The Prodigal Father
by J. Storer Clouston
J. STORER CLOUSTON
AUTHOR THE LUNATIC AT LARGE,
A COUNTY FAMILY, ETC.
The Century Co.
Copyright, 1909, by
J. STORER CLOUSTON
Published, September, 1909
PART I. THE PRODIGAL FATHER
J. F. TAPLEY CO.
WITH GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT TO AN UNKNOWN CORRESPONDENT WHO
MADE A CERTAIN SUGGESTION. IF HE READS THIS STORY HE PERHAPS
J. S. C.
THE PRODIGAL FATHER
In one of the cable tramway cars which, at a reverential pace,
perambulate the city of Edinburgh, two citizens conversed. The winds
without blew gustily and filled the air with sounds like a stream in
flood, the traffic clattered noisily over the causeway, the car itself
thrummed and rattled; but the voices of the two were hushed. Said the
It's the most extraordinary thing ever I heard of.
It's all that, said the other; in fact, it's pairfectly
Mr. Walkingshaw of all people!
Of Walkingshaw and Gilliflowerthat's the thing that fair takes my
breath away! added the other; as though the firm was an even surer
guarantee of respectability than the honored name of the senior
They shook their heads ominously. It was clear this was no ordinary
portent they were discussing.
Do you think has he taken to?
The first citizen finished his question by a crooking of his
upturned little finger, one of those many delicate symbols by which the
north Briton indicates a failing not uncommon in his climate.
It's a curious thing, replied his friend, that I haven't heard
that given as an explanation. Of course he's not a teetotaler
Oh, none ever insinuated that, put in the other, with the air of
one who desired to do justice even to the most erring.
On the other hand, he's ay had the name of being one of the most
respectable men in the town, just an example, they've always told me.
I knew him fine myself, in a business way, and that's just the
expression I'd have usedan Example.
Respected by all.
An elder, and what not.
A fine business, he has.
His daughter married a Ramornie of Pettigrew.
They shook their heads again, if possible more gravely than before.
He must be going off his head.
He must be gone, I'd say.
Yon speech he made was an outrage to common sense and decency!
And about his son's marriage!
That's Andrew Walkingshawhis partner?
Oh, you've heard the story, then? I wonder is it true?
I had it on the best authority.
They pursed their lips solemnly.
The man's mad!
But think of letting him loose to make a public exhibition of
himself! It's an awfu' end to a respected careerin fact, it's
You're right: you're right. If as respectable a liver as him ends
that waywell, well!
In this strain and with such comments (exceedingly natural under the
circumstances) did his fellow-citizens discuss the remarkable thing
that befell Mr. Walkingshaw. And yet they could see only the outward
symptoms or manifestations of this thing. Now that the full
circumstances are made public, it will be generally conceded that few
well-authenticated occurrences have ever at first sight seemed less
probable. This has actually been advanced as an argument for their
suppression; but since enough has already leaked out to whet the public
curiosity, and indeed to lead to damaging misconceptions in a city so
unused to phenomena other than meteorological, it is considered wisest
that the unvarnished facts should be placed in the hands of a
scrupulous editor and allowed to speak for themselves.
PART I. THE PRODIGAL FATHER
At a certain windy corner in the famous city of Edinburgh, a number
of brass plates were affixed to the framework of a door. On the largest
and brightest of them appeared the legend Walkingshaw &Gilliflower,
W.S.; and on no other sheet of brass in Scotland were more respectable
names inscribed. For the benefit of the Sassenach and other foreigners,
it may be explained that W.S. is a condensation of Writers to the
Signeta species of beatified solicitor holding a position so
esteemed, so enviable, and so intensely reputable that the only scandal
previously whispered in connection with a member of this class proved
innocently explicable upon the discovery that he was affianced to the
lady's aunt. The building in which the firm had their office formed one
end of an austere range of dark stone houses overlooking a street paved
with cubes of granite and confronted by a precisely similar line of
houses on the farther side. The whole sloped somewhat steeply down a
hill, up which and down which a stimulating breeze careered and eddied
during three hundred days of the year. Had you thrust your head out of
the office windows and looked down the street, you could have seen,
generally beneath a gray sky and through a haze of smoke, an inspiring
glimpse of distant sea with yet more distant hills beyond. But Mr.
Walkingshaw had no time for looking gratis out of his window to see
unprofitable views. The gray street had been the background to nearly
fifty years of dignified labor on behalf of the most respectable
His full name was James Heriot Walkingshaw, but it had been early
recognized that James was too brief a designation and Jimmie too
trivial for one of his parts and presence, and so he was universally
known as Heriot Walkingshaw. His antecedents were as respectable as his
clients. One of his eight great-great-grandfathers owned a landed
estate in the county of Peebles, one of his maternal uncles was a
theological professor in the University of Aberdeen, and his father
before him had been a W.S. Young Heriot himself was brought up on
porridge, the tawse, the Shorter Catechism, and an allowance of five
shillings a week. His parents were both prudent and pious. Throughout
such portions of the Sabbath as they did not spend with their offspring
in their pew, they kept them indoors behind drawn blinds. His mother
kissed young Heriot seldom and severely (with a cold smack like a
hailstone), and never permitted him to remain ten minutes in the same
room with a housemaid unchaperoned. His father never allowed him to
sleep under more than two blankets, and locked the front door at nine
o'clock in summer and six in winter.
The supreme merit of this system in insuring the survival of the
fittest was seen in its results. Heriot's elder brother passed away at
the age of two in the course of a severe winter. Clearly he would never
have been a credit to oatmeal. His younger brother broke loose at
nineteen, pained his relatives exceedingly, and retired to a distant
colony where the standard was lower. His name was never mentioned till
at his decease it was found that he had left £30,000 to be divided
among the survivors of the ordeal. And finally, here was Heriot, a
credit to his parents, his porridge, and his Catechismin a word, an
One damp February morning, Mr. Walkingshaw, accompanied as usual by
his eldest son, set forth from his decorous residence. It was one of a
circle of stately houses, broken in two or three places to permit the
sedatest kind of street to enter. The grave dignity of these mansions
was accentuated by the straight, deep-hewn furrows at the junctions of
the vast rectangular stones, and by the pediment and fluted pillars
which every here and there gave one of them the appearance of a Greek
temple dedicated to some chaste goddess. In the midst, a round,
railed-in garden was full of lofty trees, very upright and dark, like
monuments to the distinguished inhabitants.
Just as Mr. Walkingshaw and his son had got down the steps and
reached the pavement, the door opened again behind them and a figure
appeared which seemed to light the dull February morning with a ray of
something like sunshine. Her dress was a warm golden brown; her face
clear-skinned and fresh-colored, with bright eyes, a straight little
nose, and, at that moment, eager, parted lips; her hair a coil of
curling gold; her age nineteen.
Father! she cried, you've forgotten your muffler!
Tut, tuts, muttered Mr. Walkingshaw.
He stopped and let her wind the muffler round his neck, while his
son regarded the performance with a curiously captious eye.
Thanks, Jean, said Mr. Walkingshaw.
He threw the girl a brief nod, and the two resumed their walk. Jean
stood for a minute on the steps with a smile half formed upon her lips,
as though she were prepared to wave them a farewell; but neither man
looked back, and the smile died away, the door closed behind her, and
the morning became as raw as ever.
For a few minutes father and son walked together in silence. In
Andrew's eye lurked the same suggestion of criticism, and in his
parent's some consciousness of this and not a little consequent
irritation. They were the same heightjust under six feetand there
was a decided resemblance between Mr. Walkingshaw's portly gait and
Andrew's dignified carriage, but otherwise they were not much alike.
The father had a large and open countenance, very ruddy and fringed
with the most respectable white whiskers; and something ample in his
voice and eye and manner accorded with it admirably. Andrew's face also
was full, but rather in places than comprehensively. The chief places
were his cheeks and upper lip. This lip was perhaps his most striking
characteristic. It was both full and long, meeting his cheeks at either
end in a little dimple, and protruding above the lower lip. Beneath it
his chin sloped sharply back and then abruptly shot forward again in
the shape of a round aggressive little ball. His eye was cold and gray,
his hair dark, his age six-and-thirty, and for the last few years he
had been his father's partner. He was the first to break the silence.
Why you don't see a respectable doctor, I can't imagine, said he.
I went to Mackenzie. I went to Grant, replied Mr. Walkingshaw
shortly. A lot of good either of them did my gout!
Gout! said Andrew. And have you exchanged that for anything
better? You ought to have stayed in bed to-day. I wonder you ventured
out in the state that man's got you into.
The words might conceivably be taken to represent a very natural
filial anxiety, but the voice was reminiscent of the consolation of
Job. Mr. Walkingshaw had always been able to inspire his children with
a respect so profound that it was a little difficult at times to
distinguish it from awe. Even Andrew when he became his partner had not
lost the attitude. But to-day his father accepted the rebuke without a
murmur. In a moment the hard Scotch voice smote again
The idea of a man in your position going to an infernal quack like
Professor Cyrus! Professor? Humph! The man's killing you.
Mr. Walkingshaw's ruddy face grew redder. The standard of common
sense is high in Scotland; the humiliation in being taken in profound;
the respect for the professional orthodoxies intense. And he had been
the protagonist of everything sensible, orthodox, and prudent! He felt
like a constable caught in the pantry.
Cyrus is a man of remarkableahideas. He assures me I shall see
the beneficial effects soon. Patiencepatience; that is what he says.
Iahhave probably only caught a little chill. I believe in Cyrus,
Andrew, I believe in him.
Andrew received the explanation with outward respect. His father's
eye had become formidable; but in silence his own expressed his opinion
of this paltry defense. Presently he inquired
Would you like people to know who you're going to?
Mr. Walkingshaw started.
I'll trouble other folks to mind their own business, he said
sharply; yet he cast an uncomfortable glance at his son.
Oh, I'm not anxious they should know my family's escapades, said
But his gray eye had now a triumphant gleam, and his father realized
he had no case left to go before the court. If people were to
knowwell, he would certainly be a less shining example. Mr.
Walkingshaw of Walkingshaw and Gilliflower in the hands of a quack
doctor! It would sound awful badawful bad. Little did he dream what
people would be saying of that reputable Writer to the Signet three
* * * * *
Business happened to be slack that afternoon, and at the early hour
of four o'clock Mr. Walkingshaw resumed his overcoat and muffler. As
Mr. Thomieson, his confidential clerk, decorously tucked the scarf
beneath the velvet collar, he offered a word or two of respectful
Far the wisest thing to go home, sir. But will you not take a cab?
It's an awful like day to be out with a chill on ye.
Mr. Walkingshaw perceived his junior partner gazing on him in severe
silence, and defiantly decided to walk. Yet as he paced homewards he
could not but admit, in the unquiet recesses of his own mind, that it
certainly was an odd sort of chill. He feltwell, he found it hard to
tell exactly how he feltrather as though he had swallowed some ounces
of quicksilver which kept flashing and running about inside him with
every step he took. Suppose Cyrus's wonderful new system were actually
to prove dangerous to the constitution, possibly even to the life, of
his august, confiding patron? You could not always know your luck,
however deserving you might be. The tower of Siloam fell both upon the
righteous and the unrighteous. What would people say if Professor Cyrus
metaphorically fell on him? Heriot Walkingshaw had more at stake than
mere existence. He had a character to lose.
The sight of his house, so dignified and so permanent, soothed him a
little. As he hung his coat upon the substantial rack in the dark and
spacious hall, he was soothed still further. Ascending to his
drawing-room, the thick carpet underfoot completed his tranquillity.
Surely nothing disconcerting could happen to a man who owned such a
house as this. But alas! regrettable episodes have a habit, like
migrant birds, of arriving in companies.
Mrs. Walkingshaw had been dead for many years, and in her stead
Heriot's maiden sister, a thin, elderly lady of exemplary views and
conduct, ruled her household. As her brother ruled her, he found the
arrangement worked admirably.
Are you not coming out with me in the carriage? said she to her
niece that afternoon.
Jean excused herself. She had letters she positively must write; and
so the two tall horses pranced off, bearing in the very large and very
shiny carriage only the exemplary lady. As she heard them clatter off
over the resounding granite, Jean gave a little skip. Her eyes danced
too and her lips smiled mysteriously. She ran upstairs like a whirlwind
and had the drawing-room door shut behind her before she paused. Only
then did she seem to feel safely alone and not in the carriage
shopping. The room was very long, and very wide, and immensely high,
with three tall windows down one side and substantial furniture
purchased in the heyday of the Victorian epoch. The slim, fair-haired
figure was quite lost in the space considered suitable by an early
nineteenth-century architect for the accommodation of a Scottish lady;
and the fire made much more of a display, glowing in the gloom of that
raw February afternoon.
Jean sat by a little writing-table and took up a pen. Then she
waited, evidently for ideas to come. Ten minutes later they arrived.
The door was softly opened, a voice respectably subdued announced the
name of Mr. Vernon, and the duties of the pen were over.
The gentleman who entered made a remarkable contrast to the sedate
upholstery. He had a mop of brown hair upon a large and well-shaped
head, a broad face with rugged, striking features, very bright blue
eyes, a dashing cavalier mustache, and a most engaging smile. His
clothes were light of hue and very loose, his figure was of medium
height and strongly built, his collar wide open at the neck, and his
tie a large silk butterfly of an artistic shade of brown. Altogether he
was a most improbable person to find calling upon a daughter of Mr.
He gave Jean's hand the grasp of a friend, but his eyes looked on
her with a more than friendly light in them. When he spoke, his voice
was as pleasant as his smile, and his accents were those of that
portion of Britain not yet entirely occupied by the victors of
It's very good of you to stay in, he said.
Oh, I wasn't going out in any case, said Jean demurely.
She seated herself in one corner of the sofa, and the young man,
after hesitating for an instant between a seat by her side and a chair
close by, and failing to catch her eye to guide him, chose the chair,
and for the moment looked unhappy.
I've come to say good-by, he began.
She looked up quickly.
Are you going away?
He nodded his brown mop.
Yes, I'm off to London again.
I hope so; anyhow, it can't be for much worse than I've done here.
Haven't your pictures beenbeen appreciated here? she asked.
They haven't been sold, he said, with a short laugh.
What a shame! Oh, Mr. Vernon, I do think people might have had
So do I, he smiled, but they haven't had. I've made nothing here
He had a musical voice, rather deep, and very readily expressive of
what he strongly felt. His last sentence rang in Jean's ears like a
declaration of love. Her eyes fell and her color rose.
We have all been very glad to see you.
He shook his head; his eyes fastened on her all the time.
No, you haven't.
She looked up, but meeting that devouring gaze, looked down again.
Not all of you, he added. Your father disapproves of me, your
eldest brother detests me, and your aunt distrusts me. It's only you
and Frank who have been my friends.
Frank was her soldier brother, and Jean adored him. She thought she
could never care for any one but a soldier, till she encountered art
and Lucas Vernon.
Yes, Frank certainly does like you very much indeed, she said
Yes, she answered firmly.
He smiled and bent towards her.
Your hand on it!
She held out her hand, and he took it and kept it.
(At that moment Mr. Walkingshaw was opening his front door.)
For a minute they sat in silence, and then she tried gently to draw
the hand away.
Let me keep it for a little! he pleaded. I'm going away. I shan't
hold it again for Heaven knows how long.
His voice was so caressing that she ceased to grudge him five small
(Mr. Walkingshaw had removed his muffler and was hanging up his
Are you at all sorry I'm going?
Yes, murmured Jean, Frank and Iwe'll both miss you.
The artist murmured too, but very indistinctly. The idea he
expressed thus inadequately was, Hang Frank! But she heard the next
word too plainly for her self-possession.
(Mr. Walkingshaw was now ascending his well-carpeted staircase.)
She gave him one glance which she meant for reproof; but when he saw
her eyes, so loving and a little moist, he covered the short space
between them with one movement, and was on his knees before her.
Do you love me? he whispered.
Her head bent over his, and she answered very faintly something like
Mr. Walkingshaw entered his drawing-room.
For a moment there was a painful pause. Jean's face had turned a
becoming shade of crimson, and the artist was on his feet. Naturally
the woman spoke first.
II didn't expect you back so soon, father.
So I perceive, said Mr. Walkingshaw.
The young man turned to him with creditable composure.
One can hardly judge of the effect in this light, said he.
Mr. Walkingshaw had heard of people becoming insane under the stress
of a sudden shock, and he wondered uneasily whether this misfortune had
befallen Lucas Vernon or himself. The artist perceived his success, and
hope began to rise afresh. He cocked his head professionally on one
side and examined the confounded girl.
We must try the pose in my studio.
Jean also saw the dawn of hope.
May I inquire what you are talking about? demanded her father.
Miss Walkingshaw has promised for sit to me for her portrait,
explained the artist. We were trying one or two positions.
Mr. Walkingshaw breathed somewhat heavily, but said nothing. Jean's
color began to subside.
Mr. Vernon was arranging my hands, she contributed towards his
Mr. Vernon was now gazing on her in the attitude which he had learnt
from plays and poems conveyed to the laity the best conception of
The head a little more to the right! he exclaimed. The hands
crossed! A smile, please! Now, sir, how do you like that?
Mr. Walkingshaw ignored the question altogether and addressed his
If Mr. Vernon can give any reasons why he should paint your
portrait, I think he had better give them to me before the matter goes
His formidable eye supplied the addendum, And you leave the room!
She obeyed, and the painter was left with this singularly favorable
opportunity of obtaining a commission at last.
Well, sir? said Mr. Walkingshaw.
Lucas was unused to the subtleties of diplomacy, but it seemed to
him an evident case for tact.
What do you think about it yourself? he began cautiously.
I think, replied the W.S., that you'd be better back in England.
His eye again spoke for him, and this time it said, There is no
further use in attempting to deceive me.
The artist took the hint. His strong, pleasant face became a mirror
reflecting the very truth; his blue eyes were filled with a light
brighter even than the inspiration of art; his mellow voice burst out
I love Jean!
The effect was rather like discharging a cannon and bringing down a
scrap of plaster.
Oh, indeed, said Mr. Walkingshaw. You mean my daughter?
I should think I do!
I merely asked for information, Mr. Vernon.
Then I can guarantee your information! Lucas smiled frankly, but
he might as well have smiled at the hat-rack in the hall. I'm quite
aware you don't think me good enough for herand I agree with you. But
if it comes to that, who is? You may say my name's neither Turner nor
Rubens; you may think it's like my dashed impudence asking you to let
me make a short cut to heaven across your hearth
It was at this point that Mr. Walkingshaw discharged his ordnance.
What is your income? he inquired coldly.
His aim was more accurate. The artist descended to earth with a
My income? he gasped.
Your income, repeated the bombardier.
The artist ran his fingers convulsively through his hair.
Now, what the deuce should I put it at?
An approximately correct figure, suggested Mr. Walkingshaw.
To tell you the truth, I haven't the least idea.
Oh, good God, no!
Oh, more than that.
Can't you suggest a figure yourself?
Well, let's say that in a good year I make anything up to three or
four hundred pounds, and in a bad year anything down to fifty or
We'll say that if you like. Do you expect any legacies to fall in
to youanything of that kind?
Unfortunately I don't.
Mr. Walkingshaw regarded him with contemptuous severity.
Then you propose to marry my daughter on maybe fifty or sixty
pounds a year?
I told you that was in a bad year, protested the artist.
Thank you, but I don't want any of your fluctuating incomes for my
girl. I don't care if you earned ten thousand pounds this year. So long
as you can't guarantee that to last, you're no better than a
speculatora hand-to-mouth, don't-know-where-you-are-to-morrow sort of
person. Now, that sort of thing won't do, Mr. Vernon. Before you
next think of marrying a girl in my daughter's position, let me give
you this bit of advice: learn to paint your pictures on some kind of
proper business principles. If you do them, say, once a month and sell
them at a standard pricejust as other folks have to manufacture and
sell their goodsyou'll not find yourself in the same ridiculous
position you're in at this moment.
Mr. Walkingshaw rose to indicate that the interview was at an end;
but the artist's endurance ended first.
Mr. Walkingshaw! Did you ever make anything in your life?
The W.S. stared at him.
I have made most of what I possess, sir.
Pooh! You're talking of money. Does your mind never run on anything
but money? I mean, have you ever made a hat or a shoe, or a book or a
picture, or even a cheese? Have you ever actually turned out anything
that was the least use or pleasure to anybody?
Vernon's blue eyes were bent upon him in such an extraordinarily
intense and flashing manner that Mr. Walkingshaw found himself
compelled to answer.
That kind of thing isahnot in my line.
Then, burst forth the artist, you can no more judge of my work
than a toasting-fork can judge of a steam engine. The woman who cooks
your dinner understands more than you do. She knows better than to
think it costs no more time and trouble to cook an omelette than boil
an egg. A picture a month, and the same price for each! Confound it,
Mr. Walkingshaw, you make me ashamed of you!
Do you imagine, sir, that that affects me?
If I were you, I'd prefer my son-in-law to respect me.
Mr. Walkingshaw positively jumped.
You mean toer
Marry her, whether you like it or not! I'm in loveand she loves
me! There's not the least use trying to explain to you what love means.
It would be like trying to explain a cigar to a chicken. You're too
respectable. You can't understand.
The tirade ceased abruptly, and the young man smiled again upon the
petrified Writer to the Signet.
I am going back to London to-night. Just give me a year or two, Mr.
Walkingshaw. I'll make an income for her.
Mr. Walkingshaw regained his senses.
You will never be admitted inside this house in your life again,
sir. You will never marry my daughter; and mind you, you needn't
flatter yourself she will correspond with you or anything of that kind.
My children have been decently brought up. What I say is done; and what
I say shan't be done, is not done!
He had recovered his formidableness now, and the artist's face fell.
For a moment he looked gloomily at his father-in-law elect, and then he
turned for the door.
We shall see, he said.
You shall not see her again, retorted Mr. Walkingshaw.
The door slammed behind art and love and impracticability, and he
stood in his vast drawing-room alone.
It is a pleasant and an edifying thing to contrast the difference
between the fates of the reputable and the Bohemian even in the lists
of love. Clearly these matters are managed by some scrupulously
equitable power. One hesitates to dub it Providence for fear of seeming
sentimental, but one may safely describe it as something almost as wise
and decidedly more respectable. Here was Lucas Vernon, without a
settled income or any very coherent notion of how to make one,
dismissed the house of the girl he was foolish enough to love. There,
on the other hand, was Andrew Walkingshaw, who had first devoted
himself to amassing and investing a handsome competence, and then,
without any further difficulty to speak of, had selected and secured
one of the most charming girls imaginable. In every respect but one he
had chosen obviously well. She was fair to see, and hence very
gratifying to be seen with; she was quite young, and therefore amenable
and not too sophisticated; and she came of so excellent and ancient a
family that it was a pleasure merely to mention the name of his
prospective father-in-law to his envious acquaintances. Archibald
Berstoun, Esq., of that ilk, was the style in which that gentleman
preferred to have correspondence addressed to him, accepting Berstoun
of Berstoun as a less satisfactory alternative, and answering very
briefly letters to plain Archibald Berstoun, Esq.
The only drawback to Ellen Berstoun was her father's unfortunate
financial position. Andrew had to take her without a penny; but then,
on the other hand, he might not have got her at all had her parents the
wherewithal to display her charms in London ballrooms. Also, Archibald
of that ilk might have looked for a showier mate for her under more
prosperous circumstances. As it was, her parents spent a strenuous
fortnight in persuading her to accept so excellent an opportunity of
reducing their supply of marriageable daughters to the more reasonable
number of five, and the approval of their creditors was practically
They had been engaged for a month, when, upon that same afternoon,
she arrived on a short visit to the Walkingshaw's house. Andrew would
have met her at the station had her train arrived only twenty minutes
later, but it was one of the most admirable features in his character
that he made a point of never on any pretext leaving the office before
the hour had struck. Frank, however, showed remarkable alacrity in
offering himself as substitute. So zealous and obliging a brother was
he that he started for the station with half an hour to spare, and
whiled away a portion of that time in purchasing a bouquet of flowers
and a very ornamental box of chocolates.
Holding the chocolate-box and his umbrella under one arm and the
bouquet in his other hand, this best of brothers paced that eligible
promenade, the platform of the Haymarket station. People, especially
women, glanced at him with approval as the erect, military young figure
passed and repassed on his vigil, marching as though on parade. He was
twenty-five, bronzed of skin, well-featured, trimly mustached, modest
and yet gallant of mien, attired in an overcoat drawn in at the waist
and a hat becomingly cocked a little towards his left earin a word, a
credit to that distinguished corps, the Cromarty Highlanders. At
present they were in India, and he was home on furlough.
Sometimes his clear young eyes looked disconsolately into space, as
though the saddest thoughts afflicted him; and then they would brighten
with a sudden excitement. As these brightenings almost invariably
coincided with the first rumbling of a train far down the line that
glimmered beneath red lamps and green, leading from the north out of
the gathered dusk, it seemed as though the cheering prospect came from
thence. This probability would appear to be increased by the
disappearance of the excitement when the train proved to come from some
locality of no interest whatsoever. An observant female in glasses and
a golf cape, who entertained herself by furtively studying this
agreeable-looking stranger, smiled knowingly at each of these
manifestations: she knew whom he was waiting for, even without
the palpable evidence of the bouquet and chocolate-box, and the only
thing that puzzled her was why he should have these very mournful
lapses. A secret grief seemed inappropriate both to the gentleman and
the obvious situation. But how could she guess that she was merely
witnessing an accentuated variety of the pleasure with which any good
brother looks forward to meeting his future sister-in-law at the end of
a cold journey?
Yon's her noo, said a porter to whom the young officer addressed a
question for the fourteenth time.
The north line runs for a long way very straight just there, and
Frank could see the two round glows far off in the darkness grow larger
and larger, brighter and brighter, with the furnace-lit smoke streaming
ever more brilliantly above, till the shape of a great engine started
out, thundering close upon him. And then the observant female was
gratified by a glimpse of a slender girl, rather tall, smiling very
kindly as the interesting unknown handed her down from her carriage and
placed the flowers in her small gray glove. Her hair was dark; she wore
handsome furs; she left the entire charge of her luggage to her escort,
like a lady accustomed to be waited on; she moved down the platform
with a graceful air of distinction, and as she passed close by, the
observant female's heart was won by the sweet and innocent expression
on her face. She thought them one of the nicest-looking couples she had
Meanwhile, the man whose virtues had earned this charming girl, and
whose high position could command the services of a Highland subaltern
to do his station work for him, was dictating a letter to his
But when Andrew sat down to dinner beside the lady of his choice,
and felt that at last he could conscientiously lay aside the serious
business of life for a little dalliance with the fruits of his
industry, it was pleasant to see with what happy mingling of pride and
calm he accepted his good fortune. He conveyed that suggestion of
having put the lady in his pocket from the moment she whispered Yes,
and kept her there among his keys as a valued, yet not foolishly
over-valued, possession, which is so virile a characteristic of the
thoroughly successful man. Now he was taking her out to have a look at
her, and incidentallyas it were, unconsciouslyexhibit his trophy to
the company. As for Ellen Berstoun, she looked so kind, so delicately
radiant, so gently bred, and so anxious to give pleasure, that she made
just the contrast to her dominating betrothed that sensible people
believe in. Here, they would tell you, was a match made in a more
practicable place than heaven.
The rest of the company at dinner consisted of Mr. Walkingshaw,
evidently proud of his future daughter-in-law, yet singularly silent
and abstracted; Miss Walkingshaw, very erect at the end of the table;
Jean, very downcast, poor girl (yet did she not deserve to be?); Frank,
looking for some reason considerably less happy than when he handed
Miss Berstoun out of her carriage; and Mrs. Dunbar. Madge Dunbar was a
second cousin, and the widow of Captain Dunbar of Hammersmith's Horse,
who was killed at Paardeberg. She was left with no children, a very
small income, and a number of relatives occupying excellent stations in
life. With one or other of these she generally stayed, but latterly had
shown a decided preference for the hospitality of Mr. Walkingshaw. In
fact, she had already been with them for three months, and as Mr.
Walkingshaw was always very emphatic in his refusals to let her think
of leaving, and remarkably gracious on every occasion on which they
were seen in company, while his sister declared her to be one of the
best women she knew, acquaintances had begun to exchange whispers. She
was forty-five, full-figured, though not yet precisely stout,
dark-eyed, and irreproachably dressed. She was also irreproachably
Champagne was drunk in honor of Miss Berstoun, and as being the
beverage most suitable to her pedigree (though, as a matter of fact,
she had only tasted it twice before, since Archibald of that ilk
confined himself to whisky, and his wife to dandelion porter). As the
butler passed behind Mr. Walkingshaw's chair, his master arrested him
by pointing to his glass. The vigilant Andrew bent forward in his seat.
Are you giving the system up? he inquired, with his
I feel that a glass of wine would do me good to-night, his father
replied with dignity.
Oh, I'm so glad to see you enjoying yourself again, Heriot! smiled
Thank you. Thank you, Madge, said he, and made a little
courteously old-fashioned indication that he drank to her health.
The lady in a sprightly fashion returned his toast, and the junior
partner frowned. He disapproved of Mrs. Dunbar, he strongly suspected
her of ulterior designs, and he regarded the adoption of Christian
names by second cousins as superfluous, and in the circumstances a
little indecorous. His long upper lip grew longer as he addressed his
I was under the impression it was you who encouraged him to go in
for this so-called system.
Oh, but it's possible to overdo everything, you know, said the
lady, with a smile whose sweetness he inwardly decided to be compounded
of some base imitation of sugar. Don't you agree with me, Heriot?
Absolutely, pronounced her host, with emphasis.
So passionate a lover naturally regretted parting even for a moment
from his betrothed, yet under the circumstances Andrew felt decidedly
relieved when the ladies left the room, and the three Walkingshaw men
drew together at the end of the table. His father passed the port to
his sons and then helped himself. Andrew frowned again: he believed in
never neglecting an opportunity for salutary criticism.
Oh, you're going to take port too?
I am, said Mr. Walkingshaw, and drinking his glass straight off,
filled it afresh.
Andrew drew down the corners of his lips, raised his eyebrows, and
glanced across at his brother; but Frank was staring abstractedly at
The second glass seemed to revive their father. He smacked his lips
over it with something of his old gusto, threw out his chest, frowned
formidably, yet with a certain complacency, and said
I've had to perform an unpleasant duty this afternoon, Andrew.
Andrew pricked up his ears and looked sternly expectant. Yet on
neither of them did the idea of an unpleasant duty seem to have a
That fellow Vernon has been making love to Jean. I ordered him out
of the house. He's off to London again, I'm thankful to say.
Upon my word! said Andrew.
He looked as though he had been told of the attempted assassination
of the President of the Court of Session. But on Frank the news
produced quite a different effect. He started out of his reverie and
You ordered him out? Poor Jean!
The two older and wiser men turned upon him together.
Yes, sir, said his father, I did order him out. It would have
been 'poor Jean' if I hadn't.
I'd have kicked him downstairs! said Andrew.
You'd have had a devilish thin time if you'd tried, retorted his
brother. Vernon could take you across his knee. He's a good fellowa
deuced good fellow; he'd have made Jean a deuced good husband. Kick him
downstairs? By Gad, you'd have squealed when the kicking began!
He addressed himself entirely to his brother, though he had done no
more than approve of the exiling of Lucas, and he spoke with a curious
bitterness. Mr. Walkingshaw struck the table with his fist, not
passionately, in any disorder of mind, but sternly and effectively.
Hold your tongue, he said, and kept his eyes on him to see that he
I beg your pardon, he said to his father, and, not looking again
at his brother, walked out of the room.
The two wiser heads, being then left undisturbed by the follies of
youth, discussed at length and in complete accord the outrageous
episode of the afternoon.
Frank strode hurriedly across the hall, flung into the library, and
there relieved his feelings by a few crisp expletives. Gloom succeeded
anger, but after a few minutes youth began to prevail even over these
high emotions. He turned up the light, adjusted his tie and smoothed
his hair before the mirror over the mantelpiece, and ran upstairs to
the drawing-room. Outside the door he paused, looking now like the
expectant watcher on the platform. Faintly he heard Ellen Berstoun's
voice, and the same look came into his eyes as when he caught the
distant roaring of the train. He straightened his neck, banished all
expression from his face as a soldier should, and entered the room.
It is generally conceded by such as have enjoyed the privilege of
sitting in a drawing-room waiting for the gentlemen to lay down their
cigars that no period of the day is more immune from the bustle and
turmoil of modern life. But the peace of an ordinary drawing-room was a
bank holiday compared with the Walkingshaws'. Not too much gas was
burned, or too much coal, since money is not made and well-born wives
secured by waste of fuel. That leads to mere cheerfulness. The monastic
atmosphere was completed by the Victorian upholstery and the hushed
voices of the four ladies, so that even the young soldier instinctively
trod more like a burglar than a Cromarty Highlander as he advanced
towards one of the groups of two.
Near the fireplace sat Miss Walkingshaw and Mrs. Dunbar engaged on
fancy-work, and occasionally murmuring references to my last
cookthat tall girl Jane. But it was not they that Frank
approached. On two chairs very close together and far removed from the
others, Jean and Ellen talked. Their voices, too, were hushed, but the
subject of their conversation was evidently more agitating than cooks.
In fact, there was something very like a sob more than once in Jean's
voice, and Ellen held her hand and gently pressed it. But when poor
Jean saw her favorite brother coming towards her with a warm sympathy
in his eyes that told her he knew her trouble, she could control
herself no longer. Up she jumped, and throwing him one wry, tearful
smile as she passed, ran out of the room.
The two elder ladies looked up and then down again at their work.
They had not yet heard of the painful episode. Frank came forward and
took his sister's chair, which had been drawn so very close to Ellen's.
He was thus able, by exercising caution, to take up the confidential
I suppose she has told you? he muttered, with a wary glance
towards his aunt.
Yes, murmured Ellen. I'm so sorry!
