Robert Falconer by George MacDonald
Part I.--His Boyhood
Chapter X. Another Discovery in the Garret.
Little did Robert dream of the reception that awaited him at home. Almost as soon as he had left the house, the following events began to take place.
The mistress's bell rang, and Betty 'gaed benn the hoose to see what she cud be wantin',' whereupon a conversation ensued.
'Wha was that at the door, Betty?' asked Mrs. Falconer; for Robert had not shut the door so carefully as he ought, seeing that the deafness of his grandmother was of much the same faculty as her blindness.
Had Robert not had a hold of Betty by the forelock of her years, he would have been unable to steal any liberty at all. Still Betty had a conscience, and although she would not offend Robert if she could help it, yet she would not lie.
''Deed, mem, I canna jist distinckly say 'at I heard the door,' she answered.
'Whaur's Robert?' was her next question.
'He's generally up the stair aboot this hoor, mem--that is, whan he's no i' the parlour at 's lessons.'
'What gangs he sae muckle up the stair for, Betty, do ye ken? It's something by ordinar' wi' 'm.'
''Deed I dinna ken, mem. I never tuik it into my heid to gang considerin' aboot it. He'll hae some ploy o' 's ain, nae doobt. Laddies will be laddies, ye ken, mem.'
'I doobt, Betty, ye'll be aidin' an' abettin'. An' it disna become yer years, Betty.'
'My years are no to fin' faut wi', mem. They're weel eneuch.'
'That's naething to the pint, Betty. What's the laddie aboot?'
'Do ye mean whan he gangs up the stair, mem?'
'Ay. Ye ken weel eneuch what I mean.'
'Weel, mem, I tell ye I dinna ken. An' ye never heard me tell ye a lee sin' ever I was i' yer service, mem.'
'Na, nae doonricht. Ye gang aboot it an' aboot it, an' at last ye come sae near leein' that gin ye spak anither word, ye wad be at it; and it jist fleys (frights) me frae speirin' ae ither question at ye. An' that's hoo ye win oot o' 't. But noo 'at it's aboot my ain oye (grandson), I'm no gaein' to tyne (lose) him to save a woman o' your years, wha oucht to ken better; an sae I'll speir at ye, though ye suld be driven to lee like Sawtan himsel'.--What's he aboot whan he gangs up the stair? Noo!'
'Weel, as sure's deith, I dinna ken. Ye drive me to sweirin', mem, an' no to leein'.'
'I carena. Hae ye no idea aboot it, than, Betty?'
'Weel, mem, I think sometimes he canna be weel, and maun hae a tod (fox) in 's stamack, or something o' that nater. For what he eats is awfu'. An' I think whiles he jist gangs up the stair to eat at 's ain wull.'
'That jumps wi' my ain observations, Betty. Do ye think he micht hae a rabbit, or maybe a pair o' them, in some boxie i' the garret, noo?'
'And what for no, gin he had, mem?'
'What for no? Nesty stinkin' things! But that's no the pint. I aye hae to haud ye to the pint, Betty. The pint is, whether he has rabbits or no?'
'Or guinea-pigs,' suggested Betty.
'Or maybe a pup or twa. Or I kent a laddie ance 'at keepit a haill faimily o' kittlins. Or maybe he micht hae a bit lammie. There was an uncle o' min' ain--'
'Haud yer tongue, Betty! Ye hae ower muckle to say for a' the sense there's intil 't.'
'Weel, mem, ye speirt questions at me.'
'Weel, I hae had eneuch o' yer answers, Betty. Gang and tell Robert to come here direckly.'
Betty went, knowing perfectly that Robert had gone out, and returned with the information. Her mistress searched her face with a keen eye.
'That maun hae been himsel' efter a' whan ye thocht ye hard the door gang,' said Betty.
'It's a strange thing that I suld hear him benn here wi' the door steekit, an' your door open at the verra door-cheek o' the ither, an' you no hear him, Betty. And me sae deif as weel!'
''Deed, mem,' retorted Betty, losing her temper a little, 'I can be as deif 's ither fowk mysel' whiles.'
When Betty grew angry, Mrs. Falconer invariably grew calm, or, at least, put her temper out of sight. She was silent now, and continued silent till Betty moved to return to her kitchen, when she said, in a tone of one who had just arrived at an important resolution:
'Betty, we'll jist awa' up the stair an' luik.'
'Weel, mem, I hae nae objections.'
'Nae objections! What for suld you or ony ither body hae ony objections to me gaein' whaur I like i' my ain hoose? Umph!' exclaimed Mrs. Falconer, turning and facing her maid.
