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which takes its rise in a region lying beyond the boundaries of Conditioned Thought, passes by caves honeycombed by Memory. There, sweeping out the débris, it bears on its surface masses of flotsam and jetsam, which the traveller on the banks, snatching at, bears some fragment aloft, crying, 'A poor thing, but mine own;' and alas! the fact is, it is somebody else's."
N. N. I don't follow you; and, oh dear, if I wasn't so faint and empty and hungry, I should try and tell you some of Madame Bonmot's witty sayings. The only one I can think of is called forth by my present sufferings. Dinner was late one day, and an old Scotchman who was there said to the hostess, 666 'Mem, I am aware of a prodigious sinking and gnawing at the pit o' my stamach; ye ken it's like the Spartan boy.' 'Then,' said Madame Bonmot, if it is, it'll not be the first time the Fox and the Pitt have met in opposition."" It was very ready.
P. N. I defy you to tell another. What becomes of all the good things that are said to have been said? One reads in novels of sparkling, brilliantly sustained conversations, audacious repartees, piquant replies; but rarely, if ever, are these given verbatim. Humour and wit are very perishable articles, and don't travel well.
N. N. Wait till I introduce you to my aunt, and then
P. N. I don't know how it strikes you, but I think we are all getting very prosy. We have attained to the stupidity of "the grey barbarian" without shaking off the conventionality of "the Christian cad." What do you say to our hailing the first omsteamer I mean, and returning to our ancestors?
P. G. Do let us! I shall be glad that you should all have an opportunity of buying my grandfather's poems.
N. N. You have only to mention that you have met Madame Bonmot's niece to ensure a welcome everywhere.
P. N. There's nothing like having a friend at Court and an uncle in Parliament.
P. S. I must get my father to bring out a new edition of the 'Rat
P. N. Hi there's a steamer bearing down on us, perhaps sent in search of us by
P. G. My grandfather the poet.
N. N. Or by my aunt the novelist.
P. S. Or by my father the
P. N. Or by my uncle the member.
Omnes. After all, ancestors have their uses, and we must not be too hard on them. Where should we be without them? Echo answers, "Simply nowhere." O. J.
THE CONFESSION OF TIBBIE LAW.
THE minister was in his study preparing his sermon for the coming Sunday at least, he would have said he was preparing it if anybody had asked him what he was doing. The table was strewn with loose sheets of paper and one or two big books of reference. The minister was reposing in an exhausted attitude on the sofa, which being rather short, forced him to hang his feet over the end, and display the soles of his boots. Next Sunday would be only the fifth since Mr Morton had come to the parish. He was a young man of talent, and had come full of hope and confidence, nothing doubting of his power to waken up the sleepy farmers and farmlabourers with his cultured eloquence, and fill their minds with entirely new light. But he had not hitherto met with the appreciation or the notice he expected. He had been warned by some of his elders that many of the old people would be averse to new ideas, but they had not seemed in the least roused or interested by anything he said, not even shocked. He would have liked to shock them. He had quoted Herbert Spencer and Matthew Arnold, and had been listened to with perfect serenity; he had praised Keble's 'Christian Year' and the 'Lyra Anglicana,' and had spoken patronisingly of Cardinal Newman, but the congregation had preserved its usual stolid demeanour. Perhaps his new parishioners had never even heard of the distinguished persons he alluded to. It was disgusting!
