forest, though still infant in growth. Angular and prickly
as they are, there is nothing more delightful than a fir-wood
at all stages of its growth. When it is tall and old, and
you pass among its many columns as through some solemn
324 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK
cathedral, hearing the mournful rhythm of the winds among
the giant branches overhead, and seeing the sunshine light
up into a red and stormy glory the great anatomy of boughs
â what softer wood is comparable to it, in its effect upon
the imagination 1 but when it is quite young it has a play-
ful sweetness, almost more seductive. How green those
baby trees are ! no higher than yourself ; green as the first
foliage of spring, though autumn is approaching ; how they
cluster about and look up to, and mimic with infant dig-
nity, the rugged parent-tree standing here and there, sigh-
ing halfway to heaven over their heads ! The little firs
have not yet extinguished by the shedding of their prickly
garments and by their shadow the vegetation underneath,
but grow lovingly together with all the heather and all the
brilliant greenness of moss and water-grass. Sometimes, it
is true, that verdant carpet, all embroidered with flush of
purple bells, will be dampish and sink under the foot ; but
poor is the soul which dwells upon the drawbacks rather
than the beauties around it ! And the whole air is sweet
with aromatic odours ; bees hum a continuous never-paus-
ing chorus ; the brown moorland path is warm under the
foot â warm with the sunshine which, while it lasts, throws
upon it a lavish brightness. The recent rain makes it all
the more lovely far away in the green nooks under the
trees, and on all the fresh branches themselves twinkle
many-coloured diamonds of dew : and yet in this spongy,
turfy byway, irregular with knotted roots, and patched all
over with growing lichens, there is nothing to wet the
dainty shoe of any light-footed Nelly. Or so at least Cap-
tain Cannon protested, as he led the way through the soft,
odorous wilds farther and farther from the faded spot
where clanging railway noises broke the silence, and you
could not hear yourself, much less a low-voiced companion,
Time passes very quickly under such circumstances :
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 325
honestly, I do not believe that either of them suspected
half an hour to have elapsed, when a shrieking cry which
penetrated the stillness, and the sound of stumbling foot-
steps, broke in upon the pleasant dream. What a dis-
agreeable interruption it was ! Nelly's maid, with one arm
outspread, with her young mistress's dressing-case still
clasped under the other faithful elbow, with foot that slip-
ped and breath that failed her, rolling along the pleasant
path â " Miss Stuart ! Miss Stuart ! the train ! the train ! "
cried this too faithful follower. Nelly turned round aghast,
but only in time to see the distant steam curl white against
the side of the hills, and the long black line glide away
into the distance. She stood aghast, and then she ad-
dressed a pathetic look of reproach to the guilty Cannon ;
then, with an adroitness which could scarcely have been
looked for from innocent Nelly, she turned upon the only
virtuous member of the party.
" Oh, Jemima, Jemima ! why didn't you call us in time V
said the girl, with such a show of indignation that Jemima
quailed. " I depended upon you â you were on the spot ;
how could you have neglected me so ? " and here Nelly
looked as if she were going to cry. "Fancy poor papa
when he comes to the station to meet us â and all through
"If you please, Miss," cried Jemima, in consternation,
" I thought as the gentleman "
" Oh dear, Jemima, have not we all told you often never
to think ! " said Nelly ; and then she turned to her other
companion, and sending him another private look of re-
proach which she would not betray to Jemima, asked with
a pretty sternness, "Captain Cannon, now that this has
happened â I suppose you know better about railways and
things than I do â what is to be done ? "
" It was not my fault," said Cannon, humbly, under his
breath; "how could I be expected to remember? lam
326 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
only a man, not a monster of virtue. We must telegraph,"
he continued, in a louder tone ; "that is the simplest thing.
Give me the address and I will telegraph to the General
that you have been detained at Ladybank, and will come
on by the next train."
"But a telegram will frighten papa," said Nelly; "he
will think something has happened."
"He must get telegrams every day â about business."
"Ah, about business; but about me it is different."
" Very different," said Captain Cannon, devoutly. Then
with humility, but sarcasm, " The telegraph people will not
write outside, 'about Miss Nelly.' Yes, I will go at once
â when you give me the exact address."