She looked nearly as distressed as Jean, and her gentle voice made
her words sound like a sweet lament for all unhappy loves.
I call it the deuce of a shame! said the soldier.
Can't we do anything to persuade your father?
He was conscious of a little glow at being adopted so instinctively
as an ally.
I've told him what I think about it.
Have you?there was a sparkle in her eyes.How good of you!
What did he say?
Told me to hold my tongue.
Her face fell.
I must talk to Andrew about it.
Frank smiled sardonically.
I'm afraid you won't find him very sympathetic either.
She looked down at her little pointed shoe and said nothing.
Who isn't very sympathetic, Frank? asked Miss Walkingshaw,
suddenly looking up.
He started guiltily.
Ohera lot of fellows one can think of, he explained.
Mrs. Dunbar looked at the two young people curiously. She knew whom
she herself did not consider sympathetic, and jumped to a conclusion.
There was nothing the junior partner would dislike more than being
critically discussed by that dear girl who was so much too nice for
him, and that engaging boy who was so infinitely better-looking. It
seemed a pity they could not enjoy their conversation without
Would you like me to play you something, dear? she asked.
Oh yes, dear, said Miss Walkingshaw. Do, please!
They were the most affectionate of friends. Indeed, it was touching
to see how devoted Madge was to Heriot's wintry sister. Nobody else had
ever seen so much in her to love.
The music began, and, once started, showed no sign of stopping. Over
the top of her music Mrs. Dunbar's black eyes smiled a discreet
approval of the confidential pair. She only wished that Andrew, gagged
and bound beneath his brother's chair, was here to listen to them. She
was sure they must be discussing something it would do him good to
Is Mr. Vernon a very nice man? asked Ellen.
One of the best. These artist fellows are apt to be a bit
swollen-headed for my taste, but Lucas Vernon's a sportsman.
She appreciated the distinction succinctly indicated.
He does sound nice, she said. Oh, I wish everybody had enough
Frank drew another distinction.
Everybody who deserved it, anyhow.
Well, said Ellen softly, if I had the arrangement of things, I
would risk it and give everybody enough. It makes me so unhappy
to see people longing for things they can never possibly getwhether
they deserve them or not.
The young soldier looked at her oddly from the corner of his eye.
Could it be possible that two people could sit so close together and
speak in such hushed confidence, and yet that one of them could be so
strangely oblivious as not to know when she had laid her slender little
finger on the other's open wound? He had the strictest notions of duty
and of honor: it was absolutely essential she never should realize:
but, alas! the sympathetic widow was playing the most divinely romantic
waltz. To complete the horrible temptation, Ellen looked suddenly at
him with her tender eyes shining and her delicate skin gently flushed
It makes me wretchedI pity them so!
The waltz grew more romantic with every note, the temptation to feel
this pity soothe his own wound more irresistible.
I'm one of 'em, he said.
He endeavored to compromise with duty by throwing the most unfeeling
ferocity into his confession; but even the best drilled soldier cannot
simultaneously advance and stand where he was.
Ellen's eyes were riveted on him now.
I'm sorry. Have I said anything I shouldn't?
She looked distressed, and he realized he had overdone the ferocity.
No, no, I assure you. I only meant IIwell, one can't have
He wished that delirious waltz would stop. It made it so hard to
collect one's thoughts, and especially to recover the blank countenance
he had managed to assume before he took this chair and heard that music
and looked into those eyes. She smiled with playful kindness.
Are you so frightfully hard up?
It isn't money! Oh, can't you
He didn't finish his sentence; nor did he need to. A sudden light
dawned in Ellen's eyes; her lips instinctively parted; and then she
turned her face away. And thus they sat for what seemed an hour, while
the sympathetic widow poured out voluptuous harmonies without
In reality it was only two minutes later that Mr. Walkingshaw and
Andrew entered: the senior partner looking, for a habitual diner-out,
curiously flushed after his mild indulgence in port; the junior
partner's full cheeks bulging with the backwash of a lover's smile.
Frank sprang up, and his brother, smiling even more affectionately,
took his chair. At the same moment the widow stopped playing, and the
scales seemed suddenly to fall from the young soldier's eyes. He saw
himself as the most despicable villain in Europe, and Ellen as lost for
ever, whether as sister or friend. So distraught was he that he had
nearly tried to open a mid-Victorian cabinet before he discovered it
was not the door. Downstairs he hurried wildly, threw on an ulster and
cap, and the front door banged behind him.
The unhappy young man looked up at the circle of solemn mansions
which towered above him, black against the dark gray heavens, and it
seemed to him that each one as he passed it silently rebuked him; while
the trees across the street, even though they were decidedly less
solid, gave vent to their displeasure audibly. He had been brought up
in the severest Scotch traditions, and though life in the army had
vastly changed his outlook, it had in certain particulars but
substituted form for duty. To-night both standards rose spectrally
and shook their awful fingers at him. He had let his heart get the
better of his head! No member of his family (save luckless Jean) whom
he ever knew or heard of had done such a thing before. Or if they had,
the indiscretion had been judiciously hushed up, and the family
escutcheon kept stainless. As for the divinity he had scandalized, she
would never forgive him; she would always think of him as a traitor to
his respectable brother!
At this point a little star peeped out of the hurrying clouds and
vanished again instantly. It was as though some power above had winked.
On he strode through the steep, empty streets, lines of black
freestone houses, built by regular church-goers and unbreathed upon by
scandal ever since, frowning upon him perpetually; and the wind, which
had risen greatly, wailing and booming all sorts of morals. And now a
fresh trouble agitated him. He was growing less contrite! He kept
seeing his brother's bulging cheeks, and Ellen's innocent, kind smile,
and all sorts of backslidings suggested themselves. He had been
criminal enough to fall in love, and now was added another crimehe
could not fall out again. Never had he dreamt of such depths of
depravity in him, Frank Walkingshaw.
Again a little star twinkled for an instant.
It was a full two hours later that he returned home, footsore (for
he had been walking in his pumps) and with a mind as far from calm as
ever. He assumed that everybody would be in bed, but no sooner had he
shut the door than Jean appeared, flying downstairs to meet him.
Oh, she cried, with a note of disappointment, I hoped it was the
The doctor! he exclaimed.
Hush! she whispered, and came close up to him. Father has
suddenly been taken very ill.
At that moment Andrew also appeared, to see who had entered. He
looked portentously grave.
Well, he said, what have I been saying? It's happened just
exactly as anybody but a fool might have known it wouldjust
precisely. He's no one to blame but himself for itand his precious
He rubbed his hands almost pleasantly.
That quack's done for himand his wine to-night finished the job.
Well, I warned him against both. People that will not take advice must
bide the consequences. Are you going to stay up for Dr. Mackenzie,
Of course, she said.
Well then, I might as well get off to my bed. If there's any
immediate danger,his face grew very solemn,if the end's expected
in the night, or anything like that, just knock on my door.
The junior partner bade them a grave good-night and retired; and
such imaginative persons as are not satisfied with this bald record of
facts, may picture him either as offering up a brief prayer for his
father's happy recovery, or meditating upon the image of his
Fortunately, it proved unnecessary to disturb the junior partner
during the night, but next morning, when he had heard the doctor's
report and personally visited the sick-bed, he took the most serious
view of the situation. He summoned his two married sisters, urging them
to lose no time; he spent only half an hour at the office; and then he
sat down with his Scotsman in the library (his Bible accessible
in case of emergencies) to await the developments that he grieved to
think were now practically inevitable. The doctor had paid a second
visit and given the gloomiest report. Put in a nutshell, it came to
this: that he could make neither head nor tail of his patient's
symptoms, but that, as they were clearly the result of a course of
treatment at the hands of an unqualified practitioner, it was
improbable that Mr. Walkingshaw would recover from the consequences of
In the afternoon he was told that his father would like to see him.
He had finished the Scotsman and begun a conversation with his
betrothed in a gently facetious vein, but it took him not a moment to
adjust his features to the rigidity of an urn, and save for the faint
squeaking of his boots, he ascended the stairs with noiseless
solemnity. He found Mr. Walkingshaw propped up on pillows and breathing
heavily. The demeanor of both was exactly becoming to the situation.
Are you suffering much pain? inquired the son in a hushed voice.
It comes and goes, sighed the father. It was just diabolical a
few minutes ago; now it's a wee thing better, thanks.
A kind of temporary relief, suggested the son.
Possibly, possibly. I'd like to think it was going to last,
I wish I could hold out hopes, said Andrew sympathetically.
Mr. Walkingshaw stirred suddenly.
The doctor's not given me up yet, surely? he exclaimed in a louder
Hush, hush! It'll only hurry things if you let yourself get
But, Andrew, my dear boy, tell me what he said to you.
The junior partner shook his head, kindly but resolutely.
No, no; not yet awhile. So long as your mind remains clear, just
keep composed; and then, when you feel any decided change, I'll hold
nothing back from you, and we can get the rest of the family round the
bedside. You'll agree that's the best thing.
The orthodoxy of this programme ought, one would think, to have
soothed the W.S. But it is strange what fancies sick men take.
I don't agree at all, said Mr. Walkingshaw warmly. In fact, I may
tell you Cyrus warned me there might be kind of temporary
He looked at his son for a moment and then added, with sudden
Andrew, I'd like to see Cyrus.
A grim smile dilated Andrew's cheeks.
You'll have to catch him first. He's off.
Bolted this morning as soon as he heard he'd done for you. I hear
he owes a couple of hundred pounds in the town, one way and another.
That's your Professor for you!
Mr. Walkingshaw groaned. His son thought it well to improve the
occasion, since he did not expect to have many more.
Him and his radio-electricity! What was it he was going to
dorenew the cells of the body?
Well, why shouldn't cells be renewed? protested the invalid
There will be, said his son facetiously. He'll find himself in
one again or I'm mistaken.
Mr. Walkingshaw lay silent for a few minutes. Then suddenly he
Another of them coming on! he muttered, and twisted his face away.
It was a few minutes more before he spoke again.
I trust they'll catch the rascal! Andrew, my boy, can you not do
anything to assist the police?
It was impressive to see how adequately the junior partner handled
each fresh development of the situation. At these last words he looked
Had your thoughts not better be turning to other things? he
The invalid's head started forward from the pillow.
Will you have the kindness to mind your own he began; and then,
in judgment, another spasm assailed him.
Andrew closed his eyes, drew down the corners of his mouth, and his
lips moved silently but evidently piously. It was impossible to remain
callous to such an elevating influence.
You are right, Andrew; you are right, said his father. And now,
just supposing I was taken, you'll see that affair of Guthrie and Co.
through the way we decided on?
Andrew opened his eyes immediately and exhibited a fresh instance of
his adaptability to each changing circumstance.
I've just been thinking of a better method still, he answered
promptly. Why should the creditors get any more than they're legally
entitled to? You mind yon five thousand pounds invested in the Grand
Well, when one goes into the thing, they've really no more than a
moral right to that; and if one once begins on moral rights, there's no
end to them.
That sounds a bit worldly-wise, Andrew; but as you likeas you
His junior partner regarded him severely.
I may remind you that I'm only following your own precepts.
One says things in health that one repents of on a bed of sickness.
Manage Guthrie and Co. as you like, but don't quote me if you mean to
neglect moral obligations. I had the decency never to quote my own
father, and it's the least you can do for yours, Andrew.
Andrew still looked displeased. It seemed to his fastidious ears
that there was an unpleasant smack of something remotely resembling
cynicism in this speech. It sounded almost as though he were expected
to acquiesce in the outrageous proposition that members of his family
occasionally allowed moral to be overridden by practical
considerations. He could not conceive of himself admitting the
possibility of such a thing even in the secret recesses of his soul. It
was most uncomfortable to listen to his own father going on like this.
He must be very ill indeedevidently at death's door.
He walked to the window and looked out gloomily upon the gray clouds
driving over the black chimney-cans. The wind had risen to a moderate
gale, and the air was filled with sounds. It struck him as a very
uproarious day for a Writer to the Signet to be going to his long home.
He had given his father credit for soberer tastes. In fact, he was
reminded unpleasantly of the riotous people he had heard of who passed
away in company with a pint of champagne and a cigar. This sort of
thing would really not do.
About my will, Andrew, said his father's voice.
He turned with remarkable alacrity and a forgiving eye. At once he
was the deferential offspring.
You'll find you're left very well off, continued Mr. Walkingshaw.
His son's cheeks bulged in a melancholy smile; precisely the right
smile under the circumstances.
Not at the expense of the others, I hope, he answered modestly.
Oh, I was meaning you'd be well off as a family.
The smile subsided.
Oh, I beg your pardon, said Andrew.
But of course you'll get the bulk.
The smile mournfully returned.
You have the position to keep up, and I thought it only fair to
you, said Mr. Walkingshaw.
Andrew bent his head in solemn acknowledgment of the truth of this
observation and the justice of the arrangement.
There's just one little addendum I want to make. This unpleasant
affair of Jean's has set me thinking, and supposing I'm taken,
Assuming it's as we fearI understand, I understand.
Well, then, you see, I'll not be here myself to keep Frank and Jean
from doing foolish-like things if they happen to have a mind to; and
they're not like you and their sisters. You've all chosen sensibly, but
they're in a kind of way different. I ought to have had them educated
What I've always said, his son agreed.
Anyhow, it's too late now, and what I'll just have to do is
thisintroduce a clause making them forfeit their shares if they marry
without your consent in the next five years.
Would ten not be safer? suggested Andrew.
We'll say seven, then. And of course you'll not withhold your
consent unreasonably? I'll trust you for that.
Andrew's attitude expressed to such perfection the confidence that
might be reposed in him that his father shed him a satisfied smile.
And now, said he, I wonder had you not better get me my will?or
we might wait till to-morrow, and see how I'm feeling then.
If the junior partner had looked grave before, he looked funereal
Your mind's clear now, he said. I wouldn't put it off.
Well, well, said Mr. Walkingshaw, there are my keys on the
dressing-table: you know where to find the will.
Andrew went downstairs as solemnly as he had come up, and with the
same faint squeak.
It never occurred to Frank and Jean to blame their father in any way
for electing so boisterous a day for his probable decease. Clearly they
had not so fine an instinct for respectability as their brother. Their
orthodoxy, compared with his, was built upon a sandy foundation: warm
hearts can never hope to sustain, in its impressive equipoise, the head
of an Andrew Walkingshaw. One might as well expect to find sap running
up the legs of his office stool.
That afternoon they instinctively drifted away from the others and
sat unhappily together. The gusty booming of the wind and the clash of
branches in the garden across the gale-scourged street tormented them
with fancies. It seemed as though a thousand riotous misfortunes were
buffeting their hearts.
Rain! cried Jean, with a little start and then a shiver.
Isn't it beastly? muttered Frank, his eyes on the carpet.
It came on with the sudden violence of a thunder-clap. In a moment
the tossing trees became gesticulating ghosts seen dimly through a veil
of glistening rods of water sharply diagonalnearly horizontal; and
even through the musketry rattle on the window-panes they could hear
the pavement hiss beneath their deluge.
Oh, Frank dear! murmured Jean.
Giving way to illogical tenderness, the young soldier took her hand
and held it.
Of course, the least turn for hard argument would have reassured
them. The storm would blow over; they could find new lovers; their
father, even suppose he died, would receive suitable interment.
Besides, they would be the richer by his decease. But they remained
If anything does happen to father, said Jean sorrowfully, I shall
never forgive myself.
Frank looked surprised.
Forgive yourselffor what?
For not loving him more. I almost hated him yesterday.
Her voice sank very low and she looked apprehensively at her
brother. But he did not rebuke her as he ought.
It's jolly difficult to love him sometimes, he admitted sadly.
She seemed to gain courage.
Frank, she said, have you ever actually felt as
affectionate about him as one ought?
He shook his head.
He never struck me as wanting that kind of thing. I've respected
him, of course.
Oh, so have Ienormously.
Well, said Frank, that's all he wanted out of us, I fancy.
Still, she murmured, we might have given him something more.
'Pon my word, I don't know what he'd have done with it.
She could not but admit that that, in fact, was just the difficulty.
The cultivation of sentiment had not been included in Mr. Walkingshaw's
youthful curriculum. His father before him had enjoyed but two forms of
relaxation from his daily burden of obligations to clients and
Calvina glass of good claret, and a primitive form of golf played
with a missile of feathers in the interstices of a tract of whins. His
mother had not even these amusements. Small wonder Heriot Walkingshaw
found it a little difficult to sympathize with soft creatures who
demanded hot-water bottles at night and affection by day. Jean had a
weakness for both, and had only managed to obtain the hot bottleand
even that was a secret.
The deluge continued and the wind bellowed. Lower and lower sank
I sometimes wish I were more like Andrew, sighed Jean.
The young soldier started.
Oh, Heaven forbid! he exclaimed, and then in a moment added in a
low voice, I wish I had his luck, though.
Jean softly pressed his hand. She understood.
I wish you had, Frank, she whispered.
As if in rebuking answer to these impious desires, the portly form
of Andrew filled the doorway. He looked like the reincarnation of all
the mourners who had ever followed a hearse.
He is worse, he said in a sepulchral voice. The end's not far
off. You had better come up and see him.
In the sick chamber they found already assembled Miss Walkingshaw,
Mrs. Dunbar, Ellen (who kept in the background and never caught Frank's
eye once), and their two elder sisters. Of this pair, Maggie, the
eldest of them all, had long been coupled with Andrew as the two
greatest credits to the family. She was the wife (and incidentally, it
was said, the making) of Ramornie of Pettigrew, a laird of good estate
in the kingdom of Fife. Her business capacity was almost equal to her
brother's. She had extracted Pettigrew from the hands of the friends
who had been doing him no good, paid off the bonds on his property,
presented him with three creditable children, including the necessary
heir male, and would undoubtedly have put him into Parliament could she
have ensured her own presence always at his side. But as he would have
to deliver his speeches himself, even if she composed them, she was
content with making him a deputy-lieutenant. In person this lady
suggested the junior partner as well as in mind. She, however, was
blonde, and though her cheeks took after his, her upper lip was not
quite so substantial.
Gertrude, the second sister, was now Mrs. Donaldson, wife of Hector
Donaldson, advocate. At the time, it was considered a middling sort of
marriage; since his cross-examination of the co-respondent in
Macpherson v. Macpherson and Tattenham-Welby, it had been
considered a creditable marriage; and if his practice continued its
present rate of increase, it would soon become a good marriage. In any
case, she had justified the Walkingshaw reputation for investing money
or person soundly and shrewdly. She resembled her father, and he had
always been considered a fine-looking man. Both Andrew and Maggie
thought she got too many of her clothes in London. They made her a
little conspicuous, and they hoped she could afford it. Still, one
heard very encouraging things said of Hector nowadays.
Mr. Walkingshaw was evidently weakening. He lay back with his eyes
closed till they were all assembled, and then Andrew, who seemed to
have the entire management of the melancholy ceremony, stepped up to
the bedside and, with lowered eyelids, murmured
They are all here now.
Mr. Walkingshaw opened his eyes.
I'm likely to be taken, he said in a weak voice. Andrew'll have
He paused: and one little stifled sob was heard, too gentle to catch
his ear. It came from Jean.
I'd just like to say a word to you all before I go. I've tried my
best to do my duty by my children and my sister and my kinsfolk.
At this specific inclusion of herself the sympathetic widow could
keep silence no longer.
Indeed you have, Heriot! she murmured.
Hush! said Andrew sternly.
Let them say what they feel, Andrew, said his father, with a
glance of melancholy kindness at the widow. It's natural enough.
Mrs. Ramornie at once took that hint, and her brief words of eulogy
were corroborated by a general murmur.
Thank you, thank you, said Mr. Walkingshaw. I may possibly have
made mistakes now and thenI am but human. At the same time, I think
there's none will gainsay I've shown a kind of respectable example.
It's a great thing to be thankful for if one can die without making an
exhibition of oneselfa great thing to be thankful for.
The master of ceremonies by a grave glance indicated to the company
that another approving murmur would be appropriate, and his own voice
led the hum.
I've another thing to be thankful for, resumed the invalid, and
that's my eldest son. Andrew'll take good care of you allof you and
the business both. Oh, Frank, my lad, he's a fine example to you; just
as your sister Maggie is to you, Jean. Mind you both follow them.
You'll never give folks reason to talk about you then. Don't get
yourselves talked about! That's the main thing. Of course, you'll take
every opportunity of bettering yourselves, both of you; but do it in a
kind of sober, decent way. Do it like Andrew: I can say no more than
All eyes were sadly fixed on the two distressed young people, but
they made no answer, and the affecting scene now terminated with these
last few words
If by any kind of chance it happens I'm given a year or two more
after all, I'll take no more part in worldly matters. I'll leave things
to you, Andrew, just the same as if I was gone. If I linger on, a
chastened man, taking for a wee while an interest in your welfare,
that's all that will be left to methat's the whole I look forward
Andrew's sorrowful eyes replied, And that's more than we do, as he
silently shook his father's hand. Then the company tiptoed sadly out of
Of all the anticipatory mourners, the most demonstrative was the
sympathetic widow. She could barely control her emotion till she
reached the drawing-room. There she broke down quite.
Oh, Mary, Mary! she sobbed.
They were alone togetherMary, commonly styled Miss Walkingshaw,
and she. The exemplary spinster was likewise distressed, but in a
calmer manner, as became a lady who had shared Heriot's Spartan
Whisht, whisht, said she. He'll maybe get over it yet.
Nono, he won't! That horrible beast will see that he doesn't!
Miss Walkingshaw started nervously.
You're not meaning the nurse?
I mean thatugh!that Andrew!
A bright pink spot appeared in each of Miss Walkingshaw's cheeks.
But the widow was too agitated to observe either them or the horrified
stare with which she greeted this outburst.
I believe he would kill him to spite me!
Madge! said the exemplary spinster in a voice which for the first
time reminded her of Heriot's.
Mrs. Dunbar collected herself. Doubtless she realized the injustice
she was doing that excellent man.
I am sorry, Mary, she said gently. I don't know what I'm saying.
I admire Andrew as much as any one. I didn't mean it. It was only that
I felt I had to blame some one for this terrible sorrow.
Her friend continued to look at her with decidedly diminished
Our religion forbids us she began austerely; but the sympathetic
widow hurriedly anticipated her.
I know, I know, dearso it does. How true, Mary; oh, how true! How
sweet of you to remind me.
She turned her large black eyes, glistening pathetically, full upon
her friend; but for some reason Mary continued to regard her with a new
and curious expression. A trace of suspicion seemed to be among its
Meanwhile her slandered nephew was in the library with his two elder
sisters. The gas was now lit and the storm curtained out. Mrs. Ramornie
and Andrew talked in decorously lowered voices; Mrs. Donaldson more
loudly, and almost more airily, as became her dashing appearance and
smart reputation. Yet she too had a nice sense of the solemnity of the
occasion, and they forgave her elevated voice, since they knew several
people of rank who talked like that.
An irretrievable loss, Andrew was saying; an irretrievable loss.
They agreed with him as heartily as people could who were feeling so
A public loss, he added; and again they concurred.
That will have to be taken into consideration in making the
arrangements, he went on.
They looked graver than ever.
Something like Sir James Maitland's? suggested Mrs. Donaldson.
Something of the sort, said he.
I only hope it will not be a wet day, said Mrs. Ramornie. George
caught lumbago at his last funeralLord Pitcullo's, you know.
George was the laird of Pettigrew. Nowadays his wife saw that he
mixed with none but the most desirable company, whether it were alive
Oh, my dear, he must come over for it! said her sister.
He will, replied Mrs. Ramornie; and they knew that point was
To tell the honest truth, I'm devoutly thankful for one thing,
observed Andrew, with the first smile he had permitted himself, and
even it was appropriately grim: this will put Madge Dunbar's nose out
Thank Heaven for that! replied Mrs. Ramornie devoutly.
She meant to get him, said Mrs. Donaldson. I never saw a woman
If you'd been living in the house, you'd have seen still more of
her trying, replied her brother.
Another fierce shower beat upon the window, with it the gale rose
higher and the branches clashed more noisily. Even behind curtains one
felt in the presence of something elemental. Silence fell on the three,
and when they spoke again it was more solemnly than ever.
It will make a considerable difference to us all, of course, said
Her brother seemed to take this as a question, for he nodded gravely
Oh, decidedly it will make that.
She mused for a moment and then turned to her sister.
What was the name of the shoot the Hendersons had last season?
They paid two hundred, didn't they?
Two hundred and twenty, said Andrew.
He was a mine of information on the affairs of his acquaintances,
especially on what they paid for things.
Can you not get enough invitations in the meantime? asked Mrs.
Oh, dozens. But we want a little shoot of our ownwhen we can
I only mean to build that new conservatory we've always been
talking about, said Mrs. Ramornie; and Andrew pursed his lips and
nodded his approval. The pursing was meant as a hint of criticism on
their too dashing sister.
It was at that moment that there came the first gentle tap upon the
Come in, said Andrew, and the invalid's nurse entered.
Mr. Walkingshaw would like a pint bottle of champagne, said she.
The junior partner stared first at her and then at his sisters. They
in turn opened their eyes.
Is it theerusual thing? he inquired.
The doctor said nothing about it. Who would ever imagine he was
going to want champagne again?
Is it ever given? asked Andrew cautiously.
Oh, I know it's given, interposed Mrs. Ramornie decisively.
George's uncle drank it up to five minutes before he died.
George's uncle had been a very bad example. At the same time he had
been a baronet, and Andrew swithered between the dissoluteness of the
request and a certain stylishness it undoubtedly possessed.
Mr. Walkingshaw is very determined for it, said the nurse.
Very well, he answered. I'll get it for you.
He went out with her and then returned to his sisters.
Does it mean the end is near? asked Mrs. Donaldson in a very
It means it's nearer, he answered grimly.
Undoubtedly this was a wild end for one of the most respectable
lives ever lived in Edinburgh. Outside, the gale was now positively
shrieking; and inside, he presumed the cork was already popping.
What a pity! said Gertrude.
Oh, I don't know about that, replied her sister. It keeps them
happy. George's uncle tried to sing after they thought all was over.
Her brother frowned. The possibility that the head of Walkingshaw &
Gilliflower might exit singing exceeded his gloomiest forebodings. He
wished women did not have that habit of talking about unpleasant
things. Could they not keep the like of that to themselves?
Even as he frowned the second tap disturbed them.
What is it now? he snapped.
Could you tell me, asked the nurse, where Mr. Walkingshaw keeps
Cigars! he cried.
He is very set upon one.
Andrew silently opened a cupboard and handed her a box of cigars.
Then, still in silence, he seated himself before the fire and frowned
at the dancing flames. Behind his back his sisters talked in low
voices, but he seemed to have no taste for further conversation.
A few minutes later came the third tap, and this time there was so
curious a look in the nurse's face that the junior partner was on his
feet in an instant.
Is itshall we come up? he exclaimed.
Mr. Walkingshaw would like to know what there's to be for dinner,
said the nurse.
He looked at his sisters and they at him, and then he rang the bell.
Nobody spoke till the butler came up.
Will you ask the cook what's for dinner? Mr. Walkingshaw wants to
Andrew threw into this speech all the concentrated bitterness of his
soul. Here was the quintessence of unorthodoxy in the very home of
Walkingshaw &Gilliflower! The head of the firm proposed to die not
merely drinking and smoking, but, if possible, feasting. They might be
in some wretched Bohemian den.
In a few minutes the butler returned with a menu. Andrew read it
with a sardonic smile.
Tell him, he said, that he can have cocky-leeky soup, boiled cod
and oyster sauce, loin of mutton, apple charlotte, and cheese
strawsany or all of them he likes.
Thank you, said the nurse.
Andrew planted himself before the fire.
A fine story this is to get about! he exclaimed darkly.
But surely father must be light-headed, said Mrs. Ramornie.
Umph, he replied.
He clearly did not consider this a very creditable excuse.
Or perhaps he is really feeling better, suggested Gertrude.
Better! A man at death's door one minutegiven up by the
doctorsand wanting to eat his dinner the next!
I wonder's that nurse fooling us! I didn't like the look of the
woman from the moment she came into the house. I don't believe in your
On this point his sisters cordially agreed with him. Still they
didn't believe it was the nurse.
Then what is it? he demanded. If he's light-headed, why does she
pay any attention to him?
The door opened, this time without a tap, and in petrified silence
they beheld the portly form of Heriot Walkingshaw, arrayed in a yellow
dressing-gown, holding between his fingers a cigar, and smiling upon
them with a curious blend of satisfaction and meekness.
I have recovered, said he.
As he made this simple announcement he blew luxuriously through his
nose two thin streams of smoke, while the meekness of his aspect seemed
to make some conscious effort to keep on terms with the satisfaction.
A duet of questions and exclamations arose from the two ladies, and
again some conscious restraint appeared to underlie the paternal calm
with which he answered them.
Yes, said he, it is probably one of the most extraordinary
recoveries on record. It began all of a sudden. The spasms passed
completely away, my temperature fell to normal, and I felt a curious
sensation almost of exhilaration. It grew stronger and stronger till at
last I could keep in bed no longer. I felt livelier than I have for
He passed the cigar under his nose, drew in his breath, and smiled
at it with a kind of partially chastened affection.
Do you think could we not have dinner put on a little earlier, eh?
A cry from the open door startled them. The sympathetic widow, her
black eyes dilated, was gazing at the patient.
Heriot! she exclaimed, and there was a note in her voice that came
very near to damping the junior partner's enthusiasm at finding the
head of his firm restored to him.
Yes, Madge, said Mr. Walkingshaw, his beatific smile still
blander, I have indeed been spared.
He drew another deep whiff from his cigar, and added gently
For maybe a few more years of quiet usefulness.
Down the steep street where stands the office of Walkingshaw &
Gilliflower, careers a hat. It is a silk hat and of a large size, the
hat of a professional man of the most dignified standing and evident
brain capacity. Nothing could show better the innate depravity of March
winds than their choice of such a hat to play with. They had thousands
to choose frombowlers, caps, wideawakes, all kinds of commonplace
head-gearand here they have selected for their sport this cylinder of
silk, symbolical of all most worthy of the city's respect. It leaps and
bumps and slides, propelled by the breeze and the law of gravitation,
down the decorously paved hill, in company with a little cloud of dust
and some scraps of dirty paper. And behind it, now at a canter, now at
a panting trot, ambles the portly form of Mr. Heriot Walkingshaw. The
very devil must be in the wind to-day.
At the corner of Queen Street the hat met the full force of the
easterly blast, and bidding good-by to gravitation, turned at right
angles and skimmed for forty yards through space as though the brothers
Wright had mounted it. Then it resumed the action of a Rugby football,
pitching now on its end and now on its middle, and behaving accordingly
each time. Mr. Walkingshaw, perceiving that it was now bouncing in the
direction he desired to go, fell for a moment to a walk and looked
around for some assistant. But the only spectators within hail happened
to be two errand boys who had not seen a circus for some time and
evinced no desire to interrupt the entertainment. So off he started
again, his white spats twinkling beneath his flapping overcoat, and
covered the first fifty yards in such promising fashion that he was
able to strike the revolving rim a series of smart raps with his
umbrella before the wind had recovered its breath. Then suddenly up
leapt the hat, cannoned from a lamp-post on to the railings of the
Queen Street Gardens, from them across the pavement into the gutter,
and there, getting nicely on edge, careered like a hoop, with the thud
of Heriot's footsteps growing fainter behind.
Down the next cross street came two acquaintances of the Writer to
the Signet, and they stopped at the corner in amazement.
Good God, that's Heriot Walkingshaw! cried one.
A man of his age! replied the other; he's running like a wing
three-quarterlook at his stride!
A benevolent lady half stopped the hat with her umbrella. The W.S.
was up to it. He stooped to reach ita quick grab and he had it by the
Well picked up, sir! cried one of the acquaintances.
Mr. Walkingshaw did not hear. He was on the other side of the street
and engrossed in brushing his quarry with his coat sleeve.
It's a wonderful performance, remarked the other acquaintance;
but it ought just about to finish him.
Will it? Look at himhe hasn't turned a hair!
It's amazingpositively amazing! they murmured together as they
watched their elderly friend not only replace his trophy on his head,
but cock it at an angle that breathed reckless defiance to the March
Did you ever see Heriot Walkingshaw with his hat at that angle
As often as I've seen him do even time chasing it!
Off he strode, breathing faster than usual, and his hat still a
little ruffled, but otherwise as jaunty a figure as ever left an
office; while his two acquaintances went away to narrate to the
wondering city what their astonished eyes had seen.
* * * * *
Meanwhile the junior partner was unburdening his soul to the
That's the end of Guthrie and Co.! he exclaimed wrathfully. The
whole thing settled in a fortnightwe might be a marriage registry!
It's just been 'we agree to this,' 'we agree to that,' 'we agree to
anything you suggest.' We haven't fought a single point. I'd have made
those creditors whistle a bit before they saw yon five thousand pounds!
But what's my father say? You heard him yourself'moral
obligation''might be fought!''get it settled.' He's botched the
Mr. Thomieson shook his grizzled head.
It's certainly not been our usual way of doing business.
Andrew glowered at his desk.
He said he was going to leave the business to me, and in
forty-eight hours he was taking more responsibilities on his shoulders
than he had for years! He barely has the decency to ask me for my
opinion now; and when I give it, he tells me it's timid. Timid! The
junior partner's voice rose to a shout. He just goes at things like a
bull, and before I've time to get in two words edgeways, the thing is
settled and he's out of the office whistling!
That whistling's a queer thing he's taken to, observed the clerk.
He was doing it coming home from church last Sunday.
Verra strange, verra strange, commented Mr. Thomieson.
He seemed more struck with the peculiarity of the senior partner's
conduct; Andrew with its offensiveness.
He shows a fine grasp of things all the same, added the clerk. In
that way it fairly does me good sir, to see him so speerited. It minds
me of old times.
