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margins of his books and copies, and every scrap of paper he could come by, wonderfully faithful transcripts of" the hills, and woods, and streams around" Clovenford, and clever comical likenesses of the master, his school-fellows, and his acquaintances, than for severe reading.
But his father was persuaded that sedateness and application would come to Sandy with riper years; and except in one instance, when he punished the lad with austerity for depicting the manse cat with a pair of hands round its neck, holding forth from a water-stoup to the cocks and hens, and the rats peeping from the stacks in the glebe yard, calling the sketch a profane and scurrilous jest, he did not trouble himself much about Sandy's shortcomings, Sandy was the apple of the minister's eye, secretly; while openly, the father addressed the son by the comprehensively disparaging corruption "min," — a term which, in Scotland, with the alteration of one letter, converts the honorable appellation " man" into an ostentatiously condescending and slightly contemptuous soubriquet. "O, min, is that all you 're good for?" '• There was more lost at Flodden, min." And it was true Sandy would have worked a more wonderful sampler, and proved a meeker and more gracious woman than Jess, for whom, with a spice of chivalry, all Mr. Stewart's outward favor was reserved.
As for Jess Stewart, she would have responded splendidly to her father's wishes but for the trifling accident of having been born a girl, coupled with the Apostle Paul's prohibition to a woman. She would have made a fine minister, — frank, straightforward, imperative, with a passionate tongue when she was roused; having a real relish for the solid study of history and geography, in opposition to the practice of the spinner and the execution of satin pieces in the Miss Allardyces' course of instruction.
But there was nothing unwomanly or repulsive in Jess; on the contrary, as she outgrew the boisterousness of her childhood, — when she distressed her mother by playing more uniformly at boys' games (Sandy in his tender years took up with an oldfashioned, hard-featured doll, Jess's rejected property), and destroying three times as many clothes as Sandy, there was the prospect of her growing up a woman of noble proportions. There was a charm in Ji*s's fresh, candid, intelligent face — her short, thick black curls in a crop about her brow and neck; her tall, broad-shouldered, firm, erect figure — at least equal to that of Sandy's bright blue eyes, sanguine complexion, and slight, but active, long, elegant limbs.
Jess was the young queen of the parish, and the position lent her an ease, B power, an air of born authority and command which became the girl, and which did not leave her when she passed from the yeomen's houses to those of the gentry, where she could claim no precedence of birth and breeding, and where, on the other hand, her best cloth mantle and white muslin frock were homely and out of date. Young Adam Spottiswoode, of Birkholm, his own master, who opened the balls at Woodend, would rather dance a reel with the minister's than a minuet with the member's daughter. Jess could dance minuets, too; a little French dancing-master, a poor emigri, had imported the true Minuets dt la Cour at the service of the public of Woodend, but Jess's reels were something inspiriting.
Again, Jess, with the few old and ailing men and women, who were "on the box" (that is, parish paupers), with bairns, with her mother's endless
train of calves, chickens, dogs, cats, pigeons, laverocks, Unties, was also "beyond compare." Jess, carrying a stray lamb in her arms, or a brokenwinged bird in her bosom, showed unmistakably whether she was womanly — that is, motherly — or no.
Clovenford kirk and manse, with moss, lichen, and weather-stain, doing something to redeem the barn and bothy order of architecture, lay in a nest of wooded and bare hills. The parish did not have the grander and more peculiar features of Scottish landscape, — neither the height nor the breadth of savage mountains and moors, where the eagle rears her bloody-beaked young, and "the whaup cries dreary." But it had the Fir Tap and the Beld Law, the Hare Water and the Den of blackthorns and whitethorns, crabs and geans, ending in the feathery birks and stiff, dark-green boxes and hollies round the old white house of Birkholm. The fields were all heights and hollows, sunshine and shade, like dimpled faces. There were hedges tedded with dogroses and honeysuckles; water-courses yellow with kingcups; feal-dykes nodding with harebells, and twittering with the swallows nestling beneath their eaves. At Clovenford manse the servant lasses still span and sang ballants every afternoon, — on the bink by the kitchen-fire in winter, and at the back-door in summer. Andro Cornfoot, the minister's man, lived with his deaf wife and his catecheesed laddie, the minister's herd, in the thatched cottage at the manse offices, came to the house every evening and was present with the family at "the worship," when the minister commended his house, people, kirk, country, and the world to the care of the Great Creator. Andro came again at sunrise to awake the lasses, and to speak in at the minister's window and tell him what the weather was like, never thinking to avert his light gray-green fishy eyes from the night-cap, broad-ljordcred, and with a large bow right over the forehead, which bore the picturesque Kilmarnock cowl loving company on the pillow.
