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A Christmas Story

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CHAPTER. I. I.V VVHICn JOHN SOWS THK WI.VD, Joha Varey Nicholson was stupid; yet, itupider men than he are now sprawling in parliamcnt, and lauding themselves as the authors of their own distinotioii. He was of a fat habit, evon from boyhood, and inclined to a cbeerful and cursory reading of the face Of lifo ; and possibly this attitude of mind was tho original cause of hismisfortunes. Beyond this hint philosophy is silent on his career, and superstition steps in with the more ready explanation that he was detested of the gods. His father - that iron gentleman - had long ago enthroned himself on the heights of the Disruption Principies. What these are (and in spite of their grim ñamo they are quite innocent) no array of terms would ronder thinkable to the meroly English inteUigenee ; but to tho Scot they often prove unctuously aourishing, and Mr. Nicholson found in them the mille of lions. About the period wheu tho churches convene at Edinburgh in their annual assemblios, he was to be seen descending tho moand in the company of divers red headed clergymen; these voluble, he only contributing oracular nods, brief negatives, and tho austere speet acle of his stretehed upper lip. The names of Candlish and Begg were frequent in thesa interviews, and occasionally the talk ran on the residuary establishment and the doings of one Lee. A stranger to the tight little theological kingdom of Scotland might have listened and gathered literally nothing. And Jlr. Nicholson (who was not a dull man) knew this, and raged at it. Hu knew there was a vast world outside, to wliom disruption principies were as the chatter of tree top apes; the paper brought hira chili whiffs from it; he had met Englishmen who had asked lightly if he did not belong to the Church of Scotland, and then had failed to be much interested by his elucidation of that nice point; it was an evil, wild, rebellious world, lying sunk in dozenedness, for nothing short of a Scot's word will paint this Scotsman's feelings. And when he entered into his own house in Randolph Crescent (south side), and shut the door behind him, his heart swelled with security. Here, at least, wa3 a citadel impregnable by right hand defections or left hand extremes. Here was a family whero prayers came at the same hour, where the Sabbath literatura was unimpeachably selected, where the guest who should liave leaned to any f alse opinión was instantly set down, and over which there reigned all week, and grew denser on Sundays, a silence that was agreeable to his ear, and a gloom that he found comfortable. Mrs. Nicholson had died about thirty, and left him with three children - a daughter two years, and a son about eight years younger than John; and John himself, the unlucky bearer of a name infamous in English history. The daughter, Maria, was a good girl - dutiful, pious, dull, but so easily startled that to speak to her was quite a perilous enterprise. "I don't think I care to talk about cnat, ir you piease," she would say, aud strike the boldest speechless by her umnistakabla pain; this upon all topics- dress, pleasure, morality, politics, in which the formula was changed to "my papa thinks othorwise," and even religión, unless it was approached with a particular winning tone of voice. Alexander, the younger brother, was sickly, clever, fond of books and drawing, and full of Batirical romarks. In the midst of these, imagine that natural, clumsy, unintelligent and mirthful animal, John; mighty well beha ved in comparison with other lads, although not up to the mark of the house in Randolph Crescent ; full of a sort of blundering affection, full of caresses which were never vcry warmly received; full of sudden and loud laughter which rang out in that still house like curses. Mr. Nicholson himself had a great fund of humor, of the Scots order - intellectual, turning on the observation of men ; his own character, for instance - if he could have seen it ih another - would have been a rare feast to him ; but Liis son 's empty guffaws over a brokon plate, and empty, almost light hearted remarks, struck him with pain as the indices of a weak mind. Outsido the fámily John had early attached himself (much as a dog may f oUow a marquis; to the steps of Alan Houston, a lad about a year older than himself, idle, a trillo wild, the hcir to a good estáte which was still in the hands of a rigorous trustee, and so royally content with himself that he took John's dovotion as a thing of course. The intimacy was gall to Mr. Nicholson; it took his son from the house, and he was a jealous parent; it kept himfrom the office, and he was a martinet; lastly, Air. Nicholson was ambitious for his iamily (in which, and the Disruption Principies, he entirely lived),and he hated to see a son of his play second fiddle to an idler. After some hesitation, he ordered that the friendship should cease - an unfair command, though seemingly inspired by the spirit of prophecy; and John, saying nothing, continued to disobey the order under the rose. John was nearly 19 when he was one day dismissed rather earlier than usual from his father's office, where he was studying the practico of the law. It was Saturday; and except that he had a matter of L400 in hia pocket which it was his duty to hand over to the British Linen Company's bank, he had the whole afternoon at his disposal. He went by Prince's street enjoying the mild sunshine, and the little thrill of easterly wind that tossed the flags along that terrace of palaces, and tumbled the green trees in the garden. The band was playing down in the valley under thocastle; and when it cameto the turn of the pipera, he heard their wild sounds with a stirring of the blood. Soruething distantly martial woke in hún ; and he thought of Miss Maekenzie, whom he was to meet that day at dinuer. Now, it is undeiiiable that he should have gone directly to the bank, but right in the way stood the billiard room of the hotel where Alan was alinost certain to be found, and the temptation proved too strong. He entered the billiard room and was instantly greeted by his iriend, cue in hand. "Nicholson," said he, "I want you to lend me a pound or two till Monday." "You've come to the right shop, havent you?" returned John. "I havo tnopence." "ÍTonseuse," said Alan. "You can get some. Oo and borrow at your tailor's; they all do it. Or I'll teil you what: pop your watch." "Oh, yes, I daré say," said John. "And how about my fatheri" "How is ho to know? Ho doesn't wind it np for you at night, does hei" inquired Alan, at which John guffawed. "No, seriously; I om in a fis," continued the tenipter. "I have lost some money to a man here. I'll give it you to-night, and yeu can get the heirloom out again on Monday. Cone; it's a small service, after all. I would do a good deal more for you." Whereupon John went forth, and pawned his gold watch under the assumed uarae oí John Froggs, 85 Pleasance. But the nervou ness that assailed him at tho door of that inglorious kauot- a pawnshop - uaü th effori necessary to in vent the pscudonym (which, somehow, seoiued to him a necessary part of tho procedure), had taken more time than ha imagined; and when he returnel to tho billiard room with the spoils, the bank had already closed its doors. This was a shrewd knock. "A piece of business had been neglected. " He heard these word's In his fath r's trenehant voice, and trembled, and then dodged the 'ought. After all, who was to know? He must carry L400 about with him till Monday, when the negleet coald be surreptitiousiy repaired ; and meanwhile, he was free to pass the afternoou on the eneircling divan of the billiard room, smoking his pipe, sipping a pint of ale, and enjoymg to the mast head the modest pleasuros of admiration. None can admiro like a young man. Of all youth's passions and pleasures, this is the most common and least alloyed; and every flash of Alan's black eyes ; every aspect of his curly head; every graeeful reach, every easy, stand off attitude of waiting ; aye, and down to his shirt sleeves and wrist links, were seen by John through a luxurious glory. He valued himself by the posscssion of that royal friend, hugged himself upon the thought, and swam in warm azure; his own defects, like vanquished difliculties, becoming thing3 on which to plumo himself. Only when he thought of Jliss Mackenzio there feli upon his mind a shadow of regret ; that young lady was worthy of botter things than plain Joha Nicholson, still known ainong sehoolmates by tho derisive name of "Fatty ;'' and he feit, if he could chalk a cue, or stand at ease, with such a careless grace as Alan, he could approacb the object of his sentimeuts with a less crushing sense of inferiority. Before they parted, Alan made a proposal that was startling in the extreme. Ho would be at Colettu's that night about 12, he said. Why should not John come there and get the money? To go to Colette's was to see life, indeed; it was wrong; it was against the laws; it partook, in a very dingy manner, of adventure. Were it known, it was the sort of exploit that disconsidered a young man for good with the more serious classes, but gavo him a standing with the riotous. And yet Colette's was not a heil; it could not come, without vaulting hyperbole, under the rubric of a gilded saloon; and, if it was a sin to go there, the sin was merely local and municipal. Colette (whose name I do not know how to spell, for I was never in epistolary communication with that hospitable outlaw) was simply an unlicensed publican, who gave suppers after 11 at night, the Edinburgh hour of closing. If you belonged to a club, you could get a much better supper at tho same hour, and lose not a jot in public esteem. But if you lacked that qualifieation, and were an hungered, or inclined toward conviviality at unlawful hours, Colette's was your only port. You were very ill supplied. The company was not reeruited from thesenateor the church, though the bar was very well represented on the only occasion on which I flew ir. the face of my country's laws, and, taking my reputation in my hand, penetrated into tho grim supperhouse. And Colette's frequenters, thrillingly conscious of wrong doing and ''that two handed engine (the policeman) at the door," were perhaps inclined to somewhat feverish excess. But the place was in no sense a very bad one; and it is somewhat strange to me, at this distance of time, how it had acquired its dangerous repute. In precisely the same spirit as a man raay debate a project to ascend the Matterhorn or to cross África, John considered Alan's proposal, and, greatly daring, accepted it. As he walked home, the thoughts of this excursión out of the safe places of life Into the wild and arduous, stirred and struggled in his imagination with the imago of Miss Mackenzic - incongruous and yot kindred I thoughts, for did not each imply unusual tightening of the pegs of resolution? did not each woo him f orth and warn hiin back again into himself ) Between these two considerations, at least, ■ he was more than usually moved; and whea he got to Randolph Crescent, he quite forgot the L400 in the inner pocket of his great coat, hung up the coat, with its rich freight, upon his particular pin of the hat stand; and in the very action sealed his doom. CHAPTER II. Ef WHICH JOHN REAPS THE WHIRLWIND. About 10:00 it was John's brave good fortuno to offer his arm to Miss Mackcnzie, and escort her home. THe night was chili and starry ; all the way eastward the trees of the different gardens rustled and looked black. Up the stoao gully of Leith Walk, when they camo to cross it, the breeze made a rush and set the flames of the street lamps quavering; and when at last they had mountcd to tho Koyal Terrace, where Capt. Mackenzie lived, a great salt freshness camc in their faces from the sea. These phases of the walk remained written on John's memory, each emphasized by the touch of that light hand on his arm; and behind all these aspects of the nocturnal city he saw, in his mind's eye, a picturo of tho lighted drawing room at home where he had sat talking with Flora ; and his father, from the other end, had looked on with a kind and iromcal smile. John had read the signiflcanee of that smile, which mlght havo escaped a strauger. Mr. Nicholson had remarked his son's entanglement with satisfaction, tinged by humor; and his smile, if it stül was a tüought contemptuous, had implied consent. At the captain's door the girl held out her hand, with a certain emphasis; and John took it and kept it a little longer, and said, "Good night, Flora, dear," and was instantly thrown into much fear by his presumption. But she only laughed, ran up tho steps, and rang tüo bell; and whilo she was waiting for the door to open, kept close in the porch, and talked to him from that point as out of a fortification. She had a knitted shawl over herhead; her blue Highland eyes took the light from the neighboring street lamp and sparkled; and when the door opened and closed upon her, John feit cruelly alono. He proceeded slowly back along fho terraco in a tender giow; and wlien ñe carne to Greenside church, he halted in a doubtful mini Over the crown of the Calton hül, to his left, lay the way to Colette's, where A Tan would soon be looking for his arrival, and where he would now have no more consented to go tlnin he woul d have willfully wallowed in a bog; the touch of the girl's hand on his sleeve, and the kindly L'ght in his father's eyes, both loudly forbidding. But right before him was the way home, which pointed only to bod, a place of little ease for one whose fancy was strung to the lyrical pitch, and whose not very ardent heart was just then tumultuously moved. The hill top, the cool air of the night, the company of the great monuments, th sight of the city under his feet, with its hilla and valleys and crossing files of liimps, dreir him by all he had of the poetic, nad he turnen that way; and by that quite innocent deflection, ripeiied thf erop of hi venial errors for the sickle ot destiny. On a Beat on the hill above Greensid he sat for perhaps half an hour, looking down npon the lamps of Edinburgh and up at the lamps of heavem. Wonderful were the re solves he formed; beautiful and kindly were the vistas of future life that sped txf ore him. He uttored to himself the name of Flora in so many touching and dramatic keya that he became at longth fairly melted with tenderness, and could have sung aloud. At that juncture a eertaín creasing in bis great coat caught his ear. He put his hand into his pocket, pulled forth the envelope that lield the money, and sat stupefied. The Calton hill about this period had an ill name ofnights, and to be sitting there with L400 that did not belong to him was hardly wise. He looked np. There was a man in a very bad hat a little on one side oL him, apparently looking atthe scenery; f rom a little on the other a second night walker was drawing very quietly near. Up jumped John. The envelope fell f rom his hands; he stooped to get it, and at the same moment both men rail in and closed with him. A little aftcr he got to his fect very sore and shaken, the poorer by a purse whichcontainecl exactly one penny postage stamp, by a cambric handkerchief, and by the all important envelope. Here was a young man on whom, at the highest point of loverly exaltation, there had fallen a blow too sharp to be supported alone, and not many hundred yards avvay his greatest friend was sitting at supper- aye, and even expeeting him. Was it not in the nature of man that he should run there? He went in quest of sympathy- in quest of that droll article that we