Rab Bethune's Double (I.)

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RAB BETHUNE'S DOUBLE

OR

LIFE'S LONG BATTLE WON.
――――♦――――

CHAPTER I.

AMONG THE HILLS O' TWEED.


AN old-fashioned country chaise went slowly rumbling along a road among the low green hills of Roxburghshire.  The chaise was driven by an elderly man, with stiff gait and high shoulders, suggestive of the plough.  Its occupants were two middle-aged ladies, who had travelled in this fashion from Hawick, where they had left the train, but who, as the vehicle slowly passed through the environs of Jedburgh, looked to the right and to the left with the attentive interest of those revisiting a once familiar spot.  When they had left the little town behind, losing the last sight of the Abbey as they pursued their leisurely way up a steep and winding road, the younger of the two broke silence.

    "I'd like fine to stop an' hae a crack at the Haldanes," she said, gazing wistfully at a rude old cottage, lying behind a field.  "Jean Haldane's a real fine body, an' she's ane o' the auld folk, who are aye growing mair interesting as they're aye getting fewer."

    "I'll not stop to please you, Bell," returned the elder, with some asperity; "there's a time for everything, and the first moment we come back to the glen, where our people were lairds for nigh two hundred years, isn't just the time to call on an old woman whose husband was a noted poacher."

    "Waes me, Helen! sic a stour ye mak' about naething!" retorted Miss Bell.  "The Gibsons were weel respected, I know; but I mak' no doubt their ain bit acres were gifted to them by Black Jock Horsburgh, because they lifted Northumbrian kine as lightly as I collect material for my stories.  And, anyhow, I'd rather hae a crack wi' auld Jeanie than pay ane o' your fine calls on the Bethunes of Bethune—an' for a' that comes to, auld Bethune himsel' is nae that guid character," and Miss Bell gave a chuckling laugh.  "But hae your ain way, Helen, as ye ken ye will."

    "It is small wonder you don't care for calling on the Bethunes," returned Miss Helen, "for you can't speak ten words without bringing in one which no well-educated person of these days can understand!  You choose to talk as if you'd been brought up on a cairn among the heather."

    "Ye see I can do the Scotch real weel, Helen, an' I couldna manage to mak' as much o' the English even as you do," said the younger sister, quite innocently.  "I'm just a gowk ootside o' my ain Scotch.  I've naething to say in anither tongue, an' deed it seems to me, by your ways o' speech at your fashionable calls, that it's the same wi' the rest o' ye.  The cleverest advocate i' Edinburgh calls mine 'the grand auld Doric,' and folk are aye glad to set me talking, mair for its soun', that I ken fine, than for my sense!"

    "There's nothing to be proud of in the kind of notice those people always get who make fools of themselves for others' amusement," decided Miss Helen oracularly.

    But Bell's mind was diverted from the conversation.  There were tears in her mischievous black eyes, as she gazed eagerly ahead while the chaise slowly turned a bend of the road, when she cried:―

    "Yon's the bonnie white wa's of Polmoot Farm, gleaming frae the green hill like a white egg frae a nest.  Eh, but it's bonnie, bonnie, the auld hame; an' the auld days were happy, happy!—D'ye mind the sang, Helen:―


Oh, the auld house, the auld house!
    What though the rooms were wee!
Oh, kind hearts were dwelling there,
    And bairnies fu' o' glee.


and how it goes on—


The voices sweet, the wee bit feet
    Aye rinnin' here and there,
The merry shout—oh, whiles we greet
    To think we'll hear nae mair.


    No' that Edinburgh's sic a great city that we mightn't see Partrick and Janet often enough if they had the mind."

    "And so we do see them," put in Helen, irritably "we've dined there twice this year."

    "Aye, Helen," said Miss Bell, "and we were askit again; but ye kenned it was sma' use going when our new gowns were na finished.  Anyhow, the merry shout we'll hear nae mair, for there's nae merriment in either o' them, nor any shout either, except when Partrick's gout gars him screich!  Na, na; gie me the days when cousin Janet kenned nae finery mair than a crimped frill on her pinnie, an' brither Partrick drank our birthday toasts in water frae the Fairies' Well."

    "When many people have to suffer loss and disgrace through their relations, we need not miscall ours because they have done well for themselves," said Miss Helen, severely.

    "I'm not saying anything against Partrick," retorted Bell; "he aye taks an interest in my wark, an' the last time I saw him he told me a fine story aboot a seceder minister that he'd been keeping in mind for me for a month.  But dinna let us talk about Partrick.  Hark to the lintie:―


Sweet's the laverock's note and lang,
    Lilting wildly up the glen,
But aye to me he sings ae sang,
    "Will ye no come back again?"


    "Leave off your little bits of nonsense and talk sense, Bell, do," interrupted Miss Helen.  "Just look at the kirk and manse yonder, and all the flowers in the garden, and the greenhouse, and an aquarium in the parlour window.  Those are the works the minister's heart is in, when he ought to be thinking of saving perishing souls!"

    "Dearie me, Helen," laughed Miss Bell, "let the puir body get a bit pleasure into his life between whiles.  The Almighty Himsel' has managed sae that the lowe o' the pit doesna smoor all creation!"

    "You are letting your nonsense-way of looking at things lead you into blasphemy, Bell," said Miss Helen.  "I judge no man.  But didn't the minister marry a village teacher, just because she had a pretty face, when he might have had Miss Grizel Elliot, with a good eighty thousands to her name, and more to follow.  He'd have been worth a great deal more to his parish and to the kirk itself if he had considered what was his duty there, instead of seeking his own carnal pleasure."

    "'Deed—and wha kens that Miss Grizel didna refuse him?" asked Miss Bell.  "He wadna rin to tell o' sic a thing—an' it isna an offer she would be like to boast of.  It whiles puzzles one, Helen, that though ye're sae thankful to be an auld maid yoursel', ye never can believe that ony woman can refuse a man."  Miss Bell chuckled over the shrewdness of her own observation.  "But take' tent, Helen, for the Bairds are thick, thick with the minister and his wife, so we'll hae to mind our manners in speaking o' them."

    "Not being poetical like you, Bell, I have not two faces nor two tongues," said Miss Helen, stiffly.  "I'll say what I think, and it will do Lesley Baird no harm to hear it."

    "And here's the bit kirkyard," said Miss Bell, with sudden softening, "an' the bonnie gowans growing among the green mools.  Helen, dye no mind it was just sic a simmer's day as this when John Atchison was buried?  I aye think Lesley Baird has a wee luik o' her mither's brither."

    "And some of his upsetting ways into the bargain," said the ruthless Miss Helen; "Lesley was pleasant enough to Mr Rab Bethune and Miss Lucy when they called at Edenhaugh last year while I was there, yet she took a huff directly I thought it my duty to a motherless girl to warn her that when she was invited to Bethune it was not for the son to make love to, but just to amuse the daughter.  I told her that she ought to regard it as no end of advantage to see genteel ways, and that, if she took pains to make herself pleasant, she might even be invited, some day, to accompany Miss Lucy to London; but she must never forget what the Bethunes would always remember, that she was but a schoolmaster's child at best, and, on her mother's side, the grand-daughter of our old Polmoot ploughman."

    Miss Bell commented on this diatribe with sundry "loshies" and "waes me," delivered with an air of absence unusual to her, and presently proved what had really arrested her attention, by remarking, "But, Helen, I dinna ken hoo ye can ca' puir John Atchison upsetting, for he was aye owre glad to come up to Polmoot, leastways till a' of a suddent—na sae lang before he began to dwine.  An' he was aye owre glad to see me when I went to see him whiles he was wearin' awa'."

    "And so was his mother, I'll engage," said Miss Helen, coolly; "for you never went empty-handed."

    Miss Bell gave a plump sigh.  "I mind puir John Atchison seemed mair pleased wi' the bit posies o' gowans an' bluebells that I pu'ed for him frae the braeside, than even wi' the milk and eggs that were the pick o' Polmoot dairy," she said.

    "Ah, consumptives are always fanciful," commented Miss Helen.

    Miss Bell roused herself from her reverie of shadowy sentiment.  "Wha's that sittin' so dowie-like amang the graves?" she asked.  "Is it no young Bethune himsel'?"

    "Your eyes must be failing fast, Bell," answered Miss Helen; "Rab Bethune, indeed!  It's some sort of tramp."

    "Or may be an artist, mem," said the old driver, overhearing the ladies' remarks as he slackened his pace on the up-hill road.  "There's a many artists come sketching i' the kirkyard.  They say it gives the bonniest view of the Edenlaw.  But I dinna ken any strangers i' the village just noo," he added.

    "Ah, he's something of the artist or tramp sort—it often means the same thing," observed Miss Helen.  "He is quite frayed out at elbows, as if he had tramped from Land's End and slept in barns all along the way."

    "Waes me, Helen, I didna say his jacket an' trousers were like Rab Bethune's, but I said he had a luik o' his face, and a turn of auld Bethune's figure in his younger days.  An' sae he has!" persisted Miss Bell.  "It's a peety that it's rags and poortith that are sae picturesque.  Dress claes an' fine linen hae naething to do wi' the stories and ballads that are always runnin' i' my heid.  Eh, but the laddie standin' sae dowie amang the graves just minds me o' a line oot o' ane


On the hills that were by rights his ain,
He wanders as a stranger.


It's easy to let ane's fancy mak' him oot to be a descendant o' ane o' the auld attainted families come back to visit the dale o' his fathers."

    "More likely he is thinking of the dinner and lodging he does not know how to pay for.  You poetical people are always soaring up in the clouds, instead of sitting safe among plain facts," decided Miss Gibson complacently.  Then, slightly raising her voice, she asked the old driver, "Are the crops pretty fair this year?"

    "Dye mean the craps in general or the maister's craps?" asked the old Scotchman.

    "O, all of them," said Miss Helen; "but of course you'll know most of Mr Baird's."

    "Aye—weel! they're just middlin'; they might be better and they might be waur: that's ane o' Mr Baird's fields that's done fine," and be indicated with his whip.

    "I suppose Miss Lesley is a great comfort to her uncle?" Miss Helen went on.  "I'm sure it was a good providence that she found such a home to take refuge in."

    "Weel, Miss Lesley's just the licht o' Edenhaugh," said the old driver.

    "Aye, she may be that," put in Miss Bell; "but a candle aye wants a candlestick to set it off."

    "Has she a turn for housekeeping?" asked Miss Helen.  "Do you see her often in the kitchen, or dairy, John?"

    "I dinna ken mair nor that the house seems to keep itsel'," answered John; "and the women-folk are aye in a gude temper.  Miss Lesley doesna fuss an' worry them at their wark."

    "An' hoo does she divert hersel' in the lang, lang hours?" asked Miss Bell.  "Waes me, ye can mak' bonnie writin' oot o' country life, but I aye found it gey wearisome in itsel'."

    "She does a' the stitchery an' knitting'," said the old man; "an' in the evenings she and the maister read a good bit; an' she walks owre the hills for hours wi' the auld collie Peg (the poor beast's ill the day, an' Miss Lesley's sair put oot); an' she's muckle taken up wi' wee Master Logan, the mitherless boy at Gowan Brae; she helps him a deal wi' his lessons."

    "The Gowan Brae people can pay for their own schooling," said Miss Helen, testily.  "Lesley Baird had better think what she will do when she's thrown on her own resources, for her uncle's property will cut up small enough among all his nephews and nieces, and of course he'll not favour one more than another."

    And then they drew up beside the rowan tree that overhung the gate of the modest mansion of Edenhaugh.


 
CHAPTER II.

AN OLD BALLAD AND A NEW LOVE STORY.


EDENHAUGH was a long low house, standing a little away from the road towards which it turned its back, with just one or two windows therein to keep, as it were, a watch upon the gate.  It was but an ancient farmhouse of the better sort, and would have been positively primitive, save for sundry improvements which had been made in the time of the present proprietor's parents.  The pair had been a bluff, warm-hearted Borderer and a gentle Highland girl who had brought no wealth to the Tweedside home where she had lived—like a white rose blooming on a wild moorland.  Her sensitive and passionate nature had not found much society among the blunt and self-contained, though kindly dales-folk.  Therefore all her pleasures had lain within the four walls of her home.  For her had been built those two pretty rooms with the wide, low windows, arranged to catch all that could be caught both of the morning and evening sunlight.  Traces of her cultivated feminine taste were to be found in the bits of old china and of quaint needlework scattered about the house, as well as in the well stocked bookcase, whose comparatively wide range of literature had long made Edenhaugh an oracle among such progressive youth of the dale as needed some mental nutriment less dry than the shorter Catechism and old treatises of Covenanting theology.  The portrait of this long dead mistress of the house, though it was but the work of some nameless artist, gave worthy presentment of a sweet and gracious face, with far-away eyes and sensitive mouth.

