Author of "Blindpits"
Lady Arthur Eildon was a widow: she was a remarkable woman,
and her husband, Lord Arthur Eildon, had been a remarkable man.
He was a brother of the duke of Eildon, and was very remarkable
in his day for his love of horses and dogs. But this passion
did not lead him into any evil ways: he was a thoroughly
upright, genial man, with a frank word for every one, and was
of course a general favorite. "He'll just come in and crack
away as if he was ane o' oorsels," was a remark often made
concerning him by the people on his estates; for he had estates
which had been left to him by an uncle, and which, with the
portion that fell to him as a younger son, yielded him an ample
revenue, so that he had no need to do anything.
What talents he might have developed in the army or navy, or
even in the Church, no one knows, for he never did anything in
this world except enjoy himself; which was entirely natural to
him, and not the hard work it is to many people who try it. He
was in Parliament for a number of years, but contented himself
with giving his vote. He did not distinguish himself. He was
not an able or intellectual man: people said he would never set
the Thames on fire, which was true; but if an open heart and
hand and a frank tongue are desirable things, these he had. As
he took in food, and it nourished him without further
intervention on his part, so he took in enjoyment and gave it
out to the people round him with equal unconsciousness. Let it
not be said that such a man as this is of no value in a world
like ours: he is at once an anodyne and a stimulant of the
healthiest and most innocent kind.
As was meet, he first saw the lady who was to be his wife in
the hunting-field. She was Miss Garscube of Garscube, an only
child and an heiress. She was a fast young lady when as yet
fastness was a rare development:—a harbinger of the fast
period, the one swallow that presages summer, but does not make
it—and as such much in the mouths of the public.
Miss Garscube was said to be clever—she was certainly
eccentric—and she was no beauty, but community of tastes
in the matter of horses and dogs drew her and Lord Arthur
On one of the choicest of October days, when she was
following the hounds, and her horse had taken the fences like a
creature with wings, he came to one which he also flew over,
but fell on the other side, throwing off his rider—on
soft grass, luckily. But almost before an exclamation of alarm
could leave the mouths of the hunters behind, Miss Garscube was
on her feet and in the saddle, and her horse away again, as if
both had been ignorant of the little mishap that had occurred.
Lord Arthur was immediately behind, and witnessed this bit of
presence of mind and pluck with unfeigned admiration: it won
his heart completely; and on her part she enjoyed the
genuineness of his homage as she had never enjoyed anything
before, and from that day things went on and prospered between
People who knew both parties regretted this, and shook their
heads over it, prophesying that no good could come of it. Miss
Garscube's will had never been crossed in her life, and she was
a "clever" woman: Lord Arthur would not submit to her
domineering ways, and she would wince under and be ashamed of
his want of intellect. All this was foretold and thoroughly
believed by people having the most perfect confidence in their
own judgment, so that Lord Arthur and his wife ought to have
been, in the very nature of things, a most wretched pair. But,
as it turned out, no happier couple existed in Great Britain.
Their qualities must have been complementary, for they
dovetailed into each other as few people do; and
the wise persons who had predicted the contrary were
entirely thrown out in their calculations—a fact which
they speedily forgot; nor did it diminish their faith in
their own wisdom, as, indeed, how could one slight mistake
stand against an array of instances in which their
predictions had been verified to the letter?
Lord Arthur might not have the intellect which fixes the
attention of a nation, but he had plenty for his own
fireside—at least, his wife never discovered any want of
it—and as for her strong will, they had only one strong
will between them, so that there could be no collision. Being
thus thoroughly attached and thoroughly happy, what could occur
to break up this happiness? A terrible thing came to pass.
Having had perfect health up to middle life, an acutely painful
disease seized Lord Arthur, and after tormenting him for more
than a year it changed his face and sent him away.
There is nothing more striking than the calmness and dignity
with which people will meet death—even people from whom
this could not have been expected. No one who did not know it
would have guessed how Lord Arthur was suffering, and he never
spoke of it, least of all to his wife; while she, acutely aware
of it and vibrating with sympathy, never spoke of it to him;
and they were happy as those are who know that they are
drinking the last drops of earthly happiness. He died with his
wife's hand in his grasp: she gave the face—dead, but
with the appearance of life not vanished from it—one
long, passionate kiss, and left him, nor ever looked on it
Lady Arthur secluded herself for some weeks in her own room,
seeing no one but the servants who attended her; and when she
came forth it was found that her eccentricity had taken a
curious turn: she steadily ignored the death of her husband,
acting always as if he had gone on a journey and might at any
moment return, but never naming him unless it was absolutely
necessary. She found comfort in this simulated delusion no
doubt, just as a child enjoys a fairy-tale, knowing perfectly
well all the time that it is not true. People in her own sphere
said her mind was touched: the common people about her affirmed
without hesitation that she was "daft." She rode no more, but
she kept all the horses and dogs as usual. She cultivated a
taste she had for antiquities; she wrote poetry—- ballad
poetry—which people who were considered judges thought
well of; and flinging these and other things into the awful
chasm that had been made in her life, she tried her best to
fill it up. She set herself to consider the poor man's case,
and made experiments and gave advice which confirmed her poorer
brethren in their opinion that she was daft; but as her hand
was always very wide open, and they pitied her sorrow, she was
much loved, although they laughed at her zeal in preserving old
ruins and her wrath if an old stone was moved, and told, and
firmly believed, that she wrote and posted letters to Lord
Arthur. What was perhaps more to the purpose of filling the
chasm than any of these things, Lady Arthur adopted a daughter,
an orphan child of a cousin of her own, who came to her two
years after her husband's death, a little girl of nine.
Alice Garscube's education was not of the stereotyped kind.
When she came to Garscube Hall, Lady Arthur wrote to the
head-master of a normal school asking if he knew of a healthy,
sagacious, good-tempered, clever girl who had a thorough
knowledge of the elementary branches of education and a natural
taste for teaching. Mr. Boyton, the head-master, replied that
he knew of such a person whom he could entirely recommend,
having all the qualities mentioned; but when he found that it
was not a teacher for a village school that her ladyship
wanted, but for her own relation, he wrote to say that he
doubted the party he had in view would hardly be suitable: her
father, who had been dead for some years, was a workingman, and
her mother, who had died quite recently, supported herself by
keeping a little shop, and she herself was in appearance and
manner scarcely enough of the lady for such a
situation. Now, Lady Arthur, though a firm believer in birth
and race, and by habit and prejudice an aristocrat and a
Tory, was, we know, eccentric by nature, and Nature will
always assert itself. She wrote to Mr. Boyton that if the
girl he recommended was all he said, she was a lady inside,
and they would leave the outside to shift for itself. Her
ladyship had considered the matter. She could get decayed
gentlewomen and clergymen and officers' daughters by the
dozen, but she did not want a girl with a sickly knowledge
of everything, and very sickly ideas of her own merits and
place and work in the world: she wanted a girl of natural
sagacity, who from her cradle had known that she came into
the world to do something, and had learned how to do it.
Miss Adamson, the normal-school young lady recommended,
wrote thus to Lady Arthur:
"MADAM: I am very much tempted to take the situation you
offer me. If I were teacher of a village school, as I had
intended, when my work in the school was over I should have
had my time to myself; and I wish to stipulate that when
the hours of teaching Miss Garscube are over I may have the
same privilege. If you engage me, I think, so far as I know
myself, you will not be disappointed.
"I am," etc. etc.
To which Lady Arthur:
"So far as I can judge, you are the very thing I want.
Come, and we shall not disagree about terms," etc. etc.
Thus it came about that Miss Garscube was unusually lucky in
the matter of her education and Miss Adamson in her engagement.
Although eccentric to the pitch of getting credit for being
daft, Lady Arthur had a strong vein of masculine sense, which
in all essential things kept her in the right path. Miss
Adamson and she suited each other thoroughly, and the education
of the two ladies and the child may be said to have gone on
simultaneously. Miss Adamson had an absorbing pursuit: she was
an embryo artist, and she roused a kindred taste in her pupil;
so that, instead of carrying on her work in solitude, as she
had expected to do, she had the intense pleasure of sympathy
and companionship. Lady Arthur often paid them long visits in
their studio; she herself sketched a little, but she had never
excelled in any single pursuit except horsemanship, and that
she had given up at her husband's death, as she had given up
keeping much company or going often into society.
