HotFreeBooks.com
Corporal Cameron
by Ralph Connor
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

"Look here, old chap," asked Dunn suddenly, "what of Potts in this business?"

"Potts! Oh, hang it, Dunn, I can't drag Potts into this. It would be altogether too low-down to throw suspicion upon a man without the slightest ground. Potts is not exactly a lofty-souled creature. In fact, he is pronouncedly a bounder, though I confess I did borrow money of him; but I'd borrow money of the devil when I'm in certain moods. A man may be a bounder, however, without being a criminal. No, I have thought this thing out as far as I can, and I've made my mind up that I've got to face it myself. I've been a fool, ah, such a fool!" A shudder shook his frame. "Oh, Dunn, old man, I don't mind for myself, I can go out easily enough, but it's my little sister! It will break her heart, and she has no one else; she will have to bear it all alone."

"What do you mean, Cameron?" asked Dunn sharply.

Cameron sprang to his feet. "Let it go," he cried. "Let it go for to-night, anyway." He seized a decanter which stood all too ready to his hand, but Dunn interposed.

"Listen to me, old man," he said, in a voice of grave and earnest sadness, while he pushed Cameron back into a chair. "We have a desperately hard game before us, you and I,—this is my game, too,—and we must be fit; so, Cameron, I want your word that you will play up for all that's in you; that you will cut this thing out," pointing to the decanter, "and will keep fit to the last fighting minute. I am asking you this, Cameron. You owe it to yourself, you owe it to me, you owe it to your sister."

For some moments Cameron sat gazing straight before him, his face showing the agony in his soul. "As God's above, I do! I owe it to you, Dunn, and to her, and to the memory of my—" But his quivering lips could not utter the word; and there was no need, for they both knew that his heart was far away in the little mound that lay in the shadow of the church tower in the Cuagh Oir. The lad rose to his feet, and stretching out his hand to Dunn cried, "There's my hand and my honour as a Highlander, and until the last fighting moment I'll be fit."

At the party that night none was gayer than young Cameron. The shy reserve that usually marked him was thrust aside. His fine, lithe figure, set off by his Highland costume, drew all eyes in admiration, and whether in the proud march of the piper, or in the wild abandon of the Highland Fling, he seemed to all the very beau ideal of a gallant Highland gentleman.

Dunn stood in the circle gathered to admire, watching Cameron's performance of that graceful and intricate Highland dance, all unconscious of a pair of bright blue eyes fastened on his face that reflected so manifestly the grief and pain in his heart.

"And wherefore this gloom?" said a gay voice at his side. It was Miss Bessie Brodie.

Poor Dunn! He was not skilled in the fine art of social deception. He could only gaze stupidly and with blinking eyes upon his questioner, devoutly hoping meanwhile that the tears would not fall.

"Splendid Highlander, isn't he?" exclaimed Miss Bessie, hastily withdrawing her eyes from his face, for she was much too fine a lady to let him see her surprise.

"What?" exclaimed Dunn. "I don't know. I mean—yes, awfully—oh, confound the thing, it's a beastly shame!"

Thereupon Miss Bessie turned her big blue eyes slowly upon him. "Meaning what?" she said quietly.

"Oh, I beg pardon. I'm just a fool. Oh, hang it all!" Dunn could not recover his composure. He backed out of the circle of admirers into a darker corner.

"Fool?" said Miss Brodie, stepping back with him. "And why, pray? Can I know? I suppose it's Cameron again," she continued. "Oh, I know all about you and your mothering of him."

"Mothering!" said Dunn bitterly. "That is just what he needs, by Jove. His mother has been dead these five years, and that's been the ruin of him."

The cheers from Cameron's admirers broke in upon Dunn's speech. "Oh, it's too ghastly," he muttered.

"Is it really so bad? Can't I help?" cried Miss Brodie. "You know I've had some experience with boys."

As Dunn looked into her honest, kindly eyes he hesitated. Should he tell her? He was in sore need of counsel, and besides he was at the limit of his self-control. "I say," he said, staring at her, while his lips quivered, "I'd like awfully to tell you, but I know if I ever begin I shall just burst into tears before this gaping crowd."

"Tears!" exclaimed Miss Bessie. "Not you! And if you did it wouldn't hurt either them or you. An International captain possesses this advantage over other mortals: that he may burst into tears or anything else without losing caste, whereas if I should do any such thing—But come, let's get somewhere and talk it over. Now, then," said Miss Brodie as they found a quiet corner, "first of all, ought I to know?"

"You'll know, all Edinburgh will know time day after to-morrow," said Dunn.

"All right, then, it can't do any harm for me to know to-night. It possibly may do good."

"It will do me good, anyway," said Dunn, "for I have reached my limit."

Then Dunn told her, and while she listened she grew grave and anxious. "But surely it can be arranged!" she exclaimed, after he had finished.

"No, Mr. Rae has tried everything. The Bank is bound to pursue it to the bitter end. It is apparently a part of its policy."

"What Bank?"

"The Bank of Scotland."

"Why, that's my uncle's Bank! I mean, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors, and the Bank is the apple of his eye; or one of them, I mean—I'm the other."

"Oh, both, I fancy," said Dunn, rather pleased with his own courage.

"But come, this is serious," said Miss Brodie. "The Bank, you know, or you don't know, is my uncle's weak spot."

Mr. Rae's words flashed across Dunn's mind: "We ought to have found his weak spots."

"He says," continued Miss Brodie with a smile—"you know he's an old dear!—I divide his heart with the Bank, that I have the left lobe. Isn't that the bigger one? So the Bank and I are his weak spots; unless it is his Wiltshires—he is devoted to Wiltshires."

"Wiltshires?"

"Pigs. There are times when I feel myself distinctly second to them. Are you sure my uncle knows all about Cameron?"

"Well, Mr. Rae and Captain Cameron—that's young Cameron's father—went out to his place—"

"Ah, that was a mistake," said Miss Brodie. "He hates people following him to the country. Well, what happened?"

"Mr. Rae feels that it was rather a mistake that Captain Cameron went along."

"Why so? He is his father, isn't he?"

"Yes, he is, though I'm bound to say he's rather queer for a father." Whereupon Dunn gave her an account of his interview in Mr. Rae's office.

Miss Brodie was indignant. "What a shame! And what a fool! Why, he is ten times more fool than his son; for mark you, his son is undoubtedly a fool, and a selfish fool at that. I can't bear a young fool who sacrifices not simply his own life, but the interests of all who care for him, for some little pet selfishness of his own. But this father of his seems to be even worse than the son. Family name indeed! And I venture to say he expatiated upon the glory of his family name to my uncle. If there's one thing that my uncle goes quite mad about it is this affectation of superiority on the ground of the colour of a man's blood! No wonder he refused to withdraw the prosecution! What could Mr. Rae have been thinking about? What fools men are!"

"Quite true," murmured Mr. Dunn.

"Some men, I mean," cried Miss Brodie hastily. "I wish to heaven I had seen my uncle first!"

"I suppose it's too late now," said Dunn, with a kind of gloomy wistfulness.

"Yes, I fear so," said Miss Brodie. "You see when my uncle makes up his mind he appears to have some religious scruples against changing it."

"It was a ghastly mistake," said Dunn bitterly.

"Look here, Mr. Dunn," said Miss Brodie, turning upon him suddenly, "I want your straight opinion. Do you think this young man guilty?"

They were both looking at Cameron, at that moment the centre of a group of open admirers, his boyish face all aglow with animation. For the time being it seemed as if he had forgotten the terrible catastrophe overhanging him.

"If I hadn't known Cameron for three years," replied Dunn slowly, "I would say offhand that this thing would be impossible to him; but you see you never know what a man in drink will do. Cameron can carry a bottle of Scotch without a stagger, but of course it knocks his head all to pieces. I mean, he is quite incapable of anything like clear thought."

"It is truly terrible," said Miss Brodie. "I wish I had known yesterday, but those men have spoilt it all. But here's 'Lily' Laughton," she continued hurriedly, "coming for his dance." As she spoke a youth of willowy figure, languishing dark eyes and ladylike manner drew near.

"Well, here you are at last! What a hunt I have had! I am quite exhausted, I assure you," cried the youth, fanning himself with his handkerchief. "And though you have quite forgotten it, this is our dance. What can you two have been talking about? But why ask? There is only one theme upon which you could become so terrifically serious."

"And what is that, pray? Browning?" inquired Miss Brodie sweetly.

"Dear Miss Brodie, if you only would, but—ugh!—" here "Lily" shuddered, "I can in fancy picture the gory scene in which you have been revelling for the last hour!" And "Lily's" handsome face and languid, liquid eyes indicated his horror. It was "Lily's" constant declaration that he "positively loathed" football, although his persistent attendance at all the great matches rather belied this declaration. "It is the one thing in you, Miss Bessie, that I deplore, 'the fly in the pot—' no, 'the flaw—' ah, that's better—'the flaw in the matchless pearl.'"

"How sweet of you," murmured Miss Brodie.

"Yes, indeed," continued "Lily," wreathing his tapering fingers, "it is your devotion to those so-called athletic games,—games! ye gods!—the chief qualifications for excellence in which appear to be brute strength and a blood-thirsty disposition; as witness Dunn there. I was positively horrified last International. There he was, our own quiet, domestic, gentle Dunn, raging through that howling mob of savages like a bloody Bengal tiger.—Rather apt, that!—A truly awful and degrading exhibition!"

"Ah, perfectly lovely!" murmured Miss Brodie ecstatically. "I can see him yet."

"Miss Brodie, how can you!" exclaimed "Lily," casting up his eyes in horror towards heaven. "But it was ever thus! In ancient days upon the bloody sands of the arena, fair ladies were wont to gaze with unrelenting eyes and thumbs turned down—or up, was it—?"

"Excellent! But how clever of them to gaze with their thumbs in that way!"

"Please don't interrupt," said "Lily" severely; "I have just 'struck my gait,' as that barbaric young Colonial, Martin, another of your bloody, brawny band, would say. And here you sit, unblushing, glorying in their disgusting deeds and making love open and unabashed to their captain!"

"Go away, 'Lily' or I'll hurt you," cried Dunn, his face a brilliant crimson. "Come, get out!"

