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MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE.

NOVEMBER, 1864.

A SON OF THE SOIL.

PART XII.

CHAPTER XXXIV.

Colin, who wrote the words, trembled

over them with a weakness like a MEREDITH died the next day, after a woman's ; but Meredith's broken and struggle longer and harder than could interrupted voice was shaken only by have been anticipated, and very differ- the last pangs of mortality, not by any ently from the manner in which, when faltering of the spirit. "I tell you, he dictated his last message to the Colin, it is not hard,” he said, and world, he expected to die. Few human smiled upon his friend, and composed creatures are strong enough, except in himself to meet the last encounter ; but books, to march thus solemnly and such was not the end. The long night statelily to the edge of the grave. The lingered on, and the dying man dozed last event itself was twenty-four hours a little, and woke again less dignified later than the anxious watchers ex- and composed. Then came the weary pected it to be, and wore them all out morning, with its dreadful daylight more utterly than any previous part of which made the heart sick, and then their patient's lingering illness. He a long day of dying, terrible to behold, dictated his postscript, lying in great perhaps not so hard to bear. The two exhaustion, but solemn, calm, not who were his brothers at this dreadful without a certain pomp of conscious moment exercised all their power to grandeur, victorious over death and the keep Alice out of the room where this grave. “That great angel whom men struggle was going on, but the gentle call the last enemy is standing by my little girl was a faithful woman, and bedside,” the dying man said, giving kept her place. He had had his forth his last utterance slowly word by moment of conscious victory, but now word. “In an 'hour I shall be clay in its turn the human soul was vanand ashes. I send you, friends, this quished. He became unconscious of last message. Death is not terrible to their consoling presence, conscious of those who love Christ. I feel a strength nothing but the awful restlessness, the in me that is not my own. I had fears intolerable langour and yet more inand doubts, but I have them no longer. tolerable nervous strength which kept The gates of heaven are opening. I him alive in spite of himself; and then close my eyes, for I can no longer see the veiled and abstracted spirit awoke the lights of this world ; when I open to matters of which, when in full them again it will be to behold the face possession of his faculties, Arthur had of my Lord. Amen. This I say to all made no mention. He began to murthe world with my last breath. For mur strange words as he lay tossing those who love Christ it is not hard to in that last struggle. “Tell my father," die."

he said once or twice, but never finished No. 61.-VOL. XI.

the message. That death so clear and Peter; for Sora Antonia was kind to conscious, for which he had hoped, the bottom of her heart, and could not was not granted to him; and, when bear to think of more than a thousand at last the deliverance came, even Alice, years or so of Purgatory for the poor on her knees by the bedside, felt in young heretic. “The Signorino was her desolation a moment's relief. It English and knew no better,” she said to was almost dawn of the second morning her patron saint, and comforted herself when they raised her up and led her with the thought that the blessed Antenderly away to Sora Antonia, the tonio would not fail to attend to her kind Italian woman, who waited out recommendation, and that she hail done side. Colin was scarcely less over the best she could for her lodger ; and whelmed than she. The young man out of the room where Alice slept the sank down by the table where, on the deep sleep of exhaustion the good previous night, he had been Arthur's woman made many voyages into the secretary, and almost fainting dropped silent salone, where the shutters were his head upon the book which still lay closed upon the bare windows, though open there. Twenty-four hours only of the triumphant sun streamed in at additional hard labour added on to the every crevice. She looked at Lauderending life; but it looked as many dale, who dozed in the great chair, with years to the young inexperienced spirit curious looks of speculation and inquiry. which had thus, for the first time, fol. He looked old and grey, thus sleeping lowed another, so far as a spectator can, in the daylight, and the traces of exthrough the valley of the shadow of haustion in such a face as his were less death. Lauderdale, who knew better, touching than the lines in Alice's gentle and upon whose greater strength this countenance or the fading of Colin's dreadful strain of watching had made a brightness. He was the only member less visible impression, had to do for of the party who looked responsible to Colin what the kind peasant woman the eyes of Sora Antonia ; and already was doing for the desolate sister to she had a little romance in hand, and take him away from the chamber of wondered much whether this uncle, or death, and make him lie down, and put elder brother, or guardian, would be aside altogether his own sensations on favourable to her young people. Thus, behalf of the younger and more suscep- while the three watchers found a motible sufferer. All that had to be done ment's sad rest after their long vigil, fell on Lauderdale; he made the neces- new hopes and thoughts of life already sary arrangements with a self-command began to play about them unawares. which nothing disturbed, and, when the The world will not stand still even to bright cloudless day had advanced, and see the act of death accomplished; and he could satisfy himself that both the the act of death itself, if Arthur was young worn-out creatures, who were his right in his hopes, had not that already children for the moment, had got the opened its brighter side upon the solimomentary solace of sleep, as was tary soul which had gone forth alone? natural, he threw himself into poor The day after everything was finally Arthur's arm-chair and pondered with a over was Sunday — the gayest and troubled countenance on all that might brightest of summer festal days. Colin follow. There he too slept and dozed, and Lauderdale, who had on the day as Sora Antonia went softly to and fro, before carried their friend to his grave, moved with pity. She had said her met each other sadly at the table, where rosary for Arthur many a morning, and it was so strange to take up again the had done all she could to interest in his common thread of life as though Arthur behalf that good St. Antonio of Padua, Meredith had never had any share in who was so charitable, and perhaps it. It was Sunday under its brightest might not be so particular about a aspect; the village was very gay outmatter of doctrine as St. Paul or St. side, and neither of them felt capable of

