
his eyes. Barby did not leave the room. She knew too well what was
They sat in silence for nearly an hour, never thinking to hear his
voice again. Then Barby noticed his lips moving slightly, and bent
down to catch what he said.
"When I am gone, don't go away and forget all about poor Kenneth."
The exertion of that whisper was too much; it exhausted the last
energies of life. In the expression of that brotherly remembrance,
the soul of Hamish Carrich passed away.
Downstairs, the laird was interrupted in the midst of a sullen and
solitary carouse; upstairs, Morag and Kenneth clung together,
weeping; and outside, down the long roads, brightening in the
spring-tide, and over Carrich town, spread the tidings that the
witch's curse was once more brought home to the doomed race. Mrs. MacAlister, tidying her drawers after the raid she had made on them
for the succour of the poacher's raggèd boy, heard the news with
something of grim satisfaction, and presently reflected that if
Kenneth died like his brothers in unwed youth, then the dire
prophecy would be complete, and the accursed race would trouble the
country-side no more.
In the Depths.
RAB was much at
Carrich House in the days which followed. He naturally saw a
great deal of Morag, and every day felt more inclined to sympathize
in the mysterious attraction which his sister had felt towards her.
No horror which could be added to such a death as poor
Hamish's was allowed to be lacking. Instead of the quiet,
solemn funeral for which, under any circumstances, the hearts of
true mourners yearn, the laird insisted on the great promiscuous
gathering which had been customary in the family for generations.
Such an affair at its best is seldom better than a form, but under
his auspices it was sure to end in a scene of shameful debauchery.
Morag's great-aunt wrote from town, insisting on her immediate
return; and probably Morag would have been only too thankful to
obey, but for Kenneth's sake. The lad was looking wretchedly
nervous and ill. The responsibility of carrying out his
father's vagaries would be thrown upon him during that father's
reckless absences, fits of intoxicated stupidity and brutish
ill-temper. He would now have to bear the brunt of all the
unreasonable storming and grumbling, while even such sad retreat as
Hamish's sick-room had lately furnished would be cut off.
Yet what real help could Morag render if she stayed?
Only how could she bear to go?
"Cannot your aunt allow you to remain till the evening after
the funeral, and then might not you take Kenneth with you, for a
short change at least?" was Rab's best suggestion; and he made it
with a slight sinking of heart, for he was beginning to think that
Carrich must have been very dreary before Morag came, and would be
very dreary again when she was gone. He had only seen her yet
in bitter woe and sorrow; but he felt that life was brighter even
with her sad presence than utterly without it. Who does not
prefer heavy storms with a possible sunlight gleaming among them to
dull, gray, dry days?
But Morag shook her head at this counsel. "That cannot
be," she said. My father would never consent to Kenneth's
visiting my mother's aunt, and she would certainly never receive him
without such consent, and I doubt whether she would receive him with
it. You must know she never forgave my mother's marriage.
She didn't adopt me out of any love, at least she didn't do so in
the beginning. She thought she could not do less in my case.
I was a girl, bearing her niece's name and features. More
distant relations were apt to whisper hard things against her if she
left me to take my chance. She has been very good to me.
She has done her best for me. I owe everything to her.
But she has steadily persisted in regarding my brothers as in quite
a different relationship. She is very agèd, and nervous, and
prejudiced. No arguments nor persuasions can affect her
"Yes," she went on, rising from her chair and pacing the
narrow upper chamber wherein she and Barby had received Dr.
Farquhar,—"yes; my great-aunt knows that in this very house my poor
father is living such a life, and is surrounded by such people,
that, as she expresses it, it is shameful for me to remain under the
same roof with him. But she cannot feel that it should be
equally shameful for Kenneth to do so; that the evil influences
which God and man condemn as touching a woman, God condemns equally
as touching a man, since He visibly visits them with the same
consequences—a gradual deterioration of mind, body, and estate.
I know I am speaking plainly, Dr. Farquhar," she cried. "Can I
help doing so? Is it a time to whisper with bated breath when
soon two of my brothers will be lying in sin-dug graves? Need
they have died as they did? Need they have died at all?
Might they not be living to-day, among all the duties and joys of
young manhood? But they went to their doom, and not one hand
was held out to save them!"
Her cheeks flushed and her eyes flashed with a wild fire
which, despite all her fresh health and beauty, vividly reminded Rab
of the poor face he had so lately seen helpless on its pillows.
She went on:—
"The witch's curse is on us, I know, because it was but the
expression of truth about us; and what we have been and are, even
that all you good happy Christian people seem determined that we
shall be! What hope is there for Kenneth? Why, Dr.
Farquhar, when I go through the dreary old streets of your city, and
look down the dark, toppling closes, and see the little children
swarming down from the attics and up from the cellars, I know there
is more hope for the most neglected child there than there is for my
brother, though he be the son of fifty landed lairds. The
worst of the beggar's descent is that it may scarcely know who its
parents are. We are weighted with a genealogy of vice and
crime for which men point the finger at us, and watch us to see us
fill up the measure of our forefathers. The outcast
street-child is free, free as air, even if it be but free to starve;
while we, if we struck out for ourselves, and failed—why, the very
law would drive us back for maintenance upon the hands that had
goaded us to desperation!
"Otherwise," she went on in a softer tone, but one whose wail
was far sadder than the shriller cry of despair,—"otherwise, do you
think we would have made no effort to save ourselves? I know
quite well that life-long habits do weave a thousand binding chains
round the hapless children of affluence. But we have had our
schemes and our dreams. Why, when our eldest brother Hector
lay in his coffin, yonder poor lad, Hamish, who is still and quiet
himself now, talked with me over the possibilities of our going
away. But I was younger then, and even more helpless than I am
now; and Hamish was younger still, and quite inexperienced. We
could each see that the other's plans were too wild and vague for
practical carrying out, and we were absolutely friendless and
penniless. You look at me with an inquiring glance, Dr.
Farquhar? I know it is supposed that I live on my mother's
money, that I have something of my own which comes to me in her
right. That fiction was readily invented by somebody when it
was noticed I never resided at Carrich. My mother had no money
of her own. She married my father clandestinely, while he was
a student in your university, and she got no settlements. I
have been simply a pensioner on her family all my days. They
saved me for her sake; and I have heard that my father said, if they
wanted to trouble themselves about me, they could do so at their own
"I ask again what could we have done in the past to save
ourselves? what can we do in the present? Do what Kenneth
might—and he would be willing to do anything—a boy like him must
depend mainly upon somebody else for a year or two. How has he
been brought up? What powers or training has he to take to any
market? As for me, I have been educated as an accomplished
lady; but, practically, what can I do? I have no special
gifts, no aptitude for teaching, no training at all, I might get an
inferior situation as a governess, with a roof over my head and a
salary to buy my clothes. If I failed in that, I could not get
work as a shopwoman or a servant, because I am Carrich's daughter,
and people would think I must be bad or mad to want to earn my own
bread. I have no useful counsellors. My aunt's circle
consists of old-fashioned, high-bred ladies, who cannot even
understand the modern manners which permit me to go into the street
unattended. And when I do not see how I am to earn my own
bread, how dare I aspire to earn Kenneth's as well? The
average man seems always able to earn for others as well as for
himself; but the average woman, Dr. Farquhar, seems doomed to toil
only to maintain her own worthless existence." She spoke a
little bitterly. "That is the inspiring task the world assigns
to ordinary women, and then wonders they do it so ill!"
"Ah!" she exclaimed, catching a deprecating expression on
Rab's face, and suddenly turning full upon him,—"ah, you wonder how
I know so well about these things, and where I learned so true an
estimate of my own want of value; for, I daresay, you have noticed
how most helpless ladies fondly believe themselves quite fit for
highly responsible and well-remunerated appointments. Ah, Dr.
Farquhar, I didn't find this bitter wisdom without seeking it.
When I have been making visits in great capitals, I have gone
secretly to governesses' agencies, and I have answered
advertisements for secretaries, and teachers, and all sorts of
employments, just to learn what women can earn, and what they have
to do to earn it; and so I soon learned the facts of the case."
She went on, with less excitement—"I would leave my aunt in a
moment, if by doing so I could serve and save Kenneth. All she
could miss in me could be easily supplied by a hired companion.
She has been uniformly kind to me, but she does not profess, and has
never had, any overweening affection for me. There are times
when I see clearly that I only stir bitterness in her soul, my
presence reminding her of the disobedience and alienation of her
favourite niece, my poor mother. If through the help she has
given me I can help Kenneth also to do well, she ought to be quite
satisfied. Though she does not feel any duty towards him
herself, she surely will not deny mine."
"Would she not receive him into her house,—just for a time?"
"I am quite sure she would not,—even for a day," said Morag.
"I would not care to persuade her to do so, even if I could. I
know how old and feeble she is—a very little would shake her out of
life; and it would be a poor return for her benevolence to expose
her to my father's virulence and violence. He visited a good
deal on her head, over me, in days gone by. I have heard her
say that she scarcely thinks she could have interfered for me, could
she have foreseen what her interference would bring down on her.
And yet I cannot bear to enjoy the peace and protection of her home
while poor Kenneth is left to struggle and sink here. We have
been like children left in a Lazar-house, whom everybody is afraid
to call out of its darkness, because of the infection they may bring
"Yes," she said drearily, pausing beside the window and
gazing out on the lake shivering gray beneath the quiet evening
sky—"yes. I came here four years ago, to watch Hector's bier
carried out to the old kirkyard. And I come here now to see
the dreadful last of Hamish —poor Hamish, younger than I am!
And, I suppose, in three or four years more, I shall come here again
to take leave of Kenneth. And if that is so"—she paused for a
moment—"then that will be the end of the wicked house of Carrich,
and its door may be shut at last on the wolves of sin and woe!"
Barby had sat in utter silence. She had not failed to
acquaint Rab with the charge which Hamish, dying, had laid upon her.
Remembering this, the young man glanced at the old woman. He
had seen her homely figure through the storms and sunbeams of many
years, and amid the weird, fevered tragedy of her present
surroundings, it bore witness to God's great universe, and to the
strong healthy spiritual forces which absorb and vanquish evil, even
as God's wholesome sea purifies whatever filth may be cast into it.
A strong purpose was rising in Rab's chivalric heart.
We all have many impulses which perish unfruitful, because, before
their strength is grown, they encounter a bleak wind of disapproval
or hostility. We have all felt in ourselves such impulses so
checked; and, alas! it is equally true that we have all so checked
them in others—sometimes in sheer ignorance, sometimes in bitter
antagonism or selfish apathy, sometimes in cowardice. Happy is
the man who sees his own yearning reflected in the clear eyes of an
ancient and trusted affection!
If at that juncture Barby had shaken her head, or stared
stonily, or sighed ominously, Rab might have reflected that zeal
could be too rash, or that some other time might be more convenient
for its utterances. And there is no fallacy so deadly as that which
persuades us that good deeds or words need not hasten, because their
goodness is not evanescent. That may be so; but what of the
receiver? Is one hungry, and have you meat? Will you keep it till
to-morrow? It will be as savoury then. But the man may be dead!
When Rab's questioning glance met Barby's deep-set, wise
eyes, what they said to him was, "What can I do? What can you
do? We must do something! What shall it be? Let us
"Miss Morag," he said suddenly, "do you think I am a man to
speak insincerely—to say what I do not mean?"
She started. Since she had ceased speaking, she had
stood looking from the window, seeming to gaze on the fast darkening
landscape, but probably in reality seeing far more of the darker
panorama of her family history. At Rab's appeal she started
and turned round, a faint tinge of colour coming out on her ivory
"No," she answered; "except that I think—I mean unless indeed
you are one of those who say less than they mean."