"But don't be uplifted," continued "Lily," ignoring him, "you are not the first. By no means! It is always the last International captain, and has been to my certain knowledge for the last ten years."

"Ten years!" exclaimed Miss Brodie in horrified accents. "You monster! If you have no regard for my character you might at least respect my age."

"Age! Dear Miss Brodie," ejaculated "Lily," "who could ever associate age with your perennial youth?"

"Perennial! Wretch! If there is anything I am sensitive about, really sensitive about, it is my age! Mr. Dunn, I beseech you, save me from further insult! Dear 'Lily,' run away now. You are much too tired to dance, and besides there is Mrs. Craig-Urquhart waiting to talk your beloved Wagner-Tennyson theory; or what is the exact combination? Mendelssohn-Browning, is it?"

"Oh, Miss Bessie!" cried "Lily" in a shocked voice, "how can you? Mendelssohn-Browning! How awful! Do have some regard for the affinities."

"Mr. Dunn, I implore you, save me! I can bear no more. There! A merciful providence has accomplished my deliverance. They are going. Good-night, 'Lily.' Run away now. I want a word with Mr. Dunn."

"Oh, heartless cruelty!" exclaimed "Lily," in an agonised voice. "But what can you expect from such associations?" And he hastened away to have a last word with Mrs. Craig-Urquhart, who was swimming languidly by.

Miss Brodie turned eagerly to Dunn. "I'd like to help you awfully," she said; "indeed I must try. I have very little hope. My uncle is so strong when he is once set, and he is so funny about that Bank. But a boy is worth more than a Bank, if he IS a fool; besides, there is his sister. Good-night. Thanks for letting me help. I have little hope, but to-morrow I shall see Sir Archibald, and—and his pigs."

It was still in the early forenoon of the following day when Miss Brodie greeted her uncle as he was about to start upon his round of the pastures and pens where the Wiltshires of various ages and sizes and sexes were kept. With the utmost enthusiasm Miss Brodie entered into his admiration of them all, from the lordly prize tusker to the great mother lying broadside on in grunting and supreme content, every grunt eloquent of happiness and maternal love and pride, to allow her week-old brood to prod and punch her luxuriant dugs for their breakfast.

By the time they had made their rounds Sir Archibald had arrived at his most comfortable and complacent mood. He loved his niece. He loved her for the sake of his dead brother, and as she grew in years, he came to love her for herself. Her sturdy independent fearlessness, her sound sense, her honest heart, and chiefly, if it must be told, her whole-souled devotion to himself, made for her a great space in his heart. And besides all this, they were both interested to the point of devotion in pigs. As he watched his niece handling the little sucklings with tender care, and listened to her appraising their varying merits with a discriminating judgment, his heart filled up with pride in her many accomplishments and capabilities.

"Isn't she happy, Uncle?" she exclaimed, lifting her brown, sunny face to him.

"Ay, lassie," replied Sir Archibald, lapsing into the kindly "braid Scots," "I ken fine how she feels."

"She's just perfectly happy," said his niece, "and awfully useful and good. She is just like you, Uncle."

"What? Oh, thank you, I'm extremely flattered, I assure you."

"Uncle, you know what I mean! Useful and good. Here you are in this lovely home—how lovely it is on a warm, shiny day like this!—safe from cares and worries, where people can't get at you, and making—"

"Ah, I don't know about that," replied her uncle, shaking his head with a frown. "Some people have neither sense nor manners. Only yesterday I was pestered by a fellow who annoyed me, seriously annoyed me, interfering in affairs which he knew nothing of,—actually the affairs of the Bank!—prating about his family name, and all the rest of it. Family name!" Here, it must be confessed, Sir Archibald distinctly snorted, quite in a manner calculated to excite the envy of any of his Wiltshires.

"I know, Uncle. He is a fool, a conceited fool, and a selfish fool."

"You know him?" inquired her uncle in a tone of surprise.

"No, I have no personal acquaintance with him, I'm glad to say, but I know about him, and I know that he came with Mr. Rae, the Writer."

"Ah, yes! Thoroughly respectable man, Mr. Rae."

"Yes, Mr. Rae is all right; but Captain Cameron—oh, I can't bear him! He came to talk to you about his son, and I venture to say he took most of the time in talking about himself."

"Exactly so! But how—?"

"And, Uncle, I want to talk to you about that matter, about young Cameron." For just a moment Miss Brodie's courage faltered as she observed her uncle's figure stiffen. "I want you to know the rights of the case."

"Now, now, my dear, don't you go—ah—"

"I know, Uncle, you were going to say 'interfering,' only you remember in time that your niece never interferes. Isn't that true, Sir?"

"Yes, yes! I suppose so; that is, certainly."

"Now I am interested in this young Cameron, and I want you to get the right view of his case, which neither your lawyer nor your manager nor that fool father of his can give you. I know that if you see this case as I see it you will do—ah—exactly what is right; you always do."

Miss Brodie's voice had assumed its most reasonable and business-like tone. Sir Archibald was impressed, and annoyed because he was impressed.

"Look here, Bessie," he said, in as impatient a tone as he ever adopted with his niece, "you know how I hate being pestered with business affairs out here."

"I know quite well, Uncle, and I regret it awfully, but I know, too, that you are a man of honour, and that you stand for fair play. But that young man is to be arrested to-day, and you know what that will mean for a young fellow with his way to make."

Her appeal was not without its effect. Sir Archibald set himself to give her serious attention. "Let us have it, then," he said briefly. "What do you know of the young man?"

"This first of all: that he has a selfish, conceited prig for a father."

With which beginning Sir Archibald most heartily agreed. "But how do you know?"

"Now, let me tell you about him." And Miss Brodie proceeded to describe the scene between father and son in Mr. Rae's office, with vigorous and illuminating comments. "And just think, the man in the company who was first to condemn the young chap was his own father. Would you do that? You'd stand for him against the whole world, even if he were wrong."

"Steady, steady, lass!"

"You would," repeated Miss Bessie, with indignant emphasis. "Would you chuck me over if I were disgraced and all the world hounding me? Would you?"

"No, by God!" said Sir Archibald in a sudden tempest of emotion, and Miss Bessie smiled lovingly upon him.

"Well, that's the kind of a father he has. Now about the young fellow himself: He's just a first-class fool, like most young fellows. You know how they are, Uncle."

Sir Archibald held up his hand. "Don't make any such assumptions."

"Oh, I know you, and when you were a boy you were just as gay and foolish as the rest of them."

Her arch, accusing smile suddenly cast a rich glow of warm colour over the long, grey road of Sir Archibald's youth of self-denial and struggle. The mild indulgences of his early years, under the transforming influence of that same arch and accusing smile, took on for Sir Archibald such an aspect of wild and hilarious gaiety as to impart a tone of hesitation to his voice while he deprecated his niece's charge.

"What, I? Nonsense! What do you know about it? Well, well, we have all had our day, I suppose!"

"Aha! I know you, and I should love to have known you when you were young Cameron's age. Though I'm quite sure you were never such a fool as he. You always knew how to take care of yourself."

Her uncle shook his head as if to indicate that the less said about those gay young days the better.

"Now what do you think this young fool does? Gets drinking, and gets so muddled up in all his money matters—he's a Highlander, you know, and Dunn, Mr. Dunn says—"

"Dunn!"

"Yes, Mr. Dunn, the great International captain, you know! Mr. Dunn says he can take a whole bottle of Scotch—"

"What, Dunn?"

"No, no; you know perfectly well, Uncle! This young Cameron can take a whole bottle of Scotch and walk a crack, but his head gets awfully muddled."

"Shouldn't be surprised!"

"And Mr. Dunn had a terrible time keeping him fit for the International. You know he was Dunn's half-back. Yes," cried his niece with enthusiasm, suddenly remembering a tradition that in his youth Sir Archibald had been a famous quarter, his one indulgence, "a glorious half-back, too! You must remember in the match with England last fall the brilliant work of the half-back. Everybody went mad about him. That was young Cameron!"

"You don't tell me! The left-half in the English International last fall?"

"Yes, indeed! Oh, he's wonderful! But he has to be watched, you know, and the young fool lost us the last—" Miss Bessie abruptly checked herself. "But never mind! Well, after the season, you know, he got going loose, and this is the result. Owed money everywhere, and with the true Highland incapacity for business, and the true Highland capacity for trusting people—"

"Huh!" grunted Sir Archibald in disapproval.

"—When his head is in a muddled condition he does something or other to a cheque—or doesn't do it, nobody knows—and there he is in this awful fix. Personally, I don't believe he is guilty of the crime."

"And why, pray?"

"Why? Well, Mr. Dunn, his captain, who has known him for years, says it is quite impossible; and then the young man himself doesn't deny it."

"What? Does NOT deny it?"

"Exactly! Like a perfectly straightforward gentleman,—and I think it's awfully fine of him,—though he has a perfectly good chance to put the thing on a—a fellow Potts, quite a doubtful character, he simply says, 'I know nothing about it. That looks like my signature. I can't remember doing this, don't know how I could have, but don't know a thing about it.' There you are, Uncle! And Mr. Dunn says he is quite incapable of it."

"Mr. Dunn, eh? It seems you build somewhat broadly upon Mr. Dunn."

The brown on Miss Bessie's check deepened slightly. "Well, Mr. Dunn is a splendid judge of men."

"Ah; and of young ladies, also, I imagine," said Sir Archibald, pinching her cheek.

It may have been the pinch, but the flush on her cheek grew distinctly brighter. "Don't be ridiculous, Uncle! He's just a boy, a perfectly splendid boy, and glorious in his game, but a mere boy, and—well, you know, I've arrived at the age of discretion."

"Quite true!" mused her uncle. "Thirty last birthday, was it? How time does—!"

"Oh, you perfectly horrid uncle! Thirty indeed! Are you not ashamed to add to the already intolerable burden of my years? Thirty! No, Sir, not by five good years at least! There now, you've made me tell my age! You ought to blush for shame."

Her uncle patted her firm, round cheek. "Never a blush, my dear! You bear even your advanced age with quite sufficient ease and grace. But now about this young Cameron," he continued, assuming a sternly judicial tone.

