The Day of Judgment
292 pages

The Day of Judgment


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292 pages
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Publié par
Publié le 08 décembre 2010
Nombre de lectures 28
Langue English


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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Day of Judgment, by Joseph Hocking, Illustrated by Charles L. Buchel
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Title: The Day of Judgment
Author: Joseph Hocking
Release Date: May 13, 2008 [eBook #25463]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
E-text prepared by Al Haines
"The two knelt . . . in the silence of the evening" (see page 12).
The Day of Judgment
With Frontispiece by CHARLES B. BUCHEL
CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne 1915
I am dedicating this book to you, partly because when you read it in MS. you told me you liked it better than any story I have ever written; but more because, although words are at best utterly inadequate, I want to tell you that one of the things I value most in life is your friendship.
Three young men sat in an old inn not far from the borderline which divides England from Scotland. They were out on a holiday, and for more than two weeks had been tramping northward. Beginning at the Windermere Lakes, they had been roaming amidst the wild mountainous scenery which is the pride and joy of all lovers of beauty who dwell in that district. For two of them the holiday had practically come to an end, and now, smoking their pipes after dinner in the old inn, they were reviewing their experiences.
"I envy you, Douglas," said one whose holiday was practically finished. "We have to get back to work but you have yet nearly three weeks before getting into harness again. It must be glorious, too, this going into Scotland."
"Yes," said the other, "and somehow Scotland is different from England. I believe, if I knew nothing about the geography of the district, that directly I put my foot on Scottish soil I
should know it. Everything is different there: the outlook on life, the customs, the laws and the prevailing sentiments of the people. Why, we cannot be far from Gretna Green now—think of the scenes which took place around here a few years ago!"
"Have the laws changed much in relation to marriage?" asked the first speaker. "You are studying for the Bar, Douglas, you ought to know."
The young man who had not yet spoken was different from the others. He was cast in a more intellectual mould, and, although bronzed by the sun and wind of the Cumberland Hills, his demeanour suggested the student.
"I really don't know much about Scottish laws," he replied, "they are so different from those of England. It is wonderful how people living so close together could have framed laws so entirely dissimilar. Of course, marriage laws have been a curious business both in England and Scotland. Before Lord Hardwicke's Act the marriage arrangements in England were very peculiar, but with that Act things took a different course. In Scotland, however, I believe they remained pretty nearly the same as before. As a matter of fact, marriage in Scotland is very difficult to define."
"In what way?"
"Well, I believe, even now, a marriage is valid even although there are no witnesses, no minister, no religious ceremony, and no formula whatever."
"But, my dear fellow," said one of the others, "that is surely impossible."
"I think not," replied the young man called Douglas. "I was talking with an old Scotch lawyer only a few months ago, and he was telling me that even yet Scotch marriages are about as loose as they can possibly be. He explained to me that Scotch marriage is a contract constituted by custom alone, and although generally of a well-attested nature, a marriage may be completed by a solemn and deliberate consent of the parties to take each other for husband and wife, and that such a marriage is absolutely binding. No writing or witnesses are necessary. He also explained to me that a marriage could be legally constituted in Scotland by apromise to marry followed by the parties living together for a few hours. By the way, I wonder whether in this old inn there is an encyclopaedia of some sort. Yes, here is one; evidently it has not been opened for years. Here we are, 'Marriage,' yes, 'Scotch Marriage':
"A marriage will also be constituted by declarations made by the man and the woman that they presently do take each other for husband and wife. These declarations may be emitted on any day, at any time, and without the presence of witnesses, and either by writing or orally, or by signs of any nature which is clearly an expression of intention. Such a marriage is as effective to all intents and purposes as a public marriage. The children of it would be legitimate, and the parties to it would have all the rights in the property of each other given by the law of Scotland to husband and wife."
"But if there are no documents, how can anything be proved?"
"I cannot say," replied Douglas, "but there it is. Of course, at Gretna Green, which, as you say, is not far away, the blacksmith used to witness marriages, although his presence was unnecessary. Old stories have it that the contracting parties jumped a broomstick or a pair of tongs, or something of that sort, but whether there were any signatures I really do not know. Anyhow, the law in Scotland, as I have been informed, is that if a man and a girl agree to
take each other as husband and wife, a marriage is legally performed, and is as binding as if it took place in Westminster Abbey and was performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury."