"Thank you," answered Rab. "Then let me say that I and
my resources, my roof, and such experience of life as I may have,
are all at your brother's service. Let him come to me at any
time, and under any circumstances, when he may feel he would be the
better for a friend and counsellor. If it be absolutely
necessary for him, body and soul, to leave his father's house, I
will stand by him."
There came a sort of glory on Morag's face; it seemed like
the unexpected dawn of hope on the midnight of despair. And
yet it was not hope. Those who have lived hopelessly for years
cannot easily learn hope.
It was the reflection on her face of a glimpse of something
which satisfied the life-long craving of her soul,—a glimpse of that
redeeming mercy which has higher laws than those of Fate.
Through a good man's honest eyes the face of God looked down upon
her—not as the stern visage of Him who visits the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of
those who hate Him, but with the loving regard of the Father who
shows mercy unto thousands of those who love Him and keep His
She stretched out her hands towards Rab. "Will you do
this?" she cried. "Nay, if you say so, I know you will!
Could I have spoken so plainly, if I could have dreamed of this?
In my despair I was so frank! God bless you, Dr. Farquhar!
And oh, do not wonder that I cannot thank you properly!"
"You must make your brother understand all about this," said
Dr. Farquhar, with that sudden relapse into matter-of-fact which is
always the highest emotion-mark with warm shy natures. "He has
never spoken so unreservedly to me as you have kindly done.
Between Kenneth and me the state of matters has been rather
understood than expressed."
"You cannot think how he clings to you already," said Morag.
With a great effort she had regained a calm steadiness of tone,
which was, however, betrayed by the quiver of her lip and the dew in
her eye. "It will not need much to convince Kenneth that you
will be his friend. While one is young as he is, one easily
believes in what years and disappointment make us fear is too good
to be true! I am sure he knows already how friendly you are
towards him. But somehow or another, the mere consciousness of
another's friendliness and sympathy is such a help, that one fears
to break its silence by wondering. 'Will he do this for me—or that?'
Dr. Farquhar, nearly everybody will save a fellow-creature's life,
but few will help to make it worth living! The law will not
allow even a parent's right to kill his children; but though our
Master bids us rather fear that which destroys both soul and body,
no helping hand is held out to deliver when that struggle is sorest.
You cannot think how I have felt this! I never breathed it
before. I can only do so to-day, because the horrible sense of
injustice and cruelty has passed away. Now, whether we perish
or not, I know it is not the will of God that we perish. He
has let me see the light, and my soul is satisfied."
She was a Highland woman, and she spoke with the fire and
vehemence of her race. It almost made Rab blush for his simple
offer of helpfulness. There was a little Highland blood in
Barby too, and it stirred under Morag's energy.
"Ay," said the old woman, "the Buik says, gin oor fathers an'
oor mithers forsake us, then the Lord taketh us up. An' do men
think there is na forsakin' but the ganging awa' o' deith (which is
na a forsaking ava', but the changing o' mortal love into the love
o' angels), that they are sae frighted to do the Lord's wark for His
vera ain orphans, that have na father in earth nor heaven but His
ainsel'? Ane wad think, to see an' hear maist folk, that the
word rins, 'Gin oor father an' mither forsake us, then we're to be
left to the deil.' Ye're a gude lad, Rab Farquhar, but gin
ye'd done less, I'd ha' been shamed for ye."
Upon their ears at that moment there fell a sound of the
dismal revelry which profaned even the house of death. It had
reached the distant chamber, because at that moment its door was
gently opened as Kenneth Carrich entered.
Morag had sunk into one of the roomy old chairs, and she drew
him fondly to her side and wound one arm about him. She had
never indulged in much sisterly tenderness. There had been too
much fear mingled in her love for that,—since love and fear beget an
agony of passionate clinging, rather than the gentler forms of mild
and sunny affection.
"We have just been speaking about you," she said, looking up
into his face. Then she looked at Rab. And he understood
that look. It said, "I want to tell him what you have been
saying, but I think we shall talk it over more freely if you go
away." The passing of that unspoken message gave poor Rab a
thrill of delight; there seemed a confidence between them already;
and he hastened to obey the unuttered wish. There were but few
parting words to say. The funeral was to take place on the day after
the morrow. Morag now thought that she would persist in her
original plan, of remaining till all was over. In that event,
she was sure to have an opportunity of saying good-bye to Dr.
Farquhar on the date of the obsequies; but she added hastily, with a
flush on her cheek, if anything unexpected happened to accelerate
her departure, she would send him word, that she might give him her
final charges and thank him for everything.
Rab left the room almost blaming the happiness he felt within
him. He knew her thoughts were of Kenneth, not of him.
But it was enough to have called that brightness to her face, enough
that he would remain in her memory linked with at least a flash of
hope and joy.
Barby had accompanied him to the end of the corridor, which
was lit by a swinging lamp. But they found the main staircase
in darkness, and the old woman hesitated to venture further on
strange steps. Rab would not let her attempt to summon any of
the tumultuous, unruly household. He knew that the less he was
noticed there, and the less trouble he gave, and the less emphasis
he put on the waste and disorder he saw, the better would it be for
himself and for those whom he wished to serve. He groped his
way down alone. He heard voices, maudlin or quarrelsome, in
many of the rooms whose doors he passed. Just as he had
reached the great hall, one of the doors upon it opened, and the
laird came out. There was evidently a large and noisy company
in the room he had left. He did not notice Rab, but turned
towards the staircase, and shouted Kenneth's name. The sound
was not likely to reach the distant chamber where the boy was, and
he repeated the call, twice—thrice, with angry objurgations.
Then, with a low deep curse, he turned again to the apartment he had
quitted; and Rab walked quietly off, only too thankful to have
escaped the coarse notice of a drunkard who was ever suspicious and
abusive in his cups.
And yet, despite all the sadness and sin he had seen, his
heart was light as he walked down the dark narrow glen; and when he
reached Mrs. MacAlister's solemn apartment, as bright as gas could
make it, he sat down in his easy chair without his accustomed book
or newspaper, as if his own thoughts were quite sufficient
occupation for the evening, though he expected to be no more
interrupted that night.
But many expectations are unfulfilled; and it was nearly ten
o'clock, and Mrs. MacAlister's little servant had already retired to
rest, when there came a sudden sound of hasty feet on the pavement
outside, and the bell-handle was pulled with a short, sharp jerk
which sent the bell ringing through the house in a very alarm-peal.
The Snare Broken.
RAB went himself
to the door. He was naturally sure that the summons was for
him, and a phantasmagoria of all the accidents, murders, and sudden
deaths possible in his little clientele flitted before his mind as
he hastily crossed the hall. Calls both untimely and
unexpected were not very common from his patients. It is
little likely that the household of Carrich did not play some part
in his vision; but when Rab opened the door he certainly did not
expect to see what he saw.
There were Morag, and Barby, and Kenneth, huddled together
like people who have clung to each other through some common danger.
The light from within fell full on Morag face as she stood on the
threshold and allowed the others to pass in. Rab said nothing,
waiting for her to speak, seeing in her eyes, and understanding by
all the circumstances of the case, that this was no time to utter
the truest word of cheerful welcome.
"I have taken you at your word," she said, looking at him
with a terrible calmness. "Thank God you said it when you did!
Will you give my poor brother and our friend Barby some sort of
shelter for to-night? I can go to good Miss Sinclair's; I have
stayed with her before; only I must go at once, or she will have
retired to rest."
"Of course your brother and Barby can stay here," said Rab.
"I will call Mrs. MacAlister at once, and she will get things right
and comfortable for them while I see you safely—"
"No," interrupted Morag; "don't call Mrs. MacAlister.
Don't let any human being but yourself and Barby get near Kenneth
to-night. Never mind what you mean by comfortable."
Rab had led the whole party into his dining-room, Morag
"Ay," said Barby with a sigh of relief; "we're comfortable
eno'. Ony dry ground serves the turn o' shipwrecked folk.
Gang ye awa' wi' Miss Morag, Dr. Farquhar, and come your ways back
as soon as ye can."
Kenneth had said nothing, and there was something in his
look, though his face was half hidden by a heavy Tam o' Shanter cap,
which puzzled Rab. He felt there were explanations to be made,
and that his greatest kindness and utmost wisdom at the present
moment was to obey the least hint from those who knew already what
he had yet to learn.
"I will do exactly as you bid me," he said, "only I fear Mrs.
MacAlister may protest against having unattended guests in her
house. She will come in, pressing on you all sorts of
refreshments, spare bedrooms, and such things."
Morag made a gesture of repudiation. "Don't you come
with me, Dr. Farquhar," she said. "Stay here, and assure Mrs.
MacAlister that nothing is needed to-night but quietness. I
should have liked to explain a little to you, but Barby can do that
as well as I can, and I shall see you to-morrow. I can easily
go alone to Miss Sinclair's," she protested hastily, seeing Rab in
quest of hat and muffler. "People from Carrich House need not
fear the quiet streets of Carrich town," she added with a bitter
"You shall not go alone," said Rab resolutely; "but I will
see that all is secure before I leave;" and off he went in quest of
his grim landlady, whom he found standing at her pantry door,
reckoning on the forces she could muster for an impromptu supper.
A few words made it all right with her. Rab found her
easier to manage than a more gushing woman would have been, since
she liked to be kind rather than to seem so. She did not know
that the strangers were the Carrichs, and under the present mystery
Rab did not like to tell her. What he could tell her was that
those who would remain in her house were his old friend Barby, of
whom she had often heard, and a young lad in her charge who was ill
and nervous. Would she set a light to the fire in his bedroom,
and set some hot tea on the little table there, and then touch the
bell gently when all was ready? They would want nothing more.
Yes; she might put out a few extra blankets, and he and Barby would
easily make nice resting-places of the couches. He was going
out to take a lady to a friend's house in the town, and by the time
he returned he trusted he should find Mrs. MacAlister had gone to
rest. He was shocked at her being disturbed so late, and
besides, he might need to claim her services early next morning.
"Ah," thought Mrs. MacAlister, as she drew her soft wrappers
from her big press, and then pondered whether she should add dainty
yellow fish or new-laid eggs to the tea-table that was to be spread
in the bedroom, "little did I think I should live to put out my
blankets and set my china for strangers whose very names I don't
know. I suppose I'm growing used to it, little likely as that
seemed. And after all, I'm not sure but that those who are
sick and sorry are as much sib to me now-a-days as my uncles and
cousins used to be in old times."
Morag parted from Kenneth without one word, though she kissed
him passionately; and she crossed the whole width of the
market-place before she spoke to Dr. Farquhar, walking beside her,
and waiting on her words. At last she asked in a half
"Did you see my father before you left Carrich House
"Yes," said Rab; "I saw him leave his room, call for your
brother, and go back again."
"Ah!" she said, with a long-drawn breath, "then he came out
again, and called, and called, and came up the stair, till Kenneth
heard him. Dr. Farquhar, you saw the condition my poor father
"Unhappily I did, Miss Morag," confessed Rab, who felt it was
almost enough to make her hate him.
"I don't know exactly what passed between them," she went on
stonily. "I don't suppose it was more than had often happened
before. It is not novelty in horror that drives any soul to
desperation; it is its apparent endlessness. I heard—the
sounds—and so did Barby. But the blows did not matter so much,
as the cruel words, Dr. Farquhar, and the cruel voice, and the cruel
laugh! And then there was silence. If I hadn't wanted to
tell Kenneth about you, Dr. Farquhar, I don't think I should have
gone to seek him; I should have let a few hours do their best to dim
the shame and pain between us. But I thought I had something
which would be a very present comfort; and I went downstairs, and I
looked everywhere for my brother, but I could not find him.