'In coorse, mem. I only meant I had nae objections to gang wi' ye.'
'And what for suld you or ony ither woman that I paid twa pun' five i' the half-year till, daur to hae objections to gaein' whaur I wantit ye to gang i' my ain hoose?'
'Hoot, mem! it was but a slip o' the tongue--naething mair.'
'Slip me nae sic slips, or ye'll come by a fa' at last, I doobt, Betty,' concluded Mrs. Falconer, in a mollified tone, as she turned and led the way from the room.
They got a candle in the kitchen and proceeded up-stairs, Mrs. Falconer still leading, and Betty following. They did not even look into the ga'le-room, not doubting that the dignity of the best bed-room was in no danger of being violated even by Robert, but took their way upwards to the room in which he kept his school-books--almost the only articles of property which the boy possessed. Here they found nothing suspicious. All was even in the best possible order--not a very wonderful fact, seeing a few books and a slate were the only things there besides the papers on the shelves.
What the feelings of Shargar must have been when he heard the steps and voices, and saw the light approaching his place of refuge, we will not change our point of view to inquire. He certainly was as little to be envied at that moment as at any moment during the whole of his existence.
The first sense Mrs. Falconer made use of in the search after possible animals lay in her nose. She kept snuffing constantly, but, beyond the usual musty smell of neglected apartments, had as yet discovered nothing. The moment she entered the upper garret, however--
'There's an ill-faured smell here, Betty,' she said, believing that they had at last found the trail of the mystery; 'but it's no like the smell o' rabbits. Jist luik i' the nuik there ahin' the door.'
'There's naething here,' responded Betty.
'Roon the en' o' that kist there. I s' luik into the press.'
As Betty rose from her search behind the chest and turned towards her mistress, her eyes crossed the cavernous opening of the bed. There, to her horror, she beheld a face like that of a galvanised corpse staring at her from the darkness. Shargar was in a sitting posture, paralysed with terror, waiting, like a fascinated bird, till Mrs. Falconer and Betty should make the final spring upon him, and do whatever was equivalent to devouring him upon the spot. He had sat up to listen to the noise of their ascending footsteps, and fear had so overmastered him, that he either could not, or forgot that he could lie down and cover his head with some of the many garments scattered around him.
'I didna say whusky, did I?' he kept repeating to himself, in utter imbecility of fear.
'The Lord preserve 's!' exclaimed Betty, the moment she could speak; for during the first few seconds, having caught the infection of Shargar's expression, she stood equally paralysed. 'The Lord preserve 's!' she repeated.
'Ance is eneuch,' said Mrs. Falconer, sharply, turning round to see what the cause of Betty's ejaculation might be.
I have said that she was dim-sighted. The candle they had was little better than a penny dip. The bed was darker than the rest of the room. Shargar's face had none of the more distinctive characteristics of manhood upon it.
'Gude preserve 's!' exclaimed Mrs. Falconer in her turn: 'it's a wumman.'
Poor deluded Shargar, thinking himself safer under any form than that which he actually bore, attempted no protest against the mistake. But, indeed, he was incapable of speech. The two women flew upon him to drag him out of bed. Then first recovering his powers of motion, he sprung up in an agony of terror, and darted out between them, overturning Betty in his course.
'Ye rouch limmer!' cried Betty, from the floor. 'Ye lang-leggit jaud!' she added, as she rose--and at the same moment Shargar banged the street-door behind him in his terror--'I wat ye dinna carry yer coats ower syde (too long)!'
For Shargar, having discovered that the way to get the most warmth from Robert's great-grandfather's kilt was to wear it in the manner for which it had been fabricated, was in the habit of fastening it round his waist before he got into bed; and the eye of Betty, as she fell, had caught the swing of this portion of his attire.
But poor Mrs. Falconer, with sunken head, walked out of the garret in the silence of despair. She went slowly down the steep stair, supporting herself against the wall, her round-toed shoes creaking solemnly as she went, took refuge in the ga'le-room, and burst into a violent fit of weeping. For such depravity she was not prepared. What a terrible curse hung over her family! Surely they were all reprobate from the womb, not one elected for salvation from the guilt of Adam's fall, and therefore abandoned to Satan as his natural prey, to be led captive of him at his will. She threw herself on her knees at the side of the bed, and prayed heart-brokenly. Betty heard her as she limped past the door on her way back to her kitchen.
