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"Oonalaska," supplied Gibbs, wishing his friend would be quiet.
"Oh, yes. Oonalaska, a fine place for sport that!" thinking he would do the latter a good turn. "Fine place for beetle-hunting suddenly remembering more about the old man's proclivities.
Faith, I don't quite know myself," confessed the other. "Easier to shoot, I suppose. Some one once complained of rabbits being too short-eight inches too short. Now, these wolves are of the long breed, they
Mr. Prendergast looked at Gibbs as much as to say: "You are responsible for the introduction of this lunatic," and then glared savagely at his vis-à-vis. But the soldier sat with an imperturbable look on his handsome face, twisting his moustache, and quite unconscious of having said anything out of the way.
Here Gibbs interposed. "He's mixing a lot of things up. You great owl," he said, glaring angrily at his friend, "what are you talking about? There's no fishing in Oonalaska, and no beetles and no wolves, either," he added in desperation. Then the conversation drifted in another direction, and, as soon as he could, Mr. Prendergast made his escape.
"You played it rather rough on me, old man," said the soldier afterwards, "about that place."
"The old boy was getting angry," said Gibbs, "and besides, what I said was true. There are no beetles in Oonalaska, I have been looking up the authorities, it's too cold for them."
The following day Samela was still invisible, and Gibbs spent his whole time on the river, fishing and communing with himself. The water was as usual in order, and there were plenty of fish up; a man had, as it were, only to put forth his hand and take them. But even a clean-run, inexperienced salmon will become uneasy when the fly and all the casting line fall in a lump on to his nose; and the best gut will go if the whole force of a powerful greenheart is used to rip it up from a rising fish. "He was thinking he was fishing for a shairk, maist of the day," said Archie grimly on his return to the inn that night. Gibbs lost fish and broke gut, and finally, when trying furiously to lash out an impossible line, got his hook fast in an alder behind him and broke the middle joint of his rod. Then he gave up his paraphernalia to the disgusted Archie, and slowly sauntered home by himself. Out of chaos he had at last evolved order, and his mind was made up. He would not make any attempt to woo Samela, not watch her sketching, or ask her to tea; above all, not give her an opportunity of sitting and looking fascinating in his armchair. In coming to this conclusion he was influenced by the facts, that he knew nothing about her and her father, that he could not afford to marry, and, finally, that he was not at all sure that he was in love with her. A good deal of what Martingale had said he knew to be nonsense; but still, if a man will talk enough nonsense some of it will find a home for itself, especially if it is poured forth on a Sunday morning by a man, looking as wise as Solomon and Rhadamanthus combined, perched on a gate-post.
"Of course I will be perfectly pleasant and courteous to her," thought Gibbs;
"Then you won't send your father-in-" but I'll take care it doesn't go beyond law there?"
"I think not," said Gibbs. "We'll try to find a warmer place for him."
that; I am sure it is the right thing to do." And having so determined his course he became cool and almost comfortable again.
Well, old chap," said Martingale as he got into the dogcart the next morning, "if Samela joined her father at dinner. Her I can be of any help to you I will. You paleness might be attributed to her indismay rely on me; but if you have a crisis position; but was it due also to her headtry and have it on a Saturday. I can al-ache that she seemed disinclined to talk ways get away that day or Sunday; but I to Gibbs, disinclined to laugh as she used believe that the fish run better about this to laugh, to inquire about his sport, and to part of the month, and it might be difficult ask what funny speeches Archie might
have made that day? Had she, too, been making up her mind?
Gibbs had been looking forward to quite another meeting than this. He had anticipated some difficulty in gradually with drawing the light of his countenance from Miss Prendergast; he had thought it quite possible that his courage might be rather put to the test when he had to meet her pleasant smile with one just a little less pleasant, and show her, gently but firmly, that he only looked upon her as a casual acquaintance. It was only a strong confidence in his moral capabilities which enabled him to prepare for the contest he expected. But now it was she who was cool, she who seemed indifferent, she who appeared resolved to treat him as she might treat a gentleman, whom she had met yesterday, and to-morrow was going to say good-bye to. Never a whit had Gibbs calculated on all this; and when he tried some small blandishments for the strong, determined man was already beginning to find the ground weak below him, and his moral courage slowly oozing out it was still the same, they had no effect at all.