    A tithe of the grandmother's beauty, mingled with traits of greater strength, had descended to the present "young Teddy o' Edenhaugh"—Miss Lesley Baird, the only child of the beautiful Highlander's youngest and favourite son.  He had been so very like his mother, only with that difference of sex which often fatally changes all—like a fair scroll copied backwards.  He had proved, as the country folk said, "a feckless body," and had married a ploughman's pretty daughter.  On her stronger character and brave struggles he had borne heavily until she died.  Then helplessly incapable and fiercely independent he had soon slipped from his dominie's stool and followed her to the grave, leaving their only child, Lesley, to the truly tender mercies of his eldest brother, the bachelor head of the Baird family—the present master of Edenhaugh.

    Lesley Baird was waiting to welcome her uncle's guests.  The girl had warmly hospitable instincts, though few of the sparse visitors to Edenhaugh brought her any delight except a sense of relief when they were gone, and she was once more free to chatter with her uncle or romp with little Jamie Logan.  This was not the Gibsons' first visit to Edenhaugh since it had been Lesley's home.  And Lesley really liked good- humoured Miss Bell, with whom she fancied she could be more her real and whole self than with any other woman she had ever seen.  And though she had been repelled by those observations of Miss Helen's, which that oracle knew she resented, still the general conventionalities of the good lady were not without an atmosphere of rule and order which for this self-dependent girl had an attraction far greater than it would
possess for those more under its sway.

    But poor Lesley, as she ran out to the chaise and loaded herself with the shawls and band boxes, was not so wholly gleeful as she might have been only a few days earlier.  A single thrill of pain will show us where the life of our life lies, and can make us realise how little all other things signify.  To-day Lesley could not be quite glad to see the Misses Gibson, for was not poor Peg dying in the stable, and was not—but never mind what else!—

    Lesley had been crying.  One of the advantages of Nature's beautiful arrangement, by which troubles never come alone, is that all the outward signs of the inward woe which we cannot mention may be reasonably attributed to that which we can!  Certainly Lesley would have wept bitterly enough over dear old Peg had there been no other cause for tears—nay, it really pained her loyal heart to feel that anything else was mingled in her grief for the old favourite.

    "I've just been in the stable to see my poor dog," she explained to the two ladies, as she led them into the house; "she cannot get better, but she is dying so easily that we need not disturb her.  She has been my dog ever since I came to Edenhaugh.  Poor old Peggy!"  Poor Peggy could claim all the tears which started afresh in the deep hazel eyes.

    "Loshie me, I'm wae to hear tell aboot it, Lesley," said Miss Bell.  "I ken hoo I greitit owre my auld pet Crummie.  But that's lang syne.  I've had nae pet doggie since.  It's weel to set na our heart on beast nor body.  It's just sorrow an' vexation o' spirit.  Like them weel enough and lat them pass, Lesley.  There's nae gude in wearin' your heart oot."

    "There's too much real trouble in the world for us to waste grief on mere animals," observed Miss Helen.  "Peggy has had an easy life at Edenhaugh.  There's no eternity for the creature and no judgment awaiting her."

    Lesley did not answer, as she led the ladies to the chamber prepared for them.  She thought within herself that if she was quite sure that poor Peggy, panting in the stable, was really going out for ever, her grief would be but the more bitter.  All details Lesley was prepared to leave with God, yet she felt comfort in a faith that Peggy's poor dumb love would not go out, would not grow less, but would go up, and into something infinitely higher.  Perhaps there is this faith, conscious or unconscious, in all of those about whom animals instinctively fawn and fondle, for has not man himself, from the beginning, been ready to worship and follow all those brother men who have most clearly recognised the latent powers and lofty destiny of manhood?

    Lesley said nothing of all this to her visitors.  She was accustomed to keep her thoughts to herself.  She only lingered to help them make their toilets for the "dinner-tea" at which Mr Baird would join them.

    "You're thinner surely, Lesley," observed Miss Helen, "and that dress of yours is very much out of the present style.  Whom did you employ to make it?"

    "A young girl living near," answered Lesley.  "She was learning her trade in Edinburgh when her mother died, and she had to come home to nurse and support a paralysed father and a crippled brother."

    "Is she an interestin' bit body?  Wad she do for ane o' my 'Records o' the Poor' that I'm aye thinkin' o' writing?" asked Miss Bell.  "She maun hae some hard lines to thole.  Is she the sort that will tell you what's i' her heart when it's doon, and what uphauds it?"

    "It is very well to help her," said Miss Helen.  "You could give her some common work, Lesley.  If all the ladies about gave her their common things to make, it would be about as much as she could get through."

    "But so many people have old workwomen of their own," said Lesley.  "If I didn't give her all my work, my work wouldn't be much worth giving; besides, you must not judge of her powers by what she does for me.  I don't care for fashions, I like my gowns made in a style of my own―and she will do as I wish, which some dressmakers will not."

    "As weel be oot o' the warld as oot o' the fashion, Lesley," laughed Miss Bell.

    "Every woman should have a proper regard for appearance," said Miss Helen.

    Lesley only smiled in reply.  She did care a great deal for her appearance in some eyes, but then those were eyes which preferred simple outlines and touches of bright colour and lacy purity, rather than the flounces and slashings and trade tricks of mercenary millinery.

    Then the three went downstairs to the long, low, brown room where the Highland grandmother's pictured face smiled down on the bountifully spread table.  Miss Helen's sharp eye ran swiftly over everything, and did not approve of the old-fashioned urn with the dint in its side, nor of the ancient bread-basket with its crochet lining, towards which her heart did not soften, though she knew that it was the handiwork of one of Mr Baird's sisters, who had died young.  "Men may have fancies about these relics," she thought within herself; "but if they are judiciously made to disappear, they slip out of their minds.  Baird would buy Lesley whatever she asked for, and she ought to have an idea of how things should be."

    Mr Baird was a tall, loosely strung man, with kind, dim grey eyes and an uncertain mouth.  His hair had been grey when his niece first knew him, and it never grew any greyer.  Mr Baird's purchases steadily increased the already large collection of books at Edenhaugh, and among them were some of the newest works of science and theology.  Yet he never expressed any opinions which startled anybody.  Only when anybody else was rampantly dogmatic or disputatious there was a curious quality of rest and assurance in the silence which Mr Baird generally maintained, or in the few words—usually quietly interrogative, with which he occasionally broke it.  Once when the minister had ventured to throw some new light on an old doctrine (for which temerity he afterwards narrowly escaped a charge of heresy) Mr Baird's stick had come down on the floor of his pew with a thud which had a strange note of applause in it; but next moment the stick sprawled into the aisle, and the whole incident was but an innocent accident.  Miss Helen Gibson was wont to say in her disparaging way that "Mr Baird was like a man in a mist."  And so he was, in that mist which often veils the dawn of a new bright day, and is indeed an accepted sign of its coming glories.

    Between Miss Bell and her host, the lady's efforts at authorship were a stock subject of badinage.  As he dispensed the ham and eggs, his first enquiry was, "Well, Miss Bell, and how gets on the book?"

    "Nae that weel," answered Miss Bell; "it's but slow work.  Folks willna tak' the trouble to send me stories, and though I gae aboot and collect a' that I can mysel', what can one body do?  Partrick whiles gets me a new ane, an' I'm aye looking for a hundred frae yersel', Mr Baird.  But 'deed, it's only for my ain love o' them, that I 'm collecting, for I dinna ken that ither folks will care for them sae muckle after a' my pains.  It's no everybody that loves auld Scotland as you an' I do, Mr Baird.  The vera lassies turn up their bit noses at Sir Walter himsel'; naething but new things gae doon wi' the public now-a-days."

    "Well, all old things have one value no new ones can have," said Mr Baird; " for we can see how they have stood the test of time.  But we must look at the new things too, Miss Bell, or where would Sir Walter himself have been in his day?"

    "Nothing new is likely to be much good, I think," put in Miss Helen; "the world is leaving all the good old paths, and is getting worse every day.  Even when you go to church in these times you can't be sure, beforehand, what you'll hear."

    Mr Baird looked at his niece with a faint smile, and diverted the conversation by saying―

    "And when you have finished this book that you are upon, Miss Bell, have you settled who is to publish it?"

    "'Deed, it's no for me to settle that," said Miss Bell, with good-humoured frankness; "it's no who shall I choose to publish it, but who shall I get to pay for it!  I'll not let it gae for naething."

    "That's the only light in which you writers seem to see your work," said Miss Helen severely.  "When I was young and we were living at Polmoot, there was mostly a godly minister staying in our prophet's chamber, and then I did hear some edifying conversation; but since Bell's picked up with all her writing folk, there's nothing else going but 'Do you know who wrote that?  And what did he get for it?"'

    "Weel, when there is gear goin', I dinna see why some of it shouldna come my way," pouted Miss Bell.  "What's gude for onybody canna be sae bad for me."

    "I'm not so sure of that, Bell," retorted her sister, "for if I was not by to look after you, 'gear,' as you call it, would run fast and fruitless through your fingers."

    "Helen aye ca's it rinnin' through my fingers if I do a bit what I like wi't," said Miss Bell, addressing her host; "I may buy mysel' a new gown, or I may mak' a present to Mrs Partrick, wha can present hersel' wi' a' she wants, an' mair too; but I mauna buy a book that I've a mind to—and it's waste if I treat mysel' wi' a stravague among my bonnie dens and glens, even when I gae there to find mair stories and mak' mair money!"

    "Well, the oftener you 'stravague' this way the more welcome you'll be," said Mr Baird gallantly, once more turning the conversation; "and if you came oftener you would get more stories.  Lesley," he went on, "have you told Miss Bell about that ballad?  Lesley has been scraping together some stray verses of an old ballad that seems to have got lost in its entirety," he explained.  "She got one line from one old woman and another from another, until she has made it out pretty fairly.  Its scene seems to be our own 'trysting stane'—the huge block which lies on  the Edenlaw, not far above old Mrs Haldane's cottage.  Lesley must recite the ballad to us.  There's a ghost in it and mysterious death."

    "Eh, but it will be fearsome," protested Miss Bell shiveringly, as Lesley began, in her quiet, even voice—


I see a man on the green hill side
    (O the green hill side is lane!)
His scarf is grey and his bonnet blue
    (But Peggy, she sees nane!)

I ken his e'en, and his brow sae brent,
    An' I maun pass him soon;
An' the licht comes through him as he stands
    'Atween me and the moon.

"O Rab, an' why suld ye come back?
    Ye ken I lo'ed ye weel.
To save ye frae the fause, fause sin
    O I'd ha' de'ed mysel'."

"O bonnie lass, I canna rest,
    I canna lie my lane,
For I'm thinkin' how I didna keep
    Tryst at the trysting stane.

"I canna bide aboon, lassie,
    An' I canna bide below;
Ye've haunted me up and doon, lassie,
    An' ye willna let me go!

"Sae I've come to keep the tryst, lassie,
    An' I'm here at the trysting stane";
—An' her deid corp lay i' the green hill side
    —The ghaist went na back alane.


    "Eh, mercy me, Lesley!" cried Miss Bell, "I hope Helen 'll let me hae a licht in the bedroom the night.  I've been thinkin' I ought to have a chapter aboot ghaists in my book; but I fear I'll be sair frighted wi' the stories I'll hae to hear afore I get the richt anes, for I'll no put in ony whaur the ghaists werena found out, because they're a naething but lees!"

    "Is it because they are a' lees that they fright you so much?" asked Mr Baird mischievously, falling into Miss Bell's vernacular, as people in conversation with her were apt to do.

    "The ballad might be worth something for people who care for such things," said Miss Helen, "if it was polished up a little.  'Her deid corp' is an ugly expression; at least it might be altered into 'a dead girl.'"

    "But then it would not be an old ballad, you see," answered Mr Baird.  "The grim old phrase does exactly what it is intended to do—it stamps a sudden sense of destruction and ruin on the idea of youthful loveliness sure to be conjured up in the mind by the earlier verses."

    "Aye, ye're a gude critic, Mr Baird," said Miss Bell.  "I think Lesley's got a grip o't.  Ye'll be prood of her, Mr Baird.  (I wish Helen would be prood o' me!)  It was real clever o' the creature!  It's the luck that falls to some.  I dinna think I'd hae noticed a line in an auld wife's clavers to be ane I didna ken in print."