all suppose ourselves to want when in a strait, and have agreed to cali advice; and he went, besides, with vague but rather splendid expectations of relief. Alan was rich, or would be so when he carne of age. By a stroke of the pen he might remedy this misfortune, and avert that dreaded interview with Mr. Nieholson, froii which John now slirunk in imagination as the hand draws back f rom fire. Close under the Calton hill there runs a certain narrow avenue, part street, part byroad. The head of it faces the doors of the prison; its tail descends into the sunless slums of the Low Calton. On oue hand it is overhung by the crags of the hill, on the other by an old graveyard. Between these two the roadway rims in a trench, sparsely lighted at night, sparsely frequented by day, and bordered, when it was cleared the place of tombs, by dingy and ambiguous houses. One of these was the house of Colette, and at his door our ill starred John was presently beating for admittance. In an evil hour he satisfled the jealous inquiries of the contraband hotel keeper ; in an e vil hour he penctrated into the somewbat unsavory interior. Alan, to bo sure, was there, seated in a room ligLted by noiey gas jets, beside a dirty table cloth, engaged on a coarse meal, and ín the company of several tipsy members of the junior bar. But Alan was not sober; ho liad lost L1,000 upon a horse race, had received the news at dinner time, and was now, in iefault oí' any possible nieans of extrication, drownins the nieinory of his predieament. He to help John ! The thing was impossiblt ; he couldn't help himse'f. "If you have a beast of a fatber." said he, "I can tell you I have a bruto of a trastea11 'Tm not going to hear my father called a beast," said John, with a beátíng heart, feeling that he risked the last sound rivet of the chain that bound him to lifc But Alan was quite good naturel. "All right, old fellow," said he. "Mos' respec'able man your father.'' And he introduced his f riend to his companions as ''olJ Nïcholsou, the what-d'ye-eali-uni's son." John sat in dumb agony. Colette's foul walls and macúlate table linen, and even down to Colette's villainous casters, seemed like objects in a nightmare. And just then there carne a knock and a senrrying ; the poüoe, so lamentably absent froin the Caltou bilí, appeared upon the scène; and the party, taken flagrante delicto, with their glasses at their elbow, wero seized, marched up to tho pólice office, and all duly summoned to appear as witnesses in the consequent case against that arch shebeener, Colette. It was a sorrowf ui and a mighty soberc-d company that carne forth again. The vague terror of public: opinión weighed generally on them all ; bui there were private and particular horrors on the minds of individuals. Alan stood in dread of his trustee, already sorely bied. One of the group was tho son of a country minister, another of a judge ; John, the unhappiest of all, had David Jïicholson to father, the idea of facing whom on such a scandalous subject was physically sickening. They stood awhile consulting underthe buttresses of Saint Giles; thence they adjournod to the lodgings of one of the uumber in Nortb Castle street, where (for that matter) they might have had quite as good a supper, and far better drink, than in ihe dangerous paradise from which they had been routed. There, over an alniost tearful glass, they debated their position. Each plained ho had the world to lose il the affair went on, and he appeared aa a witness. It was remarkable what bright prospect? wwa just then in the very act of opening before each of that little company of youths, and what pious consideration for the feelings cl their families began now to well frora thera. Each, moreover, was in an odd state of destitution. Not one could bear his share of the fine ; not one but evinced a wonderf ui twinkle of hope that each of theothers (in succession) was the very man who could step in to make good the deflcit. One took a high hand : ho could not pay his share ; if it went to a trial, he should bolt ; he had always feit the English bar to be his true sphere. Another branched out into touching details about his famih , and was not listened to. John, in the midst of this disorderly competition of poverty and meanness, sat stunned, contemplating the ïnountaiu bulk of his misfortunes. At last, upon a pledge that each should apply to his family with a common frankness, this convention of unhappy young asses broke up, went dovm the common stair, and in the gray of tho spring morning, with the stroete lying dead empty all about them, the lamps burning on into the daylight in diminished luster, and the birds beginning to sound premonitory notes f rom the groves of the town gardens, went each his own way with bowed head and eohoing fnotfall. The rooks were awake in Eandolph Crescent; but (he windows looked down, discreetly blinded, on the return of the gaL Johii's pass key was a recent privilege ; this was tho first time it had been used ; and, ohl with what a sickening sense of his nnworthiness he now inserted it into the wel! oiled lock and entered that citadel of the proprieties! All slept; the gas in the hall had been left faintly burning to light his return; a dreadful stülness reigned, broken by the deep ticking of the eight day cloek. He put the gas out, and sat on a chair in the hall, waiting and counting the minutes, longing for any human eountenance. But when at last he heard the alarm spring its rattle in the lower story, and the servants begin to be about, he instantly lost heart, and fled to his own room, where he threw himself ujwin the bed. CHAPTER III. Ut WHICH JOHN KNJOYS THE HARVEST HOME. Shortly af ter breakf ast, at whieh he assisted with a highly tragieal eountenance, John Bouglit his father where he sat, presumab'y in religious meditation, on the Sabbath mornings. The old gentleman looked up with that sour, inquisitivo expression that eameso near to smiling and was so different in effect. "This is a time when I do not like to be disturbed," ho said. "I know that," returned John; "but I have - I want- I've made a dreadful mess of it," he broke out, and turned to the window. Mr. Nicholson nat silent for an appreciable time, while hi unhappy son surveyed the poles in the back green, and a oertain yeflow cat that was perehed upon the wall. Despair sat upon John as he gazed, and he raged to think of the dreadful series of his misdeeds, and the essential innoceuce that lay bchind them. "Well," said the father, with an obvious effort, but in very quiet tones, "what is it?" "Maclean gare me L400 to put in the bank, sir," began John; "and Tm sorry to say that I've beer robbed of it!" "Robbed of itf' cried Mr. Nicholson, with a strong rising infleetion. "Robbed? Be caref ui what you say, Jóhn !"' "I can't say anything else, sir; I was just robbed of it," said John, in desperation, sullenly. "And where and when did this extraordinary event take place?" inquired the father. "On the Calton hillabout 12 last night." "The Calton hill?" repeated Mr. Nicholson. "And what were you doing tbere at such a time of the nightf ' "Nothing, sir," says John. Mr. Nicholson drew in his breath. "And how caine the money in your hands at last night i" he asked, sharply. "I neglected that piece of business," said John, autieipating comment; and then in his own dialect: "I clean forgot all about it." "Well," said his father, "it's a most extraordinary story. Have you eommunicated with the policef' "I have," answered poor John, the blood leaping to his face. "They think they know the men that did it. I dare say the money will be recovered, if that was all," said he, with a desperate indifference, which his father set down tolevity; but which sprung from the coneciousness of worse beíúnd. "Your mother's watch, tooi" asked Mr. Nicholson. "Oh, the watch is all right!" cried John. "At least, I mean I was coming to the watch -the fact is, I am ashamed to say, I- I ha) pawned the watch bef ore. Here is the ticket they didnt find that; the watch can be redeemed; they don't sell pledges." The lad panted out these phrases, one after another, like minute guns; but at the last word, which rang in that stately chamber h'ke an oath, his heart f ailed him utterly ; and the dreaded silence settled on father and son. It was broken by Mr. Nicholson picking up the pawnticket: "Johu Froggs, 80 Pleasauce, he read; and then turning upon John, with a brief flash of passion and disgust, "Vho is John Froggs í" he oried, "Nobody," said John. ' 'It was just a name." "An alias," his father commented. "Oh! I think scareely quite that," said the pulprit; "it's a form, they all do it, the man seemed to understand, we had a great deal of f un over the name" He paused at that, for he saw his father winco at the picture like a man physically struck : and again there was silenee. 'I do not think," said Mr. Nicholson, at last, "that I am an ungenerous father. I have never grudged you money within reason, for any avowable purpose; you had just to come to me and speak. And now I find that you have forgottén all decency and all natural fceling, and actually pawned - pawned- your mother's watch. You must have had some temptation; I will do you the justiee to suppose it was a strong one. "VVhat did you want with this money'f" "1 would rather not teil you, sir." said John. "It will only make you angry." "1 wil', not be fenced with," cried his father. "There must be an end of disiugeuuous answers. What did you want with this money!' "To lend it to Houston, sir," says John. "I thought I had forbidden you to speak to that 3'oung man?' asked the father. "Yes, sir," said John; "but I only met him." "Where?" came the deadly question. And "In s billiard room" was the damning answer. Thus had John's single departurc from tho truth brought instant punishment. For no other purpose but to soe Alan would behaveenteredabilliardroom; but he had desired to palliatc the fact of his disobedience, and now it appeared that he frequented these disreputable haunts upon his own account. Once more Mr. Nicholson digested the vile tidings in silence; and when John stole a glance at his father's countenance, he was abashed to see the marks of suffering. "Well," said the old gentleman at last, "I cannot pretend not to be simply bowed down. I rose this morning what the world calis a happy man- happy, at least, in a son of whom I thought I could be reasonably proud" But it Tras beyond human nature to endure this longer; and John interrupted almost with a scream. "Oh, wheest!" he cried, "that's not all, that's not the worst of it - it's nothing ! How could I teil you were proud of me? Oh ! I wish, I wish that I had known , but yoa always Baid Í was such a disgrace! And the dreadful thing is this: We were all taken up last night, and we have to pay Colette'a fmo among the six, or we'll be had up for evidence- shebeening it is. They mide me swear to teil you ; but for my part," he cried, bursting into tears, "I just wish that I was deadl" And he feil on his knees before a ehair and hid his face. Whether his father spoke, and whether he remained long ia the room or at once departed, are points lost to history. A horrid turmoil of mind and body; bursting sobs; broken, vanishing thoughts, now of indignation, now of remorse; broken elementary whiffs of consciousness, of the smell of the horse hair on the chair bottom, of the jangling of church bells that now began to make the day horrible throughout the confines of the city, of the hard floor that bruieed his knees, of the taste of tears that found their way into his mouth. For a period of time, the duration of which I cannot guess, while I refuse to dweil longer on its agony, these ■were the whole of God's world for John ÏTicbolson. When at last, as by the touch ing of a spring, he returned again to clearness of consciousness and even a measure of composure, the bells had but just done ringing, and the Sabbath silence was still marred bythe patter oí belated reet. Jy tne clocn aDove the flre, as well as by these more speaking signs, the service had not long begun, and the unhappy rinner, if hls father had really gone to church, might count on near two hours of only comparativo unhappiness. With his father the superlativo degreereturned infallibly. He knew it by every shrinking fiber in his body, he knew it by the sudden dizzy whirling of bis brain at the mere thought of that calamity. An honr and a half, perhaps an hour and three-quarters, if the doctor was long winded, andthen would begin again that active agony from which, even in the dull ache of the present, he shrunk as from the bite of fire. He saw in a visión the family pew, the somnolent cushions, the Bibles, the psalm books, Maria with her smelling salts, his father sitting Fpectacled and critical ; and at once he was struck with indignation, not unjustly. It was inhuman to go off to church and leave a sinner in suspense, unpunished, unforgiven. And at the very touch of criticism the paternal sanctity was lessened; yet the paternal terror only grew; and the two strands of feeling pushed him in the same direction. And suddcnly there came upon him a mad fear lest his father should have locked him in. The notion had no ground in sense; it was probahly no more than a reminiscence of similar calamities in childhood, for bis father's room had always been the chamber of inquisition and the seene of pnnishmeut; ' but it stuck so rigoronsly in his mind ttat be must instantly approach the door and prove its untruth. As he went he struck upon a drawer left open in the business tablo. It was the money drawer, a measure of his father's disarray. The money drawer- perhaps a pointing providence ! Who is to decide when even divines differ between a providenee anti a temptation? or who, sitting calmly under his own vine, is to pass a judgment on the doings of a poor, hunted dog, slavréhly afraid, slavishly i-ebellious, like John Nieholson on that particular Sunday? His hand was in the drawer, almost bef ore his mind had conceived the hope; and rising to his new situation, ho wrote, sitting in his father's ehair and using his father's blotting pad, his pitiful apology and farewell: "My Dear Father- I have taken the money, but I will pay it back a3 soon as I am able. You will never hear of me again. I did not mean any harm by anything, so I hope you will try and forgive me. I wish you would say goodby to Alexander and Maria, but not i f you don't want to. I could not wait to see you, really. Please try to forgive me. Your affectionate son, "John Nicholson." The coins abstracted and the missive written, he could not be gone too soon f rom the scène of these transgressions; and remembering how his father had once returned from church, on some slight illness, in the middle of the second psalm, he durst not even make a packet of a change of clothes. Attired as he was, he slipped from the paternal doors and found himself in the cool spring air, the thin spring sunshine and the great Sabbath quiet of the city. which was now only pointed by the cawing of the rooks. There was not a soul in Randolph Crescent, nor a soul in Queensferry street; in this out door privacy and the sense of escape, John took heart again, and with a pathetie sense of leave taking, he ventured up the lane and stood awhile, a Btrange peri at the gates of a quaint paradise, by the west end of St. George's church. They were singing within, and by a strange chance, the tuna was "St. George's, Edinburgh," which bears the name, and was first sung in the choir of that church. "Who is this King of Glory?" went the voices from within ; and, to John, this was like the end of all Christian observauces, for he was now to be a wild man like Ishmael, and