Then I went out to the front door, and I saw a lad coming along from
the stables, and I asked him had he seen my brother? And he
said, Yes; Mr. Kenneth had been in the coach-house. He had not
spoken to him; he did not think he noticed anybody was there; he was
looking in a closet, and he got a strong rope, and went out!
"O Dr. Farquhar!" moaned Morag, suddenly leaning heavily on
the arm she had accepted, "I knew directly what that meant. I
don't know why I did so, for it might have meant a hundred innocent
things; but I knew better. I just managed to ask the boy
whether Mr. Kenneth went back to the house, and he said, No; he
thought not. There was no help in rousing such a household as
ours. It was safer to do my own best without delay; and I ran
on in the darkness, shouting Kenneth's name. I remembered the
great pine trees by the Langstane. It was quite dark, and I
fell over great stones once or twice, but I kept on crying out.
And all of a moment, where the sky showed a little through a
clearing of the trees, I saw something swing suddenly down from
above. I knew where I was. There was a bank behind that
tree. That was how Kenneth had got up to its branches. I
scrambled up, and felt for the rope. It was not fastened to
any tree—the trees were too far off—but to a low bush. It was
a big rope. I tore off the branches of the bush. I heard
the fall, but that was not far. I went down and undid the
noose." Her voice had dropped to the lowest whisper.
"He hadn't quite lost consciousness," she went on, presently.
"He is bruised too. We sat there more than an hour before he
could move. Dr. Farquhar," she cried, "never speak of this
again to me! Let it be forgotten. Nobody else knows but
Barby. Let nobody else know. Let us go away and be
beggars. This would be but another stone to throw at the
drowning dog— only another story against the Carrichs. Let
people, before they blame, bear for one day what Kenneth has borne
Dr. Farquhar's quick sympathy saw what lay deepest in her
agitation. "Your brother must never go back to Carrich," he
said quietly. She was instantly calmer.
"You do not go back from your word?" she asked. "You do
not say, 'There is nothing but evil in them; let them go on to their
"Of course not," Rab answered with straightforward, prompt
"God bless you!" she said, and again they walked some yards
"Will your coming surprise Miss Sinclair?" Rab asked
presently. "Need any special explanation be given to her?"
"Not in particular," Morag answered. "I have stayed
with her before, as I told you. She understands matters in a
general way. She is a friend of my great-aunt's, and knows
that she would thank her for receiving me whenever I felt called to
claim her protection."
Rab felt a wave of cynicism sweep over his soul. So far as
Morag had an influential friend in her great-aunt, so far she could
easily find friends. It was the friendless who might remain
"Will you see me as early as you can to-morrow?" asked Morag
pausing, one hand in Rab's, the other on Miss Sinclair's knocker.
"Certainly I will," said Rab. "And I trust you will
take me into your confidence as to any plans that may suggest
themselves to you; and remember always that my advice is that your
brother must never go back to Carrich."
"Thank you," she said gravely, and they waited in silence
till Miss Sinclair herself answered Morag's knock. The good
lady met her with a flood of welcome, perhaps poured forth the more
freely to check the questions she must have longed to ask. Rab
did not accept her pressing invitation to enter and rest a while.
Now that Morag had had his escort, he wished to be back as quickly
as possible with his other charge. Morag's account had made
him anxious about Kenneth. He knew how exhausted the lad's
nerves had been, and he could easily understand how, in one more
strain of their tension, their powers of endurance had snapped and
left him on the debatable line between madness and sanity. But
was it likely that a mental and physical excitement culminating so
fearfully would fade harmlessly away, without leaving consequences
of which poor innocent Morag never dreamed? A great deal might
depend on the management of the next few hours. And Dr.
Farquhar quickened his pace.
He let himself in; but Barby heard his key, and presented
herself in the hall.
"I've gotten the puir laddie off to his bed," she said; "an'
first I got him to drink some tea an' tak' an egg. He's quite
ready to do onything ye tell him, if it'll keep ye frae lookin' at
him or speaking to him. Wae's me, I ken this nicht what the
Buik means when it tells us that the Lord will na remember oor sins
and oor transgressions. We couldna be quite happy while we
remembered them, an' we couldna forget gin He remembered. The whole
warld is full o' his ain madness to puir Kenneth Carrich. I'm
gaein' in to sit by him through the nicht. Gin your ain
thochts gang wandering up an' doon, a frien' sittin' still is a gran'
"Do you think he is much hurt—I mean, in the way of bodily
injury?" Rab asked.
"Miss Morag has telt ye the fac', I see," said Barby.
"Na, na, Dr. Farquhar, never fash yoursel' aboot the bruises.
The woe we share, we easier bear, ye ken; an' when the sair body
keeps company wi' the sorry soul, they comfort each ither. But
there's one thing sure, Dr. Farquhar—if that lad's to be soun', if
he's no to be left laggin' an' limpin' through life for the devil to
overtake gin he's a mind, he fauna hear his father's voice or see
his father's face for mony a long day to come."
"How did you get here?" asked Rab. "What became of the
chaise? where did you leave it?"
"Chaise!" echoed Barby. "Dr. Farquhar—man alive! we
walked here, doon yon fearsome glen. I'm no easy frighted, but
when ye've been amang deils in the flesh, it's no hard for ye to
fancy that deils oot o't may be hinging aboot! Heck, I was
glad when Miss Morag said that we maun gang awa'. I whiles get
fond o' a chair I've sat in twa days rinnin', but there was naething
ava yonder I wasna thankfu' to leave, except just puir Mr. Hamish,
quiet in his coffin. But they canna, hurt him noo; and though
they hae na eneuch reverence for deith itsel' to stint their
junkettings while he's i' the hoose, they'll no affront the corpse
itsel', because they're too frighted. Hoo can ye gang but an'
ben that room i' the dark?' said ane o' the lasses to me yestreen.
'Eh,' says I, 'them deid'll no hurt me; it's the livin' I'm no so
"But how could Kenneth in his condition walk so far—and the
young lady, too, after the shock she had had?" asked Rab returning
to the subject of their journey from Carrich.
"Weel, it's ill to say," Barby returned. "But gin ane
got a chance o' getting oot o' hell, ane michtna notice ane's limbs
were stiff till ane had put some miles behint him. The puir
lad wandered a wee in his heid whiles. Gin the moon came oot
and shone clear i' the hills, he would hae't there were sheep rinnin'.
There was naething ava but the big stanes amang the lang grass; and
Miss Morag said it was oor walking quickly past them, an' maybe the
bluid swimmin' i' his brain, that gied him the fancy. There's
money a wild ghaist-story began just so, I warrant.
"Ye see I've made ye a real comfortable bed on the sofa,"
Barby went on, "an' I've wheeled your big chair into the bedroom to
rest mysel' in. We maun a' refresh oorsel's the best way we
can, for we've only fled from the laird to-night, an' we may hae to
resist him the morn. I wadna mind a word wi' him mysel'.
I doot he's never heard the truth as the puir folk i' the closes get
it, strong and sharp. Rich folk seldom do. I dinna ken
hoo that is. Their souls canna be worth less, gin their bodies
are worth sae muckle more."
"And what do you think of Miss Morag's presence of mind and
courage, Barby?" asked Rab. "I have not heard one word in
"Nay," said the old woman shortly; "I havena kenned her long,
but I ken Miss Morag weel, an' I dinna praise ony gudeness in her.
It's na mair than I expec'. There's mair an' mair to follow.
Praise! gin maist fules o' men saw an angel, they wad think they
were bound to say a ceevil word o' his wings."
Enemies and Allies.
THE next day
passed quietly enough; but Morag and Rab scarcely knew whether to be
thankful that it did so. We all know the feverish waiting for
a storm that must come—the painful sense of a wasting energy and
nerve of which we shall presently stand in sore need. Morag
had left a note for her father, notifying to him that she had been
driven to leave his house and to take with her her brother and her
attendant. She could not doubt that this note had found its
way to his hand; and as the excitement of her first prompt action
died away, the strain of terror and agitation became painfully
evident in spite of her steadily preserved calmness. As for
poor Kenneth, he remained in a quiescent melancholy condition,
taking whatever was offered him, and making no remark of any kind.
Barby alone was in attendance on him, and Mrs. MacAlister still
remained in ignorance of the name of her unseen guest.
Rab felt at his wits' end as to what to do, or to advise to
be done. He saw plainly that every hour was making Morag less
and less fit to be dragged through violent and unseemly scenes, from
which Kenneth certainly must be saved at any cost. It was now
absolutely impossible for him, under any circumstances which might
arise, to appear at the funeral; while the customs of the place
forbade Morag from being visible on such an occasion. And yet
Rab felt that Morag was shrinking from leaving her brother's open
grave to be trodden only by his unloving father and the troops of
menials and dependants,—nay, he felt, too, that to leave her father
himself at such a time did not hurt her less because she was
resolved without a murmur to do what must be done, and not to
sacrifice Kenneth's well-being to the mere yearning of an unrequited
"The sooner Miss Morag and the puir laddie are aff awa' frae
this place the better," said Barby, passing to and fro between
Kenneth in the bedroom and Rab, seated in uneasy meditation in the
parlour. "Miles and miles doesna pairt us frae the joys or
dools o' love, thank God; but praised be His gudeness, too, they
mak' a' the differ in matters o' wrath an' hatred. Troubles i'
the distance are like hills we're no climbing. The twa maun
gang awa' somewhere, Dr. Farquhar."
"But should they go before to-morrow, do you think, Barby?"
said Rab. "I think it would soothe poor Miss Morag if she
could see Hamish's grave filled up before she leaves. I know
these things make no real difference, only their omission adds more
items to all this misery."
"Ay," answered Barby; "an' a hungry heart will fill itself wi'
these when it can get naething better. But let the dead bury
the dead. It doesna matter to the puir corpse wha lays him to
his rest, but it matters sair to Kenneth's livin' soul wha touches
him the noo. Miss Morag will na fail ye, Dr. Farquhar.
Her heirt's as soft as ony, but her heid's stronger than maist.
Ony day will do for weaving coffin garlands; but gin a lifeboat is
na launched i' the storm, it micht as weel be brunt for fire-wood."
Rab pondered. He knew but of one refuge ready for the
fugitives, and that was his own home. But already he felt his
individuality so distinct from it that be began to feel diffident in
thrusting all his interests upon it. His father had cordially
undertaken to see the lad M'Ewen employed and supervised, and had
himself written to Rab to say that he thought the boy likely to give
satisfaction and do well. Then his sister had cheerfully and
without any hint of inconvenience lent him Barby's invaluable
countenance and services. Could he ask anything more?
And this was something so different! And yet Margery was so
fond of Morag!
Could he send the whole party off to town, and ask his family
to receive Kenneth as a guest for a few days? The boy would
thus be close to Morag, while she would be free to return to her
aunt's house, at least for the present. Certainly that would
be the best plan he could manage for the lad. He would thus be
in the immediate care of the two women, both so strong and tender,
who knew the last sore strait, the terrible depth of weakness, to
which injustice and cruelty had driven him; and yet he would be
surrounded by the friendly fresh faces of others who might know as
little as need be of the black background of his life.
Yes, he resolved he would take the responsibility of acting
on this line if he could get Morag's consent, and he thought there
would be no difficulty about that. Perhaps the best plan, that
most calculated to screen her and her brother from sights and sounds
of pain, would be for them to leave Carrich on the morning of the
funeral, before the town was astir with those dreadful mourners who
are but revellers, and before the laird had had leisure to ruminate
how life as well as death had entered his house.