    "It was not I who noticed the first," said honest Lesley, blushing warmly in the twilight; "it was Mr Rab Bethune who told uncle he had heard an old shepherd say, 'the mist was not over thick,' 'but just like the lassie's deid lover'—


The licht comes through him as he stands
    'Atween me an' the moon.'


Mr Rab asked uncle if he knew any song where those lines occurred, and then I made out the rest."

    "Aye, aye," said Mr Baird.  "Well, Mr Rab will have some other work to do now-a-days, for he's just starting to London to be private secretary to some great political gentleman.  It's a piece of good fortune for Mr Rab, for they say the Earl's son would have been glad of the post."

    "Weel, next autumn at farthest, he'll come back to his ain hills an' his auld sangs," said kindly Miss Bell.  "Sure, ane year in London doesna mak' a man forget a' he's left behind him.  And yet I dinna ken—'Ance awa, aye away,' says the auld proverb."

    "There's always a difference between going out and coming in," observed Miss Helen.  "London will be Mr Rab's home now for years to come—and Bethune only the place he comes to for a change.  I hope he'll do well for himself, and not be caught by the first pretty face that is selfish enough to count itself worth the sacrifice of a young man's future."

    Now Lesley had never forgotten Miss Helen's warning as to her position of a guest at Bethune.  But hotly as she had burned under it for the moment, and really as it had influenced her on more than one occasion since, she had quite forgiven it, as having been uttered in good faith, and being perhaps but the natural utterance of stern knowledge of the world.  Yet she never dreamed that Miss Helen remembered her own words and the effect they had produced on Lesley, and that her present speech was a carefully measured sequel, during whose deliverance she covertly watched Lesley, who sat, with bursting heart, unable to glance right or left, staring straight out upon "the green hill side."

    At that instant the door of the parlour was opened, and a husky voice spoke in the dusk:

    "Miss Lesley, will ye come oot for a minute?"

    Lesley jumped up.  She knew what was coming.  The ploughman, Jock Halliday, had stepped into the house to call his young mistress to see the last of poor Peg.

    The dog was dying in the stable.  The kindly servants would have liked to have her in the kitchen, but twice they had carried her in, and twice she had crawled out again.  She was lying in the corner, where her litter had always been made up, the corner where Lesley had been led again and again to welcome and admire a new pup.  When she saw her dear mistress, the poor beast feebly flapped her tail, and stretching out her head, tried to lick her hand.  But her eyes were nearly glazed, and she panted hard.

    "She's goin' easy," said the man.  "Puir Peg, bonnie doggie, ye've done your duty fine, and ye's nothing to trouble ye now ye's deein'."

    The honest fellow made an emphasis on the pronoun.  He was "queer," this ploughman, and the neighbours were apt to forecast trouble for his own death-bed.

    But Peggy's glazing eyes were troubled.  It had ever been Lesley's boast that Peg always understood whether she was pleased or "put out."  And Peg knew that Lesley's tears were falling fast on her rough coat, and Peg could do nothing now to while away this trouble.  She knew she was its cause.  So once more she stretched out her head in an effort to lick Lesley's hand; once more the pathetic eyes looked up as if she would say, "Forgive me," and then the poor head fell lifeless.

    "I'll bury her oot on the hill, miss.  I'll bury her by the big stane, sae that you'll aye ken whaur she's lying," said the ne'er-do-well ploughman, awed and softened by the sight of Lesley's unrestrained tears.  "I'll bury her better than many a Christian,—as she deserves."

    With a few last tender caresses of the poor dead dog, Lesley turned away.  As she opened the stable door, she heard voices in the garden, and hung back.  The voices were those of her uncle and Mr Rab Bethune.  There was a dog-cart at the gate piled up with his luggage.  On his way to the station at Kelso, the young gentleman had turned aside to say good-bye at Edenhaugh.  Lesley heard her uncle press him to come into the house, and Lesley knew there was plenty of time for him to do so, but he refused, saying that he had business to get through in Kelso before train-time.  Still he lingered by the paling and looked backwards.  If Miss Helen had not spoken as she did, very likely Lesley would have gone forward and said good-bye.  But now how could she?  She passed out of the stable by another way, fled behind the bushes to the back hall door and upstairs into her own room.  As she entered it she heard the wheels of the dog-cart rattle down the road.

    Lesley sat down on her little bed.  The wide white chamber was silvern with moonlight.  She heard a cow low from the byre as the ploughman passed it with heavy footsteps.  Then a startled sheep bleated in the fold.  She could see the stars shining down from their old places, just as she had always seen them since the days when, as a little child, she had "wondered what they were."  It was all so familiar, and yet it had grown so strange.  Lesley's own little world was coming to an end.  Rab gone, and Peggy dead!  Only the loss of a dumb favourite, and the absence of an undeclared lover.  Slight incidents, yet of such material is the tragedy of life made.  And the souls which do not develop under their influence would not develop though the earth quaked, or one rose from the dead.

    Loss, alas! always makes us realise the insecurity of what remains.  Lesley remembered, as she sat there, that people often said Mr Baird was "ageing," and little Jamie Logan was but a child, not bound to her by any recognisable tie, so that any tiny wave of life, apart from the great gulf of death, might, at a moment, easily wash him far away.  And what then?  What would remain?

    For the first time the chill of life's possible loneliness struck upon Lesley Baird's warm young heart.  Its touch is very startling to those who have not yet learned those bitter lessons which convince us that even loneliness is not the worst thing—may even be the best since it may leave us with our Father—and is far less to be feared than the uncongenialities, the discords, the irretrievable wrongs and pains which may creep into all human relationships, until they corrode that image of God which we set up in our hearts, made out of the best material we have found among our fellow-men.

    Lesley Baird was a good and docile girl who had always loved God her Father, and striven to walk honestly in every simple right way which had been pointed out to her.  So she tried to say to herself now, as life's mysterious vista opened upon her heart, that whatever came would be her Heavenly Father's will, and therefore must be borne.  She could say so but faintly.  It is only after long experience that we find our Father's will is always bearable, and always best.

    "Yes," Lesley said to herself as she sat in the moonlight, "there is truth in Miss Helen's words, 'that there is always a difference between going out and coming in'—for if Rab came back to-morrow there would be no Peggy running to meet him and fawn upon him.  How strange Rab Bethune looked to-night, how pale, how unlike himself.  And neither Miss Lucy nor the laird were with him to see him off!  I can see already that it is well Rab should not stay long at Bethune Towers.  A man must have work of his own in the world; and besides, the poor old laird is not the best companion for him, though he is his own father; Rab is so easily influenced."  And there Lesley gulped down a little pain, which she would not allow to crystallise even into a thought.

    When she believed the traces of tears were fairly effaced from her countenance she went downstairs again, and was hospitably shocked to find that her visitors had been sitting by themselves.  A servant maid was spreading the supper table, and as Lesley descended the stairs she heard the two ladies in animated conversation with her, but the only words which caught her ear as she laid her hand upon the door were Miss Helen's―

    "Hold your tongue, Bell."

    Lesley made ample apologies, and between the duties of the supper table and the simple service of family worship, there was little opportunity for further general conversation.  Lesley noticed that her uncle said nothing about Rab Bethune's farewell, and felt that his silence rose from the same cause which kept her mute regarding her favourite's death—a shrinking alike from Miss Bell's unsympathetic pity and from Miss Helen's jarring comment.

    The moment the visitors had said good-night, Lesley went up to her uncle, put her arm round his neck, and laid her check against his grizzled hair,

    "Peg is gone, uncle."

    "Poor, good Peg," said Mr Baird, in his deepest tone.  He had seen the deaths of half a score of those canine friends whose life is as brief as their love is true, but he was one of those faithful people with whom any fresh pang only brings out the memory of old pangs; in his sigh for Peg, there was renewed regret for Tiny and Toby, and Chappie and Carlo, and all the other dead doggies of Edenhaugh.  He would bring home a new dog next market day—but it would be in memory of the old ones—and he would call it by a different name.

    "And Rab Bethune has gone, Lesley," Mr Baird said, after the pause of a few minutes.  "He stopped and said good-bye to me.  I think he'd have come in, if I hadn't happened to say we had the Misses Gibson visiting us.  (It's wonderful how many people don't seem to wish to meet them!)  Mr Rab seemed sorely put out at going away.  He was not a bit like himself.  Perhaps he feels how frail the laird is and how likely to be taken off at an hour's notice."

    At thought of the instability of all earthly ties, Lesley's clasp round her uncle's neck grew tighter.  And she felt as if she ought to tell him something—as if he ought to know that she was grieving more than he thought for Rab's going away.  Yet what was there to tell?  So she only clung and kissed.

    The Misses Gibson found a servant lass waiting in their bedroom "to see if she could do anything for them."

    "Eh, and are you greetin' too, Janey?" exclaimed Miss Bell; "you're a greetin' hoose at Edenhaugh!  There was Miss Lesley i' the morn greetin' owre her doggie, and there was auld Elsie setting the supper greetin' owre the thought o' 'Master Rab' going his lane to London, as if he wasna leavin' aught behint him."

    "Just because she happened to see him alone in Kelso station this evening," sneered Miss Helen.  "Did she expect the whole household of Bethune to accompany him to the platform, with wails and lamentations?  Going to London isn't such an event to the gentry as it seems to old Elsie, who has never seen the other side of the Edenlaw!  But what 's been wrang wi' you, Janey?"

    "The puir doggie's just died," answered the girl, blushing for her tears and trying to excuse them; "an' puir Miss Lesley was sae sair cut up it garred me greet to see her."

    "Did Miss Lesley know of this before supper?" asked Miss Helen quietly.

    "Yes, mem," said the girl.

    "Ah weel, she never lat on," commented Miss Bell.  "Dinna fash yersel', Janey, Miss Lesley soon dried her tears."

    "Good-night, Janey," said Miss Helen, shutting the door upon the damsel in a way which made the girl think she had "made too free" or had otherwise given some offence.

    "And so Miss Lesley knew the dog was dead, and kept close and preserved the same face!  Be sure she knew also that Rab Bethune was fairly off—and kept that quiet too.  (I wonder what he had to do in Kelso,—for he must have had nearly two hours to get through before the train started for Berwick.)  So Miss Lesley can keep secrets—and we must have had some good practice before we do that well!"

    "Hoot, Helen," cried Miss Bell, "ye whiles thocht it was foolish to mak' a stour about an auld doggie.  An' ye wadna ha' had her mak' a scour owre a young man, wad ye, Helen?  She's more sense than I have, I'm thinkin', for I didna leave aff greetin' for my doggie for weeks an' weeks.  But I was aye a foolish limmer."

    "Which dog did you call yours, Bell?" asked Miss Helen sarcastically; "was it the one that used to go about so much after the lad Atchison?  It's not easy to remember—for you were always either laughing or crying over something."

    "An' I can greet and laugh yet," said poor Miss Bell "though there's a differ whiles.  An' as muckle pleasure now i' the tear as i' the smile.  Ye've neither laughit nor greetit owre muckle yersel', Helen.  Ye dinna ken what ye've missed."

    "Good night, Bell," said Miss Helen; "to hear you talk at times I should have my doubts about you as a serious Christian woman if you weren't my own sister."

    Then there was silence and darkness, for the moon was not on that side of the house.  One or two steps went by up the stairs, and one or two doors closed, and the whole household was evidently retired to rest.  The sisters sank unconsciously to sleep, until Miss Bell was suddenly roused by Miss Helen saying sharply—

    "Bell, listen!"

    There was a sound of footsteps on the gravel below the window—and of voices talking.  Though the sounds were suppressed, as being made by people who did not desire to make unnecessary disturbance, there was nothing stealthy about them; and thieves were not the terror which occurred to the ladies.

    "I heard some one say 'ghaists,' Helen—I'm sure I did," cried Bell, clutching her sister's arm.

    "Bell, you're a fool," said Miss Helen; "it's fire I'm thinking of.  That's Mr Baird's own voice."

    "Loshie me!  I'm glad I put new frills on my dressin' gown," sighed Miss Bell tremulously; "but it wadna be sae pitchy dark if it was fire.  I'm sure I heard the word 'ghaists!'"

    "As the fool thinks, so the bell tinks," quoted Miss Helen.  "There! that 's Mr Baird's voice again! and he's laughing, so there's no great harm done.  That's the door shut and fastened up; and this is Mr Baird's foot on the stairs."

    He paused outside the door and asked cautiously―

    "Are you waking, ladies?"

    "Eh, yes, Mr Baird," cried Miss Bell, "we are, an' we're awful' frighted."

    "Speak for yourself, Bell," said Miss Helen.

    "I feared you might be alarmed, that is why I came to reassure you.  There is nothing wrong—nothing at all.  Only a foolish fancy of the ploughman's.  Good-night, once more."