In this quiet, unexciting, regular life Lady Arthur's
antiquarian tastes grew on her, and she went on writing poetry,
the quantity of which was more remarkable than the quality,
although here and there in the mass of ore there was an
occasional sparkle from fine gold (there are few voluminous
writers in which this accident does not occur). She
superintended excavations, and made prizes of old dust and
stones and coins and jewelry (or what was called ancient
jewelry: it looked ancient enough, but more like rusty iron to
the untrained eye than jewelry) and cooking utensils supposed
to have been used by some noble savages or other. Of these and
such like she had a museum, and she visited old monuments and
cairns and Roman camps and Druidical remains and old castles,
and all old things, with increasing interest. There were a
number of places near or remote to which she was in the habit
of making periodical pilgrimages—places probably dear to
her from whim or association or natural beauty or antiquity.
When she fixed a time for such an excursion, no weather changed
her purpose: it might pour rain or deep snow might be on the
ground: she only put four horses to her carriage instead of
two, and went on her way. She was generally accompanied in
these expeditions by her two young friends, who got into the
spirit of the thing and enjoyed them amazingly. They were in
the habit of driving to some farm-house, where they left the
carriage and on foot ascended the hill they had come to call
on, most probably a hill with the marks of a Roman camp on
it—there are many such in the south of
Scotland—hills called "the rings" by the people, from the way in which the
entrenchments circle round them like rings.
Dear to Lady Arthur's heart was such a place as this. Even
when the ground was covered with snow or ice she would ascend
with the help of a stick or umbrella, a faint adumbration of
the Alpine Club when as yet the Alpine Club lurked in the
future and had given no hint of its existence. On the top of
such a hill she would eat luncheon, thinking of the dust of
legions beneath her foot, and drink wine to the memory of the
immortals. The coachman and the footman who toiled up the hill
bearing the luncheon-basket, and slipping back two steps for
every one they took forward, had by no means the same respect
for the immortal heroes. The coachman was an old servant, and
had a great regard for Lady Arthur both as his mistress and as
a lady of rank, besides being accustomed to and familiar with
her whims, and knowing, as he said, "the best and the warst o'
her;" but the footman was a new acquisition and young, and he
had not the wisdom to see at all times the duty of giving honor
to whom honor is due, nor yet had he the spirit of the born
flunkey; and his intercourse with the nobility, unfortunately,
had not impressed him with any other idea than that they were
mortals like himself; so he remarked to his fellow-servant,
"Od! ye wad think, if she likes to eat her lunch amang snawy
slush, she might get enough of it at the fut o' the hill,
without gaun to the tap."
"Weel, I'll no deny," said the older man, "but what it's
daftlike, but if it is her leddyship's pleasure, it's nae
business o' oors."
"Pleasure!" said the youth: "if she ca's this pleasure, her
friends should see about shutting her up: it's time."
"She says the Romans once lived here," said John.
"If they did," Thomas said, "I daur say they had mair
sinse than sit down to eat their dinner in the middle o' snaw
if they had a house to tak it in."
"Her leddyship does na' tak the cauld easy," said John.
"She has the constitution o' a horse," Thomas remarked.
"Man," said John, "that shows a' that ye ken about horses:
there's no a mair delicate beast on the face o' the earth than
the horse. They tell me a' the horses in London hae the
influenza the now."
"Weel, it'll be our turn next," said Thomas, "if we dinna
tak something warm."
When luncheon was over her ladyship as often as not ordered
her servants to take the carriage round by the turnpike-road to
a given point, where she arranged to meet it, while she herself
struck right over the hills as the crow flies, crossing the
burns on her way in the same manner as the Israelites crossed
the Red Sea, only the water did not stand up on each side and
leave dry ground for her to tread on; but she ignored the water
altogether, and walked straight through. The young ladies,
knowing this, took an extra supply of stockings and shoes with
them, but Lady Arthur despised such effeminate ways and drove
home in the footgear she set out in. She was a woman of robust
health, and having grown stout and elderly and red-faced, when
out on the tramp and divested of externals she might very well
have been taken for the eccentric landlady of a roadside inn or
the mistress of a luncheon-bar; and probably her young footman
did not think she answered to her own name at all.
There is a divinity that doth hedge a king, but it is the
king's wisdom to keep the hedge close and well trimmed and
allow no gaps: if there are gaps, people see through them and
the illusion is destroyed. Lady Arthur was not a heroine to her
footman; and when she traversed the snow-slush and walked right
through the burns, he merely endorsed the received opinion that
she wanted "twopence of the shilling." If she had been a poor
woman and compelled to take such a journey in such weather,
people would have felt sorry for her, and have been ready to
subscribe to help her to a more comfortable mode of traveling;
but in Lady Arthur's case of course there was nothing to be
done but to wonder at her eccentricity.
But her ladyship knew what she was
about. The sleep as well as
the food of the laboring man is sweet, and if nobility likes
to labor, it will partake of the poor man's blessing. The
party arrived back among the luxurious appointments of
Garscube Hall (which were apt to pall on them at times)
legitimately and bodily tired, and that in itself was
a sensation worth working for. They had braved difficulty
and discomfort, and not for a nonsensical and fruitless end,
either: it can never be fruitless or nonsensical to get face
to face with Nature in any of her moods. The ice-locked
streams, the driven snow, the sleep of vegetation, a burst
of sunshine over the snow, the sough of the winter wind,
Earth waiting to feel the breath of spring on her face to
waken up in youth and beauty again, like the sleeping
princess at the touch of the young prince,—all these
are things richly to be enjoyed, especially by strong,
healthy people: let chilly and shivering mortals sing about
cozy fires and drawn curtains if they like. Besides, Miss
Adamson had the eye of an artist, upon which nothing, be it
what it may, is thrown away.
But an expedition to a hill with "rings" undertaken on a
long midsummer day looked fully more enjoyable to the common
mind: John, and even the footman approved of that, and another
individual, who had become a frequent visitor at the hall,
approved of it very highly indeed, and joined such a party as
often as he could.
This was George Eildon, the only son of a brother of the
late Lord Arthur.
Now comes the tug—well, not of war, certainly, but, to
change the figure—now comes the cloud no bigger than a
man's hand which is to obscure the quiet sunshine of the
regular and exemplary life of these three ladies.
Having been eight years at Garscube Hall, as a matter of
necessity and in the ordinary course of Nature, Alice Garscube
had grown up to womanhood. With accustomed eccentricity, Lady
Arthur entirely ignored this. As for bringing her "out," as the
phrase is, she had no intention of it, considering that one of
the follies of life: Lady Arthur was always a law to herself.
Alice was a shy, amiable girl, who loved her guardian fervently
(her ladyship had the knack of gaining love, and also of
gaining the opposite in pretty decisive measure), and was
entirely swayed by her; indeed, it never occurred to her to
have a will of her own, for her nature was peculiarly sweet and
Lady Arthur thought George Eildon a good-natured, rattling
lad, with very little head. This was precisely the general
estimate that had been formed of her late husband, and people
who had known both thought George the very fac-simile of his
uncle Arthur. If her ladyship had been aware of this, it would
have made her very indignant: she had thought her husband
perfect while living, and thought of him as very much more than
perfect now that he lived only in her memory. But she made
George very welcome as often as he came: she liked to have him
in the house, and she simply never thought of Alice and him in
connection with each other. She always had a feeling of pity
"You know," she would say to Miss Adamson and
Alice—"you know, George was of consequence for the first
ten years of his life: it was thought that his uncle the duke
might never marry, and he was the heir; but when the duke
married late in life and had two sons, George was extinguished,
poor fellow! and it was hard, I allow."
"It is not pleasant to be a poor gentleman," said Miss
"It is not only not pleasant," said Lady Arthur, "but it is
a false position, which is very trying, and what few men can
fill to advantage. If George had great abilities, it might be
different, with his connection, but I doubt he is doomed to be
always as poor as a church mouse."
"He may get on in his profession perhaps," said Alice,
sharing in Lady Arthur's pity for him. (George Eildon had been
an attaché to some foreign embassy.)
"Never," said Lady Arthur decisively. "Besides, it is a
profession that is out of date now. Men don't go wilily to work
in these days; but if they
did, the notion of poor George, who could not keep a secret
or tell a lie with easy grace if it were to save his
life—the notion of making him a diplomatist is very
absurd. No doubt statesmen are better without original
ideas—their business is to pick out the practical
ideas of other men and work them well—but George wants
ability, poor fellow! They ought to have put him into the
Church: he reads well, he could have read other men's
sermons very effectively, and the duke has some good livings
in his gift."
Now, Miss Adamson had been brought up a Presbyterian of the
Presbyterians, and among people to whom "the paper" was
abhorrent: to read a sermon was a sin—to read another
man's sermon was a sin of double-dyed blackness. However,
either her opinions were being corrupted or enlightened, either
she was growing lax in principle or she was learning the lesson
of toleration, for she allowed the remarks of Lady Arthur to
pass unnoticed, so that that lady did not need to advance the
well-known opinion and practice of Sir Roger de Coverley to
prop her own.
Miss Adamson merely said, "Do you not underrate Mr. Eildon's
"I think not. If he had abilities, he would have been
showing them by this time. But of course I don't blame him: few
of the Eildons have been men of mark—none in recent times
except Lord Arthur—but they have all been respectable
men, whose lives would stand inspection; and George is the
equal of any of them in that respect. As a clergyman he would
have set a good example."
Hearing a person always pitied and spoken slightingly of
does not predispose any one to fall in love with that person.
Miss Garscube's feelings of this nature still lay very closely
folded up in the bud, and the early spring did not come at this
time to develop them in the shape of George Eildon; but Mr.
Eildon was sufficiently foolish and indiscreet to fall in love
with her. Miss Adamson was the only one of the three ladies
cognizant of this state of affairs, but as her creed was that
no one had any right to make or meddle in a thing of this kind,
she saw as if she saw not, though very much interested. She saw
that Miss Garscube was as innocent of the knowledge that she
had made a conquest as it was possible to be, and she felt
surprised that Lady Arthur's sight was not sharper. But Lady
Arthur was—or at least had been—a woman of the
world, and the idea of a penniless man allowing himself to fall
in love seriously with a penniless girl in actual life could
not find admission into her mind: if she had been writing a
ballad it would have been different; indeed, if you had only
known Lady Arthur through her poetry, you might have believed
her to be a very, romantic, sentimental, unworldly person, for
she really was all that—on paper.
Mr. Eildon was very frequently in the studio where Miss
Adamson and her pupil worked, and he was always ready to
accompany them in their excursions, and, Lady Arthur said,
"really made himself very useful."
It has been said that John and Thomas both approved of her
ladyship's summer expeditions in search of the picturesque, or
whatever else she might take it into her head to look for; and
when she issued orders for a day among the hills in a certain
month of August, which had been a specially fine month in point
of weather, every one was pleased. But John and Thomas found it
nearly as hard work climbing with the luncheon-basket in the
heat of the midsummer sun as it was when they climbed to the
same elevation in midwinter; only they did not slip back so
fast, nor did they feel that they were art and part in a
"Here," said Lady Arthur, raising her glass to her
lips—"here is to the memory of the Romans, on whose dust
we are resting."
"Amen!" said Mr. Eildon; "but I am afraid you don't find
their dust a very soft resting-place: they were always a hard
people, the Romans."
"They were a people I admire," said Lady Arthur. "If they
had not been called away by bad news from home, if they had
been able to stay, our civilization might have been a much
older thing than it is.—What do
you think, John?" she said, addressing her faithful
servitor. "Less than a thousand years ago all that stretch
of country that we see so richly cultivated and studded with
cozy farm-houses was brushwood and swamp, with a handful of
savage inhabitants living in wigwams and dressing in
"It may be so," said John—"no doubt yer leddyship kens
best—but I have this to say: if they were savages they
had the makin' o' men in them. Naebody'll gar me believe that
the stock yer leddyship and me cam o' was na a capital gude
"All right, John," said Mr. Eildon, "if you include me."
"It was a long time to take, surely," said Alice—"a
thousand years to bring the country from brushwood and swamp to
corn and burns confined to their beds,"
"Nature is never in a hurry, Alice," replied Lady
"But she is always busy in a wonderfully quiet way," said
Miss Adamson. "Whenever man begins to work he makes a noise,
but no one hears the corn grow or the leaves burst their
sheaths: even the clouds move with noiseless grace."
"The clouds are what no one can understand yet, I suppose,"
said Mr. Eildon, "but they don't always look as if butter
wouldn't melt in their mouths, as they are doing to-day. What
do you say to thunder?"
"That is an exception: Nature does all her best work
"So does man," remarked George Eildon.
"Well, I dare say you are right, after all," said Miss
Adamson, who was sketching. "I wish I could paint in the
glitter on the blade of that reaping-machine down in the haugh
there: see, it gleams every time the sun's rays hit it. It is
curious how Nature makes the most of everything to heighten her
picture, and yet never makes her bright points too
Just at that moment the sun's rays seized a small pane of
glass in the roof of a house two or three miles off down the
valley, and it shot out light and sparkles that dazzled the eye
to look at.
"That is a fine effect," cried Alice: "it looks like the eye
of an archangel kindling up,"
"What a flight of fancy, Alice!" Lady Arthur said. "That
reaping-machine does its work very well, but it will be a long
time before it gathers a crust of poetry about it: stopping to
clear a stone out of its way is different from a lad and a lass
on the harvest-rig, the one stopping to take a thorn out of the
finger of the other."
"There are so many wonderful things," said Alice, "that one
gets always lost among them. How the clouds float is wonderful,
and that with the same earth below and the same heaven above,
the heather should be purple, and the corn yellow, and the
ferns green, is wonderful; but not so wonderful, I think, as
that a man by the touch of genius should have made every one
interested in a field-laborer taking a thorn out of the hand of
another field-laborer. Catch your poet, and he'll soon make the
"Get a thorn into your finger, Alice," said George Eildon,
"and I'll take it out if it is so interesting."
"You could not make it interesting," said she.
"Just try," he said.
"But trying won't do. You know as well as I that there are
things no trying will ever do. I am trying to paint, for
instance, and in time I shall copy pretty well, but I shall
never do more."
"Hush, hush!" said Miss Adamson. "I'm often enough in
despair myself, and hearing you say that makes me worse. I
rebel at having got just so much brain and no more; but I
suppose," she said with a sigh, "if we make the best of what we
have, it's all right, and if we had well-balanced minds we
should be contented."
"Would you like to stay here longer among the hills and the
sheep?" said Lady Arthur. "I have just remembered that I want
silks for my embroidery, and I have time to go to town: I can
catch the afternoon train. Do any of you care to go?"
"It is good to be here," said Mr.
Eildon, "but as we can't stay
always, we may as well go now. I suppose."
And John, accustomed to sudden orders, hurried off to get
his horses put to the carriage.
Lady Arthur, upon the whole, approved of railways, but did
not use them much except upon occasion; and it was only by
taking the train she could reach town and be home for dinner on
They reached the station in time, and no more. Mr. Eildon
ran and got tickets, and John was ordered to be at the station
nearest Garscube Hall to meet them when they returned.
Embroidery, being an art which high-born dames have
practiced from the earliest ages, was an employment that had
always found favor in the sight of Lady Arthur, and to which
she turned when she wanted change of occupation. She took a
very short time to select her materials, and they were back and
seated in the railway carriage fully ten minutes before the
train started. They beguiled the time by looking about the
station: it was rather a different scene from that where they
had been in the fore part of the day.
"There's surely a mistake," said Mr. Eildon, pointing to a
large picture hanging on the wall of three sewing-machines
worked by three ladies, the one in the middle being Queen
Elizabeth in her ruff, the one on the right Queen Victoria in
her widow's cap: the princess of Wales was very busy at the
third. "Is not that what is called an anachronism, Miss
Adamson? Are not sewing-machines a recent invention? There were
none in Elizabeth's time, I think?"
