He never gets beyond that bar

“Ay, I heard of the accident. No that I thought anything particular of that. You’re no the kind of callant, nor come of the kind of race, to give in to an accident. I came for my own pleasure. I hope I’m old enough to ken what pleases myself. Take your dinner, callant, and leave me to mind my business. I could do that much before you were born.”

It was Lauderdale who made this answer to Colin’s half-pleased, half-impatient questioning. The new comer sat, gaunt and strange, throwing a long shadow over the sick-bed, and looking, with a suppressed emotion, more pathetic than tears, upon the tray which was placed on a little table by Colin’s side.{170} It was a sad sight enough. The young man, in the flush and beauty of his youth, with his noble physical development, and the eager soul that shone in his eyes, laid helpless, with an invalid’s repast before him, for which he put out his hand with a languid movement like a sick child. Lauderdale himself looked haggard and careworn. He had travelled by night, and was unshaven and untrimmed, with a wild gleam, of exhaustion and hungry anxiety in his eyes.

“Whatever the reason may be, we’re real glad to see you,” said Mrs. Campbell. “If I could have wished for anything to do Colin good more than he’s getting, it would have been you. But he’s a great deal better—a wonderful deal better; you would not know him for the same creature that he was when I came here; and I’m in great hopes he’ll no need to be sent away for the rest of the winter, as the doctor said,” said the sanguine mother, who had reasoned herself into hope. She looked with wistful inquiry as she spoke into Lauderdale’s eyes, trying hard to read there what was the opinion of the new comer. “It would be an awfu’ hard thing for me to send him away by himsel’, and him no strong,” said the Mistress, with a hope that his friend would say that Colin’s looks did not demand such a proceeding, but that health would come back to him with the sweet air of the Holy Loch.

“I heard of that,” said Lauderdale, “and, to tell the truth, I’m tired of staying in one place all my life mysel’. If a man is to have no more good of his ain legs than if he were a vegetable, I see no good in being a man; it would save an awfu’ deal of trouble to turn a cabbage at once. So I’m thinking of taking a turn about the world as long as I’m able; and, if Colin likes to go with me—”

“Which means, mother, that he has come to be my nurse,” said Colin, whose heart was climbing into his throat; “and here I lie like a log, and will never be able to do more than say thanks. Lauderdale—”

“Whisht, callant,” said the tender giant, who stood looking down upon Colin with eyes which would not trust themselves to answer the mother’s appealing glances; “I’m terrible fatigued with my life, and no able to take the trouble of arguing the question. Not that I consent to your proposition, which has a fallacy on the face of it; for it would be a bonnie-like thing to hear you say thanks either to your mother or me. Since I’ve been in my situation—which, maybe, I’ll tell you more about by-and-bye, now that my mouth’s opened—I’ve saved a little{171} siller, a hundred pounds—or maybe mair,” said the philosopher, with a momentary smile, “and I see no reason why I shouldna have my bit holiday as well as other folk. I’ve worked long for it.” He turned away just then, attracted by a gleam of sunshine at the window, his companion thought, and stood looking out disposing as he best could of a little bitter moisture that had gathered in the deep corners of his eyes. “It’ll no be very joyful when it comes,” he said to himself, with a pang of which nobody was aware, and stood forming his lips into an inaudible whistle to conceal how they quivered. He, too, had built high hopes upon this young head which was now lying low. He had said to himself, with the involuntary bitterness of a mind disappointed and forlorn, that here at least was a life free from all shadows—free from the fate that seemed to follow all who belonged to himself—through which he might again reconcile himself to Providence, and re-connect himself with existence. As he stood now, with his back to Colin, Lauderdale was again going over the burning ploughshares, enduring the fiery ordeal. Once more his unselfish hope was going out in darkness. When he turned round again his lips had steadied into the doleful turn of a familiar air, which was connected in Colin’s mind with many an amusing and many a tender recollection. Between the two people who were regarding him with love and anguish so intense, the sick youth burst into pleasant laughter—laughter which had almost surprised the bystanders into helpless tears—and repeated, with firmer breath than Lauderdale’s, the fragment of his favourite air.

“He never gets beyond that bar,” said Colin. “It carries me back to Glasgow and all the old days. We used to call it Lauderdale’s pibroch. Give me my dinner, mother. I don’t see what I should grumble about as long as you and he are by me. Help me to get up, old fellow,” the young man said, holding out his hands; and he ate his invalid meal cheerfully, with eager questions about all his old companions, and bursts of passing laughter, which to the ears of his friend were more terrible than so many groans. As for the Mistress, she had got used by this time to connect together those two ideas of Colin and a sick-bed, the conjunction of which was as yet misery to Lauderdale; and she was glad in her boy’s pleasure, and took trembling hope from every new evidence of his unbroken spirit. Before long the old current of talk had flowed into its usual channel; and, but for the strange, novel circumstances which surrounded them, one at least of the party might have forgotten{172} for the moment that they were not in the pleasant parlour of Ramore; but that one did not see his own countenance, its eloquent brightness, its flashes of sudden colour, and the shining of its too brilliant eyes. But there could not be any doubt that Colin improved from that moment. Lauderdale had secured a little lodging in the village, from which he came every morning to the “callant,” in whom his disappointed spirit, too careless of personal good, too meditative and speculative for any further ambition on his own account, had fixed its last hopes. He even came, in time, after he had accustomed himself to the young man’s illness, to share, by moments, in the Mistress’s hopes. When Colin at last got up from his bed, it was Lauderdale’s arm he leant on. That was an eventful day to the little anxious group in the sick chamber, whose hopes sometimes leapt to certainty, but whose fears, with an intuition deeper still, sometimes fell to the other extreme, and were hushed in the silence of an anguish too deep to be fathomed, from which thought itself drew back. It was a bright winter day, with symptoms of spring in the air, when the young patient got up from his weary bed. Colin made very light of his weakness in the rising tide of his spirits. He faultered across the room upon Lauderdale’s arm, to look out again, as he said, upon the world. It was an unfortunate moment for his first renewal of acquaintance with the bright outside sphere of ordinary life, which had passed on long ago, and forgotten Colin. The room in which they had placed him when his illness began was one of the best rooms in the house, and looked out upon the terrace and the big holly-trees which Colin knew so well. It was the morning of the day on which Lady Frankland’s ball was to take place, and symptoms of excitement and preparation were apparent. Immediately in front of the window, when Colin looked out, Miss Matty was standing in animated talk with her cousin. They had been loitering about, as people do in the morning about a country house, with no particular occupation—for the sun was warm, though it was still only the end of January—and Matty was at the moment engaged in indicating some special designs of her own which were involved in Lady Frankland’s alterations in the flower-garden, for Harry’s approval. She had, indeed, just led him by the sleeve into the midst of the half-completed design, and was describing circles round him with the walking-stick which she had taken out of his hand for the purpose, as Colin stood tremulous and uncertain by the window, looking out. Nobody could look brighter than Miss Matty; nobody more{173} happy than the heir of Wodensbourne. If the sick man had entertained any hope that his misfortune threw a sympathetic shadow over them, he must now have been undeceived very summarily. Colin, however, bore the trial without flinching. He looked at them as if they were miles or ages away, with a strange smile, which did not seem to the anxious spectators to have any bitterness in it. But he made no remark until he had left the window, and taken his place on the sofa which had been arranged for him by the fire. Then he smiled again, without looking at any one, with abstract eyes, which went to the hearts of his attendants. “How far off the world seems,” said Colin. “I feel as if I ought to be vexed by that pretty scene on the terrace. Don’t you think so, mother? But I am not vexed, no more than if it was a picture. I wonder what it means?”

“Eh, Colin, my man, it means you’re getting strong and no heeding about them and their vanities,” cried the Mistress, whose indignant eyes were full of tears; but Colin only shook his head and smiled, and made no reply. He was not indignant. He did not seem to care or be interested one way or other; but, as a spectator might have done, mused on the wonderful contrast, and asked himself what God could mean by it?—a question which there was no one to answer. Later the curate came to visit him, as indeed he had done several times before, praying out of his well-worn prayer-book by Colin’s bedside in a way which at first scandalized the Mistress, who had, however, become used to him by this time. “It’s better to speak out of a book than to speak nonsense,” Mrs. Campbell had said; “but eh, Colin, it’s awfu’ to think that a man like that hasna a word out of his ain heart to make intercession for his fellow-creatures when they’re in trouble.” However, the curate was kind, and the mother was speedily mollified. As for that excellent clergyman himself, he did not at all understand the odd company in which he found himself when he looked from Colin, of whom he knew most, to the mother with her thoughtful eyes, and to the gaunt gigantic friend who looked upon everything in a speculative way, of which the curate had an instinctive suspicion. To-day Colin’s visitor was more instructive and hortatory than was at all usual for him. He spoke of the mercy of God, which had so far brought the patient towards recovery, and of the motives for thankfulness; to which Mrs. Campbell assented with silent tears.

