Part 9 out of 10
particular to do, he strolled in the direction of her lodging, and
saw Gibbie go into the house. Having seen him in, he was next
seized with the desire to see him out again; having lain in wait for
him as a beneficent brownie, he must now watch him as a profligate
baronet forsooth! To haunt the low street until he should issue was
a dreary prospect -- in the east wind of a March night, which some
giant up above seemed sowing with great handfuls of rain-seed; but
having made up his mind, he stood his ground. For two hours he
walked, vaguely cherishing an idea that he was fulfilling a duty of
his calling, as a moral policeman.
When at length Gibbie appeared, he had some difficulty in keeping
him in sight, for the sky was dark, the moon was not yet up, and
Gibbie walked like a swift shadow before him. Suddenly, as if some
old association had waked the old habit, he started off at a quick
trot. Fergus did his best to follow. As he ran, Gibbie caught
sight of a woman seated on a doorstep, almost under a lamp, a few
paces up a narrow passage, stopped, stepped within the passage, and
stood in a shadow watching her. She had turned the pocket of her
dress inside out, and seemed unable to satisfy herself that there
was nothing there but the hole, which she examined again and again,
as if for the last news of her last coin. Too thoroughly satisfied
at length, she put back the pocket, and laid her head on her hands.
Gibbie had not a farthing. Oh, how cold it was! and there sat his
own flesh and blood shivering in it! He went up to her. The same
moment Fergus passed the end of the court. Gibbie took her by the
hand. She started in terror, but his smile reassured her. He drew
her, and she rose. He laid her hand on his arm, and she went with
him. He had not yet begun to think about prudence, and perhaps, if
some of us thought more about right, we should have less occasion to
cultivate the inferior virtue. Perhaps also we should have more
belief that there is One to care that things do not go wrong.
Fergus had given up the chase, and having met a policeman, was
talking to him, when Gibbie came up with the woman on his arm, and
passed them. Fergus again followed, sure of him now. Had not fear
of being recognized prevented him from passing them and looking, he
would have seen only a poor old thing, somewhere about sixty; but if
she had been beautiful as the morning, of course Gibbie would have
taken her all the same. He was the Gibbie that used to see the
drunk people home. Gibbies like him do not change; they grow.
After following them through several streets, Fergus saw them stop
at a door. Gibbie opened it with a key which his spy imagined the
woman gave him. They entered, and shut it almost in Fergus's face,
as he hurried up determined to speak. Gibbie led the poor shivering
creature up the stair, across the chaos of furniture, and into his
room, in the other corner next to Donal's. To his joy he found the
fire was not out. He set her in the easiest chair he had, put the
kettle on, blew the fire to a blaze, made coffee, cut bread and
butter, got out a pot of marmalade, and ate and drank with his
guest. She seemed quite bewildered and altogether unsure. I
believe she took him at last, finding he never spoke, for
half-crazy, as not a few had done, and as many would yet do. She
smelt of drink, but was sober, and ready enough to eat. When she
had taken as much as she would, Gibbie turned down the bed-clothes,
made a sign to her she was to sleep there, took the key from the
outside of the door, and put it in the lock on the inside, nodded a
good-night, and left her, closing the door softly, which he heard
her lock behind him, and going to Donal's room, where he slept.
In the morning he knocked at her door, but there was no answer, and
opening it, he found she was gone.
When he told Mistress Murkison what he had done, he was considerably
astonished at the wrath and indignation which instantly developed
themselves in the good creature's atmosphere. That her respectable
house should be made a hiding-place from the wind and a covert from
the tempest, was infuriating. Without a moment's delay, she began a
sweeping and scrubbing, and general cleansing of the room, as if all
the devils had spent the night in it. And then for the first time
Gibbie reflected, that, when he ran about the streets, he had never
been taken home -- except once, to be put under the rod and staff of
the old woman. If Janet had been like the rest of them, he would
have died upon Glashgar, or be now wandering about the country,
doing odd jobs for half-pence! He must not do like other
people -- would not, could not, dared not be like them! He had had
such a thorough schooling in humanity as nobody else had had! He
had been to school in the streets, in dark places of revelry and
crime, and in the very house of light!
When Mistress Murkison told him that if ever he did the like again,
she would give him notice to quit, he looked in her face: she stared
a moment in return, then threw her arms round his neck, and kissed
"Ye're the bonniest cratur o' a muckle idiot 'at ever man saw!" she
cried; "an' gien ye dinna tak the better care, ye'll be soopit aff
to haiven afore ye ken whaur ye are or what ye're aboot."
Her feelings, if not her sentiments, experienced a relapse when she
discovered that one of her few silver tea-spoons was gone -- which,
beyond a doubt, the woman had taken: she abused her, and again
scolded Gibbie, with much vigour. But Gibbie said to himself, "The
woman is not bad, for there were two more silver spoons on the
table." Even in the matter of stealing we must think of our own
beam before our neighbour's mote. It is not easy to be honest.
There is many a thief who is less of a thief than many a
respectable member of society. The thief must be punished, and
assuredly the other shall not come out until he has paid the
uttermost farthing. Gibbie, who would have died rather than cast a
shadow of injustice, was not shocked at the woman's depravity like
Mistress Murkison. I am afraid he smiled. He took no notice either
of her scoldings or her lamentations; but the first week after he
came of age, he carried her a present of a dozen spoons.
Fergus could not tell Ginevra what he had seen; and if he told her
father, she would learn that he had been playing the spy. To go to
Mr. Sclater would have compromised him similarly. And what great
occasion was there? He was not the fellow's keeper!
That same day Gibbie went back to his guardians. At his request
Mrs. Sclater asked Ginevra to spend the following evening with them:
he wanted to tell her about Donal. She accepted the invitation.
But in a village near the foot of Glashgar, Donal had that morning
done what was destined to prevent her from keeping her engagement:
he had posted a letter to her. In an interval of comparative quiet,
he had recalled the verses he sang to her as they walked that
evening, and now sent them -- completed in a very different tone. Not
a word accompanied them.
My thoughts are like fire-flies pulsing in moonlight;
My heart like a silver cup full of red wine;
My soul a pale gleaming horizon, whence soon light
Will flood the gold earth with a torrent divine.
My thouchts are like worms in a starless gloamin';
My hert like a sponge that's fillit wi' gall;
My sowl like a bodiless ghaist sent a roamin',
To bide i' the mirk till the great trumpet call.
But peace be upo' ye, as deep as ye're lo'esome!
Brak na an hoor o' yer fair-dreamy sleep,
To think o' the lad wi' a weicht in his bosom,
'At ance sent a cry till ye oot o' the deep.
Some sharp rocky heicht, to catch a far mornin'
Ayont a' the nichts o' this warld, he'll clim';
For nane shall say, Luik! he sank doon at her scornin',
Wha rase by the han' she hield frank oot to him.
The letter was handed, with one or two more, to Mr. Galbraith, at
the breakfast table. He did not receive many letters now, and could
afford time to one that was for his daughter. He laid it with the
rest by his side, and after breakfast took it to his room and read
it. He could no more understand it than Fergus could the Epistle to
the Romans, and therefore the little he did understand of it was too
much. But he had begun to be afraid of his daughter: her still
dignity had begun to tell upon him in his humiliation. He laid the
letter aside, said nothing, and waited, inwardly angry and
contemptuous. After a while he began to flatter himself with the
hope that perhaps it was but a sort of impertinent valentine, the
writer of which was unknown to Ginevra. From the moment of its
arrival, however, he kept a stricter watch upon her, and that night
prevented her from going to Mrs. Sclater's. Gibbie, aware that
Fergus continued his visits, doubted less and less that she had
given herself to "The Bledder," as Donal called the popular
There were no rejoicings upon Gibbie's attainment of his
twenty-first year. His guardian, believing he alone had acquainted
himself with the date, and desiring in his wisdom to avoid giving
him a feeling of importance, made no allusion to the fact, as would
have been most natural, when they met at breakfast on the morning of
the day. But, urged thereto by Donal, Gibbie had learned the date
for himself, and finding nothing was said, fingered to Mrs. Sclater,
"This is my birthday."
"I wish you many happy returns," she answered, with kind
empressement. "How old are you to-day?"
"Twenty-one," he answered -- by holding up all his fingers twice and
then a forefinger.
She looked struck, and glanced at her husband, who thereupon, in his
turn, gave utterance to the usual formula of goodwill, and said no
more. Seeing he was about to leave the table, Gibbie, claiming his
attention, spelled on his fingers, very slowly, for Mr. Sclater was
slow at following this mode of communication:
"If you please, sir, I want to be put in possession of my property
as soon as possible."
"All in good time, Sir Gilbert," answered the minister, with a
superior smile, for he clung with hard reluctance to the last
vestige of his power.
"But what is good time?" spelled Gibbie with a smile, which, none
the less that it was of genuine friendliness, indicated there might
be difference of opinion on the point.
"Oh! we shall see," returned the minister coolly. "These are not
things to be done in a hurry," he added, as if he had been guardian
to twenty wards in chancery before, "We'll see in a few days what
Mr. Torrie proposes."
"But I want my money at once," insisted Gibbie. "I have been waiting
for it, and now it is time, and why should I wait still?"
"To learn patience, if for no other reason, Sir Gilbert," answered
the minister, with a hard laugh, meant to be jocular. "But indeed
such affairs cannot be managed in a moment. You will have plenty of
time to make a good use of your money, if you should have to wait
another year or two."
So saying he pushed back his plate and cup, a trick he had, and rose
from the table.
"When will you see Mr. Torrie?" asked Gibbie, rising too, and
working his telegraph with greater rapidity than before.
"By and by," answered Mr. Sclater, and walked towards the door. But
Gibbie got between him and it.
"Will you go with me to Mr. Torrie to-day?" he asked.
The minister shook his head. Gibbie withdrew, seeming a little
disappointed. Mr. Sclater left the room.
"You don't understand business, Gilbert," said Mrs. Sclater.
Gibbie smiled, got his writing-case, and sitting down at the table,
wrote as follows: --
"Dear Mr. Sclater, -- As you have never failed in your part, how can
you wish me to fail in mine? I am now the one accountable for this
money, which surely has been idle long enough, and if I leave it
still unused, I shall be doing wrong, and there are things I have to
do with it which ought to be set about immediately. I am sorry to
seem importunate, but if by twelve o'clock you have not gone with me
to Mr. Torrie, I will go to Messrs. Hope & Waver, who will tell me
what I ought to do next, in order to be put in possession. It makes
me unhappy to write like this, but I am not a child any longer, and
having a man's work to do, I cannot consent to be treated as a
child. I will do as I say. I am, dear Mr. Sclater, your
affectionate ward, Gilbert Galbraith."
He took the letter to the study, and having given it to Mr. Sclater,
withdrew. The minister might have known by this time with what sort
of a youth he had to deal! He came down instantly, put the best
face on it he could, said that if Sir Gilbert was so eager to take
up the burden, he was ready enough to cast it off, and they would go
at once to Mr. Torrie.
With the lawyer, Gibbie insisted on understanding everything, and
that all should be legally arranged as speedily as possible. Mr.