hi? life was to be cast in homeless places and witb godless people. It was tlius, with no rising sense of the adventurous. but in mere desolation and despair, that he turned his back on nis native city, and set out on foot for California, with a more immediate eye to Glasgow. CHAPTER IV. THE SECOXD SOWING. It is no part of mine to nárrate the adventures of John Nicholson, which were many, but siniply his more momentous misadventures, which were more than he desired, and, by human standards, more than he deserved ; how he reached California, how he was rooked, and robbed, and beaten, and starved; how he was at last taken up by charitable folk, restored to some degree of self complacency, and installed as a clerk in a bank in San Francisco, it would take too long to teil; nor in these episodes were there any marks of the peculiar Nicholsonic destiny, for they were just such matters as befell some thousands of other young adventurers in the same days and places. But once posted in the bank, he feil for a time into a high degree of good fortune, which, as it was only a longer way about to fresh disaster, it behooves me to explain. It was his luck to meet a young man in what is technically called a "dive," and, thanks to his monthly wages, to extricato this new aequaintance from a position of present disfrace and possible danger in the future. This young man was the nephew of one of the Nob hill magnates, who run the San Francisco Stock Exchange, much as more humble adventurers, iu the corner of some public park at home, may be seen to perform the simple artífice of pea and thimble- for their own profit, that is to say, and the discouragement of public ganibling. It was thus in his power - and, as he was of grateful temper, it was among t'-ie things that ho desired - to put Jolm in tho way of growing rich ; and thus, without thought or industry , or so much as even understanding the game at which he played, but by simply buying and selling what he was told to buy and sell, that plaything of fortune was presently at the head of between L11,000 and L12,000, or, as he reckoned it, of upward of $60,000. How ho had come to deserve this wealth, any more than how he had formerly earned disgrace at home, was a problem beyond the reach of his philosophy. It was time that he had been industrious at the bank, but no more so thau the cashier, who had seven small children and was visibly sinking in decline. Nor was the step which had determined his advance - a visit to a dive with a month's wages in his pocket - an act of such transcendent virtue, or even wisdom, as to seem to merit the favor of the gods. From some sense of this, and of the dizzy seesaw - heaven high, heil deep - on which men sit clutching, or perhaps f earing that the sources of his fortune might be insidiously traced to Bome root in the field of petty cash, he stuck to bi6 work, said not a word of his new circumstances, and kept his account with a bank m a different quarter of the town. The concealmcnt, innocent as it seems, was the first Btep in the sccond tragi-comcdy of John's existence. lieanwhile, he liad never written home. Whether from difiidence or shame, or a touch of anger, or mere procrastination, or because (as we have seen) he had no skill in literary arts, or because (as I am sometimes temptéd to suppose) there is a law in human nature that prevents young men - not otherwise beasts - from the performance of this simple act of piety- months and years had gone by, and John had never written. The habit of not writing, indeed, was already fixed bef ore he had begun to come into his fortune, and it was only the difficulty of breaking his long silence that withheld him from an instant restitution of the money ho had stolen or (as he prcferred to cali it) borrowed. In vain ho sat before paj)er, attending on inspiration ; that heavenly nymph, beyond suggesting the words "my dear father," remained obsstinately silent; and presently John would crumple up the sheet and decide, I as soon as he "had a good chance," to carry the money home in person. And this delay, which was indefensibie, was his second step into the snares of fortune. Ten years had passed, and John was drawing near to 30. He kept the promise of his boyhood and was now of a lusty frame, verging toward corpulence; good features, good eyes, a genial manner, a ready laugh, a long pair of sandy whiskers, a dash of an American aioent, a close familiarity with the great American joke and a certain likenesK to a R y-1 P-rs-a-ge, who shall remajn nameless f or me, made up this man's externals as he could be viewed in society. Inwardly, in spite of his gross body and highly masculine whiskers, he was more like a maiden lady than a man of 29. It chanced one day, as he was strolling dowa Market street on the eve of his fortnight's holiday, that his eye was caught by certain railway bilis, and in very idleness of mind he calculated that he might be home for Cbrtsttnas if he started on the morrow. TheíaiK y tbrüled him with desire, and in od moroent he decided he would go. I There was inuch to be done: hfs portmanteau to be packed, a crelit to be got f rom the bank, where be was a wealthy customer, and certain offices to be transacted for that other bank in which ho was an humble clerk : and itchaneed, in oonfonnity with human nature, that out of all this business it was the last that carne to be neglected. Night found him not only equipped with money of bis om, but once more (as on that former occasion) saddled with a considerable sum of other people's. Now it chanced there lived in the same boarding house a fellow clerk of his, an honest fellow, with what is called a weakness for drink- though it might, in this case, have been called a strength, for the victim had beendrunk for weeks together without the briefest intermission. To this unfortunate John intrusted a letter with an inclosure of bonds, addressed to the bank manager. Even as he did so he thought he perceived a certain hariness of eye and speech in his trustee; but he was too hopeful to be stayed, silenced the voice of warning in his bosom, and with one and the same gesture committed the money to the clerk and himself into the hands of destiny. I dweil, even at the risk of tedium, on John's minutest errors, his case being st perplexing to the moralist; but we have done with them now, the roll is closed, the reader has the worst of our poor hero, and I leave him to judge for himself whether he or John has been the less deserving. Henceforth we have to follow the spectacle of a man who was a mere whiptop for calamity ; on whose uninerited misadventures not even the humorist can look without pity, and uot even the philosopher without alarm. That same night the clerk entered upon a bout of drunkenness so consistent as to surprise even his intímate acquaintance. He was speedily ejected f rom the boarding house ; deposited his portmanteau with a perfect stranger, who did not even catch his name; wandered he kuew not where, and was at last hove to, all standing, in a hospital at Sacramento. There, under the impenetrable alias of the number of his bed, the crapulous being lay for some more days imconscious of all things, and of oue thing in particular: that the pólice were after him. Two months had come and gone bef ore the convalescent in the Sacramento hospital was identified with Kirkman, the abeconding San Francisco clerk; even then, there must elapse nearly a fortnight more till the perfect stranger could be hunted up, tho portmanteau reftovered, and John's letter carried at length to its destination, the seal still unbroken, the inclosure still intact. lleanwhile John had gone upon his holidays without a word, which was irregular, and there had disappeaml with him a certain siim of money, whieh was out of all bounds of palliation. But he was known to be careless, and believed to be honest; the manager besidee bad a regard for him, and little was said, alihough something was no doubt thought, until the fortnight was finally at au end and the time had come for John to reappear. Then, indeed, the affair began to look black, and when inquiries were made and tho penniless clerk was found to have amassed thouSands of dollars and kept them secretly in a rival establishment, the stoutest of his friends abandoned him, tho books were overhauled for traces of ancient and artful fraud, and though none were found there still prevailed a general impreseion of loss. The telegraph was set in motion and the correspondent of the bank in Edinburgh, for which place it was understood that John had armed himself with extensive credits, was warned to communicate with the pólice. Now tb is correspondent was a friend of Mr. Nicholson's; he was well acquainted with the tale of John's calamitous disappearance f rom Edinburgh; and, putting one thing with another, hasted with the tlrst word of this scandal, not to the pólice, but to his friend. The old gentleman had long regarded his son as one dead; John's place had been taken, the memory oí nis faults had already fallen to be one of tliose old aches, which awaken again indeed upon occasion, but which we can alwaya vanquísh by an effort of the will; and to have the long lost resuscitated in a fresh disgraee was doubly bitter. "Macewen," said the old man, "this must be hushed up if possible. If I give you a check for this sura, about which they are certain, could you take it oa yourself to let the matter rest'" "I will," said Macewen. "I will take the risk of it." "You understend," resumed Mr. Nieholson, speaking preotóely, but with ashen lips, "I do this for my family, not for that unhappy young man. If it should turn out tliat these suspicious are correct, and he has embezzled large sums, he must He on his bed as he has made it." And then looking up at Macewen with a nod and one of his strange smiles: "Goodby," said he; and Macewen, perceiving the case to be too gravo for consolation, took himself off, and blessed God on his way home tnat he was childless. CHAPTER V. THE PRODIGAL'S RETUBN". By a little after noon on the evo of Chrisfcmas John had left his portmanteau in the cloak room, and stepped forth into Prince's street with a wonderful expansión of soul, such as men enjoy on the completion of long nourished schemes. He was at home again, incognito and rich; presently he could enter his father's house by means of the pass key, which he had piously preserved through all his wanderings ; he would throw down the borrowed money ; there would be a reconcilia tion, the details of which he frequently arranged; and he saw himself during the next month made welcome in many stately houses at many frigid dinner parties, taking his share in the conversation with the freedom of the man and the tra veler, and lay ing down the law upon finance with the authorityof the suecessful investor. But this programme was not to bo begun before evening - not till just before dinner, indeed, at which meal the reassembled famüy were to sit roseate, and the best wine, the modern fatted oalf , should flow for the prodigal's return. Meanwhile he walked familiar streets, merry reminiscenees crowding round hira, Bad ones also, both with the same surprising pathos. The keen frosty air; the low, rosy, wintry sim; the castle, hailing him like an old acquaintance; the names of friends on door plates ; the siglil, of friends whom he eemed to recognize, and whom he eagerly aroided, in the streets; the pleasant chant of the north country accent ; the dome of St George's reminding him of his last penitential tnoments in the lane, and of that King of Glory whose name had echoed ever since in the saddest corner of his memory; and the gutters whero he had learned to slide, and tho Ehops where he had bought his skates, and the etonos on which he had trod, and the railings in which ho had rattled his clachan as he went to school; and all those thousand and one nameless particulars which the eye sees without nciticg. which the memory keeps indeed yet without knowing, and whieh, taken one with another, Imild up for us the aspect of the place that we cali home ; all these besieged him, is he went, with both delight and sadness. His ttrst visit was for Houston, who had a house o Regent's terrace, kept for him in old days by an aunt The door was opened (to his surprise) upon the chain, and a vofee skeil li ini f rom within what he wantod. "I want Mr. Ilouston- Mr. Alan IIouston,; Caid he. "And wbo are ye F sakl the voice. "This is most extraordinary," thought John, and then aloud he told his name. "No young Mr. John?" cried the voice, with a sudden increase of Scotch accent, testifying to a friendlier feeling. "The very same," said John. And the oíd butler removed his defenses, remarking only, "I thocht ye were that man." But his master was not there; he was Btaying, itíippeared, at the house in Murrayfleld, and though the butler would have been glad enough to have taken his place and given all the news of the family, John, struek with a little chili, was eager to be gone. ünly the door was scarce closed again before he regrettinl that he had not asked about "that man." He was to pay no more visits till he had Been his father and made all well at home. Alan had been the only possible exception and John had not time to go as far as Murrayfleld. But here he was on Regent's terrace; there was nothing to prevent him going round tho end of the hill and looking from without on the Mackenzies' house. As he went he reflected that Flora must now be a woman of tiear his own age and it was withu the bounds of possibility that she was married, but this dishonorable doubt he damned down. There was the house, sure enough ; but the door was of another color, and what was this - two door plates? He drew nearer; the top one bore with dignifled simplieity the words, "Mr. Proudfoot;" the lower one was more explicit and informed the passer by that here was likewise the abode of "Mr. J. A. Dunlop Proudfoot. advocate." The Proudfoots must be rich. for no advocate could look to have much business in so remote a quarter, and John hated them for their wealth and for their name and for the sake of the house they desecrated with their presence. He remembered a Proudfoot he had seen at school, QOt known; a little, whey faced urebin, the iespicable member of some lower elass. Could it be this abortion that had climbed to be an idvocate aud now lived in the birthplace of Flora and the home of John's tenderes memories? The chili that had first seized apon him when he heard of Houston's sence det-pened and strueK mwara. íor a moment, es he stood under the doors of that estranged house and looked east and west ilong the solitary pavemeut of the Royal terrace, where not a cat was stirring, the sense 3f Bolitude and desolation took him by tho throat and he wished bimself in San FranJisco. And then the figure he made, with his lecent portlineSB, his whiskers, the money in his purse, the excellent cigar that he now lighted. reeurred to his miud in consolatory ;ompaiison with that of a certain maddened Lul who, on a certaiu spring Sunday ten fears before, and in the hour of church time silence, had stolen from that city by the Grlasgow road. In the face of these ehanges, t were impious to doubt fortune's kindness. A.11 would be wel! yet; the Mackenzies would be found, Flora, younger and lovelier and kinder than before; Alan would be found, lad would have so nicely discriminated his Dehavior as to have grown, on the one hand, jito a valued f riend of Mr. Nicholson's, and to have remained, upon the other, of that ïsact shade of joviality which John desired in his companions. And so, once more, John feil to work d:scounting the delightf ui future; ais first appearance in the family