“Yes,” said Colin; and there was a little pause that surprised the curate. “It is comfortable to be better,” said the patient;{174} “but it would be more than comfortable if one could but know, if one could but guess, what meaning God has in it all. There is Frankland downstairs with his cousin, quite well,” said Colin. “I wonder does he ever ask himself why? When one is on the wrong side of the contrast, one feels it more, I suppose.” The curate had passed Harry Frankland before he came upstairs, and had, perhaps, been conscious in his own mind of a momentary personal comparison and passing wonder, even at the difference between his own lot and that of the heir of Wodensbourne. But he had thought the idea a bad one, and crushed it at once; and Colin’s fancy, though more justifiable, was of the same description, and demanded instant extinction.

“You don’t grudge him his good fortune, I am sure; and then we know there must be inequalities in this life,” said the curate. “It is very mysterious, but nothing goes without compensation; and then we must always remember that ‘whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,’” said the good clergyman. “You are young to have so much suffering; but you can always take comfort in that.”

“Then you mean me to think that God does not love Harry Frankland,” said Colin, “and makes a favourite of me in this gloomy way? Do you really think so?—for I cannot be of that opinion, for my part.”

“My dear Mr. Campbell,” said the curate, “I am very much grieved to hear you speaking like this. Did not God give up His own Son to sufferings of which we have no conception? Did not He endure——”

“It was for a cause,” said Colin. The young man’s voice fell, and the former bitterness came back upon him. “He suffered for the best reason, and knew why; but we are in the dark, and know nothing; why is it? One with all the blessings of life—another stripped, impoverished, brought to the depths, and no reason in it, no cause, no good,” said Colin, in the momentary outcry of his wonder and passion. He was interrupted, but not by words of sacred consolation. Lauderdale was sitting behind, out of the way, humming to himself, in a kind of rude chant, out of a book he held in his hand. Nobody had been taking any notice of him, for it was his way. Now his voice rose and broke in, in an uncouth swell of sound, not unharmonious with the rude verse—

“Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs but to do and die,”
{175}
said Lauderdale, with a break of strong emotion in his voice; and he got up and threw down the book, and came forward into the little circle. It was the first time that he had intimated by so much as a look his knowledge of anything perilous in Colin’s illness. Now he came and stood opposite him, leaning his back against the wall. “Callant,” he said, with a voice that sounded as if it were blown about and interrupted by a strong wind, “if I were on a campaign, the man I would envy would be him that was chosen by his general for the forlorn hope—him that went first, and met the wildest of the battle. Do you mean to tell me you’re no ready to follow when He puts the colours in your hand?”

It was for about six weeks altogether that the Mistress of Ramore remained Sir Thomas Frankland’s guest. For half of that time Lauderdale, too, tall, and gaunt, and grim, strode daily over the threshold of Wodensbourne. He never broke bread, as he himself expressed it, nor made the slightest claim upon the hospitality of the stranger’s house. On the contrary, he declined steadily every advance of friendship that was made to him with a curious Scotch pride, extremely natural to him, but odd to contemplate from the point of view at which the Franklands stood. They asked him to dinner or to lunch as they would have asked any other stranger who happened to come in their way; but Lauderdale was far too self-conscious to accept such overtures. He had come uninvited, an undesired, perhaps unwelcome, visitor; but not for the world would the philosopher have taken advantage of his position, as Colin’s friend, to procure himself even the comfort of a meal. Not if he had been starving would he have shared Colin’s dinner or accepted the seat offered him at the luxurious table below. “Na, na! I came without asking,” said Lauderdale; “when they bid me to their feasts it’s no for your sake, callant, or for my sake, but for their own sakes—for good breeding, and good manners, and not to be uncivil. To force a man to give you your dinner out of civility is every bit as shabby an action as to steal it. I’m no the man to sorn on Sir Thomas for short time or long.” And, in pursuance of this{176} whimsical idea of independence, Lauderdale went back every evening along the dark country lanes to the little room he had rented in the village, and subdued his reluctant Scotch appetite to the messes of bacon and beans he found there—which was as severe a test of friendship as could have been imposed upon him. He was not accustomed to fare very sumptuously at home; but the fare of an English cottager is, if more costly, at least as distasteful to an untravelled Scotch appetite as the native porridge and broth of a Scotch peasant could be to his neighbour over the Tweed. The greasy meal filled Lauderdale with disgust, but it did not change his resolution. He lived like a Spartan on the bread which he could eat, and came back daily to his faithful tendance of the young companion who now represented to him almost all that he loved in the world. Colin grew better during these weeks. The air of home which his mother brought with her, the familiar discussions and philosophies with which Lauderdale filled the weary time, gave him a connecting link once more with the old life. And the new life again rose before Colin, fresh, and solemn, and glorious. Painfully and sharply he had been delivered from his delusions—those innocent delusions which were virtues. He began to see that, if indeed there ever was a woman in the world for whom it was worth a man’s while to sacrifice his existence and individuality, Miss Matty, of all women, was not she. And after this divergence out of his true path, after this cloud that had come over him, and which once looked as though it might swallow him up, it is not to be described how beautiful his own young life looked to Colin, when it seemed to himself that he was coming back to it, and was about to enter once more upon his natural career.

“I wonder how Macdonald will get on at Baliol,” he said; “of course he’ll get the scholarship. It’s no use regretting what cannot be helped; but when a man takes the wrong turning once in his life, do you think he can get into the right road again?” said Colin. He had scarcely spoken the words when a smile gradually stealing over his face, faint and soft like the rising of the moon, intimated to his companions that he had already answered himself. Not only so, but that the elasticity of his youth had delivered Colin from all heavier apprehensions. He was not afraid of the wrong turning he had taken. He was but playing with the question in a kind of tender wantonness. Neither his health nor his lost opportunity gave him much trouble. The tide of life had risen in his heart, and again everything seemed possible; and, such being the case, he trifled{177} pleasantly with the dead doubts which existed no longer. “There is a tide in the affairs of men,” Colin said to himself, smiling over it; and the two people who were looking at him, whose hearts and whose eyes were studying every change in his face, saw that a new era had begun, and did not know whether to exchange looks of gratulation or to betake themselves to the silence and darkness to shed tears of despair over the false hope.

“When a callant goes a step astray, you mean,” said Lauderdale, with a harshness in his voice which sounded contemptuous to Colin—“goes out of his way a step to gather a flower or the like,—a man that takes a wrong turn is altogether a false eemage. Everything in this world is awfu’ mysterious,” said the philosopher. “I’m no clear in my mind about that wrong turning. According to some theories there’s no such thing in existence. ‘All things work together for good.’ I would like to know what was in Paul’s head when he wrote down that. No to enter into the question of inspiration, the opinion of a man like him is aye worth having; but it’s an awfu’ mysterious saying to me.”

“Eh, but it’s true,” said the Mistress; “you’re no to throw ony of your doubts upon Providence. I’ll no say but what it’s a hard struggle whiles; but, if God doesna ken best—if He’s not the wisest and the kindest—I would rather, for my part, come to an end without ony more ado about it. I’m no wanting to live, either in earth or heaven, if there’s ony doubts about Him.”

“That’s aye the way with women,” said Lauderdale, reflectively. “They’ve nae patience for a philosophical question. But the practical argument is no doubt awfu’ powerful, and I can say nothing against it. I’m greatly of the same way o’ thinking myself. Life’s no worth having on less terms; but at the same time—”

“I was speaking only of the Baliol Scholarship,” said Colin, with a momentary pettishness; “you are more abstruse than ever, Lauderdale. If there should happen to be another vacancy next year, do you think I’ve injured myself by neglecting this one? I never felt more disposed for work,” said the young man, raising himself out of his chair. It said a great deal for his returning strength that the two anxious spectators allowed him to get up and walk to the window without offering any assistance. The evening was just falling, and Colin looked out upon a grey landscape of leafless trees and misty flats, over which the shadows were gathering. He came back again with a little exclamation of impatience. “I hate these dull levels,{178}” said the restless invalid; “the earth, and the skies are silent here, and have nothing to say. Mother, why do we not go home?” He stood before her for a moment in the twilight looking, in his diminished bulk and apparently increased height, like a shadow of what he was. Then he threw himself back in his chair with an impatience partly assumed to conceal the weakness of which he was painfully sensible. “Let us go to-morrow,” said Colin, closing his eyes. He was in the state of weakness which feels every contradiction an injury, and already had been more ruffled in spirit than he cared to acknowledge, by the diversion of the talk from his own individual concerns to a general question so large and so serious. He lay back in his chair, with his eyes closed, and those clouds of brown hair of which his mother was so proud hanging heavily over the forehead which, when it was visible, looked so pale and worn out of its glory of youth. The colour of day had all gone out of the whispering, solemn twilight; and, when the Mistress looked at the face before her, pale, with all its outlines rigid in the grey light, and its eyes closed, it was not wonderful that a shiver went through her heart.

“That was just what I had to speak about, Colin, my man,” said Mrs. Campbell, nerving herself for the task before her. “I see no reason myself against it, for I’ve aye had a great confidence in native air; but your grand doctor that was brought down from London—”

“Do not say anything more. I shall not stay here, mother; it is impossible. I am throwing away my life,” cried Colin, hastily, not waiting to hear her out. “Anybody can teach that boy. As for the Franklands, I have done enough for them. They have no right to detain me. We will go to-morrow,” the young man repeated with the petulance of his weakness; to which Mrs. Campbell did not know how to reply.

“But, Colin, my man,” said the Mistress, after a pause of perplexity, “it’s no that I’m meaning. Spring’s aye sweet, and its sweet aboon a’ in your ain place, when ye ken every corner to look for a primrose in. I said that to the doctor, Colin, but he wasna of my opinion. A’ that was in his mind was the east wind (no that there’s much o’ that in our countryside, but thae English canna tell one airt from another) and the soft weather; and I couldna say but what it was whiles damp,” said the candid woman; “and the short and the long is, that he said you were to gang south and no north. If it wasna for your health’s sake, which keeps folk anxious, it would sound ower{179} grand to be possible,” she continued, with a wistful smile, “and awfu’ proud I would be to think of my laddie in Italy—”

“In Italy!” said Colin, with a cry of excitement and surprise; and then they both stopped short, and he looked in his mother’s eyes, which would not meet his, and which he could see, hard as she struggled to keep them unseen, were wet and shining with tears. “People are sent to Italy to die,” said the young man. “I suppose that is what the doctor thinks?—and that is your opinion, my poor mother?—and Lauderdale thinks so too? Don’t say No, no; I can see it in your eyes.”

“Oh, Colin, dinna say that! dinna break my heart!” cried the Mistress. “I’m telling you every word the doctor said. He said it would be better for you in the future; better for your strength, and for getting free of danger in the many hard winters—dour Scotch winters, frost, and snow, and stormy weather, and you your duty to mind night and day—” She made a little pause to get her breath, and smiled upon Colin, and went on hastily, lest she should break down before all was said. “In the mony hard winters that you have to look forward to—the lang life that’s to come—”

“Lauderdale,” said Colin, out of the darkness, “do you hear her saying what she thinks is deception and falsehood. My mother is obliged to tell me the doctor’s lie; but it stumbles on her lips. That is not how she would speak of herself. She would say—”

“Callant, hold your peace,” said Lauderdale. His voice was so harsh and strange, that it jarred in the air, and he rose up with a sudden movement, rising like a tower into the twilight, through which the pleasant reflections from the fire sparkled and played as lightly as if the talk had been all of pleasure. “Be silent, sir,” cried Colin’s friend. “How dare you say to me that any word but truth can come out of the Mistress’s lips? How dare ye—” But here Lauderdale himself came to a sudden pause. He went to the window, as Colin had done, and then came quickly back again. “Because we’re a wee concerned and anxious about him, he thinks he may say what he likes,” said the philosopher, with a strange, short laugh. “It’s the way with such callants. They’re kings, and give the laws to us that ken better. You may say what you like, Colin, but you must not name anything that’s no true with your mother’s name.”

It is strange to feel that you are going to die. It is stranger still to see your friends profoundly conscious of the awful news they have to convey, painfully making light of it, and trying to{180} look as if they meant nothing. Colin perceived the signification of his mother’s pathetic smiles, of his friend’s impatience, of the vigilant watch they kept upon him. He saw that, if perhaps her love kept a desperate spark of hope alight in the Mistress’s heart, it was desperate, and she put no confidence in it. All this he perceived, with the rapid and sudden perception which comes at such a crisis. Perhaps for a moment the blood went back upon his heart with a suffocating sense of danger, against which he could make no stand, and of an inevitable approaching fate which he could not avoid or flee from. The next minute he laughed aloud. The sound of his laughter was strange and terrible to his companions. The Mistress took her boy’s hand and caressed it, and spoke to him in the soothing words of his childhood. “Colin, my man—Colin, my bonnie man!” said the mother whose heart was breaking. She thought his laugh sounded like defiance of God, defiance of the approaching doom; and such a fear was worse even than the dread of losing him. She kept his reluctant fingers in hers, holding him fast to the faith and resignation of his home. As for Lauderdale, he went away out of sight, struggling with a hard sob which all his strength could not restrain; and it was in the silence of this moment that Colin’s laugh, more faintly, more softly, with a playful sound that went to their hearts, echoed again into the room.

“Don’t hold me, mother,” he said; “I could not run away from you if I would. You think I don’t take my discovery as I ought to do? If it is true,” said Colin, grasping his mother’s hand, “you will have time enough to be miserable about me after; let us be happy as long as we can. But I don’t think it is true. I have died and come alive again. I am not going to die any more just now,” said Colin, with a smile which was more than his mother could bear; and his eyes were so fixed upon her, that her efforts to swallow the climbing sorrow in her throat were such as consumed her strength. But even then it was of him and not herself that she thought. “I wasna meaning—I wasna saying—” she tried to articulate in her broken voice; and then at intervals, “A’ can be borne—a’ can be borne—that doesna go against the will of God. Oh Colin, my ain laddie! we maun a’ die; but we must not rebel against Him,” cried the Mistress. A little more, and even she, though long-enduring as love could make her, must have reached the limits of her strength; but Colin, strangely enough, was no way disposed for solemnity, nor for seriousness. He was at the height of the{181} rebound, and disposed to carry his nurses with him to that smiling mountain-top from which death and sorrow had dispersed like so many mists and clouds.

“Come to the window, and look out,” said Colin; “take my arm, mother; it feels natural to have you on my arm. Look here—there are neither hills nor water, but there are always stars about. I don’t mean to be discouraged,” said the young man. He had to lean against the window to support himself; but, all the same, he supported her, keeping fast hold of the hand on his arm. “I don’t mean to be discouraged,” said Colin, “nor to let you be discouraged. I have been in the valley of the shadow of death, but I have come out again. It does not matter to me what the doctor says, or what Lauderdale says, or any other of my natural enemies. You and I, mother, know better,” he said; “I am not going to die.”

The two stood at the window, looking up to the faint stars, two faces cast in the same mould—one distraught with a struggling of hope against knowledge, against experience; the other radiant with a smile of youth. “I am not quite able to walk over the Alps, at present,” said Colin, leading the Mistress back to her chair; “but, for all that, let us go to Italy since the doctor says so. And, Lauderdale, come out of the dark, and light the candles, and don’t talk any more nonsense. We are going to have a consultation about the ways and means. I don’t know how it is to be done,” said Colin, gaily, “since we have not a penny, nor has anybody belonging to us; but still, since you say so, mother, and the doctor, and Lauderdale——”

The Mistress, all trembling and agitated, rose at this moment to help Lauderdale, who had come forward without saying anything, to do the patient’s bidding. “You’ll no be angry?” said Mrs. Campbell, under her breath; “it’s a’ his spirits; he means nothing but love and kindness.” Lauderdale met her eye with a countenance almost as much disturbed as her own.

“Me angry?” said Colin’s friend; “he might have my head for a football, if that would please him.” The words were said in an undertone which sounded like a suppressed growl; and as such Colin took this little clandestine exchange of confidence.

“Is he grumbling, mother?” said the object of their cares. “Never mind; he likes to grumble. Now come to the fire, both of you, and talk. They are oracles, these great doctors; they tell you what you are to do without telling you how to do it. Must I go to Italy in a balloon?” said Colin. “After{182} all, if it were possible, it would be worth being ill for,” said the young man, with a sudden illumination in his eyes. He took the management of affairs into his own hands for the evening, and pointed out to them where they were to sit with the despotism of an invalid. “Now we look comfortable,” said Colin, “and are prepared to listen to suggestions. Lauderdale, your mind is speculative; do you begin.”

It was thus that Colin defeated the gathering dread and anguish which, even in the face of his apparent recovery, closed more and more darkly round him; and, as what he did and said did not arise from any set purpose or conscious intention, but was a mere outburst of instinctive feeling, it had a certain inevitable effect upon his auditors, who brightened up, in spite of themselves and their convictions, under his influence. When Colin laughed, instead of feeling inclined to sob or groan over him, even Lauderdale, after a while, cleared up too into a doubtful smile; and, as for the Mistress, her boy’s confidence came to her like a special revelation. She saw it was not assumed, and her heart rose. “When a young creature’s appointed to be taken, the Lord gives him warning,” she said in secret; “but my Colin has nae message in himself,” and her tender soul was cheered by the visionary consolation. It was under the same exhilarating influence that Lauderdale spoke.

“I’ve given up my situation,” he said. “No but what it was a very honourable situation, and no badly remunerated, but a man tires of everything that’s aye the same day by day. I’ve been working hard a’ my life; and it’s in the nature of man to be craving. I’m going to Eetaly for my own hand,” said Lauderdale; “no on your account, callant. I’ve had enough of the prose, and now’s the time for a bit poetry. No that I undertake to write verses, like you. If he has not me to take care of him, he’ll flee into print,” said the philosopher, reflectively. “It would be a terrible shock to me to see our first prizeman, the most distinguished student, as the Principal himself said, coming out in a book with lines to Eetaly, and verses about vineyards and oranges. That kind of thing is a’ very well for the callants at Oxford and Cambridge, but there’s something more expected from one of us,” said Lauderdale. “I’m going to Eetaly, as I tell you, callant, as long as there’s a glimmer of something like youth left in me, to get a bit poetry into my life. You and me will take our knapsacks on our backs and go off together. I have a trifle in the bank; a hundred pounds—or maybe mair: I couldn’t say as to a shilling or two. If {183}I’m speculative, as you say, I’m no without a turn for the practical,” he continued with some pride; “and everything’s awfu’ cheap when you know how to manage. This curate callant—he has not a great deal of sense, nor ony philosophical judgment, that I can see; and, as for theology, he doesna understand what it means; but he does not seem to me to be deficient in other organs,” said the impartial observer, “such as the heart, for example; and he’s been about the world, and understands about inns and things. Every living creature has its use in this life. I wouldna say he was good for very much in the way of direct teaching from the pulpit, but he’s been awfu’ instructive to me.”

“And you mean me to save my life at your cost?” said Colin. “This is what I have come to; at your cost or at my father’s, or by somebody’s charity? No; I’ll go home and sit in an easy-chair, like poor Hugh Carlyle; and, mother, you’ll take care——”

When the sick man’s fitful spirits thus yielded again his mother was near to soothe him into steadier courage. Again she held his hands, and said, “Colin, my man—Colin, my bonnie man!” with the voice of his childhood. “You’ll come back hale and strong to pay a’body back the trouble,” said the Mistress, while Lauderdale proceeded unmoved, without seeming to hear what Colin said.

“They’re a mystery to me, thae English priests,” said the meditative Scotchman. “They’re not to call ignorant, in the general sense, but they’re awfu’ simple in their ways. To think of a man in possession of his faculties reading a verse or maybe a chapter out of the Bible, which is very near as mysterious as life itself to the like of me, and then discoursing about the Church and the Lessons appointed for this day or that. It’s a grand tether, that Prayer-Book, though. Yon kind of callant, so long as he keeps by that, he’s safe in a kind of a way; but he knows nothing about what’s doing outside his printed walls, and, when he hears suddenly a’ the stir that’s in the world, he loses his head, and invents a’ the old heresies over again. But he’s awful instructive, as I was saying, in the article of inns and steamboats. Not to say that he’s a grand Italian scholar, as far as I can understand, and reads Dante in the original. It’s a wonderful thought to realize the like of that innocent reading Dante. You and me, Colin,” said Lauderdale, with a sudden glow in his eyes, “will take the poets by the hand for once in our lives. What you were saying about cost{184} was a wonderful sensible saying for you. When the siller’s done we’ll work our way home; it’s a pity you have no voice to speak of, and I canna play the—guitar is’t they call it?” said the philosopher, with a quaint grimace. He was contemptuous of the lighter arts, as was natural to his race and habits, and once more Colin’s laugh sounded gaily through the room, which, for many weeks, had known little laughter. They discussed the whole matter, half playfully, half seriously, as they sat over the fire, growing eager about it as they went on. Lauderdale’s hundred pounds “or maybe mair” was the careful hoarding of years. He had saved it as poor Scotchmen are reported to save, by minute economies, unsuspected by richer men. But he was ready to spend his little fortune with the composure of a millionaire. “And myself after it, if that would make it more effectual,” he said to himself, as he went back in the darkness to his little lodging in the village. Let it not be supposed, however, that any idea of self-sacrifice was in the mind of Lauderdale. On the contrary, he contemplated this one possible magnificence of his life with a glow of secret satisfaction and delight. He was willing to expend it all upon Colin, if not to save him, at least to please him. That was his pleasure, the highest gratification of which he was capable in the circumstances. He made his plans with the liberality of a prince, without thinking twice about the matter—though it was all the wealth he had in the world which he was about to lavish freely for Colin’s sake.

“I don’t mean to take Lauderdale’s money, but we’ll arrange it somehow,” said Colin; “and then for the hard winters you speak of, mother, and the labour night and day.” He sent her away with a smile; but, when he had closed the door of his own apartment, which now at length he was well enough to have to himself without the attendance of any nurse, the light went out of the young man’s face. After his kind attendants were both gone, he sat down and began to think; things did not look so serene, so certain, so infallible when he was alone. He began to think, What if after all the doctor might be right? What if it were death and not life that was written against his name? The thought brought a little thrill to Colin’s heart, and then he set himself to contemplate the possibility. His faith was shadowy in details, like that of most people; his ideas about heaven had shifted and grown confused from the first vague vision of beatitude, the crowns, and palms, and celestial harps of childhood. What was that other existence into which, in the fulness of his{185} youth, he might be transported ere he was aware? There at least must be the solution of all the difficulties that crazed the minds of men; there at least, nearer to God, there must be increase of faculty, elevation of soul. Colin looked it in the face, and the Unknown did not appal him; but through the silence he seemed already to hear the cry of anguish which would go up from one homely house under the unanswering skies. It had been his home all his life: what would it be to him in the event of that change, which was death, but not destruction? Must he look down from afar off, from some cold, cruel distance, upon the sorrow of his friends, himself being happy beyond reach, bearing no share in the burden? Or might he, according to a still more painful imagination, be with them, beside them, but unable by word or look, by breath or touch, to lift aside even for a moment the awful veil, transparent to him, but to them heavy and dark as night, which drops between the living and the dead? It was when his thoughts came to this point, that Colin withdrew, faint and sick at heart, from the hopeless inquiry. He went to rest, saying his prayers as he said them at his mother’s knee, for Jesus’ sake. Heaven and earth swam in confused visions round the brain which was dizzy with the encounter of things too mysterious, too dark to be fathomed. The only thing in Earth or Heaven of which there seemed to be any certainty was the sole Existence which united both, in whose name Colin said his prayers.

Miss Matty Frankland all this time had not been without her trials. They were trials as unlike Colin’s as possible, but not without some weight and poignancy of their own, such as might naturally belong to the secondary heartaches of a woman who was far from being destitute either of sense or feeling, and yet was at the same time a little woman of the world. In the first place, she was greatly aggravated that Harry, who on the whole seemed to be her fate, an inevitable necessity, should allow himself to be picked out of a canal at the hazard of another man’s life. Harry was, on the whole, a very good fellow, and was not apt to fall into an inferior place among his equals, or show himself less manful, courageous, or fortunate than other people.{186} But it wounded Matty’s pride intensely to think that she might have to marry a man whose life had been twice saved, all the more as it was not a fault with which he could be reasonably upbraided. And then, being a woman, it was impossible for her to refrain from a little natural involuntary hero-worship of the other; who was not only the hero of these adventures, but her own chivalrous adorer to boot—perhaps the only man in the world who had suffered his life to be seriously affected by her influence. Not only so; but at bottom Miss Matty was fond of Colin, and looked upon him with an affectionate, caressing regard, which was not love, but might very easily have borne the aspect of love by moments, especially when its object was in a position of special interest. Between these two sentiments the young lady was kept in a state of harass and worry, disadvantageous both to her looks and her temper—a consciousness of which re-acted in its turn upon her feelings. She put it all down to Harry’s score when, looking in her glass, she found herself paler than usual. “I wonder how he could be such an ass,” she said to herself at such periods, with a form of expression unsuitable for a boudoir; and then her heart would melt towards his rival. There were even some moments in which she felt, or imagined she felt, the thraldom of society, and uttered to herself sighs and sneers, half false and half true, about the “gilded chains,” &c. which bound her to make her appearance at Sir Thomas’s dinner-party, and to take an active part in Lady Frankland’s ball.

All this conflict of sentiment was conscious, which made matters worse: for all the time Matty was never quite clear of the idea that she was a humbug, and even in her truest impulse of feeling kept perpetually finding herself out. If Colin had been able to appear downstairs, her position would have been more and more embarrassing; as it was, she saw, as clearly as any one, that the intercourse which she had hitherto kept up with the tutor must absolutely come to an end now, when he had a claim so much stronger and more urgent upon the gratitude of the family. And, the more closely she perceived this, the more did Matty grudge the necessity of throwing aside the most graceful of all her playthings. Things might have gone on in the old way for long enough but for this most unnecessary and perplexing accident, which was entirely Harry’s fault. Now she dared not any longer play with Colin’s devotion, and yet was very reluctant to give up the young worshipper, who amused and interested and affected her more than any other in her train. With this in her mind, Miss Matty, as may be supposed, was a little fitful in her{187} spirits, and felt herself, on the whole, an injured woman. The ordinary homage of the drawing-room felt stale and unprofitable after Colin’s poetic worship; and the wooing of Harry, who felt he had a right to her, and conducted himself accordingly, made the contrast all the more distinct. And in her heart, deep down beyond all impulses of vanity, there lay a woman’s pity for the sufferer, a woman’s grateful but remorseful admiration for the man who had given in exchange for all her false coin a most unquestionable heart.

It will thus be apparent that Matty did not suspect the change that had come over Colin’s sentiments; perhaps she could not by any effort of her understanding have realized the sudden revolution which these few weeks had worked in his mind. She would have been humbled, wounded, perhaps angry, had she known of his disenchantment. But, in her ignorance, a certain yearning was in the young lady’s mind. She was not reconciled to give him up; she wanted to see him again—even, so mingled were her sentiments, to try her power upon him again, though it could only be to give him pain. Altogether, the business was complicated to an incredible extent in the mind of Matty, and she had not an idea of the simple manner in which Colin had cut the knot and escaped out of all its entanglements. When the accident was discussed downstairs the remarks of the general company were insufferable to the girl who knew more about Colin than any one else did; and the sharpness of her criticism upon their talk confounded even Lady Frankland, whose powers of observation were not rapid. “My dear, you seem to be losing your temper,” said the astonished aunt; and the idea gave Lady Frankland a little trouble. “A woman who loses her temper will never do for Harry,” she said in confidence to Sir Thomas. “And, poor fellow, he is very ready to take offence since this unfortunate accident. I am sure I am quite willing to acknowledge how much we owe to Mr. Campbell; but it is very odd that nothing has ever happened to Harry except in his company,” said the aggrieved mother. Sir Thomas, for his part, was more reasonable.

“A very lucky thing for Harry,” said the baronet. “Nobody else would have gone into that canal after him. I can’t conceive how Harry could be such a confounded ass,” Sir Thomas added, with a mortified air. “But as for Campbell, poor fellow, anything that I can do for him—. By Jove, Mary, if he were to die I should never forgive myself.” On the whole, it will be seen that the agitations occasioned by Colin were not confined to{188} his own chamber. As for Harry, he kept silence on the subject, but did not the less feel the inferior position in which his misfortune had left him. He was grateful so far, that, if he could have persuaded Colin to accept any recompense, or done him any overwhelming favour, he would have gladly given that evidence of thankfulness. But, after the first shock of horror with which he heard of the tutor’s danger, it is certain that the mortification of feeling that his life had been saved at the risk of another man’s life, produced in young Frankland anything but a friendly sentiment. To accept so vast an obligation requires an amount of generosity of which Harry was not capable. The two young men were, indeed, placed in this singular relationship to each other, without the existence of a spark of sympathy between them. Not only was the mind of the saved in a sore and resentful, rather than a grateful and affectionate, state; but even the other, from whom more magnanimity might have been expected, had absolutely no pleasure in thinking that he had saved the life of a fellow-creature. That sweet satisfaction and approval of conscience which is said to attend acts of benevolence did not make itself felt in the bosom of Colin. He was rather irritated than gratified by the consciousness of having preserved Harry Frankland from a watery grave, as the apothecary said. The entire household was possessed by sensations utterly unlike those which it ought to have felt when, on the day succeeding his consultation with Lauderdale, Colin for the first time came down stairs. There were still some people in the house giving full occupation to Lady Frankland’s powers of hospitality, and Matty’s of entertainment; but both the ladies heard in a minute or two after his appearance that Mr. Campbell had been seen going into the library. “Perhaps it would be best if you were to go and speak to him, Matty,” said Lady Frankland. “There is no occasion for being too enthusiastic; but you may say that I am very much occupied, or I would have come myself to welcome him. Say anything that is proper, my dear, and I will try and induce Harry to go and shake hands, and make his acknowledgments. Men have such a horror of making a fuss,” said the perplexed mother. As for Matty, she went upon her errand with eagerness and a little agitation. Colin was in the library, seated at the table beside Sir Thomas, when she went in. The light was shining full upon him, and it did not subdue the beatings of Matty’s contradictory little heart to see how changed he was, and out of caves how deep those eyes looked which had taken new meanings unintelligible{189} to her. She had been, in her secret heart, a little proud of understanding Colin’s eyes; and it was humiliating to see the new significations which they had come to during his sickness, and to which she had no clue. Sir Thomas was speaking when she came in; so Matty said nothing, but came and stood by him for a moment, and gave her hand to Colin. When their eyes met, they were both somewhat excited by it, though they were not in love with each other; and then Matty drew a chair to the other side of the table, and looked remorsefully, pitifully, tenderly, on the man whom she supposed her lover. She was surprised that he did not seek her eye, or show himself alive to all her movements, as he used to do; and at that moment, for the first time, it occurred to Matty to wonder whether the absolute possession of Colin’s heart might not be worth a sacrifice. She was tired of Harry, and, to tell the truth, of most other people just then. And the sight of this youth—who was younger than she was, who was so much more ignorant and less experienced than she, and who had not an idea in his head about settlements and establishments, but entertained visions of an impossible life, with incomprehensible aims and meanings in it,—had a wonderfully sudden effect upon her. For that instant Matty was violently tempted;—that is to say, she took it into consideration as actually a question worth thinking of, whether it might not be practicable to accept Colin’s devotion, and push him on in the world, and make something of him. She entertained the idea all the more, strangely enough, because she saw none of the old pleadings in Colin’s eyes.

“I hope you will never doubt our gratitude, Campbell,” said Sir Thomas. “I understand that the doctor has said you must not remain in this climate. Of course you must spend the spring in Nice, or somewhere. It’s charming scenery thereabouts. You’ll get better directly you get into the air. And in summer, you know, there’s no place so good as England—you must come back here. As for expenses, you shall have a travelling allowance over your salary. Don’t say anything; money can never repay——”

“As long as I was Charley’s tutor,” said Colin, “money was natural. Pardon me—I can’t help the change of circumstances; there is no bond between us now—only kindness,” said the young man with an effort. “You have all been very good to me since I fell ill. I came to thank you, and to say I must give up——”

“Yes, yes,” said Sir Thomas; “but you can’t imagine that I{190} will let you suffer for your exertions on my son’s behalf, and for the regard you have shown to my family?”

“I wish you would understand,” said Colin, with vexation. “I have explained to Lady Frankland more than once. It may seem rude to say so, but there was no regard for your family involved in that act, at least. I was the only one of the party who saw that your son had gone down. I had no wish to go down after him—I can’t say I had any impulse, even; but I had seen him, and I should have felt like his murderer if I had not attempted to save him. I am aware it is an ungracious thing to say, but I cannot accept praise which I don’t deserve,” said Colin, his weakness bringing a hot sudden colour over his face; and then he stopped short, and looked at Sir Thomas, who was perplexed by this interruption, and did not quite know how to shape his reply.

