with brow as cloudy as the Lomonds, was about to jump
What happened % Mrs Heaviside never could tell ā at
least not till long after, when the story was told her in
detail. The Lomonds continued dark as ever, but all of a
sudden a lightning gleam came over the clouded coun-
tenance before her ā a gleam like lightning, but softer.
With a curious low exclamation he turned sharp round,
though the train was all but in motion. " Get in, get
in, Captain Cannon ! " shouted everybody. He closed the
carriage-door violently with his hand, and with one spring
and plunge across the iron way, disappeared ! Let the
reader imagine what were the sensations of the picnic party
convened chiefly for his gratification. They all rushed to
the windows and gazed out after him. "He Las forgotten
something," said the most charitable among them. "Now
this beats all ! " cried Mrs Heaviside. In the excitement
and irritation her usual good-humour altogether failed her.
" I trust, my dears, we can all enjoy ourselves without
Captain Cannon ! " she cried, elevating her head with a
flash of sudden displeasure. I don't know what better
reason a woman could have for being angry. " Let us say
no more about him," she said, as everybody began to ques-
tion and to wonder. " But it is very rude of him, aunty,"
said the prettiest girl of all, who was not fond of Captain
Cannon. " I hope it is he who will suffer most," cried the
312 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANlv.
offended lady. " I always prefer that people should please
themselves. Let us speak of him no more."
But it must not be supposed that this sentence was
carried into effect, or that the deserter was not spoken of.
What could he mean by it ? where could he have gone 1
everybody asked. Mrs Heaviside alone let her indignation
get the better of her natural good temper. She closed
her lips tight, and put Captain Cannon down in the very
blackest of black books, as indeed he deserved. This dis-
agreeable incident clouded the outset of the expedition
more even than the gloom of the sky. Mrs Heaviside,
though she refused to say any more of the deserter, threw
the feeling which he had excited into every fresh channel
which presented itself : when, for instance, it became ap-
parent that the train, in the promptitude of which they
had all been exulting, had not in reality the least intention
of going off to Kinross, but merely meant to amuse itself
for half an hour by making little runs up and down, to
try the points, and get as good a chance as possible of an
accident, the excellent woman burst suddenly into vitupera-
tion ā "What a pity we did not make up our minds to
walk ! " she cried, with bitter irony, and sternly rebuked
the levity of the young people, who persisted in their
foolish determination to make a joke of everything. When
the carriage came once more peacefully alongside of the
platform from which Captain Cannon had gone off, she
put herself half out of the window, and called impatiently
to the porter. It was the same solemn individual of whom
I have already spoken, and it was not till she had called
him repeatedly and with many gesticulations that he put
himself slowly under way and approached. "Porter," said
Mrs Heaviside, " you saw the gentleman who was standing
here just now ā the one that rushed away just as the train
got into motion ? "
"Ay," said the dark official.
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 313
" Do you know where lie lias gone 1 He left us just
when we were going to start. He has left his coat and
things behind. Do you know where he has gone 1 "
" Has he been killed ? " cried some one else from the
" No that I have heard tell o'. Naebody can be killed
here without letting me ken," said the man, roused for a
moment to a glow of indignant eloquence.
" Nonsense ! how could he be killed ? Did any train
start just now for anywhere else 1 " asked Mrs Heaviside,
more energetic than lucid.
"Ou ay; there's aye plenty o' trains."
" Then please go and find out where the gentleman
went. We must send his things after him. Go and
" I have nothing ado with the other platform," answered
the man in office doggedly.
" But you can ask. I tell you w T e have got the gentle-
man's things "
"I've plenty o' gentlemen to look after here."
"Jump out, George," cried Mrs Heaviside in wrath,
"and call the station-master. I will not be insulted by
a porter ; and here, take Captain Cannon's things. Is
everybody in a conspiracy to be rude to me ? As for
the Fife railways, I cannot trust myself to speak about
" They're just as good as other railways, if no better,"
said the porter, moved to loquacity by injured patriotism ;
and thereupon he stalked away, strong in the sense of right.
