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The boy had gone into the army. Some people said that the step was a necessity of his failure in the more conventional walks of life, but that could scarcely be, seeing that John Morgan himself was at the time daily impressing people with the fact that had he been allowed to choose his career as a boy the trade of arms would have been his choice: that was a career for a man of mettle and what other. But Mrs Morgan over her knittingneedles must needs again weep, more and more silently and more and more secretly it is true; for along with the energy and bustle and movement which characterised her her lord and
master, in what from her point of view almost seemed a second bereavement, there was noticeable a faint irritability, as of a tired man striving to show that he is far from being tired. It was faintly noticeable, but it was there, and it did more to make Mrs Morgan cease to mourn than all the blowings and blusterings of reasoned wrathful sermons which her husband could inflict upon her in a month. For the little woman had a great silent love and respect for this fresh blustering spouse of hers, and as for
VOL. CLXVII.—NO. MXIV.
John Morgan, it was known through the village how his reason almost left him for two dreary nights during which the doctor held it not improbable that his wife would pass from him.
It was only in the fitness of things that, when the political horizon became overcast and the war-cloud did at last burst, the village should wait with a complacent curiosity to hear what John Morgan had to say before making up its mind definitely on the issues involved in the conflict; and while the nightly little crowd assembled at the post-office dogmatised considerably concerning each fresh piece of news, there was always left open a loophole for escape, or rather retreat, should the position to be taken up by John Morgan when he appeared make a recantation necessary. The post office, pending the arrival of the evening mail, was the village St Stephen's, and John Morgan represented equally the positions of Speaker, Leader of the House, and, when necessary, the whole Opposition. There was consequently no little consternation and not a little wonder when the time came that John Morgan ceased altogether from his attendance at the scene of debate, and those who were skilled in noting such things dated his absence from the day on which news came to him that his son's regiment was ordered on active service. "He's feared for the day's news, and that's what's the matter wi' him," said one man, and the villagers did not speak in dispraise of such un
spartanlike conduct, although they smiled furtively as certain loud - voiced declamations concerning the virtue of hardihood kept ringing in their ears; and they listened in silence when John Morgan, loud-voiced and emphatic as usual, gave it as his explanation that the post was always late and the evenings were chilly as winter drew
As was the case of Mahomet and the mountain, however, so was it with John Morgan and the villagers; if he would not come to them, they assuredly would find themselves gliding up to him where he sat ensconced in his comfortable armchair in the house on the hill, and from the vantage-ground of his own fireside he would enunciate the correct attitude to be adopted concerning the war and its consequences.
"I take my facs from the ofeeshal reports in the paper there, where ye can see them for yerselves if ye want to," were the closing words wherewith he invariably fortified an argument which, standing by itself as a mere statement unsupported by external authority, might seem somewhat shaky; and the emphasis of the delivery generally ensured silence, if not verbal acquiescence. Mrs Morgan at the opposite side of the
the way of receiving daily papers, and so it happened that by the time when the weekly news budget should arrive a great and decisive battle had been fought, and throughout the land the first thin wail of grief was spreading and spreading as names of men who had once been fathers, brothers, lovers, were placed upon the nation's list of dead. The sorrow wail was spreading daily, but as yet it had not reached the northern village, and by John Morgan's cosy fireside the chances of the impending fight were being discussed with
an earnestness which the gravity of the situation easily rendered excusable. John Morgan's arrangement of the forces, as told to the rather unusually crowded audience, was sublime; but a difficulty, unfortunate inasmuch that upon a satisfactory explanation and solution of it depended his entire position, had arisen, and John Morgan was more than ordinarily loud-voiced and more than ordinarily aggressive and emphatic as objection after objection, tendered with a quiet assurance and firm, were urged against his theory. He had uttered his usual concluding dictum, but it failed to silence the persistent objector, who went the length of asking to be shown where in the public print fire swiftly clicked her a certain statement was to be knitting - needles, and with a found, and John Morgan, with faith, beautiful in its simplicity, much external gravity and a reconciled without effort the soul-consuming perplexity and numberless contradictions so suffocating wrath, was ostenthey seemed to her which tatiously hunting for a passage characterised her husband's which he was well aware was many utterances in the course not to be found in the rustling of the day. pages of the paper. The deadFew of the villagers were in lock thus occasioned was on the
point of becoming irksome to the audience, when the outer door was opened and a neighbour on his way up from the post office stepped into the heated circle and laid a letter on John Morgan's knee. "It's from the seat of war," he said
sententiously as he sat down ; "a see On her Majesty's service' on the envelope," having said which he threw himself back in his chair and wiped his forehead with his red pockethandkerchief after the manner of one who has done his duty.
To appear to be moved at the receipt of a letter, even with such high external credentials as the one before him, would have been unworthy of a man of John Morgan's high reputation among his fellows; and while a sudden pause of expectancy fell upon the little assembly, John Morgan took up the letter leisurely and glanced at the superscription with a careless negligence. "Ay, a see it's on 'Her Majesty's service'; a saw that at once from the outside-just so, just so." The muttered exclamation concealed his startled perplexity, and was intended to insinuate a perfect familiarity with documents of this class.
But there was no such tranquillity evinced on the opposite side of the fire, where Mrs Morgan sat, her glasses in her hand, and her eyes staring in startled wonder at the blue cold-looking document which her husband held in his hand. Her heart's action had all but stopped at the first glimpse of it, and she was waiting, eagerly waiting, until the covering should be unfastened and the contents divulged for good or ill.