“Well, well,” said the baronet; “I don’t exactly understand you, and I daresay you don’t understand yourself. Most people that are capable of doing a brave action give queer explanations of it. That’s what you mean, I suppose. No fellow that’s worth anything pretends to fine motives, and so forth. You did it because you could not help it. But that does not interfere with my gratitude. When you are ready to go, you will find a credit opened for you at my bankers, and we must see about letters of introduction, and all that; and I advise you, if you’re going to Italy, to begin the language at once if you don’t know it. Miss Matty used to chatter enough for six when we were there. I daresay she’d like nothing better than to teach you,” said Sir Thomas. He was so much relieved by the possibility of turning over his difficult visitor upon Matty, that he forgot the disadvantages of such a proposal. He got up, delighted to escape and to avoid any further remonstrance, and held out his hand to Colin. “Delighted to see you downstairs again,” said the baronet; “and I hope you’ll bring your friend to dinner with you to-night. Good-bye just now; I have, unfortunately, an engagement—”

“Good-bye,” said Colin. “I will write to you all about it.” And so the good-hearted Squire went away, thinking everything was settled. After that it was very strange for the two who had been so much together to find themselves again in the same room, and alone. As for Colin, he did not well know what to say. Almost the last time he had been by Matty’s side without any witnesses, was the time when he concluded that it was only his life that he was throwing away for her sake. Since that time{191} what a wonderful change had passed over him! The idea that he had thought her smile, a glance of her eye, worth such a costly sacrifice, annoyed Colin. But still her presence sent a little thrill through him when they were left alone together. And, as for Miss Matty, there was some anxiety in her face as she looked at him. What did he mean? was he taking a desperate resolution to declare his sentiments? or what other reason could there be for his unusual silence? for it never occurred to her to attribute it to its true cause.

“My uncle thinks you have consented to his plan,” said Matty; “but I suppose I know what your face means better than he does. Why are you so hard upon us, I wonder? I know well enough that Harry and you never took to each other; but you used to like the rest of us—or, at least, I thought so,” said the little siren. She gave one of her pretty glances at him under her eyelashes, and Colin looked at her across the table candidly, without any disguise. Alas! he had seen her throw that same glance at various other persons, while he stood in the corner of the drawing-room observing everything; and the familiar artillery this time had no effect.

“I have the greatest respect for everybody at Wodensbourne,” said Colin; “you did me only justice in thinking so. You have all been very good to me.”

“I did not say anything about respect,” said Miss Matty, with pouting lips. “We used to be friends, or, at least, I thought so. I never imagined we were to break off into respect so suddenly. I am sure I wish Harry had been a hundred miles away when he came to disturb us all,” said the disarmed enchantress. She saw affairs were in the most critical state, and her words were so far true that she could have expressed her feelings best at that moment by an honest fit of crying. As this was impracticable, Miss Matty tried less urgent measures. “We have caused you nothing but suffering and vexation,” said the young lady, dropping her voice and fixing her eyes upon the pattern of the table-cover, which she began to trace with her finger. “I do not wonder that we have become disagreeable to you. But you should not condemn the innocent with the guilty,” said Miss Matty, looking suddenly up into his eyes. A touch of agitation, the slightest possible, gave interest to the face on which Colin was looking; and perhaps all the time he had known her she had never so nearly approached being beautiful; as certainly, all the time, she had never so narrowly escaped being true. If things had been with Colin as they once were, the probability{192} is that, moved by her emotion, the whole story of his love would have poured forth at this emergency; and, had it done so, there is a possibility that Matty, carried away by the impulse of the moment, might have awoke next morning the affianced wife of the farmer’s son of Ramore.

Providence, however, was kinder to the pair. Colin sat on the other side of the table, and perceived that she was putting her little delicate probe into his wound. He thought he saw all the asides and stage directions, and looked at her with a curious, vicarious sense of shame. Colin, indeed, in his new enlightenment, was hard upon Matty. He thought it was all because she would not give up her power over the victim, whom she intended only to torture, that she had thus taken the trouble to re-open the ended intercourse. He could no more have believed that at this moment, while he was looking at her, such a thing was possible as that Matty might have accepted his love, and pledged her life to him, than he could have believed the wildest nonsense that was ever written in a fairy tale. So the moments passed, while the ignorant mortal sat on the opposite side of the table—which was a very fortunate thing for both parties. Nevertheless, it was with a certain sense of contempt for him, as, after all, only an ordinary blind male creature, unconscious of his opportunities, mingled with a thrill of excitement, on her own part, natural to a woman who had just escaped a great danger, that Miss Matty listened to what Colin had to say.

“There is neither guilty nor innocent that I know of,” said Colin; “you have all been very kind to me. It is very good of you to take the pains to understand me. I don’t mean to take advantage of Sir Thomas Frankland’s kindness; but I am not such a churl as to fling it back in his teeth as if it was pride alone that made me refuse it. It is not pride alone,” said Colin, growing red, “but a sense of justice; for what I have done has been done by accident. I will write and explain to Sir Thomas what I mean.”

“Write and explain?” said Matty. “You have twice said you would write. Do you mean that you are going away?”

“As soon as it is possible,” said Colin; and then he perceived that he was speaking with rude distinctness. “Indeed, I have been taking advantage of your uncle’s kindness too long. I have been a useless member of the household for six weeks at least. Yes, I must go away.”

“You speak very calmly,” said Matty. She was a little{193} flushed, and there were tears in her eyes. If they had been real tears she would have hidden them carefully, but as they were only half real she had no objection to let Colin see that she was concealing them. “You are very composed about it, Mr. Campbell. One would think you were going away from a place distasteful to you; or, at least, which you were totally indifferent about. I daresay that is all very right and proper; but I have a good memory, and it appears rather strange to me.”

It was altogether a trying situation for Colin. If she had been able to seduce him into a little recrimination she might have succeeded in dragging the reluctant captive back again into her toils; which, having by this time entirely recovered her senses, was all Miss Matty wanted. Her downcast, tearful eyes, the faltering in her voice, were wonderfully powerful weapons, which the young man was unable to combat by means of mere indifference. Colin, however, being a man of impulses, was never to be calculated on beforehand for any particular line of conduct; and, on the present occasion, he entirely overleaped Miss Matty’s bounds.

“Yes, it is strange,” said Colin. “Perhaps nothing but the sight of death, who has been staring into my eyes for some time, could have shown me the true state of affairs. I have uttered a great deal of nonsense since I came to Wodensbourne, and you—have listened to it, Miss Frankland; and, perhaps, rather enjoyed seeing my tortures and my delights. But nothing could come of that; and when death hangs on behind everything but love flies before him,” said Colin. “It was pleasant sport while it lasted; but everything, except love, comes to an end.”

“Except love,” said Miss Matty. She was terribly piqued and mortified on the surface, and a little humbled and sorrowful within. She had a sense, too, that, for one moment, at the beginning of this interview, she had almost been capable of that sentiment which Colin exalted so highly: and that, consequently, he did her injustice in speaking of it as something with which she had nothing to do. “I remember hearing you talk of that sometimes, in the midst of what you call nonsense now. If you did not understand yourself, you can’t expect that I should have understood you,” she went on. To tell the truth, Miss Matty was very near crying. She had experienced the usual injustice of human affairs, and been punished for her vanity just at the moment when she was inclined to do better; and her heart cried out against such cruel usage. This time, however, she kept her tears quite in subjection and did not show them,{194} but only repeated, “You could not expect that I should understand you, if you did not understand yourself!”

“No; that is true at least,” said Colin, with eyes that strayed beyond her, and had gone off into other regions unknown to Matty. This which had piqued her even at the height of their alliance gave her an excuse for her anger now.

“And when you go off into sentiment I never understand you,” said the young lady. “I will levo l’incomodo, as the Italians say. That shall be your first lesson in the language which my uncle says I am to teach you,” and she turned away with a glance half-spiteful, half-wistful, which had more effect upon Colin than a world of words. He got up to open the door for her, weak as he was, and took her hand and kissed it as she went away. Then Colin took himself laboriously upstairs, having done his day’s work. And so unreasonable was the young man, that Matty’s last glance filled his heart with gentler thoughts of the world in general, though he was not in love any longer. “I was not such a fool after all,” he said to himself; which was a great consolation. As for Matty, she cried heartily when she got to her room, and felt as if she had lost something. Nor did she recover until after luncheon, when some people came to call, and it was her duty to be entertaining, and relieve Lady Frankland. “I hope you said everything that was proper to Mr. Campbell, my dear,” said the lady of the house when lunch was over. And so that chapter came to an end.