Torrie saw that, if he did not make things plain, or gave the least
cause for doubt, the youth would most likely apply elsewhere for
advice, and therefore took trouble to set the various points, both
as to the property and the proceedings necessary, before him in the
"Thank you," said Gibbie, through Mr. Sclater. "Please remember I am
more accountable for this money than you, and am compelled to
understand." -- Janet's repeated exhortations on the necessity of
sending for the serpent to take care of the dove, had not been lost
The lawyer being then quite ready to make him an advance of money,
they went with him to the bank, where he wrote his name, and
received a cheque book. As they left the bank, he asked the
minister whether he would allow him to keep his place in his house
till the next session, and was almost startled at finding how his
manner to him was changed. He assured Sir Gilbert, with a deference
and respect both painful and amusing, that he hoped he would always
regard his house as one home, however many besides he might now
choose to have.
So now at last Gibbie was free to set about realizing a
The repairs upon the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith were now nearly
finished. In consequence of them, some of the tenants had had to
leave, and Gibbie now gave them all notice to quit at their earliest
convenience, taking care, however, to see them provided with fresh
quarters, towards which he could himself do not a little, for
several of the houses in the neighbourhood had been bought for him
at the same time with the old mansion. As soon as it was empty, he
set more men to work, and as its internal arrangements had never
been altered, speedily, out of squalid neglect, caused not a little
of old stateliness to reappear. He next proceeded to furnish at his
leisure certain of the rooms, chiefly from the accumulations of his
friend Mistress Murkison. By the time he had finished, his usual
day for going home had arrived: while Janet lived, the cottage on
Glashgar was home. Just as he was leaving, the minister told him
that Glashruach was his. Mrs. Sclater was present, and read in his
eyes what induced her instantly to make the remark: "How could that
man deprive his daughter of the property he had to take her mother's
name to get!"
"He had misfortunes," indicated Gibbie, "and could not help it, I
"Yes indeed!" she returned, " -- misfortunes so great that they
amounted to little less than swindling. I wonder how many he has
brought to grief besides himself! If he had Glashruach once more he
would begin it all over again."
"Then I'll give it to Ginevra," said Gibbie.
"And let her father coax her out of it, and do another world of
mischief with it!" she rejoined.
Gibbie was silent. Mrs. Sclater was right! To give is not always
to bless. He must think of some way. With plenty to occupy his
powers of devising he set out.
He would gladly have seen Ginevra before he left, but had no chance.
He had gone to the North church every Sunday for a long time now,
neither for love of Fergus, nor dislike to Mr. Sclater, but for the
sake of seeing his lost friend: had he not lost her when she turned
from Donal to Fergus? Did she not forsake him too when she forsook
his Donal? His heart would rise into his throat at the thought, but
only for a moment: he never pitied himself. Now and then he had
from her a sweet sad smile, but no sign that he might go and see
her. Whether he was to see Donal when he reached Daurside, he could
not tell; he had heard nothing of him since he went; his mother
never wrote letters.
"Na, na; I canna," she would say. "It wad tak a' the pith oot o' me
to vreet letters. A' 'at I hae to say I sen' the up-road; it's sure
to win hame ear' or late."
Notwithstanding his new power, it was hardly, therefore, with his
usual elation, that he took his seat on the coach. But his
reception was the same as ever. At his mother's persuasion, Donal,
he found, instead of betaking himself again to bodily labours as he
had purposed, had accepted a situation as tutor offered him by one
of the professors. He had told his mother all his trouble.
"He'll be a' the better for 't i' the en'," she said, with a smile
of the deepest sympathy, "though, bein' my ain, I canna help bein'
wae for 'im. But the Lord was i' the airthquak, an' the fire, an'
the win' that rave the rocks, though the prophet couldna see 'im.
Donal 'ill come oot o' this wi' mair room in's hert an' mair licht
Gibbie took his slate from the crap o' the wa' and wrote. "If money
could do anything for him, I have plenty now."
"I ken yer hert, my bairn," replied Janet; 'but na; siller's but a
deid horse for onything 'at smacks o' salvation. Na; the puir
fallow maun warstle oot o' the thicket o' deid roses as best he
can -- sair scrattit, nae doobt. Eh! it's a fearfu' an' won'erfu'
thing that drawin' o' hert to hert, an' syne a great snap, an' a
stert back, an' there's miles atween them! The Lord alane kens the
boddom o' 't; but I'm thinkin' there's mair intill't, an' a heap
mair to come oot o' 't ere a' be dune, than we hae ony guiss at."
Gibbie told her that Glashruach was his. Then first the extent of
his wealth seemed to strike his old mother.
"Eh! ye'll be the laird, wull ye, than? Eh, sirs! To think o' this
hoose an' a' bein' wee Gibbie's! Weel, it dings a'. The w'ys o'
the Lord are to be thoucht upon! He made Dawvid a king, an' Gibbie
he's made the laird! Blest be his name."
"They tell me the mountain is mine," Gibbie wrote: "your husband
shall be laird of Glashgar if he likes."
"Na, na," said Janet, with a loving look. "He's ower auld for that.
He micht na dee sae easy for't. -- Eh! please the Lord, I wad fain
gang wi' him. -- An' what better wad Robert be to be laird? We pey
nae rent as 'tis, an' he has as mony sheep to lo'e as he can weel
ken ane frae the ither, noo 'at he's growin' auld, I ken naething
'at he lacks, but Gibbie to gang wi' 'im aboot the hill. A
neebour's laddie comes an' gangs, to help him, but, eh, says Robert,
he's no Gibbie! -- But gien Glashruach be yer ain, my bonnie man, ye
maun gang doon there this verra nicht, and gie a luik to the burn;
for the last time I was there, I thoucht it was creepin' in aneth
the bank some fearsome like for what's left o' the auld hoose, an'
the suner it's luikit efter maybe the better. Eh, Sir Gibbie, but
ye sud merry the bonnie leddy, an' tak her back till her ain hoose."
Gibbie gave a great sigh to think of the girl that loved the hill
and the heather and the burns, shut up in the city, and every Sunday
going to the great church -- with which in Gibbie's mind was
associated no sound of glad tidings. To him Glashgar was full of
God; the North church or Mr. Sclater's church -- well, he had tried
hard, but had not succeeded in discovering temple-signs about
The next day he sent to the city for an architect; and within a week
masons and quarrymen were at work, some on the hill blasting blue
boulders and red granite, others roughly shaping the stones, and
others laying the foundation of a huge facing and buttressing wall,
which was to slope up from the bed of the Glashburn fifty feet to
the foot of the castle, there to culminate in a narrow terrace with
a parapet. Others again were clearing away what of the ruins stuck
to the old house, in order to leave it, as much as might be, in its
original form. There was no space left for rebuilding, neither was
there any between the two burns for adding afresh. The channel of
the second remained dry, the landslip continuing to choke it, and
the stream to fall into the Glashburn. But Gibbie would not consent
that the burn Ginevra had loved should sing no more as she had heard
it sing. Her chamber was gone, and could not be restored, but
another chamber should be built for her, beneath whose window it
should again run: when she was married to Fergus, and her father
could not touch it, the place should be hers. More masons were
gathered, and foundations blasted in the steep rock that formed the
other bank of the burn. The main point in the building was to be a
room for Ginevra. He planned it himself -- with a windowed turret
projecting from the wall, making a recess in the room, and
overhanging the stream. The turret he carried a story higher than
the wall, and in the wall placed a stair leading to its top, whence,
over the roof of the ancient part of the house, might be seen the
great Glashgar, and its streams coming down from heaven, and singing
as they came. Then from the middle of the first stair in the old
house, the wall, a yard and a half thick, having been cut through, a
solid stone bridge, with a pointed arch, was to lead across the burn
to a like landing in the new house -- a close passage, with an oriel
window on each side, looking up and down the stream, and a steep
roof. And while these works were going on below, two masons, high
on the mountain, were adding to the cottage a warm bedroom for Janet
The architect was an honest man, and kept Gibbie's secret, so that,
although he was constantly about the place, nothing disturbed the
general belief that Glashruach had been bought, and was being made
habitable, by a certain magnate of the county adjoining.
TEN AULD HOOSE O' GALBRAITH.
One cold afternoon in the end of October, when Mistress Croale was
shutting up her shop in the market, and a tumbler of something hot
was haunting her imagination, Gibbie came walking up the long
gallery with the light hill-step which he never lost, and startled
her with a hand on her shoulder, making signs that she must come
with him. She made haste to lock her door, and they walked side by
side to the Widdiehill. As they crossed the end of it she cast a
look down Jink Lane, and thought of her altered condition with a
sigh. Then the memory of the awful time amongst the sailors, in
which poor Sambo's frightful death was ever prominent, came back
like a fog from hell. But so far gone were those times now, that,
seeing their events more as they really were, she looked upon them
with incredulous horror, as things in which she could hardly have
had any part or lot. Then returned her wanderings and homeless
miseries, when often a haystack or a heap of straw in a shed was her
only joy -- whisky always excepted. Last of all came the dread
perils, the hairbreadth escapes of her too adventurous voyage on the
brander; -- and after all these things, here she was, walking in peace
by the side of wee Sir Gibbie, a friend as strong now as he had
always been true! She asked herself, or some power within asked
her, whence came the troubles that had haunted her life. Why had
she been marked out for such misfortunes? Her conscience
answered -- from her persistence in living by the sale of drink after
she had begun to feel it was wrong. Thence it was that she had
learned to drink, and that she was even now liable, if not to be
found drunk in the streets, yet to go to bed drunk as any of her
former customers. The cold crept into her bones; the air seemed
full of blue points and clear edges of cold, that stung and cut her.
She was a wretched, a low creature! What would her late aunt think
to see her now? What if this cold in her bones were the cold of
coming death? To lie for ages in her coffin, with her mouth full of
earth, longing for whisky! A verse from the end of the New
Testament with "nor drunkards" in it, came to her mind. She had
always had faith, she said to herself; but let them preach what they
liked about salvation by faith, she knew there was nothing but hell
for her if she were to die that night. There was Mistress Murkison
looking out of her shop-door! She was respected as much as ever!
Would Mistress Murkison be saved if she died that night? At least
nobody would want her damned; whereas not a few, and Mr. Sclater in
particular, would think it no fair play if Mistress Croale were not
They turned into the close of the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith.
"Wee Gibbie's plottin' to lead me to repentance!" she said to
herself. "He's gaein' to shaw me whaur his father dee'd, an' whaur
they leevit in sic meesery -- a' throu' the drink I gae 'im, an' the
respectable hoose I keepit to 'tice him till't! He wad hae me
persuaudit to lea' aff the drink! Weel, I'm a heap better nor ance
I was, an' gie't up I wull a'thegither -- afore it comes to the last
By this time Gibbie was leading her up the dark stair. At the top,
on a wide hall-like landing, he opened a door. She drew back with
shy amaze. Her first thought was -- "That prood madam, the minister's
wife, 'ill be there!" Was affront lying in wait for her again? She
looked round angrily at her conductor. But his smile re-assured
her, and she stepped in.
