Chapter 20710076

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article20710076
Full Date1881-10-01
Page Number425
Corrections0
Word Count4767
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleGathered In
article text

The Storyteller.

CHAPTER VII.

HARRY STALKER.

BY CATHERINE HELEN SPENCE. Author of "Clara Morison," "Mr. Hogarth's Will," "Hugh Lindsay's Guest," &c.

Gathered In.*

KENNETH regretted the dose of his studies in the good old city of Edinburgh, because he really advanced more in the last year of his course than he had done in the preceding years.

The conversation with hia father had acted as a ?par to him. If he had had it before he would have worked hard and obtained a degree; but he was young, and though hia adviser* made him go in he waa not auooeasf uL It waa not a dis« orediUble attempt—it only needed another year'a study; bat George Oawald waa unwilling to let him remain any longer orer books. Harry Stalker, who waa the only divinity atudent midentat Mrs. Wiahart's, and Kenneth's deareab and moat appreciating friend, always aaid Oawald ought to have palled through, but at the aame time congratulated him on hia f ailare as boding far greater ultimate auooeaa in life than a brilliant University opening. Besides, of what ?slue would a University degree be in the eyes of the patriarchal George Oawald, ateeped In the local oonoeit of aaooeaaful and ignorant ooloniata t M You oan pleaae him better by going in for easy honours at their little Melbourne affair, and have yoar name printed in the newspapers that he rsada. And you will have leaa to regret in leaving 'Auld Reekie.'" "It is very good.natured in you toaay so," said Kenneth, who waa naturally mortified at hia being unaueesaful; "you would have felt it mortifying if you had failed." 41 So I should, but it would have been the best thing for me. The hopes of paterfamilias and of tha^enfjable uncle who ia watting for my aid In*aWn^nland pariah would not have been so Inflated. I might have dropped into business, and made a fortune. Don't laugh, Kenneth; I should have liked it above all things, but for that unlucky degree. Whereas I am to be a pillar of the Kirk—a second Norman M'Leod I Save the mark i" "But what you could do could not I have done, with the motives I felt spurring me on f " No, not exactly. In the first place, I am years older than you, and that tells. It was a wild hope to get an Edinburgh degree at nineteen with a year'a spurt In the second place, I am a'gooddeal cleverer, ao that, though I am de ficient in oonoentrativeneaa as well aa you, I can do certain things with leaa effort In the third place, it waa for my disadvantage to pass, and the demon of perversity, which arranges most mundane affairs, cursed me with success. I don't exactly aee what good the degree would do you, Kenneth. In fact I have been arguing to the contrary; but at the back of that argu ment I am quite aure that it would be of the greatest advantage for you to get it, and also that it ia moat important that you should apend another year in my society to try again. That is to Bay, for me. I am not bo Bure of your being marked out for ill-luck aa I am in my own case." "I do not aee your ill-luck, Harry; but it ia just the paradoxical nature of your mind that makes you take exceptions to all received notions.' 7 14 Tour grandmother told me the other day, when we were at your place, that her ambition was to see you in a pulpit Now, Uncle George, with his contempt for starving divinity students, came in like a providence to protect you from that; and you will go in for pastoral pursuits of another kind. Do you think you could preach as well aa I could!" " Certainly not" "Ton would never preach as well as I can do at times, but you would never (all ao low as I am sure to do when it comes to be routine work. Bug the question ia not how to preach but what to preach; and there it ia that I'll fail." " Tou always assert no man can succeed who i W l9 !° U ri«ht *° pnWlsh " Gathered In" in Queen* Madrasbeensorand.frlto proprietors of the Q*w*