 
CHAPTER III.

AN EMPTY ENVELOPE.


THE next day was Sunday.  The morning rose cool morning and sweet.  There had been rain in the night, and the Tweed was flowing, as Miss Bell expressed it, "drumly."  The sunshine came, chastened, through soft, fleecy clouds, and a pale mist veiled the farther hills.

    Sunday was always a very pleasant and peaceful day at Edenhaugh.  It was Lesley's habit to go through every room on Saturday night, clearing away newspapers, spools, and thimbles, and everything that could suggest work-a-day cares and worries.  All domestic exigencies were, as far as possible, foreseen and provided against beforehand.  There was always a fresh, big pot of flowers on the dresser every Sunday, and doubtless the kitchen floor was kept none the less clean because a smart rag carpet, rolled aside through the week, was regularly spread down in honour of "the best day."

    Somehow these little arrangements always stank in the nostrils of Miss Helen Gibson.  There seemed too much concession to the cravings of human nature and affection.  Yet it was hard to say on what her censure could take hold.  So it seized on the rag carpet, which caught her eye as she passed the open door of the kitchen.

    "Such nonsense!" she said to Mr Baird.  "Why, a carpet like that was good enough for the benn-end of Polmoot in my grandmother's days."

    "Yes, yes," assented Mr Baird; "but there's a bit of real Turkey on our parlour now, and in this world we must all go up together, or those that go first will likely get a fall."

    "Eh, then was then, and now's now," put in Miss Bell; "but for my ain pairt, I'm aye sorry for the pair creatures who are takin' up wi' fashes they needna.  Helen likes this an' that hersel', and that's why she doesna like it gettin' owre common.  But I'll be real glad when the pair folk are sae grand an' rich that it will be the fashion for gentlefolks to sit wi' bare boards an' eat wi' a horn spune!  When we haena the warld's wealth, we hae the ward's ease.  But what was the matter last night, Mr Baird?  There's aye something happens when Helen willna let me have a nightlicht!"

    "It was only poor Jock," answered Mr Baird, as if he would fain have let the matter go by.  "He got a fright while he was burying our doggie by the moonlight, and he came here because he could not bear to sleep in his own lone hut."

    "Didna I know I heard somebody say 'ghaists?" cried Miss Bell in triumph.  "Helen wadna believe me—she never will—though whiles I'm richt."

    "If you had heard somebody say 'spirits' in connection with that man Jock, I should not have doubted you, Bell," returned Miss Helen severely.

    "Well, according to my belief," said Mr Baird, "Jock was never more sober than he was last night.  The worst drunkards are sober sometimes, Miss Helen."

    "But what did he see?" pleaded Miss Bell.  "Waes!  I'm all in a shiver in the broad sunlight!  What will I do i' the gloaming?"

    "What he thought he saw was nothing dreadful in itself," said Mr Baird.  "He only declares that the figure of Mr Rab Bethune came softly up behind him while he was digging poor Peggy's grave, waited until he had finished, and then passed silently by into the shadow of that shoulder of the Edenlaw which rises just beyond the trysting stone."

    "And does Jock Halliday mean to say he coolly went on digging the grave in the presence of what he believed to be a ghost?" asked Miss Helen sarcastically.

    "No," answered Mr Baird; "he declares that at first he thought it was Mr Rab Bethune, and that either I or Miss Lesley must have asked him to keep watch that Jock did his task soberly."

    "A likely thing for either of you to presume to do!" was Miss Helen's comment.

    "Still, that was Jock's idea," said Mr Baird, "and it was bitter to him.  'I thocht to myself that the master an' the young mistress might have trusted me more than that,' is Jock's account.  He declares that it was only when the figure passed by without a word that an 'eerie' feeling came over him, and then first he remembered that young Mr Bethune had gone south by the evening train.  I suppose there can be no doubt that he did really go?"

    "A good deal may happen between saying gude-bye an' ganging oot o' the door," remarked Miss Bell, quoting a rude country saying.

    "Your old Elsie told us last night that she saw him with his luggage at Kelso Station," said Miss Helen.

    "But did he get clear off?" asked Miss Bell.  "If he put his luggage on the platform, and went up into the town, maybe, after all, he missed the train and came back."

    "He was to join the through night mail at Berwick," remarked Mr Baird, musingly.  "But this double of his must have been seen while he ought to have been in Kelso,—not so very long after he left Edenhaugh."

    "It struck me that it was a godless thing that young Bethune should choose to travel through the early hours of the Sabbath and reach London just as decent folk are thinking of church," said Miss Helen.

    "It was not his choice exactly," answered Mr Baird; "he told me he should have started at least one day earlier, but that something special detained him at Bethune Towers, and it was positively necessary that he should be in London by Monday morning."

    "It is to be hoped he is there in safety," said Miss Helen, with grim significance.

    "Eh, Helen!" cried her sister, "and are ye givin' in at last to the auld belief that there's nae ghaist sae unlucky as 'a double'?"

    "I'm giving in to nothing, Bell," retorted Miss Helen; "I'm only saying that if there's been any accident on the line we'll hear of it soon enough."

    "There may be other misfortunes besides bodily accidents," mused Mr Baird, wandering off into the abstract.  "I always think that if there can be such things as ghostly warnings at all, they are more likely to appertain to ghostly dangers, such as approaching evil company, impending temptations or imminent sin."

    "Waes me, waes me, Mr Baird," wailed Miss Bell; dinna gie in to thinkin' there can be sic things at a'!  I like fine to hear o' them whiles, at a distance or hunders of years ago, but I'm sair frighted at the mere thocht o' them near at han'."

    "I'll tell you what, Bell," exclaimed Miss Helen; "Jock has seen the man in the twilight that you saw in the kirkyard yesterday.  You would have it he was Rab Bethune."

    "What is this?" asked Mr Baird; and his visitors narrated the little incident.

    "If there is such a stranger in the village," decided their host, "this ghost can be easily laid for ever."

    There was not much time to spare before the household started off to morning service.  As Lesley, sick and sore at heart with suppressed feeling, and a presentiment for which she could not account, lifted up her eyes upon the broad sweeps of wooded valleys and sunny hills, she remembered how often Rab Bethune had declared he preferred the ministrations of "Dr Green-fields" to the "worship" in the parish church.  She could not help feeling that that "worship" was seldom all it should be, that the presentment of the Divine Character to be found there but ill-matched the presentment of the Divine Nature stamped on the face of Creation.  Something must surely have gone terribly wrong somewhere before this could be so, and oh, the pity of it!—the pity that the wrong in the right, or the right in the wrong was sure to mislead such as Rab Bethune!

    They passed from the sunshine, and all the sweet scents and sounds of nature, into the close, dingy building, where the precentor had just risen with unmelodious voice.  As they all bustled up the narrow aisle to the Edenhaugh pew, Miss Helen's furbelows flaunting in the grand, granite faces of weather-beaten shepherds and their patient "auld wives," Lesley could not help wondering whether there had not been many compensations in those storms of persecution which once swept the chaff out of the church, and left the secret worshippers in caves and thickets bound by the strong fellowship of common danger and common faith.  But it took the radiance and the purpose from persecution, if, when triumph at last dawned on the persecuted, all ended in dulness like this!

    Miss Bell seated herself comfortably and looked round.  The Misses Gibson had a habit of throwing a kind of proprietary glance on all around them—such as preceptors give to their school or masters to their workshop.  The difference between the sisters was that Miss Bell's beaming face expressed that she was sure everybody would be gratified by her commendation, while Miss Helen's severe countenance announced that she was certain everybody must be aware of the importance and significance of her condemnation!

    "Lesley," whispered Miss Bell, "wha's that young leddy sittin' next auld Jean Haldane?  I dinna ken it for an Edendale face.  It's quite oot o' the common."

    "Yes, it is," said Lesley.  "That is Miss Mary Olrig, Mrs Haldane's orphaned grand-daughter, who is staying with her now."

    "Eh, me, indeed!  Mary Olrig echoed Miss Bell, who despite the greater breadth bred of her poetic feeling, had enough Gibson blood in her to resent having unwarily called "the auld poacher's" grand-daughter "a young lady."  But her instincts conquered her resentment, and her eyes went back again to the slight girl in the severely plain mourning dress, quietly seated by the agèd crone, who was one of the few who still adhered to the old world "shepherd's plaid" and the snowy mutch bound with the widow's black ribbon.

    What was it that distinguished Mary Olrig from all the rest of that rustic congregation—and which would have distinguished her equally in an assembly of any fashion or breeding?  There were bonnier faces there—Lesley Baird's own face was bonnier, though Lesley would have denied this.  Nay, the features of the pale face were actually irregular.  It was not grace of manner, for the girl's movements struck one as rather over-prompt and sharp.  But how exquisitely delicate was the texture of the skin!  How fine the quality of the soft golden hair, waving round the wide forehead!  How deep and strange the colour of the eyes, of which one could not easily decide whether they were brown or grey, or darkling blue!  There were more than Miss Bell Gibson who, looking once at Mary Olrig, looked again.  There was something curiously suggestive about her.  Those who looked upon her caught themselves presently remembering dead children, and lost loves, and separated friends, even their own vanished dreams and ideals.  Her face somehow awoke these memories, as some tunes will awake them, and these tunes, simple as they may be, are the tunes which never lose their charm!

    When the minister, Mr Rutherford, mounted his pulpit, one could see at once that he was a scholar.  It was his distinction and his bane, for he was so conscious of his scholarship that he forgot his manhood.  And yet, perhaps, he was the humblest of his flock.  His knowledge that he knew more than they did brought him no exultation.  He exaggerated the difference it made between them and forgot their common human nature.  He did not dream that the unlearned around him shared all the doubts and questionings which he judged to be the peculiar trial of his peculiar vocation and culture—which his Calvinistic breeding was ready to call "the curse sent with the blessing."  Little did he imagine that while he was peering about his tangled theologic overgrowth, picking away a decayed leaf there and a rotten fruit here, finding a new meaning for this phrase, and the original derivation of that word, the strong native insight of many of his hearers had already pierced to the real Gospel root of the matter and were quite ready willingly to dispense with all the rest.  Entrenched in his idea of isolation and dissimilarity, his one aspiration was to justify his preaching to himself by pouring new truth, satisfying to his own mind, into the old vessels which he thought satisfied his hearers' hearts.  Consequently, many who would have hailed his wider views as genuine human help on the Godward way, never discovered that he held them; while the heresy hunters were not in the least deceived by the apparent "soundness" of his phrases, but kept him in a continual state of nervous irritation by constantly expressed doubts and implied threatenings.

    His sermon this morning was on "Prophecy: Fulfilled and Unfulfilled."  It was interesting, and suggestive, and erudite; but of counsel for the difficulties of practical life, of inspiration for the aspirations of the human heart, it failed utterly.  There was little wonder that when they all issued from the close gloom of the church Miss Helen said (as others might have said in a far different spirit)—

    "Well, Mr Baird, the Lord help you if that is the kind of gospel you get here now-a-days."  And then she went on characteristically, "Not a word of warning about the depravity of man's nature and his imminent necessity of fleeing from the wrath to come!  And yet, on such a subject, he might have shown so grandly all the wonders of election and predestination in the acceptance of the favoured Israel and the casting out of the heathen."

    "Helen wad ha' liket to ha' been i' that kirk whaur the minister had been in sic a hurry that he couldna mak' up onything out o' his ain heid, but just said aff the shorter catechism without the questions between," remarked Miss Bell.  "Gin he gave that owre an' owre again, Helen wad not weary.  Noo, I was gey interested when Mr Rutherford was speakin' o' outside kin' o' prophecies.  I dinna believe anything aboot them, ye ken—still I think there faun be something queer.  Didn't it come true that was said o' Edenhall—


'Its foundations can never be sure,
 Because it was built on the ruin o' the poor.
 Ere an age is come an' gane
 The toad shall sit on the auld hearthstane,
 The cow shall feed on the lady's green,
 And nane shall ken whaur the house has been."'


    "No Christian need go to a foolish rhyme to know that the wicked cannot prosper," answered Miss Helen; "that's Scripture."

    "But they do prosper whiles, as far as living in their ain hooses and biggin' bonnier anes," persisted Miss Bell, "the Bible itsel' doesna deny that.  But, Helen, did you see the lassie wi' auld Jean Haldane?  My faith! but I mistook the auld poacher's grandchild for an earl's daughter!"

    "Jean's own daughter, Mary Olrig's mother, was a very superior, gentle-mannered girl—the old people had her well taught—and I've always heard that the man she married was a particularly fine man," put in Mr Baird.  "He was a North Sea skipper—and there was a good deal of heroism about the way he died—wasn't there, Lesley?"

