Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

headed. Now, when we know that allowed to enter, or is restricted to a influential, but personally ill-qualified, single road. A system which creates a candidates can calculate on winning monopoly of public property for the use seats against well-qualified but unin- of the wealthy would, I venture to fluential competitors, we know that a affirm, be no longer tolerated by a really large number of electors must habitually representative House of Commons. allow their votes to be decided by con- Again, when the tramway system was siderations not strictly disinterested. under discussion in Parliament, a very In fact, local influence acts on the middle- rich member opposed it on the ground class elector very much in the same way of the inconvenience it would cause to as bribery and intimidation do on the “gentlemen having carriages of their voter of the poorest class, but is, of own." He knew, no doubt, that this course, far more insidious than these argument, which would have been worth gross and palpable forms of corruption, little in a house of representatives, would since it can make its power felt without be most effective in a house of opulents. uttering a word, or committing a single As a last example, let me refer to the overt act which could be alleged in an rejection of the Birmingham Sewage election petition.

Bill last session, when the interests of In whatever way, however, the force a vast centre of population and manuof wealth and social station is brought to facture were sacrificed to those of a few bear, it humiliates the individual voter landowners whose property was thought by interfering with his free and con- likely to be deteriorated if the Bill scientious choice, and injures the nation became law. by forcing upon it a less efficient class The condition of things indicated of legislators than it would otherwise by such occurrences is certainly very obtain. The tendency of a system of serious, but it may, I am convinced, election in which it plays any consider be successfully combated if Liberal able part is to weight Parliament with electors will only determine to prefer moneyed and landed men of mediocre ability and high integrity, in their ability, and no special turn for public candidate, above all other real or supaffairs. These persons are pretty sure posed qualifications, and let it be to regard social questions from a point most distinctly understood that they of view specially favourable to those in intend to act resolutely and systematifluences to which they must be perfectly cally on this principle. Our representaconscious of owing their election. Hence tives occupy posts of the most momentfollows legislation in the interests of ous importance; we are therefore bound the opulent and landed classes. To as patriotic Englishmen so to discharge take an instance or two. What should our electoral trust that, as far as in us we think if we found in some conti- lies, none but thoroughly competent and nental capital a great pleasure-ground, single-hearted men shall be allowed to all the best drives in which were ex- sit in the great council of the nation. clusively reserved for the use of those To do this consistently and unswervingly persons whose incomes reached, say, will require some effort, and perhaps a thousand or fifteen hundred a year ? some sacrifice, but no one who is hearYet this is exactly the effect of the tily attached to the great fundamental London park regulations, by which none principles on which Liberalism is built but private carriages are allowed on the ought to count the cost, when he principal drives. A rich man, whose remembers that by acting fearlessly and income permits him to keep a carriage staunchly, according to the unbiassed of his own, is to be allowed to drive dictates of his own conscience, he can about the park as he chooses. A poorer contribute towards ensuring to those man, who could afford to hire a cab in principles an ultimate and complete order to enjoy the same pleasure, is not triumph.

SEDLEY TAYLOR

A PRINCESS OF THULE.

BY WILLIAM BLACK, AUTHOR OF “THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A PHAETON,” ETC.

CHAPTER VI.

AT BARVAS BRIDGE.

VERY soon, indeed, Ingram began to see that his friend had spoken to him quite frankly; and that he was really bent on asking Sheila to become his wife. Ingram contemplated this prospect with some dismay, and with some vague consciousness that he was himself responsible for what he could not help regarding as a disaster. He had half expected that Frank Lavender would, in his ordinary fashion, fall in love with Sheila—for about a fortnight. He had joked him about it even before they came within sight of Sheila's home. He had listened with a grim humour to Lavender's out bursts of admiration, and only asked himself how many times he had heard the same phrases before. But now things were looking more serious; for the young man had thrown himself into the prosecution of his new project with all the generous poetic enthusiasm of a highly impulsive nature. Ingram saw that everything a young man could do to win the heart of a young girl Lavender would do; and nature had dowered him richly with various means of fascination. Most dangerous of all of these was a gift of sincerity that deceived himself. He could assume an opinion, or express an emotion, at will, with such a genuine fervour that he himself forgot how recently he had acquired it, and was able to convince his companion for the moment that it was a revelation of his inmost soul. It was this charm of impetuous sincerity which had fascinated Ingram himself years before, and made him cultivate the acquaintance of a young man whom he at first regarded as a somewhat facile, talkative, and histri