But this afternoon Mr Morton felt better. He had mixed for once in intelligent society; he had
sat in a drawing-room which was full of sweetness and light; he had partaken of food which appealed to the cultured sense. other words, he had been to luncheon with Sir George and Lady Cunningham, who were the largest landowners in the parish, and were, besides, a pleasant, intelligent young couple. Mr Morton raised himself a little on the sofa to survey his study. It was not an uncomfortable room by any means; and when the manse had been renovated after the late minister's death, this study had been pronounced by the heritors who paid for it to be "perfect. model of convenience." Perhaps, from an aesthetic point of view, it still left something to be desired. There was a new Brussels carpet on the floor to replace the old drugget; it was a sober carpet, and had a complicated geometrical pattern in mustard-colour on a sage-green ground. The old red flock paper had been taken from the walls, and the new one was of a crushed strawberry tint; the doors, shutters, and mantelpiece were painted to match, and relieved with panels of chocolate-brown. House-painters, when left to follow their own taste, seem fond of chocolate-brown. The purple leather sofa and arm-chair, being perfectly good, had been left as they were. It was all much more comfortable than anything the minister had been accustomed to, but somehow the tout ensemble was not exhilarating. He lifted his eyes once more to the chocolate-brown cornice, and heaved a sigh as he turned again to his sermon. There was to be a good deal of speculation in this next sermon upon the
possible future of the human race, and upon whether life was worth living, and there should be poetry in it, of a depressing and pessimistic nature. Lady Cunningham might very likely go to church, and she at least was a cultivated person, and would understand. It would really be worth while to buy a dictionary of quotations, if those people were to be at home all the autumn.
Before he had made up his mind to begin work, the door opened, and the old housekeeper thrust in her head. Mr Morton had thought himself fortunate, when he arrived, in being able to retain the services of the housekeeper who had been with his predecessor. She was a respectable elderly woman who understood her work, but she did not understand, and indeed had no patience with, the refinements which the new minister would have liked to introduce, and her manner seemed to him familiar, if not insolent. He dared not find fault, nor even hint his disapproval, but he writhed inwardly when she dashed into his room without knocking, or banged the door to with her foot.
"There a woman seekin' ye," she said, briefly.
"Did you tell her I was engaged?"
"I telt her ye'd likely be sweer to come," returned the housekeeper. "That's her gude-mither, auld Tibbie Law, that's deein', an' she was speirin' what way Mr Henderson never came to put up a bit prayer. They couldna gar her ken, puir body, that he's awa'; but her gude-dochter thinks she'll maybe be content wi' you."
This was not a summons that was flattering to Mr Morton's vanity, and he took credit to himself for the calm and dignified tone in which he signified his
willingness to go and see his aged parishioner, as soon as he could make time to do so. The housekeeper withdrew with this message, and the minister sat down again to his sermon. Mr Morton hated visiting; it was a duty he had always shrunk from, even when his work had been in a town, and here in the country it was fifty times worse. For one thing, the distances were so great. He kept no horse or pony, and could not have managed it if he had; he had to trust entirely to his own legs, which, though long, were more adapted for hanging over the end of the sofa than for taking rough country walks. In town he had been accustomed to take the air in omnibuses and tramway cars; here he had to tramp long miles through the mud, and then be scolded by his housekeeper for bringing so much of it in on his boots. Besides, the receptions he had met with had not always been very cordial. He found the farmers distrustful and taciturn, their wives uninteresting; and as to their daughters, his conscience did not permit him to talk much to young ladies, lest he should awaken hopes which might never be realised. the poor people were certainly very thick-headed and ignorant, and would never understand him. True, he had not as yet made their acquaintance : there was time enough for that. Mr Morton dipped his pen in the ink, and tried to forget the interruption he had just met with, but somehow his ideas refused to come. He had a tender conscience, as has been seen, and a kind heart, and he could not put away the thought of the poor old woman who had sent for him. How sad it would be if she were to die without the aid of his ghostly counsel!-how
he would reproach himself! True, he had already paid one visit today, and could not reasonably be expected to do more; but a pastor's time belongs to his flock, and he was ready to sacrifice himself. In another half-hour he was in the village, where he soon found out Tibbie Law's cottage. stood a little apart, and had once had a garden, the remains of which gave the cottage a picturesque look. The white rose and the honeysuckle which grew on each side of the door had not been pruned for years, and covered the low redtiled roof with their interlaced branches and clusters of blossom; while amongst the loose cracked flagstones near the door some blue columbines and lupins still flourished, in company with an old tin can, a broken milk-strainer, and an iron pot half full of potatoes, in which a hen and two chicks were picking. The inmates of the cottage seemed to be fond of flowers, for a pot of geraniums stood in front of each of the small windows, and more than answered the purpose of blinds, for the room was so dark that the minister when he first came in could distinguish nothing except the tall figure of Tibbie's daughter-in-law, who moved forward to meet him, a little child clinging to her skirts. When his eyes got accustomed to the darkness, he could see that the room, though small, had little of the bareness of poverty: it was close, untidy, and crowded with unnecessary things. The large mahogany chest of drawers was piled with a loaf of bread, two cheeses, and some evil-smelling compound in an earthenware bowl. There were also two arm-chairs, which looked as if they had once seen better days. One was placed near the fire to receive the bannocks as they were taken off the
girdle; the other seemed intended for the accommodation of visitors, and was drawn close to the boxbed, to which the woman directed Mr Morton by a movement of her hand. "She's sleepin', surely," said the daughter-in-law. "She's gleg enough whiles. Are ye sleepin', gude-mither? here the minister to ye."