    "Yes, when his ship was sinking he gave up his lifebelt to a stowaway lad," said Lesley, with the tremor which always came into her soft voice when it uttered anything which thrilled her heart.

    "You should keep your eye on Jean's grand-daughter, Lesley," advised Miss Helen; "she comes of an old dale stock, and she would be just the style to make a satisfactory servant for Edenhaugh."

    "O, Miss Helen," cried Lesley; "I'm more fit for service than is Mary Olrig!"

    "Hech, sirs, is she that upsettin'?" laughed Miss Bell.  "A proud mind an' an empty purse gree ill thegether."

    "I didn't say Mary Olrig is too proud to be a servant," explained Lesley.  "I don't think she looks at things in that light.  But she is better suited for other things.  You need only hear her speak to understand what I mean."

    By this time they had reached the ten or twelve old houses, which, straggling against each other on the road side, constituted the village of Edendale.  Here they overtook some of their fellow-worshippers, who were, as Miss Helen disapprovingly expressed it, "hanging about" the post office.  There was Logan of Gowan Brae, with little Jamie, who instantly slipped from his father's side and insinuated his hand in Lesley's.  There was Mary Olrig, alone now, for there was a nearer way to old Mrs Haldane's cottage than the road through Edendale, and she had taken this path, on which her active grandchild would soon overtake her feeble steps.  There too was Jock Halliday, and the old man who had driven the Misses Gibson to Edenhaugh on the preceding day.  A group of people had gathered round them.  There could be little doubt that the "ghaist" was the topic of their discourse.  Even Logan of Gowan Brae had been taking part therein, for he began to rally Mr Baird:

    "And so we've got a new ghost in Edendale, and your ploughman and your visitors have the credit of discovering it for us."

    "We saw no ghost," said Miss Helen; "we saw some tramp or artist seated in the churchyard, and Bell happened to say he was like Mr Bethune.  I shouldn't wonder but her foolish remark is the basis of all the story."

    "The old driver is telling us that he never gave two thoughts to what Miss Bell said till this morning, when he heard of Jock's vision," related jovial Mr Logan.  "He says that he didn't see the man at all, though he looked for him directly he heard Miss Bell speak.  Now we'll all have to believe in ghosts if such sensible people as Miss Gibson take to seeing them!"

    "The old man's eyes must be failing, or he would have seen what there was to see," decided Miss Helen.  "But I have heard that our great-grandmother had the second sight, which was in many of the best families of her date—all rubbish, of course."

    "Weel—a double is a maist unlucky ghaist," decided Miss Bell, "and maybe we'd better not say much aboot it, for or against—till we see whether anything happens to Mr Rab."

    "There's no stranger in the village," announced Mr Logan.  "Jock Halliday says he has been speirin' everywhere for one."

    "What do you think of all this?" whispered Lesley to Mary Olrig, who was standing aside, with an expression of strangely intense interest on her earnest face.

    "I'm thinking," she said with a slight hesitation, "that a little bit of one's own experience sheds a light on a great deal.  I think that I begin to see how ghost stories grow."

    "We don't get much nearer to the bottom of them," said Lesley.

    Mary gave her head a queer little shake.  "If we did," she said, "I think they might be more wonderful and weird than they seem."  She was thinking within herself that there might be a reason why the traditions of "the double" make it such an evil portent.  But if Mary Olrig held any secret, she possessed it with that wise faithfulness which gives no hint of its existence.

    "It 's an unprofitable thing, this waiting at the Post on Sunday," said Miss Helen to Mr Baird; "though I don't wonder you're willing to wait to-day to see if there's news of any sort.  But, Bell, you need not ask for your letters."

    "'Deed no," retorted her good-humoured sister "but why suld I spend twal' weary hours wonderin' what that last publisher will decide, when I can gae in, and maybe get my mind settled at once.  As Mr Baird says, it's no like being in a big city.  We're a' gude folk here and hae been to kirk.  It's the liberty o' the saints!"

    "Well, if you will you must," said Miss Helen, and presently her sister returned from the post-window with a baffled, childish pout on her round merry face.

    "I've gotten the letter frae the publisher, Helen," she said, "an' he wants to hae naught to do with me.  He puts it ceevil, but it comes to just that."

    "Serves you right for breaking the Sabbath," answered Miss Helen, sententiously.

    "Eh, Helen—but the letter wadna ha' changed though it had lain till Monday," returned Miss Bell.  "I ken I might ha' had anither day's pleasure o' hope.  But that's no sic a pleasure; better a finger aff than aye waggin'. Noo, I'll be ready to write to some other man on Monday morning.  'If ane won't anither will,' as the auld laird said when the lass wadna tak' him."

    "There's no letter for Edenhaugh except one for Lesley," said Mr Baird, as he too came up.

    There was a quick flush on Lesley's face as he handed it to her, but it faded instantly.  The letter was directed in a commonplace round hand, that of a clerk or shopman.  Lesley opened it; there was nothing at all inside!  She scrutinised the envelope more closely, and found that one end was cut clean up; through this the contents had escaped, and the fracture would never have been noticed but for its absence.

    "What postmark is on the envelope?" asked Mr Baird.

    "Kelso," said his niece, showing it to her uncle.

    "I will go back to the post-office and ask if they see any loose letter or paper lying about," was his decision.

    "I daresay it has been only a circular, Lesley," consoled Miss Gibson.

    It did seem very likely, yet there was another possibility present to Lesley's Baird's heart, which made her follow very close upon her uncle's footsteps.


 
CHAPTER IV.

A FOSSIL AND A MIND.


LESLEY and her uncle could not get much satisfaction by their enquiries at the rustic post-office.  The old post-mistress peered over her spectacles, and said that "she'd done naething to the letters, she had just given them straight oot as they were, naething had fallen oot there, they could see that for themselves," and truly, the long low shop was swept and garnished for the Sabbath, and the only blemish on its immaculate neatness was one torn scrap of yellow paper, which Mr Baird poked at with his stick, and which proved to be only the fragment of an old time-table.

    "Ye can write to head-quarters, ye ken, an' there'll be enquiry made," advised the post-mistress; "that can do nae harm."

    Mr Baird repeated this encouraging counsel to the Misses Gibson.

    "It would be a great work to make over what has been nothing but a circular, I'll engage," repeated Miss Helen; "if it is anything worth searching for, Lesley, it will be worth the sender enquiring after—be sure of that."

    "Maybe it was a bill," laughed Miss Bell, "then it will turn up again, it's nae use trying to lose thae tiresome things!  But surely there must be some important letter ye're expectin', Lesley, or ye wadna fash yoursel' aboot it."

    Somehow that remark put an end to the discussion.  Mary Olrig silently held out her hand for the empty envelope, looked at it carefully, and returned it to Lesley without a word; Miss Gibson observed the little action, and noted in her mind "that the Olrig girl was a sharp piece."

    Then Mary Olrig hastened to overtake her grandmother; Logan of Gowan Brae and his little boy set off their own way, and Mr Baird and the three ladies of his party returned to Edenhaugh.  As Miss Helen went along she made sundry severe comments on certain rustic families whom she caught, standing in their Sabbath attire, surveying their poultry, or their little garden plots.  Such doings, in her opinion, marked a terrible declension from the days when kirk sessions administered discipline for a Sabbath-gathered flower, and pious families left their beds unmade on the first day of the week.

    Yet her own Sabbath keeping was anomalous in all its strictness.  When the family had finished its mid-day repast, which was arranged to give least trouble to the servants, and yet was such a wonderful compromise between daintiness and simplicity that it was the pleasantest meal of the whole week, there still remained more than an hour before any inhabitant of Edenhaugh need start for the second "diet" of worship.

    So, finding some time at her disposal, Miss Helen went up to the Edenhaugh bookcase, and looked over the titles of the volumes.  Then she went to her room, and returned with her own copy of some old theological treatise, which she laid open on her knee, and presently, led off by some slight remark of her sister's, launched into discussion of her old neighbours in church.  Of course she discussed their manners or attire only from a high moral standpoint, as for instance, to lament that poor old Mrs Brown of Carlogie had not more right feeling for her husband's limited means—not to mention her own increasing years and infirmities—than to sport such a fashionable bonnet (though, Miss Helen remarked, in parenthesis, that the particular ornaments of Mrs Brown's choice were precisely what would be suitable to redecorate Miss Helen's own last season's headgear, at present lying by in Edinburgh).

    "And did you notice that servant lass on your right hand, Bell?" went on this ruthless critic.  "I don't know what the world is coming to, for she had exactly the kind of trimming that I want you to get for your cashmere dress,—and very likely she has a parent on the parish."

    "Eh, no," answered Miss Bell, "not if it's Sarah Simpson you mean—for I think you must mean Sarah—Sarah's no father, nor mither, an' her uncles are well-to-do."

    Miss Helen but proceeded with her animadversions.  Mrs Rutherford is getting stout, her figure is all gone.  I doubt if the minister finds her as active as I daresay he thought she would be; it's not always those who have been forced to work hard who are most industrious when they are not driven to it."

    "Aye! many's the bride that braks her elbow at the kirk door," laughed Miss Bell.  "She's gettin' on wi' her genteel ways, though, the bodie!  I doubt she'll soon show the breed o' the miller's dochter, who speired what tree groats grew on'; but, puir thing, I'm sure we needna grudge her a' she's got, for gentry's dree wi' an empty purse."

    "Who is grudging her, Bell? " asked Miss Helen, with contempt; "I think a woman who marries above her station is much to be pitied.  There are many things against such an one which her husband doesn't notice till the courtship's done; then he begins to see her among women of his own rank; and however kind such women are to her she cannot help feeling that she owes it only to their good sense in making the best of what can't be undone."

    "There's aye ten ladies left auld maids for ane puir lassie," remarked Miss Bell, with rueful comicality; "sae it's sma' wonder they're affrontit when some puir lassie taks up wi' ane o' the few lads that might ha' come to their share!  D'ye mind Eppie Gray, the mercer's daughter, Helen, wha married the laird o' Benn just as he'd ha' been roupit oot o' Benn Ha', if her bit money hadna saved him by paying aff the mortgage?  But that didna keep his twa tocherless, lang-descendit cousins wha lived wi' him—and on him too—frae scorning at 'come-up folk that had made gear wi' a yard-measure.'  I wondered hoo Eppie could thole it, when she maun ha' kenned sae weel where they'd ha' been wi'out her siller."

    "Surely it was that which made it endurable," said Lesley, looking up from her book, with a sudden flash of indignation in her eyes.

    "Well, I wonder she could haud her tongue frae speaking the plain truth," persisted Miss Bell.

    "And why?" asked Miss Helen, with cool bitterness; "she had got his rank for her money."

    "How could she speak, when there was so much she might have said?" Lesley reiterated, warmly.  "But I think anybody else who heard such cruel things, should have let the young women know there was a different side to the subject.  I hope I should!"

    "I don't doubt it, Lesley," said Miss Helen drily.  "But they wouldn't have heeded you—you being at best but of yeomanry rank; and dear me, Lesley, I thought you were reading your work too closely to hear what we were talking about!  I've been wondering what it may be to engross you so."

    "It is Longfellow's 'Evangeline,'" replied Lesley, with despairing candour, knowing quite well what would surely follow, and determined not to put on any saving gloss by describing more vaguely as "Longfellow's poems."

    "Dear me!" cried Miss Helen, righteously taking up her rather neglected theologian; "and is that the kind of Sunday reading you've come to at Edenhaugh?  Love making may be well enough in its own way and its proper place, but it's worse than a pity to mix it up with religion and sacred things."

    Mr Baird came loyally to the rescue of Lesley.

    "Do you think it is a pity that the book of Ruth is bound up with the rest of the Bible?" he asked with the air of one gravely considering the matter.

    "Of course not," replied Miss Helen decidedly; "for that shows us the reward of children who are dutiful to their parents.  Besides, Ruth became the ancestress of our Saviour.  What doctrine is there in 'Evangeline'?  One may read these poets' books on week days, though, personally, I don't see much good in so doing.  But Sunday should be kept for higher things.  There are plenty of solid treatises written by men of deep and sanctified intellect who knew what they were doing and did it earnestly, and understood where to leave off.  That's the distinction I draw; your geniuses never seem sure what they are doing, nor why they do it; nor where to stop.  The heroine of 'Evangeline' is a mere Papist, and if I remember rightly, all the poetry is draped round the false fables of her creed; there is nothing but priests and bell-ringing, and such nonsense."