So thus, you perceive, fortune favoured the bold â for he
had not ventured to ask, except generally, where Nelly was
going, and she had answered with equal vagueness. Now he
knew exactly where to seek her, besides having two hours
additional of her society, which was no small matter gained.
" Now you must have some luncheon," he said, when he
returned. " Your train goes at four o'clock, and it is half-
past one. It will be pleasanter to picnic out here than to
sit in one of those stuffy rooms. I will go and forage ; but
in the meantime I have brought your rug â let me make
you comfortable;" and so saying, he adjusted the rug,
which was crimson, over the root of an old fir-tree, to which
fairy cushions of moss had attached themselves, no doubt
to favour this arrangement. It might have been Titania's
couch, so soft was it and perfumy, and the great red wrap-
per threw up Nelly's dark locks, and her pretty figure in
its dark-blue serge travelling dress. "What a picture! "
he said to himself, as he made another pilgrimage to find
what refreshment was possible ; and the little hole which
had existed in the gallant Cannon's heart at the commence-
ment of the day was now so big that it could hold Nelly
comfortably, red wrapper and mossy seat and all.
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 327
The pleasantest tilings in our lives sometimes come
about accidentally, and this impromptu luncheon was the
most delightful meal either of these young people had ever
eaten. They had put the station at a safe distance â for
since the train only went at four o'clock, why trouble
themselves at two with its vicinity ? â and could see noth-
ing around them but the young green fir-branches shedding
odour, and here and there a little graceful birch, as fair in
slender ladyhood as Nelly herself, and clusters of purple
heather everywhere. One of these same pretty birch-trees
sheltered Nelly from the now warmly shining sun. Jemima,
pathetic, and fearing to take cold, sat upon her shawl at
some little distance, and shared the nectar and ambrosia
which the others were having ; but it was not nectar and
ambrosia to her. Nevertheless, her presence made Nelly
feel that everything was quite proper, and gave ease to her
mind ; and now that the evil was beyond remedy and could
not be undone, however miserable she made herself (or
other people), and that her papa had been telegraphed to,
and all settled, why should not Nelly enjoy herself as best
she could, and take the good the gods provided ? As for
Captain Cannon, he was entirely of that mind. His lovely
Thais sat beside him, and he had no thought of anything
but how to enjoy her sweet society. At last, however,
when they had nearly finished their rustic meal, and "he,
seated upon a corner of the rug which she had graciously
extended to him, at the foot of her mossy throne, was about
to propose another ramble, it suddenly occurred to Nelly
for the first time that Captain Cannon's patient attendance
all day long was peculiar ; and that if he had been sur-
prised to find her at Ladybank, she, a plus forte raison,
might be surprised to meet him.
" Captain Cannon," she said, with sudden compunction,
"fancy, it never occurred to me till this moment that I
must be detaining you. What a selfish being I am ! where
328 THE ltOMANCE OF LADYBANK.
were you going? and indeed, indeed, you must not let
yourself be kept late for me "
"Indeed, indeed, I am only too happy to have the
chance," said he; and then he paused, as she thought,
from a natural unwillingness to reproach her as the means
of detaining him, but in reality that he might have time
to decide which of two fibs he should tell â whether he
should give out that he also was going by the Perth
train, which would give him a little more enjoyment of
her company, or whether he should tell her that he had
lost the Kinross train by accident, and had left his party
and must wait till they came back.
" You must not wait any longer on my account," cried
Nelly, half sorry, half piqued, and rising from her throne.
" How stupid of me to keep you so long ! but you must go
now as soon as your train comes. I cannot let you stay
any longer. How stupid, how very stupid of me ! " and
with this a sudden moisture came into Nelly's. eyes, in
which vexation and disappointment, and the sense of
having entertained an unfounded confidence in his wish
to be with her, had all their share.
"You encourage me to tell you my story," said Cannon
the artful, with that show of simple frankness which is the
safest veil for duplicity.
"Alas, Miss Stuart ! I lost my train this morning before
I knew how lucky I was to be â and lost it under the most
aggravated circumstances â circumstances which will go far
to make a simple misfortune look like a crime."
" What do you mean ? " cried Nelly, aghast.