"All I ask for him is a chance," said his niece earnestly.

"A chance? Why he will get every chance the law allows to clear himself."

"There you are!" exclaimed Miss Bessie, in a despairing tone. "That's the way the lawyers and your manager talk. They coolly and without a qualm get him arrested, this young boy who has never in all his life shown any sign of criminal tendency. These horrid lawyers display their dreadful astuteness and ability in catching a lad who never tries to run away, and your manager pleads the rules of the Bank. The rules! Fancy rules against a young boy's whole life!"

Her uncle rather winced at this.

"And like a lot of sheep they follow each other in a circle; there is absolutely no independence, no initiative. Why, they even went so far as to suggest that you could do nothing, that you were bound by rules and must follow like the rest of them; but I told them I knew better."

"Ah!" said Sir Archibald in his most dignified manner. "I trust I have a mind of my own, but—"

"Exactly! So I said to Mr. Dunn. 'Rules or no rules,' I said, 'my uncle will do the fair thing.' And I know you will," cried Miss Brodie triumphantly. "And if you look at it, there's a very big chance that the boy never did the thing, and certainly if he did it at all it was when he was quite incapable. Oh, I know quite well what the lawyers say. They go by the law,—they've got to,—but you—and—and—I go by the—the real facts of the case." Sir Archibald coughed gently. "I mean to say—well you know, Uncle, quite well, you can tell what a man is by—well, by his game."

"His game!"

"And by his eye."

"His eye! And his eye is—?"

"Now, Uncle, be sensible! I mean to say, if you could only see him. Oh, I shall bring him to see you!" she cried, with a sudden inspiration.

Sir Archibald held up a deprecating hand. "Do not, I beg."

"Well, Uncle, you can trust my judgment, you know you can. You would trust me in—in—" For a moment Miss Brodie was at a loss; then her eyes fell upon the grunting, comfortable old mother pig with her industrious litter. "Well, don't I know good Wiltshires when I see them?"

"Quite true," replied her uncle solemnly; "and therefore, men."

"Uncle, you're very nearly rude."

"I apologise," replied her uncle hastily. "But now, Bessie, my dear girl, seriously, as to this case, you must understand that I cannot interfere. The Bank—hem—the Bank is a great National—"

Miss Bessie saw that the Guards were being called upon. She hastened to bring up her reserves. "I know, Uncle, I know! I wouldn't for the world say a word against the Bank, but you see the case against the lad is at least doubtful."

"I was going on to observe," resumed her uncle, judicially, "that the Bank—"

"Don't misunderstand me, Uncle," cried his niece, realising that she had reached a moment of crisis. "You know I would not for a moment presume to interfere with the Bank, but"—here she deployed her whole force,—"the lad's youth and folly; his previous good character, guaranteed by Dunn, who knows men; his glorious game—no man who wasn't straight could play such a game!—the large chance of his innocence, the small chance of his guilt; the hide-bound rigidity of lawyers and bank managers, dominated by mere rules and routine, in contrast with the open-minded independence of her uncle; the boy's utter helplessness; his own father having been ready to believe the worst,—just think of it, Uncle, his own father thinking of himself and of his family name—much he has ever done for his family name!—and not of his own boy, and"—here Miss Brodie's voice took a lower key—"and his mother died some five or six years ago, when he was thirteen or fourteen, and I know, you know, that is hard on a boy." In spite of herself, and to her disgust, a tremor came into her voice and a rush of tears to her eyes.

Her uncle was smitten with dismay. Only on one terrible occasion since she had emerged from her teens had he seen his niece in tears. The memory of that terrible day swept over his soul. Something desperate was doing. Hard as the little man was to the world against which he had fought his way to his present position of distinction, to his niece he was soft-hearted as a mother. "There, there!" he exclaimed hastily. "We'll give the boy a chance. No mother, eh? And a confounded prig for a father! No wonder the boy goes all wrong!" Then with a sudden vehemence he cried, striking one hand into the other, "No, by—! that is, we will certainly give the lad the benefit of the doubt. Cheer up, lassie! You've no need to look ashamed," for his niece was wiping her eyes in manifest disgust; "indeed," he said, with a heavy attempt at playfulness, "you are a most excellent diplomat."

"Diplomat, Uncle!" cried the girl, vehement indignation in her voice and face. "Diplomat!" she cried again. "You don't mean that I've not been quite sincere?"

"No, no, no; not in the least, my dear! But that you have put your case with admirable force."

"Oh," said the girl with a breath of relief, "I just put it as I feel it. And it is not a bit my putting it, Uncle, but it is just that you are a dear and—well, a real sport; you love fair play." The girl suddenly threw her strong, young arms about her uncle's neck, drew him close to her, and kissed him almost as if she had been his mother.

The little man was deeply touched, but with true Scotch horror of a demonstration he cried, "Tut, tut, lassie, ye're makin' an auld fule o' your uncle. Come now, be sensible!"

"Sensible!" echoed his niece, kissing him again. "That's my living description among all my acquaintance. It is their gentle way of reminding me that the ordinary feminine graces of sweetness and general loveliness are denied me."

"And more fools they!" grunted her uncle. "You're worth the hale caboodle o' them."

That same evening there were others who shared this opinion, and none more enthusiastically than did Mr. Dunn, whom Miss Brodie chanced to meet just as she turned out of the Waverly Station.

"Oh, Mr. Dunn," she cried, "how very fortunate!" Her face glowed with excitement.

"For me; yes, indeed!" said Mr. Dunn, warmly greeting her.

"For me, for young Cameron, for us all," said Miss Brodie. "Oh, Rob, is that you?" she continued, as her eye fell upon the youngster standing with cap off waiting her recognition. "Look at this!" she flashed a letter before Dunn's face. "What do you think of that?"

Dunn took the letter. "It's to Sheratt," he said, with a puzzled air.

"Yes," cried Miss Brodie, mimicking his tone, "it's to Sheratt, from Sir Archibald, and it means that Cameron is safe. The police will never—"

"The police," cried Dunn, hastily, getting between young Rob and her and glancing at his brother, who stood looking from one to the other with a startled face.

"How stupid! The police are a truly wonderful body of men," she went on with enthusiasm. "They look so splendid. I saw some of them as I came along. But never mind them now. About this letter. What's to do?"

Dunn glanced at his watch. "We need every minute." He stood a moment or two thinking deeply while Miss Brodie chatted eagerly with Rob, whose face retained its startled and anxious look. "First to Mr. Rae's office. Come!" cried Mr. Dunn.

"But this letter ought to go."

"Yes, but first Mr. Rae's office." Mr. Dunn had assumed command. His words shot out like bullets.

Miss Brodie glanced at him with a new admiration in her face. As a rule she objected to being ordered about, but somehow it seemed good to accept commands from this young man, whose usually genial face was now set in such resolute lines.

"Here, Rob, you cut home and tell them not to wait dinner for me."

"All right, Jack!" But instead of tearing off as was his wont whenever his brother gave command, Rob lingered. "Can't I wait a bit, Jack, to see—to see if anything—?" Rob was striving hard to keep his voice in command and his face steady. "It's Cameron, Jack. I know!" He turned his back on Miss Brodie, unwilling that she should see his lips quiver.

"What are you talking about?" said his brother sharply.

"Oh, it is all my stupid fault, Mr. Dunn," said Miss Brodie. "Let him come along a bit with us. I say, youngster, you are much too acute," she continued, as they went striding along together toward Mr. Rae's office. "But will you believe me if I tell you something? Will you? Straight now?"

The boy glanced up into her honest blue eyes, and nodded his head.

"Your friend Cameron is quite all right. He was in some difficulty, but now he's quite all right. Do you believe me?"

The boy looked again steadily into her eyes. The anxious fear passed out of his face, and once more he nodded; he knew he could not keep his voice quite steady. But after a few paces he said to his brother, "I think I'll go now, Jack." His mind was at rest; his idol was safe.

"Oh, come along and protect me," cried Miss Brodie. "These lawyer people terrify me."

The boy smiled a happy smile. "I'll go," he said resolutely.

"Thanks, awfully," said Miss Brodie. "I shall feel so much safer with you in the waiting room."

It was a difficult matter to surprise Mr. Rae, and even more difficult to extract from him any sign of surprise, but when Dunn, leaving Miss Brodie and his brother in the anteroom, entered Mr. Rae's private office and laid the letter for Mr. Sheratt before him, remarking, "This letter is from Sir Archibald, and withdraws the prosecution," Mr. Rae stood speechless, gazing now at the letter in his hand, and now at Mr. Dunn's face.

"God bless my soul! This is unheard of. How came you by this, Sir?"

"Miss Brodie—" began Dunn.

"Miss Brodie?"

"She is in the waiting room, Sir."

"Then, for heaven's sake, bring her in! Davie, Davie! Where is that man now? Here, Davie, a message to Mr. Thomlinson."

Davie entered with deliberate composure.

"My compliments to Mr. Thomlinson, and ask if he would step over at once. It is a matter of extreme urgency. Be quick!"

But Davie had his own mind as to the fitness of things. "Wad a note no' be better, Sir? Wull not—?"

"Go, will you!" almost shouted Mr. Rae.

Davie was so startled at Mr. Rae's unusual vehemence that he seized his cap and made for the door. "He'll no' come for the like o' me," he said, pausing with the door-knob in his hand. "It's no' respectable like tae—"

"Man, will ye no' be gone?" cried Mr. Rae, rising from his chair.

"I will that!" exclaimed Davie, banging the door after him. "But," he cried furiously, thrusting his head once more into the room, "if he'll no' come it's no' faut o' mine." His voice rose higher and higher, and ended in a wrathful scream as Mr. Rae, driven to desperation, hurled a law book of some weight at his vanishing head.

"The de'il take ye! Ye'll be my deith yet."

The book went crashing against the door-frame just as Miss Brodie was about to enter. "I say," she cried, darting back. "Heaven protect me! Rob, save me!"

Rob sprang to her side. She stood for a moment gazing aghast at Mr. Dunn, who gazed back at her in equal surprise. "Is this his 'usual'?" she inquired.