A proper like business we'd have had to-day if he'd gone on like
this in old times! grumbled Andrew. He gets through things quick
enough, I admit; but I tell you he does not take the same interest in
them. He talks of 'dry details'!
Is that so? said Mr. Thomieson, his eyes opening.
It's a fact. And he's started cracking jokes with the clerks.
Aye, I heard him yesterday myself. It sounded awful bad in this
I tell you what it'll end in, said Andrew. It'll end in our
losing our businessthat'll be the end of it. And this is what he
calls 'a few years of quiet usefulness'!
The junior partner's upper lip seemed to hang like a curtain half
covering his face. Behind it he swore so distinctly that the
confidential clerk discreetly withdrew.
It's quite remarkable how well I'm keepingquite astonishing,
said Mr. Walkingshaw to himself, as he continued his walk with his
recovered hat perched at the angle that had so surprised his
A month had passed since the stormy afternoon when he had said
farewell to his family, and he now looked back upon that adieu as the
rashest and most premature act of his life. Andrew must have frightened
him; that was the only conceivable excuse for his conduct, seen in the
white light of his present rude health; and he secretly decided that
the junior partner had been getting a little too much rope. If you once
let these lads kick up their heels, the deuce was in it. He would do
nothing unjust, but he would see that he didn't encourage Andrew to
alarm him again. Thus does the virtue even of the most exemplary
occasionally over-exert itself.
Meanwhile, it was uncommonly pleasant to be able to chase one's hat
for a quarter of a mile and feel not a twinge of gout or rheumatism
after the merry pursuit. Mr. Walkingshaw felt half inclined to give his
hat a start again. What a joke it would be to kick it over the railings
next time! At this very undignified thought, he recollected himself and
for a few minutes looked as decorously pompous as the head of the firm
should. But somehow or other that run seemed to have stirred his blood.
The fun of kicking his hat over the railings returned so forcibly that
there spread over his ruddy face a smile which greatly surprised the
wife of one of his most respected clients passing at that moment in her
carriage. She too returned home to talk of Mr. Walkingshaw's curious
demeanor in the public streets of his native city.
The kicking fancy, by a natural chain of thought, reminded him that
the England and Scotland International was being played next Saturday.
He must be there, of course; and wouldn't he shout himself hoarse for
Scotland! He had a moment's dismay when he remembered that old Berstoun
had made an appointment to come in on Saturday and see him about his
confounded money affairs. Then he cheered up again. Let the old chap be
hanged! He would wire and put him off. In fact, he must be put off. For
had not Madge Dunbar promised to come to the match with him? By this
time he had reached the door of his house, and it occurred to him
forcibly that afternoon tea was always a much pleasanter function if
Madge were present. He hoped she wouldn't be out calling.
The dignified twilight of his hall sobered him considerably. He had
been following a strangely frivolous line of thought, he told himself.
Certainly he must never allow his hat to escape again. That run had
quite upset his equanimity: he found himself going upstairs two steps
at a time, and had to pause and shorten his stride.
In the drawing-room he found his sister and the widow.
Hullo! said the W.S. before he could recollect himself.
Hullo! smiled the widow archly.
He had felt ashamed of the exclamation the moment it escaped him,
but finding it received so prettily, he secretly resolved to say it
again some dayafter a week or two had elapsed, perhaps; confining
himself to more dignified remarks in the interval.
You look as though you had heard good news, said Mrs. Dunbar.
I've been chasing my hat, he chuckled.
He had meant to make no allusion to the undignified episode, and
here he was blurting it out first thing! He began to feel puzzled by
this odd persistence of high spirits.
Not in the street, surely? said Miss Walkingshaw, with her longest
Oh, I hope it was in the street! cried the widow. I'd have loved
to see you!
Her dear friend regarded this speech with the strongest disapproval;
in fact, she had never quite approved of Madge since those unlucky
words of hers. But Mrs. Dunbar had ceased for some reason to show the
same marked regard for her opinion. It was Heriot who had again refused
to hear of her leaving, and she seemed content to win his approval.
It was in the street, smiled Mr. Walkingshaw. I chased it for
quite half a mile, and ran it down single-handed. I wish you had been
there, Madge. You'd have seen there was life in the old dog still!
He had doubled the distance and forgotten the lady with the
umbrella; but then, as Andrew had remarked, a distaste for dry detail
had suddenly become characteristic of his recovered health.
Too much life sometimes, I think! she exclaimed coquettishly; and
Mr. Walkingshaw winked in reply.
He was inwardly as surprised at the wink as he had been at the
hullo. These aberrations seemed to come quite spontaneously. He
wished he could understand what caused them.
Have you had a tiring day at the office? asked the dry Scotch
voice of his sister.
Her familiar accents instinctively banished the aberrations.
Tolerably, tolerably, he said, with his old air. We had the
affairs of Guthrie and Co. to settle up. I settled them, though.
Andrew would be a great help, she replied, with an apprehensive
glance at him. She was much in her nephew's confidence at present.
Andrew, pooh! said his father. He'd talk the hind leg off an
elephant. When things need settling, I just settle them myself and
leave him to grumble away to Thomieson.
Miss Walkingshaw gasped, and the widow gave the sweetest little
Poor Andrew! said she.
Poor Andrew indeed, retorted her friend, with more indignation
than she had almost ever permitted herself in the presence of her
He looked at her in genuine surprise. So subtly had his point of
view altered that he quite failed to grasp her cause of complaint.
What's the matter, Mary? he asked.
Oh, if you don't see, what's the good in my trying to explain?
He merely stared at her, and the widow tactfully interposed.
Of course you are going to the match on Saturday? said she.
Of course, Madge.
Have you forgotten Mr. Berstoun is coming to see you? asked Miss
He waved aside this objection with a dignified sweep of his hand. A
piece of cake happened to be in it, and the icing flew across the
floor. On the instant he was on his hands and knees collecting it.
Berstoun's a mere nuisance, he answered from the carpet. He'll
never get out of debt if he lives to a thousand. What's the good in his
coming to see me? Let him tell his creditors to go to the devil; that's
the only sensible thing to do.
He rose chuckling
He'll go himself some day; so they'll meet again.
His sister's face was too much for the widow's gravity. She began to
laugh hysterically, her black eyes dancing all the time in the merriest
fashion at her host. It was so infectious that in a moment he had
Won't they? he kept asking through his chuckles. Won't they,
She kept nodding, choked with laughter, and another strange
sensation began to puzzle Mr. Walkingshaw. It was not so much something
new as something forgotten which was beginning to return, and it
concerned this very sympathetic widow. She was an uncommonly nice
womanreally uncommonly: and what an odd pleasure he began to feel in
her society! He felt even more satisfaction than when he had run down
It was upon a fine April morning that Mr. Walkingshaw made his
momentous discovery. His sister had left her room on her way to
breakfast when she heard his voice calling her. It had so curious a
note of excitement that she got a little flustered. Whatever could be
the matter? She hurried to his dressing-room door and tapped with a
trembling hand. She was not easily agitated as a rule, but her brother
had been very disconcerting for the past few weeks, and now his voice
was odd. She remembered reading of gentlemen lying on their
dressing-room floors with razors in their hands
Come in! he cried impatiently.
She found him dressed all but his coat, and he was standing by the
window looking out over the street and the circular garden.
Come here, Mary, he said, and pointed at the houses seen through
the leafless trees. Have they been doing anything to the Hendersons'
What doing to it? she exclaimed.
Painting it, or brightening it, oror anything of that kind?
Who ever heard of painting a house!
From which it may be gathered that the good lady was not in the
habit of visiting other cities.
Well then, washing it?
Mr. Henderson washing his house! Whatever would he do that for?
Tuts, tuts, said her brother, I'm only asking you. It looks so
uncommonly distinct. Can you not count the chimney-cans?
Me? You must get younger eyes than mine, Heriot.
I can count them, he answered.
You can! But I thought you'd been complaining you couldn't
always recognize people across the street nowadays.
I can count those chimneys, he repeated. I've counted them five
times, and they come to fourteen each time. I'd like to get some one
younger to count them too. Where's Madge Dunbar?
He started impetuously for the door.
She's dressing! cried the horrified lady. You can't get her in
hereyou with your coat off, too!
Mr. Walkingshaw turned back.
Well, anyhow, said he, I'll lay you half a crown there are
fourteen chimneys on Henderson's house. Will you take it up?
When did you hear I'd taken to betting? she gasped.
He waved aside the reproach airily, much as he waved aside
everything she said nowadays, the poor lady reflected. His next words
merely deepened her distress.
Look at my face carefully, he commanded. Study ittouch it if
you likeexamine it with a lensgive it your undivided attention
while I count twenty.
He counted slowly, while she stared conscientiously, afraid even to
wink. Now, what have you observed?
You're looking very well, Heriot, she answered timidly.
Did you ever see a man of my age look better?
Nno, she stammered.
Well, don't be afraid to say so, for it's perfectly true. Do you
mind a kind of deep wrinkle under my eyes? Where's that gone now?
I can't imagine, Heriot.
Well, don't look distressed; it's bonnier away.
Yes, she said in a flustered voice, you do have a kind of
Smoother and harder, he replied, prodding his ribs with his
She gave a little cry of distress.
You're growing thin! Your waistcoat's hanging quite loose. Oh,
Heriot, it's terrible to see you that way!
Her heart might be a little withered by all those northern winters,
with never another heart to keep it warm, but it could still beat
faster at a breath of suspicion cast upon her hospitality. She had not
been feeding her only brother properly!
Tell me yourself what you'd like for your dinner! she entreated
He laughed at her genially.
Pooh! Tuts! Did you ever in your life see me eat a better dinner
than I've been taking lately? You might give one a suet pudding
oftener, but that's all I have to complain of.
Heriot had always been addicted to suet pudding, but for a number of
years past his doctor's opinion had been adverse to this form of diet
for a gentleman of gouty habit.
But what about your gout, Heriot? she asked.
Gout? Fiddle-de-dee! Who's got gout? Not I, for one.
He had been glancing complacently at his improved reflection in the
mirror. Abruptly he stepped up close to the glass and examined his
visage with unconcealed excitement.
Good God! he murmured.
Then, with much the expression Crusoe must have worn when he spied
the footprint, he turned to his sister, and, grasping a lock of hair
upon his brow, bent his head towards her, and demanded
What color's that?
Dear me, she said, it looks quite brown. I didn't know you had
any brown hair left.
He raised his head and looked at her in solemn silence till she
began to feel dreadfully confused. Then he bent again.
Do you notice anything else?
Nno; unless your hair's got thicker. But that's not likely at
your time of life.
It is not likely, said he. It is most improbablein fact,
it is practically impossible; but it is thicker.
He rubbed his chin and gazed at her with the queerest look. Mary had
known him since he trundled a hoop, but she never remembered him go on
like this before. As for Heriot, he seemed to be debating whether he
should spring something still more surprising on her or not. But she
looked so uncomfortable already, so totally without the least clue to
his mysterious words, so unconscious of anything stranger about him
than his shirt-sleeves and loss of weight, that he only uttered
something between a gasp and a sigh, and, turning away from her, took
up his brushes to smooth his augmented hairs.
I'll be down to breakfast in a jiffy, he said.
Miss Walkingshaw thought that an odd kind of phrase for Heriot to be
Andrew no longer walked to the office with his father in the
mornings. Not that he had anything to do with the altered
custom: in fact, he was always most careful to assure his friends that
he had more than once waited as long as five minutes to give his father
the opportunity of having his companyif he was wishing it. But Mr.
Walkingshaw was never less than ten minutes late nowadays.
On this particular morning he set forth a full half-hour after his
son. He had been very absent-minded after his talk with his
sister,not even Mrs. Dunbar could keep his attention for more than a
moment,and he had sat for the best part of twenty minutes
thoughtfully putting on his boots. One or two acquaintances who saw him
on the way from his house to his office often recalled his demeanor
that morning. Now he would loiter along with bent shoulders, his hands
behind his back, trailing his umbrella and brooding as though he
contemplated bankruptcy. Then suddenly his pace would quicken, the
umbrella whirled round and round like a Catherine wheel, and with his
head held jauntily and the merriest smile he would swagger along like a
young blood of twenty-six who had just been accepted by an heiress. And
then abruptly he would lapse into his mournful gait.
I want to see Mr. Andrew, said he, as soon as he was seated in his
The junior partner entered with a melancholy visage and a
Oh, you've come at last, he remarked, too quietly to be rude, too
pointedly to be pleasant.
But his father seemed not to have heard.
Sit down, sit down, he said; and then in an earnest manner and
with the gravest face began, I've something to tell you, Andrew, that
I think you ought to know.
Andrew's visage relaxed. This gravity promised better than anything
his father's behavior had led him to expect of late.
Something most extraordinary has happened. You've noticed a little
kind of difference in me of late, possibly?
I have, said Andrew, with an intonation that made his acquiescence
A sort of cheerfulness and healthiness, and so on?
And so on, assented Andrew.
Well, I've accounted for it at last!
Oh? said Andrew.
This did not strike him as quite so interesting. He thought of the
papers he had left, and glanced at his watch.
You mind my telling you about Cyrus's theory of the cells of the
bodythat all they needed was the proper kind of stimulation, and
they'd be as good as new? Well, he went one better than that sometimes.
I never told you what his idea wasit sounded kind of daft-like when
you didn't hear him laying it down himselfbut I'll tell you now.
His voice sank impressively, and his junior partner grew vaguely
uneasy. This was a most unsuitable place and hour to be discussing
quack medical theories. He didn't approve of it at all.
His idea was that every cell of the bodymine and yours,
Andrew,(Andrew grew exceedingly uncomfortable: this verged on the
indecent),every single cell of them is just a kind of wee vessel in
which chemical and electrical changes are going on. While they keep
brisk we keep young, and when they get off the boil, so to speak, we
grow old. Well now, what's to hinder one stirring them up to boil
faster and faster, instead of slower and slower? And if they once did
that, of course you'd begin to grow young instead of going on getting
old. Andrew, it's happened to me.
I'm growing young again!
His junior partner looked at him for half a minute in dead silence.
Then he decided that this statement had better be answered humorously.
Is this story a sample? he inquired.
You don't believe me?
Andrew's cheeks bulged in a faint smile.
Am I expected to?
Look at my waistcoatwhen did you ever see it as loose as that,
and me healthier than I've been for years, and eating more? Look at my
facewhere are the wrinkles gone? Look at my headhow long is it
since you've seen a patch of brown hair there?
To complete this overwhelming series of proofs, he leapt up, and
with an agile jump on one foot whirled the other leg clean over the
back of his chair.
It's twenty years and more since I last did that!
Andrew was fairly startled out of his skepticism now. He had the
eyes of a goldfish, and his upper lip and swelling cheeks twitched
What an awful thing to happen! he murmured.
It has happened, though, said his father.
But surelyoh, it must just be temporary. You don't think it will
last, do you?
I think nothing, replied Mr. Walkingshaw, with conviction. I have
no settled opinions left. I am a mass of cells in active eruption.
He began to chuckle.
I'm like a dashed volcano, Andrew!
His son looked at him piteously. To suffer this sea change was bad
enough, but to laugh about it was diabolical. Mr. Walkingshaw could not
but sober down under such an eye. He gathered his countenance into an
aspect as portentously solemn as his dwindled wrinkles could achieve.
His son grieved afresh to see how their passing diminished the once
overpowering respectability of his parent.
It's an awful predicament, said Mr. Walkingshaw, shaking his
Awfuljust awful! What will people say?
That's just what I've been wondering. How am I going to break it to
You're not going to tell people!
But they'll notice for themselves.
Andrew gazed at him gloomily.
It may pass off,his face cleared a little,in fact, it's
It doesn't feel much like it at present: I'm fairly bursting with
spirits, smiled Mr. Walkingshaw, and then recollected himself and grew
grave again. What's to be done supposing people do notice? he asked.
We'll just have to stretch a point, said Andrew somberly, and
give some other explanation.
We might give some decent, respectable doctor the credit for it,
his father suggested.
They'd all be afraid to take it, if it went on any further. Imagine
a respectable doctor admitting he'd made a man grow younger! I dare say
they might be proud of such a performance in London, but they've more
It seemed characteristic of Mr. Walkingshaw's calamity that he
should bounce up like a tennis ball after each well-meant effort to
In that case, said he cheerfully, we'll just have to say I am
trying to make myself more of a companion for you.
Andrew started violently.
We'll say no such thing! Do you suppose I'm going to have my
name mixed up with it?
His father remained serene.
Well then, what do you suggest?
Andrew's cheeks drooped, carrying the corners of his mouth down with
There's no good in suggesting. You can trust your friends to do
that for you. Pretty stories they'll be circulating!
Mr. Walkingshaw regarded him with dignity, mingled with a trace of
good-natured contempt for such a lack of spirit.
My dear Andrew, said he, you need not be under the slightest
apprehension. Whatever my external appearance may becomeand I trust
it will remain not altogether unpleasingI shall see to it that my
conduct rebuts any breath of scandal. I shall be, if possible, more
circumspect, more scrupulously observant of the rules which should
regulate the behavior of a man in my position, more discreet both in
speech and conduct. The tongues of the libelous will be effectually
Mr. Walkingshaw accompanied these excellent sentiments by gently
swinging himself to and fro in his revolving chair and rolling a scrap
of blotting-paper into a pellet, which, at the conclusion of his
speech, he absent-mindedly discharged at the office clock. His son
seemed as impressed by these movements as by his words.
You'll find it easier, he began bitterly, to set people talking
When you come to think of it, the situation is not without decided
advantages, his father interrupted, springing up and pacing the room
with an animated air. Just think of the renewed opportunities for
doing all kinds of useful and beneficial things! I might take a more
prominent part in public life: I might even go in for politics. I
certainly shall take a bit of salmon-fishing. The study of some of our
classical authors suggests itself as a relaxation for my leisure
moments. The subjects of aeroplanes and national defense are worthy of
consideration, too. I should like to visit several of the continental
countriesour own colonies are even more attractive; there wouldn't be
the same difficulties about the language. Or, by Jingo, Andrew, I might
learn French and Italian! Yes, the position is not without its
He stopped beside his son and laid his hand upon his shoulder.
I propose to widen greatly the scope of my energies, without in the
least forfeiting the respect of my fellow-citizens. That is my ideal,
Andrew. Ah, my boy, you and I will have some great times together! By
that I mean, of course, some beneficial and profitable times.
He took a sudden step forward and kicked the wastepaper-basket into
I might even take up football some day, if this goes on, he
smiled, and then abruptly recovered his solemnity.
Beneficial and profitable, he repeated gravely. Those are to be
our watchwords. Will you have a weed?
The junior partner started out of the reverie into which he had
Are you going to start smoking here? he cried.
Why the deuce shouldn't I? It's my own office. These old-fashioned
ideas of yours about not smoking on business premises are getting out
of date. Besides, it keeps the flies away. And now I must get on to my
With a cigar in the corner of his mouth and humming something
resembling an air, the senior partner dashed into his day's work with
the ardor of an egg-collector.
In the meantime, the two least satisfactory members of the family
were sadly enduring the consequences of their foolishness. To Frank and
Jean the world seemed a very gray place at present; and even the daily
increasing juvenility of their parent failed to enliven them. They were
too engrossed in their own unhappiness to take much notice of it; and
what they saw merely distressed them, for so far his beneficent
projects had not included them. Frank moped about the house, consorted
occasionally with an acquaintance, now and then went away for a day's
golf, and at frequent intervals confided to Jean his disgust with the
arrangements of the universe. Ellen Berstoun was to have paid them
another visit, but for some reason she put it off; and at this decision
he was plunged for forty-eight consecutive hours into a frenzy,
alternately of relief and despair, which left him at last more
lackadaisical than ever. A few days after his father's momentous
interview with Andrew, he was roused to fresh anguish by the junior
partner's departure to spend a week-end at Berstoun Castle, and his
state of mind now became so unbearable that he abruptly announced to
I can't stick this any longer! I'm going up to town.
What for? she asked.
For a bust, he answered desperately. I'm going to try tototo
And the poor youth strode hurriedly out of the room to examine the
state of his silk hat and his finances.
Jean devoutly wished she too could fly to London! Like a dutiful
girl, she had returned, at her father's peremptory bidding, two
unopened letters received from that city. Frank knew his address and
forwarded them for her. Once or twice after that he himself received a
letter in a hand suspiciously resembling the writing on the unbroken
envelopes, and it certainly was a fact that on each of these occasions
the erring pair were closeted for long together, and that Jean's
spirits rose a little for a few hours afterwards. But they soon sank
After Frank had announced his desperate resolution she sat alone for
some time in the drawing-room. Everybody else was out, and the house
seemed prodigiously silent and vast. At last she heard a little noise,
which presently took the form of footsteps bounding upstairs,
accompanied by a cheerful tuneless whistling. The door was flung open,
and her father entered.
It was only at that moment that Jean realized he was a curiously
altered man. He was dressed in brown tweeds and a light waistcoat; his
face was flushed, and a smile danced in his eyes.
I've been for a bicycle ride, he announced.
She could hardly believe her ears.
Youon a bicycle? she gasped; for Mr. Walkingshaw had been born
long before bicycles.
Yes; I've had a couple of lessonsonly two, and I went for a
six-mile ride all alone to-day!
Then weren't you at the office?
In the morning; but one gets no exercise in that beastly office. I
need a lot nowadays.
He threw himself into a chair and a smile broke over his face, in
which, to her further bewilderment, she recognized an unmistakable
flavor of roguishness.
Thinking of him? he inquired.
Poor Jean nearly jumped out of her chair.
Ofof whom? she gasped.
The artist fellow, what's his nameVernon.
Father! she said in a low, pained voice.
Eh? What's the matter?
She looked at him between grief and amazement.
You said that his name was never to be mentioned. Do you mean
towhy do youwhat do you mean, father?
Mr. Walkingshaw was finding it harder every day to retain his old
attitudes in all their dignity. He was altering at an astonishing pace.
How many years younger he had become already he could not compute. He
had tried once or twice to calculate about where he stood but the
surprising thing was that he found he cared less and less what was
happening, and how fast it happened. He enjoyed himself amazingly so
long as he did not worry; and the obvious moral wasdon't worry. At
the same time, he had no intention whatsoever of forfeiting the respect
of his fellow-citizens, still less of his family. It was true this
proviso occurred to him more often after than before he had surprised
them by some trifling deviation; still, when it did occur, it occurred
forcibly. On this present occasion he suddenly became preternaturally
solemn, coughed with a little dry, respectable sound, and replied
I meant that it must never be mentioned by you, butahemit
isahdifferent with your father. I still leave myself at liberty to
mention him with reprobation.
Jean jumped up with a sparkling eye.
In that case I'll leave you. I've obeyed you so far, but I
certainly shan't obey you if you tell me to sit and listen to
anything against him!
And she started for the door.
My dear girl! cried Mr. Walkingshaw.
He jumped up too, caught her by the hand, and led her to the sofa.
Now, now, he said kindly; sit down and tell me all about it.
She looked at him in fresh amazement.
All about what?
He found it a little difficult to explain precisely what he meant.
He only knew that he felt an unwonted expansion of his heart towards
this really charming little daughter.
All about the weather and crops, he suggested playfully.
Jean began to tremble a little.
II don't understand you at all, said she.
He smiled pleasantly.
Am I such a very mysterious old fellow?
At this odd and novel mixture of kindness and queerness she felt her
words choking her, as much with fear as anything.
Wewe never have understood each other, she found herself saying.
He looked startled.
What? You don't mean to say youBut I'm your father.
I suppose that's the reason.
I have always tried to do my duty.
The trouble is, you succeeded.
What! he exclaimed. Do you actually mean to say youahdidn't
appreciate my duty?
She was sitting by his side on the sofa, her eyes downcast and her
lips obstinately set. Never before in her life had she stood up to him
like this, but now that she had begun she was discovering to her
surprise that she had more of her father's temper than she had dreamt
No, she said. I didn't sometimes.
Instead of getting angry, Mr. Walkingshaw seemed merely astonished
Perhaps it was the way I did it, he suggested.
She looked up quickly.
Yes, she answered.
Well, my dear, I have lately discovered that I shall never be too
old to learn. Just tell me how you'd like to be treated, and I'll try
to manage it. I am very fond of you, Jean.
Her mouth lost its obstinacy; her eyes and voice grew kind.
Father dear, if only you'd show it! If only
He interrupted her by a resounding kiss.
More that kind of way? he smiled.
For answer she threw her arms round him and gave him what he
immediately decided to be the pleasantest hugging he had ever enjoyed.
This was a method of doing his duty that must certainly be repeated; he
had no doubts about that. It led to such surprising results, too. In a
few minutes he found himself embarked upon the most charmingly
It was a little rough on you, he confessed.
You mean? she hesitated.
Well, well, perhaps we'd better not allude to it again, he
But apparently she had no intention at all of avoiding the subject.
Oh, yes, she said eagerly. I'd like to talk about it with you
It did not seem to occur to the W.S. that he might end by committing
himself to some expression of sympathy he would repent of later.
Capital, he answered genially. You still like the fellow, then?
Like him! she exclaimed. Oh, father, II still love him.
I wish he'd brush his hair a little better and wear a respectable
tie; still, he undoubtedly has some original ideas.
Mr. Walkingshaw found himself musing on the artist's outrageous
opinions with a new catholicity. They had staggered him at the moment:
they began to interest him now.
It's a pity he can't make a little more money, he added.
But I don't need a large income to be happy, father.
Eh? said Mr. Walkingshaw.
This was going rather too fast; yet when he looked into her shining
eyes, he found it really very difficult to keep severe.
Money is a very important thing, my dear, he replied.
It's not nearly so important as love! Surely, father, it's far, far
better that two people should be very, very fond of each other than
have plenty of money! You do agree with that, don't you?
It was at this moment that there came to the little
advocate-for-love's assistance a recollection of the sympathetic widow.
In his mind's eye Mr. Walkingshaw suddenly saw a vision of her black
eyes vivaciously beaming, and for some reason this enabled him to
regard Jean's point of view in a wholly new and original light.
Well, said he, I'm not sure that there isn't something in what
you say. I do believe you're right, my dearin fact, I'm positive
you're right. The love for a fine womanwell, it's a first-rate
For a woman? asked Jean, a little surprised. But we were talking
about a man.
There was no mirror available, but Mr. Walkingshaw had a strong
suspicion that he must be blushing.
For a manof course, he said hastily. I meant for a man. But in
a general way I think I may say that love's the thing for everybody!
It's the thing for you and me anyhow, eh, Jean?
Jean felt as though she had scrubbed a lump of crystal and found it
to be a diamond. How was it she had never before discovered these
depths of affection and geniality below his awe-inspiring exterior? She
had not scrubbed hard enough!
Yes, indeed! said she. Oh, I do understand you now. Father, I'm
so happy! And you won't think too hardly of Mr. Vernon, will you?
H'm, smiled her father. That's a matter we might well take to
avizandum, I think.
For a daughter of a Writer to the Signet, Jean was woefully
ignorant. She did not know what avizandum meant in the least. But she
felt sure it was the name of one of the roads to happiness; and she
hugged him again.
It was in the midst of this embrace that Mrs. Donaldson entered. She
had always esteemed the author of her own existence and her family's
prosperity, but she had never hugged him; nor had he shown any evidence
of desiring such an operation.
Good gracious, Jean! she exclaimed.
We are arranging a bike ride, beamed her father.
To complete the confusion of his more creditable daughter, this
improbable announcement was accompanied by an unabashed wink, directed
at his less creditable child apparently for the superfluous purpose of
assuring her he jested.
That evening Mr. Walkingshaw began to be discussed by his
fellow-citizens in earnest.
You're not drinking, Andrew, said Mr. Walkingshaw. Go on, fill up
your glass. Man, do you call that filling a glass? Here's the way.
Leaning across the table, he poured in the port till it stood above
the rim, with the steady hand of a man of forty. He was hardly as young
as that yet, but he was amazingly rejuvenated. It could not possibly
last, Andrew said to himself; still, he felt dreadfully uncomfortable.
You seem very anxious I should drink, he said gloomily, looking
askance at his brimming glass.
You're so dull, my boy, his father answered genially. There's no
life in you at all. You for a lover! You ought to have come back
looking happy. One would think she'd broken it off.
It was the evening of the same day. Andrew had returned from his
visit to the Berstouns shortly after Mrs. Donaldson departed, and as
Frank was dining out, he and his father sat alone together over their
I've no reason to feel particularly happy, he said.
Eh? cried his father. Nothing gone wrong, is there?
I don't understand these women.
No, said Mr. Walkingshaw, with jovial candor, you'd be a bit of a
stick with the sex, I can well imagine. You haven't the cut of a
ladies' man: but it's all a matter of practice, my boy; just a matter
of learning experience as you go along. What did she say to you?
Andrew was divided in mind. This tone exasperated him beyond
measure. He felt inclined to leave the room. Yet, on the other hand, he
judged himself ill-used by his betrothed, and when he had any ground of
grievance, he had the pleasant habit of venting his complaints as long
as his audience would listen to him. To-night the habit proved even
stronger than his distaste for his high-spirited parent.
She was queer, said he.
They're all that, replied Mr. Walkingshaw knowingly. The great
thing is not to mind what they say. It's what they do that counts: and
she'd be affectionate, I suppose, eh?
I've never gone in for much of your spooning and kissing and that
sort of thing, began Andrew.
The more fool you! interrupted his parent. What do you think a
girl gets engaged for if it isn't to be cuddled?
He surprised himself by his own acumen. The late Mrs. W. had not
been in the least that sort of lady, and he had never been engaged to
anybody else; yet here he was laying down the law with the serenest
confidence. Some divine instinct must be inspiring him. His son seemed
less favorably impressed with his sagacity.
Ellen's not that sort of girl, said he.
My dear fellow, they're all that sort. At least, that's my view of
the matter. Well, what's gone wrong?
I don't know, said Andrew sourly. I can't make her out. She's
different somehow. It was almost as though she wasn't so fond of me.
Are you sure you've done nothing to annoy her? They're very touchy,
I haven't done a thing to annoy her. I can swear to that.
Then, said Mr. Walkingshaw, with inspired conviction, there's
some other fellow cutting you out.
Oh, I don't know all her neighbors. It's nobody she's met here, I
She never saw a man when she was here but Frank and me.
Then it's some one in Perthshire, pronounced Mr. Walkingshaw,
emphatically but cheerfully.
Andrew frowned at his still brimming glass. He trusted that he did
not overvalue himself; at the same time, the idea of another being
preferred by a girl who had once enjoyed the privilege of being engaged
to Andrew Walkingshaw struck him as far-fetched.
I don't think it's another man, he said.
It's my opinion it is, Andrew; and I'm not wanting to lose so nice
a daughter-in-law, so you've got to see that she doesn't turn round
altogether. You've got to go in and win; make sure of her, my boy!
Mr. Walkingshaw grew more and more animated and his son more and
more distressed. He was behaving so unlike the senior partner in
What are you wanting me to do?
Behave less like a damned umbrella, pronounced Mr. Walkingshaw,
with a startling lapse into epigram.
Oh? said he.
Be lively, anderamorous, andahsparkling; that's the sort of
thing. Go in for a few new ties and waistcoats. Socks, too, are things
that the young men display considerable enterprise in. I was tempted
myself this afternoon by a shop window full of really remarkably chaste
hosierypale green with stripes! you'd look first class in them. I
came to the conclusion at last that perhaps I was hardly young enough
for them yet; but I invested in half a dozen ties of quite a tasty
You bought half a dozen ties! exclaimed Andrew.
I did; and you're welcome to any of them you like. Or will you come
with me and we'll choose something?
Thank you, replied his son sardonically; but on the whole I'd
sooner trust to nature.
In that case, Heaven help you, my poor boy! You have your good
points, but beauty's not among them. Imagine you as a statue, Andrew!
The worthy gentleman laughed genially, but the unhappy lover did not
join in his mirth.
I am glad I amuse you, he said, and rose to leave the table.
Sit down, sit down, man, his father commanded; I haven't half
finished with you yet. Have you read any poetry to her?
I have not.
Well, read some; try a bit oferI'm not so well up in the poets
as I hope to be soon, but I fancy Byron has written some very
stimulating verses; or why go over the border for themwhy not try her
with Burns? What's finer than
'Had we never loved sae kindly,
Had weumumsae blindly,
We shouldsomething about being broken-hearted?'
It's very sentimental, I've no doubt, answered the junior partner,
in a tone which implied that he was uttering the last word in caustic
But his father merely grew the more enthusiastic.
And what else have you got to be but sentimental? My dear boy, my
eyes have been opened this very afternoon. I've never been sentimental
enough with my children; and what's the consequence? Here's you letting
a pretty girl slip through your fingers because you don't let yourself
loose on her! Now what you ought to say to her is something like this:
'My own darlingor sweetheartor even duckie,'use some popular
symbol, as it were, of affection,'I am so passionately'or
fervently, if you likelet us say, 'so fervently in love with you that
I can't hold out'or perhaps you might find a better word than that;
you want to inflame the lassie without startling her. 'I can't
endure'that's a better word'I can't endure for another month. Marry
me four weeks from to-day!' And there you have the whole thing done.
Andrew had remained standing beside the table.
Is that all now? he inquired.
His father regarded him with a fine jovial scorn, much as Sir John
Falstaff might have regarded the inventor of lemonade.
