The Half-Hearted eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about The Half-Hearted.

“None,” said the Doctor; “but the man himself can find many.  The chief is that he be conscious of his danger, and on the watch against it.  As a last expedient I should recommend a second course of travel.”

“But am I to be barred from my home because of this bogey of yours?”

“No, Lewie lad, but you must be kept, as you say, ‘up to scratch,’” and the old face smiled.  “You are too good to waste.  You Haystouns are high-strung, finicking people, on whom idleness sits badly.  Also you are the last of your race and have responsibilities.  You must remember I was your father’s friend, and knew you all well.”

At the mention of his father the young man’s interest quickened.

“I must have been only about six years old when he died.  I find so few people who remember him well and can tell me about him.”

“You are very like him, Lewie.  He began nearly as well as you; but he settled down into a quiet life, which was the very thing for which he was least fitted.  I do not know if he had altogether a happy time.  He lost interest in things, and grew shy and rather irritable.  He quarrelled with most of his neighbours, and got into a trick of magnifying little troubles till he shrank from the slightest discomfort.”

“And my mother?”

“Ah, your mother was different—­a cheery, brave woman.  While she lived she kept him in some measure of self-confidence, but you know she died at your birth, Lewie, and after that he grew morose and retiring.  I speak about these things from the point of view of my profession, and I fancy it is the special disease which lies in your blood.  You have all been over-cultured and enervated; as I say, you want some of the salt and iron of life.”

The young man’s brow was furrowed in a deep frown which in no way broke the good-humour of his face.  They were nearing a cluster of houses, the last clachan of sorts in the glen, where a kirk steeple in a grove of trees proclaimed civilization.  A shepherd passed them with a couple of dogs, striding with masterful step towards home and comfort.  The cheery glow of firelight from the windows pleased both men as they were whirled through the raw weather.

“There, you see,” said the Doctor, nodding his head towards the retreating figure; “there’s a man who in his own way knows the secret of life.  Most of his days are spent in dreary, monotonous toil.  He is for ever wrestling with the weather and getting scorched and frozen, and the result is that the sparse enjoyments of his life are relished with a rare gusto.  He sucks his pipe of an evening with a zest which the man who lies on his back all day smoking knows nothing about.  So, too, the labourer who hoes turnips for one and sixpence the day.  They know the arduousness of life, which is a lesson we must all learn sooner or later.  You people who have been coddled and petted must learn it, too; and for you it is harder to learn, but pleasanter in the learning, because you stand above the bare need of things, and have leisure for the adornments.  We must all be fighters and strugglers, Lewie, and it is better to wear out than to rust out.  It is bad to let choice things become easily familiar; for, you know, familiarity is apt to beget a proverbial offspring.”

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The Half-Hearted from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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