onic person. Ingram perceived, for example, that young Lavender had so little regard for public affairs that he would have been quite content to see our Indian Empire go for the sake of eliciting a sarcasm from Lord Westbury ; but, at the same time, if you had appealed to his nobler instincts, and placed before him the condition of a certain populace suffering from starvation, he would have done all in his power to aid them, he would have written letters to the newspapers, would have headed subscriptions, and would have ended by believing that he had been the constant friend of the people of India throughout his life and was bound to stick to them to the end of it.

As often as not Lavender borrowed his fancies and opinions from Edward Ingram himself, who was amused and gratified at the same time to find his bumdrum notions receive a dozen new lights and colours when transferred to the warmer atmosphere of his friend's imagination. Ingram would even consent to receive from his younger companion advice, impetuously urged and richly illustrated, which he had himself offered, in simpler terms, months before. At this very moment he could see that much of Lavender's romantic conceptions of Sheila's character was only an exaggeration of some passing hints he, Ingram, had dropped as the Clansman was steaming into Stornoway. But then they were ever so much more beautiful. Ingram held to his conviction that he himself was a distinctly commonplace person. He had grown reconciled to the ordinary grooves of life. But young Lavender was not commonplace-he fancied he could see in him an occasional flash of something that looked like

genius; and many and many a time, in obstinacy. Ingram found himself in a regarding the brilliant and facile powers, grievous difficulty, afraid to say how the generous impulses, and the occasional much of it was of his own creation. He ambitions of his companion, he won- had no selfish sentiments of his own to dered whether these would ever lead to consult; if it were to become evident anything in the way of production, or that the happiness of Sheila and of his even of consolidation of character, or friend depended on their marrying each whether they would merely remain the other, he was ready to forward such a passing sensations of an indifferent project with all the influence at his idler. Sometimes, indeed, he devoutly command. But there were a hundred wished that Lavender had been born a reasons why he should dread such a stonemason.

marriage. He had already mentioned But all these pleasant and graceful several of them to Lavender, in trying qualities which had made the young to dissuade the young man from his man an agreeable companion were a purpose. A few days had passed since serious danger now; for was it not but then; and it was clear that Lavender too probable that Sheila, accustomed to had abandoned all notion of fulfilling the rude and homely ways of the those resolutions he had vaguely formed. islanders, would be attracted, and pleased, But the more that Ingram thought over and fascinated by one who had about the matter, and the further he recalled him so much of a soft and southern all the ancient proverbs and stories about brightness with which she was wholly the fate of intermeddlers, the more eviunfamiliar? This open-hearted frankness dent it became to him that he could take of his placed all his best qualities in the no immediate action in the affair. He sunshine, as it were ; she could not fail would trust to the chapter of accidents to see the singular modesty and courtesy to save Sheila from what he considered of his bearing towards women, his a disastrous fate. Perhaps Lavender gentle manners, his light-heartedness, would repent. Perhaps Mackenzie, his passionate admiration of the self- continually on the watch for small sacrifice of others, and his sympathy secrets, would discover something, and with their sufferings. Ingram would bid his daughter stay in Borva while his not have minded much if Lavender guests proceeded on their tour through alone had been concerned in the dilemma Lewis. In any case, it was not at all now growing imminent; he would have certain that Lavender would be sucleft him to founder out of it as he had cessful in his suit. Was the heart of a got out of previous ones. But he had proud-spirited, intelligent, and busilybeen surprised, and pained, and even occupied girl to be won in a matter of frightened to detect in Sheila's manner three weeks or a month ? Lavender some faint indications-so faint that he would go south, and no more would be was doubtful what construction to put heard of it. on them-of a special interest in the This tour round the island of Lewis, young stranger whom he had brought however, was not likely to favour much with him to Borva.