introducing their sombre shadows into the flowery and sunny festa, the gaiety of which jarred upon their sadness, and they had no heart to go about their usual occupations within. When they had swallowed their coffee together, they withdrew from each other into different corners, and tried to read, which was the only employment possible. Lauder dale, for his part, in his listlessness and fatigue, went to rummage among some books which a former occupant had left, and brought from among them—the strangest choice for him to make-a French novel, a kind of production utterly unknown to him. The chances are, he had forgotten it was Sunday; for his Scotch prejudices, though he held them lightly in theory, still held him fast in practice. When, however, he had pored over it vaguely for half an hour (for reading French was a laborious amusement to the imperfectly instructed scholar), Colin was roused out of studies which he, too, pursued with a very divided attention, by a sudden noise, and saw the little yellow volume spin through the air out of his friend's vigorous fingers, and drop ignominiously in a corner. “Me to be reading stuff like that!” said Lauderdale, with grim accents of self-disgust; "and him may be near to see what a fool is doing !" As he said this, he got up from his chair, and began to pace about the quiet, lonely room, violently endeavouring to recover the composure which he had not been able to preserve. Though he was older and stronger than the others, watching and grief had told upon his strength also; and, in the glory of the summer morning which blazed all round and about, the soul of this wayfaring man grew sick within him. Something like a sob sounded into the silence. “I'm no asking if he's happy," Lauderdale burst forth; "I cannot feel as if I would esteem him the same if he felt nothing but joy to get away. You're a' infidels and unbelievers alike, with your happiness and your heaven. I'm no saying that it's less than the supreme joy to see the face he hoped to see--but joy's no inconsistent with pain. Will

you tell me the callant, having a heart as you know he had, can think of us mourning for him and no care ? Dinna speak of such inhuman imaginations to me."

“No,” said Colin, softly. “But worst of all would be to think he was here,” the young man continued, after a pause, “unable to communicate with us anyhow, by whatsoever effort. Don't think so, Lauderdale ; that is the most 'inhuman imagination of all."

“I'm no so clear of that,” said the philosopher, subduing his hasty steps; “nae doubt there would be a pang in it, especially when there was information like that to bestow; but it's hard to tell, in our leemited condition, a' the capabilities of a soul. It might be a friend close by, and no yoursel', that put your best thought in your head, though you saw him not. I wouldna say that I would object to that. It's all a question of temperament, and, maybe, age,” he continued, calming himself entirely down, and taking a seat beside Colin in the window “The like of you expects response, and has no conception of life without it; but the like of me can be content without response,” said Colin's guardian; and then he regarded his companion with eyes in which the love was veiled by a grave mist of meditation. “I would not object to take the charge of you in such a manner," he said, slowly. “But it's awfu' easy to dream dreams, if anything on this earth could but make a man know—and then there followed another pause. “He was awfu' pleased to teach,” Lauderdale said, with an un. steady smile. “It's strange to think what should hinder him speaking now, when he has such news to tell. I never could make it out, for my part. Whiles my mind inclines to the thought that it must be a peaceable sleep that wraps them a' till the great day, which would account for the awfu' silence; but there's some things that go against that. That's what makes me most indignant at thao idiots with their spirit-rapping and gibberish. Does ony mortal with a heart within his bosom dare to think that, if Love doesna open their sealed

lips, any power in the world can?” cried mourning dress that her companions saw the philosopher, whose emotion again how pale and thin she had grown. got beyond his control. He got up Alice was not speculative, nor fanciful, again, and resumed his melancholy march nor addicted to undue exercise of the up and down the room. “It's an awfu' faculties of her own mind in any way. marvel, beyond my reach,” he said, She was a dutiful woman, young and vs when a word of communication would simple, and accepting God's will without make a' the difference, why it's no per- inquiry or remonstrance. Though she mitted, if it were but to keep a heart had struggled long against the thought from breaking here and there."

of Arthur's death, now that he was “Perhaps it is our own fault," said dead she recognised and submitted to the Colin; "perhaps flesh and blood shrinks event which it was no longer possible to more than we are aware of from such a avert or change, with a tender and possibility; and perhaps—” here the sweet resignation of which some women young man paused a little, “indeed, it are capable. A more forlorn and desolate is not perhaps. Does not God Himself creature than Alice Meredith did not choose to be our comforter?” said the exist on the earth, to all ordinary appearyouthful pre-destined priest; upon which ance, at this moment; but, as she was the ulder and sadder man once more not at all thinking of herself, that aspect composed himself with a groan.