pew; his first visit to his unele Greig, who thought tnmself f o great a financier, and on whose purblind Edinburgh eyes John was to let in the dazzling daylight of the west; and the ietails in general of that unrivaled transformation scène, in which he was to display to aJl Edinburgh a portly and successful gentleman in the shoes of the derided fugitive. The time began to draw near when his Eather would have returned from the office, ind it would be the prodigal's cue to enter. Hestrolled westward by Albany street, facing the sunset embers, pleased, he knew uot why, to move in that eokl air and indigo twilight, starred with street lainps. But there was one more disouchautment waiting him by the way. At the corner of Fitt street he paused to light a fresh eigar; the vesta threw, as he did so, a strong light upon his features, and a man of about his own age stopped at sight af it. "I think j-ourname raust be . Nicholson," said the stranger. It was too lato to avoid reeognition ; and besides, as John was now actually on his way home, it hardly mattered, and he gave way to the impulse of his nature. "Great Scott!" he cried, "Beatson P and shook hands with warmth. It scarce seemed he was repaid in kind. "So you're home again!'' said Beatson. "Where have you been all this long timer" "In the states," said John- "California, I've made my pile though ; and it suddenly struek me it would be a noble scheme tocóme home for Christmas." "I see," said Beatson. "Well, I hope we'Il see something of you now you're here." "Oh, I guess so," said John, a little frozen. "Well, ta ta," concluded Beatson, and he shook hands again and went. This was a cruel first experience. It was idlo to blink f acts; here was John home again, and Beatson- Old Beatson - did not cftre a rush. He recalled Old Beatson in the past - that merry and affectionate lad - and their joint adventures and mishaps, the window they had broken with a catapult in India place, the escalade of the castle rock, and many another inestimable bond of friendship; and his hurt surprise grew deeper. Well, after all, it was only on a man's own family that he could oount; blood was thicker than water, heremembered; and the netreBult of this encounter was to bring him to the doorstep of his father's house, witU tenderar and softer feelings. The night had come; the fanlight over the door shone bright; the two windows of the dinine room where the cloth was beinsr laid, and tüe three windows of the drawing room where Maria would bo waiting dineer, glowed EOftlier through yellow blinds. It was like a vision of the past. All this time of his absence, life had gone forward with an equal foot, and the fires and the gas had been lighted, and the meals spread, at the accustomed hours. At the aceustomed hour, too, the bell had sounded thrice to cali the family to worship. And at the thought, a pang of regret f or his demerit seized him ; he remembered the things that were good and that he had neglected, and the things that were evil and that he had loved; and it was with a prayer upon his lips that he mounted the steps and thrust the key into the key hole. He stepped into the lighted hall, shut the door softly bchind him, and stood there fixed in wonder. No surprise of strangeness could equal the surprise of that complete familiarity. There was the bust of Chalmers near the stair railings, there was the clothes brush in the aceustomed place ; and there, on the hat stand, hung hats and coats that must surely be the same as he remembered. Ten years dropped from his life, as a pin may slip between thefingers; and theocean anti the mountains, and the mines, and crowded marte and mingled races of Ban Francisco, and bis own fortune and his own disgrace, became, for that one moment, the figures o{ a dream that was over. He took off his hat, and moved mechanically toward the stand; and there he found a I Kuiiu cbange that was a great one to him. The pia tbat had been his from boyhood, where he had flung his balmoral when ho loitered home from the academy, and hls first hat whon he carne briskly back from college or the office - his pin was occupied. "They miglit have at least respected my pinl" he thought, and he was moved as by a slight, and began at onoe to recollect that he was here an interloper, in a strange house, which he had entered almost by a burglary, and where at any momeat he might be scandalously challenged. He moved at once, his hat etill in his hand, to the door of his father's room, opened it and entered. Mr. Nicholson sat in the sama place and posture as on that last Sunday morning ; only he was older, and grayer, and sterner; and as he now glanced up and caught the eye of his son, a strange cominotion aud a daik flush sprung into his face. "Father,1' said John, steadily, and even cheerfully. for this was a moment against which he was long ago flrepared, "father, here I ara, and here is the money that I took from you. I have come back to ask your f orgiveness and to stay Christmas with you and the children." "Keep your money," said the father, "and go!" "Father I" cried John, "forGod's sakedon't receive me this way. Tve come for" "Understand me," interrupted Mr. Nicholson, "you are no son of mine; and in the sight of God I wash my hands of you. One last thing I will teil you; one warning I will give you; all is discovered and you are being hnnted for your crimes; ifyou are still at large it is thunks to me; but I have done all that I mean to do; and from this time forth I would not raiseone finger- not one finger - tosave you from the gallo ws! And now," with a low voice of absolute authority and a single weighty gesture of the finger, "and now - go!" CHAPTER VL Z THE HOUSE AT MURRAYFIELD. How John passed the evening, in what windy confusión of mind, in what squalls of anger and lulls of sick collapse, in what pacing of streets and plunging into public houses, it would proflt little to relate. His misery, if it were not progressive, yet tended in no way to diminish; for in proportion as grief and indignatioa abated, fear began to taketheir place. At iirst nis father's menacing words lay by in some safe drawer of memory. biding their hour. At first John was all thwarted affeetion and blighted hope; next bludgeonedvanity raised its head again, with twenty mortal gasnes; and the father was disowned even as he had disowned the son. What was this regular course of lif e that John should have admired itï What were these clockwork virtues from which love was absent? Kindness was the test, kindness the aim and soul; aud judged by such a standard, the discarded prodigal- now rapidly drowning his sorrowa and his reason in successive drains - was a creature of a lovelicr morality than his self righteous father. Yes, he was the better inau; he feit it, glowed with the consciousness, and entering a public house at the corner of Howard place (whither he had somehow wandered) he pledged his own virtues in a glass - perhaps the fourth since his dismissA Of that heknew nothing, keeping no account of what he did or where he went; and in the general crashing hurry of his nerves, unconscious of the approach of intoxication. Indeed, it is a question whether he wore really growing intoxicated, or whether at first the spirits did not even sober him. Por it was even as he drained this last glass that his father's ambiguous and menacing words- popping from their hiding place in memory - startled him like a hand laid upon his shoulder. "Crimes, hunted, the gallows." They were ugly words; in the ears of an innocent man, perhaps all the uglier; for if some judicial error were in act against him, who should set a limit to its grossnoss or to how far it raight be pushed? Not John, indeed; he was no believer in the powers of innocence, njs cursed experience pointing in quite other ways; and his fears, once wakened, grew with every hour and hnnted him about the city streets. It was perhaps nearly 9 at night; hehad eaten notliing since lunch, he had drank a good deal and he was xhausted by emotion, when the thought of Houston cama into his head. He turned not merely to the man as a f riend, but to his house as a place of ref uge. The danger that threatened him was still so vague that he knew neither what to fear nor where he might expect it, but this much at least seemed undeniable, that a private house was safer than a public inn. lloved by these counsels he turned at onco to the Caledonia station, passed (not without alarm) into the bright lights of the approach, redeemed his portmanteau from the cloak room and was soon whirling in a cab along the Glasgow road. The change of movement aud position, the sight of the lamps twinkling to the rear and the smell of damp and mold and rotten straw which clung about the vehicle wrought in him strange alternations oí lucidity and mortal giddiness. "I have been drinking," he discovered; "I must go straight to bed and sleep." And he thanked heaven f or the drowsiness that came upon his mind in waves. Prom ono of these spells he was wakened by the stoppage of the cab, and, getting down, found himself in quite a country road, the last lamp of the suburb shining some way below and the high walls of a garden rising before him in the dark. The Lodge, as the place was named, stood, indeed, very solitary. To the south it adjoined another house, but standing in so large a garden as to be well out of cry; on all other sides open fields stretched upward to the woods of Corstorphine hill, or backward to the dells of RavelBton, or downward toward the valley of the Leith. The effect of seclusion was aided by the great hpight of the garden walls, whicb were, Indeed, conventual, and, as John had tested in former days, defied the chmbing school boy. The lamp of the cab threw a gleam upon the door and the not brüliant handle of the bell. "Shall I ring for ye?" said thecabman, who had descended frora his perch and was slapping his chest, for the night was bitter. "I wish you would," said John, putting his hand to his brow in one of his aceesses of giddiness. The man pulled at the handle, and the clanking of the bell replied f rom f urther in the garden; twice and thrice he did it, with sufflcient intervals; in the great, frosty silence of the night the sounds feil sharp and Email. "Does he expect yef' asked the driver, with that manner of familiar interest that wellbecame his port wine face; and when John had told hún uo, "Well, then," said the cabman, "if ye'll tak' my advice of it, we'll just gang back. And that's disinterested, mind yo, for my stables are in the Glesgie road." "Tlic servants must hear," said John. ' 'Hout I" said the driver. "He keeps no servants here, man. They're a' in the town house; I drive him of ten; it's just a kind of a hermitage, this." "Give mo the bell," said John; and he pluoked at it like a man desperate. The clamor had not yet subsidod before they heard steps upon the gravel, and a voice of singular nervous irritability cried to them through the door: "Who are you, and what do you waut?" "Alan," üd John, "it's ifs Futty-John, you know. Tm Just come home, and I've como to stay with you." There was no reply for a moment, then the door was opened. "Get the portmanteau down," said John to the driver. "Do notbing of the kind," said Alian; and then to Jolm: "Come in here a moment. I want to spoak to you." John entered the garden, and the door was closed behind him. A candle stood on the gravel walk,winking a little in the draughts; it threw inoonstant sparkles on the clumped holly, struek the light and darkness to ani fro like a veil on Alan's features, and sent hi shadow hovering behind him. All beyond was inscrutable; and John's dizzy braiii rocked with the shadow. Yet even so, it struek him that Alan was pale, and his voice, when he spoke, unnatural. "What brings you here to-night?" he began. "I don't want, God knows, to seem unfriendly; but I cannot take you in, Nicholson; I cannot do it." "Alan," said John, "you've just got tol You don't know the mess l'm in ; the governor's turned me out, and I daren't show my face in an inn, because they're down on me for murder or something !" "For what?" cried Alan, starting. "Murder, I believe," says John. "Murder I" repeated Alan, and passed his hand over his eyes. "What was that you were saying?" he asked again. "That they were down on me," said John. "l'm accused of murder, by what I can make out; and I've really had a dreadful day of it, Alan, and I can't sleep on the road side on a night like this- at least, not with a portmanteau," he pleaded. "Hush !" said Alan, with his head on one side; and then, "Did you hear nothing?" he asked. "No," said John, thrilling, he knew not why, with communicated terror. "No, I heard nothing; why?" And then, as there was no answer, he reverted to his pleading: "But I say, Alan, you've got to take me in. I'll go right away to bed if you have anything todo. I seem to have been drinking ; I was that knocked over. I wouldn't turn you away, Alan, if you were down on yourluck." "No?" returned Alan. "Neither will I you, then. Come and let's get your portmanteau." The cabman was paid, and drove ofï down the long, lamp lighted hill, and the two f riends stood on the sidewalk beside the portmanteau till the last rumble of the wheels had died in silence. It seemed to John as though Alan attached importance to this departure of the cab ; and John, who was in no state to criticise, shared profoundly in the fee) ing. Wheu the stillness was once more perfect, Alan shouldered the portmanteau, carried it in, and shut and locked the garden door ; and then, once more, abstraction seemed to fall upon him, and he stood with his hand on the key, until the cold began to nibble at John's fingers. "Why are we standing here?" asked John. "Eh?" said Alan, blankly. "Why, man, you don't seem yourself ," said the other. "No, l'm not myself ," said Alan ; and he sat down on the portmanteau and put his face in his hands. John stood beside him swaying a little, and looking about him at the swaying shadows, the flitting sparkles, and the steady stars overhead, until the windless cold began to touch him through his clothes on the bare skin. Even in his bemused intelligence, wonder began to awake. "I say, let's come on to the house," he said at last. "Yes, let's come on to the house," repeated Alan. And he rose at once, reshouldered the portmanteau, and taking the candle in his other hand, moved forward to the lodge. This was a long, low building, smothered ia creepers; and now, except for soine chinks of light between the dining room shutters, it was plunged in darkness and silenco. In the hall Alan lighted another candle, gave it to John, and opened the door of a bedroom. "Here," said he; "go to bed. Don't mind me, John. You'll be sorry for me when you know." "Wait a bit," returned John; "I've got so cold with all that standing about. Let's go into the dining room a minute. Just one glass to warm me, Alan." On the table in the hall stood a glass, and a bottle with a whisky label on a tray. It was plain the bottle had been just opened, for the cork and corkscrew lay beside it. "Take that," said Alan, passing John the whisky, and then with a certain roughness pushed his friend into the bedroom and closed the door behind him. John stood amazed ; then he shook the bottle, and, to his further wonder, found it partly empty. Three or four glasses wero gone. Alan must have uncorked a bottle of whisky and drank three or four glasses one after the other, without sitting down, for thero was no chair, and that in his own cold lobby on this freozing night! It fully explained his eccentricities, John reüected sagely, as he mixed himself a grog. Poor Alani He was drunk ; and what a dreadful thing was drink, and