Imágenes de páginas

for the chance of walking home with her would now bring her to a value of his worth.

Not a word was said. They had hardly looked in each other's eyes. In the gathering grey night they turned the road, and came within sight of the last field gate swung between two heavy posts, the white-walled farmhouse, the clustering farm outhouses and cottages, the rounded heavy cornstacks, the clump of firs, and the dull red tiles. Yet not a word. Strange lovers!

Suddenly he stopped, and struck the staff he carried sharply against the ground. A light leapt out of his dark eyes, a light she had never before seen, a light which she quickly felt had leapt from his and lodged in her own.

'Yeuff, tell me what's the meaning o' this? What's the meaning o' last nicht's ongoing?'

[ocr errors]

Meaning? I ken nae meaning. Ye saw all that happened.' A calm strength was in her voice. Ralph was a blunt man, and he spoke bluntly and openly. There must, he felt, be understanding and confession.

That'll no dae, Yeuff. Ye mun explain last nicht's visit of Hope Goodale by the window. A man that comes into a love lassie's house by the back window is on nae usual message, or else,' his blunt voice never hesitated in his strong words, he would come in by the door like other folk.'

'I canna deny Hope came in by the window,' she said, with a firmness which came, she felt, from the tightening of her heart. 'What's mair, I'll no seek to deny it. Why should I? Is there only one thing a stupid chap like Hope can come in at a window for? He tells lies who says that either Hope, or you, or man of woman born, can damage my name! What is't you accuse me of?'

Eagerly, anxiously she spoke, with a rapidity of words from the quickness of the flashing suspicions he started against her-indeed an accusation-her face was flushed, the stout pride of her own, and her family reputation stood her in need, and her words came straightway from the wounded pride of a sound-minded peasantry.

I accuse you of nothing but what I saw happen mysel,' he said doggedly and bluntly. He thought, why could she not confess, and perhaps he would forgive, but surely she would not persist in denial.

'Ralph Hush!' she exclaimed in a voice that sounded chill and cold. Last nicht, no further gone, you said you loved me, and I believed you-oh so truly. But can you love me, and speak so to me? Surely you dinna believe what you say? Will you not believe what I say? Hope Goodale and I are cousins by my mother's side, and that's all. You hae kent me for two years, and you ken if Hope and me were ever sweethearts, or ever had likings for each other.

What can I do? It's for you to clear yoursel.' He spoke as chill and cold as she did. He added the words, as containing proof conclusive, Besides, Hope has gone and listed as a sodger. He will get his fill of flash dress now.'

Yeuff felt that her cousin should have taken the Queen's shilling was an additional humiliation to her. To enlist as a soldier was here felt equal to have committed a misdemeanour. They were quite separate and far apart in the thoughts of the Lothian hinds, to be respectable and to be a soldier. A young hind only thought in earnest of the army when he got into a scrape with a lass. All this she knew as every ploughman's daughter did.

"Hope, listed!' Words were useless against this steady fact that linked her fate to his. How could she persuade, when the mind liable to persuasion was not there in the face of the enlistment? Was not speech in vain after this? Her pride, her temper never blenched; in her innocency she trusted. Doubts can be dispelled; but who can prove innocency? Innocency can only be proved to an innocent mind.

Again she felt the crucial test. The severe struggle between her love for this young lad never felt to be so sweet to her before as now she was on the eve of losing it; and the proper pride and righteous indignation which rose erect in her heart against him, of all men, making such a veiled accusation.

"Hope, listed! stupid calf! And you allow him, my cousin, to come between our likings for each other-to separate us? I didna ken that you were so fearfu' suspicious an' jealous-minded! Have you asked Hope about me? Ask him! He is no so stupid but he will tell you the truth, ay, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.' Ask Hope? I am no daft. We mun settle this atween our


Moments like these are turning points in life. The journey of life becomes single-handed, while the other life slips past beyond our reach. It is the first break of expected hope; it is an epoch in life from which we count everything backwards in place of forwards, as we fondly imagined. The past is actually past, long past, for ever past beyond our control, leaving but a shred, a remnant, the memory only as our own, of the by-past days with their joys, and hopes, and feelings. With the death or loss of love some of our own best spirits die too.

"The fellow that comes into a lass's room by the window mun be encouraged to do it; and he mun hae been there afore last nicht, am thinkin'. He talked as if he were speaking of a sale of lots of wood on his master's estate; she thought his voice showed no signs of emotion, either of pain for her or for himself. Was he only throwing up a bargain?


Her soul rose in arms

Oh, what lies! You ken it's false.' within her. You never loved, never could have loved me, and believe these false stories. You ken they are lies! don't you, Ralph Hush? Speak, man!'

I don't. It's no for me to trail ower the countryside speiring at everybody about you, and dragging my name ahint me through glaur,' he said, a little warmly. In a decided tone, he added, Yeuff

[ocr errors]

Todrig, the woman I marry mun hae nae dirt stuck tae her name; she mun be spotless.'

It was over. Their lives and hearts were now drawn sharply asunder. To each they were now for ever to be more distant and formal than outside strangers from the wide world. Their hearts were closed to each other; love had been killed between them.

