Imágenes de páginas


and a few humbler neighbours almost result! The loss was the man's own, equally scorned. Full-blown and pros

truly! perous, often,-like this laird of distant Her husband made little answer at Edenside, and owner of lands elsewhere, that time, but leant his head forward -they claimed part among the gentry on his hand, with an elbow on the without their better tastes, and rode table ; his features working as if he about boldly, like Colonel Monilaws or took some blame to himself. He had Maviswood of Maviswood himself, ex- been at that time offended in his turn, cept to church or to any other place of not condescending to go and visit benefit. What, indeed, did they leave Wanton-Walls for an unwilling hearer : behind to their farm-grieves, who ma- and now there were years passed, so that naged their thousand-acred holdings, of it was more difficult to go than before. the sordid grossness of the soil that He rose at length, looking at her abclung to them? They could but keep stractedly, with some irrelevant reply, each other in dull countenance ; swollen and went to study his weekly sermon. and red-faced men, too often thus hoary in their indifference, belonging now to the past generation; chiefly revelling apart

CHAPTER II. in their own appropriate company, with such orgies as those that had been TOUCHING CERTAIN COINCIDENCES—ALSO rumoured from Wanton-Walls since

RUTHERFORD.” Mr. Murray ceased to go to church at all. The more reekless he, perhaps, at Now, if there had been any reason as first, on that very account: but he had yet for piecing together various circumat no time been regular, as Mrs. Row- stances, or if the different members of land could well remember, from the this one household had but united their date of her own coming to Kirkhill. separate knowledge in a single thought, These men were dying out now. At already might things that seemed unconWanton-Walls, if ever meeting now-a

nected have taken an intelligible shape. days, their mirth must be comparatively Nurse Kirsty, brought up in her tame, blank, and secret, so little was it youth with the master's own family, heard of lately. Then their example could tell, perhaps, better than even had no danger in it now. The humbler he, of the beginnings of certain matters people, always seeming to have held it which occupied his thoughts. To her, too, in dread, were taught its horror; and the Man Andrew could have communithe better class looked down with con- cated divers parochial facts, and sundry tempt. For how just had been that records of that court yclept the Kirkcondemnation launched in the said ser- session; which, if Hugh had now men. mon-as all others had acknowledged, tioned the kyloe-herd to her, or spoken but the offender, that it was loudly called of Murray of Wanton-Walls at the foxfor—against vices such as his ! It had hunt, might have shed a light for her been couched generally; without a per- devout reflection. But the boy was sonal inference, on any other individual's estranged from Kirsty, with a feeling part, from the text that had chanced to that tended to hatred at times; and as strike him so. And Mrs. Rowland was, for Andrew, his unexpected marriage indeed, disposed to resent the course he had just then removed him from her had taken, in absenting himself from circle. Not only was he removed from church in consequence ; because, by uni- the evening fireside in the kitchen, and versal admission, as she rather simply from the stable-loft where he shared his remarked, Mr. Rowland's preaching had bed with the glebe cow-boy; he was out greatly improved since then; nay, there of Kirsty's austere good graces altogether, were reasons to think, that gifts and at a cottar's hearth of his own, under labours, too little appreciated hitherto, the same thatch with the few hinds of would ere long produce their due little Kirkhill Farm. He was daily at

hand, indeed; his business lying daily Curiosity itself could have needed no nearer home, each day that told more information respecting the Murrays of plainly of winter. His flail was loud in Wanton-Walls; had that house possessed the barn, his pitchfork rustling in byre the remotest connexion with the matter. and stable ; and, however solid those If Mr. Rowland, from his secluded study, tufted towers of corn he had been helped had never seen Mr. Murray ride by the to build, if he now fell on one of them, Manse of late years, on the quiet road to thresh and take to the mill, it soon which passed behind ; yet, at the high gave way before his unaided might. Once nursery-window looking over that road, a week, with a weapon like a giant's there had been no such ignorance. No sword, he stood on the great hay-rick question could have existed there as to that had seemed to mimic the church his riding still that way, when occasion itself, and shore one gable down till it led : like any other of the passers-by; who was liker still. For the small red church were all so few, so far between, and so had at one end a smaller structure, flat important, that every one had been as a upon the top, and roofless, called the painted frontispiece or quaint initial to aisle ; and, when frosty sunsets cane some ample comment or plenteous reredder each night, sometimes they would cital by Nurse Kirsty's tongue. Superthrow a ruddy gleam upon the stack- fluous now, however, her readiest flow yard, with that implement of Andrew's of prate upon many things, seen for oneglittering silent in the hay-rick, although self outside ; and most of all upon this. . the church itself was then left pale She could not have told Hugh, in her and peaceful toward the leaden clouds, least capricious mood, things half so skirted by bare branches.

