When Mrs. Gordon came to herself, she thought to behave as if nothing had happened, and rang the bell to order her carriage. The maid informed her that the coachman had driven away with it before lunch, and had not said where he was going.

"Driven away with it!" cried her mistress, starting to her feet; "I gave him no orders!"

"I saw the laird giein him directions, mem," rejoined the maid.

Mrs. Gordon sat down again. She began to remember what her son had said when first he gave her the carriage.

"Where did he send him?" she asked.

"I dinna ken, mem."

"Go and ask the laird to step this way."

"Please, mem, he's no i' the hoose. I ken, for I saw him gang — hoors ago."

"Did he go in the carriage?"

"No, mem; he gaed upo' 's ain fit."

"Perhaps he's come home by this time!"

"I'm sure he's no that, mem."

Mrs. Gordon went to her room, all but finished the bottle of whisky, and threw herself on her bed.

Toward morning she woke with aching head and miserable mind. Now dozing, now tossing about in 268 wretchedness, she lay till the afternoon. No one came near her, and she wanted no one.

At length, dizzy and despairing, her head in torture, and her heart sick, she managed to get out of bed, and, unable to walk, literally crawled to the cupboard in which she had put away the precious bottle: — joy! there was yet a glass in it! With the mouth of it to her lips, she was tilting it up to drain the last drop, when the voice of her son came cheerily from the drive, on which her window looked down:

"See what I've brought you, mother!" he called.

Fear came upon her; she took the bottle from her mouth, put it again in the cupboard, and crept back to her bed, her brain like a hive buzzing with devils.

When Francis entered the house, he was not surprised to learn that she had not left her room. He did not try to see her.

The next morning she felt a little better, and had some tea. Still she did not care to get up. She shrank from meeting her son, and the abler she grew to think, the more unwilling she was to see him. He came to her room, but she heard him coming, turned her head the other way, and pretended to be asleep. Again and again, almost involuntarily, she half rose, remembering the last of the whisky, but as often lay down again, loathing the cause of her headache.

Stronger and stronger grew her unwillingness to face her son: she had so thoroughly proved herself unfit to be trusted! She began to feel toward him as she had sometimes felt toward her mother when she had been naughty. She began to see that she could make her peace, with him or with herself, only 269 by acknowledging her weakness. Aided by her misery, she had begun to perceive that she could not trust herself, and ought to submit to be treated as the poor creature she was. She had resented the idea that she could not keep herself from drink if she pleased, for she knew she could; but she had not pleased! How could she ever ask him to trust her again!

What further passed in her, I cannot tell. It is an unfailing surprise when any one, more especially any one who has hitherto seemed without strength of character, turns round and changes. The only thing Mrs. Gordon then knew as helping her, was the strong hand of her son upon her, and the consciousness that, had her husband lived, she could never have given way as she had. There was another help which is never wanting where it can find an entrance; and now first she began to pray, "Lead me not into temptation."

There was one excuse which David alone knew to make for her — that her father was a hard drinker, and his father before him.

Doubtless, during all the period of her excesses, the soul of the woman in her better moments, had been ashamed to know her the thing she was. It could not, when she was at her worst, comport with her idea of a lady, poor as that idea was, to drink whisky till she did not know what she did next. When the sleeping woman God made, wakes up to see in what a house she lives, she will soon grasp at besom and bucket, nor cease her cleansing while spot is left on wall or ceiling or floor.

How the waking comes, who can' tell! God knows 270 what He wants us to do, and what we can do, and how to help us. What I have to tell is that, the next morning, Mrs. Gordon came down to breakfast, and finding her son already seated at the table, came up behind him, without a word set the bottle with the last glass of whisky in it before him, went to her place at the table, gave him one sorrowful look, and sat down.

His heart understood, and answered with a throb of joy so great that he knew it first as pain.

Neither spoke until breakfast was almost over. Then Francis said,

"You've grown so much younger, mother, it is quite time you took to riding again! I've been buying a horse for you. Remembering the sort of pony you bought for me, I thought I should like to try whether I could not please you with a horse of my buying."

"Silly boy!" she returned, with a rather pitiful laugh, "Do you suppose at my age I'm going to make a fool of myself on horseback? You forget I'm an old woman!"

"Not a bit of it, mother! If ever you rode as David Barclay says you did, I don't see why you shouldn't ride still. He's a splendid creature! David told me you liked a big fellow. Just put on your habit, mammy, and we'll take a gallop across, and astonish the old man a bit."

"My dear boy, I have no nerve! I'm not the woman I was! It's my own fault, I know, and I'm both sorry and ashamed."

"We are both going to try to be good, mother dear! " faltered Francis.


The poor woman pressed her handkerchief with both hands to her face, and wept for a few moments in silence, then rose and left the room. In an hour she was ready, and out looking for Francis. Her habit was a little too tight for her, but wearable enough. The horses were sent for, and they mounted.

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