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Lady Arthur Eildon's Dying Letter

by the Author of "Blindpits"

I.

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 together.

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 them.

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 again.

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.

II.

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 guileless.

III.

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 for George.

"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 Adamson.

"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 abilities?"

"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 "daftlike" thing.

"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 skins."

"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 stock."

"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 Arthur.

"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 quietly."

"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 plentiful."

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 machine interesting."

"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 this day.

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 Garscube.

"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," said Alice.

"If they thought of me at all I should be satisfied," said he.

"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 repose—"

"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 for antiquities."

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 Arthur.

"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 directions!

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 fell?'"

"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 prescribed cure."

"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 thorn?"

"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."

IV.

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 of."

"What kind of thing, Alice?"

"A letter."

"Who is it from?"

"Mr. Eildon."

"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 years' descent."

"No, you can't," said Alice; "but Mr. Eildon is not a peer, you know."

"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. Eildon:

"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 friend,

"ALICE GARSCUBE.

"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.

"A. G."

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 better."

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 keenly.

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 comfort.

V.

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 matter?"

"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 this."

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 answer."

"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. Eildon."

"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 excuse me."

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 hopes.

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 Hall.

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 Miss A.

"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 it."

"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 him."

"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.

VI.

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 this time."

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.

VII.

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 mine."

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 his majesty.

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 attire.

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 ten."

"If we dinna wun a' the gate, we can but turn again," John thought as he retired to execute his orders.

"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 here."

"Stop! why?"

"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 other ladies.

"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 John.

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 luncheon-basket first."

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 happened?

"This is something like an adventure," said Lady Arthur cheerily.

"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 night?"

"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."

VIII.

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 carriage-door opened.

"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 desperately needed."

"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 got housed?"

"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?" she asked.

"I came from London—I have only been a week home from Australia—and I am on my way to Eildon. But here we are."

And the hospitable doors of Cockhoolet were thrown wide, sending out a glow of light to welcome the belated travelers.

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 Cockhoolet.

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 quite well."

"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 come?"

"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, perhaps."

"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.

IX.

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.

X.

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 hands."

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 never been."

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 full.

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," etc.

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, Lord Eildon?"

"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 so."

"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?"

"Unutterably."

"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 the moor?"

"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 be!"

"I am not so sure of that," George said. "I'll go and meet her."

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 trop."

"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 aunt'?"

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.