"There are people," said Lady Arthur, "who have neither
common sense nor a sense of the ridiculous."
"But they have a sense of what will pay," answered her
nephew. "That appeals to the heart of the nation—that is,
to the masculine heart. If Queen Bess had been handling a
lancet, and Queen Vic pounding in a mortar with a pestle,
assisted by her daughter-in-law, the case would have been
different; but they are at useful womanly work, and the
machines will sell. They have fixed themselves in our memories
already: that's the object the advertiser had when he pressed
the passion of loyalty into his service."
"How will the strong-minded Tudor lady like to see herself
revived in that fashion, if she can see it?" asked Miss
"She'll like it well, judging by myself," said George:
"that's true fame. I should be content to sit cross-legged on a
board, stitching pulpit-robes, in a picture, if I were sure it
would be hung up three hundred years after this at all the
balloon-stations and have the then Miss Garscubes making
remarks about me."
"They might not make very complimentary remarks, perhaps,"
"If they thought of me at all I should be satisfied," said
"Couldn't you invent an iron bed, then?" said Miss Adamson,
looking at a representation of these articles hanging alongside
the three royal ladies. "Perhaps they'll last three hundred
years, and if you could bind yourself up with the idea of sweet
"They won't last three hundred years," said Lady
Arthur—"cheap and nasty, new-fangled things!"
"They maybe cheap and nasty," said George, "but new-fangled
they are not: they must be some thousands of years old. I am
afraid, my dear aunt, you don't read your Bible."
"Don't drag the Bible in among your nonsense. What has it to
do with iron beds?" said Lady Arthur.
"If you look into Deuteronomy, third chapter and eleventh
verse," said he "you'll find that Og, king of Bashar used an
iron bed. It is probably in existence yet, and it must be quite
old enough to make it worth your while to look after it:
perhaps Mr. Cook would personally conduct you, or if not I
should be glad to be your escort."
"Thank you," she said: "when I go in search of Og's bed I'll
take you with me."
"You could not do better: I have the scent of a sleuth-hound
As they were speaking a man came and hung up beside the
queens and the iron beds a big white board
on which were printed in large black letters the words, "My
Mother and I"—nothing more.
"What can the meaning of that be?" asked Lady
"To make you ask the meaning of it," said Mr. Eildon. "I who
am skilled in these matters have no doubt that it is the herald
of some soothing syrup for the human race under the trials of
teething." He was standing at the carriage-door till the train
would start, and he stood aside to let a young lady and a boy
in deep mourning enter. The pair were hardly seated when the
girl's eye fell on the great white board and its announcement.
She bent her head and hid her face in her handkerchief: it was
not difficult to guess that she had very recently parted with
her mother for ever, and the words on the board were more than
she could stand unmoved.
Miss Adamson too had been thinking of her mother, the
hard-working woman who had toiled in her little shop to support
her sickly husband and educate her daughter—the kindly
patient face, the hands that had never spared themselves, the
footsteps that had plodded so incessantly to and fro. The all
that had been gone so long came back to her, and she felt
almost the pang of first separation, when it seemed as if the
end of her life had been extinguished and the motive-power for
work had gone. But she carried her mother in her heart: with
her it was still "my mother and I."
Lady Arthur did not think of her mother: she had lost her
early, and besides, her thoughts and feelings had been all
absorbed by her husband.
Alice Garscube had never known her mother, and as she looked
gravely at the girl who was crying behind her handkerchief, she
envied her—she had known her mother.
As for Mr. Eildon, he had none but bright and happy thoughts
connected with his mother. It was true, she was a widow, but
she was a kind and stately lady, round whom her family moved as
round a sun and centre, giving light and heat and all good
cheer; he could afford to joke about "my mother and I."
What a vast deal of varied emotion these words must have
stirred in the multitudes of travelers coming and going in all
In jumping into the carriage when the last bell rang, Mr.
Eildon missed his footing and fell back, with no greater
injury, fortunately, than grazing the skin, of his hand.
"Is it much hurt?" Lady Arthur asked.
He held it up and said, "'Who ran to help me when I
"The guard," said Miss Garscube.
"'Who kissed the place to make it well?'" he continued.
"You might have been killed," said Miss Adamson.
"That would not have been a pretty story to tell," he said.
"I shall need to wait till I get home for the means of cure:
'my mother and I' will manage it. You're not of a pitiful
nature, Miss Garscube."
"I keep my pity for a pitiful occasion," she said.
"If you had grazed your hand, I would have applied the
"Well, but I'm very glad I have not grazed my hand,"
"So am I," he said.
"Let me see it," she said. He held it out. "Would something
not need to be done for it?" she asked.
"Yes. Is it interesting—as interesting as the
"It is nothing," said Lady Arthur: "a little lukewarm water
is all that it needs;" and she thought, "That lad will never do
anything either for himself or to add to the prestige of the
family. I hope his cousins have more ability."
But what these cousins were to turn out no one knew. They
had that rank which gives a man what is equivalent to a start
of half a lifetime over his fellows, and they promised well;
but they were only boys as yet, and Nature puts forth many a
choice blossom and bud that never comes to maturity, or,
meeting with blight or canker on the way, turns out poor fruit.
The eldest, a lad in his teens, was traveling on the Continent
with a tutor: the second, a boy who had
been always delicate, was at
home on account of his health. George Eildon was intimate
with both, and loved them with a love as true as that he
bore to Alice Garscube: it never occurred to him that they
had come into the world to keep him out of his inheritance.
He would have laughed at such an idea. Many people would
have said that he was laughing on the wrong side of his
mouth: the worldly never can understand the unworldly.
Mr. Eildon gave Miss Garscube credit for being at least as
unworldly as himself: he believed thoroughly in her
genuineness, her fresh, unspotted nature; and, the wish being
very strong, he believed that she had a kindness for him.
When he and his hand got home he found it quite able to
write her a letter, or rather not so much a letter as a burst
of enthusiastic aspiration, asking her to marry him.
She was startled; and never having decided on anything in
her life, she carried this letter direct to Lady Arthur.
"Here's a thing," she said, "that I don't know what to think
"What kind of thing, Alice?"
"Who is it from?"
"Indeed! I should not think a letter from him would be a
complicated affair or difficult to understand."
"Neither is it: perhaps you would read it?"
"Certainly, if you wish it." When she had read the document
she said, "Well I never gave George credit for much wisdom, but
I did not think he was foolish enough for a thing like this;
and I never suspected it. Are you in love too?" and Lady Arthur
laughed heartily: it seemed to strike her in a comic light.
"No. I never thought of it or of him either," Alice said,
feeling queer and uncomfortable.
"Then that simplifies matters. I always thought George's
only chance in life was to marry a wealthy woman, and how many
good, accomplished women there are, positively made of money,
who would give anything to marry into our family!"
"Are there?" said Alice.
"To be sure there are. Only the other day I read in a
newspaper that people are all so rich now money is no
distinction: rank is, however. You can't make a lawyer or a
shipowner or an ironmaster into a peer of several hundred
"No, you can't," said Alice; "but Mr. Eildon is not a peer,
"No, but he is the grandson of one duke and the nephew of
another; and if he could work for it he might have a peerage of
his own, or if he had great wealth he would probably get one.
For my own part, I don't count much on rank or wealth" (she
believed this), "but they are privileges people have no right
to throw away."
"Not even if they don't care for them?" asked Alice,
"No: whatever you have it is your duty to care for and make
the best of."
"Then, what am I to say to Mr. Eildon?"
"Tell him it is absurd; and whatever you say, put it
strongly, that there may be no more of it. Why, he must know
that you would be beggars."
Acting up to her instructions, Alice wrote thus to Mr.
"DEAR MR. EILDON: Your letter surprised me. Lady Arthur
says it is absurd; besides, I don't care for you a bit. I
don't mean that I dislike you, for I don't dislike any one.
We wonder you could be so foolish, and Lady Arthur says
there must be no more of it; and she is right. I hope you
will forget all about this, and believe me to be your true
"P.S. Lady Arthur says you haven't got anything to live
on; but if you had all the wealth in the world, it wouldn't
make any difference.