After this interview it was strange to meet again the little committee upstairs, and resume the consideration of ways and means, which Sir Thomas would have settled so summarily. Colin could not help thinking of the difference with a little amusement. He was young enough to be able to dismiss entirely the grave thoughts of the previous night, feeling in his elastic, youthful mind, something of the fresh influence of the morning, or at least—for Colin had found out that the wind was easterly, a thing totally indifferent to him in old times—of the sentiment of the morning, which, so long as heart and courage are unbroken, renews the thoughts and hopes. Money was a{195} necessary evil, to Colin’s thinking. So long as there happened to be enough of it for necessary purposes, he was capable of laughing at the contrast between his own utter impecuniosity and the wealth which was only important for sake of the things that could be done with it. Though he was Scotch, and of a careful, money-making race, this was as yet the aspect which money bore to the young man. He laughed as he leaned back in his easy chair.

“What Lauderdale makes up by working for years, and what we can’t make up by any amount of working, Sir Thomas does with a scrape of his pen,” said Colin. “Downstairs they need to take little thought about these matters, and up here a great deal of thought serves very little purpose. On the whole, it seems to me that it would be very good for our tempers and for our minds in general if we all had plenty of money,” said the young philosopher, still laughing. He was tolerably indifferent on the subject, and able to take it easily. While he spoke, his eye lighted on his mother’s face, who was not regarding the matter by any means so lightly. Mrs. Campbell on the contrary was suffering under one of the greatest minor trials of a woman. She thought her son’s life depended on this going to Italy, and to procure the means for it there was nothing on earth his mother would not have done. She would have undertaken joyfully the rudest and hardest labour that ever was undertaken by man. She would have put her hands, which indeed were not unaccustomed to work, to any kind of toil; but with this eager, longing in her heart she knew at the same time that it was quite impossible for her to do anything by which she could earn those sacred and precious coins on which her boy’s life depended. While Colin spoke, his mother was making painful calculations what she could save and spare, at least, if she could not earn. Colin stopped short when he looked at her; he could not laugh any longer. What was to him a matter of amusing speculation was to her life or death.

“There canna but be inequalities in this world,” said the Mistress, her tender brows still puckered with their baffling calculations. “I’m no envious of ony grandeur, nor of taking my ease, nor of the pleasures of this life. We’re awfu’ happy at hame in our sma’ way when a’s weel with the bairns; but it’s for their sakes, to get them a’ that’s good for them! Money’s precious when it means health and life,” said Mrs. Campbell, with a sigh; “and it’s awfu’ hard upon a woman when she can do nothing for her ain, and them in need.{196}”

“I’ve known it hard upon mony a man,” said Lauderdale; “there’s little difference when it comes to that. But a hundred pounds,” he continued, with a delightful consciousness of power and magnificence, “is not a bad sum to begin upon; before that’s done, there will be time to think of more. It’s none of your business, callant, that I can see. If you’ll no come with me, you must even stay behind. I’ve set my heart on a holiday. A man has little good of his existence when he does nothing but work and eat, and eat and work again, as I’ve been doing. I would like to take the play a while, and feel that I’m alive.”

When the Mistress saw how Lauderdale stretched his long limbs on his chair, and how Colin’s face brightened with the look, half sympathetic, half provocative, which usually marked the beginning of a long discussion, she went to the other end of the room for her work. It was Colin’s linen which his mother was putting in order, and she was rather glad to withdraw to a distance, and retire within that refuge of needlework, which is a kind of sanctuary for a woman, and in which she could pursue undisturbed her own thoughts. After a while, though these discussions were much in Mrs. Campbell’s way, and she was not disinclined in general to take part in them, she lost the thread of the conversation. The voices came to her in a kind of murmur, now and then chiming in with a chance word or two in the current of her own reflections. The atmosphere which surrounded the convalescent had never felt so hopeful as to-day, and the heart of the mother swelled with a sense of restoration, a trust in God’s mercy which recently had been dull and faint within her. Restoration, recovery, deliverance—Nature grows humble, tender, and sweet under these influences of heaven. The Mistress’s heart melted within her, repenting of all the hard thoughts she had been thinking, of all the complaints she had uttered. “It is good for me that I was afflicted,” said the Psalmist; but it was not until his affliction was past that he could say so. Anguish and loss make no such confession. The heart, when it is breaking, has enough ado to refrain from accusing God of its misery, and it is only the inhumanity of human advisers that adjure it to make spiritual merchandize out of the hopelessness of its pain.

Matters were going on thus in Colin’s chamber, where he and his friend sat talking; and the mother at the other end of the room carefully sewing on Colin’s buttons, began to descend out of her heaven of thankfulness, and to be troubled with a pang of apprehension lest her husband should not see things in the{197} same light as she did, but might, perhaps, demur to Colin’s journey as an unwarrantable expense. People at Ramore did not seek such desperate remedies for failing health. Whenever a cherished one was ill, they were content to get “the best doctors,” and do everything for him that household care and pains could do; but, failing that, the invalid succumbed into the easy chair, and, when domestic cherishing would serve the purpose no longer, into a submissive grave, without dreaming of those resources of the rich which might still have prolonged the fading life. Colin of Ramore was a kind father, but he was only a man, as the Mistress recollected, and apt to come to different conclusions from an anxious and trembling mother. Possibly he might think this great expense unnecessary, not to be thought of, an injustice to his other children; and the thought disturbed her reflections terribly, as she sat behind backs examining Colin’s wardrobe. At all events, present duty prompted her to make everything sound and comfortable, that he might be ready to encounter the journey without any difficulty on that score; and, absorbed in these mingled cares and labours, she was folding up carefully the garments she had done with, and laying them before her in a snowy heap upon the table, when the curate knocked softly at the door. It was rather an odd scene for the young clergyman, who grew more and more puzzled by his Scotch acquaintances the more he saw of them, not knowing how to account for their quaint mixture of homeliness and intelligence, nor whether to address them politely as equals, or familiarly as inferiors. Mrs. Campbell came forward, when he opened the door, with her cordial smile and looks as gracious as if she had been a duchess. “Come away, sir,” said the farmer’s wife; “we are aye real glad to see you,” and then the Mistress stopped short, for Henry Frankland was behind the curate, and somehow the heir of Wodensbourne was not a favourite with Colin’s mother. But her discontent lasted only a moment. “I canna bid ye welcome, Mr. Frankland, to your own house,” said the diplomatical woman; “but if it was mine I would say I was glad to see you.” This was how she got over the difficulty. But she followed the two young men towards the fire, where Colin had risen from his easy chair. She could but judge according to her knowledge, like other people; and she was a little afraid that the man who had taken his love from him, who had hazarded his health and, probably, his life, would find little favour in Colin’s eyes; and to be anything but courteous to a man who came to pay her a visit, even had he been her{198} greatest enemy, was repugnant to her barbaric-princely Scotch ideas. She followed accordingly, to be at hand and put things straight, if they went wrong.

“Frankland was too late to see you to-day when you were downstairs; so he thought he would come up with me,” said the curate, giving this graceful version of the fact that, dragged by himself and pursued by Lady Frankland, Harry had most reluctantly ascended the stair. “I am very glad indeed to hear that you were down to-day. You are looking—ah—better already,” said the kind young man. As for Harry Frankland, he came forward and offered his hand, putting down at the same time on the table a pile of books with which he was loaded.

“My cousin told me you wanted to learn Italian,” said Harry; “so I brought you the books. It’s a very easy language; though people talk great nonsense about its being musical. It is not a bit sweeter than English. If you only go to Nice, French will answer quite well.” He sat down suddenly and uncomfortably as he delivered himself of this utterance; and Colin, for his part, took up the grammar, and looked at it as if he had no other interest under the sun.

“I don’t agree with Frankland there,” said the curate; “everything is harmonious in Italy except the churches. I know you are a keen observer, and I am sure you will be struck with the fine spirit of devotion in the people; but the churches are the most impious edifices in existence,” said the Anglican, with warmth—which was said, not because the curate was thinking of ecclesiastical art at the moment, but by way of making conversation, and conducting the interview between the saved man and his deliverer comfortably to an end.

“I think you said you had never been in Scotland?” said Lauderdale. “For my part I’m no heeding much about the churches; but I’m curious to see the workings of an irrational system where it has no limit. It’s an awfu’ interesting subject of inquiry; and there is little doubt in my mind that a real popular system must aye be more or less irrational——”

“I beg your pardon,” said the curate. “Of course there are many errors in the Church of Rome; but I don’t see that such a word as irrational——”

“It’s a very good word,” said Lauderdale. “I’m no using it in a contemptuous sense. Man’s an irrational being, take him at his best. I’m not saying if it’s above reason or below reason, but out of reason; which makes it none the worse to me. All{199} religion’s out of reason for that matter—which is a thing we never can be got to allow in Scotland. You understand it better here,” said the philosopher; but the curate’s attention was too much distracted to leave him any time for self-defence.