    "Yet can you help thinking that David and Isaiah and a host of the minor prophets were men of genius rather than of superior talent—even under your definition of the distinction between these?" asked Mr Baird.

    His quiet tone, as of an enquirer searching for light, cut off Miss Helen's familiar way of escape in such conversations.  She could scarcely tell so seemingly meek a questioner that "those who rest in their own wisdom are sure to find it folly," since Mr Baird could have instantly pleaded that to rest in his own wisdom was the very thing he was not doing.

    But Miss Helen was a woman of resource.

    "I never think of David or Isaiah or any other of the prophets as men of either genius or intellect," she said, with a tart air of wounded propriety; "it is enough for me that Scripture is given by inspiration of God Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'"

    "That is what St Paul and St Peter so beautifully say," remarked Mr Baird.  "Do you think they felt equally sure that what they themselves were then setting forth was to be included in the Scriptures of the Church?"

    Miss Helen would have liked to pause.  She did not quite see where that question might lead.  But to her mind hesitancy and reflection at such times meant unworthy uncertainty and indecision, so she replied promptly―

    "Of course they did."

    "I am interested in your assured conviction on that point," Mr Baird went on in his quietest manner, "because I have often wondered how St Paul made such minute enquiries after his cloak and books, commented so severely on obscure individuals, and sent such homely messages of regard, if he was fully and consciously aware of the place which his epistles were to take in the Church of Christendom.  Mind, I am very glad those passages are there.  I believe some of the richest teaching lies just in those places.  I have preached myself whole sermons from texts whose very presence in the Bible seems the most inexplicable when taken in connection with certain views of inspiration.  What do you think inspiration really is, Miss Helen?"

    "The influence of the Holy Spirit," she replied, with severe brevity,

    "Aye," said Mr Baird, "the wisdom which is above man, poured down through man's mind.  But the ancient Jews—Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob—as we hear also of some Christians in the apostolic age—do not seem to have known that there was any Holy Spirit, yet Peter asserts that 'in old time prophecy came not by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'"

    "Well, it was the same thing, whether they used the name or not," said Miss Helen almost pettishly; "they knew it was 'thus saith the Lord.'"

    "Now that is exactly what I think," answered Mr Baird quite cordially; "that it does not matter much what theological nomenclature they followed, so as they recognised and obeyed the teaching which they felt was from above.  That brings me to consider the very wide limits given to inspiration by Scripture itself.  Job's friend Elihu speaks 'of a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giving them understanding,' and claims to have his own share therein; and yet, Job and his friends were none of them even Jews.  I feel sure you acknowledge the value of the book of Job, Miss Helen?"  This interrogatively.

    "Of course I do," she said, resolutely folding her hands, "I acknowledge everything in the Bible.  If you begin to pick and choose, where are you to end?"

    "Certainly," Mr Baird assented, but with the slightest twinkle in his dreamy eyes.  "Unfortunately, we do pick and choose, and act as if certain moral precepts had never been given.  But let that pass.  Admitting that a man like Job's friend, not a Jew, may yet know something of inspiration, I confess it puzzles me why we should come to the conclusion that Divine Inspiration ceased very soon after the Church had received the full revelation concerning the Guide and Comforter."

    "A new dispensation had begun," said Miss Helen, quite positively; "there there was no more need for miracle, prophecy, or vision, and so they ceased."

    "But they did not cease then," persisted Mr Baird, for Paul writes whole chapters on the regulation and relative value of spiritual gifts, which then suddenly spread among many, and seemed to be a foretaste of that exalted spiritual life which the prophet Joel foretold.  You will remember the passage—'God will pour out His spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions, and also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out My spirit.'  I should like to know what you think that means, Miss Helen?"

    Miss Helen chose to limit her reply to the passage he had quoted.

    "Why—it means—it means that nobody can come to God without His grace—that all their knowledge and goodwill is His free gift—and that by-and-bye there was to be no longer a favoured nation and a peculiar people—but that His grace should be free and open to all—that is, to all whom He ordained to accept it."

    Mr Baird drew a long breath.  He had been used to hear a great deal of dry doctrine all his life, but he had not often heard free will and predestination drawn into such frank and startling juxtaposition.

    However, with a shake of the head, he went on again―

    "There is another mystery about the inspired writings.  So much of them are simply records of the sayings of people who are admitted to be exactly as the rest of us; for instance, it is St Matthew whom we call 'one of the inspired Evangelists'; but when he found something worthy to record in the cry of the Syro-Phœnician woman's faith, must not she also have been inspired?  It is her words and the Master's action which make the basis of St Matthew's inspiration by furnishing him with a story worthy of recital."

    "I wonder that does not explain itself to you, Mr Baird," said Miss Helen; "I daresay most of the people who heard that woman's appeal thought she was little better than mad; but St Matthew's inspiration taught him better.  By its light he saw she had given the whole church a lesson which he must hold up before it."

    "Ah, I understand and accept that," answered Mr Baird cordially; "but from that standpoint must we not admit that anybody having a mind opened by inspiration, may see as much beauty and wisdom in the life still around us, though to others, it appear poor and common-place?  We are forced to admit, therefore, that there is not only an inspiration of utterance, and of action, but an inspiration of observation and narration."

    "Mr Baird," said Miss Helen severely, "I can scarcely tell what you are driving at—but it seems to me you are trying to undermine the authority and inspiration of God's own Word."

    "God forbid," said Mr Baird with deep feeling; "though I maintain that the Word of God is not a book—though that book be the noble literature of a great nation—but a Life, the Life of Him who was the Light of the World, and the manifestation of our Father's love.  I believe in the inspiration of the Bible, through and through—an inspiration far too real and true to be merely pressed complete, like a dead plant, between two boards.  The inspiration of God and the development of His will and His laws may enter into everything—into Parliamentary Blue Books and family pedigrees, into household letters, friendly messages, and honest economies, as well as into noble poetry or subtle metaphysics."

    Lesley looked at her uncle with eager amazement.  They had never spoken together on these subjects, and it was wonderful to hear his words giving form to many a feeling latent in her own heart!  How large the world looked while he was speaking!  Oh, how she wished he had talked like this to Rab Bethune!  For Rab seemed to think of religion as a prison, outside which one would fain remain as long as possible.

    "It is time to go to church," said Miss Helen, rising suddenly.  "I'm sorry for you, Mr Baird, for I'm afraid you are in a sad tangle."

    Mr Baird descended from his spiritual mountain. (It is singular that Moses from Mount Sinai and the disciples from the glories of the Transfiguration, came down to the jangle and jar of confused and perverted minds.)

    "What a blessing it is for me that Isaiah declares the way of holiness to be so simple that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein," said Mr Baird.

    "Aye, aye, that's right," chimed in Miss Bell, who had been sitting aside with a puzzled air, 'aye, aye,


'Happy the man who belongs to no party,
But sits in his ain house and looks at Benarty.'


I aye think o' that when Helen is argufying wi' folk, for she's aye at it wi' somebody.  It's not often the talk is so metaphysical or spiritual as it has been to-day.  It 's generally about some presbytery's doings, or else about the U.P.'s.  I dinna ken what Helen wad do if there was na aye somebody to be pit richt.  The gran' privilege o' haein' sic a sister has been clean thrawn awa' on a feckless bodie like me.  Come awa', Lesley, and put on your bonnet."

    Lesley followed her visitors.  "I'm not going to church," she explained; " I'm going a little way up the Edenlaw to visit a sick person."

    "Eh, well, Lesley, mony men, mony minds—an' maybe it's an erran' o' mercy," answered the complaisant Miss Bell.

    "It's a kindly errand of mercy which calls one up a pleasant hill-side on a sweet summer afternoon!" said Miss Gibson.  "But I can't wonder at you, Lesley, it takes the grace of an advanced Christian to keep true to the house of God when the worship is so dry and cold."

    Poor Lesley fancied Miss Helen pointed her rebuke at her with a glance of more than usual significance.  This was but her own self-consciousness; for though she was going to see an old bed-ridden dame whom she often visited on Sabbath afternoons, yet she did know that a certain reason of her own prompted her to go on this particular Sunday.  The old dame had a grandson, an official in some humble capacity at Kelso Station, and he generally walked home at daybreak to spend the day with his agèd relative.  The old dame lived on these Sunday visits, almost as much as on the tea and meal with which "the callant" kept her supplied.  He brought a wholesome breath of the stirring outer world into the narrow little cottage on the hill-side.  And this was poor Lesley's little scheme-she knew that among the railway porter's news there would surely be an item as to the movements of "Mr Rab" on the Kelso railway platform!


 
CHAPTER V.

A CONQUEROR'S WATCHWORD.


IT was very well for Miss Helen to throw out insinuations as to the pleasure of strolling on the Edenlaw on a summer Sunday afternoon; but the side of the Edenlaw nearest to Edenhaugh was very steep and bare, offering no shelter from the sultry afternoon sunbeams.

    Alison Brown's little cottage stood slantways from the road, and, with its low heavy-thatched eaves, its rough walls draped with some bright creeper, and its uneven doorstep, looked as much a part of Nature as did any other object on the hillside.  Only a very few years before, Alison herself, seated at the door in snowy mutch and Rob Roy shawl, would have given just that same finishing touch of completeness to the picture which is imparted by a bird poised upon its nest, or by the sheep nibbling beside their fold; but now "auld Alison" would never rise again from her bed, yet thanks to the kindly ministrations of neighbours not much younger or less feeble, the old dame was kept tidy and trim, and had a bright welcome for Lesley the moment her foot passed over the door.

    "Aye, aye, come your ways in," she said; "there's nae sermon like a bonnie face that's a guid face, and the Lord means such to look in whiles on those wha canna go to His kirk; the lad Will's oot just now—gane to find foot what's at the bottom o' some nonsense they're talking about the trysting stane."

    "What! have you too heard of that, Mrs Brown?" asked Lesley playfully; "you must never speak of being lonely again if gossip travels to you at this rate."

    "It's na gossip that keeps a saul frae loneliness, young leddy," said the old woman with emphasis.  "There's auld deaf Janet, that doesna hear a word and scarcely says one, but comes up every morn and makes my bed afore she redds up her ain place; and there's my Miss Lesley"—and the old woman fondly laid her withered hand on the girl's fresh arm—"my Miss Lesley that comes in and smiles upo' me, and lets me crack o' auld times and deid folk she never saw; and there's Will himsel' wha's a wee gruff and grumpy in his speech—it's just these that save me frae loneliness, no to speak o' the feelin' I hae whiles that there's Something guid i' the room that I canna see nor hear.  Somehow that last is what one never can feel, if the place is full o' folk clashin' aboot their neighbours an' one is joinin' in."

    "You are looking very well to-day, Mrs Brown," said Lesley, taking a seat by the old lady's bedside; "surely you are better than when I saw you last."

    "Na," answered the invalid quite decidedly, "there's nae betterness for me i' this world.  It's only the waters o' Jordan that will heal me, an' sometimes it's hard to keep frae wearyin' for them.  I've thought whiles, if it was only the Lord's will to take me, it would save a deal o' trouble an' expense; for it's hard to think He can find any more use for an auld bedrid wifie at the back o' the Edenlaw.  But when I said that to Will, I was really feared he would sweir―he was sae wild!  An' I saw it was just the temptation o' auld age I was givin' in to—and that if I was really carin' for the Lord's will, I wud just wait for it without a word.  I see He sets us a new lesson as long as He keeps us in schule—and however many we've learned before, I fear we're aye bad at the fresh one.

    "I ought to be content to wait," the old body went on, for the Lord has given me plenty o' pleasant things to think about.  I wadna ha' believed it ance, if I'd been tauld I should be lyin' here sae canty and sae trig, getting a gude rest, before the Lord ca's me to be up an' awa again.  An' I dinna love Him mair for the big blessin's—for the bread that is certain and the water that is sure, and the bonnie bed an' a' the gudeness o' folks—than I love Him for the little blessings dropped in atween, like a mither drops a sweetie into her bairn's bannock.  It's God in His Providence that gives the bannock, ye ken; but it's God in His love that gives the sweetie—no too many o' them, because that wud spoil our teeth, but just enough to mind us that He remembers we are but dust.  Maybe, it's a silly thing to mention, but I'd aye set my heart on seein' my mither's auld kist o' drawers mended and polished up.  Whiles I'd saved a little towards it, and then the sillar had to go for something else.  But last winter, i' the big storm, Will made himself unco' usefu' to a gentleman frae abroad, and the gentleman behaved handsome to Will.  An' said Will, 'this is something quite extry, Grannie,—so I'm going to get your old kist o' drawers done up right fine, for ye to look at as ye lie i' your bed.'  An' I've often hardly been able to see it for the tears gatherin' in my eyes—to think God gied me my bit wish when I couldna do mair to win it for mysel'—an' the auld kist'll stand in Will's ain hoose, in memory of my mither and me—auld Marget and auld Alison."

