THREE SONS |
1 AND A MOTHER ft
AND A MOTHER
AUTHOR oj "OLD MOLE," "BOUND THE CORNER,"
I saw a dead man in a fight
and I think that man was I
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
TO MY BROTHER
J. F. C.
The shadow-play of which this tale is made
Is also yours. It moved before your mind
And mingled with the visible and stayed
Explanatory, mystic, there behind
All knowledge, always, powerful, a pit
Of ghosts from whom our being springs. They dwelt
Where you and I were born. Their lives are knit
With yours and mine, and what they did and felt
Dictates what you and I must feel and do
In our own shadow-play through which we move,
Hardly less ghosts than they. If they were true
We have our life and love that truth to prove.
I. THE FOUNDATIONS OF A FAMILY
II. CHILDHOOD DAYS .
III. THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD .
IV. THE PETER LESLIES
V. SUFFERING ....
VIII. TIBBY M'PHAIL .
IX. THE DESCENT UPON THRIGSBY
X. MAKING PLANS
XI. A LETTER FROM EDINBURGH
XII. JOHN ASTONISHES THE FAMILY ,
XIII. CLIBRAN HALL .
XIV. GREIG AND ALLISON-GREIG .
XV. MARGARET DISSATISFIED
XVI. CATEATON'S BANK
XVII. SELINA LESLIE .
XVIII. JOHN'S WEDDING .
XIX. AGNES OF THE LAKE
XX. HUBERT AS DEVIL'S ADVOCATE .
XXI. ANDREW'S WILL .
XXII. A LETTER FROM BERLIN
XXIII. THE EMPTY HOUSE 255
XXIV. FANNY SHAW . . . . . . . 271
XXV. TOM AND AGNES 279
XXVI. THE STRUGGLE WITH VANITY .... 289
XXVII. AMBITION 299
XXVIII. TOM'S MARRIAGE 308
XXIX. NEWS FROM JOHN 326
XXX. MORLEY STREET TRANSFIGURED . . . 341
XXXI. SANCHO WILCOX 358
XXXII. MRS. LESLIE IN DISTRESS .... 372
XXXIII. ACOMB TO THE RESCUE 385
XXXIV. JOHN'S RETURN 414
XXXV. A LETTER FROM ROME 431
XXXVL MRS. ELIAS BROADBENT 436
XXXVII. CATHERINE 451
XXXVIII. MR. JOSEPH MOON AND THE SUCCESSION . 470
XXXIX. BELL, LAWRIE & Co 488
XL. DISASTER 503
XLI. A LETTER FROM LONDON .... 524
XLII. MARGARET GATHERS HER FAMILY ROUND
THREE SONS AND A
THE FOUNDATIONS OF A FAMILY
THE history of a family commences at the point
where it begins to be ashamed of its origin. The
Lawries therefore look no farther back than Margaret
Keith, the laird's daughter who married the pale, large-
eyed minister, Thomas Nicol Lawrie, son of a butcher,
but A.M. of Edinburgh. When he died she brought up
his five children on ninety pounds a year. She need not
have done this, for her brothers were thriving men, but
as they had never forgotten the butcher behind Thomas'
degree they were unable to offer help without condescen-
sion. Neither without condescension could Margaret ac-
cept so much as good-day from man, woman or child.
As minister's wife she had ruled firmly in the wide parish
and had clothed herself in a dignity of which she was not
going to allow the death of her husband to strip her.
She had a grim struggle with Death, fought so stren-
uously and with so fierce a spirit that the gentle Thomas,
who had no intention of dying, could not bear up against
it, saw his condition as he had seen so much else, through
12 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
her eyes, and gave up his soul with the sweet smile which
had been almost his only gift and more than any other
quality had brought him out of the slaying of animals
into the cure of souls. At first Margaret took his smile
for a sign that she was winning, but almost at once she
knew that, as always at crucial moments, he was evading!