what a sla ve to it poor Alan was, to drink in this unsociable, uncomf ortable f ashion ! The man who would drink alone, except for health's sake - as John was now doing - was a man utterly lost. He took the grog out, and feit hazier, but warmer. It was hard work opening the portmanteau and finding his night things and bef ore he was undressed the cold had struek home to him once more. "Well," said he, "just a drop more. There's no sense in getting ill with all this other trouble." And presently dreamless slumber buried him. When John awoke it was day. The low winter sun was already in the heavens, bul his watch had stopped, and it was impossibto to teil the hour exactly. Ten, he guessed it, and made haste to dress, dismal reüections crowding on his mind. But it was less from terror than from regret that he now guffered and with his regret there were minglee cutting pangs of penitence. There had fallen upon him a blow, cruel, indeed, but yet only the punishment of old misdoing ; and he hac rebelled and plunged into fresh sin. The roe had been used to enasten, and he had bit the chastening flngers. His father was right John had justifi-d him; John was no guest for decent people's houses, and no fit associate for decent people's children. And had a broader hint been needed, there was the case of his old friend. John was no drunkard though he could at times exceed; and the picturo of Houston drinking ueat spirits a his hall table struek him with something like disgu-t. He hung back from meeting his ol friend. He could have wished he had no come to him; and yet, even now, where else was he to turní These musings occupied him while he dressed, and accompanied him into the lobby of the house. The door stood open on the garden; doubtless, Alan had stepped forth and John did as he supposcd his friend h;u done. The ground was hard as iron, the f rost still rigorous ; as he brushed among the hollies, icicles jinglod and glittercd in thei fall; and heiever he went, a volley of eager sparrows followed him. Here were Christmas weather and Christmas morning dul; met, to the delight of children. This waa the day of reunited families, the day to which he had so long Iooked forward, think ing to awake in his own bed in Randolpl Sreseent, reconciled with all men and r jeating the footprinte of his youth; and here ie was alone, pacing the alleys of a wintry jarden and filled with penitential thoughts. And that reminded him: why was he alone? and where was Alan? The thought of the festal morning and the due salutations eawakened his desire for his friend, and he egan to cali for him by name. As the sound of his voice died away, he was aware of the greatness of the silence that environed ïim. But for the twittering of the sparrows and the crunching of his own feet upon the 'rozen snow, the whole windless world of air hung over him entranced, and the stillness weighed upon his mind with a horror of solitude. Still calling at intervals, but now with a moderated voice, he made the hasty circuit of the garden, and finding neither man nor race of man in all its evergreen coverts, ;urned at last to the house. About the house the silence seemed to deepen strangely. The door, indeed, istood open as bef ore; but the Windows were still shuttered, the chimneys breathed no stain into the bright air, there sounded abroad none of that low stir (perhaps audible rather to the ear of the spirit than to the ear of the flesh) by which a house announces and betrays its human lodgers. And yet Alan must be there - Alan locked in dranken Blumbers, f orgetful of the return of the day, of the holy season, and of the friend whom he had 60 coldly received and was now so churlishly neglecting. John's disgust redoubled at the thought; but hunger was beginning to grow stronger than repulsión, and as a step to breakfast, if nothing else, he must find and arouse his sleeper. He made the circuit of the bedroom quarters. All, until he carne to Alan's chamber, were locked from without, and bore the marks of a prolonged disuse. But Alan's was a room in commission, filled with clothes, knickknacks, letters, books, and the conveniences of a solitary man. The flre had been lighted; but it had long ago burned out, and the ashes were stone cold. The bed had been made, but it had not been slept in. Worse and worse, then; Alan must have fallen where he sat, and now sprawled brutishly, no doubt, upon the dining room floor. The dining room was a very long apartment, and was reached through a passage, so that John, upon his entrance, brought but little light with him, and must move toward the windows with spread arms, groping and knocking on the furniture. Suddenly he tripped and feil his length over a prostrate body. It was what he had looked for, yet it shocked him, and he marveled that so rough an impact should not have kicked a groan out of the drunkard. Men had killed themselves ere now in sucli excesses, a dreary and degraded end that made John shudder. What if Alan were dead? There would be a Christmas day Í By tuis John had his hand upon the shufcters, and, flinging them back, beheld once again the blessed face of the day. Even by that light the room had a discomfortable air. The chairs were scattered and one had been overthrown; the table cloth, laid as if for dinner, was twitched upon one side, and some of the dishes had fallen to the floor. Behind the table lay the drunkard, still unaroused, only one foot visible to John. But now that light was in the room the worst seemed over; itwasa disgusting business, but not more than disgusting; and it was with no great apprehension that John proceeded to make the circuit of the table - his last comparatively tranquil moment for that day. No sooner had he turned the corner, no sooner had his eyes alighted on the body, than he gave a smothered, breathless cry, and fled out of the room and out of the house. It was not Alan who lay there, but a man well up in years, of stern countenanee and iron gray locks; and it was no drunkard, for the body lay in a black pool of blood, and the open eyes stared upon the ceiling. To and fro walked John before tho door. The extreme sharpness of the airacted on his nerves like an astringent and braced them swiftly. Presently, he not relaxing in his disordered walk, the images began to come clearer and stay longer in his fancy; and next tho power of thought came back to him, and the horror and danger of his situation rooted hira to the ground. He grasped his forehead, and staring on one spot of gravel, pieced together what he knew and what he suspected. Alan had murdered some one; possibly "that man" against whom the butler chained the door in Regent's Terrace ; possibly another ; some one at least; a human soul, whom it was death to slay and whose blood lay spilled upon the floor. This was the reason of the whisky drinking in the passage, of his unwillingness to weieome John, of his strange behavior and bewildered words; this was why he had started at and harped upon the name of murder; this was why ho had stood and hearkened, or sat and covered his eyes, in the black night. And now he was gone, now he had basely fled; and to all his perplexities and daugers John stood heir. "Let me think - let me think," he said, aloud, impatiently, even pleadingly, as if to some merciless interruptor. In the turmoi] of his wits a thousand hints and hopes and threats and terrors dinning continuously ia his ears, he was like one plunged in the hubbub of a crowd. How was he to remember - he who had not a thought to sparo - that he was him6elf the author, as well as the theatre, of so much confusión? But in tho hours of trial the junto of mans nature is dissolved and anarchy succeeds. It was plain he must stay no longer where he was, for here was a new judicial error in the very making. It was not so plain where he must go, for the oíd judicial error, vague as a cloud, appeared to flll the habitable world; whatever itmight be, it watched for him, f ull grown, in Edinburgh ; it must hav had its birth in San Francisco; it stood guard, no doubt, like a dragon, at the bank where he should cash his credit ; and though there were doubtless many other places, who should say in which of them it was not ambushed? No, he could not teil where he was to go ; he must not lose time on these iosolubilities. Let him go back to the beginning. It was plain he must stay no longer where he was. It was plain, too, that he must not flee as he was, for he could not carry his portmanteau, and to fiee and leave it was to plunge doeper in the mire. He must go, leave the house unguarded, find a cab and return - return af ter an absence? Had he courage for that? And just then he spied a stain about a hand's breadth on his trouser leg, anc reached his finger down to touch it. The finger was stained red ; it was blood; he staree upon it with disgust, and awe, and terror and in the sharpness of the new sensation fel instantly to act. He cleansed his finger in the snow, returnec into the house, drew near with hushed footsteps to the dining room door, and shut anc locked it. Then he breathed a littl freer for here at least was an oaken barrier between himself and what he feared. Next, he hastened to his room, tore off the spotted trousers which seomed in his eyes a link to bind him to the gallows, flung them in a corner, donned another pair, breathlessly crammed his night things into his portmanteau, lock it, swnng it with an efTort from the ground, and with a rush of rolief, came forth again under the open heavens. Tho portmanteau, being of occidental bui ld was no feather weight; it had distressed tho powerful Alan; and as for John, he was crushed under its bulk, and tho sweat broke pon him thickly. Twice he must set it down to rest bef ore he xeached the gate; and when he had come so far, he must do as Alan did, and take his seat upon one corner. Here, ;hen, he sat awhile and panted ; but now his ihoughts were sensibly lightened ; now, with he trunk standing just inside the door, some part of his dissociation from the house of jrime had been effected, and the cabman need not pass the garden wall. It was wonderCul how that relieved him ; for the house, in ais eyes, was a place to strike the most cursory beholder with suspicion, as though the very Windows had cried murder. But there was to be no remission of the strokes of fate. As he thus sat, taking breath in the shadow of the wall and hopped about by sparrows, it chanced that his eye roved to the f astening of the door ; and what he saw plucked him to his feet. The thing locked with a spring; once the door was closed, the bolt shot of itself ; and without a key, there was no means of entering from without. He saw himself obliged to one of two distasteful and perilous alternatives; either to shut the door altogether and set his portmanteau out upon the wayside, a wonder to all beholders; or to leave the door ajar, so that any thievish tramp or holiday school boy might stray in and stumble on the grisly secret. To the last, as the least desperate, his mind inclined; but he must insure himself that he was unobserved. He peered out, and down the long road; it lay deeply empty. He went to the corner of the by road that comes by way of Dean ; there also not a passenger was stirring. Plainly it was, now or never, the high tide of his affairs; and he drew the door as close as he durst, slipped a pebble in the chink, and made off downhill to find a cab. Half way down a gate opened, and a troop of Christmas children sallied forth in the most chcerful humor, followed more soberly by a smiling mother. 'And this is Christmas day!" thought J ohn ; and could have laughed aloud in tragic bitterness of heart. CHAPTER VII. A TBAGI-COMEDY IN A CAB. In front of Donaldson's hospital, John counted it good fortune to perceive a cab a great way off, and by much shouting and waving of his arm to catch the notice of the driver. He counted it good fortune, for the time was long to him till heshould have done forever with the lodge; and the further he must go to find a cab, the greater the chance that the inevitable discovery had taken place, and that he should return to find the garden full of angry neighbors. Yet when the vehicle drew up he was sensibly chagrined to i ecognize the port wine cabman of the night 'oefore. "Here," he could not but reflect, ilhere is another link in the Judicial Error." The driver, on the other hand, was pleased to drop again upon so liberal a faro; as he was a man - the reader must already have perceived - of easy, not to say familiar, manners, he dropped at once into a vein of friendly talk, commenting on the weather, on the sacred season, which struck him chiefly in the light of a day of liberal gratuities, on the chnnce which had reunited him to a pleasing customer, and on the fact that John had been (as he was pleased to cali it: visibly "on the randan" the night before. "And ye look dreidful bad the day, sir, I must say that," he continued. "There's nothing like a dram for ye- if ye'll take my advice of it; and bein' as it's Christmas, I'm no saying," he added, with a fatherly smile, "but what I would join ye mysel'." John had listened with a sick heart. 'TH give you a dram when vre've Lot through," said he, affecting a sprightliness which sat on him most unhandsomely. "and not a drop till then. Business first, and pleasure afterward." With this promise the jarvey was prevailed upon to clamber to his place and drive, with hideous deliberation, to the door of the lodge. There were no signs as yet of any public emotion ; only, t'vo men stood not far off in talk, and their presence, seen from afar, set John's pulses buzzing. He might have spared himself his fright, for the pair were lost in some dispute of a theologieal complexion, and with lengthened upper lip and enumerating fingers, pursued the matter of their difference, and paid no heed to John. But the cabman proved a thorn in the flesh. Nothiug would keep him on his perch ; he must clamber down, comment upon the pebble in the door (which he regarded as an ingenious but unsafo device), help John with the portmanteau, and enliven matters with a flow of speech, and especially of questions, which I thus condense: "He'll no be here himsel', will he? No? Well, he's an eccentric man - a fair oddity - if ye ken the expression. Great trouble with his tenants, thcy teil me. I've driven the fam'ly for years. I drove a cab at his father's waddm'. What'll your name be? I should ken your face. Baigrey, y e say? There were Baigreys about Gilmertou; ye"ll be one et that lot? Then this'llbe a friend's portmantie, like? Why? Because the name upon it's Nueholson! Oh, if ye're in a hurry that's another job. Waverley Brig' ? Are ye for away ?" So the friendly toper pratedand questioned and kept John's heart in a flutter. But to this also, as to other evils under the sun, there came a period, and the victim of circumstances began at last to rumble toward the railway terminus at Waverley Bridge. During the transit he sat with raised glasses in the frosty chili and moldy fetorof hischariot, and glauced out sidelong on the holiday face of things, the shuttered shops and the crowds along the parement, much as the rider in the Tyburn cart may have observed the concourse gathering to his execution. At the station his spirits rose again ; another stage of his escape was fortunately ended- he began to spy blue water. He called a railway porter, and bade him carry the portmanteau to the cloak room: not that he had any notion of delay ; flight, instant flight was his design, no matter whither; but he had determined to dismiss the cabman ere he named, or even he chose, his destination, thus possibly balking the Judicial Error of another link. This