George, for his part, made a joke of his mother's anger
with the provoking levity common to youth. " If Cannon
chooses to go off like a rocket, never mind what he leaves
behind ā that's his own affair," said the lad; and just
then the train started in earnest, and went steadily on to
314 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
Kinross, where the rain, so long anticipated, came down
with a will. Mists descended, folding Lochleven in their
white embraces. Benarty disappeared, and so did the
Lomonds, and Mary's prison hid itself in such a veil as
the castle of romance puts on when the fated knight ap-
proaches who is to liberate its captive. But by-and-by
these glooms broke up, the mist rose, the clear dark-
gleaming water, with here and there a boat softly sway-
ing on its still surface, got itself created as in a poem. And
then came a break to the right, and a mountain-shoulder
thrust itself through the vapours, and then something
shone out on the left, and, lo ! a ridge of purple hill !
Lochleven is not grand, my gentle reader ā you will
believe this, as it is only in Fife, and no one has ever cele-
brated the natural advantages of the ancient kingdom, so far,
at least, as the picturesque goes ā but for lack of a better,
when you cannot find broader waters or higher mountains,
there is all the sentiment of Alpine scenery in this little loch.
Those gentle Lomonds, whose twin peaks harmonise so softly
with the corn-fields and plenty on the other side, show here
in one mass, with a certain rugged amplitude and dignity
ā giving wellnigh as much scope for atmospheric changes
as Ben Nevis ; and Benarty glooms with a sullen frown, as
suits the whilom jailor of a queen. Bound about the wide
circle of the horizon are other ranges dimly seen, the Ochils
stretching softly in the distance, the Perthshire peaks
coming in behind. The deep water gleams black under
the rude boat, with its sides high out of the water, at which
river boatmen gaze aghast ; and green islets, green to the
very water's edge, lie scattered over the gleaming surface,
strewn about as in some pastime of the giants. Away in
the dimness yonder rises faint the grey remnants of a mon-
astery, St Serf's, where once bells rang and masses were
chanted ; and nearer lies the castle, Mary's prison, where
strong walls and deep waters, and bolts and bars, all failed
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 315
to keep the fatal Siren of Scotland from her doom. There
is no guide but imagination to tell you where she was
lodged ; but a captive's eyes, even if a queen's, might look
upon worse things than those glimpses of hill and wood
and water which shine upon you, framed in the ruined
windows of the old hall. From one you have the rugged
side of Benarty, slope upon slope, with the loch gleaming
dark at his foot, and a clump of green foliage in the shape
of an island, set like an uncut emerald against his deep-
toned purply browns and greys. From another you see
little Kinross straggled upon the beech, with its low pro-
tecting spire, not lovely, but always gracious and beseem-
ing ā its big, bare, ruinous, half-French chateau showing
upon a line of emerald lawn ā and the dim hills beyond, by
which Forth meanders in links of silver. I do not despise
this scenery for my part : I doubt whether Mary saw any-
thing half so picturesque amid the trees of Versailles, far
less in her English prisons. To be sure her taste for the
picturesque was probably limited, like that of most of her
contemporaries, and one does not know how one would like
to be imprisoned on an island for the sake of the most
beautiful of prospects. I think, however, that, for, say a
month in the year, I should not object to try. Certainly
there is something strange and wildly pleasant suggested
by the thought. The post comes and goes, it is true, and
newspapers and bills reach you with severe impartiality,
whether the fosse that surrounds your dwelling be yards or
leagues in breadth ; but yet there is a sense of seclusion, a
sharp yet sweet consciousness of separation, in the fastness
of an island. I who write would like to commit some petty
treason for which I should be imprisoned by her Majesty
(whom in Scotland we call Most Sacred, and I like the
traditionary flavour of the title) one month, say August, in
a comfortably habitable place on some island not far at sea.
This isle in Lochleven would serve my purpose, or one of
316 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
those in Loch Lomond, or even the leafy little paradise
with its soft conventual stillness, in the Lake of Menteith ;
but on the whole I think I should prefer Arran, loveliest
of mountain fastnesses. This, however, is again a digres-
sion, and a personal one, the most unpardonable of any.
But, dear reader, you do not expect me to tell how the
Heavisides picnicked ā how they made bad sketches and
bad jokes, and claret-cup, and enjoyed themselves and for-
got Captain Cannon. That would be to profane the
pathetic Isle, with its ruined prison. Let us return to
Ladybank and to our tale.