There was silence for a few minutes, then one exclaimed, "I wonder we do not hear more of divorces and marriage difficulties in Scottish law courts."
"Oh, these Scotch are canny people and wonderfully logical. They seem to regard present arrangements as inevitable, and act upon them. After all, what is marriage when one comes to think about it? It is really the promise of the man and the woman to take each other as husband and wife. All the rest, Church services and legal documents, are mere attestations to the fact. Marriage, true marriage, is simply a matter for the parties in question who have determined upon union."
"Evidently you are not a High Churchman," remarked one of the others.
From this the conversation drifted on to other matters, and presently dwindled down to mere snatches, freely punctuated by yawns. Then the young men, having finished their pipes, retired to rest.
Two days later, Douglas Graham found himself alone. He had made arrangements to pay a visit to a house near the borders of Scotland. He was of Scotch descent on his father's side, while his mother's family had always lived in the South of England. For that matter the Grahams had lived in the South for three generations, so that, while he was greatly interested in Scotland, he always called himself an Englishman. The characteristics of both countries were clearly expressed in both his mind and character. The Scotch side of him was intellectual, practical, with, perhaps, a suggestion of hardness; but to counteract this, he had inherited the gentleness and the softer elements which appertain to the Southern peoples. He was only just three and twenty; he had taken a good degree at Oxford, and then set himself to qualify for the Bar. His personal appearance likewise indicated a mixture of races—tall and well-knit, he suggested a strong and determined nature; on the other hand, there was something almost effeminate in the regularity of his features, and his lips were somewhat sensuous. A passing stranger would be immediately attracted by him. Blue eyes, brown hair, and well-formed features, together with a sunny and kind-hearted disposition, had made him a popular man. While very ambitious, he also possessed a happy disposition which made him the best of companions. He was now on his way to visit a distant relative on his father's side, and looked forward with exceeding interest to spending the last weeks of his holiday in an old Scottish stone mansion, situated among the wild hills.
As a lover of beauty, he could not help being charmed by the scenery through which he passed: the purple heather, which was now in its glory, made the wild moorlands wondrous for their beauty, while the valleys through which the rushing streams passed simply enchanted him.
Presently he came to a lonely valley in a district which seemed almost entirely uninhabited. Not a soul was in sight, and scarcely a sound disturbed the silence. On each side of him, great heather-covered hills sloped up to the sky, while at his feet a stream coiled its way down the valley. Tramping along the narrow road which skirted the stream, he presently saw some cattle rushing wildly around, and he judged by the cries he heard that someone was greatly distressed. It was not long before he saw what this meant. A young girl was trying to keep some cattle together, but they, being in a turbulent mood, refused to go the way she wished. Vainly she went hither and thither, seeking to guide them into a path which led over the hills. For two or three minutes Douglas Graham watched her, and then, seeing her dilemma, went up to her.
She was evidently a Scotch peasant girl, as indicated by the clothes she wore and by her
hard, toilworn hands. Nevertheless, at first sight of her Douglas was attracted, and for good reason—the face of the girl, once seen, was not soon forgotten. During the time he had been in Scotland it had seemed to him that the Scotch women were hard-featured, uninteresting, and altogether unlovely; but this girl was different. There was something of the savage in her, and yet she possessed a charm which fascinated the young man. Her black hair hung in curling and tangled tresses over her shoulders; her eyes were almost as black as her hair and shone brightly. A kind of gipsy beauty she possessed, and her eyes, her sensitive mouth, her square chin spoke of a nature out of the ordinary.
"If you will tell me what you wish," he said, "I will help you."
She looked at him with a start of surprise, and for a moment he thought she shrank from h im. She seemed as shy as a young colt, and was app arently frightened at his sudden appearance. As she looked at him, however, her confidence came back. He was different from the raw Scottish youths to whom she was accustomed. His pleasant smile and laughing eyes reassured her. "I am trying to take the kine home," she said, "but I think the witches have got hold of them. I never saw them like this before." She spoke with a strong Scotch accent, and was evidently what she seemed, either a servant at a farmhouse or, perhaps, the daughter of some small tenant farmer who lived in the district.
