most with indignation; for, not to speak of the injustice
to Hugh, it sounded like an imputation upon her bro-
ther-in-law, who was sober-minded, and not thinking
of anything so foolish; not to say that his heart was
with his marble Venus, and he was indifferent to any
"Well, if you tliink so, my dear ā " said Miss
Seton ; and a faint colour rose upon her soft old cheek.
She tliought Mary's meaning Avas, that after his behavi-
our to herself, which was not exactly what people ex-
pected, he was not likely to entertain another affection;
which was probably as true as any other thcorie of Mr.
Ochterlony's conduct. Aunt Agatha thought this was
Mary's meaning, and it pleased her. It was an old
282 MADONNA MARY.
story, but still she remembered it so well, that it was
pleasant to think he had not forgotten. But this, to
be sure, had very little to do wnth Hugh.
"I wish he would marry," said his heir presumtive,
"or put one out of pain one way or another. Things
can't go on for ever like this. Islay is only sixteen,
and he is starting already, and here am I eighteen
past, and good for nothing. You would not like me
to be a useless wretch all my life?" said Hugh, severely,
turning round upon his mother, who was not prepared
for such an address; but Hugh, of all the boys, was
the one most like his father, and had the Major's
"No," cried Mary, a little alarmed, "anything but
that. I still think you might wait a little, and see
what your uncle means. You are not so very old.
Well, my dear boy! don't be impatient; tell me what
you wish to do."
But this was exactly what Hugli could not tell.
"If there had been no Earlston in the question, one
would have known," he said. "It is very hard upon
a fellow to be another man's nephew. I think the best
thing I could do would be to ignore Earlston alto-
gether , and go in for ā anything I could make
my own living by. There's Islay has had the first
chance ā ^"
"My dear, one is siirely enough in a family to be
a soldier," said Aunt Agatha, "if you would consider
your poor mamma's feelings and mine ; but I never
thought, for my part, that that was the thing for Is-
lay, with his long head. He had always such a very
peculiar head. When he was a child, you know, Maiy,
we never could get a child's hat to fit him. Now, I
MADONNA MARY. 283
think, if Ilugli had gone into a very nice regiment,
and Islay had stndied for something ā "
"Do you think he will have no study to do, going
in for the Engineers?" said Hugh, indignantly. "I
am not envious of Islay. I know he is the best fellow
among us; but, at the same time ā - The thing for me
would be to go to Australia or New Zealand, where
one does not need to be good for anything in particular.
That is my case," said the disconsolate youth; and out
of the depths, if not of his soul, at least of his capa-
cious chest, there came a profound, almost despairing
"Oh, Hugh, my darling boy! you cannot mean to
break all our hearts," cried Aunt Agatha.
It was just what poor Hugh meant to do, for the
moment, at least; and he sat with his head down and
despair in his face, with a look which went to Mary's
heart, and brought the tears to her eyes, but a smile
to her li])S. He was so like liis father; and Mrs. Ochter-
lony knew that he would not, in this way, at least,
break her heart.
"Would you like to go to Uncle Penrose?" she
said; to which Hugh re])lied with a vehement shake
of his head. "Would you like to go into Mr. Allonby's
office? You know he spoke of wanting an articled
pupil. Would you think of that ])roposal Mr. Mortare,
the architect, made us? ā don't shake your head off,
Hugh; or ask Sir Edward to let you help old Sanders
ā or ā or ā Would you really like to be a soldier,
like your brother?" said Mary, at her wits' end; for
after this, with their limited opportunities, there seemed
no further suggestion to make.
"1 must do something, mother," said Hugli, and
284 MADONNA MARV.
he rose iip Avitli another sigh; "but I don't want to
vex you," he addud, coming up and putting his arms
round her with that admiring fondness which is perhaps
sweeter to a woman from her son than even from her
lover; and then, his mind being relieved, he had no
objection to change the conversation. "I promised to
look at the young colts, and tell Sir Edward what I
thought of them," he suddenly said, looking up at
Mary with a cloudy, doubtful look ā ā afraid of l)eing
laughed at, and yet himself ready to laugh ā such as
is not unusual upon a boy's face. Mrs. Ochterlony
did not feel in the least inclined for laughter, though
she smiled i;pon her boy; and when he went away, a
look of anxiety came to her face, though it was not
anything like the tragical anxiety which contracted
Aunt Agatha's gentle countenance. She took up her
work again, which was more than Miss Seton could do.