I doubt you're a hopeless case, said he. There's ginger enough in
an ordinary policeman to make three of you. But I'm not going to let
you lose Ellen Berstoun if I can help it. Run away now and complain to
In pointed silence Andrew availed himself of this permission, while
his father remained to light a cigar and meditate upon the
disadvantages of unalloyed respectability. A fine example in many ways
Andrew undoubtedly was, just as he trusted he had been himself; but he
showed up poorly when it came to love-making. He was too old for his
age; that was the trouble with Andrew. Now that he came to think of it,
there was something uncompanionable in elderly people. It was
surprising he had not noticed it before, but lately it had occurred to
him forcibly. A brisk young fellow like Frank, a pretty girl like
Jeanone felt more in touch with them. Perhaps they were a trifle on
the juvenile side: the choicest, the most sympathetic period of life
was undoubtedly that attained byMr. Walkingshaw jumped up, laid down
his cigar, and started for the drawing-room. What a fine woman Madge
He spent a delightful hour in the ladies' society. The obliging
widow was easily prevailed upon to gratify a passion he had lately
developed for tuneful and romantic melody, and she thrummed through
five waltzes and the whole of two comic operas, while he sat on the
sofa holding Jean's hand and exchanging confidential smiles. Jean was
in the seventh heaven of happiness; the widow enthusiastically approved
of the symptoms; and the only critic present appeared to be his
exemplary sister. She listened to the concert with a bleak face, and
regarded the dalliance on the sofa out of a troubled and
Aglow with sentiments, which from being mere amorphous ecstasies
were rapidly developing into shapely visions of black eyes and
well-nourished contours, Mr. Walkingshaw bade good-night to the ladies
and settled himself comfortably in his easy-chair before a friendly
fire and in company with a fragrant pipe. How delicious his tobacco
tasted! Evidently this last tin must be of a superior quality. He
resolved that he should insist on being supplied with the same
high-class variety in future.
At this point his pleasant reverie was interrupted by the entrance
of Frank, just returned from dining with a friend. His father greeted
Well, my boy, help yourself to a drink and light your pipe.
Frank glanced at him suspiciously. He had never before been
encouraged either to drink or to smoke; indeed, he had more than once
complained that his father seemed to forget he was now a grown-up man.
What his sudden cordiality meant he could not divine; but on general
principles he feared it. This did not prevent him from accepting both
overtures and sitting down on the other side of the fire. Mr.
Walkingshaw asked him a few questions about how he had spent the
evening, always with the same friendly air, till the young soldier
began to suspect he had negotiated some peculiarly fortunate business
transaction. He became emboldened to approach what he feared might
prove a delicate subject.
I'm thinking of running up to London for a week or two, he began.
An excellent idea, said his parent. It must be rather slow for
Frank got more and more encouraged.
The only trouble is, I find myself rather short of funds.
How much do you want?
The going was too smooth to last, thought Frank. He became cautious.
Oh, a tenner or so, I suppose, he suggested.
A tenner! exclaimed his father.
Say a fiver, then, said Frank hurriedly.
A fiver for a week or two in London? My dear boy, you don't know
how to do the thing at all. Your return ticket will cost you over three
pounds; supposing one averages your dinners at ten shillings a night
for a fortnightthat's seven pounds more; suppers, even if you supped
alone (here he winked upon his startled offspring), will run you at
least as much. Put railway and grub at thirty poundsjust to be safe.
Then you'll be going to theaters and music-halls, and taking cabs, and
having a week-end at Brightonand the Lord knows what else. My hat, it
will be a spree!
With sparkling eyes and a beaming smile he leant forward in his
chair and tapped his son upon the knee.
I'll come with you, Frank.
You! gasped the poor youth.
Yes, said Mr. Walkingshaw, apparently more to himself than to
Frank, that's the way to set about it!
He beamed upon his son confidentially.
I've got a splendid idea, and you're just the very chap to help me.
I won't spoil sport, my boy, but I'll travel up with youand, by Jove,
we might stop at the same hotel, if that wouldn't embarrass you. Would
Nno, said Frank, nnot at all.
Just what we were needinga little blow-out in London, eh?
Frank gave a little nervous laugh.
Do you really mean it?
Mr. Walkingshaw was now standing in front of the fire, alternately
rising on tiptoe and thumping down on his heels.
Don't I just! When shall we startto-morrow morning?
To-morrow! But I haven't done any packing.
Well, no more have I. We'll just chuck in a few things and buy
anything else we want in London. I need practically a new outfit
myself. Can you introduce me to a good tailor?
Yees, stammered Frank.
That's all settled, then.
Mr. Walkingshaw began to laugh mysteriously.
I'd like to see Andrew's face when he learns I've gone!
But aren't you going to tell him?
Mr. Walkingshaw's voice sank.
Not a word to any of them, Frank! You put my things into your cab
without any one noticing; I'll say I'm going to the office; and we'll
meet at the station. I don't want to get talked about, you see.
It was reassuring to find that Mr. Walkingshaw still valued his
reputation, even though the measures he took to preserve it were not
All right, then, said Frank; I'd better go and pack now.
Good-night, my boy, his father answered fervently. God bless
The Cromarty Highlander had been through some nerve-testing
experiences, but, as he went to his room, he realized that the severest
ordeals often occur in civil life.
Meanwhile, his parent at a leisurely pace was following him upstairs
when he perceived a light still burning in the drawing-room. He gently
pushed the door open, and a smile of peculiar pleasure irradiated his
rosy face. There, busy at the writing-table and quite alone, sat the
sympathetic widow. He remembered how prettily she had answered a simple
interjection once before.
Hullo! he warbled.
The widow started and turned in her chair. This time she did not
archly cap his greeting. Instead, her exclamation had a tincture of
alarm. He was so very unlike his usual self.
Writing a billet-doux? he inquired, still smiling.
He softly closed the door behind him, and approached her with a kind
of jaunty, springy gait that increased her perplexity. She loved to see
him lively, but this smirking manner was really almost peculiar.
May I sit at your feet, Madge? he asked, and without waiting for
an answer, drew up a footstool and planted himself so close to her
knees that the sense of propriety felt by all fine women with any
experience of life impelled her to withdraw them some three inches
farther from his shoulder. At the same time she bent her head a very
little forward and gently drew in her breath. The late Captain Dunbar
had possessed in addition to the virtues of a dashing temperament,
certain of its failings, and her cousin's demeanor decidedly reminded
her of his conduct after particularly convivial evenings at the mess.
But the test was reassuring. Her nose was keen, and she noticed
What a beastly big barn of a room this is, he began.
She was at a loss quite what to answer. Could he mean this: he who
prided himself on the becoming stateliness of his house?
Oh, I think it is a very fine andandimpressive room, Heriot,
she answered guardedly.
It's too big and gloomy for a widower. It makes one feel kind of
The widow smiled sweetly. She quite understood what he meant now.
The reminiscence of the late Captain Dunbar faded away, and once more
she was sympathy itself.
Are you often lonely? she inquired softly.
He looked up into her face with a curious hint of boyishness in his
Not while you are here, Madge.
Again a species of divine instinct possessed Mr. Walkingshaw.
Without permission asked or given, he took his fair cousin's hand and
gently held it. At the same time a longing to be confidential invaded
him. He had a really prime secret to share with her.
I am going up to London to-morrow morning! he announced.
It did not surprise her that business should take him up to town; it
did that his eyes should twinkle at the prospect. She began to feel a
trifle less sympathetic.
Oh, she said, why are you going?
For a moment he hesitated. Could he venture to confide in her? The
young and amorous Heriot said, Of course! Such a divinity will be all
sympathy. But the senior partner in Walkingshaw &Gilliflower
emphatically retorted. Never tell a woman what you don't want the
whole town to know! He was still old enough to obey the more prudent
I'm going to see my old friend Colonel Munro.
Decidedly Mr. Walkingshaw was fast acquiring that quick adaptation
to circumstances which is the hall-mark of youth. He had not thought of
his old friend Charlie Munro for the last year or more, and here he was
coming in most usefully just when he was wanted. Heriot recognized with
a touch of awe his own unwonted fertility.
Don't tell any one! he added, and then immediately realized that
at the same time he must be losing a little of that valuable discretion
which had characterized the head of Walkingshaw &Gilliflower.
My dear Heriot, this sounds suspicious.
He realized now the penalties for indiscretion.
I am going to see him on particularly private business. We do not
wish it to get talked about.
He thought he had recovered his old manner to a nicety, but what was
his surprise when his cousin shook a well-manicured finger in his face,
What a naughty boy you are getting! I wonder whether I ought to
tell on you or not?
This time he tried another of his ingenuous smiles.
You wouldn't tell on me, Madge!
Oh, indeed! Why should I care about your reputation?
Mr. Walkingshaw deliberately faced the situation. He had not meant
to commit himself that eveningnot, in fact, till he had enjoyed an
untrammeled week in town; but he had placed his reputation in this
charming lady's hands, and he realized he must obtain a receipt for it.
Don't you care about me? he inquired tenderly.
Whatwhat do you mean, Heriot? she faltered.
You are everything to me, he answered, and looking into her black
eyes, inwardly decided that this expressed very little more than the
* * * * *
It was a very few minutes after this that he found himself seated
very close to the sympathetic widow's side, with one arm encircling a
considerable segment of what had been a remarkably trim waist, and the
other hand toying with a collection of ruby and amethyst rings.
I do hope I shan't disappoint you, Heriot, she murmured.
No fear of that, my dear, said he, pinching one of her plump
It will be rather a Darby and Joan marriage, of course, she
Will it? replied Heriot, with a glint out of the corner of his eye
that reminded her forcibly of the late Captain Dunbar.
Oh, Heriot! she expostulated. Remember you're the father of a
Well, he replied, with amorous facetiousness, what man has done,
man can do.
The lady endeavored gently to withdraw her hand, but he held it
Will it be a long engagement? she asked, with a colder smile.
By Jove, not very! he whispered riotously.
She felt like one of those intelligent persons who pull the triggers
of supposititiously unloaded guns. By a supreme effort she mastered her
emotion and remarked
I wonder what your family will say.
He kissed her demonstratively and cried
My family be hanged! I'm not going to tell them yet.
When will you? she asked, disengaging herself with a difficulty
that impressed her still further.
Time enough when I get back from London.
The widow was not altogether unsophisticated. This blend of
abandonment and secrecy impressed her unfavorably. She had known of
more than one ballroom proposal where the gentleman was just
sufficiently master of his emotions to stipulate for silence till he
had departed on a twelvemonth's furlough.
How soon are you coming back? she inquired.
Week or two, he answered airily.
A week or two to see Colonel Munro!
Intricate business, he answered her, with a fresh salute.
Poor old Charles Munro is a kind of relation of mine, she
He eyed her with more surprise than passion.
Oh! I didn't know that.
I haven't written to him for years. I think I must send him a
letter this week.
Mr. Walkingshaw realized that he was marrying brains as well as
beauty. He also realized that Colonel Munro was now part of his London
programme. However, on second thoughts, Charlie Munro was a dear old
fellow, and very likely he'd have been looking him up in any case. His
spirits bounded up again. In fact, why should they ever sink with such
a fair creature by his side?
Do, darling, he whispered.
She surrendered herself to his affection and sighed happily. Why
should she feel disturbed with one of the most respectable of Writers
to the Signet pledged to devote his declining years to her consolation?
I trust you, Heriot, she murmured.
My little duck! he answered tenderly.
* * * * *
At twelve o'clock next morning the London express thundered on to
the bridge across the Solway. Mr. Walkingshaw looked up at his son.
We're out of Scotland now, he said, with a sigh of reminiscent
ardor. Home and beauty are far behind us, Frank.
Then in a different key he added
It is curious that my spirits should keep rising.
From which it appeared that he had grown young enough to realize
that though lunch may be over, there is always dinner to look forward
Colonel Munro drew the ends of his white tie through the loop in the
middle with infinite care. In a very wide circle of acquaintances he
was universally known as Charlie Munro; and you had only to look at
him to see how appropriate was this gallant diminutive. His head was
bald at the top, but cleanly and beautifully bald, like a head of the
finest marble; on either side and behind, his hair was both white and
curly; his eye was bright, his features remarkably handsome, his
mustache a slender ornament of silver, and his figure tall and slender.
At sixty-three he was probably handsomer than he had ever been before
in his life; and that was saying a great deal. He lived in very
pleasant bachelor chambers in St. James' under the charge of a
Let me see that card again, he said, as he gave his tie those
little finishing touches that converted it from an elegant accessory
into a work of art.
The valet went to his sitting-room and returned with a calling card
on a tray. Colonel Munro studied it a trifle lugubriously.
James Heriot Walkingshaw, he read, with this addendum in pencil,
Shall call for you 7:30. Count on your company at dinner.
The Colonel buttoned his white waistcoat.
Didn't you tell Mr. Walkingshaw that I would probably be engaged?
Well, sir, said the valet smoothly, the gentleman seemed such an
old friend of yours, I thought perhaps you wouldn't like to miss him.
One's oldest friends are sometimes dd nuisances, Forman.
The Colonel saw the pleasant evening he had contemplated spending in
the society of two or three of the gayest old bloods in London
darkening into a tête-à-tête with Mr. Walkingshaw at his
portentously respectable club, and regretted he had allowed Forman to
lay out a clean white waistcoat; for he was, by force of circumstances,
economical as well as gallant.
I tell you what, said he, I don't mean to wait a minute after
7:30. If he turns up late, you can make my apologies, and say I'll be
happy to lunch with him to-morrow.
He put on his coat, added an overcoat and white scarf, cocked his
opera hat on his shapely old head, and sat confronting his sitting-room
clock. At 7:29 he rose briskly, and then with a sigh sank back into his
chair. He heard a footstep on the stair.
Mr. Walkingshaw, announced the valet.
The Colonel advanced with that courteous smile for which he was
My dear Charlie! cried his visitor.
Well, Heriot, smiled the Colonel, looking a little surprised at
the remarkable joviality of this greeting.
He surveyed his old friend up and down, and seemed still more
What a buck you are! he exclaimed.
In truth, Mr. Walkingshaw, arrayed in a new opera hat, a new and
shining pair of dress boots, and a fashionable new overcoat, cut a very
different figure from the sedate W.S. of the Colonel's previous
Heriot looked a trifle self-conscious.
I hope I haven't overdone the thing, said he.
Not a bit, smiled the Colonel, as a bright inspiration struck him.
The only criticism I'd make is that you are really thrown away on the
members of your very sedate club, Heriot.
Oh, but I didn't mean to dine you at my club.
Colonel Munro opened his eyes and smiled again.
Where do you propose?
Well, I thought perhaps you might advise me.
Let me see, mused Charlie, with a pleasant air.
What about the Carlton?
First-rate, if you care to run to that.
I've booked a table there on spec, said Heriot.
The Colonel beamed.
I say, you're coming out, Heriot. Blowing the expense this time,
I don't care what I spend! replied his old friend, in a burst of
Then let's start, said the Colonel. Like to take a cab?
I've got one waiting.
After you, said Charlie, holding the door open.
He was struck by the agility with which his old friend descended the
stairs, and smiled afresh at the increasing possibilities of the
I say, this is very pleasant, beamed Mr. Walkingshaw as they
jingled off in a hansom.
Rather bashfully he took from his overcoat pocket a pair of dazzling
white kid gloves.
These are the proper things in the evening, aren't they? he
inquired. I notice you've got on a pair.
His guest chuckled.
They'll do to dance in afterwards if we go on to Covent Garden, he
laughed, and then added waggishly, How would you like to go to a fancy
dress ball, Heriot?
Is there one on to-night? asked Heriot.
Are you going?
Oh, I've given up that sort of thing years ago; but of course, if
you're keen to go, I might stretch a point.
Mr. Walkingshaw looked at him doubtfully out of the corner of his
eye and answered nothing.
A little later the two old friends had grown more merrily
confidential than they had been since the days of their youth. Charlie
Munro was a little puzzled by the subtle alteration in his host, but he
was not in the least disposed to criticize it. He felt more and more
inclined to tempt him into a further display of frivolity.
Well, now, what about the Covent Garden ball? he suggested.
Heriot's eyes grew bright, but his mouth pursed cautiously.
Aren't they rathererfast? he inquired.
As fast as you choose to make 'em.
But aren't the ladies rathererratherwell
Not a bit, said the Colonel. There's a mixture, that's all.
But I say, Charlie, what about being seen by any one we know?
We'll get a disguise for you, smiled Charlie.
Really, can you?
Oh, I'll see to that.
He began to picture a very amusing evening with his old friend
Mr. Walkingshaw drank off his glass of champagne.
Well, if you're game said he.
I'm game for anything, my dear fellow, so long as I've you by my
side, laughed Charlie. When you're tired, I'll promise to take you
away. Shall we call it arranged?
I'll risk it, said Heriot stoutly.
Round came the big man in the purple domino and the long false nose,
hopping blithely to the crashing waltz, his arm encircling the waist of
a little lady attired to represent a hot cross-bun. Then he was lost in
the crowd, and the Colonel's eyes, in which for a moment a spark of
wonder had burned, grew old and tired again. As he stood there alone,
with youth and recklessness gamboling before him, he realized somberly
that for him this revel was ended. How he would have enjoyed it once!
But never, never again. His straight, soldierly back bent with
weariness; he jerked back his shoulders, but they slipped forward,
forward, and he let them stay. How little the fair faces interested
him; how stupidly riotous these young fellows were!
Round came the false nose again, and this time the empurpled figure
unclasped one hand of the hot cross-bun and waved a genial greeting as
they stampeded by. And again a gleam, almost of fear, lit the Colonel's
weary eyes. It was horrible, grotesque, inhuman, to see the friend of
his youth, a man older than himself, the honored head of a respectable
firm, the father of five grown-up children, going on like this. The
Colonel had thought it would be funny, but as hour succeeded hour, and
the ringleader of the frolic gradually became a wearied spectator, this
superhuman display of high-spirited energy grew long past a joke.
Charlie had never been austere, but there were limits to all things.
Good Gad, there were limits! If the man had got drunk or grown vicious,
he might have excused him. But to see him interminably bounding round
that floor behind six inches of pasteboard nose! He began to move away.
He could stand the spectacle no longer.
Again the false nose hopped by, and this time disengaged himself
hurriedly from his partner and hastened after the retiring Colonel.
You're not going, Charlie? he cried.
His friend turned and stared at him piteously.
For Heaven's sake, take off that nose, Heriot!
The W.S. removed it with a laugh.
Put it on yourself, Charlie, and have a turn with my partner, he
urged. She dances really magnificently, you know.
Colonel Munro laid his hand beseechingly upon his arm.
Come home, Heriot! You'll be devilish sorry for this to-morrow, as
it is; and if you dance any more, by Gad, you may kill yourself! My
dear fellow, think of your age.
Heriot received this objection with a cheerful laugh.
You're not going yourself, surely? he inquired.
Mr. Walkingshaw looked at him anxiously.
I say, you do look tired, Charlie. How's that?
I am sixty-three, replied the Colonel, with an instinctive
lowering of his voice. He never stated his age if he could help it.
Mr. Walkingshaw continued to gaze at him oddly.
I had forgotten how one feels at that time of life, he said
musingly, quite forgotten. Poor old Charlie; I oughtn't to have kept
you up so late. I'd have felt like that at sixty-three myself. Well, my
dear fellow, I'm glad we were able to have this night together before
it became too late. It has made me feel quite old again to see you.
Colonel Munro seized his arm and drew him towards the door, with all
the vehemence of which he was capable.
Come alongcome along, Heriot! he implored him; you have had a
little more to drink than you quite realize!
Heriot disengaged himself very easily from his trembling grip.
My poor old boy, he smiled, I'm as sober as you were when you
started! I positively require the exercise. Besides, you must remember
that this sort of thing is only just beginning for me; don't grudge me
my fling. Get you to bed as quick as you can, Charlie. Sleep is what
And do you know what you need? exclaimed the Colonel, with another
grab at his sleeve.
A taste of life! cried Heriot, evading his old fingers with
wonderful agility, and slipping on his pasteboard nose.
He waved a gay farewell, threw his arm round the waist of the hot
cross-bun, and waltzed out of the Colonel's vision.
It was not till two hours later that Heriot Walkingshaw, smiling
with reminiscent pleasure and perspiring freely, set out on foot for
his hotel. A brisk walk in the early morning air was the only
pick-me-up he needed.
During their descent upon the Metropolis of England, Mr. Walkingshaw
and his son were residing at the Hotel Gigantique, that stately new
pile in Piccadilly, so styled, it is understood, from the bills
presented when you leave. On the morning after his evening spent with
Charlie Munro, they met as usual at breakfast. Fortunately, the state
of Mr. Walkingshaw's health did not in the least seem to justify the
forebodings of his friend. On the contrary, he tackled a fried sole
with confidence, even with ardor, and put a great deal of cream into
What were you about last night? he inquired genially.
I dined with one or two fellows at the Rag, said Frank.
Doesn't sound very lively, observed his father, that's to say, at
your age, he hastened to add; for he still believed in retaining the
confidence of his children.
Frank smiled dreamily. This bust in town was proving less solacing
than he had hoped. Now that he had got here, he found himself too
lovelorn to bust with any relish. At the same time, it was pleasant and
soothing to enjoy each day the society of so charming a parent. Any
disquietude he felt at the singular nature of the change had been
allayed by one of his friends, an R.A.M.C. man, who assured him that a
serious illness at his father's time of life was not infrequently
followed by a marked rejuvenation of the patient; so that he was able
to regard with unqualified gratitude the generosity and kindness of the
truant Writer to the Signet.
What were you doing yourself? he inquired presently.
Dining with Colonel Munro, replied his father, truthfully if a
He sipped his coffee, and then remarked
Poor Charlie Munro is growing old, I'm afraid. He knocks up very
He sighed and added, It's a melancholy thing, Frank, my boy, to see
one's old friends slipping away from one.
What! Is he seriously ill? asked Frank.
Oh, I don't mean that. I meanwell, everything has its
compensating disadvantages. Mine is that my contemporaries are
outgrowing me. Charlie and I started the evening in capital style; he
was up to anything, and I was on for anything. But by the end of the
night we were quite out of sympathy. The fact is, he is still in the
sixties. However, my duty has been done; I've seen him, and that's
He helped himself to some more fish, and continued with animation
Now I can carry out my idea! I may or may not set about it the
right way, but I do want to make you all happy Frank.
It was perhaps well for his continued equanimity that during the
first part of this speech Frank was lost in contemplation of a
singularly vivid image of Ellen Berstoun. She had a distracting habit
of appearing like that to the young soldier, of which he was unable to
cure her. He started out of his reverie with the last words.
My dear father, you're the best sportsman I know, he replied
Mr. Walkingshaw looked highly gratified at this compliment.
That's what I'm aiming at, he answered.
He leaned over the table and continued confidentially
Of course you are happy, Frank. There's really nothing Providence
could do for you except put a little money in your pocket, and give you
a good timeeh?
What's the matter? That doesn't sound very cheerful.
I assure you I'm as cheerful asereranything, said Frank
I was sure of it. But poor Jeanshe's got her troubles, eh,
Frank warmed up at his sister's name.
She has, he admitted.
Mr. Walkingshaw thoughtfully piled several slices of bacon on his
plate. It would have reassured Colonel Munro greatly to have seen him.
I wish I was sure that Vernon was good enough for her.
Frank looked up quickly.
I don't think anybody is quite good enough for Jean; but Lucas
Vernon is really a deuced fine fellow.
Mr. Walkingshaw still seemed doubtful.
A bit lazy, I'm afraid.
I assure you he's not, said Frank. He works, sir, like the very
He can't sell his pictures, replied his father. I'll never
believe in an artist till he can sell what he paints.
The difficulty for a painter is to get hold of the right manthe
fellow with the money, urged Frank.
That's a mere matter of time, said his father; they are sure to
meet sooner or later, and then the point is, has he painted anything
worth selling? If Vernon can manage to prove that, I may begin to
believe in him. If he's a fraud it is time the thing was stopped for
He looked much more like the old Heriot Walkingshaw than he had for
some weeks. Then he smiled, though still with an exceedingly shrewd
Well, he concluded, we'll see.
There is a by-street which opens out of the King's Road, Chelsea,
and for a short distance pursues a course as respectable as the early
career of Mr. Walkingshaw. Then, not unlike that gentleman, it diverges
at right angles; and having once begun, goes on doubling for the
remainder of its existence, shedding, as it gets round each corner, the
more orthodox houses that once bore it company, till at last it becomes
a mere devious lane, the haunt of low eccentric buildings; in places,
owing to a casual tree or two, positively shady. The eccentric
buildings, one is not greatly surprised to hear, are nothing more
decorous than the studios of Bohemian painters. Such are the dangers of
deviating from a straight and adequately lamp-lit route.
In one of these studios a young man fiercely painted. His powerful,
loosely clad figure stepped nervously back and forward, his brush now
poised trembling in the air, now dabbing and swishing on the
long-suffering canvas. His mop of brown hair had started the day
brushed back and comparatively sleek; it was now a mere tousel. His
butterfly tie had been a thing of some esthetic pretensions; it was
become a tangle of silk. His smile had been bland and his manner
courteous; he now resembled a buffalo with a bullet in it.
The beastly thing won't come right! he roared.
Another young man reclined upon a deck-chair in company with three
cushions. His appearance was equally artistic, but he seemed less
strenuous. He was pale, slim, rather pretty than handsome, and
Cheer up, dear old fellow, he suggested.
Damn! muttered Lucas.
He toiled in agitated silence for some minutes, and then burst out
No one will ever exhibit the thing; no one will ever look twice at
it; there's not a fool big enough in England to buy it! And it's all
but the best bit of work I've ever done.
That 'all but' lets you down, I suppose, observed the other
One could fill a lunatic asylum with you alone, replied the
painter. Why don't you go off and do some work instead of exhibiting
your incompetence here?
I told you I'd a headache, said the young man in the chair
What the devil's in your head to ache beats me, declared Lucas,
accompanying this unkind speech by a brutal onslaught on the canvas.
Dear Lucas! smiled his friend. You seem to have come under some
softening influence lately. Can you be in love?
The painter turned and confronted him with a less furious air.
You know I am, he replied, and strode to the end of the studio and
back, while the other contemplated him in pitying silence.
I feel a fraud, Hillary, he resumed.
So long as you aren't found out began Hillary.
I have found myself out, retorted Lucas. I boasted I could make
an income for herand look at this daub!
The public likes daubs.
If they know the signature; yes, by all means. But who knows mine?
Some Jews are great picture-buyers, suggested Hillary.
An answering gleam lit Lucas's eye for an instant, and then burned
For the artist there are three ways of making a living, he
pronounced. One is painting for the millionchildren with rosy cheeks
and large wheelbarrows; beds with angels hovering over them and kind
doctors with stethoscopes sitting beside themthat sort of thingthe
obvious road to the heart. The second is hitting the superior kind of
idiot in the eyeinventing a cheap new formulaputting a goblin
upside down in one corner, an immoral-looking woman in another, and
passing the arrangement off as an allegory. Then up jumps an
interpreter and booms you. The third is slowly making your name by the
sweat of your brow, and selling your pictures when you are fifty-five
to people who never recognized their merit till they had been told you
Well, said Hillary, that gives you a biggish target.
Does it? I have no popular knack; I lack the conjurer's instincts;
and I don't mean to wait for Jean Walkingshaw till I am fifty-five.
Must it be she? asked Hillary.
Her father won't help?
If he wasn't so infernally respectable he'd shoot me at sight.
Run away with her. Once you've got her, he won't be heathen enough
to let her starve.
In the first place, replied Lucas, she wouldn't run away with me.
That's the infernal, charming, irritating, splendid thing about
hershe is true to us both.
Won't chuck you and won't chuck the old boy either?
The thing can be done, said Hillary languidly; it only wants a
little energy and enterprise. Great achievements are never accomplished
by slackness. Woman was created to yield to the energetic advances of
man. Remember that, Luc
Besides, interrupted the painter, who had paid singularly little
attention to this stirring speech, I happen to be handicapped by a
little pride. Can you imagine me helping her to compose begging letters
to her father? 'We are in great distress this winter, and a check for
twenty pounds will be gratefully, etc. etc. etc.!' Can you see me
stooping to that sort of thing? What?
I merely threw out the idea as it were tentatively, said Hillary
Lucas gave his mustaches a fierce twist and planted himself firmly
with his back to the despised picture.
It must have been a practical joke of the Devil's that gave Jean
that father and then threw me in her way. Old Heriot Walkingshaw is one
of those men who were created as an antidote to human affection. He
stands between his children's hearts and the sunshine outside like the
brick wall of a prison. His virtues are those of a paperweight. Neither
his daughter nor his fortune are likely to blow away while he is
planted on them; and there his merits end.
What a dreadful fellow, murmured Hillary.
And the worst of such fellows is that they are infectious. One can
catch grimness and hardness of soul just as one can catch high spirits
and courage. Bah! I won't think of him any more. I'll have another shot
at this thing.
He took his brush again and faced the canvas. For a few minutes he
labored painfully, and then turned with an exclamation.
The memory of the old devil has got into my brush he began, and
There was a knock upon the studio door.
Hullo! A patron? said Hillary.
A dun more probably, muttered Lucas.
He opened the door and found himself confronting the rubicund
countenance and imposing form of Heriot Walkingshaw. Over the shoulder
of this apparition he looked into the clear eyes of Frank. They were
trying to convey a caution to use whatever tact he possessed; but the
artist was too dumbfounded to heed them.
Well? he demanded.
Good-day, Mr. Vernon, said his guest.
He held out his hand, and Lucas mechanically shook it.
May we come in? he asked.
If you want tocertainly, said Lucas; and they entered.
A fellow-artist, I presume? inquired Mr. Walkingshaw, glancing at
the pale and pretty youth.
Lucas automatically introduced them.
Very happy to meet you, Mr. Hillary, said the W.S. genially. Let
me introduce my son.
Leaving the two young men to entertain each other, he walked aside
for a few paces with his host. His countenance was composed and his air
dignified; though, as he thoughtlessly took Vernon's arm to direct his
partially paralyzed movements, the artist began dimly to apprehend that
no overt outrage was premeditated.
I say, he began in that pleasantly unconventional vein which
appeared to afford his vigorous reflections the readiest outlet, this
must seem a bit odd and so on, but why the deuce should we go on
quarreling just because we've once begun? We're above that, eh?
I have no wish began the artist.
Exactly, exactly, interrupted his visitor breezily; we both mean
the same thing, so that's all right. Perhaps we misunderstood each
other on a previous occasion. Of course perhaps we didn'twe may be a
couple of scoundrels just as we imagined, eh? Ha, ha! Still, let's
assume there was a little misunderstanding. Now what have you been
The artist's blue eyes looked at him fixedly.
I am addressing the same Mr. Heriot Walkingshaw? he inquired in a
voice compounded of several emotions.
The same, my dear fellowessentially the same. I look
betteryoungerfitter, I dare say, eh?
Yes, said Lucas, still eyeing him curiously, you do.
But you see I am still Frank's father.
He laughed genially, and this argument at last seemed to convince
the young man that he was not the victim of a strange delusion.
I am sorry for being a little hasty he began, with a candid
Not at all, interrupted Mr. Walkingshaw good-humoredly. Don't
mention it. There was a lady in the case; that's excuse enough for any
two men quarreling. By the way, my daughter is not with me, but she
would no doubt wish to have her kind regardsthat is to saywell,
well, let me see the pictures.
In the course of this speech the affable gentleman had been reminded
by the senior partner that one must be careful not to commit oneself
rashly. It was odd how often he required these warnings nowadaysand
how frequently they came just half a sentence too late.
Brush been busy? he added hastily.
Lucas pointed to a dozen or more canvases stacked against the wall.
Fairly, he said.
May I look at them? Oh, don't trouble to take them off the floor.
I'll just turn them over for myself, if I may.
He stooped over the stack and moved each canvas in turn till he
could catch a glimpse of its face. With this ocular demonstration that
there actually were pictures upon all of them he seemed content, for he
turned to his host with an approving smile.
You have not been altogether idle, then?
Hillary turned at the exclamation.
Poor old Lucas is working himself to death, he said, with his
gentle and insinuating air.
Indeed! exclaimed Mr. Walkingshaw, and surveyed the artist with
Hillary is inclined to talk began Lucas, but was silenced by a
ferocious stamp of Frank's boot.
Hush, you idiot! he murmured.
No, Lucas, said his friend readily, I am not inclined to talk as
a rule, but I cannot bear to hear you maligned. I never saw a man work
as you do.
Is that your candid opinion of our friend? smiled Mr. Walkingshaw
with a pleasant air.
It feebly endeavors to express my opinion, replied the engaging
young man. He paints on an average one picture per six hours of
daylight; and the most astounding thing sir, is their consistently high
Lucas looked decidedly uncomfortable.
I don't sell them, unfortunately, he blurted out.
The W.S. turned grave.
None of them? he inquired.
I haven't sold much lately.
The public is not yet educated up to him, said Hillary. But
between ourselves, Mr. Walkingshaw, if I had a thousand pounds at this
moment, I should put it all in Vernons; they'll be worth five thousand
in ten years' time at a modest estimatea very modest estimate.
You are a critic? inquired the W.S.
I am considered so, answered the youth modestly.
Mr. Walkingshaw turned to the embarrassed artist.
At the same time, I gather that whatever your merits, this is one
of your lean years, eh?
Devilish, said Lucas.
That must be discouraging?
It might be if I let it.
That is a damned good answer, Vernon, said Mr. Walkingshaw
Before the three young men had recovered from the sympathetic
surprise which this reply occasioned, he had planted himself in front
of the unfinished picture on the easel.
What's this you're doing? A wood? Ah, yes, I recognize the trees.
Very lifelike indeedmost creditable. What's the price of it, if I may
What I can get, replied Lucas, with a reminiscence of his
Still the same unpractical fellow! smiled Mr. Walkingshaw. You're
not very strong on figures, eh?
I don't meet many, said the artist candidly.
Well, suggested his visitor kindly, what about fifty pounds?
I'd think myself devilish lucky.
May I have it at that?
It isn't booked already, I trust?
That's a bargain, then?
Lucas's eyes were again fixed in a strange stare. Then a quick
change of expression broke over his face.
You're very kind, Mr. Walkingshaw! he said warmly.
Tuts, tuts, not a bit. I want to warm up my study with a splash of
color. That's the way you artists would put it. Eh?
