The Bald m Libranr
A SPRIQ OF
11 A L I' ~l N 1
r:-, W z (?,
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SOCIFT"yt For. F'C,!jT~ HIA-,TIAN K.Ni'W.LEL"
NORTHUMBERLAND A,'% F` .Lr. --Hi iJ'-- .-iC. '" %
43 QUEEN V mi.
26 ST.YoRc:E.&J. 13. YOUN
NPEW YrORKi: r. P. Y OUNG $
PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMnlITTEE OF
GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION
APPOINTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
Z'be Loung WXomen's ibelp Society
AND ESPECIALLY TO OUR KIRKHAUGH BRANCH OF IT
WHICH ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE SOCIETY'S
MAGAZINE, "OUR PAPER"
BY ITS WRITER,
A Worker of the '. IVF H. S.
seen aught of
si,:n had been
.aked this ques-
tron and had
.:,me reply many
a time during
the last half-
hour; and yet
she still stood
.. citing under
tie little covered
E gland, look-
ing down the
St reet, and watch-
.ig the people as
Sby on their
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
She was a tall, strongly-built Northumberland lassie, with
fair hair, neatly twisted up under her straw hat, a healthy,
sun-warmed complexion, and a pair of honest blue-grey
eyes-a face as full of lights and shadows as her native
hills. There was more of shadow than light there just
then, however, as she stood leaning against the worn stone
pillar, her feet, shod with stout, brass-buckled shoes, crossed
at the ankles, and her fine black-and-tan colley dog sitting
by her side, every now and then looking- up with wise,
inquiring eyes, and whining gently, as if he also would say
-" What are we waiting for?"
It was not, however, only on Hester Morrison's face
that the shadows lay; the picture, of which she formed
the central figure, was gloomy, cold and dark in tone,
though the season was summer and the time after-
noon. Brown shadows lurked behind her in the little
covered shelter where the butter-women (all gone now) had
sat earlier on in the day; ghostly trails of misty vapour
veiled the sullen purple of the hills which girdle in the
little town; and its grey-slated, irregular roofs stood out
sadly against a sky, sadder even than themselves in hue,
whence poured a steady, continuous, hopeless rain. Water
flowed in little foaming rivulets down the gutters of the
hilly street, washing away the cabbage-leaves, and cleansing
diligently the mud and mire left by the cattle-fair, which
was just over; doing useful service indeed, from a sanitary
point of view, but chiming depressingly on the ears of the
girl, as she thought of the miles of wet moorland which lay
between herself and home.
Presently the town-hall clock struck six, and a plaided
cattle-drover, driving the last herd of cattle down the steep
street, called out the question for the last time, as he passed
HESTER MORRISON'S ENCOUNTER.
What are ye waiting for, Hester Morrison ?"
The girl sighed wearily; she was sick of the question by
now, and hopeless of an answer to that she put in return:
"I'm waiting for my brother. Ye'll not have seen aught o'
Willy Morrison, likely?"
The man stopped for a moment, however, and jerked his
thumb over his shoulder, as he replied, "Willy Morrison?
Oh, ay, he's in yonder-the 'Foxhound,' ye ken."
Hester understood, and the quick colour rushed to her
face as she muttered bitterly,
"I might have known. But, oh, it's too bad! Come,
Moss, we'll wait no longer."
The dog sprang up with a joyous bark; but before his
mistress had gone a dozen steps down the street, she
Father'll be that put about if I go home without him,"
she said to herself; "and there's Mister Lee, he'll be
waiting all this time for his money, and what'll he say to
Willy? Besides, the 'Foxhound!'"
A minute more and she seemed to have made up her
mind; for, with lips resolutely compressed and her colour
coming and going, she turned up a side-street, stopped at
the door of a low public-house and knocked timidly.
Loud talking and laughter sounded from within, and
Hester had to repeat her summons before the little slip-
shod barmaid came to answer it.
"Is Willy Morrison here?"
"Ay, he's in there."
The girl indicated a room from whose half-open door
issued the coarse smell of spirits and equally coarse sound
"Tell him I want to speak to him."
Ye can walk in."
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
The girl said it unconcernedly and walked away, leaving
Hester hesitating on the threshold; but she conquered her
shrinking and pushed open the door. The room was full
of the fumes of tobacco and whisky, and a large circle of
men were seated round the fire, drinking, smoking, and
playing cards. Among them was a fair-haired lad, like and
yet unlike Hester Morrison, for he had her features without
her fine expression.
He caught sight of her almost directly (for his face was
half towards the door), and his flushed cheeks flushed darker.
"Willy, lad, come home; I've been waiting this hour
past." The girl's voice trembled in spite of her, and she
shrank as she felt a dozen pairs of eyes upon her.
"Ye needn't have waited, then," answered the lad
sullenly, "there's no such hurry."
"But there is. Don't ye remember that Mr. Lee's
waiting all this time, Willy?" She went closer and
whispered, "Don't ye know he said that money must be
in Allendale Bank to-night? He'll never trust ye to sell
his beasts again if ye fail him this time, and ye ken how
father's bent on yer getting the business by-and-by.
Besides"-she bent lower-" the money's hardly safe here."
"Take it home yourself then," answered the lad; "I'm
not going yet."
He rose impatiently, throwing down the cards which he
held in his hand, and moved with her towards the door.
"I've business, I tell you, and I can't go yet. Here, take
the money if ye like; as ye say, it'll maybe safer. There's
a chap there knows I've got it; but if he thinks to get it
from me he'll be mistaken. Now, Hester, no more bother;
I'm not a bairn. Take it and be off."
The girl took the leather pocket-book he handed her,
HESTER MORRISON'S ENCOUNTER. 5
and thrust it into her own pocket; but,.as she did so, a
dark face appeared in the doorway of the bar, and the fear
crossed her mind that the exchange might have been seen.
The fear quickened her steps, and, putting up her umbrella
and calling Moss, she hastened down the town.
As she crossed the bridge and began to leave the houses
behind her, Hester looked back with an uncomfortable
suspicion of being followed. But no; she and Moss had
the road to themselves, and the only sound was the roar
of the river, as it rushed, foaming and fretting, under the
bridge. Relieved of this fear, she trudged steadily along
with her basket upon her arm-the basket of groceries,
etc., for home use, which Willy ought to have helped to
carry-and Moss trotting quietly by her side. The rain
poured down upon her umbrella, the road ran with a
hundred little rivulets, tiny cascades splashed down the
high bank to the right from among the larch trees and
the ferns and the moss; behind her Cross Fell loomed in
angry purple amidst the clouds which hung low upon
his crest, and in front stretched seven long miles of lonely
moorland between herself and home, a weary long way
indeed, and solitary as long.
When she came to the cross-roads, Hester stopped a
moment to rest her basket upon the wall and take breath.
A little further and she would leave all human habitations
behind her, and strike across the open fells. She was a
stout-hearted, healthy girl, quite unaccustomed to nervous
tremors, and she had travelled that road alone many a
time before, with never a thought of the loneliness; yet,
somehow, this evening there was a dread upon her which
she could not overcome.
"If Willy were only here!" she thought sadly, and she
called Moss to her and spoke to him, feeling thankful for
6 A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
the animal's company. Suddenly the dog turned from her
caresses with a low growl, and the girl started so as
almost to drop her basket. A man was standing in. the
road behind her, a tall, thin, shabby man, with a look of
the "tramp" upon him, and a face which Hester recog-
nised as the same she had seen in the public-house.
"Good evening, mistress," he said, civilly. "That's a
heavy basket you've got to carry."
Hester made no reply.
I'm maybe going your way, and if so you'll let me carry
it for you?" continued the man. "It's a long, lone road,
and a shame to let a bonny lass travel it all by herself.
Yon lad of yours ought to know better."
Still no reply. But the girl rose and took up her
basket. She would go, she thought, into a cottage which
stood by the cross-roads, and asked leave to wait a while
till the man was gone. He followed her however.
"Come," he said, "it's a civil offer meant civilly, and ye
might give it a civil reply. I'll carry yer basket to Nine-
banks, and welcome, for the pleasure o' yer company."
Then Hester turned. Her heart was beating, but she
managed to speak quietly.
"How d'ye ken I'm going to Ninebanks?"
The question took him a-back. He laughed a little.
"Oh, I don't know-I just thought maybe ye were. Well,
ye'll let me walk with you anyhow ?"
"I don't walk with strangers," said the girl, proudly. "I
wish ye good evening."
She knocked at the cottage door.
Oh, well, just as you like. It 'ud have been out o' my
way,' replied the other, with apparent unconcern, and he
turned and walked off in the opposite direction.
When Hester had sat long enough to recover her ruffled
RESTER MORRISON'S ENCOUNTER.
composure, she looked out, and finding the coast clear,
prepared to set off again.
"It's a bad evening for ye to be out, Hester Morrison,"
said her hostess, as she stood at the door. "Ye'll have a
set to cross the river at Ninebanks, I'm thinking. The
waters '11 be all out-I'd go round by the bridge."
A new anxiety. Hester had not thought of this. "I
hope I'll get through, mistress," she answered, wearily.
"It's such a way round by'the bridge, and Fm over late
Ay, it's some late for a young lass like you to be getting
home from market on a fair night," remarked the woman,
somewhat sententiously, and Hester felt the colour come
to her face; but she would not say by whose fault it was.
There were two roads open to her as far as the top of
the fell-the old and the new-one much more frequented
than the other. She chose the former, as shorter, if more
solitary, and toiled up the steep ascent, trying to keep heart,
in spite of weariness, wet, and vexation of spirit. Would
Willy never come? He should have overtaken her before
this, hindered as she had been by her basket and the
enforced stoppage by the way. The woman's words about
the river also troubled her, and her encounter with the
tramp still made her heart throb painfully. Suppose he
should follow her after all? The slightest sound made her
glance nervously behind her. But no, the road was empty.
Up, up, she toiled; along the wet green lane by the fir-
plantation, while the rain dripped in sullen tears from the
red bark and the blue-green foliage of gaunt Scotch firs,
standing spectral in the mist. Up, up; the road rising ever
more steeply before her into the very folds of the low-lying
clouds. Never before had it seemed to her so long and steep.
And now at last she is at the top, out on the open moorland,
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
beyond all houses, beyond all trees, beyond all fences even;
for the very stone walls have disappeared, and the road-a
mere cart-track now-leads, unbounded to right or left,
straight across the heather. She seems to have entered
cloudland; for clouds are all about, hiding the horizon,
trailing in soft fleecy swathes among the wet masses of the
heather, which is not yet in bloom, and lying, tossed and
billowy, in the valley whence she has come. All below
looks like a sea flecked with little dark islets, as the mist
shifts occasionally, showing now one shoulder of the hills
and now another. Hester stops to take breath, and looks
back Along the road. Could anything be more silent ?-
anything more solitary ? For some moments there is not a
living being to be seen-not a sound to be heard; and
when presently a mountain ram, discovering the vicinity of
Moss, comes to the edge of the mist, advances his black
face and horned head to reconnoitre, and bleats a warning
to his ewes, it only seems to make the wilderness more wild,
as revealing creatures in the mist which may be quite close
and yet hidden from sight. Tales of spectral appearances
might well suit a scene like this.
It was not, however, of spectres that Hester thought, she
had too practical a mind for that. Her "bogie" was the
tramp. Supposing he had only been throwing her off the
scent by -taking the opposite direction? had gone up the
new road while she was in the cottage, and were lying in
wait for her somewhere in the mist? The girl had not
thought of that before, and it made her shiver. Suppose
she were to encounter him here-beyond call of a single
human being-and with all that money upon her ? Hester
.gasped as she. thought of it, and drew her shawl more
closely around her.
"But no, I'm foolish to think of it," she said to herself;
HESTER MORRISON'S ENCOUNTER.
"thinking '11 neither bring him nearer or take me further;
I'll just step out." And she did. Sandyford, a little
mountain burn brimful of brown peat-water, did its best
to stop her; but wet feet were nothing to Hester, and she
struggled through. On the other side of the burn the
ground rose gradually towards the edge of the moorland,
whence the path led downhill towards the river Allen.
Hester was already half-way up the slope, and the roar of
Sandyford was still filling her ears, when another sound
struck upon them-a sound which she had been dreading
to -hear all the time-the fall of a foot upon the road.
She looked round in terror, and there, sure enough, was
her "bogie," the tramp! Already he was close behind
her; the noise of the burn had muffled his footsteps, and
flight even seemed impossible. While she hesitated whether
to chance it and run, or to walk on quietly with apparent
unconcern, the moment for hesitation passed, and he was
up with her, and walking by her side.
So, my lass," he said, impudently, "I've overtaken you
after all, and here's my company, whether agreeable or not."
Hester's heart beat heavily. She could not have
answered even had she wished. Her silence seemed to
nettle him; for, after waiting a moment, he went on with
native roughness, dropping even the thin show of politeness
he had hitherto used.
"You needn't be so high neither, my lass, nor go for to
think it's your company I care so much for. That would
have been well enough to while the way, had you chosen to
be civil; but since you don't, let's come to business at
once, and then you may go for me-I'll trouble you no
more. Come now, hand over the brass."
Hester breathed hard. A less courageous girl, or one
more selfish, might have given in at once, for the sake of
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
her own safety. Not so Hester. Yet how helpless she
felt, alone with this unscrupulous man in perfect solitude !
It was a terrible moment. She was walking fast, yet the
fellow kept step with her, holding out his dirty hand, and
looking in her face with his impudent eyes.
"You won't?. Well, then, my fine madam, I'll make
you; there's nobody to stop me here. Now then, where's
the brass ? So? Must I help myself?" He laid his hand
upon her arm; but the touch aroused all Hester's spirit.
She was strong, and she shook him off, sprang to one side,
and turned at bay. She had only her umbrella for a
weapon, but she would use it. The tramp saw that in the
resolute set of her lips, ind the way in which she held the.
open umbrella before her, using it like a shield to protect
her person. And use it she did; for, whenever he tried to
lay a hand upon her, she lunged it in his face and sprang
Moss !" she cried, in a voice which trembled in spite of
her bravery. Moss Moss !"
Where was the dog ? Why did he not come to her aid ?
Alas! she could see him nowhere, and she could not
remember to have seen him since he had startled the ram.
Could it be that the sheep had gone astray from her father's
flock, and that Moss had thought it his duty to fetch him
home? It looked like it. Moss had gone on such self-
imposed errands before. But that he should have left her
this evening in her great need The desertion felt like the
last straw on the poor girl's heart. Yet she continued to
use her umbrella manfully.
There is often a touch of the ludicrous even in the most
tragic situations; and if you had suddenly come in the
solitude on these two figures dodging eadh other behind the
big cotton umbrella, I daresay you would have laughed,
HESTER MORRISON'S ENCOUNTER.
though it was very far from being a 1:l .,lin.: n-.ir ti. C.r :'u.r
:poor heroine. The tramp,: .:, :e. .:d ,o ..r i ri,
ridiculous figure she was making :i cut : ini, riho,.:i,
there was no one there to see, he very soon. became exas-
perated. He made another -dash'at the offending -1., tbrc- l,
and succeeded at last in wrenching it from her hand and
pinioning her arms.
Now then, give in, or I'll knock you down and search
you! he roared. And down indeed 'one of them went;
but it was not Hester Morrison. Moss, the collie, had
heard her call. In the nick of time, he came careering
over the heather, and, taking in the -situation :i' 1 1i.:.,
sprang at the tramp and pulled him to th,. ii uIid. Hester
was free. Her heart was beating wildly, i -r I .l.::th coming
fast; but without a moment's pause she set off running,
gained the brow of the hill, and fled like the wind down
the other side towards the river. As she ran, the sharp
cry of an animal in pain reached her ears; but she scarcely
heeded it in her terror, and sped on. Might he not break
from Moss and follow her at any moment? The fear lent
wings to her feet. Yes, there were steps behind her, the
steps of a man running hard. Hester dared not look back;
but she knew that her enemy was there-that- he was
gaining ground, and the river was between herself and
safety No time to go round by the bridge now. If the
stepping-stones were under water, it was all over with her.
She ran on with the fleetness of desperation.