"We'll see if we can't destroy the witches' power," laughed Douglas, and set to work to gather the cattle. It took some little time, but the feat was accomplished at last. Then the two walked side by side, driving the beasts before them.
The romance in the young man's nature was aroused. There, amidst the wild moorland scenery and in the light of the setting sun, it was vastly pleasant to be walking beside this young creature, so instinct with life.
"Is your home far away?" he asked.
"It must be more than two miles," she replied.
"And do you know the house called 'Highlands'?"
"It will be where Mr. Graham lives, I expect."
"Yes," he said.
"Then it will be only a mile beyond my father's farm," was her reply.
"Oh, that is capital!" laughed Graham. "I shall get there before dark, and be able to help you with the cattle at the same time."
"But you are not the son at 'Highlands,'" she said, looking at him curiously.
"Oh, no," he replied. "The Grahams are distant relatives of mine, that is all. There is just a little Scotch in me, that is why I love Scotland so. Of course, you love Scotland too?"
A far-away look came into her eyes. "I don't know," she said.
"Not know if you love your own country?" And he laughed as he spoke.
"I am not sure that it is my own country," was her reply. "You see——" And then she stopped. "It will be nothing to you," she added after a minute, and for some time they walked along together in silence.
"It must be just lovely to live amid such surroundings as these; still, I should find it lonely sometimes," he ventured at length.
"You would, if—if—" And then the girl looked at him curiously. "But I expect you'll not be understanding what I mean," she added.
Again they walked on in silence, Douglas longing to ask her what she meant, and yet shrinking from taking what he felt might be a liberty, for there was something about the girl that kept him from speaking freely. Dressed like a peasant as she was, he instinctively felt that here was no ordinary farmer's drudge. She had uttered nothing beyond commonplaces, but the look in her eyes, the tremor of her lips suggested romance and mystery and poetry.
"You see," she said a minute later, as if talking to herself, "I have no mother. I never saw her; at least, I cannot remember ever seeing her, and she was not Scotch."
"No?" said Douglas. "Then we have something in common: my people on my father's side were Scotch, but all my mother's people belong to the South."
"And mine, too," said the girl. "But what can it be to you?" And again she seemed to be thinking of something far away.
"Do you know," said the young man, "you are the first person I have spoken to since morning? I have been on the tramp all the day. I had my lunch by the side of a stream, and I have kept away from every house. I wanted to be alone. I expect that is why I want you to tell me why you don't seem happy."
Again the girl looked at him curiously. "I think I should go mad sometimes," she said, "if I did not think my dead mother was near me. I do not mean when I am out here alone on the moors, but it's home that makes it so hard."
"Tell me," said the young fellow. It did not seem to him as though he were talking to a stranger at all. The girl did not belong to his class, and evidently her associations and education removed her far from him, yet he had an instinctive sympathy with her. After all, I suppose every young fellow is attracted by a young pretty face, wild, longing eyes, and beautiful features suggestive of romance and poetry and unsatisfied yearnings.
"You see," said the girl, "my father was a fisherman. Years ago, when he was a young man, he sailed down the West of England, and his boat harboured at a little Cornish village called St. Ives. There he met my mother, and I have heard him say that she had Spanish blood in her veins. Anyhow, they fell in love with each other and got married.
"I suppose her father and mother were very angry, and so he took her away from St. Ives altogether, and came back here to Scotland. Just at that time his father died, and left our farm to him. So my father gave up fishing, and brought mother here, but I had not been born long before mother died, so you see I never knew her. My father did not remain unmarried long: the second time he married a Scotswoman, and I hate the Scotch."
"Why?" asked Graham.
"Oh, well, my father says that the Cornish people are wild and imaginative, and my stepmother hasn't any imagination. Years ago I used to read Burns's poems and Sir Walter Scott's stories, but mother took the books from me. She says a farmer's daughter has no time for poetry and romance, but I love it all the same. That is why I am only happy when I am out on the moors alone."