" Listen ! but listen with a charitable mind," said Cap-
tain Cannon, and he told her his story. It was, I need
not say, a story in every sense of the word. He had lost
his train and his party, by the merest accident, without
any fault of his â and I do not know whether it was by
design or mistake that the foolish Cannon let Nelly per-
THE ROMANCE OF IADYBANK. 329
ceive what was the character of the party, thus piquing
her pride sharply, and that latent jealousy which lies
beneath all warmer sentiments. She had become very
stately when the tale came to an end.
"Oh, I am so sorry!" she said, with great dignity.
"What a nuisance for you â to lose your trip and your
pleasant party ! Captain Cannon, I think we had better
make our way to the station. I am so mortified â I mean so
grieved â that you did not follow by the afternoon train ! "
" Then you must have wished very much to get rid of
me, Miss Stuart," said the warrior, pathetically.
" Xo-o â but I can't tell you how vexed I am with myself
for detaining you. Fancy keeping you here, and all your
nice friends expecting your arrival ! I am so sorry ; I
could have got on very well alone â and " Nelly be-
gan with a little flash from her bright eyes ; but I have
already said that her will to be saucy was greater than
her capacity in that way.
"You would not have missed your train? Oh, Miss
Stuart, your reproach goes to my heart," cried the
" It was not meant for a reproach," cried Nelly, with
one of her sudden blushes and a sense that she had been
ungenerous ; " but come, please, come quick now, and let
us get to the station. It is best to be on the spot, and it
would not do to miss another train."
"It is not three o'clock yet," said Captain Cannon,
keeping his place; "and I, for one, care nothing for
trains. I must wait for my friends, and make my apol-
ogies, and recover my possessions. Ah, don't go ! it is so
"But it is not â convenient," said Nelly, faltering, and
not knowing what word to use.
" Oh yes, very convenient ! We can see if anything
comes or goes; and there is Jemima, who is keeping
330 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANR.
watch. Ah, Miss Stuart, stay! I am so comfortable â
so happy ! you could not have the heart to take away
the rug and your presence. I had forgotten all about
it. Let me forget a little longer. It is so pleasant to
be here "
"Well, it is perhaps more pleasant than the station,"
said Nelly, yielding, but sitting down further off, as far
as the rug would permit her â¢ " but I am so sorry for you,
Captain Cannon, and your friends. Instead of a pleasant
amusing party to have nobody but me!"
And again Nelly almost cried. It was hard upon her
to find that she had been taken up as a pis-aller, after her
companion had failed of other amusements â very hard
upon her; and she had been so happy, poor child â and
had begun to wonder Everybody knows those sharp
revulsions of feeling from fancied happiness to an in-
dignant sense of disappointment and pain !
" Don't be sorry for me, please ; unless you are as sorry
for the man whose happiness can last only an hour longer.
Don't cloud over my hour, my last hour, by turning away
from me. Is not that unkind ? when I was so careful in
choosing the softest of mosses for your throne ! "
" Throne, indeed ! " said Nelly ; but she edged softly
back to her first place.
" Yes, throne â where you have been reigning supreme
but not despotic. I don't think that even absolute power
would make you despotic."
"Luckily for me," cried Nelly, hastily, "I shall never
have it in my power to try," and then she began to ques-
tion him about his party. Heaviside % She did not think
she remembered the name. There was still a loftiness
about her tone which was different from its former soft
intonation, but by degrees this blew away â for Captain
Cannon, I am sorry to say, acted with the usual treachery
of his sex. He threw his female friends (in whom alone
THE EOMANCE OF LADYBANK. 331
Nelly took any interest) overboard at once, as every man
does in the circumstances. He gave a humorous descrip-
tion of his party, of Mrs Heaviside's plumpness (he called
her fat), and of the girls and the boys, and all the stir
there was about her, wherever she moved. He made out
the young ladies of the party to be children or else very
unattractive, which was not the case. "I shall have to
join them when the Kinross train comes in," he said,
pathetically, " and how I am to do it, I don't know, â
Mrs Heavisicle is a nice woman, but rather overwhelming
in her- kindness, and very eocigeante." Oh ladies, this is
how your male friends requite you when it suits their
purpose ! After a while Nelly got to laugh at the party
who were going to do enthusiasm and sandwiches, history
and cold chicken, on Queen Mary's Island. She had a
slight glimmering of the fact that there was treachery in
it, but there are circumstances in which women forgive a
little treachery. She got to talk of them quite familiarly
very soon by their Christian names, and to criticise Mrs
Heaviside though she knew nothing about her, and to
laugh softly at her disappointment, and the amaze of the
party. Perhaps at the last, the spice of malicious amuse-
ment thus contributed to the entertainment, did Cannon
good. Nelly could not but feel â after her first doubt and
apprehension that she had been a 2^-aller â that he was a
great deal happier with her than he would have been at
Lochleven. " I have never been at Lochleven," she said,
softly. " It would be very pleasant to go â some time or
other," he suggested, still more softly, with a look which
brought one of her sudden blushes with overwhelming
warmth and colour over all that could be seen of Nelly.