'/^ f \ .'*, !. i, HEN He,' t M.l,,ri::, llali
c- 41i1L and gcItIc in iiinood
and quite insignificant in volume, rippling along over its
pebbles and whispering around the stepping-stones which
were laid across the shallowest part, in the laziest and
most caressing manner. But, as is often the case with these
mountain streams, a few hours' rain had been sufficient to
transform it from a brook into a torrent. Countless
rivulets up among the hills had emptied their peat-stained
water into it, ,,. llr- the river to three times its usual size
and causing it to roll along with angry, rapid roar, and fierce,
rebellious motion at every check which it encountered from
the rocks that strewed its bed. As Hester came near,
she cast a hurried, anxious glance at the stepping-stones.
Alas, scarcely one of them was visible; the brown water
was flowing over them with backward toss of snowy-crested
waves, as though indignant at their very presence.
TO THE RESCUE!
Hester's poor, breathless, frightened heart gave a great
throb at the sight, and she glanced back over her shoulder.
Alas I the danger there was quite as imminent; the tramp
was coming rapidly down the hill, and would be up with
her in another minute if she paused but for that space m
her headlong flight.
The girl's heart turned sick with terror. No escape
seemed possible. The bridge was too far down the river
to make it possible for her to reach it without being over-
taken by her pursuer, and to attempt to cross the water in
such a flood, was to risk drowning; for she could hardly
hope to keep her footing upon the almost submerged
stepping-stones. Better the river, however, than that
unscrupulous man. Hester ran on, resolved to attempt the
crossing rather than fall into his power; for she believed
that, from her familiar knowledge of the river, her chances
here were at least better than his, as a stranger, were likely
to be; and that, if he tried to follow her, he was even more
likely to be carried away than she was.
Perhaps the tramp had come to a similar conclusion, for
his speed seemed to increase as they neared the brink, and,
had the distance she had to run been a trifle greater, he would
probably have overtaken her before she could reach the water.
As things were, however, Hester had dashed in, and had
attained the third stepping-stone, before her pursuer was at
the brink. There, however, both paused; Hester, because
the next stone was quite invisible, and, so far as she could
tell, entirely washed away; the tramp, because he had
never before crossed the river at this place, and was doubt-
ful whether at the present moment it was possible to do so.
He tried spoken arguments again.
Come back, girl V" he cried; you'll be drowned as sure
as you're there-come back, I say !"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
But Hester was gazing down into the brown water,
searching for the lost stone, and measuring the distance to
the next one, which was of larger size and not quite covered.
Come back !" shouted the tramp again. I don't want
to drown you; but I can, if I catch you there, so you had
better listen to reason."
He made a threatening movement as he spoke; but the
girl, instead of answering, gathered up all her powers, and,
with a desperate leap, succeeded in gaining the stepping-
stone. There she stood, trembling with the effort she had
made, dizzy with the rapid flow of the water round about
her, and terribly doubtful as to further progress; for the
next two stones were hidden by the current.
Meantime the tramp had mustered courage. He had
picked up a stick, and with its aid had gained the third
stepping-stone, and was gathering himself up to spring over
to where Hester stood. The stone was large, and he cal-
culated that there would just be room for them to stand
together, if they did not overbalance in the leap. Using
his stick as a support, he succeeded in swinging himself
safely across, and seized the terrified girl by the arms, just
as she was about to dash into the water in the blind effort
And now it seemed that she was completely in his power.
They were just as much alone together on that stone, in
the midst of the rushing, swirling torrent, as though it
had been a desert-island and the river the ocean
itself. There was just as little chance of her cries for
help being heard here, amid the roar of the water, as there
would have been in the case of Robinson Crusoe
himself. There were houses on the opposite side of the
river; Hester's home, the village of Ninebanks, was but a
short distance further down; but the place where she stood
TO THE RESCUE!
was almost hidden from it by trees, and even had it not
been, there was little likelihood that anyone would be stand-
ing about and likely to see her in such rain.
Her position seemed indeed hopeless.
"Now then, hand over that brass, and be quick about it,"
said the tramp, giving her a shake. He expected to be
obeyed at once, and was greatly surprised that the girl made
no movement to do as he told her. What was she thinking
of? Did she not know that she was completely at his
.Hester did know that, humanly speaking, it was so; but
she knew also what would be the consequences to her
brother from the loss of this money with which he had
been entrusted. She knew that the circumstances were sure
to be inquired into, and that if the blame were traced home
0 to him, it would in all probability ruin his prospects.
The tramp swore a great oath.
"Well then, I must help myself, it seems," he said, and
plunged one hand into her pocket. But the purse was not
"Curse you !" said the man with another savage shake.
"You'd better give it up at once, or it'll be the worse for
you. The water's deep enough to drown you, I daresay.
I'll push you off the stone and hold you in till you choke
or come to, if you won't do it without. Now then-one,
two, three /"
He began to count with cruel emphasis.
Hester shut her eyes, and a voiceless prayer went up for
Must she give up the money after all? There seemed no
help for it. Yet she hesitated.
"Take your hands off me," she said evasively. How
can I do anything with my arms pinioned like that?"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
The man hesitated a moment, and then loosed her.
There seemed no reason against it; for how could she
escape him here?
But no sooner was the girl free than she sprang from the
stone into the water. She made a desperate effort to reach
the next uncovered stone, but in vain; the current seized
her, swept her from her feet, and carried her down the stream.
One wild cry for help rang over the waters.
It brought her no assistance from the tramp, who stood
staring stupidly down the river at the figure of his victim,
as it was swept away from him by the stream.
Did no one hear her cry ? was there none to help her at
her need ?
Yes; that wordless prayer had gone up through the
mists and the clouds and had reached One above, and He
had prepared one below to be His messenger.
Just as Hester sprang into the water, a fisherman came
in sight round a curve in the river; and, seeing what had
happened, threw down his rod and ran along the bank till
he came opposite to where she was. Then he dashed in.
The new-comer was a tall, strong man; and yet even he
seemed to find it hard work to stem the rapid stream, and
to keep -his footing among the slippery stones and sharp
rocks which strewed its bed. Hester's progress had provi-
dentially been checked by one of these rocks, to which she
had clung in passing with the grip of despair, or it might
have been long enough before he could have reached her.
.As it was, rescue came just in time; for her forehead was
cut and bleeding where it had come in contact with the
stones; she was half-choked with water, and consciousness
was slipping from her. In another moment she must have
loosed her grasp and been carried further down, when
strong arms seized her and she was lifted on to the rock.
TO THE RESCUE!
Hester was just conscious of this; then swirling water, rocks,
banks and trees all seemed to mingle together and rush
past in one mad dance, and she fainted helplessly away.
When she came to herself again she was lying on the wet
grass by the river's brink, with her head resting on some-
body's knee, who was wringing the water from her loosened
hair, which was hanging all about her face.
Was it the tramp?
Hester's heart gave a sick throb at the thought, and she
made a feeble, frightened motion to get away. But her
head swam too much for her to succeed, and she let it fall
back again on its resting-place. Whoever it was she was
quite helpless now; she could resist no more. He could
take the money if he liked; for she could do nothing more
to prevent him. She closed her eyes with a shiver.
The "somebody" left off wringing Hester's hair and set
himself to chafe her hands, and a kind voice said, "Take
time, my lass, ye'll be all right soon."
The voice sounded so encouraging that Hester opened
her eyes again, and ventured a peep at the face which was
bending over her. It was far too open and honest and
manly a face to belong to a tramp of any kind; she saw
that at once; and as for being in any way like her tramp,
the idea was not to be entertained for a moment longer.
The grey eyes looked so kind, the mouth, under the light
brown moustache, smiled with such genuine pleasure at her
recovery, that the girl was at once reassured.
That he was young and a perfect stranger were other
discoveries, and they had the effect of bringing the colour
to the girl's pale face, and causing her to change her
position at the first moment possible. -She sat up, put her
hands to her head to try and steady its swimming giddiness,
and looked round in a timid, bewildered manner.
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
"Ye're better now, aren't ye ?" said the stranger in the
same encouraging voice, with a solicitous look at the
trembling figure by his side. Ay, that's right; I'm blithe
to see ye coming' round. And how about that rascal? He
pushed ye in, didn't he?"
"I-I jumped in," she answered, trying to command her
trembling voice, and to control the shivers which almost
took away her breath. "He-he-wanted---
"There, never mind, my lass," said the stranger kindly;
"he's gone now, any way, or I'd have had real pleasure in
givin' him a right good licking" (this wh' Lan energy which
showed that the tramp had done prudenrry in putting him-
self out of reach of his muscular arm). And now, where
d'ye live, lassie? Ye're wet through and shiverin' like a
gun-shy whelp-beggin' yer pardon for likening ye to the
same.. Come, ye'll catch yer death of cold if ye sit here
Hester tried to rise; but her giddiness made her fain to
accept of the stranger's help. She pointed towards the
little village on the hill.
"What, Ninebanks ? said he. Why, I live there too;
well go together. So, lean on me, and don't be frightened.
I'm not that weak !"
He laughed pleasantly as he uttered the little jest, as
though to take away any little awkwardness which the girl
might feel; and they went on together up the hill, he sup-
porting her with his strong arm, she leaning upon him.
For, courageous as she had shown herself during the
encounter with the tramp, Hester was now trembling all
over, as much with nervousness-as with cold.
"And so you live at Ninebanks?" said the stranger
presently, finding that her step was becoming firmer and
her breathing less laboured. Well, now, that's queer !"
TO THE RESCUE!
"Why ? Because I live there too."
You / But, sir, I've never seen you before."
"Likely enough, seeing that mother and I only came
there yesterday evening."
Then you must be Sir Arthur Alnwood's new keeper ?"
Hester was beginning to forget the discomfort of her
position, and to lose the painful consciousness of garments
clinging to her limbs with wet; and this was just what the
stranger had intended she should do. He answered her
last question with a gk of satisfaction.
"Just so, mistres.tis Lant Heatherton, at yer service.
And n6w may I put a question on my part without seemin'
too free, and ask what they call you ?"
"My name's Hester Morrison," answered the girl in her
simple, straightforward manner. "Father lives at the
Hawthorn Farm, up by the church."
"Oh-ah!" said Lant in reply to this information; but
whether the exclamations meant surprise, or intimated that
the answer was not altogether unexpected, did not appear.
The next question hazarded was relative to Hester's late
adventure; but, finding that the subject was still an agitating
one to his companion, Lant did not pursue it.
"I think we'll go round by the back, Mr. Heatherton, if
you don't mind," said Hester timidly, as they neared the
village. "I don't like to go up street such a sight as I am,
and the neighbours do talk so."
"Just as you like, Miss Morrison; but-(with a reassur-
ing smile) d'ye think they'd ever see the difference between
the rain and the river? My word, how it does pelt No,
thank you, I'll not come in this evening. See, I am just
as wet as you are. I've been in the water too, you know.
Good evening." He lifted his wet hat from the wet locks
20 A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
with a pleasant smile, and was gone before Hester could
find anything to say in reply.
"I've been in the water too, you know." The words
had suddenly reminded her of a fact which, in her agitation,
she had hitherto almost forgotten. Yes, he had probably
saved her life; and now he was gone and she had never
even thanked him What would he think of her?
Poor Hester was feeling sadly uncomfortable, both in
mind and body, as she entered the farm-kitchen. It was a
long, low room with dark oaken beams across the ceiling, a
dark oaken dresser and presses on one side, and on the
other a stone-mullioned window, with old-fashioned lozenge-
shaped panes, and deep crimson-cushioned window-seat,
looking across the village street down upon the river. At
one end of the room was what had once been a big open
fire-place, now filled, in deference to modern requirements,
with oven and pot; but the massive stone chimney-piece
and jambs still remained, as well as the stone benches fitted
into the chimney corners, and on these Hester's father and
eldest brother were now sitting opposite to each other,
smoking their evening pipes.
"Thou's late, Hester lass," said Philip Morrison the elder,
taking out his pipe and turning to his daughter as she came in.
Ay, thou be," said Philip the younger, without removing
his pipe or turning his head quite so much.
The room was in semi-darkness, being only lit by the fire
and such failing light as could struggle in through the
tiny panes, so that Hester hoped her soaked condition
might pass unobserved and her adventure remain untold
till she had had time to re-arrange her dress and her bewil-
dered thoughts. Her hand was hardly on the door, how-
ever, which led to the upstairs rooms, when her father
TO THE RESCUE! 21
"VWhere's Willy ?" li-ssled.
"He'g' coming," answered. H it.r, wishful-to screen'him
as much as possible.
"C.;nI !": exclaimed Philip Morrison the "younger,
remnoving:,hi -pipe this time, and s '...ckii-'Lg ilh mnir.. ai-
iiJrio:,n." "Coming!: Well, and i... is nct e -ir; .nd
there's Mr. Lee- been down already' ;skln- lio:r i,? mfney !
Well,-it ju-:t I:r mes "
Nay, don't be hard on the lad," said Philip Moirison
the elder.'.; "Lads will 'be lads, thou-knows, 'Phil; and as
Hester says, he'll be here 'directly. It's no-bit nine o'clock
yet, when all's said and. done. Ye're. always too hard- on
"Hard? "-the younger Philip blew an impatient wreath
of smoke from his pipe. Well The word expressed
volumes in a small edition. However, we'll just see what-
Mister Lee says, for thei'e he is coming down street again.-
He'll be blithe to wait Will's" cohvenienc'e for his i 1minc', a
while longer, I'll be boundd" ,
"The money's here," siid Hester, taking the pocket-book,
whose defence had -cost her so much, from the bosom of
her dress, where she had placed it for safety's sake while at
-the Cross-roads cottage -
There "T'exlaimed Phiip Morrison the elder trium-
phantly. "Didn't I say ye'd'been too'hard n 'the lad?
The money's safe enough, ye see. Reach it here, lass, hnd
I'll give it to Mr. Lee, and there's no-call for anyone to
tell him that Willy didn't bring it hisself. My word, but it's
wet! One would say ye'd been dragged through the river, i
lass, to see this same purse. Go and change your clothes
.l V t 1 1 f z
N.-.'v th:it H- .: rr i t ti J i 'gh Lt ,. 're lfr,:.n ,re ;Ing fear-
concerning her own safety and that of the purse, she had
leisure to think of both her defenders; and a pang of
remorse shot through her as she remembered how entirely
she had forgotten the first, in speculations about the second.
Poor Moss, how bravely he had fought for her the first time
UNDER THE HAWTHORNS.
she was in the tramp's clutches! How boldly he had
seized her persecutor and freed her! How was it that the
man had escaped from the dog, and that she had never
seen the latter since? Moss was much too faithful to leave
his mistress in the hour of danger, Hester knew that, and it
was with sad misgivings that she recalled the scream of pain
which had reached her ears as she ran down the hill. Could
the tramp have killed him ? It seemed only too likely, and
it was with a very sad heart that she lay down on her little
bed in the gable-room upstairs which overlooked the river.
Her brother also had not yet returned; and the two Philip
Morrisons had been too near "falling out". on the subject
to pay much attention to the weary and excited condition
of their poor young housekeeper; so that when finally they -
had grumbled themselves off to bed, Hester betook herself
to rest in a tearful condition but little suited to the heroine's
part she had played that day.
She dreamed of evil faces, of mist and swelling waters
and cries of pain; yet through it all, the remembrance of a
strong arm and a kindly voice came to her with a sense of
protection and soothing.
Hester had no mother. The second Mrs. Morrison,
whose children she and Willy were-Philip being the only
son of the first wife-had died years before, and, since she
had left school, the girl had had to do most of the woman's
work about the farm, so that she had seldom time to
indulge in morning dreams. Nor did she now. Six o'clock
striking from the noisy old Jack-o'-the-wall on the stair-head
by her door roused her from sleep, and the hungry bleating
of her family of calves, in the paddock near, warned her
that she was half-an-hour later than usual in getting them
their breakfast. She flung open her lattice window. It
was one of those deliciously sweet, pure mornings which
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
sometimes come after a day of rain in summer. The air
was as bright as a diamond; diamond drops flashed from
every blade of grass and from every twig and hedgerow, and
seemed laughing back in the sun's bright face, as he beamed,
well pleased, over the swelling moors, purpling with the
shadows of departing clouds. A scent of fresh earth,
southern-wood and thyme came up from the garden beds;
the birds were trying their voices in the bushes, and from
the valley the rush of the flooded river sounded with solemn
distinctness. Hester could see its brown waters and hurry-
ing curds of foam between the trees which crowned the
slope, and a shudder crept over her as she looked, and she
turned away to say her short morning prayer with a more
thankful heart than usual.
