"They cam' to their very doors to glower at me; if ye'll believe me, I thoucht shame.
"At the hinder end my paassion got up, and I faced a wife East-by, and I said, 'What gars ye glower at me that way, ye ignorant woman?' ye would na think it, she answered like honey itsel'. 'I'm askin' your paarrdon,' says she; and her mon by her side said, 'Gang hame to your ain hoose, my woman, and Gude help ye, and help us a' at our need,' the decent mon. 'It's just there I'm for,' said I, 'to get my mon his breakfast.'"
All who heard her drew their breath with difficulty.
The woman then made for her own house, but in going up the street she passed the wet coat hanging on the line.
She stopped directly.
They all trembled—they had forgotten the coat—it was all over; the coat would tell the tale.
"Aweel," said she, "I could sweer that's Liston Carnie's coat, a droukit wi' the rain;" then she looked again at it, and added, slowly, "if I did na ken he has his away wi' him at the piloting." And in another moment she was in her own house, leaving them all standing there half stupefied.
Christie had indeed endeavored to speak, but her tongue had cloven to her mouth.
While they stood looking at one another, and at Beeny Liston's door, a voice that seemed incredibly rough, loud and harsh, jarred upon them; it was Sandy Liston, who came in from Leith, shouting:
"Fifty pounds for salvage, lasses! is na thaat better than staying cooard-like aside the women?"
"Whisht! whisht!" cried Christie.
"We are in heavy sorrow; puir Liston Cairnie and his son Willy lie deed at the bottom o' the Firrth."
"Gude help us!" said Sandy, and his voice sank.
"An', oh, Sandy, the wife does na ken, and it's hairt-breaking to see her, and hear her; we canna get her tell't; ye're the auldest mon here; ye'll tell her, will ye no, Sandy?"
"No, me, that' I will not!"
"Oh, yes; ye are kenned for your stoot heart, an' courage; ye come fra' facing the sea an' wind in a bit yawl."
"The sea and the wind," cried he, contemptuously; "they be ——, I'm used wi' them; but to look a woman i' the face, an' tell her her mon and her son are drowned since yestreen, I hae na coorage for that."
All further debate was cut short by the entrance of one who came expressly to discharge the sad duty all had found so difficult. It was the Presbyterian clergyman of the place; he waved them back. "I know, I know," said he, solemnly. "Where is the wife?"
She came out of her house at this moment, as it happened, to purchase something at Drysale's shop, which was opposite.
"Beeny," said the clergyman, "I have sorrowful tidings."
"Tell me them, sir," said she, unmoved. "Is it a deeth?" added she, quietly.
"It is!—death, sudden and terrible; in your own house I must tell it you—(and may God show me how to break it to her)."
He entered her house.
"Aweel," said the woman to the others, "it maun be some far-awa cousin, or the like, for Liston an' me hae nae near freends. Meg, ye idle fuzzy," screamed she to her servant, who was one of the spectators, "your pat is no on yet; div ye think the men will no be hungry when they come in fra' the sea?"
"They will never hunger nor thirst ony mair," said Jean, solemnly, as the bereaved woman entered her own door.
There ensued a listless and fearful silence.
Every moment some sign of bitter sorrow was expected to break forth from the house, but none came; and amid the expectation and silence the waves dashed louder and louder, as it seemed, against the dike, conscious of what they had done.
At last, in a moment, a cry of agony arose, so terrible that all who heard it trembled, and more than one woman shrieked in return, and fled from the door, at which, the next moment, the clergyman stood alone, collected, but pale, and beckoned. Several women advanced.
"One woman," said he.
Jean Carnie was admitted; and after a while returned.
"She is come to hersel'," whispered she; "I am no weel mysel'." And she passed into her own house.
Then Flucker crept to the door to see.
"Oh, dinna spy on her," cried Christie.
"Oh, yes, Flucker," said many voices.
"He is kneelin'," said Flucker. "He has her hand, to gar her kneel tae—she winna—she does na see him, nor hear him; he will hae her. He has won her to kneel—he is prayin, an' greetin aside her. I canna see noo, my een's blinded."
"He's a gude mon," said Christie. "Oh, what wad we do without the ministers?"
Sandy Liston had been leaning sorrowfully against the wall of the next house; he now broke out:
"An auld shipmate at the whale-fishing!!! an' noow we'll never lift the dredging sang thegither again, in yon dirty detch that's droowned him; I maun hae whisky, an' forget it a'."
He made for the spirit-shop like a madman; but ere he could reach the door a hand was laid on him like a vise. Christie Johnstone had literally sprung on him. She hated this horrible vice—had often checked him; and now it seemed so awful a moment for such a sin, that she forgot the wild and savage nature of the man, who had struck his own sister, and seriously hurt her, a month before—she saw nothing but the vice and its victim, and she seized him by the collar, with a grasp from which he in vain attempted to shake himself loose.
"No! ye'll no gang there at siccan a time."
"Hands off, ye daft jaud," roared he, "or there'll be another deeth i' the toon."
At the noise Jean Carnie ran in.
"Let the ruffian go," cried she, in dismay. "Oh, Christie, dinna put your hand on a lion's mane."
"Yes, I'll put my hand on his mane, ere I'll let him mak a beast o' himsel'."
"Sandy, if ye hurt her, I'll find twenty lads that will lay ye deed at her feet."
"Haud your whisht," said Christie, very sharply, "he's no to be threetened."
Sandy Liston, black and white with rage, ground his teeth together, and said, lifting his hand, "Wull ye let me go, or must I tak my hand till ye?"
"No!" said Christie, "I'll no let ye go, sae look me i' the face; Flucker's dochter, your auld comrade, that saved your life at Holy Isle, think o' his face—an' look in mines—an' strike me!!!"
They glared on one another—he fiercely and unsteadily; she firmly and proudly.
Jean Carnie said afterward, "Her eyes were like coals of fire."
"Ye are doing what nae mon i' the toon daur; ye are a bauld, unwise lassy."
"It's you mak me bauld," was the instant reply. "I saw ye face the mad sea, to save a ship fra' the rocks, an' will I fear a mon's hand, when I can save" (rising to double her height) "my feyther's auld freend fra' the puir mon's enemy, the enemy o' mankind, the cursed, cursed drink? Oh, Sandy Liston, hoow could ye think to put an enemy in your mooth to steal awa your brains!"
"This 's no Newhaven chat; wha lairns ye sic words o' power?"
"A deed mon!"
"I would na wonder, y' are no canny; she's ta'en a' the poower oot o' my body, I think." Then suddenly descending to a tone of abject submission, "What's your pleesure, Flucker Johnstone's dochter?"
She instantly withdrew the offending grasp, and, leaning affectionately on his shoulder, she melted into her rich Ionic tones.
"It's no a time for sin; ye'll sit by my fire, an' get your dinner; a bonny haggis hae I for you an' Flucker, an' we'll improve this sorrowfu' judgment; an' ye'll tell me o' auld times—o' my feyther dear, that likeit ye weel, Sandy—o' the storrms ye hae weathered, side by side—o' the muckle whales ye killed Greenland way—an' abune a', o' the lives ye hae saved at sea, by your daurin an' your skell; an', oh, Sandy, will na that be better as sit an' poor leequid damnation doown your throat, an' gie awa the sense an' feeling o' a mon for a sair heed and an ill name?"
"I'se gang, my lamb," said the rough man, quite subdued; "I daur say whisky will no pass my teeth the day."
And so he went quietly away, and sat by Christie's fireside.
Jean and Christie went toward the boats.
Jean, after taking it philosophically for half a minute, began to whimper.
"What's wrang?" said Christie.
"Div ye think my hairt's no in my mooth wi' you gripping yon fierce robber?"
Here a young fishwife, with a box in her hand, who had followed them, pulled Jean by the coats.
"Hets," said Jean, pulling herself free.
The child then, with a pertinacity these little animals have, pulled Christie's coats.
"Hets," said Christie, freeing herself more gently.
"Ye suld mairry Van Amburgh," continued Jean; "ye are just such a lass as he is a lad."
Christie smiled proudly, was silent, but did not disown the comparison.
The little fishwife, unable to attract attention by pulling, opened her box, and saying, "Lasses, I'll let ye see my presoner. Hech! he's boenny!" pulled out a mouse by a string fastened to his tail and set him in the midst for friendly admiration.
"I dinna like it—I dinna like it!" screamed Christie. "Jean, put it away—it fears me, Jean!" This she uttered (her eyes almost starting from her head with unaffected terror) at the distance of about eight yards, whither she had arrived in two bounds that would have done no discredit to an antelope.
"Het," said Jean, uneasily, "hae ye coowed you savage, to be scared at the wee beastie?"
Christie, looking askant at the animal, explained: "A moose is an awesome beast—it's no like a mon!" and still her eye was fixed by fascination upon the four-footed danger.
Jean, who had not been herself in genuine tranquillity, now turned savagely on the little Wombwelless. "An' div ye really think ye are to come here wi' a' the beasts i' the Airk? Come, awa ye go, the pair o' ye."
These severe words, and a smart push, sent the poor little biped off roaring, with the string over her shoulder, recklessly dragging the terrific quadruped, which made fruitless grabs at the shingle.—Moral. Don't terrify bigger folk than yourself.
Christie had intended to go up to Edinburgh with her eighty pounds, but there was more trouble in store this eventful day.
Flucker went out after dinner, and left her with Sandy Liston, who was in the middle of a yarn, when some one came running in and told her Flucker was at the pier crying for her. She inquired what was the matter. "Come, an' ye'll see," was all the answer. She ran down to the pier. There was poor Flucker lying on his back; he had slipped from the pier into a boat that lay alongside; the fall was considerable; for a minute he had been insensible, then he had been dreadfully sick, and now he was beginning to feel his hurt; he was in great anguish; nobody knew the extent of his injuries; he would let nobody touch him; all his cry was for his sister. At last she came; they all made way for her; he was crying for her as she came up.