any such easy escape from the difficulty. What could he do in the matter, On a certain morning the larger of Mr. supposing his suspicions were correct ? Mackenzie's boats carried the holiday Caution Sheila hit would be an insult. party away from Borva; and even at Warn Mackenzie ?—the King of Borva this early stage-as they sat in the stern would fly into a passion with every body of the heavy craft-Lavender had arroconcerned, and bring endless humiliation gated to himself the exclusive right of on his daughter, who had probably never waiting upon Sheila. He had constidreamed of regarding Lavender except tuted himself her companion in all their as a chance acquaintance. Insist upon excursions about Borva which they had Lavender going south at once ?—that undertaken ; and now, on this longer would merely goad the young man into journey, they were to be once more

thrown together. It did seem a little hard that Ingram should be relegated to Mackenzie and his theories of government; but did he not profess to prefer that? Like most men who have got beyond five-and-thirty, he was rather proud of considering himself an observer of life. He stood aside as a spectator, and let other people, engaged in all manner of eager pursuits, pass before him for review. Towards young folks, indeed, he assumed a good. naturedly paternal air, as if they were but as shy-faced children to be humoured. Were not their love-affairs a pretty spectacle? As for himself, he was far beyond all that. The illusions of lovemaking, the devotion, and ambition, and dreams of courtship, were no longer possible to him ; but did they not constitute on the whole a beautiful and charming study, that had about it at times some little touches of pathos ? At odd moments, when he saw Sheila and Lavender walking together in the evening, he was himself half inclined to wish that some thing might come of the young man's determination. It would be so pleasant to play the part of a friendly counsellor, to humour the follies of the young folks, to make jokes at their expense, and then, in the midst of their embarrassment and resentment, to go forward, and pet them a little, and assure them of a real and earnest sympathy.

“Your time is to come," Lavender said to him suddenly, after he had been exhibiting some of his paternal forbear ance and consideration; "you will get a dreadful twist some day, my boy. You have been doing nothing but dreaming about women ; but some day or other you will wake up to find yourself captured and fascinated beyond anything you have ever seen in other people, and then you will discover what a desperately real thing it is."

Ingram had a misty impression that he had heard something like this before. Had he not given Lavender some warning of the same kind ? But he was so much accustomed to hear those vague repetitions of his own remarks—and was, on the whole, so well pleased to

think that his commonplace notions should take root and flourish in this goodly soil—that he never thought of asking Lavender to quote his authority for those profound observations on men and things.

“Now, Miss Mackenzie," said the young man, as the big boat was drawing near to Callernish, “what is to be our first sketch in Lewis ? "

“The Callernish stones, of course,” said Mackenzie himself; “it iss more than one hass come to the Lewis to see the Callernish stones."

Lavender had promised to the King of Borva a series of water-colour drawings of Lewis, and Sheila was to choose the subjects from day to day. Mackenzie was gratified by this proposal, and accepted it with much magnanimity ; but Sheila knew that, before the offer was made, Lavender had come to her and asked her if she cared about sketches, and whether he might be allowed to take a few on this journey and present them to her. She was very grateful; but suggested that it might please her papa if they were given to him. Would she superintend them, then, and choose the topics for illustration : Yes, she would do that; and so the young man was furnished with a roving commission.