It was almost a grand room, rich and sombre in colour, old-fashioned
in its somewhat stately furniture. A glorious fire was blazing and
candles were burning. The table was covered with a white cloth, and
laid for two. Gibbie shut the door, placed a chair for Mistress
Croale by the fire, seated himself, took out his tablets, wrote
"Will you be my housekeeper? I will give you œ100 a year," and
handed them to her.
"Lord, Sir Gibbie!" she cried, jumping to her feet, "hae ye tint yer
wuts? Hoo wad an auld wife like me luik in sic a place -- an' in sic
duds as this? It wad gar Sawtan lauch, an' that he can but seldom."
Gibbie rose, and taking her by the hand, led her to the door of an
adjoining room. It was a bedroom, as grand as the room they had
left, and if Mistress Croale was surprised before, she was
astonished now. A fire was burning here too, candles were alight on
the dressing-table, a hot bath stood ready, on the bed lay a dress
of rich black satin, with linen and everything down, or up, to
collars, cuffs, mittens, cap, and shoes. All these things Gibbie
had bought himself, using the knowledge he had gathered in shopping
with Mrs. Sclater, and the advice of her dressmaker, whom he had
taken into his confidence, and who had entered heartily into his
plan. He made signs to Mistress Croale that everything there was at
her service, and left her.
Like one in a dream she yielded to the rush of events, not too much
bewildered to dress with care, and neither too old nor too wicked
nor too ugly to find pleasure in it. She might have been a born
lady just restored to the habits of her youth, to judge by her
delight over the ivory brushes and tortoise-shell comb, and great
mirror. In an hour or so she made her appearance -- I can hardly say
reappeared, she was so altered. She entered the room neither
blushing nor smiling, but wiping the tears from her eyes like a too
blessed child. What Mrs. Sclater would have felt, I dare hardly
think; for there was "the horrid woman" arrayed as nearly after her
fashion as Gibbie had been able to get her up! A very good "get-up"
nevertheless it was, and satisfactory to both concerned. Mistress
Croale went out a decent-looking poor body, and entered a not
uncomely matron of the housekeeper class, rather agreeable to look
upon, who had just stood a nerve-shaking but not unpleasant
surprise, and was recovering. Gibbie was so satisfied with her
appearance that, come of age as he was, and vagrant no more, he
first danced round her several times with a candle in his hand, much
to the danger but nowise to the detriment of her finery, then set it
down, and executed his old lavolta of delight, which, as always, he
finished by standing on one leg.
Then they sat down to a nice nondescript meal, also of Gibbie's own
When their meal was ended, he went to a bureau, and brought thence a
paper, plainly written to this effect:
"I agree to do whatever Sir Gilbert Galbraith may require of me, so
long as it shall not be against my conscience; and consent that, if
I taste whisky once, he shall send me away immediately, without
further reason given."
He handed it to Mistress Croale; she read, and instantly looked
about for pen and ink: she dreaded seeming for a moment to hesitate.
He brought them to her, she signed, and they shook hands.
He then conducted her all over the house -- first to the rooms
prepared for his study and bedroom, and next to the room in the
garret, which he had left just as it was when his father died in it.
There he gave her a look by which he meant to say, "See what whisky
brings people to!" but which her conscience interpreted, "See what
you brought my father to!" Next, on the floor between, he showed
her a number of bedrooms, all newly repaired and
fresh-painted, -- with double windows, the inside ones filled with
frosted glass. These rooms, he gave her to understand, he wished
her to furnish, getting as many things as she could from Mistress
Murkison. Going back then to the sitting-room, he proceeded to
explain his plans, telling her he had furnished the house that he
might not any longer be himself such a stranger as to have no place
to take a stranger to. Then he got a Bible there was in the room,
and showed her those words in the book of Exodus -- "Also, thou shalt
not oppress a stranger; for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing
ye were strangers in the land of Egypt;" and while she thought again
of her wanderings through the country, and her nights in the open
air, made her understand that whomsoever he should at any time bring
home she was to treat as his guest. She might get a servant to wait
upon herself, he said, but she must herself help him to wait upon
his guests, in the name of the Son of Man.
She expressed hearty acquiescence, but would not hear of a servant:
the more work the better for her! she said. She would to-morrow
arrange for giving up her shop and disposing of her stock and the
furniture in her garret. But Gibbie requested the keys of both
those places. Next, he insisted that she should never utter a word
as to the use he intended making of his house; if the thing came
out, it would ruin his plans, and he must give them up
altogether -- and thereupon he took her to the ground floor and showed
her a door in communication with a poor little house behind, by
which he intended to introduce and dismiss his guests, that they
should not know where they had spent the night. Then he made her
read to him the hundred and seventh Psalm; after which he left her,
saying he would come to the house as soon as the session began,
which would be in a week; until then he should be at Mr. Sclater's.
Left alone in the great house -- like one with whom the most
beneficent of fairies had been busy, the first thing Mistress Croale
did was to go and have a good look at herself -- from head to foot -- in
the same mirror that had enlightened Donal as to his outermost man.
Very different was the re-reflection it caused in Mistress Croale:
she was satisfied with everything she saw there, except her
complexion, and that she resolved should improve. She was almost
painfully happy. Out there was the Widdiehill, dark and dismal and
cold, through which she had come, sad and shivering and haunted with
miserable thoughts, into warmth and splendour and luxury and bliss!
Wee Sir Gibbie had made a lady of her! If only poor Sir George
were alive to see and share! -- There was but one thing wanted to make
it Paradise indeed -- a good tumbler of toddy by the fire before she
went to bed!
Then first she thought of the vow she had made as she signed the
paper, and shuddered -- not at the thought of breaking it, but at the
thought of having to keep it, and no help. -- No help! it was the
easiest thing in the world to get a bottle of whisky. She had but
to run to Jink Lane at the farthest, to her own old house, which,
for all Mr. Sclater, was a whisky shop yet! She had emptied her
till, and had money in her pocket. Who was there to tell? She
would not have a chance when Sir Gibbie came home to her. She must
make use of what time was left her. She was safe now from going too
far, because she must give it up; and why not then have one farewell
night of pleasure, to bid a last good-bye to her old friend Whisky?
what should she have done without him, lying in the cold wind by a
dykeside, or going down the Daur like a shot on her brander? -- Thus
the tempting passion; thus, for aught I know, a tempting devil at
the ear of her mind as well. -- But with that came the face of Gibbie;
she thought how troubled that face would look if she failed him.
What a lost, irredeemable wretch was she about to make of herself
after all he had done for her! No; if whisky was heaven, and the
want of it was hell, she would not do it! She ran to the door,
locked it, brought away the key, and laid it under the Bible from
which she had been reading to Sir Gibbie. Perhaps she might have
done better than betake herself again to her finery, but it did help
her through the rest of the evening, and she went to her grand bed
not only sober, but undefiled of the enemy. When Gibbie came to her
a week after, he came to a true woman, one who had kept faith with
THE LAIRD AND THE PREACHER.
Since he came to town, Gibbie had seen Ginevra but once -- that was in
the North church. She looked so sad and white that his heart was
very heavy for her. Could it be that she repented? -- She must have
done it to please her father! If she would marry Donal, he would
engage to give her Glashruach. She should have Glashruach all the
same whatever she did, only it might influence her father. He paced
up and down before the cottage once for a whole night, but no good
came of that. He paced before it from dusk to bedtime again and
again, in the poor hope of a chance of speaking to Ginevra, but he
never saw even her shadow on the white blind. He went up to the
door once, but in the dread of displeasing her lost his courage, and
paced the street the whole morning instead, but saw no one come out.
Fergus had gradually become essential to the small remaining
happiness of which the laird was capable. He had gained his favour
chiefly through the respect and kindly attention he showed him. The
young preacher knew little of the laird's career, and looked upon
him as an unfortunate man, towards whom loyalty now required even a
greater show of respect than while he owned his father's farm. The
impulse transmitted to him from the devotion of ancestors to the
patriarchal head of the clan, had found blind vent in the direction
of the mere feudal superior, and both the impulse and its object
remained. He felt honoured, even now that he had reached the goal
of his lofty desires and was a popular preacher, in being permitted
to play backgammon with the great man, or to carve a chicken, when
the now trembling hands, enfeebled far more through anxiety and
disappointment than from age, found themselves unequal to the task:
the laird had begun to tell long stories, and drank twice as much as
he did a year ago; he was sinking in more ways than one.
Fergus at length summoned courage to ask him if he might pay his
addresses to Miss Galbraith. The old man started, cast on him a
withering look, murmured "The heiress of Glashruach!" remembered,
threw himself back in his chair, and closed his eyes. Fergus, on
the other side of the table, sat erect, a dice-box in his hand,
waiting a reply. The father reflected that if he declined what he
could not call an honour, he must lose what was unquestionably a
comfort: how was he to pass all the evenings of the week without the
preacher? On the other hand, if he accepted him, he might leave the
miserable cottage, and go to the manse: from a moral point of
view -- that was, from the point of other people's judgment of him -- it
would be of consequence to have a clergyman for a son-in-law.
Slowly he raised himself in his chair, opened his unsteady eyes,
which rolled and pitched like boats on a choppy sea, and said
"You have my permission, Mr. Duff."
The young preacher hastened to find Ginevra, but only to meet a
refusal, gentle and sorrowful. He pleaded for permission to repeat
his request after an interval, but she distinctly refused. She did
not, however, succeed in making a man with such a large opinion of
himself hopeless. Disappointed and annoyed he was, but he sought
and fancied he found reasons for her decision which were not
unfavourable to himself, and continued to visit her father as
before, saying to him he had not quite succeeded in drawing from her
a favourable answer, but hoped to prevail. He nowise acted the
despairing lover, but made grander sermons than ever, and, as he
came to feel at home in his pulpit, delivered them with growing
force. But delay wrought desire in the laird; and at length, one
evening, having by cross-questioning satisfied himself that Fergus
made no progress, he rose, and going to his desk, handed him Donal's
verses. Fergus read them, and remarked he had read better, but the
first stanza had a slight flavour of Shelley.
"I don't care a straw about their merit or demerit," said Mr.
Galbraith; "poetry is nothing but spoilt prose. What I want to know
is, whether they do not suggest a reason for your want of success
with Jenny. Do you know the writing?"
"I cannot say I do. But I think it is very likely that of Donal
Grant; he sets up for the Burns of Daurside."
"Insolent scoundrel!" cried the laird, bringing down his fist on the
table, and fluttering the wine glasses. "Next to superstition I hate
romance -- with my whole heart I do!" And something like a flash of
cold moonlight on wintred water gleamed over, rather than shot from,
his poor focusless eyes.
"But, my dear sir," said Fergus, "if I am to understand these
lines -- "
"Yes! if you are to understand where there is no sense whatever!"
"I think I understand them -- if you will excuse me for venturing to
say so; and what I read in them is, that, whoever the writer may be,
the lady, whoever she may be, had refused him."
"You cannot believe that the wretch had the impudence to make my
daughter -- the heiress of -- at least -- What! make my daughter an offer!
She would at once have acquainted me with the fact, that he might
receive suitable chastisement. Let me look at the stuff again."