"My bairn! my bairn!" cried she, and the poor little fellow smiled, and tried to raise himself toward her.
She lifted him gently in her arms—she was powerful, and affection made her stronger; she carried him in her arms all the way home, and laid him on her own bed. Willy Liston, her discarded suitor, ran for the surgeon. There were no bones broken, but his ankle was severely sprained, and he had a terrible bruise on the loins; his dark, ruddy face was streaked and pale; but he never complained after he found himself at home.
Christie hovered round him, a ministering angel, applying to him with a light and loving hand whatever could ease his pain; and he watched her with an expression she had never noticed in his eye before.
At last, after two hours' silence, he made her sit in full view, and then he spoke to her; and what think you was the subject of his discourse?
He turned to and told her, one after another, without preface, all the loving things she had done to him ever since he was five years old. Poor boy, he had never shown much gratitude, but he had forgotten nothing, literally nothing.
Christie was quite overcome with this unexpected trait; she drew him gently to her bosom, and wept over him; and it was sweet to see a brother and sister treat each other almost like lovers, as these two began to do—they watched each other's eye so tenderly.
This new care kept the sister in her own house all the next day; but toward the evening Jean, who knew her other anxiety, slipped in and offered to take her place for an hour by Flucker's side; at the same time she looked one of those signals which are too subtle for any but woman to understand.
Christie drew her aside, and learned that Gatty and his mother were just coming through from Leith; Christie ran for her eighty pounds, placed them in her bosom, cast a hasty glance at a looking-glass, little larger than an oyster-shell, and ran out.
"Hech! What pleased the auld wife will be to see he has a lass that can mak auchty pund in a morning."
This was Christie's notion.
At sight of them she took out the banknotes, and with eyes glistening and cheeks flushing she cried:
"Oh, Chairles, ye'll no gang to jail—I hae the siller!" and she offered him the money with both hands, and a look of tenderness and modesty that embellished human nature.
Ere he could speak, his mother put out her hand, and not rudely, but very coldly, repelling Christie's arm, said in a freezing manner:
"We are much obliged to you, but my son's own talents have rescued him from his little embarrassment."
"A nobleman has bought my picture," said Gatty, proudly.
"For one hundred and fifty pounds," said the old lady, meaning to mark the contrast between that sum and what Christie had in her hand.
Christie remained like a statue, with her arms extended, and the bank-notes in her hand; her features worked—she had much ado not to cry; and any one that had known the whole story, and seen this unmerited repulse, would have felt for her; but her love came to her aid, she put the notes in her bosom, sighed and said:
"I would hae likeit to hae been the first, ye ken, but I'm real pleased."
"But, mother," said Gatty, "it was very kind of Christie all the same. Oh, Christie!" said he, in a tone of despair.
At this kind word Christie's fortitude was sore tried; she turned away her head; she was far too delicate to let them know who had sent Lord Ipsden to buy the picture.
While she turned away, Mrs. Gatty said in her son's ear:
"Now, I have your solemn promise to do it here, and at once; you will find me on the beach behind these boats—do it."
The reader will understand that during the last few days Mrs. Gatty had improved her advantage, and that Charles had positively consented to obey her; the poor boy was worn out with the struggle—he felt he must have peace or die; he was thin and pale, and sudden twitches came over him; his temperament was not fit for such a battle; and, it is to be observed, nearly all the talk was on one side. He had made one expiring struggle—he described to his mother an artist's nature; his strength, his weakness—he besought her not to be a slave to general rules, but to inquire what sort of a companion the individual Gatty needed; he lashed with true but brilliant satire the sort of wife his mother was ready to see him saddled with—a stupid, unsympathizing creature, whose ten children would, by nature's law, be also stupid, and so be a weight on him till his dying day. He painted Christie Johnstone, mind and body, in words as true and bright as his colors; he showed his own weak points, her strong ones, and how the latter would fortify the former.
He displayed, in short, in one minute, more intellect than his mother had exhibited in sixty years; and that done, with all his understanding, wit and eloquence, he succumbed like a child to her stronger will—he promised to break with Christie Johnstone.
When Christie had recovered her composure and turned round to her companions, she found herself alone with Charles.
"Chairles," said she, gravely.
"Christie," said he, uneasily.
"Your mother does na like me. Oh, ye need na deny it; and we are na together as we used to be, my lad."
"She is prejudiced; but she has been the best of mothers to me, Christie."
"Circumstances compel me to return to England."
(Ah, coward! anything but the real truth!)
"Aweel, Chairles, it will no be for lang."
"I don't know; you will not be so unhappy as I shall—at least I hope not."
"Hoow do ye ken that?"
"Christie, do you remember the first night we danced together?"
"And we walked in the cool by the seaside, and I told you the names of the stars, and you said those were not their real names, but nicknames we give them here on earth. I loved you that first night."
"And I fancied you the first time I set eyes on you."
"How can I leave you, Christie? What shall I do?"
"I ken what I shall do," answered Christie coolly; then, bursting into tears, she added, "I shall dee! I shall dee!"
"No! you must not say so; at least I will never love any one but you."
"An' I'll live as I am a' my days for your sake. Oh, England! I hae likeit ye sae weel, ye suld na rob me o' my lad—he's a' the joy I hae!"
"I love you," said Gatty. "Do you love me?"
All the answer was, her head upon his shoulder.
"I can't do it," thought Gatty, "and I won't! Christie," said he, "stay here, don't move from here." And he dashed among the boats in great agitation.
He found his mother rather near the scene of the late conference.
"Mother," said he, fiercely, like a coward as he was, "ask me no more, my mind is made up forever; I will not do this scoundrelly, heartless, beastly, ungrateful action you have been pushing me to so long."
"Take care, Charles, take care," said the old woman, trembling with passion, for this was a new tone for her son to take with her. "You had my blessing the other day, and you saw what followed it; do not tempt me to curse an undutiful, disobedient, ungrateful son."
"I must take my chance," said he, desperately, "for I am under a curse any way! I placed my ring on her finger, and held up my hand to God and swore she should be my wife; she has my ring and my oath, and I will not perjure myself even for my mother."
"Your ring! Not the ruby ring I gave you from your dead father's finger—not that! not that!"
"Yes! yes! I tell you yes! and if he was alive, and saw her, and knew her goodness, he would have pity on me, but I have no friend; you see how ill you have made me, but you have no pity; I could not have believed it; but, since you have no mercy on me, I will have the more mercy on myself; I marry her to-morrow, and put an end to all this shuffling and maneuvering against an angel! I am not worthy of her, but I'll marry her to-morrow. Good-by."
"Stay!" said the old woman, in a terrible voice; "before you destroy me and all I have lived for, and suffered, and pinched for, hear me; if that ring is not off the hussy's finger in half an hour, and you my son again, I fall on this sand and—"
"Then God have mercy upon me, for I'll see the whole creation lost eternally ere I'll wrong the only creature that is an ornament to the world."
He was desperate; and the weak, driven to desperation, are more furious than the strong.
It was by Heaven's mercy that neither mother nor son had time to speak again.
As they faced each other, with flaming eyes and faces, all self-command gone, about to utter hasty words, and lay up regret, perhaps for all their lives to come, in a moment, as if she had started from the earth, Christie Johnstone stood between them!
Gatty's words, and, still more, his hesitation, had made her quick intelligence suspect. She had resolved to know the truth; the boats offered every facility for listening—she had heard every word.
She stood between the mother and son.
They were confused, abashed, and the hot blood began to leave their faces.
She stood erect like a statue, her cheek pale as ashes, her eyes glittering like basilisks, she looked at neither of them.
She slowly raised her left hand, she withdrew a ruby ring from it, and dropped the ring on the sand between the two.
She turned on her heel, and was gone as she had come, without a word spoken.
They looked at one another, stupefied at first; after a considerable pause the stern old woman stooped, picked up the ring, and, in spite of a certain chill that the young woman's majestic sorrow had given her, said, placing it on her own finger, "This is for your wife!!!"
"It will be for my coffin, then," said her son, so coldly, so bitterly and so solemnly that the mother's heart began to quake.
"Mother," said he calmly, "forgive me, and accept your son's arm.
"I will, my son!"
"We are alone in the world now, mother."
Mrs. Gatty had triumphed, but she felt the price of her triumph more than her victory. It had been done in one moment, that for which she had so labored, and it seemed that had she spoken long ago to Christie, instead of Charles, it could have been done at any moment.
Strange to say, for some minutes the mother felt more uneasy than her son; she was a woman, after all, and could measure a woman's heart, and she saw how deep the wound she had given one she was now compelled to respect.
Charles, on the other hand, had been so harassed backward and forward, that to him certainty was relief; it was a great matter to be no longer called upon to decide. His mother had said, "Part," and now Christie had said, "Part"; at least the affair was taken out of his hands, and his first feeling was a heavenly calm.
In this state he continued for about a mile, and he spoke to his mother about his art, sole object now; but after the first mile he became silent, distrait; Christie's pale face, her mortified air, when her generous offer was coldly repulsed, filled him with remorse. Finally, unable to bear it, yet not daring to speak, he broke suddenly from his mother without a word, and ran wildly back to Newhaven; he looked back only once, and there stood his mother, pale, with her hands piteously lifted toward heaven.
