am a woman, and understand things better than a boy
like you. Oh, Will! we used to be put in the same
cradle, and dear Mrs. Ochterlony used to nurse us both
when we were babies. Sometimes I think I should have
been your sister. If you will come back and put away
all this which is too dreadful to think of, I will never
more bring it up against you. I for one will forget it,
as if it had never been. Nobody shall put it into your
mind again. We will forgive you, and love you the
same as ever; and when you are a man, and understand
and see what it is you have been saved from, you will
go down on your knees and thank God.
"If I had been old enough to travel by myself, or
to be allowed to do what I like, I should have gone to
Liverpool too, to have given yoix no excuse. It is not
so easy to write-, but oh. Will, you know what I mean.
Come back, and let us forget that you were ever so
foolish and so wicked. I could cry when I think of you
all by yourself, and nobody to tell you what is right. Come
back, and nobody shall ever bring it ixp against you. Dear
Will! don't you love us all too well to make us unhappy?
"Still your affectionate
MADONNA MARV. 275
This letter startled the poor boy, and aflfected him
in a strange way. It brought the tears to his eyes. It
touched him somehow, not by its reproaches, but by
the thought that Nelly cared. She had gone over to
Hugh's side like all the rest ā and yet she cared and
took ujjon her that right of reproach and accusation
which is more tender than praise. And it made Will's
heart ache in a dull way to see that they all thought
him wicked. What had he done that was wicked? He
ached, poor boy, not only in his heart but in his head,
and all over him. He did not get up even to read his
letter, but lay in a kind of sad stupor all the morning,
wondering if his mother was still in the house ā won-
dering if she would come to him ā v/ondering if she
was so angry that she no longer desired to see him.
The house was more quiet than usual, he thought ā
there was no stir in it of voices or footsteps. Perhaps
Mrs. Ochterlony had gone away again ā perhaps he
was to be left here, having got Uncle Penrose on his
side, to his sole company ā excommunicated and cast
off by his own. Wilfrid lay pondering all these thoughts
till he could bear it no longer; instead of his pain and
shrinking a kind of dogged resistance came into his
mind-, at least he would go and face it, and see what
was to happen to him. He would go downstairs and
find out, to begin with, what this silence meant.
Perhaps it was just because it was so much later
than usual that he felt as if he had been ill when he
got up ā felt his limbs trembling under him, and
shivered, and gre"\v hot and cold ā or perhaps it was
the fatigue and mental commotion of yesterday. By
this time he felt snrc that his mother must be gone.
Had she been in the house she would have come to
276 MADONNA MARY.
see him. She would have seized the opportunity when
he could not escape from her. No doubt she was gone,
after waiting all yesterday for him, ā gone either
hating him or scorning him, casting him oft" from her;
and he felt that he had not deserved that. Perhaps he
might have deserved that Hugh should turn his enemy
ā notwithstanding that, even for Hugh he felt him-
self ready to do anything ā but to his mother he had
done no harm. He had meditated nothing but good to
her. Jle would not have thought of marrying, or giv-
ing to any one but her the supreme place in his house.
He would never have asked her or made any doubt
about it, but taken her at once to Earlston, and showed
her everything there arranged according to her liking.
This was what Will had always intended and settled
upon. And his mother, for whom he would have done
all this, had gone away again, offended and angry,
abandoning him to his own devices. Bitterness took
possession of his soul as he thought of it. He meant
it only for their good ā for justice and right, and to
have his own; and this was the cruel way in which
they received it, as if he had done it out of unkind
feelings ā even Nelly! A sense that he was wronged
came into Wilfrid's mind as he dressed himself, and
looked at his pale face in the glass; and smoothed his
brown long hair. And yet he stepped out of his room
with the feelings of one who ventures upon an undis-
covered country, a new region, in which he does not
know whether he is to meet with good or evil. He
had to support himself by the rail as he went down-
stairs. He hesitated and trembled at the drawing-room
door, which was a room Mr. Penrose never occupied.