"It'll be from Sandy," she said faintly, and the tension evidenced by her voice
municated itself to those around her, and the complacent expectancy gave way to a grave foreboding. The situation had become tragic.
But beyond a swift glance almost as of fear in the direction of his wife, John Morgan made no sign. "It's on her Majesty's service," he kept muttering as he bent over the document; "a noticed that on the outside-ay, a noticed that at once."
"Will ye no read it, John?" said his wife gently as she bent forward and touched his hand.
He started up violently at the touch. "O' course a can read it. What makes ye think a canna read it?" he said angrily; "it'll no take me long to do that."
The suggestion of his illiteracy at such a time, among so many of his fellows, brought him to himself with a shock, and he struggled to resume his old important manner as he proceeded slowly and with difficulty to unfasten the unfamiliar covering.
There was a terrible struggle going on in his mind. He recognised that he was expected to read the letter, and that immediately-the silent gravity of those around him told
An oppressive silence prevailed throughout the little room, and the vacuous smile which John Morgan strove to assume died away drearily on his lips and his white head fell heavily on his breast. His reading was a lie, and instinctively they all knew it.
of an interested, sympathetic cluded the woe-begone epistle, expectancy-and the hour had and even to himself his voice now come when it was for him, sounded far away. "There's John Morgan, the man of re- no much news in that-on her puted learning, and the recog- Majesty's service - from the nised leader in his native place, seat o' war. to choose whether he was publicly to confess before all his fellows that his profession of learning was a fraud, and that he himself was and had been an impostor among them all his days. How could he be able to hold up his head among them in future? would the very children, the idea was torture, it was not to be thought of; and yet, on the other hand, when the thought of his soldier son, and what news of him the letter might contain, rushed upon his mind, his resolve almost gave way, and he made as if to hand the letter to one of those around him. But his vanity conquered even as he did so, and in the desperation of despair and perplexity he held the letter closely up to his wellnigh bloodless face and cleared his throat.
"Ahem," he began. "Dear Father and" but his voice dwindled away; he could not bring himself to say "mother" with that terror-stricken face opposite him. "This is to say -ahem! that I am well quite well"-here a heavy fit of prolonged coughing overtook him-"well, and hoping you are the same. Love-ahem !— love to all at home-hoping you are the same, from your affectionate son, SANDY."
He forced a laugh from his parched throat as he lamely con
There was a slight movement in the stillness of the room as a venerable - looking old man stepped forward and took the letter in his hand.
Maybe a can read it for ye, John," he said simply.
Slowly he pulled his glasses from their case and with much care adjusted them on his forehead. "Sir," he began, as he held the letter to the light, “I regret to have to inform you
and then he stopped abruptly.
Neebors," he said quietly, turning to those around him, "this is no place for you now,' and as the last of them glided in silent swiftness out of the room, there fell upon his ear the first low moan from the stricken mother as she received the dread intelligence of her soldier son's death.
And all through that dreary miserable night John Morgan, as one of his reason bereft, kept muttering to himself, “On her service Majesty's Majesty's service-a saw that at oncefrom the seat o' war." A. B. FLETCHER,
A COMIC CHESTERFIELD.
To one who loves the bypaths and blind alleys of character, there are periods which have a fascination above others. A biographer's judgment of an epoch is not that of the serious historian. Certain centuries are museums of instructive tendencies and movements, where every hero is a type to be a type to be analysed and docketed; others, again, are a poor harvest-field for the earnest inquirer, but an excellent hunting-ground for the connoisseur. These last are indeed times of stagnation, when the life of a nation turns, as it were, upon itself and gives rise to a crop of eccentricities. But the division is not absolute, for in an industrious epoch, when new things are in the air and men are busy reforming the world, one may come suddenly upon a tare in the wheat in the shape of an idle and farcical gentleman who is cast only for comedy.
Few periods in the history of England give such honest pleasure to all schools of historians as the eighteenth century. There are tendencies and movements enough to please the most philosophic. There are sounding wars over the whole globe for the tactician, and there are essays in reform for the constitutionalist. And, above all, there is the social life, where elegance reached its perfection, from Sir Pertinax and Lady Prue under Queen Anne, to the Whig salons, the beautiful Duchess of Devonshire, and
the court of Carlton House. At last the century dies out in the smoke of revolution. The old universal elegance is discredited, and there is an unrest abroad which gives birth to romanticism, fanaticism, and a new philosophy. The comic is out of season in this period of strenuous earnestness, and when a belated exponent arises he takes the colour of his times, and is as earnest in his absurdities as his contemporaries in their wisdom.
Such a comedian out of season we find in that Earl of Buchan whose vagaries for long delighted the polite Scots world. He had the misfortune to be overshadowed by two famous brothers, and his considerable talents were rated below their proper value. "A curious, irascible, pompous ass," Mr Henley has called him; and even Sir Walter, who had unfailing tenderness towards his fellows, can speak of him only as "a trumpery body." Trumpery indeed he was, but he was a fool of parts and distinction. He toiled at his trifling busyness more than most great men at their work, and he had that finest perquisite of folly, an unfailing self-deception. He aspired to play all parts. He must be the grand seigneur of the House of Buchan, the literary dictator of his time, the patron of the arts, the friend of princes, and the Complete Gentleman. It is this belated activity, this itch after great