By the time he got to Newhaven he was as sorry for her as for Christie. He ran to the house of the latter; Flucker and Jean told him she was on the beach. He ran to the beach! he did not see her at first, but, presently looking back, he saw her, at the edge of the boats, in company with a gentleman in a boating-dress. He looked—could he believe his eyes? he saw Christie Johnstone kiss this man's hand, who then, taking her head gently in his two hands, placed a kiss upon her brow, while she seemed to yield lovingly to the caress.
Gatty turned faint, sick; for a moment everything swam before his eyes; he recovered himself, they were gone.
He darted round to intercept them; Christie had slipped away somewhere; he encountered the man alone!
CHRISTIE'S situation requires to be explained.
On leaving Gatty and his mother, she went to her own house. Flucker—who after looking upon her for years as an inconvenient appendage, except at dinnertime, had fallen in love with her in a manner that was half pathetic, half laughable, all things considered—saw by her face she had received a blow, and raising himself in the bed, inquired anxiously, "What ailed her?"
At these kind words, Christie Johnstone laid her cheek upon the pillow beside Flucker's and said:
"Oh, my laamb, be kind to your puir sister fra' this hoor, for she has naething i' the warld noo but yoursel'."
Flucker began to sob at this.
Christie could not cry; her heart was like a lump of lead in her bosom; but she put her arm round his neck, and at the sight of his sympathy she panted heavily, but could not shed a tear—she was sore stricken.
Presently Jean came in, and, as the poor girl's head ached as well as her heart, they forced her to go and sit in the air. She took her creepie and sat, and looked on the sea; but, whether she looked seaward or landward, all seemed unreal; not things, but hard pictures of things, some moving, some still. Life seemed ended—she had lost her love.
An hour she sat in this miserable trance; she was diverted into a better, because a somewhat less dangerous form of grief, by one of those trifling circumstances that often penetrate to the human heart when inaccessible to greater things.
Willy the fiddler and his brother came through the town, playing as they went, according to custom; their music floated past Christie's ears like some drowsy chime, until, all of a sudden, they struck up the old English air, "Speed the Plow."
Now it was to this tune Charles Gatty had danced with her their first dance the night they made acquaintance.
Christie listened, lifted up her hands, and crying:
"Oh, what will I do? what will I do?" burst into a passion of grief.
She put her apron over her head, and rocked herself, and sobbed bitterly.
She was in this situation when Lord Ipsden, who was prowling about, examining the proportions of the boats, discovered her.
"Some one in distress—that was all in his way."
"Madam!" said he.
She lifted up her head.
"It is Christie Johnstone. I'm so glad; that is, I'm sorry you are crying, but I'm glad I shall have the pleasure of relieving you;" and his lordship began to feel for a check-book.
"And div ye really think siller's a cure for every grief!" said Christie, bitterly.
"I don't know," said his lordship; "it has cured them all as yet."
"It will na cure me, then!" and she covered her head with her apron again.
"I am very sorry," said he; "tell me" (whispering), "what is it? poor little Christie!"
"Dinna speak to me; I think shame; ask Jean. Oh, Richard, I'll no be lang in this warld!!!"
"Ah!" said he, "I know too well what it is now; I know, by sad experience. But, Christie, money will cure it in your case, and it shall, too; only, instead of five pounds, we must put a thousand pounds or two to your banker's account, and then they will all see your beauty, and run after you."
"How daur ye even to me that I'm seekin a lad?" cried she, rising from her stool; "I would na care suppose there was na a lad in Britain." And off she flounced.
"Offended her by my gross want of tact," thought the viscount.
She crept back, and two velvet lips touched his hand. That was because she had spoken harshly to a friend.
"Oh, Richard," said she, despairingly, "I'll no be lang in this warld."
He was touched; and it was then he took her head and kissed her brow, and said: "This will never do. My child, go home and have a nice cry, and I will speak to Jean; and, rely upon me, I will not leave the neighborhood till I have arranged it all to your satisfaction."
And so she went—a little, a very little, comforted by his tone and words.
Now this was all very pretty; but then seen at a distance of fifty yards it looked very ugly; and Gatty, who had never before known jealousy, the strongest and worst of human passions, was ripe for anything.
He met Lord Ipsden, and said at once, in his wise, temperate way:
"Sir, you are a villain!"
Gatty. "You are a villain!"
Ipsden. "How do you make that out?"
Gatty. "But, of course, you are not a coward, too."
Ipsden (ironically). "You surprise me with your moderation, sir."
Gatty. "Then you will waive your rank—you are a lord, I believe-and give me satisfaction."
Ipsden. "My rank, sir, such as it is, engages me to give a proper answer to proposals of this sort; I am at your orders."
Gatty. "A man of your character must often have been called to an account by your victims, so—so—" (hesitating) "perhaps you will tell me the proper course."
Ipsden. "I shall send a note to the castle, and the colonel will send me down somebody with a mustache; I shall pretend to remember mustache, mustache will pretend he remembers me; he will then communicate with your friend, and they will arrange it all for us."
Gatty. "And, perhaps, through your licentiousness, one or both of us will be killed."
Ipsden. "Yes! but we need not trouble our heads about that—the seconds undertake everything."
Gatty. "I have no pistols."
Ipsden. "If you will do me the honor to use one of mine, it shall be at your service."
Gatty. "Thank you."
Ipsden. "To-morrow morning?"
Gatty. "No. I have four days' painting to do on my picture, I can't die till it is finished; Friday morning."
Ipsden. "(He is mad.) I wish to ask you a question, you will excuse my curiosity. Have you any idea what we are agreeing to differ about?"
Gatty. "The question does you little credit, my lord; that is to add insult to wrong."
He went off hurriedly, leaving Lord Ipsden mystified.
He thought Christie Johnstone was somehow connected with it; but, conscious of no wrong, he felt little disposed to put up with any insult, especially from this boy, to whom he had been kind, he thought.
His lordship was, besides, one of those good, simple-minded creatures, educated abroad, who, when invited to fight, simply bow, and load two pistols, and get themselves called at six; instead of taking down tomes of casuistry and puzzling their poor brains to find out whether they are gamecocks or capons, and why.
As for Gatty, he hurried home in a fever of passion, begged his mother's pardon, and reproached himself for ever having disobeyed her on account of such a perfidious creature as Christie Johnstone.
He then told her what he had seen, as distance and imagination had presented it to him; to his surprise the old lady cut him short.
"Charles," said she, "there is no need to take the girl's character away; she has but one fault—she is not in the same class of life as you, and such marriages always lead to misery; but in other respects she is a worthy young woman—don't speak against her character, or you will make my flesh creep; you don't know what her character is to a woman, high or low."
By this moderation, perhaps she held him still faster.
Friday morning arrived. Gatty had, by hard work, finished his picture, collected his sketches from nature, which were numerous, left by memorandum everything to his mother, and was, or rather felt, as ready to die as live.
He had hardly spoken a word or eaten a meal these four days; his mother was in anxiety about him. He rose early, and went down to Leith; an hour later, his mother, finding him gone out, rose and went to seek him at Newhaven.
Meantime Flucker had entirely recovered, but his sister's color had left her cheeks. The boy swore vengeance against the cause of her distress.
On Friday morning, then, there paced on Leith Sands two figures.
One was Lord Ipsden.
The other seemed a military gentleman, who having swallowed the mess-room poker, and found it insufficient, had added the ramrods of his company.
The more his lordship reflected on Gatty, the less inclined he had felt to invite a satirical young dog from barracks to criticise such a rencontre; he had therefore ordered Saunders to get up as a field-marshal, or some such trifle, and what Saunders would have called incomparable verticality was the result.
The painter was also in sight.
While he was coming up, Lord Ipsden was lecturing Marshal Saunders on a point on which that worthy had always thought himself very superior to his master—"Gentlemanly deportment."
"Now, Saunders, mind and behave like a gentleman, or we shall be found out."
"I trust, my lord, my conduct—"
"What I mean is, you must not be so overpoweringly gentleman-like as you are apt to be; no gentleman is so gentleman as all that; it could not be borne, c'est suffoquant; and a white handkerchief is unsoldier-like, and nobody ties a white handkerchief so well as that; of all the vices, perfection is the most intolerable." His lordship then touched with his cane the generalissimo's tie, whose countenance straightway fell, as though he had lost three successive battles.
Gatty came up.
"Where is your second, sir?" said the mare'chal.
"My second?" said Gatty. "Ah! I forgot to wake him—does it matter?"
"It is merely a custom," said Lord Ipsden, with a very slightly satirical manner. "Savanadero," said he, "do us the honor to measure the ground, and be everybody's second."
Savanadero measured the ground, and handed a pistol to each combatant, and struck an imposing attitude apart.
"Are you ready, gentlemen?" said this Jack-o'-both-sides.
"Yes!" said both.
Just as the signal was about to be given, an interruption occurred. "I beg your pardon, sir," said Lord Ipsden to his antagonist; "I am going to take a liberty—a great liberty with you, but I think you will find your pistol is only at half cock."
"Thank you, my lord; what am I to do with the thing?"
"Draw back the cock so, and be ready to fire?"
He had touched the trigger as well as the cock, so off went the barker; and after a considerable pause the field-marshal sprang yelling into the air.
"Hallo!" cried Mr. Gatty.
"Ah! oh! I'm a dead man," whined the general.
"Nonsense!" said Ipsden, after a moment of anxiety. "Give yourself no concern, sir," said he, soothingly, to his antagonist—"a mere accident. Mare'chal, reload Mr. Gatty's pistol."
"Excuse me, my lord—"
"Load his pistol directly," said his lordship, sternly; "and behave like a gentleman."
"My lord! my lord! but where shall I stand to be safe?"
The commander of division advanced reluctantly for Gatty's pistol.
"No, my lord!" said Gatty, "it is plain I am not a fit antagonist; I shall but expose myself—and my mother has separated us; I have lost her—if you do not win her some worse man may; but, oh! if you are a man, use her tenderly."