"It is quite possible," said Fergus, "it may be only a poem some
friend has copied for her from a newspaper."
While he spoke, the laird was reading the lines, and persuading
himself he understood them. With sudden resolve, the paper held
torch-like in front of him, he strode into the next room, where
"Do you tell me," he said fiercely, "that you have so far forgotten
all dignity and propriety as to give a dirty cow-boy the
encouragement to make you an offer of marriage? The very notion
sets my blood boiling. You will make me hate you,
you -- you -- unworthy creature!"
Ginevra had turned white, but looking him straight in the face, she
"If that is a letter for me, you know I have not read it."
"There! see for yourself. -- Poetry!" He uttered the word with
She took the verses from his hand and read them. Even with her
father standing there, watching her like an inquisitor, she could
not help the tears coming in her eyes as she read.
"There is no such thing here, papa," she said. "They are only
verses -- bidding me good-bye."
"And what right has any such fellow to bid my daughter good-bye?
Explain that to me, if you please. Of course I have been for many
years aware of your love of low company, but I had hoped as you grew
older you would learn manners: modesty would have been too much to
look for. -- If you had nothing to be ashamed of, why did you not tell
me of the unpleasant affair? Is not your father your best friend?"
"Why should I make both him and you uncomfortable, papa -- when there
was not going to be anything more of it?"
"Why then do you go hankering after him still, and refusing Mr.
Duff? It is true he is not exactly a gentleman by birth, but he is
such by education, by manners, by position, by influence."
"Papa, I have already told Mr. Duff, as plainly as I could without
being rude, that I would never let him talk to me so. What lady
would refuse Donal Grant and listen to him!"
"You are a bold, insolent hussey!" cried her father in fresh rage
and leaving the room, rejoined Fergus.
They sat silent both for a while -- then the preacher spoke.
"Other communications may have since reached her from the same
quarter," he said.
"That is impossible," rejoined the laird.
"I don't know that," insisted Fergus. "There is a foolish -- a
half-silly companion of his about the town. They call him Sir
"Jenny knows no such person."
"Indeed she does. I have seen them together."
"Oh! you mean the lad the minister adopted! the urchin he took off
the streets! -- Sir Gibbie Galbraith!" he repeated sneeringly, but as
one reflecting. " -- I do vaguely recall a slanderous rumour in which
a certain female connection of the family was hinted at. -- Yes!
that's where the nickname comes from. -- And you think she keeps up a
communication with the clown through him?"
"I don't say that, sir. I merely think it possible she may see this
Gibbie occasionally; and I know he worships the cow-boy: it is a
positive feature of his foolishness, and I wish it were the worst."
Therewith he told what he heard from Miss Kimble, and what he had
seen for himself on the night when he watched Gibbie.
"Her very blood must be tainted!" said her father to himself, but
added, " -- from her mother's side;" and his attacks upon her after
this were at least diurnal. It was a relief to his feeling of
having wronged her, to abuse her with justice. For a while she
tried hard to convince him now that this now that that notion of her
conduct, or of Gibbie's or Donal's, was mistaken: he would listen to
nothing she said, continually insisting that the only amends for her
past was to marry according to his wishes; to give up superstition,
and poetry, and cow-boys, and dumb rascals, and settle down into a
respectable matron, a comfort to the gray hairs she was now bringing
with sorrow to the grave. Then Ginevra became absolutely silent; he
had taught her that any reply was but a new start for his
objurgation, a knife wherewith to puncture a fresh gall-bladder of
abuse. He stormed at her for her sullenness, but she persisted in
her silence, sorely distressed to find how dead her heart seemed
growing under his treatment of her: what would at one time have made
her utterly miserable, now passed over her as one of the billows of
a trouble that had to be borne, as one of the throbs of a headache,
drawing from her scarcely a sigh. She did not understand that, her
heaven being dark, she could see no individual cloud against it,
that, her emotional nature untuned, discord itself had ceased to
A HIDING-PLACE FROM THE WIND.
Gibbie found everything at the Auld Hoose in complete order for his
reception: Mistress Croale had been very diligent, and promised well
for a housekeeper -- looked well, too, in her black satin and lace,
with her complexion, she justly flattered herself, not a little
improved. She had a good meal ready for him, with every adjunct in
proper style, during the preparation of which she had revelled in
the thought that some day, when she had quite established her
fitness for her new position, Sir Gibbie would certainly invite the
minister and his lady to dine with him, when she, whom they were too
proud to ask to partake of their cockie-leekie, would show them she
knew both what a dinner ought to be, and how to preside at it; and
the soup it should be cockie-leekie.
Everything went comfortably. Gibbie was so well up in mathematics,
thanks to Mr. Sclater, that, doing all requisite for honourable
studentship, but having no desire to distinguish himself, he had
plenty of time for more important duty. Now that he was by himself,
as if old habit had returned in the shape of new passion, he roamed
the streets every night. His custom was this: after dinner, which
he had when he came from college, about half-past four, he lay down,
fell asleep in a moment, as he always did, and slept till half-past
six; then he had tea, and after that, studied -- not dawdled over his
books, till ten o'clock, when he took his Greek Testament. At
eleven he went out, seldom finally returning before half-past one,
sometimes not for an hour longer -- during which time Mistress Croale
was in readiness to receive any guest he might bring home.
The history of the special endeavour he had now commenced does not
belong to my narrative. Some nights, many nights together, he would
not meet a single wanderer; occasionally he would meet two or three
in the same night. When he found one, he would stand regarding him
until he spoke. If the man was drunk he would leave him: such were
not those for whom he could now do most. If he was sober, he made
him signs of invitation. If he would not go with him, he left him,
but kept him in view, and tried him again. If still he would not,
he gave him a piece of bread, and left him. If he called, he
stopped, and by circuitous ways brought him to the little house at
the back. It was purposely quite dark. If the man was too
apprehensive to enter, he left him; if he followed, he led him to
Mistress Croale. If anything suggested the possibility of helping
farther, a possibility turning entirely on the person's self, the
attempt was set on foot; but in general, after a good breakfast,
Gibbie led him through a dark passage into the darkened house, and
dismissed him from the door by which he had entered. He never gave
money, and never sought such guest except in the winter. Indeed, he
was never in the city in the summer. Before the session was over,
they had one woman and one girl in a fair way of honest livelihood,
and one small child, whose mother had an infant besides, and was
evidently dying, he had sent "in a present" to Janet, by the hand of
Mistress Murkison. Altogether it was a tolerable beginning, and
during the time not a word reached him indicating knowledge of his
proceedings, although within a week or two a rumour was rife in the
lower parts of the city, of a mysterious being who went about doing
this and that for poor folk, but, notwithstanding his gifts, was far
Mr. and Mrs. Sclater could not fail to be much annoyed when they
found he was no longer lodging with Mistress Murkison, but occupying
the Auld Hoose, with "that horrible woman" for a housekeeper; they
knew, however, that expostulation with one possessed by such a
headstrong sense of duty was utterly useless, and contented
themselves with predicting to each other some terrible check, the
result of his ridiculous theory concerning what was required of a
Christian -- namely, that the disciple should be as his Master. At
the same time Mrs. Sclater had a sacred suspicion that no real ill
would ever befall God's innocent, Gilbert Galbraith.
Fergus had now with his father's help established himself in the
manse of the North Church, and thither he invited Mr. and Miss
Galbraith to dine with him on a certain evening. Her father's
absolute desire compelled Ginevra's assent; she could not, while
with him, rebel absolutely. Fergus did his best to make the evening
a pleasant one, and had special satisfaction in showing the laird
that he could provide both a good dinner and a good bottle of port.
Two of his congregation, a young lawyer and his wife, were the only
other guests. The laird found the lawyer an agreeable companion,
chiefly from his readiness to listen to his old law stories, and
Fergus laid himself out to please the two ladies: secure of the
admiration of one, he hoped it might help to draw the favour of the
other. He had conceived the notion that Ginevra probably disliked
his profession, and took pains therefore to show how much he was a
man of the world -- talked about Shakspere, and flaunted rags of
quotation in elocutionary style; got books from his study, and read
passages from Byron, Shelley, and Moore -- chiefly from "The Loves of
the Angels" of the last, ecstasizing the lawyer's lady, and
interesting Ginevra, though all he read taken together seemed to her
unworthy of comparison with one of poor Donal's songs.
It grew late. The dinner had been at a fashionable hour; they had
stayed an unfashionable time: it was nearly twelve o'clock when
guests and host left the house in company. The lawyer and his wife
went one way, and Fergus went the other with the laird and Ginevra.
Hearing the pitiful wailing of a child and the cough of a woman, as
they went along a street bridge, they peeped over the parapet, and
saw, upon the stair leading to the lower street, a woman, with a
child asleep in her lap, trying to eat a piece of bread, and
coughing as if in the last stage of consumption. On the next step
below sat a man hushing in his bosom the baby whose cry they had
heard. They stood for a moment, the minister pondering whether his
profession required of him action, and Ginevra's gaze fixed on the
head and shoulders of the foreshortened figure of the man, who
vainly as patiently sought to soothe the child by gently rocking it
to and fro. But when he began a strange humming song to it, which
brought all Glashgar before her eyes, Ginevra knew beyond a doubt
that it was Gibbie. At the sound the child ceased to wail, and
presently the woman with difficulty rose, laying a hand for help on
Gibbie's shoulder. Then Gibbie rose also, cradling the infant on
his left arm, and making signs to the mother to place the child on
his right. She did so, and turning, went feebly up the stair.
Gibbie followed with the two children, one lying on his arm, the
other with his head on his shoulder, both wretched and pining, with
gray cheeks, and dark hollows under their eyes. From the top of the
stair they went slowly up the street, the poor woman coughing, and
Gibbie crooning to the baby, who cried no more, but now and then
moaned. Then Fergus said to the laird:
"Did you see that young man, sir? That is the so-called Sir Gilbert
Galbraith we were talking of the other night. They say he has come
into a good property, but you may judge for yourself whether he
seems fit to manage it!"
Ginevra withdrew her hand from his arm.
"Good God, Jenny!" exclaimed the laird, "you do not mean to tell me
you have ever spoken to a young man like that?"
"I know him very well, papa," replied Ginevra, collectedly.
"You are incomprehensible, Jenny! If you know him, why do I not
know him? If you had not known good reason to be ashamed of him,
you would, one time or other, have mentioned his name in my
hearing. -- I ask you, and I demand an answer," -- here he stopped, and
fronted her -- "why have you concealed from me your acquaintance with
this -- this -- person?"
"Because I thought it might be painful to you, papa," she answered,
looking in his face.
"Painful to me! Why should it be painful to me -- except indeed that
it breaks my heart as often as I see you betray your invincible
fondness for low company?"
"Do you desire me to tell you, papa, why I thought it might be
painful to you to make that young man's acquaintance?"
"I do distinctly. I command you."
"Then I will: that young man, Sir Gilbert Galbraith, -- "
"Nonsense, girl! there is no such Galbraith. It is the merest of
Ginevra did not care to argue with him this point. In truth she
knew little more about it than he.