At that the door opened. "Ah, Mr. Dunn, this is Miss Brodie, I suppose. Come in, come in!" Mr. Rae's manner was most bland.

Miss Brodie gave him her hand with some hesitation. "I'm very glad to meet you, Mr. Rae, but is this quite the usual method? I mean to say, I've heard of having advice hurled at one's head, but I can't say that I ever was present at a demonstration of the method."

"Oh," said Mr. Rae, with bland and gallant courtesy, "the method, my dear young lady, varies with the subject in hand."

"Ah, the subject!"

"And with the object in view."

"Oh, I see."

"But pray be seated. And now explain this most wonderful phenomenon." He tapped the letter.

"Oh, that is quite simple," said Miss Brodie. "I set the case of young Mr. Cameron before my uncle, and of course he at once saw that the only thing to do was withdraw the prosecution."

Mr. Rae stood gazing steadily at her as if striving to take in the meaning of her words, the while screwing up his ear most violently till it stuck out like a horn upon the side of his shiny, bald head. "Permit me to say, Miss Brodie," he said, with a deliberate and measured emphasis, "that you must be a most extraordinary young lady." At this point Mr. Rae's smile broke forth in all its glory.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Rae," replied Miss Brodie, smiling responsively at him. "You are most—" But Mr. Rae's smile had vanished. "What! I beg your pardon!" Miss Brodie's smiling response was abruptly arrested by finding herself gazing at a face whose grave solemnity rebuked her smile as unwarranted levity.

"Not at all, not at all!" said Mr. Rae. "But now, there are matters demanding immediate action. First, Mr. Sheratt must receive and act upon this letter without delay." As he spoke he was scribbling hastily a note. "Mr. Dunn, my young men have gone for the day. Might I trouble you?"

"Most certainly," cried Mr. Dunn. "Is an answer wanted?"

"Bring him with you, if possible; indeed, bring him whether it is possible or not. But wait, it is past the hour appointed. Already the officer has gone for young Cameron. We must save him the humiliation of arrest."

"Oh, could I not warn him?" cried Miss Brodie eagerly. "No," she added, "Rob will go. He is in the waiting room now, poor little chap. It will be a joy to him."

"It is just as well Rob should know nothing. He is awfully fond of Cameron. It would break his heart," said Mr. Dunn.

"Oh, of course! Quite unnecessary that he should know anything. We simply wish Cameron here at the earliest possible moment."

Dunn went with his young brother down the stairs and out to the street. "Now, Rob, you are to go to Cameron's lodgings and tell him that Mr. Rae wants him, and that I want him. Hold on, youngster!" he cried, grabbing Rob by the collar, "do you understand? It is very important that Cameron should get here as quick as he possibly can, and—I say, Rob," the big brother's eyes traveled over the darkening streets that led up into the old town, "you're not afraid?"

"A wee bit," said Rob, tugging at the grasp on his collar; "but I don't care if I am."

"Good boy!" cried his brother. "Good little brick! I wouldn't let you go, but it's simply got to be done, old chap. Now fly!" He held him just a moment longer to slap him on the back, then released his hold. Dunn stood watching the little figure tearing up the North Bridge. "Great little soul!" he muttered. "Now for old Sheratt!"

He put his head down and began to bore through the crowd toward Mr. Sheratt's house. When he had gone but a little distance he was brought up short by a bang full in the stomach. "Why, what the deuce!"

"Dod gast ye! Whaur are ye're een?" It was Davie, breathless and furious from the impact. "Wad ye walk ower me, dang ye?" cried the little man again. Davie was Free Kirk, and therefore limited in the range of his vocabulary.

"Oh! That you, Davie? I'm sorry I didn't see you."

"A'm no' as big as a hoose, but a'm veesible." And Davie walked wrathfully about his business.

"Oh, quite," acknowledged Dunn cheerfully, hurrying on; "and tangible, as well."

"He's comin'," cried Davie over his shoulder; "but gar it had been masel'," he added grudgingly, "catch me!"

But Dunn was too far on his way to make reply. Already his mind was on the meeting of the lawyers in Mr. Rae's office, and wondering what would come of it. On this subject he meditated until he reached Mr. Sheratt's home. Twice he rang the bell, still meditating.

"By Jove, she is stunning! She's a wonder!" he exclaimed to himself as he stood in Mr. Sheratt's drawing-room. "She's got 'em all skinned a mile, as Martin would say." It is safe to affirm that Mr. Dunn was not referring to the middle-aged and highly respectable maid who had opened the door to him. It is equally safe to affirm that this was the unanimous verdict of the three men who, half an hour later, brought their deliberations to a conclusion, frankly acknowledging to each other that what they had one and all failed to achieve, the lady had accomplished.



CHAPTER VI

THE WASTER'S REFUGE

"I say, you blessed Colonial, what's come over you?" Linklater was obviously disturbed. He had just returned from a summer's yachting through the Norway fjords, brown and bursting with life. The last half-hour he had been pouring forth his experiences to his friend Martin. These experiences were some of them exciting, some of them of doubtful ethical quality, but all of them to Linklater at least interesting. During the recital it was gradually borne in upon him that his friend Martin was changed. Linklater, as the consciousness of the change in his friend grew upon him, was prepared to resent it. "What the deuce is the matter with you?" he enquired. "Are you ill?"

"Never better. I could at this present moment sit upon your fat and florid carcass."

"Well, what then is wrong? I say, you haven't—it isn't a girl, is it?"

"Nothing so lucky for a bloomin' Colonial in this land of wealth and culture. If I only dared!"

"There's something," insisted Linklater; "but I've no doubt it will develop. Meantime let us go out, and, in your own picturesque vocabulary, let us 'hit the flowing bowl.'"

"No, Sir!" cried Martin emphatically. "No more! I am on the water wagon, and have been all summer."

"I knew it was something," replied Linklater gloomily, "but I didn't think it was quite so bad as that. No wonder you've had a hard summer!"

"Best summer ever!" cried Martin. "I only wish I had started two years ago when I came to this bibulous burgh."

"How came it? Religion?"

"No; just horse sense, and the old chief."

"Dunn!" exclaimed Linklater. "I always knew he was against that sort of thing in training, but I didn't think he would carry it to this length."

"Yes, Dunn! I say, old boy, I've no doubt you think you know him, I thought so, too, but I've learned some this summer. Here's a yarn, and it is impressive. Dunn had planned an extensive walking tour in the Highlands; you know he came out of his exams awfully fagged. Well, at this particular moment it happened that Balfour Murray—you know the chap that has been running that settlement joint in the Canongate for the last two years—proposes to Dunn that he should spend a few weeks in leading the young hopefuls in that interesting and uncleanly neighbourhood into paths of virtue and higher citizenship by way of soccer and kindred athletic stunts. Dunn in his innocence agrees, whereupon Balfour Murray promptly develops a sharp attack of pneumonia, necessitating rest and change of air, leaving the poor old chief in the deadly breach. Of course, everybody knows what the chief would do in any deadly breach affair. He gave up his Highland tour, shouldered the whole Canongate business, organised the thing as never before, inveigled all his friends into the same deadly breach, among the number your humble servant, who at the time was fiercely endeavouring in the last lap of the course to atone for a two years' loaf, organised a champion team which has licked the spots off everything in sight, and in short, has made the whole business a howling success; at the cost, however, of all worldly delights, including his Highland tour and the International."

"Oh, I say!" moaned Linklater. "It makes me quite ill to think of the old chief going off this way."

Martin nodded sympathetically. "Kind of 'Days that are no more,' 'Lost leader' feeling, eh?"

"Exactly, exactly! Oh, it's rotten! And you, too! He's got you on this same pious line."

"Look here," shouted Martin, with menace in his voice, "are you classifying me with the old chief? Don't be a derned fool."

Linklater brightened perceptibly. "Now you're getting a little natural," he said in a hopeful tone.

"Oh, I suppose you'd like to hear me string out a lot of damns."

"Well, it might help. I wouldn't feel quite so lonely. But don't violate—"

"I'd do it if I thought it would really increase your comfort, though I know I'd feel like an infernal ass. I've got new light upon this 'damning' business. I've come to regard it as the refuge of the mentally inert, not to say imbecile, who have lost the capacity for originality and force in speech. For me, I am cured."

"Ah!" said Linklater. "Dunn again, I suppose."

"Not a bit! Clear case of psychological reaction. After listening to the Canongate experts I was immediately conscious of an overwhelming and mortifying sense of inadequacy, of amateurishness; hence I quit. Besides, of course, the chief is making rather a point of uplifting the Canongate forms of speech."

Linklater gazed steadily at this friend, then said with mournful deliberation, "You don't drink, you don't swear, you don't smoke—"

"Oh, that's your grouch, is it?" cried Martin. "Forgive me; here's my pouch, old chap; or wait, here's something altogether finer than anything you've been accustomed to. I was at old Kingston's last night, and the old boy would have me load up with his finest. You know I've been working with him this summer. Awfully fine for me! Dunn got me on; or rather, his governor. There you are now! Smoke that with reverence."

"Ah," sighed Linklater, as he drew in his first whiff, "there is still something left to live for. Now tell me, what about Cameron?"

"Oh, Cameron! Cameron's all up a tree. The last time I saw him, by Jove, I was glad it was in the open daylight and on a frequented street. His face and manner suggested Roderick Dhu, The Black Douglas, and all the rest of that interesting gang of cutthroats. I can't bring myself to talk of Cameron. He's been the old chief's relaxation during dog-days. It makes me hot to see Dunn with that chap."

"Why, what's the trouble?"

"He tried him out in half a dozen positions, in every one of which he proved a dead failure. The last was in Mr. Rae's office, a lawyer, you know, Writer, to use your lucid and luminous speech. That experiment proved the climax." At the memory of that experience Martin laughed loud and long. "It was funny! Mr. Rae, the cool, dignified, methodical, exact man of the law, struggling to lick into shape this haughty Highland chieftain, who in his heart scorned the whole silly business. The result, the complete disorganisation of Mr. Rae's business, and total demoralisation of Mr. Rae's office staff, who one and all swore allegiance to the young chief. Finally, when Mr. Rae had reached the depths of desperation, Cameron graciously deigned to inform his boss that he found the office and its claims quite insupportable."