entertaining about Wanton-Walls, as In himself, Andrew was not solemn would rise to his fancy of their own acon every-days; nor did he in his com- cord, when he remembered how the rest mon clothes speak severely; nor was he less horses had been flecked with foam, to the young mind inseparably associated and their sinews swollen, their wide with the bell-chain and pulpit-books, nostrils sending out blasts of breath, so and with the sessions of secret discipline. that they scarce had stayed for their And, instead of Andrew's growing less masters, except to know the track of indulgent to the children, as he left the hunt; and how those crimson the circle of Nurse Kirsty under her stains were in the scarlet coats, but incurred displeasure, he was now even were less odd than the spots that had more good-humoured at any faults, more rushed out in Mr. Murray's red face, as easy to access and curiosity. Very readily if the sight of Hugh's father had cut the had he explained why the lad with the man somewhere, like that unforgotten kyloes had seemed a stranger to Hugh; penknife. Was it all because of the though so well known, and belonging absence from church, or had he killed to the parish. It was no other than poor so many foxes? Why, too, was there John Scott, to whom Andrew himself no such surprise and annoyance on the was as an official guardian; “the bit other hunter's face, so eager, yet so orphan lad," the kind of natural, as they old and fat; with its white hair, and saidthe callant that was on the parish; purple pimples on the nose ; and with a decent lad enough, though his honest a laugh, in spite of those bad words calling held him mostly of late from the that had been said ? kirk or school : the very same who was But, as to wondering who Mr. Murray known, all round about, by the name of was, that would have been strange indeed Kyloe-Jock, So much Hugh could easily at the Manse of Kirkhill, close as it was learn. If there had been further in- to the very churchyard, where all parish terest to satisfy, it seemed beyond the pedigrees of any note lay open, as in informant's own remotest guess; for, in books, for those who could read. There the man Andrew, whatever might be a whole family of Wanton-Walls, beoracular was chiefly silent.'

fore or coeval with Mr. Murray, were


among the nearest neighbours to life. green obscurity, making the rest rather They did not dwell outside, indeed, in marvellous than doleful. Under that the open churchyard—that summer play- built-up arch into the church-gable, ground of early boyhood—where the where the ivy clung, one sparrow always dandelions and buttercups glowed in the made her inaccessible nest; on one grass, and merry insects buzzed, and corner of the open wall-cope, a single every gravestone was familiar. Their wallflower always seemed to thrive and abode was even in a house,—a house grow golden in the sky: and if, below, that was shared, with hereditary state there were old scattered fragments of apart, between the Murrays themselves things unspeakable,-mouldered pieces and a select few besides. As Wanton- of broken deal, odd rusty handles, tarWalls had long been tenanted by the nished metal ornaments, scarce family while living, so did their final among the weeds; yet midway roundresting-place when dead lie within the side facing side, front meeting viewless small end-aisle of the little parish church. front more strangely,—what suspended Older than the

present creed was Kirk- variety of diverting image-work and hill Church ; older also than the time lively enigma! The alphabet, made of ploughs and harrows was Wanton- thus important, had been there; and Walls : at which farmstead there stood, spelling had then grown pleasant, even close by, a square and roofless Border- to the self-consciousness of a superior tower; while here, close by, was the accuracy in the observer; while incismall square end-aisle, an inclosure that pient arithmetic had practised itself with never had been roofed at all. The sun- zeal, to compute those striking dates. light and sky still looked in freely, as There had been implied a kind of ethics from the first; though the very moss- and philosophy: they were so good, so trooper of old had gone to dust in it, exemplary for virtue, so sage, resigned, and the particular earth that was here tranquil, and often pious, those records had been consecrated, by priestlier hands of Wanton-Walls, which stood for whole than Mr. Rowland claimed to use. generations of parents, husbands, wives, Although, in early boyhood, Hugh or early-sainted children.