    Lesley saw nothing incongruous in the old woman's delighted thankfulness.  But the strange weariness which sometimes seizes on youth was on the girl this afternoon.  Towards it there conspired the parting from Rab Bethune, the sense of unrest begotten by the Gibsons' chatter, perhaps even the lassitude of the uphill clamber under the broiling sun—for such trifles are often the last burden laid on over-weighted nerves.

    "O Alison!" she cried, "you have got safely to the end, but some of us have still all the way to go—and—"

    "An' what?" asked the old woman as Lesley paused.  "This warld we're passin' through is God's warld as much as any we're ganging to, dearie.  Dinna think of the milestones, think o' the steps.  God doesna ask ye to climb a hill till you come to it.  God doesna mean us to daunt ourselves wi' the exact height and steepness o' the hills we'll hae to climb, He just bids us gae straight on, and fear naething but loss o' faith in Him.

    "There's something troubling my bonnie lassie," the old woman went on, laying her knotty old hand on the girl's soft hair, for Lesley had buried her face in the blue bedcover—"there's something troubling my lassie.  I'll no ask her what it is, the heart kens its trials weel eneuch, wi'out turning them owre in words.  Weel I kent that, when I was left a widow wi' four faitherless bairns.  There were folk that said to me, 'ye canna win throu', wantin' help.  All your day's wark winna pay for more than the day's need, and what'll ye dae if ye fa' sick?'  That wasna the question that would keep me from fa'ing sick!—I whiles nearly sickened to hear spoken out loud that fear which was aye whispering i' my ain heart.  Na, na—the ane that did me maist gude was auld Doctor Glegg—ye no mind him, lassie, he was deid lang afore your time.  'Alison Brown comes of brave stock,' said he; 'the sort that need to wark hard or they'd live to be a hunder an' fifty, and be owre tired o' the warld afore they got chance to leave it!  Alison Brown fa' sick!' said he; 'there'll be an awfu' epidemic i' the parish afore that comes to pass,' says he, 'an' a' the rest of us will be deid an' buried, an' Alison'll hae to gie a' the church doles to herself,' said he."  The old dame laughed in a silent way as she told her story.  "An' the folks said, 'Dr Glegg's way o' talking was just temptin' Providence;' but he lookit in my face and I lookit in his, an' I knew God gave him those words to give me just as He gave him wine or meat for ither poor folk.  An' he was the man wha wad stop his horse at my door, an' say, 'now, Alison, you've done enough wark the day, aff wi' ye to my hoose for a dish o' tea and a crack wi' my housekeeper, who was saying she wanted to ask ye for a word o' your help aboot something.'  An' there was aye a trifle for me to bring back—not always a something needful that wad spare my bawbees, but whiles a flower or a bit carpet, or a chaney cup.  But here I go, havering away, when all I want to say is, dinna be afeard o' life, dearie.  There's a time to reckon and to forecast, and there's a time to shut your een and gang!  The Lord can lead ye safe round steep corners that wad mak' ye dizzy if ye kept your eyes wide open; ye've only got to ask if ye're sure you are i' the Lord's ain way, and then, shut your een and gang!  It's what we all have to do at the end, lassie.  He shuts our een for us, and leads us through His dark, and if we willna learn the lesson afore, we hae to learn it then; but the mair we've lippened to Him i' the past, the easier it will be i' that hour."

    There was a short silence, then the old lady spoke again: "Whiles I think it maun be very easy deein' for those that can leave good warks and words to go on ahint them.  As for me, why, I'm glad somehow aboot that kist o' drawers that people will say 'belonged to poor auld Alison.'  It's a grand thing to see aught got into gude repair, lassie, frae a human saul down to a wheen sticks and stanes!  But here's Will himself comin' in."

    Will was a freckled Scot, curt, and scant of speech, and Lesley, tremulous from her recent strain of feeling, wondered how she should approach the subject at her heart.  But old Alison led up to it, genially and innocently enough.

    "Ha' ye laid the ghaist, Will? " she asked.

    "Na," Will answered, briefly; probably with a feeling that such topics were too "supersteetious-like" to be named before the young lady o' Edenhaugh.

    "An' wha's ghaist do they think it was?" persisted his grandmother.

    "The ghaist o' a leevin' man," Will replied with ineffable contempt; "the ghaist o' Mr Rab Bethune, whom I saw with my ain een walking up and down the Kelso platform last night, and then go off in the train."

    Lesley felt her heart give a great swing.  "Then he could not have returned here, by any possibility," she said quite calmly.

    "Na, miss," answered Will; "not unless he sent himself back in a letter.  I saw him getting ane posted."

    A letter?  Then a letter of Rab's, bearing the Kelso post-mark, had gone somewhere!  But certainly the superscription of poor Lesley's empty envelope was not in Rab's handwriting, and Lesley felt her face grow hot at the bare idea that her mind was in a condition to permit such thoughts.

    "Had you many passengers for the London express last night?" she asked, for no reason but to make conversation a little easier for the taciturn Will.

    "Na, there were twa or three puir country folk," said Will; "but there were only twa gentry—Mr Rab himself, wha walked up and doon the station vera absent like; and a little lady in a long fur cloak.  An' she was no one frae these pairts—she'd only come into Kelso by the afternoon train; I reckon she'd some business i' the toon.  A queer little body," and Will smiled a meditative, almost crafty smile, as of one who has just had a chance of peeping into human nature through some unlikely crack.  But men of Will Brown's stamp are apt to hold their own observations and experiences but cheaply, as cottage housewives will condemn to household neglect fragments of quaint pottery which connoisseurs would envy.

    When Lesley rose to go, Alison Brown held her hand lingeringly, and fixed her dim eyes on her face with a long, soft gaze:

    "Let me see you again soon, lassie," she said; "but I'll no forget if—if it's lang, lang first!"

    So Lesley went off down the hill, where the sunshine was now softened, and on her homeward way she met Mary Olrig coming towards the Browns' cottage.  She had been at Edenhaugh enquiring for Lesley, and the servant in charge had told her where the young mistress had gone.  Mary had news, brought by the letter which she had received that morning.

    "I have got my nomination to the Telegraph Office," she said.  In those days, the Telegraph Office was still a private enterprise; women clerks were a new innovation, and the personal introduction of a director was the best means by which fit people could enter its service.  "That means London, Lesley,"

    "London!" echoed Lesley, with a touch of envy.

    "Yes, London," said Mary; "great, horrible, fearsome London.  You don't know what it is, Lesley!"

    "No, I don't," Lesley confessed; "but it must be full of interesting places, and there must be plenty of good people;" (for was not Rab in London by this time, and the halo with which love surrounded him naturally radiated upon it!)

    "Lesley," said Mary, in a quiet, thrilling tone, "I used to like London when I went there with father.  I went about with him everywhere, but now I begin to think there was something quite wicked in the sort of weird pleasure I felt in gazing at the streets, and the strange faces—such faces, Lesley!  You who have never been there cannot imagine them!  I made up all sorts of fancies and stories about them.  A house or a face would seem to tell me its story, as it were; but I begin to see that there was generally torture in those stories—torture of crime, or of cruellest sorrow and want.  So that my own strange pleasure was founded on others' pain, as much as that of the Roman ladies who used to watch the fatal combats in the arena!  I see all it really means, now that I am going down into the arena myself.  I shall be in London without any father, without any money except what I can earn, without any home.  I shall be one among the millions, some of whom fall out of the ranks daily, and are trodden under foot by the rest!"

    "And yet, Mary," said Lesley with her gentle frankness, "I cannot help being glad you are going, for it has always seemed to me that you are meant for a larger life than you are living now."

    "A larger life!" echoed Mary Olrig; "that is the mistake made by you happy people who don't know your own happiness because you have always lived in places like this.  A larger life! is there anything very fine in doing nothing from morning till night but earn one's own bread, till one is too tired to do aught but sleep; and one can't be as courageous in London as one can be here—one has to be afraid of strangers, afraid of doing any kindness that cannot be quite written out on ruled lines—one is forced to be afraid, at least while one is young and lonely, because such awful gulfs of sin and misery yawn all around, and a single uncertain step might plunge one down into their depths.  O Lesley, why didn't God spare me just enough of worldly fortune to let me live on quietly in grandmother's cottage, and take care of her?"

    "He sees some better thing for you," said Lesley.

    "I know it is of myself I am thinking, and not of grandmother," Mary admitted; "she will not miss me, we have not been together long enough for her to get accustomed to me; and grandmother has quite enough for herself in her way of life without any help from me.  I think it would be a comfort to me if I had to live on bread and water in London to send a trifle to her," and Mary laughed rather bitterly.  "I think it is the being of no use to anybody but oneself which comes rather hard on a woman!"

    "Have you ever been left quite useless, yet, dear?" asked Lesley.

    Mary hesitated, "Not quite," she conceded; "but I feel I shall be now, when I am alone in that terrible place, where I shall fear to move hand or foot lest I do wrong, or make some mistake.  Why, Lesley, since I have been living in this quiet seclusion, I have been able to do human services which much braver and stronger people would never dare to do in that city where you fancy 'a larger life' is so possible!"  Her pale face flushed softly as she spoke.

    "Yet you feel it is really your duty to take this appointment?" said Lesley interrogatively.

    "I must be independent," Mary answered; "I must, as old fashioned folks say, 'earn and eat my own bread,' and I have had a little ambition of my own, Lesley, that I can't speak about, even to you, only it was towards something which I can never attain unless I have an hour or two of daily leisure at my own disposal.  That was why I asked my father's old friend to try to get me this sort of appointment."

    "I think you are meant to accept it," said Lesley.  "Anyhow, you feel it is your present duty!"

    "Yes," said Mary.

    "I, too, have been very low-spirited this afternoon," whispered Lesley; "I felt like you, as if I was afraid of the future.  If your future seems to you hard and stern, and fraught with danger, mine seemed to me dull, and grey, and lifeless.  I went up to see dear old Alison Brown, and she gave me the right word at once, as she has often done—there seems that kind of heavenly witchery about her! and I think I will just pass her word on to you, Mary.  It was this:―

    "'Ye've only got to ask if you are sure you are in the Lord's ain way, and then shut your een and gang!'"

    Lesley took Mary's hand in hers as she repeated the old dame's words in the old dame's own soft accent.  The two girls were standing at the bend of the path where their homeward ways parted.  They looked straight into each other's eyes—Lesley's so soft and kind, Mary's so clear and keen.  Then suddenly Mary threw her arms round Lesley's neck, kissed her fervently, and fled away without another word.

    That afternoon's visit was the last that Lesley Baird was to see of her old friend Alison.  At night, as usual, her grandson left her, to walk back to his railway duties, and next morning a neighbour found her lying dead.  As she would have said, she had "won through the last struggle alane i' the dark," but there was no sign of conflict—nothing but a faint smile on the wasted old face.

    The Lord had taken home "the auld bedrid wifie at the back o' the Edenlaw."  But He had had his use for her to the last, for had He taken her one day sooner, two who were entering on life's battle must have missed the strong words which would follow them through its struggle as the solemn re-assurance of one who having fought—had conquered—and knew!


 
CHAPTER VI.

"A QUEER LITTLE BODY."


KELSO Station.  Late on Saturday night.  A young man, whose handsome figure and easy gait had all the careless grace of one accustomed to command and to be obeyed, came upon the platform in that impatient, chafing fashion which betrays strong mental perturbation.  He looked out some luggage which he had left there earlier, then he walked impatiently up and down.  At each turn he met and passed a small, middle-aged lady.  She looked at him with shrewd interest, he did not seem even to see her.  She was a woman nearer fifty than forty, who could never have been pretty, and whose face was now worn and deeply lined.

    Rab Bethune's well-appointed luggage stood in a pile at the end of the platform.  This lady's luggage stood beside it, just as it had arrived when she came into Kelso.  She had left it there when she went into the town, carrying nothing with her but a little hand-bag.  Her packages were quite as substantial as Rab's—perhaps costlier—but they were smaller, fewer in number, and sorely battered, as by much travel.  The labels fastened on them announced that their owner was Miss Clementine Kerr, passenger to London.