Before dinner was half over Gibbs abandoned himself to gloomy forebodings. He forgot all about his good resolves - they became to him as if they had never been -thin phantoms which had never really occupied his mind. He cast about for some cause for this change. Had some bird of the air brought to her ears the somewhat free conversation which had been carried on about herself and her parent the day before? Had those sagaciouslooking, black-faced sheep, or some roe crouching in the fern close at hand, delivered a message to her as the modern representative of their old mistress Diana? No; he thought it was more likely that Martingale was the cause. He was a fine looking man; he was rich; moreover, his brother was a peer, and Johnny bore the little prefix to his name which is sometimes supposed to carry weight with some girls. What a viper! thought Gibbs; and how indecent of the girl to show her feelings so soon!
The dinner crawled along, and at last Samela rose, and with a little bow to Gibbs left the room. And then another astonishing thing happened! The old man became not genial, for that was not perhaps in his nature, but- as little disagreeable as he could manage to be. He pulled up his chair to the fire, asked Gibbs if he was not going to have a little more
whiskey, and said it was a cold night in quite a friendly tone.
"Can it be possible," thought Gibbs, as he abstractedly poured out for himself a very strong glass of Clynleish, "that this ancient antiquarian knows his daughter's feelings, and is showing his compassion for me in this way!" And he looked with the greatest abhorrence at the professor, who forth with began to give a disjointed account of his adventures on the hill that day. Night brought no comfort to Gibbs. He anticipated a sleepless one; but perhaps his hard day's fishing in the high wind, perhaps the agitation in his mind, perhaps even the glass of whiskey aforesaid stood his friends. After tossing about in a restless way for twenty minutes he dropped into a deep and dreamless sleep.
The following day things were as they had been, only worse. Samela avoided him, and the day after they were no better. The only ray of light thrown on Gibbs was from the corrugated countenance of the old professor, whose friendship seemed to increase every hour. Then Gibbs became unhappy, he lost half the fish he hooked, and he jumped upon Archie in a way that made that worthy's hair stand on end.
"She's heuked him," the latter whispered to Jane (he had acquired somehow an exaggerated idea of his master's wealth and importance), "and now she's playing him, and he's gey sick wi't, I can tell you; but whether he will stand the strain o't, I canna say.' Archie was nothing if not cautious. "I'd like fine to see you trying that game on wi' me, Jean, ma lass!" and then the colloquy ended in the usual way.
Now it happened one night, after dressing for dinner, that Gibbs was going down the passage, when, as he was passing Mr. Prendergast's room, he heard two words spoken in a low, passionate voice. They were only two words "I cannot; " but there was an intensity in the way Samela uttered them which bit itself, as it were, into the brain of the hearer. Our fisherman had felt little scruple when chance put him in a position to listen for a moment to Archie's plainly expressed opinions, but he was no eavesdropper; he would have cut off his right hand sooner than have stood to try to hear what fol lowed. He hurried down into the diningroom, marvelling what could cause the somewhat proud and independent girl to speak in such a fashion, the horror and despair in her voice rang in his ears still.
Mr. Prendergast soon followed, and an- | mand; so to suit the convenience of his nounced that his daughter was again too landlord he sent his portmanteau down unwell to come to dinner; then as had early in the day to the station, saying that been his habit lately he inquired with some he himself would walk. As he came down interest about his companion's sport, and ready for the journey and passed the door proceeded to give a long description of of the sitting-room, Mr. Prendergast and the difference which exists between a his daughter came out, the latter in her moth and a butterfly. hat and jacket. "that
After the old man had disappeared Gibbs put on a cape and went out down the glen. It was a wild, wet night; the water was running here and there over the road, and he had to splash through it; the wind howled over the unsheltered moor and drove the rain smartly in his face; but the turmoil suited his humor, and he was glad it was not calm and fine. For he saw now- - he seemed to see plainly, and he wondered how before he could have been so blind-that the piteous "I cannot" referred to himself. That old professor had no doubt been making inquiries as to his― Gibbs's — means, had found them satisfactory, and now discovered that the girl was the obstacle, and he was showing her that she would have to follow his judgment in the matter and not her own wishes.
Poor Gibbs! Never till that night had his pride received so great a shock. He was not a man who in any way plumed himself on his influence with women, he had never in the smallest degree considered himself to be a lady-killer; but so far his acquaintance and experience with the gentler sex had been pleasant and easy. He had made many friends among women, hardly, he thought, any enemies. And now, without his having anything to say in the matter, he was being thrust on an unwilling girl; how unwilling he was to some extent able to measure by the exceeding bitterness of the cry he had heard. If spoken words have any significance, then her feelings against him must be strong indeed.
The following morning Gibbs received a telegram, asking him to go that night to Inverness. The affairs of a minor for whom he was a trustee were in a somewhat complicated state; it was a question whether they ought not to be thrown into the court of chancery, and the matter had to be decided one way or the other at once. The London lawyer happened to be in Scotland at the time, and so offered to come as far as Inverness; indeed, was on his way there when the message was sent, and Gibbs felt there was no course open to him but to go there also.