doea not fail • ao that to far I hare the advantage of you." " Ay, Kenneth, so far, and a great deal further. Consider the probable effects of making a minister of me, with all my unsettled opinions, all my Bohemian tastes, and my strong sense of youth and rebellious self-wilL And yet I can preach. I feel that if I got wound up I could give sermons that would do everybody good but myself. You see, Kenneth, I have suoh strong sympathy with what is evil and disreputable in man that I could touch chords among the vicious classes that a middle-aged respectable minister knows nothing of, and in some, irregular way I might open the kingdom of heaven to people who are the despair of the churches." " While you yourself 1" inquired Kenneth. "Would stop outside, gathering the sour plums of experience, and scratching myself with the thorns of the flesh. But such a career has its charms ; to touch natures no other can move, to enter into feelings which to my worthy father and uncle (ripe and learned divines) are abso* lutely unknown, should make me think life was given me for something." " You always maintain that there is a great deal of good in the vicious and criminal classes," said Kenneth. " Not only a great deal, but potentially if not actually more than among the respectable classes. You Bee, energy counts for so much as a factor in life. You know I hate the respectable classes. They are indescribably tiresome, and I believe that if they had the opportunity they would be more wicked than those whom they oommand to stand off." " Let us be glad the opportunity is not afforded them," said Kenneth. MOh 1 but many of them make a great deal of the limited opportunities they have got," said his friend. " When you see a middle-aged citizen sitting at the foot of his table, with an ugly wife at the other end and half-a-dozen children at the sides, who can tell the whole history of that man's youth, or even of his maturer age V " You are more disposed to trust the respect able classes than the others, Harry, in the same way as you really like the moral books, while you protest there is more truth and profit in the immoral It is mere love of oontradiotion that makes you advance so many outrageous state* ments." "Not at all, Kenneth, it is the sacred love of truth." "Truth which you elicit from your oppo* nentsf" " Truth which my opponents elicit from me. I trust the respectable classes in those many cases where their interests coincide with their duty ; but I would not trust my life, my purse, or my character with any one whose interest* did not protect me, even though he or she sat in the chief seats in the tabernacle, and received testimonials from admiring fellow-citizens for integrity and disinterestedness. And as for the books, more harm is done by the mawkish morality which exaggerates every little failing into a heinous sin than by that which treats heinous sins as little failings. I want to have my conscience work naturally, if possible. It will have a hard life of it with me at the best; but if I get it over-sensitive I'm done for." " There I cannot sympathise with you, Harry." " Aa for you, Kenneth, I envy your organisa tion, A fine physique, a splendid digestion, and a well-balanced conscience, it will be hard for you to go to the bad; though I warn you you have some trouble before you when you get out to Australia. This uncle, with his boast and bit blow, and his ignorance, and his feeling that you owe everything to him, will be just the sort of man I should like to kick and say good-bye to ; but you will do your spiriting more gently, and will have a great deal to put up with before you settle into your rightful place. And if Jim your cousin is a lad of ordinary spirit he will be jealous of all your advantages. It is dear to me at present that no degree is best" " I wish I could think so," said Kenneth, who had wished his father to see his suocess. "And it is also dear that you cannot have another trial here. I'll miss you, Kenneth." "We must all miss him more or less," laid Mrs. Wishart, who now entered the room and joined in the conversation, " and I am sure Ken* neth will be sorry to leave his native land and bis old friends." "There must be some natural pangs at parting with both," nid Kenneth, " though it is what most Scotchmen take kindly to. I should feel it less than ordinary emigrants, as I am going to a home and relatives." " And that is the very reason why you feel so dubious," said Stalkor. "If the world were really all before you you might exult in the boundless prospect held out; but you have been trained here in one way, and there you are expected to fill a groove that is made for you, and of which you know no more than a child. And there will be expectations formed about you that are grounded on equal ignorance on the other side. I prophesy that you will be a distinguished failure." "It is something to be distinguished, at any rate," said Mrs. Wishart "Of course it is," said Stalker. "It will be no vulgar success, exactly fitting the place his uncle destines for him, but so deplorably unfit ting that he will disappoint himself and every body else." " Why should he disappoint any one ? I see no necessity for that," aaid Mrs. Wishart "My dear madam, he must, or he will never satisfy his Maker or himself. Do you think God in making Kenneth Oswald intended him for such a equare hole as George Oswald has cut out for him at Tingalpa, or whatever the out landish name of the place may be. Kenneth is rounded to a perfect sphere, and the corners will slip out of his cognisanoe altogether. I have not made up my mind as to what he will be driven— to poetry, to politics, to lunacy, or to transcen dentalism, which may include all these. But I would stake all I have on earth, even my books, that there are hard lines for him across the water, and that until he gets clear of all his en tanglements with relations he will never get to his own proper work." " Is it not absurd in you to dogmatise about what you know nothing about, Harry f" said Kenneth, who was really discomposed by his friend's confident assertions, which awoke answer ing echoes in his own heart.