The boys were no longer children, and life was coming
back to her with their growing years. Life which is
not peace, but moi-e like a sword.
"My dear love, something must be done," said
Aunt Agatha. "Australia or New Zealand, and for
a boy of his expectations! Mary, something must be
"Yes," said Mary. "I must go and consult my
brother-in-law about it, and see what he thinks best.
But as for New Zealand or Australia, Aunt Agatha ā "
"Do you think it will be nice^ Mary?" said Miss
Seton, with a soft blush like a girl's. "It will be like
asking him, you know, what he means; it will be like
saying he ought to provide ā "
"He said Hugh was to be his heir," said Mary,
"and I believe he meant what he said; at all events
MADONNA MARY. 285
it would be wrong to do anytliing without consulting'
liim , for he has always been very kind."
These words threw Aunt Agatha into a flutter
which she could not conceal. "It may be very well
to consult him," she said; "but rather than let him
think we are asking his help And then, how can
you see him, Mary? I am afi'aid it would be ā awk-
ward, to say the least, to ask him here "
"I will go to Earlston to-morrow," said Mary. "I
made tip my mind while Hugh was talking. After
Islay has gone, it will be worse for Hugh. Will is so
much younger, poor boy."
"Will," said Aunt Agatha, sighing. "Oh, Mary,
if they had only been girls! we could have brought
them up without any assistance, and no bother about
professions or things. When you have settled Hugh
and Islay, there will be Will to open it up again; and
they will all leave us, after all. Oh, Mary, my dear
love, if they had been but girls!"
"Yes, but they are not girls," said Mrs. Ochterlony,
with a half smile; and then she too sighed. She was
glad her boys were boys, and had more confidence in
them, and Providence and life, than Aunt Agatha had.
But she was not glad to tliinlv that her boys must leave
her, and that she had no daughter to share her house-
hold life. The cloud which sat on Aunt Agatha's care-
ful brow came over her, too, for the moment, and
dimmed her eyes, and made her heart ache. "They
came into the world for God's uses and not for ours"
she said, recovering Iierself, "and though they are boys,
we must not keep them unhap})y. I will go over to
Earlston to-morrow by the early train.
"If you think it riglit," said Miss Seton: but it
286 MADONNA MARY.
was not cordially spoken. Aunt Agatha was very proud
and sensitive in her way. She was the kind of woman
to get into misunderstandings, and shun explanations,
as much as if she had been a woman in a novel. She
was as ready to take up a mistaken idea, and as de-
termined not to see her mistake, as if she had been a
licroine forced thereto by the exigencies of three volumes.
Miss Seton had never come to the third volume herself;
she thought it more dignified for her own part to re-
main in the complications and perplexities of the second ;
and it struck her that it was indelicate of Mary thus
to open the subject, and lead Francis Ochterlouy on,
as it Avere, to declare his mind.
The question Avas quite a different one so far as
Mary was concerned, to whom Francis Ochterlony had
never stood in the position of a lover, nor was the
subject of any delicate difficulties. With her it was a
straightforward piece of business enough to consult her
brother-in-law, who was the natural guardian of her
sons, and who had ahvays been well disposed towards
them, especially while they kept at a safe distance.
Islay was the only one who had done any practical
harm at Earlston, and Mr. Ochterlony had forgiven
and, it is to be hoped, forgotten the downfall of the
rococo chair. If she had had nothing more important
to trouble her than a consiiltation so innocent! Though,
to tell the truth, Mary did not feel that she had a
great deal to trouble her, even with the uncertainty of
Hugh's future upon her hands. Even if his uncle were
to contemplate anything so absurd as marriage or the
founding of a hospital, Hugh could still make his own
way in the world, as his brothers would have to do,
and as his father had done before him. And Mrs.