During this pause, however, Colin and Harry were eyeing each other over the Italian books. “You won’t find it at all difficult,” said young Frankland; “if you had been staying longer we might have helped you. I say—look here; I am much obliged to you,” Harry added suddenly: “a fellow does not know what to say in such circumstances. I am horribly vexed to think of your being ill. I’d be very glad to do as much for you as you have done for me.”

“Which is simply nothing at all,” said Colin, hastily; and then he became conscious of the effort the other had made. “Thank you for saying so much. I wish you could, and then nobody would think any more about it,” he said, laughing; and they regarded each other for another half minute across the table while Lauderdale and the curate kept on talking heresy. Then Colin suddenly held out his hand.

“It seems my fate to go away without a grudge against anybody,” said the young man; “which is hard enough when one has a certain right to a grievance. Good-bye. I daresay after this your path and mine will scarcely cross again.”

“Good-bye,” said Harry Frankland, rising up—and he made a step or two to the door, but came back again, swallowing a lump in his throat. “Good-bye,” he repeated, holding out his hand another time. “I hope you’ll soon get well! God bless you, old fellow! I never knew you till now;” and so disappeared very suddenly, closing the door after him with a little unconscious violence. Colin lay back in his chair with a smile on his face. The two who were talking beside him had their ears intently open to this bye-play, but they went on with their talk, and left the principal actors in the little drama alone.

“I wonder if I am going to die?” said Colin, softly, to himself; and then he caught the glance of terror, almost of anger, with which his mother stopped short and looked at him, with her lips apart, as if her breathing had stopped for the moment. “Mother, dear, I have no such intention,” said the young man; “only that I am leaving Wodensbourne with feelings so amicable and amiable to everybody, that it looks alarming. Even Harry Frankland, you see—and this morning his cousin{200}——”

“What about his cousin, Colin?” said the Mistress, with bated breath.

Upon which Colin laughed—not harshly or in mockery—softly, with a sound of tenderness, as if somewhere not far off there lay a certain fountain of tears.

“She is very pretty, mother,” he said, “very sweet, and kind, and charming. I daresay she will be a leader of fashion a few years hence, when she is married; and I shall have great pleasure in paying my respects to her when I go up from the Assembly in black silk stockings, with a deputation, to present an address to the Queen.”

Mrs. Campbell never heard any more of what had been or had not been between her son and the little siren whom she herself, in the bitterness of her heart, had taken upon herself to reprove; and this was how Colin, without, as he said, a grudge against anybody, concluded the episode of Wodensbourne.

Some time, however, elapsed before it was possible for Colin and his companion to leave England. Colin of Ramore was, as his wife had imagined, slow to perceive the necessity for so expensive a proceeding. The father’s alarm by this time had come to a conclusion. The favourable bulletins which the Mistress had sent from time to time by way of calming the anxiety of the family, had appeared to the farmer the natural indications of a complete recovery; and so thought Archie, who was his father’s chief adviser in the absence of the mistress of the house.

“The wife’s gone crazy,” said big Colin. “She thinks this laddie of hers should be humoured and made of as if he was Sir Thomas Frankland’s son.” And the farmer treated with a little carelessness his wife’s assurances that a warmer climate was necessary for Colin.

“Naebody would ever have thought of such a thing had he been at hame when the accident happened,” said Archie; which was, indeed, very true: and the father and son, who were the money-makers of the family, thought the idea altogether fantastical. The matter came to be mentioned to the minister, who was, like everybody else on the Holy Loch, interested about Colin, and, as it happened, finally reached the ears of the same Professor who had urged him to compete for the Baliol scholarship. Now, it would be hard in this age of competitive examinations to say anything in praise of a university prize awarded by favour—not to say that the prizes in Scotch universities are so few as to make such patronage specially invidious. Matters are differently managed now-a-days, and it is to be hoped{201} that pure merit always wins the tiny rewards which Scotch learning has at its disposal; but in Colin’s day the interest of a popular professor was worth something. The little conclave was again gathered round the fire in Colin’s room at Wodensbourne, reading, with mingled feelings, a letter from Ramore, when another communication from Glasgow was put into Colin’s hand. The farmer’s letter had been a little impatient, and showed a household disarranged and out of temper. One of the cows was ill, and the maid-servant of the period had not proved herself equal to the emergency. “I don’t want to hurry you, or to make Colin move before he is able,” wrote the head of the house; “but it appears to me that he would be far more likely to recover his health and strength at home.” The Mistress had turned aside, apparently to look out at the window, from which was visible a white blast of rain sweeping over the dreary plain which surrounded Wodensbourne, though in reality it was to hide the gush of tears that had come to her eyes. Big Colin and his wife were what people call “a very united couple,” and had kept the love of their youth wonderfully fresh in their hearts; but still there were times when the man was impatient and dull of understanding, and could not comprehend the woman, just as, perhaps, though Mrs. Campbell was not so clearly aware of that side of the question, there might be times when, on her side, the woman was equally a hindrance to the man. She looked out upon the sweeping rain, and thought of the “soft weather” on the Holy Loch, which had so depressing an effect upon herself, notwithstanding her sound health and many duties, and of the winds of March which were approaching, and of Colin’s life,—the most precious thing on earth, because the most in peril. What was she to do, a poor woman who had nothing, who could earn nothing, who had only useless yearnings and cares of love to give her son?

While Mrs. Campbell was thus contemplating her impotence, and wringing her hands in secret over the adverse decision from home, Lauderdale was walking about the room in a state of high good-humour and content, radiant with the consciousness of that hundred pounds, “or maybe mair,” with which it was to be his unshared, exclusive privilege to succour Colin. “I see no reason why we should wait longer. The Mistress is wanted at home, and the east winds are coming on; and, when our siller is spent we’ll make more,” said the exultant philosopher. And it was at this moment of all others that the professor’s letter was put into the invalid’s hands. He read it in silence, while{202} the Mistress remained at the window, concocting in her mind another appeal to her husband, and wondering in her tender heart how it was that men were so dull of comprehension and so hard to manage. “If Colin should turn ill again”—for she dared not even think the word she meant—“his father would never forgive himsel’,” said the Mistress to herself; and, as for Lauderdale, he had returned to the contemplation of a Continental Bradshaw, which was all the literature of which at this crisis Colin’s friend was capable. They were both surprised when Colin rose up, flushed and excited, with this letter which nobody had attached any importance to in his hands. “They have given me one of the new scholarships,” said Colin without any preface, “to travel and complete my studies. It is a hundred pounds a year; and I think, as Lauderdale says, we can start to-morrow,” said the young man, who in his weakness and excitement was moved almost to tears.

“Eh, Colin, the Lord bless them!” said the Mistress, sitting down suddenly in the nearest chair. She did not know who it was upon whom she was bestowing that benediction, which came from the depths of her heart; but she had to sit still after she had uttered it, blinded by two great tears that made even her son’s face invisible, and with a trembling in her frame, which rendered her incapable of any movement. She was inconsistent, like other human creatures. When she had attained to this sudden deliverance, and had thanked God for it, it instantly darted through her mind that her boy was going to leave her on a solemn and doubtful journey, now to be delayed no longer; and it was some time before she was able to get up and arrange for the last time the carefully-mended linen, which was all ready for him now. She packed it, shedding a few tears over it, and saying prayers in her tender heart for her firstborn; and God only knows the difficulty with which she preserved her smile and cheerful looks, and the sinking of her heart when all her arrangements were completed. Would he ever come back again to make her glad? “You’ll take awfu’ care of my laddie?” she said to Lauderdale, who, for his part, was not delighted with the scholarship; and that misanthrope answered, “Ay, I’ll take care of him.” This was all that passed between the two guardians, who knew, in their inmost hearts, that the object of their care might never come back again. All the household of Wodensbourne turned out to wish Colin a good journey next morning when he went away; and the Mistress put down her old-fashioned veil when the express was gone which carried him{203} to London, and went home again humbly by the night-train. Fortunately there was in the same carriage with her a harassed young mother with little children, whose necessities speedily demanded the lifting up of Mrs. Campbell’s veil. And the day was clear on the Holy Loch, and all her native hills held out their arms to her, when the good woman reached her home. She was able to see the sick cows that afternoon, and her experience suggested a means of relieving the speechless creatures which filled the house with admiration. “She may be a foolish woman about her bairns,” said big Colin, who was half pleased and half angry to hear her story; “but it’s a different-looking house when the wife comes hame.” And thus the natural sunshine came back again to the Mistress’s eyes.

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