This note fell into George Eildon's mind like molten lead
dropped on living flesh. "She is not what I took her to be," he
said to himself, "or she never could have written that, even at
Lady Arthur's suggestion; and Lady Arthur ought to have known
And she certainly ought to have known
better; yet he might have
found some excuse for Alice if he had allowed himself to
think, but he did not: he only felt, and felt very
In saying that Mr. Eildon and Miss Garscube were penniless,
the remark is not to be taken literally, for he had an income
of fifteen hundred pounds, and she had five hundred a year of
her own; but in the eyes of people moving in ducal circles
matrimony on two thousand pounds seems as improvident a step as
that of the Irishman who marries when he has accumulated
sixpence appears to ordinary beings.
Mr. Eildon spent six weeks at a shooting-box belonging to
his uncle the duke, after which he went to London, where he got
a post under government—a place which was by no means a
sinecure, but where there was plenty of work not over-paid.
Before leaving he called for a few minutes at Garscube Hall to
say good-bye, and that was all they saw of him.
Alice missed him: a very good thing, of which she had been
as unconscious as she was of the atmosphere, had been withdrawn
from her life. George's letter had nailed him to her memory:
she thought of him very often, and that is a dangerous thing
for a young lady to do if she means to keep herself entirely
fancy free. She wondered if his work was very hard work, and if
he was shut in an office all day; she did not think he was made
for that; it seemed as unnatural as putting a bird into a cage.
She made some remark of this kind to Lady Arthur, who laughed
and said, "Oh, George won't kill himself with hard work." From
that time forth Alice was shy of speaking of him to his aunt.
But she had kept his letter, and indulged herself with a
reading of it occasionally; and every time she read it she
seemed to understand it better. It was a mystery to her how she
had been so intensely stupid as not to understand it at first.
And when she found a copy of her own answer to it among her
papers—one she had thrown aside on account of a big
blot—she wondered if it was possible she had sent such a
thing, and tears of shame and regret stood in her eyes. "How
frightfully blind I was!" she said to herself. But there was no
help for it: the thing was done, and could not be undone. She
had grown in wisdom since then, but most people reach wisdom
through ignorance and folly.
In these circumstances she found Miss Adamson a very
valuable friend. Miss Adamson had never shared Lady Arthur's
low estimate of Mr. Eildon: she liked his sweet, unworldly
nature, and she had a regard for him as having aims both lower
and higher than a "career." That he should love Miss Garscube
seemed to her natural and good, and that happiness might be
possible even to a duke's grandson on such a pittance as two
thousand pounds a year was an article of her belief: she pitied
people who go through life sacrificing the substance for the
shadow. Yes, Miss Garscube could speak of Mr. Eildon to her
friend and teacher, and be sure of some remark that gave her
A year sped round again, and they heard of Mr. Eildon being
in Scotland at the shooting, and as he was not very far off,
they expected to see him any time. But it was getting to the
end of September, and he had paid no visit, when one day, as
the ladies were sitting at luncheon, he came in, looking very
white and agitated. They were all startled: Miss Garscube grew
white also, and felt herself trembling. Lady Arthur rose
hurriedly and said, "What is it, George? what's the
"A strange thing has happened," he said. "I only heard of it
a few minutes ago: a man rode after me with the telegram. My
cousin George—Lord Eildon—has fallen down a
crevasse in the Alps and been killed. Only a week ago I parted
with him full of life and spirit, and I loved him as if he had
been my brother;" and he bent his head to hide tears.
They were all silent for some moments: then in a low voice
Lady Arthur said, "I am sorry for his father."
"I am sorry for them all," George said. "It is terrible;"
then after a little he said,
"You'll excuse my leaving
you: I am going to Eildon at once: I may be of some service
to them. I don't know how Frank will be able to bear
After he had gone away Alice felt how thoroughly she was
nothing to him now: there had been no sign in his manner that
he had ever thought of her at all, more than of any other
ordinary acquaintance. If he had only looked to her for the
least sympathy! But he had not. "If he only knew how well I
understand him now!" she thought.
"It is a dreadful accident," said Lady Arthur, "and I am
sorry for the duke and duchess." She said this in a calm way.
It had always been her opinion that Lord Arthur's relations had
never seen the magnitude of her loss, and this feeling
lowered the temperature of her sympathy, as a wind blowing over
ice cools the atmosphere. "I think George's grief very
genuine," she continued: "at the same time he can't but see
that there is only that delicate lad's life, that has been
hanging so long by a hair, between him and the title."
"Lady Arthur!" exclaimed Alice in warm tones.
"I know, my dear, you are thinking me very unfeeling, but I
am not: I am only a good deal older than you. George's position
to-day is very different from what it was a year ago. If he
were to write to you again, I would advise another kind of
"He'll never write again," said Alice in a tone which struck
the ear of Lady Arthur, so that when the young girl left the
room she turned to Miss Adamson and said, "Do you think she
really cares about him?"
"She has not made me her confidante," that lady answered,
"but my own opinion is that she does care a good deal for Mr.
"Do you really think so?" exclaimed Lady Arthur. "She said
she did not at the time, and I thought then, and think still,
that it would not signify much to George whom he married; and
you know he would be so much the better for money. But if he is
to be his uncle's successor, that alters the case entirely.
I'll go to Eildon myself, and bring him back with me."
Lady Arthur went to Eildon and mingled her tears with those
of the stricken parents, whose grief might have moved a very
much harder heart than hers. But they did not see the state of
their only remaining son as Lady Arthur and others saw it; for,
while it was commonly thought that he would hardly reach
maturity, they were sanguine enough to believe that he was
outgrowing the delicacy of his childhood.
Lady Arthur asked George to return with her to Garscube
Hall, but he said he could not possibly do so. Then she said
she had told Miss Adamson and Alice that she would bring him
with her, and they would be disappointed.
"Tell them," he said, "that I have very little time to
spare, and I must spend it with Frank, when I am sure they will
They excused him, but they were not the less disappointed,
all the three ladies; indeed, they were so much disappointed
that they did not speak of the thing to each other, as people
chatter over and thereby evaporate a trifling defeat of
Mr. Eildon left his cousin only to visit his mother and
sisters for a day, and then returned to London; from which it
appeared that he was not excessively anxious to visit Garscube
But everything there went on as usual. The ladies painted,
they went excursions, they wrote ballads; still, there was a
sense of something being amiss—the heart of their lives
seemed dull in its beat.
The more Lady Arthur thought of having sent away such a
matrimonial prize from her house, the more she was chagrined;
the more Miss Garscube tried not to think of Mr. Eildon, the
more her thoughts would run upon him; and even Miss Adamson,
who had nothing to regret or reproach herself with, could not
help being influenced by the change of atmosphere.
Lady Arthur's thoughts issued in the resolution to re-enter
society once more; which resolution she imparted to Miss
Adamson in the first instance by saying
that she meant to go to
London next season.
"Then our plan of life here will be quite broken up," said
"Yes, for a time."
"I thought you disliked society?"
"I don't much like it: it is on account of Alice I am going.
I may just as well tell you: I want to bring her and George
together again if possible."
"Will she go if she knows that is your end?"
"She need not know."
"It is not a very dignified course," Miss Adamson said.
"No, and if it were an ordinary case I should not think of
"But you think him a very ordinary man?"
"A duke is different. Consider what an amount of influence
Alice would have, and how well she would use it; and he may
marry a vain, frivolous, senseless woman, incapable of a good
action. Indeed, most likely, for such people are sure to hunt
"I would not join in the hunt," said Miss Adamson. "If he is
the man you suppose him to be, the wound his self-love got will
have killed his love; and if he is the man I think, no hunters
will make him their prey. A small man would know instantly why
you went to London, and enjoy his triumph."
"I don't think George would: he is too simple; but if I did
not think it a positive duty, I would not go. However, we shall
see: I don't think of going before the middle of January."
Positive duties can be like the animals that change color
with what they feed on.