MADONNA ttlAKY. 287
Ocliterlony was not even overwhelmefl by consideration
of the very diflferent characters of the boys, nor of the
immense responsibility, nor of any of the awful thoughts
with which widow-mothers are supposed to be over-
whelmed. They were all well, God bless them; all
honest and true, healthful and affectionate. Hugh had
his crotchets and figety ways, but so had his father,
and perhaps Mary loved her boy the better for them-,
and Wilfrid was a strange boy, but then he had always
been strange, and it came natural to him. No doubt
there might be undeveloped depths in both, of which
their mother as yet knew nothing; but in the mean-
time Mary, like other mothers, took things as she saw
them, and was proud of her sons, and had no disturbing
fears. As for Islay, he was steady as a rock, and
almost as strong, and did the heart good to behold,
and even the weakest woman might have taken heart
to trust him, whatever might be the temptations and
terrors of "the world." Mary had that composure
which belongs to the better side of experience, as
much as suspicion and distrust belong to its darker side.
The world did not alarm her as it did Aunt Agatha;
neither did Mr. Ocliterlony alarm her, whose sentiments
ought at least to be known by this time, and whose
counsel she sought with no artful intention of drawing
him out, but with an honest desire to have the matter
settled one way or another. This was how the interval
of calm passed away, and the new generation brought
back a new and fuller life.
It was not all pleasure with which Mary rose next
morning to go upon her mission to Earlston; but it
was with a feeling of resurrection, a sense that she lay
no longer ashore, but that the tide was once more
288 MADONNA MARY.
creeping about her stranded boat, and the wind wooing
the idle sail. There might be storms awaiting her
upon the sea; storm and shipwreck and loss of all
things lay in the future; possible for her boys as for
others, certain for some; but that pricking, tingling
thrill of danger and pain gave a certain vitality to the
stir of life renewed. Peace is sweet, and there are
times when the soul sighs for it; but life is sweeter.
And this is how Mary, in her mother's anxiety, ā
with all the possibilities of fate to affright her, if they
could, yet not without a novel sense of exhilaration,
her heart beating more strongly, her pulse fuller,
her eye brighter, ā ā¢ went forth to open the door for her
boy into his own personal and individual career.
It was a cheerful summer morning when Mary set
out on her visit to her brother-in-law. She had said
nothing to her boys about it, for Hugh was fantastical,
like Aunt Agatha, and would have denounced her in-
tention as an expedient to make his uncle provide
for him. Hugh had gone out to attend to some of
the many little businesses he had in hand for Sir
Edward; and Islay was working in his own room pre-
paring for the "coach," to whom he was going in a
few days; and Wilfrid, or Will, as everybody called
him, was with his curate-tutor. The Cottage held its
placid place upon the high bank of Kirtell, shining
through its trees in a purple cloud of roses, and listen-
ing in the sun to that everlasting quiet voice that
MADONNA MARY. 289
sung in its ear, summer and winter, the little river's
changeful yet changeless song. It looked like a place
to which no changes could ever come; calm people in
the stillness of age, souls at rest, little children, were
the kind of people to live in it; and the stir and
quickening of pleasurable pain which Mary felt in her
own veins, ā the sense of new life and movement
about her, ā - felt out of place with the quiet house.
Aunt Agatha was out of sight, ordering her house-
hold aftairs; and the drawing-room was silent and
deserted as a fairy palace, full of a thousand signs of
habitation, but without a single tenant audible or visible,
except the roses that clambered about the open windows,
and the bee that went in and made a confused in-
vestigation, and came out again none the wiser. An
odd sense of the contrast struck Mrs. Ochterlony; but
a little while before, her soul had been in unison with
the calm of the place, and she had thought nothing of
it; now she had woke up out of that fair chamber
turned to the sunrising, the name of which is Peace,
and had stepped back into life, and felt the tingle and
tbrill of resurrection. And an unconscious smile came
on her face as she looked back. To think that out of
that silence and sunshine should pour out such a tide
of new strength and vigour ā and that henceforth
hearts should leap with eagerness and wistfulness under
that roof, and perhaps grow wild with joy, or perhaps,
God knows, break with anguish, as news came good or
evil! She had been but half alive so long, that the
sense of living was sweet.
It was a moment to call forth many thoughts and
recollections, but the fact was that she did not have
time to entertain them. There happened to her one
Madonna Jlni)/. I. Lu
290 MADONNA MARY.
of those curious coincidences which occur so often, and
which it is so difficult to account for. Long before
she reached the little station, a tall figure broke the
long vacant line of the dusty country road, a figure
which Mary felt at once to be that of a stranger, and
yet one she seemed to recognise. She could not believe
her eyes, nor think it was anything but the association
of ideas which misled her, and laughed at her ovm
fantastic imagination as she went on. Bat nevertheless
it is true that it was her brother-in-law himself who
met her, long before she reached the railway by which
she had meant to go to him. Her appearance struck
him too, it was evident, with a little surprise; but yet
she was at home, and might have been going any-
where-, whereas the strange fact of his coming required
a more elaborate explanation than he had it in his
power to give.