"Oh, it must have been funny. What happened?"

"What happened? You bet old Rae fell on his neck with tears of joy, and sent him off with a handsome honorarium, as your gentle speech has it. That was a fortnight ago. Then Dunn, in despair, took Cameron off to his native haunts, and there he is to this day. By the same token, this is the very afternoon that Dunn returns. Let us go to meet him with cornets and cymbals! The unexpected pleasure of your return made me quite forget. But won't he revel in you, old boy!"

"I don't know about that," said Linklater gloomily. "I've a kind of feeling that I've dropped out of this combination."

"What?" Then Martin fell upon him.

But if Martin's attempts to relieve his friend of melancholy forebodings were not wholly successful, Dunn's shout of joy and his double-handed shake as he grappled Linklater to him, drove from that young man's heart the last lingering shade of doubt as to his standing with his friends.

On his way home Dunn dropped into Martin's diggings for a "crack," and for an hour the three friends reviewed the summer's happenings, each finding in the experience of the others as keen a joy as in his own.

Linklater's holiday had been the most fruitful in exciting incident. For two months he and his crew had dodged about among quaint Norwegian harbours and in and out of fjords of wonderful beauty. Storms they had weathered and calms they had endured; lazy days they had spent, swimming, fishing, loafing; and wild days in fighting gales and high-running seas that threatened to bury them and their crew beneath their white-topped mountainous peaks.

"I say, that must have been great," cried Dunn with enthusiastic delight in his friend's experiences.

"It sounds good, even in the telling," cried Martin, who had been listening with envious ears. "Now my experiences are quite other. One word describes them, grind, grind, grind, day in and day out, in a gallant but futile attempt to justify the wisdom of my late examiners in granting me my Triple."

"Don't listen to him, Linklater," said Dunn. "I happen to know that he came through with banners flying and drums beating; and he has turned into no end of a surgeon. I've heard old Kingston on him."

"But what about you, Dunn?" asked Linklater, with a kind of curious uncertainty in his voice, as if dreading a tale of calamity.

"Oh, I've loafed about town a little, golfing a bit and slumming a bit for a chap that got ill, and in spare moments looking after Martin here."

"And the International?"

Dunn hesitated.

"Come on, old chap," said Martin, "take your medicine."

"Well," admitted Dunn, "I had to chuck it. But," he hastened to add, "Nesbitt has got the thing in fine shape, though of course lacking the two brilliant quarters of last year and the half—for Cameron's out of it—it's rather rough on Nesbitt."

"Oh, I say! It's rotten, it's really ghastly! How could you do it, Dunn?" said Linklater. "I could weep tears of blood."

To this Dunn made no reply. His disappointment was even yet too keen for him to treat it lightly. "Anything else seemed quite impossible," at length he said; "I had to chuck it."

"By the way," said Martin, "how's Cameron?"

Again Dunn paused. "I wish I could tell you. He's had hard luck this summer. He somehow can't get hold of himself. In fact, I'm quite worried about Cameron. I can't tell you chaps the whole story, but last spring he had a really bad jolt."

"Well, what's he going to do?" Martin asked, somewhat impatiently.

"I wish I knew," replied Dunn gloomily. "There seems nothing he can get here that's suitable. I'm afraid he will have to try the Colonies; Canada for preference."

"Oh, I say, Dunn," exclaimed Martin, "it can't really be as bad as all that?"

Dunn laughed. "I apologise, old chap. That was rather a bad break, wasn't it? But all the same, to a Scotchman, and especially to a Highlander, to leave home and friends and all that sort of thing, you know—"

"No, he doesn't know," cried Linklater. "The barbarian! How could he?"

"No, thank God," replied Martin fervently, "I don't know! To my mind any man that has a chance to go to Canada on a good job ought to call in his friends and neighbours to rejoice with him."

"But I say, that reminds me," said Dunn. "Mr. Rae is coming to have a talk with my governor and me about this very thing to-morrow night. I'd like awfully if you could drop in, Martin; and you, too, Linklater."

Linklater declined. "My folks have something on, I fear."

Martin hesitated, protesting that there was "altogether too much of this coddling business" in the matter of Cameron's future. "Besides, my work is rather crowding me."

"Oh, my pious ancestors! Work!" exclaimed Linklater in disgust. "At this season of the year! Come, Martin, this pose is unworthy of you."

"If you could, old man," said Dunn earnestly, "we won't keep you long. It would be a great help to us all."

"All right, I'll come," said Martin.

"There'll be no one there but Mr. Rae. We'll just have a smoke and a chat."

But in this expectation Dunn was reckoning without his young brother, Rob, who, ever since a certain momentous evening, had entered into a covenant of comradeship with the young lady who had figured so prominently in the deliverance of his beloved Cameron from pending evil, and who during the summer had allowed no week to pass without spending at least a part of a day with her. On this particular evening, having obtained leave from his mother, the young gentle man had succeeded in persuading his friend to accept an invitation to dinner, assuring her that no one would be there except Jack, who was to arrive home the day before.

The conclave of Cameron's friends found themselves, therefore, unexpectedly reinforced by the presence of Miss Brodie, to the unmingled joy of all of them, although in Martin's case his joy was tinged with a certain fear, for he stood in awe of the young lady, both because of her reputation for cleverness, and because of the grand air which, when it pleased her, she could assume. Martin, too, stood in wholesome awe of Doctor Dunn, whose quiet dignity and old-time courtesy exercised a chastening influence upon the young man's somewhat picturesque style of language and exuberance of metaphor. But with Mrs. Dunn he felt quite at ease, for with that gentle, kindly soul, her boys' friends were her friends and without question she took them to her motherly heart.

Immediately upon Mr. Rae's arrival Cameron's future became the subject of conversation, and it required only the briefest discussion to arrive at the melancholy, inevitable conclusion that, as Mr. Rae put it, "for a young man of his peculiar temperament, training, and habits, Scotland was clearly impossible."

"But I have no doubt," continued that excellent adviser, "that in Canada, where the demand for a high standard of efficiency is less exacting, and where openings are more plentiful, the young man will do very well indeed."

Martin took the lawyer up somewhat sharply. "In other words, I understand you to mean that the man who is a failure in Scotland may become a success in Canada."

"Exactly so. Would you not say so, Mr. Martin?"

"It depends entirely upon the cause of failure. If failure arises from unfitness, his chances in Canada are infinitely less than in Scotland."

"And why?" inquired Miss Brodie somewhat impatiently.

Martin hesitated. It was extremely difficult in the atmosphere of that home to criticise one whom he knew to be considered as a friend of the family.

"Why, pray?" repeated Miss Brodie.

"Well, of course," began Martin hesitatingly, "comparisons are always odious."

"Oh, we can bear them." Miss Brodie's smile was slightly sarcastic.

"Well, then, speaking generally," said Martin, somewhat nettled by her smile, "in this country there are heaps of chaps that simply can't fall down because of the supports that surround them, supports of custom, tradition, not to speak of their countless friends, sisters, cousins, and aunts; if they're anyways half decent they're kept a going; whereas if they are in a new country and with few friends, they must stand alone or fall. Here the crowd support them; there the crowd, eager to get on, shove them aside or trample them down."

"Rather a ghastly picture that," said Miss Brodie.

"But true; that is, of the unfit. People haven't time to bother with them; the game is too keen."

"Surely the picture is overdrawn," said Doctor Dunn.

"It may be, Sir," replied Martin, "but I have seen so many young fellows who had been shipped out to Canada because they were failures at home. I have seen them in very hard luck."

"And what about the fit?" inquired Miss Brodie.

"They get credit for every ounce that's in them."

"But that is so in Scotland as well."

"Pardon me, Miss Brodie, hardly. Here even strong men and fit men have to wait half a lifetime for the chance that calls for all that's in them. They must march in the procession and the pace is leisurely. In Canada the chances come every day, and the man that's ready jumps in and wins."

"Ah, I see!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "There are more ladders by which to climb."

"Yes," cried Martin, "and fewer men on them."

"But," argued Dunn, "there are other causes of failure in this country. Many a young fellow, for instance, cannot get a congenial position."

"Yes," replied Martin quickly, "because you won't let him; your caste law forbids. With us a man can do anything decent and no one thinks the less of him."

"Ah, I see!" again cried Miss Brodie, more eagerly than before. "Not only more ladders, but more kinds of ladders."

"Exactly," said Martin with an approving glance. "And he must not be too long in the choosing."

"Then, Mr. Martin," said Mr. Rae, "what would you suggest for our young friend?"

But this Martin refused to answer.

"Surely there are openings for a young fellow in Canada," said Dunn. "Take a fellow like myself. What could I do?"

"You?" cried Martin, his eyes shining with loving enthusiasm. "There are doors open on every business street in every town and city in Canada for you, or for any fellow who has brain or brawn to sell and who will take any kind of a job and stay with it."

"Well, what job, for instance?"

"What job?" cried Martin. "Heaps of them."

At this point a diversion was created by the entrance of "Lily" Laughton. Both Martin and Dunn envied the easy grace of his manner, his perfect self-possession, as he greeted each member of the company. For each he had exactly the right word. Miss Brodie he greeted with an exaggerated devotion, but when he shook hands with Dunn there was no mistaking the genuine warmth of his affection.

"Heard you were home, old chap, so I couldn't help dropping in. Of course I knew that Mrs. Dunn would be sure to be here, and I more than suspected that my dear Miss Brodie," here he swept her an elaborate bow, "whom I discovered to be away from her own home, might be found in this pleasant company."

"Yes, I fear that my devotion to her youngest boy is leading me to overstep the bounds of even Mrs. Dunn's vast and generous hospitality."

"Not a bit, my dear," replied Mrs. Dunn kindly. "You bring sunshine with you, and you do us all good."

"Exactly my sentiments!" exclaimed "Lily" with enthusiasm. "But what are you all doing? Just having a 'collyshog'?"

For a moment no one replied; then Dunn said, "We were just talking about Cameron, who is thinking of going to Canada."

"To Canada of all places!" exclaimed "Lily" in tones of horrified surprise. "How truly dreadful! But why should Cameron of all beings exile himself in those remote and barbarous regions?"