When the middle of January came, Lady Arthur, who had never
had an illness in her life, was measuring her strength in a
hand-to-hand struggle with fever. The water was blamed, the
drainage was blamed, various things were blamed. Whether it
came in the water or out of the drains, gastric fever had
arrived at Garscube Hall: the gardener took it, his daughter
took it, also Thomas the footman, and others of the
inhabitants, as well as Lady Arthur. The doctor of the place
came and lived In the house; besides that, two of the chief
medical men from town paid almost daily visits. Bottles of the
water supplied to the hall were sent to eminent chemists for
analysis: the drainage was thoroughly examined, and men were
set to make it as perfect and innocuous as it is in the nature
of drainage to be.
Lady Arthur wished Miss Adamson and Alice to leave the place
for a time, but they would not do so: neither of them was
afraid, and they stayed and nursed her ladyship well, relieving
each other as it was necessary.
At one point of her illness Lady Arthur said to Miss
Adamson, who was alone with her, "Well, I never counted on
this. Our family have all had a trick of living to extreme old
age, never dying till they could not help it; but it will be
grand to get away so soon."
Miss Adamson looked at her. "Yes," she said, "it's a poor
thing, life, after the glory of it is gone, and I have always
had an intense curiosity to see what is beyond. I never could
see the sense of making a great ado to keep people alive after
they are fifty. Don't look surprised. How are the rest of the
people that are ill?" She often asked for them, and expressed
great satisfaction when told they were recovering. "It will be
all right," she said, "if I am the only death in the place; but
there is one thing I want you to do. Send off a telegram to
George Eildon and tell him I want to see him immediately: a
dying person can say what a living one can't, and I'll make it
all right between Alice and him before I go."
Miss Adamson despatched the telegram to Mr. Eildon, knowing
that she could not refuse to do Lady Arthur's bidding at such a
time, although her feeling was against it. The answer came: Mr.
Eildon had just sailed for Australia.
When Lady Arthur heard this she said, "I'll write to him."
When she had finished writing she said, "You'll send this to
him whenever you get his address. I wish we could have sent it
off at once, for it will be provoking if I don't die,
after all; and I positively
begin to feel as if that were not going to be my luck at
Although she spoke in this way, Miss Adamson knew it was not
from foolish irreverence. She recovered, and all who had had
the fever recovered, which was remarkable, for in other places
it had been very fatal.
With Lady Arthur's returning strength things at the hall
wore into their old channels again. When it was considered safe
many visits of congratulation were paid, and among others who
came were George Eildon's mother and some of his sisters. They
were constantly having letters from George: he had gone off
very suddenly, and it was not certain when he might return.
Alice heard of George Eildon with interest, but not with the
vital interest she had felt in him for a time: that had worn
away. She had done her best to this end by keeping herself
always occupied, and many things had happened in the interval;
besides, she had grown a woman, with all the good sense and
right feeling belonging to womanhood, and she would have been
ashamed to cherish a love for one who had entirely forgotten
her. She dismissed her childish letter, which had given her so
much vexation, from her memory, feeling sure that George Eildon
had also forgotten it long ago. She did not know of the letter
Lady Arthur had written when she believed herself to be dying,
and it was well she did not.
Every one who watched the sun rise on New Year's morning,
1875, will bear witness to the beauty of the sight. Snow had
been lying all over the country for some time, and a fortnight
of frost had made it hard and dry and crisp. The streams must
have felt very queer when they were dropping off into the
mesmeric trance, and found themselves stopped in the very act
of running, their supple limbs growing stiff and heavy and
their voices dying in their throats, till they were thrown into
a deep sleep, and a strange white, still, glassy beauty stole
over them by the magic power of frost. The sun got up rather
late, no doubt—between eight and nine
o'clock—probably saying to himself, "These people think I
have lost my power—that the Ice King has it all his own
way. I'll let them see: I'll make his glory pale before
Lady Arthur was standing at her window when she saw him look
over the shoulder of a hill and throw a brilliant deep gold
light all over the land covered with snow as with a garment,
and every minute crystal glittered as if multitudes of little
eyes had suddenly opened and were gleaming and winking under
his gaze. To say that the bosom of Mother Earth was crusted
with diamonds is to give the impression of dullness unless each
diamond could be endowed with life and emotion. Then he threw
out shaft after shaft of color—scarlet and crimson and
blue and amber and green—which gleamed along the heavens,
kindling the cold white snow below them into a passion of
beauty: the colors floated and changed form, and mingled and
died away. Then the sun drew his thick winter clouds about him,
disappeared, and was no more seen that day. He had vindicated
Lady Arthur thought it was going to be a bright winter day,
and at breakfast she proposed a drive to Cockhoolet Castle, an
old place within driving distance to which she paid periodical
visits: they would take luncheon on the battlements and see all
over the country, which must be looking grand in its bridal
John was called in and asked if he did not think it was
going to be a fine day. He glanced through the windows at the
dark, suspicious-looking clouds and said, "Weel, my leddy, I'll
no uphaud it." This was the answer of a courtier and an oracle,
not to mention a Scotchman. It did not contradict Lady Arthur,
it did not commit himself, and it was cautious.
"I think it will be a fine day of its kind," said the lady,
"and we'll drive to Cockhoolet. Have the carriage ready at
"If we dinna wun a' the gate, we can but turn again," John
thought as he retired to execute his
"It is not looking so well as it did in the morning," said
Miss Adamson as they entered the carriage, "but if we have an
adventure we shall be the better for it."
"We shall have no such luck," said Lady Arthur: "what ever
happens out of the usual way now? There used to be glorious
snowstorms long ago, but the winters have lost their rigor, and
there are no such long summer days now as there were when I was
young. Neither persons nor things have that spirit in them they
used to have;" and she smiled, catching in thought the fact
that to the young the world is still as fresh and fair as it
has appeared to all the successive generations it has carried
on its surface.
"This is a wiselike expedition," said Thomas to John.
"Ay," said John, "I'm mista'en if this is no a day that'll
be heard tell o' yet;" and they mounted to their respective
places and started.
The sky was very grim and the wind had been gradually
rising. The three ladies sat each in her corner, saying little,
and feeling that this drive was certainly a means to an end,
and not an end in itself. Their pace had not been very quick
from the first, but it became gradually slower, and the hard
dry snow was drifting past the windows in clouds. At last they
came to a stand altogether, and John appeared at the window
like a white column and said, "My leddy, we'll hae to stop
"Because it's impossible to wun ony farrer."
"Nonsense! There's no such word as impossible."
"The beasts might maybe get through, but they wad leave the
carriage ahint them."
"Let me out to look about," said Lady Arthur.
"Ye had better bide where ye are," said John: "there's
naething to be seen, and ye wad but get yersel' a' snaw. We
might try to gang back the road we cam."
"Decidedly not," said Lady Arthur, whose spirits were rising
to the occasion: "we can't be far from Cockhoolet here?"
"Between twa and three mile," said John dryly.
"We'll get out and walk," said her ladyship, looking at the
"Wi' the wind in yer teeth, and sinking up to yer cuits at
every step? Ye wad either be blawn ower the muir like a
feather, or planted amang the snaw like Lot's wife. I might
maybe force my way through, but I canna leave the horses," said
Lady Arthur was fully more concerned for her horses than
herself: she said, "Take out the horses and go to Cockhoolet:
leave them to rest and feed, and tell Mr. Ormiston to send for
us. We'll sit here very comfortably till you come back: it
won't take you long. Thomas will go too, but give us in the
The men, being refreshed from the basket, set off with the
horses, leaving the ladies getting rapidly snowed up in the
carriage. As the wind rose almost to a gale, Lady Arthur
remarked "that it was at least better to be stuck firm among
the snow than to be blown away."
It is a grand thing to suffer in a great cause, but if you
suffer merely because you have done a "daftlike" thing, the
satisfaction is not the same.
The snow sifted into the carriage at the minutest crevice
like fine dust, and, melting, became cold, clammy and
uncomfortable. To be set down in a glass case on a moor without
shelter in the height of a snowstorm has only one
recommendation: it is an uncommon situation, a novel
experience. The ladies—at least Lady Arthur—must,
one would think, have felt foolish, but it is a chief
qualification in a leader that he never acknowledges that he is
in the wrong: if he once does that, his prestige is gone.