The cloud, the size of a man's hand, in the Clovenford sky began with the expenses of Sandy's college terms; notwithstanding they were met without flinching, bravely borne, and every member of the family took a part in defraying them.
The minister trudged many a long and weary mile to do duty at neighboring kirks and canonical meetings, in place of hiring a gig from the Crown in Woodend. Mrs. Stewart gave up much of her visiting, for the reason that she was delicate and unable to accompany the minister in his long walks. Jess could walk with the best, and thought nothing of crossing the parish, six miles from one end to the other, and dancing half the night afterwards; but Jess was called on to resign all the little advantages and enjoyments such as even the farmers' daughters could claim. These were her going to Edinburgh and lodging with her Aunt Peggy, the writer to the signet's widow, in the High Street, and there learning to bake pastry and cut out patterns for her gowns; and her attending the dancing and singing classes for grown-up ladies and gentlemen, opened every winter in Woodend. The very table at the manse was rendered plainer and more frugal on Sandy's account The box which travelled every fortnight with the carrier to Edinburgh seemed to carry away all the dainties. Mrs. Stewart relinquished her little cup of tea in the morning, protesting she found it bad for her nerves, and made a fashion of supping porridge along with the minister and Jess. The minister denied himself his bit of Stilton cheese and glass of Edinburgh ale after dinner, pretending they made him sleepy. Jess had to be more sparing in preserving the fruit, though it was hanging in abundance in the garden, and the whole cost was the sugar; and to substitute for the old home-brewed wines, the currant, ginger, elderflower, and elder-berry — welcome cordial to the sick of narrow means, who knew no better — the still humbler beverage of treacle beer.
At first all these sacrifices, regarded as temporary in their nature, were made light of. But as sessions came and went, and Sandy brought home no lionON, got no bursary to ease the burden, no private teaching, except once a summer tutorship, they pressed more heavily.
The fact was, that young Sandy Stewart, in the most critical years of his life, in place of settling down to hard head-work, was flightier and more prone to trifling — as it was regarded at Clovenford — than ever. He showed himself addicted to company; not bad company, — a true son of the manse could not at once have degraded himself so for without great moral corruption, — but to free mixed company, — the company at harvest-homes, fairs, and the clubs, in which Wopdend aped more famous places. Gentlemen of higher degree than the minister's Sandy, — the young Laird of Birkhulni, for instance, — and even ladies, the eccentric old dowagers and spinsters of the period, frequented these scenes blamelessly; but no one of them was to be a minister, a Presbyterian divine, whom a single breath of scandal was sufficient to blast.
The word was not widely applied then; but Sandy was tainted with Bohemianism. And the lad was still fonder of making facsimiles of the rural and genial life, inanimate and animated, he loved, — the very materials a waste of money, and the practice, which might have been amusing enough to his family in other circumstances, miserable child's play in a lacking divinity student.
Lines of care began to be drawn on Mr. Stewart's full massive face. He left off, with scornful magnanimity, inquiring into his son's progress in his classes, when the result was'invariablv disappointment; but he suffered his tongue to scoff bitterly at the degeneracy of the times, and the effeminate puppyism of "birkics," who put their pride in tying up their hair with ribbons, and sporting tights and silk stockings.