Downstairs in the kitchen, the little maid, hired for the
summer half-year, was boiling the linseed which was to be
mixed with milk for the calves' breakfast, and Hester, taking
the pails directly they were ready, set off to answer the call
of her impatient children. Hester was very proud of her
calves; no farm in the heighbourhood, she thought, could
show a finer set than the eight pretty creatures who ran to
meet her as she opened the paddock gate. She had her
favourites among them certainly; but though snow-white
Hawthorn, with her delicate pink ears and dark liquid eyes;
and bold, sturdy Blackthorn, who, according to Farmer
Morrison, was safe to turn out a prize bull, were dearer to
her than the rest, they were never allowed to have more than
their fair turn at the pail. Blackthorn specially came in for
many a rap on the head from his mistress's stick for trying to
oust the nose of a weaker brother from the milky mess; and,
remonstrate as he would, she kept him in excellent order.
The calf-close at the Hawthorn Farm was one of the
prettiest little fields you could see anywhere. It formed a
UNDER THE HAWTHORNS.
triangle strongly fenced-in, between the steep bank over-
hanging the river on the one side, the farm-buildings on
another, and the village on the third; and commanded a far-
stretching view over the great moors beyond the Allen, and
the beautiful Monk Wood towards which it flowed. The
point of the triangle furthest from the village was filled with
a group of hawthorns, now in full blossom, and under their
almond-scented shadow the calves had come to be fed. As
Hester stood there bare-headed, in her clean pink and white
bed-gown,' and dark brown petticoat, the morning air
bringing back the colour to her cheeks, and each little puff
of wind sending down a shower of white petals from the
trees above, she looked very like a piece of May-blossom
herself; at least so somebody thought as he came along the
path which crossed the village churchyard, and stopped at
the paddock-gate. The girl did not see him; she was far too
busy with her calves, having just at that instant detected
Master Blackthorn in a sly attempt to attack little Buttercup
in the rear, and frighten him from further feeding.
Lant Heatherton (for he it was) paused, leaned his arms
on the top of the gate, and looked on at the little scene
which was taking place under the hawthorns.
"Poor lass," he said to himself, "it seems cruel-like to
trouble her again, when she looks to have got so nicely
over last night's fash But-"
He paused and looked again, and as he looked, a soft
expression stole over his firm, resolute features, and tem-
pered the glance of his.keen grey eye.
"Aye, she's just for all the world like a bit o' thorn-
blossom herself ; as bonny as the pink and as pure-looking
as the white," he murmured again, pleased at the poetry
1 A bed-gown is a working jacket made of print, worn by north-
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
of the thought he had originated. "Queer," he went on
presently, after.another look. "I've seen many a bonnier
lass than she is, when you take her to pieces like, and yet
there's something. Bothered if I know what it is 1 Good
morning, mistress !" (this to Hester, who, having finished
feeding her calves, had suddenly turned round). "I hope I
see you nicely again? (It's most like pink-thorn she is !")
These last words of course did not come to Hester's
ears, but they were caused by the quick, rosy colour which
rushed to her cheeks, as yesterday's adventure was then
suddenly recalled to her. Yet she answered quite simply,
"Yes, thank you, Mister Heatherton" (then, remembering
yesterday's omission, she went on a little brokenly).
" I quite forgot, I ought to have thanked you; but indeed
-indeed I do, and very kindly. I'd likely have been
drowned but for you."
"You're welcome, I'm sure," returned Lant; but he
seemed to be thinking of somethingelse.
Hester felt a little chilled. Her thanks had been doubly
warm from the chiding she had given herself because of
their delay; but he did not seem to have missed -them, if
she might judge from his indifferent reply. With the flush
deepening in her face, she took up the pails and prepared
to go. Lant Heatherton, however, still stood by the gate
and made no movement to let her pass.
"Mistress," he said at length, as he met her look of
surprise. "Have ye lost a dog ? "
"Moss?" exclaimed Hester eagerly. "Oh, have you
found him? Is he alive?"
"A black and-tan collie ?" went on Lant. "Tan spots
over the eyes, tan breast and paws, long bushy tail ?"
Yes, yes, that's Moss-is he alive ?"
"Well, yes, he's that," began Lant; then, seeing the
UNDER THE HAWTHORNS.
girl's eyes full of questions, he went on .with more detail.
"I had to be out on the fell, up to Sandyford, very early
this morning, and what should I see creeping down the
ridge, as slow as slow, but something dark, quite close to
the ground. Thinks I, that's a fox! Not that I don't
know a fox from a dog when I see it, but it was hardly
light enough to make out. Well, I went towards it, and
as soon as it sees me it gives a cry, and creeps up to me
and looks up in my face, like-it was a bit lighter then
and I could see its eyes, poor beast!-Well, if you'll
excuse me, for all the world like you did, when I got a-hold
of you to bring you out o' t'river, just as though it were
quite beat and wanted help. Then I looked at it close,
and, poor beast, there was a big cut right across his head,
and another in his breast, and two paws hanging just useless,
and the blood-guid sakes, but it had bled, poor thing!
Well, thinks I to myself there's been a knife here, and it's
been used just cruel; and I thought on the fellow who
misused you yesterday, mistress; and I put two and two
together, and, thinks I, it'll be her dog; so I got the poor
beast home, and mother and I are doing what we can for
Hester's face had been in tune with the narrative all the
time. Surprise, pity, horror and anxiety had chased each
other across it; and finally came a look the young keeper
had seen there already-gratitude. He liked to see it, and
that perhaps caused him to make a little more of his story
than he would otherwise have done. Then came her
thanks, which he liked to hear also, carelessly as he
appeared to receive them.
"Oh, thank you so much! Poor Moss-Can I see
"Yes, but-" he hesitated, and picked a bit of lichen
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
off the gate. "But there's not only the dog, there's some-
one else I found; I ought to tell you-" He hesitated
Hester's face blanched.
"Who ?" she whispered. "Who ?-Not Willy?"
Yes, your brother. Nay don't look so scared; he's not
Why should he feel it so hard, the young keeper wondered,
to tell'this girl of the state in which he had found her brother?
In his class of life, the sight of drunkenness and of the
indisposition which often follows it, are too common to
cause much disgust. Why then did he shrink from saying
what was the matter with Willy Morrison? Was it the
"white-blossom look about the girl which deterred him?
Lant Heatherton did not get so far as to assign any reason
for his reluctance, yet he felt it keenly.
It's-it's-he's not just weel," he went on hesitatingly,
"he'd been lying out in the rain, ye see, when I found him.
It was last night, quite late, otherr side o' the water-it's a
mercy he hadn't tried to cross !"
Hester understood now, and the red colour which had
fled from her cheek came back with a rush of shame.
"Why didn't you bring him home?" she asked.
Lant fidgetted and picked at the lichen again, while he
"Well, it was that late, ye see. I didn't like to knock
ye up; and-well, I judged he'd best bide wi' us till
"And he's better now ?"
"He's sleeping Will ye come in?"
She answered with the one word, as though she thought
the least said the better; and Lant, respecting her silence,
UNDER THE HAWTHORNS.
opened the gate for her to pass, and led the way towards
his cottage without further speech. He stopped at the
door of the cottage nearest the church, which had stood
long without a tenant, as the weedy condition of the
garden testified. There he turned and looked back at
"You'll excuse the strow',1 he said apologetically. "We've
scarce had time to get things sided up yet, mother and I.
Mother," he went on, addressing the tidiest of little women,
who came to the door, "here's Miss Morrison. His sister,
ye ken," he added in a lower tone.
"Come in, honey," said Mrs. Heatherton in a pleasant
voice, which recalled her son's. "Come in. He's sleeping'
nice now, and it'll soon pass off. There, don't fret, dearie,"
she continued, seeing the agitation which Hester could not
quite conceal. "He's but a lad, and he's been led on, likely,
I've seen many like him that's done it once-been overtaken
like-and it's just cured them for ever after. Yell see
Hester nodded, not being quite able for speech, and Mrs.
Heatherton threw open the door of an inner room. There,
stretched upon a little bed with old-fashioned, blue-checked
curtains, was Willy, sleeping heavily, his fair hair all tossed
and disordered, and a feverish flush on his face. Hester
shuddered a little.
"We just laid him in Lant's bed," said the woman
presently. "He wasn't willing to disturb you-wasn't my
lad. There, I'll send him right up home when he wakens,
and nobody '11 be the wiser, my dear; ye may depend on
that. And now ye'll see yer dog? Lant-Why, what-
ever's got the lad?"-for Lant had vanished. He had
gone no further than the garden, however, and came at
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
his mother's call to introduce Hester to the other patient.
The dog was lying on a mat beside the kitchen fire, with
head, breast, and paws skilfully bandaged. He half raised
his poor wounded head as Hester knelt beside him, and
feebly moved his tail.
"Why, the sight of you's doing him good already," said
the young keeper with a smile. He hasn't moved before,
since we brought him in-has he, mother?"
"No, poor lamb," returned Mrs. Heatherton pitifully.
"He's been sore mishandled-he has that !"
"And all in defending me!" said Hester; then, seeing
the curiosity of her hearers, she gave them a short account
of her adventure.
"Well, now, did one ever hear the like ?" exclaimed the
"You're a .brave lass," said the young man, with an
approving look at the girl.
"No," she said quickly, "I was frightened. It's Moss
who was brave. See, he's licking my hand, the poor, dear
fellow. Do you think he'll get round, Mister Heatherton ?"
She looked up appealingly.
Well, I shouldn't altogether wonder if he do," answered
the young keeper as cheerfully as he could. "There's my
setter, Fancy, now. Hey, Fancy, lass, where are you ? Quiet,
then !" he continued, addressing a fine Gordon setter, which
came from under the table at sound of her name and leaped
upon her master. "As I was saying, there's Fancy, there,
as good as ever now; but if you'd seen her once I Why, a
brute of a poacher mishandled her that sore, I never
thought she could have got over it. I'd have shot her
right off to put her out of her pain, poor lass, if it hadn't
been for her eyes. She looked at me that human-like, I
just couldn't. But mother brought her round, and she'll
UNDER TRIE HIAWTHORNS.
do her best for your dog, if you like to leave him with
"Ay, leave him and welcome," said Mrs. Heatherton.
"But it's not me that's the doctor."
She glanced at her son with a smile.
"Well, then, mother, you're the nurse," he answered
pleasantly, "and nursing's better than doctoring, any day.
You're going, Miss Morrison?"
"Yes, My father '11 be wanting his breakfast. Mrs.
Heatherton, you are good; I wish I could thank you
rightly "-she gave her hand to the little woman. "And
you too "-she turned to the young keeper. I shall never
get out of your debt."
"You're welcome, I'm sure," said Lant, for the second
time that morning; but, though the words were exactly the
same, they struck Hester Morrison differently than before,
and she went away thrilling with the hearty handclasp that
"Hey-day, Hester, lass, where hast been ?" asked Phil
Morrison the elder, as his daughter entered the house.
"Phil and I have come in just famishing; are we to have
no breakfast this morning eh ?"
"I should have had my bite and sup and been out
again afore this," growled Philip Morrison the younger,
"but it's always the way wi' lasses when they've been for
"Nay, Phil, it's not that," answered his sister, her eyes
filling with tears; "it's Moss and Willy, father," she went
on, turning to the elder man, "I had to see them."
'! Eh, what? Willy ? What ails him?" asked Farmer
Morrison anxiously; and Hester had to tell him, making as
little of the matter as she truthfully could. The two men
read between the lines, however. The elder Morrison's
A Sl'1IG OF WHITE HEATHER.
face fell, and his hand trembled as he cut himself some
bread; the younger put on the look which seems to say,
"I told you so," and he stirred his tea with vigour.
"It's a bad job," he said presently; "and to think o'
Willy disgracing hissel' that gait, before strangers too I'll
be shamed to look the new keeper in the face after this.
Ye must just speak out, father,.this time, and give it the
lad hot and strong, as he deserves."
"Poor lad, poor lad!" said the father distressfully. "I
fear I've been over easy with him, as ye say, Phil; but-
ay, I can't forget how his mother, poor lass, as she lay dyin',
gave him to my love; 'Phil,' she says, 'ye'll be kind to
him for my sake? He'll have no mother, poor bairn.'
Ay, ay, say nae mair, son Philip, it's over hard on me."
He pushed away his cup, rose from the table, and went out
"Ay, and it'll be harder yet, if he don't look out,"
muttered the elder son. "What did he wed a woman like
that for, if he didn't want bairns as feckless as herself ?
Lucky that Hester takes after the Morrisons!" (looking
approvingly at his sister's active figure, as she went about
her.household duties). "Here, Hester lass, put me up a
bit dinner; I have to go after the sheep, and I'll maybe not
be in till late."
As for Lant Heatnerton, as he took his gun and went
off with Fancy at his heels, to wage war on magpies and
hawks and such-like feathered poachers, he caught himself
first whistling, then singing a little song which he knew, of
which the words were these:-
Oh, the bonnie hawthorn-tree !
Oh, the sweet white hawthorn-tree !
Blithe the birds who pair in thee,
In the bonnie spring-time.
UNDER THE HAWTHORNS.
SHawthorn-blossom's sweet to me,
For beneath the hawthorn-tree,
Lassie, first I met with thee,
In the bonnie spring-time.
Sweet the blossom on the bough,
Soft the whispering breezes' sough,-
Sweeter, softer still wert thou,
Lassie, in the spring-time.
Over-head the birdies sang,
Underneath the gowans sprang;
There we stood in silence lang,
Lassie, in the spring-time.
She looked down upon the green,
I looked up the boughs between,
Wondering what the birds could mean,
Singing in the spring-time.
Birdies, teach me what to say,
When I stand another day,
With that lassie on the brae,
In the bonnie spring-time.
"Now, whatever made me think of that song?" said
Lant to himself as he trudged over the heather. "I can't
mind having sung it since I was a bit lad. Well, now,
songs is queer things, coming to your lips that gait, ye can't
tell why or wherefore And it's not such a bad song after
all; I wonder I-haven't sung it oftener."
-ANT Heaihenon (or, to ive
Ln' I hl i 'uh I nJ nic, V.hiih he
I--e -.-'J:m .:t, L.oiccl: o.t Hc: rh 1 r-
ington) was a widow's only son,
and, as his mother was fond of saying, the best son that
ever was reared." Perhaps one of his greatest points of
perfection in the widow's eyes was that, though he had
been a man for some time now, he had not yet married;
and mothers seem, as a rule, to prefer their sons to keep
single, especially when they are only sons of widows.
After all, this is but natural; and if Lant did not find
fault with his mother for wishing to keep him all to herself,
why should we ? It was said, however, that there had been
girls heard to whisper that Mrs. Heatherton was selfish;
but as, on the other hand, Lant did not care for these
girls, what did it matter what they said? Lant himself
was well satisfied with his housekeeper and desired no
MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.
better. "I'11 never wed till I find another woman.just
like thee, mother," he was wont to declare, as good and
as gentle, and as bonnie and as blithe."
"And that thou'lt never do, son Lant," the still comely
little widow would say in return; "folks like me's gone out
of fashion, like spinning-wheels and scythes-everything's
machine-made now, from home-spun and hay, down to the
lasses themselves !"