"I am sure," said the old man, you will be kind enough to escort my daughter so far as the post-office. I have a foreign telegram to send of great impor tance which I cannot trust to a messenger and some inquiries will have to be made about the place it is going to. I can't go myself owing to my sprain" (got on the hill the previous day), "and Mr. Macdonald tells me that a trap will be calling at the post-office in an hour's time which will bring her back."
Gibbs listened to this long harangue without believing in it. It seemed to him to be an obvious excuse for forcing on a tête-à-tête walk between Samela and himself. If a telegram really had to be sent, it could be sealed up, and the inquiry made by letter. He looked, while the father was speaking, at the girl, and he was greatly struck by the change in her face and manner. She was very pale, and seemed nervous and hesitating, as if she wished to say something and did not dare; a great contrast to the blithe lady of a week ago. Gibbs looked inquiringly at her, thinking she might make some excuse herself, but she kept her eyes fixed on her father; so he had no alternative but to say that he should be only too happy to be of any service; and then the two passed out of the lighted room into the twilight road.
His first feeling was one of hot anger towards Mr. Prendergast. "What brute he must really be," he thought, "to force the girl to take this walk with me to-night when it is quite plain she doesn't want to come. How hateful it must be to her!" A week ago he would have been delighted to have had the opportunity of such a walk; he could have at any rate chatted away in a natural manner and amused his companion; and now he racked his brains to think of commonplaces with which to pass the time.
But it was hard for him to think of such things in the state of mind he was in. For what had been at first mere admiration had grown into love; it had thriven on opposition; the more hopeless it had seemed the more it had flourished, and There was a wedding in the strath the deeper it had struck into his heart. that day and all horses were in great de- | It gave a sore shock to his honest pride
to think that he should so soon have be- | seemed to shake as a patient does in an come an object of aversion to the girl. ague-fit. Mingled with this feeling was one of intense pity for his unwilling companion, and he swore to himself that he would bite his tongue out before he would say one word to her of what he felt.
Gibbs made some remark about the night, and then the two went on in silence. Daylight was gone, and the moon was peeping up above the fir wood which covered the hill in front of them. The air was warm and moist, and the larches and the primroses, which grew here close up to the heather, made it sweet. It was such a night as might well draw out the boldness of a shy lover or the eloquence of a silent one. Thousands such would be abroad at that time, in crowded cities and fresh country lanes; some in hope, some in fear, some with happiness before them, some, as he was, miserable. The man could hardly realize that only a few days before his greatest anxiety had been about the weather, his greatest trouble, a fish getting away. He had since then conjured up for himself many vivid pictures of possible happiness. A week ago, if the realization of the brightest of them had been a matter for himself to decide, he would have hesitated to confirm it; and now, some cold fate had cut the string on which he found too late his happiness had been secured.
Samela answered his remarks with monosyllables. He thought it was useless to try to force on a conversation, and for a long time they walked on in silence; but at last this silence became oppressive to him and almost unbearable. They had come to a woody bit of the road which lay in deep shadow, the moonbeams not yet being strong enough to force themselves through the firs. Here Samela stopped suddenly. Gibbs thought she must have dropped something. "What is it?" he asked, going close to her. It is not often that one person can plainly hear the beating of another's heart; he heard it then. A feeling of tenderness and sympathy such as he had never known before came over him, and without taking a thought of what he was doing- he put his arm round her waist. "Samela!" he whispered.
For one moment - for one moment and the remembrance of that short passage of time will thrill him till he dies he believed that the pressure was returned. Then she started from his grasp, and sprang from him half across the road; her breath came short and quick, and she
"Samela!" he cried again, frightened at her intense agitation. But she could not speak, and the thought ran through his brain that he had been ungenerous in taking advantage of her as he had done.
"You will forgive me?" he asked gently. "I will never offend you so again. I did not know that you disliked me - so much.'
"Oh no! no! no!" cried the girl, and her wailing voice would have told him, if there had been any need of telling, whose cry it was he had heard in the room at the inn. "It is not that. Go on! go on! You must go on! I must go back!" She pointed forwards and then herself turned back.
"You cannot go back alone," exclaimed Gibbs; "I must go with you. Nay," he went on as she shook her head and quickened her step, "I will not speak a word, but just walk behind you. You will trust me to do that?" But still she waved him off; he advanced towards her and then she began to run.
"Good Heavens!" cried Gibbs in an agony of despair, "what have I done to frighten her like this!"