was his catixdng aim, and now with one foot on the roadway, and one still on the coach step, he had made haste to put the thing in practiee, and plunged his hand into his trousers pocket. There was nothing there 1 Oh, yes; this time he was to blame. He should have remembered, and when he deserted his blood stained pantaloons, he should not have deserted along with them his puree. Make the most of his error, and then compare it with the punishment! Conceivehis new position, for I lack words to picture it; conceive him condemned to return to that house, from the very thought of which his soul revolted, and once more to exposé himself to capture on the very scène of the misdeed : conceive him linked to the moldy cab and the familiar cabman. John cursed the cabman silently, and then it occurred to him that he must stop the incarceration of his portmanteau ; that, at least, ho must keep close at hand, and he turned to recall the porter. But his reflections, brief as they had appeared, must have occupied him longer thau he supposed, and there was the man already returning with the receipt. Well, that was settled; he had lost his portmanteau also; for the sixpence with which he had paid the Murrayfield toll was one that had strayed alone into his waistcoat pocket, vid unlvss he once more successf ully achieved the adventure of the house of crime hls portaianteau lay ia the cloak room in eternal wn, for lack of a penny fee. And then he remembered the porter, who stood sugges;ively attentive, worda of gratitade hanging ou his Ups. John hunted right and left; he found a coin- prayed God that it was a sovereign - drew it out, beheld a half penny, and offered it to the porter. The man's jaw dropped. "It's onlyahalf penny I" he said, star tled out of railway decency. "I know that," said John, piteously. And here the porter recovered the dignity of man. "Thank you, sir," said he, and would have returned the base gratuity; but John, too, would none of it, and as they struggled who must join in but the cabman? "Hoots, Mr. Baigrey," said he, "you surely f orget what day it is I" "I teil you I have no change," cried John. "Well," said the driver, "and what then? I would rather give a man a shillin' on a day like this than put him off with a derision like a bawbee. I'm surprised at the like of you, Mr. Baigrey!" "My name is not Baigrey 1" broke out John, in mere childish temper and distress. "Ye told miï it was yoursel'," said the cabman. "I know I did; and what the devil right had you to ask?" cried the unhappy one. "Oh, very well," said the driver. "I know my place if yi u know yours - if you know yoursl" he repsated, as one who should imply grave doubt ; and muttered inarticulate thunders, in which the grand old name of gentleman was taken seemingly in vain. Oh, to have been able to discharge tbis monster, whom John now perceived, with tardy clear sightedness, to have begun betimes the festivities of Christmas: But far from any such ray of consolation visiting the lost, he stood bare of help and helpers, his portmanteau sequestered in one place, his money deserted in another and guarded by a corpse; himself, so sedulous of privacy, the cynosure of all men's eyes about the station ; and, as if these were not enough mischances, h was now fallen in iü blood with the beast to nhom his poverty hadlinked him! In ill blood, as he reflected dismally, with the witness who perhaps might hang or save him ! There was no time tobe lost; he durst not linger any longer in that public spot, and whether he had recourse to dignity or to conciliation, the remedy must be applied at once. Some happily surviving element of manhood moved him to the former. "Let us have no more of this," said he, his f oot once more upon the step. "Go back to where we came from." He had avoided the name of any destination, for there was now quite a little band of railway folk about the cab, and he still kept an eye upon the court of justice, and labored to avoid concentric evidence. But here again the fatal jarvey outmaneuvered him. "Back to the Ludge?" cried he, in shrill tones of protest. "Drive on at once!" roared John, and slammed the door behind him, so that the crazy chariot rocked and jingled. Forth trundled the cab into the Christmas streets, the fare within plunged in the blackness of a despair that neighbored on unconsciousness, the driver on the box digesting his rebuke and his customer's duplicity. I would not be thought to put the pair in competition ; John's case was out of all parallel. But the cabman, too, is worth the sympathy of the judicious; for he was a f ello tv of genuine kindliness and a high sense of personal dignity incensed by drink ; and his advanees had been cruelly and publicly rebuffed. As he drove, therefore, he counted his wrongs, and thirsted for sympathy and drink. Now, it chanced he had a friend, a publican, in Queensferry Street, from whom, in view of the sacredness of the occasion, he thought he might extract a dram. Queensferry street lies something off the direct road to Murrayfield. But then there is the hilly cross road that passes by the valley of the Leith and the Dean cemetery ; and Queensferry street is on the way to that. What was to hinder the cabman, since his horse was dumb, from choosiug the cross road, and calling on his friend in passing? So it was decided; and the charioteer, already somewhat mollified, turned asido his horse to the right. John, meanwhile, sat collapsed, bis chin sunk upon his breast, his mind in abeyance. Tho smell of the cab was still faintly present to his senses, and a certain leaden chili about his f eet; all else had disappeared in one vast oppression of calamity and physical faintness. It was drawing on to noou - two and twenty hours since he had broken bread ; in the interval he had suffered tortures of sorrow and alarm and been partly tipsy, and though it was impossible to say he slept, yet when the cab stopped and the cabman thrust his head into the window his atteutioA had to be recalled from depths of vacancy. "If you'll no' stand me a dram," said the driver, with a well merited severity of tone and manner, "I say ye'll have no objection to my taking one myselT' "Yes - no - do what you like," returned John ; and then, as he watched his tormentor mount the stairs and enter the whisky shop, there floated into his miud a sense as of something long ago familiar. At that he started fully awake, and stared at the shop fronts. Yes, he knew them; but when? and bowl Long since, he thought; and then, casting his eye through the front glass, which had been recently occluded by the figure of the jarvey, he beheld the tree tops of the rookery in Kandolph Crescent. He was close to home - home, where he had thought, at that hour, to be sitting in the well remembered drawing room in friendly converse; and, instead - ! It was his first impulse to drop into tho bottom of the cab; his next, to cover his face with his hands. So he sat, while the cabman toasted the publiean,-and the publican toasted the cabman, and both reviewed the affairs of the nation ; so he still sat, when his master condescended to return, and drive off at last down hill, along tho curve of Lynedoch place ; but even so sitting, as he passed the end of his father's street, he took one glance from between shielding fingers, and beheld a doctor's carriago at the door. "Well, just so," thought he; "KI have killed my father! And this is Christmas dayl' If Mr. Nieholson died, it was down this eame road he must journoy to the grave; and down this road, on the same errand, his wife had preceded him years bef ore ; and many other leading citizens, with tho proper trap pings and attendauce of the end. And now, in that frosty, ill smelling, straw carpetea and ragged eushioaed cab, with his breath congealing on the glasses, where else was John himself advaneing to? The thought stirred his imagination, which began to manufacturo many thousand pictures, bright and fleeting, b'ke the shapes in a kaleidoscopo; and now ho saw himself, ruddy and comfortered, sliding in the gutter; and, again, a little woe bogone, bored urchin tricked forth in crape and weepers, descending this same hill at the foot's pace of mourning coaches, his mother's body just preceding him; and yet again, his Caney, running far in front, showetl htm his destination- now standing solitary in tho low sunsliine, with the sparrows hopping on the threshold and the dead man within staring at the roof- and now, with a sudden change, thronged about with white faced, hand upliftins neighbors, and doctor bursting througb their midst and fixing his tethoscope as he went, the man shaking a ragaelona head beside tha body. It was to this ho feared that bo was driving; in the midst of this he saw himself arrive, heard himselí stammer faint explanatious and 1 elt tho hand of the constable upon his shoulder. Heavens I how he wished he had played the manlier paj-t; how he despised himself that he had fled that fatal neighborhood when all was quiet, and should now be tamely traveling back when it was thronging with avengersl Any strong degree of passion lends, even to the duHest, the f orces oí the isiagination. And so now as he dwelt on what was probably awaiting him at the end of this distressful drive - John, who saw tbings little, remembered them less, and eould not have described them at all, beheld in his mind's eye the garden of the lodge, detailcd as in a map ; he went to and f ro in it, feeding his terrors ; he saw the hollies, the snowy borders, the paths where hehadsought Alan, the high, conventual walis, the shut door - whatl was the door shut i Ay, truly, he had shut itshut in his money, his escape, his future life - shut it with these hands, and none could now open it ! He heard the snap of the spring lock like something bursting in his brain, and sat astonished. And then he woke again, terror jarring through his vitáis. This was no time to be idle; he must beup and doing; hemustthink. Once at the end of this ridiculous cruise, once at the lodge door, there would benothing for it but to turn the cab and trundle back again. Why, then, go so far? Why ald another feature of suspicion to a case already so suggestive? Why not turn at oncei It was easy to say turn, but whither? He had nowhere now to go to; he could never - he sawit in letters of blood- he could never pay that cab; he was saddied with that cab forever. Oh, that cab ! his soul yearned and burned, and his bowels sounded to be rid of it He f orgot all other cares. He must first quit himself of this ill smelling vehicle and of the human beast that guided it- first do that; do that, at least ; do that at once. And just then the cab suddenly stopped, and there was his persecutor rapping on the front glass. John let it down, and beheld the port wine countenance inflamed with intellectual triumph. "I ken wha ye arel" cried the husky voice. "I mind yo now. Ye're a Nucholson. I drove ye to Hermiston to a Christmas party, and ye carne back on the bos, and I let ye drive." It is a faet. John knew the man, they had Veen even friends. His enemy, he now remembered, ivas a fellow of great good nature - endless good nature- with a boy; why not with a man? Why not appeal to his better sidei He grasped at the new hope. "Great Scott! and so you did," he cried, as if in a transport of delight, his voice sounding false in his own ears. " Well, ii that's so, I have something to say to you. EU just get out. I guess. Whero are we, any way ?" The driver had fluttered his ticket in the eyes of the branch toll keeper, and they were now brought to on the highest and most solitary part of the byroad. On the left, a row of fieldside trees beshaded it; on the right, it was bordered by naked fallows, undulating downhill to tlie Queensferry road; in front, Corstorphine hill raised its snow bedabbled, darkling woods against the sky. John looked all about him, drinking the clear air like ■wine; then his eyes returned to the cabman's face as he sat, not ungleefully, awaiting John"s communication, with the air of one Jooking to be tipped. The features of that face were hard to read, drink had so swollen them, drink had so painted them, in tints that varied from brick red to mulberry. The small gray eyes blinked, tho lips moved, with greed; greed was the ruling passion; and though there was some good nature, some genuine kindli-. ness, a truo human touch, in the old toper, his greed was now so set afire by hope, that all other traits of character lay dormant. He sat there a monument of gluttonous desire. J.-hn'sheart slowly feil. He had opened his lips, but he stood there and uttered naught. He sounded the well of his courage, and it was dry. He groped in his treasury of words, and it was vacant. A devil of dumbnesshad him by the throat; the devil of terror babbled in his ears; and suddenly, ■without a word uttered, with no eonscious purpose formed in his will, John whipped about, tumblral over the roadside wall, anc began running for his life across the fallows. He had not gone far, he was not past the midst of the first field, when his whole brain thundered within him, "Fooll You have yourwatch!" The shock stopped him, and he faced once more toward the city. The driver was leaning over the wall, brandishing his whlp, his face empurpled, roaring like a buil. And John saw (or thought) that he had lost the chance. No watch would pacify the man's resentmeut now; he would ery for veugeance also. John would bo had under the eye of the pólice; his tale would be unfolded, his secret plumbed, his destiny ■would close on him at last, and forever. He uttered a deep sigh ; and just as the cabmau, taking heart of grace, was beginning at last to scale the wall, his defaulting custorner feil again to running, and disappeared into the further fields. CHAPTER Via SINGULAR IXSTANCE OP THE TJTILITY OP PASS KEYS. Yv'here he ran at first, John nover very clearly knew; noryet howlongatimeelapsed ere he found himself in the by road near the lodge of Ravelston, propped against the wall, his lungs heaving like bellows, his legs leaden heavy, his mind possessed by one sole desire - to lie down and be unseen. He remembered the thick coverts round the quarry hole pond, an untrodden corner of the world where he might surely find concealment till the night should fall. Thither he passed down the lane ; and when he came there, behold ! he had forgotten the f rost, and the pond was alive with young people skating, and the pond side overts were thick with lookers on. He looked on awhile himself. There was one tall, graceful maiden, skating hand in hand with a youth, on whom she bestowed her bright eyes perhaps too patently; and it was strange with what anger John beheld her. He could have broken forth in curses; he could have stood there, like ft mortified tramp, and shaken his fist and vented his gall upon her by the hour - or so he thought; and the next moment his heart bied for the girl. "Poor creature, it's little she knows!" he sighed. "Let her enjoy herself while sho canl" But ■was it possible, when Flora used to smile at him on the Braid ponds, she could have looked so fulsome to a sick hearted bystander? The thought of one quarry, in his frozen wits, suggested another; and he plodded off toward Craig Leith. A wind had sprung up out of thenorthwest; it was cruel dried him like a fire, and racked his finger joints. It brought clouds, too; palé, swift, hurrying clouds, that blotted heaven and then gloom upon the earth. He scrambled up among the hazeled rubbish heaps that surround the caldron of the quarry, and lay flat upon tho stones. The wind searched close along the earth, the stones were cutting and icy, the bare hazels wailed about him ; and soonthe air of the