« PreviousContinue »
both as a plea and as a reproach, shred of honesty—and with others, rather apart from the merits; but as I have said, it is unnecessary the good side of it cannot be quite to deal—is, that however blunderignored. That without them the ingly, however unsuccessfully, it public, which does not know too at least upholds the principle that much of literature as it is, would there is a good and a bad in literknow a great deal less is, I think, ature, that mere good intentions undeniable. And, as has been seen, will not make up for bad perI am even rash enough to think formances. In short, the review that they have in strict criticism in its very nature, and inevitably, done some good; that they have insists that Literature is an Art, as a rule set their faces against and the man of letters an Artist; prevalent follies and faults; that that to admire bad art is a disastheir strictures, even when harsh, trous and terrible thing, almost have been wholesome in particu- worse than the production of bad lars. I admit that the work they art itself; and that while to proundertake to do is exceedingly duce the good falls not to alldifficult work; that it demands falls perhaps to few—to admire it, qualities not very often found in to understand it, to rejoice in it, the workman, and perhaps quali- is the portion of every one who ties rarer still in his captains of chooses to take a very small industry. I think there might be amount of trouble, and the eximprovement in these respects. ceeding great reward of But the great merit of even the trouble itself. worst review that retains some
BY THE AUTHOR OF MONA MACLEAN.'
THEY were days of grinding Kant? And was not our firma. poverty.
ment aglow with lesser lights, I don't mean to say that, as a some of which have long since found rule, we were short of food, or their way into the text-books as that our shabby homespun gar- stars, while others—and not always ments were actually out of repair; the least brilliant--have gone out I don't mean to say that we did with a flicker into the darkness. not have outbursts of wild ex- And all this about a Highland travagance when we indulged in boy and girl who came from their adventures the cost of which
moors to a college life in Glasgow ! would have scared our betters; It was odd, was it not, that the but many a time it was all we girl was allowed to come ? But could do to buy stamps singly and there never was such a brother as bootlaces by the pair; and indeed Ian. Most boys, brought up in a our life in those halcyon days was narrow groove, would have been a life of grinding sordid poverty. only too glad to shake off all fetters
Sordid, did I say? No, thank when the momentous day arrived ; God; not sordid ; never that! As but he, with all his faults, had a well apply the word to the in- strong theoretical sense of justice, habitants of Dove Cottage when which he was fain to see extended great-souled Dorothy made the tea to women,—even to his own sister. in the tiny spotless kitchen. We He had not many pretty ways
such were not great at all, my brother as some boys have; I often had to and I; but what the insight of carry a parcel myself, and even genius did for the Wordsworths, sometimes to walk humbly into a exuberant youth did for him and railway carriage at his heels; but me-raised us on the sweep of its in all essentials what a giant of pinions, till
chivalry he was!
I remember one day-before we -was uns Alle bändigt, das Gemeine,"
left our moorland home-we had dropt into its true perspective, been tramping over the heather, and then was lost in the mists discussing all things in heaven and below.
earth with the fervent zeal of budWere we not heirs of the uni- ding adolescence, and when evenverse ? And had life ever before ing came we sat together in the been such a treasure cavern as it rose-scented, candle-lit manse parwas then?
Wherever we struck lour, he deep in a stray volume of the rock, living water poured forth; Fors while I bent toilsomely over wherever we dug, lay a vein of the mighty darning basket. He gold. Our “poverty was such a had an irritating habit of chuckkingship”! Having nothing, we ling over the good things he read, perforce took hold of all things. and at last I said quietly in real Was not Shakespere ours, and desperation, Carlyle, and Browning? Who “Isn't it the irony of fate that could rob us of Wagner and Ber- you should be eating the bread of life lioz, Turner and Ruskin, Hegel and while I am darning your socks ?”