Breakfast must be over long ago. If there was any
MADONNA MARY. 277
lady in the house, no doubt she would be found
He put his hand on the door, but it was a minute
or more before he could open it; and he heard no
sound within. No doubt she had gone away. He had
walked miles yesterday to avoid her, but yet his heart
was sore and bled, and he felt deserted and miserable
to think that she was gone. But when Will had opened
the door, the sight he saw was more wonderful to him
than if she had been gone. Mary was seated at the
table writing: she was pale, but there was something
in her face which told of unusual energy and resolution,
a kind of inspiration which gave character to every
movement she made. And she was so much pre-occupied,
that she showed no special excitement at sight of her
boy, she stopped and put away her pen, and rose up
looking at him with pitiful eyes. "My poor boy!"
she said, and kissed him in her tender way. And then she
sat down at the table, and went back to her letters again.
It was not simple consternation which struck ^Yill;
it was a mingled pang of wonder and humiliation and
sharp disappointment. Only her poor boy! ā only the
youngest, the child as he had always been, not the
young revolutionary to whom Nelly had written that
letter, whom Mrs. Ochterlony had come anxious and in
haste to seek. She was more anxious now about her
letters apparently than about him, and there was no-
thing but tenderness and sorrow in her eyes; and when
she did raise her head again, it was to remark his
paleness and ask if he was tired. "Go and get some
breakfast, "Will," she said; but he did not care for
breakfast. He had not the heart to move ā he sat in
the depths of boyish mortification and looked at her
278 MADONNA MARY.
writing lier letters. Was that all that it mattered? or
was she only making a pretence at indifference? But
Mary was too much occupied evidently for any pre-
tence. Her whole figure and attitude were full of
resolution. Notwithstanding the pity of her voice as
she addressed him, and the longing look in her eyes,
there was something in her which Wilfrid had never
seen before, which revealed to him in a kind of dull
way that his mother was wound up to some great emer-
gency, that she had taken a great resolution, and was
occupied by matters of life and death.
"You are very busy, it seems," he said, peevishly,
when he had sat for some time watching her, wonder-
ing when she would speak to him. To find that she
Avas not angry, that she had something else to think
about, was not half so great a relief as it appeared.
"Yes, I am busy," said Mary. "I am writing to
your brother. Will, and to some people who know all
about me, and I have no time to lose. Your uncle
Penrose is a hard man, and I am afraid he will be
hard on Hugh."
"No, mother," said Will, feeling his heart beat
quick; "he shall not be hard upon Hugh. I want to
tell you that. I want to have justice; but for anything
else ā Hugh shall have whatever he wishes; and as
for you ā "
"Oh, Will," said Mrs. Ochterlony; and somehow
it seemed to poor Will's disordered imagination that she
and his letter were speaking together ā "I had almost
forgotten that you had anything to do with it. If you
had but come first and spoken to me ā "
"Why should I have come and spoken to you?"
said Will, growing into gradual excitement; "it will
MADONNA MARY. 279
not do you any liarm. I am youi* son as well as Hugh
ā if it is his or if it is mine, what does it matter? I
knew you would be angry if I stood up for myself;
but a man must stand up for himself when he knows
what are his rights."
"Will, you must listen to me," said Mary, putting
away her papers, and turning round to him. "It is
Mr. Penrose who has put all this in your head : it could
not be my boy that had such thoughts. Uh, Will! my
poor child! And now we are in his pitiless hands,"
said Mary, with a kind of cry, "and it matters nothing
what you say or what I say. You have put yourself
in his hands."
"Stop, mother," said Will; "don't make such a dis-
turbance about it. Uncle Penrose has nothing to do
with it. It is my doing. I will do anything in the
world for you, whatever you like to tell me; but I
wont let a fellow be there who has no right to be there.
I am the heir, and I will have my rights."
"You are not the heir," said Mrs. Ochterlony,
frightened for the moment by his tone and his vehe-
mence, and his strange looks.
"I heard it from two people that were both there,""
said Will, with a gloomy composure. "It was not
without asking about it. I am not blaming you, mo-
ther ā you might have some reason; ā but it was I
that was born after that thing that happened in India.
What is the use of struggling against it? And if it is
I that am the heir, why should you try to keep me
out of my rights?"
"Will," said Mary, suddenly driven back into re-
gions of personal emotion, which she thought she had
escaped from, and falling by instinct into those wild
280 MADONNA MARY.
weaknesses of personal argument to which women resort
when they are thus suddenly stung. "Will, look me
in the face and tell me, Can you believe your dear
father, who was true as ā as heaven itself; can you
believe me, who never told you a lie, to have been
such wretched deceivers? Can you think we were so
wicked? Will, look me in the face!"