her, going over in his heart to the side of her adversary,
going, moreover, maddeningly, out of amiability and what
she called "that foolish weakness of yours, Tom." Also,
when he smiled like that, she never could resist giving him
what he wanted, and now as he smiled she could not re-
sist, and, desiring death, he was taken. She watched the
smile die out of his face as it turned to a mask of a spirit-
ual beauty and strength that shocked and offended his
wife, so little had she suspected it in his life. Yet she
could not but realise it: there was the shock of truth
upon her mind, and as a widow she was vowed to him as
she never had been as a wife, and with all the obstinacy
of her nature, she was more firmly in revolt against the
vulgarity of the butcher and the shop. She cut them
right out of her life and, now that he was dead, set the
Rev. T. Lawrie, A.M., above all the Keiths with their
lands, and their ancestors, knights and courtiers though
some of them had been. And when the Keiths conde-
scended to the children of the Rev. T. Lawrie she routed
them, applied to the Widows' Pension Fund, put on her
jack boots and rode into the nearest town where there
was a good academy. There she took a wee house, gasp-
ing at the thought of the rent before she knew whether
she was going to have an income or no.
However, there came the assurance that she would have
ninety pounds a year and she vacated the manse without
telling her brother or anyone in the parish except Doctor
M'Phail, who in the kindness of his heart made her an
THE FOUNDATIONS OF A FAMILY 13
offer of forty pounds a year if she would take charge of
a natural child of his, a girl of seven, and bring her up
with her own family. The offer was rejected without
indignation, but Margaret promised that she would, as
far as possible, keep an eye on the child, who, otherwise,
would be left to the mercies of her mother, a feckless
trollop though a beauty. The Doctor had been the best
friend of the minister and his talk had been the widow's
"We'll not have another minister like him. Strong at
the praying, he was, without being terrible. His preach-
ing could turn the whole congregation of wicked sinners
like myself into little children. Aye, he was a poet, and
had he lived we should have had a new paraphrase of the
Psalms. When I look at his sons I wonder if any of 'em
will beat him, will there be one that has the gift was in
him, though he but half knew it himself. There's Tom the
spit of yourself, and John's a flesher blood and bone. I
would say Jamie had most of his father's sweetness but
for the awful rages he will get into. A good lad that, but
there's his mark on every one of his brothers and sisters
as you know."
Until her widowhood Margaret had taken her children
in the lump, Jamie, Tom, John, Margaret and Mary, as
good Keiths. As she watched them now, she decided that
the two girls were Keiths, Jamie with his terrible temper
unaccountable, and Tom pure Lawrie in spirit, with John
mere Lawrie in flesh. In feature Tom was the most like
his father, but he had his mother's expression, who there-
fore, loved him with more than maternal love. It was
Tom who would be the good boy to uphold the family,
Tom who would win the fame denied his father by his
early death, Tom whose destiny his brothers and sisters
i 4 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
must serve if they and the world were to meet on good
There was something of revenge in Margaret's spirit.
If the world would only allow her ninety pounds a year
with which to prepare her children to make a figure in it,
it must not in the future complain if when the time came
they demanded their due to the uttermost farthing. Eng-
land was a rich country. There were Keiths in England
getting riches out of her and making themselves fine men,
and there were poor lads from St. John's Town and
Motherwell who had gone over into England and were
richer even than any of the Keiths. The Macleans had
already a Baronet in the family and his son a clerk in
the House of Lords.
Margaret was a passionate widow. She hated being
one of many widows receiving charity and she used to
say to Tom:
"We'll pay them back, won't we, Tommy ? Ten years
at most will be nine hundred pounds. We'll pay that
back easy when we're rich and you're a fine man."
And Tom used to say :
"It's Jamie'll be the grand man. He's the one at the
academy, except in the arithmetic, where he's a born fool.
I can beat him at the arithmetic and John would if he
weren't a lazy gowk. Besides Jamie'll be the first to go."
THE wee house in which the Lawries were brought
up was in a small grey town on the sea looking over
to the hills of Cumberland. These were their Blue Moun-
tains beyond which lay adventure and five kingdoms each
waiting for its prince or princess. Four kingdoms and a
half would be more accurate, for, when John thought of
his, he decided that he would have to sell half of it in
order to have some money by him. He had already begun
to put by his bawbees, whereas Tom used to lend his upon
interest to Jamie, who would squander all he laid hands
on in buying fishing tackle or kites he was a great one
for kite-flying or goodies and ribbons for the lassies, his
sisters and others. He crippled himself for weeks once
in order to buy his sister Mary, the only student of the
family, a copy of Lempriere's Classical Dictionary in
which to verify her references in the verses she was
always writing, though he would tease her over her pro-
ductions until she wept. His unkindness, however, was
forgotten in his generosity and she was more devoted to
him than he knew and often saved him from the conse-
quences of his escapades both at home and at the acad-
emy. She would help him with his arithmetic and got
him to teach her Greek, as he learned it, for as a girl she
was precluded from that study. As a result Greek was
16 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
the only subject to which he applied himself, for all the
others he took easily and brilliantly, digesting just enough
to satisfy or to hoodwink the dominie. The only two
prizes he ever got were for Greek and for Latin verses,
and both these with performances so excellent that the
dominie, lifted by enthusiasm above routine, had visions
of an education leading even unto Parnassus, or, failing
that, a Professor's chair. He called on Margaret and
praised Jamie to the skies, not only as a scholar, but also
as a moral influence.
"It is fine," he said, "how they look up to him. It is
the dream of every schoolmaster to have a boy like that
pass through his hands, to have at least one name rising
above the crowd of ministers and farmers and clerks that
constitute his enormous and dour family."
"Aye," said Margaret, "you'll hear of my sons."
"The lad should go to Edinburgh, not only for the
learning, but for his character, to be among great men,
in a city where he can see any day illustrious men shed-
ding their lustre upon the streets."
"I've good promises for my sons," replied Margaret.
"They're to go among the English."
"That's a pity," said the dominie.
"Pity? My brothers and cousins are there. It is a
great rich country."
"It is a country without character if history goes for
anything, though I'll not deny they have great universi-
"There'll be no university where my sons are going,
except the university of life."
"There are some characters need stiffening for that."
"Would you send my son Tom to the university ?"
"I would not. He's a good lad, Tom, but no scholar."
"He has twice the sense of his brother."
"I'm not denying that. Sense isn't everything."
"It has been to me." Margaret was growing impatient
with the melancholy man's insistence on a project which
she had no intention of considering. "It has been to me.
Where would I be without it?"
"Well, I'll give Jamie his due. He'll find his own way
"Aye," replied Margaret, "and Tom will find a way
out for all of us."
That in effect was Margaret's programme for Tom.
She could take charge of him as she never could of Jamie,
who had adopted a position separate from and annoyingly
above the family. There was no assertiveness about him.
He maintained his position rather by absence of opinions
than by any expression of them. Obedient and consid-
erate to his mother, he had, she felt, enormous reserva-
tions in his acceptance of her authority. He eluded her,
not as his father had done with a touching and inspiring
smile, but with a nervous blankness that was almost de-
fiance. In this he was entirely without support. Even
Mary was secret in the allegiance she owed him and was
openly against him in the periods of disgrace to which
he was by general consent damned after his "rages."
These had been frequent in him when he was a child,
nearly always inexplicable, coming with hardly a sign of
a storm, tearing out of him in his exasperation at some
stupidity in Tom, some slyness in John, or some slavish-
ness in his sisters. Only once did he turn on his mother.
He was working in the kitchen, writing an essay for a
prize (which he did not win). His mother was cooking
at the same table and, being rather happy, made a clatter
with her spoons and dumped down her pastry-board with
a careless slam. He did not mind that, but when she as-
sumed a kindly voice and said : "There'll be pastry bits
18 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
to-night, Jamie," he growled out : "I'd liefer you'd give
them to the pigs." '"Pigs, indeed !" "Ay, they're better
than we are wi' our damned pride. Aye, I'd liefer be
one in a sow's litter than what I am." He said this in a
thin furious voice that showed all the blistering heat that
was in him.
Margaret stared at him, took up a spoon, put it down
and took it up again.
"Leave the room," she said.
Jamie took up his essay and tore it across and across,
crumpled the pieces up and thrust them into his trousers
pocket. Then with a sob he plunged out of the room, be-
wildered, angry, blind with shame, shaken with a despair-
ing mortification at his inability to understand what it
was in himself that could so break down his control and
mock his natural desire for affection, peace, good-humour.
He did not even know what he had said something
about pigs so complete was the possession under which
he laboured. The pain in his mother's face was clear
enough, but not less clear than the anger and the injured
pride and outraged authority, things which that power
in him must deny. It was not enough to avoid them.
That was somehow mean and revolting to him. Not to
give her pain would have been sweet to him if there
could have been any other means of escaping it. There
was none. The wrath had to be evaded or faced and
he could not but do the last.