" Yon may tell us how you are to distinguish yourself when you fail in what your friends expect of you," said Mrs. Wishart, who was dis posed to turn the tables on Kenneth's discon certing friend. " No doubt about the last part of your sur mises, but grave doubts as to the first I could not tell you at present what will ever make up to the world or to myself for being a 'aticket minister." 1 41 You can never be that, with your wonderful command of language," said Mrs. Wishart "There are other ways of sticking besides want of words. When the thoughts are con fused, and the life inconsistent; when the con science pulls one way and the interests another ; when truth, or what to me appears to be truth, holds up a flaming sword to bar me from any paradise here or hereafter, I think I am very likely to stick somewhere. But of course I'll try it I cannot go through life without my failure. Let us hope one will suffice." "You are in a dismal humour, Harry" said Kenneth. " How can I help it, when you are going to put half the world between us on such an uncer tain venture, to try to follow out old people's plans. These disappointments are hard on the old folks, however. They forget their own youth and their own failures, and they think we will stand up exactly where they set us, and do exactly as they anticipated, and all the while the living soul within us has its own salvation to work out somehow, not with hope and certainty, but with fear and trembling. Strange that they have no misgiving about the human and fallible nature of the materials they fancy they can command." " I think you may b^partly right about your self, though even there you take too strong views," Baid Mrs. WUhart. " You know your own friends' expectations, and your own capa bilities or incapabilities; but, as for Kenneth, he is far more considerate and yielding than you, and has his faculties better in hand, so to speak. I cannot agree to your notion that he will not take kindly to whatever Providence sets him to do." "Providence being George Oswald," you think P said Stalker. " He has been a good providence to me," said Kenneth warmly. "He has done for me well and liberally in every way." " How much love has there been im bis liberal doings t" asked Harry Stalker. The question was like a sting to Kenneth, for this uncle, by his munificent gifts, had dosed the avenue through which his father had sought to help him. Kenneth changed colour ; but could not trust himself to speak. Harry Stalker saw that he had given pain. "I am always doing this sort of thing; Ken* neth, I'm sorry. Of course he cannot be ex* pected to gosh over a boy whom he never saw in his life, and, as Mrs. Wishart says, you are so different from me that you will get on well enough with the great—what d'ye call him t Squatter is it ? At least it will not be your fault if you do not, because that rounding off I have spoken of takes away all.the sharp aggressive corners, and you aie not ready either to give offence or to take it Whereas I—l am an awful example of human perversity. Just because I am at heart sad and sorry to lose my best friend, perhaps for ever, I say things to vex him, and he will go to the antipodes with less heart for bis difficult duties, because I had neither good taste, good temper, nor good feeling." Chaptkb VIIL DKPABTUBB. KmiBTB accepted the apology so humbly offered ; but the words sank into his mind not withstanding. Mr. M'Diarmid came from the North to see bis boy before he left Edinburgh tor his departure to unknown lands; he com forted him for his failure about the degree, and took far more cheerful views as to Mr. George Oswald, of Tingalpa, than his college friend or than Kenneth himself could take from the letters. He was not only Isabel's brother but her favourite brother. His very sensitive* ncsa about Kenneth's birth, and the ignoring of her in his letters, which had hurt the son so uraoh, made Norman M'Diarmid see more love in his doings than any one else. As the days harried on, and the session dosed, and there was only to be a short farewell visit to his grand parents and Nelly, he felt daily more reluctance to go to discover what was expected from him in Victoria. Henry Stalker accompanied his friend in this visit He had before made himself a favourite in the household; his regard for Kenneth was genuine, he was so muoh plainer in appearance that they were never afraid of his eclipsing their own particular hero, and all Kenneth's praises of his friend's greater abilities and higher standing at the University, backed by his marvellous flow of talk and legend and aneodote and quotation, could not shake Mrs. Oswald's idea that if only Kenneth had taken to the Kirk he could have outshone the elder student Whereas he had gone in for being a gentleman by his uncle's orders, and young Stalker was not fit to hold the candle to him in that respect Mrs. Oswald interested Stalker muoh more than her husband did, and he loved to draw her out, and to elicit by question and rejoinder that curious admixture of Calviniatic theology and worldly wisdom which is so essentially a national characteristic of the bygone generation. In the village in which the Oswalds lived they had gone up at least two degrees in the social scale, and were visited by people several degrees higher than that A rich and liberal son in Aus tralia, and a clever grandson at college on whom no expense was spared, were passports for re spectability. The amount of education which the Soottish peasants receive fits them better for a rise in life than would be the case with a similar class in England. The Scotch, too, is a language, and not a dialect, andneverseems vulgar in old people ; and the old man read the papers and played draughts aud backgammon, while his wife in her black gown and snow-white cap knitted stockings, much as people in much higher rank do when life's active work is done. Their pride and pleasure in Kenneth's appear ance, manners, and attainments were wonderfully little disturbed by the approaching separation. It was to be; it was for this that George had behaved so handsomely; his absence in Edin-