A splash of coloryes.
You see, I'm getting the hang of your lingo already, Vernon. And
now, what else have you got for sale? What do you recommend, Hillary,
That young man displayed a sudden aptitude for business which had
never characterized his own efforts to make a livelihood.
As a work of art likely to rise enormously in value, I
conscientiously recommend that, he said, pointing to another canvas.
A nice head, commented Mr. Walkingshaw. High-toned yet spiritual,
one might term it. I like the way the eyes seem to look out of the
paperor is it canvas it's done on?
OherI beg your pardon, said Lucas, waking suddenly from his
reverie; II'll let you have that thrown in.
Wits a wool-gathering, Vernon? smiled his patron indulgently. But
I dare say you've some excuse. I'll take the picture with pleasure, but
I insist on paying for it. Let us put this at twenty-five pounds.
I won't let you! cried Lucas. I give it youI make you a present
of it. You've been so kind already
Pooh! Come, come, interrupted Mr. Walkingshaw kindly, yet firmly.
You've got to make your way, and how will you do that if you give away
yourfruits of the brush you'd call them, I suppose, eh?
The artist could not but admit the force of this argument, and in
the course of an hour had the satisfaction of selling, at considerably
above his usual market price, no fewer than four of his masterpieces;
while Mr. Walkingshaw, on his part, became the fortunate possessor of a
promising but unfinished sylvan scene, the portrait of an unknown lady,
a rainy day upon the Norfolk coast, and (what he considered the gem of
the collection) a recognizable panorama of Edinburgh from the north,
including among its minor details a splash of red ocher which he felt
certain was the grand stand at the Scottish Union's football field.
This recalled the sympathetic widow, and gave the picture a sentimental
as well as an artistic value. He could have wished that on this, as
indeed on most other occasions, the artist had paid more attention to
verisimilitude and less to mere vague harmonies and so forth, but as he
was assured by that intelligent young Hillary that this method was all
the Go at present, and that his friend Lucas was recognized as a rising
Dab at it. That at least is how he retailed the argument afterwards.
At the conclusion of these arrangements he again drew the artist
Would you like a check immediately, he inquired, or upon delivery
of the pictures?
With considerable animation Lucas assured him there was no hurry at
There is a distinction between punctuality and hurry, replied Mr.
Walkingshaw. I recommend it to your notice, Vernon. As to the date of
payment, I suggest by the first post after the delivery of the
pictures. Does that satisfy you?
Quite, said the painter, with a subdued air.
Strenuous work, patience, and the cultivation of business habits
are the recommendations I make to you, my dear fellowas I would to
any other young man. They have been, if I may say so, the secret of any
little success I may have achieved myself. Good-by, Vernon, good-by!
He departed thus upon a note of austere benevolence, leaving behind
him a grateful yet chastened artist.
Well, Frank, said he, as they drove back together, that young
fellow has managed to sell one or two pictures, I'm glad to find.
His eyes twinkled merrily as he spoke, but before his son had time
to reply the senior partner spoke again.
I only hope he keeps it up, was his addendum.
For a young man, Frank had remarkable discretion (apart from his one
lamentable lapse). He dutifully agreed with this sentiment, and then
proceeded to congratulate his parent on the taste with which he had
selected his pictures and the excellence of the investment he had made.
Mr. Walkingshaw appeared gratified by his approval.
I don't throw my money away, Frank, he said complacently. By the
way, what's the cab fare?
One and six, said Frank.
In the temporary absence of the senior partner, Mr. Walkingshaw
handed the man half a crown, and entered the hotel humming a romantic
As he crossed the hall a deferential attendant approached with a
Hullo! said he, a wire. I wonder who the deuce this is from.
It is a lamentable fact, remarked upon even by popular politicians,
that the very measures which give the highest satisfaction to some
people produce the profoundest depression in others. And it is worth
adding that it is not always the most original reflections which have
procured for their authors the widest reputation (though, if one wanted
to quote an authority for this last axiom, one would perhaps turn
rather to the popular theologians).
Of the truth of the first proposition, that worthy young man, Andrew
Walkingshaw, was an unhappy example. It is the case that his parent's
disappearance was not without compensating advantages. He was spared a
number of minor annoyances, which of late had been the undeserved
accompaniment of his blameless life; but then, the mystery of that
disappearance, its unorthodoxy, its appalling suggestions of scandal!
He knew now what it must feel like to have a relative engaged upon
fashionable divorce proceedings or conspicuously notorious on the
music-hall stage. For, despite his industry in circulating a
circumstantial account of the business that had called the head of the
firm so suddenly away, he thought he observed in the face of every
acquaintance a kind of sly and knowing expression. Aha! every one of
them seemed to say, I've got my knife into you, Andrew!
Beneath the roof of the respectable mansion in which he had hitherto
spent a life unsullied by mystery or romance he found, to his horror,
that these sinister manifestations were even more marked than in his
club. The restored happiness of Jean was a bad sign, very ominous under
the circumstances. It is true that she professed complete ignorance of
their father's movements, but Andrew was too astute a lawyer to pay
much attention to what people said; it was how they behaved that he
went by; and Jean's conduct was suspicious. Why should she be smiling
while this dark cloud hung over their reputations? The like of that
looked very bad. He resolved to probe the matter a bit further.
There's some one wanting to know where Frank has got to, he began,
with an ingenuous air, when he met her next.
What does he want to see him about? inquired Jean.
He didn't say, but I thought perhaps you had heard Frank mention
where he was going. Did you by any chance?
His air remained as ingenuous as ever, but Jean looked at him
doubtfully. For a moment she hesitated.
Yes, she said.
Oh, where was it?
Of course I don't know whether he has gone there.
The chances are he has, said Andrew. What was his intention?
Who was the man that wanted to know?
Andrew was particularly scrupulous never to deviate far from the
high road of truth. Of course there were footpaths alongside that led
to the same place, and gave one a certain amount of latitude; but
beyond these no moral or respectable man should venture. Supposing one
were caught in an adjoining field cutting a corner!
That's neither here nor there, he said evasively.
Was there really anybody at all asking for him, or is the 'some
Her brother looked severe.
Look here, Jean, said he, you know where he has goneI've got
that much out of you; and it's your duty to tell me.
Her eyes were fixed on him steadily.
You think Frank and father have gone off together?
I know nothing about that.
And that's why you are suddenly so curious about Frank?
He regarded her in injured silence; but instead of appearing
affected by his unspoken reproach, she continued with an air of knowing
both his intentions and her own.
If father wanted you to know he would have told you himself.
It is for his own sake I want to find out.
Then you admit you were trying to find out about father! What
benefit would it be to him if you knew?
It is most inconvenient at the office not knowing his address.
If it really were very inconvenient, father would be certain to
think of that and send you his address himself.
He has not thought of it.
Well then, there can't be any great inconvenience.
Not for the first time in his life Andrew wished that all humanity
belonged to his own sensible, candid, trustworthy sex.
I tell you there is, he insisted.
I trust father implicitly, she replied.
Oh, you think his recent behavior has been the kind of thing to
It has in me! she answered enthusiastically.
You have a high opinion of his sense, he sneered.
A great deal higher than I have of anybody else's in the worldin
Edinburgh, anyhow! she retorted, and with her chin held high broke off
This was sufficiently exasperating, but it was not the worst that
treacherous sex could do. The widow's demeanor was a hundred times more
menacing. She was so motherly towards Jean, so sisterly towards his
unfortunate aunt, so skittishly condescending towards himself, that his
previous suspicions of her were sunshiny compared with the dark
convictions that lay heavier upon him each day. Her black eyes danced
mockingly whenever he looked into them; she seemed always to be hugging
the most delicious secret. Andrew doubted she had hugged more than a
secret in this house.
It was a further confirmation of her perfidy that ever since his
father's flight she had made a point of being down to breakfast before
him, so that he could never see what letters she received. That was
damning evidence against herdamnable evidence, in fact, for it argued
a degree both of intelligence and energy for which he had not given her
credit. Like his father before him, he was discovering that there was
more up this sparkling lady's sleeve than met the eye.
A few mornings after the disappearance he thought he had caught her.
When he entered the room she was reading a letter. He snapped up the
Is that my father's writing? he inquired, dissimulating his
acuteness under an easy conversational air.
It's a little like it, she replied, with an amiable smile,
slipping the letter into its envelop and turning that face downwards on
The W.S. began to respect as much as he detested her. All through
breakfast she rippled with the happiest smiles and the gayest
conversation. At the end, his detestation had again got its head in
front of his respect.
But the following morning he himself received a letter which threw
the widow and her smiles so completely into the background that for the
next forty-eight hours he was scarcely aware of her existence. It ran
250 BURY STREET,
ST. JAMES', S.W.
MY DEAR ANDREW,It is with the greatest concern and regret
feel myself compelled to write to you on the subject of my old
friend, your poor father. No doubt you will be able to judge
than myself how far he is responsible for his conduct, and
or not there is any serious need for anxiety; but I consider I
should be doing less than my duty if I failed to inform you of
risks to his health and his reputation which he is running at
present. I spent last night with him; in fact, it was only in
small hours of this morning that I left him still dancing at
Covent Garden Fancy Ball. I assure you I am at a loss how to
express my consternation and alarm at his peculiar behavior.
you aware that he has taken to dyeing his hair and doctoring
face, so that at first sight one might almost mistake him for
much younger man than we know him to be? The extravagance of
language and restlessness of his movements lends color to the
suspicion that he is a little wrong in his head. I do not wish
alarm you unnecessarily, but if you had seen him galloping
a domino and a false nose at two o'clock in the morning I
help thinking you would share my concern. He seems also to
lost all his old caution about money matters. Are you aware
is stopping at the Hotel Gigantique, of all places, and doing
himself and your brother Frank like a couple of millionaires?
cannot help considering this a very remarkable symptom.
I myself am in bed to-day, so pray forgive the
kind regards to you all, believe me, yours sincerely,
The firmament seemed to darken as though a thunderstorm brooded over
the devoted house. Already in fancy Andrew could hear the first
crashings and flashes of the coming scandal. His appetite vanished, his
coffee grew cold, and presently he rose and silently left the room. Yet
the man of superior mental equipment rarely fails to extract some
crumbs of consolation out of the direst disaster. Andrew extracted his
by summoning Jean before he started for the office and handing her the
terrible letter. As he watched her read it, the phrase shaped by his
countenance might be read without the aid of any signal-book
What did I tell you?
Certainly there was a well-earned morsel of satisfaction to be
derived from her startled eyes and the little catches in her breath.
She could believe him now! When she spoke at last her first words were
What a horrid old man he must be!
He looked suitably reproachful.
That is strong language to use of your father.
Her eyes blazed.
I am talking of Colonel Munro! The idea of giving father away like
that. It's one of the very meanest things I ever heard of! I sincerely
hope he may be in bed for a month.
She swept away, and her brother was left to brood gloomily upon the
selfish perversity that thus actually defrauded him of his legitimate
Well, said Andrew, what is to be done?
The problem was undoubtedly delicate. He had paid it the compliment
of summoning his two sensible married sisters to aid him with their
counsel; and even they, though not lacking in decision as a rule,
regarded first the Colonel's letter and then their brother with
disturbed and doubtful eyes. He gave them no hint of the dreadful and
disreputable change in their father's very being; that was positively
too shocking to confide even to a sister (besides, they wouldn't have
believed him), but he considered that the essentials of the problem
were now fairly grasped by them both, and he was pleased to find a
sympathetic unanimity of horror.
He can't be allowed to go on disgracing himself in London; that
much is perfectly clear, said Mrs. Ramornie.
Not to speak of ruining us all, added Andrew.
Can you not go and fetch him home? asked Mrs. Donaldson.
Andrew pursed his lips.
In the first place, would he come? You know how infernally
obstinate he can be. In the second place, do we want him making an
exhibition of himself here?
He would not have quite the opportunities here.
Not for spending money, I admit; but we don't want him taking the
chair and making speeches at the W.S. dinner to-morrow night in his
Will he not remember and come back for it, anyhow? suggested Mrs.
He shook his head.
He has never spoken about it for a long while. I'm practically
positive he has forgotten.
But do you not need him at the office? asked Mrs. Donaldson.
I can only tell you, she replied, that Hector says he gets
through business in a most surprising way, for all his eccentricity.
Very surprising, he retorted sarcastically.
Oh, she said airily, I know you fancy yourself, but Hector
declares father is the man for his money nowadays.
Andrew's cheeks drooped gloomily. He had heard hints of this
preposterous opinion once or twice lately, and they disgusted his sense
of fitness. How could a man possibly be good at business if he rushed
through it like a steam-engine? Supposing one of the telegraph posts at
the side wanted a touch of tar, how could you notice it going at that
pace! But what was the use in arguing with a woman?
Well, I can only tell you this, he snapped: there's Madge Dunbar
waiting for him here with her mouth open.
The two sisters immediately relinquished all idea of bringing him
But if we let him stay in London, he'll be bankrupt in a month!
cried Andrew desperately.
What the deuce is to be done?
They pondered for a few minutes in silence, and then Mrs. Ramornie
exclaimed, with an inspired air
He must go abroad!
And how are you going to manage that? inquired Andrew.
You've got to go and take him.
Me! he cried. Butbut, dash it, Maggie, he'll never go with
You will have to dissemble a little, of course; pretend you want a
holiday too, and take him toto, well, we must look up some
inexpensive French watering-place.
Gertrude smiled her approval.
That's the idea, Andrew! Go up in a white felt hat, and tell him
you know of a naughty little place in France where you can get dancing.
He'll jump at it!
Their brother regarded them with ever-increasing gloom.
That kind of thing is not in my line he began; but once more he
was impressed with the disadvantages of a bi-sexual world. The two
ladies seemed positively incapable of grasping his objections, either
to wearing a Homburg hat or recommending a naughty French
I don't insist on its being white; grey will do, said Mrs.
Of course, I should never dream of taking him to a really
disreputable place, said Mrs. Ramornie; you only want a Casino and a
little promenading, and so on.
It will be great fun, Andrew!
It is your duty, Andrew.
Yes, yes; of course we know you are an Elder of the Kirk and all
the rest of it; but on an occasion, don't you know, Andrew!
What alternative do you suggest, Andrew?
Yet he was still hanging fire when Jean entered. It had been tacitly
understood that her presence was not required at the council of war,
and the marked silence which followed her entry might reasonably have
warned her that matters were being discussed too complicated for young
unmarried girls. Yet she closed the door behind her and came forward
with a quietly resolute air.
I've only just heard you were here, she said. You are talking
about father, I suppose.
We are, replied Mrs. Ramornie briefly.
Jean sat down.
What have you decided? she asked.
We have decided he should go abroad with Andrew for a little
Do you need to ask why, Jean? Surely you don't want him to go on
making a fool of himself in London?
I don't see why he shouldn't go to a dance occasionally if he wants
Go to a dance! exclaimed Mrs. Donaldson.
My dear Jean! do you suppose this was an ordinary
Hush, Gertrude, said their brother austerely.
Anyhow, said Mrs. Ramornie, it is quite settled that he must
leave London at all costs, and that it is inadvisable he should return
to Edinburgh at present.
But Aunt Mary was only saying to-day that he has to preside at a
dinner to-morrow night.
Oh, he'll forget all about that, said Gertrude, and, of course,
we don't mean to remind him.
Because he is not to be trusted at present, said Andrew.
A quick flush irradiated Jean's clear face.
He is to be trusted. He is to be trusted far more than ever
before in his life!
The three counselors exchanged glances.
We know better than you do, said Mrs. Ramornie severely.
But Jean was not easily to be quelled.
I think it will be a perfect shame if you allow father to forget
his engagement, she protested.
Her eldest sister's face grew more like Andrew's than ever.
He must not come home at present, and we trust that Andrew
will do his duty and not permit him to stay in London.
Andrew! exclaimed Jean. How can he prevent him?
Their brother hung back no longer.
I shall go up to London to-morrow morning, he announced.
Splendid! cried Gertrude.
He looked at her coldly.
I do not propose to do anything ridiculous. If I can get him to go
to some place in the south of England and stop for a month or two, that
will be quite sufficient; and I do not propose, either, to wear any
other clothes than what I've got at present.
Having thus asserted his independence of conduct and apparel, he
turned again to Jean.
That is what we have decided, he said.
She jumped up, her lip quivering a little. Then she controlled
herself, and as she left the room only said quietly
Thank you for telling me.
The council was then able to conclude its deliberations without
After dinner that night, Andrew found Mrs. Dunbar alone in the
drawing-room, and immediately turned to withdraw.
Are you not going to have coffee, Andrew? she asked.
There was something different in her manner; something almost
nervous; something apparently less hostile. Andrew glanced at her
suspiciously. What new move in her diabolical game did this signify?
I've got letters to write, he answered coldly, and shut the door
decisively behind him.
The fair widow sighed, and again picked up a letter lying in her lap
and looked at it unhappily. She had kept her word and written to
Charlie Munro, and unfortunately Heriot had forgotten to warn him that
his answer to any such communication must be exceedingly discreet. No
wonder she seemed distressed.
Naturally, the junior partner gave his fair enemy no information
regarding his movements. She saw him leave in the morning as usual,
apparently to go to the office, and it was not till some time later
that she learned from his aunt of his departure for London. Curiously
enough, she seemed rather pleased than otherwise by this move. Her
correspondence with Colonel Munro had left the most unsettling effects.
Meanwhile, Andrew was nearing London. He was pleased to find his
train arrive upon the stroke of 6:15, for he valued punctuality above
everything except his reputation. From the station he drove to the
large political club where he always put up, ate a dinner that exactly
accorded with his station in life, and took a horse bus to the Hotel
Gigantique. (Motor buses were only just beginning to be seen upon the
streets at that time, and he was always suspicious of noisy
By the merest chance, the first person he saw in the hall of the
hotel was Frank, attired in overcoat and opera hat, and evidently bound
for some extravagant expedition, the cost of which would no doubt be
defrayed by his parent to the detriment of his brother's and sisters'
Well, Frank, said the elder brother, where's your father?
The your was a subtle indication of the depth to which Mr.
Walkingshaw had fallen in the estimation of the right-minded.
Out of town, said Frank briefly.
Where's he gone?
Frank shook his head.
You can ask at the office, he suggested.
Do you mean to say you don't know?
I mean to say it's none of my business.
Andrew had begun the conversation in a decidedly hectoring manner.
He now began to alter his key a little.
Look here, Frank, things are pretty serious. We've got to stop this
The other interrupted him.
Making an exhibition of himself all over London, and wasting his
money at a place like this. You know perfectly well what I mean.
I only know that he's in the best form I've ever seen him in my
life. He's just a devilish kind and sporting guv'nor, that's what he
If you mean going about the most disreputable places in London in a
That's a lie, anyhow, said Frank calmly, yet with a glint in his
His brother recoiled a pace, but his manner grew none the less
I suppose you'll say he's moving in fine high-class society, do
It's a lot better than anything he ever found in his office.
Thank you, replied the junior partner; and now perhaps you'll
tell me when he's expected back?
Day or two, said Frank shortly.
Andrew pondered for a moment.
Oh? he remarked at length, and without so much as a good-night he
turned on his heel and walked out of the hotel.
Frank's conscience harassed him for a long time after this
interview. He wished he could be quite certain that his manner towards
his brother was entirely the result of Andrew's disagreeable references
to their father. He would be the most ill-conditioned sweep unkicked,
the most dishonorable sneaking blackguard, if by any chance he had
allowed his luckless passion to prejudice him! He began to wish he were
back in India again. Was this beastly furlough never coming to an end?
And so he drove off in his hansom, alternately sighing and cursing
himself, to watch what he had selected from the pictures in the
illustrated papers as the most sentimental drama in town.
The advantage of living a well-regulated life was never better
illustrated than in the person of his brother Andrew. No qualms of
conscience annoyed him as he drove back economically in his bus. He
knew that he was right, and that people who violated his standards, and
disagreed with him impertinently were wrong; and secure in that
knowledge, he was enabled to hug against his outraged feelings the warm
consolation of a grievance. All through his life this form of moral
hot-water bottle had kept Andrew snug during many a painful night. It
is worth being consistently righteous for the mere privilege of
possessing this invaluable perquisite.
He decided to wait in London for twenty-four hours longer on the
chance of his father returning, and so it happened that he found
himself in his club reading-room on the following afternoon at the hour
when the Scotsman appeared to cheer the exiles from the north.
He secured it at once, and with a consoling sense of homeliness
proceeded to turn its familiar pages. All at once he was galvanized
into the rigidity of a fire-iron
Writers to the Signets' Annual Dinner. Remarkable speech by Mr.
* * * * *
It was a few minutes before he summoned up his courage to read any
* * * * *
Mr. Walkingshaw began by remarking that it was by the merest
chance he was present among them to-night. He had been so
by the attractions of London (laughter)he did not mean what
meant (renewed laughter)that he had positively forgotten all
about his duty to his convivial fellow-practitioners till he
reminded by a telegram from a young lady (a laugh). He alluded
his daughter (cheers). Several morals might be drawn from this
little incident. The advantages of the sixpenny telegram and
even greater advantages of getting on the right side of the
sex (cheers and laughter); these were two morals, but what he
proposed to bring more particularly under their notice
this: that if a respectable old chap like himself could enjoy
himself so thoroughly as to forget his duty, there was hope
for the oldest of them (slight applause). What satisfaction
to become prosperous and respected if at the same time one
bugbear to one's children and a bore to one's acquaintances?
Supposing that one of the old and valued friends he saw before
could suddenly see himself with the eyes of a young man of
or better still of thirty, what would he think of himself?He
would desire to drive a pin through the old fossil's trousers
wake him up! (a laugh). He would realize he was out of touch
life; that he was neglecting a dozen opportunities a day for
pleasure to people who were still young enough to enjoy
and thereby bucking himself up too. Mr. Walkingshaw begged his
audience, particularly that portion of it over fifty, to
the fatal habit of growing old. How was this to be avoided?
everybody could not hope to have his own good fortune, but he
give them a few tips. In the first place, they should make a
of falling in love at least twice a year (laughter). The old
who ceased to fall in love was doomed. Then, while leading a
strictly abstemious life on six days of the week, they should
themselves go a bit on the seventh; and when in that condition
laugh)he did not mean 'blind fu',' but merely a little the
happier for itwhile in that condition they should unlock
cash boxes and distribute a substantial sum among the poor and
deserving young. Furthermore, they should make a point of
least twice a week in fresh societyBohemians, sportsmen, and
like. Also, nothing should be allowed to degenerate into a
Andrew read no further. Half an hour later he was driving for King's
Cross as fast as a cab could take him.
It was characteristic of Andrew's serviceable and soundly
unimaginative intellect that it should decline to grasp such a
phenomenon as a father who was rapidly approaching his own age. It
accepted the fact, since the evidence was now becoming overwhelming,
but it firmly refused to go an inch beyond this concession. If one were
seriously to regard his conduct as the natural result of youth and high
spirits, there would be in a kind of way an excuse for it; and once you
started that line of reasoning, where were you? You would be pardoning
beggars because they were hungry, and bankrupts because they had no
money, and all kinds of things. Andrew's conceptions of justice were
not to be tampered with like that. It therefore followed (since he was
extremely logical) that his parent must be looked upon simply as an
erring and impenitent man. His age did not matter. That was his
business. His son's was to see that, whether Mr. Heriot Walkingshaw
professed to be eighty or eighteen, he conducted himself in a manner
befitting the head of so respectable a family and firm.
The only defect in this pre-eminently honest way of regarding the
matter was that it handicapped the junior partner when it came to
forecasting his parent's probable movements. If you persist in basing
your calculations on the assumption that a bird ought to be too
old to fly, when it actually isn't, you will probably be wrong in
expecting to find it always in your garden.
Andrew let himself into the house about the hour of 8:30 a. m., and
almost fell into the arms of the agitated widow.
Have you found him? Where is he? What has happened? she implored
It was another of Andrew's wholesome peculiarities that, having once
distrusted a person, his suspicions could hardly be allayed, even by
evidence that would have satisfied a hypochondriacal ex-detective. This
safeguard against deception effectually preserved him from the
dangerous extremes both of indigence and greatness. He looked upon his
second cousin with a shocked and doubtful eye. She had come very close.
Did she expect him to toy with her?
Have I found who? he inquired coldly.
If you mean my father, I did not find him.
He looked at her sarcastically, and added, He didn't mention that
himself, of course?
I haven't seen him! she almost shouted.
He looked thoroughly startled now.
Hasn't he been here?
He was only in the house for an hour. That was the day before
yesterday. He didn't let me know he was herehe didn't let his sister
knownobody knew but Jean!
Where was he staying?
At an hotel.
An hotel! exclaimed Andrew in horror. Going to all that expense,
with his house standing waiting for him? That beats everything I've
heard yet! Is he there still?
No, no, he's not! she cried, almost sobbing. He's gone back to
Gone back to London!
And Jean's gone with him!
Jean! Has he not got enough bills to pay at that infernal
millionaire's hotel without hers?
I don't know, wailed the lady. I don't understand him. I thought
he cared for meand he didn't even let me know he was here!
In spite of his anger with his erring parent, he was sufficiently
master of his emotions to feel a lively concern at all this speech
I must get my breakfast, he observed icily, and was starting for
She collected herself instantly.
Andrew! she said, you've got to go after him.
He stared at her, first in extreme surprise, then with an
exceedingly sophisticated smile.
Thank you, I've got my business to attend to.
You can go to the office first. There's a train about two.
I'll not be on it, he replied.
Some one's got to go and fetch him back.
It won't be me.
She looked at him for a moment with an expression which did not
interest him. He neither professed to understand women nor to think it
worth while trying.
Very well, she answered.
They went in to breakfast, but throughout the meal she never
referred to Heriot again. Andrew flattered himself he had choked her
off that subject.
While Andrew was still patiently waiting in London, a south-bound
express swung down the long slope from Shap; past Oxenholme, past
Milnthorpe, past Carnforth, out into the green levels of Lancashire. In
one corner of a first-class carriage sat Jean Walkingshaw, her eyes
smiling approval at that very paper which was to disturb her brother's
serenity a few hours later. Her father sat opposite watching her.
Well, what do you think of it? he inquired.
I think it's most amusing andand
Oh, very spirited! she laughed. In fact, I think it's a splendid
He seemed gratified.
Some fellows didn't seem to care for it, he observed.
They must have been very stupid, then!
Old buffers generally are, he replied. Some of the young chaps
thought it first-rate, even though they were a little startled for the
moment. Though why people should feel startled by anything so
self-evident as my remarks beats me. Be hanged to them for silly
idiots! Eh, Jean?
His momentary expression of chagrin made way for a merry smile,
which set his daughter smiling gaily back.
If they disagree with you, father, they must be! she laughed.
They sat silent for a few minutes, Jean watching the green fields
and trees and gates and walls rush past to join the jagged fells behind
them, her father watching her.
It's awfully good of you taking me back with you, she said
If it's a treat for you, you deserve it, he answered
affectionately; and if it's notwell, anyhow, it's pleasant for me
having your company.
It is a treat for me, though I don't quite see what I've done to
You have stood by your father, my dear; and one good turn deserves
another. I'd have been most infernally sick if I'd forgotten that
dinner. It gave me the very chance of saying a word or two in season
I'd been longing for. I only hope it will do the old fogies good.
He took up the paper and glanced again at the report.
'Remarkable speech,' they call it, he continued complacently.
Well, they are not very far wrong. It was a remarkable speech.
The good gentleman seemed unable to obtain his daughter's approval
often enough. The fact was he had been a trifle disappointed with the
attitude of some of his old friends last night. There was no doubt
about it, he must go to the young folks for the meed of sympathy he
Jean again looked out of the window, but she ceased to pay much
attention to the backward-drifting landscape. Her heart was too full of
hopes and questionings and restless wonder. In a little she turned to
her father again and said, with an eye so candid and a smile so kind
that many members even of her own sex would never have suspected a hint
of ulterior design
Do you know, you are the very best of fathers!
He replied in the same spirit of affection, and she continued
I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to being in London
again! You couldn't have done anything I'd have liked better.
Yes, he confessed, London is an amusing place.
And one always meets so many people one knows there. That is one of
He agreed that it was.
I wonder who I'll meet this time?
She spoke with an air of the most innocent speculation, but the
nature of her parent's smile changed subtly.
Goodness knows who one will meet in London, he replied. Not
Andrew, we'll hope, eh? I wonder where he is now.
At this change of subject her breast gave a quick little heave that
might have marked a stifled sigh, but she dutifully joined in what she
could not but think an unnecessarily prolonged series of speculations
regarding the movements of a quite uninteresting young man.
But her eyes were very bright indeed and her face distinct with
suppressed excitement as they drove from Euston Station into the life
of the streets. All the while she kept looking out of the cab window,
as though amid the passing myriads she might happen already to
recognize one of those acquaintances she hoped to meet. At last she was
in London! And London in early spring; London with the smuts washed off
by torrential showers and then flooded with glorious sunshine; London
with the young leaves like a thin veil of green on the limes and elms,
and the tassels hanging from the poplars, and the sycamores and horse
chestnuts already casting grateful shade; London with the mowing
machines whirling in the parks and the watering-carts swishing down the
streetsis a fairy city for a young girl with a large hotel to live
in, a generous father, and a lover somewhere hidden in those mysterious
miles of crowds and houses. Jean half wished she could feel a little
less impatient, so that she might relish every passing moment to its
Her father, Frank, and she dined sumptuously and went to the most
entertaining play afterwardsa stimulating medley of waltz refrains
and gorgeous clothes and a funny man and fifty pretty girls. She did
not pose as a dramatic critic, and thought it splendid. Then they had
supper at the Savoy, andso to bed.
But though she had gone to her room, Jean lingered for long before
her open window, looking wistfully over the humming, lamp-lit town.
His name had not been mentioned.
Lucas painted, but not so fiercely as before; and again from the
deck-chair Hillary watched him. He rented the studio next door, and
having a comfortable private income of £80 a year, generally spent his
afternoons encouraging his friend. Occasionally, however, he considered
it advisable to supply chastening reflections.
I don't like it, he observed.
Don't like what?
If he really meant to buy those pictures, I can't help thinking you
would have heard from him again.
The artist turned abruptly.
It was only three days ago. I don't expect to hear yet.
Dear old Lucas, I don't want to discourage you, but I call it
fishy. Supposing he has met some one since who really knew something
His friend resumed work in silence.
There is also another possibility, continued Hillary in his gentle
voice. He struck me as suspiciously extravagantsupposing he has gone
bankrupt? I noticed, too, that his complexion was somewhat
rubicundsupposing he has had an apoplectic fit? In that case, would
his executors be bound by his verbal promise? Honestly, Lucas, I don't
There came a sharp rap on the door.
It will relax the strain on your intellect if you go and see who
that is, suggested the painter.
A telegram, said Hillary, strolling back from the door.
Good heavens! cried Lucas. Read that.
Come immediately. Unfortunate complication here. Require you
explain fully.HERIOT WALKINGSHAW.
He looked considerably sobered.
Of course I didn't really mean what I was saying
Lucas interrupted him brusquely.
I'm off. Look after things here. What the devil
He strode down the lane, hailed a cab, and drove off to an
accompaniment of the most anxious speculations.
This way, sir, said the attendant at the Hotel Gigantique.
Lucas followed him, still racking his brains for some explanation
not too disastrous to his hopes. The man opened the door of a
sitting-room and closed it quietly behind him. In the room there was
only one person, a girl with the sunniest hair and the straightest
little nose and the most delightfully astonished face imaginable.
Jean! he cried.
He took a quick step towards her and then remembered the gravity of
What's the matter? he demanded.
Then it was you! she exclaimed.
Father only told me that some onea man
He held out the telegram abruptly.
What do you make of that?
She read it, and then read it again, and her bewilderment seemed to
change into another emotion.
What did your father tell you to do? asked Lucas.
She gave him the queerest look.
Get rid of the man if I could, she said.
He ran his fingers through his mop of brown hair.
But I don't understandwhat's the 'complication'?
She began to smile shyly
Lucas, don't you thinkdon't you seethere's nothing else. I
must be the complication here.
* * * * *
Ahem! coughed Mr. Walkingshaw.
The lovers endeavored to look as though the artist had been merely
posing his patron's daughter.
Well? inquired that patron genially.
Lucas had not altogether lost his ready audacity.
I came at once, sir, he replied, and I have explained fully. The
complication has been cleared up.
Laughing gleefully, chattering away much more like the prospective
best man than the future father-in-law, he led them (an arm thrown
about each) towards the sofa, where they sat together, crowded but
What would you put your income at now, Lucas? he inquired
Lucas looked a little rueful.
The same fluctuating figures, I'm afraid, he confessed.
My dear fellow, don't worry, said Heriot kindly. Money isn't
everything in this world. Youth and love and pluck are the main things.
Hang it, what if you do get into debt occasionally? You've got a pretty
oofy father-in-law. Of course, my dear chap, I don't encourage
extravagance; far from ithe glanced complacently at the chaste
upholstery of the Hotel Gigantique. I believe in paying your way, and
laying by for a rainy day, and all that kind of thing, just as much as
ever I didin theory, anyhow. But in practice I may just as well tell
you at once, to ease your mind, that Jean will have three hundred a
year to keep the pot boiling.
He pooh-poohed their gratitude with the most genial air.
Don't mention it, my dear young people, don't mention it. It comes
out of Andrew's share, so it's all right.
But I couldn't dream of robbing Andrew! cried Jean warmly.
He spends his days in robbing our clients, chuckled the senior
partner, so you needn't worry about him. Besides, he doesn't know how
to spend money even when he has got it. He lowered his voice
confidentially. Andrew hasn't a spark of the sportsman in him; he's
all very well as a partnerone wants 'em tough; but as a songood
And then the good gentleman tactfully retired to the billiard-room,
leaving behind him the two happiest people in London.
