Page images

attempt to return the blow. of fit. It passed off quickly,

You must bear in mind that he is almost as hot-headed as his father, and that for him to restrain himself in the face of such a deliberate attack was no ordinary feat.

"He rose up, and wiped away the blood that was trickling from his lip. Father tried to open the gate, but Roy stepped forward and held it shut. I was in terror in case this would bring them to blows again, so I rushed between, and begged them to control themselves.

"Until now, neither had spoken a word, and it was almost with relief that I heard father begin to denounce Roy in the most terrible terms. There is no need to repeat what he said, even if I could remember it all. Much of it was altogether unreasonable, and all of it was very painful to listen to.

"He east Roy off for ever, and vowed that he should never enter Hopeton all the days of his life. He spoke of Marie in terms that brought the blood rushing to Roy's face, but still he held himself in, though the knuckles of the hand with which he clutched the gate grew white as he gripped. Oh, it was a horrible scene!

"His language became so dreadful that at last Roy oried harshly to me, 'For God's sake, sis, take him away, or I shall strike him.'

"It would have ended in an actual fight, I am sure, if father had not wrought himself beyond his own endurance, and fallen in a kind

but he seemed weak and confused when he came to himself, and offered no resistance when I led him away.

"Next day there was another dreadful scene, for in going through some of his papers he found that the old Flemish document had disappeared. I thought that he would have rushed away again to Blackdykes to demand its return-for there can be little doubt that Marie had taken it but strangely enough he acted quite differently. He had severed all connection with his son on the previous day, and he refused to speak to him again, even to demand back his property.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"I don't think the loss of the paper really matters, because of course we have a translation of it the copy we took to America-and the information in the paper is too vague to be of much value to Marie. But I am getting upon forbidden ground again.

"Now that I have told you all this, Dr Seaton, you will understand what a sore subject my brother is in this house. From the day on which he missed this paper my father has never referred to his existence, and I am in constant terror in case any chance mention of Roy's name should cause fresh trouble. My father is still very irritable, and liable to fall into sudden fits of rage, but I am hoping that your coming may calm him to some extent. He has a very high opinion of you,

"Of course," agreed Marigold. "I hope now that he is to be in your care all the time, that he will soon be quite strong."

which is founded, strangely welfare must be considered enough, upon the fact that too." you can beat him at ohess. He has always been considered a very fine player, and I cannot remember him ever having met an opponent who could beat him as you do. I am in hopes that your games may take his mind away from all this trouble, for, although he never mentions it, I am sure that he is brooding over it continually.

"Then there is Duncan-I only hope my father will not quarrel with you about him, for you are sure to disagree with his treatment of the poor little chap. Duncan is shy and nervous, but very affectionate, and I am afraid Dr Forbes is right when he says that many of his ailments are caused by his father's harsh treatment of him. It is not wilful cruelty-father would never be deliberately cruelbut his own nature is so different that he does not understand Duncan's shy ways. All this, however, you will see for yourself. I have kept you long enough already, and I have told you sufficient to enable you to avoid anything that would rouse my father's anger."

"You have told me enough to let me see how much you yourself must have gone through during this trying fortnight, Miss Tanish," I said. "You can rest assured of my sympathy. Whatever I can do to help you will be done with my whole heart. I shall humour your father in every way possible, but Duncan's

"By the way, when I was lost in the dusk this evening I saw some one on the hillside who, I thought, might be Mr Tanish. He was too far off for me to call to him, I think he was carrying a shot-gun. Could it have been your father?"

"Very likely," replied Marigold. "What a pity he did not see you! It would have saved you wandering about in the dark. Father got in just about half an hour before you arrived, and finding that Dr Forbes and his daughter were here, and that your luggage had already come, he immediately got at loggerheads with the Doctor about Duncan. I would not like you to judge him by this evening. It is only when he is put out that he behaves like that, and this evening when he came in he seemed very irritable. He may have had trouble with one of the tenants. Anything like that upsets him very much. But I have kept you up too long. Let me guide you back to your room, and please be as noiseless as possible.'

[ocr errors]

When at last I got into my bed I heaved a sigh of relief, and wondered if I had really finished with the night's doings at last.

I was still wondering when I lost myself in sleep.


I was awake early in the morning, and lay abed meditating on the events of the previous evening.

What a man my new employer must be! I had first come in contact with him while he was denouncing Jabez Morgan as a thief! I had had a struggle with him in the night-there could be no doubt it was he-while he was ransacking Morgan's baggage! I now found good reason to believe that he had shot his son's wife, whom he had himself wanted to marry!

How could I possibly live at peace with such a man? I had heard his language towards the local doctor, I knew that he had struck his eldest son in the mouth, and his daughter across her face, and that he bullied and thrashed an ailing child! How was he likely to treat me, if I insisted on having my own way with the boy?

I speculated, too, on the mysterious document that was the cause of so much of the trouble in the Tanish family, But for it the trip to America would not have taken place, and consequently Roy and Marie would not have been left to ripen their love affair. But for it I would never have met the Laird and his daughter, nor, I felt sure, Jabez Morgan either.

Morgan, without doubt, had orossed the Atlantic in pursuit of the Tanishes. He possessed something of value to them which he would not give up,

and which Tanish had attempted to rob him of that night in our cabin.