She was so thankful to him for going on to talk of picnics
generally, and looking as if he had not seen this enchant-
ing suffusion. How Nelly hated herself for blushing ! It
was so silly, she said in her thoughts, and what must he
332 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
think of her ? But Captain Cannon took no notice â he
gathered the green moss from the roots, and made a little
bouquet of heather, and looked altogether innocent, though
his heart was beating high and loud. The heather got
divided somehow after a while, and appeared one half of
it in Nelly's belt, the other in the gallant Cannon's button-
hole, and this quite simply, without any fuss, for he was
wise in his generation : and thus the hour, his last hour
about which he had been so pathetic, ran on.
This pretty play lasted till the fatal moment arrived, and
the little impromptu picnic party had to be broken up. I
do not know whether Captain Cannon might not have been
weak enough and wicked enough (I hope not) to make
Nelly risk her train again if it had been left entirely in his
hands ; but fortunately this time it was not left to him.
Jemima, who had been watching with lynx eyes, mindful
of her scolding, gave the necessary warning in time ; and
dolefully and slowly, with the red rug over his arm, and
the heather in his coat, Captain Cannon escorted the lady
of his thoughts back to the station. " Dear Ladybank ! "
said the young man in his enthusiasm, " other people may
abuse it, but I shall always love its name."
" You deserve to go on losing trains here all your life,"
" And if it was always to have the same result I wish I
might," said Captain Cannon ; â so it will be seen affairs
had somewhat advanced. He told her hurriedly before the
train came in sight that he hoped to be in " that part of
the country " very soon, and would like to call on the
General ; and Nelly answered demurely that she was sure
papa would be pleased to see him : and oh, poor Cannon !
the inevitable train arrives some time, especially when it
is not wanted, even at Ladybank. It came, and he had
to place her in it, and shake hands with her through the
carriage-window, Jemima looking on malicious. " How can
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 333
I wish you hon voyage when you are carrying all my hap-
piness with you ? " he murmured, with a loss of all self-
restraint, at that supreme moment, feeling as if he would
like to cry. Did she hear him 1 Did she understand him 1 ?
He could not tell â he stood like a statue, stupid and mo-
tionless, gazing after her as long as the whirling dark line
of carriages was in sight. Then more than ever he would
have liked to cry. He sank upon a bench, and was con-
scious of nothing but a vague bewilderment of all horrid
sounds and sights. Trains came and went, rushing at him
and shrieking in his ears. A wild confusion of struggling
travellers â a jarring, a creaking, a plunging, a sudden
vanishing, a stillness more horrible than the din, came
round him in succession like the changes of a fever-dream.
And this nightmare was not without its spectre â the dark
porter appeared and reappeared through it all like a mock-
ing spirit. "Ye' 11 be for the Kinross train," said that
gloomy being, with a saturnine twinkle out of the corner
of his grimy eye. But a baby might have insulted our
brave Cannon at that moment. He had not a word, as
people say, to cast at a dog. Let any one trample on him
that pleased â he minded what became of him no more.