Meantime Shargar had rushed across the next street on his bare feet into the Crookit Wynd, terrifying poor old Kirstan Peerie, the divisions betwixt the compartments of whose memory had broken down, into the exclamation to her next neighbour, Tam Rhin, with whom she was trying to gossip:
'Eh, Tammas! that'll be ane o' the slauchtert at Culloden.'
He never stopped till he reached his mother's deserted abode--strange instinct! There he ran to earth like a hunted fox. Rushing at the door, forgetful of everything but refuge, he found it unlocked, and closing it behind him, stood panting like the hart that has found the water-brooks. The owner had looked in one day to see whether the place was worth repairing, for it was a mere outhouse, and had forgotten to turn the key when he left it. Poor Shargar! Was it more or less of a refuge that the mother that bore him was not there either to curse or welcome his return? Less--if we may judge from a remark he once made in my hearing many long years after:
'For, ye see,' he said, 'a mither's a mither, be she the verra de'il.'
Searching about in the dark, he found the one article unsold by the landlord, a stool, with but two of its natural three legs. On this he balanced himself and waited--simply for what Robert would do; for his faith in Robert was unbounded, and he had no other hope on earth. But Shargar was not miserable. In that wretched hovel, his bare feet clasping the clay floor in constant search of a wavering equilibrium, with pitch darkness around him, and incapable of the simplest philosophical or religious reflection, he yet found life good. For it had interest. Nay, more, it had hope. I doubt, however, whether there is any interest at all without hope.
While he sat there, Robert, thinking him snug in the garret, was walking quietly home from the shoemaker's; and his first impulse on entering was to run up and recount the particulars of his interview with Alexander. Arrived in the dark garret, he called Shargar, as usual, in a whisper--received no reply--thought he was asleep--called louder (for he had had a penny from his grandmother that day for bringing home two pails of water for Betty, and had just spent it upon a loaf for him)--but no Shargar replied. Thereupon he went to the bed to lay hold of him and shake him. But his searching hands found no Shargar. Becoming alarmed, he ran down-stairs to beg a light from Betty.
When he reached the kitchen, he found Betty's nose as much in the air as its construction would permit. For a hook-nosed animal, she certainly was the most harmless and ovine creature in the world, but this was a case in which feminine modesty was both concerned and aggrieved. She showed her resentment no further, however, than by simply returning no answer in syllable, or sound, or motion, to Robert's request. She was washing up the tea-things, and went on with her work as if she had been in absolute solitude, saving that her countenance could hardly have kept up that expression of injured dignity had such been the case. Robert plainly saw, to his great concern, that his secret had been discovered in his absence, and that Shargar had been expelled with contumely. But, with an instinct of facing the worst at once which accompanied him through life, he went straight to his grandmother's parlour.
'Well, grandmamma,' he said, trying to speak as cheerfully as he could.
Grannie's prayers had softened her a little, else she would have been as silent as Betty; for it was from her mistress that Betty had learned this mode of torturing a criminal. So she was just able to return his greeting in the words, 'Weel, Robert,' pronounced in a finality of tone that indicated she had done her utmost, and had nothing to add.
'Here's a browst (brewage)!' thought Robert to himself; and, still on the principle of flying at the first of mischief he saw--the best mode of meeting it, no doubt--addressed his grandmother at once. The effort necessary gave a tone of defiance to his words.
'What for willna ye speik to me, grannie?' he said. 'I'm no a haithen, nor yet a papist.'
'Ye're waur nor baith in ane, Robert.'
'Hoots! ye winna say baith, grannie,' returned Robert, who, even at the age of fourteen, when once compelled to assert himself, assumed a modest superiority.
'Nane o' sic impidence!' retorted Mrs. Falconer. 'I wonner whaur ye learn that. But it's nae wonner. Evil communications corrupt gude mainners. Ye're a lost prodigal, Robert, like yer father afore ye. I hae jist been sittin' here thinkin' wi' mysel' whether it wadna be better for baith o' 's to lat ye gang an' reap the fruit o' yer doin's at ance; for the hard ways is the best road for transgressors. I'm no bund to keep ye.'
'Weel, weel, I s' awa' to Shargar. Him and me 'ill haud on thegither better nor you an' me, grannie. He's a puir cratur, but he can stick till a body.'
'What are ye haverin' aboot Shargar for, ye heepocreet loon? Ye'll no gang to Shargar, I s' warran'! Ye'll be efter that vile limmer that's turnt my honest hoose intil a sty this last fortnicht.'
'Grannie, I dinna ken what ye mean.'