This perhaps, may have had some truth in it when said
in the neighbourhood of Carlisle, from whence the Heather-
tons came; but it did not altogether apply to the more
primitive district into which they had migrated. There
were a few scythes left in Ninebanks; in fact, the Morri-
sons could hardly use a mowing-machine on account of the
hilly nature of their fields. There was also at least one
spinning-wheel, and queerly enough this was also at the
Morrison's, old Phil refusing to believe that any socks
except home-grown, home-spun, and home-knitted ones
could stand his constant wear; and-well, Mrs. Heatherton
presently began to suspect that the lassie who span and
knitted them was one of nature's own sweet daughters,
with nothing "machine-made" about her either. She
observed also that Lant was less at home since they came
to Ninebanks than formerly; and, whether or not the lassie
had anything to do with it, he seemed decidedly interested
in the scythes and the spinning-wheel, to judge by his
frequent presence at the Hawthorn Farm, using the first or
studying the second. Hester was a little behind-hand with
her winter spinning and had a few hanks of wool to finish
before she put away her wheel for the summer. So, when
her father set himself down to smoke his last pipe on the
stone bench by the kitchen-door in the long warm evenings,
Hester would take her wheel and sit by him under the
A SPRIG OP WHIT]t WEATHER.
hawthorns, while the bees hummed in the blossoms over-
head as loudly as did the wheel below, and the red rays of
the setting sun glinted through the old gnarled boughs and
twinkled on the busy fingers of the spinner. And as soon as
ever the wheel began to hum, as often as not a figure would
stroll up from the cottage by the church, seemingly quite
by chance, tell the Morrisons that 'twas a very fine evening,
and then stand leaning against the crooked stem of the
largest thorn-tree, looking on at the nearly obsolete sight of
a cottage spinning-wheel in full work. And a pretty sight
it was on a sweet summer evening, with scented blossoms
overhead, and such a spinner as Hester Morrison sitting
below, making the old wheel whiz around, and drawing out
the thread with her busy fingers.
Well, Lant Heatherton was right to make the most of it,
for I doubt whether such a sight is now to be seen any-
where in England, even in that remote little village among
"'Twas mother's wheel, and grandmother's before her,"
old Phil Morrison would say, as he observed the interested
expression with which Sir Arthur Alnwood's new keeper
watched the process. "You may think it old-fashioned-
like to see a lass spinning now-a-days; but as long's I have
feet to walk upon, Hester '11 have to spin my socks; none
of your new-fangled machines for me, mister! Why, they
stretch the yarn to nothing, and what's' the good of hav-
ing such grand fleeces as we have up at the Hawthorns if
you get no better yarn out o' them than what any fool
could grow. I wouldn't give that" (and he snapped his
finger and thumb) "'for your spinning-jennies, as you call
Then the hay-time came, and many a spare hour did
Lant Heatherton spend in his neighbour's fields; first,
MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.
among the mowers, where, as a good scythesman, he was
found very useful by Farmer Morrison, and then among
the hay-makers, coming in and taking- up a fork in the
"throng" times when rain was looked for and much hay
was ready for the barn; or foot-cocking in the quiet evening
hours, when the setting sunbeams fell aslant the fields
sloping down to the river, and threw shadows, three times
the length of the cocks themselves, over the close-shorn
grass. Foot-cocking is sociable work, and allows of a chat
with a select companion, and two long shadows may often
be seen together, a little apart from the rest, on a quiet
summer's evening when the sky is promising and the hay
is being "put up." Somehow the two shadows oftenest
seen together in Farmer Morrison's fields were those of his
daughter Hester and of Sir Arthur Alnwood's new keeper.
It was all by chance, of course; yet more than one sun-
burnt haymaker, as he glanced at the pair, would turn to
his companion with a grin, and remark that-" He's making
hay while the sun shines, seemin'ly, is yon lad; not two
months in the place, and yet he's more in with t' Morrisons
already than most anybody in the countryside. Think you
old Phil '11 fancy him for a son-in-law now? Should have
thought he would have looked higher for Hester. He's
nought to bless himself with, that one !"
"He's a more likely lad than thou, anyhow," the answer
might be, with a toss of the head. "Seems to me some
folks never makes hay at all-sun or rain !"
"Old Phil '11 have got a good bit of money put by for
her, likely?" was the next remark, made meditatively.
"Likely he has," was the apparently indifferent answer.
And then rakes moved diligently again, and Hester and
Lant were let alone.
And yet, to judge by their conversation in the hayfield,
38 A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
there was nothing passed between the two. but what every
one might have shared. Said he, on that particular evening
when the above remarks were made, as he combed out the
hay for a cock--"Ye've heard tell o' the grand doings
there's to be at Alnwood next week, Miss Morrison ?"
"Yes," answered Hester, deftly turning her cock, "and
we've got our invitations, too-all the tenants have. We
rent most of our land from Sir Arthur, you know, though
the Hawthorns is our own."
"Yes. Are ye goin'?"
"We may, if hay's in by then; it depends, you see."
"You'd like to go?"
"I think so. But what are they going' to be on with?
I don't just rightly know. Is it like a kern1 supper, d'ye
"Ay, it'll be most like that-a hay-harvest home the
master calls it. It's got up for to welcome him and his
new lady home from the south-she's a south-country body,
you know-and they're leaving' the last field on purpose to
clear that day. She knows nought about haymakin' likely,
being London-bred, poor body."
"D'ye say so?" said Hester, interested.
"Yes; and there's to be dancing, and games, and a big
tea in the park. You must come, Miss Morrison !"
He said it as though he meant it, and Hester smiled,
"I maybe may," she said.
"Well, I'll call for you and your father, anyway. I can
get the loan of the kennels' dog cart by just speaking' a word
to the head-keeper, and I'll drive you down. It'll be hot
walking on a day like this, with the dancin' to come after.
You'll promise me the first reel, Hester?"
; Corn-Supper, Harvest-Home.
MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.
He sometimes slid naturally into the way of using her
Christian name, as is common among cottage neighbours
in the north-country, and Hester never thought to correct
him; it came much more pleasantly from his lips, she felt,
than the ceremonious Miss Morrison."
She looked up with a smile.
"I'll be blithe to dance it with you, I'm sure," she
"Thank you; and the first Haymakers," too ?"
"If you like."
"And the first waltz?"
She shook her head.
I'm no good waltzer, Mr. Heatherton," she said.
"You'll be wanting a better partner than me for that,
"I couldn't have a better."
What was there in the words that brought the May-
blossom flush into Hester's cheeks ? She could not have
told; but she made no reply, and became absorbed in a
refractory hay-cock.. Nor did Lant say any more either.
Perhaps he thought the more, as he went on working by
Hester's side in the low, sweet sunshine, while the swallows
were flying high in air- all fragrant with scents of dew and
new-made hay. Anyhow, you would have thought from
the expression of his face that such haymaking, silent or
not, was not unpleasant to him.
It was with a face full of bright anticipations, too, that
he drove up to the gate of the Hawthorn Farm on the
afternoon of the day fixed for Sir Arthur Alnwood's harvest-
It was a brilliant day; heart of maiden could not have
desired a finer on which to air a pretty new dress for the
first time; and this.was just what Hester Morrison intended
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
to do. No vain and foolish maiden was she, and yet it
was with a feeling of genuine satisfaction that she stood
before her mother's little carved looking-glass in the gable-
room, putting the finishing touches to her simple toilet.
The new sprigged cotton looked so fresh and cool, and the
white straw hat, with one pale pink rose nestling among its
black velvet trimming, suited so well with the fair, soft
colouring of the face below, which looked at her from the
oval frame of the little mirror. She could not keep the
smile from her lips, or the light from her eyes, as she took
Lant's outstretched hand, and was hoisted up beside him
into the high dog-cart, behind which her father, all in Sunday
best, had already taken his place. It was to be the most
delightful day his people ever enjoyed; Sir Arthur Alnwood
had said that; and certainly Hester Morrison at least set
off with the full anticipation of seeing his words realized.
There was not much talk on the way to Alnwood Hall.
Lant's horse was too fresh for that, and required all his
attention to make it keep a straight course along the road.
Hester thought, too, that the driver's face looked a shade
less bright than usual; but that, perhaps, may have been a
mistake, or only caused by his anxiety about the horse.
Anyhow, she did not let it trouble her own enjoyment of
the unaccustomed pleasure of a drive in a carriage, or the
thoughts of what was coming after.
What a drive that was Blue sky overhead with never
a cloud; fields, green as emeralds with new sprung grass, on
either side; tall purple fox-gloves standing -up from among
the fern in the shady plantations; purple heather decking
the hills like a royal mantle-all looked so bright and fair
and glad; and not less bright were the faces of the country
folk, trooping through all this fairness to the Hall. Hester
felt like a queen as she flew past in the master's dog-cart,
MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES. 41
behind his spirited horse, with the air caused by the rapid
motion fanning her face, nodding down from her throne at
her less fortunate friends below. She was almost sorry
when Lant drew up at the Kennels, handed her from the
carriage, and took her and Farmer Morrison by a private
gate into the grounds. A tent had been pitched for the
tea-drinking in one of the most beautiful glades of the
park, a brass band was stationed under a mighty oak hard
by, round which the sward had been mown and rolled as
smooth as a bowling-green for the dancing; and round
these centres of attraction, crowds of guests were already
assembled. Hester saw Lant cast a searching glance all
round, after which his face seemed to brighten, and he
turned to her with a smile.
"Would you like to see the flower-garden first?" he
asked. "There'll be plenty of time before tea, and they'll
likely not begin dancing till that's over."
"But Sir Arthur and his lady?" asked Hester. "Are
they not here yet ?"
"No; they're not expected from Newcastle till after the
3.51 train gets in at Haydon Bridge. The carriage has gone
to meet them, but they can't be here for a good while yet.
We're all to go and meet them at the big gates, and they're
to come down there (he pointed to a field below a sunk
fence, where some hay-makers were making the hay into
rows) "and see the last loads carried. You'd like to see
the flowers ?"
Hester certainly would; and, having discovered that her
father and brothers were all otherwise occupied, she went
off with the young keeper. The gardener was a friend of
his, and was proud to show off all the beauties of his green-
houses and conservatories to a girl so full of appreciation as
Hester proved herself to be. How lovely they all were!
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
The bright beds of scarlet, blue, and yellow blossoms,
burning with vivid colour in the glow of summer sunshine,
in front of the house, backed by dark-green trees, and set
in emerald turf; the old-fishioned walled garden full of
pinks and poppies, strawberries and cherries, behind the
house; the sweet-scented, tropical-feeling hot-houses, hung
with crimson passion-flowers or purpling grapes. Hester
scarcely knew what pleased her most as she walked through
them by Lant's side, while his friend picked her a bouquet
as a remembrance of each. But when, opening a little
rustic gate in a thick yew hedge, the gardener led the way
into the rose-garden, the girl could not repress a cry of
delight. This little sunny plot, cut out of the surrounding
woods, and crowded with standard roses, each lifting from
the velvet turf its glorious bunch of perfect blossoms,
seemed to her like a bit of fairy-land. She almost forgot
her companions as she flitted with the butterflies from tree
to tree, now plunging her face into a cluster of yellow
Gloires de Dijon, now wondering over the purity of the
white, then delighting in the intensity of the red roses.
It was all so sweet, so sunny, and so quiet, that even the
sounds of distant music could hardly tempt her away.
"But there's my reel, Hester," remonstrated Lant. "Listen,
they're striking up-'twould be pity to miss it !"
Just one moment," answered the girl, lingering to peep
into a rose-embowered rustic summer-house. "I'd like to
,have just such a house as that to live in always !"
"Would you?" replied the young man, with a look as
though he were taking her childish speech in earnest.
"Well, I don't see but what it might be managed in a way.
We might get a cutting, perhaps, and-"
Where was he getting to ? Hester flushed crimson, and
could have bitten her tongue out for the careless words
MAKING HAY WHILE THE SUN SHINES.
which had called forth this unexpected reply; and Lant,
too, seemed to feel that he was getting too far, when he
saw the grin on his friend's face; for he pulled up short
and coloured almost as red as Hester herself, as the
"Well, if it comes to that, you shall have a cutting for
sure, and welcome."
But he finished his little joke to himself, for Hester had
hurried out of the garden towards the tent, and Lant was
not slow to follow. "Making hay-while the sun shines,
that is, my word !" laughed the gardener good-humouredly.
"They'll not be long before they want their rose, seems
Louder and louder sounded the strains of The Keel
Row," as Hester, followed by Lant Heatherton, came near
to the big oak under which the brass band was stationed,
and the reel was being wound in and out with great spirit
when they reached the ground. There was no time to
waste, and, without a word, Lant took his partner's hand
and joined a set which was just forming near the edge of
the green. A pretty sight it was to see the lads and lasses
winding in and out and setting to each other under the
shadow of the great oaks, with the sunbeams twinkling
through the leaves, and the sky showing blue as a forget-
me-not between the branches; while the fathers and
mothers, the grandfathers and grandmothers, and all the
elder folk, whose dancing days were over, sat around,
looking on well pleased, or strolled in and out of the tent
where teacups were clinking. Little children ran about
hand-in-hand, dancing their own little dances in circles
round the trees, shouting and rolling down the slopes, or
tossing about the hay in the field below. And, still further
down, the river Alien wound its blue and silver cord around
44 A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
the hanging thickets of the Monk Wood, where the wood
pigeons were cooing to each other among the fragrant
shadows of the firs. And Lant and Hester footed the figure
of eight upon the turf amidst all this beauty, following each
other through the mizes of the reel, setting to each other
and taking hands, as though life were to be one long
dance together from end to end; yet never looking in each
other's faces, so conscious had those words in the rose-
garden suddenly made them both.
And the Keel Row played on and on, and the sun
shone as though never a cloud could come to throw a
shadow between it and them.
Ah, why do such dances ever end? Why does the sun
of happiness ever cease to shine ? Perhaps it never would,
were this world still as Eden, and men and women still as
Adam and Eve were before the serpent came. But the
trail of the serpent has unfitted this world to be the abiding
home of the pure in heart; and if the sun shone always
here, should we ever seek the unending sunshine of a
fairer Hereafter ?
HE mJusic topped at last. It
an imne, for the musicians
were red in the face, and
quite out of breath. The reel stopped also;
the clue was quite unwound, and the dancers ready for a rest
in the tranquil shade. Hester sat down all in a glow, and
began fanning herself with her handkerchief. Tea became
in great request, and the tea-cups and tea-spoons struck up a
cheerful music of their own inside the tent, very tuneful to the
ears of the thirsty dancers, and not less so to the members of
the band, who gladly laid aside their own instruments and
trooped in to the concert in their turn. How many cups
of tea these valiant performers drank, I am afraid to say;
but they showed a generous appreciation of the merits of
the rival band which did them infinite credit.
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
SNot till the music of the tea-tables was again silent, did
the brass band resume its seat under the great oak, and
renew its performance.
This time it was the swimming measure of a waltz which
throbbed on the sunny air, making many a pair of feet move
impatiently on the turf, as the lasses waited to be asked to
join. Hester Morrison was one of these, and she thought
half wistfully of her words to Lant Heatherton, and of his
in reply, as she watched the couples forming on the green.
"You'll be wanting a better partner than me, for that,
"I couldn't have a better !'
Would he still think so? Would he come back and ask
her to dance again ?
The girl wondered this, and set her heart upon a yes"
with an earnestness of hope she would, in cooler moments,
scarcely have imagined possible, where a mere dance was
Yes, there he was; he was coming towards her! Hester's
heart beat in tune with the tuneful music, and a flush of
pleasure mounted to her cheek. But when half across the
green, Lant Heatherton suddenly started, paused, and
looked across towards a group of people on the other side.
Hester could see his face change.
His eye seemed to have caught something, and his ear
too, for even through the music Hester thought she heard
a voice calling:-
"Lant Lant Heatherton !"
Yes, and there was some one beckoning also. The
young keeper hesitated a moment, and then changed his
course, and crossed to the other side of the green, opposite
to where Hester was. She saw him go up to the group of
people, and shake hands with an elderly man and a smartly-
THE SUN GOES UNDER A CLOUD. .47
dressed young woman, who seemed to be laughing a good deal
and talking rather vehemently. Then he glanced across in
her direction, but failed to see her, as, moved by a sudden
impulse, Hester had shifted her seat to where she was
screened by a sweeping branch of the beech-tree under
which she was sitting. She could still see the opposite
group; but the people composing it could not see her.
Presently she saw Lant offer his arm to the smart young
woman, and join the many couples which were now spinning,
like so many double humming-tops, over the green. He
had found a partner for the waltz.
The pretty flush of anticipation died from the girl's face,
her heart beat no longer in tune with the music; she leaned
back in the shadow, and a little shiver, as of cold, passed
over her. How silly it was! Why should she mind?