Naturally, Lucas stayed to dinner, and naturally also he and Jean
were left in uninterrupted occupation of the private sitting-room,
while her father and Frank smoked and talked together in a quiet corner
of the hall. Mr. Walkingshaw was radiant with the reflection of the
happiness he had brought about. He could do nothing but make little
plans for introducing Lucas to his picture-buying acquaintances, select
eligible districts of London for their residence, and jot down various
articles of furniture or ornament that he could spare them from his own
mansion. Frank seemed equally delighted, though his good spirits were
occasionally interrupted by fits of reverie.
Somehow or other, said Mr. Walkingshaw, I feel more and more like
a friend of Jean and you, and less and less like your father. Odd
thing, isn't it, Frank?
A jolly fine thing, said Frank warmly. By Jove, sir, I can't tell
you how much I prefer it!
Do you really? Well, then, I won't worry about the feeling any
Mr. Walkingshaw had not given the impression that he was worrying
about that or any other feeling, but one was bound to take his word for
I enjoy the sensation far more myself, he went on. It produces a
kind of mutual confidence and that sort of thing. I hardly feel
inclined to explain the cause of this improvement yet, Frank; but you
may take my word that there is nothing in the least discreditable about
it. In fact, when one comes to think of it, there's nothing so very
extraordinary either. It's a perfectly sound scientific idea, perfectly
sound; so you can make your mind at ease too, Frank.
As a matter of fact, Frank's mind had already wandered far afield
from these interesting but slightly obscure speculations.
Oh, that's all right, I assure you, he answered vaguely.
It's a grand thing to know that Jean's love affair has turned out
so happily, his father continued. I can't tell you what a
satisfaction it is to me.
Yes, isn't it? Frank murmured from the clouds.
I only wish I could feel as sure of Andrew falling on his feet.
Frank's wits were wide awake now.
Andrew! he exclaimed. Good heavens, do you mean to say you don't
think he has fallen on his feet?
His father shook his head dubiously.
But, my dear father, I thought you agreed with meagreed with all
of us, I meanthat Ellen's just thewell, theertheerthe
nicest girl in the world.
Oh, she's all that.
Then what on earth do you mean?
Mr. Walkingshaw leant confidentially over the arm of his easy-chair.
Between ourselves, Frank, I'm rather doubtful whether she thinks
Andrew the nicest man in the world.
Butbutsurely sheerI mean, they are engaged.
Frank, my boy, not a word of this to a soulnot even to Jean or
Lucas. I may be wrong, and I don't want to make mischief; but I have a
strong suspicion there's another fellow.
What kind of fellow?
Good God! cried Frank. Who the devil is he?
Hush, hushnot so violently, my dear fellow. It's pretty
sickening, of course; but till you know who he is, you can't knock him
Well, then, tell me who he is.
That's just what I'd like to know myself. It's some one in
How do you know? demanded Frank.
He controlled his voice, but in his eyes burned a light that boded
ill for his brother's rival when he caught him.
Well, you can judge for yourself how I know. Andrew noticed the
change in Ellen's manner the first time he saw her after she'd been
staying with us. The only fellow she met in Edinburgh was yourself, so
it must be some one in Perthshire.
The militant Highlander fell back in his chair with a gasp, and the
light of battle died out of his eyes.
Don't you agree with me? asked his father.
IerI don't know, he stammered.
Mr. Walkingshaw had grown none the less shrewd as his weight of
years was lightened.
Eh? he demanded quickly, what do you know about it? Be perfectly
frank with me.
But why should you think thaterI
Tell me thisdo you know of any one who's been paying attention to
Poor Frank's color grew deeper and deeper.
Therethere was one fellow, I'm ashamed to say.
Ashamed? Why should you be ash Mr. Walkingshaw broke off
suddenly and gazed at his son with very wide-open eyes. Frankit was
The treacherous brother hung his head. And then, in the depths of
his penitence, he heard these extraordinary words
My dear, dear chap, this is almost too good to be true!
Too good! gasped Frank.
What did you dokiss her?
No, no; not so bad as that!
You let her know, though? There's no mistake about that, eh?
I'm afraid I did.
His father took his hand.
She is yours, said he.
Mine? But, my dear father, she is Andrew's!
She was; but he's such a perfect sumph, I'm thankful she's got quit
What! Is it broken off?
It will be.
What's an engagement? Speaking as a lawyer of many years' standing,
I may tell you candidly that engagements, and agreements, and bargains
are simply devices for keeping rascals from swindling one another. If
honest men agree, they don't need a stamped bit of paper; and if they
disagree, where's the point in leashing them together, like a couple of
growling dogs? And the case is a thousand times stronger when it comes
to a man and a girl. I was only afraid I should lose a charming
daughter-in-law, and now you've taken that weight off my mind. I can't
tell you how happy I feel!
Frank's young face was grave and his candid eyes looked straight at
Look here, he replied, I'm going to do the straight thing by
Andrew. I don't know that I've ever loved him as much as I ought, but
that's all the more reason why I shouldn't chisel him now.
Oh, that's your military idea of discipline and all the rest of it;
but let me tell you, falling in love is a different kind of thing from
For the first time the young soldier clearly disapproved of his
Duty is duty, he persisted, and I tell you honestly I'm not going
to sneak in behind my brother's back.
Is Ellen to have nothing to say in the matter? Do you propose to
marry her to the man she doesn't love, instead of the man she does,
without so much as giving her the choice?
The soldier met this flank attack by a change of front.
But Andrew has the means to marry her, and I've not.
I'll give you the means, said his father.
Frank began to realize that Duty was in a very tight corner.
But I haven't any grounds whatever for thinking that Ellen cares
You'll have to convince me.
Is it not clearly your duty to settle that point first?
Wellperhaps it is.
The crafty strategist smiled.
We'll settle it!
At once. Where's a time-table?
But look here, my dear father, there's the question of honor to be
settled after that.
After thatexactly; I'm with you all the way. But in the
meanwhile, first get this into your head. An engagement is an affair of
two hearts, not of two pockets or two heads. If the hearts are off, the
bargain's off. That's the whole ethics of an engagement. And let me
tell you I'm not without some experience.
Heriot! exclaimed a familiar voice.
The W.S. looked round with a start. There, through the middle of the
hall, attired in a most becoming traveling coat of fur, advanced the
My dear Madge! cried her betrothed.
Almost in the same instant his off eye signaled to his son a hurried
but expressive warning.
The hour was late, but in spite of Heriot's kindly suggestion that
the rapture he anticipated from her conversation should be postponed
till she had recovered from the fatigues of her journey, his fiancée
unselfishly preferred to recompense him immediately for his prolonged
deprivation of her society. He acceded at once to her wishes, with the
most amiable air imaginable.
And now, my dear Madge, said he, when they were seated in a
secluded corner of the lounge, tell me all your news. In the first
place, how's my own precious?
I am very well, thank you, replied the lady, a little coolly.
Delighted to hear it!
You could, of course, have discovered it sooner by simply writing
to inquire, she pointed out, with the same air.
But I did, my dear girl, I did.
Only once, was it? Now, I could have sworn it was twice.
And did you think twice was often enough?
Well, you see, Madge, he explained, we got engaged in such a
deuce of a hurry, and I had to rush off next morning, and so on. I
didn't have time to ask you how often you wished me to write.
Didn't my last two unanswered letters give you any idea on the
Two letters, Madge? Now, do you know, I could have sworn it was
She looked at him steadily.
Heriot, what is the meaning of your conduct?
To what points in it do you refer, my dear?
I may tell you I have heard from Charlie Munro.
It was remarkable how quickly Mr. Walkingshaw had developed. That
reputation he still clung to when he saw her last was no longer a brake
upon his downward career.
Poor old Charlie! he laughed. By Jove, Madge, I jolly well
hoisted him with his own thingamajig!
She regarded him stonily.
And what of the business you went to see him about?
Did I say I was going to see him on business?
Oh, no, no, my dear girl; you must have misunderstood me. Of
course, it was natural enough; we were both rather carried away by our
feelings that night, weren't we, Madge?
He took her hand and pressed it affectionately, but it made no
Why didn't you come to see me when you were in Edinburgh? she
I ought to have, he answered, with an expression of the sincerest
apology. Yes, I suppose I ought to have.
You suppose! Didn't it occur to you at the time?
Oh, yes, it occurred. In fact, my difficulty was to keep myself
away from you.
May I ask why it was necessary to make the effort?
Well, the fact is, he explained, I had a little scheme for Jean
which I wanted to keep a secret
And you couldn't trust me! she interrupted.
A charming woman and a secret? he smiled archly. My dear girl,
your rosy lips would have gone chatter, chatter, chatter all over the
She snatched her hand away with some degree of violence.
You talk like an idiot! she replied.
My dear Madge! This is your own Heriot?
She took out a little handkerchief of lace and gently touched first
one eye and then the other.
I don't believe you love me!
Heriot's kind heart was sincerely moved.
I adore you!
A faint smile at last appeared upon her face.
How can you possibly when you go on like this?
The smile died away and a quick frown took its place.
Heriot! Do you mean to say you think your behavior has looked like
It's the heart that counts, Madge, not the behavior, he assured
She sat up in her chair with an air of decision.
The behavior does count; so please don't talk as though you thought
I was a fool. For your own sake, for the sake of your reputation and
your family, you've got to come back with me to-morrow!
He seized her hand.
My dear Madge, that's just what I meant to do.
He rose and bent over her with every symptom of affection.
And now you must really go to bed. You're looking tired; really you
are. It quite distresses me.
She still kept her seat.
You promise to come with me?
I assure you I've got to come.
I must have your promise.
He looked hurt.
Hang it, Madge, can't you trust me?
No, I cannot. Give me your promise.
His air of affection decidedly diminished, but he gave the pledge
I promise to go north to-morrow.
I can really trust you?
He began to frown.
She rose at last, and they went together towards the lift.
When do you breakfast? she asked.
He answered somewhat stiffly
There is no necessity of starting before two o'clock. Breakfast
when you like.
We shall say ten o'clock, then.
That is fairly late, isn't it?
You forget that I have had a tiring day, and perhaps you hardly
realize whose conduct has tired me. Good-night.
Good-night, he replied in an unimpassioned voice.
As the widow ascended she told herself that she had adopted entirely
the right attitude. She might relent to-morrow, but till then it was
well he should be deprived of the sunshine of her smiles.
Next morning at the hour of 10:15 she stepped out of the lift to
find Jean waiting in the hall. She greeted Mrs. Dunbar with a markedly
I hope you won't mind breakfasting alone? she said.
It was evident that the widow did mind.
Do you mean to say your father has actually breakfasted without
Unfortunately, he had to.
He and Frank found they must catch the ten o'clock train.
Mrs. Dunbar gasped.
But he promised to go with me!
I understood him to say, said Jean quietly, that he had merely
promised to go north.
Oh, indeed! Then he has run away?
From whom? asked Jean demurely.
The widow bit her lip.
I consider his conduct simply disgraceful
Jean interrupted her quickly
I had rather not discuss my father's conduct. Don't let me keep you
Mrs. Dunbar remained standing in silence, a magnificent statue of
displeasure. In a moment she inquired
And why are you waiting here?
Father thought you might like my company on the journey.
How very thoughtful of him! Then you go at two?
The widow gazed at her intently.
I can hardly believe this of Heriot. Is all this his own idea?
Jean flushed slightly, but answered as demurely as ever
It is his wish.
Ah, I see! exclaimed Mrs. Dunbar bitterly, I thought there was a
woman's hand in this affair.
Do you mean another woman's hand?
The injured lady began uneasily to realize that there was a fresh
factor in the situation. But who would have dreamt of little Jean
Walkingshaw being dangerous? As Madge traveled north that afternoon,
uncompromisingly secluded behind a lady's journal, she could not get
out of her head the uncomfortable fancy that her trim, fair-haired
escort sat like a protecting deity (heathen and sinister) between
Heriot and all who desired, even with the most loving purpose, to
chasten his faults and moderate the exuberance of his too virile
Jean herself was warmly conscious that some such duty was surely
laid upon her. With what less reward could she repay all he had done
for her? It will be discovered, however, from the succeeding instalment
of facts, that though the guardian angel of Heriot Walkingshaw might go
the pace with him thus far, it would probably have been beyond the
power even of a genuinely celestial spirit to keep at his shoulder when
Archibald Berstoun of that ilk (of y' ilk was the form that most
delicately tickled his palate) still dwelt in the fortalice built by
his ancestors at a time when to the average Scot the national tartan
suggested but an alien barbarian who stole his cattle; and the national
bagpipe, the national heather, and the national whisky were merely the
noise the brute made, the cover that preserved him from the gallows,
and the stuff that gave you your one chance of catching him asleep.
(A few reflections on the whirligig of time were here inserted, but
have since been omitted, as they were found to occur in a modified form
The castle stood in the lowland part of Perthshire, and was erected
by the second of that ilk as a tribute to the dexterity with which his
highland neighbors had removed the effects and cut the throat of the
first. It was a sober and simple building, steep-roofed and
battlemented at the top, turreted at the angles, and pierced with a few
narrow windows so irregularly scattered about its gray harled walls as
to suggest that no two rooms could possibly be on the same level.
Naturally, the architectural genius who illumines the quiet annals of
every landed family had knocked out a number of French windows into the
lawn and constructed the first story of a Chinese pagoda, in which he
proposed to store Etruscan curios with an aviary above; but his
descendants had fortunately lacked the funds to complete these
improvements. In fact, the stump of the pagoda was now so entirely
overgrown with ivy that it had become the traditional fortress of
This ancient habitation of a hard-fighting race was framed on two
sides by a garden that looked as old as the walls which towered above
it, and was well-nigh as simple and sober. Dark clipped yews, and
smooth green grass, and graceful old-world flowers were its chief and
sufficient ingredients. The genius who designed the pagoda had not yet
turned his attention to the garden when Providence checked his career.
A wood of black Scotch firs stretched for a long way beyond this
pleasant garden, and struck a stern northern note befitting the gnarled
battlements; while, nearer the house, gray beech stems towered out of
the brown dead leaves below up to the brown live buds a hundred feet
nearer the clouds.
On the remaining two sides of the castle you were not supposed to
bestow attention, since after the old custom the home farm approached
more closely than is fashionable nowadays; though to the curious they
were the sides best worth attention, owing to the cultured
pagoda-builder having deemed it beneath his dignity to molest them.
One afternoon in early spring Ellen Berstoun walked slowly down a
sheltered garden path. She had been singularly moody of lateso
distressed, indeed, and so little like a lucky girl whose wedding might
be fixed for any day she chose to name, that her five unmarried sisters
held many private debates on the causes of her conduct. The three next
to her in years expressed grave apprehensions lest the very fairly
creditable marriage arranged for her should after all fall through.
Ellen was not treating Andrew well, they complained; while on the other
hand, the two youngest, being as yet irresponsibly romantic, declared
vigorously that they had sooner dear Ellen remained single to the end
of her days than introduced such a long-lipped, fat-cheeked
brother-in-law into the family.
It was a part of poor Ellen's burden that she was acutely conscious
of the duty which her parents and all her aunts assured her she owed
these sisters. But, on the other hand, to share the remainder of her
existence with Andrew WalkingshawThere rose vividly a picture of that
most respectable of partners, and the emotion attendant on this vision
drew from her a sigh that ought to have convinced the most skeptical
she was very hard hit indeed.
It was at this moment that she spied a lad approaching from the
Well, Jimmy? she inquired.
With an appearance of some caution, he handed her a note.
It was to be gi'en to yoursel' privately, miss, he said
mysteriously, and turned to go.
Is there no answer? she asked.
He said I wasna to bide for an answer.
He hurried off as though his directions had been peremptory, and
Ellen opened the letter. It was written upon the notepaper of a local
inn, and if she was surprised to discover the writer, she was still
more astonished by the contents.
MY DEAR ELLEN, it ran, I should take it as a very great
indeed if you would come immediately on receiving this and
at the farther end of the wood below your garden. Follow the
and you will find me waiting for you. The matter is of such
importance that I make no apologies for suggesting this
proceeding!With love, yours affectionately,
J. HERIOT WALKINGSHAW.
P.S.Don't say a word to one of your family. Secrecy is
Ellen stood lost in perplexity. Rumors had reached her of Mr.
Walkingshaw's recent eccentricity. The request was entirely out of
keeping with all her previous acquaintance with him; that point of
exclamation after romantic proceeding struck her as uncomfortably
dissimilar to his usual methods of composition. Ought she not to
consult one of her parents, or at least a sister? And yet the
postscript was too explicit to be neglected.
For a few minutes she hesitated. Then she made up her mind; her warm
heart could not bear to disappoint anybody; and besides, Mr. Heriot
Walkingshaw, however odd his conduct might have been lately was such a
pompously respectableindeed venerableold gentleman that a maiden
might surely trust herself with him alone, even in a grove of trees.
And so, in a furtive and backward-glancing manner, she stole into the
wood. It was an unusual way of approaching one's father's man of
business and one's financé's parent, but Ellen consoled herself by the
reflection that an experienced Writer to the Signet should best know
how these things were done.
She hurried down a narrow, winding glade, lined by countless slender
columns supporting far overhead a roof of millions of dark green
needles swaying and murmuring in the breeze. Suddenly sunshine and
green fields filled the opening of the glade, and as suddenly a tall
gentleman stepped from behind a tree and politely raised a fashionable
felt hat. In all essential features he was the image of Mr. Heriot
Walkingshaw, only that he was so very much younger.
Well, my dear Ellen! he exclaimed heartily.
She stared at him, too amazed for speech.
Am I really so changed already? he inquired with a smile. That
shows the beneficial effect of seeing you.
Even though his manner had altered as much as his appearance, she
found the change so agreeable that she overlooked its strangeness. She
smiled back at him.
I am glad to see you looking so well, she said.
He beamed upon her in what he sincerely meant for a paternal manner.
You, my dear child, look ripping! My hat, you are pretty! Ellen
dear, my only wish is to make you as happy as you are bonny.
She looked at him searchingly, and her voice had a note of guarded
What do you mean?
His air became sympathy itself.
My dear girl, I have been greatly distressed to hear that all has
not been going smoothly with you and Andrew.
She gave him a quick glance and then looked away.
Indeed! she answered a little coldly. Who told you that?
I can read it in my son's altered health.
She looked at him in surprise, but without anxiety.
I didn't know there was anything the matter with him.
He had to hasten up to London for a change of air.
I hope it did him good, she said indifferently.
My dear girl, have you no wish to hurry to his bedside?
I'm afraid I shouldn't be any good if I did.
And you wouldn't find him in bed, either, smiled Mr. Walkingshaw,
with a change of manner. No, no, Ellen; you needn't pretend you're in
love with Andrew if that's all the concern you feel. And I may tell you
at once that he's as tough as ever, and as great a fool. The fellow is
totally unworthy of you, so don't you worry your head about him any
He bent over her confidentially.
Supposing some one were to cut him out, eh?
Some one she stammered. Who?
Guess! he smiled.
She did guess; and it was a shocking surmise.
II have no idea, she fibbed.
Oh, come now, hang it, look me in the eye and repeat that!
For an instant, she looked into that roguish eye, and her worst
suspicions were confirmed.
Mr. Walkingshaw, she answered, with trembling candor, I feel very
much honored, but really I must ask you not tonot to say anything
more. Our agesoh, everythingI couldn't! I had better go back now.
The philanthropic father gasped.
Ellen! stop! My dear child, I don't mean myself! Good heavens, I am
far too old for a young girl like you!
Yet it was at that moment that he suddenly realized he wasn't.
Thenthen what she began, and stopped, overwhelmed with
Hurriedly he endeavored to put things once more upon a paternal
My fault, my dear Ellen, my fault entirely. Naturally you
thoughteryes, yes, it was quite natural. II put it badly. I
didn't think what I was saying. The fact is, I've beena brilliant
inspiration suddenly illumined the chaos of his mindI've been so
troubled about poor Frank!
Her expression altogether changed.
What's the matter? she exclaimed.
His mind calmed down. Composing his countenance, he shook his head
I don't think he'll get over it.
She laid her hand upon his arm with a quick, involuntary gesture.
But what has happened? Tell me!
The wisdom of age and the shrewdness of youth twinkled together in
Mr. Walkingshaw's eye, but he managed to retain a decorously solemn
You are really concerned this time?
Of course! II mean, naturally.
He drew her hand through his arm and led her along the fringe of the
Come and see, he said gently. Poor boy he's had a bad fall.
What! Is he herewith you?
Yesyes, he answered, with an absent and melancholy air.
He led her a few paces into the trees, and there, seated on a fallen
trunk, they saw the victim of fate smoking a cigarette with a
meditative air. He sprang to his feet with a light in his eye that
might have been the result of some acute disaster, but scarcely looked
Frank, my boy, said his father, I have just been explaining to
Ellen that you have fallenhe turned to the girl with a merry
airin love! he chuckled, and the next moment they were listening to
his flying footsteps and looking at one another.
High overhead the pines murmured gently, and Mr. Walkingshaw,
strolling through the quiet colonnades below in solitude and shade,
heard the strangest messages whispered down by those riotous tree-tops.
He was no longer even middle-aged! Or at least his heart certainly was
not. It seemed to keep a decade or so younger than his body, and Heaven
knew that was growing younger fast enough! At this rate how much longer
could he play the beneficent parent? Good Lord, he had jolly nearly
fallen head over ears in love with sweet Ellen Berstoun in the course
of five minutes' conversation! She wasn't a day too old for Heriot W.
That's to say, he could do with a lassie of that age fine, and, by Gad,
he shouldn't wonder but Ellen mightn't have rather cottoned to him if
her heart had been free. She looked deuced coy when she thought he was
proposing. Yes, a girl like Ellen was the ticket for him. But in that
case, what about Madge?
For several minutes Mr. Walkingshaw stood very solemnly studying the
bark on an entirely ordinary pine, concluding his scrutiny by hitting
it a sharp smack with his walking-stick and turning away from the sight
of it with apparent distaste. However, a minute or two later he seemed
to find one he liked better, for he placed his back against it, removed
his hat, and gazed upwards at the softly murmuring branches. Once more
their whispers made him smile. Sufficient for the day were the
difficulties thereof! That was the way to look at it. Meanwhile, the
spring was young, and the little flowers in the wood were young, and
the blue sky that showed in peeps through the swinging tree-tops looked
as young as any of them, and certainly it was a young and lusty breeze
that swayed them. By Jingo, what excellent company they all were for
And then he heard another murmuring sound, coming this time from
behind him. He held his breath and caught the words
Ellen! I love youI love you!
He peeped round the tree, and for an instant saw them. A most
gratifying tribute to his diplomacybut devilish disturbing to a young
fellow without a girl! Hurriedly he snapped a twig; he snapped another;
he broke a branch; he whistled, he coughed, he shouted. And then they
looked up, vaguely surprised to find there was another person in the
Well, Frank, said his father, as they walked back together towards
their inn, are you not feeling happy now, my boy, eh?
Happy! exclaimed Frank. I'm stupefied with happiness!
As Heriot Walkingshaw strode between the spring breeze and the
murmuring pines, his son's arm through his, listening to his gratitude
and Ellen's praises, he too felt happier than ever before in his life.
What a lot of pleasure he had learned how to give. And the way to give
it was so simple once you found it out. Apparently you had merely to
get in sympathy with people, and then do the things which naturally,
under those circumstances, you would both like to be done. There was
really nothing in it at all; still, it was jolly well worth doing.
Only as they neared the inn did a qualm begin to trouble Frank.
It's deuced rough luck on Andrew, losing that girl, he said
suddenly. Hang it, it would kill me!
It's only losing his money that'll ever hurt Andrew, replied his
father cheerfully. Don't you worry about what he'll say.
Unfortunately, Mr. Walkingshaw forgot that the provision for this
happy marriage was, in fact, coming indirectly from Andrew's pocket.
Even the youngest of us cannot foresee everything, or Heriot would not
have been humming Gin a laddie kiss a lassie, quite so
I must say I funk having it out with him, remarked Frank.
Just you leave it all to me. I'm a match for Andrew any day.
It would have been well if Mr. Walkingshaw had touched wood as he
made this vaunt; but at that moment his confidence was so serene that
he felt master of any emergency conceivable by man.
Andrew's not the mate for Ellen, he said presently. The young are
for each other, Frank; that's the law of nature.
He smiled to himself.
I learnt that this afternoon. By Jove, what a pretty girl Ellen
And then again his young heart remembered the sympathetic widow, and
he stopped smiling.
The backbone of our country is that band of civic heroes who, when
turmoil rages and disaster threatens, are the last men to desert the
desk. In this glorious company Andrew Walkingshaw was numbered. His
father might tear up and down the country like a disreputable
whirlwind, his widowed relative fume and plot, his sister disgrace the
family by an unsuitable engagement, his betrothed leave his
affectionate letters unanswered, his own soul writhe in decorous
anguish at these calamities, but Casabianca himself was not more
faithful to his post than he. It is true, indeed, that he had once
tried the alternative policy and chased that cyclone, but he had taken
to heart the lesson, and thenceforth closed his ears to disquieting
rumors, his eyes to distressing symptoms, and went about his work, if
possible, more conscientiously than ever. That was the proper way to
get through businessconscientiously. He was sickened with the people
(clients of some eminence, but evidently with a screw loose) who kept
deferring their more important concerns till the senior partner
returned with his infernal headlong methods. Let them wait if they
liked! Let them take their business elsewhere if they were such fools!
Deliberately and calmly he had washed his hands of his senior
partner. That was the end of him so far as he was concerned, said
Andrew to himself. But alas! you may wash your hands of a tornado, but
supposing it retorts by blowing down your house?
It was about nine in the evening, and he sat by himself, severely
scrutinizing the pleadings drawn up by his clerk for a forthcoming
case, connected with so large a sum of money that it was a pleasure
merely to read the imposing figures. The ladies were upstairs in the
drawing-room. So long as Mrs. Dunbar was among them, he was not likely
to show his face there.
The door opened, and he turned, frowning at the interruption, and
then sprang up with a troubled eye. It was his father certainly; but
what a remarkable change since he had seen him last! For the first time
Andrew realized the full enormity of his conduct in growing younger.
His very appearance had become a crying scandal.
Sweating away at your old papers? inquired Heriot pleasantly.
Andrew stiffly resumed his seat.
Yes, I am busy, he replied, and took up the pleadings again.
But his father ignored the hint. Straddling comfortably before the
fire, he remarked
Frank and I have been up to Perthshire.
Andrew looked up quickly, but merely answered
We've been seeing Ellen.
Mr. Walkingshaw threw himself into a chair.
My boy, said he, with the air of friendly commiseration which he
felt that the occasion undoubtedly demanded, I find I was right about
Andrew remained calm, though not quite so calm as before.
Do you mean there's some one else after her?
He's got her.
The calm departed.
Got! What the deuce d'ye mean?
She has chosen another, Andrew.
Chosen! But she's no choice left her. She's engaged to me.
She was engaged to you. She's now engaged to him.
To him? Who the deverwhat are you driving at? Who's the
Andrew stared at his father incredulously.
I don't believe a word of it.
Well, you may ask Frank if you like; but I assure you you can take
my word for it.
It was characteristic of Andrew's robust mind that, instead of
wasting time in noisy vaporings and sentimental sorrow, it seized at
once the weak point in the case.
But he can't afford to marry.
Oh, I'll see to that.
You'll see! shouted Andrew. Do you mean to say you've
had a finger in the pie?
Four fingers and a thumb, smiled his parent.
Once more Andrew, without waste of words in expostulation or
commentary, summarized the situation in a sentence
This is fair damnable!
Come, come, my dear fellow, said Mr. Walkingshaw soothingly. I
owe you an explanation, of course, but when you've heard it, I know
you'll agree I've done the right thing.
An explanation! exclaimed Andrew sardonically. Go on, let's hear
I can give you the gist of it in a sentence: she loves Frank, and
she doesn't love you. Now, in that case, which of you ought she to
That's nothing to do with it
What! love's nothing to do with marriage?
When a woman's once engaged, she's got to implement her promise.
Whether it makes her happy or miserable?
Who was miserable, I'd like to know?
It's the first I've heard of it.
Do you mean to say you couldn't see it for yourself?
No, I could not; and even if she was, there's not the shadow of an
excuse for your conduct. You're just making a mess of everything you
meddle with. Getting me jilted like this! What do you suppose people
will say? What'll they be thinking of me? Oh, good Lord!
The unhappy young man brooded somberly. Mr. Walkingshaw lit a cigar,
and then settled himself down to remove by gentle argument the cloud
that temporarily obscured his son's serenity.
Just look at the thing for a moment in a quiet and reasonable
light, Andrew. Happiness, as you are well aware, is the chief aim of
humanity. Damn it, our religion teaches us thator practically that. A
kind of warm and amiable gleefulnessthat's the ideal. Now, how can a
young girl like Ellen be happy or gleeful married to a sober old codger
like you, eh? Man, the thing's clean impossible. She's no more suited
to you than a lace cover to a coal-scuttle. Well, then what's the
obvious thing to do? Hand her over to a brisk young fellow who can do
her justice, of course. Besides, just think of your own brother pining
away in thewhat do they call it?torrid zone, all for love of a girl
who's pining away for love of him. The thing's totally illogical. A
society of hedgehogs would have more sense than to allow an arrangement
like that. You see my point now, don't you?
I've heard you say with your own lips, retorted Andrew, that all
a girl required was a comfortable home and a husband who knew his own
But you must remember, explained his father, I was an old fool
Andrew sprang to his feet with a wry and bitter face.
You certainly haven't the qualities of age now. I never heard such
daft-like rubbish in my life. For Heaven's sake, just try to use any
common sense you've got left. Frank will never have enough money to
keep her properly.
Ah, but naturally I mean to alter my arrangements.
Gradually the full possibilities of the situation were revealing
themselves to the well-regulated mind of the junior partner.
You mean to change your will?
Yet another horrid possibility showed its head.
And are you going to alter Jean's share too, so that this precious
Vernon fellow may have something to squander?
Something respectable to live on, corrected his parent. You
mustn't starve art, you know.
Andrew stared at him in silence, and when he spoke, it was with the
air of a much-wronged worm which has deliberately resolved to turn at
I'm not wanting any of your Ellen Berstouns. If she's played this
trick on me, that's enough of her. But I tell you plainly I'm not going
to let you rob me to keep a pack of worthless painters and people out
of the gutter, without taking some steps. I warn you of that.
My dear Andrew, said his father reproachfully, that's hardly the
attitude of a professing Christian. Just think, now; is it? You'll
easily find a decent, quiet woman with a bit of money and no objection
to hearing every day for an hour or two how you've been worried by your
clients and swindled by your father, and I do honestly believe you'll
get as near happiness as you're capable of. That's common sense, now;
The slamming of the door answered him.
What a sulky fellow he is! said Heriot to himself.
Yet so conscious was he of the rectitude of his intentions, and so
confiding had his disposition grown, that it never crossed his mind to
beware of an infuriated lawyer. Besides, when Andrew had slept over it,
he would surely realize how unanswerable were his father's arguments.
We'll see the old stick-in-the-mud dancing at Frank's wedding!
thought he. There's no vice in Andrew; only a bit of obstinacy. It's
all bark and no bite with him.
With these amiable reflections he speedily consoled himself for the
discomfort of any little temporary friction. And then the door opened
I heard you had come back again, said Mrs. Dunbar.
She closed the door as gently as she had opened it. The action
pathetically expressed the quiet sorrow of a much-wronged woman's
Yes, said Heriot gallantly, I'm back again to Scotland, home and
beauty. Ha, ha! Now that was quite pretty, wasn't it?
But her black eyes declined to sparkle, as she glided silently to a
chair. Out of the corner of his own eye her lover looked at her
I'm delighted to see you again, Madge, he went on; but his words
had a hollow ring, and his eye continued to express more doubt than
Have you no apology to offer me? she inquired, with the same
For what, my dear lady?
She started a little and glanced at him apprehensively. My dear
lady hardly indicated love's divinest frenzy.
For treating me shamefully!
This is strong language, he smiled indulgently. Tell me now, I
say, just tell me what I've done.
Thus invited, the lady described his conduct in leaving her alone
and unprotected in a London hotel, to the neglect of his affectionate
assurances and the shame and confusion of herself, in language which
did no more than justice to the theme.
But I left Jean to look after you, he protested.
When I want your daughter to look after me I shall ask you for her
assistance, she replied tartly. You broke your word to me, and you
can't deny it.
I do deny it, he replied, with dignity. I told you I should
Oh! she interrupted, with scathing contempt, you were very
straightforward and gentlemanly, I know!
He looked at her ever more critically. A recollection of Ellen and
the pine-wood returned forcibly.
Put it as you will, he replied philosophically, and turned towards
She watched him jealously.
But why did you run away? she persisted. Where have you been
since? Heriot, I insist upon knowing thatI insist!
She rose and came towards him. He took her hand and pressed it
I shall tell you all, he said, as he led her back to her chair and
drew another towards it. When they were about three feet apart he sat
down himself and bent confidentially towards her. Yet he did not
attempt to bridge entirely the intervening space.
I have been up to Perthshire, he began, assisting dear Ellen
Berstoun to break off her engagement with Andrew.
Mrs. Dunbar sat up with a much more alert expression.
I am glad to hear it, she said, with decision.
I discovered that Frank and she loved one another. I am very glad
to say he is now engaged to her instead.
She smiled at last.
Do tell me what Andrew said!
He shook his head.
I'm afraid he is somewhat unreasonably annoyed.
She smiled more brightly still.
How very good for him! Really, Heriot, you have done a very
sensible thing indeed.
Heriot smiled back.
It seemed to me, said he, that there was really too much
disparity in years. The young should marry the young, Madge.
I agree with you entirely.
It was his smile that now seemed to indicate an increasing
You agree also that under those circumstances it is no longer the
duty of two people to marry, even if they have unfortunately become
I think it would only lead to wretchedness if they did. Honestly, I
don't feel in the least sorry for Andrew. In fact, I thoroughly agree
that people ought to have their engagements broken off for them if they
haven't the sense to see they are unsuitable for themselves.