"And why should he not?" cried Miss Brodie. "What is there for a young man of spirit in Mr. Cameron's position in this country?"

"Why, my dear Miss Brodie, how can you ask? Just think of the heaps of things, of perfectly delicious things, Cameron can do,—the Highlands in summer, Edinburgh, London, in the season, a run to the Continent! Just think of the wild possibility of a life of unalloyed bliss!"

"Don't be silly!" said Miss Brodie. "We are talking seriously."

"Seriously! Why, my dear Miss Brodie, do you imagine—?"

"But what could he do for a life-work?" said Dunn. "A fellow must have something to do."

"Oh, dear, I suppose so," said "Lily" with a sigh. "But surely he could have some position in an office or something!"

"Exactly!" replied Miss Brodie. "How beautifully you put it! Now Mr. Martin was just about to tell us of the things a man could do in Canada when you interrupted."

"Awfully sorry, Martin. I apologise. Please go on. What do the natives do in Canada?"

"Please don't pay any attention to him, Mr. Martin. I am extremely interested. Now tell me, what are the openings for a young fellow in Canada? You said the professions are all wide open."

It took a little persuasion to get Martin started again, so disgusted was he with Laughton's references to his native country. "Yes, Miss Brodie, the professions are all wide open, but of course men must enter as they do here, but with a difference. Take law, for instance: Knew a chap—went into an office at ten dollars a month—didn't know a thing about it. In three months he was raised to twenty dollars, and within a year to forty dollars. In three or four years he had passed his exams, got a junior partnership worth easily two thousand dollars a year. They wanted that chap, and wanted him badly. But take business: That chap goes into a store and—"

"A store?" inquired "Lily."

"Yes, a shop you call it here; say a drygoods—"

"Drygoods? What extraordinary terms these Colonials use!"

"Oh, draper's shop," said Dunn impatiently. "Go on, Martin; don't mind him."

"A draper's clerk!" echoed "Lily." "To sell tapes and things?"

"Yes," replied Martin stoutly; "or groceries."

"Do you by any chance mean that a University man, a gentleman, takes a position in a grocer's shop to sell butter and cheese?"

"I mean just that," said Martin firmly.

"Oh, please!" said "Lily" with a violent shudder. "It is too awful!"

"There you are! You wouldn't demean yourself."

"Not I!" said "Lily" fervently.

"Or disgrace your friends. You want a gentleman's job. There are not enough to go round in Canada."

"Oh, go on," said Miss Brodie impatiently. "'Lily,' we must ask you to not interrupt. What happens? Does he stay there?"

"Not he!" said Martin. "From the small business he goes to bigger business. First thing you know a man wants him for a big job and off he goes. Meantime he saves his money, invests wisely. Soon he is his own boss."

"That's fine!" cried Miss Brodie. "Go on, Mr. Martin. Start him lower down."

"All right," said Martin, directing his attention solely to the young lady. "Here's an actual case. A young fellow from Scotland found himself strapped—"

"Strapped? What DOES he mean?" said "Lily" in an appealing voice.

"On the rocks."

"Rocks?"

"Dear me!" cried Miss Brodie impatiently. "You are terribly lacking in imagination. Broke, he means."

"Oh, thanks!"

"Well, finds himself broke," said Martin; "gets a shovel, jumps into a cellar—"

"And why a cellar, pray?" inquires "Lily" mildly. "To hide himself from the public?"

"Not at all; they were digging a cellar preparatory to building a house."

"Oh!"

"He jumps in, blisters his hands, breaks his back—but he stays with the job. In a week the boss makes him timekeeper; in three months he himself is boss of a small gang; the next year he is made foreman at a hundred a month or so."

"A hundred a month?" cries "Lily" in astonishment. "Oh, Martin, please! We are green, but a hundred pounds a month—!"

"Dollars," said Martin shortly. "Don't be an ass! I beg pardon," he added, turning to Mrs. Dunn, who was meantime greatly amused.

"A hundred dollars a month; that is—I am so weak in arithmetic—twenty pounds, I understand. Go on, Martin; I'm waiting for the carriage and pair."

"That's where you get left," said Martin. "No carriage and pair for this chap yet awhile; overalls and slouch hat for the next five years for him. Then he begins contracting on his own."

"I beg your pardon," says "Lily."

"I mean he begins taking jobs on his own."

"Great!" cried Miss Brodie.

"Or," continued Martin, now fairly started on a favourite theme, "there are the railroads all shouting for men of experience, whether in the construction department or in the operating department."

"Does anyone here happen to understand him?" inquires "Lily" faintly.

"Certainly," cried Miss Brodie; "all the intelligent people do. At least, I've a kind of notion there are big things doing. I only wish I were a man!"

"Oh, Miss Brodie, how can you?" cried "Lily." "Think of us in such a contingency!"

"But," said Mr. Rae, "all of this is most interesting, extremely interesting, Mr. Martin. Still, they cannot all arrive at these exalted positions."

"No, Mr. Rae. I may have given that impression. I confess to a little madness when I begin talking Canada."

"Ah!" exclaimed "Lily."

"But I said men of brawn and brains, you remember."

"And bounce, to perfect the alliteration," murmured "Lily."

"Yes, bounce, too," said Martin; "at least, he must never take back-water; he must be ready to attempt anything, even the impossible."

"That's the splendid thing about it!" cried Miss Brodie. "You're entirely on your own and you never say die!"

"Oh, my dear Miss Brodie," moaned "Lily" in piteous accents, "you are so fearfully energetic! And then, it's all very splendid, but just think of a—of a gentleman having to potter around among butter and cheese, or mess about in muddy cellars! Ugh! Positively GHAWSTLY! I would simply die."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't, 'Lily,'" said Martin kindly. "We have afternoon teas and Browning Clubs, too, you must remember, and some 'cultchaw' and that sort of thing."

There was a joyous shout from Dunn.

"But, Mr. Martin," persisted Mr. Rae, whose mind was set in arriving at a solution of the problem in hand, "I have understood that agriculture was the chief pursuit in Canada."

"Farming! Yes, it is, but of course that means capital. Good land in Ontario means seventy-five to a hundred dollars per acre, and a man can't do with less than a hundred acres; besides, farming is getting to be a science now-a-days, Sir."

"Ah, quite true! But to a young man bred on a farm in this country—"

"Excuse me, Mr. Rae," replied Martin quickly, "there is no such thing in Canada as a gentleman farmer. The farmer works with his men."

"Do you mean that he actually works?" inquired "Lily." "With the plough and hoe, and that sort of thing?"

"Works all day long, as long as any of his men, and indeed longer."

"And does he actually live—? of course he doesn't eat with his servants?" said "Lily" in a tone that deprecated the preposterous proposition.

"They all eat together in the big kitchen," replied Martin.

"How awful!" gasped "Lily."

"My father does," replied Martin, a little colour rising in his cheek, "and my mother, and my brothers. They all eat with the men; my sister, too, except when she waits on table."

"Fine!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "And why not? 'Lily,' I'm afraid you're horribly snobbish."

"Thank the Lord," said "Lily" devoutly, "I live in this beloved Scotland!"

"But, Mr. Martin, forgive my persistence, I understand there is cheaper land in certain parts of Canada; in, say, ManitoBAW."

"Ah, yes, Sir, of course, lots of it; square miles of it!" cried Martin with enthusiasm. "The very best out of doors, and cheap, but I fancy there are some hardships in Manitoba."

"But I see by the public newspapers," continued Mr. Rae, "that there is a very large movement in the way of emigration toward that country."

"Yes, there's a great boom on in Manitoba just now."

"Boom?" said "Lily." "And what exactly may that be in the vernacular?"

"I take it," said Mr. Rae, evidently determined not to allow the conversation to get out of his hands, "you mean a great excitement consequent upon the emigration and the natural rise in land values?"

"Yes, Sir," cried Martin, "you've hit it exactly."

"Then would there not be opportunity to secure a considerable amount of land at a low figure in that country?"

"Most certainly! But it's fair to say that success there means work and hardship and privation. Of course it is always so in a new country; it was so in Ontario. Why, the new settlers in Manitoba don't know what hardships mean in comparison with those that faced the early settlers in Ontario. My father, when a little boy of ten years, went with his father into the solid forest; you don't know what that means in this country, and no one can who has not seen a solid mass of green reaching from the ground a hundred feet high without a break in it except where the trail enters. Into that solid forest in single file went my grandfather, his two little boys, and one ox carrying a bag of flour, some pork and stuff. By a mark on a tree they found the corner of their farm." Martin paused.

"Do go on," said Miss Brodie. "Tell me the very first thing he did."

But Martin seemed to hesitate. "Well," he began slowly, "I've often heard my father tell it. When they came to that tree with the mark on it, grandfather said, 'Boys, we have reached our home. Let us thank God.' He went up to a big spruce tree, drove his ax in to the butt, then kneeled down with the two little boys beside him, and I have heard my father say that when he looked away up between the big trees and saw the bit of blue sky there, he thought God was listening at that blue hole between the tree-tops." Martin paused abruptly, and for a few moments silence held the group. Then Doctor Dunn, clearing his throat, said with quiet emphasis:

"And he was right, my boy; make no doubt of that."

"Then?" inquired Miss Brodie softly. "If you don't mind."

Martin laughed. "Then they had grub, and that afternoon grandfather cut the trees and the boys limbed them off, clearing the ground where the first house stood. That night they slept in a little brush hut that did them for a house until grandmother came two weeks later."

"What?" said Doctor Dunn. "Your grandmother went into the forest?"

"Yes, Sir," said Martin; "and two miles of solid black bush stretched between her and the next woman."

"Why, of course, my dear," said Mrs. Dunn, taking part for the first time in the conversation. "What else?"

They all laughed.

"Of course, Mother," said her eldest son, "that's what you would do."

"So would I, Mamma, wouldn't I?" whispered Rob, leaning towards her.

"Certainly, my dear," replied his mother; "I haven't the slightest doubt."

"And so would any woman worth her salt if she loved her husband," cried Miss Brodie with great emphasis.

"Why, why," cried Doctor Dunn, "it's the same old breed, Mother."