"Christie Johnstone! Oh, sir, do not make her regret me too much! She was my treasure, my consolation—she was to be my wife, she would have cheered the road of life—it is a desert now. I loved her—I—I—"
Here the poor fellow choked.
Lord Ipsden turned round, and threw his pistol to Saunders, saying, "Catch that, Saunders."
Saunders, on the contrary, by a single motion changed his person from a vertical straight line to a horizontal line exactly parallel with the earth's surface, and the weapon sang innoxious over him.
His lordship then, with a noble defiance of etiquette, walked up to his antagonist and gave him his hand, with a motion no one could resist; for he felt for the poor fellow.
"It is all a mistake," said he. "There is no sentiment between La Johnstone and me but mutual esteem. I will explain the whole thing. I admire her for her virtue, her wit, her innocence, her goodness and all that sort of thing; and she, what she sees in me, I am sure I don't know," added he, slightly shrugging his aristocratic shoulders. "Do me the honor to breakfast with me at Newhaven."
"I have ordered twelve sorts of fish at the 'Peacock,' my lord," said Saunders.
"Divine! (I hate fish) I told Saunders all would be hungry and none shot; by the by, you are winged, I think you said, Saunders?"
"No, my lord! but look at my trousers."
The bullet had cut his pantaloons.
"I see—only barked; so go and see about our breakfast."
"Yes, my lord" (faintly).
"And draw on me for fifty pounds' worth of—new trousers."
"Yes, my lord" (sonorously).
The duelists separated, Gatty taking the short cut to Newhaven; he proposed to take his favorite swim there, to refresh himself before breakfast; and he went from his lordship a little cheered by remarks which fell from him, and which, though vague, sounded friendly—poor fellow, except when he had a brush in hand he was a dreamer.
This viscount, who did not seem to trouble his head about class dignity, was to convert his mother from her aristocratic tendencies or something.
Que sais-je? what will not a dreamer hope?
Lord Ipsden strolled along the sands, and judge his surprise, when, attended by two footmen, he met at that time in the morning Lady Barbara Sinclair.
Lord Ipsden had been so disheartened and piqued by this lady's conduct that for a whole week he had not been near her. This line of behavior sometimes answers.
She met him with a grand display of cordiality.
She inquired, "Whether he had heard of a most gallant action, that, coupled with another circumstance" (here she smiled), "had in part reconciled her to the age we live in?"
He asked for further particulars.
She then informed him "that a ship had been ashore on the rocks, that no fisherman dared venture out, that a young gentleman had given them his whole fortune, and so bribed them to accompany him; that he had saved the ship and the men's lives, paid away his fortune, and lighted an odious cigar and gone home, never minding, amid the blessings and acclamations of a maritime population."
A beautiful story she told him; so beautiful, in fact, that until she had discoursed ten minutes he hardly recognized his own feat; but when he did he blushed inside as well as out with pleasure. Oh! music of music—praise from eloquent lips, and those lips the lips we love.
The next moment he felt ashamed; ashamed that Lady Barbara should praise him beyond his merits, as he conceived.
He made a faint hypocritical endeavor to moderate her eulogium; this gave matters an unexpected turn, Lady Barbara's eyes flashed defiance.
"I say it was a noble action, that one nursed in effeminacy (as you all are) should teach the hardy seamen to mock at peril—noble fellow!"
"He did a man's duty, Barbara."
"Ipsden, take care, you will make me hate you, if you detract from a deed you cannot emulate. This gentleman risked his own life to save others—he is a hero! I should know him by his face the moment I saw him. Oh, that I were such a man, or knew where to find such a creature!"
The water came into Lord Ipsden's eyes; he did not know what to say or do; he turned away his head. Lady Barbara was surprised; her conscience smote her.
"Oh, dear," said she, "there now, I have given you pain—forgive me; we can't all be heroes; dear Ipsden, don't think I despise you now as I used. Oh, no! I have heard of your goodness to the poor, and I have more experience now. There is nobody I esteem more than you, Richard, so you need not look so."
"Thank you, dearest Barbara."
"Yes, and if you were to be such a goose as to write me another letter proposing absurdities to me—"
"Would the answer be different?"
"Oh, Barbara, would you accept?"
"Why, of course not; but I would refuse civilly!"
"There, don't sigh; I hate a sighing man. I'll tell you something that I know will make you laugh." She then smiled saucily in his face, and said, "Do you remember Mr.——?"
L'effronte'e! this was the earnest man. But Ipsden was a match for her this time. "I think I do," said he; "a gentleman who wants to make John Bull little again into John Calf; but it won't do."
Her ladyship laughed. "Why did you not tell us that on Inch Coombe?"
"Because I had not read The Catspaw then."
"The Catspaw? Ah! I thought it could not be you. Whose is it?"
"Then Mr. Jerrold is cleverer than you."
"It is possible."
"It is certain! Well, Mr. Jerrold and Lord Ipsden, you will both be glad to hear that it was, in point of fact, a bull that confuted the advocate of the Middle Ages; we were walking; he was telling me manhood was extinct except in a few earnest men who lived upon the past, its associations, its truth; when a horrid bull gave—oh—such a bellow! and came trotting up. I screamed and ran—I remember nothing but arriving at the stile, and lo, on the other side, offering me his arm with empressment across the wooden barrier was—"
"Well! don't you see?"
"No—oh—yes, I see!—fancy—ah! Shall I tell you how he came to get first over? He ran more earnestly than you."
"It is not Mr. Jerrold this time, I presume," said her satirical ladyship.
"No! you cannot always have him. I venture to predict your ladyship on your return home gave this mediaeval personage his conge'."
"I gave it him at the stile! Let us be serious, if you please; I have a confidence to make you, Ipsden. Frankly, I owe you some apology for my conduct of late; I meant to be reserved—I have been rude—but you shall judge me. A year ago you made me some proposals; I rejected them because, though I like you—"
"You like me?"
"I detest your character. Since then, my West India estate has been turned into specie; that specie, the bulk of my fortune, placed on board a vessel; that vessel lost, at least we think so—she has not been heard of."
"My dear cousin."
"Do you comprehend that now I am cooler than ever to all young gentlemen who have large incomes, and" (holding out her hand like an angel) "I must trouble you to forgive me."
He kissed her lovely hand.
"I esteem you more and more," said he. "You ought, for it has been a hard struggle to me not to adore you, because you are so improved, mon cousin."
"Is it possible? In what respect?"
"You are browner and charitabler; and I should have been very kind to you—mawkishly kind, I fear, my sweet cousin, if this wretched money had not gone down in the Tisbe."
"Hallo!" cried the viscount.
"Ah!" squeaked Lady Barbara, unused to such interjections.
"Gone down in what?" said Ipsden, in a loud voice.
"Don't bellow in people's ears. The Tisbe, stupid," cried she, screaming at the top of her voice.
"Ri tum, ti turn, ti tum, tum, tum, tiddy, iddy," went Lord Ipsden—he whistled a polka.
Lady Barbara (inspecting him gravely). "I have heard it at a distance, but I never saw how it was done before. It is very, very pretty!!!!"
Ipsden. "Polkez-vous, madame?"
Lady Barb. "Si, je polke, Monsieur le Vicomte."
They polked for a second or two.
"Well, I dare say I am wrong," cried Lady Barbara, "but I like you better now you are a downright—ahem!—than when you were only an insipid non-intellectual—you are greatly improved."
Ips. "In what respects?"
Lady Barb. "Did I not tell you? browner and more impudent; but tell me," said she, resuming her sly, satirical tone, "how is it that you, who used to be the pink of courtesy, dance and sing over the wreck of my fortunes?"
"Because they are not wrecked."
"I thought I told you my specie is gone down in the Tisbe."
Ipsden. "But the Tisbe has not gone down."
Lady Barb. "I tell you it is."
Ipsden. "I assure you it is not."
Lady Barb. "It is not?"
Ipsden. "Barbara! I am too happy, I begin to nourish such sweet hopes once more. Oh, I could fall on my knees and bless you for something you said just now."
Lady Barbara blushed to the temples.
"Then why don't you?" said she. "All you want is a little enthusiasm." Then recovering herself, she said:
"You kneel on wet sand, with black trousers on; that will never be!!!"
These two were so occupied that they did not observe the approach of a stranger until he broke in upon their dialogue.
An Ancient Mariner had been for some minutes standing off and on, reconnoitering Lord Ipsden; he now bore down, and with great rough, roaring cordiality, that made Lady Barbara start, cried out:
"Give me your hand, sir—give me your hand, if you were twice a lord.
"I couldn't speak to you till the brig was safe in port, and you slipped away, but I've brought you up at last; and—give me your hand again, sir. I say, isn't it a pity you are a lord instead of a sailor?"
Ipsden. "But I am a sailor."
Ancient Mariner. "That ye are, and as smart a one as ever tied a true-lover's knot in the top; but tell the truth—you were never nearer losing the number of your mess than that day in the old Tisbe."
Lady Barb. "The old Tisbe! Oh!"
Ipsden. "Do you remember that nice little lurch she gave to leeward as we brought her round?"
Lady Barb. "Oh, Richard!"
Ancient Mariner. "And that reel the old wench gave under our feet, north the pier-head. I wouldn't have given a washing-tub for her at that moment."
Ipsden. "Past danger becomes pleasure, sir. Olim et hoec meminisse—I beg your pardon, sir."
Ancient Mariner (taking off his hat with feeling). "God bless ye, sir, and send ye many happy days, and well spent, with the pretty lady I see alongside; asking your pardon, miss, for parting pleasanter company—so I'll sheer off."