Heriot received this assurance with evident pleasure. His manner
grew more confidential still.
Madge, he said, I think it is time I made you a very serious
Her smile departed.
You may have noticed, he continued, a certain bloom, so to speak,
upon me, a sort of freshness, and so on. Madge, it is the bloom of
She grew uneasy.
It is a literal, physical fact. I am rapidly approaching thirty.
She moved into the farthest corner of her chair, but made no other
You will thus see that it is merely a question of time before there
will be an even greater disparity of years between you and me than
between Ellen and Andrew.
Her expression changed entirely.
Heriot! she exclaimed indignantly.
Yes, Madge, I grieve deeply to resign the hopes of happiness I had
formed on a life spent in your society, but alas! I must. Your adult
charms cannot be thrown away upon an unappreciative youth; it would be
You are many years older than I!
I was a short time ago, but to-day we are roughly speaking,
twinsthough with this difference, that as I am looking forward to a
strenuous youth, and you to a handsome old age, naturally I feel a
chicken compared with you. But then think of the next year or two, when
I shall perhaps be playing football, and you will find it no longer
possible to keep your gray hairs so artistically brushed beneath your
black tresses: think of that, Madge!
Are you out of your mind? she gasped.
On the contrary, I have never been clearer-headed in my life.
Then, she exclaimed wrathfully, you are merely inventing a
ridiculous fable to excuse your shuffling out of your engagement!
My dear lady, he replied pacifically, shall I jump over this
chair to convince you?
Nothing would convince me.
Ah, he said, with a friendly smile, I see that you want to have
me whether I'm a suitable mate or not, whether my feelings have
I certainly do not! she interrupted.
Then in that case shall we call it off?
He rose and picked up an evening paper.
She tried the resource of tears. The spectacle of a handsome woman
weeping had brought him temporarily to his senses once before. But this
time, though his manner was as kind as any widow could desire, his
words brought the unfortunate lady no more consolation than his
My dear Madge, just look at the thing sensibly. Surely you are old
enough by this time to take a practical view of what after all is a
very simple situation. You laid down the law yourself not five minutes
ago, and laid it down very justly. If two people are unsuitably mated,
the engagement should be broken off. Very well; just try to realize for
a moment what it means to marry a man who is getting fuller and fuller
of beans all the timeat your age, mark you. The fact is, we are just
like two trains rushing in opposite directions. For a moment we may be
side by side, and thenwhit!we have passed each other and are
getting a couple of miles farther apart every minute.
Even this graphic allegory failed to dry her tears.
You are deserting meyou are breaking my heart! she wailed.
Hush, hush, he answered soothingly; on the contrary, I am sparing
yousparing you no end of anxiety.
She looked at him like a tragedy queen.
Have you no thought of how my reputation will suffer, Heriot?
How can it suffer? Nobody knows we've been engaged.
Do you suppose they haven't guessed?
Not from anything I've said or done, I can assure you.
She sprang up indignantly.
Have you no sense of honor?
Look here, he answered, with his most ingratiating manner, I'll
be a son to you, Madgean affectionate, dutiful
You coward! she cried.
Heriot found himself alone in his library with his engagement
Andrew had retired to the dining-room. Once the day's eating was
over, this apartment, with its vast space of dignified gloom, its black
marble mantelpiece, and the cloth of indigo plushette which now covered
the table, made the most congenial refuge conceivable. His thoughts
were in exact harmony with everything there, from the Venetian blinds
to the portrait of his great-grandmother. The only discordant element
was the presence of a few errant bread-crumbs, and happily they were
under the table.
It was to this lair that he was tracked by Madge Dunbar. She never
paused to ask if she disturbed him, or gave him any chance of protest,
but advancing straight up to him, exclaimed
Your father is off his head!
The junior partner eyed her warily, divided between suspicion and a
glow of sympathy with her opinion.
What has he done now? he inquired gloomily.
He has treated me exactly as he has treated you!
The sympathy deepened; the suspicion began to ooze away; but all he
remarked was, Oh?
He was indeed a magnificently cautious man.
What can we do? she cried.
Andrew scrutinized her carefully. She might be fibbing; she might be
up to some of her tricks again; this might even be a move arranged with
his father. One could not be too prudent.
What do you propose to do? he asked.
Bring him to his senses if it's possible: if notOh, Andrew, his
conduct is infamous! I don't care what we do to punishI mean to
At last, after many days' abstinence, the junior partner smiled. It
was not a very wide, nor in the least a merry smile; his cheeks bulged
only slightly under its gentle pressure, and the satisfaction which
smiles traditionally notify seemed savored with a squeeze or two of
lemon. But it marked the beginning of a new coalition, an ominous
disturbance of the balance of power.
That is exactly the point I have under consideration myself, he
said. The difficulty is, how is it to be managed?
She seated herself within twelve feet of him, and yet he did not
shrink from her now with modest mistrust.
It seems to me perfectly obvious what we should do. Just offer him
What alternative? asked Andrew.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Mr. Walkingshaw was spending one of the happiest evenings
he remembered. There was indeed some slight constraint in the
drawing-room so long as his sister remained there, but when, after a
series of sighs which punctuated some twenty minutes' pointed silence,
she at last bade them a depressed good-night, the three happy lovers
gave rein to their hearts. Heriot gave the loosest rein of all. It
almost seemed as if a lover set at liberty was even happier than a
lover just engaged. He had that air of animated relief noticeable in
the escaped victims of a conscientious dentist. As for his children,
they adored him little less than they adored two other people who were
Yet once or twice Jean fell thoughtful. At last she said
I wonder whether we ought to go out to the Comyns' to-morrow after
My dear girl, why not? You'll have a very pleasant time there; and
anyhow, it's too late to write and tell them you aren't coming.
We could wire in the morning, she said. Frank, do you think we
ought to go?
He looked a little surprised, but answered readily, Not if you
don't want to.
But why not go? their father repeated.
She hesitated. Are you quite sure Andrew and Madge won'twon't try
to be unpleasant?
Let them try if they like! laughed Heriot. But I assure you, my
dear girl, I was so reasonableso unanswerable, in factthat they
simply can't feel annoyed for more than a few hours. Hang it, they are
very nice good people at heart. Just give 'em time to let the proper
point of view sink in, and they'll be chirpy as sparrows again.
Besides, what good could you do by staying at home? The Comyns have a
nice place; you'll have a capital time. I insist on your going.
Very well, then, said Jean.
Yet she could hardly picture Andrew and her cousin quite as chirpy
And all this time, beneath the very floor of the room where they
laughed, the plans of the coalition ripened.
In the course of breakfast upon the following morning, Heriot
startled his junior partner by announcing his intention of putting in a
strenuous day's work at the office. Andrew exchanged a curious glance
with Mrs. Dunbar, and then merely inquired
When will you be back?
Four o'clock, said Heriot cheerfully. Quite long enough hours for
a man of my age (he smiled humorously at his son). Of course there's
sure to be a lot of things to put right, and so on (Andrew raised a
startled eye), but I'll polish 'em off by four.
He ate a remarkably hearty breakfast and strode off blithely, this
time a few minutes ahead of his partner. It was an even more singular
thing that Andrew should linger to confer once more with the lady he
had so lately regarded as the impersonation of everything suspicious.
Another curious incident happened later in the day. At lunch-time
the junior partner left the office, and, without giving an explanation,
remained absent through the afternoon. Not that Heriot missed him. He
smoked and wrote and rallied Mr. Thomieson, and dictated letters which
left his confidential clerk divided between the extremes of admiration
for their shrewdness and horror at the terse and lively style in which
they were couched; in short, he got through a day's work that sent him
home at four o'clock in the best of spirits.
Andrew met him in the hall.
Hullo, said Heriot, where have you been all this time?
I want to speak to you for a minute, his son replied, and then, as
his father turned naturally towards the library door, stayed him.
There's some one in there. Just come into the dining-room for a
Who's in there?
Andrew waited till he had got him behind the closed door, and then
said very gravely
It's Mrs. Dunbar and a friend of hers.
What friend?Not old Charlie Munro?
A Mr. Brown. Possibly you've not heard of him before, but I
understand he's a connection of her late husband's family. She's asked
him to come and meet you.
The exceeding solemnity of his manner obviously affected Heriot's
What's up? he inquired.
I should hardly think you would need to ask that, considering what
has passed between you. In fact, I gather that they want to be
satisfied there's some reasonable explanation of your conduct.
Mr. Walkingshaw gently whistled.
Oh, that's the game, is it? Well, I suppose I'll just have to tell
him the simple truth, in justice to myself.
His son heartily agreed.
It's the only thing to be done, said he, the only honest course
left, so far as I can see. Just make a clean breast of everything, and
you may trust me to confirm all you say.
My dear boy, you're devilish good. I'm afraid I really haven't been
as appreciative lately as I ought. You're talking like a sportsman now.
Come on, we'll go in and tackle 'em together.
He took his son's arm and gave him a friendly smile as they crossed
the hall; but the seriousness of the situation seemed to prevent Andrew
from returning these evidences of comradeship.
The injured lady met her betrayer with marked constraint. She seemed
to anticipate little pleasure from the interview, but had evidently
made up her mind to go through with it as a duty she owed her
reputation and her friend Mr. Brown. This gentleman was grave, elderly,
and of an unmistakably professional aspect. In a vague way Heriot
fancied he had seen his face before, though he could not recollect
Well, said Mr. Walkingshaw genially, here we all are; and now
what's the business before the meeting?
I understand, replied Mr. Brown, in a calm and gentle voice, that
you have broken off your engagement with this lady. Now, as awell, I
may say, as an interested friend of Mrs. Dunbar, I should very much
like to have your reasons.
Will you undertake to believe them?
I undertake to give them my closest professional consideration,
whatever they are.
May I ask if you are a lawyer?
Mr. Brown coughed once or twice before replying.
He is, said Andrew decisively, and Mr. Brown seemed content to let
this reply pass as his own.
You can talk to me with the utmost frankness, he said; in fact, I
infinitely prefer it.
Well, began Heriot, the simple fact of the matter is that I am
growing rapidly younger.
Ah? commented Mr. Brown.
It was curious that he should exchange a quick glance, not with the
lady whose interests he was representing, but with her errant lover's
Yes, said Mr. Walkingshaw, warming to his narrative, I am
literally racing backwards. It is like a drive over a road one has
passed along before, only in the opposite direction and much faster. I
simply whizz past the old milestones. Now, a man who is behaving like
that has no business to marry an already mature lady, who is growing
older at the rate of, say one, while he is growing younger at the rate
of, say ten; has he, Mr. Brown?
No, replied Mr. Brown emphatically, I honestly don't think he
Heriot was delighted with this confirmation of his judgment. He
threw a glance at the widow to see how she took it, but her eyes were
cast down, and she displayed no emotion whatever.
That's the long and the short of the matter, Mr. Brown. I make the
profoundest apologies to my charming relative; but if you agree that I
acted for the best, I suppose we might as well adjourn and have a cup
Just one moment, said Mr. Brown gently. I should like to have a
few more particulars regarding this very interesting phenomenon, if you
Not a bit, my dear sir. It's a very natural curiosity.
You feel, of course, a considerable exhilaration of spirits in
consequence of this change?
I'm simply bursting with them.
Naturally, naturally. And you propose, no doubt, to exercise your
activities in some beneficial way?
In a dozen ways. I've already been the means of securing two happy
engagements for my youngest children.
And breaking off two, said Andrew.
His father turned to him with a frown. This was hardly the support
he expected. To his great pleasure, the sympathetic Mr. Brown also
disapproved of the interruption.
One thing at a time, please, said he, and resumed his intelligent
inquiries. These young persons to whom your children have become
engagedthey are hardly the matches you would have made at one time,
I'm afraid I was a bit of an ass at one time, Mr. Walkingshaw
I see, I see. And now, as to the engagements you have broken
offyou felt yourself inspired, prompted from within, as it were, to
bring them to an end, I take it?
You've put it deuced well, said Heriot.
Did you feel in any way inspired from withoutany visions or
voices, so to speak, any manifestations or appearancesanything of
Mr. Walkingshaw looked a little puzzled.
The voices of romance and love, and that sort of thing, I certainly
Quite so, quite so, Mr. Walkingshaw. You heard them, did you? Well,
it's not every one who hears these things.
He smiled pleasantly, and Mr. Walkingshaw became confirmed in his
opinion that this was quite one of the most agreeable men he had met
for a long time.
May I ask whether you propose to take any more steps to put this
poor world of ours to rights? inquired Mr. Brown.
He is taking control of the business again, said Andrew.
Again? retorted Heriot. When did I ever lose control of the
business, I'd like to know? I've had my holiday, and now I'm going to
make things hum in the office.
You are going to make them hum? asked Mr. Brown. Do you mean you
are going to override your partner's decisions, and so on?
My dear Mr. Brown, if I waited for his decisions, I'd be kicking up
my heels in the office half the day. Metaphorically speaking, my son is
somewhat like a man who fills his bath from a teacup instead of turning
on the tap. I don't override his decisions, I simply anticipate them.
That is his account of it, said Andrew darkly.
Well, well, smiled Mr. Brown, I think I understand. And now, Mr.
Walkingshaw, may I ask if there is anything else you propose to do?
This time he glanced at Andrew, as if courting information.
He is altering his will, said the junior partner.
Ah! remarked his visitor again.
Mr. Walkingshaw drew himself up.
That is my own affair, he said, with dignity.
Quite soquite so, replied Mr. Brown in that peculiarly soothing
voice he had at his command. We would wish to make no inquiries into
that. Only, there's just one thing I'd like to knowyou don't mean to
let the grass grow under your feet, I take it?
No fears, said Heriot. What I mean to do, I'm going to do at
once. By Jingo, I'll be under age in a few years! I've got to do things
Thank you, replied Mr. Brown suavely, I think that is all I want
to know. We needn't detain you any longer, Mr. Walkingshaw.
It struck Heriot that this was a funny way for the agreeable Mr.
Brown to treat him in his own house. He assumed the air of a host at
Then we'll go up and have some tea. Come along, Mr. Brown.
I think, said his visitor politely, that possibly your son and I
had better have just a word or two with this lady first, if you'll
Certainly, my dear sir; just come up when you're ready.
As he went upstairs, it suddenly struck him as rather odd that her
connection by marriage and legal adviser should refer to Madge as this
lady; and also that she should have sat so silently through a
conversation which primarily concerned herself. But then such rum
things did happen in this amusing world that it was never worth while
Stroking the cat and sipping his tea, Mr. Walkingshaw conversed
pleasantly with his sister. Jean and Frank had gone into the country,
and the two sat alone together in the drawing-room.
Brown? said Miss Walkingshaw. I never knew the Dunbars had a
relative of that name. Who will he be?
I seem to mind seeing his face somewhere, replied her brother,
but more about him I can't tell you, except that he's a very pleasant
fellow. Hullo, Andrew, where's Brown?
The junior partner had entered alone.
He had to go, said he.
Dash it, he might have said good-by.
Andrew made no answer. He was looking at his aunt in a way that he
had borrowed from his father's bygone manner. Though he had only quite
recently begun to practise it seriously, he was sufficiently expert to
convey unmistakably the fact that he desired her to withdraw. She rose
Hullo, where are you off to? asked her brother.
I have things to do, Heriot, she answered nervously, just a few
things to do.
As she passed Andrew she paused, and her lips framed a question.
There was something in his manner that frightened her; strange things
were happening, she felt sure. But his glowering eye silenced her, and
she faded noiselessly out of the room. Then Andrew advanced upon his
Just run your eye through that, he said quietly.
He handed his father a large double sheet of blue foolscap
containing a great deal of printed matter. The particular portion of it
to which Mr. Walkingshaw's attention was directed ran thus
CERTIFICATE OF EMERGENCY
(This certificate authorizes the detention of a Patient in an
Asylum for a period not exceeding three days, without any
I, the undersigned George William Downie, being M.D., Glasgow,
hereby certify on soul and conscience, that I have this day at
Roray Place, in the County of Edinburgh, seen and personally
examined James Heriot Walkingshaw, and that the said person is
unsound mind, and a proper Patient to be placed in an Asylum,
is in a sufficiently good state of bodily health at this date
be removed to the Asylum.
And I hereby certify that the case of the said Person is one
It was then dated, and signed, George W. Downie.
AsylumDr. Downie! gasped Heriot. Butwhat is this?
It says on the paper. Just lookcan't you read?
Heriot gave a convulsive start.
Waswas that Dr. Downie?
His son nodded.
Again Heriot's startled eyes ran over the certificate, and then they
turned upon his son. It is regrettable that his next words were not
more worthy of his reputation.
You dd young skunk!
It's no use swearing, his son replied coldly.
Mr. Walkingshaw fell back in his chair and seemed to meditate.
You wired to Glasgow for him? he inquired in a moment.
So that I shouldn't recognize him, I suppose?
What a sell if I'd spotted him and talked what the silly fool would
have thought sense!
You didn't, said Andrew.
Mr. Walkingshaw shook his head.
Man, I'd never have given you credit for the brains to do the like
Then he started.
I see it all now! It was Madge put you up to the idea! Eh? Oh, you
needn't trouble to deny it; I know you haven't the imagination
With a calmer air he studied the paper afresh.
It's only for three days, he observed in a cheerier tone.
Do you actually imagine you're likely to get out at the end of
Mr. Walkingshaw looked at his son steadily.
You know perfectly well that every word I said was true.
Andrew remained coldly immovable.
I am no judge myself. I'd sooner depend on Dr. Downie's opinion.
Hypocrite to the last! scoffed Heriot. Can you look me in the
face, Andrew, and tell me that you honestly thought it was insanity to
make friends of my children and help them to marry the people they
loved, and divide my money fairly among you all? Can you?
Permit me to remind you that it was not I who signed the
There was a moment's very dead silence, and then Heriot asked
Then do you actually mean to shut me up in a lunatic asylum for the
rest of my days?
Andrew had some of the finer points of the legal mind. He noted the
trace of emotion in his father's voice, and knew he was fairly on top
at last. To let this fact sink still further into Heriot's mind, he
eyed him in austere silence for a few moments before he answered
If I have to, I shall.
If you have to? What d'ye mean?
I mean that I am not going to have my business ruined
Ruined! Can you not stick to the truth on a single point? I am
putting new life into it!
I don't care for your kind of life, thanks, said Andrew primly,
and I repeat that I am not going to have my businessenlivened, if
that's how you choose to put it, and my family disgraced, and my
reputation lost; and if I let you go on another day as you've been
going, it'll be too late to save any of them. But I don't want to be
harder than I can help. He paused for a moment, and his lip grew
longer and straighter. So I'll offer you an alternative.
If you'll guarantee to clear out of the country and not come back
again, I'll take no further proceedings on the strength of this
certificate. I don't want to put you in an asylum any more than you
want to go, but I've got to protect myself.
Mr. Walkingshaw mused.
When do you want me to start?
Yes, at once, before you see anybody else.
I'm not even to say good-by?
You've got some game on, said Heriot.
I've got to protect myself and my family.
His father looked at him searchingly; but his face remained a solemn
medallion of virtue. Then Mr. Walkingshaw again fell back in his chair
and mused. Gradually the flicker of a smile appeared in his eye. It
spread to his lips, and he sprang up cheerfully.
It's not half a bad idea! he exclaimed. I'm just getting to the
age when a young man ought to go about a bit and see something of the
world. New Zealand nowthat's a fine countryor Japanor Texas. By
Gad, you know I've several times wanted to do a bit of roughing it and
big game shooting lately.
His son looked at him suspiciously. This cheerfulness was unusual in
people he had worsted, and the unusual was always to be distrusted. But
to the less vigilant, ordinary mind Mr. Walkingshaw merely presented
the spectacle of a man of young middle-age with a heart some ten years
Of course it will be a wrench, he added, with a sobered air. I'll
miss 'em all: FrankEllenJean. By Gad, I shall miss Jean. However,
it need only be for a year or two. Meanwhileby Jingo, there's no
doubt about it!this is the chance of my life. Let's see now, what
does one need? A revolver with six thingamajigstop-boots and riding
breechesa good compass
The chill voice of Andrew interrupted this catalogue.
Once you go away, you've got to stay away.
Your allowance will depend on that.
My allowance! gasped Heriot.
Your estate has got to be administered by me just as though you
were (instinctively this pious young man's face grew solemn) taken
away from us.
I wish I were not your father, sighed Heriot. In happier
circumstances, the pleasure of kicking you would just be immense.
Andrew disliked physical brutality. His cheeks grew flabbier at the
very idea of such an outrageeven in theory.
If you were to try anything of that kind, I warn you I'd withdraw
His father laughed reassuringly.
Oh, you needn't keep your back against the bookcase: I'll leave the
job for some luckier devil.
A thought struck him.
By the way, I've promised to give Jean and Frank enough to keep
them going. You'll see to that?
I'll carry out the provisions made when you were in your right
The terms of your will.
Mr. Walkingshaw looked at his son steadily and in silence. After a
full minute under this stare Andrew began to grow uneasy.
There's to be no more nonsense, I warn you, he said.
You mean either to rob your brother and sister of their money, or
revenge yourself by stopping their marriages? By Heaven, Andrew
He broke off and plunged into meditation. Then his eyes began to
smile, though his lips were now compressed.
Very well, he murmured.
His son still felt a vague sense of apprehension.
Mind, you've got to stay abroad.
You must give me your word you won't come back for two years
certain, and after that you lose your allowance if you land in Great
Britain or Ireland.
Including the Channel Islands?
I see your game, smiled Heriot. But I give you my word. Poor
Jean, poor Frank
You're not even to write to them, interrupted Andrew.
Mr. Walkingshaw stroked his chin meditatively.
I agree to that, he said. Any more conditions?
The smile that prevailed in his discomfited parent's eye perturbed
the junior partner. He warily scanned all possible loopholes.
You're not to communicate with Madge Dunbar.
God forbid! said Heriot fervently.
Nor my aunt.
Bless her, poor soul; no fears of that.
I think that's all, said Andrew reluctantly.
So long as those eyes continued to look at him like that, he desired
to pile condition on condition. But the overwhelming advantages of
being encumbered with no imagination occasionallyvery
occasionallyhave compensating drawbacks. He could imagine nothing
else to be guarded against.
Then I'd better pack and be off.
You had, said Andrew.
Just as he was leaving the room, Heriot turned and asked
You've heard of changelings?
Do you not mind hearing of goblins that get put into cradles
instead of the real babies? That accounts for you. Thank the Lord, I
need never again claim the discredit of begetting you!
A luggage-laden cab clattered over the granite cubes and passed out
of the ring of tall mansions and the shadow of the stately trees within
the garden. The career of Heriot Walkingshaw, W.S., was ended, and
shocked respectability could lower again her up-rolled eyes and see
nothing more outrageous than a prowling cat. May her troubles always
end as happily! Undoubtedly, had the full facts been there and then
made public, a statue of the junior partner (completely clad) would
have adorned that decorous garden.
But his modest reticence was remarkable. He stood in the somber hall
listening intently to make sure that the cab really did ascend the
steep street towards the station, when his ally, after peering over the
banisters, ran downstairs to meet him. He was just heaving a deep sigh
Did some one go away in a cab? she asked.
He looked at her sharply.
In her eyes gleamed a sudden hint of suspicion.
Was it Heriot?
He took his time before answering very deliberately
Where is he going?
Again he paused. As every moment took his father farther from them,
so every moment was precious.
Can you not guess?
What! she cried. You're actually putting him into an asylum?
It's the best place for him.
She seized his arm.
Did you give him the alternative?
With a chaste movement he withdrew the arm.
I gave him an alternative, certainly.
Her black eyes seemed to pierce into his brain. He disliked being
looked at like that exceedingly.
Our? he questioned.
The alternative we discussed last night?
We discussed a good many things.
She kept following him up till his back was nearly against the front
Did you offer him the alternative of keeping his promise to me?
Look out, he muttered. Some of the servants may be coming.
Would you marry a man that's off his head?
He isn't; he was only pretending!
That's not what Dr. Downie thought.
Dr. Downie! What did he know!
He certified him.
He was backed against the front door now.
Did you offer Heriot that alternative?
He paused for a moment. Heriot must be at the station by now, and he
had not many spare minutes before the train started.
No, I did not, he answered.
The sympathetic widow's hand shot out; there was a smack and then a
thud. The smack was caused by a momentary encounter between the hand
and his spherical cheek, the thud by a meeting of his head and the
You miserable creature! she hissed.
With a look such as only the righteous can ever hope to wear, and
that in the moment of martyrdom, he watched her rush upstairs sobbing.
And thus the coalition, having served its beneficent purpose, came
abruptly to an end. A great deal might be written in this connection,
adducing this instance to illustrate the wider fields of statecraft,
but unfortunately the present narrative is a simple record of facts,
and not a philosophical treatise. The immediate consequence of the
episode was that on the following morning Mrs. Dunbar set out for the
west of Ross-shire to pay a long-promised visit to a third cousin who
possessed several thousand acres of moorland in that vicinity.
It was on the following morning that Jean and Frank returned, their
faces glowing with country sunshine and spring wind, their hearts
quickened with anticipation. In the train coming home they had
exchanged many confidences. Could he possibly manage to get married
before he went out to India? Frank wondered. Would Lucas have to wait
till he had sold a few more pictures? wondered Jean. He ran whistling
up the steps and rang the bell. She burst radiantly into the somber
hall. And then, at twelve o'clock in the morning of an ordinary working
week-day, they found the junior partner at home to receive them. Such a
portent had never before been seen.
Where's father? asked Jean.
Andrew's cheeks twitched nervously; yet on the whole he maintained a
compassionate expression highly honorable to his fraternal instincts.
In a hushed voice he addressed his sister.
I want to have a word with you, said he.
He took her apart from her brother and shut the library door
securely. Frank was such a hot-tempered young fellow; and he had
suffered one physical outrage already. In a voice as appropriate as his
face he gently broke the news
Our father has been removed to an asylum.
Removedto an asylum! gasped Jean.
She did not strike him, but on the whole he was even more glad when
that interview came to an end than when he saw the widow's muscular
back at last turn from the front door.
* * * * *
A few days afterwards a tall man in a sportsmanlike ulster walked up
the gangway of a steamship bound for a port in South America. He was
followed on board by a friend with very blue eyes and a cavalier
mustache. They talked for a few minutes and then shook hands
Well, Lucas, good-by, old fellow, said the passenger. And
remember now what you're to tell them. They're not to drop a hintnot
a whisper of what they know. Just keep your tails up all of you, as
best you can. Handy thing, this revolver we chose. I must practise
shooting from the hip pocket. I say, take special care of Jean. Tell
her I know how plucky she isshe'll be staunchshe'll wait. Tell her
I'll often be thinkingHullo, last bell; you'd better get on shore.
A little later the steamer was in the middle of the gray Thames,
bearing Heriot, his fortunes, and his six-shooter far, far from the
office of Walkingshaw &Gilliflower. The protagonist of virtuous
respectability sat there triumphantly enshrined. He had done everything
a good man could reasonably be expected to do; only he had not imagined
Lucas Vernon waving a farewell to his late partner.
Even in the heyday of Mr. Walkingshaw's career, when he was most
conspicuously an example to his fellow-citizens, revered by the young
and applauded by the old, there were to be found certain austere
critics who held that, for themselves, the character of Andrew
presented the more chaste ideal. Exemplary though his father's life had
been (up to that fatal illness), there was always a latent vein of
geniality in his character, a reminiscence of good living in his ruddy
countenance, a brightness in his eye, that suggested possibilities; and
even a possibility might conceivably, under certain circumstances,
given this and thatwell, it might be safer away. Whereas Andrew's
pale round cheeks and solemn aspect were as reassuring as a plate of
These pioneers of criticism were thought extremists six months ago;
now, they had all respectable society at their back. Of course it was
never a point in a man's favor that his father (or indeed any relative)
could run amuck as Andrew's had done. On the other hand, he had so
promptly and fearlessly plucked out the parent who offended him, and
behaved, moreover, through all this tribulation with such becoming
solemnity, that he very soon began rather to gain than to lose by his
martyrdom. Each step he took was discretion itself. His father, people
learnt, had been quietly removed to a retreat for the mentally infirm,
situated, some said in Devonshire, and others in North Wales. The very
ambiguity on this point was highly approved. It argued the perfection
of prudence. As for the ungrateful girl who had jilted him, he had
talked at considerable length to his friends on that subject, and they
reported that, though naturally grieved, and even offended, by her
conduct, he was nevertheless able to express in a calm voice many
Christian sentiments; frequently, for instance, assuring his audience
that he forgave her, and that if she preferred to stew in her own juice
he was too much of a gentleman to interfere with her pleasure. At this
rate, it was recognized that very soon nothing the Goddess of
Mediocrity could offer would be beyond his reach. She had many
worshipers, but unquestionably Andrew Walkingshaw looked like her
He himself was modestly disposed to agree with this opinion. Really,
the success of his prompt procedure had been remarkable. From his two
sensible married sisters he had never anticipated trouble, and they had
loyally fulfilled his expectations. With both he held private
consultations, and each accepted his version of the facts without a
single unnecessary or disquieting question. They knew they could trust
Andrew. But what did surprise him was the calmness into which the
impotent indignation of Frank and Jean subsided. Within three days they
were converted from volcanoes to icebergs. It was a condition too
frigid to give him unalloyed delight, yet all things considered he
could not but think it exceedingly encouraging.
I presume you don't intend to give either of us a marrying
allowance? said Frank, interrupting with this practical inquiry the
guarded narrative of his elder brother.
If I could feel it in any way to be my duty
Frank interrupted him again.
But you don't; what?
No, Frank, I may tell you candidly
For the third time the soldier cut in
And I may tell you candidly that of all contemptible hounds
I've ever had the misfortune to meet, you're the most despicable.
That concluded the conference; and judging from Jean's pointed
neglect of any opportunities for consultation with which Andrew
provided her, he gathered that Frank had sufficiently expressed her
opinion also. It was, no doubt, painful to see oneself thus misjudged,
but at the same time he could not feel too thankful for their
abstinence from any further inquiry regarding their father's fate. At
first this lack of curiosity struck him as almost suspicious, but he
was reassured by his conviction of their depravity. While their father
was favoring them, they made a fuss about him: now that he could favor
them no more, their feigned affection for him disappeared, and all they
thought of was reviling the one member of the family who knew what was
best for them. Each time he recalled those monstrous epithets of
Frank's, this conviction deepened, till he became positively ashamed of
them for their indifference. They might at least have gone through the
form of asking for some news of their father now and then, even if they
had not the hearts to sympathize with his malady. But they had no sense
of decency, those two.
Fortunately, he was soon relieved of Frank's society. Some weeks
before his furlough was up he returned to India, and the house was well
rid of him. A meandering and indignant letter from Archibald Berstoun
of that ilk, informing Mr. Andrew Walkingshaw (in the third person)
that he would be obliged if he would kindly keep his brother from
trespassing in his garden, indicated that the despairing lover had paid
a farewell, and surreptitious, visit to his mistress; but that was the
last inconvenience he inflicted.
To add to Andrew's relief, Jean came to him a few days after Frank's
departure and announced her intention of repairing to London and
adopting the profession of nursing. In retailing this incident to his
friends, her brother laid particular emphasis on the generosity he had
displayed and the scanty thanks she had tendered him. The financial
assistance he offered her was ampleperfectly ample for all that a
girl wanted; while in the matter of good advice he had been positively
You'll think well over this, Jean, said he.
I have thought, she answered briefly.
It's an arduous profession you're embarking on, and a responsible
profession, and an honorable profession. It requires
Oh, I know what it requires, she interrupted. It will be much
better if you simply tell your friends what you intended to tell me.
They may be impressed: I am not.
And, like the obliging brother he was, Andrew obeyed her wishes
literally. He had his reward, for such of his friends as were able to
wait till he had finished his narrative told him candidly that they
thought he had left nothing unsaid, and that certainly his sister ought
to consider herself fortunate. In fact, he only relinquished his grasp
of their buttonholes when they had acquiesced in these conclusions.
The spectacle was now presented to the world of poor Andrew
Walkingshaw, bereft of his father and deserted by his sister, living in
that great house in company only with his sense of duty and his aunt.
People were very sorry for him indeed; they said he should marry; in
fact, such as enjoyed the privilege of his acquaintance even began to
select suitable young women for his approval. Andrew inspected these
candidates gravely, but at the same time let it be clearly understood
that he was in no hurry; he might decide to marry, or he might
notanyhow, if he did, the lady would be conferring no favor. It was
left to your common sense to decide by whom, in that case, the favor
would be conferred.
All this sympathy was very consoling, but in a world partially
compounded of people less sensible than Andrew Walkingshaw, a few
disappointments are inevitable. He found his in the annoying attitude
of two or three valuable but wrong-headed clients, who would persist in
making frequent inquiries as to the probable duration of the senior
partner's indisposition. There was an unpleasant sense of comparison
implied in these questions, a hint of preference for the slap-dash,
hang-technicalities method with which, in his latter days, Heriot had
scandalized aggrieved spinsters in quest of consolation and hesitating
suitors desirous of having their minds made up. The trouble was that
these latter classes, though delightful company to one of Andrew's
sympathetic disposition, were considerably less remunerative than the
irritating inquirers; and so long as there seemed any possibility of
his father's return to sanity and his office, he felt that he could
never regard his position as wholly satisfactory; on the other hand,
though a sick lion may possibly be compared with a live dog, a defunct
lion is proverbially out of the running.
Andrew thought over this aspect of the case long and
conscientiously. He was exceedingly truthful, he disliked superfluous
butchery, but what choice had he?
