Family Fortunes (V)

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VI.

Poor Dives.


MRS. MACALISTER'S 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 behalf.

    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 bemuddled reverence.

    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 consciousness.

    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 grasp 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, Barby."

    After that he scarcely uttered anything.  No paroxysm returned, and he lay quite quietly.  Morag and Kenneth entered in due season; he 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 at hand.

    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.


 
VII.

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 opinions.

    "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 expense.

    "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?" asked Rab.

    "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 with them.

    "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 do it!"

    "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 cheek.

    "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 commandments.

    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.


 
VIII.

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 following last.

    "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 emphasis.

    "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 whisper,—

    "Did you see my father before you left Carrich House to-night?"

    "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 was in?"

    "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 for years!"

    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 doom'?"

    "Of course not," Rab answered with straightforward, prompt simplicity.

    "God bless you!" she said, and again they walked some yards in silence.

    "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 desolate.

    "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' stand-by."

    "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 sure aboot.'"

    "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 their praise."

    "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."


 
IX.

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 affection.

    "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 Morag.

    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 to-morrow."

    "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 something."

    "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 weakness.

    "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 Carrich House!"

    "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 everybody's good."

    "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 her.

    "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 Rab's resolution.

    "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 voice.

    "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 bitterly.

    "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' Nazareth?'"

    "Take care you speak no blasphemy," said Mrs. MacAlister, severely.

    "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 of her?

    "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."


 
X.

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 up Morag.

    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 a whisper.

    "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 dining-room window.

    "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 Carrich House.

    "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 postman.

    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 trouble.'"

    "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 Morag softly.

    "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 Morag neck.

    "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 softening.

    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.


 
XI.

Carrichmore.


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 the horse.

    "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 ill?"

    "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 voice."

    "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 common sense."

    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 love.

    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 sorrow.


 
XII.

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 become Carrichmore.

    It was rather a barren honour; and there would be no long minority in which to nurse wasted acres and recruit exhausted finance.

    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 downfall.

    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 dishonesty devour.

    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 future.

    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 way.

    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 our struggles.

    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 a letter.

    "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 exclamation.

    "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 town."

    "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, and Barby?"

    "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 face.

    "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 this?"

    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 possible.

    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 said,—

    "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 knew."

    "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 bargain."


 
Epilogue.


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 shoulder.

    "Tell me something more about grandpapa," says her boy.

    "There is nothing else to tell," she answers simply; "I never remember anything but that."





THE END.

 


 

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