And away went the skipper of the Tisbe, rolling fearfully. In the heat of this reminiscence, the skipper of the yacht (they are all alike, blue water once fairly tasted) had lost sight of Lady Barbara; he now looked round. Imagine his surprise!
Her ladyship was in tears.
"Dear Barbara," said Lord Ipsden, "do not distress yourself on my account."
"It is not your fe-feelings I care about; at least, I h-h-hope not; but I have been so unjust, and I prided myself so on my j-ju-justice."
"Oh! if you don't, I don't. I hate myself, so it is no wonder you h-hate me."
"I love you more than ever."
"Then you are a good soul! Of course you know I always—I—esteemed you, Richard."
"No! I had an idea you despised me!"
"How silly you are! Can't you see? When I thought you were not perfection, which you are now, it vexed me to death; you never saw me affront any one but you?"
"No, I never did! What does that prove?"
"That depends upon the wit of him that reasons thereon." (Coming to herself.)
"I love you, Barbara! Will you honor me with your hand?"
"No! I am not so base, so selfish. You are worth a hundred of me, and here have I been treating you de haut en bas. Dear Richard, poor Richard. Oh! oh! oh!" (A perfect flood of tears.)
"Barbara! I regret nothing; this moment pays for all."
"Well, then, I will! since you keep pressing me. There, let me go; I must be alone; I must tell the sea how unjust I was, and how happy I am, and when you see me again you shall see the better side of your cousin Barbara."
She was peremptory. "She had her folly and his merits to think over," she said; but she promised to pass through Newhaven, and he should put her into her pony-phaeton, which would meet her there.
Lady Barbara was only a fool by the excess of her wit over her experience; and Lord Ipsden's love was not misplaced, for she had a great heart which she hid from little people. I forgive her!
The resolutions she formed in company with the sea, having dismissed Ipsden, and ordered her flunky into the horizon, will probably give our viscount just half a century of conjugal bliss.
As he was going she stopped him and said: "Your friend had browner hands than I have hitherto conceived possible. To tell the truth, I took them for the claws of a mahogany table when he grappled you—is that the term? C'est e'gal—I like him—"
She stopped him again. "Ipsden, in the midst of all this that poor man's ship is broken. I feel it is! You will buy him another, if you really love me—for I like him."
And so these lovers parted for a time; and Lord Ipsden with a bounding heart returned to Newhaven. He went to entertain his late vis-'a-vis at the "Peacock."
Meantime a shorter and less pleasant rencontre had taken place between Leith and that village.
Gatty felt he should meet his lost sweetheart; and sure enough, at a turn of the road Christie and Jean came suddenly upon him.
Jean nodded, but Christie took no notice of him; they passed him; he turned and followed them, and said, "Christie!"
"What is your will wi' me?" said she, coldly.
"I—I—How pale you are!"
"I am no very weel."
"She has been watching over muckle wi' Flucker," said Jean.
Christie thanked her with a look.
"I hope it is not—not—"
"Nae fears, lad," said she, briskly; "I dinna think that muckle o' ye."
"And I think of nothing but you," said he.
A deep flush crimsoned the young woman's brow, but she restrained herself, and said icily: "Thaat's very gude o' ye, I'm sure."
Gatty felt all the contempt her manners and words expressed. He bit his lips. The tear started to his eye. "You will forget me," said he. "I do not deserve to be remembered, but I shall never forget you. I leave for England. I leave Newhaven forever, where I have been so happy. I am going at three o'clock by the steamboat. Won't you bid me good-by?" He approached her timidly.
"Ay! that wull do," cried she; "Gude be wi' ye, lad; I wish ye nae ill." She gave a commanding gesture of dismissal; he turned away, and went sadly from her. She watched every motion when his back was turned.
"That is you, Christie," said Jean; "use the lads like dirt, an' they think a' the mair o' ye."
"Oh, Jean, my hairt's broken. I'm just deeing for him."
"Let me speak till him then," said Jean; "I'll sune bring him till his marrow-banes;" and she took a hasty step to follow him.
Christie held her fast. "I'd dee ere I'd give in till them. Oh, Jean! I'm a lassie clean flung awa; he has neither hairt nor spunk ava, yon lad!"
Jean began to make excuses for him. Christie inveighed against him. Jean spoke up for him with more earnestness.
Now observe, Jean despised the poor boy.
Christie adored him.
So Jean spoke for him, because women of every degree are often one solid mass of tact; and Christie abused him, because she wanted to hear him defended.
RICHARD, LORD VISCOUNT IPSDEN, having dotted the seashore with sentinels, to tell him of Lady Barbara's approach, awaited his guest in the "Peacock"; but, as Gatty was a little behind time, he placed Saunders sentinel over the "Peacock," and strolled eastward; as he came out of the "Peacock," Mrs. Gatty came down the little hill in front, and also proceeded eastward; meantime Lady Barbara and her escort were not far from the New Town of Newhaven, on their way from Leith.
Mrs. Gatty came down, merely with a vague fear. She had no reason to suppose her son's alliance with Christie either would or could be renewed, but she was a careful player and would not give a chance away; she found he was gone out unusually early, so she came straight to the only place she dreaded; it was her son's last day in Scotland. She had packed his clothes, and he had inspired her with confidence by arranging pictures, etc., himself; she had no idea he was packing for his departure from this life, not Edinburgh only.
She came then to Newhaven with no serious misgivings, for, even if her son had again vacillated, she saw that, with Christie's pride and her own firmness, the game must be hers in the end; but, as I said before, she was one who played her cards closely, and such seldom lose.
But my story is with the two young fishwives, who, on their return from Leith, found themselves at the foot of the New Town, Newhaven, some minutes before any of the other persons who, it is to be observed, were approaching it from different points; they came slowly in, Christie in particular, with a listlessness she had never, known till this last week; for some days her strength had failed her—it was Jean that carried the creel now—before, Christie, in the pride of her strength, would always do more than her share of their joint labor. Then she could hardly be forced to eat, and what she did eat was quite tasteless to her, and sleep left her, and in its stead came uneasy slumbers, from which she awoke quivering from head to foot.
Oh! perilous venture of those who love one object with the whole heart.
This great but tender heart was breaking day by day.
Well, Christie and Jean, strolling slowly into the New Town of Newhaven, found an assemblage of the natives all looking seaward; the fishermen, except Sandy Liston, were away at the herring fishery, but all the boys and women of the New Town were collected; the girls felt a momentary curiosity; it proved, however, to be only an individual swimming in toward shore from a greater distance than usual.
A little matter excites curiosity in such places.
The man's head looked like a spot of ink.
Sandy Liston was minding his own business, lazily mending a skait-net, which he had attached to a crazy old herring-boat hauled up to rot.
Christie sat down, pale and languid, by him, on a creepie that a lass who had been baiting a line with mussels had just vacated; suddenly she seized Jean's arm with a convulsive motion; Jean looked up—it was the London steamboat running out from Leith to Granton Pier to take up her passengers for London. Charles Gatty was going by that boat; the look of mute despair the poor girl gave went to Jean's heart; she ran hastily from the group, and cried out of sight for poor Christie.
A fishwife, looking through a telescope at the swimmer, remarked: "He's coming in fast; he's a gallant swimmer, yon—
"Can he dee't?" inquired Christie of Sandy Liston.
"Fine thaat," was the reply; "he does it aye o' Sundays when ye are at the kirk."
"It's no oot o' the kirk window ye'll hae seen him, Sandy, my mon," said a young fishwife.
"Rin for my glass ony way, Flucker," said Christie, forcing herself to take some little interest.
Flucker brought it to her, she put her hand on his shoulder, got slowly up, and stood on the creepie and adjusted the focus of her glass; after a short view, she said to Flucker:
"Rin and see the nook." She then leveled her glass again at the swimmer.
Flucker informed her the nook said "half eleven"—Scotch for "half past ten."
Christie whipped out a well-thumbed almanac.
"Yon nook's aye ahint," said she. She swept the sea once more with her glass, then brought it together with a click, and jumped off the stool. Her quick intelligence viewed the matter differently from all the others.
"Noow," cried she, smartly, "wha'll lend me his yawl?"
"Hets! dinna be sae interferin', lassie," said a fishwife.
"Hae nane o' ye ony spunk?" said Christie, taking no notice of the woman. "Speak, laddies!"
"M' uncle's yawl is at the pier-head; ye'll get her, my woman," said a boy.
"A schell'n for wha's first on board," said Christie, holding up the coin.
"Come awa', Flucker, we'll hae her schell'n;" and these two worthies instantly effected a false start.
"It's no under your jackets," said Christie, as she dashed after them like the wind.
"Haw! haw! haw!" laughed Sandy.
"What's her business picking up a mon against his will?" said a woman.
"She's an awfu' lassie," whined another. The examination of the swimmer was then continued, and the crowd increased; some would have it he was rapidly approaching, others that he made little or no way.
"Wha est?" said another.
"It's a lummy," said a girl.
"Na! it's no a lummy," said another.
Christie's boat was now seen standing out from the pier. Sandy Liston, casting a contemptuous look on all the rest, lifted himself lazily into the herring-boat and looked seaward. His manner changed in a moment.
"The Deevil!" cried he; "the tide's turned! You wi' your glass, could you no see yon man's drifting oot to sea?"
"Hech!" cried the women, "he'll be drooned—he'll be drooned!"
"Yes; he'll be drooned!" cried Sandy, "if yon lassie does na come alongside him deevelich quick—he's sair spent, I doot."
Two spectators were now added to the scene, Mrs. Gatty and Lord Ipsden. Mrs. Gatty inquired what was the matter.
"It's a mon drooning," was the reply.