afternocn began to be vocal with thoso strange and dismal harpmgs that herald snow. Pain and misery turned In John's limb to a harrowing impatience and blind deeire Í change; now he would roll in liis barril lair, ana when the fiints abraded him, was alraost pleased; now he would crawl to the edgo of the huge pit and look dizzily down. He saw the spiral of the descending roadway, the steep crags, the clinging bushes, the peppsring of snow wreattw, and far down in the bottom, the dhninished crane. Here, no doubt, was a way to end it. But it somehow did not tako his fancy. And suddenly he was aware that he was hungry; ay, even through the tortures of the eold, even through the frosts of despair, a gross, desperate longing af ter food, no matter what, no matter how, began to wake and Bpur him. Suppose he pawned his watch? But no, on Christmas day - this was Christmas day ! - the pawn shop would be closed. Buppose he went to the public house close by at Blackhall and offered the wateh, which was worth L10, in payment for a mea! of bread and eheese? The incongruity was too remar kable; the good folks would either put him to the door or only let him in to send for the pólice. He turned his pockets out one after another; some San Francisco tram car checks, one cigar, no lighte, the pass key to his father's house, a pocket handkerchlef, with just a touch of scent; no money could be raised on none of these. There was nothingforitbuttostarve; and after all, what mattered it? That also was a door of exit. He crept close among the bushes, the wind playing round him like a lash; hisclothes seemed thin as paper, his joints burned, his skin curdled on his bones. He had a visión of a high lying cattle drive in California, and the bed of a dried streani with one muddy pool, by which the vaqueros had encamped : splendid sun over all, the big bon fire blazing, the strips of cow browning and smoking on a skewer of wood; how warm it was, how savory the steam of scorching meat! Andthen again he remembered his manifold calamities, and burro wed and wallowed in the sense. of his disgrace and shame. And next he was entering Prank's restaurant in Montgomery street, San Francisco; he had ordered a pan stew and venison chops, of which he was immoderately fond, and as he sat waiting, Munroe, the good attendant, brought him a whisky punch; he saw the strawberries float on the delectable cup, he heard the ice chink about the straws. And then he woke again to his detested fate, and found himself sitting, humped together, in a windy combe of quarry refuse - darkness thick about him, thin flakes of rnow flying here and there like rags of paper, and the strong shuddering of his body clashing his teeth like a hiccough. We have seen John in nothing but the stormiest conditions; we have seen him reckless, desperate, tried beyond his moderate powers; of his daily self, cheerful, regular, not unthrifty, we have seen nothing; and it may thus be a surprise to the reader, to learn that he was studiously caref ui of his health. This favorite preoccupation now awoke. If he were to sit there and die of cold, there would be niighty little gained; better the pólice cell and the chances of a jury trial, tban the miserable certainty of death at a dike side before the next winter's dawn, or death a little later in the gas lighted wards of an infirmar}'. He rose on aching legs, and stumbled here and there among the rubbish heaps, still circumvented by the yawning cráter of the quarry; or perhaps he only thought so, for the darkness was already dense, the snow was growing thicker, and he moved like a blind man, and with a blind man's terrors. At last he climbed a fence, thinking to dropinto the road, and found himself staggering, instead, among the iron furrows of a plowland, endless, it seemed, as a whele county. And next he was in a wood, beating among young trees; and then he was aware of a house with many lighted Windows, ChristI mas carriages waiting at the doors, and Christmas drivers (for Christmas has a doubla edge) becoming swiftly hooded with snow. From this glimpse of human cheerf ulness. ho fledlike Cain; wandered in the night, un1 piloted, careless of whither he went; feil, and j lay, and then rose again and wandered f ur! thcr; and at last, like a transformatioa scène, behold him in the lighted jaws of the city, staring at a lamp whicli had already donned the titled night cap of the snow. It carne thickly now, a "Feeding Storm;" and while he yet stood blinking at the lamp, his feet were buried. He remembered something Hko it in the past, a street lamp crowned and caked u[Kn the windward side with snow, the wind uttering its mournful noot, himself looking on, even as now; but the cold had I struck too sharply on his wits, and memory failed him as to tho date and sequel of the I reminiscence. His next conseious moment was on the Dean bridge; but whether he was John Nicholson of a bank in a California street, or somo former John, a clerk in his father's office, he had now clean forgotten. Another blank, and he was thrusting his pass key into rhn door lock of his father's house. Hours must have passed. Whether crouehed on the cold stones or wandering in the üelds among the snow, was more than ho could teil; but hours had passed. The finger of the ! hall clock was close on 12; a narro w peep of gas in the hall lamp shed shadows; and tha door of the back room- his father's room - was open and emitted a warm light. At SO late an hour, all this was strange; the lights should have been out, the doors iocked, the good folk safe in bed. He marveled at the ! irregularity, leaning on the hall table; and marveled to himself there; and thawed and i grew once more hungry, in tho warmer air of the house. The clock uttered its premonitory catch ; in five minutes Christmas day would bo among the days of the past- Christmas! what a Christmas I Well, there was no use waiting; he had come into that house ho I scaree knew how; if they were to thrust him f orth again, it had best bo done at once ; and he moved to the door of the back room and Í entered. Oh, well, then he was insane, as he had long believed. There, in his father's room, at midnight, the fire was roaring and the gas blazing; the gapers, the sacred papers- to lay a hand on whieh was criminal - had all boen taken off and piled along tho floor; a cloth was spread and a supper laid upon the business table, and in his father's ehair a woman, habited like a nun, sat eating. As he appeared in the doorway the nun rose, gave a low cry and gtood staring. She was a large woman, strong, calm, a little masculine, her features marked with courage and good sense; and as John blinked back at her, a faint resemblance dodged about his memory, as when a tune haunts us and yetwill not be recalled. "Why, it's John!" cried the nun. "I dare say I'm mad," said John, unconsciously following King Lear; "but, upon. my word, I do believe you're Flora." "Of course I am," replied she. And yet it is not Flora at all, thought John, Flora was slender, and timid, and of ehanging color, and dewy eyed; and had Flora such an Edinburgh accent? But he said none of these things, which was perhaps as well. What he said was, "Then why are you a nun i" "Such nonscnseP said Flora. "I'm a sick nurse; and 1 am hero nursing your sister, with whom, ljotween you and me, there is precious little the matter. But that is not the questio:i. The point is: How do you come hereí and ore you not ashamed to show yourselfr "Flora," said John, sepulchrally, "I haveateaten anything for tliree days. Or, at least, I dou't knnv what day it is; but I guess I'm etarving." "You unhappy man!'1 she cried. "Hero. Bit down and eat my supper; and 111 just run upstairs and see my patieut, not but what I doubt she's f ast asleep ; for Maria is a malada Imaginaire." With tliis specimen of tho Frencli, not of Stratford-atte-Bowe, but of a finishing establishment in Moray place, she leLt John alone in bis father's sanetum. He feil at onco upoa the food; and it is to be supposed that Flora had found her patiënt wakeful, and been detained with some details of nursing, for he had time t make a full end of a)l tbere was to eat, and not only to empty the teapot, but to fill it again from a kettle that was fltfully singing on his father's fire. Then ho sat torpid and pleased and bewüdered; his misfortunes were then half forgotten; his mind considering, not without regret, this uneentimental return to his old love. He was thus engaged, when that bustling woman noiselessly re-entered. "Have you eaten!" said she. "Then teil me all about it." It was a long and (as the reader knows) a pitif ui story; but Flora heard it with compressed lips. She was lost in none of those questionings of human destiny that have from time to time arrested the flight of my own pen, for women such as she are no philosophers, and behold the concrete only. And women such as she are very hard on the imperfect man. "Very well," said ehs, when he had done, "then down upon your knees at onco and beg God's forgiveness." And tho great baby plumped upon his knees and did as he was bid, and none the worse for that! But while he was heartily enough requesting forgiveness on general principies the rational side of him distinguished and wondered if, perhaps, the apology were not due upon the other part. And when he rose again from that becoming exercise he fii-st eyed the face of his old love doubtfully, and then, taking heart, uttered his protest. "I must say, Flora," said he, "in all this business, I can see very little fault of mine." "If you had written home," replied the lady, "there would have beon none of it. If you had even gone to Murrayfield reasonably sober you would never have slept there, and the worst would not have happened. Besides, the whole thing began years ago. You got into trouble, and wheu your father, honest man, was disappointed, you took the pet, or got afraid, and ran away from punishment. Well, you've had your own way of it, John, and I don't suppose you like it." "I sometimos fancy I'm not much better than a fooi," sighed John. "My doar John," she said, "not much." He looked at her, and his eye feil. A certain anger rose within him; hero was a Flora he disowned; she was hard ; she was of a set color; a settled, mature, undecorative manner; plain of speech; plain of habit- he had come near saying plain of face. And this changeling called herself by the same name as the mauy colored, clinging maid of yoro; Bhe of the frequent laughter and the many Bighs, and the kind, stolen glances. And to make all worse, she took the upper hand ■With him, which, as John well knew, was not the true rclation of the sexes. He steeled bis heart against tho sick nurse. "And how do you come to be here?" he asked. She told him how she had nursed her father in his long illness, and when he died, and she was left alone, had taken to nurso Others, partly from habit, partly to be of some service in the world; parüy, it might be, for amusement. "There's no accounting f or taste," she said. And she told him how she went largely to the houses of old friends, tus iLo iieu aróse; ana now sne was thus doubly weleomo, as an oíd friend first, and then as an experienced nurse, to whom doctors would confide the gravest cases. "And, indeed, it's a mere farce my being here íor poor Mtria'she contÍDued; "but your father takes her ailments to heart, and I cannot ahvays be refusing him. We are great friends, your father and I ; he was very kind to me long ago - ten years ago." A strange stir carne in John's heart. All this whilo had he been thinking only of himself ? All this whilo, why had he not written to Flora? In penitential tenderness he took her hand, and, to his awe and trouble, it remained in his, compliant. A voice told him this was Flora, after all- told him soquietly yet with a tkrill of singing. "And you never married?' said he. "No, John; I never married," she replied. The hall clock striking 3 recalled them to the sense of tim& "And now," said she, "you have been fed and warmed, and I have heard your story, and now ifs high time to cali your brother." "Oh!" criad John, chapfallen; "do you think that absolutely neeessary?" I can't keep you here; lama stranger , said she. "Do you want to run away again? I thought you had enough of that." He bowed his head under the reproof. She despised him, he reflected, as he sat once more alone; a monstrous thing for a woman to despise a man; and strangest of all she seemed to like him. Would his brother despise him, too? And would his brother like him? And presently the brother appeared, under Flora's escort; and, standing afar off beide the doorway, eyed the hero of this tale. "So this is you f" he said, at longth. "Yes, Alick, it's me- it's John," replied the eider brother, feebly. "And how did you get in here?' inquired the younger. "Oh, I had my pass key," says John. The deuce you had I" said Alexander. "Ah yon lived in abetterworldl There are no pass keys going now." "Well, father was always averse to them " Eighed John. ' And the conversation then broke down and the brothers looked askance at one another in silenee. "Well, and what the devil are we to dor eaid Alexander. "I suppose if the authorities got wind of you you would be taken up?" "It depends on whether they've found the body or ot," returned John. "And then tnere's that cabman, to be sure!" "Oh, bother the body!" said Alexander. I mean about the other thing. That's serieus." "Is that what my father spoka about?" asked John. "I don't even know what it is About your robbing your bank in California, of course," replied Alexander. It was plain, from Flora's face, that this was the first she had heard of it; it was plamer still, from John's, that he was innocent. "Il" ho exelaimed. "I rob my bank! My Godl Flora, this is too much; even you must "ïlcaning you didn't?" asked Alexander I never robbed a soul in all my days " cned John; "except my father, if you cali that robbery; andlbrought him back the money in this room, and he wouldn't even takeit!" "Look here, John," gaid his "let 08 have no misunderstanding upon'thls. Macewen eaw my father; he told him a bank you had worked for in San Francisco was winng over the habitable globe to have you collared-that it was supposed you had nailed tnousands; and it was dead certain you had nailed three hundred. So Macíwen said, and 1 wish you would be caref ui how you answer I rnay teil yon also that yourfather paid 'cho thi-eo hundred on the spot." "Threo huiidredj" repeated John. 'Throe hundrod pomids, you mean? That's fifteen hundred dollar. Wby, then, it's Kirkman !" bo brcke out. 