The first hour of isolation wore away pretty well, owing to
the novelty of the the position; the second also, being devoted
to luncheon; the third dragged a good deal; but when it came to
the fourth; with light beginning to fail and no word of rescue,
matters looked serious. The cold was becoming intense—a
chill, damp cold that struck every
living thing through and through. What could be keeping the
men? Had they lost their way, or what could possibly have
"This is something like an adventure," said Lady Arthur
"It might pass for one," said Miss Adamson, "if we could see
our way out of it. I wonder if we shall have to sit here all
"If we do," said Lady Arthur, "we can have no hope of wild
beasts scenting us out or of being attacked by banditti."
"Nor of any enamored gentleman coming to the rescue," said
Miss Adamson: "it will end tamely enough. I remember reading a
story of travel among savages, in which at the close of the
monthly instalment the travelers were left buried alive except
their heads, which were above ground, but set on fire. That was
a very striking situation, yet it all came right; so there is
hope for us, I think."
"Oh, don't make me laugh," said Alice: "I really can't
laugh, I am so stiff with cold."
"It's a fine discipline to our patience to sit here," said
Lady Arthur. "If I had thought we should have to wait so long,
I would have tried what I could do while it was light."
At length they heard a movement among the snow, and voices,
and immediately a light appeared at the window, shining through
the snow-blind, which was swept down by an arm and the
"Are you all safe?" were the first words they heard.
"In the name of wonder, George, how are you here? Where are
John and Thomas?" cried Lady Arthur.
"I'll tell you all about it after," said George Eildon: "the
thing is to get you out of this scrape. I have a farm-cart and
pair, and two men to help me: you must just put up with
roughing it a little."
"Oh, I am so thankful!" said Alice.
The ladies were assisted out of the carriage into the cart,
and settled among plenty of straw and rugs and shawls, with
their backs to the blast. Mr. Eildon shut the door of the
carriage, which was left to its fate, and then got in and sat
at the feet of the ladies. Mr. Ormiston's servant mounted the
trace-horse and Thomas sat on the front of the cart, and the
cavalcade started to toil through the snow.
"Do tell us, George, how you are here. I thought it was only
heroes of romance that turned up when their services were
"There have been a good many heroes of romance to-day," said
Mr. Eildon. "The railways have been blocked in all directions;
three trains with about six hundred passengers have been
brought to a stand at the Drumhead Station near this; many of
the people have been half frozen and sick and fainting. I was
in the train going south, and very anxious to get on, but it
was impossible. I got to Cockhoolet with a number of exhausted
travelers just as your man arrived, and we came off as soon as
we could to look for you. You have stood the thing much better
than many of my fellow-travelers."
"Indeed!" said Lady Arthur, "and have all the poor people
"Most of them are at the station-house and various
farm-houses. Mr. Forester, Mr. Ormiston's son-in-law, started
to bring up the last of them just as I started for you."
"Well, I must say I have enjoyed it," Lady Arthur said, "but
how are we to get home to-night?"
"You'll not get home to-night: you'll have to stay at
Cockhoolet, and be glad if you can get home to-morrow."
"And where have you come from, and where are you going to?"
"I came from London—I have only been a week home from
Australia—and I am on my way to Eildon. But here we
And the hospitable doors of Cockhoolet were thrown wide,
sending out a glow of light to welcome the belated
Mrs. Ormiston and her daughter, Mrs. Forester—who with
her husband was on a visit at Cockhoolet—received them
and took them to rooms where
fires made what seemed tropical heat compared with the
atmosphere in the glass case on the moor.
Miss Garscube was able for nothing but to go to bed, and
Miss Adamson stayed with her in the room called Queen Mary's,
being the room that unfortunate lady occupied when she visited
On this night the castle must have thought old times had
come back again, there was such a large and miscellaneous
company beneath its roof. But where were the knights in armor,
the courtiers in velvet and satin, the boars' heads, the
venison pasties, the wassail-bowls? Where were the stately
dames in stiff brocade, the shaven priests, the fool in motley,
the vassals, the yeomen in hodden gray and broad blue bonnet?
Not there, certainly.
No doubt, Lady Arthur Eildon was a direct descendant of one
of "the queen's Maries," but in her rusty black gown, her old
black bonnet set awry on her head, her red face, her stout
figure, made stouter by a sealskin jacket, you could not at a
glance see the connection. The house of Eildon was pretty
closely connected with the house of Stuart, but George Eildon
in his tweed suit, waterproof and wideawake looked neither
royal nor romantic. We may be almost sure that there was a fool
or fools in the company, but they did not wear motley. In
short, as yet it is difficult to connect the idea of romance
with railway rugs, waterproofs, India-rubbers and wide-awakes
and the steam of tea and coffee: three hundred years hence
perhaps it may be possible. Who knows? But for all that,
romances go on, we may be sure, whether people are clad in
velvet or hodden gray.
Lady Arthur was framing a romance—a romance which had
as much of the purely worldly in it as a romance can hold. She
found that George was on his way to see his cousin, Lord
Eildon, who within two days had had a severe access of illness.
It seemed to her a matter of certainty that George would be
duke of Eildon some day. If she had only had the capacity to
have despatched that letter she had written when she believed
she was dying, after him to Australia! Could she send it to him
yet? She hesitated: she could hardly bring herself to
compromise the dignity of Alice, and her own. She had a short
talk with him before they separated for the night.
"I think you should go home by railway to-morrow," he said.
"It is blowing fresh now, and the trains will all be running
to-morrow. I am sorry I have to go by the first in the morning,
so I shall probably not see you then,"
"I don't know," she said: "it is a question if Alice will be
able to travel at all to-morrow."
"She is not ill, is she?" he said. "It is only a little
fatigue from exposure that ails her, isn't it?"
"But it may have bad consequences," said Lady Arthur: "one
never can tell;" and she spoke in an injured way, for George's
tones were not encouraging. "And John, my coachman—I
haven't seen him—he ought to have been at hand at least:
if I could depend on any one, I thought it was him."
"Why, he was overcome in the drift to-day: your other man
had to leave him behind and ride forward for help. It was
digging him out of the snow that kept us so long in getting to
you. He has been in bed ever since, but he is getting round
"I ought to have known that sooner," she said.
"I did not want to alarm you unnecessarily."
"I must go and see him;" and she held out her hand to say
good-night. "But you'll come to Garscube Hall soon: I shall be
anxious to hear what you think of Frank. When will you
"I'll write," he said.
Lady Arthur felt that opportunity was slipping from her, and
she grew desperate. "Speaking of writing," she said, "I wrote
to you when I had the fever last year and thought I was dying:
would you like to see that letter?"
"No," he said: "I prefer you living."
"Have you no curiosity? People can say things dying that
they couldn't say living,
"Well, they have no business to do so," he said. "It is
taking an unfair advantage, which a generous nature never does;
besides, it is more solemn to live than die."
"Then you don't want the letter?"
"Oh yes, if you like."
"Very well: I'll think of it. Can you show me the way to
John's place of refuge?"
They found John sitting up in bed, and Mrs, Ormiston
ministering to him: the remains of a fowl were on a plate
beside him, and he was lifting a glass of something comfortable
to his lips.
"I never knew of this, John," said his mistress, "till just
a few minutes ago. This is sad."
"Weel, it doesna look very sad," said John, eying the plate
and the glass. "Yer leddyship and me hae gang mony a daftlike
road, but I think we fairly catched it the day."
"I don't know how we can be grateful enough to you, Mrs.
Ormiston," said Lady Arthur, turning to their hostess.
"Well, you know we could hardly be so churlish as to shut
our doors on storm-stayed travelers: we are very glad that we
had it in our power to help them a little."
"It's by ordinar' gude quarters," said John: "I've railly
enjoyed that hen. Is 't no time yer leddyship was in yer bed,
after siccan a day's wark?"
"We'll take the hint, John," said Lady Arthur; and in a
little while longer most of Mr. Ormiston's unexpected guests
had lost sight of the day's adventure in sleep.