The poor fellow, whom Sandy, by aid of his glass, now discovered to be in a wornout condition, was about half a mile east of Newhaven pier-head, and unfortunately the wind was nearly due east. Christie was standing north-northeast, her boat-hook jammed against the sail, which stood as flat as a knife.
The natives of the Old Town were now seen pouring down to the pier and the beach, and strangers were collecting like bees.
"After wit is everybody's wit!!!"—Old Proverb.
The affair was in the Johnstone's hands.
"That boat is not going to the poor man," said Mrs. Gatty, "it is turning its back upon him."
"She canna lie in the wind's eye, for as clever as she is," answered a fishwife.
"I ken wha it is," suddenly squeaked a little fishwife; "it's Christie Johnstone's lad; it's yon daft painter fr' England. Hech!" cried she, suddenly, observing Mrs. Gatty, "it's your son, woman."
The unfortunate woman gave a fearful scream, and, flying like a tiger on Liston, commanded him "to go straight out to sea and save her son."
Jean Carnie seized her arm. "Div ye see yon boat?" cried she; "and div ye mind Christie, the lass wha's hairt ye hae broken? aweel, woman—it's just a race between deeth and Cirsty Johnstone for your son."
The poor old woman swooned dead away; they carried her into Christie Johnstone's house and laid her down, then hurried back—the greater terror absorbed the less.
Lady Barbara Sinclair was there from Leith; and, seeing Lord Ipsden standing in the boat with a fisherman, she asked him to tell her what it was; neither he nor any one answered her.
"Why doesn't she come about, Liston?" cried Lord Ipsden, stamping with anxiety and impatience.
"She'll no be lang," said Sandy; "but they'll mak a mess o' 't wi' ne'er a man i' the boat."
"Ye're sure o' thaat?" put in a woman.
"Ay, about she comes," said Liston, as the sail came down on the first tack. He was mistaken; they dipped the lug as cleverly as any man in the town could.
"Hech! look at her hauling on the rope like a mon," cried a woman. The sail flew up on the other tack.
"She's an awfu' lassie,". whined another.
"He's awa," groaned Liston, "he's doon!"
"No! he's up again," cried Lord Ipsden; "but I fear he can't live till the boat comes to him."
The fisherman and the viscount held on by each other.
"He does na see her, or maybe he'd tak hairt."
"I'd give ten thousand pounds if only he could see her. My God, the man will be drowned under our eyes. If he but saw her!!!"
The words had hardly left Lord Ipsden's lips, when the sound of a woman's voice came like an AEolian note across the water.
"Hurraih!" roared Liston, and every creature joined the cheer.
"She'll no let him dee. Ah! she's in the bows, hailing him an' waving the lad's bonnet ower her head to gie him coorage. Gude bless ye, lass; Gude bless ye!"
Christie knew it was no use hailing him against the wind, but the moment she got the wind she darted into the bows, and pitched in its highest key her full and brilliant voice; after a moment of suspense she received proof that she must be heard by him, for on the pier now hung men and women, clustered like bees, breathless with anxiety, and the moment after she hailed the drowning man, she saw and heard a wild yell of applause burst from the pier, and the pier was more distant than the man. She snatched Flucker's cap, planted her foot on the gunwale, held on by a rope, hailed the poor fellow again, and waved the cap round and round her head, to give him courage; and in a moment, at the sight of this, thousands of voices thundered back their cheers to her across the water. Blow, wind—spring, boat—and you, Christie, still ring life toward those despairing ears and wave hope to those sinking eyes; cheer the boat on, you thousands that look upon this action; hurrah! from the pier; hurrah! from the town; hurrah! from the shore; hurrah! now, from the very ships in the roads, whose crews are swarming on the yards to look; five minutes ago they laughed at you; three thousand eyes and hearts hang upon you now; ay, these are the moments we live for!
And now dead silence. The boat is within fifty yards, they are all three consulting together round the mast; an error now is death; his forehead only seems above water.
"If they miss him on that tack?" said Lord Ipsden, significantly, to Liston.
"He'll never see London Brigg again," was the whispered reply.
They carried on till all on shore thought they would run over him, or past him; but no, at ten yards distant they were all at the sail, and had it down like lightning; and then Flucker sprang to the bows, the other boy to the helm.
Unfortunately, there were but two Johnstones in the boat; and this boy, in his hurry, actually put the helm to port, instead of to starboard. Christie, who stood amidships, saw the error; she sprang aft, flung the boy from the helm and jammed it hard-a-starboard with her foot. The boat answered the helm, but too late for Flucker; the man was four yards from him as the boat drifted by.
"He's a deed mon!" cried Liston, on shore.
The boat's length gave one more little chance; the after-part must drift nearer him—thanks to Christie. Flucker flew aft; flung himself on his back, and seized his sister's petticoats.
"Fling yourself ower the gunwale," screamed he. "Ye'll no hurt; I'se haud ye."
She flung herself boldly over the gunwale; the man was sinking, her nails touched his hair, her fingers entangled themselves in it, she gave him a powerful wrench and brought him alongside; the boys pinned him like wild-cats.
Christie darted away forward to the mast, passed a rope round it, threw it the boys, in a moment it was under his shoulders. Christie hauled on it from the fore thwart, the boys lifted him, and they tumbled him, gasping and gurgling like a dying salmon, into the bottom of the boat, and flung net and jackets and sail over him to keep the life in him.
Ah! draw your breath all hands at sea and ashore, and don't try it again, young gentleman, for there was nothing to spare; when you were missed at the bow two stout hearts quivered for you; Lord Ipsden hid his face in his two hands, Sandy Liston gave a groan, and, when you were grabbed astern, jumped out of his boat and cried:
"A gill o' whisky for ony favor, for it's turned me as seeck as a doeg." He added: "He may bless yon lassie's fowr banes, for she's ta'en him oot o' Death's maw, as sure as Gude's in heaven!"
Lady Barbara, who had all her life been longing to see perilous adventures, prayed and trembled and cried most piteously; and Lord Ipsden's back was to her, and he paid no attention to her voice; but when the battle was won, and Lord Ipsden turned and saw her, she clung to his arm and dried her tears; and then the Old Town cheered the boat, and the New Town cheered the boat, and the towns cheered each other; and the Johnstones, lad and lass, set their sail, and swept back in triumph to the pier; so then Lady Barbara's blood mounted and tingled in her veins like fire. "Oh, how noble!" cried she.
"Yes, dearest," said Ipsden. "You have seen something great done at last; and by a woman, too!"
"Yes," said Barbara, "how beautiful! oh! how beautiful it all is; only the next one I see I should like the danger to be over first, that is all."
The boys and Christie, the moment they had saved Gatty, up sail again for Newhaven; they landed in about three minutes at the pier.
TIME. From Newhaven town to pier on foot: 1 m. 30 sec. First tack: 5 m. 30 sec. Second tack, and getting him on board: 4 m. 0 sec. Back to the pier, going free: 3 m. 30 sec.
Total: 14 m. 30 sec.
They came in to the pier, Christie sitting quietly on the thwart after her work, the boy steering, and Flucker standing against the mast, hands in his pockets; the deportment this young gentleman thought fit to assume on this occasion was "complete apathy"; he came into port with the air of one bringing home the ordinary results of his day's fishing; this was, I suppose, to impress the spectators with the notion that saving lives was an every-day affair with La Famille Johnstone; as for Gatty, he came to himself under his heap of nets and jackets and spoke once between Death's jaw and the pier.
"Beautiful!" murmured he, and was silent. The meaning of this observation never transpired, and never will in this world. Six months afterward, being subjected to a searching interrogatory, he stated that he had alluded to the majesty and freedom of a certain pose Christie had adopted while hailing him from the boat; but, reader, if he had wanted you and me to believe it was this, he should not have been half a year finding it out—increduli odimus! They landed, and Christie sprang on shore; while she was wending her way through the crowd, impeded by greetings and acclamations, with every now and then a lass waving her kerchief or a lad his bonnet over the heroine's head, poor Mrs. Gatty was receiving the attention of the New Town; they brought her to, they told her the good news—she thanked God.
The whole story had spread like wildfire; they expostulated with her, they told her now was the time to show she had a heart, and bless the young people.
She rewarded them with a valuable precept.
"Mind your own business!" said she.
"Hech! y' are a dour wife!" cried Newhaven.
The dour wife bent her eyes on the ground.
The people were still collected at the foot of the street, but they were now in knots, when in dashed Flucker, arriving by a short cut, and crying: "She does na ken, she does na ken, she was ower moedest to look, I daur say, and ye'll no tell her, for he's a blackguard, an' he's just making a fule o' the puir lass, and if she kens what she has done for him, she'll be fonder o' him than a coow o' her cauf."
"Oh, Flucker! we maun tell her, it's her lad, her ain lad, she saved," expostulated a woman.
"Did ever my feyther do a good turn till ye?" cried Flucker. "Awel, then, ye'll no tell the lassie, she's weel as she is; he's gaun t' Enngland the day. I cannie gie ye a' a hidin'," said he, with an eye that flashed volumes of good intention on a hundred and fifty people; "but I am feytherless and motherless, an' I can fa' on my knees an' curse ye a' if ye do us sic an ill turn, an' then ye'll see whether ye'll thrive."
"We'll no tell, Flucker, ye need na curse us ony way."
His lordship, with all the sharp authority of a skipper, ordered Master Flucker to the pier, with a message to the yacht; Flucker qua yachtsman was a machine, and went as a matter of course. "I am determined to tell her," said Lord Ipsden to Lady Barbara.
"But," remonstrated Lady Barbara, "the poor boy says he will curse us if we do."
"He won't curse me."
"How do you know that?"
"Because the little blackguard's grog would be stopped on board the yacht if he did."