    She had looked into the little station waiting-room, but apparently did not find it very attractive in the mild summer night, though at intervals she paused at its door, and had a little conversation with two people who had been thankful to find rest and shelter there.  These belonged to the decent peasant class—one was a very agèd woman, and the other, a poor sick girl in her charge.  Miss Kerr had never seen them before.  She opened intercourse with them by a little sympathetic advice as to night air, &c., and finding the old woman over-weighted by her travelling responsibilities, and readily responsive, she put a few brief, pointed, rather searching questions, which soon elicited their little history.  The girl had come from the South to take service in her grandmother's native town, with some idea on the part of her parents that she would be "at hand" to "look after" the old woman.  Instead, her own health had broken down—a serious surgical operation was advised, over which such dangers impended that it was thought prudent she should resort to a London hospital within reach of her father and mother, rather than encounter its risks in Edinburgh, surrounded by utter strangers.  The family arrangement was that this grandmother, in accompanying the invalid to London, should sell off her little possessions, and make up her mind not to return, but to spend the remnant of her days among her children settled in London.  They meant it kindly—perhaps it was the only arrangement possible—but it took the old woman away from her husband's grave, and from places haunted by memories.  The old lady did not understand the pathos of her position, or she might have borne it better.  She felt it in a way which made her fretful and cross, even a little impatient with the sick girl.

    Miss Clementine Kerr listened to her bewailings, her keen eyes fixed on the invalid, with her flushing face, her laboured breath, and the stamp of helpless endurance on every line of countenance and figure.

    "What tickets have you got?" she inquired abruptly at last.

    The question seemed needless; the old dame fumbled among her skirts, got out an ancient purse, and produced two for the third class.

    "Are they no right?" she asked, suspiciously.

    "They're a' right," said the sick girl, faintly.

    "You'll have to change for the main line at Berwick," said Miss Kerr, regarding the tickets carefully, evidently turning over something in her mind.  "They will ask to see these things again and again through the night," she said to the grandmother; "it will flurry you and waken your grand-daughter.  Let me take them away for a minute, I can arrange that you shall not be disturbed;" and without waiting for consent, she went away down the platform.

    "She's no going' to rin off wi' them, surely," said the old woman anxiously.  "I'd be surprised at naething the day—after Madge Simpson havin' the impidence to name a shillin' for my good copper kettle."

    "Ye can see this is a real lady, grandmother," said the sick girl reproachfully.  But the grandmother went to the waiting-room door to watch what was going on.

    Miss Clementine stood talking to a tawny-visaged official—no other than Will Brown, Alison's grandson.  If the old woman had been near enough, she would have heard her say:

    "I want these two changed for two first-class tickets, and I want you to give them into the charge of the guard to see them into the through train, and give them in charge of its guard.  And here is a trifle more than the difference in the price of the tickets, to enable him to render them any little service possible during the long journey.  You will see this done for me?"

    Will promised.  "Are you going by this through train yourself, lady?" he asked.

    "Yes," she answered.

    "And do you all wish to be in one carriage?" he inquired next.  It was her reply to this which decided his subsequently expressed opinion that she was "a queer little body," for she answered briefly:

    "No; I am travelling third class."

    Then she resumed her walk up and down the platform.  She watched Rab Bethune pause in his promenade, take an open letter from his pocket, and read it carefully through.  It was a long letter, closely written on foreign paper.  She watched the young man restore it to its envelope, fasten it up, and gaze reflectively at its superscription.  Presently he opened his travelling bag, took out another envelope, and went into the booking office.  She took no more thought of him for a few minutes, when passing the booking office window, she happened to see him apparently dictating something to the clerk.  In a moment he stepped out with two letters in his hand—and as he resumed his walking to and fro, he kept looking at them both as if some point concerning them was still being debated in his mind.

    "A story is going on there," decided Miss Clementine Kerr to herself; "some romantic misery, of course.  Well, let him be thankful for it; he cannot know yet how it feels when one has as little to fear as to hope."

    The sharp face slightly contracted, and this time the little woman extended her walk to the very end of the platform, where it ran right out beyond the gaslight into the darkness of the night.

    What a life was hers to remember!  One long struggle for bread, a bitter struggle with others' incompetence, with folly, with fatuity, aye, with sin!  That the bare right might be done she had been forced to speak sharply and to deal sternly.  Because she would not refuse to face facts, because she would not utter soft falseness, those who had surrounded her youth had called her hard and cold with such persistency that she herself had grown to believe them.  She might have been happier—or rather have suffered less—had she been able to go on believing them; but long, long, long ago, one sweet, true love had been strong enough to reach her heart and thaw the ice about it, and reveal to herself her own power of passionate devotion and the exquisite bliss attending it.  It had proved like the brief fiery summer of the far North, flaming between two winters of arctic darkness.  It left behind only a grave, and an abiding sorrow, held in secret to save it from the smear of unsympathetic words and the stain of misunderstanding.  She had had to go on with her hopeless task of serving the unthankful, rousing the supine, checking the fool, and thwarting the evil-doer.  She had grown strong in her battle with the evil forces of this world—strong as trees grow which stand stunted and sturdy against the wind, the same trees which might have been so luxuriant had they grown in sheltered places!

    One by one the cares and crosses of this woman's life had faded away.  The spendthrift father and the weak, repining mother had gone to their long rest.  One scapegrace brother was in a far colony, doing better under the rough guidance of a working-class wife than he had ever done amid all his sister's sacrifices.  Another brother was quiet in a distant grave.  And her flighty sister, after nearly two trying decades of shifting and dubious love-affairs and excitements, had married a well-to-do old man and settled down as a dotard's sick nurse.

    Then it had seemed to Clementina Kerr that with no outside claims upon her time or her resources as an artist and an art-teacher, she could draw breath, and be a leisurely and well-to-do woman.

    It was in this lull that it first dawned upon her that harvests do not prosper on battlefields!  To her had been the bitter task of contending with evil, and the substantial victory was hers, though not the joy and exultation of perfect triumph.  The spendthrift father left no debt behind him—thanks to his daughter's vigilance and honesty.  The brothers' own careers were wrecked, but at any rate they had not devastated other lives, as some men do who yet manage to save their own credit and fortune.  And despite attempted elopements and many a lapse into hysteric follies, the troublesome sister had not finally slipped over that terrible precipice which engulfs so much faulty and ill-regulated womanhood.

    But all this meant that Clementine Kerr had had no leisure for the culture of gentle friendships and kindly neighbourliness.  She had even had to thrust such aside that she might not falter in some hand-to-hand conflict with naughtiness, or might not fail in mounting guard over some reckless folly.  Many an acquaintanceship which would have been ancient friendship by this time had been dropped, out of sheer family shame.  And now in middle age Clementine found herself a lonely woman in a desolate life, one whom people respected, and to whom they were civil because they thought her clever and shrewd.  The few who knew anything of her past were inclined to think she had been "a little hard" to her own people, never dreaming how much had been concealed by her proud reserve, nor from how much she had saved many by her unflinching resolution.  Few have enough imagination to realise that a glowing heart and a spirit of fervent helpfulness may go about the world disguised in a worn face, a sharp voice, an abrupt manner, and shabby clothes.  The "outward man," like the warrior's armour, will show the dints and stains of battle, and it takes a divine insight to see that the inward man is renewed day by day.

    Then, not very long before this Saturday night at Kelso Station, Clementine Kerr had suddenly become a wealthy personage.

    A distant relative, whom she had never even seen, left her the bulk of his big fortune "as a brave woman, who had kept her ridiculous family from disgracing his name."

    What use would all his money be to her?  For her own small wants she could secure enough for herself, and this came too late to set her free from the torments which had wasted her youth.  Nor was there even any reward or consolation in the rough commendation—nay, it jarred her.  For though she had never seen this relative, she had known much about him, and though his praise was in newspaper paragraphs, aye, and in the churches, she knew that his influence on her father's youth had been for evil.  If her own brothers had shown themselves wasters and prodigals, she understood but too well that the "respectability" of this other had been but "the better art of hiding"—nay, say rather of gilding.  For gold dazzles the eyes of public opinion, and few demand the same standard of morality in a millionaire as they demand in the man who weeds their garden, or as they insist on in the recipient of their cast-off garments!

    On coming into her fortune, Clementine Kerr had gone through some of those miserable experiences which do so much harm to some who find themselves in similar circumstances.  There were lawyers with their offers of desirable mansions and eligible estates, there were professional philanthropists who had each some claim which should be specially strong upon her, there were speculators desirous of doubling her wealth, there were innumerable relations, all of whom declared they had always loved and admired her at a distance, though they "would never be able to testify to their admiration as their dear dead cousin had so nobly done."  Such experiences made her only a little graver and more curt.

    Clementine Kerr had one lawyer whom she trusted, an elderly man working with one clerk in humble chambers in an obscure corner.  He had carried out her instructions in many an "affair" of her father's and brothers'.  She trusted him, and he knew what manner of woman he was dealing with.  He did not congratulate her on her fortune, he simply asked her:

    "What do you mean to do?"

    "Live as I have always lived," she replied; "I shall never touch any of this money for myself.  I shall travel a little, just as I could have travelled without this fortune, and then I shall come back to London and go into apartments somewhere and look about me."

    This was her method of shaking off all mercenary importunities.

    Her travels were over before we see her thus on her homeward way at Kelso Station, and now we know how it is that she can take first-class tickets for people whom she pities, while she chooses to have a third-class one for herself.

    If, amid the scenes of her family's fatherland, Clementine Kerr had had any wild hope of lighting upon some oasis, whereon she might stay her foot, she had been disappointed; and she was on her way back to no better ark than a hired home in the wilderness of London, with no fresh interests strong enough to replace the vivid excitements of her lifelong struggles.

    "As forlorn a creature as there is on God's earth," she said to herself, standing in the darkness at the end of the platform, with the signals peering at her out of the midnight gloom.

    She checked herself.  She thought of the countless myriads in city streets who have not where to lay their heads, who hear no voices but those of insult and cruelty, whose only hope is to die in hospital before they perish in workhouse or gaol.

    "I am a wicked woman!" (she thought it so vigorously that she seemed to say it aloud).  "And a foolish one besides!  'As forlorn a creature as there is on God's earth!'  Indeed! presently it will be 'the forlornest creature'; and that's the way madness lies, for it is insane vanity which ever thinks itself either up or down into superlatives!  I have thought there may be a streak of mental weakness in our family to account for all our folly and naughtiness.  I must take care.  This heap of money is enough of itself to upset an unstable brain."

    And as she stood, a sound of hard, sobbing breathing, gasps as of a creature in stress for dear life, fell upon her ear.  They seemed at her very feet.  Had some hunted dog taken refuge in the station?  She started aside—there was nothing to be seen.

    But she had no time to look around or wonder, for at that moment the signals changed—the train was at hand.  The whole station woke to bustle and activity.  Clementine Kerr threw aside her reverie, and hastened to the front; the train was already drawing up.  She passed swiftly along to the waiting-room.  The old woman and the sick girl were creeping out, clinging to each other.

    "Come with me," she said, "the guard has been spoken to about you, and at Berwick he will put you into a nice carriage in the through train, and see that you are not disturbed.  It is all quite right," she said, as the invalid started back at sight of the first-class carriage.  "It can be done by a—little—management."

    "It's a' richt," assured Will Brown, coming up behind.

    The pale girl had no idea that she was indebted to the lady for anything beyond a little skilful mediation, backed, perhaps, by a modest douceur.  Her gratitude was only the warmer for not being overwhelming.

    "God bless you," she cried, as Clementina Kerr bustled away; "and may God gie ye any blessin' that ye're needin'."

    "Nay, that is too big a prayer," thought Miss Clementina, as she hastened to take her own place.  Will Brown followed her: "Wad ye like to be by yoursel', lady?" he asked civilly.

    "Yes," said Miss Clementina, and he led her to an empty third-class carriage.

    There was some delay in the start, and Miss Clementine, sitting in her place, saw Rab Bethune still with his two letters in his hand.  In wild haste he tore one of them open and transferred its contents to the other envelope.  The train whistle was already sounding!  Rab had barely time to call a lad from among the local hangers-on, and give the letter to him, accompanied by an injunction and a fee.  The Bethune people were known far and wide, and could always calculate on being "obliged."  Then, thrusting the remaining letter deep into the recesses of his huge ulster pocket, Rab sprang into the train just as it began to move.

    Miss Clementine proceeded to unfasten her rugs, put her hand-bag out of the way, and loosen her fur cloak.  Then she sat down in one corner with a luxurious sense of freedom and solitude.

    Suddenly, a curious shiver ran over her; the little lady felt her own face grow pale.  Yet there was no sound except the clanging rattle of the train, and indeed few sounds could be heard above that; nor was a thing to be seen, except her own possessions and her own reflection in the window.

    But she had become shudderingly conscious that she was not alone!  The awful sense of another presence was upon her!



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