She had herself declined the waltz on the score of inefficiency
-was he not quite right to follow her advice and seek
another partner ? Of course he was. Common sense and
heart were arguing together within the girl, and she was too
sensible, naturally, not to let the former have the best of it.
Well, there were the "Haymakers" still to come; he
was goingto dance them with her anyhow; why should she
care so much about his dancing this waltz with another
girl? No, she would not be foolish any more, she would
at least amuse herself with looking at the pretty scene which
was passing before her, even though she could not join in
it at present. Yet somehow Hester Morrison's eyes kept
watching one couple only among the many; watching it so
closely that the picture, as a whole, pretty as it was, did
not come in for any of her attention. It was a noticeable
couple too. Lant was a tall, good-looking fellow, and his
elastic step and well-built figure showed to advantage in the
exercise he was at present engaged in. His partner also,
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
with her dark hair, her showy scarlet and white dress, and
high complexion, stood out from the other dancers, like a
bright-hued tulip in a bed of paler-coloured flowers.
Ay, she's a fine-looking lass, is that," Hester heard a
a man's voice say from the other side of her tree, where
several spectators of the dance were sitting on the rustic
seat which encircled the trunk. But she heard the words
in a far-off sort of way, without paying any particular atten-
tion or connecting them especially with Lant's partner.
"Who is she.?" asked another.
"Joe Brown's daughter-him that's keeper now to Mr.
Wentworth, at Wentworth Park, over Carlisle ways. Ye
ken who she's dancing with?"
"Ay, young Lant Heatherton, isn't it?"
"Ay, sure," struck in a woman's voice. "He lived
underkeeper there, you know, before taking service with our
squire. They say it's to be a match."
Hester's attention was caught now. The last words had
struck her as with a sudden blow. She listened with pain-
ful intentness for what would follow.
I was hearing so," replied the man who had first-spoken,
"and a very suitable thing too. Joe Brown's been the
making of that young fellow. He's been a father to him
almost, since his own died, and has taught him his trade
first-rate. Folks thought it strange he should ha' left Went-
worth under the circumstances."
"Wanted to better himself and make a nest for the
lassie, likely," put in the other man.
"Just so," went on the woman. "He'd be too proud, I
reckon, to marry money, and bring none. They say old
Joe's in clover at Wentworth, and that the lass 'll have a
canny tocher-she's his only bairn, ye ken."
"Ay, and her uncle had money too, hadn't he ? Him
THE SUN GOES UNDER A CLOUD. 49
that died in Australia. It'll have come to old Joe, I
"Just so, and folks say 'twas a tidy sum. And so the
young folks have had the sense to square it up, have they?
She brings money and he brings his sel', as a son for the
father's old age-neat that, I call it. But what brings the
Browns up here ?"
The woman laughed.
Why, sweethearts like to meet whiles, don't they, mister?
He'll have sent them word of the jollification likely, and
they'll have thought it a good time to visit the old aunt
over in Allendale. It'll be him that's got them invited
here to-day, you may depend. But, dear sakes, it's a'most
five o'clock! The squire '11 be coming directly. How
time does go, to be sure! Hadn't we better be moving
off, William, think you, so as to get a good place?"
"Ay, wouldd be better," answered the other; and then
the speakers got up from the bench and walked away in
the direction of the lodge gates.
The strain of listening over, Hester leant back against
the bole of tree with a feeling of faintness she could not
resist. The music sounded a long way off, the spinning
couples seemed to withdraw into the far distance; and she
shivered again as though the day had turned suddenly cold
and the sun had ceased to shine. Had it? The idea
awoke a faint wonder within her, and she opened the eyes
she had allowed to close, and looked up among the branches
of the tree. No, the sunbeams were twinkling there as
brightly as ever, and the azure blue of the sky seemed
unflecked by any cloud. She passed her hand wearily over
her brow. What could have happened to make her feel
so tired, and sick, and cold? She shut her eyes again.
Why, here she is Hester, lass, we've been looking for
50' A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
you all over. Everyone's moving off to see the squire and
his lady drive up. Look sharp! Lant Heatherton said
he'd do his best to keep us front places; but it's none so
easy when folks is all there."
It was her father's voice which spoke, and Hester started
as though she had been shot.
"Why, what ails the lass ?" asked Philip Morrison,
seeing her look of bewilderment. "Well, now, if I don't
believe thou's been asleep! Asleep, when folks has been
dancing' and the music playing' like mad Well, I never !
Ha! ha! ha!" The farmer burst into a hearty laugh.
"There, wake up, my lass," he went on, taking her arm in
his big brown hand. "Look sharp, or the fun'll be over
and us not there." And off he .marched her down the
avenue, which was thickly lined with spectators, to where,
close by the lodge gates, Lant Heatherton was vigorously
engaged in keeping the people at bay, and preventing them
from taking possession of the nook he had chosen for the
party from the Hawthorn Farm.
"Just in time and none too early, Mr. Morrison," he
said gaily, as the farmer and his daughter came up. "Here,
put Miss Hester in between us, so that -he mayn't be
crowded up. Eh, what a time I've had keeping folks off!
I thought you were never coming. Well, Hester, and where
were you ? We couldn't find you nowhere."
He turned to Hester with a smile; but that strange half-
awake feeling was still on the girl, and though her lips
moved, no sound came from them. It was her father who
answered for her. "Where d'ye think, lad ? Why, under
a tree on the green, fast asleep What d'ye think of that,
now ? In the middle o' the day, and such a day as this-
fast asleep! Ha! ha!"
The laugh and the jest jarred on Hester, so out of tune
THE SUN GOES UNDER A CLOUD.
were they with her present mood. She would have liked
indeed, she thought, to lie down in the shade and fall
asleep, to get away anywhere out of this noise and merri-
ment which had grown so thoroughly distasteful to her.
But-she felt the young keeper's eyes looking searchingly at
her, and with a great effort she roused herself. Solitude,
much as she longed for it, was not for her as yet. Not yet
could she indulge her feeling of utter weariness, or let the
tears which throbbed behind her eyeballs have way. Not
yet dared she look into the face of this vague trouble, which
had so suddenly come like a cloud between herself and the
sunshine, and see what it all meant. Though scarcely
alive as yet to all that was going on, the maidenly instincts
which are part of the birthright of every true woman, and
which, if she will but follow them faithfully, will seldom lead
her astray, were Hester's sentinels in this trying moment,
and helped her to hide the trouble within. To guard her
secret from prying eyes: that was her one aim and object;. the
secret which, till to-day, had lain hidden from her own self,
but which she now knew was there by the dull pain it was
giving her. Yes, she must keep her secret at any cost;
she must not wear her heart upon her sleeve for all these
daws to peck at.
"Why, what's the matter ? Morrison's Hester poorly ?"
she had heard a woman say, a woman she knew to be the
greatest gossip in the country-side; and then Lant
Heatherton had whispered, "Would you like to sit down
in the lodge, Miss Hester ? You look pale."
"Oh, no it is nothing, thank you," she answered
bravely, forcing a laugh. "It's been a bit hot to-day, you
see; but it's nice and shady in here. Oh, no, I won't, go
into the lodge. I should miss the sight. Hark isn't that
a carriage I hear ?"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
Hester's words had the desired effect; for at once atten-
tion left her, and eyes looked eagerly down the road. "Ay,
it's a carriage, sure enough," said a boy, who was acting
scout in a branch of a tree above their heads. There's
a cloud of dust coming round the corner. They'll be here
directly. Hurrah hurrah !"
Then everybody else burst out cheering; hats and hand-
kerchiefs were waved distractedly. Women and little
children stood on tip-toe. There was a moment of intense
excitement, and- then an open carriage drove through the
gates, and Hester caught sight of the young Squire bowing,
and of a sweet-faced lady smiling and nodding by his side.
Then there was a shout-" To the hay-field To the hay-
field!" followed by a sudden breaking-up of the tightly
packed mass of people which lined the carriage-drive-a
rush which almost carried Hester off her feet; but a strong
arm upheld her, and she heard Lant's voice saying as
he piloted her along, "It's almost as bad as a flood in the
river, isn't it, Hester?"
The girl shivered, she could not help it; and then
no more was said till she found herself carefully deposi-
ted on a heap of sweet-smelling hay under a spreading
"Now then, what shall I bring you? A glass of
lemonade, or another cup of tea? You look fit to drop.
It was a tight squeeze, I'll say that !"
But Hester declined refreshments, though she eagerly
drank a glass of water which Lant got her, without permis-
sion, from a well hard by.
"Oh, there you are, Lant!" exclaimed a loud voice, as
he was putting back the glass on a little stone shelf within
the arched covering of the well, and Hester saw the gaily-
dressed young woman from Carlisle come down the steps of
THE SUN GOES UNDER A CLOUD.
the sunk fence which led from the lawn into the hay-field,
followed by the old keeper, her father.
"Where have you been all this time?" she went on, as
she joined him at the well. It wasn't very civil of you,
I must say, all things considered, to -leave us all alone in
that crowd. Why, I nearly had my clothes pulled off my
back!" She smoothed out the folds of her conspicuous
dress, and looked up at Lant for an apology.
"I'm very sorry," he said, rather awkwardly, "but I was
busy, you see, so you must excuse me."
"There I will if you'll come and show us the gardens
-this minute she added with a playful stamp of the foot
as Lant hesitated. "There, that's a good boy,".she went
on, slipping her hand through his arm. "I told father
you would if I asked you. Come along, father."
"I won't be long, Miss Hester !" called out Lant, with
a backward glance to where Hester was sitting under the
beech-tree, and he gave her a smile as he went; but it
seemed to strike cold through the girl's body, for again that
little shiver passed over her. Presently her father joined
her, and then rakes were handed round to all who wanted
to help in the active work of the Hay-harvest Home, and
horses decked with bunches of ribbons were led into the
field, which soon became a pretty scene of bright activity,
with its many hay-makers all in their Sunday best, giving it
a festal look which evidently pleased the eyes of young
Lady Alnwood, who, having changed her travelling dress,
came down into the hay-field on the arm of her husband,
and insisted on taking a rake with the rest. Hester handed
her hers, a new light one; and the young bride, pleased
with the girl's gentle-ways, and fresh, modest look, made
Hester keep beside her and teach her how to rake. She
was still with Lady Alnwood when the last load was carried,
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
with shouting and hurrahing, from the field; and she could
not help smiling at the childlike delight with which the
young London lady, unused to country ways, watched the
piled-up waggon lumbering from the field, with a long train
of rakers walking in its wake, and gathering up the scattered
pieces of hay.
"Ah, look, look!" exclaimed the bride, "isn't this
pretty? Just like a scene in a play, I declare!" and she
drew Hester's attention towards another gate, through
which a small herd of beautiful Jersey cows, decked with
ribbons, was being driven into the field by three rosy milk-
maids dressed in short striped petticoats, white bed-gowns,
and pink sun-bonnets, carrying each a three-legged stool
and a new milking-pail.
Hester had never seen a play; but she agreed that it
was all very pretty, and tried to share in the young lady's
eager wonder as to what was to happen next. But her
curiosity must have appeared languid; for presently Lady
Alnwood flitted off to where her husband was talking to
some of the farmers, and Hester heard her questioning him
"Wait a bit, and you'll see, and taste too, Flora,"
answered Sir Arthur, and then he smiled kindly at his
young bride, and said, "You like it, dear? I'm so glad,"
and she slipped her arm through his and looked up in his
face with a smile of most perfect sympathy.
Hester watched the pair rather wistfully. She was
standing all alone, and she felt, oh! so sad. and lonely,
among all the brightness and throng which surrounded her.
She withdrew once more to the beech tree and sat down
beside some of the elder matrons of her village, who plied
her with questions till she was weary, as to what the Squire's
lady had said to her, and what she had answered in return.
THE SUN GOES UNDER A CLOUD.
And all this time Lady Alnwood herself stood by her
husband's side, watching the milkmaids seat themselves on
their three-legged stools and begin to milk the cows into the
new wooden pails. Then servants came down with trays of
bowls .and silver spoons, and big ladles, with which the con-
tents of the foaming pails was ladled into the bowls and
Ah, I see 'Tis a syllabub," said young Lady Alnwood,
as she sat in the sunshine eating her share.
:" Sponge-cake and milk, it seems to be," remarked one of
Hester's neighbours, tasting cautiously, "and I do declare
there's wine in it! That won't suit your principles, Mrs.
Barton, will it?"
"Well, I don't know as to that," answered the other, who
was already half-way through her portion, and enjoying the
compound with evident relish. She called it syllabub
anyhow, not wine, and I suppose we ought to believe her.
Don't be afraid, Hester Morrison," she added, turning to
Hester, whose appetite failed her; "'twill do you no harm,
I'm sure. Why, lots of things taste of wine, and are as
innocent of it as you and me. Didn't you see it come from
the cows with your own eyes ?"
Hester could not help. smiling at the way in which her
teetotaller friend got out of the difficulty; and she made
believe to eat, though each spoonful nearly choked her.
And there was the Haymakers striking up, and no Lant !
The Haymakers was danced too, and many another
set besides, and the band was resting again, before the
truant young man returned; and by that time the sun was
sloping westward, and the lights turning from gold to red,
and Farmer Morrison was fidgeting to be off.
"There 're the calves, ye know, to be seen to, Hester,"
he said, half apologetically, to his daughter. Little
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
Buttercup wants very careful serving, and ought to have
another dose to-night, he's not thriving as he should, and
there's only the girl at home. I'm loth to hurry you; but
if that lad would come, we ought to be off. He's going to
drive us back, isn't he ?"
He said so, father : but don't you think we'd best walk?
I'd as soon," answered Hester.
"Well, no; he'll be coming directly, I daresay. My
foot's not been up to much since I slipt, getting over the
dyke, last week, and I'm bad at travelling. Oh, here he is !
Lant, we're wanting to be off, if it's the same to you ?"
The young keeper looked put out, and muttered some
apologies for his absence; but seeing that the Morrisons
were in haste to go, he went to get the dog-cart, bidding
them meet him at the gate. If the drive there had been
rather a silent one, the drive back was very much so.
Scarcely a word was spoken by any of them as the dog-cart
bowled along roads sweet with hedgerow flowers and fair
with evening lights and shadows. The good-nights, too, at
the farmyard gate were of the briefest; Farmer Morrison
was anxious to see to his calf, and Hester's heart was too
heavy for words. Lant looked at her wistfully as she
descended, as though he would like to be asked in; but
she gave him no invitation, and there was nothing for it
but to drive away.
Oh, how thankful the girl was when her evening duties
were over, and she could get away to the little gable-room
and escape from that weary talk over the events of the day,
which her father and brothers had kept up during supper.
The day had been painful enough for her, poor thing!
without that "talking-over," which is one of the pleasantest
parts of pleasant days. But even in her quiet little room
she found no escape from the torture of recollection.
THE SUN GiU.ES UNDEP A CLOUD. 57
Lying upon her bed in the darkness, every scene passed in
succession before her closed eyes-the sunny, sweet-smelling
rose-garden,. the words spoken there, and the vision of
happiness they had called up. Then the :rcl under the
twinkling shadows and the golden 'uni li1--ho,; blissful it
had seemed! The sudden revelation which had clouded
her happy cor:':i:.ijnE. -'.i' it i c.i t .fully a A.ik[:c1 Ied, the
darkness whiih ihad .-lien upo:in l,,:.r .ind made :1ii the rest
of her holiday ik,: one ladi ire:iin-;l:hi saw and heard it
all again. H.-d tih-rt, then. bl'ec .. meaning in those
words spoken among the roes ? ..ad.h che been deceiving
herself? Hesterasked hei;Oi this -'rt l t'Lrcii. of burning
humiliation. For .hle i n-..o n.-v .:.h: -lher trouble meant;
the pain of the niwakt\e! i i re~vc.led, t icr thei rie.i:inrg :,f
the dream she had b-en il:iun';ni:u: 1,l living in during the
sunny summer day S-.1 had given her heart away
unasked. He had meant nothing after all !