The ribbons at least were cheap, and the stockings were a fond transfer of the last pair of six-andthirty shillings' worth, — a present to Mrs. Stewart, in handsome discount from the gallant old bachelor, the true kirk man, in his snuff-brown wig and purple rig and fur stockings, whom she called genteelly her " merchant" in Woodend. Mrs. Stewart would ten times rather see the stockings on Sandy's legs than on her own, that for once she might have the pleasure of looking on her bonnie laddie in the guise of a fine gentleman, as gentlemen at the Queen's levees and state footmen still figure. It was neither just nor generous in Mr. Stewart to taunt Sandy with his mother's silk stockings, and to add the gratuitous reflection that puppies neither cared where their indulgences came from nor to what they led; but the minister's big heart was sore.
On the other side, Sandy had a hasty as well as an affectionate temper, and was in constant danger of rebutting unfair aspersions, and speaking back to his father words ill-considered and unjustifiable in the circumstances.
Mrs. Stewart, moving gently about in her little apple-green shawl, filled in with what manufacturer and women call "pines," and the cap of her o*ni netting as fine as gossamer, a light cloud abort a face still fair and delicate — too fair and defatf for her years — was kept with both body and mind on the rack, acting as a piteous mediator between her two sovereigns.
Yet Mr. Stewart had not swerved for a moment from his purpose, and never supposed that Sandy had committed any grave offence to forfeit »tat was in a sort his inheritance. Mr. Stewart km* full well that many a distinguished divine awl good man had begun life by sowing a crop of w.H oats. Could the minister have been aware of it, his heart might have been comforted by the «foing coincidence that gray old St. Rcgulus was ringing at that moment with the characteristic exploit of " Mad Pain Chaumers," as Scotland was jvt to ring with the virtues and renown of her great orator and philanthropist. And the minister would spare his bread as well as his cheese; he would take off his coat, and break stones by a dike side for day's wages, if the laws of the kirk and his parishioners would suffer it, sooner than Sandy shall miss his natural call to do his family, his parish, it might be his country and the world, credit
It was Jess who came to a different conclusion. It was Jess who declared plainly in her secret chamber: "I don't believe our Sandy will ever be a minister. Better he should not if he do not put more heart into his work, or he will cover himself and c< with disgrace, and bring down his father's and mother's gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. It is no! so long since Mr. Home was put out of the kirk for writing a play; and Sandy has songs, though be b» not sermons, flying loose about his room when I gs in to make up his bed; it is well it is not one of tfe lasses who sees them. He brags of going every night to the theatre when Mrs. Siddons is in Emlm)' (I wonder where the price of his tickets comes from): and I am sure, if the Assembly put out one man for writing a play, they could not in honesty keep in another whose pencil is never out of his hand. I catched him drawing the bethel and Miss Mvw Wedderburn below the book-board at the very sunining up of the "heads" last Sabbath; and his excuse was, he must have their heads out of his bc»l to be at peace to listen. He cares a deal more w the glint of a sunny shower, or the gloom of a thunder-storm, or the crook of a scrag of a tree, or the red of a gypsy's torn cloak, than ever I could see M cared for the bearing of a doctrine. What »b«it the minister of Duddmgstonc 1 I would like i"5" body to tell me whether he was not licensed, presented, called, and placed, before he was known, to gentle and simple, as a drawing-master? If Sarw would but mind his own business. I have no faith in a man, however quick, who does not mind b* own business. There is Birkholm, as good a jnlf of a straight rig, or a round stack, or a head of nowt, as ever a farmer in the country; yet v kept his terms at an English university, and bf» a member of the Hunt, and well his red coat sett him."
It was Jess who grew to grudge, almost firmyevery shilling _spent on Sandy. Yet deal gen"!' with Jess's memory, for she was no miser, and *»e was the chief sufferer. She had her father's son.* of justice outraged without any of the blindness which accompanies a besetting desire; and Jess «* sensible that Sandy's idleness and extravagant
were fatally depressing the balance in which hung the fortunes of her life.