"I do not know exactly what put it into my head,"
said Mr. Ochterlony, "perhaps some old work of mine
which turned up the other day, and which I was
doing when you were with me. I thought I would
come over and have a talk with you about your
"It is very strange," said Mary, "for this very
morning I had made up my mind to come to you, to
consult you. It must be some kind of magnetism, I
"Indeed, I can't say; I have never studied the
natural sciences," said Mr. Ochterlony, with gravity.
"I have had a very distinguished visitor lately: a man
whose powers are as much above the common mind as
his information is ā Dr. Franklin, whose name of
MADONNA MARY. 291
course you have heard ā a man of European reputa-
"Yes," said Mary, doubtfully, feeling very guilty
and ignorant, for to tell the truth she had never heard
of Dr. Franklin; but her brother-in-law perceived her
ignorance, and explained in a kind of compassionate
"He is about the gi-eatest numismatist we have in
England," said Mr. Ochterlony, "and somehow my
little monograph upon primitive art in Iceland came to
be talked of. I have never completed it, though
Franklin expressed himself much interested ā and I
think that's how it was suggested to my mind to come
and see you to-day."
"I am very glad," said Mary, "I wanted so much
to have your advice. Hugh is almost a man now ā "
"A man!" said Mr. Ochterlony, with a smile; "I
don't see how that is possible. I hope he is not so
unruly as he used to be; but you are as young as
ever, and I don't see how your children can be men."
And oddly enough, just at that moment, Hugh
himself made his appearance, making his way by a
cross road down to the river, with his basket over his
shoulder, and his fishing-rod. He was taller than his
uncle, though ]\[r. Ochterlony was tall; and big besides,
with large, mighty, not perfectly developed limbs,
swinging a little loosely upon their hinges like the
limbs of a young Newfoundland or baby lion. His
face was still smooth as a girl's, and fair, with downy
cheeks and his mother's eyes, and that pucker in his
forehead which Francis Ochterlony had known of old
in the countenance of another Hugh. Mary did not
say anything, but she stopped short before her boy,
292 MADONNA MARY.
and put her hand on his shoulder, and looked at his
uncle with a smile, appealing to him with her proud
eyes and beaming face, if this was not almost a man.
As for Mr. Ochterlony, he gave a great start and said,
"God bless us!" under his breath, and was otherwise
speechless for the moment. He had been thinking of
a boy, grown no doubt, but still within the limits of
childhood; and lo, it was an unknown human creature
that faced him, with a will and thoughts of his own,
like its father and mother, and yet like nobody but
itself. Hugh, for his part, looked with very curious
eyes at the stranger, and dimly recognised him, and
grew shamefaced and a little fidgety, as was natural to
"You see how he has grown," said Mary, who,
being the triumphant one among the three, was the
first to recover herself. "You do not think him a
child now? It is your uncle, Hugh, come to see us.
It is very kind of him ā but of course you knew who
"I am very glad to see my uncle," said Hugh,
with eager shyness. "Yes, I knew. You are like my
father's picture, sir-, ā and your own that we have
at the Cottage ā and Islay a little. I knew it was
And then they all walked on in silence; for Mr.
Ochterlony was more moved by this sudden encounter
than he cared to acknowledge; and Mary, too, for the
moment, being a sympathetic woman, saw her boy
with his uncle's eyes, and saw what the recollections
were that sprang up at sight of him. She told Hugh
to go on and do his duty, and send home some trout
for dinner; and, thus dismissing him, guided her un-
MADONNA MARY. 293
looked-for visitor to tlie Cottage. He knew the way as
well as she did, which increased the embarrassment of
the situation. Mary saw only the stiles and the fields,
and the trees that over-topped the hedges, familiar ob-
jects that met her eyes every day; but Francis Ochter-
lony saw many a past day and past imagination of his
own life, and seemed to walk over his own ashes as he
went on. And that was Hugh! ā Hugh, not his
brother, hut his nephew and heir, the representative of
the Ochterlony's, occupying the position which his own
son should have occupied. Mr. Ochterlony had not
calculated on the progress of time, and he was startled
and even touched, and felt wonderingly ā what it is
so difficult for a man to feel ā that his own course
was no longer of much importance to anybody, and
that here was his successor. The thought made him
giddy, just as Mary's wondering sense of the unreality
of her own independent life, and everlastinguess of her
stay at the Cottage, had made her; but yet in a dif-
ferent way. For perhaps Francis Ochterlony had never
actually realized before that most things were over for
him, and that his heir stood ready and waiting for the
end of his life.