When Captain Cannon, careless of all considerations,
respect for Lis friends' or for his own safety ā to which he
was by no means generally indifferent ā sprang down upon
the iron way and rushed across the dangerous rails, it was
not, I need scarcely inform the reader, for nothing that he
did so. There had suddenly gleamed upon him an appari-
tion such as seldom appears at railway stations. He saw
her standing wistful and alone ā that was the great point ! ā
on the edge of the opposite platform, looking with appealing
eyes for help and companionship ; not seeing him ā he did
not natter himself that the appeal was to him individually
ā but yet making a general claim upon the world for com-
fort and aid. She was slight like a willow, or, prettier
image, a lily, with something in the pliant bend of her
figure which recalled the droop of a light flower -stalk
touched and swayed by every wind. Her hair, in opposi-
tion to all modern traditions, was dark ā so dark as to be
often called black ; it was combed back from her forehead,
a fashion which brought into evidence a few little locks
escaping ā not the cut fringe of hair which gives an air
of demi-monde piquancy to so many young ladies, but the
natural undergrowth which keeps on a perpetual process of
renewal in every vigorous "head of hair." The eyes under
her delicate black eyebrows were blue of a deep tone ā
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 317
violet eyes, liquid and soft, as the name implies, like the
flower they take their tint from, magnified and softened
under a blob of dew. I don't know that her other features
were remarkable. Her complexion was fine and clear but
pale, with only the most evanescent of rose tints, except
when anything occurred to bring a blush, when her face
and neck and forehead would be dyed with vast sudden
waves of colour. I never saw any one blush so instanta-
neously, so overpoweringly. The habit was a very pain-
ful one to pretty Nelly Stuart herself. She was more vexed
than I can tell, when, for a nothing ā no reason at all, as
she was fond of insisting ā this suffusion of crimson would
cover her face. It looked so affected, she said in her in-
nocence, as if she were doing it on purpose ā not knowing
how little the honest blood lends itself to any pretences ;
but it was very pretty to watch as it came and went as
sudden and noiseless as breath. Captain Cannon was of
my opinion. Those sudden waves of blushes, evidence,
as seemed to him, of the tenderest and most sensitive of
hearts, had captivated the young soldier in sjjite of himself.
Nelly was one of those quiet maidens, soft-voiced, dutiful,
submissive, instinctively deferring to everybody with any
claim to authority, who used to be the favourites of fiction,
though they are so no longer ; and those blushes seemed to
the honest fellow to be an unconscious betrayal of many
a quickening thought and feeling to which Nelly was too
shy to give utterance. Perhaps he was right, but he was
not so right as he supposed himself to be. Many a girl
whose blushes were much more rare than Nelly's thought
as delicately and felt as strongly. It was a mere physical
peculiarity, I suppose, as so many things are; but if so,
Nature gave (as she so often does) an unfair advantage to
Nelly, and her sudden fluctuations of colour were wonder-
ful to watch, and very pleasant to see.
This young lady, by a chance into which we need not in-
318 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
quire too closely, happened to be in Fife on the August
morning we have described ; and being in Fife, what so
likely as that she should be at Ladybank ? seeing that
Ladybank is, as it were, the central boss or louche, into
which all the lines of travel converge. She was going to
her father, who had a shooting-lodge high up among the
hills in Perthshire ; and of course she was waiting for the
Perth train. Captain Cannon, as I have said, plunged
across the railway at peril of his life, for various goods
trains of the heaviest kind were amusing themselves, in a
lull of other trains, by playing at shunting, and practising
for an accident. Captain Cannon threw himself full in
their way ; and but for that quickness of eye which I have
already given him credit for, and vigorous rapidity of limb,
the accident would have happened then and there, and this
tale would have been put a stop to, and possibly the life of
that poor guard saved who was smashed in the same play-
ful way a few days after. Nelly Stuart saw the plunge
he made and clasped her hands, breathless with terror.