In answer to Rab's inquiries, Barby announced that she could
put herself and her charge in readiness to depart at half an hour's
notice. Then he sallied forth for a final conference with
He found her in Miss Sinclair's parlour, not alone, nor with
that lady for a single companion. She was receiving a call
from the lawyer who had interested himself in the case of the lad
M'Ewen; and the flush on Morag's cheek and the glance in her eye
gave Rab warning of danger even before a few words explained to him
that that gentleman was there in the laird's behalf, though whether
officially or unofficially it was hard to say.
"O Dr. Farquhar!" he began, in a tone of good-humoured
banter, "this is coming it altogether too strong! You must not
run away with everybody's sons. The young rebels will all run
to you if they find you such an ally in their freaks."
Rab saw that Morag checked an impatient gesture. He
answered quietly, "I was not aware that any young rebel had found me
an ally. The poor lad M'Ewen, whose case you urged on my
notice, can scarcely be described by that phrase."
"Come, come, Dr. Farquhar," the lawyer retorted, with a shade
of annoyance creeping into his banter; "I'm talking of a very
different affair altogether. But I know you are a reasonable
man and a discreet one, and I respect your preservation of silence
till the proper time for speech. I had a communication to make
to Miss Morag here, and I have had some conversation with her.
She is a little impracticable,—ladies often are, you know; but I am
sure you will join me in advising her in surrender—honourable
surrender, of course—not by any means necessarily unconditional."
"We should all know better where we are," said Rab, bluntly,
"if you would say plainly what you mean."
"Why," answered the lawyer, instantly exchanging the light,
half-jesting tones with which he had been jarring Morag for the last
hour for those of dry, hard business, "I mean this: Kenneth Carrich
has thought fit to leave his father's house. His friends had
better let him know immediately that his father demands his return
forthwith. He cannot be missing from the solemn ceremonial of
"I can send the laird a medical certificate of his utter
unfitness to be present at any such scene," answered Rab quietly.
"Will that suffice?"
"Are you quite aware what you are doing?" asked the lawyer.
"I think I am," Rab answered.
"Don't imagine that I mistake the position of things," the
lawyer went on. "I know that Mr. Kenneth is above the age when
it becomes lawful for a child to leave its parents if it wills.
The law will not interfere with the free will of a lad of seventeen.
Carrichmore sent for me to answer that question, and I told him so
at once. But neither might it be very easy for the lad to
claim an infant's aliment, while repudiating his father's right to
direct his whereabouts, etc. Only, any discussion over these
points is too ridiculous, Dr. Farquhar. Let the lad go back to
his proper place, and I have no doubt the laird will forgive and
forget his folly as soon as is reasonable and proper."
Rab saw Morag wring her hands. "I don't think any claim
for aliment will ever be made," observed Rab, quietly.
"There!" said the lawyer, turning to Morag with an air of
half-deferential triumph. "You remember I told you your father
was quite sure your great-aunt was aiding and abetting you in this
rebellion and folly, and I could not help thinking he was right; and
yet you denied it!" he added, with an easy, fie-for-shame accent.
"My great-aunt does not even know that Kenneth has left
Carrich House," cried Morag. "My great-aunt would be the very
first to bid him return."
"Certainly, like a sensible lady," said the lawyer.
"Well, Miss Morag, if she is not backing your brother, who is?
Certainly somebody who is not his real friend. There must be
somebody, remember. Every war requires sinews if it is to last
more than a day or two at least,—though probably this will not," he
added in an undertone. "Young ladies are very romantic," he
went on. "In theory they are always ready to submit to dry
bread and calico gowns, but in practice they can't do without jelly
and kid gloves; and young gentlemen are much the same, as Mr.
Kenneth will soon find out. And even dry bread and calico cost
"Kenneth can work," cried Morag impulsively.
The lawyer laughed,—not a rude laugh, not an unkind one,
perhaps, only one which seemed to break one's heart by the
impression it conveyed of his conviction of one's folly and
"Come, come," he said, "bitter thoughts breed amid useless
arguments. The boy has got to go back to his father. It
is the one natural and proper course for him. Passion and
prejudice apart, anybody would see this. I can understand and
respect Miss Morag's feelings, and the weight they have had with Dr.
Farquhar; but let us do what any disinterested person could tell us
is right, and a little calm after-reflection will prove to us that
it is so."
"If somebody fell down in the street, and a disinterested
passer-by told us to take him to the police-station, we ought to do
so without any inquiry as to whether the man was dying—nay, in spite
of our own strong impression that he was dying?" questioned Rab.
"I wonder whether our own conscience, or public opinion either,
would acquit us when all the facts were known? Yet that is
what your argument amounts to, sir."
"But the laird is dear Kenneth's father," piped poor Miss
Sinclair. "Dear, dear! You remember, Dr. Farquhar, I
always felt there was something wrong in that lad M'Ewen being
helped away from his parents, and the other one being put in the
reformatory school, though nobody could help that, as the law did
it; only I think you had a hand in that pie yourself, Mr. Vass.
You were all on that side then, dear sir, and put me down; but now
I've heard your arguments to-day, I'm sure I was right."
The lawyer started up. "The two cases are not
parallel," he said. "In the one case it was a family of
beggars, whose children would be brought up to prey on society as
thieves and cadgers. Society has a right to defend itself, by
turning them to better courses, if it can. But here is an
ancient family of gentlemen,—a young lad with prospects equal to any
in the county, who is at this very moment the heir to his father's
name and estate."
Morag could endure in silence no longer. She looked
like one of the beautiful sibyls of antiquity, as she stepped
forward and smote her hand on the table. "Society has a right
to defend itself, has it?" she echoed. "Does it value its hens
and hares more than its sons and daughters? Is it a worse
crime to rob bleach-greens than to break hearts? Where are
Mrs. MacAlister's girls? With whom did the minister's son
learn to be a drunkard? Answer me that, Mr. Vass.
Kenneth's prospects, too!—what are they? To lie in such a
grave as his brothers', or to live to such an old age as our
father's? Kenneth's prospects, indeed! Have you never
heard, or have you forgotten?—
'Hapless house of Carrichmore!
Never shall you steek your door
To the wolves of sin and woe,
Till your last from you shall go.'"
She stopped: her whole mien changed. A new thought had opened
on her mind—a thought which brought a softer mood. "The curse
is broken, Dr. Farquhar," she cried, clasping her hands. "Its
end is fulfilled. The last of the Carrichs has gone out from
"Well, well, well," said Mr. Vass, as poor Morag unable
longer to control her emotion, walked hurriedly from the room,
followed by Miss Sinclair; "ladies will go into heroics, poor
things! I don't defend the laird's ways, Dr. Farquhar. I
only consented to meddle in this business because I thought if I
refused there might be a worse ambassador found. I shall wash
my hands of it now; for I begin to think I shall make enemies
whichever way it ends, and that is no part of any professional man's
interest or duty. A word to the wise, Dr. Farquhar. You
are young and enthusiastic. If the old laird does not get his
way, he will never forgive you; and Carrichmore may be what he may
be, but he has weight and influence in other places besides Carrich
town; and if the young laird gets his way now, the time will come
when he won't thank you for that, and so you're sure to suffer in
the long run. His father can't alienate the estate, but he can
ruin it two-thirds; and what he can do, he will do, I can tell you,
and I know the man. It is all very fine to put forward about
natural duty and affection, and all that; but I know Carrichmore,
and I don't want to talk any bosh,—it's only a more decent way of
saying that it is Kenneth's interest to keep in with his father, and
the interest of all his friends to see that he does so. Miss
Morag has carried you off your feet, Farquhar, and I don't wonder at
it; but we men ought to know what women want better than they do
themselves, or how can we keep them fine and nice and comfortable as
it is our bounden duty to do? Women are extraordinary.
They cannot see distinctions, and they always want to get their own
way. Didn't you hear Miss Sinclair trying to prove by my words
to-night that she had been right about the boy M'Ewen? What
have the two cases in common? What had that boy to lose by
leaving a home where he was scarcely fed or clothed or sheltered?
"Oh! then it was for the elder M'Ewen's poverty and not for
his sins that you condemned him to part from his children?" retorted
Rab. "I seldom quote Scripture, Mr. Vass, but since you
certainly go to church you must be acquainted with that familiar
passage which assures us that the Saviour contemplates possibilities
which may demand our leaving, not only bare kindred, which you seem
to think might be reasonable, but also houses, and even lands."
"Pshaw!" said Mr. Vass; "but I begin to think it is as
useless to argue with you as with Miss Morag, and that all my
friendly and well-meant endeavours at peacemaking will be thrown
away. I'm afraid you will regret this, young man. I know
Carrichmore. There's a great deal I can't help admiring in the
feeling you show, but it's Quixotic, and it will lead to
consequences you little imagine. Suppose young Carrich turns
out on your hands such as both of his brothers have been. I
know he has seemed a well-disposed young fellow yet; but so did
they, up to a certain point. Don't imagine his father will
take him back then. He will tell you to brew as you have
baked. And a needy Carrich will fall into infamies from which
the rich Carrichs have somehow managed to extricate themselves.
I pity you, Dr. Farquhar—I pity you so much that I blame you less
than I should. I know Carrichmore, and he is Carrichmore; and
I know the way to manage him, and we rub on fairly well. And I
can easily imagine the sort of people you have been used to; and I'd
as lief put a snake into a bird's nest as take a Carrich among them.
You can't alter nature."
"You can't do anything unless you try," said Rab undauntedly.
"You don't believe in God, Mr. Vass?"
"You have no right to say so," returned the lawyer. I
do—I believe—I do."
"Because I certainly do," said Rab quietly; "and I believe He
is nearer every man's soul than is his own flesh. And I
believe nature, inanimate, intelligent, and human, is but God's
servant. Therefore I believe nothing is impossible."
"Other people will be more severe on you than I am," said the
lawyer, after a moment's pause. "I am quite ready to believe
you have what you think to be reasons for your conduct, which you do
not hasten to tell; for I know Carrichmore and the life of his
household. But others will be less charitable. You will
be regarded as an interloper in family matters, and remember you
appear on the wrong side. All the weight, all the conservative
forces of society will take Carrichmore's part, as the father and
the head of a family. The best people are precisely those who
will have the least idea what he has made his children suffer, and
they, therefore, will see the least excuse for your action.
You see I can be quite impartial. I am not pleading as if I
held a brief for Carrichmore, but rather striving to arbitrate for
"Thank you heartily for your intentions," said Rab, "and I am
sure I may thank you in behalf of Miss Morag and Kenneth; but if I
saw a man come out of a flaming house, whose roof might fall at any
moment, I would not send him back to search for his watch or his
diamond ring. I doubt whether I should even remind him at such
a critical moment that these treasures were jeopardized. If it
is Kenneth's duty as a son to return to his father's house, then you
were wrong in advising the lad M'Ewen to leave his home, and the law
was wrong in transferring his younger brother from it to a
reformatory. If the action in those two cases was right, as I
fully believe, then it must be wrong for Kenneth to return to his
father, merely because he is a rich man, and has something which he
can withhold or destroy."
"Well, good-night," said the lawyer. "I believe you
mean well, but your ways would make a terrible muddle of our social
life. You'd be having reformatories for dukes' sons, and
penitentiaries for court beauties."
"No, I wouldn't," Rab answered; "but I would not have palaces
turned into prisons, and rank and riches forged into chains to bind
souls to evil."