And they could not have climbed the aisle-wall to had let dimly backward into history, look in like the sunlight and sky, never- by that ancient remnant of one heraldic theless, in days less subject to fear, he had tablet, which still bore the armed hand found a new pleasure there. Under the above the coat-of-arms—which still, with broad noon, while the upper

farmhouse unobliterated Border wildness, silently windows were in sight close by, he had cried the knightly war-cry, sometimes stolen to the old sunlit door, Ellyots.Modern allegory and poetry and risen on tiptoe from some gathered had been there, if but in embryo; stones, to peep curiously through the key- where Time held his scythe, where hole. Within, truly, was stillness itself, cherubs and angels were rudely carved, that yet sent forth a thrill to make the or a later circlet of white marble was heart quiver. No ripple of the summer put in, to show a mourner by an urn, wind on the grass outside passed in to with lines of polite verse beneath. stir the tall fibres shooting there right There, too, the preacher had uttered upward, a living hair ; to move the out- sermons to an attentive ear; for there spread hands of hemlocks that bore up were texts that needed long peering to their seed on high ; to rustle the harm- decipher. Even there a teacher had proless nettles, or shake the puff-ball of the pounded Latin lessons, that stirred the dandelion in its refuge. But it was not wish to understand them ; for there was dark; nay, a companion ray of light Resurgamand “ Sic itur ad astra," was ever peeping in with the looker and one stone there was, only half seen through the keyhole ; and this went in from the keyhole, which began its aslant before the eye, touching part into legend with “Memento!”, but showed fairy hues, throwing most of it into a not what it would have one to Remem

A moy, ber, ere it passed out of sight too near gone for the winter, or left there unthe doorway.

tended, Jock would doubtless head the Thus was Wanton-Walls so familiar, band, and be the great Alexander or though as yet unseen ; standing as it conquering St. George.

conquering St. George. Soon, indeed, did on the utmost bounds of Kirkhill after the frost began, when the farmparish. And thus was old Mr. Murray, yard was at the merriest in the dusk however absent from church, or estranged of a Saturday afternoon—because then from the minister, nevertheless the well- the parish school children joined the known single representative of the most game at Bogle-round-the-stacks on their intimately-acquainted family of near way past—there would be seen among neighbours. On that very account, he them, oftener and oftener, grown lad as gave but little interest to boyhood, and he was, with his old tail-coat and his cost it no concern. Far from caring to charge of kyloes, and his dog-setting dwell on him or his matters, there could aside his serious relation to the Kirkhave been nothing from which Hugh so session and Andrew the bethralKyloepleasantly relieved himself when lesson- Jock in person, playing like the very time was over. Much gladder was it eagerest. Among the eagerest would then, as the long twilights deepened to have been Hugh Rowland, but for the early nights, to skirt off around the whisper of so imposing a visitor. As churchyard and reach new pleasures it was, the knowledge of so important a by a circuit. Happier the hours ever presence as that of Kyloe-Jock made grew, that could be gained by stealth in Hugh shy and awkward, until when visiting the dear old farmhouse kitchen, the infection of the sport caught him. where Mistress Arnot baked or spun, Then, whirled into its vortex on the knitted or mended, still with her old sudden, he insensibly forgot his awe; foster-motherly favour about her, still and, once or twice, darting breathless homely and kind, despite her Amazonian through the giddy labyrinth from some temper and her thrifty sharpness. Yet unknown pursuer, or changed by a rather than reach it some minutes magic touch into the pursuer himself, he sooner, by the stile and footpath, so almost dreaded that he and Jock might natural once, that traversed the church- come immediately into contact. Yet on yard, Hugh Rowland would have stayed these occasions did Jock only familiarize at home and lost the whole. It was late himself to the sight by momentary in the year; the nights deepened; it glimpses, with a swiftness and a skill should have been winter!