Flucker had not been gone many minutes before loud cheering was heard, and Christie Johnstone appeared convoyed by a large detachment of the Old Town; she had tried to slip away, but they would not let her. They convoyed her in triumph till they saw the New Town people, and then they turned and left her.
She came in among the groups, a changed woman—her pallor and her listlessness were gone—the old light was in her eye, and the bright color in her cheek, and she seemed hardly to touch the earth.
"I'm just droukit, lasses," cried she, gayly, wringing her sleeve. Every eye was upon her; did she know, or did she not know, what she had done?
Lord Ipsden stepped forward; the people tacitly accepted him as the vehicle of their curiosity.
"Who was it, Christie?"
"I dinna ken, for my pairt!"
Mrs. Gatty came out of the house.
"A handsome young fellow, I hope, Christie?" resumed Lord Ipsden.
"Ye maun ask Flucker," was the reply. "I could no tak muckle notice, ye ken," putting her hand before her eye, and half smiling.
"Well! I hear he is very good-looking; and I hear you think so, too."
She glided to him and looked in his face. He gave a meaning smile. The poor girl looked quite perplexed. Suddenly she gave a violent start.
"Christie! where is Christie?" had cried a well-known voice. He had learned on the pier who had saved him—he had slipped up among the boats to find her—he could not find his hat—he could not wait for it—his dripping hair showed where he had been—it was her love whom she had just saved out of Death's very jaws.
She gave a cry of love that went through every heart, high or low, young or old, that heard it. And she went to him, through the air it seemed; but, quick as she was, another was as quick; the mother had seen him first, and she was there. Christie saw nothing. With another cry, the very keynote of her great and loving heart, she flung her arms round—Mrs. Gatty, who was on the same errand as herself.
"Hearts are not steel, and steel is bent; Hearts are not flint, and flint is rent."
The old woman felt Christie touch her. She turned from her son in a moment and wept upon her neck. Her lover took her hand and kissed it, and pressed it to his bosom, and tried to speak to her; but all he could do was to sob and choke—and kiss her hand again.
"My daughter!" sobbed the old woman.
At that word Christie clasped her quickly; and then Christie began to cry.
"I am not a stone," cried Mrs. Gatty.
"I gave him life; but you have saved him from death. Oh, Charles, never make her repent what she has done for you."
She was a woman, after all; and prudence and prejudice melted like snow before her heart.
There were not many dry eyes—least of all the heroic Lady Barbara's.
The three whom a moment had made one were becoming calmer, and taking one another's hands for life, when a diabolical sound arose—and what was it but Sandy Liston, who, after furious resistance, was blubbering with explosive but short-lived violence? Having done it, he was the first to draw everybody's attention to the phenomenon; and affecting to consider it a purely physical attack, like a coup de soleil, or so on, he proceeded instantly to Drysel's for his panacea.
Lady Barbara enjoined Lord Ipsden to watch these people, and not to lose a word they said; and, after she had insisted upon kissing Christie, she went off to her carriage. And she too was so happy, she cried three distinct times on her way to Edinburgh.
Lord Ipsden, having reminded Gatty of his engagement, begged him to add his mother and Christie to the party, and escorted Lady Barbara to her phaeton.
So then the people dispersed by degrees.
"That old lady's face seems familiar to me," said Lord Ipsden, as he stood on the little natural platform by the "Peacock." "Do you know who she is, Saunders?"
"It is Peggy, that was cook in your lordship's uncle's time, my lord. She married a green-grocer," added Saunders, with an injured air.
"Hech! hech!" cried Flucker, "Christie has ta'en up her head wi' a cook's son."
Mrs. Gatty was ushered into the "Peacock" with mock civility by Mr. Saunders. No recognition took place, each being ashamed of the other as an acquaintance.
The next arrival was a beautiful young lady in a black silk gown, a plain but duck-like plaid shawl, who proved to be Christie Johnstone, in her Sunday attire.
When they met, Mrs. Gatty gave a little scream of joy, and said: "Oh, my child; if I had seen you in that dress, I should never have said a word against you."
"Pars minima est ipsa puella sui!"
His lordship stepped up to her, took off his hat, and said: "Will Mrs. Gatty take from me a commission for two pictures, as big as herself, and as bonny?" added he, doing a little Scotch. He handed her a check; and, turning to Gatty, added, "At your convenience, sir, bien entendu."
"Hech! it's for five hundred pund, Chairles."
"Good gear gangs in little book,"* said Jean.
"Ay, does it," replied Flucker, assuming the compliment.
"My lord!" said the artist, "you treat Art like a prince; and she shall treat you like a queen. When the sun comes out again, I will work for you and fame. You shall have two things painted, every stroke loyally in the sunlight. In spite of gloomy winter and gloomier London, I will try if I can't hang nature and summer on your walls forever. As for me, you know I must go to Gerard Dow and Cuyp, and Pierre de Hoogh, when my little sand is run; but my handwriting shall warm your children's children's hearts, sir, when this hand is dust." His eye turned inward, he walked to and fro, and his companions died out of his sight—he was in the kingdom of art.
His lordship and Jean entered the "Peacock," followed by Flucker, who merely lingered at the door to moralize as follows:
"Hech! hech! isna thaat lamentable? Christie's mon's as daft as a drunk weaver."
But one stayed quietly behind, and assumed that moment the office of her life.
"Ay!" he burst out again, "the resources of our art are still unfathomed! Pictures are yet to be painted that shall refresh men's inner souls, and help their hearts against the artificial world; and charm the fiend away, like David's harp!! The world, after centuries of lies, will give nature and truth a trial. What a paradise art will be, when truths, instead of lies, shall be told on paper, on marble, on canvas, and on the boards!!!"
"Dinner's on the boarrd," murmured Christie, alluding to Lord Ipsden's breakfast; "and I hae the charge o' ye," pulling his sleeve hard enough to destroy the equilibrium of a flea.
"Then don't let us waste our time here. Oh, Christie!"
"What est, my laddy?"
"I'm so preciously hungry!!!!"
* Come away.
Off they ran, hand in hand, sparks of beauty, love and happiness flying all about them.
"THERE is nothing but meeting and parting in this world!" and you may be sure the incongruous personages of our tale could not long be together. Their separate paths had met for an instant in one focus, furnished then and there the matter of an eccentric story, and then diverged forever.
Our lives have a general current, and also an episode or two; and the episodes of a commonplace life are often rather startling; in like manner this tale is not a specimen, but an episode of Lord Ipsden and Lady Barbara, who soon after this married and lived like the rest of the beau monde. In so doing, they passed out of my hands; such as wish to know how viscounts and viscountesses feed and sleep, and do the domestic (so called), and the social (so called), are referred to the fashionable novel. To Mr. Saunders, for instance, who has in the press one of those cerberus-leviathans of fiction, so common now; incredible as folio to future ages. Saunders will take you by the hand, and lead you over carpets two inches thick—under rosy curtains—to dinner-tables. He will fete you, and opera you, and dazzle your young imagination with e'p'ergnes, and salvers, and buhl and ormolu. No fishwives or painters shall intrude upon his polished scenes; all shall be as genteel as himself. Saunders is a good authority; he is more in the society, and far more in the confidence of the great, than most fashionable novelists. Mr. Saunders's work will be in three volumes; nine hundred and ninety pages!!!!!!
In other words, this single work of this ingenious writer will equal in bulk the aggregate of all the writings extant by Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, and St. Paul!!!
I shall not venture into competition with this behemoth of the salon; I will evaporate in thin generalities.
Lord Ipsden then lived very happily with Lady Barbara, whose hero he straightway became, and who nobly and poetically dotes upon him. He has gone into political life to please her, and will remain there—to please himself. They were both very grateful to Newhaven; when they married they vowed to visit it twice a year, and mingle a fortnight's simple life with its simple scenes; but four years have passed, and they have never been there again, and I dare say never will; but when Viscount Ipsden falls in with a brother aristocrat who is crushed by the fiend ennui, he remembers Aberford, and condenses his famous recipe into a two-edged hexameter, which will make my learned reader laugh, for it is full of wisdom:
"Diluculo surgas! miseris succurrere discas!!"
Flucker Johnstone meditated during breakfast upon the five hundred pounds, and regretted he had not years ago adopted Mr. Gatty's profession; some days afterward he invited his sister to a conference. Chairs being set, Mr. Flucker laid down this observation, that near relations should be deuced careful not to cast discredit upon one another; that now his sister was to be a lady, it was repugnant to his sense of right to be a fisherman and make her ladyship blush for him; on the contrary, he felt it his duty to rise to such high consideration that she should be proud of him.
Christie acquiesced at once in this position, but professed herself embarrassed to know how such a "ne'er-do-weel" was to be made a source of pride; then she kissed Flucker, and said, in a tone somewhat inconsistent with the above, "Tell me, my laamb!"