He was fifteen when he was guilty of this explosion
and his mother chose to punish him by sewing up his
trousers pockets, saying as she did so that it would keep
his hands out of them and prevent him slouching. Also,
she refused to speak to him and addressed herself to him
when necessary through his brothers. He kept his mouth
shut for a whole fortnight and avoided the house as much
CHILDHOOD DAYS 19
as possible. At first it was some comfort to him that his
disgrace threw a shadow over the whole household, but
his brothers and sisters quickly recovered and he was left
to grizzle over the problem of his inability to be as happy
as they. What brought him the greatest suffering was
that he could not remember what he had said; not the
words, hardly the sense, though the feeling was plain
enough : only too plainly evil. Only the evil, the sins
denounced in the kirk by the minister had a terrifying
effect on him; they were disgusting in their cold malig-
nancy. This thing was all of whirling fire and magnifi-
cently strong, bearing the weight of his ordinarily de-
spondent personality as easily as a feather. But it was
unrecognised and ignored: only its strange effect upon
himself was seen and regarded as a nuisance, so that he
was denied the affection for which he hungered.
Only Mary was unable to bear his silence and to leave
it to him to break it. She was worried because he was
getting into trouble at the academy, for leaving his tasks
undone. One night she followed him up to the room he
shared with Tom and found him glaring out of the win-
dow into the neighbour's garden. She sat on the bed and
opened the Anabasis of Xenophon on which he should
have been working and started to construe the sixteen
lines he had to do for the morning, and to write down the
words, Greek and English, alternately.
"What are you doing, wee Mary ?"
"I'm doing our Greek, Jamie."
"To hell wi' the Greek," he said. "I'll soon be finished
wi' the academy and all that. A wish I could be a man
all at once, I do."
"I'd understand a thing or two, then, maybe. Ech! I
hate them creeping into your body inch by inch, I do."
20 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
"Is there wunnerful thoughts in your head, Jamie?"
"Never a one."
"Never a one? Better the Greek than nothing."
Jamie flung himself on the bed, and together they
plodded through the page of the wisdom of Socrates.
It was hard for the boy to keep his attention fixed. Sud-
denly he sat up and said :
"I'd feel better, wee Mary, if I didna think Tom sic a
"Tom! Ye mustn't judge."
"I dinna judge, I know."
With that he began to whistle. Then he laughed.
"We're all planned for, to be put out, me in the Keith
mills to keep a place warm for Tom. You're to go out to
the Edinburgh Keiths, that's Mrs. Forshaw, to be a gover-
ness and to make footprints for Margaret to step in. I've
been thinking of Napoleon and wondering what he would
do in the like circumstances. He wasn't so unlike me,
with a wonderful mother and all."
"The idea! Napoleon!"
"Not so like neither. I would hate to be a soldier.
I'd rather die."
"D'you think you'll remember the Greek to-morrow?"
"I'll make a show. You're a good little maggot, wee
Mary, and I'll read your poems to-night, and I'll go down
and tell my mother I'm a beast and a pollution of the air
she and her children breathe." He drew in his breath,
for he had just remembered what he had said to her. "By
gorm !" he cried. "What a !"
"What is it?" asked Mary.
"The things in my head'll no fit into yours."
With that he went down into the kitchen and apologised
to his mother, who told him she was proud of him and
bade him never forget that he was a Keith as well as a
CHILDHOOD DAYS 21
Lawrie, and, to boot, a minister's son. These were then
three good reasons why it behoved him not to be as other
Margaret had been and still was rather frightened and
was talking her way back to assurance. Jamie was much
too fearful of her to conceive that such could be her case
and she seemed to him only to be taking an unfair ad-
vantage of his apology. He was filled with resentment
and disliked being told not to be as other men when there
were so many whom he could admire and wish to love. -
Doctor M'Phail, Ben Lamont, the minister's son, who was
at Oxford University, the Customs officer and Farquhar-
son, the tailor, and his Uncle Shiel, who was a farmer in
the Glen Kens and with his open house gave his nephews
and nieces a happiness to which they could turn from the
ambitious future that, whether they liked it or not,
awaited them. As a matter of fact they never consid-
ered whether they liked it. They were taught that they
must rise above ninety pounds a year charity at that
and their superiority to the people who lived in houses
similar to their own was, outside their assumption of it,
real enough to make their soaring future axiomatic. The
success of Jamie and Mary in book-learning was fortified
by the physical prowess of Tom and John, who, though
they fought like terriers with each other, were instantly
combined against any onslaught upon either. As for
Margaret, she was a beautiful child, and everybody loved
her and thought her much too good for this earth, an
opinion which she accepted as gracefully as she did every-
thing and with a deprecating indifference which gave her
for all but John, who hated her, a potent charm.