burgh for his education had accustomed them to it. The laddie would write every month, and Bend the papers which Qeorge had not done, and Nelly would write for them regularly, and would look after them till they were taken in their good time, not far apart from each other, as both fondly hoped. Harry Stalker, whose mind was full of regrets And misgivings about his friend, could not help being amused at the complacency with which these old people looked upon all the arrangements. Kenneth and his friend had looked into the parish school one day in passing, and the school" master, delighted with the interest taken by two clever Edinburgh students in the children and their studies, and hoping to rouse the am bition of some of his bigger boys for higher edu cation, made them go through a long examina tion on various branches of knowledge, and, among other things, took the Shorter Catechism in hand, and the readiness, the precision, and the triumphant certainty of the answers given by the youngest children awoke an old vein of questioning doubt in the minds of both young men. - " These atoms have no doubts," said Harry, as he and bis friend took their way to the Lin* leath Woods, where Nelly had promised to meet them in the afternoon, "any more than your grandfather and grandmother. Curious, is it not, that at the beginning and the ending of life all seems so clear, and in the middle, when you want the faith to live by, it is so perplexing. Shall you and I ever reaoh such a serene atmo sphere as theirs, when we shall see that whatever is is right, and that this is the best of all pos sible worlds ? la it the age we live in that is so disturbing, or in this earthquako what every human soul must experience in its passage from youth to age ? Probably both ;at least the dis turbance must arise, but the character of the upheaval is determined by that of the times we are passing through. The more various the currents in which we are caught the more un certain will it be to predicate the nature of the ' Sturm und Drang* through which the soul mußt pass." " I think a much larger proportion of people escaped this crisis in former times," said Ken* neth;" at least there is little trace of such throes in the literature of the past compared to that of the present." "Literature misleads us in this as in many things, Kenneth. In the first place, modern literature is ten times more abundant; secondly, it is much more daring in expression ; and, thirdly, if you look closer into the old literature you will find hints that the difficulties arose, though they are not dwelt on." "The difficulties were different in moat in* stances," said Kenneth. " Aye, you are right there, Kenneth, Modern difficulties are really something grand. It is worth living in this nineteenth century for the sake of the grand problems which we face in their depth and height and vastness," said Harry, his plain face lighting up to something like beauty. "But with regard to your grandparents you notice their comfortable, unshaken, and unshak* able conviction about themselves, about yourself, and about everybody ; the Bettledness they see in every arrangement, the unwillingness to weigh or balance probabilities. Even if a thing is merely proposed or surmised they take it up as settled and to be carried out at once, and are astonished afterwards to hear it has not been acted on at aIL" "If I were to get a letter from Australia to* morrow saying that my uncle had changed all his plans, and wanted me to go to business in Scotland, or to take to the Church, how do you think they would take this uprooting of all the plans they have formed on my behalf ?" asked Kenneth. " Much better than you would do, who can anticipate such a possibility. In a day or less, they would see that it is better that you should remain, and that it was not to be expected that your Uncle George, with a son of his own, should just make a son of you. Your grand* mother would take either to business or to the Kirk with joy, and your grandfather would acquiesce in her ideas, while you would be full of surmises and hesitations wondering at your uncle's motives, and finding ib hard to change the current of your ideas." " I dont know but what it would be somewhat of a relief," said Kenneth with a sigh. He thought of how little chance there was of his seeing the good old folks again or Nelly, but, above all, that he would never possibly see his father's face or hear his voice in that far-off land ; and if Qeorge Oswald had voluntarily banished himself for so many years, what chance was there of his own return ? " But with regard to your grandparents," said Harry Stalker, "it would be too hard if along with the failing pleasures of age, they continued to feel the keen anxieties of youth. It is a great compensation to them for the loss of much, that they do not feel grief bo sharp or apprehension so terrible as we younger men." " You yourself have the most curious streak of age in your youth that I ever saw in any one," Baid Kenneth. " Where have you lived in some pre-existent state to acquire all tho cynicism, the dogmatism, the insight that some times looks like experience, only that in your twenty-two years you cannot have really seen so much. You are not one of the happy men who learn by the experionce of others." "No, unfortunately, I don't learn wisdom, however much I may seem to know. That pre existence theory is fascinating. When shall the individual have advanced so far as to recollect distinctly what he did, thought, and felt, in the last even of his transmigrations. Is there to be for ever a River of Lethe in which the soul must plunge, and begin anew with only unconscious memories in the shape of tendencies ? There is a period in every one's life, prae-natal and post-natal, which is as completely forgotten as if it never bad been, and yet it is probab y the most important part of his life. So it may be that until we reach a certain advancement we cannot retain indi vidually and definitely the traditional memories of the race. But to return to jour old people, who would be shocked beyond measure nt nuch speculations, I am amused to hear how thty reckon on Nelly's services so long as they want them ; the idea of her marrying and leaving them never enters their head. And I dare say tley