of the case did not occur to her. She “Ay,” said Lauderdale, “I can say came out of her room very softly, with nothing against that argument. I'm no a faint smile on her face, holding some denying it's the last and the greatest. Prayer-books in her hands. Up to this I speak the voice of a man's yearning- sad day it had been their custom to read but I've no intention of contravening prayers together on the Sundays, being the truth. He's gone like many a one too far off Rome to make it practicable before him. You and me must bide our even for the stronger members of the time. I'll say no more of Arthur. The party to go to church. Alice came up best thing you can do is to read a chapter. to Colin with her books in her handsIf we canna hear of him direct, which is she said to him in a wistful whisper, no to be hoped for, we can take as good “You will take his place," and pointed 8 grip as possible of the Friend that out to him silently the marks she had stands between us. It's little use trying placed at the lessons and psalms. Then to forget-or trying no to think and she knelt down between the two awed inquire and question. There is but one and astonished men, to say the familiar thing in the world, so far as I can see, prayers which only a week ago Arthur that a man can feel a kind of sure of. himself had read with his dying voice. Callant, read a chapter," said the phi. Though at times articulation was almost losopher, with a long sigh. He threw impossible to Colin, and Lauderdale himself back as he spoke in the nearest breathed out of his deep chest an chair, and Colin took his Bible dutifully Amen which sounded like a groan, Alice to obey. The contrast between this did not falter in her profound and request, expressed as any Scotch peasant still devotions. She went over the wellwould have expressed it, and the spe- known prayers word by word, with eye culations which preceded it, did not and voice steadfast and rapt in the duty startle Colin, and he had opened the which was at the same time a consolabook by instinct in the latter part of St. tion. There are women of such sweet John's Gospel, when he was disturbed loyalty and submission of spirit, but by the entrance of Alice, who came in neither Lauderdale nor Colin had met softly from her room without any warn- with them before. Perhaps a certain ing. Her long attendance on her brother passiveness of intellect lail to do with had withdrawn the colour from her it, as well as Alice's stealy English cheeks and the fulness from her figure training and custom of self-suppression ; so gradually, that it was only now in her but it made a wonderful impression

upon the two who were now the sole companions and guardians of the friendless young woman, and gave her indeed for the moment an absolute empire over them, of which Alice was altogether unconscious, and of which, even had she known it, she could have made no further use. When the Morning Prayer was almost concluded it was she who indicated to Colin another mark in the Prayer-book, at the prayer for Christ's Church militant on earth, and they could even hear the whisper of her voice broken by an irrestrainable sob at the thanksgiving for all “ Thy servant de parted this life in Thy faith and fear,” which Colin read with agitation and faltering. When they all rose from their knees, she turned from one to the other with her countenance for the first time disturbed. “You were very very good to him," she said, softly. “God will bless you for it," and so sank into sobbing and tears, which were not to be subdued any longer, yet were not passionate nor out of accordance with her docile looks. After that, Alice recovered her calm, and began to occupy herself with them as if she had been their mother. “ Have you been out?" she said. “You must not stay in and make yourself ill.” This was addressed specially to Colin. “Please go out and take a walk ; it will do you a great deal of good. If it had not been a great festa it would not have been so bad; but, if you go up to the Villa Conti, you will find nobody there. Go up behind the terrace, into the alleys where it is shady. There is one on the way to the Aldobrandini ; you know it, Mr. Campbell. Oh go, please ; it is such a beautiful day, it will do you good.”

“And you: ?” said Colin, who felt in his heart an inclination to kneel to her as if she had been a queen.

“I will stay at home to-day," said Alice. “I could not go out to-day ; but I shall co very well. Sora Antonia will come in from mass presently. Oh, go out, please, and take a walk. Mr. Lauderdale, he will go if you tell him to go-you are both looking so pale.”

“Come, Colin," said Lauderdale, “she shall have her pleasure done this day, at least, whatsoever slie commands. If there was onything within my power or his—" sail the philosopher, with a strange discord that sound led like tears in his voice; but Alice stopped him short.

“Oh yes,” she sai.l, softly, “it is very good of you to do it because I ask you, Mr. Campbell, you did not read the right lesson,” she added, turning her worn face to Colin with a slight reproach.

“I read what I thought was better for us all, mourning as we are,” said Culin, startled ; upon which the sad little representative of law and order did her best to smile.

“I have always hearil it said how wonderful it was how the lesson for the day always suited everybody's case,said Alice. “Arthur never woulil make any change for circumstances. He-he said it was as if God could ever be wanting," the : faithful sister said, through her sobs ; and then, again, put force upon herself :—“I shall be here when you come back,” she said, with her faint smile; and so, like a little princess, sent them away. The two men went their way up the slope and through the little town, in their black coats, casting two tall, sombre shadows into the sunshine and gaiety of the bright piazza. There had been a procession that morning, and the rough pavement was strewed with sprigs of myrtle and box, and the air still retained a flavour of the candles, not quite obliterated by the whiff of incense which came from the open doors of the Cathedral, where even the heavy leathern curtain, generally suspended across the entrance, had been removed by reason of the crowd. People were kneeling even on the steps; peasants in their laced buskins, and Frascati women, made into countesses or duchesses, at the least, by the long white veil which streamed to their feet. The windows were all hung with brilliant draperies in honour of the morning's procession and the afternoon's Tombola.

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