Adam Spottiswoode of Birkholm liked Jess, and there was no constraint on his will beyond the influence of his three sisters, whom he could shake off or bring round to submission at his pleasure. Jess Stewart would be a poor, but not an unsuitable mate for the Laird of Birkholm; and far beyond the consideration of the white house at Birkholm being a.grand down-setting for a portionless bride, Jess liked the comely, courteous, frank young laird, — not half so clever as Jess herself, or Sandy, but attractive by the goodly glamour of his superior birth and breeding, with the manly, honorable character corresponding to it. Adam Spottiswoode and Jess Stewart had a kindness for each other; but so long as it was no more than a kindness, or tender fancy, it was no stigma on their liking to say that, if the couple had no opportunity of meeting, it would die the death of starvation,—gradually on the woman's part, more rapidly on the man's. There should be a middle ground for the liking to wax into love. There was no middle ground left to the couple; for the kirk, where Birkholm took his seat in the Birkholm loft, fronting the minister's bucht, and where he and Jess were not always so engrossed with the sermon (in spite of Jess's despotism to other people with regard to their treatment of the "heads ") as they should have been, was not a middle ground.
Poor Jess had no longer gloves, shoes, sashes, to go to the subscription balls in the Woodend and the parties in the country-houses: and when the manse family had to dismiss one of the servants, and Jess's hands got red and her face blowsy with continued housework and garden-work, she felt more and more that, without the commonest finishes to her toilette, she was no longer fit to appear in refined society and be Birkholm's chosen partner.
Birkholm attempted one great advance. Spas were then the height of fashion, — not foreign spas, but native, —and not so much as fountains of health, but as favorite resorts, where men and women saw the world, met every morning in the pump-room, drove together every afternoon, two by two, in high-pitched gigs, to all the show-houses and breezy views in the neighborhood, and danced together a couple of long country-dances without sitting down, under the countenance of a master of the ceremonies in pumps, and with the powder in his hair not blown away by the tempest of the French Revolution. Birkholm bribed an accommodating married cousin and one of his sisters, by their share of the gayety, to invite Jess Stewart to accompany them for a fortnight to one of the Wells. The excursion would have been like an admission to the Elysian fields, with the temple of Hymen at the end of the principal vista, to Jess. It would have been the gala of the girl's life, and she would assuredly have come home from it engaged to Birkholm, and counting herself, with reason, the happiest woman in the world.
But noblesse oblige in all noble ranks. The project had become simply out of the question. Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, and Jess herself, would not submit to Birkholm's paying Jess's share of the travelling expenses, which, in the days of travelling post, were a serious calculation to families with moderate incomes. But the Stewarts could and would have made a push to afford the necessary sum, had not Sandy's delay at college and want of success rendered it impossible. And Mr. and Mrs. Stewart were deficient in their duty to their daughter, and
made no account of Birkholm's attentions to her, because they had forgotten similar passages in their youth in the trouble of their middle age.
Jess said to herself she did not want anybody's regrets, and told the world she did not care for jaunting, — she found too much to do among the spring calves and chickens at the manse, — and carried her high head as high, and looked as strong, stately, and blooming as ever. And the worst of it was, Birkholm believed her, and was as much piqued as the slightncss of the relation between them permitted. The prosperous young laird could not altogether comprehend the straitness of the manse finances, and draw his inferences from them. He went off in a huff to enjoy himself at the Wells without the hard-hearted mistress for whose sake he had planned the holiday, — not so much to enjoy himself either, as to prove to Jess that he could be foolish to the top of his bent without her.
So Jess was cut to the heart by hearing rumors presently, now that Birkholm was on the eve of his marriage with a beauty and fortune he had been introduced to at the Wells; now that he and other young men had indulged in frolics for which the license of the time offered some apology, but which were far more culpable than any follies of Sandy's, and, to put the matter on the lowest footing, were far from becoming in the young man who aspired to the honor of being the minister's son-in-law.
And if Birkholm were utterly lost to Jess, or if he should turn out wild and come to grief, would not Jess lay that to Sandy's charge as the heaviest portion of the debt he owed her?
II. — WHAT SANDY WAS.
"To desert his post and renounce the highest commission a man can carry, — to starve, or feed off the great as a painter of false faces, an idolater of stocks and stones, — give me patience."
The minister had need of patience when he received the letter with the tidings that Sandy, after passing through four of his years at college, with what effort the family knew, had abandoned the ministry and adopted the profession of a painter.
Mrs. Stewart and Jess were amazed and appalled beyond presuming to say a word.