"Many years ago," she recommenced, "when I was a child, -- Excuse me,
Mr. Duff, but it is quite time I told my father what has been
weighing upon my mind for so many years."
"Sir Gilbert!" muttered her father contemptuously.
"One day," again she began, "Mr. Fergus Duff brought a ragged little
boy to Glashruach -- the most innocent and loving of creatures, who
had committed no crime but that of doing good in secret. I saw Mr.
Duff box his ears on the bridge; and you, papa, gave him over to
that wretch, Angus Mac Pholp, to whip him -- so at least Angus told
me, after he had whipped him till he dropped senseless. I can
hardly keep from screaming now when I think of it."
"All this, Jenny, is nothing less than cursed folly. Do you mean to
tell me you have all these years been cherishing resentment against
your own father, for the sake of a little thieving rascal, whom it
was a good deed to fright from the error of his ways? I have no
doubt Angus gave him merely what he deserved."
"You must remember, Miss Galbraith, we did not know he was dumb,"
said Fergus, humbly.
"If you had had any heart," said Ginevra, "you would have seen in
his face that he was a perfect angelic child. He ran to the
mountain, without a rag to cover his bleeding body, and would have
died of cold and hunger, had not the Grants, the parents of your
father's herd-boy, Mr. Duff, taken him to their hearts, and been
father and mother to him." -- Ginevra's mouth was opened at
last. -- "After that," she went on, "Angus, that bad man, shot him
like a wild beast, when he was quietly herding Robert Grant's sheep.
In return Sir Gilbert saved his life in the flood. And just before
the house of Glashruach fell -- the part in which my room was, he
caught me up, because he could not speak, and carried me out of it;
and when I told you that he had saved my life, you ordered him out
of the house, and when he was afraid to leave me alone with you,
dashed him against the wall, and sent for Angus to whip him again.
But I should have liked to see Angus try it then!"
"I do remember an insolent fellow taking advantage of the ruinous
state the house was in to make his way into my study," said the
"And now," Ginevra continued, "Mr. Duff makes question of his wits
because he finds him carrying a poor woman's children, going to get
them a bed somewhere! If Mr. Duff had run about the streets when he
was a child, like Sir Gilbert, he might not, perhaps, think it so
strange he should care about a houseless woman and her brats!"
Therewith Ginevra burst into tears.
"Abominably disagreeable!" muttered the laird. "I always thought she
was an idiot! -- Hold your tongue, Jenny! you will wake the street.
All you say may or may not be quite true; I do not say you are
telling lies, or even exaggerating; but I see nothing in it to prove
the lad a fit companion for a young lady. Very much to the
contrary. I suppose he told you he was your injured, neglected,
ill-used cousin? He may be your cousin: you may have any number of
such cousins, if half the low tales concerning your mother's family
Ginevra did not answer him -- did not speak another word. When Fergus
left them at their own door, she neither shook hands with him nor
bade him good night.
"Jenny," said her father, the moment he was gone, "if I hear of your
once speaking again to that low vagabond, -- and now I think of it,"
he cried, interrupting himself with a sudden recollection, "there
was a cobbler-fellow in the town here they used to call Sir Somebody
Galbraith! -- that must be his father! Whether the Sir was title or
nickname, I neither know nor care. A title without money is as bad
as a saintship without grace. But this I tell you, that if I hear
of your speaking one word, good or bad, to the fellow again, I will,
I swear to Almighty God, I will turn you out of the house."
To Ginevra's accumulated misery, she carried with her to her room a
feeling of contempt for her father, with which she lay struggling in
vain half the night.
Although Gibbie had taken no notice of the laird's party, he had
recognized each of the three as he came up the stair, and in
Ginevra's face read an appeal for deliverance. It seemed to say,
"You help everybody but me! Why do you not come and help me too?
Am I to have no pity because I am neither hungry nor cold?" He did
not, however, lie awake the most of the night, or indeed a single
hour of it, thinking what he should do; long before the poor woman
and her children were in bed, he had made up his mind.
As soon as he came home from college the next day and had hastily
eaten his dinner, going upon his vague knowledge of law business
lately acquired, he bought a stamped paper, wrote upon it, and put
it in his pocket; then he took a card and wrote on it: Sir Gilbert
Galbraith, Baronet, of Glashruach, and put that in his pocket also.
Thus provided, and having said to Mistress Croale that he should
not be home that night -- for he expected to set off almost
immediately in search of Donal, and had bespoken horses, he walked
deliberately along Pearl-street out into the suburb, and turning to
the right, rang the bell at the garden gate of the laird's cottage.
When the girl came, he gave her his card, and followed her into the
house. She carried it into the room where, dinner over, the laird
and the preacher were sitting, with a bottle of the same port which
had pleased the laird at the manse between them. Giving time, as he
judged, and no more, to read the card, Gibbie entered the room: he
would not risk a refusal to see him.
It was a small room with a round table. The laird sat sideways to
the door; the preacher sat between the table and the fire.
"What the devil does this mean? A vengeance take him!" cried the
His big tumbling eyes had required more time than Gibbie had
allowed, so that, when with this exclamation he lifted them from the
card, they fell upon the object of his imprecation standing in the
middle of the room between him and the open door. The preacher,
snug behind the table, scarcely endeavoured to conceal the smile
with which he took no notice of Sir Gilbert. The laird rose in the
perturbation of mingled anger and unpreparedness.
"Ah!" he said, but it was only a sound, not a word, "to what -- may I
ask -- have I -- I have not the honour of your acquaintance, Mr. -- Mr. -- "
Here he looked again at the card he held, fumbled for and opened a
double eyeglass, then with deliberation examined the name upon it,
thus gaining time by rudeness, and gathering his force for more,
while Gibbie remained as unembarrassed as if he had been standing to
his tailor for his measure. "Mr. -- ah, I see! Galbraith, you
say. -- To what, Mr., Mr." -- another look at the card -- "Galbraith, do I
owe the honour of this unexpected -- and -- and -- I must
say -- un -- looked-for visit -- and at such an unusual hour for making a
business call -- for business, I presume, it must be that brings you,
seeing I have not the honour of the slightest acquaintance with
He dropped his eyeglass with a clatter against his waistcoat, threw
the card into his finger-glass, raised his pale eyes, and stared at
Sir Gilbert with all the fixedness they were capable of. He had
already drunk a good deal of wine, and it was plain he had, although
he was far from being overcome by it. Gibbie answered by drawing
from the breast-pocket of his coat the paper he had written, and
presenting it like a petition. Mr. Galbraith sneered, and would not
have touched it had not his eye caught the stamp, which from old
habit at once drew his hand. From similar habit, or perhaps to get
it nearer the light, he sat down. Gibbie stood, and Fergus stared
at him with insolent composure. The laird read, but not aloud: I,
Gilbert Galbraith, Baronet, hereby promise and undertake to transfer
to Miss Galbraith, only daughter of Thomas Galbraith, Esq., on the
day when she shall be married to Donal Grant, Master of Arts, the
whole of the title deeds of the house and lands of Glashruach, to
have and to hold as hers, with absolute power to dispose of the same
as she may see fit. Gilbert Galbraith, Old House of Galbraith,
Widdiehill, March, etc., etc.
The laird stretched his neck like a turkeycock, and gobbled
inarticulately, threw the paper to Fergus, and turning on his chair,
glowered at Gibbie. Then suddenly starting to his feet, he cried,
"What do you mean, you rascal, by daring to insult me in my own
house? Damn your insolent foolery!"
"A trick! a most palpable trick! and an exceedingly silly one!"
pronounced Fergus, who had now read the paper; "quite as foolish as
unjustifiable! Everybody knows Glashruach is the property of Major
Culsalmon!" -- Here the laird sought the relief of another oath or
two. -- "I entreat you to moderate your anger, my dear sir," Fergus
resumed. "The thing is hardly worth so much indignation. Some
animal has been playing the poor fellow an ill-natured
trick -- putting him up to it for the sake of a vile practical joke.
It is exceedingly provoking, but you must forgive him. He is
hardly to blame, scarcely accountable, under the natural
circumstances. -- Get away with you," he added, addressing Gibbie
across the table. "Make haste before worse comes of it. You have
been made a fool of."
When Fergus began to speak, the laird turned, and while he spoke
stared at him with lack-lustre yet gleaming eyes, until he addressed
Gibbie, when he turned on him again as fiercely as before. Poor
Gibbie stood shaking his head, smiling, and making eager signs with
hands and arms; but in the laird's condition of both heart and brain
he might well forget and fail to be reminded that Gibbie was dumb.
"Why don't you speak, you fool?" he cried. "Get out and don't stand
making faces there. Be off with you, or I will knock you down with
Gibbie pointed to the paper, which lay before Fergus, and placed a
hand first on his lips, then on his heart.
"Damn your mummery!" said the laird, choking with rage. "Go away,
or, by God! I will break your head."
Fergus at this rose and came round the table to get between them.
But the laird caught up a pair of nutcrackers, and threw it at
Gibbie. It struck him on the forehead, and the blood spirted from
the wound. He staggered backwards. Fergus seized the laird's arm,
and sought to pacify him.
Her father's loud tones had reached Ginevra in her room; she ran
down, and that instant entered: Gibbie all but fell into her arms.
The moment's support she gave him, and the look of loving terror
she cast in his face, restored him; and he was again firm on his
feet, pressing her handkerchief to his forehead, when Fergus,
leaving the laird, advanced with the pacific intention of getting
him safe from the house. Ginevra stepped between them. Her
father's rage thereupon broke loose quite, and was madness. He
seized hold of her with violence, and dragged her from the room.
Fergus laid hands upon Gibbie more gently, and half would have
forced, half persuaded him to go. A cry came from Ginevra: refusing
to be sent to her room before Gibbie was in safety, her father
struck her. Gibbie would have darted to her help. Fergus held him
fast, but knew nothing of Gibbie's strength, and the next moment
found himself on his back upon the table, amidst the crash of
wineglasses and china. Having locked the door, Gibbie sprung to the
laird, who was trying to drag his daughter, now hardly resisting, up
the first steps of the stair, took him round the waist from behind,
swept him to the other room, and there locked him up also. He then
returned to Ginevra where she lay motionless on the stair, lifted
her in his arms, and carried her out of the house, nor stopped
until, having reached the farther end of the street, he turned the
corner of it into another equally quiet.
The laird and Fergus, when they were released by the girl from their
respective prisons and found that the enemy was gone, imagined that
Ginevra had retired again to her room; and what they did after is
Under a dull smoky oil-lamp Gibbie stopped. He knew by the
tightening of her arms that Ginevra was coming to herself.
"Let me down," she said feebly.
He did so, but kept his arm round her. She gave a deep sigh, and
gazed bewildered. When she saw him, she smiled.
"With you, Gibbie!" she murmured. " -- But they will be after us!"
"They shall not touch you," signified Gibbie.
"What was it all about?" she asked.
Gibbie spelled on his fingers,
"Because I offered to give you Glashruach, if your father would let
you marry Donal."
"Gibbie! how could you?" she cried almost in a scream, and pushing
away his arm, turned from him and tried to run, but after two steps,
tottered to the lamp-post, and leaned against it -- with such a scared
"Then come with me and be my sister, Ginevra, and I will take care
of you," spelled Gibbie. "I can do nothing to take care of you while
I can't get near you."