Mr Morton stepped nearer, and looked at the figure in the bed. It was a small old face, so curiously puckered with wrinkles that the skin looked like crumpled parchment; the eyes were dim and glassy; but when the old woman roused herself on hearing her daughter's speech, the film suddenly cleared away, and they shone out so black and piercing as almost to startle the visitor. She held out a claw-like hand, while the sharp eyes peered into his face.
"I hope you do not suffer much," he said, not knowing what to say, and feeling rather embarrassed by her scrutiny of him. The old woman either did not hear, or did not think the question worth replying to.
"Ou ay," she said, indifferently, letting her head fall back upon the pillow. "Sit doun sit doun. What's the use o' you, Eelen, that ye dinna tak awa' the cats frae aneath the minister?"
Mr Morton jumped up nervously-he had a horror of cats. One had jumped off the chair as he was going to sit upon it, and Helen, approaching negligently, carried away two half-grown kittens which had also been reposing in the depths of the arm-chair. This incident disturbed Mr Morton so much that he did not know what to do or say next, and he sat down again in silence. He felt that he was not fulfilling the duties
of his calling, and apparently the same idea occurred to Tibbie, for she murmured, "Mr Henderson, he was a fine man-eh! what a gude man that was! mony's the prayer he's putten up-ay, he was grand o't."
"I am quite ready to engage in prayer," said Mr Morton, stiffly, "if you wish it." He had once put together a form of prayer suitable for sick persons, adapted from various liturgies, and this he now made use of, though he felt that it was quite thrown away upon his two auditors, who paid no more attention to him than did the cats or the hens. Then he moved forward, to take leave of the sick
"Ye're for awa'?" she said, as she gripped his hand again—"weel, I thank ye for your call, and your bit prayer. It'll maybe be heard abune. The Lord, He hears a' thing, ye ken."
Mr Morton took this for dismissal, and tried to draw his hand away, but the aged fingers did not relax their grasp, the piercing eyes still shone full into his.
"If a body had made a covenant," said Tibbie, slowly and with an effort-"wi' ane ye ken o-if he had gotten a power ower me like couldna you now, that's a minister, maybe gar him let me gang free?"
"She must be mad," thought Mr Morton in bewilderment. "I ought never to have been brought here," he said reproachfully to Helen, who seemed to be watch
ing the scene attentively and without surprise, and who made no reply. "What does she mean?" he cried at length, impatiently. "Whom is she speaking of? Can you not answer?"
"I daurna name him," said Helen, doggedly, as she stooped to turn one of the bannocks on the
The old woman sighed wearily.
"It was lang syne," she said, "when my gudeman wrocht at the farm o' Drumhead. It was near about the New Year time, and the kye were late o' calvin', an' the grieve's wife wouldna gie us wer pint o' milk, an' me wi' a sick bairn! an' I was mad at her. And I e'en gaed awa' to the byre an' I took doun the coo's band, the hendmost ane, an' drawed it like as I was milkin', and I turned it east, an' north, an' west, an' south, and aye as I turned it I ca'ed upon the name o’
"Well?" said Mr Morton. "The de'il, ye ken," said Tibbie, in a frightened whisper.