that never failed. It was strange that a No great sacrifice of sociality was being so superior should condescend to required, for all that. He did not play! need to lose his hidden indulgence At such times the forbidden touch of in those fireside sports of Halloween vulgar boys did encompass Hugh, with that make the dusk seem eerier ; their forbidden voices and companynor to give up hopes of witnessing forbidden by his father because they the rustic masquerade of Hogmanay, were unknown: the touch, too, and when guizards would come rhyming the voice, and the company of their own in, to fight or die, to use mystic words, glebe cowherd, little Will, whico above and usher the New Year with secular, all were forbidden by his father, beprofane, and superstitious mumming cause known very well. But how diffor pecuniary dole. Among the youth- ferent was Kyloe-Jock, whom Hugh's ful neighbours it was rumoured-un- father both knew and cared for! A known to the parochial man-Andrew, herd, indeed : yet on how mighty a still more deeply unknown to the mi- scale; wildly superior, invested with nister—that of all the suspected guizards, the greatness of the hill, ruler of unor Christmas mummers of Kirkhill tamed cattle! Nay, there was no danger parish, the most skilful was Kyloe-Jock. of his companionship, were it such as Whether his charge upon the hill were could be disapproved ; and, if it had been


possible to partake it in reverential de- not, save in an after-dream of remorseference for a moment, one must have to hurry backward through it, so as to partaken it with his dog too. An un- be within doors in time. Such dreams inviting beast to behold, though seeming there were that ses Once they took wise with a sagacity beyond nature, it the form of an abhorred fascination to was as the shadow or the waiting fami- the deserted door of the end-aisle ; which liar spirit of Jock, whose plaid it sat was suddenly flung open, and with upon, or between whose heels it jealously horror did it seem as if straightway all looked up, with that one eye which was the Murrays were bursting forth, to not white and horny. In outer aspect like troop mounted, red-coated, with shout the picture of Abyssinian hyænas—one and tally-ho, to the hills above. But a ear torn to a rag, which had been healed relief of yet more sudden delight came by time-through its name of Bauldy in ; for instead of them it was Kyloeit repelled the more. For it only waited Jock without his Bauldy, though in or followed, very gravely, while its master knightly armour and a moss-trooper's took holiday; needing no play itself, helmet, riding gloriously on a headstone appearing to have witnessed such things beside Hugh, as Hugh had often done so long with patience that it could have alone. Then the kyloe-herd shouted slept, were there no kyloes on the hill. ángrily in his ear; and the shout was in So long as they were there, in truth, Latin, as of the boys in Corderius ; and neither Bauldy nor his master grew dis- he awoke rejoicing that it was not true. tincter than shadows—both coming and Thus partly, perhaps, because about going with the dusk. It was even said that time the old grey mare, Beauty, that in the daytime they watched by proved insufficient for the cart-work turns all night, and relieved each other, and winter ploughing; so that Andrew sharing the same rude bothy of furze at length took her to Thirlstane Fair and fern ; while, if the lad had ever for- for sale; with money enough besides to gotten his wild black charge too long, buy another. He had come home sucthe dog would have reminded him or cessful with a younger horse, a stout returned alone.

brown nag; that had been most used, Therefore the boy Rowland looked no doubt, to saddle and light harness, upon them the while as halfseen no- though sober enough now for other velties, requiring no mention at home, work. And when Andrew's master, and stole back thither quietly himself, the minister, saw it in the stable, he through the early dark, across the approved on the whole; for, as Andrew shades from the windows, ever in said gravely, on distant visitations and time for due assemblage round the de- presbytery-days it was equally needful corous tea-table, as well as for the solemn for them to have a good beast for their privilege, extended to him now, when use, light of pace and pleasant to the the nursery was safe in bed, of waiting eye, as to work the glebe well next up to join the early household prayers. spring--which said season was farther There the faces of Andrew, and Nurse off besides than the dead of winter, now Kirsty, and the other servant, joined no at hand, with its leisure for public duty, less solemnly. Their scrutiny then, at and its solemn calls that might not be least, was not perilous. Perilous, in- put by. deed, would one scrutiny have been : Surely there must have risen in Anhad it not been always so unsuspicious, drew's shrewd eye, behind the ministhough so severe, in its single-minded ter's back, a curious twinkle ; knowing prohibition of all evil. Such was the something even then, as he must have terror for Hugh of rousing that autho- done, of the new horse's previous rity into wrath that the very gloom of ownership. He familiarly caressed it, those wintry nights in the churchyard and called it “Rutherford” by name; would have been trivial by comparison, which to the children was a proof of his if there had been need-as there was knowledge. For the rest, he had made

« AnteriorContinuar »