"Oh, Gibbie! nobody does like that," returned Ginevra, " -- else I
should be so glad!"
"There is no other way then that I know. You won't marry anybody,
"Won't I, Gibbie? What makes you think that?"
"Because of course you would never refuse Donal and marry anybody
else; that is not possible."
"Oh! don't tease me, Gibbie."
"Ginevra, you don't mean you would?"
In the dull light, and with the imperfect means of Gibbie for the
embodiment of his thoughts, Ginevra misunderstood him.
"Yea, Gibbie," she said, "I would. I thought it was understood
between us, ever since that day you found me on Glashgar. In my
thoughts I have been yours all the time."
She turned her face to the lamp-post. But Gibbie made her look.
"You do not mean," he spelled very hurriedly, "that you would marry
me? -- Me? I never dreamed of such a thing!"
"You didn't mean it then!" said Ginevra, with a cry -- bitter but
feeble with despair and ending in a stifled shriek. "What have I
been saying then! I thought I belonged to you! I thought you meant
to take me all the time!" She burst into an agony of sobbing. "Oh
me! me! I have been alone all the time, and did not know it!"
She sank on the pavement at the foot of the lamp-post, weeping
sorely, and shaken with her sobs. Gibbie was in sad perplexity.
Heaven had opened before his gaze; its colours filled his eyes; its
sounds filled his ears and heart and brain; but the portress was
busy crying and would not open the door. Neither could he get at
her to comfort her, for, her eyes being wanted to cry with, his poor
signs were of no use. Dumbness is a drawback to the gift of
It was a calm night early in March, clear overhead, and the heaven
full of stars. The first faint think-odour of spring was in the
air. A crescent moon hung half-way between the zenith and the
horizon, clear as silver in firelight, and peaceful in the
consciousness that not much was required of her yet. Both
bareheaded, the one stood under the lamp, the other had fallen in a
heap at its foot; the one was in the seventh paradise, and knew it;
the other was weeping her heart out, yet was in the same paradise,
if she would but have opened her eyes. Gibbie held one of her hands
and stroked it. Then he pulled off his coat and laid it softly upon
her. She grew a little quieter.
"Take me home, Gibbie," she said, in a gentle voice. All was over;
there was no use in crying or even in thinking any more.
Gibbie put his arms round her, and helped her to her feet. She
looked at him, and saw a face glorious with bliss. Never, not even
on Glashgar, in the skin-coat of the beast-boy, had she seen him so
like an angel. And in his eyes was that which triumphed, not over
dumbness, but over speech. It brought the rose-fire rushing into
her wan cheeks; she hid her face on his bosom; and, under the dingy
red flame of the lamp in the stony street, they held each other, as
blessed as if they had been under an orange tree haunted with
fire-flies. For they knew each the heart of the other, and God is
How long they stood thus, neither of them knew. The lady would not
have spoken if she could, and the youth could not if he would. But
the lady shivered, and because she shivered, she would have the
youth take his coat. He mocked at cold; made her put her arms in
the sleeves, and buttoned it round her: both laughed to see how wide
it was. Then he took her by the hand, and led her away, obedient as
when first he found her and her heart upon Glashgar. Like two
children, holding each other fast, they hurried along, in dread of
pursuit. He brought her to Daur-street, and gave her into Mrs.
Sclater's arms. Ginevra told her everything except that her father
had struck her, and Gibbie begged her to keep his wife for him till
they could be married. Mrs. Sclater behaved like a mother to them,
sent Gibbie away, and Ginevra to a hot bath and to bed.
Gibbie went home as if Pearl-street had been the stairs of Glashgar,
and the Auld Hoose a mansion in the heavens. He seemed to float
along the way as one floats in a happy dream, where motion is born
at once of the will, without the intermediating mechanics of nerve,
muscle, and fulcrum. Love had been gathering and ever storing
itself in his heart so many years for this brown dove! now at last
the rock was smitten, and its treasure rushed forth to her service.
In nothing was it changed as it issued, save as the dark, silent,
motionless water of the cavern changes into the sparkling, singing,
dancing rivulet. Gibbie's was love simple, unselfish,
undemanding -- not merely asking for no return, but asking for no
recognition, requiring not even that its existence should be known.
He was a rare one, who did not make the common miserable blunder of
taking the shadow cast by love -- the desire, namely, to be loved -- for
love itself; his love was a vertical sun, and his own shadow was
under his feet. Silly youths and maidens count themselves martyrs
of love, when they are but the pining witnesses to a delicious and
entrancing selfishness. But do not mistake me through confounding,
on the other hand, the desire to be loved -- which is neither wrong
nor noble, any more than hunger is either wrong or noble -- and the
delight in being loved, to be devoid of which a man must be lost in
an immeasurably deeper, in an evil, ruinous, yea, a fiendish
selfishness. Not to care for love is the still worse reaction from
the self-foiled and outworn greed of love. Gibbie's love was a
diamond among gem-loves. There are men whose love to a friend is
less selfish than their love to the dearest woman; but Gibbie's was
not a love to be less divine towards a woman than towards a man.
One man's love is as different from another's as the one is himself
different from the other. The love that dwells in one man is an
angel, the love in another is a bird, that in another a hog. Some
would count worthless the love of a man who loved everybody. There
would be no distinction in being loved by such a man! -- and
distinction, as a guarantee of their own great worth, is what such
seek. There are women who desire to be the sole object of a man's
affection, and are all their lives devoured by unlawful jealousies.
A love that had never gone forth upon human being but themselves,
would be to them the treasure to sell all that they might buy. And
the man who brought such a love might in truth be all-absorbed
therein himself: the poorest of creatures may well be absorbed in
the poorest of loves. A heart has to be taught to love, and its
first lesson, however well learnt, no more makes it perfect in love,
than the A B C makes a savant. The man who loves most will love
best. The man who throughly loves God and his neighbour is the only
man who will love a woman ideally -- who can love her with the love
God thought of between them when he made man male and female. The
man, I repeat, who loves God with his very life, and his neighbour
as Christ loves him, is the man who alone is capable of grand,
perfect, glorious love to any woman. Because Gibbie's love was
towards everything human, he was able to love Ginevra as Donal, poet
and prophet, was not yet grown able to love her. To that of the
most passionate of unbelieving lovers, Gibbie's love was as the fire
of a sun to that of a forest. The fulness of a world of love-ways
and love-thoughts was Gibbie's. In sweet affairs of
loving-kindness, he was in his own kingdom, and sat upon its throne.
And it was this essential love, acknowledging and embracing, as a
necessity of its being, everything that could be loved, which now
concentrated its rays on the individual's individual. His love to
Ginevra stood like a growing thicket of aromatic shrubs, until her
confession set the fire of heaven to it, and the flame that consumes
not, but gives life, arose and shot homeward. He had never
imagined, never hoped, never desired she should love him like that.
She had refused his friend, the strong, the noble, the beautiful,
Donal the poet, and it never could but from her own lips have found
way to his belief that she had turned her regard upon wee Sir
Gibbie, a nobody, who to himself was a mere burning heart running
about in tattered garments. His devotion to her had forestalled
every pain with its antidote of perfect love, had negatived every
lack, had precluded every desire, had shut all avenues of entrance
against self. Even if "a little thought unsound" should have
chanced upon an entrance, it would have found no soil to root and
grow in: the soil for the harvest of pain is that brought down from
the peaks of pride by the torrents of desire. Immeasurably the
greater therefore was his delight, when the warmth and odour of the
love that had been from time to him immemorial passing out from him
in virtue of consolation and healing, came back upon him in the
softest and sweetest of flower-waking spring-winds. Then indeed was
his heart a bliss worth God's making. The sum of happiness in the
city, if gathered that night into one wave, could not have reached
half-way to the crest of the mighty billow tossing itself heavenward
as it rushed along the ocean of Gibbie's spirit.
He entered the close of the Auld Hoose. But the excess of his joy
had not yet turned to light, was not yet passing from him in
physical flame: whence then the glow that illumined the court? He
looked up. The windows of Mistress Croale's bedroom were glaring
with light! He opened the door hurriedly and darted up. On the
stair he was met by the smell of burning, which grew stronger as he
ascended. He opened Mistress Croale's door. The chintz curtains of
her bed were flaming to the ceiling. He darted to it. Mistress
Croale was not in it. He jumped upon it, and tore down the curtains
and tester, trampling them under his feet upon the blankets. He had
almost finished, and, at the bottom of the bed, was reaching up and
pulling at the last of the flaming rags, when a groan came to his
ears. He looked down: there, at the foot of the bed, on her back
upon the floor, lay Mistress Croale in her satin gown, with red
swollen face, wide-open mouth, and half-open eyes, dead drunk, a
heap of ruin. A bit of glowing tinder fell on her forehead. She
opened her eyes, looked up, uttered a terrified cry, closed them,
and was again motionless, except for her breathing. On one side of
her lay a bottle, on the other a chamber-candlestick upset, with the
candle guttered into a mass.
With the help of the water-jugs, and the bath which stood ready in
his room, he succeeded at last in putting out the fire, and then
turned his attention to Mistress Croale. Her breathing had grown so
stertorous that he was alarmed, and getting more water, bathed her
head, and laid a wet handkerchief on it, after which he sat down and
watched her. It would have made a strange picture: the middle of
the night, the fire-blasted bed, the painful, ugly carcase on the
floor, and the sad yet -- I had almost said radiant youth, watching
near. The slow night passed.
The gray of the morning came, chill and cheerless. Mistress Croale
stirred, moved, crept up rather than rose to a sitting position, and
stretched herself yawning. Gibbie had risen and stood over her.
She caught sight of him; absolute terror distorted her sodden face;
she stared at him, then stared about her, like one who had suddenly
waked in hell. He took her by the arm. She obeyed, rose, and
stood, fear conquering the remnants of drunkenness, with her
whisky-scorched eyes following his every movement, as he got her
cloak and bonnet. He put them on her. She submitted like a child
caught in wickedness, and cowed by the capture. He led her from the
house, out into the dark morning, made her take his arm, and away
they walked together, down to the riverside. She gave a reel now
and then, and sometimes her knees would double under her; but Gibbie
was no novice at the task, and brought her safe to the door of her
lodging -- of which, in view of such a possibility, he had been paying
the rent all the time. He opened the door with her pass-key, led
her up the stair, unlocked the door of her garret, placed her in a
chair, and left her, closing the doors gently behind him.
Instinctively she sought her bed, fell upon it, and slept again.