" Oh ! why will men do such foolish things 1 " she said to
her maid who stood in the background, and drew a long
breath of relief when he landed safely. For Nelly did not
know him from Adam. She was a little, just a little,
short-sighted, and could not make out her dearest friend
at a distance ā a defect which communicated to her a
certain abstraction, which was a charm the more in this
foolish young warrior's very practical and matter-of-fact
The story would be too long if I were to tell how these
two young people first met. It had been in the extreme
south, far away, near the Cornish seas, where her father, a
soldier too, had held a command. It had taken place not
very long before, and their intercourse had lasted but a
few days ā too short a time to warrant any ulterior steps,
even had the prudent Cannon reached the point at which
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 319
such steps are taken. But he had no idea of having reached
that point when he left the district in which she was ; and
it was still but a mere dizzy, bewildering, and absorbing-
sensation of Nelly on the brain, and not what people used
to call "a serious passion," which had made him distrait
and preoccupied during his visit to the Heavisides. His
heart gave a tremendous leap when he saw her now, but
still he was scarcely aware how desperate was his case.
Of course he was glad to see her ā who is not glad to see
a pretty girl ? ā and as for the terrible rudeness which he
had been guilty of, I do not think it was at all intentional
at the moment. If it had been put to him, I don't doubt
he would have affirmed steadfastly his intention to return
to his party ; and probably he did intend to return ā till it
was too late.
" Miss Stuart ! " he cried, breathless, when he reached
her; "you here ā in this desert place, and alone ! "
" Oh," said Nelly, looking up to him with a half-
frightened recognition ; and then she added softly, " Cap-
tain Cannon ! ā was it you ? Oh, I felt so angry with you
just now ! Why did you do that ? "
" Do what ? " he said ; then wisely shifted his ground.
"This is the last place I should have expected to have
" Why," said Nelly, simply, " it is the most natural place
in the world. My grandfather was born in Fife, and I have
cousins in the neighbourhood. I know Fife a great deal
better than I know " You, she was going to say;
but though she sometimes had the will to make such a
little coquettish assault, strength failed her in the doing.
So she broke off and never completed her sentence. " And
I am not alone ā my maid is with me," she said.
" Then I see I am mistaken," said Captain Cannon. " I
should have said I felt sure to meet you when I came out
this morning, and that there is no such universal place of
320 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
encounter as Ladybank. But I suppose, like me, you have
ever so long to wait."
This he said making a further step in guilt from the
first sudden impulse which moved him away from Mrs
Heaviside. How quick and easy is that way of descent
into Avernus ! He had his eye while he spoke on the Kin-
ross train, and saw it going, and sj:)oke quite glibly of hours
to wait, as if virtuous misfortune retarded his steps, not
"Yes," said innocent Nelly, "it is a stupid place to wait
at. I was thinking when I saw you first, what should I
do with myself "
" Then let us help each other," said Captain Cannon, in his
most insinuating tones, and they had a laughing little con-
sultation on the subject. What more natural than that these
two young people, left stranded, both of them by adverse
fate, amid the dreary bustle of a railway junction, should
consult together how to make the best of it 1 When the
rain came on, it appeared to Captain Cannon that this last
aggravation of adverse circumstances ā which, traitor that
he was, he pretended to bewail ā added a deeper delight to
the fearful joy he was snatching. He found a bench for
her under shelter, and made it comfortable with the rug
which her maid was carrying : and there they had a very
snug and pleasant talk, which warmed the heart in the
bosom of our warrior, and ripened their acquaintance into
intimacy in the most natural way. Then when the rain
cleared off and the sun came out ā just when the Heavi-
sides were setting out on the dark waters of Lochleven ā
he proposed a walk. "There is plenty of time," he said;
" your train will not pass for more than an hour. Let us
ask this porter." And he went up to the same uncom-
promising functionary who had encountered Mrs Heaviside.
" The train to Perth is due in an hour ?" he asked.
" Ay," said the man ā¢ " if ye ken, what makes ye speer ?"
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 321
<; Stop a minute," said Captain Cannon ; "we are going
to take a walk up and down the road. Will you call us
when it comes ? "
" I've nothing ado with this platform, and I'm going to
my dinner," was the reply.
" Nothing to do with this platform ! Then what have
you to do with 1 "
"Yon," said the porter, stretching out his hand; then
added, "the ane ye cam frae," with a twinkle of saturnine
humour in his eye.