'Thank Heavenl I can explain all that. I gave them to Kirkman to pay it for me the night before I left- fifteen hundred dollars, and a letter to tho manager. What do they suppose I would steal flfteen hundred dollars for? I'm rich; I struck it rich in stocks. It's the silliest stuff I ever heard of. AU that's noedf ul is to cable to the manager: Kirkman has the fifteen hundred - find Kirkman. He was a fellow clerk of mine, and a hard case; but to do him justice, I didn't think he was as hard as this." "And what do you say to that, Alickí" asked Flora. "I say tho cablegram shall go tc-nightl" cried Alexander, with energy. "Answer prepaid, too. If this can be cleared away - and upon my word I do believe it can - we shall all be able to hold up our heads again. Here, you John, you stick down the address of your bank manager. You, Flora, you can pack John into my bed, for which I have no further use to-night. As for me, I am off to the postofflce, and thence to the High Street about the dead body. The pólice ought to know, you see, and they ought to know through John ; and I can teil them some rigmarole about my brother being a man of highly nervous organization, and the rest of it. And then, I'll teil you what, John- did you notice the name upon the cab?' John gave the name of the driver, which, as I havo not been able to command tho vehicle, I here suppress. "VVell," resumed Alexander, "I'll cali round at tlieir place before I come back, and pay your shot for you. In that way, before breakfast timo, you'll be as good as new." John murmured inarticulate thanks. To see his brother thus energetic in his service moved him beyond expression; if he could not utter what he feit, he showed it legibly in his face; and Alexander read it there, and liked it better than that dumb delivery. "But there's ono thing," said the latter, "cablegrams are dear; and I dare say you remembor enough of the governcr to guess the Buiu) oí my nnances. " "The trouble is," said John, "that all my stamps are in that boastly house." "All your what?" asked Alexander. "Stamps- money," explaiued John. "It's an American expression; I'm af raid I contracted one or two." "I have some," said Flora. "I have a pound note upstairs." "My dear Flora," returned Alexander, "a pound note won't ses us very far; and besides, this is my father's business, and I shall be very much surprised if it ïsn't my father who pays for it." "Iwould not applyto him yet; Ido not think that can be wise," objected Flora. "You have a very imperfect idea of my resources, and none at all of my effrontery " replied Alexander. "Please observe." ' He put John from his vray, chose a stout knife among the supper things, and with surprising quickness broke into his father's drawer. "There's nothing easier when you come "to try," he observed, pocketing the money. " "I wish you had not done that," said Flora. "You will nevei hear the last of it." "Oh, I don't know," returned the young man; "the governor is human after all. And now, John, let me see your famous pass key. Get into bed, and don't move for any one till I come back. They won't mind you not aiiswering when they knock; I generallv don't myself." CHAPTER IX IN WHICn Ma NICHOLSON ACCEPTS THE PMNCIPLB OF Alf ALLOWAXCE. In spite of the horrors of the day and the tea drinking of the night John slept the sleep of inf ancy. He was awakened by the maid, as it might have been ten years ago, tapping at the door. The winter sunrise was painting the east, and as the window was to the back of the house it shone into the room with many strange colors of refracted light Without, the housos were all cleanly roofed with snow; the garden walls were coped with it a foot in height; the greens lay glittering Jet, strange as snow had grown to John dunng his years upon the bay of San uui l" ws wnat ne saw within that most affected him. For it was to his own room that Alexander had been promoted ; there was the old paper with the device of flowers in which a cunning fancy might yet detect the face of Skinny Jim, of the Academy, John's former dominie; there was the old chest of drawers; there were the chaire- one two three-three as before. Only the carpet wai new, and the littor of Alexander's clothes and books and drawing materials and a pencil drawing on the wall, which (in John's eyes) appeared a marvel of proflciency. He was thus lying, and looking' and dreaming, hanging, as it were, between two epochs of his life, when Alexander came to the door and made his presence known in a loud whisper. John let him in, and iumped back into the warm bed. "Well, John," said Alexander, "the cablegram is sent in your name, and twenty words of answer paid. I have been to the cab office and paid your cab, even saw the old gentleman himself, and properly apologized. He was mighty placable, and indicated his belief you had been drinking. Then I knocked upold Macowen out of bed and explained affairs to him as he sat and shivered iu a dressing gown. And before that I had been to the High stroet. where thnv ka o„ nothing of your dead body, so that I incline to the idea that you dreamed it." "Catch me!" said John. "Well, the pólice uever do know anything," assented Alexander; "and at any rate, they have dispatched a man to inquire and to recover your trousers and your money, so that realiy your bilí ia now fairly clean; and I see but one iion in your path- the governor." 'TH be turned out agaia, you'll see. said John, dismally. "Idont imagine so," returnod theothernot if you do what Flora and I have arranged; and your business now is to dress and lose no time about it. Is your watch' nght? Well, you have a quarter of an hour Byfivo minutos before the half '-uryou must be at table, in your old soat, under Uncle Duthie's picture. Flora will bo there to keep you eountenance; and we shall see what we shall see." "Wouldn't it bo wiser f or mo to stay in bed?" said John. "If you mean to manage your om concerns, you can do precisely what you liko " replied Alexander; "but if you are not in your place five minutes before the half hour I wash my hands of you, for one." And thercupon he departwd. He had spoken warmly, but tho truth 13, his heart wassomewhat troubled. And as he hung over the balusters, watching for his father to appear he had hard ado to keep himself braced for the encounter that must f ollow. "If he takes it well I shall' be lueky," he reflocted. "If he takes it iU, why it'll be a herring across John's tracks, and perhaps aU for the best. Ho's a confounded muff, this brother of mine, but he seems a decent soul " At that stage a door opened below with a certain emphasis and Mr. Nicholson was seen solemnly to descend the stairs and pass into lus own apartment. Aleiander followed. quaking inwardly, but with a steady faue. He knoekei, ivas bidden to enter and found his father standing in front of the forcod drawer, to which he pointcd as he spoko. "This is a most extraordinary thing," sak! he. "I have been robbed 1" "I was afraid you would notice it," observed his son; "it made such a beastly hash of the table." "You were afraid I would notice it?" repeated Mr. Nicholson. "And, pray, what may that mean?" "That I was a thief, sir," retumed Alexandor. "I took all the money in case the servants sheuld get hold of it; and here is the change and a note of my expenditure. You were gone to bed, you seo, and I did not feel at liberty to kiiock you up; but I think when you have heard the circumstances you will do me justice. The fact is, I have reason to believe there has been some dreadful error about my brother John; the sooner it can be cleared up the better for all parties; it was a piece of business, sir- and so I took it, and decided, on my own responsibility, to send a telegram to San Francisco. Thanks to my quickncss we may hear to-night. There appears to be no doubt, sir, that John has been abominably usod." "When did this take place?' asked the father. "Last night, sir, after you were asleep," was tho reply. "It's most extraordinary," said Mr. Nicholson. "Do you mean to say you have been out all night?' "All night, as you say, sir. I have been to the telegraph and tho pólice office, and Mr. Macewen's. Oh, I had my hands full," said Alexander. "Very irregular," said the father. "You think of no one but yourself." "I do not see that I have much to gain in bringing back my eider brother," returned Alexander, shrewdly. Tho answer pleased the old man. Hesmiled. "Well, well, I will go into this after breakfaet," said ha "I'm sorry about the table," said the son. "The table is a small matter; I think nothing of that," said the father. "It's another example," continued the son, "of the awkwardness of a man having no money of his own. If I had a proper aïlowance, like other fellows of my age, this would have been quite unnecessary." ".a proper ailowance 1" repeated his father in tones of blighting sarcasm, for the expression was not new to him. "I have never grudged you money for any proper purpose." "No doubt, no doubt," said Alexander, "butthen you see you ar'n't always on the spot to have the thing explained to you. i Last night, for instance" "Toucould have wakened me last night," interrupted bis father. "Was it not some similar affair that first got John into a mess?"' asked the son, skillfully evading the point But the father was not less adroit. "And pray, sir, how did you come and go out of the house?" he asked. "I forgot to lock the door, it seems,11 replied Alexander. 'I have had cause to complain of that too of ten," said Mr. Nicholson. "Butstillldo not understand. Did you keep the servants up?" "I propose to go into all that at length after breakfast," returned Alexander. "There is the half hour going; we must not keep Miss Mackenzie waiting," And greatly daring, ho opened the door. Even Alexander, who, it must have been pereeived, was on terms of comparative freedom with his parent; even Alexander had never bef ore dared to cut short an interview in this high handed fashion. But the truth ia the very mass of his son'a delinquencies daunted the old gentleman. He was like the man with the cart of apples - this was beyond him! That Alexander should have spoiled his table, taken his money, stayed out all night and then coolly acknowledged all was somcthing undreamed of in the Nicholsonian philosophy and transcended comment The return of the change, whieh the old gentleman still carried in his hand, had been a feature of iinposing impudence; it had dealt him a staggering blow. Then there was the referenco to John's original flight, a subject which he always kept resolutely curtained in his own mind, for he was a man who loved to have made no mistakos, and when he feared he might have made one kept the papers sealod. In view of all these surprises uu iBumiuurs, ana oí nis son's composed and masterful demeanor, there began to creep on Mr. Nicholson a sickly misgiviug. He soemed beyond his depth; if he did or said anything he might come to rogret it. Tho young man besides, as he had pointed out kimself, was playing a generous part. And if wrong had been done - and done to ono who was, after and in spite of all, a Nicholson- it should certainly be righted. All things considered, monstrous as it was to be cut short ia his inquines, the old gentleman submitted, pocketed the change and followed his son into tho dining room. During these few steps ho once more mentally revolted, and once more, and this time finally, laid down his arms, a still, small voice in his bosom having informed him authentically of a piece of news- that he was afraid of Alexander. The strango thing was that ho was pleased to be afraid of him. He was proud of his son; he might be proud of him; the boy had character and grit, and knew what he was doing. These wcre his reflections as he turaed the corner of the dining room door. MissMackenzie was in the place of honor, conjuring with a tea pot and a cozy ; and, beholdl there was another person present- a large. portlv whiskered man of a very comfortable and reBpectable air, who now rose from his seat and came forward, holding out his hand. "Grood morning, father," said he. Of the contention of feeling that ran high in Mr. Nicholson's starched bosom, no outward sign was visible; nor did he delay long to mako a choico of conduct. Yet in that interval he had reviewed a great field of possibilities both past and future; whether it was possible he had not been perfectly wise in his treatmentof John; whether it was possible that Jolm was innocent; whether, if he turned John out a second time, as his outraged authority suggested, it was possible to avoid a scandal; and whether, if he went to that extremity, it was possiblo that Aloxonder might rebeL "Huml" said Mr. Nicholson, and put his hand, limp and dcad, into John's. And then, in an embarrassed silence all tooktheir places; and even the paper- from which it was the old gentleman's habit to suck mortifieation daily, as ho marked the docline of our institutions- even the paper lay furled by his side. But presently Flora came to the rescue. She slid into the silence with a technicality asking if John still took his old inordinate amount of sugar. Thence it was but a step to the burning question of theday; and in tones a little shaken, she commented on the interval sinco she had last made tea for the prodigal, and congratulated him on his return. And then addressing Mr. Nicholson, she congratulated him also in a manner that defied his ill humor, and from that launched into the tale of John's misadventures, not without some miitable suppressions. Gradually Alexander joined; between them, whether he would or no, they forced a word or two from John; and these feil so treraulously, and spoke bo eloquently of a mind oppressod with dread, that Mr. Nicholon reiejited. At length even he contributed aquestion; and bef ore the meal was at os end all four wero talking even freely. Prayers followed, with tho servante gaping at this new comer whom no ono had admitted; and af ter prayers there carae that moment on the clock which was the signal for Mr. Nieholson's departure. "John," said he, "of course you will stay here. Bo very careful not to excite Maria, if Miss Maekonzio thinks it desirable that you should seO her. Alexandor, I wish to speak with you alone." And then, when they were both in the back room, "You nood not como to tho office today," said he; "you can stay and amuse your brother, and I think it would be respectful to cali on Uncle Greig. And, by the by" (this spoken with a eertain- dare we say- bashfulness), "I agree to concede the principie of an allowance, and I will consult with Dr. Durie, who is quite a man of the world and has sons of his own, O3 to the amount. And, my fine fellow, you mayconsider yourself in luck!"' he added, with a smile. Thank you," said Alexander. Before noon a detective had restored to John his money and brought news, sad enough in truth, but -perhaps the least sad possible. Alan had been found in his own house in Rpgent's terrace, under care of the terriüed butler. Ho was quite mad, and instead of goiug to prison, had gone to Morningside asylum. The murdered man itappeared was an evicted tenant who had for nearly a year pursued his late landlord with threats and insults; and beyond this, tho cause and details of the tragedy were lost. When Mr. Nicholson returned from dinner they were able to put a dispatch into his hands: "John V. Nicholson, Randolph Crescent, Edinburgh: Kirkman has disappeared; pólice looking for him. All understood Keep mind quite easy. Austin." Having had this explained to him, the old gentleman took down tho cellar key and departed for two bottles of the 1820 port. Uncle Greig dined there that day, and Cousin Robina, and, by an odd chance, Mr. Macewen, and the presence of these straugers relieved what might have been otherwise a somewhat strained relation. Ere they departed the family was welded once more iuto a fair semblance of unity. In the end of April John led Flora- or, as more descriptive, Flora led John- to the altar, if altar that may be called which was indeed the drawing room mantelpieee in Mr. Nicholson's house, with the Rev. Dr. Durie posted on the hearth rug in the guise of Hymen's priest. The last I saw of them, on a recent visit to the nortli, was at a dinner party in the house of my old f riend Gellatly MacBride ; and af ter we had, in classic phrase, "rejoined the ladies," I had an opportunity to overhear Flora conversing with another married woman on the much canvassed matter of a husband's tobáceo. "Oh, yes!" said she; "I only allowMr. Nieholson four cigars a day. Three he smokes at fixed times- after a meal, you know, my dear; and the fourth he can take when he likes with any friend." "Bravo I" thought I to myself ; "this is the wife for my friend John!" THE END.


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