will imagine when she does give them notice of thiß kind that they can easily supply her place ; but we know they cannot. She's simply perfect in her management." Kenneth looked up a little sharply at his friend, but ho betrayed no emotion. He waß only talk* ing of things in the abstract, as was his wont. " Nelly will, I hope, stay with them as long as they need her. As for marriago it will be hard, with her tastes, to place her in her own station, and sho has too much good sense to look above it," said Kenneth. " Good sense I" laughed Harry. " You are as confident as if you wero seven or seventy years old. I never trußt to good sense in these thing." " There is nothing in the world bo good to trust to nevertheless," said Kenneth somewhat impatiently. "And I simply cannot bear to think of her leaving them. She promises"——— " Oh! of course, ahe promises everything in or out of reason that she thinks would please you or me or anyone else. What v a young woman made for but to be agreeable to everybody, especially to the nobler sex ? It is the whole duty of woman. Let me see! an actuary would value the lives of that couple, the survivor of them I mean, at ten years. They are hale, tem perate, and free from all anxiety, and with abun* dant means. It might stretch out easily to fifteen or sixteen. And Nelly will stick to them till she is thirty-two because she promised, and it would be very handsome to keep her to her promise." "You are a very uncomfortable counsellor, Harry. And here the Bubject of our dispute comes with a letter in her hand; —the Australian mail is sooner than we expected. This is the last letter I shall receive. Is it to countermand orders or to confirm them ?" "To confirm, certainly. The disturbance will come after you get to your uncle's." There was no alteration in the plans. Kenneth read in his uncle's careloßs scrawl his re newed injunctions to sail from the port of Liverpool in the good clipper ship Kent; and that he should probably be met in Melbourne, but if not he was to telegraph his arrival and proceed forthwith to Tingalpa by train to Castle hurst, where ho would find some one with a buggy and pair io take him home. The duplicate bills of exchange for his passage money and outfit were sent in due form; and his appearance was to be such as Bhould do him credit both on board ship and on his landing. There was a little depression among the three yonng folks in the Linleath Woods at this final marching order for Kenneth. Nelly and her friend planned an excursion for the morrow to her dwn old home, where Kenneth could say good* bye to John Lindores, and to the minister, Mr. Ling, and would visit his mother's grave. In this excursion Mr. Stalker was not a party ; he had another visit to pay for the day; but with this exception he did not leave his friend till he Baw him on board the Kent. The fare wells were said; Marion Oswald saw her daughter's nameless child depart, as she thought, to fortune and honours and happiness. John Oswald felt less exultant, and poor Nelly thought the house very Bad and dull without the two friends who always had so much to say to her. (to be continued.)