"Do not follow me!" she implored; "I beg you!" Then John Gibbs stood still in the middle of the road and watched the shadowy figure till it was lost in the blackness beyond.
Our fisherman was in a poor state to consider an intricate business matter the next day. The lawyer wondered at his absence of mind, that such a one should have been chosen for so important a trust. But at last what had to be settled was settled, and the afternoon found him hurrying back as fast as the Highland Railway would carry him. He experienced in Inverness one of those minor calamities which are not very much in themselves, but which, when great misfortunes happen to be absent, come and do their best to embitter our lives. In a word, he lost his bunch of keys and had to have his port manteau cut open. The loss was to him inexplicable. He always carried them in his coat pocket, and he had felt them there after leaving the inn, rattling against his pipe. Now, as may easily be imag ined, his mind was too heavily burdened with a real sorrow to give more than a passing thought to this minor trouble.
Gibbs looked forward with great apprehension to his return to the inn. He dreaded meeting Samela; he could not imagine on what footing they could be
now; he thought that she must have resented his conduct to her the more because he was as it were her guardian that night; perhaps she imagined that the whole affair had been arranged between her father and himself. At all events he felt it would be very difficult to know how to carry himself before her. And still, at the bottom of his heart, the man had some kind of a feeling that all might come right yet.
The landlord was waiting for him at the station, and as they drove up the glen was eloquent on the glory of the wedding which had taken place the previous day. Such a feast! so many carriages! so many presents! and such a good-looking bride!
"How is the professor's foot?" asked Gibbs, who could take no interest in brides that day, and was anxious to find out if the landlord had noticed anything wrong. "There's no muckle the matter with his foot, I'm thinking," replied the landlord; "at any rate he's gone."
"Gone!" cried Gibbs.
Ay," replied the landlord, "he is that. He went off in a great hurry to catch the first train this morning."
"And his daughter, is she gone?" gasped Gibbs.
"Gone too," answered the driver cheerfully, evidently enjoying the sensation he was causing. 'Indeed, I understand it was on her account they went; he told me that she was not well, and that she must see a London doctor at once." And as the worthy man said this he turned round and looked hard at his companion.
This intelligence was a terrible blow to Gibbs. How gladly now would he have gone through the meeting he had dreaded so much! Gone without a word for him! He might have explained things somehow. What must she have thought of him? What had she told her father? Of course the illness was a blind. He thought it possible that there might be a note left for him, from the professor; he did not expect anything from Samela - but there was nothing.
The place looked sadly deserted and lonely. He could not fish that evening; he went to the rock where Samela had made her sketch and stared long at the pool; then he went back to the house and took out her handiwork; he felt some queer sort of satisfaction in touching things that she had touched. So short a time had passed since her joyous presence had lighted up that room; how different it seemed then! He could not bear the sight of his books.
The next day he fished, and came to a resolution, which was to go south at once; his month was nearly up, and he had lost all pleasure in the river. The landlord understood something of the cause which lost him his guest, and indeed far and wide the gossips were at work. Accounts varied, but all agreed that Gibbs had behaved extremely badly and had lost his bride.
He had left some money in the big chest, and it was necessary to get it out. It was then for the first time that he remembered the loss of his keys. He tried to pick the lock but failed, and Archie, who was called in, had no greater success; so they had to force the lid. Gibbs put the money in his pocket, and then stood gazing at the little collection of volumes which had given him so much pleasure; now it pained him to look at them.
Of a sudden he saw something which made him start, and for a moment disbe lieve the sight of his eyes. There, on the top of a book, lay his bunch of keys, the keys which he had had in his hand the night he walked down to the station! He picked them up and examined them, as if they could tell him something themselves. They were quite bright and fresh. By what legerdemain or diablerie had those keys found a resting-place there? It was an unfathomable mystery-a mystery which it seemed to him could never be explained.
Abstractedly he took up the calf binding, remembering as he did so whose hands had touched it last. It seemed strangely light; he quickly opened it, and then as quickly let it fall - the quarto was gone!
Some five years after the events we have been at so much pains to relate, John Gibbs was sitting alone in the readingroom of a northern county club; he was just putting down the Times, when the heading of a paragraph in a corner caught his eye. It was as follows: "HIGH PRICES FOR BOOKS IN AMEROn Friday last the library of the late John Palmer of New York was disposed of by public auction. This collection was especially rich in early works relating to America, in histories of the English counties, and in early dramatic works. Mr. Palmer was well known for his enterprise and energy. In company with his daugh. ter, and travelling often under assumed names, he searched all over Europe for rare books; no journey was too long for him, or price too high, if anything he wished to add to his collection had to be