There was still something of this sense of giddiness
in his mind when he followed Mary through the open
window into the silent drawing-room where nobody was.
Perhaps he had not behaved just as he ought to have
done to Agatha Seton; and the recollection of a great
many things that had happened, and that had not hap-
pened, came back upon him as he wound his way Avith
some confusion through the roses. He was half ashamed
to go in, like a familiar friend, through the window.
Of all men in the world, he had the least right to such
294 MADONNA MARY.
a privilege of intimacy. He ought to have gone to the
door in a formal way and sent in his card, and been
admitted only if Miss Seton pleased; and yet here he
was, in the very sanctuary of her life, invited to sit
down as it were by her side, led in by the younger
generation, which could not but smile at the thought
of any sort of sentiment between the old woman and
the old man. For indeed Mary, though she was not
young, was smiling softly within herself at the idea.
She had no sort of sympathy with Mr. Ochterlony's
delicate embarrassment, though she was woman enough
to hurry away to seek her aunt and prepare her for
the meeting, and shield the ancient maiden in the first
flutter of her feelings. Thus the master of Earlston
was left alone in the Cottage, with leisure to look
round and recognise the identity of the place, and see
all its differences, and become aware of its pleasant
air of habitation, and all the signs of daily use and
Avont which had no existence in his own house. All
this confused him, and put him at a great disadvantage.
The probabilities were that Agatha Seton , would not
have been a bit the happier had she been mistress of
Earlston. Indeed the Cottage had so taken her stamp
that it was impossible for anybody, whose acquaintance
with her was less than thirty years old, to imagine her
with any other surroundings. But Francis Ochterlony
had known her for more than thirty years, and naturally
he felt that he himself was a possession worth a woman's
while, and that he had, so to speak, defrauded her of
so important a piece of property, and he was penitent
and ashamed of himself. Perhaps too his own heart
was moved a little by the sense of something lost. His
own house might have borne this sunny air of home;
MADONNA MARY. 295
instead of liis brother Hugh's son, there might have
been a boy of his own to inherit Earlston; and looking
back at it quietly in this cottage drawing-room, Francis
Ochterlony's life seemed to him something very like a
mistake. He was not a hard-hearted man, and the in-
ference he drew from this conclusion was very much in
his nephew's favour. Hugh's boy was almost a man,
and there was no doubt that he was the natural heir,
and that it was to him everything ought to come.
Instead of thinking of marrying, as Aunt Agatha
imagined, or founding a hospital, or making any other
ridiculous use of his money, his mind, in its softened
and compunctious state, turned to its natural and ob-
vious duty. "Let there be no mistake, at least, about
the boy," he said to himself. "Let him have all that
is good for him, and all that can best fit him for his
position;" for. Heaven be praised, there was at least
no doubt about Hugh, or question as to his being the
lawful and inevitable heir.
It was this process of reasoning, or rather of feel-
ing, that made Mrs. Ochterlony so entirely satisfied with
her brother-in-law when she returned (still alone, for
Miss Seton was not equal to the exertion all at once,
and naturally there was something extra to be ordered
for dinner), and began to talk to their uncle about the
"There has been no difficulty about Islay," she
said; "he always knew what he wanted, and set his
heart at once on his profession; but Hugh has no such
decided turn. It was very kind what you said when
you wrote ā but I ā don't think it is good for the
boy to be idle. Whatever you might think it right to
296 MADONNA MARY.
arrange afterwards, I tbink he sliould have something
to do "
"I did not think he had been so old," said Mr.
Ochterlony, almost apologetically. "Time does not
leave much mark of its progress at Earlston. Some-
thing to do? I thought what a young fellow of his age
enjoyed most was amusing himself. What would he
like to do?"
"He does not know," said Mary, a little abashed;
"that is why I wanted so much to consult you. I sup-
pose people have talked to him of ā of what you