It is difficult to measure at present the headlong downfall of Sandy in those good people's estimation. Though they were familiar with his passion from his earliest years, they had not once contemplated the probability of his taking to painting as a calling.
It was not that Mr. Stewart had any puritanical scruples as to the lawfulness of art. But Mr. Stewart had no scruple as to the lawfulness of dancing, and that would not have reconciled him greatly to Sandy's becoming a dancing-master. Actually, old M. Le Roy, the dancing-master, had a far more accredited and dignified position, both socially and morally, at Woodend than any of the poor portraitpainters who had found their way there. And it was not the poverty of the trade that was its crowning drawback.
The minister, like all wise, honest men — Scotchmen particularly — had a due respect for wealth and its power; but the ministers of the Kirk of Scotland had also need to be disinterested, and their hardy habits of mind and body were not much affected by the prospect of poverty. But though the minister had little doubt that Sandy would starve, or lead a life of miserable dependence, perhaps vicious compromise, it would not have made a material difference in this case had the minister been acquainted with the changes in the world which put a moderate competence within Sandy's reach, and caused the step he had taken to be within the bounds of right reason. Sandy was right that, in the Edinburgh of the day, not only was there a wonderful and glorious maiden literature among "the writer lads," whom the minister classed together rather contemptuously, but painting, as an art, for the first time coyly blushed and smiled as a true sister of the belles lettres, which Mr. Stewart's cloth did not altogether despise when Robertson wrote history and Blair rhetoric. Runciman's painting of the Clerks of Penicuik's house seemed to promise a new era never attained, such as prevailed at Venice when Tintoretto and Paul Veronese painted marble palaces both within and without. Better still, a national academy was really to confer status and impart instruction where youthful genius was concerned. But what was the struggling infancy of art to the minister, who indulged in the pictorial faculty in his own way, and quite another way, by drawing Sandy, as he had fondly hoped, standing up severe in youthful beauty, not unlike one of Milton's archangels, swaying by the breath of his mouth, for their salvation, multitudes in simple country kirks, or in what the Reformation had spared of rich abbeys and cathedrals in towns and cities ; and again, Sandy, haggard, and sordid, and soiled, haggling with Jewish dealers, whom Mr. Stewart confounded with pawn-brokers ; or jour-^ neying wearily from town to town, taking in scanty orders, and flattering obsequiously the owners of the puffed-up, vulgar, mean faces, which he copied with secret disgust?
Mr. Stewart did not absolutely forbid Sandy his course, or threaten him with utter reprobation if he pursued it, because the minister's reasonable soul, in the middle of his wrath and mortification, revolted at violence. He wrote to his son in stern reproach and rebuke. Sandy defended himself like a creature at bay, and refused to force himself into the priesthood, for which Providence could not have designed him, since he had not the necessary qualifications.
Mr. Stewart, beside himself, accused Sandy of going nigh to blaspheming, — of proposing to take Providence into his own hands. Afterwards, Sandy came home for a few days; a wretched visit, when his father never addressed him directly beyond helping him at table, and his mother " lookit in his face, " as if her gaze would melt stone. Sandy was now as stone to his father; for the sweet temper of the lad had been goaded and driven to the point when sweet tempers steel themselves to doggedness, less hopeful and tractable in its despair, than any amount of original arrogance and perversity.
Sandy saw that he had broken the family circle and rendered himself an alien from it. He said to his mother and Jess that he had better go away and fight his battle for himself, and it would be best that they should not hear the accounts, because these would only cause fresh strife and condemnation. Some day they might see he had not been so far wrong.
Sandy watched his opportunity; and one fine harvest-day, when the minister, the servants, and Andro Cornfbot, who had borne "the young minister" on his back many a sunny morning lang-syne, were all abroad engaged in the ingathering of the glebe corn, he kissed his mother and shook hands with Jess, and departed without other leave-taking or
blessing out into the world, which is generally cold enough for a penniless painter, taking no more with him than the stick and the wallet of one of the wandering apprentices of the kindly land of Wilhelm Meister.