"But in Manitoba—?" began Mr. Rae, still clinging to the subject.

"Oh, in Manitoba there is no forest to cut. However, there are other difficulties. Still, hundreds are crowding in, and any man who has the courage and the nerve to stay with it can get on."

"And what did they do for schools?" said Mrs. Dunn, returning to the theme that had so greatly interested her.

"There were no schools until father was too big to be spared to go except for a few weeks in the winter."

"How big do you mean?"

"Say fifteen."

"Fifteen!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "A mere infant!"

"Infant!" said Martin. "Not much! At fifteen my father was doing a man's full work in the bush and on the farm, and when he grew to be a man he cleared most of his own land, too. Why, when I was eleven I drove my team all day on the farm."

"And how did you get your education, Mr. Martin?"

"Oh, they kept me at school pretty steadily, except in harvest and hay time, until I was fourteen, and after that in the winter months. When I was sixteen I got a teacher's certificate, and then it was easy enough."

"And did you put yourself through college?" inquired Mr. Rae, both interest and admiration in his voice, for now they were on ground familiar in his own experience.

"Why, yes, mostly. Father helped, I suspect more than he ought to, but he was anxious for me to get through."

"Rob," cried Miss Brodie suddenly, "let's go! What do you say? We'll get a big bit of that land in the West, and won't it be splendid to build up our own estate and all that?"

Rob glanced from her into his mother's face. "I'd like it fine, Mamma," he said in a low voice, slipping his hand into hers.

"But what about me, Rob?" said his mother, smiling tenderly down into the eager face.

"Oh, I'd come back for you, Mamma."

"Hold on there, youngster," said his elder brother, "there are others that might have something to say about that. But I say, Martin," continued Dunn, "we hear a lot about the big ranches further West."

"Yes, in Alberta, but I confess I don't know much about them. The railways are just building and people are beginning to go in. But ranching needs capital, too. It must be a great life! They practically live in the saddle. It's a glorious country!"

"On the whole, then," said Mr. Rae, as if summing up the discussion, "a young man has better opportunities of making his fortune, so to speak, in the far West rather than in, say, Ontario."

"I didn't speak of fortune, Mr. Rae,—fortune is a chance thing, more or less,—but what I say is this, that any young man not afraid of work, of any kind of work, and willing to stay with his job, can make a living and get a home in any part of Canada, with a bigger chance of fortune in the West."

"All I say, Mr. Rae, is this," said Miss Brodie emphatically, "that I only wish I were a man with just such a chance as young Cameron!"

"Ah, my dear young lady, if all the young men were possessed of your spirit, it would matter little where they went, for they would achieve distinct success." As he spoke Mr. Rae's smile burst forth in all its effulgent glory.

"Dear Mr. Rae, how very clever of you to discover that!" replied Miss Brodie, smiling sweetly into Mr. Rae's radiant face. "And how very sweet of you—ah, I beg your pardon; that is—" The disconcerting rapidity with which Mr. Rae's smile gave place to an appearance of grave, of even severe solemnity, threw Miss Brodie quite "out of her stride," as Martin said afterward, and left her floundering in a hopeless attempt to complete her compliment.

Her confusion was the occasion of unlimited joy to "Lily," who was not unfamiliar with this facial phenomenon on the part of Mr. Rae. "Oh, I say!" he cried to Dunn in a gale of smothered laughter, "how does the dear man do it? It is really too lovely! I must learn the trick of that. I have never seen anything quite so appallingly flabbergasting."

Meantime Mr. Rae was blandly assisting Miss Brodie out of her dilemma. "Not at all, Miss Brodie, not at all! But," he continued, throwing his smile about the room, "I think, Doctor Dunn, we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon not only a pleasant but an extremely profitable evening—ah—as far as the matter in hand is concerned. I hope to have further speech with our young friend," bowing to Mr. Martin and bringing his smile to bear upon that young gentleman.

"Oh, certainly," began Martin with ready geniality, "whenever you—eh? What did you say, Sir? I didn't quite—"

But Mr. Rae was already bidding Mrs. Dunn goodnight, with a face of preternatural gravity.

"What the deuce!" said Martin, turning to his friend Dunn. "Does the old boy often go off at half-cock that way? He'll hurt himself some time, sure."

"Isn't it awful?" said Dunn. "He's got me a few times that way, too. But I say, old boy, we're awfully grateful to you for coming."

"I feel like a fool," said Martin; "as if I'd been delivering a lecture."

"Don't think it," cried Miss Brodie, who had drawn near. "You've been perfectly lovely, and I am so glad to have got to know you better. For me, I am quite resolved to go to Canada."

"But do you think they can really spare us all, Miss Brodie?" exclaimed "Lily" in an anxious voice. "For, of course, if you go we must."

"No, 'Lily,' I'm quite sure they can't spare you. Just think, what could the Browning-Wagner circle do? Besides, what could we do with you when we were all working, for I can quite see that there is no use going to Canada unless you mean to work?"

"You've got it, Miss Brodie," said Martin. "My lecture is not in vain. There is no use going to Canada unless you mean to work and to stay with the job till the cows come home."

"Till the cows come—?" gasped "Lily."

"Oh, never mind him, Mr. Martin! Come, 'Lily' dear, I'll explain it to you on the way home. Good-night, Mr. Dunn; we've had a jolly evening. And as for our friend Cameron, I've ceased to pity him; on the contrary, I envy him his luck."



CHAPTER VII

FAREWELL TO CUAGH OIR

Once more the golden light of a sunny spring day was shining on the sapphire loch at the bottom, and overflowing at the rim of the Cuagh Oir. But for all its flowing gold, there was grief in the Glen—grief deep and silent, like the quiet waters of the little loch. It was seen in the grave faces of the men who gathered at the "smiddy." It was heard in the cadence of the voices of the women as they gathered to "kalie" (Ceilidh) in the little cottages that fringed the loch's side, or dotted the heather-clad slopes. It even checked the boisterous play of the bairns as they came in from school. It lay like a cloud on the Cuagh, and heavy on the hearts that made up the little hill-girt community of one hundred souls, or more.

And the grief was this, that on the "morrow's morn" Mary Robertson's son was departing from the Glen "neffer to return for effermore," as Donald of the House farm put it, with a face gloomy as the loch on a dark winter's day.

"A leaving" was ever an occasion of wailing to the Glen, and many a leaving had the Glen known during the last fifty years. For wherever the tartan waved, and the bonnie feathers danced for the glory of the Empire, sons of the Glen were ever to be found; but not for fifty years had the heart of the Glen known the luxury of a single rallying centre for their pride and their love till the "young chentleman," young Mr. Allan, began to go in and out among them. And as he grew into manhood so grew their pride in him. And as, from time to time, at the Great Games he began to win glory for the Glen with his feats of skill and strength, and upon the pipes, and in the dances, their pride in him grew until it passed all limits. Had he not, the very year before he went to the college, cut the comb of the "Cock of the North" from Glen Urquhart, in running and jumping; and the very same year had he not wrested from Callum Bheg, the pride of Athole, the coveted badge of Special Distinction in Highland Dancing? Then later, when the schoolmaster would read from the Inverness Courier to one group after another at the post office and at the "smiddy" (it was only fear of the elder MacPherson, that kept the master from reading it aloud at the kirk door before the service) accounts of the "remarkable playing" of Cameron, the brilliant young "half-back" of the Academy in Edinburgh, the Glen settled down into an assured conviction that it had reached the pinnacle of vicarious glory, and that in all Scotland there was none to compare with their young "chieftain" as, quite ignoring the Captain, they loved to call him.

And there was more than pride in him, for on his holidays he came back to the Glen unspoiled by all his honours and achievements, and went about among them "jist like ain o' their ain sels," accepting their homage as his right, but giving them in return, according to their various stations, due respect and honour, and their love grew greater than their pride.

But the "morrow's morn" he was leaving the Glen, and, worse than all, no one knew for why. A mystery hung over the cause of his going, a mystery deepened by his own bearing during the past twelve months, for all these months a heavy gloom had shrouded him, and from all that had once been his delight and their glory he had withdrawn. The challenge, indeed, from the men of Glen Urquhart which he had accepted long ago, he refused not, but even the overwhelming defeat which he had administered to his haughty challengers, had apparently brought him no more than a passing gleam of joy. The gloom remained unlifted and the cause the Glen knew not, and no man of them would seek to know. Hence the grief of the Glen was no common grief when the son of Mary Robertson, the son of the House, the pride of the Glen, and the comrade and friend of them all, was about to depart and never to return.

His last day in the Glen Allan spent making his painful way through the cottages, leaving his farewell, and with each some slight gift of remembrance. It was for him, indeed, a pilgrimage of woe. It was not only that his heart roots were in the Glen and knit round every stick and stone of it; it was not that he felt he was leaving behind him a love and loyalty as deep and lasting as life itself. It was that in tearing himself from them he could make no response to the dumb appeal in the eyes that followed him with adoration and fidelity: "Wherefore do you leave us at all?" and "Why do you make no promise of return?" To that dumb appeal there was no answer possible from one who carried on his heart for himself, and on his life for some few others, and among these his own father, the terrible brand of the criminal. It was this grim fact that stained black the whole landscape of his consciousness, and that hung like a pall of death over every living and delightsome thing in the garden of his soul. While none could, without challenge, condemn him, yet his own tongue refused to proclaim his innocence. Every face he loved drove deeper into his heart his pain. The deathless loyalty and unbounded pride of the Glen folk rebuked him, without their knowing, for the dishonour he had done them. The Glen itself, the hills, the purpling heather, the gleaming loch, how dear to him he had never known till now, threw in his face a sad and silent reproach. Small wonder that the Glen, that Scotland had become intolerable to him. With this bitter burden on his heart it was that young Mr. Allan went his way through the Glen making his farewells, not daring to indulge the luxury of his grief, and with never a word of return.

His sister, who knew all, and who would have carried—oh! how gladly!—on her own heart, and for all her life long, that bitter burden, pleaded to be allowed to go with him on what she knew full well was a journey of sorrow and sore pain, but this he would not permit. This sorrow and pain which were his own, he would share with no one, and least of all with her upon whose life he had already cast so dark a shadow. Hence she was at the house alone, her father not having yet returned from an important meeting at a neighbouring village, when a young man came to the door asking for young Mr. Cameron.