I had to repeat the remark before the next few days, dreading lest he looked up with laughing eyes. he should regret his magnanimity
"It is,” he said frankly. "Shall that his point had been I try my hand, and give you a gained; but, if this was the case, shot at John the divine ? "
he concealed his feelings like a I nodded placidly. “No: so
man; and a week later we stood long as you see the point, it is all on the platform of the great grimy right.”
station in Glasgow, a shy shabby That little incident was the boy and girl, with a tiny portkeynote of our relations to each manteau of clothes apiece and a other; and when the time came great box of books between them. for him to go to college he grasped The rain was falling heavily with quick insight my unspoken of course, and it took all our enaspirations, and insisted that I thusiasm to withstand the dreari. should go too.
ness of that long afternoon spent I shall never forget the day in a hunt for cheap lodgings. when the momentous question We were not accustomed to was decided I hope my eyes luxury, and I don't know that we expressed something of what I even objected much to honest felt, for my shy Scotch lips re- dirt; but the darkness of some fused. Seizing my battered hat of those houses,—the dinginess, from its peg in the hall, I strode the squalor, the smells ! To this up
the peaty flank of the hill be- day, when I feel discontented hind the manse at a pace that with my lot, I have only to think made a friendly shepherd pause of some of those rooms, and, and stare. Arrived at the sum- thinking, I thank God and take mit, I looked beyond the carpet courage. of heather and cotton grass at my
A hotel for the night was out feet, away to the great billowy of the question, of course. Some stretch of hills on every side. arrangement must be made before Mother Nature meant something bedtime. But our unaccustomed much finer, more reposeful, than I feet were sore with tramping the did that afternoon, but of course I flags, and the lights of the city refused to give ear, and made her were peeping out one by one, hearken to
Dear when we arrived at the last house patient Mother Nature ! What
on our list. was it to her that another of her “ Third floor," said Ian. “Cheer children meant to conquer the up! A stout heart to & stey world? She had heard that story brae !” so often before !
Home at last! We knew that The feeling of intense exhilar- before we had exchanged half ation comes back to me now as a dozen words with the shrewd, I write. The sunshine and wind kindly landlady. The well-scoured seemed to course in my veins. A rooms were shabby and poorly brace of grouse flew past with a furnished; but, standing at the flutter and swirr; a lark, quiver- window, we seemed to be perched ing with song, bored its
way stead- on the brow of a mighty cliff, ily into the blue; and my whole looking out on the surging sea being vibrated too with the in- of human life that stretched for toxicating dreams and ambitions miles and miles, away down below. of youth.
The noise that had stupefied us I fought very shy of Ian for all day long rose softened and
mellowed now to our spellbound Then, with a comfortable sense ears; smoke rose from countless of getting ballast on board, we hearths, and from many a mighty bent to read the noble words of furnace; and light after light the prayer-book, and so were enpierced its clean-cut way through abled to square our shoulders with the gathering dark. What untold something of Presbyterian defiance secrets, what wealth of experience, in preparation for the sermon. what clue to all the philosophies I have long since forgotten the lay shrouded down below! preacher's argument, his doctrine,
"Ours, Ian," I cried exult- his creed. There lingers only in ingly, “our inheritance! my memory the ascetic frame, the That whole cauldron of human earnest eyes, the gradually deepenlife is seething and simmering ing flush on the cheek-bones. Bethere for you and me! We have fore two minutes had passed, we only to stoop and drink.”
realised with a thrill that the “Don't scorch your lips in the preacher spoke as one who sees process !” he said. “The long the invisible, and then we conspoon of the proverb might chance tentedly dropped anchor, and the to come in handy."
wind whistling through the rigging He was standing behind me, disturbed our souls no more. and now he put his arms with We walked home silently in a rough affection round my waist, glow of catholicity,- -were we not as his manner was, and laid his from henceforth the champions of chin my shoulder with
poor persecuted episcopalianism ? chuckle of boyish triumph. Then —and one of us at least lay awake he lifted me off my feet with for hours in eager imaginary argua sweep of his muscular arms. ment with one of the dour old "But I, mein Werther, sit above elders at home. it all. I am alone with the stars.' Of course we lived to learn that Heigho, Minerva, I wish Teufels- all the spiritual insight of the city dröckh bad told us how he got his was not confined to a single edifice, book-box up the stair !”