When the minister returned and found his son's place vacant, he must have guessed that Sandy was gone; but he made no sign. Wandering apprentices are generally good pedestrians, and wonderfully endowed with friends; but when the first touch of frost nipped Mrs. Stewart's gillyflowers that night, Sandy's mother dreamt of him lying down like Jacob, with a stone for a pillow, but unlike Jacob, the heir of the promises, under the serene sky of Palestine, rather like an Esau, getting his death of cold, shivering under the gray clouds and the bleak wind, by the bare Scottish roadside.
The door of the manse was thenceforth shut against Sandy ; his name became a forbidden sound, not only as that of " a stickit minister," — and the Scotch, with grim humor, deride a failure in proportion as they applaud an achievement in a favorite line, — but as an ill-doer. Neighbors carefully avoided mentioning Sandy to his family, while they talked loudly among themselves, and pitied the poor Stewarts for the sore hearts they had got from the prodigality and ingratitude of their only son. The minister strove manfully not to visit his pain on the blameless women-folk. He was so far left to himself as to call Andro "a pompous idiot," and the herd "an impudent blackguard "; but they were of the same sex as the delinquent, and in that light fair game. He refrained from ebullitions of temper to his wife and daughter, and was considerate, forbearing, almost caressing, to poor Mrs. Stewart, who, in her coming and going about her house, was forever coming in contact with the empty kist which had passed to and fro for many happy years, as they looked now, stored with her choicest provisions for Sandy, and bringing Sandy's clothes to his mother's care, while in her drawer up stairs lay the pair of silk stockings which in the pride of her heart she had made Sandy sport when he was the escort of his sister and the darling of the young people at the Woodend parties, — far before Birkholm in his mother's estimation.
To Jess the minister turned with open arms, saying nothing to admit that he had overlooked and injured her, but with something almost pathetic in his dumb determination to make up by every species of indulgence for the irrevocable past.
But with all this courage and kindness, the minister's disappointment sat stiffly on him. To escape from its influence he busied himself in his studies, and became more polemical and dogmatic. He shrank from meeting his brethren of the Presbytery, over whom he had reigned supreme, and to some of whom, with sons of their own, he had allowed himself, in the fulness of his heart, to boast of the career he had carved for his son, and before whom Sandy had humbled him in the dust, — for none of their sons had turned fiddlers, the only vocation to which Mr. Stewart could compare that of a painter. He shrank from his very parishioners, unless in the way of duty as a clergyman, discontinuing largely his share of the old pleasant neighborly visiting.
Peace was restored to Clovenford, but the heartache there was acute and incessant. Almost the only event — and it was never spoken of—was the arrival of one or two foreign newspapers, with foreign postmarks, addressed to Mrs. Stewart, in Sandy's handwriting, which proved that Sandy had
managed to go abroad to follow his studies, possibly as a travelling tutor ; but his family knew nothing about him.
Mr. Stewart could not have interdicted the newspapers, and he did not throw them into the fire; but he never looked at them, though he alone could have read any part of their contents.
To Mrs. Stewart and Jess the newspapers were a dead letter; but the moment the minister had gone to his books, Mrs. Stewart unfolded them, spread them out on her knee, regarded them wistfully, as if their hieroglyphics could tell her something of Sandy; and had they only anticipated modern improvements, and conveyed to her woodcuts, they might have spoken to her in appropriate language of her boy. At last she folded them up, and deposited them carefully where they were all found one day, in the drawer with her best gown, and the silk stockings, as if she waited for the arrival of a scholar at Clovenford, who would bring the key and unlock the mystery occasioned by the confusion of tongues.
Sandy went away in the harvest, and towards the close of the next spring Birkholm, who had been in Edinburgh all the winter with his sisters, came back to his own house, and called afterwards at the manse to announce the marriage of his eldest sister to a gallant naval captain, who had been fortunate in obtaining prize money, was on shore only for a short time, and as he was already posted to another ship, and had no time to lose, had so expedited matters, that he wanted Mr. Stewart to tie the knot at once at Birkholm.
It is said that one marriage lightly turns a roving fancy to the thought of another; and with more shyness to cover his anxiety, the young laird alluded to his sister's expectation that Miss Stewart would pay her the compliment of being present at the ceremony, and would remain a few days at Birkholm as company for his youngest sister Nancy, because Effie was to accompany Betsy, the bride, in the capacity of bridesmaid.