" Then you won't undertake to call us when the Perth
train comes 1 "
" What a clown of a fellow ! " said Captain Cannon ;
" certainly the Scotch are the most rude of nations "
" They don't pretend one thing when they mean another,"
said Nelly, firing up in defence of her ancestral country.
The gallant criminal before her quailed, and attributed to
her speech a personal meaning. He replied humbly ā
" We must not be hard upon each other, Miss Stuart.
Perhaps if we knew each other's motives But, do you
know, I think we might venture ; the train cannot be here
for an hour. I am sure there is plenty of time for a walk."
"If you are quite sure " said Nelly; and she went
with him, with a soft compliance natural to her. The maid
had not found the time pass so agreeably as her mistress
did. When she saw the pair setting out she interposed a
remonstrance : " Do you think, Miss, as there's time ? "
"Oh, plenty of time," said Captain Cannon; "and, my
good girl, you can run and tell us when the train is coming.
Miss Stuart, we must go this way."
And thus they sallied forth to " pass the time," out of the
grimy precincts of Ladybank, ā not without a slight per-
turbation on Nelly's part. Was it right, she wondered,
thus to walk and talk alone with ā a gentleman, that fiend
322 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
in human shape, whom well-brought-up young ladies (of the
old school) were taught to shun? Nelly had been brought
up in an old-fashioned way, and she felt just a little un-
comfortable ; but immediately reflected that she had met
Captain Cannon at the house of a dear friend, and that it
would be a kind of insult to that friend to think that he
could be anything but "nice," and a safe companion. Be-
sides, she could not in civility refuse to talk to him, she
reflected, and there was no greater harm in talking while
she walked, than in talking on the Ladybank platform ; so
she went on with a half-visible hesitation, which was very
pretty in itself and in the anxious courtesy with which she
repressed it. Poor man ! he was very civil, and she would
not have let him see her hesitation for the world ā and
then, on the other hand (though Nelly felt that the
pleasanter a thing is, the less likely it is to be strictly
right), it certainly was much more agreeable to get through
the necessary interval thus than by drearily pacing up and
down the railway platform, and listening to the platitudes
of her maid. Thus the two went out of the railway pre-
cincts ā which had not been so disagreeable to them, dear
reader, as they are to you and me ā went forth dreamily,
young man and maid, at that moment which is perhaps the
most delicious in life, before a word has been said to formu-
late the dawning sentiment of mutual inclination, when the
two are but instinctively, half consciously, turning to each
other, like flowers to the sun, finding a certain dazzle and
reflection of each other in the common air, a something in
everything which draws each to each. I do not suppose
that their talk was either very wise or very brilliant ; but
the greatest conversationalist in the world would not have
made a profounder impression than Nelly did upon Captain
Cannon, and Captain Cannon upon Nelly. For one thing,
a man is often at his best just at this moment of his life,
when by good luck there is no one to interfere with him,
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 323
and the exhilaration of success is in his veins ; and a girl is
almost always at her best when she is receiving half uncon-
sciously the fine Jteur, inexpressible in words, of this first
silent adoration, which is vulgarised and changed in its
character when it comes to direct love-making, though
heaven forbid that I should throw any discredit upon that
perennial and never -failing branch of human industry.
They talked of Cornwall and they talked of Fife; and
Nelly, who had all that hot partisanship which proceeds
from sentiment unbalanced by practical experience, main-
tained the standard of her country against the young
Englishman's assaults ā which assaults, I am bound to
say, grew feebler and feebler, until Captain Cannon was
ready to swear that Scotland was the noblest country,
and Fife the most picturesque district, in the world.
Nay, he would have gone farther; had it been put to
him at that moment, I know my young warrior would
have sworn that of all places on the face of the earth,
there was none so enchanting, so sweet, so delightful in
all its associations, as Ladybank Station on the North
British Eailway; and infatuation, I think, could no far-
Around Ladybank there is a widely extending plantation
of young fir-woods, and into this the young pair wandered.
"It is in reality just as near -as the road, and a great deal
more pleasant," said Captain Cannon : and Nelly, as be-
fore, yielded, though with renewed doubt. " We must see
every train that approaches," said the tempter, leading her
on amid the soft, heathery paths, all cushioned with velvet
mosses, through the young firs clad in tenderest green, and
breathing the wild and penetrating sweetness of a Highland