'She kens, than. I sent her aff like ane o' Samson's foxes, wi' a firebrand at her tail. It's a pity it wasna tied atween the twa o' ye.'
'Preserve 's, grannie! Is't possible ye hae ta'en Shargar for ane o' wumman-kin'?'
'I ken naething aboot Shargar, I tell ye. I ken that Betty an' me tuik an ill-faured dame i' the bed i' the garret.'
'Cud it be his mither?' thought Robert in bewilderment; but he recovered himself in a moment, and answered,
'Shargar may be a quean efter a', for onything 'at I ken to the contrairy; but I aye tuik him for a loon. Faith, sic a quean as he'd mak!'
And careless to resist the ludicrousness of the idea, he burst into a loud fit of laughter, which did more to reassure his grannie than any amount of protestation could have done, however she pretended to take offence at his ill-timed merriment.
Seeing his grandmother staggered, Robert gathered courage to assume the offensive.
'But, granny! hoo ever Betty, no to say you, cud hae driven oot a puir half-stervit cratur like Shargar, even supposin' he oucht to hae been in coaties, and no in troosers--and the mither o' him run awa' an' left him--it's mair nor I can unnerstan.' I misdoobt me sair but he's gane and droont himsel'.'
Robert knew well enough that Shargar would not drown himself without at least bidding him good-bye; but he knew too that his grandmother could be wrought upon. Her conscience was more tender than her feelings; and this peculiarity occasioned part of the mutual non-understanding rather than misunderstanding between her grandson and herself. The first relation she bore to most that came near her was one of severity and rebuke; but underneath her cold outside lay a warm heart, to which conscience acted the part of a somewhat capricious stoker, now quenching its heat with the cold water of duty, now stirring it up with the poker of reproach, and ever treating it as an inferior and a slave. But her conscience was, on the whole, a better friend to her race than her heart; and, indeed, the conscience is always a better friend than a heart whose motions are undirected by it. From Falconer's account of her, however, I cannot help thinking that she not unfrequently took refuge in severity of tone and manner from the threatened ebullition of a feeling which she could not otherwise control, and which she was ashamed to manifest. Possibly conscience had spoken more and more gently as its behests were more and more readily obeyed, until the heart began to gather courage, and at last, as in many old people, took the upper hand, which was outwardly inconvenient to one of Mrs. Falconer's temperament. Hence, in doing the kindest thing in the world, she would speak in a tone of command, even of rebuke, as if she were compelling the performance of the most unpleasant duty in the person who received the kindness. But the human heart is hard to analyze, and, indeed, will not submit quietly to the operation, however gently performed. Nor is the result at all easy to put into words. It is best shown in actions.
Again, it may appear rather strange that Robert should be able to talk in such an easy manner to his grandmother, seeing he had been guilty of concealment, if not of deception. But she had never been so actively severe towards Robert as she had been towards her own children. To him she was wonderfully gentle for her nature, and sought to exercise the saving harshness which she still believed necessary, solely in keeping from him every enjoyment of life which the narrowest theories as to the rule and will of God could set down as worldly. Frivolity, of which there was little in this sober boy, was in her eyes a vice; loud laughter almost a crime; cards, and novelles, as she called them, were such in her estimation, as to be beyond my powers of characterization. Her commonest injunction was, 'Noo be douce,'--that is sober--uttered to the soberest boy she could ever have known. But Robert was a large-hearted boy, else this life would never have had to be written; and so, through all this, his deepest nature came into unconscious contact with that of his noble old grandmother. There was nothing small about either of them. Hence Robert was not afraid of her. He had got more of her nature in him than of her son's. She and his own mother had more share in him than his father, though from him he inherited good qualities likewise.
He had concealed his doings with Shargar simply because he believed they could not be done if his grandmother knew of his plans. Herein he did her less than justice. But so unpleasant was concealment to his nature, and so much did the dread of discovery press upon him, that the moment he saw the thing had come out into the daylight of her knowledge, such a reaction of relief took place as, operating along with his deep natural humour and the comical circumstance of the case, gave him an ease and freedom of communication which he had never before enjoyed with her. Likewise there was a certain courage in the boy which, if his own natural disposition had not been so quiet that he felt the negations of her rule the less, might have resulted in underhand doings of a very different kind, possibly, from those of benevolence.
He must have been a strange being to look at, I always think, at this point of his development, with his huge nose, his black eyes, his lanky figure, and his sober countenance, on which a smile was rarely visible, but from which burst occasional guffaws of laughter.
At the words 'droont himsel',' Mrs. Falconer started.
'Rin, laddie, rin,' she said, 'an' fess him back direckly! Betty! Betty! gang wi' Robert and help him to luik for Shargar. Ye auld, blin', doited body, 'at says ye can see, and canna tell a lad frae a lass!'
'Na, na, grannie. I'm no gaein' oot wi' a dame like her trailin' at my fut. She wad be a sair hinnerance to me. Gin Shargar be to be gotten--that is, gin he be in life--I s' get him wantin' Betty. And gin ye dinna ken him for the crater ye fand i' the garret, he maun be sair changed sin' I left him there.'
'Weel, weel, Robert, gang yer wa's. But gin ye be deceivin' me, may the Lord--forgie ye, Robert, for sair ye'll need it.'
'Nae fear o' that, grannie,' returned Robert, from the street door, and vanished.
Mrs. Falconer stalked--No, I will not use that word of the gait of a woman like my friend's grandmother. 'Stately stept she butt the hoose' to Betty. She felt strangely soft at the heart, Robert not being yet proved a reprobate; but she was not therefore prepared to drop one atom of the dignity of her relation to her servant.
'Betty,' she said, 'ye hae made a mistak.'
'What's that, mem?' returned Betty.
'It wasna a lass ava; it was that crater Shargar.'
'Ye said it was a lass yersel' first, mem.'
'Ye ken weel eneuch that I'm short sichtit, an' hae been frae the day o' my birth.'
'I'm no auld eneuch to min' upo' that, mem,' returned Betty revengefully, but in an undertone, as if she did not intend her mistress to hear, And although she heard well enough, her mistress adopted the subterfuge. 'But I'll sweir the crater I saw was in cwytes (petticoats).'
'Sweir not at all, Betty. Ye hae made a mistak ony gait.'
'Wha says that, mem?'
'Aweel, gin he be tellin' the trowth--'
'Daur ye mint (insinuate) to me that a son o' mine wad tell onything but the trowth?'
'Na, na, mem. But gin that wasna a quean, ye canna deny but she luikit unco like ane, and no a blate (bashful) ane eyther.'
'Gin he was a loon, he wadna luik like a blate lass, ony gait, Betty. And there ye're wrang.'
'Weel, weel, mem, hae 't yer ain gait,' muttered Betty.
'I wull hae 't my ain gait,' retorted her mistress, 'because it's the richt gait, Betty. An' noo ye maun jist gang up the stair, an' get the place cleant oot an' put in order.'
'I wull do that, mem.'
'Ay wull ye. An' luik weel aboot, Betty, you that can see sae weel, in case there suld be ony cattle aboot; for he's nane o' the cleanest, yon dame!'
'I wull do that, mem.'
'An' gang direckly, afore he comes back.'
'Wha comes back?'
'Robert, of course.'
'What for that?'
''Cause he's comin' wi' 'im.'
'What he 's comin' wi' 'im?'
'Ca' 't she, gin ye like. It's Shargar.'
'Wha says that?' exclaimed Betty, sniffing and starting at once.
'I say that. An' ye gang an' du what I tell ye, this minute.'
Betty obeyed instantly; for the tone in which the last words were spoken was one she was not accustomed to dispute. She only muttered as she went, 'It 'll a' come upo' me as usual.'
Betty's job was long ended before Robert returned. Never dreaming that Shargar could have gone back to the old haunt, he had looked for him everywhere before that occurred to him as a last chance. Nor would he have found him even then, for he would not have thought of his being inside the deserted house, had not Shargar heard his footsteps in the street.
He started up from his stool saying, 'That's Bob!' but was not sure enough to go to the door: he might be mistaken; it might be the landlord! He heard the feet stop and did not move; but when he heard them begin to go away again, he rushed to the door, and bawled on the chance at the top of his voice, 'Bob! Bob!'
'Eh! ye crater!' said Robert, 'ir ye there efter a'?
'Eh! Bob,' exclaimed Shargar, and burst into tears. 'I thocht ye wad come efter me.'
'Of coorse,' answered Robert, coolly. 'Come awa' hame.'
'Whaur til?' asked Shargar in dismay.
'Hame to yer ain bed at my grannie's.'
'Na, na,' said Shargar, hurriedly, retreating within the door of the hovel. 'Na, na, Bob, lad, I s' no du that. She's an awfu' wuman, that grannie o' yours. I canna think hoo ye can bide wi' her. I'm weel oot o' her grups, I can tell ye.'
It required a good deal of persuasion, but at last Robert prevailed upon Shargar to return. For was not Robert his tower of strength? And if Robert was not frightened at his grannie, or at Betty, why should he be? At length they entered Mrs. Falconer's parlour, Robert dragging in Shargar after him, having failed altogether in encouraging him to enter after a more dignified fashion.
It must be remembered that although Shargar was still kilted, he was not the less trowsered, such as the trowsers were. It makes my heart ache to think of those trowsers--not believing trowsers essential to blessedness either, but knowing the superiority of the old Roman costume of the kilt.
No sooner had Mrs. Falconer cast her eyes upon him than she could not but be convinced of the truth of Robert's averment.
'Here he is, grannie; and gin ye bena saitisfeed yet--'
'Haud yer tongue, laddie. Ye hae gi'en me nae cause to doobt yer word.'
Indeed, during Robert's absence, his grandmother had had leisure to perceive of what an absurd folly she had been guilty. She had also had time to make up her mind as to her duty with regard to Shargar; and the more she thought about it, the more she admired the conduct of her grandson, and the better she saw that it would be right to follow his example. No doubt she was the more inclined to this benevolence that she had as it were received her grandson back from the jaws of death.
When the two lads entered, from her arm-chair Mrs. Falconer examined Shargar from head to foot with the eye of a queen on her throne, and a countenance immovable in stern gentleness, till Shargar would gladly have sunk into the shelter of the voluminous kilt from the gaze of those quiet hazel eyes.
At length she spoke:
'Robert, tak him awa'.'
'Whaur'll I tak him till, grannie?'
'Tak him up to the garret. Betty 'ill ha' ta'en a tub o' het water up there 'gen this time, and ye maun see that he washes himsel' frae heid to fut, or he s' no bide an 'oor i' my hoose. Gang awa' an' see till 't this minute.'
But she detained them yet awhile with various directions in regard of cleansing, for the carrying out of which Robert was only too glad to give his word. She dismissed them at last, and Shargar by and by found himself in bed, clean, and, for the first time in his life, between a pair of linen sheets--not altogether to his satisfaction, for mere order and comfort were substituted for adventure and success.
But greater trials awaited him. In the morning he was visited by Brodie, the tailor, and Elshender, the shoemaker, both of whom he held in awe as his superiors in the social scale, and by them handled and measured from head to feet, the latter included; after which he had to lie in bed for three days, till his clothes came home; for Betty had carefully committed every article of his former dress to the kitchen fire, not without a sense of pollution to the bottom of her kettle. Nor would he have got them for double the time, had not Robert haunted the tailor, as well as the soutar, like an evil conscience, till they had finished them. Thus grievous was Shargar's introduction to the comforts of respectability. Nor did he like it much better when he was dressed, and able to go about; for not only was he uncomfortable in his new clothes, which, after the very easy fit of the old ones, felt like a suit of plate-armour, but he was liable to be sent for at any moment by the awful sovereignty in whose dominions he found himself, and which, of course, proceeded to instruct him not merely in his own religious duties, but in the religious theories of his ancestors, if, indeed, Shargar's ancestors ever had any. And now the Shorter Catechism seemed likely to be changed into the Longer Catechism; for he had it Sundays as we'll as Saturdays, besides Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted, Baxter's Saint's Rest, Erskine's Gospel Sonnets, and other books of a like kind. Nor was it any relief to Shargar that the gloom was broken by the incomparable Pilgrim's Progress and the Holy War, for he cared for none of these things. Indeed, so dreary did he find it all, that his love to Robert was never put to such a severe test. But for that, he would have run for it. Twenty times a day was he so tempted.
At school, though it was better, yet it was bad. For he was ten times as much laughed at for his new clothes, though they were of the plainest, as he had been for his old rags. Still he bore all the pangs of unwelcome advancement without a grumble, for the sake of his friend alone, whose dog he remained as much as ever. But his past life of cold and neglect, and hunger and blows, and homelessness and rags, began to glimmer as in the distance of a vaporous sunset, and the loveless freedom he had then enjoyed gave it a bloom as of summer-roses.
I wonder whether there may not have been in some unknown corner of the old lady's mind this lingering remnant of paganism, that, in reclaiming the outcast from the error of his ways, she was making an offering acceptable to that God whom her mere prayers could not move to look with favour upon her prodigal son Andrew. Nor from her own acknowledged religious belief as a background would it have stuck so fiery off either. Indeed, it might have been a partial corrective of some yet more dreadful articles of her creed,--which she held, be it remembered, because she could not help it.