When she woke, her dim mind was haunted by a terrible vision of
resurrection and damnation, of which the only point she could
plainly recall, was an angel, as like Sir Gibbie as he could look,
hanging in the air above her, and sending out flames on all sides of
him, which burned her up, inside and out, shrivelling soul and body
together. As she lay thinking over it, with her eyes closed,
suddenly she remembered, with a pang of dismay, that she had got
drunk and broken her vow -- that was the origin of the bad dream, and
the dreadful headache, and the burning at her heart! She must have
water! Painfully lifting herself upon one elbow, she opened her
eyes. Then what a bewilderment, and what a discovery, slow
unfolding itself, were hers! Like her first parents she had fallen;
her paradise was gone; she lay outside among the thorns and thistles
before the gate. From being the virtual mistress of a great house,
she was back in her dreary lonely garret! Re-exiled in shame from
her briefly regained respectability, from friendship and honourable
life and the holding forth of help to the world, she lay there a sow
that had been washed, and washed in vain! What a sight of disgrace
was her grand satin gown -- wet, and scorched, and smeared with
candle! and ugh! how it smelt of smoke and burning and the dregs of
whisky! And her lace! -- She gazed at her finery as an angel might on
his feathers which the enemy had burned while he slept on his watch.
She must have water! She got out of bed with difficulty, then for a
whole hour sat on the edge of it motionless, unsure that she was not
in hell. At last she wept -- acrid tears, for very misery. She rose,
took off her satin and lace, put on a cotton gown, and was once more
a decent-looking poor body -- except as to her glowing face and
burning eyes, which to bathe she had nothing but tears. Again she
sat down, and for a space did nothing, only suffered in ignominy.
At last life began to revive a little. She rose and moved about
the room, staring at the things in it as a ghost might stare at the
grave-clothes on its abandoned body. There on the table lay her
keys; and what was that under them? -- A letter addressed to her. She
opened it, and found five pound-notes, with these words: "I promise
to pay to Mrs. Croale five pounds monthly, for nine months to come.
Gilbert Galbraith." She wept again. He would never speak to her
more! She had lost him at last -- her only friend! -- her sole link to
God and goodness and the kingdom of heaven! -- lost him for ever!
The day went on, cold and foggy without, colder and drearier within.
Sick and faint and disgusted, the poor heart had no atmosphere to
beat in save an infinite sense of failure and lost opportunity. She
had fuel enough in the room to make a little fire, and at length had
summoned resolve sufficient for the fetching of water from the
street-pump. She went to the cupboard to get a jug: she could not
carry a pailful. There in the corner stood her demon-friend! her
own old familiar, the black bottle! as if he had been patiently
waiting for her all the long dreary time she had been away! With a
flash of fierce joy she remembered she had left it half-full. She
caught it up, and held it between her and the fading light of the
misty window: it was half-full still! -- One glass -- a hair of the
dog -- would set her free from faintness and sickness, disgust and
misery! There was no one to find fault with her now! She could do
as she liked -- there was no one to care! -- nothing to take fire! -- She
set the bottle on the table, because her hand shook, and went again
to the cupboard to get a glass. On the way -- borne upward on some
heavenly current from the deeps of her soul, the face of Gibbie,
sorrowful because loving, like the face of the Son of Man, met her.
She turned, seized the bottle, and would have dashed it on the
hearthstone, but that a sudden resolve arrested her lifted arm:
Gibbie should see! She would be strong! That bottle should stand
on that shelf until the hour when she could show it him and say,
"See the proof of my victory!" She drove the cork fiercely in.
When its top was level with the neck, she set the bottle back in
its place, and from that hour it stood there, a temptation, a
ceaseless warning, the monument of a broken but reparable vow, a
pledge of hope. It may not have been a prudent measure. To a weak
nature it would have involved certain ruin. But there are natures
that do better under difficulty; there are many such. And with that
fiend-like shape in her cupboard the one ambition of Mistress
Croale's life was henceforth inextricably bound up: she would turn
that bottle into a witness for her against the judgment she had
deserved. Close by the cupboard door, like a kite or an owl nailed
up against a barn, she hung her soiled and dishonoured satin gown;
and the dusk having now gathered, took the jug, and fetched herself
water. Then, having set her kettle on the fire, she went out with
her basket, and bought bread, and butter. After a good cup of tea
and some nice toast, she went to bed again, much easier both in mind
and body, and slept.
In the morning she went to the market, opened her shop, and waited
for customers. Pleasure and surprise at her reappearance brought
the old ones quickly back. She was friendly and helpful to them as
before; but the slightest approach to inquiry as to where she had
been or what she had been doing, she met with simple obstinate
silence. Gibbie's bounty and her faithful abstinence enabled her to
add to her stock and extend her trade. By and by she had the
command of a little money; and when in the late autumn there came a
time of scarcity and disease, she went about among the poor like a
disciple of Sir Gibbie. Some said that, from her knowledge of their
ways, from her judgment, and by her personal ministration of what,
for her means, she gave more bountifully than any, she did more to
hearten their endurance, than all the ladies together who
administered money subscribed. It came to Sir Gibbie's ears, and
rejoiced his heart: his old friend was on the King's highway still!
In the mean time she saw nothing of him. Not once did he pass her
shop, where often her mental, and not unfrequently her bodily,
attitude was that of a watching lover. The second day, indeed, she
saw him at a little distance, and sorely her heart smote her, for
one of his hands was in a sling; but he crossed to the other side,
plainly to avoid her. She was none the less sure, however, that
when she asked him he would forgive her; and ask him she would, as
soon as she had satisfactory proof of repentance to show him.
ARRANGEMENT AND PREPARATION.
The next morning, the first thing after breakfast, Mr. Sclater,
having reflected that Ginevra was under age and they must be
careful, resumed for the nonce, with considerable satisfaction, his
office of guardian, and holding no previous consultation with
Gibbie, walked to the cottage, and sought an interview with Mr.
Galbraith, which the latter accorded with a formality suitable to
his idea of his own inborn grandeur. But his assumption had no
effect on nut-headed Mr. Sclater, who, in this matter at all events,
was at peace with his conscience.
"I have to inform you, Mr. Galbraith," he began, "that Miss
Galbraith -- "
"Oh!" said the laird, "I beg your pardon; I was not aware it was my
daughter you wished to see."
He rose and rang the bell. Mr. Sclater, annoyed at his manner, held
"Tell your mistress," said the laird, "that the Rev. Mr. Sclater
wishes to see her."
The girl returned with a scared face, and the news that her mistress
was not in her room. The laird's loose mouth dropped looser.
"Miss Galbraith did us the honour to sleep at our house last night,"
said Mr. Sclater deliberately.
"The devil!" cried the laird, relieved. "Why! -- What! -- Are you aware
of what you are saying, sir?"
"Perfectly; and of what I saw too. A blow looks bad on a lady's
"Good heavens! the little hussey dared to say I struck her?"
"She did not say so; but no one could fail to see some one had. If
you do not know who did it, I do."
"Send her home instantly, or I will come and fetch her," cried the
"Come and dine with us if you want to see her. For the present she
remains where she is. You want her to marry Fergus Duff; she
prefers my ward, Gilbert Galbraith, and I shall do my best for
"She is under age," said the laird.
"That fault will rectify itself as fast in my house as in yours,"
returned the minister. "If you invite the publicity of a legal
action, I will employ counsel, and wait the result."
Mr. Sclater was not at all anxious to hasten the marriage; he would
much rather, in fact, have it put off, at least until Gibbie should
have taken his degree. The laird started up in a rage, but the room
was so small that he sat down again. The minister leaned back in
his chair. He was too much displeased with the laird's behaviour to
lighten the matter for him by setting forth the advantages of having
Sir Gibbie for a son-in-law.
"Mr. Sclater," said the laird at length, "I am shocked, unspeakably
shocked, at my daughter's conduct. To leave the shelter of her
father's roof, in the middle of the night, and -- "
"About seven o'clock in the evening," interjected Mr. Sclater.
" -- and take refuge with strangers!" continued the laird.
"By no means strangers, Mr. Galbraith!" said the minister. "You
drive your daughter from your house, and are then shocked to find
she has taken refuge with friends!"
"She is an unnatural child. She knows well enough what I think of
her, and what reason she has given me so to think."
"When a man happens to be alone in any opinion," remarked the
minister, "even if the opinion should be of his own daughter, the
probabilities are he is wrong. Every one but yourself has the
deepest regard for Miss Galbraith."
"She has always cultivated strangely objectionable friendships,"
said the laird.
"For my own part," said the minister, as if heedless of the laird's
last remark, "although I believe she has no dowry, and there are
reasons besides why the connection should not be desirable, I do not
know a lady I should prefer for a wife to my ward."
The minister's plain speaking was not without effect upon the laird.
It made him uncomfortable. It is only when the conscience is wide
awake and regnant that it can be appealed to without giving a cry
for response. Again he sat silent a while. Then gathering all the
pomp and stiffness at his command,
"Oblige me by informing my daughter," he said, "that I request her,
for the sake of avoiding scandal, to return to her father's house
until she is of age."
"And in the mean time you undertake -- "
"I undertake nothing," shouted the laird, in his feeble, woolly, yet
"Then I refuse to carry your message. I will be no bearer of that
from which, as soon as delivered, I should dissuade."
"Allow me to ask, are you a minister of the gospel, and stir up a
child against her own father?"
"I am not here to bandy words with you, Mr. Galbraith. It is
nothing to me what you think of me. If you will engage not to urge
your choice upon Miss Galbraith, I think it probable she will at
once return to you. If not -- "
"I will not force her inclinations," said the laird. "She knows my
wish, and she ought to know the duty of a daughter."
"I will tell her what you say," answered the minister, and took his
When Gibbie heard, he was not at all satisfied with Mr. Sclater's
interference to such result. He wished to marry Ginevra at once, in
order to take her from under the tyranny of her father. But he was
readily convinced it would be better, now things were understood,
that she should go back to him, and try once more to gain him. The
same day she did go back, and Gibbie took up his quarters at the
Ginevra soon found that her father had not yielded the idea of
having his own way with her, but her spirits and courage were now so
good, that she was able not only to endure with less suffering, but
to carry herself quite differently. Much less afraid of him, she
was the more watchful to minister to his wants, dared a loving
liberty now and then in spite of his coldness, took his objurgations
with something of the gaiety of one who did not or would not believe
he meant them, and when he abused Gibbie, did not answer a word,
knowing events alone could set him right in his idea of him.
Rejoiced that he had not laid hold of the fact that Glashruach was
Gibbie's, she never mentioned the place to him; for she shrunk with
sharpest recoil from the humiliation of seeing him, upon conviction,
turn from Fergus to Gibbie: the kindest thing they could do for him
would be to marry against his will, and save him from open
tergiversation; for no one could then blame him, he would be
thoroughly pleased, and not having the opportunity of
self-degradation, would be saved the cause for self-contempt.
For some time Fergus kept on hoping. The laird, blinded by his own
wishes, and expecting Gibbie would soon do something to bring public
disgrace upon himself, did not tell him of his daughter's
determination and self-engagement, while, for her part, Ginevra
believed she fulfilled her duty towards him in the endeavour to
convince him by her conduct that nothing could ever induce her to
marry him. So the remainder of the session passed -- the laird urging
his objections against Gibbie, and growing extravagant in his
praises of Fergus, while Ginevra kept taking fresh courage, and
being of good cheer. Gibbie went to the cottage once or twice, but
the laird made it so uncomfortable for them, and Fergus was so rude,
that they agreed it would be better to content themselves with
meeting when they had the chance.
