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staff.” For indeed at that moment Archie had made a suddenperhaps a warlike-movement. “This has been the most insane affair ; you know it has. You know very well that I'm playing the good Samaritan. All I wish is to keep you quiet.”
"If quietness is what you wish, Mr. Innes,” said Archie, "and you will promise to leave me entirely to myself, I will tell you so much, that I am going to walk in the country and admire the beauties of nature." “H
Honour bright ? ” asked Frank. "I am not in the habit of lying, Mr. Innes," retorted Archie. “I have the honour of wishing you good-day.”
“You won't forget the Spec. ?" asked Innes.
"The Spec. ?” said Archie. "Oh no, I won't forget the Spec.”
And the one young man carried his tortured spirit forth of the city and all the day long, by one road and another, in an endless pilgrimage of misery; while the other hastened smilingly to spread the news of Weir's access of insanity, and to drum up for that night a full attendance at the Speculative, where farther eccentric developments might certainly be looked for. I doubt if Innes had the least belief in his prediction ; I think it flowed rather from a wish to make the story as good and the scandal as great as possible ; not from any ill-will to Archie--from the mere pleasure of beholding interested faces. But for all that his words were prophetic. Archie did not forget the Spec.; he put in an appearance there at the due time, and, before the evening was over, had dealt a memorable shock to his companions. It chanced he was the president of the night. He sat in the same room where the Society still meets -only the portraits were not there : the men who afterwards sat for them were then but beginning their career. The same lustre of many tapers shed its light over the meeting ; the same chair, perhaps, supported him that so many of us have sat in since. At times he seemed to forget the business of the evening, but even in these periods he sat with a great air of energy and determination. At times he meddled bitterly and launched with defiance those fines which are the precious and rarely used artillery of the president. He little thought, as he did so, how he resembled his father, but his friends remarked upon it,
chuckling. So far, in his high place above his fellow-students, he seemed set beyond the possibility of any scandal ; but his mind was made up-he was determined to fulfil the sphere of his offence. He signed to Innes (whom he had just fined, and who just impeached his ruling) to succeed him in the chair, stepped down from the platform, and took his place by the chimney-piece, the shine of many wax tapers from above illuminating his pale face, the glow of the great red fire relieving from behind his slim figure. He had to propose, as an amendment to the next subject in the case book, “Whether capital punishment be consistent with God's will or man's policy ?”
A breath of embarrassment, of something like alarm, passed round the room, so daring did these words appear upon the lips of Hermiston's only son. But the amendment was not seconded; the previous question was promptly moved and unanimously voted, and the momentary scandal smuggled by. Innes triumphed in the fulfilment of his prophecy. He and Archie were now become the heroes of the night; but whereas everyone crowded about Innes, when the meeting broke up, but one of all his companions came to speak to Archie.
“Weir, man ! That was an extraordinary raid of yours !” observed this courageous member, taking him confidentially by the arm as they went out.
"I don't think it a raid,” said Archie, grimly. “More like a war. I saw that poor brute hanged this morning, and my gorge rises at it yet."
“Hut-tut,” returned his companion, and, dropping his arm like something hot, he sought the less tense society of others.
Archie found himself alone. The last of the faithful--or was it only the boldest of the curious ?-had fled. He watched the black huddle of his fellow-students draw off down and up the street, in whispering or boisterous gangs. And the isolation of the moment weighed upon him like an omen and an emblem of his destiny in life. Bred up in unbroken fear himself, among trembling servants, and in a house which (at the least ruffle in the master's voice) shuddered into silence, he saw himself on the brink of the red valley of war, and measured the danger and length of it with awe. He made a détour in the
glimmer and shadow of the streets, came into the back stable lane, and watched for a long while the light burn steady in the Judge's room. The longer he gazed upon that illuminated window-blind, the more blank became the picture of the man who sat behind it, endlessly turning over sheets of process, pausing to sip a glass of port, or rising and passing heavily about his book-lined walls to verify some reference. He could not combine the brutal judge and the industrious dispassionate student; the connecting link escaped him ; from such a dual nature, it was impossible he should predict behaviour ; and he asked himself if he had done well to plunge into a business of which the end could not be forseen ? and presently after, with a sickening decline of confidence, if he had done loyally to strike his father? For he had struck him-defied him twice over and before a cloud of witnesses-struck him a public buffet before crowds. Who had called him to judge his father in these precarious and high questions ? The office was usurped. It might have become a stranger ; in a son--there was no blinking it-in a son, it was disloyal. And now, between these two natures so antipathetic, so hateful to each other, there was depending an unpardonable affront: and the providence of God alone might foresee the manner in which it would be resented by Lord Hermiston.
