The Veiled Portrait

James M’govan

I used to wonder what would be the end of the fierce war between M’Indoe and the thieves; for a war it very speedily became, in which, if M’Indoe was not the sufferer, he owed his safety entirely to his intimate knowledge of all their crimes and haunts. They could not hunt him down, for he lived by unremitting hard labour; and still less could they do him bodily injury, for he glided about more like a shadow than even their own dreaded leader, The Ruffian. The truth is, they feared M’Indoe, and cowered in their holes, as he stalked gloomily through their haunts, as if he had carried a whole cohort of invisible detectives at his back. Perhaps they read the expression of his seamed and sunken features aright; for if ever quenchless vengeance was written on a face, it was in these rigid lines. On the whole, I was inclined to look upon them as wolves—tearing and fighting each other, and all doomed to perish in the struggle.

As for M’Indoe, I got to believe that every merciful feeling—every ray of sunshine—was completely shut out of his heart; but in this I was mistaken, as the following interesting case, and another which shall follow, will show. In relating the simple incidents, I will also give another instance of the boundless devotion and quenchless love of a mother.1

In a little bright room at the top of one of those long stairs in Milne Square, two persons sat conversing pleasantly as equals, though their stations in life were very different. The first was the tenant of the room, Mrs. Lyons, who, through almost every phase of happiness and good fortune, calamity and reverses, had at last landed there in the poverty and retirement of that garret; and the second was Walter Hutton, medical student and amateur artist, who had been sent there by the Public Dispensary to attend the old lady in her sickness. Hutton was a gentleman by birth and education, studying for a profession merely for form’s sake, and gliding along carelessly and easily, as became a man of wealth; but the suspicion had just dawned upon him that the poor woman he attended was not what she seemed, but in some respects even his superior. Mrs. Lyons sat propped in a chair by the fire facing the light, giving the “laddie,” as she persisted in calling her visitor, such solid and sterling advice, and talking to him in such a kind, motherly strain, that at last his wayward sympathies were touched.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said, brightening into a frank smile, and instinctively bowing before his poor patient, “but I think I have been mistaken in you. It seems to me that you have not always been in such a position. Believe me, I have no wish to pry into your affairs; but you talk so kindly and warmly, that I’m sure you must have had a wayward son of your own at one time?”

The words came out in a thoughtless, impetuous burst; but the speaker was astonished at their swift effect on the grave, still face before him. Mrs. Lyons started violently, looked him keenly in the face to make sure that the words had no special meaning, and then pressed her hand on her breast with a weary sigh, and remained silent. It did not escape the quick eye of the student, however, that her tearful gaze was for a moment turned to a painting, veiled with crape and hung above the fireplace, the massive gilt frame of which contrasted strangely with the poverty of the other furnishings; and as this was a subject that had often dwelt in his mind and excited his curiosity, he determined to gently lead the conversation in that direction. But before any suitable form of words could rise to his hushed lips, Mrs. Lyons had found voice to say:

“Oh, laddie! dinna speak of that. I once had a son, it is true, beautiful and guileless as the angels in heaven; but because a’ my heart was set on him, he was swept for ever from my sight”; and the poor mother shook as she covered her furrowed face with her hands.

“He is dead, then?” returned the student in a subdued tone.

“Ay, dead to me—dead to a’ the world—lost to God and man—a hounded thief!” cried the old woman, looking up with a flash in her eye. “They tell me so, and I maun believe it. In my happy days, I lived in the town of Paisley—admired, envied, and respected, with no care but the upbringing of my fatherless boy. They tell me that from a boy he became a man, robbing me and others on every hand, and at last was sent to herd with the off-scourings of the earth in a prison; but that woeful time seems now but a

  By PanEris using Melati.

  Back Home Email this Search Discuss Next page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.