"Who is it, Kirsty?" she inquired anxiously, a new fear at her heart for her brother.

"I know not, but he has neffer been in this Glen before whateffer," replied Kirsty, with an ominous shake of the head, her primitive instincts leading her to view the stranger with suspicion. "But!" she added, with a glance at her young mistress' face, "he iss no man to be afraid of, at any rate. He is just a laddie."

"Oh, he is a YOUNG man, Kirsty?" replied her mistress, glancing at her blue serge gown, her second best, and with her hands striving to tuck in some of her wayward curls.

"Och, yess, and not much at that!" replied Kirsty, with the idea of relieving her young mistress of unnecessary fears.

Then Moira, putting on her grand air, stepped into the parlour, and saw standing there and awaiting her, a young man with a thin and somewhat hard face, a firm mouth, and extraordinarily keen, grey eyes. Upon her appearing the young man stood looking upon her without a word. As a matter of fact, he was struggling with a problem; a problem that was quite bewildering; the problem, namely, "How could hair ever manage to get itself into such an arrangement of waves and curls, and golden gleams and twinkles?" Struggling with this problem, he became conscious of her voice gravely questioning him. "You were wishing to see my brother?" The young man came back part way, and replied, "Oh! how does it—? That is—. I beg your pardon." The surprise in her face brought him quite to the ground, and he came at once to his business. "I am Mr. Martin," he said in a quick, sharp voice. "I know your brother and Mr. Dunn." He noted a light dawn in her eyes. "In fact, I played with them on the same team—at football, you know."

"Oh!" cried the girl, relief and welcome in her voice, "I know you, Mr. Martin, quite well. I know all about you, and what a splendid quarter-back you are." Here she gave him both her hands, which Mr. Martin took in a kind of dream, once more plunged into the mazes of another and more perplexing problem, viz., Was it her lips with that delicious curve to them? or her eyes so sunny and brown (or were they brown?) with that alluring, bewitching twinkle? or was it both lips and eyes that gave to the smile with which she welcomed him its subtle power to make his heart rise and choke him as it never had been known to do in the most strenuous of his matches? "I'm awfully glad," he heard himself say, and her voice replying, "Oh, yes! Allan has often and often spoken of you, Mr. Martin." Mr. Martin immediately became conscious of a profound and grateful affection to Allan, still struggling, however, with the problem which had been complicated still further by the charm of her soft, Highland voice. He was on the point of deciding in favour of her voice, when on her face he noted a swift change from glad welcome to suspicion and fear, and then into her sunny eyes a sudden leaping of fierce wrath, as in those of a lioness defending her young.

"Why do you look so?" she cried in a voice sharp and imperious. "Is it my brother—? Is anything wrong?"

The shock of the change in eyes and voice brought Martin quite to himself.

"Wrong? Not a bit," he hastened to say, "but just the finest thing in the world. It is all here in this letter. Dunn could not come himself, and there was no one else, and he thought Cameron ought to have it to-day, so here I am, and here is the letter. Where is he?"

"Oh!" cried the girl, clasping her hands upon her heart, her voice growing soft, and her eyes dim with a sudden mist. "I am so thankful! I am so glad!" The change in her voice and in her eyes so affected Mr. Martin that he put his hands resolutely behind his back lest they should play him tricks, and should, without his will, get themselves round her and draw her close to his heart.

"So am I," he said, "awfully glad! Never was so glad in all my life!" He was more conscious than ever of bewilderment and perplexity in the midst of increasing problems that complicated themselves with mist brown eyes, trembling lips, and a voice of such pathetic cadences as aroused in him an almost uncontrollable desire to exercise his utmost powers of comfort. And all the while there was growing in his heart a desperate anxiety as to what would be the final issue of these bewildering desires and perplexities; when at the extremity of his self-control he was saved by the girl's suggestion.

"Let us go and find my brother."

"Oh, yes!" cried Martin, "for heaven's sake let us."

"Wait until I get my hat."

"Oh! I wouldn't put on a hat," cried he in dismay.

"Why?" enquired the girl, looking at him with surprised curiosity.

"Oh! because—because you don't need one; it's so beautiful and sunny, you know." In spite of what he could do Mr. Martin's eyes kept wandering to her hair.

"Oh, well!" cried Moira, in increasing surprise at this strange young man, "the sun won't hurt me, so come, let us go."

Together they went down the avenue of rugged firs. At the highway she paused. Before them lay the Glen in all the splendid sweep of its beauty.

"Isn't it lovely!" she breathed.

"Lovely!" echoed Martin, his eyes not on the Glen. "It is so sunny, you know."

"Yes," she answered quickly, "you notice that?"

"How could I help it?" said Martin, his eyes still resting upon her. "How could I?"

"Of course," she replied, "and so we call it the Glen Cuagh Oir, that is the 'Glen of the Cup of Gold.' And to think he has to leave it all to-morrow!" she added.

The pathetic cadences in her voice again drove Martin to despair. He recovered himself, however, to say, "But he is going to Canada!"

"Yes, to Canada. And we all feel it so dreadfully for him, and," she added in a lower voice, "for ourselves."

Had it been yesterday Martin would have been ready with scorn for any such feeling, and with congratulations to Cameron upon his exceptionally good luck in the expectation of going to Canada; but to-day, somehow it was different. He found the splendid lure of his native land availed not to break the spell of the Glen, and as he followed the girl in and out of the little cottages, seeking her brother, and as he noted the perfect courtesy and respect which marked her manner with the people, and their unstudied and respectful devotion to their "tear young leddy," this spell deepened upon him. Unconsciously and dimly he became aware of a mysterious and mighty power somehow and somewhere in the Glen straining at the heart-strings of its children. Of the nature and origin of this mysterious and mighty power, the young Canadian knew little. His country was of too recent an origin for mystery, and its people too heterogeneous in their ethnic characteristics to furnish a soil for tribal instincts and passions. The passionate loves and hatreds of the clans, their pride of race, their deathless lealty; and more than all, and better than all, their religious instincts, faiths and prejudices; these, with the mystic, wild loveliness of heather-clad hill and rock-rimmed loch, of roaring torrent and jagged crags, of lonely muir and sunny pasture nuiks; all these, and ten thousand nameless and unnamable things united in the weaving of the spell of the Glen upon the hearts of its people. Of how it all came to be, Martin knew nothing, but like an atmosphere it stole in upon him, and he came to vaguely understand something of what it meant to be a Highlander, and to bid farewell to the land into whose grim soil his life roots had struck deep, and to tear himself from hearts whose life stream and his had flowed as one for a score of generations. So from cot to cot Martin followed and observed, until they came to the crossing where the broad path led up from the highroad to the kirkyard and the kirk. Here they were halted by a young man somewhat older than Martin. Tall and gaunt he stood. His face, pale and pock-marked and lit by light blue eyes, and crowned by brilliant red hair, was, with all its unloveliness, a face of a certain rugged beauty; while his manner and bearing showed the native courtesy of a Highland gentleman.

"You are seeking Mr. Allan?" he said, taking off his bonnet to the girl. "He is in yonder," waving his hand towards the kirkyard.

"In yonder? You are sure, Mr. Maclise?" She might well ask, for never but on Sabbath days, since the day they had laid his mother away under the birch trees, had Allan put foot inside the kirkyard.

"Half an hour ago he went in," replied the young Highlander, "and he has not returned."

"I will go in, then," said the girl, and hesitated, unwilling that a stranger's eyes should witness what she knew was waiting her there.

"You, Sir, will perhaps abide with me," suggested Mr. Maclise to Martin, with a quick understanding of her hesitation.

"Oh, thank you," cried Moira. "This is Mr. Martin from Canada, Mr. Maclise—my brother's great friend. Mr. Maclise is our schoolmaster here," she added, turning to Martin, "and we are very proud of him." The Highlander's pale face became the colour of his brilliant hair as he remarked, "You are very good indeed, Miss Cameron, and I am glad to make the acquaintance of Mr. Martin. It will give me great pleasure to show Mr. Martin the little falls at the loch's end, if he cares to step that far." If Mr. Martin was conscious of any great desire to view the little falls at the loch's end, his face most successfully dissembled any such feeling, but to the little falls he must go as the schoolmaster quietly possessed himself of him and led him away, while Miss Cameron, with never a thought of either of them, passed up the broad path into the kirkyard. There, at the tower's foot, she came upon her brother, prone upon the little grassy mound, with arms outspread, as if to hold it in embrace. At the sound of his sister's tread upon the gravel, he raised himself to his knees swiftly, and with a fierce gesture, as if resenting intrusion.

"Oh, it is you, Moira," he said quietly, sinking down upon the grass. At the sight of his tear-stained, haggard face, the girl ran to him with a cry, and throwing herself down beside him put her arms about him with inarticulate sounds of pity. At length her brother raised himself from the ground.

"Oh, it is terrible to leave it all," he groaned; "yet I am glad to leave, for it is more terrible to stay; the very Glen I cannot look at; and the people, I cannot bear their eyes. Oh," he groaned, wringing his hands, "if she were here she would understand, but there is nobody."

"Oh, Allan," cried his sister in reproach.

"Oh, yes, I know! I know! You believe in me, Moira, but you are just a lassie, and you cannot understand."

"Yes, you know well I believe in you, Allan, and others, too, believe in you. There is Mr. Dunn, and—"

"Oh, I don't know," said her brother bitterly, "he wants to believe it."

"Yes, and there is Mr. Martin," she continued, "and—Oh, I forgot! here is a letter Mr. Martin brought you."

"Martin?"

"Yes, your Martin, a strange little man; your quarter-back, you know. He brought this, and he says it is good news." But already Allan was into his letter. As he read his face grew white, his hand began to shake, his eyes to stare as if they would devour the very paper. The second time he read the letter his whole body trembled, and his breath came in gasps, as if he were in a physical struggle. Then lifting arms and voice towards the sky, he cried in a long, low wail, "Oh God, it is good, it is good!"

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8     Next Part
Home - Random Browse