It is said by the more inspired species of social reformer that what
good men deem theoretically advisable is sure to happen sooner or
later. In some cases, if the man be talented as well as good, it
happens quickly. Within a few months of Jean's desertion came the last
touch that was needed to complete the pathos of her brother's position
and disarm the most hostile critic. Among the deaths in the Scotsman
appeared the name of James Heriot Walkingshaw. Nothing was said as to
how or where he had died; and, in fact, the point was never
satisfactorily settled whether the sad event took place in North Wales
or Devonshire; but, of course, the cause was only too evident. Well,
poor man, it was a mercy the end had come as swiftly as it had. His
friends were sorry, of course, but not surprised and quite resigned.
They were very pleased with the way his son took it. He departed
quietly for the funeral in a hatband six inches wide, and returned with
a thoughtful and chastened air to resume his daily work. The interment
took place, it was understood, in a churchyard adjacent to the retreat;
and under the sad circumstances people thought Andrew had done well to
attend it unaccompanied by other mourners. In short, every circumstance
connected with the tragedy served to increase the respect in which he
was held. Even Jean's unfortunate omission to use black-edged paper
when writing a few brief and curiously stiff acknowledgments of the
letters of condolence she received, reacted indirectly in Andrew's
favor. People pitied the brother of this unfeeling girl. How wounded he
must feel by her callousness!
But the most satisfactory consequence of all was the cessation of
inquiries for any other Walkingshaw than Andrew. He considered himself
justified in holding that this tacitly implied an admission that nobody
could desire a better lawyer than he. And as there were none to
contradict this assumption (since he had always made a point of
avoiding the candid critic like the Devil, the impecunious school
friend, and Sunday golf), he derived from it the full gratification to
which he was entitled.
Never, surely, was there a more signal triumph for the meek. His
brother had abused him, and he was now broiling in India, torn for ever
from his betrothed; his sister had snubbed him, and there she was
homeless in London slaving in a hospital; Mrs. Dunbar had smacked his
face, and she was an exile in the moors of Ross-shire; and now here was
his father, who had plagued and despised him, numbered in the list of
the deceased. Alas for Heriot Walkingshaw! He had despised the wrong
man when he despised Andrew. The Example is dead; long live the
Example! might well have been inscribed upon his tombstone, had their
friends been able to learn precisely where that monument was situated.
It is pleasant to be able to turn (still adhering closely to the
facts as they occurred) from tombstones to orange blossom. His friends
unanimously felt that Andrew, having suffered so much and so
heroically, should now obtain the consolation he deserved. Among his
many virtues none was more remarkable than his instinct for doing
exactly what was expected of him, and at precisely the right moment.
Forthwith he announced his engagement to Miss Catherine Henderson,
whose father's residence had been used as the test by which Heriot
first realized his disastrous return to youth. Mr. Henderson was now
defunct, but his possessions served a better purpose than being stared
at by a reprobate neighbor. They passed, in fact, into Andrew's
The lady who accompanied them was, of course, an only child, and the
income of two thousand pounds a year she enjoyed was derived from such
extraordinarily safe investments that even the cautious Andrew, when he
went into her affairs with a fellow-solicitor (on the week before he
proposed), remarked at once that he saw an increase of three hundred
and fifty pounds to be got without risking a halfpenny. As she was only
four years older than he, there was no disparity of years on this
occasion; while her appearance effectually guaranteed her lover against
the discomforts of rivalry. In short, she was generally admitted to be
an ideal mate for Andrew Walkingshaw.
It was just eight months after Heriot's disappearance from public
life that his son led Miss Henderson to the altar of St. Giles'
Cathedral, and after a brief honeymoon in Switzerland established her
in the stately mansion overlooking the circular garden. The fortunate
couple had the further advantage of overlooking (when the leaves were
off the trees) a substantial addition to their income in the shape of
the bride's late residence, now let on very advantageous terms to a
wealthy relative of Mr. Ramornie of Pettigrew. It seemed impossible for
any step Andrew took to avoid being profitable. When he lost an
umbrella at the club, it was always to find a better one in its place.
And the most satisfactory thing of all was the consciousness that his
prosperity was entirely the result of following the proper kind of
One would fain avert one's eyes from the spectacle presented by the
luckless Ellen Berstoun, were it not that her unhappy condition makes
the contrast between lax and proper principles the more poignant. No
mate with two thousand pounds a year for her! Instead, merely a
hopeless passion for an impecunious subaltern sweltering in far-off
India. That was poor company throughout the long series of monotonous
months that were now her portion. The brown buds on the tall beeches
broke into leaf, and the dark pines were tipped with vivid green; the
leaves withered and fell, and the dead needles littered the moss. Those
were the most exciting changes that happened. Her father (a victim of
gout) cursed her and Frank and Andrew and Heriot impartially. Her
mother sighed and let her into secrets of their housekeeping and
finances which clearly showed how selfish she had been. Her sisters
were kind upon the whole, but dreadfully disposed to talk things over
in a practical kind of way.
And then at intervals arrived those letters, very long and very
loving, and very full of riding and marching under strange skies, and
adventures of which strange dark peoples and stranger beasts were the
sinister ingredients. They brightened her eyes for a little while, and
then left her sadder than before.
In the course of the second year of her bereavement, the
disappointment of her parents with her failure was converted into
satisfaction at the success of her sister Mary. An astonishingly
wealthy shooting tenant in the neighborhood danced seven times with her
at the County Ball, and proposed next morning by letter. He would have
been accepted by telegram had Archibald of that ilk had his way, but
fortunately the gentleman's ardor had not cooled by the time the next
post reached him. A week later his prospective best man wriggled out of
his duties by coming to an arrangement with Mary's younger sister that
the wedding should be a double-barreled affair, with two brides and two
grooms. As this second suitor was very nearly as rich as the first,
Ellen found her fate alleviated by the entire and permanent removal of
her parents' displeasure. She became now a mere object of pity, mingled
at times with contempt for her folly in dooming herself to a sterile
spinsterhood; for it was clear that Frank and she could never hope to
marry, however much writing-paper they might waste.
Just as the world never plumbed the depths of dignity and purpose in
Woman till it saw her chained to a railing, clasping the hated
constable like a lover, a hoarse example to her sluggish sisters, so it
can never realize her capacity for foolishness till it has seen her
waiting through weary years, hoping against reason, the victim of
illogical constancy to a mere young man. Sweet and gracious Ellen
Berstoun, so slender and pretty and charming, wasting her fragrance in
the old garden and the dark pine-woods for the sake of certain
passionate memories and the most impractical of day-dreams, was a sight
to make a philosopher despair.
Undoubtedly Andrew's were the proper principles.
With the drawing in of dusk a thin mist stole up from the river and
stealthily crept through the streets and lanes of Chelsea. It was not
yet five o'clock, but on an afternoon in the depth of winter the little
touch of fog converted dusk to darkness. The mist was not thick, but
very cold and clammy, and in the zigzag lane the lamps were blurred and
the shadows deep. Two people left a bus in the King's Road and turned
down it. He was broad-shouldered, and swung along with a fine decided
stride: she was trim and erect, and very quietly clad; her face was
fresh and bright, a smile haunted her eyes, and her straight little
nose seemed to breathe independence.
The air is beastly damp, said he. I wish you'd let me bring you
in a cab.
Nonsense, Lucas, she answered stoutly; we neither of us can
afford it. You must learn to be sensible.
But, my dear girl, I tell you I'm beginning to make money now.
Well, don't begin to spend it; and then perhaps you may have a
little in the bank in a year or two.
A year or two! he exclaimed; I'll have enough in six months to
She interrupted him briskly.
Lucas! Don't you remember we agreed that whichever of us said
'marry' first should be fined?
I never agreed.
Then I shall break off the engagement.
Yet she continued walking quickly by his side till they came to the
studio. He took out his key, but she stopped short on the pavement with
a fine air of decision.
I won't come in unless you promise to be more or less rational,
And then with the same air of decision she entered.
After a few minutes' apparently unnecessary delay he lit the gas and
she settled herself in the deck-chair while he filled the teapot.
Nursing is too heavy work for you, he said suddenly.
Don't be absurd, she smiled.
He put down the teapot, took her by the shoulders, and looked into
her eyes, at once critic and adorer.
Jean! You can't deceive me. It's my business to know how people sit
when they are tired, and what signs in their faces show they are
overworked. You are nearly dead beat.
Onlyonly a very little, Lucas, she said less stoutly.
Her spirit was brave, but her feet were weary, and how her back
I'm going to take you away from that infernal hospital, he
Her back stiffened again.
Lucas! you promised to be sensible.
He smiled down at her.
I have the sense to marry youand do it at once, too!
She jumped up.
He held her fast.
You may be strong enough to hold me, she panted, but you aren't
strong enough to marry me against my will!
But why shouldn't we? Why the mischief, why the dickens, why the
Because you'd be bankrupt in a month. You've no sense, dear.
Do get that into your head. By your own admission you have only just
begun to sell your pictures. Wait and see whether it lastswait for a
couple of years
A couple of! I won't, and that's flat!
One year, then.
Twelve months? I can't, Jean.
Daren't you risk it now?
She drew herself back a little.
Lucas, that isn't fair. I dare do anythingexcept come to
you without a penny, and probably ruin you. If I had even twenty pounds
a year to bring you, I'd risk it; but you know quite well that if I
marry against Andrew's wishes any time within seven years I forfeit
If I killed Andrew, asked the painter grimly, who would his money
Wait! she said, her spirit smiling through her eyes. Don't you
trust father to help us somehowsome time or other?
He twisted his mustache desperately upwards.
I want to help myself.
She smiled openly now.
You can't be trusted yet; you're so greedy!
He laughed, but a little wryly.
It's because I'm starving.
Then work, work! said Jean.
I can't work harder, he answered more philosophically. I can only
And you're doing that too, she said encouragingly.
They needed all the encouragement they could snatch, these two
perverse and desperate lovers. People who lack the sense to provide
themselves with an income after falling in love generally do.
At the end of an hour, one of those galloping hours that fly swifter
than ten ordinary minutes, they passed out into the lane again. The
mist was now so thick that even when the way grew straight they could
see no more than two lamps ahead, and it was very chill and damp.
I'll hail a cab as soon as I see one.
I won't drive in it, I warn you.
He implored, but she shook her fair head resolutely.
One of us must be practical, she persisted.
And the other in love?
She pressed his hand, but remained the charming incarnation of
obstinacy. He laughed at last, though a little anxiously as he saw a
fringe of tiny drops gather on her hair; and he let her have her way.
Together they entered a bus and slowly rumbled eastwards. The bus was
full, and for a long time they sat in silence.
It's quite fine here! she exclaimed at last; we've come out of
the mistlook at the stars!
They both cheered up amazingly. It actually seemed as if they were
preposterous enough to take this ordinary meteorological incident as an
We'll have to ask the Rivingtons, said Andrew.
And not the Donaldsons? inquired his wife.
Andrew reflected. This was to be a very special dinner party; quite
the smartest function they had given yet. His sister would want to be
there, especially when she heard the Ramornies were coming over for it.
On the other hand, they knew a great many more distinguished people
than Hector and his wife had yet become, and of these they could only
invite a small selection to the dinner party. It was a case in which
principle clashed with principle.
We'll have Gertrude and Hector too, he announced.
He had just remembered that Walkingshaw &Gilliflower were briefing
Hector in a forthcoming case, and that there had been some discussion
in the office as to the precisely proper fee to which, at that moment
in his upward career, he was entitled. He would set this dinner against
the odd two guineas in dispute. That, anyhow was an equitable
principle, if ever there was one.
And of course Lord and Lady Kilconquar?
Of course, said Andrew.
And Sir William Sinclair?
Must we ask the Mackintoshes?
They'll do for our next dinner.
That was not going to be quite so smart a function.
That's twenty-two, said Mrs. Walkingshaw.
Just the right number, replied her husband. It was what the
Kilconquars had when we dined there.
Everything that Andrew had done was right, and his circumstances
reflected his rectitude. No dodging about devious lanes in the fog for
him and Mrs. Walkingshaw; no slow progress in crowded omnibuses; no
Bohemian teas in paint-smelling studios. The streets through which they
passed were wide and stately, even if a trifle windy; a motor car
whirled them to their destination (which was always the right place to
be seen at); their meals were consumed in sedate Georgian apartments,
and in every detail would have satisfied a peer. They moved through
life on oiled and noiseless wheels, wrapped in comfort and attended by
respect. Let no carping critic say that the good things in this life
are not distributed according to the most laudable principle. The
guinea-fowl lays where she sees a nest-egg, and the larger it is the
more does she deposit. And the prosperous nest-owner is he who stays
always beside his treasure, gently coaxing the fowl, and vigilantly
guarding against the least suspicion of disturbance, theft, or injury.
Let anything happen that may in the world outside; here is his post of
duty, and he sticks to it.
It is true that for a short while an uncomfortable shadow seemed to
cloud the serenity of Andrew's soul. This happened about the second
anniversary of his late father's removal from his native city to that
retreat where he ended his days, and was believed by his aunt to result
from the painful memories evoked by his recollection of the date. It is
certain that his serenity returned with each succeeding week, till by
this time, when several months had passed, he had thrown off his
anxiety altogether. He remained perhaps a little more constantly
vigilant than beforeeven, for instance, when coming home from church;
but it seemed now he had rather the alertness of the coastguardsman
than the tension of the sailor when the decks are cleared for action.
It is impossible to imagine a more ideal scene of domestic felicity
than that presented by Andrew and his spouse this evening. The room had
been redecorated and partially refurnished by its new mistress. As she
never expressed any opinion without quoting a competent authority, her
husband at once took into respectful consideration her suggestion that
fashionable people no longer dangled a cut-glass chandelier from their
ceiling, and always had colored tiles in their hearths. When she
further suggested that it should be her privilege to effect these and
other improvements out of the dowry she was bringing him, he passed
from consideration to consent. So that the fortunate couple were now
mounted in a setting worthy of their price.
Sitting at a Sheraton table in a semi-evening toilet that had cost
her forty guineas, writing the names of some twenty of their most
eminent fellow citizens in the spaces on the invitation cards,
Catherine impressed her husband favorablyentirely favorably. A very
satisfactory mate indeed he considered her. One could not imagine her
pale eyes winking, or a saucy smile on her thin lips, or anything but
the plainest common sense coming out of them. Yes, she was very
satisfactory. It is true that he had once, in a burst of confidence,
confided to one of his friends that she was Awful skinny, but it is
wonderful how far forty guineas will go towards modifying that defect.
In short, she waswell, satisfactory. When one has secured the right
adjective, why change it?
Andrew's complacency was completed by the presence of his aunt. He
still kept her with him as a kind of perpetual testimonial to his solid
worth. Her mere presence proved he was a kind and hospitable nephew;
and on the least provocation she would enlarge upon his virtues in a
way that was most pleasant for a visitor to hear. At other times she
kept discreetly in the background, just as she had all her life. There
was also this further advantage: that her legacy was much more
satisfactorily employed in defraying (at her own desire, of course)
some portion of her nephew's increasing expenses, than going into the
pocket of a worthless landlord or hydropathic company.
Andrew was glancing through an evening paper, and his aunt
conscientiously studying that morning's Scotsman. Suddenly she
The Cromarty Highlanders have come to Glasgow!
Andrew stared at her.
Not the second battalion?
Yes, Frank's regiment.
But they weren't to leave India for three years yet.
Mrs. Andrew looked over her shoulder.
Oh, I saw they'd been ordered home some time ago.
You didn't mention it to me, said Andrew.
She looked a little surprised, for she knew that Frank's was not a
name mentioned in that house.
I didn't think you'd be interested.
I am not in the least, replied her husband.
His eye reproved her coldly. She exchanged with his aunt one of
those sympathetic glances that pass between indulgent but comprehending
women. He is a noble creature, but at moments a little inconsistent,
they mutually confided. And then she wrote the names of Lord and Lady
Kilconquar on their card.
And that is how Jean might have been spending her evenings too, had
she had proper principles.
The gentlemen entered the drawing-room, bringing a faint aroma of
Andrew's excellent cigars. The ladies' conversation died away to the
whispered ends of one or two stories too interesting to be left
unfinished, and then with a deeper note and on manlier topics the flood
of talk poured on again.
It had been a most successful dinnersoup excellent, fish
first-rate, everything good. Of course the wines were unexceptionable,
while the company recognized itself as a homogeneous specimen of all
that was best in the citywith the Ramornies of Pettigrew thrown in.
Here they were now, the whole twenty-two of them from old Lord
Kilconquar, most eminent of judges, down to that rising young Hector
Donaldson, bearing implicit testimony to the status of Andrew
Walkingshaw. He stood there beside Lady Kilconquar's chair gravely
discoursing on a well-chosen topic of local interest and bending
solemnly at intervals to hear her comments. You could see at once from
the attitude of all who addressed him that he was recognized as far
from the least distinguished member of the company. He had touched the
very apex of his career.
Hush, Andrew, murmured his wife. Mrs. Rivington is going to
Hector opened the piano, and Mrs. Rivington sat down and touched the
keyboard. Then she looked around for silence, and it fell completely.
All the eye-witnesses present are agreed that it was in the moment of
this pause that the drawing-room door opened, and they heard the butler
announce the name of Mr. Walkingshaw.
The company turned with one accord and beheld a tall youth, attired
in tweeds, march confidently into the room. In fact, he seemed so much
at home, that, though naturally surprised (especially at his unorthodox
costume), they never dreamt of any but the most obvious and simple
explanation. They scrutinized him as he advanced, merely wondering what
cousinor could it be brother?he was.
Surely that's not Frank? murmured Lord Kilconquar.
It certainly was not Frank; and yet it was some one who looked
strangely familiar to one or two of the older people present. He made
straight for Andrew, his hand outstretched.
Don't you know me? he asked; and the voice recalled strange
Andrew was not altogether unprepared for some such apparition
appearing some day, though scarcely on such a horribly ill-timed
occasion. Somehow, he had always imagined the dread possibility as
happening in his office. But he remembered exactly how he had decided
to confront it. He pulled his lip hard down, his eyes contracted
dangerously, and then he merely shook his head.
What! cried the young man, with a touching note of rebuffed
affection. Don't you recognize your own son?
Andrew's brain reeled. His mouth fell open, and his stare lost all
traces of formidableness.
Father! said the stranger in a moving voice.
Incoherently Andrew burst out.
Youyouyou're not my son!
His disclaimer seemed so evidently sincere that the sense of the
company was already in sympathy with the victim of this outrageous
intrusion, whenalas for him!his aunt chose that fatal moment, of
all others, to rush out of her chronic background.
Andrew! she cried, her cheeks suddenly very pink, her eyes
strangely excited, her voice trembling with the fervor of her appeal.
He must beoh, he must be! Looklook at the likeness to your father!
Oh, Andrew, what if it is irregular; surely you wouldn't deny the
living image of poor Heriot!
By Gad! So he is, exclaimed Lord Kilconquar.
A general murmur instinctively confirmed this verdict. They wished
to be charitablebut what a family resemblance!
III tell you it's a put-up job! stammered their host.
Who put it up, father? asked the strange youth plaintively.
Lord Kilconquar shook his head, and again the startled company
followed his lead.
Look, Andrew! cried his aunt, pointing to a tinted photograph of
James Heriot Walkingshaw at the age of twenty, which hung above the
mantelpiece. Oh, just look at the resemblance!
The young man regarded this work of art with evident emotion.
My sainted grandfather! he murmured, though quite loud enough for
the company to hear.
The poor lady stretched her thin clasped hands beseechingly under
Andrew's very nose.
He says it himselfhe says it himself! she pleaded. For Heriot's
sake, don't disown him!
There was a rustle of silk, decisive and ominous. It was caused by
the skirt of the chaste lady of Pettigrew.
Good-night, she said.
She only touched her brother's hand with the tips of her fingers,
and her stony glance gave him his first clear vision of the appalling
chasm that yawned beneath his feet.
Maggie! he besought her, you don't believe it?
Can you not disgrace yourself quietly? she hissed, and a
moment later was gone.
Andrew realized that he was already in the chasm, hurtling downwards
with fearful velocity. One after another, his guests followed the
example of his scandalized sister; and their host was too unmanned to
hold up his head and carry off the partings with the air of injured
innocence that alone might have given his reputation another (though a
As they left the hang-dog figure that so lately was a respected
Writer to the Signet, they said to one another that all was over
socially with Andrew Walkingshaw. And it had been so public, so
dramatic, that they fearedof course they hoped against hope, but
still they feared that the fine old business could not but suffer too.
In London one might disgrace oneself and yet retain one's clients; but
could one here? Well, anyhow, that and many other interesting aspects
of the case would be debated by all Edinburgh to-morrow morning.
Meanwhile, the unhappy victim of fate was left alone with his wife,
his aunt, and his long-lost offspring. A desperate gesture dismissed
Miss Walkingshaw; yet, though she trembled beneath his wrathful eye,
she could not refrain from beseeching him again
He must be, Andrewhe must be! Just compare him with the picture.
And then she shrank out of the drawing-room.
Leave us, he commanded his wife.
Her pale eyes gazed on him defiantly.
I certainly shall not. I demand a full explanation, Andrew!
Go away, will you!
For answer she sat down firmly upon the sofa.
Papa, papa, don't be rough with her, expostulated the youth.
Andrew confronted him indignantly.
That's enough of this nonsense! he thundered. What d'ye mean? Who
Doesn't the voice of nature tell you? the youth inquired sadly.
The voice of nature be damned!
The young man turned to the cold lady on the sofa.
Stepmother, he asked, will you protect me?
She looked at him at first stonily, and then suddenly more kindly.
He was remarkably good-looking, with such nice bright eyes, and a
manner difficult to resist.
I shall certainly see that justice is done you, she replied.
The young man seated himself beside her and took her hand.
Thank you, he murmured affectionately.
Andrew swore aloud and vigorously, but the pale eyes never flinched.
Do you mean deliberately to tell me you don't know who this young
man is? she demanded.
Put in that form, the question made him hesitate for an instant. The
hesitation did honor to his sense of veracity, but it finally cost him
the remains of his character.
You needn't trouble to answer! she cried. You do know who
he is. Come, you had better tell me all about it at once. I presume you
have not been married previously?
The youth spoke quickly.
You don't think father was so scandalous as not to marry her?
Did you? she demanded.
The luckless Writer fell into the trap. It seemed to him a gleam of
hopea chance of saving his precious reputation.
Eryees, he stammered.
You were married? she cried.
There was a dreadful pause, and then abruptly she demanded, What
became of her?
A dark frown answered this pertinent inquiry. She turned to the
Do you know?
He seemed to have some difficulty in controlling his voice as he
She lives in London.
Lives! shrieked the lady. Andrewyou are a bigamist! And II am
She leapt up and gave him one terrible look; and before he could
speak she had swept wrathfully from the room.
And then the most surprising thing occurred. Instead of continuing
his filial overtures, the young man sank into the corner of the sofa
and burst into peal upon peal of boyish laughter.
Oh, my dear Andrew! he gasped. Oh, I can't help ityou a
bigamist! Poor respectable old blighter! I say, what a joke! Oh,
Andrew, Andrew, my bonny, bonny boy!
In silence through it all, Andrew gazed darkly down at the late
When you have finished, said Andrew grimly.
He looked a nasty customer to tackle now, but the laugher on the
sofa merely subsided into a friendly smile.
Shake hands, Andrew, he cried, jumping up.
Andrew placed his hands behind his back, and his glowering eyes
answered this overture.
What! said Heriot, won't you even shake hands?
Andrew still stared darkly.
You'd rather have it war than peace?
I had rather conclude this conversation as soon as possible.
Heriot looked at him for a moment, and then shook his head with a
smile compounded of sorrow and humor.
You're a hopeless case, said he. Well, your blood be on your own
Andrew's lip grew longer and longer.
I admit you've made a fool of me, he said, if that's any
satisfaction. But you'll make nothing out of me; not a shilling, not a
halfpenny. Do you hear?
Is that all?
Practically; but I may just as well point out, to let you see where
you stand, that as you have now done your worst, there's no use trying
on blackmail or anything of that kind. You have been so very clever,
you've thrown away any hold you might fancy you had. Do you quite
Heriot began to smile again, and Andrew's face grew grimmer.
You can prove nothing. You may say you're my father if you
God forbid! Heriot interrupted devoutly. I've had enough of
fathering a bogle. Claim any sire you like from Lucifer downwards, but
don't put the blame on me. I won't be disgraced with you again; not at
For a few moments Andrew seemed to be in travail of a fitting
repartee. When it appeared it possessed all the practical
characteristics of its parent.
In that case, he retorted, you had better clear out of my house
as quick as you can.
Heriot regarded him with extreme composure.
Do you actually imagine you are going to get off as easy as this?
he inquired, Man Andrew, I haven't been senior partner in Walkingshaw
& Gilliflower for nothing. You're just a rat in a trap. That's
precisely your position at this moment.
I'd be glad to hear you explain how you make that out, said
Heriot smiled humorously as he produced a bulky pocket-book. Out of
this he selected one of many letters it contained.
Do you know the writing? he asked.
Andrew turned a thought more solemn, but his only answer was a wary
Don't be afraid to say. A hundred people can swear to it. There's
no secret to be kept.
It is my late father's hand, said Andrew gravely.
His guest burst into a shout of laughter, and then with an effort
pulled himself together again.
Read it, he said, and by the way, I may just as well tell you
I've plenty more like it, so there's no point in putting it in the
Andrew took it with gingerly suspicion, which changed into a
different emotion as he read:
DEAR HARRIS,I write to let you know that I have reached this
city in safety and am slowly recovering from the mental
have undergone. As regards my wretched and ungrateful son
still disagree with you. No, Harris, I cannot bring myself to
expose the infamy of my eldest boy to a thunder-struck world;
simply cannot do it. His immorality and dishonesty temporarily
unhinged my mind. I am exiled through his perfidy, but I
him, Harris; I forgive him. Hoping to see you again someday,
Your unhappy friend,
J. HERIOT WALKINGSHAW
The address was an hotel in Monte Video, and the date about two
Whatwhat's all this rigmarole? gasped Andrew. It's sheer
nonsense from beginning to end.
His unwelcome guest was again shaken with boyish laughter.
Prove it! he cried. Prove it's nonsense! Eh? How'll you manage
Andrew's face grew darker and darker.
Who does 'Harris' profess to be, I'd like to know?
Grandson of Mrs. Harris! laughed Heriot.
What Mrs. Harris?
Sarah Gamp's pal.
You are drunk, said Andrew.
Heriot regarded him with portentous solemnity.
Mr. Harris was the kind gentleman who befriended my grandfather on
his voyage to South America. He received afterwards many letters from
your papa, Andrew; and very, very thoughtfully handed them to me. They
prove, my boy, that you treated your parent outrageously. They prove
that you must have been a shocking bad hat yourself. Some of them prove
that your kind and forgiving parent is still alive at this moment;
others prove that he expired under heart-rending circumstances six
months ago; and I propose to use whichever alternative seems
bestthat's to say, whichever will flatten you out most effectively.
And that's who Harris is.
For some minutes Andrew studied the letter in silence. He felt like
a heavy-weight boxer in the grip of a professor of Ju-Jitsu. What use
was a lifelong apprenticeship to common sense, respectability, and the
law of Scotland, when it came to wrestling with a juggler of this kind?
he asked himself bitterly. One ought to have led a life of crime! The
longer he looked at the preposterous epistle, the more diabolical did
it appear. At last he spoke
This is an impudent forgery.
There are some hundreds of specimens of your father's hand to
compare it with, said Heriot calmly; I am perfectly willing to let
any expert judge whether it's genuine or not.
The heavy-weight tried another wriggle.
This is the letter of a lunatic. I have a certificate to prove it.
I can call Dr. Downie to prove it.
You needn't go to so much trouble. You'll find that plot against my
grandfather's liberty fully described in some of the letters. The point
that will be put to you by the cross-examining Counsel is, if you
thought him off his chump, why did you only pretend to put him in an
I did put him, snapped Andrew.
Heriot rose and rang the bell.
What's that for? asked Andrew; but he was only answered by a
Show up the other two gentlemen, said Heriot.
The discreet butler glanced at his master, but he was too
dumbfounded to give any indication of his pleasure one way or the
A minute later, Frank and Lucas entered. They nodded coolly, but
Andrew only stared.
Now, Lucas, dear boy, said Heriot genially, tell this old
cockalorum who you saw off on a steamer for South America.
Lucas smiled grimly at his brother-in-law to be.
Heriot Walkingshaw, he replied.
Swear to it? smiled Heriot.
Lucas nodded, his blue eyes glittering on Andrew all the time; and
there followed a pause in the conversation.
What do you propose to do? asked Andrew.
Make you disgorge, old cock, said Heriot.
Every single penny you inherited!
Andrew made a last convulsive struggle.
I'll not do it!
In that case, the following interesting facts will immediately be
made public: that you lied when you said your father was in an asylum,
and lied again when you said he was dead; that he suffered
indescribable agonies in consequence of your ill-treatment; that he is
either alive at this moment or died a death that will bring tears to
the eyes of all Edinburgh; and that, in any case, you helped yourself
to his fortune with precisely as much justification as a burglar who
opens a safe. The matter will then be placed in the hands of Thompson,
This choice of a vindictive rival firm struck Andrew as the most
diabolical artifice of all. His eyes blinked and his cheeks twitched;
and when he spoke his voice reminded them painfully of the professional
mendicant of the pavement.
Would you ruin me?
Ruin be hanged! Your wife has two thousand pounds a year, and
you've got the lion's share of the business. But you've got to shell
out every brass farthing you bagged from your poor dear father, and
settle it in equal shares on Frank and Jean.
Frank made a quick movement of gratitude and protest.
Shut up, said Heriot jovially. You mind your own business, Frank.
This is my shout.
My dear Frank his brother began solemnly.
Andrew! thundered Heriot, if you make any miserable whining
appeal to your brother, I'll tell Lucas to kick you. Are you ready,
Quite, said the artist.
A few minutes later the present head of Walkingshaw &Gilliflower had
appended his signature to the following document (the unaided
composition of the late senior partner in the aforesaid firm):
I, Andrew Walkingshaw, having the fear of this world and the
before my eyes, do hereby promise and swear that upon the
following the above date of the month and year, at the hour of
a.m., I shall formally, legally, and irrevocably settle in
shares upon my brother and sister, Frank and Jean Walkingshaw,
whole estate, real and personal, of my revered father, except
portion of it inherited and enjoyed by my sisters Margaret
Walkingshaw or Ramornie and Gertrude Walkingshaw or Donaldson,
my aunt Mary Walkingshaw. This I do for the following
that through their kindness and charity my despicable,
unsportsmanlike, and criminal conduct may never be revealed. I
humbly and sorrowfully confess that I had my estimable father
aforesaid certified as insane when I knew his brain to be
considerably sounder than my own; that I did this in order to
him and my younger brother and sister out of their money; that
instead of putting him under restraint, I exiled him furth of
Britain and Ireland, so that he thereby suffered discomforts
torments for whose virulence I take his word; that I announced
death knowing him to be alive; and that I then in a criminal
shameful manner appropriated his estate to my own use. May all
wicked and foolish men be laid by the heels as I have been, and
their relatives be as forgiving as mine! This paper I sign
cheerfully and penitently.
It was a pale and flabby-cheeked Writer to the Signet who laid down
his pen after reading and signing this lucid document. He stalked
solemnly to the door, and then with a chastened air addressed them
May Heaven forgive you.
Thus in a blaze of appropriate piety the star of Andrew Walkingshaw
set. There is small probability of his ever becoming an Example again.
At present it is his arduous task to live down, by the austerity of his
demeanor and the judicious expenditure of his wife's income, the
suspicions connected with the apparition at his dinner party, and his
subsequent act of inexplicable magnanimity in divesting himself of his
fortune and handing it to his brother and sister. It is with the
greatest regret that the editor of these few simple facts finds himself
unable to cap with a suitable reward the career of well-principled
respectability so unfortunately interrupted; but his obligations to the
illogical truth are peremptory.
* * * * *
My dear old boys and jolly good sportsmen, and all the rest of it,
said Heriot jovially, don't mention itdon't mention it. What can you
do to show your dashed gratitude? There's only one thing; one blooming
favor I ask of you: send me to a good public school!
The devious lane was filled with sunshine; the studio being lighted
only from the north was filled instead with happiness. The same two sat
there; but to-day she was no longer so demurely clad and all the aches
and weariness were gone, and he no longer fumed.
Is this better than scrubbing the floor of a ward? he smiled.
Buying a trousseau is harder work than you realize, Lucas, she
answered, with that touch of reproof by which all good women remind man
gently but daily that it is her part to suffer, his to misunderstand.
There followed a space of happy silence, and then she said
Didn't I tell you that everything would come right if we waited?
Yes, he admitted, that was one of your good guesses.
She raised her delicate brows.
Aren't you happy now?
Good heavens! I should think so.
Then be more grateful, dear, she smiled.
Rapturously he confessed he had erred, and was even sufficiently in
love to think he perceived how.
I positively must go now, she said in a little, and, despite his
Shall we walk? he asked.
Haven't you a cab call?
But you haven't been out of a hansom all day, and it's only ten
Oh, bother the expense! she cried. I believe in being sensibly
economical, but not in being close.
Again he cheerfully accepted the gentle rebuke as the reproof his
And so off they whirled in a hansom.
At that very same hour, far, far to the northward, the winter sun
was struggling in gleams through the pine-tops and falling in patches
on the moss. For an instant one patch lit the hat of straw and gentle
face of Ellen Berstoun; and though it was but a small patch, it also
lit a large tweed cap a few inches higher up. Beneath the cap a voice
No more letters came to her now from India; and no longer she walked
These incidents occurred nearly three years ago. Since then Mr. and
Mrs. Frank Walkingshaw and Mr. and Mrs. Lucas Vernon have grown into
comparatively old married couples.
As for the genial and sagacious author of their happiness, the
latest report to hand informs the present editor that the name of James
Heriot Walkingshaw stands first in the batting averages of a select