By dawn of the winter's morning all the company, the railway
pilgrims, were astir again—not to visit a shrine, or
attend a tournament, or to go hunting or hawking, or to engage
in a foray or rieving expedition, as guests of former days at
the castle may have done, but quietly to make their way to the
station as the different trains came up, the fresh wind having
done more to clear the way than the army of men that had been
set to work with pickaxe and shovel. But although the railways
and the tweeds and the India-rubbers were modern, the castle
and the snow and the hospitality were all very
old-fashioned—the snow as old as that lying round the
North Pole, and as unadulterated; the hospitality old as when
Eve entertained Raphael in Eden, and as true, blessing those
that give and those that take.
Mr. Eildon left with the first party that went to the
station; Lady Arthur and the young ladies went away at midday;
John was left to take care of himself and his carriage till
both should be more fit for traveling.
Of the three ladies, Alice had suffered most from the severe
cold, and it was some time before she entirely recovered from
the effects of it. Lady Arthur convinced herself that it was
not merely the effects of cold she was suffering from, and
talked the case over with Miss Adamson, but that lady stoutly
rejected Lady Arthur's idea. "Miss Garscube has got over that
long ago, and so has Mr. Eildon," she said dryly. "Alice has
far more sense than to nurse a feeling for a man evidently
indifferent to her." These two ladies had exchanged opinions
exactly. George Eildon had only called once, and on a day when
they were all from home: he had written several times to his
aunt regarding Lord Eildon's health, and Lady Arthur had
written to him and had told him her anxiety about the health of
Alice. He expressed sympathy and concern, as his mother might
have done, but Lady Arthur would not allow herself to see that
the case was desperate.
She had a note from her sister-in-law, Lady George, who said
"that she had just been at Eildon, and in her opinion Frank was
going, but his parents either can't or won't see this, or
George either. It is a sad case—so young a man and with
such prospects—but the world abounds in sad things,"
etc., etc. But sad as the world is, it is shrewd with a wisdom
of its own, and it hardly believed in the grief of Lady George
for an event which would place her own son in a position of
honor and affluence. But many a time George Eildon recoiled
from the people who did not conceal their opinion that he might
not be broken-hearted at the death of his cousin.
There is nothing that true, honorable, unworldly natures
shrink from more than having low, unworthy feelings and
motives attributed to them.
Lady Arthur Eildon made up her mind. "I am supposed," she
said to herself, "to be eccentric: why not get the good of such
a character?" She enclosed her dying letter to her nephew,
which was nothing less than an appeal to him on behalf of
Alice, assuring him of her belief that Alice bitterly regretted
the answer she had given his letter, and that if she had it to
do over again it would be very different. When Lady Arthur did
this she felt that she was not doing as she would be done by,
but the stake was too great not to try a last throw for it. In
an accompanying note she said, "I believe that the statements
in this letter still hold true. I blamed myself afterward for
having influenced Alice when she wrote to you, and now I have
absolved my conscience." (Lady Arthur put it thus, but she
hardly succeeded in making herself believe it was a case of
conscience: she was too sharp-witted. It is self-complacent
stupidity that is morally small.) "If this letter is of no
interest to you, I am sure I am trusting it to honorable
She got an answer immediately. "I thank you," Mr. Eildon
said, "for your letters, ancient and modern: they are both in
the fire, and so far as I am concerned shall be as if they had
It was in vain, then, all in vain, that she had humbled
herself before George Eildon. Not only had her scheme failed,
but her pride suffered, as your finger suffers when the point
of it is shut by accident in the hinge of a door. The pain was
terrible. She forgot her conscience, how she had dealt
treacherously—for her good, as she believed, but still
treacherously—with Alice Garscube: she forgot everything
but her own pain, and those about her thought that decidedly
she was very eccentric at this time. She snubbed her people,
she gave orders and countermanded them, so that her servants
did not know what to do or leave undone, and they shook their
heads among themselves and remarked that the moon was at the
But of course the moon waned, and things calmed down a
little. In the next note she received from her sister-in-law,
among other items of news she was told that her nephew meant to
visit her shortly—"Probably," said his mother, "this
week, but I think it will only be a call. He says Lord Eildon
is rather better, which has put us all in good spirits,"
Now, Lady Arthur did not wish to see George Eildon at this
time—not that she could not keep a perfect and dignified
composure in any circumstances, but her pride was still in the
hinge of the door—and she went from home every day. Three
days she had business in town: the other days she drove to call
on people living in the next county. As she did not care for
going about alone, she took Miss Adamson always with her, but
Alice only once or twice: she was hardly able for extra fatigue
every day. But Miss Garscube was recovering health and spirits,
and looks also, and when Lady Arthur left her behind she
thought, "Well, if George calls to-day, he'll see that he is
not a necessary of life at least." She felt very grateful that
it was so, and had no objections that George should see it.
He did see it, for he called that day, but he had not the
least feeling of mortification: he was unfeignedly glad to see
Alice looking so well, and he had never, he thought, seen her
look better. After they had spoken in the most quiet and
friendly way for a little she said, "And how is your cousin,
"Nearly well: his constitution seems at last fairly to have
taken a turn in the right direction. The doctors say that not
only is he likely to live as long as any of us, but that the
probability is he will be a robust man yet."
"Oh, I am glad of it—I am heartily glad of it!"
"Why are you so very glad?"
"Because you are: it has made you very happy—you look
"I am excessively happy because you believe I am happy. Many
people don't: many people think I am disappointed. My own
mother thinks so, and yet she is a good woman. People will
believe that you wish the death of your dearest friend if he
stands between you and material good. It is horrible, and I
have been courted and worshiped as the rising sun;" and he
laughed. "One can afford to laugh at it now, but it was very
sickening at the time. I can afford anything, Alice: I believe
I can even afford to marry, if you'll marry a hard-working man
instead of a duke."
"Oh, George," she said, "I have been so ashamed of that
letter I wrote."
"It was a wicked little letter," he said, "but I suppose it
was the truth at the time: say it is not true now."
"It is not true now," she repeated, "but I have not loved
you very dearly all the time; and if you had married I should
have been very happy if you had been happy. But oh," she said,
and her eyes filled with tears, "this is far better."
"You love me now?"
"I have loved you all the time, all the time. I should not
have been happy if I had heard of your marriage."
"Then how were you so cold and distant the day we stuck on
"Because it was excessively cold weather: I was not going to
warm myself up to be frozen again. I have never been in
delicate health, but I can't stand heats and chills."
"I do believe you are not a bit wiser than I am. I hear the
carriage: that's Lady Arthur come back. How surprised she will
"I am not so sure of that," George said. "I'll go and meet
When he appeared Lady Arthur shook hands tranquilly and
said, "How do you do?"
"Very well," he said. "I have been testing the value of
certain documents you sent me, and find they are worth their
weight in gold."
She looked in his face.
"Alice is mine," he said, "and we are going to Bashan for
our wedding-tour. If you'll seize the opportunity of our
escort, you may hunt up Og's bed."
"Thank you," she said: "I fear I should be de
"Not a bit; but even if you were a great nuisance, we are in
the humor to put up with anything."
"I'll think of it. I have never traveled in the character of
a nuisance yet—at least, so far as I know—and it
would be a new sensation: that is a great inducement."
Lady Arthur rushed to Miss Adamson's room with the news, and
the two ladies had first a cry and then a laugh over it. "Alice
will be duchess yet," said Lady Arthur: "that boy's life has
hung so long by a thread that he must be prepared to go, and he
would be far better away from the cares and trials of this
world, I am sure;" which might be the truth, but it was hard to
grudge the boy his life.
Lady Arthur was in brilliant spirits at dinner that evening.
"I suppose you are going to live on love," she said.
"I am going to work for my living," said George.
"Very right," she said; "but, although I got better last
year, I can't live for ever, and when I'm gone Alice will have
the Garscube estates: I have always intended it."
"Madam," said George, "do you not know that the great
lexicographer has said in one of his admirable works, 'Let no
man suffer his felicity to depend upon the death of his
It is said that whenever a Liberal ministry comes in Mr.
Eildon will be offered the governorship of one of the colonies.
Lady Arthur may yet live to be astonished by his "career," and
at least she is not likely to regret her dying letter.