and many a time our hearts glowed Next day was Sunday. In the with pride in the church of our morning we went to the kirk, and fathers as we watched Robertson dutifully thought of home; in the Smith doggedly produce his nugget evening, with an awful sense of of solid research, or heard Marcus adventure, and almost of wrong- Dods relentlessly hammer out his doing, we strayed into the out- categorical imperative, or listened stretched arms of an episcopal spellbound to the Principal when church a few yards from our eyrie. his ponderous eloquence went We both considered ourselves fairly thundering over our heads like a emancipated; but the lights, the mighty Walkürenritt. flowers, the rich notes of the organ A grand man Ursa major! pealing up among the arches, the What a feeling of reserve force rising of the whole congregation he gave one at a huge meeting of to meet the white-robed procession riotous students ! As a rule he -all these caught us suddenly in had simply to rise to his feet in the region of the emotions, as I order to quell the most boisterous : have seen Ian's little sailing-boat if he went the length of a dignified caught in an unexpected squall. "Gentlemen!” one's heart stood Was it possible that this was a still: and when his rare, restrained church?
“Order, gentlemen !” vibrated
through the Bute Hall, one felt the spirit that I entered the sacred that if this failed to meet the precincts of Gilmorebill, for in those emergency, there was nothing left days Professor Nichol held his class to fall back upon, save fire from for women within the gates. So heaven.
two or three times a week I trudged But, if Ursa "major was grand, up the broad gravel walk, watchwhat shall we say of Ursa minor? ing the autumn leaves as they Ay de mi! I wonder whether the flashed into fire and fell, and I met clever cultured Oxford folk appre- perchance a chattering crowd of ciate his teaching as did we Scotch first year's men in the scarlet gowns boys and girls ? After the first that brightened the grey mists of few months, I used to assert with Kelvinside, like poppies on a waste girlish arrogance that I never bit of land. needed to ask Ian's friends whether “ You must find your women they had “taken out” Caird's students very quiet and unresponclass. Indeed in the eyrie the sive after the men,” some one said cult went dangerously near to Professor Nichol that winter. breach of the second command- He smiled. “ Unresponsive? ment, for two dear little Berne There are other forms of response bears on our barren mantelshelf than the thumping of feet and occupied that proud position in the clapping of hands. My class honour of our heroes.
speaks back to me as the organ But I am running far ahead of does to the musician. I have my that eventful Sunday. On Monday hands on the keys." morning Ian went in for his bursary I think we did respond ; and he, examination. He has won all in his turn, how he used to single sorts of collegiate honours since out a scrap of bona-fide appreciathen ; there lies before me as I tion—a flash of poetic insight! write the thin shabby postcard on The absence of the dominie elewhich he inscribed the magic ment in him was almost staggerwords "Cara, Caro non careo !” ing at first; but one soon learned but not even when he came out first to appreciate, first the subtle in his Tripos has my heart taken flattery, and then the education, quite so exultant a leap as it did the mental uplifting, involved in at that first success.
It was no his tacit assumption that we shared dream after all! We were going his lofty and cultured standpoint. to conquer the world, Ian and I ! Of course it was incumbent on
And then the great gates rolled Ian, as a man, to temper admiraback, and we stood on the threshold tion with criticism. of the University.
“Nichol misses greatness," he reThe conscientious critic will re- marked oracularly one day. “He mind me at this point that being is afraid of not being thought an a woman-I must have remained atheist.” on the threshold Away with the I did not ask his grounds for carping critic! Even as regards the remark, knowing that he had the letter of the fact he is wrong. spent the evening before with one It is true that for most of my of the Professor's subs. classes I had to go to a room in St " The Lord deliver us from Andrew's Halls and “eat of the subs!” I remarked sententiously crumbs”; but it was not only in one evening at a University con
1 Referring to the Carus prize.