A few minutes later a lonely farmhouse appeared to view. It was little more than a cottage, and Graham judged that the farm consisted of only about fifty acres of stony and barren land.
"Good night," she said presently, "and thank you for helping me with the kine."
"Perhaps I shall be seeing you again," said the young man. "I am sure I shall come round this way in the hope that you may be visible." And he laughed almost nervously as he spoke. The girl had appealed to him. She seemed to him like a flower in the wilderness, and aroused all the romance of his nature.
She shook her head. "No," she said, "you will never see me again."
"At least you will tell me your name?" said Graham; "why, do you know, we have been nearly an hour together? I am called Douglas Graham."
"And my name is Jean Lindsay," she said, looking at him shyly; "not that it matters much, for if you are staying with the Grahams you will be a gentleman."
"And do you go to fetch the cattle home every night?" he asked eagerly; but she did not answer him. A hard-featured woman came up to the farmyard gate as he spoke, while Jean silently, and with an almost sullen look on her face, drove the cattle into the yard. He lifted his cap and passed on.
"Who is yon?" asked the woman in a harsh, strident voice.
"I do not know," replied the girl; "he helped me with the cattle, that is all."
Douglas Graham climbed the hill which lay between him and his relative's house with a strange feeling at his heart. Somehow life seemed different, and the picture of this black-eyed girl remained with him. "I should like to see her again," he said, as presently he came up to the gates which led to the house; "yes, and I will, too!"
During the next two days he made no attempt to see Jean Lindsay. He found among his relatives at "Highlands" several young people, who not only gave him a warm welcome, but entirely claimed his companionship, and amidst the entertainments provided he almost forgot the meeting on the moors. The third day, however, found him wandering away by himself towards the lonely farmhouse. Had he tried to analyse his feelings, he would have told himself that Jean Lindsay was only a chance acquaintance, who was vastly interesting, but nothing more. But he could not altogether drive her picture from his mind; the black, speaking eyes, the strange longings which were revealed in the girl's half-uttered sentences, filled his mind with unaccustomed thoughts. That was why he found himself near the farmhouse, wondering whether he should see her again. But he found no one there: the place might have been forsaken. Wandering down the valley, however, he thought he heard someone sobbing, and quickly discovered Jean Lindsay sitting by a brook, crying as though her heart would break.
"What is the matter?" he asked.
For a moment the girl gave no reply. She seemed to resent his presence, to be angry that he should have seen her in this frame of mind.
"I am sure you must be in trouble," he went on; "tell me about it."
"She struck me," was her almost sullen reply.
"Struck you! Who?"
"My stepmother," she replied, "and I will not stand it, I will run away; besides——" And then she stopped suddenly.
A little later her passion seemed to have subsided, and she was able to speak more freely. For more than an hour they talked, and when they parted she told him that on the following day she had to go to a village some four miles distant.
That evening, at "Highlands," Douglas Graham was not an interesting companion. The young people joked him about his solemn appearance, and wondered why he looked so troubled.
"Anyone would think you were crossed in love, Douglas," said one. "Tell us all about it now; has she run away with her father's coachman, or has she jilted you for a handsomer man?"
But while Douglas replied to their good-tempered raillery in laughing tones, it was easy to see that his mind was far away. For hours he lay in bed that night without being able to sleep. The picture of the dark-eyed sobbing girl remained with him, and all sorts of longings filled his heart. It seemed as though the Scotch side of his nature was altogether repressed. He was no longer cautious and calculating, his mind and heart were full of the half savage beauty of the young girl of the moors.
The next day he left his friends at "Highlands" without any excuse whatever, and again wandered away alone. Near the village Jean Lindsay had mentioned he saw her returning with a basket on her arm, and again he entered into eager conversation with her. He forgot the foolishness of his action, forgot the wrong he was doing to the girl by filling her mind with thoughts about himself—for he could see that she was attracted by him. To her he seemed some knight-errant like those she had read about in the stories which her stepmother had forbidden her to read. His mode of speech, his appearance, his sunny laugh, all made her realise that there was a world hitherto unknown to her, but which she now longed to enter.