Rab had a few more words with Morag after the lawyer had
departed. She was quite ready, absolutely eager to leave
Carrich by the next morning's early train. Those who cannot
realize what an evil spell such a superstition as the witch's curse,
whispered down from generation to generation, can exert on the minds
environed in its fateful circle, cannot readily understand the
passionate intensity with which the idea that now it was about to be
for ever thrown off possessed Morag. The old doom seemed
suddenly changed into a prophecy of future good.
One resolve Rab made as he walked back to Mrs. MacAlister's
house. It was that, now others besides himself and the
refugees knew of their retreat, his landlady must know the truth
direct from him, and not by any side-wind from another. He had
learned to respect the grim, gloomy woman; nor had he ever forgotten
her softened face as he had seen it bending over her charitable
preparations for the lad M'Ewen. He knew the story of her life
now, and he could guess the evasions, and deceptions, and
duplicities of which she had been the victim, and felt that, when
they were at last discovered, the blow was enough to excuse her for
standing aside henceforth a suspicious, mistrustful cynic. He
felt she trusted him, and that not even for good should he withhold
anything from her. Even a kind finger on a sore place hurts
us, and may make us fear to risk any touch. It was right that,
while Kenneth was yet in her house, she should know whom she was
harbouring. Still Rab felt he was running a risk in doing
this, for he remembered her fierce speeches,—the fierce speeches of
one who, having ceased to hope for justice, longs at least for
vengeance. But when Rab Farquhar made up his mind that
anything was right, he left risks to take care of themselves.
He found her in her parlour, engaged in putting a stitch into
a frayed Shetland shawl she had picked up in her hall, and which
belonged to one of the refugee party.
"One might as well do whatever is to be done," she said, half
apologetically; "somebody has got to do it."
"Did you know that my old friend Barby was in charge at
Carrich House before Mr. Hamish's death?" asked Rab, standing beside
"No," she answered, bending a little over her work.
"Somebody told me that Miss Morag had brought down an attendant you
recommended; that was all. I never permit any gossip about the
Carrichs. Theirs is a name I never wish to hear."
This was not encouraging, but it only served to stimulate
"For that very reason," he said, "I think you ought to know
that Barby came here straight from Carrich House, and that the lad
she brought with her is no other than Kenneth Carrich."
"Kenneth Carrich in my house?" she said, standing straight
up, and dropping her work on the floor.
"Yes," said Rab; "I could not help it; I had to let it be.
You may not forgive me."
"Why has he left his father's house?" she asked, in a hard
"When did the Master tell us to leave father and mother, and
houses and lands?" asked Rab, in reply. "When we wish to
follow Him, and they stand in the way."
"A Carrich following Him!" exclaimed Mrs. MacAlister
"Ay," said Barby, who had come into the room in time to hear
Rab's last remark and the rejoinder,—"ay, a Carrich may weel follow
Him o' whose sel' it was askit, 'Can ony guile thing come oot o'
"Take care you speak no blasphemy," said Mrs. MacAlister,
"Ay," rejoined Barby, "an' dinna you think it, ma'am.
We're owre near it when we think God maun tie up a man wi' the chain
o' his forefathers' sins, when the puir soul is langing to be freed
to serve Himsel'."
"What became of my daughters?" asked Mrs, MacAlister.
"Did God care how one life was defiled and the other heart broken?"
She had never spoken so before: the bitter thought in her heart all
those years had been, "Did God care?" but she had never breathed it.
Could this be the cry of the demon Doubt as it rent her and came out
"Ay, ay," said Barby; "He cared for them a great deal more
than you did, puir body, and ye ken what that means. Yell hae
to wait to the end to see't. Maybe the mither o' the dying
thief never heard what the Saviour said to her son. An' as for
broken heirts, Mrs. MacAlister, maist heirts break ane way or
anither afore they're done wi' this warld, and maybe God thinks nae
mair o't than we do when the bairns' milk teeth fa' oot."
Rab saw a strange moisture gathering in Mrs. MacAlister's
steel-gray eyes, but the stony features did not relax. And
Barby went on:—
"There's nane can ha' felt the curse o' the Carrichs mair
than ye have, Mrs. MacAlister, an' sae is't no a gran' thing ye
should be brought in at what is maybe the putting o't for ever awa'
frae the country-side? Doesna it seem to ye that the puir
lad's passing through your hame, as he gangs frae yon fearfu hoose
into the wide warld, may be a sign hoo the forgiveness o' the
wranged fellow-creatures maun gang wi' the forgiveness o' God, whom
sin o' ony kind wrangs maist o' all? 'Vengeance is mine; I
will repay, saith the Lord;' an' this is aye his vengeance, to put a
stop to ill and mak' a start for gude. He has nae foe but sin;
an' will ye stan' i' the way o' His getting His revenge o' that?
O woman, woman, dinna let the Carrichs do ye the warst wrang o' a',
an' harden your heirt, and haud back your hand."
Mrs. MacAlister walked to and fro in the room. Strong
emotion, as it always does, had stirred the life within her, and for
the time she moved like a young woman, and there was a curious
gesture of her head, something like that often given by spirited
animals from whose neck a halter has been removed. Suddenly
she stood still, and repeated, probably quite unconsciously, the
words with which she had greeted Rab on his coming in.
"One might as well do whatever has to be done. Somebody
has got to do it. Will not Mr. Kenneth Carrich venture into
the dining-room for supper to-night? The servant girl need not
see him. I will do the attendance myself."
"God bless ye, Mrs. MacAlister!" cried Barby; "and God kens
a' ye mean by those few words, for He doesna need muckle speaking.
It's the ganging and doing that He looks after."
Through the Storm.
THE next morning
Morag and Barby and Kenneth went away. Rab drove them to the
station in his chaise, going round by Miss Sinclair's house to pick
She was awaiting them at the door. Rab saw Miss
Sinclair embrace her warmly in the hall; but she did not come
outside, and so evaded any greeting to Kenneth. "If your old
friend would like to see the very last of you," said Rab, as he
handed Morag into the conveyance, "we will make room for her
somehow, and I will drive her back."
"Many thanks," Morag replied; "but she is nervous. Her
fears suggest that my father may be at the station—and it is not
impossible—and she dreads a scene."
Morag had a little basket of flowers on her knee. They
were wild flowers, violets and primroses, still wet with the morning
dew. She had risen at daybreak and gone out to the nearest
hillside to gather them.
"Have we time to drive round by the churchyard?" she asked in
"Yes," said Rab. "I thought myself that you might like to
make a pause there."
At the old gray gate he stopped the horse, and the brother
and sister alighted and went off together. It was a
characteristic Scotch kirkyard—a ruined chapel, rich in ivy, a few
stunted trees, many plain, flat stones, and more grassy hillocks.
The graves of the Carrichs were within the chapel's walls, and there
the two slight figures, hand in hand, passed out of sight.
They did not linger long. When they came out again, Morag
carried no basket. She had left it at the head of the yawning
chasm soon to receive the poor mortality of her brother Hamish.
They drove the rest of the way in silence. As they drew
near the station they saw a small, black-robed figure hastening on
before them. When they passed her they recognized Mrs.
MacAlister. But she did not appear on the platform till the
train was moving off. Just as Morag bent from the
carriage-window to whisper to Rab, "Thank God, all has been quiet,"
Mrs. MacAlister emerged from the waiting-room and waved her
handkerchief. Hers was the last face Kenneth Carrich saw as he
left Carrich town. Of course Rab drove her back in his trap;
and when he reached home he found "Ye Burning of ye Witches" had
disappeared from his dining-room.
The funeral day passed as might have been expected. Rab
did not go up to Carrich House, but awaited the procession at the
grave, and stood bareheaded as the coffin was lowered in the silent
Scotch custom. But even during that brief interval he caught
the laird's fierce eye glowering upon him, and felt that he was the
subject of the whisper with which Carrichmore turned to one of his
familiars behind him. Mr. Vass was there, but studiously
avoided any recognition of Rab.
By nightfall Carrich streets were the scene of all sorts of
drunkenness and bickering. But though private animosities,
under the influence of whisky, rose to many angry mutterings on the
side-walks, and even to fierce blows in some bar-rooms and kitchens,
on the whole a gloomy and sullen decorum was preserved, and the only
accident recorded was the smashing of two panes in Mrs. MacAlister's
"It is no use troubling over that," said the widow serenely,
while Rab deplored her alarm. "I know what to expect.
This is only the beginning."
That interview with the laird which Rab had innocently
considered imminent never happened. Carrichmore himself
preserved a dogged silence. Clearly he had received his
daughter's letter, and it had sufficed him, though Morag had assured
Rab she had dealt only with general matters, and had, while
adverting to the last scene between her father and Kenneth,
studiously avoided any hint of the depth of despair to which the boy
had been driven, or of the new horror which had nearly fallen on
"If my father knew that, the story would leak out, and be
remembered against Kenneth to the end of his days," Morag had
explained. "Everybody would forget all the surrounding
circumstances. Those are stale in their ears. But all
would eagerly seize on a new story about a fresh Carrich." And
Rab had seen the force of her reasoning, and they had mutually
resolved to keep Kenneth's secret intact.
But Rab presently found the full significance of
Carrichmore's silence. It was only preserved towards Rab
himself and his own daughter, whose plain truths he did not care to
meet. To all others he spoke as freely as falsely. The
common ear is so greedy of slander and mischief that the common mind
does not stop to inquire the character of those from whom they
emanate. Had it been the fact that Morag had eloped with Rab,
and that Kenneth had plundered his father's house before he left it,
Carrich town would, perhaps, have found something to say in their
excuse. A low human nature displays its charity by showing the
extenuating circumstances of vice, and its penetration by doubting
the purity of virtue. It keeps its whitewash for the use of
sin, and its rotten eggs for the abuse of goodness.
It is doubtful how much Carrichmore himself really believed
of the patchwork of incongruous lies for which he furnished the
material. A bad man is very incredulous of anything unlike
himself,—as for that matter is a good man also, and thereby each
makes his own world and finds his own reward. In justice to
the laird we must grant at once that the whole matter was absolutely
inexplicable to him as it stood, and that he naturally looked among
the postulates of his own nature and the axioms of his own
experience for the solution of the problem. Yet it must also
be remembered that he took no step to obtain other explanation or
information, but voluntarily preferred to judge of all in the dark
and pestilential atmosphere of his own evil heart.
And Carrichmore was Carrichmore still—the great man of the
place. He owned this one's house, and that one's farm, and
granted fishing or shooting to a third. They began to remember
little truisms which pleaded in his favour. "A very bad man
might be in the right sometimes;" and, "Whatever a man was, he
seldom turned against his own children for nothing." Mr. Vass
passed Rab as if he had never seen him before. Even the poor
minister managed to get to the other side before they met, and gave
him a pathetic little bow, which conveyed a curious mingling of
apology, deprecation, and doubt. As for Miss Sinclair, Rab
soon saw her figure in hasty retreat down side-walks. And
Kenneth's flight seemed to have had one sanitary influence Rab found
that none of his better-class patients wanted the doctor!
But these were the polite annoyances. A coarser kind
soon broke out as the poisoned leaven worked downwards. All
the vice in Carrich was on the laird's side; and it needs but little
sympathy to unlock the flood-gates of vindictive spirit and abusive
speech where these are always ready to burst forth.
It took Rab some days before he could understand that the
insolent grins he saw and the coarse language he heard in the
streets were directed to him. But the mud on his window-pane
and the chalk marks on the hall-door, to say nothing of the
vilely-written, anonymous letters which daily reached him and Mrs.
MacAlister, soon made him sensitive enough. But these things
did not hurt Mrs. MacAlister.
