Up in Ardmuirland

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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  Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean
  Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine.
          (Longfellow—"Miles Standish")

Val and I, being twins, have always been looked upon as inseparables. True, we have been often forced apart during life's course; yet, somehow, we have always managed to drift back again into the old companionship which Nature seems to have intended in bringing us into the world together.

Boyhood and youth, as long as school life lasted, slipped by with never a parting. The crux came when we were old enough to choose our respective paths in life. It appeared that Val, although he had never before breathed a word to me—whatever he may have done to Dad—had thoroughly determined to be a priest if he could. I had never felt the ghost of a vocation in that direction, so here came the parting of the ways. Val went to college, and I was left inconsolable.

But I was not allowed to nurse my griefs; plans had been made in my regard also, it appeared.

"Ted," said Dad quite abruptly one day, "you'll have to go to Bonn. That'll be the best place for you, since Oxford is out of the question. You've got to take my place some day, and you mustn't grow up an absolute dunce. Atfield" (an old school-chum of his) "is well pleased with the place for his boy, Bill, so you may get ready to travel back with him next week, when the vacation finishes."

In those days (how long ago I almost blush to record) Catholics were not allowed access to our own universities as they now are, and we Flemings were Catholics to the core, and of old staunch Jacobites, as befitted our Scottish race and name.

So Bill Atfield took me under his wing, and to Bonn I went the very next week. There I remained until the end of my course, returning home for vacations, as a rule, but ending up with a week or two, in company with Dad, in Paris, whither Val had gone for his philosophy. But such rare meetings became rarer still when Val went off to Rome, and I had to take up a profession; and our separation was apparently destined to last indefinitely when Val had been ordained, and I went out to India after a civil service appointment.

And yet so kindly at times is Fate that, quite beyond my most ardent hopes, I have been thrown together with Val, in daily companionship, as long as life permits.

For, as it fell out, I was invalided home at quite an early stage of my public career, and, contrary to all family traditions, disgraced my kin by contracting lung disease—at least, so the doctors have declared, though I have experienced very little inconvenience thereby, except that of being condemned to act the invalid for the rest of my life. For years I was forced by arbitrary decrees to winter in clement climes, as the only means of surviving till the spring; but now that I am fifty I have emancipated myself from such slavery, and insist on spending winter as well as summer in "bonnie Scotland." So far I have found no difference in health and strength....