I cannot tell how long it was before he came to himself ;
but when he did he found himself seated meekly on a bench
looking at the trains coming and going, and watching with
lack-lustre eyes all the people that passed. He seemed, even
to himself, to be watching them, but he saw nothing. He
had had his pleasure, and now the recompense was coming,
and the pleasure was over. If any train had been passing at
that moment which would have carried him to Edinburgh
and the end of the world, I think he would have jumped
into it and fled ; but no means of flight presented them-
selves, and Captain Cannon, even in his despair, was pru-
dent, and remembered that his baggage and his money were
left behind in the house from which he had started that
334 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
morning. After a little consideration lie made up his mind
that the only thing for him to do was to wait for the return
of the Heaviside party, and make his peace with them as
best he could. It would be necessary for him, he felt, to
make up a story ; but fibs of this kind sit easy on the con-
science. While he sat dreary on his bench, and bit his nails
with a certain fury, trying with all his might to invent
something feasible to say, the silent porter came slowly up
to him, with an urbanity quite unusual â "Ye'll be gey
tired waiting," said this man of few words â and stood with
a lamp dangling from his finger, and a curious mixture of
sympathy and amusement in his eye, watching Captain
Cannon bite his nails as if it had been a new process which
he never saw before.
As for that gallant soldier himself, he was so low that this
expression of human interest did him good. He was grate-
ful to the porter for noticing him. " Yes," he said, with
a short laugh, " I am rather tired waiting. Your station
is not amusing." He had the assurance to say this, though
a little while before he had apostrophised "Dear Lady-
" Whiles no," said the dark porter ; and then he added,
" Yon's the last train from Kinross," like a disguised angel
of charity, and stalked off to meet the Heavisides and their
empty hampers. Captain Cannon rose too, slowly, picking
himself up by degrees, and feeling that rush of all his life-
currents to his brain, which I suppose in the difficult mo-
ments of life all of us have felt. Evening was coming on
by this time, and he had begun to feel a little chilly with-
out his coat ; and in short he was in every way low,
depressed, and â yes, though he was a warrior, and Mrs
Heaviside only a timid little dumpy woman, I must use
the wordâ frightened to boot. He went along miserable,
under the darkening skies, unable to invent anything to
say. What excuse could he give ? what fib would serve
THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK. 335
him ? but, alas ! his powers of invention seemed to be
paralysed, and he could think of nothing. He stalked on
unhappy, and planted himself in front of the arriving train;
and to behold his depressed and mournful figure would have
been enough for any person of feeling. Had he known it, he
had in reality nothing to do but to hold his tongue, and report
himself as the helpless victim of a whole day at Ladybank.
" Captain Cannon ! " Mrs Heaviside said with a little
shriek as she got out of the carriage â a shriek in which
there was no affectation, for she was as much surprised to
see him waiting as she had been by his previous desertion ;
and then the little woman suddenly stiffened into seven
feet high, and turned her back upon him and began to
superintend the disembarkation of her party. " George,
give Captain Cannon his coat, which you have been taking
care of for him," she said, with bitter distinctness of tone.
He took it, poor fellow, feeling like a whipped schoolboy,
and put it on, which gave him some forlorn comfort in his
miserable circumstances. How everything had changed
since the blissful moment when he and She had their im-
promptu picnic among the young fir-trees and the heather,
with the sun shining, and the soft breeze breathing aroma-
tic odours over them ! This was the appropriate reflection
with which he stood helplessly by, and saw the hampers
landed, from the contents of which he ought to have been
fed. He followed the party humbly when they went to the
other platform to wait for the other train. Nobody spoke
to him â nobody looked at him, except the saturnine porter,
who followed with a twinkle in his eye to see how it would
end. Cannon felt that he was in this man's power. He
had seen his happiness, and was now the witness of his
punishment ; but somehow, instead of fearing betrayal, he
felt a certain moral support in the gloomy fellow's backing,
who looked at him with a grim interest, and on the whole
wished him well, he was sure.
336 THE ROMANCE OF LADYBANK.
" Mrs Heaviside " said our soldier, in a deprecating
voice. " Captain Cannon " she replied, looking round
at him with a momentary pretence at airy indifference ; then
resumed a most animated conversation with the group
around her. This went on until the punishment became
cruel. Little Mary Heaviside, aged seventeen, a kind-
hearted creature, plucked at her mother's cloak, and whis-
pered, " Speak to him, mamma," but still the lady was
obdurate. At last the dark porter himself was moved to
action. While Captain Cannon hung on despairing, a warm
breath, somewhat tinged with onions, whispered courage â
" Man, I would up and tell her ! " breathed this secret
friend. Thus encouraged, the young soldier made a formal
"Mrs Heaviside, I fear you cannot forgive me "
" Oh, forgive ! â there is nothing to forgive," she cried ;