'Keep your mind easy, man. I'll marry no man that disbelieves my word. He that loves me must pin his faith to me, and I can hold up my head wi' the best at kirk or market. My iife is spotless.' They now stood opposite the cottage; to her to-night it was the world's end, the only cottage, the only shelter in the world. She looked along the broad stretching turnpike, across which a flock of crows were flying in a long dark line homewards; an empty largewheeled wood cart, with trace horses walking briskly in the direction of the thin bit of grey-red sunset. To the east again the road was bare and black. The sun would rise there to-morrow morning, but her heart would be like the road to-night, bare and bleak. In her heart of hearts she cried out against this bitter, cruel, unjust accusation, but her pride held her outwardly firm and self-reliant against this alleged stain on her womanhood. A stranger would at once read in her face at least charming dignity and strength of will. Good nicht, Yeuff,' he said slowly, and apparently reluctantly. Nay, let it be good-bye, since it's a' ower atween us now.' She spoke with that quietness of tone and look implying finality. Their love-if ever there was any on his part, she doubted-was over, and the blackness of night had rounded off the bright sunshine of the day.



'Good-bye?' he asked.

Why no? Good-bye. For ever.'

She did not trust herself to look at him, as she felt her head shake perceptibly, with quivering lips, and her neck move with gulps of emotion. Her heart was stout. On her heels she turned, and soon afterwards went in doors, where her mother had been waiting for and innocently watching her standing with the young forester.

The old mother, who had so patiently borne her own weary burdens, and the young daughter, who to-night began to feel what it is to be heavy laden, sat together silently at their simple supper. Mother and daughter never spoke to each other. As the early night wore on, no one came near them, and betimes were heard the loud voices of the hinds as they were going to and returning from suppering the horses and feeding the cattle at the farmstead. How regularly the clock ticked on the wall; the wind blew in blasts among the firs in the wood, and the trees sighed and moaned behind the cottage; their lonely lives were their own, and were not broken in upon. Then in the outer world all was silent as the grave.

The old mother sat with her arms crossed and folded in the lap of her black apron. The white cap gave her pinched face a paler hue. Her daughter was very sad to-night, as she sat long resting in one

calm quiet position, leaning her arm against the table, with ruminating eyes. The mother knew it, but it was not in her intensely Scotch reticent nature to intrude into her daughter's heart; to her love was sacred, too sacred for speech. The heart knoweth no speech nor counsel in words. With her as with all country folk, love and death are like the wind of heaven, they are fatalities, they come where they list, and no one can tell where. Into this heart mystery the old mother unconsciously could read with the best, but naturally felt that it was not even for her, a mother, to seek to lift the veil and pry into

its sorrow.

Her brooding drooping eyes you would think were closed in sleep. Not so; they were closed, for she could not bear to look on the suffering face of her daughter. She, too, was sick at heart, and wished for a mouthful of fresh air. Naomi tottered to the inner door, and casting back a side look, she said gently,

'Yeuff, lass, I'll away an' lock the hen-house door.'

'Ay, mother! I'll away to bed, for am very tired and weary th' nicht, mother.'

Last night her life was sweet and light with the new found love of man; to-night her life was bitter and dark in having, beyond her own control, lost this love for ever.



No. 632 (NO. CLII. N. s. )



TOTWITHSTANDING the immense development of certain forms of cooperative trading, it may be doubted whether the last five and thirty years have witnessed any general increase of interest in or familiarity with cooperative ideas. Most people have heard of the Rochdale pioneers, and a few remember the account of Leclaire and other French workmen's associations in Mill's Principles of Political Economy;' but the ideas suggested by these names are vague, and for practical purposes the word 'cooperative' has three separative and distinct associations. To the West-end householder it suggests those convenient institutions for the supply of cheap grocery called after the civil and military branches of the public service. To social and political economists it suggests an ideal method of production, dwelt on in imagination as promising the long desired reconciliation of capital and labour: while to the working classes of Lancashire and Yorkshire it represents something intermediate, but more considerable than the others a combination of material interests and ideal aspirations which we have to recognise as a vast and beneficent fact, even while its existence remains something of a mystery to the speculative mind.

It is not a little curious that while most disinterested friends of the working man have set their hearts on his becoming his own employer and a participator in the profits of his own labour, the working man himself has preferred as a rule to consume himself into the possession of a small capital, which he is content to invest securely at moderate interest. The practical energy and enthusiasm at the service of the movement has been expended in inducing men and women who have set up shopkeeping for themselves, first to deal regularly at the cooperative store and to resist the temptation of casual bargains; 'and secondly, not to discount their economies in the form of low charges, but to pay for everything at its ordinary retail price, and so save up the profits of the cooperative shopkeeping for future investment by the shareholders and members. It is because the London stores simply lower prices instead of handing back to the purchaser a bonus on sales, that the men of Rochdale and their emulators say these stores are not really cooperative;' and as these men represent the main force of the cooperative movement, it would be pedantic to object that there is no etymological warrant for this restriction of the word. As they have created the thing-the only phase of cooperation which is as yet a real force-they have a right to interpret the word by the light of their own triumphant practice.


« AnteriorContinuar »