Sknow the way
If you have never
Strodden it except on
that stormy evening in
the early summer when
we accompanied Hester Morrison on her homeward
way, you would scarcely know it again this sunny afternoon
in the glowing August-time, when again our heroine is
returning from the little mountain town of Alston. The
swelling moorland is lying like a gigantic purple plum
under the great blue arch of sky; its purple ripeness due
to the wealth of flowering heather which covers its surface,
"STEADFAST AND TRUE." 69
and the bloom supplied by a tender violet haze in which
the wide expanse of open ground fades away to the far
horizon, and by the great, soft shadows cast by the slow-
sailing white clouds in the wide, blue ocean overhead.
Down in the hollow which, by dint of centuries of
patient labour, it has scooped for itself, Sandyford dreams
along, a little thread of water, over its stony bed, its banks
green with a forest of bracken, standing motionless in the heat.
All is very still in this "world of heather," and yet if
you stop and listen attentively, you will hear that it is no
dead silence; the stillness is not without an undertone of
its own. Now and then a grasshopper breaks into a
chur-r-r-r, like the rapid clipping of a score of tiny scissors,
among, the warm greenness of the brackens; a bee, long
occupied in the fragrant-recesses of a thyme-bed, flies away
with a boom-m-m of satisfaction through the sleeping air.
A sheep bleats drowsily in the distance; and a wandering
waft of wind, coming from no one knows where, passes like
a sigh over the heather, and is gone-across the borders
into Scotland perchance, for it leaves no trace behind.
Hester is walking slowly; she looks tired and out of
harmony with the restful, sunny scene. Poor Hester, it is
but three days since she set off with such glad light-hearted-
ness to the fte at the park, and yet she feels ever so many
years older already. Not that she is giving way to "fret-
ting;" she is too wise and right-minded a girl for that. If
you had watched her going about her home, you would
have noticed that no duty had been neglected, no little
household business forgotten, because for a while the sun
had gone under a cloud with the young housewife. Because
she had the heart-ache, Hester saw no more reason that she
should sit down and cry before all her little world, than
she would have done had it been the headache which ailed
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
her. The trouble concerned herself alone, and she was
resolved that no one else should suffer for it; she would
fight it down in silence, and nobody should be the wiser.
So after that fit of bitter weeping all alone in the darkness
and silence of her little gable-room, she had dried her eyes,
and gone out bravely to take up her life again, though she
could not but feel that it lacked the sunshine and sweetness
of the time when the hay was being made. Ah, well, some
, days must be dark and dreary in every life, and they are
the wisest who, like Hester, are content to take the shadow
with the sunshine without moaning over the change. If
Hester thought she was the only human being in that wide
heather world, she soon found herself mistaken; for
presently the sound of a gun, close at hand, brought her
back with a start from the sad dream in which she was
beginning to lose herself; a bird, which had risen on the
wing some distance to the right, fell headlong into the
heather, and a dog, which she instantly recognized as Fancy,
sprung from behind a purple knoll. Then Hester knew
who must be near at hand. The colour rushed to her face,
and then ebbed painfully back again; her heart beat
breathlessly, but she would not turn her head; she only
quickened her pace and walked straight on. Soon, however,
she heard footsteps behind her, as before in the same place
she had heard those of the tramp. The girl's heart
fluttered just as wildly as it had done then, though from a
wholly different cause. Then it was a foe, now it was a
friend-one whom she had thought would be more than a
friend-and she dreaded that he might discover the mistake
that she had made. She was indignant too, under all the
pain, at what had led to the mistake, for his behaviour had
certainly given her some ground for it; and therefore, in
spite of all the tumult within, the girl's carriage was very
"STEADFAST AND TRUE."
erect and her expression cold when the moment she had
been dreading came, and Lant Heatherton joined her on
the path. He had a piece of white heather in his hand,
which he half held towards her ; but she would not see it.
"Good afternoon," he said with his cheery smile, in as
unembarrassed a voice as if nothing whatever had happened
to interfere with the pleasant condition of things between
them-" Good afternoon, Miss Hester. Why, we haven't
met these three days !"
"And I've been wanting to see you so much."
"Yes; and I came round both yesterday and the day
before, thinking to get a word with you; but I couldn't
see you anywhere."
"Really ? Why you speak as though you didn't believe
He spoke in rather a nettled tone; for it was impossible
to avoid noticing the shortness and coldness of her answers.
There was a little uncomfortable pause, during which Lant
twirled the sprig of heather in his fingers, and then he went
on with some vehemence--
"Hester, what's the matter? What have I done to
offend you ? For you are offended, I can see that. What-
ever is it ?"
She dil not answer.
"Hester," he continued, in a different tone, what do
you think I've been wanting to say to you?"
"I don't know."
"And I don't care either! That's what your answer
sounds like! Oh, Hester," (the sarcastic ring went out of his
voice, and it took a deeper tone), "don't make-believe that
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
way any more, for I can't abide it. It's sober earnest with
me, Hester, and I thought you cared a bit too-don't you ?"
He sounded sufficiently in earnest at all events, and for
one moment the girl felt what the happiness would have
been could she have believed him; the next, the vision of
the Wentworth keeper's daughter, with her bold eyes and her
smart dress, flashed upon her, freezing heart as well as voice,
and she answered with a calmness which surprised herself-
"I don't understand you, Mr. Heatherton."
"Hester !" He stopped in the road just in front of her,
and she was obliged to stop too. "Hester, don't play with
me, it's not like you, Surely you're not the girl to pretend
what you didn't mean?"
She pretend This was too much. The girl's pride came
to her aid, and she drew herself up.
"Let me pass, Mr. Heatherton, please."
"Not till I've said my say out, Hester," he answered,
with a resolute look in his face. When a mian cares for a
girl as I do for you, he has a right to an answer, at all
events. Oh, lass, I've looked forward to this moment many
a time, and I never thought you'd have taken it so !"
There was a tremble in his voice as he said the last words.
He tried to take her hand, but she drew it away. Knowing
what she knew, the girl felt that she was being cruelly
insulted. This man whom she had thought so honest and
so upright, was a traitor both to herself and to that other
girl. The thought cut her sore; but it armed her also.
"It is you who are pretending," she said bitterly; "I'd
think shame to'have passed my word to one and to go on
so with another. Let me go, please."
She tried to walk on again; but again he stopped her;
and there was a vehemence in his manner which startled her.
"Passed my word What do you mean? Surely you
"STEADFAST AND TRUE."
don't take me for a villain ? Hester, I never thought of
any lass before I saw you, so how could I pass my word?
Guid sakes what d'ye take me for?"
Lant's honest face flushed.
Then Hester raised her eyes for a moment and looked
straight at him.
"Have you forgotten Miss Brown ?" she asked.
"Miss Brown what of her ?"
"Folks say you're engaged to her."
"Folks say what's not true then !" he burst out hotly.
"Look here, Hester, I don't like to say unkind things of
any girl, least of all when her father's been as good to me
as Joe Brown has; but I can't have you running away with
any false notions. Miss Brown may wish to be on with
me; but if she does, it's no fault of mine. All lasses are
not so nicely-behaved as you are, Hester, more's the pity !"
There was silence for a moment. Hester's heart beat
as though it would choke her. The breeze blew softly over
the heather, and the cloud-shadows sailed before it.
At last he said a little sadly-
Won't you believe me, Hester ?"
"Yes!" She looked up with a sunny smile beaming
suddenly all over her face, and his seemed to catch the
reflection, for it lighted also.
"Then it's all right, Hester?" he asked eagerly, as he
took the hand she no longer refused. "You won't say
'No' when I ask you to wed?"
"No-at least I mean-"
She laughed, and he laughed too at the cross question and
the crooked answer, and the "no" whichwas meant for a "yes."
Well, they understood each other now, at all events, so
it did not much matter what was said.
Of course father was to be consulted, and mother"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
too; though Lant already knew pretty well what the latter
would say, and felt secure of a welcome for his chosen.
Presently, as though struck by a sudden remembrance,
Lant held up his sprig of white heather.
Do you know what that means, lassie ?" he asked.
A rose-flush came to Hester's cheeks as she answered
softly, "Steadfast and true."
"Aye. And ye'll take it now, lassie? now ye know I'm
not fickle and false?"
He smiled a little
Hester took the spike of pure white blossom, set in
hardy green, and she coloured still more.
"Forgive me, Lant," she whispered; "I did you wrong.
But, oh, it was hard to have to think it !"
He took both her hands and held them tight, sprig of
heather and all.
"But you'll never think it more, lassie? Whatever folks
may do or say, you'll look at that bit of heather and you'll
say to yerself, 'He's steadfast and true, anyhow.' And,
God help me, so I will be, lassie, if you'll be so to me."
His voice was very grave, and there was a steadfast look
in his grey eyes which spoke of no light resolve.
And Hester Morrison made answer in like manner,
"Yes, Lant, God helping me."
And so they sealed their betrothal, as betrothals ought
to be sealed, solemnly and in God's name; for are they not
solemn things ?
Then they walked home together over the purple heather,
carrying the white both in hand and heart.
Of purple heather there is plenty; but the white is rare.
Are steadfastness and truth as rare also ? some may ask.
I would fain hope not. But if they are, well, then it is for
each one of us to cultivate them that they may become
SSTEADFAST AND TRUE;" 65
pore common flowers in this world of. ours. Happy is
that man or woman who finds them by life's wayside; but
happier- still is he with whom they are home-grown in the
garden of the heart.
God bless thee, my daughter!" said Lant's comely
litle mother, putting her arms in motherly-wise round the
:il;- .:on bride; then looking half-slyly up into the proud
happy face of the tall bridegroom, she added with, a smile,
"'As good and as gentle, as bonnie and as blithe,'--eh,
Lant? Ay, my lad, she's all that, and the old mother's
willing to own it too. Houts lad" (putting her hand play-
fully over his mouth, as he opened it to speak), thou
wouldn't have me say she's more ?"
Lant laughed and kissed his mother's still blooming cheek.
Nay, nay, mother," he said, since thou'st owned her for
thy marrow,' I should be a churl to look for more. With two
such women for wife and mother, I'm the luckiest lad alive !"
"And that's a true word he's spoken, isn't it, honey ? "
said Lant's mother, with another kiss, to her son's chosen.
"And now, bairns, be off to the father and get his blessing
too. Eh, dear, but this would have been a blithe day for
thy father, lad, if my poor man had lived!"
And the little widow sighed gently, as she watched the
pair go up towards the Hawthorns, wondering a little doubt-
fully within herself what Philip Morrison would say.
Well, they did not exactly get a blessing from him (such
things were not in his line), but neither was it a ban; so,
as said the folks of Ninebanks, Lant Heatherton might
think himself lucky not to get a downright "No," for it was
well known that old Morrison had looked higher for his lass.
1 Thy equal.
rt nd lif, t
even though autumn
'drew on apace, and the leaves began to fall from
the trees, and the heather to lose its brightness. There
was a sunshiny look on the girl's sweet face, and a light
in her eye, which would scarcely let her see how each
day the sunlight lay for a shorter time on the hills and
moors, how mornings, and evenings grew gradually darker,
and how the chill damp mists of the declining year were
creeping over the landscape, robbing it of its fail -olours
and dimming the purity of the blue above. Her heart was
so warm, her life so bright, that she hardly noticed that
the air was growing colder, and the sunshine paler, day by
day, in the world around; and yet it was so; and not less
certainly was a chilling mist, a small dark cloud beginning
to rise and gather slowly over the heaven of her joy. But
A DIFFICULT DECISION.
neither did the girl see these at first; she was absorbed in
the sunshine of her innocent love, and could see no dark-
ness at all. She laid the white heather, which had been
her betrothal gift, within the leaves of her Prayer Book;
and Sunday after Sunday when she knelt by her lover's side
in the little Church where she had been christened, she
looked at the little sprig and thanked God for that which
had come to her with it; praying Him that the two hearts
thus united might be kept as steadfast as the sturdy green
of the tiny leaves, and as true as were the blossoms to their
livery of white. What though the heather faded a little as
time went on ? Hester heeded that not at all. W.a not
their love to be an evergreen, a blossom which could never
die? And if ever the shadow of a doubt arose, she looked -'--
in Lant's honest eyes and read her answer there. "Stead-
fast and true "-ay, he was all that, and would be for ever.
But of what use are steadfastness and truth, if no trouble
comes to try them ? Is not the heather made to withstand
the cold and storms of winter, as well as to bask in the
summer sunshine ? A climate always warm and a situation
always sheltered would but little suit its growth. He ivho
planted it knows well what is best suited to its full develop-
ment; and equally well does he know what is best for the
various natures of all His children. When trouble comes
they should think of that. It is but as the frost and the
wind to the heather, which will flourish all the better for
their wholesome discipline. So long as the blight is not in
the plant itself, it can generally stand the nipping of the
one and the buffeting of the other; and, if the trouble
comes but from without, he is but little of a man who will
not bravely bear it. It is the blight from within which
kills; and as neither Hester nor Lant was to blame for the
trouble which came to them, well, then, what matter?
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
But it was a very real trouble, though it began with what
seemed so small; nothing more, in fact than a little
grumbling from Sir Arthur over the scarcity of birds on the
moors around Ninebanks, and a hint to Lant from the
head-keeper not to let courtship interfere with his attention
to that part of the squire's shooting which was under his
There's poaching going on, Heatherton, I'm certain of
that," he had said, after along day on the moors, resulting
in the smallest of bags for Sir Arthur and his friends.
"These moors used to be the finest on the estate; the
heather's splendid this season, and there's been no disease.
What then can have become of all those grand broods
which were hatched last spring ? Keep your eyes open,
Lant, my man; there's something else to look at besides
the lassie up at Morrison's."
This gentle reprimand had vexed the young keeper not
a little. In the first place he was unused to reprimands,
not being the man to deserve them; in the second, he had
an uneasy feeling that perhaps this one was not quite
undeserved. Hester had certainly engrossed a good deal
both of his time and thoughts lately, and though it could
not be said that he had exactly neglected his work, he had
scarcely given it that undivided attention which is duty's
due. However, a word in season is enough for a wise man,
and Lant resolved that his employers should have no cause
for complaint in future. He kept his eyes open to good
purpose, and soon had cause to see that the head-keeper's
suspicions were not groundless. But the offenders, who-
ever they were, eluded him cleverly, and it was long before
he could discover anything definite. Meanwhile he was
much on the moors and little at the Morrisons'; and so it came
to pass that, from no fault in either of them, Hester saw
A DIFFICULT DECISION.
less and less of her lover. Well, she missed him to be sure;
but she was too wise a girl to fret over that, or to be jealous
of his attention to duty. Only she sighed a little sometimes
as she turned her wheel in silence by the kitchen-fire, and
wished that Lant were not so busy. If he could only
catch these poachers he would have more time," she
thought; oh, how I wish they were taken So she said
to herself as she sat in the silent kitchen, while her busy
wheel cast its flying shadow on the firelit wall, and the
clock ticked in the corner. Time seemed to move but
slowly somehow, as the evening hours went by and Lant
did not come. When he was there they flew swift as the
The kitchen used to be very silent often now of nights.
Old Phil Morrison generally came in tired from work, and
went to sleep in the chimney-corner as soon as tea was over;
and young Phil was never one to talk much: he used to
smoke his pipe and meditate, speaking never a word, per-
haps, from one hour's end to another, unless somebody
spoke to him. The little maid was mostly busy in the back
kitchen; and as for Willy, his family had almost given up
expecting him to be with them in the evenings, so often was
he absent. Where did he go, and what did he do during
the hours of darkness ? Hester had almost given up won-
dering about that either; it had worried her at one time,
but now she had all but ceased to think about it : her
thoughts were otherwise occupied, and she had no one to
remind her, as Lant had, of the danger of over-engrossment.
Ah, how she reproached herself for it afterwards, when the day
came that her eyes were rudely opened It happened on this
wise that the trouble came which was to test our two friends.
Hester was sitting quite alone, one night, in the farm-
kitchen at the Hawthorns. Her father and brother were
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
both away at a distant market, and the "lass (as the hired
farm-girl is generally called in the North) was out on an
errand in the village. The autumn wind was moaning out-
side, but the farm-kitchen looked bright and cheerful with
its dancing firelight and shining lamp. Hester had her
wheel beside her, but the thread was hanging idly from her
fingers, and her eyes were fixed on the glowing coals.
What did she see there ? A little cottage overgrown with
roses, such as they had up at the Hall; a wedding-party com-
ing up to the garden-gate; a young bride and bridegroom
on their homeward way ? Perhaps. Anyhow, she was up
in the clouds, castle-building, and she came down with a
sudden start and a jump of the heart into the mouth (as
the saying is) on hearing someone knock at the door.
Lant ? Of course she thought first of him; how could it
be otherwise, the way her thoughts were occupied ? Nor
was it time yet for her father and brother to return. Besides,
they would not be likely to knock. With a happy flutter
about the heart the girl ran to open the door, for she had
scarcely seen her bethrothed for more than a minute at a
time during the last few days, and the thought that he had
come to beguile her solitude was welcome indeed. Yes,
it was Lant: she saw that the moment the door was opened,
and he could see her also, standing in the glow of the fire-
light, with the flush of pleasure at his coming on her cheeks
and the light in her eyes which he so loved to see. A
sweeter-looking portress to open the door and let a tired
man out of the cold and darkness and into the warmth and
light could scarcely be.
"Lant! Oh, I'm so glad! I've hardly seen you for
ever so long !" So she cried in her joy, and she was sur-
prised to see no answering pleasure on her lover's face.
His expression was grave and anxious, and she saw with a
A DIFFICULT DECISION.
feeling of chill disappointment how his eyes went past her
as though looking for someone else. Had he not come to
see her after all ?
Is Willy here ? he asked quickly, coming in just so far
as to be able to see into the big farm-kitchen, and glancing
"Willy? No. Did you want him ?" asked the girl in
some surprise; for Lant Heatherton and Willy Morrison
had never had much to say to each other. But Lant only
answered this question by putting another.
"Where is he ?"
"I don't know."
Where "was the use of asking where Willy was ? His
family seldom knew what became of him when work-hours
were over, and the neighbours were well aware of the fact.
What, then, made the young keeper look so strangely dis-
turbed on receiving the usual reply to a question now but
"You don't know ? Oh, Hester, think! Didn't he go
with your father and Philip this morning ?"
"No-he couldn't be spared from the farm, you see.
Oh, Lant, what is it?"
The last words came with a cry of distress, for the young
man was looking at her so strangely that the girl was filled
with wild forebodings.
"Hush Think a moment, Hester, and answer quietly;
a great deal depends on my finding out." He put his hand
gently on the girl's arm, and spoke in studiously quiet tones:
"When did you last see Willy ?"
"Last ? Oh, I hardly know. I haven't seen him these
two hours, anyhow. He didn't come in to tea."
"You are sure ?"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
"And he never said anything to make you guess where
he'd be ?"
"Then it must be !"
The words came out in a tone of sharp pain, and then
for a moment Lant stood silent. Suddenly he moved.
"I'd best go," he said.
"Oh, Lant, not yet. Come in and tell me what it's all
about? You couldn't go like that !"
"What else can I do?" he answered; yet he gave way
to her appealing tone, and followed her slowly into the
kitchen. Arrived there, he sat down suddenly in the
chimney-corner, covered his face with his hands, and
"I can't do it," he said, I can't."
"Can't what? Oh, Lant, tell me? What's come to
Willy? Is he hurt ?-dead? Oh, Lant, speak! Tell me
at once-I could bide it better."
Hester stood before him, deadly pale, twisting her fingers
together in an agony of anxiety. Lant took his hands from
his face and looked at her. He could see how his silence
was torturing the girl, yet he did not seem as though he
knew how to break it.
No," he said presently, "he's neither hurt nor dead.
Nothing ails him--yt."
Then, as though he could not bear her gaze, the young
man again covered his face with his hands.
Hester stood for a moment irresolute; then she knelt
down beside him and clasped her hands on his knee.
"Lant," she said tenderly, "Lant, tell me."
The young man turned to her suddenly with a passionate
gesture. Hester was a reserved girl, and, betrothed though
they were, she had never before thus come to him unsought.
A DIFFICULT DECISION.
Now, in her anxiety to share his trouble, she had broken
through her usual maidenly reticence, and the effort touched
him deeply. He rose to his feet, took her two hands, and
lifted her gently from her knees.
Hester," he said, and his voice was deep with emotion,
" Hester, darling, I will tell you, and you shall judge. I'm
in a sore strait, lassie, and judgment seems a'most gone.
Now tell me-I'll put it like this. Supposing you had.a
master who trusted you to look after his interests. You
knew there was some one playing him false, and you set
yourself to find it out. Supposing you did find it out, and
the fellow who was to blame, instead of being a stranger, as
you had thought, turned out to be someone you knew-
someone it would go hard with you to get into trouble,
someone whose bringing to justice might cost you your
dearest hopes. What would you do, Hester? What would
The words were like a cry of appeal; but somehow the
girl did not immediately see, through the thin veil with which
poor Lant had hidden his trouble, how nearly the situation
touched herself. She answered almost without a pause,
"My duty, Lant, I hope and trust, hard as it might be."
The young.keeper groaned.
You don't understand, Hester," he said. You can't,
or you wouldn't decide so quietly. Think; couldn't I hold
my tongue and never let out I knew anything about it ?"
"What! Betray your trust ?"
She did not see even yet!
The young man struck his hands together in the impa-
tience of sharp pain.
"Do-you mean to say you don't know how it is, Hester?
Don't you understand that I've reason to believe Willy's
the poacher I've been seeking? I've got word that he
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
and another are setting snares this very evening on Willi-
shaw Rigg. I wouldn't believe it till I'd been here and
found he was missing; but I fear it's too true. Hester,
would you have me go and catch him in the act, knowing
who it is? It's my duty, I know-worse luck! We've
had the strictest orders what to do. But, oh, Hester! it's
hard, hard. Your own brother! Believe me, Hester, I'd
sooner cut my own hand off than do it. Your father '11
never forgive me !"
Yes, now at last she understood. The words seemed to
take from her all power of speech. She stood there, with
her hands in those of the young keeper (he had taken them
again, as though to gain strength for the telling his story),
looking white as death, and speaking never a word.
Lant stood for a moment looking at her; then he said,
with an odd sort of triumph in his tone, as though he knew
he had said enough to convince her and to make her reverse
her decision-" Now, Hester, what would you do?"
"Lant !" she cried, in a voice sharp with pain, Lant,
don't torture me like that! Are you sure it is Willy ?"
"As sure as I can be without going to see with my own
eyes. Must I go ?"
"Don't ask me! Oh, Lant, I can't say it again; for
you're right. Father would never forgive you-Willy's
like the apple of his eye, and it would be all over between
us, Lant, for ever and ever!"
"Then I won't go!" and yet-I'd despise myself for
ever after if I didn't !"
The words seemed to escape in spite of him, from
between his clenched teeth.
Hester saw the struggle that was going on within the
young man, yet she did not speak. It was so terrible to
think that the verdict must he given by her own lips.
A DIFFICULT DECISION.
Meanwhile Lant stood there, still holding her hands, his
lips working, the beads of perspiration standing thick upon
his brow. Presently he spoke again, in low, hoarse tones.
"Hester, it's for you to decide," said he. "If I'm
to strike you this blow, it must be by your own consent,
and-and-if we've got to part, I can bear it best from
you Lassie, tell me what to do."
The temptation was terrible. With a word she could
make Lant save her brother-could keep him for her own.
But the price ?-Betrayal of trust. Hester knew his
upright nature, and that he had spoken no more than truth
when he had said that if he now failed in duty he would
despise himself for ever after.
Yet it was hard to choose-bitterly hard. The decision
which had seemed so clear and easy before she knew all
that it would involve was strangely difficult now. The
power was hers to sway him either way; he had told her
that, and she could see it in the eyes so earnestly fixed
upon her. Should she use his love for her to lead him
from his duty? Or should she use the influence of the
true help-meet and strengthen him for the right, whatever
it might cost ? So questioned Hester with herself, as for a
moment or two she stood silent, while the clock ticked
with ruthless unconcern in the stillness of the room.
"God help me !"
In her great need the silent prayer went up and the
"Do your duty, Lant, dear; don't think of me."
The words were very low, but Lant heard them quite
plainly. He said nothing, but his lips trembled and he
turned away his face. It was for Hester to help him still.
Pressing his hands in both hers, she whispered-
Lant, dear, we're to be steadfast and true, aren't we?
76 A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
and that not only to each other? Never fret, dear lad.
Who knows ? It may all come right after all."
She tried to smile; but it-was hard work. Yet she
seemed to have done him good.
"That's my own true lassie," he said. "God bless you
for your words. I'll love you better than ever for what you
have said this night, whatever comes of it, and you may
trust me to save the lad, you know that, if it lies within my
duty. Now I must go. I was to be on Willishaw Rigg by
nine o'clock. Say a bit prayer for me, lassie, won't you?
Good-bye, Hester. Good-bye, good-bye !"
He kissed her-one long, silent kiss, as though he knew
it might be the last--and the door closed upon him.
Then Hester's strength failed her. She sank on her
knees before the stone bench where he had sat in the
chimney-corner, and, burying her face in its old worn
cushions, sobbed as though her heart would break.
-, ., i" j R N T ,,ut
I' f l j r iin '-r
y iou, thuugi
I'm not one to be chafed, mind that, and I'll. not have
it, sure as my name's Philip Morrison. Oh, speak, man,
speak I Say at once it's not true, for pity's sake !"
These words came from Farmer Morrison's lips, as- he
stood at his door on the blustery October morning which
followed upon the scene recorded in our last chapter,
confronting a neighbour who had called to bring him news.
There was a strangely mingled expression on the farmer's
face-a look in which astonishment, pain, incredulity, and
anger were all present; and in his voice the same senti
ments strove together, till pain conquered, and the moment
tary flash of defiance ended in a piteous appeal.
tary flash of defiance ended in a piteous appeal.
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER,
"I wish I could say so, I wish I could, for your sake,
Mister Morrison," answered the neighbour, sympathetically.
But it's all too true, and it'll go hard with him, too, I's
feared, for they do say that he and his mates must have
been at it for some time, and now they've been and half
killed one of the keepers."
There was a shuddering breath behind Farmer Morrison
at these words, a breath which was not the wind; and a
white, drawn face looked out from the kitchen. Hester had
stolen up, and was listening in an agony, all the more
terrible that she dared ask no questions.
"It was this way, ye see," the neighbour went on
presently, after waiting a moment, and finding that the
farmer did not speak. "They've had their suspicions for
some time, the keepers have, that there was snaring going
on o' nights; but, as it seems, there was no thought of who
it was till night afore last. Then some one, crossing over
the fell, thought he saw your lad along o' another fellow
prowling about where they'd no right to be, and he up and
told Lant Heatherton, the head-keeper being from home.
And Lant, he took a couple of watchers with him and went
to see. And there, sure enough, was your lad and two
other chaps, in the very act. There was a regular shindy,
and one o' Sir Arthur's men caught it hot and strong-who
it was, I didn't hear; but he was so bad they had to take
him into Nat Robson, the shepherd's, and send for a
doctor. Willy, he cut and run; but they nabbed t'other
chaps, and as they wouldn't give no names, they marched
them off at once to the magistrate. They are after Willy
Lant did this? Lant Heatherton did ye say?" The
old man's face was convulsed, his voice choking.
"Ay, 'twas Lant went after them last night; and I was
THE BREAKING OF THE STORM.
some astonished to hear it, seeing that he's next door to
your son hisself."
"That he shall never be-never, though he live a
hundred, so sure as my name's Philip Morrison," roared
the old farmer, in a paroxysm of rage. It's a Judas deed
-a mean, sneaking, Judas deed, and I'd as soon have the
traitor himself to my son-in-law as the man that's done this.
Ay, I would that. Curse him for a-"
But the curse was not uttered. A hand was laid on the
angry father's arm, and a pair of white lips gasped out,
"Stop, father; don't, oh don't!"
Farmer Morrison turned angrily.
"Haven't you heard the news then, my lass? Don't
ye know what that fine gentleman of yours has been doing ?
No ? Well, then, I'll acquaint you with it at once, so that
you may throw him overboard for good and all. He's
betrayed our Willy, thaf's what he's done. Now that's
enough for you, I should hope; he's no mate for child of
mine. Nay, don't clutch my arm. like that, lass. I've said
it, and that's enough. If ever I catch you encouraging
that villain again after what he's done to me and mine,
your father's curse'll be on your head. To think of it!
After making' my house a'most like his own home, to strike
at the lad! Oh Willy, Willy!"
The old man's rage broke down in a choking sob.
Hester was trembling so that she could hardly stand.
Terrible as she had known the blow would be, if all
happened as Lant had feared, it had fallen upon her more
heavily even than she had looked for. And one of the keepers
was desperately hurt! Could it be Lant ? The doubt was
Farmer Morrison stood for a moment without speaking.
Then he drew the back of his hand angrily across his eyes,
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
and turned again to question the man who had brought the
cruel tidings. But he had beaten a retreat, alarmed at the
stormy way in which his neighbour had received the news.
Morrison gave an impatient grunt; then, catching sight of
his elder son coming round from the byres, he went to
pour out the story to him.
Young Phil stood for a moment listening to the first few
words uttered by his father in the high pitched tones of
distress and anger; then he took the elder man by the
arm, and drew him quietly indoors.
"Come in, father," he said, in his. dry way; "it's ill
letting folks hear of our shame at first-hand; they'll learn
it fast enough, without us turning town-criers. Now, what
has the lad been doing next?" He sat down in his accus-
tomed seat in the chimney-corner, and prepared to listen
with a frown of anxiety on his brow. Old Phil, however,
was too much excited to follow his son's example. He
continued to stand, leaning his hands against the stone
chimney-piece, and shifting his feet impatiently as he talked.
Young Phil never once interrupted him, except by an oc-
casional inarticulate sound, and it was not till his father
had exhausted all the facts, with sundry remarks thereon,
that he at length spoke.up.
Well, he's done it at last, that lad has. I knew he'd
never rest till he'd dragged our name into the dirt some-
Old Phil was evidently taken aback.
"It's not so much the lad, I blame, he's young, you see,"
he said, half apologetically. "I don't mean to say he's
acted right, getting himself mixed up with doings of that
sort; but it's that fellow Heatherton, who's done all the
harm.. If he'd not gone meddling and marring, as he has,
there'd nobody have been. the wiser."
THE BREAKING OF THE STORM.
"Maybe no," replied young Phil, gruffly; "but that
doesn't make Willy any the better. I always told you,
father, that you were spoiling that lad."
"Guid sakes, Phil, you're not going for to stand up for
that villain Heatherton, surely?" burst out old Phil, more
than ever nettled at his son's want of sympathy with his
own view of the matter. "You'd have me taking him to
my son-in-law, just the same, I suppose, as if nothing had
happened? A likely story!"
I'm not saying that," returned young Phil, quietly, "1
neyer thought much of the match at any time, as you know.
Hester might have done .better for her family than that
comes too. Haven't we Morrisons been here this three
hundred years? and what's the Heathertons to crack of?
Besides, bad as Willy's behaved, he'd no call to go and
expose him that way. Bringing our honest name before
the public like that, when he was next door to connected
already No, no, it's an ill bird that fouls its own nest, so
don't think Im goin' to take his part, Hester, for I'm not."
These last words were addressed to his sister, who, poor
girl, taking comfort from her brother's first dictum, had
stolen to his side, and was watching him with appealing
eyes. His last sentence seemed to crush out all her hope
of support from that quarter, for she turned away with
drooping head and went to her room. Downstairs in
the kitchen below, she could still hear her father's and
brother's voices, the former loud and sharp, the latter low
and bitter; but the words were inaudible. Presently the
outside door was violently opened and shut, and Farmer
Morrison went out, seemingly towards the stable. After
awhile young Phil followed him, and Hester saw the two
standing together under the hawthorns, talking again. The
result was that young Phil mounted the horse and rode
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
away, leaving old Morrison behind. Hester could see her
father walking restlessly about among the stock with an ex-
pression of keen misery upon his usually bluff, open coun-
tenance; then, as though he could bear to stay no longer
within sight of his village neighbours, he got his hat and
plaid, and set off at a great pace towards the moorland
sheep-walk belonging to the farm. Hours passed, and
neither of the men came home; and,.after a while, Hester,
unable to endure the cruel suspense, stole down to the
Heathertons' cottage, hoping to see Lant's mother. She
rapped timidly, with beating heart; but there was no answer.