Altogether they were a happy family in a place and a
country where happiness was never too common. Their
living was hard and their food was plain and they were
22 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
given to understand that though their future would be
splendid it would certainly not be easy. Margaret was
shrewd enough and very skilful at imbuing her children
with a proper spirit. She did not interfere overmuch with
their quarrels among themselves but only when their con-
duct was in any detail unworthy of the family, of a father
who was surely an angel, of a mother who, in spite of all
obstacles, had kept the home together, and by force of
character had turned disadvantage to advantage. Tom
particularly was often regaled with stories of the men
from the countryside who, without birth and with small
education, had gone to the mills of Lanarkshire or Lan-
cashire, "got on" and become fine men.
"Oh aye," Tom used to say, "I'll get on."
"And you'll not forget your brothers and sisters."
"I'll not forget my mother."
Then Margaret would embrace him and tell him she
was sure he would never do that.
So intent was she on preparing her sons for success
that she lost sight of their moral education and assumed
that, as sons of a minister, their religion must be satis-
factory. The Sabbath was observed rigidly in her house.
The blinds were down all day and no book was allowed
to be read but the Bible, and here again Jamie got into
trouble, for he was found to have torn the pages out of
his Bible and substituted those of The Faerie Queene.
When he was asked why he had done this thing he said :
But his treasure was confiscated and burned for an
abortion, an unholy book in holy covers.
For a few Sundays after that trouble Margaret made
her eldest son, for his good, read aloud to her from the
Bible, but he would read nothing but the genealogical
tables, saying that begat was a good word and would
CHILDHOOD DAYS 23
make a fine oath. Here he discovered his mother's one
weakness towards him. His comical, solemn way of say-
ing absurdities appealed to her sense of humour and when
he spoke to her then she could never keep up her stern
front. But because he made her laugh she distrusted him
only the more and would write long letters about him to
Doctor M'Phail or her cousin, Shiel. The Doctor had
Jamie to stay with him a few months before he was to
go on his adventure into the world, observed the boy
carefully, drew him out, stirred up his pride by laughing
at him, came to his own conclusions and wrote to Mar-
"The boy has no danger but his own innards. I've
warned him and recommended Turkey rhubarb. He was
interested and asked questions about himself. He's been
at my books too, the rogue. I've done for him what I
imagine his own blessed father would have done and now
we must throw him out to sink or swim."
The Doctor gave Jamie a copy of Burns's Poems and a
golden sovereign with King William's head on it. When
he got home he gave it to Tom; who, with help from
John, produced seventeen shillings in silver for it, recoup-
ing himself for a long outstanding loan, with interest, of
two shillings and sixpence. Four shillings were spent on
a feast in honour of the departure for the foundations of
the family fortune, three were given to Mary towards a
set of the Waverley Novels which she coveted, and the
rest disappeared in the purchase of knives and goodies
and fishing hooks for school friends. To disguise this
reckless expenditure, ten shillings had to be borrowed
from Tom on a promise to repay out of the first month's
24 THREE SONS AND A MOTHER
Mary packed her brother's wooden chest for him and
moistened his shirts with her tears. Margaret painted
him a text, "The Greatest of These is Charity," and Tom
and John bought him a walking-stick. Farquharson the
tailor had made him what he called an English suit, and
for the first time in his life he wore a collar of the type
made popular by Lord Byron, the martyr to liberty, who
had died on Mary's brithday, at Missolonghi.
The whole family walked out to the carrier's to say
farewell and Jamie alarmed them all and disgusted Tom
by bursting into tears. He was thinking that he might
not see them or the country he had loved to roam in for
years, and when the carrier drove off and his kinsfolk
were soon out of sight he was sick with a feeling of lone-
liness and enraged by his inability to imagine what he was