I went a step further in my speculations. I had been struck by the resemblance of Roy to Morgan. It must be that the same blood ran in their veins. Morgan must belong to an American branch of the family. He had told me that he had a Scottish ancestor -a Royalist. Yes, I was evi

dently on the right track.

Finding myself brought up short in my deductions for lack of data, I rose and dressed.

It was a lovely clear spring morning, and the view from my window was magnificent. Although fully three miles from the sea, Hopeton commanded an extensive view of it. The house was situated at the head and high up the slope of a glen through which a rocky burn flowed to the Firth of Clyde. On each side of the glen rose a range of low hillsthose on the left as one faced the sea being the knolls amongst which I had wandered on the previous evening. The hills on the right of the glen were higher and clad in heather instead of grass-a difference which lent a pleasant variety to the landscape. The lower slopes of the valley were wooded, and through the breaks in the trees one saw the clear pools of the burn, and an occasional patch of dull red where the force of the winter stream had eaten its way into the soft sandstone.


One could trace the burn right down the glen to where it spread widely over the pink sands that bordered the blue of the Firth. Away beyond, fourteen miles out on the water, lay the hills of Arran-the ultimate thing in the scene.

As I saw it all for the first time on that bright April morning, it was a glorious spectacle. And the solitude of it all! But for two or three distant splashes splashes of white farm, half hidden in sheltering copses, the hills, the glen, the burn, the very Firth of Clyde and the Arran hills themselves, seemed arranged and displayed for the sole delectation of Hopeton.

I wandered downstairs and out into the garden, without meeting any one but a couple of clean maids busy with the morning's work. They gave me good-day quietly and with a quick upward glance of the eyes that suggested apprehension-as though every one in this gloomy house was continually expecting an outbreak of rage.

I could now see the house "the Big Hoose," as the country folk knew it for the first time. It was built of yellow sandstone that time and weather had painted a sombre grey. No creepers hid its bald outlines, and the cold blue-green slates that roofed it detracted nothing from the inhospitable effect. The house had been built originally as a square-almost a cube-but succeeding generations had added wings on either side, greatly increasing the size,

though adding nothing to its architectural beauty.

I must admit that - like most Scottish houses, and like many Scotchmen too - the unattractive exterior was not duplicated within. The cold stone walls and slated roof were built to resist the storms of winter; and inside, even in the most inclement weather, one could be warm and cosy. The decoration and the furniture were perhaps a trifle heavy, but the large windows let in plenty of light, and the furniture, if old-fashioned, was comfortable.

Given a family of happier temperament, the whole air of Hopeton would have been different.

As things were, a spirit of gloom seemed to overhang the house.

I met my patient and pupil at breakfast. He was a pale puny little chap, small for his age, with the same apprehensive quick look in his eyes that I had noticed in the maids, but in his case greatly accentuated.

He was in obvious terror of his father, and seemed to expeet in me a second tyrant. I

saw that my first business must be to get rid of this notion and gain his confidence. To the few remarks I made to him during breakfast he replied in startled monosyllables, so I gave it up until I could talk with him alone.

The Laird was in excellent

humour, and had I met him then for the first time I should have doubtless put him down as a typical jovial country gentleman.

His brows lowered at the name, but he merely compressed his lips without uttering a word.

"I see you've been up and I have had a talk with Doctor out early having a look at the Forbes." place," he said to me. "Ah! These are changed days. There was a time when you could have stood on the threshold of Hopeton and seen nothing but the land of the Tanishesbarring the Arran hills across the Firth, The estate has dwindled and dwindled through successive generations until now we have enough to do to keep the roof over our heads. But we'll may be ohange that yet," he concluded with a strange smile.

I thought it curious that he should speak as though he were poverty-stricken, when I knew that he kept a fine car and two or three riding-horses, quite a retinue of servants, and had engaged a private doctor at a very considerable salary. I only learnt later that he was heavily in debt and that his whole estate was mortgaged.

Yet such was the nature of the man that he must have everything as he wanted it, without counting the cost.

I sat on at table with him until Marigold had gone away on some household duty, and the boy Duncan had slipped quietly out. I then took the bull by the horns, as I had made up my mind to do before breakfast. Better a good row at once than a perpetual squabble. "I want to talk to about you Duncan, Laird Tanish," I began.

"Well, Doctor, what do you think of him?" he replied.

"I have seen too little of him to form anything of an opinion, nor do I wish to until

"What I want to be sure of, now," I went on, "is the extent of my control over the boy. Unless I am to have full authority-unless my treatment is to go on without interference from you or any one else - it is useless for me to have anything to do with him."

"What do you mean-interference from me?" said the Laird harshly, with a heightened colour.

Merely that the boy must not be worried. It must be for me to say what he shall eat and when-what he shall learn-what exercise he shall take in fact, I must have absolute authority. A doctor cannot be successful without it."

I looked him full in the eyes as I spoke, and I saw that he understood me, for he bit his lip and drummed his fingers on the table angrily.

Yet he did not flare up in a passion as I had fully expected.

"Well, well," he said after a pause, during which he had glanced hither and thither uncomfortably, as if he did not "A care to meet my eyes. man should know his own job best. You must have a fair field. I leave the boy to you. About chess, now-when shall we make a start?”

He was obviously anxious to get away from the subject of

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »