Turs novel possesses all the excellencies of the writer's former
work : there is the exact knowledge of Scottish country life from the peasant to the laird, the same nice truthfulness of delineation in character and dialogue' with more of force and variety in the persons and incidents, considered merely as sketches of society. An improvement is visible in the tale and its conduct. There is more of story than there was in "Passages in the Life of Mrs. Margaret Maitland "; and if greater objects are not at stake—for marriage is the common finis of all fictions not tragic—there are greater obstacles interposing, and to be overcome, than was the case in the former work. Several other courtships are sufficiently interwoven with the chief story, while the main obstacle to be cleared away has an interest of its own. It may be that this obstacle is of a rare and not very probable nature ; but its improbabilities are as skilfully veiled as may be, and the execution, if it does not render it vraisemblable, at least adapts it to the other parts. This writer excels all contemporary novelists in the perfect consistency and harmony of her work : persons scenes, accessories, and style, have a oneness which shows the knowledge and earnestness of the writer.
The most prominent love story is between Lewis Ross and Alice Aytoun : the obstacle, not known by the lovers till they are betrothed, is that the half-brother of Lewis, Norman Ross or (in consequence of an estate) Norman Rutherford, is supposed to have murdered the father of Alice, many years before ; to have fled the country immediately on the perpetration of the deed ; and to have perished by shipwreck in making his escape. Such a circumstance, of course is a distress and a difficulty, which can only be removed by establishing Norman's innocence. This is finally cisme, in a great measure through the exertions of Norman's sister Anne ; who, relying on a letter written by Norman to his father, is convinced of his innocence, discovers the real though accidental homicide, whom Norman sacrificed name and country to shield, and at last the exile comes back with his name cleared, and a wife and family.
There are some other marriages, actual or in prospect, when the end is reached, including Anne's own ; though she is too quiet and undemonstrative to furnish much means for a romantic love affair, engrossed as she is with one overwhelming object. But the engagement is delayed by the imprudence of her lover. Archibald Strathoran falls into gay company at Paris, and is swindled out of his estate by a titled gamester. This catastrophe reforms him, and he leaves Scotland for South America, to win the means to purchase back his property ; in which purpose he is associated with Norman, under his assumed name of Sinclair, a prosperous merchant.
In addition to these dramatis personm, there is a leading character—the machinery as it were of the piece—in the person of Mrs. Catherine Douglas, a maiden lady of old family and good possessions with such traits as this writer delights to paint. A highprincipled, strong-minded woman, brusque in manner but kind in heart, devoutly religious, and almost narrowly national, Mrs. Catherine advises, assists, or censures every one. There are also other persons forming the usual society of a country neighbourhood, with incidental circumstances peculiar to Scotland, and naturally exhibitive of its life. Among them is the clearing of a Highland glen by Lord Gillravidge, the English nobleman who has won the Strathoran estate. In this, we think, the nationality of the artist has led her to injustice. 'Unfair ejection is not a vice of Englishmen ; but many tales are told in the papers about the cruelty of Highland landlords to their own people. Although there is more strength of story in Illerkland than in its predecessor, the great charm of the book is in its truthful portraiture and its lifelike dialogues. These have more substance than similar things in the Passages, but they are best appreciated when read connectedly. There are too scenes of greater power than this writer formerly displayed ; though her elaborate and quiet style sometimes prevents her from producing the full dramatic effect of which the matter seems capable. The following, when Norman under the name of Sinclair returns suddenly with Archibald to the "Tower" of Mrs. Douglas, is a subject fitted for the author. Nor,. Merkland ; a 5tor7 of Scottish Life. By the Author of "Passages in the Life of
Mrs. Margaret Maitland." In three volumes. Published by Colburn.
man's daughter, Lilie, has been sent to her native air for the sake of health, under an assumed name ; but, by sympathy of blood and peculiarity of circumstances, attracts the attention and excites the suspicion of Anne.
"The quick elfin eye shot a glance out into the darkness, and saw the listening figures there ; the well-known face of young Strathoran. Jacky steadily finished the verse, committed Lille into the hands of Flora Macalpine, and, shutting the door of the housekeeper's room carefully behind her, opened the outer one and admitted the strangers. "She conducted them up stairs, in her own still, excited, elfin way ; the fumes of the ballad hanging about her still. Mr. Sinclair grasped .Archibald's arm as they reached the door of the inner room, and held him back. The plaintive hopeful music was floating out again upon the soft shadows of the darkening night.
'Speed thy labour o'er land and sea.
Home and kindred are waiting for thee.'
"They entered ; Jacky gliding in before them to light the candles which stood upon the table. Mrs. Catherine started up in overwhelming surprise, so did Anne and Alice. There was a loud exclamation, 'Whence come ye, eallant, and what brings ye hame ?' and a confused uncertain welcoming of Archibald. Then they became calmer ; and he introduced Mr. Sinclair. At this stranger, Jacky, when she brought the lights, had thrown a long, keen, scrutinizing glance. There seemed an agitated uncertainty about him, which contrasted strangely with his firm lip and clear eye. They were seated again at last. A mysterious agitation had fallen upon them all, which Arhibald could not comprehend. To this new comer Mrs. Catherine's large gray eyes were travelling continually. Anne, with nervous timid glances, turned to him again and again. Mr. Sinclair himself, generally so frank and full of universal sympathies, was confused and tremulous, speaking incoherently, and saying things which had no meaning ; Archibald was greatly astonished ; even little Alice Aytoun began to steal shy glances at the stranger.
"Archibald made a sign to Anne, and rising went out ; Anne followed. He was in high spirits, great in hope, and with prospects more cheering than he had ever dreamt of. He began to speak of them as she met him at the door.
"'Who is he ? who is he ? ' exclaimed Anne, eagerly.
"Archibald looked at her in amazement. 'My employer and friend, Mr. Sinclair, Anne. What is the matter ? I have come home with him at his own special desire. Ile intends—'
"Jacky had been hovering on the stairs. She tame up to the door where they were standing, and looked at them wistfully : Oh, if ye please, Miss Anne—' "'What is it, Jacky ?'
"Jacky could not tell what it was. She sat down on the stair, and put her hands up to her face, and began to cry—her excitement overpowering her.
" cannot bear this,' said Anne, wringing her hands nervously. Jacky,' she whispered in her ear. The girl shot down stairs like a spirit.
"'Anne!' exclaimed Archibald, something ails you. I beg you to tell me what it is.'
"Afterwards—afterwards,' said Anne hastily. Go in now, Archibald. Jacky, come.' "Jacky returned, leading little Lille by the hand. Archibald, in silent amazement, went in again to the inner drawingroom. Anne followed him with the child, her face deadly pale, her form trembling. "Mrs. Catherine had changed the position of the lights on the table ; one of them threw the profile of the stranger in clear shadow on the wall; she was looking with a singular scrutiny on the face and on the shade of it. Little Alice Aytoun looked almost afraid. Mr. Sinclair was as confused and agitated as ever. "Lilie came in she drew near Archibald timidly, with some remembrance of having seen hull before : behind her, Anne stood in stiff excitement, watching her motions.
"Suddenly the child's quick eye caught the stranger. Mr. Sinclair's arms moved tremulously. Lilie looked—wavered--turned back—looked again ; her dark eyes dilating, her face full of childish earnestness. The time, the distance, the slight child's memory, these did not make darkness enough to veil from her remembrance the well-known face. The child sprang forward to the arms of the strong man who sat trembling there under her simple scrutiny ; she uttered a cry—Anne only could distinguish the latter words of it—they were enough—' My papa!'
"And Mrs. Catherine rose, drawing up her stately figure to its full height, in solemn judicial dignity, and advanced to the side of the father and child :
bid ye joyous, righteous, peaceful welcome ; Norman Rutherford, I bid ye welcome to your own name and land !' "