Mr. and Mrs. Stewart were altogether propitious, and very glad that Jess, who had lived a dull life for a long time, should have the grand entertainment, when to their astonishment Jess declined the invitation for herself with the greatest promptness and decision, wished Miss Spottiswoode every happiness, hoped to see her before she left the country, but regretted that she had engagements at home which would prevent her having the honor and pleasure of being one of the company at the wedding, and staying behind the other guests to console Miss Nancy, — thus sending off the laird with another flea in his ear, and vowing vehemently to have nothing more to say to "a haughty hizzie," though she was his early flame, Jess Stewart, ten times over.
"Jess, my woman, why did you give Birkholm the cold shoulder when he came on so kind an errand? If it is for the purpose of making yourself of consequence, and if the lad be of my mind, he will not put himself in your power again, madam," observed the minister, with affected lightness.
"He need not try it," answered Jess, shortly.
"And you are not like your mother," persisted the minister, changing his cue; "for if I know her, she would be wild to this day to dance at a wedding, and have the chance of walking every day in Birkholm Den, when the birks are shaking out'their buds and smelling like balm, and there are more primroses on a single bank than in the whole of her garden beds."
"My dancing days are over, minister," Mrs. Stewart told him, with a shake of the head, but a smile; "still a wedding is a bonnie sight, and I should like very well to walk down the Den again and fill my lap full of primroses, and sit and rest, and get a drink, and gather the hyacinths round the Lady Well, and listen to the throstle in the thorn, if I were as good a walker as I have been. I cannot think what has come over our Jess."
Jess made no reply till the minister was gone, and her mother began to press her gently for an explanation of her conduct. Then she raised a pair of bent black brows, and opened her lips. "Mother, do you think I have no feeling? Do you think, because I first stood up against Sandy, that I have no regard for my own brother? Would I go and enjoy myself, and not know what has become of Sandy, or what he may have to bear? Adam Spottiswoode used to be Sandy's friend; he might have more sense than ask me such a gate."
Mrs. Stewart said not another word.
But the minister was troubled at Jess's reticence, cast about in his mind for a cause or cure, and stumbled on one of his old acts of lavish generosity, and extraordinary misconception of his daughter's taste and of the laws of harmony. He surprised her by the arrival from her mother's merchant's shop in Woodend of a gown of yellow crape, with a pink silk scarf to match.
After Jess had overcome the shock at the sight of the articles, and her resolution to find they were not for her, she took them up in her arms and went straight with them into the minister's study.
"Well, Jess, what is in the wind now? Have you changed your mind about going to the marriage at Birkholm?" he demanded, looking up from Campbell on Miracles, and pretending ignorance and innocence.
To the minister's consternation, Jess's tears, kept for special occasions, began suddenly to fall like rain. "Father, do not think that I" do not value your presents. I shall wear the one or the other at the kirk whenever the weather will permit, and as long as two threads hang together. But I cannot go to Birkholm: it is not fit that I should go and show off among the fine folk there, when somebody who has as good a right to your favor as I have, and wants it far more, has to live without."
"Jess, is it a fit return for my kindness that you should be so bold as question my judgment? I forbid you to speak another word to me on the subject of your brother."
The minister dared her with flashing eyes, and conquered her so far as to drive her from his presence to burst out to her mother, —
"Mother, my father is cruel to Sandy; we have all been cruel to him. And what has he done to lose a son's place? It is we who have brought reproach upon him. Where is the righteousness and the mercy of laying burdens on other men's backs? I do not care whether he is ever to be a fine painter; I am not sure that I have seen a fine painting in my life; but he was free to be a painter if he liked. I never thought more of Sandy than when he walked out at the gate, with his stick in his hand, last harvest; he was a petted lad before, but he was a proud man then. If I catch any mortal man save my father looking down on Sandy, I will never speak to him again. And for my father, I say he is hard to Sandy. He need not think that I will take my pleasure, and Sandy cast off for a lad's madness, (I wonder why they profess that 'to