Then she tried the latch, which yielded, opened the door a
little, and looked in. The fire was burning cheerfully, Mrs.
Heatherton's canary was hopping backwards and forwards
in its cage above the scarlet geraniums in the window, and
on the table lay an old coat of Lant's, with a needle sticking
in it, and a thimble close by. Human occupant the room
had none; but the signs were all in favour of a speedy
Hester sat down in the arm-chair with bright patchwork
cushion, which stood, by the table, and took up Mrs.
Heatherton's work. She knew that old coat well. It was
the one Lant had been used to wear when he came hay-
making during the summer, and the sight of it brought
back vividly the memory of those sunny evenings before
either quite knew the other's heart. She remembered, too,
how, one evening not so long ago, he had worn it when he
came in to have a talk in the farm-kitchen up at the
Hawthorns, as she sat darning a coat of her father's; and
how he had pointed playfully to a little frayed place in his
own sleeve (the very same Mrs. Heatherton was now busy
with), and asked when she was coming to mend it for him.
Would it ever now be her lot to do for him this wifely duty ?
THE BREAKING OF THE STORM.
the girl wondered sadly, and unable to resist the melancholy
pleasure, she took the needle in her hand and set a few
stitches in the old worn garment, that she might feel "just
for once" what it would be like to work for him. But the
stitches were few, for the blinding tears gathered and
dropped upon the rough coat-sleeve, and she could not see
The quick opening of the door and a brisk step on the
cottage floor startled her presently; and, covered with con-
fusion at the discovery of her occupation, she threw down
the coat and stood up.
It was Mrs. Heatherton, and her quick woman's eye took
in the situation at a glance. She went straight up to the
girl, put her hands on her shoulders, and forced her gently
back into the chair.
"Never heed, lassie," she said, in her brisk, sunny way,
"what harm is there setting a stitch in advance ? We'll be
having you taking his coats out of my hands for good and
all before long. There's no call to be ashamed before the
old mother, lassie; don't I love him and all ? Nay, then,
crying?" she went on, as the over-wrought girl suddenly
burst into tears. "What is it, dearie? What is it?"
She sat down on another chair by the girl, put her arm
round her, and drawing the drooping head on to her
motherly shoulder, soothed her as she would a child.
"There then, dearie, there then, never mind me; have
your cry out, bairn, and then we'll see what we can do."
The homely kindness of Lant's mother was just what was
most needed by the motherless girl. She sobbed for some
moments unchecked, then, gradually control returned, and
she was able to put the question which was struggling at
Is he all right ?-not hurt at all ?"
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
"He? Who ?-Lant ? Why, what should he ail ?"
"Haven't you heard, then?"
"Nothing Whatever .does the lassie mean?"
It was Mrs. Heatherton's turn to look startled now.
Then Hester told her all, and the very telling seemed to
give relief to her aching heart; more especially when Mrs.
Heatherton's clear common sense was brought to bear upon
"Lant can't be the one hurt, anyhow; you may depend
upon that, lassie. Why, if he had been, wouldn't I have
been the first to hear? Whereas I've heard nothing?
The lad himself told me when he went out yesterday, he'd
likely not be back till to-day. He had business to see
to, he said; but he spoke no word of your brother-
likely he'd no notion then who was mixed up in the
"And you don't blame him, Mrs. Heatherton?"
"Blame him Blame my lad !" (the little widow fired up
at the very idea) why, who could blame Lant, I should
like to know? Your father? Nay, nay, lassie, never fash
your head about a few angry words your father may have
spoken at the time. It'll all come right, you'll see. Mr.
Morrison's not the man to blame anyone for doing his duty,
I do hope-not in his cool moments, that is. A body says
things in heat, you know, that they're sorry for afterwards;
and, poor fellow I he's enough to vex him. It's not everyone
has a son like my Lant."
Of course Hester agreed with this last sentiment; and
considerably comforted by what had gone before, she was
just about returning home, when Lant came in. The sight
of his face alone was enough to cast down her newly reviving
hopes. Not a shadow of a smile was there, even when his
eyes fell on Hester; he looked grave and sad and harassed,
THE BREAKING OF THE STORM. 85
and his mouth was set as though to endure the inevitable.
He went to the chimney-piece, leaned his arms against it,
and rested his forehead upon them. It seemed as though
he could not speak just at first. Hester and his mother
stood silently watching him, not daring to speak either;
till at last Hester's feelings got the better of her, and a little
sob broke from her heaving breast. At the sound, he
turned suddenly, and she could see that his eyes were full
of tears. He came to her and took her hands.
Lassie," he said, and his voice shook. I did my best,
I did indeed; but it was no good. I tried to get the lad
to go with me quietly to Sir Arthur-he'd have overlooked
it all, I do believe, if he had. I'd have gone no further
than to give him a warning, if I possibly could-if we hadn't
seen him and the others in the very act, with birds in their
possession and all. But what could I db, when they set on
us, as they did, nearly breaking that poor chap Wat Foster's
skull? I couldn't do otherwise, after what we'd settled,
He looked at her appealingly; but Hester could only
bend her head in answer. "Have they caught Willy?"
she managed to falter presently.
"Not yet, but they're sure to directly. And things have
turned out as bad as bad can be," went on poor Lant.
" Oh, Hester, how shall I tell you ? The assault has made
the matter ten times worse, and they'll have to take their
trial at the Assizes next week. Hester, Hester, can you
ever forgive me?"
The big strong fellow turned aside his head with a sob.
The sight of his grief nerved Hester. She conquered
"Don't, Lant, don't," she said gently. "You musn't
blame yourself for what's happened. Let us try to bear it
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
quietly. Tell me, is Wat Foster very bad? Oh, Lant, if
he were to die !"
"God grant it may never come to that, Hester!"
exclaimed the young keeper. "No, no, Wat Foster's a
thick-headed chap, and it'd take a deal to break his skull.
But he's bad enough to make the matter very serious. The
doctor won't say there's no danger, though he thinks he'll
pull through. Pray God he may !'
He added the. last words with grave earnestness, and
Hester's heart said a solemn Amen.
"You've not seen father?" she asked presently.
"No; but I must presently. I must explain. Is he at
Not at present, and-Lant, let it blow over a little first,
She said it with timid hesitation, and the young keeper
understood. He paused a little to think.
"Perhaps you're right," he said presently; "but I don't
know. I owe it to him. I've done him an injury, though
Heaven knows how sorely against my will! And, Hester,
there's another thing-I'll have to be one of the chief
witnesses against them at the Assizes !"
Hester had not had time to realise this further calamity,
and the mention of it came on her like a second blow.
Her lover to appear against her brother! The thought was
"Oh, Lant, must you ?"
"Yes, there's nothing else for me, Hester, nothing!
And yet-oh, lassie, if we hadn't settled as we did !"
There was a bitterness in the words which betrayed the
deepest suffering. For a moment Hester's heart echoed
his wish; but she stifled the unworthy regret.
"No, Lant," she said, "no, not that; we couldn't have
THE BREAKING OF THE STORM. 87
done otherwise. God has set us a heavy task, Lant; but
let us try to learn it well-' a line at a time,' as they used
to say to us at school."
"Ay, ay, bairns," put in Mrs. Heatherton, "don't look
ahead, or you'll, never get through. Sufficient unto the
day,' as the Scriptur' says. Don't I know that? Ay, Lant,
I learnt that lesson when your poor father was ill. And
now lad you must have a bite to eat-sorrow's ten. times
worse to bear on an empty stomach, though it's hard getting
young folks to believe it. It's all starving and starving
when they're in trouble. Have a cup of tea with us,
Hester, my lass ?"
No, Mrs. Heatherton, thank you kindly all the same.
But I must go in and get ready for father. It'd only make
matters worse if he found me here just now."
"Well, I believe you're right, lass. There, keep up your
heart. Good-bye, and God bless you."
"God be with you!" beautiful old words which we use
so carelessly, forgetting too often-m r solemn meaning.
God be with you when we are part .one from one another
-with you in joy, with you in sorrow-ever by your side
to guide and guard. I question whether our three friends
even knew what the words signified; and yet I think the
meaning, consciously expressed or not, was in the hearts of
both mother and son as they opened the cottage-door and
let the girl go forth. Would she ever now take up her
abode with them ? Would she ever now make the sunshine
of his home with her kindly, pleasant ways ? So wondered
poor Lant, and he sighed heavily as he watched her up the
t"" I H A T b., k l',. .r hFie
c .k ;i4 7: ,,:, a h.:rt .:,ive
"-'i.* I t'.:.r ..11 :u r r .. :,
yet, I think, it bore more
hardly upon Lant Heatherton than upon any of them. He
was the one to whose lot it fell to take the active part in the
proceedings, and upon whom came most heavily the pres-
sure of regret, and sore temptation, and undue blame. The
LANT BEARS THE BRUNT.
others had but to suffer: nothing they might do or leave
undone could make much difference in staying the inexor-
able progress of the storm which was threatening to wreck
the happiness of two homes.: Things were very dark for
the poor young keeper, the innocent instrument who had
opened the flood-gates of justice and let in the waters which,
in cleansing the land from guilt, must so often overwhelm
the innocent also in their ruthless rush. For our lives are
so linked together, that if one member suffer, others cannot
but suffer with it; since the world began, the just have had
to share with the unjust in the certain sorrow which follows
upon sin. So it always has been, so it is now, and so it
will be till time shall flow into eternity. Should we not
then be careful what we do, knowing that we can seldom
bear our punishments alone?
Yet there is a brighter side even to this dread doom. Is
there not a special blessing on those who, doing well, still
suffer? for do they not, thus suffering for sins not their
own, share in the sufferings of Christ? Surely this thought,
if realized, would lighten many a load.
Poor Lant! it was a very fiery trial which was trying him
now, and he was too little versed in heavenly learning to draw
any such comfort from it. Honest, upright, sterling fellow
as he was, life had hitherto gone so easily with him, that,
like many another, similarly placed, he had dwelt but little
on the deeper, fuller, inner life which, like a hidden river,.
runs, as it were, underneath the shallower brooklet of
our outward existence. From boyhood upwards he had,
as the saying is, "kept himself straight;" he had lived
uprightly and honestly, had done his duty in the sight of
all men, so far as outward observance went; but the temporal
had been more to him than the spiritual. Now sorrow had
come to teach him how little the one is in comparison with
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
the other. The brook was drying up that he might learn
to drink of the river.
That interview with Hester's father had been a very pain-
ful one. He had gone, resolved, for his love's sake, to keep
his temper by all means, whatever Morrison might say.
But the ordeal had been almost more than he could bear.
Old Phil would listen to no explanations; he had broken
out into passionate abuse, and had said things which no
human being could listen to unmoved. Finally he had
shut the door in the young man's face, threatening a horse-
whipping if he should ever attempt to darken it again.
And Lant had rushed off to the moors in a paroxysm of
suppressed indignation, and had wandered about for hours
among the mists, and the wet heather, feeling for the time
almost inclining to run away from all his responsibilities and
take ship for America. But the sight of Hester's pale face
at the window, as he passed the farm on his way home,
called up such a rush of tenderness as made him feel how
impossible it would be to give her up, so long as the least
hope of her father's relenting still remained.
It gave him a terrible pang to see that sweet face looking
so pale and sad, and to know that, but for the stern con-
straint of duty which had led him to act as he had, it
might have been smiling its usual welcome to him. Now,
he must not even go in and comfort the heart he had
helped to sadden! It did seem so terribly hard to the
poor young fellow to be obliged to pass by and make no
sign, and the wish that he had shut his eyes and connived
at Willy's secret raids on his master's property revived
with painful force. After all, would it have been so very
dishonourable to have held his peace and allowed others to
make the discovery which had fallen to him ? Well was it
for Lant that the girl he loved had used her influence on
LANT BEARS THE BRUNT.
the side of right; for the least pressure from her would at
that time have been enough to send him down hill, so
strongly do personal considerations incline to warp the
sense of right and wrong. And what is harder to strive
against than love, when a man has to wrestle with its
pleadings at duty's bidding?
If Philip Morrison's reproaches had been hard to bear,
Lant found it far harder when, on the last evening before
the trial, old Phil humbled his pride sufficiently to come to
the Heathertons' cottage in the character of a suppliant;
The old farmer's stiff independence must have been brought
very low with fretting over his favourite son before he
could have stooped to do this thing; and Lant, angry as
he was at the injustice of Morrison's treatment of himself,
could not resist a movement of pity as he saw the change
wrought in the sturdy farmer. The square-built, upright
figure was stooping, as under a burden heavy to bear; the
iron-grey of his wiry hair had taken a dull white tinge, and
the bluff, fresh-coloured face looked pale and worn. But,
worse than all that, the independent dignity of the states-
man' of long descent, which had sprung from the con-
sciousness of the well-established position and unblemished
respectability inherited from a long line of sturdy forefathers
-all Morrisons of the Hawthorn Farm-had utterly dis-
appeared. This man could no longer "look the whole
world in the face" and challenge its opinion. A Morrison
of the Hawthorns was, for the first time in the memory of
the country-side, in public disgrace, and his father's heart
and pride seemed alike to have broken under the crushing
sense of shame.
Lant and his mother both rose involuntarily to their feet
as the farmer entered, and continued to stand while he sank
Yeoman of the north country.
A SPRIG OF WHITE HEATHER.
helplessly into Mrs. Heatherton's arm-chair, and stared
about him without greeting of any kind.
"What can he want?" thought Lant, eyeing the old
man, half in pride, half in pity, determined to make no
advance, yet inwardly hoping that advances would be made
to him. And Mrs. Heatherton, who had keenly felt the
treatment dealt out to her son, followed his lead, and waited
for Morrison to begin the conversation.
"He's come to apologise," thought she ; "and time he
did. It's only right he should wipe off the dirt he's thrown
at my Lant, and I'm not going to help him."
So the little widow stiffened herself, and checked the
pity which the first sight of the unhappy father had wakened
in her heart.
The apology they were both expecting hung fire, how-
ever; and when at last the former spoke, his tone was any-
thing but apologetic.
"Look here, Lant Heatherton," he broke out at last, in
a hard, defiant voice, as though every word went against
the grain ; d'ye still look to marry my lass ? "
The young keeper was utterly taken by surprise, and the
blood flew to his cheek at the tone in which the unexpected
question was put. Of course he still wanted to marry
Hester-it was his heart's desire; and yet how could he
answer "Yes," when her father asked the question in such
a tone, after such unmerited treatment.
He need not have troubled himself. Morrison had not
yet said his say, and did not wait for an answer, of which he
"Because if you do," he went on, still with the same
defiance, "it'll have to be on one condition-one condition,
He paused again, as though for Lant to speak; but as
LANT BEARS THE BRUNT.
the young fellow also waited, he continued, speaking more
hurriedly than before, and avoiding Lant's eyes.
"The condition's this: to-morrow's the Assizes" (he
choked a little over the word), "and you're to be there.
Now, young man, you mind what you're about. Say one
word against my lad, and you never see my lass more.
D'ye hear ?"
Yes, Lant had heard, and he understood also, only too
well, what old Morrison wanted. The blood sang in his
ears. The devil whispered loudly. Here was a chance
then, a chance after all; for as yet the police had sought
in vain for Willy Morrison, and the two watchers who had
been present at the affray, not knowing his person as well
as Heatherton did, were scarcely prepared to swear that
the third poacher, seen only in the uncertain light, was really
the man that Lant knew him to be. He alone could give
.conclusive evidence. Supposing that he, too; were now to
All this flashed through his mind in a moment; for old .
Morrison did not leave him long for consideration.
D'ye hear ?" he asked again, impatiently.
"Yes," answered Lant, slowly; then, after a slight pause :
"You might have been sure I would say nothing against
him that I could possibly help, Mr. Morrison."
Possibly help !" echoed the old man, bitterly, "That's
not it. Ye're to say nothing, d'ye hear ? "
"But if they ask me ?-I'll be on my oath, you know,"
said poor Lant, faintly.
Mrs. Heatherton said not a word all this time; she kept
looking from one to the other in puzzled surprise.
Never mind that," continued old Morrison, still keeping
his eyes away from the young man's face. How should you
know more about it than Wat Foster and the other chap ?"