"I've had to hear things that were really true quite as
coarsely said about some I loved," was her remark. "After
that, who cares for lies?"
And she stood forth publicly on her door-step (and only hoped
there were plenty of people watching her), and sorted the
legitimate-looking letters from the half-illegible missives, and
tore up the latter, unread, in the very presence of the sneering
Rab would have heeded these things less if he could have had
a monopoly of them. But he soon found they did not stop in
Carrich. He had had one bright little note from Morag, since
she went away, and two or three more, rather sad, from Kenneth, and
long letters, as usual, from Margery.
It was from these latter that he gathered news. His
father, Laurie, and Mr. Demetrius had all taken a great liking to
Kenneth. As for Margery's feelings towards him, there was
little need to name them. Did he not come into the very place
which her own brother's growing up and forthgoing had left rather
empty? As for Barby, Margery wrote playfully that there was
good occasion to mention her affection for him—it was so devoted!
"Laurie is positively jealous," Margery wrote. "He
says, 'Barby, when I go out for a walk, I never find you
anxiously watching at the window for my return.' And Barby
says, 'Preserve us, laddie, have ye noticed I do that wi' Mr.
Carrich? 'Deed, I maun mind my manners, for I wadna hae him
catch me doin' sic a fule-like thing.'"
But presently the letters grew graver and shorter. Rab
was sufficiently in sympathy with his sister to feel that some
shadow was creeping across the scene, which she would not embalm in
ink and paper, while it might in itself be but temporary. On
his own side he was practising so much silence concerning what was
painful, that he would not be the first to break the mutual
reticence by any questions, but would wait eagerly for franker
tidings. They soon came.
Their sum was this: Morag was leading a terrible life.
Her father had never written either to herself or to her great-aunt.
But her great-aunt's household was deluged with scurrilous anonymous
letters. The servants got them as well as the mistress.
Morag herself was the only person exempt from the nuisance.
There was reason to believe that somewhat similar missives were
received by the family trades-people and familiar acquaintances.
Almost worse than this, for an establishment where the domestics
were nearly as old and quite as nervous as their mistress, wild,
suspicious-looking Highland characters were noticed hanging about
the house on market-days, even venturing to the door, offering goods
and making inquiries, and generally comporting themselves in a way
which filled those within with terror, while it in no wise exposed
themselves to police discipline. The great-aunt was in
agonies, suffering both in mind and body—now insisting that Morag
must write to her father and declare her willingness to induce
Kenneth to return to Carrich; now limiting herself to a command that
Morag should drop all communication with Kenneth or the Farquhars.
Morag, of course, could comply with neither demand, yet, added to
all her private sorrows, keenly felt the additional pain of the
disturbance and desecration of her aunt's old age. She had
begun to speak of taking some sort of situation; but to what remote
corner might not her father's malignity follow her, and how could
strangers be expected to understand or endure such an infliction?
There was something to bear at the Farquhars' house, too, Rab could
distinctly understand, but Margery dwelt lightly on that; and it
clearly was not reaching him to whom it might have been deadly
injury, for she reported that Kenneth was looking stronger and
cheerier, and was constantly holding consultations concerning his
capabilities with Laurie and Theodore Bulkeley. It seemed to
Rab that Theodore Bulkeley was a great deal in his father's house at
that time. Perhaps it was but natural, seeing that Laurie was
now very soon to become an inmate of his home in London. But
the thought of the little party gathered together in the familiar
old parlour made Rab wince with the feeling of his own loneliness.
Yet Morag could not be often there;—she, too, was lonely!
And how was it to end? What was to become of Kenneth
and of her? Kenneth's present destiny settled itself very
simply and naturally, as some difficult problems do. Everybody
felt that it would be best for him to go where the name of Carrich
conveyed no impression, was no power either for good or evil.
What place could be better than London?
Theodore Bulkeley managed the rest. Theodore had never
been a distinguished student; he had only got bare "passes" without
any credit. He was not brilliant in society, though he was a
great favourite. He would never have been invited out for his
dancing, or playing, or singing, or conversational powers; but he
went to the best houses, because he made the evenings pass
pleasantly by taking neglected people for partners, applauding
others' music, and appreciating others' wit. "Theo is neither
the triumphal car nor the heavy artillery of life," his aunt had
observed, "but I think he is the oil in the wheels."
"He has a genius for good-nature," was Morag's remark when
she had spent a few hours in his company.
Theodore found that his father would soon require a junior
clerk, who would be paid a small salary for copying documents, and
generally doing what he was bid. It was a situation certainly
not necessarily filled by a gentleman's son; but Theodore knew well
enough that it often was so, and that many lads who were ultimately
to be articled employed two or three preliminary years at such a
post, as no mean test of their taste and fitness for their future
profession. Not that either of the Carrichs would have raised
any demur on these grounds. They had made their choice in
life, and were content to abide by its penalties. But Theodore
debated the subject in his own mind, and got everything suitably
arranged and well digested before he gave out anything. A poor
relation of his father's, a widow lady with young sons of her own,
would gladly receive a friendly boarder on very moderate terms.
Kenneth would earn a decent independence, acquire a knowledge of
affairs, and secure leisure for mental improvement; and all this
would be sheer gain and not loss, whatever a few years might bring.
Morag was so delighted for her brother's sake that she quite
forgot that her own position was in no way improved. Her hopes
for Kenneth every day grew brighter. He had eagerly entered
into the severe regularity and simple pleasures of the Farquhar
household. Henceforth, for him goodness as well as evil had
its living types and embodiments. Only, the more closely that
she watched the healing and ennobling influence of the wholesome
atmosphere to which he had been removed, the more was she tempted to
cry, "Oh, if as much could have been done for poor Hector and
Hamish, they might be with us to-day; and so different!" And
that was a pang which could only be lulled by the remembrance that
God's ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts.
But when Kenneth was fairly off to London with Laurie; when
his first letters came, telling how kind his new friends were, and
how peaceful and happy he felt he should be among them; when the
strain of watching was relaxed, and the stimulus of excitement was
withdrawn,—then Morag became aware of a new dull aching in her
heart. Has anybody ever thought how a stanch captain feels,
not as he bravely bids his men seek their own safety and leave him
to sink with the wreck, but afterwards, when they are really gone,
and he is left with the cruel roar of the breakers and the calm gaze
of the far-off stars?
The quiet of her aunt's house was still disturbed, as Morag
knew for her sake, and she was quite resolved to leave it; nor did
her aunt raise any objection to the proposal, except to doubt the
possibility of its being carried out. And what would follow?
Long years of going up and down other people's staircases, and
sitting at other people's tables—far probably from those whom she
had found to be such true and good friends, but who she feared might
easily forget one who certainly had no ancient and intricate hold on
their remembrance. Did she breathe her pain? No, she
silently remembered that only a year ago she could have declared
that if Kenneth could be saved, could get a chance in life, then she
would be content with whatever was the cost of such a blessing.
And she was content, in truth; for all that she had done she would
do again, if it was to do. And where the spirit is thus loyal,
God does not mark the sighs and writhings of poor human nature.
But one evening when she went to snatch an hour or two's
comfort at the Farquhars', she found Barby and Margery in close
consultation. As she came up the garden path, she could see
them through the parlour window before they saw her. It struck
her that Barby was trying to persuade Margery about something to
which Margery was not in the least disinclined, but over which she
was exceedingly doubtful. The old servant left the room
directly Morag entered—a thing she did not always do when the,
visitor was "her young leddy," as she called Miss Carrich.
"I am on the horns of a dilemma," said Margery playfully;
"and there is not a truer saying than 'Whoso has a choice, has
"What is the dilemma?" asked Morag. "Two heads may be
better than one—or rather three heads may be better than two, for I
fancy Barby is already in your confidence."
"So are my father and Mr. Turner," answered Margery; "but
though in the multitude of counsellors there may be safety, I find
there is also perplexity. However, I am delighted to have
another, when that other is you. I have just had an offer of a
large definite quantity of artistic work."
"Well, I don't think that need distress you," observed Morag,
with a sad reflection on her own unskilled fingers.
"So far it does not," answered Margery; "but every matter has
two sides. If I undertake this work, it must engross all my
working day, and I shall no longer be free to attend to my
housekeeping, which hitherto I have managed pretty well."
"But the money you will earn would make it quite easy to hire
another servant," said Morag.
"That was Mr. Demetrius's suggestion," replied Margery.
"Oh yes, I should earn a very great deal more than the extra cost of
that," she added, with emphasis on the last word.
"Then why hesitate?" asked Morag.
"Because that is not what is wanted," returned Margery.
"Barby, who knows this household and its requirements, saw that at
once. 'It is no anither lass i' the kitchen ye'll need,' she
said; 'it's anither leddy i' the parlour. Anther lass couldna
do what you've aye done, an' I canna do it mysel'; and the master
an' Mister Demetrius are no growin' younger and wantin' fewer
comforts. The young gentlemen may be awa', an' my ain proper
wark is lichter than it was, but I'll no say that o' your share.'
You know the way Barby speaks, Morag. And I have always felt,
dear, that no woman, living in a home, has a right to let home
duties go undone, merely that she may earn money which is not
absolutely wanted. If I left my father to lonely evenings or
make-shift meals, simply to get gold to lay up for myself, it would
be cankered before it was stored."
"Bless God for your love for your father, dear," whispered
"If only Aunt Mary could come and stay with us," said
Margery, "everything would go rightly then. But that cannot
be. She cannot leave her farm."
There was a long pause. Margery had a stocking in her
hands, and she knitted with desperate diligence.
"Might I do instead of Aunt Mary?" asked Morag, very gently.
"I would do my best, and I think Barby would help me."
Down went the knitting, and Margery's arms were locked round
"The very thing!" she cried. "Oh, my darling, it is
almost too delightful to be true?"
"You have no right to say that, after your happy life," said
Morag, softly putting her away, and gazing down with wistful
tenderness on the fresh, eager face. "And, Margery, did not
you think of it till I spoke? I am scarcely flattered."
"Think of it!" said Margery. "Barby has been talking of
this ever since my offer came; but, Morag, how could I make such an
offer to you?"
Morag bent and kissed her. "Suppose I, too, had kept
silence?" she remarked. "I thought you loved me better,
Margery. I begin to think Barby is everybody's best friend.
And what may Mr. Farquhar say?"
"He will be glad," said Margery. "Barby opened the
suggestion to him; but he was like me,—he did not see how we could
propose the matter to you."
"I meant to do it mysel', gin naebody else wad," said Barby,
coming into the room, and catching what had passed from the attitude
of the two girls and from Margery's last words. "There isna a
grander thing for the highest leddy i' the land than to ken hoo a
gentle hoose can be keepit wi' simple means; for love aften starts
wi't, and loss aften ends wi't."
It was the gloaming, and Morag need not have drawn further
back into the shadow of the window curtain, for none could see the
delicate flush that suddenly bloomed on her cheek.
And so began a life which was to go on quietly and happily
for a long time. From that time they scarcely heeded the outer
world annoyances, though when Morag left her aunt's house they were
plentifully transferred to the Farquhars' household. But
nobody there was nervous or morbid. They made a few simple
arrangements to lessen the jar of such occurrences, much as one puts
up an umbrella on a rainy day; and all rain leaves off after a
while, and so does the patter of malice.
But in the peace of that happy home, now Kenneth was in
safety far away, and Morag fully realized what household ties may be
and are, her heart yearned to her father, lonely among those who,
hating God, cannot love man. Taking Margery into her
confidence, and daring a new outbreak of the old malignity, she sent
him little remembrances on family dates. She even took courage
and wrote him a full account of her own and her brother's present
settlement in life, couching all in a way least likely to rouse his
ire and resentment.
He took no notice, but at least no scurrilous, unsigned
letters came in terrible response, and Morag thought that betokened
that he had kept her souvenirs and her letter to himself, stored or
destroyed in secret, not displayed to his minions for their mockery.
She tried hard to accept that poor possibility as a sign of
Rab could not have been so hopeful. For him, too, in
Carrich town, the storm was abating. Carrichmore had broken
out in fresh excesses. The poor minister had found his
prodigal son, in some better moment, amenable to persuasions to
emigration, and after that was accomplished, the sad father spoke
out with a less uncertain sound, made open overtures of friendship
with Rab, and preached a sermon from the texts, "Peace, peace, when
there is no peace," and, "Think not I am come to send peace on
earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."
Above all, Rab presently had to exhort a nephew of Mr. Vass
back to his duty and allegiance. That gentleman had so held up
Rab as a rebel and the abettor of rebels that his sympathy was
sought by young Vass when he fell into deserved disgrace with his
uncle; and Rab's help and advice were extended to him only on terms
of utter humiliation, contrition, and return to obedience. The
elder Vass shook hands heartily with Rab the next time they met, as
if he had just returned from a long journey, and expressed a desire
that bygones might be bygones, to which Rab willingly assented.
And so, as far as Rab himself was concerned, it was again sailing
weather. But when Morag wrote him little inquiring notes, with
her longings for daughterly reconciliation peeping from every line,
be could only evade reply, and thank God for her sake, because he
felt she must be very happy to be growing hopeful of the father she
knew so well. For had Rab spoken, he could only have told her
of reckless timber cuttings, of ruinous leases granted, of every
device employed by which wicked men can turn the wealth they cannot
divert from their heir into a millstone to swamp him.
Rab tried to hear as little as he could. But everything
is known in a small town, and Mr. Vass, in the officiousness of his
renewed kindliness, told him all.
ONE sultry autumn
day, when months and months had passed, and letters from Carrich and
London had come to the Farquhars' household full only of cheerful
and pleasant tidings, there arrived a telegram for Morag. It
was from Rab, and it was brief enough:—
"Cholera has broken out at Carrich. It
is in Carrich House. I thought you should know."
"I must go there at once," said Morag, starting up, with the
paper in her hand; and there was not one who said her nay.
Only, Barby said,—
"I'm ganging' wi' ye. Ye needna be frighted for me.
Auld folks are like auld trees: they're no torn up wi' a blast; they
hing on, an' ding doon o' theirsel's."
Another journey over hill and river, another meeting with
Rab, another whispered colloquy as the chaise bore them down the
darkening roads. They had not come too soon. The fell
disease which had appeared in the town only two days before had
already slain those whom it had first attacked in Carrich House, and
that very afternoon, just before he started to meet the train, Rab
had been told that the laird himself was "down." The other
doctor, of course, was in attendance, but Rab would drive Morag to
the very door, and there await her further instructions.
Those few portentous explanations made, the three did not
speak again, not even when they turned into narrow, gloomy Carrich
glen. This was generally so lonely that Rab had never met
anybody in it before, unless it might be a solitary shepherd or
gillie. But to-night it was not so lonely. First they
met a group on foot, who started far aside to let their vehicle
pass. Next they met a conveyance of some kind, crowded with
occupants and loaded with luggage. Neither Rab nor Morag said
a word to each other, but in silence they each suspected what was
the fact, that these were the hirelings and menials of Carrich House
fleeing in cowardly panic from the scene of pestilence and death.
As they came to the end of the glen, the moon shone out,
brightening the wall of the great house, silvering the lake, and
casting great shadows beneath the weird pines by the Langstane.
And suddenly Morag began to weep, bitterly and audibly. It was
so unlike her usual strong self-restraint that Rab in alarm checked
"Let me get down," she said, springing up. "I cannot go
into the house just now,—only one moment or two, please." She
sprang lightly out before either Rab or Barby could hinder her, and
went down towards the water's edge, and they could hear her weeping
as she went.
At the sight of that sweet and peaceful scene, a memory which
had slept for many years had suddenly awakened within her. It
was of her father when she was quite a little child, too young to
know that her dead mother had already gone to her grave
broken-hearted. The little one had been paying some short
visit to Carrich, and after the noisier boy-children were in bed
--ah, for their merry laughter then!—the laird had led out his
little girl in the golden light of the harvest moon. And he
had sung a song to her, and had given her a ride on his shoulder.
Oh ye who do not much remember such things, because your fathers did
such and more every day of your childhood, think how her father had
done it but that once! Do you wonder that she wept?
Rab walked the pony slowly along the road, keeping pace with
Morag as she went wringing her hands and plunging unheeding through
the heather. They were close upon Carrich House. He
could see the hall doors standing wide, and the lamps flaring
within. Suddenly somebody came pelting down the staircase and
out into the night. It was a kilted man-servant. As his
feet crunched upon the gravel, a door or window opened somewhere,
and a question was asked, to which he replied. Despite the
silence, both question and answer, through the attitude of the
speakers or the way of the rising breeze, were inaudible to Rab.
Only he though the caught the word "over." But the Highlander
was already rapidly coming towards the chaise.
"Will she be bringing the other doctor?" he asked. "I
was to be going for him myself. But it is too late now.
It is over."
"You do not mean that Carrichmore himself is dead?" said Rab,
with a horrified consciousness of poor Morag weeping there by the
water-side. "When did it happen? When was he first taken
"The gentleman must ask one thing and one thing," returned
the Highlander. "I am Donald, and I have little English.
The laird went off this last minute. My mother is with him.
The women people of his own house sent for old Elspeth of the hills,
when they did want to go away themselves. We have no fear," he
said, with a simplicity not without its solemn dignity. "The
spirit cannot depart till God calls, nor stay when it hears His
"Yonder is your young lady," said Rab, pointing to the figure
in the moonlight on the shore. "You must let me go and tell
her that we are too late."
Donald laid his hand on the side of the chaise and looked at
Barby as Rab left them.
"You are a Sassenach woman," he said, "and she will not
believe in the second sight."
"Na," said Barby, "I never kenned it have better eyes than
Morag came back with Rab, calm enough: the rapid revulsions
of feeling were all laid by the great new pain. The few rough
servants who had lingered in remote parts of Carrich House and its
out-buildings, came creeping out of their hiding-places when they
found who had arrived, and each tried to make the most of his own
duty and loyalty to his master. It was very difficult to hear
any particulars of Carrichmore's illness and last hours.
Elspeth of the hills seemed to have done her duty bravely and
faithfully, but she "had" even less English than her son, and had he
not happened to be present, she would not have understood the
laird's almost dying request that Rab should be sent for.
There was now no use in allowing Morag to enter the infected
house, and after giving brief directions, and putting the deserted
mansion in charge of Elspeth and her son, Rab started his pony
slowly towards the town. Morag sat quietly by his side, giving
no outward sign now of the great water-floods which were going over
her soul. It almost seemed to her exalted imagination as if
her father's spirit had come forth to meet her on the moor, and had
touched the one chord of memory which was linked to happiness and
And so she lay once more in Miss Sinclair's little dimity
guest-chamber, in the heart of Carrich town. There she would
stay at least until her father's funeral was over. Sanitary
necessities urged that this should take place so speedily that
Kenneth could not possibly make the long and difficult journey in
time. Nor did Morag plead specially for any delay.
Perhaps she was a little stunned by the blow which had fallen so
suddenly—the terrible Never stamped across the page whereon Hope had
secretly written many sweet things. Rab saw she winced at the
pitying and endearing adjectives with which soft Miss Sinclair named
the dead man. There was more comfort in straightforward Barby
and stern Mrs. MacAlister. Elijah rested beneath a tree, and
Jacob slept sweetly on a stone pillow; and there is a great deal of
refreshment and rest to be got from the natures which are like oak
or granite. Soft swamps and treacherous bogs lie useless in
God's earth; and in human nature they do not serve for foundations
of His eternal temple, and they must be drained and dried before
they can be enclosed in His garden.
In those days Morag learned the very last line of the lesson,
that the kingdom of God and His righteousness must be sought before
household affection or family pride, or even the tenderness. of
The Sunlight in the Glen.
AND so, far away
in London city, Kenneth Carrich, the bright-haired, fresh-faced boy,
who might so easily have been a suicide or a reprobate, had suddenly
It was rather a barren honour; and there would be no long
minority in which to nurse wasted acres and recruit exhausted
Kenneth came down as soon as he could, to stand by his
father's grave while its sods were still bare and fresh, to show
himself to his tenantry, and to keep his sister in countenance when
in his name she took possession of Carrich House, and proceeded to
set its confusion and profligacy into something like order.
But Kenneth did not remain long in Carrich. Both he and Morag,
instructed by Mr. Vass and advised by Rab, were easily convinced
that, at least for the present, it would be wise to change their
recent mode of life as little as possible. Kenneth was quite
happy among his London surroundings, and he and his sister
determined that he should go on living in the same simple,
inexpensive way, and that no change whatever should be made beyond
arrangements with Mr. Bulkeley for his reception as an articled
clerk. This suggestion came from Morag, and she was delighted
to find it eagerly entertained by her brother. He would thus
acquire a training and a status which would stand him in good stead
alike whether the acres of Carrich proved past redemption, or
whether he was ultimately called to the duties and the prerogatives
of a country gentleman.
It had happened that at this time Margery was enjoying a
holiday from her professional work, and therefore she was again able
to spare Barby to her friend. The young lady and the old woman
took up their temporary abode in the great house of Carrich before
they were able to procure any other service than that of the old,
Highland woman Elspeth and her son. Despite all the hardship
and inconvenience they went through in consequence, the cowardly
desertion of Carrichmore's demoralized household probably saved
Morag much pain and trouble. It would have been terrible to
have had to insist on the instant departure of all those whom her
dead father had allowed to serve him, and some of whom had abetted
his evil courses and preyed upon them for many years. It was
quite easy to forbid their return. And as the pestilence which
had frightened them did not spread, but, under due precautions and a
happy change of weather, presently disappeared, even their
profligate companions in Carrich town began to make merry at their
expense, and to exult over their ignominious retreat and sudden
It was a sad task which fell upon Morag and Barby.
Salvage is ever a sad thing. And fire or storm does not leave
so dire a trail of destruction behind it as do the wantonness and
recklessness of man. Old lists of plate and linen, of china
and jewels, only served to prove what waste can destroy and
But at last the poor remnant of past magnificence was
gathered together and arranged, and the stately rooms got into such
bare and gloomy order as their desolation permitted. And then
Morag allowed herself to think on the exigencies of the immediate
From all she could learn, the estate had no cash, and sorely
needed it. Carrich House must be let. That would at
least dispose of the difficulties attendant on its maintenance,
since a large rental could not be expected for so dilapidated and
dismal a mansion as it must remain until there was money to be spent
on it. The neighbourhood, too, had no special attractions for
strangers. Still, if a tenant could be found, things might
right themselves in time. Once the expenses of Kenneth's
articles were defrayed, the income of the estate would be little
taxed for their personal needs, Morag herself having resolved to
make no claim whatever upon it. By some years of the strictest
frugality and most prudent management they might undo the damage
their own father had done in his day; and if they persevered in
these courses, and Kenneth prospered in his profession, they might
redeem the impoverishments the estate had suffered at the hands of
his forefathers, until in their late middle age it might be
reinstated in honour and prosperity.
Thus to undo "the curse of Carrich"—a curse whose blight had
extended far beyond its own borders—seemed no ignoble aim in life.
And Morag felt now that she could trust Kenneth as she could trust
herself. And yet Morag sighed.
The heart still craves the heart; and the pitiful God who
made it, and its uphill road to His own heart, ever wills that this
steepness shall be marked off by human measurements. Love of
father, love of mother, love of brethren, love of spouse, and love
of child, are all part of God's love, as miles are parts of a
journey. They tell us how far we have gone; they tell us how
near we are to the end, where we shall rest and remember all the
Love of mother?—she could not remember. Love of
father?—and that single pleasant remembrance always rose to sting
Morag into tears. Love of brethren?—wrung with pain and
anxiety. Other love? Could it ever be?
But not for one moment did Morag blame God foolishly.
If all her life, and all at least of Kenneth's youth, were likely to
be shorn of most sweet natural rights and hopes, this was not the
will of God. It was rather the brief triumph of the wickedness
which had transgressed His will. Any suffering or desolation
which might come to them in restoring the justice and order which
are God's eternal will, were not suffering and desolation imposed
arbitrarily by Him, but suffering and desolation borne loyally with
Him, in virtue of the everlasting law which makes the voluntary
suffering of the just for the unjust, the voluntary substitution of
the innocent for the guilty, the one law of restoration.
Yet still Morag sighed. She could cheerfully accept
poverty, hardship, and lowliness, in place of wealth and ease and
rank. But an unhopeful youth, a dreary middle life, a lonely
age—could she accept these with equal cheerfulness. She would
accept them. Yes; but "You must" had to echo through her soul
before it could answer "I will." When the cup of sacrifice is
drained by the bravest, an unreckoned dreg is tasted. Even He
who presented humanity to His Father, made at one with His Godhead,
was like us all in this. He took back a prayer unanswered. He felt
His mortal power fall short of God's will.
The gloomy house seemed haunted in its utter quietness.
There were so few people there that there seemed plenty of room for
ghosts. Her nerves were strained and over-excited. The
snap of a window hasp, or the closing of a door, would so vividly
bring back her father's footstep or Hamish's voice, that she felt as
if past and present were equally unreal. Even Barby's pleasant
face and kindly words had lost some of their comfort. We poor
human beings want a fellow in our trouble; we are so mistrustful of
each other that, instead of feeling in safer for the safety of those
who have landed from the waves where we are buffeting, we sometimes
seem to suspect they will throw stones at us and add a new horror to
She left Barby busily engaged in planning long-needed repairs
in the old, delicate table-damask. She thought she would take
a walk. The hot season was now long past, and instead of
sultriness there would be a fresh breeze blowing down Carrich glen.
Morag Carrich was not a young girl. She was in full
possession of womanly dignity and reticence. If there were any
chambers in her heart which she did not care that strangers should
see, she also kept them locked from her own introspection. Nor
was she one of those who would throw away a crystal because it was
not a diamond, and who value friendship as nothing unless it rises
to its highest point in love.
Therefore, whether or not Rabh Farquhar had figured in the
swiftly-vanishing visions which had vexed her soul that morning,
when she suddenly saw him approaching towards her down the narrow
defile, she neither stopped nor lingered, but went steadily forward,
the smile brightening on her face, while an unbidden bloom banished
all traces of weariness and woe. She might have appealed to
any man's love and admiration; she could have appealed to no man's
sympathy—unless, indeed, it might be that of some hoary sage, whose
telescope of experience often detects what escapes the naked eye of
rash youth. Her beauty made even Rab half-afraid, it was so
full of fire, of swift energy, of noble grace, in every attitude and
movement. To him she seemed self-sufficing; as if she wanted
as little from the world as did the Greek goddess Athena when she
descended from Olympus to correct or bless poor mortals.
They came up in front of each other, and exchanged greeting
questions. Was she going to the town? No, she was only
taking a walk. Was he going up to the house? Well, no,
not now he had met her; he was coming to see her, bringing news and
"News!" said Morag. But whatever they were, they were
pleasant tidings, for Rab smiled, and bade her read the letter
before she asked him any questions.
"Margery would like to tell you first herself, I am sure," he
said. "She wrote me that she directed the letter to my care,
to insure its being delivered to you immediately, whether you were
at the house or at Miss Sinclair's."
He handed her a slight little note from Margery, and she
glanced through it in a second, and looked up with a joyful
"But I knew it would come," she said; "it was only a question
of sooner or later. And I am so glad it is all settled.
For Theodore Bulkeley is such a good, kind man, and will make
Margery happy, as he makes everybody. I think he deserves even
your sister, Dr. Farquhar."
"And he has been my intimate friend all my college days,"
said Rab; "and Margery is my dear, only sister; and knowing them
both as I do, I am sure they deserve each other."
"But what will poor Mr. Turner do without Margery?" asked
Morag, presently. "He will miss her even more than your
farther will, for they have been so much together at their work, and
besides, Mr. Farquhar has more interests and more friends in the
"I don't know that he will need to miss her at all," answered
Rab. "Theodore has written to me very fully, and it seems that
he and my father have arranged that as soon as the marriage takes
place, he shall live in our house. You see, it was always
understood the house was to be Margery's; and my father wisely says,
Why shouldn't the young couple get the full benefit of it during the
first struggling years of professional life, and especially when
their doing so will please three old folks—himself, Mr. Demetrius,
"It is a wise and happy arrangement," said Morag. "It
is so delightful and so rare when new pleasures come to some without
new pains to others."
They were walking slowly back towards Carrich House.
"Morag," said Rab suddenly; and it was singular that she did
not notice that he called her by her Christian name, which he had
never done before,—"Morag, Margery writes that she is longing for
you, and that you cannot come back too soon; but I want you to stay
here, Morag, or to promise that you will soon return. Or is
this town too hateful to you? I will leave it if it is."
"I would stay here if I could," she answered, with averted
"Stay here with me," he pleaded. "I dare to ask you
because I love you, and because Margery has told me what you said
about Barby suggesting that you should live in our house when
Margery was afraid to ask it—that it showed Barby was the best
friend you had. If you will not—if you cannot hear me, say so
at once, and forgive me, and let us be as we have been. I will
bear it, and it need not matter to you."
"Forgive you!" she cried. "Rab, forgive me; for how
must I have acted—what must I have seemed, to make you talk like
She was weeping on his arm. She was not Athena now, but
a tired bird fluttering to her rest; and as Rab looked fondly down
at the face upon his shoulder, he suddenly saw the pain lines in
it,—that fine graving of sorrow which often underlies the rarest
beauty, and is unsuspected save by those who love and know it best.
They sat down among the gorse and heather, and in a few
minutes Morag was her own calm, sweet self. Only, why did the
narrow glen look so glad? Surely to-day's sunshine fell lower
on its bleak hills than usual!
Was Morag too easily won? Are years of steadfast
trustiness and deeds of courage and faith a light wooing?
Besides, Morag was one of nature's princesses, and what she gave,
she gave royally, without grudge or subterfuge.
They began to talk of everyday things. They wanted to
let the new sunlight into every cranny of their lives as soon as
They would live in Carrich town, and they would so live there
that the name of Carrichmore would have grown sweet against the day
of Kenneth's own home-coining.
And then Morag herself felt a touch of the bashfulness which
had half-tied the tongues of Rab and Margery, and she had to recall
Barby's courage for her own example. She began to put forward
little tentative questions and suggestions, until Rab put his arm
around her and bade her speak out—he should but love her the more
whatever she said, as is the fashion of lovers from Boaz and
Ahasuerus down to the humblest shepherd lad who pays his court
to-day. And then she reared her head with burning cheeks, and
"You will think I am soon realizing that what is yours is to
be mine, but if we are to have a house in Carrich, could you afford
to pay a rent for Carrich House, so that it need not go to
strangers? If you could endure its ruinous condition and the
poor old furniture, it need not cost very much; we could shut up the
wings, and keep only what servants we could afford. I know
what economy is," she added, wistfully.
"Almost too well," said Rab; "for in a few years my wife may
not be a very poor woman. Yes, Morag, if this can be settled
thus, you shall have your will."
"And you—are you quite sure you are not yielding to me too
much?" she urged innocently. "I know you cannot cling to the
place as I still do in spite of everything. It has such sad
thoughts about it, too, and you must feel all its gloom without the
fascination it has for me."
"We will drive away the gloom," said Rab cheerily. "We
will gather glad thoughts about us. That is the true exorcism:
when the angels come in the ghosts must go out."
They were in sight of Carrich House now: and they were
walking hand in hand. They had forgotten about Barby and
Elspeth and Donald. The latter was spreading the luncheon in
the low parlour, where Barby was busy with her mending.
"I knew it," cried the Highlander excitedly, gesticulating so
wildly that Barby looked up to wonder "Had the man gane mad?"—"I
knew it. If she had not laughed at the second sight, I would
have told her of it at the time. I saw the line between them
on the night the laird did die. No mistaking it. Donald
"An' sae did Barby!" retorted the old, lady; "an' wi'out ony
sic unnatural things as lines twining aboot, as if the puir
creatures were flies caught in a spider's web."
Rab caught sight of her smiling face behind the curtain of
the open window, and he instantly responded to the humour of the
moment. The romance and earnestness of all their natures ran
so deep, that a laugh on the surface no more dried them up than does
a sunbeam dancing on a mountain-lake.
"We are all going to be married, Barby," he cried.
"Theodore Bulkeley and Margery, and Morag and me. And you are
to live with them in town through the winter, and to stay with us
here for the fine weather."
"Weel, weel," said Barby, taking off her spectacles and
wiping them, "I aye kenned the Lord wad luik after me somehow in my
auld age, but a town house an' a shootin' lodge is quite ayont the
A FEW years have
passed over Carrich House and its new inmates. They have had
their crosses to carry. There have been care and anxiety;
there have been some malignity and much misunderstanding. The
family curse is truly set aside; but where so much evil has been
sown, the ground is barren, and the best crops do not grow readily.
Yet Morag Farquhar looks a thoroughly happy woman, as she
comes stepping from the portal of the grim mansion, leading her
six-year-old boy by the hand. And a thoroughly happy woman she
is,—as she ought to be. For is not Kenneth doing well in
London, and earning for himself an honourable position and a fair
competence, as Laurie's partner in old Mr. Bulkeley's business?
And is not her husband the most looked-up-to man in all the
country-side—the friend and counsellor and stay of all, rich or
poor, learnèd or unlearnèd? And now, in these first bright
summer days, is she not looking forward to a long visit from her
dearest friends, Theodore and Margery, who will bring with them her
who still persists in being the universal factotum—that ancient
servant-maid, Barbara Craig?
And yet all poets have told us how glad thoughts and sweet
scenes suddenly stir sad memories. And as Morag sits in the
shadow of the Langstane Cross, her eyes fill with tears, and her
little boy, running to and fro after the butterflies, comes and
leans against her knee and asks what is the matter with mamma.
Shall she tell him? She lifts him up and folds him to
her breast, and says gently,—
"Mamma is crying because she is thinking of a beautiful
moonlight night years ago, when she was a little child like you, and
her papa—your grandpapa, little Rab—brought her down on his shoulder
to the waterside and sang songs to her. Mamma is not crying
because she is sad; she is crying because she remembers—she only
wishes she could remember more such evenings."
And the child's warm hands stroke away her tears. And
Morag does not fear, though, as she looks down on his sensitive
face, she sees in his wistful eyes the very glance of her father's,
as he had looked up at the little girl he was dancing on his
"Tell me something more about grandpapa," says her boy.
"There is nothing else to tell," she answers simply; "I never
remember anything but that."