These misgivings tortured him all night and arose with him in the winter's morning ; they followed him from class to class, they made him shrinkingly sensitive to every shade of manner in his companions, they sounded in his ears through the current voice of the professor ; and he brought them home with him at night unabated and indeed increased. The cause of this increase lay in a chance encounter with the celebrated Dr. Gregory. Archie stood looking vaguely in the lighted window of a book shop, trying to nerve himself for the approaching ordeal. My lord and he had met and parted in the morning as they had now done for long, with scarcely the ordinary civilities of life ; and it was plain to the son that nothing had yet reached the father's ears. Indeed, when he recalled the awful countenance of my lord, a timid hope sprang up in him that perhaps there would be found no one bold enough to carry tales. If this were so, he asked himself, would he begin again?
and he found no answer. It was at this moment that a hand was laid upon his arm, and a voice said in his ear, “My dear Mr. Archie, you had better come and see me."
He started, turned round, and found himself face to face with Dr. Gregory. “And why should I come to see you ?” he asked, with the defiance of the miserable.
" Because you are looking exceeding ill,” said the doctor, "and you very evidently want looking after, my young friend. Good folk are scarce, you know; and it is not everyone that would be quite so much missed as yourself. It is not everyone that Hermiston would miss."
And with a nod and a smile, the doctor passed on.
A moment after, Archie was in pursuit, and had in turn, but more roughly, seized him by the arm.
“What do you mean? what did you mean by saying that ? What makes you think that Hermis—my father would have missed me?"
The doctor turned about and looked him all over with a clinical eye. A far more stupid man than Dr. Gregory might have guessed the truth ; but ninety-nine out of a hundred, even if they had been equally inclined to kindness, would have blundered by some touch of charitable exaggeration. The doctor was better inspired. He knew the father well ; in that white face of intelligence and suffering, he divined something of the son ; and he told, without apology or adornment, the plain truth. “ When
you had the measles, Mr. Archibald, you had them gey and ill ; and I thought you were going to slip between my fingers,” he said. “Well, your father was anxious. How did I know it ? says you. Simply because I am a trained observer. The sign that I saw him make, ten thousand would have missed ; and perhaps-perhaps, I say, because he's a hard man to judge of-but perhaps he never made another. А strange thing to consider ! It was this. One day I came to him : 'Hermiston,' said I, there's a change. He never said a word, just glowered at me (if ye'll pardon the phrase) like a wild beast. 'A change for the better,' said I. And I distinctly heard him take his breath."
The doctor left no opportunity for anticlimax ; nodding his
cocked hat (a piece of antiquity to which he clung) and repeating“ Distinctly” with raised eyebrows, he took his departure, and left Archie speechless in the street.
The anecdote might be called infinitely little, and yet its meaning for Archie was immense. “I did not know the old man had so much blood in him.” He had never dreamed this sire of his, this aboriginal antique, this adamantine Adam, had even so much of a heart as to be moved in the least degree for another -- and that other himself, who had insulted him ! With the generosity of youth, Archie was instantly under arms upon the other side : had instantly created a new image of Lord Hermiston, that of a man who was all iron without and all sensibility within. The mind of the vile jester, the tongue that had pursued Duncan Jopp with unmanly insults, the unbeloved countenance that he had known and feared for so long, were all forgotten ; and he hastened home, impatient to confess his misdeeds, impatient to throw himself on the mercy of this imaginary character.
He was not to be long without a rude awakening. It was in the gloaming when he drew near the doorstep of the lighted house, and was aware of the figure of his father approaching from the opposite side. Little daylight lingered ; but on the door being opened, the strong yellow shine of the lamp gushed out upon the landing and shone full on Archie, as he stood, in the old-fashioned observance of respect, to yield precedence. The Judge came without haste, stepping stately and firm ; his chin raised, his face (as he entered the lamplight) strongly illumined, his mouth set hard. There was never a wink of change in his expression ; without looking to the right or left, he mounted the stair, passed close to Archie, and entered the house. Instinctively, the boy, upon his first coming, had made a movement to meet him ; instinctively, he recoiled against the railing, as the old man swept by him in a pomp of indignation, Words were needless ; he knew all--perhaps more than alland the hour of judgment was at hand.
It is possible that, in this sudden revulsion of hope and before these symptoms of impending danger, Archie might have fled. But not even that was left to him. My lord; after hanging up his cloak and hat, turned round in the lighted entry,