He brought her a little sepia sketch of Borvabost, its huts, its bay, and its upturned boats on the beach. Sheila's expressions of praise—the admiration and pleasure that shone in her eyes—would have turned any young man's head. But her papa looked at the picture with a critical eye, and remarked

“Oh yes, it is ferry good—but it is not the colour of Loch Roag at all. It is the colour of a river when there is a flood of rain—I have neffer at all seen Loch Roag a brown colour--neffer at all."

It was clear, then, that the subsequent sketches could not be taken in sepia ; and so Lavender proposed to make a series of pencil-drawings, which could be washed in with colour afterwards. There was one subject, indeed, which, since his arrival in Lewis, he had tried to fix on paper by every conceivable

means in his power—and that was trait of some other person. He drew a Sheila herself. He had spoiled innu- head of old Mackenzie in chalk ; and was merable sheets of paper in trying to get amazed at the rapidity and facility with some likeness of her which would satisfy which he executed the task. Then himself; but all his usual skill seemed there could be no doubt as to the success somehow to have gone from him. He of the likeness nor as to the effect of could not understand it. In ordinary the picture. The King of Borva, with circumstances, he could have traced in a his heavy eyebrows, his aquiline nose, his dozen lines a portrait that would at least keen grey eyes, and flowing beard, offered have shown a superficial likeness—he a fine subject; and there was something could have multiplied portraits by the really royal, and massive, and noble in dozen of old Mackenzie, or Ingram, or the head that Lavender, well satisfied Duncan—but here he seemed to fail with his work, took down-stairs one utterly. He invited no criticism, cer- evening. Sheila was alone in the tainly. These efforts were made in his drawing-room, turning over some music. own room ; and he asked no one's “Miss Mackenzie,” he said, rather opinion as to the likeness. He could, kindly, “would you look at this ?" indeed, certify to himself that the draw- Sheila turned round, and the sudden ing of the features was correct enough. light of pleasure that leapt to her face There was the sweet and placid forehead, was all the praise and all the assurance with its low masses of dark hair; there he wanted. But he had more than that. the short upper lip, the finely-carved The girl was grateful to him beyond all mouth, the beautifully-rounded chin and the words she could utter, and when he throat; and there the frank, clear, proud asked her if she would accept the picture, eyes, with their long lashes and highly- she thanked him by taking his hand for curved eyebrows. Sometimes, too, a a moment, and then she left the room to touch of colour added warmth to the call in Ingram and her father. All the complexion, put a glimmer of the blue evening there was a singular look of sea beneath the long black eyelashes, happiness on her face. When she met and drew a thread of scarlet round the Lavender's eyes with hers, there was a white neck. But was this Sheila ? frank and friendly look of gratitude Could he take this sheet of paper to his ready to reward him. When had he friends in London, and say-Here is earned so much before by a simple the magical princess whom I hope to sketch ? Many and many a portrait, bring to you from the North, with all carefully executed and elaborately framed, the glamour of the sea around her ? He had he presented to his lady-friends in felt instinctively that there would be London, to receive from them a pretty an awkward pause. The people would note and a few words of thanks when praise the handsome, frank, courageous next he called. Here, with a rough chalk head, and look upon the bit of red sketch, he had awakened an amount of ribbon round the neck as an effective gratitude that almost surprised him in artistic touch. They would hand him the most beautiful and tender soul in the back the paper with a compliment; and world; and had not this princess among he would find himself in an agony of women taken his hand for a moment, as unrest because that they had misunder- a childlike way of expressing her thanks, stood the portrait, and seen nothing of while her eyes spoke more than her lips? the wonder that encompassed this High- And the more he looked at those eyes, land girl as if with a garment of mystery the more he grew to despair of ever being and dreams.

able to put down the magic of them in So he tore up portrait after portrait lines and colours. more than one of which would have At length Duncan got the boat into startlod Ingram by its truth ; and then, the small creek at Callernish; and the to prove to himself that he was not party got out on the shore. As they growing mad, he resolved to try a por- were going up the steep path leading to

« AnteriorContinuar »