"Mother," said Will, whose mind was too little
imaginative to be moved by this kind of argument,
except to a kind of impatience. "What does it matter
my looking you in the face? what does it matter about
my father being true? You might have some reason
for it. I am not blaming you; but so long as it was a
fact what does tJiat matter? I don't want to injure
any one ā I only want my rights."
It was Mary's turn now to be struck dumb. She
had thought he was afraid of her, and had fled from
her out of shame for what he had done; but he looked
in her face as she told him with unhesitating frankness,
and even that touch of impatience as of one whose
common sense was proof to all such appeals. For her
own part, when she was brought back to it, she felt
the effect of the dreadful shock she had received ; and
she could not discuss this matter reasonably with her
boy. Her mind fell off into a mingled anguish and
horror and agonized sense of his sin and pity for him.
"Oh, Will, your rights," she cried; "your rights!
Your rights are to be forgiven and taken back, and
loved and pitied, though you do not understand what
love is. These are all the rights you have. You are
young, and you do not know what you are doing. You
have still a right to be forgiven."
"I was not asking to be forgiven," said Will,
MADONNA MARY. 281
dogo^eclly. "I have done no harm. I never said a
word against you. I will give Hugh whatever he likes
to get himself comfortably out in the world. I don't
want to make any fuss or hurry. It can be quietly
managed, if he will ; but it's me that Earlston ought to
come to-, and I am not going to be driven out of it by
talk. I should just like to know what Hugh would do
if he was in my place."
"Hugh could never have been in your place," cried
Mary, in her anguish and indignation. "I ought to
have seen this is what it would come to. I ought to
have known when I saw your jealous temper, even
when you were a baby. Oh, my little Will! How will
you ever bear it when you come to your senses, and
know what it is you have been doing? Slandering
your dear father's name and mine, though all the world
knoAvs different ā and trying to supplant your brother,
your elder brotlier, Avho has always been good to you.
God forgive them that have brought my boy to this,"
said Mary, witli tears. She kept gazing at him, even
with her eyes full. It did not seem possible that he
could be insensible to her look, even if he was insensible
to her words.
Wilfrid, for his part, got up and began to walk
about the room. It ivas hard, very hard to meet his
mother's eyes. "When she is vexed, she gives a fellow
such a look." He remembered those words which he
had said to Uncle Penrose only yesterday with a vague
sort of recollection. But when he got up his own
bodily sensations somehow gave him enough to do. He
half forgot about his mother in the strange feeling he
had in his physical frame, as if his limbs did not
belong to him, nor his head either fur that piu't, which
282 MADONNA MARY.
seemed to be floating about in the air, without any
particular connexion with the rest of him. It must be
that he was so very tired, for when he sat down and
clutched at the arms of his chair, he seemed to come
out of his confusion and see Mrs. Ochterlony again,
and know what she had been talking about. He said,
with something that looked like sullenness: "Nobody
brought me to this ā I brought myself," in answer to
what she had said, and fell, as it were, into a moody
reverie, leaning upon the arms of his chair. Mary saw
it, and thought it was that attitude of obstinate and
immovable resolve into which she had before seen him
fall; and she dried her eyes with a little flash of in-
dignation, and turned again to the half-finished letter
which trembled in her hands, and which she could not
force her mind back to. She said to herself in a kind
of despair, that the bitter cup must be drunk ā that
there was nothing for it but to do battle for her son's
rights, and lose no time in vain outcries, but forgive
the unhappy boy when he came to his right mind and
returned to her again. She turned away, with her
heart throbbing and bleeding, and made an effort to
recover her composiare and finish her letter. It was a
very important letter, and required all her thoughts.
But if it had been hard to do it before, it was twenty
times harder now.
Jvist at that moment there was a commotion at the
door, and a sound of some one entering below. It
might be only Mr. Penrose coming back, as he some-
times did, to luncheon. But every sound tingled through
Mrs. Ochterlony in the excitement of her nerves. Then
there came something that made her spring to her feet
ā a single tone of a voice struck on her ear, which
MADONNA MARY. 283
she thouo^lit could only be lier own fancy. But it was
not her fancy. Some one came rushing up the stairs,
and dashed into the room. Mary gave a great cry, and
ran into his arms, and Will, startled and rovised up
from a sudden oblivion which he did not understand,
drew his hand across his heavy eyes, and looked up
doubting, and saw Hugh ā Hugh standing in the
middle of the room holding his mother, glowing with
iVesh air, and health, and gladness. ā Hugh! How did
he come there V Poor Will tried to rise from his chair,
but witli a feeling that he was fixed in it for ever,
like the lady in the fable. Had he been asleep? and
where was he? Had it been but a bad dream, and was
this the Cottage, and Hugh come home to see them
all? These were the questions that rose in Will's
darkened mind, as he woke up and drew his hand
across his heavy eyes, and sat as if glued in Mr. Pen-
Mrs. Ochterlony was almost as much confused
and as uncertain of her own feelings as Will was. Her
heart gave a leap towards her son; but yet there was
that between them which put pain into even a meeting
with Hugh. When she had seen him last, she had
been all that a spotless mother is to a youth ā his
liighest standard, his most perfect type of woman.
Now, though he would believe no harm of her, yet
there had been a breath across her perfection; there
Avas something to explain; and Mary in her heart felt
284 MADONNA MARY.
a pang of momentary anguish as acute as if the ac-
cusation had been true. To have to defend herself; to
clear up her character to her boy! She took him into
her arms almost that she might not have to look him
in the face, and held to him, feeling giddy and faint.
Will was younger, and he himself had gone wrong,
but Hugh was old enough to understand it all, and
had no consciousness on his own side to blunt his per-
ceptions; and to have to tell him how it all was, and
explain to him that she was not guilty was almost as
hard as if she had been obliged to confess that she was
guilty. She could not encounter him face to face, nor
meet frankly the wonder and dismay which were no
doubt in his honest eyes. Mary thought that to look
into them and see that wondering troubled question in
them, "Is it so ā have you done me this Avrong?"
would be worse than being killed once for all by a
But there was no such thought in Hugh's mind.
He came up to his mother open-hearted, with no hesita-
tion in his looks. He saw Will was there, but he did
not even look at him; he took her into his arms,
holding her fast with perhaps a sense that she clung
to him, and held on by him as by a support. "Mother,
dont be distressed," he said, all at once, "I have
found a way to clear it all up." He spoke out loud,
with his cheery voice which it was exhilarating to hear,
and as if he meant it, and felt the full significance of
what he said. He had to put down his mother very
gently on the sofa after, and to make her lie back and
prop her up with cushions; her high-strung nerves for
an instant gave way. It was as if her natural protector
had come back, whose coming would clear away the
MADONNA MARY. 285
mists. Her own fears melted away from her when she
felt the warm clasp of Hugh's arms, and the confident
tone of his voice , not asking any questions, hut giving
her assurance, a pledge of sudden safety as it were. It
was this that made Mary drop hack, faint though not
fainting, upon the friendly pillows, and made the room
and everything swim in her eyes.
"What is it, Hugh?" she said faintly, as soon as
she could speak.
"It is all right, mother," said Hugh; "take my
word, and don't bother yourself any more about it. I
came on at once to see Uncle Penrose, and get him out
of this mess he has let himself into. I could be angry,
but it is no good being angry. On the whole, perhaps
showing him his folly and making a decided end to it,
is the best."
"Oh, Hugh, never mind Uncle Penrose. Will, my
poor Will! look, your brother is there," said Mary,
rousing up. As for Hugh, he took no notice; he did
not turn round, though his mother put her hand on
his arm; perhaps because his mind was full of other
"We must have it settled at once," he said. "I
hope you will not object, mother; it can be done very
quietly. I found them last night, without the least pre-
paration or even knowing they were in existence. It
was like a dream to me. Don't perplex yourself about
it, mother dear. It's all right ā ā¢ trust to me."
"Whom, did you find?" said Mary, eagerly; "or
was it the lines ā my lines?"
"It was old Sommerville's daughter," said Hugh,
with an unsteady laugh, "who was there. I don't be-
lieve you know who old Sommerville or his daughter
286 MADONNA MAUY.
are. Never mind; I know all about it. I am not so
simple as you were when you were eighteen and ran
away and thought of nobody. And she says I am like
my father," said Hugh, "the Captain, they called him
ā but not such a bonnie lad; and that there was no-
body to be seen like him for happiness and brightness
on his wedding-day. You see I know it all, mother ā
every word ; and I am like him , but not such a bonnie
"No," said Mary, with a sob. Her resolution had
gone from her with her misery. She had suddenly
grown weak and happy, and ready to weej) like a child.
"No," she said, with the tears dropping out of her
eyes, "you are not such a bonnie lad; you are none
of you so handsome as your father. Oh, Hugh, my
dear, I don't know what you mean ā I don't under-
stand what you say."
And she did not understand it, but that did not
matter ā she could not have understood it at that
moment, though he had given her the clearest ex-
planation. She knew nothing, but that there must be
deliverance somehow, somewhere, in the air, and that
her firstborn was standing by her with light and com-
fort in his eyes, and that behind, out of her sight,
his brother taking no notice of him, was her other
"Will is there," she said, hurriedly. "You have
not spoken to him ā tell me about this after. Oh,
Hugh, Will is there!"
She put her hand on his arm and tried to turn
him round; but Hugh's countenance darkened, and be-
came as his mother had never seen it before. He took
no notice of what she said, he only bent over her, and
MADOiSNA MARY. 287
began to arrange the cushions, of which Mary now
seemed to feel no more need.
"I do not like to see you here," he said; "you
must come out of this house. I came that it might be
all settled out of hand, for it is too serious to leave in
vain suspense. But after this, mother, neither you nor
I, with my will, shall cross this threshold more."
"But oh, Hugh! Will! ā speak to Will. Do not
leave him unnoticed!" said Mary, in a passionate
whisper, grasping his hand and reaching up to his
Hugh's look did not relent. His face darkened
while she looked at him.
"He is a traitor!" he said, from out his closed
lips. And he turned his back upon his brother, who
sat at the other side of the room, straining all his
faculties to keep awake, and to keep the room steady,
which was going round and round him, and to know
something of what it all meant.
"He is your brother," said Mary, and then she
rose, though she was still weak. "I must go to my
poor boy, if you will not," she said. "Will!"
When Will heard the sound of her voice, w^hich
came strange to him, as if it came from another world,
he too stumbled up xipon his feet, though in the eftbrt
ceiling and Hoor and walls got all confused to him
and floated about, coming down on his brain as if to
"Yes, mamma," he said; and came straight forward,
dimly guiding himself, as it were, towards her. He
came against the furniture without knowing it, and
struck himself sharply against the great round table,
which he walketl straight to as if he could have passed
288 MADONNA MARY.
through it. The blow made him pause and open his
heavy eyes, and then he sank into the nearest chair,
with a weary sigh; and at that crisis of fate ā at that
moment when vengeance was overtaking him ā when
his cruel hopes had come to nothing, and his punish-
ment was beginning ā dropped asleep before their eyes.
Even Hugh turned to look at the strange spectacle.
Will was ghastly pale. His long brown hair hung dis-
ordered about his face-, his hands clung in a desolate
way to the arms of the chair he had got into; and he
had dropped asleep.
At this moment Mrs. Ochterlony forgot her eldest
son, upon whom till now her thoughts had been centred.
She went to her boy who needed her most, and who
lay there in his forlorn youth helpless and half un-
conscious, deserted as it were by all consolation. She
went to him and put her hand upon his hot forehead,
and called him by his name. Once more Will half
opened his eyelids; he said "yes, mamma," drearily,
with a confused attempt to look up; and then he slept
again. He slept, and yet he did not sleep; her voice
went into his mind as in the midst of a dream ā some-
thing weighed upon his nerves and his soul. He heard
the cry she gave, even vaguely felt her opening his
collar, putting back his hair, putting water to his lips
ā but he had not fainted, which was what she thought
in her panic. He was only asleep.
"He is ill," said Hugh, who, notwithstanding his
just indignation, was moved by the pitiful sight; "I
will go for the doctor. Mother, don't be alarmed, he
is only asleep."
"Oh, my poor boy!" cried Mary, "he was wander-
ing about all yesterday, not to see me, and I was hard
MADONNA MARY. 289
upon liim. Oli, Uugli, iny poor boy! Ami in tins
Tliis was the scene upon which Mr. Penrose came
in to luncheon with his usual cheerful composure. He