Her lamb informed her that the sea has many paths; some of them disgraceful, such as line or net fishing, and the periodical laying down, on rocky shoals, and taking up again, of lobster-creels; others, superior to anything the dry land can offer in importance and dignity and general estimation, such as the command of a merchant vessel trading to the East or West Indies. Her lamb then suggested that if she would be so good as to launch him in the merchant-service, with a good rig of clothes and money in his pocket, there was that in his head which would enable him to work to windward of most of his contemporaries. He bade her calculate upon the following results: In a year or two he would be second mate, and next year first mate, and in a few years more skipper! Think of that, lass! Skipper of a vessel, whose rig he generously left his sister free to determine; premising that two masts were, in his theory of navigation, indispensable, and that three were a great deal more like Cocker than two. This led to a general consultation; Flucker's ambition was discussed and praised. That modest young gentleman, in spite of many injunctions to the contrary, communicated his sister's plans for him to Lord Ipsden, and affected to doubt their prudence. The bait took; Lord Ipsden wrote to his man of business, and an unexpected blow fell upon the ingenious Flucker. He was sent to school; there to learn a little astronomy, a little navigation, a little seamanship, a little manners, etc.; in the mysteries of reading and writing his sister had already perfected him by dint of "the taws." This school was a blow; but Flucker was no fool; he saw there was no way of getting from school to sea without working. So he literally worked out to sea. His first voyage was distinguished by the following peculiarities: Attempts to put tricks upon this particular novice generally ended in the laugh turning against the experimenters; and instead of drinking his grog, which he hates, he secreted it, and sold it for various advantages. He has been now four voyages. When he comes ashore, instead of going to haunts of folly and vice, he instantly bears up for his sister's house—Kensington Gravel-pits—which he makes in the following manner: He goes up the river—Heaven knows where all—this he calls running down the longitude; then he lands, and bears down upon the Gravel-pits; in particular knowledge of the names of streets he is deficient, but he knows the exact bearings of Christie's dwelling. He tacks and wears according as masonry compels him, and he arrives at the gate. He hails the house, in a voice that brings all the inhabitants of the row to their windows, including Christie; he is fallen upon and dragged into the house. The first thing is, he draws out from his boots, and his back, and other hiding-places, China crape and marvelous silk handkerchiefs for Christie; and she takes from his pocket a mass of Oriental sugar-plums, with which, but for this precaution, she knows by experience he would poison young Charley; and soon he is to be seen sitting with his hand in his sister's, and she lookng like a mother upon his handsome, weather-beaten face, and Gatty opposite, adoring him as a specimen of male beauty, and sometimes making furtive sketches of him. And then the tales he always brings with him; the house is never very dull, but it is livelier than ever when this inexhaustible sailor casts anchor in it.
The friends (chiefly artists) who used to leave at 9:30, stay till eleven; for an intelligent sailor is better company than two lawyers, two bishops, three soldiers, and four writers of plays and tales, all rolled together. And still he tells Christie he shall command a vessel some day, and leads her to the most cheering inferences from the fact of his prudence and his general width-awake; in particular he bids her contrast with him the general fate of sailors, eaten up by land-sharks, particularly of the female gender, whom he demonstrates to be the worst enemies poor Jack has; he calls these sunken rocks, fire-ships and other metaphors. He concludes thus: "You are all the lass I mean to have till I'm a skipper, and then I'll bear up alongside some pretty, decent lass, like yourself, Christie, and we'll sail in company all our lives, let the wind blow high or low." Such is the gracious Flucker become in his twentieth year. Last voyage, with Christie's aid, he produced a sextant of his own, and "made it twelve o'clock" (with the sun's consent, I hope), and the eyes of authority fell upon him. So, who knows? perhaps he may one day, sail a ship; and, if he does, he will be prouder and happier than if we made him monarch of the globe.
To return to our chiefs; Mrs. Gatty gave her formal consent to her son's marriage with Christie Johnstone.
There were examples. Aristocracy had ere now condescended to wealth; earls had married women rich by tallow-importing papas; and no doubt, had these same earls been consulted in Gatty's case, they would have decided that Christie Johnstone, with her real and funded property, was not a villainous match for a green grocer's son, without a rapp;* but Mrs. Gatty did not reason so, did not reason at all, luckily, her heart ran away with her judgment, and, her judgment ceasing to act, she became a wise woman.
*A diminutive German coin.
The case was peculiar. Gatty was a artist pur sang—and Christie, who would not have been the wife for a petit maitre, was the wife of wives for him.
He wanted a beautiful wife to embellish his canvas, disfigured hitherto by an injudicious selection of models; a virtuous wife to be his crown; a prudent wife to save him from ruin; a cheerful wife to sustain his spirits, drooping at times by virtue of his artist's temperament; an intellectual wife to preserve his children from being born dolts and bred dunces, and to keep his own mind from sharpening to one point, and so contracting and becoming monomaniacal. And he found all these qualities, together with the sun and moon of human existence—true love and true religion—in Christie Johnstone.
In similar cases, foolish men have set to work to make, in six months, their diamond of nature, the exact cut and gloss of other men's pastes, and, nervously watching the process, have suffered torture; luckily Charles Gatty was not wise enough for this; he saw nature had distinguished her he loved beyond her fellows; here, as elsewhere, he had faith in nature—he believed that Christie would charm everybody of eye, and ear, and mind, and heart, that approached her; he admired her as she was, and left her to polish herself, if she chose. He did well; she came to London with a fine mind, a broad brogue, a delicate ear; she observed how her husband's friends spoke, and in a very few months she had toned down her Scotch to a rich Ionic coloring, which her womanly instinct will never let her exchange for the thin, vinegar accents that are too prevalent in English and French society; and in other respects she caught, by easy gradation, the tone of the new society to which her marriage introduced her, without, however, losing her charming self.
The wise dowager lodges hard by, having resisted an invitation to be in the same house; she comes to that house to assist the young wife with her experience, and to be welcome—not to interfere every minute, and tease her; she loves her daughter-in-law almost as much as she does her son, and she is happy because he bids fair to be an immortal painter, and, above all, a gentleman; and she, a wifely wife, a motherly mother, and, above all, a lady.
This, then, is a happy couple. Their life is full of purpose and industry, yet lightened by gayety; they go to operas, theaters and balls, for they are young. They have plenty of society, real society, not the ill-assorted collection of a predetermined number of bodies, that blindly assumes that name, but the rich communication of various and fertile minds; they very, very seldom consent to squat four mortal hours on one chair (like old hares stiffening in their hot forms), and nibbling, sipping and twaddling in four mortal hours what could have been eaten, drunken and said in thirty-five minutes. They are both artists at heart, and it shocks their natures to see folks mix so very largely the inutile with the insipidum, and waste, at one huge but barren incubation, the soul, and the stomach, and the irrevocable hours, things with which so much is to be done. But they have many desirable acquaintances, and not a few friends; the latter are mostly lovers of truth in their several departments, and in all things. Among them are painters, sculptors, engineers, writers, conversers, thinkers; these acknowledging, even in England, other gods besides the intestines, meet often chez Gatty, chiefly for mental intercourse; a cup of tea with such is found, by experience, to be better than a stalled elk where chit-chat reigns over the prostrate hours.
This, then, is a happy couple; the very pigeons and the crows need not blush for the nest at Kensington Gravel-pits. There the divine institution Marriage takes its natural colors, and it is at once pleasant and good to catch such glimpses of Heaven's design, and sad to think how often this great boon, accorded by God to man and woman, must have been abused and perverted, ere it could have sunk to be the standing butt of farce-writers, and the theme of weekly punsters.
In this pair we see the wonders a male and female can do for each other in the sweet bond of holy wedlock. In that blessed relation alone two interests are really one, and two hearts lie safe at anchor side by side.
Christie and Charles are friends—for they are man and wife.
Christie and Charles are lovers still—for they are man and wife.
Christie and Charles are one forever—for they are man and wife.
This wife brightens the house, from kitchen to garret, for her husband; this husband works like a king for his wife's comfort, and for his own fame—and that fame is his wife's glory. When one of these expresses or hints a wish, the other's first impulse is to find the means, not the objections.
They share all troubles, and, by sharing, halve them.
They share all pleasures, and, by sharing, double them.
They climb the hill together now, and many a canty day they shall have with one another; and when, by the inevitable law, they begin to descend toward the dark valley, they will still go hand in hand, smiling so tenderly, and supporting each other with a care more lovely than when the arm was strong and the foot firm.
On these two temperate lives old age will descend lightly, gradually, gently, and late—and late upon these evergreen hearts, because they are not tuned to some selfish, isolated key; these hearts beat and ring with the young hearts of their dear children, and years hence papa and mamma will begin life hopefully, wishfully, warmly again with each loved novice in turn.
And when old age does come, it will be no calamity to these, as it is to you, poor battered beau, laughed at by the fair ninnies who erst laughed with you; to you, poor follower of salmon, fox, and pheasant, whose joints are stiffening, whose nerve is gone—whose Golgotha remains; to you, poor faded beauty, who have staked all upon man's appetite, and not accumulated goodness or sense for your second course; to you, poor drawing-room wit, whose sarcasm has turned to venom and is turning to drivel.
What terrors has old age for this happy pair? it cannot make them ugly, for, though the purple light of youth recedes, a new kind of tranquil beauty, the aloe-blossom of many years of innocence, comes to, and sits like a dove upon, the aged faces, where goodness, sympathy and intelligence have harbored together so long; and where evil passions have flitted (for we are all human), but found no resting-place.
Old age is no calamity to them. It cannot terrify them; for ere they had been married a week the woman taught the man, lover of truth, to search for the highest and greatest truths in a book written for men's souls by the Author of the world, the sea, the stars, the sun, the soul; and this book, Dei gratia, will, as the good bishop sings,
"Teach them to live that they may dread The grave as little as their bed."
It cannot make them sad, for, ere it comes loved souls will have gone from earth and from their tender bosom, but not from their memories; and will seem to beckon them now across the cold valley to the golden land.
It cannot make them sad, for on earth the happiest must drink a sorrowful cup more than once in a long life, and so their brightest hopes will have come to dwell habitually on things beyond the grave; and the great painter, jam Senex, will chiefly meditate upon a richer landscape and brighter figures than human hand has ever painted; a scene whose glories he can see from hence but by glimpses and through a glass darkly; the great meadows on the other side of Jordan, which are bright with the spirits of the just that walk there, and are warmed with an eternal sun, and ring with the triumph of the humble and the true, and the praises of God forever.