At the end of the month Gibbie went home as usual, telling Ginevra
he must be present to superintend what was going on at Glashruach to
get the house ready for her, but saying nothing of what he was
building there. By the beginning of the winter, they had got the
buttress-wall finished and the coping on it, also the shell of the
new house roofed in, so that the carpenters had been at work all
through the frost and snow, and things had made great progress
without any hurry; and now, since the first day the weather had
permitted, the masons were at work again. The bridge was built, the
wall of the old house broken through, the turret carried aloft. The
channel of the little burn they had found completely blocked by a
great stone at the farther edge of the landslip; up to this stone
they opened the channel, protecting it by masonry against further
slip, and by Gibbie's directions left it so -- after boring the stone,
which still turned every drop of the water aside into the Glashburn,
for a good charge of gunpowder. All the hollow where the latter
burn had carried away pine-wood and shrubbery, gravel drive and
lawn, had been planted, mostly with fir trees; and a weir of strong
masonry, a little way below the house, kept the water back, so that
it rose and spread, and formed a still pool just under the house,
reflecting it far beneath. If Ginevra pleased, Gibbie meant to
raise the weir, and have quite a little lake in the hollow. A new
approach had been contrived, and was nearly finished before Gibbie
returned to college.
In the mean time Fergus, dull as he was to doubt his own importance
and success -- for did not the public acknowledge both? -- yet by
degrees lost heart and hope so far as concerned Ginevra, and at
length told the laird that, much as he valued his society, and was
indebted for his kindness, he must deny himself the pleasure of
visiting any more at the cottage -- so plainly was his presence
unacceptable to Miss Galbraith. The laird blustered against his
daughter, and expostulated with the preacher, not forgetting to hint
at the ingratitude of forsaking him, after all he had done and borne
in the furthering of his interests: Jenny must at length come to see
what reason and good sense required of her! But Fergus had at last
learned his lesson, and was no longer to be blinded. Besides, there
had lately come to his church a certain shopkeeper, retired rich,
with one daughter; and as his hope of the dignity of being married
to Ginevra faded, he had come to feel the enticement of Miss
Lapraik's money and good looks -- which gained in force considerably
when he began to understand the serious off-sets there were to the
honour of being son-in-law to Mr. Galbraith: a nobody as was old
Lapraik in himself and his position, he was at least looked upon
with respect, argued Fergus; and indeed the man was as honest as it
is possible for any worshipper of Mammon to be. Fergus therefore
received the laird's expostulations and encouragements with
composure, but when at length, in his growing acidity, Mr. Galbraith
reflected on his birth, and his own condescension in showing him
friendship, Fergus left the house, never to go near it again.
Within three months, for a second protracted courtship was not to
be thought of, he married Miss Lapraik, and lived respectable ever
after -- took to writing hymns, became popular afresh through his
poetry, and exercised a double influence for the humiliation of
Christianity. But what matter, while he counted himself fortunate,
and thought himself happy! his fame spread; he had good health; his
wife worshipped him; and if he had had a valet, I have no doubt he
would have been a hero to him, thus climbing the topmost untrodden
peak of the world's greatness.
When the next evening came, and Fergus did not appear, the laird
fidgeted, then stormed, then sank into a moody silence. When the
second night came, and Fergus did not come, the sequence was the
same, with exasperated symptoms. Night after night passed thus, and
Ginevra began to fear for her father's reason. She challenged him
to play backgammon with her, but he scorned the proposal. She
begged him to teach her chess, but he scouted the notion of her
having wit enough to learn. She offered to read to him, entreated
him to let her do something with him, but he repelled her every
advance with contempt and surliness, which now and then broke into
rage and vituperation.
As soon as Gibbie returned, Ginevra let him know how badly things
were going with her father. They met, consulted, agreed that the
best thing was to be married at once, made their preparations, and
confident that, if asked, he would refuse his permission, proceeded,
for his sake, as if they had had it.
One morning, as he sat at breakfast, Mr. Galbraith received from Mr.
Torrie, whom he knew as the agent in the purchase of Glashruach, and
whom he supposed to have bought it for Major Culsalmon, a letter,
more than respectful, stating that matters had come to light
regarding the property which rendered his presence on the spot
indispensable for their solution, especially as there might be
papers of consequence in view of the points in question, in some
drawer or cabinet of those he had left locked behind him. The
present owner, therefore, through Mr. Torrie, begged most
respectfully that Mr. Galbraith would sacrifice two days of his
valuable time, and visit Glashruach. The result, he did not doubt,
would be to the advantage of both parties. If Mr. Galbraith would
kindly signify to Mr. Torrie his assent, a carriage and four, with
postilions, that he might make the journey in all possible comfort,
should be at his house the next morning, at ten o'clock, if that
hour would be convenient.
For weeks the laird had been an unmitigated bore to himself, and the
invitation laid hold upon him by the most projecting handle of his
being, namely, his self-importance. He wrote at once to signify his
gracious assent; and in the evening told his daughter he was going
to Glashruach on business, and had arranged for Miss Kimble to come
and stay with her till his return.
At nine o'clock the schoolmistress came to breakfast, and at ten a
travelling-carriage with four horses drew up at the door, looking
nearly as big as the cottage. With monstrous stateliness, and a
fur-coat on his arm, the laird descended to his garden gate, and got
into the carriage, which instantly dashed away for the western road,
restoring Mr. Galbraith to the full consciousness of his inherent
grandeur: if he was not exactly laird of Glashruach again, he was
something quite as important. His carriage was just out of the
street, when a second, also with four horses, drew up, to the
astonishment of Miss Kimble, at the garden gate. Out of it stepped
Mr. and Mrs. Sclater! then a young gentleman, whom she thought very
graceful until she discovered it was that low-lived Sir Gilbert! and
Mr. Torrie, the lawyer! They came trooping into the little
drawing-room, shook hands with them both, and sat down, Sir Gilbert
beside Ginevra -- but nobody spoke. What could it mean! A morning
call? It was too early. And four horses to a morning call! A
pastoral visitation? Four horses and a lawyer to a pastoral
visitation! A business call? There was Mrs. Sclater! and that Sir
Gilbert! -- It must after all be a pastoral visitation, for there was
the minister commencing a religious service! -- during which however
it suddenly revealed itself to the horrified spinster that she was
part and parcel of a clandestine wedding! An anxious father had
placed her in charge of his daughter, and this was how she was
fulfilling her trust! There was Ginevra being married in a brown
dress! and to that horrid lad, who called himself a baronet, and
hobnobbed with a low market-woman! But, alas! just as she was
recovering her presence of mind, Mr. Sclater pronounced them husband
and wife! She gave a shriek, and cried out, "I forbid the banns,"
at which the company, bride and bridegroom included, broke into "a
loud smile." The ceremony over, Ginevra glided from the room, and
returned almost immediately in her little brown bonnet. Sir Gilbert
caught up his hat, and Ginevra held out her hand to Miss Kimble.
Then at length the abashed and aggrieved lady found words of her
"Ginevra!" she cried, "you are never going to leave me alone in the
house! -- after inviting me to stay with you till your father
But the minister answered her.
"It was her father who invited you, I believe, not Lady Galbraith,"
he said; "and you understood perfectly that the invitation was not
meant to give her pleasure. You would doubtless have her postpone
her wedding-journey on your account, but my lady is under no
obligation to think of you." -- He had heard of her tattle against Sir
Gilbert, and thus rudely showed his resentment.
Miss Kimble burst into tears. Ginevra kissed her, and said,
"Never mind, dear Miss Kimble. You could not help it. The whole
thing was arranged. We are going after my father, and we have the
Mr. Torrie laughed outright.
"A new kind of runaway marriage!" he cried. "The happy couple
pursuing the obstinate parent with four horses! Ha! ha! ha!"
"But after the ceremony!" said Mr. Sclater.
Here the servant ran down the steps with a carpet-bag, and opened
the gate for her mistress. Lady Galbraith got into the carriage;
Sir Gilbert followed; there was kissing and tears at the door of it;
Mrs. Sclater drew back; the postilions spurred their horses; off
went the second carriage faster than the first; and the minister's
party walked quietly away, leaving Miss Kimble to declaim to the
maid of all work, who cried so that she did not hear a word she
said. The schoolmistress put on her bonnet, and full of indignation
carried her news of the treatment to which she had been subjected to
the Rev. Fergus Duff, who remarked to himself that it was sad to see
youth and beauty turn away from genius and influence to wed money
and idiocy, gave a sigh, and went to see Miss Lapraik.
Between the second stage and the third, Gibbie and Ginevra came in
sight of their father's carriage. Having arranged with the
postilions that the two carriages should not change horses at the
same places, they easily passed unseen by him, while, thinking of
nothing so little as their proximity, he sat in state before the
door of a village inn.
Just as Mr. Galbraith was beginning to hope the major had contrived
a new approach to the place, the carriage took an unexpected turn,
and he found presently they were climbing, by a zig-zag road, the
height over the Lorrie burn; but the place was no longer his, and to
avoid a sense of humiliation, he avoided taking any interest in the
A young woman -- it was Donal's eldest sister, but he knew nothing of
her -- opened the door to him, and showed him up the stair to his old
study. There a great fire was burning; but, beyond that,
everything, even to the trifles on his writing table, was just as
when last he left the house. His chair stood in its usual position
by the fire, and wine and biscuits were on a little table near.
"Very considerate!" he said to himself. "I trust the major does not
mean to keep me waiting, though. Deuced hard to have to leave a
place like this!"
Weary with his journey he fell into a doze, dreamed of his dead
wife, woke suddenly, and heard the door of the room open. There was
Major Culsalmon entering with outstretched hand! and there was a
lady -- his wife doubtless! But how young the major was! he had
imagined him a man in middle age at least! -- Bless his soul! was he
never to get rid of this impostor fellow! it was not the major! it
was the rascal calling himself Sir Gilbert Galbraith! -- the
half-witted wretch his fool of a daughter insisted on marrying!
Here he was, ubiquitous as Satan! And -- bless his soul again! there
was the minx, Jenny! looking as if the place was her own! The silly
tears in her eyes too! -- It was all too absurd! He had just been
dreaming of his dead wife, and clearly that was it! he was not awake
He tried hard to wake, but the dream mastered him.
"Jenny!" he said, as the two stood for a moment regarding him, a
little doubtfully, but with smiles of welcome, "what is the meaning
of this? I did not know Major Culsalmon had invited you! And what
is this person doing here?"
"Papa," replied Ginevra, with a curious smile, half merry, half
tearful, "this person is my husband, Sir Gilbert Galbraith of
Glashruach; and you are at home in your own study again."
"Will you never have done masquerading, Jenny?" he returned. "Inform
Major Culsalmon that I request to see him immediately."
He turned towards the fire, and took up a newspaper. They thought
it better to leave him. As he sat, by degrees the truth grew plain
to him. But not one other word on the matter did the man utter to
the day of his death. When dinner was announced, he walked straight
from the dining-room door to his former place at the foot of the
table. But Robina Grant was equal to the occasion. She caught up
the dish before him, and set it at the side. There Gibbie seated
himself; and, after a moment's hesitation, Ginevra placed herself
opposite her husband.
Back to Full Books