This meeting led to others, until Douglas's friends began to wonder why he so often desired to leave them and wander away alone. A few days before the time when his visit to "Highlands" was to come to an end he found Jean strangely perturbed. She was overwhelmed by some great emotion, but she would not speak to him concerning it. At length, however, with much hesitation, she confessed to him that she was troubled greatly. "I have to be married," she said.
"Married, Jean!" he cried; "to whom—why?"
"To Willie Fearn," was her reply. "Father told me so last night."
"But why? Do you love him?" he asked.
"Nay, I hate him," was the reply, "especially since——" And then she ceased speaking, her face becoming crimson. "Father says I shall never get such a good chance again," she went on presently. "He has the best farm hereabouts, and could give me a good home, and my stepmother, she wants to get rid of me—but I hate him, I hate him!"
"Then you will not marry him?" said Douglas.
"What can I do?" replied the girl; "for more than a year they have been trying to persuade me, and father owes him money, too, and Willie says he will forgive him ever paying if I will marry him." And the girl burst out sobbing.
Douglas was young and romantic. The Scotch side of his nature told him that the resolution born in his mind was utterly mad, but this was utterly destroyed by feelings of pity, and what to him was greater than pity—a wild passion for the girl at his side. So, not thinking of what his determination might mean, nor dreaming of what the future had in store for him, he told Jean that she must never think of marrying the farmer.
"But how can I help it?" she asked. "They never let me rest, and, while I hate him, how can I dare disobey my father and my mother? Besides, when the minister came to tea at our house last week, he spoke of it as a thing settled, and said that Willie would soon be made an elder of the kirk. He thought it would be a grand thing for me, I suppose, to be an elder's wife —but how can I—how can I?"
I need not describe at length what followed. The young fellow casting caution to the winds, mapped out his plan, and before parting they arranged to meet again the next day.
On his way back to "Highlands" the conversation which took place between himself and his companions came back to him. He remembered what he had read in the old Encyclopaedia about Scotch marriages, and it possessed him strongly. He believed himself to be in love with this peasant girl. To him she was a creature apart from all the rest of the world—young, romantic, beautiful with a kind of beauty he had never seen in any other. He felt he could not live his life apart from her. He wanted to take her away from this barren farm among the hills and make her life happy. And yet the madness of his thought appealed to him too. How could he make her his wife? How could he introduce her to his friends? Beautiful she might be, but was it not the beauty of a savage? The Poles lay between her and the women into whose society he would be cast in coming days. He was very ambitious for his own future. He dreamed of becoming a popular barrister, of winning fame and renown, of gaining a name throughout the country as a brilliant lawyer and a pleader of eloquence and power. Like every other young law student he had read of famous lawyers who had risen from obscurity to renown, from poverty to wealth. His career at the U niversity had assured him that he had more than average abilities, while his speeches at the Oxford Union had been received with so much applause that he knew he had the gift of public speech in no ordinary degree. What then should hinder him from attaining to high position in the world he had chosen as his sphere? But all this seemed as nothing in comparison with the mad passion which had been aroused in his heart by this beauteous being of the moors. What was law, what was fame, what were riches in comparison with the joy which her presence gave him? Besides, it did not seem to him that the marriage he had in his mind was the same as that in the English churches. It might be legal, but there was something unreal, unstable about it, and who need know? A Scotch marriage! It appealed to him almost as a joke, while at the same time he knew it would satisfy this young girl's conscience. It would make her his wife. And so, although he had many doubts, he made his plans.
All through the night he lay thinking. He wished he had some of his law books with him, so that he could study the matter carefully, for he was strangely ignorant. No minister, no church, no documents, no witnesses—simply taking each other by the hand and declaring that he took her as his wife. It seemed so easy, and surely, surely——
He was not a bad young fellow, this Douglas Graham. Some spoke of him as a kind of dual personality, strong and weak at the same time—but he had never been known to do anything dishonourable, and his career at Oxford had been an unblemished one. To an extent he was cast in a religious mould, and was susceptible to religious influences. He had indeed been a communicant at a Presbyterian church, and thus, while determined to carve out for himself a great career, he always dreamed of acting honourably and conscientiously, and he would do so now, only—— And then he thought out the whole matter again. Yes, it did seem different from a marriage in an English church, but it would satisfy Jean, and it would be a
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